sharing meals and memories all year long
Wow, that was a long hiatus. Good news is I’m breaking out of my hibernation, trying to keep my tail from falling between my legs. Everyday life has a sneaky way of taking over, and I’ve learned that I’ve really got to fight to stay afloat sometimes.
There is a new project on the horizon, just as the tomato plants are budding, the lettuces are being harvested and our CSA is about to begin. Stay tuned, friends. I’ve missed you.
52! a pizza party to celebrate!
This is my 52nd post! And it’s only September! How about that! To celebrate, I suggested having a homemade pizza party for a recent gathering with some good friends, to bring this project full circle. That doesn’t mean I’m quitting though, friends! Don’t you worry. Despite the next few months being insanely busy (we’re renting a house for the weekend to host 9 family members for Henry’s second birthday, Craig is doing quite a bit of travel and we are moving next month) I have every intention of continuing with this project. This challenge has been so great for me, pushing me to experiment with new recipes and revisit old ones, spend more time with the people I love, and relax and enjoy dinner parties more than I ever have before.
Besides, it was a challenge to cook once a week for others, not just make 52 things. I’m not finished!
I’ve decided that a pizza party is just about the most perfect party you can have with a large group, and I’m already planning the next one. Maybe I’ll start a new project called 52pizzas. And also 52cocktails. I didn’t make any cocktails for this little get together, but I did drink quite a bit of wine, to make up for it.
We had 4 couples present at this shindig, so I made two batches of my pizza crust, one white and one whole wheat, to make 4 delicious pizzas. I assigned each couple (the wives, more accurately) one pizza to gather the ingredients for. We assembled and chatted and shared exciting news (a pregnancy! an upcoming move! twins on the way!) and drank (me probably more than anyone else) and sat outside enjoying the music from the birthday bash happening next door. A fun time was had by all.
What we made (clockwise starting at the top left)
- Basil pesto, mozzarella and tomato on white crust
- Mushroom, spinach, mozzarella and marinara on whole wheat crust
- Gorgonzola, pears and walnuts on whole wheat crust
- BBQ sauce, chicken, mushroom and mozzarella on white crust
And not a slice of pizza was left at the end of our meal.
I’m going to keep up my challenge, cooking for someone else at least once a week. But I’m also adding mini challenges to myself in the meantime. Try more new things, eat out a lot less, make more meals using food I already have on hand. In between posting about my meals for others I’ll start adding some recipes, tips, photos and musings on what I’m making at home for my little family as well. What we do with our CSA box. Things like that.
So - three cheers to making it this far in my challenge, and a big fat THANK YOU to you, my friends, family and loyal readers, for supporting me and pushing me forward. I love you. xoxo
51 - michael’s boozy birthday
Our good friend Michael loves beer. Like really, really loves beer. So when his wife, Hillary, threw him a dessert themed birthday party and asked if I’d help with the food, I knew it had to be boozy.
I originally dreamed up the idea to make carrot cake cupcakes using an IPA - thinking the bitter flavor of the beer would pair really nicely with the sweetness of carrot cupcakes. But the only beer + cake recipe I could find that remotely fit the bill was this one, and although they look incredible and have been saved to my future recipe box, I didn’t think they were quite the right thing for our bearded beer and bourbon loving birthday boy.
So. I thought long and hard about how else to make these cupcakes unsafe for pregnant ladies and children and remembered the candied carrots I made earlier in the year. Remember those? I decided to make good old regular carrot cake cupcakes, and made a bourbon spiked fluffy cream cheese frosting. Then I made some bourbon candied carrots to top them with, using a bit more bourbon than probably necessary. Perfect.
I also made these truffles, increasing the beeriness by making a concentrated beer syrup with a bottle of Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale.
Between my boozy concoctions, these butterbeer jelly shots, and beer floats (milk stout and vanilla ice cream and a lambic and chocolate ice cream combo that I’m still dreaming about), I don’t think anyone left sober. And that means it was a good party.
- 1-1/2 cups AP flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
- 3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks), melted
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp yogurt
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 1-1/2 cups grated carrots
Preheat your oven to 375. Line your mini muffin pan with mini muffin liners, or use those ones that you can just set on a cookie sheet, even though they sort of lose their shape a bit anyway. It’s ok. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour to spices) and set aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients (butter to carrots) until well mixed, then add the dry to the wet, folding until just combined. Fill the liners to just below the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating half way through if you have a spotty oven like mine. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz of cream cheese, room temp
- 6 tbsp butter (3/4 stick), room temp
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until just combined, careful not to mix beyond that or else it will separate. Frost and eat.
