Thursday, July 21, 2016

The In Between Days

Blueberry Buckle

Our little people headed home a couple of days ago. Right now our house is quiet and the floors are toy-free. (Did I tell you about the single black Lego on our dark rug that I "found" early one morning?) In this house with no grandchildren, we can finish a cup of coffee while it's hot. We can read the newspaper and watch the morning news shows (which is all pretty depressing) and eat a meal without hopping up a dozen times. But we are missing the early morning snuggles and the bedtime stories and all the hugs in between.

I miss getting fashion advice from the two-year-old, who told me I needed higher heels when I dressed for church on Sunday. I miss hearing Little Sister telling Daddy-O, "Sometimes we make bad decisions, but people love us anyway" after he did something that she is not allowed to do. So hard not to laugh!

While this house is empty for a few days, I'm making plans for "Camp Mimi" next week. Only one little one this time. Little Sister is coming to spend a week at the farm, by herself, to enjoy activities planned just for her. I have a bit of a plan, but we will have it all figured out by the time "camp" begins. 


So in these days between visits, I'm catching up on regular things here, like laundry, cleaning, reading (something beside Berenstain Bears) and knitting. Just started a new shawl from Curious Handmade. Right now it's at the "doesn't look like much" stage. But I've seen photos of other knitters' finished shawls and they are lovely. Right now the temps are staying around 100 degrees here. No need for any kind of wrap or shawl. But cooler temperatures will come back. I'll be ready. For much of our winter, a shawl will be all the outerwear I'll need.


We are finishing up leftovers from our kid-friendly meals. Maybe the best of the leftovers is the Blueberry Buckle I baked with the very last of the blueberries we picked. This is an old recipe from an old cookbook. My mother gave me a brand new Better Homes & Gardens cookbook when I graduated from college. It is still my go-to cookbook, even though the pages are now yellowed. I have notes jotted all through the book. The penciled-in words beside the Blueberry Buckle recipe say "very good!" Indeed.

You can find the self-rising flour version of this recipe here. It's good either way you do it.

BLUEBERRY BUCKLE

1/2 cup shortening (I used half shortening/half butter this time)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries
topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly cream shortening and 3/4 cup sugar; add egg and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together to blend. Add flour to creamed mixture, alternately with milk. Spread batter in greased 11x7x 1-/1/2 inch pan. Top with berries. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly; sprinkle over berries. Bake 45 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve warm.



School for Big Sister (10th grade) and Little Sister (5K) begins on August 4. After that, there won't be very many visits to the farm. And then I'll go back and look over this blog and remember how much grandparent fun we've had this summer.







Monday, July 18, 2016

Mimi And Daddy-O On Duty

Babysitting is going on right now. No time to write a blog. There has been cooking, however, (we do have to eat) so I'll catch up later.














We've been busy. The good kind of busy.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hot Dog...Get Your Hot Dog!

Hot Dog Chili

Oh, my goodness. I meant to have a photo of the actual hot dogs with chili on them. But once the assembly process started, there was no slowing down for anything. Kids were hungry and we were passing plates out as fast as possible. You will have to imagine every surface in the church kitchen lined with plates with baked beans and chips and a cookie as we put the hot dogs in place. (I know, I know. This meal will not win any nutrition prizes.)

We were in charge of supper for Vacation Bible School one night this week. And as the last kitchen team in place, all of the kid-friendly suppers I could think of were already on the menu. But I make good hot dog chili, so that's what we did.

Feeding hot dogs to a group of children was probably the most labor intensive of the meals because of the condiments—mustard/no mustard, ketchup/no ketchup, only chili/no chili, "Can I have some salt, please?" It was not a one-size fits all kind of supper.

But thirty minutes after they sat at the table, every hot dog was gone. Admittedly, one fell in the floor. One small girl poured sand from the beach-themed centerpiece over hers, but I think the rest were eaten. Or, at least nibbled on. For the tiny kids, I split their hot dogs lengthwise into quarters, and then sliced them, and they ate theirs as finger food, with a half bun on the side.

I made this basic recipe three-times over. It is so quick to make that I did it in three batches, pouring each (when all the pink was gone) into the big pot to simmer. For me, that was easier than cooking a triple amount of meat in one big batch.

You are seeing these photos right—I do not brown the meat before I make chili. Browning it first changes the texture of the chili. It's much coarser/chunkier. We like it this way, when the chili is "smoother" and perfect for spooning over a hot dog.



If you feel like this is too hard to stir together, you can add a little water at the beginning. I don't usually do this. (But I have, and that way works, too.) I do stand right there and stir it continuously for several minutes until the meat juices kick in. That water will cook out as it simmers uncovered.

