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summer bounty

July 18th, 2012 | Comments Off

It’s more than just food, sometimes.

July has shown us little mercy. She rises daily at dawn, consistent and sure of herself, simmering her heat and thick air giving little relief in the night hours. I’m stuffed through and through with her blistering melancholy, brought down by hot winds, the white haze of mid-summer and a relentless, calculating sun. I snack on watermelon slices, thick with juice and snapping cold against my teeth, lush ripe cherries that burst in my mouth, forcing a wave of juice down my throat, nearly choking me in glorious abundance. My plate piles with deep green leaves, scattered with tiny radish and beets, shaved strips of deep red carrots, burnished fingers of grilled zucchini. I bite down on corn cobs that spray sweet white milk over my cheeks, lush with mashed avocado, squeaking tart lime and the right touch of salt. I wither. I rise, and repeat. My oven seems lonely. I forget what pants feel like and the washer spins over and over with white linen, flippy cotton skirts, the most minimal of clothing. I’ve lost count on the number of pitchers of iced tea I’ve brewed, the ounces of water consumed daily as a means to keep moving. I pin up my hair, thick with humid curls and dream ever so slightly of cutting it all off. Which I won’t. Come Winter, through bitter winds and snow, I’ll press it to my neck for warmth and remember this July. This heat, choked and hard that descended on us without respite.

But the rains come, thankfully. Blessedly. There is no scent more beautiful than that of the rain falling on a parched earth. With thunder rolling and wind in the trees, it’s a melody of riches for the heat weary soul. I press my face to the screen, taking in deep lungfuls of fresh wet air, reveling in the sound of water rushing past my ears and the earth drinking heavily of this bounty. It revives me; lifts me and lightens the spirit. I feel giddy, like a girl; thinking to run and dance in rejoicing at this gift from above. But instead, I watch, mesmerized at the patterns of droplets on stone, like snowflakes no two the same, each bringing sweet relief.

I love this season called Summer, even with it’s scorched sun and grass, with it’s heat, humidity and drapery drawn against the day, the endless bounty of life-sustaining foods, the inexpensive means to feed us, body and soul, sun on bare skin, the smell of warm grass, the light at 9pm.

Or even later than that.

{{ taken by Bald Eagle Lake, late June around 10:10pm }}

I don’t tire of this heat, as tiring as it can be on me; I know as soon as Summer wends it’s way towards September and tomato plants wilt against the inevitable downfall of their life span and the calendar pages turn that it will be missed. It’s a yearly struggle of self vs. elements, attempting to embrace the present without fail, to move through the days in the swelter of high Summer, no word of complaint falling from my lips for I know in my lifetime of this season, it’s as brief as a spark, or a thunderstorm that breaks up the endless pattern of scalding sunshine. It’s embedded deep in my bones with my DNA, my lifetime of July, followed by years of sultry August, right on the heels of exalted and sweet September.

celebrating the abundance

November 27th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

The very first time I did NaBloPoMo, it was in 2007 and I used the theme of ‘Food Holidays’ to blog about every day. Did you know that just about every day of the month, and every month in a year has a national food holiday?

For instance, November is National Pecan Month, Good Nutrition Month, National Peanut Butter Month, National Pepper Month, National Pomegranate Month, Raisin Bread Month and Vegan Month.

{{if you’re interested in learning about ALL the monthly celebrations…. go here}}

I first learned about these many years ago when I worked for a produce company and wrote their weekly marketing report. And having those daily prompts to write about made the very first NaBloPoMo really easy to navigate. Since then, I’ve focused on re-introducing past recipes to everyone.

And my Recipe Index has A LOT to showcase. But lately, my eating habits have turned in a new direction, and by the first of the year [[hopefully... right honey??]] my blog will turn in a new direction too, with a re-worked design and a more streamlined Recipe Index that’s much easier to navigate. And in doing so, I plan to likely wipe out several years worth of posts and recipes that have become irrelevant.

If you haven’t been around this blog long, and let’s face it, blog readers are flighty; they come, stay awhile then flit away to the next best thing. But without that history, it’s easy to consider eliminating what you don’t know is there.  I’ve been writing for 5-1/2 years. No one who hangs with me now goes back that far, and frankly, that’s fine with me. The first few years of this blog are scattered, unfocused and raw; like life itself, really, they lacked any kind of direction and my photos were terrible. I’d no more introduce you to those posts than I would eat a block of Velveeta. So, onward and upward.

There is a lot, each year, that I am so thankful to have in my life, and although it’s been the source of a great deal of angst and hair-twisting anxiety for me, this blog is one of them. In going back over the recipes I’ve collected, I’ve watched my life, and my eating habits unfold, change, grow and mature since 2006. I’ve seen photos turn from something that evokes a cringe and an ‘Oh dear….’ to a gasp and a ‘Wow’. I’ve seen recipes develop, tastes change and habits both form and disappear. Friends have come and gone, and family still opens the site with each new post. My boy has turned from a budding adolescent to a mature young man, and Mike and I covered a lot of ground together through these pages.

