Dear readers, I won’t be here as often as I’d like for a little bit, so I’m going to “leave” you with some stunning places I wish I was traveling for spring break this year.
I keep looking at the forecast; thinking that the worst of winter must surely be over. And yet, every day, I’m greeted with the little snow icons. Or the little sleet icons. Or temperatures I don’t want to see–or think about, really. So let’s take a minute, close our eyes, and pretend like we’re here…
1. Life gets exponentially less stressful here. One morning this summer I spent a solid 10 minutes agonizing about whether I wanted to grab a bagel from my favorite bagel place, or go to the greasy spoon I can never get enough of. For those of you on the edge of your seats, I went for the greasy spoon.
2. Speaking of which, man, do you eat a lot at the beach. Wait. Do YOU eat a lot at the beach? I am pretty much never more than 10 minutes away from my next bite.
3. Also I’m pretty sure food tastes better here. I love assembling dishes with seemingly random ingredients until I come up with something great. These things never seem to happen just so at home.
4. My musical tastes are wide and varied and I pride myself on curating some killer Pandora stations. In real life. When I am at the beach, all I want to listen to is whiny women. Hello, Norah Jones station. Is this a moon/tides-related thing?
5. I slip into beach-life slowly. When I first hit the road, my heart feels free. I arrive and I start unpacking, and feel the excitement that comes with being here. But it takes a solid couple of days before I feel completely and totally relaxed.
6. There is nothing better than sitting with your toes in the sand.
Earlier this summer, we went to Nantucket. And I was reminded that Nantucket is one of my favorite places. My husband and I spent the morning walking around town, and then we headed to the top of the steeple at First Congregational Church to take in the views of the island. The man who was on duty told us that we could see all the way to the Cape but couldn’t see the Vineyard. If we had been able to, the day would have been a 10. As it was he declared it a 9.
The highlight of our trip to Nantucket, however, was an island tour and home-cooked meal from some of our friends who spend a few weeks there every summer. They wouldn’t let us lift a finger to help with any of the preparations or a lick of clean up. We ate outdoors, and after several days with only the two of us on the road, we thoroughly enjoyed the company of others. Our dessert was raspberry pie, and my slice was heaven. I was sitting outside on the most beautiful evening, sipping a glass of wine, and enjoying conversation with some of my favorite people. What’s not to love there? After that slice of pie, I swore to spend the rest of the summer eating as many fruit-centric desserts as possible.
When I made this raspberry crisp for my own family, I was trying to bring back the feeling I had on Nantucket, when we ate a home cooked meal around close friends. The raspberries weren’t nearly as sweet as the ones we had on the island, but that just means I’ll have to make it again when I find ones that live up to my ideals.
To make raspberry crisp for 6, you will need:
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
We’re back. Once work wrapped up for me in the middle of June, my husband and I put the car in drive and set off on a whirlwind tour of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The best way I think through just about anything is by making lists. When my husband and I are out, I’m always asking him, “What’s your favorite thing we did today/this week/since we’ve been together?” It drives him crazy sometimes, but I’m a linear thinker, through and through. Our absolute most favorite moments of the trip were the times we spent with our friends–visiting family friends we don’t get to see enough, and meeting up with some of our DC crew who were up north at the time. Other than that, see below. It was a whirlwind tour and we loved pretty much every minute of it.
(as ranked by my husband)
(all on Sirius)
*Wooden Nickels’ aunt had a little tradition in which she would seek out the tackiest postcard she could find while on vacation, and send it to her friends. Wooden Nickels, her aunt, and I shared in this merriment for years, and though the aunt is no longer with us, we’ve passed this tradition on to a couple friends of our own. It is SO FUN not to look for a charming photo of whatever cute town through which you are passing, but instead look for the worst a souvenir shop has to offer. Buy postcard stamps before you leave, throw them in your wallet, and you’ll be sure to get them all in the mail, too.
**Driving through New England took us to a lot of small towns and independent retailers. I loved this and realized it’s a big piece of my hometown that I miss living here in DC. A lot of these places however, don’t take credit cards. Cash is a must.
Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months. I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find some recipes worth sharing again. These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye. They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life. I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.
But they’re so much more! They’re an entire sandwich on their own. They’re the marriage of my two favorite foods: grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese. Because croque monsieurs are grilled cheeses that take a bechamel bath before they hit your mouth. For those of you not as well versed in the French language, this means that should you choose to make these sandwiches, there would be a buttery, creamy, cheesy sauce involved in your lunch.
