Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Welcome Back to Michigan

Once again, inn keepers Kaptain Krunch (maker of Korner Kottage Krunch, our home made, gourmet granola) and Cinderella (that's my nickname) have returned from a wonderful month spent in warm and sunny Florida. It is our pattern now, to take some much needed time away from our bed and breakfast to restore and nurture ourselves, surrounded by family and friends at the beach.

Having been back to Michigan for only a week now, I'm sorely missing the warm sunshine, the crashing ocean surf outside my window and the sand between my toes. It feels like a distant memory already, but wonderful memories indeed.

Family gathered from Boulder, Breckenridge and Chicago for reminiscing, cooking together, eating out, shopping, going to movies, playing banana grams, (a family favorite) walking on the beach and numerous, numerous laughter to sustain us until our next reunion. Ages range from the youngest at 18 months to the wisest at a young 91......and many ages in between. Regardless of age differences we were all entertained every single day. We are so blessed to have family and friends who live in such awesome places for us to gather. But then they all think Suttons Bay, Michigan where we live at the Korner Kottage Bed and Breakfast is a perfect place to visit as well.

On this snowy, winter day when much of our nation is in the grips of a winter snow storm that the weather channel has nicknamed "The Beast", Suttons Bay is enjoying a rather calm, normal wintry day. We received a couple of inches of new snow overnight and some howling winds, but we have escaped the real brunt of the storm's fury. In fact the skies are blue and the sun is shining brightly......but it is cold. Not the 70+ degrees we enjoyed just a week ago.

Last night in preparation for the storm, I made a new soup recipe that I found in a new vegetarian cookbook I scored, on sale, in Florida. As I do every year about this time, I make an effort to be more conscious and thoughtful of what I put into my body.

This recipe turned out to be an easy and very yummy soup for a winter day. Easy is the operative word, along with healthy. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Vegetable & Corn Chowder (serves 4)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded + diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 3/4 potatoes....I used a few more
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk ...I used 2 %
1 1/4 cups vegetable stock...I added a bit more
1/2 cup broccoli florets
3 cups frozen corn
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, plus extra to garnish
salt + pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and potato and saute over low heat, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Gradually in milk and vegetable stock.

Add broccoli and corn. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.

Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and stir until it melts.

Season to taste.....(can add some spices if you like a bit of heat) and ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with the remaining cheese. Serve with a small salad and some crusty bread and you have a healthy, complete meal for a cold winter evening. Yum.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Open on Christmas

On Christmas Eve~we had guests. On Christmas Day~we had guests. On the day after Christmas~we still have guests and so on and so and so on. Guests in our house until New Year's Day. Such is our life "living behind the pocket door" at our bed and breakfast.

This is our first Christmas with guests in our house. We are open so other people can spend the holidays with their families. It's fine. It really is....that's what we do. It was out of the ordinary for us, but we've filled the holiday time doing fun and unexpected things we normally do not do on Christmas.

We made a date and went to the movies at the Bay Theatre on the night before Christmas Eve. It's just a short brisk walk from the Korner Kottage. Walking through our quaint village all "decked out for Christmas" was indeed special. It was quiet and peaceful and we had it all to ourselves. I believe we were the only ones out walking around. The movie wasn't that great, but it was fun sitting together in the movie, eating popcorn and keeping our minds off of the fact that we were working on Christmas and missing family.

We made plans to fill Christmas Eve day.....I did an hour "hot yoga" class, we went window shopping and met friends in Traverse City for dinner at Red Ginger on Christmas Eve. Traverse City had a much different vibe than quaint Suttons Bay. It was bustling and hustling with all kinds of activity that evening. We had a great meal with good friends and enjoyed the city lights and then headed back to our quiet little village of Suttons Bay and missing family.

Christmas morning we served breakfast to our guests like we do every morning. No family at the breakfast table this Christmas morning.....however we had guests far away from their home in Paraguay, who happened to speak very little English.....but we managed and hopefully helped them enjoy a pleasant experience as they celebrated a "different kind of Christmas".

