Wednesday, June 30, 2010

recipe box Wednesday

I have been spending every spare minute I can outside, digging in the dirt and reading books, as the weather has been unbelievable, and I know the hot sticky stuff will return soon.  So bare with me as I provide a re-run recipe today.

This one became a regular in my summer menu after Tracy ran a contest a couple of years ago, looking for a salad recipe to take to a picnic.  I gave her this one, and it was a hit!

Pasta and Pesto Salad

1 lb pasta (any shape)

1 tub store bought pesto (most stores have this now,
I use Trader Joe's)
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (this gives it a nice light flavor)

2 scallions (I skipped these)

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 lb bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls) or 1 ball of fresh mozz, cubed

1 c. fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta to al dente, drain and run under cold water to shock and cool.

Place pesto in a large bowl, add lemon juice and zest, along with scallions (or not), tomatoes, and cheese. Then throw in the very well drained pasta, stir up from the bottom and coat the noodles evenly. Season with salt and pepper, tear up the basil and fold it in. I added my own touch to this by toasting some pine nuts to throw on top, along with a little freshly grated parmesan.

Crusty bread and a chilled wine are a must with this, along with a bowl of fresh berries or melon to round things out.

To those of you who have been reading me for a while, I apologize for the re-run-it's just too darn nice out to spend much time blogging today!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a night of nostalgia

As the sun headed toward the horizon, we loaded up the truck with the inflatable mattress, a soft old quilt, comfy pillows and warm blankets, boxes of movie candy and containers of freshly popped corn.  A Canadian front had been influencing our weather all day (thank you, dear neighbors to the north!) and it was the PERFECT night for a drive-in movie.

We try to get out there at least once a summer, few communities even have a drive-in anymore, and we feel we must take advantage of our good fortune.  It's $8 for adults, but only $1 for kids, and when you bring your own snacks it becomes quite a bargain.  I can still remember what it sounded like, at the drive-in in Bemidji, with the microphone snaking from the pole to the window of the car.   Mom had made popcorn and dad filled the white and turquoise thermos with his own Kool-aid concoction, I remember what it smelled like.  Kelly and I would put on our jammies and pile into the back seat with pillows and blankets, I remember what that felt like when the blanket slipped and my bare skin would meet up with the black vinyl of the Pontiac. We were up late, and having an adventure. 

Charlie and his friend Alec (he of the recently broken wrist, and full arm cast, poor boy!) settled in to the bed of the truck, while Mike and I lounged in our chairs with the radio tuned to the correct station.  The microphones are long gone, but the poles remain, so the driver still has to be careful when positioning the car.  And what movie brought us to the drive-in on this most beautiful evening?

Toy Story 3.  I firmly believe that Pixar can do no wrong, every film they craft is a winner.  And this one was no exception.  To make a movie that appeals to both adults and children is a true gift. (photo from Google images)

I love seeing the characters they develop for each toy.  Sensible Woody, helpful Slinky Dog, and the Fisher Price phone that is instrumental in helping them escape from Sunnyside.  My sister had that phone, and just seeing it brought back memories of her talking on it when she was a curly haired little girl.  Pure delight.  And I very nearly fell out of my chair laughing during Ken's fashion show.  Literally crying laughing.  And then later sobbing when Andy heads off to college, and I imagine Charlie doing the same thing, and wondering what he will do with his beloved toys.

Oh, the emotion this movie evokes.  And it is my fond hope that last night will be a memory indelibly etched in Charlie's mind, and some day he will tell his children about the magical summer nights we spent at the drive-in.  The crunch of the popcorn, the stars twinkling overhead as he pulled the covers up to his chin in the cool breeze and happily watched Buzz help save the day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

a new hobby?

Now that school is done, Mike and Charlie can slip away during the week and ride dirt bikes all day long.  They did just that last week, and had such a good time.  And yes, I had a good time with the house to myself, messing in my garden and finishing a good book and playing with bits and bobs making jewelry.  See, this arrangement works well for everyone!

