Sunday, September 23, 2012

Say Cheese! Inspiration from Wisconsin's dairy country...

"It's gonna be a long, hot summer, we should be together with your feet up on the dashboard now..."  On the one hand it seems like just yesterday when Keith Urban crooned those very words, to me and me alone of course, as I sat in the balmy Wisconsin night, a frosty adult beverage in one hand and, naturally, cheese curds in the other (when in Rome, they say). But when I really think about it, we are officially into autumn and that perfect June night was a solid three months ago.  A long, hot three months ago - the man delivered on his promise. Never one to lament the end of summer, I'm not complaining about the impending change in seasons.  In fact, I'm quite pleased with the already cooler days and downright chilly evenings, but it does have me wondering where my summer went and what, at least culinarily, do I have to show for it?!

I may have neglected my blog this summer, and my kitchen in general for that matter.  May have neglected my grill. May have neglected feeding my boy homemade yumminess on the regular and maybe, just maybe, may have neglected eating as healthily as I would have liked. But I did make homemade cheese.  Call it inspiration from my trip to Wisconsin. Call it dairy addiction. Call it fan-freakin-tastic! Because, I will tell you, if I did one thing right this summer it was this cheese.   If you've been following along on my culinary journey, you already know that I have a bit of a cheese problem.  I mean, I'm the girl who waxed poetic about the virtues of baked ricotta with chocolate chips for a full paragraph.  I'm the girl who has never met a cheese she didn't like.  And just to prove it, I'm also the girl who has spent no less than an hour sampling an abundance of cheese at the Fairway cheese counter (yes, they'll let you taste the cheeses and seem happy to do so, even if you want to taste ALL of them!!!).  So for this love story to progress organically, the next logical step is for me to remove the middle man from me and my cheese.  Which is exactly what I did.

It began innocently enough when I returned from my Wisconsin trip with six pounds of cheese curds in tow (cheese problem).  Granted, a pound or two were to be gifted, but the remaining cheese was for us.  To say that it didn't last long would be a grave understatement.  I can say with relative conviction that our cheese was gone within the week (cheese problem).  Which led Doug and I to perform an Internet search to purchase cheese curds and have them shipped to us (cheese problem).  Exorbitant shipping costs, however, prevented us from completing our purchase but left us fiending for some cheese to Fairway we went. In search of squeaky, delicious cheese curds.  Which they did not have.  What they did have was fresh mozzarella curd and inspiration struck.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ramp It Up!

Everyone knows the old proverb "April showers bring May flowers" but I have to say, this year, I'm preferring May showers to May flowers.  If you recall from my last post, Doug and I recently dug up our front patch of grass and threw down grass seed.  I hesitate to call what we did "planting" because, quite frankly, neither one of us have a particularly green thumb so it was more like wishful scattering.  We've been watering religiously intermittently so I've been very thankful to Mother Nature for her recent contributions to our new grass movement.  Because...look what started sprouting up the other grass!!!

I shouldn't be so surprised.  The seeds gave me a personal guarantee.  See?

But, you don't know me.  Some days I am fully convinced that the only reason I remember to feed and water the dogs is because they remind me.  Loudly.  Calm down, I'm kidding.  I take very good care of the dogs.  Grass, and other botanical endeavors? Not so much. So yes, despite the guarantee, I was skeptical.  Yet there it is a week later - tiny little blades of fresh baby grass poking through the (partially dry) soil.

Ok, so maybe it's sparse and maybe it'll require another scattering, but it is most definitely there and growing! The epitome of spring and renewal.  I am...elated!

The freshness and downright "springy-ness" of our new grass led my thoughts to the fresh flavors of spring.  What could be springy-er than asparagus, peas and ramps? Three different shades of springtime green dancing against a backdrop of creamy white rice? Yep - I'm making a spring risotto!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Broccoli Rabe(d) For Time?

After a brief hiatus (while getting settled in my new job), I am happy to be back and blogging again! When I last posted, it was Thanksgiving and I was reflecting on the hard and happy times alike during the preceding year. Since my last post, the happy times have far outnumbered the hard times!  In January I took a quick (and bittersweet) vacation to Florida to visit my family for a few days (and say a tearful goodbye to my uncle who had passed away in September).  In February I left a job that was making me miserable, accepted a job that is making me happier than I've been in years and had a lovely impromptu Valentine's Day getaway with Doug.  The arrival of March brought foot surgery for Doug and several weeks of recovery at home; the silver lining being the opportunity for us to spend some fantastic quality time together while he was recovering. All in all, the past few months have been good to me - busy, but good.  All that busy, however, has led to less home-cooked meals and more take-out on the way home; something I have vowed to change time and again.  So while I make a concerted effort to spend more time in the kitchen, I need my life to get on board and quit positioning itself between me and the stove! 

But seriously, have you ever had one of those days when life gets in the way?  Where no matter what your intentions you can't seem to accomplish what you set out to...and for no real reason?  I had several of those days last week, but none more so than Wednesday.  Typically, Wednesdays at work are pretty standard - halfway through the work week, not terribly taxing or stressful and this particular Wednesday was par for the course.  I had a fairly productive day at work - however replete with last minute meetings and ad hoc tasks that led me somewhat off my intended track - still I left feeling moderately accomplished.  Upon arriving home, life's intervention kicked it into high gear when I opened the door and the doorknob fell off in my hand. After temporarily reattaching the doorknob and making a mental note to permanently fix it later, Doug arrived home and was motivated to clean so we began a cleaning spree (which mostly consisted of dusting and organizing the wine collection - no small task - and some light vacuuming).  We got distracted by a cute puppy outside who needed our love and attention as well as our two cute puppies inside who needed our love and attention.  And while outside, we noticed that the small patch of front lawn needed "mowing" (there's so little of it that we use a weed whacker to "mow") so Doug started weed whacking the lawn, I began raking the grassy bits and before you knew it we were pulling dead grass out by the roots, tilling the soil over the entire grass patch and spreading new grass seed; our fingers crossed for a plush new lawn.  By the time we returned inside it was after 8pm and I'd lost all motivation to do the only thing I'd wanted to do since leaving work - cook dinner! See?  Totally life's fault!  Doug's brother was going to be joining us for dinner (his arrival was imminent) and seeing as I'd promised a home-cooked meal, last minute take out wasn't an option.  I needed something fast - and hearty enough for two hungry guys!  So I uncorked a bottle of wine, poured Doug and I each a glass and had dinner on the table in less time than it would have taken to have a pizza delivered - and well before Steve arrived! Life, if you're listening, I'm requesting more nights like this (i.e., wine and quick dinners) please!