Friday, May 13, 2011

One Giant Catch Up Post: Mother's Day, A Post from the Farm, and A Field Trip

I pulled an unintended disappearing act from the blog this week. First, I was out of town. Then I was back, but too busy. And finally when I sat down to type, Blogger was "down" for like, 2 whole days. Ugh.

I just can't seem to find the time to post my kitchen adventures lately. I have pictures of recipes from all the way back to Easter, just waiting to be written about. I planned to catch up the blog with those posts this week. In addition to catching up, I had every intention of posting the latest meal plan as usual on Sunday. As it turned out, none of this planning mattered. Here's what really went down:

Mother's Day began as I had planned. I woke up early because my daughter would be performing at 2 church services and I needed to get everyone suited in their "Sunday best" and out the door in a timely fashion. (I'm laughing to myself as I type this because leaving on time seems to be a huge challenge for us, no matter how early we begin.) Alone in my kitchen, I started the coffee, then pulled up the blinds to check the weather. I was instantly taken in by the view of our backyard. The rising sun was shining through the mist that had settled close to the earth. The effect was so beautiful. I grabbed my camera and headed outside to try to capture the scene.

It almost didn't look real. It was more like a painting....

I contemplated taking my coffee out to the deck for a bit as I snapped one last picture of the sun coming up (Hmm. As I read this, I think I'm starting to understand why we have such difficulty with leaving on time. I'm easily distracted...) Just then, I heard my phone beeping in the kitchen with incoming text messages. At first, I thought it was my husband wishing me a happy Mother's Day from work (he went in at 5:00 am that morning). Instead, it was a message from my younger sister letting me know that she was finally (now a week over-due) in labor and checking into the hospital. Yay!

Over the next few hours (discretely checking messages through 2 services and a choir awards ceremony), I received updates from the delivery room where both of my little sisters were keeping me posted.

With a busy week ahead of me, I had resolved to wait until next weekend to make the trip home and see the new baby. But as the texts flew, I realized that everyone was there but me, I missed them all like crazy, and I felt SO far away. It only took one request from my sister followed by my husband urging me to "GO!" to change my mind. By mid-afternoon, I had my daughters and an overnight bag packed into the car as I turned onto the highway.

By 7 pm I had 6-hour-old baby Graysen in my arms. What a Mother's Day!

Isn't he precious?! And he already has GREAT hair!

And now for a post within a post....

A Post from the Farm

Some of you are familiar with my summer "Posts from the Farm". This unexpected Indiana trip to meet my nephew created the opportunity for a spring post from the farm. Let's call this one, "The Morel of the Story".

Every spring of my childhood found my family in the woods behind our house (or behind my grandma's house) fervently searching the ground for the morel mushroom.

The morel, in my opinion, is the best fungus on the planet. It's God's gift to fungi.

The morel is absolutely delicious. I can't compare it with anything else that I have tried. With the combined harvest from my uncles, cousins, and my family, my grandma would fry up a whole "mess" of mushrooms and we'd have a big family dinner. It was a tradition that ranked right up there with Christmas dinner and I loved it.

Unfortunately, the last time I attended a Mushroom Fry was before I graduated from college. In the last several years, my husband and I moved to Ohio, then back to Indiana, then to Georgia, then to Ohio again. My visits home never seemed to coincide with mushroom season. I may have felt a pang of jealousy when I heard that my family was enjoying the mushroom feast without me, but I was okay with it. Until this spring, that is... On the few warm days we've had, I have felt my eyes searching the ground during hikes through the woods with my daughters. "I wonder if they grow mushrooms here?" I thought. I started asking around; first questioning my neighbors and eventually anyone who would make eye contact with me while I was out and about. Every inquiry of "Does anyone here hunt mushrooms?" or "Do morel mushrooms grow here?" fell short. Most people didn't have a clue what I was talking about. When I explained, they looked at me like I was a little crazy. You mean you walk through the woods, pick fungus up off of the ground, and then fry and eat it? How do you know it's not poisonous? Well, I just do. I learned to spot a morel before I learned to read....

My craving started small and then grew into a monster as I saw my hometown facebook friends posting pictures of their mushrooms. The craving eventually evoked a bit of suspicion: Maybe the people around here DO hunt for mushrooms and they are just guarding their secret hunting spots. I even "Googled" it. While Ohio isn't the leader in mushroom hunting, they do find them here.

Luckily, before I started tailing my neighbors into the woods, my sister had a baby smack dab in the middle of Indiana mushroom season.

The morning after arriving  in my hometown, I was helping to watch my two young nephews while their parent's were at the hospital with the new baby. I convinced my mom to watch the two youngest kiddos and I set out for the woods with my oldest daughter and one of my nephews. After a quick stop by my uncle's house, we were outfitted with directions to a hunting spot, a truck that would get us there, a tall pair of rubber boots, and insect repellent (word has it that ticks are out in full force this year). This was my daughter's first time hunting. I was happy to pass on the tradition. She and my nephew were happy to crash through the woods together and find vines to swing on.

