back to school granola bars

Whenever we need a change of attitude around our nest, I try to get the little birdie involved in a cooking, baking or gardening project. Yesterday was a no-nap (read: edgy) day so we made another big batch of our new favorite granola bars and a huge batch of guacamole for dinner. We also picked a bunch of cherry tomatoes as well as all the rest of the leaves off a basil plant to make pesto today. Whew. It got us through the sleepless afternoon without any major meltdowns, yesssss. How do you manage those no-nap days, lovelies?

Since I’ve made several successful batches of these granola bars now, I thought I would share them with you. They are based on a recipe I found here. One great thing about them is that they are pretty versatile. Have some dried fruit or nuts? Sure, throw it in. Don’t have vanilla, but want to throw in some cardamom? Sure. They’re simple and delicious. And great to have a healthy-ish, portable snack on hand.

Back to School Granola Bars

2 1/2 C. quick oats
1/2 C. crisp rice cereal
1/2 C. mini chocolate chips
1/2 C. dried cherries
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. canola oil
1/4 C. honey (or maple syrup or even brown rice syrup)
1/2 tsp. vanilla or some other kind of spice (we like cinnamon or cardamom)
* optional: ground flax seed and/or wheat germ (we use 3 heaping Tbs. or so of each).

Mix all ingredients (except for the chocolate chips and dried cherries – keep those out for now) really well. If your mixture seems dry after mixing then you may need to add a little more honey – a bit at a time – until it starts to clump up a little.

When your granola mixture gets to this point–not too wet, not too dry–then stir in the chocolate chips and dried cherries.

Line a 9X13 (or so) glass or metal pan with parchment or waxed paper and let some of it hang over the edges so you can use them as handles to lift out. Pour in granola mixture and spread evenly. Ready to bake!

350 degrees for 17-22 minutes.
They are ready to remove from oven when the tops are golden.  If they don’t cook long enough they may not hold their shape. If they cook too long they will get too dry.

Important! Let them cool in the pan for a day or overnight. Really! Then lift out of the pan, flip over onto a cutting board and slice into pieces. I then wrap them in waxed paper and keep them in a sealed container.


a late summer meal

There seems to be a steadily growing pile of tomatoes in our kitchen and my heartburn has really been feeling it. But it’s worth it (thanks, Tums) because fresh tomato season is too short. Last night I threw together some carrots and tomatoes from the garden, plus some of Grandpa Jon’s corn. Tossed on some cheese and some crunchy potato chip crumbs. Baked and enjoyed with friends. Perfect! What late summer meals have you been enjoying lately, lovelies?

blueberry bonanza

Happy August, lovelies! We started the morning out with an early blueberry bonanza to beat the heat. Apparently, I just can’t eat enough fresh blueberries because we picked some last week too, but my supply was already getting a bit low. They’re just soooo good right now. I’ve been eating them by the happy handful every day. And no, I haven’t turned into a Smurf yet. Yet!

Truth be told, the little birdie isn’t a great blueberry picker at this age – maybe next summer. She loses interest in picking after about, oh, 60 seconds. But she loves to run up and down the rows, check in with her friends (err, boss them around), and occasionally, pop a big, plum-sized one in her mouth. Pure northern Michigan summer!

She also had a great time with her good friend, Cora. And they didn’t even fight over anything today! Girls are so funny: one minute they’re pulling each other’s hair out over a toy and the next, they’re hugging and laughing. Or holding hands…

How are you celebrating the arrival of August and beating the heat in the midst of these dog days? Any great blueberry recipes I just HAVE to try? Send ’em my way. Until then, we just eat them straight out of the bowl! mmmmm.

Cyberspace friends, thank you so much for your thoughtful, thought-provoking, understanding and encouraging thoughts regarding my anxiety over the arrival of little birdie #2. Your support and advice means a lot. Thank YOU.

farmer’s market bounty

The little birdie and I had a blast at yesterday’s Traverse City farmer’s market, which is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Although it’s smaller, I prefer the Wednesday market because it’s not as crowded. As you can see, we loaded up on mid-summer’s bounty.

We were pleasantly surprised to find a quart of local strawberries because that’s all Wren could talk about on the walk downtown and I didn’t want to disappoint her by telling her there wouldn’t be any so I just kept saying, “what about cherries? I bet we can find some delicious cherries…” But we DID find some strawberries (actually Wren saw them first!) and they’re the best we’ve had all summer. Like little candied jewels.

I was happy to find some pickling cukes because we just ran out of the huge batch we made last fall and it doesn’t seem right to have an outdoor summer meal without that pickled crunch.

And the blueberries! I’m not a huge fan of blueberries hidden in pies, but a fresh, flowery blueberry? Yes, please and thank you.

To round out our color palette and crisper drawer, we grabbed some of the season’s first apricots, a quart of beans and, of course, cherries. You can’t live through summer in northern Michigan and not have a constant supply of fresh cherries, right?

Speaking (err, writing) or summer in northern Michigan… have you seen the article in Bon Appetit about Mario Batali and his love affair with the food, people and land/waterscape of northern Michigan? “Traverse City is the antidote to New York City.” Woah. Click here to read it. 

Grilled pizza? Check.

On my summer list, I threw on learning to grill pizza. It seemed like a great way to keep the heat out of the house, but it also seemed daunting. Wrong! I’ve already done it twice and I told Chris that I think we’ll be having grilled pizza every night this summer. It’s so easy, yummy, cheap.

I followed these simple directions from the kitchn, including the easy-peasy (no wait!) thin crust pizza recipe.

Bonus! I got to use more of the tomato jam via Food in Jars that I made from last year’s tomato bounty as a pseudo-bbq sauce for a grilled chicken pizza. Delicious.

I’m not kidding, lovelies. This isn’t one of those Martha-esque encouragements on “easy grilled pizza” that actually takes you four days with three gorgeous assistants and eight trips back to your local farmer’s market for fancy herbs. It IS easy. Really. Try it!

rhubarb gelato

Wow, what a weekend: sunny & 70s, lots of outdoor fun and projects, time with our family, no commitments. Yessssss. One of the highlights of our kick-off to summer weekend was taking a trip to our farmer’s market and loading up on rhubarb. I think rhubarb is one of those love/hate foods. Me? Love. In many forms I like to consume it, but I’m always looking to try something new with it.

Strange side story: we had a rhubarb plant growing here at 605 and harvested some of it last year, but this year, it’s completely gone. And in its place? About 6-8 fern plants. It’s almost like someone came and dug up the rhubarb and replaced it with a mini forest of ferns. I love the ferns so I’m not really complaining, but where-oh-where did our rhubarb go? The ferns marched on over from our neighbor’s ferny corner, so no real mystery there. Did you take my rhubarb, lovelies?

OK, back to our regularly scheduled program…

So my Mom bequeathed us with her ice cream maker last weekend (thank you!) and I loaded up on four pounds of local rhubarb. Things were beginning to come together… I decided to embark on this simple recipe for rhubarb gelato. It sounded perfect – easy and refreshing. Do you like Sweet Tarts? Yeah, me too. You’ll probably really enjoy this one then.

We all did. The little birdie kept saying, “sour,” but she continued to eat most of her cone. It has such an intense flavor that it’s very satisfying. Enjoy!

How do you like to eat rhubarb? Do you have a good strawberry/rhubarb pie recipe and if so, will you share it with me?

Happy Monday!

Bagels? Oh yes, you can.

I never thought I could make bagels myself. I’m not sure exactly why, but I just thought it was something that I could only buy from someone else. And since I don’t think very highly of the huge, soft & fluffy things that some bakeries like to call “bagels,” I was thrilled when I stumbled upon this post about making bagels. Really?! I could make (good!) bagels at home? The recipe didn’t even look too daunting. Could this be?! I had to find out. So Friday afternoon I jumped into the process of making the simple dough and by Saturday mid-morning, we bit into our first batch of crunchy, chewy homemade bagels! Yes, it can be done! You too can make bagels, lovelies. Click here for the recipe. Note on the recipe: I made a double-batch, which made twelve bagels instead of 6; I wasn’t going to just tip-toe into this, folks.

