Cherry Berry Cobbler

I wanted to call this “Odds and Ends Cobbler” but I didn’t want to put anyone off with such a strange name.  The recipe I used was originally called “Blueberry Cobbler”, but since less than half of the fruit I had was actually blueberries, I didn’t really think that made much sense.  (Side note: All the blueberries came from my bushes!  Yay for summer fruit!)  I had a carton and a half of Rainier cherries, a handful of raspberries from the yard, a pint of strawberries from the farmer’s market, and a fair sized bowl of blueberries that I had recently picked.  My recipe called for 30 ounces of blueberries, and I ended up with 28 ounces cobbled together (No pun intended.  Oh, you know you want to laugh at that.) from my various shopping/picking excursions.  I was very happy with the recipe… It was easy to put together and the biscuits were amazing.  The cinnamon sugar on top gave them just the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be eating some version of this pretty regularly for the next several months.

Oh, by the way, I’m now totally into instagram.  Join me, it’s awesome.

 

Blueberry Cobbler

Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

pinch ground cinnamon

pinch salt

6 cups (30 ounces) fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over, or equivalent of whatever fruit you have.

1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Biscuit Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice.  Mix to combine. Transfer the berry mixture to a 9 inch glass pie plate or 8 inch square baking dish, place the plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges; about 25 minutes.

For the biscuit topping, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.   Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.  One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Pinch off 8 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart so they do not touch.  Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack before serving.

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Hydrangeas

Aren’t those pretty?  I love hydrangeas, and I was so happy when my started blooming this year.  Apparently I don’t have the healthiest soil around since mine vary in color from palest blue to a bright magenta, but hey, I’ll take it.  Thank goodness they bloom profusely or mine would be naked since I keep bringing them indoors.  I hope you all have as lovely a view somewhere in your house or yard.  Which plants can’t you resist bringing inside?

Sweet and Savory Kale

I made this for the second time in 10 days just so I could show it to you.  I mean, that’s just the kind of person I am, you know?  I took this one for the team, but don’t get used to it or anything.  Just kidding, dear readers – I would have made it again with or without you. It was that good.  Actually, I have a confession regarding this one:  I’ve never had kale before this.  I know.  I can’t believe it either.

I know kale is having a moment right now, but I’ve always heard how bitter it is, and you have to cook it just so to enjoy it… and on and on and on.  Aside from all that, though, we already like greens around here.  I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that I could serve only cooked greens to my husband for every meal and he’d be OK with that – we love collards, and spinach, and turnip greens and we eat them regularly, so I never saw the need to pick kale during my shopping.  So what changed, you ask?  Well, I sent Jacob to the store for salad – like spring mix, folks – and he bought me this.  So I really had no choice but to cook it for dinner.  And since I had no reliable recipe to fall back on, I just used the one on the back of the bag.  And guys?  We loved  it.  It’s basically just cooked down with a sort of semi-vinaigrette (I say semi because you use some chicken stock, and I’d never put that in a vinaigrette) and that’s it.  I’ll probably make this one regularly with additions or subtractions as I have the time and/or inclination to play with it, but this one is definitely going to be a staple in our house, and I hope you’ll give it a try too.

 

SWEET AND SAVORY KALE

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ medium onion-chopped
3 cloves garlic-minced
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
1 lb bag of kale greens

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion softens stirring often about 5 minutes. Stir in mustard, sugar, cider vinegar and chicken stock. Bring to a boil on high heat. Add kale, cover, and cook about 15 minutes stirring often. When liquid is reduced by about half and greens are tender, serve and enjoy.

*The recipe also had the option to add 1/3 cup dried cranberries for the last 10 minutes of cooking and then sprinkle with sliced almonds when served, which I omitted due to the preference of my guest, but I’ll definitely give that a try next time.

The delicious mundane.

I’ve only been cooking sporadically for the past few weeks – at least full meals, anyway.  I’ve been making a good meal about once a week, and then we subsist on leftovers and sandwiches in the between times.  Although, in my defense, I do make a mean sandwich and I try to get creative so we’re not just eating lunch meat all the time.  I love to make Reubens, and we do burgers fairly regularly, and we lately came into an 8-10 lb smoked boston butt (chopped, bbq style) that we’ve been slowly whittling away at, but my favorite sandwich – one I fall back on whenever I just don’t have time for a good meal but I really want something delicious and comforting – is the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese.

I’ve really missed sharing with you since I’ve been so busy lately, and when I was trying to come up with something I could post for you I kept finding that I had either a really good recipe to share with no photos, or lots of photos of something too mundane to write about.  But then I realized that this simple mundane sandwich has become such an integral part of my kitchen routine by virtue of the fact that I can put it together in under 15 minutes and still have something that tastes like a million bucks.  And for those 15 minutes I’m frying bacon and eggs, slicing cheese, washing greens, toasting bread… doing all the essential tasks of preparing a thoughtfully created meal, but on a smaller scale.  A small enough scale that I can fit it in pretty much anytime and with minimal groceries.  And after a few days of fast food and leftovers, I start to feel like I need to be in my kitchen preparing a meal with my own hands.  Being in the kitchen is comforting to me.  I like doing all the little things, like washing greens or chopping an onion, that make up a larger set of actions that eventually turns into a meal – but the reality is that I usually find myself missing those things the most when we’ve been busy, or out of town for a few days, and I have no groceries.  And I always find myself coming back to the one thing I always have the ingredients – and the time – for.

Sometimes it’s the most mundane things that give us the most pleasure – and that is definitely worth sharing.  So what do you guys cook when you have no time or groceries and you just can’t go another minute without a home cooked meal?

Hustle and Bustle

It’s been pretty quiet – on the blog front at least.  I haven’t updated you in a couple of weeks, but trust me when I say it’s not because there hasn’t been anything going on.  It seems like I’ve been running hither, thither, and yon (as my mother says) for the past month.  I have a wonderful pinterest project to share with you, and a couple of recipes that you simply must hear about, as well as some other odds and ends to share, but in the meantime I’ll tease you with some photos of my various goings-on of the past few weeks.

 

There was some more of this:

Lots of this:

And all kinds of this:

 

In a nutshell: motorcycles, dogs chasing things, and lots of plants popping up all over my yard.  More later!

Out and About – Bremen, Ga

I recently visited a new Farmer’s Market in my area: the Sewell Mill Community and Farmer’s Market in Bremen, Ga.  There were several interesting vendors, and I enjoyed looking around, but honestly, I was much more interested in the old part of downtown Bremen where the market was located.  I love small towns – they just have so much character, and often the oldest structures are the ones that catch my eye.  

I often catch myself saying how glad I am that we live so close to Atlanta so that I can get to town for shopping and entertainment, and sometimes I forget how many lovely things there are just down the road.  The Farmer’s Market communities are so friendly and, especially this time of year, there is so much color and liveliness there.  Enjoy the view!

 

5 Tips for How to Be a Spectator and Still Have Fun

I bet you’re wondering where I’m going with this.  I mean, we’ve all been spectators at some point in our lives – and I mean the kind of spectate-ing where you’re watching a friend or family member perform, compete, exhibit, or otherwise publically make use of a skill set or talent that you do not possess and most likely wouldn’t even know about if said loved one didn’t inspire your interest.  For instance:  I love college football games.  As in Love.  If I had a friend or family member playing for my team, and they requested that I come out to support them, I wouldn’t even have to change my plans because I’d probably already be there anyway.  But it’s a little different when your loved one has a passion for something that, while you can appreciate their enjoyment, you don’t necessarily want to join the team yourself. 

I’ve mentioned my husband’s hobby to you before – he has a real passion for going fast, more specifically on motorcycles.   He participates in motorcycle Track Days, which are sponsored by various groups, such as NESBA or STT.  In short, the race tracks that are uber-appealing to motorcycle riders (Road Atlanta, Barber Motorsports Park, etc) are available to be rented out for weekends when they aren’t hosting races or events, but the prices are so high that it wouldn’t be practical for an individual.  So the riding organizations rent the tracks and then sell riding privileges at prices that are much more accessible to the masses.  It’s actually a really great environment for the riders – they get to talk shop all weekend with like-minded enthusiasts, and they get to ride really fast in a safe situation. 

Jacob is totally in his element at track days – he loves to ride, and he’s really good at it.  Me, not so much.  I’m an excellent passenger, and I love to ride with him (at a more sedate pace, of course), but at track days, I don’t really have a role.  I can help unpack the trailer and set up our canopy and such, but besides that there’s not much for me to do unless I want to get on a bike myself.  And it’s not the most spectator friendly sport – the tracks are made to be like a winding road, so they go through wooded areas, up and down hills, under bridges… If there is a viewing area, you may see the riders coming for a moment, and then zoom they’re gone.  After we had attended a couple of track days and I got over the excitement of seeing something brand new, I started to get a little, well, bored.  I really love to see Jacob having so much fun, and I love that he wants to share this experience with me, but it doesn’t change the fact that while he’s out there riding, I’m just standing around watching him whoosh by once every two minutes or so.  After nearly three years of attending track days, I realized that I sort of made my own role so that I could be there to support Jacob, and at the same time stay interested and engaged in the activity. 

