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!

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.

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

planting garlic

Have you ever done it?

I hadn’t until last week.

I was given three beautiful home grown (thank you Mim) heads of garlic and decided this was the year I would experiment with growing garlic…we enjoyed one head and used these two for planting…

1. garlic heads

So I asked a few gardener friends of mine if they had ever grown garlic and most had…all agreed it had to be the simplest bulb to grow.

Finn and I broke apart each bulb and then headed out to the garden…

2.top view peeling

3.Finn peeling garlic

4. heads pulled apart

5. close-up cloves

It was a beautiful day. The mosquitos were quiet, the sun was warm and the ocean could be heard…

7.holding clove

It’s so simple – if, of course you already have a garden or area to plant in…

Make little holes. We went about 2 inches apart. 2 – 3 inches deep.

6. make holes

Pop a clove in.

8. little hand over row of holes

Cover.

9. cover with dirt

Cover well.

10. cover well

Tamp gently.

11. tamp down

Water (not shown). Finn moved right along to picking carrots…but you can see the completed row of garlic behind him…

pulling carrots

Mulch garlic bed well for winter (still have to do). Wait for spring…

So, have you ever planted garlic?

…the last taste of summer

It’s officially fall now.

The autumn equinox has come and gone and the leaves are beginning to turn here in Maine…apples and pumpkins abound, mums (the flowers) are being popped into the ground and into pots everywhere and the smell of smoke is in the air…but I’m still savoring the last taste of summer…

vine-ripened

Vine ripened tomatoes,

basil 2

fresh basil,

fresh mozz. 2

fresh mozzarella

presto pesto

and pesto.

Melt together between two slices of bread and you will taste summer in a way which no other sandwich compares…

Granted, my tomatoes have all been plucked from their vines (nights are getting a bit too chilly for them) and they now continue to ripen on my window sill and the basil (still in the garden) is starting to brown, but I picked as much as I could before the cooler nights settled in and I’m so glad I did! I’ve made batches of pesto, stored what I could in the fridge and am drying more…

So what to do with all those tomatoes, basil and pesto?

Bake some bread, buy a block of fresh mozzarella and get slicing….

Now it’s not a ‘cheap’ sandwich to make if you have to buy all the ingredients, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to grow the basil and tomatoes and have the desire to bake some bread (check this recipe out for a very simple and inexpensive recipe) all you’ll need to buy is the fresh mozzarella. The least expensive block I’ve found sets me back $4, but I can get at least 4 sandwiches from one, so that ends up being only $1 per sandwich (at least for the cheese), a far cry from what this sandwich would cost if it was to be ordered out…

Gather your ingredients;

tomatoes + basil

sliced bread 2

fresh mozz. 2

A few leaves of basil, a few slices of fresh mozz., a couple pieces of bread, a tablespoon or two of pesto and sliced tomato. Add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic if you wish, a bit of butter for browning and you will have the tastiest summer sandwich – ever!

Spread each half of bread with pesto,

pesto spread 2

top with a layer of basil, fresh sliced mozzarella and then tomatoes…drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic (if you wish), a sprinkle of salt and top with other half of the bread…butter each side and place on hot griddle. Turn once browned and then cook the other side. Cut and serve! side view layered 2

layer tomatoes, basil and cheese 2

top view browned

cut and ready to serve 2

These were so delicious, Michael and I agreed we each had to have a second!

Are you missing summer already? Then why not make this sandwich and be reminded…

What are your favorite summertime ingredients? What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

everyone should have fresh cut flowers

I was going to write about Finn’s first day of school (pre-school, that is), which was two days ago…or about the fact that I am now (and have been since early May) working, at night (to supplement our income) as a server (aka, waitress) at a super fun restaurant, with great people – but it’s still waitressing…in addition to keeping up with the house, the laundry, our business, the dishes…phew.

Days are long and the nights are late…mornings now begin only a few hours (or so it feels) after I’ve (finally) fallen asleep…oh the conundrum of working (or not working) as a mom.

Who knew?

But instead of sharing more about my busy life (I’m sure you can relate!), I decided to talk about the little luxuries growing throughout my garden and surrounding my home – my flowers. Flowers I started from seed months ago or planted as bulbs, years ago…

flowers in the garden

They are simply spectacular right now. And all that beauty cost me next to nothing to start – granted there is a time investment, but it’s oh so worth it!

sunroom

It makes me so happy when I look out my windows or pull into my driveway and see a variety of colorful petals and leaves looking back at me…especially when the hummingbirds are humming about…do you see them, there are two!

two hummingbirds

Morning glories, sunflowers, nasturtiums, lilies, beach roses, delphiniums, dahlias, poppies – all started for a few dollars…

nastursiums

zinnia

galdiolas 2

the time invested starting these little beauties is nothing compared to what I’ve gained – and will continue to gain…

a bunch of flowers

I’m already thinking about next years plantings…

sed starting packets

So when I spotted some discounted seed starting pots I had to pick them up – they were only .60 each, how could I not?

That’s 150 seedling beginnings for only $1.80!

Granted, I’ve used used egg cartons in the past, but my ‘egg guy’ has asked us to start returning them to help keep his costs down…so I do. With that in mind, I couldn’t pass this bargain up!

So while our household income has increased (slightly), so have our expenses (Finns education)…every purchase has a purpose (if not a dual one)… Whether it be for necessity or fun, everything is accounted for. But that doesn’t equate nothingness…

Living within your means or more appropriately, on a budget, doesn’t have to mean living without life’s little luxuries….grow your own flowers and enjoy freshly cut flowers all summer through!

It’s the simple things that make life, lovely…the first day of school, watching your child play on the playground with his new school mates and flowers in the garden…

finn at school

flowers in the garden

enjoy.

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.