My introduction to these savory beauties was at a local restaurant in the French countryside, after a visit here. I know, right? I continued to hunt these sandwiches down for the remainder of my visit, and not just because in a foreign land at the tender age of 20, my palate still bordered on
discerning picky. Also because I can’t say no to Gruyere.
And dear readers, I’m going to do that thing bloggers do sometimes where they tell you that one bite of xyz dish took them right back to that moment in that foreign land that they long to be in again. Because one bite into this sandwich in my little DC kitchen and I was transported. I was sitting outdoors with Wooden Nickels, my aunt and uncle, at a glass table, under an umbrella, in a little French town. These are the real deal.
To make 2 croque monsiuers, you will need:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toast the bread lightly in toaster or toaster oven.
Melt butter over medium-low heat in small saucepan. Stir in flour, and whisk till incorporated. Cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes, to allow flour flavor to cook off. Stir in milk, and cook mixture, stirring constantly, till it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Off heat, stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and half the Gruyere till melted.
Spread mustard on two slices of bread. Put 1 1/2 slices ham on top of each piece. Sprinkle half the remaining cheese over ham. Place plain slices of bread on top. Slather the top with cheese sauce, and sprinkle with the rest of cheese.
Bake for 5 minutes at 400, then turn on broiler and cook about 3 more minutes, until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
*recipe loosely adapted from Ina.
**Original post here.
My husband and I have joked about our trip to New England. He says I need to warn my Instagram followers right before it’s coming because they’ll be inundated with pictures of quaint, picturesque towns. He’s totally right. Just unfollow me now. Even looking for potential hotels is enough to make me giddy with excitement. We have a couple places picked out already, and some other gaps to fill along the way. How anyone planned a trip before Pinterest is beyond me.
My husband and I are planning to sneak away to New England in the summer. He’s never been north of New York, and I have yet to visit Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. We’re going on a road trip along the coast because I’m naive and think it will be cute and bond-y. This will likely prove to be untrue less than half the way to wherever we go first, but I’m sticking to my guns. We will drive through America and we will enjoy it! (And we will need some serious playlists and podcasts to get us through.)
Where should we go, dear readers? What should we see and do? And what should we listen to so we don’t kill each other?
I’ve been doing some research and this is what I’ve found:
First, and most importantly, I now have the perfect excuse to buy the (North) American edition of 36 Hours, which I’ve been ogling at Anthropologie more and more with each visit.
Muffy is certainly an expert on all things New England, and I like her list of shopping destinations. Hoping to cross a couple of those off our list. I’m also brushing up on my working knowledge of The Preppy Handbook.
And finally, BuzzFeed. While I usually spend my time on BuzzFeed figuring out which emoji I am (the winky/kissy face), and which Mean Girls character best represents me (the girl who looks like Danny DeVito, what?), this list of New England towns I need to see is proving super helpful as I work to fill in some stops on our journey.
Ask me my favorite food and I’ll tell you without hesitation: pasta. But I haven’t been eating it the way I used to. Which is to say, without abandon.
I realized the other day that pasta, except, of course, for my beloved Ramen, has moved out of our weekly dinner rotation, and become something we have just every once in a while.
I had to give this one some thought–why was this happening in my life? Did I even know myself anymore?
Around Christmastime I figured it out. I had been spending each day leading up to December 25th figuring out what I was doing at that time last year. Packing my suitcase, boarding a plane, exploring Rome. Bingo. I don’t eat pasta as much anymore because I went to Rome. And when you’ve had pasta in Rome, you’ve had pasta. Real pasta. Rome made me pickier than you’d think possible about pasta. As in, I was picky before (Barilla or DeCecco brands only, please and thank you), and now I’m ten times worse. More than half of what makes Roman pasta so great is the homemade dough. I am searching high and low for a great quality pasta, so do fill me in if you have any leads. In the meantime, I’m still missing pasta all’amatriciana something fierce.
Which led me to my other conclusion, that the other part of what makes Roman pasta so great is how it’s sauced. Simply.
And that’s something I’m going to keep in mind as I work toward getting more pasta on the table. Simple sauces often make the biggest impact. This one comes from an old issue of Cooks Illustrated. It took me back with just one bite.
