Friday, September 30, 2011

so long September

This morning, up early to sneak in some extra reading time, I was thinking about my blog post for today.  And realized that it was the last day of September, perhaps my favorite month of the year (in a close competition with May).
(Our colors are just starting to turn, some maples showing off.)

And then I thought about my favorite CD to listen to this time of year:  James Taylor's "October Road".  In my Googling, I found this little snippet on You Tube, from when it was released:

This morning I plan to grab my camera, turn to this song on my Ipod, and enjoy a gorgeous fall morning.

September Grass 

Well, the sun's not so hot in the sky today 
And you know I can see summertime slipping on away 
A few more geese are gone, a few more leaves turning red 
But the grass is as soft as a feather in a featherbed 
So I'll be king and you'll be queen 
Our kingdom's gonna be this little patch of green 

Won't you lie down here right now 
In this september grass 
Won't you lie down with me now 
September grass 

Oh the memory is like the sweetest pain 
Yeah, I kissed the girl at a football game 
I can still smell the sweat and the grass stains 
We walked home together. I was never the same. 

But that was a long time ago 
And where is she now? I don't know 
[ Lyrics from: ] 
Won't you lie down here right now 
In this september grass 
Won't you lie down with me now 
September grass 

Oh, september grass is the sweetest kind 
It goes down easy like apple wine 
Hope you don't mind if I pour you some 
Made that much sweeter by the winter to come 

Do you see those ants dancing on a blade of grass? 
Do you know what I know? that's you and me, baby 
We're so small and the world's so vast 
We found each other down in the grass 

Won't you lie down with me right here 
September grass 
Won't you lie down with me now 
In this september grass 

Lie down 
Lie down 
Lie down 
Lie down 


Won't you lie down here right now 
In this september grass 
Won't you lie down here now 
In this september grass

Think I will grab a quilt and my book and enjoy a little of the September Grass this weekend.   Hope you can too!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

reading room

I made lots of time for reading this summer-there is nothing I love more than pouring a glass of wine at the end of the day and relaxing in a small corner of my yard with a good book.

Autumn is here and there is less time for books.  And on top of that, it gets dark too early to hang out in my corner.  But I still make time for books, every day, even if it's only for a bit before I drop off to sleep.  Last night I started "The Distant Hours" by Kate Morton.
The Distant Hours
Oh, it's the kind of book I can just get lost in.  I almost wish I had a bad cold or the flu, so I would have a good excuse to curl up with it and just escape for hours.  Is that bad?

Here is the scoop, from the Good Reads website:

A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling.

And rich storytelling it is.  Here is what is inside the front cover, the beginning of the book that plays a prominent part of the story:

Hush...can  you hear him?

The trees can.  They are the first to know that he is coming.

Listen!  The trees of the deep, dark wood, shivering and jittering their leaves like papery hulls of beaten silver; the sly wind, snaking through their tops, whispering that soon it will begin.

The trees know, for they are old and they have seen it all before.

Isn't it delicious?  I can hardly wait to keep reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

recipe box Wednesday

Last week was rather cool, and fallish, and put me in the mood for some autumnal baking.  I had a bowl full of Ginger Gold apples from the Farmer's Market, just crying to be made into something.  I had already done crisps, a couple of times, and wanted something more cake-like.

Fortunately, I had just picked up this cookbook, at a recent Half Price Books sale event. "Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters: More than 100 years of Recipes Discovered from Family Cookbooks, Original Journals, Scraps of Paper, and Grandma's Kitchen".
Heirloom Baking With the Brass Sisters b...
It is a treasure trove, one of those cookbooks that you can sit and read like a novel.  It is beautifully put together, the inside cover art is old recipes handwritten by cooks long gone.  The food styling is lovely, the recipes easy to follow with little tips thrown in along the way.  No wonder it was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Book Award!  And now I can forget about that project I have on my list, to go through all of the old recipe cards I have been buying up at yard sales, to put into a cookbook.  At least the baking part!

Inside, on page 164, I found exactly what I was looking for.  It is by no means low calorie, or a fast dessert, but oh my, it was worth every calorie and minute spent preparing it:

Chopped Apple Cake with Sticky Toffee Topping (from the 1930's)

for the cake:

2 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. raw apples, peeled, cored, and chopped by hand
1 c. walnuts, finely chopped (I substituted pecans)

for the toffee topping:

1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/8  tsp. salt
1 c. heavy cream

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350.  Line the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" pan with foil, shiny side up, and coat with vegetable spray.

