Michigan

Clever Planet

The clever chef at Small Batch in Harbor Springs dropped tiny Peruvian peppers onto my flash fried kale and made it look like Christmas.  Delicious.

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A considerate shop owner in Boyne City placed pillows on a sofa of straw.  Rest for the weary.

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A creative bookseller in Traverse City provides water and age-appropriate reading material for the four-legged passersby. Delightful.

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Creative planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food, Michigan

Fully Caffeinated

Friday morning we headed out on our annual Mother/Daughter Road Trip. If you recall from years past, you know they are all about coffee, food and beaches.

This year it was more coffee, food and shopping, with a little bit of beach.

First stop:  Saugatuck

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Why have I never thought to turn a rusty old propane tank into a jack-o-lantern?

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After perusing many a posted menu, we decided on Grow for lunch.

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The waiter was attentive, the food and the vibe were just right.

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Tasty little potatoes, Michigan made sausage, a delightful dipping sauce and carrot pancakes.  Oh, and fresh lavender lemonade.

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Most of the patrons were dining al fresco, but we liked the calm inside. You don’t get much complete silence these days and I loved it, though my daughter would have preferred a bit of mellow folk music.  Are you listening Grow?

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Lunch, shopping and then a really fun, really fast dune ride.

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Those aren’t trees, they’re the very tops of trees.  Cottonwoods – the only tree that can survive being buried in 100 feet of sand.

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Singapore, Michigan – a fledgling resort town –  is completely buried under the dunes.  There’s a school, a church, a hotel under there.  In the 70’s the very top of a 3 story building was still visible.  Not anymore.

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The buggy driver said the area was a vast pine forest until the trees were harvested to help rebuild Chicago after The Great Fire in 1871. With the trees gone, there was no root system to hold the top soil in place.  Sand from Lake Michigan blew in and buried everything.  Only the cottonwoods survived.

A 1959 Michigan State University project to plant grass in order to stabilize the dunes is gradually bringing top soil back.  The aim is to restore the land to forest.

And that concludes your dune education. Unless you want to read about the Sand Dune that Swallowed a Boy.

After the thrill ride we drove thirty minutes up the coast to Holland.

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Dinner was at Butch’s Dry Dock, as seen while shopping across the street.

Neither of us snapped a picture of our ultra flavorful Campanelle with basil cream, zucchini, summer squash, tomato and goat feta paired with a glass of Terra Di Briganti Falanghina, Campania, IT 2015 because the lighting wasn’t suitable, but take my word for it, it was beautiful. And delicious. We were very happy.

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In the morning we grabbed a miel to go and walked several blocks to the Farmers Market.

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It was a perfect Farmers Market morning – crisp, sunny, 46-degrees-but-with-a-hot-cup-of-coffee-in-hand.

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And the colors were beautiful.

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When I was in Holland last January, there was only one downtown coffee shop, now there are two hip newcomers.

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Look at how cute this place is.

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Of all the coffee joints in all the towns in all the world, The 205 is our new favorite.  Definitely the winner of the trip.

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Kombucha and sparkling cascara on tap.

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And complimentary honey cookies.

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They even have a cool floral mural.

After a morning of farmers market strolling, shopping and coffee bar hopping, we headed further north to Grand Haven.

I’ve taken you there before.

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It’s still a very tasty sandwich.

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And it’s still a beautiful [board] walk to the beach.  My phone tells me we walked over 8 miles that day. I believe it.

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The aged, crumbling pier is being restored, so no walk out to the lighthouse this time.

We took a nap upon checking into our hotel in Grand Rapids and then immediately started researching places for dinner.

One of the highlights of staying in downtown GR is walking across the blue bridge to dinner.

But our feet were tired so, even though it was only 1.2 miles away, we drove to the trendy new Downtown Market for pizza. It has greenhouses on the roof.

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For dessert we were going to have a pour over for two and creme brulee at a fancy restaurant near the hotel, but then we noticed the flavor choices at Love’s.

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I chose a half scoop of cardamom orange blossom and a half scoop of chocolate coconut curry. Individually they were very good. Combined they became a delightful couple.  My daughter chose a half scoop of basil and a half scoop of roasted strawberry balsamic. The basil was really good alone (she let me taste it) but the strawberry/balsamic wasn’t quite right. Combining the strawberry with the basil, my daughter assured me, made it much better. Really good.

