Tomato Pesto

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Sometimes you need a segue. Not one of those vertical scooter-like vehicles that automatically prompts a chuckle with visions of Paul Blart or Gob awkwardly motoring along (I apologize if you have not seen Mall Cop or Arrested Development. I also apologize for admitting that I have). A segue that gracefully closes the door on one thing while getting you excited about what is yet to come.

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Currently I’m making the transition from Summer to Fall. In the last few weeks I’ve had a lunch of fresh tomatoes with shaved corn, basil and goat cheese while then enjoying a slice of apple pie for dessert. While I’m not complaining about either of these dishes, I’m feeling the pull of wanting to snatch up the last of the Summer’s bounty while yet being nudged into cold weather foods, with thoughts of cold, dark evenings, and *gasp* even the holidays.

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With my mind leaning into the cold months eating raw zucchini, and fresh tomatoes feels somewhat uncouth. In an effort to seque to Fall while still saying my long goodbyes to Summer I created a meal that has a hand in either direction.

Bright Summer tomatoes blend with sun-dried tomatoes for added depth and warmth. Fresh herbs brighten while sweet paprika add a subtle smokiness that spurs up images of evenings in front of the fire. A thick hearty tomato paste that softens under the heat of pasta is again brightened with a casually placed pile of fresh arugula. Topped with freshly grated Parmesan and toasted walnuts it’s the perfect segue of the seasons.

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Tomato Pesto

If you’d prefer to pass on the pasta slather this pesto on a sandwich instead. Perhaps grilled with a slice of Provolone.

 

1 medium tomato

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes (if using oil cured reserved 2 T of the oil to add in later)

1 garlic clove

½ cup fresh basil

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon (optional)

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

¼ cup toasted walnut halves

½ cup grated Parmesan

½ teaspoon salt

 

 

In the bowl of a food processor add the tomatoes and garlic. Blend. Add the remaining ingredients and blend to combine. Tast and adjust seasoning.

Toss this with pasta and top with Parmesan and walnuts. Or simply use as a sandwich spread or a fresh vegetable dip.

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Making salt

You may have guessed by the title of this blog that I have a thing for salt. Resting on a little ledge in the kitchen, always within arms reach, are at least three different salt varieties. In the inside pocket of my purse I carry with me a small container that contains a modest amount of both Fleur de Sel and Maldon. In our kitchen salt is the most frequently used ingredient, which is why I’m surprised that it took us until now to make some ourselves.

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We grabbed the largest containers we could find, (at our house those just happened to be two growlers) and headed to one of our favorite local beaches. Carrying the growlers down to the beach, we ignored the odd looks from the fellow beach goers that were shot in our direction. Eager to gather our ingredient we headed straight to the water stopping only to catch our breath as the cold bite of the pacific caused a temporary stall in the process.

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Soon enough we had the containers filled and we continued our time on the beach searching for shells, skipping rocks and watching the kite surfers rush past us as they soared through the water.

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When we arrived home I passed the beach water through several layers of cheese cloth (four, at least) to capture the bits of sand, rogue sea shells and kelp that came with our catch. The water that was left in the pot was perfectly clear.

With the sea water set somewhere between a simmer and a boil it took nearly four hours for us to reach salt. Every so often we would check the process then return to our daily tasks while we continued to wait for the water to vanish and leave behind a finely grained salt that manages to capture the best of sea.

By the time we had salt the boys had gone to bed. My excitement caused rash thinking as for a moment I contemplated waking them to show the end result. Reason took over and I waited until morning to share with them the fruit of our labor.

We ended up with about 1/2 cup of salt after boiling down 2 gallons of ocean. Not a lot considering the time invested in the process but it remains to be well worth it. It has given us even more reason to return to the beach often and there is nothing wrong with that.

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As for the salt itself – it’s wonderful. We had been enjoying it on our food for weeks before I ended up at a potluck with Mark Bitterman, the author of Salted- a book I adore, and also the owner of The Meadow located in Portland, OR and New York. I had Mark give it a try and he ended up taking home the remaining salt I had brought with me that evening. The next day he sent me a message saying he had a chef try it and the chef “flipped out”.

Needless to say my boys are thrilled with their effort. Now we find ourselves busy keeping up with the demand as word has gotten out that they are making salt and people have been wanting to buy. In the meantime we are enjoying this activity that provides plenty of learning opportunities, fun times together, and many trips to the beach. Not to mention, great salt.

I realize it’s not Friday but this post was shot with film. Most often I try and post my recent film shots of Fridays. Here are other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4.


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I realize it’s not Friday but this post was shot with film. Most often I try and post my recent film shots of Fridays. Here are other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4.

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Fall’s sandwich

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So this is the first week of homeschooling for us. There is still a part of me that can’t believe I just typed that. Never would I have thought homeschooling would feel like the best option for our family. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t wait until our kids were school age. FINALLY I could get a bit of my old “normal” back. A few hours that were mine.

I didn’t have too lofty of ideas of what I would do with that time, it’s often the mundane solitary tasks that I miss the most. Using the restroom without interruptions perhaps, or taking a leisurely stroll through the market without little hands reaching out of the cart at brightly colored packages. Or maybe I would just sit. Yeah, that sounds nice.

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But age five came more quickly than I had anticipated and as the time to really think about the decision for school came it was homeschooling that seemed the most appropriate for him and for us.

We’ve found a great group in which we are surrounded by support, lots of other children, and one in which Baron will get the opportunity to learn from others, rather than just listening (or not listening) to me all day.

We remind ourselves that we are taking it a year at a time. In times of increased anxiety and nervousness, I tell myself it’s a day a time.

As they say, never say never. For here we are. Another year with all three at home and I am thrilled. There will be more noise, more laughter, more wrestling, more glitter, and glue. More tears, more messes, more time, and there will be warm, home-cooked lunches.

On this particular day our timing was perfect as we grabbed a just-out-of-the-oven baguette from a local bakery on our way home. Gabe came up from his garage office and we all gathered around the table to enjoy this hot sandwich slathered with sweet apple butter, topped with smokey ham and aged Gruyere. The broiler melted and caramelized the cheese. I topped mine with arugula, the others didn’t but we all dipped our sandwich in mustard.

This time is sweet and this season is short in the perspective of a lifetime. So right now here we are and with this hot sandwich by my side I’m thinking this is one of the best seasons yet.

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Love sandwiches as much as I do? Check out the sandwich game going on over at MarthaStewart.com and vote for your favorite.

Disclaimer: Hillshire asked me to create a recipe using their product. I was compensated for this post. The content is original and Rodriguez family approved.

The perfect Fall sandwich


Sweet and salty, tangy and fresh this sandwich epitomizes Fall.

⅓ of a baguette, sliced in half
¼ cup apple butter
3 slices each Hillshire honey and smoked ham
2 ounces gruyere
arugula (optional)
2 tablespoons good mustard (our favorite is Maille)

Pre-heat your broiler to high.
Divide the apple butter between the two pieces of baguette. Spread evenly then top with thin slices of ham. Finish with the gruyere then place on a baking sheet under the broiler. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbly and golden in places.
Carefully remove from the oven and top with arugula, if using. Serve with mustard.

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a place for leftovers

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If you could see the inside of my fridge right now you’d be horrified. I am not naturally an organized person. Having three kids has forced me to improve on my organization skills but the fridge is still one area in which I need great improvement.

There are random jars of pickled peppers, capers, and jams that may or may not be expired. There are several yogurt containers that most likely do not contain yogurt but bits of meals from the previous week. Some that cause too much fear in me are saved for a day in which I’m brave enough to tackle the impending smell that will cast doom over the kitchen. Others are simply tossed into the trash even though my conscience screams at me, “Reuse that container! Or at the very least, recycle it!” I pretend I can’t hear it.

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On the rare days that the house is clean and I appear to have my life order, please, just don’t open the fridge, because in there lies the truth. My life is cluttered, messy, often smelly, and chaotic.

My favorite way to clean out the fridge is to wrap those little random leftover bits, the ones that haven’t gone bad, in dough.

Pizza dough is often found in the fridge, so as I’m pulling that out I grab the yogurt container that contains a small amount of last night’s leftover sausage. And perhaps I’ll grab the container that has a few cherry tomatoes and chunks of blue cheese. Oh and there’s a bit of marinated kale too? I’ll take that.

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With a bit of mozzarella and a spoonful of tomato sauce tucked in there, dinner is ready in under 30 minutes. The productive part of me, the one who gets giddy when I’m able to “kill two birds with one stone” as they say, is very proud that I cleaned out the fridge while producing a dinner that pleases everyone. Even those in the family, who shall remain nameless, that are less than thrilled with eating leftovers.

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*This post was part of an ad campaign for Newman’s Own and was compensated for the content I created.

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Calzone

This recipe can be adapted to endless possibilities. You’ll want to make sure you have some sort of cheese and a great red sauce, after that use what you have – roasted vegetables, greens, meat, etc. Any pizza dough will work here, homemade or store bought. Once you have the dough this meal comes together in moments and is easily customizable for those “particular” eaters in the family.

serves 4

1 recipe pizza dough (store-bought dough works beautifully here)

1 cup Newman’s Own Marinara (or your favorite red sauce)

1 cup mozzarella

1 cup cooked sausage

a few basil leaves, roughly torn

¼ cup olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 450*

 

Divide the dough in four equal portions and create a rough circle. Flatten out to about ¼ – ½ inch thick using your hands or a rolling pin. In the center of each dough round add a couple of tablespoons of sauce, some cheese, sausage, and a couple of torn up pieces of basil. This is what I happened to have on hand, feel free to use what you find in the fridge.

Brush a little bit of the olive oil along the edge of the dough. Pull one side of the dough over the filling to reach the other side. Seal the edges and brush the top of the calzone with olive oil. Place on a parchment lined sheet tray or directly onto a pre-heated pizza stone, if you have one.

Bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.

Let cool slightly as the inside will remain very hot for quite awhile. Serve warm along side a simple salad.

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Video: Gradient Cake

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I couldn’t decide on the perfect cake to celebrate my little girl turning one. So I did what any normal person would do – I made three cakes.

It’s possible I regretted this decision as I frantically frosted while the list of things yet to do grew longer and longer as time went on. But in the end there were three. Every little girl needs three cakes at her birthday.

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Many of you commented on the gradient cake from this post. Layers of pink fondant subtly change in tone creating a sweet, modern looking cake. In the name of birthday parties everywhere, my husband and I created a video to show the process of creating this cake.

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I used Fondarific Buttercream Antique White Fondant and also Fondarific Buttercream Red Fondant. As lovely as this fondant smells I still prefer to peel mine off rather than eating it. My children, however, love the stuff.

