My Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer Meal

A line from a song keeps running in my head - "Don't let this fading summer pass you by."

Hello, old friends, I'm back to blogging this month! There are so many recipes I've made that I haven't posted, and while I'm going to Iceland in just THREE (!) days, I still haven't even written about Vermont yet. But, I'm back. Back to a messy kitchen and a flour-covered camera. Back to cakes, back to breads. I'm trying my hand at savory more, as you've probably seen the last 3 recipes on here. 

I needed the time away. Sometimes I get gripped by the inextricable need to be a quitter, a runaway. I don't think it's a fault of mine, but it makes it hard to stick around long enough to see something blossom into success. I get bored. I get discouraged. I burn out. This summer, my priorities shifted a bit since we're back in Pennsylvania at our own house now. I'm doing more with Nolan's family, like weddings, showers, and christenings. I'm busier with housework, farm work, and my full-time job. So I didn't document what I ate as much lately. I haven't really been active on instagram. I haven't let the fading summer pass me by just yet.

With so many weekends away and trips to plan, we've been making more meals that are thrown together, roasted or sauteed for flavor, and all in one pan. The below is no different. In fact, it's the best kind of cookery that I enjoy the most. Easy, comforting, quick to keep the kitchen cool when it's muggy outside. In just weeks it will be cool and I'll want to have the oven on all the time. But for now, with the windows open and a breeze rustling the hair the nape of Elsa's neck, nothing is better than a quick meal so I have more time for connecting with the home I built and love so much.

Quick (and adaptable!) Cannellini Dinner!

cannellini dinner

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bacon, roughly chopped
  • 15-20 green beans
  • 2 cups kale, chopped with stems removed
  • 2 cans 16 oz cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon of each for me!)
  • 1 or 2 hardboiled eggs
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, add bacon and begin to cook
  2. When browned and crisp around the edges, add your green beans and begin to cook down
  3. As the green beans cook, they will crisp around the tips and turn a vibrant green, turn heat to medium-low
  4. Next, add your kale and allow to wilt
  5. Add cannellini beans and stir constantly to warm
  6. Finally, add your garlic, salt and pepper
  7. Transfer to a bowl, add your egg and a squeeze of lemon and enjoy!

Note: You can really use any vegetables or meat for this, just follow the basic recipe to mix it up however you want!

cannellini dinner
cannellini dinner
cannellini dinner
cannellini dinner

Avoiding the Red Cliche

Most things come easily to me, things you wouldn't expect from a boy with no discernible talent.  Things like baseball, calculus, forgiveness never came easy to me, but love did.  Love in the carnal sense, love in the fictional sense.  Love in the sense of letting go, love in the sense of finding yourself.  Love in the sense of that ever-present gnaw at the pit of your stomach that registers in the mind as I am responsible for someone else's happiness. Love has come easily to me since birth.  I love my mother in an almost manic sense, an almost Oedipal obsession with my desire to make her smile.  In kindergarten, I kissed a girl named Alex's hand when she reached out to grab a colored pencil, I thought I was gentlemanly and adult of me.  Years of expansive love bloomed in me as I began to daydream of boyfriends and how exotic the word fiancé sounded, with it's accented e and promise of a future with someone else.  With each boyfriend, there was a breakup, and with each breakup, there was some promise of next time, next time, next time.  I found Nolan during one of those next times.  During my return to Italy, when we were both a little bruised, both a little cut up and the vinegar kisses of a stranger felt like when soap gets in a hangnail.  But, underneath all of that, once we stripped down and opened up, there was love.

It was raw and passionate, it left me heady in the perfumed 10x8 dorm room where the heat was on and a blizzard blew through Pittsburgh one night in January.

It was lazy, falling asleep with a bucket of chicken during XLV.

It was chaotic in the sense of never having an ending, never knowing the dates of anything important, throwing shoes and his grandmother's dishes when I got too angry and forgot to say, "I'm sorry."

But I was never sorry, never sorry for loving someone so ferociously and tender.  I'd lick the wounds I had created and then blame the rust-taste in my wolf mouth on his laziness, his determination to let our love fade away.  It was raw and passionate, it was lazy and chaotic.  And somehow love became this little succulent, never needing watered, collecting dust on the windowsill, timid in its approach to life.  Our love had a geophyte approach to sustainability, fatty and tuberous, holding onto any love that existed when life got barren and dry. When it got hard to come by, when it couldn't be found in the moonlight nor with a dowsing rod, broken off from a backyard apple tree when the Santa Anas made us unbearable to one another.

