Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Simple Summer Party...

Mason jars with decorative lids for parties
      So early this Summer I asked one of my favorite vendors at the Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market to do me a favor.  My gal, Tracy, at Social Ice Cream makes the best ice cream in the entire world.  Problem is, a solid portion of my friends can't eat sugar, dairy, soy, gluten, food colorings, flavorings, like basically anything.  But I knew Tracy could handle it. What did I need two gallons of sugar-dairy-soy-gluten-everything-free ice cream for?  You already know, don't you, you smart thing you!

A blue and yellow Summer party
My oldest's Cub Scout manual lists plan a party and make an obstacle course for your friends as two things you can get badges for and we're all about the badges around here.  We need all the stinkin' badges.  Fittingly, he chose blue and yellow as the colors.

blue and yellow Summer party decor
He helped with all the set up, too!

Marigolds lend a little sweetness to the table and they're bug repellant!  
 These little marigolds were just the right color and had a light citronella scent that, I think, helped keep the bugs a way.  So did the little fans you see in the background.

A flag pick from a party store makes an easy drink label.
I found a thing on Pinterest about making little flags to mark drinks.  Good ol' party store came through with these puppies.

Flag pick drink lables for parties.

My oldest also had a say in the menu so we planned hamburgers and hot dogs and left the rest up to the generosity of our guests! 

party food
My neighbor supplied us with this gorgeous caprese salad appetizer. 

a mixture of cherry tomatoes from my garden
My garden has been generously pumping out cherry tomatoes like nobody's business this year.

infused vodka
My honey making friend also dabbles in flavored vodka.  Holy man.

homemade bread and local honey
And she brings homemade bread.  Yeah she does!

Hot Mix Pickles Recipe
These homemade hot mix pickles were my offering this year.

Hot Pickle Mix

4 C sliced trimmed pickling cucumbers (1/4 inch slices)
2 C cauliflower florets
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 C sliced, peeled carrots
1 C peeled pearl or pickling onions
2/3 C pickling or canning salt
8 1/2 C water, divided
3 C sliced seeded hot yellow banana peppers (1 1/2- inch slices)
1 clove garlic
8 1/2 C white vinegar
3/4 C granulated sugar
2 Tbs horseradish
3-9 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine cucumbers, cauliflower, green and red peppers, carrots, and onions.  In another large glass or stainless steel bowl, dissolve pickling salt in 7 C of the water.  Pour over vegetables.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.  Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars, and lids.  In a colander placed over a sink, drain vegetables.  Rinse with cool running water and drain thoroughly.  Add hot yellow peppers and mix well.  In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine garlic, remaining 1 1/2 C water, vinegar, sugar, and horseradish.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, until liquid is infused with garlic flavor.  Discard garlic clove.  Pack vegetables and 1 to 3 jalapeno pepper halves into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar.  Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.  Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

buffet line

 We bought our burgers from Martiny Livestock at our farmer's market.  People said they were some of the best burgers they ever had!
Beecher's Cheese on Martiny Farms Burgers
Little bit of local cheese to top it off...

guests
A little bit of socializing and then it was finally, finally time for...

Vegan ice cream from Social Ice cream
Ice cream and sorbet!  We had Coconut Vanilla Bean, Peach Raspberry sorbet, and Raspberry Lemon Verbena. All made without soy, without dairy, without white sugar, but made with coconut milk, honey, and fresh local produce.  Because Tracy is a flippin' wizard.

Fun obstacle course for kids

Then it was obstacle course time!  First down the slide, then a search through bubbles for a statuette, and a quick hula hoop for 5 seconds before a dash across the finish line!  Fastest time wins!  It was a quick, fun game and they loved it!

Even this dude and he doesn't like anything...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Throwing a Little Something Together...

     I've got friends who have an obsessive desire to follow recipes exactly.  I used to be this person.  It's what you do when you're first learning how to cook.  But I think it makes you afraid a little.  Afraid you might mess something up.  You know what?  You almost never do and a lot of times what you come up with is better than what the Internet says, especially one of those recipes from TV, blerg.  AND most of the time the recipe has got one or twelve things you don't have sitting in your fridge at the moment.  So let's talk about what is in your fridge.  At any moment I have every ingredient necessary for a good soup, Italian anything, stir-fry, and hummus.  Always have the ingredients for hummus.  All you need for hummus is any bean variety, oil, garlic, and salt.  All you need for soup is a can or two of tomatoes and a variety of vegetables, and sometimes you can pull it off without the tomatoes!  Italian needs tomatoes, basil and garlic.  Mushrooms are good, other herbs, or onions, but really all you need are tomatoes, basil, and garlic.  Let's get to that stir-fry now.


I started on this because I had some peanut sauce from the Farmer's Market calling my name all week.  I also had purple cauliflower, red cabbage, carrots, a squash from my garden, oyster mushrooms, a white bell pepper, half an onion, and some garlic.  Sounds like stir-fry to me.  Does it matter what color your vegetables are?  Nope.  Do you need all those vegetables to make a stir-fry?  Nope, though it does help to feed a larger group to have a variety if you only have small quantities of each like I had.  Do you have to have fancy soba noodles like I did?  Not even.  I wasn't even thinking of noodles when I realized I had the makings for stir-fry.  I was going to do rice first, but realized I hadn't left enough time to pull it off, so noodles it was!  What I'm trying to say here is relax.  Take a deep breath.  It's just one dinner.  You can do it.  If all else fails, there's always peanut butter or grilled cheese, or whatever sandwich combination your family is allowed to eat in this day of allergens and intolerances.

The biggest thing to remember when doing a stir-fry for a family is not to cook everything in the same pan unless you have a huge pan.  I like my stir-fry veggies warmed and nearly raw, cooking everything in the same pan tends to steam everything and take forever so you're left with a long cook time and mushy veg.


Refrigerator Clean-Out Stir Fry
Serves 4

3 large carrots, sliced
1/2 large onion, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 medium cabbage, sliced
1 large or 2 small yellow squash, sliced
1/2 lb oyster mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup cauliflower florets
1 bell pepper, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 Tbs sesame seeds
1 bunch of soba noodles, boiled and drained
1 tsp high heat oil
1 Tbs peanut sauce, soy sauce, or tamari sauce

On medium/high heat, cook onions first in a small amount of oil until they have softened slightly, then set them aside, then carrots cooked until slightly soft and set aside, continue cooking vegetables one at a time until all are cooked, excluding the green onions and sesame seeds, mushrooms and garlic can go in together.  Mix all the veggies together.  Plate noodles and top with cooked veggies, finish with the sauce of your choice.

Now, go to your fridge and start experimenting!!  Here's a few more ideas to get you started:
Chicken, pork, or tofu, eggplant, peas, bok choi, broccoli, any color of bell pepper, zucchini, green beans, water chestnuts, baby corn, bamboo shoots.
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