27 August 2012

Are we Anti-Women? My thoughts.....

Every now and again, there are some political issues that really get under my skin and I just can't stop stewing over.  I am seeing links constantly on Facebook and other social sites, the media is ranting about it, my daughter is discussing it..... the "Anti-Women Movement".

As the mother of 3 daughters, this really concerns me.  Personally I have never met a person that would be considered "anti-woman".  Except perhaps the media that is willing to to report and degrade many women depending upon where they fall politically.  Really, how many women were discussing Sarah Palin and their disgust of her a few years ago?  I could care less what you vote, but should we, as women, treat another woman (and her daughters) that way she was treated and claim we are for the advancement of women?  Why couldn't anyone but Republicans say "You go girl!"  Can you imagine how awful it was for Hillary Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky garbage?   

My grandmother always impressed upon me the importance of women voting.  EVERY time.  For what you believe in, but never for someone who is simply charming, you had to educate yourself and be true to your beliefs.  She was ahead of her time in women's rights....and she never felt it necessary to explain herself.

Is this an abortion issue?  Birth control?  Power?  Money?  

The tabloids are full of terrible photos and words on women celebrities...and women are buying the tabloids, ready to tear down our women! 

I have also found quite a few women that are ready to bash any woman that doesn't fit into their realm or threatens them in any way both in business, friendships and merely on the streets.     

Years ago I read a book that was written by a woman CEO of a luxury brand and a European.  She impressed me by discussing MENTORING women in her book.  In fact, she was acting exactly like men by promoting women within her corporation and using her personal /professional contacts to help young women find employment in their desired field.

Can we be more like that?  Can we mentor our young women by helping them be educated, independent, successful and respected?  Can we PROMOTE women owned businesses and women lead businesses by shopping/using their services more often?  Can we spend our dollars on supporting women candidates in politics or maybe at least not bashing them for what they believe in? 

By the way, I LIKE to cook, clean, wear lipstick, being married AND running a corporation with lots of women helping me along the way.  I'm hustling everyday to make sure those rights don't go away....



  



24 August 2012

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Late summer in Michigan is special.  The days are still warm but the nights turn much cooler with the sounds of crickets and cicadas.  The mornings have a foggy hint to them and the sun is just rising at 6:30am.  All of a sudden there is a sugar maple that has the first red tinges to it's leaves, at the end of our rural street and the sunflowers are beginning to nod their heads.

The change in seasons is always bittersweet for me. 

Last night I made a favorite summer dish of Stuffed Squash Blossoms, just to extend summer a little longer!  It's a simple dish that takes so little prep and gives such wonderful results!

My farmer brother, Mike, of Prochaska Farms, was kind enough to share the blossoms.  My cheese maker husband, provided the goat cheese, so these treats were about as local as a girl can get!



I hope you have a chance to make this dish before the blossoms disappear this season, it's totally worth it!

STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS

8 ounces of fresh goat cheese
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/3 cup fresh herbs, chopped ( I used chives, sage and tarragon)
freshly ground black pepper
 
12 squash blossom, washed and dried
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain bread crumbs

1 cup canola or vegetable oil

In a small bowl, combine goat cheese, garlic and herbs until smooth.  Season with a bit of pepper.
In 3 small bowls, pour flour into one, eggs into one and bread crumbs into the remaining bowl.
Place oil in fry pan over medium high heat, or prepare deep fryer.



Roll a small ball of goat cheese and carefully separate petals of blossom and stuff goat cheese into cavity.  Twist blossom ends gently to seal.



When oil is ready (throw a few bread crumbs in, they should sizzle immediately) dip stuffed blossom into flour to coat, then eggs to coat and finally roll in bread crumbs until covered evenly.  Place in hot oil.  Turn gently with tongs at about 2 minutes and cook an additional 2 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oil and let drain on paper towel lined platter.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt.  Allow to cool about 5 minutes (goat cheese resembles molten lava at this point :)) and enjoy!!








