Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Apple A Day

As promised, I have a little recipe for you.

Here's a hint:

It is sooooo that time of year. Have you seen the weighted down, limbs to the ground, apple harvest this year? It is an "on" year for that crispy crew, and it's about time for them to dance on into my kitchen and hop into my slow cooker. My little girl is excited to share this too, and says, "This recipe's for you!!

Here is how we do apple season, at the Smith Farm. You will want to lick the air as it cooks.

                                 Vanilla Apple Pear Butter

                               2.5 lbs. Gala apples, peeled, cored, and quartered

                     2.5 lbs. Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and quartered

                     1 Cup packed brown sugar

                     1/2 tsp. kosher salt

                     1 Cinnamon stick

                     1 vanilla bean ~or~ 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


                         In a food processor fitted with the grate attachment, shred all your prepared apples and pears, in batches, if necessary.  Transfer your shreds into your slow cooker. When done, rinse out the food processor bowl, because we are going to use it later. Stir in the 1 cup of packed brown sugar, and the 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Take your cinnamon stick, and nestle that puppy deep into the heart of your mixture. Cover with the lid, and cook on high for 4 hours.

                        Once it has simmered away for four hours, remove the cinnamon stick, and set it aside. Put the blade tool on your food processor. Transfer the mixture to the food processor, and gently blend, giving short pulses, until smooth. Be very careful, as blending hot stuff can make a big mess or a big ouch! Return your yummy mixture back to the slow cooker, and add your 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, or, if you are using your vanilla bean, split your vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds into the mixture, and give it a big stir. Add back the cinnamon stick to the mixture if you'd like to have your butter on the more spicy side, (keep it out if not), and simmer your mixture on low, uncovered, for 4 more hours giving it a stir every once and awhile to dispel the aroma. Mmmmmm. Once done, remove the cinnamon stick, and let cool before tasting or you *will* burn the roof of your mouth. You can freeze it or refrigerate it. Eat it on graham crackers, or smear it on waffles. Give to your neighbor or surprise your post (wo)man. Or, keep it all to yourself.



Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 23, 2012

It's that time of year to drape my favorite fleece over the back of my computer chair again, and daydream about pumpkins.

Autumn has officially hung up it's jacket, slipped off it's shoes, and is here to stay. Not that I mind. This summer has been great, but I am a little tired. A lot tired. Summer has left me totally pooped out. And, left me with the messiest house ever known to man. Ever. I ignored it for three months, since there was much funner things to do, so I did what every (in)sane person would do, and totally ignored my chores. I am so embarrassed, but, I hang on to one of my very favorite quotes: "Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids."  True dat.

 (Insert picture of a messy house. I am too embarrassed to post one, so use your imagination well.)

The leaves are slowly rusting around the fringes of the Smith property, and the grass feels like steel wool under my heels. I am ready to feel the weight again of the comforter instead of our summer quilt, as I snuggle deeper into the grey mornings, and smell the thick scent that permeates the house from the slow cooker. There are so many recipes, I want to share it is ridiculous, so I will sprinkle them upon you in doses, instead of hosing you down with them.

Yesterday, following tradition for the first day of autumn, I had Jeremy drag down the Halloween bins from the attic, and happily dug into them. Alone. It seems as though I have spawned a Grinch of some sort. When Grace was little, I made (and still do )  a big ole' deal about holidays. My holiday freak flag flies high and proud. The house is transformed with the many decorations I have squirreled away over the years, recipes are dusted off and pumped out of our kitchen, holiday jammies are ordered and worn. But, I should have known better, and hid my holiday glee, for as many of you know, a child is pre-programmed to naturally become your opposite. Grace shook her head at me when I asked her to help me decorate. Gasp! Out flew the fantasy of mulled apple cider sipping, listening to Halloween music as we laugh and transform the house into a spooky hollow.  She "wasn't in the mood." she informed me, and flitted away as I sulked and decorated by myself.

                I enlisted Daisy's help for a bit, but she scattered too, after becoming part of the decor.

She did, however, decorate the bones on the fridge this morning. Not truly my opposite, I suppose.

Twilight brings the evenings closer, and we go on apple harvesting hunts around the property in the weak light to see what the deer and raccoons have left us. We have a system down: Jeremy is the tree shaker, I am the falling apple spotter, and Grace and Jeremy gather. It works well as we've peeled, chopped, and froze these babies so we can extend the harvest.

September hid and skated by on the sunny coat tails of Summer. All of the sudden October is staring me down, blocking November's shadow, like a good friend. I love October. I loathe the blackness of November. Today is a sunny day, it is September the 23rd, 2012, and I will try my best to wrap my head around that. November's knocking a soft knock at my door, yet, it sounds as loud as thunder, which unnerves me. October, my good friend, please spoil me before I fall, with all your best. I beg you.   XO

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Birthday Naughties

So, tomorrow is my birthday.

36 years ago I cried for the first time, breathed for the first time, loved for the first time. A wonderful day of firsts. When you think about it, the day of birth is so amazing in so many ways, it is meant to be celebrated, even all these years later. I have no shame. I am almost 36, and I say it proud. I earned these lines on my face, I earned the aches and pains that plague me. They are rights of passage, and remind me of a life hopefully, well lived.  I am so very grateful for my 365x36, and hope and pray that number will grow, and I can write this post as 365x96.

Being someone that likes to milk things out, I was happy to stretch out my birthday demands, and make it a birthday weekend. I guess you can draw it out a little bit too far, as it was my excuse for bad sassy behavior, and I was swiftly put back into place. Nope. Not yet. It is not your birthday yet.  Birthday sass only allowed on that said day. Only one day allowed for the birthday naughties.

Jeremy and I decided to go on a day date as a lead into the birthday weekend. Just me and him. So, we loaded up the bikes, caught the ferry, and biked in the clear September sunshine down on Alki.

It didn't take but 5 minutes to talk ourselves into a cafe and sit and have coffee, eat pastries, and soak up the morning sunshine that graced our table by the window.

We talked, and talked and finally talked ourselves into getting back on our bikes, and burning off our naughty breakfast.

It was one of those perfect mornings where everything falls into place, and after our bike ride we spent the rest of the afternoon perusing through Costco, doing a great job of talking each other into spur of the moment purchases.   Oooooo, now that is some 36 year old birthday naughtiness right there. When the words "Birthday" and "Costco" are in the same sentence, you know you are getting old. Sheesh.

Next up was what I always, always request for dinner: Birthday Enchiladas. No birthday would be quite the same without them.

And having a hula hooping girl is always a birthday must, especially one as cute as this:

Dessert, I think, ranks high on the naughty scale. And since I like to bake, I decided to make one of my own birthday desserts:  Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting. I made these and dreamt of the day when I will open up my own shop. It is on my someday list.

When one is as old as I, one can demand a second dessert, and my request was for profiteroles. Naughty x 2. Boy, do I love me some of these. Growing up, we knew these as "Poopy Nuffs." Legend has it, my brother was so excited when my mom made these for my Nana,  that when she came over he couldn't remember the word, and out came the words "poopy", and "nuffs", so, they have always been Poopy Nuffs ever since. Feel free to use that enduring term too.

Stuffed to the nines, we went dancing last night, and danced the night away with friends to an awesome live band and a packed house. It is the same group of friends I danced with back in high school, way back when, and I can't tell you how great these lovely ladies make me feel. When I am around them the years melt away, and I am seventeen again. It is like a shot of youth serum, except it hits my heart in a way that makes time loose it's footing. They are that potent, a true birthday treat.

Today, I shared my birthday weekend with my niece, and we went roller skating and skated off the remnants of enchiladas+cupcakes+poopy nuffs+migas for breakfast+pizza for lunch. I grabbed my camera, but with a dead battery so I have no fun photos to share, but she sure looked cute, my little 8 year old niece and I wish her a very very, happy birthday, and we all had a lot of fun with you today, and love you very much, Savannah. XOXO

Well, I get one more day to expand the naughty.

Tomorrow I turn 36. And I will wake up, and maybe surprise everyone and maybe even myself by not being naughty at all...


There will be a cupcake on my breakfast plate.

: )

Sunday, September 9, 2012

That one with the Pear Salad Recipe

I have had this post that I have been writing many times in my head.

 Endings have been different. Beginnings have been different. The body of it has been written countless times at night in waves of consciousness at that point of sleep and awake from a mind that won't quit, but it has been lost in dreams, and erased by mornings. It has had many incarnations, and struggles with identity.  It is always at the tip of my keys as I write, but I still can't entangle it from that inside part of me that keeps me hushed instead. It clutches that egg, and wants to sit on it forever, but it is a story I will soon have to tell before it blows me apart. This part of me throbs, and I consider it a very ugly part of my being. I'm sure we all have parts that are not for the public, but someday I will share. I hate to be so secretive, I'm sorry about that. I will gather the strength to write, I just have to hole myself up at the right time, and let the keys fly so I can let this beast go with the proper send off, instead of leaving bits of me behind in it's wake.

