The first blooms of jasmine kind of make me want to stay in California forever. I love how spring comes alive in a tidal rush here. It’s so different from the trickle of crocus that would spread slowly across our New York garden. I still haven’t quite figured out gardening on our shaded terrace, but I will.
We started our Easter with amazing almond pancakes. I didn’t have the recommended blanched almond flour, but using almond meal. It still worked well. They reminded me of Rhode Island Johnny Cakes, with the texture of coarse cornmeal. The almond meal was perfectly toasty when browned on a well oiled cast iron griddle. This recipe takes a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract. Fortunately, we made tons of bottles at Christmas. It was sort of an investment in our baking future. At least that’s how I justified buying half a pound of wholesale vanilla beans. J is a pancake fiend and loved these cakes. I’m sure they will be added to our Sunday breakfast rotation.
Recipe slightly adapted from Comfy Tummy
1 1/2 cups almond meal (or blanched almond flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup almond milk
oil to brush skillet
Combine the dry ingredients, make a well in the center and add wet ingredients. Combine well and cook over medium low heat using about 3 tablespoons per pancake. Turn as soon as the cakes are firm enough to flip. Serve warm.
I found this recipe made about 11 small pancakes.
There is snow still on the ground this morning, enough snow for a white Christmas. It started late last night, and it was perfect.
I hope everyone has a wonderful day. Merry Christmas to all!
We had no particular plan for our drive down Highway 1, with the exception of seeing the ocean. After making it to Big Sur and wandering around the village of Carmel, we decided to stay for an early dinner. Carmel is remarkably pet friendly, meaning there are dogs everywhere. Knowing this, we brought out little dog, Phoebe, along for the ride. I read a few comments that joked Carmel is a town that is perhaps more pet-friendly than child-friendly. After wandering around the shops, there may be some truth to this rumor.
We were lucky to snag table at Basil before the rush of 6 o’clock reservations arrived. Basil is notably family and dog friendly (outdoors, of course). In fact, the welcoming staff brought Phoebe some dog biscuits as soon as we sat down. The outside tables are lined down a cozy alley under super warm heat lamps. They even offered blankets for those that were still cold. J and I loved the local menu with vegan options. He had a few helpings of their signature basil spread on fresh bread while we waited for our salads.
I had the grilled Monterey squid appetizer. It was perfectly cooked and served atop eggplant caponata with raisins and pine nuts. Squid and eggplant are a fantastic combination in my book. The sweetness of the golden raisins and balsamic drizzle were a nice complement to the grilled smokiness and slight char. It was a happily huge portion for an appetizer.
J had the vegan parpadelle with cranberry beans, tomato and fresh garlic. Their menu noted the chef would make vegan/vegetarian substitutions when possible. The waiter double checked and quickly confirmed this could be made vegan. It is always nice to go to a restaurant that can cheerfully accommodate both food sensitivities and dogs.
We loved Basil, and will definitely be back when we are in the area for another dose of beach views. Our meal came to around $30 (salads, appetizer, dinner, no alcohol). Reservations are probably best for dining after 6pm.
Basil is located on San Carlos Between Ocean & 7th,. Carmel By The Sea, 93921
Disclaimer: I was not paid or compensated in any way for this post. All opinions are my own.
Today was one of those rare days when we didn’t have anything planned. We just drove south, and then we kept driving…all the way to Big Sur. It had seemed too far until we were in the car and just needed to see what was a little further down the road.
Despite all the traffic on the one lane road near the impressive Bixby Creek Bridge, the beaches were surprisingly quiet.
We wandered through the trails around the beaches in Carmel until it was nearly dusk. It felt like an afternoon vacation and a much needed pause.
I’ve been putting pumpkin in everything this week, including the bundt cake pictured above. I’m going to continue posting turkey and pumpkin things this week. This Thanksgiving, I am actually roasting my first whole turkey. After giving entirely too much thought to brining, I decided to go with a simplified version of Alton Brown’s method. He hasn’t steered me wrong in the past. Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!
J and I recently celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. Five years! One of the things we both remember, and that people still talk about, was the food. Of course, I am biased because it was our wedding, but we all know this isn’t always the case. Lackluster food at weddings is fairly standard. It was important to us to have our menu set the tone for the event and be reflective of our tastes and the backdrop of Vermont. We found ways to meet this goal by saving money in creative ways that didn’t impact the overall casually elegant feel. I hope these tips are helpful to those currently planning weddings and in the midst of looking at pages of menu options.
1. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a caterer/new venue.
This may sound like a risky tip. Going with inexperience is often the opposite of what you should do in many cases (photographer). We found our caterer through our wedding venue. He had a few enthusiastic references, and was a recent graduate from a prestigious culinary school. His prices were much less than other caterers, but we were still skeptical about going with someone so new. He offered to do a tasting dinner for two, and the food totally convinced us. It was one of the best decisions we made. If you can find someone starting out, with a few excellent references that will let you do a tasting, this may be a good option to pursue. Everyone starts out somewhere!
2. Go Vegetarian!
We aren’t vegetarians, and most of our guest weren’t either. However, we wanted to have choices for the few that were, while offering something a little different and save a bit of money! We had a couple vegetarian appetizers and started with a pumpkin bisque. It was perfect for an early fall wedding, and a little different from the standard salad. There were only two choices for dinner a Cornish Hen or a Vegetable Napoleon. We were surprised how many people chose the vegetarian option and loved it. This brings me to number three…
3. A buffet isn’t is always cheaper.
We, like many couples, were on a budget. I assumed a buffet would be the less expensive option. Our caterer said we could actually do a sit down plated dinner with two choices for about the same cost. We were a little worried about having only two options. When you are planning a wedding, I think there is a tendency to worry about pleasing everyone. So, your uncle is expecting beef? He really will understand that it’s a wedding and not a restaurant…and that’s why there is an open bar!
4. Don’t feel tied to tradition.
I didn’t care about having a wedding cake. Wait, I have a baking and cooking blog, right? Well, I originally had visions of baking the cake or cupcakes. With the out of town location of our wedding, the logistics of that were just not going to work. We had our caterer bake chocolate and vanilla variations of simple cupcakes. They looked cute and tasted really good. We all know many wedding cakes are pretty but sometimes leave a bit to be desired in the taste department. Were cupcakes a trendy choice? Sure, but I really don’t think you need to serve a timeless dessert. Pies or even platters of your favorite cookies would be fun.
We also had s’mores and mini-icecream cups at our rehearsal barbeque. We didn’t do any actual rehearsing, but it was a great chance to allow our families and friends to get to know each other before the wedding. Roasting marshmallows and open flames get people talking.
5. Offer something familiar.
I think people like food they can recognize. This doesn’t mean boring. Sometimes, there is a temptation to impress, and it can fall flat. I was at one lavish party where they served incredible fois gras. Well, not everyone eats fois gras. There were a lot of untouched plates sent back. However, I have seen people devour dressed up versions of pigs in a blanket. The lesson? Yes, it is your wedding, but it is also a party. To please the picky masses, we included flatbread pizza canapes as one of our four passed hors d’ouevre. They were familiar but still looked elegant. When in doubt, make a printed menu for dinner if your venue doesn’t provide one.
I will admit I didn’t go into the planning process blind. I had organized more than a few corporate events and parties. Somehow wedding planning seemed more complicated. I wanted every choice to feel like us…and also be in our budget. Remember to have fun, accept help and enjoy the day!
Wedding Photos by Corey Hendrickson Photography, S’mores photo by my Father-in-Law
J and I have been making an effort to make as many meals as possible at home. I often pack a lunch to take with me, and have even purchased an old school Thermos. On days that I am working from home, I like to take a couple of minutes to pull together a quick lunch. I will be sharing a few ideas for very simple lunches for one with as few ingredients as possible. This salad makes use of what are possibly the best raisins in the world. Really, that isn’t hyperbole. They are so good and are made of all different kinds of grapes, as you can see below. We bought them from one of the grape stands at the farmers’ market. Unfortunately, they only dry raisins during grape season. They are the star of this simple salad, but you could also use dried cranberries, fresh grapes or any raisins you have on hand. The idea is to make this as easy as possible!
Salad with Chicken and Raisins
2 cups of mixed salad greens
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp raisins
1 chicken breast, skin removed and shredded
pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
When I am in a rush, I don’t bother to mix a real dressing together. I just pour the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper over the salad and raisins and shake it together in a container with a lid before topping it with the shredded chicken.
Anyone have ideas to share for interesting lunches for one?
I spent most of my week in front of a computer or working my way through a stack of books, but it started out with a trip to the farmers’ market.
These English peas were enormous. The photo doesn’t really do them justice.
I bought another Kabocha Squash because I am going to make this recipe until they have disappeared from the market. It is so incredibly good! Kabocha Squash tastes like a cross between a pumpkin and a chestnut. When roasted, they are basically the ideal fall side dish.
On afternoons when I am working at home, I love to have a pot of soup simmering on the stove. This soup is great because it doesn’t require a lot of prep work and it comes together really quickly. It doesn’t need to cook down for hours because most of the flavor is developed in the first 25 minutes when the tomatoes and garlic are roasting in the oven. It helps to use really good tomatoes. I used a random mixture of heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market. You could actually roast the tomatoes and garlic a day or so ahead and combine it with the rest of the ingredients when you are ready to serve it. The mixture of roasted and fresh tomatoes is a great contrast. I like to top it with freshly chopped dill and a drizzle of coconut milk, but it is great unadorned!
Roasted Tomato Dill Soup
3 large tomatoes, or a mixture of tomatoes yielding about 3 cups
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup fresh dill, plus extra for serving
1/4 cup coconut milk for serving (optional)
Slice the two large tomatoes and gently dry them. Place them on a pan without overlapping the slices, add whole cloves of garlic and 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (no oil). Roast at 475 for 25 minutes, allow to cool slightly. Combine the unheated stock, tomato paste and roasted tomatoes in a pot and blend with an immersion blender. Bring to a simmer and stir in fresh cherry tomatoes, chopped dill, red pepper flakes and taste for seasoning. Serve with extra dill and coconut milk.
I missed our famers’ market last weekend, but I was determined to take a pause from working on projects to make it today. These Concord grapes were as close to perfect as we have had this season. My grandfather had tons of Concord grapes growing along a fence line at his house. They always seemed so special because we knew you couldn’t find them at the grocery store.
I was surprised to see persimmons in the market today. It seems early, no? The one I bought was perfectly ripe. Yes, I showed restraint and only bought one. I am thinking of trying to make a persimmon jam of some kind though…
When we were in Japan last month, I had this delicious squash, and I wasn’t sure what it was called. Japanese people kept telling me it was called a pumpkin in English. Well, it turns out it was a Kabocha squash, which is a type of Japanese Pumpkin. I was excited to see one at the market today. I have it sliced and am planning on using this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo. The oven is heating up now!