2. To make the cake: Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

3.  Sift sugar into bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add butter, and cream together.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla.  Add apples alternately with sifted dry ingredients, beating after each addition.  Fold in nuts.

4.  Spread batter evenly in pan.  Bake 1 hour, or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and tester inserted into cake comes out clean.  Cool on rack 25 minutes, or until just warm.

5.  To make the toffee topping:  Melt butter in a heavy metal saucepan over low heat.  Add brown sugar and salt and whisk until blended.  Add heavy cream, increase heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon until mixtures comes to a boil  Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Mixture will thicken as it rests.

6.  Make several slits in warm cake with a butter knife.  Pour sauce over cake.  Let rest until topping sets, about 15 minutes.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream.  Store loosely covered with wax paper at room temperature.

And I can tell you that the leftovers make a very nice breakfast.

Monday, September 26, 2011

feeding a cold

We almost made it a whole month into school before the first bug came home.

Friday night, Charlie complained of a sore throat.

Saturday, I had him gargle with warm salt water, and later made him a nice hot cup of tea with honey.

(image found on line at the gifted penguin, uk -  isn't it sweet?)

He went and played paintball later in the day with his friends, and came home feeling even worse.

Sunday?  Ricola throat drops, chicken soup, more tea, and an entire box of Kleenex later, I officially declare it the first cold of the season.

Is that a scratchy throat I feel, or is it just dry in here?????

Friday, September 23, 2011

welcome autumn!

"We come back to Autumn, to zucchini that wilt like witches' shoes."  Margaret Hasse

It arrived quietly here this morning at 4:05 a.m., I was awake, as was Claude, crying to be picked up and cuddled in our cozy bed.   We have felt the crispness in the air for several days now, autumn does tend to arrive sooner here than the calendar tells us.  I have already pulled out the wool slippers and the cozy cardigans.  The first pot of chili has been enjoyed along with some cornbread.  I tried a new apple cake recipe-yum!  Look for the recipe next week.  Football is regularly being played in the field across the street, spectators bundled in warm coats and hats.  The squirrels are scurrying across the lawn, nuts in their mouths (where they heck do they find them?  We have no nut trees anywhere near our house....).  My asters are starting to bloom, (the ones that our resident bunny didn't consume).  I have stocked up on tea and soup, and pulled out my hand knitted wool socks.

Fortunately, most of my flowers are still thriving.  Here's a little tour:

My herb garden.  I usually transplant a couple of things to a pot for inside before it get's frosty; sage, thyme, lemon balm.
Remember when I planted this pot with a couple of coleus plants along with some other things?

It really thrived!
Here is a window box from the beginning of the growing season (May, to be exact):
And here is that same window box now.  I am one of those gardeners who is always adding, moving, etc.
My biggest yard headache this year?  Our birch tree got completely invaded with Japanese Beetles.  Yuk. And now they have laid eggs in the ground.  grrrr.  How do I combat THAT?
Another before and after, the giant Ikea pot on my front step in May:
and today.  (sorry about the bad lighting in this one...)
For some crazy reason, the black eyed susan vine flourishing  in the center of the pot only produced two blooms the entire season.  I have never had that happen before, usually they bloom like crazy for me.

Yesterday I picked up my fall stash of flowers-purple asters and bronze orange mums, kale and purple and orange pansies, and sunny yellow mums.  I picked up a blue pumpkin, a white pumpkin, half a dozen pie pumpkins, and a bag full of assorted squash.  Can't wait to play with my pots and window boxes this weekend and welcome the season!  Now if only the frost will hold off a few more weeks so we can fully enjoy it all...

How will you welcome the new season?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

making Connections

You may recall my experiences last year at the Creative Connection  ( I blogged several days about it, I only show you one ).  This year the budget was smaller, so I was wondering how I would do it.  Fortunately, I had heard they were looking for some volunteers, so I ended up working an afternoon shift in exchange for taking a class and having lunch.  Perfect!

This year's event was held in downtown St. Paul, so it was a short trip.  Tracy and I arrived bright and early to receive our instructions from Nancy Soriano, in her suite  (first brush with fame....).  Then it was off to attend my class!

One creative personality that I have admired and followed for years is Kaari Meng.  I have many of her books, this jewelry book is THE ONE I go to when I need fresh inspiration.  Last year I got to meet her, and she autographed it for me!
French-Inspired Jewelry: Creating with Vintage Beads, Buttons & Baubles
I also have this book:
French General: Treasured Notions
which is full of wonderful old notions and trims.  In the other part of our class, we made beautiful glittered egg boxes with things found in this book, Wendy Addison from Tinsel Trading showed us how, and there was an entire booth full of these goodies in the Handmade Market.  swoon....

Kaari also authored this book,
French General: Home Sewn: 30 Projects for Every Room in the House
which sits on my shelf.  I pull it out when I need sewing inspiration, or to dream of France.

And finally, this book of hers arrived in my mail this year, oh, it's scrumptious!
The French-Inspired Home, with French General
Clearly, I am a little obsessed.

In our class, we made a GORGEOUS charm bracelet and earrings, and had the chance to purchase more of her goodies.  I was in heaven.

You too can be in French General heaven, here is a link to her shop in California. I have ordered many kits from her, they are simply scrumptious.

But my newest dream?  Joining her next summer on her yearly two week trip to France, her "Chateau Getaway".  She takes a small group of people with her each year.  Oh my....

After class, it was off to lunch, the food was underwhelming but the speakers were interesting.  We learned that people had traveled from every state and seven countries to attend the event this year!  I sat at my table, looking around the room, glimpsing all of these amazing women who are legends in their field:  Stacy Julian, Becky Higgins, Susan Branch, and of course Kaari Meng.

For my volunteer stint, I was in charge of taking tickets at the door of the Handmade Market.  It was to open at 1:30, there were literally HUNDREDS of woman standing outside the door, waiting to get in, and little old me, the one who was to let them in.  EEK!  But I did get to let Susan Branch and her husband in early (a true joy for me, but we didn't exactly get to chat...).  Once the first throng was through, it was a very manageable afternoon.  I met so many people!  I saw co-workers from my days at Target, Cathy Zielske and her adorable daughter, and Mary Jane Butters!  fun fun fun.

After our big day, Tracy and I headed out for a relaxing glass of wine and delicious dinner at the Downtowner Woodfire Grill. The perfect ending to a very good day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

recipe box Wednesday

I have idolized Susan Branch for years (you will read about my glimpse of her at the Creative Connection tomorrow) and I adore cooking from her beautiful hand written and painted cookbooks.
Autumn from the Heart of the Home
Last Saturday I needed a salad to bring to a friend's house for dinner, and I pulled her "Autumn" book from my collection, knowing I would find the perfect thing.  And I did!  I changed up a couple of things from the original recipe, based on what I could find at Trader Joes-here is my version:

Red Pear, Black Grape, Spiced Pecan Salad

3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper
Blend in a small saucepan, stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, set aside.

Leaf Lettuce, one small head red and one small head green  (you can really use any kind of greens here)
1 pomegranate, seeded (Traders Joes sells just the seeds, I love them!)
black seedless grapes, halved
1 lg red onion, thinly sliced into rings
1/2 c. crumbled gorgonzola
4 ripe red pears (I used green ones from a local orchard)
zest of two oranges
fresh figs, quartered
Spiced Pecans (you can make your own, recipe follows, but I used Trader Joes)

I arranged all of the fruit artfully on top of the greens, to make it pretty, and sprinkled it with the orange zest.  I passed the dressing along with the onions, cheese, and pecans so people could make it their own (and avoid the things they didn't want).  If you have never had a fresh fig, oh my, try to find them in your grocery store right now!  They are currently in season, so you may get lucky.  That was something I added from the original recipe, they really fit in with the other flavors.  The dressing makes plenty, I have used it again over fresh tomatoes and sliced cucumbers, yum!

If you want to make your own Spiced Pecans, here is Susan's recipe:
spray olive oil
2 c. pecan halves
1/4 brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 c. melted butter
4 Tbsp. Mexican hot sauce (Cholula)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Preheat oven to 350, light spray olive oil on a cookie sheet.  Mix all other ingredients and spread in pan in 1 layer.  Bake 10 min. until lightly toasted, stirring once.  Cool.

I adore her cookbooks, as they aren't just recipes.  Here is the description from a book selling site:  

Picking up where The Summer Book left off, Susan Branch's Autumn from the Heart of the Home fills the Fall season with all-American recipes, thoughtful gifts, crafts projects, decorating ideas, and entertaining themes. The recipes include Touchdown Chili, Butternut Shotglass Soup, Iowa Corn Bread, Savory Sage Riblets, Harvest Stew, Grandma's Stuffing, Curried Pumpkin Pots, Ginger Crisps, and, of course, Hot Chocolate. The book is generously illustrated with Branch's trademark graphics and watercolors.

If nothing else, try to find some of her books at your local library, you will be glad you did!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


September seems to be busier than December is, for me.  I like to call it my CREATIVE month!

For the last several years, I have been fortunate enough to attend Junk Bonanza.  Held in Canterbury Park, Shakopee, this year it was just as much fun as always!  More than one hundred vendors, from all across America, selling things I love.
This year, my good friend Tracy invited me to join her, as she had won two early bird VIP tickets to the event.  WAHOO!

We could get inside at 8 am, which meant getting up early (for me) and driving in traffic.  ugh.  But it was SO worth it!

Rather than checking out all the booths up front, Tracy and I headed directly to the back, where we could shop nearly by ourselves, then eventually wound our way to the front, and the crowds.  I found such fun things!
Buttons for making bracelets,
vintage bread tins that I will use for displaying bracelets at my next show, old jewelry boxes, very cool pumpkins,
an old wooden folding yard stick, vintage tape measure, and this year, CLOCKS.  Lots of clocks.
I have an idea, I will share more later if it works fingers are just itching to get creating!

At 10 am, the general public was allowed in, but by 10:30 we were pretty much shopped (or shall I say 'junked' ) out.

We headed to Prior Lake, and had breakfast at the most amazing little spot, the Edelweiss Bakery.  (image taken from their website, isn't it great?)

It was a wonderful day, spent with a delightful friend.  Ahhh, the joys of September....

Sunday, September 18, 2011

catching up

It was quite a week last week and I am just trying to take a breath....I will be posting next week about Junk Bonanza and the Creative Connection event, along with a yummy recipe I made for a friend's dinner party last night.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

a surprise get-away

Mike and Charlie were riding their dirt bikes at Theilmann all last weekend-they had a great time and fun with friends.  When they arrived home on Sunday evening, Mike handed me a card.

"But our anniversary isn't until tomorrow."  I protested.  He simply smiled, and told me I needed to open it early.

I opened it, a funny card, and inside a note accompanied by photos proclaimed I should "pack my bags" as he was taking me away in the morning, to Duluth.  The best part?  He had made reservations for us to stay at the Firelight Inn!

We have stayed there a couple of times in the last 15 years, but it seems like it has been ages.  And it was everything I had remembered.  You can find them here:

It is tucked away at the end of a street, where it's neighbor is the Oregon Creek, which you can hear quietly burbling away from open windows during your stay.  The house itself is 100 years old, and was built by George Barnum.  Yes, the same Mr. Barnum that the town of Barnum was named for.  It is in a neighborhood full of large, elegant homes, from an era of Duluth firmly rooted in history.

You are greeted by the owners at the door, and walk into an enormous porch, populated by wicker chairs, cozy pillows, strategically placed lamps and a fireplace.  The windows are sparkling clean, and offer views of the creek and beautifully maintained lawn and gardens.

As you step inside, gleaming wood, comfortable furnishings, a grand piano, and an enormous fireplace grace the main floor, along with a butler's pantry tucked in the corner.  At any time of day, you can find hot and cold beverages, ice, sweets, and always homemade cookies.  A vast collection of music can be found for the cd player in your room, or perhaps a movie.  Books, games, puzzles, anything you need to while away your time.
The gorgeous staircase takes you to the second and third floors, where our suite awaited.  For this visit, we were staying in the Superior Suite.  Painted a calming blue, it had a separate sitting room with couch, television, wardrobe, table and chairs, small refrigerator, and sink.  The main room holds the king size bed (more on that later), a fireplace, another table and chairs, and a two person hot tub.
What always impresses me, is the absolute attention to detail the owners provide.  Handcrafted soap, gleaming brass, an already filled ice bucket with treats and cold water were waiting for us, along with a homemade card with a note from the owners, welcoming us and thanking us for choosing to stay with them.  I defy you to find a single piece of dust in the entire home.  Real glass water tumblers, heavy coffee mugs, plush and plentiful towels, gorgeous spa robes, and quality toilet paper. (Yes, I mention the toilet paper, simply because absolutely no comfort has been neglected.)
And the bed.  Oh, the bed.  An excellent mattress topped with a featherbed, two huge down pillows, and the softest sheets imaginable.  I could have just stayed in that bed for days.  As someone with back problems, I generally am dissatisfied by hotel beds.  But not this one.
Just when you think you have journeyed to heaven, the next morning a quiet knock on the door lets you know that your breakfast has arrived.  An enormous basket waits for you just outside your door, it was so heavy I had to have Mike bring it in!  It held the following:  breakfast strudel (ham, cheese, eggs, fresh herbs in perfectly golden puff pastry) still piping hot, fresh pears and strawberries, warm butterscotch scones and banana bread with butter, a pitcher of orange juice and a pot of coffee, and fresh blueberries in port sauce with creme fraiche.  Of course the basket included cloth placemats and napkins and china plates and silverware.
It's a shame to have to leave.  But you know that no matter when you return, all that you love about the Firelight Inn will be there, waiting for you.  I don't know of any other place where Mike and I have returned three times.  And with several rooms, we still have a few left to try out!  They each have their own theme and ambience.  The one thing I have yet to try is the massage, you can set up an appointment for one during your stay, in house.  Next time....

I actually dream of being stranded there for several days,  during a snowstorm, and really take advantage of all that the Inn has to offer.  They have journals in each of the rooms, and it is such fun to read the comments from others who have enjoyed staying there, why they happened to be in Duluth, where they came from, and if they were celebrating something.  I just read a few recent ones, and so many of them were returning guests.

A big thank you to Jim and Joy Fischer for being the ultimate host and hostess, they do everything themselves and put all of their heart and soul into their business.  Even though it was a short getaway, it was perfect in every way.  When you say goodbye, you feel as if you have just spent lovely time with friends.
If you are ever planning a trip to Duluth, and want to be assured of an exceptional experience, please try to find a spot at the Firelight Inn.   It is absolutely the best lodging money can buy, as it is more than just a place to rest your head.  (and you too will be raving about the featherbed...)

Disclaimer:  I have not been compensated nor asked to write this review, I simply love The Firelight Inn and wanted to share it with you!!!

and the winner is...

...sorry for the delay in announcing the winner of the cookbook from last week, my husband surprised me with an anniversary trip to Duluth and I haven't been near a computer!  More on that little adventure later....

I only had three entries, so your chances of winning were far better than entering, say, one of the Pioneer Woman's contests.

Rather than using Random Number Generator, which is what all the hip bloggers use when they have contests, I went the old fashioned way.  I wrote your names on equal size pieces of paper, put them in a hat, shook them well, and had Mike draw a name.

Ann J-you have won a copy of the Hay Day Country Market cookbook!  EMail me your address at and I will get it in the mail to you.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


Up early this morning, I turned on the television.  Something I don't normally do on a Sunday morning, I prefer to sit with my newspaper and a cup of coffee.  But obviously this Sunday was anything but normal.  I read the paper, the stories of people touched very personally by this date ten years ago, as the television screen was filled with images of the sites of horror where such pain occurred.

I sat transfixed, watching the memorial service.  The terror, pain, grief, and sadness of that day filled me up to overflowing, as I watched family members recite the names of those lost, and tell stories of their lives in the last ten years.  I sobbed when I watched them visit the memorial, and gently touch the names of those who are no longer here.

A while later, when I couldn't cry anymore, I got up and went outside to water my garden.  It was a bright blue sunny morning, much like the day was ten years ago. The sight of my flowers whispered to me, suggesting a different path for the day
I drove to the St. Paul Farmer's Market.  It was bustling with activity, color, music, and laughter.  A better way to honor this day, than to sit alone with tears running down my face.

The pictures I share with you today from the market were taken by my talented sister Heather, when she was here a few weeks ago.
The bounty of the market this time of year is overwhelming-every kind of tomato,
carrots, potatoes, onions, beans, herbs, corn, squash, cucumbers, peppers.
Who knew there were so many kinds of eggplant?
And the flowers, oh the flowers!
Such a bountiful time of year.

This particular photo, my favorite, is going to be my screensaver in January.

And it's a beautiful bouquet, to honor all those lost and their families who have endured.

EDITED:  After checking a few of my favorite blogs, I wanted to share this link with you.  I think Susan Branch just wrote so beautifully about this day.  You can read it, here:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

August garden

I know, it's September, but I am just getting around to this....
The August garden has the whine of cicadas in the background, and the sounds of the football team practicing in the field across the street.  Some plants are tired, and spent.  Others continue vibrant and cheerful.
I have never had blooms on my sweet potato vine before.  What a fun surprise!
I plant Datura (also known as Moonflower) every year, instead of white this year I found purple and yellow.  It reminds me of a plant that might be tended by students at Hogwarts-and in fact the leaves are quite poisonous.  I make sure no one eats them.  Isn't it a stunning bloom?  Sadly, it only lasts about 24 hours.  But it leaves interesting things behind....
One of the reasons I love coleus is it is so reliable, and provides beautiful, consistent color all season long.  And now that there are so many new varieties, I can have stunning color in sun or shade, in beds and boxes and pots.  Now if they could only come up with some that are frost resistant....
Begonias show their flirty skirts all summer long.  While I find August blooms to be just a bit paler than the vibrant colors of June, I still adore them.
An old fashioned flower, I planted 4 o'clocks this year.  Their cheerful blooms pop out in the morning, and true to their name, are closed up by late afternoon, resting up for the next day's display.
Browalia adds a dainty, cheerful touch to the shade garden.  These have just had a much needed drink.
Cleome is big and flashy in the sun garden, yet elegant at the same time.  Only one of the four I planted bloomed, but since I have a tendency to plant too much and crowd things (when will I ever learn?) that is one of the results.  Perhaps I will review these notes before planting next spring.....mental note.
These zinnias were purchased on my May birthday in Alma, Wisconsin, and have provided happy blooms all summer.

How is YOUR garden doing?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

recipe box Wednesday, and a giveaway!

Because I have been neglecting my dear readers all summer, I feel it's time to give you something.

First, a recipe.  And if you are the winner, a new cookbook!

Published in 1998, I have been using this cookbook for quite a long time.  This year, for his back-to-school dinner, Charlie requested pasta, with bacon and tomatoes.  He didn't care how I did it, but that was what he wanted.

The Hay Day Country Market Cookbook

And I immediately thought of a favorite recipe, I have made many times:  Tuscan Tomato and Bacon Sauce, from this very cookbook.  Easy to find, on page 260, due to all of the splashes of ingredients on the pages.

Here you go:

Tuscan Tomato and Bacon Sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. fresh sweet Italian sausage, bulk or casings removed (I often use more than this)
4 strips thick sliced smoked bacon, diced ( I generally double this amount)
1 lg clove garlic, peeled and minced  (I use 2 or 3)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped Spanish onion (I use whatever onions I have on hand)
1/2 c. port (I use red wine instead)
2 lbs. fresh plum tomatoes, or 4 c. canned tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you don't want it spicy)
1 Tbsp. shredded fresh basil, or more to taste (you can imagine I add more)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over med hi heat.  Add the sausage and bacon, saute until sausage is browned and bacon is crisp, about 5 min.  Drain the excess fat from the pan, leaving enough to cook the garlic and onion over med hi heat until the onion is tender and lightly colored, 8-10 min.

Add the port (or wine) and simmer for 1 min., scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a gentle simmer over med-hi heat and cook, uncovered, until the tomatoes are softened and cooked down, 20-25 min.  Then stir in the basil and serve.  Or let cool and store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Other ideas:

* Serve over a mound of hot linguine with a few warm grilled shrimp tucked on top.

* Use as a pizza topping, along with a bit of grated mozzarella.

(Sorry that I don't have the easy to print recipe gadget active on my blog yet.  To print, just cut and paste the recipe into Word, or Google Docs, and print to use.)

Personally, I doubled the recipe so we had enough for another meal.  I also sauteed up a pound of sliced portabella mushrooms and added to the sauce, to increase the earthiness factor (we really love mushrooms). I also top it with a generous helping of freshly grated parmesan.   Because the first helping of this is rather juicy, I always serve it with good crusty bread to sop up the juices.  Honestly, it tastes even better the second day.

I have made batches of this at the end of summer with fresh tomatoes and frozen it to enjoy in January.  YUM.

Anyhoo, this is just one of a number of wonderful recipes from this delightful cookbook.  I have made the Summer Corn and Tomato Salad, the BLT Pasta Salad, the Maple Glazed Pork Chops, the Mango Chicken Salad, the Vidalia Onion Dip, the Pesto, and the Cherry Apple Pecan Crisp.  And I haven't even made a dent in all of the wonderful recipes I have yet to try:  Key Lime Pudding Cakes, Gingerbread Peach Upside-Down Cake, Maple Cashew Crisps, Buttermilk Chive Mashed Potatoes, Wild Mushroom, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Lasagne, Maple Roasted Sweet Potato Spears,  Southern Pulled Chicken Barbeque, Pork and Apple Chili.....

