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bananas foster baked oatmeal, and a perfect weekend

August 21st, 2013 | 2 Comments »

We celebrated our 11th anniversary with a quiet weekend at the lake, just the two of us.

It was perfect in many ways.

Come in to my kitchen…

deliberateLIFE magazine {review}

August 19th, 2013 | Comments Off

I’ve been loving my iPad mini.

It was a complete surprise gift from Mike back in late Spring. We’d been sharing a standard iPad at home, and I’d been using the mini at work for a few months so when Mike handed me my very own mini for home use, I was just thrilled.

One aspect of using the iPad that I really like is reading digital magazines. I’ve discovered a wealth of digital options through ISSUU- a self-published site with a huge variety, plus food magazines like Relish, Food & Chef, and Food Fanatics (you can search for these on an iPad only- you won’t find them if you search by computer) but one of my most favorite digital magazines that I’ve discovered has to be DeliberateLIFE.

The title is what really drew me in at first; I’m all about working to live with more intention in my life, and DeliberateLIFE’s tagline of ‘Inspire. Engage. Do good.’ appealed to me, plus, in the first issue I read, Editor Fay Johnson’s notes stated:

…one Deliberate Life’s core beliefs is that our relationship to nature and the world around us matters. Stepping away from our controlled surroundings into expanses too grand to bottle, embrace, or capture in a simple photograph- we can again find ourselves in the quiet and be reminded that we are only one part of the grand story of the universe.”

With that, I dove in, and swiped page after page, enthralled at the words, images and information. It was like being around a table of inspired and creative individuals, telling their stories, sharing the photos of their lives and passing a plate or two of good food, a tumbler of cocktails, soft breezes across the table, and talking long in to the night. Magazines, for me, need to tell me stories that transport me to other places and time. They need to be void of the unrealistic fluff, pointing me in the right direction, making me salivate and wanting to book a flight across the country, or the globe. And most of all, they shouldn’t portray their information in unattainable ways. You know what I mean…. you pick up a glossy tome and start riffling the pages; pages full of impossibly beautiful people, in impossibly beautiful settings, with nary a stray hair or smudge of dirt visible. I don’t want a magazine that shows me something out of my reach. That doesn’t make me dream. That makes me fling it aside forever. I don’t want to see photos of people wearing white clothes and supposedly eating messy, glossy, saucy ribs at a barbecue (with no sauce on their hands or face? What a crock.) because in the real world, that never happens. But I’ve seen it in a paper magazine. And I flung it aside in disgust.

DeliberateLIFE portrays real life, from travel stories, to interviews with people who are really making a difference in the world, to smart ways to handle the crush of life, to unique products that help support the way we ease through our days.

The current issue is all about back to school, and, as Fay states, “…the internally ingrained sense that new beginnings are just around the corner.” Every Fall season makes me yearn for something new; a new notebook for my writings, a new big book to learn from, a sharp pencil. The start of school brings a melancholy to my life, as if my very nature shakes off the barefoot feel of Summer and wants to buckle down to ….. something. Anything. I might or might not be done with school, with intentional learning and education, and I’m always open to where my life might lead me in that regard. I hope to never, ever feel like I should stop learning as I grow older.

The very first essay in this issue is titled ‘The Secret to a Vacation State of Mind.” and talks about how to capture the calm and magic of vacation days, even when your tied to a desk. And speaking of being tied to your desk, the section entitled ‘Corporate Play- Learning on the Job’ gives us many reasons for constant growth in your work, and chosen field even after you’ve hung your diploma on the wall. The Odyssey Initiative outlines a grass-roots group of New York teachers who traveled across the United States to find out what innovative and effective teaching practices educators are using to connect with students. Other articles talk about the importance of adaptability in learning, the impact of mentoring on students, ways to nourish school children through interesting lunch box ideas and ways to eliminate waste when packing school lunches. The Lunchskins, Smart Planet’s Eco Collapsible Meal kits and adorable Takenaka bento boxes all make me wish for days of packing school lunch again so I can use these great items.

By far, my favorite section of this issue is all about the education and empowerment of women.

“Society appears to be making room for girls to transcend traditional expectations about abilities and aspirations,
just as long as they also conform to conventional notions of femininity.”

~~The Supergirl Dilemma, Girls Inc.

