Archive for the ‘food’ Category

22
Apr

Easter is better than Christmas

   Posted by: liz

IMG_2597Facebook and Twitter were “all a twitter” with Easter pictures this weekend: adorable kids dressed to the nines, family photos of matching and unmatching outfits, and baskets filled with confections, colored eggs, and stuffed animals. I tweeted an adorable picture of my too-cool-for-skool boys, but the remainder of the pictures I took throughout Easter Sunday were of food.

I loved each picture that was shared – I looked closely at what they were wearing, what each hostess was serving on their dinner tables, what desserts were eaten, and what easter baskets were filled with.

Easter is quickly becoming my favorite holiday. Christmas, the long-time favorite, is fun and nostalgic and warm and fuzzy. But Easter is the celebration of resurrection, life that springs from death, the end of winter, cold, and grey. Easter is robin-egg blue and blue skies and green grass and yellow daffodils and warming temperatures; new lambs and more eggs in the hen house, the rebirth of the Alleluia at Eucharist. Easter is second life. Second chances.

IMG_2586

I don’t help to prepare an altar for Easter Eucharist anymore. It was the best day to prepare for, as an altar guild member: such gorgeous flowers, polished silver, brand new beeswax candles, and crisp linens. I did help to prepare a dining room table for Easter dinner. I took lots of pictures of the new linen napkins, the gorgeous colorful tulips my mom sent, the gorgeous platters filled with dishes from other guests. And the china and freshly-polished silver passed down from my great-grandparents. The table was prepared with holy hands from the past, and from now.

And even though Poinsettias are regal and stunning, tulips and hyacinth are my favorite.

 

8
Apr

scenery

   Posted by: liz

at dinner tonight, one of the boys asked, “remember that farm when we’d go to get milk in a jar?”

it’s been a while since we’d bought raw milk. soccer was canceled (because of the rain, and bad field conditions), and kenny had rehearsal for the musical he’s working on with another company.  so the boys and i dug out our old half gallon mason jars, cleaned them out and headed towards Slate Lick to the farm we used to frequent for raw milk when the boys were much younger.

it rained the whole drive there, but towards the end of the drive, there is a summit that is always so gorgeous. tonight, it was especially beautiful with low-hanging clouds horizontally slicing the far mountains in half (click to enlarge for detail):

IMG_2469

the entire 26-minute drive isn’t all this idyllic. in fact, parts of it are downright frightening. there’s the steep hill that reminds me of an episode of Twin Peaks:

IMG_2470

and then not a mile away, i swear i’ve stumbled onto the set of The Walking Dead:

IMG_2474

 

IMG_2473

These scenes are especially eerie with the cloudy dark skies surrounding them. The country around us can go from gorgeous to strangely desserted-looking quickly.  I guess that’s what you get out in big land country.

 

 

IMG_1167i think i need to write this book.

i’m not the world’s easiest camper. and i never jump at the opportunity to “go camping.”  so when kenny said to me two weeks ago, “how about instead of a few days at ocean city, we go camping on labor day weekend instead!” i wasn’t exactly excited.

but then we registered at the campground where our friends were going to be. and then we told the boys (their excitement WAY outdid my excitement!), and then kenny brought home fun camping things like air mattresses for the boys and a cast iron pot and a Coleman camping stove and…a coffee percolator. and i got just a little bit excited.

fortunately, we were camping with people who i was really looking forward to spending time with, and whose kids are great  for our boys to hang around with. i was assured this was going to be a GREAT weekend. and…

IMG_1168i survived!  and actually really did enjoy it. it helped that we were at a great campground, with a perfect natural setting (a huge creek, lots of green open space and lots of woods), and some fun activities like a pool, a zipline (the boys did it three times in a row), a climbing wall, a gaga pit, and great camping friends.

but, if you’re like me, you’re going to need some kind of dummies guide to enjoying your first big camping trip (yes, i consider 2.5 days and 2 nights a BIG camping trip. ask me in a few years, and i might have a different perspective…). so consider this a cliff’s notes version of:

First-Time Camping for Dummies

- pinterest is your friend. when we were officially registered at the campground, i went back to Pinterest and did a general search for all things camping. because all summer when my camping-savvy friends were pinning pins like “101 genius camping surivival tips,” i was laughing at those crazy campers knowing that would NEVER be me needing those tips. so, with my tail between my legs i searched on and found some great tips, but mostly recipes (shared below). so do not feel “above” the help of pinterest. it will help you in your most dire hour. go ye, and pin and plan away. i searched  under “camping” and “camping help” and “camping recipes.”

