Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Swimming Pool Pie

When I was a little girl birthday parties were a pretty simple affair. I'd invite all my friends over and their mothers would bring them to my house decked out in party clothes, bearing a wrapped gift. We'd play some party games like pin the tail on the donkey then sit down at the dining room table to eat cake and ice cream. As a crowning touch of high society, each place would have a nut cup. Oooh. Then I'd open the presents, say thank you, and the girls would go home. Every body happy.

Somehow in the years it took me to grow up and have kids, this all changed. I realized this when, after the games / cake / presents extravaganza, a sweet little girl from the neighborhood lisped , "Where's the party bags?"

Hunh? What's a party bag? I asked my kids and they brought me up to date. Apparently you must buy bags for each guest and fill them with candy and stuff. Why? Well, because you must.

I called my sister to ask if she'd encountered this curiosity. She, too, was horrified at the escalating birthday parties. She'd recently attended a catered, sit-down dinner for 50 that was a birthday party - for a one year old! What??

I used to stress out for a month before a my kids' birthday parties, planning the perfect party on a shoe-string budget, trying to give my kids a glittering gala that would be on a par with the ones they attended. I was elated when they were old enough that I could just tell them to go have fun with their friends and I'd bake them a cake.

This year my son's birthday came about 2 weeks after we'd just had a wedding in our back yard. I was barely out of the stress coma and the idea of putting on a birthday party was making me think longingly of prescription medications. Every idea that I had seemed to blossom into a huge party that would require me to work non-stop for a week ahead of time.

In a panic I called my sister, the clipboard commando who'd run my daughter's wedding, and said, "Help! Fix my life. What do I do?"

She said, calmly and wisely, "Just have his friends come over and play in the pool in the backyard." Yes, a pool party. I could handle that.

The little kids swam and played on the slip and slide. The older kids played inside. And they all enjoyed the birthday pie.

It was a swimming pool pie, and it had every good thing a child loves - a crust made from rice krispie treats, a pool filling of whipped cream, blue jello, and blueberries, and a group of gummie bear friends hanging out together enjoying the sun.

Playtime with friends and sugar. What more does a child need?

Gummie Bears at the Pool Pie
(adapted from Taste of Home -makes 2 pies)

40 large marshmallows
1/4 cup butter
5-6 cups crisped rice cereal
1 package (6 oz) berry blue gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
3-1/3 cups fresh blueberries
About 30 gummie bears

Grease 2 pie pans.

In a large microwave-safe bowl cook the marshmallows and butter on high for 1 minute. Stir, then cook for another minute. Stir until the butter and marshmallows are melted and combined, returning the bowl to the microwave for 10 second intervals if needed.

Stir in the cereal. With greased hands, press 1/2 the mixture onto bottom and up the sides of the pie pan. Repeat with the other half and the other pie pan.

In a large bowl dissolve the gelatin in boiling water; stir till dissolved. Stir in the cold water. Refrigerate until partially set, about 1 hour. (I got distracted and my gelatin was pretty well set, hence the blue chunks in the pie.)

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the the gelatin mixture, then gently fold in the berries. Divide this between the pie crusts, smoothing out the top. Refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Garnish with gummie bears just before serving.

Serves 12 to 16.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Meatballs For Sher

It's hard to know what to say or do in the face of loss. When someone dies, what mere words can cover the treacherous swamp of emotions? What useless words can comfort a grieving heart? "Im sorry" or "I'll miss you" just seem so inadequate.

What a foodie does is cook. Food is the language of love, of remembrance, or appreciation. It is the tangible giving of the heart in a covered dish.

One of the Bread Baking Babes, Sherry Cermak of What Did You Eat, passed away suddenly on July 20th. She was funny, warm, enthusiastic, and caring and will be missed by all who knew her personally or enjoyed reading her blog postings. The Babes, to honor Sher, decided to make and post something from her blog. When one of the Babes pondered the question of what Sher would have made, the answer came back, "Meatballs. Sher would have made meatballs."

So, meatballs it is for the generous, exuberant person who challenged us to make the Poilane-style Miche.

When Sher gave us the Miche recipe, she broke it down into baby steps, making the whole enormous task seem possible. She coached and cheered us on until we had beautiful bread to share. The recipes on her blog are just as approachable. I chose the Turkey Meatballs And Sundried Tomatoes because they looked delicious, Sher raved about them, and they used sundried tomatoes, something new to me in meatballs. They were wonderful, and I told my family about Sher as we ate them.