The Supergirl Dilemma is that American girls can have it all, but they must navigate all these hypocritical expectations: Dream big, but without aggression. Be smart, but not too smart. Change the world, as long as you look good doing it. (There’s a perfect example of why white clothes at a messy Barbecue make me fling a magazine aside.)

Multiple organizations are at work with American girls to dash this dilemma on it’s head, and I love how the article states “We must encourage our girls to pursue their dreams, without apology, embracing tenacity, grit and aggression, if needed.” Not only in the United States, but worldwide you will find organizations set up specifically to help support women’s rise out of poverty through education and DeliberateLIFE highlights several worldwide groups helping bring change to women everywhere.

And? They’re raising money to build a school. How can you not love something like that? Follow the link for more information.

Do you have an iPad? I challenge you to download just one issue of DeliberateLIFE, read it through and try not to fall in love with it.

Seriously. I bet you can’t.

 

{{I was asked to review the current issue of DeliberateLIFE magazine, but all words and opinions [[and rants. Sorry.]] are solely my own. Especially the rants. [[Sorry.]] I was not compensated for this review in any way. And I was already on the fan train before they asked for a review. Isn’t that cool?! }}

~ 11 years ~

August 16th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

August 17, 2002.

11 Things I’ve learned in 11 years of marriage

1. It’s ok to not figure it all out right away. You have time. Lots of time. The key is to just keep trying.

2. Sometimes a hug is all you need to bridge the space that’s come between you.

3. Never underestimate the power of a really good belly laugh.

4. Always hold hands. Wherever. Whenever. And kiss. A lot.

5. Keep exploring, changing where you go, the places you visit, the things you do. Boredom is a terrible enemy.

6. Keep active and healthy so that you can really enjoy each other until you’re old and gray.

7. Take time to do what you love, even if it takes you away from your spouse on occasion. You’ll have much more to talk about that way.

8. Encourage them in everything they do. You are their biggest cheerleader, their #1 fan. Show it.

9. They are imperfect. But they are perfect for you. Forgive the idiosyncrasies. Love them as a whole, every day.

10. Build a filter for your emotions and understand when to keep your mouth shut. And never, ever use the words ‘I told you so.’

11. It’s ok if you get angry. That’s normal emotional response. It’s never ok to be mean, punitive or spiteful.

Above all, remember the vow you both took. It will get you through the very worst,
and make you treasure the very best.

 

Happy 11th anniversary to  my sweet husband. And thank you for helping shape our beautiful life.

august

August 5th, 2013 | Comments Off

Just the other day, I slipped two fist-sized tomatoes off the vine in the garden. I went a bit overboard, maybe, with tomatoes this year, planting five plants in a space that’s probably much too small for all of them- plus the broccoli, chard, basil beyond necessity, oregano that needs a violent haircut every other week, parsley, lemon thyme, lemongrass and the curious curry herb I found- and yet, I’m not sorry for the riot of green stems that I tussle with every day, nor the fact that those five plants have an extraordinary amount of fruit awaiting that magical ripening. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

{{farmers market find from 2012}}

We do love our garden tomatoes. Two years ago, even my then 17 year old would nearly leap for joy when I came in from the garden, my hands laden with golf-ball sized yellow heirloom tomatoes that fell open to reveal it’s pink striped interior, a sweet, tender flesh that melted in our mouths. We’d crack fresh black pepper on them, maybe a thin drizzle of blue cheese dressing and eat them shamelessly. And prolifically. 2011 was the Summer of Tomato. By the time the season was over, honestly, I was kind of tired of them, but in a good, good way.

{{herb sweet corn & tomato salad}}

I think the odd years might be best for tomato love in our climate. Last year I maybe got a half dozen off the vine all season long, and they just tasted flat. Something was just off in the air, the soil and the sun in 2012. My garden plot is organic, and ever since we began utilizing it in (maybe?) 2007, I’ve simply tossed all my kitchen waste on the soil, covered it once or twice in the Summer with cut grass, then buried it in fallen leaves each Autumn to rest. Each Spring, I just dig through the decomposing leaf cover and plant. The soil is black as night, fragrant and thick with fat worms. One season we had four tomato plants in that garden that each topped out at about six feet in height, so fat with leaves that the fruit hid deeply inside, only popping out at me when it turned bright red in it’s calling card to me.

