When I plan a meal, I have several check points I go through. I want to be sure that the meal is comprised of ingredients from the current season, and that on a whole, the meal feels cohesive from start to finish. If we are having friends join us, I also try to plan a dessert of some sort. This is usually my favorite part of the meal and the item I spend the most time thinking about. I’m a self diagnosed sugar fiend, so naturally this area excites me the most.
Most often, I like to dream up desserts that have several elements and can take hours, but when we are planning a meal for the middle of the week that doesn’t always work out very well. Unless we just decide to forgo dinner altogether and serve dessert alone, I better think of something a little more speedy.
During the summer, I tend toward the natural bounty of fruit that needs little done to it, if anything at all. Fresh peaches, while amazing in cobblers and crisps, can be divine all by themselves and as far as I’m concerned, make an excellent dessert. However, roasting them for a bit and then topping them a sprinkle of crisp and a dollop of creme fraiche won’t make anyone I know turn up their nose.
There is a lesson to be learned in this recipe: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. I’m going to repeat that to myself: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. This is a great mantra for me to remember. Too often I jump right to something unnecessarily complicated. Maybe after repeating this to myself a few hundred times I’ll think more simply the next time I want to make a dessert that takes three days.
This dish is just as versatile as it is quick. You can use whatever fruit is available at your farmers market, in fact I think apricots would be delicious here, so would plums or nectarines. The crisp topping can be frozen and used to stir into yogurt or crumbled onto pies, I also think it could be a great base for a granola too. (more…)
Human beings can be grouped into two categories: those who snooze, and those who don’t. For as far back as I can remember, I have always set my alarm ten minutes before the time I actually should get up. After the first alarm sounds, I snuggle up under the covers and drift peacefully back to dreamland for another nine minutes. When the next alarm sounds, there is a subsequent push of the snooze button allowing for an extra few minutes to gradually come around to the idea of planting my bare feet on the cold wood floor. By the time the next alarm sounds, I’m forced to get out from under the soft protection of our duvet by the tangible fear of being late for work. For some people, this method is purely insane. Let’s take my husband for example. When we first got married, he would set his alarm for a certain time each morning and when that thing went off, he rose up out of bed like Frankenstein from the dead, swung his legs over the side, planted his feet on the ground and never looked back. No lingering thoughts of fluffy pillows and sweet dreams, this man was moving on to greet the day. For sometime, it drove him absolutely insane that I would let my alarm go off, snooze, let it go off again, and snooze one last (sweet) time. He could not understand how this was an effective way to start the day. However, as time went on, he started turning off his alarm, only to just roll over. Now, after three years of marriage, he hits snooze, hits it again, and on some days, one more time.
To me, mornings should start off slow and relaxed. I prefer to linger there in the wee hours and enjoy the gray morning light for just a few minutes before I start to consider what the day might throw at me. I always eat breakfast, sometimes something as simple as a bowl of cereal, but never do I pass it up. Since I like to spend most of my morning in bed, I do tend to rely on quick breakfast foods to keep me satisfied for the better part of the morning. These hearty muffins surely fit the bill. They are moist, slightly sweet and wholesome enough to carry you for a few hours. They would be incredible with a bit of greek yogurt and some honey to give you an extra punch of protein.
[This post is part of a Cook the Book project with 5 other incredible bloggers. Take a stroll on over to see Aimee, Samantha, Natasha, Emily and Claudie to see what quick breads they've baked up this week. I've heard there might be custard filled cornbread, might not want to miss that one!]
This could turn out to be the most exciting summer of our lives. There have been so many changes around here that I don’t think our heads have stopped spinning. We have been through a whirlwind of travel and will continue to be dictated by the jet stream well into the beginning of fall. It has been such a glorious couple of months, most of which I hope to share with you sooner rather than later. For me, this time has been marked by a whole lot of soul searching and healthy doses of reality. I mentioned recently that I tend to jump right to the most extreme reaches of a situation and need to feel the pull of my tether (whom I warmly refer to as my husband). Thankfully, he keeps me grounded when the world is rushing around us.
There is actually one piece of news I would love to share with all of you, and since I tend to be a little impatient with all this good news rolling around in my head, at least this one can slip out, right? Well, come this September, I will be teaching cooking classes! This is something I am deeply looking forward to. They will be held in my home to begin with and will hopefully branch out to others homes, as well as new, inspiring venues. We will start by focusing on the basics of every day cooking and will eventually move on to more intensive subjects like tackling the always cumbersome Thanksgiving menu. My hope is that people who are not as confident as they would like to be in the kitchen will leave our home feeling well equipped in front of their own stove. Our first class will be Monday, September 10th at 6:30pm. We will be learning how to season food. Although that sounds simple, it is quite possibly your most powerful tool in the kitchen. I am always amazed by what a little salt can do.
