When I look back on my childhood it falls somewhere between RObert McCloskey’s “One Morning in Maine” and “Blueberries For Sal”. I know that it isn’t quite true (I didn’t grow up on the water, but I did grow up slightly wild in a large blueberry field). So this past week when I went home to Maine to visit my family and friends I was responsible. And tried to cram in as much Downeast Maine as possible in the five days I was there. There was a whole bunch of visiting. There was a farm (where I went pretty much every day), there was a beach adventure, lobster chowder, playing in a sand pile with a seven year old, collecting chicken and turkey eggs, expanding my mustard collection, and eating decadent chocolate. There was a rogue gosling who kept escaping his pen and helping to settle in chicks (so soft, so yellow, so… cheepy). It was a great visit home to see my family and smell the ocean on the air. The tang of salt and green things that always comes with going home is a joy. So here are some of my favorite shots of the week. Some from my phone, some from my camera; all of home.
I periodically don’t cook or photograph for whatever reason – I’m lazy, the food isn’t attractive, the recipe is just not INTERESTING enough. The usual. This is good though, it makes me think outside of the box in terms of content. This lack of food to post is a great opportunity to tell you about the things I’ loving or obsessed with right now.
Millet: A couple of weeks ago I found a bag of millet my mom gave me and threw it in the rice cooker while I prepped a bunch of other stuff and threw together a quick grain salad. I adored it – the texture was wonderful. It was a really nutty, wonderful change to the brown rice BF and I have been eating recently. I have really been obsessed with my rice cooker recently – it cooks grains perfectly and it is so remarkably simple to use. As an added bonus it doesn’t heat up the house either so I don’t have to stand over a burner in warm weather. This summer expect a few rice and grain recipes to pop up here.
My Melitta Pour-Over Coffee Maker: This little piece of plastic is a dream come true. I’ve been at home in the mornings and for a long time just did tea instead of coffee, but I LOVE coffee. The taste, the texture, the caffeine, so I finally caved a couple weeks ago and grabbed a pour over coffee maker. I am so thankful I did. The brew is delicious and it’s so simple to make coffee in it that I’m back to a cup a day and relishing it.
My Porch: Is there anything as great as sitting on your back porch early in the morning and drinking coffee while you check in on your social media? I thought not. The birds are all loudly awake and kittenish goes absolutely bonkers. I’ve taken to bringing my cat to the porch with me so she gets a little outside time and I don’t have to worry about her taking off. She gets a bit fearless, jumping up onto our porch railing two stories above the ground, but she loves to chase the squirrels out there.
Polar Seltzer: Everyone is talking about Polar’s Summer flavors right now, and they’re amazing. I’ve been drinking them pretty much non-stop since I found them on sale at my local star market. The cucumber-melon made a SUBLIME mojito (with Privateer Rum, no less) and I can’t wait to try more flavors. I also love that Polar beverages are all made locally (the Polar company is over near Worcester). Not a fan of the odd summer flavors? Go for the Ruby Red Grapefruit – it’s fantastic with a bit of gin.
Homemade Iced Tea: Ever since that first warm day in mid April BF and I have had a pitcher of Iced Tea in our fridge. I’ve been using mostly Celestial Seasonings “Zinger” teas for it, they have such a nice full body and no caffeine. All of the zingers mix well too so you can swap out and exchange flavors, this week we have Raspberry-Lemon.
This Swimsuit: My sister got me this for my birthday in April. I’m SO EXCITED to go to the beach in it this summer, and in general, for beach days this summer. I want to go to the beach, play in the sand, read books, and most importantly, play a bit of skeeball.
The Boys Club: This is a great blog that my friend Brian and a few other cocktail obsessed bloggers put together – go here for all of your cocktail needs this summer. With a new post every day they cover everything from glassware to delicious drinks to breaking down what you’re drinking. WONDERFUL.
CTC International: I recently went to a great presentation by the founders of this company and learned a lot. They built s special needs school in Kenya! They donate money to rhino and elephant preservation! They are a non-profit donating to other non-profits. Also, they have butts on their bags. I love that.
Summer Beer: In the summer I pretty much only want to drink light beer or saisons. With their fun fruity flavors saisons are such lovely drinks for this season and I can drink them all day. Currently I’m plotting the takedown of Ommegang’s Hennepin Saison tonight. Saisons also pair well with my porch. Trying to stay local with summer beer is a cinch too – anything out of Jack’s Abbey is worth the time and a nicely chilled Bantam goes a long way towards cooling anyone down on those warm summer eves. For the more creative flavors head to the crew over at Night Shift – from a Habenero to a white stout they’re doing really cool things in beer. And Chris over at Notch makes low ABV beer (around 4%) that is always a light summer refreshment and keeps you upright.
This morning as I write this blog post there are still remnants of police tape scattered around my neighborhood and I’m jumping at small noises. After college when BF and I moved to Watertown we did it for two reasons, 1: my sister lived here and we liked the neighborhood, and 2: we felt SAFE here. We were kids from rural towns moving to Boston to live away from college life and rules and wanted to live somewhere residential. BF and I have lived in the same building for almost five years. This is our home.
