Crafting and Orange Marmalade

This is a jar of my newly labeled orange marmalade.  After making my first-ever batch of orange marmalade, I decided that the finished jars looked a little plain.  I decided that they needed labels.  For many people, making and affixing labels to their canned goods would be a simple and rather artistic chore.  Not me, because this falls in the area of crafts and I am not very good at crafts.  I have tried.

There was one year when I made a real cranberry wreath from a ‘Martha Stewart Living’ magazine article I had read.  It jumped out at me from the pages of the magazine.  I had to have this bright red beauty on my front door for the holidays.  For days, I took real cranberries, inserted toothpicks into each one and then pushed the cranberry spikes into a foam wreath form that I had bought and spray painted red.  It looked pretty, but Martha did not tell me that for those of us who lived in California at the time, that real cranberries would quickly rot in the high temperatures that Californian’s enjoy at Christmas.  Within a week, my wreath had a bad smell and the squishy and wrinkled cranberries were falling off their toothpicks onto my front porch floor.  As well, pushing sharp-edged toothpicks into hundreds of cranberries messed my fingers up for a good week or two.  It was painful every time I jammed my two sensitive fingers into my computer keyboard after being mini-stabbed by toothpicks a hundred times or so.

Then there are the times I decide to make hand-made Christmas cards to impress my friends and family (and make them green with envy).  The last time this urge hit me was when a friend of mine convinced me to buy some stamps, card stock and ink from her new ‘Stamping Up’ business.  I bought like $700 of stuff that guaranteed me beautiful hand-made gems.  My stamps were three penguins with Santa hats and scarves on and each one held a candy cane and a string of Christmas lights.  Each one was stamped in black on white card stock and special markers had been purchased to color those penguins in with various colors.  Sounds easy, right?  Not for me.  After I realized that the date to mail the cards was two days away and I was only half done with the number of cards I needed to send, there were two all-nighters needed to finish.  There is nothing worse than coloring your festive penguins at 4 AM in the morning.  This was the last time I sent cards out.  Too much work!

Being wiser with age, I found a website that produces gorgeous writing papers and envelopes called Felix Doolittle.  This company makes canning labels available in the Summer months.  Perfect for me!  Even better, they had a label with oranges on it and I had them add ‘Acorns On Glen’ across the top.  My blog’s first product although they are not for sale so probably not a product at all.  The best part of getting the labels?  I decided that it made me crafty for the first time in my life without having a breakdown or a mess on my hands.  I like this new way of crafting.  I might have to keep it up.  What things have you accomplished in the crafts department?

The “Mom, I’m Sick” Soup

This is a bowl of Italian Stracciatella soup.  A friend of ours that is Italian also calls it the “Mom, I’m Sick” soup as this was the way he was given the all important dose of chicken broth when he was sick as a child.  We like it because it is quick and easy to make when you feel like a bowl of soup for lunch or dinner.  The ingredients are really simple, but the flavor really packs a punch.  So when you’re feeling low or just in the mood for some good chicken soup, give this recipe a try.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

Heat the chicken broth to boiling in a medium-size saucepan.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs together and stir in the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Slowly, in a steady stream, pour the egg mixture into the boiling broth.  Stir slightly.  Reduce the heat to medium and let cook for 1 minute.  Drop the spinach into the broth to wilt.

Stir in the garlic.  Serve immediately.

Nothing beats home-made chicken soup.  Believe this or not, but I’ve read that when you are sick, chicken soup really does help a person eating it get well again.  The chicken broth acts as an anti-inflammatory.  The soup keeps a check on inflammatory white blood cells (neutrophils).  Cold symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, are often caused by inflammation produced when neutrophils migrate to the bronchial tubes and accumulate there.  So Grandma did know best!!  What do you eat when you are not feeling great?