You will also need a frosted cake, water and a paintbrush, a straight edge (or a good eye), pizza cutter (or sharp knife), rolling pin, and powdered sugar to keep the fondant from sticking.

Begin by covering your cake in a 1/4″ thick layer of fondant.

Roll out the darkest color of the gradient to about 1/8″ thick and cut into two roughly 1″ strips. Use powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Apply a small amount of water to the back of the strips than place on the base of the cake. Apply both strips then add some white to the first gradient color to create a lighter tone. Continue the process until you reach the top of the cake.

Keep the seams in the same place.

There it is.

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Film Friday: Polaroid Edition

Film is back this week but something’s different. Instead of the usual Canon A1 I’ve been playing with a Polaroid Land Camera that my parent’s found at a flea market in Pasadena for a mere $10. I’m in love.

There is something so exciting and satisfying to press the trigger than moments later be able to hold the print. I have much to learn and the camera has seen better days as there appears to be a places in which age has worn little holes into the camera allowing odd pockets of light to enter. It just makes those times when you actually get a print that looks tolerable all the more exhilarating.

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Polaroid Land Camera (taken with a Canon 5d Mark II)

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Bee’s Knees

6130875755_23d312b701_bThe Pantry at Delancey.

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Currants, figs, plums

Earlier this month I taught a food photography class at The Pantry. I was beyond nervous. I have no doubt they could tell.

In a kitchen is where my confidence is at it’s peak. I dance between the stove and the mixer understanding it’s every move and not questioning what to add or when to stir, fold, or whip. I still have much to learn but I am comforted by the  unfamiliar level of confidence that I find when I enter into a kitchen. To teach others how to fold dough upon layers of butter to achieve thousands of perfectly formed flaky sheets is a joy but it doesn’t stretch me in the way preparing to teach food photography did.

Seeing myself as a photographer is a very new concept for me. I’ve always loved taking pictures but an innate passion for it was discovered as a result of this blog. Because of this I was so honored for all of the students who showed up to learn from me.

Before beginning the presentation I prepared I had to stop for a moment to thank them for coming. Not a flippant thank you but one in which I wanted to convey that their presence was like a giant pat on the back. To be given the opportunity to teach this subject that still causes an exhilarating reverence within me  was a gift. It caused me to appreciate where I have come and eagerly anticipate where God has yet to take me.

So again, if you came to that class, thank you. You were all a joy to teach. If you weren’t there and would like to have been, we are planning to teach another class in the Winter. Gabe will be joining me and we will spend time working through the “issues” of shooting in the midst of the Seattle gray. The class will be at The Pantry again. I’ll update you as soon as it becomes available to sign up.

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“Mama, I was thinking we could go for a date. Maybe walk and get a Macaron then go to the park.” He said.

And that’s just what we did. It’s not everyday that I get asked out by my five year old son, but when I do, everything is dropped and we head out the door. One of the best dates of my life.

Happy Weekend everyone.

p.s. I really like you all. Your comments and kind words about my film has spurred me to pursue it further and to always be taking photos. Thank you all for being so encouraging.


Here are other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4. Except for today’s post which was shot with a polaroid land camera.


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Cardamom Honey Caramel Pears

or apples.

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Apparently it hit me. Last week I was urging Summer to stay and for the cool days of Fall to be a distant reality.  Then I started to see Gravensteins pop up along country roads in farm stands that are only attended by a black box with the words, “honor system” painted on the front.

Shortly after that there was pie. The best I’ve made. The warmth of the oven still offensive as the Summer heat lingers.

Then this morning I woke up to a comforting gray sky (as well as a cold which definitely marks the new season) and I finally admitted that I am ready and eager for the changing season.

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It could have also been these caramel covered pears and apples that brought me into the Fall mood. The scent of sweet honey bubbling on the stove wafting through the kitchen carrying with it an exotic, floral smell as freshly ground cardamom was tossed in. The kids were eager to get involved in the dipping process and even more eager to help with the eating of our freshly dipped fruit. Such helpful little kidlets.

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We did manage to save a few and if you are lucky enough to be in Seattle area you can get your hands on these caramel covered beauties by going to SAVOUR in Ballard. My dear friend, Julie, has started a great program where each week in September a local blogger features a homemade treat that can be purchased at the store. I adore this idea as it is so much fun to provide an opportunity for some of you to actually eat the food you are seeing and reading about.

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For those of you who are not in Seattle, I apologize for being a tease. Hopefully, someday we will meet and I will happen to have one of these caramel pears in my purse. Until then I urge you to make these yourself, then open your arms widely and embrace the coming season.

You will also need a thermometer and popscicle or lollipop sticks.

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Fill your sink or a large bowl with a couple inches of ice water. This will be used to quickly stop the caramel from cooking once it’s reached the desired temperature.

In a large sauce pan (the caramel bubbles up so make sure the pot is much larger than the quantity of the ingredients) heat the cream and salt to a simmer. Once small bubbles appear stir in the honey and ground cardamom. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching on the sides or bottoms of the pan.

Continue to cook until the temperature reaches 255-260*F. If not cooked enough the caramel will be too soft and run off the fruit. If cooked too long the caramel will be difficult to chew.

*Tips for Success*

After making these several times now I’ve learned a few things that I want to reiterate so you will have success.

- Boil caramel until it reaches 260*. This will produce a firmer caramel that will better adhere to the apples or pears.

- Use firm pears. If they are too ripe the stick will slide right out.

- Wait to dip the fruit until the caramel is nearly cool. It will be quite thick and sticky but it helps to prevent the caramel from sliding right off.

- Use fruit that is not waxed.

- Chill the fruit before dipping. This sets the caramel immediately. You could also dip then refrigerate.

- Let the excess caramel drip off for at least one minute before dipping into the nuts.

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Honey Cardamom Caramel for apples or pears

 

enough for 8-10 small/medium apples or pears.

Choose apples/pears that are unwaxed as that will help the caramel to adhere.

 

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon mild honey, such as clover

¾ teaspoon salt, kosher

3 cardamom pods, cracked and seeds ground or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cup toasted, roughly ground hazelnuts

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she’s one + a giveaway

Contest closed. The winner was selected via Random.org. Comment #47, Alanna! Congratulations. Thanks for entering. This was fun. Let’s do it again sometime. :)

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She came into our lives a year ago today. Because of her there has been more pink, more ruffles, more rosy cheeked dolls, more kisses, more love, and more joy. Because of Ivy I’m not the only girl in the house any more. Because of our sweet sister baby I’ve gotten to see my boys, big and small, be more kind, compassionate, tender, and loving than I ever thought possible. She’s only been here a year, an incredibly fast year at that, but I can not imagine our little family without her.

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To honor her first year with us we had what we called, “A Ladies and Gentlemen Tea”. The men folk donned felt mustaches while us ladies snacked on tea sandwiches and sipped iced mint tea.

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There was cake. Lots of cake. Some slathered in chocolate while others wore layers of pink fondant.

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Petite sandwiches came in all shapes and sizes. Mini blt’s, cucumber with blue cheese, cucumber with jalapeno and mint, and radish, butter and salt sandwiches.

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Little rounds of melon bathed in a tarragon syrup and were doused in fresh lime juice just before serving.

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All she cared about was the cake.

She initially approached her hefty slice timidly but after one sweet taste she left her manners at the high chair and dove right in. I couldn’t have been happier.

It was the perfect way to celebrate my daughter’s first year.

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To my sweet baby Jane, you are more loved than you will ever know. Your presence in our lives has made each one of us a better person, already.

I melt as I see your brothers stopping everything they are doing to acknowledge you when you enter the room. At the slightest whimper they are at your side giving kisses and doing whatever they can to make your sweet, dimpled smile return.

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Never have I seen your daddy so proud and joyful than when he’s dancing you around our living room. When he looks at you I can see in his eyes that he is eager to do absolutely anything in his power to make your joy his priority. I love your daddy more because of how he loves you.

And then there’s me. Oh sweet sister baby, you inspire in me the strength I need to be the woman I am called to be in order to teach, guide, and love you. Being your mother is a gift I don’t take lightly. Each and everyday I give thanks that I have the honor of being a mom to you and your brothers. Everyday I’m not perfect, there are always things I can do better. Then I wake up to your smile, eager for me to just hold you. Your chubby little arms wrap around me and wash away the doubt and encourage me to simply love you in the way I was first loved.

You, my daughter, are a gift. I am so thankful for each day we have together. I pray we will have many, many birthdays together. For now, we’ll start with this one. Happy 1st Birthday, Ivy Jane.

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For Ivy’s birthday she would like to send one of you lucky readers a gift!

Did you happen to notice that beautiful wood serving board where many of the tea sandwiches sat? That was made by an incredibly talented artist who has a business called, Red Onion Woodworks.

I adore their work and philosophy. “With RedOnionWoodworks, like the rest of my life, I take sustainability very seriously, using only locally-sourced wood including trees taken out of backyards by arborists and hardwood logs salvaged from industrial logging operations, reusing or repurposing shipping materials, and applying non-toxic finish on all my cutting boards and serving trays.” from a featured seller interview on etsy.com

Camille is the artist and has happily agreed to let us giveaway one of her stunning boards.

There are three ways to enter. You can 1. Leave a comment on this post. 2. Follow on Twitter or 3. Like NWS on Facebook. Simple. (For those of you who live outside the U.S. I apologize, this contest isn’t for you as these are very large boards with hefty shipping costs).

I’ll pick the winner, randomly, next Friday, September 16.

The board Camille is giving away will very similar to the one pictured.

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A sweet birthday gift from my birthday girl.

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Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

Melon Salad with Tarragon and Lime

1 small water melon

1 small cantaloupe

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

a couple sprigs of tarragon

1 lime, zest and juice

Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and add the tarragon. Let cool.

Cut the melon and place on serving tray. Drizzle the cool tarragon syrup on top of the melon. Finish from lime zest and a squeeze of lime juice over the top.

Serve.

 

Yellow Cake

adapted from joyofbaking.com

6 large egg yolks

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch x 1 1/2 inch cake pans with pan spray, line bottoms with parchment paper, then spray again. Set aside.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup  milk, and vanilla extract.

In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch sugar, baking powder and salt) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended.  Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 1-2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add the egg mixture, in 3 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg.

Divide the batter and pour into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula.  (Pans will be about half full.)  Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.

Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes.  Then invert the cakes onto a greased rack.  To prevent splitting, re-invert cakes so that tops are right side up.  Cool completely before frosting.

Fudge Frosting

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted to remove lumps

1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a microwave safe bowl combine the chocolate chips, cocoa powder, milk, espresso powder, and butter. Heat in 30 second increments until melted, thoroughly stirring in between each heating. You could also use a double boiler if you prefer.

