lseckerle

Food, Fun and More

It Was All In The Music

I was riding down the road yesterday listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park; one of the best sound tracks ever recorded. As I sang along to America, I noticed that Paul Simon and I sing in the same key. Being from Michigan, my favorite line is: it took three days to hitchhike from Saginaw. Hitchhiking was such a cool adventure…… 
I am glad that my car is old enough to have a CD player. I just slide one in and instant traveling music. Sometimes it’s Guns and Roses, The Phantom of the Opera, Josh Groban or Willie and sometimes it’s Paul and Art. 
The music of the late 60’s, early 70’s is poetry that either told a story or gave the gift of emotion. The folks of my generation have been around long enough to have been there – done that, but the music touches us now just as it did then.
Carol King’s So Far Away became my theme song towards the end of my wandering/wondering days.  And there was a time in a smoky room, late at night, when Blind Faith’s I Can’t Find My Way Home was a wakeup call. 
The symbols of the time that I remember were of peace, political turmoil and the birth of my own growing awareness. The images of the Chicago convention and Bobby Kennedy remain with me. But, my favorite lost memorabilia is a sky blue t-shirt with the Woodstock logo: a white dove of peace on a white guitar neck. I also had the Life edition with the picture of the couple standing amidst the rubble and mud. Both have been lost to time. I still have the double album and it finds its way to the turntable every now and then. But, I would LOVE to have that t-shirt back!
That era was amazing even though it wasn’t all peace and love. Violence, danger and war, were in the mix too. I am grateful that I was there: alive, young and so idealistic. I am as much a pacifist and peace monger now as I was then. I quietly stand firm for civility and civil rights. But I wish my voice was louder.

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A Second Chance

Hugh Carnes gripped the padded leather of his steering wheel. Ripe fields of wheat, burnished red in the twilight, rushed by as his tires edged over the double yellow line.
He stared through the windshield, mind churning and thought of the things that declared his success: a large corner office with a private bathroom, leather seats in his Mercedes, an expensive house in an exclusive subdivision. But, it wasn’t enough. What had become of the life he’d dreamed of? Every time he made another ruthless business deal he lost a piece of himself and now there wasn’t anything left. The man he could have been, so many years ago, was gone.
Hugh turned up the car radio to block out his thoughts. A tree whipped by and then another. His foot pressed against the gas pedal and the tires searched for a grip on the pavement. He leaned forward and held the steering wheel steady. Its ridges were embedded in both palms when he slid into the next curve.

Hugh stood under the first of the evening stars watching the steam rise from the crumpled hood of his car. The front fender hugged the trunk of an oak tree that had been growing for a hundred years.
The silence was broken by a faint hum. A single headlight shimmered then disappeared behind a rise in the road. The sound of a motorcycle grew louder until tires skidded to a stop on loose gravel at the side of the road. The rider snapped down the kick stand with the heel of his boot and swung his long leg over the seat. He took off his gloves and laid them on the handlebars. The back of his black, leather jacket bore the name Spirit Riders emblazoned in white. A rawhide shoe lace held his gray hair tied at the base of his neck.