HOT DOG CHILI

1 lb. lean ground beef (I use 90% lean)
about 1/2 of a 24-oz. bottle of ketchup
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt & pepper to taste

Place everything in a saucepan and mix together. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring continously as the meat on the bottom browns.  The meat will release it's juices as it cooks making it easier to stir. Add a little more ketchup, if you think it needs it. Once all of the meat is no longer red, simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, or longer. Stir every now and then.



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It's Berry Berry Good


I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Mostly, now I'm not very fond of it. There are too many political articles from questionable sources. Too many unfiltered comments that are hateful and ugly. Too many advertisements for things I don't plan to buy. Too many ridiculous videos. But mixed in with all of that stuff I zip past, I can also see who had a new baby, who died, and who is moving to a new house. So, I can't give Facebook up completely.

And then there are the Facebook recipes. There are so, so many of those that they only get a glance. But I am happy that this one caught my eye. Could be because I still had nearly a half gallon of fresh berries left from our berry picking morning last week.

I had never heard of Jordan Marsh, but evidently it was a famous department store in Boston back in the day. I grew up in a very small Southern town. The closest thing we had to a department store was Reimer's, which was basically two stores connected by a doorway. Womens' clothing on one side and mens' on the other side. As a teenager I worked weekends across the street at Hall's 5 & 10. Once I started getting a paycheck (I think it was about $7 a week) I bought my own clothes at Reimer's. Thank goodness for lay-away, because one paycheck wasn't enough for a dress.

Anyway, our little store wasn't big enough to serve treats. For that, you walked next door to the corner drugstore for an ice cream cone.  I'm glad Jordan Marshall's was a huge store with a bakery. And I'm glad that this recipe has been passed around for ages since they closed. This one came from a NY Times Facebook post. If you google the recipe, you'll find other variations from other sources. I'm pretty sure they are all good.


Because my muffin pans are approaching antique age, I think they are slightly smaller than the current regular size ones.  (I have an even older one that is a little smaller than these.) This recipe made 18 muffins for me. And they cooked a little faster. Eighteen muffins meant I had plenty to share. So I packed up a half dozen and delivered them to my favorite older (than us) couple. He's 93 and she's 88. They are both on walkers now, but sharp as a tack. We should all age so well! We had the best visit.

So here is the famous recipe. I will certainly make these muffins again. And again. And again.

JORDAN MARSH'S BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries (washed, drained, picked over)
3 teaspoons sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter and 1-1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. (I just used a whisk to mix the dry ingredients.) Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Crush 1/2 cup of berries with a fork and mix into batter. Fold in remaining whole berries.

Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, and fill with batter. Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons of sugar over tops of muffins. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. (Check after 25 minutes.)

Remove muffins from tins and cool for at least 30 minutes. Store, uncovered, or the muffins will be too moist the second day.



Because I was baking in the morning, I fixed my favorite summer lunch yesterday—a tomato sandwich and fresh cantaloupe. The tomatoes and cantaloupe were just hours off the vines. This is the ultimate summer meal. In fact, it was so good, that we did a repeat for supper.


And having sandwiches again last night (I could only get away with this on the day the first tomatoes are picked) gave me time to bake a blueberry pie at supper time.  Mommy made one last week at the lake. And I couldn't think of a better way to use the very last of the fresh berries.

I was glad to get to the end of the 2 gallons of berries, but now I'm thinking maybe we should pick just one gallon more. Hmmmm.....



















Monday, July 11, 2016

Vacation's Over

Family time.

Early morning fishing.

What a week to be away from television (except for the tiny one that gets only PBS) and newspapers. While we were on vacation, it seems the world fell apart. It has been painful to catch up on what on happening while we were away. But we will continue to focus on the pleasant time we shared with family. We will also make sure we teach these little ones to treat people with respect and kindness.

Porch airport.

Lakeside dining.

For years, I thought "vacation" had to be somewhere at least a few hours away from home. But this year we had a real vacation at our lake house that is only 45 minutes from the farm. We had our entire family at the lake at one time or another as people came and went. And extended family joined us on July 4th for our annual BBQ lunch. Such good memories.

The umbrella that got away.

A visitor on the pier.

We came back to the farm for a couple of days before Mommy and the little girls headed home. Then, after they left for the city, we headed back to the lake house for a couple of days of quiet after the busy times with little ones in residence. It was all good—the busy times and the quiet time. Life is all about balance, isn't it?

A reminder that the littles were here.




Thursday, June 30, 2016

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

I'm sitting here for a few minutes, printing out some recipes to take with us to the lake. The recipe for this blueberry pie was first on my list. We picked blueberries this morning at our neighbor's farm. My secret hope is that Mommy will make a blueberry pie this weekend while the whole family is at the lake. Yes—nine of us. And a big dog. In our tiny lake house with the postage stamp sized kitchen.

This recipe is simple enough to make down there, with our limited space and equipment. And it's the perfect July 4th dessert. We've used it before for our July 4th dessert, but I'm sharing this recipe again.



