Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 2015

This is the time of year when a little rain now and then makes all of the plants and flowers blossom as if they lived in a tropical climate.  It's hard to believe in a few months this landscape will look entirely different.


Our summer vacation this year was Montreal, Quebec and Vermont.  We put off this trip for years.  Chris decided to go up through Vermont to Montreal.  We found no traffic at all on the way up.  We stopped and took a break to have lunch in St. Albans, VT which is close to the border.  This is a great little cafe in the center of town. 


This is the view approaching Montreal.


The first day we looked around the city and then got busy going to see all the sites.  One of them was a stop at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  I LOVE monkeys so this is one of my favorite exhibits.


Notre Dame


Typical photo of the streets of Montreal.


The food was delicious.  The servers in Canada are professional, well paid and it's their career so we experienced fantastic service all the way through.  The shopping is great.  We could have spent a lot more than a day at the underground mall.  We hit the jackpot on all counts except the calories!


Entering the gate leading to the Old City.


Le Chateau Frontenac is one of the most beautiful hotels I've ever seen.  Inside is just as gorgeous!


A ride down the Funiculaire to the old city.


This part of Quebec was crazy busy but the rest of the city was surprisingly quiet.  I guess every tourist who comes here is here.



Beautiful art and architecture abound all the way through.


The views are breathtaking.


The French Canadian people we met were wonderful.  Both Chris and I took French in high school.  We prepped for our trip to France years ago and thought we would be rusty for this trip but we did just fine.  All you have to do is greet everyone in French and try a little and they will automatically go with your cue and speak to you in the language you prefer.  They even treat their cats well!


We came home to an abundance of fresh native tomatoes and peaches.  I love this time of year but unfortunately it's way too short.  As soon as the first frost comes it's all over and those hothouse tomatoes in the store are nothing compared to home grown.



My mom used to make squash flower patties.  I never tried to make them but I came across these flowers a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try.  I was never interested in cooking when I lived home but I was always in and out of the kitchen when my mom was cooking.  Somehow through osmosis I remembered this recipe.



My mom was a really good cook.  However, she didn't follow intricate recipes.  She made everything from scratch and used native fruits and veggies when she could.  She would be called a "purist" today.  My style of cooking is very much the same.  There is no recipe for these patties but you really can't go wrong.  Wash and drain the blossoms a few times in cold water and then cut them into small pieces.  In a bowl, add 1 to 2 eggs depending on how may flowers you have.  Add grated cheese, fresh chopped parsley, salt, pepper and flour.  Stir everything.  The key to judging if the batter is ready for frying is if the consistency is like thick pancake batter.  I never fry anything but I have grapeseed oil on hand just in case.  This oil is very light and doesn't burn food.  Let the patties get nice and brown on one side and then flip them and do the same on the other.  When you take them out of the pan put them on a paper towel to get the excess oil off.  They're wonderful the next day too.  If my mom had left over cooked cauliflower or asparagus she made these patties and Chris' father made these patties with canned corn.  I'm sure there are a lot more variations.  Nothing beats these in the summer with a glass of cold white wine.



We always have fresh strawberries in the fridge and some of them were getting over ripe so I asked Kristen to bake something using them.  She found this recipe and again it's a keeper.  On a hot night sitting outside these tasted amazing.  If Labor Day is as hot as the past few weeks this will be our dessert!

Strawberry Lemonade Bars

by averiecooks.com

Strawberry Lemonade Bars - Imagine crossing lemon bars with a strawberry pie. These easy bars taste like strawberry lemonade! Sooo good!
There’s a creamy, sweet, lemony filling that tops the crust, which gives the bars a soft 

Bars that taste like strawberry lemonade are even better than drinking it. The bars are what you'd get if you crossed a crumble-topped strawberry pie with a lemon bar. They're sweet from the strawberries with some tart lemon flavor that peeks through. They're soft, juicy, satisfying, and the crust mixture does double duty as the crumble topping. There’s a creamy, sweet, lemony filling that tops the crust, which gives the bars a soft but dense texture. The strawberries soften and release their juices while baking and help the bars stay moist. I used a combination of fresh and frozen strawberries and added flour to the strawberry layer. You may not if you’re baking exclusively with fresh berries. Baking time will vary based on if your berries are fresh, frozen, and how juicy they are. Between the firm crust, soft filling, juicy strawberries, fragrant lemon zest, and sandy crumbles, there are so many wonderful textures and flavors in every bite.