“Hey Buddy,” the man said as he slipped down the grassy embankment. “That’s quite a dent you’ve got there. You’re lucky to be alive.”
Hugh snorted and turned back to his car.
The rider held out his hand and said, “I’m here to help you. My name is Timothy, St. Timothy, actually.”
“St. Timothy, huh?” Hugh said, neglecting the man’s hand.
Timothy shrugged and turned to show Hugh the back of his jacket. “Club name,” he said.
“So you haven’t come to save my soul?”
“I think you need a tow truck first. There’s a Waffle House down the road. I’ll give you a lift. They have a pay phone. Your cell won‘t work out here.”
“I’ve been down this road a hundred times. There’s no Waffle House.”
Timothy turned and walked back up to the road. “Sure there is. You can call for help there. Are you coming with me?”
Hugh scrambled up the ditch and slipped on the damp grass. “I haven’t seen a motorcycle like this in years,” he said.
“It’s a Kawasaki, A7 Avenger, 350 cc’s.” Timothy lifted his leg over the seat. “Takes me anywhere I need to go.” He kicked the starter and the low rumble of the engine broke the silence of the night. Hugh swung his leg over the back of the bike and settled behind the old biker. He rested his hands on his thighs.
“Hang on to the handles on the saddlebags,” Timothy said over the noise of the motor. He twisted the accelerator and Hugh felt the engine’s vibration in his legs as they pulled out onto the road. The wind whipped past his ears and his heart raced as they leaned into the curves.
The yellow letters of the Waffle House sign glowed, suspended above the road. Bright florescent light spilled out of the diner’s windows, creating a shimmering island in the dark. 
“I’ll order us some coffee while you call for a tow truck. The pay phone’s in the corner. There should be a phonebook there too,” Timothy said as he sat in a booth. The orange vinyl seat was split. A piece of duct tape held the material together.
“A pay phone? It’s got to be the last one on the planet,” Hugh muttered. He pulled some change out of his pocket and went to make the call.
A waitress set two beige ceramic cups and a silver pitcher of cream on the table as Hugh walked back to the booth. He saw her wink at Timothy and pat his shoulder.
Hugh slid into the other side of the booth and tested the coffee. “This is good.”
“Best coffee around,” Timothy said.
Hugh flipped through the selection of songs for the jukebox. They were all oldies, real old oldies. He tried to slip a quarter in the slot but the coin was too large.
“You need a dime,” Timothy said.
“I didn’t know there was a jukebox left that took dimes.” Hugh slipped the coin in the slot and punched F5. Paul Revere and the Raiders started to sing Just Like Me. “I remember dancing to this song on Saturday night at the armory. I met my wife at one of those dances. She was only seventeen.” He sighed and looked out the dark window.
“So what went wrong?” Timothy asked.
“I make my living forcing other people out of business and I do it well. I never made it to any of my son’s football games. Hell, I even missed his graduation. And it’s been so long since I held my wife and told her I loved her, she would push me away if I tried it now.”
Hugh set his coffee down and nodded his head toward the back of the diner. “Does that pinball machine work?”
“It sure does.”
“How about a game before the tow truck gets here?”
Timothy scored 100,000 points plus two free balls. When he was finished with his game, Hugh put in a quarter. “Now you get to watch a master. I used to spend hours playing.” He guided the shiny, silver balls with gentle nudges to the machine. He grew engrossed with the game as the score increased and the silver balls became fewer.
“Tilt? Come on.” Hugh slapped the side of the machine.
“Try it again,” Timothy said.
Hugh slipped another quarter in the slot. The balls ran down, lining up in a row. “I wish I could try my life again. I’d just like a chance to do it better,” he said. “Do you have a family?”
Timothy shook his head. “They wouldn’t fit into my life.”
“Don’t you get lonely? You can’t be a biker forever.”
“That’s just it. I can be a biker forever. Once in a while someone like you comes along and makes it possible. What if I could give you a second chance?”
“Ya right. I’m to believe you can give me that?” Hugh pulled the spring loaded knob and sent a steel ball clanging through the game.
“Say you could do it over. What would you be willing to pay?”
“Name a price.”
“Not money. Would you give up your wife?”
“No.”
“Your, son?”
“No, of course not.”
“How about part of your life?”
Hugh hesitated and leaned on the machine. “What do you mean?”
“Would you be willing to, say, give up ten years?”
“If I could do it over, sure it’d be worth it.” Hugh turned back to his game. “So what do you get out of this if I agree?”
“I receive half of the years you give up.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Hugh said.
“You’d die at fifty-three instead of sixty-three.
“I’m sixty-three now. What makes you think I’m going to die?”
“You succeeded tonight. You died back there in the ditch,” Timothy said.
Hugh gripped the sides of the pinball machine. He hung his head and listened.
“You went through the wind shield and broke your back against the tree.”
Hugh lifted his head and looked at Timothy.
“I can give you another chance, if you agree to the price.”
“Ten years?”
“That’s the going rate.”
“Tell me what to do.”
“Walk out the door, you’ll figure out the rest.” Timothy said.
Hugh hurried across the diner and swung open the door. He stepped into the night. When he turned back the building was gone. He was standing on the side of the road, his legs encased in blue jeans with a pair of Converse sneakers on his feet. His hands were those of a young man and when he touched his face it felt lean and smooth, not the loose jowls he was used to.
A pair of headlights topped the crest of a hill and Hugh waved his arms over his head. A battered and rusted pickup pulled onto the gravel berm.
“Can you give me a lift into town?” Hugh asked.
“Sure, hop in.” A weather-beaten man in coveralls leaned across the seat and pushed open the passenger door. Hugh climbed into the cab.
“What’s a young feller like you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“Heading home,” Hugh said.

