Friday, July 3, 2015

The Mount, Lenox, MA- Free Fun Friday

The Mount, Lenox MA
Last Friday we traveled west, west on the Mass Pike- I90 that is.  It was a visit to The Mount in  Lenox, MA.  This beautiful estate located in the Berkshires was designed by the American author Edith Wharton following the principles in the book The Decoration of Houses that she and architect Ogden Codman, Jr. coauthored.  This book was published in 1897 and this home was built by Edith Wharton & her husband Teddy in 1902.   Ethan Frome by Ms. Wharton was required reading for me in college.  I've always been aware of this author, but never visited her scenic home in Lenox.  Visiting this serene estate was offered as a Free Fun Friday event sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation.

What a treat to leisurely walk through her home and view the gorgeous gardens below.  The white Astilibe had begun to blossom in the geometric gardens.

View of a garden from Edith Wharton's home
The well manicured gardens were admired by all of the visitors who strolled through them.  Beautiful views from all sides and angles.  It's a gorgeous estate in the Berkshires designed by a woman who had lived during the Gilded Age in Newport, RI, and NYC.  After leaving her home in Lenox in 1911, Edith Wharton later divorced and moved to France.   

The white Astilibe were blossoming!
Last Friday was a very comfortable day to travel west & we are so happy we did!  An added surprise for me was walking into one room & viewing a treadle Singer Sewing Machine in cabinet.  My mom had a similar sewing machine in a similar cabinet.  It was her "go to" sewing machine for making buttonholes.  Her electric machine was used for everyday sewing.

Treadle Singer Sewing Machine in cabinet
Free Fun Fridays are offered by the Highland Street Foundation to everyone- all residents of MA, visitors to my state and also families traveling through MA.  Each Friday this summer there are 7 venues to visit with no regular admission charged.  Every week there are 7 different places to visit.  This program is for all ages.  Some venues are for families with young children and other places might not be interesting to children.  Click here for the list!

Thank you Highland Street Foundation!


Have a Happy & Safe Fourth of July!!!    

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Local Strawberry Season

Local Strawberry Season!
The month of June brings Strawberries!  Oh, I'm not talking about the packaged fruit from grocery stores' produce departments that have been shipped from another location to the northern states.  I'm talking  juicy fresh local Strawberries!  What a great treat!

Freezing the yummy strawberries (after removing the tops & rinsing in cold water/ draining/ packaging is a yearly tradition with me.  It began decades ago by helping my mom freeze our fam's supply for the upcoming months.  In those days it would always be hot & homes did not have any AC.  My sister & I were reminded in order to enjoy Strawberry Shortcake during the snowy cold winter months, we needed to get busy.  We also enjoyed eating them as we worked!     

We made our Jams back in the days, too.  Homemade Strawberry Jam is just the best.  Stirring the Strawberry/ Sugar mixture while working over a stove always made the day a lot warmer, but we knew how delicious it was!  Fast forward:  I totally read all the directions included inside the Certo box the first year that I was married.  There, I found a non cook method of preparing Jam.  I prepared 1 batch, froze it & 2  days later defrosted a container for my DH & I.  Ah, it was so good, so I made another batch of Strawberry Freezer Jam!  A few weeks later when the local Blueberries were ripe I also made 2 batches of Blueberry Freezer Jam.  From that year on my fave method is Freezer Jam.  

It is easy to prepare & it tastes so yummy!  One batch requires 1 quart of the ripe berries.

Strawberry Freezer Jam is the non cook method that requires:
  • Following directions exactly
  • 8 ounce containers that have been washed/ dried
  • 1 Quart ripe Strawberries
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Lemon Juice
  • I use Certo liquid fruit pectin
  • Did I mention follow directions exactly?  Prepare 1 batch at a time!
  • My Helpful Hints - I also read these before I begin. (Click on link to read, too.)
My family's tradition continued.  When freezing the yummy juicy red strawberries, I always set aside 4 quarts.  1 quart for our "munchies" & 3 quarts for the Freezer Jam that is always prepared the next day.
On Monday, the quick trip to Meadowbrook Farm in East Longmeadow, MA was made.  In the afternoon there was a Strawberry process going on in my kitchen.  The bags of fruit are now on the top shelf in our large freezer.  Tuesday right on schedule, 3 batches of Strawberry Freezer Jam was prepared.  After labeling, the containers sat on our Dining Room table undisturbed for 24 hours.  Each batch of the containers of delicious jam was placed in our large freezer at the specified times, 24 hours later.

