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Delicata Squash Dip

Winter squash is typically available September through November in Wisconsin.We did receive a few in our first winter share late November, so you might have some left in your cellar. Use them quickly as they store well for a month, but can turn bitter after that. I wanted to share this particular recipe because it has been my most requested appetizer this Fall. I explained in the previous post that I have some catching up to do on my recipe contributions. I just had to share this one with you, this dip is so delicious that you may just want to tuck it away for next season (or run to your cellar in search of one last squash)!

I received this recipe from my Keewaydin Farms CSA newsletter. It is very simple to prepare. Literally you roast the squash, scoop the flesh, mix the cheese, cream and spices and there you have it: a rich creamy dip to accompany the simplest of suppers to the most extravagant occasions. I more often than not, served it right back in the squash “boat” surrounded by an assortment of crudite and crackers. It makes for a stunning presentation.

I have also tried a variety of cheeses. The first time I only had Manchego in the house. Another time I folded in half Manchego and half Gruy’re, this was probably my favorite combination. I have only prepared this appetizer with heavy cream. I also like to give it a good kick so I am generous with the cayenne. Paprika would be a good fit for those who enjoy a milder pepper.

So, what is Delicate Squash?

Delicata. Living up to their name, these squash have thinner skins than most winter squash, and because they’re smaller overall, they cook faster. Can’t wait? Slice a delicata squash up for faster cooking; you can even eat the roasted skins (taken from the winter squash glossary).

More helpful vegetable tips for those living in Wisconsin can be found at  Wisconsin Fresh Produce.

Delicata Squash and Gruy’re Dip

1 Delicata squash

About 1 cup of finely grated

Gruy’re cheese

1/2 cup milk or cream

Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne

or curry

Heat the oven to 350’F. Cut the

squash in half and scrape out the

seeds. Turn the shells upside

down in a pie pan, cover with foil

and roast for about 45 minutes or

until very soft.

Scoop out the flesh while still

warm and blend with the cheese,

milk, and seasonings. Adjust

seasonings to taste, and warm

up again  if the cheese does not melt

completely.

Starting down a new path

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Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

Chinese Proverb

It has been a little over a month since I have posted.  A little over a month since my father left this great Earth. We are all doing okay. Our family has been embraced by the unbelievable people we have in our life. I have been humbled by the kindness and support that I have felt by old friends and new. Thank you for the love.

I now politely transition.

“If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.” (taken from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver)

I started this blog this summer in part to share recipes and new creations, but in large part, to document my journey towards a more sustainable way of life. It was uncovering facts like the one above that fueled my quest. If I am being honest, I never had a strong agenda of any kind.

But, now I do.

It was a random email, a cocktail party conversation and surprising remark from a close friend that triggered something in me. It has taken awhile to put my thoughts together. Get a grip on my emotions. Take a stance.

Let’s begin with the email. The headline read: Confession. Well, that definitely got my attention. The email proceeded to read: “At Costco, Kate begged for mandarin oranges in a can. And I bought them. I am so ashamed! And I won’t even tell you about the pancakes in the aerosol can…”

Two days later, at a cocktail party I am talking with a group of women. These women are well-educated, driven and conscientious. They are all mothers. These are women that are actively trying to make not just good decisions for their families, but great ones. The topic at hand was food. More specifically deciding how to make the right choices in eating local, seasonal, and organically. The words “overwhelmed,” “confused” and “skeptical” were thrown around quite a bit. So many questions: “How do you it?” “Where do I start?”

Where do I start? That one stuck with me.

Only a day later I am at another gathering. This time I am blindsided with an unexpected comment that came in the form of a question. It went something like this: “So, you remember that time you came over after hearing Micheal Pollan speak? Well, you were drinking out of a Starbucks cup…that’s not very sustainable, is it?”

Okay, much to reflect on here. First, that when you mention Michael Pollan’s name my heart naturally skips a beat and I instantly have a hard time focusing. Oh, but not to worry, the comment about the Starbucks cup might have as well have been verbal shot of espresso. I was awake.

I am sure my friend was just trying to get my goat. Chide me a bit. I have a good sense of humor. Why couldn’t I let this small comment go?

