Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Still Life: Midsummer Moments

Here's a little glimpse at the past week in my quiet life as an artist and locavore.

Peach season is my favorite season.
Summer sunset silhouette.
Peace + Love = Joy
Dylan's "CSA Basket"

D dancing on a pizza box...awesome.
Recipe coming to the blog soon!
I totally had seconds of this.
Radio Flyer...classic.

Packing for vacation...piles of anticipation.
My lucky charm.
Pretty CSA pepper.
Saw these at Target and made me smile.

The McQuade family is going on vacation! We're heading to Long Beach Island, New Jersey, tomorrow for a whole week of building sand castles, eating way too much ice cream, and playing ski ball, and I couldn't be more excited about it.

This past week I was super busy running errands, making lists, cleaning, and packing for our trip. It was the good kind of busy, the kind that you move through with a spring in your step because you know that really good things are on the horizon.

Plus, I did manage to bake an amazeballs Peach Almond Crisp amidst all of the rushing around!

I hope the past week has been full of beauty, joy and inspiration for all of you too!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Locavore Kitchen: Peach Almond Crisp

That song by The Presidents of the United States of America has been stuck playing in my head on repeat ever since I got my first batch of amazingly golden juicy peaches from my CSA a few weeks ago.

It's peach season here in New York and I'm completely reveling in it. Peach-based desserts are probably my favorite...I pretty much love any recipe where you combine fresh peaches with butter and sugar and some sort of doughy-goodness. And that love is multiplied by a gazillion if you throw some almonds in there too.

This recipe is based on a peach crisp my mom would often make when I was growing up. It's pretty much the perfect combination of peach-juiciness, almond-nuttiness, and oat-topping-crumbliness. I could eat it for breakfast with Greek yogurt, but it's best for dessert with vanilla bean ice cream.

Strip your peaches. Dunk them in boiling water, then in ice water. Slip their skins off with your hands. Try not to drop the incredibly slippery naked peaches on your kitchen floor.

Halve your naked fruits. Take out their pits. Marvel at the deep bloody red of the peach cores.

Slice them up. Feed way too many slices to your hungry 15-month-old toddler. Stir in almond extract and brown sugar. Take a deep'll smell like heaven.

Mix your dry ingredients for your crumb topping. Thank your past self for for setting up a mise en makes everything so much easier!

Add butter....lots of butter. Cut it into your dry ingredients till things are all crumbly. Eat a spoonful of the uncooked crumbs, a LARGE spoonful. Then have another.

Spread your crumbs on top of your fruit. Bake it in the oven till things get brown and bubbly. Don't taste it yet, it'll totes burn your me on this one.

Bring the crisp to a family dinner so you're forced to share it with the people you love (thus preventing you from devouring the entire thing yourself). Serve warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Peach Almond Crisp
Serves 12-16
Recipe adapted from my wonderful mom, Barbara Lutkenhaus

8 cups peeled, sliced peaches (about 8 large peaches)
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

To peel peaches, submerge in boiling water for 30-45 seconds, then submerge in an ice water bath. Allow to cool, and then remove the skins with your hands.

Combine peaches, 1/2 cup brown sugar and the almond extract. Spoon into a large baking dish (I used a 13 1/2 inch x 8 1/2 inch glass baking pan).

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, oats, almonds, salt and 2/3 cup brown sugar. Cut the butter into medium pieces and add it to the mixture. Use a pastry blender (or two butter knives) to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbs form.

Distribute the crumb mixture as evenly as possible over the peaches. Bake 35-40 minutes until the top is browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Portrait of the Artist: The Gift of Art

I painted this watercolor for my brother, Bryce, and his fiance, Vanessa, as a surprise gift for their engagement party. The scene is of a beach in the Dominican Republic where Bryce proposed, and I used a photo that Vanessa took as my reference image. It's a present that I spent hours working on, something that was specifically created just for them, and the first real work of art I've ever given as a gift.

Why is that? Why have I been so apprehensive about giving people art as gifts? Why have I spent years ordering things from and buying gift cards for friends and family instead of creating original works of art for them?