Healthy Eating Now – Quinoa And Turkey Patties In Pita

This is proof that eating healthy and dieting doesn’t have to taste bad. As we have said, all of us here on Glen Road are trying to shed a few pounds. Being on a diet is hard enough, but being on a diet on the weekend (especially in a house that loves to cook and eat) is crazy difficult. So we decided to plan out a few meals that we would cook and eat over the weekend to make sure we were still in the kitchen, but eating foods that are healthy and good for us. This is a recipe for a healthy sandwich we put into whole-wheat pita pockets. We modified it from a recipe that is in a cookbook titled ‘Power Foods’ which is from the editors of ‘Whole Living Magazine’. These patties are inspired by the Middle Eastern dish kibbe, most often made with ground lamb and bulgur wheat. This pita is stuffed with great vegetables, patties made up of a mixture of turkey and a grain called quinoa and finally topped with a drizzle of an easy tahini dressing. The combination of turkey and quinoa is very rich in protein, with a chewy texture that contrasts nicely with the crisp vegetables and the creamy tahini dressing drizzled on top. Tahini is a very thick ground sesame seed paste. The paste is turned into a dressing by adding lemon juice and garlic. Let’s dig in!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white quinoa (We got ours at the health food store from a bulk bin)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup tahini (Again, we got ours at the health food store)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 12 ounces ground dark-meat turkey
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1 pinch ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch ground cumin
  • Pinch of crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Canola or safflower oil for frying
  • 6 lettuce leaves, torn into large pieces
  • 1 English cucumber (10 ounces), thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin half-moons
  • 6 whole-wheat pita breads

Directions:

Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve; drain. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa; return to a boil. Stir quinoa; cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until quinoa is tender but still chewy, about 15 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork; let cool.

Meanwhile, process garlic, tahini, lemon juice and 1/4 cup cold water in a food processor until smooth. If necessary, thin with water until pourable. Transfer dressing to a small bowl; cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Put turkey, spices, parsley, scallions and salt in a clean bowl of the food processor; pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add quinoa; process until mixture clumps around the blade, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. The mixture is somewhat sticky.

With dampened hands, roll about 2 tablespoons quinoa mixture into a ball; flatten slightly, and set aside on a plate. Repeat with remaining mixture. We scooped the mixture out of the bowl with an ice cream scoop to ensure each patty was uniform in size.

Heat a skillet or grill pan with 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, cook patties in skillet, turning once, until cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer patties to a clean plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Replenish oil in pan as needed.

Divide lettuce, cucumber and red onion among pita breads; top each as many quinoa patties as needed to fill pita. Drizzle each sandwich with tahini dressing.

The Glen Road group is a tough crowd when it comes to food. They tell the truth. You can be cooking in the kitchen for two days straight and they’ll look you in the eye and tell you that what you cooked didn’t taste very good. As a cook, someone’s honest opinion is the best feedback. These pita sandwiches got thumbs up from everyone. No one even complained that they were good for us as well. So if you are looking for something different for lunch or dinner (and good for you, but you don’t have to tell this little secret if you don’t want to), try these quinoa and turkey patties in pita. Very tasty! What recipes do you have that are good for starving Connecticut dieters?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Brook, You Just Keep Babbling

This is our neighborhood babbling brook.  Glen Road has taken on a strict diet and exercise plan starting last Monday.  Healthy eating and several walks per week is the charge.  If you notice our food posts, most are desserts, so it is time to work a few of those calories off.  Most nights this week, we put on our sneakers and put JoJo on a leash and we take off for a 45 minute walk.  Yes, even JoJo has indulged a little too much this Summer and needs to lose a few pounds as well.  What has been great about these outdoor walks versus walking on a treadmill inside of a gym is that you can really take notice of all the cool things nature has to offer.  Like this little brook.  We’ve driven over the small bridge that is on top of it for six years, but we have never really stopped and looked at the water that flows through it.  We’ve never listened to the babbling water rushing around rocks and tree trunks.  We’ve never really taken a look at all of the brook’s bends and turns.  Our walks started for the exercise, but now have also gotten us closer to nature.  Who would have thought?  We never thought we would like to exercise, but this seems to work.  What do you notice when you take a walk around your neighborhood?     

Friday Dance Party – Aloe Blacc Needs A Dollar

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for another week of living.  We give thanks for making it through and for being able to celebrate this fact.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So take a moment and be proud of the fact that you’re here and you’ve made it to another Friday.  Not only you, but your family and friends as well.  So, to that end, are you alive this Friday?  Have you given thanks for this?

Good, now let’s dance.