If you are interested in taking a class, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you on the list to receive a calendar when one becomes available. Our first few classes will have limited space, so sign up soon if you’re interested. We are going to have a great time!
Now, on to this summer tomato tart. Normally, I try to avoid turning my oven on during the warm summer months. I do my best to plan meals around dishes that don’t need much cooking, or can be cooked outdoors on the grill. Our apartment has no air conditioning and it’s on the top floor. Just by putting two and two together you can imagine that equals a toasty home on really warm days. Adding the heat of a 400 degree oven usually doesn’t make it into that equation. However, I had some tart dough that was defrosted in the fridge that needed a filling, and well, there were these amazing little tomatoes at the market and raw tart dough is quite unpleasant to eat even with amazing tomatoes, so on went the oven…
This little tart comes together in no time flat as long as you have chilled tart dough ready to go. A purchased pie crust will work beautifully here as well if you don’t have any dough lingering in your fridge. If you plan ahead though, you might want to try making the crust at home. The recipe makes enough for two of these tarts, so freeze one and the next tomato tart you make will come together rather quickly.
There is something simply beautiful about community. I believe we were built to thrive in relationship with one another, supporting and encouraging those around us through the often tempestuous seas of life. Our joys are never more exciting than those shared with a giggling best friend, and our sorrows rarely felt more true than moments spent sobbing with an empathetic lover. Relationships are designed to, in a sense, complete the equation.
This little blog has allowed me to become a part of a community of men and women who inspire me, challenge and humble me every day. I am thankful to have met many new people who breathe the same air as I do and seem to be cut from the same mold. Whether we have met in person, or only virtually, I am continually in awe of their strength, creativity and outlook on life. A group of us, whom have come to know one another through various ways, wanted a way to stay in touch while encouraging the craft we all hold so dear, so we concluded we would pick a cook book and do our best to cook through it together. The book we chose is a classic, most notably known for the famous yeasted waffles which lie within. The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham boasts 304 pages of breakfast nirvana. Recipes ranging from the standard omelette to custard filled cornbread (Aimee I can’t wait for that one!) keep you coming back to it’s wisdom every morning. Each of us have chosen one recipe from each chapter and will be regularly posting about our efforts. To me, this is more than just working through some undoubtedly exceptional book, it’s about building relationships with friends I have come to admire, and it’s about forming a community here, one in which I hope you will feel a deep connection to and a strong sense of being at home, among friends.
The first chapter of the book covers yeast breads. It’s a fitting place to start since bread is the foundation for so much of our diet. It’s a starting point, a building block we use to jump from. This particular recipe feels like a comfortable place to start for me. It’s familiar. Like many of you I’m sure, I have memories of raisin cinnamon bread with melted butter dripping between the cracks in the bread made by the cinnamon-sugar swirl. It evokes a feeling of family for me, which is exactly how I want this project to feel.
If you want to join us in our endeavors to cover the depths of this wonderful book, please feel free to purchase a copy of the book and cook along with us. Join in our conversation by commenting on our blogs, and be sure to check out the other amazing women involved in this project. Sammy, Aimee, Claudie, Emily and Natasha are all wonderful women, I know you’ll love every one of them. (more…)
I moved away from home over 5 years ago for the job I still have. My love for the mountain I grew up on is well known and documented, and runs deep. There are times when I go months without visiting, but soon a longing creeps up, building until the only release is that old country road. My father, mother and little sister still live there, not to mention one of my best friends, so the visits are usually full to the brim. This time, however, has been quite different. My poor dad broke his ankle in two places a little over two weeks ago and has subsequently endured a lengthy surgery and slow recovery. All three of us daughters have been here this week, spending time laughing, cooking and keeping the ice packs draped over the bandages to keep the swelling at bay. His spirits have remained high most of the time, not entirely due to the pills the nice doctor gave him. It’s been an unfortunate blessing to spend so much time together, one I’ve really enjoyed despite the circumstances.
Cooking brings me a lot of joy, but cooking for my family is a delight and an honor. The day before dad’s surgery I wanted to make sure he had a few good meals in his belly. I couldn’t think of something more comforting than a soft, fluffy biscuit, especially when you make it into a toothsome sandwich drizzled with gravy. So, with everyone up and about, still in their pajamas, sleepily pouring strong coffee into their mouths, we made up a batch of these dill woven biscuits and built ourselves a hearty breakfast.
