Currently viewing the tag: "summer"

My children are curious ones, often on tip-toe or climbing up onto kitchen stools, trying to figure out what I’m always doing in the kitchen. Sometimes they jump in and help: throwing on their little aprons and grabbing spatulas and whisks, and other times they are content with just peeking into bowls and moving on. I find their interest in that space constantly ebbs and flows, and the days I’m in a hurry and don’t need help are the days they seem to want to offer it, and the occasions I’m dying to bake with them and teach them new things, well, those are the days they’d rather be doing anything else. Every once in awhile we land on the same page. My daughter is more eager than my son; he wants to sneak cookie dough, she wants to shape and bake cookies. I’ve watched her come a long way in the kitchen, and enjoy the moments when we make something together.

I’ve discovered that while she’s come a long way, I, however, still  have some needed areas of growth. Basically, I can be a control freak. I find myself hovering and managing. I want to pre-measure the ingredients, and find the right bowl. I don’t fully trust her to dip and sweep or mix things fully. She is well aware of my tight grip while sweetly encouraging me to step back and let her try. She is sure of her abilities, and isn’t worried when she’s lacking. This is the hardest part of parenting for me: watching your child get to a place you’ve been training them for, and then having to let go, trusting they can do whatever it is you’ve been preparing them to do. I’ve spent so much time nurturing and caring and equipping, that when my child is finally ready, I want to keep tagging along to micromanage any mishaps, not fully confident in her abilities.

I’m slowly making progress.

We did have a lot of fun together, making this cake. My kids could have gobbled up the crème fraîche layers plain (I could have as well), but the berries and white chocolate buttercream take this to the next level.

Le Creuset kindly sent us this 5 piece utensil set (with crock) from their Craft Series to use on our cake experiements (or #cakexperiments, as I like to call them on Instagram), and so far I’m impressed. The spatulas are ‘made for scraping the bowl clean’, and they do an incredible job. Their smooth surface is great for scraping batter from the surface in just two strokes, and the ergonomic handle keeps hand secure when scraping or spreading. And yes, this spatula can also spread, which is a dream come true. And guess what! One lucky reader can win this utensil set! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below (along with an email). This contest is open to US residents only. Winner will be announced June 20th, 2017. (For an extra entry,  follow Le Creuset on Instagram.)

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I took a much needed trip to Winona last weekend – my husband surprised me for Mother’s Day and sent me to a bed and breakfast, along with my old college roommate (and still dear friend), Kate. Kate and I lived together for several years in Winona, so we spent most our time walking around the Winona State University campus feeling nostalgic and dreamy, and catching up on everything. So much has changed since our time there, yet so much is still the same. We ate and drank plenty at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse as well, and guzzled down this rhubarb lemonade after a long stroll. After arriving home I immediately emailed Colleen for the recipe, and she graciously shared it with me.

A trip to Winona always involves a date with Larry and Colleen, and they kindly invited both Kate and I over for dinner. It was an incredibly warm evening for May, so we all sat outside, along with their son Erik,  sipping vodka lemonades and nibbling on all the goodness Colleen had waiting for us. The Wolner’s house is rather magical, and if you’ll allow me to pull out some nerdery, I’d say it rather has a Bombadil air about it: entering into their realm is a warm, welcoming respite during the adventures of life. There is always plenty to eat and drink, a warm fire, good conversation, and tasty treats. All the things this Hobbit heart needs.

 

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blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
-William Carlos Willams
blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog

blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog

blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog
I couldn’t resist posting that Williams poem to go along with a recipe involving plums. I’ll never forget reading it for the first time in my 9th grade English class, and becoming immediately enamored with playful poems that didn’t rhyme or seem to follow any rules. I went home and tried to mimic his style in pages of my journal, writing the worst poems known to man. But the attempts were sincere, and somewhere in my box of memories there is a stack of poems about peaches, plums, and dreamy boys who never noticed me.

Plums do make a good breakfast, however, and if you happen to have some of this crumble left over the next day, heating it up and topping it off with a little yogurt (or ice cream) is definitely a good idea. This summer crumble comes from Kate Doran‘s new book, Homemade Memories. Highlighting favorite childhood treats: ice creams, cookies, doughnuts, pudding pots, cakes, and every sugar-dusted possibility in between, it’s a collection of recipes perfect for any nostalgic baker. (Side note: I may have to give in and add this dish towel to my collection at some point.)
blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog

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no-churn mint ice cream | the vanilla bean blog

no-churn mint ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
“The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
no-churn mint ice cream | the vanilla bean blog

mint4A
In between squirt-gun fights and the jingle of bells on kid-sized bikes there is the faintest whisper, a warning. I wake up each morning knowing the sun will set a few moments sooner. The murmur, the rumor of change I choose to ignore, clinging instead to fire pits, swimming pools, canoe rides, and the blistering humidity that has reigned here all week. Let’s keep all this going, just a little bit longer. Please?

