Raspberry Beret

This post has nothing to do with hats of the french variety or the ’80s, but it does have to do with raspberries, and I wanted all of you to join me in having this song stuck in your head to infinity because I’m generous like that. I love you, Prince.

One of the most exciting discoveries about our new house last summer was finding out that our entire property is surrounded to the max by wild raspberries. We’ve got raspberries for days, and mother nature’s dedicated tree removal last summer just made room for even more raspberries. Eventually we will be overrun, but right now we’re totally on a first date with the thorny bushes, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

So on Saturday we put my sweet visiting sister Julie and her equally darling boyfriend Joe to work and we went on a little raspberry picking expedition. Here they are before being sent to the brier patch:

(Clearly Asher didn’t enjoy their company at all.)

We braved the thorns and collected as many berries as we could before the heat made us to knock off and go for a swim. As it turns out, Asher probably doesn’t have a career in berry picking, somehow his mouth kept intercepting his hand, but his stained cheeks and empty bucket told the perfect summer story.

And after eating some and setting some aside for a cake, we spread the first of a couple of batches on a cookie sheet to freeze and then store in smaller batches for the dark days of winter when we’re longing to taste summer again.

That afternoon, I made an angel food cake to take to a potluck (following the recipe and tips in this post, which I found to be really helpful) and then topped it with some fresh whipped cream and some sugar-soaked raspberries. You can check out that post for the cake recipe if you’re so inclined, and I ‘made’ the raspberries by putting them in a bowl and tossing them with a healthy handful of sugar and a little vanilla before letting them sit in the fridge for about 2 hours (more sugar=more syrup, so if you want the syrup to run down the sides of the cake be heavy handed with the sugar). My method for whipped cream is equally strict, I used a pint of whipping cream and added a handful of sugar, some vanilla (a teaspoon-ish?) and a sprinkle of cinnamon to it before whipping it to soft peaks. I spread the whipped cream around the top ring of the cake, added the raspberries and some mint leaves, and called it good. I did all of that, but what I did not do was take a picture, so we’ll just have to imagine it together. It’s so pre-internet 1985 around here today!

If Asher had nicer parents, he would live exclusively on berries, particularly frozen ones, so this was a coup not only because the raspberries are the epitome of summer sunshine flavor happy times, but also because they were 100% free. Win-win!

Happy berry picking, team.

Friday Finds

Happily, I do quite a bit of internet perusing (especially now that Drew is working nights) and read some really amazing stuff out there in the wild wild web, so I am going to start sharing some of my favorite finds from the week.

These three posts about experiencing our children grow and how bittersweet and rad it is made me think, choked me up, and made me smile all at once:

Ashley’s post on her oldest daughter loosing her first tooth and how much that is taking Ashley back.
This lovely post about bed time and children finding their voices.
This post from a great food blog about motherhood, baking brownies and birthdays. Definitely worth a read!

I want to make these bacon-chocolate-caramel turtles immediately.  And then I want to eat too many of them.  I can’t get enough of sweet and salty together.

This link teaches you how to DIY wax luminaries with a water balloon.  They’re surprisingly elegant.

These mustache pacifiers are going to be a go-to baby gift, because babies with mustaches are funny, duh.

And some thoughts from me:
Drew and I are celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary tomorrow, and noted in April that it’s been 10 years since our first smooch under a streetlight.  More to come on that, but for now I’ll say that I love that man, I love him so very, very much.

We bought a new couch this week in an effort to create more space in our smallish living room.  The couch is very comfortable, very functional, and very white.  It’s slip-covered, and I’m already thinking about dyeing it.  I knew going into it that a white couch was wildly impractical, so save your breath there, but I’m surprised that I don’t like it more.  I’ve always dreamed of white furniture and have admired it in other homes, but it’s not the right fit for us.  (Says the girl with a sherbet colored house.  Amelia, do you not know yourself at all?) Anyway, I’m sure that the dyeing process is going to be a bit of an adventure so I’ll keep you posted.

My peonies are blooming.  I mean, all peonies are blooming, but specifically the ones that I transplanted two years ago that had yet to produce any flowers since being relocated are blooming.  I have a few stems in a vase with the bolted broccoli flowers.  Might sound funny, but I actually think it’s really beautiful:

And finally, I’ve been having this smoothie every morning:
1/3 c. coconut milk
1/3. plain greek yogurt (Fage 0%)
handful of blueberries
6(ish) strawberries (from our garden!)
1/2 a banana
generous dump of cinnamon
2 TBS of essential greens powder
3 ice cubes

I’ve never really been a smoothie person, but this is really doing it for me.

