Friday, July 29, 2011

Grilled Corn with Basil Butter

One of my favorite things about summer is all the fresh produce that is available.  Growing up, my grandparents had a large vegetable garden.  Every time we would visit them during the summer, Grandma would send us on our way with a trunk full of fresh veggies.  My mom would then hurry home to par-boil and freeze everything we couldn't possibly eat and then she would spend the rest of the week cooking and serving us lots and lots of vegetables!  OK, so I didn't fully appreciate all those veggies then, but the older and wiser me has come to truly savor this fresh-from-the-garden taste.

Today we were able to enjoy the fresh picked produce we bought during our trip to The Farmer's Market!  Ella's pick?  Sweet Corn!

In my opinion, a child's education just isn't complete without mastering the skill of shucking corn.  When I was growing up, weekends were spent at the family cabin.  Every Friday, our family would pack up for our drive "Up North".  If we left early enough in the day, we knew what our last stop would be:  Corn Corner.  Corn Corner was a farm at the last official turn before we reached the cabin.  It raised the sweetest corn known to mankind.  We paid one dollar for a dozen ears.  As the oldest (and only) daughter, my official job was to shuck the two or three dozen ears of corn we would purchase on the way.    If I was lucky, I would recruit my cousin next door.

Growing up, we never ventured from boiled corn with butter and salt, but on this day I thought it would be fun to try something different:  Grilled Corn with Basil Butter.  Basil Butter is easily made in a food processor.  (Less easily made in a blender - i.e. below!)

Simply combine two sticks of regular, salted butter and 1/2 cup torn basil leaves.

Pulse until it looks like this.

Place the basil butter on parchment paper .......

.... and roll up like Tootsie Roll.  Place the Basil Butter in the freezer until it is ready to be used. 

Corn, it turns out, is easily cooked on the grill.  And since I'm always looking for ways to pawn off all the cooking to my husband during the summer months, (i.e. if it can go on the grill, he can cook it), this was a great discovery!   Cooking time runs about 20 minutes.  When it looks bright yellow like boiled corn, it's done.

The smoky, grilled flavor of the corn along with the fresh herbed basil butter was a delicious (and easy!) combination.

Grilled Corn with Basil Butter

Grill corn on medium heat for 20 minutes, turning throughout

Basil Butter

Place 2 sticks of butter and 1/2 cup of fresh basil in a food processor.  Pulse until well combined.  Place in parchment and roll into a cylinder.  Twist ends and freeze until ready to use.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Benefits of Being the Weaker....

Men and women are different.  It's true.  What works for one - does not necessarily work for the other.

Men tend to use their strength.  They power through the board room, they muscle the ball across the field,  they intimidate so that no one will encroach.  That's fine for some.

I find, however, that there is no shame in being the weaker.  I loved the days when I had my own personal "expecting" parking spot at the grocery store.  I cherish the fact that I can quickly retrieve 40 bags of mulch at Home Depot because a helpful employee is loading my SUV.  And I unapologetically declare my latest feat: Pre-Boarding.

As a family of six, pre-boarding ended with the demise of the stroller.  I admit, I stretched that scenario as long as I could, finally leaving the beloved stroller behind when my youngest turned five.  But today I was traveling without my stronger half, without my man of muscles, without my stud of steel.  As I glanced around at the fully booked flight and scanned our combined ten carry-on bags (five wheeled bags and five rather large-ish "personal" bags) I knew that this would not just be a luxury request, but a necessity.  Zone 9 just never fares well in the overhead storage department.

I approached the men behind the counter and put on my best acquired southern charm.  "I was wondering," I said, "since I'm traveling alone with my four children, if you would let me pre-board."  First rule of sales:  Smile.  Stop talking.  

"I guess so," he said.  "Thank you so much," I replied.  But when the other gate attendant failed to call pre-boarding, I knew I had to resort to quiet confidence.  I lined up myself, the four kids and the ten carry-ons behind the handful of business class passengers.  When I reached the the gate, I kindly stated that the other attendant had told me I could pre-board.  "Well, I'm not going to say no," he said.  I kindly thanked him and proceeded down the runway.

