Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beach Smoothies

I have stopped washing our beach towels. I'm just throwing them into the back of my car - day after day. They're not really dirty anyway, just really really sandy (and more damp then I'd like to admit). I have also stopped packing full lunches for me and the boys. I found myself starting this crazy process at 7:30 am, hoping to meet friends at the beach around 10, and realized how silly I was being. For the rest of the summer it's used beach towels and smoothies.

The summer frenzy is finally catching up with me. The hot beach days with two kids in tow, evening events out, keeping up with work, and this sweet face waking me up in the wee hours (I can't get over his blonde swirl). It's intense and exhausting but so fleeting and wonderful too.

These are extra special sweet smoothies inspired by a friend of Dylan's who needed some TLC after a bad accident. She got a batch to sip on and we got a batch for the road. They definitely satisfy a sweet tooth.

Cocoa Beach
1 banana
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons extra liquid (water, whole milk, nut milk, etc.)

Tropical Beach 
1 banana
1/2 cup mango
1/2 cup pineapple
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons extra liquid (water, whole milk, nut milk, etc.)

PS. My mom's garden has turned into a sweet pea wonderland.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nectarine & Blueberry Crumble

I like the summer side effect of people talking about books. It makes sense - more leisure time and vacationing leads to more reading. On our last day in Truro we went swimming in a kettle pond and our quick chat with strangers focused on summer reading. The friendly older man taking a swim and I both just finished The Goldfinch and we liked it. Have you read it?

We arrived home on the Island Sunday night and fell into bed. One con of family vacations is infant sleep relapse (mama is tired). Nick and I turned on the documentary Bill Cunningham New York and thoroughly enjoyed it. So if you have a travel hangover I suggest curling up with this movie. One pro of family vacation is eating not one but two dishes of Nectarine & Blueberry Crumble. We made this dessert early in the week and had to make it again.

Nectarine & Blueberry Crumble

3/4 cup all-purpose flour,
1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons pure cane sugar 
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes 
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking) 
1 cup fresh blueberries
5-7 nectarines (depending on size), peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

First, preheat the oven to 375 F degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, salt, and cane sugar. Using your hands, mash butter into flour until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Add oats, and use your hands to toss and squeeze mixture until large, moist clumps form. Transfer to freezer to chill while you prepare the fruit.

In another large bowl, toss fruit with lemon juice and cinnamon. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with topping mixture. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blueberry Soda

I was trying to think when the last time we have had a week off together. A real week off - no house projects, no splitting up to visit old friends, and no real agenda. The answer is - maybe three years ago or maybe our honeymoon? We went to Asheville two years ago but only for a short visit. Nick got a week off when Gray was born but we were only home together as a family for a few days before he had to go back to work (thanks America!). So I don't know when or if this has ever happened but it's happening now and it feels good.

I thought friends on the Vineyard would laugh when I said we were going to Cape Cod on vacation (to the Waldman's beach house in Truro) but nobody did. Everyone understands the need for an island escape in July or August. Despite the fact that it is one of the best places to be in the summer it's still the place where we go to work everyday, get stuck in summer traffic, and follow our regular family routine.

On our first afternoon here, we decided to make some Blueberry Soda as a refreshing afternoon drink. I cooked fresh blueberries down with a little lemon juice and dash of sugar into a thick syrup. The soda is tart, sweet, and festive.

Blueberry Soda
makes 4 drinks

1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup water
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon sweetener (cane sugar, agave, stevia, etc.)
seltzer water

First, add the blueberries, water, lemon juice and sweetener to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let thicken for 10 minutes.

When the fruit is ready, strain over a sieve or cheese cloth, collecting the juices into a small bowl. The remaining cooked berries should be saved to top yogurt, oatmeal, or vanilla ice cream.