Remember when you were 13 and the last person on earth you wanted to confide in was your mom? According to my adolescent logic, my mom had no idea what kind of life I had to live or what sort of choices I had to make. She was put on this earth to irritate me and meddle in my very important business. There was no advice, no insight, no knowledge she could offer me that I didn’t already know, after all, I knew everything.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that I began to realize the humanity of my mother. I imagine the vast majority of us, even my own mom, have gone or will go through this very process. As I began to live on my own, do my own dishes, pay my own bills and make real life altering decisions, I realized, I needed my mom. I needed that advice I never took as a teenager and I needed her learned perspective. Finally understanding that she had lived through all of these things years before (not too many years mom, I know) helped me see what a resource she could be in my life, and that maybe we would begin to see each other not on different teams, but on the same one, together.
My husband lost his mom when he was 18, years before we met. I’m not sure if he ever made it to the stage where he appreciated her point of view and began to see her as a friend, but I know that if she were here now, he most certainly would. As we are now on the path to starting a family of our own, I think he would really love to sit down with her and ask what it was like for her to try to get pregnant, and how it felt when she finally did. I’m certain he would like to know if the feelings I have are in fact normal and what ways are best for showing his support of me.
This rolling pin belonged to her. As I was rolling out these small pastry shells I was wondering what it was like for her to feel a similar butter speckled piece of dough under her hands, rolling them out into petit circles. I wondered if we would bake together and if we did, what we might say to one another to pass the time. I’d love to ask her what Jon was like as a small boy, maybe gaining some insight into what our kids might be like one day. Most of all, I would have liked to find in her a friend, a confidant, just like I have in my own mother. From what others have told me, our personalities would have matched perfectly.
I believe every mom looks forward to the day when their children cherish them and their opinions. Though it’s a hard road traveled, I’m sure the destination is a great reward. If you’re a mom, thank you for fighting the good fight and when you’re in the thick of it, remember your children will grow up and one day they will call on you for your advice and will, I hope, find in you a faithful friend. (more…)
There is something so incredibly exhilarating about collaborating with other like-minded creatives. The process is stretching and challenges us to see our talents in new ways and even pushes us further than we would normally go on our own. This past weekend, I headed home to the mountains again, this time for a styled bridal collaborative with some local artists. Joleen from Joleen Willis Photography was the mastermind behind the shoot, birthing the idea and then convincing all of us to come along for the ride. For me, it was a chance to step into some uncharted waters, and although the way was a little bumpy at times, I learned a lot and ultimately contributed something I am very proud of.
Our inspiration was Morocco, which is such a rich culture to draw from. The color and vibrant nature of the landscape was an easy example to follow when I was planning the food and tablescape. I chose to use some fairly traditional items for the table such as mint tea, olives and cous cous. For the main plated dish, I made a carrot salad with black rice, macrona almonds and mint, drizzled with a light harissa vinaigrette. The salad added just the right amount of color and texture to the table.
(image by Joleen Willis Photography)
(image by Joleen Willis Photography)
As with most weddings, dessert (most often in the form of cake) is one of the main attractions. Personally, I’ve only liked one wedding cake in all my life. I remember loving it so much that I was trying to figure out how to stuff some in my purse without being noticed. However, on every other occasion it has been something I might as well skip, which if you know me at all, skipping dessert is just something I don’t do. I figured it must be quite difficult to make a wedding cake worth it’s price tag, and ultimately, completely enjoyable, even to the point of wanting a doggy bag. So, when this project came up and I was able to explore what might make a great cake, (in taste AND appearance) I learned a few things. First of all, wedding cakes are difficult. They require a lot of work, hours and hours to be exact. Second, you don’t only have to use white or yellow cake. There are so many options out there, people! Thirdly, wedding cake CAN taste good. Like, I want a whole one to myself good.
Although this cake made me the most proud out of anything I’ve ever made to date, it still wasn’t perfect. If you can see, it leans a little because I was too lazy to get dowels to anchor it in place, not to mention I didn’t even out the cake layers like a real wedding cake baker would. However, even with all it’s faults and its Tower of Pisa qualities, it was still the best darn wedding cake I’ve ever had. Not the prettiest, but the tastiest. I feel a little weird writing this because it feels over the top conceited, but I’m telling you, this cake was really that good.
For the cake layers, I used a carrot cake recipe from Stella Parks, pastry chef at Table 310 in Lexington, Ky. It’s the best recipe for carrot cake out there. I’m in love with it and will continue to use it forever. The opposite layer is a nutmeg cornmeal cake. I used these two together because they have a tendency to stay moist, not to mention I thought they would compliment each other well, and they did. After all the layers were made, I smothered it all in an orange cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It was, in fact, the icing on the cake.
I garnished to top of the cake with candied kumquats and mint. Those sweet little citrus gems are something I’d like to have in my pantry at all times. They would be perfect on ice cream, a cream tart or simply fished out with gooey, sugary fingers.