pineapples don't grow on trees

Chocolate Desserts

Chocolate Desserts:

I had this chocolate bar from Trader Joe’s one day, a sea salt and caramel dark chocolate bar to be precise. I’ve never been the kind of gal to crave chocolate or even eat chocolate plain in bar form. Sure, I like cakes and ice creams and the like, but I’ve rarely thought to myself, I just need a good piece of chocolate right about now….until now. After I had this chocolate bar I kind of got on a kick. And then I wanted to make some brownies from scratch. And then I started getting a little creative with them. And then I made a lot more of them with the intentions to share, but, well… it’s the thought that counts…right? So ladies and gentlemen I give to you Sea Salt Brownies: they’re so good you’ll want to share them with your friends but eat the entire pan instead.



El Mar : Words:

El Mar:
Although I have lived in a coastal state for over a year now, it took me nearly all of that year to make it out to the beach and now I’m just plain addicted. It’s a 2 hour drive from Raleigh. While I loved my midwest upbringing, this is just absolutely marvelous to me and I cannot believe it took me a year to make my first trip out there. The beach holds something so magical. It’s just sand and water and some shells and maybe a jellyfish or two. I went to the beach as a kid so the concept isn’t completely foreign to me. Yet people absolutely love it. The sun, the sand, the surf…it’s just magical.

*I’m currently reading The French Connection, amongst 3 other books, so I can watch the movie.

Ah yes, so magical. So calming. So exciting. I was thinking about how the waves crashing on the shore are such a comforting sound. And then I started thinking about how the waves are just going along across the ocean for who knows how long and then bam! They hit the end of the road. All of the sudden they’re not going any farther. They’re just done and no longer waves…The beach is a good place to think about these kinds of random things.

*I took 3 of my 4 visiting sisters with me on my first trek to the beach.

Now I’m just looking for any excuse to go to the beach and this is a pretty darn good reminder…


Beautiful Words:
Words have been holding a lot of weight in my life lately. More so then other times I can remember. In a culture where words are strewn about without care or concern for who they touch, the heavier ones have been hitting me harder then ever for better and for worse.
I was having a very genuine conversation with someone the other day about career and legacy and young people today. They were remarking on how their son was trying to make decisions about career paths to take and how much weight that kind of decision carries and in a turn of unfortunate events, can end up paralyzing us youngsters into doing nothing. It got me thinking about how as young people we are presented with so many options and opportunities and questions about those options and opportunities. We’ve watched our friends, our family, our parents, succeed and fail and the fear of failing is paralyzing. This is got me thinking about my 18 year-old self and if I could give that young bright-eyed self some advice, what would it be. What would I tell myself to help myself navigate those tricky waters? We’re told that everything will work out and things will just happen and you don’t really have to do a whole lot. Things will just work themselves out. But it doesn’t work that way. We’re told that we can just go to college and all of our questions will be answered. Somewhere along the way we’ll find our path.
I would tell myself that it’s okay to sit down and write out the hard questions. That it’s okay to sit down, make some plans and follow them and that what I do or don’t do is not the end all be all to my existence. I would tell myself to ask about the failures. Nobody wants to talk about their failures, all you hear about are the success stories. I would tell myself that who a person becomes is who they were in their failures.
So I’ve been writing lots of things. And in an effort to not get too carried away I want to tie all of that back into these beautiful words I found that inspired me to aspire to be and I wanted to share because one day I will have a home, and this is a little bit of what I want it to be like.

“I feel very strongly that this modern fear of the home becoming non-exisitant can be countered only if those of us who want to be sure our little spot is really a home, take very practical measures to be sure that it is just that, and not a collection of furniture sitting in some part of enclosure being protected from wind and storm. Of course, human relationships within the house, or the welcome and understanding that guests find.
Human relationships depend on communication. But this communication takes time. It is also helped by atmosphere, and the atmosphere is helped by the ‘things’ which are arranged with love and with an expression of creativity in a visible form...Indeed, the memory of even a short-lived beauty makes it worthwhile to take time and energy to provide a background of beauty for the human relationships developing in your home.”
-Edith Schaffer, in Hidden Art


It’s funny how these things work.

