Midwestern Moments No. 4: Sweet Smelling Peonies

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What do you do when the unoccupied house neighboring yours is overflowing with peonies in full bloom?  You snip them.  You sneak over at dusk and you lovingly pluck an armful before the storm that looms overhead beats down on their delicate petals.  You usher them inside and pile them into your sink.

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You arrange them into small bouquets while you hum Patsy Cline and your little bean saves the scraps for her own project.  You incorporate sprigs of catmint and fern from your own garden to make things a little less contraband-y.

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You keep an arrangement for yourself and then transport the others to your office, where you’ll place them on a few of your coworkers’ desks.  You are dubbed the “Flower Fairy” and it makes you smile.

Good Eats: Strawberry Rhubarb Dessert

On most occasions, I find myself grabbing anything that stands out at the farmer’s market:  fresh herbs, sausages, flowers, eggs, raw honey, spicy mustard, bok choy.  Rarely a methodical process, I am left with an odd array of choices in my kitchen, making for a sometimes challenging meal integration.  So, when I purchased some rhubarbs and strawberries at this past weekend’s market, I was surprised that I knew precisely what I would make–before my purchase.

This dessert is some parts pie, some parts cobbler, and all parts delicious.  It takes little precision, and can be altered to fit whatever your needs.  Use a different fruit combo, try it sans pie crust, or even sans cobbler topping.  Either way, it won’t sit on your counter top for long.

Ingredients

  • Pie crust (I caved and used a pillsbury crust for the sake of time, though I would have preferred homemade)
  • Approx 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • Approx 1 cup rhubarb, sliced
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • dash of salt
  • tsp (ish) vanilla
  • 7 tbs butter

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 8 x 8 pie dish and place pie crust inside.  Toss strawberries, rhubarb, and half of sugar in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, the rest of the sugar, egg, butter, vanilla, and salt.

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Place strawberry-rhubarb mixture inside of pie crust, and spoon cobbler mixture on top.  Bake for approximately 40 mins, or until golden brown.

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Slice and share with your family while you enjoy a family film viewing of The Sandlot.

Good Drinks No. 1: Almond Milk Done Right

Too often in today’s western world, we think little about where our products come from and more about their convenience. However, I am under the impression that things are turning around for the better, at a grassroots level. More people care about the production of their food and have gotten away from processed junk, while a value for artisan products has gained momentum.

No longer do I think of things in terms of the ease in which I can accomplish them, but rather of the quality I am capable of achieving. Can this be applied to something as simple as almond milk, you ask? Why yes, I believe it can. Pouring processed almond milk from a cardboard container is much less satisfying than soaking, blending, straining, and sipping your own homemade brew.

I am thoroughly convinced that those who are on the fence about almond milk, will be swayed in its favor after they enjoy what they’ve made on their own. There’s something incredibly rewarding about doing it yourself. Plus, your kid will think you’ve hung the moon.

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I go to our local store and purchase organic, raw almonds from the bulk bins.  I think a pound costs me somewhere around $6.  This will last me for about 2 weeks.  Pretty economically efficient, if you ask me.

Adapted from a recipe on PamelaSalzman.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of almonds
  • 5 cups of water

Instructions

Soak two cups of almonds in cool water for 6-8 hours.  (You can soak for longer, just store in the refrigerator.)

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Strain water and peel off skins.  This is easy, but monotonous.  Best done while watching Downton Abbey, or discussing future plans with your dashing beau.  Strain and rinse.

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Add peeled almonds to the blender, along with 5 cups of cold water.

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Blend well.  Strain through a sieve, nutmilk bag, or cheese cloth.

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Retain almond meal to be used as a nice addition to your oatmeal, smoothies, or porridge.

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Store almond milk in a glass jar that you diverted from a landfill.

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Enjoy your almond milk with a cup of joe, in a bowl of cereal, or as an item all its own.  *Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Good Eats: Stand Alone Leeks

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This past weekend was one of ‘to do’ lists, piled high with tasks that seemed unattainable. Normally, I bubble over with excitement at the prospect of cooking a meal on one of my days off, but this one was so crammed with obligations, I was left feeling uninspired. It helped very little that we had nothing in our refrigerator, and loading my 5 year old up with another PB&J would have been down right shameful. Just when the despair really began to set in, Viola! Leeks! Gorgeous, green leeks– perfect for a quick and satisfying meal–sitting all alone in my crisper, ready for the taking.

The following recipe is adapted from one found on chow.com.

Ingredients

  • Kosher Salt
  • 3 medium leeks
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs parmeasan
  • 1 large garlic clove

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Instructions

Bring one pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. While water boils, trim off bulbs and ends. Discard and throw into your compost pile. Halve or quarter leeks lengthwise and rinse with cool water.

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Once water has come to a roaring boil, add leeks and reduce heat to medium. Boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain in a colander and set aside.

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Add butter, oil, and garlic to cast iron skillet. Once heated, add leeks, salt and pepper. Once browned on one side, turn and add broth and thyme.

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Allow to simmer until broth has evaporated. Plate, and eat. Pour yourself a glass of wine, even if it’s the middle of the day, for the simple fact that you made something that even your little bean sprout approves of.

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Cheers!

Midwestern Moments No. 3: A Nature Walk

This morning Little Bean and I went on a nature walk through Dundee and Happy Hollow with one of our pooches.  It was a perfect walk, on a perfect morning, with the most perfect little girl.

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I thought this medallion from an iron bridge post was beautiful.

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Kaya foraged for unclaimed flowers for the majority of our walk.

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This friendly feline followed us for quite a ways, even though we had a pooch in tow.

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I couldn’t resist taking a couple shots to eventually be housed in frames.

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Little Bean Sprout