Renewal: Just Like Spring

Dear readers and friends, how we’ve missed you!

Both Tracy and myself have gone through some significant changes in the last year, and regretfully, Karma in the Kitchen has been lightly placed on the back burner.  However, it was not our intention to abandon the site forever and I’m looking to renew my commitment to posting regularly (I was kind of a slacker in the last year anyway!).  I have been cooking a lot recently and asking myself why I’m not blogging about it.  The goal of the blog initially was to share. Share our kitchen successes and nightmares across the states and timezones and keep up our cooking and eating community. Please, if in looking back through the posts on this blog, you find things you wish we’d written about or expanded on, let us know.

My goal is to start posting again in late August or early September, but in the meantime, I will be posting pictures and recipes to our Facebook page.  Please like our Facebook page to stay up to date and interact with both Tracy and I.  We really appreciate your support, your likes and your stories.

Best wishes and happy cooking!

 

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Canine Karma

Sophia:  Do you smell that?

Penny: Yum! But you know that when Tracy bakes, she never shares with us.

They were wrong this time.  The oven was filled with puppy treats today.  I haven’t made dog bones in a long time, the last time they were holiday gifts for my doggie owner friends and family.  I did not do a cost calculation, but I suspect that my batch of bones, made with ingredients I would eat myself, probably cost less than the high-end grocery store versions I usually buy. They were easier to make than cookies and smelled delicious.  The Philosopher thought they were people cookies!

I know you are reading this and trying to figure out if you are really about to read a recipe for dog cookies.  Here’s the thing.  Rachel and I write about how we use our kitchens to support and build our community.  In my house, the puppies are a pretty integral part of our lives.  They are our cuddle partners when we watch movies.  They bask in the sunshine with us while we eat lunch on the patio.  They hike with us to keep us fit.  And help us meet neighbors and members of our new community while at the dog park.  We don’t chose to break bread with them in the same way as our human friends, but caring for their needs is a small price for the benefits they offer us.  So, today I baked dog treats.  Jump on the bandwagon.  Your puppies will love it!

I adapted a few basic cracker recipes to create these.  I still have a large selection of gluten-free flour from our diet, so I integrated them into the recipe but you could use a mix of whole wheat and unbleached white flour or only plain flour. Doing a little research revealed that while garlic can be harmful to dogs in large quantities, in small amounts is repels ticks and fleas, naturally.

First, mix together the following dry ingredients:  2 c flour (1/2 c garbanzoflour, 1/2 c brown rice flour, and 1 c unbleached white flour), 1/2 c old fashioned oats, 1 t baking powder, and 1 t garlic powder.  Add 1 c of peanut butter (Use the real stuff, the oil should separate.  It’s better for you and better for the doggies!).  Next, I added 1/2 c chicken stock and 1/2 c water.  I did not have homemade stock, so I diluted it with water.  If you make your own stock and can control the seasonings, use a full cup of stock here, the pups will love it.  I found that my dough needed a little more flour, so I floured my counter top and mixed more into the dough by hand.  I rolled the dough out til it was approximately 1/4 inch thick.  I used a pizza cutter to create biscuits.  If you have an appropriate cookie cutter and these are for a gift, use it here.  I have seen fire hydrant and biscuit-shaped cutters, but my dogs don’t know the difference.  And you readers would think I was even crazier if I baked cookies in perfectly cute shapes.

 

 

 

 

These guys didn’t spread out at all.  So you can put them together closely on the cookie sheets.  Pop them in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  I found that the thicker cookies took closer to 20 minutes, but some were thinner and were crisp and golden after 15 minutes.  I removed the thin ones after 15 minutes and popped the rest in for a few more minutes.  If you are more careful at rolling out the dough than I was, you can likely resolve this problem.    Place them on a rack to cool.

