Happy Easter!

Table setting 2– all from Target (Threshold and Hearth and Hand collection)

Table setting number 1 (Target Threshold and local florist and local primitive gift shop)–I think this one is really Spring like and less Easter, so I’m going with #2!

Our Easter dinner is going to be:

Ham with a brown sugar mustard glaze

Hasselback potatoes

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Glazed Carrots

Parker House Rolls

Lemon Cheesecake

Whatever you’re doing this coming Sunday–have a wonderful make memories kind of day be safe and be well! 🐝

My Christmas Centerpiece & Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies

I  ❤️ this centerpiece–fresh boughs of evergreen in vintage vases/ containers. Perfect and in my case free as we have both pine and juniper trees outside that are lush and green and I have several milk glass containers to put them in. I don’t have a tray quite like this so I will be improvising, but I do have some warm white fairy lights to help warm things up and bring some Christmas cheer to our holiday table.

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My beautiful amaryllis is blooming this week!

Thanksgiving dinner turned out great–if you followed along on my IG stories you saw my preparations and enjoyed some storytelling from Dad and my holiday tablescape!

Just a little over 3 weeks from today and the big day will be here. Between a very busy volunteering schedule- SA ringing the bell, church activities, caroling and putting together Christmas packages for the shelter I volunteer at, I haven’t really found much time to bake. Which is fine because I’d much rather be volunteering than packing on the pounds. This week I will be making rosettes and the Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies

We’ve also been busy with Christmas open houses, the CP Holiday Train and food drive, and the amazing Rotary Lights in La Crosse Wisconsin.

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Christmas Day B’fast- Breakfast Strata

Christmas Dinner Menu

BBQ Beef Ribs
Ham
Rice Pilaf
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Scalloped Corn
Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
Dinner Rolls

I’ve got two new cookie recipes I am trying this week and I will take photos and post them here with recipes soon. Until next time–be well!

 

Apple Cider Donuts

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Apples are aplenty this season–we’ve sampled so many good apples from several of our local orchards. This past weekend my husband and I traveled alittle over an hour from home to visit one of our favorite apple stands –Bauer’s Market Place  and loaded up on them.   We also picked up a couple loaves of their famous Apple Fritter bread and two gallons of apple cider.  Sunday  I made some Apple Cider donuts from a recipe I found here.

Since we were near downtown La Crosse WI we decided to find a place along the waterfront to get a bite to eat.

Lacrosse view

While the view was breathtaking–the food, combined with poor service, and the noise level, were not. Two hot sandwiches that were served cold with cold fries for $40.00 was a bit extreme even for waterfront. Worse yet it was during the dinner hour and we were the only 2 customers eating–with one other table of 4 customers enjoying a liquid dinner.

But ah oh yes that view…

Once home I attempted to make my long anticipated apple hand pies with caramel drizzled over the top, but since we were wanting to take them on a picnic the next day–I did not make the caramel to go with them. Also, pressed for time, I did not make my pie crust from scratch. Big mistake. They tasted good but next time I’m going to take the time to make homemade crust and also the caramel–because what’s an apple without caramel?

Best Apples for Cooking and Baking here

Recipe for Cider Glazed Apple Bundt Cake here

Last but never least the final picture of my last two tomato plants–still producing in October.

Most years, just like a lot of other people, when October arrives everything in containers on our deck is basically brown/dead looking. This year is no different. But instead of rushing things I’m letting nature run its course. My plants are still producing tomatoes –they’re still hanging on so I’m going to let them live out their best lives. This coming weekend there is supposed to be frost so time will tell if this years garden season has come to an end and it is time to clean it all up. Everyone on social media seems to be rushing things–first it was fall/halloween mid-August and now some are rushing to Christmas.  At almost 55 I ‘m so over rushing time. Time does a wonderful job of that all on its own. I’m trying to slow time down in any and every way I can. It’s the first week of October for heaven’s sake not mid December lol… Until next time Happy Fall. We are on vacation until the third week of the month celebrating early our 25th (Silver) Wedding Anniversary.

A Very Cranberry Christmas

Cranberries are definitely not just for Thanksgiving. Cranberries work perfectly paired with ham, duck, and turkey at Christmas time too.

Last Christmas I made an Orange Cranberry Bread w/ Honey from a recipe here that was a hit.  It worked great to serve it Christmas morning, and by Christmas dinner, it was ALL gone.