It was the culmination of all of these events that has driven me to stand here now, firm on my sustainable soapbox. Agenda in hand.

How are all of these stories related? They all reek with guilt, my friend. Guilt for many different reasons. Guilt from the mother who made the food purchase for the sanity of her shopping experience. Guilt from the women who feel paralyzed at thought of taking on what feels like a huge change even if it is to the benefit of their family and environment. Guilt from the friend who judged without asking.

Strangely, this guilt gives me comfort. I think it is because it makes me realize awareness is occurring. And with awareness comes transition. And just as there was no easy transition from my father’s death into this conversation, we must keep moving forward, however awkward and uncomfortable it feels.

But, we must be careful because guilt can stifle good intentions. How are we to start down a new path, if other’s or even ourselves are placing such strong expectations of immediate change? It takes times to learn, to sift through this marketing madness that the food industry has created. We all need time to navigate through the sexy packaging of convenient food, break old habits and determine what we are really consuming. This is a journey. It doesn’t happen over night. We must think big, but start small.

Just as you would never reprimand a baby as she struggles to take her first steps while learning to walk, expect a construction crew to erect a skyrise over night or rush an individual speaking for the first time in words other than their native language, we should house the same patience for ourselves and others.

“Where do I start?” my friend asked at the party. You start the same way you do most anything else, with education and then arming yourself with resources.

So, my agenda…

In addition to my monthly recipes, I am now going to include a weekly “word” of the week pertaining to eating more sustainably. I am also going to commit to highlighting a local company and/or farm each month that is making efforts to be sustainable in their approach to business. The recipes will still come and goodness knows I am behind in many posts, so get ready for some delicious comfort food over the next few weeks.

I must remind you that I am certainly no authority or expert, nor is my pantry always perfect, but I am confident when I tell you I am committed to this path I have chosen. And if you join me on this food journey, I promise each small change we make, over time, will make mammoth differences in our health, our economy and this great Earth we inhabit.


Taking Flight

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Baltimore Summer 2006

My father passed away on Saturday right around dinnertime. I was standing in my kitchen when the phone rang. With caller ID, you now have a number on a screen that triggers the first emotion, before it would have been the sound of a voice, the first  “Hello” that gives evidence to the caller…the tone of the person’s voice. I tightened and answered the phone.

“He’s gone, Annemarie.” I caught my breath. You can never prepare yourself for this moment. No matter how hard you try. It is not something you visualize like preparing for the start of a swim meet, crouched down on the block, waiting to jump in. It is not something you want to visualize like when you hold excited anticipation about the look on a loved one’s face you are about to surprise with an unexpected visit.

When someone you love is fighting a terminal cancer, you can only hope. You hope that when the time comes for them to take flight it is peaceful. Comfortable. And surrounded with the people they love. Surrounded by the people that love them.

My father was able to do that. He went peacefully with my mom lying right by his side. He was able to be in his own home, in his own bed and with the woman he loved for more than 50 years. We really can’t ask for more than that. For him. And for my mother.

It does not take away the pain of his absence, but there is comfort in that memory of him with my mother.

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Spring Break Louisiana 2009

Another surprising comfort has been the innocence and honesty of my children who loved their Pa. We told them on Sunday morning. Olivia, only 5, smiled uncomfortably. I caught her throughout the day searching my face. She is still so young to completely grasp the meaning of death. Isabella, almost 8, reacted instantly with tears. She hugged me tight and sobbed.

Then the flood of questions.

“Did it hurt?” “No, he was comfortable and just drifted off to sleep.”

“Is Mamou (my mother) going to come and live with us?” “No, but she may come and stay for longer visits.”

“Does he look like a skeleton right now?” “No, he looks just himself.”

“Are you sad, Mom?” “Yes, and it’s completely okay to cry whenever you feel like it.” “I am really okay, I just miss him.”

“We are all going to be okay.”

Later over dinner, the questions about heaven began.

“Do you think Pa is in heaven right now?” “Maybe.”

“What do you think he’s doing?” We all decided that perhaps he was golfing, fishing or reuniting with his brother and parents.

