Life in a Northern Town

Poulet Au Pain

This won't come as a surprise to those who know me but I often wake up thinking about dinner. Food is never far from my mind (George and I have a lot in common) and in this case, I woke up thinking about chicken wrapped in puff pastry. I saw a recipe somewhere but when I set out to make this for dinner, I couldn't find it anywhere so I turned to Google....and that's how I discovered poulet au pain, or it's decidedly unromantic English name, chicken bread. I had no idea it was a French recipe; I just remember thinking that chicken wrapped in puff pastry had a lot of potential and I wanted to eat it for dinner.  

I've made quite a few poulet au pains this winter and like the cheddar and apple galette, it never got old. I thought my roasted chicken days were over because the weather is warming up, the crocuses are blooming and I've put all the snow gear away for the summer but Mother Nature threw us a curve ball and there was talk of possible snow showers tonight (which didn't materialize) and that means I had another crack at roasted chicken before spring really takes root.

Looking back at the winter of 2016, we ate a lot of puff pastry and I'm not sure exactly what got into me. I was wrapping, layering, galetting and tartleting all sorts of stuff and it was a buttery, flaky season....and this chicken is my swan song to cold and snow.

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Poulet Au Pain

1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup of butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan, shredded
1 tablespoon preserved lemon, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, shopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
Egg wash (1 egg and 3 tablespoons water, beaten)
Herb salt (recipe here)

Preparation 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the butter, herbs, preserved lemon, garlic, and salt and combine thoroughly. Loosen the chicken skin and place the herb butter under both breasts, thighs, and legs. Spread any remaining butter over the chicken breast and set aside.

On a floured board, Roll out the puff pastry to about a 14 -16 inch square-isa shape and place the chicken, breast side down, on the puff pastry. Wrap the dough around the chicken and seal all the seams with the egg wash. Place the chicken on a roasting rack or a parchment-lined sheet tray, brush the entire chicken with the egg wash and sprinkle with herb salt. Place in oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of your chicken. The chicken is done when the puff pastry is golden brown and the chicken thighs register 175 degrees. Let sit for about 10 minutes before carving. 

Cheddar and Apple Galette

I've made this galette a number times over the past few months and it hasn't gotten old -- which is a pretty good indicator of a solid recipe. Although to be fair, it's find of hard to get sick of anything with cheese, puff pastry and caramelized onions. I made one to bring to Julie and Charly's sugarbush yesterday and I decided to make one little change that took this solid recipe and transformed it into a stellar recipe -- I drizzled my spicy pepper and ginger jam on top of the apples before I baked it. I love it when recipe improv works out. 

While this is definitely more of a fall and winter type of dish, it's light enough that it would make a nice lunch with a salad in the spring. Plus, it's supposed to snow tomorrow and this galette will help take the sting out of snowflakes in April...maybe. 

Cheddar and Apple Galette

1 onion, sliced and caramelized
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
3 apples, thinly sliced
1/3 cup hot pepper and ginger jam (recipe here)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons thyme
1 sheet of puff pastry, rolled into a 16 x20 rectangle
Maldon sea salt for sprinkling
Egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water) for puff pastry

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment and place the puff pastry on the sheet tray. Place the sliced apples in a large bowl, sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of flour, toss to distribute the flour evenly over the apples and set aside. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese over the puff pastry and then evenly distribute the caramelized onions over the cheddar cheese.

Place the sliced apples, slightly overlapping, in three or four rows on the puff pastry, leaving about an inch of pastry exposed. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and drizzle the hot pepper and ginger jam over the galette. Fold up the edges of the puff pastry, brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle the Maldon sea salt on the crust. Place in oven and bake, rotating once, for 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy around the edges. Let cool for about 10 minutes and serve. 

Spicy Pepper & Ginger Jam

I just finished my last jar of this sweet and spicy jam yesterday and I'm really wishing I had persevered in my late summer canning marathon and made a few more pints of this stuff. I remember the day I took these photos -- it was about 100 degrees in my kitchen and the air was thick with pepper fumes....even the dogs beat hasty retreat when I started chopping these bad boys up.

I can't recall the names of all the peppers I used; it was a mixture of super-nuclear Bulgarian Carrots (those little orange ones), mature Hungarian Wax, plain-old Jalapeños and a sweet pepper or two. This recipe is super easy and adaptable -- you should use a combination of peppers that suits your taste-buds and tolerance for heat. This summer I'm going to strap on my ski-googles, put my gloves on, let the dogs outside, turn the fan on, and persist....I need a double batch of this jam next time around! 

Spicy Pepper and Ginger Jam

1 pound of hot peppers, seeded and finely chopped (add a handful of seeds if you like it hot) 
1/2 pound sweet peppers (like bell peppers or sweet Italian), seeded and finelychopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cups white sugar
2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
2 packages (1.75 ounce) Sure-Jell

Preparation 
Prepare jars and lids: place 4 half-pint jars on rack in a large pot. Add enough water to cover jars, and bring to boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and allow jars to rest in the hot water. Meanwhile, put bands and lids in small saucepan and cover with water. Heat over medium heat until the water is simmering, then remove pan from heat and allow bands and lids to rest in hot water until ready to use.

Add all ingredients, except the Sure-Jell, to a large stockpot, bring to a boil over high heat and then simmer for 20 minutes. Bring back to a rolling boil, add the Sure-Jell, and boil for one minute. Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims of the jars, cover with lids, and screw bands on until just barely tight. Place jars on rack in pot and cover completely with water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, uncover pot, and allow jars to rest in water for five minutes. Remove jars from pot and allow them to rest undisturbed on countertop for six hours or overnight. 