I think that’s it…my parents are generously keeping Asher tomorrow night so that Drew and I can enjoy our anniversary without having to get a babysitter which is an awesome gift (thanks guys!) and Mom even sweetened the deal with a bottle of champagne.  Moms are the best.  Let me know if you’ve come across anything this week that I should see!

Greenery

Our sweet city garden is giving us lettuce (collards and berries are next!)

The lettuce, the dirt, the grass…it all smells really good right now.

We are spending our evenings in the back yard (or the parent version of evening…Asher is an early to bed type) feeding the neighbor’s pig and poking at our lettuce and dreaming big about what we want to grow this summer and some day.  “Some day” is a big topic of conversation amongst novice gardeners.  Or at least these two novice gardeners.

Collards!!

One of last year’s tomatillo husks still floating around:

(I want to grow these again just to have the husks blow around our yard, they’re such gorgeous little lanterns.)

And our broccoli starting to peek out:

Once inside we toss together our favorite spring dinner, Shrimp on salad:

(those eggs up there are from the recent visit to my aunt and uncle’s farm in NC)

We typically marinate the shrimp briefly in a little olive oil with lime juice and some salt and pepper.  (Never overlook the value of just tossing your shrimp etc in a bag with whatever non-creamy salad dressing you have on hand though, so easy, and very good!) Then we toss the shrimp in the hot pan for a few minutes, cut up whatever veggeis we have on hand and top the whole mess with some shredded hard cheese (I think this is Asiago?) and a little cracked pepper and some dressing.  BA (that’s Before Asher) I used to make our vinaigrette most nights, but these days we’re quick to reach for the bottle.  The salad dressing bottle that is, lest you think that making a salad drives me to drinking.

I love love love this time of year, love seeing everything emerging and growing, love seeing what everyone is eating and planting, love walking barefoot to the back yard and nightly ritual of standing with the hose while The Young Sir toddles around.  I love shyly hiding my hands because there’s a little dirt under my nails and talking with my mom about what we’re planting where, and dreaming about the Saturday morning market run.  It’s good to get growing.

***ALSO: Asher’s Birth Story is being featured today on Spearmint Baby, please consider jumping over to show them some love, and thank you Shari for sharing our stories!  If you’re visiting from Spearmint baby, heya!  Thanks for checking things out!***

Sloppy Joe, Slop, Sloppy Joe.

That’s right, we just jumped in my kitchen time machine to return to the early 90s for a little Lunch Lady Land dance off. Thus concludes this post.

Just kidding.

No, you might remember that Drew and I, inspired by the Meatless Mondays Movement and our checkbook, are making an effort to eat more vegetarian meals during the week and I thought that I would share one of my recipe triumphs with you.

Tempeh Sloppy Joes. Now if Tempeh sounds like a destination in Arizona to you, and not something edible, just use ground beef in place of the tempeh and go forth and be merry. This is an awesome Sloppy Joe recipe, and a great way to sneak veggies in, so whether you go meat or veggie, I highly recommend it.  This is my modified combination of a couple of recipes, so as with everything I post, by all means, make this puppy yours by adding or taking away anything that doesn’t suit you.

Amelia’s Tempeh Sloppy Joes
Serves 6 (or 4 really really generously)

1 TBS Olive Oil (If using beef or bison, you shouldn’t need this, but with ground turkey, you might still want it)
1 small zuchinnini, ends trimmed
1 carrot, top trimmed
1/2 small onion
1 stalk celery
2-3 cloves of garlic (more or less depending on your taste)
16 oz Tempeh or 1 lb ground beef etc
1 TBS steak sauce
2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
16 oz (2 c.) tomato sauce
2 TBS tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce (we use Sriacha, you can leave this out if you don’t want the heat)
Healthy dash of Italian herbs
Toasted Buns of your choice

Cut Tempeh into quarters and steam for 8 minutes according to package directions. Meanwhile, using the grater blade on your food processor, (or just the regular blade, but that grater blade is just awesome for this if you have it) grate zuchinni, onion, carrot, garlic, celery. Remove tempeh from steam, grate it directly in with the veggies.  Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil.* Add veggie/tempeh mixture and steak sauce and cook through, about 5-8 minutes.  Add vinegar, worcestershire, salt and pepper, herbs and hot sauce and toss to coat.  Add tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Allow mixture to simmer for about 10 more minutes depending on how thick you would like it to be (because of the tomato paste, it will thicken as it simmers), stirring regularly.  Toast buns, and serve it up!