This, my friends, is the the power of being the weaker.  I am quite sure that my husband (or most men for that matter) would never ask for the help he most imminently needed.  He would, however, graciously bow to a sweet damsel in distress.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Men and women are different.  And different can be good.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Days Like These......

Back when summers meant spending every weekend at our cabin up north, one thing was certain:  The best day of the weekend was Sunday afternoon.  Somehow it didn't matter if the previous days had been stormy or windy, hot or wavy, cloudy or muggy, we could count on, with certainty, that Sunday afternoon would be crystal clear.  The lake would glisten and the sun would beckon as we carried up the beach toys, fastened the straps on the boat cover and loaded up the car with what always seemed to be more bags than what had come up with us in the first place.

Sunday afternoon beckoned us to stay just a little while longer.  Sunday afternoon made us believe that days up there were always this good.  Sunday afternoon left in us a longing to return to that little spot of paradise.

As I pack our bags from our extended summer stay Up North, the calendar in my soul says it's Sunday.  We've had our share of cold.  We've had our share of steamy.  But today, as I prepare for our long trip south, the day is perfect.  The flowers have never brighter, the sky has never been bluer.  I hug my parents, longing to stay just one more day, never conditioned enough to the embracing and the letting go that comes with living far away.

On the plane, the westward sun will beat in our windows, just like those car rides home from the lake, creating in me a longing to return to those perfect summer moments.

While I'm comfortably dressed in my capris and summer sweater, I anticipate with dread the blast of southern heat that will hit my face like a jet engine roaring.  Nothing will be comfortable then.

I receive an encouraging email from a southern friend, reminding me of peaches and Coke and Sweet Tea.  The message is timely and I am reminded that embracing and releasing are a part of life.  As I let go of one, God lets me reach out for another.

I look forward to my husband's embrace.  Our family will be together.  And soon summer will turn to fall, producing the perfect southern day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Perfect Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb, for me, is full of nostalgia.  Growing up in the north, we always had rhubarb in our back yard. Shortly after I got married, my aunt and uncle, who lived on a farm in Wisconsin, came for a visit and bestowed on me some lovely rhubarb plants.  They even showed me just where to plant them, sensing, perhaps, that my inexperienced planting thumbs had not yet reached a respectable shade of green.

The result of this gift permeates my memory.  Having planted that rhubarb in the exact spot which they had so carefully chosen, it flourished.  For the next few summers, I harvested bundles of stalks of rhubarb.  Each bundle made the same thing:  Rhubarb Crisp.  Fortunately, my husband (and hopefully all the guests that dropped in!) never tired of it.  The best part?  The ingredients were always on hand.  Fresh picked tart rhubarb with a sweet crumble topping.  Nothing says summer like it! 

Start with four cups (about 4 - 5 stalks) of diced rhubarb.
We picked this bright red rhubarb up at the Farmer's Market.

Place it in a bowl.  
(OK, so I had to add just one more redundant photo because the rhubarb was so gorgeous!)

Add in flour and sugar.

Mix until coated.

Put the rhubarb in a greased pan.

Using the SAME BOWL (I'm all about fewer dishes!) add the crumble topping ingredients.

Mix until they are - crumbly!

Sprinkle on top of the rhubarb.

Bake until bubbly and the rhubarb is soft.
Serve with ice cream!
Or just grab a spoon and dig in!

Rhubarb Crisp


4 cups rhubarb, diced 
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how tart you like it)
1/3 cup flour

Toss until rhubarb is coated.  Spoon into greased pan (8x8 inch pan or 9-inch pie pan.)

Crumble Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour (I use white whole wheat)
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

Blend ingredients until crumbly.  Sprinkle over the top of rhubarb.  Bake at 375 degrees for  40 - 50 minutes or until bubbly and rhubarb is soft when tested with a knife.

