Corn, Potato and Green Bean Side

I totally know that we're all back to school and everything.
I know that even when we were in Vermont in August that some of the trees were showing signs of starting to be tinged with red.
I know that you probably had to grab a sweater when you went out the other night.
I know that when I jumped on my bike two days ago that I thought I would die in my short sleeve t-shirt.
I know all of that but I still can't let go of summer.  It still is summer... just a little.
I know because:
It's not my birthday yet.
I'm still sweaty after biking or running during the day.
My Mom hasn't contacted me about Thanksgiving dinner yet.
The new season of TV hasn't started yet.
There are still lots of tomatoes and corn at the market...

When I saw the corn there I knew that I just had to buy it.  When I spoke with the farmer he told me that this is probably the last of it.  The cold nights mess with the sugar in the corn too much and it goes all bland and boring.  A whole dozen cobs of corn came home with me tonight.  Along with tomatoes and nectarines, and locally made cream cheese (with chili peppers... come on) and more potatoes than I know what to do with for 4 dollars.  It was all a little heavy but totally worth it.  Totally.
So, if you have some corn that needs love and attention and you want to continue deluding yourself into believing that summer will continue forever then please try this recipe.  It is seriously one of the easiest and tastiest things that I've made in about a week... no joke.

Just for the record, I took some while it was still warm and spooned it onto some lettuce, topped it with some halved cherry tomatoes and drizzled with just a little homemade mayo.  Divine.  I love you summer.

Corn, Potato and Green Bean Side adapted from 'The Kitchn'
serves 4

3 1/2 cups potatoes, cut into about 2 - 3 inch cubes
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups green beans, cut into 3 - 4 inch lengths
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3 slices of bacon, diced
3 - 4tbsp butter
1 tbsp honey
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste

Bring a medium/small pot of water to a boil.  Add the potatoes and simmer at medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the potatoes are just barely softened.  Scoop out the potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Place the green beans in the same water and simmer for about 3 minutes or until just beginning to soften.  Drain the water from the beans and add the beans to the potatoes.
Heat a wok or dutch oven over medium heat.
Add in the bacon and cook for about 4 minutes or until the bacon is getting brown and crispy.  Add in the butter and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add in the onion and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the corn kernels, the cooked potatoes and green beans.  Turn the heat down just a little.  Toss regularly.  Add in a little more butter if the mixture gets too dry.
Add a pinch of salt, honey and the lemon juice.
Check the tastes and adjust if necessary.

Red Fife Honey Bread

Over the course of the weekend that I was wading my way through 3 bushels of tomatoes (which you may have noticed I'm still a little traumatized by) my friend T came over.  As soon as he walked in he got in there and started helping.  That was awesome because D wasn't around to help at that particular moment and also because I was nearing the end of both the tomatoes and my sanity.
Although he grew up on a farm T had never participated in the canning process.  He talked about having entire days where the boys went out and picked as many __________ (fill in the blank with whatever vegetable you want) and the girls and Mom would get it ready to either freeze it or can it.  So it was kinda a girls job to get things canned.  T was curious about the whole thing and totally ready to get in there and figure it out for himself.
It got us to talking about all of the preserving/gardening/hunting/husbanding/surviving thing.  We agreed that not just a generation ago (ok - let's say 60 years give or take) it would have pretty much everybody that knew how to can or preserve.  Everybody knew what to do with the vegetables at the end of the season.  Everybody knew how to save seeds for next year.  Everybody knew how to make jam or preserves.  And the list goes on.  Whether or not they did it themselves, they knew someone who did and wouldn't have died of starvation if the local grocer went out of business.  The rise of the 'low fat' craze meant that we could no longer rely on the old standby's that got us through in the past.  We had to have the right kind of oil for cooking, margarine can't be made at home, low fat sour cream is not the stuff that comes out of a cow and most certainly tofurky or turkey bacon either.
It also became a status symbol to eat things that came from a large processing company rather than from  a farm.  I remember being in love with chef boyardee ravioli because that's what my Mom bought (my brother love spaghetti o's and beefaroni).  It meant that you could afford it.  It meant that you didn't have to make it yourself.  I get it.
What happened however, is that we forgot.  We've forgotten a lot.  Some people I meet don't even know how to make rice (no joke - and I take that very seriously).  T and I talked about how important it will probably become that those things be remembered again.  The making of butter by hand, the awesomeness of raw milk that you can skim the cream off the top of, the great feeling you get when you open that jar of jam in January and it's... beautiful (and good for your immune system too).  It's sad that those things have been forgotten to be sure but what's more... it's dangerous.  It's important to know that we don't need to buy them from a grocery... we have the option of doing it ourselves... and we know how to do it.

That's why I want to teach my kids about all this stuff.  Canning, freezing, growing, preserving, making from scratch and using what's around us and not's thousands of kilometres away... because it's important to know that you have options.  It's important to be able to fend for yourself.  It's empowering to know that you can provide for yourself and that you can make bread.  More than ever I appreciate that I can do this.  That I can put the ingredients together and knead it by hand and my kids can watch me and they can smell the bread baking and know it didn't come out of a bag.  Bread is important and we haven't had enough of it throughout the summer.  Now that it's cooler... bread is back and this loaf was pretty damn near perfect.

