Spring ! Where art thou?

This may be the coldest start to spring in last 50 years but that’s okay, good things come to those who wait. As I shake off the last waves of winter hibernation the theme for me this spring is growing and blooming. I tend to take care of myself with a few standard practices and I could definitely do a better job with consistency. Some serious TLC is in order with warm cups of chamomile tea, yummy meditations and yoga sessions.  Here is a list of my 5 favorite spring things I want to experience this season.

1. Plant flowers and vegetables – I am dreaming of blush ruffle peonies and fresh garden lettuces. Check out my Gardening board on Pinterest for inspiration.

2. Learn more about Reiki – Energy work has had a profound effect on my life and I want to learn more. My Reiki Master, Lisa Meuser of Integrative Healing is an incredible healer and she has helped me break through patterns and energy blocks.

3. Paint the exterior of my house – A subtle and sophisticated shade of Green Blue is what I am dreaming. My favorite paint colors are from Farrow & Ball.

4. Travel – I am craving the calmness of BIG water. I want to enjoy a long weekend at a cottage on Lake Michigan, complete with magical walks along with beach with my honey and my pup.

5. Meditate – This is an anchor in my life. Currently I am working through a 21 day meditation guided by Oprah and Deepak Chopra. This is beautiful way to get started or reinvigorate your practice.

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Henry enjoying the daffodils last spring

Set your intentions for spring and let the Law of Attraction work its magic and abundance will bloom naturally. Share your plans with me in the comments, I would love to know what your soul is craving as the new season arrives.

Homemade Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tisane that has been around for centuries. Kombucha contains probiotics, enzymes and glucaric acid which aid in detoxification, improved digestion, increased liver function, cancer prevention, increased energy and more. Countries around the world value Kombucha for its major health benefits and wonderful taste. Kombucha is an excellent thirst quencher. It’s a great way to start out the day.

I have been buying 12 ounce bottles of Kombucha at $4 a pop for longer than I care to remember. Thanks to my friend Lisa, I now have a SCOBY and can brew my very own Kombucha at home for less than $1 per gallon. What is a SCOBY you ask? It is an active culture that creates Kombucha, often referred to as the mother. SCOBY stands for symbotic colony of bacteria and yeast. A single SCOBY can last a lifetime reproducing baby SCOBYS along the way. In China it’s tradition to give a SCOBY as a wedding gift. The bride will use that one SCOBY for the rest of her days.

SCOBY in Kombucha liquid – Thanks LISA!

You only need a few items to brew Kombucha:

  • 1 gallon glass jar –Here’s a TIP: check in at your favorite restaurant and see if they have an extra jar, often restaurants throw away or recycle several per day
  • organic white sugar- The ph is higher than cane sugar and better for brewing
  • organic tea, 5 to 10 small bags, depending on your strength preference – I chose green tea. Use pure teas, without fruit or herb oils
  • 1 gallon (or a little less) fresh, clean water
  • 1  SCOBY
  • 1 cup Kombucha liquid
  • 1 piece of cotton cloth that will cover the lid of the jar
  • 1 rubberband

Kombucha essentials: 1 gallon glass jar, 1 cup organic white sugar, organic green tea and a SCOBY in Kombucha liquid

Homemade Kombucha Recipe

1. Make the tea. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil, add tea bags and sugar. Let tea steep for 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Let the tea cool completely.

3. Pour the tea in the clean jar, leave an inch of room at the top.

4. Add one cup of Kombucha liquid from SCOBY jar or previous batch.

5. Place SCOBY on top of the liquid, gently.

6. Cover the jar with cloth and secure with a rubber band.

7. Place in a warm location (70 to 75 degrees) and let brew for 5 to 30 days. The longer it brews the less sweet and more potent the Kombucha will be.

8. Once finished brewing you can place it in smaller jars and refrigerate. Repeat the brewing process with the SCOBY and make more Kombucha! You should have a baby SCOBY appear every 1 to 2 batches. Pass one on to a friend and give them this recipe.

