Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oy Latkes!

It was a bit busy during the holiday season, but some how it isn't quite Hanukkah without a steaming plate of potato latkes to share with family.  I  had the opportunity to make latkes on 2 evenings this year.  I've been making them for about 10 years now, and I think the time and practice has helped with the ease in preparation and better results and taste.  This year my husband had assured with his latke consumption that I had reached my goal.

The first time I made latkes I had hand grated the potatoes and diced the onions with my chef's knife.  Since I make so many of them at one time, using the "old school" methods could take me all day.  I now use my mini food processor for my onions and grate the potatoes using a Cuisinart.  A 2 burner griddle pan helps speed the process even more when I can cook about 12 latkes at a time. 

I use the Featherlight Potato Latkes recipe from my "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook."

Makes 15 latkes 2 1/2 inches in diameter, serves 4 (for family gatherings I usually triple the recipe, but use 4 eggs, and a very large onion)


6 medium potatoes
1 small onion
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unbleached white flour (or matzoh meal)
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of baking powder
freshly ground pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying (I use canola)

sour cream or applesauce to top off your latkes

Grate the potatoes in a food processor or on the largest grating side of a hand grater.  Drain the grated potatoes in a colander, pressing out the liquid.

Finely chop the onion using the steel blade of a food processor or a knife, you can also use the smallest grating side of a hand grater.

If using a food processor return the potatoes to the processor bowl ( I only return half the grated potatoes, because I like to put the other half in the mixture after it has all been mixed so that my latkes have a grated potato texture) add the onion, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, and pepper.  Whirl on high speed until the mixture is well blended.

If you don't have a food processor, combine the grated potatoes and onions with the other ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet, I use my cast iron (2 burner griddle) Drop a large spoonful of batter into the skillet and flatten with a spoon to make your latke as thin as your want (an ice cream scooper works great for this).  Fry the latkes on both sides until brown and crisp, adding more oil as necessary.  Drain the latkes on paper towels and keep them warm.

Latkes are fine to reheat on a cookie sheet, and they are great frozen in freezer bags as well. (Double or triple the recipe, and you can freeze the extra!)

Serve warm latkes immediately topped with sour cream or a side of applesauce.

Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant, The Moosewood Collective, New York, 1990, pp. 422-423.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Balancing Act

The last 4 months of 2011 became a "balancing act" as I started a new part-time job.  Along with learning about a new business and adjusting to less time at home, I was also operating Chelle Designs, LLC, keeping up with family responsibilities, managing the house, and funding efforts for our local library.  Phew!!  It was nice to finally be able to take a breath during the holiday vacation.  Thanks to my amazing husband for allowing to refuel over the past week.

I also want to apologize to readers of "Fun and Flora" for the absence of posts over the past few months.  Over the past few weeks I have gone through old posts and have taken stock with what is going on with my life as well.  My blog will still be a place you can visit to learn about gardening, cooking, and crafts, but it will also be exploring some of my new every day challenges as a Mom, and various creative outlets that I realistically have time for.

In the the New Year of 2012 I am not going to weigh myself down with unrealistic expectations for myself or my family.  I recently read a book called "You Will Dream New Dreams," that really narrowed things down for me:

1.) Determine my priorities
2.) Don't sweat the small stuff
3.) KISS:  Keep it simple sweetheart

I would like to wish a happy and healthy New Year to everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mom's Pots

Today I am wishing a very special lady, my dear Mom a "Very Happy Birthday."  She is the one who inspired my love to garden, to create, to love life and family!!  I was quite impressed with her creativity with her pots around her deck this year, and I am very happy that I captured these photos before the heat waves hit Connecticut and our flora this summer.

Mom created unique pots/planters by using a perennial in each pot with annuals surrounding her display.  Each one a different a color, and a different set of textures.  From her terracotta pots, to her saddle boxes on her deck railings, each one offered a different palette and a different vibe.
That is the beauty of gardening in pots, you can move your garden from sun to shade depending on its desired location during that particular season.  Different planters can be made for each season, each time one fades out for the season, you can compost your faded annuals, and replant your perennials for a new season.