- go with experienced campers. (because they will ALWAYS have extras of something that you will forget you’ll need. like a clothes line. and a table). kenny and i made a great long list and both of these items were on that list, but we forgot them in the 11th hour of packing and trying to get-out-of-dodge. we were with three other families (and several more who knew those families) who were experienced campers and had exactly what we needed for our soggy towels, creek-drenched underwear, and food preparation needs.  we only needed to borrow a card table (our fold out table was safe at home), and a clothes line (we couldn’t find our clothes line in the garage before we left). oh, and mustard, ketchup, a hot dog campfire stick, and hot dog rolls when our crescent rolls didn’t work over the fire.

if you don’t have the luxury of going with other experienced campers, or you just want to go it alone, then i suggest getting the full book Camping for Dummies and not rely on this cliffs notes version.

- plan ahead and arrive at your campsite armed with RECIPES and lots of food and snacks.  again, Pinterest comes in really handy with this. but Google does an adequate job if your search is really specific. kenny had already arrived home with his awesome Lodge cast iron pot, so I searched for cast iron pot recipes as well as basic campfire recipes. we found the following recipes:

Homemade Hamburger Helper. kenny was a little skeptical that I could get my stuff together and prepare the ingredients ahead of time for this one. i proved him wrong because i wasn’t so sure the boxed version of hamburger helper would be so good on our gastro-intestinal systems since we have never eaten it before, and who really wants to deal with G-I issues while camping? this recipe is so simple, and it’s easy to prepare the spices ahead of time, measure out your pasta, and pack the rest of the ingredients in a cooler. it was delicious. we doubled the recipe and shared with our friends who lent us their table.

Dutch Oven Monkey Bread. even easier than the homemade hamburger helper was this amazing breakfast treat. we made this on our second morning (because EVERYONE does pancakes on their first morning of camping!). i changed the recipe a bit and didn’t use biscuits. i used refrigerator cinnamon rolls, and still rolled them in the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. the extra icing that comes in the cans was a bonus!

IMG_1190Dutch Oven Cobbler. the boys were so excited when they saw cans of Sprite in the shopping cart the night before we left. “we get to drink soda while we camp? awesome!!!”  unfortunately for them, it was for this recipe (can you tell we torture our children in not allowing them sugary drinks? we’re such dictators). this was such a pretty dish and came together quickly. we had it for lunch on our last day of camping.

This recipe for crescent roll hot dogs did not work at all. the dough kept falling off the hot dog and it was a hot mess! we just roasted the hot dogs and used bread for rolls and our friends’ mustard, ketchup and homemade relish.

- indulge in a dutch oven. you’re going to want to cook up some authentic camping recipes. and cooking over the fire is fun, but we already do that in our back yard enough. so to make your camping cuisine truly authentic and delcious (see above recipes), go and get yourself one of these. Walmart has the cheapest prices!and go with a partner (in my case my incredible husband) that knows how to light coals without the use of lighter fluid.

- air mattresses. need i say more?

IMG_1173- percolator. coffee perked over a fire or a Coleman camp stove is the only way to wake up from sleeping in a tent, all damp and dewey. forget the tea or hot chocolate…get yourself some coffee when you camp.

- bug spray. the good stuff. do NOT kid yourself that your au-naturale mixture you made will keep away the bugs. it won’t, and you’ll have lost a pint of blood to the wild mosquitoes if you use anything that you made yourself. bring out the big guns: deet!

- if you’re camp ground allows, have happy hour! i’m not saying that we did or did not enjoy an adult beverage during our camping trip. but happy hour makes the twilight hours so much more tolerable.

 

27
Jun

CSA basket #2: eating local for dinner

   Posted by: liz

For the first time in our 7 years here, we decided to forego the big summer garden. We knew that with putting up a show this summer (more on that in a future post) we wouldn’t have the time or the energy to get get our 20×40 foot garden in this year.

So I chose to join my mom in a local CSA. We only got a half share (one every-other-week pick up) and this photo shows our 2nd basket (photo taken by my mom).

Last night, we ate almost completely from our CSA basket for dinner.

I cleaned the lettuce and made a balsamic and feta salad for our first course. Next, we steamed the sugar-snap peas and had those with some sliced sharp cheddar and leftover brats in cherry spiced mustard. It was just enough food for all of us (of course, the boys had their signature PB&J right before bed, which has become tradition for them these days).