Carefully beat in the confectioners sugar, one cup at a time. Stir in the vanilla.  Press frosting through a fine sieve if there are any lumps.

Cover and chill until firm, a couple of hours.

Once the frosting is firm remove from refrigerator and place in your mixing bowl.  Beat the frosting for a minute or two or until it is nice and smooth and of spreading consistency.

Frost the completely cooled cakes. Serve with a cold glass of milk.

 

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Film Friday: So long, Summer

It’s Friday, which in most cases means I post some recent images I’ve taken on film.

Here are other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4.

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I really hesitated to put that title up there but really I think it is time to start saying goodbye. Not in the sense that it’s time for hot chocolate and apple pie but more to recognize that these warm days are fleeting and so we must really embrace each moment and squeeze in as much Summer activity as they can handle without bursting and spilling sunscreen and lemonade everywhere.

Next week’s forecast is telling us we are in for a very pleasant Summer send-off. Because of this and the longing to soak up a bit more of Summer, Gabe and I are proclaiming Monday and Tuesday as vacation days. No work, just family and sun. And quite possibly boat excursions, pony rides, slip and slides, cold cocktails and ice cream.

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So now I feel caught in between the stage of still relishing Summer while also looking back on the images of moments captured over the last few months. It’s a good way to say goodbye, by remembering the laughter, the joy and for appreciating what time we did have. While it is still here, if only for a couple more weeks, I plan to enjoy each bit of sun that warms me completely, I’ll long for that in January. I plan on cleaning up more sticky fingers and wiping chocolate ice cream stained faces. I plan on more tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, and corn.

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And then, when all that is done I will greet Fall with it’s apples, squash, scarves, and cider with a genuine excitement. But for now, there’s still a bit more Summer to appreciate.

Fig and Plum Jam

A welcome addition to bread with soft cheese.

3 tart plums, roughly chopped

1 pound fresh figs, roughly chopped

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon ginger

2 cardamom pods, smashed

pinch salt

Add all ingredients to a medium sauce pan with a small splash of water. Cook on medium until reduced and when placed on a plate that has been placed in a freezer, is the consistency of a slightly loose jam. About 15 minutes or so.

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Nigel’s Yogurt Brulee

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My preference is for pie in the morning. A deep dish loaded with seasonal fruit lightly sweetened with sugar wrapped in a buttery crust – a perfectly balanced meal I’d say.

I often wake up with the first thought of the morning leaning towards pastries. At home scones are practically a sixth member of the family. Softly sweet, tender and flaky. Warm with a bit of jam running down it’s sugary top.

If I’m not quite awake and ready to cut in cold butter with flour than I simply walk around the corner to our neighborhood bakery and choose from an assortment of fresh baked goods.

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With the lines happily blurred between breakfast and dessert in my mind it’s no wonder why I was so drawn to this breakfasty version of Creme Brulee.

Tangy and thick Greek yogurt is given the brulee treatment with a light dusting of sugar.

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Let’s start from the beginning. The idea came from Nigel Slater, as many of my latest inspirations have. His book, Real Fast Food, is one of few books that I cook from again and again. Many pages are stuck together, glued shut from random cooking splatterings. Many pages are marked with recipes and ideas to try and I’ve had the book for not quite three weeks.  In this small photo-less book there are over 350 recipes – all of them simple, using few ingredients with most of which you probably have on hand. Some are mere guidelines as is the case of the one we are discussing currently.

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If you are using the broiler, stick the dish of sugared yogurt directly under the preheated broiler for about 2-3 minutes, or until the sugar caramelizes into a golden crust.

Top your breakfast brulee with more fresh berries. Now, of course this could also double as an elegant dessert. Simple, subtly sweet yet fancy and sophisticated as things are when they have a French name associated with them.

*For those who have asked (Hi, Crystal!) This is the torch I use.

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Yogurt Brulee

Nigel says to use a small ramekin or a shallow dish that may be the perfect home for a quiche on another morning. In the bottom of your dish place a handful of berries. I happened to have raspberries, Nigel had blackberries. In an act of defiance I covered my berries with a few passes of honey. On top of the berries there is yogurt. Level the top with a fine coat of sugar. Torch or broil to get a caramel, crisp cap. From my formal brulee training we would coat the custard with three fine layers of sugar torching in between each passing. The result was a deeply caramelized, sturdy and dense sweet layer that shattered with a mighty plunge of the spoon. So that’s what I did.

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Film Friday: in his garden

It’s Friday, which in most cases means I post some recent images I’ve taken on film.

Here are other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4.

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“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”
–John Burroughs

Today I’m appreciating the simplicity of the garden. In theory it’s as simple as placing a single seed in the dirt, adding some water and sunshine then with a bit of patience you are able to unearth fruits and vegetables of every shape and size.

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Now, I do realize that gardening is far from simple. I have found that out after months of watching some things flourish and others stay tiny seedlings in my small garden. Gardening often includes fighting the elements. Fending off the crows from eating the seeds before they have a chance to settle into the dirt and squawking while flapping my arms to keep the squirrels from snacking on the just ripe strawberries. I’m sure the neighbors are highly entertained with this practice.

In theory all it takes is dirt, water, and sun. But what happens when the sun decides to wait until August to show up? Or your dirt isn’t balanced? Or your watering is inconsistent and done by a 3 and 5 year old? Somehow, some things still manage to grow, even if it is only a handful of peas, two strawberries and a prolific sage bush.

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Nothing is more simple with gardening than when you are able to walk into someone else’s patch and have permission to gather as much as you want. The hard work has already been done by the gardener and the season. All you have to do is get dirt under your fingernails as you gather a bounty.

It’s my dad’s garden and he’s incredibly proud of it and I’m certain you can see why.

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Together we dug up potatoes, plucked beans from the vine, tugged on beets until they released their roots from the tight grip of the earth, cut lettuce from it’s core, and snapped basil from the stem creating a waft of summer’s scent to invade the warm air. All this while snacking on a few, tart raspberries.

Merely fifty steps away from the kitchen little was needed to be done to make such fresh produce taste simply wonderful. Imploring basic kitchen techniques of roasting, braising and sautéing we bit into the richness caused by the soil and tasted the sweetness of the sun. With great pride we enjoyed our dinner even though the complexity of actually growing the food was left up to divine biology. Our part in the process was simple. Plant, pick, and enjoy.

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In most areas, if not all, I tend to overcomplicate things. I easily get distracted from the beauty of everyday simplicity because I am focused on the future, what’s to come. And while there is nothing wrong with planning, dreaming and making goals it’s just as important to see the joy in the less complicated. In the present. Marvel at the intricacies of an ear of corn, gasp in delight at the sweetness of a potato having just been dug up, laugh as you fall into the dirt wrestling with a stubborn carrot.

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These uncomplicated moments are to be savored, remembered and abundant.

Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised with the satisfaction of something simple.

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Potatoes with Peas, Onions and Olive Oil

adapted from Nigel Slater

You can use leftover potatoes here. Encourage your potatoes to break up and get smashed about. There is nothing fancy about this dish. Simplicity at its finest.

serves 4 as a side

2 1/4 pounds new potoates

4 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups peas, fresh or frozen

1 cup roughly chopped parsley

salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes in well salted water until tender. Drain and cut into rough bite size pieces. Set aside.

In a large saute pan add the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Toss in the parsley, peas, salt and pepper. Stir in the potatoes. Serve warm.

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(mostly) Film Friday

It’s Friday, which in most cases means I post some recent images I’ve taken on film.

Here are a few other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4. Digital images at the bottom of this post were taken with a 5d Mark II using a 50mm macro.

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I have a favorite spot in Seattle that is quickly becoming favorite spot for many thanks to the attention of The New York Times and Bon Appetit. Of course the food and drinks have a lot to do with it as well.

The Walrus and the Carpenter is marked with a little blue cloud that hangs over the door that leads down a dark hall surrounded by reclaimed wood, exposed brick and eerie yet intriguing portraits. The ominous hall opens up to a bright scene flooded with people, cocktails and oysters. Buckets and buckets of oysters.

The interior is clean, modern with enough farmhouse rustic touches that allows you in sit comfortably. The space is tight, particularly in the kitchen. Yet they manage to produce plate after plate with such ease and grace it’s hard not to watch in awe.

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Chef Renee Erickson’s (also of Boat Street Kitchen) food causes me to ignite with passion and inspiration with each visit. Although the menu is heavy on seafood and I have yet to embrace the beauty of eating things found in the sea I am still overwhelmed by the options. Her food is simple and inventive. The kind of food that causes one to stop talking, close your eyes and simply enjoy the bite.

The menu is arranged in categories of oysters, vegetables, seafood, meat, cheese and sweets. The plates are small and created for sharing. Allowing everyone to enjoy several tastes of many dishes with each visit.

On this particular night I was forced to rush out to my car and retrieve my camera to snap a few shots of tomatoes. Not JUST tomatoes but Billy’s tomatoes bathed in olive oil and vanilla bean. Tomatoes and vanilla, did you know they were friends? They really are.

Vanilla beans are suspended in a fruity olive oil and cause the sweetness of the tomatoes to play the starring role it so deserves. Behind the scenes the vanilla adds a floral perfume that gently reminds you that tomatoes are indeed a fruit (or are they a vegetable?). The soft acidic bite puts them back in their savory place. Crusty bread provides the perfect sponge to soak up the remaining soup of tomato juices, olive oil and vanilla bean.

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If you do find yourself at the Walrus be sure to order a cocktail. I haven’t met one there that I don’t like. Also, it is a rare visit when I don’t order the chicken liver mousse.

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One more thing. If you do go, call me. I’ll meet you there in a instant.

Happy Weekend.

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Tomatoes with Vanilla and Mint

 

inspired by The Walrus and the Carpenter

 

3 perfect tomatoes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 vanilla bean

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

sea salt

 

Slice the tomatoes in 1/4″ rounds.

Combine the olive oil and vanilla bean.

Arrange the tomatoes on a platter. Cover the tomatoes with the oil. Let sit for at least an hour before serving allowing time for the tomatoes to marinate. Just before serving sprinkle with salt and fresh mint.

Serve with bread.

Also, I imagine a cool, tangy chevre would suit this nicely.

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Dating My Husband: Peanut Butter Pie

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It had been on the calendar for over a week but in an instant this date night felt particularly important.

Last Sunday a dear blog friend lost her husband. One moment he was a husband and father to two sweet, young girls and then suddenly he was gone.

Hearing this news took my breath away. The pain I felt for Jennie and her family was deep and lacking in the words I wanted so badly to comfort her with.

There are no words. I continue to seek them but nothing can illustrate the sorrow, the pain, and the sympathy.

I quickly was struck with the reality of how much I take for granted and that this life hangs by a mere thread, a moment. In an instant your everything that has become such a part of your daily existence could be gone. What I anticipate and rely on to be with me on this day, this year, and this lifetime could just as easily vanish like a passing wind. It’s not the thought of my own mortality that scares me but the thought of being left on this earth without someone I love so deeply. That thought is too much to bare.

And that is Jennie’s reality. There have been many moments throughout the week where I have sat staring at my computer screen trying so desperately to think of something, anything, I could do.

Then she posted this. Peanut Butter Pie. It was his favorite.

It was something I could do. A way to honor this man, Jennie’s husband.

With each stir of the spoon and fold of the spatula I thought about Jennie and the man she lost. As I crumbled the cookies and stirred in melted butter I prayed for his girls. As the chocolate shavings rained down over the top of the pie I thought of my own husband and thanked God for this moment I have with him. I am not guaranteed another one but for now he’s here and we have this night and this pie.

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Preparing each course of the meal felt poignant. I took my time as I carefully layered each potato into our potato cake. I felt the warmth of the sun on my back as I gathered the tarragon, thyme, mint, and coriander seeds from the garden. Setting the table with multiple layers of dishes, cloth napkins, and candles informed us that this time was to be taken slowly, enjoyed, and savored.

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The meal was simple but the purpose was powerful.

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We talked, laughed and enjoyed one another’s company. Then we ate pie. Two forks, one pie. We both felt the weight of the significance of the pie. There were moments of no words as we let the sweet, cool bite swallow any words we tried to muster. Breaking the silence we laughed about Gabe’s precise eating style as he carefully tried to make the pie appear as if it wasn’t being devoured by two forks rather than being cut into appropriate pieces. I, on the other hand, simply ravaged the pie, letting the mess be what it is as I enjoyed that moment.

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I hope for more dates with my husband. If it were up to me there will be dozens of more pies eaten together, straight from the pan. But it’s not up to me and I’m okay with that because I trust the one who is in charge. I do know that I have now and I pray that the impact of this moment will be carried with me for a very long time and I will try so very hard to not take the things and people that exist in my everyday for granted.

Particularly my husband. I vow to give more loving glances, more heartfelt “I love you’s”, more gentle kisses, and more peanut butter pie.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

adapted, slightly, from Jennifer Perillo

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies (I used a recipe for Brave Tarts Fauxreo’s)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

5 oz mascarpone

3 oz sour cream

1 cup creamy-style peanut butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350*

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and pie pan. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, until set and crisp. Add the chocolate to the warm crust and let the residual heat melt the chocolate. Spread the chocolate with a spatula and sprinkle the peanuts on top.

Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the mascarpone, sour cream and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and salt. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in another ⅓ of the whipped cream.  Reserve the remaining whipped cream to top the pie. Pour the filling into the prepared pie pan.  Using a microplane, grate chocolate on top of the pie, if desired, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving. Serve with remaining whipped cream.

Green Coriander Dressing

This is for true cilantro lovers as the green coriander packs a floral punch.

1 tsp green coriander seeds

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon fine mustard (such as Maille)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon mascarpone or heavy cream

1 tablespoon minced shallot

salt and pepper

In a morter and pestle crush the green coriander. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

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Potato Cake

adapted from Nigel Slater

5 (or so) potatoes (I used new potatoes)

1 red pepper

1 small onion

1 stick butter, melted

5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400*

Slice all the vegetables very thin. A mandoline will make this job a breeze.

Butter a loaf pan and line with parchment so that the parchment hangs over the edge.

Start with a few layers of potatoes adding butter, a few thyme leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper over each layer. When you deem necessary add a layer of red pepper, then onion.

Continue layering the vegetables, butter, thyme and salt and pepper.

Bake for about an hour or until the top is golden and the potatoes are tender when a knife is inserted through the middle.

Remove from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes before trying to transfer the cake to a plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Peanut Butter Pie // Green Coriander Dressing // Potato Cake

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

adapted, slightly, from Jennifer Perillo

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies (I used a recipe for Brave Tarts Fauxreo’s)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

5 oz mascarpone

3 oz sour cream

1 cup creamy-style peanut butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350*

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and pie pan. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, until set and crisp. Add the chocolate to the warm crust and let the residual heat melt the chocolate. Spread the chocolate with a spatula and sprinkle the peanuts on top.

Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the mascarpone, sour cream and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and salt. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in another ⅓ of the whipped cream.  Reserve the remaining whipped cream to top the pie. Pour the filling into the prepared pie pan.  Using a microplane, grate chocolate on top of the pie, if desired, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving. Serve with remaining whipped cream.

 

Green Coriander Dressing

This is for true cilantro lovers as the green coriander packs a floral punch.

1 tsp green coriander seeds

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon fine mustard (such as Maille)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon mascarpone or heavy cream

1 tablespoon minced shallot

salt and pepper

In a morter and pestle crush the green coriander. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

 

Potato Cake

adapted from Nigel Slater

5 (or so) potatoes (I used new potatoes)

1 red pepper

1 small onion

1 stick butter, melted

5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400*

Slice all the vegetables very thin. A mandoline will make this job a breeze.

Butter a loaf pan and line with parchment so that the parchment hangs over the edge.

Start with a few layers of potatoes adding butter, a few thyme leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper over each layer. When you deem necessary add a layer of red pepper, then onion.

Continue layering the vegetables, butter, thyme and salt and pepper.

Bake for about an hour or until the top is golden and the potatoes are tender when a knife is inserted through the middle.

Remove from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes before trying to transfer the cake to a plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Homemade Mascarpone and broiled peaches

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More time has passed than I had planned when I made a passing promise to give you a lesson in homemade Mascarpone. We used it together when making this Asparagus Tart. And if you had been holding out on that tart until the publication of this post , I am so very sorry. Because now we must patiently wait through two seasons before we see the pointy heads of asparagus emerge through the still chilled earth.

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For this dilemma I offer two solutions with the hope that you will take them as my apology.

1. The asparagus tart would be just as delicious, I imagine, with much of the produce that is currently at its peak. Tomatoes, zucchini, or peppers perhaps?

2. Broiled peaches.

After a gentle dip in a shallow bath of sugar, peach halves are placed directly under the broiler. During those brief moments under the flame the peach warms just to the point of coaxing all it’s floral sweetness to be at its prime while at the same time creating a thin, crackly layer of caramelized sugar. With a hefty dollop of your homemade mascarpone, left to warm and puddle ever so slightly with the remaining heat of the peaches, you have yourself a perfectly simple summer dessert. Or in the case of this morning, a breakfast of champions.

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Now I realize that the thought of making your own cheese may seem daunting and yet it does sort of have this alluring, rustic sound to it.

“What did you do today?” “Oh, you know, not much. Except that I did make cheese.” “?!??!!”

Mascarpone is the perfect starting point into the world of home cheese making. One that I seem to step deeper and deeper into. Perhaps someday I’ll have a goat. She’ll be called Ginny and together we’ll make the most creamy Chevre and tangy blocks of goat cheddar. But for now I’ll start by simply adding a bit of lemon juice to cream and wait for time and gravity to create a creamy, soft cheese with a very faint tang. Mascarpone has since replaced my hefty scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream next to my summer’s pie. It combines the best of both worlds – a non-taste bud numbing temperature with a an impossible richness that holds its own next to sweet, tart fruit or when used as a base for a savory tart or pizza.

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*One last note on a completely unrelated, yet equally delicious topic. I have not forgotten about your enthusiasm for Random Acts of Cookies. I was blown away by your response and I say we continue on with our plans to start a movement. But I need your help. I will be thinking of ways in which we can share with one another our cookie acts but for now, I’d love for you to tell us about it, and/or post pictures to the NWS Facebook page. Let’s encourage one another in this and love on others one cookie at a time.

Thanks for your excitement!

Broiled Peaches with Mascarpone

 

2 cups pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized, if possible) cream

1 T fresh lemon juice

 

Heat to 190* on medium low. Continually stir, taking care not to scorch the bottom.

When the cream has reached 190* add the lemon juice. It will immediately get a touch thicker. Heat at 190* for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from the heat, cover the pan and refrigerate over night or until completely cool.

Once cream has cooled it will be nearly as thick as sour cream.

Place a strainer lined with four layers of cheesecloth over a medium bowl. Add the thickened cream to the cheesecloth. Gather the corners and carefully tie the ends to form a bundle. Hang this in the fridge and let drain into the bowl for another 12-24 hours, or overnight. There should be a couple tablespoons of whey left in the bowl after it’s finished draining.

 

Broiled Peaches

4 peach halves

1/2 cup sugar

Turn your broiler on to high. Place a sheet tray directly under the flame.

In a shallow bowl or on a plate, add the sugar. Dip the peach halves into the sugar several times to get a nice, thick crust of sugar.

Quickly move the peaches to the broiler and watch carefully.

Remove from the broiler once the sugar has melted and just caramelized and the peaches have warmed through and their juices start to bubble and spurt, about 5 minutes.

Top with a good amount of mascarpone and serve immediately.

 

After the cream has hung and drained your mascarpone is finished and ready to use.

Check out these resources for homemade mascarpone. They helped me along the way.

Baking Obsession: Homemade Mascarpone

Making Mascarpone at Home

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Behind the scenes

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Did I ever tell you about the time I filmed a TV commercial?!

I had been keeping it a little secret but now it’s time as at any moment you may be seeing my face plastered over your tv, if you haven’t already.

I wanted to give you a glimpse of what it looked like from my perspective. A little behind the scene, if you will.

First, let’s start with how it all came about. I was contacted by a research company through my blog. They had asked if I would be willing to test out an unnamed dish washing detergent, if I agreed they would send a free sample pack. Sold.

I knew from the beginning that there was a possibility of my mug ending up on tv but it was a long shot and honestly I was satisfied with the opportunity to sample some new detergent. Since becoming a mom and having to run the dishwasher multiple times a day I’ve come to realize that it’s the little triumphs throughout the day that make life easier. Clean dishes is indeed one of those triumphs.

Within a couple of days I received the product. I had stockpiled some dishes – you know, for research’s sake, not due to laziness. I followed the instructions that read, “Do not pre-rinse.” I put some of my most difficult dirty dishes to the test. A pan that was coated thick with dried-on egg, a pot that had simmered cowboy beans all day and was left over night so that the interior of the pan was no longer visible and what remained was a thick coating of petrified beans. And a large dutch-oven that had spend the whole day braising pork shoulder.

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photo by gabe

From the moment I opened up the dishwasher that ran with the sample detergent, I was sold. Dishes that typically sat in the sink all day to soak were now spotless having simply placed them in the dishwasher straight from the stove.