Two nights ago, we felt differently. We woke up in the middle of the night to a muffled boom, and a staccato noise that made no sense. I, in my half-asleep state, told BF “It’s just thunder, listen for a sec, there’ll be more. Go back to bed.” A few minutes later we heard another boom, and we saw a flash of bright light – then a rapid strobe. I, thinking it was a thunderstorm, went back to sleep. BF tried. but then he heard helicopters flying back and forth over our house, and, out of curiosity went to the source of all things knowledge. The internet. He learned there’d been some sort of bomb or grenade thrown and gunfire. At the end of our block. He woke me up and we went and sat in the living room with the TV on. Waiting for news.
Sometime around 5 am (or so, judging by the time stamp on my FB post) I heard someone on the back stairs. I called to BF and started to cry. He took control, told me to go in the bedroom and hold kittenish. So I did. It was a SWAT team. I could have hugged them from the relief of it being them.
We spent the rest of the day in a tense loop of waiting. Calling family and friends. live tweeting and fb posting the whole experience. At one point our entire house started to shake from helicopter winds, and later another SWAT check of our house. Seeing our normally quiet street crawling with police men and SWAT may have been one of the most scary things I’ve ever gone through. I felt safe, but everything was just too close for comfort.
Throughout our day we followed the news on Reddit, twitter, and occasionally the news. We tracked the police scanner locations like our lives depended on it (they may have) when things were less than a quarter mile from home we “sheltered” in an inner hallway our apartment has, when they were farther out we were planted on our couch avoiding windows.
Then it was 6pm and Gov. Patrick was lifting the shelter in place for Watertown, he told everyone they could go outside and take advantage of the warm evening for a bit. BF and I went for a nap, we were exhausted. We’d been out of bed and wide awake since 2:30am. We said goodbye to BF’s parents, who had been on Skype with us all day, and tried to take a nap. After a bit I could hear kids playing outside and the sound of the helicopters above lessened. I started to doze. Then it started again. Just as we were falling asleep there was a staccato sound, gunfire, only this time we knew what it was.
We heard the location – about 3/4 of a mile from home and retreated back to the hallway. Where we waited. My family called. BF’s family called. And we all played the waiting game. BF could see the helicopters above the arrest scene through the kitchen windows. It was too close. By the time we felt safe enough to go to bed, when the police ban scanner was broadcasting each agency congratulating each other, we had been awake for 20 hours. All BF and I could do at that point was say thank you to the officers that were here – to those men and women who put in extremely long days even under normal circumstances. To every law enforcement agency and first responder that made our town feel like home again. Thank you.
Our town, our community, had made it through something truly trying and shown an amazing amount of resilience. On Sunday BF and I took a walk through Mt Auburn Cemetery with its’ gorgeous spring blooms and stopped of at Arax for a dinner stuff. I’ve never seen it so busy. The owners said it had been that way Saturday as well, a steady stream of people that wanted to support their local stores.
I also want to make sure to thank my AMAZING network. Everyone who emailed, facebooked, tweeted, and in general just sent virtual hugs to my scared, anxious self. I appreciated it so much. It helped add a bit of levity to an otherwise overwhelming day.
I pretty much always have apples or pears in my kitchen, they come in my Boston Organics box almost weekly so there tend to be three or four kicking around at all times. But here’s the slightly annoying thing – I don’t eat much fruit, I’ll grab a piece occasionally, I even went through a fit of eating oranges for days this summer, but in general if I want a snack I will reach for a slice of cheese or a yogurt before i grab fresh fruit. I think part of it is that I just don’t like that first bite. I find it terribly unpleasant to bite into an apple or pear if it is the least bit chilled – I know this makes me an anomaly in the world of fresh fruit eating, but I’m an odd duck that way. So eating fresh apples or pears means a cutting board or at least a bowl and a paring knife. Because, in case you didn’t know, fruit is MESSY guys, juicy and sticky it gets everywhere unless you have a bowl to catch the juice in. But I digress.
So really, you must be wondering why I spend my hard earned money on fresh fruit if I’m not even eating it – I love to bake with it. I love the way really ripe fruit will soften and pool in a jammy bite in a cake or muffin. I am entranced by any apple-spice cake combination. And a baked good with apples or pears in it is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser, for whatever reason. SO I finally figured I would share this recipe with you all. This is a recipe I’ve been using since I first picked up Flour over a year ago – I make it once a month or so (seriously, I’m obsessed with this cake) sometimes I add berries or whatever fruit I have lying around. I tweak it, I mostly follow the recipe, I coddle it. It makes my apartment smell like heaven. And, mostly, it makes a great accompaniment to coffee at breakfast or for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
If you like my facebook page you will see this cake as my header there. That picture has been there for a while and I’ve had at least three readers ask for that recipe, this is it. The difference between this cake and that one – I overcooked this one a smidge, but it’s still delicious. I also think this cake would be improved by a little drizzle of your favorite caramel sauce, because, decadent. I really do love the pear here though, it’s sweeter and cooks down a little softer than the apples so you get a little internal texture variation, which I love. If I were making this for only myself I would kick up the ginger a bit more as well, give it a little more zip, but BF isn’t the biggest ginger fan so I try not to overpower all my baking with it.
