Simplest sweet corn!

Usually, when making something for dinner, one of the thoughts to inevitably pass through my head is, "Is this something that I can take to work for lunch tomorrow?" The bagged-lunch dilemma ensues. Refrigerated or not, it needs to taste good when I eat it/warm it back up. I'm not by any means a fan of leftovers, with the exception of those that improve after a day or two such as chili or lasagna. Corn, on the other hand, I thought would be just fine for next-day snacking, if I made more than I needed.

I've been on a bit of a vegetable bender, which, I'll be the first to admit, is a) accidental and b) not typical. I don't eat many veggies -- not plain, and not usually by choice. I like them, sure. But I like them fresh and local, and if there aren't any, I'm not interested. And unless I need broccoli for a recipe, I won't buy it. I'm just not a garden-variety grocery store produce shopper, I guess.


But this summer, as the farmers markets have been going and I know a couple of people with CSAs that provide more than enough produce to go around, I've found myself with all sorts of vegetables that I wouldn't have ever bought for myself. And crazy as it sounds, corn on the cob is one of those things. I've never bought corn on the cob, ever.

I can still say I've never bought it -- it was given to me. But now I can't say that I never prepared it for myself either, at least from something other than a can. (Eeeeep!)

When my parents used to make corn on the cob for dinner during summers as a kid, eating it off the cob was great, but it was always a special treat when mom would cut the kernels off with a sharp knife so that I could eat it with a fork and not worry about getting it in my teeth. I always enjoyed how it sliced off in little sheets, looking almost honeycomb-ish. This wasn't the usual way of eating it, though, and it takes a little extra patience to slice al the kernels off when it's perfectly fine to eat with skewers stuck in the ends of the cob. But for whatever reason, the scarcity of this mode of eating corn fresh off the cob made it my very favorite way to eat it.

So that's how I made it. :) Bring water in a large pot to boiling, drop in de-husked corn cobs in water for 7 minutes, remove and let cool just slightly, then with a sharp knife shave off the kernels. Toss in a bowl, melt a little bit of butter in there, salt and pepper to taste, nom nom nom nom. Haha.


Summer squash parmesan crisps.

My mother passed this recipe along, having used zucchini from her CSA and finding it to be a perfect way to use up a bunch of zummertime zucchini. (I didn't mean to type 'zummertime' but I'm leaving it.)

A coworker gave me a bag of delightful yellow summer squash the other day from her organic weekly produce haul, along with some kale -- I mentioned before how I'm not a huge kale fan, therefore I'm hoping to find a use for it before it goes bad. The summer squash, though, was too much to pass up. So I grabbed some parmesan and those magical little breadcrumbs known as Panko, and set to work making the easiest snack/side dish ever. It's perfect for as many people as you want to serve because you can make as little or as much as you want. For me, I made about two servings right off the bat, which was approximately one smallish-medium yellow squash.

Recipe adapted from blackjack bakehouse.

Summer Squash Parmesan Crisps

1-2 medium yellow squash or zucchini
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
a couple pinches of salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with tin foil and brush with a little olive oil or spray with vegetable/canola oil.

Slice squash into 1/4" thick slices and toss with olive oil in a medium-sized bowl, coating thoroughly.

In another small, shallow bowl, combine parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Coat the squash in the breadcrumb-parmesan mixture, pressing into the squash a little bit so that it sticks. They don't need to be completely coated.

Place the coated squash on the pan and then sprinkle the remaining breadcrumb-parmesan mix on top of the disks of squash for a crunchy, cheesy topping.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown, let cool just a little bit, and eat them straight away.

Serves 1-2.



