Category Archives: Food

Field Trip: Denver, Colorado

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My latest field trip is way outside my normal stomping grounds!  Earlier this month, my husband and I took a trip to Denver, Colorado for a wedding.  We almost never get away just the two of us, and definitely not to far-away places, so this was a pretty big deal!  We had such a great time at the wedding and a lot of fun exploring Denver and the surrounding area.

Of course there was sewing involved.  I used the wedding as a chance to challenge myself to come up with a creative outfit.  In the end, I took apart a bridesmaid dress that I had in storage and turned it into a skirt (which involved a lot more work that I thought it would!).  I also made a button down shirt with a pattern that I had been planning to try out (Butterick 5526).  This included making a broad back adjustment to the pattern before I cut it out (hopefully more on that in a future blog post).  After that, it was all about finding great colors to finish things off.  Here’s my final ensemble:

Fancy Wedding Clothes!

Wedding clothes!

I found the sweater on sale at J.Crew, and the earrings and bobby pin (which are harder so see, but they had gorgeous Swarovski crystals) on clearance at TJ Maxx.  I already had the tights, which was a good thing because white tights for women are harder to find that I thought!

Also…check out these shoes!

Fancy Wedding Clothes!

Thank you, Boden sale (and Christmas money!).  I had been saving up for some black heels, but in the end, the fancy shoes won out.

All of the colors together just made me so happy!  I love color!  This wasn’t anywhere near my original outfit ideas, but I’m so happy with how it all turned out.  It was so comfortable, and I know I’ll wear all the pieces again, both together and separately (actually, I’m wearing the shirt and earrings as I type).

The wedding and reception took place in a really cute barn outside of Denver.  The bride was gorgeous and everything was so beautiful.  Lots of our friends were there, and we all had a great time.

When we weren’t at the wedding, we explored the cute mountain town of Evergreen.  I have to recommend The Muddy Buck coffee shop if you are ever there.  I didn’t get any good pictures of it, but here are a few of Evergreen:

Evergreen, Colorado

Evergreen, Colorado

Evergreen, Colorado

My friend and I kept saying we couldn’t believe it was a real town.  It was so cute.  We felt like we were at a theme park or something.  The only thing I didn’t like was the curvy mountain roads!  They were good highways, but they are so curvy and very dark when the sun is down.

I also got a good (luckily not first-hand) education while in Colorado:

Colorado

Colorado

After spending some time in more mountainous areas, we took a day to head into Denver and explore there.  The bride’s parents had given us a bunch of fun recommendations of things to try in the area, and one of them was the Denver Biscuit Co.  I highly recommend this one.

Denver Biscuit Co.

I ordered the DBC Club.  Delicious.

We also spent a little lot of time in Fancy Tiger Crafts!!!!

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

When I got there, it was even bigger better than I had imagined!

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

And, I must say, their sales staff is just lovely!  I admitted to one of the ladies that I was kind of freaking out inside with excitement.  She said she felt the same way for the first month when she started working there.  🙂  Everyone was very friendly and really helpful.

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

During this next paragraph, you should read between the lines that MY HUSBAND IS AWESOME.  I was in Fancy Tiger Crafts for 2.5 hours.  Yes.  It’s true.  There was JUST. SO. MUCH.  I couldn’t make a decision.  I knew I wanted a few crafty badges (like Girl Scout badges for crafters), and I decided to get Deer and Doe’s Datura Blouse pattern…but then I got stuck.  I had fabric money, but what to spend it on?  They say that beggars can’t be choosers, but I say that when you are on a budget, every purchase has to count.  I didn’t want to buy something I wouldn’t use or wear.  Choice overload.

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

It was at this point that my husband gently suggested that we might want to go over to the Denver Biscuit Co. (before they closed), get some lunch, and come back afterward.

It was just what I needed.  Food and a little time to think.  When we went back, I found four fabrics to make up two Datura Blouses and with some help on the yardage calculations from the lovely Jaime herself, I was out of there in 15 minutes.

Lesson learned.  Sometimes you need to take a step back when you get overwhelmed to give yourself time to think.

Want to see what I got?

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

I also picked up two knitting badges for some friends.  I’m hoping this loot will serve me well when summer sewing fever hits.

Believe it or not, we even had time to do a little more exploring after that!