{{tomato jam}}

But back to those two tomatoes. The skin had split on them, which happens in my garden. I believe I once heard it’s due to inconsistent watering, and that likely is true. I’m a lazy waterer, much preferring to rely on Mother Nature to help out, and boy, did she ever this Spring. But July came along and the rain was less prevalent, and at time, I ignored the soil, so a few cracked tomatoes is my penance. These two little gems, both no bigger than a racquetball left just enough behind once the cracks were gone for Griffin and I to stuff in our mouths and sigh, deeply. They were sweet as can be, but as my boy said “They’re almost perfect.”

And he was right. It’s August. It’s the month of bounty, as our staggering CSA boxes can attest. I literally groan under the weight of the 2-3 fully stuffed bags I drag out to the car every other week, my eyes shining as I unload them at home. And while the tomatoes are sweet, and suddenly, everywhere, in a few weeks with the right heat and sunlight, they will take on a taste like nothing else in the world.

August. And tomatoes. And everything else that is bursting through the soil and waving ‘Hello!’. I cut thick bouquets of fresh herbs, lifting my hands to my nose, the lemon thyme clinging to my fingers. I dream of herbed sweet corn salads, verdant pesto. There is little I can’t cover with a fluttering of tiny green flakes from the cutting board. I give bouquets to my friends, to share the wealth.

Sometimes I just sit and look at the garden, the floppy fence around it trying to keep out the freeloaders, the tomato cages sagging under the weight and the purple tomato plant that is loaded with what looks to be more than 50 tiny purple orbs that turn a dark reddish-violet when ripe.

The taste. Oh that taste. It’s August; the scent of Milkweed, and high Summer at twilight, humidity trapped in the grasses and big puffy clouds sweeping overhead. It’s sunshine and cool nights and gardens bursting with life, ice cream as the sun falls off. The rain has come often enough to keep the grass from turning to hay, and I’m ready to sweep up all the goodness of a bountiful season. The time after dinner, when dishes are done and bellies full is perfect for slipping in to a chair on the patio, leaning my head back and drawing in the fragrant air, the changing sky, lazily watching blue change to amber to purple and beyond.

 

blueberry vanilla chia ‘jam’

July 30th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Canning and preservation of food can happen year round, but it’s during the summer when people consider putting up the excess of the season the most. My Instagram feed is jammed with photos of …. well, jam. And pickles! Oh, the pickles. They are everywhere, veggies of every sort soaked in vinegar and spices and the giddy anticipation is felt right through the computer. It seems that the waiting time for proper pickles of any kind is now akin to the last few days before Christmas in it’s anticipation.

Growing up, my Mom did not do any preservation. During the Summer she spent plenty of time and cash purchasing cases of peaches and cherries, and maybe a pie or two was made from the bounty, but she loved fresh fruit, and we loved fresh peaches and cherries and most of that case would end up in our mouths, fruit juice staining our shirts or running down our elbows; I have the quintessence Summer memory of sitting on the back steps with a peach in hand, pressing my teeth over and over in to it’s superb flesh, and getting soaked in sticky-sweet juice like every child should at some point or another. The smell of ripe peaches catapults me backwards to sultry Summer, and the eager anticipation of that overflowing box of fruit, colanders filled in the sink while a Summer breeze shifts the window curtains, and more sweet, intense peaches, or cherries, to eat than should be legal. I love the idea of canning fruit, but there isn’t even comparison to flavor of fresh, no matter how diligent you are in the process, and that slip of difference always keeps me in check when I think of fresh peaches any other time of year. If the burning sun isn’t drying peach juice on your hands, it just isn’t the same.

My sister-in-law is the jam-maker in the family. She loves it, and makes quite a lot that she happily shares. I love a good, homemade jam, and I’ve tried making it a few times. Once, it was perfectly jam-like and I didn’t mind the process at all. We coveted the result, too; opening a fresh jar of deep and dark jam that smelled like summertime was such a treat in the dead of Winter. The next time I ventured to make it, it felt like the process was mocking me. It didn’t feel right, nor did it go right, and the final result was more like a thick syrup than anything close to resembling jam. We ate it anyway. Are you kidding? Blueberry syrup is divine. From that moment on, I just made syrup. Forget the jam. Me and pectin apparently don’t know how to figure each other out.