Now, it is the day after Christmas, and we still have guests in our house. It's quiet and it's all right. We've survived this holiday doing new and unexpected things....but next year..... I've already made plans to "not be open" and spend Christmas doing all the traditional things we normally do at Christmas......spending it with our family.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yummy Butternut Squash and White Bean Stew

The changing of the seasons whets my appetite for the quest of new and interesting "comfort foods". My eating persuasion of late has leaned more and more towards vegetarian concoctions although I'm not devout in my following. Normally, I am not even the cook in the house, so basically I'm happy to dine on what ever is prepared for me. But in the late fall and winter, when more time allows, I have recently been inclined to become more involved in the kitchen. (I'm not sure if my husband views this as a good thing yet or not.) Therefore, the reading of recipes is becoming something I'm encouraging myself to do more frequently. Many recipes I discard immediately because they are too lengthy and involved or require unheard of ingredients. I am if anything, simple and efficient in my cooking attempts. But occasionally I come across a recipe that meets all my requirements; simple, savory, fresh, healthy ingredients and is either a soup or a stew that can be simmered on the stove in the Le Creuset or crock pot for several hours. Both warming up the kitchen and filling the house with wonderful aromas is a necessary requirement when it comes to my cooking attempts. This recipe filled all my requirements so I tried it and it did not fail to please. Give it a try and let me know what you think. So far my husband has not turned up his nose at anything I have prepared, so I'll take that as a good sign.

Butternut Squash~White Bean Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup slivered onion
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash (aprox. a 2 pound squash)
1 (14 oz.) can diced roasted tomatoes
1 garlic clove pressed
2 cups water (or vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary...or fresh if available
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (15 oz) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish...optional

*1. Heat oil in dutch oven (Le Creuset) over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and mushrooms. Cook until veggies start to brown, about 8-10 minutes.

*2. Stir in squash, tomatoes, garlic, water, tomato paste, rosemary, salt and pepper. Mix well. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. I thought it would take longer, but it didn't. Uncover and stir in beans and simmer until stew consistency about an additional 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with crusty bread. Also Parmesan flakes is a nice additional flavor when serving.

Enjoy and I welcome your feed back.

"Greening" of the Bare Boxes

There's nothing quite like fresh beautiful greens and assorted other "finds" from the garden to create wonderful window boxes, flaunting nature's exhibition of splendor through an alternate view on a winter canvas.

Most of the greenery used had to be purchased as I do not have unlimited access to woodland areas for scavenging pine boughs and branches. But everything else was taken right from the offerings of my surrounding gardens. Even now in this transitional season the b&b gardens continue to offer many enjoyable treasures even though their stunning summer radiance has faded.

The short time span between dumping out of the summer/fall flowers and the addition of the winter greenery, leaves them looking empty and forlorn. The stark contrast of the devoid, barren boxes hastens my motivation to get them refilled for the winter season. When filled once again, they look so welcoming and inviting. Now that the window boxes at the Korner Kottage B&B in Suttons Bay are filled with their wintery mix, I truly feel like the holiday season can begin in earnest.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Behind the Pocket Door

Love, love, love being an inn keeper. Our guests are so appreciative of all the little things we do to make their stay special. Beds are made with the warmest and coziest of comforters. Our bed linens are always freshly ironed and pressed with our iron rite which makes for the softest, most decadent sheets you can ever image slipping into. Chocolates are left on the pillows for a sweet taste before retiring. Bathrooms are supplied with the thickest and fluffiest of towels and robes and fuzzy warm slipper socks can be found in every room to ward off any evening chills. Bottled water is tucked into each small room refrigerator. With our concerted efforts of being greener, we use glass bottles for refilling rather than adding more plastic to the landfill.

L.E.D. twinkle lights offer up a cheerful welcome on the screened in front porch as well as illuminating the fences bordering the garden, giving off a soft glow to the night. Candles in all of the windows show guests their way when walking back from a local restaurant or an after dark stroll.

Breakfast is always served with detailed attention, not to mention with brightly, burning candles and flowers on each plate. This is not just your everyday breakfast menu either. We serve breakfast in slow deliberate courses to be savored and enjoyed leisurely. Our Italian coffee maker is always a big hit. Once given the lesson, guests can have hot coffee or tea on demand any time of day or night.

It's fun to close the pocket door separating dining room and kitchen and listen to the chatter as newly acquainted strangers, gradually over breakfast conversation, become new friends. The laughs and giggles shared between them, make us smile to ourselves as well.

We always strive to create surroundings at the Korner Kottage B&B that are conducive to relaxation and restorative for your soul, as well as encouraging to your romantic senses.

