Cherry Clafoutis

A couple of weeks ago we picked up our sour cherry order from Walnut Drive Gardens. The cherries come pitted in their own juice in 10# and 30# tubs from H&W  Farms in MI. They are delicious!

We make jams (Wild Turkey Cherry Jam, Berry Cherry Jam, and Rhubarb Cherry Jam to name a few) and we strain the juice for a very traditional Sour Cherry Jelly. Mmm…

We also order extra cherries for ourselves. Diane and I both ordered 10# tubs for “home consumption.” Diane baked a homemade cherry pie and it was out of sight. I did a cherry cobbler, froze a bunch, and also made one of my all-time favorite cherry desserts – Cherry Clafoutis a la Julia Child.

It is simple and I always have everything on hand. It is delicious. I would even go so far as to use the pretentious adjective “exquisite” to describe cherry clafoutis. It is just awesome.

Aside from being an excellent dessert, clafoutis is also a perfect brunch food. It’s custard like and is also known as French flan. And while cherries are the traditional fruit used in clafoutis you can really use just about any berry.

Mastering the Art if French Cooking

(Or find Julia’s recipe online at

20150803_204439Since it’s custardy you make a batter and it’s all done in your blender – no stand mixer required! I like to use my cast iron skillet but you could use any oven safe skillet or baking dish.

Ready for the oven. Now for the waiting…..


Roughly an hour later one of my most favorite things comes out and it looks gorgeous!

20150803_213633It’s best served warm. And you better believe I had a huge slice after I let it “cool” for about 10 minutes. Mmm!!

Do yourself a favor and make some clafoutis!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Family Dinner

Eating together as a family is VERY important to me. The three of us sitting down together for a meal is something I really look forward to. And Sunday dinners are really and truly the greatest moments of my whole week. 

Loads of research exists about the importance of the family dinner, not only for the part it plays in family dynamics and a child’s well being but also in regards to their palates and their sense of food adventure. 

[See here and here and here for just a few sources.]

We are a family of eaters.

Our family get-togethers revolve around food. Anniversaries and birthdays are always celebrated by a favorite dish. We have “food parties”  which basically entail a bunch of us getting together to drink beer and make things like pierogies or pasta. When Mike and I travel the first thing I research is food. We have been known to drive hours out of our way to sample a local delicacy.

We love food. Well, Mike doesn’t care for raw tomatoes and I don’t care for olives but we like just about everything else. But one thing I really don’t like – picky eaters. UGH! Having a kid who is a picky eater is one of my greatest fears.

Since my day-job is all about reference and research I have been known to research something to death. That is what I did when it was time for Ellie to start on solid foods; I researched the topic to death. I read all about suitable foods and when to give what but the thing that really stuck with me was something I read again and again and again – sit down with your kids and feed them what you are eating. Let them watch you eat and then give it to them to try for themselves.

So far that has been our strategy and I am pretty pleased to say that Ellie will try (and enjoy) just about anything. I’m not so naive as to think that this won’t ever change. Most kids are known to go through a picky phase but I can handle it as long as it’s a short phase and not a life style.

I used to make some pretty elaborate meals back in the pre-Ellie days. Mike and I have always eaten well and I pride myself on being able to make some pretty kick ass meals on a limited budget. But things are different now. I don’t have tons of time after work to prep and cook and sit back for a leisurely 8pm dinner with wine or cocktails.


I have a day job that puts me home, after picking up Ellie, around 5:30 (summer) or 6:00 (regular academic calendar). Ellie is hangry by 6:30-6:45 and goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00. I don’t want to spend all the time I do have with her in the evenings cooking dinner. I want to play outside and read books and walk around the yard identifying bugs and throwing scratch at the chickens in addition to sitting down to dinner together.

But prepping and cooking dinner every single night? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My new strategy is to get as much done for the following day as possible after she goes to bed. Sunday night I got to work on Monday’s dinner. I had made BBQ sauce earlier in the day for our Sunday dinner of chicken wings so I had that to work with for Monday. I par-boiled some fingerling potatoes until they were fork tender and then once cool I put them in the fridge. And I roasted two whole chicken legs in the oven until they were juuuuust about done. Then those went in the fridge. I also shucked the sweet corn so it would be ready to go.

Monday I put on the water for the corn and fired up the grill. I tossed my fingerling potatoes in some olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh rosemary and got those on the grill. I slathered my roasted chicken legs in bbq sauce and got those on the grill (lowish heat) to warm through. I boiled the corn and cut up some garden cukes while Mike gathered some blackberries.

