Quick update and long vacay

Hi guys! It’s been awhile, I know. I’ve had a couple of amazing weeks of vacation interspersed with hard work, and have maybe cooked one night. Cah-razy, right?

Even more cah-razy….this blog is one year old. It’s been one year since I was immersed in packing and planning for a move, wanting to stay in touch, and recipes galore. It feels like far longer than just one year since we packed up that big ol’ moving truck and arrived in paradise.

All of which brings me to today’s topic. I promised myself I’d make try this whole thing out for one year and see what happened. And I’m mighty pleased with the results. Now, hold on a second, don’t stop reading, I’m not going anywhere. I’ve just decided that summer up here is far too short and I need to be focused on enjoying it between the multiple jobs! I mean, look at this, there’s FUN to be had…

Bemidji tourism1

 

Dino pic and dino shirt! Playing tourist! Winning! So, you’ll forgive me while I go on summer vaycay, right? I’ll be thinking and stewing and dreaming up all kinds of new recipes in the meantime. Now get outside and enjoy yo’self!

S’mores krispies

Right. So who’s ready for some serious summer fun? I know, I know, I sound like the oldest of ladies, but can you believe next week is July already?! Here I am dreading the summer’s passing, but then again, we’ve got some great plans lined up for the Fourth and the week to follow!

That means for you, my loyal and loving reader, that these here posts are about to become more sporadic for the next two weeks. As Himself and I travel to points north of the border, we unplug all the electronics. ALL. Then with our staycation + camping to follow, we’ve agreed no electronic distractions there either ! We’ll see if I shall survive.

I jest of course. We’ve been unplugging from the Interwebs for the most part on Sundays already, and I have to say, it’s pretty dang awesome. It pretty much reinforced a. how glued I am to my phone and b. what a distraction that is.

But before I leave for vacay, my lovelies, I have an awesome dessert you should be bringing to all your Fourth cookouts. What travels better than barsssssss? (Yes those extra esses belong there, try it, say it out loud, there you go, you sound just like a Minnesotan) These are not your average rice krispie bars, oh no. These are like a chilled s’more, ready to pop in your mouth, no campfire required. And they’re dad approved, so you *know* you’re going to love them!

Enjoy!

S’mores krispies from thePenandthePan

S’mores krispies

4 cups rice krispies
2 cups cinnamon toast crunch
5 tablespoons butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
⅔ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips

Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil or grease lightly with butter. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together rice krispies and cinnamon toast crunch. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter and marshmallows over medium low heat. Once marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and add marshmallow mixture to cereal mixture. Mix together thoroughly. Add in semisweet and white chocolate chips, mix thoroughly.

Pat into prepared pan, let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Easy cheesy potatoes

I hope you guys have had an amazing weekend. Like me, you should be sitting back, relaxing, patting yourself on the back for getting those few pesky chores done and smiling on all the fun you just had. Because like me, you just had the perfect summer weekend. That totally happened for you too, right?

This gal got to go to Duluth and see her indomitable brother not only complete Grandma’s Marathon, but do it with a smile on his face. In a word. Amazing. Oh and one more. Inspiring.
It was great to see him and our friends push themselves past their limits. Also super fun was cheering on all those runners, friends or not.

Grandmas Marathon-1

Then today on a foray for breakfast, we met a couple of amazing small farmers, selling produce fresh from their greenhouse. They had everything we were looking to do (albeit on a much larger scale). They were certainly the nicest couple, and willing to share some pointers and fantastic produce. Brekkie was quickly followed by a nap in the hammock and now I’m re-energized for more.

Now, fill in the gap in time (and space) between those two paragraphs and fill it with talking, laughter, and foodie love. Yeah that was my very perfect weekend. And now to top it off with the easiest side dish in all the lands. Now keep in mind, I live in the frozen tundra so even in June, it’s no big to have my oven on for 30, but if you live in warmer climes, pop these into a well oiled foil packet and toss ‘em on your grill. Easy, cheesy, comfort food, and the simplest side dish imaginable.

Enjoy!

Easy cheesy potatoes from thePenandthePan

Easy cheesy potatoes

2 lbs potatoes
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
¾ – 1 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Clean, trim, and peel potatoes (if desired). Slice potatoes into ¼ inch pieces and place in 9×13” pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Top with onions and green pepper. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Bake uncovered at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and potatoes are pierced easily with a fork.

Comfort quesadillas

So here I have the easiest of recipes for you. So easy the ingredient list consists of you opening your fridge and taking a gander at just what is hiding (and perhaps languishing) in there. These are my go-to comfort food, especially when it’s a solo dinner, and they are so crammed full of all those favorite veg that I always, always over buy. In my mind everything can go into a quesadilla fresh mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes – heck yeah. Maybe you found that jar of banana peppers you’ve been meaning to use up, or those green chilies looking for a vehicle to your tum, or maybe its those last two delish olives taking up all that space. Yup, they all belong in there too. And I suppose, you could even throw some meat in there. You know, if you had to.

