Wednesday, July 17, 2013

JULY 2013


SUMMER (n.) - the season of farmers' markets brimming with garden delights, joyfully shared bounty between friends and neighbors, the savoring of time well-spent in the sun; be it with toes in the sand or hands in the dirt.

Outside of holiday traditions, most families have a humble love affair with the food of summer and the memories it recalls.  My fondest "foodie" times center around my grandmother.  Raised in the wheat-growing country of Eastern Montana, she was of the generation and lifestyle that just flat-out knew how to cook!  As an adult, she and my grandfather ventured a cherry orchard on the shores of beautiful Flathead Lake.  So, it was natural that fresh cherry pie was my first summertime staple growing up!  But she also had that seemingly effortless knack of making most anything taste homey and special; potato salad and jam being two of my personal favorites!  You always knew she made them with love, just for you!  As with many talented cooks however; rarely was a recipe was needed, or passed down.  Fortunately, I have two family treasures I'd like to share.  Either pair with homebaked breads - yum, yum, yum - or the delicious artisanal offerings of your local bakery.

12 - ripe peaches
2 - oranges and rind
1 small bottle - marashino cherries
Chop peaches, oranges, and cherries into small pieces.  Mix 1 C sugar per 1 C peach/orange/cherry pulp mixture.**  Boil down over low heat (about 30 - 45 mins.)  Cool and store in refrigerator.

5 C - chopped rhubarb
2.5 C - sugar
1 package (3 oz.) - strawberry Jell-O
Stir together rhubarb and sugar.  Set aside for 3 hours (do not refrigerate).  Add package of strawberry Jell-O to rhubarb/sugar mixture.  Bring to rolling boil over medium heat for 2 mins.  Cool and store in refrigerator. 

With the advent of such fascinating programming as seen on Food Network, HGTV... I've become slightly more adventuresome in my culinary experiences.  Billings is host to some amazing local food gems!  One, in particular, is the Yellowstone Olive Company.  I've often been intimidated by such places thinking that I did not possess a refined enough palate.  Yet, these people are so truly kind and knowledgeable, it's a treat to visit them!  Selections abound, as do samples!, which is of comfort to those of us indecisive at heart. Currently, my favorite combination is the Cucumber Balsamic Vinegar, and the Carmelized Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.   The oil has been a flavorful yet light accompaniment to alfresco pasta or chicken dishes.  Much to my surprise, I love the vinegar solo!  It brightens my freshly grown herbs, tomatoes, and lettuce without the burst of tanginess that you may normally associate with vinegar.

Recently, we returned from a family trip to the Black Hills area.  As part of our exploration, we happened upon the Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City, SD.  While I am far from the world of a sommelier, these folks were laid-back, welcoming, and insightful throughout their fabulous (and stunning!) restaurant, gift shop, and tasting room.  This was SUCH a fun find!  Two of the wines I brought home would make my "summer list"... Blue Suede Shoes (semi-sweet, blueberry notes, pairs great with chocolate!), and Uncle Ralph's Rhubarb (blush, 100% rhubarb wine, tastes like summer in a bottle!)

Inspired with our new-found food adventures, my son and I are taking on a research project this summer.  As with most kids, a few favorites abound - pizza, chicken strips, mac and cheese, and in his case, pancakes.  We have decided on our own "taste-test" throughout the Billings area.  Criteria include:  fluffiness, syrup, and overall taste.  As we've begun our research, it's not only been an absolute blast to spend time together, it's fascinating to hear his commentary about food and its qualities.  Stay tuned for our humble results in next month's blog!

Is it just me, or does it seem like back-to-school (and even Christmas!) items start filtering into stores as soon as the final fireworks fade from the Fourth of July?  Well the good news is that despite the shelves burgeoning with pencils and notebooks, it's still summer...and sales on summer entertaining necessities are to be found everywhere!  Here at Celebrating Home, we are currently hosting our Sensational Summer Sale through the end of July (while supplies last).

In addition, every Monday and Thursday, new products are added to the Summer Steals Sale through July (while supplies last).  Don't forget to drop by the Treasure Chest every Monday as well - new items added weekly!  

On a final note, please know that Spring/Summer catalog items, both Celebrating Home and Penelope Ann, will be OFF-SALE on AUGUST 14th.  With that said, Fall/Winter catalogs are just on the's a sneak peek!

May you continue to enjoy the summer blessings of family gatherings, peaceful relaxation, and memories full of good food and good times!  In the words of author Henry James, 
“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Images courtesy of:, Yellowstone Olive Company, Prairie Berry Winery, Celebrating Home

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