I would guess that a fair number of you have friends or loved ones with a hobby that you don’t, or can’t, share a passion for. And it can be hard to show enthusiasm when you’re just not having as much fun as someone else.  I’ve made a list of a few tips that helped me in just that situation, and I’m passing them on the hopes that some of you may be able to find a little more enjoyment in being a spectator.

  1. Get involved!  What do you love to do?  Is there some way that you can incorporate your hobby into your loved one’s activity?  I love photography, so I started bringing my camera along to the race track, and now I look forward to track days almost as much as Jacob does.  I was able to learn a whole new style of taking pictures – there’s nothing like trying to get a perfectly sharp photo of someone who is zooming by you at 150mph to make you really good at sports photography.  But maybe you love to cook, and you could provide snacks; or you’re a born leader and have some ideas for improving the event.  Join the group or committee that runs the event and give yourself a reason to be invested in the activity.   You’ll find that both you and your loved one will enjoy it more if you’re enthusiastic about being involved.
  2. Bring a friend.  I had so much fun at the first track day we attended, but after the new wore off, my interest started to wane.  When we had friends join us for a weekend, I was able to show them the ropes and explain things, and it was a lot of fun watching someone else experience it all for the first time.  And it never hurts to have someone around to talk to in a slow moment.
  3. Socialize.  This one is kind of hard for me to do, since I sometimes feel out of place, but it’s always rewarding when I make the effort.  You’re probably not the only spectator there, so talk to the person next to you.  Chances are, they’ve had similar feelings if they’ve been watching the same thing you have, and they may welcome a conversation to relieve their own boredom.  And if they’re not bored, then you definitely need to talk to them, because enthusiasm is contagious
  4. Do some research.  Take some time to learn a little bit about the sport or activity that you’ll be attending.  If you don’t know the rules it’s hard to follow the action, but also, just knowing some background information can help you become involved in the conversations around you.  I’m fairly knowledgeable about motorcycles at this point, because Jacob is so into them and I like to talk to him about it.  So when we’re at the track and I’m standing there with five or six riders all going on about their steering dampeners, or their rear suspension, or the particular tire compound they’re running that day I can at least follow the conversation, and even join in occasionally.
  5. Make an effort.  This one is really important.  And it may be the hardest thing to do.  I know how hard it is to try to be enthusiastic about something that you could care less about – but that’s the thing isn’t it?  You clearly do care about your friend or family member that you’ve gone out the support, or you wouldn’t be there in the first place.  But it takes real effort to find some enjoyment for yourself in the midst of being supportive.  You have to look for a way to involve yourself.  You have to entertain that friend that you invite along.  You have to be friendly and sociable to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and you may have to step outside of your comfort zone to engage a stranger in conversation in the first place.   But that small effort may open up a new door for you – you may find a new hobby for yourself, or make a new friend, or reconnect with an old one.  If nothing else, you’ll probably learn something new, and you may even find an interest where you didn’t know you had one.

The fact is, a good attitude can go a long way.  If you open your mind to the possibility of a good time you’ll be much more likely to find one.  So try to keep a positive attitude, dear readers, and if all else fails, bring a good book and a [insert beverage of choice] and you’ll be just fine.

My Fruitful Yard

Remember when I asked you all for advice on what this plant was?  I thought (hoped!) it was blueberries, and many of you concurred.  Well guess what?  We were right!

I checked up on them today, and I found these little guys popping up all over them.  I have 8 good sized bushes, and they’re all putting on what looks like a bountiful crop of fruit… I see a summer full of crisps, pies, and cobblers on the horizon, and I for one can’t wait.   I also have several of these guys peeking out:

And I’m letting my cilantro run wild in the hopes of collecting some coriander seeds – although I may give in to my inner OCD person and cut it down if it gets much bigger.  It’s almost as tall as I am, which is a little wild looking.

I know many people are enjoying the fruits and such that are slowly making their way into the grocery stores and farmer’s markets – what are you guys’ favorite springtime treats?  Me, I love strawberries more than almost anything – they’re my favorite fruit, right behind peaches.  I know I’m going to be overrun with berries before too long, so do you all have any suggestions for what I can do with them?

Cotton Mill Farmer’s Market

 

Hooray for Farmer’s Markets!  Last year my parents joined the Cotton Mill Farmer’s Market in Carrollton, Ga as a way to get their products out to more people, and I must say that I love going out to say hello so I can browse all the lovely (local!) produce.  It’s not a huge Market, but all the major food groups are represented: meats, dairy, fruits and veggies, and greens.  There are some great people involved who really love their crafts, and it makes for a fun shopping experience when the farmer is clearly dying to tell you all about their products and methods.  Buying local isn’t something that’s for everyone – sometimes it’s just not practical.  The prices are higher than most conventional grocery stores; most Markets are open only one or two days a week, limiting your ability to get groceries at the drop of a hat; selection is limited to what’s in season, and there aren’t many exotic items (tahini in Georgia? I think not). But there are many advantages, chief of which is that the quality of the products is generally much higher.  Because the produce isn’t being hauled from the other side of the continent, it’s usually perfectly ripe and ready to eat – and usually naturally grown or organic.  Also, buying from local farmers and artisans is a great way to put money back into your community.  I’ll be honest here – I buy the majority of my groceries from Publix, but during the spring and summer I try to get as much of my produce as I can from the local producers.  I like knowing that my food was grown less than an hour from where I live, and I like that it’s been grown by folks who have a love for farming.  Because more people are becoming concerned about the quality of the food we eat, more and more Farmer’s Markets are popping up in cities and towns all across the country, and if you’ve never been to one, I encourage you to check one out.  If nothing else, you’ll probably find a friendly farmer ready to talk your ear off about something.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Apparently I’m on a quick bread kick here lately.  Or maybe I just had 3 bananas sending me accusing looks from their (rapidly decaying) vantage point on my counter.  Who’s to say?  Either way, I’ve had it from a very picky Banana Bread connoisseur (ahem.  My husband) that this bread is perfect just the way it is and I should no longer mess with the recipe.  The base recipe is from How to Cook EverythingMark Bittman’s epic cookbook, and I only played with it a very little bit to suit my taste.  Actually, that’s not true.  Those chocolate chips ended up in there because I had half a bag of them hanging out in my pantry and this seemed as good a fate for them as any, so really, what happened is that I just dumped some extra odds and ends in to facilitate my house cleaning.  You can omit them if you really want to, but I’ll send you an accusing look if you do.  Because bananas and chocolate chips go together like peanut butter and jelly; like Ross and Rachel.  I also added a bit of coffee emulsion because I have it from a good source that bananas and coffee should also be on that list of meant-to-be-togethers.  Although I think you could use a bit of strong coffee or espresso if you don’t have coffee emulsion/extract.  Also, I would tell you that even if some people who fancy themselves Banana Bread Connoisseurs (ahem.  See above.) somehow find out that you used a teensy tiny bit of whole wheat flour and send you their own accusing looks, you should ignore them and do it anyway.  You can’t even tell it’s in there (cue disgusted snort from said connoisseur) and it gives it a little more substance, a little more chew.  It’s still perfectly moist and light, with a very tender crumb, and I’d like to remind…someone…that they did say it was the best Banana Bread I’d ever made.  So there.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything

8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe bananas, smooshed up (am I the only one who thinks that’s lots of fun?)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coffee emulsion (or espresso or strong coffee)

5 oz mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup walnuts (optional.  I omit them because I like my banana bread uninterrupted by crunchy bits.)

Preheat overn to 350 F and grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.

With a hand mixer, or a sturdy spoon or silicon spatula, cream the butter in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients.  (You don’t really need a mixer here as long as your butter is fairly soft.  I just sort of mash it around a little then add the eggs, etc).  Beat the eggs and bananas into the butter, then add the dry ingredients. Finally, stir in the vanilla, coffee substance of choice, chocolate chips and the nuts if you’re using them.  Don’t worry about making the batter smooth – it’s supposed to be lumpy, so just mix it up until all of the flour has been incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, until a tester comes out clean, or with a only a tiny crumb or two.  This bread is pretty moist, so I generally pull it out when a well formed crumb sticks to my tester (not batter, mind you, actual crumbs), since I know it will keep baking for another moment or two until it cools.