How is it Friday already? And also, why did Friday take so long to get here?
It’s been one of those weeks where time seemed to simultaneously fly by and slow down. I did manage to notice in the midst of it all that the trees have begun to take on that sort of peach-fuzz stage of green that they get in the spring. I feel like that is something I don’t often take the time to notice. The branches that have been bare and gloomy looking all winter begin to look soft and just slightly green. The same way a peach is fuzzy and you can only just see the little hairs covering it’s delicate skin. Even more wonderful than the soft green in the trees is that the same thing is happening to the foothills here in Colorado. From what I hear, this can be a short-lived sight so I’m going to soak it all in as much as I can.
Another part of spring and early summer that can easily pass by without proper appreciation is cherry season.
How anyone could miss these beauties is beyond me, but I’m sure it happens. Soon enough, food blogs will be lighting up with cherry recipes, like cherry clafoutis, giving plenty of inspiration for ways to use these ruby red treats. My favorite way to enjoy their sweet, juicy flavor is to put them in a big, lovely bowl and eat them just as they are. Perfect.
Still, it’s fun to mix things up and I think this cocktail is a wonderful way to try something new. Light and bubbly with the perfect combination of cherry and vanilla flavors, this saké based cocktail is sure to please. I actually pitted a few cherries and pressed them through a strainer to get my cherry juice for the cocktail pictured above, but a better way is to buy a small bottle of pure cherry juice (you can find it at most grocery stores- look for the unsweetened kind) using the garnish to showcase the fresh fruit.
If you don’t have any saké on hand, you can use vodka instead.
Take a moment to enjoy spring, green leaves, and cherries! Cheers!
Cherry Vanilla Sparkler
Makes 1 cocktail
2 oz unsweetened cherry juice
2 oz saké (I used Junmai Ginjo)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the cherry juice, saké and vanilla extract. Shake for about 30 seconds until thoroughly chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass filled with ice and top with club soda. Stir gently to combine. Enjoy!
Growing up, my family and I enjoyed pizzas most Friday nights. We would gather in the TV room, my sister and I on the emerald green carpet and my parents on the two-person sofa, watching Family Matters, Boy Meet World and Step-by-Step. We would laugh until we cried, not always at the corny sitcoms but at the jokes we made with each other. I still love spending time with my parents and sister like that. I doubt that will ever change. My hope, deep in my heart, is that I can help create similar memories for my family. The kind of memories that make us all remember that we are blessed to be able to act like the crazy, weird people we are without shame. I think French bread pizza might be the answer.
This is one of the easiest meals that I routinely make for dinner. Lately, it has been appearing on the dinner table once a week, usually on the nights when I know Brad will be working late. The ingredients are always readily available in my kitchen. Any time I see some nice French bread at the grocery store, I go ahead and buy it so I can put it in the freezer for the next French bread pizza night. Then there’s shredded mozzarella cheese, which I try to keep around always, and pizza sauce. This may surprise some of you, but I use store-bought pizza sauce. Sometimes that’s just the way to go. For sanity’s sake.
From start to finish, these pizzas take barely 10 minutes to put together and there are hardly any dishes to clean up afterwards. One of my favorite things about meals like this is that they act like a blank canvas. You can add vegetables that need to be used up, like broccoli florets or baby spinach, or leftover roast chicken. You can be as creative or as simple as you like. The classic combination of sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil never gets old in my opinion, and I often sprinkle red pepper flakes on top of my pizza. Or hot sauce. Lots of delicious hot sauce.
Having friends over for dinner? Why not make a variety of toppings available so everyone can make their own French bread pizzas? Pizza and beer cannot be a bad thing for a party.
I’ve been thinking about why pizza nights are always so much fun and I think I know the answer. It’s because no one has to spend a ton of time preparing food, doing dishes, or generally stressing over what to have for dinner. Everyone is relaxed and happy. I may not be right about many things, but I’m pretty sure I’m right about that.
French Bread Pizza
- 1 loaf sourdough French bread
- 1 cup pizza sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- course salt
- 1 garlic clove
- fresh basil, chopped or cut into strips
- red pepper flakes, to taste
Begin by preheating the broiler.
Cut the bread in half the short way, then cut each half again as though you were going to make a sandwich. Brush the cut sides with the olive oil and sprinkle with course salt. Place the bread on a baking sheet and put under the broiler until the bread is lightly golden. Rub the cut sides of the bread with the garlic clove.
Next, spoon some pizza sauce on each piece of bread then sprinkle with the cheese. Return to the oven under the broiler and, watching closely, cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Sprinkle the cooked pizza with fresh basil and red pepper flakes. Serve and enjoy!
