Cookies From Home

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002        How many of you have read (or in my pathetic case, memorized) “Laurel’s Kitchen” … one the original, ground-breaking, vegetarian cookbooks from the mid-1970’s ?  Remember that one, with its beautiful block print illustrations of home and hearth?

I LOVED that book, and learned so much from it.  Like every other hold-out flower-child from that era, I wanted to be one of those ladies in her kitchen—braid tucked up in a bandana, dustings of flour everywhere from bread-making sessions, coffee on the stove, with cats and children underfoot.  (Of course, that was when I wasn’t wanting to be Julia Child, M.F.K Fischer, Marcella Hazan, or Alice Waters …)

I especially remember reading the part where she lovingly and painstakingly packed her husband’s lunch each day and thinking, “Someday, I’ll be that wife…”

Ahem.

Fortunately for me, my husband has never pulled that book off of the shelf.

My wifely short-comings aside, there was a beauty to that book which I’ve never forgotten.  From cover to cover, it was filled with a sort of ‘simplicity of be-ing’.  Reading and cooking from it always made me feel as though I could save the world from my kitchen, one loaf of bread (or one cookie) at a time.

Today, I was baking oatmeal cookies so that the husband would have some lunchbox treats.  While thinking of their decidedly un-extravagent nature and holding tenaciously to my philosophy that all the oats would cancel out the sugar and butter, the ”Laurel’s Kitchen” memories surfaced.  It wasn’t until I had written the above when I remembered that the recipe for “Oatmeal School Cookies” from that book was one of my ‘go-to’ cookies, filling the cookie jar for more than a decade.

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The recipe I’m sharing with you today is not that one, although you can be sure I’ll be baking that one up in the next week or two.  No, this is yet another version of the humble oatmeal cookie, one of the many scattered throughout the baking universe.

Look at these cookies.

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These are friendly cookies, brown and nubby, like a favorite sweater.

There is nothing decadent or over-the-top about them.  They are as simple and substantial as can be, with just a few ‘extras’ added to make them different than the standard oatmeal-raisin variety that so frequently appears from my oven.

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They are fairly unadorned and uncomplicated—but ohhh, I wish you could be in my kitchen right now, this moment—and just inhale deeply as they come out from the oven.

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There is no way I can describe the aroma of these oat-y little cookies–the rich scent of the vanilla, the toasty layers of the coconut, and the fragrant bits of pecan and butterscotch.

No, I can’t, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one and make them yourself.  And when you do, close your eyes for a moment and breathe in their wonderful sweet, spicy, buttery fragrance.

They smell like ‘home’.

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Thanks so much for coming to visit, and love,
Lorrie

Oh, and I’m curious to know, do any of you still have and use “Laurel’s Kitchen”?  If so, what is your favorite recipe?

Coconut and Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies
(adapted from an old Quaker Oatmeal box)
Makes roughly 40 cookies

3/4 cup + 2 Tblsp room temperature butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tblsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups regular oats
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup pecans, chopped coarsely

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or leave them un-greased.
2.  Combine the  flour, soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Mix them well and set to the side.
3.  Beat the butter, sugars and cinnamon until creamy.
4.  Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, beating in each one thoroughly.
5.  Add in the flour mixture, mixing it in completely.
6.  Add in the oats, cocoanut, butterscotch chips, and nuts, blending until they are well incorporated.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoon fulls (I use a 1 1/2 inch scoop) onto the sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Flatten each ball slightly with your hand.
Bake them 10 to 13 minutes, or until they turn lightly golden.
Cool them for a minute on the cookie sheet before removing them to wire racks to cool completely.

Cupcake Love

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Just a little something to brighten the day, and get us through this last bit of February, though March may not be an improvement in our neck of the woods. (“In like a lion; out like a lion…” or so says the husband.)

Whatever the weather, there’s nothing like a cupcake to spread a little cheer. And if there are lots of cupcakes, pink ones—WTH SPRINKLES—even better!!

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Pretty hard to go wrong with that, I’d say.

I hope that you treat yourself to something lovely today ~
With love,
Lorrie

P. S.  If your day could use a few extra sprinkles (or you think you’re too old for them), click here.

Good News, Bad News, and a Plate of Pasta

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Wow! The new year is only twenty-eight days old, and I’m already behind. This is my first post of 2015!
Since yesterday was apparently National Chocolate Cake Day, I probably should have written about (and eaten) a deep, dark, chocolate cake.