Gardening Dreams

I start thinking about gardening when the calendar says it’s mid-February. The days are getting longer and the temperature reaches into the forties and on the rare day into the fifties. It’s hard not to daydream about the smell of rich loam, my hands in the warm soil and seedlings lifting their heads reaching for the sun.
My dad had built a greenhouse that attached two parts of our house together. He’s the one responsible for my green thumb. We would pour over the Burpee’s seed catalog making out our list for what to grow. He would always pick one or two varieties of vegetables or flowers that we hadn’t tried in the past. Something we thought of as exotic. I remember bright flowers, odd shaped squash, different colored tomatoes and one year we grew our own popcorn. Gloves were required to shuck the ears. Those kernels were sharp.
Last week I was in our local Menard’s store. Even though it was way too early in the season I walked through the lawn and garden section and stopped at the seed rack. Browsing through the vegetables, I found a pack of bush zucchini seeds. I prefer this type because they work best in small gardens – no long vines trailing all over the place.  Then I picked out three types of lettuce, along with parsley and dill. Now those seed packets are sitting on the kitchen counter waiting, waiting, waiting for May and planting time. 
This year I tried wintering over a pot of oregano and one of lemon thyme. The oregano gave up during the dark days of December and the lemon thyme is just hanging on. When I walk by, I give it a gentle brush and then breathe in the lemon aroma. Ahhh. Close my eyes and its springtime.
Buying tomatoes in the winter is a form of denial and self-delusion. They look delicious; red and firm, but one bite and the illusion goes right out the window. I’m looking forward to standing in the garden, the warm sun on my back and brushing the dust off a newly picked tomato and eating it like an apple. My favorite is a good meaty Roma. I find the ‘slicers’ too watery for my taste. The cherry tomatoes ripen first and, as far as I’m concerned, should be considered garden snack food. One or two in the cheek while hoeing and weeding makes everything better. 
The snow continues to fall and the nights are long and cold. But winter’s reign is coming to an end. Daybreak comes a little earlier and twilight stays a little longer. Every day the sun is warmer and soon I’ll be standing in the garden, smiling and watching the vegetables grow. 

Bones to Soup – Recycling in the Kitchen

There’s nothing like a second-hand ham bone. It is a sure sign of a true friend when they know how excited I’d be to get one. Some might see skeletal remains, but I see good ole bean soup. 
This particular ham bone had more than one stop on its journey to my Dutch oven. It started out as Christmas dinner and then was passed on to a brother of the hostess, who passed it on to me. I promised to share, once the soup was made.
I’m one of those cooks that uses a little of this and little of that and measures in the palm of my hand or with a pinch and sprinkle. So there isn’t a real recipe for my bean soup. The prime ingredients: ham bone along with some left-over meat, navy beans and water are a given. I like to add one large grated carrot and a scant tablespoon of sugar also.


For this batch of soup I tossed in a teaspoon (more or less) each of basil and oregano and one bay leaf. The flavors blended well and enhanced the taste of the soup. I will include them from now on. I don’t add salt because I find there’s plenty in the ham.
One of my mom’s favorite sayings was, waste not, want not. I’ve learned those are good words to live by. She could turn leftovers into a new and tasty dish with a snap of her fingers. Coupled with a loaf of her homemade bread, she fed our family of five. It was from her that I learned not to toss out the turkey carcass, bones from a roast or a ham bone. They can all be used to make delicious soup.


Here is the recipe for my latest batch of Bean Soup:
2 c navy beans
Water and more water
1 large carrot, grated
Ham bone with extra meat
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Directions:
The night before: Place navy beans in a large bowl. Add water to more than cover the beans. In the morning, drain and rinse beans. Place in a Dutch oven or stockpot and cover with water. Heat to simmering and cook for 2 hours. Add grated carrot, ham bone with extra meat and continue to simmer for a couple more hours. Add more water if necessary. Take bone out of pot and remove all the meat. Dice all of the extra meat too. Return the meat to the pot. Add sugar, basil, oregano and bay leaf. Check water level and add more if necessary. Simmer for another hour, until beans are good and soft. Use a potato masher to mash the beans. Don’t mash all of them leave about 1/3 to 1/2 of the beans whole. Taste the soup and add more basil or oregano if desired. Add more water then simmer to desired thickness. Remove the bay leaf. Keep soup warm and add water if necessary to keep desired thickness until ready to serve. This is a hearty and tasty soup. I like to serve it with crusty French bread and sweet creamy butter.

