Category: Life

Blueberry-blackberry crisp and other things

So let’s start with a picture of me in a dress. The dress is blue, so it fits with the post topic, right?

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Wow, what a week-and-a-half it has been, folks. I started back to school January 15th (last Tuesday) and the semester got off to a BANG when I was assigned two papers to write in one week. I am not a fast thinker or writer, by any means, and for one of the papers, the content was completely new to me — New Testament textual criticism. I went from knowing nothing about it whatsoever, to having a completed analytical 10-page paper completed, in one week. The day after that paper was due another paper (on theology) was due. Let’s just say … I didn’t go to bed before 2 or 3 AM for several nights. And coffee is my friend.

Even though the whole week was pretty rough, Ben and I did carve out a few hours on Saturday night to go on a hot date. Going on hot dates is not something we do very often. It’s not like we don’t spend time together. Let’s see, we work together, go to school together, and do pretty much everything else together. And sure, we go get lunch or dinner or go to a movie or go shopping fairly often. But rarely do we get all dressed up and go to some big-deal event. So it’s pretty special when we do. This time we went to the Virginia Symphony. Chloe Hanslip, a British violinist, was playing the Korngold violin concerto. It was a great concert, and afterwards we went to Cheesecake Factory and got apps and zerts (thank you, Tom Haverford, for making this term part of the English language – at least unofficially. I’ll see you at Rent-a-Swag sometime).

It was a super fun night. We were all dressed up (see picture above — I don’t wear floor-length one-shoulder gowns every day!) and feeling like the hottest couple in town, eating huge slabs of cheesecake and bantering like nobody’s business. I think we were out until almost 1 AM.

Then came a few days of madness while I tried to get those papers done, and I turned everything in on Tuesday/Wednesday (either very, very late on Tuesday night or very, very early on Wednesday morning, however you want to look at it). I didn’t have anything due yesterday (Wednesday), so it was like the best day of my LIFE. I slept in. Flipped through an enormous stack of cookbooks I got at the library. And spent a few relaxing hours in the kitchen, cooking up sesame chicken for dinner, as well as this delicious thing.

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So here’s how this works. I’ve been wanting to make a blueberry crisp for a long time. Not just a blueberry crisp though; I was thinking of mixing blueberries and cranberries for an awesome sweet-tart twist. When I went to the grocery store, though, they told me there wouldn’t be fresh cranberries available until next fall. Ugh! So I picked up some blackberries instead. Wow, you know what I never really realized before? BLACKBERRIES ARE DELICIOUS.

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I was so excited to make this. Seriously, for weeks I had been thinking about a crisp made with tons of juicy berries and a twist of lemon. And yes, I am obsessed with food and it’s a miracle I don’t weigh 400 pounds (especially considering I never ever work out – ha).

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The recipe is from Martha Stewart. Even though I pretty much think the whole Martha Stewart regime is kind of way-too-perfect and ridiculous (I mean if I had tons of money, five or six houses, hundreds of talented staff, and a kick-butt jadeite collection, I would be awesome too) …. but Martha Stewart recipes are just really good. Just FYI the original recipe is just for a blueberry crisp, so you make it with 6 cups of blueberries or mix it up with different kinds of berries like I did.

Here’s the recipe with my alterations:

BLUEBERRY-BLACKBERRY CRISP

Filling:

4 cups blueberries (I used frozen)
2 cups blackberries (or other fruit, use your imagination…)
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest (eyeball it — I used the zest of about half the lemon)
1/4 tsp coarse-ground salt

Topping:

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled (old-fashioned) oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse-ground salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients. Transfer to a greased 8-inch-square baking dish.

For the topping, cream the softened butter and 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl until fluffy. (Use a mixer if you want, but I didn’t.) Now, to save on dishes I did the next part in the same bowl, but you can use a separate bowl if you prefer. Measure the flour, oats, baking powder and salt into the bowl on top of the creamed butter and sugar, stir gently just to combine the dry ingredients that are resting on top of the butter/sugar mixture, then stir down to the bottom to roughly combine everything. Now — this is the fun/messy part — use your hands to squeeze the topping mixture into lots of clumps. Really go to town on those clumpy-umps. It should be mostly clumps because you know those are the best part.

Sprinkle topping over filling. Bake until nicely browned on top and bubbling throughout, 1 hour. I had to loosely cover it with foil for the last 15 minutes or so to prevent overbrowning, so keep an eye out for that. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Best served slightly warm (duh) with vanilla ice cream (double duh)!!

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(As you can see from the picture, it might need some more cornstarch because it’s on the juicy side of things. I actually already increased the cornstarch amount, and the filling does hold together pretty nicely, but it leaves a puddle of juice in the bottom of the pan.)