I tested the product for one week with each load I broke all the cardinal sins of how to properly clean dishes. I overloaded, I left crusty food on the plates, I didn’t soak the red dyed wine glasses or pre-scrub the ring of dried coffee stains that marks most of our mugs by the end of one day. The consistency remained. The moment the dishwasher hushed marking the end of its cycle I eagerly opened its door, letting the last moments of the drying cycle fog my glasses. And every time I was impressed. My wine glasses shimmered like I never knew they could and that dreaded egg pan that has caused many rifts in my marriage as we casually argued over who would have egg-pan-clean-up duty came out egg-free. Marriage saved.

Over a skype-interview with the research company I gave an honest and glowing review. In the background the kids were competing for my attention and the dishwasher was running its second load of the day.

A few days later I was informed that I had been selected to be in the commercial for this product.

Wha?!

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From that point it was a whirlwind. One week later we all met at my parent’s house (where we host many of our cooking classes) to film. At 6 am I woke up and looked out the window to see a swarm of people unloading a large moving truck filled with lighting equipment. I went back in bed and soaked in that moment and prayed that I would stop shaking by the time the girl with the black and white marker snapped that slate and called “action”.

The crew was immensely kind, calming my nerves and encouraging me even though I was a bit camera-awkward. I wasn’t given a script. Everything that I said was sincere as I talked about my experience during the week of testing.

The most thrilling part of the day was that my brother, a very talented cinematographer, was manning the second camera. There was one point where it felt like it was just my brother and I, even though there were twenty others standing close by.

He was filming me as I was taking pictures of a salad I had just composed. He directed me to “stand-up then slowly crouch down while taking pictures.” As I snapped away my mind flashed to him as a 12-year-old running around the house with my dad’s giant camcorder. He was filming me then as he was now. I was a shy child but loved any chance to be center stage. We were filming a mock newscast. I was the journalist on the scene interviewing my dad about whatever dramatic news worthy event we had made-up.

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That broadcast clings in my memory as a rare moment when I wasn’t just his pesky younger sister that constantly tried to vie for his attention and in the process would completely annoy him (I get it, I was pesky). He’s five years older, with that age gap I always looked up to him for guidance and lessons in all things “cool”. My entire life, even now as I’m 29 and he’s 34, I look to him for his thumbs up. In adulthood I have tried to step out of the shadow of little sister and into the realm of equal, friend, and simply sister. Now, I am happy to call my brother a friend.

In that moment during the shoot we were both living out childhood fantasies. We were working together, as peers. He was fulfilling his calling and I was doing something that I love. In that moment we had the rare opportunity for our paths to collide – I felt that same giddy joy as I did when I was 7.

In an instant it was done. Gabe and I quickly packed up our family and left for Seattle as I had to rush back to teach a class that night.

As quickly as it all happened it was over and it felt like a dream. Since that day I have continually asked myself, “did that really happen?” But now as it airs I am once again faced with the nervous shakes and praying for them to subside as I did on my bed that morning.

I am so grateful for the opportunity and I stand behind the product that is the star of the commercial. I’m afraid, however, that I may have been caught with the bug. The being-in-front-of-a-camera bug. That’s not true, that bug has always been in there but I suppressed it. Everyday life seems just so mundane. I’m only kidding, mostly. I am so honored to have been a part and thankful to the crew for making it such a fun day and for my family who happily played with my children enabling me to have some fun in front of a camera.

This is something I have never done before. Rarely do I promote a product on the blog, unless it is something that I love. Which is the very reason why I agreed to do the commercial. The majority of my day is spent caring for a family of five. Much of that is cleaning up after them, which I’ll be honest, I’m a horrible cleaner. Dishes pile up, as does the laundry and the long list of items to be dusted, scrubbed, put away and swept up.  Anything that can make that burden slightly lighter I will cling on to. I know I am not alone in this and felt that you all should know that this product, Finish Quantum, works incredibly well. It has replaced my old detergent and I have no intention of going back. It makes my job a little easier and helps me quickly get back to the job of dirtying dishes – which I enjoy doing and do it quite well.

The commercial.

Disclosure: Opinion expressed prior to disclosure of manufacturer and product “Finish Quantum®”. Appeared in a TV commercial after product use. Compensated for endorsement.

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Film Friday: Night out

I apologize for being a bit late on this one but I assume you’ll forgive me when you hear that I chose swimming in lakes, long walks, and watching the sun fade into the ocean instead of sitting inside writing this post. But now we are home from vacation and I am so happy to be back in this space. I miss it when I’m gone.

It’s Friday, which in most cases means I post some recent images I’ve taken on film.

Here are a few other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

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2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4.

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It’s been awhile since a “Dating My Husband” post has appeared on the blog and the reason for this is simple, we hadn’t been doing a good job of dating. I didn’t say it was a good reason, just a simple one.

The effects of this quickly became evident in our marriage. Without time spent reconnecting I began to see my husband, my partner in this crazy life, as a roommate. Someone I share our space with but that’s about it. Our conversations cover matters of all things practical and that’s where they end. The tasks get completed, the children are cared for and loved, the businesses tended to, and after that we’re tired.

Long days of caring for three kidlets who require more of me than I ever thought possible, cause me to want to curl up and jump into my own world after they get tucked into bed. In this world the only person I have to think about is myself. I settle in there, content and eager to have nothing and no one who needs me because really, I feel I have nothing more to give.

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But there is someone else and although he doesn’t whine as loudly as the three other members of this family he does need me and I need him. Even when I feel as if I have nothing to give him I must, because my marriage is my most important relationship on this earth and it requires time and energy in-spite of the fact that in this season, there is very little of that.

So we arranged for someone other than ourselves to tuck the kidlets into bed and we went out, on a date.

With cameras in hand we played tourist in our own city scavenging the market after hours looking for the right shot. When we weren’t shooting we walked side by side and enjoyed the golden glow of the summer evening. Sharing our passion for photography we compared camera settings and talked composition, falling deeper in love, in a nerdy sort of a way.

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by Gabe

We laughed as we wandered the streets trying desperately to find the perfect restaurant for the evening after we found out our favorite was closed for the night. I can get a little too philosophical about restaurant selections and can put far too much pressure on the night by fearing the wrong choice.

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Gabe stepped up and made the final decision, Seatown Snackbar. For that night, it was perfect. We cozied up to the corner table with a view of both bustling action and the setting sun. The food was comforting, satisfying and familiar. Fitting for the night as we set out to reconnect and find that comfort in one another that we had inadvertently lost.

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In no time at all we had found each other again. Not the person I argue with over whose turn it is to change the latest dirty diaper but my husband, my partner and my best friend. I found the man that I used to stay up with until the sun started a new day. The one I would watch drift in and out of sleep as he desperately tried to stay awake so we could enjoy another moment together. I would giggle over the soft rumble of his snores, finding it endearing when the thought of waking up to him and his rumbles every morning was just a dream.

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Film Friday: random acts of cookies

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On a particular morning, not unlike many before, I started to head down a dangerous path in my own head. You know the one – questions arise of the purpose of your path, and why you are not where you think you should be, and a wave of self-doubt starts to build. Usually I wander down that path, taking my time to really explore the scenery. Often unpleasant and dark, dreary and exhausting. It’s a path where the wandering seems to have intention but from up above it’s an endless circle, with no particular purpose except possibly to veer you off of the path you are really supposed to be traveling.

On this particular morning I had just started wondering before I realized I didn’t want to go there. I could tell on this day the there was no hope of it being productive and it was destined to be destructive and dangerous. So I stopped. And I realized that the only way I was going to keep off of that path was to concern myself with others. To take the focus off of myself and to redirect it towards bringing a smile to someone else’s day.

So I went home and baked. Smore’s krispie treats to be precise. My mind was content to focus on the browning of the butter, letting the wafts of soft nuttiness wash away any lingering bits of negativity. It’s hard to not smile when dealing with marshmallows and that’s just what I did as I stirred them into the browned butter.

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Any remaining sense of aggression was pounded away as I crushed graham crackers and stirred them together with rice cereal and dark chocolate chips. The incessantly sticky marshmallows and butter brought everything together and just ever so slightly melted the chocolate. Not long after we sampled then packaged the rest up to deliver.

Random Acts of Cookies.

A cookie. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s a guarantee of a better day, especially when it’s completely unexpected.

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On that particular day I never even thought to wander down that destructive path again. I was happy to be in the kitchen and even happier to imagine the smiles brought on by the surprise of something sweet. I’ve found a new path that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with thinking of someone else and in that I am filled with joy.

There will be more Random Acts of Cookies. I think we should start a movement. Of course it takes more than cookies to heal the deep pain present in this broken world but it’s definitely a start. A good start.

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Smores Krispie Treats

 

5 tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

5 cups mini marshmallows

5 cups crisped rice cereal

9 sheets graham crackers (yields 2 cups crumbs)

1 cup dark chocolate chopped or chips

Butter an 9 or 10” square pan.

In a large pan melt the butter on medium heat. Once all the melted the butter will continue to boil and the milk solids will start to bubble up. The butter will foam. Once the foam settles back on itself you will have browned butter. You should notice a nutty smell and there will be flecks of golden butter bits on the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and add the marshmallows and salt. Stir to combine and let sit.

Crush the graham crackers to create crumbs. Keep some pieces larger so you’ll have bits of graham crackers to bite in to.

In a large bowl combine the rice cereal, graham crackers, and chocolate chips.

Continue to stir the brown butter and marshmallows until they are completely melted. This will also help to cool the butter enough so that it doesn’t melt the chocolate chips too much.

Add the marshmallows to the cereal mixture and stir to combine. Press firmly into prepared pan and set aside to cool, about an hour. Cut and serve. Package and give.

 

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grilled soft cheese, thyme honey and fresh figs

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Here’s the story of how I met my new favorite snack.

First I saw this image of brie with honey and figs and thought, “I must eat this.” Then a couple weeks later I ran into another image, this time the cheese stood alone but was grilled.

You’ll notice a couple things so far. 1. I adore cheese. 2. I adore Pinterest.

So I married those two ideas, threw in a little inspiration from this and now have an incredibly simple and stunning appetizer that is best served on a picnic blanket, under the sun, and washed down with light, refreshing adult beverage of your choice.

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Isn’t that often how ideas start? By the inspiration of others? Sure, there are those wonderfully rare moments when a sudden gust of creativity hits, nearly knocking me over before I have a chance to write down whatever revelation just struck. In those moments I am thankful, brimming with excitement and grateful.

Most of the time inspiration is gleaned from one another. An image, recipe, phrase, etc. somehow grabs my attention. I write it down, take a photo of it, or pin it on one of my boards, and save it for another day. That initial idea gets reworked in my head and comes out with a stamp that is more uniquely mine. I have not necessarily made the original idea better but I have adapted it to resemble my own creativity in a way that makes me resonate with it even more clearly.