A Hidden Village in the forest

The first time we visited the hidden village, the kids were little -- Sadie was a toddler, Meg and Charlie weren't on the scene yet and our big Newfie, Guinness, was still with us. It was a rainy weekend and the kids were getting stir-crazy and a friend, sensing my frustration with trying to keep three kids happy-ish, asked if we had ever visited the secret village. The kids were immediately intrigued and after a day of badgering, we decided to set out to find this village of small stone houses in the woods near a large birch tree. Yup, that was the extent of our directions but we persevered -- when you have three kids under the age of 6 who are excited to find a secret village, full-steam ahead is the only way to go.  

I remember Ted was carrying Sadie as we hiked along, looking for a large birch tree....which was somewhat of a challenge because birch trees are a dime a dozen in northern Wisconsin. The boys ran ahead, dipping in and out of the forest, excited to be in charge of locating the village. Eventually, they hollered that they found it and we all gathered around this collection of stone and concrete houses in a small clearing in the woods. It was one of those moments I will never forget; the kids were mesmerized by these magical fairy homes in the wilderness and I was grateful to witness such faith in that unexplainable magic that kids are so willing to embrace. 

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Fast forward 16 years or so and we visited the hidden village again last summer. This time, Jack was in Madison, Sadie was in Bayfield and it was Will's last weekend in Bayfield before he left for UW-Madison. I had forgotten about the village but as we were walking down the trail, Ted said he thought we were near it and Will and Charlie took off into the woods to find it (some things don't change). Sure enough, they found it and as we walked up to the village, I was struck by how small it looked. The kids are so much larger now and they dwarfed the little dwellings, animals and figurines. 

The houses had greenery poking out through the windows and it looked as though they hadn't been visited for quite some time. The forest floor was littered with sticks and leaves but the houses looked much the same as they had during our first visit, all those years ago.  

Meg and Ted headed off to explore while the boys spent time arranging the animals and figurines near the houses and taking photos of the little community. They are much older now and magical fairy villages aren't as enchanting as they used to be.  Instead of talking about the magic that created those houses, we talked about the memories that this place holds for our family as we walked back to the campsite. So much has changed in the past 16 years and while I couldn't be more proud of them, nostalgia has a way of washing over me, like a rogue wave. Time flies and finding your back to places that are suspended in time, that hold memories waiting to be remembered......that's my kind of magic. 

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Salty, Sweet and Savory Shortbread Crackers

I have a thing for preserved lemons (recipe here) and oil-cured olives -- when I find a recipe that includes both of them, I'm a happy camper. I'm also a big fan of savory shortbread crackers: they are the perfect cocktail food, they can be made ahead of time and baked right before you need them, and they are well-suited to a variety of flavors: gorgonzola, cheddar, feta, a variety of herbs, and in the case of these crackers -- olives and preserved lemon.  

I have quite a collection of cookbooks and Dorie Greenspan's, Around My French Table, is dog-eared and stained (good indicators of a well-loved cookbook) but the first time I made these, I was skeptical. Grated egg yolk? Powdered sugar? And oil-cured olives?? It seemed a little strange but since shortbread crackers are a staple in my kitchen and I happened to have potato starch in the cupboard, I decided to give it a whirl. Boy, am I glad I did -- these are lovely sweet and salty crackers with a delicate texture that makes it mighty tough to have just one (or two, or seven). The dough freezes beautifully, well-wrapped, for up to two months...it's always good to have a secret cocktail weapon on hand when you need a little something to accompany your wine! 

Olive and Preserved Lemon Shortbread Crackers
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's, Around My French Table)

1 large hard-boiled egg yolk, white discarded
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons potato starch
15 tablespoons (1 stick plus 7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup olive oil (a fruity oil is best)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured, chopped
1/4 cup preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped (rind only)
Maldon sea salt, for sprinkling

Preparation
Grate the hard-boiled egg onto a piece of wax paper. Put the flour and potato starch in a strainer set over a large bowl and sift into the bowl; whisk to thoroughly blend.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until it’s soft and creamy. Beat in the olive oil, followed by the grated yolk. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar, reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough just comes together and then stir in the chopped olives and preserved lemon. You’ll have a soft, pliable dough. 

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, divide it into thirds, and shape each piece into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for several hours or, better yet, overnight. If you’re in a hurry, you can freeze the logs for an hour or so.

When you’re ready to bake the crackers, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Working with 1 log at a time, slice the cookies 1/4 inch thick and arrange them on the baking sheet, and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.

Bake the sablés for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the midway mark, or until the cookies are firm, but not colored. They may turn golden around the edges, but you don’t want them to brown. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool, and repeat with the remaining logs of dough, making sure to use a cool baking sheet each time. 

Makes about 60 cookies.

A Photo Safari in the Porkies

The backlog of blog posts continues to grow (I keep eating and taking photos but can't seem to find the time to edit and write) and I've committed to try and spend a few hours a week on my website. Since it's technically spring and that means green will soon replace white in Bayfield, I thought these shots from our photo safari in the Porcupine Mountains a few weeks before Will left for Madison were appropriate.

Will's home for spring break and we went back to the Upper Peninsula today for another photo safari (at this rate, I'll get those photos edited sometime in August) and we were remarking that he's almost done with his freshman year...time has flown by.

