Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hogshead Dinner Group: A Salute to Julia Child

Despite my oven breaking...dinner was a success.

potato leek soup with fresh chives
salad with pear, figs and goat cheese
beouf bourguignon with Jeff Renner's baguette
Camembert and St. Andre with apple slices
upside down apple tart with caramel sauce

Really joining the slow food movement

Ok, by now you all know of my love for eating and cooking. But this year I have taken it to a new level in terms of supporting the local and slow food movement. It feels great.

Learning to Can Food
I joined a group of friends to help can peaches for a local neighbor who hosts Friday breakfasts and conversations at their home to promote the slow/local food movement. It was fun and easy, so I got the canning bug. Next week I want to take a whole week off in September to put up food for the winter.

This year I managed to can: raspberries (jam and sauce), peaches, tomato sauce (basil and garlic, four peppers, and stewed tomatoes), and dill pickles.

Making Mozzarella
With the help and encouragement of our Lakeside neighbor and friend Dick Reineke my mom and I made fresh mozzarella. It was so easy. We used raw milk I brought from Ann Arbor and it was fun to cut the curds, separate the whey and then stretch the cheese. It was delicious. Can't wait to make more. Thanks Dick for your inspiration!

What's in your freezer?
Mine has 1/4 of a grass-fed steer, 10lbs of blueberries, 4 quarts of raspberries, 3 bags of raspberry sauce, 20 bags of arugula, spinach, 4 lbs homemade garlic parsley wine sausage, and apple sauce coming tomorrow.

Putting my money where my mouth is

I am trying to shop locally, but am also trying to balance by buying things like olive oil as economically as I can. So my friend Lisa and I went to Dearborn to buy middle eastern foods and spices and shop at this great Italian market where the products are great and the prices even better (once a year it is worth it to make the trip to stock up!). To help me shop locally I joined the food co-op, I try to go to the Farmer's Market every week, I own a share of a farm that sells raw milk (I technically own $25 of a cow), we bought a grass-fed local steer with friends, I'm looking into a meat CSA (pork, bison, chicken, beef, eggs), I have a winter farm share (will get 4 deliveries of veggies and fruit that were flash frozen at the peak of the season), and we get 3 gallons of local (delicious) milk and 1/2 lb of butter delivered to the house each week (LOVE THIS!).

It feels great to be a part of a movement that is healthier for my family, fun to do, good for the Michigan economy, better for the environment, and kinder to animals.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Some menus to chill with....

Grilled Chicken Cobb Sandwiches--marinate chicken, grill, top with bacon and cheese, with tomato and avocado slices on the side

Serve with roasted potatoes, green beans, German cucumbers, and a green salad.....

Grilled grass-fed sirloin steaks with blue cheese sauce

Serve with corn, baked potatoes and a Michigan salad

Peach cobbler for dessert

Fresh Whitefish
from Charlevoix Michigan, topped with a beurre blanc

Pork loin with mustard, rosemary and garlic
(it was cold the other day--this was great!)

Served with mashed red-skinned potatoes, pearl onions and homemade applesauce

Peach and raspberry pie

All Hail the August Tomato!

Tomatoes rule. For a short time anyway they are the best food on Earth.

My three favorite tomato dishes this August were a tomato tart, tomato soup, and sliced tomatoes.

Let's start with the most simple:

1. A childhood favorite is sliced tomatoes with a dollop of mayonnaise. I now use canola mayo (but I should make my own). It's a guilty pleasure I allow myself at least once a summer (but I've long given up the mayo on the wedge of iceburg lettuce though).

2. Homemade tomato soup. It was heaven. Very simple recipe--had soup in an hour and a half start to finish. One son loved it, the other ate it but said it was too flavorful. I used a new Mexican cilantro I bought (it has leaves, but is spiky and looks like a cactus) and just a quick pass of the herb though the soup gave it great flavor. Served with crusty bread and it was perfect.

3. The tomato tart was SOOO good. The recipe calls for draining the tomatoes with salt on paper towel and they move in the direction of sundried tomatoes. Served on puff pastry with mozzarella and a little Parmesan, basil, olive oil and cracked paper. It was great for breakfast too!

I got my summer fix of tomatoes, but am still planning on making sauce, soup and plain old tomatoes to can for the winter!

Till the next meal.....

Monday, August 17, 2009

So much has happened food-wise since I last wrote--I guess I was too busy eating and cooking to write. Let's see if I can get caught up.