Sharing is tough, and I'm never really sure a public blog is the right format to let my family laundry dry. I do though, have this urge to write, and to have this platform. It is freeing in a way, and so much funner than a diary. I like writing. And I like sharing. Writing is the control that I crave. It is challenging, and routine. An assignment I give myself that I don't want to fail. So, I give my Sunday best, and push through those days that I don't feel like writing or sharing, like today.

So, since I am feeling a bit glum, indifferent, and flat out uninspired, I will share a recipe with you, which will help me feel better. I do love sharing this part of me, the part that feels light and airy. The Betty Crocker part. I am a kitchen hound by nature, and the coming of fall has pushed me elbow deep into recipe central.

I make this salad often, and add grilled chicken to it to make it a quick lunch. It is a simple prep, but if you are going to eat off of it for a couple days, keep the ingredients separate, and only put on the dressing right before eating it, because once mixed, it won't keep well.

                                                    September Salad

                                                   1  Bag of mixed baby greens

                                                   1 Bag of hearts of romaine salad mix

                                                   2 Pears, cored, and diced

                                                   1/4 Cup crumbled Feta cheese

                                                   1 Avocado peeled, pitted, and diced

                                                   1 Bunch of scallions thinly sliced

                                                  Candied Pecans:

                                                  1/4 Cup Sugar
                                                   1/2 Cup Pecans


                                                   1/3 Cup Extra virgin olive oil

                                                    3 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar

                                                   1 1/2 tsp. Sugar

                                                   1 1/2 tsp. French's mustard or Grey Poupon if you like Dijon

                                                   1 Clove of garlic, chopped

                                                   1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

                                                    Freshly ground pepper to taste

             In a skillet over medium heat, combine the 1/4 cup of sugar, and the 1/2 cup of pecans. Continue stirring and watching until the sugar has melted, and starts to caramelize the nuts. Then,  give it a good stir to coat all the nuts, and remove from heat immediately. Don't leave the stove while cooking these, as the sugar will burn these babies faster than you can think of a word to vent your frustration. I have burnt them many times before by trying to multi task, but I beg you, for the sake of perfectly candied pecans, be bored for a couple minutes, and man the stove. Candied pecans done right will make your salad perfecto. Transfer the nuts right away onto waxed paper to cool. Do not let them cool in your pan, as they will become an expensive clump of bad words, and left to sulk and soak in the pan you thought you just ruined. Experience, my friends, experience.

Once the pecans have cooled, chop them into small pieces and set aside.
To make the dressing, blend all dressing ingredients in a blender. I like to make this ahead of time, at least 2-3 hrs before hand, so the flavors can mellow a bit before adding it to the salad.

In a large bowl, lay the lettuce down, and top it with the rest of the salad ingredients. Sprinkle with those gorgeous candied pecans you made, and drizzle it with the dressing. Give it a big stir, and serve. If you want to add an extra hint of fall, you might add a pinch of cinnamon to the sugar when you candy the pecans, and add a handful of dried cranberries to the salad. Add or subtract to your tastes, it's a very versatile salad.

My dad taught me a trick to dicing an avocado way back when I was a wee one. To dice an avocado, spilt it in half, and take out the pit. On each half,  carefully take a knife and score it vertically, then horizontally to make a cross hatch pattern. Doing this with a butter knife will work just as well and can ease the anxiety of accidently puncturing one's self with one of it's sharper sisters. Ya know. Just, sayin'.

Then, take a spoon, and gently run it down the sides of the avocado, to gently scoop out the diced pieces. This part grosses me out since I don't like avocado at all, but I put it in because everyone else like it. One against the green doesn't win. Blech.


I hope you enjoy this salad. It makes it to holidays, birthdays, any days, at our house.

You can omit the avocado if you like.

: )

I feel better now, thank you.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Love Letter #2

Dear Cannon Beach,

I am back now from our annual visit.


