The small, sweet stuff of life

You may remember that we had a big jam and jelly making session a few weeks ago.  One jar each of strawberry jam and raspberry jelly didn’t seal, so I put them in the fridge to be enjoyed right away.

In the summer, I usually eat my breakfast long before anyone else – I’m the official morning person of the family, and especially in good weather, actually enjoy the morning chores; the bonus of rising early, besides all the beauty, is the peace and quiet of some toast and tea with a book before the noise and hubbub of the day begin.  I hope you see how this might relate to the jam and jelly.

I had reached that part of the day in which I’ve tucked my bookmark into the pages, grabbed the laundry basket and got started.  The others had by then meandered in and out for their own breakfasts, and my husband brewed up a pot of coffee for us to share before he headed out for work.  We’re not at our conversational best in the mornings – I may say I’m a morning person, but this describes my ability to get up early consistently, not much else.  My husband is not a morning person, no matter how you define it.

So we idly discussed the weather, errands, and our preferences for raspberry jelly or strawberry jam.  And things got heated, right there.  Because though we tasted them both from a spoon when we first made them, I have only been eating the strawberry jam on my morning toast.  And he didn’t believe me.  The jar of raspberry was almost empty, I must have been eating it without noticing.  How could I NOT notice the difference, I protested?  I have definitely been eating the strawberry.  Besides, one is jam, with mashed fruit in it, the other is jelly, no fruit, though as I say that I realize that the fruit in the jam was all at the top, the bottom half is pretty much jelly.  He showed me the half empty jar from the fridge.  At this point, I’m thinking:  wow, married more than 20 years, and we can still have the dumbest discussions… “Fine. Whatever.  I guess I didn’t notice the difference” (I CANNOT believe I can’t tell the difference).  He’s practically euphoric – caught the locavore bluffing,  how great is that!  And we settle back with our coffee and chat about less controversial stuff like politics instead.

Then yesterday, he pulled both jars out of the fridge, and apologized.  Turns out he didn’t realize both jars were in there.  He thought we’d finished the strawberry a week ago.  I was gracious and nice about it.  I smiled, and enjoyed my coffee…and the moment.

This morning for breakfast, on my own as usual, I had bread and butter and jam for breakfast.  Actually jam AND jelly.  Just a little taste test.

Whew.  Yup, I can definitely tell the difference.  If he ever blindfolds me on this one, I’ll be fine.  Isn’t it great when you can let the small stuff go?

Can you tell the difference?

Summer supper

We’re getting some hot days at last up here in the PNW, and enjoying them (it’s the novelty :)).  While it’s been warm enough most nights for the past few weeks to eat outside, deciding what to cook in order to minimize the amount of heat generated in the house is still a pretty new thing this season.  Friday was one of those days.  I had a day off, but had a ton of stuff to do around the place, and didn’t want to spend half the day coming up with a good meal.  On the other hand, I had a day off, and I wanted to end it with…a good meal.  What to do?

Homemade pizza!  We had all the fixings easily to hand, so I threw the bread machine on at 4pm, and left it to do it’s stuff.  At 530, the dough was ready.  I chopped up the onion my neighbour passed over the fence the day before, sauteed the white part and chopped the green for garnish.  Sauteed the red pepper that came from the local greenhouse grower that sells at the farmers market.  Diced some leftover ham (from the last ham in my freezer from the side of pork we bought last year), chopped up some garlic scapes, added them to the sautee pan.  A few spoonfuls from the jar of tomato sauce were spread on the dough, we grated some cheddar and mozza (from BC companies, but not terribly local otherwise), threw it all together and put it in the oven.  Where, by the way, I had placed the frozen meat pie made by a friend who sells them at the market (this is her home business – she makes pies, meat and fruit, for you to bake at home) in the preheating oven to start baking.  Because I used a slightly cooler oven (about 375 F), I cooked the pizza about 20 min, so that I wouldn’t overbrown the pie, and left the pie in for another 20 min while we ate.  Thanks to this forethought, on Saturday, we didn’t have to turn the oven on at all, nor did anyone have to cook – win/win!

We have salad pretty much every night through the summer months, and this year have been having it entirely out of our garden.  This one has some baby chard, the last of the romaine lettuce, which is bolting, but which served me well for 2 months, some chopped cuke (ok, not out of my garden, but from my neighbour), radishes, and some chives.  And as a garnish, 6 baby carrots from the thinning I did while dinner was in the oven.

We learned in Europe last summer that the only dressing a good salad needs is olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Now, we often just place the two bottles on the table and add a bit of each to our salad as we did in Europe, but if there’s time, we’ll make up a small batch of vinaigrette, which is what you see here.  Making our own dressing has really cut down on junk in the fridge door, given us more space on the pantry shelves (this was something we used to buy on sale and store), and has a whole lot less additives.  Saves money, and stops plastic going in the landfill.  We feel OK buying really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar to use just for this purpose, since both have great shelf life compared to a bottle of prepared dressing.  I admit I do still hanker after a creamy caesar dressing occasionally, but those can be made too it turns out…

Dinner together is always a time when we chat and share our day.  While we might admonish one of the girls about some flagrant table manner misdemeanour, we avoid picking on the small stuff while at the table, and focus on just enjoying the time and the food together.  Especially in the summer, when we’re sitting outside like this, we tend to linger after we’ve eaten,  perhaps a second glass of wine on the go (for some of us!).  Even in the winter, we don’t usually rush through the meal, but take our time.  We do have activities that force us out the door right after dinner, but I would say 6 out of 7 nights will find all four of us at the table.  Stuck in my mind is the memory of a friend of ours who came to pick up eggs at dinner one night several months ago (we eat a bit later than most folks to accomodate our work schedules), and on seeing us all round the table, commented that it was something that never happened at their house.  With 4 kids, all in different activities, himself a competitive rower and his wife a Wolf Cub and Girl Guide leader, he said dinner was more like a race to ingest nutritious material than what he saw before him.

We all make lifestyle choices that suit ourselves and our families.  One style is not necessarily more right than another.  Our friends are active, fit (fitter than me, for sure), and healthy.  Sometimes I envy their energy levels and vitality, but when he made that comment, I saw the look in his eye, and I know he sometimes envied us too, and it made me realize that what we have is pretty great too.

Potluck dinner

“Bring your own chair and something yummy to share”.

If, like me, you have chickens and sell eggs, what do you take to parties like this?   Why, Devilled Eggs of course!

Now, I am not the best devilled egg maker in the family.  My big effort at making them special was to sprinkle chives on top.  My husband and older daughter each have “secret” ingredients – one uses anchovy paste, one uses tabasco, and I must say their devilled eggs do have that extra zip.  My simple recipe didn’t seem to matter, though.  I brought home an empty dish.

How about you?  What’s your standby for potlucks?  Secret ingredient?