*If using meat in place of tempeh, obs skip the steaming step, add your meat at this stage and brown.  Once meat is brown and crumbly, add veggie mixture. Everything else is the same.

So that’s it! I know that this seems like a lot of work for a weeknight meal, but I can get it all done in about 30 minutes, and if you don’t have a food processor, or just don’t want to use it, you could buy a bag of that broccoli/carrot pre-chopped slaw, give it a quick coarse chop and then just mash your tempeh with a fork after steaming and combine.  Also, this makes quite a bit so it’s a great one to make at the beginning of the week to have for lunches, or to freeze for another night.  Also, I tried to double this recipe once and it did not work (it never got thick) so if you do that, plan for lots of extra simmer time, ok?

Alright: the pictures.  They’re pretty bad, but I took them, so I might as well share!
Here’s what it will look like in the pan:

And then on the plate:

These gorgeous plates were a gift from my stepmother and little sister, they carried them all the way back from Japan for us, and we LOVE them!  We ate our Joes with roasted cauliflower (toss with 1 TBS each soy sauce, honey, curry powder, olive oil and season with salt and pepper, let that marinate for about 20 minutes and then roast at 450 for about 20 mins on a foil lined pan…so delicious!) and called it a night.

Now a quick note about Meatless Mondays.  This is a movement to get families all over the world to eat vegetarian just once a week, which seems reasonable enough.  Here are a couple of the environmental reasons why:

  • REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . .far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • MINIMIZE WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
  • HELP REDUCE FOSSIL FUEL DEPENDENCE. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.
  • SAVE FINITE RAIN FOREST SPACE. For each quarter-pound hamburger made from Central American beef, 55 square feet of tropical rainforest are destroyed for grazing land. When the cleared trees are burned, 500 pounds of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. We import approximately 135 million pounds of Central American beef each year.

Obviously, buying your meat locally or raising it yourself negates a lot of these concerns, but despite the pig that’s in our neighbor’s yard, Drew and I aren’t quite to the cattle rearing phase of our lives.  Most impressively, according to Michael Pollan, if everyone in America cut out meat ONE NIGHT/week, it would be the equivalent of taking 20 MILLION MID-SIZE SEDANS OFF THE ROAD.  That totally blows my mind. Plus it’s saving us an average of $15.00/week (we’re eating vegetarian quite a bit right now) or about $750.00/year.  That’s almost a family vacation.  The thing I like about this is that it reminds us that making a small change can make a big difference.  If you’re a meat and potatoes kind of gal, could you go one day a week without meat knowing that a turkey sandwich is waiting for you tomorrow?  I like these kinds of middle of the road campaigns.

Anyhow, I will stop ranting, and for those of you that are here strictly for Asher content, there’s lots of that coming your way very soon, I promise!  Thanks for playing.

thought snap shots.

More on Random Tuesday…(ed note: I wrote this last night, must not have hit publish, and now it’s Wednesday so please forgive any day of the week confusion that it may appear that I’m having.)

You might remember that Asher is extremely particular about shoes.  As it turns out, that extends not just to his footwear, but to mine as well.  Feeling emboldened by our recent (and long gone) warm spell, I ordered some summer sandals for myself.  They arrived in the mail yesterday so of course I pulled them out of the box and popped them on to give them a little test run.  Asher took one look at them and burst into tears.  In fact, he would not stop crying until I took them off and returned the offending shoes to the box.  This morning I put them on again in the privacy of our bedroom, walked into the room where Drew and Asher were and again…waterworks.