I’ve been in a cooking/baking frenzy recently and also discovered that my mood is directly related to my kitchen production. When I find myself in a slump I tend to stray away from the kitchen and occupy that space as little as necessary. But sometimes to get out of my slump I return to kitchen to make everything better and that’s when I know all will be right in the world. A little while back I was inspired by my mother to make Ricotta cheese which turned out brilliantly. It was so tasty. In the spirit of cheese making I ventured on to another recipe I stumbled upon (read: saw on pinterest) and thought it would be worth a try. My oh my am I glad I tried it. Ladies and gentleman, I give you mascarpone cheese in all of it’s glory.

I found the original recipe on this brilliant blog and while I haven’t tried it with broiled peaches yet, I wholly intend to once they come into season: Not Without Salt .

This cheese, much like the Ricotta, was fairly simple to make. The ingredient list consisted of heavy cream and lemon juice. Heat the cream to 190 degrees first and then add the lemon juice.

The process then becomes more of a waiting game. The curdled cream has to cool overnight. Once it is fully cooled it then has to be strained in cheese cloth.

Once the cream has been all bundled up, the waiting game resumes and it has to strain for about 24 hrs. This cheese doesn’t produce nearly as much whey as the Ricotta did so I didn’t do anything with it this time.

The waiting totally pays off though and this cheese is delicious. I ate it on some strawberries with a little bit of fresh mint. The other night I had a hankering for cupcakes and tried to make a mint cupcake with a strawberry mascarpone frosting. It didn’t turn out as I had hoped, but I may have to revisit this idea. Either way I am glad I made this cheese and you will be too 🙂

Along with cheese obsessions, I’ve also been on a coconut oil kick. I’ve been finding lots of ways to cook with it and even bake with it in place of butter. I know I know, I would never try to replace butter in my life, but coconut oil is putting up a good fight. It gives my stir fry’s a nice little extra flavor, and I have a pretty darn good recipe for chocolate chip cookies made with it. That might have to come out later. Anyways, to get the point, I made a coconut oil granola that is delicious. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly as I used whatever seeds and spices I had on hand and that did not include shredded coconut sadly.

The full recipe is on this gal’s cute blog which is chock full of goodness.

So there you go. Some people say music frees your soul, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually cooking.



Life is beautiful.

Spring has been springing up since the beginning of March around these parts. Many of the trees have already bloomed and put on their leaves that will stay until November at least. I’ve already been harvesting radishes and salad greens from my garden. I love spring. There are the old cliches of “it’s a new beginning” and “fresh starts”. For the past couple of years I have come to absolutely adore Spring. It is perhaps the greatest reward for having to endure cold winters.

*Fun fact: Raleigh is the city of Oaks.

I’ve been in my garden lately with one task at hand that I thought wouldn’t be nearly as painful as it actually is. Thinning carrots. When I planted the seeds back in late February I told myself that I wouldn’t have any trouble when it came time to thin. If you have any growing experience you may know about this thing called “thinning”, if not, let me enlighten you. Carrot seeds are some little guys so it’s pretty darn tricky to plant just one or two seeds in one space. So it’s easier to just kind of go about “sprinkling” the seeds throughout the row. While it’s convenient at seeding time, it’s not such a conducive growing environment. Having too many plants (mainly root vegetables) growing all clustered together makes them compete for space, nutrients and water. This is probably the biggest problem people have when growing carrots. Although, if I’m honest I’ve never grown carrots successfully. So anyways, the point of thinning is to pull out the little seedlings so that the others are spaced properly. While this seems easy in theory, actually doing it is a whole other story. It seems so contradictory that in order to grow a carrot, I have to sacrifice the other carrot plants. I mean I’m just trying to grow some carrots here! Why can’t they just all get along and grow together?!

*Carrots are on the left, Leeks are on the right and please excuse the little crab grass coming up in the middle.

Well the good news is that I made it through the first step. There may be another thinning party when the roots start to get a little bit bigger.

A few weeks back we had quite the unusual weekend where it rained for 3 days. Although I haven’t lived here long, even I know this is unusual. But it was so dreamy and pretty with all of the trees in bloom and it washed the pollen out of the air so I gladly welcomed the rain.

Happy happy Spring! Cheers!


