the end of June is here

The end of June is here which means picking fresh strawberries, enjoying garlic scapes and the the first harvest of swiss chard and kale…plus, the 4th. of July is just around the corner!

strawberries

 

more strawberries

 

strawberries 2

 

garlic scape

 

garlic scapes

 

Yeah for all things homegrown!

 

Enjoy.

yeah for summer!

Time. It keeps moving forward…and here in Maine, it’s so obvious. Obvious because of the cycle of the seasons and the flowers (or lack of) each season brings.

After being here, year round these past six years, I’ve begun to notice the pattern of the flowers on this peninsula. First it’s the snow drops, then the tulips, followed by the daffodils, the apple blossoms, the ferns…the buttercups, forget me nots… and it goes on and on until the chill of fall begins putting things back to sleep…

ferns

buttercups and forget me nots

I’ve been wanting to post since before the daffodils

daffodils open

and before the apple trees began to bud.

apple buds

 

I then I tried before their blossoms appeared, though now those beautiful flowers are long gone…

apple blossoms I did take full advantage of bringing a few inside while they were here…they are (were) so beautiful!

I tried to write while the lilacs were still buds

lilac buds

and winter jackets were still needed, though while the jackets (thankfully) are finally packed away, the lilac flowers have come and gone too.

lilacs

I can say the same about when the rosa rugosa started to bud; I wanted to post, but time escaped me, again…It was so exciting when their buds finally began to open and their greenery popped out in early spring,

rugosa beginnings

though now they are even more intoxicating – their sweet scent being carried on the wind, into my (now) open kitchen windows…luxury, to say the least.

rugosa buds

rugosa

The lupines are here (though they are almost gone now too)

IMG_4660_2 lupines

and the iris’s are blooming, though quickly passing.

iris

Tiger lilies are beginning to bud and other types have already blossomed.

tiger lilly buds

I look forward to my peonies, nasturtiums and morning glories…though realize they too will come and go. But, I’m not rushing, nor forgetting to appreciate the here and now! While spring may be ending, summer is just beginning!

peony bud

So while the flowers, whichever they may be, are here, I will enjoy them. I will pick them, eat them (nasturtiums), give them away and decorate with them.

For me, late spring and all of summer is a time of freshly picked flowers in every room, freshly harvested vegetables from the backyard, and the hope that with the heat, comes a more slow pace, if only for a few weeks…

Flowers remind me just how fleeting life can be and how beautiful it is.

And don’t even get me started on all the loveliness in the vegetable garden, time goes quickly there too! If you don’t get your seeds/plants in on time, well, you miss out…

Here’s a sneak peek at what is happening back there!

chive flowers

swiss chard

lettuce

pansys

I’ve never tried starting pansy’s from seed and this year I did! I’m so pleased that they are finally blooming!!

kale

potatoes

the garden

Happy Summer!

 

grown up grilled cheese

Every now and again I’m in the mood for a grilled cheese sandwich… not just cheese, melted on bread, no, I like mine with veggies, herbs and cheese or any combination thereof. Grown-up style…

This wasn’t a ‘planned meal’ by any means, I just used what I had on hand – a bit of fresh parsley, broccoli, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Pesto would have been good too or fresh basil, the options are endless – use what you have – get creative, have fun with an old (and easy) favorite!

Cheese, bread and veggies – what could be better? Are you vegan? Well, then, use vegan cheese!

ingredients

Simply saute veggies in a bit of olive oil, add a pinch of two of salt and pepper.

saute

 

Butter one side of each slice of bread (whatever kind of bread you like).

Place one slice of bread, buttered side down, onto a skillet over medium heat.

Place sauteed veggies on bread first, then top with cheese…

melt cheese

cover with lid (for a short time to help cheese melt), then top with second slice of bread, and flip to brown the other side.

Remove from pan, let rest a few minutes and enjoy.

Grown-up grilled cheese, yum!

Need a summer inspired sandwich – go here!

What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

handmade chocolate, almond, coconut bars

A few weeks ago I posted about roasting almonds. What a simple and delicious treat that was to make (and give)…

Though, I must be honest, the real reason behind roasting almonds was to make handmade coconut, almond bars!

The recipe calls for roasted almonds, so, I made them… 

Then, I enjoyed a few and stored the rest until I had time to begin the process of making what I was really wanting to make – the handmade chocolate bars…

I’ve always wanted to try making homemade chocolate treats and Karen Solomon offers up an irresistible recipe in her book, jam it, pickle it, cure it. 

