Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bluebarb Crisp and Grandpa's Farm

Hello everyone! I know I haven't posted in a while. Its the time of summer when I run the studio's dance and theater camps. We've been having a blast and everyone is doing a wonderful job!

In between last week's camp and this week's camp I got to go to my favorite place in the world for a family reunion; my grandpa's blueberry farm in southwest Michigan. When I'm there I just seem to be more at peace with everything. Any problems with jobs or housing, or money don't matter anymore and I just feel good being. Sort of a "God created me and this beautiful world I'm in and that's enough to make me happy" feeling. Not to mention the joy of seeing my wonderful and amazing grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family. Hanging out in the barn, tooling around on four wheelers, swinging over the creek on the rope swing, playing pooh sticks on the bridge, feeding the pond's resident snapping turtle, and of course picking blueberries! Who could ask for anything more?

When it came time to leave my son began to cry and exclaimed over and over, "I want to stay here forever!" One of my cousins was touched by his sorrow and shared this reflection on Facebook.

"When I was a child, I remember having to leave family members after a fun event like a reunion. I would be so sad, crying even, at having to part from such wonderful people who loved me. What hurt additionally was the fact that my mother, father, aunts and uncles weren't crying. Weren't they sad to leave their family? Won't they miss them? Don't they love them?

Now, of course, I realize the necessity of leaving visits and returning back to our busy lives. Parting is inevitable, but we take consolation in the hope of seeing them, our loved ones, again.

Watching one of my young cousins weep over our departure struck me. The young ones haven't endured as many goodbyes as those who've lived longer, but does this give us, the older ones, an excuse to be numb? Does the quantity of our goodbyes mean we should display less passion for those we love? I have become so accustomed to leaving and reuniting that I forget reuniting is only a hope, and not a certainty."
I certainly look forward to the next time we can all get together, especially on Thanksgiving. This year will mark the tenth anniversary of "Thanksgiving in the Barn," and we are all excited! As excited as we are my cousin's reflection strikes a chord as my grandparents are getting older and slowing down. Will we have one more Thanksgiving with them?  Two? Five? More? Less? My grandparents are some the most loving, holy, people I know, and I have been blessed to still have all my grandparents on both sides.  Its a tough thing to think about, but a reminder of how precious time with our families is.

While we go back to our lives at home and hope for the joy of the next family gathering, we can reminisce about those good times with a lovely dessert made from the blueberries I picked on Grandpa's farm. I also included some rhubarb I picked from my dad's backyard once we got home. We call this fruit combination "bluebarb" and its one of my favorites. Its great in a pie as well as made into jam. Just to let you know, I don't really measure too much with a crisp recipe, except for the topping.

Bluebarb Crisp


Fruit mixture:

fresh blueberries
rhubarb, chopped
lemon juice

Crisp topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
6 tablespoons soft butter

1. Combine the blueberries and rhubarb in a 9 x 13 baking dish with a little flour, sugar, and lemon juice. Dot with butter (you can use the two leftover tablespoons from the crisp topping for this.)

2. Combine all the ingredients for the crisp topping in a bowl and mix until you a good chunky consistency.

3. Crumple the topping on top of the fruit and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve with vanilla ice cream. 

This post is linked up on Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Link Up Blitz and  Carole's Chatter: Food on Friday: Rhubarb

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Caramel Corn

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and I just can't help it; it makes me think of ooey gooey caramel. Perhaps its because here in Michigan we do not pronounce the candy care-uh-mel, or even care-mel, but car-mul, same as the mountain. So I looked through my trusty family cookbook and found a recipe for caramel corn. My family is just crazy about popcorn, I think it comes from my husband. Not that I ever disliked popcorn, but growing up his family had popcorn almost every day, or at least it seemed like it! My father-in-law even still has the same pot he used to make popcorn as kid. I think that this caramel corn will be the perfect treat for my popcorn loving boys on this special day for Our Lady.

The significance of Mt. Carmel goes all the way back to Elijah in the Old Testament.

"When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is it you, you disturber of Israel?” He answered, “It is not I who disturb Israel, but you and your father’s house, by forsaking the commands of the LORD and you by following the Baals. Now summon all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, as well as the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.” So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and had the prophets gather on Mount Carmel." ( 1 Kings 18, 17-20)

 In the twelfth century hermits came to live at Mt. Carmel and eventually formed the Carmelite order, who have a special devotion to Mary. In 1225 Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the brown scapular, also known as the scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. She said to him, "This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.” Today, many lay people wear a smaller form of this scapular. 

To learn more about Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the brown scapular, click here.

Caramel Corn
2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
8 quarts popped popcorn

1.Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes.

