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The Rest of the Story

The other half of a very enjoyable weekend, aside from the art fair,  was that we made it into a mini-vacation.  The car was packed from top to bottom and end to end with photos, tent, and display.  We could barely squeeze in a few necessities, as in a change of outfits. We arrived two days early to kick back and chill out.  We are lucky enough to have a cottage that has been in the family for five generations and soon to be six. ( More about the sixth at a later date.)  It has an amazing wrap-around porch that looks out on Green Bay.  There was a chill in the air (5o degrees) when we awoke because it is June in Wisconsin.  The cure for that is to slump down in a captain’s chair on the porch, cup of steamy coffee in hand, and gaze out at the diamonds glittering on the Bay.  It’s a guaranteed blood pressure-reducer.

Groceries were purchased for breakfasts and lunches only.  It was a vacation, after all, and neither of us had any intention of cooking dinners.  Since television was invented, there has been a sacrosanct rule that no TV will cross the threshold of our cottage.  Horrors, you say!  Actually, I never miss it.  We played scrabble and gin rummy, listened to the Milwaukee Brewers’ games on the radio, and just generally relaxed.  Time flew by and suddenly it was Sunday, the day of the art show.  On Monday morning we headed for home, taking small byways instead of the Interstate.

“Wait!”, I said, as we were nearing home,   “I have a totally brilliant idea!”  Last week we discovered a bar and restaurant, Tello’s, in Port Washington where we had gone to listen to some blues outdoors.  I am usually a purist when it comes to margaritas, on the rocks, with no fancy blending.  Well, Tello’s makes an amazing mango margarita, on the rocks, with a salted rim.  Yum!  It was still Happy Hour when we arrived with Happy Hour prices for drinks and food.  Well, $4.95 for a gigantic burrito with a side of rice, and it was delicious.  One wouldn’t expect delicious for that price, but a true story.  A wonderful end to a wonderful weekend.  Plan a get-away, even if just for a night.  It refreshes the soul.

 

 

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Risky Behavior?

Practice what I preach, right? Take a Risk!  Take on a new challenge!  Enrich your life!   I did just that this past weekend.  I participated in a small, juried art fair in Menominee, MI, a sweet little town with a pretty harbor on Green Bay.  Yes, Green Bay as in Green Bay Packers, of which I am a huge fan, and have been since I was old enough to sit on my dad’s lap and cheer along with him as we watched that tiny TV.  Well, I cheered and he yelled at the set.  But I digress.  Choosing, developing, matting and framing photos to name just a few things… We had lists upon lists of things to do and get.  It has been crazy busy, but lots of fun.

What risk, you ask?  Firstly, submitting an application to a juried art fair is putting myself out there – the risk of not being accepted.  Then, crossing my fingers that some of my photos will be taken home and hung on someone’s wall.  Some did go home to be hung, I hope, in a place of importance.  I have to say the best part of the whole experience was meeting scores of new people and receiving quite a few sincere compliments about my work.  I must admit to having had a few misgivings and more than a little stress beforehand.  However, all was for naught!  It was amazingly enjoyable, and it will be repeated.  I hope to do more this summer.

So, you need not take on such a large project to take a risk.  Attempting anything new always has an element of risk attached to it.  Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t gotten around to?  The satisfaction gained from learning a new skill, studying a new language, taking an art course, entering a quilt show…  Well, it is amazing how much pleasure it brings into one’s life.  Don’t delay.  Take that step before you change your mind.

I  love responses to my posts.  Don’t be shy!  You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post.  Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.

 

 

Visit veggiezest!

Visit this blog – veggiezest.  I discovered recipes for a trio of three different types of hummus and baba ganoush, typical dishes from the Middle East, in that blog.  Homemade is always preferable in my book.  I prepared two of them for Fathers’ Day because we were expecting guests and found both the classic hummus and the  baba ganoush to be delicious.  I served them with a multigrain, baked chip and carrot and celery sticks, which turned out to be perfect choices for dipping.  The preparation couldn’t be simpler with just a few ingredients.  I did tweak the hummus a little because the garlic flavor was a little strong for someone who shall remain anonymous. Not me!  I just threw some extra garbanzo beans, a little more olive oil and a little lemon juice into the Cuisinart and voila’!   That solved that issue.  Start out with one clove of garlic and gradually add more garlic to taste, if so desired.  Also salt to taste when all other ingredients are combined.   I did use canned garbanzos and found they worked well.  Find these recipes at http://veggiezest.com/2012/04/15/hummus-trio-baba-ghanoush/

