Category Archives: in the kitchen

Courtney & Kim cook {rhubarb}

 

With spring happily upon us, one thing that is in full bloom is our beautiful crop of rhubarb.  I was so excited when Courtney agreed to feature rhubarb this month for our {Courtney and Kim Cook} series.  Make sure you visit her here to see her take on our adventure!  Visually rhubarb packs a punch when it comes to that gorgeous red color.  As far as cooking it goes, the possibilities are endless.  I am already looking forward to trying Courtney’s recipe as it sounds divine and she has assured me that it is indeed delicious~

 

I love rhubarb!  I remember picking it out of the gardens as a child and eating it still warm from the sun.  One of my favorite pies was strawberry-rhubarb, and to this day a warm piece with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream is such a treat for me.  However, as an adult, I have learned that there is so much you can do with this early treasure from the gardens.  When everything else is just being planted or beginning to poke through the soil, rhubarb’s large gorgeous leaves stand tall on rich red stalks of goodness.  I cut a number of thick red pieces a few times a week when it is in season to use for various desserts or to create delicious spreads for things like english muffins, scones, or on waffles.  I also really love it in loafs, muffins, and cakes.  It adds moisture and a lovely bit of tartness in an otherwise sweet treat.  I recently posted this bundt cake which our whole family loved~

 

With warmer weather having arrived, I hope to have friends over for morning coffee after the boys are all off to school.  We can sit outdoors in the morning sun and visit over a good cup of coffee, some tea, and a wonderful morning treat.  I love making scones as they are so delicious with a fruit compote to accompany them.  As lemon is one of my favorite flavors, these lemon scones with lavender rhubarb compote are sure to be on the menu the next time a friend drops by!

 

 

 

Once again Courtney has outdone herself with her gorgeous painting of this spring delight.  Don’t quote me, but I do believe that this is her first foray into the world of rhubarb~

 

 

 

meyer lemon, rhubarb, and buttermilk {bundt cake}

 

Well hello delicious spring bundt cake!

 

I am so ready for spring this year.  Okay, I am always ready for spring, but it has been pretty dark and wet thus far, so any excuse to introduce some wonderful citrus and one of my favorite spring treats from the garden makes me really happy.  So, when I found a recipe for a similar cake, I was inspired to make something with some Meyer lemons that I had picked up, as well as the last of my rhubarb from the gardens last year.  I think that the recipe might be even better with fresh rhubarb, but I am a diligent freezer of rhubarb so that in the off season I will have some to use if the opportunity arises.  I also think this little recipe could be done in muffin tins by simply reducing the baking time.

 

 

 

 

 

Courtney & Kim cook {cauliflower}

Happy Monday mes amies!

Welcome to month deux of Courtney & Kim cook.  This month one of us – and I’m not naming names (although if I were I would say that it rhymes with “fortney”) chose cauliflower- not the easiest vegetable to capture in an attractive manor.  Courtney clearly had no problems as proven by her fabulous painting. However, I will admit, after a few failed attempts and recipes that were more complicated and not nearly as tasty, I ventured outside my familiar zone to experiment with coconut oil, as it had been in the pantry waiting to be used.  I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with the results!  I hope you will be as well.  Make sure to visit Courtney HERE to see her post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower Soup
2 strips of bacon
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 carrot
1/2 stalk of celery
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbs parsley
1/2 Tbs thyme
2 cups stock (I used beef, but chicken would be fine)
2 Tbs butter
2 cups half and half (or milk)
3 Tbs flour
1/4 cup Parmesan
salt and pepper
Directions:

1. Cut up bacon and cook in soup pot (I used a Dutch Oven, but anything that can hold soup would be fine.) Remove and wipe out the pan. (You don’t have to wipe it all out, you just want to get some of the fat out so you can feel like this is “healthy.”)
2. Dice onion, carrot, and celery
3. In the same pot as the bacon was cooked in, cook the onion in olive oil until translucent.
4. Add carrots and celery and cook another 5ish minutes
5. Add cauliflower, parsley and thyme and cook for 15ish minutes
6. Pour in stock, bring to a boil and then simmer.
7. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan melt the butter.
8. In a small bowl, whisk flour into 1 cup of half and half, then whisk the mixture into the melted butter.
9. Remove from the heat and whisk in remaining cup of 1/2 and 1/2.
10. Once it’s all whisked together an there aren’t any lumps, add to the soup
11. Simmer 15-20 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
12. Pour into bowls and serve with toasted Italian bread and a side salad
If you like silky soups (or have a sore throat and just want something soothing) you can blend it until it’s the consistency that you’d like. Promise it tastes just as amazing both ways.
Enjoy everyone!

