Sunday, October 30

Falling in and out of love

My dear friend Alex, a wonderful musician and inspiring individual filled with wanderlust, sang a song once that has been stuck in my head since. It was a cover of the song "Cold and Blind" by Possessed by Paul James (who lately, I am in love with), and he sang it with the equally inspiring Caley Conway (who has a voice like none other!). Silly me, the only words I could remember were "... feel no consequences; falling in and out of love". So imagine me, like a broken record, singing this line over and over, till it was as natural as breathing. Though the actual lyrics depict a rather grim story (as Alex and I later discussed, after he shared the remaining lyrics), the line I first recalled has embodied another meaning for me, as of late.
An old, but favorite image of mine: hello, Fall!
This summer has been a continuous transition phase. As I have previously written, I have moved from place to place and fallen in and out of love with every place I have landed. This past month, Annie and I adventured across Wisconsin and Iowa, peddling our way on bicycles from Milwaukee to Omaha, Nebraska. Six-hundred miles later, and I have fallen in love and out of love with many things: I am in love with all of the people who shared their homes, families, shelter and food. I have fallen out of love with the notion that I can do things on my own; which surely I can, but I can guarantee it wouldn't be nearly as exciting! On the contrary, I am in love with the reality that while I can transport myself 600 miles, and I am equally in love with the reality of all the while being completely dependent on everyone else.
 Ready to ride, with a windsock made by Vanessa!
 Annie, packing her bike, about to head out
 600 miles later, we enter Nebraska: OMAHA! 
We made it! 

Before I move myself and belongings to Omaha for a more lengthy stay, I am home with my parents for the next couple weeks, and I plan to use this time to fall back in love with resting (which may also be called "being lazy as a bug"), and cooking. It has been a while since I have had a chance to do either of these things. In fact, rather than being as lazy as a bug, I spent most of the summer being as busy as a bee! It seems silly in retrospect that I was so busy, but I wouldn't change a minute of it, as I crafted till the wee hours of the night, and biked the streets of Milwaukee with my best friends. I am in love with Milwaukee and all those around me.

The other day, before Alex moved to Denver for the time being (recall, his great wanderlust; truly admirable), we spent the day casually exploring our favorite things in the city. We sampled cheese and shared a beer, we spent time with Michael at the Spice House, and then spent the afternoon exploring new parks and falling in love with a new side of Milwaukee. The evening ended with soup: filled with vegetables harvested from the garden Annie tended, and spices new and old, from the Spice House and from the spice shelf of my summer residence. A beautiful night, indeed.
Chili spices from the Spice House; The embodiment of fall
Clockwise from the top left: Turmeric (freshly ground!), Aleppo Chili Powder, Ground Ancho Chili Powder, Organic Garlic Powder, Guajillo Chili Powder

Of the new spices that I found at the Spice House with Alex, there was one I was quite excited to use: powdered porcini mushrooms. As I have spent the summer falling in and out of love with people, places, and things, I decided I would make a recipe that many already love in a new way, equally lovable. When asked (numerous, numerous times by my parents) to use the bountiful supply of our last harvest of green beans, I new just what I would do: green bean casserole. Originally, green bean casserole was created by Campbell's Soup Company in the 50s as a "quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950s: green beans and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup" (Campbell's). Times have changed, and thank goodness for me, I don't have a bountiful supply of canned cream of mushroom soup (at least not since I stopped buying canned food, last August). As of last Thursday, however, I do have a supply of powdered porcini mushroom! Let the revamp begin.
Green Bean Casserole (new and improved)
For the sauce:
2 cups of milk, I used 2%
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of horseradish
1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon dried porcini mushroom powder 
   (available here, in case you aren't so lucky to live by a Spice House)
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients, save the cornstarch, in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium low heat until the mix begins to steam, stirring to incorporate all ingredients. 

2. In a side dish, add water to the cornstarch and combine until it is completely dissolved (Don't just plop it into the other ingredients, or you will have a really lumpy sauce! yuck), and gradually pour into the sauce pan, stirring constantly. 