What a difference 7 months makes -- he's had a great year and I've learned that sending kids away to college doesn't kill a person after all. These photos are a sweet reminder of our last photo safari in 2016 -- before Will struck off on his own and I became a mother of two college students. 

It was a humid and cloudy day and there were mushrooms everywhere. 

We hiked down to the Lake of the Clouds but it was the mushrooms that got my attention -- there were a wide variety and they were tucked into small spaces, scattered on the forest floor and perched on the tree trunks. 

Water drops suspended on a blade of grass. 

These were the most delicate looking mushrooms; their caps were balanced on impossibly thin stems. It was a feat of natural engineering that they were upright. 

We stopped in a meadow that used to be a school yard when Nonesuch was a active mining community and encountered these Suessian-looking flowers. 

We hiked down to Nonesuch Falls and found these old stone foundations along the way. 

The little worlds that exist amidst my oh-so-human fuss and bluster help me to be mindful and remember that magic is everywhere....even when I'm not looking. 

Cedar embracing stone. 

"Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future. To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go - to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made." David Whyte

I struggle with change, especially when it involves my kids growing up and leaving home, and I spent a good portion of this afternoon in the Porkies thinking about dropping Will in Madison and then turning the car north, without him. I wish I could say I had some sort of epiphany in the woods that August day that settled my mind and heart but I didn't....and as it turns out, I don't need epiphanies to muddle my way through letting go. I just need to be brave. Brave enough to know that Will would be fine (and trust me, it's clear that Madison is exactly where he belongs) and that he'll carry the smell of damp pine needles, the sounds of running water and the memories of tiny mushrooms nestled in the crooks of giant red pines with him as he moves along. He knows to stay close to the way he was made.

Fried Chicken That Will Blow Your Mind

I realize the thought of fried chicken blowing you mind is a little 'out there' but I'm serious -- this is really good chicken. Fried chicken is a funny thing -- it looks like a simple proposition (dredge chicken parts, deep fry and eat) but I've found it difficult to find that sweet spot where the breading is golden-brown, the skin is crispy and the inside is cooked. Add a thermometer to the mix that someone diligently scrubbed clean but also removed the temperature markings and fried chicken takes on a level of complexity that gives me a headache. I suppose I could have bought a new thermometer or been satisfied with two of the three criteria for superlative chicken mentioned above but instead, I set out to research recipes that cooked the chicken before frying....which would allow me to fry the chicken at slightly higher temperature without worrying about the meat being fully cooked. 

The vinegar and soy sauce poaching liquid combined with a fermented chili and soybean paste that I'd never heard of before (and still can't pronounce) takes fried chicken to a whole new level. The gochujang paste is critical and can be found at an Asian grocery store or on Amazon -- it has a very particular taste and I can't think of a decent substitute. Also, poach the chicken very slowly -- you don't want the skin to shrink too much or fall off the chicken....the crispy skin is my favorite part of fried chicken. And I'm telling you, once you taste the chili sauce you're going to want to slather it everything you can think of -- it's that good. 

Korean Fried Chicken 

For poaching

2-1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup soy sauce
5 medium cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 lb. bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs
Kosher salt

For the sauce

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons gochujang paste
1/4 cup apple cider (apple juice can be substituted)
2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
3 teaspoons Asian toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons soy sauce

For dredging and frying

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
1 quart vegetable or peanut oil

Preparation

Poach the chicken: in a 4-quart saucepan, bring all ingredients to a simmer over medium heat ad then reduce heat to low. Add the chicken to the simmering broth, partially cover the pan, and poach for 15 minutes, turning the pieces over midway (it’s important that the liquid never get hotter than a very gentle simmer). Turn off the heat and let the chicken rest in the broth for 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a cooling rack set over a sheet tray and pat the pieces dry.

Make the sauce: whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Dredge and fry the chicken: combine the flour, cornstarch, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl. Dip each piece of chicken in the buttermilk, lift out, and let the excess buttermilk drip off. Dredge the chicken in the flour so that each piece is evenly coated. Transfer to a large plate and set aside while you heat the oil.

Add oil (enough to fill the pan halfway ) to a 12-inch cast-iron or deep fryer; heat the oil over medium high to 365°F. Set a wire rack on a paper-towel-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Working in batches, fry the chicken, turning it over every minute or two and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain 365°F until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F in the thickest part of each piece, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the rack. Liberally brush the fried chicken with the sauce and serve with more sauce on the side.

Cardamom and Orange Cookies

Cardamom was the name of the game in my kitchen this winter. I haven't cooked much with it in the past but I made up for lost time with Swedish meatballs, cakes and cookies. Orange and cardamom are the culinary version of Laverne and Shirley or Starsky and Hutch -- totally different flavors but perfectly matched. Cardamom requires a light hand, too much and it goes from lyrical to over-powering....which in the case of these cookies, is not a good thing. 

I found some vanilla beans in my cupboard that were getting a little long in the tooth and needed a purpose before they bit the dust. Vanilla sugar is about as simple as it gets: find a Mason jar, put in 4 or 5 vanilla beans and fill the jar with raw sugar. I let it sit for about 2 weeks and I add fresh sugar (give the jar a couple shakes to mix the old and new sugar) every time I use it. It adds a nice layer of flavor to cookies, cakes and pies. 

