PARENTING: Summer Guilt, and I am Not Talking About Ice Cream

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Here it is, 3 weeks to the start of the new school year, and I am wondering where the summer has gone. It seems it was just June, with the promise of free time sprawled ahead of me, with the intentions of doing x, y, z in preparation for the upcoming school year for and with my daughter. Now, the back to school commercials taunt me, and the back to school aisle in the store gives me anxiety and guilt. Not only am I mentally unprepared for the hectic times ahead, but physically as well. The only thing I have done is ordered school uniforms online, and got in a dentist appointment. But the feelings of unpreparedness are not just for me, but for my daughter. As every summer before now, we worked on summer work that was sent home from school. And I fought, pushed, and worked with my daughter through the summer to get her summer work actually worked on. I even wrote a few posts about the pressure of school and how summer did not feel like summer anymore. There was one summer I had a math tutor and had my daughter involved in the summer reading program with the library. That summer felt as busy as any school year.

Maybe it was in retaliation to all this pressure or just plain exhaustion that I have been the path of least resistance to summer school work this year. I am not in the mood to fight with my daughter to get a couple work sheets done every night. And maybe I dont want to spend the last three hours of her day with me fighting and doing it. Maybe I want to bird watch or star watch with her, or work on a puzzle, or just plain snuggle and watch a movie? As much as I feel guilty in allowing her to skip school work, I feel justified as well. The school year is way busy for both she and I. I am a Girl Scout leader for her troop, I help her with piano practice for her lessons, and my husband and I share Karate trips. Add homework to the mix, and I get depressed thinking about it. And now she is talking about joining basketball. I need this summer "break" as much as I am sure she does. So there it is. I write this as I look at the pile of worksheets nestled in a folder named "summer work" on the table, taunting me right now.

Well, there is nothing for it. School is starting, that is a fact. And maybe my daughter and I can use these next 3 weeks to mentally get prepared by starting to hunker down and get working on some worksheets and flash cards...start nixing the comic type books and read a long chapter book. I hope that the break I gave both of us will reap benefits of more energy and focus for the fall. I also hope that even the other things we did together, like star watching and fishing were also learning experiences for her. After all, they are little sponges...learning all the time. And I always have read that quality time spent with parents is just as important as anything you could enroll them in, and unstructured play nurtures creativity. Well, time will tell. Now, I need to get my swimsuit on for a day of swimming with monkey-girl. Our hunker-down time will start Monday! We will enjoy our free time while we still can, and I will try and smother the feelings of guilt I have in the water!

And if any of you have ideas on how to entice children to do their school work during the summer without fighting, please add comments below. I am out of ideas and tired of being a shrew.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

RECIPE: Kid-Friendly Pico De Gallo Salsa

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Sometimes it's hard to get kids to eat vegetables, or even anything with a little spice. Sometimes chips or dip can help with those challenges. I had a CostCo size bag of corn chips that I have been trying to make a dent in for weeks. I kept getting creative with what I could serve them with...and when! This is one of the dips I created that is very mild for kids, yet very tasty for adults. It is best to use garden ripened tomatoes for this. It really makes the dip. Also, if you wish to make a more sophisticated version, substitute the vinegar for lime juice, add some cilantro and a tablespoon of minced jalepeno to spice it up (add 2-3 peppers, if you are daring.)

Kid Friendly Pico De Gallo

Ingredients:

1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 1/2 Tblsp. cider vinegar
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 mild pepper (such as Annaheim or Bannana, minced)

Directions:

Mix in a bowl. Let sit at room temp for an hour. Serve with chips.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

RECIPE: Hickory Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Mini Meatloaves

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These little mounds of deliciousness were amazing. I know meatloaf is not really a summer dish by any means. It's a lovely comfort food. What is nice about these is that they are small, individual ones which can be easily frozen and reheated for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner. Now, I need to fess up here. I really have never liked meatloaf, until NOW. We have tried many ways to make it, including Alton Brown's recipe. It just never really does anything for me. It just seems like a bland loaf of beef trying to be a burger and either really soggy or really dry, or both at the same time!

But these were different. First, there is a nice mix of pork and beef in the mixture, which gives them a deeper dimension. Not to mention all the fresh herbs we used from our garden. And, well, let's not forget that they are wrapped in bacon. I mean...it's bacon. Their small size I think helps with the perfect brownness and doneness inside, too. Nice caramelization, with tender middle laced with herbs and minced vegetables. We paired it with a roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a summer veggie saute and VOILA. I was in a food coma. And my husband rejoiced in the fact that we made a meatloaf recipe that finally passed muster!