I guess he’s not a fan.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of Asher’s extreme disgust with my shoe purchase but I’ve now hatched a plan to get in touch with Christian Louboutin’s mother (mostly likely via the big red phone connected to the sky) and ask at what age he started demonstrating a love of footwear.  We just might be on to something here.
*****

I love this:


(from here)
*****

My daily commute is now marked with little shivers of delight as I start to see color returning to the world again.  While it may have snowed this past Sunday (so uncool, Ma Nature!) the white only served as an even more lovely backdrop for the green and pink buds emerging and the insanely cheery daffodils that are dotting the Virginia landscape right now.  It was also the perfect excuse to hunker down and do a whole lot of nothing in our house all day on Sunday.  You’ve probably never seen so much laundry get ignored in your entire life, but it felt good to be together making oatmeal cookies and taking naps and saying goodbye to what will hopefully be the last week of wintry weather.  I also made some tomato soup, likely the last batch of the season…or at least the last batch with grocery store tomatoes.  I know, I know, I might be getting a little ahead of myself there.

(tomatoes from last year’s garden…be still my Summer-loving heart)

This is my tomato soup recipe, with the caveat that it’s probably different every time and that I don’t actually know the proportions for any of it, so if you would rather have a real recipe, I defer to Ina and her love of all things done well.  Her recipe is here.

Amelia’s “Ugh It Snowed” Tomato Soup Recipe

Ingredients:
2 TBS Olive Oil (or butter, why not?)
small-medium white onion, chopped
3 cans diced tomatoes
as much garlic as you can handle, crushed
4(ish) cups veg or chicken broth (remember we use Better than Bouillon and love it)
Celery salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
herbs galore (I use an italian mix with extra dashes of basil and oregano…can’t wait to have those fresh again!)
Bay leaf

OPTIONAL:
-grated zuchinni, carrot, squash or any other veggies in that general family that sound good in soup to you and need to be used. Just remember that the carrots will make it pretty sweet, so if that’s not your bag, take it easy on those.
-red pepper flakes or siracha for some heat
-heavy cream/sour cream/plain yogurt to dollop on top.  Yes please.

In a heavy pan heat olive oil, add onions and sautee until clear.  Add crushed garlic and toss around.  (Add any other veggies that you might be using at this point and continue to sautee until all veggies are soft before adding tomatoes.) Dump cans of tomatoes, with juices, into pan and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.  Add broth, celery salt, pepper, herbs, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer approximately 30 minutes.  Taste.  Do you like it?  What’s that?  It needs a little more salt?  Ok, do that now.  Remove bay leaf and blend either with an immersion blender (assuming that you haven’t broken yours by almost blending off your thumb as I recently did) or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches.  Drew likes it chunky, I like it smooth smooth smooth, best of luck sorting that out in your home.

Serve with the gooiest cheesiest grilled cheese/cheese toast that you can muster and turn into a 5-year-old again for a hot second.  Divine.
*****

I know most of you already saw this, but let’s go out on a high note.  I’m the luckiest lady in the entire world (in my completely unbiased opinion) and here are the two main reasons why:

Happy Tuesday!

yum.

Drew and I have been working on incorporating more and more vegetarian meals into our regular food rotation both from a cost standpoint, and from an ethical one.  I’ll spare you the majority of the soapbox rant, but the gist is that if we’re going to be eating meat, I’d like to know as much as possible about what the animal’s life was like leading up to it’s turn on my plate, and that knowledge comes at a slightly higher cost.  Rather than going broke on this point, or compromising our food values, we’ve just decided to go halvsies and eat vegetarian about half the week.  One of the meals that we made this week was a Quinoa “Risotto” that was so daggone good I thought you might like to take it for a spin too.

I modified it from this recipe (also the source of the picture above as I was too quick with the fork to snap a picture when we actually ate it.)

Quinoa Risotto (Learn more about the awesome grain that is Quinoa here)

  • 4 cups cooked quinoa (make sure to really season it with lots of herbs etc while it’s cooking, makes it extra tasty)
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano or parmesan…something salty and stinky.
  • 14 oz tomato sauce, homemade or canned, work with what you have.
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable stock (We buy a jar of Better Than Bouillon that lasts quite a while for the cost. I recommend that.)
  • veggies! I used onion, eggplant and cauliflower, because that’s what I had, but any veggies that you have on hand will work.  Chop them up.
  • clove of garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper, italian herbs
  • zjush of olive oil

Cook your quinoa according to directions on the package to yield 4 cups.  In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil, add veggies and garlic, sautee until starting to soften, add tomato sauce and veggie stock and bring to a boil.  Add cooked Quinoa, cover, and let bubble for another 5 minutes.  Serve into dishes and top with cheese.  I highly recommend doing a really coarse grate/thin slice of cheese because it then gets all gooey and cheesey and life gets a little better.  Generously serves 4.