As a comfort food, they can’t be beat. Easy, delish, and the avocado on top will melt away the worst of days. And I’m putting that to the test. Someone made a rather large mistake, certainly not the end of the world, but I am a pretty harsh critic when it comes to this gal. But you know, I did find out I’ve got an audience. A big one. So there’s that, right?

That said, at least I have tons of fun to distract myself from all of that (and before you start gnashing your teeth wondering, “what the heck did you do, Jess?!” It was a typo. A small typo. But on a big stage). But yeah, fun! Next week marks the start of my summer hours. Yeah, you read that right, summer hours! So that’s pretty rad. But even more immediate is getting to watch my brother cross the finish line at Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday and then another trip to the bear bar! Yeah, bears. In real life.

In the meantime, let’s go comfort ourselves with quesadillas. Quesadillas oozing with cheese and dripping with salsa. Yeah. That.

Enjoy!

Comfort quesadillas from thePenandthePan

Comfort quesadillas

per quesadilla
1 tortilla (the size is up to you, how much comfort are you feeling?)
¼ cup or less shredded cheese
assorted vegetables, raw or cooked
butter for tortilla

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Butter one side of your tortilla and place in pan. Add vegetables to one side of tortilla. Sprinkle cheese over entire tortilla.

Just as cheese starts to melt, fold tortilla in half. Continue to cook, flipping frequently, until both sides are lightly browned.

Cucumber salsa

Rain, rain, go away. Or don’t your choice. Because right now, you’re giving me the excuse I needed to sit inside and pour over those many recipes I’ve been clipping and relaxing with Himself as we watch that creek in the backyard transform itself into a mighty river. Oh, not to worry, there’s little danger of it reaching the house. It’s a gorgeous thing to see, though. This week, the awesome power of nature was driven home once again as we woke in the middle of the night to closer than you’d wish lightning strikes and rain playing its staccato beats on the windows and roof.

The next morning, said creek reached higher than I’d ever seen. High enough that later that afternoon, I saw a man kayaking through my backyard. Yeah, that’s right kayaking! And with already swollen waterways, today’s (and last night’s and all yesterday afternoon’s) rain have resulted in flood warnings. But oooh, does it transform our backyard into a thing of beauty.

A thing of beauty and an excuse to stay indoors and revel in each other’s company. And we have a new Sunday tradition that’s aiding in said revelry. Now stop right there, this here is a completely PG blog, my friends. No, what we’ve decided is that Sundays are for sans phones. That’s right, the completely tech-obsessed girl goes sans phone and except for the time needed to make a quick blog post, sans internet too. No facebook, no phones, no email. Oh sure, if you really tried you could get a hold of us, but this whole hermit-y hiding thing is getting to be a Sunday tradition.

You know what else Sundays are for? Smoking meat. Mmmmm, smoked pork to be precise. A little rain (or even a lot) isn’t going to get in the way of that. And how, one wonders, can they possibly make meat in the smoker or on the grill even better? Well, I’ve got the answer for you – cucumber salsa. This sweetly heated salsa is the perfect accompaniment to pork or steak, grilled or smoked. Heck, it’d be awfully tasty on baked tofu too. A little crunch, a little heat, it’ll dress up whichever protein you have on hand.

Enjoy!

Cucumber salsa from thePenandthePan

Cucumber salsa

Inspired by the Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
½ poblano pepper, seeded and chopped finely
2 green topped onions, white and green portions chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
good pinch cumin
hot sauce to taste

Place cucumber, pepper, onions, garlic and cilantro in a medium bowl. Toss together.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Drizzle over cucumber mixture and toss again. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Serve as a topping to your favorite meats or baked tofu.

Cornmeal drop biscuits

Another glorious Minnesota weekend is almost upon us. It’s been one of those amazing warm in the sun, but ooh a hint of chill in the shade days that I love so much. The weather is about as perfect as it gets up here. Everyone else must think so too, cause we’re about to have visitors galore in the coming weeks. And. I. Can’t. Wait.

I mean not only do I get to share my love for this place with visitors, but I get to put off some of those pesky outdoor chores. (Oh stinging nettles, you’ve earned a brief reprieve, but don’t ease on your vigilance, I’ma comin’ for you.) And I have to admit, it’s nice to have a chance to avoid thinking about that garden. With the super late spring we had up here, I had to resign myself to the fact that tomatoes, peppers, and corn just weren’t happening. But I still have oodles of squash and cucumber to console myself with.

