Thursday, August 25, 2011


We just got back from our summer vacation in Montana. We love Montana. Granted, we love North Dakota too, but we can't get that pine-scented air and cold, crystal clear mountain lakes out here on the plains. Staying with one of my best friends and her family in Whitefish, just outside of Glacier National Park, and knowing our favorite vacations are the ones without itineraries, we went with no agenda, no real plans, and had a real great time.

Kent got to practice his fly-fishing cast while Ben and I picked huckleberries. (ps - if you ever get out to Glacier, promise me you'll try a huckleberry milkshake. Seriously amazing.) We went for lots of walks, ate some great food, and enjoyed a few bottles of rioja with our hosts.

We travelled highways, mountain passes, and gravel roads and later headed down to Bozeman and Billings. We rode a big carousel in Missoula and ate the biggest snow cone EVER. We went to bed every night happily weary, slept like logs and woke up each morning refreshed and ready for another adventure.

Through it all, Ben was a trooper, having the occasional two-year-old tantrum when he was tired, but somehow we travelled 1,700 miles together and lived to tell the tale, thanks to fruit snacks, Bob the Builder, and afternoon naps. As a bonus, I'm developing a sixth sense for finding playgrounds in new towns. Maybe I can patent my new playground radar skill, perhaps develop some playground-GPS software. I've heard crazier ideas...

We love to travel, but it is always a joy to return home. In fact, we took an extra day of vacation just to be home and have the luxury of a stay-cation day. During our one-day mini-stay-cation, when we got hungry for dinner, we were tempted to go out for pizza, but I had a gorgeous loaf of rustic bread from the Bozeman co-op and a week's worth of tomatoes sitting out in the garden, waiting to be harvested. I plucked some tomatoes and basil, toasted the bread, poured a couple cold glasses of white wine, and made a 10-minute meal of bruschetta, eliciting the comment "This is way better than pizza" from my pizza-loving hubby. And with this simple meal, we enjoyed the last evening of summer vacation, savoring every last drop.


Six slices rustic bread
1 clove of garlic
2-3 tomatoes, seeded if you wish, then chopped
Handful of kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2-3 Tbls. fresh basil, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Feta cheese

Mix tomatoes, olives, and basil in a bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a glug of olive oil. Stir and set aside.

To toast the bread, place slices on a baking sheet under the broiler, watching carefully until toasted (or you can grill the bread). Meanwhile, slice the garlic clove lengthwise. Remove hot bread from the oven and rub with the cut side of the garlic clove.

To serve, top toasted bread slices with tomato mixture (include some of the tomato juice), sprinkle with feta cheese, and drizzle with additional olive oil.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jello Shots

Yes, it's jello in a fruit rind. Aren't they cute? I brought these along to a picnic last weekend. Ben was at grandma's house and I was feeling giddy at the notion of spending a summer day hanging out exclusively with grown-ups. They're bright and cheerful with a subtle kick. Funny enough, that description perfectly describes my picnicking pals.  Hey Jen and Stefani, what up? 

Putting jello in a fruit rind freaks people out at first, but it's all in good fun. I made both orange and lemon jello slices and my fellow picnickers declared both good but lemon their favorite, thanks to the sour kick you get at the end by biting into the part close to the peel.  Or maybe it was the booze talking.  Guess I'll never know. 

Jello Shots (for Grown-Ups)
As seen in the July/August issue of Food Network magazine, but I added the vodka. :) 

2 oranges
4 lemons
2 boxes orange gelatin
2 boxes lemon gelatin
1 cup vodka
2 cups boiling water

Cut the fruits in half and carefully scoop out the pulp, leaving just the intact rind half that will serve as a gelatin bowl. Be careful not to dig too deep or hard to get the pulp out as you don't want to pierce the peel. Set the rinds in a muffin tin and set aside. 

Starting with the orange gelatin, in a small saucepan mix the two boxes of orange gelatin with one cup of boiling water.  Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add 1/2 cup of vodka to the gelatin, stir, then pour into the orange rinds. Pop the muffin tin in the fridge as you prep the lemon gelatin. Rinse out the saucepan and repeat with the lemon gelatin. Refrigerate the filled rinds for at least 3 hours or overnight. 

When you are ready to serve, take the rinds out of the fridge and cut them into wedges. You may need to trim the edges up a bit so they look even. Serve and let the fun begin. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cherry Berry Pie

Ever wanted free sour cherries?  Here's all you gotta do:

1. Have neighbors that plant sour cherry bushes directly next to your property line.

2. Watch baby sour cherry bushes spring up on your side of the property line.

Yup, sour cherries spread, but we're not complaining.  In fact, our neighbors pulled out their cherry bushes after awhile, and we just kept ours going, picking more and more fruit off of them every year.  There was that one year when the birds absolutely attacked them and ate nearly every cherry off of them (along with most of our raspberries and strawberries), but this year, we had a bounty.

I made sour cherry jam, sour cherry and chocolate coffee cake, sour cherry popsicles, and yes, this sour cherry berry pie.  However, it's not all rubies and sapphires in my cherry world as sour cherries are tedious to pit. I end up pitting them by hand, squeezing every single one to get the pit out and in the process spraying cherry juice EVERYWHERE.  My kitchen and apron resemble a butcher shop more than a bakery by the time I'm done.  If anyone knows a better way to pit sour cherries, I'm all ears, but since I want to retain the actual fruit fiber and not just juice the cherries, I haven't yet figured out a better way.  When it's cherry pitting time, I just zone out and go zen about it.  Focus on nothing but the cherry.  Be the cherry.

But for me, the work is worth the reward. A pie made out of fruit entirely from my tiny backyard? I treasure every bite.

Cherry Berry Pie
Adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book - yes, the classic red-and-white plaid cookbook. A fav - thanks, Amber, for the thoughtful cookbook gift!

Pastry for a double-crust pie (in my book, a homemade crust is worth every ounce of time and effort, but there's no shame in using the pre-made stuff if that's your preference)
3 cups pitted sour cherries
2 cups raspberries
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

In a large bowl, stir together sugar and tapioca; add fruit. Gently toss until coated and let stand about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, prepare your pie crust, lining a 9" pie plate with half the pastry.

Stir fruit and transfer to the pastry-lined pie plate. To do a lattice crust, roll out the other half of the pastry and cut into long strips. Lay the strips on the pie, weaving them over and under the other strips. Crimp edges and sprinkle top with sugar.

Place pie on a baking sheet and wrap edges with tin foil. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes; then remove the foil and bake and additional 25-30 mins more until the filling is bubbly and the pastry is golden. Cook on a wire rack next to an open window, a la June Cleaver style.

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Look, Same Me

Just a heads up that I'm doing a little redecorating at my humble little online home, with the help of a friend with a real talent at web design.  They say yellow stimulates appetite, so clearly the redesign is actually just a ploy to incorporate more yellow and make you hungrier. And if the yellow didn't do it, maybe this will help?

Recipe for that cherry berry pie coming soon.  Meanwhile, we may still make a couple design tweaks, but hope you like the new look!