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Some weeks are easier than others. And some weeks aren’t easy. Some weeks, the battles are centered on just getting out of bed every day and Accomplishing things…making the bed…exercising…making a meal…getting to work…smiling…And those things are enough because they take every last ounce of energy. Some weeks are like that.
I read somewhere that we are too centered on being happy. And its true. We have so much time and luxury in our lives, that we can spend our mental energies wondering if we are happy enough, if we could be happier, if we should try to attain something more, more, more. Because we know where our next meal will come from. In fact, we are thinking about all the things we won’t eat, because we have so much, and want to stay trim. We know where we will sleep at night, and that we will stay warm. We have two million options in the morning for what we will wear. We have so much, even if we think we have so little. Our lives aren’t about survival anymore. They are about happiness, and pleasure, and ourselves. I don’t know, really, if that is such a wonderful thing. Sometimes I sort wish, a tiny bit, that we knew what it was to survive. That we could pour our energy into simply maintaining those we love, and that would be enough. Food on the table. Blankets on the bed. Roof overhead. Food through the long cold, cold months…Instead, we are filled with discontent, filled with ever wanting something…something more…
My life is not difficult. It is deliriously rich and easy. I am spoiled from having so much, and I have so little compared with a huge part of our country. And maybe that is the trouble. We are simply given too much.
I have forgotten what the sun in the morning looks like. I’d forgotten, mostly, what the sun in general looks like, but then today, all of the sudden, it BURST out like an anthem and the sky is perfectly blue, blue, blue, and warm, even, for mid October. Thank you, thank you!
I was going to write my Rainy Day Workout here today, but there isn’t any need. I got my oil changed and took a long run and thought about how nice it was to feel warm, to feel really warm, and to sweat warm sweat. Its the little things…
On Sunday, My Day Off, I did many things…many things besides relaxing. As I get older and slowly evolve more and more into my mother (unavoidable) I become more obsessed with doing things and less concerned with resting, and rejuvenating. It is something that I, like she, need to work on.
Anyway, whilst doing seven million loads of laundry, uploading 1200 wedding pictures, cleaning the house, writing a blog post, concocting homemade lasagna with cauliflower-ricotta filling, grocery shopping, and watching one episode of New Girl, I also whipped up an apple pie. With my first ever homemade crust, which, I will admit, tasted great but looked not so great. Oh well. I’ll learn, and someday be able to make glorious crusts like my old roommate Natalie does.
Nicks fellow farmer friend Jon gave us these GIGANTIC apples which he got from another fellow farmer friends orchard.
They. Are. Huge. He requested they be made into a pie, and I obliged. Apples are so very sweet on their own, that they really don’t need much sugar added to them. I made the homemade crust (just look up the recipe….I followed one for a butter crust, because I don’t have shortening and didn’t want to buy it.) and let it sit in the fridge while I put together the innards. Because crust, with all its butter, is high in calories, I went for a crumb top. The average apple pie calls for 3/4 cup of sugar (WHAT!?) so I followed my heart instead.
I peeled and thinly sliced three mega apples. Then I added a teaspoon of honey, and a teaspoon of maple syrup. I sprinkled in a healthy dose of cinnamon and ground ginger (at least 2 teaspoons of the former and one of the latter) and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. I was pretty much out of lemon juice, but I probably managed to squeeze a teaspoon or two out. And that was it. The innards were complete.
For the crumb top, I combined 1/4 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon, and two tablespoons of butter together. It doesn’t cover the whole pie, but it does the trick.
Then, I awkwardly and with a smattering of foul language rolled out the dough. I added the apples, sprinkled the crumb top, and baked it for an hour at 400 degrees.
And even if it wasn’t a work of art, it was charmingly rustic, and that’s fine with me. It was also just sweet enough, and delicious. We all enjoyed it with some local vanilla ice cream.
And with this pie, when someone says to you “would you like some apple pie?” you can reply…”Apple pie? Why yes, don’t mind if I do.”
