They call these the dog days of summer - those slow, sultry weeks when August reluctantly rolls into September, where afternoons last years and it's hotter and more humid than you've ever remembered any summer being.
It's the time of year when Sirius, the Dog Star, is high in the sky, rising and setting with the melting sun,
and it's the time to say goodbye to sundresses and sandals, and afternoon walks to the corner ice cream shop for chocolate sorbet;
to farms where sunbathed migrant workers shucked corn against the hazy, golden backdrop of the Catskill Mountains;
to spotted cows feeding at the trough at dusk, their tails drowsily brushing flies away in the afterglow of twilight;
to plucking wild raspberries and blackberries off brambly bushes, and picking their sticky seeds from my teeth on morning walks with Maple;
to the family of black bears who sauntered up and down the mountainside in search of feral turkeys, their paws the size of catchers' mitts;
and it's time to say good riddance to driving an old Jeep with no air conditioning, back-soaked t-shirts, and Garth Brooks twanging about wheats fields and rodeos on replay.
Goodbye to my first summer in the Hudson River Valley. You were intense, wild, full of surprises, and you will never been forgotten.
This thick, buttery lemon spread is the perfect end-of-summer
filling for a pie or tart. It's a sweet surprise inside a layer cake,
and also makes a lovely spread for scones and muffins.
3 medium egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
Place a medium saucepan on the stove and add enough water to come about 1-inch up the side.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. While the water is heating, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth (about one minute).
Squeeze the juice of the two lemons into a measuring cup, topping off with water (if necessary) so that there's 1/3 cup altogether. Add the juice and lemon zest to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.
Once the water is simmering, reduce the heat to low and place a large bowl on top of saucepan, essentially creating a double-boiler where the bowl doesn't directly touch the water. Whisk until thickened (about eight minutes), or until the mixture is light yellow and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in one pat of butter at a time. Allow each piece to fully melt before adding the next.
Pour into a mason jar or container, covering the top with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should be directly touching the curd). Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
A cold front rolled in this weekend, and with it came rain that began Saturday afternoon and has fallen steadily through Sunday morning. The forecast calls for another inch of rain by night fall, which is fine by us. Rain and fog make for yucky driving conditions on the mountain so it's the perfect excuse to stay home with the fire roaring and binge on season 3 of Orange Is the New Black.
We put our housebound status to good use yesterday; Hubby assembled our new Norditrack elliptical machine in the upstairs loft, while I worked on creating a Meal Binder. I came across the idea on Little House Living, a homesteading blog that I follow, and thought it would be a great resource to help better plan dinners and, subsequently, better budget our grocery expenditures each week.
I'll be reentering the workforce in July so Hubby will become, as he puts it, Mr. Mom. He works from home and I'll be commuting to an office each day, so he'll be preparing most of our dinners from here on out. He's a good cook and really great with the grill, but meal planning and grocery shopping are my forte. So to make his life easier, I'm working on creating this Meal Binder for him that is full of our favorite recipes.
It's broken up into four sections - poultry, beef, pork and side dishes. Each week I'll choose five recipes and do one big food shop for the ingredients. I'll flag the recipes in the binder so that he knows which ones we have ingredients on hand for. All he has to do is decide which one he's in the mood to cook each evening. And then he needs to cook it. And I can come home to my little family and a yummy dinner and life will be grand. Well, maybe not so grand for him since he's the one cooking. Agree to disagree on that one.
The idea/hope/goal is that this process will a) give us a ballpark budget of what groceries should cost each week when we properly meal plan; b) deter us from ordering take-out, something which we do too often; and c) ensure that I'm not stopping at the grocery store on my way home from work each day, something I've done in the past that drove me insane. And I don't want to be insane.
I'm considering adding a breakfast section since I have a lot of quiche, frittata and pastry recipes that we eat on a quasi-regular basis. This week I baked a batch of strawberry oatmeal bars and we've been eating them in the mornings with our coffee and as snacks throughout the day. So much better than spending $4 on coffee and a bagel at Tim Horton's every single morning. Okay, Hubby won't agree with me on that one. Agree to disagree.
Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
1 & 1/2 cup oats (can be quick or old-fashioned)
1 & 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 & 1/2 stick cold butter, diced into pieces
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12-ounce jar of strawberry preserves (you can use any flavor of preserves but I think strawberry is great for summertime)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter (or your hands but this will require a bit of elbow grease) until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle half the mixture into the pan and pat lightly to pack it. Spoon the preserves over the packed mixture and spread evenly and gently using a butter knife. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the layer of preserves and pat lightly again to pack.
Bake until light golden brown (30 to 40 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool in pan. Once fully cool, cut into squares and enjoy.
I take no pleasure in publicly admitting this, but perhaps if I put it out into the universe it will stop keeping me up at night: I'll be 30 years old next month.
Actually, no, that didn't make me feel better at all.
I'm not sure how 30 is supposed to feel, but I don't feel it. In my mind, I'm still the same person I was at 22 - someone who loves Green Day, Friends marathons, eating Kraft Dinner out of the pot and spending the entire day in pajamas. I love the strawberry lollipops at my allergist's office and the excitement of Christmas morning. Don't let the glasses and my penchant for the New York Times crossword fool you - I'm still a kid at heart.
Superficially, some things have changed. These days just one cocktail makes me sleepy, I now dab on eye cream before bed and, to my dismay, find the occasional grey hair. But deep down I'm basically the same person who enjoys the same pastimes who values the same things. And the one constant, the thing that's never changed, is who I am at my very core, and that is an American.
Neither age nor living in another country for two years have managed to change that fact.
I left the States for Canada when I was 27, and although the two countries are both English-speaking and, on the outside, people appear the same, the cultures are actually quite different. I had a difficult time adjusting to the increased cost of living, the reservedness of the locals and just how much they love to hate their capitalistic cowboy neighbor to the south.
When Hubby and I realized that we'd never be able to afford the lifestyle we want in Canada (and I couldn't shake my perpetual feeling of homesickness), we tossed around the idea of moving back to the States. 'Would that make us quitters?' we wondered. 'And do we really want to put ourselves through another international move?'
Despite the worries, the concerns, the gut-wrenching fears of starting over yet again, the answer was inevitable.
At one of my lowest points last year, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't spend my 30th birthday in another country. It's arbitrary and illogical, but it was something my heart needed to hear. I needed to be home for my birthday. After so many challenges immigrating to Canada and so many months (27 to be exact, but who's counting?) living outside of my comfort zone, I felt I owed it to myself to celebrate such a milestone age at home, with my family.
And so, at 7:33 a.m. on May 3rd I'll be 30 years old. I'll also be a resident of the state of New York.
Happy birthday to me.
Homestyle White Bread
Shortly after Hubby and I signed the lease to our new
townhouse in New York, I baked a couple loaves of
this homestyle white bread. It was simple, comforting
and tasted like home. Fitting for the occasion.
Yield: 2 loaves
* This bread is great for sandwiches and French toast. It will stay fresh, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for 3-4 days. It can also be wrapped in plastic and then foil, and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months.
1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet (2 & 1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup warm milk (any kind will do but I use 2%)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon oil (any kind - vegetable, canola, olive, etc)
In the bowl of a standing mixer, pour the water and sprinkle the yeast over top. No need to stir. Let this stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is broken up.
Melt the butter in the microwave, then stir in the warm milk, sugar, and salt. Pour 1 cup of flour and the liquid mixture over the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until this comes together into a loose batter.
Add another 4 & 1/2 cups of flour and stir until a shaggy dough forms.
Using the dough hook attachment on the standing mixer, knead the dough at medium speed for 10 minutes. If you don't have a mixer, knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. If the dough feels gummy or sticky, add extra flour (one tablespoon at a time) until it feels right. It should be smooth and spring back when poked.
Clean out the mixing bowl and add the oil, coating the bowl with your hand. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning it so it's lightly coated with oil. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size (about one hour).
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Cut in two and shape each half into a loose ball. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes.
Grease two loaf pans. Shape each ball of dough into a loaf and gently place them in the loaf pans. Let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. While they are rising, preheat your oven to 425° F.
Slash the tops of the loaves down the middle with a serrated knife. Place both pans in the oven and then turn down the heat to 375°F. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Do not slice until almost cool.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.