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Sorry to disappoint, but if you really need a cake fix, here’s the link to the chocolate cake recipe I posted recently.

Instead, I’m delving into my cookbooks as promised and sharing some of the recipes that I mentioned in my last post.

To start with, I made the Grilled Polenta with Mushroom and Red Wine Ragout from from “Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey” by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes.

The good news?
It was fantastic!
I took a few liberties with both the polenta–cutting back a smidge on the cream and cheese–and the sauce.  I also don’t keep veal demi-glace on hand (and I don’t know anyone who does), plus I had to sub some dried wild mushrooms for some of the fresh.
I still wanted to lick the plate when it was done.
The bad news?
We inhaled it. It was dark when I made it, so I haven’t any photos to share.  I’m sure I’ll be making it again, and I’ll share the recipe when I have some photos to accompany it.

My next foray into that same book was for the Penne Contadina.

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The good news?
Oh my stars and little fishes!
It’s deep winter comfort-food at it’s finest.  It is incredibly simple to prepare, and totally company-worthy!
(Obviously, if it came off of the menu at Della Santina’s Trattoria in Sonoma, California–one of my MOST favorite restaurants EVER–it’s good enough for a dinner party.  I would walk over hot coals for their Pappardelle con Cinghiale*)

I just happened to have the Dry Jack from Vella Cheese Company, courtesy of my lovely daughter who brings me a supply when she visits.

I just happened to have the dry jack from Vella Cheese Company, that the two recipes called for, courtesy of my lovely daughter who brings me a supply when she visits.

Grating cheese is so much more fun when your grater is this darling little olive wood number!

Grating cheese is so much more fun when your grater is this darling little olive wood number, straight from Italy, via a traveling friend!

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The bad news?

There isn’t any bad news.
This dish is guaranteed to make you actually look forward to crummy weather, just to have a reason to make it.  When the days are cold, dark, dripping wet, or encased in ice, nothing improves them like a warm plate of richly sauced pasta and a glass of hearty red wine. The authors recommended a Pinot Noir from Gundlach Bundschu, which I did not have,  but the Valley of the Moon 2010 Barbera that I DID have was a completely wonderful companion to the sausage and sage.

There is still plenty of winter left to get through, so what are some of the ‘go-to’ comfort foods at your house? Feel free to comment below, and if you feel ambitious, share the recipe with me!

Thanks for sticking with me in these wint’ry days, and while we wait for spring, here is the recipe for Della Santina’s Penne Contadina!  I’ve printed the recipe as it was originally written, with my notes in Italics.

With love!
Lorrie

Della Santina’s
PENNE CONTADINA
from “Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey” by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes

4 sweet Italian sausages without fennel seed, casing removed
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large fresh sage leaves, chopped
24 ounce canned tomatoes, preferably Italian, drained and chopped
1 pound penne pasta (I used ½ a pound dry, as this dish would have been too dry with a full pound)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup grated Parmesan or dry jack cheese

Cut the sausages into one inch pieces.
In a deep saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the sausage for 2 minutes, or until evenly browned.
Add the garlic and sage, and saute for 1 minute (Be careful not to burn the garlic!)
Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Set aside, and keep warm.

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook the pennne for about 11 minutes, or until al dente.
Drain.

Gradually stir the cream into the sauce and heat (gently) for a minute or two.
Add the pasta to the saucepan and stir for about a minute.
Stir in the cheese.
Serve at once in warmed shallow bowls.

Serves 4 as a main course

 

* Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu

 

A (Not So Surprising) Confession

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It’s that time of year.

You know, the time of year where we collectively take stock of the 360-ish days-before-yesterday to ponder every mistake we think we made, all of the negatives in our lives that need to be changed into positives, and most importantly (to us), all of the virtuous modifications we’ll make for the coming year in our homes, habits, relationships, jobs, diets; the list is endless!

While I tend to avoid dwelling on the negative, as well as the ‘year in review’ stuff that clogs most forms of the media at the end of every year (I’m lousy at back-tracking), I do love the idea of a fresh start.
For me, this happens twice a year, at summers end and at the start of the new year.  I’m not really sure why, but I suspect that these two times coincide with the biggest breaks from my ‘normal’ (and I use that word liberally) routine.  Other disruptions in my personal universe can bring on the need for a reboot, but I can always count on these two making their regularly scheduled appearance.
In the summer, I cram as many days as I can with sunshine, gardening, meals taken on the patio, neglecting housework, and letting my job, the weather, and the needs of the garden determine the flow of my daylight hours.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day also suspend my normal routine as well–the menu, the decor, the social calendar all change to accommodate the holidays, plus a birthday and a wedding anniversary.

