What’s cooking in September

Two posts in one weekend?  Unheard of.  Of course, I couldn’t possibly be outside doing some fall gardening chores, could I?  Noooooo.  Not when there are good things cooking in the kitchen.

It must be fall when I’ll happily dedicate a whole day to making dinner.  Batch cooking this time of year is de-rigueur and it seems that more often than not something is baking, roasting or simmering.  Yesterday the girl and I decided on a pot of Chunky Chipotle Beef Chili from my new favourite cookbook The Farm.  First, I got to enjoy post-Labour Day shopping: no cottagers = delightfully relaxing grocery shopping.  Then we got to work.  There was a bit of prep work with chopping the vegetables and browning the beef (we opted for beef instead of venison, but I’d definitely try it with venison if our hunter-neighbour brings us any), but it was mostly just sweet, slow simmering for the afternoon.

Here’s what it looked like just before we ate it:

It was delicious. I served it with tortilla chips by way of a bribe for the Boy.  He ate a lot more of than I would have expected, so I guess my ploy worked.  For the grownups there was cilantro from the garden and cheddar cheese.  We also ate a lovely salad of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cucumber all straight from the garden.

But wait, there’s more!  We had received some rhubarb in our CSA this week and I thought I’d make something with it for the WorkHorse who loves rhubarb anything.  Also in The Farm was a great recipe for Rhubarb-Sour Cream Crostata, and I had most of the ingredients on hand, so I thought I’d whip that up too.  I was a little short on rhubarb and there was none to found, fresh or frozen, at the local store – so I substituted a cup of frozen strawberries which was wonderful.

The picture in the book was significantly more beautiful than ours – here’s the pic I snapped after most of it had been demolished:

Not-so-pretty picture aside, I can tell you that this was one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten.  Seriously, seriously good.  You can find the recipe here, but you should absolutely buy this book, even if you don’t have a farm of your own 😉

The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food

As for what’s cooking today…chocolate chip cookies and chicken breasts.  The chicken breasts are for me to eat in my quest to protein load so I can muscle load.  The cookies were at the request of the kids who love them more than anything.  As far as we’re concerned, there is only one chocolate chip cookie recipe – Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Joy of Cooking.  Don’t even try any other recipes, trust me.

Here’s hoping there are wonderful things cooking in your kitchen today too!

 

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients

  •    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  •     1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  •     1 stick butter
  •     1/2 cup sugar
  •     1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  •     1 egg
  •     1/4 tsp salt
  •     1 tbsp vanilla extract
  •     1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  •     1.5 cups chopped walnuts

Directions

  • Whisk flour and baking powder
  • Cream butter and sugars.
  • Add egg, salt and vanilla to creamed butter. Stir the flour into this mixture until well combined.
  • Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  • Drop onto greased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.
  • makes 24 medium cookies

 

 

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A few of my favourite words

Go outside and play.  Possibly the four sweetest words a mother can hear herself utter.  Well, this mother likes them lots, in any case.  Maybe it’s because these are new words for us.  Before we came to Northbrook there was no way I could have asked my kids to go outside and play – not for any amount of time, anyway.  For starters, our lot in the city is about 17 feet wide with not a soft surface anywhere.  We also live on a busy street in the heart of the city.  In the old days, going outside to play meant mom or dad grabbing the keys and taking the kids to the playground.  Since we got the farm, the kids are regularly subjected to their exasperated mother sending them outside.  It’s taken some time to get used to it all around.  It took the kids months to figure out what to do outside, all by themselves.  I nearly wept with joy when I found them playing an elaborate game wherein Hogwarts was the tree house and Diagon Alley was located behind the barn.  It took me a little less time to not worry when hours went by and I had no visuals on them.  Ultimately, the farm rule is well understood – ‘don’t do anything stupid’ – and my kids are smart enough and old enough to follow it.

Last weekend we sent them down the newly-harvested fields to see if there were any trees that were spared the apple drought.  I watched them go off together and snapped this picture:

Every time I see them off in the distance like this, no doubt deep in conversation about something highly relevant to the 7 to 9 year old set, I’m extremely gratified.  One of the biggest benefits to buying this place was giving the kids a place to be kids – to be independent, trust their instincts and enjoy the quiet beauty of nature.  They are also developing their relationship where we can’t hear them, and I’m a big believer in letting that happen.  I really hope with all my heart that this time in their lives will mean something important to them at the end of the day.  It’s certainly the best time of my life.

A picture’s worth…

I haven’t posted for a bit – it’s a long and boring story which centers around a missing camera cable.  Now that I have photos, I’m short on words.  So I’ll leave it to a few pics from life at Northbrook the last two weeks…

First, here’s what’s been coming in from the Obsession:

A beautiful, misty morning:

Finally, look what we’re working on – very exciting – and more to come on this!

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then I figure I’m good and blogged out.  G’night.

Dining Room Update

I’m a bit of a goal oriented person, and on my list this summer was to fix up the farm’s dining room.  Previously it was my least favourite room in the house, despite having good bones, beautiful pocket doors and lots of light.  It was also yellow.  Now I don’t have anything against yellow itself, but there is a colour of yellow that people paint their houses that sucks the life out of both the room and the people in it!  Adding to the horrible, soul-sucking yellow walls was that brass light fixture that was meant to look like a gas lamp.  We also have four different shades of wood in here, none of which looked good with yellow.  It was a wonder I ever ate a meal in here before.  Fortunately all of that has now changed.  The dining room is now my very favourite room in the house – thanks to a summer of mostly cheap fix-er-up projects.

First, we painted the room a soft grey, from Benjamin Moore’s Historic Collection.  It’s a shade darker than the grey in the hallway just outside the dining room.  Immediately the wood tones stopped looking awful – it was like the whole room relaxed.  Next, I fixed up that old jam cupboard – previously peach and green.  Now it’s a bit darker than the walls and has pretty glass knobs.  It’s also a place to stash some of the stuff that was just piled up in a wooden crate for the last year!  It was a messy job but completely worth it.  Here’s what it looks like now:

And, as you can see, we hung up the rooster painting we got from artist Julia McNeely just above it.  We did end up getting the pig painting too – those were the splurge items for the dining room.

Since that mason jar light fixture from pottery barn wasn’t going to work with our plaster medallion, the WorkHorse suggested an online search and I’m so glad he did.  I found this wonderful company on Etsy called BootsNGus  – and they custom-made us the most incredible mason jar chandelier – it’s perfect and I’m in love with it.

The other art projects were cheap, cheerful and dreamed up by yours truly.  First, we had some great birds’ nests that we’d found around the farm, and I wanted to show them off.  With a hot glue gun and a few Ikea shadow boxes, here’s what they look like:

We still had a bare spot, and I had some vintage table cloths from the Fairy Grandmother that I’d been waiting years to do something with.  I was going to make some quilt blocks to frame, but I realized they were perfect as they were.  Two more inexpensive Ikea frames and – voila – more cheap art!

Here’s a shot of the dining room now that’s it’s all done:

Don’t you love our laptops and all of the wires on the table?!  You may also notice that the table and the window are not lined up.  One of the farm’s many idiosyncracies is that the ceiling medallion and the window are misaligned, and the new fixture required lining the table up under it.  It actually seems as though the window isn’t centered in the wall.  I love an old house!

We’ve been at this project all summer, and I’m happy to say that there aren’t any more redecorating projects lined up.  We’ve got lots to do in the gardens, and lots of cooking to do in the kitchen this fall.  But now that the dining room is done, when can you come for dinner?