Today is Laundry Day. Today is also my one precious day off in the week. Today is Laundry Day. I don’t like doing laundry…It takes half the day up (since I put it off for at least three weeks every time) and I have to sit in a loud, lonely laundromat to do it. But here’s the thing. We have laptops. And laptops play movies. So I can do my laundry whilst watching Gone With The Wind. I don’t have to wash my laundry on a washboard and in the river so I need to stop complaining.
The other night, for Nick and my raucous Friday night festivities, I make Fall Kale Salad. With sweet potato croutons and crispy pumpkin seeds.
Then we woke up at 6:15 on Saturday morning. Today I slept in until 8. There was a time when I would have considered the weekend wasted if I woke up before eleven with anything but a splitting headache and Regrets. Oh, to be young again……..
The salad was dressed in a sweet and tangy pumpkin/apple vinaigrette with walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and this luscious acorn squash on top. Delicious.
I cannot sing the praises of the crock pot long enough. I made the acorn squash in it, and they were quite legitimately divine. If you don’t have one…GET ONE! They’re cheap! And right now I’m making Heirloom Tomato Sauce in mine!
Anyway. With your crock pot on high, pour in 3/4 cup of apple cider. I used Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider which I recommend. Then, slice your medium sized acorn squash in half, and scoop out the insides, reserving the seeds.
Lay the squash face up in the crock, and dice 1/2 of a fuji apple. Fill the two squash (squashes…?) with the apple as well as with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, one tablespoon of maple syrup, one teaspoon of honey, a teaspoon of cinnamon, one tablespoon of lemon juice, one tablespoon of crushed walnuts, and one tablespoon of dried cranberries. This is for both, not for one. By the By.
Lastly, put a small dollop of butter over each half, cover it up, and turn it to low. Let it cook the day away.
When the squash has cooked for at least four hours, and is smelling absurdly delicious, prep the rest of the salad. Dice up 1/2 of a peeled sweet potato and toss it in a small bowl with salt and pepper. Lay this on a greased cookie sheet, and toss the (rinsed) pumpkin seeds with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and chili powder and add them to the cookie sheet. Bake these at 410 degrees. Watch them carefully, cause they burn fast and will need to be turned ever couple of minutes.
While those cook, concoct the salad dressing. I eyeballed everything, but a rough estimate would be…2.5 tablespoons of pumpkin puree (unsweetened) 2 tablespoons of apple cider, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, and one tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. Add in a pinch of pepper, some cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of honey, and one teaspoon of maple syrup and you’re done. Stir it up. The best thing about this is because of the pumpkin, it doesn’t need any oil. Yes please.
Next, put your kale in a large salad bowl (I used one full bag from Trader Joe’s) and shake in a pretty generous amount of salt. Then, with a book in one hand to pass the time, massage away until the leaves are dark and tender.
Then, toss in some sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, walnuts, and the dressing and mix and mingle it all together. Put the Sweet Potato Croutons on top, and sprinkle some pumpkin seeds all over it, add in an acorn squash half, and you have yourself a scrumptious dinner. Also, this meal is a powerhouse of super foods. What’s to lose? Nothing, just your waistline. If you, like me, have a husband who maybe worked at a farm for twelve hours straight…you may want to add a grilled cheese to his plate. He’ll thank you for it.
Today, I am thankful for Pink Hunter Boots from my loving husband. Otherwise my feet would be wet, and my temper would be short.
Also I’m thankful for our pretty dog. Because even though she makes me crazy in the morning with her exuberant energy, she is a darling.
Have a beautiful Sunday, everyone.
1 medium acorn squash, split and scooped out
1/2 fuji apple diced
3/4 cup apple cider
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs chopped walnut
1 tbs dried cranberries
Sweet Potato Croutons
1/2 sweet potato peeled and diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil
(toss and cook at 410)
2.5 tbs pumpkin puree
2 tbs apple cider
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs white balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tsp honey
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 cup (or however many are reserved) seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil
Bake at 410
This is delicious. With just a hint of sweetness, and an incredibly moist almost cake-like texture, it is a perfect breakfast treat, and a not-too-guilty dessert.
