Home Alone: A Mother’s Fantasy

Back at the end of January, The Husband bought a barn on eBay. No, I don’t mean like a barn and some property, I mean just the barn, 5 hours from home. He finally started taking it apart and bringing home the pieces in March and has been going back up to it every nice weekend he can. The first weekend he went alone, then he took Tartlet 1, another time he took Tartlets 1 & 2, another time it was Tartlets 2, 3 & 4 (Tartlet 1 was in her glory having Mom without competition!). This weekend he has taken all four Tartlets! So I am having a wonderful quiet day alone.

I’ve done the sorts of things it seems every mom I know does when the kids are gone — clean and organize without interference. Tossing out little plastic toys that no one will miss if they don’t see them going into the trash, straightening some drawers, laundry, laundry, and more laundry. Finally it was time to take a break and find some nourishment.

Many times when The Husband is gone, I don’t really cook. Either I get some take out or I scrounge leftovers. Knowing I would be sans car (no take out) and wanting something that celebrated the adult moment of being home alone, I bought some mushrooms and asparagus before the family left. I added a sprinkling of feta, some onion, a little long sweet red pepper, and seasoned it with a little fresh garlic and dried basil and oregano and tossed it with mostaccioli.  Mmmm, adult food!

Barbie Birthday v.3

Despite protests from Tartlet 1 that Barbie cakes are a special treat for the 7th birthday (and Only The Seventh Birthday!), Tartlet 3 requested a Barbie cake for her 6th birthday, at the end of May. I have posted earlier about the Barbie Cakes I made for Tartlets 1 & 2 for their respective 7th birthdays, and last year I made 14 Polly Pocket Princesses for Tartlet 3’s birthday. This time I made a couple of modifications to my previous method.

I baked a cake in the Pampered Chef bowl again and this time I also made a 9-inch cake for multiple reasons: 1) it allows for the Barbie’s leg length w/o the two inch frosting disaster of the last one; 2) it gives a platform for the birthday candle; and 3) more cake for a number of guests. Next time I’d like to use an 8-inch cake under the skirt and that on top of the 9-inch. As it was, Barbie’s feet still touched the cake board and the top of the skirt was not quite to the waist so it made for a slightly awkward transition and seemed a little out of proportion.

I couldn’t scrounge up a top that worked for the top of the dress and I prefer not to put the frosting on the doll, if I can avoid it, so instead I did a little late night hand sewing and made the top from wired ribbon.  I cut a piece of ribbon in a trapezoid to fit her figure and the wired top and bottom allowed a little better fitting.  I stitched on two straps from a narrow ribbon, also wired and easy to shape, and two snaps in the back.  Then I used a length of the narrow ribbon as embellishment at the base of the dress and at the waist.

The top has the added benefit of being reversible, since I used a double sided Christmas ribbon. 😉  The kids have already requested that I make more clothes that will actually cover the dolls since the current Barbie fashions aren’t nearly modest enough for their sensibilities — e.g., when she sits, her skirts expose her rear end.  Fashionable in some circles, but not ours, thank goodness!

After some fun at the pool, we enjoyed the cake in the park. Barbie seems to be saying, “Yeah, Tartlet 3! Happy Birthday!” She loved the cake.

Gluten Free Picnic Fun

The end of May was a busy time for the Fruit Tart household — a farewell party, a reception for visiting friends, an end-of-year picnic for preschool, the blog’s birthday, and Tartlet 3’s birthday. For two of these I made trifle. At the end of April I made a trifle with Alton Brown’s angel food cake, but in May I made one with a store bought angel food cake and the other I made a gluten free angel food cake, based on Alton Brown’s recipe and method.

It didn’t have quite the same texture as a regular angel food cake, and it browned faster, but since I was tearing it up to make trifle anyway, the texture wasn’t a big detractor. I thought it had good flavor and because I didn’t use any rice flour there was no grittiness in the texture. I would definitely make this again for gluten free friends, but I might tweak the ratios of flours and use more tapioca and less potato starch or use a little white sorghum. Still, it was very popular when layered with Cool Whip and fresh fruit (strawberries, blackberries, mango, kiwi, and blueberries), and most people didn’t realize it was gluten free.

Gluten Free Angel Food Cake (adapted from Alton Brown’s Angel Food Cake)

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. tapioca starch
1/3 c. corn starch
1/2 t. xanthan gum

12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor or blender spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt, starches and xanthan gum, setting the remaining sugar aside.

In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to stand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the starch mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the starch mixture is incorporated.

Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).

And The Winners Are . . .

Random.org picked the numbers 4, 6, and 10, which means Amanda Z., Lori, and N are the winners of the cookbook giveaway. Congratulations! Thank you to all the readers for helping me celebrate 3 yrs of Fruit Tart!

Last Call!

If you want to be entered into the Cookbook drawing, leave a comment on that post. Sunday I’ll be picking three comments using random.org and plan to get the cookbooks in the mail as soon as I have addresses from the 3 lucky winners.

Sorry for the long hiatus, which was totally unplanned. I thought I’d post about a few of the things I made for the gatherings we have hosted lately as well as a picnics and other things we’ve done, but the blog has been neglected in the flurry of activity.

I read a post sometime in the last couple of months in which the author was amazed that their family of 4 ate *sooo* many eggs, nearly  a dozen per week. I just laughed. One week recently I used 4 dozen — two dozen whites went into angel food cakes and some of the yolks were used in a key lime tart, pictured above. I think I could employ a small henhouse full time!

On another occasion I made the gluten free angel food cake pictured above. I’ll come back with a recipe for that later. In the mean time, here are pictures from our vacation:

Better than Hallmark, Mother’s Day wishes in the sand.

Crab Trap dinner for Mother’s Day. The kids especially love the buckets and shovels.

Some crabs we found, but did not eat.

Fun at the beach.

Sunset walks every evening.