Friday, September 28, 2007

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

There was a time in my childhood when my sister and I pretended to be twins. We are two years apart, but at that time were similarly sized. Our mother made us matching dresses and a kind neighbor lady made our dolls matching dresses out of the fabric remnants. Even though we don't look identical, we'd often get asked if we were twins. This made us smile and giggle at our shared secret.

We share many things these days. We're both married, have kids, and have a passion for baking. One of my favorite ways to pass an afternoon is to get together with her and try out a new recipe. Unfortunately, one thing we don't share is the same state. So it was that with a combination of dread for the 14 hour drive and elation at seeing my relatives again that I packed my kids and enough gear to lead a polar expedition into my van and set off.

It was a wonderful visit. Besides lots of laughing, sharing, and shopping at the thrift store, we made ice cream. I'd taken along my copy of The Perfect Scoop and we decided on the fresh mint ice cream, since she had tons of mint growing. Also, she's a huge fan of Peppermint Patties, so we made those to stir in. I thought her mint looked odd, different from the mint in my neck of the woods, but it wasn't until we'd made the ice cream and tasted it that we realized it was spearmint. Tossing back and forth names for the ice cream we looked at each other and said in unison, "Double Mint Ice Cream!"

If you like mint, this is the ice cream for you. Smooth creamy ice cream, redolent with fresh spearmint flavor, laced with chunks of heavenly peppermint patties. Share it with a kindred spirit and double your pleasure!

Double Mint Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
Pinch of salt
2 cups (80 g) lightly packed fresh spearmint leaves
5 large egg yolks

If your spearmint is fresh from your garden, rinse it under cold water, pat dry, and spin in a salad spinner, if you have one.

In a small saucepan warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup (250 ml) of the cream, and salt. Add the spearmint leaves and stir until they're immersed in the liquid. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Pour the mint-infused mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium saucepan, pressing on the leaves with a rubber spatula to extract the most flavor. Discard the leaves. Pour the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream into a large bowl and set the strainer on top.

Rewarm the mint-infused mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mint liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath. Put the mixture in the refrigerator to chill completely.

Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. In the last minutes of freezing, stir in chopped up peppermint patties. I made mine according to the recipe in The Perfect Scoop, but it is no violation of ice cream ordinances to buy and chop up York Peppermint Patties.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bake Happy

Sometimes life gets you down. Whether it's bills, relationships, or just feeling blue for no reason at all (i.e. hormones), there are times that the lower lip puffs out and quivers and tears well up in your eyes. At those times you might put on your favorite weepy movie and go through a box of tissues, call your best friend and wail over the phone, or you can decide that it's not that bad, put on happy music, and bake cookies.

These are just about the happiest cookies I know. They're so bright and cheerful, no one could stay depressed while looking at one. And with peanut butter and chocolate dancing together on your tongue, it's like a party in your mouth!

So when you're tempted to go for a walk down Self-Pity Lane, instead tie on your brightest apron, bake a batch of happiness, and invite friends over for cookies. Afterwards, chances are that even if you remember why you were feeling down, it'll seem insignificant and not worth wasting tissues on in the first place.

Peanut Butter M & M Cookies

5 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1 lb. butter
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup peanut butter

4 cups M & M's

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda into a bowl. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugars, eggs, vanilla and peanut butter and beat till creamy.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Beat 3-4 minutes.

By hand gently stir in 3 cups plain M & M's. Mix well. Spoon by 1/8 cup onto ungreased baking sheet. From the remaining one cup of M & M's, press a few into the top of each cookie. Bake at 350 deg. F for 11 minutes. The cookies should be just set, very lightly browned on the edges. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes. The cookies will continue to cook from the heat of the baking sheet. Remove them to a cooling rack to complete cooling.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lovely Lavender

My house is undergoing a facelift. With the big wedding coming up next summer we decided that it was time to pay attention to our yard. There's the on again/ off again chance that the wedding might actually take place in our back yard and it wouldn't be a very classy event if we had to place chairs around the rusted kiddie swingset, walking the guests over the cracked, weedy driveway, past the garbage cans, and into the dog's potty, I mean back yard.

We hired a landscape architect to draw up plans and for the last two months we've been living with mounds of dirt, mounds of gravel, and lots of workmen. They got rid of the driveway, the front steps, and lots of sad, spindly plants. One thing I wouldn't let them touch, though, was my lavender. It's wonderful. I grew it from seed and it's survived transplants and has even had baby plants which have been adopted around the neighborhood.