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It has been said that everything under the sun has been done. Sometimes I am disheartened by that, wanting so badly to create an idea, a recipe, an image that is evocative, new, ground breaking – only to find that someone has already done it.

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The hope is found in the continuous process of strengthening your creativity. As you persist in the process of creating, your own voice becomes more clearly defined. After a while you have created a style and an artistic identity. Believe me, if it’s not there already, it will come. Often we are far too immersed in our own work to realize it. Ask loved ones around you to describe your artistic voice. You’ll be amazed at how clearly your message is coming across and you’ll have the beauty of seeing yourself through the eyes of people who love you most.

Ideally we should humbly inspire and be inspired by others. We should give credit where credit is due and applaud other artists around us. And we should, without a doubt, eat more cheese that has been grilled.

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Grilled Soft Cheese, Thyme Honey and Fresh Figs

 

1 small wheel of soft cheese such as brie or a triple cream (I picked this one up from Trader Joe’s for under $5 and was very happy with it)

1/4 cup honey

a couple sprigs of thyme

fresh figs (as many as you’d like)

In a small saucepan add the honey and thyme and heat on low. You simply want to warm the honey and infuse it with the flavor of thyme. If it starts to simmer, remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat a grill (indoor or outdoor) until very hot. Carefully place the cheese on the grill and sear until marks appear and the inside starts to melt, about one to two minutes on each side. Using a spatula, remove the cheese from the grill and transfer to your serving platter. Half and quarter several figs and place on top of the grilled cheese. Drizzle the figs and cheese with the honey. Serve immediately with crackers and/or bread.

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Film Friday: out of the city

It’s Friday, which in most cases means I post some recent images I’ve taken on film.

Here are a few other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4.

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We can get there in just over an hour and once I’m there it’s hard to pry me away. I’ve always had a sweet spot for Skagit county and all the lush farmland that surrounds it but now that my parents recently moved there I’ve fallen more in love.

At my core I am a city girl, thriving in the midst of the hustle, comforted by the glare of lights and the soothing murmur of life that rarely sleeps. Removed from the city for extended periods of time and I get itchy for the culture that is prevalent in the form of restaurants, theater, museums and diversity. But with two energetic young boys and a little girl who is starting to cross the line from baby into toddler-hood, we need more than our 10×20 foot yard to stretch our legs.

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Directly off the exit for my parents house we are welcomed to farm country with rows and rows of lush greens that hide potatoes just under the deep, dense soil. It’s a county where cows seem to outnumber the residents and the radiant light appears more gold and alive than our familiar city sun. Down any unassuming, country road we are bound to hit a vegetable stand, a dairy farm, cheese stand, gourmet food shops, or an incredible bakery.

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Back at the little farm that is my parent’s house my children and their cousins converge to play. For hours on end they roam the yard returning only for nourishment in the form of juice and fruit snacks (it is grandma and grandpa’s house after all, where spoiling is a prerequisite). With dirt under their fingernails they are delighted at the chance to visit the cows and feed the chickens.

Yesterday’s excursion to the little farm brought with it hours of entertainment in the form of the neighbor using a large backhoe to clear out part of the woods behind the house. Seven little children lined up against the white picket fence to view the excitement that no TV show could ever produce. They stood there in silent awe as the neighbor moved the bucket of the tractor up and down as if the tractor was waving to the kids. They laughed in delight then scurried off to the next adventure.

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On another recent trip Baron, my mom and I visited a local berry farm to pick our fill of strawberries. We were given the option of walking or riding the tractor to the picking fields. With a five year old boy in our midst the choice was clear – we rode the tractor.

In a scene reminiscent of Blueberries for Sal(a childhood favorite) we picked our berries. Kerplink, Kerplank, Kerplunk. My mom was the most proficient picker while I busied myself taking pictures and Baron snacked on a box of Nerds (again, we were with grandma, spoiling is a must. Having had that same sort of joyous spoiling from my grandma, I am not one to stop such behavior).

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A half-hour and fourteen pounds later we packed up our ruby treasure and headed home where I joyfully cleaned and froze all of the berries destined for smoothies, jam perhaps or simply to be saved as a taste of summer when the dreary winter months are upon us.

This morning we are back in the city. I walked a half block from my house to the bakery up the street to grab a coffee and a croissant, showering buttery flakes with every bite. On the short walk home the Space Needle towers over the skyline as Mt. Rainer desperately tries peek out of the clouds that are rapidly fading as the sun (yes! SUN!) begs them to leave. I am happy to be home yet comforted knowing that the little farm awaits our return when our legs and minds need to stretch.

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sage, walnut pesto – three ways

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What does one do when your garden is rampant with sage (and sadly, very little else)? Well, you make pesto of course.

Before the brilliance of sage pesto, I had relegated sage to merely a Thanksgiving herb, getting neatly tucked under turkey skin just prior to roasting. Or casually stirred into sauteed mushrooms before the box of Stove Top gets dumped on top (yes, Stove Top. No matter how hard I try, my family can not deviate from the box). No longer saved for November, we’re eating sage year-round.

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Handfuls of pine-y and eucalyptus scented sage get thrown into a food processor with a bit of parsley and mint. These additional herbs help to calm the sage, as does the walnuts, Parmesan and lemon. What you are left with is just the right amount of wondering-through-the woods-after-a-good-rain taste, but not so much so that you feel as if you are eating the forest.

Because of our bountiful bush I was able to whip up a hefty batch leaving me an ample supply in the fridge. So I ate it, marinated with it, turned it into an appetizer, and whisked it into pleasantly biting dressing.

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It is sort of reminiscent of the Fall, but with the mass of gray days we’ve been having in Seattle, it seems only fitting.

In order to enjoy this recipe you must be a fan of pungent herbs and not afraid of sage. If you, like me, revel in their floral aroma and not only enjoy eating them but also drinking herb flavored beverages, then you are in the right place. I suggest you start toasting your walnuts. Don’t worry about the sage, I have plenty to share.

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Sage, Ricotta, Pickled Cherry Crostini

One a hearty slice of crusty bread (toasted or not) add a mound of ricotta with a sprinkle of salt. On top of that a smaller heap of sage pesto and finally, a few slices of pickled cherries.

Pickled Cherries

10 oz (roughly 3 cups) Bing cherries (I left the pits in)

3/4 cup (5 1/2 oz) white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar (more if you want more sweetness)

4 cardamom pods, crushed

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole coriander

pinch chili flakes (optional)

Combine everything in an airtight container. Shake to mix. Refrigerate. These can be enjoyed a couple hours after mixing and up to one week after. The longer they sit the more pickled they taste. My favorite is 24 hours after they’ve been sitting in their pickle bath. After that I start to add a bit more sugar to balance the tang.

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Sage Walnut Pesto

 

¼ cup Italian parsley

¼ cup tablespoons mint

1 cup (2 ½ oz.) sage, packed

2 garlic cloves

½ cup (2 oz.) walnuts, toasted

½ cup (1/2 oz.) grated Parmesan

½ cup (3 ¾ oz.) extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

salt

Combine first six ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend to a rough puree. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the machine running stream in the olive oil. Add the zest, lemon juice, then taste and add salt to taste. Adjust seasonings to your preference.

 

Sage Pesto Roasted Chicken

adapted from Zuni Cafe, via Molly (Orangette)

serves 4

1 medium-size whole chicken (about 4 pounds)

salt and pepper (about ¾ teaspoon kosher salt per pound)

½ cup sage pesto

A day or two before roasting generously apply salt and pepper all over the chicken – inside and out. I’ve done this a few hours before and it’s been fine but if you are a better planner than me, I highly recommend salting the bird at least a day in advance. The salt has a chance to permeate the bird replacing the awkward mess of a wet brine.

Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to roast. Make sure the chicken is in a pan with sides so the juices don’t leak on to anything in the fridge.

When ready to roast pre-heat the oven to 450* for at least 30 minutes prior to roasting. Cover the chicken with the sage pesto and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan breast side up. Place in the oven then roast for 30 minutes. Carefully flip the bird over and roast another 15-20 minutes. Carefully flip over once again and finish breast side up for another 5-10 minutes. Total roasting time should be 50-60 minutes.

Remove from the roasting pan and lest rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

 

Sage Pesto Vinaigrette

¼ cup sage pesto

2 teaspoons champagne vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the pesto and vinegar in a small bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil while continually stirring. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Dressing can be well covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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Film Friday: Block Party

It’s Friday, which in most cases means I post some recent images I’ve taken on film.

Here are a few other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1.

2.

3.

4.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon A1 50mm 1.4.

This week started off with a block party. Which, in my opinion, is a perfect way to start your week. Pizza by the slice, beer in the sun, bright balloons, friends mingling, kids freely running amok, ice cream, macarons, and little white dresses stained with tomato sauce.

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A good week also involves the learning of new things. This week I’ve learned (or re-learned in some cases):

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I am not perfect, nor do I want to be. So stop trying and stop the dissatisfaction when the perfection is not there – because it won’t be.

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Cardamom, espresso, dried cherries and chocolate make a winning combination when bound together with butter, flour and sugar in a cookie.

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Everyone’s journey is designed for them. I have my own. Stop wishing for a new route  because this one was designed for me.

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Being happy for people is a lot more fun than envying them.

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I am in more control of my life than I let myself believe. But I can also rest assured that ultimately it is not me that is in control.

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Thoughts can be good or bad. Stop the bad ones and turn them into good.

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Sweet potatoes roasted with paprika is gosh darn amazing.

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When in doubt, read a good book.

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Somewhere there is a balance of contentment while maintaing a wild imagination that creates lofty dreams. Maybe someday I’ll find it.

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Sometimes the answer is to stop thinking and start doing for other people.

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From now on finely julienned fennel will always be found in my coleslaw.

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Even though our little house lacks in space, enough chairs, and is cluttered with kids and all their things I must open my doors and invite people in and feed them. It feeds me.

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Honey Herb soda

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In reality I am not the advanced gardener of my dreams. The vision of me wading through overgrown rows of sun warmed produce with a wicker basket in one hand while the other plucks craggy and beautifully imperfect heirloom tomatoes from their fragrant vines, is just that – a vision. I have to believe that someday it will happen but until then I’ll live in my carefully painted dreams of the jungle-like garden overflowing with rainbow colored chard, enough sugar snap peas to last an entire afternoon of snacking, and  berries by the buckets, able to fill dozens of pies and tarts.

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In this present time I can, however, produce enough herbs that leave me feeling anxious as to what I am to do with them all. Currently my sage is large enough to swallow one of the children whole and whatever the sage doesn’t devour I have no doubt the parsley will. In an effort to make room for something other than herbs in the garden I’ve formed numerous bouquets with the flowering parts, made pesto in various forms, and created this enticing bubbly soda that satisfies and refreshes as the best summer beverages should.