I’ve been reflecting a lot about my constant desire or need to buy things.  I’m absolutely someone who loves to shop.  Clothes and shoes, of course, but I can shop for dirt and be pretty happy.  There is nothing better than to scan the internet and see what things pop up that I feel that I need to buy.  My favorite internet items have to be books, music, jewelry and….again….clothes and shoes.  However, what’s scary about the internet and shopping on it is that it is too easy.  All you need to do is pretty much hit a button and you’ve spent money.  Not as real as actually counting $20 bills out to a sales clerk.  So while I enjoy shopping, I’ve been looking around and taking notice of all the things that I have.  We had to build onto our house to store all the clothes and shoes that we have.  I have more pots and pans and kitchen gadgets than you can shake a stick at.  Jewelry….forget it.  While I am lucky to have a great job and can pay for all of these things, that is just what they are….things.  Better yet, do I really need them and, if the answer is no, why do I keep buying?  Simple answer….no, I don’t need anything and I think I keep buying because that act of being handed a bag full of something at a store or a box full of something coming from the internet makes me feel good.  That feeling that there is something here for me.  I guess it makes me feel special and validates me in that short set of a few seconds.  I’m really trying to feel validated in other fashions.  It might never happen, but I’ve been trying.

Which leads me to our dance party song for this Friday.  With all of my soul-searching, I thought we needed a little soul music.  Aloe Blacc and his song ‘I Need A Dollar’ can help here.  He is a soul singer that I have recently discovered and can’t get enough of his music.  While he is from California, he seems to be much more popular in Europe.  I don’t think that is going to be for long.  Sometimes things come together for a reason…I’m thinking about all of my things and then I hear this song about needing a dollar.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to want or need something and not have a job or money to pay for it.  I can’t imagine the angst you would go through.  It would be even worse if you had a family.  Makes you think about things, that’s for sure.  So this week, we’re going to do a little soul swaying.  You’ve made it through another week so you deserve it.  However, this week, if you are financially secure, give yourself another round of applause.  Having your life, your health, the love of your family, friends and being secure is a blessing.  Who needs things when you have all that?  If we are going to keep it real, one day at a time, we need to make sure we understand this.  We need to re-define and understand what’s important.  Thanks for letting me preach.  Now turn up those speakers and dance!  What life lessons have you learned or are working on at this point in your life?

A Field Trip To Le Farm Restaurant

This is Le Farm restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.  We were lucky to go there for dinner over the weekend.  Le Farm is one of those great restaurants where it seems one dish is better than the one you ate right before it.  It is an absolute great place for dining.  What else is great about it is that it is one of the front-runners in the farm to table movement.  Bill Taibe is the executive chef and here is how the restaurant and local farmers operate together to make the food at Le Farm some of the best and freshest food in the area.  This is from the website for Le Farm:

Farmers like to grow things.  They don’t like to market, advertise and transport them.  Bill Taibe likes to cook.  He loves using local ingredients — the fresher the better.  The convergence of area farmers and Taibe is good news for diners — and not just fans of Le Farm, Taibe’s restaurant that earns raves for showcasing market-based food cooked and presented in a homey, comfortable and very sustainable atmosphere.  Thanks to RSA — “Restaurant Supported Agriculture,” a concept that Taibe knows needs a zippier name — 5 local restaurants now offer the best in local products.  Banding together, they guarantee farmers a market for their goods.  Promising to buy takes pressure off the farmers.  They reciprocate by planting what the chefs request.  Make no mistake:  It’s not just lettuce, tomatoes and corn anymore.  Taibe — who built 2 previous restaurants on the barter system, and admits he “may have been born in the wrong century” — explains that RSA is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.  RSA is less structured – shares are not bought in advance from farmers — but the concept is similar.

Once a week — via the Green Village Initiative — 5 restaurants (Le Farm, the Boathouse and Dressing Room in Westport, CT, plus Wilton, CT’s Schoolhouse and Fat Cat Pie Company in Norwalk, CT) receive a list from local growers of whatever is ripe.  By 4 p.m. each Monday, the chefs respond with their own list:  what they want.  The farmers pick the crops on Tuesday morning.  By 2:30 that afternoon, Green Village Initiative volunteers have gathered it and it’s ready for pick-up by the restaurateurs.

Le Farm is a very small restaurant.  We counted 11 tables and were told that the restaurant holds 34 people at capacity.  That doesn’t mean there are 34 people dining there at one time.  The hostess told us that the kitchen cannot accommodate that many diners at one time.  So when you dine there, you are eating with a relatively small number of people and the atmosphere is really quiet and relaxed.