Hickory Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Mini Meatloaves

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 lb. pork loin cutlets (mix light and dark meat) minced finely by hand with a sharp knife
1 egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
5 small button mushrooms, finely chopped
1/3 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 baby carrots, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/8 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1/2 tsp. beef base mixed in 1/8 cup hot water (can substitute beef bouillon)
1 tsp. salt
fresh herb mix (see below)
8-12 slices hickory smoked bacon

Fresh herb mix
1  4" sprig Rosemary (remove leaves from stem)
3  2" sprigs Oregano (remove leaves from stem)
2  4" sprigs Tarragon (remove leaves from stem)
1 Tbsp. Thyme leaves (remove leaves from stem)
1 Tbsp. fresh Parsley
Finely chop all herbs and mix together. 

Directions:

Heat oven to 350˚. Mix all ingredients in a big bowl except for the bacon. Shape mixture into 4-6 loaves about 5- 6" in length. Wrap each loaf in bacon by draping a piece over the loaf and cut bacon so it can be tucked under the bottom edge. Angle two strips for the middle of the loaf, cutting off the ends and tucking them under. Than take the excess you just trimmed off and use them to cover the two end areas of the loaf. Place loaves on a foil covered baking sheet. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes. Internal temp should be 170-180˚. Let sit for a few minutes to rest, then serve. You can keep the bacon on or take it off.  My daughter LOVES bacon, so we served them on. The bacon is for flavor but it was yummy to eat it along with, in my bacon-loving opinion.


RECIPE: Strawberry Almond Whole Grain Crumble

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My husband prepped a large amount of strawberries as a breakfast side one evening. He did this by slicing them up and tossing them with a tablespoon of sugar and letting them sit in the fridge until morning. However, when everyone woke up, we did not feel like eating them. My husband was concerned that they would go bad quickly. But I calmed his fears. We were heading to a party that afternoon and I said I could turn them into a berry crumble quickly and we could bring it to the party for a dessert option. I used my basic crumble recipe that I have used before for blueberries, but paired it with an almond flavor profile. I think any left over berry or peachy fruit salad from a brunch or dinner party could have a second life as a crumble. That way you don't have to feel guilty throwing away the fruit. In fact, if its been sitting in sugars and juices in a salad form, it makes for more syrup in a crumble. I made mine with whole wheat party flour to make it healthier, but you can sub regular flour just the same. If your berries have more blueberry in them than anything, follow my blueberry crumble recipe where I used lemon juice instead of almond to brighten the flavors. I love when I give leftovers a yummy second life. It makes me fell green and thrifty!

Strawberry Almond Whole Grain Crumble

Ingredients:

Berries:
1 1/2 pint strawberries sliced
2 Tbsp. raw sugar (or regular) (adjust if using fruit salad leftovers that may have a lot of sugar)
1 Tbsp. Amaretto liquor
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
dash of salt

Crumble: 
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 1/2 Tbsp. butter, chopped and at room temp
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. low-fat milk
2 Tbsp sliced almonds


Mix the berries with the sugar, salt, flavorings and flour. Let sit while making crumble. Preheat oven to  375˚. Spray a low-edged casserole oval dish about 13 inches long with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.



In a medium bowl, measure the flour and oats and mix. Add the cinnamon and mix again. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles a course, cornmeal with many clumps. Sprinkle the milk and almond extract over mixture and mix with a fork again. Gently add the almonds and mix with a fork until lightly combined. 

Pour the strawberry mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Pour the crumble evenly over the top, and using a fork, move it around startegically so it covers berries as evenly as possible. 


Bake on the center rack, rotating once, for about 20-25 minutes. The berries should be bubbling up through the crumble and the top should have a nice, golden color. Serve warm or at room temp with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.




LIFESTYLE: I Have Chronic Illness, but I Don't (and Can't) Let it Define Me.

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I felt the need to write something a bit personal, because it has weighed heavily on my mind as of late. And I feel that if I share a little about my journey, I may help and give hope to others. I think it is because the past 6+ months I have been surrounded by friends, family and associates discovering they have a chronic illnesses. Maybe it's my age group now, and it is something expected that comes with all the mid-life crisis party gags? Either way, it has made me ponder a lot of things lately. Particularly when I lost a dear friend of mine to Lymphoma late last year. She was, shockingly, only in her mid 40's.