Are you hungry yet?

I picked up a copy of this delightful cookbook at a favorite book store, and because I love it so, I want to share the fun with one of you.

Please leave a comment (with your email address) and let me know if you made a back to school meal for your child, or if you remember a special back to school meal from your own childhood.  You will be entered to win.

Contest closes at midnight on Saturday, Sept. 10th and the winner will be announced on Monday.

Good luck!

Monday, September 5, 2011

looking back

I have to say, the quote I found for September certainly sums up the last couple of days!

Labor Day Weekend (it deserves to be in capitals) was so BEAUTIFUL, weather-wise.  The kind of weather you dream of, in January.  What you imagine an idyllic summer day to be.

I have so much to catch up on!

This year I was fortunate enough to attend our State Fair, not once, but twice.  While I am still waiting for my sis to share her fab pictures of our day (send them along, Heather!) I do have a few pics Mike took with his Iphone to celebrate our State Fair Date (since Charlie refuses to join us any longer-you can read all about my dismay over this, from last year, here:

At the Minnesota State Fair, you can be the king of Spam.  (I don't know about you, but I am not a fan of Spam, if you are, you can order deep fried Spam curds....)

This year, I finally found the butter sculptor.  Hard to believe I have been going to the fair this long and had not found her.  The slabs are 90 lbs of butter, and she sculpts all of the dairy princesses, in a slowly rotating glass display, I think the temp is 40 degrees.  She is AMAZING!  The princesses get to keep their sculptures after the fair.  I have heard that one of them in the past used the butter for a community corn feed!  What would YOU do with that much butter?

Mike and I love to check out the animals.  My favorite is the cows.  Perhaps I feel an affinity with the dairy cows, having once compared myself to a milker....or perhaps it is their gentle eyes.  Speaking of cows, this year we tried a rhubarb/strawberry malt from the Dairy Building.  Good heavens, it was DELICIOUS!

I always check out the Fine Art building, there are some amazingly talented people in our state. Mike and I both marveled over this sculpture, created from a single piece of wood.  I wish you could see the incredible detail of this piece, it was overwhelming (and full size, though you can't see it in this photo):


The crowd favorite was this sculpture, made completely from return address labels! I think the reason it created such a stir, is that it was made from something so mundane, that many of us just toss in the recycling bin.  It was made by an aunt of my good friend, Mike Lane.  Far less than six degrees of separation here.....

As we wandered through the grounds, we came across the ARMCA trailer.  As we walked in, we saw something familiar.  They were showing Mike's latest enduro movie "Endless Sunday"!  How cool is THAT?  Mike has officially been featured at the Minnesota State Fair.

The Horticulture building is one of my favorites (not just because I can sit for a really long time and enjoy Minnesota wine), it has beehives, and honey ice cream, crop art (this picture is made of SEEDS-yes, it completely deserved the Reserve Champion prize, incredible!)

wonderful scarecrows (this one was my favorite-the head is a gourd with amaranth as the hair!),

Christmas trees, fresh apples

(the frozen apple cider is a MUST on a hot fair day), and flour sacks.

I learned a lot about flour sacks.  Turns out, if you take your time, and stop to talk to the people who are staffing the fair, you can learn so much.

Back in the day, ages ago, each company had their own logo for their flour and seed sacks.  But, knowing that industrious housewives were re-using the sacks to make aprons, and curtains, and clothing, the ink that was used on the sacks was water soluble.  So the first time the sack went into that week's washing, the advertising went away and it became quite usable fabric.

Which leads to the fact that today, there are very few flour and seed sacks remaining with the actual company logo on them, and are quite collectible.  Who knew?  I tell you, every year the state fair teaches me something new.  You may go for the food, but if you are watchful, you can learn something too!

And unfortunately, I don't have a photo, but this year my favorite NEW fair food was the caprese on a stick, at Giggles.  It was served on fresh greens and with an amazing wild rice cranberry salad.  We had it with some walleye fingers, and I have every intention of trying to recreate that salad on my own.  YUM!

Hoping you are compiling your own summer memories....


Related Posts with Thumbnails