Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July


Weekend Round-Up will be posted Sunday July 5, 2015

Enjoy your holiday weekend

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday Sock Fairy Adventures

Friday July 3rd Sock Fairy Adventures in Sockland
Reader ages 6-9 Story synopsis so far…

Will is searching through the dryer for his lost soccer sock. He really wants to find the mate as his soccer socks are a lucky pair. He once scored a winning goal wearing them. As Will leans into the dryer he suddenly is sucked in and tossed about. When Will stops spinning he tumbles out into a new place called Sockland. This new magical place has mismatched socks everywhere hanging on tree branches. Three fairies fly by Will. He knows they are fairies from seeing pictures in his storybooks. He runs excitedly down the road hoping to catch up to them but trips and falls over a large rock on the road. His leg hurts but he manages to catch up just as the fairies disappear through the door into the Sock Bank. Unexpectedly Will’s size changes to very small when he rubs fairy dust over his hands. He is able to make it inside the Sock Bank behind a fairy just as the door closes. Will watches sock fairies unload their bags of mismatched socks hoping to find mates for their socks. If they can find one a gold coin is given in return. When Will spies his missing sock he runs and grabs it but is caught by the sock security guards. 
Vocabulary Words:
rescue-to save someone from danger
sock hop-a dance where you wear socks not shoes
grip-a tight hold
thieves-persons who take something that doesn't belong to them 
dawn-the time each morning at which daylight first begins. 

Chapter 3 Melinda to the Rescue
The room got quiet. The sock security guards headed toward the door with Will. As the door opened Will looked back over his shoulder. Sock fairies were gathered in a circle whispering. All of a sudden one fairy flew toward Will. The guards looked up in confusion losing their grip on Will. “Hang on to me,” whispered the sock fairy to Will. And with that they flew out the door ahead of the guards around the corner and out of sight.

“Whew was that ever close!” said Will to the sock fairy. “Thanks for your help. I wasn’t stealing anything I just wanted my other sock. Who are you anyway?”

“I’m Melinda and I could see you needed help to get away from the guards. But remember they were only doing their job to protect the bank from thieves. What’s your name?”

“Will, but look what’s going on over there?” pointed Will to the building across the street. A group of sock fairies were looking at poster hanging on the door. “Let’s go check it out.”

Melinda grabbed Will by the hand and they flew across the street. Will who was still clutching his soccer sock was beginning to like his brand new small size. 

Sock Hop Today-Avalon Theatre
3 PM
Wear your lucky socks 
Bring your dancing partner
Prize: A bag of gold coins
Awarded to the couple 
Who can dance till dawn

“Will, any chance your socks are lucky? ” asked Melinda.

“Of course they are,” said Will. “I once scored a winning goal with these pair on. What’s a Sock Hop anyway?” 

“It’s a dance you go to and the best part is you get to wear your socks not shoes,” said Melinda. 

“Any chance you’d like to go to the Sock Hop and be my dancing partner?” 

Will could feel his heart race with excitement. “But I am not sure even my lucky socks will help my dancing.”

“Leave everything to me!” 

She grabbed his hand and they flew into the Avalon. 

Next Friday Sock Fairy Adventures in Sockland
Chapter 4 Sock Hop

© Copyright 2015 EVER READY All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Trifle

Layers of lemon cake, whipped cream, lemon curd, and blueberries! This beautiful dessert is always a hit! Lemon Blueberry Trifles are perfect for the 4th of July or for your next summer party!  Note you can make one big trifle, this dessert tastes great big or small:) You can’t go wrong!








Martini or Margarita glasses can also be used to serve the Lemon Blueberry Trifle dessert. The trifle can be made with homemade lemon cupcakes see recipe below or use a prepared box of lemon cake mix as a time saver as well as purchased lemon curd or use the recipe below.  
Recipe comes from twopeasandtheirpod.com