After 15 to 20 minutes of walking, I spotted the first 'shroom. It was the variety that mushroom hunters call a "spike". Click HERE to see pictures of the other types of morels that we hunt.

Over an hour later, we made it back to the truck with a mere 7 "spikes" in our bag. While I was happy that I had found something, 7 mushrooms hardly make for a meal. I needed more...

That evening, before the sun sank down past the horizon, I loaded the kiddos into my parent's John Deere Gator and set out for the woods again. I reasoned that since tmy children are closer to the ground, they might be able to spot the 'shrooms better than me. I was right! While we didn't find a ton of mushrooms, we did find enough for a meal. We even found some of the yellow sponge variety. (While the grey sponge is my favorite, the larger yellow sponge is a great find!)

Our bag o' morels.

Back at the house, I washed away the soil and removed any visible insects from the morels. I cut most of them in half, lengthwise up the stem, to search for any bugs hiding inside. Slicing also allows for more even frying with larger mushrooms. Then I soaked them in salted water for a few hours. This helps to remove any additional soil, chases out the remaining bugs, and keeps the mushrooms from drying out. You can leave them in the water overnight, if you like.

I drained off the water and gave mine a final rinse before laying them on paper towels to soak up the excess water. Then I carefully placed them in plastic baggies and put them in the fridge for the night.

I couldn't wait for dinner to eat my mushrooms, so the next morning I fried some for breakfast. Told ya I was having a craving...

It seems that everyone has a preference about the way they like their morels fried. I am most used to the way my grandma makes them: dipped in egg, dredged in flour, and fried in butter. My dad swears by just rolling them in flour, seasoning with salt and pepper and frying (in butter). He claims that this really lets the mushroom's flavor shine through. I'll try the next batch his way...

I had heard that my uncle's girlfriend fried some delicious mushrooms last week, so for this batch I decided to call and get her method. Her secret ingredient: pancake batter mixed in with plain all-purpose flour. She also adds olive oil to the butter, noting that just butter browns too fast during frying.

Here's what I did:

First, I whisked an egg into some milk. Then I dipped the mushrooms into the mixture.

I mixed equal parts of flour and pancake mix and then dredged the mushrooms in the combination. (I forgot to photograph this step). I dropped the coated mushrooms into a skillet heated with butter and olive oil and fried them until browned and crispy on one side,

and then the other.

Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Salt to taste.

This was breakfast. My arrangement turned out looking a bit like a tarantula, but don't let that fool you...each bite of the crispy-fried fungi was pure bliss.

A Field Trip (click HERE to read other "Field Trip" posts)

After my mushroom breakfast, my mom sent me on an errand that brought me to an impressive candy store. The Wakarusa Dime Store has been in business since 1907. Surprisingly, I had never heard of the place.

Just inside the entrance I was greeted with a huge display of flavored popcorn. After I tried each and every one (Hey, I hadn't had lunch yet. I was hungry!) I headed for the jelly bean aisle.

The Dime Store is also known as the "Home of the Jumbo Jelly Bean". Their jelly bean aisle certainly is impressive...

And there are samples everywhere!

Pictured below are pink grapefruit, pineapple, and I want to say mulberry (?). If you love jelly beans, then you will love jumbo jelly beans even more! I'm a chocolate kind of girl when it comes to candy, so it's no surprise that I was most impressed with the chocolate-covered cherry jumbo jelly bean. It was a tart cherry jelly bean covered in real chocolate. Surprisingly delicious!

Next, I drifted on my sugar-high cloud over to the vintage candy/taffy aisle. You name it, they've got it here!

The Dime Store is really part museum too. There are interesting things to see and read everywhere!

Anyone remember Sixlets? I actually found a package or two in my daughters' Halloween candy last year. At The Dime Store you can fill up on as many as you want...and choose the color scheme too!

I didn't even take any pictures of the front of the store where the hand-dipped chocolates and fudge were for sale. But I did get this...

They are pretty enough to be a rock collection, but they taste better than M&M's. Chocolate rocks! They were my favorite purchase of the day.

If you ever find yourself in Northeastern Indiana, stop by The Wakarusa Dime Store to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Speaking of Northern Indiana, I'm typing this from the passenger seat of our car on the way to Indiana...

Come See Me!

Tomorrow (Saturday May 14th) from 11:30 to 12:30 I will be giving a cooking demonstration in Napannee, Indiana at the new Kountry Cabinets and Home Furnishings, 252 W. Market Street. If you're in the area, stop on by! I'll be packing the perfect picnic with recipes like Tuscan Style Pork Loin, Caprese Salad Skewers, and Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries.

I'd love to see you there!

Alrighty,  I've caught ya'll up a bit. Now that I'm posting again,  let's see if I can actually post some of the recipes I have made lately. I'll work on that this week...

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!

1 comment:

Heather @ 3 kids and lots of pigs said...

What a jam packed post. :-) I'm so glad you made the trip home to see your nephew and enjoy some time with your family.

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