Denver, Colorado

Other fun highlights from the trip included pizza at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs and Evergreen, Tattered Cover Book Store, Revampt, and the mountains!

Colorado

Colorado

These pictures don’t even begin to do them justice.

It was a great trip and a real blessing to be at such a special wedding with so many friends.

Next time (hopefully):  the nitty gritty on sewing Butterick 5526.

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City Mouse, Country Mouse: The City

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Hi, Friends!  It’s been a long time since our last meeting here on these pages.  I was off visiting friends and family for most of July, and I thought you might like to see a few of the places I visited.  As always, I’ll include links when possible.  Maybe you’ll find some new favorites, too!

First let’s visit the Detroit area of Michigan.

My sister-in-law took my mother-in-law and me into Eastern Market in Detroit one weekend.  Eastern Market is a farmer’s market filled with delicious food and beautiful plants.

Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit's Eastern Market

Castor Bean

Detroit's Eastern Market

Dahlia

Detroit's Eastern Market

Dahlia

The market area is flanked by cool shops as well.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

DeVries & Co.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

DeVries & Co.

DeVries & Co. had all sorts of great foods, imported and domestic.  You could ride the old freight elevator to the top level to find cute home goods as well.

And, of course, we had to look in this labyrinthine antique shop that my sister-in-law discovered.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Eastern Market Antiques

This little area was arguably my favorite.  I even found a vintage dress/tunic!

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Collar detail

It’s a bit on the short side for a dress on its own, but I have a few ideas for it…

Just before we left, we visited the Detroit Mercantile Company.  Talk about a great selection of quality and hand-made goods!

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit Mercantile Company

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit Mercantile Company

Since I’ve been contemplating making jeans, I was pretty interested in the offerings from the Detroit Denim Company.  After checking out their website, I kind of wished I had tried to set up an interview.  Maybe another time…

We also had fun food adventures, and I can wholeheartedly recommend Joe’s Hamburgers if you are ever in Wyandotte, MI.  They have a great retro vibe and delicious food.  The burgers are small (“sliders”), which makes it all the better if you want to sample several–and don’t forget to order a few kinds of fries if you are with a group so you can try more than one kind!

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

 

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Mushroom Swiss Slider and Poutine Fries. Yum!

And now, you probably knew it was coming…FABRIC SHOPPING!  I have to thank my husband who drove me around and sat through three hours of fabric shopping (plus plenty of indecision on my part).  My in-laws also deserve thanks for babysitting!!!

Before we left, I looked online for fabric stores in the Detroit area and came up with this list from Rae Hoekstra of made by RAE that covers some of the best of southern Michigan.  And she was not wrong.  I went to two different fabric shops near Detroit, and each was spectacular.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do Material Girls in Dearborn justice (so sorry!).  I got a picture of the outside of their shop and then totally dropped the ball on photographing the inside.

The Material Girls in Dearborn, MI

The ladies who worked there were really wonderful.  They had a good selection of quilting fabric as well as some carefully curated apparel fabrics.  It was so wonderful to see, in person, many of the fabrics I have looked at online.  There really is no comparison to touching and looking at fabric in person.  After saving up a nice little fund for shopping, it was great to not only look, but also buy and stock up on supplies for upcoming projects.  Here is what I got from The Material Girls:

The Material Girls in Dearborn, MI

The bird fabric is for me (I was inspired by Carolyn of Allspice Abounds), but the pandas and superheroines are for Christmas presents.  Luckily the intended recipients don’t read this blog.  Shh!  😉

We also visited Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan.  It’s a little bit hard to describe this one.  It might be fabric paradise.

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

I don’t think I’ve been in a fabric store quite like this since I started sewing seriously.  It was mainly dedicated to apparel fabric, including bridal and special occasion, but also had home decorating fabric, space for classes, a sewing machine repair window, and so many notions.  Wow.

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

 

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

When I first got there, I was so excited.  I wandered through looking at all the various apparel fabrics.  I had made a list so I could be at least slightly focused, but after looking at everything, my excitement turned into distress.  I saved and worked to build a fabric fund, but there was too much!  What should I get?  What would I be sad to leave behind?

Want to see what I got?

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

The striped fabric is a rayon knit from Italy that’s double-sided!  I also wanted to experiment with a little stretch lace and stretch net.  (I can’t find any of these on their website, or I would link to them.)  What a great store.

Yea for fabric shopping and yea for some fun in the city!  Thanks, family and friends!  Next up…the country!

 

 

Try It: Fried Dandelion Blossoms

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Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Guess what we had with dinner last night?  I guess the title is sort of a spoiler, isn’t it?  We tried Fried Dandelion Blossoms!  I have a number of foraging books (my current favorites are by Samuel Thayer), but I’m pretty cautious.  I usually take a few years to learn a plant before I am willing to try it.  Somehow, learning from books feels less sure than learning a plant from a trusted friend–not because the books are faulty, but because I feel more likely to make a mistake.  Despite my extreme caution, however, I do feel confident in knowing dandelion flowers, so I decided it was finally time to take the plunge.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Dandelions are a great first foraging food, as any wild food writer will attest, because all parts of the plant are edible.  There are a number of other plants that can look like dandelions if you haven’t trained your eye, and I don’t know about the edibility of those ones, so don’t blindly follow what I tell you–do your own research or find your own foraging buddy.  I’m a beginner–not an expert.  For myself, though, I feel confident that I can tell when a flower is a dandelion flower.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

I’d long heard about fried dandelions, so it was time to dive in.  I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and decided that if it was good enough for people in the Appalachian Mountains to make, it sounded like good food to me.  I haven’t reprinted the recipe here because I don’t want to run afoul of any copyright laws, so if you’d like to follow along with my explanations below, you may want to print it out so you can refer to it.

First, I went to the spot you see in the first picture above and picked about a hundred dandelions (I picked the open flowers, not the closed buds like the recipe seems to say.).  Then, I left them in my refrigerator too long, and had to go repick them from my yard because I didn’t cook them soon enough (these pictures were too good to waste, though, so you get to see them anyway).  My good discovery through that bit of procrastination was that if I prepped the dandelions by soaking them for 10 minutes in water with some salt (it’s one of the tips at the bottom of the recipe), and then drying them off, I could put them in a partially closed zip top bag in the vegetable drawer and they would keep for a few days.  I was afraid they would close up, but they didn’t.  I don’t know how long they are really good for, but after a few days, they didn’t look quite as wonderful, so I went out to our yard and picked a hundred more for last night’s dinner.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Next, I brought the flowers inside and covered them with room temperature water and a Tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes, as the recipe footnotes suggested.  I swished them around a few times to make sure they were getting well rinsed and debugged.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Then I drained them and rinsed them a few times with cool water.  After that, I put them in a towel, went out on the deck and, holding the edges of the towel, swung them around in a circle.  This is our friends’ version of  a salad spinner for people who don’t have one.  🙂  It’s great.  That way I don’t have to store a store a salad spinner.

After that, I put the flowers in the egg mixture and stirred them around to coat them.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Slightly less appetizing, right?  Hang with me!  They don’t end up looking better, but the final result TASTES awesome!

Once they are all coated, you take half of them and drain them of extra egg, and then put them into your flour+season salt+pepper mixture.  I put mine in a bowl that has a lid, so I could shake it around to coat the flowers.  I bet a zip top bag would work, too.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Next, you shake off the excess flour mixture and put the flowers into your warmed and waiting pan.  I used bacon grease as my cooking fat in a cast iron pan on medium heat (we had just made bacon, so it seemed like a good excuse not waste the bacon fat).

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

I did have to add some extra butter because the bacon grease got absorbed part-way through the process.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Then, you just cook them until they are golden brown.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

It was pretty easy and they are so good!!!

My only changes to the recipe if and when I make it again will be to cut back on the salt and pepper a bit.  We are a family that loves salt, but if you eat one after another of these (which you WILL want to do), the salt becomes a bit overpowering.  I’ll probably try 1.5 Tablespoons of seasoned salt and 2 teaspoons of black pepper next time and see how that goes.  The half bacon grease/half butter scenario worked out well, but I would try all butter just as readily.

So, what do you think?  Ready to give these a try?  You know, if you are a homeowner and you hate all the dandelions growing in your yard, you could just cook your way through them…  Think about it!  Free food and fewer dandelion seeds floating around…

If you do try this, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Think “Spring”: Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

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Back in college, I discovered something amazing:  seed catalogues.  I had no idea there was any such thing.  Then, Martha Stewart did an article in her magazine about seed companies.  There were so many great options.  I think I ordered any catalogue I could get for free.  My favorite became Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

I always sign up to get one of their catalogues, and I save their catalogues from previous years to use for planning or to give to friends.  The arrival of the Baker Creek seed catalogue gets me excited for spring and all things “garden”.

Of course you can buy seed packets at any number of stores.  I can and do buy seeds from local stores, but not everyone has purple carrots, green and purple beans, striped tomatoes, or strange and wonderful squashes that I’ve read about in the pages of books.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

The only downside of all these super-cool vegetables, fruits, and herbs is that I have a hard time narrowing my focus.  Even after I eliminate some of my ideas, I still tend to have so many things I want to try that it can get a bit crazy.  (One year I got really enthusiastic and started over 200 tomato plants from seed.  It was actually a relief when some of them got destroyed in an accident.  😦  Consider yourself warned!!!)  If, however, you want to cook with things you can’t easily find in stores, here’s your chance to grow your own.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

My one regret on this topic is that I didn’t post this sooner.  Unless they’ve reprinted, I think they may have run out of free catalogues for this year, but sign up for next year’s or look at their offerings online if you are thinking about what to plant this year.  I CAN’T WAIT FOR SPRING!!!!  😉

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving from Pattern and Branch

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Last Thursday night we had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at our house called, among other things, “Potato and Pie Thanksgiving”.  This is my husband’s dream menu for Thanksgiving, and I have to admit that it sounded pretty great to me, too.  We had some friends over and each person was charged with bringing a potato-based dish and/or a pie.  We also planned a prize for the most creative and delicious item.  It was so much fun!

The dish that won was a potato dish that took the idea of scalloped potatoes one step further with a creamy sauce, kielbasa, and extra cheese.  So good!  Because this is a group of friends that we get together with to watch MacGyver and other ’80’s TV shows, the prize was a Swiss Army Knife, an important tool that our hero, MacGyver, is never without.

Since we were the hosts, we didn’t compete, but one of our potato dishes was quite popular all the same.  I’d like to share it with you.  It’s a recipe that is common at my husband’s family gatherings and is everything people like in a good holiday dish:  fast, easy, and deliciously unhealthy.  If you need a potato dish for your Thanksgiving feast, you might try out “Hobo Potatoes”.

Hobo Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of frozen hash browns (the square kind–let them sit out for a little while so they are easier to separate)
  • 1 cup of diced onions (make it easy on yourself and just buy them frozen!)
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 16 ounces of sour cream
  • 8 Tablespoons of butter, melted (reserve a little bit to mix with the corn flakes)
  • 8 ounces of grated cheddar cheese
  • corn flakes (enough to cover the top of the dish)

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 9″x13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix all ingredients except the corn flakes and reserved butter together right in the pan.  Mix corn flakes and the reserved butter together and spread on top of the mixture you just made.  Bake the dish, uncovered, for one hour.  Serve warm.

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Pattern and Branch

 

Craft Fail: Roasted (Burned) Wheat Berries

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It’s been awhile since we had a Craft Fail, hasn’t it?  Either my creative skills are exceptionally fabulous, or I’m just working harder to fix my mistakes.  I guess I should quit projects more often so we can keep the Craft Fail section going strong.  😉  OK, I’m not going to do that.  It’s too satisfying to turn a failure into a success, but some things are just unsalvageable.

That’s the direction my last cooking experiment went.

Craft Fail:  Roasted (Burned) Wheat Berries

My unfortunate final product

 

I was going to meet some women to discuss a book, the Bible, and life, so I thought I would bring a snack.  I have the More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre, a Mennonite cookbook that my Mom used when I was growing up.  I found this recipe in the snacks section and, since I had some wheat berries around, and no other snack ideas, it seemed like a perfect match.

Craft Fail:  Roasted (Burned) Wheat BerriesThe recipe said the wheat would puff up after a bit so, even though I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I kept checking it…and it had a sort of interesting smell…and it got a little darker…and the smell got stronger…and the wheat turned black.  Oops.