When ready to serve, place an ice cube in a cup, spoon over 1-2 tablespoons of berry syrup, and top with seltzer water.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fresh Mustard Greens Pasta

This seems to be the summer of the gifted greens. A neighbor down the street, friend across town, and family growing vegetables on a nearby hill have all gifted us bowls of summer greens. They tell us they planted too much, don't want it to go to the deer and rabbits, or arn't craving crunchy lettuce this week.  Of course, we always say yes and enjoy every bite.

Nick was inspired by a recent bunch of mustard greens to try a Fresh Mustard Greens Pasta. It came out perfectly and is an ideal summer dinner. I was always intimidated by making fresh pasta at home but Nick's confidence has made me realize it really is as easy as they say. You won't know until you try it - so you should try it. Our garden is definitely not overflowing with beautiful lettuces and greens but does have some pretty darn good lavender. We snipped some bunches this week, tied them up, and hid them around the house and in the bottom of the new (old) car we bought.

Fresh Mustard Greens Pasta

1 1/2 cups chopped raw mustard greens leaves
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
water (only if absolutely needed)
additional flour for rolling

Rip mustard greens leaves from the stems, wash, and while still wet, wilt in a hot skillet until completely soft, about 4 minutes. Let cool and wring out all the water — this is very important. Use your hands and squeeze squeeze squeeze. Finely chop the cooked greens.

Dump mustard greens, flour, and salt on countertop and mix with your fingers, then form into a pile. Make a deep well in the center and add the whole eggs and yolks to it. Use your fingertips to break up the eggs and begin moving your fingers in a circular motion, keeping the eggs within the center. Each circular movement pulls in a little bit of flour from the sides. In a few minutes, the mixture will become thicker and thicker, finally becoming too tight to move easily with your fingers. At this point, you can use a bench scraper or spatula to start adding the remaining, a little pile at a time. Once a rough dough has formed, begin kneading the mixture, scraping it up when it sticks, until a ball is formed. It will look flaky but will hold together.

Knead the dough, pressing it away with the heels of your hands then forming it back into a blob, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough is moist but not sticky. Add extra flour, a spoonful at a time, only if dough is too sticky. Add a drop or two of water only if it’s cracking when you knead it. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then knead it again for 5 to 8 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic and let rest at room temperature for an hour.

Divide dough into thirds. On a floured surface, roll the pasta as thin as you can; as thin as a newspaper and translucent is ideal (with either a rolling pin or pasta machine). You can either cut the pasta sheets with a sharp knife or use a machine to make your shape. Don't worry about it too much - you can cut long pasta, 1" long rectangles, or triangles. 

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling. The cooking time will depend on the thickness but can range from 2-6 minutes. Drain and toss with fixings of your choice — garlic-sizzled olive oil or melted butter, parmesan or pecorino, dollops of ricotta or mascarpone. Eat immediately.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grilled Nectarines with Ice Cream & Cookies

Nick and I were married 6 years ago today. The weather was a lot like it is now, hot but with just enough wind to stay comfortable. On our way out of the barn where the wedding party was held, Nick grabbed the last beer the bartenders had. Apparently we bought just the right number. I think it was a sign of our luck to come.

I wish I could flash a quick picture of our life now to the newlyweds that day - two boys, a life on this island, our challenges as a young family. I know that little glimpse into the future would have made us smile even bigger walking up the aisle. We often joke that we find each other the least annoying of anyone we've ever met - so I call that a good match.

These Grilled Nectarines with Ice Cream & Cookies are a festive afternoon treat that require little effort. You can adapt them however you'd like with peaches, plums, lemon sorbet, or chocolate wafers. I'm a sucker for gingersnaps so the little spicy kick is my favorite part. 

Grilled Nectarines with Ice Cream & Cookies

Ripe nectarines (or any favorite stone fruit)
Canola oil
Vanilla ice cream
Fresh mint

Simply heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium-high. Slice the fruit in half and remove the pit. Brush grill with oil and place fruit skin side up. Cook until caramelized, about 4 minutes.

