Friday, May 11, 2012

Pantry Jam Crumb Cake

I recently came across the notion of depleting ones larder full of preserves from the previous year.  A  revelation! I've been canning since my Grandmother taught me while I was pregnant with Jake. At first, so proud of my preservation projects, I saved them. Some may use the word - hoarded. With years of experience, I've realized each season comes again and with it the joy of preserving more. No need to save (okay, hoard). Give, share, enjoy, repeat.

I am an avid collector of basic buttermilk crumb cake recipes.With berry season barreling down the pike, I took the opportunity to incorporate some of my homemade jam into my favorite kind of cake.

For the first cake, I chose a mixed berry jam full of local blueberries, raspberries and wild blackberries of foraged last summer. The second time around it was strawberry-tarragon. I vote for mixed berry.

Butter, sugar and cinnamon = A delicious crumble topping.

Cake. Delicious, delicious cake.

Only six more jars - of mixed berry - left.

For more idea for using your stock, check out Food in Jars and the Preserves in Action page.

Hurry! Summer is just around the corner.  

My Pantry Jam Crumb Cake

for the cake:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/3 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract
8oz. fruit jam of your choice

for the topping
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, melted

Butter an 8" square baking pan. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the topping
In a small bowl stir flour, sugar and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over and stir into chunky crumbs.

To make the cake
Whisk together flour, soda, powder, and salt. In a large bowl beat butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Add egg, sour cream and vanilla extract and beat until just smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just combine to form a thick batter.

Smooth the batter into the prepared pan. Dollop jam on top and evenly spread with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the cake with crumb mixture.

Bake in the center of the oven approximately 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cook in the pan on a wire rack 15-20 minutes.

Lovely warm but equally delicious room-temperature.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Welcome Back Ladies!

The ladies of The Yellow House Apiary have returned! We purchased three pounds of Italian honeybees and installed them on Sunday afternoon.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed having them in the yard. It's peaceful to watch them work and fun to share what we've learned with anyone interested. They are truly fascinating.

This year there will be honey. We are so lucky.

Whatever would we do without them?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Trashy Girl's Trash Bowl

I like to keep the kitchen neat when prepping. Sometimes though I get over excited and begin to prep too many things at once and the counters get messy. Never fear -  I pull the garbage can out of its conveniently built-in drawer, push my stuff in and return it to its place. "Genius!" I say to myself.

A certain gal famous for super fast meals makes a fancy garbage bowl to put your prep scraps in to avoid messy counters. It retails for about $20. Doug says it's made out of about 3 cents worth of plastic.

Who's the genius now?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Orange Braised Fennel

In case you may have missed it, I love fennel. It's a vegetable obsession I've not had for many years but have definitely made up for lost time.

Recently, I made Orange Braised Fennel to accompany a lovely meal reminiscent of childhood - salmon cakes.  Obviously, beyond the fennel was the orange juice. I sprung for a tiny bottle of freshly squeezed - worth every penny.

Once quartered and cored, a nice brown crust adds caramel-y flavor.

Juice, a bit of wine and slow even heat to render the fennel silky smooth and thicken the sauce.

It was truly delicious.

The essence of spring when paired with asparagus. I smashed the new potatoes and topped them with cottage cheese like my mom used to do.

The sophisticated me likes to think the fennel and asparagus elevated this humble meal.

The real me doesn't care. It included everything I love on a plate - memory, comfort, freshness and flavor.

If your sophisticated self needs a "just" side dish -  make the fennel. Your real self will love it, too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Killer Egg Dish for All Seasons

Every recipe box needs to a "go-to" egg dish. A strata, frittata or bake to get you through the holidays. We hosted Easter brunch for many this year and I was looking for something easy. Something that didn't require last minute work, but would be served hot and wouldn't be bad cold. I wanted something different so I scratched frittata off the list. It also couldn't include too much starch so a strata didn't fit the bill either.

A fast search brought me to this lovely dish. It was the perfect way to highlight the eggs from the yellow hen house and the chives from my garden. It saved the day - or at least a bit of my sanity.


The custard came together quickly in the Vitamix and I made it about an hour in advance. Once popped into a hot oven, it was on the table in about forty minutes. Gotta love an egg dish like that.

Special thanks to Doug for having the forethought to ask if I would be photographing before the masses hit the table. Gotta love a guy like that. 

Baked Egg Custard with Gruyère and Chives 
I've added a few of my own notes but it's modified in verbiage only
6 oz. Gruyère, grated (1 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. chives, chopped
10 large eggs, pastured if possible
1 1/2 c. whole milk
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 t. grated nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F with the rack in middle.

Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Sprinkle Gruyère and chives evenly in the dish.

Blend eggs, milk, cream cheese, and nutmeg in a blender with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.

Pour egg mixture over Gruyère and chives in the dish.

Bake until puffed, set, and golden, 35 to 45 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Lunch Box Tip

In the last 10 years I've packed a lot of lunches. A LOT of lunches. I take it a bit seriously and always try to keep them interesting. They must include the basic food groups. They can't include anything orange (the it-o family-Fritos, Doritos) or soda but there can always be a sweet (but not of the fruit snack variety).
When the kids reach middle school, they take over the making of their lunches and they must follow the lunch box rules. I still cut-up veggies, bake cookies and make egg salad and the like but they have to assemble and pack. It's an easy step toward greater responsibility needed in middle school. I think it reinforces learning to feed oneself, too. Also, I am sooooo tired of packing lunches.

Occasionally, if I was feeling especially proud of the stock in the lunch kitchen I'd stick a post-it (or  recycled envelope) on the inside of the "lunch cabinet". Not being a morning person, Ella was always appreciative since it takes a lot of thought out of lunch packing.
I made the dry erase frame (from Make and Takes via Pinterest) to hang on my fridge as a menu board/grocery list and I love it. One day I thought "why not hang one inside the lunch cabinet?" Duh.

3-M velcro tabs affix it to the door. A dry erase maker hung from cook's twine might be handy to prevent its disappearance.

 Ella loves it.

And I love that because it's one more lunch I don't have to pack.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jimmy Would Love This

I am a sucker for any book on preserving any-thing. Thanks to Amazon's ability for anayltics, I never miss the release of a new one.

Though released last year, one full of particularly wonderful ideas is Put 'Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Most preserving books are include all seasons of produce but in this one I find more year-round recipe which really appeal to me. Recipes using fennel and mushrooms. Lots of ideas for citrus.

A stroke of brilliance is a suggestion for using dried limes to flavor soups and stews.

Okay, I'll be honest. It spoke to me because I always seem to be in the process of dry limes - though I never intend to.

A revelation for chicken tortilla soup. Def.

Limes not "wasting away in Margaritaville".

Now it's nobody's fault.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Winter Market Score

Who says you can't get cool stuff at a winter market in the Midwest?

Earlier this year, one of my favorite vendors had some ginormous yellow citrus fruits. I asked what they were, while simultaneously digging for money. Ponderosa Lemons, a hybrid of lemon and citron had found their way to my market. This slow growing tree had lived in this generous grower's green house for 20 years and she was sharing this wealth of unusual citrus.

I bought as many as I could, without being piggish and without a clue what wonderful thing I would do with them. It immediately became clear my food project needed to be one utilizing all of the the fruit, not just the juice. I wanted to taste them in different ways. Preserving the flavor to enjoy it for a long time would be a bonus. Who knows when this gem would come my way again?

I started with candied citrus. Though you may think it lame, it's one of my favorite treats since a childhood. With the fruit I made my first marmalade incorporating oranges and pomelos  (more on that soon.)


It's a truly simple project and may be made with any type of citrus. You'll find a recipe most anywhere. This one is more traditional but a version like this would be fun in the rosemary-lemonade cake suggested by the same cook. They fancy-up a simple cake like this yellow house blast from the past, too.

A toss with superfine sugar makes them sparkle.

The security of a jar full.


The pleasure of a handful.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Weight of Memories

The newest addition of furniture in the yellow house is my Grandfather's old desk. When my brother brought it in it seemed much smaller than I remembered. Perhaps because Grandpa's den was tiny, it was flanked by two tall (exceedingly well-organized) file cabinets on the right and a book case to the left. Or it may be that simple memories of childhood maintain the proportions of a child's perspective.

The delicate hardware makes a wind chime-like tinny sound when I pull on the drawers. While in search of something in the yet organized drawer a bright 'ting-ting-ting' brings a spontaneous smile to my face. It was in the center draw of this  dark, wooden desk he kept his annual small, black book full of mileage, oil changes, and other tidbits deemed worthy of documentation. Within the pages of the book circa 1995, we found the details of the obituary he had written for himself. Amongst Grandpa's things on top of the desk were papers you knew better than to touch, an antique glass ink well, and a black rotary dial phone weighing in at about 20 pounds. The phone was really cool - until you had to use it. There was also a smallish round paperweight backed with a picture of me as a toddler. In the high chair my grandfather and every generous through my own children have eaten their meals. I am wearing a blue dress made by my mother and was covered in cottage cheese. That paper weight had been there for as long as I could remember.