As much as I love both of these seasons, I also love a fresh beginning when they are over.  Well, maybe I’m a little reluctant to let go of summer, but when I finally accept the reality of its ending, I embrace the change whole heartedly.

So what does all of this rambling have to do with confessions?

Hold on, I promise I’ll get there.

Part of my ‘Fresh Start’ has to do with this blog.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and one of the things that I keep coming back to is this–why do I do it?  Why did I start it and what is it’s purpose?
And wonder of wonders, there actually is one.  A purpose, I mean.  And, it has existed from the very first post.
I write this little blog (not as often as I’d like because I am neither a very disciplined nor diligent writer) to encourage and inspire.
I write to encourage you to try recipes or foods that you’ve never tried, or thought might be to complicated to attempt; to plant something simply for the delight of watching it grow; to spark creativity in some form or another.
I write to share the things that I love in the hope that some of you will love them too, and that they will bring a bit of joy to your day.

With these things in mind, I want to share more often this year.
That, my friends, will require the addition of a little more of the aforementioned discipline and diligence.  And, in order to do that, I reach the confession (of sorts).

Phew!  I bet you thought I’d never get to it!

I have ‘a thing’ for cookbooks. I’ve had it almost forever. Without some sort of inner restraint, it would balloon into a full scale compulsion.
It started when I was about seventeen, and by the time I was in my late twenties, I had amassed a pretty huge number of them–all of which I devoured like novels.  I treasured every one of those books–just the sight of them spilling off of the shelves or stacked on the kitchen table would bring me happiness.
When I needed to learn something, I inquired of Julia, or Fannie, or Marcella, or Laurel.  There was inspiration galore within the pages of Tassajara, Moosewood, and so many others!  My cookbooks always made me feel ‘at home’, no matter where I was living or what my circumstances were at the time.
And when almost every one of them–probably close to fifty or so–were destroyed in a flood, they taught me another enduring lesson; that contentment and comfort do not come from objects.
For the longest time, only the few that survived the flood (plus a couple of ‘staples’ that I replaced– live with out “Joy of Cooking”?  No way!) were all that occupied the shelf.
I still loved them though, and as the years accumulated, so did the cookbooks.  It took quite awhile, but gradually the collection re-grew, and they have continued to multiply.  And though I have more than I could possibly wear out in two lifetimes, I am still a push-over for any glossy tome full of recipes that look and sound wonderful to eat, with a particular scarcity of restraint when it comes to French or Italian.

I know, I’m weak…

Okay, I’m done with confessing and returning to the idea of a fresh start now…

This year, I want to use my cookbooks more.  Lacking a restaurant or a huge family, the best way for me to do that is to share the recipes in them with you!
Of course, doing this will require a little more discipline–not just in blog posts, but in menu making at home.
A menu will require a shopping list.
A shopping list requires a budget.
Because unlike these beauties that I just plucked off of the tree in the greenhouse,

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015 money does NOT hang on branches around here!

Probably not at your house either.

All of those things though–recipes, menus, lists,spending–are part of my fresh start for the New Year, beginning with these three books that  have been sitting on top of the stack, waiting patiently for the holidays to be over.

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Here’s a preview of what I’m hoping to share with you in the coming weeks…

Among countless others, I’m dying to try the Grilled Polenta with Mushroom and Red Wine Ragout and the Penne Contadina from “Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey” by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes.  Oh yeah, and the Lamb Stew with Lemons and Olives.

The Braised Lamb Shoulder with Marsala and Cinnamon in Erica De Manes’ “The Flavors of Southern Italy” will be appearing soon I think.

And since I have plenty of lemons right now, the Roast lemon-garlic Chicken with Green Olives from “Seriously Simple” by Diane Rossen Worthington is a ‘must try’.

Do any of these dishes sound as wonderful to you as they do to me?  Would any of those books fan a little flame of creativity in your kitchen, like they do mine?  I hope so.

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What is your ‘fresh start’ for 2015?  (Wow, I just wrote the date for the first time–eek!)  I’d love to hear your comments below!

Thanks for stopping by and reading.  I hope your New Year is filled with joy, as well as good things to eat!

Love,
Lorrie

 

 

 

 

 

A Tradition of Crinkles

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When it comes to Christmas in our house, and probably yours too, certain things just scream ‘tradition’. They are so much a part of the holiday that it’s as though Christmas would not come if they didn’t take place, and that is especially true (for us, anyway) of food traditions. And the one that screams the loudest?

Cookies. Definitely the cookies.

Now, when my family was young, they were not exactly cookie deprived—not even close! I baked every week, often more than once.

A day.

But of all the cookies that ever came from my oven, the one they asked for the most—and ONLY got at Christmas—were Chocolate Crinkles.

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These are cookies I have been making since I was twelve years old. It was probably the first recipe I ever wrote down, copied from a young mom whose children I frequently babysat for. She was baking them one day when I went over to their house, and I was smitten—not for the first time—by a cookie. I copied her recipe, finished helping her bake them, and I have baked them every Christmas since then, always following the copy printed in my pre-teen hand.

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Chocolate Crinkles have hallowed status in our home. There are rules governing their appearance and consumption…

They are the first of the Christmas cookies to be baked.
They must not be made before Thanksgiving—not even the dough.
The dough only gets made once—even if it means cracking a dozen eggs and melting almost a pound of chocolate to make sure there is enough dough on hand to ensure a steady supply of Crinkles throughout the holiday.
Other cookies can come and go from the Christmas tradition, but the Crinkles stay.
There are no bad Crinkles. Over-baked ones are dunked in hot chocolate or cold milk. Under-baked ones are best eaten as a frozen treat.
When Christmas is over, Crinkle season is over. Begging will get you nowhere.
(It may get you brownies, but no more Chocolate Crinkles will appear until the following Christmas season.)

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As cookies go, these are fairly humble, so I don’t know what makes them so wonderful and begged for, unless it’s that deep chocolate flavor.

Or the way they are chewy and melt-y at the same time.

Or the way they make the house smell.

I do know that they are super simple to make, and that if you can stand the sticky hands, kids love to help roll the balls of chocolate dough in the powdered sugar. (Don’t worry about the sugar on the kitchen floor, that’s what you have a dog for.)

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If traditions are part of the glue that bonds the individual personalities of a family into a blended whole, then our family is stuck together with a fine coating of powdered sugar.

It works.

I hope your family loves these cookies as much as mine does. Thank you for taking the time to visit, and I hope your days right now are merry and bright!
Lorrie

P.S. Jane, wherever you are, my children thank you!

Chocolate Crinkles*
½ cup vegetable oil
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsps. salt
1 ½ tsps. baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar, placed in a wide, shallow bowl
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over hot water. Let cool for a minute or two.
While the chocolate is cooling, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl, then set it aside.
In a large bowl, mix the oil, chocolate, and granulated sugar.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly after each one.
Add the vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture, mixing it in completely.

Chill the dough for at least an hour. (I often leave it in for a few days, baking a few dozen as needed.)

Preheat your oven to 350 F

Roll walnut-sized chunks of dough into balls, and roll them in the powdered sugar.
Place them on a greased baking sheet, or line the sheet with parchment paper.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just set. They should still be glossy on the tops, but not wet.
Let the cookies set for a minute on the baking sheet before removing them to a rack to finish cooling.

*This recipe is easily doubled.

Chocolate Apologies

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It’s been so long since I’ve written for my blog, I’ll probably have to re-learn the format when I go to post this.

It’s not that I haven’t been cooking—I have—just not as much as I would like. There was a lot going on in the garden this summer as well, with plenty of pictures to prove it. There were field trips both near and far, filled with plunging waterfalls, vibrant farmer’s markets, tapestries of vineyards, joyous artwork, and loads and loads of flowers! I even took photos at almost every place I went, so I could share with you at a later date. Really, I did. But somehow, writing slipped off of the priority list, and nothing ever made it to print.

The road to a very warm place is paved with good intentions, or so I’ve been told…

So, to get the old blog ball rolling again, there’s nothing better than cake.

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It could be just me, but I think there is nothing like cake for most apologies things—especially if it’s chocolate cake—and since everyone needs a good (and simple!) chocolate cake recipe in their arsenal, here is my favorite.