Thanks, Sher, for the Miche, for the meatballs, and for all of your fun and snarky contributions to the Babes. We will miss you!

Please read other posts for Sher at Thyme for Cooking, Lucillian Delights, Living on Bread and Water, I Like to Cook, The Sour Dough, Bake My Day, and A Fridge Full of Food.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Form Without Function

According to Wikipedia : Form follows function is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th Century, which states that the shape of a building or object should be predicated by or based upon its intended function or purpose.

This means that the function should be the primary concern of anyone designing stuff. I don't know that they still teach that in design school. I've gotten some things that looked really nice, but worked about as well as icicles would as hammers.

Most recently, for the wedding we bought a glass, 5 gallon beverage container at Costco. It had a greenish tint to it, lovely embossed grape leaves, and a spigot at the bottom for dispensing beverages. Since one of the first things we decided for the wedding was basil lemonade, we were thrilled to find this perfect container.

It wasn't until after the wedding that we learned something about this container. Since the spigot was located about 1/4 of the way up the side, the last 1/4 of the lemonade couldn't come out unless you tilted this large glass container, and balanced it while holding your cup under the spigot and turning the spigot. Oh, yeah, that's something every wedding guest is going to do.

The person responsible for refilling the container kept checking and seeing that there was still lemonade left. So it didn't get refilled more than a couple of times. Which left me with about 5 gallons of basil syrup and 3 gallons of freshly squeezed lemon juice on hand. Dang, that was a lot of lemons to juice! My wrist still hurts just thinking about it. So, I am certainly not about to just chuck all this out. We're making basil lemonade by the gallon, and I'm flagging every lemon recipe that comes my way.

One of the first that leapt out at me was from the a recent Taste of Home magazine. Lemon Gelato - mmm, just the words sound cool, rich, soothing. Just what I need! And unlike certain other things, this recipe worked beautifully, delivering on the promise of a refreshing summer dessert with an intense lemon flavor. My husband said it was like lemon meringue pie without the crust. A winner!

Lemon Gelato
- adapted from Taste of Home, recipe by Gail Wang

1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks, beaten
3 Tbsp grated lemon zest
3/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place the egg yolks in a medium, heatproof bowl on the counter next to the stove. Place it on a rubber glove to keep it from dancing away while you whisk in the hot milk.

Place the lemon juice into a medium bowl and prepare a larger bowl to be an ice bath for the medium bowl. Place a sieve over the lemon juice bowl.

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the milk and sugar, and place over medium heat. Stir in sugar until dissolved and heat to 175 deg. F. Pour the heated milk in a thin stream into the egg yolks, whisking the yolks the whole time. Return the mixture to the pan. Add the lemon zest. Cook and stir over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until mixture coats the spatula and, if you run your finger across the spatula, it leaves a trail.

Remove from heat. Pour through the sieve into the lemon juice. Stir. Place the bowl into the larger bowl of ice water; stir for 2 minutes. Stir in the cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Place in storage container and put in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours before serving to harden.

Makes 1-1/2 quarts.

PS - Costco has a really good return policy. When my husband took in the beverage container the guy at the counter looked at it and said, "Oh, you don't need to tell me." I guess we weren't the only ones.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dark Knight of Chocolate

My son has a major thing for Batman. He watches the animated series with his Dad, he looks longingly at the Batman section of the Lego catalog, and when friends of ours loaned him a Batman costume, he was in Batman heaven. He's been wearing the suit almost every day. It's a fabric-covered foam chest with ab embellishments, cape, and cap with bat ears. He wears it with sweat pants, even when it's 85 degrees out because, "Mom, Batman doesn't wear shorts!"

Naturally, when my neighbor brought over the box from a brownie mix with stencil cut-outs to make Batman brownies, my son launched into an intensive campaign of nagging, whining, and wheedling for me to make him Batman brownies. A birthday and a couple of power outages later I managed to make them.

I chose to go with brownies rich enough for a millionaire playboy, dark as the night, and with pecans because, seriously, a grown man who wears tights and a cape has got to be a little bit nuts.

Even if you're not a fan of the caped crusader, if you're a fan of chocolate, you'll love these!

(And before someone calls Child Protective Services, no, we're NOT taking him to see Dark Knight. Much to his regret.)

Dark Knight Brownies

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup pecans
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons brewed espresso (or strong coffee)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao or higher)
1 Tbsp powdered sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa (optional)

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-by-13 inch pan.

2- Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set that over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally till melted, then set aside to cool.

3- While the chocolate is cooling, toast the nuts for 6 minutes, then cool and chop.

4- Into a small bowl sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa.

5- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugars and eggs together until light. Stir in the melted, cooled chocolate and coffee.

6- Fold the flour mixture gently into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.

7- Smooth the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Do not over bake.

8- Let the brownies cool for about an hour.

9- Stir together powdered sugar and cocoa and gently shake through a sieve over the brownies. Use stencils, if desired. Cut into 24 squares.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Seattle Chocolate Salon

I used to fantasize about being locked overnight in a chocolate shop, eating my fill of sweet chocolate treats. Who knew that one day my wish would come true?

Last weekend I attended the Seattle Chocolate Salon. This was a chocolate lovers' heaven. Over 20 makers of high-quality chocolates displaying their wares and giving out samples. That's a serious amount of chocolate to sample, but I was up for the challenge.

I had a friend along to help me sample and give balance to my opinions. She's a dark chocolate lover and I tilt toward milk chocolate, so we covered the offered spectrum well.

We worked our way around the conference room, tasting, asking questions, taking pictures, collecting brochures, and then going all the way around again to do a bit of shopping.

You might think a room full of chocolates would be a bit monotonous, but each chocolatier highlighted a different aspect of their craft. Some of the chocolates were so beautiful I don't know how you could bite into them. Gilded, pressed, garnished, and shaped; they were like edible works of art.

Some tables featured intriguing flavor combinations - Thai chili with lemongrass, dulce de leche chipotle, and habanero mango. Peppers and basil were popular flavors around the room. There was even a beer and potato chip truffle!

A couple of tables highlighted the sourcing of their chocolates with cacao bean pods and cocoa beans to touch, as well as information about the people who grow and harvest their beans.

The only downside to the Chocolate Salon was that the air conditioning was not working on one of the hottest days in Seattle. I felt sorry for the chocolatiers trying to display their wares in less than ideal circumstances.

All of the chocolatiers were excellent, but I'd like to highlight a couple of my favorites.

Andy's Handmade Chocolates - Andy is an IT guy by day and amazing chocolate guy the rest of the time. He makes each piece by hand and it shows. They were the smoothest chocolates I've ever tasted. Because of the short shelf life of his products (especially the dipped fruits), they aren't available through a store, only through orders on his website.

KeKau Chocolates featured some of the most beautiful chocolates at the show. Artistic garnishing and molding complemented the wonderful flavor combinations they feature.

Guittard chocolates is not a new name, but they were there to remind the bakers in the group of the range of products they carry and the consistency of their quality. I've baked with Guittard for quite a while and have never been disappointed.

Cadeaux Chocolates won best truffle in the show, and it's not surprising. They are delicious and beautiful, making a box of Cadeaux chocolates a fitting gift indeed. My friend bought two assortments and they were attractively wrapped and boxed.

Intrigue Chocolates features truffles that are not robed in chocolate, merely rolled in cocoa powder so there is not interference with the intense flavor of the truffle. The Basil truffle was like chewing on a basil leaf that had been dipped in chocolate! I bought a sampler of the six flavors that they featured at the show and plan on sharing one a day with my family. Small bites, happy faces.

Island Angel Chocolates gives the traveler yet another reason to visit beautiful Whidbey Island. Gorgeous truffles, brittle, toffee, fudge, and espresso's should be enough to lure anyone onto a ferry. My friend was particularly tempted by the handpainted tiles on which they displayed their truffles. These are available on Whidbey, as well.

Lula's Chocolates - Scott Lund of Lula's wasn't there to sell, but gave away a small mountain of luscious truffles, wrapped caramels, and amazing salted chocolate-dipped caramels. When I get to Monterey, Lula's is definitely on my itinerary!

Dilettante Chocolates has been a staple of the Seattle chocolate scene for as long as I can remember. Rather than getting old and stale, they just seem to improve and innovate. My favorite thing to put in my mouth at the salon was their chocolate-covered Bing Cherries. Amazing! And they're available at Trader Joe's, so I can get a fix whenever I do a T.J's run. Also, good news for Dilettante devotees, their Seattle store on Capitol Hill is moving to a new location with a restaurant and bar featuring, naturally, chocolate liquers. The grand opening is slated for Labor Day - mark your calendars!

