We sunk into the couch letting the cushions hug us as we sorted through the day and set out to recover from it. It was pretty typical aside from the Sharpie all over the carpet and the ipad getting peed on, but even typical days need a bit of recovery and a moment to breathe it in and then let it go.
Gabe and I laughed away the day and wondered how one goes about getting pee off of an ipad. We talked about getting new carpet or rearranging the room to cover up our 2 year old’s Sharpie rampage. “Or we could just put a frame over it and call it art.” I said as Gabe went into the kitchen and pulled out two bottles from the fridge.
“Champagne or beer?” He asked.
“Let’s go with beer.” I said, already anticipating the skunky farmhouse ale and knowing that I’d just drink the bottle of champagne with a friend the next night.
Regardless of what had happened earlier in the day, tonight we were celebrating.
And this is where I don’t know how to write this. Which is weird because I’ve been writing this post in my head for over three years and now that it is finally time I’m getting all sweaty, nervous and way too excited to put words to a page. But I’ll try; with a big green bottle of my favorite Saison, a bag of Juanita’s tortilla chips and an ice cream cake waiting for us in the freezer we toasted to our book. The one I’m writing. An actual tangible book that will be held in people’s hands (hopefully all of your hands!), in their kitchen, curled up with them on the couch and in bed. People will be reading my words, cooking from my recipes and drooling over my photos printed on paper. I can’t get over this. It will be published by Running Press and edited by Kristen Green Wiewora who also recently edited, Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen. Which is stunning, by the way.
A date night seemed the perfect way for us to celebrate because the book is our date nights. It is our story of nourishing our relationship and the food that connects us. I could not to be happier that this is the book I’m writing. It is of course a subject that I’m incredibly passionate about – well, two subjects – my husband and food. This book is an extension of the series I started on this site called, Dating My Husband. These posts are often my favorite to write and always the best to read your comments and emails in response to. How you all have reacted to these posts is a huge reason why I’m writing this book. So many of you have opened yourself up to me telling me about your own struggles in your relationships and have encouraged me by saying how much these date nights have changed your relationships.
Gabe and I have been dating at home for several years now and although at times it’s tough to fight through the exhaustion when all I really want is someone else to cook for me (sometimes there’s takeout date nights and that’s great too) we are so encouraged by what these evenings have meant for our marriage. Over time they’ve gotten easier, we’ve learned to love the comfort of our own home and enjoy the quiet hours in the late evening. I’ve stretched myself in the kitchen, trying new things in order to make these meals feel a bit different from our everyday. Now I find myself longing for our date nights at home, looking forward to them all week and eagerly working on the menu days in advance.
Our book is 25 dates set up seasonally with each having its own menu and a helpful plan to make creating this menu simple, even if you have a full-time job and children underfoot. Each date begins with the story from our date where I open up to you about our marriage – the joys, the trials and the work it takes to make it thrive. It’s an honest look into our marriage of nearly 10 years and how we fumble through life together, with three kids and everything else that’s thrown at us. It’s honest, funny, encouraging, tough and incredibly delicious.
In the moments when I’m telling myself, “I can’t do this! What was I thinking?! ME?! Writing a book? Who’s going to read it? Buy it?” I turn to the table of contents and the food scattered throughout those pages. Just reading the names of the recipes I’m working on makes me incredibly hungry, eager for the recipes myself and assured that this book is going to be so freaking good! Ah! The food is special. It’s a bit grubby delicious in the way that’s not afraid to use cream and butter and yet it’s loaded with vegetables and uses all real ingredients. There’s plenty of salads along with cocktails and desserts.
Writing a book has been compared to the process of childbirth and while I can begin to see and understand the truth in that, right now I feel as if I’ve just had the baby. I’m alone at home sitting on the couch with a soft skinned baby relying on me for food, comfort, love and guidance. Even though I’ve read through stacks of parenting books and tried my best to observe and question seasoned parents suddenly I feel at a complete loss of what to do with this little life. And so now I’m sitting here, on the couch again, with a blank computer screen seeking to put words to paper trying to make this book the one of my dreams, the one I want to add to my own cookbook collection and the one you all will eagerly cook from. It feels awkward, thrilling and unbelievable.
I’ve been that awkward new mom with three babies and we’ve figured it out. We’re still figuring it out but the point is we’re doing it. And that’s just how this book will be. Bird by Bird, recipe by recipe, date by date. And around Valentine’s Day 2015 I’ll get to share this baby with the rest of the world. I can not wait for you to meet my book. In the meantime I’ll be here sharing recipes here as I always have. There will be more dates – different than the ones going in the book and there will be glimpses into this new world of writing a book as I’m fumbling through this process, figuring it out and fighting the doubt and celebrating the triumph. After all, this book will exist in great part because of you all, it seems appropriate then that you’d journey with me through it all.
Let’s do this.
