Saturday, June 30, 2012

keepin' cool

It is hot. 

I finally caved and installed the window air conditioners. It was quite a chore. I had splurged and bought a new (quiet) one for the bedroom. It only took two hours to figure out how to get it in the window so that it wouldn't tip out again. Mostly because it was so hot - I couldn't think straight. But now that it is there - it is heavenly. It is so much quieter than the old one. Lovely. As these things usually work out - it only took 10 minutes to install the unit in the living room much to Swee'pea's relief. It didn't take him long to spread out right in front of the cool air. Jacques, on the other hand is not happy about the air conditioners. I'm not sure what it is about them that he doesn't like. He has been wilting around the place as much as Swee'pea, but he doesn't like the coolness, or the air or maybe even the noise? Not sure what. At any rate he hides in the bathroom under the vanity when the things are on. 

 And since it is too hot to do much of anything... I stayed inside and finished the second sweater. The one sweater has ladybug buttons and the blue one has elephant buttons. I love this pattern - it's a 5 hour baby sweater. Very quick and so cute. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day - in chapters

Happy Father's Day! I hope you were able to honor all of the fathers in your life today. I thought I'd report my weekend in chapters. Seems appropriate matrix for my father the the proudly analogue  librarian. Happy Father's Day Daddy!

Chapter 1: The Freeing of the Echinacea plants
They are such beautiful flowers. I especially love the orange spikes. Nothing in the daisy family likes my yard though - so I'm especially happy these two plants have survived the last three years and happily continue to bloom. Despite my neglect. 
Here's the back garden before I  commenced the yearly battle:
Very green you think? Yes, that jungle is a combination of nasty creepy crawly vines that spring up overnight and strangle anything they can get their vines around, several 6ft tall poke weed plants about to produce those nasty purple berries the birds love and the poop purple all over the yard, and then the general mix of wild grape (not edible - but again plenty of food for bird pooping), paper mulberries and you name it. Hopefully no poison sumac this time. Last time I had to haul this much junk I brushed against something nasty that put me on steroids for five days before the itching cleared up. I didn't want that again so I took advantage of the over cast morning - put on the long pants - tucked into socks, a long sleeved shirt, gloves, and head covering. Showered immediately after coming inside. I hope that will do it. I've had some funny itchiness... but I hope it's just me being a worry wort.  
In the end it's still worth it. It's even better in person - the plants look like they can breath again.  They are free!
Chapter 2: The Raspberries
Other plants still need to wait for proper care. The raspberries I tied up and gave up for a lost cause this year (due to the porch) are doing just fine. Not quite as prolific as year but that is not a surprise.
I've had three bowl fulls of raspberries so far. And I've gotten better at leaving them on the vine until they are really ripe. I don't have plans yet for them. I might make my tiny batch of jelly like I did last year. Precious stuff that was.

Chapter 3: Knitting update
The first of the little sweaters is finished. I said last time that I thought I'd put lady bugs on it - but now I'm feeling more like butterflies. Her brother will get a blue one - and I'm thinking fireflies for that one. Especially if I can find some glow-in-the dark embroidery floss... What do you think?       
 Chapter 4: Chicken Stock
I roasted my last chicken from my winter farm share on Friday and so Saturday it was time to haul all of the carcasses and veggie rests out of the freezer and make stock. It smelled so delicious in my house on Saturday. 
 This big copper pot is now the stock pot. It used to be the everything pot - but since the last time I made stock, everything I cook in it tastes, um, slightly savory - shall we say? And pomegranate jelly is yummy - but the after flavor of chicken stock doesn't quite suit it.  So... in light of that...

Chapter 5: Strawberries
When it came time to make strawberry jam... it was time for a new pot. But I forgot. My Amish farmer even called me (yes - with his cell phone!???) to let me know he was keeping a flat for me and I ran over to get the VERY ripe berries. Got them all prepped:
And THEN remembered the issue with the copper pot. So the strawberries were frozen for the week until I had time to run to Fante's to pick up a new pot. And look how spiffy it is! 
 It comes with a steamer basket, the pasta-strainer-thingy and it's just so shiny!
It is the perfect size for a jam pot and did the job beautifully this evening. Here's this year's haul on the jam.
Jessica also gave me a Tupperware full of sour cherries she'd picked on Friday. I thought I'd get to them tonight - but I didn't. I'm not really sure what to make anyway. Cherry jam? Cherry pie filling? Should I stew in port wine them and have them ready for Ellen Emlen's cherry bread anytime? Ah the options are endless.  

Chapter 6: Jacques the show off
While I was on the phone with my dad this afternoon Jacques decided I wasn't paying enough attention to him and he had to show off by jumping up onto the top of my very tall fence. 12 feet tall that thing is. 
I'm not sure where he was planning on going - but he got about half way across and also decided he'd rather be on the shed roof. So he turned around and came back. 