This raw Chia jam isn’t even like jam at all, except a bit in it’s consistency. If you’ve ever made a pudding with Chia seeds, then you can kind of get how this jam works- the mighty little Chia seed, worthy of soaking in up to 10 times it’s weight in liquid, is the binder, no pectin needed. Fresh fruit is whirred in the food processor with Chia seeds, the scrapings of a vanilla bean and a good dose of crossed fingers, then in a jar it goes for an overnight stay in the refrigerator. The next day, spread on toast, it’s fruity, with the tiny, almost imperceptible gel-like quality of Chia and the unearthly beautiful scent and flavor of fresh vanilla. I buried the vanilla bean pod in the jam for it’s overnight, to infuse more of the flavor because a vanilla bean buried in anything with fruit is magical in every way. What the jam isn’t is overly sweet. There is no added sugar, which you need a ton of in homemade jam. In this version, you taste fruit, subtle and sweet all on it’s own, but if you like the cloying sweet taste of jam with it’s sharp undercurrent of pectin to hold it’s shape, this jam might not be for you. But I encourage you to try one jar, as it’s just the simplest of simple things to make, and keep your mind open to possibility. It may ‘Wow’ you in an unexpected way.

My original inspiration came from Shockingly Delicious, who’s photos of her Raw Strawberry Chia Jam made my eyes bug out. I switched out the vanilla syrup that her recipe calls for to use the vanilla bean, and instead of lemon juice, I added fresh squeezed lime juice and a bit of zest, which you just don’t taste at all as much as it adds a dash of brightness to the final end result.

And it should suffice to say that any fresh fruit would make for a fine substitute for the Blueberries. Get crazy with it.

 

Raw Blueberry-Vanilla Chia Jam

1 c. fresh blueberries, washed
1 tsp. fresh grated lime zest (lemon is fine, too)
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and consistent. Alternately, you can place all the ingredients in a bowl and mash with either a fork or a potato masher for a thicker, chunkier consistency. Scrape in to a jar with a tight fitting lid. Press vanilla bean pod down in to jam, seal lid and place in refrigerator overnight. Stir jam before using. Vanilla bean pod can be discarded or left in jam to heighten the flavor.

 

a season of blueberries

July 24th, 2013 | Comments Off

Blueberry season is my favorite.

This is one trip’s worth of picking at my absolute favorite spot, Rush River Produce. I become almost giddy with excitement when the postcard arrives in the mail, announcing the fruit is ready for picking. Although there are blueberry farms closer to me, what I love most about going to Maiden Rock, Wisconsin for these beauties (and they are stunning berries) is that the 70 minutes drive to get there is one of the most beautiful road trips one can take locally. You wind and twist along the Mississippi, past Lake Pepin and through beautiful, quaint little towns. I always go as early in the morning as I can; then, when done picking, I drive to Stockholm, or even further along to Pepin and make a stop for lunch and relaxing. I can’t get enough of the scenery, and driving along with the scent of fresh picked fruit in my car is one of Summer’s most intense pleasures.

For utilizing such perfect fruit, most of what I pick goes in to the freezer. I employ the straight to the freezer method; no washing of the fruit as it begins to break down the moment you rinse the white bloom off of it. I portion the fruit in to 2-cup increments and freeze the bags as flat as I can manage. Two cups is a pretty standard amount for most recipes, and the berries freeze without clumping so you can measure easily for other needs. They are easily utilized for pancakes or waffles in this manner, too.

We eat plenty of them fresh too. And a recipe I discovered last year for Blueberry Compote with Lemon Thyme was a huge hit. Spread over fresh, creamy Burrata, it was a beautiful pre-dinner treat.

If you LOVE Blueberry syrup on your pancakes like I do, this recipe is so simple. And it’s taste is out of this world. Best part about this recipe was that it was printed in The Edible Twin Cities Cookbook.

Of course, blueberries go beautifully in muffins, and this Blueberry Coconut Macadamia Nut version is a favorite of mine. It’s a mouthful, all right. Both in syllables, and in flavor.

Here’s a favorite coffee cake recipe for you to try as well, Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake, rich with pop of blueberries and the spritzy bite of lemon- one of my favorite flavor combinations. Using Rice Krispies cereal in it guarantees it a perfect breakfast food.

There’s so much more one can do with blueberries. And I’m sure you have your favorites, too. Care to share them with us??

in the good ol’ Summertime…..

July 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

When you think of the month of July, what comes to mind? Heat. Sun. Humidity. Thunderstorms. Exploding growth in the garden. Balmy, beautiful Summer nights. Popsicles. Ice cream. Grilling outside. Fresh produce from the Farmers Market.

In one word, quintessential Summertime.

It’s very warm as I write this, too; nearly 80 degrees and it’s only 8AM. Yesterday, as I walked to my car after work, the sun shimmering over the parking lot, and opened the car door to the furnace inside, I thought back to April, and it’s never-ending snowfalls. The blanket of snow we awoke to on Griffin’s birthday on the 19th, the Earth Day storm and parade of cold, sopping wet days. The May Day snow. Rain, rain and more rain in May and a Memorial Weekend at the lake where we needed to run the furnace, and a simple sweatshirt wasn’t enough to keep the chill at bay.

As I sat in my car, feeling the suffocating heat, I thought ‘This is what we waited for in the Spring. This is what we love, our theater of seasons, our scorching Summer.’ The idea of even raising one breath of complaint about it went out the window. It was hot, all right.

Thank goodness for that.

We’re not cooking much these days, although I did roast a whole bunch of vegetables the other day while the A/C churned out some crisp air. Today I plan to make a big batch of these Ridiculously Healthy Millet, Kale & Yam Burgers. And as always, with the surge of heat I get the urge to bake. Crazy, isn’t it? We’ll see what I come up with. But we still need to eat, and simple foods are passing through our kitchen, with lots of fresh salads, some quick stand-bys and a few Yee-Hawww cowboy style, throw it all together and see what happens kind of meals.

For a bit of inspiration, check out these oldies, but goodies from my Recipe Box.

Chard with White Beans and Fresh Herbs

In July, two years ago, I fell head over heels in love with Chard. We ate this quite often that Summer, and ever since.

Fettucine with Braised Kale

We also fell hard for Kale. This was one of the recipes that completely changed my mind about that green.

Ratatouille Gratin

When zucchini, tomato and eggplant are at their peak, there is nothing finer than this dish.

Roasted Radish & Caramelized Onion Tart

 We had a lot of vegetable revelation in 2011; this time was all about roasting Radishes.

Herb Flatbread with Pesto & Caramelized Onions

Simple and so delicious; make a big batch of the onions to keep on hand and it’s even easier.

Pickled Radishes

Perfect on a sandwich, or just straight from the jar. I really need to do these again.

Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing

Gotta love the crunch of these raw salads. I’m addicted to them.

Super Simple Strawberry Vinaigrette

If you’re flush with strawberries (and if not, you should be!) this simple salad vinaigrette is extraordinary.

Cheesy Creamed Corn with Cilantro

This delicious and simple recipe came from my very last issue of Gourmet magazine, back in 2009.
(A moment of silence for the loss of a great work of art)

What are you eating during our hot and wonderful Summer?? Anything good you’d like to share??

grilled bok choy

July 10th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

We rolled right in to July with perfect Summer weather. Our CSA share started too, and we’ve been enjoying a lot of wonderfully fresh organic fare, including some large and sumptuous heads of Bok Choy (Joi Choi). I promptly split one in half, dropped it on a searing hot grill and called it dinner.

 

Come in to my kitchen…

raw pea salad for your Summer

June 27th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

I’m fairly certain that you don’t feel like cooking when the heat index soars. No one really does, and even though we’re still a bit behind on our growing season, the bounty at the Farmers Markets is such that you can arrive home, dripping from a hot, steamy walk among the tables with an overflowing sack of fresh vegetables and make something cool, refreshing and satisfying for dinner without turning on your oven. Like this raw pea salad.

Come in to my kitchen…

chickpea fries, and 7 years

June 24th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

It’s hard to keep writing a food blog for seven years, which is how long my little spot on the Internet has been around. Began in June of 2006, when food blogs raised an eyebrow of question rather than a simple nod of understanding, I never anticipated that this place would become the launching pad for so much enrichment in my life. Or so much frustration.

And with such an intense saturation of food blogs, with clamoring voices, ubiquitous styles, and everyone trying to find a way to stand out, my page just keeps plugging along in the only way I know how. It’s just me and my food.

Come in to my kitchen…