It seems like ages since I have visited this space to share with all of you the goings on of our little family.  I hope all of you had a wonderful Independence Day and are staying cool, despite the incessant heat.

This past week, we spent our days immersed in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  Every time we begin our journey five and a half hours north, our stresses seem to melt along the expanse of highway.  When we finally arrive in Manitowish Waters, we find ourselves already a little lighter, less burdened and receptive to the fun times that lie ahead of us.  This place is our sanctuary.  Our retreat.  Our place of reconnecting with nature and all that this beautiful earth has to offer us.

I think this wonderful journey of ours is best shared through images that I will forever hold in my mind from this trip.  Enjoy.

Farm Fresh

This weekend, the littlest of our clan turned three.  In order to celebrate this day, our entire family gathered in our backyard for some farm fresh eggs and local bacon cooked up over the campfire by my hubby.  We also devoured birthday cake at nine in the morning, which was my favorite part of the early morning eating festivities.

After everyone was well fed and revved up with a bit of coffee in their systems, we loaded up into a few vehicles and headed to Krusen Grass Farms.  We have been ordering organic grass fed, grass finished beef from Sue and Altfrid Krusenbaum  for three years now.  We have spoken with them via phone and email many times over the course of the past few years, but had yet to visit their farm.

I spoke with Sue several months ago about a visit and since we have small children, she suggested we come and visit in May because that is when their cows are calving, and the girls would get to see a bunch of calves.  And see calves we did…over 80 of them!  And of these eighty young calves, we were even lucky enough to have timed our visit as such that we were able to see, touch, and snuggle two calves that were just a day old.

I’m telling you, I could have plopped myself right down in that barn and stayed there all day long.  Those little ones were the most friendly, lovely animals I have ever come across.  It was just amazing for the girls (and the adults for that matter) to experience.

But that was not the end of our visit, in fact it was only the beginning.  Sue was so incredibly kind and gave up over two hours of her day to show us her family’s absolutely gorgeous land, animals, and explain to us their sustainable farming practices that make the farm an absolute wonder to behold!  Our next stop was the egg mobile, where the girls were able to gather the day’s eggs.

I think the egg gathering was my oldest daughter’s favorite part of the day.  As she climbed down the steps of the egg mobile, she looked at me and said, “Mom, I think I want to start my own business.  I want to buy chickens of my own and have them lay eggs and then I’ll sell them.”  Love her.

Following the egg extravaganza, we made our way out into the pasture to visit with some of the other cattle.  After growing acclimated to our large group, these beautiful animals meandered our way and we were again able to “visit” with them for a bit.  Such fun!

Of all things I’ve done in my life, including our recent visit to Growing Power, which I touted as one of the greatest days in recent memory, this day now also tops my list.  We were once again able to forge relationships with the people that raise the food our family consumes, see the magnificent landscape on which this food is grown, and also witness a family acting as true stewards of the land.  We had such a fabulous day, and we thank you very much Krusenbaum family for a wonderful visit!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

This week I decided to take stock of our basement deep freezer.  I wanted to be sure that we had eaten all of our delicious frozen veg, soups, pestos, sauces and jams from last harvest so I could plan out our storage for this year’s goods.  I had to laugh out load when I looked in the bottom drawer of the freezer to find it filled with bag upon bag of frozen shredded zucchini!  I was immediately reminded of the chapter entitled “Zucchini Larceny” in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle when she says, “July is the only time of year when country people lock [their] cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat.”  I was indeed still finding myself in this position of having an extreme over abundance of zucchini, even though we were far, far away from the month of July.

I struggle to throw any kind of food out, so I racked my brain for something that would utilize at least some of our zucchini stock.  And the idea came to me…chocolate chip zucchini muffins!  I could use a bunch of the zucchini I had stored, and also use my favorite Pampered Chef stoneware muffin pan 🙂

Like I so often do, I grabbed my two year old sous chef, and got to work.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

3/4 cup  stone ground wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

juice of 1/2 a lemon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (with excess water drained off)

5 oz chocolate chips

(A side note on my recipes:  I use all organic products.  And I use local products when available.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar.  Combine eggs, oil, lemon juice and zucchini in a separate bowl.  Mix wet ingredients into dry. Then add the chocolate chips and pour into muffin pans.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Note:  I did bake these muffins in a stoneware pan, which often requires a longer cooking time than a metal muffin pan.)


Fuasa—Italian Easter Bread

We have many food traditions in our house, but the one that reigns supreme is my Nona’s fuasa recipe.  My nona, Madeline Zanocco (the woman in the photograph on the left), emigrated to the United States from Vicenza, Italy.  She had five children, the forth of which was my grandfather.  My grandpa, Angelo Zanocco, decided to take on the role of rebel child in the family because he was only one of Madeline’s five children to marry a non-Italian.  This is why I always chuckle when I think about the fact that it was my German grandmother, Adeline (in the photograph below), who taught me to bake her fuasa recipe, and thus carry on the family tradition of making Italian Easter Bread every spring 🙂

I have been making (and eating) fuasa on Easter Sunday from as far back as I can remember.  The sweet crunchy goodness of the bread is synonymous in my mind with the holiday celebration.  Now that both Nona and my grandmother Addie have both passed on, I have made a point of continuing with the fuasa tradition each Easter.  I have made fuasa with my girls from the first year of their lives (My oldest can be seen in the picture below from 2007, making fuasa for the first time when she was only six months old.), because I find so much value in passing on our family food culture to the next generation.