Hummus fulfills my promise for healthy but delicious food.  Here’s the healthy part.  Garbanzo beans, AKA chickpeas, are an excellent source of insoluble fiber, which means it stays with you “all the way through”.  Legumes seem to support intestinal health, reducing the risk of colon cancer.  They promote lower cholesterol, are low in calories and are filling.  They seem to be a friendly snack for diabetics because they help to regulate blood-sugar levels.  The olive oil in hummus is thought to be heart-healthy, promoting healthier blood clotting. ( The American Diabetes Assn., The American Heart Assn.  and the American Cancer Society all recommend legumes as a key to preventing disease and optimizing health.)

It’s Open Season On Farm-to-Table Produce

Finally!  Our farmers’ market is open!  I eagerly await its arrival all through those cold, dreary days of Wisconsin’s winter.  I envisage dark-green Swiss chard with beautiful red and yellow stems, crisp sugar snap peas, leafy Romaine, baby spinach, just-picked tomatoes… It’s what winter dreams are made of.  If you haven’t had a tomato sandwich with Hellman’s mayo, lettuce and  tomatoes on a good, crusty bread, you are totally missing out on one of the greatest pleasures.  Of course, it goes without saying that fresh produce is so much healthier than produce that was picked before it was ripe and shipped across the country.

We have a wonderful, bustling market in our little town every Saturday morning from June until October, with visitors traveling some distance to purchase freshly picked fruits and vegetables (nothing better), crusty breads, jams and jellies,  organic chickens, sweetly-scented soaps, hand-knit goods, cut flowers and  fresh flowers to plant, creamy cheeses…  The variety is endless.  Outdoor seating at a cozy cafe offers a perfect opportunity for  people-watching … serious shoppers in and out quickly, parents with babies and toddlers in tow, doting grandparents not far behind.  Mostly I look forward to visiting with long-time friends over a steamy cup of coffee.

Of course, there is the ritual of scoping out every vendor to find the best produce at the best price.  We walk from one end to the other before making our purchases, but always seem to gravitate toward our favorites.  I do best shopping with someone who will be the voice of reason because I do go a little crazy.  So, it’s always a challenge, but a lovely challenge, to use it all within a few days.  In June the variety is smaller – limited to vegetables and fruits that thrive in cool nights and warm days.  Later on in the summer, the bounty will be a sight to see and eat!

I  love responses to my posts.  Don’t be shy!  You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post.  Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.

Italian + Chocolate Cherry Scones

Martedi’ mattina!  Tuesday Morning!  Another Italian lesson with a new challenge.  Una parte dei compiti (a part of the homework) from last week was a listening activity.  A recorded conversation between two individuals, which Carmela assured us, were speaking  “normalmente”.  Normally?  I was sure it was recorded at warp speed (velocita’ warp). Sort of like Captain Kirk listening to Klingon!   We played it and replayed it over and over, countless times, a sentence at a time.  Admittedly, I can only speak from my own experience. It seems that, if I order the difficulty of the skills needed to learn another language, reading comes the easiest, followed by writing, speaking, and then listening.  At first glance, one wouldn’t think listening would be so challenging, until confronted with a three-minute recording.  Sounds short, right?  Not!  After 45 minutes of having our ears glued to the speakers of our computer, we thought we could safely say the conversation concerned a date from an Internet dating service gone wrong.  Gluttons for punishment, we did ask for more because comprehending spoken Italian is our most challenging hurdle.  I am not complaining, however.  We thoroughly enjoy the whole thing.  Find a companion and sign up for a foreign language because it is so enjoyable and so good for your brain.

All of this leads up to the second half of Tuesday morning.  A chocolate cherry scone and a coffee at Alterra Café on the Lake.  I came home determined to duplicate those scones, so they wouldn’t be just for Tuesday mornings.  Health-wise, these scones are not high in fat and have just a bit of sweetness.  They are quite delicious, quite moist and don’t require butter or jam.  Pair them with a small, fresh fruit salad.  As we all know, dark chocolate is healthy for you.  A painless way to include it in one’s diet!  They are done when the bottoms are a bit browned.  The tops will not have much color.