I plan to use the zucchini in loaves of regular and gluten-free chocolate zucchini bread. I’ve never been a fan of actually eating zucchini: our first week’s zucchini still sits in our fridge waiting to be shredded for future loaves of bread.

If the strawberries last through this morning, I’ll make a pie with some of it and I’d like to try a jar of balsamic strawberry jam.

Eventually, we want to join a local meat CSA and we’ll add local pork and beef to our dinner plates.

What was in your CSA basket this week?

7
Jun

the meal table

   Posted by: liz

i have noted before that it is nothing short of magic what happens when friends – new and old – family, and even strangers are gathered around a table of food and drink.

some would like to blame it on the alcohol, but i credit the euphoria on the flavors of food and drink that humans share together around a table.

some of my favorite recent memories are hosting meals around our farm table in our dining room. even before i redecorated the room (now a cool colonial blue), our dining room has hosted christmas meals, thanksgiving feasts, and our dinner group of friends eating, drinking, and usually breaking into song at the end. it is by no coincidence that our family piano is tucked away in a corner of our dining room. we stash all of the sheet music, our boys’ piano books in a basket near the piano, but also a stack of old hymnals and psalters.

one thanksgiving meal comes to mind, that included my brothers and their families, my parents, and some friends of ours that we had recently met. we ended the chaotic meal (chaotic only because 12 kids under the age of 10 with 10 adults to match makes it so) around the piano. We sang the Alleluia chorus from Handel’s Messiah, stumbling our way through the four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), but sharing together in the richness of filled stomachs and Handel’s brilliantly coupled harmonies.

another remembrance is a dinner group of friends, all of us with sons (10 total), shared a potluck dinner of indian-spiced goodness, deep, dry red wines, and a table full of singing before we said our nighttime goodbyes.

i hosted my book club for a cookie exchange one christmas and set up the dining room meticulously with christmas decorations and space for all of our dozens of cookies to be displayed. but where did all 8 of us spend the entire exchange? standing around my kitchen table (ignoring the festive dining room) where the brunch items and mugs of steaming hot coffee were. we laughed, we comforted those of us not looking forward to the upcoming madness that Christmas can be, and we played a “name that tune,” christmas song version all while sharing together the cinnamon rolls, mimosas, and several versions of quiche.

maybe it’s not magic. maybe it’s what is supposed to happen when we open our comfort zones – our family meal tables – with friends. maybe we’ve gotten so bogged down with school schedules and day jobs and family crises that we forget to notice that when we take time to sit, eat, and remember…connections happen. friendships deepen, family members open up, incredible flavors of food and fellowship are shared. this is how we are supposed to sup.

my mom’s book club gets together monthly to talk about their latest book at restaurants and sometimes one of the members hosts a potluck brunch or dinner on their deck. when i ask my mom how her book club was, she always responds, “oh, it was great. we LAUGHED and LAUGHED…” that’s what friends, and hopefully family, does when they share time and conversation around a table. when it’s more than a passing conversation on the phone or email. when we sit, breathe, and break bread together, we are sharing our humaness with each other.

“take, eat…” Jesus says to His disciples. let us do likewise. together.

8
Jan

meals: back to basics

   Posted by: liz

for the month of december, our family’s life was saturated in all things related to our production of A Christmas Carol. between rehearsals most nights during the week, production meetings, errands for costume pieces and props, or evenings spent painting the set,  we were constantly on-the-go, and (to my dismay!) rarely together around the dinner table. this was a “first” for our family: many nights were spent eating restaurant food, fast food, and quick grocery store food that can be eaten in the car. plus…it was christmas and my house was full of candy, chocolate, cookies, chocolate, cakes, sweet breads and chocolate. plus…i hadn’t gone running since thanksgiving.

you can tell where this is going, can’t you?

my favorite jeans don’t fit favorably any more.

so…we’ve sworn off restaurant-rich foods for a while. all last week, i put a hot, fully home-cooked meal on the table. this week, i got back into a regular exercise schedule again (even if it’s only on my elliptical), and i thought i’d share a few of our favorite new recipes. and hopefully, i’ll be sitting comfortably in my favorite jeans in no time. :)

