11.24.2016

thankful.


 Most daunting of all for me is living up to the Thanksgiving dinners of my childhood... served by my mom in pearls, perfectly coiffed hair and an apron starched to high heaven. Cozy. Home spun. Norman Rockwell. You betcha! As I cobbled together the menu for my first Thanksgiving, my senses were flooded with the culinary aromas of my youth~dishes crammed with great food and nostalgia. It was Thanksgiving de ja vu all over again, but this time I was the hostess...armed with a hodge-podge of recipes handed down from family and friends or ripped from magazines, served up while wearing sweats, hair in a pony tail, smudged eyeliner and pink fuzzy slippers. I was a bit surprised to find myself over whelmed by it all, scooting around the dishes, trying to keep it all warm .....many years later, I'm happy to say...not much has changed.I love a day that inspires gratitude on all sides. I'm speaking straight from the heart here, I think back on the past 1,688 days and I remember that first smooth stone, tossed into the pond. It slipped quietly beneath the surface and we lived each ripple. Before we knew it, we were all thinking harder about the things we are most thankful for. I'm thankful that I'm spending this Thanksgiving with my people, even though my heart is a little fogged over. My family incomplete. This year, I have a few new wrinkles and a new tinge of weariness, but what it means is that love is in my heart, and I'll take it.

I'm thankful for unexpected surprises, and better news than I expected.

I'm thankful for the cachepot of friends I have.

I'm thankful for the hope of a new story. With enough happy ending to go around.

I'm thankful that I am much more than the sum total of all my wonkyness.

I'm thankful that Tom and Jerry humor transcends generations.

I'm thankful for the guys always there with a helping hand and a loving heart.

I'm thankful for a warm place to live, for air scented heavy with cinnamon, two furry puppies, for ponytails and my family.

Should you find yourself minus one (or more) at your table on Thanksgiving day, you will be sad.  There are just no two ways about it.  Facts are facts. You will remember how forcefully he embraced all traditions involving family that carry with them the merest whiff of obligation.  How all outside expectations are shrugged off, all requisite get-togethers cherished. And you will, in the days leading up to The Day, regularly remember him with a thump and a grin, because you'll be washing up the good china upon which he ate. The good china he bought for you. Because in my family, anyway, we root for good china the way normal  families root for their alma mater. You will remember him while you are setting out place cards, the one on which he wrote "...I love my Fam." And as the day goes on, you'll begin to notice he's everywhere, actually, popping up around every corner. You'll remember the pumpkin muffins you're baking were his favorite and how he loved your corn pudding. You will be filled to the brim with love. You will be sad, anyway.  Because Thanksgiving's Thanksgiving.  And that's no time to be apart. You will carry on, of course, because that's what we do, and you will be genuinely glad for everything else.  You will gather your wits and tell stories that begin with...remember when? You will use words like miss, wish, and hope...eyes almost dry.  You will eat well and laugh often and give genuine thanks for the pleasures of the family that he helped create. The Fam. that he loved.


I think, in the end, that our time might be better spent living gratitude than writing every whip-stitch of it down. So, I'm making a deal with myself to pen my thankfuls on the inside surface of my heart also, every day. And I promise to press down hard when I write.

For tonight, I'll not attempt the complete unabridged list. Instead, I'll just say to whom it was that let that first stone fly - thank you.


just sayin'.



Sagaponack Corn Pudding
an Ina Garten recipe

  ¼ lb. butter
5 c. fresh corn, cut from the cob (6 to 8 ears)
1 c. yellow onion, finely chopped
4 extra large eggs
1 c. milk ( use 2 %)
1 c. half & half
½ c. yellow cornmeal
1 c. ricotta cheese ( use part-skim)
3 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, cut into slivers
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. Kosher salt (scant)
¾ tsp. black pepper
6 oz. extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated plus a bit more for topping the pudding
cayenne pepper (my adaptation)

Grease a casserole dish that will hold 8 to 10 cups. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
Place the butter in a deep fry pan. Add the chopped onion and the corn kernels. Place over medium high heat and bring the vegetables to a sizzling bubble. Cook for four minutes, turn off the heat and let them cool just a bit.

Meanwhile mix the eggs, milk, half & half, sugar, slat, pepper, basil, and cornmeal to make a slurry. Add the ricotta and stir vigorously to break it up.

Turn in the corn and onion mix.

Plop the pudding batter into the casserole dish. Sprinkle a bit more Cheddar on top and sprinkle on some cayenne pepper. Place the casserole in a larger deep pan, add hot tap water to the water bath so that the water comes halfway up the outside of the casserole.

Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

The pudding is done when it begins to come away from the edges of the pan, quivers when jostled, and is golden brown on the top.

Remove from the water bath and allow the pudding to cool for just a few minutes before serving.