Taking time to enjoy {lunch}

 

 

Good morning and happy Monday!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

One of the things that I am trying to do here on the farm is slow down throughout the day.  I am notorious for skipping meals in order to work on projects, do housework, or run errands.  One of my favorite parts of visiting France and staying with my sweet friends is that each afternoon everything stops and we sit down for a proper lunch.  We set a table, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy a lovely lunch- often outdoors.  I am trying to do more of that here at home and while it is often difficult, I find that on the days I do take the time to prepare something, it feels like I have done something special for #4 and I.  We sit at the table and chat about his day at Kindergarten, projects we want to work on, books he would like to read.  It is moments like this that I want my children to take with them into adulthood- these are the things I want them to remember from when they were young.

I have been attempting to eat more fish, as well as more salads, and I find that I really enjoy a piece of salmon on a bed of baby greens or arugula with a light vinaigrette and a bit of fruit.  Simple, light, and so satisfying.

Do you eat lunch?  Do you sit down at a table or eat on the run, as so many of us do?  Or, do you skip it all together?

Have a wonderful week mes amies~  I have an exciting post tomorrow announcing a project I am so exciting to be working on again – stay tuned!

Courtney & Kim cook {beets}

I must tell you – I am so excited about this post! It is the first in what I hope is a long lasting collaboration with a new friend that I greatly admire. Courtney and I met in Salt Lake City at Alt and honestly – from the first afternoon that she, Jeanne, and I spent together, it was as if we had known each other forever. The three of us laughed, endlessly. And then we found out how talented she is. Holy cow.

Courtney phoned me not long after we returned home from Salt Lake with an idea. We had talked extensively about collaborations at Alt- it was the one panel that I really wanted to attend. I truly feel that for me to move forward, I need to move outside of my comfort zone. I want to push myself in areas that I have previously shied away from, as well as work with people that I admire and am inspired by. That is why I am so excited about this series of posts. Each month miss Courtney and I will be choosing an item of food that we will each cook with – she in the east, me in the west. She will then paint her item, while I will make photos with mine. We will then share our recipes with you! What could be better than that?

So, this month, Courtney and I chose beets~

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And I give you the incredibly talented Courtney Khail~

ROOT VEGETABLE AND SAUSAGE RAGOUT WITH CREAMY, CHEESY, GRITS (Courtney’s)

It started as this recipe from Whole Living, but I rarely follow a recipe verbatim. In reality, I kind of read something I like and then use it as a jumping off point based on what I have in the frig/pantry. This is a good example of that practice. Also, most of my stuff serves 2, because that’s how I cook. There was extra here, but I’d double it if you were planning for 4.

Ingredients:

1 large onion

3 carrots

2 parsnips

1 potato (I used purple ones because they are pretty and I had them)

4 Brussels sprouts (halved)

2 beets (fresh ones. Nothing from a can here!)

½ teaspoon of granulated garlic (or finely mince 2-3 cloves of the good fresh stuff)

1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

14 oz can of diced tomatoes (or you can use a pint of cherry tomatoes if you happen to have them)

1 1/4 cup of low sodium stock (vegetable or chicken)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon each of thyme, rosemary, and parsley

½ teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

¼ lb ground sausage

creamy, cheesy, grits

salt and pepper

Directions:

1) Preheat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit

2) Wash all the vegetables and then peel the carrots and parsnips (you don’t have to if you washed them well enough)

3) Dice all of the vegetables into large chunks and place in a bowl. Toss with olive oil and garlic and pour vegetables onto a cookie sheet.

4) Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning the sheet or stirring the vegetables halfway through the cooking time.

5) While the vegetables are roasting, cook the sausage until brown. (I’d suggest using a Dutch oven or a deep pan because later everything has to fit in this.)

6) Add the tomatoes and stock to the sausage and cook for 5 minutes on medium. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, mash them up a little to make more of a sauce.

7) Add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes.

8) Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. (You can always add more.)

9) Around this time you should start making your grits*

10) When the vegetables are finished, take them out of the oven (remember to turn off the oven) and pour them into the tomato and sausage mix and cook for another 3ish minutes. (Feel free to cook on low until your grits are done. It won’t hurt it.)

11) Take out the bay leaf.