Chocolate Cherry Scones

(makes about 10)

  • 3 cups flour (use unbleached for good health)
  • 1/2  cup sugar
  • 1 scant tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces (don’t cut ahead of time)
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2  cup dark chocolate pieces or semi-sweet chocolate chips, as a substitute
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4  cup low-fat buttermilk ( try dried buttermilk and follow package directions)
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease cookie sheet.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add dried buttermilk here.
  3. Cut in butter and then add cherries and chocolate pieces..
  4. Measure the buttermilk (or water if using dried buttermilk )in a glass measuring cup.  Add two eggs and whisk well to combine.  Add the vanilla extract and whisk again.
  5. Make a hole in the flour mixture and pour the liquid in the center.  Using a large wooden spoon, mix just until ingredients are combined.  Don’t over-mix or your scones will be “tough”.
  6. Spoon out dough in large spoonfuls onto cookie sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.

*** Freeze any left-overs, as they do dry out quickly.

Photos will be coming!  I’m waiting for a sunny day with good light.

I  love responses to my posts.  Don’t be shy!  You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post.  Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.

A Salad Not to Miss!

Asparagus!  A major herald of spring in my book.  I think it is my all-time favorite vegetable, although there are so many to love.  When those lovely, green spears appear at the market, I know spring has finally arrived. My mind shifts into “what delicious recipe shall I try first” gear.  Roasted asparagus, asparagus risotto, asparagus with pasta, a frittata with asparagus, and today’s special… asparagus salad with hard-boiled eggs.  I found this recipe in the New York Times and have been literally rapturous about it ever since.  Such a simple recipe but so yummy.  The dressing is light but so flavorful.  The egg and asparagus combo – why didn’t I think of it first?

Asparagus not only tastes wonderful, but it is full of nutrients.  It’s a very good source of vitamins K, C, A and fiber.  It contains a compound (glutathione, in case you were wondering) that breaks down carcinogens and may help to protect against some forms of cancer.  It is also packed with antioxidants, which provide a layer of protection for the body’s tissues and cells.

Tips for Asparagus

  • Look for firm, thin stalks with closed tips.
  • It is more perishable than most vegetables, so use it within a day or two.
  • Wrap the ends in a damp cloth or paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to prevent moisture loss.
  • Roast, grill, steam, or stir-fry to preserve the nutritional content and the antioxidant power.

I tweaked this recipe a bit and here is the delicious result.

Asparagus Salad with Hard-boiled Eggs

(serves 4)

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 tablespoons champagne or sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of a mixture of chives and tarragon, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and steam for 5 minutes.  Plunge into ice water.  Then drain on paper towels or a clean dish cloth and pat dry.
  2. Cut the hard-boiled eggs into halves and mince the whites and yolks separately.  Combine them and season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and oil together.  Add the herbs and whisk again.   Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Letting this sit at room temperature for an hour or two lets the herbs infuse the dressing.
  4. Lay the asparagus spears on a serving plate.  Drizzle some of the dressing on the spears.  Sprinkle the chopped eggs and capers onto the spears.
  5. Serve with the additional dressing.

Do ahead: Prepare the parts of the salad separately and assemble when ready to serve.

I  encourage responses to my posts.  You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post.  Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.)

Not to Worry! The Larder is Over-flowing!

You won’t have to travel farther than your own backyard to take great photos.  Surprisingly, a cloudy day is a good time to find a comfortable chair, sit quietly, and wait for the action to begin.  Why cloudy?  Colors will be truer and not washed out in the bright sunshine.  Depending on where you live, the wildlife will vary.  Here in the city, in the Midwest, we have cardinals, goldfinches, sparrows, house wrens, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, nuthatches, and occasionally a red-tail hawk looking for a quick snack will make an appearance.  A few birdfeeders with various types of seed will attract subjects.  One day I scattered sunflower seeds in the grass for the cardinals.  Here you will see that a chipmunk discovered them first.  He must have thought he hit the mother-lode.  His bulging cheeks are a dead giveaway, and countless trips were made back and forth to his burrow.   I would guess he has enough stashed away to have company for dinner.

I encourage responses to my posts.  You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post.  Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.)