Orange Cardamom Cookies (adapted from Food 52)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 sticks ( 1 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 yolk of large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest of one large orange
Raw vanilla sugar, for rolling

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir the butter and sugar together till just combined, about 30 seconds. Add the egg and egg yolk; stir to combine. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest, stir again. Gently add in the dry ingredients a little at a time, stirring just until they are combined, about 30-45 seconds.

Scoop the dough with a tablespoon and roll into balls. Roll the cookie balls in the vanilla sugar. Place evenly on parchment lined cookie sheets and flatten slightly with the back of a spatula. .

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until cookies are brown on edges and still soft in the center.

Place cookie sheet(s) on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cookies with spatula and place them on wire racks to cool completely.

An Icy March Sunrise

One of the benefits of taking Meghan to Washburn for a 6:15 AM bus ride to a volleyball tournament? Catching the sunrise on Bayview Beach. A late winter beach is constantly changing -- one day the beach will be socked in with ice and two days later, there is open water and small icebergs bobbing a few feet offshore.  The interplay of the Lake and its ice, the sun and its golden-orange rays and the pups running along the ice-strewn beach was a helluva way to spend an early March morning. 

There is something about ice as it's melting its way back to its beginnings that is delicately beautiful. It reminds me of lace -- a weblike pattern fashioned by winter's loosening grip as we move towards spring.

There was a thin skim of ice over the Lake and the cracks were delineated with ice crystals, lit up by the rising sun. 

We're going to have an early spring -- it was a warm winter and the Lake didn't freeze completely. The snow is nearly gone and I bet the Lake will be open by early April. Ice is ephmeral and in a changing climate, becoming more of a rarity than a guarantee. 

I'll witness many more sunrises over this beach but this one will stick with me. The world seems to have lost its mind and we are in the in-between of a great awakening and a great turning...and it feels chaotic. I have no idea where we are headed as a country and I'm watching the horizon for what's next. Thankfully, the sun rises each morning, bathing the world in its light, and winter's melting ice will become the summer's liquid waves -- there is comfort in those watery rhythms and I'm thankful for the peace it gives me.  

Swedish Meatballs in an Irish Kitchen

Swedish meatballs -- the final frontier in my meatball journey. A few years ago, I set out to make as many kinds of meatballs that I could dream up. I made Italian, Asian, Indian, Moroccan and even Reuben meatballs but for some reason, I stopped at Swedish. Until a few months ago when Mary came over to show me how to make lefse and she brought a container of Swedish meatballs so we could make Swedish burritos. Those meatballs, with their cardamom flecked pork/beef mixture and creamy gravy, were a game-changer for me (the freshly made lefse wrapped around the meatballs didn't hurt either).

I decided to tackle the iconic Upper Midwestern meatball in my own kitchen and I have to report, these meatballs passed muster at our monthly Let's Do Lunch cooking class at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Bayfield. And that's saying a lot for a Swedish meatball recipe developed in an Irish kitchen! 

Swedish Meatballs

1 pound pork sausage
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Gravy

4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 cups beef stock
1 cup sour cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper and spices, and then add the milk, set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large skillet and cook the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. After the onions are cooked, place all meatball ingredients in a large bowl and, using your hands, thoroughly combine. Shape into small meatballs. Heat the remaining butter in the skillet you cooked the onions in and gently brown the meatballs on all sides (about 7 minutes). Place them on a sheet tray in the oven to keep warm. 

To make the gravy, blot the grease form the skillet (leaving most of the browned pan drippings behind). Add the butter and melt over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, or until brown and bubbly. Stir in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly stir in the stock and cook until gravy is thickened and does not taste 'floury'. Stir the sour cream into the gravy and  cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. Put the meatballs back into the skillet, cover, and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes. 

Michigan Island Camp

Spring is in the air, even though it's mid-February and we should have a couple of feet of snow on the ground, and that means a couple of things: I start to plan the garden and Ted starts to plan our May BWCA trip. In honor of this annual rite of spring-in-the-middle-of-winter, I thought I'd share some photos from our August trip to Michigan Island.

It was a momentous trip -- Will was leaving for his freshman year in a few weeks, it was our first time camping as a family in the Islands and it was the first time George and Gus had been invited to come along for the ride. A trifecta of 'firsts' played out on one of our favorite islands. We packed the Karl with enough provisions to last a couple of days and headed out on the Lake. 

Ted is a big, and I mean BIG, fan of camping preparation and that means he has bottles, jars, packages, stuff sacks and baggies for everything you can think of.....including Ulf's curry powder. Our friend, Ulf, makes his own curry powder in Washburn and it's the gold standard in our kitchen and in camp. 

Bordeaux, red vermouth, whiskey and a roll of paper towel -- essentials for a Dougherty camping trip. 

George and Gus took to the camping life remarkably well until they realized I left their bed at home and they had to sleep on the ground. That was clearly troublesome for our two little princes but they managed to find ways to cope -- like sitting on top of the picnic table. 

Michigan Island has a single campsite and it's a sweet one. Tucked back from the beach among the pines, it had two level spots for the tents and a fire ring with huge pieces of driftwood re-purposed as benches. The bear locker made a great cooking surface and the picnic table was a nice touch. My camping experience is limited to the BWCA (where tables are improvised) and I have to admit, there's something about a picnic table that seems mighty civilized when you're in the woods. 

We got up in the morning and headed out for a walk down the beach. While I'm not the biggest fan of camping (sleeping on the ground and pit toilets in the middle of the forest require a open-mindedness I'm not always ready to embrace), I do love the slower cadence of life outdoors.  We spent three hours exploring the beach, watching the fishing tug pull their nets and hollering for George (who was having the time of his life eating seagull poop...more about that later). 

