Monday, July 26, 2010

The 'Burbs & Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Do you remember The 'Burbs?  Tom Hanks plays a stressed out suburbanite trying to enjoy his vacation but is lured by two neighbor's conspiracy theory that his new neighbors are creepy, in a cult or even murderers.  My sister and I loved that movie.  You could hear us blurt out, "It came with the frame!" and "pizza dude," at any random moment in the late 80's, early 90's.

A few weeks ago I had a flashback to one particular scene from the movie.  All the homeowners were enjoying the warmth of the sun, watering their perfect emerald green lawns, tending to their gardens, shooting hoops, painting their house and then the garage door opened...everyone on the block immediately stopped what they were doing as the Klopecks passed by in their rickety car.

That is exactly what happened when my neighbor opened her garage, pulled out of the driveway and drove on by.  We were just missing the eerie, suspenseful background music, but the two scenes were identical.

We have lived in our cozy little suburban neighborhood for over a year now and have seen our neighbor maybe five times.  Blinds and curtains are usually drawn the moment she hears my son and I walk out the door.  She has a lawn service tend to her yard and will make the block in her car just to get the mail which is only a few feet from her front steps.

Quite often her sun stroked potted plants will be replaced by vibrant, fresh and healthy flowers overnight.  When does she do it?  We have joked that she does it in the middle of the night, and guess what...she does.  My husband leaves the house at 5am for marathon training and found her tending to her sprinkler system with flashlight in tow.  So strange.

Agoraphobia would explain it...but we believe she has a 9-5 job.  We've also speculated that she is in the witness protection system or hiding from someone.  And of course, The 'Burbs cross our minds every once in a while.
She even missed out on this scrumptious pound cake.  It was so delicious my husband and I couldn't stop eating it, so out of the house it went.  Where to, you ask...our neighbors, on the other side of us.

Know Thy Neighbor Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake
slightly adapted by Central Market Cooks
Serves 16

3 cups flour
2 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 egg white
8 ounces (1 cup) lemon yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla

Lemon Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot water

1. Toss 2 tablespoons of the flour with the blueberries in a small bowl to coat evenly. Mix the remaining flour with the baking powder and baking soda.
2. Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing well after each addition. Fold in blueberries and vanilla.
4. Spoon into a 10-inch tube pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Remove to a cake plate.
5. For glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and hot water in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Drizzle over the warm cake. Cut the cake with a serrated knife to serve.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Mixed Greens with Blueberries and Lime Vinaigrette

This post only seems to be fitting in every way possibly at the moment.  For one, July is National Blueberry Month-so lets honor our favorite, tiny, plump, blue friend.  Did you know blueberries are grown in 35 states in the US, and the United States produces over 90% of all of the blueberries in the world.  Just wanted to share a little factoid with you.

Secondly, and on a more personal note, I have grown tired of my weight and have finally decided to do something about it.  For months P90X has been staring me in the face and I finally decided to pop it into the DVR.  Oh. My. Word.  It is tough, but I actually enjoy it quite a bit.  You tend to be so busy during the workout that you don't get bored (I used to suffer from gym-boredom) and time flies by quickly.

And as always, with exercise comes a healthier diet.  I used to have a strict regimen before BabyBoy came along and once he reached toddlerhood I found myself snacking...a lot.  Not to mention the sweet tooth (obviously, I have a blog dedicated to homey baked goods).  But don't worry-I'll still be baking...I'll just be sending my sweet treats to the hubby's work!

OK time to talk salad!  This was such a palate pleasing salad.  The vinaigrette was tart and tangy with a delicate, mild note from the shallot.  The blueberries give a burst of sweetness that lends a pleasant surprise.  All in all, the flavors marry very nicely.

Mixed Greens with Blueberries and Lime Vinaigrette
recipe from Central Market, adapted from 12 Best Food Cookbook
4 cups, organic baby spring mix
¼ cup mint leaves, stacked and cut crosswise into thin strips
Juice of ½ lime
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. shallot, chopped
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup blueberries

1. Place spring mix and mint in large mixing bowl.
2. To make the dressing, combine lime juice, vinegar, shallot and salt in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil and season with pepper.
3. Pour the dressing over the greens, and toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle blueberries over the greens.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Road Trippin'-Almond & Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Sometimes drifting off the beaten path will lead you to this...
Every summer my family would load our car, hitch up the pop-up and hit the road. It was a very long haul from our southeast Texas home to the mountainous destination of Colorado. We would leave our home in the wee hours of the morning and drive all day (usually having to turn back, it seemed something was always forgotten.)
Road Trip 2007 Coulter Bay, Wyoming
Our first stop was a campground just on the edge of the panhandle (that's right, we'd still be in Texas after a days worth of driving.) My sister and I would play Barbies, Eye-Spy, sing songs, and sleep (alot). We'd signal truck drivers to honk their horn and my sister would usually be the comedian and make faces at passersby or stick fishing worms up her nose to see if anyone would notice. Needless to say, we knew how to make the most of a cramped backseat.

My mom always packed snacks for us to eat, which was special because we were NEVER allowed to eat in he car. Looking back it seemed that she chose very carefully what was given to us, being that none would stain the upholstery of the seats. At most she'd have to vacuum out crumbs.
Making friends while fly fishing
The next day, we flatlanders were awestruck by how the majestic Rockies would greet us. It was such an exciting moment for my sister and I. We would set up camp along the Taylor River, near Almont, Colorado, and camp, hike, fish, drive the back roads, have "fire parties" (campfires), and roam the campgrounds like we owned the joint.

Our road trips made for a great summer and wonderful memories. I am anxious to start the tradition with my husband and son.

What is your favorite road trip memory?

Chewy Almond-Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Chewy Almond-Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Makes 12 bars

½ c. old-fashioned oats
½ c. dried cranberries
½ c. sliced almonds
¼ c. all natural peanut butter
¼ c. all natural almond butter
½ c. brown sugar
½ t. cinnamon
3 T. vegetable or canola oil
1 T. water
¼ t. salt
1 egg white

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, line an 8 x 8 baking pan with two strips of parchment paper, allowing a 2 inch over hang for all sides.
2. In a large bowl combine oats, cranberries and almonds
3. Over low heat, combine almond and peanut butters, brown sugar, oil, salt, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
4. Whisk egg white into the cooled peanut butter mixture until combined.
5. Fold peanut butter mixture into oats mixture and combine until moistened.
6. Pour into prepared pan, spreading and smoothing mixture evenly
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, cool for 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely. Cut into 12 bars