The days since we've left have been a mess of sunshine, sniffles and sore throat from cold #3, dried grass crunching beneath my feet, and earlier sunsets. I miss the loud call of your shores, and going to sleep with sand in between my toes. I miss your smell that lingers on my skin, the streets jammed with clusters of people in vacation mode, and knowing I can stumble across the street in my hello kitty pajama bottoms for a latte and rosemary orange scone as soon as I wake up. I slept better too, knowing you were near, listening to your relentless sound, like you were constantly throwing the red carpet out for me, beckoning me to come for a walk. I love walking your shores. I have to say, you treat your guests so well, it's no wonder people flock to you.

Our visit was brief, it went by so fast. Maybe because time slips by faster when you are near, like that of a long distance lover. Just not enough time.

I suppose we do it right though, you and I. Taking sweet chunks of time as to keep things interesting, and new, even though we are old friends who know each other well. A little bit goes a long way, even though I wish you lived in my back yard.

                                                          My back yard. One can dream.

We hit some great weather, and Grace got her first ever sun burn. I know. Tsk, tsk. I should have known better, however I get so distracted when I am with you. I get this beachy tunnel vision, and only want to spend time lapping up your beauty. I'm not alone either. The girls were all up on you like it was no one's business, and you opened your heart to them, just like I knew you would.

Grace just had her "best day of her life" here too. She told me so in this breathy, I-can't-believe-it voice, after gliding on your waters. Her cousin has a body board that my brother towed them on, so they could stand up on it, and surf. You see, my girl is a bit obsessed with surfing. She loves anything, and everything that has to do with the sport. If only we lived near surfing waters, I believe I would be right there beside her, surfing too, and we might grow a tail, and become mermaids. She loves you, and she loves mermaids, and surfing, and just today asked me, "Mom, aren't you so excited to go back to Cannon Beach? She most certainly is.

Bina, she liked you so much, she ate you.

I bet people do that to you all the time. You must be used to it, because you so thoughtfully provided floss for after the meal.

Speaking of meals, we celebrated my sissy's birthday while visiting.

We had birthday brownie sundaes, then went for a sunset walk on the beach to watch you put the sun to bed, and awaken the night.

                                                Sergey gives Maria a "Birthday Kiss"


                                  A jealous sister wants a kiss too, so Jeremy puckers up.


                                           A beautiful end, to a beachy birthday evening.

Town is also part of your draw. I love the shops, have my favorites that I visit, and for some reason, came home with everything dachshund. A dachshund Christmas ornament, a dachshund Picasso reprint, and a small dachshund statuette. I think I missed my dog. I know I missed my dog. A lot. You must have known, because everywhere I looked, there was something doggy about your town.

The girls, well, they are just at the start of building the memories that will take them through life. They will remember this, the smells, the taste, the everything that you throw at them. I am so grateful you will take up space in that memory of theirs. I am sure in twenty years around the holiday table, we will hear this: "Hey, remember that time at Cannon Beach? " to start a story. Grace has already planned to take her kids to you too, and told me, "Oh, by the way. You are invited too."

Uh. Ya. I better be!

This is the year of babies, as three of the girls were two and under. There was a lot of "shhh!!" as there was almost always someone taking a nap, but it all worked out. Pretty soon all those girls are going to be napless, and then the game is on. 5 suits to hang dry in the bathrooms, and ten feet to wash off at the hose bib.

Some family style pic were in order too.

We tried for some family ones of our own, beach style, but this was as close as we got:

Grace has this weird dance she's been doing all summer, and this is part of it. It ends with a jump, or crazy body spaz out, something like this:

One of the fabulous nights, I was drawn to the very visual line you draw between evening, and night. The sea and it's constant motion, mirrors into the clouds in the sky, as the canvas changes quickly, and there is always something new to see every time you blink your eyes. A pelican against the peachy glow. A color that can never be translated into any crayola box, ever. A slice of moon, that is too lazy to hold position in the sky. Sand that looks blue beneath your feet. It was all too much to catch on film, so I settled on one task: Rocks and Twilight. So I took the family out for a walk to try and catch your August evening.

And ice cream? Within close walking distance and open until 9? See. You know me so well.

I promise to visit you in pictures and thought while we are away. But more than that, there are pieces of me there always, words that have been lost in your sea, heart beats that have been stolen and melted into your sunsets, footsteps that have been taken by the tide.

If you put them all together, it will have been as if I have never left. I will always be with you, because you are always with me.

Until we meet again,

 I love you Cannon Beach,