potato leek soup

I’d never grown leeks before, but thought I’d try…and I’m so glad I did. Mass produced leeks lack, what all mass produced veggies lack, and that’s taste.

my leeks 1

Backyard leeks are incredibly powerful,

Less is more with these beauties…

my leeks 2

Not a gardener? Well then stop by your local farmers market and pick up a few…or your local health food store…or the organic produce aisle of your local supermarket.

The difference is incredible and well worth the expense…see for yourself.

Potato Leek Soup

Print this recipe

potatoes, leeks, onion

1.5 lbs. potatoes

3/4 to 1 lb. leeks – chopped

1/2 onion – chopped

4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock…whichever you prefer…

juice from 1-2 lemons

olive oil

a couple tablespoons of butter

salt and pepper to taste

That’s it.

Here’s what to do;

First, wash and peel the potatoes, then chop.

Second, clean each leek, chop white parts only.

cleaned leeks

trimmed leeks

Peel and chop onion.

choped onion

Splash enough olive oil to coat bottom of a heavy bottomed cook pot.

Heat over medium heat.

Add chopped onion and a bit of butter…

caramelized onion

Saute until browned.

Add chopped leeks…

chopped leek

Toss in a bit more butter…don’t be afraid…

Saute for a few more minutes.

Add chopped potatoes.

potatoes and onions

Toss and coat with buttery, browned onions/leeks…

Add a bit more butter…

Mix well.

9.adding stock

Pour in stock.

Stir.

Add a good pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir.

Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice…

Cover and simmer for about an hour.

slighly pureed in pot

From here it’s up to you;

Do you prefer a pureed version of potato leek soup? If so, then mix potato and leeks in a blender, with a bit of stock…keep blending in small batches until desired consistency is met…add more salt and pepper to taste…

Or, if that’s not your style, why not enjoy it, as is…?

Final option.

Utilize a hand mixer and puree only some…thus creating a smashed up soup, that’s what I did.

Whichever you choose…

Finish with ringlets of freshly chopped leeks (greenish part) and possibly even a splash of cream…

potato leek soup served

Serve with freshly baked bread.

freshly baked bread

Enjoy.

s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g money ideas

I’m all about saving money, not spending money or simply utilizing what I have.

Though, of course, money is a necessity for a lot of useful things, like new eyeglasses, and even sometimes those not so ‘needed’ things…like chocolate or match box cars…but today I’d like to share five ways I saved money this week…in some cases, even made money;

1. Brought my coffee from home instead of buying take-out.

2. Packed my lunch (and Finns) at home, including beverages (water in re-usable glass jars), and snacks.

3. Purchased a down winter jacket (Adidas) from a local consignment shop (a steal at $15!).

4. Collected $25 from the children’s consignment shop I consign with (this is where I made money).

5. Borrowed books and movies from our local library.

The only money I spent was $15 for the down jacket. I have to post a photo of it – I love it!

Now I know most of you probably already do a lot of these things, so this is really a friendly reminder…

There has been much talk about preparing food at home, packing lunches, investing in travel coffee mugs, etc…but with the holiday season upon us and time always moving faster and faster, why not be reminded of these little ways to save money and hassle.

Why not shop at a consignment shop? Why not check out books from your local library? Why wouldn’t you consign your good unwanted items? Making lunch at home requires a bit of fore thought, but not that much…really.

Saving money means doing more of what you want to do…whatever that may be.

What little things do you do to save money?

Enjoy!

so cliche, yet so true

Time is something which can pass s-l-o-w-l-y, like when your waiting in line at the DMV (department of motor vehicles) or fast, like when your on holiday and suddenly (or so it seems) it’s time to get back on the plane…and return to ‘reality’…

Though the past few months (or should I say years?), lightening speed, is a more accurate descriptive for how I feel time passing…how can it be November 18th, 2013 – already? What?

