Tuesday, July 22, 2014

birthday girl

She's nine!  How and when did this happen??
July 20, 2014: lunch and bowling at Tucker's of Northport. 

With love from The Motherland!

Friday, July 4, 2014

classic strawberry rhubarb pie

Our neighbors across the street here in Northport have a beautiful garden.  Their home sits on two village lots and the garden takes up a good portion of the third lot.  It's all wooded at the rear of the lot and is flanked by lush beds of woodland ferns.  It's simply pretty.

And very productive.  First thing this season, Carl caught me in the yard and handed me a bag of fresh rhubarb.  Straight from the ground, rinsed, and trimmed.

My kitchen here at the cottage isn't exactly a "chef's kitchen," but we managed after picking up a 9 inch pie pan at Tom's, and a Pillsbury crust.  Tackling a crust with minimal kitchen tools was too much work.  Besides, this was a bit of an experiment since I'd never  made a strawberry rhubarb pie before.
The recipe called for an egg yolk wash on the top crust.  Again, with minimal tools, I thought I applied it a bit too heavily.  But it did golden up nicely even if it did look a little on the artificial side.

The taste was 100% classic strawberry rhubarb pie, though.  I gave away most of it to neighbors - to rave reviews, I might add (yes, that's me tooting my own horn).  Kat won't eat pie unless it's baked from my mom's pumpkin pie recipe, and I didn't need to single-handedly scarf down a whole pie by myself.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 box Pillsbury pre-made unbaked pie crusts.

2 1/2 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 large stalks)

2 1/2 cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup all purpose flour or 1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Nestle the crust inside the pan so about an inch hangs over the sides. Press the pastry down. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Mix the fruit with the sugar, flour (or cornstarch) and lemon zest. Using the tines of a fork, poke the bottom of the pie crust evenly about five times. Pour the fruit mixture into the chilled pastry. Dot with the butter pieces.

Moisten the edge of the bottom crust with a finger dipped in water. Put on the top pastry in one piece and slice in a few air vents, trim, and crimp the edges.

Brush the egg glaze over the crust. Transfer the pie to a baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake another 30 minutes longer, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before serving.

The quintessential summer pie.

Bon Appetit from The Motherland.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

baby steps

The cottage had been vacant for almost a year before we bought it; the property was part of an estate and had previously been sold on a land contract.  When the land contract fell through, the property reverted to the estate and they were left to sell it again.

I think it had been a while since it the house had really been loved.  Dated 1970s tan/brown color scheme is really all you needed to see, right?  

While the long term plan is re-siding or taking it back to original wood, and replacing the standard shingle roof with a metal one, every plan begins with baby steps.  For now, painting the trim and giving the front door a happy coat of paint: Sunny Side Up from the local Ace Hardware, at least give it that lovin' feeling.  

Will post more as progress continues!

With love from The Motherland.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

road trip

So....so much for my 52 weeks of happy. Or, at least posting happiness!  For now, you'll just have to take my word for it.  I'm in my happy place.

We closed on our Michigan cottage back in April and we've just been patiently waiting to get out boots on the ground in The Mitten.  Of course, first we had to put our boots on the ground in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. 

Cross-country road trip, anyone?

Headed north on I-17 into Flagstaff. 

Don't go west, whatever you do!!

Sky for miles in northeast Arizona. 

Sun setting in Winslow, AZ. 

A little detour on to Route 66.  Sad desolation most of the way.  This was in Tucumcari, NM, where they seem to be revitalizing some of the old, abandoned buildings for...photographers?

Came through the coolest storm in Texas.  It was big.  But, isn't everything bigger in Texas?

All-American Oklahoma!

Mississippi River down there...somewhere.  (Hey, it's all happening at 55 mph).

And, sometimes you need to secretly videotape your mother.  To kill time and alleviate boredom. 

This was the part of the trip that stressed me out the most: a 10 month old puppy on a 2,100 mile car ride.  He actually did better than I expected...but, that's how it usually goes. 

Somewhere in Illinois. 

And finally, the run for the border!  This was such a relief.  We knew we were within hours.  Seven, to be exact, after a stop for dinner in Holland, and construction traffic outside Grand Rapids. 

Home, sweet home!

West of Cadillac on 115.  So close we can practically taste it! 

We arrived well after dark.  Thankfully we have friends in town who had a lot of spare furniture, and they were kind enough to put beds and linens into the house for us.  So grateful!

So very grateful.

With love from The Motherland.

