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  • Strawberry Patch

    May 29th, 2011 Susan | Posted in About, Recipes, Seasons | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

    The first ripe strawberry of the season. The taste tester said, "Success, mom. It's sweet and juicy."

    In Pennsylvania, we know we’re on our way to summer and hot days when the strawberries arrive. Sweet and juicy with that satisfying snap when you pluck them from the plant.

    Our first post-Memorial Day activity is a trek to Trauger’s Farm to pick strawberries. Under the beating sun (because it’s always 95°F the day we decide to go), we fill our buckets upon buckets with strawberry sweetness as we fill our bellies (don’t tell the folks at Traugers, although I think strawberry smeared all over the kids faces give us away).

    My budding chef wrote down our smoothie recipe so I wouldn't forget.

    Our favorite strawberry item is smoothies. We freeze the strawberries so we can have smoothies until next April, when we exhaust our stores of frozen fruit. Strawberry cordial gets me through the dark days of winter. Plus there’s strawberry-rhubarb sauce and strawberries with whipped cream, sometimes jam, and any other concoction we can think of until the blueberries come in and become our new favorite.

    Over the last few years we’ve worked on a strawberry “patch” in our front flowerbed. It began with a novelty hanging strawberry plant. Last year I added a few more plants in tiered barrels so they send runners for new plants into the barrel below.

    For my daughter’s birthday last year we gave strawberry plants as the party favorite. I asked Trauger’s what I needed to do with these tiny plants that looked like no more than scraggly roots. They had very specific directions for caring for these plants. For a Darwinian Gardener like me it seemed very complicated:

    “When the strawberries have flowers, pinch the flowers off so they don’t produce fruit this year. In winter cover with straw and then next year they will produce strawberries.”

    Yum!

    I started off with good intentions, plucking little white flowers. Then, as the plants grew as big as the others, I forgot which were the old plants and which were the new plants. Straw over the plants? I think not. Instead they froze under 3 feet of snow. And unbelievably, we have more strawberries than ever. Further proof that Darwinian gardening works.

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    Enjoying Summer

    July 15th, 2009 Susan | Posted in Events, Horse Hair, Jewelry, Recipes, Seasons | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

    Horse hair bracelet with glass seed beads braided into the strands. I can add beads to most horse hair designs.

    Horse hair bracelet with glass seed beads picked by the customer.

    Has it really been almost a month since I last posted? Wow!

    A lot has happened since then! School ended and we’ve been attacking summer vacation with gusto. The week we spent on an island on Lake Champlain felt like a month. It was wonderful! How lucky we are to have friends willing to share their experiences with us as we help them build a home away from home in such a beautiful location!

    Between the playdates and swimming and generally reveling in the summer-ness, I haven’t gotten much work done. But finally the kids were off with the grandparents and I cranked out some new jewelry yesterday.

    First, a lovely custom horse hair bracelet with multicolor beads. She picked out her daughter’s favorite colors of the moment to be braided into the bracelet. most of the horse hair bracelets I offer can be embellished with beads.

    Learn how to make a 4 strand braid, then finish off the bracelet with a variety of beads at the upcoming horse hair jewelry class.

    Learn how to make a 4-strand braid, then finish off the bracelet with a variety of beads at the upcoming horse hair jewelry class.

    Next on the list were two adjustable bracelets. These are samples for an upcoming Horse Hair Jewelry Class on August 2, 2009 at the Museum of Indian Culture. Sign up soon if you want to join the class!

    The quietness yesterday allowed new thoughts (oh my!) to float about in my head. At least 10 new ideas are making their way into my idea book. I’d love to sit by myself and create for a week, but the reality is, I have more summer to enjoy with my husband and two kids.

    So instead, kick back with an adult smoothie, the recipe I promised you last blog post. Put the fruit you strained from the fruit cordials into a blender with some sparkling water or white wine or both. Puree. Peach makes a very sweet adult smoothie; blueberry makes a very alcohol-laden smoothie. I know I’ll be enjoying one later!

