Caleb turns 9!

May 16, 2013

Visible passage of time is never so apparent as in the growth of children. I keep finding photos I took of the Sch kids when I first arrived in Paraguay, and they look so young! Nearly two years later, gone are the baby faces and miniature limbs. All four are blossoming into full-grown sasquatches, especially freshly 9-year-old C. Crazy!

IMAG0550-1-1His request for Big Lowen’s lemon pie.

IMAG0552Birthday beast.

IMAG0553-1His loyal entourage.

IMAG0554I thought this shirt was going to be too small for him,
so I tried it on to make sure and it fit me perfectly.
It also fits him perfectly. Oy.

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Still so proud that 1) I made gnocchi and 2) I liked it.

It was frigid and night had long fallen. Our weary troupe of travelers, fresh off a long (albeit it breathtaking) train ride, plodded through quaint alleyways, leaving one unlucky leader to wrangle with the map while the rest of us grumbled. Having been hours since we last ran out of provisions, we were also famished nearly rendering us oblivious to the festive Christmas decorations adorning every corner and the reflection of twinkling lights in the canals liberally throwing romance in the air. Even a beautiful city like Venice can only be so beautiful when the primal instincts of hunger have taken over.

Lacking the wherewithal to hold out any longer, we ducked into the first lighted cafe we encountered. We crammed ourselves and our big winter coats cozily into a tiny booth, and ravenously ordered the most Italian-sounding items off the menu. I salivated anticipating my gnocchi ai quattro formaggi, imagining rich, gooey cheese and fresh herbs sprinkled over the top.

Enter the rude awakening. Each plate that arrived was progressively uglier than the last. And in spite of our voracious hunger pangs that often transform even the most average entree into world-class fare, it was the worst meal in the history of ever. To this day, I still gag remembering how I forced myself to choke down every last bite (of course, we had unwittingly chosen a tourist trap that was priced accordingly), eyes watering and honestly fearing resurging vomit with each swallow.

We had been served what looked and tasted like over-microwaved (you know when your cheese cements to the plate when you leave it in for way too long? Times that by ten.) vittles that had seemingly been re-heated several times over the last century. It was horrifying. But it was winter break and we were best friends on the adventure of a lifetime. The exhilaration of backpacking around Europe with three of my favorite people was just enough to keep the tears at bay.

It wasn’t enough to prevent a long-standing grudge against gnocchi though. That nasty plate of pure hate is the stuff my food nightmares are still made of, and I have not dared try any other variation since then.

Until now. With a surplus of ricotta in my fridge and precious lemons begging to line my tastebuds, this concoction of lemon ricotta gnocchi popped up in my recipe search. I figured something fried in butter couldn’t be that bad. Intrigued, I had to try it even as terrifying visions of that scarring night haunted my instincts.

Gnocchi and I have officially mended our previously irreparable relationship. (Venice still owes me.)

A really sunny morning.

While seemingly just a regular fruit muffin, this is a true delicacy here in Paraguay. One, because lemons don’t exist in this country, and two, because raspberries don’t either and I splurged the second I saw the frozen bag at the specialty German grocery store.

I brought back a glorious sack of bright yellow lemons from a recent trip to Argentina and had been dilly dallying in using them, trying to come up with the ultimate zesty dessert worthy of my momentous find. Then I discovered that one of the precious nuggets of gold had completely molded over and realized I better get moving regardless of the recipe lest I waste the whole lot of them. The horror.

When I found this formula for raspberry lemon muffins, I was wary about its healthful motivations (no butter?!) and worried about dryness, so naturally I fattified it and ramped up the fruit flavor as well. What resulted were light, moist little dumpling cakes filled with delightful pockets of tart berries and a crunchy topping that rescues bad days and makes them better. A good rainy day recipe to keep in your pocket.

Lemon-Raspberry Crumble Muffins
Inspired by allrecipes.com
Makes a baker’s dozen

1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon of raspberry yogurt
3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
Juice of one whole lemon (I used a large one for extra zingy lemon flavor)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Zest of one whole lemon
1 heaping cup of frozen raspberries

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup of flour
3 Tablespoons of sugar
3 Tablespoons of cold butter, cubed

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), and line a muffin pan.

In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Then add the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, and egg, and add to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until just blended (do not over mix). Gently fold in the raspberries, and scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Generously spoon the fork-blended crumb topping over the filled muffin cups.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

In my opinion, these tasty treats are best when eaten fresh from the oven. With a steaming mug of coffee, of course. Enjoy!