26 September 2011

Maple Braised Carrots and Parsnips

As root crop season is just beginning here in Michigan, I had to push the season a bit and make this lovely braised vegetable dish for supper last night!

This was the very first year I grew parsnips in my garden and I was quite surprised at what a great crop they are turning out to be!  It's a little dicey on our soil with root crops, as it tends to lean toward clay.  The clay soil forces the roots to grow all crazy instead of long and slender...they don't look as pretty, but taste great all the same!  I am not harvesting many parsnips yet as most of what I have read about growing them suggests to allow them to experience a frost before harvest.  After the frost, all of their sugars come out and the parsnips will taste sweeter.   If you have any experience growing parsnips, I'd love to hear about your thoughts on the subject!


6 tablespoons  butter
1 3- to 3 1/2-pounds carrots and parsnips, peeled, cored (parsnips) & cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon (or more) black pepper

Melt butter in heavy large deep skillet over high heat. Add carrots and parsnips; sauté 1 minute. Add broth, syrup, thyme, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer carrots and parsnips to large bowl. Boil liquid in skillet until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Return vegetables to skillet. Cook until tender, turning occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with more pepper, if desired.

I was quite surprised to see an article in Saveur magazine about cooking vegetables, specifically on cooking them past "al dente"!  I feel like it's way past time to acknowledge that some vegetables ARE tastier when well cooked!  Carrots and parsnips definitely fall into that category for me!

I originally found this recipe online and it featured butternut squash, which is delicious prepared this way, but the carrots and parsnips were SO fantastic!  


Last week we celebrated Pierre's very first Birthday!  YES, I went over the top, YES, we donated a bunch of really cool things to the Midwest Small Breed Rescue, YES, it was featured in the county newspaper (how HILARIOUS is that?) and YES, we all had so much fun!
I found these super sweet "doggie" bags and made assorted size biscuits with colorful frosting.  The frosting is a white candy coating (no chocolate) I colored with food coloring and assorted sprinkles.  I made a variety of biscuit sizes appropriate for different sized dogs and stuffed the baggies for "big" dogs or "little" dogs! 

I used colorful felt, pompoms, ribbon and boas to create party hats for the dogs.  Again, I made a variety of sixes and left the elastic chin strap a bit longer, so they could be a customized fit simply by knotting the elastic.

Along with the Birthday cake, I also created a platter just for dogs of bacon, ham wedges and muffins.  The Birthday cake was frosted with peanut butter and decorated with candy dog bones!  The candy dog bones were also featured on the "People" foods;

For our people guests, I did a Raspberry Vanilla Cupcake with a lemon buttercream frosting!  A cheese plate and beverages rounded out the treats!

Our Pierre has plenty of everything a dog needs, so guests were asked to donate to the Midwest Small Breed Rescue in lieu of a gift.  WOW!  All of our friends are so generous!  The MSBR was so excited to have great goodies for needy dogs!  I love these types of rescue organizations as they are fostering dogs in homes versus a shelter! 

We had 17 dogs attend and about 25 people!  I think it was so much fun for all of us (we could have done without the rain) especially the dogs!
Each dog went home with a doggie bag full of biscuits and I picked up a bunch of rope, balls and squeaky toys as party favors.  I didn't get a photo of it, but I put all of those in a large wooden bowl for the dogs to choose from.
It was amazing that all the dogs got along great (so did the people) and enjoyed an hour of fun and cake!!!  I hope this inspires you to throw a dog birthday party for a great cause and have fun!

You can find all of the recipes I used on this blog by using the search bar 

16 September 2011

Spiced Cherry Tomato Jam

All of August I waited for the glut of cherry tomatoes...September here they are!  I now have baskets full and I'm sort of finished with my favorite summer dishes featuring cherry tomatoes like Panzanella, Caprese, etc. I'm ready to move into a few autumnal style dishes. 

Last month I featured a Tomato Jam at The Boulevard Market during a preserving class and chose to redesign it using cherry tomatoes.  Because it would be so ridiculously time consuming to peel every cherry tomato, my suggestion is to use a food mill or push the cherry tomatoes through a mesh strainer to avoid the majority of seeds and skin.


4 cups tomatoes, peeled and strained
1 1/2 cups sugar
½ t ground allspice
½ t ground cinnamon
¼ t ground cloves
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 package pectin

Cook prepared tomatoes 10 minutes in preserving pot, add seasonings and lemon juice.  Stir in pectin until completely dissolved and bring to a boil, add sugar.  Bring back to a boil and boil 1 minute stirring constantly.  Skim off foam, fill hot sterilized jars and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.
Yield; 5 half pints

I used a Habanero Hot Sauce already prepared for a fair amount of heat to give the jam some depth.  I really like the cloves and cinnamon in this jam!  I think the spices give an autumnal twist to this recipe without overpowering the clean, sweet tomato flavor.  I used a combination of yellow and red cherry tomatoes and my jam was on the orange side, which I found quite attractive! 