***NOTE:  Rhubarb picked early in the season is the sweetest.  Adjust the sugar accordingly!

Monday, July 25, 2011

iheartfaces | Water

Our time visiting family is nearing an end.  It's hard to believe we've been gone almost five weeks!  I guess it's a good thing when one leaves, still wanting more.  Today we spent our last day with the cousins in their new pool.  My very talented 8-year old niece, Brita, snapped this photo of Anna with her new, underwater camera.  I loved it!  I did some minor editing with my very limited iPhoto software.  I loved how the black and white version showed so much more detail in the bubbles and water reflections.  What can I say, Brita, those photographic genes just run in the family! :-)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Betty's Pies

So I was paging through my Food Network Magazine (or, rather, scouring through every word since I've now been without access to cable TV and cooking shows for a good month), when I ran across an article about Betty's Pies.  In the fine print, it stated that there were two locations, both in Minnesota.  "Wait a minute," I thought, "I'm in Minnesota!"  So I Googled "Betty's Pies" and found that one location was in Two Harbors, Minnesota (a really long ways away) and one location was in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, (a really short ways away.)

I'm inserting this sign for good measure, just so you know how people feel around here.

Since Betty's Pies was actually featured in a national magazine, I decided that it was a worthy destination for a Mommy Camp Field Trip!

Betty's Pies is obviously known for it's pies, but it was was also featured for it's latest invention:

The Pie Milkshake.

That's right, a whole slice of pie, 8 ounces of ice cream, a splash of milk, and you have pie ala mode in a glass!  
You can see the bits of crust and fruit swimming in it!

We also tried the five-layered chocolate pie (Ella's favorite),

And the Rhubarb Raspberry Pie (Samuel's favorite).

The kids loved looking at the homemade pies,

and begged for me to leave them unattended.

I told them they really wouldn't like the espresso, anyway :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Pie

After our fun trip to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, I couldn't wait to use my fresh basil and heirloom tomatoes.  Fortunately, I didn't have to look far to find this delicious recipe on the cover of Food Network Magazine.  If you're not a subscriber, you should be.  It's packed with delicious recipes, eye-popping photos and The Dish on your favorite Food Network Celebs.  I've been lugging my summer issue around with me during my travels.  It's been making up for the the fact that my parents don't have cable.  They really don't.  Seriously.

First, start with the crust.  If you have pie-crust-a-phobia (and I completely understand if you do), just buy a ready-made crust and pre-bake it.  If you're not afraid of a good pie-crust challenge, give this one a try.  Filled with cornmeal and salty, manchego cheese, it gives the pie a rustic charm.

The filling starts with a sweet, caramelized onion.

Place the onions in a bowl and add breadcrumbs, mayonaise and 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
(I used a combination of smoked mozzarella, gruyere and manchego.)

Add herbs, seasoning.

Mix and spread into the bottom of your pre-baked crust.
As usual, I doubled the recipe - one for dinner and one for a week of lunches for me!!

Next, slice your beautiful tomatoes. 

Arrange them on top of the cheese filling.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with pepper.

Bake for about an hour.  Top with fresh herbs.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Heirloom Tomato Pie
Adapted from Food Network Magazine (July/August 2011)

The Crust


Pre-bake a store-bought crust 


1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4/ teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons manchego cheese

Pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture looks like a course meal with pea-sized bits of butter.  Drizzle in 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough comes together; add 1 more tablespoon water if necessary.  Turn onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk.  Wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Put the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 13-inch round.  Transfer dough to a 9 1/2 inch deep-dish pie plate.  Fold the overhang under itself and crimp the edges.  Pierce the bottom of the crust all over with a fork.  Refrigerate until firm.

Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The Filling

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups assorted shredded cheeses (I used smoked mozzarella, gouda and manchego)
1/4 cups mayonaise
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
1  teaspoon fresh thyme

Cook onion in olive oil until caramelized.  Place in a mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Spread mixture in baked pie crust.

The Tomatoes

2 1/4 pounds heirloom tomatoes
Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced

Thinly slice the tomatoes and toss with 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a colander.  Let drain, about 30 minutes.
Arrange the tomatoes on top of the filling.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with pepper.  Bake at 375 degrees until the tomatoes are browned, about 1 hour.  Top with basil.