Saturday, July 31, 2010

CSA Week 7: More Tart Cherries

Yes, I know I already posted on tart cherries, but this recipe was too awesome not to share (it had to be pretty tempting for me to turn on my oven). I thought this would be a perfect, homey housewarming treat for my brother and sister-in-law.

Sour Cherry Slab Pie


2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and diced
3/4 cup ice cold water


6 cups sour cherries, pitted
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch or two of salt
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water


1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1) Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and diced butter. Pulse until ingredients are well combined and butter is the size of peas.

2) Slowly add 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water over the butter and flour mixure. Pulse to combine. Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Remove all the dough and gently knead together.

3) Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in a piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.

4) Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. Stir to combine; set aside.

5) Remove two pieces of dough from the fridge. Cut one of the pieces in half, and combine with the other piece to make a larger ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the large piece of dough into an 18 x 12 inch rectangle. Do your best to work quickly, keeping the dough as cold as possible (tossing it in the freezer for a couple minutes if it softens) and using enough flour that it doesn’t stick to the counter.

6) Transfer to a 15 x 10 x 1 inch rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper (pastry will hang over sides of pan). Pour cherry mixture into lined baking sheet; set aside.

7) On a lightly floured surface, roll out the smaller piece of dough into a 16-by-11-inch rectangle. Drape over filling. Bring bottom pastry up and over top pastry. Pinch edges to seal. Using a fork, prick top crust all over. Brush with heavy cream or egg wash.

8) Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 40 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.

9) In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar, water and lemon juice until desired glaze consistency is achieved. Use a spoon to drizzle over top. Serve warm or room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen (super-fab, must-read cooking blog)

I wanted to try making my own pie crust, but you could probably just buy a store-bought crust and skip to step 4 if you're pressed for time. Don't be intimidated though... the crust was really simple to make. I adapted the Smitten Kitchen's dough recipe for the food processor, but she actually makes it by hand. Read her post on All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough for a quick how-to.

Overall, this was just perfection. The pie's shape and rustic crust look very impressive in the pan, but I cut it up into squares for easier delivery. It would be ideal Sunday brunch.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

CSA Week 7: More Summer Squash

Good thing we really like patty pan squash and zucchini, because it is hella plentiful in our CSA. Here's another recipe for summer squash...

Broiled Squash with Thyme

Olive oil
4 medium summer squash
Coarse salt
1 tablespoon fresh parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1) Preheat broiler, and cover broiler rack with aluminum foil. Lightly brush foil with oil.

2) Cut squash into lengthwise slices of fairly uniform thickness (a little less than 1/4 inch). Place slices side by side but not overlapping on broiler rack. Brush generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.

3) Place squash about 4 inches from broiler, and broil about 4 minutes, just until they start to brown.

4) Remove pan from broiler. Turn slices, brush tops with oil and sprinkle with salt. Return to broiler, and again broil until slices begin to brown.

5) Layer slices in serving dish. Drizzle the excess oil from the foil over the squash, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and thyme leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4-6 servings.

Recipe courtesy of the Food Person

We did this on the grill instead of the broiler and it turned out great. Parmesan cheese wasn't part of the original recipe, but we had some extra in the fridge (and who doesn't love cheese?). As an added bonus, I finally got to use the thyme plant that came in our CSA a few weeks ago. Until now, it's just been lovely decoration on our kitchen window sill.

When we grow up

I'm a creature of habit. So we typically take Stella on the same walk every evening... past the park, around the Paine Art Center and Gardens, through campus and back home.

We often pass a sweet older couple a few blocks into our route. Their house and yard is immaculate, in the way only a retiree's property can be. They sit in two lawn chairs in the shade of their driveway, taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood.

Every time we go by, they always comment on what a beautiful dog Stella is. We smile, say thank you, and wish them a good evening. It's a moment I've started to look forward to. I find myself disappointed when they're not outside as we pass.

I don't know their names. I don't know their story. But I hope that will be Ben and I in 50 years. Enjoying each others company, and making the day of a young family out for their evening walk.

In case you were wondering about my cervix...

Nothing is happening yet. Nada. Not even a little dilation. I'm locked up like Fort Knox.

Baby is most definately head down though, which I assumed given the constant pressure on my bladder.

I also reached my personal pregnancy hell... the big 2-0-0. That's right, I now top 200 pounds. I am a mere 3 pounds from weighing more than my husband (at which point I will have to kill myself).

I feel like I'm going to be huge FOREVER.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bump Watch

I've gone from round to out. I feel so huge lately.