I like to serve tomato jam with cheese and cold meat sandwiches or use it as a base to bbq sauce.  I also smear a few tablespoons on a roast beef before putting in the oven and on top of an old fashioned meatloaf!  It's really great with pork and chicken as well.

12 September 2011

September Pleasures

This week brought pleasures that are strictly for the month of September!  Years ago I planted some sweet white wine grapes with the thought I'd want to make wine.  I do not want to make wine.  It seems I just cleaned out the basement and I'm not willing to put anything else down there!

 This year was a lovely harvest from that vine and today I will make some beautiful, sparkly, white grape jelly.

John and I have given each other many trees as gifts over the years.  For our 10th wedding anniversary John gave me a magnolia tree with the brightest, most delicious blossoms in May that you can imagine.  It's a special treasure all year long.  Four years ago, I gave him a pear tree for his birthday and we have enjoyed a peck or so each year.  This year, the little pear that could...DID!  Wow, we ended up having to pick these pears a bit before their time to save the branches from breaking.  They are now laid out on boards to ripen. 

I hope you are ready for pear recipes!  Last year I made a lovely mascarpone cheese and pear pie, it will be difficult to find something new to create that tops that one!  I will be posting recipes as the pears ripen.

Our Pierre has decided that summer is officially over, as you can see from the evidence of a rainy, cold week:

I should be angry, but we left them in fair game areas and the end-of-summer sales softened the blow!  How can you be mad at this?


07 September 2011

Enjoying the remains of the summer

Does September really signal autumn?  September is one of Michigan's nicest weather months and I am going to enjoy every minute of it!  We had a rude awakening on Sunday to wake up to temperatures in the low 60's and overcast skies..."ugh, I'm not ready"! 
I know I'm whining. 
It's not attractive.
I can't stop because it's so miserable outside!

So I decided to bake something apple-y to embrace the nasty day (and make myself feel better about getting nearly nothing accomplished!) and FEEL autumn.  I made these scones from the Midwest Living magazine.

APPLE SCONES  (Midwest Living October 2011)
2 3/4 cups flour 
 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon apple pie spice (I used English "Mixed Spice")
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
1 cup finely chopped tart apple (I used Paula Reds)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup whipping cream

15 slices of unpeeled apples
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Blend all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Cut butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles crumbs.  Mix together eggs and whipping cream and add all at once.  Stir mixture using a fork, just until blended.  Be cautious not to over mix as this will make scones tough.  Scoop dough into 9 rounds or wedges and place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush each top with a bit of whipping cream, a sprinkle of raw sugar and a slice of apple.  Bake 15-17 minutes until golden brown.  

These are not scones in my book, they are mini cakes with baking powder, but they are pretty tasty.

I made these recently for Juli and family while they visited and included some fresh butter whipped with an incredible Cinnamon Cider Syrup (1/4 cup butter, 1 T cider syrup) and a small pot of homemade apple cider jelly.  Apple extravaganza!!!  I will post about the apple cider jelly soon!  

Here is a fun photo of Pierre in the sweet little fleece vest from Juli!  He absolutely LOVES it and has been wearing it during this little cold spell! 

04 September 2011

New Friends

Over a year ago, I was looking for a puppy and deciding which breed was right for me.  I ran across a blog written by Juli, from Los Angeles California.  Juli has 3 Pugs and I have since enjoyed communicating through our blogs (www.teapotsandpolkadots.blogspot.com ) about our dogs and life.  Juli has given me great advice for raising Pierre and  I have enjoyed seeing her slice of California life!

After posting pictures of Gina's graduation from the University of Michigan, Juli contacted me and revealed that her son would be a Freshman at Michigan this year and they would be coming to move him into the dorms!

We discussed the logistics and Juli's family decided to stay at our Inn On Evans above The Boulevard Market and we met them there on Sunday evening with Pierre.

I have to admit, this was a bit strange for me as I've never had an internet friend before and I wasn't sure what to expect.  Blogs are an interesting peek into someones life.

Juli was just as warm and friendly, chatty and personable as I expected!  We slipped into friendship as if we had known each other forever!  We were able to carve a bit of time out of preparing their son, David's, dorm room to go to Downtown Home and Garden (I thought Juli would love this place) and have supper together.

Juli and her husband Jeff, were so thoughtful to bring us a taste of their California, local cheese and goodies, and a gift for our Pierre....