The crumb topping makes it even more delectable. Nothing beats a warm crumb top on a cold, cold day. Because it is getting so cold. Right now I’m sitting in front of the space heater in my enormous sweater typing with cold fingers. It is, of course, cloudy and dark out. Oh, New England and your winters…
Anyway. I adapted the recipe from a base one that I found online. It is good to note that because I didn’t put the full amount of oil in, it does dry out more quickly than normal bread would. But if you warm it up in the oven before you eat it, it goes back to normal.
Start with your fruit mixture. I used 3/4 of a large Fuji apple (simply the best variety, I couldn’t love them more. They have a texture almost like sugar cane.) chopped up small, about a quarter cup of chopped walnuts, and a quarter cup of dried cranberries. Toss these in a bowl with a bit of flour so the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom of the bread.
In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. I used one cup of white flour, and half a cup of whole wheat flour, one cup of whole oats, a half cup of brown sugar (as opposed to 3/4 which is what it called for) 1 tsp of baking powder, and half a tsp of baking soda. Then I put in two teaspoons of cinnamon, and a half teaspoon of ground ginger.
In a separate bowl, I combined 3/4 cup of sweetened almond milk, (at 60 calories a cup, it has half the calories of 1 percent milk and is so much creamier. I usually get the unsweetened, but for baking, its nice to have a little hint in there.) a little more than a quarter cup olive oil, two egg whites, and two tablespoons of maple syrup.
Last of all, throw in some salt to bring out the flavor. I used to never, ever use salt in cooking because I always thought it was unhealthy. I also used to dehydrate constantly…Nick (my very athletic husband) informed me that if you exercise regularly and sweat heavily (charming, I’m sure) then you need to be replenishing the salt in your body to keep from dehydrating. Which is interesting, because in Thailand (where I grew up) it is incredibly hot, and they put salt in their water.
Anyway. That being said, I like to use salt now.
Back to the task at hand. Combine the dry and the wet together and pour into an 8×8 greased pan.
In a little bowl, combine 1/4 cup of oats, 1/8 cup brown sugar, and a half tablespoon of softened butter. Crumble it up with your hard working hands, and sprinkle it all over the bread.
Then, pop it in your preheated to 400 degree oven and bake it for 35 minutes.
It was delicious warm with a dollop of strawberry jam. The apples tender and sweet, and just a hint of the pumpkin flavor. Perfect for fall.
I can hardly believe that Halloween is almost here. Its the first one in years that I’m not doing some sort of tourist acting in our sweet Salem. But I don’t really miss it. Today I have to work in Salem, and although nothing is more invigorating than walking through Salem during the Halloween season, its not quite as fun to drive through the madness. But its only once a year. And it goes by so, so quickly.
Here’s the recipe run down.
3/4 fuji apple
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
dusting of flour for mixing
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 (plus a little) cup olive oil
2 egg whites
2 tbs maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup oats
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbs softened butter
combine wet and dry ingredients and add in fruit mixture. Pour into greased 8×8 pan, and sprinkle crumb mixture on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Eat, eat, eat.
Tonight I am going to visit this beautiful lady. She is one of my very dearest, most beloved friends– we’ve known each other for almost seven years now…meeting at the tender ages of 18 and 19 at Gordon College, our alma mater. We lived by chance next door to one another and almost immediately became best friends. Since then we have grown up, matured, and changed so much. Thank God. Otherwise everyone would be in trouble.
She lives in Newburyport, which is my favorite North Shore town, and she is the impeccably dressed and dazzlingly stylish manager of Modern Millie’s there. Tonight we will stroll down the cobbled sidewalks to Agave, our favorite Mexican restaurant, and sip marguerita’s and munch on homemade tortilla chips (to die for. So dangerous) and talk, and talk, and talk.
When Heather and I were first out of College, we adopted Alice the Cat together. He was the cutest kitten ever born (and I think this may be scientifically proven at this point.) and because of his good looks, he has always had a pretty terrible attitude…Now he is very furry (not fat. Furry.) and lives in the Woods of Maine and sleeps at night on our porch in his cozy cat house. He is an expert mouse catcher, and still absurdly good looking.