It seems the (now) routine of school, work, play, cooking, dishes, running errands, grocery shopping, paying bills, preparing for winter (or whatever season is upon us), returning phone calls and emails, keeping up with the business, planning for holidays, birthdays, writing, making time for fun…creates the feeling that time is always winning – that there is never ‘enough’… time.

They (who are they anyway?) say when you get ‘older’ time ‘speeds up’ and when you have children you see time passing before your eyes. Children are the physical form of time passing. They are newborns, then babies, then toddlers, then pre-schoolers…there is no denying the passage of time once one has a child – the months fly by as do the years and your child is the daily reminder of this.

Granted one does not need to have a child to realize life is short.

The question for me now is how to juggle doing what I want to do (without feeling guilty) with what I need to do…

I enjoy doing so many things, though time doesn’t always allow…

I need to do so many things, though time doesn’t always allow…

I want to do so many things, yet time doesn’t always allow…

I hope to do so many more things, will time allow?

I recently came across this quote from Marty Rubin,

“Time does not pass, it continues”

So, I’ve decided to try and see life as always continuing and growing (despite feeling like I’m always trying to ‘catch-up’) versus never having enough time…trusting there is (and will be) enough time…simply trying to stay in the present (not always easy)…

Enjoying the moments when time seems to ‘stand still…’

beachHow do you make time for the things you love and the things you must do?

When does time stand still for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments please…

Enjoy.

ooey, gooey, slime

Halloween is tomorrow, here in the states, and we’ve been busy!

Visiting ‘haunted’ places, thinking about costume design (below, Finn working on the beginnings of the creepy, hairy, scary, slimy, monster costume – red marks on his cheeks, ‘scars’….),

costume design

chattering teeth, witches and warlocks and of course ghosts and all things ‘creepy’…below, consignment find ($3) – Mr. Bones…I prefer the homemade costume myself…

consignment skeleton

On another note, while we were out and about one day Finn asked if we could get a few skeletons, skulls and rats – ‘creepy stuff mamma’, he asked…

My reply,

‘We have creepy stuff. Up in the attic’…(I had a few boxes of Halloween decorations that I had made and bought for a party we had years ago…)

So, at Finns urging, we turned our sunroom into the ‘creepy’ room! He is so into Halloween this year. Being almost four, he ‘gets’ it now. We’re already planning next years party…

halloween fun

Who knew spiders, skulls, glow in the dark skeletons and big black toy rats could be so much fun! I decided to cover the furniture with black fabric and now our room is fit for a vampire or two…

skull, spiders and cauldron of bones

crows

We also decided we should make some slime…green, gooey, slime, it seemed like the perfect ending to an afternoon of creepiness…plus, I was wanting to experiment with ideas for the ‘slime’ part of the creepy, hairy, scary, slimy monster costume…and what almost four year old doesn’t like to get his/her hands into a bit of green ‘slime’….

hands in slime

Have fun making it yourself!

Here’s what you’ll need and how to do it;

SLIME
1/2 cup of glue (non toxic)
1/2 cup of water
several drops of food coloring
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Borax

1. Mix the glue and water together

2. Add a couple of drops of food coloring

3. In a separate bowl mix 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon of Borax

4. Add the glue mix to the borax mix

5. Stir the mixture until it thickens …

Voila’ – SLIME!

Hope you have a creepy, scary, fun and safe halloween….

ooey gooey slime

Enjoy!

recycling at its best

Recycling.

A lot of people do it.

And, unfortunately, a lot of people, don’t. Why one wouldn’t is beyond me…

Anyway, I am someone who does. I love recycling, repurposing and general re-use of good quality items. Why not right?

My town has a brilliant concept – it’s called a swap trailer. It’s a place where townspeople can drop off unwanted but good items, for another townsperson to take home and use. Brilliant.

The photos you see above are some the recent finds I’ve scored over the past few months…to see more treasures, go here.

The swap trailer is conveniently located at our local transfer station…so people can drop off their recycling (cardboard, cans, bottles, etc.) their trash as well as their unwanted stuff.

I love our swap trailer (aka freebie barn). I have found some great things over the years, so much so that the NYTimes took notice…it’s still surreal that my house was in the NYTimes…

Regardless of who takes notice or not, it’s a resource which is beneficial for people of all income brackets as well as the planet. Simple. Brilliant. Fun.

Try starting a swap shop of sorts in your town…you just never know what you may find!

Enjoy

missing this space

I have been missing this place.

This space of food, fun and thriftiness…this world of blogging…

To be clear, it has not been a choice of mine.

Rather, it’s been more of a consequence of a martini meeting my muse, my laptop…or should I say, our laptop. Our one and only laptop. Our only ‘mobile’ device. Our only computer.

Michael (my partner) and I share a laptop and neither of us have i-phones or any phone of that sort…hence why you won’t find me on twitter or Facebook (at least regularly) – it’s impossible to ‘keep-up’ with our home dial-up service. Seriously i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e.

We still only have access to dial-up internet service from our home. No cell service. No satellite service. No cable service. We rely on our phone line to connect us to the world wide web.

Shocking. I know…so when our computer was not working properly our life (online) came to a sudden halt.

Yikes how dependent we are upon this little (yet very vital) piece of plastic, wires and buttons…

I digress, our laptop keeps our business running smoothly and this blog a chuggin’… it allows me access the world wide web I cannot always access at home, so when a martini was mixed up with our beloved keyboard, well, it was a definite, ‘oh no’ moment.

I’m not naming names, but it wasn’t me.

A trip to the Mac store validated the fact that it needed a new keyboard. I was relived. That’s it? YEAH!! I wanted to scream with joy!

‘You mean it’s fixable?’, I said to the tech. He said, ‘yes’ and it will be ready tomorrow. WOW! I was so relieved…

I didn’t lose all those photos and all those documents and everything else which lives on this portable device…note to self, back-up info. more than once every few months…

So, here I am again.

Ready to share more fabulous recipes and silly stories about my freebie barn finds and my life…plus, I’m looking forward to catching up with all the blogs I follow – I’ve missed them!

Enjoy the weekend!

fresh corn, basil and tomato tart…perfect for a maine lobster bake…

Michael (my partner) and Finn (my 3.5 year old son) were out for a few hours, helping a friend put together the necessary components for a lobster bake…

Seaweed. Rocks. Wood to build the fire (and maintain it for hours). A few canvas tarps. And most importantly, a dug space. A pot in the earth so to speak… in which to bake the lobsters, corn and clams.  A real Maine lobster bake.

Hot rocks layer the bottom of the ‘pot’ (a hole dug into sand or soil). Seaweed is dropped on top, creating steam…lobsters are placed on top of this, and then they are topped with another layer of seaweed and a few splashes of sea water…sizzle, sizzle, sizzle…

seaweed + steam

lobsters, corn + seaweed

Corn is layered next, followed by more water, seaweed and then finally, the clams…more sea water and more seaweed are added, and then the tarps are tossed over, covering the opening, thus creating a ‘lid.’

tarps

As the sun sets over the Atlantic, lobsters bake, in the ground, on an island…

sunset

freshly steamed lobsters, corn and clams

I digress…this (potluck) lobster bake, and the fact that Michael and Finn were out for a few hours helping organize the party, is what inspired me to try this recipe.

It’s a recipe I found some time ago…torn from a magazine I regretfully do not know (note to self, write down the month, the year and the title of the magazine, from which the recipe was removed…), and I had yet to make it…

Basil was in the garden, corn I could buy 6 minutes down the road at a local farm stand (my corn is not ready yet), I had eggs (from same local farm stand), cream and enough grape tomatoes to give it a go…I decided this is what I was going to bring to the potluck lobster bake;

A fresh corn, basil and tomato tart.

complete

Plus, I had one hour of uninterrupted time – something truly treasured – now that I’m a parent, and phenomenal lighting, so I prepped, photographed and baked this scrumptious tart in only 60 minutes.