The loss of my friend, a vibrant mother of a 7 1/2 year old who's life force could brighten a room, was a sobering moment for me. She had struggled with Rheumatoid Arthritis since her mid 30's (an autoimmune disorder similar to my own) and thought the drug Humira was a blessing. It allowed her to function again, pain free. But as all things in health care, it's give and take. Humira was probably the cause of her Lymphoma years later, and we lost her.

The reason why I tell you this sad story is to honor her memory and to also help tell about my own  journey with Crohn's Disease. The doctors recently told me I should get on an autoimmune drug similar to Humira. I had been holding them at bay for the past couple of years, and my friend's experience with Humira has proven to me I should try and wait as long as possible. I am a frustrating patient at times. They have suggested other treatments for me, and after I do research I show up with print outs and a printed list of my questions, and I either agree or go find a new doctor. My Crohn's disease is an old friend by now. I have had it since I was 27, and the many twists and turns with various doctors and treatments I have dealt with has taught me many things, and some learned the very hard way. (an article I wrote a few years after I was diagnosed is here, about ways to holistically deal with it, among other personal insights, that have worked for me.) But the absolute, most important thing I learned is this; YOU are in charge. It's YOUR body and it's YOUR life. YOU need to decide what quality you want it to be. The doctors are your guide (some good, some not). They know a lot, but they only know you for the 15 minutes they are allotted to you per visit (unless you get a REALLY good one that will take more time). You know your body best, and you know what your family can take depending on what each treatment will mean, even for them.

Chronic illnesses are with you forever. They never go away. It's all in how you "manage" it. And this is the next important thing I learned. If it is always there with you, you need to find a way to not let it run your life or BE your life. You cannot let it define who you are. You have to find that balance of 1: managing it that works and 2: allows you to still be all you need and want to be in your daily life.

I have been inspired and amazed by people around me that have done just that. My brother -n-law just found out he has RA and he is managing it with lifestyle changes and some holistic approaches first. He own his own business and is the father of a 4 and 2 year old. He does not have time to live at the hospital to get transfusions of Remicade. If that's the next step for him to function, he will have to make that choice. But right now it's working and he is managing it. And he can still be a father, husband, son, recreational hunter and business owner without skipping a beat. I have an associate that found out he has Parkinson's, and you would never had known it. They are figuring out right now what he should be on, but he has not missed a meeting of ours and still is active in his leadership role in his organization. I have an old high school friend who has battled cancer and is now struggling with Sarcoidosis. In between visits to the mayo clinic she is still modeling and getting roles in plays and movies, not to mention a single super-mom! She is not letting it slow her down one bit. The list goes on and on. And it is their strength and courage that gives me the same. And sometimes, I am not sure if doctors quite understand. And if they don't you need to make them.

My recent appointment with my GI last year had to do with just that. I had made huge lifestyle changes in my diet, where I took out refined sugar and flour, and I was still on a maintenance dose of Asacol-from which I have no side affects. So I was really in a good place. My Crohn's was quite for a while and I was doing fine. But she still suggested that my problems I had after the birth of my daughter was because Asacol was not strong enough, and that I should get on Remicade or Humira. Then she explained I would need to be at the hospital for a bazillion times before we start, then get transfusions every 2 weeks at first, and monitor, then move to every 4 weeks. Then I asked how much it was per treatment and I almost fell out of my chair! (I thought Asacol was expensive! Holy Toledo!) Well, I explained to my doctor that, "I am and have been feeling good. I can't spend that much time at the hospital focused on this! I run an ad agency, I'm a mom of a young child, brownie leader, lifestyle blogger...the list goes on. I'M BUSY!" She just looked baffled. "Why couldn't I fit it in one day a week. Couldn't I come in late for work one day a week? Isn't my health that important?" But she agreed to wait it out and see, which I appreciated. A doctor who listened and worked with me (not against) is a doctor to keep!

YES my health is important! I made lifestyle changes to accommodate it and it's working. I am feeling good right now. I am managing it. And I have stayed the course for over a year and it is still being managed. You see, I know eventually I will need to get on something stronger. It's in the cards. But I see it as, until I really need it to function and have a life, I am not going there yet. It's give and take-and every year I can put it off is possibly another extra year on the back end. Autoimmune suppressants have a lot of side affects-my dearest friend in heaven, God bless, can attest to that.

I am due to see the GI for my annual next month. I know I will get scolded for not coming in sooner. I know I will be lectured about getting on something stronger. But I know I am still OK. I know what a flare up is, and I am not dumb enough to let it go. Too many people are relying on to be responsible with my health. But as long as I am doing fine, I am going to...as the late Elizabeth Edwards said while she was battling cancer, "GET BUSY LIVING v.s. get busy dying." If you have a chronic illness, I urge and pray that you find a way to do the same. Thank you for allowing me to share.

RECIPE: Brined BBQ Chicken

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SO, I finally admitted my secret to my husband. I really am not a huge fan of bone chicken on the grill. He was absolutely shocked...I mean, the man has been grilling for me for over 15 years! How did he not know this? "Was I going batty in my old age?" he asks, dumbfounded.

Well, here is the deal. It's not that my husband does not do a great job grilling, he is amazing. It's just that chicken does not really taste like much to me. Kind of bland and rubbery, even if cooked at the perfect temp. Now, I have enjoyed a smoked honey chicken in the past or we have made a rotisserie chicken that was infused with some flavor. But generally, slapping BBQ sauce on bone in chicken for me is like "why bother?" Once the initial flavor of the BBQ sauce on the outside is consumed, you have a bland, hot, rubbery meat under (yes, even if you marinate it!) So I finally fessed up to him. Then I decided to try something, because my daughter is obsessed with bone-in chicken. It was going to be in my future for a long time.

After reading an article in the latest Cooks Illustrated (The Summer Entertaining Issue), I was inspired to brine the chicken first. Heck, it works great on turkeys, why not chicken?

I made up my own brining solution loosely based on my turkey one. I just didn't think only salt was going to do what I wanted. And the results were promising. The recipe in Cooks Illustrated suggested you only needed to brine for 1 1/2 hours. I did for 2. In hindsight, I think I would even do it longer. The breast meat took on the flavor pretty well, and made the meat a lot more tender. The dark meat, you could not really taste the flavor much. So I appended the brining time in the recipe below to include more time. Use your favorite BBQ sauce, we like Sweet Baby Ray's. Have extra on hand at the table, but if you brine the chicken enough, you won't need much of it. Promise.

Also, I served  this with lemon potatoes from the same magazine, and will post that experience & recipe as well.

Brined BBQ Chicken

Ingredients:


1/2 cup salt, divided in half
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided in half8 bay leaves total (4 for one bag, 4 for another)
1 tsp. onion powder, divided in half
2 tsp. peppercorns (divided in half)
2 tsp. granulated garlic (divided in half)
2 cups chicken stock, divided in half 
2 1-gallon size zipper lock bags


2-4 bone in breasts
2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs. legs and thighs
1/2 cup your favorite barbecue sauce, plus more for serving


Directions:


In a 6 cup measuring cup, measure 3 cups water and add 1 cup broth. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt, 3/4 cup sugar, 4 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. whole peppercorns and 1 tsp. granulated garlic. In one of the zipper lock bags, add the breasts and pour the brining solution carefully into it. Lock it tight, pushing extra air out. Put it in a large bowl in case there is leaking.


Now do the same process again, with another 3 cups water and the rest of the broth. Add the remaining seasoning you measured out. Add the dark meat to the bag and add the brining solution and close it tight. Add it to the bowl with the other bag, and store in the fridge for at least 2 hours if not 4-6.


When ready to grill, take out the chicken from the brine. Rinse and pat dry. Discard the bags and the liquid. 



We use a gas grill. Close the lid, and heat on high for 15 minutes. When the grill is hot enough, lower your other burners to medium-low, but keep the center one on high. Sear the chicken on the high burner with lid down for (2-4 min for breasts, 1-3 min for dark meat)on all sides. As pieces get a nice seared look with brown grill marks, move them to the cooler part of the grill over the lower flames. Cook them slowly with the lid down for 12-20 minutes. Breasts take shorter, dark meat a little longer. Keep and eye on them and rotate as you go. The sugar in the brine may let things brown too easily, so watch. Breasts need to be cooked for the most part with the skin side up. Brush with your favorite barbecue sauce the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. Let sit for a few minutes on a platter to rest before serving.


Knowing chicken is done:
Internal temp at the thickest part of the meat should read 170˚ for dark meat, and 160˚ for light. If you don't have a meat thermometer, I strongly urge you to get one. The amount of money it would take to get one would be covered by many a ruined piece of meat...trust me, it's worth it. But if you don't have one, cut a slit in the thickest part of the chicken down to the bone and see if juices run clear. There should be no pink color and no blood, especially by the bone. Only when juices run clear is when the chicken is ready.

RECIPE: Almond Scented Sour Cherry Pie Variation with Rhubarb

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I recently posted an amazing sour cherry pie recipe. Now, the cherries for that recipe were supposed to make two pies. However, the pound to cup ratio in The Pie Bible by the pie goddess herself, Rose Beranbaum, was a little short...about 1 cup and half short on the second pie. So after a long search for sour cherries in any kind or shape or form, I gave up. So lesson 1-sour cherries are rare and totally seasonal. If you find 'em, USE them, love them..and buy extra!

During my searching I heard of a great jarred sour cherry that Whole Foods may carry, so I took a quick trip over there. Unfortunately, no luck. However, the manager there was amazing (which, big shout out to the Whole Foods in Sauganash/Chicago. You guys rock with customer service!) and was giving me all kinds of advice. She was awesome and I pretty much was not going to be allowed to leave without a solution to my dilemma. It so happened their pastry chef was shopping in produce on her off day, and the manager introduced me to her. She suggested rhubarb as a great filler and compliment to the tartness of the cherries, and also recommended the organic, prechopped frozen in their freezer case. She said the extra liquid from the frozen rhubarb would give me great juice. When I got home, I decided to see if The Pie Bible had any advice on working with rhubarb and low and behold, Rose B. had a whole recipe dedicated to cherry and rhubarb! I followed my previous recipe except for the following filling, and the pie turned out great. My friend who I made the pie for can attest to it. She said she had to hold her husband back from having huge second portions.


Almond Scented Sour Cherry and Rhubarb Pie Variation

Filling Ingredients:

2/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
2 cups sour cherries pitted, juices collected
9 oz. chopped, frozen rhubarb
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. Amaretto

Follow my cherry pie recipe until you get to the filling part.


In a medium saucepan, mix everything but the Amaretto until well combined. Macerate for 15 minutes. Over medium high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Let simmer for 1 minutes, mixture will get thick. Take off heat, and let it come down to room temp. After about 15 minutes of cooling time, pour the Amaretto into the mixture, stir, and let sit to cool completely. Add to the pie shell when completely cool. Build the lattice tops described in previous post and follow the rest of those directions.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

RECIPE: Arugula-Basil Pesto with Pecans

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Earlier today I posted about how to sow and harvest Arugula. (The post is here if you need it quickly.). If you have tough, bitter, more mature greens, a pesto is a great way to use them up. It  accommodates their bitterness and you can still get a full Arugula experience.

The recipe I used as a base came from Epicurious. However, I decided to be conservative with the Arugula. One, because I was not going to have enough from my garden, and two, I do have an 8 year old who-though is brave and daring in our foodie adventures-may still be anti-super bitter pesto. So I combined the greens with Sweet and Genovese basil from my garden and a bit of parsley. I used Parmesan because it was milder, but I think if I were to make it again I would do a Pecorino Romano, a Reggiano blend or just something a touch punchier to hold up to the Arugula. It's pretty easy, the food processor does all the work, really. And I believe if you have extra, you can top it off with olive oil in a storage container and it would keep for a few days (like normal pesto).

Arugula-Basil Pesto with Pecans

Ingredients:

3 oz. fresh cut Arugula leaves, tough stems removed
4 oz. fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup parsley leaves
3/4 cup pecans
1 large garlic clove
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 grated Parmesan or other Italian hard cheese (plus more for garnish)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguine

Directions:


Toast pecans until golden in a small saute pan over medium heat. Let cool. Take 1/4 cup and chop them roughly with a knife and set aside. These will be for the garnish on top.




Rinse and trim all you greens and herbs. Place in a food processor.




Peel, trim and chop up you garlic clove finely. Add the salt right onto the garlic. Using the side of your knife and your palm, press and mush the garlic into the salt until a rough paste is formed. Add it to the food processor. With that add the pepper, the cooled whole pecans and grated cheese. Pulse the mixture a couple of times to get things going and distribute things evenly.


Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package directions. While it is in the middle of cooking, ladle 1 1/2 cups hot pasta water carefully into a cup. Reserve it for assembly. When pasta is done, drain and return it to the big pan for assembly.
 
While the food processor is going, add the olive oil. Process until a rich, creamy green paste is formed. I usually pause midway and scrape the sides and mix, then continue processing to make sure things are well incorporated.

Add your paste to the pasta. Now, depending on the palate of your diners, you may not want to dump all of it in. Pour about 1/2 -3/4 in, and 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water and toss. Take a taste. If it is too weak, add more pesto. If it is too hard and thick to toss, add 1/4 cup more pasta water to mix the pesto. Keep adding water and pesto in stages until it is the right amount of sauce and the consistency you want. You won't need all the water for sure. You may use all the pesto depending on how punchy you like things (we did). Use your judgement. When serving, top with the reserved chopped pecans and extra grated cheese.

GARDENING: Pruning Arugula and About Cut-And-Come-Again Greens

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There are a many cut and come again crops that are a great addition to any garden. In fact, most herbs and salad greens benefit from a good cutting back every few weeks. Arugula is one of those greens. In fact, the longer you let Arugula go, the tougher and more bitter you crop will be. The best Arugula for salads are the tender, baby ones. No worries if you let a plant get away from you, can find the baby leaves on more mature plants on the stems closer to the roots. But if you need a lot of tender leaves for your summer salad obsessions, it is best to keep cropping them as it grows. Arugula is a wonderful self sowing plant as well, meaning that if you do let it flower and release it's seeds, it will grow pretty regularly. My father has an Italian varietal (of course) which he lets just grow like crazy against his fence, and it just comes in more and more thickly every year. I have not had as good of luck in my past Arugula endeavors, on account of "city-wise" bunnies. But this year was the first year I magically had a crop, and I did not know what to do with it. And because of that, my plants got away from me.

Yes, my plants grew and grew and flowered. At that point, I had a lot of mature, bitter leaves, and some smaller baby leaves, and flowers. After consulting my father (the Arugula guru) and doing quick research, I took the pruning shears and went to town.

Here's how I did it:





First, I trimmed off any flowers and threw them in the ground around the plants for future propagation.


Then, I started with the tallest stalks and cut them from about 2 -3 inches from the ground. Take your harvest and put it in a basket.

Working from the center, I pruned back the leaves and smaller stalks around it about the same height. You will have a mix of broad leaves, stalks with a mix of smaller and bigger leaves. Just cut away. You will need to make sense of it in the kitchen. Place your harvest in the basket.


What you have left is a small, leafy mound about 2-3 inches high. Hit it with some fertilizer after cutting to start new growth.

Keep the cycle going. I plan on cutting mine back sooner-pretty much before flowering next time, to make a nice salad. The mature harvest in the picture up top I used in a pesto which I will post later today. I felt the leaves were going to be way to tough and bitter for a salad this time around.

Throw some Arugula seeds in the ground yourself and let the magic begin!

RECIPE: Almond Scented Sour Cherry Lattice Pie

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This pie uses sour cherries, which are sometimes very hard to find. They are very seasonal. A friend of mine brought some for me from Michigan, right from a farm stand. According to the pie maven herself, Rose Beranbaum, you can purchase Fruit Perfect Cherries which are a great replacement. She suggests you use 2 (13.5 oz each) jars, 1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water and 1/4 cup sugar. Continue with the below recipe. I would add an extra 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch because the below recipe has extra liquid which I added to Rose's recipe if you use the jarred cherries. The original sour cherry recipe can be found in Rose's Pie Bible book. My husband and sister 'n law said this was the best pie I have made to date. I think it was pretty darn good, too!

Ingredients:

Kirsch-Cream Cheese Crust:
8 Tbsp. butter
3 oz. cold cream cheese
1 1/3 plus 4 tsp. all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
2 -3 Tbsp. Kirsch with 2 ice cubes (you will not use all of it)
1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Filling:
3/4 plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
pinch of salt
3 1/2 cups pitted sour cherries (2 to 2 1/2 lbs, depending on their size)
generous 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 generous Tbsp. Amaretto

Glaze:
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. milk or cream
1/4 cup raw granulated sugar

Make the crust:




Cut up your butter in tablespoon-size chunks, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. In a Ziploc bag, add the flour and baking powder and freeze it as well for 30 minutes. In a food processor, pulse the flour a couple times.



Cut up the cream cheese in 3 chunks, and pulse into the flour until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas.