12) Pour the vegetable and sausage ragout over the grits and serve immediately. Don’t be afraid if there is a strong red color when you mix things. That’s just beet juice. If that bothers you, roast the beets separately and add them on top of the ragout and grits instead of mixing it all together. I made this on Valentine’s Day though, so it was kind of appropriate.

Side note about the grits:

I eat grits because I am from the South. If you aren’t, or if for some odd reason you don’t like grits, this would work with polenta too. To make them super creamy and cheesy and awesome, use half and half instead of water to make them. Add more than the package tells you to- you’ll kind of want to cook it like risotto in the fact that when it start drying out, you’ll add more half and half. In the end you’ll probably almost double the amount of liquid called for in the grit directions. As for the cheese, just mix is a large handful once they are finished cooking and then season with salt and pepper. (Grits ALWAYS need salt. Do not be afraid of adding salt.)

Roasting {Peppers}

{to be clear, this post is about sharing information on roasting peppers. it is NOT about great photographs – it seems I am unable to work with fire and focus on “the shot”…}

Roasting peppers. I know many of you already know how to do this, but for anyone who may not have, it is something you really want in your “cooking toolbox”.

{sidebar}
On my “Toolbox” philosophy…

I have this whole “tool box” thing that I carry around with me. I have a “tool box” for parenting”, a kitchen “tool box”, a gardening “tool box”. Well, you get the picture. For me, collecting tips and tricks on how to do things well gives me great satisfaction. I don’t think that things like parenting come naturally for everyone – but everyone can build their “tool box” with advice, suggestions, and tools from others. So that is what I have always done. If I don’t know how to do something – I make a point of learning how and add that skill to whatever “tool box” it belongs in. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled blog post…

While hanging out at a girlfriend’s house a few nights ago I was inspired to roast some peppers that I had so that I could pack them in oil and use them for a variety of things. I love grilled paninis with roasted vegetables and a good cheese, salads with roast peppers on top, putting them on pizzas – the list goes on.

The great thing about roasting peppers for me is that you can take those peppers that may have been sitting around waiting to be used a little longer than you would like. They might have wrinkled a bit, but as long as they aren’t going bad, you are good to go.

The one thing you will need to do it the way I choose to is a gas stove. They can also be done by putting them in a pan with a bit of water in the oven, but this post is all about the fire-roasting. Truly, it couldn’t be any easier – you simply put them on your burners, turn on the flame to med-high, and turn them as they burn. To make peeling afterwards a breeze you really want to get them evenly burned over the entire pepper.

Once the peppers are sufficiently seared, put them in a bowl and completely seal the top with plastic wrap. The moisture will build and loosen the burnt skins. After about 20 minutes you should be able to remove them from the bowl and simply rub the blackened outer layer off. If they were completely blackened all you will need is your hands – no knife required!

After the outsides are cleaned off, simply clean out the insides, slice them however you wish, and then put them in a jar with some good olive oil. I occasionally add some dried oregano or basil from the gardens but it isn’t necessary. I store them in the fridge and take them out about an hour before I want to use them.

Please feel free to share any ideas on how you like to use roasted red peppers – great ideas are always appreciated!

Happy Thursday mes amies,
xx

Weekend {brunch} on the farm

When thinking about sharing the farm with you, and trying to help you get a real feel for life here, it seems that sharing the meal I love most makes a lot of sense. So, you should know, my very favorite meal of the week – the one that I would love to invite each and every one of you to, is weekend brunch. Honestly, if you told me that I could only make one proper meal a week, I would opt for weekend brunch. No question.

There are so many things I love about it. First of all, most of the preparation for brunch begins while my family of boys are still asleep. I make myself a cup of coffee, turn on some music, and start pulling out whatever it is I plan to make. Now, most weekends it is the same basic fare – eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, orange juice, and coffee. There are always jams and jellies, maybe local honey.
Then, I will either add pancakes, waffles, or crepes, the latter of which is a huge hit, as there is always fruit compote and whipping cream from our newest toy – our Isi – on top. There will be real maple syrup as Mr. Taylor insists upon the good stuff. Sometimes there are chocolate croissants (thank you trader joes!), other times – like this weekend – cinnamon chip bread from Great Harvest Bread Co.

The second thing I love about weekend brunch is how leisurely it is. We don’t start before 10 am, but more often, it is closer to 11. By then I have it all ready, the animals have been fed and put out to their pasture, and we can really sit and enjoy our time at the table. A later start time also allows me to get to the Farmer’s Market before we eat if I want. No one complains about having to get up, and everyone is hungry. The house always smells delicious after the bacon and sausages have been cooking on the griddle, which entices those feeling a bit sleepy to get to the table.