Smothered Porkchops. normally when I see this recipe or read it on a menu, i hold my nose and refuse to go anywhere near it. pork chops smothered in canned cream of mushroom soup sounds disgusting and grey. i hate mushrooms, and i am very snobby about how much i hate canned cream-of-fill-in-the-blank soup (especially when it’s so easy to make on your own!). but this recipe came from Wellness Mama, so i actually gave it a chance!  certainly anyone who calls her blog “wellness mama” would have the same feelings for cream-of-mystery soup from a can as i do, so she couldn’t possibly use it in one of her recipes? i was right!  this recipe was a quick meal (40 minutes for me), i had everything on hand (except for the heavy cream – i just used the coconut cream at the top of my can of coconut milk) and oh-so-delicious!  i have a 9-year-old who loves cooked onions, so i added more for his side dish.  i served this with roasted green beans and barley cooked in chicken broth.

Detox Smoothie.  i’m not a liquid-dieter. if i did any form of a liquid diet, i would be in a constant bitchy mood because i’d be starving. liquid doesn’t fill me up, and we’re not meant to live on liquids…even if we’re trying to shed weight. i made this after my workout this morning and it was so delicious, so fresh, and so filling!  if you haven’t mixed up some good leafy greens into a fruit-based smoothie yet, you’ll be surprised at how good it is. because i don’t want to get used to just a smoothie for breakfast, i had an earlier than usual morning snack (almonds) that i normally wouldn’t have if i chose eggs or oatmeal (my go-to breakfasts). the best part of this smoothie is that it didn’t have that fake “protein powder” aftertaste that i’m not fond of, because it’s all real food ingredients!  so try one after your next workout!  or for an afternoon boost.

Bone Broth Soup.  the link for this recipe again comes from Wellness Mama again because it’s a really good, basic recipe. for the record, i’ve never added the chicken feet, but the more i read, the more i know that the knuckles are packed with good, healthy gelatin. so i’ll look for a local resource to get chicken feet (we might even have our own chicken feet this spring if we butcher again) for our future bone broths.  but this makes a great soup base for a good-for-you and delicious soup. add any vegetable you want, some shredded meat (i made ground turkey meatballs to go in our turkey broth this week). and get really big props from the family if you add a loaf of homemade bread to go with it!

i’d love to hear of your healthy, delicious recipes, meal-plans, and whole-food favorites!  share away!

8
Jun

game night and chocolate-peanut butter

   Posted by: liz

i’ve already blogged about our fabulous day in the city last saturday, but i haven’t yet told you about the fun evening we had the night before.

the marquiss clan invited us over for dinner and game night friday night. we then spent the night since they’re only a few minutes from downtown where we could breakfast-and-museum on saturday.

after a fantastic grilled steak and veggie with salad dinner they served, we spent the evening watching a play that our kids performed, passed out cookies for their dessert and then put them all in bed so we could enjoy the grown-up dessert that i had prepared. it was a “pinterest dessert” full of chocolate peanut butter goodness. it was only a “grown up” dessert because there wasn’t enough to feed the kids. don’t worry – the cookies they all enjoyed were large and full of chocolate goodness, so they weren’t left out. completely. :)

i am not a chocolate PB expert like my husband is, so he’ll provide the “review” of this dessert. i made a chocolate peanut butter torte from this recipe. it was one of the more simple recipes i’ve tried, except for having to convert all of the ingredients from grams to AMERICAN-STANDARD (really now…why can’t the whole world have the same measuring system? what was up with the silly americans changing the perfectly fine metric system to american standard?).

an oreo cookie crust sits beneath a peanut butter filling, topped with a dark chocolate ganache. i found a separate no-fail ganache recipe that i will use forever (and ever, amen) for all of my chocolate-covered dessert recipes (buckeyes, chocolate-covered-strawberries, etc).

review: i thought it was super yummy. kenny, who loves nothing more than chocolate peanut butter for any dessert, liked it, but he would have preferred smooth peanut butter to the crunchy peanut butter that the recipe called for. perhaps it would have been more buckeye-like with smooth peanut butter.

definitely a keeper, especially for adult gatherings. but you might want to consider stearing away from the crunchy peanut butter for this recipe.

then we played games…

a few rounds of 7 Wonders (i’m slowly getting it!) and then a lightning round of The Amazing Labyrinth. a very late night, but a great night’s rest and perfect weather for our saturday outing. games and chocolate and friends…a fabulous weekend habit!