It's because of fear (isn't it always because fear?) I worry that if I spend hours creating something as a gift and the recipient doesn't like it that I'll be devastated. I worry that people will think I'm cheap if I give art instead of a gift that has an obvious monetary value (when in reality, creating art can be a pretty expensive process). I worry that my work might not turn out well, that I won't think it's good enough to give as a gift.

I finally set my fears aside when I gave Bryce and Vanessa this watercolor, and I'm glad I did, because Vanessa liked it so much that she cried. I've never had someone cry because I gave them a blender or a sweater or an iTunes card.

I'm beginning to realize just how lucky I am to have the gift of art, to be able to see beauty in the world around me, to be able to capture that beauty in ink and pencil and paint, and to be able to share it with the people that I love.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lori's Lovely Lists: 10 Recipes for Peach Season

Oh my goodness, it's peach season! We got our first peaches of the year from our wonderful CSA a few weeks ago and I was immediately in stone-fruit heaven. There's something so incredibly, tantalizingly seductive about peaches...the soft delicate surface, the firm plumpness, the sweet yet slightly tart flesh, the sticky nectar.

I have to admit, I didn't make any fabulous new recipes with that first batch of peaches...I ate them, as is, devouring them in their purest form as quickly as possible. I have no regrets.

But I know that in the upcoming weeks I'll get over my need to immediately stuff every peach I can find into my face, and will develop the patience needed to try and taste a myriad of peach dishes, both sweet and savory.

Here's my top 10 list of new peach recipes I want to try out (and for even more check out my Pinterest board).

  1. Bourbon Peach Hand Pies from Smitten Kitchen
  2. Peach Cobbler Scones from Joy the Baker
  3. Peach Almond Galette from A Cozy Kitchen
  4. Peach Crumb Bars from Two Peas and Their Pod
  5. Strawberry Peach Gazpacho from How Sweet it Is
  6. Boozy Frozen Peach Pops from Shutterbean
  7. Peach Raspberry Sorbet from Cookie and Kate
  8. Peach, Tomato and Mozzarella Crostini from Joy the Baker
  9. Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce from The Pioneer Woman
  10. Peach Salsa from Two Peas and Their Pod

Let me know if you give any of these lovely little dishes a try...and please send me any amazing peach recipes you might have...I'd love to try them!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Still Life: Scenes of Summer

Hello lovely readers! It's been a while since I've posted...a long while (7 weeks actually, oh dear)! I could go into a long explanation about how crazy and hectic and bonkers my life has been, but I don't want to stress you out. So here are some happy pictures instead!

A painting of where my brother proposed.
Celebrating his engagement!
Dylan likes parties cause parties include cake.
The colors....oh my, the colors.

Three generations of McQuades on Father's Day
New beer brings cheer!
CSA watercolor inspiration.
Festive fiesta flags.

Whole wood-grain goodness.
Picked from the garden....
...and cooked with love.
Just look at that reflection!

Hydrangea season!
A perfect day for a farm visit.
Mommy's little zucchini monster.
Blueberry picking on my birthday.

A rare picture of me and my monkey.
Dylan's first marker drawing.
Crayola's smell like childhood...
...and Carvel cake tastes like it.

Ice cream makes D happy.... does my homemade pizza.
Back on my yoga mat for the first time in months.
Rainbow sprinkles are essential.

Magic Hat bottle caps are way better than fortune cookies.
Dylan's last day in his cast (P.S. He broke his arm!)
We decided to do Happy Hour decision ever.
Big beautiful lilies are EVERYWHERE these days.

Too hot for clothes!
CSA goodness.
It's quick-pickle season.
What a fabulous mess!

Looking back the past 7 weeks I realize that despite things being stressful at times, I truly live a wonderfully joyous life. And now that things have calmed downed a bit I'm really looking forward to jumping back in where I left off, working on my art, cooking delicious new recipes with the bounty of locally grown summer produce, and sharing my adventures with you on this site!

I hope your summer has been going well and that you're enjoying all of the wonders this season has to offer...picnics and beaches and stone fruit and fireflies and so much more!

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