Fun.

Gluten free? Just substitute flour with a gluten free flour and enjoy…

 Fresh corn, basil and tomato tart

Print this recipe!

Ingredients;

ingrediants 1

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs (despite only seeing one in the photo)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

1.5 cups fresh corn kernels (2-3 ears of corn, depending on size) – steamed or boiled for 2-3 minutes

peel the corn 1

remove corn kernals

1/2+ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

chopped basil

1/2+ tsp. salt

1/2+ tsp. freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup freshly chopped tomato

fresh basil

spring of fresh basil for garnish

First the cornmeal crust;

What to do;

adding dry to wet 2

1. In a medium bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high for about 30 seconds.

2. Add sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Beat until combined.

3. Beat in 1 of the eggs until combined.

ball is formed 3

4. Beat in cornmeal and flour, until ball begins to form.

5. Shape into disk with hands and wrap in wax paper and chill for 30-60 minutes or until easy to handle.

chilled dough + tart pan

Next, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

– Lightly press dough on bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom…

press into pan and up sides

work dough towards the sides of the pan and then gently with your fingertips, force the dough upwards, along the sides of the tart pan,

even sides

keeping the thickness even all around and up to the brim. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The dough is so malleable, it moves upwards with ease…make sure you keep all sides uniform and to the brim (to prevent overflow, over the top of the crust, when filling).

crust close-up

– Line crust with double thickness of foil and bake for 10 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 6-10 minutes more, or until pastry is set.

While that is happening…

pouring cream

eggs + cream blended

– In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining two eggs and cream.

corn + basil added to eggs

blend all

– Stir in corn, basil and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

tart filled

– Pour over crust.

baked

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Remove sides of pan to serve.

complete

Top with chopped tomato and fresh basil.

top view slices

side angle view sliced

Makes 8 servings or more if sliced smaller…

tart with cucumbers

 Sliced cucumbers and lime are in the background – I brought a plate of these (cucumbers are plentiful right now) as well as blueberry crisp. Abundant summer fruits – love it!

Enjoy.

summertime potato salad

Potato salad is synonymous with summer in New England (well, at least in my world it is)…

Potato salad and Maine lobster.

Potato salad and hotdogs.

Potato salad and burgers.

Potato salad and veggie burgers.

Potato salad and kabobs.

Potato salad and grilled fish.

Potato salad and just about any sandwich you can think of…

Potato salad.

Need I say more?

Yum.

While I have yet to grow potatoes (on next years list); green beans I’ve mastered…

green beans I've mastered

green beans are what give this potato salad its’ crisp loveliness as well as its’ freshness…

Green beans and lemon juice to be precise.

squeezed lemon

Lemons are another favorite of mine. I love using lemon juice instead of vinegar…plus, lemon juice is so good for us – it’s alkaline (not acidic ) and high in vitamin C – both of which are immune builders…

Back to potatoes and green beans.

Combine the two with a bit of mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have the makings for a delicious (and nutritious) potato salad.

Enjoy on its’ own or serve as a side to a number of mains…

Potato salad with green beans and onion (preferably, red onion)

print this recipe!

*adapted from the cook book, The Frugal Gourmet

Ingredients;

2 pounds potatoes (russet, gold, yukon), skin on

potatoes in white bowl

3/4 fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces (this is one recipe I do not recommend using the frozen counterpart)

cut green beans

2 tablespoons olive oil (for blanching)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (white or yellow onion could suffice (as I did here), though, I do recommend red onion – visually and flavor wise, red onion is what this recipe aught to have!)

2 hard boiled eggs

For the dressing;

dressing ingrediants

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (olive oil will suffice too)

1/4 mayonnaise

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

What to do;

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil uncovered.