And possibly my favorite from the show was Oh! Chocolate. The guys running the table were friendly and laid back, happy to meet everyone. Their chocolates were fabulous. The truffle topped with red peppercorns was an incredible taste and texture experience and my family swooned at the other samples I brought home. I am so happy that they have a retail store that's 15 minutes from my house!

If you are kicking yourself because you didn't get to go to the Chocolate Salon in Seattle, there will be two more this year. Chicago in September and Los Angleles in October. Don't miss out on the fun!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Pleasures

One of my favorite childhood summertime pastimes was playing in the laundry. My mother had a clothes line that folded out like an umbrella and in the summertime all the laundry went outside to air dry. The laundry load with the highest play value was sheets. On a hot summer day I would play house inside the cool, shady walls of the damp sheets hung out to dry.

For years after we bought our own house I wished for an umbrella-style clothes line. My husband had issues with it, though. I believe he thought a clothes line looked a bit ghetto. After about 15 years, my mother-in-law figured out that my husband wasn't going to get me one, so she bought me one and I love it.

It makes me happy to hang out my laundry. I feel like I'm cheating a bit, like I'm getting away with something. I get my clothes dry and don't have to pay for the electricity to dry them. Shhhh, don't tell! Plus, no fabric softener on earth can make sheets smell as delicious as drying them in the warm sun.

It's such a great feeling to find something so easy and so satisfying. Making raspberry sherbet is like that, too. I picked raspberries from my neighbor's yard, threw them into a blender with milk and sugar, poured that into my ice cream freezer and had fabulous sherbet, bursting with fresh raspberry taste in 20 minutes! Life is rarely this simple and pleasing, so intend to make the most of it while it is.

Raspberry Sherbet
- adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

4 cups raspberries
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the raspberries, milk, and sugar in a blender. Puree until smooth, then strain the mixture through a coarse sieve to remove the seeds. Stir in the lemon juice.

Freezer right away to preserve the beautiful taste and color of the raspberries. Follow the instructions for your ice cream maker to freeze. (Mine was quite soft when the freezing time was done, so I put it into the freezer to harden up.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wedding Wrap Up

The happy couple is back from their honeymoon and I have permission to share a few pictures with you.

And last but not least, my son, who, as soon as the ceremony was over, changed into his Indiana Jones outfit. See, that's the real benefit of having a wedding at home!

And since I know you've all been waiting hopefully, nervously, as an actor at the Academy Awards waiting for the envelope to be opened...

The winner of the drawing for the Kitchen Wench apron is Lucie! Yeah!! So, Lucie, email me at lynncraigATcomcastDOTnet with your address and the apron will be on its' way to you!

(Again, the photo credit for the above photos goes to Kim Hayes.)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Snap, Crackle, Pop - It's the Fourth

To celebrate the 4th of July, our nation's Independence Day, I wanted to do something red, white and blue. I hit upon the idea of making a trifle to be patriotic, and as a nod of the head to the heritage we owe to England. So the evening of the third I was making the cake and keeping my husband company. We are not night people, but my daughter and her new husband were due back from their honeymoon and my husband was supposed to go get them at 11 pm from the airport. Since that's past our bedtimes, I thought he'd appreciate me helping him stay awake.

We were chatting in the kitchen as I was putting together the cake when "whooooooom," the lights dimmed waaaay down. Then came back up. My husband said, "That's weird. That was like a brown out." He was concerned how that might have affected his computer and turned it off. After several minutes with no further funkiness from the lights he turned the computer back on and found his speakers were toast and started smelling an acrid, burny smell. Dang, it blew out the speakers.

About 20 minutes later the lights dimmed again and we heard pops as light bulbs blew. 10 minutes after that our living room lamps turned themselves on, the ceiling fan turned itself on then we heard a "pop" and smoke started coming out of it. We ran around unplugging all of the appliances we could think of and then heard a loud "POP" from my daughter's room. Her stereo had smoke coming out of it so we quickly unplugged it and took it outside to the deck.

At this point my husband had to leave for the airport. My daughter and I sat huddled on the couch in the dark, wrapped in a blanket, hearts racing, praying. Every few minutes we'd hear an eerie buzz/ hum and then something would pop.

At about midnight I called the power company and they said they'd have someone out within an hour. And if I was feeling uneasy, I should call 911 to have the fire department come out to shut off power to the house. Uneasy? I was terrified! I called and within minutes a fire truck pulled up in front of the house and 3 burly men came in to check out the house. They were great. They turned off the power, checked for smoke, and brought out a thermal imager so they could see inside the walls for smoldering. None, thank God!

