Thursday, June 30, 2011

Peas in Tomato Sauce

A lovely way to eat garden peas: in tomato sauce flavored with fresh snipped mint, garlic, and feta.  Here I used the final snow peas ("Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas") from our backyard garden.  And a quart of home canned tomatoes, simmered down.

We had a side of grilled zucchini, the summer's first for us.  My husband called it a zucchini filet.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Do We Go to Family Reunions?

1. We love to be connected.

2. People tell great stories if you get them going.  A funny story is always a treat, but if it's a funny story about a relative, especially one I don't know well, pieces of my life puzzle click together and I learn things about my mother, about myself, maybe about my children.

My grandmother had 9 siblings.  My mother had 26 first cousins growing up, not even counting her own 6 siblings in the horde.  I have a lot of extended family to keep straight!

3. If it's a potluck, the food is fantastic (and ethnic - more discoveries!).

4. Cousins make the best playmates.

5. Family is a gift, even when you have to rearrange work plans, drive several hours, and sleep in a lumpy bed to see them.  Family is a gift not to be cast aside lightly.  My heritage gives me strength and purpose. 

I had a great-uncle who read Psalm 91 to his assembled family before every journey; my parents said a quick prayer before turning the key on a road trip; but my little family has done nothing of the sort. 

Can you tell I'm inspired by my weekend family reunion?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, the reasons you treasure extended family time.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chartreuse (Mint) Jelly

I suddenly realized this spring that I do have a lot of mint in my back yard - mountain mint, spearmint, and fuzzy mint.  And that I also have organic local lamb in the freezer.  Mint jelly is the classic accompaniment for roast lamb, so I made mint jelly.  I've had the eerily green commercial mint jelly before  - tasted like I was eating gum - but I really liked the spoon-licks of my homemade spearmint jelly.

I followed the directions on a box of Sure-Jell, essentially making a strong sweetened mint tea and thickening it with pectin.  Not too hard, even for a cook like me who prefers to make and eat freezer jam.

Apparently I am a canning newbie, however, because I had to dash down to the basement, scattering children, for more supplies not once, not twice, but three times with hot jelly on the stove.  Surprisingly, all the jars sealed!

I made this jelly now before the rush of summer produce.  And I'll probably wait for the fall apples to can applesauce, even though some of the summer apples make gorgeous sauce.  I'm trying to make canning manageable even with a part time job.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lunch on a Hot Day

Soak dry garbanzo beans overnight in the slow cooker.  In the morning, take it outside and turn it on low, cooking them until they're soft (I just check on them as I run by doing housework - maybe 4 hours?).  Freeze in 1 and 2 cup containers so you can make hummus and tabbouleh, summer staples at our house.

Hummus on daily bread.  My hummus recipe includes cumin and tahini.  Sometimes we add a sprinkle of sumac too.

First cucumbers and last lettuce to go with it.

Popcorn.  Always popcorn when we have sandwiches for lunch.  And this time there was icy mint tea as well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Genevieve Repurposes Stuff

First she made a vest for her brother from a sheet of newspaper and yarn.  My husband says it was as if she was bitten by the idea -   I was reminded of the time I, as a child, cut a hole in a fabric rectangle and put it over my Barbie's head.  Suddenly clothing construction was illuminated for me and I had a startling glimpse of the possibilities.  My Barbie wore many such tops and dresses after that, belted with ribbons and yarn.

Then Genevieve turned her burst of creativity to her drawer of hair things.  Lana and her doting mother, decked out in hair things.

Jasmine and her mother.  (My husband, newly educated by me and my drooling on etsy, pointed out that Genevieve has made herself a fascinator). 

Joey the pink bear and his mother.

She carefully loaded her bike and took her babies for a ride.

Play basket filled with babies on the back, dolly in the brake lines in front.

Again I am convinced that all children need is time, not toys. They will make their own.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Four Different Rhubarb Pies This Spring

Joy of Cooking Pie - just rhubarb with a double crust.  Simple, but I cut the sugar too much - the balance between tart and sweet is hard to find for rhubarb. 

Rhubarb Kuchen - like the peach kuchen from More with Less, only with a bit more sugar.  Still one of our favorite pies.

Jennifer Jo's Rhubarb Cream Pie (it was too hot to take pictures, if I recall)  This was my favorite of the rhubarb pies and I'll be making this again.  It was luscious.  It's very similar to a recipe in Simply in Season, only with more cream.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie - my husband's favorite and really not as fake-strawberry tasting as I feared. 

However, I still flinch at the idea of baking  strawberries. Surely there could be a way of making a thick rhubarb sauce on the stovetop, and then folding in fresh strawberries, putting it all in a baked tart crust and serving chilled.

(It was late in the day and he dropped a bite)

Any other rhubarb pies out there I'm missing?  Beeboppa, reeboppa, rhubarb pie. . .

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Getting Into Water

A welcome thunderstorm late in a hot hot day.

 The rain barrels, unattractive, but so beautifully useful (compost on the left).  The water smells like rotten eggs to me, but it's free rainwater so I'm not complaining.

 In the $5 sprinkler with friends.

Down to the crick at the farm.

Linking up with Leila's pretty happy funny real.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When You Have Sour Cream. . .

By which I mean cream that has gone sour, not the thick commercial stuff for baked potatoes.  I buy cream in 2-pint jugs at market, but if I don't have several recipes in a row for it, it can get sour.  I do sometimes freeze the sweet cream in measured amounts for a baking recipe (or nutella!) in order to preserve its sweetness, but soured cream is also excellent in baking. 