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We love Loves.

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Feet somewhat recovered, we took the beloved walk across the beloved bridge to listen to a bit of street music. Two young women on a street corner killing Riptide by Vance Joy.

A homeless man asked me if I smoked dope.

Do I look like I smoke dope?

I laughed.

“Look into my eyes,” he said, as he stared into mine.

“You don’t believe me?”

I wanted to tell him how old I am.  But I suppose old people smoke dope.

First order of business Sunday morning was Madcap for another miel.

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As I drank my heart began to transform into a Michigan Mitten.

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My daughter staging a photo of her pour over. She hates everything about this pic but it’s my blog.

From Madcap we walked back across the river to try the brand spanking new Rower’s Club.

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Love the table.

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Miel to go.

Wolfgang's

Last stop: Wolfgang’s. Of course.

Reflecting back we decided we’ll spend more time in Holland next year, where there is food and coffee yet to be tried.

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We ❤ Michigan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food

Date Sugar

It’s not the little smooch you get at the end of a night out.

It’s what I used in yesterday’s beans recipe.

The advantages of using date sugar over brown sugar when baking beans are several:

  1. It’s better for you (fiber and minerals) than brown sugar.
  2. It’s not as sweet as brown sugar.
  3. Most importantly the fiber in the finely ground dried dates plump when they absorb liquid which creates a thicker sauce.

With date sugar you won’t have soupy beans.

Just FYI.

And remember, the root word of incredible is edible.

 

 

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Food

Beans

My sister’s husband is a talented architect.

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The inside of their house – which he designed – is very cool.

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The outside is lovely, too.

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It was the perfect setting in which to celebrate my mom’s 87th birthday.

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The garage.

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The architect and his dog, Lily.

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Life feels special when there is beauty all around.

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“Let me get a picture of the bi-racial couple,” I said. “Every family needs one.”

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As usual with my family, the food was really good. Those are my beans on the right.

The architect liked them so my sister asked me to jot down the recipe.

As long as I’m jotting it for her, I’ll jot it for you, too:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Get out a big 14 inch cast iron skillet* and start warming it on medium low.

Open a package of bacon. I used this:

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Use whatever thick cut bacon you have.

If you use what I used there will be 10 slices. You’ll only need 8 slices for the recipe, but cook them all.

You’ll understand why once they start to sizzle.

Cut them in half with your kitchen scissors and then cut them in half again.

Place 20 of the pieces in one layer in the skillet.

When the fat is pretty well rendered but the bacon is not too crispy, remove them from the skillet and put them on a paper towel lined plate.

Don’t bother draining the pan, just put the remaining 20 pieces right into the hot grease.  When the fat is pretty well rendered, remove 12 pieces from the skillet and add them to the paper towel lined plate.

Leave the other 8 pieces in the skillet until they are as crisp as you like them.

While the bacon is slowly rendering, dice a medium onion and half a green pepper.

Remove the 8 crispy morsels from the pan and pour the bacon grease into a jar.

Now put 2 or 3 tablespoons of it back into the pan.

Saute the diced onion and green pepper in the bacon fat in the skillet until soft, about 5 minutes.

Use those 5 minutes to whisk together 3/4 cup bbq sauce**, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1.5 Tbsp. dijon mustard and 1/2 cup date sugar.  (It’s just ground up dates.)

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Open 3 (28 oz.) cans of plain old pork and beans.

Pop a piece of crispy bacon into your mouth.

Empty 2 of the cans into the skillet and stir.

Add the bbq sauce mixture and stir.

If it looks like your pan might overflow, drain the liquid from the remaining can of beans before dumping them in.

Stir. Carefully because your skillet will be full to the brim.

Bring mixture to a simmer.

Now arrange the 32 pieces of bacon – you should have eaten the other 8 by now – on top.

CAREFULLY, so you don’t slop any on your oven door, put the skillet in the oven.

Wipe that little bit of slop off your oven door. (I used six 15 oz. cans so my pan was full to the absolute top.)  That’s why I’m recommending you use three 28 oz. cans.

Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours.