And when I say I will make fuasa each year without fail, I always think of the year when I decided to triple the fuasa recipe (that means I was making 15 loaves of bread), and my oven broke.  I frantically called around to our friends in the area, but all were already away for the holiday weekend.  So, I packed up by 15 loaves of dough, my hubby, and my 18 month old and drove to Illinois State University where my sister was attending college.  From there I went to her friend’s apartment to bake.  Yes, I was baking 15 loaves of bread, with a toddler, in a college kid’s apartment…while he was having a party!  I’m not sure I was their favorite person that night 🙂  But the fuasa got done none the less.

It has been so fun to see the girls take on more of an active role in the baking of the fuasa each year.  It is truly my hope that they continue this tradition and pass it on to their little ones some day.

Nona’s Fuasa Recipe

2 yeast packets

2 cups milk (scalded then cooled)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons salt

8 egg yolks (save the whites to use on the tops of the loaves before baking)

1 1/2 sticks butter (melted)

9 cups flour

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

Stir yeast into warm milk.  Set aside.  Beat egg yolks, add sugar, salt and flavoring.  Then add the melted butter.  Next add the flour and milk mixture, alternating between each.  Beat until smooth.  Place on floured board and knead.  Place in a large bowl, butter the top of the dough, cover with a damp towel and let rise until double in size.  Knead dough again.  Divide into five pieces, roll out and knot.  Place in greased pans, butter the top of the dough, cover with a damp towel and let rise until double in size.

Beat the egg whites.  Baste the top of each loaf with egg whites, then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake each loaf for 20 minutes at 350 degrees and 15 minutes at 250 degrees.  Enjoy!

I wish each of you a very blessed Easter weekend!

Breakfast for Dinner

Yesterday I decided to have an impromptu rummage sale, so by the time the sale ended and the left over items were boxed up, it was dinner time and I had nothing in my arsenal ready to go.  It was actually my oldest daughter who said, “I know Mom, we should have breakfast for dinner!  It is fast, and my favorite!”

Well by golly that was a fabulous idea!  So breakfast it was:  pancakes, scrambled eggs and fruit salad.  I have come to adore my pancake recipe, and I wanted to share it with you today.  It takes under ten minutes from start to finish, so it is a perfect homemade dish to prepare when you are crunched for time.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 T oil (I use an organic canola)

1 egg

1 cup milk


Breakfast From Scratch

Apparently I am on a DIY food kick this week!  After writing about our home brewing yesterday, I started to think about the other foods we make from scratch and soon thoughts of our delicious, and incredibly easy to make, granola popped into my mind.

I have been in a constant battle recently for something easy to serve my girls in the mornings when we are a bit rushed.  Of course I would love to make my little ones bacon and eggs or pancakes each morning before school, but we all know that some mornings do not play out the way we wish they could. We all know those mornings…When we wake up late, it seems to take years to get the kids even dressed, let alone to get them to use the bathroom and brush their teeth, and then we have exactly five minutes to eat breakfast before we have to leave for school.  Enter…Homemade granola.

I make my granola in giant batches and store it in an airtight container and it lasts up to several weeks. It is much, much cheaper than buying organic granola in the store, and the best part is that I know every single ingredient in my granola!  There are no long, four-syllable words that only someone with a PhD can decipher.  Just 5 yummy ingredients:

2 lbs organic rolled oats

1 lb raw slivered almonds

12 oz unsulphured, unsweetened coconut

1 lb local honey

cinnamon to taste

And here is the incredibly easy part:  You dump all of the ingredients, except the honey, in a giant bowl.  Mix it.

Put the honey in a small saucepan over low heat and warm just enough to make the honey a bit runny.

Then pour the honey into the dry ingredients.  Mix again.

Bake in batches in a shallow baking dish at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  (I stir the granola in the baking dish about every 10 minutes to assure it bakes evenly.)

And that’s it!  I store my granola in the bin pictured above and it lasts a long time.  Let me tell you, I can get A LOT of quick breakfasts out of one of these batches.  It is truly a breakfast time saver!

Pumpkin Scones

As promised yesterday, here is the recipe for the pumpkin scones I made on “Seed Starting Day.”

Mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Using a pastry cutter, add 1/3 cup cold butter cut into small pieces.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.

Next mix the following ingredients in a medium bowl:

2 eggs

½ cup heavy cream

¾ cup pumpkin puree (In the fall my husband halves pie pumpkins and scrapes out all of the seeds.  He then roasts the pumpkin halves on the grill until soft.  I then scoop out the meat of the pumpkin, run it through the food processor, and freeze it for later use in recipes.  This is what I used for this recipe.)

Add egg mixture to dry mixture all at once.  Then stir with a fork until just moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten into a circle.  Then cut the dough into wedges.  Separate the wedges as much as possible.

Brush the  wedges with a bit of additional pumpkin puree and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!