our messy table

Category: Berries

windows

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It had been a goal of mine to write more this summer. In fact, I began the summer with a list of goals which were, for the most part, achievable. I had hoped to wash every one of our dusty farm-house windows. To keep a tidy garden blooming with vegetables and herbs. I wanted to run… “lots!” and work my way down the slow-moving book list.

I threw that list away a few days ago. And not because every speck of dust remains laced along the panes of our windows. Or because our meager garden is a wild jungle of weeds. But because it seemed that the list didn’t matter anymore. I knew I could not find value in achieving these goals that could match what has already come with this summer.

My son and I have spent lazy mornings walking around the over-grown yard, feeding the rabbit grass clippings, holding kittens, chasing chickens back into their pen. Our family has sailed on a river in an old fishing boat. We have picked wild berries and made cobblers and grilled our dinner outside. We have driven miles and miles to spend time with people we love. We have stayed up late watching TV shows.

I am so thankful it does not have to be more than this right now.

. . .

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I found the original recipe for frozen blueberry margaritas at the beginning of the summer and have been tinkering with it ever since. I loved the idea of it. But I am not a fan of slushy drinks, particularly slushy alcoholic ones. I am also not a fan of blueberry skins wedged in my teeth

I removed the ice from the blender and whipped out my fine mesh strainer. Mind you, I have never made more than one serving of this drink at a time, so I image staining out the solids straight over the glass would not work as well with multiple servings. If you wish to double, or triple this recipe, try straining out the solids over a pitcher to pour over iced glasses when ready.

Blueberry Margarita

Yield: 1 cocktail

Per margarita, multiply as necessary

  • 2 ounces 100% agave silver/blanco tequila
  • 1½ ounces fresh orange juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or simple syrup, more to taste
  • ½ cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Garnish (Not Pictured)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • Small lime wedge

First, prepare your glasses: Pour the salt and optional chili powder onto a very small plate. Run a small wedge of lime around the upper outer rim of your glasses. Roll the dampened rim into the salt mixture. Fill glass with ice.

In a blender, combine the tequila, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar or simple syrup, and blueberries. Blend until smooth.

Taste and add more a bit more agave nectar if the mixture tastes harsh or just doesn’t quite sing, then blend again. Place a fine mesh strainer over your prepared glass. Pour the mixture over the strainer and allow solids to separate. I use a small spatula or spoon to help release all the liquid. Carefully drop one big ice cube or a few smaller ice cubes into the drinks to keep them cold. Serve immediately!

blueberry sauce

I am watching “Spirit” (you know, the horse movie) with my son and husband on this cool, rainy Sunday night. We picked the movie up from the library yesterday, a free rental. I am quite sure we won’t see “Frozen” until it becomes a free rental. Its how we role.

Last night, I put my son to bed after reading a large stack of books and cuddling under two blankets. His soft, white hair pressed against my neck. His eyes were heavy. We had just wrapped up the full day all to ourselves. We ate yogurt and banana cookies. We let our rabbit out his cage and followed him frantically around the yard. We made a cheesecake. For dinner, we cooked potatoes, carrots and onions warped in foil over a fire.

It’s not very interesting to read about all the good things happening in other people’s lives. And any attempt at vindicating how grateful I am for my family, for my life up to this point would cheapen it. So I won’t try.

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When the movie gets scary or sad, my son takes his two blankets and runs over to me, where I sit in this chair typing. He crawls into my lap and looks away, waiting for the sad part to be over. When the horse gets taken from his family. When he gets taken from his friend.

When it’s over, my son runs back to his spot on the couch. A blanket in each hand.

With these two people in my life, my son and my husband, my life has expanded. Far beyond the parameters I had dreamed for myself. I am a mother, a spouse. Comfort. Stability. A teacher. A learner. And they are my whole heart.

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Blueberry Sauce

Yield: about 2 cups

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 Tablespoon orange or lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon honey of maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to slowly bubble and boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve warm or at room temperature over pancakes, crepes, yogurt, or anything, really. Let cool and store in airtight container in the refridgerator  for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for 6 months.

skinny

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I suppose this blog is due for a summer salad recipe… something green and fresh from my garden, toppled with fresh herbs, dried fruit or sharp cheese and some tangy, inventive dressing. But to be honest, I have not seen or heard from my garden in two weeks. The carpet in our house is getting washed today, so I plan to visit my mom’s for a bit of garden-time while they dry.