Another thing I love about brunch are those times when we are able to eat outdoors. Now, I am a fan of eating any and every meal outdoors when the weather permits, but honestly, sitting outside on a cool summer morning, the sun shining down warming the table, and the sound of birds chattering as they play in the trees is pretty much my idea of bliss. And the thing I am really excited about this year? The plates that we will be using will all be made by Mr. Taylor. He is rocking the pottery scene! So far I have a selection of smaller dinner plates – all of the plates in this setting are his – and he is nearly finished with my soup bowls. I have a number of serving bowls as well, which look wonderful mixed in with my vintage collection. Have I mentioned how spectacular that man is?

Occasionally we entertain friends or family for brunch. I like it because it is not as common as having them for dinner, and it is so nice to gather with friends early in the day, before everyone heads in different directions, weekends filled with activities. It seems a bit more leisurely – and the littles are always well-rested, thus able to sit at the table longer visiting without getting fidgety.

There is something wonderful about wide open weekends with little to no commitments aside from hanging out together. However, when the weekend does include places to go and people to see, it is so nice to begin the day around the table, with a great meal centered around our delicious eggs and homemade jams, gathered as a family.

Sunday {baking}

Good morning my friends and happy Sunday. I so love weekends – truly – they are my favorite time with my family. I love how laxidazical they are. Our time seems to be our own and we do with it what we please. We also eat. A lot. I love preparing big farmhouse breakfasts and planning for wonderful leisurely dinners. On these wet cold winter days I also enjoy spending my afternoons in our kitchen, listening to my French music sent to me by my sweet friends while baking cakes, or pies, or cookies. It is my happy place.

This is a cake I made recently that was quite a hit with the boys on the farm. I found it here and made a few minor changes. I didn’t use red beets as I had found some fabulous golden beets at the farmer’s market. It is dense and not overly sweet – until you add the frosting that is. It is also really moist (and I know how much my friend Jeanne likes moist cake). I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

making {chevre} on the farm

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It seems winter has finally decided to visit Seattle. While it has been clear and bright these past couple of days, it is also pretty frosty first thing in the morning. I have been starting my days by breaking the ice that has covered the water in the animal troughs.

As yesterday was mighty cold I opted to stay inside and work on a couple of things I have been anxious to try. One of these things was goat cheese. I have always wanted to try chevre – something we purchase often at the market and enjoy on salads, sandwiches, and crackers. I had seen this recipe not long ago and as it seemed simple enough, I thought I would give it a go. I had goat milk on hand and as all it requires is that and lemons, I really had no reason not to try it!

I must tell you, it was even easier than I had anticipated. Mine turned out creamy and wonderful for spreading. I didn’t add anything to it but hope to on my next batch. While it doesn’t have the bite that some of the chevre I have purchased, it may have been because my milk was pasteurized, or not as fresh as the milk used in making commercial brands. My next goal is finding fresh milk and trying it with that~

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{the delicious jam on the chevre is a spiced nectarine brought as a gift from my friend Audra – absolutely divine!}

{Pumpkin Loaf} on a cold winters day

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Good morning and happy Saturday!

This weekend promises to be a great one. Not only are we on the official count down to our first really big Christmas here on the farm (LOTS of family coming in from all over which I am beyond excited about) but we are also going to be getting our tree and pulling out all of our decorations in order to give the house that “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” feel. Christmas tunes will play on the stereo, apple cider will simmer on the stove, and something delicious will bake in the oven, filling the house with the scent of spices.

One option for that baked goodie is this delicious pumpkin loaf. On a cold winters day, I love having something warm and soft on the counter for the boys to snack on. I generally keep a stack of plates and a knife next to the platter and throughout the day they will come cut off a thick slice of the loaf and eat it while leaning on the counter. Add to it a warm mug of apple cider and it is a wonderful treat to have when guests stop by.

I like to roast my own pumpkin but I always have a can of it in the pantry for those times when I am in a pinch and don’t have fresh.

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Pumpkin Buttermilk loaf with Ginger Molasses drizzle

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin or 15 ounces of fresh roasted pumpkin
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger- the soft ginger, not the completely dry version

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 regular size loaf pans or 5 mini-loaf pans with nonstick spray. Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Mix in pumpkin, 1/2 cup molasses, and buttermilk. Stir in flour mixture until just blended.
Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes for large loaves and 35 minutes for mini-loaves. Transfer loaves to rack to cool completely.

