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Monthly Archives: August 2012

S’mores Rice Krispies Treats

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As a child, I never liked s’mores. I attribute it to the fact that I mostly only liked white chocolate back then (what the heck was wrong with me?). My love of white chocolate was long ago traded in for a love of dark chocolate, and I still laugh when I think about how adamant childhood me was in saying that I did not like chocolate (unless it was a Reese’s cup). See, even kids like me can grow up to appreciate good food. ;) I’m sure I’d love them now – with homemade grahams and a really dark chocolate bar.

Given my previous dislike of s’mores, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these. Like I mentioned in my Big Summer Potluck recap, we were surrounded by delicious food the entire weekend. There was something addictive about these little bars, and Eric and I had more than our fair share of them. These are kicked up crispy treats with all the flavors of s’mores in a convenient little bar, no campfire needed. The graham crackers are baked in melted butter and sugar and then a layer of dark chocolate is spread over them. The chocolate binds the rice cereal to the crust, and extra marshmallows and chunks of chocolate add the finishing touch. If you’re looking for a simple dessert or after school snack, these are perfect. They’re just sweet enough to satisfy, and the recipes makes more than enough to share.

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Seared Halibut with Summer Vegetable Sauté

Seared Halibut with Summer Vegetable Sauté
Mornings are starting to get cooler here in Virginia, but if the last two summers are any indication, fall isn’t here to stay. Looking at Pinterest, however, you’d never know this. I get being over summer, but I’m not quite ready to start posting pumpkin recipes just yet, either. My farmers market is still bursting with summer squash, and I fully intend on enjoying it as long as I can. After all, soon it will make way for butternut squash, and I won’t get the opportunity to enjoy recipes like this one again until next year.

Our Saturday morning ritual – breakfast, coffee and shopping at the farmers market
We don’t cook much seafood, but that’s something we’ve been trying to change. When I saw this recipe, I knew immediately that I had to have it. There are times when recipes and/or photos jump out at me, and this was one of those times. This recipe is simple but elegant. The halibut is flavored with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. That’s it, and that’s all it needs. You can use whatever varieties of summer squash are available in your area. If you can’t find spring onions or large scallions, give pearl onions a try. This dish is the epitome of summer cuisine, and it will definitely be making another appearance in our house before the season is over.

Seared Halibut with Summer Vegetable Sauté

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes
I’m sure you guys know by now that the combination of chocolate and strawberry is one of my favorites. To me, the only combination that’s better is chocolate and coffee. Since summer is still going strong, I’ve been able to find some gorgeous strawberries. I’m ready for cooler weather, but I’m definitely not ready for the lack of summer produce like strawberries, tomatoes and okra. To be honest, as much as I love fall, I’m also not quite ready for another change of season because it means my first summer with Clara is over. Time with her feels like it’s flying by, and I want to savor every last second of it. I know that I’ve got plenty to look forward to as she gets older, and baking with her is high on that list.

I made these cupcakes for my niece’s seventh birthday, and it was such a joy to have her helping me in the kitchen (Clara was sleeping soundly in the living room). There’s still a small chocolate fingerprint smudge on the wall near my mixer, and I think of Blair every time I see it. It makes me laugh to think of her watching me mix up the batter and then asking me approximately fifteen times when she could lick the bowl. She, and everyone else here, loved these cupcakes. How could they not? The chocolate cupcakes are rich and moist, and the strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream on top is sweet and lusciously smooth. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing pumpkin treats popping up on your favorite food blogs. So I say savor summer while you can, and make sure you enjoy the late evening sun (and a cupcake) with someone you love. We’ve got plenty of time to celebrate fall later.

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

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Lemon Loaf

Lemon Loaf

Eric travels quite a bit for work and sometimes will spend several hours in the car driving to North and/or South Carolina. He usually fuels himself with iced coffee and a slice of lemon loaf from Starbucks when he’s on the road. Since he celebrated his birthday last month, I wanted to make him a special breakfast. We already had the cold-brew coffee here, so all I needed was the lemon loaf. It’s one of those foods that blurs the line between breakfast and dessert. It’s essentially a cake and even has a glaze, but it’s made in a loaf pan and seems perfectly acceptable to eat for breakfast, especially if it’s your birthday.

This cake is full of lemony goodness. It should almost be called triple lemon loaf. It’s a lemon cake brushed with lemon simple syrup and topped with lemon glaze. Basically, this knocks its Starbucks counterpart out of the water. The cake uses sour cream, which adds to its tanginess and helps the cake achieve a richly dense and extra moist crumb. This recipe makes two loaves, and I can tell you that I fully regret halving this the day I made it. If you don’t have use for both loaves, simply freeze the extra one and glaze it when you need it. The directions for making this called for a food processor, which would have been fine had I not broken mine a few weeks earlier. I made this in a stand mixer with no problems, and I’ve reflected my changes below.