 

 

 

My pups tasted the recipe.  I received barking good reviews from the doggies.  This made exactly enough to fill my dog treat container.  I know it’s hard to tell, but I have two happy customers here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take good care of your canine community.  It’s good for your kitchen karma.  Another great way to take care of your doggie friends is by reading my friend’s blog or by liking her facebook page.  She’s an excellent dog trainer, volunteer, and owner.  And a great, engaging writer.  Trust me, you will learn something and your pups will thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Departing The `Bus

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

It’s pretty amazing to me that an author writing to an audience 400 years ago could capture my emotions so completely today.  So many adventures await us in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.  Yet so many friends and memories tug me back to The `Bus.  I am pretty reminiscent about the last 2 years here.  Columbus, a city that began to feel like a real home so immediately.  A block of neighbors that reshaped my idea of what community really is.  A campus that challenged me beyond my wildest hopes.  A group of close friends who reached out to The Philosopher and me in ways I can’t begin to recount here.  I find myself tugged towards a future, yet I am not ready to give up my home.  I feel I am fortunate to have had my time in The `Bus and am pretty sure that if Ohio pulls us back someday, it will be Columbus calling. We wrapped up our time in this city with a lovely, wet evening a few weekends ago.  We built our last backyard bonfire, cooked up some of the last ingredients in our fridge, and poured from those few remaining liquor bottles for a final night with our friends.  Our community.  The makers of our home.  During that damp, cool night, I stared into the fire and talked to a new `Bus resident about how great it is to call this city home.  I began recounting my favorite local events, restaurants, and bloggers, encouraging them to learn more about all that this city offers.  Soon, I was being urged to create my personal Best of the `Bus List.  So here it is.  Tracy’s Favorite Columbus “Stuff” List.  Like all “Best Of” lists, I should say that this is from my limited perspective and income.  In fact, let’s not call this a “Best Of” list.  Let’s call it Tracy’s Lived in Columbus for 2 Years and Discovered Some Awesome Stuff List.  This city is huge in opportunity.  If you are new to The `Bus, I would be happy to serve as a part of your city introduction, but I want to also encourage you to explore on your own.  This city is pretty awesome.

First, it should be noted that I spent a fair amount of time on campus.  The great thing about OSU is that there are more interesting, intellectual, exciting things to do than I usually had time for.  See a play, go to a speaking event, and watch an obscure film.  I often found that stepping out of my College of Public Health’s list of events and speakers opened new doors and introduced me to amazing people.  The Wexner Center has great foreign films at reasonable prices.  As a student, a large amount of campus time was spent studying.  Prior Health Sciences Library has a great coffee shop with extremely friendly staff.  You can also reserve a room for your study group.  The Thompson Library also has great meeting rooms.  I am certain that my limited knowledge of biostatistics was developed in one of those meeting rooms with a dedicated group of very intelligent women who never let me fail!  Lastly, my friends and I ate many meals at the OSUMC cafeteria and Hang Over Easy.  OSUMC’s cafe allows for packed lunches, so all members of our group could meet weekly to share our ideas for how to change the world.  I am certain that we got pretty close a time for two!  Hang Over Easy was a great place to stare at a computer, editing that group project one last time.  No matter how long we squatted at a table, the servers refilled our coffee cups!

I ensured that our cupboards were never bare by running to Weiland’s Gourmet Market.  The fish, produce, and meat is fresh and local (when possible), the staff are extremely knowledgeable, and it always reminded me of my local grocery store growing up.  The faces were familiar, the smiles warm, and the food comforting.  I also found local food at the Clintonville Farmer’s Market.  As The Philosopher and I grew more experienced, we found that talking to the farmers became easier, we knew what we valued in our food and we never hesitated to ask questions about how something was grown.  This task was immensely easier because of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.  Our membership kept us in the loop about Ohio agriculture.  We loved the annual potluck and talking to the crusaders of the local, organic food movement in Ohio.  After meeting Warren Taylor, I knew all of my future milk purchases would support Snowville Creamery.  Four Seasons City Farm is working in our community to bring produce into our inner city with urban gardens.  You should look them up and volunteer.  They are doing good work and I am sorry that my time working with the organization has been so short.  This year, I expanded our personal garden with the help of the Como Yarden.  Our tomatoes and peppers were vibrant, tasty, and in varieties I had never heard of.  Finally, I have written much about our experience with a Community Support Agriculture share with the Sippel Family Farm.  Leaving farmers we trusted and produce that never failed to be of the highest quality, is very difficult for us.  Ben and Lisa were highly skilled at communicating with us non-farmers about the highs and lows of the growing season.  They offered us recipes and food advice and folded us into another community in The ‘Bus with their monthly potlucks at their home.