So I tried it.

Though, not in one day. Not with a busy schedule and an even busier four year old…this was a project spread out over a few days and one late night…late because I had to wait until the boys were asleep – these were going to be a surprise!

First I roasted the almonds. Then stored them. Well, not all of them, I did enjoy a few…

roasted almonds

Then, a few days later I prepared and baked the coconut, almond bars.

bars cooling

Then wrapped, stored, and hid (they were going to be a surprise, remember?) the prepared bars for a few more days…

And finally, when time allowed (under the cover of darkness) I coated each with chocolate…I don’t have photos of this step because I lacked natural light (it was late at night while the boys slept)…plus, I needed both hands to dip and twirl the bars once coated…

chocolate covered bars

The finished product was well worth the wait (and planning time), so don’t let a lack of time stand in your way. Consider spreading the process over a few days and you’ll be rewarded with a sweet treat unlike any other.

bar split in two

No additives, preservatives or things unknown to most…just simple ingredients arranged with love. Too bad I didn’t get an almond in the shot…

No need for a dozen candy bars? Why not wrap individually and give as gifts? Or freeze a few for those days when nothing but chocolate will do…or add a few to a little ones Easter basket or give as party favors? The ideas are endless…

So much joy in a little bar. Who knew?

Coconut almond bars

Print this recipe!

slightly adapted from – jam it, pickle it, cure it, and other cooking projects, by Karen Solomon

Here’s what you’ll need;

2 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

24-28 whole roasted salted almonds

2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

What to do;

To make the bars, preheat oven to 350 degrees F., and prepare a rimmed baking sheet with a thin sheen of oil.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl and mix with a fork. You don’t have to beat the whites – just make sure the sugar, vanilla and salt are well incorporated.

Fold in the coconut. The batter will be stiff, like oatmeal.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the batter into your hand, and shape into a 1 1/2 inch log. (*side note – these bars could be made smaller too and then just use one almond per bar) Press 2 almonds into the top of the log, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

bars ready to be baked

Follow suit with the remainder of the batter. You should have at least 12 bars.

Bake for 13-17 minutes, or until the bars are just brown at the edges.

bars browned

Let cool 1 minute, transfer to a wire rack, and leave for about 30 minutes, or until completely cool.

bars cooling

To coat the bars, prepare the baking sheet with a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper, and have it ready.

Heat the chocolate over a double boiler and stir until it is melted and quite satiny. You should be able to drop it in ribbons from the end of the fork.

Using two forks, drop a bar into the chocolate and coat lightly on all sides, then quickly transfer to the waxed paper. Dip the remaining bars. If the chocolate gets too thick or your chocolate starts to get stiff, heat the chocolate some more, stirring well to distribute the heat.

Leave the finished candies at room temperature for about 4 hours, or until completely cool.

chocolate covered bars

How to store;

Store in an airtight tin or a sealable plastic bag, at room temperature, for up to two weeks or freeze.

Do you have a favorite homemade candy recipe? If so, share a link below!

enjoy!

roasted almonds

I’m attempting to make hand made chocolate bars for Valentines day and was in need of roasted almonds…I had almonds, but not roasted almonds…after a quick (well, not so quick with my dial-up internet connection – I know, what?) search online, I realized these smokey beauties would be a cinch to make.

olive oil and salt covered almonds

All you need is a bit of kosher salt, some olive oil and a cookie sheet.

I placed a cup of raw almonds in a bowl, drizzled with a bit of olive oil (just enough to coat each nut), threw in a good pinch of kosher salt – tossed well and then placed nuts onto a baking sheet.

Baking sheet went into a pre-heated 400 degree F. oven and baked for 10 minutes.

roasted almonds 2

Voila – roasted almonds.

roasted almonds

Such a simple snack to make!

Roasted nuts will keep for weeks in an airtight container…

Do you have a favorite recipe for roasted nuts?

If so, please share below!

Enjoy.

roasted beets

Roasted beets

These sublime beauties are a cinch to prepare.

Really.