Lemon Loaf

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Thoughts on Big Summer Potluck 2012

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I got back from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the site of Big Summer Potluck, Sunday night. I’ve delayed writing this post for a few days. I’d like to tell you that it’s because I wanted everything I experienced last weekend to soak in. Sure, that’s part of it, but the main reason I haven’t shared this yet has to do with fear. Fear that I won’t be able to adequately describe how I felt when I was there. Fear that posting pictures of Clara being held by other people will upset our family members that still have yet to meet her. Fear that this post will seem super cheesy (warning: it probably is).

Big Summer Potluck isn’t a conference. It didn’t take place in a hotel meeting room. Telling you what I didn’t do while I was there reveals just as much as telling you what I did. I didn’t talk about traffic or SEO. I didn’t find out the best way to get my pictures pinned. I didn’t feel like I was having sponsors shoved down my throat at every opportunity. I didn’t take my iPad so that I could take notes. I didn’t watch a bunch of bloggers fawn over the “bigger” bloggers or try to slip them a business card. I didn’t leave feeling like I needed to come home and change everything about my writing/design/recipes. If you’ve been to a blogging conference, you know what I’m talking about. (That’s not to say those conferences don’t have a place, but they’re not what I needed this year.) What I did at Big Summer Potluck was so much more meaningful.

I smiled watching Maggy and Pam hold and cuddle Clara as if we’ve been friends forever and this was their first time seeing us since she was born.
I teared up listening to Chris talk about how life comes first because, after all, “it’s just a blog.”
I related to Melissa as she talked about fear of not being good enough.
I ate awesome food.
I didn’t photograph any of it.
I drank way too much coffee.
I talked to Aimée and Laura Beth about baby stuff and watched our little ones play and laugh.
I ran in the rain.
I listened to Brooke talk about how to find stillness amidst the craziness of life.
I talked to Joy about Clara and was comforted by her incredibly kind words.
I confessed to Sabrina that, despite missing our families, Eric and I are so happy Clara will grow up in a place that exposes her to different people and philosophies.
I listened to bluegrass music with Clara in my arms and a glass of wine in my hand.
I felt at home.

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Big Summer Potluck starts and ends at the home of Pam Anderson. I’ll admit, I felt a little awkward Friday night because I didn’t really know anyone (more than a Twitter conversation here and there). I’m a very outgoing person, but I was having a hard time breaking out of my shell that night. Clara was fussy when I left the hotel, and of course my phone didn’t want to send or receive texts for me to check in. So I was slightly anxious when the evening began but found that my anxiety dissipated the more I mingled. By Sunday morning, I walked into Pam’s house sad that I’d be saying goodbye to the friends I’d made over the weekend.

The entire weekend was full of wonderful food, demos and speakers. I’m not going to give you a play by play, and I obviously spent more time photographing Clara than I did food. I do want to share what stuck with me and weighed on my mind over the course of the weekend, and that’s community. The feeling that we’re not alone in whatever we’re going through. The reason I blog and stick with it even when I feel inadequate. The conversations that happened when the speakers opened up the floor for everyone to share their thoughts. These are the things that remain, and they couldn’t have been captured with a camera or as notes on my iPad.

Maggy & Clara

Brooke spoke about being mindful in all we do, not just in blogging. She also talked about being vulnerable in life and in writing. I’ve done this once before, when I told all of you about Clara’s birth defect. I haven’t mentioned since then that I sometimes still cry (even as I write this behind tear-filled eyes) when I think about the decision that’s ahead of us. I want to share the good stuff with all of you, and there is a lot of it. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see that I get to spend my days with the most beautiful little girl. But there are still times that I’m scared – for her, for us – and most of you would never know that. I think sharing these pieces of my life with you, both good and bad, will make my writing more genuine. Brooke’s talk reminded me of this, and it was something that I needed to hear. The focus here will still be on the food, of course, but I hope I can let you guys in on other stuff that’s going on too.

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The weekend wasn’t full of only deep thoughts and seriousness. There were plenty of laughs and fun stories shared. There was a photo booth, complete with kitchen related props like a giant whisk and giant wooden spoon. Judging from the few people I watched, the pictures are going to be hilarious. In our case, Clara was trying to eat the whisk, and we had our signature speech bubble quote “all we do is win” (because people expect “we are the champions”).

The whole thing went by far too quickly. Leading up to the event, I worried (needlessly, I might add) over how things would work logistically with Clara and Eric, but they were graciously welcomed by our hosts. Everything was so laid back, and I never had a problem sneaking away to feed our little girl. The attendees and speakers were open, raw and honest, and I left Big Summer Potluck feeling happy, refreshed and hopeful.