Speaking of food, The Philosopher and I enjoyed eating out in The ‘Bus. Clintonville is filled with fabulous options.  We frequented The Wildflower Cafe with some of our neighbors.  It was near our home and reliable for a great breakfast at reasonable prices.  We also dropped into Mozart’s Cafe for breakfast often.  The atmosphere is great, especially their outdoor seating.  The homemade pastries are delicious.   You can find the keys of a piano chiming throughout the day and evening.  Stopping in on a Friday evening for the live music and a glass of wine is the perfect end to a busy week.  When I needed a caffeine fix, I found my way to Yeah Me Too.  During my first visit, I learned that it was a cash only establishment.  Disappointed, I began to walk out as I only had a credit card, when the owner told me to pay the next time I returned.  Well, return I did.  My last visit was Friday, the day my movers arrived.  After chatting with the owner, he again sent me on my way with a free cup of joe, as his going away gift. Yeah Me Too feels like my best friend’s home.  The coffee will be ready soon and the person pouring your cup is someone you hope you can one day emulate.  As a graduate student, I completed many projects and homework assignments with my dear friend at Global Gallery.  It’s a great place to linger over a cup of coffee or to discuss healthcare reform in a group meeting.  My friend and I also nibbled on muffins and cinnamon rolls from Pattycake Bakery when exam time rolled around.  Another Fine Mess:  Desserts by Dorie is another great way to get delectable study treats.  A scoop of Jeni’s was always the perfect reward at the end of a long quarter, as well as a martini from Sage.  When The Philosopher and I wanted a low-key evening out with friends, we found our way to India Oak.  The bar feels an awful lot like the television show Cheers.  Let me just say, that graduate school taught us how to celebrate!  The Philosopher and I occasionally needed a pizza to get through the weekend.  Thankfully both Hound Dog’s and Dante’s never failed to disappoint.  Many an evening was spent on the patio of Northstar.  As one of the few restaurants we could enjoy while on our detox diet, our already deep love of the place grew and expanded even further.  From my post-yoga cup of coffee and biscuit to the mid-week break from cooking for a ginger ale and Northstar burger, The Philosopher kept going back for more.  And we took each of our coworkers, visitors, and new ‘Bus transplants.  Lastly, Cafe Bella may be one of the ‘Bus’ best kept secrets.  The patio is beautiful with the trickling sounds of the hydroponic system. Since there is no menu, it feels like you dropped into your forgotten Italian grandmother’s house with your own bottle of wine for dinner.  You don’t know what will be on the plate in front of you, but you will certainly love it.  I tried to get the recipe for their amazing eggplant parmigiana, but Vince, the owner, had no secrets to share.  I guess you all will have to find visit soon to this culinary delight!

The Philosopher and I loved to eat in The ‘Bus.  And we didn’t just eat in Clintonville.  The North Market was the place we took every visitor to our home.  One of my favorite memories of the North Market was when my best friend and I spent a morning sipping coffee, watching local farmers deliver their produce to the various stands, and feel the market began to grow and swell with electric excitement in the space.  Skillet wasn’t close to our home, but it was never far from our weekend breakfast thoughts.  The menu is filled with comfort food you can feel good about.  The best restaurant in The ‘Bus has to be Alana’s.  There is no better way to celebrate an occasion than to sit on this patio and await the wonders of Alana.  The Philosopher still talks about the best pasta we have ever eaten from her kitchen.