I have found the following books to be wonderful guides for planting in pots throughout the seasons:

Containers - Practical Recipes for Creative Containers by Stephanie Donaldson
Container Gardening Through the Year by Malcom Hillier
Container Gardening- Inspirational ideas and projects for creating glorious pots, baskets and boxes by Stephanie Donaldson
Grow Great Grub - Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail

Wishing you a wonderful day Mom, and a big thank you and love for all that you are and all that you do!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sunflowers and Wishes

On Tuesday my girlfriend, and I and our girls took a road trip to Buttonwood Farm in Griswold, Connecticut.  It was a little overcast when we started our journey down 395, but as we got on to Route 138 the sun sparkled through the clouds.   It felt like we were in a completely different state as we drove through farmland in Connecticut’s northeast corner.  When we turned on to Route 165 the glorious sunflowers greeted us with their golden faces.

Since 2004 Buttonwood Farm has had their annual sunflower fundraiser to raise money for the “Make a Wish” foundation so that Connecticut children with life-threatening medical conditions can have their wishes come true.  Money from generous donations, sunflower bouquets, and wagon rides throughout the farm help aid this great cause.

We took a quick stroll through the edge of the sunflower field to take a few photos next to the giant sunny blooms.  Our stomachs got the best of us, and we took a lunch break under a shady tree for some lunch.  When our bellies were full, a farm wagon rolled next to us, and we bought our tickets for our wagon adventure.  The trek started with a shady ride through the farm pastures until we met up with some very friendly and hungry cows.   The girls were able to feed the cows with fresh green hay from the bottom of the wagon and fed their furry friends for about fifteen minutes.  We snapped some cute shots of the hay exchange and made our way to the field of sunflowers.

The wagon stopped within the acres of sunflowers and cameras clicked away to capture the yellow landscape.  It was magical being present in this ocean of sunflowers knowing that this farm makes wishes comes true.

We ended our visit with a serving of farm fresh homemade ice cream.  I had to try the seasonal sunflower flavor which was spectacular.  Light creamy caramel ice cream, with honey, almond and sunflower seed clusters.  It had to be the best ice cream I had ever tasted. 

If you miss the week of sunflowers, Buttonwood Farm is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday September through October to celebrate Fall in Connecticut.  Family and friends can enjoy the cow train, duck races, the corn and straw bale mazes.  To learn more about the farm please visit their web site at:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rosemary Harris

The Henry Carter Hull Library has a number of adult programs throughout the year, many of these events include visits and discussions by various authors.  On Tuesday, June 14, 2011, I had the opportunity to be a part of an intimate discussion with mystery writer, Rosemary Harris.

I normally do not read mystery novels,  but about a year ago I saw "Pushing Up Daisies" on the library's NPR shelf.  What intrigued me about the book flap and the author was that it was a mystery series involving a gardener, and a mystery sleuth.  The author was also from Connecticut, and she was a master gardener.  That sold me right then and there.  I knew I had to read this debut mystery novel.  You can read more about the book review in a  2010 Fun and Flora blog post.

Each of her books within her dirty mystery series offers a little gardening with a twist of "cozy mystery."  From garden restoration and unearthing mummified remains to a corpse flower and murder, and the deadheading of flowers, that bring new life to plants as well as a mystery woman living among her friends and family.

There was about ten library patrons in attendance during the author's discussion.  What we found was that Rosemary Harris is extremely articulate, incredibly knowledgeable about the mystery genre, and very funny.  Her husband Bruce was also in attendance to provide us some interesting tid-bits about Rosemary's life as an author and a resident of Stamford, Connecticut.