To make Pasta alla Vino Bianco for 4, you will need:
Fry up the pancetta in a skillet. Remove, set aside, and drain all but 2 T fat from skillet.
Set large pot of water to boil on stove. Once it comes to a rapid boil, add 1 T salt, and cook pasta 4 minutes. Reserve 1 C pasta water, then drain. Yes, I know the pasta is nowhere near cooked yet.
Meanwhile, return skillet to heat and add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute 1-2 minutes, until garlic is brown. Pour 1 1/2 C wine to pan, and scrape brown bits off bottom. Let bubble till reduced by about 2/3, for about 8-10 minutes. You should have about 1/2 C wine at this point. Return pasta to skillet, and slowly add the rest of the wine, as if you were cooking risotto. Add wine, about 1/2 C at a time, constantly stirring pasta as you go. By the time you’ve done that, the pasta should be cooked (take a little piece out and give it a solid bite to find out for sure). If the pasta isn’t quite where you want it, add 1/2 C pasta water and keep going.
Remove pasta from heat and add arugula, and pour 1/4 C pasta water on top. Let sit for 1 minute, to slightly wilt arugula. Give things a toss, and add cream and cheese. Toss again. Sprinkle a ton of freshly ground black pepper over top of pasta and give it one last, pre-serving toss.
Place pasta in serving bowl. Top with nuts, and of course, more cheese. Bring that pancetta back in the game, and portion out into bowls.
Simply: I have not stopped thinking about Nanaimo Bars since I made them for Thanksgiving. There are still a couple, sitting in my fridge right now, and they’re calling me. Nanaimo Bars are my siren song.
Nanaimo Bars and I have a history dating back to 2010, when the Daring Bakers (remember them?) took them on. It was right around the time Vancouver hosted the Olympics, and I learned all about this local specialty by visiting various blogs around the Internet. As the years passed, Nanaimo Bars kept popping up on my radar, but baking bars has never been my baking specialty, and baking bars with three layers seemed like entirely too much work.
And then last April I went to Vancouver, and made it my personal mission to, if nothing else, eat a Nanaimo Bar.
I was not disappointed, nor could I live in a world where this was the only Nanaimo Bar to ever cross my lips. Thus, when left in charge of providing dessert, for what Wooden Nickels referred to as “ThanksChileanGiving,” I put Nanaimo Bars on the menu. Sure, a Canadian dish isn’t the most obvious choice for an American holiday, but Vancouver holds a special place in my in-laws’ hearts. As soon as I placed these on our table, both mother and father in-law knew exactly what I had done.
I had gifted my little family-in-law with a layer of coconut and chocolate graham cracker crumbs, a layer of custard-flavored frosting, and a layer of chocolate ganache. Three layers of decadence.
I’m so glad I did it too.
These were not nearly as challenging as I had made them out to be, which happens in my baking endeavors more often than I’d care to admit.
To make 16 Nanaimo Bars, you will need:
For the graham cracker layer:
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten (Sorry if you’re weird about raw egg. Buy organic and conquer your fear!)
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds (optional, and I left them out)
1 cup coconut
For the custard layer:
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
For the ganache layer:
4, 1 oz. squares semi-sweet chocolate (I used 4 oz. Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips. I am having a love affair with those chips. I like them more than Scharffenberger.)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken (I didn’t do that. Don’t tell. I melted the ingredients in a saucepan, let them cool a little, then added the beaten egg. It didn’t scramble, so I win). Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts (if using). Press firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan.
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Dear readers, I feel like I’ve been keeping something from you. Unless you follow me on Instagram. And then there’s no way you could have missed that I was in New York about a week ago.
Ah, New York.
My favorite place in the world.
And I went with my favorite people in the world.
It was 72 hours of nonstop joy.
I exaggerate a lot.
But that’s not an exaggeration.
We were there to watch our beloved Terps lose to UCONN, and then I stayed on for a pretty important birthday for Queen Cupcake.
And surprisingly, that was the only cupcake I ate.
AGOMYR sent me a text that said she was following along with my Instagram feed and she couldn’t help but notice this must have been my dream weekend. She was totally right.
Every minute, every single minute of the weekend was spent doing something I love.
I smiled (and texted SCL) the entire way home.
And I’m still totally bummed we missed out on Ramen Burgers. I have to think of them as my excuse to get back there soon.