Since I left for Texas, we fell in love again--hard and fast, when the bones were most brittle.  An apologetic love where conversations often ended in "How did it get like this?"  We are finding our way back to the frenzied love of when I was 19, and slowly those sour wounds heal when they're exposed to air.  I wanted to celebrate this love for Valentine's Day and forget all the other four years and the bullshit we put one another through. I wanted to celebrate this love in boxes, small tins of love that overpowered Nolan for Valentine's Day.  I wanted to remind him what home could feel like.  I wanted to remind him what love could feel like, because our house in San Diego was big by San Diego standards, and it could creak too loud when you're lonely.  I made him dinner, cakes and bread, and shipped it to him to have for Valentine's Day with a movie, so it felt like a date tonight.

I love you.

The menu for Nolan's Valentine's dinner

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Pasta out to dry

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Chocolate Cake with a Marzipan Heart

A chocolate cake with a marzipan heart

Bacon Salt and Popcorn

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homemade candy bars

Homemade Candy Bars

Homemade candy bars

Homemade Candy Bars

“He shall never know I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made out of, his and mine are the same.”

 


Roasted Beet Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 large-sized beets
  • 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • 6+ cups flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. While oven is preheating, peel beets and wrap in foil, place on baking tray.  When oven is ready, roast for 40 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, unwrapping so steam can release
  4. Cut into large chunks.
  5. In a large food processor (6 cups or more), throw in beets, eggs and yolk, olive oil, and salt (and optional zest).  Puree until smooth
  6. In a stand mixer, combine puree and three cups of flour using the paddle attachment.  When dough begins to form, switch to dough hook and continue to mix, adding in last three cups of flour, one at a time, until a proper dough forms
  7. Remove from bowl onto a floured work surface (i prefer marble for pasta-making) and knead for 7 minutes or until is elastic
  8. Keeping dough floured, cut into eighths and lay plastic wrap on sections you are not going to use.
  9. Use your pasta machine's directions for thick noodles, and dry.
  10. Enjoy with a vinaigrette and parmesan!

Bacon Salt

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 cup sea salt (preferably a larger crystal)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Fry bacon on a skillet until extra-crispy
  2. Put on a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool, blotting excess grease
  3. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until combined.  Do not over-pulse, as it can result in fats in bacon to liquify.
  4. Enjoy over popcorn, with potatoes, or be creative!

Handcrafted Candy Bars

There is no real recipe for a basic candy bar.  I used some of my mother's recipes, which use more specialized chocolate and techniques, but the instructions I have below can be practiced even with chocolate chips. From here, you can personalize them and make them your own, even including honeys, spices, herbs, salts, and even homemade nut butters!  But, I would start here for an intro into confectionery.

Before you begin, use a ratio of 3 oz per candy bar, so you have some room for leeway with sticking to the bowl, the mold, and your spatula.  From here, you can cut and halve, mix chocolates together and multiply easily.  I particularly like mixing white chocolate and a milkier, lighter chocolate.  When you have decided how you would like to flavor your chocolate, measure out how much you will need.  Then, take away about 30% of that amount and set aside (this will be your "seed chocolate", a step for this pseudo-tempering.  It is necessary so your chocolate doesn't turn grey when cooled).

Prepare any mold you may be using.  I always use a light olive oil cooking spray and then wipe off the excess with a paper towel.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine your remaining chocolates and microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds.  Take out and stir.  Put back in for another 20 seconds and repeat this process until all chocolate is silky smooth and easy to stir.

Add remaining chocolate and continue to stir.  The heat from the melted chocolate should melt remaining chocolate.

Add any add-ins and pour into mold and smooth out with a rubber spatula.  Allow to cool for at least half an hour in the fridge before unmolding.  Package however you want (I went a little far with homemade packaging I designed and printed on special paper, but basic foil will do). Store in a cool place, or the fridge.

Other recipes used: For the cake (marzipan inspiration here)/  For the hot chocolate mix /  For the marshmallows / For the bread.

Hello, Again.

I think sometimes it's hard to keep promises. I think it's always hard to be honest, when there are so many excuses I could use as to why I got lazy with responsibilities this summer. I tell myself it's work, I tell myself it's exhaustion, I tell myself it's having people over every week since May. But I'm only telling myself these things. In reality, I just got silent. Bursts of creativity came late for me this summer and I chose my time more wisely (finishing TV series and taking three hour naps). Instead of living through my work, the work that I create through whisks and butter, I died through the work I do for a living. Five-thirty comes very fast when you've been running in your head all night, trying to remember if you prayed that day (trying to even remember if you still prayed and what for). Commitment has never been a scary word, I'm co-dependent by nature. I've dated the same person for the majority of my adult years, but it's the commitment to myself that makes me find something else to do, anything else to not have to sit in front of the blinking space bar and the words don't come like they used to, when I was naive about failure and everything smelled like pollen in the Springtime.