In years past I’ve grown and harvested many, many beets;

veggies

though last years erratic weather prevented an abundant crop, sadly, I had only a few…

beet in ground

so, off to the farmers market I go!

unwashed beets

Wash, scrub (if necessary) and remove green tops. (Steam or saute greens with a bit of olive oil, don’t just throw those beauties away…)

beets in sink

tops and bottoms removed

I usually cut off the tops and tails of each beet. These beets I felt I needed to cut off a bit more than usual…if they are freshly harvested, I cut a much smaller area…

close-up before packing

Dampen each beet slightly with a bit of water and then wrap in foil.

wrapping each

I prefer wrapping each beet individually, though you could also prepare a foil packet and roast a few together. The key to either preparation is to be sure the foil is sealed. You want to be sure to keep all those lovely juices in!

Length of time depends on the size and freshness of the beet. Smaller beets take less time, larger beets, more. Also, the fresher the beet, the less time is takes to roast…smaller beets can take up to 25 minutes, while larger ones, up to an hour.

peeled and cubed

A beet is roasted once it can be easily pierced with a fork or tip of a small knife.

Now, you ask, “At what temperature do you roast?” Well, this can also fluctuate…beets are flexible with temperature…so, feel free to roast your beets while the rest of dinner is baking away, or on their own…beets are happiest between between 325 degrees F. and 425 degrees F.

If it’s only beets your roasting, then place those lovelies in a 425 degree F pre-heated oven.

I usually roast them in my cast iron skillet, but any oven safe pan will do. The foil keeps all the steam in, thus, all the resulting juices too…making clean-up a snap!

Do be careful while opening each packet as juice may spill out…beautiful deep purple juice. Staining juice…

Once cooled enough to touch, peeling is so easy that the skins simply slip off. If you don’t mind having your hands stained a crimson red for awhile, then by all means, slide those skins off with your bare hands. If not,  you may prefer using gloved hands or you can also use a paring knife. Granted, using a paring knife will not prevent staining, it’s just another method…

sliced with salt

Regretfully, I do not have any photos depicting the ease of slipping off the skins…by the time each beet had cooled enough to hold, the sun had set. My natural light  had disappeared…

But, the following day, the sun shone bright and I enjoyed these lovelies sliced and sprinkled with a smidgen of kosher salt as well as in a salad of fresh spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

beet and spinach salad

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Why not roast a few today?

Enjoy!

weekly photo challenge: windows

coconut milk

This weeks photo challenge is (was) about windows. One of my favorite travel photos is of a window…an open window.

A small window propped open with a stick. The shutter overhead hangs crookedly…coconut milk filled plastic soda bottles line the lower sash…the last bottle on the left is the only one with a red cap…

A small handmade wooden table sits off center, beneath the shopkeepers only window. A white, floral cotton swath of fabric covers all but one corner of the table… green and yellow bananas sit beside fresh whole coconuts…but my eyes were on the window.

The row of bottled coconut milk, the fruit for sale beneath, the soft white paint covering the concrete walls, the crooked shutter…the island on which this little shop was situated… it was all so beautiful…I had to take a photo…

The island was Rarotonga.

It was a two month stop along our ’round the world trip we took years ago…it was magic…

We rented a small flat from a local woman and rode our rented bicycles everyday, everywhere…we savored cooking on an actual stove and loved the weekly farmers market. This is where I first spotted this lovely open window – at the market.

I also appreciated the many beaches, the simplicity of our daily lives, the balmy breezes, the lush mountain hikes and all the photo opportunities…this one in particular…

Windows.

They all have a view – good or bad – and they all show something perhaps not so easily seen from the other side…of the window…

enjoy.

out with the ‘old’, in with the ‘new’…

I thought I’d end this year by talking about my favorite place – the freebie barn!

The freebie barn, swap shop, transfer station, call it what you will, it’s a fabulous resource!

Granted, not all transfer stations allow ‘shopping’, and that’s a shame. Mine does and I call it the ‘freebie barn’, though the sign on the outside calls it, the ‘swap shop’…

Why not set aside a space for residents to drop off unwantedbut good stuff – for others to use…instead of trucking it away, to be dumped into a large hole in the ground (planet earth), to only eventually leach out into everything…? Why not invest in a ‘swap shop’ area?

Wouldn’t a space such as this help a town save on expenditures for removal of said stuff? All the while allowing residents to utilize perfectly good stuff someone else simply tired of – thus, maximizing the re-use of already consumed goods, which in turn minimizes consumerism? Which, ultimately, lessens our impact on the world around us?