As you can imagine, much of the emphasis has been on local this summer. I've been trying to take my local focus a step further than I did last year and have been successful.

A few weeks ago at Lake Michigan with my sister Courtney, brother-in-law Tico, my mom, and extended family and friends we had some great meals. I cooked brats/sausages from one of the local butchers in Three Oaks, Michigan--Driers. I grilled the sausages and tossed them with grilled red pepper and onion (from the local farmer's market). And with that we had grilled vegetable pasta--eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tossed with Olive oil, garlic and goat cheese. A light green salad with a pesto vinaigrette with beets and tomatoes served plain on the side. The meal was the final part of an evening celebrating the 100th birthday of the cottage.

It was a hot humid night and skinny dipping abounded--some were seasoned regulars, but a newcomer to the skinny dipping scene was added that night--a nice father son swim in the pitch black (how long until he is skinny dipping with girls not dad?).

Selma (short description--neighborhood foodies doing their part to promote slow food by running a volunteer-run Friday breakfast in their home serving good food to their friends)
I cooked at Selma. Well, I was the sous chef. It is really satisfying to dish out 90 breakfasts in one morning. The Thursday night prep is the part of the evening when you can bond with your fellow volunteers and talk food, learn from others, and support each other in making good local food more important and available. When we broke for dinner we had salad, cheese, bread, and Silvio brought a fontina, blue cheese and blueberry pizza--winning combo!!!

I also introduced the kids and a few neighbor kids to Selma as well this past week. They don't get it's mission, but enjoyed seeing the chickens in the backyard and Patrick declared the waffles the best he had ever had. They had no idea that the owner of the house cures his own bacon, or that all the ingredients were local...but hopefully some of the goodness will rub off on them.

I spent 3 hours on Sunday helping to can peaches for Selma so we can have some delicious local fruit in the winter months as well. I brought home a jar of peach juice...another thing for me to refer to as liquid gold. Thick, smooth, sweet...and it was still warm when I brought it home.

We had two backyard BBQs this week with differing layers of excitement. Once local dinner of pesto pasta, tomatoes, salad, fruit, cheese and bread ended with a kid in the ER with five stitches---in a hurry to play he slipped on the stairs and his plate got the better of his finger. We thought it was worse than it was....he was lucky.

Another local dinner featured 6 kids running around---but no injuries this time. The main event for this dinner was grass fed beef topped with local cheddar. Smokey, creamy, goodness. But everything else rocked too--homemade mac and cheese (the parents praying the kids wouldn't eat it all), tomato mozzarella basil salad, spinach bake with feta, grilled vegetables, homemade blueberry muffins, even the beer was local!

A few other notable things from this month and I'll call it a night.

I saw Food Inc.. Don't think I can ever eat Tyson again. Monsanto is pure evil. A neighbor is trying to organize us all to buy a cow. I'm not sure I can let my kids eat school lunch. Everyone should see it. I'm glad Obama is in office.

I joined the Food Co-op. I'll try to shop there when I can. I bought local flour, Michigan beet sugar, and local cheeses.

I put up a lot of food for winter (but have a lot more to do)....spinach, arugula, peaches, blueberries this week, to come, dilly beans, tomato sauce, apple sauce, jams...

Last night I made egg bakes with leftover veggies (from Carrie's garden) and Michigan Bacon. Check out the picture--this was my 7 year old's serving!

Tonight was pizza. I cheated and bought the dough from Silvio. I'll always cheat. It was too good. Kids had olive oil, garlic and pepper, topped with three cheeses and hamburger on Connor's half. Our was pesto with 2 cheeses on half, and shredded zucchini and tomato and 3 cheeses on my half. His crust makes the best air bubbles and the crust is just divine.

On vacation next week--looking forward to some more local shopping and cooking.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vacation Food Reflections....

We've been on vacation all week and the internet connenction was iffy (stealing wireless from the neighbors is not a sure thing). But the food was great. We have an early morning tomorrow, so I'll be brief, but will follow up with details soon.

Best memories...
  • Abigail's basil pesto (with life size chunks of garlic)
  • Grilled leftover sandwiches--steak, chicken, grilled veggies, tomatoes, cheese.....
  • Drier's sausage!
  • Summer salads
  • Nancy's chicken burgers with peppers and onions
  • Breakfast fritatta
  • Arugula pesto
  • Brined pork-chops
  • Franks hot sauce on everything!