Whether you've picked the blueberries yourself, or picked them out at the grocery store, this pie will be a winner!

BLUEBERRY PIE

5 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 (15-oz) package refrigerated pie crusts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sugar

Sprinkle berries with lemon juice; set aside.
Fit half of pastry in a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions.
Combine 1 sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Add to berries. Mix well.
Pour into pastry shell and dot with butter.
Unfold remaining pastry shell on a lightly floured surface; roll gently with rolling pin to remove creases.
Place pastry over filling; seal and crimp edges.
Cut slits in top of crust to allow steam to escape.
Brush top of pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with 1 tsp. sugar.
Bake in a 400 degrees for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cover edges with foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.


Our lake house also has no internet. The television gets one channel. So I'm taking a technology break and a blog break for about a week to play with the little ones and visit with family and to keep everyone fed. 


~Happy 4th of July! ~

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Care Package



Several weeks ago, my sister had an accident that has put her out of commission for a while. I took food when she got home from the hospital and had planned to do it again last week. But you know how plans go---they went awry. So this week, I took enough food to last them several days. I did choose a couple of recipes that can be frozen for later, if that helps them. If she lived closer to me, I would divide meals and share as I cook for us. But she is just far enough away to make that impractical.

If you are like me, the hardest part of doing this is deciding what to make. So I'll tell you what I took. You might find a recipe here that you can use. Maybe you'll put it with one of your own favorite recipes. Factor in major dislikes (no olives or feta cheese will go to this house!) but don't get too crazy about "cooking to order" or you'll never do it.

Do take a minute to think about who is getting your care package. I'm taking this to a household of 2. That means I didn't make the whole 9x13-inch dish of baked ziti for them. As glad as they were to get some home cooked food, I know they didn't want to eat the same thing for a week. I divided the ziti into smaller foil pans—two small ones for them (one to bake, one to freeze for later) and a square pan for us.  If things might go into the freezer, wrap it so that it's ready to freeze and add the date. Make it as easy as possible for them.

And take just part of a meal if that's what you have time for. (This time, I was lucky to have most of the day to do this.) My brother-in-law did say that they are lucky to live where there are many restaurants so "it's easy to pick up food—but take-out meals get old pretty quick." So anything you've made will be welcome. A couple of weeks ago, I took BBQ chicken sliders, pasta salad and a bag of chips. (I cooked chicken breasts until tender, shredded them, and poured a bottle of bought "sweet & spicy" barbecue sauce over. I took that and a package of dinner rolls.) It was quick to put together, but it was greatly appreciated.

Here is what I took (with recipe links) this week:


Mason Jar Salads
While the water for the ziti was coming to a boil, I made these four pint jars because I realized that the container of baby spinach I bought was only enough for four jars. (I had planned to make some for us, too. Next time.) They will keep for five days. I added the "use by" date to the lids. I've done these before and they really do keep for days. And it's delish.


Baked Ziti
This recipe is a favorite of my family. It makes a huge amount. And we know it freezes well—either before baking or after. I divided it into two small foil pans to take and a square pan for us. I ran out of mozzarella when I was adding the cheese on top, so I finished up with a little Mexican cheese blend. Close enough.


Chicken Salad
I figured they can have sandwiches, or add a scoop of this to the mason jar salad to make that a complete meal. This will keep a few days, too.


Sloppy Joes
If you've eaten Manwich and decided that you don't like sloppy joes, this isn't Manwich (which I happen to like, but lots of folks don't.)  It freezes and reheats well. I packed this so that it could be frozen if they want to use it later. I divided the meat mixture and divided a package of slider rolls—half for them, half for us. Toast the rolls before serving.


Black Eye Pea Salad
Since this was going to my sister and brother-in-law, I figured I could experiment a little. This is a new recipe. I started with a recipe I found on Plain Chicken's blog, but then I drifted and changed it up a bit. Taste and adjust to suit you. You might like it a little sweeter. I'm thinking a little whole kernel corn would be a good addition, too.

BLACK EYE PEA SALAD

3 (15-oz) cans black eye peas, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Put peas, peppers, onion and celery in a bowl. Mix oil, vinegars, garlic powder, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to blend. Pour over vegetables and stir gently. Cover and chill for at least an hour. Longer is better.


Just to finish the cooler box up, I added a purchased container of fresh fruit, a container of sliced cucumbers from our garden and I tucked in a loaf of pineapple zucchini bread from my freezer. Now they are fixed for a few days and there is enough here so that I don't have to cook for us for a while. A definite win/win. Now, don't think I'm crazy, but this is how I do things. I typed up sheet listing everything I delivered, with preparation directions if needed. I even included an ingredient list, so they would know what they had. That's overkill, I know, but I was glad for an excuse to sit down and type after cooking all morning!

As we were leaving her house after the food delivery, my sister shouted out the door to me. She promised that if I fall down the stairs and break something, she'll bring me food. It's a deal.