Monthly Archives: August 2011

end of august

Can you believe that tomorrow is the first day of September? I feel like the summer just started; we didn’t have nearly enough time to do everything we wanted to do. In today’s mail I got all of the paperwork I need to fill out for the new school year. The kids start after Labor Day, so we have another week of relaxation.

At least they’re all set with their school supplies and school clothes. Jake is definitely developing a sense of style. He likes vintage t shirts and jeans and his Converse All-Stars. It’s really cool seeing his personality develop. His jokes are not quite as silly as they once were and he is well-versed in sarcasm. So funny.

Noah, on the other hand, is all about hoodies and sweats. He is just so giggly and sweet and sensitive. Funny how brothers can be so different.

I have high hopes for the school year. I don’t really know either of their teachers, but I’ve been assured both of them are good (and I’m sure they are). I’m ready to get on with the show!

catskill flooding donation information & resources

I promised to compile a list of ways to help the victims of the catastrophic flooding in the Catskills. As promised, that’s what this post is about.

Twitter has been a great tool during this period for helping get the word out about people in need of help, and it’s probably the best place to keep tabs on the latest. Search for “Catskills” or a specific town.

Watershed Post is covering the story in an amazing way. Check their liveblog for up-to-date information on everything related to this disaster.

General Donation Info

School Supply Donations

  • Chatham Kids (21 Main Street, Chatham) is a drop-off site for school-supply donations to benefit local families affected by the hurricane. Those who lost their homes also lost their children’s school supplies. St. Joseph’s Church (Route 9, Stuyvesant Falls) and St. John the Baptist (Valatie) are two other school-supply donation sites.

Fundraisers & Benefits

  • News10 Albany is holding a fundraiser Thursday, Sept. 1.
  • Farms and Family Benefit at Water Street Market on Monday, September 26th from 5 to 9PM. Live Music, potluck, $20 suggested donation. Anyone interested in volunteering to help get sponsorships, work the event, etc, we are having a meeting at Water Street Market Tuesday at 6PM to coordinate. If you cannot attend the meeting and still want to help, contact KT Tobin at

If I’m missing something, leave a comment and I will be sure to add it.

hurricane irene

I don’t even know what to say, but I feel like I should write something about this weekend’s hurricane. We are very lucky to live in a part of town with what has to be a slightly higher elevation because aside from some leaves and a few small branches on the deck and some standing water in the lowest part of our yard (not unusual), we experienced nothing from this storm.

At first, from just the observations outside my window, I thought the storm was a real dud. But then I started to hear from friends, and photos started popping up on Facebook, and I realized that it was pure luck that we somehow escaped with no flooding or property damage. If you want to see photos from other parts of the area that were hit, just browse through the Hudson Valley Weather Facebook page. There are plenty. I did not personally venture out, and I plan on just staying out of the way so clean up crews and the electric company can do their jobs.

I think the most heartbreaking thing for me, though, was learning how hard the Catskills were hit. This area really isn’t that far from where I live and it is already a depressed area. To add insult to injury, these people experienced complete and utter devastation. I cannot even imagine. Here’s a video from someone local:

Hurricane Irene – Margarertville 8-28-11 11am from Fred Margulies on Vimeo.

And here is a segment from Good Morning America, in case you missed it:

It’s wonderful that New York City didn’t get hit as hard as expected, but don’t think that the rest of the state fared as well. People in Westchester County, which is considered the NYC suburbs, experienced horrible flooding. Many roads are still closed. Communities in southern Vermont and western Massachusetts are also flooded, roads and bridges have washed away, and people are at a loss.

Once I find out more about ways to help the storm victims, I will post more information. If you know of ways to help, please feel free to comment and I will add the information.

coffee-mate giveaway winner

Thank you to everyone who entered my Coffee-Mate giveaway!

I hope you all didn’t mind using the Rafflecopter interface. I was accepted into the beta program and it made things much easier for me on the back end. It even randomly picks the winner at the touch of a button, so without further adieu the winner is….


Congratulations, Amy!

roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Yesterday I wrote that I was planning to make a pesto to use up most of my CSA basil. Now, I’ve never made pesto before and I’m not actually a big pesto fan, but something was inspiring me. I was determined to create something delicious. I considered what I don’t like about most pestos, I looked at the ingredients I had in my pantry and I came up with this recipe for roasted garlic and sunflower seed pesto. And it is both easy and deee-licious!

roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

This version takes a little longer to prepare than a raw pesto, but the flavors are more subdued, the color is bright, and really it is not that much more work. I decided to use sunflower seeds instead of pine (pignoli) nuts, because 1) I had them and 2) they are a lot easier on the wallet.