I feel ready to tackle the massive bed of weeds that has most surly made its home there. But before I hack away hopeful heads of leafy greens, I will write once more about breakfast. For my purposes, the non-green kind.

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I am not shy about that fact that, when it comes to using dairy products in cooking, baking or straight up drinking from the carton, we don’t fear fat. That’s not to say we frequent McDonald’s for Oreo Blizzards (and that’s not to say I would turn down an Oreo Blizzard if you offered me one… right now…). But when it comes to stocking our fridge, we welcome the whole milk yogurt and cheese, the sour cream and butter. We don’t deprive ourselves because, lets me honest, everything is better about these products. The flavor, the texture. The minimal processing. The way they function in a recipe.

Aside from the groceries we used for baking, we didn’t start buying a lot of dairy until our son was old enough to drink cow’s milk and eat solid food. As you probably know, it is recommended that you start offering babies whole milk because the calorie content is good for them. And after a bit of research, I learned that the same applies to yogurt and cheese. Babies need that healthy fat for their brains and bodies to develop. And after sampling all the full-fat dairy we were buying, we learned that it straight-up tasted way, way better than the skimmed versions we knew so well.

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This wasn’t terrible news for us. Whole milk, especially organic milk since the cows eat grass and not grain, has many unique fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Research has found that people with high levels of these fats have lower rates of obesity and diabetes. Also, the fat in whole milk is proven to help the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin A and D.

Some researchers suggest there may be bioactive substances in milk fat that alter our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies.

((On another note, whole-milk dairy products are relatively high in saturated fat. And eating too much saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease. So many experts would agree that adults with high cholesterol should continue to limit dairy fat.))

I personally suspect that I may be bit lactose intolerant. But I find that full-fat dairy products agree with me better than 0% fat Greek yogurt, for example. When we can afford it (and when I can even find it here in the Midwest), I like to buy goat or sheep milk yogurt because it is easier for me and my son to digest. A little more information on that here.

http://www.mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/.

And of course, there are healthier fats, like virgin coconut or grape seed oil, which frequent our shelves as well. I am not recommending you bask in cream-based gravy every night (though I don’t think my husband would be opposed). But in moderation, we believe whole-milk is our delicious, satiable friend.

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I am also convinced that calories are not my enemy. And that I would rather model a healthy life after my most admired cookbooks authors than the dull-faced, skeletal “6 hour workout!” diet models I see every. dingle. day. on pinterest.

a few sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean

http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/sc/1301/whole_milk_dairy.html

Ok. Enough of that soap box. I promised a recipe.

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This quick jam comes straight from Megan Gordon’s beautiful book, Whole Grain Mornings. We have been through three separate batches of this and I plan on making another later this week. The classic strawberry-rhubarb combo pairs wonderfully with tangy yogurt, mellow vanilla ice cream, and spread over scones, waffles, crepes and pancakes. This week, we have loved spooning it over yogurt or ricotta along with these oat-based, toasty little cardamom biscuits, found on My New Roots. I know the amount looks to be a lot. But with how addictive and healthy these are, I don’t recommend halving this recipe. You will surly regret it.

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Lemon Cardamom Biscuits

Makes about 80-90 biscuits

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup natural cane sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • rice flour for dusting (any flour will work)

In a food processor pulse the oats until you have a rough flour. Add the baking powder, cardamom, salt, lemon zest and coconut sugar. Blend for a few seconds to combine.
In a measuring cup, measure out the applesauce, then add the coconut oil and vanilla, whisk to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the food processor and pulse until fully incorporated. The dough should be sticky and wet, but not pasty. If it is too wet to work with, add a little more oats or oat flour. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Dust a large, clean working surface with flour. Empty dough out on to the floured surface and gather into a rough ball shape. Divide dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, roll dough into a log, approximately 10”/25cm long. Then slice log into ½” / 1¼ cm rounds. Place on a lined baking sheet.

Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden on the bottom, then turn the oven off and let the cookies sit in there until the oven is cool. Once cool, store biscuits in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Quick Jam

Sadly, I have almost no desire to make real jam. Like Megan, all the fuss with sterilizing isn’t appealing to me. Maybe I will change my tune one day. Until then, we love this quick jam.

