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Summer, in one photo

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Hope you enjoy your day as much as Ollie enjoyed this hotdog!

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Baked Feta With Tomatoes

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

I haven’t talked about our garden much this year, but gardens mean tomatoes. It’s a little early yet, but I want to get this one out there so you have everything ready to go as soon as tomato season starts to pick up. (Shhh, this is so good, we even sometimes make it with tasteless store-bought tomatoes!)

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The Journey:

The ingredients seem too simple, somehow. I mean, it’s mostly feta, tomatoes, and a red onion. So what, you know? This is absolutely one of those where the sum is greater than its parts. Trust me on this! As good as those things sound, baked all together, they are better.

The feta doesn’t really melt, just gets soft and warm, and delicious…

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The thing I like about this is that you can absolutely impress your guests with it as a fancy appetizer, or else just eat it as meal. Or eat it by yourself. A whole 8-ounces of feta, aaaaall to yourself.

Mmmmmm lovely, salty feta.

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The Verdict:

It’s really simple to make, only takes one dish, and you don’t even need silverware to eat it. The crackers *are* your silverware. Edible silverware!

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The Recipe:

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen (minus the olives!):

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 8- to 10-ounce block feta
  1. In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, oregano, olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.
  2. Heat oven to 400°F. Place the block of feta in the middle of your dish. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Bake for 15 minutes.
  3. The feta will not melt, just warm and soften. Garnish with parsley and serve with crackers; eat immediately. As it cools, the feta will firm up again. We found that the dish could be returned to the oven to soften it again. We did this with leftovers, too.

The King of Cheap Bikes

Sara hit up a couple of yard sales over the weekend and managed to score some major finds. Among them, was a new bicycle for me. The bike costs $370 new; she paid $15 for it.

If you remember, a couple of years back we stumbled upon two bikes in good condition at a Goodwill, meaning I’ve now paid a total of $40 for 3 bikes (not counting kids bikes that I’ve gotten for cheap or free).

Unfortunately, one of those bikes was misappropriated, but at that cost, who cares? (about the bike. The breaking into my house part I did care about a great deal.) The bike I’ve been riding is in bad shape, needing 2 new tires and a new seat. Despite putting air in my tires when I leave the house and again when I get ready to come home, I’m riding on flats the whole time. That makes it a bit tricky to ride (especially given the condition of the roads in my neighborhood!). Since I only paid $10 for it in the first place, even with the repairs, I think it would still be a pretty good deal. Not as good as getting a much better bike for only $15!

All in all, Sara picked up $1000 worth of merchandise for about $135. Is there anything better than good yard sale deals?

It definitely makes me want to go to more yard sales. On the other hand, I understand that mostly they’re not as profitable as this trip was, and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of buying crap you don’t need (but it’s so cheap!!). Totally worth it, though, when you buy something you really need for a pittance and a song. Man that feels good.

It is amazing what people get rid of, and at what price. So happy to give items a new use, and more than happy to pay someone $15 for the privilege. They’re happy, I’m happy.

Now if I could only figure out how to pay only 4% of the price for everything else I want to buy…

Star Wars in the blood

Evie’s regular piano teacher is busy for the summer, so she started with a temporary teacher. In the first lesson, the teacher was just trying to see where Evie was at, skill level-wise, so mostly Evie was just playing old stuff.

I have to admit, I’m kind of amazed at how far Evie’s come in the 5 months she’s been taking piano. I mean, it’s really amazing; she’s really good! It seems like it must have been longer than 5 months. Obviously the fact that she likes to play piano, and often practices more than she needs to just because she enjoys it so much, really helps. She cannot walk by the piano without playing something.

So finally, at the end of the lesson, the teacher assigned her a few new things that she hadn’t played yet. She had Evie play the first song, which she played with no trouble at all. “That’s too easy for you,” the teacher said, “let’s try another one.”

The next song was the theme from Star Wars. “This one is a bit more tricky,” said her teacher. “Have you ever played it?” “No,” said Evie, “I think I’d like to try it.” She looked at it for a minute, and then played it through perfectly. Not a single mistake.

Both the teacher and I were SO IMPRESSED. She even got the crossover note, no problem. I mean, I was really stunned; she played it better the first time out than she had some of the old pieces she has practiced so many times.

The whole way home I was so excited. “Oh, Evie, you don’t know how happy it makes me to hear you play the Star Wars song!” I mean, of all the songs to be a natural at! I went on to tell her how I used to play the John Williams scores from the original Star Wars movies for her when she was a baby to help her sleep.

Obviously, the songs had subconsciously made neural pathways in her brain, predisposing her to play this piece of music. Best. Father. Ever.  I was so pleased with myself.

Well.

::Ahem::

My Star Wars parenting was involved, though not how I first thought.

I turns out that we accidentally hoodwinked the piano teacher. See, Evie has been secretly practicing the Star Wars theme as a surprise for me for Father’s Day. We were out of town that weekend, and she forgot her piano book, so she never got a chance to play it for me. Naturally, with me sitting right there during her lesson, she didn’t want to admit that she had practiced the song many times, so she said she had never played it before.

The good news is, the song had the desired effect of getting me pretty excited, even if it didn’t play out the way she had imagined it. And, as nice of a surprise as having a Star Wars virtuoso in the family would be, it was even nicer to know she had spent time preparing a good surprise for me. One way or the other, I have managed to implant Star Wars thoughts into her head.

Maybe the Force has influenced her after all.

Quote Monday was born too early

Me: “You need to date someone long enough to know if they’re evil or not, before you marry them.”

See? Who said kids shouldn’t watch Frozen? #teachingmoment

Sara: “No more complaining!”
Ollie: “Okay. I’m just going to tell you about something I don’t like very much.”

::discussing a premature baby::
Ollie: “What was wrong with the baby?”
Sara: “Well, sometimes a baby is born too early.”
Ollie: “Like…in the time of the dinosaurs?”

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

Another catch up recipe post, but this one needed to be posted RIGHT AWAY so as not to miss strawberry season.

And you know what else is in season during strawberry season? Rhubarb.

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The Journey:

Well, the journey starts with fresh-off-the-plant strawberries, naturally. Here, Oliver has one to get you started:

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Rhubarb is one of my favorite things. Adding something a little sour in with the sweet just hits all the right tongue spots, you know?

When I was a kid, we had rhubarb growing between the shed and the fence, so we always had a good supply (until we tore down the shed and all the rhubarb died). There are lots of rhubarb recipes in my family, so I kind of thought everybody felt this way about rhubarb. As I get older, I find that many people just don’t know about the glory and majesty of rhubarb, including Sara. I have been working on her for years, but I think this recipe is the one that finally brought her to the dark side.

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Oh, and if you’re new to rhubarb, don’t eat the leaves. I always heard they were poisonous, which is another plus for rhubarb. I like to live dangerously.

(Seriously though, is it poisonous? Because now that I think about it, that sounds like some B.S. that was told to me as a kid to keep me from gnawing the rhubarb raw, like a garden pest, before we could harvest it.)

The Verdict:

Strawberries and rhubarb go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like…like sweet and sour. I mean, literally, like sweet and sour.

The only way this could be better is if you ate it warm, right out of the oven, with a little vanilla ice cream on top…

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The Recipe:

  • 5 cups strawberries, cored and diced
  • 5 cups rhubarb, diced
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2/3 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 dashes, nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Put cut strawberries and rhubarb into a 9×13 glass pan. Mix in sugar and cornstarch.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, nuts, and butter. Sprinkle on top of fruit.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm, with ice cream.

Balsamic Strawberry Jam

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

We make a lot of jam. I mean a LOOOOT of jam. Our pantry is stocked with apocalypse-preparation levels of jams, marmalades, curds, chutneys, and compotes. We have an average of about 5 open variety of jams in our fridge at any given time. Short of Frank Smuckers, there are not many people who have more jam on hand than us.

And none of those jams, none of them, are better than balsamic strawberry jam.

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The Journey:

It all starts with the fresh strawberries, of course.

Although Sara does most of the canning, it is something of an “all hands on deck” situation. The kids do seem to honestly enjoy the fact that they get to help make the food (although, it’s possible they are just humoring me). Especially something as delicious as jam.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking: balsamic vinegar in jam? That sounds absolutely disgusting. Why would I want to pollute something as simple and delicious as strawberries and sugar with balsamic vinegar?

I DON’T KNOW.

But you do. Oh, how you do. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to take my word on it. I’m something of an expert, you know.

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The Verdict:

Did I mention that there is no better jam? There is no better jam.

Use it on whatever you use jam on, but also try it drizzled on some vanilla ice cream. Heavenly.

Naturally, no recipe is complete without the secret ingredient: one photobomb.

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The Recipe:

Recipe adapted from Farmish Momma:

  • 8 cups chopped strawberries
  • 3 cups turbinado sugar (white sugar would work too)
  • 5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Put the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar into a pot and cook on medium high.
  2. Mash the berries a little to get the juice out. Once it is boiling, lower to medium and let cook for about 25-30 minutes until it passes the freezing plate test (drop a little bit on a plate you had in the freezer and if it does not drip and gels up you are done).
  3. Process in whichever way you use to can preserves (might I recommend this excellent canning tutorial). Makes about 5 half-pints.
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