Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hello from the Rockies!

There are many, many things I don't enjoy about my job, but fortunately the traveling is something I love. I've been hiking up mountains after our meetings, enjoying the ski slopes in summer, the fresh air, and the afternoon thunderstorms.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Yes, more food. It's the summer of good eats. Yesterday was Sarah's birthday, and I was armed with fresh carrots from Tuesday's farm share pick-up. So a carrot cake was born.

I used my mom's recipe, that was someone else's before hers and someone else's before that. It's a great cake. It's really easy to make, particularly if you have all of the ingredients {I had to run out and pick up some walnuts, because we weren't going to have a carrot cake without nuts ~ what's a healthy cake without nuts?}.

Ingredients ::

~ 2 cups sugar {I used 1 cup sugar and a 1/2 cup brown sugar}
~ 3 eggs
~ 1 cup oil {I was being tricky and used 1/2 cup oil and a 1/2 cup buttermilk}
~ 2 cups flour {I used the full flour amount but also threw in a 1/4 cup of ground flax seeds}
~ 1.5 tsp salt
~ 2 tsp baking soda
~ 1 tsp cinnamon
~ 3 cups grated carrots
~ 1/2 cup chopped pecans {I used a little bit over a 1/2 cup of a walnuts}

Directions :: Mix sugar, eggs and oil together. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until moistened. Pour into a greased bundt pan or 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

I wanted a layer cake, so I baked it in two 9? inch pans ~ it made for skinnier cakes, but they were just perfect for layering. Of course, I kept my eye on it and reduced the baking time accordingly.

But wait, there's more! I asked Sarah if she wanted frosting, because I know there are some family members that don't want frosting near their carrot cake. She did, but she didn't say explicitly that she wanted cream cheese frosting. So I went out on a limb and whipped up some coconut milk frosting for the first time. It was fantastic!

Ingredients ::

~ 1 can light coconut milk
~ 7.5 tsp flour
~ 1.5 cups butter
~ 1.5 cups powered sugar
~ 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the coconut milk and flour in a saucepan. Bring it to a low simmer and continue whisking and simmering for about five minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool completely {great time to go fiddle in the garden}.

In a mixer, whisk together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the coconut mixture and extract and continue to mix until your frosting is light and fluffy. It looks like the frosting may separate, but if you stick with it, everything will be fine. I put my mixer on a high speed and let it go for a minute or so. I don't really taste the coconut, but you could remedy that by adding coconut extract. This is similar in design to the cloudburst frosting. I like both because they are nice solid frostings that really hold their shape when spread on a cake.

Happy Birthday Sarah*

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Today's the day to pick up our next box of vegetables from the farm! By Saturday night we had completely exhausted the last box of veggies, and since then we've been eating cereal and reminding each other that the good eating starts again on Tuesday. Here's what we did with the last delivery ::

The salmon seaweed salad and slaw were the dishes that really stood out for me this week.

Unfortunately both were gobbled up during late night dinners, so I have no pictures to share, but I don't want to forget the recipes, there are no measurements, just a list of ingredients & descriptions.

For the slaw I wanted to recreate a delicious and surprisingly light slaw that I had at Route 6. The first thing I noticed about their slaw was how tender the cabbage was. I had been slicing my cabbage {with a knife} when making salads and slaws. This time I decided to grate the cabbage, and I think the smaller pieces made a huge difference. To the cabbage I added grated carrot and very thinly sliced white onion.

For the dressing, I mixed together mayo, dijon mustard, celery seeds, and fresh lemon juice ~ I think the celery seed and lemon juice were the two flavors I tasted at Route 6 that really made their version taste light, and it worked at home too. Of course, the longer this sits, the better it gets, but ours only lasted about 24 hours and by the end we were racing each other to the last bite.

The salmon seaweed salad is a variation on the Kyoto salad from Sprout Cafe. I was at Sprout in May when I was in CA for work, and I've been thinking about recreating that salad ever since.

The original salad calls for tuna, wakame seaweed, somen noodles, firm tofu, nori, edamame, kaiware sprout, carrots, sesame seeds, miso sesame dressing.

Our salad included :: mixed greens, grilled salmon, wakame seaweed, avocado, black beans, cucumbers, corn, grated carrots, nori, and sesame seeds.

Wakame seaweed is the deep green seaweed found in the salads in Japanese or sushi restaurants. I love those salads, and really wanted to be able to make them at home, but I didn't have a clue where to find the seaweed {I was expecting to see it fresh, not dried in stores}. It wasn't until I heard an interview with David Tanis on The Splendid Table, that I realized I should be looking for dried wakame and rehydrating it.

After rehydrating the seaweed, I added a dressing of rice wine vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Back to the large salad ~ rather than making one big salad these were made in separate bowls for each individual. We piled the greens and veggies in the bowls. Added a nice serving of the dressed seaweed salad {about a 1/3 of a cup}, and then topped it with the grilled salmon. I didn't added anymore dressing than what was on the seaweed and this worked perfectly for a light, summer salad.