It started to rain while we were walking on the beach but we were resolute in our commitment to camping. Well truthfully, Ted and Charlie were resolute --- Meg, George and I were ready to abandon ship. But Ted set up a tarp, George got up on the picnic table and Meg and I decided to play cards...it was actually quite pleasant until George jumped up on the table and sat down on our game of gin rummy. I think Meg put him up to it because I was winning. 

Gus needed a helping hand to get around the logs that littered the shoreline. He's a sturdy little dog but swimming, given his short legs and wide girth, is not his idea of a good time. 

You'd never know it from this photo of George, looking oh-so-regal and self-composed, that he threw up sea gull poop (that he was eating on our morning beach hike) in our tent at 2 AM in the middle of a rainstorm. There's nothing quite like a heaving 80 pound Lab, a bunch of zippers (between sleeping bags, tents and rain flys...camping is a zipper-lover's dream), pouring rain and utter darkness to get your heart pumping. It was yet another unforgettable experience thanks to Handsome George....hopefully he'll go back to rolling in poop instead of eating it. 

The time flew and before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head home. Will had to get packed for Madison, Charlie had soccer practice, Meg's iPhone was out of juice and I had a serious hankering for a shelter without zippers. With the smell of wood-smoke in our clothing, we loaded the Karl and headed home. Even with the rain and George's puke-a-thon, it was a good way to mark Will's last week at home before he started his new life as a Badger. The islands and Lake Superior have been the backdrop for many funny, tender, chaotic and trying Dougherty stories and thank God, we're still composing chapters in our tome about life in a northern town. 

A Tendency to Shine

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A Tendency to Shine

If you prefer smoke over fire
then get up now and leave.
For I do not intend to perfume
your mind’s clothing
with more sooty knowledge.

No, I have something else in mind.
Today I hold a flame in my left hand
and a sword in my right.
There will be no damage control today.

For God is in a mood
to plunder your riches and
fling you nakedly
into such breathtaking poverty
that all that will be left of you
will be a tendency to shine.

So don’t just sit around this flame
choking on your mind.
For this is no campfire song
to mindlessly mantra yourself to sleep with.

Jump now into the space
between thoughts
and exit this dream
before I burn the damn place down.

– Adyashanti

It was a Dark and Stormy.....Molasses Gingerbread Cake

Okay, this cake isn't exactly stormy but it is dark and spicy and that makes it a good choice for these cold winter nights. Cake baking is not my strongest suit but this recipe is incredibly easy and requires one whisk and one bowl....which is a bonus when the kitchen looks like a bomb hit it but I want something sweet-ish.   

This cake dense, rich and not terribly sweet...and gets better after it sits for a couple of days (covered, of course). 

I've served this cake with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream but it's really good on its own with a cup of black tea or coffee.

Molasses Gingerbread Cake

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons candied ginger, minced
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups molasses
2/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 8-inch spring-form pan and place a round piece of parchment paper on the bottom and fold it so it covers about 2/3 of the sides. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda and backing powder into a large mixing bowl. Add all the spices, orange zest, candied ginger and salt, whisking to thoroughly incorporate. Melt the butter in the boiling water and then whisk into the flour/spice mixture. Add the eggs and molasses and whisk until well-blended. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer plunged in the center comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, mix the orange juice, powdered sugar and vanilla and set aside. Immediately after you remove the cake from the oven, poke a number of holes into the cake and then pour the orange juice/sugar mixture over the top. Allow to cool completely and then remove from the pan. You can serve it immediately or store, covered, to serve later. This cake improves with age...you can serve it up to 3 days after you baked it and it'll taste fantastic! 

Anthem

Anthem

The birds they sing, at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say.
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be.

Yes, the wars, they will be fought again
The holy dove she will be caught again
Bought, and sold, and bought again
The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs. The signs were sent
The birth betrayed. The marriage spent
Yeah, the widowhood of every government
Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more, with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

You can add up the parts; you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

On December 30th, Ros sent me the following note, "Ran across this on FB. Good advice for these days when it feels that nothing we do is enough" with the refrain from Leonard Cohen's song Anthem. After reading the lyrics to Cohen's song, I realized what a gift those words were. The idea that we need to ring bells that still can be rung, that the pursuit of perfection is a fruitless endeavor and that it's the cracks that allow the light to stream in provided some solace in a time of great uncertainty. I borrowed that refrain for my toast on New Year's Eve and it's been rambling around in my head ever since. 

2017 is a mixed blessing and when I focus on the new ground that the chaos will reveal, I'm hopeful but when I think of the true cost of rending our social fabric, it gives me pause. Joseph Campbell said 'you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' and while I'm a big fan of a properly prepared omelette, I'm not sure what we're going to end up with: a tender, delicate omelette or an overcooked pile of madly scrambled eggs....or maybe something in between like a frittata?? 

Anthem is a song about hope in the midst of darkness and I was curious about what Cohen was seeking to convey in this poem set to music. Thanks to good old Google, I ran across this quote from a Leonard Cohen fan site that illuminated the essence of his lyrics. All hearts find their way to love, there is no perfect offering, and the cracks are simply spaces for repentance and resurrection....all concepts that resonate with me as I try to figure out how to move forward in a good way. When the landscape has been altered into something that seems foreign, we must remember that while there is no perfect offering or action; we have to rise up and attempt to save the world that's within our arm's reach. 