I didn’t used to be a breakfast person. Back in high school, I used to leave the house with a travel mug full of coffee that had been mixed with hot cocoa powder. That’s totally acceptable, right? Yeah. I don’t think so either. Fast forward to today and I never skip breakfast. Never ever. And if I do, Brad says that I get “hangry” by about 11am. Hangry = hungry + angry.
Some days, it can be difficult to think of eating a morning meal, let alone finding the time to make something healthy. My default breakfast is typically 2 eggs topped with Tobasco sauce and a slice of whole wheat toast, but there are times when I need to mix thing up a little. Stepping out of a daily routine is important. Even if that means changing something as small as breakfast. This homemade granola is the perfect thing to have on hand when you want something quick and homemade in the mornings without any hassle.
In case you need more convincing about homemade granola, here are some other great reasons to DIY: it is much cheaper than a lot of the really good stuff you can buy in the grocery store, it keeps for 2 weeks, and it only takes 30 minutes and one mixing bowl to make. Plus, you can create your own combination of flavors to fit what you love most. My granola is often made with whatever I have in the pantry that needs to be used up. Sweetened shredded coconut and walnuts were the ingredients of choice this time around, but you can add pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, candied ginger, dried pineapple…I could go on and on but I won’t put you through that. You get the idea. Serve it with seasonal fruit, like these apricots that have been cut in half, brushed with a tiny bit of butter and broiled for a few minutes. Or you could go with some sliced strawberries. Or blueberries. Or cherries. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I love lots of cinnamon in my granola, so I’ve used a heavy hand in my recipe here. The warm flavor seems to transform this creamy, crunchy, juicy combination of flavors from just another yogurt and granola combination to something resembling a breakfast-style fruit crisp.
Here is what you need to do. Take the 30 minutes to make your own granola, sit down for 5 minutes in the morning to eat it at the table, and take note of how the rest of your day changes. A few quiet moments with your breakfast and a cup of coffee or tea can do wonders for how you will manage the craziness that ensues throughout the rest of your day.
Homemade Granola + Broiled Apricots and Yogurt
For the granola:
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
generous pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 325F. Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl until the oats, nuts and coconut are well coated. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the oats are lightly golden. Stir once or twice during cooking time.
Allow the granola to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container or large jar. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.
For the apricots:
1 teaspoon melted butter
Take one or two fresh apricots and cut them in half, removing the seed. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet and brush with a little melted butter. Place the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven under the broiler. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until the apricots are golden and bubbly on the top. Serve on a place with Greek yogurt and granola.
My grandmother has always been a believer in prayer. Any time anyone in the family lost something, she would say a prayer to St. Anthony.
St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something’s been lost and cannot be found.
Somehow, each and every time, whatever is missing turns up not long after saying this prayer. Personally, I think my grandma must have a special relationship with St. Anthony; some kind of deal, maybe. Because as no-fail as it is for her, I still seem to legitimately lose things that are never, ever found. Somewhere out there is a collection of cards, dollar bills, glasses, and ear buds never to be found again.
One thing that seemed to be lost until recently was a season called spring. But finally it seems that spring has arrived complete with thunderstorms, birds chirping, and fresh, green grass. I was reminded the other day of the spring festival that took place around this time at the school where we worked in Tokyo. Many countries were represented and served food and drinks like lamb from New Zealand to Caipirinhas from Brazil. We would stand outside and eat and drink and laugh, our shoulders and cheeks turning pink with the first sunburn of the season. It was always such fun and felt like a celebration of everything that had happened in the months leading up to that day.
The first time I attended the festival, I was introduced to Pimm’s No. 1, a liqueur from England. It was served in clear plastic cups with loads of diced apples, cucumbers, and mint. The pleasant, refreshing flavor was something I didn’t realize existed in the world of cocktails. When Pimm’s wandered into my mind a few days ago, I new I needed to have a bottle in my at-home bar collection.
While I love the flavor and appearance of all the diced fruit that goes into a Pimm’s Cup, I decided to simplify a bit. When you’re making a cocktail for one, it seems like a lot of work to chop a bunch of stuff, doesn’t it? Especially if it’s been one of those weeks where the dog had to get the “cone of shame” because of a paw injury and the toddler has been practicing his climbing skills by dancing on the coffee table. And the cone-head dog always joins in. At the end of a week like that, you want something that requires little effort but has a big payback.
Yes, ginger beer is quite strong but in the proper proportions, it works well with Pimm’s. The spicy ginger kick is actually really wonderful with the light fruit and herb flavor of the iced-tea colored liqueur. A little fresh mint and lime juice and you’ve got a daper drink indeed.
