Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sunday in the Garden

As I've mentioned in a couple earlier posts, last summer I had the opportunity to intern at Miss Effie's Country Flowers and Garden Stuff in Donahue, Iowa.  Almost exactly one year ago, I was frenziedly baking, weeding, and otherwise preparing for Miss Eff's Second Annual Ice Cream Social.  Carrot cake, sour cream chocolate cake, German chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, lemon shortbread, lemon poppyseed Bundt cake, yellow cupcakes with fudge frosting, French vanilla ice cream, chocolate silk ice cream, a few batches of last-minute jam...I was in heaven, people!  Read about last year's preparations here.   And check out a picture of the fruits of my labor:

The ice cream social holds a very special place in my heart.  The first one was in 2009, and it was the first time I ever went to Miss Eff's.  I was seriously in a daze.  At the risk of sounding saccharine, I'm going to say that the farm felt like home.  And I don't mean like my childhood home, I mean like the abstract, can't-put-your-finger-on-exactly-why-it's-so-perfect "home."  You can scroll down past the recipes on this post if you want to read about my maiden voyage to Miss Effie's.  It was the start of a beautiful friendship! 

As has also been mentioned a couple times, Laura's getting married in October!  My mom and I had planned a trip to Iowa to help her get the invitations ready, and it just so happens that that trip coincided with Miss Eff's Third Annual Ice Cream Social!  It was amazing to be back on the farm, but also kind of bittersweet.  So much has changed!  Take Miss Eff's retail shop, the Summer Kitchen, for instance:

What the Summer Kitchen looked like when I credit Cathy Lafrenz
What an amazing sign!
The Summer Kitchen today

It was great to see how far the farm has come, and visiting with Cathy and Cliff is always a treat.  They raised over $500 for their local food pantry at this event!  But for Laura, nothing topped the goats from Zen Goaties:

Laura getting in touch with her motherly side...
If you'd like to read some other points of view about the day, check out these blogs:
That's all for today, folks!  I'll leave you with my favorite picture of Miss Eff's.  I took it last summer after a long day of weeding.  Now before you go thinking I'm a photography genius, the whole hazy thing was an accident.  I actually thought I broke my camera, because all the pictures were turning out like that.  Turns out I had left my camera sitting in the grass and the lens got all dewy, resulting in that dreamlike look.  Gotta love happy accidents!

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    A Recipe to Make You Appreciate Mom's Tuna Casserole

    Ever look through your cookbooks and come across a recipe that makes you wonder what the author was thinking?  I have too many a lot of cookbooks, ranging from turn-of-the-century textbook-style references for homemakers to brand new tomes heralding the merits of tofu.  Naturally, while perusing these cookbooks, I occasionally come across what I call a WTF recipe.  This was exactly the case tonight as I leafed through my 1917 edition of The New Household Discoveries: an Encyclopedia of Recipes and Processes, edited by Sidney Morse.  The book is 842 pages long (including the index) and offers sections like The Art of Correct Table Service, Economical Use of Meat in the Home, Candies and Candy-Making, and Prevention of Communicable Disease.  If you need to know which fork goes where or how to counter hookworm disease, this is the reference for you.  The recipe section comes complete with such appetizing headings as "Meat with Macaroni and Other Starchy Materials" (highlight recipes: Meat Cakes, Mock Wild Duck, Meat Salad). 

    In terms of WTF recipes, this book is rife with them.  One in particular, however, caught my eye.  Ladies and gents, allow me to introduce you to Chicken-and-Ham Mold.  I hope I'm not violating any copyright laws by posting this, but honestly I can't imagine anyone wanting to actually take responsibility for this recipe. 

    Chicken-and-Ham Mold
    From The New Household Discoveries with editor's comments (okay, they're my comments, but I imagine any self-respecting editor would respond in a similar fashion)

    2 cupfuls cold chopped chicken (not off to a great start)
    1 cupful chopped ham
    1 cupful cold boiled macaroni (WHAT?!)
    2 eggs
    1 tablespoonful butter
    1 cupful gravy (oh hell no)
    pepper and salt (you sound like a fool.  It's salt and pepper.)

    Mix the chicken, ham, and macaroni (not happening), moisten (dirty, disgusting word that should never be used and especially not when referring to food) with the eggs, melted butter, and gravy, season highly (unless you're seasoning with Mrs. Dash magic de-disgustifying blend, don't bother).  Butter a mold, pour the mixture in (ew ew ew ew), put on cover tightly (and don't EVER take it off), and boil two hours.  Dip the mold into cold water for a minute and turn out on a hot dish (yes, because you don't want to ruin as gourmet a dish as this with a cold plate).  Serve with tomato sauce (to someone you don't care for much at all).

    So now you know what to make next time your in-laws visit.  You're welcome!

    What are some WTF recipes you've come across?

    Monday, July 18, 2011


    I've never been good at seeking out the positives.  Born a pessimist, some of my earliest memories involve my mom asking why I always had to be so contrary.  And so when it comes to my hometown, I all too often focus on what's wrong.   

    My whole life, I've been surrounded with murmurs of "There's nothing to do here," and "this town is so boring!"  More than a few of those murmurs were uttered by me. 