Isabella asked if she would be able to bring her books up to heaven. I answered honestly, “I don’t know.” “But, I like to think that everything you love will be in heaven.” We all decided that Isabella would have chocolate tucked in all of the corners of her cloud in heaven. Olivia would have all of her Bitty babies around her. “Mom, would have all of her cookbooks.”

The tone was light. The conversation was open and honest. I looked around at my family. Proud. Grateful.

Later, Olivia, my thinker, walked up to me as I was at the computer. “Mom, is Pa building a cloud house for us up there now?” I turned my chair around and pulled her into my lap. “I’d like to think so.”

The next day Olivia asked quietly, “Do you think Pa is still on the airplane?”

I paused for a moment. A vivid image of my father came to mind. My father was a fighter pilot. He was the bravest person I knew. He was also a man filled with great integrity and patience. He was tough, yes. But, inside, soft as room temperature butter. And boy, did he have rules. But, those rules almost always ensured efficiency and precision. And never at the expense of something or someone.

Was my dad still on the airplane? Gosh, I’d like to think so.

The image of my Pop piloting in the clouds overtook me. Peaceful and in control of his own flight. Taking his time to enjoy the scenery. Perhaps a little Luciano Pavarotti playing on the radio. My dad’s favorite. Looking down on all who love him. Looking toward those he’s missed. I can see him softly biting his lower lip in concentration.

This morning taking the girls to school I caught sight of plane tracks in the morning sky.

Enjoy your flight Pop.

We love you.

Tea Inspired Sweetness

Matcha Shortbread

Matcha Shortbread

Inspiration can present itself in many forms. It can be as simple as the act of raising the blinds and being greeted by a glorious day. It can be a feeling you get by participating in a new activity and afterwards realizing, “Wow. I really enjoyed that. I want to do it again.” It can be larger than life inspiration: Obama being elected president. Lance Armstrong conquering cancer (that in itself is inspiring) and then taking the Tour De France by storm.

Inspiration can arrive through a small gesture. One time at toll booth in Delaware the person in front of me paid my toll. Totally unnecessary, but it made all of us smile: me, the driver and the toll attendant. And I am confident it inspired something in all of us that day.

Last fall, over a cup of warm tea, I became inspired. So much that because of that moment of inspiration, my life is about to take on a new dimension. I am about to embark on a new adventure that will effect my entire family and even you. At least I hope it effects you. Inspires you. I promise I will be sharing very soon. Be patient.

Lord knows I have been. This idea of mine had been brewing for awhile (yes, I see the pun). Years, really. Mostly in a notebook I would shove under my bed or as daydream I would use to help put myself to sleep on restless nights.

But, it was on a sunny Fall morning last year, after a brilliant moment of inspiration that it came alive. I went home nervous and excited, reached under my bed, blew the dust off my dream and decided it was time to make it a reality. And I haven’t looked back.

Maleah smiles each time I remind her, “You realize it was after I left your house that things began to happen.” She promises she’ll never get tired of me sharing that story. You see, the one who inspires reaps inspiration too. Usually in the form of validation of who they are and what they inspire to do, but sometimes it is just the full circle moment alone that provides inspiration.

Organic French Breakfast & Matcha Shortbread

Organic French Breakfast & Matcha Shortbread

So, my friend Joann had recently shared that she had been enjoying this terrific tea she purchased from Cha Cha Tea. I like tea. But, it was the tone in her voice when she kept insisting, “Annemarie, you really need to meet her” that had me intrigued. So, I called Maleah and we agreed to meet at her home. I have to confess I was nervous and excited as I climbed the stairs to her place. Did my unconscious know something I did not? She greeted me with a calm, but warm smile.

Maleah Moscoff owns Cha Cha Tea. Cha Cha Tea purchases fair trade tea and supports tea gardens that encourage natural and organic farming methods. Her focus is fresh, seasonal, and small-batch artisan-quality teas. Cha Cha Tea can be purchased online through her website and can also be found in many area tea and coffee houses around Madison.

There is no doubt in my mind that Meleah sources the best tea in town. But, her gift is in the way she communicates her vision for the tea experience. Whether you are learning about the history of various teas or the proper way to steep, you come away wiser, calmer and with greater clarification.