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    Fruit Cordials

    June 17th, 2009 Susan | Posted in About, Nature, Recipes, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

    cordial1

    See all that yummy juice at the bottom? Relaxation in a jar.

    Sometimes I think about those cordial glasses. I wish I’d kept them. We came across the colorful collection of tiny glasses while cleaning out the my husband’s grandparent’s house. The glasses were tiny and dainty, stemmed, widely hued, on a little tray .

    I didn’t drink cordials. Bleck! Overly sweet stuff. The cordial glasses were odd and fun and I thought about keeping them.

    But I was trying to be restrained and practical. The pack rat in me wanted to take every treasure from that house and stuff it into every every nook and cranny of my house “just in case” I needed it sometime in the future. I’d already acquired a sewing machine and dining room ensemble, china and funky green mixing bowls, plus a myriad other things from their 90 years of life.

    So I put the cordial glasses in the “to sell” box, so as not stuff them into some nook and cranny of my house. How I wish I kept them “just in case,” because just in case has come.

    About 2 years ago in the middle of winter a friend gave me a small glass of strawberry cordial. I took it to be polite since Bleck! cordials are overly sweet alcohol.

    It was the best drink I ever had.

    Despite the chill outside, I could feel the June sun warming the straw-covered field, the scent of strawberries in the air.  I was hooked. The best part was she made the cordial herself.

    Since that fateful day, I’ve been making fruit cordials with summer’s bounty. I just made my first batch of strawberry cordial for the year and I’ll be making more. Last year, the strawberry cordial never even made it to the liquor cabinet. Upcoming will be peach, blueberry, raspberry and cherry cordial.

    Once you see how ridiculously easy this recipe is, you’ll wonder why you never made this before.

    Strawberry Cordial

    cordial2

    Ingredients:

    • Strawberries
    • Sugar
    • Vodka
    • Large wide-mouth jar

    Directions:

    1. Wash and hull strawberries, then slice in half or quarters. If the berries are small, no need to cut them.

    2. Place a layer of strawberries in the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle sugar over top. Layer more strawberries, then more sugar. Repeat until you get to the top of the jar.

    3. Pour vodka into the jar slowly until it reaches the top of the jar. Put lid on tightly and store in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.

    3. Strain out the strawberries and put in freezer for future use (more on that in the next post). Enjoy the cordial. If the cordial is too sweet, stir in more vodka. If the taste is too strong on the alcohol side, add more sugar.

    There are no quantities for this recipe because you can do this with any size jar and any amount of fruit, be it strawberries, peach, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or any other fruit you want to try.

    Last year's collection of cordials in the works: peach, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry. Sadly, they are all gone.

    Last year's collection of cordials in the works: peach, cherry, blueberry and raspberry. Sadly, they are all gone.

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    A Seuss-ish Celebration

    March 27th, 2009 Susan | Posted in Events, Kids, Recipes | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

    suess1

    The Whacky Waffle Cake

    It was a whacky day, a whacky day, indeed,
    As we celebrated the 6 years of life of our little prodigy.

    A birthday, yes, a birthday for a girl learning to read,
    Who discovered the magic of Dr. Seuss’s rhyming scheme.

    So her Momma decide this day could not be ordinary,
    But needed flair and fun and something quite extraordinary.

    While papa sat reading Happy Birthday To You! at the family breakfast table,
    Momma was in the kitchen baking waffles and getting syrup of the maple.

    And while Papa read these silly, funny words of the Seuss,
    Momma was preparing a cake quite obtuse.

    Because a Seuss-ish celebration deserved more than a cake,
    It deserved a whacky, wonderful waffle cake
    That only a whacky wonderful Momma could make.

    Okay, enough rhyming already!

    Yes, it was birthday time at the Newquist household..yet again. We’d been celebrating since Sunday with dinners and gifts. My 6-year-old, who is learning how to read, has taken a liking to Dr. Seuss, so I thought a Seuss-ish celebration in order.