2.Remove from heat and add the baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. (I'm going to admit to you right now that I forgot to do this step today. I didn't have any problems and it turned out delicious! When I realized that I had forgotten I did sprinkle on a little salt while mixing the popcorn and caramel to get a nice sweet and salty flavor. Does anyone know the what the purpose of the baking soda and cream of tartar is supposed to be?)

3. Pour over 8 quarts of popped corn and mix well to coat evenly.

4. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour. Take out of over every 15 minutes to stir. (Its much easier to stir the corn when your cookie sheet has sides on it. Also, though the recipe does not say to grease the cookie sheet, caramel corn is pretty sticky stuff so I played it safe and gave it a spray.) Enjoy!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

St. Kateri's Succotash and Fry Bread

"I want you to tell me all about her!" That is what my 3 year old son said to me when I told him we were having a special lunch for the feast of St. Kateri today! I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful little boy. In three year old words I explained how she learned about Jesus and fell in love with him. I told him how some of her family and friends were very mean to her because they didn't want her to love Jesus, but she kept on loving Him anyway because she knew that it was the most important thing! We also talked about how much she loved going to mass and prayed a lot.
 She eventually moved to a colony of Christian Native Americans where she died at the age of 24. She had a great devotion to the Eucharist and to Jesus crucified and she is the patroness of  the environment and ecology. To learn more about St. Kateri (in grown up words) click here.

St. Kateri was an Algonquin-Mohwak woman and for her feast day I wanted to do my research and come up with something authentic to her culture. While doing this I came across recipes for succotash and fry bread, as well as many for cornbread and stews. From watching food related tv I had it in my mind that succotash and fry bread were more from the south and southwest regions of the U.S. respectively. However, I found a succotash recipe in Native American Cookbook by Edna Henry attributed to the Shinnecock, who were part of the Algonquin nation and also lived in New York like Kateri's tribe did. I also found a recipe for fry bread, also known as bannock, here:  This website says it is a traditional Algonquin recipe. I took what I learned about these two dishes from these and other sources, and adapted them to make my own recipes that suited my family's taste.

Even with its Algonquin roots succotash is in fact a traditional dish in the south. It typically consists of lima beans, corn, and sometimes tomato. The recipe in Native American Cookbook used cranberry beans instead of lima beans, which was fine with me because neither me or my husband likes lima beans! If you don't like or can't find cranberry beans you could substitute pinto, red, or any white bean that you like. My husband doesn't like tomatoes either, so I threw in some bell peppers. Mine was sadly a little corn deprived today because I picked up some bad ears at the store. It was still pretty tasty though! I served it on top of some tilapia that I coated in corn meal and pan fried for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Cranberry Bean Succotash

1/2 16oz bag of cranberry beans, cooked.
4 ears of sweet corn with the kernels cut off
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Put some oil in a pan and throw in your beans and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until the peppers are tender. Serve as a salad or on top of fish, chicken, or pork.

     -On to the fry bread! I didn't find any fry bread recipes that used corn meal, but my husband loves corn bread so I thought I would add some in. Corn is a staple of Native American cooking after all. I started with the recipe from the link above, but found that a few tablespoons of oil was not enough to give me a dough like consistency. I'm not going to claim to be a traditional fry bread expert, especially since I've never had it before, but our little corn bread cakes turned out pretty tasty, kind of like a flat hush puppy. I'll have to try this again with straight up flour.

Cornmeal Fry Bread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup water

1. Mix all the ingredients together until it forms a dough like consistency.
2. Coat a pan with oil and let it get hot.
3. Take a small handful of dough and flatten it into a little pancake. Put it in the pan and let it cook until its golden brown, about 4-5 minutes on each side.
4. Take out of the pan and let them cool on a plate lined with paper towels. Enjoy!

Prayer to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, our elder sister in the Lord, discreetly, you watch over us;
May your love for Jesus and Mary inspire in us words and deeds of friendship, of forgiveness and of reconciliation.
Pray that God will give us the courage, the boldness and the strength to build a world of justice and peace among ourselves and among all nations.
Help us, as you did, to encounter the Creator God present in the very depths of nature, and so become witnesses of Life.
With you, we praise the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Amen.

Holy founders of the Church in North America. Pray for us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Katie's Rhubarb Cake

Rhubarb has to be one of my favorite foods of summer. My dad has enough of it growing in his backyard to keep us and the rest of the neighborhood well supplied throughout the whole season. One of my favorite things to do with it is make this cake that comes from our family cookbook. One of my uncles on my dad's side compiled all our favorite family recipes and the family stories that go along with them into a cookbook that is almost 300 pages long. It is one of my most prized possessions and my go to cookbook. Katie is my great aunt and she has several entries in this record of our family's culinary history. If there is a potluck to go to during the summer, you can bet that I'm going to bring this cake, and that is precisely why I've made it today!

Katie's Rhubarb Cake

4-5 cups of cut up rhubarb (approx. 10-15 stalks)
3 oz package of strawberry or raspberry jello
1 cup sugar
1 box yellow cake mix + ingredients to make cake

Put rhubarb pieces into a buttered 9x13 pan. Pour the package of jello and the sugar over the rhubarb pieces.

Prepare a box of yellow cake mix and pour over the rhubarb mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to1 hour. Let cool and serve with whipped cream. 

Love rhubarb? This post is linked up at Carole's Chatter: Food on Friday: Rhubarb. There are over 110 rhubarb recipes there!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dating your Spouse for Free

I would like to point everyone to a great marriage resource from Enter Under my Roof. During the month of July they are having an event called "Hot Summer Nights." They will be posting one article every day of the month that focuses on real marriages, passion, love, and faith. You can keep up with these articles by liking their Facebook page, following them on Twitter, following their Pinterest board or subscribing to the blog by e-mail. They are also hosting a date night idea link up party, and that's where this post comes in!

I've never really talked about my family's current situation on this blog before. Perhaps I've just been too embarrassed, nervous, even a little bit ashamed. Back in October my husband lost his job and we were forced to move in with my in-laws until we get back on our feet. He found work again very quickly as a teacher's aid and I was working as a teacher's aid as well, but in our school district teacher's aids are only allowed to work a maximum of  29 1/2 hours a week, so we don't get benefits. It is of course now summer, and teacher's aid's do not get paid during school breaks. I have a degree in education so I am working hard on finding a full time teaching position to support my family. The pressure is on since my husband is also experiencing some health issues that may prevent him from accepting any job offers. Thankfully he is young enough to still be on his parent's insurance so we are taking care of him as best we can.

Needless to say things can get stressful. It can be difficult to spend intimate, quality time with your spouse when you're sharing the house with your in-laws, your room with your three year old, and funds are low. However, especially since times like these can put a lot of strain on a marriage, it is very important to find that time. I'm not going to say we've been doing great at this lately, but that is one of the reasons Enter Under My Roof's project is so exciting to me. I think its going help give us some inspiration to strengthen our marriage even in this difficult time. For example, it has inspired me to make this list of ways to date your spouse for little or no money!

1. Explore a local nature center - shout out to my aunt and uncle who have made it their summer goal to visit as many different nature centers in their state at they can!

2. Have a picnic at a park, even if its just peanut butter sandwiches.

3. Check out any free events your city might be hosting, like concerts in the park.

4. Go to the library and pick out a book to read to each other before bedtime. -Does your local library have an adult summer reading program? Ours does and they give out coupons to local businesses as prizes - bonus!

5. Go camping in your backyard, or a free or cheap campground.

6. Borrow someone's canoe or inner tubes and find a river.

7. Go to the beach.

8. Play board games together, or an active video game like Just Dance.

9. Go out for dessert instead of dinner, or cook something together at home.

10. Go to a weekday mass or adoration without the kids.

So thank you Enter Under My Roof for the reminder and resources to strengthen our marriage! Even in a time like this we have so much to be thankful for. With wonderful family and friends around us we know that we will always have a place to stay, food to eat, clothes on our backs, and so much more. Our stressful situation will not tear us apart. By turning towards God and each other we will come through it a stronger and better couple.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Fruit Sparklers - Great for the 4th of July!

We made these easy, fun, and healthy treats for a playdate at the beach, but they are of course perfect for the Fourth of July!

Fruit Sparklers

Star shaped cookie cutter
wooden skewers
kitchen shears or scissors

 1. Cut your watermelon into rounds and punch out star shapes using the cookie cutter.

2. Lace blueberries and/or grapes onto the skewers, leaving enough room at the top for the watermelon star.

3. Snip off the sharp end of of the skewer with kitchen shears. This just makes it a little safer to eat for younger ones.

4. Top of the skewer with the watermelon star. Enjoy! Using different shaped cookie cutters makes this treat adaptable for many occasions. Topping them with a butterfly or a flower would be great for a girls' birthday party!

 - This is the first picture of my son I've put on the blog! (Except for his toes in my post about homemade sidewalk chalk.) And yes, he is wearing a St. Juan Diego shirt from Happy Saints!

This post is linked up at Making the World Cuter and Carole's Chatter:Food on Friday:Melon

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