YIELD: one 8x8 pan, 9 to 12 generous squares

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOK TIME: about 60 to 75 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 3+ hours, for cooling and setting up

INGREDIENTS:

Crust and Crumble Topping
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
Filling
1 large egg
1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt; or sour cream (lite is okay)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Strawberry Layer
2 heaping cups diced strawberries (fresh or frozen; I used a combo)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (or 1/2 cup if berries are sour)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest, or to taste
2 teaspoons cornstarch
up to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (if using fresh berries, you may not need any flour, and if using frozen berries you likely will need 2 tablespoons)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside. Lining the pan will really help with cleanup and is recommended.
  2. Crust and Crumble Topping - In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Add the sugars and whisk to combine.
  4. And the flour, optional salt, and stir to combine. Mixture will be very dry and sandy with some larger, well-formed crumble pieces.
  5. Set a heaping 3/4 cup crumble mixture aside.
  6. Transfer remaining mixture to prepared pan, and using a spatula or your fingers, hard-pack the mixture to create an even, smooth, flat crust; set aside.
  7. Filling - In a medium bowl, add the egg, Greek yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and whisk to combine or beat with a handheld electric mixer until smooth.
  8. Add the flour and whisk to combine or beat with a handheld electric mixer until smooth.
  9. Evenly pour filling over the crust and jiggle pan to help distribute it or smooth it with a spatula; set aside.
  10. Strawberry Layer - In a separate medium bowl, add all filling ingredients except flour and toss to combine.
  11. Evaluate mixture and if it's very thin, runny, soupy, or liquidy, add up to 2 tablespoons flour to help thicken it. If using fresh berries, you may not need any flour. Because I used half fresh and half frozen berries, I needed 2 tablespoons flour because my mixture was thin and soupy.
  12. Evenly distribute strawberry mixture over the filling, smoothing it lightly with a spatula.
  13. Evenly sprinkle with the reserved heaping 3/4 cup crust mixture. Before sprinkling, I squeeze the mixture in my palm to encourage bigger crumble pieces to form.
  14. Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes (place pan on a cookie sheet for insurance against overflow if your pan is quite full), or until edges are bubbling quite vigorously and there's some bubbling in the center. Crumble topping should appear set and very pale golden. I used some frozen berries and the pan was very cold going into the oven and the strawberry layer was quite runny; I baked for 72 minutes. If using fresh berries, baking time will be reduced, likely right at the 60 minute mark, but start checking at 50 minutes. Watch your bars, not the clock, when evaluating doneness. Place pan on a wire rack and allow bars to cool for at least 2 hours (overnight is even better) before slicing and serving. After cooling overnight, I placed pan in the fridge 2 hours before slicing to ensure clean, neat cuts. If you try to slice bars before they've cooled completely, they'll be extremely messy and could fall apart. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, in the fridge for up to 10 days (they're good slightly chilled if you like chilled pie and I store them in the fridge), or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Soon I'll be off on another adventure!  I haven't had very much time to work on hobbies this summer but I'll be back in September to share some really good things!


Thanks for visiting!  Happy Labor Day and I'll see you in September!!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

July 2015

July 2015

We always kick off the summer with our annual Friday before the 4th of July party at the fireworks.  The rest of the month of July pretty much follows that.  There's a party every Friday night in town at the Summer Concerts.  Everyone wants to be an Arts Commissioner this month because we get up close to all of the action.


I love locally grown flowers in the summer especially sun flowers.


My birthday is the 4th of July.  It's a good birthday to have because everyone is in a party mood!  One of my favorite birthday cards I received this year is this panda.  All of the birthday greetings inside are in Chinese.  I asked Chris if he could read it yet and he was able to translate a little.  I guess that course is paying off.


So welcome to some of the highlights of July!  


Get ready because this is another foodie blog.  I can't seem to get around it and all the pinning I do on Pinterest isn't helping!  I blogged about my birthday drink before so this is a little reminder of the ingredients in this refreshing cocktail in case you're tempted to make one!

Champagne
Fresh Mint
Fresh Ginger

Smoosh it all up in a mortar and pestle and sit on your deck, close your eyes and make believe you're in Maui on vacation!  


I have to share this recipe of my mom's because it's so good and screams summer.  Tomato bread salad.  There are a lot of variations on this salad.  Everyone puts something different in theirs but my mom's is very simple and delicious.  Fresh native tomatoes are they key ingredient.  Here in CT we have a very limited growing season so there aren't a lot of tomatoes out yet but I have my ways.  There are no measurements.  It doesn't matter if you use 1 tomato or 10.  Slice the tomatoes, add lots of fresh basil and thinly sliced vidalia or red onions.  Mix them together with freshly cracked black pepper and some good quality olive oil.  Let this sit for a little while.  Just before you're ready to serve it (like when you put the steaks on the grill) add chunks of chopped biscotti.  By the way just in case you're wondering which kind of biscotti it's the dried bread not the cookie.  Add more olive oil and toss.  The reason I wait on the bread is because it'll get soggy and soak up all the oil if you add it too early.   Vegetables aren't on my family's list of favorite foods but no matter how much of this salad I make there's never anything left over.  P.S. the bowl was another birthday present from Sur La Table.  Love it!
  

We'll skip the main course because anyone can grill!  A few weeks ago I wanted to bake a white cake.  I have hundreds of recipes but I didn't have a favorite one for just a plain good old white cake.  I came across this one and it's a keeper!  