In 30 minutes we were seated together at the picnic table to a dinner of BBQ chicken, grilled potatoes, sweet corn, cucumber spears, and blackberries.

We were really hungry hence the post-dinner photo.

table2Look at me! I’m super mom! really can have it all! 

No. I am not that woman.

There are plenty of days when I am too tired to prep the night before or it’s getting close to grocery day and we’re rockin’ Old Mother Hubbard’s pantry. Or I just plain don’t feel like doing anything after El’s in bed and instead I sit on the couch with a lemon ice or a fudge round.

There are plenty of days Ellie has mac-n-cheese from a box (gasp!) or black beans from a can (the horror!) or even a pan fried piece of lunch meat ham (the humanity!) but when that is the case we eat the fried ham, canned beans, and boxed mac-n-cheese right alongside her and we all share the adventures of our day.

I know not everyone can sit down to dinner every night. But even just a couple nights a week can really make a difference so I encourage you to do your best to sit down as a family (or sit down by yourself) to a nice meal away from all screens and distractions and just focus on yourself, each other, and something good to eat.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cooperstown, NY has got it right!

This past weekend Mike and I traveled to Cooperstown, NY with his sister and brother-in-law to see John Prine and the Avett Brothers at Brewery Ommegang. To say the show was great would be an understatement. It was FANTASTIC! John Prine blew my damn mind and I could’ve listened to him play for like 3 hours. He is a living legend, people!

The venue was great – the music was incredible and the beer and food were top notch. We’re used to $9 shit domestics at venues like Blossom here in Ohio. But Ommegang served their delicious, delicious brews for just $5! And they served up great Belgian style eats along with fellow vendors Dinosaur BBQ (oh…the wings….), Catskill Food Company , Origins Cafe, and others.

But the show was the capstone of the weekend and we had plenty of good times and good eats pre-show too. Let’s talk about the good eats….

We left Friday evening after work and made it to Rochester before crashing at a Holiday Inn. Saturday morning we woke up early and my sister-in-law led the way to the Frog Pond. Oh man. A killer, extra spicy (virgin) bloody mary, eggs benedict with ham and cheese, and a few bites of the table’s banana caramel pancakes were a helluva a way to start the day!

frog pond

With full bellies we headed to Cooperstown and the Aalsmeer Motel. What a gem! A 1950s-esque, family owned (3 generations!) no frills “resort” on the shores of Lake Ostego. It was PERFECT!


After sitting on the dock and soaking our feet in the cool, crystal clear lake water and enjoying the view we decided to head into downtown Cooperstown for some provisions.


We hit Danny’s Market and picked up some excellent sandwiches. And then we saw a sign for the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market! Woohoo!

Boy, do they know how to do it in Cooperstown! We were there at 1pm (market closes at 2pm) so a lot of people had already sold out but I noticed some real gems.

Fresh caught trout!!


Something this awesome is absolutely prohibited at Ohio markets. You can’t sell fresh caught fish or foraged anything. A damn shame!!

Gorgeous peonies!


Gin! Vodka! Bourbon!


The Cooperstown Distillery had a table complete with TASTINGS! Yes, you heard me right. You could taste the booze. No alcohol of any kind is permitted at Ohio markets. Ugh, what a shame! I had a sip of the gin and I was sold – my souvenir from this trip was a delightful bottle of Fenimore Gin. Come October I’m going to enjoy a delightful gin & tonic and think fondly of this trip!

And finally, the best thing I saw – eggs done right!


Room temperature, right from the hens AS NATURE INTENDED! In Ohio, farmers have to wash all of their eggs and sell them out of a cooler or a refrigeration unit of some kind – eggs like this are absolutely prohibited and I find that to be the biggest damn shame of all.

I have gone on and on about how eggs are the perfect food – nature gives them to us in their own little, perfect package and then the powers that be make us ruin that package before they allow them for sale. Ugh. Sickening. Heartbreaking! But NOT in Cooperstown, NY! In Cooperstown you can get your eggs just as nature intended and this nearly brought a tear to me eye!

After the market we headed back to the Aalsmeer to enjoy our sandwiches and a gorgeous lake view.


We ate, laughed, drank cold beers, and soaked up the sun – a perfect afternoon capped off with fantastic live tunes. John Prine, dude. If you’re not in the know you need to get there. Now! Right Now!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old School Strawberry Jam

I made it out to the pickin’ patch (aka Walnut Drive Gardens) Sunday morning and scored roughly 9lbs of sweet, glorious, Ohio strawberries. Mmm….

