Seasonal

some things i’m loving…{strawberry rhubarb crumble}

Oh dear May, your exit feels as abrupt as your entry. Time feels like a treadmill full speed ahead. Much as I try to keep up, I always seems to fall behind. In some ways it’s a good salve. One day you pluck your head from the fog and realize in just two months, it’ll be two years since a jagged gap was suddenly inserted into your life.

How did that happen? How is it I’ve managed to live almost two years since that moment? I suppose it’s resilience and determination. But mostly, it’s the fact that I learned very early that bad things happen to good people. Life is fickle, and the same day that brings immense joy and happiness can also wield deep heartache.

But still I keep going because deep down I do want to be happy. I’m an incredibly independent, headstrong woman, but oh did I love being part of a couple. Michael and I were about as opposite as two people could be. The fact that we spent almost 17 years together is often perplexing. As I read his journals, though, what I’m beginning to understand is we weathered all of our differences because we were both hopeless romantics deep down. We believed in love, longed for it, and intrinsically understood that love is a living, breathing thing that requires respect and care. Love is susceptible to the elements, and left unattended it will simply wither and die.

Having said this, what I’m about to admit next may seem contrary. Yesterday I resumed my weekly date nights with myself. My recent Paris trip reminded me that I need that weekly outlet to nourish my mind and soul. I’m not good when I’m forced into any one role 24/7. I never just identified as being a wife, mother, or even writer. Before I can be any of those, I need to first be Jennifer. She is the foundation upon which all those characters are built.

I’ve wandered far from my goal of sharing a few things that I’ve really been enjoying lately, so before I lose you all together, here it goes…

— I saw this on my recent date night…Before Midnight. I hate movie spoilers, so I won’t say anything more than if you loved the first two movies, you will not be disappointed in this last installment.

— I read Let’s Talk About Owls with Diabetes during my trip to Paris, and like every David Sedaris novel it was the perfect cure when laughter is on short supply.

—I started reading The Forgotten Gift: An Interrupted Novel a couple of moths ago, and only turned my attention away because it’s on my kindle. Sometimes, most times actually, I just want a real book to hold and read, to feel the pages turn between my fingers. Well, that’s a silly excuse once you start reading this compelling novel. The back story is it was written by a friend’s sister-in-law while she was dying of cancer. It’s a captivating story, and the proceeds go towards helping her son come to terms with the loss of his mother. Good news is it’s now available in paperback too. Definitely add this to your summer reading list.

—This video I captured while strolling through Paris.

—Of all the interviews I did for the book, this one is perhaps my favorite. After a month of being on the road, and doing dozens of radio, print and TV interviews, I finally felt like I hit my stride.

—These muffins Luisa wrote about recently. Once this heatwave breaks next week, I’m so making them.

—Spring and summer means the farmers’ market brings back some old friends…strawberries, asparagus, and peas, oh my! I’ve linked to a few of my favorite recipes, and here’s an oldie but goodie below to nudge you into the kitchen.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

serves 8 to 10

For the Topping:

1 cup (125 grams) old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup (45 grams) toasted hazelnuts

1/4 cup (49 grams) coarse natural cane sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)

1/4 teaspoon (1 gram)  fine sea salt

Leaves only from 3 sprigs of lemon thyme

Dash of ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter, melted

For the filling:

1 pint (10 ounces) strawberries, stems removed

4 stalks (12 ounces) rhubarb, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 tablespoon (10 grams) cornstarch

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated natural cane sugar

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

To make the topping, add the oats, hazelnuts, coarse sugar, salt, lemon thyme and cinnamon to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it forms a coarse, sandy mixture. Pour in the butter and pulse 3 to 4 more times until the mixture comes together into little clumps. Set bowl in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling.

Cut the strawberries into quarters and place in a deep bowl. Add the rhubarb, sugar and cornstarch to the bowl. Using a spoon to stir together until well coated. Scrape fruit mixture into a 10-inch deep ceramic pie plate or 8-inch square glass baking dish.

Sprinkle the oat topping evenly over the fruit and bake for 35 minutes, until the juices bubble and the topping is a deep golden color. Remove from oven and let sit on a wire rack until cooled, about 2 hours. May be prepared and baked the night before—just cover the top with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter until ready to serve the next day.

***

Dairy-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Omit the butter in the crumble topping. In its place, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) pure maple syrup.

***

Serving Suggestion:

I love a few generous spoons of this over thick, creamy yogurt, especially for breakfast when I’m feeling a little decadent.

Storing Leftovers:

The crumble is fine covered with plastic wrap overnight at room temperature. Anything longer than that, I suggest popping it into the fridge.

preserving a way of life

This past Saturday started somewhat normal. I rose at an abnormal hour for a weekend day, this time feeling a bit more tired and slow-moving, having played cruise director to Isabella. Since the whistle blew last Tuesday at noon, my life has been kids, kids and more kids.

Wednesday we trekked to Harlem to visit Kim. I think I was more excited about this playdate than Isabella. I was happy and at peace, sitting across from one of my best friends while the girls played.

Thursday we walked the High Line and cooled off with some stracciatella from L'Arte del Gelato and plum syrup soaked shaved ice from People's Pops.

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asparagus & creme fraiche “crepe”

As I reached into the pots and pans drawer for a skillet, my hand took hold of the crepe pan. Good sense stepped aside momentarily, and I knew this would not create a traditional omelet as I'd set out to make. I knew the eggs would quickly roll to the edges, creating a paper-thin sheet, more akin to a flourless crepe than the fluffy texture of an omelet one would expect from a recipe titled as such.