There was no saving this one.  I preserved it in photograph form for your enjoyment, and cut up some apples before heading out the door.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (and Other Interesting Stuff)

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I’ve got a fun book to share today.  Hunt, Gather, Cook:  Finding the Forgotten Feast by Hank Shaw has made it to my house from the library twice, if not more.  The very best how-to books, in my opinion, give you the feeling, “It’s possible!”, whatever the “it” is that you are learning about.  This cookbook/foraging guide by Hank Shaw is exactly that kind of book.  I also love a good back story for recipes, and this book often gives you not a brief description, but a true (and interesting) back story.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

As you might expect, he talks about foraging for certain plants, but he also gives you pointers on how to get started if you want to clam, fish, or hunt, and then what to do with all that you collect.  While Shaw grew up on the East Coast, he’s lived throughout the USA and now lives on the West Coast, so his experience with wild food covers a broad range of places and environments.  Check out his blog, Honest Food, and you can keep up with him and his adventures.

Here are some images from Hunt, Gather, Cook.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

Thanks to Hank, I tried my first rose hips this year, since the very roses that he mentions in the image above grow all over our beach here.  The first try was bland, but the second was better.  Now I’ll have to try more!  If you have a food-lover in your life, you may want to encourage them to check out this book.  It’s a very interesting read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Now for some more fun things to check out!

  • For more foraging information, try out my two current favorite pure foraging books.  (These are not cookbooks, but they do give you some guidance in that area.):  The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden both by Samuel Thayer.  This guy is smart, experienced, but also adequately cautious when it comes to wild food.
  • What if you love food, but hate the wild (or would rather grow your food instead of search for it)?  Try The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy.  This is such a fun book for garden planning.  Most years I use it to try out one or two new edible flowers, just to keep things interesting.
  • You know how some people have “twins” that they aren’t really related to?  In college there was a girl that people always confused me with.  She was actually awesome at sports I did not or no longer played, so it was nice to get compliments meant for her, even though I had to disillusion people afterward and tell them I hadn’t played basketball since high school.  (Also, I was a bench warmer.  I made two points my freshman year of high school.  It was my 15 minutes of fame.)  While the two of us resembled one another, it was NOTHING like the resemblance between actor/comedian Will Ferrell and drummer Chad Smith.  I think these guys were separated at birth.  Want to see it?  Here is their “drumoff” on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”.  If you choose to watch this clip, though, you should probably watch Will Ferrell’s famous cowbell sketch first, just to be fully prepared. 

    And now here is the drumoff (and the shocking “twinness” of these two men):

Have a good weekend!

Beach Plum Adventure

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m slowly trying to learn more wild, edible plants.  I like discovering treasures and, like shopping for antiques and visiting thrift stores, foraging for wild food feels like finding treasures.  Last year I learned how to identify beach plums.  We have a lot of bushes that grow right by the boardwalk of one of the local beaches, so they are easy to find and pick.  Also, most beachgoers don’t seem to know about them, so they aren’t all picked over.

This year, I felt confident about finding beach plums (Maybe a little overconfident, as I’ve picked a number of underripe ones, which tend to be extremely sour.  I guess you learn more each year, right?).  Jam still seems like slightly too much work (although I hope to try it again someday–my first attempt was unsuccessful), so I decided to try something else.  To me, beach plums look a lot like cherries.  Check it out.  Here is a picture of ripe beach plums:

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and Branch

So, I thought maybe, just once, I would pick a bunch, pit them, and make a pie using a cherry pie recipe.  I reasoned that since cherry pies use sour cherries, and beach plums look like cherries and are somewhat sour, it might be a match.  Now, I have to tell you, that I have never tasted a newly picked sour cherry to my knowledge.  The taste of beach plums, though, is sort of like a cranberry.

What do you think?  Was it a good idea?  I’ll show you what I did in pictures, but first, here is a picture of unripe beach plums, so you’ll know in case you ever find them in your area.

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and Branch And lastly, before we get to pie, here’s a size reference:

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and BranchNow, to pie!  My little helpers and I picked three small buckets full of beach plums.

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and Branch We took them home and rinsed them off, and then I went to work pitting them.  I used this cherry pitting tool made by OXO to get it done.  I definitely recommend it–works for olives, too, supposedly.

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and BranchMany episodes of “Duck Dynasty” later, I had six cups of pitted beach plums for my pie.  I used a recipe titled “Our Favorite Cherry Pie” from one of my go-to cookbooks, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

The finished pie had a crumb topping (plus the whipped cream topping that we added).  So what do you think it tasted like?