    Side view of the Whacky Waffle Cake

    Side view of the Whacky Waffle Cake. The image is blurry because the cake is probably falling.

    The best part was the Whacky Waffle cake I conceived–not well, I might add, because it kept falling over. But no one cared. It was made with frozen waffles (cooked, of course), whipped cream (from a can!), plus strawberries and pomegranates.

    suess6

    My read husband his childhood copy of  Happy Birthday To You! by Dr. Seuss.

    The Great Birthday Bird came by…

    The Great Birthday Bird has quite the hooked beak, you know.

    The Great Birthday Bird has quite the hooked beak, you know.

    And delivered a few gifts, such as a new pet. We didn’t have time to go to the Official Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation. Plus, with dogs and cats and fish and turtles, I really didn’t think we had the room to house a pet from the Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation, not the smallest nor the tallest. So instead we went for a new Littlest Pet Shop horse.

    suess3

    We didn’t make it through the whole story because the cake kept falling over and the kids really just wanted the whipped cream out of the can (I never buy that).

    My 6-year-old thought the Seuss theme, plus her own digital camera (which is now making a living record of our lives) made it the “Best birthday ever!”

    Honestly, though, I can probably save myself a lot of time and effort next year by giving her some gifts and a spray can of whipped cream to eat on everything!

    Whacky Waffle Cake

    Ingredients:

    20 frozen waffles (yes, frozen. Save yourself the trouble of making them.)

    4-8 wooden skewers

    1 can whipped cream

    fruit, such a s strawberries, blueberries or bananas (as garnish and to claim this breakfast is actually nutritious)

    Directions:

    Bake waffles according to package directions.

    Stack a few waffles haphazardly.

    Plunge in wooden skewers in different directions.

    Pile fruit on top of waffles.

    Slide more waffles onto skewers haphazardly.

    Embellish with more whipped cream than necessary.

    Quick! To the table! Before it falls over! Don’t impale yourself on skewers trying to save the cake. Better yet, trim the skewers if you have time.

    Watch the whole thing topple over.

    Eat off the table with hands like heathens (more whipped cream, of course)

    Serves: A bunch o’ whacky waffle eaters from Katroo or Easton or Macungie.

    *****And remember: Just a few more days for you to leave a comment to be entered to win prizes from Red-Tail Designs!*****

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    Products of a Snow Day

    March 3rd, 2009 Susan | Posted in About, Kids, Recipes, Seasons | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

    About 6 inches on the ground. A day off from school. Here’s what we made of the snow day Monday.

    Left to her own devices my daughter comes up with the cutest stuff, like this spring chick. I’m encouraging more glue useage instead of taping everything. “Look, the beak opens and the wings move,” she said.snday1

    A few artist books done. Experimenting with pencil pockets of different shapes. The red flowers on white background  (journal at bottom of photo) were snipped from a shirt my daughter outgrew years ago, but the shirt was to worn out to pass on to cousins.

    snday4

    Steamy cups of homemade hot chocolate after throwing snow balls, shoveling sidewalks and playing with snowy dogs.

    snday5

    Books read when we piled into bed for an afternoon snuggle. The kids were given a one time only offer: eat Smarties in mom’s bed while she read to them. I was sipping a vanilla chai.

    snday2

    “Asparagus Eggs” (as we call it), our favorite Martha Stewart recipe. Delicious, nutritious dinner in a flash.

    snday3

    Snow days are such a pleasant treat!

    *****UPDATE******

    For those of you who couldn’t see the link to the Martha Stewart recipe, here it is, from the May/June 2003 Everyday Food magazine

    Egg and Toast Ideas

    Serves 4

    • 1/2 tablespoon softened butter
    • 4 slices (1 inch thick) hearty white bread
    • 4 large eggs
    • Salt and pepper
    • TOPPING IDEAS
    • Asparagus, Fontina, and Dijon Mustard: Divide 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 8 stalks blanched asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths, and 1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese among toasts.
    • Ham and Gruyere: Divide 4 ounces thinly sliced ham and 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese among toasts.
    • Tomato, Cheddar, and Canadian Bacon: Divide 2 chopped plum tomatoes, 4 ounces diced Canadian bacon, and 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese among toasts.
    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 1/2 tablespoon softened butter over one side of each of 4 slices (1 inch thick) hearty white bread. Place each piece of bread, buttered side down, on a baking sheet.
    2. Using your fingers, create a well in the center of the bread, being careful not to tear it.
    3. Break 1 large egg into each well, keeping the yolk intact; cover bread with desired topping, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    4. Bake until the cheese has melted and the egg is set but slightly runny when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Check the toasts frequently because eggs set quickly.
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    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    February 14th, 2009 Susan | Posted in Recipes, Seasons | | 2 Comments »

    pepbark1
    Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Did you forget? Here’s a quick and sweet treat for your sweetheart. It takes about 20 minutes to make, and 25 minutes to chill and they’ll love ya forever.

    Peppermint Bark

    1/2 pound white chocolate, chopped into pieces
    3 large candy canes
    1/8 teaspoon mint extract

    Line a baking sheet with parchment, and set aside. In the top of a double boiler, melt white chocolate, stirring constantly.

    Pound candy canes into small pieces with a meat tenderizer. Stir candy canes and mint extract into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat; have a towel ready to wipe the bottom of the double broiler so you don’t get hot water on your cookie sheet. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet; spread evenly. Chill until firm, 25 to 30 minutes. Break into pieces, and eat up, Valentine!

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    Let the celebrating begin!

    December 23rd, 2008 Susan | Posted in About, Recipes, Seasons | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Maddie and her good friend Red Ball.

    Maddie and her good friend Red Ball.

    Sigh. Yesterday I shipped out my last custom piece due for Christmas. What a relief! It’s been a busy few weeks of making lots of Christmas gifts for customers.

    After the run to the post office, I treated myself to a celebratory cappuccino, then sunk into the sofa with Three Cups of Tea. Imagine that! Reading a book in the middle of the day! I intend to do it again today.

    Up above my dog is celebrating her victory:  The beginning of Red Ball Season. What? You’ve never heard of Red Ball Season? It often coincides with the beginning of winter, during the first decent snow.

    Red Ball was a gift from Maddie’s “grandparents” many years ago. The plastic is really hard so the dogs can’t pick it up in their mouths and the humans can’t kick it (very painful if you do). Maddie loves this ball. She pushes it around with her nose, eats the snow off of it, gets it stuck behind rose bushes. It’s the most fun any yellow Labrador retriever can have.

    My German Shepherd finds the thing a nuisance since he can’t pick it; red ball makes him very angry.

    Once upon a time, Red Ball Season was year-round. That lasted about 3 minutes. My single-minded Maddie bowled over every single flower, attacked rose bushes that “stole” red ball and dug up the yard because red ball escaped behind the grill (she’s not a digger).

    So Red Ball has been relegated to winter, when snow and ice safely ensconce all manner of precious vegetation. Despite being 11 years old and ready for the geriatric ward, Maddie chases this ball like she’s a puppy.

    Gluten-free Scandinavian Almond Bars

    Gluten-free Scandinavian Almond Bars

    The other tradition we love around here right now is lots o’ cookie making. I’ll leave you with a great cookie recipe that is a family tradition among my husband’s Swedish relatives: Scandinavian Almond Bars. These are incredible. Bake them just until the edges are brown and you get a very chewy cookie, which is out of this world. The icing is not necessary, but adds another almond kick. Even better, I was able to easily translate this recipe into a gluten-free version, courtesy of Bob and his Red Mill. Enjoy!