I can’t tell you how empowering it is to accomplish something like this. It makes my head swirl with other things that didn’t seem possible, but of course, they ARE. Do you have something that you love to eat, but think you can’t make them at home for some reason? I’d love to hear about it. Write me and let’s figure out how to make it, shall we? Please and thank you.


P.S. I wrote the other day about how I just can’t find a good bagel north of Detroit. Oops! Chris reminded me that I forgot about L’Chayim in Beulah; excellent bagels, just not open all year…

pizza party!

One of my favorite decadent foods is pizza. You too? I thought so. So I thought it would be fun to revisit the local-only pizza tasting party I had for my birthday last month. We are grateful to have a lot of independently-owned pizza joints in the Traverse City area and we love to support the mom-and-pops, but I always forget what I like the best. Hence, a pizza tasting party! Plus, wine and cheese tasting parties are so 2005, right?! Ha. Actually, if you invited me to one, I would be very excited and try to wear a pretty dress, but I digress…

So here’s how it worked. I invited a bunch of friends and their families to come to a local microbrewery that allows patrons to bring in their own food. Each family was assigned a different locally-made pizza to bring. I assigned the pizza place to each family based on geography so it would help with pick-ups on the way to the brewery. Each family got to choose what kind of pizza they ordered. I originally thought I wanted to have two categories, e.g., cheese or meat, to even the playing field, but Chris and I decided this would be too bossy (who, me?) and each family would have more fun if they picked out their own kind. People then ordered and brought the pizzas, or had them delivered to the brewery, around 5 p.m. on a Saturday. I thought this would be a family-friendly time for a party and also would be quieter at the brewery.

I created simple signs for each pizza that we posted and we cut most of the pizzas into smaller pieces upon arrival.

Let the mayhem fun begin!

I created a “Local Pizza Tasting Card,” that guided the tasting experience. The categories under consideration were: appearance, crust, toppings, cheese and overall favorite pizza. Each person circled his/her favorite choice in each category.

Hard work, but someone had to do it…

And the overall favorite? Pizza from our favorite Italian restaurant, Trattoria Stella. Crispy, airy, cheesy, fresh, seasonal toppings… ooh la la. Of course, there weren’t any pizzas that people didn’t like, but we all got great ideas for branching out into the cornucopia of toppings that our local pizza joints offer. Therein lies the beauty of a tasting party! Most of us wouldn’t ordinarily commit to a Friday night pizza for the family with something new like roasted eggplant and goat cheese, or chicken with blue cheese and bbq sauce. But now, heck yes we would! Delish.

Dear pizza, you are a wonder food that often brings me back from the dead. And unites my friends and family. For this I thank you, pizza!

Ponyo Soup!

Why hello there, lovelies. How are you today?

I had to share this little idea with you because it’s a big part of life in our nest right now. We are experiencing a major Ponyo obsession in our nest. The little birdie wants to watch the movie every day, all day! Have you seen the movie? It’s a beautiful movie – amazing animation and wonderful music. The story is inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Little Mermaid. It’s much more abstract and interesting than the Disney original The Little Mermaid, don’t you think?

In one of the scenes, Ponyo escapes the ocean again and comes to visit her new friend, Sōsuke. Sōsuke’s mom brings them inside and makes them big bowls of ramen soup with ham, Ponyo’s favorite. I thought it would be fun to have “Ponyo Soup” for lunch so I bought some ramen and ham. I threw in some frozen mixed veggies and voila! Big hit. I have a feeling Ponyo Soup is going to be a regular thing around here for a while…


it’s paczki time

Happy Fat Tuesday to you, lovelies! Even though I’m not Catholic, I went to a Catholic school and some of the rituals have stuck with me. Especially the part about eating lots of decadent food on Fat Tuesday in preparation for giving up something for Lent. Since I feel like I’ve been on a major junk food, sugar-laden bender since the run-up to Halloween (!), I’m more than ready for a ritual cleansing fast. Do you follow a similar ritual? Or do you just like the part about eating a paczki or two? OK, me too.

And the little birdie is apparently a paczki fan too! Are you?