Combined ingredients ready for fermentation. The SCOBY is floating in the bottom half of the jar.

DRINK, ENJOY and BE HEALTHY!!!

5 things I Love right now

5 lovely things, in no particular order.

Local Pears & Blue Cheese

Pears & Blue Cheese

Our nice neighbor brought over some freshly picked pears from her tree (which we had been lusting after all summer) and I thought, should I make a tart or some maybe preserves? That didn’t happen, we slathered the juicy sun-blushed fruits with blue cheese and haven’t looked back. Cut a pear into wedges and serve alongside a chunk of blue cheese, serve with crackers or baguette if you so desire. This is a simple and easy cocktail hour nibble that is salty and sweet. I love fresh seasonal flavors and a ripe freshly picked pear is hard to beat.

 

Homemade Pepper Sauce

Homemade Pepper Sauce

The end of pepper season is here, make sure you put every last one to good use. Make my spicy Pepper Sauce and drizzle it over soups, chicken, eggs, pizza and just about everything else! Peppers past their prime are perfect for this sauce. Grab a clean 16 oz jar and fill it to the brim with peppers, leaving a few peppers whole and cutting a few lengthwise to place against the side of the jar for a pretty presentation. Add 3 cloves of cracked garlic. Bring 2 cups of white wine vinegar just to a boil and pour over the peppers. Let cool to room temperature before placing the lid, then refrigerate.

 

Wines from the Big Red Outlet

Big Red Outlet Store

This is THE place for really great wine deals. There is always something new to try and quality mid range wines are selling for less than $5 per bottle. This week I have enjoyed a tasty Viu Manent Malbec, typically costing around $15 for $3.99! I can’t wait to try the blend from Columbia Valley. The deals are deep and the cases sell out quickly. If you find something you like make sure and stock up.

 

Fennel

 City of Bloomington Animal Shelter

There are so many exciting things happening at the Animal Shelter right now! The 2012 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge is underway with a chance for the shelter to compete for more than $500,000 in grant funding, including the grand prize of $100,000. From August 1st thru October 31st the shelter is competing to find homes for more cats and dogs than during the previous year. Adoption specials run each day throughout the week from Muttly Mondays (all mixed breed dogs are $40) to Feline Fridays (all felines are free). We adopted a sweet baby kitten two weeks ago and her name is Fennel. I forgot what it is like to have a kitten in the house, she is wonderful!  If you can’t adopt right now, please consider donating to the cause, click here for more info.

 

Yummy Green Tea Kombucha Decaf

Yogi Green Tea Kombucha Decaf

Autumn is when I take a tea inventory and figure out what to purchase and what to toss out. My love for the magical probiotic properties of Kombucha made this decaf green tea a natural addition to my tea box. Mellow flavor with notes of passionfruit and plum I enjoy this tea served hot mostly in the afternoons with a little dollop of Hunter’s Farm Honey. Cheers!

Throw a Backyard Harvest Party

Checking out my article over lunch at Finch’s  (try the Goose the Market Tasso and Duck Fat Potato pizza at Finch’s, yum)

My article in the current issue of The Ryder was inspired by the abundance of local produce available. It is the most wonderful time of year to cook with local ingredients and the idea behind “Throw a Backyard Harvest Party” is to celebrate.  I threw a stylish party in my backyard that could be summed up as easily done. When ingredients are as delicious and fresh as they are right now not much prep is needed. Is there anything better than simple cooking and no fuss entertaining?

Please check out the magazine for the Harvest Party recipes. You will also find some tips that focus on entertaining, my style mixes high and low to create a memorable party.

Backyard Harvest Party Menu 

Blue Smoke Deviled eggs are inspired by my favorite BBQ joint in New York City, Blue Smoke. The eggs are creamy and full of flavor with a mustardy undertone.

What is a Harvest Party without a paying tribute to the most celebrated (in my house) summer fruit of all? Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta is so delicious with tomatoes, olive oil and basil over crusty grilled farm bread. You can’t beat it.