23 August 2012

Technology.....

This week I found it necessary to get a new laptop.  It has made me very uncomfortable.

Funny how the camera captured dust isn't it?!


The updated technology is awesome, the lack of programs junking up my system is awesome, the overall design, size and features are awesome.

I'm slowly resetting things to get to where I like them.
 
I've also found a keyboard lock key...took 15 minutes to figure out how to undo that one.  I also found an instant photo button, but I'm not sure what it does exactly and I'm afraid to push it at 5am and accidentally take a photo of myself that will be saved in the machine forever.     

It's just so new and foreign.  I'm trying like hell not to become my mother with technology.  I am filling it up with photos and my "stuff" and transferring old "stuff" as necessary.  It's painful not to see every document I've created in the last 4 years...but I'm letting go and cleaning out.

Does this happen to anyone else?  I am usually very willing to change and even embrace most changes.  (Laundry detergent would be the only exception to that rule.)

So if you see horrid pictures or crazy posts, you'll know the cause now!  Hopefully, you'll see a lovely new cookbook designed on this machine, posts of the new puppy we are picking up soon and lots of food and travel ideas....all together now, fingers crossed!



21 August 2012

Sesame Noodle Salad

There is no denying the comfort of noodles!  Every culture makes noodles of some sort.
 
Life around here has been a bit uncomfortable with changes.  I needed a new laptop, but can't stand the fact that it's different and I can't find all my "stuff".  Uncomfortable.  Two of our daughters are moving, uncomfortable in SO many ways.  Been trying on new jeans...uncomfortable.



So I decided to make one of my favorite comforting salads.  I've shared one bowl, but the others I put away in no time flat.  I needed the carbs!  So easy and quick, I always have the ingredients on hand and I'm sure you do too!  I also love the fact that it's ready to serve immediately, none of that waiting for the flavors to merry business!

SESAME NOODLE SALAD

3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro
2 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Seeds (a combination of black and white seeds looks great too)
1/2 cup Fresh Green Onions, finely chopped
2 "sleeves" of Udon Noodles

Cook Udon noodles according to directions.  (Drop into boiling water and cook 4 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water)

In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients except the noodles and whisk lightly to emulsify.  Add cooked noodles and stir gently until thoroughly coated.  Get ready to be comforted!!

Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.  This salad is wonderful served room temperature or cold!





20 August 2012

Apricot Crostata

One of the most challenging aspects of my children growing up/moving out has been the lack of baking around here!  Often, the girls would bake up something fantastic or a least a cake from a box occasionally and now there is little reason to bake as John is only truly happy with something chocolate.  I have been baking and putting extra into the freezer, but it's not the same.  I just want a little corner of a slice of lemon pound cake, not to defrost even a whole slice! UGH!

So, I've been baking for our specialty food store and the customers are loving it!!
It's been great to be really creative with standby recipes and trying out some new things too!



I shared this crostata recipe with my cooking class last week and thought you might like it as well!  I am in the process of using up last years preserves and cleaning out the multiple jams that clutter up the refrigerator.

A traditional crostata is large (12 inches or so) but I find a smaller size is a bit more compatible with my style!  So. I've been making them about 4 inches round.  I chose an apricot jam that has been lurking around for fruit tarts and cheese trays.....

I love the fact that crostatas can be a bit rustic, but hold together well and are less flaky than a pie crust based dessert. They mix together quickly, and taste great with virtually any preserves. Be careful not to handle the dough too much, as that causes it to be tough or over bake as it just turns into a tiny concrete mess!!  I like to use jams and preserves that aren't too sweet, as the baking can concentrate the sweetness, but you could add a tablespoon of lemon juice to your jam first to combat that dilemma!

