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Monday, September 30, 2013

TWD: X Cookies


Me oh my! I am so incredibly excited about this recipe because these cookies were insanely delicious. My only regret is that I halved the recipe! Next time, I will be making the full batch of 5-dozen cookies because I know that there will be NO PROBLEM getting them to disappear!

The cookies are reminiscent of a Fig Newton bar. If that image instantly turns you off, trust me...I had the exact same thoughts. Fig Newtons are one of those foods that I can neither look at or smell (much less eat!) because it reminds me of loooong car trips with my family where I was stuck in the very back of our 12-passenger van trying my best to get enough oxygen. Plus, the super soft, weird texture of the pastry surrounding the filling of a Fig Newton is just disgusting to me. Same with Nutri-Grain bars. I can't handle it.


When I heard that these cookies were supposed to be reminiscent of a Fig Newton, I instantly decided that I was not going to try them. However, upon reading through the recipe, the components of the filling intrigued me - in addition to the figs there was candied orange peel, chocolate, raisins, and almonds! Not to mention dark rum! I was intrigued and decided to just make half a batch in case we all ended up hating them.

The recipe was fun to put together! The most time consuming part was making the filling because I chose to candy my own orange peel. There were some beautiful blood oranges at the store, so I chose to candy their peel. While not difficult, it does take about 2 hours to candy the peel. Other than that little step, the food processor did the majority of the work as it was used to mix both the dough and the filling. The process of filling, rolling, and cutting the cookies was a bit more time consuming but still an easy and fun process. I might not have enjoyed it so much if Matthew had been running laps around the island while I was working, but since he was down for his nap I had a nice quiet house during the whole process. With the exception of Paul who was eating the filling faster than I could stuff it into the cookies.

They were both up (and staring at me) before the cookies finished baking. This is a really horrible picture,
but it illustrates their stalker-esque nature perfectly. They like to aggregate and simply watch me while I work.
"When will they be ready to eat, MOM!?!?"

The cookies bake for a quick 15 minutes before being removed to a rack and allowed to cool to room temperature. A quick dusting of powdered sugar and they are ready to eat! The pastry is slightly crispy, buttery, but sturdy enough to perfectly ensconce the marvelously complex filling (no soft, squishy, disgusting Fig-Newton pastry!). Every flavor melds together beautifully to create this elegant, unique cookie. Paul and I both agreed that these will be making an appearance on our Christmas cookie platter.

Head on over to the Tuesdays with Dorie website to see how the other bakers fared!



Italian X-Cookies
from Baking with Julia

For the Dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cold unsalted butter or 1/2 pound cold lard, cut into pieces
4 large eggs

For the Filling:
12 ounces dried Calimyrna or Mission figs
1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup plump golden raisins
1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced (I highly recommend you make your own)
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt (for the egg wash)
Powdered sugar, for dusting


Put flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse just to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse 20 times. Add eggs and pulse until dough forms a ball on the blade. Remove from processor and knead briefly on a lightly floured work surface until smooth. Shape dough into a log and wrap in plastic. Set aside while preparing the filling.

Remove stems from figs and cut the figs into medium-size dice. Put figs and remaining filling ingredients into the food processor and pulse with the metal blade until finely chopped. Scrape filling onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead to blend it, and shape it into a rough log. Cut the log into 12 pieces.

Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time, on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough under your hands to form a 12-inch rope. Use a rolling pin to roll the rope into a 3- by 12-inch rectangle. Run a blunt knife under the dough to make certain it is not sticking to the work surface and brush the top of the dough with egg wash. Roll a piece of filling into a 12-inch rope and center it on the rolled-out dough. Pull the dough up around the filling, making a seam, and roll it into a cylinder, about 15 inches long. Cut into 3-inch lengths. Place a cut piece of dough vertically in front of you, seam side down, and make two 1-inch-long cuts, one from the bottom, the other from the top, toward the center. Use your fingers to separate the slashes and create an X-shaped cookie. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking pans and repeat with the remaining portions of dough and filling. Bake cookies for 15 minutes, or until a light golden color. Transfer to racks to cool. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

The recipe makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Coq Au Vin


Let me introduce you to one of my favorite French recipes. This creamy, dreamy chicken dinner is not something to be casually whipped up at the spur of the moment. It is definitely a labor of love -  a process to be planned for a chilly weekend dinner or reserved for company and special occasions. Or, in this case, simply because we had a hankering for it. I have not made Coq au Vin since Matthew was a baby. And after savoring this comforting meal once again, I kick myself for not making it at least once or twice each fall. It is a quintessential Fall/Winter dish - warm, creamy, rich, and comforting. And the sauce! Oh it is magnificent. Be sure to serve this with lots of fresh bread to sop up the sauce. Or serve it over buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Something carby. It's the right thing to do.