Grilled Fairy Tale Eggplant is a simple dish of tiny eggplant grilled over hot coals, brushed with olive oil and finished with kosher salt.

Ball Jar Local Beer Chicken served with Local Lemongrass Honey is delicious and so easy to prepare. This recipe is a play on beer can chicken. Use a pint size ball jar filled with your favorite local ale in place of a beer can, I chose Bloomington Brewing Company Ruby Bloom Amber. Whip up an infused honey with local lemongrass and slather it on the crispy chicken.

Pick up a copy of The Ryder and check out the article in its entirety. The magazine is available at most local businesses and is free!

Restaurant Review : La Torre

La Torre is a quaint Mexican restaurant on the eastside of Bloomington, very close to our new home. This summer I have spent countless hours enjoying the company of close friends on the terrace. We enjoy baskets of crispy corn tortilla chips, fresh salsa, tacos, carnitas, enchiladas and tasty drinks. The vibe is relaxed and the service is great. We dined there just last Saturday and Michael summed up our time spent at La Torre by saying “I feel like I am on vacation every time I sit on this patio.” This is why we go back again and again.

Mike enjoying “vacation”

La Torre highlights:

  • The welcome is always warm and inviting. The first interaction with staff sets the tone for the experience and La Torre gets it right.
  • Try the west terrace for great seating. The hanging stretched canvas sun shields do their job for the most part although don’t forget your sunglasses and arrive after 7pm for an all shaded terrace.
  • The servers are kind and gracious and they have never rushed our experience. Typically we won’t order dinner until we have enjoyed ourselves for at least a half an hour, sometimes longer. The food comes out so fast!
  • The Saturday and Sunday brunch menu is amazing with a separate menu of unique Mexican dishes, fresh squeezed juices and fun cocktails. My friend Matthew introduced me to the shrimp cocktail in tomato juice and lime….to die for.

The standard menu offers all the typical Mexican fare. I am a chicken taco gal with a soft corn tortilla, no cheese a little raw white onion and lots of cilantro. The tacos are full of flavor and the tortillas are pillowy and fresh. Sometimes if I am feeling extra hungry I will order rice and beans.

The drink menu is well rounded offering beer, cocktails and lots of tequila. When we have a crowd a bucket of Mexican beer is a must. Choose any combination of 6 beers and the icy bucket is delivered to your table with fresh limes on the side. We usually go for Negra Modelo (Michael’s favorite), Corona (my favorite) and Dos Equis Amber or Lager. I am a huge fan of silver tequila, blanco. If I am feeling frisky I will order a chilled shot to enjoy with my chips and salsa. It is a great way to kick off dinner!

The restaurant hosted a tequila dinner a few weeks ago and my friend Charlie attended. He said the dinner was a fun experience with interesting food and tequila pairings. I have heard they may schedule a tequila dinner every month!  As La Torre adds services and events I will update the new offerings here. Check out their website for more information by clicking here.

Henry the Long Jumper: Drool in the Pool Recap

Henry puts the NO in No Diving!

Drool in the Pool was so much fun. We arrived just before 6pm and Henry had a chance to jump in a few times before the whistle blew and it was break time for the dogs. All dogs exited the pool and as we made our way to a shady spot we found the sign up table for the Long Jump Contest. We signed up Henry and then waited as the break inched along. Henry was a little excited at this point, okay A LOT excited. Michael was trying to calm him and Henry began bucking like a wild bronco! He was shaking a bit so we directed his attention away from the pool. He calmed down slightly just before the Long Jump Contest began and he howled at the dogs that jumped before him. Then it was his turn and I caught it all on video! Check it out on the Live Love Local YouTube channel by clicking here. I laugh when I watch the video, because it is hilarious!

After the contest, Henry jumps some more!

Henry jumped 12 feet and 3 inches for 2nd place! He won a comb. After the contest Henry jumped into the water again and again and made some friends. Then I had a chance to notice the event was significantly less crowded than previous years. The dogs were having a ton of fun. The volunteers from Bloomington Parks and Recreation and The Doghouse did a great job making sure everything ran smoothly.

Henry and a new friend

Cheers to everyone involved, this is such a great event! Tonight is the final Drool in the Pool and there are more contests. Check out my blog post from yesterday here for all you need to know!

Michael (soaked) helping Henry out of the pool after his last jump

Local Treasure: Drool in the Pool

Today is a very special day for my dog Henry. It is Drool in the Pool! An evening of dog only swimming at Mills Pool. Henry will cannonball (his specialty) into the pool time and time again chasing tennis balls and tennis bones. He will greet his doggie friends from The Doghouse and make some new friends as well. Henry is very social and he loves other dogs. We end up meeting new people too!

Henry is resting up right now for the big event, he is napping in the bathtub. I snapped this pic while he was resting in the sitting room.

Henry resting up for Drool in the Pool

This will be Henry’s third time at Drool in the Pool. Last year the event was held at Mills Pool for the first time and even with the new location Henry knew just what was happening as we drove up and he became very excited. The atmosphere is controlled chaos. The volunteers do a wonderful job keeping everyone safe and happy. There are dogs everywhere running, jumping, splashing and barking. It is unlike anything I have ever seen, a dog’s paradise. This is a great way to socialize your dog. I love to dog watch and I always see cute dogs that steal my heart.

There are two nights of Drool in the Pool, tonight August 22nd and tomorrow August 23rd from 5pm to 8pm each day. There are doggie contests as well!

 Contests

Wednesday

6:00 pm – Long Jump

Thursday

  • 5:30 pm –  Best Dressed
  • 6 pm – Pet Tricks
  • 6:30 pm –  Cutest Dog
  • 7 pm – Grand Prize judging

The distinguished judges are Sarah DeLone from MCHA; Laura Lane from the HT; and Jeff Holland, former 4-H Extension Educator.

The admission price is $5 and you must bring written proof from a vet that your dog’s rabies vaccinations are up to date. Just the tag is not sufficient. There is a limit of one dog per person. Here is a tip, print out the registration form before the event and bring it with you. This will save you time and energy when arriving to admission. Click here for a link to the form.

Thanks to Bloomington Parks and Recreation for making so many dogs happy by hosting this wonderful event!

The beginning of Henry’s cannonball at Drool in the Pool 2010

Brunch Magic: Green Chile and Goat Cheese Frittata

Oh how I love Sunday mornings full of great company, delicious food, fresh coffee and sunshine! We dine al fresco in the backyard and always have a wonderful time. I look forward to Sunday brunch all week and with that comes a little pre-planning. This week I knew I wanted to incorporate some roasted chiles and goat cheese into a frittata. The roastiness of the chiles with the creamy toasted goat cheese were a perfect pairing. I served the frittata with corn tortillas instead of toast. I am in love with corn tortillas as of late and they are a great match with this dish. This recipe is so easy, just the way I like it at brunch.

Green Chile and Goat Cheese Frittata

Heat a 10 inch skillet over medium-low heat , add a 1/2 tablespoon of butter and turn your oven to a low broil. Start with 1 cup of roasted, chopped green chiles. Gather 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, wash and chop it. Crack 10 eggs into a mixing bowl and beat fiercely until the yolk and white are combined and the eggs are foaming.

Pour the eggs into the skillet, add the green chiles and oregano and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and fresh pepper. Let cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the frittata is set.

Crumble 3 or 4 tablespoons of fresh goat cheese, Capriole is my favorite, over the top and place under the broiler until the top sets and the cheese toasts a bit, about 2 or 3 minutes. WATCH IT CLOSELY. I inherited the ability to place a beautifully prepared dish under the broiler only to come back to a completely scorched mess. I have watched my mother burn garlic bread a thousand times, I love you MOM! My rule is do not walk away, do not have a conversation, do not look at the dog and tell him how cute he is. ALL EYES ON FRITTATA.

Heat 6 corn tortillas on the stove top in a skillet. Cut the tortillas in half when warmed through and wrap the bunch in aluminum foil.