Mike has become Photo Pohl, and is eagerly welcomed at any dirt bike event as everyone knows there will be some amazing pictures at the end of the day.  He is even making money doing it- one of his pictures graces the cover of Cycle USA this month, along with an article he wrote and more photos inside.  My hubby, the photo journalist.

  But because he is the photographer, there are rarely photos of HIM in action.  So he handed Charlie the camera on Thursday, and I think the kid inheritied his father's talent:
An action shot-love how the light in the woods was captured.
I LOVE this photo.  This is my hubby, at his very happiest. 
And I will always treasure this one, don't they just look like they are having the best time?  Thank goodness for cameras with timers.  And a basic photography rule-never be without your tripod!

They had far more fun than cleaning gutters, or painting fences.  The To-Do lists can wait....well, at least for a little while....summer days go by pretty fast.

Friday, June 25, 2010

garden walks

Last night I had the great good fortune to tour the yards of some friends.  And while I was smart enough to remember my camera, I am getting old and losing brain cells and was not smart enough to check to see if I had a memory card in said camera.
So I took mental pictures and notes, but I guess that doesn't do much for my readers.  But since I am talking about flowers I have to show you SOMETHING, right?  Bare with me and look at my flowers again:

 If you love flowers and enjoy digging in the dirt, or even if you are not obsessed with it as I am and just enjoy having some nice plants in your yard, there is nothing like really looking at someone else's plantings.  You can learn first hand what works and what doesn't, and what you might want to try.  Not only that, you can get first dibs on things they may be dividing in the future, saving you some money and giving them room to plant more goodies.

A trip to the garden center is in my future today, some of the flower marts are 50% off here and I have a list of the things I saw last night that I want to make room for in my garden.  And I will be making a note of the things that I will be sharing with my garden girls once I start divvying things up.  Not to mention all of the ideas I now have for new containers to plant, and the clematis I absolutely must go and find-no matter the cost.
Even if you don't get out and visit a friend's yard, I hope you have a chance to be outside and enjoy these glorious June nights.  We have already turned the corner, but it stays light until nine, and the golden sunsets are a must see.  (photo courtesy of my sis, when she visited last summer.  I am guessing we were in my back yard, enjoying wine with our sunset-can't wait for her to come down again!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

summer reads

Ah, summer.  When I was young, that meant extra time for reading.  I would finish my chores (yup, I called them that-just call me Laura Ingalls Wilder....) and curl up with a book.  If it was nice, on a blanket under a tree.  When I got a little older I threw my book in my bike basket and headed down to the river to my 'secret' spot.  I followed the adventures of Beezus and Ramona, and Laura and Mary, and the Boxcar Children.

When the days were long and the air shimmered in the heat, I got to ride into town with my mom and she would drop me off at the library while she was at the grocery store.  This painting was in the children's room, and each time I walked into the room and saw it, I was happy.  I knew I would be surrounded by books, and get to smell their pages, and pick out a stack of adventures to bring home with me.  I can still remember what that smelled like.

I found this same picture at a yard sale a couple of summers ago, and instantly bought it.  I think it was $3, I would have happily paid ten times that for the wonderful memories it gave me.

Summer is still for reading.  At the end of the day, I will grab my book and a glass of wine, and head to my patio where I will read until the bugs eat me alive.  If it's raining in the morning, I will stay in bed and cuddle in with my book until guilt overtakes me. 

All day, whether I am doing laundry, or working on bookkeeping for our store, or making dinner, or gardening, I longily wait for those moments when I can open the pages of my latest read, and forget about the world.  I read every single night before I go to sleep, I have reached the point where I cannot fall asleep unless I have had my nose in a book first.
Here is what I have been turning the pages of in the last few weeks:

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson.  I like to think I know what is going on in the publishing world, this one hit me one night when Mike and I were at a wonderful independent bookstore-Magers and Quinn-in Uptown.  It is a publishing phenemenon (that I apparently missed the boat on for a few months...) and well deserved.  I haven't yet picked up the third one (I am cheap and wait for the paperback, or for my turn at the library.)  They are long, but you cannot put them down.  I regret that the author died of a heart attack at 50, and these three books are all we will have.  Although I hear Brad Pitt will be starring in the American version of the movie...