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Honey Herb Soda

 

I’ve used honey as the sweetener here giving me all the more reason to drink this by the pitcher. Make this floral and fizzy brew all the more fancy with the addition of herb ice. Simply put pretty little herb leaves and flowers into ice trays, fill with water, freeze and serve.

1/2 cup honey

1 cup water

a few sprigs herbs such as thyme, mint, rosemary, basil, lemon verbena, tarragon, etc. You can mix and match as you please.

lemon

In a small sauce pan bring the honey and water to a boil. Reduce to medium-high and simmer rapidly for three minutes. Turn off the heat and add the herbs. Steep and let cool.

From this point you can remove the herbs, cover and refrigerate and keep for at least two weeks.

To make a glass of your herb soda add a couple of tablespoons of the honey herb syrup to a large glass. Add 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice then top with soda water. Taste and adjust sweetness/lemon to your taste. Add your fancy ice and straw. If you have one of those big floppy summer hats, now would be a completely appropriate time to wear it.

 

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Homemade Butter Finger Candy

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I started making homemade pasta when I was eight. My parents kindly complimenting my bowls of mush while eating soppy noodles with much oohing and ahhing. I’ve since improved my pasta making skills.

The moment I realized I could make my own butter I was out of my seat and shaking a jar of cream.  As time allows I make my own puff pastry, soft cheeses, mayonnaise, marshmallows, dressings, etc. And even though our garden is quite meager, I get giddy when I am able to feed my family from the tiny seeds I planted just weeks prior.

As we are so often surrounded by pre-made products I am incredibly satisfied when I am able to fulfill a need using raw materials readily found in my kitchen. Most often it is things like pulling warm homemade bread out of the oven or sewing an airy summer dress for my daughter that calls upon these emotions and connects me to the generations prior for which this was their normal.

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For some reason it is those classic childhood flavors in the form of sugary candy that I rarely think to recreate at home. I find such mystery in their creation, quite possibly because I don’t recognize a single ingredient found on the back of their colorful exterior. I, in a more-frequent-than-should-be moment, enjoy the familiarity of their flavor and move on never stopping for a moment to think, I could make this. In fact it could quite possibly even be better.

Their cloyingly sweet flavors could be made less harsh through the use of less refined ingredients. The familiar waxy melt of their chocolate that contains little to none of the ingredients found in those football shaped cacao pods could be replaced with bittersweet chocolate that puddles and melts against the heat of the tongue.

Such a revelation occurred when I happened upon a recipe for homemade peanut butter finger candy. As a child I adored the odd orange candy that shattered under the weight of my young, eager bite. Strangely enough I don’t think I realized that peanut butter was the main ingredient for this candy until recently. In my young mind it was just something crunchy, sweet, and there was chocolate – no further thinking needed. Even more alluring was the memory of these candies crushed into bits and stirred into creamy vanilla flavored soft serve. Yes, that’s right – a Butterfinger blizzard. So cold it makes your head hurt but so satisfying that you don’t care.

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The trick in recreating flavors you’ve enjoyed all throughout your life is getting them to satisfy you in the same way they did in your memory. You want them to be better than the store-bought version but not so much so that they no longer resemble what you were originally trying to create. It’s a fine balance and I am thrilled to report that this recipe has achieved such convenient-store-candy-recreating success. And you must, for the love of a Blizzard, stir these sugary crumbs into ice cream.

Continue for the recipe.. (more…)

Homemade Peanut Butter Finger Candy

 

adapted from “The Ultimate Candy Book” by Bruce Weinstein

Candy making can be intimidating but the result is well worth the headache. A candy thermometer is crucial in beginning to make candy. Pull the sugar as soon as it reaches 290* and work quickly. Be so very careful when working with hot sugar as its burn hurts more than any other. Have I scared you? NO? Good. Yes? Sorry. Again, I assure you with a little patience and persistence you will soon have homemade butter fingers. Now get going.

*In the comments someone just asked a great question. “What candy thermometer do you recommend?” I use the Taylor Commercial Waterproof Digital ThermometerI like the easy to read digital face. It does not, however, clip to the side. If you do it will melt – speaking from experience. But I’ve made candy so often I can tell when the sugar is getting close to done, then I insert the thermometer just to be sure. This thermometer measures quickly and again it’s easy to read so you don’t have to hold it there forever. The classic Candy & Deep Fry Thermometer is nice because it can stick to the side of the pan but I find it hard to read accurately and in candy making, accuracy is very critical.

1 cup smooth peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt (kosher, fleur de sel, Maldon)

½ vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional)

1 cup sugar

⅓ cup light corn syrup

½ cup water

¾ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine too)

Butter an 8-inch square pan then set aside. In a small, microwave-safe bowl (if you don’t have a microwave you can use a double boiler) combine the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Set that aside.

In a very clean medium saucepan combine the vanilla seeds (if using), sugar, corn syrup and water. Using clean hands combine those ingredients and remove any grains of sugar left on the sides of the pan with your fingers and a bit more water. I use my hands for this because I can be certain to feel if any gritty grains remain on the side and the sugar in the bottom of the pan is lump-free. You may also use a pastry brush to wet down the sides of the pan if you prefer.

On medium-high heat cook the sugar until it reaches 290*, just under hard crack. While the sugar cooks warm the peanut butter mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds. Keep warm. Once the sugar has reached 290* quickly add the peanut butter mixture and stir to combine. The mixture thickens quickly so once combined immediately put the mixture in the buttered pan. Let cool for about 7 minutes on a wire rack. While it is still warm carefully scatter your chocolate on top. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Using an offset spatula spread the chocolate evening over the peanut butter candy. Place in the fridge to set for about 30 minutes.

Once the candy has set run a knife or the edge of an offset spatula around the edge of the pan then invert. The candy should pop out but if it doesn’t insert your knife into the corner and pry it up until it pops out.

Cut the candy into desired shapes. I like to keep my stash in a ziploc bag in the freezer. I love the texture of this candy when it’s frozen and then it’s always ready to be added to vanilla ice cream.

 

Peanut Butter Finger Ice Cream

serves 2, generously

2 cups vanilla ice cream

⅓ cup (more is okay too) homemade peanut butter candy pieces

Place your candy in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to break into smaller pieces. They don’t need to be uniform, in fact it’s better if they aren’t.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add the ice cream and mix until it is the texture of soft serve. Add the candy pieces and mix just to combine. Serve immediately.

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Tequila Peach Pie

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I asked her to teach me her secret to making pie. Grandma was after all the bringer of pie to all family functions so of course I thought to learn from her. I wasn’t a foreigner in the often intimidating land of pie making as my mother frequently gifted us children with pie. The process of incorporating cold butter into flour didn’t seem to frighten her so I too wasn’t scared. But Grandma’s pies were different. So tender not even a sharp knife could cleanly slice through it, instead victims of the pressure of the knife lay in the bottom of the pie plate in the form of sweet crumbs. I considered it my duty to claim those crumbs with my fingers as their liberator and my mouth their new home.

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She gathered her ingredients; flour, salt, sugar, milk, and oil. OIL?! No butter, I repeat, no butter. A coffee cup was her measuring cup and it was sometimes filled to the top, other times not. Once all the ingredients were added she mixed it with her hands using her years of experience to determine if she needed “more of this or that”. She was reluctant to offer up a recipe as it was the “feel” of it that was a better judge than precise measurements. What emerged from the oven just over an hour later was a perfect pie just as Grandma always makes.

I find Grandma’s method of baking so comforting. Grandma doesn’t find herself in debates over how she measures flour, she just bakes. She has gifted people with pie, I imagine, no less than a thousand times. Her church, our family and her friends have all had the pleasure of enjoying her impossibly tender crust. It is Grandma’s experience that guides her baking.

While there is no arguing that baking is a science I find that often all the discussion of the preciseness necessary in baking can scare people away from actually attempting to form a dough. Experience is often the best teacher,  as is the case with baking. If you, like me, had a mother who enjoyed baking and did so often in the home, than most likely that fear is minimal. But if you didn’t I can understand that there is fear in the unknown. Let me also assure you that there will be failed attempts. Happens to me still. There are at any moment many factors at play working towards the success of your baked good. Sometimes things happen that you simply don’t have an answer for.

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What I often tell my baking students is that the key to successfully baking is a basic understanding of your ingredients. Get to know them and how they interact with one another. This knowledge will allow you to be in control rather than having the recipe control you. When taking this approach baking becomes more closely related to cooking than you think. The freedom and creativity found in baking opens up when you are able to predict what would happen if you use oil in the dough instead of butter, or egg instead of water, for example.

The best book I can recommend for this idea is Rhulman’s Ratio. It boils down the basics of baking into simple ratios. Following the simple ratio you can alter and add to it with great comfort and ease.

Most important is to simply get in the kitchen and start building your experience. As in life, there are many lessons to be learned in our failures. Learn from it and move on. Each attempt will be less and less intimidating and before you know it you will be the bringer of pie as Grandma is.

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This post is part of the #pieparty!! It started on Twitter and the rest is history. You may have noticed that food bloggers around the web are going pie crazy today. Check out some of these beauties.

Garrett makes a stunning Blueberry pie with Thyme and honey.

Helene’s stunning mixed berry pie with Lemon Verbena

Irvin made a blood orange lemon vanilla shaker pie

Hannah made a peach blueberry pie and it looks darn good

Justin made a Chocolate Bourbon pie and tells how I invited myself along to the pie party

Check out the pie party details at GlutenFreeGirl.com and see our Facebook page.

Tequila Peach Galette

 

You may think I’m crazy making a match like Tequila and peaches but I assure you it’s a winner. I happened upon the pair when they were both sitting on my counter. I picked both of them up and smelled them together and the rest is history, or it’s pie at least.

Galette Dough

This isn’t Grandma’s dough but it is a sturdy one  that is more flaky than tender, making it the perfect choice for a free-form pie. It’s hardy crunch and buttery flakes are a welcomed contrast in texture and flavor to the almost jam-like peaches.

1 ½ cups (7 ounces, 200 grams) all-purpose flour

1 stick + 1 tablespoon (4 ½ ounces, 125 grams) butter, cold

1 tablespoon cornstarch

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vinegar (such as champagne or cider)

1 tablespoon water, cold

Combine the flour, cornstarch and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Cut the cold butter into rough ½” cubes. Scatter on top of the flour and pulse just a couple of times to evenly disperse the butter. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, vinegar and water. While streaming the liquids in pulse the machine. The dough will appear very crumbly. Once the liquid has been incorporated squeeze the mixture in your hands and if it holds together you are set. If not, sprinkle with a few more drops of water and pulse a couple more times.

