Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jake is 15!

At 2:27 pm my first child was born and in the blink of an eye, I am the mother of a 15-year old son of whom I am very proud. As a first born, I know how much it sucks to be the first born and Jake has handled it with grace. Easy going and responsible, perhaps his greatest accomplishment to date is being a really great big brother.

Jake "gets" me, never ceases to make me laugh and only seldom succumbs to teenage-dom (or is it dumb?) that leaves me utterly annoyed.

This year he starts high school and though, if I think about it too much I want to cry at how quickly time has passed, I look very forward to the coming years of many, many laughs. And watching him achieving all he is capable of.

Yesterday we celebrated with family and a one bowl chocolate cake topped with the perfect chocolate frosting. Grammy just had a birthday ending in a zero and so we celebrated her accomplishment, too. I know, she doesn't look 50 does she?

Happy Birthday, Cakey and Grammy! We all love, love, love ya.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Beginning of the End of an Era

What does it mean when you find your 15-year old son's childhood blanket in a ziploc bag on his desk?

Never mind. I don't want to know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's a Nyagous!

The first tomato of the season from one of our roof top plants.

A prolific, rare, Russian tomato variety.  Beautiful, smooth, round, "black" tomatoes that are dark mohagany with dark grey-green shoulders. Nyagous is a wonderfully firm and blemish-free, 6 oz. tomato with lots of sweet, complex fruit flavors and a clean acidic finish. Up to 6 fruits to a cluster. A good market variety that has become a favorite of the Russian varieties. Nyagous is resistant to cracking. 

Thank you TomatoFest for the info.

Thank you Pat for the plant.

Is it too early to say it was the best tomato I've ever eaten in my life?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

They're Baaaackkkk....

Last week when the horrible heat broke for about 10 minutes. The kids came out.

It didn't last long because of the choking humidity.  Still it was nice to see the sleepy neighborhood wake up - if only for a while.

Making Probiotic Soda

Once again, Rebecca was kind enough to share one of her many skills and teach in the Nourish kitchen. This time - pro biotic sodas. My new favorite thing and current beverage addiction. (though those peach-rosemary rose spritzers were a pretty good sweltering day drink.)

Again, I got to sit on the opposite side of the counter and learn from a pro how to make my own natural soda. Full of 40 pro biotics, this fizzy beverage is not only good for your gut but tasty and really, really refreshing on a hot day.

The method is really easy and she shared three different ways to flavor your drinks. We also experimented with some of the many (many, many) fruit and herbal syrups I've been cranking out.

The fresh fruit version was made with wild blackberries Rebecca foraged herself. Love this woman.

And now we wait.

A few days later we are able to bottle it. This is a good way to recycle Grolsch and other clamp top bottles. Another few days on the counter then into the fridge.

Slightly sweet, bubbly refreshment on a ridiculously oppressive July day.

And then, I begin again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Water Park Adventure with One

A week ago with the 3 big kids gone to Nantucket (I know, right?) Doug and I took the opportunity to enjoy the baby one as an only child. We took him for a quick trip a water park in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

There were many, many, many trips up lots and lots and lots the stairs to shoot down the tube slide. I loved it almost as much as Henry did. FYI - it's even more fun if you scream the whole way down.

The shallow pools gave Doug and I a chance to sit and relax while Henry played.

I love to catch them having a wonderful time in their own little world.

Hey, who's the hot tub stud?

Henry made a new friend.

Can you believe our luck? It was Lego weekend. In the lobby is a huge moose redolent of the resorts mascot. Built by one of 11 certified Lego Master Builders. Henry was in heaven. Only children also get to build a Lego John Hancock building at an inflated rate.

After leaving the resort, a we stopped at the home of a wonderful friend. She let Doug take Henry on a spin on one of their scooters.

And the moral of the story? The brothers and the sister will be so jealous of....the scooter ride.

The free stuff is always the highlight.

Just as I had suspected all along....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dog Days of Summer Redux

Well, here we are again.  The oppressively humid days of a mid-western summer. This sight, Henry giving Junie the ice cream cone he hadn't finished, made me think of the last time I shared the dog days of summer.

Murray got a popsicle - or a popsible as Henry called it since he was still small(ish).

Guess the dog days of summer are always a sure thing.

Enjoy the air and pour an iced tea.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Nourish Food Swap

Inspired by Hip Girl Kate Payne, I decided to host a food swap. Wanting to do something special for the wonderful people who attend my cooking classes it seemed like the perfect way to say thank you.