Nick was home from work catching up on homework (which is a combination of the two, so I guess he wasn’t really home from work after all…) for grad school, and I made some pumpkin apple-cranberry-walnut bread to bring to Heather tonight. I’ll put the recipe up tomorrow, after we have sufficiently taste tested it.
For now. The sun is out. Lupe and I had a gloriously warm six mile run this morning. Nick is building Alice a Cat Yurt to keep him warm. I have a busy work afternoon ahead. And life is lovely.
There is nothing that satisfies me like a bowl of hearty, rich stew on a cool, drizzly Fall evening. Or a freezing winter one for that matter– This concoction that I came up with hits the spot in every possible way. It has a rich, flavorful broth, tons of harvest root vegetables, savory beans, and unbelievably tender chunks of meat. And on top of it all, thanks to the magic attributes of the crock pot (which I didn’t even want to register for, but Nick insisted) it takes about 5.5 minutes to prepare.
This hasn’t been the easiest of weeks, thanks to days on end of rain, and dreary, chilly mornings. When the sun doesn’t come out, and the clouds threaten to break open at any moment, its hard to be cheerful…Its a lucky thing that I work with 36 wonderful children every week, because its hard to stay blue when I see their smiling faces, and hear them laughing over some ridiculous story I made up about cheerful C major and his dreary cousin A minor. Anyway. Today, after a long day, I came home to a quiet house (minus my dog who was racked with guilt because she had been sleeping on our couch which is strictly forbidden) since my husband is in class late tonight. I helped myself to a warm bowl of this stew, read my book, listened to Mumford and Sons’ new album, sipped a rum and spiced cider, and fixed the hole in Nicks dress pants. At the same time. Just kidding. But anyway. The night wasn’t all that bad.
So. If you’re craving some healthy, homey comfort food, read on.
To start with, you’ll need about four small turnips, three small potato’s, one sweet potato, one onion, one large carrot, and three cloves of garlic. Chop the roots veggies thick, and the onion and garlic slim. Put them all in your crockpot or your dutch oven.
Next, boil a quarter cup of fresh kidney beans. If you don’t have the time, or don’t have them on hand, canned ones will do in which case you’ll want an 8 0z can of them.
While the beans boil, pour two 32 oz containers of beef broth over the veggies in the crockpot. I used Trader Joe’s variety which is SO DELICIOUS and organic to boot. Sprinkle in a half teaspoon each of sage, thyme, rosemary, and herbs de provence (or oregano if you don’t have any). Put in a whole teaspoon of salt, because beans need salt.
Add a half teaspoon of black pepper and three crumbled up pepperoncino’s…or a quarter teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
Then, the most luxurious part of all. Nick bought two chunks of Pork Butt from Becky and Phil at Brandmoore Farm in Rollinsford, NH. They just slaughtered a pig, so we nabbed up some of the fresh meat. Of course, you don’t have to use pork butt. a sliced up thick cut pork chop will do too. Pork butt is exceptionally tender and flavorful though, so if you can get your hands on it, do.
Slice up the meat into bite sized chunks and throw it in the pot along with the bones of the butt/chops you used.
Then put the crock pot on high and let it cook for about eight hours. When you get home from a long days work, dish up a bowl of it and sprinkle some Swiss cheese on top. Then pretend that you live in 1875 in a cabin and that you just made it over a fire. With the bear meat your husband brought home.
1 medium sized onion
3 cloves garlic
1 medium sized sweet potato
3 small russet potatos
4 small turnips
1 large carrot
2 32 oz containers of beef broth
1/2 teaspoon each: rosemary, sage, thyme, herbs de provence
1 teaspoon: sea salt
3 pepperoncino’s crushed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb Pork Butt or Pork Chop
Slice onions and flatten garlic. Chop up vegetables into bite size pieces. Place in pot and cover with beef broth and spices. Add in pork pieces and cook on high in crock pot for at least 6 hours. And Dig In!
Finally, just to bring a smile to our humpday Almost-Maybe-Done-With-The-Work-Week faces…has anything EVER been as adorable as my darling nephew in his dapper Sailor duds? I think the answer is…no.