• 2 cups chopped rhubarb (approximately 4 medium stalks)
• 1 pound fresh strawberries hulled and chopped (about 3 cups)
• 1 ¼ cups natural cane sugar
• Pinch salt
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, stir rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together. Let them until macerate until the sugar has begun to dissolve into the fruit, about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a heavy bottom pot. Bring to a moil at medium heat. Stir in salt, lemon juice and zest and decrease heat to medium-low.

Gently simmer the fruit until it breaks down and the mixture starts to cook down, 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. If the fruit isn’t breaking down on its own, you can use the back of a fork or a potato masher to help it out.

Ideally, when the jam is close to done, the mixture will still be loose. Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl to fully stop the cooking process. Let cool completely and transfer into clean, glass jars. This jam should keep easily for up to 3 weeks, and in the freezer, up to 6 month.

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To Serve

Spoon whole milk yogurt, honeyed ricotta or cream into bowls and drizzle with cooled quick jam. Sprinkle a few biscuits on top and enjoy!

in order

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A move is in order. To another farm house with outbuildings and plenty of space for a little boy and his dog to roam. We have lived in this house for almost a year and a half. Before that, a small rental house in Orange City for six months where I finished school and we brought home our baby. Before that, a basement apartment in Duluth Minnesota for a year and a half where we experienced our first year of marriage, opposite work schedules, laundromats, and nearly two break-ins.

It all feels like a process. Like I have strapped myself into some program where we perpetually move. As if we were characters in a game trying to gain ground, pick up tokens, beat our own high score.

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There are a lot of things I want to leave behind in this house. The junk sulking in our garage, for example. And I want to leave behind my cynicism toward life and people. I have spent much too long nursing that quality, holding tightly to it, yet denying it like some bad addiction.

Moving back to my home town has been weird in a lot of ways, but truly good in one. Living here drew back the veil guarding a more naive version of my younger self. The self that grew up here. That used to genuinely love everyone. Genuinely believe that everyone was good. Whose heart used to burn with hope.

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It’s a familiar story. Life happens, and you learn to build walls to protect yourself from failure and rejection. You learn what a sad, dark place the world can be. That people are sneaky and self-serving, and that you are sneaky and self-serving, too. You stop believing in God. Or at least that God could be good at all. And why not? What’s the point? If you hate everything, you have nothing to lose.

And then you have a kid. In a lot of ways, he saves you.

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His very existence makes you need to pray that God is there at all. Because your son needs a future.

And he needs a mom who lets people into her heart instead of pushing them out.

Who instead of toiling over the sinking ship, pursues a better tomorrow.

I talked with my husband about it all yesterday. About money and fear and  regret and a need for hope. And he said what he always says. “It will be okay”.

I never believe him when he says that. But I think he has some strange power of perspective that I seriously lack. Or he just wants me to stop worrying. Either way, I am counting my blessings today. I have to be grateful for the fact that we, too, aren’t under water like many of the people in our area. That I have someone in my life who I think truly believes he can do anything. That my toddler still totally wraps himself around me every morning. Whose eyes light up when I walk through the door. Who gives me a reason to make things better. Who has no time to eat my cake.

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I made this cornmeal snack cake with fresh berries for my son and his friend yesterday, though I ate most of it. What can I say? My sweet tooth made me do it. It’s not a healthy snack, per say, but I appreciate its simplicity. It upholds the reliable goodness every snack cake should have, plus the fresh barriers.

Cornmeal-Berry Snack Cake

Yield 6 servings

• 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
• ¾ cup all-purpose flour
• 6 Tablespoons fine yellow cornmeal or corn flour
• ¾ teaspoons baking powder
• Pinch fine sea salt
• ¾ cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
• 1 large egg
• ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 6 Tablespoons buttermilk
• 8 oz. fresh berries*

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter an 8×8 or 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and ¾ cup sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg and beat, scraping down the sides as needed. Then gently beat in vanilla extract.

Add whisked dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk until just combines. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Sprinkle berries over top, then sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Bake until golden brown on top or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream and more fresh berries. Cake is best served the same day it is baked.

*Be sure to divide your blackberries in half. Also, If using strawberries, be sure to quarter then and roughly chop them until they are relatively the size of half a blackberry or twice the size of an average blueberry. I also used less