Red Fife Honey Bread adapted from Betty Crocker
yield: 1 loaf (can easily be doubled)

1 1/2 cups Red Fife or Whole Wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh orange zest
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature

Combine the warm water, yeast and brown sugar.  Stir and set aside in a draft free spot for about 8 - 10 minutes.  The mixture should be foamy and have almost doubled.
Butter or grease a medium sized non-reactive bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the Red Fife flour and 1 cup of the all purpose flour.  Form a well in the middle of the flour and add the honey, salt, orange zest and butter.  Add in the foamy yeast mixture.  Stir to mix well until it forms a wet dough ball.
Turn out the dough ball onto a lightly flour surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is silky and smooth.  Add in the rest of the all purpose flour as needed.
Place the dough into the buttered bowl.  Cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm, draft-free spot for about 50 - 60 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
Butter or grease a loaf pan.
Remove and knead down just enough to form into a loaf.  Place the dough loaf into the loaf pan.  Cover with the clean cloth and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for another 45 - 50 minutes or until the loaf has risen over the top of the pan and looks like it's the size it should be.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake the bread for about    minutes or until the top is nicely browned and it sound hollow when you knock on it.
Cool before slicing.

Eggplant and Tomato Ragu with Cheesy Polenta

It's been quite a week.  I wrote a few posts ago that I was feeling scared about this blog.  At one point was even looking for a way to sabotage it because I felt like it was becoming something.  I've muscled through that urge - I don't think that I'm alone in that desire to sabotage something potentially successful in one's life.  It happens all the time.
Somehow, it's easier to swallow something 'failing' because you helped it fail rather than someone or something else being the cause of the failure.  It's kinda of like it failed because I wanted it to rather than because it was crap or people didn't like it.  I denied them the opportunity before they had a chance to make a decision.  It's weird.  Remember when you were like fifteen and you 'liked' someone.  You were afraid to tell them (or maybe you weren't) because they might not or probably don't like you back.  Then when you think about it years later you think you were a twit because who cares if you told them, they shoulda had a chance to decide themselves... maybe they didn't feel like you were 'ick'.
When I came home from work earlier this week I met an email sitting on my computer.  It was from this website that I upload my recipes to called ''.  They were asking if I would allow one of my recipes to stand as their recipe of the day.  It was a great feeling.  Getting recognized someway somehow is a hell of a thing.  It's giddy-making, it's addictive - I can't imagine how it would feel to win a serious award for my blog.  I don't know how I would react to that.

Meanwhile, I'm reading this book which I've been devouring like a starving animal.  It's coinciding with a work situation that's giving this book a run for it's money.  It's got me thinking though about how much of life happens in one's head.  I say this all the time to my voice students.  How you sing has more to do with how you think about singing than it has to do with any physical gift or ability.  More and more I think that statement extends to all areas of our lives.  Whether or not I can do something is really much less important than whether I think I can do it or how I can talk myself into being able to do it.  'Fake it till you make it'.  Yup - that's kinda what I'm talking about.  If I think that I can do it then eventually I'll convince myself and others around me that I can do it as well.  It's a bit of a con-game right?  I've always had that nagging feeling that I'm really faking _________ (whatever... fill in the blank) and that I'll get found out for the fraud that I am.  I'm losing that feeling though.  Confidence, age and experience are dulling that for me.
I'm not going to develop these thoughts any further at the moment 'cause I've kinda run through what's in my head and I've got bread to make... maybe more will come later.

In the glow of my recent boost I've gotten all fancy and made a meal that includes two dishes but that's totally worth the effort - by effort I mean more than one pot not difficulty.  The polenta (which  for some reason has always been conveyed to me as something time consuming and tricky to get) was so easy that I wonder now why I've taking so long to really go for it.  It's like cheesy savoury pudding.  The ragu... well who doesn't have a butt load of veggies needing attention right now.  It's a pretty forgiving recipe and will do with whatever you've got hanging around but I would recommend at least one vegetable that will soften and go almost mushy-like (eggplant or zucchini) and do not leave out the tomatoes.  Used canned ones if you have to but the garden or farmer's market ones will leave you breathless.

Eggplant and Tomato Ragu with Cheesy Polenta adapted from '' and Giada de Laurentiis

4 tbsp oil or lard (might need a little more if the eggplant dries out too much)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green pepper, cut into strips
2 red pepper, cut into strips
1 medium (3 1/2 - 4 cup) eggplant, chopped
3 cups tomato, chopped
 2 cups (4 leaves) chard, chopped
1/2 cup fresh herbs (basil, parsley, chives, oregano, etc.) chopped OR 3 tbsp dry
2 heaping tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
dash of pepper sauce

4 cups broth
1 3/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon zest
5 tbsp butter

Heat a large wok or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the oil or lard and throw in the garlic, green pepper, red pepper and eggplant.  Sauté over medium heat for about 7 - 8 minutes.  The eggplant should be getting soft and starting to brown slightly.
Add in the chard and mix.  Continue to cook together for another 5 minutes.
Add in the tomato, herbs, honey, salt, pepper and pepper sauce.  Mix well, turn the heat down to medium/low and cook together for another 10 - 14 minutes.
Check the tastes and serve with the polenta.

In a large pot or dutch oven heat the broth to boiling (I used some leftover water that we boiled corn in and added a veggie boullion cube as well).  Turn the heat down to medium/low and add in the cornmeal and whisk well to get rid of any lumps in the cornmeal.  Simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the cornmeal is still quite soft but has thickened up quite a lot.
Turn the heat off completely.  Add in the cheese, milk, salt, Worcestershire, honey and lemon zest.  Stir to mix and let the parmesan melt completely.  Stir in the butter.
Serve with the vegetable ragu.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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