Picked from the Garden, Topped on a Parfait

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I was never one to think about gardening, to be honest. Last year, all we grew were some radishes and onions, but that was because Nolan's dad told us to and then planted them himself anyways. What I liked, as is what I like about Nolan and the dogs and the chickens, is that I feel needed. That something relied on me. That there was a benefit to tending to something outside of myself.

And so, I had it in mind that this year would be the year that we create more than small dishes. That we would harvest things in terracotta pots and large plots of tilled soil and that it would be a reason to stick around the house a little bit longer. This thought nagged at my mind. I looked up farm pictures of Daylesford and others. I looked up the cost of a farmer's market booth. I did everything I could to grow something beautiful in my mind and, like always, I read all that I could on the topic in the months that followed.

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And we waited until the snow stopped, all the way into late May. And then another week for the grass to die. And then we planted. In pots on our deck and in small holes in the soil, we planted everything we could: herbs and flowers and vegetables. And while we wait for the soil to create its magic, I look out the kitchen window at the herb garden and see every touch of beauty one can imagine: peppers dangling from the stem and boastful herbs relaxed in the sunlight.

And I am proud of the magic I have created myself. I'm proud to share it all with you in the upcoming weeks. This is the first of many recipes from our garden, all thanks to Tractor Supply Co. Expect recipes using jalapenos, dill, parsley, basil, lemon balm, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, arugula, kale, and much more in the upcoming months.

 

 

Blueberry Chèvre Cheesecake Parfait
Topped with basil picked from my Bonnie Plants herb garden

Blueberry Goat Cheese No Bake Cheesecake Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 4 graham crackers, pulverized with a rolling pin or food processor
  • 6 oz goat cheese (I used Vermont Creamery's blueberry and lemon chevre, but you could also use regular goat cheese and 2 TB smashed blueberries)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 5 oz jar of Oui vanilla yogurt (sub with greek if you can't find Oui)
  • 1 brick cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 TB vanilla extract
  • 3 TB confectioner's sugar
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream
  • Basil for garnish

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle in about a 1/2 inch into your Oui yogurt jars (or any small jar you may have on hand)
  2. In a stand mixer, beat together all remaining ingredients (except whipped cream and basil)
  3. Transfer to piping bag and pipe into jars over your graham cracker crumbs
  4. Rest in fridge for 1 hour to firm up
  5. Top with whipped cream and basil and enjoy!

Author's Notes: Really, you can't mess this recipe up and it's pretty variable for that reason. You can make it sweeter, add more extracts, add a different fruit, exclude the yogurt, add sour cream, sweeten with honey. It's more just about having a little treat than an exact science with this one!

Blueberry Goat Cheese No Bake Cheesecake Parfait
Blueberry Goat Cheese No Bake Cheesecake Parfait

Chocolate Snack Cake for Any Day!

Chocolate Snack Cake

I made this cake on a whim, I do that now. I do not plan things days out if I don't have to. This cake was a whim. I set a couple coffee dates with new companies on a whim. We went to see a concert on a whim. I made this cake on a whim and then read a book for three hours on a whim.

I don't operate always on free will. Sometimes I think that I am dictated by the to-do lists that I keep, chicken-scratched and coffee-stained on a legal pad in my office. I write small reminders on it - take out the trash, do the dishes, mail your letters. And for larger things, I totally forget about--keep learning French, exercise more, remember to be grateful.

And with 3 extra hours of daylight, I baked a cake, let it cool, and iced it. I ate a slice, leaned over the sink as the crumbs fell, and stood watching the yard flood in the rain. It was not a perfect day, but it was a perfect moment all the same.

Chocolate Snack Cake

Chocolate Snack Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or even tahini!)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/3 cup boiling water or very hot coffee (I did coffee here)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F and grease a 10x7" brownie pan with butter and parchment (can also use an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan)
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder in a bowl
  3. In a stand mixer, cream together sugars and butter until light
  4. Add eggs, one at a time
  5. Add vanilla and oil
  6. Alternate between wet ingredients (half and half first, then water) and your dry mixture
  7. Finish mixing by hand with a rubber spatula
  8. Bake for 50-55 minutes and allow to cool completely before icing (see below for directions)

Decorating Directions: I have too many eggs and too much confectioners' sugar, so I actually did a royal icing for this cake. It wasn't too sweet, as it played off the deep tones of the coffee and chocolate. My ratio for royal icing is 3 cups sugar for 2 egg whites, with just a *hint* of vanilla or even orange blossom water (any more and it will make the mixture runny). Just mix with a fork until thick ribbons fall off the tines and smooth out onto cake. This is topped with Supernatural Starfetti Sprinkles.

Chocolate Snack Cake
Chocolate Snack Cake
Chocolate Snack Cake

Summertime Pav!

I walked barefoot out to the barn for the first time this year. The grass, dewy and cold, is shaggy. I like it this way. Too manicured and I feel it is all too tamed. We have five acres. I want them to breathe a little.

The dogs watched from the sidelines, held back by only a small sliver of chicken wire in the grand scheme of things. They whine for my return. They bark at my back as I turn away from their needy heads and their soft tongues and their lazy tails. And I walk alongside the fence line. Long grass brushes my shin. Three barn swallows circle. I close my eyes--the sun hits the truck a little too hard in the morning.

Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

And when I look down, I see 13 tiny beaks opened up to greet me. To shriek at me. To stare curious and open-mouthed, waiting to see what I bring in my bucket. Twenty-six golden and black eyes are motionless and I meet their gaze as best I can. The hens follow me for 20, 30, 40 feet and then taper off back to the field, back to scratching the dirt, back to hiding in the shade and getting lost in the acreage. 

I put on shoes I keep down at the barn. I fill their water and wipe my hands on my pant leg. I create a cotton well in my shirt and hold the 9 eggs laid that day. I hear the chirps of the barn swallow chicks. I turn the light off. It's like I was never there.

Summer is growing on me. I see the way the world is most itself now. It can breathe freely, it can sigh in the shade, it can sway its lazy tail. And, humbly, it goes on existing while I work. Once I am back at the house, putting the eggs in the fridge and the cut herbs on the counter, it is like I was never there.

Summer Pavlova

Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

Ingredients:

  • Wedge of a lemon
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup lemon curd (I used Ina's Recipe here)
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 8-10 strawberries, sliced
  • Lemon balm for garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 280*F and trace an 8 inch circle on parchment paper
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat eggs on high until soft peaks form
  3. Gradually and slowly, add your sugar and vanilla. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy
  4. Gently fold in cornstarch and salt
  5. Spoon or pipe meringue onto your circle, first with a base, and then piping (or swooping with a spoon) an edge with a well in the middle
  6. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 200*F
  7. Bake an additional 30 minutes. Turn oven off and let cool completely (ideally, overnight)
  8. When cooled, spoon in lemon curd into center well, add whipped cream and strawberries. Serve chilled.
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd