Farmers’ Market Bag


This was a little project we took on so I could have a nice shopping bag to bring to the Farmers’ Market on weekends or use to walk to our neighborhood Co-op, Mississippi Market. It’s about the size of a grocery sack, maybe slightly larger, so it’s perfect for the market.

It was actually a pretty easy project to make. There were no pattern pieces involved at all. It goes together rather like a small quilt that gets folded over. I used this adorable chicken fabric that I had and I thought it would look really cute on this bag. Then I just chose fabrics that matched. It’s quilted in small diamonds, which I thought would look nice but also give it strength.

I like the bag a lot and it gets tons of use. If I ever make another one for myself, I think I will alter it somewhat so the straps are longer and able to cross the body, rather than just fit over the shoulders. I think I just might do that someday 🙂

my bag model

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Friday Night Spinach Cannelloni

Intrepid readers! You may remember that when we left off last time, the husband and I had walked to the store for ricotta cheese (among other things), and he emerged with feta cheese, an error which was not discovered until we were home. Well. The reason I needed the ricotta cheese was because of the spinach cannelloni. The one that I made last Friday after work. This one:

It was pretty good, if I do say so myself. I ammended the recipe from the Earthbound Farms Cookbook to suit our tastes and budget. It turned out really well. I had previously only eaten spinach cannelloni in restaurants, but it’s not difficult to make at all. Even the husband, who is not a spinach lover, ate several cannelloni for dinner on Friday, several more for lunch on Saturday, and a couple more for lunch today. Success, I’d say.

cooked lasagna noodles waiting for filling

cooking the spinach filling

the ricotta part of the filling

just plop some filling down…

and roll them up!

I realized that many of my new recipes that I’ve documented here are vegetarian. The “trout” chowder has tilapia in it and the chicken wild rice salad has chicken, obviously. Other than that, the rest have been vegetarian. I am not a vegetarian, but I guess you could say that I eat less meat than most Americans. If I had to wager a guess, I would estimate that I eat meat about once every two or three days. And so when it’s my turn to choose a new recipe, I often choose something meatless. Just in case you were wondering 🙂 Some people think I am a little weird that way, but it’s just personal preference.

Try Something New: Fall Edition

 

Last Saturday we decided to experiment in the kitchen a bit. Saturday is such a nice day to spend cooking, especially in the fall. The cool, windy weather made it feel so cozy to be inside with the warm oven and wonderful smells.Our cooking adventure actually started earlier, when we decided to make a run to the neighborhood Co-op, Mississippi Market, for groceries. Mississippi Market is within walking distance of our lovely abode, making it the grocery store of choice for us most of the time. We grabbed our handy-dandy market bag (hand-made by ME!), the dogs, and walked to the store together. It was a beautiful fall day, after all.

We walked the 8 or so blocks to Mississippi Market, and I stayed outside with the dogs while my husband dutifully took the shopping bag, our short list, and the money and went to collect our goods. He emerged a few minutes later and we walked home. At home, I emptied the bag and pulled out something called feta cheese. THAT was not on the list. RICOTTA cheese was on the list. Feta just looks…ugh. Anyway, the miniscule amount of fossil fuels we saved by walking to the store in the first place were then lost as my husband got into our Buick to return the feta for ricotta. An auspicious beginning, no?

The recipes we tried were roasted beets with dill dressing and wild rice stuffed acorn squash. I have been wanting to try the squash recipe for a long time because it looks so pretty in its picture in The New Whole Grains Cookbook, which I own and love. (I own several cookbooks. I have a collection which I love dearly. Am a bit odd that way). These seemed like nice recipes that would go with our boring old (yet very good) raspberry chipotle chicken breasts we had planned to eat that night.

cooking the wild rice and the squash

I thought the squash would be fussy, because it looks so pretty, and let’s face it: stuffed anything is kind of a pain. But this really wasn’t bad at all. The beets, strangely enough, were the part that sucked. We read that we could drizzle olive oil over the beets and roast them in the oven in about an hour and then the skins would slip off easily. Bullcaca. It took over 2.5 hours, and they still weren’t all the way done. The ones that were perfectly roasted – those skins did slip off rather easily, but the rest had to be peeled, and our hands got stained, and by this time it was nearly 10pm and we were pretty hungry and crabby. We just did our best, poured the dressing on the beets, and finally ate our dinner!

roasted beet salad with dill dressing

Everything turned out really good, especially those pesky beets! The squash were REALLY filling, though. It was very difficult to eat an entire one, and I would suggest cutting each one in half for serving purposes, although they look so pretty whole.

I would make the beets again anytime, as long as I can get the roasting figured out. The squash I would make for special occasions. It would be gorgeous at Thanksgiving, for instance. It’s always interesting to try new things.

Raspberry chipotle chicken breast, roasted beet salad, wild rice stuffed squash

Rocket

 

Rocket is our one-of-a-kind rocking horse that we carved about 4 years ago. We didn’t make him totally from scratch; we took a class at the North House Folk School. The Folk School, located in Grand Marais, Minnesota, has all sorts of really interesting classes you can take. They have everything from knitting to bread baking to making your own skis and poles to building canoes. It’s really pretty neat.Anyway, in December of 2007, my husband and I decided to attend the “Build your own Heirloom Rocking Horse” class. I’m not really sure why, except for that rocking horses are adorable and I’ve always loved them, and maybe one day our own child(ren) would use the horse (Hahahahahaha HA. What a joke THAT turned out to be. Alas, that is a story that does not need to be told here.) The class was a three-day long class, and we assembled the horse from rough, semi-formed pieces of wood, carved each piece to make the correct shape, assembled the pieces into a horse, and carved and painted all the details on the horse. It was hard work doing all that carving and we both got really sore from working muscles that we normally don’t. One thing I always remember about that weekend, too, was how pretty it was in Grand Marais in the winter. There was a lot of snow already in early December – it was gorgeous. Those of you (all three of you) who’ve read my personal blog may recognize that I wrote about all of this in my entry titled “My Trip Home.” That’s actually one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, because it painted the picture of the three homes I was describing so well to me, and it just reminds me of that perfect winter weekend we spent in a small town.

At first I thought I would want to paint Rocket traditionally – make him brown with a red saddle or something. But when the time came for painting, we went with green and blue on a whim. I carved one side of Rocket’s face and my husband carved the other, so he has two different looks to him, depending on which side you’re looking at.

My side of Rocket’s head – you can see a lot of the carving close up.

Rocket is a very sturdy and wonderful rocking horse, who now resides in our living room. He’s mostly there for looks, and for when the nieces come over. They have always loved Rocket, using him as not only a toy, but also a chair. Until very recently, they could both sit on Rocket together, and they are 10 and 5 years old, respectively, so you can believe that Rocket is both a sizeable and sturdy horse. Love him.

My older niece and Rocket.

Watching Hannah Montana.

The Northwoods Series

 

Northwoods Quilt #2

Northwoods Quilt #1I am a Minnesota girl. I love living here – I love our woods, our lakes, our wildlife, my adopted home of St. Paul, and especially our seasons (yes, even winter. Especially winter.) And while I love to travel and see different places, it’s for this reason that I have a very difficult time thinking about actually living somewhere else. I often thought I’d like to do just that for a year or two, but I just can’t imagine being away for too long.

My brother, on the other hand, moved away from Minnesota many years ago. He spent many years in Northwestern Montana, which was a very beautiful place to visit and seemed as though it would also be a great place to live. Although a mountainous region, Montana didn’t seem a whole lot different than Minnesota to me. Then, around two years ago, my brother made plans to move to Los Angeles, California. Now that sounded like a change.

This may sound weird to say, but I can’t really say that I even know my brother that well. I think we probabaly share a bit of an offbeat sense of humor and rather remarkable memory. Other than that, he just seems like he’s probably more easy-going and less emotionally attached to anything than I am. For the reason that I would have missed Minnesota and Montana, too, I decided to make my brother a flannel quilt depicting Minnesota themes – a Northwoods quilt to remind him of his (very former) home. I really don’t know if he did or would ever miss these places at all, I just knew that if it was me, I would.

The Northwoods quilt is simple patchwork, but I ended up loving this quilt a lot. The fabrics were so cute and the quilt ended up being so soft and cuddly. I sent that first one on to my brother, but I also needed to have one of these Northwoods quilts for myself. These quilts would be perfect for anyone with a cabin or lake home, too. Several people have expressed interest in them, so we will be making more of them in the future, too, so stay tuned for more in the series.

A slight note about fabric choice: part of what makes these quilts so patchworky and visually pleasing is the mixture of scales in the print fabrics. Some have large pictures, and some are smaller. I also like to use “filler blocks” here and there just to break up the feel of too many “picture” fabrics and to guide the color and overall look of the quilt to where I want it to go. The “filler blocks” are not Northwoods in any way, they are just colors and patterns that break up yet also complement the overall look of the quilt, like the purple squares in Northwoods #2, or the blue checkered squares in Northwoods #1.

Late Season Garden (with heinasirrka included!)

 
Per usual, our gardens suffered the effects of semi-abandonment during the later weeks of the growing season. Our late summer was HOT and DISGUSTING. I hardly remember a summer when I have spent more time indoors. The weeds loved it, at any rate. Some of our plants did great, others suffered a bit….it was hit or miss. Then we got our first (and only) frost in mid-September, which killed some things much earlier than we’d hoped. We covered most of our tomatoes and some other things. Then it got ungodly hot again and we are now running our air conditioner on OCTOBER 8 – unheard of! It was a weird gross weather season. Now we are hoping for a long fall and a nice, snowy winter (fingers crossed!!!!).
salsa ingredients from the back alley – so pretty!
lots of peppers

A mourning dove ended up nesting in my potted sage and parsley plants. I don’t know how it found the time to build the nest back there, but it definitely did. I actually liked having the birds back there and grew rather attached to them. The pair raised two baby birds. And then one day they were gone.


the birds were skittish so it was hard to get a photo.