One of the locations that appears as a setting in her books is called the Paradise Diner.  We all had wondered if this diner really existed and we discovered that a diner like it actually does in Stamford, Connecticut called the Lakeside Diner.  It is an eclectic breakfast/brunch establishment with interesting customers, and killer donuts.

Rosemary Harris does an amazing job of developing her eccentric characters.  One of her fans' favorite characters is "Babe" the owner of the Paradise Diner.  We learned that she developed this character through an interaction with an interesting someone during a Habitat for Humanity build.  In the end, Harris had done her job when women readers want to be her and men readers want to date her character.

Her latest Dirty Mystery novel is called "Slugfest" and sleuth Paula Holliday is a part of a garden show at the Javits Center in New York City.   She agrees to help an artist friend with his exhibits at the show, and then becomes entrenched in a murder case where she holds the clue to the murder.  I look forward to reading about her secondary characters from New York City.

Along with Harris' commitment to mystery writing, she is also a supporter of Habitat for Humanity throughout the world.  Rosemary and her husband Bruce have completed Habitat builds in China, Tanzania, El Salvador, Mexico, and post-Katrina New Orleans.  Their love of Habitat for Humanity inspired them to build a library in central Tanzania. To learn more about the library please visit the  Chalula Library Page on her website.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Something Old, Something New

The girls and Jon and I took a walk down at the Westbrook Town Beach last night and witnessed a Spring Ritual.  The little one and I collected some beautiful shells in the sand and Jon and our oldest daughter decided to check out the the fishermen on the jetty.

Once we grew tired of our seashell search we decided to take on walk on the jetty as well.  As we started our journey we saw a number of horseshoe crabs gathering along the shore there must have been 20 in all.  It was their mating season, and the females began to lay their eggs with the males in tow.  It was truly amazing to watch this whole process.

Normally you might see one or two horseshoe crabs on a sand flat during low tide, but never this many at one time.  The girls were thrilled to see this display of nature.  Each time the tide rolled in a different couple came in with it, and the dance began.

Horseshoe crabs are an endangered species, so they are protected and beach goers are encouraged to leave them alone when they see them at the beach.  We learned some interesting facts about the horseshoe crab when we did some research on the laptop at home.

Horseshoe Crab Facts:

  • Horseshoe crabs are 300 million years old, they were able to survive an extinction period that wiped out nearly 95% of all marine species.
  • They look a lot like crabs, but they are actually arthropods and resemble spiders and scorpions.
  • Their hard shell protects their entire body, they have several pairs of eyes, two large ones can be seen on the top of their shell.
  • When horseshoe crabs were caught in the past their shells were ground and used for fertilizer.
  • The female horseshoe crab is larger than the male and can lay about 90,000 eggs at a time, but only about 10 of the new offspring actually survive. After the female lays her eggs the male fertilizes them.
  • Their eggs provide food for millions of migratory shorebirds, the eggs take 2 weeks to hatch.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ivoryton Playhouse's 100th Anniversary

The rain held off a bit on Sunday afternoon as we enjoyed "Family Day" in Ivoryton to celebrate the Ivoryton Playhouse's 100th Anniversary. We enjoyed an afternoon of entertainment, art, crafts and fun.

Just after Noon we entered the Playhouse to watch the fun antics of "Tabasco and Lucinda" during their hilarious juggling, magic, and unicycle routine.  It was so fun to see the girls' faces light up and the giggles emerge after each silly sketch.

The next performance was staged in a tent nearby and children and families enjoyed Zach Ivins' Magic.  There was a lot of audience participation which the kids adored.  This made each trick funnier and more entertaining as the magic show progressed.

Later, my husband and I relished frosting red velvet cupcakes in the sunshine, eating every last morsel.  The girls had the opportunity to make theatrical masks at the Six Summit Gallery, while Jon and I ogled over the beautiful art work.  Our afternoon in Ivoryton closed with a horse-drawn carriage ride courtesy of horses, "Nickel" and "Dime" who provided us a journey in time along the quaint Main Street of Ivoryton.