Thursday, August 27, 2009

Old Europe Inn

Tonight Mike and I went on our first date in far too long!! I wanted something nicer than Applebee's or Olive Garden but nothing over-the-top fancy or expensive (that should be reserved for Special Occasions). We found ourselves at a wonderful, cozy little place called the Old Europe Inn. As I have been indulging (and slightly obsessed) with all things cooking, I was thrilled to learn the chef was trained in the French tradition and therefore I found myself very eager to sample the menu. (This having to do also with the fact that I am pregnant and not just my obsession with cooking).
A few weeks ago a good friend and I had a girls' movie night and saw Julie & Julia at the theater and I loved the part where Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) talks about how she loves French food because they use so much butter and everything tastes so wonderful! That was certainly the case tonight- the creamy sauces were divine and I could literally taste the butter. My taste buds sang. Mike enjoyed the Lobster Ravioli while I had Salmon with a special garlic cream sauce. I also tried their soup du jour and have never tasted anything like it. It was a cream-based sauerkraut soup that had definite dill, parsley and fennel seasonings to it- fabulous. For dessert we special-ordered a pastry-puff strudel filled with hot chocolate ganache. Herein my taste buds died and went to Heaven. :) Mike, who had declined to order dessert, took full advantage of the second fork they brought out with the dessert plate. I shared with him because it was worth seeing someone else enjoy something so delicious (and because I love the man).
We arrived home to hear Eileigh did beautifully and are happily planning our next date night after the success of this evening. For those interested, here is the modest website for the restaurant:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Trying out the new seat

Eileigh's been showing quite a bit of interest in going "potty" recently. She loves to just sit on the toilet; nothing exciting has actually occurred other than her trip from the office to the bathroom to drop some bank statements into the toilet (of which she correctly confirmed "Ew, ew" when I fished them back out). She's been telling me when she goes "poo" (and even says it sometimes when she doesn't...) so I figured I ought to jump on the interest and at least see where this little wagon train will take us... maybe eventually to toilet training. It would be wonderful to have her out of diapers since she gets such horrible diaper rashes from her allergies- and most recently, a really bad yeast infection that is finally close to healed after a week and a half. I'm waiting until she's fully recovered before attempting any active sort of training- and even then we'll see. I definitely don't want to push her if she's not ready but it is a lot of fun to see her so excited about it. I now have a much more involved participant during my bathroom breaks- she's pretty much always been a companion in there with me but now has moved into the role of participant toilet-flusher. Nope, no privacy or dignity left for motherhood- I think that was flushed down the drain as well. :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm feeling rather parched...

Well, dehydrated that is. Mike's Grandma generously gave us a food dehydrator in fabulous condition and we've been eager to try it out. We had access to some delicious Gravenstein apples from a friend's backyard and being as I've been pumped up from my previous day of freezing corn and canning peaches I thought I'd give the dehydrator a go tonight. Four years ago as a wedding present we had received a beautiful, bright red Williams-Sonoma apple peeler/corer/slicer which tonight took on a fortuitous gleam (having been only allowed to peel, core and slice two apples in it's lifetime). I thrilled to be able to crank the handle and watch in a few seconds what would have otherwise taken me literally several minutes to do. Mike joined me and I found myself quickly demoted to placing apple rings on the tray while he mastered the art of peeling/coring/slicing (while stating, "Just one more..."). We plugged it into the garage since I expected the dehydrator to be an extremely loud, noisy thing (as childhood experience relates) but it ended up being so quiet I could hardly even tell it was on! Definitely unlike what I remember, which was so loud it was turned off at night so we could sleep and restarted in the morning! Mike and I are eager to see how our first batch turns out and then branch out to try other things- I remember dried pears and fruit leather being my favorites!! Since our sweet girl is allergic to all things citrus including citric acid, I pretreated the apples in salt water so hopefully they won't turn terribly brown. As long as they taste good I'll be satisfied!!

Happy to be out of its box and getting use

We were able to fill every tray!

A picture of my peaches we canned yesterday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Just loved this one of Eileigh

Freezer Corn

Thanks to a connection from MOPs (Mothers Of Preschoolers) I was able to purchase about 200 tasty ears of corn for a great price!! We used to freeze corn all the time growing up and I have extremely fond memories of husking the corn, cutting it off the cob, cooking it, cooling it and finally packaging it for freezing. In all actuality, my parents performed prior stated duties while we girls stood around like little birds with our clean spoons and waited for the right moment to quickly dip into a cooling batch of sweet buttery corn. My mom remembers us being allowed a spoonful as it was cooling- I remember many frequent, furtive dips into various batches as they were produced (mostly while parents were otherwise occupied).
My mom and I conquered the 200 ears in under two hours today (up to the cooling phase). After that we moved on to canning peaches (also my first to do as a grown-up) while we let the corn cool. Both were fairly simple processes but a bit labor-intensive and I am so thankful I wasn't going it alone! I also have a highly operational plan for an early bedtime tonight. By dinner time we had our corn bagged and chilling in the deep freeze and the peaches sealed and cooling on the counter. We mutinied the dinner plans and picked up dinner at a local Mexican restaurant- so nice to let someone else make the meal!!! :)

The Shirt Trick

A very stretchy shirt for jammies= new fashion trend for Eileigh's wardrobe. (Also signals the beginning of independent removal of clothes ranging from shirts to overalls.) As I watch a half-naked little girl streak through the kitchen I hear my voice trail behind her: Eileigh, kid, keep your clothes on!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Garden Update


A little homegrown cheese!!! :)

Our corn is growing, our tomatoes are toppling and we even have a volunteer sunflower!!!