Top the frittata with a little fresh oregano before serving. Serve the frittata in the pan for a lovely presentation with the tortillas on the side. A little Cholula hot sauce drizzled over the top is a great addition.

Here is a tip, the edges of the frittata become goldey brown and caramelized, carmelized = flavor. This is the best part and I always go for a little edge in every piece. Enjoy!

Green Chile and Goat Cheese Frittata served with Cholula hot sauce and Corn Tortillas

Bloomington Brewing Company : Hop Harvest 2012

Last Saturday evening Michael invited me to the Bloomington Brewing Company Hop Harvest at Loesch Hill Farm. We arrived to friendly faces and a flatbed that was piled high with mounds of spindly Cascade hop vines awaiting their last hurrah of the season. After a tutorial on proper hop size and color from Floyd, legendary Brewer at BBC, we began picking. Michael and I were immediately reminded of the time I was accused of being a top picker at a militant blueberry farm in East Sparta, Ohio. In an effort rebuild my harvesting reputation I was careful and did not let one hop go unpicked. No one sets out to top pick blueberries, it’s just that I am attracted to the bigger berries that are naturally closer to the sun thus higher on the bush. Anyway…

Matt and Michael harvesting hops

The farm was a beautiful setting as we enjoyed glasses of BBC Quarryman Pale Ale filled to the brim. I was surprised to find the hop cones are rather delicate. The sun was just right that time of the day and the electric green color of the cones really came alive. Floyd told us he would dry the hops by laying them in a single layer and turning them once a day.

Cascade Hops

Stay tuned for a special batch of beer made with these delicious hops. I can say from past experience this beer is one my very favorites. I am not sure when it will be released and it tends to sell out quickly. I bet there will be updates on the Bloomington Brewing Company Facebook page. You can “like” it here.

It wouldn’t be a One World outing without food so after the last hop was picked we had cheeseburgers. Naturally this led us to a discussion about cheeseburgers and I learned that pretty much everyone on the Hop Harvest Crew likes Hinkle’s Hamburgers and In & Out Burger. Jeff was the chef and he said his burgers could give Hinkle’s a run for their money. I would have to agree.

Jeff and a cheeseburger

Famous Scrambled Eggs

This weekend I may be living like an Italian but I am cooking my eggs like a French lady as I always do. The French know eggs and I have taken my cues from Jacque Pepin. He is one of my very favorite chefs and he stresses the importance of basic fundamentals in the kitchen. Once you learn the proper techniques you can expand on your own. This is what great cooking is all about, learn the process and then you can improvise.

I was on an airplane a few years ago and saw a cooking show featuring Jacque. He was making scrambled eggs and I will never forget what he taught me that day. He taught me the process and then I came up with the recipe adding herbs, cheese or vegetables depending on the season.These eggs are such a hit. Everyone that has them raves about how delicious they taste.

Here are a few tips:

  • Crack the eggs on a flat surface. This keeps the bacteria from the outside of the shell entering the egg on the inside of the shell.
  • Agitate the eggs fiercely! Use a fork for this. You want to see bubbles foaming at the top. Get the eggs into the pan while the foam is in tact. This is what makes the scrambled eggs light and airy. Also, break up the whites so there are not long strips of white showing.
  • Start with a medium hot pan and lower the heat after you have poured in the eggs. This allows the eggs to set and cook slowly which makes them creamy. No need to add milk or cream.

Famous Scrambled Eggs

Add a 1/2 tablespoon of butter to a nonstick pan and place on medium heat. Crack farm-fresh eggs (two to three per person) into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whip fiercely with a fork and add to the pan once the butter is melted. Turn the heat the low and slowly pull up the set eggs from the bottom of the pan with a fork (be careful not to scratch the pan). Keep going until the eggs are set and still moist, serve.

Often I will add chopped fresh chives or grated cheese.  I like to serve the eggs with hot sauce as well. I always serve toast and most of the time I serve my eggs fresh tomatoes. Try the recipe and let me know what you think!