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Rich, moist, dark, and fragrant—it has been my ‘go-to’ cake for many more years than I care to admit to. With the accompanying frosting recipe, it bakes up in a hurry. This cake is best though, if you can make and frost it the night before you actually plan to serve it, as a few extra hours gives the flavor a chance to develop and deepen.

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Enjoy! Oh, and thanks for coming back—I’ve missed you!
Lorrie

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Quick Dark Chocolate Cake

1 ¾ cups un-sifted flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water. I actually replace most of the water with coffee.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 9 inch or three 8 inch round pans.

In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.
Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat at medium speed for two minutes.
Carefully stir in the boiling water. The batter will be very thin.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes for 9 inch pans, 20-25 minutes for 8 inch pans. Be careful NOT to over-bake. Let the layers rest in the pan for 9 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely before frosting.

Simple Dark Chocolate Buttercream

1 and ½ sticks of room temperature butter (12 Tblsp)
1 cup cocoa powder
5 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk

Cream the butter until it’s fluffy.
Beat in the cocoa, sugar, and milk, dividing up and alternating between each.
Beat in the vanilla

This will make more frosting than you need for this cake, but you can freeze the leftover and use later for brownies, frosted graham crackers, or just sneaking out of the container when you’re desperate for chocolate. Of course, I’d never do that.

Sleepless Nights and Wild Blackberry ~ Nectarine Tarts

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I’ve always been a light sleeper—sensitive not just to things that go bump in the night, and subtle noises from the children’s room—but to things like the breeze shifting directions, stars falling, or one less katydid chirping in the fields outside our bedroom window. I would always wake at these times; identify the origin of the sound, and then settle back to sleep.

It’s different now. The past few years have brought a major shift in my sleeping patterns, and not just because I no longer wake to the sound of a child’s temperature rising. Regardless of my level of weariness, I can’t count on falling to sleep much before eleven or so. And to compound the frustration, if I wake up after I’ve drifted off (and I do, repeatedly), there is no guarantee that I will go back to sleep—at least for an hour or two.

I seem to go in random cycles of sleeping well, or barely sleeping at all. At present, I’m in one of the latter. Oh well, it’s not a perfect world. If it were, I wouldn’t be a ‘morning’ person, even during time of sleep deprivation.

I do put the time spent waiting for sleep to good use—I like to think through the process of things that I am planning—an addition or change to the garden, a dinner-party menu, a creative project, or an up-coming trip. I suppose that the orderly ‘thinking through’ of the steps involved in these things helps distract and lull me back to sleep.

Monday night—really, it was obscenely early yesterday morning—as I was lying in the dark waiting for sleep to return, I started thinking about how I missed my oven. It’s been an extremely warm summer, and I don’t bake often when the temperatures climb above the mid 8o’s. I knew that the following few days were going to cool off a bit, so I began a mental inventory of what was currently residing in my kitchen, begging to be cloaked in pastry or wrapped in sugar, butter and flour.

I thought about the wild blackberries.

I thought about the plump little nectarines.

I remembered the mound of pastry dough tucked away in the freezer, left over from a rich, creamy lemon tart that I’d made for a dinner party in February.

A Lemon Curd Tart for the fabulous ladies at Northwest Dental Clinic!

A Lemon Curd Tart for the fabulous ladies at Northwest Dental Clinic!

I think I fell asleep to the thought of a beautiful tart made from summer fruit, and in the morning, when the garden chores were all done, I headed back into the kitchen.
(Hellooo, happy little oven! Wonderful to see you, tart pan and rolling pin! I’m so excited that we’re together—we’ve been apart too long!)

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It was definitely time well spent, both for the creative process and the resulting tart, which was EVERYTHING I’d hoped it would turn out to be—gorgeous deep-summer colored fruit in a buttery, crumbly shortbread crust, each bite bursting with the perfect blend of lush, dark, berries and the bright–tart sweetness of the nectarines.

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And since a little gilding of the lily never hurt anyone, a spoonful or two of homemade vanilla-bean ice cream nestled against the side made for one of those dessert-nirvana moments.

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Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I think about having a small inn, with just a few tables. I plan the rooms, the gardens, the kitchen and the breakfast and dinner menus (you’re on your own for lunch). This tart will be on the summer dessert menu, although you can have it for breakfast if you’d like—I won’t tell!

