Thursday, September 29, 2011

off the vines

On our way back from Michigan, we stopped at an orchard for some apple picking fun. We were excited to find that grapes were also ripe for the picking! We picked a variety of marquis and concord grapes. As we toted them home, I wondered just what we would make with them. There have been so many jams and jellies already this year that the thought of more was a bit overwhelming (though I suppose it isn't too early to begin thinking of holiday gifts).

Off the stem, washed and into a pot they went to simmer away. The lovely ladies at Be By Baby recently gave me a baby food mill to demo for my baby food class. I thought I'd give it a spin with these grapes.

While I'm not one much for promoting products, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this gadget. I've used a variety of food processors and kitchen gadgets over the years, making everything from baby food to apple sauce, soups and sauces. I was impressed with how smoothly this food mill pressed the grapes. It was easy enough for the kids to use and cleaned up quickly, without any sharp blades or electrical cords to worry about. We used it to sauce the apples we brought home, too, and the texture of the applesauce is perfect!

We pressed out several quarts of grape juice, and the thought of making jelly returned. But the kids are enjoying the fresh, unfiltered juice so much that I don't think there will be enough left for canning!

Friday, September 23, 2011

in the change of seasons

We spent last weekend with family along the lakeshore in Michigan. We passed the time cooking, eating, wandering through the markets and shops in town, eating some more, and visiting the shore for the respite it brings. The beach here is just a bit north of our usual destination, but is becoming just as familiar.

In these familiar places, the children are learning the marks of the season. From our garden, to the farm, to the orchards and this shore, they see the shifts as the days march forward. The slants of light, the flowers in bloom, the fruits that ripen, all move with the months. I see these, too. But even more, I see the shifts the seasons bring in the children.

Looking back through the pictures, there are footprints in the sand that seem to grow with each step, hands that can hold even more than before, a smile full of baby teeth that are no longer there. So many ways to mark the changes; no way to slow them down. Wrapped up with it all is the gratitude that comes with watching it unfold. It is bittersweet. But mostly sweet.

Here on the doorsteps of another season, we tuck away summer and roll out a welcome to autumn and whatever changes this season will bring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

keeping us running

Some of our classes this year find us out the door early and away from home for our usual meal and snacktimes (usual mealtimes? really, it's an all-day long affair, this eating we do). I rely on this pancake recipe on mornings like these, avoiding the sleepy fog of figuring out what's for breakfast by setting it up the night before. Homemade staples fill the lunch sacks, and these easy no-bake granola bars are perfect for a little extra energy between classes, or when we're running out the door to swimming lessons or sports class or the dance studio or the farm... (you get the idea).

Oat, Rice and Nut Granola Bars

1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup puffed brown rice
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup walnuts
1/8 cup flax seeds
2-3 dates (pits removed)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup barley malt syrup
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients, salt and cinnamon. In a food processor or blender, process nuts, flax seeds and dates until combined. Mix honey, barley malt syrup, peanut butter and vanilla (these mix better if warmed up a little). Stir the date mixture into the honey mixture and add it all to the dry ingredients. Work the granola with a spoon until everything is moistened and sticking together. Press the mixture firmly and evenly into a 9"x13" pan. Cut bars and place the pan in the fridge to set. Wrap the bars and store in the fridge.

This is another recipe I appreciate for how quickly it comes together, full of wholesome ingredients, topped off with tastiness. I enjoy these easy bars more than the storebought varieties, and they are a hit with the kids. Best of all, they help keep us running!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

in the swing of things

From a lazy summer where nothing much was demanded of us on any given day (save the obligation to soak in the sun) comes the return to routine. Violin lessons, writing class, reading groups, art, dance, swimming, and more. Family and festivities have also been in the mix, as we gathered to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday, and a bit more somberly, to celebrate the life of a woman my children and I came to know and love as "Grandma."

Amid all this, there have been picnics in the yard, with special guests attending.

There are the waning fruits of the season, as the last of the late strawberries and raspberries grow red, and the first-ever peaches ripen on our tree.

There are the onions, pulled and dried, and the melons and squash readying on the vine.

And there is more to share with you... recipes, a fun tutorial, some pickling and experiments with fermenting, and more updates from out back. But for now, we are taking a long weekend away with family, in a last attempt to capture all that remains of summer.

I might be a bit slower to post these days as we find our pace, back in the swing of things!

**I'll be teaching a new session of Starting Solids:101 at Be By Baby in Chicago next Thursday, September 22nd. If you're local, please feel free to join us or spread the word!**

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

breakfast, lunch and dinner

There's a new, simplified meal plan around here that can be neatly summed up in one word: Frittata.

Without going to the store, I'm sure to have eggs, milk and plenty of fresh vegetables on hand. For breakfast, we serve it with toast and fruit. For lunch, we add some kale chips sprinkled with parmesan. For dinner, a salad or sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil pair just fine. It's easy as can be.

Anytime Frittata

Olive Oil
Diced vegetables (try onions, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, or squash)
A few leaves of fresh chopped basil or other herbs
salt and pepper
5-6 eggs (more if using a larger pan)
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper

In a 9" cast iron skillet, heat oil and saute vegetables. Add herbs and seasoning, stirring in pan to release flavors for a minute. Spread the vegetables evenly in the pan. In a seperate bowl, beat eggs and milk. Pour egg mixture over veggies. When the bottom of the eggs have cooked, place the pan under the broiler until the top is cooked. Sprinkle with cheese, slice and enjoy!

You can change it up anyway you'd like... cut up some bacon to cook with the veggies, add diced jalapenos and cilantro and top with salsa and sour cream, toss in italian sausage and parmesan cheese for an italian twist.

Oh, the possibilities are endless and delicious.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

rhythm of the home

Today, the Autumn Issue of Rhythm of the Home is out, and I couldn't be more pleased to have contributed to this lovely publication. This, along with turning the calendar to September, has provided that final nudge into the season ahead that I needed.

Rhythm of the Home is an inspiring collection of recipes, crafts, words and ideas, drawing on the influences of the seasons. I feel honored to have been included in the autumn edition and am looking forward to reading through all the other amazing contributions included in this issue. Here's to autumn and the inspiration it brings!