Apple-Pear Snacking Cake
This recipe is adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook. I’ve had this cake in the bakery and homemade – and it’s perfect in both places. I am looking forward to Flour, Too so much I may offer to beta test a few recipes for Ms. Chang, that way I don’t have to wait! Ha!
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger (I think some finely minced crystallized ginger would be good here too)
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 4 cups of fruit (at least 3 cups should be apples/pears the other cup can be berries or whatever you’ve got on hand)- peeled, seeded and chopped
- Butter and flour a 10″ round or square cake pan, I use an 8″x11″ rectangle and it works perfectly. Preheat the oven to 350.
- Sift the flour, soda, salt, and spices into the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and butter. Combine at low-medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated. Turn the mixer on high and beat the batter until it is light and fluffy, about a minute. I find the batter a bit thick here, but don’t worry too much about it.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the fruit into the batter gently, making sure there is a bit of batter on all the fruit. The batter will be quite stiff and look like it’s mostly fruit – it should, that’s a good thing. Add the batter to the prepared pan and even it out gently.
- Bake for about 1 hour in the 10″ pan and check it at 45 mins in the 8″x11″ one. When it is done the cake with be a nice golden brown and will fell firm when pressed.
- Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack (or somewhere that air can get around the WHOLE thing).
- Serve the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
- I find this is a cake best eaten slightly warmed, the fruit gets all jammy and fragrant and it’s much more like a warm hug.
- Serve with coffee. As breakfast, to your favorite people.
Hello! I’m back and this time WITH SCONES. I’m sorry I know I’ve been absentee for two months (Ah!). I’ve been busy – I got a new job (two actually) that I think about a lot and my summer has been, well, a bit lazy. I haven’t been cooking so much. But, today marks the beginning of fall. So a new season means a fresh slate, and pumpkin, and apples, and nutmeg, and all the lovely flavors of fall. I can’t WAIT to get into the kitchen and start cooking, so here’s hoping I can come back here rejuvenated and full of new recipes for everyone. So, here you go, starting NOW: Pumpkin scones – WITHOUT DAIRY.
I am as accepting of a challenge as the next person (unless it’s squishy, or slimy, or in general unpleasant – then no, just no). So when BF’s family was visiting recently and his father requested scones made without dairy my mind started whirring, in that way it does. I started thinking about butter alternatives (which seems like some sort of blasphemy coming from me) for BF’s dad, of course. I pulled down books I loved, I searched blogs, and I checked my shelves for a semi-solid fat alternative, preferably with a good flavor. And then, I found it. A can of coconut milk that had been sitting unshaken in my pantry.
I grabbed it almost immediately and started modifying the recipe I was thinking on. Pumpkin (ok, I used Squash), cinnamon, coconut cream, flour, leavener, sugar – I was good to go. I’ve been making these scones for about two months now. They’re a little sweet and with a nice tartness from the berries. I love them. BF loves them. BF’s dad loves them. They are universally loved. These are best enjoyed with a debaucherous amount of butter, or jam, if butter’s not your thing.
Dairy-Free Pumpkin Raspberry Scones
Note: I love these scones and I will continue to make more of them without butter in the future. This recipe is adapted from one in The Best Quick Breads by Beth Hensberger, which is a book I can’t recommend highly enough. Especially if you like sweet breads. It’s perfect.
- 2 cups flour
- 3 Tbs dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp pie spice (or make your own with what you’ve got on hand)
- 6 Tbs Coconut cream the fatty heavy stuff on the top on a can of unshaken coconut milk)
- 1/3-1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries, I use raspberries or dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup coconut milk (use the water from th can after you’ve gotten the cream from on top)
- 1 tsp apple-cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I use One-Pie Squash, because it’s my favorite and canned in Maine from Maine pumpkins)
- 1 egg gently beaten (for brushing the scones with)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment.
- In a medium bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spice. Mix until evenly combined.
- Cut in the coconut cream – the mixture will look a little loose, it’s ok go with it. The nice thing about using coconut cream here instead of butter is that it doesnt require the labor that butter will to cut in. you should just be able to stir it with a fork and get nice little bits of fat.
- Mix in the pecans.
- In a small bowl (I usually just use a two cup measure) combine the pumpkin, coconut water, cider vinegar, and 1 egg. beat this with a fork until it comes together.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Mix until everything just comes together.
- Fold the raspberries in, gently.
- Using a large cookie scoop, spoons work too, measure out the scones (I use a 2 oz cookie scoop, it makes my life easier). Place the scones on a cookie sheet 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart.
- Brush the tops of the scones with the beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
- Bake the scones for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are slightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Serve these warm. With a smear of butter and coffee. They make a great afternoon snack later, too!