About Me

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Hello! I am Diana, wife to Ted. We are the parents to one miraculous 6-year-old little princess. Aside from my daughter my earthly passions include home-cooking at an intermediate level, Music, knitting, photography, learning Adobe Photoshop, digital scrapbooking, and online social networking.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Sound of Silencio: How Quiet is TOO Quiet?

That is the question we parents of toddlers are constantly asking ourselves...and here is just one of many possible answers:

Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Scrumptious Strawberry Season Vol. 2 - Strawberry Banana Shortcake

Finally! Here is the long awaited (or long forgotten about) 2nd half of my Scrumptious Strawberry Season entry! What is strawberry season without strawberry shortcake? Try explaining that to Dear Husband while he is grumbling and complaining about the can of Reddi-Whip he had to make a special trip to the store to get ("I thought picking your own strawberries was supposed to be a way of saving money!" No silly, picking your own strawberries is a way to ENJOY the season and an excuse cook and eat yummy food, DUH!!!).

Thus follows the recipe I used to make this year's favorite beginning-of-summer dessert...with an unexpected twist!

I used this recipe from allrecipes.com, but I basically only used the shortcake part of the recipe, not the berry part or the cream.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease and flour one small cake pan or small rectangular casserole dish. I prefer my strawberry shortcakes to be rectangular, they are easier to work with, I think.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the salt. With a pastry blender cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I washed my pastry blender to have it ready right away, as I use it to crush my berries instead of slicing them!

Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk. Stir until just combined.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.

While the cake is cooking, I prepare the RIPE berries by crushing them with the pastry blender.
While crushing the strawberries, I glanced over and saw two lonely bananas that would shortly be taking "The Long Walk" to MIL's compost pile. Maybe you can, but I can't leave a dying man....er...fruit behind, so I grabbed them and sliced them up and added them to the crushed strawberries. I added a little lemon juice (about a TBSP) to keep the bananas a nice color, and added 1/2 cup of white sugar. Mixed it well and set it aside.

Need I say more? I think not. But I will :P In hindsight, I would have used a little more sugar. The berry filling was a little on the tart side, probably due to the addition of lemon juice. I like mine more tart, but I would probably add 2/3 cup of sugar next time to suit a more universal palette. But all in all, the bananas were a delicious twist!

Anyway, once the shortcake is cool enough to touch, cut it into squares of a desired size, and cut each square in half. Pour some berry mixture over the bottom half of the shortcake, followed by a good size squirt of Reddi-Whip, then layer on the top of the short cake, some more berries, and a final squirt of the sugary, aerosol goodness that is Redd-Whip. And there you have the finished product: Strawberry Banana Shortcake!

The Little Princess is going through a picky stage right now with food, basically if it's not cereal, peanut butter, Goldfish or a hot dog, she ain't eatin' it. I was somewhat reassured when I put this down on her tray and got the repeated reaction of "Oh WOW! Oh WOW!" :)

Thanks for reading!

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fresh Off The Needles: Stars and Stripes Toddler Sun Dress

Well, I meant to post "Scrumptious Strawberry Season: Vol. 2" within a day or two of posting "Vol. 1" but time got away from me, and it has been a BUSY holiday weekend! So "Scrumptious Strawberry Season" will now be interrupted by the latest installment of "Fresh Off The Needles."
Since my first post showing the knit toddler sundress that I made in May, I have made two more. I have not had the chance to post a picture of the second one yet and the the most recent one is the dress I will talk about here. I have been designing a 4th of July themed dress in my mind for awhile, and actually started knitting it before I had the design pegged. The construction is the same as the first ones that I knit, but I made the skirt on this one a few inches shorter. The color theme is American Flag inspired (obviously) but I chose "country Americana" colors instead of straight red, white and blue. It was meant to be worn by the Little Princess for all of our Independence day get-togethers, but it turned out really cute and she will be able to wear it all summer!

I finished it the morning of the 4th, right before leaving to go watch the parade!

Since I have had tons of blog hits from people looking for a knit toddler sun dress pattern, I will post it here. Parts of it were inspired by a free pattern I found for a tank top online, but I have changed and added so much that I now pretty much call it my design, hehehe. Keep in mind I am no expert pattern writer!

Stars & Stripes Toddler Sun Dress (Size 2T)

Size 9 (US) straight needles
1 skein each of worsted weight yarn in red, white, and blue


*CO 84 sts

Knit 8 rows in red for garter stitch border.

Switch to white and p 1 row
Work 4 more rows in stockinette stitch.
Next row: k2, sl 1, k1, psso, k across to last 4 sts, k2tog, k2
These 6 rows form 1 stripe.

Work 5 more stripes, reducing in the same fashion every 6th row. (72 sts remain)

Work 2 more stripes even with no reductions.

Switch to white and begin the last stripe (total of 10 stripes). Work two rows even.
Next row: k3, (sl1, k1, psso)x15, k6, (k2tog)x15, k3 (42 sts remain)
Work 3 more rows even.

Switch to blue and k 1 row.

Work the following chart bottom to top, left to right, right to left, etc...

Next row: BO 5, p across
Next row: BO 5, k across
Next row: p2, p2tog, p across to last 3 sts, p2tog, p1
Next row: k across.

Repeat the last 2 rows 2 more times*, BO

Sew in ends.


Work the same as given for back between **


Next row: p7, BO 12, p7

Work on these last 7 stitches for 20 rows in stockinette stitch (approx 5 inches), BO.

Re attach yarn to remaining 7 stitches and work on them for 20 rows (approx 5 inches), BO.

Sew in ends. Join front to back and sew side seams, sew straps to back of dress.