As far as the wine is concerned - do not use a bottle of cooking wine from the store. It will give the sauce an off-flavor. I highly recommend a bottle of Cabernet or Pinot Noir from the Woodbridge collection by Robert Mondavi. They are inexpensive wines that taste phenomenal.


Coq Au Vin
adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated

4 chicken leg quarters (about 3 pounds), carefully trimmed of all fat, cleaned, dried, and thighs and drumsticks separated
1 bottle Pinot Noir or Red Zinfandel
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
6 ounces bacon (preferably thick-cut), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
6 - 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 medium shallots, peeled and quartered
2 medium cloves garlic, skin on and smashed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
10 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
24 frozen pearl onions, thawed
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
2-3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Generously sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and ground black pepper. Bring red wine and chicken stock to boil in large, heavy saucepan; reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until reduced to about 4 cups (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, fry bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until fat has rendered and bacon is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon butter with rendered bacon fat; add carrot, onion, shallots, and garlic and sauté until lightly browned, 10-15 minutes. Press vegetables against side of pan with slotted spoon to squeeze out as much fat as possible; transfer vegetables to pan with reduced wine mixture (off heat) and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven.

Return Dutch oven to burner over medium-high heat and add another 1 tablespoon butter. When butter is melted, add chicken (in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding) and cook until well browned all over, turning once or twice during cooking, about 12-16 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate. Pour off all fat from Dutch oven and return to heat and add wine-vegetable mixture. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with wooden spoon. Add browned chicken, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and tomato paste to boiling wine mixture; return to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered. Turn chicken once during cooking, until tender and infused with wine flavor, about 45-60 minutes.

While chicken and sauce are cooking, heat another 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add pearl onions and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if butter starts to brown too fast, until lightly browned and almost cooked through (5-8 minutes). Add mushrooms, season with salt, cover, increase heat to medium, and cook until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high, and boil until liquid evaporates and onions and mushrooms are golden brown, 2-3 minutes more. Transfer onions and mushrooms to plate with bacon. Set aside.

When the chicken is cooked, transfer to serving bowl or platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Strain sauce through fine mesh sieve set over large measuring cup, pressing on solids with wooden spoon to release as much liquid as possible. The sauce should measure 2-3 cups (I get about 3 cups every single time). Return sauce to pan and skim as much fat as possible off surface. Counting 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour for each cup of sauce, mash 2 to 3 tablespoons each butter and flour in small bowl or plate to make a beurre manié. Bring sauce to boil and whisk in beurre manié until smooth. Add reserved chicken, bacon, onions and mushrooms. Adjust seasoning with salt and ground black pepper to taste, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer very gently to warm through and blend flavors. Let mingle for about 5 minutes before checking the seasoning one more time and adjust with additional salt and ground black pepper if necessary. Add the chopped parsley.

Serve immediately over whipped potatoes, egg noodles, or even a creamy polenta!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

No Fuss Chocolate Cake


I was chatting with one of my sisters online the other day and she mentioned how she was suffering from an intense craving for cake. A few hours after our conversation, I was quite perturbed with her because she had somehow managed to pass on the craving to me! I wanted cake - but I did not really want to go through the trouble of making a cake. That afternoon, I was watching a couple of little kiddos and I mentioned to them that I felt like cake. They all seemed to emphatically share my love of cake (one of the girls noted that it was, and I quote, her "most favorite-ist thing in the whole wide world") and instantly began giving me a couple motivational pep talks that convinced me to just whip up a cake for everyone.


Luckily, this chocolate cake is the easiest darn thing in the world to whip up. Surrounded by three kiddies all under the age of four, the batter came together in about 5 minutes (before the oven finished preheating!) and everyone was munching on cake warm from the oven in under an hour. The little people were happy and so was I.


I halved this recipe and made it in a loaf pan. It baked up beautifully and made the entire house smell like chocolate (I might try bottling that scent and selling it to Yankee Candle). It was the perfect amount of cake for everyone in the house that day (and we even saved a little piece for Paul!). This would have been over the top with a some chocolate ganache poured over the top...but that was too much work for today. We just wanted the cake.


Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake
adapted slightly from The Bakeaholic Mama

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
1 tbs of vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup Chocolate Almond Spread (or Biscoff Spread, Nutella, Speculoos Cookie Butter, etc)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 8-inch cake pan. Dollop the chocolate spread on top and swirl with a knife. Bake for 35-40 minutes (begin checking after 30 minutes) or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Five Favorites: Kid Quotes

Emma gave herself a little bit of a Harry Potter scar in her sleep one night.


This year, I volunteered to teach religious education to 2nd graders at my parish. Although we are only a few weeks into the school year, the class so far has proved to be both challenging and rewarding. My kids have an endless amount of energy - to the point where I seem to have a lot of trouble getting them to quiet down. One person mentions that they went to the beach that summer and all of a sudden the WHOLE ROOM starts chiming and yelling: "ME TOO!" However, these kids are so curious and ready to learn about their faith. They act pretty engaged during each lesson and that alone has been extremely rewarding for me. Plus, since they are so darn chatty, they are always up for answering questions and participating in the activities I plan.

In honor of my 2nd grade kiddos, I am dedicating this edition of five favorites to some of the best lines I have heard from kids in my RE class (so far). As usual, this post will be linked up with all the other lovelies over at Moxie Wife. Of course, this post will be interspersed with random pictures of my kiddos.


-1-

Baby Emma is normally watched by a sitter while I am in class, but one day she was being particularly fussy so I brought her into the classroom with me. One of the little boys in my class comes up to me and asks: "Is that your baby or did you just take her from a real mom?"

-2-

"Are you older than my Mom? Because my Mom is really old. Like 80 or something."

This comment may or may not have made me consider buying some of that anti-wrinkle cream.

-3-

Kid: "Why do we have to be good?"
Me: "Because we want to show God that we love him and we also want to go to heaven someday."
Kid: "Heaven? I just want to go to Chuck E. Cheese."

Matthew is in the preschool religious education class. Unfortunately, he likes to draw on the desk with the markers and has a hard time staying seated in his chair. But he does now know all the words to "Jesus Loves Me" so he is learning something!

-4-

Me: "One way we can show God how much we love him is by taking care of his creation. This can be taking care of animals, tending to our gardens, and making sure that we do not leave trash laying around."
Kid: "Then what do we pay the trash man for if we gotta pick it up?"

-5-

Kid: I hit my little sister last week so Mom put me in the corner.
Me: Oh that wasn't good. I'm sure you said you were sorry and will try very hard to not do it again.
Kid: Nope. She deserved it. You have no idea what it's like living with her. I even told my Mom that and then she made me stay in the corner longer.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Favorite Chicken Salad



This morning, Paul woke up to head into work a little earlier to prepare for a design review. As he stumbled about our dark room getting himself dressed and ready, he woke up the sleeping baby. He apologetically brought her to me to feed, comfort, and rock back to sleep. I was pretty out of it and do not really remember much since both Emma and I fell back to sleep pretty quickly. I was awaken again about an hour later to find Matthew practically sitting on top of my head while shoving his fingers into Baby Emma's tiny mouth.

"What the heck are you doing, Matthew?!?!"

I must have scared him, because he jumped back pretty suddenly. However, he recovered quickly enough to inform me with a voice full of alarm and urgency: "Oh no Mommy! Baby Emma - she has no teeth!! They fell out! We need to find her teeth!"


No teeth yet in there! Thank Goodness - I enjoy the toothless baby smiles!

In some ways, this new realization that Baby Emma is unable to chew her food might help prevent Matthew from feeding Emma bits and pieces of his crackers, sandwiches, and carrot sticks as I have caught him doing in the past. Or forkfuls of this chicken salad. While I love the simplicity, freshness, and ease of this recipe, Matthew will not touch it with a ten foot pole. When I placed it in front of him, he looked at me as if I had just asked him to eat cat food. Like the fine older brother he is, he absolutely insisted that Emma try it first in order to ensure that it was in fact palatable and that I was not trying to poison him. When that didn't happen (for beyond obvious reasons), we gave him the choice of eating his dinner or going to bed early. He immediately hopped off his chair, headed upstairs, and tucked himself into bed. He is remarkably stubborn.

Despite Matthew's glowing endorsement of this recipe, I insist that you try it because it is absolutely delicious. This is adapted from a popular chicken salad recipe from Whole Foods which I have never ever tried at the store. However, I understand why it is so popular. It is one of those great no-fuss recipes that is a perfect way to use leftover chicken and can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. It's also nice enough to serve at a luncheon, baptismal party, or bridal shower on tiny croissants. On this particular occasion, we used chopped leftover barbecued turkey and it was delectable. If you do not have grapes on hand (a shame because they really do make the recipe), some plumped dried cranberries would be a good substitute.


Sonoma Chicken Salad
adapted slightly from Whole Foods Market

For the Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
5 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the Salad:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted
2 cups red seedless grapes
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds, salt and pepper. Dice the chicken into bite-size chunks and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in pecans, grapes, celery and dressing. This can be made up to two days ahead of time and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve atop a bed of lettuce, a sliced croissant, or toasted sourdough bread.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Five Hour Baguettes (and Savoring the Last Few Days of Summer)


The weather has been so incredibly beautiful that we have been trying our best to cram in as many summer activities before the inevitable cold weather moves into our area. That meant, of course, that when last week proved to be a perfect 80 degree sunny day, we wasted no time in packing up a picnic dinner and heading to the beach to relax as a family.

Matthew and I mixed and kneaded the dough for this quick and easy baguette recipe from Mark Bittman and used it as the vehicle for some pressed sandwiches filled with thinly sliced grilled chicken, red peppers, onion, tomatoes, romaine, and a zippy lemon-thyme aioli. We brought the other baguette along to slice up and spread with cheese for Paul (who cannot go more than 24 hours without something cheese related). Throw in a couple iced teas and a tupperware full of apple slices and we were ready to enjoy the evening.


It was perfect. Beautiful weather, beautiful view, beautiful children, handsome hubby (I would use "beautiful" again but I think Paul might be a bit put off by being described with that adjective)...It was a fun, enjoyable evening.



The stupid seagulls were apparently starving. They kept creeping closer and closer in an attempt to steal some of our dinner. They made Matthew a little nervous...


"No bird. Nooo! That's MATTHEW'S Sandwich!!!"

He finally decided that the best defense he had was just to caw back at them. It was a little obnoxious and I worried what the people camped out next to us thought of our "bird child." Then I saw one of their kids eat a fistful of sand and I stopped worrying.

After realizing that the bird did not understand English, Matthew resorted to telling him off in his native tongue.
You tell him, Matthew!

My Dad always talks about how much he hates it when people go on vacation and then take a picture of their feet while laying on the beach or next to the resort pool. But what if the picture is of little baby feet? I took this picture just for him...although admittedly Emma was not too cooperative.


Looks like we might have to clean under her little toenails.

We enjoyed the beautiful sunset. We enjoyed such a beautiful summer, thanks in no small part to the addition of our sweet Baby Emma. She definitely makes our lives so much more rewarding and fun.

Our beautiful baby girl!

The recipe for today is for the easiest, quickest French baguettes you will ever make - the recipe we used to make the bread for the delicious sandwiches we enjoyed on our picnic. The dough is thrown together in a food processor and takes a whopping minute to mix together before being plopped in a bowl and allowed to sit for a few hours. It bakes up delightfully chewy and surprisingly full-flavored for such a quick recipe. I was especially surprised by how beautifully crackly the crust turned out. Most baguette recipes require a starter to be made at least 12 hours in advance of mixing the dough in order to really produce the developed flavor characteristic of a good baguette. However, I was truly impressed with the quality of these loaves. I highly recommend this recipe if you need good bread FAST. There is relatively no hands-on time with this dough and it can be sliced and served in as little as five hours.

Baguette shape on the left for our cheese appetizer and a batard on the right for sandwiches!

Easiest French Baguettes
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

3 1/2 cups (546 grams) bread flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 cups water (or more)

Process flour, salt, and yeast for a few seconds in food processor, using the metal blade. With the machine running, pour most of the water through the feed tube. Process about 30 seconds, or until dough becomes a sticky, shaggy ball. If it does not feel sticky, add more water.

Turn dough into large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for two to three hours at room temperature.

Sprinkle a little flour on the counter, and cut dough into three equal pieces. Shape each into long roll, and place in a lightly floured baguette pan. Cover with a towel, and let rise for another one to two hours. I let it go the entire two hours.

About a half-hour before baking, put baking stone in oven, and skillet or pan on lowest shelf. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. When ready to bake, slash loaves with sharp knife and sprinkle lightly with flour. Put about 1/2 cup of ice cubes on pan on lowest shelf of the oven, and quickly put baguette pan on top of baking stone.

Spray sides of oven after five minutes and again after ten minutes. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Pumpkin Edition


Ever since Labor Day rolled around, it seems we have been barraged with all things Halloween, pumpkin, fall, and Thanksgiving (NO!). Most people seem so incredibly eager for the chilly weather, cozy soups, football games, ghoulish sugar-hungry children begging their way around the neighborhood, and family holiday gatherings that fill the last few months of the year. Fall is one of my favorite seasons - I too enjoy the chilly weather, the changing leaves, and all the comfort food I get to make now that it is not too hot to turn that oven on!



However, I still do not feel ready for it yet! We have been experiencing some beautiful high temperatures and gorgeous sunshine that makes me want to hold onto that last bit of summer before we bid it farewell for the next 8 months.

That does not mean that I am not craving all things Pumpkin. As soon as I noticed that Starbucks had plopped its famed Pumpkin Spice Latte back on their drink menu, I began to get an itch to bake, cook, and eat all things pumpkin. But I absolutely refuse. I must, must, MUST hold out until October.

In the meantime, for 7 Quick Takes Friday, I will post my top pumpkin-themed treats that I will be making come October. I definitely have more than seven on my "to make soon" list, but these are the ones I am most looking forward to making! I'm linking up with all the other lovely people at Conversion Diary.

-1-



Fall would not be complete without indulging in a couple slices of pumpkin bread. My Mom makes a killer pumpkin bread (she's downright famous for it) and I can usually rely on her having a loaf or two on hand when I go home for a visit. This does not stop me from making my own and stockpiling my freezer with a few loaves for a yummy fall breakfast (or as a snack paired with one of those pumpkin spice lattes!).

-2-



Horrible, horrible picture of these magnificent cookies...but do not let that deter you from making these. These are one of my absolute favorite cookies of all time. I love the soft frosted pumpkin cookies that you can find in most stores, but these chewy pumpkin cookies laced with butterscotch are amazing. The butterscotch is ground with the oats in the recipe so that you get a bit of their flavor in every single bite. 

-3-



This is a new recipe I have yet to try, but it reminds me of a from-scratch version of a pumpkin dump cake that my family made a ton while I was growing up. I think this will be the dessert I make to warm my little trick-or-treaters after they are done making their rounds about the neighborhood (as if the 5 pound bag of candy they'll return with isn't enough sugar!..at least pumpkin is a vegetable). I found the recipe on the beautiful blog Cooking Classy.

-4-



I will never say no to a freshly baked blondie. But blondie batter swirled with the remarkable addition of pumpkin and white chocolate? Just give me the whole pan. These are amazing served warm with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.

-5-



In college, I used to save up all my "domer dollars" to splurge on a pumpkin scone when studying into the wee hours of the morning. I am so going to make my own this Fall. Best part about scones? They can be frozen prior to baking and then popped in the oven when needed with a slight extension in baking time. A perfect make-ahead special breakfast for company!

-6-



I love having some crunchy biscotti on hand to dunk into my morning cup of coffee. Matthew enjoys having them on hand to chip his teeth with since he opts to painfully crunch his way through a cookie rather than softening it in his coffee. He bears the pain like a true warrior because he enjoys the flavor. Anyway, these pumpkin biscotti are a perfect addition to morning coffee flavored with pumpkin spice creamer!

-7-



These soft sandwich cookies are incredible. They are a bit of a project to make, but so worth it in the end. And they look so cute on a holiday cookie platter! Always a big hit with the little people. Except for my dainty little Matthew. He cannot stand getting the filling on his fingers. What do you expect from the boy who eats Rice Krispies Treats with a knife and fork? This recipe comes from one of my favorite baking cookbooks ever.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am at my limit already for seven pumpkin treats!?! But there are so many more treats I want to share! Like this and this and these and THESE! I might be overdosing on pumpkin. Come Thanksgiving I'll be sick of it (like that will ever happen!).

Please check out more quick takes at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vacation Photo Dump: Part II


We spent the second day of our trip to Mackinac Island exploring and hiking everywhere. The weather forecast had predicted rain and thunderstorms all day long, but as we ate our breakfast out on the veranda and watched the beautiful sun come up over the Mackinaw Bridge, there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The day looked to be gorgeous - and it was! We took advantage of the glorious weather and immediately packed Baby Emma up and headed into town to do a little shopping before hiking around the island.

Unfortunately, a little after we had made our way into town, Baby Emma decided to host a mini reenactment of Pompeii. We had packed extra shorts, but not an extra shirt for her. Not wanting to hike all the way back to Stonecliffe for a new outfit, we ducked into the nearby Mission Inn Resort where Paul made a quick trip to the gift shop to pick out a onesie with a super ugly moose on it. It did the job.

Our little stink bomb waiting for Daddy to return with a new outfit.

Doing pretty well sitting on her own in the armchair...

...but all good things must come to an end. She's a bit top heavy.

After hiking around a bit, we headed up to Fort Mackinac for a visit to "the tea room." The tea room provides a beautiful view of the island unmatched by any other location. Unfortunately, you do have to pay the admission fee for Fort Mackinac just to visit the tea room (and then pay for expensive food on top of that) but it is well worth it for a casual location to relax and enjoy the afternoon.

Baby Emma LOVED the tea room. Look at that gorgeous view!

We ordered some tea and a couple slices of fresh cherry pie. We had ordered the exact same thing when we visited the tea room on our honeymoon. Paul and I remembered the pie being excellent and we were not disappointed. That cherry pie was the best slice of pie I have ever had in my life. The pastry was perfectly buttery and flaky and the cherry filling was slightly tart, sweet, and bursting with an overabundance of fresh Michigan-grown cherries. Paired with the tea, it was a perfect "lunch." Baby Emma enjoyed the breeze off the bay and her first taste of real whipped cream. She was a big fan. We had a hard time keeping her away from it.

Hanging with my baby girl at the tea room and sporting a bit of a sunburn after our morning hike.


Emma voraciously gobbling down whipped cream.
 After relaxing for a bit at the tea room, we explored Fort Mackinac. It was a neat little exhibit showcasing the role Mackinac Island played in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 (did you know the first "battle" of that war occurred on Mackinac Island?), and as a working military fort until the late 1800s. We really enjoyed the exhibit. Baby Emma really liked the view...


She really liked that telescope. She was MAD when I wouldn't let her eat it.
 I'm such a horrible Mom.
 After leaving Fort Mackinac, we hiked our way through the woods and ridges of the island and came out on the other side to visit Arch Rock, a really neat natural rock formation. Again, the view was simply breathtaking. We then followed the bluffs around the perimeter of the island until we ended up back in town. Emma was kind enough to nap during that hike.


Me and my napping baby at Arch Rock.

The view from the trail we took along the bluffs.
 That evening, we dined at The Woods, a Bavarian-style restaurant that featured an amazing dining space adorned with dark wood paneling, high-back armchairs, and hunting decor. The restaurant featured a live piano player who entertained us with renditions of classic songs - including many, many favorites from the Beatles' catalog of hits. His playing actually lulled Miss Emma to sleep, giving Paul and I the opportunity to really enjoy the food. It was amazing - we split the house cured salmon, the smoked trout, a beet salad with whipped goat cheese, and a chicken liver pate with quince jelly. Fantastic all around. Paul finished with a Grand Marnier creme brulee and we both enjoyed piping hot mugs of coffee. I was also a  huge fan of their bread - walnut raisin rolls served with orange whipped butter. Heaven.

Following dinner, we headed to the bluff to watch the sunset. And to take a few pictures commemorating the end our trip. I was really sad that our time on Mackinac was coming to a close, but we could not have asked for a better time. It was perfect.

Sunset over the lake. Absolutely beautiful.
Paul took over baby toting duties for the evening.


The Mackinac Bridge at sunset.
One of the couples who had enjoyed dinner at the table next to us the night before
(when Emma was having her grunting fit) kindly offered to take a picture
of the three of us. It turned out a bit fuzzy, but I still like it!