Last night I pulled in after a whirlwind road trip to Iowa City, IA. The goal was visit this place, which was rad. We spent about an hour and a half there yesterday so that we could basically interrogate one of the owners (super, super nice girl) about her business and how they make it work. It's a craft supply store/workshop for sewers/knitters/printers/more. It's a pretty sweet idea, and they have a great setup there.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We took our time getting there... a six hour drive turned into closer to nine hours. We took all the scenic routes, only jumping on the freeways for short distances to catch up on time a little bit. Once we got down into the southwestern corner of Wisconsin, the drive became much more interesting. I used to drive around west of Madison in my spare time when I lived there, taking my camera with me down small country roads that curve around bluffs and hills in that area. This time, we went through Mineral Point to check out the Pendarvis Cornish Restoration site, which mom and I had both driven by before on separate occasions, but this time we stopped and did a self-guided tour.

I'm a sucker for historical sites.

It was quiet there that day, so we had the place mostly to ourselves. The woman at the gift shop was entertaining to talk to, and we left with Cornish saffron cake, old-fashioned sodas, and a recipe card for making not only the saffron cake, but Cornish pasties. Yummy. Can't wait for that!

We worked our way down toward the very northwestern corner of Illinois, where we stumbled upon Galena, another historic treasure that I didn't expect. We drove around in some of the neighborhoods where some pretty impressive old brick houses stood in good form, and then we walked around in the (touristy, but cute) downtown. We stopped into a couple vintage shops and a nice little yarn shop.

I was mostly impressed by the architecture, which is usually what draws me to these places. I wouldn't mind heading back there sometime to spend a little more time.

And to add to the other historical sites visited that day, we saw U.S. Grant's house, too. ;)

We kept driving on into Iowa, which was gorgeous in its midwestern way. It's high corn season, so the fields were full -- and a little unnervingly big when feeling a little lost in the country. The last time I was through Iowa was on I-80 en route to the west coast in 2003, so it's been a long time, and it was pleasant to be able to take it easy and drive the scenice Mississippi bluff scene routes.

I was pleasantly surprised by Iowa City. I'm thinking a lot of it had to do with the University of Iowa, which has an obvious presence there, even in the summertime. We had gelato at a total college-type coffee/ice cream place called Capanna (it was made all the more college-y because it was connected to a) a library, and b) a pizza place. Anyway, it was great. We stayed at the Sheraton downtown.

I have to say, I want to purchase all of Sheraton's furnishings. And not limited just to the bed, coverings, and desk chair, but this bathroom sink stand also:

It's pretty much the one thing on the Sheraton at Home shopping site that you can't purchase. Ha!

The drive home on Saturday was even longer, but I wouldn't have traded the curvy, scenic route we took for a quicker journey.

We stopped a few times to take in views and grab snacks, but mostly we enjoyed the view from the car and arrived back home around 9:30. A long day, but a fantastic little road trip. And as always, it was good to be home. :)


Cleaning house.

Is there really anything like the particular feeling of accomplishment that comes from cleaning one's house? My apartment goes through varies phases of unkemptness -- especially, as any pet owner can attest, with two animals that shed crazily this time of year. Sometimes I consider all the chinchilla fur I'm vacuuming up and I wonder how it's physically possible a chinchilla can even have that much fur. Add cat fur to the mix and I have to vacuum almost every day. Sad. Those pet roller things are my best friend, although to cut down on the waste they inevitably produce, I've repurposed an old bristle hairbrush for some of the fur-getting. Soo... I spent the afternoon, once I was out of work, tidying up, and I feel so much more at ease in an apartment that is clean and neat. There's just no underestimating what it's like to climb into a freshly-made bed, or sit at a kitchen table that isn't cluttered with work schedules, library books and mail.

Anyway. It's been a long few days, but I've got the next two off and I'm headed to Iowa. What is in Iowa? This place. In Iowa City. Mom and I are going on a road trip to visit it. And we'll probably stop places along the way that strike our interest. What can we do with a 12 hour round-trip drive to the mid-midwest in two days? We'll just have to wait and see...

And yes, South Korea is still happening!
At least I'm working toward it happening. I've got a phone interview scheduled with a recruiter in the beginning of next week, so I have plenty to read about and prepare for. Can't wait to get that out of the way and move on to what's next!

Foodie, foodie: I've got some kale (I'm not a huge fan of kale, but I might try to make some pesto) and some yellow summer squash, so I'll figure something to do with those next!


Cherry pie II.

It's cherry season, so I couldn't resist a pie-- even though my very first entry for this blog was a cherry pie. One cannot have too many cherry pies! The one I made first was a "light" version, ie. a much less buttery crust. I went all-out on this pie. Fresh cherries instead of filling, and a from-scratch basic butter pie crust.

So here goes yumthing...

The key to a really good berry pie lies in fresh berries. Right now, height of summer, blueberries and cherries are the key to excellence. ;) This pie could JUST as easily be done with blueberries (I made one last year).

And if you have fresh berries, you need something to hold them all together. Here's where the magic ingredient of pie filling comes in: cornstarch.

And then the crust, which can be daunting, if only because it seems so simple and yet can go so easily wrong. Simple ingredients, simple instructions, not a problem.

Cherry pie a la Kate.
Serves ~8, 9" pie pan

For the crust (makes enough for top and bottom):

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of cold butter
1/2 - 3/4 cup ice water

For the filling:

5 or 6 cups pitted fresh tart cherries, drained
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

Making the crust (make ahead up to two days, but at least an hour or two):

In a large shallow bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt. Cut up the butter into pieces and use a pastry cutter to break and mix the butter into the flour mixture. Combine until the butter pieces are mixed in and small, but they don't need to be consistent. The key to the flakiness of the crust lies in the butter being coated (not completely mixed to a pulp) with the flour. Add the ice water (no cubes) 1/4 cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon or your hands to start putting the dough together. Sprinkle a few drops of water as needed, but don't make the dough too wet. Knead it briefly until it forms one large ball of dough. It should be moist and pliable, not overly mushy. Separate the dough into two equal balls and wrap each one individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour -- three is better, at least -- before rolling.

Making the filling:

In a small saucepan on low heat, bring 1 cup of cherries and the granulated sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep from burning. Meanwhile, pour the rest of the cherries into a large bowl. In another small bowl, combine the cornstarch and the water until smooth.

Once the cherries in the saucepan come to a boil, whisk about 1/3 of the cherry mixture into the cornstarch bowl and stir. Replace the saucepan on the stove and return to a boil. Once mixture is boiling, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Stir the mixture over low heat until it becomes syrupy and thick -- this can take a little while, have patience! Scrape this thick cherry syrup from the saucepan over the top of the cherries in the large bowl, and fold in.

Putting the pie together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack at the lowest level.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place each piece on a floured surface, lightly flouring the top as well. Roll out to make a circle 11" or so in diameter. Place it in the bottom of the pie pan and press lightly to make sure it fits firmly. Pour the filling into the pie shell, spreading evenly. Place the second layer of rolled dough over the top of the pie (if you like, you can cut the dough for the top into strips and weave them to make a proper design) and press around the edges with your fingers to connect the bottom and the top layers of dough and to make sure there is no excess hanging off the sides. Trim with a paring knife if necessary.

Poke a few holes with a fork in the top of the pie and bake for a total of 50 minutes. If after about 40 minutes the top of the pie has not started to become golden, move the rack to the top of the oven for the last ten minutes or so to brown.

Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature -- great with ice cream or whip. ;) Or plain! The crust is so good you don't need any accompaniment.

Et voila! :D

Soundtrack to this baking adventure: The Decemberists'


Cherry chicken.

This is just worth mentioning because it's super yummy, even though it's not exactly a
recipe. At the grocery store the other day, on a whim, I bought chicken breast that had been seasoned with a Door County cherry rub. Normally, I don't buy pre-seasoned things, and I'll admit that I thought it was a little bit salty. But, hey, not everything can be perfect, right? I did like a little bit of salt with the sweet/tart taste of the cherries, but not too much.

Anyway, my favorite way to have chicken breast is to pan-fry on medium heat so that it cooks kind of slowly and stays really, really juicy inside. Then, since I have a big bowl of tart cherries sitting here waiting to be put into a pie, I decided to sprinkle some over the chicken. No sauce required -- these little cherries are usually pretty juicy, so they're good to kind of mash up a little bit and spread on the chicken.

Anyway. It was delicious. I had to share. :)


I was going to go blueberry picking today, but plans fell through -- it is also HOT OUT THERE. Although the heat is not going to keep me from heading over to the local annual art fair, where my dad is displaying his paintings again this year. Going to art shows always brings me back to teenage summers when I used to accompany my dad to art fairs around the state and the midwest -- the most fun were always the furthest away. ;)


Back on track.

So, where have I been the last week?

Where haven't I been?

Well, blogging. (Sorry!) :)

But here I am! It's Friday, it's a gorgeous, warm, end-of-July day and I'm listening to James Newton Howard's original score for the film The Village, and loving this afternoon. In fact, the last few days have been simply lovely.

It starts with friends, and goes on with family, and even further with the prospect of new and exciting things to come. As I mentioned, South Korea is definitely on the docket. I've been putting in my resume where I can, and keeping my eye out for positions once they start opening up for February. I'm in no position to go on any emergency-hire expediency-required last-minute escapes to the other side of the globe, but I'm hoping not to wait longer than February. Until then, there's plenty of other applications, interviews, and paperwork to do before any packing/moving/traveling happens. Of course, updates galore to come where all that's concerned! Right now, it's a waiting game and not much more.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had some really good times with some of my greatest friends. One really fantastic friend is working his last day at the bookstore
tomorrow, so it has been bittersweet lately. It's so hard to see people go that I get along with so well -- it makes such a huge impact on daily goings-on, even (especially?) at work when you are with them many hours every day, every week. It's interesting to, for once, experience the feeling of being left. Historically, I never stuck around any one place as long as I've been here again, and I became accustomed to being the one who gave everyone else the news that I was leaving. I was the leaver, always. Now... I'm being left. It's an interesting sensation to finally catch up with how that feels on the other end.

The beauty of distance is the ability to communicate through letters.

Earlier on in the week, I got my hands on my first real cataloging project at the museum, which entailed a collection of 1940s dental hygiene and food values posters. Weird! But really funky -- and kind of disturbing in a going-to-the-dentist-makes-me-cringe sort of way. So the culmination of all of my "training" there has come down to this one first all-me project that includes cleaning, writing up condition reports and informational worksheets, photographing, and entering data into the computerized database. It's all very nice, actually. I'm convinced I couldn't do this sort of solitary work full time, but it's nice to have a chunk of time on Monday mornings to put toward something like this. And the whole point of the museum volunteering stint was to figure out if I loved it anyway, so... question answered. ;)

Anyway. Yesterday, my mom, sister and grandmother drove the couple hours northeast to Door County to check out an antique store. However, due to:

...I was running on fumes and could hardly stay awake for more than ten consecutive minutes in the car, or walking around an antique mall, for that matter. I had my camera with me, but was in no mood to be much of an imagist. Possibly, the one benefit of being terribly hungover and running on literally a half hour of sleep (at 8am), was that absolutely nothing was interesting enough to want to buy. However, I came away with some spoils! They were one major reason for going in the first place. Little red glories, that Door County is famous for:

Both sweet and tart cherries, the tart ones are best for pie, which I'll make soon. And the sweet ones are just for snacking, or adding to the pie for extra filler. So excited! So yummy.

We had lunch at a little place in Sister Bay, WI called the Mission Grille where I had a grilled cheese with tomato and pesto. I've been there once before and it's been delicious both times. It was a beautiful day to be by the lake yesterday.

Tonight, a ladies' night ensues for a majority of the girls at the bookstore. One of them is leaving us very soon to go back to college, so we're out to a local Irish pub for some yummy ale... or whatever. ;)

Happy summer! We're in the thick of it now.