I put three lavender plants into an arid area that we'd ripped prickery bushes out of and it's the only thing that was able to live there. I am not a good gardener. My gardening speciality is being wooed by the bright flats of flowers at the home center while my husband is buying boring things like boards and insulation. I bring the delightful flowers home and put them outside so they'll get sunshine while waiting to be planted. They wait. And wait. And wither and die from neglect in their little plastic condos. So when I'm able to get a plant to grow and stay with me, year after year, I am thrilled. And if the same plant imparts a heady fragrance to the area and sends out dainty little flowers, too, I jump up and down with joy.

It was not until this year, though, that I'd considered the culinary uses of lavender. I saw several posts of other bloggers who'd baked with lavender and the idea intrigued me. But it was my love affair with The Perfect Scoop that motivated me to finally cook with lavender. David's Lavender and Honey ice cream called to me. All summer, it sang a persistent song to me, begging to be made. When I did, it was one of those, "Dang, why did I wait so long to make this?" moments. It's fabulous. Smooth, creamy texture and a subtle, rich flavor that spreads gently in your mouth. I think it's an adult flavor, not in the XXX sense, but in the sense that you wouldn't want to waste it on a child who'd rather have hot pink bubble-gum flavored ice cream. Let them have their nasty, brash flavorings and sit down with a small dish of this beautiful ice cream and savor every spoonful.

Lavender-Honey Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1/2 cup (125 ml) good-flavored honey
1/4 cup (8 g) dried or fresh lavender flowers
1-1/2 cups (375 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1-1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks

Heat the honey and 2 Tbsp of the lavender in a small saucepan. Once it's warm, remove it from the heat and set aside to steep, covered, at room temperature for 1 hour.

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Pour the lavender-infused honey into the cream through the strainer. Press on the lavender flowers with a rubber spatula to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the cream.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Place the bowl on a rubber glove to keep it from dancing around the counter and slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of lavender flowers and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator. The next day strain the mixture, again pressing on the lavender flowers to extract their flavor. This will also impart a subtle purply-grey color to the mixture. Discard the flowers, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Friend or Faux

When I went to the David Lebovitz class he said that in his opinion some foods just didn't translate across cultures. There was something that prevented people in France from being able to make brownies - it's just not in their culture, so they don't know what they're supposed to be like, so their attempts always come out badly. (However, marinating in US culture has positive effects in this regard, since Tartelette, the French pastry chef, is now the reigning BrownieBabe).

Likewise, croissants can not be found in the USA. Sure you can find many things that might be shaped like a croissant or by called by a similar name, but, according to David, it's not possible to find a good croissant here. I think it starts with the name. People here, instead of admitting that they have no idea how to speak French or pronounce a French word will mangle the word, almost beyond recognition. Instead of just saying crescent roll, they Americanize "croissant" to be "crassant." Just thinking about it hurts my ears.

If they can't even say it, how are they supposed to bake it?

I can say croissant, but I certainly can't make it. I've seen them made on cooking shows. The thought of all that rolling and folding and chilling and folding and chilling and rolling is daunting. I'd be eating the rolling pin before those pups got done. Which is why a recipe in a bread machine cookbook for croissants caught my eye. Now I'm not fool enough to think that anything coming out of a bread machine would rival something you'd buy in a Paris boulangerie, but I'm an incurable optimist when it comes to trying new ways to get dinner on the table on time.

The result? Not surprisingly, they are not croissants. But they are tender, buttery rolls, quite good. Why pretend to be something they're clearly not? I won't have them laboring under the shame of being faux French food, instead I'll call them proudly American crescent rolls. And if I serve them with a hunk of Brie cheese, well, that's just between me and the rolls.

Proudly Crescent Rolls
adapted from The Bread Machine Book by Marjie Lambert

3/4 cup water
3 Tbsp powdered milk
3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp yeast

1 egg
pinch of salt

Put all the ingredients except glaze in the bread pan in the order suggested by the instructions for your machine. Set for white bread, dough stage. Press start.

Lightly butter two baking sheets.

When the dough is ready, take it out of the bread machine and punch it down and divide into three pieces. Let the dough rest 5 minutes. Roll each piece of dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. To get the dough this thin, you may need to let it relax a little during the rolling.

Cut each circle into eight equal wedges. Take each wedge and roll it one more time with the rolling pin to flatten it. Starting at the wide end of the wedge, roll up the dough toward the point, stretching the dough slightly as you go. Place, with the tip under the roll, on the baking sheet. Wrap the ends toward the front so the roll forms a crescent.

Make glaze by beating egg and salt together with a fork and brush the crescents with the glaze. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Brush the rolls again with the glaze. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 24 rolls.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ice Cream Bribery

I'm a mean mother. There's no two ways about it. Ask any of my kids and they will confirm it. Mean, cruel, heartless to the bone. Yes, I gave in and let them have a puppy (now known as The Horrible Little Dog). Yes, I OK'd a Nintendo system, opening up the gates of Hades into my family room. Yes, I sat in the rain through many baseball games and swim meets. But I'm still a horrible mother. Why, you ask?

I have never given a child of mine money for the ice cream man. Never. Not once.

Around here the first sign of summer has nothing to do with sunshine, or vacation. The true harbinger of summer is the evening siren call of the ice cream man, driving around with an amplifier mounted on his car playing an annoying, tinny version of Turkey in the Straw or a ragtime tune. Kids are conditioned with a Pavlovian response - as soon as they hear this tune they automatically turn to Mom and whine, "Can I have money for an ice cream? Please, please, pleeeeeeeaaase?"

And I have never said yes. What I've said is, "We've got popsicles in the freezer. You may have one of those." Or when feeling particularly frugal I put juice or yogurt into popsicle molds and let the kids have those. They weren't impressed. Their friends were running off with fistfuls of cash to buy frozen treats from Ice Cream Joe and they were eating frozen, icy yogurt pops. Euww. No, not a good mother at all.

But lately I've been thinking about the future, contemplating how I'll spend my final days. Will my children take the first opportunity to send me to a far off nursing home where I'll spend the remainder of my life sitting in a hallway, alone, talking to myself, and accosting random stranger, hoping they've come to visit me?

With such a grim vision in front of me, I've mended my ways. No, I still don't give the kids money to chase down the ice cream man, but I did make Drumsticks, an ice cream truck staple. Homemade peanut butter ice cream in a sugar cone, dipped in semi-sweet chocolate, sprinkled with chopped peanuts. With a bribe like this I'm sure I won't spend my final years alone in a nursing home. I'm positive the kids will visit once in a while. Won't they?

Bribery Drumsticks
adapted from Ice Cream! by Pippa Cuthbert & Lindsay Cameron Wilson

2-1/4 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1 cup (250 g) smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup (150 g) extra-fine sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz (150 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (30 g) dry roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
8 ice cream cones

Combine the milk and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir till the sugar dissolves then add the peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cool, then chill in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spoon into an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours.

Have a few glasses ready to hold the cones upright. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, being careful not to let any water or steam get into the chocolate. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Working quickly, scoop the ice cream into the cones. Spoon the chocolate over the top, sprinkle with chopped nuts and place cones in the glasses. Freeze for 15 minutes, then play Turkey in the Straw and watch the kids come running!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Marshmallows are a happy food. Usually even picky eaters can be coaxed into eating a marshmallow and my children (not picky eaters when it comes to sugar) beam when presented with marshmallows. What's not to like? They are sweet, squishy, gooey, and totally delicious. Especially when homemade. Homemade marshmallows were the first thing I ever blogged about.The blog gave me an excuse to make cool things I'd always wanted to try making. The marshmallows were such a success that I have made them several times since then.

Having "mastered" the marshmallow, my husband started dropping hints that I should now tackle a childhood favorite cookie of his, a marshmallow Puff - a cookie base, topped with a marshmallow, and all of this coated with chocolate. The same ingredients as that camping staple, the s'more. In reasearching the cookie I was amazed at how popular this combo is. In the USA, Mallomars are king, but around the globe there are different but very similar versions. In Canada they're called Whippet Cookies, in the UK it is a Tunnock's teacake, in Australia Arnott's Chocolate Royal's fill the gap. Israel's Creambo is wildly popular and Denmark, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, and New Zealand all have their own version.