Finally, The Philosopher and I never had a boring Saturday.  Or Tuesday.  The ‘Bus is filled with great ways to spend your time.  The museums and parks are great.  The movie theaters and local organizations never left our To Do list empty.  Pecha Kucha is a great way to find all the great things going on in The ‘Bus:  great music, great speakers, and food carts.  Wild Goose Creative has events for every person.  We have attended events from foodie parties and improv comedy events in this space.  The Park of Roses offered a space for leisurely strolls and energy-filled doggie playdates.  Two good friends kept my eyes happy with their photography skills.  While both of them take amazing photos of graduating seniors and wedded bliss, their specialties are my favorite!  Moments by Kelsey will make you want to grasp a baby’s hand or wonder over their tiny toes.  Photo Kitchen will leave you salivating while reading Edible Columbus or will send you out to the grocery store to make her newest posted recipe.  WOSU filled my car, bathroom, and IPod with the news and stories that were important to me.    The Philosopher and I found that the Drexel in Bexley was the best place to see those hard to find foreign films that we craved.  They also have great opening nights.  Studio 35 may be the local business we frequented most.  They show all the OSU football games on their big screen for free.  We also watched most of the World Cup games with a few hundred of our closest Clintonville friends.  Many nights we could be found in a seat holding a great beer and chowing down on some Pizza Primo awaiting the previews or cheering on the Buckeyes.

I read nearly everything written by local bloggers.  These individuals kept me in the loop about the new and the old ‘Bus favorites.  Thank you to Hounds in the Kitchen, The Pizza Slayer, Itinerant Foodies, Breakfast with Nick, the CMH Gourmand, The Green Between, the Columbus Foodie, Nothing Better to Do, and Columbus Food Adventures for showing me around.

Finally, I am challenged to acknowledge those individuals who made The ‘Bus my home.  No combination of cool places to shop, eat, and play will make any city feel like home.  It’s the people who fill your life and your backyard who make the difference.  I have used this space to try to express my deep feelings of connection with our friends in The ‘Bus.  I have gathered with old and new friends to swap nice belongings we no longer wanted or needed or new things we didn’t know we wanted or needed.  Ask me about the Swap Parties — you should plan one for the friends in your neighborhood.  I enjoyed countless bottles of wine and delectable treats with The Vertebrates, the book club that breaks all the book club rules.  I am proud to have been one of the two outcasts at the College of Public Health’s orientation.  We found ourselves speaking out in the classroom, surrounding ourselves with like-minded, beautiful and strong women, standing up when we knew that changes had to happen, seeking ways to change the world, and learning all the things we didn’t know that we didn’t know.  Scarecrow, I think I will miss you most of all.  The Philosopher and I hosted countless dinner parties and backyard bonfires.  We broke bread with people whose intersecting lives have profoundly changed ours.  We have laughed and cried and screamed together in frustration and excitement.  We have hugged and high fived.  We have found comfort and care in people who have shared our table, used the spare key to turn off our oven we we accidentally left town with tomatoes drying inside, joined us for drinks, dropped in to help a stranger move into their new home, chased Penny through the neighborhood, talked about philosophy and religion and healthcare and politics, served us the perfect homemade pizza, watched great and horrible movies, became immediate friends while chatting at the bus stop, challenged us, inspired us, helped us when we most needed it, and made us redefine everything we ever imagined the words community and neighbor could possibly mean.  We are different, better because of each of you.  My growth as a person, as a professional, as a cook, as a gardener, as a writer, as a friend, in my marriage, in the classroom, in my relationships, is because of you.  I look toward my future with excitement and hope and promise because of my community in The ‘Bus.  You compose my memories of the last 2 1/2 years.  Thank you for everything.  You always have a place in our home.  And we will be visiting you again soon.