I’m also a little obsessed with landscaping right now (oh how the fickle mind will wander). When visiting the cities last weekend, my dad gave me four shrubs that had been living in pots but were yearning for the ground. And yeah, I found the perfect spot, and yeah, they look amazing. That and the irises and lilies are all a-bloom. Perennials and shrubbery, we’re about to become BFF.

And really, who wouldn’t want to put off pesky outdoor chores when it means you get to wander around and see stuff like this?

WednesdayWildlife from thePenandthePan-5

This little lady came for a visit this week to lay her eggs. And thank you Internet, I’ve learned that painted turtle eggs take the whole of the summer to hatch and then the wee things go right into hibernation. But Himself, consummate animal lover, marked off where she laid the eggs, so that we a) won’t disturb them all summer and b) get to spy the wee things out next spring. See, I think I found my own little corner of paradise here.

Ooof, but I do worry that you get tired of me nattering on about how much I love this place, so let’s move on to the recipe. Looking for a quick biscuit to round out your meal? Once again, I’ve come to your rescue! Ok, ok, maybe not rescue, but I do have a right awesome biscuit for you to try. These are just light enough to melt in your mouth, but still have a wee bit of toothiness from the cornmeal. I know you’re looking at the recipe now and thinking, “Really? Sugar? In a biscuit?” In a word, yes. You don’t end up with a sweet biscuit at all, but it does let that delicious cornmeal sing it’s own praises. As you’ll be singing mine, right?

Enjoy!

Cornmeal drop biscuits from thePenandthePan

Cornmeal drop biscuits

Adapted from the Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

1 ½ cups flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) very cold butter, cut into small pieces
scant ¾ cup milk

Preheat oven to 425°. Grease or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add butter and using a pastry blender, fork, or your hands, mix together until you have something resembling coarse sand. Add milk and mix just until blended. Do not overmix.

Drop biscuit mixture by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425° for 15 – 18 minutes or until just browned on top.

Gyro inspired stuffed chicken

Well invisible internet friends, it’s good to be home. It may have just been a whirlwind overnight trip, but it made me love this place all the more. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all the city has to offer, but it was great to roll down for a rocking show, lunch with some fabulous ladies, and a little retail therapy, and then hop back into the car, watching the houses get farther and farther apart. And to watch the traffic lighten imperceptibly with each passing mile, until there was nothing around but trees and fields and the smell of the pines floating in through the open car windows. It was also pretty rad that at the end of that three plus hour car ride, there were some loving arms, happy cats, chirpy chickens, and exciting wildlife awaiting me.

WednesdayWildlife from thePenandthePan-1

That, my friends, is what a hummingbird looks like when they finally sit still (much like I’m going to this afternoon).

Course, there are a few things that I wouldn’t find amiss if they just happened to find themselves transplanted to the woods from the cities. I mean, who can live very long without the deliciousness that is Mediterranean food? I’m telling you, gyros, dolmades, spanakopita, and falafel, these are my kryptonite. Just typing those very foods may have caused my mouth to water just a teensy bit. Who am I kidding? Typing those may have resulted in a full out tummy growl in anticipation. Sorry tum-tum, no dolmades for us today.

It’s cravings for foods like these that inspired this stuffed chicken I have for you. Adapted from my feta, olive, and artichoke chicken breasts (more Med flavors, anyone?), these taste just like a chicken gyro sans the pita. Don’t skimp on the tzatziki and tomatoes, they’re going to elevate this to the next level. Serve this bad boy on a bed of couscous with my Greek green beans and you’ll never have to leave the woods!

Enjoy!

Gyro inspired stuffed chicken from thePenandthePan

Gyro inspired stuffed chicken

Tzatziki sauce to top
½ cup plain yogurt
Shredded cucumber, pressed to remove liquid
1 ½ tsp white wine or rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dried oregano

Stuffed chicken
¼ cup shredded mozzarella
2 ounces goat cheese
3 tablespoons red or sweet onion sliced thinly and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon oregano
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 ¼ lbs total)
1 large egg white
½ cup bread crumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fresh ripe tomato to top

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together cheeses, onion, garlic and oregano and set aside. In a shallow dish, large enough to accommodate the chicken breasts, lightly beat the egg white. In another shallow dish, mix together breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.

Cut a large pocket along the long edge of the chicken breast, being careful not to go through the chicken breast completely. Holding the chicken breast flat with the palm of one hand, carefully run the paring knife in a slight circle, following the curve of the chicken breast.

Stuff ¼ of the cheese mixture into each chicken breast. Holding the edges of the chicken breast together, dip the top of the breast in the egg white and then in the breadcrumbs. Place in baking dish.

Bake chicken at 350° for 35 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest, non-stuffed portion of the breast reads 170°.

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