"Shoot to Thrill" by PJ Tracy.  I was an early fan of this mother-daughter author duo from the cities, but I don't feel this one was their best effort.  Still a good read, if you are a mystery fan who likes to recognize Minnesota locales while you are reading.  And good character development.  Maybe I was just distracted and couldn't fully appreciate it.

"The Way the Crow Flies" by Ann-Marie McDonald.  This one has been in my collection for a long while, it finally got it's turn.  It is really long, and full of history.  I loved the first two thirds of the book better than the last, but it was beautifully written, and based on a true story.  So glad I read it, and can't wait to read her other books.

"The Bright Forever" by Lee Martin.  A story of a lost girl, and lost souls. Definitely worth more than the 50 cents I paid for it at a yard sale.  I really enjoyed the writing, and it made me think that perhaps I could write a book someday.  For now just trying to keep up with my blog diary is enough...

"My Name is Memory" by Ann Brashares (she of the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" fame).  I read this while I was on vacation at Heather's house, and sick in bed with food poisoning.  I loved the premise, hated the ending.  Maybe my circumstances colored my opinion...

"The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes" is my current read, given to me by Tracy as part of my birthday bag o gifts.  I look forward to getting to it every night.

Next up:  "Those Who Save Us" by Jenna Blum.  Heather picked it up for me, it looks so interesting.

If only there were more hours in a day to spend reading, guilt free.  Like when I was ten, and dropped off at the library for my favorite part of the summer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

recipe box Wednesday

We return to cooking on Wednesday, with last night's dinner.  It was partially inspired by our trip to El Burrito Mercado on Monday night, where we went to celebrate Father's Day a little late.

Living in a big city as we do, our options for dining out are endless.  And Monday night we decided to get out of our comfort zone and head into one of St. Paul's ethnic neighborhoods for some fun.  District del Sol in West St. Paul was our destination.

The food was beyond amazing.  My chicken fajitas arrived in a hot stone mortar, with homemade tortillas and mango salsa, accompanied by cilantro rice, guacamole, black beans, and pico de gallo.  Unbelievably good, and so much food there was enough for lunch the next day.

Mike and Charlie both ordered the Mole.  Our server raised her eyebrows when Charlie ordered it, as it is a fairly sophisticated dish that probably doesn't get ordered by many 12 year old boys.  But we know Charlie is adventurous, and really loves food, so it was the perfect thing for him.  She suggested he get a real Coke (in the bottle, from Mexico, where they still make it with sugar rather than corn syrup).  Mike had a Mexican beer and I had a wonderful glass of Crianza.

(photo from their website)

El Burrito Mercado offers a huge experience.  The majority of the space houses the market, where you will find everything from a bakery to a meat counter.  Charlie was surprised to see an entrire pigs head for sale, along with packages of chicken feet.  The produce was beautiful, I grabbed some mangoes that are a different variety from what you find in your regular supermarket, and I also stocked up on cornmeal, beans, and picked up some of their homemade tortillas.  The array of spices and ingredients available was dizzying, and I can't wait to come up with a full menu some night, and do all of my shopping there.   El Burrito Mercado is owned by the Silva Family, they have been doing this since 1974.

Along with the restaurant space we dined in, there is a deli area with tables if you want a quicker meal, and lots of takeout.  In addition, there is a gift shop where the majority of the items have been brought in from Mexico, where the owners go shopping several times a year to find goodies from local artisans.

What a fun experience, I can't wait to go back.  And unfortunately we were completely full (and unable to eat the complimentary desserts they gave us, kindly packaged up to go) or we might have sampled the roasted corn that was for sale out of a cart in the parking lot.

But back to recipes!  I was in the mood for some grilled chicken last night, and decided to pull out the Guamanian Chicken recipe given to me by my friend Diane back when I lived in Grand Forks.  Her husband was in the Air Force, and for a while they had been stationed in the Azores, where she had discovered this recipe.  Not Mexican, I know, but one thing leads to another....

Not quite having my recipes organized yet, I couldn't put my hand on the card, and an internet search revealed a few recipes that sounded familiar.  So I threw caution to the wind and tried to recreate it from memory.  Here is what I used:

Guamanian Chicken
6 chicken breasts (for this recipe I use bone in, skin on)
2 c. soy sauce
1 c. vinegar (I used white)
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt.

Combine all of the marinade ingredients and pour over chicken - pierce the chicken meat with a fork in a few places so the marinade can sneak in.  Keep in the fridge for several hours, even overnight.  The longer the soak, the more intense the flavor.  Grill and enjoy!  I cook it with the skin on, to keep the chicken nice and moist, but pull it off before I eat it. know....

And to go with the chicken, I chopped up the mangoes I had purchased, along with a cucumber, and half a red pepper, and tossed it all with some baby spimach.  Then I whipped up a little dressing with mango nectar, a touch of white balsamic, and some salt and pepper to taste.

And the tres leches cake they gave us the night before was a perfect ending to our meal.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

grad party scrapbook

Tracy asked if I could be the photographer at her daughter's event on Saturday-I have already sent the photos her way, but I wanted to share some of them with you today. (I promise not to show you all 200....)
Who doesn't like to spend time looking at happy smiling faces, even if you don't know who they are?

Graduation is such a milestone, and celebrating it brings people together like few other events.  Tracy and Mike did an amazing job putting together beautiful boards of moments captured and photos, and a book of Andrea's gorgeous graduation pictures.  So many memories to look back on.
The day was full of friends from long ago
Friends from far away
Friends from close at home
Friends paying attention with their own parties to plan next year
All of the siblings together for one special afternoon
Some of Tracy's current and former families that she provides care for

Andrea's friends

The old and the new

Friends who helped so Tracy could enjoy the fun

Mother Nature cooperated, providing the Lanes with perfect weather and sunny skies and a lovely cool evening, as the party extended into the night and the twinkling lights provided a perfect end to a festive send-off.  Congratualions mom and dad, job very well done!

Monday, June 21, 2010

what in the world?

Is that plant?

My little corner of the world has become a place where people pause. Whether they are out for a walk, passing by with a baby in a stroller, or delivering their daughter to softball practice across the street-I have a plant growing that stops them in their tracks.

In fact, so many people were stopping to ask me what it was, I printed a sign to put in the garden.

People would guess, broccoli?  Caulilower?  (seriously...I am not making that up....)

It's Lovage.  An herb.  I bought one little plant a few years ago, and planted it in my back yard near Charlie's bedroom window.  It has since self seeded in several spots in my yard, and cheerfully grows to amazing heights.

This is the perfect spot for it, several plants are growing tall and provide a little privacy for me when I sit on my patio at night with my wine and book, or in the morning with my coffee and newspaper.

Here it is again, adding some textural interest to a back garden.  These pictures were taken about three weeks ago, all of these plants are now almost twice the size you are seeing here.
The original plant has grown so huge, last night I trimmed at least eight stalks of it, they were all well over 7 feet tall.   And it will just keep growing, all summer long.

Here is the info from the sign:

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is a plant, the leaves and seeds or fruit of which are used to flavor food, especially in South European cuisine. It is a tall (3 to 9 ft) perennial that vaguely resembles its cousin celery in appearance and in flavor.

The fruit of the lovage plant can be used as a spice. The root of lovage, which contains a heavy, volatile oil, is used as a mild aquaretic.

Lovage is considered a "magic bullet" companion plant; much as borage helps protect almost all plants from pests, so lovage is thought to improve the health of almost all plants.

It is also a word used to describe love, although this is only used by those who are not aware of the vegetable meaning of the word.

I haven't tried it in any recipes yet, but I think I may have to hunt some down and see what I can come up with.  If you are looking for an unusual plant to add some fun to your garden, look for it at places that sell a variety of herbs.

Just remember, you have been warned about it's self seeding capabilities....

