28 September 2012

The Cookbook

I'm in the midst of writing a cookbook that I intend to self publish this fall.  Now that it's on "paper" or "public" I absolutely HAVE to finish it!!!

The cookbook idea has been a dream of mine for ages and technology has made it amazingly easy to make it happen.  In fact, the digital press that is printing my books is just in a small neighboring town and I can pick them up once they have been printed.  We are looking at a release date of November 1. (OMG)  "Seasons In My Kitchen" Winter edition.  It's all happening....

What has not been so easy is the sheer amount of TIME the little bugger is taking!  It's making me crazy.  I am cooking like mad, photographing as I go, re-photographing, re-designing, blah, blah, blah.

So this is a bit of an apology, I promise the blog will have recipes, food thoughts and more as soon as I get the perfect shot of vegetables.  Or have the puppy potty trained.

At the very least, I'm super excited to have blackmailed my eldest child into editing the cookbook.  And we are eating better than we have in 3 month., And the gnats are finally starting to die.  And I have a store full of wine for when the going gets really tough.  And Henry only had 1 accident yesterday.  And it's another beautiful day in Michigan....      

26 September 2012

Empty Bowls Part Deux

A while back I mentioned a local restaurant and college Art students hosting an event called "Empty Bowls" http://blvdmarket.blogspot.com/2012/01/empty-bowls.html which was fantastic.

Last weekend the same art students paired up with the local Humane Society for another "Empty Bowls" event for pets.  Can I get an "Awwwwwww..." It was held in conjunction with an art festival. 

Since I hadn't bought a new bowl for Henry yet, it was perfect timing and all the money raised went to care for shelter animals.  Here is the bowl I chose:

A small bowl with the most adorable studded collar surrounding it.  Many of the bowls were custom designed with a pet name stamped into the pottery as well.  So, so sweet.  I also like the way the lip of the bowl is slightly smaller than the base.  Henry likes to gobble his food as fast as possible and then start on Pierre's!  This bowl slows him down a bit and his little snout has to work hard to get each bit.  Yes, I said "snout" as we affectionately refer to him as "piglet".

I personally thought this was a superb fundraiser!  Young folks in the community helping homeless pets and my doggie is eating out of a local piece of art that looks great instead of a metal dish!

If you would like more info on how you can get an "empty bowl" for your pet that is custom or already finished, please call/email  the Lenawee County Humane Society at 517.263.3463

23 September 2012

What I didn't know about Nitrates/Nitrites


Early this week, our youngest daughter, Jamie, have a severe allergic reaction to something.  After a steroid and benadryl shot and  the next couple days on massive amounts of Prednisone, she is feeling better and the hives are slowly dissipating.  Scary, especially at 17 years old.  None of our children have any allergies to anything, and I've never had first hand experience with symptoms quite so severe.

Once everything was under control, we started to go through everything she had been exposed to, eaten, drank etc. over the 24 hours prior to the reaction.  I had to call a local producer of sausages and bacon to also find out what they were using in their recipes, since Jamie had not eaten anything new or out of the ordinary except a cheese spread containing their bacon.  I was told by the owner (after much assurance that I love their products and won't stop eating them :)) that they cure bacon using celery juice powder instead of commercially prepared nitrates.  Celery juice powder is totally legal to use and don't get me wrong, these are responsible producers of cured meats and sausages. 

I did a bit of Internet browsing and only clicked on reliable sources that I am familiar with.  I was really surprised at what I discovered.  Here are a couple links if you're interested in finding out more about celery juice powder used in curing meats;



Jamie will have to go to have a bit of allergy testing to find out the real culprit, but I think our whole family feels more informed about nitrates/nitrites after reading several articles!  I hope you will too!

The nitrate/nitrite debate happens everyday at our specialty food store.  (I won't mention the gluten, dairy, lactose debates too.)   I now feel like there are a couple great sources to give to folks that may help them make the best choices possible for their families as well!  


17 September 2012

Fall Favorites

I love autumn, everything about it.  Bountiful squash from the gardens and farms, he cool nights and warm days, the first fall Asters and Mums in purple, orange and reds,  freshly baked Pumpkin Bread and talk of college football.

The first fall day, I run to pick up a new bag of Aromatique Cinnamon Cider potpourri and candle!  (I actually leave some in my bedroom all year, that's how much I love the smell!)  The bag is always full of funky shapes, nuts and flowers and the smell lasts forever.  It's fabulous stuff!

