I get a little giddy this time of year when farmer's markets begin to explode with produce and sweet, delicious fruit. I'm like a kid in a candy store, grabbing armfuls of whatever looks good, hoping I don't run out of cash before I get my fill. Strawberries are returning in a big way and I received my first basket from a friend who harvested strawberries from her own garden and kindly left me a basket on my doorstep. The sincerest thank you I can give is making something special with such a lovely haul. I've never roasted strawberries before, but was inspired by my one of my favorite cookbooks
and author, Heidi Swanson, and a recipe I read last summer when I first purchased the book and began picking off the recipes one by one.
Roasted strawberries or as I like to call them, strawberries in the style of Jackson Pollock are rich and artful. The Mister thinks they resemble a murder scene. I think they are poetic. Heidi Swanson takes her strawberries and dresses them up with a little port and balsamic vinegar. I roasted my first batch and tried them with balsamic vinegar and tarragon. Then I got thinking about jam. And ginger.
After a few iterations in my kitchen on a rainy day, I settled for strawberries roasted in a ginger syrup for sweetness and spiked with fresh ginger juice for a spicy end kick. A little lemon juice adds brightness to the jammy concentration of strawberries. The syrup cooks down with the natural fruit juices and becomes an oozy puddle of flavor and stunning color. Poetic berries meet their delicious demise.
My first inclination with any concentrated berry is to put it over vanilla bean ice cream. Like so
. It's my go-to combination. Next, after dessert is breakfast. How awesome would this be over some french toast with a little powdered sugar? This may still happen. Then, of course, the jam is money over bread and cake. Take your pick. I'm working on an olive oil cake recipe, so I had a readily available vessel for my jammy jam.
Roasted Strawberry-Ginger JamMakes approximately 1 cup of jam
16 ounces strawberries, hulled
4 tablespoons ginger syrup (recipe below)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice, about 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and juiced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juiceNOTE: If you do not have a juicer to extract fresh ginger, you can opt for a microplane grate to achieve the same flavor without imparting massive chunks of ginger to the mix.
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Hull each strawberry and cut in half or smaller, depending upon the size. Set aside berries.
In a separate bowl, whisk together ginger syrup, oil and salt. Pour over berries and toss gently, then pour onto baking sheet arranged into a single layer. The original recipe called for 40 minutes of roasting time. I roasted mine for approximately 45 minutes. I watched for the juices to thicken to a syrup-like consistency and was careful not to let them burn.
Once roasted, pour warm berries into a small bowl and stir in ginger and lemon juice. This can also be the time to add fresh herbs like tarragon or basil. Berries can be eaten warm or cooled and stored in the fridge a week. Ginger Syrup
(from Bon Appetit
Magazine) Makes approximately 1/2 cup of syrup
1/3 cup raw sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup water
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow syrup to steep for 15 minutes. Strain the ginger out and discard. Use immediately or cover and chill the syrup for later use up to one week.
I made a list
of goals at the beginning of this year of thirty-one things I wanted accomplish during my 31st year. Number eighteen on the list was "Handmade birthday wishes for my besties"
After a few tragic oversights, I set a goal to do better this year by creating handmade sentiments for my dear friends. Handmade gifts always warm my heart because I know that someone put time, effort and loving thoughts into creating them. This is one my most recent creations for an old friend. She said it made her heart smile. Mission accomplished.
They say all good things take time. Ain't that the truth!
As a child, I would daydream of who and what I was going to be when I grew up. I was going to be a princess, the first female President, an astronaut, a TV star. I dreamt about a life filled with celebrity and spokesperson deals. In high school, I was sure I wanted to be a lawyer, the ones that TV dramas were made of. Fast forward to college and I wanted to be a psychologist. A year later, I became starstruck with the hip, twinkling allure of the advertising agency which I pursued for quite some time.
I was always chasing something, looking for the BBD or, the bigger, better deal. I was sure it was waiting at the end of some dark and distant hallway, the reward at the end of a very long road paved with ambition and stick-to-it-iveness. If I could just keep going, keep pushing.
Then, something funny happened to me.
Instead of searching out, chasing yet another mechanical rabbit around an endless track, I turned my focus inward. I stopped running toward bright, shiny objects and began asking myself some very important questions.
