Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Raspberry Streusel Bars

Something I love about our new lives is the absolute presence of my husband.  For the past three years he was so engulfed by grad school, that being completely present was, understandably, challenging.  These past couple months, since he started working, he has been 110% present in everything we do.  We get out and do things without a deadline and with total leisure.  We enjoy each other, our children, basking in the indulgence of just being together. Oh, the simple pleasures.

Last weekend we decided to take a family outing to Afton Apple Orchard to pick raspberries and apples.  If you know anything about my eldest, its that this girl loves berries more than almost anything on earth.  Girlfriend would eat them breakfast, lunch and dinner if we could afford it.  So, this was obviously heaven on earth to her.  At first, the price of $4/pint seemed steep to us for pick-your-own raspberries...until we realized that we all likely ate our weight in raspberries while we were picking them.

It was a day that was so hot and humid that it was hard to breathe, but it didn't matter an ounce.  We were together, and we were basking in the hot sweaty glow of our togetherness.

We gorged on raspberries and apples.

There was a petting zoo and we met this guy.

Llamas are hilarious by the way.

And when we got home, I made these delicious raspberry bars.  Actually, delicious doesn't quite capture the essence of these bars.  Amazing, awesome. So. Damn. Good. There is 18 tablespoons of butter in one little 9' x 13" pan.  If that doesn't clear up how good these bars are, then you probably don't know anything about butter (I forgive you)...but you'll still love these bars.


Raspberry Streusel Bars
Serves 12-15
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (4 2/3 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, cut into 1" pieces and softened
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
3/4 cup (8 1/2 ounces) raspberry jam
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) fresh raspberries

Adjust oven rack to middle and preheat oven to 375F.  Line 9" x 13" pan with tin foil, allowing it to hang over the edges to easily remove the bars later.  Grease foil and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix flour, granulated sugar and salt on low speed until combined.  Add the 1 cup of butter a piece at a time, then continue mixing until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Measure 1 1/4 cups loosely packed flour mixture into a separate medium bowl and set aside.  Dump the rest of the flour mixture into the prepared pan and, using clean hands, firmly and evenly press the mixture into place to cover the bottom of the pan.   Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 14 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, add brown sugar, oats and pecans to the reserved flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and work it into the mixture by rubbing it between your fingers until the butter is incorporated.

Combine jam and raspberries in a small bowl and mash gently with a fork until combined but some raspberry pieces remain.

Spread jam mixture evenly over the hot crust.  Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the jam, but do not press it into the topping.  Return pan to the oven and bake until the streusel is a deep golden brown and the jam is bubbling, about 22 to 25 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack for 1 to 2 hours, then remove the bars from the pan by lifting the overhanging foil.  Cut into squares to serve, and then you most certainly should...


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

She's Three

She's three.  Our Bean, our Monkey, our Anna.  Three years ago she came into our lives and rocked our world forevermore.  She turned us into parents that hot summer day.  We barely remember our world before her...it feels like she's always been here.

I would have bet money on me not being that parent that says "Where did the time go?".  I try so hard to live in the moment and not focus on the past.  But, guess what?  I am.  I cannot believe she was just a tiny baby three short years ago and now she's a walking, talking, full fledged-human, full of fire, love and so much personality.  This kid is her own person.  A person I adore with a fervor I never knew existed.

This year has been a year of big, huge, enormous changes.  As we all did, Anna experienced the intensity of these changes with sadness, joy, confusion, and finally, acceptance.  Considering she's only lived three short years on this earth, I believe she took these changes in great stride.  Looking back I don't think I've given her enough credit for the changes she's endured this past year.  Girlfriend was dealt it, and she dealt with it.

She had a tiny human invade her world and demand she share her parents.

She watched as all of our things slowly disappeared, and the piles of moving boxes grew.  She cried as we packed up her room and the only thing left was her tiny twin bed on the floor and a rogue stuffed animal tucked between the bed and the wall.  She hung in there while we moved into a new, enormous house...then moved three weeks later to Gammy and Poppy's house...and then moved yet again, 2 months later, back into the new, enormous house.

She's still trying to work out why Mace isn't home with us all day anymore since he got a job...that's been a big adjustment for us all.

And today...today she started preschool.  Huh? Yeah.  Preschool means not a baby anymore, not a toddler anymore.  Preschool means she's turned into a full-fledged kid.  We marched through getting dressed, breakfast and playtime, all the while talking about what school would be like today.  She was off kilter, I was off kilter, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me why.

But, it hit me when we got there.  We were both "off" because she was going to preschool today for God's sake!  Its a really big deal, and I seemed to forget the significance of such a big day until it smacked me right in the face.  I teared up, I didn't want to leave...emotions that I thought would be reserved for Anna today, not me.  She wanted me to hang out for awhile, and when I said I was leaving she gave me a big kiss and hug and was off to play.  I spied through the classroom window for five minutes and my heart swelled with an unreasonable amount of pride as she listened to the teacher, put toys away and sat down in a circle with the other kids for story time.  I am so proud of that kid.

This is undoubtedly just the beginning of school years coinciding with her birthday.  The beginning of a week each year of me being a complete and total sap.  A week for reflecting on the past year and convincing myself that time is really moving this fast.  A week for preparing myself for the next big step in Anna's life.

Anna is three.  The years keep rolling on by and it is such a joy to watch her grow, change, and become her own amazing person.  Happy Birthday my sweet girl!