What are your go-to methods for retrieving something that is lost? I think St. Anthony came through when it came to the case of the Lost Spring, but I’m always looking for backup ideas for when I lose my keys. Or my glasses. Or whatever it may be.
Pimm’s + Ginger Beer
2 oz. ginger beer
2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
1/2 oz. lime juice
4-5 large mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
Muddle the mint leaves and lime juice in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the Pimm’s and stir to combine. Strain into a short glass filled with ice. Top with the ginger beer and stir lightly to combine. Garnish with mint leaves and/or a lime wedge. Serve and enjoy!
I’ve heard stories from Brad and my in-laws about asparagus hunting in Iowa. Brad’s grandparents live there and have been known to pull their car over at the sight of the green asparagus stalks reaching upwards from the depths of a ditch. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to partake in this activity but I love hearing about it. What is more wonderful than the idea of foraging for food because you found it growing where it naturally wants to be at the proper time of year without having traveled hundreds of miles to be wrapped in two thick rubber bands and placed in the produce department in a grocery store chain.
Spring seems to have finally settled in for most of us, making this the perfect time to enjoy asparagus. There are so many wonderful asparagus recipes out there right now, so I wanted to bring something different to the table. This beautiful Japanese method of preparing asparagus results in a bright, flavorful dish that is as wonderful to eat as it is to look at. The bright green becomes more vibrant with the black specks of sesame seeds that coat each spear.
I love this recipe because of the flavor and appearance but also because it gives me an excuse to break out my suribachi. A suribachi is a Japanese mortar and pestle that has an unglazed, textured surface. Using a wooden pestle, the sesame seeds in this case are rubbed against the grooves in the bowl until they look like black sand. Then, mirin and soy sauce are added making the mixture look a lot like wet potting soil. Riley loves soil. Therefore, he was very interested in “helping” me get the black sesame mixture out of my suribachi using the bamboo brush.
This is a very easy way to prepare asparagus and works perfectly as a side dish to salmon and rice, or even topped with a fried egg. If you don’t have any asparagus on hand, you could also prepare green beans using this method. Just as beautiful and tasty!
Asparagus + Black Sesame
Recipe adapted from Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen
*Don’t worry if you don’t have a suribachi. You can use a food processor or spice grinder to grind the sesame seeds, then just transfer them to a small bowl and stir in the liquid ingredients.
- 1 bunch of asparagus (thinner is better, but you can use whatever is available)
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons mirin
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water heats up, break the woody ends off of your asparagus by holding onto each end and bending it until it naturally breaks. The bottom portion is the woody stuff that you don’t want to use. Next, cut the asparagus into 1 1/2 pieces on an angle. Put the asparagus tips in a separate pile. When your water is boiling, add the asparagus except for the tips. After one minute, add the tips and continue cooking for another minute.
Drain the asparagus and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
While the asparagus cools, toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium high heat. Once you start to smell the nutty scent of the seeds, remove them from the heat and transfer them to a suribachi. Grind the seeds until some are still intact and others are completely ground. Add the mirin and soy sauce and continue to grind until the mixture resembles wet soil. If needed, add a touch of water.
Scrape the black sesame mixture into the bowl with the asparagus and toss gently to coat. Mount the asparagus on small plates and serve room temperature or cold.
My days are typically spent, as one might imagine, doing all sorts of mommy things. Stopping toddler from pulling place mats with stuff on them off the table. Stopping toddler from poking the dog in the eye. Stopping toddler from drinking dog water. Stopping toddler from reaching for my morning coffee. Having a dance party with said toddler to the tune of The Most Wonderful Thing About Tiggers. Singing You Are My Sunshine before nap time as toddler sings along with the sweetest sounding “doo” as he snuggles his blankie. Somewhere in there do laundry, cook, clean, photograph, write, and maintain some level of sanity.
Despite the overwhelming nature of parenting a tiny human, I adore all of these busy moments because they are fleeting. Riley goes through stages so quickly and I just know…I know…that one day I’ll be wishing I could experience all of these things again. Even the dog water part. Probably.
Even though I love these moments, it is the most fantastic feeling to sit down to a simple, adult meal. Sometimes this means sitting down with some of my favorite cookbooks in search of a meal that is easy, satisfying, and out of the ordinary. These tomato scallion shortcakes from Smitten Kitchen fit these requirements perfectly and are now a favorite in our house. Brad, who isn’t actually much of a tomato person, loved them. Riley, lucky boy that he is, got to taste the biscuits fresh out of the oven. They were “ho-T” in his words.