What is it that I like
to do? What am I really
passionate about? If I could be doing anything in this world, what would that be? What is my soul's longing? What makes me happy?
For the longest time, I didn't know. What an uncomfortable feeling. To me, it was not okay to not know. I felt like everyone knew their path but me (a gross distortion of reality, by the way). I was falling behind in this phantom race. I needed to find out quick or else!
Still, I sat with those questions, for years
I sat with those questions. Then, I began learning to live the answers. I relaxed a bit, took it easy, stopped being so hard on myself. I became comfortable with trying and failing, trying and not liking, putting myself out there. I learned that it's okay to not know. It occurred to me that there is no grand timetable with milestones like sales goals that tallies my score in life.
Thirty one years into this lovely journey of mine, I have finally stumbled upon the real meat and potatoes of this whole thing. It's the journey.
Those questions that I've asked myself time and again are beginning to reveal the things that live close to my heart. My only job now is to nurture those things without expectation. For me, it's not about what's up ahead, around the corner or behind door number five, it's about being attentive to my life as it is right now yet always moving forward. Not speeding. Not barreling, nor mowing down but, gently going along this way.
Cliches be damned, but I'm beginning to mildly understand this whole "journey" business. Call me a slow learner, a late bloomer or what have you...I'm enjoying the journey. Are you?
I took this photo yesterday during my most amazing Sunday full of happy adventures. I saw these pennants waving in the wind while the Mister and I enjoyed a sweet indulgence at the local yogurt shop. This happened right after a most satisfying afternoon nap. I love Sundays. I really do.
Even better is the continuation of such a happy day into this bright and delightful week. Let's keep this happy train moving, people. Have an awesome week!
Photo taken with Instagram
Happy Friday, friends! Any fun on tap for you this weekend? I'll be kicking it close to home for the most part. I've got plans to plant more veggies and get organized for a garage sale we're hosting next weekend(fingers crossed). I also hope to spend some time in the kitchen cooking up some lovely new concoctions.
In other happenings, I had my very first "wedding nightmare." It was bound to happen, I guess. There's simply too many elements for one's conscious mind to contain. Around 2:30 early Wednesday morning, I was startled to consciousness by a dream in which the Mister and I were in front of our family and friends exchanging vows and we realized that we had no rings. We had forgotten to purchase rings!! Then, my dream moved to our reception where we discovered that there was no DJ. Gasp!
After lying awake until about four in the morning fretting about all the tasked that have yet to be completed, I decided to do something about at least one of those nightmare scenarios. I got a DJ!
My dear friend and magnificent DJ extraordinaire, Rob Dowell, has agreed to rock the dancefloor at our wedding. Rob and I go waaaay back to my college days and he's become known in our circle of friends for his fun 80's mixes and his deadpan sense of humor. Here's his latest mix for your listening pleasure. Happy Weekend!
OMG! Is it really Thursday already? I returned Tuesday afternoon from an impromptu Easter visit with family in Knoxville and then I blinked and it was Thursday. Holy smokes! I need a time lasso.
Since time is of the essence, I thought I'd share a healthy and easy recipe that's ready in a pinch. These little egg cups are a great solution for hurried weekday breakfasts and the mix-in possibilities are endless. I like to make these ahead of time, usually at the beginning of the week, and then warm them when I'm ready to eat.
My most recent batch was filled with onions, red and green peppers and a touch of cayenne, but you can use just about anything.
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 large, free-range eggs
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute for 2-3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add cayenne.
3. While the onions and peppers cook, whisk the eggs in a large bowl and set aside.
4. Once the onions and peppers are done, let cool slightly and then add to the bowl of whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Coat a muffin pan with coconut oil. Alternatively, you can use non-stick spray to coat the muffin pan. Using a ladle, pour the mixture into the muffin cups.
6. Place muffin pan in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until they puff up and turn golden brown. Use a small knife or spatula to remove the eggs from the pan and serve with your favorite condiments and a side of fresh fruit.