What I have found, however, is that its high fat content makes it behave a little differently than buttermilk or regular sour milk.  If I am using soured cream in a recipe that already has oil or butter, I cut it with some milk or yogurt or else the end result will just be too greasy or rich.  Cream biscuits, using cream as the liquid and the fat, are a good application, but you have to adjust the baking powder accordingly (check the back of a teaching cookbook like Joy of Cooking or Mennonite Country Style - it is easy to switch sour milk and sweet milk in recipes).

One of my favorite ways to use soured cream is this scone, pronounced "skahn" by my college friend Jillian, who says it's an old family recipe from the British Isles.  You will see it's a simple recipe, much faster than other quick breads - easy to stir up even if there are bickering children or crying babies in your life right now.

We eat it toasted with butter for breakfast.  On Sunday, there were a few pretty strawberries (not clean socks) on the plate too.  Lovely.

Jillian's Scone
4.5 c. flour (I use at least half whole wheat)
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Stir in:
3 c. buttermilk, soured cream, thinned yogurt
2 c. raisins
Spread in two greased and floured bread pans and bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Cool on wire racks.  Slice and serve, or freeze.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday Dinner: New Green Beans

There are actually no new tricks to this Sunday dinner to share with you, but there are the first green beans from our garden!

Thursday:put steaks in fridge to thaw

marinate steaks (recipe here)
trim green beans

Sunday morning:
oil, prick potatoes - put in slow cooker (high for 2-4 hours)
Sunday noon:
set table
grill steaks
steam green beans, douse with brown butter
open jar of pickled beets


A few notes:I have not made baked potatoes in a crock pot before, but I plan to use that thing as much as possible this summer to keep the heat out of the house.   The potatoes came out beautifully.

I kept one steak back - with plans to make a hearty dinner salad later in the week.  Possibly a Pittsburgh salad with roasted potatoes and blue cheese dressing.

Our green beans are the first ones we know of around here.  My husband planted them April 11, which is well before our frost-free date as the seed packet advised.  We did have to cover them once, but my husband explained that cities are "heat sinks" that keep heat more than rural spaces.  Good in the winter, bad in the summer and the reason why so many city people used to flee to the country for the summer months.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My First Day

. . . as an assistant editor working on cookbooks.  Surprised?  I was!  I was offered this plum little job after my new employers read my blog.  Apparently The Record I created here for myself is also A Resume.

I had not envisioned working outside our home for a long time yet, but economic circumstances and out-of-the-blue job offers changed my mind.

Too soon to tell how this part time job will affect my life, although my priority is still my family and our homelife.  I'm not sure if the etsy shop and the local sewing consigning will survive, but you all have made this blog such a happy place that The Record, however abbreviated, will continue.  Thank you, dear readers.

I am taking things one day at a time right now, an unusual method for me and a real blessing.  And yes, my first day as an assistant editor was lovely.  I look forward to more.

P.S. Sandals, $3 (!!!),  comfy, leather, stylish, and in my size!  Wow.

Tucking the Winter Wraps Safely Away

For years I went along never washing my winter wraps - ever.  (I did notice they got a peculiar little skin-contact smell).  Then a moth chewed up a beloved winter coat and I suddenly woke up to the world of Keeping Moths Out and Airing Things.

Now, at the end of a season, I make sure all the clothes and outerwear are clean before they are put away for the final time.  Last week, there was such an abundance of good laundry days that I could spend a whole day putting the winter things through the suds and into the sun.

I'm again ignoring "dry clean only" on blazers, handwashing and then hanging on a hanger to dry.

Washable suede gloves from Lands' End, bought on clearance last year. Smart Lands' End.

Handwashed the knitted scarves and the fur ruff from my coat.  I love this sweater drying rack so much because it is all one piece and collapses into a disc for storage.  I love to discover clever space savers.

I did take some wool things to a drycleaner after I hunted down a coupon online.  Among those things was my father's Irish wool fisherman's sweater, bought on a trip to Ireland in the 70s and passed to me in the 90s.  I think I would cry if a moth got that. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Picnic Gingham Skirt

My latest sewing project:  a half-circle skirt in red picnic gingham! It's a little kitschy, a little flashy, and I LOVE it.

I dreamed up the postage stamp patches one April night just before sleep - to work in a little color play, a little patchwork reference, and to keep the skirt out of tablecloth and square dance territories.

I lined it with old muslin curtains and added a deep sideseam pocket (these elements were not in the commercial pattern - I'm so proud of myself!).

My picnic gingham skirt is so lightweight and floaty and bright that it's going to be my Summer 2011 Signature Skirt (I made up that label just now).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Farm Tour (Our Back Yard) with a Few Flowers

There really is farming in my blood and an ancestral farm, and we have dabbled in gardens before, but this year, my husband really ripped into it and made a little farm in our city back yard.  It's so heartening to see little green shoots rising from the dirt - we cannot fix some of the things in our life right now, but by gum, we can grow some beautiful things.

Here's a little garden tour, garnered from photos over the last two months.

There were canning jar cloches to protect the bean seedlings. 

There was free topsoil, thanks to a borrowed pick up and Mennonite connections.

Children, dirt, and work go together so well.  I sometimes wish we were raising our children on a farm.

Red raspberry starts from another urban garden (and my husband picked up some black raspberry starts from the free table at church last week).

The excitement over the first tiny beans growing. . .

I love my husband for this: morning glories in coffee cans. . .

to climb up the fire escape. Love it!

And then I put some pots out front to decorate the porch - the only thing in that pot I have grown before is creeping Jenny, so I'm curious to see how they look in a month or two. I'll take more pictures, yes.