First, get everything you need: foil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and basil. (Store your fresh basil in a vase with water, as you would fresh flowers. It lasts longer this way, plus it looks pretty.)

roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Now, let’s roast that garlic. Cut the stem end off the garlic, place it on a bit of tin foil and drizzle olive oil over it. Pop it in a 450-degree oven for about one hour.

roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

While the garlic is roasting, pull off about 2 to 2.5 cups of basil leaves.
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

When the garlic is done roasting, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Now, get a pot of water boiling. We’re going to blanch the leaves. Are you ready? I promise, this is super easy and it will make the leaves blend smoother. Fill a bowl with ice water and keep it close to the stove. You’re going to need it to “shock” the blanched basil leaves.

One the water is at a rolling boil, dump the basil leaves in and leave them there for about 1 minute. (Sidenote: if you’re going to serve the pesto immediately after making it, just use this water to cook your pasta.)
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Immediately place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. You can use a slotted spoon for this.
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Now, unwrap that delicious package of roasted garlic. This is why the pesto is so good (in my opinion). Roasting the garlic takes away that sharp, bitter taste that I dislike in most pestos.
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Add the blanched basil leaves, the roasted sunflower seeds, and the roasted garlic to the bowl of your food processor. The garlic cloves should come out pretty easily, but you might have to help them along with your fingers.
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Pulse until the mixture turns into a coarse meal that looks something like this (you will probably need to scrape down the sides a couple times):
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Turn your food processor on and start drizzling in the olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency.
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

I like mine a little on the thicker side. It’s easy enough to thin with olive oil, and I like to have the option to use it as a sandwich spread.
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Since it was approaching lunchtime when I made this yesterday, I had a great excuse to try it. I tossed it with some spaghetti, sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese, and I think I actually exclaimed, “Holy sh-t! This is is good!” This was remarkably close to my husband’s reaction, which was, “This doesn’t taste like pesto. This is good!”
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

Unfortunately, you cannot home can pesto. At least I couldn’t find a safe method to do so, and I’m not going to take chances. You can, however, freeze it. If you want to freeze it in a glass jar or plastic container, cover the pesto with a layer of olive oil and be sure to leave about 1/2-inch of head room for expansion. You can also freeze it in tablespoon-sized portions to add to soups, stews, or just when you want an individual portion. The easiest way to do this is in an ice cube tray. Because we have an ice maker on our fridge, the only ice cube trays I have are fun shapes (usually for Jell-O jigglers). I decided to make pesto skulls:
roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

So there you have it. My very long-winded explanation for a very simple recipe!

Roasted Garlic and Sunflower Pesto

roasted garlic and sunflower pesto

2 c. fresh basil leaves
1 head of garlic
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 c. olive oil, plus extra for roasting garlic
pot of boiling water
bowl of ice water
salt to taste (optional)

Cut the stem off of a garlic clove and place it on the center of an aluminum foil square. Drizzle with olive oil, wrap tightly, and roast in a 450-degree oven for about 1 hour. When the garlic has finished roasting, start a pot of water boiling. Blanch 2 cups of basil leaves for approx. 1 minute. Immediately immerse leaves in ice water. Combine the blanched basil leaves, roasted garlic cloves, and sunflower seeds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms a coarse meal. Start your food processor again and slowly pour in the olive oil until it reaches your desired texture.

Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. This freezes well.

Be sure to visit Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom to check out other delicious recipes!

csa 2011: sixth share

csa 2011: 6th share

The years when we’ve belonged to our CSA are the ones where I’ve really noticed that seasons are changing. As each new crop comes in, you realize that we are getting ever closer to fall and winter. This week’s share certainly reflects that.

The weather has been noticeably cooler here in the Hudson Valley. Nightly temperatures have been in the low 50s and days in the mid-70s. It is absolutely gorgeous! And then there are the little things like how it’s getting darker just a little earlier every day. (Our farm newsletter noted that the chickens are turning in to roost a full hour earlier every night.) There might even be a leaf or two starting to change color.

This week’s share marks the last of the melons, which for me is a yet another sign that summer is (nearly) over. Tomatoes are in full swing, and they’re already talking about the return of cool-weather greens. But on to the share at hand!

I went later than usual, so things were a little picked over (and all the PYO cherry tomatoes had been, well, picked). But still, I came home with a full basket and then some! We got one head of lettuce, a bunch of leeks, green beans, summer squash and zucchini, tomatoes (I picked a mix of Juliet and a couple heirlooms, of which I naturally forgot the names — German something and Yellow something), cukes (there was also an “imperfect – take what you want” bucket, so I grabbed three from there), cantaloupes (we could take three, but I thought two was reasonable), a watermelon, garlic, three basil plants (yes, the entire plants), and as much dill and cilantro as we wanted. I pulled up two cilantro bunches and three or four dill plants. We also had our flowers, but I forgot to put them in the photo.