APRICOT CROSTATA  

1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 egg yolk
zest from 1 lemon
2 cups fruit jam or preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy and then stir in the rest of your ingredients (expect jam) handling as little as possible, until a smooth dough is formed.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Cover the bottom only of a 12 inch baking dish with the dough.  (I usually turn my dish upside down over the rolled out dough and use a sharp knife to cut the dough to fit the pan.)  Since this dough is fairly sticky and delicate, if you rip or tear it, just place a little piece over the hole and press lightly.  You could also free form these by just shaping the dough into the sizes you want. 

Spread the jam to 1/4 inch away from edge of dough.  With the remaining dough, cut a strip to create a 1/2 inch border around outside of crostata, press lightly onto edge.  Use the rest of the strips to create a lattice topping for your crostata, or cut into a shape to decorate the center of the crostata.  

Bake 20 minutes, watching carefully and allow to cool in pan about 15 minutes before serving.

I made tiny crostata about 4 inches round and baked them free form on a stone ware pan which turned out a bit more rustic looking than baking in a pan with sides.  I found 13 minutes to be optimum time for baking.  I also added about 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to my apricot jam which was fantastic and sprinkled the jam with some chopped roasted, salted almonds!  I had a total yield of 5 tarts. 







12 August 2012

Tuscan Pine Nut and Mushroom Bruschetta

John and I hosted a tasting at The Market last week of Tuscan wines and foods.  I had so much fun with the menu and the wines from Lanciola were fantastic! 







I paired Lanciola Chianti with the Tuscan Pine Nut Mushroom Bruschetta, Lanciola Chardonnay with Truffled Mac & Cheese and Lanciola Vin Santo with Pistachio Biscotti.  An easy menu to prepare in advance and keep warm during the tasting and simple to serve to guests.  The mushrooms with the young, fruity Chianti was a great pairing!  The bruschetta would also be great served on a grilled steak and served with Chianti! 

John's favorite was the Tuscan Pine Nut Mushroom Bruschetta.  We are big mushroom fans and this was especially nice with a mix of mushrooms.  I did run my  finished dish through the food processor for ease of serving to a crowd, but for at home I would have left them in slices.  Whichever way you choose is perfectly fine.  I served the mixture on a slice of rosemary bread, which was a nice change from a baguette.



TUSCAN PINE NUT MUSHROOM BRUSCHETTA

12 ounces of mixed mushrooms, sliced  (I used oyster, cremini and button)
1 Tablespoon dried Porcini mushrooms, crushed into powder
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Fresh Sage, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced or crushed
Salt & pepper to taste
2-3 Tablespoons Sherry or Marsala
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 ounce Pecorino Romano, made into curls with vegetable peeler, or grated

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high.  Add garlic, porcini mushrooms and fresh mushrooms and season with salt & pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes allowing mushrooms to release their juices.  Add lemon juice and sherry or marsala. 

Continue cooking about 5 more minutes until most of juices have evaporated.  Stir in pine nuts and fresh sage and remove from heat.  Allow to cool a few minutes, taste and adjust seasonings.

Place a tablespoon or so of the mushrooms onto a small slice of crusty bread and top with a cheese curl.







Enjoy!

Here's a fun photo of Giancarlo and his Lanciola wines at The Boulevard Market a couple years ago!  Get them if you can, his wines are fantastic!  I'll share the rest of the tasting menu recipes later this week!






















10 August 2012

New Look....

Thought it was time for a fresh new look to my blog! 

It's been my "time" to start cleaning up, changing around, making new things happen.  The Boulevard Market, my home, my menus....it feels great!

 Stay tuned for new recipes, new photos, new dishes :), MAYBE a new pup...



05 August 2012

The shores of Lake Michigan

I am always amazed at the beauty of Lake Michigan and it's just a mere 2 hour drive from our home.  Lovely white sand beaches, clean water and funky little beach towns.  The further north you go (Michiganders in SE Michigan call it "Up North") the coastline becomes a public State Park and beach goes on for hundreds of miles.