We returned home tonight and I was in the mood for cooking Mexican food (I've been reading the Alice Water's autobiography all week and needed to cook in my own kitchen)...I went a little crazy.

The Pics are from tonight's Mexican dinner--YUM--more later.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There are no unwanted leftovers at my house…

Ok, so you always hear the moans and groans when asked “What’s for dinner?” and the answer is ‘Leftovers.” But not if the dinner is so good, that the leftovers are fought over.

Sunday night we had the summer dinner to die for (we were 5 adults and 3 children).

Grilled Dijon/basil chicken (
Grilled zucchini and onions, marinated in garlic and balsamic vinegar
Grilled Asian eggplant
Wild rice with wheat berries, dried cherries, nuts, and a sweet soy sauce dressing
Beet salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta and walnuts tossed in a home-made honey/tamari vinaigrette
Green salad with tomatoes, arugula and cucumbers tossed with a home-made raspberry vinaigrette

So on Monday I enjoyed this meal again, twice. At lunch I had a half of a Dijon chicken breast sandwich, topped with bacon (leftover from breakfast) with zucchini, onion and munster cheese—YUM! For dinner I just made a plate of all the stuff from dinner again.

And the icing on the cake—my mom took the children out for burgers—so I finished my book, took a shower, and ate dinner alone on the porch.

Pork chops, pork tenderloin, and pizza dough in the fridge—stay tuned.

Life is good. Food is good. And I’m full until the next meal.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Flowers and liquid gold...

Fresh flowers and a jar of raspberry sauce--must be July! Already made raspberry vinaigrette, now what to put the sauce on--waffles? vanilla ice cream? brownies? Tough decisions await me.

A perfect Saturday morning...Farmer's Market and then Breakfast...

I spent the morning at the Farmer's Market--blueberries, raspberries, peaches, cucumbers, greens, zucchini, yellow squash...yum!

Upon returning home I made a delicious breakfast of Mill Pond sour-dough toast with butter, tomatoes from my garden, Zingerman's fresh mozzarella with home made lemon basil salad dressing. Topped it off with a little Roos Roast Lobster Butter coffee and I'm good to go until lunch!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Frequent the shops you love....

With the recent closing of Zanzibar, Bella Ciao, and the upcoming closing of The Earle Uptown, I want to send a reminder to everyone to frequent the stores you love--or they won't be there the next time you try to shop there.

If Whole Foods, Kroger or Meijer closed--it might not be convenient, but it wouldn't make Ann Arbor a less interesting place to live. If Kerrytown, Produce Station or Fresh Season's closed--Ann Arbor moves a few notches down in quality. And, I'd be truly bummed.

So, what can you do? Make a list. What do you love MOST about Ann Arbor? Go there, spend money, and encourage your friends to support them too. Some of us can pick 10 places to support, and others only one or two, but please do your part to keep Ann Arbor cool. You can make a list of restaurants, shops, food stores, whatever makes Ann Arbor special to you and go there first (you can also make a list of stores you won't go to). I gave up fast food a few years ago and it is great--when we go on a road trip I get meat cheese and bread from Zingerman's or a sandwich from Produce Station or a bag of bagels--that way we support the local economy even on the road. We also stop at real restaurants in the towns we travel in rather than eating fast food on the makes us slow down and appreciate every moment and we are healthier for it.

Here is my list, in no particular order....
Morgan and York
Farmer's Market
Zingerman's Creamery
Produce Station
Fresh Seasons
Silvio's Pizza
Sweet Gem Confections
Anthony's Pizza
Jerusalem Garden
Exotic Bakery (on Plymouth Rd--you must go if you like middle eastern food)
Old Town
West End Grill
Barry's Bagels
Red Hawk
Blimpy Burgers
Real Seafood
Cafe Japon
Pacific Rim
Zingerman's Roadhouse
Le Dog
Soup Du Jour

What are your favorites? Let me know so I can add them to my personal list.

I'm sure I am forgetting a few treasures in my list above....but the point is to think before you eat or shop. Is there a better place to buy this, is this the store I want to survive or is there another one more important to me? Do I really have to eat in this fast food restaurant or chain or do I have time to support something local? Do this with eating out, shopping, buying clothes and books, even when going to the movies. I only go to the Michigan Theater a few times a year--but I still donate to them--they are a vital part of making Ann Arbor a great place to live--I want them to be around when I have more time to go to the movies.

