August 30, 2015

Natural Work of Art

Take a look at this...

It's a Bald Faced Hornet's nest and I think it is absolutely beautiful!  Although quite dangerous.  Harry and I discovered it hanging in the maple tree in front of our house and at first I thought it was a paper wasp nest.  But when the pest control guy came out to remove it, he told us it was a Bald Faced Hornet's nest and it was a good thing we called him.  Apparently they are very aggressive and up to 700 hornets can live in one nest.  Although I *hated* to have it exterminated, we had no choice.  It was too close to our home.  But I thought it was too pretty not to photograph and share.  It was also huge!  I learned the nests are made by the hornets chewing up strips of wood and mixing it with sticky saliva.  

When Harry took it down a couple of days later, we really got a close look at it and saw just how big and beautiful it really was.

Nothing like nature to produce something so pretty.  At least I think so.  

August 23, 2015

More Goodies From My Kitchen

Yes, I've been at it again this week.  I can't help it.  Although I've only been canning and preserving for three seasons, it is in my blood to stay.  And I love it.  I'm always pouring over my canning/preserving/jam making books looking for something new, different and exciting to do with the bounty of produce Michigan produces every summer.  Here's a peak at what I did this week:

I made some pretty interesting preserves/jams this week, such as Tomato and Caramelized Onion Conserve; Blueberry Mojito Jam, Roasted Pepper Relish; Zucchini and Pepper Jam with Spices; Blueberry Conserve with Pecans; Mexican Pickled Pintos, Corn and Peppers; and 13 additional pints of various types of tomato sauce.  I counted 44 jars of goodies to add to my pantry. 

I also spent a wonderful afternoon with these lovely ladies (my husband's great nieces) making homemade ricotta ravioli.

As you can see, it was another productive and very fun week in my Michigan kitchen.
Next week... it's Peaches!

August 8, 2015

The Start of Canning Season

I love this time of year; not only because of the fun we have spending time with family and on the lake, but also because it's high season for summer produce.  The canning season, at least for me, has begun :)

My kitchen was buzzing with activity this past week.  Always a happy time for me.  This past week I made six different types of jams/preserves and my first batch of tomato sauce.  That's about 30+jars of jams and seven pints of tomato sauce to stash in my pantry.  Not bad for an early start to the season.

So,  let's see...(from right to left) I made Plum/Orange/Cardamom Preserves, Onion Jam with Thyme and Maple Syrup, Cherry/Port Preserves, Brandied Apricot Preserves with Lemon, Honeyed Apricot Jam with JalapeƱos, Spicy Dill Relish and Farm Stand Tomato Sauce.  Not bad for a week's work, eh? :) 

It's always amazing to me how you start with six pounds of candy sweet onions (which looks like an enormous amount!) and with a little butter, extra virgin olive oil and a little time (about an hour)... end up with a gorgeous pile of caramelized goodness.  And to this I added about 1/2 cup maple syrup, a couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme, a tablespoon of excellent balsamic vinegar, put in 1/2 pint jars, and processed in a water bath for 10 minutes and voila, you have onion jam with thyme and maple syrup.  So easy and SO yummy!  It's a great base for so many dishes throughout the year.

Last week at the Farmer's Market, the plums were just beginning to make an appearance so I bought four pounds of these beautiful little jewels.  I found a great recipe in one of my favorite jamming books, Les Confitures by Christine Farber, and made the Plum with Oranges and Cardamom Preserves.  So delicious!

And next came the tomatoes (and they are just beginning to come in).  I made this Farm Stand Tomato Sauce (in my crockpot no less!) with onions, tomato paste, bay leaves, red wine, tapioca as a thickener and cooked it for 8-9 hours.  It turned out SO good and it made seven pints...way more than I expected the recipe to yield.  And it is delicious!  I think I've found my go-to tomato sauce recipe for this season.  

And the last thing I made this week was Spicy Dill Relish.  This is my 3rd year of making this relish and it is one of my absolute all time favorites.  I use it all year long to make a dressing for egg salad or chicken salad; I use it to make a killer homemade tartar sauce and it spices up just about any dressing/sauce that needs a little umph or crunch.

So as you can see, I had a very productive week in my Michigan kitchen.  And I look forward to many more weeks like this as the season marches on.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I love Michigan and I am so very  happy when I am here.

Our Trip to Argentina

Oh what a fantastic time we had!!  It was wonderful to see our kids, and beautiful grandchildren.  We had not seen any of them since they left Texas at the end of February and it was great to actually lay eyeballs on all of them.

They are doing great and are experiencing the time of their lives.

Mike and Katie have a wonderful travel blog where they have been documenting their journey and Katie wrote another beautiful post, this one on our visit to see them.  Since she is an infinitely better photographer than I, I decided to just post a link to their blog post on our visit.  Katie did a fabulous job documenting our trip.  I hope you enjoy reading it.