Maleah shares that her philosophy is rooted in a “sip by sip” lifestyle. Maleah encourages that “slowing down to enjoy a cup of tea is important in today’s frenzied times, and we find it refreshing to rediscover an ancient drink that offers so many benefits. As students of tea, we are always studying and learning something new about tea.”

That day Maleah had invited another woman to join us. Kelly with Pinkoko Confections. At first I was quiet, enjoying my tea experience and listening to the two of them discussing their business opportunities and collaborations of the current moment. I sat in awe at these two strong woman. Both mothers. Both entrepreneurs who were bravely balancing family at the same time going after their dreams. It wasn’t long that I found myself joining them in discussion. How intoxicating it was to be sharing in their moment, collaborating on ideas, brainstorming on marketing outlets. I left a little hopped up on green tea for sure, but it was the cup of inspiration that left me the highest.

Matcha Latte

Matcha Latte

Matcha Shortbread

Matcha Shortbread

Tea is not just for drinking, you know. Tea can be infused in cooking, cocktails and even as Hibiscus Tea Popsicles for children. This shortbread recipe is from Chocolate and Zucchini’s blog. The recipe can be found here. The cookies were buttery and delicious. Next time I might add a tablespoon more Matcha for more color and green tea flavor. But, they were certainly perfect as they were. They store well and are great snack for your children’s lunch or even better, savor them with a cup of Cha Cha Tea. Perhaps you too, will be inspired.


Whoopie!

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We did it! Twin Cities Marathon has come and gone. And we conquered that baby. The day was brilliant. Perfect running conditions: cool and clear skies, a touch overcast. The people of Minneapolis were tremendous. I felt carried by the people at times. And my family. Oh, my family.

My husband and brother-in-law had mapped out the course so that every few miles we would get this shot of adrenalin in the form of THEM: slapping hands with all of our excited kids, encouraging smiles, shout outs: “You can do it, Mom!”

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Tears would streak my cheeks with emotion, my exhausted legs would feel recharged, my mind centered once again.

Training for a marathon, crossing that starting line, commiting to it, enduring the emotional and physical aspects of the race, and than finally, crossing the finish line. It’s a lot.

Afterwards, you can run on euphophia for days. Especially if  you had “your” race. By “your” race I mean, you met your personal goals for time, you didn’t injure yourself, you were actually smiling at the finish and not heaving. You felt accomplished. You personally felt like a winner even though the guy who won was already showered a couple of hours ago.

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The winner that day was Jason Hartmann, 28 and he was from Michigan. I am usually impressed with the winners, heck, who can argue such an accomplishment. But, Jason Hartmann stands out to me because I could relate with him that day.

I certainly didn’t break any records or win any medals. But, I did have a great race. This was my third marathon. My first in 12 years. My goal: to break four hours. My accomplishment: 3:53. I feel pretty damn good about that. But, what I feel even better about is how I treated myself during the course of the race. This is where I can relate with Jason Hartmann.

You see, with elite runners they are a level above your traditional water station stops. With elite runners, they extend a stick out with their drink for them to grab as they run in order for them to keep their pace. As Jason Hartmann, who was in the lead went to grab his drink from the stick, the stick broke.  His drink plummeted to the ground. What does he do?

Does he keep his lead, leave the drink and risk not having enough hydration/fuel to finish as the winner? Does he stop, go back and get his drink, risk losing his lead, but feel confident he will be hydrated? Tough decisions in a critical moment.

Jason Hartmann went back and grabbed his drink from the ground. And he won.

He won for the same reason I felt I won my personal goal that day. Because he treated himself in a sustainable manner. He respected his limits.

In my early years as a college runner, I would skip the water stations, cramp from under-fueling, injure from overtraining and many times fall short. Oh, sure there were times I would pull out an accomplishment. But, usually my body would pay in someway, shape or form..usually as an injury. And usually I would have to miss a future intended race because of it.

Twin Cities was different. Sure, I had big goals for myself. I desperately wanted to break four hours. And for a runner, whatever goal you may set for yourself, come hell or high-water you want to meet it.