Dump out the dough and form into a rough disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

 

Tequila Peaches

1 ½ tablespoons tequila (I used Hornitos)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

½ teaspoon lime zest

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 large peaches, ripe and fragrant

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Combine the tequila, lime juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Slice the peaches about ¼” thin. In a medium bowl add the peaches and the juice/cornstarch mixture. Using your hands, toss to combine.

Pre-heat the oven to 385* You want to start with a nice hot oven to make sure your butter in the dough, quickly comes to a boil creating steam that puffs up the dough – this is the magic of flakes. Hot oven plus cold butter equals beautiful flakes.

Once the dough has chilled roll out to your desired size. Don’t worry about being neat, in my opinion pies are best when they are rustic and rough. Roll out the dough to ¼” thickness. Place the dough on a parchment lined sheet tray so you don’t have to awkwardly transfer the galette once assembled (can you tell I’m speaking from experience here?) Arrange the peaches or simply dump them in the center of your dough. Leave 1 ½ inches surrounding the peaches and fold this up on top of them pleating as you fold so that it securely encases the fruit. Brush the top of the crust with cream and sprinkle the sugar over the crust and the fruit. Scatter the zest on top of that. Chill the galette in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the crust starts to color too quickly before the juices have begun to boil then simply turn the oven down to 350*. You will be able to tell your pie is done with the crust is a deep golden color and the juices have bubbled and look thicker than boiling water and more like bubbling jam.

Remove from the oven and let sit for at least two hours before enjoying.

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Film Friday: when in Seattle, you must…

*side note* This is part of a series in which I post images I’ve taken throughout the week using my Canon A1 (fancy talk for a film camera circa the 80′s)

Here are a few other Film Fridays to peruse at your leisure.

1.

2.

3.

All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400.

ok, continue. When in Seattle you must…

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… have dinner at Delancey.

If we happen to not be there that night, which might not be likely considering we live right around the corner and frequent it quite often – we will let you sit at our corner table. If we are there, please join us. We are happy to share our pizza but you should be aware of the dining arrangements.

Baron cozies up to the window in the corner seat. Gabe, Ivy and I sit on the end while Roman, if he sits at all, takes the other window seat. In order to ensure a somewhat chaos-free dining experience we carry with us no less than two iPhones and one iPad. Now I know at some point we must bite the bullet and teach our children how to properly behave in restaurants without the aid of technological devices but not yet, please not yet.

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A little tip on ordering… everything is great. You know of course that the pizza is amazing but don’t just skim over the salads and starters. Some of my favorite tastes while dining at Delancey have come from this part of the menu. Also, never skip dessert and never, ever walk out with out a little to-go bag with a salted chocolate chip cookie tucked inside.

When in Seattle you must also picnic. What’s that? Oh dear, it’s raining?! That’s odd.

No problem we can still picnic at Picnic. They have everything a good picnic requires. Lillet? Check. Pork Rillettes? Check. Dinah’s Cheese with Ballard Bee honey? Check. Roasted beets with smokey blue cheese and hazelnuts? Check.

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If by some chance you are in Seattle when it’s not raining than I urge you to gather all your goods and take your picnic to the zoo which is conveniently located about ½ mile away from Picnic.

You should also note that picnicking in the midst of friends, new and old, makes everything much, much better.

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Shauna giving Lu a  sweet candid kiss. We mothers simply can NOT resist kissing the tops of our children’s heads.

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this year’s strawberry shortcake

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That title just doesn’t even begin to do this recipe justice but if I were to list all the things it has going for it, you would be missing precious seconds that you weren’t preparing and eating this dessert.

You start with sweet strawberries that are ruby red through and through. Then you have hefty squares of brown sugar pound cake bright from lemon zest and a perfect balance between dense and moist (I hate that word but there are times when one just has to say it. Talking about cake is one of those times). Those items get stabbed with a rosemary skewer which not only looks rustic and pretty darn cool but permeates the strawberry and cake with a soft woodsy scent.

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On top of that a generous slathering of brown butter before it hits a hot grill. The berry and cake lined skewers stay there until the slates of the grill leave their mark –  a trademark of Summer too often reserved for burgers and steak. In that brief, albeit very hot moment, the juice of the berries warm and concentrate so that when you bite through the exterior you are destined to have a red stained chin and a goofy grin of delight. The pound cake is amazing as is but there is very little that isn’t improve with a brown buttery crust. All of that is dipped and cooled with a lightly sweet Mascarpone or simple whipped cream.

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Your fourth of July guests will have never had strawberry shortcake like this.

continue for the recipe … (more…)

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

 

Inspired by the latest issue of Sunset (LOVE that magazine) and Jamie Oliver, who loves to skewer most anything with rosemary.

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) butter, softened

3 ½ cups all purpose flour

¾ teaspoons kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon if you are using table salt)

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cups dark brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup yogurt

½ cup whole milk

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Pre-heat your oven to 350*. Butter and flour two loaf pans.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add the butter and sugars. Cream until very light, about 3-5 minutes on medium. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is evenly mixed. With the machine on medium low add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, either the bean or extract. Scrape down the bowl again and mix until everything is well combined.

While the machine is on low add ⅓ of the flour mixture then alternate with the yogurt and milk. Continue to mix until all the wet and dry ingredients have been added. Stop the machine while there still remains some flour streaks and finish mixing by hand so that you don’t overmix and end up with a tough cake.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. About an hour. If the cakes start to get too dark on top turn down the oven to 300* and finish the baking.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes then remove from the loaf pan and cool completely on the rack.

When the cake has completely cooled use a serrated knife to cut it 1 inch cubes, set aside. (The other loaf can get wrap in plastic wrap then aluminum and frozen for one month, or can serve as a snack while you are skewering). Place one stick of butter in a medium sauce pan and set on medium heat. Let the butter melt than bubble. The milk solids will foam and bubbles will creep up the sides of the pan letting you know that you are almost done. As the milk solids resolve and settle down twirl the pot to see if you see golden bits on the bottom. If you do, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. If not, continue to cook until you do see those golden bits on the bottom. Browned butter, a beauty that permeates a soft nuttiness into anything it touches. I adore the stuff – can you tell?

If you have access to an abundance of rosemary consider yourself lucky then whack off a few branches. Cut the branches into 6 inch skewers and leave about two inches of leaves on at the top, remove the rest. Using a very sharp paring knife create a point at the end as you would a marshmallow roasting stick. Slide onto the skewer a strawberry with its green frilly hat removed then a piece of cake and another berry. Continue the process until you have plenty, and then make a few more.

Heat up your grill (I used an indoor grill for this as it was a bit rainy – ha, Seattle, go figure). Brush skewers with brown butter then carefully place on your extremely hot grill, listen for that satisfying sizzle. Give that about one minute then carefully flip over and grill the other side. Return to the plate when finished.

Serve with Mascarpone that has a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar stirred into in or a very lightly sweetened whipped cream.

You don’t have to use rosemary, any skewer will work marvelously. Also, even with out the kiss of the grill these make a beautiful dessert and an alternative to classic strawberry short cake, the grilling just puts it over the top.

Happy 4th to you all!

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Bee’s Knees

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It’s been a few weeks now but our weekend away lingers on in the form of gin, lemon, and honey. It’s called a Bee’s Knees and I’m desperately trying to make up for the lost time when we, sadly, did not know of one another.

A chance meeting that I won’t soon forget. Gabe and I arrived early to our dinner at the Willow’s Inn. We had planned on a cocktail before we sat down to a much anticipated meal. The cocktail menu overwhelmed the senses with ingredients like Nettles and Elderflower – making a decision proved difficult. We settled on a Bee’s Knees. With three simple ingredients it sounded both intriguing and refreshing.

Without the weight of so many additions of syrups and infusions each flavor is prominent. As a good team should, they work together producing a perfectly balanced drink – tart and sweet with a pungent punch of Gin, which, when you have the right Gin, is never a bad thing.

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Speaking of the right Gin, I think I’ve found it. Now I’m no expert but I’ve found this Gin and I have no plans to abandon it soon. It’s Hendrick’s. Hailing from Scotland, this gin is brilliantly infused with cucumber and rose. It was love at first sip.

Much to the dismay of my husband, I mix drinks like I cook – a little of this, a dash of that. He of the fastidious coffee brewing routine uses an actual shot glass to concoct his cocktail. I’ll give both of our recipes in order to appease both personality types.

Since there are only three ingredients it’s imperative that they all are of the best quality possibly. I start with a few of tablespoons of room temperature water in the bottom of an 8 oz tumbler. To that I add a few teaspoons of honey. I stir that until most of the honey is dissolved. From there I add a couple of tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, plucking out the seeds that fall into my glass. To that, one shot of gin and a handful of ice until the cup nearly overflows. I take a preliminary sip to make sure I’ve found the perfect balance – one that nearly causes my lips to pucker before I’m hit with the sweetness of honey and the floral gin. A wedge of lemon tucked into the ice and I’m off to drink.

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An actual recipe …

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When I came into a heap of local cherries this week I threw them into my cup, added about a teaspoon of honey then muddled that with the end of my rolling pin – I know, classy right? Then proceeded to add lemon juice, gin, and a splash of soda water. No complaints.

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Bee’s Knees

 

2 oz gin

½ oz lemon juice

¾ oz honey syrup*

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon.

Feel free to adjust the ratio as you may prefer more or less sweetness.

*Honey Syrup

Combine equal parts honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly then place in an airtight container and keep in the fridge.

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film friday: so far, summer

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An antique picnic basket has already been put to great use with many more picnics in its future.

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A snuggle on the beach. It may not have been the warmest day but there was sun so we headed to the sand and sea.

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There has been gin. Lots of lovely gin. This particular cup is a bees knees and it is just that. More on that to come.

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Morning muffins in the tent we set up in the yard just because. It’s Summer, the time to do those sorts of things.

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Again, lots of lovely gin. This time with tonic and lime.

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Barbie – our charcoal burning, smoke infusing, and well-loved friend’s inaugural run provided us with grilled vegetables and pork chops.

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Since Summer hit there hasn’t been a day that has gone by when my house is void of Peonies. I’m relishing this season that produces these flowers with their feathery petals and sweet grandma-like perfume. This bunch is paired with a handful of parsley that has gone to seed.

We are just a few days in to Summer and already it’s been just as it should be – relaxed, free of any sort of routine, piles of laundry with clothes dotted with stains from chocolate ice cream, strawberries, and vivid green grass.

What does your Summer look like?

Happy Weekend.

Film Friday is part of a series in which I post a few film shots taken throughout the week. I’ve recently fallen back in love with film. These images were shot with a Canon A1 and a Canon EOS ELAN 7E. All images were shot using Kodak Portra 400.

Check out the other posts in the series.

1.

2.

3.

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