That's a wrap.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekend Update

The rains came! After weeks of hot, dry weather, we relished the rain that fell at the end of last week. Knowing that our favorite hiking trails are empty when it rains, C and I took the pooch out for a quiet walk on Friday afternoon. It was a perfect ending to the week and start to our laid back weekend {The last week home that we'll have for about a month! We're gearing up for a few summer work and fun trips.}. Anywho, the walk surprised us with these huge fungi ::

We don't know what it is, any suggestions? We just know that it's large ~ for scale Calder's holding one that was already uprooted.

The water garden is now filled to the brim. The left photo below was taken Friday morning and the one on the right was taken on Saturday morning. It's just a good reminder to keep your water level a few inches below the brim so that it doesn't overflow {taking your little floating plants with it} when you get a heavy rain. This is more of an issue if you have your surface covered with duckweed or fairy moss ~ two tiny plants that will flow right over the brim of your pot.

Calder took Sarah and I out for some birthday sushi on Friday night. We dressed up, and then this happened...

And alas, the Tour is over for another year. By the last week of the race our interest had wained, particularly since there was very little competition for the win. I didn't finish my sweater; the body is knit, and the sleeves are underway. Between our continuing Potter marathon, and the upcoming flights, it may even be done in time for wearing on those cool beach evenings.

Happy Monday*

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh boy, we had a circle-of-life type moment in the garden this week, waking up to this sad image in our bedroom window ::

That poor little hummingbird must have flown right into the screen and then couldn't get his long beak back out. It's particularly sad because I think that this guy was the more active bird at our feeder ~ always zooming by whenever we were out on the deck. We have another bird that visits the feeder {and the two of them would often fight, which is what probably led to the crash}, but the second bird doesn't come around quite as often.

On to prettier sights, we are flush with fresh flowers around here. I pulled out some of the short green vases that were made wedding last year {they're the bottom half of beer bottles}. These vases are the perfect size for a shot of flowers on a side table or desk ~ when you want some fresh flowers, but don't have a lot of room to spare.

The lilies were in full bloom last week and made it into a bouquet with some hydrangea and coneflowers. And as an alternative to the jars, vases, and beer bottles that we've been using to display flowers, we picked up a couple of these small clay vases with flower frogs glued into the bottom of them. The venders were all referring to them as ikebanas.

Happy Friday*

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh man, we're having a lazy blogging/email week around these parts. That's what happens during a busy work week ~ so much time spent looking at the screen that I can't bear an extra minute.

Anywho, in the evenings we've been cooking up a storm : salmon salads, slaws, and seaweed salads {our most exciting find of the week}. But this post is all about fungi for the fun guys. yep

When we were in Philly a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a delicious mushroom tart I had at Parc. It's on their appetizer menu, but I ordered it as my main course for brunch, and it knocked my socks off. The crust was flaky pastry dough, on it was a layer of cooked mushrooms that were chopped so fine it could have been a paste. The mushrooms were topped by a layer of gruyere cheese then a layer of sliced mushrooms. The finishing touch was a drizzle of truffle oil.

I thought about that tart every day for about a week after eating it {not even joking}. This is my lazy man's rustic mushroom tart.

I began by making a basic pie crust. I make mine in the food processor, and recently read a tip that makes remembering the ingredient ratios so easy : 3, 2, 1. Three parts flour, two parts butter, one part water. I didn't even roll out the pie crust, I just pressed it into my 8 inch cast iron skillet.

I then chopped up some mushrooms, saut├ęd then in butter, and at the very end added just a dash of water so that I could deglaze the pan and keep all the good flavors. That process was repeated with the sliced mushrooms for the top layer. Fresh thyme and rosemary were added to the chopped mushrooms. I then layered everything into the pan: chopped mushrooms, grated gruyere, sliced mushrooms. Here's what it looked like before baking ::

It was baked at 350F until the cheese was bubbling and the crust was nicely browned. When it came out of the oven, I topped it with some fried sage leaves {We were having fun picking and using fresh herbs for this recipe. Mint went into our mojitos and basil in our salad.} and a few nasturtiums.

My mom asked if I added any eggs for binding. I didn't, but I might add one next time, especially if I make the chopped mushroom layer finer. This particular version turned out perfect without anything binding it together. We were even able to pick it up and eat pieces from our hand without it falling all over the place. You may have noticed that I forgot the truffle oil. It was delicious without, but I can guarantee that there will be another mushroom tart in the oven this weekend with truffle oil.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Birthday Bracelets

Last week was my birthday. We skipped the cake and opted for root beer floats {it's more fun when you don't have to see the number of candles on the cake!}. I couldn't be luckier ~ the gifts spanned my full range of interests from running and canning to entertaining and jewelry making.

Sarah gifted me all of the supplies we needed to make a few of these bracelets. We made them together as we continued to work our way through the Potter series {this is before/after watching the Tour ~ in the spirit of summer vacation, we're indulging}.
It took us a false start or two to get the hang of braiding around a chain, but once we hit our stride these were so easy to make! You could say it's a more dramatic, grown-up friendship bracelet. Perfect for a birthday girl firmly planted in her thirties.