Wooden tables line the walls in a very homey and country sort of way.  Glass jars filled with dried split peas hold the silverware.  Water for the table is brought to you in country-style bottles.  There is a wine list for sale and limited cocktails are available made with spirits that were hand selected by Le Farm.  Have you ever heard of:

  • Tito’s Hand-Made Vodka
  • Caeden Head Old Raj Gin
  • Gran Centennaro Plata Tequila
  • Ben Riach 12 Year Scotch?

After you’ve secured the beverage of your choice, the food starts to roll in and you can’t believe what you are feasting on.  Let us show you some of the things our party ate while at Le Farm.

Let’s start with appetizers.

This is roast pork belly with whipped cornbread, collards and sweet bacon vinegar.

How about foie gras terrine with cherry marmalade, pistachios and toast?

This is smoked duck potato hash with black truffle and a fried egg.

This is an aged beef meatball salad with green cabbage, pignoli, parmesan and pickled cipolinis.

Last, but definitely not least, here is some cavatelli for the table made with sweet 100 tomato pan sauce, spicy oregano and parmesan.  We asked what sweet 100 was and we were told it was a type of tomato.

Who said we were done eating yet?  Now it is on to our main courses.  Not as many pictures as many of us got the same dish.  Great minds think alike I guess???  Here is what we had.

A Southern classic.  This is shrimp and grits with italian sausage, roasted corn and shrimp sauce.

A little comfort food?  Brisket braised in beer with beet tops, potatoes with horseradish and dill.

You can’t leave without dessert can you?  We couldn’t, that’s for sure.  Take a look at these treats.

This is a chocolate pot de creme with peanut butter cream and salted pretzels.

A brown-butter almond shortcake with strawberry gelato and cajeta caramel.

Some bourbon white raisin bread pudding with vanilla gelato and hazelnuts.

We’ll admit we were stuffed.  Well, with all this food, we were beyond stuffed.  If you are ever in Westport, Connecticut, Le Farm is a restaurant you must go to and enjoy.  We think you can tell a difference when you are eating really fresh and local ingredients prepared in such fun and inventive dishes like those served to us.  Tell us about your favorite farm to table restaurants in your neck of the woods?

A Plant I Like – The Butterfly Bush

This is one of four butterfly bushes in our yard.  It is another one of the plants that we like in our garden.  They grow large with showy flowers and require little, if any, care.  Other than an occassional pruning, the butterfly bush is self-sufficient.  With a name like butterfly bush, you might expect a plant to be attractive to butterflies.  In fact, it’s more than attractive; it’s a magnet for all the butterflies who pass through your garden seeking nectar.  Many butterfly gardeners plan their garden around Buddleia (pronounced BUD-lee-ah), a genus that includes over 100 species and cultivars.  Also called summer lilac, the medium to large-sized shrubs can anchor a perennial bed or form a hedge.  With a little help from the internet, here is some more information about the beautiful butterfly bush.

You’ll be happier with Buddleia if you accept its growth habit, which is not neat and tidy.  Its narrow branches support lilac-like clusters of blossoms a foot or two in length, with side branches and blossoms.  After a rainfall, the flower-laden branches of some species can droop all over your flower bed.  You’ll want to allow at least six feet between bushes to keep some semblance of neatness.

But wait until you see the bush covered with butterflies!  You can see large and small butterflies land to sip from the many individual blooms.  Butterflies and bees will flock to the honey-scented blossoms, whose dilute nectar is sweetest in mid-day sun.  Near a path or patio, the shrub provides delightful fragrance for you, too.

Where did the name Buddleia come from?  A seventeenth-century amateur botanist named Reverend Adam Buddle was honored posthumously, when the first butterfly bush reached England in 1774.  Victorian-era explorers brought all kinds of exotic plants back to England.  From China came seeds of Buddleia davidii, the hardy species that is most familiar to gardeners today.  Named after a French Jesuit missionary, Pere Armand David, B. davidii reached London’s Kew Gardens in 1896.

Another reason for Buddleia’s popularity is that it’s easy to grow, even hard to kill.  Buddleia davidii tolerates urban pollution and alkaline soil.  It’s generally pest-free, except for spider mite infestations during drought or stress.

A plant that can take care of itself is great for any gardener.  Couple this with the butterfly bush’s great beauty and you have an all around winner.  These are must haves for any butterfly enthusiast.  When in bloom, there is rarely a time that you walk by and don’t see a flurry of gorgeous butterflies enjoying this plant.  They are a great addition to any garden in need of a large tree-like bush.  Go buy one.  What plants in your garden are your favorites?