*If you don’t have a 14 inch skillet, use whatever size you have to cook the bacon and saute the veg. Add as many of the beans as will fit and bring to a simmer, then mix in everything else in a big bowl and transfer into a greased 13x9x2 pan.

Or cut the recipe in half. We have a big family.

When the beans come out of the oven finish them with a drizzle of reduced Maple balsamic vinegar, if you have some and IF you remember to do it, which I didn’t in my haste to get the beans to the party.

Serves about 18.

Mom’s Birthday Beans

8 thick slices of bacon
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 a green pepper, diced
3 large cans (28 ounces each) pork and beans (I used Van Camps)
3/4 cup barbecue sauce (I used Simple Truth Organic Original)
1/2 cup date sugar (Now Foods)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
reduced Maple balsamic vinegar (optional) (I would have used Fustini’s had I remembered.)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Fry bacon in a 14 inch cast-iron skillet.
Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels.
Add onions and peppers to drippings and sauté about 5 minutes.
Stir in beans and whisked together sauce and bring to a simmer.
Top with bacon
Bake 1.5 to 2 hours. Let stand to thicken slightly and serve.

**Tip: If, in making this recipe, you use the last of your bbq sauce, put the empty bottle on your kitchen scale, pour the 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of apple cider vinegar directly into the bottle, put the lid on and shake. Now add the vinegar to the sauce ingredients.  That way you don’t waste anything.

#savoringsummer

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Food, Michigan

Living, Dying and Dining on Union Lake

The hub and I went to a matinee yesterday afternoon.

By the time the credits rolled all I wanted was something delicious for dinner.

(And a charming, romantic man to take me on a culinary tour of France.)

So the hub, my daughter and I went to a restaurant on the water where the food is always good.

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The Roasted Forest Mushrooms appetizer (wilted onions, spinach, morel cream & manchego cheese en croute) was just the deliciousness I craved.

Midway through our Pan Roasted Grouper (vermouth, artichoke hearts, capers, spinach, tomato concasse, with whipped potatoes and roasted asparagus) my daughter groaned.

“I’m getting really upset,” she said.

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She nodded toward a table at the corner of the patio where a handsome young man sat alone.

He kept glancing toward the door. And then toward the parking lot, which he could see from his seat.

“I hope his date isn’t standing him up,” she whispered.

He looked really clean, shiny, and endearingly first date nervous.

“If she isn’t laying in a ditch somewhere then I hate her,” I said.

We ordered dessert and coffee.

“Go sit with him,” I said.

“I’m not going to sit with him,” she said.

“If she doesn’t at least call or text then she puts the bitch in obituary,” I said, borrowing a line from a movie I borrowed from the library last week.

I noticed that the flotilla on the lake was growing.  Lots of little boat lights were filling the horizon.

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See all the boat lights? See the back of the hub’s head?

“Are there going to be fireworks on the lake tonight?,” I asked our waitress.

Yes indeed.

I turned to my daughter. “He has the perfect table for watching the fireworks and she didn’t come!”

“That’s probably why he chose this restaurant and this night for their date,” she sighed.

Soooo sweet and romantic.

“I’m getting really upset,” she said.

“Look!” I said as I tugged my daughter’s arm.  A young woman, in a first date outfit, was approaching his table. “She’s here!”

“Oh thank God!,” we both exhaled at the same time.

“Thank God,” my daughter said, again, “because the waitress was just at his table and it looked like they were having the “What do you want to do?” conversation.

“Thank you Jesus!,” I said, “Now I can really enjoy my second cup of coffee.”

“I wish she had come just a little sooner,” my daughter replied, “so I could have really enjoyed the creme brulee.”

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I really enjoyed it, even with a side of angst it was reeaaally good. Really good.

To the dismay of my dinner companions, I got up and snuck a picture of the couple.

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They looked happy.

We left just as the fireworks were starting.

I didn’t want to leave the friends home alone with fireworks going off everywhere. I read it’s especially hard on elderly dogs.

And Maxy is really old.

We should have left the restaurant just a little bit sooner.

Because the fireworks scared the p-o-o-p out of him.

Literally.

Welcome to canine geriatrics.

Except for that, it was a lovely evening.

 

 

 

 

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Food, life

Well Cheesed & Well Pleased

Today is National Grilled Cheese Day and as good fortune would have it, my daughter has the day off.