Diane and I decided that they were just too good to solely be used for jam so we split 5lbs for ourselves and the remaining 4lbs were destined for jam. Classic, old school strawberry jam. My go-to recipe is from my treasured Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.

4lbs of berries, 2 1/2lbs of sugar, and lots of lemon juice and stirring.

Strawberries are a notorious low pectin fruit and most people jam them using commercial pectin or in combination with higher pectin fruits (like citrus). Jamming low pectin fruits on their own, without commercial pectin, takes time. A lot of time. In the case of this classic, old school strawberry jam we’re talking roughly three hours start to finish. Whew!

I washed, hulled and halved the strawberries and added them to my dutch oven along with the sugar and about 3 1/2 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Over medium low heat I stirred constantly until the berries started releasing their juice and there was some gentle foaming. This took about 35 minutes or so.

Then I gradually raised the heat until we were at full force and the berries were boiling vigorously.  This stage requires near constant stirring as well because if you’re not careful the berries can scorch and stick – no good. The jam boiled for about a half an hour and and then I continued to cook the jam for another thirty minutes, again stirring almost constantly.

At this point the jam was shiny, dark red and a bit thick. I added another 2 ounces of lemon juice and cooked just another 5 minutes or so. I tested the doneness via the ol’ spoon in the freezer test and skimmed the remaining foam.

Then it was into the jars and into the water bath canner. Well, minus the few tablespoons I saved for myself. Oh man, soooooooo tasty!!

Strawberry_PicMonkey CollageI am torn on this one. It is so much work and there isn’t too terribly much money to be made. Should we hoard it all for ourselves or share the love at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market? I’m still undecided….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The first taste of summer!

Even though summer doesn’t technically start until June 21 many people mark the start of summer with Memorial Day Weekend. I do start to feel summery around then but the real mark of summer, for me anyways, is the arrival of strawberries.

Oh how I love those sweet little gems. I crave them all year long, especially when I bite into a gigantic, tasteless, out of season, imported berry. In-season Ohio strawberries are some of the best in the world. I will eat them till my belly hurts and then eat some more. They are perfect and one of my very favorite things on earth.


MorningDewStrawbs2Saturday marked the first day of strawberry season at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market thanks to Doug of Morning Dew Orchards. We knew these babies would sell out fast so Diane and I each snagged some as soon as he was open for business.

My favorite local pickin’ patch, Walnut Drive Gardens, isn’t picking yet but I’m checking their website everyday. Doug’s berries are delicious but pick your own means more berries for less money so I gotta go with what makes sense.

At the end of the market on Saturday our new market neighbor Mrs. Hyde of Hyde Park Farms very graciously gave me some rhubarb odds and ends. Woohoo! In turn, I swapped her some of our Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (made with the rhubarb I bought from her last time) and purchased a pack of her baby beef T-bone steaks.

When we got home from the market Saturday we laid a blanket out in the yard and enjoyed some berries. Ellie has really enjoyed eating those imported, tasteless berries I mentioned earlier so I was pretty excited to give her some local strawberries.

She enjoyed them with gusto! Red juice ran down her chin as she toddled around the yard. Her enjoyment brought a tear to my eye and together we ate an entire pint of berries.


So I was left with a pint of berries and a bit of rhubarb. Strawberries. Rhubarb. The obvious thing to do was bake a crisp.

During Ellie’s Sunday mid-morning nap I pulled out a great cookbook my sister & brother-in-law got me for Christmas – Susie Middleton’s Fresh From The Farm: A Year of Recipes and StoriesIt’s a pretty righteous book and her recipe for strawberry-rhubarb crisp with brown sugar-pecan topping sounded pretty damn good.

Update: it WAS damn good.

crisp for blogAnd even though it was like 40F today and we had to start the fireplace I’m still hopeful for summer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


I thought it would neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever get here! But it’s here! It’s here! And I love it. And I’d love share some of my favorite signs of spring around the farm.

My very favorite spring flowers are lily of the valley. We have a very large “patch” thanks to the previous homeowner (Thanks grandma!). It is my favorite spring smell and they are just so delicate and beautiful. But they are also very fleeting. I feel like they bloom for a very short amount of time so I try to pick some every day and enjoy them.

015_daylilliesMore spring flowers! I’m not sure what the tall purple ones on the left are – anyone know? They’re perennial (thanks grandma!). The iris are also starting to bloom and my lupines are starting to bloom too. I love lupines. They’re gorgeous cone flowers and I planted several last year after buying them on a whim at Klettlinger’s Greenhouse.