A very hearty thank you to my agent Stacey Glick. Thank you for holding my hand, acting as counselor and already pushing this book to be bigger, greater and everything I want it to be.
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Ice Cream Cake with Candied Cocoa Nibs
It’s okay to admit that Dairy Queen is the inspiration for this dessert right? Their ice cream cakes remain to be one of my favorite desserts. I love it for its absence of cake, for the chewy hot fudge and crispy chocolate wafers in-between layers of creamy ice cream and as a kid I loved the magical printed images on the top (okay, I might still love that) There’s nothing better – that is until I decided to make my own. I stopped shy of making my own ice cream, for that I used D’Ambrosia Gelato in Seattle (the best!). You can use 2 quarts of your favorite ice cream.
It is definitely a cake worthy of a celebration.
For the cake you’ll need the following recipes plus:
2 quarts ice cream (two flavors is ideal)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
adapted from Alice Medrich
Of course one doesn’t need to bake their own chocolate wafers but there is something so satisfying as creaming butter and mixing in a few ingredients in your own kitchen only to come up with a flavor so reminiscent of childhood you’ll be reaching for a glass of milk and fighting the desire to lick the hydrogenated creamy center that’s not there.
The ice cream cake only requires the use of half of the cookies I usually bake them all but if you’d rather you can freeze half of the dough for a later use.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter, soft
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set that aside while you cream the butter and sugars together until light, about 4 minutes on medium speed or a couple more minutes more if you are mixing the dough by hand. Add the vanilla extract and milk to the creamed butter and sugars.
Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Gather the wet dough and place on a piece of parchment paper. Roll the parchment paper up and work the dough into a rough 2” log. If you are using these cookies for the ice cream cake the shape really doesn’t matter as they are destined for crumbs but if you’d like to create a uniform log for perfectly formed round cookies refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes then reform the log and squeeze the ends to compress the dough into a perfect round. Continue this process until the log is uniform. If the shape isn’t a concern just chill until firm. About 45 minutes in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer.
Slice the roll of cookie dough into 1/4” discs and bake at 350*F for 12-15 minutes. You want them to be quite dry so they’ll hold their crunch when surrounded by ice cream. I fit the entire batch on two baking sheets, bake for 12 minutes then turn off the oven and leave the trays in for an additional 5 minutes. Just watch and smell them closely as you don’t want them to burn.
Let the cookies cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Gather half of the cookies into a large ziplock bag and break up into small pieces.
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
If you have it use Lyle’s golden syrup here. It’s deeper in color and adds a lovely subtle caramel flavor to the hot fudge. That combined with a bit of salt, bittersweet chocolate and coffee this rich hot fudge attempts to play the starring role in this cake.
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup golden syrup (or corn syrup)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped or use chips
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
In a sauce pan combine the cream, syrup sugar and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and then let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Once the chocolate and the butter have melted strain the entire mixture to ensure no pesky cocoa powder clumps remain.
Let cool to room temperature before assembling the cake. If you are making this in advance, refrigerate until ready to use then gently reheat on the stove or in a microwave until the hot fudge is pourable.
Will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.
Candied Cocoa Nibs
“I wonder if you can candy cocoa nibs?” I recently asked a friend and then the rest was history. It turns out you can and you really should. With sugar and heat these bittersweet little crunchy chocolate bites turn into caramel-y, lightly sweetened, bittersweet chocolate bites. If you want more of a brittle texture add more sugar. I prefer to have the nibs just barely coated in caramel as I love the bitter, almost savory flavor they bring to the cake.
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
course salt (like Maldon)
In a small, clean pan pour the sugar in an even layer across the bottom. Over medium-high heat melt the sugar, rotating the pan and gently stirring if the sugar is caramelizing unevenly. Once all is melted and the sugar is amber in color turn off the heat and immediately stir in the nibs.
Coat the cocoa nibs in the sugar then place on a parchment lined sheet tray, sprinkle a bit of salt on top.
Let the nibs cool completely then break into pieces.
Assembling the cake:
Line the bottom of a 8 or 9” springform pan with parchment paper (you only need the parchment paper if you are planning on removing the bottom of the springform pan, otherwise you can skip this step and serve it right on the base of the pan).
Add the first quart of softened ice cream to the bottom. Spread evenly with an off-set spatula.
Top that layer with half of the hot fudge and cookie crumbs.
Place the pan into the freezer for at least 30 minutes to set up.
Remove the pan from the freezer and add the second quart of softened ice cream over the cookie crumbs.
Top the ice cream with the remaining hot fudge.
Put the cake back into the freezer until you are ready to serve.
Un-mold the cake, taking off the base of the springform pan and parchment if you used it.
Top the cake with the whipped cream and candied cocoa nibs.
Keeps in the freezer for 1 week, although the cream on top turns icy but really no one complains about it.