Our patch of mint has taken over the space made for it, plus the spot set aside for the basil. The tall stems are sprawling into our driveway, their muted purple flowers tickling our feet under the picnic table each time we take a meal outside. I’ve had good intentions of using those green leaves in plenty of dinners, but mostly it has just grown unruly, alive for the sole purpose of filling our house with the smell of toothpaste every time it rains. This weekend I finally took my scissors to the madness and put the plant to good use. An end-of-summer ice cream it has become; my favorite no-churn recipe that makes the whole sweet process quick and easy. You’ll now find us outside, enjoying all the melty drips while we still can.
no-churn mint ice cream | the vanilla bean blog

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sour cherry shortcake with olive oil biscuits | the vanilla bean blog
In the cherry pluckt at night,
With the dew of summer swelling,
There’s a juice of pure delight,
Cool, dark, sweet, divinely smelling.
Merry, merry,
Take a cherry;
Mine are sounder,
Mine are rounder,
Mine are sweeter
For the eater
In the moonlight.
And you’ll be fairies quite.

When I sound the fairy call,
Gather here in silent meeting,
Chin to knee on the orchard wall,
Cooled with dew and cherries eating.
Merry, merry,
Take a cherry;
Mine are sounder,
Mine are rounder,
Mine are sweeter.
For the eater
When the dews fall.
And you’ll be fairies all.
-Emily Dickinson, Cherry-Time
cherry tree | the vanilla bean blog

sour cherry shortcakes with olive oil biscuits | the vanilla bean blog

sour cherry shortcakes with olive oil biscuits | the vanilla bean blog
A sour cherry tree stumbled into our lives this week, and after greedily picking as many cherries as I could, I am now spending afternoons pitting and freezing my dragon hoard of candied rubies. I want to make anything and everything with them, but I also am loath to use even one. It’s quite the dilemma.

I had been eying a recipe for olive oil biscuits with honey glaze in Maria Speck‘s beautiful new book, and decided to turn my little red gems into sour cherry shortcakes. I am pleased to report my treasure was not wasted. Crisp, honey-glazed biscuits, sour cherries coated in a bit of sugar, and a pile of whipped cream make the perfect end to a hot, summer day. Merry, merry, take a cherry | mine are sweeter, for the eater.
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puff pastry tarts with twangy blueberries
Four years ago when I started this space I set up a Flickr account, mostly because everyone else was doing it. I browsed through pages and pages of photographs and profiles, and after falling down long rabbit holes of foodie pics and vacation photos that inspired serious bouts of envy, I found this cake made by Tara O’Brady. There was something about it that made me pause. All the subtle streaks of color in the frosting, that uneven pattern made with a spoon, and the well-worn wood it was resting on was a perfect union of comfort and class; simplicity mixed with unpretentious sophistication. Without hesitation I clicked on the link to Tara’s blog, and started faithfully reading Seven Spoons.
twangy blueberry sauce | the vanilla bean blog
Twangy blueberry sauce is found in Tara O’Brady’s new cookbook; a collection of recipes that is “less about innovation and more about getting supper on the table, but doing so thoughtfully, and beautifully, too.” It is everything I look for in a book on cooking: beautiful photographs, thoughtful writing, and recipes I want to put on repeat. This twangy berry sauce does not disappoint. Neither does the Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream (with candied cacao nibs!), the Poppy Seed Snacking Cake, or the most perfectly perfect biscuits you will ever make with your own two hands. My copy is already dusted with flour, and its pages are stained.

“A cookbook’s value is only half on the page; the other half is in the action it inspires. My goal in sharing these recipes and lessons is for you to come away empowered to trust your instincts, to consider your own perspective and opinions, and to keep you well fed.” -Tara O’Brady

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espresso semifreddo | the vanilla bean blog
(1) Turn off the Radio.

(2) Read all the good books you can, and avoid nearly all magazines.

(3) Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye. You should hear every sentence you write as if it was being read aloud or spoken. If it does not sound nice, try again.

(4) Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else. (Notice this means if you are interested only in writing you will have nothing to write about…)

(5) Take great pains to be clear. Remember that though you start by knowing what you mean, the reader doesn’t, and a single ill-chosen word may lead him to a total misunderstanding. In a story it is terribly easy just to forget that you have not told the reader something he needs to know – the whole picture is so clear in your own mind that you forget that it isn’t the same in his.

(6) When you give up a bit of work don’t (unless it is hopelessly bad) throw it away. Put it in a drawer. It may come in useful later. Much of my best work, or what I think is my best, is the rewriting of things begun and abandoned years earlier.

(7) Don’t use a typewriter. The noise will destroy your sense of rhythm, which still needs years of training.

(8) Be sure you know the meanings (or meanings) or every word you use.

From the letters of CS Lewis: TO A SCHOOLGIRL IN AMERICA (who had written, at her teacher’s suggestion, to request advice on writing)

***********
I would never classify myself as writer per say, but writing has always been an important part of my self expression, for better or worse (worse being a stash of badly rhymed love poems written in my high school years that are stashed away where no one will ever find them). I’ve always best articulated my musings via the written word. This past year has been quite busy and full of change (moving and cookbooking, especially), and I’ve found myself struggling to write words, or even find words to help move my thoughts along. The good news is I’ve been reading more, mostly in hopes that someone else will have the sentences I’ve been looking for.