I realize a resource such as this improves things ever so slightly, yet, it’s a step in the right direction…how can anyone disagree with that?

Every piece of ‘junk’ removed by another resident (recycled) vs. an outsourced company, is so much better for everyone…why not have an area designated for this?

Finn and I visit our transfer station once a week (at minimum). It’s the place we take our trash and recyclables as well our time to visit the ‘Swap Trailer.’ I love this place.

I’ve picked up such cool stuff here.

And not only is everything being recycled, it’s also free. Free and recycled. What a fun combination!

I also realize not everyone shares my sentiment about re-using, and that’s ok. Everyone’s different. If you don’t want to ‘pick’, don’t.  But do drop off your good stuff, versus just chucking it in the trash. Don’t have a local transfer station, why not consider donating?

I’ve shared photos of things that I’ve found over the years, though I’ve never shown the space in which I find my treasures…it’s quite the place…Here’s one of the signs viewed upon entering.

swap trailer

enter at own risk

And here, is another…

The swap shop is a trailer. A tractor trailer, an 18 wheeler kind of trailer, but on the ground.

One end is open, with double doors. Each door proclaiming a sign…that’s the entrance.

Various shelving is found along the two long walls…

shelf of stuff

books on shelf

And things are piled in, around, and on these shelves…clothing, shoes, utensils, ice skates, skis, furniture, toys, books, candle stick holders, glassware, dishes, books, small appliances, instruments, picture frames, baskets, cameras, rugs, framed prints, tools, lamps, curtains, baking pans, gardening tools, boots, antiques, mirrors – are a few of the things one might find on any given day…the list is endless – seriously.

I have found SO many great things here!

Granted, some things really should be trashed, like the badly chipped vase viewed in the photo above…though, that’s my opinion…I guess someone could argue it’s still usable – I wouldn’t use it, but that’s my opinion… who’s to say what’s trash and what isn’t?

One man’s trash is another’s treasure!

You just never know what you might find…

tic tac toast

mask

Below are a few more recent acquisitions…love ’em, especially the metal ice cube trays…and the vintage pyrex mixing bowls!

metal ice cube trays pyrex bowls + metal mixers

turquoise pyrex

muffin tins + baking sheet

I wish I could have taken this (imagine it, cleaned, painted and with new hardware) from the outdoor covered area – too bad I had no where to store it! What a sideboard it could have made!!

side board

Do you like to recycle and go ‘junking’? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

All the best to everyone in 2014, may it be a prosperous and peaceful year for all!

Happy New Year!

Enjoy!

more muffins!

Muffins. Who doesn’t like a muffin? OK, I’m sure someone, somewhere doesn’t like muffins or perhaps has never even heard of a muffin, but for me, I love muffins. Not all the time mind you, but when a situation calls for muffins, muffins I will bake.

muffins under glass

It was our familys’ turn to provide snack for Finns’ classroom (once a month, each family is responsible for providing snack for 25 students), and since cranberry season is upon us, cranberry orange muffins only made sense.

Prefer blueberries? Check this recipe out!

Nuts (of any kind) are not allowed at Finns school (nut allergies), so I couldn’t use them, but if I could have, walnuts would have been my choice. The combination of cranberries and orange zest scream for walnuts…at least in my opinion…so if I could have, I would have added walnuts!

The tart sweetness of the cranberry, the pop of orange zest, combined with the velvety crunch of the walnuts (or not), make this recipe irresistible this time of year…

Assemble your ingredients, blend, mix and bake. Muffins in about an hour. Why not?

muffin on paper

If the thought of cranberries and orange zest makes you swoon, why not try this fancier version for holiday get togethers – Orange cranberry cake!

finished cranberry-orange cake

Enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Print this recipe!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients;

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 beaten egg

1 2/3 cups milk

1/4 cooking oil (I used olive oil)

2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel (or any orange – like citrus fruit – I used clementine rind)

1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

3/4 cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)

Here’s what to do;

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Blend in finely shredded orange peel.

Create a well in center of dry mixture.

In medium mixing bowl combine the egg, milk and oil.

Add egg mixture to the ‘well’ in the dry mixture.

Stir just until moistened – this is the key for fluffy muffins – do not over mix.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until fork comes out clean. Rest in muffin tins until able to touch, then remove and allow to cool on rack.

Enjoy immediately or freeze for another day.

muffin on plate

 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!