The most interesting plant we grew this year was our back alley cherry tomato. We grew it by accident. By that I mean that we didn’t plant it. We found it growing back there halfway through the summer when we were weeding and didn’t pull it because it looked like a tomato plant. Boy was it! As best as we can figure, one of our neighbors had once grown cherry tomatoes (we never have) and an animal took one over to our area (or pooped the seeds?) and that’s how it grew in our garden area. Anyway, this plant has some incredible genes. It grew to be over 12 feet long, 4 feet wide, and produced hundreds (if not thousands) of cherry tomatoes. It ended up overgrowing all of the other plants in the back alley and cherry tomatoes were literally everywhere back there. I’ve never seen anything like it – a truly amazing plant.


You can see the cherry tomato plant has overtaken everything else.


Cherry tomatoes everywhere!

Also interesting were our carrots. We only got one harvest of carrots because our first planting was upended and ruined by a neighborhood hooligan. We knew who it was, but we just replanted and decided not to raise the issue unless anything else happened, and nothing ever did. This particular boy has a younger brother who also runs wild around the neighborhood and shows particular interest in our garden and in growing food. I think some of his interest may be because he’s hungry, or perhaps afraid of being hungry in the future, and who can really get too upset about some bare-footed 4-year-old taking a few tomatoes and raspberries? At any rate, we got only one harvest of carrots, but they were absolutely GORGEOUS! Don’t you agree? We plant 3 different varieties. One of the varieties is variably colored – yellow, purple, orange, and red. Most of these carrots ended up in a huge pot of chicken noodle soup, most of which is residing in our freezer, waiting to be made into a quick weekday dinner.

It was another fun, semi-successful year for our gardens. Stay tuned for next year!


Obviously, we don’t spray or anything, so we had a very large heinasirrka enjoying our tomatoes one day.

Strawberries!


We had a very, very rainy Spring and early Summer here in Minnesota. I’m not sure if that’s the reason why strawberries were so late this year, but they were. This was a really, really good thing for us. We usually have good intentions for going strawberry-picking, but the usual season here in the Cities (mid to late June) is just generally a really busy time for us. We have never actually managed to pick strawberries here. When we have gone picking, we’ve gone up north, where the season is later. We like to go to Finke’s Berry Farm near Carleton, MN. They have tons of berries which are not sprayed with chemicals at all, and the later season suits us much better.

This year, we didn’t get around to thinking of picking until late JULY. The season was so late that we could still go to Finke’s and get plenty of berries. They were even discounted, because it was the end of the season. We had a really fun night after work one Tuesday driving to the farm, picking until dark, and then driving back home. My muscles got really sore and stayed that way for the better part of a week, though.

We spent $20 on the berries, and we ended up making traditional strawberry rhubarb jam, freezer strawberry rhubarb jam, and we even tried strawberry syrup. The jams were wonderful, as usual, and the syrup, well….that was an experience, anyway. And we still have berries left in the freezer. Not bad for a night worth of picking and $20.

mixing strawberry mash and rhubarb mash for strawberry-rhubarb freezer jam

filling freezer jam jars

getting the regular jam ready for processing in the canner

finished jars of freezer jam

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup


My husband and I have a favorite little neighborhood restaurant, where we often go to have a late breakfast (and by late, I may mean 11am, or I may mean 4pm), or have a quiet lunch when we have a day off work, or have a late-night dinner-and-talk-and-not-have-to-hurry-at-all session. This restaurant has good food, comfortable food, but not earth-shatteringly terrific food. It’s not pricey, and you can definitely show up without combing your hair. It’s all about comfort at our neighborhood restaurant.

They do have one thing there that I think is amazing, however, and that is the tomato-basil soup. I love this soup so much! It’s creamy goodness is something that I actually crave when I haven’t had it in awhile, and I have even been known to get it for take-out. I have always wanted to try to make the soup at home, but I’ve never made anything remotely like it, and I couldn’t even tell what might be in it, aside from tomatoes, basil, and cream.

Well, with our abundance of basil plants and lots of tomatoes left, we decided to have a soup-making Sunday. Usually we make chili or something else super-easy on football Sundays, but on this Sunday we decided to make the tomato basil (as our try-something-new for the week) and a big batch of chicken noodle, too.

We looked up a few recipes for tomato-basil soup online, and from these, my husband decided what should go in the soup would be: tomatoes, tomato juice, basil, heavy cream, butter, salt, and pepper. Normally we look online and then adapt recipes to our liking, but this one we found at AllRecipes and followed it almost exactly.

Ingredients to make around 4 servings (we made 16 and froze most)
4 tomatoes – peeled, seeded and diced
4 cups tomato juice
14 leaves fresh basil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1.Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the stock pot.
2.Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.

I really loved this soup and I thought it was every bit as good as our neighborhood restaurant’s, if not better. It looked beautiful, too. My husband is crazy and does not care for tomato soup, so I get 16 servings of soup all to myself. Most of the soup ended up in our freezer, for use as quick and easy weeknight meals. Yay!

It should be noted that this soup is not low-calorie or low-fat in any way! I used the highest quality ingredients: the freshest tomatoes, basil right off the plant, real butter and cream. I like to eat soup for a meal, so I figure that the extra calories and fat will help it have sticking power.