Lula – Take 3

In the oven: Crackers – made from discard sourdough starter; various toppings. (See recipe at bottom of post)

Focaccia 3 ways: truffle sea salt; fresh herbs; fig, goat cheese and caramelized onions. There is also a pizza bianca thrown in there (made from leftover pizza dough)
Focaccia 3 ways: truffle sea salt; fresh herbs; fig, goat cheese and caramelized onions. There is also a pizza bianca thrown in there (made from leftover pizza dough)

Lula is my bubbly new sourdough starter. She is named after a character in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Lula’s character sports a huge personality; someone practically bursting from the seams (literally). She brings life to the series even though she is not the main character. I felt it an appropriate homage to name my sourdough starter after her.

This is my third rendition of Continue reading

Raspberries from Heaven


“A house needs a grandma in it.” ~Louisa May Alcott

My grandmother’s birthday was this past Tuesday. I passed much of that day thinking about her. About her life, about my life with her…about how much she meant to me. I am quite certain that in her own way she saved me. Grandmom was my biggest cheerleader.

I spent many school-free summer days and nights at my grandparent’s house. I can still hear the squeaking of the metal springs on the back porch glider as we swayed back and forth…back and forth…back and forth…a methodic, eerie squeak, yet oddly comforting at the same time. We would sit together: me and her and my grandpop. They listened intently as I read my latest creations – often poetry, but sometimes a short story or the occasional play (of course it was all wonderful, and I was the best writer ever). At lunch we dunked saltines in our hot tea (Lipton, of course), crunched sandwiches layered with potato chips or smeared grape jelly on grilled cheeses*, and afterwards we enjoyed Breyer’s Ice-Cream out of the etched glass dishes she kept in her dining room cabinet, seemingly for just that purpose.

And in July we picked raspberries.

Whenever I eat even one raspberry, I am instantly transported back to her house on any given July day of my childhood. Pine trees shaded the backyard; shirts and pants and sheets hung from the clothesline to dry; hydrangeas bloomed a beautiful bluish-purple hue. Train tracks ran along the back edge of the property, one section of them lined by raspberry bushes. Even now, I can almost feel the dew on my feet and smell the pungent scent of pine as I crossed through the yard to get to that luscious fruit.

As early as the middle of July, but for sure by the end, those berries reached the height of perfection. She and I would each grab a bowl and head for the back of the property. I don’t recall that we talked about anything in particular as we harvested, although she did show me which berries were ready to pick and which ones still needed to ripen. I loved to pluck the particularly ripe ones straight from the bush and pop them directly into my mouth. Each bite was like eating sunshine itself. Heaven.

It took no time at all before our bowls were filled…with a few pauses here and there for sampling (just to be sure!). Many did not survive the short walk back to the house, and even fewer made it to the table later.

Anything that did survive was usually mixed into Jello for the evening’s after dinner treat. Or perhaps served with that Breyer’s Ice-Cream I mentioned earlier. 

To this day I think of my grandmother with each and every raspberry I eat. Every. Time. And when I encounter an especially ripe one – one that is extra juicy and fragrant and tastes just like Sunshine itself – I know in that instant she is with me. She is there in spirit enveloping me with Love and Happiness.

There is a sense of wonder knowing a certain taste or smell – or even a touch – can take me back in time. Back to a place where my grandmother is still with me. Encouraging me. Loving me. And knowing in those moments that she has never really left me. All along, she has been right there. Right here. 

And that comforts me to no end.

*“Tea and Saltines…Grilled Cheese with Grape Jelly”

Autumn Rising

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~ George Eliot

In the oven: Stone Fruit Cobbler, to be served with ice-cream on the side (see recipe below).

Labor Day is upon us – the unofficial end of summer. I have spent the past few days in Seattle where the weather is cooler – I even saw someone wearing boots yesterday!! Hooray for boot weather! But even in Texas I have sensed the sneaking up of Autumn, despite the heat that remains. There is an underlying crispness to the air, and I have noticed the subtle disappearance of light from each day as summer gradually fades. 

School is back in session, shavings from freshly sharpened pencils thick in the air while children reluctantly leave carefree days of summer behind (and parents secretly rejoice!); football blares from TVs across the country. Yes, September 21st may be the official date, but we all know Labor Day signals the true end of Summer.

I rather prefer Autumn. Autumn feels romantic. Thinking about the rich aromas of spice and dampness and fallen leaves excites me. I look forward to its brilliant hues of gold streaking the landscape around me. Even though I live in Texas where Fall is more alluded to rather than truly experienced, the idea of needing a more substantial meal is appealing. 

And so it is that I welcome Labor Day with open arms and a free heart. It is more my ‘new year’ than New Year’s Day. My yearly resolutions are set in September rather than January. I like to set them and then let them hibernate for a bit, allowing them to come to full fruition in the Spring. At least in theory. 

Most of us think of back yard BBQs and end of summer pool parties when we think of Labor Day. There is football season and back to school and cooler weather right around the corner. 

But what, exactly, are we honoring on this day?

The first Labor Day in the United States was held in 1882 in the midst of the Industrial Revolution.  Oregon was the first state to declare it a ‘real’ holiday in 1887, and it was finally 1894 when President Grover Cleveland named it an official holiday for the entire country. Other countries held their own versions in May (called ‘International Worker’s Day’); however, the Haymarket Affair* had occurred in May of 1886. When President Cleveland made Labor Day a holiday he worried it would be associated with the event, thus causing further rioting and re-igniting any anger still smoldering. And thus, Labor Day happens on the First Monday of September rather than the first of May. 

This year my husband and I will celebrate the weekend as we have the past several years. The Sunday before (would that be ‘Labor Day Eve?’) we will participate in our annual Fantasy Football Draft party. Everyone brings a dish to share and we spend the afternoon eating, drinking and choosing our [winning] teams for the upcoming season. And the next day there is generally another cook out…sometimes at our home, but often hosted by others. Again, it is usually a ‘bring-a-dish-to-share’ event. This year I am bringing dessert to the draft party. I am making a stone fruit cobbler (see recipe below) and also bringing homemade brownies.

What does Labor Day mean to you? How do you typically spend the weekend?

*Haymarket Affair: Occurred in May, 1886 in Chicago. It began as a peaceful demonstration, but it turned deadly when a dynamite bomb was ignited, killing seven police officers and at least four other civilians, and leaving many others wounded. The rally began in support of an eight hour work day. At that time, it was not uncommon to work twelve hour days seven days a week.

Recipe: Stone Fruit Cobbler

Streusel Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup ground pecans (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 6 T cold butter

Stone Fruit Filling

  • 4 lbs mixture of stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums, etc) – pitted and cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. 1 lemon)
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and set aside.

Streusel: In a medium bowl, mix all streusel ingredients except the butter. Cube the butter and cut into the dry ingredients until it is crumbly. Set aside.

Filling: Toss the fruit with the lemon juice, then the flour to coat. Mix in the remaining ingredients and pour into a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly.

It is best to let it sit for about 30 minutes before serving. I like to serve it with either a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of whipped cream.