There you have it! A very affordable main course in under 15 minutes.  Yum.

Boys.

My brother Drew came for a visit this past week with our nephew Jack.  I soaked this up for three reasons: 1. I love my big brother. 2. I love my nephew. and 3. I can’t get enough of (bigger) little boys these days as I daydream about Asher growing up.  Jack is so in tune with what’s around him, full of three-year-old zeal, young enough to still want to snuggle, but old enough to inform me that big boys don’t give kisses.  He calls me “Asher’s mommy” and we talked about woodpeckers and triangles, watched him share his trucks with “Baby Asher” and laughed as he squealed with devilish delight as he told us his knock knock jokes.  I have mentioned on here before about being nervous about raising a little boy, but after a weekend of nothing but little boy energy, all I could think about was how incredibly excited I am to witness and be a part of Asher’s blossoming world.  While Jack is a whirlwind of what’s-next-energy, the wind that’s blowing off of his little storm is invigorating and inviting, his curiosity is contagious, and his questioning eyes are grounding.  We just love this kid.


Blueberry Pie.

Here are a couple of pictures from the 4th.  If you ever want a quickie play pen, I highly recommend the baby pool option, Asher was happy as a clam in there and fairly well contained.  I have been making the blueberry pie from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook for a number of years now and feel that it can’t be beat, the recipe doesn’t call for much sugar, so the blueberries really shine.  This year we also had a pint of blackberries, so I tossed those in for good measure, and that seemed to be a success.  I think that’s what I love about baking with fruit, you can pretty much couple any fruits up and count on tasty results!  Here’s the pie recipe for those that are interested!

Blueberry Pie

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Pate Brisee
  • 8 cups (about 4 pints) blueberries, picked over
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Directions

  1. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out one disk of dough to a 12-inch round. With a dry pastry brush, sweep off excess flour; fit dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate, pressing it into edges. Trim dough to a 1/2-inch overhang all around. Fold edge of dough over or under, and crimp as desired. Roll out remaining dough in the same manner; transfer dough (on parchment) to a baking sheet. Chill pie shell and dough until firm, about 30 minutes.
  2. Place blueberries in a large bowl; with your hands, crush about 1/2 cup of berries, letting them fall into the bowl as you work. Add sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice; stir to combine. Spoon mixture into chilled pie shell, mounding berries slightly in the center. Dot with butter. Remove dough from refrigerator, and place over blueberry filling. Tuck edge of top dough between edge of bottom dough and rim of pan. Using your fingers, gently press both layers of dough along the edge to seal, and crimp as desired. I used cookie cutters to make the star shapes which seemed appropriate for the 4th…I actually love using shapes on pies in general, it makes the pie ridiculously charming.
  3. Using a paring knife, cut several vents in top of dough to allow steam to escape. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and cream. Brush surface with egg wash, being careful not to let it pool. Freeze or refrigerate pie until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in lower third.
  4. Place pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking, rotating sheet halfway through, until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling and have thickened, 40 to 50 minutes more. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool completely. The pie is best eaten the day it is baked, but it can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.

20 years

Happy Anniversary to Mom and Skip!  It’s been 20 years since this photo was taken, and the first thing that comes to mind is remembering how excited I was to receive an invitation to the wedding in the months leading up to the big day…Mom slipped one in the mail addressed only to me, and I just thought that was the most special thing in the world.  A lot of life has taken place since this morning 20 years ago, but I am so grateful for these two!

It Begins…

Asher had his first “solid” meal this morning!  (Please note the excellent bowl that he ate out of…this is one of a set that my stepmom Ruth brought back from Japan for us.)  To say that Asher was an enthusiastic first time eater is a bit of understatement.  He was seriously jazzed with the whole setup, particularly the feel of the spoon in his hands and on his gums, but really start to finish he was way into eating.  Per the New Parents Handbook that exists in my mind, we have video of the big show, but here are a some pictures of our big guy conquering this whole new world of utensils and textures for now.  Bon Apetit!

What a look of focus!

gimme gimme gimme!

Got any more?