And that's it. I am hoping there are no errors, but it's almost a guarantee that there is, please let me know if you find anything glaring! Thanks for reading!

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Scrumptious Strawberry Season, Vol. 1

Remember how I said that I never intended for my blog to become a forum for reviewing Pampered Chef Products? Well, I also never intended for it to be laden with recipes for jams and jellies. I guess it is just the season for it. Here is yet another sweet sandwich spread tutorial for your viewing pleasure (or boredom...)!

Strawberry season in Maine starts late and is pretty short. Depending on how the spring weather has been it runs from late June through early July. So you have to plan picking times strategically to avoid under ripe berries at the beginning of the season, and worse, over ripe berries that start to get mushy and grow mold at the end of the season. If you get them at just the right time, picking can be fun and the strawberries are just plain beautiful!Where we live we are fortunate to have many farms around that open up for "pick your own." The prices this year were around $1.90/lb which is about 1/2 of store price. I am not sure how many pounds of strawberries I picked this year, but I went twice and got this much (a counter top full, hehehe):

My primary objective was to make as much Jam as I could. It's a way to bottle up the season for enjoyment year round, and because jam lasts for more than a year after it is canned, it makes great Christmas gifts in the food baskets that I am so fond of giving out, so really I can never make too much. On to the recipe!

I used the recipe given in the insert that comes with the Certo liquid pectin.

4 cups of crushed strawberries

7 cups of white sugar (yes seven!)

1 packet of Certo Liquid Pectin

I start by filling the canner about 1/2 full with water and bringing it to a boil. This may take awhile as the canner is basically a giant stock pot as you will see below. I fill it by pouring the water in with a 2 quart pitcher, the pot is way too heavy to move once it is filled with water!

Once the water is boiling I place the washed jars inside and boil them for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Then I turn down the heat, leaving the jars in the hot water until they are needed (I also sterilize the ladle & funnel). The next step is chopping and crushing the berries with a pastry blender:

Then I get everything ready to go stoveside - The sugar, the saucepan for cooking the jam, and the canner full of hot jars:

I also wash the new lids with hot soapy water, and then rinse and dry them very well.

Next, I measure 4 cups of crushed berries into the saucepan (if you have any crushed berries leftover, save them for the next batch of jam, or use them in strawberry shortcake or as an ice cream topping). Then I combine it with the sugar.

Bring the sugar and berry mixture to rapid boil that can not be stirred down with a spoon. Add the packet of liquid pectin and boil for exactly 1 minute more. Remove from heat and skim as much foam from the top as possible (as quickly as possible):

While waiting for the berries to come to a boil, use metal tongs to remove jars from the hot water. Place the hot jars on a paper towel or dish towel, they should dry out very quickly. Have the jars ready right next to the saucepan. After the jars are out, bring the water in the canner back to a boil (make sure to have the canning rack up and resting on the sides of the pan, you don't want to try fishing it out when the water is boiling!)

After skimming the foam, immediately ladle the hot liquid into the jars, using the canning funnel. Fill the jars to 1/8 inch of lip. This recipe makes about 7 half pint jars. Something I learned the hard way a few years ago is never to cook a double batch of jam, it just DON'T WORK for some reason (meaning it doesn't jell or "set"). So when doing large amounts of canning you have to cook one batch at a time, so it is important to be very organized and keep a sink of soapy water to throw your utensils and pans in so they will be ready for the next batch.

Use a wet paper towel to make sure the rim is free of any of the liquid because it will mess up the seal when you put the lids on!

Place the clean, dry lids on top of the jars, making sure the rubber seal is sitting squarely on the rim of the jar.

Screw the lid rings on tightly and place the jars, one by one, onto the canning rack. SLOWLY lower the rack into the boiling water. The water should cover 1-2 inches above the tops of the jars. Place the lid on the canner and boil the jars for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the lid of the canner and use metal tongs to lift the canning rack out of the water. Use a pot holder to hold the rack handles and slowly remove the rack from the canner. Using a potholder (the Jars are VERY hot!!!) place the jars, one by one, onto a dish towel or paper towel. Let the jars rest for 10 minutes, you should hear all kinds of "pops" as the jars seal in the open air. After 15 minutes, test the seal of the jar by pressing the center of the lid with your finger. If it does not pop up and down, it is sealed! If it is not sealed, process it in the canner for another 10 minutes. If it still doesn't seal, store the jam in the fridge and it will keep for 3 weeks or more.

Once sealed, let the jars cool to room temperature for 24 hours. After 24 hours, tip one of the jars. The contents should be "set" and not slosh around inside the jar. Properly sealed and set jams and jellies last a year or more stored in a cool dry place! If for some reason the jam has not set, but remains sealed, it still makes WONDERFUL pancake and ice cream topping, also a GREAT gift!

I ended up doing two batches which yielded a dozen 1/2 pint jars and a 1 pint jar (pictured here with one of my more underwhelming loaves of homemade bread): I was pretty tired by the second batch and I actually started my first true kitchen fire when the strawberry/sugar mixture boiled over into the drip pan. It was easily put out with a splash of water. I also burned my finger when I touched the inside of the canner by accident! So learn from my mistakes and don't can tired! I wish I could have done more, but I have not had a chance to pick again, and I am guessing this past weekend was the peak. I did have some leftover berries...which you will make there appearance later in Vol. 2 of Scrumptious Strawberry season!

Anyway...this is the first time I have made strawberry jam and had all the jars seal and set properly, so I am excited. We have already demolished 1/2 pint of the jam, and it is so good and so fresh tasting. Now I am looking forward to raspberry and blueberry season! Thanks for reading!

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen