It’s a Puffball!

For several days something that appeared to be a mushroom sprang up in the yard and got bigger and bigger and bigger until it was larger than my head.  Thinking to trash it before it took over, I pulled it off the ground and was blown away by how much it weighed.  When I started looking at it, trying to recall my limited mushroom knowledge, the first thing I noticed was it didn’t have any gills.  

Curious now, I took it inside and cut it in half to find that it was dense from top to bottom.  Now, really puzzled, I posted this photo on Facebook and asked for someone to identify it.  Immediately, several Maine folks informed me it was a puffball mushroom that was deliciously edible.

I wasted no time experimenting, first sautéing it in butter to get a feel for the taste.  It was quite mild with a very nice flavor.   Since then it has been used in scrambled eggs and spaghetti sauce and added to stir fried veggies, all of which worked beautifully.

So far so good with no ill effects which led me to think about a soup.  Now, that was a real winner.  The hubby went so far as to say it was the best mushroom soup he’d ever had and that’s something since he loves the one we learned on one of our Foodie Adventures with Michael Salmon.

Quite honestly, to make the soup I just started throwing ingredients…celery, a couple of small potatoes and baby carrots…in the pot and simmered them in chicken stock.  For seasoning, I used a garlic/herb mix, onion powder, dried fire roasted tomatoes, salt and pepper.  When the veggies were tender, I added about 5 cups of puffball, broken into small pieces, and let it cook for a few minutes longer.  While the cooking continued, I used an immersion blender to puree the mix.  At the last minute a cup or so of milk was added.  

Now, for the taste test….scrumptious!  It was just the right thickness with flavor that made taste buds sing.  I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever be lucky enough to have another puffball volunteer in the yard, but my fingers are crossed because I have ideas for a few more things to try.  If you’ve had experience with this unusual mushroom, do share.

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Blueberries Any Way

blueberriesThe season for those sweet little wild Maine blueberries has come and gone, but each year I pick/buy enough to last until the next season.  They freeze beautifully which ensures that we can have all our favorite things made with them.

Blueberry muffins are always on hand as they are oh so good with morning coffee.  

They are especially good topped with lavender blueberry jam which is also a great topping for ice cream or panna cotta.

Scones oozing with blueberries are a special treat for Sunday brunch.

When the kids come to visit, their favorite is blueberry pancakes with GrandP’s secret syrup, better known as maple syrup.

As yummy as other things are our hands down favorite is blueberry crisp.  Sometimes it’s all blueberries, but it’s equally good with peaches or with mixed berries.

I’ve been making this crisp since I was a teenager thanks to the recipe shared by our next door neighbor.  For that reason, I always call it Miss Myrtle’s pie.  Since she was generous enough to share her recipe, I will share it with you and hope it becomes one of your favorite desserts.

Blueberry Crisp

4 c. blueberries, peaches or mixed fruit

1/3 c. sugar

1 heaping T. flour, cornstarch or tapioca

1 t. lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a pie pan or baking dish.

For the topping, combine 1 c. flour, 1 c. sugar and 1/2 c. brown sugar.  With a fork, add a slightly beaten egg and mix until the dry ingredients are crumbly.

 Sprinkle on top of the fruit and generously dot with butter.  Bake at 350 until the topping is nicely browned.

There you have it.  At our house we like cinnamon so I often add a teaspoon to either the fruit or the berries.  Of course, the finishing touch is a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Hmm, I can taste it now, so I’m going to the kitchen and get started.

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Now For the Rest

Now that you’ve seen my friend’s lovely gardens, lets take a quick look inside where we gathered for a delightful lunch after meeting the chickens.

Walking in, one immediately gets a sense of energy and good cheer.  Both are characteristics of the people who live there.

The table is ready for us to sit, but first I want to share a few favorite vignettes.

There are collections so representative of Maine treasures.

IMG_9273I’m crazy for the framed piece by Lynn Karlin who I am taking a workshop from in a couple of weeks.

Among the wonderful spaces is a screened porch with views to a garden area and Maison Poulet.

Relaxed seating makes me think of whiling away a summer afternoon with a good book.

Getting back to the table, you can bet I like these dishes since I have the same and use them frequently.  They are perfect  here as they pick up the design and colors of the table.

There’s no need for an elaborate setting, and the little sprinkler cans filled with flowers from the lush gardens are just right

as is the natural placemat.

Hmmm, I think it’s time to see what’s going on in the kitchen where a garden fresh salad is being tossed to accompany poached salmon.  You know, it just doesn’t get any better than enjoying good food and conversation with a group of interesting women.

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Just the Two of Us

For the first time in several weeks, it’s just the hubby and me at home.  That means some relaxed moments on the porch enjoying the sunset over Rockport Harbor.  The days are getting shorter now, and the colors are deepening as summer begins to wane.

When it’s just the two of us, life is pretty simple.  Breakfast is a bowl of cereal or a smoothie or this time of year a blueberry muffin to go with coffee.  Lunch is whatever, maybe a sandwich, maybe hummus with crackers and cheese.  Nothing fancy for sure.

When it comes to dinner, it’s still simple, but a bit more effort goes into making it more than a stand up meal.  Always, there are flowers gathered from the garden or from the side of the road.

