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.