Epilogue: Weekends are too short. Hope you all had lovely ones.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Poor Swee'pea - such temptation. Swee'pea is my yarn thief. It doesn't matter what I'm knitting, and how briefly I look the other way - Swee'pea has a sixth sense for these things and will be there in a flash to steal the yarn from under me.
 So today when I went through the stash looking for appropriate yarn for two baby sweaters, I wondered what he would do with such overwhelming temptation. It seems it was a bit too much for him.
 All he could do was stare at the riches laid out before him.
But in the end he got his wish... 
I got up to get a glass of water - when I came back - the ball of yarn had been pilfered. Thank goodness I got there quickly, otherwise there might have been string all over the living room.
I'm half way done with this little number. It will get some ladybugs on it before it's finished.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Harvest Time

Harvest time means lots of yummy things.
There's my big bundle of herbs - that is an entire armload! From left to right we have Parsley, Melisse, Dill, Chives, and Lettuce. All from my garden. All completely organic. 
I mean it:
Don't worry he wasn't ground into the mix - he was freed - isn't he beautiful? Look at those antennae - three times as long as he is! 
The chives were used in mashed potatoes, the parsley was allowed to go to seed, the dill was frozen, and the Melisse was made into my favorite pesto:
 Melisse Pesto Recipe:
Lemon Balm Pesto Pasta
serves 4
2 cups packed lemon balm
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

In in a food processor, combine the lemon balm, garlic, and walnut. Give it a quick whirl until everything is finely chopped, but not completely. Add the lemon and slowly drizzle in the oil while the machine is running. Salt to taste.

I "borrowed" the recipe from the link above. She has wonderful photographs of food and yummy things.

My melisse bush is very aggressive. It explodes into to life in the spring. It was overwhelming the parsley so I cut enough for two batches of this recipe and then some. Don't over do it on the Melisse! It really needs the above balance. Other wise it's just a bit too green.
If it is organic - out of the garden - be sure to wash it thoroughly: 
 It makes an enormous amount! I split this into two jars and it was more than enough four people - probably could feed six. It has a lovely lemony aroma and is so different than basil pesto. Enjoy with some sort of hard Italian cheese on pasta.
 Bon Appetit!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Books and Food

Books and Food, Food and Books and then some more. That has been my last two weeks. I've been preparing for two lectures on Ellen Emlen's Cookbook last week, picking things from the garden, eating from my abundant farm share, and making books to ship to Korea next week for the Seoul International Book Fair. Books and Food - all the nourishment you could ever need!

On Wednesday I spoke at the Free Library to a very enthusiastic audience. Afterwards I was told about the Two Fat Ladies - the English Cooking show. I can't believe I've never heard of them! What a riot they are! But inspiring too. I spent the weekend watching episodes. Definitely my new favorite show. In honor of them, the Ellen Emlen events from this week and making new books, I took a crack at Ellen's Chicken Balls for Soup on page 147 this evening. It's the recipe directly under the famous cherry bread.                                
The Two Fat Ladies like their gadgets so I thought I'd haul out the meat grinder form either my mother or my grandmother.
 The recipes is so simple. 50/50 meat to bread ratio, little nutmeg and some chopped onion. Could there be an easier recipe? It's perfect for whatever amount of meat you have on hand! So after trying to force out some meat from the grinder and everything kept coming out the wrong end - I gave up and went to the old 21st Century stand by - 
Hooray for Cuisinart! The mixture was chopped lickety-split. In the mean time I had my home made chicken broth bubbling on the stove. When the mixture was finished I just dropped it by the teaspoon full into the broth. They cook very quickly - and with one chicken breast look at how many dumplings there are!
My farm share gave us a lovely bok choi head and there is nothing better than tossing some of that chopped into the soup at the last minute. It stays quite crunchy but has hardly any flavor of its own, so its more for color and texture (not to mention nutrition) that I add it to my soups.
I say -  isn't that lovely? and Yes you should read that with a nice throaty English accent.
At the last minute I added a bit of lime to the dish - just a wedge squeezed in. It brightens the flavor so much - perfect.
Ellen Emlen's cookbook was much on my mind this past week. As I mentioned, I spoke twice, Wednesday at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and then Friday we partnered with the Union League and their fabulous chef took on the daunting task of making a five course meal for 45 people. I spoke there - a much abbreviated speech - but that couldn't be helped. And of course I neglected to bring my camera. Something I am still regretting. The meal was unbelievable! And the best part was that the things I have cooked - tasted the same as the way he cooked them! That must mean I am doing something right. 
The Menu
Cocktails: Regant's Punch, Anchovy Toast, Pickled Oysters, and chicken salad

1st Course
Savory Clam Soup with Parsley

2nd Course
Veal Patis with Leafy Greens and Vinaigrette Dressing

Parmesan and Herb Crusted Lamb Chops with Stuffed Eggplant, Onion Ragout 

Cherry Bread with Vanilla Ice Cream

What occurred to me is that the reason the food is so good is that the recipes are simple. Very simple. Oh, of course there are some complicated ones - but the everyday cooking had to be relatively easy, tasty, and a little bit fool proof. What if it didn't work? There was no pizza delivery in 1860! And it's in the simplicity - the relatively low number of ingredients that make it so delicious - it tastes clean - you get all the flavors - there's nothing hiding something else.  There were lots of oohs and aaahs, from my table at least - and the lamb chops just sort of melted in the mouth. (Aunt Lois - these are the broiled chops we made when you and Aunt Alice were here to visit!)

In the mean time - other things are getting done at the house. Andrew patched up the side of the house really nicely! I got the exact match on the paint - ya think? I'm so happy about that. He's also been filling all of the holes on the porch with filler and then will probably stain the wood soon so that it is all one color - and then I can't believe it - it might be mostly done! 
And my other neighbors? All 15, 000 of them? They still mind their own business. But when I bumped into Matt at work he said they were producing honey like crazy and he might be able to harvest at the end of June! Sounds great to me!