Happy Holidays – Oh Yea!

 

The holiday season is a tough time when you’re single and alone. But this year, I decided to take the holidays by the horns and make them my own. No more wallowing in self-pity waiting for someone else to make the days merry and bright.
I chose to fully embrace the festivities and bring all the bright lights, hokey Christmas songs and fattening food into my life. I called, texted and emailed my late husband’s side of the family and invited them to a big Thanksgiving feast at my new house. True, we had to have dinner the weekend before Thanksgiving – you know how busy everyone is these days – but it was a good time all the same.  
The odd schedule worked out for the best. After the big family dinner, I headed north with presents in the trunk to spend an overnight with my brother and sister-in-law. Between one thing and another, we hadn’t had the time to just hang out with each other in months.
After dark, the day I arrived, my grand-niece sang in a choir at Dow Gardens. It was beautiful, incredibly cold and amazing. Luminaries lighted the paths and fairy lights were in the trees. The Christmas carols and the harmony of the young voices brought the spirit of Christmas to all of us.  
I’d planned a pre-Christmas dinner for my son, his wife and my precious granddaughters. But the morning of our get-together I got a phone call that he’d been called into work. “We’re not gonna make it tonight mom.” He’s a policeman and works 12 hours shifts. I told him to be glad for the overtime and stay safe. The upside was, I had great chili for supper the next few nights.
I surprised my postman and the garbage guys with a tin of cookies – my delicious and awesome chocolate chip and also some ginger cookies – along with a card and a tip wishing them Happy Holidays. I was lucky to be looking out the window when they found their gifts and it made me smile from ear to ear.  
Since Christmas Eve was on a Sunday, I celebrated the fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning and then stuck around to decorate the church for the Christmas Eve services. We don’t mix our holidays in the Episcopal faith. Advent is for the waiting and expectation of Jesus’ birth. The celebrating of that birth begins on Christmas Eve and lasts through Epiphany.
I will host the family Christmas dinner and gift exchange celebration on December 30th. Once again, that day is the best fit for everyone’s schedule. I will be happy to have the whole clan here. And what’s wrong with stretching out the celebrating? A little creativity and going-with-the-flow have made this the best Christmas I’ve had in many years. It all began with the decision to make it so.

The Faces of Chelsea, Michigan

I joined up with a group of photographers for the Kelby World Wide Photowalk last month. Our destination was Chelsea, Michigan.    
We gathered in the parking lot behind the town hall. Two blocks away down an alley, the white tents of the farmers market shown in the sunlight. Under the awnings there was a collage of colors: orange carrots, purple eggplant, peppers in green, yellow and red, stripped squash and gourds. It was a good thing I had my hands full of photo equipment or I would’ve been buying.      

 

The smell of gourmet coffee and baked goods drifted through the booths. A fresh-baked apple fritter hit the spot since my early morning breakfast had long ago faded away. While I was enjoying the sweet treat I spotted a man selling bouquets of dahlias. I’m a gardener and the daughter of a gardener but the flowers had color combinations I’d never seen. As the vendor and I chatted he told me of his dahlia farm and the many varieties he’s raised. Then he let me take his picture. 
After the farmers market, we photographers took to the streets, wandering down Main street, pausing often to capture store-front displays, textures, reflections and decorative signs.    
The side streets revealed intriguing nooks and crannies. An alley held a hidden reading niche next to a used book store – my favorite kind of shop. 
The outdoor display area of an antique/gardening store was full of whimsical lawn ornaments, planters and statues. 
A guided tour through the famous Clock Tower was a learning experience with some unique photo opportunities.  Monica Monsma, Executive Director of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce and the tower’s caretaker were our guides. Once inside, we climbed the handsome wooden stairs to the upper levels. The caretaker told us of the tower’s history and many uses over the years. We reached a door that led out to the stone covered roof. Seeing downtown from that height was worth climbing all those stairs.  But I have to confess, the very last flight that led to the clocks inner workings, proved too much for my courage. The cement steps were old, narrow and short. I had visions of slipping and tumbling all the way down.
Our stomachs were growling by the time the tour was finished so we decided to have lunch at a downtown restaurant; Smokehouse 52. The food was delicious and we spent a good hour talking about the sights we’d seen and the photos we’d taken.
After I got home and looked over the pictures I’d captured, I saw that the theme I’d unconsciously picked for the day was Faces; from the wall of portraits, 

the scarecrow angel, 

the ones sculpted in stone 

and formed in metal  to the bright smile of the flower vendor. The day was all about the faces of Chelsea.