Add the cider vinegar and pulse a few times. Add the 1 1/2 Tbsp. kirsch and pulse until the dough will come together when pressed with your finger (Do not over mix). If it doesn't, add a teaspoon more of kirsch and pulse a couple more times. Keep doing this until the dough comes together when pressed. It won't look like it will in the processor, and that's OK.




Pour 2/3rds of the crumbly mixture on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Using your hands, fold the edge of the plastic wrap under your knuckles and press the dough. Keep doing this motion, using the plastic wrap as your barrier and helper to form the dough quickly into a ball. Fold it over itself a couple of times, then flatten into a disc. Cover completely with the wrap, and shape in your hands into a flat, round disc, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Take the remaining 1/3rd of the crumbly mixture and do the same thing. This disc will be smaller and will be the lattice for your pie. Take both discs and chill for at least1 hour. Take them out ten minutes before rolling to make your life a little easier.


the mighty cherry chomper



Make the filling:
Pour your pitted cherries with all reserved juices in a large bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla, almond extract and Amaretto. Mix. Let sit and macerate at room temperature for 1 hour (no more than 3).



Assembly and Baking:
Take the larger disc out first and unwrap it. Layer a work surface with a large sheet of plastic wrap (about 12 inches all around. Lightly dust it with flour and place the disc at the center. Cover it with a similar sized sheet of plastic wrap. Roll the disc out to about 13 inches in diameter. Peel off the top layer of wrap, flip upside down and set on top of the pan. Press it gently in the pan, peeling off the wrap on this side as you go. Trim the edge, press it firmly into the pan some more. Use fork tines to break any bubbles in the dough. Recover pie with plastic wrap and let relax in the fridge for 30 minutes.


Roll out your smaller disc the same way. Make an oval shape, about 10 1/2" long by 8" wide. Unpeel your top layer of plastic wrap, and with a ruler, make tick marks across the width every 3/4". You should have ten strips. Cut off the rough edges on the sides, and cut evenly along the tick marks down lengthwise to get your strips. (you may need a ruler that you only use with food to make things straight. I am an art director by trade, and learned long ago by getting yelled at as an intern how to cut straight-so I can do a pretty good job by eye. Do what's comfortable.) Now, I find that chilling the dough again for a few minutes makes the lattice assembly easier. My dough for this pie was getting warm very fast because the kitchen on this June day was so hot. The strips broke up easily as I was pulling them up. So slip the cut dough, still on plastic wrap, on a cookie sheet. Cover loosely with wrap again and place in the fridge for ten minutes before full assembly.

Preheat oven to 425˚. Have a rack down at the lowest part of the oven. Set a non-insulated baking sheet on it layered with parchment to catch drippings (not aluminum foil because it will mess with your baking the bottom of your pie.) It is best to have the baking sheet heated at 425˚ for atleast 20 minutes. This helps to sear the bottom of the pie and not get soggy.


 Mix the cherry mixture well. Take your pie shell out, uncover it and fill it with the cherry mixture. use the back of your spatula or spoon to push down the cherries evenly, and scrape all the juice from the bowl into the pie.


Take out your lattice strips. As you can see, I drew a diagram to help explain how to make a lattice top. Take half your strips, from the center to the short end, and lay them down on the pie in one direction. Use the longest one in the middle and work outward, with shorter ones towards the end. Let the ends overhang, you will deal with them later. Now, find your center point, and start about 3/4" above it, by folding back every other strip. Lay the longest strip from your tray over the strips that are still flat, perpendicular from the other strips. Unfold the strips that were bent back, so that they lie flat again, and bend back the alternate ones. Lay a second strip, perpendicular, across the ones that are now lying flat, and bend forward the ones you bent back. Keep doing this, working from the center out on both sides, until you have a basket weave affect. Trim your ends, tuck them into the edge, then by hand flute the edge of the entire pie, sealing it all happily together.

Whisk the egg yolk with the milk and lightly brush it on top. Sprinkle the raw sugar on the glaze. Place the pie on the baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes.





After 15 minutes, use a pie ring protector or tin foil to cover the edges so they do not over cook. Continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, if the crust is getting too brown but the filling is not bubbling happily yet, tent it for the remainder of the cooking time with tin foil that has a steam hole. Taking it off the last 5 minutes or so for proper browning if needed. The pie should be bubbling all over and the crust should have an even caramel- gold color.


Let sit out and cool. It needs time to set for at least 3 hours before serving.
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