...That is the background of the whole record, I mean if you have to come up with a philosophical ground, that is "Ring the bells that still can ring". It's no excuse...the dismal situation.. and the future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love.

"Ring the bells that still can ring" : they're few and far between but you can find them. "Forget your perfect offering" that is the hang-up that you're gonna work this thing out. Because we confuse this idea and we've forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect. And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together, physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that's where the light gets in, and that's where the resurrection is and that's where the return, that's where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

As it turns out, the business of life continues...even with President Trump. Meghan still plays volleyball, Charlie still needs rides to the ski hill, Sadie's still going to college this fall, Will found an apartment in Madison for next year, and Jack is planning his next steps after graduation. While it may seem like our nation has crossed a dark threshold (and on a macro level, we very well might have), the essence of who we are and how we deal with adversity is still very much intact. Trump is a clarion call and I intend to heed it. 

I'm choosing to believe in goodness. In the goodness that springs from standing up for what's right, from sitting down for dinner with friends and family, from keeping watch over my little corner of the world, from practicing kindness and forgiveness in the face of hate, from knowing that the Truth is never neutral, and for radically seeking common ground. I intend to be brave, truthful and compassionate in the days ahead. I intend to remember that some of my best lessons have been hand-delivered by some of the worst people/best teachers and this Trumpian reality may be exactly what our country needs. I'm not burying my head in the sand with my rose-colored glasses on, I intend to hold the line with everything I've got but I will filter my words and actions through those lenses of compassion, bravery and honesty. And like Cohen said:

"I can’t run no more, with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me."

It's time to get started. 

A Winter Salad with Roasted Oranges

Even though it was 46 degrees outside today, it's still winter (at least according to the calendar) and the fresh fruit and vegetables in my kitchen have taken a turn towards hearty greens and citrus fruit. I usually throw some thinly sliced lemons in with the potatoes, onion and carrots that accompany my roast chickens and I wondered- what would a roasted orange taste like? Would it taste good in a concentrated/caramelized way or bad in a burnt/bitter way? There was only one to find out and since we were still working our way through a huge box of oranges from the middle school fruit sale, I had plenty of raw material to experiment with. Turns out, it was a good idea and adding an avocado, oil-cured olives and some feta made for a complex wintery salad that will definitely make an appearance on our table again soon! 

Roasted Orange and Avocado Salad

2 oranges, cut in half, seeds removed, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces arugula
8 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/2 cup oil-cured olives, pits removed and chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the orange slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and place on a parchment lined sheet tray. Place in oven, toss occasionally and roast until the orange slices are starting to caramelize a bit, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 

Combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and Dijon mustard and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Add the oranges, arugula, spinach, cilantro, onion, olives, feta and salad dressing and toss to combine. Add the avocado slices and toss gently. 

Curried Peanuts -- My New Favorite Snack

I love candied nuts but sometimes they are a little too sweet for me. These peanuts have a nice balance of spice, heat and sweet....plus, they are a really good snack when I want something crunchy and salty. I used Maldon sea salt (my favorite) but kosher salt is a perfectly acceptable substitute. 

Curried Peanuts
makes 3 cups


3 cups roasted and unsalted peanuts
1 shallot, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 tablespoons Maldon sea salt (if using kosher salt, reduce to 1 tablespoon) 
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, divided

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saute pan, add all ingredients except the peanuts, coconut and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the oil and honey are melted. Add the peanuts and 1/4 cup coconut and stir to thoroughly combine.

Pour coated peanuts onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir in remaining shredded coconut and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for an additional 2 minutes to slightly toast the new coconut.

Remove from oven and remove from the baking sheet. Allow to cool completely in a single layer before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

A New Year's Benediction

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts -- adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire.

To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these -- to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But ...that is not what great ships are built for.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times

Chicken B'Stilla for a Double-Header Birthday Dinner

How does a Moroccan meat pie, typically served at festive occasions, end up on the menu for a double-header birthday dinner for two dear friends with December birthdays? Well, it all started with a box of oranges purchased for a middle-school fundraiser, took a left turn at a bag full of spices from Tanzania from Gen's latest African safari, merged with a CORE cooking class featuring Janel's phyllo dough recipes and then ended with an addicting spice mixture called Dukkah from Ellen. And somehow, those unrelated events and ingredients joined forces to create a dinner table filled with individual chicken b'stillas -- seriously good Moroccan comfort food. 

My first exposure to Moroccan food was a pound of oil-cured olives from Bill's Imported Foods in Minneapolis. I was stocking up on French feta and Greek Diamond olive oil when I spied a bin of wrinkled black olives in the deli case. I asked to try one and was blown away by the intense, almost prune-like flavor. I had never tasted anything like it before. Kiki, the matriarch of the Bill's Imported Food clan, suggested I throw a handful into my next batch of olive tapenande  or add them to a chicken tajine. I was immediately intrigued and bought a pound of the glossy, shriveled olives, went to Barnes and Noble to find a Moroccan cookbook (this was before all recipes were a Google search away), and made my first chicken tagine (made in a conical tajine pot and everything) that evening. I've been hooked on Moroccan cooking ever since -- the preserved lemons, olives and aromatic spices are perfect for dinner on a cold and snowy night.  