I slowly start bringing in my herb plants to adjust them to house living, and I love my kitchen/dining room windowsills bursting with their green-ness and herby fragrances!   

I had to run into Target the other night and stopped dead in my tracks at the front of the store in the dollar area!  CUTEEEE!  I screamed to John as I scooped up stuff and threw it in the cart!  These metal trimmed tags for gifts and canned goods, some "baker's twine" and tiny mini muffin papers in autumnal stripes.   All $1 each.  I think they had other things that were cute too, but I was getting "the look".  You know the one.  The one that says my patience with you has run out......I get it at the pet store, Loft and Williams Sonoma.  That is the reason I carry an emergency chocolate bar in my purse, for John.

Of course I am in love with baking this time of year.  Apple everything, pumpkin anything and roasting chickens, beef and potatoes.

I found these SWEET preserving jars at Williams Sonoma last week.  Lid included, from France.  I'm so happy I did not have to purchase them online and I think they will be beautiful full of caramelized onion marmalade!  Bonus; they sell them individually for $4.

I'm picking my pears this afternoon.  Always the best day!  It takes a couple weeks for them to ripen in the garage.  I have a smaller harvest than last year, which is ok.  I'm planning on wine poached whole pears, a pear/nut/raisin conserve and a pear pie with a struesel topping.

The tiniest peach tree EVER has quite the bounty this year!  I think there were more, but I found the dogs picking them!!!  I know.  They are nearly ripe, so I may wait until later this week.  

11 September 2012

Things I've been thinking about this week...

Who's bright idea was it to create a bagless vacuum cleaner.  I don't need to see how dirty we really are, not to mention, I like to vacuum up spiders and I'm terrified they will still be alive when I go to dump the canister.  I wonder how long they can live in the dust?

I'm super impressed with the visual quality of fake gourds.  Kudos to the inventor...no gnats.

I've decided to only fry potatoes in duck fat from now on.  omg.  Before you start thinking about the calories, think of how magnificent just a few taste.

Two little dogs can fit on my lap just fine.  Like ying and yang.  It's a little hairy, but lots of love!  I think they are starting to love each other too!

The dogs found an old barbie head in the yard this weekend.  Since it has been at least 10 years since I had seen the last barbie in the yard, I thought it was amazing what the earth offered up.  Sorta creepy, but really impressed that she's still wearing an earring!

Found a mutant dragonfly buzzing around the house this week.  Very little rain for months has brought out some interesting characters.

Pierre turns 2 years old this week!! We are having a party at home, and I'm making carob brownies for the "boys"!  I can't believe it!  His gift was to go to the farm with John (Henry stayed home) and ride on the golf cart with my folks!

So, I'm sorta surprised that my snarky posts are viewed 10 to 1 to my recipes.....I sincerely thought people would really like the squash blossom recipe?!?!?!  However, the "Homemade Frosty Paws"
is still the top viewed post.  Hmmmm.

I think I had the most disgusting experience ever in a restaurant over the weekend.  Lipstick marks on a wine glass. Eeeeewwww.  And then you just have to pray they actually gave you a new glass and new wine....or just hope the alcohol kills everything.

09 September 2012

Roasted Grape Focaccia

A while back I shared my love of homemade focaccia bread here.
That love has never wavered and in fact, only grown stronger once I began to add grapes to to the unbaked dough. Grapes are being harvested in Michigan right now, and I can't think of a more perfect time to make this bread!

I know the idea of cooking fresh grapes seems odd and that the grapes would just deflate into unappetizing skins.  Au contraire!

The grapes roast up into a sweet, caramelized bite that pairs up perfectly with savory components!  I also talked about roasting grapes on their own here if you're interested in a quick little dessert.

You only need an hour to create this fabulous-ness, or less if you are using instant yeast!

This week I created my focaccia using red onions, grapes, romano and fresh rosemary!  It was absolutely stunning to look at and delicious!  This combination of ingredients was also amazing after supper with a small glass of Vin Santo instead of dessert!  


1 Tablespoon Instant Yeast
1 ¼ cups hot water (115 degrees)
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup fresh grapes, washed
4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary, tips of branches
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
1/3 cup Red Onion, very thinly sliced

In your mixing bowl, blend water, yeast, 1 Tablespoon of EVOO and sugar. Add all of the flour and salt. Using the dough hook, blend at low speed until dough forms ball on hook. Continue kneading additional 3-4 minutes until dough looks shiny and all flour has been incorporated.