Whatever Happened to Birthday Cakes?

What ever happened to homemade birthday cakes? I remember helping my mom make cakes for my brothers’ and my dad’s birthdays. That tradition carried over to baking cakes for my own son and husband. There is so much more of “me” in the cake when the flour is measured and the mess is made at home in the kitchen and they know I’m taking the time and making the effort just for them. 
The kitchen is a place for mother and daughters (and sons too!) to come together. I don’t see that bond, which comes from families cooking together, happening much in this busy world.
An over-sweet, over-frosted cake from a store bakery has nothing over a love-filled cake made with your own hands. It is the flaws, especially ones made by little hands that touch the heart.
Store-bought cakes usually come in two varieties: vanilla and chocolate. Children grow up not knowing the delicious flavors that can be incorporated into a cake. There are orange cakes, black forest cakes, lemon cakes and pineapple upside-down cakes – my son’s favorite- just to mention a few.

I recently made a pineapple upside-down cake for my son’s 38th birthday. It had been a few years since I’d made the last one. As I was placing the maraschino cherries in the center of each pineapple ring I remembered the year he ate all of the cherries off the top of his cake. It was hard to justify being angry, after all, it was HIS birthday cake.
My stepson’s favorite cake is German Chocolate and the recipe I have for the frosting came from my sister-in-law and it is scrumptious. Every time I make that frosting I think of her.
I have recipes in my mom’s very English handwriting that only I can read. She passed away several years ago but it is like she is there with me in the kitchen when I make her mincemeat bars or baking powder biscuits.
Cooking and the recipes we share are delicious ways to keep us connected to one another, share out heritage and culture and feel close to those who are absent.
This is the recipe for my son’s pineapple upside-down birthday cake. It is from my old Good Housekeeping cookbook; the one so loving used that it is held together with a rubber band.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1-20 oz can pineapple rings                                  1 cup butter, divided                                           2 c packed brown sugar, (2 sticks) divided           10 Maraschino cherries                                      2 ¼ cups cake flour                                               1 ½ cups sugar                                                 ½ teaspoons baking powder                                 1 teaspoon salt                                                   ¾ cup shortening                                                  ¾ cup milk                                                           3 eggs                                                                    1 teaspoon vanilla                                               ½ teaspoon almond extract

DIRECTIONS: Drain pineapple rings. Using two 9-inch round cake pans, place ½ cup of butter (1 stick) in each pan. Place in a low oven to melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, sprinkle 1 cup of packed brown sugar over butter, in each cake pan. Arrange 5 pineapple rings evenly over top of brown sugar in each pan. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each ring. Set pans aside.  In a large bowl, combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add shortening, milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Using an electric mixer, beat at low speed until ingredients are mixed then increase speed to medium. Beat for 5 minutes, occasionally scraping sides of the bowl. Drop batter over pineapple rings by large spoonfuls. Gently spread batter evenly and to the edges of the pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. Cakes will be lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean when cakes are done. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan. Invert onto a serving plate. If any of the topping remains in the pan, carefully remove with a spatula and place on the cake. Let cool then serve. 

Brick Walker Tavern – an Unexpected Visit

 

I drove over to Cambridge Junction to photograph an old-time baseball tournament that was scheduled to be played in the Brick Walker Tavern Historic Complex which is part of the Michigan State Park system, located a quarter mile north of Brick Walker Tavern on M-50. I haven’t done a lot of sports photography and thought this would be a fun way to get more experience. My camera and my 70-200mm lens were in the trunk.
I pulled into the park, but there was no baseball game. I was sure – well almost- that I had the correct day. I turned around and headed back toward the tavern. Two men were working in the garden and yard.  I made a quick decision and whipped into a parking spot. They gave me the EYE when I got out of my car; not sure about the interruption. A question revealed that the ball game had been canceled. Darn! It looked like my photo gear would stay in the trunk for the time being.
After chatting for a bit, I discovered that one of the workers was Tom Lee, the owner of Brick Walker Tavern. He’d been renovating the three story hotel and tavern, built in 1853, into a wedding and event venue. While keeping true to the time period he skillfully added the modern conveniences of air conditioning, updated bathrooms, WiFi and flat screen TV’s in the second floor bedrooms.
Mr. Lee gave me a tour of the first floor while entertaining me with the building’s history.  We entered through the kitchen which featured hand-crafted cupboards made by a local craftsman. Then we went on into the four parlors, the early Cambridge Junction post office and a tavern with the original bar.  He and pointed out that each room has been named for a previous owner. Having to get back to work, he had his son take me upstairs to explore the rest of the hotel.
He explained that a wedding party could spend the night before and after the ceremony in the five bedrooms on the second floor. The rooms were cozy with authentic quilts and shams on antique wooden beds. They were also accented with other period furniture and features.