    Scandinavian Almond Bars

    • 1 1/2 c. Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 c. butter
    • 1 c. sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
    • milk (to brush dough)
    • 1/2 c. sliced almonds
    • Almond icing (below)

    Stir together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter until soft. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and almond extract and beat well. Add flour mixture and beat well. Divide dough into fourths. Flour hands and then roll each lump of dough into 12-inch roll. Place 2 rolls, 4 to 5 inches, apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten to 3 inches wide. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 325°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. While cookies are still warm cut them cross wise at a diagonal into 1-inch strips. A pizza cutter works well for this job. Cool. Drizzle with almond icing. Makes approximately 48 cookies.

    Almond Icing

    Stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and enough milk (3 or 4 teaspoons) to make icing of drizzling consistency.

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    Hot Chocolate

    October 29th, 2008 Susan | Posted in Recipes, Seasons | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

    My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

    My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

    We interrupt the tutorial on making handwarmers to bring you a recipe for hot chocolate mix.

    It was a must today.

    Snow, yes S-N-O-W fell on us today at the busstop. Not just flakes either, actual snowballs. It’s still 2 days ’til Halloween!

    While this isn’t unheard of here in eastern Pennsylvania, we like to keep our snowfalls around the holidays and into the New Year. We were surprised, to say the least.

    So in honor of the snow I needed hot chocolate and low and behold we had none. So I whipped up 2 more batched of hot chocolate mix.

    This recipe is based on Tyler Florcence’s hot cocoa and homemade marshmallow recipe. The flaws with his recipe are 1) My kids think the cinnamon makes the hot chocolate “taste funny.” That really is for the adult palate. 2) Four ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate. Really. If there’s 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in bar form in my house, it’s likely in my mouth. I use chocolate chips, which end up half melted on the bottom of the cup. Bonus! At the end of the drink you eat them with a spoon.

    Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

    3/4 cup vanilla sugar* or granulated white sugar

    3/4 cup powdered milk

    1/2 cup best unsweetened cocoa powder you can afford

    1/4-1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

    Stir all ingredients together in a big bowl. Store in an airtight container.

    To make the hot chocolate: heat 1 cup of milk (always use milk unless the cow ain’t givin’, then water is okay) and stir in 3 to 4 heaping teaspoons of mix.

    *Vanilla sugar is plain white sugar that’s been sitting in an airtight dish with vanilla beans. It gives the sugar a nice vanilla note.

    The hot chocolate mix makes a nice gift around the holidays. This winter I intend to try Tyler’s marshmallow recipe, too.

    Enjoy!

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    A Pale Shade of Pink

    October 7th, 2008 Susan | Posted in Kids, Nature, Recipes, Seasons | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

    Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

    Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

    I’m feeling like a chipmunk! These last few weeks have been a flurry of canning, freezing, drying and generally storing away as much food as I can for the winter. I forgot that summer isn’t about sitting back to enjoy the sun and margaritas, it’s about storing as one season of fresh fruit and veggies melds into the next.

    Since the hurricane apple-picking, I’ve been making dried apples and applesauce. I wanted to share an ultra-fast recipe for making applesauce in the pressure cooker.

    My little apple washer.

    My little apple washer.

    With my two tools of choice–a pressure cooker and a crank apple peeler–I can make 2 quarts of applesauce in 30 minutes.

    The key to getting the pretty pink color is to leave some of the peel on the apples. The last step will grind up any peel.

    This dojiggy peels and slices all with a crank of the handle.

    A peeler/corer/slicer like this is "in season" at many grocery and kitchen stores right now. Or search on Amazon.com.

    1. Peel, core and slice apples. Apples should be same size for even cooking.

    2. Fill pressure cooker about 3/4 full of apples (there should be a line on your pressure cooker). Add 1/2 cup water.

    The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

    The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

    3. Cook until pressure regulator begins to rock gently. Remove from heat and cool under cold water.

    4. Run applesauce through food processor to smooth out the lumps.

    *******Update: This process works with just about any fruit you want to make into sauce. The options I’ve tried:

    • Applesauce
    • Peach Sauce
    • Apple-plum Sauce
    • Bl