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Fruit Squares Make an Easy Memorial Day Dessert

By Nicole:

Its just about that time of year, the un-official start the summer season– Memorial Day Weekend.

A federal holiday in the States, Memorial Day was created to honor and pay tribute to the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Families and friends gather to celebrate and remember those who fought for our country and for our freedom. Parades and picnics dot the Americana landscape, complete with red, white and blue.

If you are looking for an easy, light, fruit filled dessert, I have just what you may be looking for. This recipe was given to me by my dear friend Dee Dee at my bridal shower some 12 years ago. Just like our friendship, this recipe has been tried and true, always a winner!

Holiday Fruit Squares

Holiday Fruit Squares – Makes 30 squares

1 C. Unsalted Butter

1 1/2 C. Sugar

4 Eggs

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

2 C. Flour

1 12oz can Cherry Cake & Pastry Filling

1 12oz can Blueberry Cake & Pastry Filling

Pre-heat oven 350°

Grease 15 x 10 cookie sheet/jelly roll pan

With your handheld mixer, cream together butter and sugar in medium size bowl.

Add eggs and lemon juice, mix well until light and creamy.

Add one cup of the flour, mix well. When the first cup of flour is incorporated, add the second cup of flour until incorporated.

Pour dough mixture into pan, spread evenly around the pan.

Score the dough into 30 squares – 5 high x 6 wide.

Dollop 1 heaping teaspoon of fruit filling onto the center of each square.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then sift confectioners sugar over pan of fruit bars. When completely cool, slice bars and serve.

Wishing you all a relaxing holiday weekend. How will you be spending the opening weekend to summer? We know we will be thanking veterans dear to our hearts, both near and far. Land of the free, home of the brave.

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It’s all about community – Part 2

Last month I posted about my friend Isa of Noisette Academy and her Empowerment Project.

Isa designed an Empowerment Collection; a workbook & inspiring prints to empower you and me into action. Action to take charge of our lives both personal and professional, a way to start reaching for the goals we aspire to achieve.

Photo by Isa Seminega

For each Empowerment kit sold, Isa assembled a sewing kit for the ladies at Aspire Rwanda.

Isa is in Rwanda now and has made the delivery to the ladies at Aspire Rwanda.

Photo by Isa Seminega

Follow Isa on her amazing journey and read how precious the sewing kits are to the women of Aspire Rwanda.

Empowerment Project: Delivering the Kits

Glorious Garden Greens & Dressing Recipe

A couple of weeks ago I posted our DIY raised vegetable garden bed project and the lettuce we planted has been thriving with the warm days and cool nights.

Tonights dinner will be mixed greens freshly picked from the garden; arugula, bib and green leaf.

A simple dressing is all that is needed to enjoy this easy meal. One of my favorite vinaigrette recipes follows.

Freshly picked from the garden

Garden Salad Vinaigrette

Serving for 2

1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 small garlic clove, crushed

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

pinch of salt & pepper

Place all ingredients except for the olive oil in your favorite salad bowl. Whisk ingredients together then slowly add the olive oil until incorporated. Place your freshly picked lettuce on top of the dressing and gently toss.

Enjoy with a warm loaf of bread and sweet cream butter. Yum!

Midwest at Its Best: Michigan Part 2

By: Jen

After many beach days in a row, we often find ourselves traveling east bound out of the Red Arrow beach towns to Three Oaks. This community has a new local gem called Journeyman Distillery. We are very excited to make this a permanent summer stop with our whiskey and scotch loving husbands! We hear there is a rooftop patio in the works.

Upon entering the distillery which is located in the historic Featherbone Factory, you spy a massive tasting table with a backdrop of factory windows. Sunlight pours into the space. The inner workings of the distillery can be seen through floor to ceiling glass panels on the left and a bar is situated to the right. The decor is shall we say, masculine but with a weathered reclaimed timber look. Shades of grey and black are pronounced. It is quite exquisite.

There is nothing worse than sitting in an average bar and ordering a cocktail that is made with high fructose corn syrup infused mixers. Why this goo is added to bloody mary mix is beyond us. This also goes for insanely sweet acidic lemon/lime mass produced potion that inevitably wrecks a margarita or whiskey sour. These experiences do not happen at Journeyman’s bar!

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To get a taste of each organic distilled product, we sampled four cocktails… The Moscow Mule, a Gin Gimlet, the Bloody Mary and a Manhattan. Owner Bill and bartender Ryan created the drinks with house made organic mixers. We loved each of these drinks for their purity. One ingredient didn’t crowd out other elements in the glass. Our favorite was the Moscow Mule lovingly crafted with ginger beer, fresh squeezed lime and vodka.

We enjoyed a short visit with Bill and discovered that he studied his craft with a friend in Scotland. He has brought his passion for the “respect of land and it’s people” to Three Oaks, MI.

We purchased a bottle of Silver Cross Whiskey for our husbands to try at home. They love it! This coming from two men who are on a constant hunt for the most excellent whiskeys and scotches. The bottle is beautifully designed and makes a welcome addition to your table top bar. This whiskey is a tribute to the game of golf. In the early days of the British Open, the Silver Cross medal was given in honor of friendship, tradition, camaraderie and spirited competition. 1 % of all proceeds are donated to the betterment of this most beloved game.

You can visit the distillery for tours our bottling parties. Light fare will be offered soon but the real magic here is the focus on excellent organic spirits. Check them out at www.journeymandistillery.com. They are located just east of the Lake Michigan shoreline at Journeyman Distillery, 109 Generations Drive Three Oaks, MI 49128, 269.820.2050.