Whisk powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon molasses in medium bowl, adding more water as needed to form thick glaze.
Drizzle glaze over loaves, allowing glaze to drip down sides. Sprinkle with crystallized ginger. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

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making {yogurt}

~Kit cozying up on the winter blankets~

Winter has officially arrived at the farm. The trees have lost nearly all of their leaves, most everything has died down and been cut back, and today it has been absolutely frigid. When I went out to feed the animals their breakfast there was ice on the sheep and geese water. I am guessing that any day now we will see a snow flake or two falling.

This has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I am a natural nester, and when the cold dark weather ushers us indoors, I love the seemingly endless list of projects that suddenly appears. Things that have been sitting patiently in the studio or my indoor workspace finally get the attention they have needed in order to be completed and put away. I tend to feel a bit overwhelmed with clutter so piles that have collected are gone through and organized or donated to our local charity. Everything is tidied in anticipation of pulling out our Christmas decorations and bringing our tree home.

I also love living here on the farm as we grow all the things we need in order to make all of our Christmas wreaths. Our grape vines make the perfect frames in various sizes – larger wreathes for the barn and chicken coop, smaller ones for the entry and the front doors. This year I plan to use boxwood and salal for most of our wreathes as I love the shiny green of the leaves and the fact that they are fairly sturdy means they should last quite a long time. To add some color, I will cut snowberries and holly – red berries for the entry and coop, white for everything else. This year will be a very natural Christmas here on the farm~

As temperatures drop I also find myself spending more time planning meals consisting of simple hearty recipes, often slow cooked throughout the afternoon. I love when my boys arrive home and the house smells of something delicious roasting in the oven. I also enjoy trying new things that I have read about or discovered in my travels. One of those things is homemade yogurt.

I first tried homemade yogurt in France this past October. While staying with my “French family” we were invited to dinner at the home of one of their friends. Mrs. Friend had made homemade yogurt with her yogurt maker and it was divine. It was creamy and delicious. I was hooked. I came home and started asking around. I discovered that many of my friends had also fallen in love with making homemade yogurt. So, off to my local Williams Sonoma I went. Unfortunately their yogurt makers were out of stock when I was there, and while I meant to go back, time passed, life with boys took precedence, and I was busy planning another trip to Paris. However, while there I got into a discussion with two different people about the merits of homemade yogurt. TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. In France. It was definitely a sign. And, if that sign weren’t enough, when we returned from Paris (have I mentioned how much I love that city…?) waiting for me in my mail pile was a envelope from my dad. For my birthday. With a gift card. From – you guessed it – Williams Sonoma. Done and done.

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My parcel arrived from them two days ago. I immediately opened the box as I knew what it was and was so excited to start my first batch of yogurt. I read the directions, and then re-read them as, for me, with anything new, I wanted to make sure it was done correctly. I read that fresh milk was best, and, knowing that our milk delivery was scheduled for the following morning (yes, we have a milk man and it is one of those small pleasures that gives me great joy) I waited to begin the process.

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So, yesterday I made yogurt. And this morning, it was ready to eat – in all of it’s delicious creaminess! I put it over a bowl of homemade granola and let me tell you – I think I have found my new morning indulgence. I can’t wait to try using different milks and different starters (this time I used the powder starter that I had ordered with the yogurt maker). I am dying to make goat yogurt and plan to pick up a container of it at the farmer’s market tomorrow to use as my starter for my next batch. I imagine that there are endless possibilities to the variations of yogurt flavors and consistencies. If any of you have any advice, suggestions, or sure-fire tricks to creating the perfect yogurt, please feel free to pass them on.

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And, do you know what I am most excited to try and make? Fromage Blanc – something I fell in love with in France years ago and to this day eat on a daily basis every time I am there. Fromage blanc avec les fruits rouges – to. die. for.

Happy Friday mes amies,
xx

{pumpkin muffins} from blackberry farm

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One of my favorite things to do on those cold dark autumn and winter days is bake. It never gets old. My boys love eating. I love tossing flour and sugar and butter around. There is something magical about a 9 foot marble island in the kitchen that lends to gathering around her and creating baked goods while sharing conversation with wonderful friends. I plan to do a lot more of that this cold and dark season~

Pumpkin muffins from Blackberry Farm

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
2 eggs

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add buttermilk and mix. Add pumpkin and mix completely. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients. Don’t over mix. Bake at 375 degrees F for 14-17 minutes. Easy peasy and oh so good. By the way, if you add chocolate chips to these muffins, they will disappear very quickly…

xx

{fried} green tomatoes

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Green tomatoes.

I have a number of green tomatoes this year. Hell, I always have a lot of green tomatoes. Tomatoes don’t tend to ripen well for me. Our summers aren’t long, or overly warm, and while I get tomatoes, I don’t always get a lot of red (or orange or yellow) tomatoes. And in years past, I have generally left them on the vine as they split and subsequently turn black. However, this year, I thought I would try something different. I removed all of the green tomatoes from the vines today. They certainly are pretty.

And, I want to make this~

Fried Green Tomatoes

6 firm green tomatoes sliced 1/4 inch thick
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
vegetable oil, for frying

Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a plate. Pour the buttermilk in a shallow bowl or a pie tin. Whisk together the cornmeal and bread crumbs in a separate pie tin.
Working with one green-tomato slice at a time, coat the tomato first in flour (knocking off excess), then in the buttermilk, then finally in the cornmeal— bread crumb mixture. Transfer the breaded slice to a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining slices. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a second baking sheet with paper towels. Heat 3/4 inch of vegetable oil in a medium skillet to 350°F.
Working in batches, fry the tomato slices until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked tomatoes to the prepared baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep the cooked tomatoes in the warm oven while you fry the remaining slices.

chocolate cake with {salted caramel} frosting

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Hello my fellow cake lovers!

I finally found my favorite combination of chocolate cake and salted caramel frosting. It took some time, experimenting with a few chocolate cake recipes, not to mention my time spent tasting salted caramel recipes. I am a BIG lover of salted caramel. From the salted caramel macarons at Laduree to salted caramels dipped in chocolate – I adore it all.

Today I made a three tier chocolate cake layered with salted caramel buttercream frosting. #1 was returning from his first ever camping trip with friends, sans adults, and I was so happy to see him. I wanted to celebrate. Now, you should know that I am not a talented cake decorator. I don’t do decorative finishes, perfect swirls, or use those tip-thingies to make little flowers. My priority seems to be taste – plain and simple. And this cake tastes divine. It isn’t overly sweet – just a nice moist chocolate cake, perfect for a birthday or a celebration, or simply a dinner with some really fabulous boys in your life~

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Chocolate Cake
adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your cake pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended. Divide your batter between your cake pans – use any extra to make some cupcakes. I like to fill my 6″ rounds 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Salted Caramel
~wonderful for endless desserts!

Salted Caramel

1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the sugar, water, and the corn syrup in a large saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
2. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
3. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
4. Do not stir from this point on, but instead swirl the liquid around the pan so that the caramel doesn’t burn.
5. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
6. *** Be careful here *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. The mixture will bubble up significantly and is very hot.
7. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
8. Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Save any extra in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It is delicious on ice cream, not to mention your finger… :)

Salted Caramel Frosting

2 sticks butter at room temperature
8 ounces of cream cheese
3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup salted caramel (recipe above)

1. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
3. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
4. Add additional powdered sugar until the frosting is the sweetness and consistency you desire.

Enjoy!

***

{perfect} for summer

...

Good morning! Absolutely gorgeous here in the pacific northwest today and I couldn’t be happier. With two days of sunshine in a row, it really does feel like summer just may be here to stay for a bit. fingers crossed…

This is the weather that I wait so patiently for all year long. These long, lovely days that often end with dinner being served outdoors, under an arbor of grapes, next to a little bonfire, at our beautiful tabled gifted by our dear friends. I think we ate every meal in this setting last summer! Even better are the meals that have, at least partially, come from the gardens. Nothing tastes better than food you have grown yourself. Whether it is your own tomatoes grown in a pot on your patio with fresh basil from the pot next to it, or peas shelled from your own vines, food just tastes better straight from the garden.

One of our favorite dressings for salads – not to mention on a variety of other things – is one from a cookbook written by a local chef. Fried Chicken and Champagne is filled with recipes that are delicious and fun to make. This dressing recipe can almost always be found in our refrigerator as salads are popular around here- especially this time of year.

I hope you will try it and let me know what you think. Enjoy your Sunday, wherever you are. Stay cool if you are roasting, stay warm if it is winter, and, if you are here on the coast with me – get out and enjoy this STUNNING day!

xx

White Balsamic Toasted Fennel Seed Vinaigrette
from the cookbook Fried Chicken and Champagne

1 1/2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 cup grape seed oil or other neutral vegetable oil
1 Tbsp fennel seeds

In a blender or food processor, add the white balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. With the machine running, add the grape seed oil in a slow, steady stream until emulsified.