With a background in catering and event planning, I love to plan parties. I especially love staging and adding nice touches to make things extra special. Jake and Max kindly carried the half Hoosier cabinet from the basement for an extra swap and food table. Cute vignette by the garden, too.

My Grandmother's Maytag washing machine is perfect for icing down drinks. The ALL detergent bucket is a perfect kitchy accent when planted with flowers.


Also finding a home in the washing machine, sodas made with fruit and herbal syrups. I there is flavored simple syrups and soda water in the fridge you'll always have a spur of the moment signature drink. Add a splash of vodka or gin and it's a cocktail. The rosemary-lemon is my favorite.

It's not a summer party without sangria. This one was made with my favorite summer wine - a French rose - lemons, and frozen local strawberries and raspberries. It was served into jelly jars from a giant vintage pickle jar.

I was so pleased there were so many interested in this event. The backyard was pleasantly full and there was lots of mingling.

Handsome servers passed hors d'oeuvres....and cocktail napkins.


Grilled Pork and Red Pepper Skewers with Mango Dipping Sauce were a favorite.

The most important part of the night? The swapping! My great grandmother's kitchen table (also carried up the stairs) was covered with an estate sale score and then piled with many offerings of enthusiastic swappers.

The selection was huge - just pulled beets, cookies, cakes, jams, salsas, eggs.....

... Limoncello, pro-biotic natural sodas and a huge basket of  homegrown herbs.

I wanted to give a special party favor to my guests. "The little lady on my website", a photo from yet another estate sale, was a perfect messenger. A quick trip to Ritz and I was able to personalize the front (only 7 cents on Tuesday and Wednesday!) A sticker offering a $5 savings was stuck to the back.


The evening drew to a close and I finally had a chance to sit with a few guests. A good time was had by all and this is just the first of many more to come.

It's a super fun and different way to entertain - especially the foodies in your life. If you'd like to host your own, follow the link to Kate's food swap page for a more detailed explanation.

I can't wait to throw another one and in the meantime, I'd gladly come to yours.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tarragon Pesto for Fish sans Whining

Last week at the market I picked up the most beautiful bunch of tarragon. More of a bouquet than a bunch, it was in a jar on the dining table until I decided I should actually do something culinary with it.

I decided on Tarragon Pesto. The thought of adding it to my eggs or roasting chicken or topping grilled fish is delicious. To have this fresh ingredient at my finger tips for a future fast meal is comforting.

Leaves of tarragon.

Leaves of spinach.

Cloves of Garlic. Smashed.

Pesto recipes usually call for some sort of nut - pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts or even almonds. I used walnuts.


And then olive oil. Since I may end up freezing this, I chose not add the cheese quite yet.

For all intents and purposes - Taaa-Daa - it's pesto!

Pesto is a great way to put off what you can't cook today and can be made out of virtually any herb. I like to put it into 1/4 cup Ball jars and freeze it. For now this jar is living in the fridge but soon, but I hope soon it will grace some grilled fish.

All but one of the children will be out of town so the whining over fish should be minimal. Bonus

Tarragon Pesto

1/4 cup packed fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1 1/4 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
2 T. walnuts
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
3 T. olive oil
2 T. Parmesan cheese

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, place the tarragon, parsley, spinach, nuts and garlic. Pulse until finely minced. Add the oil and cheese, and blend again until smooth.

Store in a container with a tightly fitting lid.

This may be frozen for future use. Defrost before using.

Makes about 3/4 cup

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fermenting with Rebecca

In case you haven't realized, the internet is an amazing thing. Earlier this summer, I met Rebecca via a meet-up group connection and a shared interested in cheese making. Through conversation and email, Rebecca assisted a cheese making class I taught for Slow Food and then graciously agreed to teach a fermentation class for Nourish. Neat, huh?

I have always wanted to learn this art but was a bit intimidated to work with live foods. To have an expert teach me was just what I needed to encourage me.

It was fun to be on the other side of the counter for this class. I just had to collect the ingredients and equipment.

And prepare many mason jars.

Rebecca is a delight and just as passionate about all things food as I am. We could talk all day!

Many ferments start with whey and for our class, she made raw milk yogurt and drained the whey - away. (ha!)


Above, Mary is hiding behind her straight pin turned cabbage pounder.

We added caraway to our sauerkaut before pressing it into jars. The trick to a no-mold fermentation? Weighting the product with a ziploc bag of water during the week long process. I love tips from a pro.

