The Makers: An Introduction

Often times we find ourselves just going through the motions of life. Not really enjoying things or feeling connected to what we are doing. But people who are passionate about what they are pursuing inspire me and remind me that it is possible to blend creative pursuits, work, and a zeal for life into one amazing journey. So I’m talking to The Makers – those doing something special in food and travel, following their passion, and bringing something unique to the world around them. So here we go . . .

 

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Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

August Coffee Chat

Where did summer go? I’m not quite ready for cooler weather and sweaters, but it like everything else in life it will come regardless.
Don’t you just hate that though! That those things you wish you could drag out forever always seem to come to an end before you are ready. Yet, the things that you want to change right away seem to take their sweet time. In fact, there is one thing in my life that I know I need to change, my therapist told me I need to change, and my family says I would be happier if I changed. But of course it is the one thing I can’t seem to change.
So instead I cope and try to distract myself . . . that was really the theme for August.
Food
When something is bothering me or not going my way I often turn to food. I am not an emotional eater, but I am an emotional cooker. Give me a day in the kitchen to knead, mix, and bake my way out of my own head and I’m much happier. So this month I clocked more time in the kitchen than I have in a long time. The family got to enjoy the fruits of my labor of course 😃
Cinnamon Rolls
Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
Parmesan Zucchini Tots
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread
(If you didn’t notice we had an abundance of monster zucchinis in our garden.)
Exploring
The other activity that helps put me at ease is travel. In August we didn’t travel far from home, but even a little local exploration was enough. We took our first camping trip as a family of four!
Happy campers Littlest hiker
Father daughter hike
Lebanon Hills is a gorgeous park about 20 minutes from our house with walking trails and full hook-up campsites. Yep, camping for this family means a camper with running water 😃 Hey, we still cooked over an open fire and went hiking with an infant and a five-year-old.
Family
Speaking of infants, our little man turned one on August 1! Where did the time go?! How did we get from the NICU to finger foods and crawling so quickly?
But here we are with an adventurous, flirty, and ornery little gentleman in our lives.
First birthday

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Pink angel food cake and family traditions

Those moments when you feel like things just aren’t going according to your carefully laid plans . . .

For my three year old, these moments usually end in pouty lips and tears with some occasional yelling. Oh, if only it was still that easy! However, I am pretty sure that my employer and the general public would not stand for a 30 something woman falling apart in the grocery store aisle.

So, I bite my tongue, hold back the tears, and find my “happy place”. For me, there are two things I turn to that do not rely on someone else– my running shoes and my oven. There is an innate appeal about the smell of something baking and the heat slowly filling the kitchen that makes me feel wrapped in a cocoon of security and positivity.

Growing up I heard stories of my great grandmother preparing angel food cake smeared in pink icing for birthdays. When I recently needed a little “me” time in the kitchen I figured what better positive memory to wrap myself in than a sugary pink, light and fluffy cake?

great gmas cake

My mother enjoying her birthday cake from grandma.

So with flour, sifter, sugar, and butter at hand I started my baker’s motivation.

Angel Food Cake (recipe from Taste of Home)

1 1/4 cups egg whites

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup cake flour

1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Place the oven rack in the lowest position. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place egg whites in a large bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift 1/2 cup sugar and the flour together twice; set aside.
  4. Add cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar 2 Tbsp at a time while beating on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
  5. Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove any air pockets.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and the top appears dry.
  7. Remove from the oven and invert pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened

4 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

5 to 6 Tbsp milk

A few drops of red food coloring

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
  2. Beat in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and the milk to reach the right consistency.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to desired hue.

Angel food

I have to admit it tasted delicious, but I don’t know how great grandma did it. Frosting an angel food cake is hard! Would I do it again? Of course, it is a part of the past of my family and one I might introduce to Olivia.

Don’t forget to enjoy your own family traditions.

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Easter traditions and lemon poppyseed rolls

Happy Easter

Growing up Easter Sunday meant it was one of the few times we were forced to sit though church service dressed in our best. It also meant bright colored baskets, lots of candy, and a toy or two. We would bounce out of bed like it was Christmas in spring and start eating the Reese’s and Hershey kisses.

Little hands help with breakfast

Little hands help with family breakfast – Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Buns via Half Baked Harvest

Lemon poppy seed breakfast bunsAfter a special family breakfast and church it was off to grandma and grandpa’s to be with the extended family. Usually, the day entailed sidewalk chalk, an Easter egg hunt, and a game of tag or even Wiffle ball. I can still remember my dad and my uncles out there running the bases with my teenage cousins. Of course, there weren’t any sore knees and backs that another good meal couldn’t heal. Chow time

So the ham, potatoes, casseroles, homemade bread, and those weird Jell-o molded eggs cluttered the table until everyone got more than their fill. Easter for us now isn’t high profile enough to cross state lines for a large group gathering. It has become a chance to slow down and sign off from the rest of life.

Of course, the Easters of year’s past are another one of those things you never realize you are going to miss until it is gone. We’ve all grown-up and moved around. My aunts and uncles are grandparents themselves, my cousins have started families, and, like us, begun their own traditions. I hope they all look back with fondness at those spring days and maybe even work in a little sidewalk chalk and Wiffle ball themselves.

Apple spice cake

Apple spice cake with Two Gingers whiskey glaze; recipe coming soon 🙂

As for us, we are still trying to find the right Easter tradition, but chances are it won’t be until years after Olivia is grown that we look back and realize what that special thing was.

Note on lemon poppyseed rolls: We couldn’t find passionfruit and I didn’t want to make a blueberry syrup (I’m just lazy!) so we substituted a simple powder sugar glaze made with pomegranate juice. Still beautiful color yummy flavor!