But just because I didn't write about it doesn't mean it didn't happen. I had a good month away from writing, away from commitments that I've married myself to. But, today, I come back to you all in the hopes of welcome arms. And in the name of marriage and commitments, I want to share with you the present sent all the way to St. Louis, a package of sweets and savories, a package I did to celebrate complementaries. A package for my friend, Anne, on her wedding day.  I had originally planned to do a candy week, but I want to make it up to everyone and give them all at once, like Christmas morning instead of Hanukkah evenings.

Usually, if I mess up a cake, I throw it out and start again (after some swearing and desperate attempts to fix it) ((read: the carrot meringue fiasco of March 2014)). With these, I wanted to make sure they were perfect, combinations that would amaze the newlyweds and let them know I cared.  I went with the four basic flavor profiles:  sweet, sour, salty, and umami, as I thought that any relationship should have these aspects.  I didn't have time to test and retest. I could only mail out and hope for the best. So, enjoy these treats and make someone's day special, even if it's your own.

Anne's Wedding Treats

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1. Honey-Peanut Butter (makes about a cup and a half)

Ingredients

  • 15 oz. bag of peanuts (I used honey roasted)
  • 1 TB clover honey
  • 1 TB canola/peanut oil

Directions

  1. Put bag of roasted peanuts in food processor and start to blend (please make sure the motor on your food processor can handle the mixing capabilities of this recipe;  otherwise, it will start to smell like a furby that was on too long)
  2. As the peanuts start to break down and oils are being released, you will notice the consistency will start to change.  At this point, I began to add the honey and oils (both of these are to taste, as the oil will change the texture to less crunchy and the honey is used as the sweetener)
  3. Continue to blend until the texture and taste are desired.  If it is not "peanutty" enough for you, add more peanuts to blend.  Also could add chocolate while mixture is still hot, more honey, or anything else you may like.
  4. Put in airtight jar and store in fridge to firm up.

 

2. Candied Bacon

Ingredients

  • One pound of thick-cut bacon
  • 3/4 cup good quality maple syrup
  • 2 TB artificial maple syrup (it's sweeter and works here...sue me)
  • 2 ts Dijon Mustard (Grey Poupon)
  • A pinch of black or cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. As the oven preheats, line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper (I preferred foil here because the mixture was so sticky).  In a medium bowl, whisk the syrups and the mustard together.
  3. Once the baking sheet is lined and the syrup mixture is whisked, dip the bacon in the mixture and place on the prepared sheet.  Give them some room as you space them so they can cook evenly.
  4. Bake 12-14 minutes, turn over, and bake an additional 3-5 minutes (to desired crispiness)*

 

* A note on this one:  the bacon is very hard to get to a good crispiness if you continue to open up and watch it.  I suggest going with the lowest time setting and to trust that it will crisp.  If that doesn't work, then continue to do a minute at a time

 

3.  Butter Toffee

This one is actually my mom's recipe that she suggested a couple times for various events I was giving gifts for.  I never really paid attention, but it stuck out as a perfect option for Anne's gifts.  This one is completely hers, so when I share it, I'm sharing my mother's words.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ts vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds

Directions:

  1. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper (buttered on each side to stick on the pan and also for easy peeling for the toffee).  Set this aside along with the almonds
  2. In medium saucepan, put butter and sugar together and heat on medium
  3. Stir slowly and steadily.  As you stir, you will notice that the solids start to break down in the pan, slowly coming back together.  Make sure to stir constantly, for nearly a half hour.  It seems like a lot of work at first, but it is therapeutic.  As the sugars start to caramelize and the butter starts to brown, you will see the signature toffee color slowly form.  When a deep, chestnut color becomes heterogenous in the mixture, you are done.
  4. Take the pot off the heat and pour onto the prepared sheet pan.  It will cool quickly, so add the almonds to the top and try to shake the pan to distribute the mixture evenly (my mother also suggests using a greased rubber spatula to spread the mixture).
  5. Place pan in fridge to cool completely, break into chunks and enjoy!

 

4.  Preserved Lemon Peels

Ingredients

  • Peels of four lemons (make sure to not get the white pith), cut into strips
  • One cup sugar

Directions

  1. In saucepan, cover peel strips with water and bring to a boil.  Drain.
  2. Repeat twice more. (this ensures all the bitterness of the pith is taken out)
  3. Bring peel (should now be pretty limp), 1/2 cup water, and sugar to a boil
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until translucent
  5. Drain and let dry, 2-4 hours (I did mine overnight)
  6. Toss with additional sugar

 

I hope you guys enjoy the recipes and if you need any proof that these recipes are great for gifts, here's the bride herself, posted on my instagram about her present:

 

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Besos,

Brett