In a small saute pan over low heat, heat the fennel seeds slowly until they are toasted – they will turn light brown rather quickly. Remove from heat and cool. When cool, grind them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Add the ground fennel seeds to the blender and pulse to combine. Check the seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about one cup

the most divine {ginger cookies} ever!

***

I am completely smitten with these cookies. So smitten in fact, that I ate half the batch myself. It really isn’t my fault – I was in the mood to bake and it just so happens that this week handsome husband was traveling on business and #s 1, 2, & 3 are all away. That leaves me and #4 – who isn’t a huge eater at the best of times. And honestly, these cookies are so delicious that it is nearly impossible for me to walk past them and not grab one. or two. They are a little crunchy on the outside and so chewy on the inside. Just make sure that you take them out at 13 minutes even if they seem a little soft – they will harden just enough to be perfect~

This recipe is from one of my Ina Garten “Barefoot Contessa” cookbooks. I really do love those cookbooks and use them quite often. Her recipes are really good and she has clearly tested them thoroughly as they are pretty foolproof~ This cookie recipe is no exception.

Ginger Cookies

• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
• 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
• 1 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger (6 ounces)- (make sure it is the *dry* ginger and not the moist ginger)
• Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies

Preheat oven to 350° F and line cookie sheets with parchment or Silpat mats.

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for five minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for another minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for one more minute. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.

This is where a small dough/ice cream scoop comes in very handy. Scoop out the dough, roll it with your hands into a round ball, flatten lightly with your fingers, and lightly coat both sides with granulated sugar. Place them on the baking sheet and bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be cracked on the outside and soft on the inside. Leave the on the cookie sheet for a minute or two and then transfer to wire cooling racks. Cool completely before putting into your cookie jar (if they make it there…).

***

{summer} break – day one

While there is usually no reason that I put those cute scrolly brackets around a word in my title, today they actually mean something. You see, technically it is summer break, but it is FAR from summer here in Seattle. Hell, it is barely spring! Hey – don’t get me wrong – we have had a day of sunshine here and there, but heaven forbid we have TWO sunny days in a row… Sheesh! Thankfully the gardens are blooming a bit and I have been able to cut a few bouquets for the house (see above). I have taken to saying “Gee – thank god the gardens are getting watered!” in a very sarcastic manner each morning when we wake up to rain. That would be most mornings… And yes, I am vividly aware that there are worse things than rain. A lot worse~

Today was however the first day of summer break. PAR-TAY!!! One thing you should know about me is that I get VERY excited about summer break. I absolutely love the idea of breaking free from our schedules, sleeping in a bit, and then enjoying the planning of an empty day. I also love the idea of summer break food. Granted, this lasts for the first day, maybe two, and then I am SO over the empty calories, but oh, those first days…

So, first thing this morning, I made smoothies and cut up some fresh fruit. I like to think of it as coating our stomachs for what is to come. You see, I had a plan for today – a food plan of sorts. I think the word “crapfest” came to mind a few times. But crapfest in the most positive of ways~ Getting some fruit and my magnificent smoothies (filled with fruit, yogurt, and a few things I sneak in that go unnoticed – yay me!) into us means that at least we started our day on a healthy note.

he chose this photo because, as he put it, "I look gooood in this one!"

Next, with the help of my handy dandy sidekick we had one of our favorite unhealthy and oh so divine morning treats – monkey bread. Be still my heart (too much of it and there is a chance my heart would be still – can you say butter and sugar???) – it always reminds me of my own childhood and the mornings I would wake up and my mom had made it.

It really is one of the easiest things to make and it was the perfect thing for #4 to do most of the work. He had a fabulous time cutting the biscuits and then rolling them in the sugar and cinnamon mixture! He always loves putting on his own apron and getting busy in the kitchen. Seeing him there, it made me realize how much I am going to miss having him home with me next year when he goes to kindergarten. (this is where I do NOT dissolve into waves of self-pity and attempts to find excuses why he *simply can not* go to school come September)

note the upside down butter knife - still working on our knife skills...

The recipe I use is my mom’s – probably similar to many of your mom’s recipes. So very 1980s – and yet so great at the same time! What goes in to the oven white and raw and sugar coated…

comes out gooey and cinnamony and sugary and have I mentioned gooey?