Here’s the recipe my friends, and thank you so much for visiting!
Lorrie

Wild Blackberry and Nectarine Tart

Tart Shell
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 large egg yolks, beaten
2 to 4 tablespoons cream or cold water

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor* until it’s combined.
Add the butter and pulse until it makes a coarse meal.
Add the yolks and 2 tablespoons of cream, mixing until the dough just comes together.  If the dough is too crumbly, add the remaining cream or water 1/2 tablespoon at a time until it is the right consistency.

Divide the dough in halve, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour  While the dough is chilling, mix the ingredients for the filling and set to the side.

Berry Filling
4 cups blackberries
4 medium nectarines
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour

When the pastry dough is chilled, roll it to a thickness of 1/8 inch on a floured surface. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Pierce the bottom and sides with a fork, and trim the edges.  Refrigerate the shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Pour the filling into the chilled shell, and put it on a baking sheet to catch any spills.
Bake for 40 minutes

Let the tart cool completely before removing it from the pan.  It will need to set an additional hour or two before slicing.

*Using a food processor makes this tart crust super simple and fast.  You can do just fine without one though, using a pastry fork or two knives

 

Farewell to the Lavender

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Shearing the lavender always makes me feel sad–a wistful sort of melancholy awareness that summer cannot last forever.  I leave the faded stalks on the shrublets far longer than I should, because though the flowers have long since dried, the hummingbirds are hovering in it, searching out the last bits of purple for nectar.

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Even now, it releases its dreamy, soothing fragrance as I walk through it–shears slicing carefully so that I don’t disturb the bees that dance in it still.

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Adieu Lavande…à bientôt!

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Tuesday Snippets

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Cooking, baking, and working on recipes (and alas, eating) have taken a back seat to work and the garden. It probably doesn’t help much that I’m kind of an ‘all-or-nothing’ girl–whatever is my obsession du jour dwarfs whatever is not. Right now, my thoughts are all about the garden!

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And cake. I think about cake a lot lately too.

Summer is definitely here–though it may rain because I have my first day off tomorrow in the last seven–so I’ll be doing battle with the little weeds that have sprouted up in my absence, along with a myriad of other garden chores and projects that I really am excited about!  Of course, if it rains, I’ll have a reason to stay indoors and bake a cake.

I did manage to get some Limoncello made, though it won’t be ready for another week or two.

 

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I’ve already thought of a cake that I want to make with it.  More than one, if I’m brutally honest.  And wouldn’t it be beautiful with these Nasturtiums to decorate it with?

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And, oh my goodness!  I just realized while writing this post, the June 13th will be my little blog’s first anniversary, and one fabulous reason to make a cake!

So, until the next post, which will probably be about cake, here are some bits of what’s going on in my garden and kitchen…

The grapevines are blooming--and they smell so lovely!  Who knew??

The grapevines are blooming–and they smell so lovely! Who knew??

Pretty Nigella about to bloom.

Pretty Nigella about to bloom.

What’s happening in your world?  What are you growing (or baking) that you are excited about?

Thanks so much for visiting,
Lorrie

 

 

 

Food, or Flowers ?

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As much as I love to be in the kitchen, I never love grocery shopping. While I’m grateful for the abundance that I have, and the ability to purchase more when the need arises, I’d still rather just open the pantry or fridge and have whatever ingredients I need miraculously appear.
Also, there are days when being outdoors is a far more attractive option than the kitchen, and I want to spend every moment of the day out in the garden.

Yesterday was one of those days, and I was hit with the double whammy! It was the dreaded day-before-shopping-day (so not a lot of in-house options, gastronomically speaking) AND, it was a sparkling, warm, sunny day—abundant with birdsong and roses—begging for me to be out in it!

There were bumblebees working furiously in the catmint, goldfinches waiting to furrow up my newly planted basil seed, and so much meltingly warm sunshine that all thoughts of anything not garden-related were fast disappearing.

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When the two of these realities collided, suddenly there was the possibility that the husband would come home to something-not-his-idea-of-dinner. And though he doesn’t complain, it’s not his favorite way to end the day.

So what’s a pantry-challenged, gardening girl to do? How to maximize the time in the garden without compromising dinnertime? (And no, pizza delivery was not an option, although peanut butter and jam sandwiches might have been. I just haven’t figured out what wine goes with PBJ yet…)

The first thing I had to do—and what I hope to encourage you to do, is to…

GET CREATIVE!