Coat dough with 2 Tablespoons EVOO and let double in size (about 15 minutes), punch down. Liberally oil (with EVOO) a 12-13” round pan and press half of the dough into bottom.

 Make depressions with your fingertips. Let rise until dough has doubled (15-30 minutes) and add toppings, drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.

Bake 450 degrees for 25-35 (whole batch of dough or 18 minutes for a half batch of dough) minutes until golden brown and dough has cooked through.

07 September 2012

Yard Sale Furniture Refinish

Over the weekend our neighbors hosted a yard sale and had a set of 2 end tables and a coffee table for $20!  I picked them up with intentions to paint and give to our daughter, Julia, for her new apartment.

The tables were solid wood in a mission style which was a plus, but in pretty rough shape.  The tops were really scuffed up but the scratches were shallow and the rest of the pieces were in decent shape.

When I stopped at the hardware store, I thought I'd just take a peek at stains before paint and much to my surprise found JUST what I was looking for!

I picked up Minwax Polyshades in Bombay Mahogany Gloss.  According to directions, the finish simply needed to be sanded and 2 coats of Polyshades applied.  I think the red stain is very modern and it matches our other furniture quite well.  They also had an "Espresso" finish that was nearly black, which was super too!

I sanded everything down with a fine sanding block, spending most of my effort on the tops so the finish would be as even as possible.  Everything else got a good go-over until the finish was dulled.

I wiped the pieces down with a tack cloth to remove all of the dust.

THE ONLY THING I WISH I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY; was to use a bristle brush instead of a sponge on a handle.  I usually like these sponges things for staining, but totally didn't think through that Polyshades has polyurethane in it too.  So my disappointment lies in the fact that notches and small spaces turned fairly dark and the legs and top were not as dark.  I also feel as the sponge didn't give a very even finish, but it could just be user error.  I was watching Pierre and Henry the entire time!

Knowing this, I could go back and sand down the dark spaces again to lighten it all up, but it looks a little rustic and fun, so I decided to leave it. 

Needless to say, I need to go to some other yard sales to get end tables for Julia since I think these look awesome for ME!!

(Because of the extreme humidity in our area, I'm leaving the foil on the legs for a couple days to allow extra dry time!)

06 September 2012

Labor Day Weekend Gazpacho

This Labor Day weekend was very summer-like in Michigan!  Hot and humid weather with the remains of the hurricane settling in, however, no rain....again.

While heating up the BBQ is so traditional, we decided on a bowl full of gazpacho.  The plethora of vegetables is astounding right now and we are taking advantage of it!  That's the beauty of gazpacho, you can use what you have on hand as long as it's perfectly ripe!

I will apologize in advance that I rarely measure for this soup, so you will need to taste and adjust as you go.  I've also made the mistake of seasoning it as soon as I blended the vegetables, but I really encourage you to wait about 20 minutes for all of the flavors to meld and develop before that final salting!


4 large tomatoes, I use both red and yellow, regular and heirloom
1 large red bell pepper
1 large cucumber, or 3 small pickling cucumbers, peeled
1 medium purple onion
3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 cups tomato juice
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Clean and coarsely chop all vegetables.  Place in a blender and add tomato juice.  Blend until almost smooth and add olive oil, vinegar, paprika, salt and pepper.  Process until desired smoothness is achieved.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Allow to rest in refrigerator about 30 minutes.  Serve with additional chopped cilantro and a dollop of greek yogurt or sour cream.  

I have successfully used zuchhini and yellow summer squash in my gazpacho as well as green onions, fresh spinach, most any type of pepper and occasionally throw in a couple carrots (which John really likes).  It's such a great soup to use up those enthusiastic farmers market purchases or boost your overall vegetable intake!  I love the smokiness of Spanish Smoked Paprika and I think it adds a layer of flavor Gazpacho needs.  The Balsamic or Sherry Vinegar adds that touch of sweetness and depth of flavor we all long for in soup, and the olive oil gives the soup a nice silky texture that just plain vegetable soup doesn't achieve.
I hope you enjoy the bountiful last days of summer too!  

02 September 2012

Why "Meet your Representative" Night was cancelled

This post is strictly a personal response to why we cancelled the "Meet your Representative" night at The Market.  Don't feel obligated to read.

Last week I posted on facebook that The Market would be hosting a "Meet your Representative" night.  It was not a political rally, but simply an opportunity to meet and share any concerns/questions with our current representative in Lansing in an evening forum.

On Thursday I received a public comment via The Boulevard Market's facebook page.  The post was written by a long time customer went to the gist of this "please keep your political inclinations out of the market....we won't shop there....this state representative ruined my life.....she is anti-women....why wasn't the democratic opponent invited....".

Since I take my customers comments and concerns to heart, I cancelled the event.  I explained to the customer that I would never choose politics over people, and I stand by that.  I do think that a response is in order for those of you wondering "what just happened here?" and why I chose to host this event in the first place!

Why I wanted to host the event:  John and I have frustrations regarding "meet and greet" events with state/federal representatives.  Most of the events are held at 8am and if you have children or a job, they are impossible to attend!  I felt it was a benefit to the community to host an event in the evening that constituents are actually able to attend and are able to have a voice in our community.  This event was clearly explained and was not to be a political rally. Does this woman or others publicly complain when the local diner or coffeehouse has a morning "Coffee Hour" with government officials?  Does she boycott their business too?  Does she encourage her friends and family to NOT show up and be involved, only complain via facebook?     

This was never about who we support, and it offends me that I would be personally attacked because of assumptions.  It was said "you should have this at your home"  WHY?  I should invite the general public to my home to meet their own government representative?  That is absolutely ludicrous.

It doesn't matter who John and I personally support, this was meant to bring the government to the people.  Community involvement is important to us and this is one facet we have concerns about.  We should have representatives that are available and present in our community.

Why the (Democratic) opponent wasn't invited.  Why would they be?  This wasn't any sort of political debate or discussion of viewpoints. This was about our current representative.  If the opponent wins the election in November and would like to have the same sort of deal at The Market...great, they would have been welcomed, just like the current one is!  But that will not happen now, because of the accusations.

The ever present "Anti-Women" statement and continued support of The Market.  Please read this post to see my thoughts on everything anti-women.  The fact that accusations were made to a WOMAN OWNED business and then announced that she would no longer support my business tells me so much. This is after the fact that both she and her husband have repeatedly asked for The Market's financial support (and it was given) to charities that they believe in and are on the executive boards of for the last several years.  Do you think those charities no longer want my donations based on this situation, but yet she is willing to financially hurt my company?  In the long run, any financial repercussions to this event hurts the entire community.  It has always been my mission to support this community because they have so wonderfully supported us.  I have never changed that mission, regardless of which side of the political arena you inhabit.  It's always been about working TOGETHER to better Lenawee County!            

 I do not treat people poorly because they have differing views on politics.  I have many friends and family members that have varied political views.  We all seek to UNDERSTAND each other and discuss our opinions.  There is always common ground we can agree on and if we disagree, we do not verbally attack each other publicly or privately.  We do not divide our family, friends or community into political allies or opponents.  We do not make business decisions based on any company's politics and we support the leaders of our community.  If we have concerns/comments, we take it to them personally...we don't attack them online.    

I am saddened by the fact that politics would be so divisive in this situation.  I am also disgusted that this woman would consider herself a leader amongst friends and the community and would behave in such an appalling manner publicly.   I am personally hurt that she would not call me directly and explain her opposition to the event, as I am always willing to listen and could have alleviated any fears she might have and encouraged her to come to the event and discuss her grievances to the state rep.  I am also hurt that she would rather be vengeful to my self/business and publicly air her problems with this state rep through The Market's facebook page, instead of supporting the democratic process and bitching in person!

01 September 2012


Today I'm introducing "Henry".  He is the new addition to our family! 

I didn't believe I would ever be a dog person!  Now TWO dogs!

Little Henry is quite a character.  For only 8 weeks, he's is growling and barking like a big dog and trying to keep up with Pierre.

Pierre isn't sure what to think yet.  He is being a great big brother with nudges and sharing his toys.  He is not impressed with Henry's tail biting or blanket snatching.


We had been contemplating getting a puppy for sometime.  A little playmate and companion for Pierre.  Pierre will turn 2 in September and is a great little dog.  He is really well behaved, so I hope he can help teach Henry too!

After only 3 days, the house is a wreck of doggie paraphernalia, we are working on getting everyone on the same dog food and John and I look deathly from 4 am potty runs and new pup sharp nails.  However, we are in love with the new "baby" and we are getting new carpet in the spring!!