Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wild Bounty

As I was illuding to in my last post, we are avid mushroom hunters! If my mom, grandma or anyone else who leans toward the cautious side is reading, don't worry. We aren't roaming the woods, munching on bright red, polka-dotted mushrooms. We are stalking the wild and illusive morel. Countless hours over the last few weeks have been spent with our eyes to the ground, looking next to and under everything, leaving no leaf unturned . We have been relatively successful in our hunts and have brought home a nice sized wild bounty; at least several dozen morels and even some more ramps.

This past week we were even able to harvest a few ramps and chives from our own garden. I couldn't help but make dinner with all these delicious ingredients. I cut the morels into bite size pieces (well, most of them), minced the chives, minced the whites of the ramps and chiffonade the greens. I then sauteed the raw ingredients in a few tablespoons of butter for 4 minutes. Next, I tossed in the pasta and added some cream, as well as a few spices, salt and pepper. I let it all cook together for two minutes, threw in a half cup of grated Parmesan cheese, tossed it one more time and viola! Dinner was ready. I produced a rich, decadent fettuccine a la morel that was almost as gratifying to eat as it was fun to find. (And even better, a meatless meal for the first time in days!)

Oh, and before I foreget, I need to share our new friend with you. He is a three-legged earthenware pig from Pomaire, Chile. This little guy holds toothpicks, but his other friends hold salt and pepper or even entire casseroles. The larger pigs are baking dishes and are oven and even gas-stove safe. I might be buying one someday soon!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Northwoods Adventures: #1 for 2011

Just about two weeks ago now we packed our bags, loaded the car with gear, snacks, John, Scott, Harper (dog) and I, and headed North. After five hours of driving and playing spot-the-dead-elm (we are avid morel hunters, you'll understand if you are too!) we arrived at our favorite place in the world, the Hamstra Family cabin.

We all eagerly anticipate our time at the cabin, as it is such a restful place. After each visit to the cabin  I leave feeling relaxed, recharged, but most importantly I am reunited with my calm, happy self after months of busy, stressful life in the city. During the warmer months most of our time is spent fishing, either in the lake on which the cabin resides or in any of the numerous rivers in the surrounding area. We fish rain or shine, on dreary days and on hot sticky days and always love wading into the water to get up-close and personal with the fish (or to dunk ourselves on a hot summer day).

When we're all tuckered out after a day of playing it is so comforting to return to the cabin. We almost always have a fire in the evenings, whether indoors in the fireplace or outside in our portable fire pit. We've even been known to play Yahtzee and Monopoly if there's nothing else to do.

When all the playing is done, my favorite thing to do at the cabin is cook. The cabin boats a full sized, well stocked galley kitchen with an amazing view of the lake. When we do keep the fish we catch, typically walleye, crappies or bluegills, they end up breaded and friend, either as an amazing main course for dinner or even better, with breakfast. The land the cabin resides on is also filled with wild edibles including ramps, may apples and arrowroot (even though I haven't tried the latter, yet!). Tucked on the shelves of the built in cabinets there are at least a dozen cookbooks with "classic" recipes dating back to the late '60's to mid '70's. The recipe gold mine, however, is compiled in the olive and lime recipe box; filled with all of the Hamstra family's favorite recipes. (Don't ask me what striped delight is, though! Maybe someone will fill me in ...)

Photo from
A dish that I first learned to make at the cabin, found in the afore mentioned/pictured recipe box, is ebleskivers. An ebleskiver is a puff pancake that was traditionally filled with apple slices, thus the name, meaning apple slice in Danish. They are light and fluffy, perfectly round and absolutely delicious. It is no longer common to find them filled with apple slices, but they are the perfect vessel for all sorts of sweet and savory foods. When filled with blackberry jam and topped with a drizzling of maple syrup they make the best breakfast that disappears just about as quickly as they arrive on the table. I typically love sharing recipes but, unfortunately, not this one. If you want to try them, you'll just have to come over for breakfast! We love sharing these with our friends, and have a few that can already attest to their tastiness.

Edition: I was uploading photos and found a couple shots of my own ebleskivers in production. Yes, the pan is covered in batter and my stove is covered with burnt on splashes, but that's the life of a busy, baking momma!

ebleskiver pan, mid production

batter, just after being poured into pan

almost ready!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

As long as I can remember I have shared a love of crafts with my mother. Many of my early memories took place around the craft table with my mother and brother and usually involved some sort of glue, a bit of a mess and a lot of imagination (the perfect combination to hold my interest for hours). Nearly all of my most prized possessions are items that my mother made for me; not a holiday goes by without decorating with an item she made.  My mother always encouraged creativity and helped us pursue whatever craft brought us happiness, whether it was piano lessons, art classes or the purchase of yet another box of crayons.  Throughout my life, whenever I was bored, gloomy or preparing for a holiday, I turned to my own craft supply bin and creativity; something I had been learning to do from my mother's example over many years.

For this most recent Mother's Day, rather then sending my Mom a bouquet of flowers that would wilt just as soon as receiving them, or a box of chocolates that would most likely disappear in hours, I decided I would make her something. I knew this would be a special treat for her since she's usually the one making and sending things to me. My mother's name is Deborah which "is a feminine given name derived from a Hebrew word meaning 'bee.'" (thank you wikipedia). My mom also loves to spend time in the kitchen, so an embroidered apron was the perfect gift/craft project.

I'm a free-style, rebel embroiderer. I have never used a template or kit, but rather sketches I make that I transfer to the item to be embroidered. This can be quite challenging at times, but is more rewarding then anything; the items I embroider are 100% original, 100% Valerie. I procrastinated a bit this year (sorry Mom!) and rushed to get the apron out the door. I don't have a photo of the total completed product, but hopefully Mom can send me one with her wearing it in the next few days.

Detail of the finished embroidery on apron.

 Even though this is a day late,

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy! I love you.
Thank you for being who you are, 
for teaching me so many different things 
and for encouraging me to be me. 
I am so lucky to have a creative, 
crafty mother like you!