We're often lured in by the cheaper prices, the bulk quantity, but the saying still stands--you get what you pay for.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vacation Food

Many people think of vacation as a time to eat out, take a break from cooking, or let someone else cook for them. I'm the opposite. I love vacation because I finally have time to check out the local shops and farmer's markets, plan a menu, and spend some time cooking (vs. the week-night mad rush to get dinner on the table before running off to baseball, football, basketball, a concert, meeting, etc.).

In advance of a vacation I like to think about where I am going and what might be good and local from the area. I also think about dishes that are more complicated that I wasn't able to cook during the school year that I wanted to try. And I always include the family summer dishes that I must have before summer is over (teriyaki chicken, flank steak, burgers, sirloin steak and baked potatoes, shish-ka-bobs, etc.). I pack a few favorite cookbooks that might help in whatever I decide to make and hit the road.

Summer possibilities might include:
make your own grilled tortillas
grilled pizza
vegetable pasta with cheese (mozzerella, feta, goat or blue)
chicken cobb sandwiches (or salad)
ribs, corn, red skinned potatoes
turkey burgers (with ginger, spinach, feta, mint, grilled onions)
salmon (medditeranian, blackened, or with a verde sauce)
stuffed/grilled pork tenderloin
pesto pasta (arugula or basil?)

Once I have a few ideas, I see what is local and then make a plan.
what is my fruit? is it with dinner or dessert?
what are my veggies and starches?
what is the meat/main course?
do I need an appetizer?

Then I think about lunch. If I'm grilling, can I toss some veggies on the grill so I can add them to a sandwich tomorrow? Can I pre-grill brats tonight to go with leftover pasta tomorrow? Or, do I want to grill again tomorrow (check out the weather)?

Food is an adventure and an experience, for me it makes a vacation go from great to memorable.

And the best thing yet, get your friends around the table. Nothing is better than making a big delicious local dinner and eating it with your friends.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Enchiladas....a main-stay of my kitchen repertoire.

Sunday the weather was threatening storms, so I switched from the last minute the on the grill menu to the prep in advance cook in the oven crowd pleaser.

I was cooking for 15--including kids, an adult who doesn't eat peppers or onions, a vegetarian, and spice lovers and non-spicy food eaters. So three pans of two different kinds of enchiladas won the vote.

My standard chicken in flour tortillas with monterey-jack cheese on top of the red enchilada sauce was an obvious choice. But what to make for the vegetarian in the crowd? I have a great LABOR INTENSIVE spinach enchilada recipe that uses cream, cilantro, green chillies, a Cuisinart to make multiple sauces, oil fried corn tortillas--not something you whip up quickly at a small lake house filled with 15 people in bad weather. So, it was guinea pig time with the old family.

Steamed spinach--drained well then tossed with sauteed garlic, onion and roasted red pepper, rolled with with cheese with a four tortilla, topped with more cheese and a green chili sauce. It was yum.

The hot enchiladas were served with a lovely cool salad on the side with avocado, tomato, cucumber and blue cheese.

We were all stuffed and ready for naps, but just as we finished the blueberry pie, ice cream and watermelon--the storm rolled up, so we cleaned up and hit the road back home.

Tonight--leftovers (these leftovers, yum!).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Swamp Kill

I can't report on food today, even had a hard time eating. Uncle Mike (my brother-in-law) took all the kids to the swamp to catch frogs. They caught one, then they killed it, or thought they did--it woke up when they were cutting its legs off, but then they cooked it and ate it. I guess I should applaud them for eating locally.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Getting started.....

Blogging is new to me, but let me jump right in.

To understand me and how I feel about food, you need to know where I started. When I was a kid I ate hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets. Nothing with bones in it. No vegetables (maybe a carrot). In high school I drank a Coke and ate a chocolate croissant on the way to school, I usually had a Snickers and Coke for lunch (sometimes a plate of fries with a side of mayo).

My tastes (meaning the buds themselves and my environmental sensibilities) have changed.

Now I like most all foods--the only notable exception is the mushroom--and the problem is that IT doesn't like ME, so it's not my fault.

Over the creation of this blog you'll learn just how important food is to me now. I care about where I shop, what I buy, how it is cooked and served, where it is served, who is with me when I eat it, and how I can do it all better.

I'm looking forward to a new food experience though this blog and hope you enjoy going with me on the journey.

Until then....