A private bath was provided for each room. A gourmet breakfast could be cooked and served by a private chef the last morning of the wedding party’s stay.
The Grand Ballroom filled the third floor and was impressive in its grandeur and beauty.
Weddings and/or receptions are held in the ballroom or in the remodeled and remarkable Antique Barn, which was on the same property. The barn’s grand staircase was the perfect setting for pictures of the wedding party and the bride with her train flowing gracefully down the steps. White fairy lights shone from folds of white organza and around beams and newel posts. I was enchanted and lost in the magic of it, wishing I were twenty-something again and planning my first wedding.

Moving On Up

I did it! I moved out of my historic two-story country brick home and bought a lovely ranch house just two miles from my son. I no longer run up and down the stairs with loads of laundry, but I also no longer enjoy the smell of sun-dried sheets on my bed and the roughness of line-dried towels against my skin. (see my post The Zen of Laundry for a fun read).
The last few days before moving, I had my morning coffee and breakfast on the deck. I shared the time with a red-headed woodpecker that had moved into the neighborhood this spring.

A robin had also decided to nest, for the first time, right outside my bedroom window   and I got the first cutting from my rhubarb in the freezer before moving. These going-away presents tugged at my heart and made me want to stay. But the wheels were in motion and as I found out from threatened lawsuits, it was too late to turn back.
There is always a trade-off whenever there is change, even if that change is for the better.
Instead of being on the road for the most of an hour to buy groceries, I now have the convenience of a grocery store, several restaurants, my bank and a used book store all within a short drive. The serenity and beauty of the Dahlem Conservancy is a mere two minutes away and I can hike at the MacCready Preserve anytime I chose.
It’s been over thirty years since I went through the process of buying a house. I’d never been through the wringer of selling a home. I’ve been told that it is one of the most stressful experiences of a life-time.

 I had no idea how true that was. Many times I had to remind myself to breathe. Sleepless nights, doubt and second-thoughts were daily obstacles. I often wished my late husband could give me advice and counsel. But the decisions were mine alone and heavy to carry.
After several weeks, closing day arrived, the pile of documents was signed and the deed was done. The new owner of my old house said her daughter couldn’t wait to paint her bedroom purple! I had just finished two years’ worth of remodeling and redecorating. I reminded myself that it wasn’t my house anymore.
I got in my car, turned down an unfamiliar street and drove home. 

The Lemons Are Ripe!

It is harvest time! The lemons are ripe and need picking.

There are two on my dwarf Ponderosa lemon tree this year, each the size of a softball. I’ve decided to try a new Lemon recipe this year. I’m going to use one of the lemons to make Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.
I’m glad that part of my inheritance is my dad’s lemon tree. I remember the year we brought it back from Florida, in the back of our station wagon. (For a fun tale see my post, Dad’s Lemon Tree, post date 1/24/14) It not only makes me feel close to him every time I smell the sweet fragrant blooms or wait patiently as the small green fruits grow and ripen, I get delicious fresh home-grown lemons – in Michigan no less.
I’ve tried making lemon meringue pie one year which was yummy, but the bottom crust became soggy after a day or two. I’ve never figured out how to solve that problem. And I like to make gift-size loaves of lemon bread. I share them with my neighbors and they’re delighted to receive the tasty treat.
Whenever someone new moves in, I get to tell them the story of my dad and his lemon tree. I enjoy the telling and in that small way his legacy lives on.
Here is the recipe I made this year. I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I skipped the icing. The muffins are wonderful either way.

LEMON POPPY SEED MUFFINS
1 1/3 cups of flour                  ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt                    4 tablespoons of butter
¾ cup of sugar                      2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla               1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest    ¾ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Icing:
2 tablespoons butter, softened      2 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar          1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS: In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, sour cream and poppy seeds. Mix well. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fill muffin cups 2/3rds full. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool then remove from muffin pan. Icing – Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and lemon juice. Mix well. Drizzle over cooled muffins. If icing is too thick add a little more lemon juice.