Happy today

The truth of the matter is, I’ve been feeling a lot like my sister, the one on the right in this photo, the last few weeks.

There is one glaring reason for my sadness- my beloved tabby cat passed away a few weeks ago and left a void that has yet to be filled. And another obvious one- I haven’t slept through the night in over a year. But there is another underlying issue at the heart of it: While everyone else is parading around pumpkin patches and cooking up squash, I just don’t get all that excited about fall. Yes, the leaves are beautiful and I get to wear my favorite Lebowski-esque cardigan sweater again, but I miss summer. I miss the crickets and I miss the long, warm days. I miss Bob Uecker on the radio and I miss swimming in lakes. I miss my tomatoes that never ripened and I hate spaghetti squash. There. I said it.

Now, I realize that it doesn’t behoove you to write off an entire season, especially when you live in a climate like ours; it’s a considerable chunk of your life here in the upper midwest. In an effort to embrace the season, I’m channeling my two-year-old self: The one, who upon discovering that on Halloween all you have to do is knock on a door and someone will hand you candy, danced up and down her street yelling “Happy today, happy today, happy today!”

So I’m going to carve a pumpkin and whip up some molasses bars. I’ll cheer on the Pack and dig out my ski socks. I’ll daydream; maybe this will be the winter I’ll practice the banjo and learn to crochet. And I’m making stew because when it comes to soup, summer ain’t got nothing on fall. When I first made this stew I used Rancho Gordo heirloom yellow eye beans, which I had bought back when I was employed.

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Since then I have also used good old white pea beans (navy beans.) You can read all about how to cook dried beans here. I start by rinsing the beans and then soaking them (or not) for a few hours (if they haven’t soaked, the cooking time will be longer.) You then cover them with water in a big soup pot, adding olive oil and celery/ onions/ carrots, if you like. Cook the beans at a slow simmer until they are done. I adapted this recipe for bean stew from an article I read in The New York Times all about the Greek island of Ikaria, in the Aegean Sea, where people stay up late, take naps after lunch, and drink lots of wine. Sounds good to me.

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Yellow Eye Bean Stew

Adapted slightly from The New York Times

1 pound of yellow eye peas or navy beans
1 medium onion chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and finely chopped
A handful of chopped parsley
1 chopped carrot
Chopped dill or fennel
olive oil
salt, season to taste

Cook beans until they are almost done (see directions above.) Add the vegetables and herbs. When the beans are done, add salt to taste. Turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil.

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Serve the bean stew with crusty bread and lots of red wine and toast to the “blooming and singing of the dark” (this comes from another New York Times article which quotes the Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki who said, “Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.”) Have a fire in your backyard. Eat halloween candy. And while it’s okay to be sad, you can also try telling yourself happy today, happy today, happy today.

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All whisked up!

My friend Martha says that sometimes if you want something, you just need to put it out there to the universe and see what happens. This is how I felt one morning in August when I opened my computer to find an email request to do some freelance writing and an invitation from this woman to join a new collective of Wisconsin food bloggers called Wisconsin Whisk. With taking the year off of teaching, I knew I wanted to do more writing, but I needed some sort of a cosmic kick in the buns. And that morning I got it. Since then I have written several articles (including this one and this one), been mentioned in a Capital Times article highlighting Wisconsin Whisk, and was a guest judge at a vegan chili cook-off fundraiser for the Alliance for Animals.

And now I want to introduce you to Tara at Yummy Sprout and her farmer’s market biscuits. For a fun Wisconsin Whisk event (All Whisked Up!), we were assigned another blog to read and find a recipe to recreate. I knew as soon as I saw Tara’s biscuits that I was going to try those. If you read my blog regularly (thanks, immediate family), you know I’m not much of a baker, but these were super easy to make and taste delicious.

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I substituted jalapeno peppers from my garden, but otherwise made them just the same.

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Cheddar and Jalapeno Biscuits

From the website Yummy Sprout

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup flour (plus extra for dusting)
1/2 teaspoons organic sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 cup cheddar (shredded)
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. If using a sifter you may need to push organic sugar through as it is a bit courser.  Next add the butter and use your fingers (if you have a pastry cutter you can use that too) to work butter into the flour until you have a course meal, with pieces no larger then pea size.  Add the vinegar to the milk and allow it to sit for a couple minutes, to make buttermilk.  Stir in most of the buttermilk (reserving about 1 tbsp), cheese and peppers, just until mixed.

Knead dough briefly on a lightly floured surface, just until it holds together. Coat a rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch thick. Cut little biscuits out with any cookie cutters you like. Place biscuits on un-greased baking sheets. Brush the tops of biscuits with remaining buttermilk and bake until biscuits are golden, 10 minutes.   .
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 Happy Friday.

So lucky

Hello from this side of October. With everyone else asleep on the couch, I’m reminiscing about yellow rafters discovered at a coffee shop last week on our vacation to Door County.

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Dan and I decided to take Half-moon on a little September adventure. Thanks to the generosity of friends and their families, we stayed at a cabin on Kangaroo Lake near Bailey’s Harbor and in a beautiful apartment on Washington Island. We drank coffee from an adorable cabin with a strange name and beer from the hippest new brewery on the mainland.

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We had crazy delicious sandwiches and gelato from Door County Creamery in Sister Bay.

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We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the gardens of Wickman House, thanks to my old friend- and gardener- Adam, and ate there that night for our first dinner in a restaurant since Half-moon joined the picture. Never have I eaten more delicious pasta dish in a restaurant- ravioli with preserved lemon and capers. The whiskey drink I nursed throughout the night wasn’t too shabby either.

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And then we boarded the ferry to Washington Island. What is it about ferries? I wish I had a reason to take one every day. On The Island we ate lots of pizza, drank lots of beer, dared each other to dunk into Lake Michigan at Schoolhouse Beach and had fires at sunset at one of the most beautiful spots in the world.  Half-moon flipped himself over onto  his stomach-surprising himself and us- and laughed up there for the very first time.

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What luck.