Every year I watch two Christmas movies from the show Little House on the Prairie–A Merry Ingalls Christmas and then the past three years I’ve made one homemade ornament or decoration inspired by these heartwarming shows. The first year we made a silver star out of aluminum foil like the one Carrie buys for a penny at the mercantile. The second year my husband made this paper garland–

this year we are making a cranberry garland like this one over at Ocean Spray only we’re skipping the popcorn.

At Thanksgiving time I don’t make cranberry sauce, I make a cranberry relish instead. I use a recipe by Tyler Florence that works great and goes well with turkey, ham, or duck. I also use it to spread like butter over bread with leftover ham or turkey for sandwiches.

So, that’s my story about my love for cranberries at Christmas time. Making homemade ornaments for Christmas is a way to incorporate something simple, yet cherished, into your holiday making. Cranberries though traditionally served at Thanksgiving look marvelous and taste great when added to bread, relish, even salsa.

I’ll be sharing my post with Marty over at A Stroll Thru Life— come on over and join the party!

Cherry Clafouti

Every summer, usually around August, my husband and I head for Door County WI. This year was no exception and we arrived during cherry picking season. Between the Cherry Cobblers and Cherry Crunch, I thought for sure I wouldn’t need another cherry dessert. That was until a friend of ours suggested Cherry Clafouti. Here is the recipe I used this past week- Cherry Clafoutis

I used our stand blender and found this recipe to be quite easy and the results–fabulous! Enjoy!

Figs

First how can you tell if your fig is ripe, overripe, or just right when you see figs for sale in the market?

Pick the fig up and smell it near the stem to see if it smells sweet–honey like. If it does it is ripe. Unlike avocado’s figs do not ripen once you get them home. If there is stickiness near the stem the fig is overripe. For the last 6 or 7 years I have purchased a dozen or so figs and found that I really like them. I wouldn’t say I could eat them all the time, but once or twice a year -yes.

This year I am going to use my figs three ways:

Figs with goat cheese and pine nuts  (gluten free)

Figs and berries–just mix sliced and cut up figs with whatever berries are in season.

Figs and mascarpone and warm spiced honey

Figs are generally sold around here until early fall (Sept.)

These are all really easy recipes (10 min prep times).

Health-wise figs are loaded with fiber, magnesium and calcium. All things all people need especially women like me in their 50’s.

Until next time–be well!

Ramp Salad and Rhubarb Crunch

This week at the first of the season local Farmer’s Markets–
Ramps

Ramps are related to leeks and here in the Midwest they’re the very first thing that pops out of the ground and are usually sold at Farmer’s Markets from late April to very early May (about three weeks) and then gone. It’s hard to define what a ramp tastes like. They taste both sweet and strong- maybe slightly like a sweet earthy garlic. A popular way to enjoy them is in a salad. We spent Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Madison WI and bought two bunches of ramps home with us. I made a ramp salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing– the recipe is here .  It was fabulous, you will love it. Give it a try. Next week, perhaps two weeks from now, rhubarb will be available for sale.  I’ve included a favorite family recipe for rhubarb crunch.  Fun Fact- Did you know rhubarb is not a fruit. A good rule of thumb is that fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants. So botanically–the flowers you see on tomato plants, cucumbers, peas, pumpkins, and peppers make them a fruit. Rhubarb is classified as a perennial vegetable.

Ingredients
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup & 2 pats of butter
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir well and spread evenly into baking dish. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine brown sugar, oats, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir well then cut in butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over rhubarb layer.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

I’m joining Marty over at A Stroll Thru Life for her 373rd Inspire Me Tuesday!  Until next time be well!

Lemon Shaker Tart

Shaker Lemon Tart

This weekend my husband and I are looking forward to celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary. Wow, you know sometimes when I say that it seems like just yesterday, and then other times when I remember everything we’ve been through together I think ” No, 21 years is about right.” We’ve actually been with each other 22 years come this July, so ya a long time. We know each other very well, and I think as compatible couples go we are right up there with the best.  We want to celebrate this special day with friends that feel like family but I don’t want to do any cooking. So we’ve hired a local catering company- Upstairs Downstairs Catering -to do it for us. One of the desserts they’re  serving is a beautifully simple and delicious lemon tart. We’ve had this tart at another party they catered that we attended. The recipe for it is here. We’re ordering box lunches from their business menus, and although it is a bit pricey we feel it is so worth it.