My husband got home at that point and showed them where the scorch marks were on the outlets and surge protectors. They called the power company and leaned on them to get out a little quicker and the end result was that by 3 am we were all able to go to bed with a machine attached to our power junction box to make sure our power would not go wonky again. If you're an electronics nerd, you can read what happened here.

So, while others were having picnics, enjoying the day of vacation, and relaxing, we were doing home inventory. Amazingly, good surge protectors saved our computers, our television stuff, and my sewing machine. My husband found some tripped GFI's and reset them to resurrect several appliances and my kitchen outlets. So, we were doing pretty well. My worst fear, the house burning down and my children frying in their beds, did not come to pass. The next fear, of everything exploding, also did not come to pass. But what did die, sadly, was my ovens. Yes, my lovely ovens have no pulse, not a flicker of life in them.

I have so much to be thankful for, I know. And I concentrate on that. But a part of me mourns my oven. We'll call the repair people today and see what can be done for them. But until then, it's stove-top and crock pot cooking for me. If you know any great crock pot cookie recipes, let me know.

Among my blessings to count is that I did get the cake finished before the house tried to commit electrical seppuku. So I was able to make my patriotic Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle. Here's the recipe and the moral of the tale: Invest in good surge protectors! They're insurance - you might not ever need them, but when you need them, you're so glad you have them.

Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle

A traditional trifle uses a sponge cake, but I used a silver cake since I like the flavor, plus the egg whites in the cake balance out the yolks in the custard. You can also use angel food cake.

Silver Cake
- adapted from Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too by Susan Purdy

2 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup skim or 1 % milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond or orange extract

1- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 deg. F. Coat 2 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, dust them with flour, and tap out excess flour.

2- Into a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3- In a large grease-free bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. Slowly add 1/4 plus 2 Tbsp of the sugar, and whip until the whites are stiff but not dry. I used my hand mixer for this, but you can use a stand mixer, also.

4- In another large bowl whisk together the oil, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the milk, the vanilla, and almond extract. Beat until well blended. Whisk in about half of the flour mixture. Then alternately fold in the whipped egg whites and the remaining flour, being careful not to stir and deflate the whites.

5- Divide the batter evenly between he prepared pans. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cake is spriny to the touch and a cake tester inserted in the center of a layer comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Top each layer with another rack, invert, and remove the pans. Cool completely.


4 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups scalded milk

Put a large saucepan with a few inches of water in it over medium-high heat. In a heat-proof bowl that can rest over the saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and vanilla. Place the bowl over simmering, not boiling, water, stirring constantly. When custard coats a rubber spatula with a thin coating (you can draw a line with your finger in the custard on the spatula and it will stay), remove from the heat. Pour into a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the top, and set in the refrigerator to cool.

Raspberry or strawberry jam
Fresh raspberries and Blueberries
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp sugar (vanilla sugar is good here)


Whip together the whipping cream with the vanilla. Gently shake the sugar over the cream as you are whipping it. For best success in whipping cream, especially in the summer, place the bowl and beaters that you will use into the refrigerator 2 hours before you make the cream. Otherwise the heat from the beater friction can melt the fat in the cream and make it greasy.

Chunk one layer of the cake into the bottom of your prettiest clear bowl or trifle dish. Dab on globs of jam. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries then half the raspberries. Pour 1/2 of the custard over this. Spread half of the whipped cream over that layer. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients. Garnish, if desired with a few berries or mint leaves.

If there are any leftovers, store them covered in the refrigerator.

(I'm still accepting entries for the contest in the previous post. The drawing will be held later this week.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Grace Under Pressure

There were so many fabulous people who helped make Sarah's wedding special. The whole crew that showed up to weed the yard, the friend and her family that put together the flowers for the steps, the burly young men who helped set up the tables and chairs, and on and on. But there was one special group that worked their buns off the whole day of the wedding. This post is about and dedicated to the kitchen crew.

Heading up the crew was the amazing Chef Ashley. She's a realio, trulio chef, having graduated from a culinary institute and her day job is planning events for a major downtown hotel. Because she's been friends with Sarah since junior high, she cheerfully took on the job of planning and executing the food for the wedding, asking only for three helpers in the kitchen. I love her passion for food and her unfailing optimism.