Do you prepare Freezer Jam?  


Monday, June 15, 2015

Blueberry Torte

Suddenly 2 servings remained!
The bags of frozen Blueberries on the top shelf of our large freezer beckoned to me!  Usually in June each year I've baked with most of them.  This past winter brought a change in weekly cooking/ baking, so I have a little surplus going on.  No problem!  3 days ago I had that baking urge to try something new.  Every so often I'd think about Marian Burros' & Lois Levine's Plum Torte.  Yes, the Plum Torte has been baked/ enjoyed here, but my fam does not rank it as a fave.  Perhaps because Plums are not a fave fruit.  Often I've thought of using Blueberries rather than Plums & baking it again.  That thought brought me to my Blueberry supply.

A 2 cup package of Blueberries was defrosted, then drained.  The stick of unsalted Butter was sitting on my counter softening.  My springform pan was sprayed with PAM & my Kitchenaid hand mixer along with a large bowl was taken out.  Woah!  What a yummy torte when baked with Blueberries!    

I've changed the original recipe a bit using:
2 Egg Whites + 1 Whole Egg
Adding the 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon into the batter
Adding 1/4 Cup Soy Milk
Sprinkling less Sugar/ Cinnamon on top

Did we enjoy this torte?  My DH gave it 2 thumbs up! 

Blueberry Torte
          Oven:  350°F     Baking Time:  45- 50 Minutes
          adapted from Marian Burros' + Lois Levine's Plum Torte recipe
1/4 lb. unsalted Butter
3/4 Cup Sugar - I used a little less.
1 Cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Cinnamon - Can use a little less
pinch of Salt
1 Whole Egg + 2 Egg Whites
1/4 Cup Soy Milk - Can use Whole, 1% Milk
2 Cups Blueberries- defrosted & drained or fresh (washed in cool water & drained)

Combine 1 Tablespoon Sugar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl to sprinkle on top.

  1. Using a mixer, cream softened unsalted Butter with 3/4 Cup Sugar in large bowl.
  2. To creamed Butter/ Sugar add Flour, Baking Powder, Cinnamon, Salt, Egg + Egg Whites.
  3. Beat with mixer.  Batter will be stiff.
  4. Slowly add 1/4 Cup Soy Milk (or Milk) & beat.
  5. Using a large spoon place batter in springform pan that has been sprayed with PAM.  Spread evenly.
  6. Drain Blueberries (if frozen) & place on top of batter.
  7. Gently press into batter.
  8. Sprinkle Sugar/ Cinnamon mixture on top.
  9. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 45- 50 minutes.
  10. Use a toothpick or cake tester to test for doneness.
  11. Place on cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove sides of springform pan & cool longer.  
  13. When cooled, carefully use a knife to slide between torte & bottom of pan to separate torte easily.
  14. Place another cooling rack on top of torte, flip over.  Remove bottom of pan. 
  15. Then place plate on torte bottom & flip again.
  16. Serve slices with vanilla ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.  
The yummy Blueberry Torte was refrigerated to enjoy again.  Suddenly, only 2 servings remained!  I know what I'll be baking for the Father's Day weekend celebration!!!!!


Friday, June 5, 2015

"I'm Just Stuffed"

"I'm just stuffed!"
Suddenly, there's a smile on my face every time I glance out our kitchen window.

I've been watching the birds working constantly around one of our birdhouses.  Suddenly, the smaller hole was not visible any longer.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

~Yummy Yogurt~

Yummy Yogurt

The top shelf of our fridge was a tad empty!  No wonder, I'd been looking at the reserved spot for Yummy Yogurt.  Yesterday, 1 container of the delicious plain yogurt was sitting on the shelf.  There was only one thing to do!  It was time to make the yogurt!  A portion of the 1 remaining container was used to prep a double batch.  My 2 Donvier yogurt makers were taken out of the cabinet & I was ready. 