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Quick Minestrone soup

When I started my MBA, and working outside the home full-time, and motherhood all back-to-back I envisioned plenty of time for extracurricular activities. Prior to these major life changes I worked out twice a day most days, made homemade granola weekly, and read for fun. I guess in my head I lived in a world with more than 24 hours in a day.

Unfortunately, I don’t live on whatever planet I thought I did so it is one workout a day, store bought granola, and a growing list of unread fun books piling up by the bed. One thing I hate to give in on though is a healthy meal for my family. That would be why this soup is a great addition to our recipe box (even Nick can throw it together in a pinch).

Quick Minestrone

-1 large yellow onion, diced

-2 carrots, diced

-3 stalks of celery, diced

– 1 Tbsp olive oil

-14.5 oz can dice tomatoes

-14.5oz can tomato sauce

-3 cups chicken broth

-2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

– 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (mixture of oregano, basil, thyme)

– ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1/3 cup frozen corn

-1 cup frozen peas

-salt and pepper to taste

-extra water as desired

  1. Dice your onion, carrots and celery. Mince your garlic (or use jarred like I do)
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot
  3. Add your diced vegetables and sauté until onions are translucent
  4. Add the broth through the frozen peas to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Add water and salt and pepper to desired consistency and taste

Quick minestrone soupServe with crusty bread and save the leftovers for a quick lunch or dinner to go.

Of course on the other planet I imagined only having spring and summer, but I live in Minnesota where winter trumps all.

So even after seven years of frozen tundra when I should be buying this . . .

MN winter

I am instead buying this . . .

Toms

So I guess I will curl up inside with my pretty bright shoes on and eat my soup to stay warm 🙂

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Producer Storytime: Butter Me Up!

If there was a Peanut Butter Anonymous group I would be in the running for their most prominent member. In fact, my biggest fear when my daughter started eating solids wasn’t choking or getting spit up on. No, it was that she was going to have a severe peanut allergy and I would never be able to have my creamy crunchy delight again.

Butter me up with a spoon

Thankfully she isn’t allergic to it so my morning ritual can continue. This love for peanut butter (and nut butters in general) is probably what gets me giddy when I see a new brand or variety. I moved on from the sugary junk of my early years to the real nut butters a long time ago . . . those college years when to our parents’ chagrin everything old is put into question. What still gets my tummy growling is finding small batch spreads, interesting flavors (not loaded with unexplainable ingredients), and new ways to enjoy it.

That is why when I saw the Butter Me Up! tent at the Des Moines farmer’s market on a recent trip I had to sample and purchase some of the good stuff. After coming home and having Olivia beg for it by the spoonful – she literally walked around the house eating just a spoon of it (definitely no nut allergy!) – I decided I had to know more about who lovingly made this for my family to enjoy.

That question led me to Butter Me Up! owner Tracey Norman – a mother, nurse, and now nut butter expert. a spoonful of peanut butter
Like many of us Tracey wants to make sure her family gets the best food that she can provide so after searching for fresh ground nut butters in her corner of Iowa and coming up empty handed she decided she could do it better. So in June 2013 she launched Butter Me Up! at a farmer’s market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with two flavors – Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Almond Butter. We peanut butter lovers are wide spread and obviously loyal because Tracey has grown her company to produce eight flavors available at local farmer’s markets, food co-ops, grocery stores and will hopefully soon be expanding outside of Iowa for all of us to enjoy. Even with all of this growth the nut butters are made with love and care for a product we can all feel comfortable giving to even our smallest family members.

Butter Me Up cappuccinoAfter picking Tracey’s brain for some ideas for using her nut butters on things outside my breakfast toast I have a list of items to make after I stock up again – burgers with peanut butter, fondue, Asian sauces, and Tracey’s personal indulgence dark chocolate peanut butter melted over a banana. After getting to know a little more about Butter Me Up! and Tracey I am inspired by more than the culinary possibilities. She has grown a business she loves while being present in the lives of her young daughters and reminded me that self-investment pays off for everyone connected to you.

Although Tracey’s search for a local provider of healthy nut spreads came up empty handed she was inspired by all of the things she did find being made in her local community. I am glad I had my eyes open for small local producers when I stumbled on Butter Me Up! and I can’t wait to stock up on some more cappuccino peanut butter, dark chocolate peanut butter, cashew butter . . . oh heck, I should probably just buy one of each!

Tracey’s local restaurant recommendation: Dos Rios Cantina and Tequila Lounge . . . give the guacamole made table side a try!

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Julia said it best . . .

The past several weeks I’ve been finding more time to be in the kitchen, but instead of complicated dishes and new recipes we’ve been filling our bellies with classics and seasonal standbys.

Shredded beef with sweet potato oven fries and grandma’s coleslaw

Mac’n’cheese and beer bread

Roasted butternut squash and pork chops

Cassoulet and crusty bread

Roast, carrots, and potatoes

As Julia Child said . . .

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

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An ode to leftovers

Working a full time job, volunteering, searching for a more fulfilling job, going to class, taking care of a toddler, and working on creating an outdoor oasis in our new yard led to this . . .

 An ode to leftovers

I use to think of you as soggy after thoughts,

A nasty result of poor planning.

I pitched you in the trash more times than I can count.

But I owe you an apology.

My mini-me has taught me to look at you with a fresh hunger in my eyes.

You make my morning run smoother,

You make lunch tastier than a bland brown bag.

How any parent survives without you is beyond understanding.

I promise to honor you and keep you tasty in nice containers.

I promise to cherish you as a delicious lunchtime companion.

Leftovers I owe you my weekday morning sanity and my full afternoon belly.

Leftovers you are my new friend.

25106111-empty-dish-after-eat-knife-and-fork-on-dish-background

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