Trifle Ingredients:Lemon Cupcakes or Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream
Cream Mixture
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • Mint, for garnish, optional
Directions:
  • First, bake the lemon cupcakes. Let the cupcakes cool and cut or tear them into 1-inch pieces. If you want to bake a cake with the cupcake recipe use a 9 x 9 pan and adjust the baking time. Cool the cake or cupcakes before cutting into pieces.
  • While the cupcakes are baking, make the lemon curd. You can use store bought lemon curd, if you wish.
  • Make the whipped cream and beat in the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
  • To assemble the trifles, use a martini glass for individual serving or use a large trifle dish or flat-bottomed glass bowl. Arrange a single layer of the cake cubes in the bottom of the dish. Spoon whipped cream, lemon curd, and blueberries over the cake layer. Repeat, finishing with a layer of the whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. The trifles can be made up to 24 hours in advance. The flavors will marry in the refrigerator and I think they taste better after they have been chilled for at least a few hours.
  • Just before serving, garnish the trifle with a dollop or lemon curd, extra blueberries, toasted coconut and/or a sprig of mint! 
Cooking tip: You will need about 1-1/2 cups lemon curd. The measurements are loose in this recipe because it depends on the size of trifles you make. Just make sure you layer! You can also use other berries-strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are good too! 
Lemon Cupcakes Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 2 large lemons
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 TB. fresh lemon juice
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan (12 cups) with paper liners. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar mixture together until light and fluffy and lightened in color. This will take about 6 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • Add the eggs one at at time, beating after each addition. Add in the vanilla.
  • Add the flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until flour is just incorporated. Don't overmix. Mix in the lemon juice.
  • Divide batter evenly in prepared cupcake liners, filling 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.
Lemon Curd
Ingredients:

  • 4 large lemons, zested and juiced (a little over 1/2 cup) 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 5 egg yolks 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces Directions: 
Directions:
  • In a medium bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. 
  • Put the lemon zest and sugar mixture, lemon juice, egg yolks, and butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir until combined. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the butter melts and the mixture thickens, about 10-12 minutes. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. 
  • Remove the pan from the heat and pour lemon curd into a jar or glass bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the curd so it is airtight. Cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator. Again, the curd will thicken up after it is completely cooled. Note-Lemon curd will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Celebrating Independence Day The John Adams Way With A Fruit Pie

No other family has had a longer legacy of celebrating the Fourth of July than the Adams family. From 1776 to 1892, the Adams family had been involved in a myriad of Independence Day activities. John Adams (1735-1826) was instrumental in negotiating independence from Britain at the Continental Congresses (1774-78) and signed the Declaration of Independence.
History lesson 101
In the words of John Adams written in  a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776: 
"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

The Story Behind the Quote Above
The date of July 2 was important as this had been the date when the Continental Congress had voted to declare its independence from Britain. People remember this speech as it suggests celebrations should be held to commemorate such an important decision. 

People have followed John Adams’ suggestion by celebrating Independence with a commemorative holiday, as they have until this day, and shall continue as long as America remains a free nation. The written Declaration of Independence was completed on July 4, 1776, which is why Independence Day is celebrated on the Fourth of July.

So I thought this blog posting from Amanda Markel was a great reflective piece.  http://amandamarkel.com/2011/07/04/how-to-celebrate-independence-day-the-john-adams-way/  in her words...

How to Celebrate Independence Day, the John Adams Way
Even though this John Adams quote is from over 200 years ago, it describes perfectly our Fourth of July celebrations today!

  • Pomp and Parade? Check! Between speeches and patriotic music, I think we’ve got pomp covered. And I do love a good Independence Day parade!
  • Shows, Games and Sports? Check! The shows might be a little different from what John Adams had envisioned, but who doesn’t love an opportunity to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy? Or The Patriot? Or 1776? Or Independence Day? And the Fourth of July is a great time for families, friends, and neighbors to get together and play all sorts of games, or to watch a sporting event on TV.
  • Guns? Check! Between cannon blasts, and fireworks, (which are really just colorful guns), this is probably the most anticipated event of any given Independence Day.
  • Bells? Check! If not church bells ringing, then bells in concerts all across the country. Big or small, bells are ringing all around America for the Fourth of July.
  • Bonfires and Illuminations? Check! There are those fireworks, again, and lights in general, as everyone stays up late to celebrate America’s birthday. Even backyard bonfires are not uncommon, as families huddle around them, and talk late into the night.
  • From one end of the continent to the other? Check! I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love at least some aspect of the Fourth of July, whether it’s the fireworks or the time with family, the food or the parades. And it doesn’t matter if you live in a big city or small town, (or even on a farm in the middle of nowhere), east coast or west, north or south–Americans all over this country are celebrating today–celebrating our strength and our freedoms, celebrating all of the things that make this country great

No Fuss Puff Pastry Fruit Pie 
Cook's notes: Nothing could be easier than this fruit pie made with puff pastry sheets. Add your favorite prepared pie filling—cherry, apple, blueberry—and you've got a delicious, homemade pastry that goes perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea. 
Ingredients:
  • 1 pkg. (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TB. water
  • 1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling or apple or blueberry pie filling
  • 1 TB. confectioners' sugar
Directions:
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork or whisk.
  • Unfold 1 pastry sheet on a baking sheet. Spread the pie filling on the pastry to within 1 inch of the edge. Brush the edges with the egg mixture. Unfold the remaining pastry sheet and place over the filling. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Brush with the egg mixture. Cut several slits in the top of the pastry.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Cool the pastry on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar or make a powdered sugar icing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pork Chops with Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce


Pork Chops with Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce 
recipe from tideandthyme.com
Cook's notes:The sweet and spicy combo was the perfect accent for the meaty chops. I served it all over a bed of cinnamon-spiked mashed sweet potatoes. A easy recipe for summer grilling.
Pork Chops with Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce and Cinnamon Spiked Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in (1-inch thick) pork chops or 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp. each salt and pepper
For the Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce:
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 TB. red wine vinegar
  • 3 TB. light brown sugar
  • 1 TB. chipotle in adobo, chopped
For the Cinnamon-Spiked Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2-3 TB. butter
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  • 2 TB. half and half
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • kosher salt
Directions:
  • Add the quartered sweet potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Boil over medium-high heat until potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes. Drain, and place back in the pot. Add the butter, brown sugar, half and half, and cinnamon. Mash until smooth and well combined or use a hand mixer. Season to taste with salt and cinnamon. May need to use more half and half to get the right consistency. Cover and set aside.
  • Prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once blueberries begin to soften and burst, reduce heat to low and let sauce simmer until it’s reduced by about half.
  • While sauce is reducing, grill the chops. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Season chops with salt and pepper well on both sides. Grill chops for about 3 minutes on each side, internal temperature should reach 140. Remove to a platter and tent with aluminum foil.
  • To serve, lay down a bed of the sweet potatoes,followed by a chop. Spoon over chop some of the blueberry-chipotle sauce. Serve immediately. 
Cook's notes: 
Amazingly refreshing, bubbly, and sweet - a perfect summer cocktail that you can make in just 5 minutes! recipe adapted from 
The Comfort of Cooking
Ingredients: 
  • 3 cups prosecco, chilled
  • 1 cup limoncello liqueur, chilled
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 6 sprigs fresh mint
Directions:
  • In a large pitcher, whisk together prosecco and limoncello.
  • Serve over raspberries, garnished with mint, if desired.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Provencal Vegetable Gratin


Provencal Vegetable Gratin
For this gratin, use all the interesting green and yellow summer squashes (pattypan, scallop, crookneck, butterstick) you can find at the farmers' market or if you are lucky enough in your very own garden.
Cook's notes: 
By mid summer gardens are producing large amounts of vegetables that can be used in a summer vegetable gratin—layers of fresh tomatoes and other produce like eggplant, zucchini, or squash, with a bit of cheese, a generous amount of fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, and a crunchy breadcrumb topping, all melted together by slow roasting.
As the gratin cooks, the vegetables shrink, releasing their moisture and concentrating their flavor. The finished dish is a hearty blend of flavors that can stand on its own as dinner with some crusty bread, or that can be the perfect side dish for grilled meats.
Here are some helpful steps to help you create a perfect summer vegetable gratin

  • First, you need the right dish. I'd like to say that this is the excuse you needed to buy a beautiful earthenware tian made in the South of France. (A tian is the French name for an ovenproof earthenware dish, used to cook all kinds of gratins.) But I won't, because these recipes will taste just as good in a 7 x 11-inch Pyrex dish. An oval dish looks pretty, but any heavy, shallow, 2-quart, ovenproof dish will work.
  • Next, choose the freshest vegetables and herbs you can find. 
  • Don't feel constrained by the ingredient lists in recipes. "Customizing your gratin" is a great way to use all those funny round and twisted squash or tiny eggplant from the farmers' market, or even freshly harvested baby potatoes. At the start of the summer, you can use the first green tomatoes. To complement your produce, make sure that your other ingredients, including the olive oil and cheese, are of the best quality. Their flavors will play a dominant role in the finish.