Friday, June 18, 2010


Tomorrow my dear friend Tracy is hosting her oldest daughter's graduation party.  Being Italian, it will be quite a bash, and no one will go home hungry.  She has been busy as a bee getting ready, and it will be an amazing event.  Mother Nature sounds like she will even cooperate, which for the month of June will be a real coup.
I love to help with parties, and no one is more appreciative of help than Tracy.  Since Andrea was Charlie's babysitter, back in the day, I want to do what I can to help with the festivities.  I have made Bakerella's Grad Cap Pops,
and put together flower arrangements for the tables.  Any chairs or serving bowls that can be used have been carted down the street, and I get to help decorate their yard tonight. 
A double batch of Ina's Sun Dried Tomato Pasta will be making it's way down Hartford on Saturday, along with a giant Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinagrette and Toasted Pecans.  They will join all of the food that her sister Denise brought with her from the range, potica, polish, and porketta.  Friends are bringing bars, and salads and all kinds of goodies to help Tracy put on a bash befitting a first born daughter, ready to head out in the big wide world. 

I am trying to imagine how Tracy and Mike feel right now-relief mixed with joy mixed with sadness with some pride thrown in, but right now I am guessing they are mostly just really tired from party prep this week.  Because no one throws a party like the Lane family.  Hearts full, all in.

Along with tables groaning with food, there will be good music, lots of laughter, and plenty of wine. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

spinning his wheels in Huntersville

Huntersville is a tiny speck in northern Minnesota.  Pretty much a bar out in the woods, on the edge of a horse field.  But each year in June hundreds of dirt bikers converge on it, with campers and trailers in tow, for a weekend of racing.

It was Charlie's second race of the year, his first enduro of the year.  While it rained all the way there, as we drove from St. Paul, the sun broke through and the event was blessed with clear skies.

I positioned myself in the woods, not far from the start, and whooped and hollered each time he passed me.  He didn't even notice me.  Mike was out further in the woods, taking pictures, as always.

The race takes about an hour, he ended up riding about 15 miles through narrow trails through the woods, dodging branches, moving aside for faster riders, going as fast as he could.

He finished, and smiled proudly.

His dad was pretty proud too.

Another great day in the woods for a 12 year old boy, ticks and all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

we went to the farm

No cows were milked for this blog.

Summerhill Farm is a tradition in our family, one that I haven't been able to partake in for a few years.  It is located about 40 minutes from Bemidji, just outside of Park Rapids.  For those who head to resorts in the area, or are lucky enough to have a cabin in the vicinity, Summerhill Farm is a perfect place to while away an afternoon. 

But first, an amazing lunch.

They have always had good food here, and I noticed while we were lunching last week that they have expanded to offer dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, and they now have wine tastings.  If I lived in the area I would make it there more than once a summer!

Our lunch was delish, Heather and I had the Italian Panini, which was the special of the day, and wild rice soup.  It was a cool, rainy day, so the soup hit the spot.  My mom had a steak sandwich with roasted red peppers and blue cheese, it looked really good too.  We shared a piece of chocolate torte for dessert (since we were celebrating my mum's birthday early) and were fueled to shop.

Summerhill Farm's changes it's merchandise each summer, and you can stroll through six different buildings full of goodies.  Dishes, linens, cards, gourmet foods, hooded sweatshirts, kids stuff, kitchen goodies, higher end clothing and jewelry, and cabin decor.  One whole building is now an antique shop, where I scored this dandy little number. 

While we didn't spend much money, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the farm.

Then we headed in to Park Rapids, as no trip to Summerhill Farms is complete if you don'tgo there.

Must stops:  Ben Franklin (just like the dime store when you were a kid!), the candy shops (believe it or not, they have two of them, one is best for jelly beans and taffy, the other is noted for their homemade chocolates), and the quilt shop and yarn shop.  The selection at their yarn shop is bigger than any I have been to down here in the cities, I thought I had been dropped in to wool heaven.

The rain started again in earnest, so we knew it was time to head home.  More wonderful farm memories to add to our scrapbook, and candy treats for the boys we left at home. 

(pic of me, and candy jars, by Heather)


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