Love always,

Tracy, Bradley, Sophia, and Penny

 

KitK Cooking Extravaganza

 

This post is sadly delayed.  Rachel and I spent a glorious couple of days together early in August.  We went to see my friend Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen perform at Columbus’ Pecha Kucha.  We explored the Columbus Zoo with the Philosopher’s family.  We ate fabulous breakfasts at Skillet and Northstar.  All in all, I would say it was another Karma in the Kitchen reunion success.  And like last time, Rachel and I cooked.  A lot.  I roped Rachel into joining me in the sweaty world of canning.  I ordered extra tomatoes from The Sippel Family Farm to make tomato chutney.  I scoured the local peach and blueberry options to make jam.  And I purchased tons of Snowville milk and cream to make homemade ricotta.  Oh yes.  We stayed busy in the kitchen!

First, we prepped tomatoes for tomato chutney.  We used this recipe as a base, but we significantly reduced the amount of sugar (by half).  Here’s what we ended up doing:

8lbs of tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (the easiest way to do this is score an X on the bottom of a tomato, drop it in boiling water for a few minutes and then put in cold water.  The skins should pop of easily.  Then remove the core and chop.)  , 2 heads of minced garlic, 2 chopped onions, 1c brown sugar, 1/2c white sugar, 3c apple cider vinegar, 3 limes, zested and juiced, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4t dried hot pepper flakes, 2t cumin, 1c golden raisins chopped roughly by hand, and salt and pepper to taste.  We combined the ingredients in a stockpot and simmered all day.  I think it took about 5 hours for the chutney to finally thicken.  Stir it often, as the sugar will make it scorch easily.  We ladled the chutney into 1/2 pint jelly jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  They were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars of chutney.

 

Next, Rachel and I prepped peaches and blueberries for jam.  We peeled, cored, and roughly sliced 10 pounds of peaches (save the peels!).  We added 2 quarts of blueberries, washed well.  3 lemons were zested and juiced and added to the fruit.  We added sugar to taste, I prefer a slightly tart and less sweet jam.  So for our fruit, we added about 5 cups of granulated white sugar.  The fruit simmered happily on the stove until thickened.  I used a bit of Pomona’s Universal Pectin near the end to finish firming it up well.  Test for firmness by putting a bit of jam on a spoon and popping in the freezer for a few minutes.  When you have reached your desired firmness, you are ready to can.  We used 1/2 pint jars, placed 1t of bottled lemon juice on top of the jam after leaving 1/4″ of headroom, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars and a good sized bowl to go with our dessert that night!

I know you are trying to figure out why you should save your peels.  Well, here goes.  We simmered the peach peels with sugar and water making a simple syrup.  We then combined the strained syrup, fresh mint, sparkling water, a dash of fresh lime, and Middle West Spirits vodka together for a fabulous after dinner cocktail.  You should definitely save the peach peels!

Lastly, we made a batch of homemade ricotta using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.   Her instructions are so clear and easy to follow, I am not going to retype them for you.  But I am going to insist that you drop what you are doing, grab some local milk, and MAKE RICOTTA CHEESE.  Immediately.  Rachel and I were sneaking bites while the ricotta was still straining.  We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We decided that a piece of bread, topped with a smear of ricotta and some tomato chutney was a fabulous way to begin our dinner.  The play of the sweet and spicy chutney against the creamy goodness of the ricotta kept us reaching for more.  And more.  Happy faces all around that evening.  And into the next days lunch.  And breakfast.  And snack.  And dinner.  Oh ricotta.  You made us so happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at the table reveals that I also made my infamous tomato tart.  Now, I bet you wish an invitation to our dinner party had graced your door, huh?