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I felt good this cool morning. I was nervous, but very optimistic. We got off to a nice, smooth start.

Two miles in I had to pee. Real bad. Oh, how I didn’t want to stop. It was too early. How could this be happening? I passed the first set of portable potties. I can hold it. Arriving at the second, I told Dawn, “Keep the pace, I’ll catch you.” I stopped. Waited. Waited. There was actually a line. Waited. Okay, I”m in. I’m peeing. Okay. Relief.

I tear out of the bathroom and start running. Did I lose too much time? Did I screw up my pacing?

I don’t catch Dawn until almost mile 4. Relief again. Back into a smooth race. Well, pretty smooth. We had agreed to keep a 9:07 pace until half way. Our intention to keep it under 9 minutes the second half in order to negative split and meet our under four hour time goal. You always want to run your second half faster than your first.

The tricky thing about pacing is dealing with your head. I have been known to say when we are supposed to be pacing 9 minute miles, “But, I don’t feel like I’m running 7 minutes miles!” Adrenalin can play tricks on you. You can feel like your running slower than you actually are at the moment. You can also experience: “Well, gosh I feel SO good, I can hang at this pace for say, another 25 miles.”

I slowed. Sometimes feeling extremely frustrated, but knowing I had to stick to the plan. The plan made during a rational moment, not during an endorphin fueled, crowd cheering moment. All was good.

Hydrating

Hydrating

Than we start hitting the water stations. In the back of my head, my endorphin fueled mind says, “Don’t stop, you’re fine, keep running.”

But, this time will be different. I proceed to stop at every water station, even walking through a few seconds, something I would have never done in the past. I reminded myself to fuel with my energy gels every few miles even when I wasn’t feeling it.

It worked. I felt fantastic pretty much the entire race. Was I exhausted? Yes. Was it unbelievably hard? Yes.

But, I endured. I met my goal. Most importantly I left my body in better shape than its original status previous to training. This to me, is an important aspect of living sustainably.

I came across this definition of sustainability awhile ago. It truly resonates with me.

What does to be sustainable really mean?  Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia defines it as this: Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to endure. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.

Ah, the capacity to endure.

For me, it is all about respect. When we respect ourselves, our limits and our surroundings we become capable of enduring most any situation or environment. When you lose respect, many times it is because we are rushing, have ulterior motives, we want more than circumstances can give at that moment, we are impatient. In the short term, you may feel you are sustainable, that you are winning or even getting your needs met. But, in the end, everyone is short-changed.

So, take a deep breath. Slow down. Set some goals. Take into consideration yourself, others, your surroundings. After you do that, breath again. Smile. Now go and endure with confidence.

You can do it, you know you can.

Banana Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

Banana Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

To celebrate, I share my latest baking endeavor. The whoopie pie. Whoopie Pies are hot right now. I personally think they’re fantastic. The name alone, puts a smile on my face. WHOOPIE..whoopie, whoopie pie! Not everyone feels the same I have found. Some say it’s such a dumb name, makes them think of bathroom antics or sexual innuendo. I say, “bah humbug” to them! Whoopie Pies are fun, easy to bake up and very tasty.

The Whoopie Pie originated in the New England area, Maine to be specific. Amish families created them as way to use up leftover cake batter. Packed as a treat, children would cry out “Whoopie!” when discovered in their school lunch sacks. Thus, the name Whoopie Pie.

The recipe is here. And yes, it is from latest obsession, King Arthur. I have yet to bake a bad batch from this cookbook! And yes, if you happen to scroll down and notice the calorie count, it is high. My best friend pointed this out in an email: “Oh my gosh, they better be good,” she said. Well, I personally think they are worth every calorie.

And for the record, you should know by now I don’t pay attention to calories, I pay attention to good ingredients.

Now go ahead…go make whoopie!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I haven’t blogged in awhile. This draft was originated on September 9th. It’s September 30th. Time is the blink of an eye sometimes. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, really the kitchen never closes around these parts. And it’s not that I haven’t been writing. I am enrolled in classes and finishing up a business plan for a dream that one day soon I hope to share out loud.

And in between all that (I really do house excess energy, don’t I?) I will be running the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday with my dear sister-in-law. It was an agreement made during a brief moment of insanity. I swore I would never train for another marathon. Surprisingly, I am very excited and I feel my training has gone better than expected.

I actually feel more prepared for this race than my previous two before children. I feel more disciplined with my time. What the heck did I do with my time before three children? I think I will just categorize those years as my leisure years. I will rationalize that I was storing up energy as I lounged with my new hubby on the couch or slept in until 10am on weekends for these current years. Yes, it’s why I am so productive now.

Now let’s talk food. This might be my first food post with meat in it. I am not a vegetarian, but I certainly lean that way. Even more so these days after digesting a few reads and taking in a few documentaries. It began with the beautiful book by Barbara Kingslover, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I think I practically read most of the book out loud to my sleepy husband in bed.

In between reading In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan we rented Fast Food Nation and King Corn. That’s when I watched my husband take notice. He was already filling his SIGG bottle each morning for work (for the environment) and scrutinizing labels for high fructose corn syrup (for our health), but I knew the meat was going to take some time. Sure, he agrees philosophically with every point: ethics, humanity, nutrition, energy. But, old habits die hard. And sometimes the truth is harder to digest.

I can’t pretend to not know now. And the truth is I want to know. At first it was embarrassing for Wes as I asked politely asked at restaurants where we dined out or at the grocery store, the origin of their meat.  It usually creates a quiet pause. I beamed recently when I heard my husband asking the whereabouts of a pork sandwich at a local festival. What would happen if we all begin to ask?

I have no problem eating a chicken (or any meat for that matter) if I know what kind of life it lived. Was it allowed to roam and forage for grain, grass and bugs? Or was it raised cramped in a factory farm with thousands of other chickens with it’s beak cut off so as not to peck the other chickens stacked next to it? Did you know it’s innate for chickens to peck?  Heck, it’s how they got out of their egg! Was it given antibiotics because the stress from living in close quarters made the bird ill? What kind of processing plant was it butchered in? Check out Fast Food Nation if you want to get up close and personal.

I know, not very appetizing, is it? But, let me remind you that you do extensive research to purchase your flat screen tv. You examine safety ratings on your new vehicle and would never put your child in anything less than the best car seat. As a society, we scrutinize just about every purchase we make except for what we put in our mouths. Many times we demand our money back if we are disatisfied or feel we have been misled.

You walk back through the store an extra five minutes to exchange a dented soup can, but yet you reach ever so effortlessly for the package of neatly wrapped poultry and toss it in your cart. It displays a happy label of chickens frolicking free in a patch of grass. You feel comforted. But, did that meat in your grocery cart ever really enjoy sunshine and a proper life? Certainly, food for thought.

After Wes brought home a chicken that lived an appropriate life. We grilled it up and enjoyed it on the back deck. He kept looking at my plate to see if I was going to eat the bird. I did and stored the leftovers in refrigerator. The next day I knew I had pizza dough that needed to be either frozen or baked, I had an idea.

BBQ Chicken Pizza. Wes and I back in our “ignorant is bliss” days used to drive down to Naples, Florida from Fort Myers, where there was a California Pizza Kitchen. Oh, how we loved to enjoy a BBQ Chicken Pizza between the two of us. I thought it would be a nice surprise. I went to grab the BBQ sauce and realized we didn’t have any in the house. I paused a little deflated, and than thought, well, how hard can it be to make my own? It’s not!

I couldn’t wait to share this recipe and I still can’t. It was delicious. And easy, I promise. I whipped it up between two different soccer practices. Oh, and your house will smell fantastic too.

Emeril’s BBQ Chicken Pizza

I skipped the Essence Seasoning and did not find it was missing any flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-inch) pizza dough (see recipe)
  • 2 (8 ounce) boneless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
  • 3 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 ounces molasses
  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 ounces balsamic vinegar
  • 6 ounces Fresh Mozzarella cheese, recipe follows
  • 1 small red onion, julienned
  • 1/4 cup chiffonade of basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the baking stones in the oven. Preheat the grill. Season the chicken breast with olive oil and Essence. Place on the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and julienne. In a food processor, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil, molasses, chili powder, ground mustard, garlic, ginger, and balsamic vinegar. Puree until the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the dough. Layer the cheese over the sauce. Sprinkle the chicken, red onion, and basil over the cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the pizza from the oven.