Bourbon Candied Carrots
- 1 large carrot, julienned (mandoline time)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the carrots are soft. Drain (reserve that bourbon carrot simple syrup for cocktails!) and arrange on a silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet. Dry in a 250 degree oven for about 30 minutes until dry and chewy like a boozy carrot gummy candy. Cool. Garnish.
50 - labor day basil lemon gimlets
I should probably change the name of this blog to 52drinks, with the number of cocktail recipes I’ve been sharing. Really.
On labor day we were invited to a bbq, and I was asked, again, to bring the cocktails. It was hot and steamy and we’d been drinking all weekend, so I decided on something tart and tangy and summery - basil lemon gimlets.
I went through a phase a few years ago where I drank these like it was my job. I would make a huge batch of basil simple syrup and buy jugs and jugs of lemonade to ensure I had gimlets for weeks. I brought them to parties, I served them for brunch, I even brought all of the ingredients camping one weekend. The thing about these sweet cocktails is that they go down easy. Really really easy. And I was pretty much hungover all summer long. They sneak up on you, and the hangover you can get after drinking a gallon of sweet lemony vodka is not one you want to have when you wake up in a tent in the middle of the woods.
But they’re great if you drink just one or two at a Labor Day bbq when you’re easing off your weekend long bender.
Basil Lemon Gimlets
adapted from Gourmet
makes one drink. or two dozen.
- 1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 part vodka
- 2 parts basil syrup (see below)
- fresh basil leaves
- splash of soda water
- slice of lemon
Shake or stir first three ingredients over ice with some fresh basil leaves. (Ball them up in your fist first if you’re stirring your drink to release the flavor.) Top with a good glug of sparkling water. Garnish with fresh basil and a slice of lemon. Try not to drink too many.
Basil Simple Syrup
makes enough for a weekend long gimlet fest. use leftovers in iced tea, basil mint juleps, and even iced coffee.
- 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves (stems are ok too)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
Bring everything to a simmer, then cover and let steep for an hour. Strain. Keeps for about a week.
49 - i ragout, you ragout
I’m surprised I haven’t talked about my ragouts until now - they such a staple to our family meals that I don’t even explain what’s in them anymore, I simply refer to them as a “ragout”. The word ragout means a main dish stew, usually cooked over slow heat, with or without meat. A rich, meaty bolognese is probably the most familiar. Like the word “sauce” or “cake” it can mean a lot of different things. I take liberties with the term, and mine are a combination of sauteed veggies, sometimes shredded meat or bacon, some cream and lemon zest served over pasta (usually bucatini, my favorite dried strand pasta.) I use whatever I have on hand, and in the summer that’s usually a lot of zucchini and summer squash, leeks, tomatoes and greens from our CSA.
Hill and Michael came over for an impromptu dinner last weekend, and I served them one of my weeknight easy ragouts with roasted tomatoes (I just can’t quit with the roasted tomatoes!), shredded chicken, zucchini and summer squash, and spinach.
Summer Vegetable Ragout with Shredded Chicken
serves 4 with leftovers
- two cups cherry or small roma tomatoes, halved
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lbs dried strand pasta
- 1 leek, dark green ends removed, halved and rinsed thoroughly, then sliced thinly
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 zucchini and/or summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced into 1/4 inch slices
- a large bunch of spinach, rinsed well
- 2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, maybe a splash more
- zest of one lemon
- salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and toss your tomatoes with 2 tbsp of the olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until starting to shrivel, about 45 minutes to an hour. Set aside. Put a large pot of water on to boil your pasta.
Put your pasta in to boil and set a timer for the minimum time listed on the package.
In a large wide skillet or pan with a lid, heat the remaining tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and add the leek and garlic, sauteing until translucent. Add the zucchini or squash and cook 3-4 minutes (don’t let them get mushy, you still want them to have some bite), then add your chicken and spinach. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, stirring all the while. As soon as the spinach is wilted add the cream, lemon zest, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer again. Simmer for 3-4 minutes to reduce the liquid a little bit. By now your pasta should be done, so go ahead and toss it right in with your ragout. Toss everything around so the pasta gets all coated in the creamy lemony sauce.
Serve immediately and top with the roasted tomatoes and some freshly chopped herbs or parmesan breadcrumbs.