Whatever dishes are used are meant to complement the runner or placemats that are on the table.  This night they were from Dollar Tree which is a great place for picking up new pieces inexpensively.  No tears are shed when a plate gets broken!

It was a piece of cake to finish this table by adding accessories that repeated the colors in both the plates and the cloth.

As silly as my kids think it is, I always use cloth napkins.  Maybe it’s my contribution to saving trees and reducing what goes to the landfill!  Besides, it’s so easy to tuck them into a napkin ring which makes their presentation a bit more special.

So, that’s the table.  Now, what about dinner?  More often than not, we have seafood which is local and fresh. 

One of our favorites is scallops, likely to have been brought in from the sea that day.  They are at their best when seared quickly on each side to preserve their sweet goodness.  This night they were served over corn risotto with a simple green salad on the side.  It doesn’t get better than that!

So, there you have it, just the two of us enjoying a relaxed night at home with a few touches that make it seem a little special.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Nothing to It!

Funny how sometimes there’s nothing to setting a table.  That is quite true of this one.  It started with a linen table runner I hadn’t used in some time.  

What drew me to it is the bird image as  I do have a thing for birds and bird houses!

It was a no brainer to add a bird house from the collection on the porch and  a little birdie that just happened to be sitting on the counter waiting to be used for something.

With so many flowers blooming in the yard, it was very easy to run out and clip a few to add a touch of color.  For me, there is no better way to arrange flowers than to stick a stem or two or three in bottles that are then grouped on the table.  

With the bird on the runner being stamped in black, there was no better choice for dishes than the black Ikea plates.  

Finishing off the table is a favorite simple napkin fold that works perfectly as a pouch for the flatware.

You know, it just doesn’t take much to make a simple dinner at home something special.  

And dinner was simple.  It was an Against the Grain pizza with pesto and mozzarella to which was added pears, bacon, pine nuts and blue cheese. 

Out of the oven, it was topped with arugula which made a salad unnecessary.  By the way, if you haven’t tried Against the Grain pizza, look for it in your frozen food section.  It is quite good, and as an extra bonus, it’s gluten free.

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Mixing It Up

Until recently I never thought of using these vases on the table, but once they landed there they’ve inspired several settings.  The colors lend themselves to many options and it’s so easy to refresh the flowers.This time around a table runner with some of my favorite colors is the background.

With these pieces on the table, it was easy to add others for a simple at home dinner with friends. Perfect color matches are in these dishes from Target. 

Though I often mix and match, this time I’m sticking with the coordinating salad plates and adding a napkin that introduces a variation in pattern but is true to the color way.

That’s all there is to it.  In less than 10 minutes, the table is set made easy by what was already there.  That is why I rarely leave a table top bare, and it doesn’t bother me at all if the same pieces are used multiple times. It’s fun to see how many different looks can be created from the same elements.

This dinner was preceded by a busy day, and that’s when a slow cooker comes in real handy.  Not only does it provide the freedom needed to do other things, it fills the house with tantalizing aroma.  For sure that was the case with these Asian Style Short Ribs that you just might want to try.

Asian Style Short Ribs

6 lbs. short ribs

salt and ground pepper

3/4 t. 5 spice powder

1/4 c. each hoisin sauce and ketchup

2 T. rice vinegar

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. fish sauce

1 T. honey

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 T. minced fresh ginger

5 cloves mince garlic

Season the ribs with salt, pepper and 5 spice powder.  Brown on all sides in a multipurpose cooker or broil until nicely browned.

Mix together remaining ingredients and place all in the cooker being sure to coat the ribs well with the hoisin mix.  Cover and cook on the low setting for about 6 hours or until the meat is very tender.  If the ribs are boneless, cooking time will be less.

For serving, place the ribs in a bowl or on a plate and moisten with some of the cooking liquid.  Garnish with Italian parsley or cilantro and chopped roasted peanuts or cashews.

Serves 6

I can assure you there will be no leftovers!

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Next: Cannoli

fullsizerenderStarting at Sicily’s Catania airport, I was in cannoli heaven!  I’m not sure why, but it is one of my favorite sweets and not a common menu offering in the States.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat really set cannoli in Sicily apart was having it made with fresh, creamy ricotta inserted into just made shells.

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After watching a demonstration of the whole process in Ragusa, I determined that cannoli was doable and would definitely be the dessert for the anticipated Sicilian gourmet gathering.

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The first step was ordering these little tubes around which the cannoli dough is wrapped for frying.  They allow the shells to hold their shape and to slide off easily once they are done.

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Making the shells requires a bit of elbow grease, a pasta maker or rolling pin and a lot of patience.  Might I add that’s it more fun with two as there is opportunity for lots of chuckles.  All done, there is quite a sense of accomplishment!

img_8232-1Most cannoli has a ricotta based filling that may have such as pistachios, candied fruit or chocolate chips as an added ingredient.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThinking that everyone would like it, I opted for a filling with chocolate chips and a subtle taste of orange.  If there is a best hint for making cannoli, it is to use a pastry tube to fill the shells otherwise it’s a messy process.

OK, there you have it, a perfect ending to a Sicilian dinner.  What made it especially fun was the arancini and the cannoli were firsts for some of the diners, and you know how hard it is to introduce new tastes to gourmands.

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Dishing It & Digging It