So we headed to Commonwealth.

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As soon as you walk in the door you know the sandwich is going to be good.

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Ah, there it is: Manchego, Boursin + grilled Halloumi cheeses on ciabatta w/ tomato soup for dipping.

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The ciabatta was perfectly light and fluffy with a thin, crispy outer layer. The cheese combo was brilliant with the nice little kick of the tomato soup.

Upon taking the first bite my daughter exclaimed, “This is the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had!”

I’m pleased to say it was one of the best I’ve had, too.  Though I myself have made some darn good grilled cheese sandwiches in my day.

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Sunshine, blossoming trees and grilled cheese.

Happy Day!

#wellpleasedandwellcheesed

 

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family, life

McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

I was just awakening from sleep when I heard a whisper.

“Follow the diet and exercise and you will beat cancer.”

I didn’t have cancer, my sister did.

Aware that I had no control over my sister’s diet and exercise, and aware that God often whispers things well in advance, I made a pot of my nutritious, delicious chicken, kale, carrot, onion and white bean soup – garnished with really good parmigiano reggianno – and took it over to her.

I suggested we walk the two or three blocks from her beautiful house into her darling down town.

Just in case.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile you know that my sister did not beat cancer.

Actually, she did, because she didn’t let it wreck her life.

Then Bebe was diagnosed with cancer in October and I thought maybe the whisper was for her.  I could control her diet and exercise so I took her for long walks, cooked balanced meals and carefully administered Chinese herb blends and supplements.

She died, as you know, in January.

So we adopted Dixie.

And almost immediately upon her adoption she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Unusual in dogs.

So now I’m cooking like her little life depends on it.

Because it just might.

She had her first chemo treatment yesterday – an injection of Carboplatin.

She seemed to handle it just fine until nausea kept interrupting her sleep and mine.

When she turned her nose up at her usual breakfast this morning, I made her some healthy snacks.

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I love the color combo.

1 cup organic wild blueberries
2 tsp. turmeric
2 Tbsp. dried basil – 4 Tbs. fresh basil is better but I’m out
2 Tbsp. coconut flour

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all whirled together

Add a pound of organic ground turkey.

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McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

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Plop the purple slime on a cookie sheet.

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Flatten it with a fork.

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Bake for 25 minutes at 350.

Normally she’ll gobble down as many of these as I’m willing to give her. Today she stopped at 2.

So I gave the food processor a quick wipe and made a batch of her other favorite.

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Whirl together a can of sardines,  1/2 tsp. turmeric, 1 egg, 3 Tbsp. almond flour and 3 Tbsp. hemp protein powder and plop it on the same cookie sheet. Why dirty another one?

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Flatten them with a fork and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Oh, yes, she was interested in these – ate 3 of them, I think.

Next up I made meatloaf: 2 pounds ground turkey, 6 Tbsp. ground hemp seeds, 4 oz. can of sardines, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 2 eggs, 2 ounces beef liver, 2 ounces fresh broccoli, 2 ounces fresh baby spinach, 2 ounces fresh red bell pepper.

Whirl it all together, spread it in a 13×9 pan and bake at 325 for an hour.

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The juices soak back in as it cools.

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Portioned out for dinner – Dixie gets 6 ounces, Maxy gets 12.

She gobbled a good bit of the meatloaf down.

I hope Dixie is the one who beats cancer.

But of course the whisper could have been for me.

This week I had two more pre-cancerous lesions removed from my legs – from my shins, which were flung over the edge of an inner tube exposed to the hot sun all day as I floated down the Verde River in Arizona while visiting my cousins in my youth. Sans sunscreen.

I don’t think they even had sunscreen way back then. Just tanning oils – shudder to think.

I remember putting cool washcloths on my badly burnt flesh that night. And I remember the steam rising from my legs as I did.

So if the whisper was for my future, what diet?

I trust I’ll know when the time comes.

Corrie ten Boom’s father didn’t give her the ticket until the train pulled into the station.

That’s probably when my Father will give me mine.

#symptom

P.S. No one wants to see a photo of a pile of dishes, but after all that cooking this morning, I’ve got a big one. Plus a million other things to do.

Serving God one beagle at a time.

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