After tasting we made ginger-carrots, beet kvass and sauerkraut. They were all delicious foods that make you feel like you're doing something really wonderful for your health. Bonus-they are delicious!

It was so wonderful of Rebecca to share her knowledge with me. In addition to being a fermented foodie, she is a compulsive food preserver, cheese maker, farm girl, beekeeper and soap maker. A woman after my own heart. You really must check out Rebecca's website to purchase her products. Follow the blog and read all about forays in her many, many other passions.

Thank you world wide web for bringing me Rebecca!

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's a Fig!

A while back I wrote about my new baby - a fig tree. When I bought it, I was told it wouldn't produce figs this year but next year for sure. Needless to say I was pretty excited when one, little oddly-shaped fig appeared. Then another perfectly shaped lovely - I was over the moon. 

This week they ripened into beautiful, soft, rosy fruits. How lucky!

Once plucked from the tree I prepared them my favorite way. Cut in half, topped with my homemade, fresh goat cheese.


I added a golden drizzle of local honey then popped them into an awaiting mouth.

Delicious and leaving me anxiously awaiting next years (hopefully) bountiful harvest!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Two New Favorites

Look what came in the mail Wednesday? I love Amazon. They always seem to know exactly what I want.

I came across Alice's Cook Book by Alice Hart at the library and 5 pages in I was so enthralled I knew I wanted needed to own it. Side note: It was in the house for about an hour before someone aka "I didn't do it" smudged the cover with greasy, dirty fingers. I am trying not to obsess. Anyway, the book is divided into seasons and within season fun ways to entertain. A Bun Supper, Picnics and Happy Camping. Oat Cakes with Ham and Gruyere, Pomegranate Gelatin (big resurgence right now) and Roasted Carrot Hummus. Also, I love the vintage oil cloth inspired spine. It's by the way....

Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It by Karen Solomon is the second book geared towards those of use in dire need of making our own hot dogs, Worcestershire sauce and pickling - everything. I love it and am excited to see new project ideas we have yet to attempt or dream up on our own. Makes my heart go pitter-patter.

Definitely look them up if you aren't muttering how insane the yellow house inhabitants are becoming. Most importantly, check back to see the progress we've made in making our own hot dogs. (Do I sense an Ultimate Hot Dog Project coming on?)

Perhaps you should subscribe? I'd be so grateful.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

And The Moral Of The Story Is...

For those of you who are not aware, I am a big fan of seasonal food. Growing up, my mother always cooked seasonally - before it was a "thing". We never had peaches in January - because they weren't in season. When I began working in catering sales the menus I wrote were always seasonal. It never occurred to me to serve asparagus in October.

That said, honestly there are times when you think you'll perish if you can't have what your brain craves and your heart desires. Or perhaps it's an impulse buy as it was the day I saw green tomatoes at Meijer. Desire got the best of me and I brought them home. (I know) Mom used to make fried green tomatoes and as is often the way with mom-specialties, mine never taste the same. Regardless, I still try to make mine taste like hers and dip them in a  50/50 combo of flour and cornmeal along with salt and pepper. I didn't have any coarse cornmeal, which is preferable for this, so I had to use a fine grind.

Then I fry them in a fair amount of oil. I used canola. Those below were flipped to early and I am sure were flipped again. To be really tasty they need to be really golden brown. Mom would never have made such a rookie mistake.

Working with what I had, I decided to make a basil mayonnaise. The basil is overcoming the garden and after using a lot of it, I will still need to make a huge batch of pesto at least twice before the end of the season. Lucky me!

I finely hand chopped the basil, then stirred it into a good quality mayonnaise or, even better, homemade.

I fried up some thick cut apple wood smoked bacon, cut some fresh arugula from the garden and made Green Tomato BLT's on a whole grain sandwich bread. Delicious, right?

Well....the flavors were wonderful together but the tomatoes didn't have that tangy "green" flavor that makes me love them. There's a surprise. I absolutely look forward to making this wonderful sandwich again but I'll wait for green tomatoes from my own garden still warm from the sun.

And the moral of the story? Do as I say, not as I do. Don't buy stuff when it's really not in season. Make this sandwich but wait until you can get your hands on "real" green tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best of Friends....Still

Through the screen door I saw Ella and Macy engrossed in a quiet conversation at the end of the sidewalk. I am not sure if they were telling secrets but I like to think they were.

These girls have been friends since they were three. As they've moved through school, made new friends and pursued new interests they've always remained friends.

The Brownies had it right when they instructed, make new friends but keep the old.

This friendship is definitely gold.