    My mom always used to say, "Boredom is a choice."  It was unbelievably annoying.   Of course, she was right.  Any place is boring if you don't look into what that place has to offer.   And I probably wouldn't change how things happened, but it's almost embarrassing that I found my dream in Iowa, only to come home and discover a similar version of that dream right in my backyard.  Funny how life works!

    So what is this hometown dream?  Peterman Brook Herb Farm in Porterfield.  For those of you who don't know, Porterfield is in Northeastern Wisconsin...about 15 minutes from my house!  I happened to find out about this farm just days before their annual Faerie Festival, an event that reminded me a lot of Miss Effie's market party, with numerous vendors and proceeds going to charitable organizations (none of Miss Eff's famous French silk ice cream, though!).  Of course, I'll always be partial to Miss Eff's--it's impossible not to be after having spent so much time there weeding in triple-digit-with-the-heat-index temps.  Er, I mean...after having found a second mother* in Cathy .  My first time at Peterman Brook was not quite the same as my first time at the aforementioned flower farm, but it was very nostalgic to be back at a place so similarly aligned to Miss Effie's philosophy.  And I'm always happy to go somewhere that allows me to unleash my inner ethnobotanist!

    Though I'm no photographer, I did manage to snap a few pics of the grounds:

    Vendor stalls flanking the soap shop
    Coming up the drive.  One of the most amazing porches I've seen...and how about that barn?  SWOON.
    Side view of the soap shop plus some herb gardens
    Of course, we couldn't leave without picking up a couple souvenirs:

    One of Peterman Brook's can buy them here!
    Laura's having a fall wedding...pending her approval, these may just end up in the centerpieces.
    In addition to soap and mini pumpkins, you can find bath salts, essential oils, candles, and more.  Like Peterman Brook on Facebook to stay up to date with their latest goings-on.  And if you're looking for an excuse to break out the tutu and ferry wings that have been gathering dust in your attic since Halloween of [insert year you turned ten and begged mom for them and she said no but you cried at the store so she relented and then you ended up being a cheerleader anyway], mark your calendars for next year's Faerie Festival. 

    *My sister and I are those adopted daughters!  Just a note, we have an amazing biological mom.  But she lives in Wisconsin and at the time Laura and I both lived in Iowa.  We needed a local motherly influence!  Plus, Cath never enforced curfew.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Sorry If You Thought I Was Dead

    Howdy folks!  It has been an embarrassingly long time since I've contributed to this little blog of ours.  Truth be told, I haven't been doing much foodie-wise except drooling over other blog posts I've found via StumbleUpon (you think Facebook is a time-suck?  HA.  I scoff at your Facebook.).

    The good news about my long hiatus is that I have lots of ideas for future posts, and lots to share with you, dear readers!  Highlights may include (but are not limited to) my first trip to Europe, graduating from college(!), my first real job (pending actually getting a real job), grad school (pending a decision to go/where to go and selection of a course of study), Laura's wedding/shower, the opening of my new bakery (pending funding, a business plan, and growth of "a pair" large enough to actually do it), and, of course, my future exploits in the kitchen.

    But today I will leave you with a link to a blog related to my most recent obsession--though it is, for now, only an obsession played out through the internet.  Can you guess what it is?  No, not that.  It's decorated cookies!  And I have seen few bloggers with as wide an array and as well-done an arsenal of decorated cookies as Callye of The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle.  After discovering her site on--where else?--StumbleUpon, I spent several hours devouring all 51 pages of her Flickr photostream.  I could never actually pick a favorite, but these* are near the top of the list.  If you'd like to try your hand at decorating, the blog has tutorials, recipes, and lots of drool-worthy pictures.  You can also follow Sugarbelle's on Facebook and/or Twitter (while you're at it, follow me!).  However you decide to check out this Texas-based baker, be prepared to spiral into a tailspin of despair as you realize you will never EVER be as good as she is.  (That may have been a singular reaction on my part.  You may be a better decorator/more confident person than me.) 

    *Little-known fact: I am OBSESSED with anything nautical.  I have maritime-themed shoes, jewelry, undies, sweatshirts, sweaters**, t-shirts, socks, you get the idea.  But, alas, I fear I am a poseur because I have never once been sailing.  Although I did spend a lot of time on ferries between Greece and Italy during my three-week sojourn in Europe this May-June.  More on that later, I promise!

    **Does it piss anyone else off when people call sweatshirts sweaters and vice versa?  They're not synonyms, people!  They are two distinct entities with clear differences.  Confession/irrelevant rant (leave now if you don't want to read an account of how my Catholic education resulted in legitimate elitism craziness): one of my many faults is that I'm somewhat of a vocabulary/grammar/language snob.  That's not to say I'm a perfect writer, but I do spend a lot of time trying to make my compositions technically correct and fun to read (anyone else use a thesaurus when writing posts?).  I just don't think it's that hard to proofread your stuff or have someone who knows their stuff proofread your stuff.  Blame it on the "Grammar Nazi,"  aka my fifth- through eighth-grade English teacher who had us diagramming sentences 50 minutes a day.  And now, almost a decade later, I still know what a predicate adjective is, so I guess my Catholic-school education was worth the tuition after all (just don't tell God I haven't been to church in about five years).   By the way, sorry for the footnote within a footnote...that's probably not proper English.  Sometimes it's okay to forgo convention for the sake of style, right?  It's all about balance.  Just don't confuse sweater/sweatshirt, there/they're/their, your/you're, or its/it's. ;)