Let’s just talk about the biscuits for a second: they were SO light and flaky I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. As they baked, the tops became a lovely golden brown and they puffed up like a dream. I’m not sure that anything could be better and more comforting than a buttery, warm, flaky biscuit just out of the oven. And these were no exception.
What a week. Did your week feel as completely crazy as mine? Keeping track of a very busy toddler who has learned to climb on the furniture and go on a nap strike in the same week has my head spinning. However, as I write this, life is quite peaceful. I’m sitting at my dining room table and, despite the snow that fell yesterday, the sun is spilling through the west-facing French doors, giving the whole room a beautiful glow. Dinner is in the oven and I’m listening to a radio station on Spotify based on Blossom Dearie. Glass of Sauvignon Blanc next to me. Riley and Brad playing in the other room. The dog curled up at my feet. This is my favorite time of day. It makes me feel refreshed, which I often need by early evening.
While I love the wine that I’m drinking (Stratum Sauvignon Blanc…you can find this and a whole list of my favorites under $20 by clicking here), I would love to be sipping one of these delicious pineapple and honey margaritas right now. The tart sweetness of the pineapple makes for a mellow, tropical take on the typically citrus-based margarita. I love a good, classic margarita, but it’s fun to play around a little, don’t you think? And pineapple makes everyone think of a sandy beach in Hawaii. Can’t complain about that, can you?
Did you know that pineapples are in season right now? Yep. This is the time! My favorite way to eat pineapple is the Thai way: sprinkled with sugar and red pepper flakes. It’s absolutely fabulous. Now I’m thinking about how great that little hint of spice would be in this margarita. You should do that. Add just a few red pepper flakes and blend those in. For real. If you aren’t brave enough to add a little spicy kick, that’s fine. This pineapple margarita is anything but boring and will get you in the Cinco de Mayo spirit in no time. I did add some lime juice, just to make it more margarita-y. Yep. That’s a word. On Fridays, words like that are allowed.
Do you know what else is allowed on Fridays? Umbrellas in your cocktail. A little tacky? Sometimes. But mostly they are just awesome.
Cheers to the weekend!
Makes 2 margaritas
- 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into pieces
- 4 oz. silver tequila
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- Margarita salt
Rub a little of the lime juice on the rim of each glass. Turn the glass upside down in the salt to coat the rim.
Combine 1 cup of crushed ice with the pineapple, tequila, honey and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into prepared margarita glasses and garnish with an umbrella. Just do it. You won’t regret it.
With images of a warm, summery weekend still in the back of my mind and the remains of a little sun burn on my shoulders, I’m trying to wrap my head around what is happening outside right now. It’s snowing. Big fat flakes that are piling up fast. It’s May 1st and we are expecting somewhere between 5 and 10 inches. Personally, I love it but I am worried about the light blue bird egg that recently appeared in one of my hanging baskets. I didn’t bring it inside because I want to make sure the birds continue to take care of the little egg. Here’s hoping both the egg and the plant survive…
Over the weekend, not only were we able to enjoy some pretty amazing weather, we also brought out some of our treasures from life in Japan that we have been saving for a dinner party. We had collected some fun stuff for hosting a Japanese dinner party and hadn’t had the chance to break them out until now. It was time. We have an antique kimono panel that we use as a table runner:
And little Dachshund-shaped chopstick holders that were handmade in Kyoto…
And we hung lights outside, even though it was a bit cool once it got dark to sit outside. Still, the glow added a nice, festive feel to the evening.
When it comes right down to it, the table was a bit eclectic between the dishes and decorations, but that is actually quite fitting for a Japanese-inspired table. Often times, dining out involves many small dishes piling up at the table. If you’re dining in a really small, traditional izakaya, those dishes often do not match. But there is an endearing quality to all the different patterns and shapes that litter the table top as you devour skewers of yakitori, plates of gyoza, and glasses of Kirin beer.
For our dinner party this weekend, I served my favorite Japanese-inspired dishes to 8 diners. We began the evening by making a toast with sparkling saké and nibbled on edamame crostini flavored with lemon and mint…
I started planting some seeds yesterday. Nothing crazy- just green onions, radishes, sweet yellow onions, and a bunch of herbs. I have never grown anything from seed before. How many of you start your gardens from seed? It’s definitely another exercise in patience, not that I need any more practice in that area with a toddler running around. I also planted some herbs in a window box that are not from seed. They are too small to harvest anything from just yet, but I needed something that gave more immediate satisfaction. They are also a backup in case my seedlings don’t work out. Plus, seeing the tender leaves stretch towards the sun is a beautiful thing. Why should we wait for that? I think we all love to feel the warmth of the sun the same way little plants do.