Romance is about the "little things"~the smallest of gestures~the little ways of making daily life with your friend and lover a little bit more special. We can help with all of that.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Soup Kind of Day

After being blessed with many wonderful warm and sunny fall days in a row, we finally got a taste of a grayish, chilly one today. One of our daily rituals consists of walking with Nestle Quik to the local post office, which is approximately 5 blocks from the Korner Kottage Bed and Breakfast. I returned chilled from our leisurely stroll, which is always extended because we stop and visit with shop keepers and locals along the route. I concluded a bowl of soup would be in order. Now, the cooking is normally left up to my husband, but every once in a while I get inspired to take my turn at it, especially when it comes to making soup. Soup is something I usually can't mess up.

I got out the trusty Le Creuset and set about scrounging around in the the cupboards and pantry to see what we might have in stock. Being that I don't do much of the cooking, that also implies I don't know what we have on hand. I was happy to find that we had all of the "stuff" to make an easy as well as favorite concoction of ours "Mexican Chicken Soup". Just the perfect thing to warm up this chilly afternoon. Not to mention it adds a nice aroma from the kitchen while our weekend guests arrive for check in time.

Here is all you need to make this savory, simple and healthy soup.

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and cut up into bite size pieces
1 - 15 oz can refried beans
1 - 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 15 oz can low sodium chicken broth
1 large jar of salsa (your choice...I like Paul Newman's Black Bean & corn medium spicy)

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat through. When serving sprinkle with some grated cheese and serve with tortilla chips if desired. Yum- o

What could be easier than opening a bunch of cans right? But you'll be amazed at the flavor.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No Bad Weather Just Wrong Clothes

This is the time of the year when it's really not fall and it's not quite winter yet. It's the "in between" season or transition time. For us inn keepers at the Korner Kottage B&B in Suttons Bay, it's the season where we can take a deep breath and transition into a much, much slower and much needed relaxed pace. Our busiest seasons of the year are behind us now.....for awhile any way. We can linger in bed a little later in the mornings. I can don my robe and slippers, lingering over coffee and the morning crossword, which is my simplest pleasure. I cherish this quiet time now that the guests are fewer in numbers, especially during the mid week.

Don't get me wrong though, there are still many seasonal "to dos" on our job list for sure. We wash all the windows, put on the storm windows and put up the plexiglass on the screened in front porch. These are one of our most dreaded of jobs. The windows in this b&b must be the originals, circa 1921 and they are NOT easily washed and maneuvered. Lots of up and down on different tracks and old pegs that barely hold. Once done though, they look so bright and shiny and in my opinion, there's nothing better that clean windows.

Next we tackle the garden and get it ready for winter. Slashing flowers and plants that once were spectacular in their blooming glory, now are out of control and in need of cutting down. All our glorious window boxes must be dumped into the street. This is done with much sorrow on my part. So many people stop and gaze at the window boxes all summer long, many taking pictures and asking about the flowers. It's so rewarding to be able to share this bit of nature to all the passersby. I miss the enjoyment of the flowers at my kitchen sink, now bare as I stand doing the dishes. The garden looks so sparse after this stage.

And then begins the raking and raking and raking of leaves that seems to go on and on. Thanks to our village workers who keep these piles of leaves and garden debris cleaned up on a regular basis until all the piles have vanished.

Next the garage must be cleaned and reorganized for all of the outside furniture, metal sculptures and various other garden ornaments needing a place to be stored for the winter. Again the garden and patio area continue to look barer still. We continue these jobs, mind you during all kinds of "in between" weather. High winds, sunny days, cloudy days, rainy days in the cold, continuing the work as the weekend forecast is calling for "rain mixed with snow". We don't relish the thought of carrying out these outdoor tasks in the snow. However, as one of our German guests told us while visiting during a cold and wet spring weekend a few years back, "there's no bad weather, just wrong clothing choices". I've kept that saying posted on a sign on the front porch of the b&b.....I always feel responsible for offering our guests good weather when they visit.

With these end of season jobs list completed, this transition time offers us the new possibilities to take to the woods and to the trails. This is time of season offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the area. There are so many interesting and beautiful places to hike in Leelanau. We are truly blessed to live in such an awesome spot in the world. So even though the weather is colder and the skis are grayer and filled with intermittent showers, we put on the "right clothes" and head out to do some exploring. There's no bad weather in Leelanau and Nestle Quik our fur kid and hiking expert agrees. There are still plenty of trails to be walked and enjoyed.......and now we have the time to do it.