When asked what I wanted for an anniversary gift I paused about 2 minutes and said -” All three season’s of A Chef’s Life“. It’s a series I found on PBS that features a couple who relocate to South Carolina and start up a farm to table restaurant. Every episode features a new ingredient and how it fits into southern cuisine.

Another show I found quite interesting is called Steak Revolution and it’s on Netflix right now. The narrator’s of this documentary (two chef’s) take tours through different countries in search of the most mouth-watering steak. I liked this documentary because it featured sustainable farms and ranches, responsible breeding and gourmet cuisine. They were able to locate the best steak in the world. You’ll just have to watch it to see where it’s at. 🙂

And last but never least this week I began watching Cooked, a documentary featuring Michael Pollan, adapted from his book (one of my favorites) of the same name. This documentary features different cuisines and the elements of fire, water, earth and wind in cooking. One of the main points of the documentary is how little time Americans are spending in the kitchen cooking.  More and more Americans are letting restaurants feed them their daily meals.

My husband and I eat in a restaurant on average once a month so it is hard for me to relate to the statement above. About 60% of our diet is homemade food that I create from locally grown organic fruits/vegetables, and grains. The other 35%-meat, produce, and dairy is produced for us by local farmers. A mere 5% of our diet comes from eating at restaurants that are not farm to table and/or locally grown organic and the occasional snack food (i.e. candy bar, chips, popcorn).

This week my husband and seven of his fellow co-workers were honored for perfect attendance. In my husband’s case he was honored for 16 years of perfect attendance. There are three things that I feel strongly are responsible for this admirable and fascinating feat – 1) My husband has a strong work ethic 2) he is in excellent health- so he doesn’t need to call in sick 3) His commitment to eating better food and living a better life(cutting down on processed food and sugar) is paying off (see #2).

 

Lavender

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I’m growing lavender! This statement makes me so happy. Literally, I grin from ear to ear mainly because I’ve spent so much money buying other people’s lavender. I’ve accomplished growing quite a lot of lavender, from seed, in containers on my deck. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s very rewarding.

The lavender I planted is called Munstead lavender- a perennial herb. I learned all about growing lavender for cooking from Renee. Her website is here and is filled with a lot of important information about growing culinary lavender. Here is another wonderful website that explains the differences between culinary and ornamental lavenders.

The first thing I made with a few of my flowers was lavender ice cream.

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Can I tell you that eating lavender ice cream really relaxes you and it’s best eaten shortly before bed.
Summer is sure flying by for me. I sat looking at my lists for things to accomplish this summer, on Monday, and quickly checked off the following things-finished 80% of Christmas shopping by July 31st-check, lost the 30# that’s been hanging on forever- check, vacation-check, remodeling with friends- check, camping in a cabin- check, biking- check (WI and MN), Ikea and MOA-check twice, Lake Harriet picnic-check (besides our bike trip and occasional trips to Ikea we hadn’t been in MN for so long) graduate from university-check, preserve peaches, raspberries and strawberries and so much more- check, edit two chapters of my book-check, submit at least three writing assignments-check, research relocate-check, keep up both blogs weekly-check. Oh and yes- clean clean clean. I did spring cleaning and I currently fall cleaning. So I truly needed something as relaxing and soothing as lavender ice cream at the end of my busy days.

Lemon Cheesecake bars

My husband and I have spent the last two Saturdays walking at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge. He took this beautiful picture this past Saturday.

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It’s so peaceful here and for avid birdwatchers like us a virtual paradise. I have a lot more time on the weekends to walk, birdwatch, even bake now that I am no longer buried in homework.  Of course besides picture taking, chatting with my husband, and birdwatching, walks are good for planning what we’ll have for dessert with Sunday’s dinner. My husband is a lover of all things cheesecake and I love all things fruit. So, once home I perused Pinterest and discovered this yummy recipe again.  I believe I have made this one before, it’s so easy and so good. I followed the recipe to the letter but omitted the optional food coloring because we don’t do food colorings in this house.

lemon cheesecake

Friday we leave for our week-long stay in Door County so I will not be posting until I get back. That said I do have a couple of drafts I may schedule to publish before I go.  Until next time– enjoy June!