Guys, this stuff is SO GOOD. Probably the best crisp I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve tasted a lot. I can’t wait to gobble up the rest of it. It’s really easy and makes a good amount, so I think it would be great for when people come over. Unless they don’t like blueberries. Which would be very silly of them. Blueberries are awesome!

just another nice evening

Tonight feels like one of those just-kinda-perfect evenings. I spent most of the day trying to catch up on things around the house — cleaning, grocery shopping and such — and felt like I was accomplishing nothing, but at the end of the day I actually had gotten things looking pretty good. There’s nothing like having a clean house. It’s a great self-esteem booster for me. :)

Going along with my domestication kick, I’ve been really into cooking and baking. During the camp season, messing around in the kitchen is pretty much out of the question for me. I just don’t have time with all the things I do. On camp days we eat camp food, and on the weekends we usually eat out. That can be fun, but it gets tiresome and expensive. Now that I have time to cook again, I’m really enjoying it. I love everything about food and food preparation (except maybe washing dishes!) and I love cooking for Ben because he’s so appreciative of everything I make. I guess you could call him a good eater. It makes cooking a lot more fun when you have an adoring and hungry fan. ;-)

Tonight I made salmon with a simple citrus-oil-honey mustard marinade, and veggies on the side, following a recipe I got from my aunt on vacation last week. We also had tandoori naan on the side. I like to warm them up, cut them into fourths or so, and serve them with fresh mozzarella. I had some bite-size fresh mozzarella balls that I coated in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and heated just a little (not enough to melt them, though). Stick a few of those in a warm piece of naan, and … well … I could eat a lot of that, jussayin’.

My aunt’s vegetable recipe is really pretty awesome. She made it when we were at the lake on vacation last week. Here, I’ll put in the recipe. (Hope it’s not a secret!) I mostly followed it ……… mostly. I just skipped the onion since I didn’t have one, and used oregano instead of thyme because I made a huge pot of chicken soup last night which was absolutely loaded with thyme, and I didn’t want to have thyme EVERYTHING. I also cooked it a little longer than I was supposed to, by accident …. when my aunt made it, the veggies were more crisp, but I didn’t take it out of the oven quite in time. It was really good that way too, though. I have a feeling I’ll be making this a lot because it’s easy to make and easy to change up with different vegetables, etc.

Aunt Carmen’s Oven Veggies

1/3 cup butter or oil
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ to ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups broccoli florets
6 medium carrots, julienned
3 small onions, quartered

Place butter or oil in a shallow baking dish. Place in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes to melt. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper. Add vegetables and toss to coat. Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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And now I’m going to enjoy the rest of the beautiful view of the sunset out my window while I (you guessed it!) do homework. Have a great night everyone!

midsummer update

It’s been awhile.

In case you’ve forgotten, we look like this:

Tired & tanned pretty much sums it up, I guess. Look how brown Ben is! I wear sunscreen religiously, so I’m still pretty white. :-)

This was a picture from yesterday, Saturday, which we spent mostly at the mall since it has been SO HOT outside. Trust me, though, I’m not exactly spending my summer chillin’ at the mall. This week will be our third week of camp, and on Friday (the 13th) we will be halfway done with our regular camp season. It feels like we’ve been at it a lot longer than three weeks, though, with the week of training before camp started and then all the weeks of preparation and our two weekend teen retreats which came before that.

Camp so far has been very challenging but at the same time it’s gone well. We have a lot to be thankful for. We had a counselor get injured the second day of camp, but she is doing well now and her injury wasn’t terribly serious, thank God. We’ve been without a pool for the first two weeks, even with the heat wave last week which had us dealing with 100-degree-plus temperatures, but the pool should be ready by the middle of this week and we’re all pretty overjoyed about that. Our staff are awesome — it’s probably the strongest year I’ve seen so far in terms of staffing. The kids are needy as usual, but that’s normal. They keep me very, very busy.

My brother Jesse is working here for the summer — having him here makes me happy. :-) He does a lot of work in the barn and definitely makes camp more awesome. This week he will be counseling about a dozen little boys, so pray for him! Haha. It’s been lots of fun working with him during the week and hanging out on the weekends. Here we are da beach…

Look at me snuggling up to all these good-looking men! Hmmm … it would be sketchy except I’m related to them, lucky me.

Hard to believe camp will be over in a month! The weeks seem so long, but before we know it, it will be August 3rd and our fourth season of camp will be over! And of course there’s another milestone coming up too … somebody’s 30th birthday is a couple of weeks away … who could it be? :-)

Got to go … hope everyone’s summer is going well. See you in August or whenever I’m back on here.