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

  • MAKING FRESH MOZZARELLA CHEESE
  • 2 gallons water
  • Salt
  • 1 pound fresh Mozzarella curd
  • 1 cup finely chopped basil
  • 1 cup roasted garlic

In a large stock pot, add the water. Add enough salt to the water until it tastes like saltwater. Bring the temperature of the water up to about 120 to 130 degrees, until the touch of the water is like hot bath water. Place a colander in the water. Crumble the cheese curd into the water. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the curd starts to pull. Using your hands or a spoon, pull the cheese until it begins to hold shape. It’s like pulling taffy. Do not over pull the cheese because the end product will be rubbery. If the cheese hardens to soon, dip it back in the water and repeat the pulling process. After the desired weight is achieved, dip the cheese in an ice bath. The cheese can either be stored in salted water or rolled in plastic wrap. If you want to flavor the cheese, add the flavorings during the pulling process. Rub your hands with the herbs and garlic and work them into the cheese. Yield: about 1 pound of cheese

Let’s Salsa!

Garden Fresh Salsa

Garden Fresh Salsa

We are overwhelmed with tomatoes. In fact, I am going to hit my friend Nikki up tomorrow for her pressure cooker. Time to get busy canning!  I was hoping for this moment. Wes is excited to create bloody mary mix and I am anxious to stock up on marinara sauce for winter. Even if our experience ends in one jar of sauce, a messy kitchen and perhaps a few stiff drinks, it will be just that, an experience.

I love that we keep conquering the unknown. Forging forward, awkward with our inexperience, but armed with loads of enthusiasm. Asking all of the dumb questions, but never apologizing. This was our first summer with a full fledged vegetable garden. Sure, we’ve grown herbs in pots, but this was the real deal. Our attitude was, “If we pull one carrot out of the bed, we have success!”

Well, lo and behold. Look what you get with leaf compost soil, sunshine and water! We have exceeded our expectations.

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We had some casualties, the cantaloupe never took off and our beets were sparse. Our basil was hit by aggressive japanese beetle. It certainly gives you perspective. Some of our friends gardens experienced the tomato blight. We feel fortunate, but know it could easily happen to us next year. But, still we know this growing food thing is in our blood now.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to walk barefoot through my yard and grab what I need for a dish. Or better yet, send my kids on the hunt for the perfect tomato or the ripest cucumber. It is a simple pleasure. And a priceless gift for everyone involved.

Our surplus of tomatoes has also fueled my husband’s already pretty bad obsession with salsa. Wes loves his salsa. He is always tinkering with it and trying out new combinations. Between the tomatoes in our backyard and those arriving from our CSA each Wednesday, you can bet there is usually some type of salsa being produced each week. This has to be one of my favorites. I like the size of the vegetables (not too fine) and the variety of flavors. All of the vegetables were grown in our backyard (save the lime, of course). The red onion and serrano pepper were from our CSA, Keewaydin Farms.

Garden Fresh Salsa

1 Green Pepper

1 Jalapeno Pepper

1 Serrano Pepper

1 Red Onion

large handful of Cilantro, chopped

3 large Heirloom Tomatoes, different colors for variety

1/2 Lime

Salt to taste

Chop and Mix. Strain chopped tomatoes in fine, mesh colander for 1 hour to separate out tomato water. Cool 30 minutes in refrigerator before serving. Enjoy!

Since I mentioned my friend Nikki, I have to share a fantastic gift she gave me for my birthday. Check out these nifty food covers she created for me. They are perfect for outdoor eating or for covering an item that you plan to eat rather quickly from the fridge. They graduate in size, fitting most of my various bowls and are washable. Not too mention adorable. And very sustainable, wouldn’t you agree? She found the idea from Country Living’s The Farm Chicks In The Kitchen. A creative book about two women who share their love of junking, baking and family life.

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Sustainable Food Covers

Sustainable Food Covers

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