3. Increase the heat to medium, and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil softly. Cook until the sauce thickens and drops off a spoon, rather than pours. Remove from heat. 

For the casserole:
1 pound of green beans, cleaned (homegrown!)
Homemade mushroom sauce (see above) 
1/4 cup of homemade bread crumbs
1 purple onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

1. Place all the green beans in a small casserole dish. Pour the sauce on top of the green beans and spread the bread crumbs over the sauce. 

2. In a skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until they become translucent. Remove from heat and distribute evenly atop the bread crumbs. Top with the cheese.

3. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until the green beans are cooked through. Bon appetite! 

I do hope that you too will love this new spin on green bean casserole. Some people may think I am crazy for not purchasing canned/packaged foods, but let me just say, I have fallen in love with food more since I have forgone store-bought alternatives. While there are moments when cooking an entire meal seems more daunting than biking 600 miles with hills and wind (aka across Iowa), but somehow, I am still in love. 

Happy eating!

Thursday, October 6

Final craft stand of the season this Saturday!

The craft stand has been a staple in our summer this year, as Annie, Jill and I crafted our little fingers off. We have had such a wonderful time sharing our creations with our fellow Milwaukeeans, and have appreciated all the support we have received from both our friends and family, and also from new friends and perfect strangers. We have fought the elements, but with much support from our friends as well (Thank you Kathy, from MKE Localicious, for so graciously lending us your tent!). All in all, it has been a delightful summer. We do hope you will join us for our final Saturday market, this Saturday, October 8th, between 10am and 2pm at the Beans and Barley parking lot. After the market is complete, we will be listing our crafted items online. I will share this web address with you when it comes, not to worry!

Incase you are on the fence about coming, I have recently made a batch of my grandpa's famous caramels, and they will be conveniently located at our stand (and they will be free!). We really hope to see you there, and thank you all again, for your support. We could never have done it with out you!

Here are some photos of our stand lately (at Made in Milwaukee):

Happy fall! Hope to see you Saturday

Fall returns

Goodness! How quickly time seems to go when you are as busy as a bee (like me, and most of those I know around me). I am delighted to be surrounded by trees that are shifting colors. This summer has been a summer of transition for me, as I have moved from the garden unit to reside temporarily with some of my friends and now back home (but only for a quick minute, as soon I will embark on a new adventure in  Omaha, Nebraska!). Not only have I watched friends move in and out of Milwaukee, I have transitioned from working full time to working only at the craft stand. I have traveled to visit friends and family, all of which has been wonderful. Needless to say, however, it has been a long period of transition, and I am getting increasingly excited/anxious to settle in my next home. It is comforting for the seasons to be in a state of transition as well, because it reminds me that I am not the only one transitioning. It reminds me that things are always transitioning!
happy fall! 
A brief recap of the past month or so:
It was prime season for sailing, which my dad was happy about. We explored lake Michigan, which I will miss when I move from Milwaukee. It really is a beautiful place.
Bridget and I, on Lake Michigan
My family was delighted to have our friend Mai visit us from Japan, for the month of September! She had lived with us for about 9 months a few years back and this was her first return visit. What a wonderful time we all had.

My mom and I canned pears from my grandpa's tree. This year, his single pear tree yielded 200 juicy fruits! Imagine a pear that is actually filled with juice. As soon as you take a bite, sweet juice is pouring out. Quite the special treat, indeed. He also had plenty of fresh and delicious apples, which were enjoyed thoroughly by Mai, my cousin Claire, myself, and the ponies!

I visited Omaha to watch John and several of his friends run an ultramarathon (50k!) in the countryside of Nebraska. Annie and I were their support team, as we leapfrogged with them via automobile, with water, gear and plenty of homemade granola bars (see below for the recipe!). They all finished and in great stride and Annie and I received many high-fives from other race runners, and were recognized by some as the best crew!

We celebrated harvest season, with a potluck at the community garden. It was quite a successful season, as all the beds were filled and our harvest was plentiful. My best friend from the garden Jamarion even came! 

