I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but anytime is a good time for homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.
Even in the dog days of summer. Trust me….
Baby, it’s cold outside.
Yesterday we didn’t crack 60 degrees; in fact, it didn’t even reach the predicted 59 degrees my weather app promised. We settled for an unseasonable, whopping 56 degrees, with lots of rain. And since the 10 day forecast holds lows hovering right around 50, we executed upon the unthinkable.
Yep – we stowed away the air conditioning unit for the season and built a fire inside. On August 3rd, which arguably should be one of those dog days of summer, but it wasn’t….
Last Spring we contacted our good friends Rob and Kara to see if they wanted to join us for dinner. Unfortunately, they already had plans to attend a going away party for a couple leaving Chicago to live in Michigan. So long story short: We still had dinner with our friends, and crashed the going away party.
We know the couple who moved away; in fact, Mr. Musky and John are fraternity brothers, and we’ve hung out with Nara and John often thanks to our mutual friend group. If there’s one regret I have with the whole situation it’s that we didn’t get to know them better. Nara is the sweetest little thing with long braids, impeccable style, and a bohemian flair that she pulls off flawlessly. And John is quiet and sweet with the unmistakable zing of sarcasm and wit of an early 1990s Alpha Gamma Kappa Sigma. They’re both wonderful people.
But here’s the thing: Timing just didn’t work out for us to be super close, lifelong friends. We had our kids fifteen years before they did, and we’ve been at a different point in our lives as a result. We were in the throes of toddlerdom; they were finishing graduate degrees and partying like rock stars in the city. We lived too far away in the suburbs and were busy planting flowers and cutting grass while they were establishing their careers and ultimately getting married. Speaking of marriage? Their wedding in the Windy City was epic, as told by both the beautiful candid pictures and from the stories of their guests.
I’ve never heard of vodka on the tables at a wedding reception (and I even married a Polish guy!), but apparently this one graced every table at that celebration the night they exchanged their nuptials.
It’s mid-July and summer FINALLY arrived in the Northwoods! As I write this, it’s a steamy 80 degrees and I actually had to move my workout inside this morning between upper body torture and planking, hip dipping hell. I am downright terrified to return to the outdoor Illinois workouts in August. Hopefully they have oxygen, a cool-down pool, and mimosas nearby for the end of the workout.
80 and humid is tolerable when we get glorious 65 degree days thrown in every 3-4 days. Today I’m wearing shorts and no lumberjack socks, and I even chucked the blanket, so we’re currently experiencing a verifiable heatwave. June was so cold we considered building a fire a few times…inside! Forty degrees in summertime is nippy – even for me, and I LOVE cool weather.
We call that kind of weather Swinter. And do you know what Swinter is good for?
Campfires! We broke out Mr. Musky’s new Father’s Day present – a rotisserie for the campfire! For those of you who followed along on my instagram story a few weeks ago, you know the goodness that we ultimately met at dinnertime that night. Dark, crispy roasted chicken cooked perfectly through with juicy meat inside.
In preparing the bird, we agreed that our beloved Musky Rub is too punchy for poultry. It’s awesome on beef and pork, but a bit overpowering on chicken, turkey and fish. So I set out to create a new rub.
This recipe set me on track. However, I lacked several ingredients in my cabin pantry, so I modified. I also upped the cayenne amount (sssshhhhh – don’t tell my Musky Man) and added some additional herby-ness.
We loved this rub so much I’ve already made two more batches. It keeps perfectly in a little ball jar, just like the Musky Rub.
Enjoy the grilling season! There’s nothing better than firing up the grill, throwing some meat on to roast, and sipping an apéritif while chatting up friends and family. In my world, especially in my tiny-cabin-kitchen world, the only thing better is fewer dishes. So win-win for the grill!
More to come soon on a super simple summer salad using this rub, and my favorite cut of chicken.
Summer is in full gear, and I’m loving every second of it. This is the time of year I’d like time to slow down so I can savor gorgeous, high pressure 75 degree Fridays after relishing a sleep in 50 degrees with the windows open the night before. It’s my perfect weather world.
But then so is 30 degrees and giant fluffy flakes falling from the sky with the promise of a foot or more of snow.
And so is the thrill of a powerful rainstorm on its way with trees bending and swaying to and fro on our property.
I mustn’t forget brilliant fall days with an azure sky backdropping hues of red, orange and gold on the treelined walk through the woods.
And the gentle rainfalls of Spring in mid-afternoon that beg for a cup of tea and a good book next to the fire, or a curl-up inside a fuzzy blanket for a sneaky snooze.
I love it all. Northwoods weather always delivers, and this July is a doozy of a good time.
The past several days brought family around for a visit. First Mr. Musky and I met up with my parents in Madison so they could see where their first grandchild lives and what her school is all about. We crammed a ton of activity into 36 hours: dinner and a walk around the capital with a visit to a bourbon room, a visit to the country’s largest producer-only farmer’s market, strolls through a campus garden, a bar crawl, people watching at the student Union on the terrace, and brunch at the infamous Short Stack before heading to the cabin.
Awhile back Roger Lenhardt from Norm’s Farms contacted me, wondering if I’d like to sample some of their elderberry products. I’m always on the lookout for hand crafted, artisinal additions to apéritifs, so my answer was a no-brainer. I love the Norm’s Farms story, and most of all I love a family honoring their past while sustainably growing and expanding their core business.
Originating with Norman Lenhardt in Hartsburg, MO, the Lenhardt family preserved and expanded upon Norm’s vision to protect and preserve America’s family farm legacy. Today Norm’s Farms operates out of Pittsboro, NC by working with small local family farms to establish elderberry orchards. Together with the elderberries still grown in Hartsburg, Norm’s Farms’ vision is to be a one-stop-shop for all things elderberry for their customers, from seedlings out of their nursery to commercial plants for farm start up, not to mention the RIDICULOUSLY delicious elderberry products they produce, including jams, preserves, supplements, and syrups.
It’s no big secret – I love Magic Meat. So much so that we have some kind of variation of it about every 10 days, if not weekly. I’ll use ground beef, chicken, turkey, sausage, pork, veal, elk, bison, duck, venison, or lamb as at the protein with an innumerable combination of vegetables. Normally I make two pounds of meat, combining a slightly fattier animal with a leaner one. Recently I found the ground elk / Italian sausage duo to be ridiculously delicious, and Mr. Musky concurred. Lucky for him, there’s just two of us for the summer, so I can stretch the meat into two distinctly different meals, which is how I came up with these little gems.
Quinoa Muffins house everything you need in a meal: healthy carbohydrates, plenty of nutrient dense vegetables, protein and healthy fat from both the meat and the quinoa, and rich, satisfying flavor….
Thank you all for the birthday greetings! It’s currently 75 degrees and sunny with low humidity – a quintessential mid-June day in the Northwoods, so I’m off to the Farmer’s Market in Minocqua. Kahley’s on her way up for a visit, and Jake’s coming home tonight from camp to do his laundry. In other words, I’m off to a most perfect birthday with all my favorites surrounding me tonight for dinner. Big thanks to my Mom and Dad for conceiving me in September, because I’ve always loved having my birthday on June 16th. I don’t even mind sharing it with Father’s Day and the US Open. 🙂
In planning for my birthday apéritif, what to drink, what to drink? Gin drinkers, rejoice. I’ve concocted a good one for you today.
I’m a sucker for good marketing. Put a chartreuse, out-of-the-ordinary label on a product, and I guarantee you I’ll stop to look. Throw some whimsical butterflies on it and I’ll pick it up. Grace said label with a victorian woman gardening and for the low price of $19.99, I’ll buy the bottle just based on principle. Not to mention the fact that I can totally see roadside daisies pouring out of this vase when they start blooming in late June, assuming I’ve drained the bottle by then, which at this point is highly likely.
Happy Humpday, Friends!
I returned to the cabin on Wednesday with Jake, dropped him off at camp, and promptly focused on plowing through a chest cold while nursing spider bites on my leg. Some nasty little Plainfield arachnid noshed on my left thigh for lunch a week ago and it’s STILL red and itchy. If any of you have killer homeopathic solutions, I’m all ears.
For the first time in my life, I actually miss something about Plainfield. It’s my kettelbell group! Working out here by myself just isn’t the same. So I’m sampling some fitness classes at the YMCA, and while the people are generous, kind, and welcoming, it just doesn’t compare to the challenges Tim the Trainer puts us through in every session. Add fitness snob to my list, which is growing. I’m slowly becoming a wine geek, am definitely particular about my coffee, have extraordinarily high standards when it comes to vegetables, and am now a kettlebell brat as well.
Some observations from my first two classes at the Y:
All true stories. Those alone will keep me coming back, and of course, I’ll be more than happy to share the good-uns here.
Meanwhile, back in my tiny cabin kitchen, I’m not holding back when it comes to meals for two. I completely intended to bring you a fabulous zucchini lasagna today, but as I was assembling the dish and snapping pics, I came to the layering of the ricotta step to find decayed cheese within the container. More to come later this summer – despite our lack of a key ingredient, it was mighty tasty. And last night we created a winner – stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in cherrywood smoked bacon with pumpkin-cranberry risotto alongside it. You’ll be seeing that one this summer too. 🙂
If you’ve followed me along here from the beginning (by the way – thanks for that. Let’s have a party celebrating you and me, OK?), you know quite well that I lack in the dessert category. The reasons are many – baking is such a science requiring exact everything, I’m not a giant dessert fan, the time, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy an occasional treat. Quite the contrary! Daily I’ll eat a square or two of chocolate, or I’ll slather peanut butter on a rice cake and top it with sliced apples or dates for a mid-day pick-me-up. Usually I make a sweet treat when I host a party, but I always follow a recipe. Back in the day when we ate like crap I made more desserts, but they usually started with a box of something processed.
Now when I make treats, I immediately head over to Minimalist Baker, a (mostly) vegan and gluten free food blog by Dana and John out of Portland, Oregon. Many people associate negative connotations when they hear ‘Vegan’ but I’m telling you, the food that these folks create is OUT OF THIS WORLD! In the aforementioned kettle bell group there are a few vegans, and I love the challenge of cooking for them. Vegan food is wholesome (hi, plant based everything), delicious, decadent, savory, naturally sweet, complex, rich, and satisfying. And Dana repeatedly nails so many interesting food combinations on their blog with 10 ingredients or less, in one bowl, in less than 30 minutes.
When I saw her post on Vegan Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles, it was inevitable. First off, the combo: creamy peanut butter and rich chocolate. Just tell me you don’t love a peanut butter cup. I dare you! But then add a little crunchy texture in the way of nuts and – HOLLA! – pretzels. Gluten free pretzels. Which happen to be crispier and crunchier than their counterparts. How is that possible? I’m not sure. It just is.