Place warm fruit in a bowl, top with a scoop of ice cream, crumbled cookie, and torn mint leaves.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Japanese Vegetable Pancakes

One of our refrigerator drawers has turned into a carrot science experiment - like a wacky one. Some carrots have sprouted roots, buds, and other unrecognizable growths. I have been stock piling root vegetables all winter and it is pretty obvious they have to be eaten fast. I can't bear another carrot stick so I decided to try something new - Japanese Vegetable Pancakes. Happily, they turned out delicious and are something I will make again. The batter is eggy and light, almost like a tempura, and the vegetables hold a slight crunch.

We also spontaneously planted a few pots of vegetables this year (not carrots) and are having fun watching them sprout flowers and tiny vegetables. If you have children at home who are interested in food and gardening I highly recommend How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?:The Story of Food (thanks Leah!). It's a cute and approachable story about where food comes from. 

Japanese Vegetable Pancakes
makes about a dozen
from Smitten Kitchen

For the Pancakes:
1/2 small head cabbage, very thinly sliced (1 pound or 5 to 6 cups shreds) which will be easiest on a mandoline if you have one
4 medium carrots, peeled into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
5 lacinato kale leaves, ribs removed, leaves cut into thin ribbons
4 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
Canola oil for frying

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (note: this is not vegetarian)
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rice cooking wine or sake
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey (use 2 if you like a sweeter sauce)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

To Make the Pancakes: Toss cabbage, carrot, kale, scallions and salt together in a large bowl. Toss mixture with flour so it coats all of the vegetables. Stir in the eggs. Heat a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with oil and heat that too.

Add 1/4 of the vegetable mixture to the skillet, pressing it out into a 1/2- to 3/4-inch pancake. Gently press the pancake down flat. Cook until the edges beging to brown, about 3 minutes. 30 seconds to 1 minute later, flip the pancake with a large spatula. Cook on the other side until the edges brown, and then again up to a minute more. You can keep them warm on a tray in the oven at 200 to 250 degrees until needed.

To Make the Okonomiyaki Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until smooth and thick.

Serve pancakes with sauce and any other fixings from scallions to toasted sesame seeds.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Grape-Nut Ice Cream

Well, that was interesting. As many of you kind people noticed this site was down last week. Suffice it to say, it was a frustrating time. I will save you the gory details but there was law breaking, internet scamming, and money demands involved. Some days I felt like I was a character in some weird movie. The good news is that it is all over with.

The whole event made me realize, more than ever, what this site means to me. I have been writing this blog for almost 7 years. It has allowed me to have a space of my own, a sliver of life separate from my children and household. It has made me see and strive for career goals that once felt off limits. It has made me feel connected, supported, and encouraged after long days alone with my kids.

If I haven't said it enough then please hear me now - thank you for checking in here, cooking this food, sharing it with friends, and saying hello. I am very grateful.

I have a pile of recipes ready to share. A couple weeks ago we explored The Polly Hill Arboretum with friends. The arboretum has these genius backpacks for kids filled with magnifying glasses, compasses, identification guides, and binoculars. We also broke out our ice cream maker this week. If you have never tried Grape-Nut ice cream you totally should. It is a flavor I used to order as a teenager and have always had a soft spot for. (I think the emotional roller coaster of this week sparked the craving). The Grape-Nuts add a little crunch to the creamy vanilla. This is the first time I've made an egg yolk based ice cream and really like the way it came out.

Grape-Nut Ice Cream 

2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons agave nectar 
dash of sea salt
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Grape-Nuts
In a sauce pan, combine half and half, whole milk, heavy cream, 3/4 cups of agave, and salt. Whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of agave. Over medium-high heat, heat milk mixture until agave dissolves and it begins to simmer. Slowly pour about one cup of the simmering milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Add egg mixture to sauce pan, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Turn heat off and add the vanilla extract.
Pour the ice cream mixture into a large bowl, cover, and place in fridge to cool (about 3 hours). Once the mixture is cold, stir in Grape-Nuts, and make ice cream according to your machine's instructions. I like to top mine with extra Grape-Nuts. 
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