Over the years, my Moroccan food journey went from tajines to harissa (a hot chili pepper paste) to chermoula paste (a lemony/garlic/cilantro marinade used for fish) to b'stilla. I have to admit, I made my first chicken b'stilla because I loved the word (both saying it and how it was spelled) but it didn't disappoint when I took my first forkful. The combination of cinnamon sugar dusted phyllo dough surrounding tender chicken covered in a richly spiced lemony gravy was really something special. Growing up, chicken a la king was our version of comfort food but the b'stilla, while much more intensely flavored, has become a 'grown-up' version of my childhood favorite. 

Phyllo dough can be a fickle beast and tends to break and rip when I'm working with it. Of course, it could be user error because I have little patience for carefully peeling each paper-thin, dry piece of pastry off the pile and it's likely that if I took my time, it would cooperate. At any rate, don't be put off by the phyllo dough -- it's not that difficult to work with (as long as it's completely thawed). Chicken b'stilla is typically made in one large pie but I like making individual b'stilla pies because it doesn't matter as much if the phyllo is mangled when you place it in the dish....and everyone gets plenty of the buttery/sugary phyllo crust! 

The birthday dinner was a success. Aldo was dressed up in his red bow (which he chewed up right after I took his picture), the b'stillas were a hit, the vegan roasted vegetable couscous was surprisingly good (I finally found a good vegan bouillon), I found the birthday candles, and Julie and Peter were properly fêted with cakes, candles, and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. All in all, it was the perfect way to close out 2016...with a good meal, good friends and a relatively well-behaved puppy named Aldo. 

Chicken B'Stilla
makes 10 individual b'stilla pies

8 - 10 chicken thighs, skin removed
8 - 10 chicken legs, skin removed
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons Dukkah (recipe here)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Big pinch of saffron threads
4 cups chicken broth, preferably home-made or low-sodium
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
5 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
One 16-ounce box of phyllo dough (about 40 sheets)
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
Cinnamon sugar, for dusting

Preparation
Put the chicken pieces, onions, garlic and spices into a Dutch oven and stir thoroughly with your hands or a large wooden spoon (you want to make sure all the chicken pieces are covered with the spice mixture). Cover and let the chicken marinate overnight in the refrigerator. 

Add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so that the liquid simmers, cover the pot, and cook for about an hour. You know it's done when the chicken is falling off the bone. 

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Strain the broth, saving both the liquid and the onions. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred it.

Clean the Dutch oven and pour the broth back into it. Whisk in the the lemon juice, bring to a boil and cook until you have about 2 cups liquid (takes about 20 minutes). Reduce the heat to low.

Beat the eggs with the honey and add to the broth, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk the sauce until it thickens enough that your whisk leaves tracks in it, about 5 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Stir the chicken, sweet potatoes, cilantro, and reserved onions into the sauce. Set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Open the phyllo sheets package and cover with a kitchen towel (this helps keep them from drying out and breaking). Generously brush each individual oven-safe crock with melted butter. Brush 1 sheet phyllo with butter, center it in the dish and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar onto the phyllo. Brush two additional sheets with butter and press them into the dish. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of almonds over the phyllo, spoon in the saucy chicken and fold the overhanging phyllo over the chicken. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle about another teaspoon of cinnamon sugar over the top. Repeat with the remaining individual crocks. 

Bake the b’stillas for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for 20 minutes more. If the top seems to be getting too brown at any point, cover it loosely with foil. Remove from the oven, let rest for about 5 minutes and then enjoy! 

Yuletide Blessings

Remembering That It Happened Once
 
Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought,
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened,
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.

~ Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997

The last words in Berry's poem, "our place Holy, although we knew it not", are guideposts for my navigation through the holiday madness that seems to be a constant companion to Christmas. This poem has become a reminder to explore the humble, ordinary aspects of Christmas (and everyday life) in order to find what's Holy right in front of me. To look for the true spirit of the holiday in Ted's favorite sausage and cheddar breakfast strata (complete with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup), in listening to the kids play Scrabble while I'm making dinner, in going for a walk on the beach or sitting around the table and catching up with my favorite people in the world.  

Don't get me wrong, I was a willing and exuberant participant in the Christmas madness when the kids were little. The hours spent trying to decipher instructions for assembling and applying stickers to hundreds of pieces of plastic are a distant but sweet memory. We tried to make sure our kids had a healthy dose of Christmas 'magic' when they were little and looking back on those Christmas mornings, I wouldn't changed a thing. It was the 'right' kind of Christmas for that time in our lives. But I've had to retool my thoughts about what that magic looks like when Santa has been debunked and the kids send me text messages with their Christmas wishlists. 

We've started to create the Dougherty 2.0 Christmas traditions and it's a collaborative effort (and another chance for me to practice my 'I'm-not-overbearing, I-just-love-you-that-much' shtick). Lord knows, I need help getting my act together as a Mom to a bunch of funny, smart, brave, compassionate, and committed young adults, and thank God they're co-creating our new Christmas magic right along with me. We play cards, make cookies, eat extravagant meals, drink wine, talk about how handsome George is, watch movies, wrap presents (and come up with creative gift tags), watch the pups while they open their presents, take saunas, make fires, play Chuck-It with George and Aldo, go on photo safaris, and a hundred other ordinary tasks that accumulate into a lifetime of cherished traditions . 