When a friend offered me a paper weight backed with a mass produced print sharing a pithy saying, I was immediately drawn to its potential. Glass paper weights are fascinating to me.

I've been doing some redecorating on the cheap, adding new colors, a clearance pillow and moving pictures. I also re-covered a stool with a remnant previously wrapping a bottle of wine brought to a party. With just a small scrap left I thought it might be a fun way to update the paper weight.

I traced the original insert with pencil, darkened the lines, folded the piece in half before hoping for the best cut. Almost perfect in size and shape, I painted the fabric circle and the paperweight with Mod-Podge and smoothed it in place. I glued the original fuzzy black paper backing into place became a co-coordinating paper weight.

It was a simple project more reminiscent of someone special than being super inspired.

It's a nice accessory to tie the dining room and living room spaces together - for free.

And just think of the potential it will have when I become a grandparent, my grandchild sits in that same chair and becomes a mess of cottage cheese. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mondays & Rainy Days Past

The following is a blog I wrote last August and then didn't post. I think I decided the picture wasn't good enough. I've since decided I love this memory too much to care about how the photo looks.

Rainy days don't typically get me down and Mondays are just a new start. The Carpenter's singing the song however leaves me ready to leap.

Yesterday was a rainy day. The rain clouds slowly crept from the west as Max and I finished some errands. The thunder started and accompanied us to Trader Joe's. We made it home only slightly wet and shortly thereafter, it began to pour.

Jake, a perpetual four-year-old, excitedly prattled on about playing in the rain. Henry was the only one up for it. I grabbed the camera.

They followed each other up the sidewalk and around and around the driveway. With bare, white feet contrasting with summer brown legs, they shuffled through the biggest of puddles. It was fun to watch.

Playing in the summer rain is a fond memory of childhood for me. Cool respite from the summer heat. The solitude of feeling like the only one in the world.

I wish now I could remember why I didn't join them. Next time I'll be cool and feeling like the only one in the world, except for Jake and Henry.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Immunity Solution

Back when my beloved Borders was closing I scored Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss. After  playing with some root beer and concocting my own herbal sodas last summer this tome of 200 recipes, well, you can imagine how excited I was at the prospects. The first one I attempted, Immunity Solution is nothing like the infamous cure-all, cod liver oil and way less sugar-y than Emergen-C. Full of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, bioflavnoids and polyphenols you need this as you battle the balance of cold season.

Here we attention cuz this is really involved. Throw your whole fruit - this recipe calls for blueberries - and juice along with a bit of sweetener, in this case honey, into a pan.

Add a squeeze of citrus for brightness.

Mash the berries to to release flavor then sprinkle over a bit of fresh ginger and cinnamon.

Heat the mixture slowly over low heat, stirring often so the berries release their juice then allow this potion to sit at room temperature before straining through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the solids and store the syrup in a mason jar so it's always at the ready. Pre-mixed in an up-cycled bottle it makes a great gift for under the weather friends. They'll lub you.

You'll never buy soda again. (except for Pepsi Throwback because, my world would be dim once a month without it). I've also found this healthy habit is really, really good with true ginger beer as an afternoon pick-me-up.

I am also certain the addition of your favorite clear libation would make for a terrific cocktail - with health benefits. Remember these are not just for sickness but in health, too. You'll never look at a cold the same way again.

Achhoooo! Is it 5 o'clock?

Immunity Syrup
Homemade Sodas by Andrew Schloss

1 pt. blueberries or elderberries (I used blue)
1/2 c. carrot juice, preferably fresh
1/2 c. unsweetened purple grape juice
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 c. honey
1 cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1" length of fresh ginger root, coarsely chopped

Combine the berries, carrot juice, grape juice, lemon juice and honey in a small saucepan. Mash the mixture with a vegetable masher (or the back or a spoon), then stir in the cinnamon and ginger. Heat over low heat, stirring often, until the berries have released their liquid. Let cool to room temperature, and strain. You should have about 2 cups of syrup.

This syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. (though I keep it longer)

Enough for 3 servings

To mix with seltzer:
2/3 c. immunity syrup
2/3 c. seltzer

Pour the syrup in to a tall glass. Add the seltzer and stir just until blended. Add ice and serve.

Yield: 1 serving.

Cheers to health!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mud Pies, Bread Crusts and Candy Wrappers

One of the things I hold closest are the stories my Grandmother Aileen shared of her childhood. She was a writer and certainly told a good story. There are many but one of my favorites involves mud pies, eggs from the coop, her brother, Aden and his spot on slingshot skills. You can just imagine what her father, Jake, would have done had he known of this in the midst of World War I. It "burned Frieda up" Grandma never got in trouble for that stunt. Nor was she every caught in the act of running her toes on the floor while at school. Mama wondered how she wore through the toes so quickly. Grandma hated her black boots and was angling for another pair. She got them and Frieda silently burned up.

Grandmas was a child with disdain for bread crusts. What's a child to do but stick hers in the underside lip of the dining table? The evidence was only found when table leaves were added and crusts rained down to the floor. Frieda, was quick to accuse but Aileen never got in trouble. More burnin'.

One day while cleaning the breakfast bar, underneath packed into a small opening I found some candy wrappers. Halloween leftovers by chance?

Everyone was quick blame Henry. (and they were probably right)

No one got in trouble.

I took a picture of the evidence instead.

I thought of my Grandma. And then I made a pan of Aunt Frieda's Bars.

After all, family, a sense of history with a health dose of humor and delicious cookies are really the only things this granddaughter needs.

Though a new pair of shoes might be sweet.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

She's Thrify

Is there anything better than a vintage clothing store?


Wearing tons of faux animal prints.


Or should I say hhhhot.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The D

I seem to collect anything with a "D" on it. Blocks, postcards, ceramic plaques, framed pictures. They are everywhere in the yellow house. Though I don't think they are obnoxious pleasantly tucked away - perhaps it's getting a bit compulsive. Oh, well.

 Earlier this winter, I was inspired by Pinterest (duh) to make a cute "D" for my door. A cheap unfinished wooden "D" coated with red paint from a bygone project, a berry garland and Tacky Glue. (How did we live before Tacky Glue?)

The most challenging part of this project is getting the super thick glue out of the bottle. My Tacky Tip? Setting the bottle upside down in a glass between squeezes. This simple trick takes away a lot of frustration. Especially for kids accustom to the constant and unstoppable flow provided by Elmer.

Using old craft scissors to cut through garland wires, cut off mid-sized clumps and randomly glue them on. Be sure to keep the edges flush so the letter is clear from a distance. Layer to create a cohesive look. Don't worry about the glue - it dries clear. Sturdy berries are key.


A big red ribbon for hanging and I have perfect winter decoration for my front door. What if your name begins with "N" or "H"?  Evenly measure a ribbon for each side of the letter and us a staple gun to affix it securely.

With the advent of spring I want to make another one.

I am thinking moss.

I am also thinking I need to get off Pinterest.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Ode to Pinterest

I am sure by now everyone is as obsessed, compulsively obsessed, with Pinterest as I am. 

I can think of no better way to while away the hours. So much more productive than Facebook. Inspirational. Is there a more perfect activity at 1am when sleep is elusive? Encouragement to do all of the things you've ever wanted to do. Things on your list since before you had kids, started a business, picked up a part time job, moved, agreed to host your school's fun fair (total lie-they are not fun), dedicated to a work out regime, become the best scout leader ever or masterminded a complete craft/kitchen storage makeover project (just put it on the table down there and I'll (eventually) take care of it)

I love Pinterest.

I love to be crafty and since I've begun to 'pin' I've got my craft groove back. Millions of ideas many of which are fast, cheap and gratifying. Many of which I can't wait to share - just in case you have yet to see them.

For this project, a  run through Goodwill in ten minutes or less with seven dollars, I amassed enough pieces of glass to make five tiny cake stands. Five!

A good scrub in soapy water....

Once thoroughly dry determine what bases, candle sticks or glasses, will be paired with which plates.
I found the bread and butter plates with the etched boarders in a set of four. Two tall, thin taper holders, one with graceful lines and the second sharply cut. Two squat pillar stands, Party Light products probably $19.95 each, cost me $1.98. Mixing up the styles makes for a more interesting grouping but be mindful of scale and proportion.

The biggest investment was the glass and china glue I used to affix top to bottom. This can be challenging and try your patience but persevere, they will hold.  Hint: Don't be stingy with the glue. After struggling with mine, I read E6000 is the way to go. I will definitely use this next time especially now that I've found mine post craft/kitchen storage makeover project.

After a good long drying period the gratification is high....

My original plan was to spray paint them as most 'pins' suggest. I found the clear class appealed to me - maybe because of the etched edge - I originally thought I didn't like. For seven bucks, I can paint one or all someday if it strikes my fancy. An inexpensive way customize a table setting or make a lovely handmade and personalized hostess gift - especially when topped with homemade treats.

Go forth, pin, thrift, create and give. The mess in the craft cabinet isn't going anywhere.