Nine months pregnant is hard. A lovely combination of large, tired and irritable. As I was telling a friend today, I've pretty much reached my limit by 8:00 or 9:00 every night. I can't stand to be in my own skin after that.

I am officially done with work on August 12. Though I still maintain 08/09/10 would be the coolest birthday ever, it will be really nice to have a few weeks before the due date to clean and rest before baby arrives.

Everyone at work keeps asking whether or not I'll miss working full-time. Truthfully, I won't. I'll miss the little luxuries that two incomes provide, but I'm really excited to stay at home with baby and start graduate school. I feel very fortunate that Ben and I are in a position to live on his income alone. Not every family has that choice.

Our remaining bump watch posts are limited... only one or two remain. Any guesses on the baby's arrival?

A Tale of Two Cookies

I bought two cookies at a local bakery/cafe, intending to bring one home to Ben. I ate my cookie (double chocolate brownie) in the parking lot. And then I ate Ben's cookie (peanut butter oatmeal M&M) in the 10 minutes it took me to get back to work.

Sorry, honey... I tried. Isn't it the thought that counts?

Monday, July 26, 2010

CSA Week 6: Tart Cherries

As our weekly CSA bounty grows more plentiful, so do my CSA recipe posts!

This week we received 5 pounds of Door County tart cherries. Normally, we just gobble up all the fruit from our fruit share, but tart cherries don't exactly snack well. And since it's hot as hell and I don't really feel like baking right now, I decided to take my first tentative steps into canning.

Cherry Pie Filling in a Jar

Makes 2 quarts

10 c. cherries, washed and pitted
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
6 T. cornstarch
5 T. bottled lemon juice

1. Wash and pit the cherries, set aside. Sterilize 2 quart jars along with the lids in boiling water or in a dishwasher run without soap.

2. In a large stockpot bring the water, sugar, corn starch and lemon juice to a boil.

3. Pour in the cherries very carefully and bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring continuously with a long spoon. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes while the cherries release their juices and the mixture thickens, becoming bright red and glossy.

4. Set a funnel over a quart jar and ladle in the blueberry mixture, leaving about 1" of room at the top. Repeat with second quart jar.

5. Placed the sterilized lids on the jar and seal them with the rims, only tightening the ring as much as you can with your own hand. Do not force it.

6. Place the jars in a pot of boiling water standing on end. Make sure the water covers the tops of the jars. Boil for 30 minutes, starting the timing when the mixture has returned to a boil after the jars have been added.

7. Remove jars and place in a cool, dry place on a kitchen towel. Allow to cool naturally for a few hours. Store jars for the long term in a cool, dry place until using.

Recipe courtesy of the Naptime Chef (originally Blueberry Pie Filling in a Jar)

Canning intimidated the hell out of me, but this was really easy. I bought simple water bath canning supplies from Fleet Farm for about $25 (canning pot, canning rack and quart jars). You could probably get by with just the jars and a large stock pot, but I wanted the handy canning rack that helps lift the jars out of the boiling water.

I didn't buy a funnel since I couldn't find one with a large enough opening for canning. I will definately get one now though... I burnt the hell out of my thumb while trying to get the hot pie filling into the quart jars. Youch.

Pitting the cherries was definately the most tedious part. It took me about 45 minutes to pit 5 pounds. You can buy a cherry pitter, but I just used a straw to poke out the pits. Tip: Wider straws work better for this. Think McDonald's size straws, or for you local folks, Leon's Frozen Custard.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The ninth month

Today begins my ninth month of pregnancy... only a few more weeks until we meet our baby. This moment used to feel so far away. Now I find myself begging him to stay in there until mama's ready.

All in all, it's been a really easy pregnancy. No morning sickness, no heartburn, not even many cravings. I still sleep well, and I'm generally relaxed. Ben may argue that my hormones have been a touch... frustrating. It's amazing how quickly something can send me over the edge these days. But he's learned what I need to chill out and move on... a few deep breaths, a big hug and an "I love you" is usually all it takes.

Despite the general ease of the past few months, I am starting to get more uncomfortable. I can't sit up or lay down without grunting. And sometimes the baby sits so low in my tummy that I feel like he might fall right out of me. I still manage to walk 1-2 miles every evening, but I walk sooooo slooooowly now. That's probably the biggest indicator of how large I feel. Pre-pregnancy, I was a notoriously fast walker.

I've gained about 26 pounds, which was more than I was hoping for, but within the recommended range for pregnant women (25-35 pounds). I'll probably clear 30 before the baby's born, but that's OK, especially given my recent love affair with ice cream.

