Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oasis in the city: County Farm Park

The last couple of weeks I was in a bit of a funk — I just couldn't seem to get out of it. When our hot, muggy, humid weather finally broke on Monday, I started to feel a bit brighter. That afternoon I went for a walk in a park that a kind little bird told me about (thank you, little bird). It helped put the spring back in my step. It's the County Farm Park in Ann Arbor and I thought I would show a little bit of what cheered me up. I hope it brightens your day, too.

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County Farm Park Ann ArborMost of these are from the Project Grow community garden plots located there, but the park has so much more to explore. I didn't even get a chance to walk through the perennial gardens or into the Briton Woods nature trails… I can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yes, that's right: MORE fried chicken

Oven-fried chicken recipe with mustard and pankoI do love my fried chicken. Can't you tell? I am posting yet another recipe for it — this one is an easy, weeknight oven-baked variety from Paula Deen, as opposed to the super-deluxe Chesapeake Fried Chicken I wrote about recently from my pal John. It's super crispy from panko bread crumbs, and has some hidden mustardy goodness to keep it moist and flavorful. I'm sorry to say that all you get is this one lousy photo. I was going to come back and take a couple more photos once I sliced it open, but I made the mistake of having a bite first and completely forgot and chowed down on it in a flash. You would have done the same — I know you would.

Mustard & Panko Oven-Fried Chicken
Adapted from Paula Deen
Serves 2.

1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoons freshly minced thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
2 Tb Dijon mustard
1 Tb water
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 -inch thickness

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack in the pan. Brush the rack with oil.

In a shallow dish, combine Panko, cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper, to taste. In a separate shallow dish, combine mustard, water, salt and pepper, to taste, and remaining olive oil.

Dip each chicken breast in mustard mixture to coat and then dredge each in bread crumb mixture, patting the crumbs into place if necessary. Place on prepared rack in pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Come be social & crafty at the Blue House

What are you doing with your bad self tomorrow evening? I know what I'll be doing to stay out of trouble: I'll be curled up in a comfy chair over at the Blue House gettin' my craft on. If you're in the Ann Arbor area, how about stopping by for a little crafty socializing? We're having a casual drop-in "MakersMEET," so pull up a chair with that project you've been working on, come start a new one you've been meaning to get to, or just come and chat and chill. Feel free to bring some wine, beer, snacks, what have you... or nothing at all but your sweet self. Now I just need to decide whether to bring the little sewing project (top photo) I started at the June MakersMEET and haven't touched since -- or my latest knitting project (bottom photo). Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gram's Fruit Cake

Gram's Fruit Cake recipeMy mom has been making this cake for as long as I can remember‚ especially in summer. When I copied down the recipe, it was for "Gram's Fruit Cake." I don't know who's gram it's from, but I'm sure she's been making the rounds because this is such an easy and versatile cake. It's one of those desserts you can so easily throw together for last minute company or running out the door to a picnic or potluck. You almost certainly have the ingredients in your pantry as long as you can scrounge up one paltry piece of fruit. The original called for one McIntosh apple, but you can substitute just about any fruit you'd like: peaches, pears, blueberries, strawberries, etc. That's the beauty of it — that, and it tastes great! This weekend I made it with my all-time favorite fruit combination: peaches and blueberries.

Gram's Fruit Cake recipe
Gram's Fruit Cake
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 Tb butter, melted
1 McIntosh apple or equivalent other fruits (use as much as you'd like)
1 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan.
Sift together flour, sugar and baking powder.
Beat together egg and milk and add to dry ingredients.
Pour into prepared pan.
Cut fruit and place on top of batter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and about 1 tsp sugar.
Bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Gram's Fruit Cake recipeAs you can see, I get all crazy about placing the fruit — kind of like meticulously filling in every single holes on a waffle with syrup. This is completely unnecessary as the cake bakes up around and over the fruit, so you won't see the pattern. But I still find it very satisfying. Do as you will…