Using a yogurt maker this is a very easy food to make.  The milk is brought to a boil in a large pot on the stove top, cooled a bit & then the culture is added & stirred in.  The culture?  It's yogurt from a previous batch.  (For the first batch, purchase an unflavored container of yogurt.)  Pour milk mixture into the individual containers, snap on the lid, place in the yogurt maker & set the timer.  Hours later- presto- it's yogurt!  Refrigerate & enjoy starting the next day.  Below is a snapshot of my PDF for Yummy Yogurt.


Directions & Hints:  Click here for PDF (instructions).

***After making several batches of Yogurt, if it seems to be more tart or less solid, that's a clue it's time to purchase a new container & begin with a new culture.  DIY Yogurt is yummy & also inexpensive to make. 

For over 35 years I've enjoyed making my almost weekly batches of yogurt.  It's usually part of our daily lunches.  Yogurt has always been one of my family's sources of  Calcium.  We flavor it with fresh fruit or Freezer Jam.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Grilled Zucchini

Grilled Zucchini
Warm weather & grilling time!  Woohoo!  I've been waiting for this- wearing short sleeved shirts, shorts & sandals.  And there's that added perk of prepping dinner to cook outdoors.  The teasing aroma from the grill each time that its lid is opened while food is cooking signals warm weather.  Grilled seafood, chicken & beef have been enjoyed this past week.  

On Saturday I "spied" Zucchini in the produce dept. of our grocery store.  Four smaller sized firm veggies were chosen.  It didn't take long to decide Grilled Zucchini would be the veggie that evening for dinner.  Yum!  Grilling Zucchini is easy & it tastes soo goood!

Basil, Oregano & Garlic Powder from my Spice Rack were combined along with Olive Oil for sauteing & baking to coat the Zucchini halves.  Then, they were grilled.

An extra Zucchini was grilled, too- it makes a great addition to a cold veggie dinner salad!  Cut in small chunks & add in.  Yum!

Grilled Zucchini

3- 4 small Zucchini
3- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil for sauteing & baking
1/8 teaspoon Basil
1/8 teaspoon Oregano
less than 1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder

  1. Combine Olive Oil, Basil, Oregano & Garlic Powder in baking dish or plastic bag.
  2. Rinse Zucchini under cool running water & dry.
  3. Cut 1/2" off each end (blossom end & stem).
  4. Then, cut each Zucchini in half- blossom end to stem end.
  5. Place each 1/2 Zucchini in Olive Oil combination.
  6. Coat each side of vegetable.
  7. Using tongs, place on heated grill, cut side down.
  8. Turn over to cook other side.
  9. Grill until soft- as desired.
  10. Grilling Time depends on heat of grill & distance from heat.  On our grill Zucchini is grilled in 15-17 minutes.
Any remaining slices can be refrigerated & added to a cold salad.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

~Craisin Creamy Oatmeal~

Last night as I was scrolling down my Twitter feed suddenly "I spied" our local weatherman's warning of the possibility of a  frost!  Our colorful hanging geranium that's been enjoying a sunny spot in front was quickly placed in our garage.  At that moment I also knew that we'd be enjoying Craisin Creamy Oatmeal for breakfast this AM!

Earlier today there was a chill in the air, but breakfast was hot & yummy.  The geranium is back outside.  Now, I'm back to blogging after the past few months of working on my town's celebration of Long Meddowe Days.  Lots to get caught up on!  Our freezer no longer has my supply of prepared foods.

This was a great start to the day!  A bowl of hot cereal tastes so good on a crisp AM any season of the year!

Craisin Creamy Oatmeal 
2 servings  

1 Cup Old Fashioned Oats
1- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar, optional
1/4 Cup Craisins (Dried Cranberries)
1 and 3/4 Cup Soy Milk (or Milk)
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/8 Teaspoon Cinnamon

  1. Place all ingredients in a 2 quart sauce pot.
  2. Let stand 8- 10 Minutes.
  3. Heat to a boil over Medium heat.
  4. Stir & cook for 5 Minutes.
  5. Divide between 2 bowls.   
  6. Add additional Soy Milk (Milk) & enjoy!
After enjoying this hearty breakfast it was time to start getting caught up!