In good spirits… happy weekend!

Vegetable Garden Box DIY

By: Nicole

There’s nothing like harvesting your own homegrown vegetables right from your backyard garden. I have been growing my own vegetables for about 10 years now and learn something new every year. I have a sense of complete satisfaction when we can prepare a meal from the vegetables we picked that day!

I primarily focus on tomato plants but have expanded my growing vegetable garden to include zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, ichiban eggplant, green beans, yellow wax beans, carrots, leeks and various herbs. The last couple years we have been having issues with our tomato and zucchini plants rotting out before they have had a chance to grow any fruit.

So this year we decided to build some raised beds. The raised beds should help with water drainage and the soil will warm up quicker earlier in the season. I also like the idea of everything organized in its specific place.

Weedy Garden

The vegetable garden area as shown before we started our DIY vegetable garden boxes is riddled with weeds. A constant chore with the garden was pulling the invasive weeds. We do not use weed killers or any fertilizers in or around the garden. Our aim is to grow the healthiest organic vegetables that we can!

Our garden area is approximately 16′ x 12′ and after some calculations, we decided to make 6 garden boxes 3′ x 6′. We wanted the boxes about 12″h. Cedar was our material of choice because it is durable, rot resistant and not infused with chemicals.

To keep costs lower, we used 1 x 6 x 6’L cedar boards of which some 6’L boards were cut into 3′ lengths.

The corners & centers were reinforced with 1 x 2 x 6’L board that we cut into 18″L pieces.

Cedar Garden Boxes

After cutting the support posts to 18″ lengths, we cut one end at a 45 degree angle. The 45 degree angle end is what will be hammered into the ground for stability. The 3′ and 6′ lengths were secured to the 18″ support posts with premium deck screws.

cedar garden boxes

Before we installed the beds into the vegetable garden area we rolled out mid-weight weed barrier fabric secured to the ground by “u-shaped” metal stakes. The weed barrier fabric was extended past the black fence a couple inches as well.

cedar garden boxes

We filled the boxes with a 50/50 mix of top soil and compost. This should be a good start for our vegetable garden. 3 yards of the mix filled the boxes but I think next year we will need to add more mix to the boxes due to settling over time.

laying cedar mulch on top of the weed barrier

As you can see I was anxious to plant this years vegetables and seeds before we finished spreading cedar mulch over the weed barrier fabric.

The box in the foreground right has 3 rows of carnival carrot seeds and 2 rows of leek seedlings. The box to the left has 6 different tomato plants and the far left box has green beans and wax beans.

The far right back box has basil, cilantro, mint, thyme, lettuce & 3 pepper plants. Since the lettuce is a cool growing season vegetable, I planted the peppers alternatively with the lettuces. The box to the left has 3 rows of yellow crookneck squash seeds and the far left back box has ichiban eggplant and zucchini plants.

I’m very excited for this seasons vegetable garden. I will periodically post garden progression photos so you can enjoy along with me.

Do you have a vegetable garden? How about a patio garden? What are your favorite vegetables to grow? Let us know in the comment section below!

Midwest at Its Best: Michigan Part 1

Vintage trading card swimsuit mixed media painting by Jen

Vintage trading card swimsuit mixed media painting by Jen

By: Jen

Nicole and I have had Michigan beach sand in our belly buttons since we were kids. The scent of the sun on our skin as our parents drove home, following the southbound rut in the road after a long beach day. The simplicity of childhood! Fast forward to adulthood. Life is fast and crazy. There is little time to unwind and do it in style these days. As a proponent of the organic movement and to supporting small local businesses, we want to share some bright spots in Harbor Country Michigan. We will start at the base of Harbor Country in New Buffalo. Tiny beach towns sprinkle the southwest shore of Lake Michigan. You drive up Red Arrow Highway to access local restaurants, antique shops, bed and breakfasts and private beach cottages.

In our family, we have have led taste tests of many local sausages within the Chicagoland area. We have visited many Polish American delis and Italian grocery stores. Our aunt, mom and grandma– all bringing their local sausage find to the taste testing facility within grandma’s kitchen. Nothing seems to ring a bell. As a child I remember traveling what seemed deep into the city, before Easter, with my grandparents. We would wait in long lines to obtain the holy grail of sausage. The aroma was mouth watering.

This wasn’t translating into today’s offerings until we stopped at P. & E. Mullins LOCAL last summer. We tried their sausage. We grilled up a variety over weeks. We tried the fennel flavor, brats and chorizo. We hit the jackpot!

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Pat and Ellie Mullins own P. & E. Mullins Local in New Buffalo Michigan. We met with them recently to discuss why their products are so good! Pat was inspired to choose this path in life after his Fergus Henderson experience in London, England. “Nose to Tail Eating” is one of the well worn books at Pat and Ellie’s shop. Pat had dinner at the renowned St. John Restaurant. The rest was history.

During our latest visit we had the opportunity to meet the local delivery of ramps for rampdouille sausage that is currently featured in their meat case. This produce is local and organic and added to this spring sausage recipe.

The shop is located on Red Arrow Highway just north of downtown New Buffalo. Ellie and Pat exude a good and comfortable vibe. Working with local farms and artists, the couple brings a refreshing assortment of local artisan cheeses, vegetables and dry goods to the table.

To learn more about Pat and Ellie’s passion, visit their shop!  You will see their business model is straight forward and sincere. “Source and showcase the tastiest meats, cheeses and produce the Midwest has to offer”.

Next stop? Our husbands will be very excited about our next feature.

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