John and I escaped to an old haunt, Ludington.  John has gone to Ludington for a week every year since he was a child and then we took our children to Ludington for a week long vacation for many years.  We hadn't been there for at least 5 years as it has been increasingly difficult to find a week away from our lives.




This was our first "empty nest" trip....weird.  We stayed in a lovely little suite of rooms with a balcony that had a  lake view including Ludington's lighthouse and pier.  We watched the SS Badger (car ferry) move in and out of "port" a couple times each day and generally just relaxed.  It was a fantastic getaway with much sun, sand and prosecco.








04 August 2012

OMG, More Zucchini....A lovely salad

Yes, we still have zucchini.  You would think after several days of 100+ degree temperatures that the buggers would at least slow down production.  Not so.

After eating this salad, I don't want the zucchini to ever stop and may seriously buying it (*gasp*) out of season at the grocery!!

I've mentioned the cookbook "Plenty" before and one taste of this salad will be explanation enough as to why I love it so much!  Of course I had to substitute a few items in the original recipe due to living in a rural community, but I'm going to assume they made it taste BETTER!!

The other perk of this salad is the grilled zucchini that gives it a substantial feel and grilled flavor.  Perfect for the vegetarians in your life, or as a filling luncheon salad. 

I didn't completely peel the hazelnuts after oven toasting to give a little color to the salad and keep a rustic look going on!  I also used my vegetable peeler on the Parmigiano-Reggiano to have a nice cheese curl and a larger piece of cheese.




ZUCCHINI & HAZELNUT SALAD

1/3 cup hazelnuts
3 small zucchini, sliced on bias about ¼ inch thick
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt & pepper
1 Teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 ¼ cup lettuce, sliced, I used romaine hearts
¼ cup basil leaves, torn
3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved with vegetable peeler

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast 12-15 minutes until nicely browned.  Rub off skin, or leave on and roughly chop.

In a small bowl, toss zucchini with 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper.  On grill over high heat, lay out zucchini slices and cook 2 minutes per side, making sure you get nice grill marks.  Place in a mixing bowl and toss with balsamic vinegar.

Allow zucchini to cool, then add remaining olive oil, hazelnuts and basil.  Mix lightly, taste and adjust seasonings. (I added a bit of additional balsamic at this point too!)  Place small pile of lettuce on plate, top with zucchini mixture and a few pieces of shaved Parmigiano cheese.






02 August 2012

I'm back to myself....I think.

This has been an interesting summer.  I haven't been around my blog too much, or anywhere else for that matter.  Here's the down low on what's happening around my life.

In May I was having a bunch of weird visual issues. It got to the point in June/July where I just couldn't stand to be on the computer or read for more than a few moments because of the distortion.  My visual acuity wasn't the problem, just a distortion of the picture.  So I have spent a lot of time at University of Michigan's eye center getting bizarre tests done.  It seems I have some "lesions" (bumps) on my retina which were causing all the problems.  The doctors aren't sure what they are or why I got them, "unusual" was a word that kept popping up. 

I have been noticing steady improvement since about 3 weeks ago and at last week's appointment, there showed no active cells left in the lesion.  YAY!! I do have a few places in my vision field that have no vision, but the other eye compensates and its not very noticeable.

Since John was diagnosed with Kerataconus (a cornea disease) 15 years ago, he was really supportive through the whole ordeal.  I also had to apologize to him. I used to bitch about small messes and what-not around the house, missed details in many things...then I was doing the same things!!!  The lack of visual acuity really makes a difference.  So we are cleaning it all up together :)   

 I'm so thankful to not grate off my fingers around every microplane, not stumble over every glitch in my walking path and notice the cobwebs lurking around my place once again!  I'm also so very thankful for the support of family and friends and great healthcare located nearly in my "backyard"!    I have so much to catch up on!  You'll see lots of new recipes and photos in the coming weeks!  Thanks for your understanding and patience!!