Candyland Birthday Party

Jake and Cake

My crazy little man is 4 years old!

Jake definitely gave me a run for my money this year. He is rambunctious and giddy and willful and very invested in understanding every single thing.

This year we celebrated Jake’s birthday in the most fitting way I could imagine: with a mountain of candy and a giant board game. Jake’s sweet tooth rivals mine, and he has spent the last year in a quest to become a board game geek like his daddy. (It should be noted here that his favorite game is called Just Desserts, which is a game where you feed pretend customers all their favorite sugary treats, and that when we play Candyland, he cherishes the pink dessert cards so much that I have a hard time convincing him to keep them in the stack.)

Happy fourth birthday, Jake! I can’t believe how big you are, and I can’t wait to see how you grow over the next year!

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Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

We recently spent two weeks in Ireland.

Ruins at InisoirrIreland is gorgeous, in case you were wondering. Wildflowers are absolutely everywhere, peeking through the cracks in ancient stone walls and clumping along the sides of the roads. There are rock-bordered, green fields for miles, thanks to the soft, misty rain that falls almost every day.

Ring of KerryWe loved exploring traditional Irish farms and learning about the simplicity and resourcefulness of country life 100 years ago. We loved trying to pronounce the Irish language signs posted all around. We loved that a typical playground in Ireland has ziplines for kids and exercise equipment for parents. We loved the stunning, hazy mountains and cliffs that loomed over the Atlantic ocean. And don’t even get me started on how cool it is to find crumbling stone ruins everywhere you look.

The Best PhotoTraveling with two preschoolers was basically the worst, and that’s all I’ll say about that. (Check out my oldest throwing a tantrum instead of looking at the camera. This is literally the best family photo from the whole trip. Just so you get a clear idea. I’m not exaggerating.) But if you are ever going to travel abroad with preschoolers, you should definitely do it in Ireland, because the people there are so kind and understanding and friendly. They actually love kids. And they do not give you irritated, patronizing looks when yours are screaming and losing their minds in public places.

Rhubarb Vanilla JamAnother great thing about Irish people is that they are unflinchingly generous. For example, when we were staying in Killarney, they served this rhubarb jam with breakfast, and Dave basically ate a pint of it over four days. (He must have genetically inherited his love of rhubarb, because rhubarb desserts were on almost every menu and in every bakery in Ireland. He tried all of them.) When I asked for the recipe, the kind proprietors of the inn immediately wrote down a copy for me!

So here we are. Thank you, Ireland, for your kindness and generosity, and thank you for the rhubarb jam.

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Morning Glory Carrot Muffins

Morning Glory Carrot Muffins

When I was a kid and someone brought out a carrot cake at a birthday party or celebration, I would seriously mope. No offense if carrot cake is your favorite…but who wants vegetable-flavored cake? Not even cream cheese frosting can redeem that.

Cake should be rich and sweet with a light but even crumb. There should be no carrots.

But I read recently that carrots are the only vegetable in season where I live during the month of October. So I made you some morning glory muffins—which, of course, is what we call carrot cake when we eat it for breakfast, which we should all agree is a much better time to eat “cake” made of carrots!

I love the idea of a healthy muffin, and these muffins really are pretty glorious: they have no refined sugar, they use whole grain flour, and they are full of shredded fresh carrots and apples, as well as coconut and pecans!

My son begs for these muffins, and I love to indulge him! Hiding a vegetable in plain sight while my son scarfs it down? Yes please.

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Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Over Memorial Day weekend, we took our first family adventure since Caitlin was born: strawberry picking at Wegmeyer Farms!

Jake's StrawberryIt was a perfect sunny morning, and the strawberry fields were absolutely full of huge, ripe red strawberries just begging to be eaten. (No, not by me…I still don’t like strawberries.) This was by far the best strawberry picking experience we have ever had. In almost no time at all, we had gathered 5 lbs. of gorgeous strawberries and we were on our merry way back home!

Jake spent the rest of the morning alternately stealing strawberries from the bucket and pretending his little Lego men were taking trips to the farm to pick red Lego strawberries of their own. I spent the rest of the morning preparing this frozen yogurt!

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Golden Nectarine Cake

Golden Nectarine Cake

The first day I met my husband, he shared a little analogy with me. “Dave is to strawberries as Melissa is to muffins.” (I had just finished telling him that muffins were my favorite thing to eat, ever.)

As we got to know each other better, he totally held up his end of that analogy (though I quickly moved on to other things once I really started baking in earnest). No matter how many strawberries I brought him, he would generally finish them all in a single sitting.

So…imagine my complete surprise when, last year, he revealed that he likes nectarines better than strawberries. That he always has!

Now, when we go to the farmer’s market, one of the first things he does is fill a bag with nectarines so he can eat them while I am picking out greens and beans and squashes.

This week I stole a few of the straggling nectarines and baked them into a cake. This cake is so simple and homey. The nectarine flavor is mild, and the cake is not too sweet. It makes a lovely accompaniment to afternoon tea or coffee, and a great end to a delicious lunch!

 

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Baking with Whey: Lemon Rhubarb Bundt Cake

Lemon Rhubarb Bundt Cake

I sometimes joke that my entrance exam into my husband’s family was learning the recipe for rhubarb pie.

Dave really loves rhubarb.

But he has never even batted an eye at my suggestions of non-pie rhubarb desserts…until one day last week, when he suddenly looked up and asked me to make him a rhubarb coffee cake. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I thought about returning this big crumb coffee cake to its original rhubarb glory, but then I stumbled across a recipe for a lemony Bundt cake (oh! It’s a cake!) full of chunks of rhubarb and I got kind of dorkily excited.

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Rugelach

Rugelach

You guys, I have had it all wrong!

For years, ever since first setting eyes on rugelach on my honeymoon in Germany, I believed that these cookies were always stuffed with dried fruits or poppyseeds.

Apparently…rugelach can be chocolate! Or nutty! Or, really, any flavor you please.

So, many thanks to C Mom Cook, my Secret Recipe Club blog of the month, for showing me the truth of these amazing cookies. I so enjoyed Shelley’s blog, in part because she is a Daring Baker! I was very briefly a Daring Baker until it became clear to me that I didn’t have enough time to be quite so daring. But Shelley is baking up beautiful breads and cakes and pastries, which I just  love reading about and drooling over.

Rugelach are a traditional Jewish cookie that look impressively like filled croissants. They require a small amount of persistence, but are actually quite simple to make! I filled half of mine with a chocolate-cinnamon-date mixture (to die for) and the other half with a honey-nut mixture (almost like baklava). And then I couldn’t stop eating them. So delicious!

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