But I haven’t even covered dessert yet!  You should know that a meal like this requires a beautiful, tasty, butterfat-laden dessert.  Unfortunately you will have to go without a picture, but trust me, this recipe for a ricotta cheesecake should not be ignored.  The only changes to the directions were made because the recipe made more filling than my pie pan allowed, so we filled two small oven-safe glass bowls also.  We also popped an oven safe bowl filled with water in the oven to produce a nice, steamy environment for our baking dessert.  You should immediately forget everything you ever thought you knew about cheesecake.  Cream cheese has nothing on this heavenly light, slightly lemony dessert.    Perfect for leftovers!  We dolloped some peach and blueberry jam and ate to our hearts content under the stars of an August night.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ah Rachel.  Never is my kitchen karma so great as when I have the perfect cooking partner.  It’s comforting to know she’s willing to experiment with me.  Tasting something again and again.  Tossing in a little of this and a little of that until we both find our own recipe nirvana.  We work well together also, Rachel and I.  While I chopped onions and minced garlic for the chutney, she was peeling and coring tomatoes.  While she peeled peaches and washed blueberries, I was at the store for a few forgotten items (ok, ok.  I ran to the store twice in 20 minutes for twice forgotten items!)  What’s great is that cooking is the perfect way to catch up on the last few months.  A phone call here or a gchat there is great, but nothing beats a sweaty, sticky day in the kitchen to learn about new friends, new apartments, new jobs, and old stories.

This is going to be my last post for awhile.  The Philosopher was offered a job at UNC Chapel Hill and I am currently packing up our belongings, getting estimates from moving companies, and selling our collected stuff!  I hope to be back to blogging and cooking by the beginning of October.  Our new city has a year-round farmer’s market that is apparently in the top ten nationwide.  I would certainly say that the south sounds welcoming to me!

Unfortunately, we are also having to say goodbye to our dear friends and neighbors.  While Columbus is a great town for many reasons, the people whose lives have intersected ours have truly made this city our home.  From old colleagues, to new classmates, neighbors, children, doggies, and coworkers, we have been fortunate to have our lives filled with amazing people that have loved us and supported us.  We have many warm memories and many homes that we plan to visit again soon.  A piece of our hearts and our lives will be left in this town and we truly have you all to thank for it.  While we welcome the challenge of forming a new community in NC, we will continue to stay connected to those people who made the Bus our home for 2 years.  Thank you all!  We love you dearly!

The Face Behind the Camera

While taking pictures for Easter I ran out of space on the memory card in the camera.  I should explain that the camera was my father’s, given to me after his death two years ago today.  A pack of additional memory cards were shoved in his camera case but I had never bothered to pull them out or look at the contents.  I raced inside on Sunday, grabbed a card and put it in.  It wasn’t until later, I realized that the last few years of his life were chronicled on this bit of plastic and metal.  My brother, mother and father took a trip to the beach and it seems that the camera I now direct at food was beautifully directed at the sites of their week.  I am sharing glimpses of that trip, through my father’s eyes, today.

My father always had balanced the gift of photography into his life.  I remember discussing various f-stops at length (what the hell are they?  I don’t remember now!).  I remember peering through the camera while he slowly directed my hands at the various controls.  I never grew terribly interested in photography.  I took pictures on vacations and for projects in school, but did not realize the skill and technique until I decided it might be fun to blog (ha!).

My father was always aware of current events and never failed to incorporate them into teachable moments for my brother and I.  I doubt many pages of the newspaper were missed in his daily readings.  In fact, one of my most vivid memories of him was waking up to the smell of a pot of coffee brewing and a lit cigarette and hearing the soft sounds of the newspaper pages flipping.  To this day, the combined smell of coffee and cigarettes transports me back to my childhood bedroom instantly.  It feels like I can simply walk down those stairs and see his face hidden behind the headlines.

One of my favorite memories of my father was a time that he had a bad day at work.  I don’t remember the details, but I do remember how upset he was about it.  That night, after my parents went to bed, I sneaked downstairs and slipped a note in his lunchbox wishing him a better day and reminding him that I loved him.  My father was apparently surprised by the note and decided that two could play this game.  Always one with a good sense of humor, I would often open my science book to a note reading, “Gotcha!” or my dinner during dance class would have a smiley face note inside.