The helpers, who we dubbed Kitchen Wenches, were my sister, my mother, and Sarah's Bible study group leader. And Serena pitched in when her jr. bridesmaid duties didn't call her away. They were all incredible!

First of all, Ashley stopped by the evening before the wedding to drop off stuff for the fridge and some munchies for the wedding party for breakfast and lunch. The wedding start time was at 2:00 pm and we had the wedding party plus make-up artist, hair dressers, and families to keep fueled. A Costco tray of croissants, some muffins, and turkey roll-ups served that purpose.

But for the guests, the food went way upscale. There was tray after tray of lovely, mouth-watering appetizers and munchies. Brie cheese, deli meats, cream cheese-stuffed apricot halves, meatballs in barbecue sauce, butterscotch dipped pretzels drizzled in white chocolate. I wish I could tell you what all there was, but I honestly didn't see it. I was way to busy running around like a mad woman, getting my hair done, tacking down the backdrop so it wouldn't billow in the breeze, taking a few hasty pictures of Sarah getting her hair done, helping Sarah into her dress, basting together lace panels for the walkway arch, ditching panels because they were too heavy, finding lighter fabric panels that would work, assigning chores to whoever looked idle, and, oh yes, quickly getting dressed and putting on my makeup because it was time for family pictures.

But I digress. The point is, the food was lovely. And the guests agreed. After the ceremony when the food was taken out to the buffet tables a line quickly snaked around the perimeter of the yard as guests cued up to partake. Unfortunately, whether it was because we didn't serve alcohol, or the guests had neglected lunch, or because the food was all so wonderful, the food went quickly. Too quickly.

One of the people taking trays out to the table came back in and announced that the food was gone and there were still people in line. Ashley laughed and calmly said, "OK, let's see what we can come up with." They raided the refrigerator. They put out the breakfast and lunch leftover Costo food, cut into small pieces and attractively arranged. They cut up the half watermelon that was in the fridge. I came in the kitchen as my sister said, "There's hot dogs in the fridge." And Ashley said, "Oh great, we can cut them up and put them in the barbecue sauce!" They cut up the cheese bricks and arranged those on the fruit tray.

The best part of the day for the kitchen crew was when the Ashley said, "The line's gone, and no one complained!"

I hadn't done any menu planning for after the wedding thinking we'd be eating leftovers for days to come. Well, there were two pieces of cake, a bag of pepperoni, a tub of whipped cream cheese, and a tray of fruit slices. What appetizing meals would you make from that?

The cake was quickly eaten, the pepperoni went on pizza, and cream cheese I can always find a use for. But fruit that's on the slippery slope toward the compost pile? I came up with Fruit Salad Bread. It's kind of a bread, kind of a cake, kind of muffinish. You can play with the fruits you use, put a glaze on top, or put crunchy sugar over it before baking. It moist, flavorful, and if you serve it to company, no one would guess that you're using up leftovers.

(Scroll to the bottom to see about my exciting contest you can enter!)

Fruit Salad Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1-1/2 cups orange juice
3 cups mixed chopped fruit
* (I had strawberries, blueberries, dried cranberries, and dried apricots. I picked out pineapple and melon, since I didn't think they'd bake up well.)
Crunchy sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease 2- 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit in the bottom and up the sides of the pans. Put the parchment paper in the pans and grease. If desired, sprinkle crunchy sugar on the bottom and sides of the pans.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a medium bowl, toss the fruit with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture.

Combine eggs, lemon zest, and orange juice in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture, stirring well. Gently fold in the fruit.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove the bread from pans, peel off the parchment paper, and let cool on wire racks.

* Note on fruit- If you're using leftover fruit that's very juicy, put it in a sieve to drain off the excess juice. You could use that juice, combined with confectioner's sugar to make a glaze for the warm bread.

Yield: 2 loaves

Fun Contest - I made the darling pink apron that you see modeled by my sister. It has Kitchen Wench embroidered on the bib and satin trim on the pockets. I made one for each Kitchen Wench, plus an extra. If you'd like to win one and be part of the ultra-cool crowd who own an exclusive Cookie Baker Lynn original apron, leave me a comment and mention that you'd like to be part of the cool crowd, too. The winner will be decided by an impartial drawing and announced....oh...sometime next week.

(One other note, I didn't take the wedding pictures. I just watermarked them so that they couldn't be jacked, but they're actually the work of the super-talented Kim Hayes, a photographer that Sarah sometimes shoots with.)