Still, I moved forward, unable to control myself. I was curious, and that is always good in the kitchen. It is what moves us to create something new. The disasters and flops are the pitfalls and rights of passage as a recipe developer.

So to create the best possible image as we talk about this, let's agree to call it an egg crepe, okay? Before I set out to make my egg crepe, I prepped the asparagus. See, that's really how this all started. I bought my first bunch of the season at the farmers' market a few days ago, and was eager to do something with it—just a few spears to tide me over until I could use them more substantially.

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french onion tart

A few years back Isabella and I were strolling through a neighborhood supermarket. Her eyes locked with a display of blueberries, and in her sweet little voice she asked if we could buy some.

It was January.

Close friends can already predict my answer. The rest of you might think me insane.

I told my then four year old daughter she couldn't have blueberries. I know, you're wondering why would anyone do such a thing.

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freezer preserved tomatoes: summer fest 2010

Many people asked if I would take a break from blogging or tweeting during my vacation. I promise I'm doing my best to relax and recharge. I did, however, do the same for you all as I do for the Mr. when I'm out of town. I left a few meals in the fridge to make sure you're well-fed while I'm gone.

By now you might have heard about my legendary my tomato jam. That recipe, as easy as it is, requires a time investment. The prep time is mere minutes, but patience is required as you sit back and apply a low and slow philosophy. The reward is a thick, jammy mixture of tomatoes and onions that tows the line between sweet and savory.

That bag of tomatoes you see above is the total opposite, and for good reason. If you're still nervous about canning or preserving, then this is a good "get your feet wet" approach. No special tools required. No jars to sterilze. While it won't last as long as a shelf-stable jar of jam, it will extend your tomato season by a month or two.

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easy peach preserves: summer fest 2010

There are a million other things I should be doing right about now. Like packing for vacation—we leave for Cape Cod in T-minus three days.

Or finishing my work before we pull out, so I can actually have a shot at rest and relaxation on this trip. At least as much as one can with two kids in tow.

But there's these peaches piling up, and this week is all about stone fruits on Summer Fest 2010 over at A Way to Garden. What better way to celebrate than with a simple, quick and, most importantly, easy way to make your own peach jam or preserves. 

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blueberry microwave jam

We’re in countdown mode. 18 days from now we pack the girls up for the sandy shores of Cape Cod.

I need this vacation. It feels like the last year has pummeled my spirits and pushed me to the limits. Life is supposed to be easier as the girls grow up, right? Well, if your kids are approaching school-age, let me give you a tip. Enjoy the life of leisure that is pre-K. Savor the relaxed pace of Kindergarten.

It all ends come first grade.

I will not sugar-coat the experience. I’ll even go so far to say it was easier the first time around when you did it yourself. Went through elementary school, that is. See back then you didn’t know the answers, so it was all a matter of discovery. Unchartered waters.

The second time around, you’ll find yourself thinking who cares if my kid know which sign is greater or less than. I mean, who really needs to know these symbols to prepare for life? Sure the concept is important, but why the symbols? Is it to prepare us, or them, for the symbolism of life?

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zucchini coffee cake


I'm not a fan of all those cookbooks that encourage parents to sneak veggies into their kids food. How would my girls ever learn to eat, and love, some of my most beloved ingredients if that were the case? I'm also convinced once they know what's in the finished dish, they'd be pretty annoyed and might even swear them off just as a way to show their hurt and betrayal.

I say this because about 12 years ago I did a lot of experimenting with ways to substitute eggs in baking. After a friend wolfed down his third brownie, I confessed they were made with tofu. He was as meat and potatoes an eater as they come. Forget the fact that he had already eaten two whole pieces, and likely licked the crumbs from his fingers. He spit out his third brownie. He then disappeared for a few minutes. Perhaps to purge his system of what he just found out I'd fed him.

I must admit, I wasn't honest and forthcoming. I knew he wasn't the tofu-type, so I decided to tell him after he'd fallen head over heals for the brownies, convinced he'd see his ill-ways. Well, if that's how the story ends when tricking a man nearing 40, I can only imagine the rebellion a child would conjure up.

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blueberry rhubarb preserves

 

Before I utter a word about rhubarb, I must tell you about a new favorite recipe.

But you must promise not to laugh.

Because it’s for cinnamon toast.

If you’ve read Molly’s recent post, then you know which one I’m talking about. It is highly addictive and I’m secretly kicking myself for ever making it.

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star-anise spiced apple cider

Before I tell you how I’ve finally made friends with my slow cooker, I wanted to let you all know about a new project of mine, called The Family Table. Everyone’s welcome, but it’s especially handy for time-pressed parents looking for answers on how to make home-cooked meals a part of their regular routine. I’ll be talking about feeding kids real food, and giving tips for making cooking fun instead of feeling like just another chore. First up is my mushroom bolognese recipe, so if you saw my tweets about it a few weeks back, go on over to The Family Table for a visit and get the recipe.

Pasta left_title right

Now, back to my slow cooker. Honestly, I never understood why people were so hooked on them. They’re not really one-pot meals because you have to sear the meat separately, so there’s extra dishes to wash‚ and I hate washing. Period. Laundry. Dishes. There’s no fun to be had. Then I made a beef stew last week. After searing the meat and sauteeing the carrots and onions, I added them with some stock and seasonings to my slow cooker. The work was all done, and the time I would’ve normally spent prepping dinner after picking the kids up from school, I decided to use to make hand-cut parpadelle to serve it over.

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