If you'd like to check out  Sweet Sugar Belle's for some color inspiration.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Welcome To The Yellow House

Meet the latest addition to the yellow house.

Though he looks exactly like his sister June, is equally hard to photograph and is also a South Bend native....

This is Enzo.  Quiet and thoughtful. A shy and adoring brother. Smart as a whip, water bowl diver. Lover of all things edible....and squeaky.

We can't wait to watch him grow.

Welcome home Little Dog. We love you.

Junie B. - August 2011

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Memories in the Grocery Store Aisles

Does anyone remember the Brach's bulk bin in the grocery store? Bins of candy bought buy the pound; as a child the temptation to sneak just one was great. The hope mom would give change to put in the locked metal box allowing you to pick was palpable. Sour balls, bull's eyes, Sunkist jellies, root beer barrels, caramels and Neapolitan.

In the summer, my grandmother would host four grandchildren and there was always copious amounts of ice cream. Not just any ice cream - Neapolitan ice cream. Not usually a favorite of mine but she scooped your bowl to order. Lots of chocolate, some strawberry and a little vanilla. At the end, the cardboard half gallon container had deep wells surrounded by the remaining flavor. Just a really cool thing Grandma's can do that a mother never would. It made the ice cream so much more delicious.

It never occurred to me to make Neapolitan candy but when I happened across a recipe I had to try it. So many of my memories are tied to food (or is it the reverse?) and this candy of acquired taste is a fine example.

Especially fabulous if you are a coconut freak, this candy covers all bases with vanilla, chocolate and No mind because its striped results are a tasty blast from the past. With all its assumed kitch, the recipe includes vanilla bean seeds. Classy.

Melt white chocolate with sweetened condensed milk and vanilla beans seeds. Be sure to save those pods for the extract bottle or sugar bowl. Once it's melted smoothly, fold in the shredded coconut.

This white love is divided into three parts. One third becomes a lovely shade of pink. The last is flavored with best-quality unsweetened cocoa,

I used an 8x8 pan lined with the wonder-stuff called quick release foil. Chocolate. Vanilla.

Then pink.

After a setting period, it's ready to cut into rectangles and be coveted by old Gen X-ers. My homemade had softer, smoother and more consistent texture. And, just as I recalled from childhood didn't really taste too chocolatey or vanilla-y or pink.

Bummer. In my excitement and Christmas nirvana - I never took pictures of these little goodies cut up and stripey.

But the next time you're at the grocery store, hit up the bulk bins. Don't forget your 33 cents to put in the locked box. They'll look and taste same but with presumably with more filler-crap.

You could make your own by consulting Martha recipe.

Either way, it's worth a walk down memory lane.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A New Cookie Jar

I always do my best to make sure there are homemade cookies in the house for snacking and lunchboxes. A stingy mom, if I haven't made them there aren't any - purchased cookies are too expensive and full of junk. I never buy them. I only Trader Joe's Peppermint JoJo's - but who doesn't, right?

Until recently, this jar was used to display Max's baseball collection. Now it displays my cookies.

It looks super cool filled with cookies but it takes many, many, many cookies to fill this giant jar.

Of course, it doesn't need to be completely filled but that's a neurosis to discuss another day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


A long time ago, I wrote a post about life lists (note purposeful lack of back link). More recently, I decided a mother of four kids in three different schools (involved in cross country, track, show choir, chorus, builder's club, soccer, cub scouts and social lives greater than the sum of their parents) should not have a life list. It's just too depressing.

But - the sun also rises and in the time left in the wake of "a long time ago", I've tried my hand at some creative writing. Creative non-fiction or the personal essay - as opposed the stream of conscious I typically share here. I have really, really enjoyed it and determined I wanted to be published. Check that, I determined I wanted to be published in a neat little 'zine I stumbled across. It's called Remedy Quarterly.

So, I took a deep breath and put myself out there submitting a story idea to this project I really admire. I don't do waiting very well. I anticipated the "yay or nay" deadline anxiously. The day of said deadline, I had forgotten all about it and my heart was pounding when I found a surprise email. My story cut the mustard. It felt like discovering you made the team or got the part.

The current issue of Remedy Quarterly: Heritage includes "My Stainless Steel Locket" a story inspired by inherited and found recipe collections. I am very proud its inclusion in this collection of essays highlighting healing and delicious memories. In the spirit of sharing, I'd like to share a copy with you! Leave a comment sharing what your favorite family recipe is and be entered to win Issue #7. Leave your thoughts and a random winner will be drawn January 30th.

And now, with this little victory under my belt, I return to the keyboard. 

Wish me luck.