Be brave and fearless in the kitchen! After all, the very worst thing that could happen is that your creation fails. Then you just send out for pizza, or make PBJ’s, or popcorn! (Well, I suppose the worst thing is that you might set your kitchen on fire, but I’ve never had that happen. The living room, yes, twice, but that’s another story, unrelated to cooking. Oh, and the garage wall—that one WAS related to cooking, but I digress.)
As I was saying, don’t be afraid to get creative! Of course, it helps if you have a few ‘staples’ on hand (like peanut butter) but the most important thing is to have some courage and imagination! Don’t worry about failing—nobody in your house will starve.

One caveat thought—I don’t recommend this approach when you have dinner guests coming unless (A) you don’t want them to come back, or (B) you are very adept in the kitchen.

Here’s how I solved my dining dilemma. I had dinner done, stowed away in the fridge, and was back out to the garden in twenty-five minutes! It would have been twenty, but I stopped to shoot a few photos first.

Since this is not a post about provisioning a kitchen, I won’t go into the whole inventory of what’s always on hand in my kitchen, but because it’s not possible to create something out of nothing, a few of the basics that I try NEVER to be out of—

Some type of pasta
olive oil
an onion
garlic
olives (I keep a large jar of kalamatas in the fridge)
a couple of different vinegars
flour
sugar
peanut butter

It’s actually a slightly longer list, but this gives you a little idea of what I keep on hand so that I always have something to fall back on.

Now here’s where the creative part comes in.

After considering my options (and the speed with which I wanted to get back outside) I decided on a ‘main-dish’ salad to have out on the patio, one that would go with one of my prizes from last Friday’s field trip to Hood River and the Gorge.

A quick re-con of the fridge and pantry yielded half a bag of shell pasta, olives, artichoke hearts, half a red onion, some almost forgotten but still redeemable celery, a third of a head of romaine lettuce, half of a red bell pepper, and the most remarkable treasure—a pint jar of home canned albacore that a friend had given me some time ago—forgotten about because it was cleverly hiding behind some buckwheat flour.

Out it all came, and while the pasta was boiling, I chopped the onion (saving some for another use), olives, artichokes, celery and a couple of cloves of garlic.

Next I prepped the last of the lettuce for a tossed salad, adding some paper-thin slices of red bell pepper and the remnant of red onion. I tucked it away in the fridge with a damp paper towel on top, and at dinner-time all it would need would be the addition of a ‘must-be-eaten-today’ avocado and some balsamic vinaigrette (another thing I make each week and keep on hand).

When the shells were done and drained, in went the chopped vegetables together with the albacore, some olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, fresh cracked pepper, a few red chili flakes, and…
Voila! Dinner!

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These two salads, accompanied with something crisp, minerally, and white to drink (I chose a beautiful white blend of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris from COR Cellars, appropriately called ‘AlbaCOR) came together for a fine meal. I know it wanted a bit of crusty bread, but there was no way I was going to bake. I could have taken the stale baguette from several days ago and turned it into crostini, but I didn’t come in from the garden in time.

Here’s my guide for last night’s creation;

½ a bag of small shell pasta (or whatever pasta you have—even grains would work)
1 pint jar of albacore (or can of tuna, or left-over chicken, steak, or no meat at all)
½ cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped (or any other olive)
½ cup artichoke hearts, chopped
½ a red onion, chopped fine (or any other color onion, or chives, or shallots)
2 ribs of celery, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil (or mayonaisse or some other oil)
White wine vinegar (or another vinegar, mustard, or lemonjuice)
kosher salt
fresh pepper
red chili flakes (or other seasonings – your only limits are what’s in your cupboard!)
or some other type of dressing—be as creative as you need to!

There are no amounts on the dressing ingredients, because I didn’t set out with the idea that this would be posted. I only want to encourage you to be confident with what you have on hand.  Add the dressing ingredients in conservative increments, then adjust them to suit your tastes. You can always add more, but you can never take them out once they’re in!

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I hope your day is lovely, and that you only have peanut butter for dinner if that’s what you really want!
And please, comment on what some of your ‘must-haves’ in the pantry are, and how you use them to get dinner quickly!
Thanks for coming to see me. And now, off to the garden I go (as soon as I grocery shop).
Lorrie

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