11.18.2016

the shiny peeking in

 

 As of late, my efforts to be outside have been heroic, if not entirely successful. Last Saturday morning I looked out my window, gazed upon the sunny gloriousness and I was seduced, totally convinced that I must be out there soaking up enough rays to warrant requisite not-too-much-later-in-life botox treatments. so, under this obligatory coercion, I finally propelled my butt out of the house to be one with Nature...you see, I've been facing a drama head on for a couple of years and decided that I might like to dapple in denial instead. just for the day. My plan? my plan was to pretend that I did not have a three page to-do list, feign sunny optimism and ignore the frantic feelings that were beginning to churn in my gut and run rampant right beneath my surface. So, I did what any self-respecting girl facing a mini breakdown would do if she were in my shoes...got in my car and started driving. one hour south, a Barn full of Christmas and a local farm stand along the way. on the way back, a walk in the woods. makes sense to moi, no? I mean isn't that what everybody does  when life gets kinda funky.
 

The weather had me pretending that it was not as cool as it was, that I didn't need a bulky sweater, scarf and mittens to walk around the farm. I was feeling all mushy and nostalgic as I sat and watched  Fall come swooping in. hundreds of brilliantly colored leaves fluttered around me in the cool air like little bits of papery magic. one landed on my shoulder and I marveled at the brilliant colors, the amazing patterns. there were horses in a field. chickens. a donkey named Hobart (he was not home) and a cat named Lafayette, unfortunately, she ran away before we were properly introduced. I watched her work the crowd, flouncing from person to person, she was shameless in her begging and quest for attention.

And then, as always, there was the matter of finding my groove.  I tend to obsess over  stuff, you know me, I like things in neat packages, it is comforting to me to know what to expect, oh, I love surprises and adventures as much as the next guy, I just don't like having the rug pulled out from under me. and sudden, drastic life changes rivals all of the above.  As does things out of my control. Even if it's just a part of the whole process.  Even if I've known this the better part of forever. even if I try to roll with the punches. Still and all. Things happen.


One of my biggest snafus? Not living in the moment enough. this is particularly clear when the moments are gone. captured only in photos and my selective memory. yet, even with these I wish I could remember certain things...what we ate, what we talked about, how we sounded, what was the mood like. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing, shopping, lunch, driving, home. I wish I had cherished the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Certain things I'm still getting used to, having spent many years doing  the whole long distance thing, it is pretty cool to have most of my gene pool so close by. within spitting distance. an arms reach. right in my hood. There was always such an all or nothing quality to being so far-flung. But now, now life is pretty rich on the spontaneous! So I'm living more in the moment, and when I add up my tangible accomplishments as of late, not so much. in fact just about zero. but I'm digging it, I'm busy attending to important matters. My closet's a disaster. My garden is a scandal! Don't even think about opening my fridge.  Because after all, Life won't wait. we were recently given an extra hour. seriously? I savored it. pissed it away. I'm hoping to double down on my free time, my fun days, suddenly I'm aware that they come with an expiration date.  I'm reveling in quiet afternoons talking to goats, willing the peaceful times to keep coming. I might nearly have let this season pass without enjoying it for what it is, had I not spied the shiny peeking in. watched it strutting about my kitchen all sassy like. I'm so glad I remembered, just in the nick of time. It's deceptively simple, sunshine, good company, a whole day of happy, sparkles, and twinkly.  Add that I smiled, a lot, made it a day I won't soon forget. for a long time. maybe, never.


And, I collected more memories than I can count. Rare is the outing that doesn't end with a fistful of photos. A reasonable person would take a few photos and be done with it. I am not that person.  Perhaps because there were years when I had none. I'm making up for lost time. It bears repeating. often. live in the moment, and take tons of photos.


In the moment. Humph. Do you or don't you?  Me, I'm of two minds on the matter. I definitely try to.  live in the moment. Sometimes, it seems I have to try rather more than I ought to. And then I have some serious explaining to do to myself. catching up if you will. is it merely a case of enjoying life or is it a question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? This is not to say it comes easily, but when I make up my mind, I jump in feet first. I'm on a roll. Finally find my groove and sort of move into it. this keeps me busy. out of trouble. out of my head where things tend to wander a bit at times. where I should not always go. keeping me up well past my bedtime. my head barely above water. Then of course, there is the small matter of borrowing trouble. getting ahead of myself. even though I know, I really do know, that these are roads better left untraveled.

 and something more.





I've been having those feelings again. Those feelings where I can’t pay attention to any one thing for long. you know how it goes, I’m there, but I’m not. The thoughts in my head are louder than any real voices I hear around me. When I feel this way, I need to be alone. the truth is, time alone, finding a place to escape has always been important to me. As a child I would hide in closets, the attic, behind the couch, climb a tree. anywhere to be by myself. hide away. regroup. refresh my spirit. that's how it was on Saturday. windows flung open to capture every last bit of magic. an early picnic lunch by a  lake, a mini road trip, an afternoon making Apple Crostata and singing along with Bon Jovi, now there's a guy who really knows how to show a girl a good time. 


just sayin'.

 
(Adapted from Ina Garten)

For the pastry:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.