In my quest for the right recipe, once again, the library came through for me. I checked out a book called The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book and found a recipe for chocolate marshmallow cookies. I altered it slightly to use homemade marshmallows, but you can use store-bought and I won't tell. Your friends and family will be impressed either way and won't ask too many questions when you offer them a beautiful chocolate-dipped, marshmallow topped cookie (whatever you choose to call it).

adapted from The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book

Makes about 3 dozen small cookies

1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) cool, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
18 large marshmallows (homemade or store bought)
12 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined; set aside.

2- Soften the butter in a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat the mixture until fluffy and light, about 1 more minute. Beat in the honey, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat in the egg yolk and vanilla. Continue beating until airy and light, about 30 seconds.

3- Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula stir in the graham cracker crumbs. Then stir in the prepared flour mixture just until incorporated. The batter will be very soft but will hold together. Form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into a thick disk, seal, and place in the refrigerator until firm but not rock hard, about 1 hour, but not more than 3 hours.

4- Meanwhile, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.

5- When firm, divide the dough in half; flatten each half a bit. Place each half between two fresh sheets of plastic wrap; lay one piece of dough on your work surface and return the other to the refrigerator. Roll the disk into a square 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and cut the dough into small squares, about 1-1/2". If you have leftovers, gather them together, cover with plastic wrap, chill, and reroll in an hour. If you're using store-bought marshmallows, cut the dough into circles, about 1 to 1-1/2" across.

6- Use a metal spatula to transfer the cut-out squares to a large, ungreased baking sheet, preferably nonstick, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and somewhat springy to the touch.

7- While the cookies are baking, cut the marshmallows in half horizontally.

8- The moment the cookies come out of the oven, while they're still hot and on the baking sheet, place one cut marshmallow sticky side down on each cookie, so that the marshmallow begins to soften. Once all the cookies are topped, go over them all again, pressing down slightly to that the marshmallow mushes to the edge of the cookie. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet.

9- Repeat with the second batch of dough.

10- Once all the cookies are cool, place the chocolate in a medium bowl that fits snugly over a medium pot with an inch of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has almost melted, being careful not to let any steam get into the chocolate. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Transfer to a deep bowl for dipping and cool for 5 minutes.

11- Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface, then set a wire rack on top of the plastic wrap. Pick up one cookie and dip it marshmallow side down into the melted chocolate, letting the chocolate come up to the crisp cookie and cover its side but not the bottom. Pull the cookie u, gently shake any excess chocolate back into the bowl, and place the cookie marshmallow side up on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Let stand for about 1 hour, perhaps 90 minutes to harden.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Banana Destiny

What do you call it when you have a convergence of 3 things? From 3 separate directions you are pushed to one inescapable conclusion. Fate? Karma? The Bermuda Triangle? No, It's Banana Bundt Cake!

Recently I was going to visit a friend and needed to take along a pre-birthday cake. I could have done my "ole reliable," (a cake I could make in my sleep, which I will someday get around to posting), but frankly, I get a little bored with it. I was prowling the kitchen mulling over the possibilities when I spied the four browning bananas on the counter. Wait just a horse-drawn buggy minute! Hadn't the amazing Brilynn at Jumbo Empanadas recently raved about Dorie's banana cake? I thumbed through my copy of Baking and found it, Eureka! It called for 4 bananas! I was set!

This cake is moist and delicious, like banana bread grown up and dressed for the prom. My friend was initially downcast that I failed to bring chocolate, but the banana cake won her over. I think it's especially toothsome with caramel sauce on top, but if you really need a chocolate fix, some chocolate syrup or frosting could fix that.

Classic Banana Bundt Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed ( 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt*

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 deg. F. Generously butter a 9 to 10 inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. (I have a seasoned stoneware pan that has an 11 cup capacity and it wasn't a problem.) Don't place the pan on a baking sheet as you want the heat to circulate all the way around the pan.

If you're in a rush to make this and just realized your butter and eggs aren't at room temperature, there's a secret quick fix for this. Armpits. Enlist two warm-bodied helpers and have them each put an egg or wrapped stick of butter under each armpit while you measure out the rest of the ingredients. Do not ask someone to help who isn't wearing a shirt, smells bad or is sweaty. You can figure out why. Five minutes tucked under a warm arm will take the chill of your ingredients. And if you never want to eat at my house again, fair enough.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (the batter might curdle, don't fret, it'll be OK), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to de-bubble the batter and smooth the top. (Since I use stoneware, I rap it on a cookbook, not wanting to shatter my pan.)

Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes - if it's browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

This cake improves with age. If you've got the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and let it sit on the counter overnight.

* I've made it both with sour cream and plan yogurt. If you want to trim a few calories, go ahead and use the yogurt. It's fabulous and bursting with flavor either way.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Feeling Funky

Avocados seem very 70's to me. There was Green Goddess dressing, avocado mud masks for your face, and of course your shag carpeting and kitchen appliances all had to be avocado green. When my parents were remodeling their kitchen there was quite a debate about Avocado Green versus Harvest Gold. My sister and I were strongly in the AG corner while my parents eventually won out with the HG choice. In hindsight I see the wisdom of that choice. The Harvest Gold aged much more gracefully than the Avocado Green did.

Has any fruit or vegetable ever exerted such influence over food and fashion trends before or since? It's easy to see why Americans went head over heels for avocados and their smooth, buttery taste, but it wasn't always so. They had a bad reputation to overcome. Because of their shape the Aztecs called them "ahuacatl", the same word used for a certain male part. It was said that ingesting the avocado induced tremendous prowess in the bedroom and no self-respecting person would order or consume it. Well, at least not in public.

It took a massive public education campaign to get people sold on the wonders of the avocado. Unsaturated fats, no-choelesteral, rich in dietary fiber and vitimins such as folacin, A, B6, C and minerals, plus a rich, smooth taste that makes any salad sit up and sing like Pavarotti. No need for avocados to be a guilty, secret pleasure - they can come out of the closet and onto the dinner table proudly!

I came upon this tasty salad at Orangette's beautiful site. It called to me, but seemed just a bit lonely. I solved this dilemma by adding a chunked up avocado and fell in love. I first served it cautiously as a side dish for dinner, thinking that the pickier eaters in the crowd would just push it to the side. Instead, as I got up to fetch something from the kitchen I heard a call of "Honey, is there any more of that bean salad?" Now I'll make it and share it for lunch. It's a heavenly indulgence, but still good for you!

Chickpea Verde Salad
adapted from Orangette's Chickpea Salad

1 - 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I really like the Trader Joe's brand)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
Pinch of coarse salt (I like the crunch of my Celtic Sea Salt here)
1/4 cup loosely packed shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
1 ripe Hass avocado, cut into chunks

Combine all the ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Stir gently to mix Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Serve immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator until serving time.

This makes a generous two person lunch, or a skimpy 5 person side dish.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor of Love

In the United States today is Labor Day. I never really got Labor Day. It sounds like a Soviet holiday which celebrates "the workers" which you celebrate by not going to work. In truth, it's the door which slams shut on the tail of summer and opens into the school house.

I used to dread Labor Day. We were not big shoppers, so the sales held little enticement. The only way to spend the last few precious hours of freedom was preparing for captivity and watching the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon as a cold ball of anxiety grew in the pit of my stomach. Would I like my teachers? Would they like me? Was my wardrobe cool enough? Would I be able to understand the classes and do well? Would I be able to remember my locker combination? My recurring school nightmare for many years was that I was late for school, couldn't remember my schedule (which was different day to day), my schedule was in my locker, and I couldn't remember my locker combination.

Now that I'm an adult I'm almost free of the beginning of school dread. I say almost, because now I'm the teacher. I have been homeschooling my kids for 18 years now. My anxieties are no longer about what I'll wear (we joke that pajamas are our school uniform), or will the other kids like me ( hugs and kisses allay that fear). I worry about whether I will do a good job, whether my children grow up to be capable, competent, and kind and whether we can survive another year of math. In baking it's hard to know the end product when you're just stirring the eggs into the creamed butter and sugar and your recipe is very sketchy with no pictures. Raising children is the same. I just pray that God will fill in the gaps that I leave and trust that He will see my kids through to the end goal. In the meantime, call before you drop by. It's highly likely that at least one of us is still in pajamas.

So here is my salute to the end of summer and the garden's bounty, in particular my fabulous blueberry bushes and the beginning of a new year of learning adventures.

Celebration Blueberry Crepes

Crepes - I used the crepe recipe from pg. 233 of The Perfect Scoop (ha, you thought I could go a whole post without mentioning The Perfect Scoop?). It made beautiful crepes with nary a throwaway.

Blueberry Filling:

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup cold water
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1- In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Stir in the water until smooth. Add blueberries. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm while you make crepes.