Summer Vegetable Gratin 
Adapted slightly from Food Network  and Iowagirleats.com
Ingredients:
  • 2 TB. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling or lemon olive oil
  • 4 shallots (or 2 small sweet onions,) chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 5-6 Roma tomatoes or 4-5 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced 3/4” thick
  • 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3/4 -1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 7 x 11" baking dish with nonstick spray then set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot or onions, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic then saute for 1 more minute. Add fresh basil and thyme then stir to combine. 
  • Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish then spread into an even layer in the bottom.
  • Add sliced zucchini and yellow squash to a large bowl then drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Layer the vegetables in slightly slanted rows until you run out of room or all the vegetables are used up. 


  • Season the top with salt and pepper then cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife. 
  • Remove foil then sprinkle Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Return to oven uncovered then bake until cheese is golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Let dish sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Two more party ideas
Flag Fruit Kabobs 

Nighttime Ring Toss Game
Use Glow in the Dark rings. They can be found at Hobby Lobby stores if in your area or other craft stores.  Tape two together for more weight and challenge an opponent to a game of ring toss. 


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Road Trip to Eau Claire, Michigan for their Cherry Festival

Eau Claire, Michigan is a small town community that celebrates big for the 4th of July and the cherries that grow around it.
Every 4th of July the town gets the party rolling with their Annual Cherry Festival. Just in case you happen to be in the area July 3rd and 4th here is the run down of events for their 30th Annual Cherry Festival 
July 3rd starting at 6pm Veteran's Park and July 4th starting 8am Main Street 
  • 6pm (come early for registration for events) Color Walk/Run, 7:30pm Greased Pig Contest followed by auction, Tug of War. 
  • July 4th starts 8am with Oil Can Derby, 10 am Cherry Baking Contest, Prince & Princess, Cutest Baby, Parade at 1pm, Lip Sync, Cherry Pie Eating Contest, Bed Race, many events & vendors throughout the day, local village church activities, Street Dance w/ live band Rebel Pride Main Street 8 - 12 midnight
  • Fireworks show at 10pm, a family friendly festival, trophies, ribbons, cash awards, entry forms available at eauclairemi.com.
One of the more popular events is the Cherry Pie Baking Contest.  
Cook's notes: Lucky for us, Joyel Timmreck 2014 Grand Prize Winner from the Cherry Festival was willing to share her blue-ribbon cherry pie recipe. It was published in Food Network Magazine July/August 2015. 

With a couple of tweaks Voila! Here is my culinary interpretation of her 4th of July dessert. 
But first you need to see my recent must have purchase.
OXO Good Grips-Cherry Pitter
and it was only $3.99
It's a useful gadget that would keep kids entertained shooting out pits while you are making the dessert :)
Yes, I know a can of cherry pie filling could be used but does not come close to the taste of a sauce made with fresh cherries. Besides one would miss out on all the fun of pitting fresh cherries if used a can!   
Ingredients:
For The Crust
  • 3 cups finely crushed graham crackers-about 20 full sheets
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon or regular cinnamon 
  • 1 TB. sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
For The Filling
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 TB. Amaretto or 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3 cups fresh pitted cherries
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar-depends on the tartness of the cherries 
  • 2 TB. cornstarch
  • 1 TB. orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract 
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all crust ingredients in a bowl. Press into a 9 inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Beat cream until soft peaks are formed, add in cream cheese and confectioners sugar. Beat until smooth. Add in 1 TB. Amaretto or 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Mix and set aside. 
  • In a saucepan bring cherries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, orange juice and 1/2 tsp. almond extract to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened about 8 minutes. Remove from stove and cool completely. 
  • To the cooled crust add cream filling and top with cherry filling. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. 
FYI- I think the greased pig contest would be a fun event to watch.