It looks like we will have quite the fruit harvest this year from our garden!
Here we have a tomato baby…
Multiple plum babies…
And an abundance of apple babies…
Now we just have to try to protect all our babies from bugs and pests!
Today I made soup for dinner. It was “Fennel and Tomato Soup”, and was one I was looking forward to. I like tomato soup and really like fennel, so I figured the combination would be a hit, and I wasn’t disappointed. Plus, it was really simple to make, although I did manage to have a blow out near the end. To start, I just took a bunch of fennel, a potato, and an onion, all chopped up, and cooked them down for awhile, then I added tomatoes and cooked it some more.
Once the tomatoes had cooked a bit, I added broth and let it simmer for about an hour. During that time Julie grabbed some of her paprika cheddar biscuits out of the freezer and got those ready.
Once that was all cooked, I transferred the entire pot to the food processor to blend it. This is predictably where the blow out occurred. I didn’t realize that the food processor isn’t meant to be filled more than 60% or so or it starts to leak, so I ended up spilling some of the mixture out onto the counter and floor, all while the phone was ringing (shout out to Jim!). It wasn’t that bad, and I managed to puree everything in two batches. The end result was some pretty stinking good tomato soup.
Yesterday was a good food day. Julie and I made root beer floats in the afternoon, and then we went out to eat with our friends Dan and Bethany Volz. They have been watching our cats while we are away this summer and we took them out to Christian’s, one of our favorite restaurants. We noticed on the menu that they had “veal sweetbreads” as the appetizer of the day, and we had a discussion about what part of the calf that actually is. I was guessing it was an organ, like a liver, and Julie thought it was brains. Turns out they are thymus glands, either in the throat or around the heart. They came served in a creamy sauce, with peas and tomatoes
They had a really nice texture, with a mild veal flavor, not overpowering at all. The texture was softer than chicken, but still kind of firm, and it went with the sauce and vegetables really well. The fresh peas were definitely a hit with Julie who is not normally a pea eater (her view: “They squish like little brains”). We also had an order of gnocchi, just in case the sweetbreads didn’t turn out
For dinner, Julie had the grouper special, which was grouper on a cauliflower and potato puree, covered in garlic mushrooms with a caramelized onion sauce. She really liked it, to the point where she ate the entire thing and regretted it (a definite Gasper family tradition). I tried a piece (just the fish, no mushrooms), and it was really good.
I had the mahi mahi special, which was a filet of mahi mahi over pasta in an orange butter sauce, covered in 3 giant asparagus. It also came with 3 sea scallops, which was a big part of my decision making process It was really good. I like “fruity” flavors, so the orange butter was definitely right up my alley. It wasn’t too overpowering, but you could definitely taste the orange, and the fish and scallops were done perfectly. The asparagus were huge and were perfectly cooked, nice and firm.
It was a typical, wildly successful trip to Christian’s, and we had good company, getting to hear about Bethany’s upcoming trip with the youth group to Iowa, among other things.
Yesterday was a big day of moving things around in the house. We had two rooms that had kind of become dumping grounds for various random stuff and we decided to flip some stuff around to make better use of space. Pictured above is one bedroom that we had used as a reading room. It had just kind of become cluttered with “stuff” that didn’t really belong anywhere. Also, Trav’s old bedroom in the basement was just space that we never used, but it’s nice and naturally cool during the summer.
I decided that I needed to convert the basement bedroom into a “man cave”, filled with my Xbox, Wii, Wii related accessories, and the TV. Julie was hesitant at first. She gave me the stipulation that if we converted the upstairs room into the extra bedroom that it’s door had to fully close. The door was from a different part of the house and had been painted a number of times, so it didn’t ever really close. After a lot of time spent readjusting the latch plate and shaving paint off the sticking areas, the door now closes easily, so we went to work. The first thing we did was empty the upstairs room so we could clean the floors and windows and then we moved the bed and matress up from the basement. Getting the mattress up the basement steps and around the corner was not an easy task. We got everything in place and Storm immediately staked her claim to the bed. Julie threw a sheet on the bed to make sure the cat hair didn’t get all over the comforter. I don’t think Storm has moved from this spot in almost 24 hours.
After that was complete, we started moving everything from the second floor down the deck stairs and then down into the basement. There were three big things to move – the TV, the loveseat, and the TV stand. The TV was purchased before flat panels were affordable, and it is not fun to move around. It weighs about 175 pounds, so we grabbed the dolly from our building downtown to get it moved. The table and loveseat were a lot easier. I wired everything up, got the Xbox online and was able to play Call of Duty with Trav last night in my new “man cave”, after I got back from setting up my dad’s new Father’s Day Xbox. I just have to figure out where the Icee machine will go….
Several weeks ago I ran across this photo while browsing, and immediately printed it out to make. Well, time passed, but it was always in the back of my mind. I had been thinking about making them this weekend, when all of a sudden, amazing miss Bakerella had this post! Now it looks like I’m copying her brilliance. Which, really, is alright with me, but isn’t the case (this time). I used yellow cupcakes to make the “buns,” and chocolate fudge cupcakes to make the “burger.” Then yummy vanilla buttercream frosting tinted with food coloring for the “ketchup,” “mustard,” and “lettuce.” Plus (real) sesame seeds for the tops. They were definitely a hit with Justin’s dad for Father’s Day, and with the King family tonight for dinner (helped fuel us up before visiting their backyard waterpark – aka – the hose).