Li'l County Fair

Since the men were busy working (mine), golfing (Mindi's), and fishing (Mom's), we ladies decide to take the babies and enjoy some good ol' fashioned fun at the County Fair! I have so many memories of long hours (days, really) spent at the fair every year which included no small amount of preparation, work, competition and drama to say the least! We always had a great time and looked forward to it throughout the year. My sisters and I were mostly involved with 4-H: cooking, baking, canning, sewing and art/drawing. Oh, and flower arranging a few times. Emily (my youngest sister) was the only one to show "livestock" which included a couple of pet bunnies and pet chickens too old to run away. I think our dog also went through a few rounds but she was an amazing pup and actually won a few ribbons, much to Emi's satistfaction. Other than 4-H we were involved with CYIA (Christian Youth In Action) and spent many an hour at the Children's Bible Bookhouse sharing the story of the Wordless Book to throngs of fair-goers.
Eileigh was free and admission (free parking) was only $6 for me so I counted that a pretty good deal for an evening of amusement. The first critters we came upon happened to be llamas (which I instinctively dislike intensely). Eileigh just started saying, "OoH, OoH, OoH" and pointing until I thought she would fall out of the stroller. When one of the llamas started giving us the evil eye we decided to move on. We strolled through the barns of sheep, cows, goats, and horses. The kids were able to pet the goats for awhile, much to their amusement. One little goat kept poking his head out through the slats and Boone and Eileigh just loved him. Eileigh had a great time practicing all of her animal sounds although making a revving tractor sound is her favorite as of late. We even found a few tractors for her to sit on and enjoy "driving". :) She loved it.
It was amazing how much smaller the fair seemed- I know in part because I'm an adult and no longer a child but I also think participation has really dropped over time. I know the 4-H extension service program has been cut and I think that's really affected participation. I remember rows and tables chock-full of entries and now things seemed kind of bare. Makes me nostalgic and hopeful that it will still be around in the future for my kids to participate in and enjoy.
After we toured the buildings (the "boring" stuff as we used to call it) we enjoyed some hot corn on the cob (Eileigh can take down an entire ear by herself!), nachos and a little amateur entertainment- the Youth Talent Night. Kinda like karaoke for kids. Painful, but cute.
We wrapped up our night with a stroll through the barn of chickens and bunnies, thrilling at the looks on Eileigh and Boone's faces when they came to an annoyed, obnoxious little Foghorn Leghorn rooster that kept crowing insistently. I don't think they knew what to think!
As we headed home I realized that the parking is: free, admission is: $6, and sharing parts of my childhood history and experiencing it as it is presently with my girl is: priceless.

*Hopefully I'll have a few more pictures to put up once I get them from Mindi!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Adventures in Canning

I made up my mind that this year would be the banner year- the year that we grew a garden, harvested the produce and stored up for the winter! I had grand schemes and great illusions (delusions?) of subsisting and existing mainly- if not entirely- on food that was home grown. However, our novice roots began to show when we planted too early and many of our little seeds and seedlings succumbed to the frost. Last year we were too late to plant much of anything except potatoes so in our rush to not make the same mistake twice, we erred on the side of the early bird getting frostbite.
Thankfully after replanting a few starters we had success and have been able to enjoy some seriously bountiful produce. (Read: In addition to two lemon cucumber starts, Mike discovered some seeds left in the packet from our earlier frost-bitten attempts and planted the seeds as well. We now have a minimum of 8 lemon cucumber plants that produce a huge basketful of lemon cukes about every other day).
As I embrace my role as homemaker/housewife/stay-at-home mom one of the things I have been eager to do is canning. Of course I originally assumed I would be canning produce from the backyard farm I saw in my mind's eye but having a limited amount of space effectively changed that vision. From our garden I'll be able to can tomatoes and next year green beans while I get peaches from a local farmer's market. In discovering a few Monster Zucchini I had somehow missed after several days of 100+ degree weather I realized I had a great opportunity to bake and can zucchini bread. My mom has done so for as long as I can remember and seeing as how the actual process is simple although labor-intensive I thought I would give it a go. It was with this decision that my adventure began.
Canning zucchini bread requires very special canning jars that are tapered in shape, no longer manufactured, and extremely hard to find. I couldn't believe my good fortune when I found a recently posted ad on Craigslist selling these very jars locally for a decent price. I called the seller who stopped my questions with a few of his own. He informed me that he doesn't sell these particular jars to just anybody and wanted to know what I would be using them for. Thinking I had the best use in the world for said jars I hurriedly assured him that I would, in fact, be using the jars to can the most wonderful zucchini bread. I 'bout dropped the phone as he hollered that was ILLEGAL and DANGEROUS as they should never be heated in the oven; that's what Pyrex is for and why don't I just use that?! Click. Apparently he was not impressed by the thought of being able to store zucchini bread year-round and I was rather offended on many different levels. To wind this story down a close friend of the family was able to buy a limited amount of jars (although he was selling quite a few more than he would "let" her have) and the seller closed the transaction with an affectionate, obsessive comment regarding jars, to "hold them close to your bosom". So I certainly will, every time I pry the lid off for some zucchini bread!!!
Yesterday with Mike's help to shred zucchini and help with the jars I made four batches of two different kinds of zucchini bread (pina colada and chocolate chip), one zucchini cobbler, chicken chile enchiladas for dinner and four loaves of Ezekiel bread- homemade honey whole wheat bread. I dropped into bed exhausted and happy- what an adventure!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blueberry Cobbler

Tonight's dessert featured blueberries with a hint of lemon flavor in the cobbler- it was a great combination!! I will definitely make this again- it is a great way to utilize a large amount of berries!!

Blueberry Cobbler

4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
3/4 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Transfer to a 2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, lemon peel, baking powder, salt, baking soda and 1/4 c. sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto blueberry mixture.
Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Yield: 8 servings.