Monday, May 26, 2014

english fish & chips w/yorkshire beer batter

A couple of weeks ago, on our way home from church, we checked a box on our local bucket-list.  Well, not really.  Pete's Fish & Chips is not really on our bucket list, but we pass it multiple times a week and it looked like just enough of a dive to serve spectacular fish and chips.

It's a bit of a running joke, though, as time after time we speed by at 45 mph, "Anybody for fish and chips?"  Well, maybe next week.

Finally, Daddio decided to commit.  "Next week we're stopping after church."  And, sure enough, we did.  Stark raving hungry at 11:45 a.m.  The flashing neon "Open" sign beckoned, but the not overly friendly girl at the window said, "We're not open until noon."

So we waited, so convinced were we that this was going to be the best fish and chips ever!  See?  That's an eager face, right?

Wrong!  Well, at least not for long.  You see, Pete's wasn't all it was cracked up to be.  Now, granted, Pete's has a long and storied history in The Valley.  It's an icon.  Been here forever and natives swear by it.  However, it's a desert, so it's not surprising people who have never lived near water where real fish swim, would think stamped out, rectangular fish patties dipped in Panko bread crumbs (flavorless bread crumbs, I might add), might think this was the cat's meow.

It's not.  Pete's is average, at best.  The fish was bland and, did I mention, rectangular?  The most perfectly proportioned pieces of not-real-fish I've ever seen.  The chips were thin and average, as well.  No great shakes.  So much for our dashed expectations.  Been there, done that, as they say.

On a recent post-church drive-by of Pete's, I googled fish and chips recipes.  This one was at the top of the list and "beer battered" coaxed me to click on the full link.  G said, "I can do that."  And, he did!  Move over, Pete's.  There's a new fish in town!!

English Fish & Chips with Yorkshire Beer Batter (recipe found at Food.com, originally posted by French Tart)
  • 4 tilapia fillets (orig recipe suggested cod or haddock), cut in half
  • 6 ounces plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (8 fluid ounce) bottle good English stout
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra flour
  • 3 lbs potatoes, peeled and chipped
  • good quality cooking fat or oil
  1. Heat fat in automatic deep fat fryer or cast iron dutch oven - optimum temp 190°C.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunky sized chips.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.
  3. Fry chips for about 3 minutes until soft but NOT colored.  Drain and shake well and set to one side.
  4. Put some flour onto a plate. Dredge the fish fillets in the flour thoroughly - this is VERY important, it stops the batter sliding off when fried!  Leave the fish fillets in the flour whilst you make the batter.
  5. Some people say you should make the batter at least one hour before - I have found little difference - so make it before if it is convenient or now!
  6. Put flour, soda, salt and pepper into a large roomy bowl. Add the beer gradually, stop when you have a thick coating type of batter. Drink any beer that is left! Whisk thoroughly until it is smooth and there are no lumps.  Add the lemon juice OR a splash of malt vinegar if desired.  Mix thoroughly again.
  7. Have your plates, newspaper or whatever ready for eating!
  8. Adjust deep fat fryer to fish frying temperature of 160°C.
  9. Take one fillet of fish at a time and holding it by the tail or thin end (!) swirl it around the batter until well coated - plunge into hot fat immediately.  As soon as it has crisped up and set, add your other fillets one at a time, taking out the first ones as they cook - about 6 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness.  Place onto a tray and keep warm in the oven.
  10. Turn up the heat setting to 190°C again and cook your chips until golden and crisp.
  11. Serve on plates or newspaper with salt and vinegar!

***Cook's Notes:  I didn't actually cook these, Daddio did.  Which left me time to stand around snapping pics with my iPhone.  Sorry...didn't want to bring the nice camera near a vat of boiling oil.  Nonetheless, these were probably the best fish and chips I've eaten outside of England.  Spectacular!!  Serve with tarter sauce, lemon wedges, cole slaw, and good beer!

Bon Appetit from The Valley of the Sun.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

52 weeks of happy - 3/52

New glasses. Top: my old pair, which I loved, were just too heavy and kept slipping down my nose.  I'll keep them for a back-up.  Bottom: the new lighter, fun, more modern cat-eye.  If you need specs in Scottsdale, my doctor and her office staff at Brems Eye Center are super people.  Highly recommend.

Hope springs eternal. 

Sharing a little piece of my childhood with Kat.  Still fun to play with these.

Strawberry shortcake for the birthday boy.

With love (and happiness) from The Valley of the Sun.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

52 weeks of happy - 2/52

Desert twilight over The Hacienda. 

Protein bomb after a run and 60 min of athletic conditioning at the gym. 

Nordstrom pretties!

A case for the 5S that says, "Be happy!"

With love from The Valley of the Sun.
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