So, that was our morning. Delish, to say the least. Our afternoon consisted of doing all sorts of projects outside – breaking down a HUGE limb that came down from our huge old cottonwood tree last weekend when we were in Vancouver, finishing a retaining wall that edges our new patio off of the kitchen so that I can line it with weed barrier and then top the entire area with pea gravel, hanging all of our wind chimes on the studio that had come down when the roof was being done, and hanging a new hummingbird feeder as we had a little chap buzzing around the dining area window last night looking for a snack. Hopefully he will return and stay!

Later in the afternoon there was a bonfire built by teenagers, which lasted all of 8.6 minutes, until – you guessed it – it rained. Thus, hot dogs were done on the BBQ and the party moved indoors. While it wasn’t ideal, it was nice none the less. I am already looking forward to tomorrow – as it is really celebration time. It is #3′s 9th birthday and there are cupcakes to bake and decorate, a dinner to plan, gifts to open, and if I know this family – some dancing to do! I can’t wait~

Monkey Bread

3 cans buttermilk biscuits
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 375°
Grease a bundt pan really well

Mix:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cut biscuits into quarters and roll in sugar mixture

In a small sauce pan on the stove, melt slowly:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pour over biscuits and bake for 35 minutes. Take out of the oven, put a plate on top of your bundt pan, and flip it over. Remove pan and enjoy!

fun with {limes}

While at Trader Joe’s the other day I saw these limes. As the sun has finally arrived in Seattle, and I know how much my boys LOVE to make homemade limeade, I picked up a couple of bags to enjoy while handsome husband is away this week.

Tonight, after a wonderful summer-like day (where I actually spent time with #4 on the hammock) we made tacos for dinner. Limeade was the perfect compliment~

I was playing with the light yesterday afternoon so some of the shots of the limes were done in the studio – a place I anticipate spending a LOT of time in the days and weeks ahead. There is something about being in a place that I feel really focused and inspired. My creative ADD seems to dissipate and I seem able to focus on making the photos I envision.

the perfect day for {cookies}

This past week has been busy – really busy. My dad was here for his annual May visit where we often do a number of projects around the farm that I have been dreaming up for us to work on. This year was no exception – aside the unfortunate fact that it was the second year in a row that the weather was absolutely awful. No surprise, seeing as this spring has been pretty wet, cold, and dark. The sun often tries to peek out from behind the clouds – right now as a matter of fact it is doing it’s best but the clouds don’t seem to want to break enough for any golden glow or warmth to reach us. Don’t get me wrong – we do have the occasional moment of sunshine, a bit of warmth, and I enjoy every single second of it. But this year, it has been rare. Thus, while we began many projects, we weren’t able to finish them all. That being said, we did get the parts that I couldn’t do alone done, and now what is left is completely manageable!

So today, while there is a long list of things I *should* be working on outside, the dark and wet weather is keeping me inside. Just as well, as there are loads of laundry to do, cleaning up after a week with 8 people in the house, and various phone calls that I put off while daddy was here. One thing that I needed to do was fill my long-neglected cookie jar for my boys, who have been such an incredible help with all of the tasks needed to finish before the painters come to work on the studio and barn. There is something about warm cookies and milk on a cozy day that makes everything feel a little bit better. I have posted this recipe before, but as it is our favorite, I thought today would be a great day to post it again. And, if you do live in a warmer place, where summer seems to be joining you, these cookies make DELICIOUS ice cream sandwiches! Trust me~

Have a great week,
xx
(Oh my – I just realized my previous post may have been missing the oatmeal! yikes!)

Chestnut Farm Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Combine in a medium bowl:
2 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, blend until smooth:
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

when smooth add:
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

mix well.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients 1/3 at a time. Blend until mixed and add:
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (adjust to your family’s liking)

I use a batter scoop (which is like a small ice cream scoop) to scoop dough onto cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes – depending on your oven. We have gas so I am not certain of the conversion to an electric oven~

Roast {Chicken}

One of my go-to meals on days when I have little time and want to feed my family well is roast chicken. There is something about putting an organic chicken in the oven with a mix of root vegetables and letting the aroma spread throughout the house while it is cooking. It honestly takes so little effort – there isn’t even a recipe – and yet we sit down to a table with a beautiful chicken, sweet carrots or turnips or shallots and garlic, a side of fresh bread, and a simple green salad.

I cut some herbs out of the gardens, toss the vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and put a little oil or butter on the chicken as well. She goes in a hot oven surrounded – 450° F – for 15 minutes and then I turn her down to 350° F, add the oil-coated vegetables to the pan, and roast it all until she is around 160°.