For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples into 8ths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.


Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

11.11.2016

a little bit of everything.


For the past few months, I've been staring out my kitchen windows and wandering the back roads, straight-up gawking at this beautiful place I call home. It's funny how things like autumn happen every year, yet somehow distinguish themselves from seasons past. I've lived drippy, depressing Octobers. I've lived Octobers where everything around me was brand new and I was too busy finding my place to notice the leaves. This is my fourteenth October on my little cul-de-sac, and I swear, it still feels brand new.

Just to be clear, I realize it's now November. I'm taking liberties here and lumping all the fall months together. I'm writing them down as a stunning collective, because next year, it might not look so pretty. I might need to dig this from the archives and remind myself that sometimes, October feels like November, but other times, November feels like the best parts of everything.

 For whatever reason, fall tends to be one of my craziest seasons, and this one does not disappoint. I'm decking the halls in what just may be my most epic decorating season to date. In the past, any discussion of 12 straight hours knee deep in tinsel made me shaky and tense. But now the time has come to start again, and it's everything I need. I am more desperate to cram myself more tightly into a schedule already bursting at the seems than I realized. I detoured through a magical wonderland with my peeps last week, then kept on walking in search of lunch and much needed girl talk.

Man, it was awesome...

 In true fashion, we stayed too late eating peach pie and laughing. We started our trip so slowly that it became impossible to distinguish it from the rest of the day. We spent almost every minute talking about things like fur babies, politics, holidays, food, family, and what love should speak to the world around us.

  The leaves were putting on their best show, especially on the way home when the drizzle gave way to spectacular bursts of sunshine playing that shadowy thing the light does in fall.

We take this day trip every fall, and I still can't get over it. I am struck by how ordinary and spectacular these simplest routines can be. Our neighborhoods are different. The trees and even the sky are different. But the heart and the guts and the trust are very much the same. Dancing leaves lined the curbs, so I stooped down for a street-view shot. The leaves were popping, the air was chilly.

 As always, the best part of being away is coming home. Always and forever, amen. I missed my puppies more than usual. if I could have reached through the miles and snatched them up to experience it with me, I would have. they are my home, and as our life gets weirder and, in many ways, harder, I'm ever more aware that the best moments are dulled without them near.

It was dark when I arrived home, still dark the next morning when I walked the puppies. But somewhere around mid-morning, the sky caught up with me. It snapped awake and my neighborhood had never looked more beautiful.

 Instagram is jammed full of trees putting on a show. It can almost seem a little redundant. The leaves are turning! It's pretty! I get it! The thing is, we aren't really sharing our pictures for each other, are we? We're taking the time to notice, and remember. We're doing it because there's just no other way. This is the world we get to live in, and we all secretly feel like the luckiest one. We're partial to our leaves, our trees, our place and our lives, just as we should be. I wouldn't trade the maple trees in my front yard for  a single other maple tree on the planet. There's just something about it.

Indeed, it's November, despite all evidence to the contrary. My gratitude meter is cranked way up. I'm tremendously thankful for my actual life even though heartbreak keeps heaving our way. It's all too easy to treat each day as if it's a marble on a tipping point, it will either roll one way, or the other. Truth tells me it doesn't have to be that way. A moment, a day, a life shouldn't be reduced down to "bad" or "good". It's a little bit of everything. It's rain and warm air and leaves so bright and thick on the ground, it almost feels criminal to trample them. They won't be here for long, though. And if you ask them, they'll tell you, they were made for this.

I don't exactly know why the seasons teach me about life, I only know they do. This exact moment, Fall 2016, is telling me to love harder. It's saying I should be extra generous with my apologies, that I should reach for my peeps and hug them more, that I should swing my door wider and even that I should lock it sometimes, and turn off the lights.

 October was slow and fast. It's lingering, and November has brewed it a cup of tea. They are somehow better together, where the lines are blurred and the distinctions are lost. The combination is intoxicating, so I'll pop a cake in the oven to serve with the tea and breathe through the open windows. This is the right time to set the pace for a season of blazing kindness and world-changing, everyday love.

come and join me?

just sayin'.


lemon raspberry ricotta cake
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 + ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs
1 + ½ cup ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 pint fresh raspberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray sides with non-stick spray or butter and flour. Set aside. If you do not have a springform pan, a regular 9 inch cake pan will do just fine.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and zest of lemon and with fingers or the back of a spoon rub zest into sugar. It will become a bit moist but no worries. Whisk in flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, ricotta cheese, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until blended - there might still be a few streak of flour. Fold in melted butter just until combined.
  5. Gently fold in ¾ of raspberries careful not to crush them. Pour batter into prepared pan and gently smooth top. Scatter remaining raspberries over top of cake. Place in preheated oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until golden brown and when toothpick is inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before releasing from pan.
  6. Let cool completely before serving. This is great alone or with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream. The cake can be stored at room temperature wrapped tight or stored in fridge. It keeps well for several days.