XOXO

Bethany

 

a goat cheese obsession

I want to show you guys some pretty awesome food I’ve been making the last couple days. It all has goat cheese in it! Awesome, right? At least if you like goat cheese. WHICH I DO. (Case in point: I have a cookbook in my house right now which is devoted entirely to goat cheese.)

So the first thing I made (2 nights ago) was like a vegetable & goat cheese flatbread pizza thing. Kind of hard to explain. Here, maybe this mediocre photo will help:

It’s a flatbread spread with goat cheese and then topped with sauteed zucchini and portobello mushrooms, baked in the oven a few minutes to warm it up …. then topped with “spring mix” salad greens and a little more crumbled goat cheese, and drizzled with my current favorite lemon vinaigrette.

I had no idea how to eat this thing that my brain had created. I ended up cutting it into wedges and eating it like pizza. It was really, really good. And simple. Aaaaand, vegetarian!

Then tonight I made goat cheese salad.

There’s a story behind this one.

A couple of months ago Ben and I went to Uno’s, a restaurant which is surprisingly awesome since it is a chain. They had a new kind of salad which I tried and instantly became obsessed with. Field greens, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and lemon-basil vinaigrette = amaaaaazing!! Quite possibly the best salad I’ve ever had.

A few weeks later I found myself at Uno’s — again. Eating goat cheese salad — again. And I thought I owed it to myself and my budget to figure out how to make it on my own.

So all you need are “spring mix” salad greens, walnuts (candied if you want — or just toast them, they’re delish without the sugar too), plain goat cheese, and lemon vinaigrette (my recipe below).

I get my goat cheese at Trader Joe’s. For $6 you get a lot — the brand is Silver Goat. Although there are lots of tantalizing flavors, I usually buy the plain kind because it’s so versatile. This time I also picked up a package of dried “tart montmorency cherries” to try.

The salad is crazy easy to make. Just plop some salad greens in a bowl or on a plate, sprinkle with the toasted (or candied) walnuts and crumble plenty of the goat cheese on top. (Add the dried cherries or other dried fruit here if you’re doing that.) Then drizzle with the vinaigrette and you’re set to OM NOM NOM yourself into goat cheese bliss.

Now about the vinaigrette. I don’t know how close I am to Uno’s version, which is incredible, but this version is very good in my opinion. I got the original recipe from Martha Stewart, then made some changes. It’s definitely the best-tasting homemade vinaigrette I’ve been able to make so far.

Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette

1 tsp honey mustard (dijon mustard also works)
1-1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (sad to say I often skip this out of pure laziness)
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Dried or fresh oregano and basil to your taste
6 Tbsp olive oil
A tiny drizzle of honey — optional — if you want a bit more sweetness

Combine all together and shake/stir/whisk until thickened. If you whisk it well it comes together and makes a beautiful, creamy lemon-colored dressing.

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And now, some sad news. Unfortunately, it is the time of year when my life is completely swallowed up in my job at summer camp. When I stop having time to make goat cheese salads and instead I eat camp food for three months. When I work approximately 80 hours a week and have absolutely no time for blogging — and “At Home With Bethany” become kind of irrelevant anyway since I’m practically never home.

So you may not see me on here very often for the next three months or so. If I’m able to drop in here from time to time with some pictures or something, then – hooray! But if not, then you will know what I am up to. And I will be back as soon as I can, with many things to share. Because there will be things going on. Someone I love very much is going to be turning 30 this summer (oh who could it beeeee??) and I hope to throw a great party for him. I’m also going to be diving into a total redesign of my living room (all 16 square feet of it, or whatever it is — hah) in the fall, and then there will be pictures from our planned vacation to Saugatuck, Michigan in August! So lots of good posts to look forward to writing (if you’re me) and reading (if you’re you).

So, see you around. For now I hope I’ve at least got you addicted to goat cheese. Hah. I’m devious like that!

made it to minnesota

I’m in Minnesota for about a week with my family. Having lots of fun — I really, really miss living close to them. I’m going to have to work on convincing Ben that we should move to MN someday. Hey, Minneapolis-St Paul is really cool, right? Haha. We’ll see about that. 

I was supposed to fly here on Monday night, but that day did NOT go as planned. To say the least. My flight was delayed, and I was confused about all the different options & possibilities …. it just seemed really overwhelming and I did not want to deal with it. I ended up waiting in a lot of lines, for quite some time, and finally decided just to rebook for the next morning. I did get them to extend my trip so I would come home a day later than planned, so I would still have a week-long visit … and I got a $10 meal ticket in lieu of an apology for “any inconvenience,” so I’m not complaining about that. But it was kind of a lengthy and stressful experience.