We have all the necessary baby gear (and then some). Clothes, diapers and bedding have been washed. The hospital bag has been packed. And Stella will be taken care of while we're gone. We're about as ready as we're gonna be. So now, we wait.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nursery... check!

I'm happy to report that I met my self-imposed nursery deadline of 36 weeks. We have virtually everything we need to care for a baby. Except experience. Or a clue.

Here are a few pictures... I especially love the polka dot rug and white vinyl decals on the walls.

Crib and super cute polka dot rug

Rocking chair and changing table

Friday, July 23, 2010

CSA Week 6: Zucchini

I know I talked about grilled summer squash a few weeks ago, but we're still getting a ton of zucchini and patty pan squash, and this recipe was too good not to share.

Summer Zucchini Bites

2 c. grated zucchini
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Makes approximately 24 mini-muffin sized bites

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a mini-muffin tin, set aside.

2. In a large glass bowl add two eggs and beat lightly with a whisk. Then, add the zucchini, onion, cheddar, bread crumbs and parsley and combine them with a wooden spoon.

3. Using your hands or an ice-cream scoop, fill each muffin cup just to the top. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the top is browned and set.

Recipe courtesy of the Naptime Chef (one of my favorite blogs!)

These were incredible. So fresh and delicious. A must-keep for my recipe box.

We don't have any mini muffin tins, so I made 12 "big bites" in a regular muffin pan. They were very good, though the zucchini remained pretty moist. If you make them in a smaller size, I assume the zucchini would firm up a bit more.

We also topped each bite with a little extra cheddar cheese. This is Wisconsin after all.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The new doc

We met the new doctor last night. Our first meeting was awesome. He has a slight accent and says "okee-dokee" a lot. I heart him.

One of the first things he said to us was "you don't have a medical condition, you're having a baby." Swoon. He believes strongly that labor is a natural process, and supports our goal of a natural birth. Right on, doc. You may be the coolest OB ever.

In talking to us about our birth wishes, he asked if we had a birth plan in writing. Why yes, we do. We gave him a copy assuming he'd tuck it in our file, but he actually read it. The entire thing. In front of us. He even offered throughtful commentary. I was really impressed.

He will be out of town for the first two weeks in August. So if we go into labor then, we'll have to work with one of his associates. But if he's in town, he will be there to deliver our baby. Doesn't matter if he's on call or not. That's just how he likes to handle his patients. Sweet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CSA Week 5: Kale

Bonus recipe this week! Kale is one of my new favorite veggies. I love the look and texture of the leaves, and they're really nutrient dense.

I've never cooked with kale, so I asked a friend how she typically prepares it. She suggested gently wilting the greens and topping with a little balsamic vinegar. This is my interpretation of her recipe...

Sauteed Kale with Balsamic Vinegar

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch of kale
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add kale, allow to wilt. Stir in balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

This was a definate hit at our table. The balsamic vinegar took on a lovely sweet flavor when cooked with the greens. We let the kale wilt, but not completely tenderize, so the stems still had a nice bite to them. We'll definately make this again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

CSA Week 5: Swiss Chard

We're already a 1/4 of the way through our CSA! Summer is just flying by.

This week we got lots of great goodies... sweet corn, Swiss chard, kale, peas, beans and more summer squash. Delish! I've never cooked with Swiss chard, so I thought we'd give this recipe a try.

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese

2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 T. garlic, minced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and center ribs cut out and chopped together, leaves coarsely chopped seperately
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. fresh Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion, cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the chard stems and white wine. Simmer until the stems begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, cook just until wilted then remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe courtesy of All Recipes

Truthfully, this wasn't my favorite dish. The chard stems were a little bitter, and the parmesan and wine over-powered the fresh flavor of the greens. I like to taste the veggies I'm cooking with, especially when they come freshly harvested from a farm 30 minutes away.

Old friends

Every summer a group of high school girlfriends and I get together for a weekend sleepover. No husbands, partners or children allowed (unless said children are breastfeeding). Just the five of us. And a lot of food.

We've been doing this annually since 2002, and it's one of my favorite summer traditions. It's funny to look back and see how our lives have changed. From that first summer when we got hammered and flirted with boys at Maggie's northern Minnesota cabin. To this year, when we passed around 6 week old Milo and watched Alyssa get fitted for her wedding dress. I'm always amazed by how much our lives can change in just one year.

I've been friends with these girls for almost 15 years (Alyssa will argue since 6th grade, but I'm not convinced). They knew me when I had glasses and braces, when I was all legs and no coordination. They knew me before I had kissed a boy or gone on a first date. Together, we played sports, went to prom, applied to colleges and got our hearts broken. Together, we navigated the rocky world of adolesence and somehow managed to make it out the other side.