It’s of course impossible to share all the important memories of my father in this format.  You needed to sit with him to hear the passion in his voice, the strength of his character, the power of his personality.  He had a contagious laugh, one that could send me rolling on the floor in response.  My parents’ combined gift is that of care and compassion for the people they love.  There are few people that have not been touched by their acts of kindness.  I learned from example that caring for your community is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself.  Vegetables from their garden have always find their way to neighbors kitchens.  Family members in need have always had a car to borrow, a loving face at the doctor’s office, or a check for groceries.  My mother and father were at every dance recital, every band competition, and every award ceremony.  In fact, I remember one band concert my dad had to miss because of work.  He insisted that my mother use a tape recorder to record the concert so he could listen when he got home.  I have the best kind of parents.

So today I leave you with a picture that always brings a painful smile to my face.  My father battled cancer painfully for a short while.  But all his personality never faded.  A short while before he died, he had my brother take this picture and send it out to the family with the message, “Have a nice day!”

And so today, I wish you my friends, family, and community, a nice day.

Easter: New and Old

I grew up spending Sundays at my great-grandparents farm surrounded by second and third cousins not knowing the difference between them and my more immediate first cousins.  Sunny days spent climbing trees with the boys, picking wheat from he fields, and riding an occasional cow are memories that happily resurface every Easter when the entire collection of us gather again at my second-cousin’s home out in the middle of nowhere Ohio.  Now, the faces of the children are a little different, their parents were my playmates.  The faces of the adults have changed too.  Some, with the relaxed smiles found happily by granparents.  My playmates faces show their growing wisdom as parents and capable aunts and uncles.  While this Easter was overcast, our day was spent roaming through the damp grass towards the pond, in search of brightly colored eggs, or to catch a squirmy dog.  Oh yes, we also ate some delicious food.

This afternoon began with the sounds of children racing up and down the front walkway.  Laughter followed by squeals.  Repeat.  Soon, the adults caught the infectious laughter and began to play. Oh and trees were climbed.

Soon, it was time to hunt for those brightly colored gems.  The hiders had lots of opportunity for creativity.  Can you spot them all?

For the last few years, hiding eggs always brings back the story of the 2-3 years when the youngest child at Easter was about 12.  The adults insisted that we  hunt eggs anyway.  Remember your teenage years?  I bet searching for eggs at your family Easter was one of your favorite things to do when you were 15!

Thankfully, there were very willing participants this year.  In fact, they were fast!  I could barely keep up with their swift legs and quick hands.  Here’s a few favorite shots I caught.

The dogs also enjoyed hunting for eggs.  Check out Sophia’s look-a-like!

These dogs don’t mess around.

Don’t worry, at our Easter, every basket gets a chocolate prize!

After lunch, new activities filled the space.  Fish were caught and eaten (by dogs–I will save you the pictorial evidence).

Flowers were gathered.  Dogs became leaders.

But wait!  I said, “after lunch”.  What about the food?  I know, it’s a food blog.  I am getting back on topic.  Here’s some evidence of my family’s culinary skills.  Delicious, right?

I know it’s hard to tell, but the little boy has just shoved an entire cookie in his mouth.   Click the picture to see!

So, what do you make for Easter dinner when you are on a crazy diet? Grilled vegetable salad with quinoa, of course!  I cooked up 1c of quinoa according to the package directions.  In the meantime, I grilled 1 eggplant and 1 zucchini (cut into small chunks and tossed with oil) until well browned.  I also opened one large can of whole tomatoes and roasted them at 450 with 3 minced cloves of garlic and a generous drizzle of olive oil for about 45 minutes.  When everything was done, I tossed them together with a healthy bunch of fresh basil sliced thinly, salt and pepper.

Refrigerate until cool and serve (or serve hot–it’s great either way!)