Simple White Cake - allrecipes.com

Simple White Cake Recipe

Ingredients 

Original recipe makes 12 cupcakes or 1- 9x9 inch pan

  • PREP
    20 mins
  • COOK
    30 mins
  • READY IN
    50 mins

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.
So this cake rose so high I was able to cut it in half.  We were very lucky to have a jar of Julie's homemade Strawberry jam in the fridge.  It was the perfect spreading consistency.  When the cake cooled I spread it on one side.


Then I put on the top layer.  At that point I decided not to frost it.  Instead I took a chance and covered the whole cake with Cool Whip spreading it just like a frosting and garnished it with fresh sliced strawberries.


Yes!  This cake is a total winner!!  It's moist, tender and delicious.  It made the perfect strawberry shortcake.  Julie's jam tasted so fresh and the whole pieces of strawberry in it really complimented the sliced strawberries on top.  I suppose any kind of regular store bought jam would do but that jam really made this cake special.  I have a jar of blueberry jam in the fridge that I've been safe keeping to make something special and it's going to be this same cake for sure only in a blueberry version!!!


Speaking of sweet things.  I finally lucked out!  This was the most amazing present I could have ever imagined!  Everyone in my family has a painting of a slice of something.  There's a plain slice of cherry pie, a slice of carrot cake, etc. etc. but I didn't have one.  I mentioned this to Kristen at least a dozen times.  I wanted a slice of pie too.  After all I'm MOM and I deserved one!  That didn't go over very well because I waited the longest for my slice of the pie.  But as that old saying goes "save the best for last" really did come true for me. Here's my slice of the pie and it's the best one yet!!!  It's oil on canvas and it's drying right now.  I may have to wait as long as a month but you can imagine how excited I am to display it!  I look forward to holidays so much because I'm blessed to be given such amazing treasures.  This photo doesn't even do it justice.
  

These are a few of the other awesome unique gifts I got this year.  It's difficult to buy someone who has just about everything a present but my family managed to do just that.  This is an eyeglass holder.  I love it.  I haven't lost my glasses once since I got it!


I love going to the opera.  I've told just about everyone in my family I have to buy myself a pair of opera glasses.  Well I got them!


Whenever we go to a book or novelty store it seems someone buys an adult coloring book.  I've always wanted one but couldn't bring myself to buy one.  That's strange because I have no problem buying myself anything.  Everyone must have been thinking the same thing because I got 3 fantastic coloring books and lots of colored pencils.  I am soooo excited.  Now I just need some more time to play!!!  On top of just coloring in the pages, these books are great for tracing embroidery, red work, appliqueing and just about any embellishment I can think of.


I had a little quality time on a few days off recently and finished the top of my Civil War quilt.  I've been working on it for over a year.  I think when it's finished I'm going to give it to someone special.  I'll keep you posted.  


Before I close this is a really good tip. I used to have to hold the pages of a book open with some heavy objects while trying to read a pattern or directions. Now when I buy a new book I take it to Staples and have it spiral bound.  It's inexpensive and so useful.


I'm worried!  I've talked too much!  


I'll end now.  I can't believe the next time we visit will be in August.  This summer is flying bye.



Thanks for visiting!  See you soon!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Welcome to my Studio - Blog party 2015!

Welcome to my studio 2015! I just love this blog party!

This is where I do all of my quilting, doll making, and all of my crafts!


I have "stations" all over my studio.  Sometimes everything is thrown all over everywhere but I try and keep things organized so I can find them without wasting too much of my precious time!


This pincushion doll was very fun to make.


When I get a new book I always take it to Staples to be spiral bound.  It's very inexpensive and it beats trying to keep a page down when you're trying to read and work on a project!


I work on several projects at a time so my work stations all have different stages of projects on them.  It's so great to be able to leave anything anywhere here and have it be there when you return whenever that is...


This little area by my Bernina is where I can cut or do some scrap booking.


My main cutting area moves around depending on the project.  I was cutting and sewing on my featherweight with my last project so the action was in this corner of the room.


I just finished the top of my Civil War quilt.  It took a few years to make these blocks!


Another corner of my studio is designated for my ironing board.  I have all of my supplies on that baker's rack.  It comes in handy to have everything at hand.


What's in these big closets?  YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!  Everything is in there and luckily I can close them so I don't have to constantly be reminded of my mess.


My desk and computer.  I bought a second monitor so when I'm writing my blog it goes a little faster.  I can see and chose the photos I want to use on the secondary monitor.


My overflowing bookcase.


Of course my dolls are always looking from every nook and cranny in the room!


He's taking a nap-I must bore him!!


Ralph and Justin like to watch me!


 Here's my Baltimore quilt sitting on a chair.  I just sandwiched it together so it's ready to quilt.


My dolly is always worried about how many projects I juggle!  She knows I may never finish anything!


My teddy stands there and watches too!  I'm never alone in my studio because all of my "friends" are with me!


Thanks for so much for visiting!