This past weekend, I visited Jill at her new residence in Missouri. We then traveled South to visit my dear Mema and Poppa. Of course, we made caramels, which are always a treat. This time, we sprinkled the top with sea salt before the caramels had set. This added quite a tasty flavor to the delicious morsels. We enjoyed the fall weather of southern Missouri, and even tried our hand (unsuccessfully) at persimmon butter. There are several persimmon trees in their neighborhood that are fruiting now. What beautiful fruits they reap, unfortunately several unripe fruits spoiled our batch. A minor setback, compared to the rest of our lovely visit.
 Jill with our persimmon bounty
Game night, with Mema and Poppa
And what is next? Next week, Annie and I are embarking on a 600 mile bike ride. Perhaps we are a bit crazy, but what better time to go, then now. The trees are practically yelling at us to get biking! We will first finish up our craft stand season, but then the road is ours.

To prepare, we have been biking quite a bit, and have fixed up our little bikes so they are road-ready (thanks to our friends at Milwaukee Bicycle Company!) Today, I am preparing some food for the road. A hybrid from the ultramarathon bars I made a month back, we hope these treats keep us going, even when we are feeling a bit defeated. As you may know, we don't let traveling or even camping prevent us from enjoying a tasty treat. With a little planning, you can have great food no matter where you are!

Open-road Bars of Encouragement
1/4 cup of chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of sorghum
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 cups puffed wheat, rice or kamut (I used Kashi 7 grain cereal!) 
1/2 cup bran buds or Grape-Nuts cereal
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup of pecans
1/4 cup of almonds
1/3 cup salted sunflower seeds

1. In a medium sauce pan, warm up the peanut butter, honey, sorghum and the brown sugar until the sugar has melted and peanut butter has thinned out.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients in big bowl and dust with cinnamon. Pour liquid on top and mix it up so that everything is equally coated. 

3. Then, spread the mixture into a well greased pan. Press mixture down with a piece of greased wax paper (otherwise you will have granola-hands!). Bake for about 25 minutes at 325 degrees.

4. Allow the bars to cool down completely before cutting. When they are cooled and solid, cut the bars into individual sizes and wrap with wax paper or put in little baggies. Enjoy! They will last for about a week at room temperature, but you can also refrigerate or freeze them so they last even longer (this shouldn't be a problem, because they will likely be eaten before too long!) 

Maple-cinna-raisin Bars
2 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of puffed wheat, rice or kamut
3/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1 cup of flour
3/4 cup of raisins (my mom made our raisins!)
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of real maple syrup
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup of vegetable oil

1. In a large bowl mix together everything except the last three ingredients. Pour the remaining ingredients over the dry ingredients until everything is coated. Pat into a greased pan.

2. Bake at 350 for about 30 to 35 minutes or until the bars begin to turn golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes and cut the bars while they are still warm. Be sure to cut them while they are warm, or it may be too hard to cut. Bon appetite!

Ultramarathon Power-packed Bars
1/4 cup of dried figs, chopped
1 cup of dried dates, chopped
1/4 cup of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3/4 cup of honey
1/2 cup of sorghum syrup

1/8 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
1 cup of chopped almonds
1/8 cup of flax seeds
1 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1 1/2 cup of coconut flakes
2 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 tablespoon of cinnamon

1. Mix first set of ingredients together and heat over low heat on the stovetop until combined.

2. In a really large bowl, mix together the second set of ingredients. When the syrup is combined, pour over the dry ingredients. Using greased wax paper, press all of the ingredients into a pan so they are really packed in!

3. Bake at 250 degrees for about 25 minutes. Cool, cut into bars (they will be a bit crumbly, but this makes them delicious) and wrap. For these, we found it easiest to place them into zippie-bags. Store in the refrigerator or freezer for longer shelf life.
*For extra fun, Mai and I made labels for each of our marathon bars, with little inspirational messages for the runners. I think they appreciated that :)

Open road, here we come, with treats!