Then simmer 30-40 minutes (depending upon type of potato used) or until very tender when pierced with a knife.

Carefully drain and allow to cool.

Once cool, peel and cut the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.

potatoes cubed

While potatoes are simmering away, blanch the cut beans for about 3-4 minutes in a pot of boiling water (I just use a heavy bottomed skillet, filled 3/4 with water, add the beans and then toss quickly with tongs…) with a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

blanching green beans

Quickly drain and rinse the beans under cold running water, to stop the cooking…you want them cooked, yet crisp.

Add to the cut potatoes, shredded egg, and onions.

ingrediants added

Prepare the dressing, pour over veggies and egg,

pour dressing

combine dressing with ingrediants

toss gently and finish with freshly chopped parsley, a pinch or two more of salt and freshly ground pepper.

finish with parsely

Enjoy.

versatile swiss chard becomes a tart

I’ve found swiss chard to be one of the most forgiving greens to grow. Having said this, kale is also very tolerant. For me, the challenge with kale is that it does not have the ‘softness’ that swiss chard has thus is not so easily substituted for spinach…swiss chard on the other hand, is.  Swiss chard is versatile, easy to grow, nutritious and abundant this time of year…

swiss chard ready to cut

Granted, kale grows well into the cooler months and can easily be substituted for spinach or any dark leafy green, though there is something about swiss chard (at least for me) that I just love…perhaps it’s the red and green contrast or simply its abundance all spring, summer and fall…you can count on swiss chard to be there when spinach is not. I like kale  but I love swiss chard…

swiss chard

I plant swiss chard in the early spring and enjoy it all summer and into the late fall…

baby swiss chard

During the hot days of summer I rely on it to become my ‘spinach.’ Spinach bolts when the weather turns hot – swiss chard does not…one row will give nutritious greens for months.

I simply cut the larger, outer leaves, and more grows back! Plant seeds, water, nurture, cut, grow, cut, grow, cut…grow…

Enjoy it in recipes which call for spinach or swiss chard. Simply cut or tear the leaves away from the thick stem, chop and then steam, saute, bake or add to soups.

swiss chard piled on board

My personal favorite is a swiss chard and ricotta tart. I use two different recipes. The one below is an open faced tart. Both require basically the same ingredients; the difference – one is open faced and one is not…

This recipe is the simplest of the two as it only requires a baking sheet and one puff pastry sheet…I have yet to make my own puff pastry, though I so want to…but, until then, a store bought one (without the high fructose corn syrup) will suffice…

So buy yourself a packet of puff pasty and get going!

This recipe also freezes well…plan ahead, bake ahead…dinner or a delicious appetizer is served…

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tart

Print this!

Ingredients;

1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry. One sheet thawed. Save remaining sheet for another project…

1 large egg beaten with one teaspoon water (for egg wash)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

15 ounces ricotta cheese (one small container)

2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, if you have it)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh, if you have it)

12 ounces fresh swiss chard (frozen works well too – be sure to thaw and squeeze dry) – spinach can be substituted or a combination of the two.

What to do;

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unfold one pastry sheet, pinching seams together, if necessary…and roll out to cover baking sheet. Fold over edges, just slightly, to create an edge. Brush with egg wash (if desired).

2. Prick bottom, all over with fork. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over the bottom; place tart on lower rack in preheated oven, for 5-8 minutes, or until cheese lightly browns. Let cool a few minutes.

ricotta + pastry

3 .While baking, combine combine ricotta and next five ingredients.

ricotta ingredients

4. Chop and saute swiss chard, in a large skillet, over medium heat. Cook in batches if necessary. Drain excess liquid.

sautee chard

5. Spoon about 2/3 ricotta mixture onto the baked pastry shell and then top with swiss chard. Dollop remaining ricotta mixture…

toppings on pastry

6. Finish with parmesan.

7. Top with fresh basil.

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set, in 350 degree oven.

pastry baked

9. Cut and serve.

enjoy!