I'll be sure to wear mine this Friday when C takes us out for some birthday sushi.

Ps ~ a gift I never expected to be so excited about? A hand sander! Look out for some furniture redo projects.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tomatoes in Burlap!

A friend gave C some extra tomato plants last weekend ~ grape and brandywine. It's a late start, but for a chance to watch these little guys grow, bloom, and produce some fruit, we're willing to give it a go.

Using what we had on hand, I planted each plant in it's own burlap sack. One is a coffee sack from Flossie {our coffee-roasting-guru}, and the other is a burlap shopping bag. The burlap is lined with a garbage bag, poking a few holes in the bottom to let the water drain.

I'm now in love with plants in burlap. How great would some large sacks look overflowing with flowers? I could even see tucking a sack full of mums into my garden to fill in the holes that develop as the summer flowers fade. The burlap will begin to rot by the end of the summer, so doing this again next year may require buttering up the local coffee roaster for some empty sacks...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Do you have farm shares or community supported agriculture (CSA) programs where you live? Living in Philadelphia and Boston for 10+ years, we had some CSA opportunities, but now many. So we were blown away when there were over a dozen local farms offering farm shares in our current town. In early spring, we went to a CSA "open house" where we got to meet the many farmers, learn about their programs, the vegetables {and in some cases, meats, eggs, and dairy items} they offered. We decided to go with one of the smaller, newer farms. Our choice was partly based upon convenience {their pick-up times and locations fit our schedule}, but also because we were excited to support people our age that were taking the big leap into farming.

This afternoon we'll pick up our 4th box of veggies from a local farm. Since we're a small household, we signed up for a 1/2 share of vegetables from the farm, which means that we pick up a box of vegetables every other week from May through October. And of course I can't help but photograph them. Here's our share from June 26th and what became of everything::

For tonight's box, we have to choose between kale or beets. While I love some hearty greens, there was a resounded shout out for more beets from Sarah and Calder. And who can argue when the beets are looking so beautiful this year?

We supplemented those veggies with store-bought asparagus, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions, along with more bell peppers, because one doesn't cut it when there's hummus to eat.

Couscous and quinoa salads are staples around here; I like to have one in the fridge at all times because they make quick & healthy lunches. I just cook the grain or pasta with some vegetable bouillon and then add whatever chopped vegetables I have on hand. Lately I've like the carrots and turnips grated. And if I'm adding kale, beets, or beet greens, I cook those first. I used to add a simple vinaigrette, but have skipped it and no one has complained.

The evening before the next pick-up, I clear our vegetable drawers of any last vegetables from the previous share. Depending upon what's left, we might throw together a stir fry or salad, but last night, we had the perfect combination for a pan of roasted veggies. From the far we had : beets, turnips, the broccoli, and some carrots remaining. So I chopped them up and added an onion, some potatoes, and asparagus. I drizzled it with olive oil and added some fresh rosemary and thyme.

Everything goes in the oven at about 350F. I stir it a few times while it's in the oven, and keep my eye on it until it's done. Broccoli may seem like the odd veggie in this combo, but it's so delicious roasted! When the pan came out of the oven, C and I ate almost all of the broccoli before we sat down.

I paired the veggies with our go-to simple poached fish. For this we combine equal parts soy and fish sauce. Add a tablespoon or so of brown sugar and a couple cloves of crushed garlic. I wrap 1 fish fillet in foil with a few pats of butter and some sliced shiitakes and the poaching liquid. It goes in the oven for about 10 minutes and it's done!

Last night's fish was topped with some fresh mango ~ paired with the poaching sauce it's a perfect combination of sweet and salty.

What are you eating lately? On the menu this week is a mushroom tart and a lot of veggies.

And while I was taking that first picture of our veg box, the Cash and Charlie were being curious/causing trouble ::

Monday, July 09, 2012

Weekend Update

We're deep into the Tour de France now, spending a few hours each night watching the day's race {and avoiding all news of the event so stage's events, crashes, and outcomes are a surprise}. With all of that time on the couch, knitting happens, and Stasis has become my Tour knit.

I've avoided stranded sweaters for a long time because I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get the tension right, but with the first section done, I couldn't be happier with the results! Now I have inches of stockinette for the torso ahead of me ~ perfect for keeping one eye on the race.

In the garden, we're seeing the results of another successful experiment :: encourage a Queen Anne's Lace invasion. I love the lace, and wanted to add the flowers here and there to the beds. So towards the end of last summer I collected some dried flower heads, and sprinkled the seeds throughout our garden. This year, we have an abundance of the wispy leaves {in the photo below you see a combination of queen anne's lace and california poppy leaves} popping up and many of them are now starting to flower!

When these flowers mature and produce seeds, I'm going to spread them and cross my fingers again.

{Gratuitous insect shots.}

What''s on your list for the week? Other than the knitting, race watching and !birthdaying!, we're just trying to keep everything watered {flowers, dogs, and husbands} while we wait for some rain.

Happy Monday*