I stumbled upon CS Lewis’ book of letters. I had just finished reading Dorothy Sayer’s, and then Tolkien’s, and have discovered in the process that reading other people’s mail might be my favorite past time. Lewis’ book is quite a read: he starts off an athiest and ends up religious (which makes for an interesting storyline that may not be everyone’s cup of tea) but along this personal journey are letters of his travels, pages and pages of books that have inspired him, notes to young readers, tips on writing, thoughts on the death of his father and then his wife, mentions of tea-time, walking tours, and all of the other in-between times a day holds. There were moments reading when I nodded along in agreement, and then times I threw the book down in frustration (his views on women: two thumbs down). There were letters where I loved him, and letters where he absolutely annoyed me. But over the course of the book he made me want to ask more questions, and read everything, and never stop writing. A mark of a good teacher, I think.
espresso semifreddo | the vanilla bean blog

espresso semifreddo | the vanilla bean blog
Espresso Semifreddo. I tried to think of something clever to tie the above paragraphs to this dessert, but I’ve got nothing. I’ll just say that Linda Lomelino’s Ice Cream book is a gorgeous read, and while it may not send me to my desk with pen and paper, it does impel me to grab my camera and do a better job at capturing the beauty around me. Also, it absolutely inspires me to make ice cream.

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roasted peaches with crème fraîche caramel sauce | the vanilla bean blog
“Fish tacos with pomegranate salsa tucked into warm corn tortillas, happily made from scratch by the kiddos. Homemade crème fraîche. Rainbow slaw packed with purple cabbage, green apple, radish, and orange. A pot of smoky Midnight black beans. Watermelon punch with fresh lime and crushed mint. This is supper at our home. Friends chat, kids play, and we eat simple goodness…”

This is how Erin Scott’s Yummy Supper Cookbook begins. It’s a gluten-free book, but one of those special books that work for many types of eaters. The recipes are mostly simple; easy to put together but packed with flavor. As someone who can (and does) eat gluten regularly, I found this book a great addition to my kitchen.

“I see our kitchen as a place of possibility, a place of play, experimentation, and delight. I write this book hoping to bring a little extra joy to all of our kitchens, to inspire us to cook for ourselves and our families, and to remember that cooking need not be laborious, overly complicated, or full of wheat to be delicious.” – Erin Scott
roasted peaches with crème fraîche caramel sauce | the vanilla bean blog
roasted peaches with crème fraîche caramel sauce | the vanilla bean blog
One lucky reader can win a copy of Erin’s new book! Just leave a comment below in the comment section with your email, and I’ll announce a winner sometime next week. Good luck!

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no-churn fig + coffee ice cream with cacao nibs | the vanilla bean blog
no-churn fig + coffee ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
no-churn fig + coffee ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
It has always seemed strange to me…the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.
-John Steinbeck, Cannery Row
no-churn fig + coffee ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
Recently Puro Fairtrade Coffee sent me a package that included some of their coffee. I love coffee, and since I have officially moved from ‘liking coffee’ to ‘needing coffee’ each and every morning (and um, afternoon, too), I was very happy to review theirs. I do put a lot of coffee into my body and have invested a lot of money over the years in buying it, so words like ‘fair trade’ and ‘organic’ are very important to me. But the sentence I loved in the email Puro sent me was: we also want to show other companies that people and planet are just as important as profit. Maybe there is a place for kindness and generosity after all.

(You can read more about Puro’s mission here. And, the coffee brews up dark, deep, and smooth. It also tastes amazing in ice cream.)
no-churn fig + coffee ice cream with cacao nibs | the vanilla bean blog

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whole wheat drop biscuits with mixed berries and frangelico | the vanilla bean blog
Usually when the school buses start making their way down my street, summer gives way and makes room for the next season. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, bringing with it the expectancy of change. This year, however, it’s as if Jacob is at the bottom of that heavenly ladder, wrestling fiercely with the angels. Summer is refusing to give up residency, and we have had week after week of sweat and fake air. Jacob wrestled the angel, and the angel was overcome*. Here’s hoping.

So since I’m here in limbo, with a foot in each season, I came up with a dessert that could be, too. Warm, whole wheat drop biscuits speak to me of cozy sweaters and thick blankets, while mixed berries and Frangelico sing of beach waves and late nights on the patio. Whipped cream, of course, works no matter what the weather.
whole wheat drop biscuits with mixed berries and frangelico | the vanilla bean blog
whole wheat drop biscuits with mixed berries and frangelico | the vanilla bean blog
frangelico | the vanilla bean blog
This sponsored post is a collaboration with Frangelico. All opinions are my own (and I honestly enjoy baking and cooking with it). You can check out Frangelico online or on Facebook.
*a line from Bullet the Blue Sky, sung by U2
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