Herbs are fun to play with in the kitchen. There are so many things you can do with sweet basil, earthy sage, and grassy parsley. Have you tried adding herbs to sorbet? Match made in heaven. This raspberry-thyme sorbet is a great example of something easy and elegant that you can serve at the end of a spring dinner party. Or, if you’re like me, you can have a scoop at the end of a regular day as a healthy treat. And good news- you don’t need an ice-cream maker!
Thyme simple syrup adds the perfect amount of herbal flavor to the bright raspberries. In mere minutes, this sorbet comes together in the food processor and after about an hour or 2 in the freezer, it is ready to serve! Since I made this sorbet, I’ve been thinking of other great ways to take advantage of the lovely flavor and color of this icy treat. Put a scoop in a champagne glass and top with some Prosecco? Yes, please! Or perhaps layer it with some dark chocolate cake or chocolate gelato in a loaf pan and freeze it all together for a stunning, rich dessert.
Whatever you decide to do with this sorbet, I know you’ll love it. Now that the weather has begun to show signs of an actual spring for many of us, this is the perfect time to try it out!
Makes 1 quart
- 4 cups frozen raspberries
- 1/2 cup thyme simple syrup, cooled (recipe below)
In the bowl of a food processor, add the raspberries and cooled simple syrup. Run the food process for 2 or 3 minutes or until the raspberries have transformed into a smooth, creamy mixture. Transfer to a container with a lid and place in the freezer for about 2 hours or until the sorbet is firm. Serve with a sprig of thyme as a garnish, if you’d like.
Thyme Simple Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup thyme sprigs (you can mostly estimate the amount here, but just loosely pack the thyme sprigs in the 1/4 cup measure if you want)
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sugar just begins to dissolve, add the thyme. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool for about 10 minutes before straining it into a jar or lidded container. Cool completely before covering and store in the fridge until ready to use.
*Note: If you have leftover syrup, save it to mix into a cocktail, mocktail, or iced tea.
I used to play a lot of softball when I was a kid. From elementary school through part of high school, I played short stop, catcher, and pitcher, on rare occasions. After the games, regardless of whether we won or lost, we would go out for ice cream or some other treat. Many times, we would visit the neighborhood Italian restaurant in my hometown where we would sit at a giant table in the center of the dining room, eating pizza, Italian fries (essentially pizza crust covered in garlic and gooey cheese), and drinking Coca Cola’s flavored with various syrups. I used to order Vanilla Coke. Other favorites among our group were Chocolate Coke and Cherry Coke. Have you ever seen the red, syrupy concoction that goes into a real Cherry Coke? It is so thick and red and shamefully delicious for the first 2 or 3 sips. Not long after those first few tastes, at least for me, the familiar nausea that inevitably follows high sugar intake begins to take over. Teenagers must have a super power that helps them push through the sugar nausea so the entire beverage can be consumed. I can’t even look a things like that anymore.
Grenadine sometimes scares me a little. The same way the sugary syrups used to make Coca-cola drinks scare me. I think the main reason for this has been not understanding what it was. Is it red sugar water? Or something worse? It is supposed to be a syrup made with pomegranates. It doesn’t have to be alcoholic. But I am quite certain it is not the stuff I usually see glowing red at me from a dusty shelf in the liquor store. Fortunately, The Kitchn posted a recipe for homemade grenadine the other day. Obviously I had to give it a try. I used natural, unsweetened pomegranate juice, which, like unsalted butter does for saltiness in baking, helps you control the amount of sugar in the syrup. The first time I tried it I used brown sugar, which lent an appealing warm, nutty flavor but created a less appealing color. Part of the fun of grenadine is the color it brings to various cocktails, so I decided to try again using regular sugar. The result was much better. A day or two later, I also used the exact same method using natural, unsweetened cranberry juice. Success. And I almost like it more than the traditional pomegranate grenadine.
The cocktail I made for this week could easily be made with either the pomegranate or cranberry versions. I used the cranberry because it had a more vibrant color. It’s a delightful combination of silver tequila, lime juice, a touch of cranberry juice, and the grenadine. It is simple, and a perfect substitute for margaritas for Cinco de Mayo.
I don’t know about you, but I really needed a Friday like this one. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and it feels as though Spring has finally arrived. Even though we might get a little snow next week. But let’s not think about that right now. Instead, let’s focus on the beautiful weekend ahead.
1 1/2 ounces silver tequila
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 ounce grenadine or cranberry syrup
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake for 30 seconds until thoroughly chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with lime. Enjoy!