The cheese was from "Andante" of Petaluma California and with a stellar reputation of which I had only read about, I was so excited to be able to have a piece of my own!  Simply Fabulous.  Their local "ThinKrisps" Savory Sage Parmesan...unbelievable.  Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie...sinfully fantastic! 

I was absolutely enchanted by her selection of "sweaters" for Pierre, including a Los Angeles hoodie!  They are ridiculously cute and SO Juli! (I can't wait to return the favor..don'tcha think the Pugs would look amazing in maize and blue ;))    Each sweater is cuter than the last.  I need an extra set of hands to corral little Pierre into each and take photos.  I will be posting them soon!
 We had a lovely visit and it was time to say "good-bye", yet Juli is writing blog posts already and it's as if she is around the corner!     

Quick Mexican Flautas

Years ago I started making these flautas for my Mexican food loving family, specifically to use the tomatillos I grew in my garden.  They have been a favorite ever since!  The tomatillos still have volunteer plants 10 years later in my garden space.  I really never have the heart to pull them out!  A large and lovely plant of bright green, small leaves gives its harvest around late August in Michigan.  I adore the papery husks that hold the fruit and watch them carefully, so the fruit doesn't drop.  Of course the volunteer plants don't give as large of a harvest as those started from seed in the spring, but for the few dishes I make with tomatillos, it's plenty!

My flautas are a bit non-traditional as I have adjusted the recipe to fit our tastes and time constraints over the years.   We prefer to use flour tortillas and we love when the chicken filling is juicy, so we make them larger.  Pan frying is a breeze in summer on the grill side burner and juicy red tomatoes and sour cream are the perfect side versus a gravy that I've had in restaurants.  You can also save some of the salsa verde to serve alongside if you like or sprinkle with some Mexican cheese when the flautas come out of the hot oil.


3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1+ cup salsa verde
2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar (*gasp* I used the bagged Kraft kind)
3 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, minced
8 10 inch flour tortillas
1+ cup vegetable oil or shortening- enough to fry flautas turning once

In a large mixing bowl, combine ingredients to form a juicy paste that slightly sticks together when squeezed.  Lay out each tortilla and evenly fill with mixture, I used about 1/3 cup of filling per tortilla.  Roll up tortilla and secure edge with a toothpick.   Heat oil in large saute pan to high, but not smoking.  Lay in a few flautas at a time, being cautious not to overfill pan, as it lowers the temperature of the oil quickly and your flautas will be oil soaked inside.  Fry about 3 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.  Serve with your choice of sides; guacamole, salsa verde, tomatoes, sour cream, etc.  Surprisingly enough, these warm up great the next day and taste even better!!!

 I still make the salsa verde (green salsa) when I have time and tomatillos, but the jarred salsa verde is really pretty good.  If you are interested in making your own salsa verde it's absolutely easy and the best!  I d not use a recipe because it depends what my garden offers up in quantity, but the "bones" of the recipe are this:

Fresh tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
Onions, chopped
Cubanelle or Pablano Peppers
Jalapenos, Serranos or Banana peppers
Chili powder
Salt & Pepper
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Fresh Cilantro 

Throw all together into a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, using the chili powder, vinegar, lime juice, salt & pepper to give depth to the salsa.  I cook 20-30 minutes until thick and saucy, adding the cilantro when cooking is complete.   

02 September 2011

Easy Crepes

Last week brought our girl, Gina, home to us.  It also brought the (NON-event) Hurricane Irene which allowed Gina to stay an extra day, which was fantastic.  Our family was quite busy all week, but carved out some time to spend together and that always involves food!  John was craving crepes then Lewis (Gina's friend) jumped on board and proceeded to make us his English version of crepes.

Simple and barely sweet, fresh summery flavor that leaves you satisfied without leaving the table too full.  Perfection on Sunday morning!


1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
pinch of salt

Blend all together in a mixing bowl with a whisk.  Allow to rest about 20 minutes to remove air bubbles.  Heat a crepe pan to hot and butter lightly.  Pour in just enough to coat bottom of pan, allow to brown slightly and flip.  Viola!

While hot, squeeze a good bit of fresh lemon juice over the crepe and sprinkle with plain white sugar.  Fold into thirds and top with a bit more lemon juice and teaspoon of sugar.

It's interesting that the lemon juice absorbs into the crepe and the sugar melts almost instantly to give a lovely tart/sweetness to the crepe, but keeps it light and airy.  

The crepes gave us enough sustanence to make a trip to a local apple cider mill to eat doughnuts and drink cider on the Huron River later in the afternoon and to cook a lovely supper full of fresh vegetables from the garden and farm. 

It was a beautiful day in Michigan and a lovely send off for Gina and Lewis.  Now we are backing to missing them.