Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Favorites... (so far)

One week into the official start of summer, (aka everyone is out of school), and here are some observations thus far...

*  I was crazy to think my family could or would give up on all electronics cold turkey.  But there have been some pretty extreme (by typical American standards) limits put into place with very little push back and I am beyond happy and delighted with that!  The two biggies being no electronics in bedrooms (at all, period or yes I will just shut off the wifi...) and no screens until your "list" is complete for the day.  Lists are a combo of chores and boredom buster activities, see below...

*  Cooking early in the morning as to avoid the afternoon heat is totally where it is at.  This has us eating many cold style meals but no one is complaining.  Some of our favorites so far have been; this Quinoa Salad, homemade Tzatziki Dip with pita and veggies, our favorite Bok Choy Slaw, curried chicken salad sided with green salad and sourdough bread, and a basic antipasto style meal with cheese, cold cuts, fresh veggies and corn on the cob.

*  If I add 30 minutes each of reading, physical activity, creative pursuits and sunshine to the daily chore list I will be amazed what my girls come up with (reading both Steven King and Shakespeare, sewing, pompom making, baking, tons of biking, volleyball and basketball, and loads of general happiness).

*  We may well eat our weight in popsicles (for breakfast, why not???), corn on the cob and watermelon by summer's end.  More on our favorite popsicle recipes soon.

*  Visits to the library has renewed interest around these parts, (free books, cd's and movies -- what's not to love).

*  I will happily make exceptions to my "no cooking in a hot kitchen" rule for corn on the cob and canning.

I hope everyone out there is finding their own fun this summer, I'd love to hear what all you have going on as well.  Take care and enjoy this lovely sunshine we are basking in these days.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Favorite Time Of Year...

Yes, it has begun... I bought my first box of fruit this season and I am deep in dreams of Boozy Cherries, Sweet Cherry Butter and Cherry Chutney.  This time of year the Food in Jars Books and website are like my Bible.  The books are dog eared, laying on my coffee table or bed side table when not in use on the kitchen counter.  They are stained and marked with evidence of my past efforts.  If I can figure out a way to can it, freeze it, or other wise preserve it, I will.  It has become a bit of an obsession for me.  I think about one of our favorite book series from when my children were little, George and Martha.  Martha can't stop making split pea soup, and I can't stop canning.  The fruits of summer are such a treat and the thought of finding ways to enjoy them year round is absolute inspiration for me.  A recent Face Book post on Northwest Edible Life was my kick start.  That, and the fact that one of my favorite summer fruit sources started offering cherries.  So yesterday, I found myself watching the clock for that little 1/2 hour window of time where I could pick up my first box of the summer from Valicoff Farms.  Oh why did I only get one box?  I have so many things I'd like to try with these lovely cherries, including this amazing sounding salad.  Well, the saner side of myself forced restraint as to not overwhelm myself or my family.  I will surely be picking up another box or two next week as I am sure by the end of the weekend we will have blown through this first and lonely box.  For now, I'm off in search of gluten free bourbon to make a batch of boozy cherries.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Pantry Meal...

When friends are coming over I always have the best of intensions to cook up a storm for their pleasure.  Well lets face it... the cooking part really is my pleasure as well.  Feeding those around me  is my way of showing care and concern for them as well as some hospitality.  It is also my creative outlet, I love to try new things.  I am that person that will attempt something new and unfamiliar for the first time when guests are coming over, so far I've been pretty lucky with this.  I am also increasingly more flexible and willing to go with the flow as I get older.  So recently we had a group of friends coming for dinner and it was the end of a busy week as well as a particularly grey and rainy day.  I had planned to head to the grocery to shop for a lovely meal to share with our friends, but as the day wore on I lost steam and could not steal myself to head out into the cold.  So I raided the pantry and freezer to come up with a fitting meal.  The following is what I came up with... roasted red pepper and tomato bisque with basil (made the hours of roasting and freezing summer's tomato crop so worth it), open-faced tuna melts (because I had to stretch the bread supply), and a simple salad.  I did whip up a flourless chocolate cake, because now that I wasn't schlepping to the grocery store I had more time to bake.  I loved that I was able to make this all happen with what I had on hand, and more over that it was likely just as pleasing to my friends as my more "formal" planned meal.  Because really, no matter what I cook, the enjoyment of any gathering is really about the company more than what is served.

**over the summer I had cases of tomatoes that I processed in a variety of different ways, the soup came from a batch that I had simply cut in half and roasted with red peppers coated in extra virgin olive oil then pureed and froze.  I simply reheated the puree adding some cashew cream, salt, pepper and fresh basil leaves.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Scramble...

I have a friend who regularly posts on Facebook pictures of the most amazing looking scrambles she makes herself for a late breakfast once the kiddos are off to school.  Seriously, every picture gets my mouth watering and sends me into a Pavlovian state of hunger.  She has totally inspired me to amp up my breakfast and lunch game when I am at home.

We have these lovely ladies who lay for us nearly every day, and I often have bits and pieces of leftovers that will not stretch to feed a family of four a second time around.  Put them together and it is usually pretty wonderful.  Today, my oldest had brought home some leftovers from a meal out with her fabulous aunties, a roasted veggie mix of squash and brussel sprouts, lentils and chickpeas.  I tossed the lot of it in a pan to heat up, scrambled a couple eggs and topped it all off with a bit of siracha, that is my kind of meal!  This has come to be my favorite go-to, not just as meal for one (sauté leftover cooked veggies and/or meat and serve topped with an egg cooked your favorite way) but its also a great way to stretch a quick family meal as well.

We started raising chickens a few years ago (something I encourage everyone interested to try, I mean there is nothing like eggs from your own back yard -- really) and have loved watching these ladies grow from day old chicks to the more mature bunch that they now are.  In the years we've had chickens we have counted ourselves very lucky to not have lost a single one... until now.  We lost our sweet little Daisy a couple weeks ago, and even just today I was telling my oldest how strange it is to arrive home and not see her big waddling white and black self running to great me.  She was the smallest chick when we started, we really didn't expect her to survive as she always seemed to be in utter distress, but she grew to be on of the biggest of our flock and a true personality.  We miss you Daisy...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Keeping It Simple and Ritual...

Last year for Lent our family chose to follow suit with this idea, and ate only beans and rice for dinner on weeknights.  We took weekends off, because we are only human after all.  Though it was a bit of an adjustment at first, I came to absolutely love the simplicity of this little ritual: beyond the fact that it streamlined grocery shopping and meal planning, there was something so striking about sitting down together night after night to a meal of just beans, rice and a simple salad.  And day after day as I prepared those beans and rice I thought and marveled at how much for granted I had come to take the absolute abundance we live in today.  I can walk down the isles of my local market and find such a vast variety of options, even just within the beans and rice selections.  So many options are really just at my finger tips every day, I am finding it to be a real distraction for the way I want to live my life and the way I would like to see my family living.  I really am a simple girl at heart, give me those I love and some space outside  (well ok and a nice cup of coffee too) and I could be very happy.  I could ramble on and on about this all, and if you'd like to join me for a coffee sometime soon we could commiserate together.

Fast forward to the current Lenten season, though we are not doing beans and rice this year (I found my systems just cannot take all that grain), we have settled in to some mealtime rituals.  This year we are gathering with a few folks on Friday evenings for some thoughtful reflection and sharing over a soup supper.  Soup is a staple around here, we all love it and never tire of many of our tried and true favorites.  And there is something so lovely about gathering with friends around that steaming pot, watching ladleful after ladleful being served to all those gathered young and old alike.  As is our tradition we abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent so all of these are either vegetarian or contain fish.  Here is a rundown of our soup suppers so far this season...

Week One we had Brazilian Coconut Soup with tofu
Week Two we had Black Bean and Quinoa Chili
Week Three we had Smoked Salmon Chowder

The other ritual I have come to really appreciate, though honestly it began long before Lent and will (I hope) continue on for years to come, is the big Sunday morning breakfast.  As is likely in many households with teenagers, my husband and I are generally the first to wake on weekends.  We have sort of settled into this big breakfast slowly over time, I am usually out the door pretty early for my milking rotation with the neighborhood goats and he us up caring for our own animals.  By the time I return, eggs and bacon on well on their way and I start the pancakes or waffles and get all the various toppings and sides out (we do love our toppings in this house).  I always try to pick up a Sunday newspaper on my way home from the goats as well as a round of coffee and or juice for the family.  About this time the kiddos start to wander downstairs, sip their morning drink of choice and peruse their favorite section of the paper; comics are a must, Suduko and horoscopes are always fun, and checking out the travel section while fantasizing of future trips makes everyone happy.  I love that we are all gathered in the same space, comfy and cozy, sharing stories from the week or interesting bits from the newspaper, and enjoying a meal made by shared hands and love.

These two rituals make my weekend feel complete, week after week.  I'd love to hear about your rituals, what makes your week?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(Almost) Daily Ritual...

I occasionally go through phases where I drop coffee from my nearly daily level of consumption. But for many reasons I always come back to it; I really love the flavor of a good cup of coffee and it really is often a social outlet as well, either as a quick post school drop off checking in with friends or a chance to linger and really catch up with someone.  But there is something about a quiet cup at home that I love too, the waiting for the kettle to boil, the smell of the grounds as they are being scooped into the filter, and that first sip as you settle down to enjoy this freshly brewed cup are among favored moments of the day.  Oh, and that jar back there, yep that is fresh, milked-myself-two-days-ago goats milk.  No better coffee creamer out there in my humble opinion.

A friend recently gifted me with this handy coffee making tool.  Do you call it a filter?  I am not even sure what it is called, but I LOVE it!  It is perfect for making just one cup (well OK maybe I have been known to run more water through that used filter for a second cup on occasion, kinda like reusing a tea bag right?).  What I really love about my new coffee tool is that without fail, every single cup of coffee I enjoy made with it, is even better because it always brings my friend to mind.  Thank you Lisa!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another Birthday Means More Kitchen Creations...

OK, so I think I'm kind of on a roll with all these winter birthdays and truthfully I am loving it.  This time around, I made a couple batches of Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread.  I may have had to do some quality control sampling along the way, I mean who can refuse roasted hazelnuts blended with Penzy's Dutch Cocoa Powder, ooohhhhhh YUM.  I got so carried away with the making I totally spaced the photographing, so here are just a couple pics from the beginning and the end.  I really hope anyone who enjoys Nutella will give this a try, it takes the spread to a whole new level.