Then we came home and were both grumpy because of all the craziness. I made dinner and we were just sitting down to salad while the steak finished up when –

BREEEP BREEEP BREEEP

Fire alarm. Yes, it sounded that loud. Probably louder. In three years of marriage this was the first time I’d ever set off the fire alarm while cooking. Unfortunately we live in a building where the fire alarm going off automatically calls the fire department. Despite Ben calling in to let them know it was a false alarm, about 5 minutes later I heard sirens and the next thing I knew there were four firemen trooping through my apartment and taking in the whole scene: half-eaten salad, subdued me, and of course that stupid, stupid steak. Everything was fine (except for the pervasive odor of very well-seared steak), but it took a long time to figure out how to reset the alarm. When we finally got to bed, I didn’t have too many hours before I had to get up and repeat the whole getting-to-the-airport performance.

So that was quite a day. But I’m happy to report that my trip the next morning went extremely well. Lots of legroom, met quite a few friendly people including a man from Trinidad whom I sat with in the Chicago-O’Hare airport for about an hour and talked travel, books & NPR with … plus quality time with my beloved books & magazines, coffee & a bagel from Starbucks, etc. It was pretty fun. :) I really do enjoy flying, at least when it goes semi-smoothly.

And now I’m hanging out with my extremely cool and awesome family! I’m having a blast. Probably won’t be posting every day this week or anything, but I’ll be around.

Hope you all are having a good week!

XO
Bethany

 

My volleyball champion

In the past month, Ben has won two volleyball championships.

It’s been fun cheering him on through such an exciting season. Last month his team won a Virginia Beach city volleyball championship, which was SO cool. His team is awesome, really great people, and they enjoy playing together. I had a blast going to the games and then out for Mexican afterward, which is the team’s most cherished tradition. (Besides winning championships, of course — this was their second year in a row of winning.)

Then on Saturday Ben played (with some friends/teammates) in the championship at Regent University. And they won! He was pretty excited. They all got cool T-shirts — although Ben’s not exactly a size XL, but oh well.

I love watching him play. He’s really good and has a fantastic serve. Here he is settin’ like a pro …

The Regent championship was nice because it was outside in the sand, on probably the most beautiful day of the year so far. I sat on a blanket, did homework, watched the game, held a baby, and got a little tan (sometimes all at the same time). It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. Plus who wouldn’t want to watch this cute guy play and then get to go home with him afterward?

I think the volleyball season is over now for us, but it’s been lots of fun. I’m looking forward to this time again next year. Go Benny!

 

Crazy days, good days

As you can probably tell from the dearth of posts these days, my life is pretty much nuts.

Camp.

School. (Finals are close.)

More camp/work.

People.

Life.

It’s all piling up and it’s been kind of tough the last couple of weeks, but I’m making it. God is good and I’m not insane yet. ;-) One nice thing about going through challenging things is the way Ben and I pull together through it all …. we’ve been through a bunch of stuff together over the past 3 years of marriage plus 3 years of dating + engagement, and it seems like at this point we’ve built a good team. We know each other well by now and work hard to support each other — Ben especially is amazing to have as a buddy/teammate. I’ve had some very rough moments and he’s always there to tell me the truth and give me a hug. Or even buy me a book when I’m laying in bed and crying because I thought I made a huge and potentially terrible mistake at work which it later turned out I didn’t. (The book was great, BTW. Highly recommended if you’re a nerd like me)

Usually the first things to go when the schedule heats up are my domestic pursuits, much as I love them. Ha. Not that I enjoy cleaning really at all, but I do enjoy having a clean house! And when my workday leaves me completely and thoroughly drained, I don’t really feel like vacuuming. Or like cooking. Tonight I didn’t have much in my fridge in the way of dinner material, and I didn’t have a clue what to make. I ended up with an orzo-with-sauteed-mushrooms-and-spinach -and-lemon thing, and also bruschetta. And also — for the sake of full disclosure — eggs. Yes, eggs. Poor Ben …. he’s usually very into my cooking and loves to eat everything I make. But tonight he was giving his food some weird, unhappy looks. Actually, it tasted good (to me at least), but there’s no doubt it was WEE-IRD. So I took pity on him and suggested he eat the leftover clam chowder I made last week — an offer he gratefully accepted. :-)

OK folks, I’m out — gonna get myself a good night’s sleep. :-) I’m pretty excited about that. I have a Greek quiz in the morning, as usual. But the great news is after that one I only have 2 more left in this semester! Booyah!

Thanks for reading as always ….. hope to be back here soon with something cool & awesome. Like making goat cheese on a stick. I seriously cannot stop thinking about goat cheese on a stick!!!