We had a very nice Easter and hope you did as well. We had two services at church Sunday morning commemorating Jesus's death and resurrection. The choir and orchestra provided carefully chosen music which also helped us remember the significance of the day.
Nora, Topher, and little Della came for lunch and spent the afternoon at our house. A highlight of the afternoon was staging and taking pictures outside. Della was very patient while her mother worked at photographing her in various places around the yard.
We are still eating our Easter ham. I froze the "meaty ham bone" and some chopped and some ground ham for future meals. I don't have a picture, but I wanted to include a link to a good recipe for using up some of your leftover ham. We tried this Country Casserole recently and really enjoyed it. (This recipe calls for chicken but I substituted ham.)
I hope you and your loved ones had a blessed Easter.
Our grandson Ryan turned three last week. His parents had a party for him at a nearby park on Saturday. Ryan's favorite aspect of the party was playing on the playground equipment. He played so hard that that afternoon he actually put himself to bed for his nap!
Here's a picture of Ryan driving his little sister, Avery on the tractor he got for his birthday:
Since he loves large machines and farm equipment there was a John Deere theme at the party. Aunt Nora provided some John Deere cookies and I made a tractor cake.
It had been a while since I decorated a birthday cake so I had to dust off my decorating supplies. I discovered that Hobby Lobby no longer carries Wilton paste colors but now has gel colors which come in little bottles. The gel colors worked well and the dark colors tasted good--with some of the paste colors I have used in the past the darker colors often had an unpleasant taste.
I usually purchase Duncan Hines cake mixes and have had good success using them over the years. Many years ago the inside of the cake mix box had some tips for cake baking. One tip that is especially helpful if you are making large layer cakes that are going to be stacked or for making cakes in a character pan is to use less oil to make a firmer cake. It will still be tender and flavorful. They suggest using just 1 Tablespoon of oil for each cake mix along with the 1 1/4 cup water and three eggs. Another good idea is to spray your pan liberally with Baker's Joy, which is a combination of oil and flour in a spray can. I have found that this is really helpful if you are using a shaped character pan.
Some of you also enjoy baking. Do you have any cake baking or decorating tips you would like to share?
A few weeks ago our daughter Megan and granddaughter Maddie flew down and were here with us for a little over a week. Maddie was not quite two when they arrived so she could still fly for free. Megan's husband Jim and their son Drew drove down the following weekend so that Jim could attend a conference. And so we were able to spend time with them too. While they were all here visiting we were able to get the entire family together a couple of times. I had hoped to get all five of the grands together for a picture but it didn't happen. I thought I would post a few individual pictures of each of the children and tell about their interests and activities at the moment.
Drew is the oldest and he just turned seven. He is in first grade and is reading quite well. He got a basketball goal for his birthday so if the snow ever melts in Michigan I'm sure he will be practicing his shots. He also enjoys the Ninja Turtles and has quite a few of the little action figures. We got him some Ninja sheets for his birthday. While they were here we spent a day at the Children's Museum. Here he is looking at an exhibit about banking.
Maddie turned two while she was here visiting. She is very active, enjoys reading books and playing with her brother Drew. Her vocabulary really grew since we last saw her at Christmas. She keeps us entertained with her antics.
Here she is acting as secretary at the bank exhibit at the museum:
She woke up from her nap one afternoon with her shirt in this configuration:
Ryan will turn three next month. He loves music, letters, and numbers. He is a good singer and enjoys listening to music. He knows all of the letters of the alphabet and is learning to read a few words on his own. Below is a short video Mark sent us of Katie working with him on reading. The flash video will probably not show up in the e-mail or blog reader versions. You will have to go to this blog post to see it.
Avery is eight months old and is nearly always happy and smiling. She has recently discovered her voice and her feet. Why is it that babies want to put their feet in their mouths? She loves to stand and walk around the furniture. She does a dead man crawl at a pretty fast pace and loves to try to catch up with Buddy. She also just got her first tooth.
Little Della just turned two months old and now weighs nine pounds. She is starting to smile and coo and is sleeping at night for longer stretches of time, much to the delight of her parents.
She came over for dinner last week and we were able to coax her to smile for us.
We were able to get a picture of the three little girls wearing hats that DH Rob knit for them.
We are truly blessed.
I've tried several new recipes that we have enjoyed recently. Sometimes my motivation for trying a new recipe is to try to use up things that I have on hand. Two of the following recipes met that criteria. I checked out a book of Middle Eastern cookery from the library and saw a picture of a salad which looked very colorful and tasty and which would also use up a few radishes that I had on hand. Here is my version of the recipe:
2-3 small (mini) cucumbers
3 roma tomatoes
1/2 of a sweet red pepper
1/2 of a red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
5 Tbsps. olive oil
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. rice vinegar (could use red wine vinegar or cider)
1 clove garlic crushed or sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 can or about 2 cups cooked chick peas
Clean and dice all the vegetables into about 1/2 inch pieces. Mix in parsley. In a bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over vegetables. Serve on plates topped with some of the chick peas. You could also add Feta Cheese and/or black olives if desired.
I tried this recipe for white bean dip because I had some sun dried tomatoes in the freezer that I wanted to use. It went together very quickly and we enjoyed eating it with fresh vegetables and some pita chips. Please keep in mind that dips and casseroles rarely photograph well, but be assured both of these recipes taste very good.
I tried this recipe for Crunchy Beef Casserole from the Southern Plate website because it had rave reviews and because I had everything the recipe called for including a can of French fried onion rings. Rob really enjoyed it and encouraged me to be sure to make it again. That's always a good sign.
Do you ever search for recipes to use up ingredients that you have on hand? Have you found any new favorites that way?
I often stop by the new acquisition area at the library to check out recent arrivals. The last time I stopped by I found a book called Put 'em Up! Fruit A Preserving Guide & Cookbook by Sherri Brooks Vinton.
The book is divided into sections by type of fruit and has many good ideas for preserving various types of fruits and then has recipes for utilizing the things you have preserved. There are recipes for jams, conserves, jellies, vinegars, syrups, gastriques, shrubs, cordials, and many other items.
The beginning of the book has a wealth of information about preparing fruits for canning and freezing with lots of clear pictures of the equipment needed and the techniques used for common types of food preservation. This would be a wonderful resource for someone who would like to begin canning fruits and jams.
I'm hoping to try a few of the recipes and ideas presented in the book with some of the berries from our garden. I'll try to keep you posted on the results.