There is gratitude this time of year, and then there’s celebration, of the abundance, the fruits of our year of laboring through life, the joys of another bountiful harvest (or so it was, in the past) and it all comes together with feasting and family. The personal harvest this year, for me, has been a new-found level of health and well-being, new friends that are blessing me continually, and a bit more financial security, now that I’m working again. In years past, the last few months on the calendar have been filled with panic and fear. This year, these weeks feel much more calm, with far less anxiety. I’m so grateful for that presence in my life. I’m grateful for the willingness from Griffin to explore and be open to navigating the changes in our kitchen as we embarked on healthier eating; I’m grateful for the farmers who worked so hard to share the bounty with us, and I’m grateful for the ability to stretch, explore and learn about new foods, new ways to consume familiar options and the creativity to make it all delicious, fun and flavorful.

 

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

turkey hangover, with extras

November 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

It happens, right? There’s so much turkey, and celebrating and eating, then more eating and more celebrating and having another piece of pie before we drag full tummies home and into bed, falling exhausted against the pillows.

Then we open the fridge to see all that leftover turkey. That is, if you’re lucky enough to be gifted with leftovers.

I always make more than I think I even need. I’m fine with leftovers, in fact, I love having to re-purpose my food into something else. And this year, with a huge ziploc bag of turkey, I am chomping at the bit to make some awesome meals in the next few days. So, what’s in your plan for that meat? The leftover gravy? The stuffing? Extra potatoes?

These are some ideas for that extra bounty from our holiday.

The simplest of all meals would be to combine turkey, and any leftover gravy that you have and serve it over bread. or leftover mashed potatoes. Or both. Talk about comfort food. This is one of Griffin’s most favorite meals to eat, and I’m sure if I suggest this to him, he will roll his eyes in pleasure, nodding emphatically for me to put it together.

A good frittata is perfect for using up leftovers, and if there are leftover mashed potatoes, you can whip up an interesting version of it by whisking the potatoes and eggs together. This will create a fluffier version of frittata, or make it into a scramble by adding chopped turkey and a little bit of cranberry relish if you have it. Cranberries in eggs is surprisingly good, but just a little as it can easily overpower all other flavors.

Leftover mashed potatoes can be made into Potato Cakes. This rich and comforting food is a rare indulgence in our house, but perfect for those potatoes. Form the mashed potatoes into a cake and dredge it in seasoned flour. Heat a skillet, and melt some butter then place the cake in the skillet and let it sit until the bottom is superbly browned and crispy. Carefully flip it over and do the same to the other side. Be patient and keep the heat moderate, as you will be amply rewarded with a crusty and hot little side for your breakfast.

Will you make soup? That’s pretty standard, especially if you have a turkey carcass to use. I love a good soup, and we eat soup in the wintertime every week. My friend Missy has a wonderful recipe for Creamy Turkey Wild Rice soup on her blog. The photos make my mouth water. That’s the kind of soup that will make an appearance in my kitchen too, as there’s nothing better for a cold night than a warm and creamy, comforting pot of soup. One year I discovered just how good leftover gravy was in making soup. I started a pot of vegetables sizzling before I realized that I was out of soup stock base. I did have gravy, leftover in the freezer so I pulled out the container and chopped out just enough pieces, adding it to the pot with water. It made for a perfect soup.

A quick meal to throw together with leftover turkey could be Turkey Quesadillas. We like to keep tortillas on hand, as well as cheese so that a quick meal can be put on the table when the creativity flow has been stymied. Heat your tortilla in a pan then top with shredded cheese and chopped turkey. If you enjoy them, you could add canned beans too, like pinto or black beans. Top with another tortilla, and cook, turning once until tortillas are crispy and browned. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

A good option for lunch would be a turkey salad. I love Curried Chicken Salad, and substituting turkey is perfect. The recipe I include below calls for dried cherries, but subbing either dried cranberries, or even a scoop of extra cranberry relish would make this really delicious. Bonus points for utilization!

Another favorite salad option, one that would be perfect for lunches at work is this Turkey and Dried Cherry Pasta Salad. Again, sub in dried cranberries, or the fresh relish for a unique taste. And another good salad option, making a hearty dish that’s perfect for a meal or as a side is this Turkey & Wild Rice Curry Salad from Brenda, of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles. I saw her recipe and just about started drooling. I love salads like that; there’s just so much going on in one bowl. It’s a party for anyone’s tastes buds.

And naturally, a turkey sandwich is standard. Jazz it up by spreading your bread with cranberry relish first for a nice twist.

Curry Cashew Chicken Salad
From The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott

2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 c. dried cherries, cranberries or raisins
1/2 c. chopped roasted salted cashews
2 green onions, finely chopped

Dressing:
1/2 c. mayo or preferred creamy spread
2 T. mango chutney or fruit spread of choice
2 t. curry powder
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1 t. dijon mustard

Combine chicken, fruit, nuts and onion in bowl. Separately, mix together dressing ingredients and stir until combined and creamy. Pour over salad and stir thoroughly to coat. Chill. Eat.

Turkey & Dried Cherry Pasta Salad

1# pasta of choice
2 c. cooked turkey, chopped
1 c. dried cherries (sub cranberries, or even raisins)
1/2 c. minced red onion
1/2 c. minced celery
1/2 c. chopped toasted almonds

Dressing:
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 T. white vinegar
1-1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. cold water
2 T. poppyseeds
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine cooked pasta, turkey, dried fruit, onion, celery and almonds in a bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together until smooth and pour over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Serve topped with extra almonds, if desired.