Whey & Wheat

I’ve recently discovered the glory of raw milk and through this discovery I have concluded that one day I will own a jersey cow. It is just so delicious. I realize there are valid reasons for pasteurization and homogenization, but it is such a disservice to what milk really tastes like. Anyways, part of this experiment into raw milk was to make cheese. My mother inspired me, who was inspired by my Italian aunt, who was inspired by her very Italian mama, to make Ricotta Cheese. I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy it was and the ingredients are few. There are different recipe versions mainly in what agent is used to curdle the cream. I choose one that used lemon juice.
A by-product of making Ricotta Cheese is Whey (the liquid that is strained from the curds or cheese). With this whey, you can then make delicious homemade bread, which is exactly what I did.

The bread recipe was also fairly simple and didn’t require an entire day to make but my oh my is it ever delicious.

The real treat here is a slice of bread with a good spread of ricotta cheese and maybe some black pepper or a drizzle of olive oil. It’s so simple and so good. Today I made a second batch of ricotta and had more whey, which will store until my next bread baking adventure!
Ricotta recipe:

Italian (Whey) Bread:

They are both really quite the treat.

When Did We Begin To Romanticize Agriculture?

Sometimes I have a hard time differentiating between what could have easily been an unawareness to certain things and what is actually trending right now. Agriculture definitely falls into this realm. I am so much more aware of what is happening in area of Agriculture then I was just a year ago. I am constantly seeking out information whether it be stories of farmers, various growing methods, markets, etc.

So maybe we began to romance the idea of agriculture when life became more complicated and regardless of society’s love of technology, I think there is something so innate in humans to get back to the land. It’s where real life is happening. Somewhere along the way though this idea became a dreamy picture of beautiful fields full of vegetables that are always ripe and not a weed to be seen. The weather is always perfect and there is always a breeze flowing through your hair. There are never deer that eat your crops and never pests that seem to be relentless no matter what you do. The animals always cooperate and equipment never breaks down. These ideas of what farming are have become so idyllic I feel, that when young people jump into such endeavors they are so disappointed because it’s hard. Not hard in a way that is opposite from all of the things I just described, but hard in the sense that things just don’t always go the way you plan them to go. At planting time I have the highest hopes for every crop. It’s a new beginning, a new seed that has its whole life ahead of it. Despite previous success and failures, I always believe that this crop will be different. And it’s true, the weather will be different then the last time, the nutrients might be at different levels then last time, you may have more or less time to devote to weeding. It is all so very different.

I have yet been able to pinpoint when this phenomenon began, maybe it has always been. But the beauty of agriculture is that it is beautiful. Not in the sense that every moment is a beautiful moment, but in finding those moments when a breeze does blow through your hair and it couldn’t come at a better time because it is literally 108 degrees and you’ve been picking tomatoes thinking the entire time that all you need to keep going is just one cool breeze…

This was taken at dusk on the farm, which has become my absolute favorite time of day.


In regards:

Being an older sister to 3 girls and 2 boys (and the younger to 1 sister and 2 brothers), I’ve often found myself quick to give advice on a broad spectrum of topics. Many of us are though, quick to give advice that is. However, recently I’ve received some great advice that I’ve taken to heart and remind myself of when I least want to be reminded of it.

So in regards to life advice in general, the best advice I’ve ever heard came from my grandad. It’s simple really. He told my brother and I once that the best way to prepare for your future whether it be retirement, finances, etc., is to make sacrifices when you’re young. This is perhaps the exact opposite of what we are normally told. Young people aren’t supposed to make sacrifices, we are supposed to have everything we want and everything now. And what’s more is that we have been given all the wrong tools to get it. We can just get a credit card and rack up debt in order to get what we want now. So I’ve been trying to think about this when I’m tempted to make choices that are only going to give me an instant gratification and not really benefit me or those around me in the long run. Make sacrifices when I’m young.

I listen to the radio a lot. On my way to the farm, on my way home to farm, driving to places other then the farm. When I go to bed at night, when I’m working, when I’m cooking…you get the idea. Well I just so happened to be driving home from somewhere and was caught up in another story. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what program it was on, who was being interviewed or how to find a recording of it. But I can tell you that I heard the second best piece of advice from this story. In regards to dating and marriage, you should marry someone with a face you want to look at the rest of your life.

And finally, in regards to raising chickens that roam free during the day, they make it mighty tricky to find their eggs. Everyday is an egg hunt! But they are worth the search as they are quite tasty when you cook them up.