 

5
Jun

10 things I love about Britain

   Posted by: liz

a writer on a blog that i read (a working sheep farm!) made this same list in honor of elizabeth II’s 60th, and since i have a laundry list of things i love about ol’ blighty, i thought i’d join in the fun.

10 things i love about britain

  1. oxford. the magical spires, the bells ringing on sunday mornings, the cobblestone streets. the shaldonian, magdelen college deer park, st. cross road and the covered market. temple cowley school (where i attended 3rd form), st. aldate’s church, Brown’s restaurant, and blackwell’s bookshop.
  2. london. the underground, paddington train station, and the black london cab. the theatre district, the fringe theatre district, and the national theatre. westminster abbey, st. paul’s cathedral, the tower of london and its ravens. gorgeous old pubs and haunting walking tours (like the jack the ripper walking tour after dark). the british museum, tate gallery, national portrait gallery.
  3. castles. CASTLES! real, medieval CASTLES!
  4. cathedrals. gorgeous and awe-inspiring.
  5. the accent. the different spellings and pronunciations of “schedule” and “aluminium.” and different words like, “chips” for fries, “the lift” for elevator, and “tea” for dinner.
  6. the landscapes of ancient, old, magical, and country-lush.
  7. the british B&B. broiled tomato and egg breakfast, shared loo, ceiling-chain-for-toilet-flushing. british youth hostels.
  8. the food: bangers and mash, meat pies, and custards. the best “sweets”: cadbury chocolate, maltesers, aero bars, flake-bar-in-vanilla-ice cream, wine gums! tea with milk and sugar, scones and clotted cream and jam. a pint at the local. restaurants like Browns, Wagamama, and Harrods for afternoon tea, but also the small cafes that serve curries and fish and chips.
  9. the big issue. i bought it as often as i could on my walks to and from the tube on work days. usually from the same location.
  10. royalty. yep, i’m a sucker for the Royals. as patriotic as i am for America, i have a bit of a crush on British Royal history.
5
Apr

a lamb before the slaughter…

   Posted by: liz

a year ago, two lambs were born to our two suffolk ewes. two female lambs, and we made a promise to the boys that females would be kept for more breeding.

a month ago, kenny and i started talking about butchering one of them any way. if we continue to keep the female sheep born to the meat sheep (suffolks are bred for their meat), we will have more animals than we can handle. then we’ll just become “that stinky farm that has more poop than animals,” we’ll end up on the local news as animal hoarders and we won’t be keeping to our original farming plans…our “Constitution” as it were: to grow our own meat.

we ran our idea past the boys and it was unanimous: Poppy would be be the sacrificial lamb this year (normally we wouldn’t name the animals that are planned for future butchering…or normally they’re names are “chops” or “dinner” or “shank”, etc).

a butcher (meat processor?) who lives a mere 1.5 miles from us picked up Poppy this morning. i felt a mixture of sadness (because we were there when she was born) and relief (we are fulfilling her purpose). the boys wanted to be awake to see her go. they watched from their bedroom window.

it’s traditional to have a leg of lamb for Passover supper. we’ll have our roasted leg of lamb on Easter Sunday. because the ultimate sacrifical Lamb conquered death forever. for all of us.

so now…i will have a freezer full of chops, ground lamb, and another leg. i don’t like lamb meat. i like spinning their wool.

28
Feb

raspberry oatmeal ~ my breakfast of choice

   Posted by: liz

you don’t need to whisk an eggwhite for my best recipe. all you need is milk, preferably whole milk, but if you drink pretend skim milk you can probably use it, but i wouldn’t recommend it because the consistencey will definitely change.

2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup whole (rolled) oats (not quick)
1 tsp. sugar, or 1 T maple syrup or honey (or a packet of stevia if you’ve given up sugar for Lent)
a heap of frozen raspberries

Mix the milk, water and oats together in small saucepan and put over medium heat. Stirring every few minutes (so the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom), the oatmeal should be cooked in about 7-9 minutes.

Pour into your favorite bowl. Add as many frozen raspberries as you’d like and sprinkle with a hint of sweetener of your choice.

The creaminess of the milk-cooked oats adds so much flavor and thickness to this dish. The fibrous oats will keep you satisfied for hours (especially if you down a glass of water after you’re done eating!) and the sweetness of the berries will completely take you into breakfast heaven.

Alternate recipes add-ons:
Cinnamon and sucanat
Crushed almonds and cinnamon
1 T. molasses and a pinch of ginger

 

*photo courtesy of livestrong.com