If I had more time, I would have made a fresh salsa verde to spoon over top or something of comparable deliciousness. This morning, I drizzled my trusty condiment, green Tabasco, over the egg cups and served them with a side of fruit. You can add herbs, cheese, meats and whatever else you like. Dill comes to mind. And bacon, mmmm bacon. I stuck to simple vegetables since I've been trying to behave myself. That whole "walking down the aisle with all your friends and family watching" is keeping me on the straight and narrow. Kind of.
Well, I hope these simple egg cups help you maximize your time on those busy mornings when everything has gone buck wild. It'll be one less thing to worry about and if you're anything like me, you need breakfast to keep you from mutating into an evil three-headed, slobbering devil woman.
P.S.- I have a few recipes in the queue that I am really excited about. I hope to get those to you soon, time willing. Happy Thursday!
Some people have their big day planned before they hit puberty. They know exactly what their dress will look like and have orchestrated their nuptials long before they marry. Not me. I didn't start thinking about my wedding until after the Mister popped the question. As with most things in my life, I'm not sure exactly what it is that I want until I see it and not a moment before. I knew I wanted something vintage-inspired, something that wasn't bright white and something that wasn't strapless. That's as much as I knew.
Here's some of my inspiration:
1. Pinterest via Jelena F.
2. Style Me Pretty
3. Love My Dress
Dress by Emannuelle Junqueira
It didn't take long for me to find "the" dress. In fact, it was the very first one I tried on. I stopped in at a local bridal boutique less than a mile from home and dug through dress-laden racks to find it, hidden in the back of the store on the very last bracket of the very last rack. It took some muscle to find that sucker.
I immediately grabbed it.
I knew there was something special about this dress the minute I slipped into it. It just felt right. It hugged my curves in all the right ways without stifling them or doing them injustice. I thought, "This is what Beyonce' must feel like when she walks the red carpet" Like BANG! Ta-DOW! My body too bootylicious and all that jazz.
For me, a wedding dress is supposed to make you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. I wanted to feel like the womanliest woman that ever was and I did
in that dress
. But...since it was the first dress in the first store, I waited. I tried a host of other dresses and then left.
I returned a month later, this time with my posse. It was my mother, the Mister's mother, the Mister's sister and bless his big patient heart, my oldest brother, John. It takes a special man to roll with three highly opinionated Northeastern born and bred women and one fickle bride. Such a task is not for the weak and inexperienced. Lucky for John, he has puh-lenty of experience.
My brother John is walking me down the aisle along with my brother Anthony, in place of my father who passed twelve years ago. John wanted to be a part of the dress selection process because he wanted to help pay for it as a gift to me. It fills my heart just to type that sentence. What a gift!
Luckily for John, dress shopping was a one stop shop. We all traipsed back to the same boutique and tried on a bunch of new dresses and the first one again. It was still "the" dress, something we all agreed upon. Quite possibly, the only thing that we all agreed upon.
Here's a sneak peek. You will have to wait until October to see the rest. Whaddya think?
Illustration by Lisa Congdon
I'm chuckling as I write this because whenever I post a Monday Mantra, it is usually because I need a reminder myself. I don't write these because I am an expert on life or because I claim to be a supremely happier person than the next. My posts are written in real time and the topics are always based on my current feelings and what's happening in my life right now.
Right now, life is whipping itself into a wonderful frenzy of activity. Where there was once three balls to keep in the air, there are now twelve. Appointments, obligations, plans and to-do's have whittled my time to an unrecognizable nub. In the meantime, our lives (that's me and the Misters) are in transition. Amidst wedding plans and life plans, the next chapter of our lives beckons. Large decisions are looming but the time is not yet right to make them. We are essentially waiting in the wings. Hanging out in the hallway, waiting for the next door to open.
Which brings me to this moment. Here & Now.
Wait a minute, I haven't thought about this moment until....this moment. Precisely why I am writing this post. When the winds of change are blowing, it is almost guaranteed that I am not thinking about the here and now. My focus is forward, upward, onward. Not here. Or now.
I'd like to take a moment, this moment, to center myself in today. Today, I have the opportunity to enjoy the day for what it is. The birds are chattering in the spring sun, the grass is greener than ever and I am home typing a post in this small window of now that has been given to me. Despite the busy week ahead, my here and now is calm. Everything is okay right now. I am rested. I am loved. I am here.
I am. Are you?