We don't talk everyday. And we're lucky to see each other more than a few times a year. But in many ways our friendship is even stronger than it was back then. It's just effortless. While I will never take them for granted, I love knowing that they are always there for me. And visa versa.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Best trip to the grocery store... EVER

Not only did I get to use the new/expectant mother parking (first time!), but it was also their "brownie tasting event." Score.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Balancing act

Being pregnant with your first child is kind of like jumping into the unknown. You know things are going to be different, but you're not exactly sure how. You try and prepare yourself, but despite your best efforts, parenthood is a club reserved for those actually living it.

What Ben and I know for sure is that our lives will never be the same. Part of what scares me the most is juggling so many important priorities at once. How do we make time for our baby, our marriage and ourselves?

Obviously, it's all baby all the time when you bring your newborn home. That's an adjustment that you can only work on one day at a time. But I appreciated these suggestions from a Bay area blogger on how to be a happier parent in the long-run.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

CSA Week 4: Summer Squash

Nothing fancy this week. Just one of summer's most delicious delights: veggies on the grill.

We got 3 zucchini and 3 patty pan squash in our CSA box. I can think of nothing better then slicing them up, coating lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper, and throwing them on the grill.

The simple seasoning and lovely grill marks make it an ideal (and easy) summer side dish. What's better than that?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rule of Three

Some of my fav bloggers have been doing this lately, so I thought I'd jump on board. Enjoy!

Three names I go by:

Which again raises the issue that I've never really had a nickname. Ever.

Three jobs I have had:
Car Hop
Library Assistant
Fundraising Pee-On (er, um, Assistant)

Three places I have lived:
Winona, MN
Madison, WI
Oshkosh, WI

Incidentally, there is only one other place that I've ever lived (Lomira, WI). So I've basically lived within a 200 mile radius my entire life.

Bonus fun fact: Ben's list is exactly the same, as he lived in Winona for one summer while interning at Winona Lighting.

Three favorite drinks:
Diet Coke

Three TV shows I watch:
Grey's Anatomy
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Gossip Girl

Three places I have been:
Canada (eh?)

Three places I would like to visit:
Costa Rica

Three favorite dishes:
Chipotle burritos
Warm chocolate chip cookies
Mom's chili

Three things I am looking forward to:
Finishing our deck/fence project
A day trip to Door County or Terre Andre
Meeting our baby!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bump Watch

My bad... this bump photo is about a week overdue. But here we are at 33 weeks.

You may be interested to know that I can't see my feet anymore. As Ben said this morning, "nothing about pregnancy is glamorous."

Too true.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

CSA Week 3: Blueberries

Yum! Organic blueberries are so incredible. They are so much fresher and sweeter than anything you can get in the super market.

Though our CSA doesn't personally grow blueberries, they partner with a few like-minded farms in Michigan and Door County to get us various summer fruits all season long. This week we got a 5 lb. box of fresh blueberries from Ludec Farms, in addition to our regular Olden Produce vegetable fare (which included an insane amount of lettuce, by the way).

We ate nearly all the blueberries right out of the box, but when a friend posted this recipe for blueberry syrup, I had to try it.

Fresh Blueberry Syrup

3 cups fresh blueberries, washed and sorted to remove any wrinkled fruit
2 cups water
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown or white sugar (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer the berries until they break open and are completely soft (about 10 minutes). The berries will turn a dark reddish violet. Pour the berries into a large metal strainer positioned above a large bowl. With a large, sturdy spoon, rub the berry solids through the strainer. There will be very little waste. The skins thicken the syrup and provide the maximum amount of antioxidant benefits blueberries are known for. Serve warm or chilled. Makes 2 cups.

Notes: Since it was just Ben and I for breakfast, I cut the recipe in half. We served warm over waffles. The syrup is pretty thin... I think I'd reduce the water next time. Recipe courtesy of the Well-Seasoned Cook.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My mother, the organizing machine

My mom was in town for a few days this week, so I took Tuesday and Wednesday off to spend some time with her. We got a ton accomplished around the house... organizing the basement, taking a car-full of crap to St. Vinny's, re-arranging the nursery furniture, washing a million baby clothes, and assembling the new deck furniture. Whew! Nothing like a mom to kick household organization projects into high gear.

We also found a few hours for leisure time, with lunch at Caramel Crisp and shopping trips to Target and the Mom and Pop Place. Her visits always go so fast... I was sad to see her go this morning. Thanks a million, Mom!