I also made a quiche.  The Philosopher has begun adding foods back into his diet so we are now both allowed to have eggs.  Here’s how you make my asparagus and sun-dried tomato pesto quiche:

Add boiling water to 1c of sun-dried tomatoes (they can be packed in oil or simply dry.  If in oil, drain, but save it.) until plump. Put the tomatoes in the blender with 1/2c toasted sliced almonds, a bunch of fresh herbs (I used basil), salt, pepper, and the reserved oil.  I added a bit more olive oil and some of the soaking water.  Blend until a thick paste develops.  Save and lick the spoon!

Make a gluten-free pie crust, but leave out the agave.  (or leave it in, if you want a sweeter crust).  Press into a pie pan.  Have The Philosopher break 4 eggs and have your mother prepare a bunch of asparagus into 1″ pieces while you work on the crust.  Make sure The Philosopher removes all egg shells before continuing.  Add 1c of unsweetened coconut milk to the eggs as well as a generous pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Whisk together well and pour in the prepared crust.  Arrange the asparagus and plop pesto throughout until you are satisfied with your pretty creation.  Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes until it isn’t wobbly in the middle. Serve hot or at room temperature.  Tell your cousin it’s “Egg Pie” so it’s manly enough for him to try.

Sometimes things change drastically from year to year.  The height of a child.  The number of family members roaming the house.  The person behind the camera.  Sometimes things change slowly.  The lines of our faces.  The development of the combined wisdom. The trajectory of our lives.

There’s comfort in knowing that next year the calendar will call us all back again after life’s path has moved us forward, tugged us away, and changed in scenery.

A Philosophical Birthday

Oh the pets in our life.  What joy they bring.  This little lady is our neighbor’s boxer puppy who managed to wedge herself between the couch cushions so she could watch the world go by.  I didn’t get the picture of it, but she actually fell asleep in this position!

She was likely exhausted because the night before we celebrated The Philosopher’s birthday.  We planned on having an outdoor bonfire, but the rain and wind kept us indoors celebrating my humble spouse.  Well, at least half of that description is true.

I whipped up a few recipes you have seen before, but I made some changes for the party.  First, the garbanzo crackers appeared again, this time I substituted southwestern spices and served them with a black bean hummus.  I switched out the turmeric, cayenne, and paprika for 1t cumin and 2t chili powder.  Again, they had a lovely color and a great flavor.  I ran out to buy a cookie cutter to use for dessert and managed to walk home with 100 cutters.  This change led to me cutting everything into fun shapes, including the crackers.

The hummus was simply black beans, lime juice, fresh cilantro, cumin and a jalapeno (seeded) and pureed in the blender.  Throw the crackers on the side with some fresh veggies, don’t forget jicama, and the party is ready to start!

For dessert, I used this pie crust recipe, but turned it into short bread.  I upped the salt slightly and rolled it out thinly.  I used more cookie cutters to cut them into the Philosopher’s age.  13 or 31?  I baked them on parchment paper (but I think they would have been fine on cookie sheets that were unlined) at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes.  As you can see below, they quickly changed from golden brown to darker brown so be careful!  Not to worry though, they all got eaten, regardless of the shade.  I added some fresh berries and planted a few candles in strawberries.  Happy Birthday!

I doubt that I will have use for all 100 cookie cutters (I really never owned any before), but I was excited to learn that I now have a stegosaurus, a hand and foot, and lots of holiday cutters–just in case I need them!

I think this post goes to show that recipes can be really versatile.  Feel free to experiment!  Can’t eat strawberry shortcake right now because you are on a crazy diet?  I bet there’s a next best thing.  Actually, this adaptation was likely better than those gross, pre-packaged things at the store.  Are you on a crazy diet that makes it impossible to buy crackers?  Make your own!  And own the recipe for yourself!  Add fresh herbs.  Leave the herbs out.  Make a fun dip for them.  Eat them plain with a salad.

Basically, I am telling you, Go Play With Your Food.

And wish The Philosopher a happy birthday.  We will be celebrating all month long 🙂