To celebrate our first in-season strawberries, I made sweet shortcakes. I actually have a recipe in my files somewhere, but I felt like trying something new. I went with this recipe on Allrecipes.com. It came together quickly and easily. Grating frozen butter is a great time saver, as opposed to cutting or crumbling butter in and trying to get it to the right consistency. The key is to move FAST with any biscuit dough. The faster you get it into the oven, with the least amount of handling, the better. If the dough warms up too much, and it starts sticking to your hands or to the work surface, place the cut biscuits into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before baking for a tender finished product. This recipe does result in a really tasty shortcake. Not quite as sweet as I would have liked though. If I decide to make this recipe again, I would probably add another 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar to the dough. Hmm… and maybe a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon, just to give them a little extra umph!
As is the case with many grandparents, Gigi and Gramps accumulated a heavily used set of toys to have on hand for when various kids dropped by. As we sorted through boxes and cabinets and dressers and closets this past weekend cleaning out their condo, someone came across this uncommonly captivating game:
Have you played with one of these in your childhood (or yesterday)?
I remember playing this “Waterful Ring Toss” game many many times at my own grandparents house as a kid. You squeeze the white button on the bottom, and a jet of water inside forces the rings to float about, with the purpose being to get all the rings onto pegs.
Yeah, I rocked it.
And yeah, it leaked water down the front of my shirt while it got rocked.
Just like when I was a kid.
Ok, so when I was in high school, I had some interesting musical tastes that I’m sure thrilled my parents. I had a cheesy RCA stereo with a CD player from which I played my music at a higher than reasonable volume, in a room lit solely by blinking Christmas lights that I wired directly into the light fixture in my room so they worked on the switch. Matched the flower border perfectly….
Anyways, with that background, I figured I would share some of the new music I have been listening to lately and would recommend. Recently it’s been pretty much all indie rock, some new this year, and some a little older.
Trav just clued me into a new album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix“, by “Phoenix”. “Lisztomania” is the single, but I prefer “1901″ as the catchy song on the album, and “Love Like a Sunset” as the building, sweeping song. All the songs are pretty solid, well thought out, and well executed. Definitely a good, catchy summer album
Next up is “Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)” by “Cloud Cult”. This has a more electronic feel to it than the “Phoenix” album. The first track is a great building track. It starts slowly and builds and builds to a dramatic finish. There’s a lot of variety and energy in this album. Recommended.
“Birdmonster”‘s album “From the Mountain To the Sea” is a little more low key than the previous two, so it’s good for a change of pace. It’s very easy to listen to, with good melodies and a straightforward leading voice.
I’ve probably been driving Julie nuts with “Furr” by “Blitzen Trapper”. I listen to a couple of songs off this one quite a bit – notably “Furr” and “God & Suicide”. This is a little more mainstream album, but really well done and solid. This is one that I’ve listened to straight through a few times. Probably more than a few if you ask Julie. Great energetic songs and a lot of variety in this one.
Finally, the other one I have been listening to a lot is “Now We Can See” by “The Thermals”. A solid, straightforward pop-punk album with lyrics that are definitely more interesting than normal.
This past weekend I made glazed pretzel sticks for a get-together. I’ve had the recipe for years, and have made them multiple times, but I decided to play with the recipe a bit this time around. The directions are ridiculously easy. Combine some honey, melted butter, onion powder and chili powder, pour over and stir into pretzels sticks, and then bake for a few minutes. This time, though, I decided to substitute Chipotle powder in place of the chili powder, for a spicier, smokier flavor. The result is much spicier and much smokier than I had in mind, and Justin has coined them “dragon pretzels.” While he is thoroughly addicted to the zippier blend, they are a little too hot for my taste. I love the sweet component to them, and that is what you taste first, but then the fiery chipotle takes over. I’ll definitely make them again, and use the chipotle powder, but I’m thinking I will cut back the amount, just a little!
Here is the recipe I used for this batch:
1 bag (about 8 cups) pretzel sticks
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder (using chili powder results in a much milder finished product)
Combine the honey, butter, and spices. In a large bowl, combine the pretzels with the honey mixture. Line two rimmed cookie sheets with aluminum foil and spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Divide pretzels between cookie sheets and spread out a bit. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, stirring pretzels halfway through cooking time. Allow to cool, stirring every few minutes to keep pretzels from sticking together (they will be very sticky!).
Lots of food was eaten today, and none of it was even remotely healthy. Today we left Cincinnati to drive back to Stevens Point, with a quick drop-off of my brother Luke in Madison. The day started with me seeing a sign for a Dunkin’ Donuts, and since we were running a little early, I figured it couldn’t hurt to stop. We each started ordering a donut or two, and the lady behind the counter was nice enough to point out that a dozen donuts is only $5.99, and individual donuts are 89 cents each, so the smart move was to get a dozen (bowties and apple fritters count as 2).
Next, we stopped in Indianapolis to visit my grandma, aunt, and cousin for a couple hours. While we were there, my aunt Shelley was kind enough to order not one, but 3 Papa John’s pizzas. Leaving there thoroughly stuffed, we stopped at a gas station to tank up and I got a Red Bull to keep me going, and then we made it to Madison to drop Luke off. On the way out of town, we stopped at A&W for a couple of mini corn-dog value meals.
I’m not eating anything substantial for at least a couple days. Tomorrow is a soup day.
On the way back, we got a couple of good shots out of the car of Madison. For whatever reason, there was a huge traffic jam going both north and south on I39 that we got stuck in for awhile. Hopefully Luke still had enough time to prepare for his concert tonight. We’ll be back home in 1/2 hour. Yay!