Now that Jack and Will (and soon Sadie) 'come home' for Christmas, I'm the one who is vibrating in anticipation of a Christmas surprise....except it's not a Barbie townhouse, it's our boys arriving home from Madison. When I walk in the porch and see Jack's shoes by the door, or Will's camera bag on the dining room table, I'm reminded how the space they've left behind can be, so quickly, reclaimed and reoccupied. That while our kids are growing up, they are not growing away and home will always be on Rittenhouse Avenue. When the house is full again, a deeply rooted contentment settles over me because I am "...living in the world It happened in when it first happened." I believe the world holds echoes of all life in its bones and the story of Mary giving birth to her son in a stable happened on the same Earth that I live on now.....that we, and our stories, are all connected. Berry's poem is about holding space for wonder and belief as we move through our lives; doing the mundane in concert with the miraclous. And that's what I carry with me as I spend this Christmas with Ted and the kids....the recognition that in the end, all moments are holy and all existence is magic. No assembly or stickers required.

Life in a Northern Town

Well, it's official -- I've written a book. It seems a little unbelievable that I pulled it off (with a lot of help from my editor, Kate Thompson) but I did and I'm incredibly excited to share it with you in September 2017!

Like most of the good things in my life, the book wasn't exactly planned but was the result of a 'what the hell, let's go for it' decision. My friend, Demaris, owns Apostle Islands Booksellers in Bayfield and she suggested I pitch a cookbook based on my blog to the Wisconsin Historical Press. After a few gentle reminders, I finally agreed and sent an email in October 2013 with a subject line of "A Cookbook, Of Sorts, From Bayfield" and a helluva opening paragraph that included, "I'm not sure what goes into writing/publishing a cookbook but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" Needless to say, I was shocked when Kate got back to me with a request for more information...in the form of a book proposal with five or six pages of questions.  

Paperwork and Mary D is not a recipe for success, on a good day, and it was particularly intimidating to sit down in front of a bunch of questions about a cookbook (of sorts) that I hadn't planned on writing. So, I did what I always do and plowed through it, answering the questions as best I could....except for one VERY important question, "percentage of manuscript now completed". I figured any author worth their salt would have at least 50 percent of a manuscript completed before pitching a book, so I answered 50 - 60 percent -- never dreaming they would ask to see it. But they did and I had to come clean in January 2014 with an explanation that, "50 percent of the book is done but it's in my blog format and I would like to tighten it up before I send a manuscript version your way. What if I pulled it together and sent it off in two weeks?" 

That's where the wheels fell off my book-writing wagon and two weeks turned into five months. The thought of trying to cobble a manuscript together from my disjointed blog essays and recipes seemed like a huge task and I found all sorts of reasons not to sit down and do it. Until Kate emailed me on May 23, 2014 and asked, "Are you still thinking about doing a book project? I’d love to hear more about it." Like most of the good and unplanned things in my life, Kate's email came at the perfect time. 

That morning, Ted and I decided to take the Karl out for a quick spin before the kids came home from school and we cruising between Basswood and Hermit Islands when I saw Kate's email. I was still thinking (every now and then) about the book but, to be honest, I wasn't sure if I was up to the task of writing an entire book. I have zero experience in anything author-related and the thought of throwing my inexperienced hat into the writing ring seemed far outside my area of expertise. These thoughts were bouncing around in my head as we were walking on the beach (self-doubt can be so damn persuasive when you start to feed it) and as I turned back towards the boat, those self-doubting thoughts were drowned out by another voice who told me to write the book because I'll be given the words. It was settled, I decided to try my hand at becoming an author.  

I sat down the last week of May and extracted, re-worked, and cobbled together 14 essays and 43 recipes from my blog and emailed it to Kate. At the beginning of August, another email from Kate arrived in my inbox with the sentence that marked the beginning of Life in a Northern Town, "We would like to offer you a book contract!" 

The writing and publishing process reminded me a lot of becoming a mother. It’s all good when that baby is safely tucked away in your belly but shortly after the birth, it becomes apparent there is more to motherhood than picking out cute little onesies and agonizing over the perfect name. And there certainly was a lot more to authorhood than I would have guessed when I signed my book contract during the summer of 2014.

It was a long process: full of deadline extensions, photo disasters (I accidentally deleted about 17,000 photos right before my manuscript was due in September 2015), revisiting grammatical nuances, realizing that consistency and brevity are not traits I naturally possess, appreciating why some authors drink (all that word nit-picking creates massive self-doubt that only a double tequila on the rocks can fix) and how a good editor is a writer’s best friend. In the end, the process of writing forced me to distill my thoughts and feelings about food, feeding people and why it matters where my food comes from. 

Food is love -- something I've always believed and experienced in my life. However, I never realized that more than when we were headed out to the BWCA in May 2016. Our dog, Seamus, had lymphoma and was nearing the end of his life but our trip had been planned for months and, after a consult with our veterinarian, we decided to leave him in the very competent hands of our good friend, Amber. My heart was heavy and I wanted to make sure Seamus knew how much I loved him while we were gone. So, I found myself where I often go when I'm sad, happy, worried or content.....at the stove, in my kitchen. 

I poured every bit of love I could muster into that pot of homemade dog food and it was at that moment I realized the power of cookery. The food I made for Seamus would nourish him, physically and emotionally (I hoped), until we returned home. It was a small thing but making his dog chow was a way to be present, even when I was away from home. Cooking is my currency; it's the way I connect, nurture and love the people and animals in my life....whether it's dog chow for a sick pup, cookies for a friend, or roasted chicken for my kids when I can't be home for dinner. 

And that's what I'm hoping to share with you through the words and photos in the book -- for me, it's all about home, love and connection. I'm so excited to share the book with you in the fall!!