Well…it was SOUR.  Ha!  Once you got used to the contrast of the sour filling with the sweet crumb topping and the sweet whipped cream, it was pretty good, but initially, it was a shocker.  I fed it to a bunch of hungry college students, and they voted that it was good.  I thought at first that it was a failure, but everyone liked it, so it turned out to be a surprising success.  Hooray!  Maybe next year I’ll try jam.  🙂

Try It: Learn about Clamming

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Two summers ago, I got my first recreational clamming license.  I really wanted to learn to forage, but I was nervous about teaching myself.  I also felt like I needed a little guidance if I wanted to learn to fish, but I thought I might be able to learn to clam.  Why clamming?  Well, this part of New England is pretty big on clams, so it seemed like a good way to learn more about the place I now call home, and I thought it would be fun.  Why not?

The only problem was, I didn’t actually know any clammers, despite the fact that it’s a big industry around here.  (We even have a Shellfish Constable.  Isn’t that the coolest?)  So, I turned to books and the internet.  Just in case you share the same interest (You were probably hoping I would post on this, right?), I thought I would point you toward the resources I used to get started.

First up:  The Compleat Clammer by Christopher R. Reaske.

The Compleat Clammer

This book is an interesting read on more than just clams (as you can see from the book cover).  It tells you about clams and other shellfish, where and how to find them and how to “catch” them (it’s not like they really run away, but they do dig), and how to prepare them for eating afterward.  It also has an interesting trivia section.  Here are a few pictures from the book:

The Compleat Clammer

The Compleat Clammer

The Compleat Clammer

This was a great book for learning about the different tools I would need both for clamming and in the kitchen.  It was also really interesting.

Next up:  Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them by Curtis J. Badger.  While The Compleat Clammer is written by a New Englander, Clams is written by a Virginian.  It was great to get a bit of a look at clamming in another part of the country.  While much of the information in the two books overlaps, every region has slight differences, so I say, read widely and learn as much as you can!

Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them

Clams gives good strategies for those with and without a boat as well as interesting history and lots of good recipes.

Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them

Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them

I also spent time on Google and YouTube looking for clamming and cooking videos.  One of the most helpful, was this one on “How to Open Clams” by Rich Vellante of Legal Seafoods.

I also had to learn about tides and how they worked (Google it!) and read the town’s shellfish laws.  No illegal clamming for me!  It was a fun learning experience, but the part I love the most is being outside, knowing the beach and ocean better, and being able to bring home treasures for my family that we can actually eat!  It’s so cool!

If you have the chance, I hope you try it.  And don’t worry!  More information on clamming will follow.  I’m sure you were worried, but you don’t have to be any more.  😉

Happy Independence Day!

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Happy Independence Day to everyone in the U.S!  When I was growing up, my Mom always made us wear red, white, and blue for July 4.  We’re all decked out in red, white, and blue at our house today.  Here’s an up-close shot of my patriotic garb:

Independence Day!

Shorts: J.Crew; Shirt: Diesel–thrifted (yes!)

We’re also getting into the spirit with our food.  We tried this recipe and came up with these chocolate covered pretzels.  I think I would use white chocolate as my main chocolate if I did this again, but nevertheless, they are good and easy to make.

Indpendence Day!

I think we also need some late strawberries.  Aren’t these gorgeous?

Independence Day!

If you plan on relaxing at all this weekend, here’s some reading for you:

  • Have you ever looked at Susan Branch’s cookbooks?  A friend just recommended her work, so I’m looking at The Summer Book, which is filled with recipes, gardening tips, and more all illustrated with colorful watercolor paintings.
  • A walk in the woods is always more fun with a foraging book in hand.  The best I’ve found are by Samuel Thayer, who wrote The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden.
  • Want a fast-paced and interesting adventure book?  Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson may be aimed at a middle reader/young adult audience, but it’s good enough that even older readers will enjoy it.
  • Finally, if you’ve ever dreamed of two of your heroes joining forces, you’ll know how I felt when I heard about Craft South and Fashion by HandAnna Maria Horner + Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin teaching a workshop together?  Sounds like creative heaven.  If you go, report back!

 

Have a great weekend!