Today I’m going to attempt to make pesto with all the basil, so be sure to check back to see how that goes! I also plan to make my dad’s overnight pickles with the smaller cucumbers and some of that dill. I’ll probably freeze most of it. I already have a nice stash from previous shares, as well as dill my parents brought from their garden. I should be all set for my winter soups!

coffee-mate creamer giveaway


The dog days of summer are coming to an end — our schools starting in just about two weeks (and many already back in session). But that doesn’t mean the warm weather is going to stop anytime soon. I plan on enjoying iced coffee drinks well into the fall, and I’ll probably need the extra jolt of caffeine to get everyone ready and out the door on time!

One of my favorite ways to jazz up iced coffee is to use a flavored creamer. The folks over at Coffee-Mate sent me a to-go cup (perfect to take to the bus stop!), a coupon for a free bottle of Coffee-Mate creamer, and recipe cards with tasty ideas for fun beverages.

I’ve really been enjoying my own versions of expensive coffee shop-style iced coffees, thanks to their yummy Café Collection creamers. The flavors include Hazelnut Latte, Vanilla Latte, Café Mocha, Café Latte, White Chocolate Caramel Latte, and my favorite — Caramel Macchiato. I think that the next one I’m going to try is the White Chocolate Caramel Latte, which also sounds yummy.

I have the opportunity to give away a Coffee-Mate prize pack to one lucky reader so you can whip up some tasty treats of your own! You can enter up to four times — there is one mandatory entry and three optional entries. Just follow the prompts below! Good luck!


Disclosure: I received a coupon for a free bottle of Coffee-Mate creamer and a promotional item in exchange for my review. The opinions expressed are my own and I received no further compensation from Wasa or their representatives.



I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here it’s thundering like crazy! I had a pretty lazy afternoon. Laura took quite a nap, so I mostly poked around online. I’m glad we never splurged on an expensive video baby monitor because for us it would have been a waste. She prefers to nap on me, which is just fine 🙂

Anyway, I’m glad the weekend is here because we have a few fun things planned. I just hope the weather holds out for the outdoor stuff. It doesn’t look promising, but… you never know!

We have so many things planned between now and the start of school — time is just going to fly! Next week I’m going to try to get everyone back into a routine. We haven’t been too bad about bedtimes, but the mornings need some restructuring. September will be here before we know it!

best-ever vinaigrette

I don’t know about you, but I love a good salad. While bottled dressings are fine, there is nothing quite like a homemade vinaigrette to give your greens an extra bit of flavor. Earlier this summer (or was it back in the spring?) I had lunch at my friend’s house and she made a huge salad drizzled with the most amazing salad dressing ever.

best salad ever

Around the house this has come to be known as “My Friend Michelle’s Salad Dressing” and I make it quite often. To have the authentic Michelle salad, you need to have lots (lots) of avocado in there. I also like to add tomato, fresh mozzarella, and homemade croutons. Chicken is a nice addition if you want to add a little protein. She said she originally got it from Cook’s Illustrated. Whoever created it is, in my opinion, a culinary genius.

My Friend Michelle’s Salad Dressing
(a.k.a. Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette)
best salad ever

1 tsp. creamy Dijon mustard
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. juice from 1 lemon (I usually just squeeze the entire lemon in there)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together mustard, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, and oil in medium bowl until well combined. You can also shake everything up together in a jar fitted with a tight lid. Shake or whisk again before dressing your salad if the vinaigrette separates.

best salad ever

At the birthday party last weekend, I used this dressing for a tortellini salad that included turkey pepperoni, onions, and peppers and it was very yummy. I think it would be good on pretty much anything. Even straight from the cruet! OK, maybe that’s taking it a little too far, but yes it really is that good.

Be sure to visit Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom to check out other delicious recipes!

menu plan monday 8.14-8.20

It’s a big birthday week around here. Yesterday my oldest turned 9 and on Wednesday my middle child turns 6! We celebrated with a friends and family birthday party yesterday. It was a little chaotic once the kids arrived, but I think (I hope!) everyone had fun. The mystery theme was hit, and I’ll write more about it during the week.

But now, as much as I didn’t feel like it, I drafted up a basic meal plan. There are a lot of things going on this week that may cause this to change, but it’s always good to be prepared. Right?

  • Sunday: Late-night take-out after all the party guests left
  • Monday: Super nachos with chicken, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, avocado… the works!
  • Tuesday: Dinner out
  • Wednesday: Lemon chicken, rice, broccoli
  • Thursday: Grilled steak, baked potatoes, steamed veggies
  • Friday: Dinner with family
  • Saturday: Dinner with family

For more menu ideas, visit Organizing Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday feature.