Truth be told, the nerd in me also liked the name due to my affection for Professor Lupin.


And even more signs of spring – we planted some red, yellow, and white onions in one of our raised beds and on the bottom right – buttercups! And another one of my favorite flowers, peonies, are juuuuust starting to bloom. Peonies are another fleeting flower and it seems like they always get beat down by a hard spring rain the second they bloom.


And probably my favorite sign of spring – good eats! Specifically, our OWN good eats!


We have romaine, green leaf, red leaf, and butter crunch lettuces going like gang busters in our new raised bed. Woohoo!

Saturday was the official kick off to the outdoor season of the Haymaker Farmers’ Market. So not only does that mean we’re back at it selling our delicious jams and spreads and gorgeous hypertufas but it also means I am now able to buy loads of local eats (and basically spend all of my profits).

My pal Ami at Breakneck Acres butchered her first round of broiler chickens and she had fresh broilers available at the market this week. You may be asking, “Don’t you guys have chickens?” Well, yes. We do. But the only birds in our freezer are roosters and spent layers and I wanted a killer roast bird, not a stewing hen. So I got a broiler.

I picked up a delicious baguette from Trigo’s Bakery and some rhubarb from Hyde Park Farms (rhubarb cobbler – YUM!).  And my in-laws hooked me up with a big bag of absolutely fantastic asparagus. All of this plus our lettuce and we had the fixin’s for a ‘taste of spring’ Sunday dinner.


I roasted the bird a la Thomas Keller Ad Hoc At Home style. I let the bird sit out on the counter for about an hour and a half to come up to room temperature. I stuffed the bird with fresh thyme, a couple of smashed garlic cloves, and plenty of salt and pepper. I rubbed the outside with a little canola oil and seasoned very liberally with salt and pepper. I trussed the bird, added a few pats of soft butter to the breast, and nestled it on a bed of cubed potatoes and onions. Then I roasted that sucker, gently sauteed some asparagus with shallots and fresh lemon juice, and made a quick salad of several lettuces and Parmesan cheese.

Spring is here. And it tastes delicious!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Playhouse for Peeps

This is the playhouse.

002_playhouseIt’s called the playhouse because we used to play in it as kids. I think my dad and aunts and uncle may have played in it too. If you look to the right you can see where the roof connects to the wood shed – underneath that there is a brick path and there is a window in the side of the playhouse. We spent a lot of hours playing ‘drive thru’ as kids.

Before this was the playhouse it was a chicken coop. I believe there were four of these little coops towards the back of the property; I’m not sure of the exact spot. I guess once my grandparents (or great grandparents?) were done with having so many chickens they got rid of these coops. But someone was smart enough to realize one of them would make a great playhouse so they moved it up closer to the house and fixed it up for play.

Ellie is too small for the playhouse. Plus, there is an amazing spot back behind the buildings where Mike wants to eventually build her a playhouse. It’s a small pine forest and it’s so cool – the perfect spot.

Thus, it was time to re-purpose the playhouse. It was time to take it back to its original glory.

Every year we end up with peeps in a giant rubbermaid tub in our basement. Then they get big enough to fly out but not big enough to move in with the other chickens and we have peeps all over the place. Mike and I are both very, very sick of this arrangement so we finally decided to do something about it. It was decided that the playhouse of my childhood would become the brooder of my adulthood.

We cleaned it out and salvaged materials from around the farm. We lined the floor with heavy duty plastic and Mike put up a frame to support a small door and a wall of chicken wire.

003_blog pic

We found an old screen (maybe for the house but no longer in any condition to use for that now) and it worked perfectly as a door.

Mike did a little electrical work and then we laid down wood chips, hung a feeder, waterer, and heat lamp and then added our 4 peeps.


Here’s a close up of the peeps through the chicken wire.

006_finished02Ellie’s grandpa ordered her a dozen turkey poults and those will be arriving mid-June. This will be the perfect spot for them, along with anything else that hatches in the meantime.

While working on the brooder I also managed to wash our sheets and blankets and hang them on the line, the first line dried items of the season. Oh man. Line dried sheets are one of my very favorite things.


After we finished up we did a few other small projects around the yard and house and then called it quits to enjoy some roasted brussel sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, and meatloaf.

And now it’s Sunday night again. Sheesh. Sometimes it feels like it is always Sunday night.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment