Valentines Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
Hello!

I’m so happy to say that. You may have thought that I had given up the goat, abandoned this little blog and buried it in the snow of this long, deep winter. But the truth is I just, quite simply, haven’t had the time or creative energy to handle it these last couple of months. Between the final events push of the fall semester at Duke, co-hosting a holiday party, moving out of my sublet, traveling for the holidays, camping on a friend’s couch for two weeks, saying goodbye to Durham, moving to Columbus, unpacking, organizing, starting a new job, visiting old friends, re-organizing, visiting more friends, and enjoying the company of Brad again, my camera has sat dormant for just over two months.

This move was a toughie. I started my new job almost immediately  upon my arrival in Columbus, and the cold weather provided me with little incentive to do much more than curl up in blankets when I got home each night. It’s taken several weeks to get used to my new kitchen. I’ve spent several evenings lamenting the fate of meals I nearly burned to death as I try to get used to cooking on a glass-top stove. I keep reaching for things where they used to be in my old kitchen. The pantry, still, is a total nightmare, as I have yet to find several hours to sit down and really consider where everything should go (doesn’t everyone do that?)

But finally, the time came this weekend for me to break out a recipe I’ve wanted to share with you since I started this blog. I must say, glass stove and messy pantry aside, I can’t deny that my current kitchen is far more equipped for blogging than my last, primarily due to one giant feature.

LIGHT!

Light, glorious light! Flooding in to every corner of our apartment, these gaping sunny windows line the southern and western walls of our new home. They overlook a park and a river and trees and some sort of weird oyster-and-pearl sculpture. Admittedly, also a freeway, but I confess it is somewhat fascinating to watch the sludge of evening traffic heading north after Brad and I have already arrived home.

The point, here, is that not only did I shoot one recipe this weekend, I shot three! Complete with the natural, angular light that I love to shoot in. No more toting cutting boards topped with carefully balanced ingredients to the office!

Let’s get started, shall we? Three years ago, about two weeks BEFORE I decided to start a food blog, I made these compact cheesecake bars to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Thinner than normal cheesecake, they can easily be eaten without a fork and can be made in any shape you so desire.

Graham crackers ready to crush Read on »

Row of peas
At the dawn of a new year, it seems that our natural tendency is to reflect. We think about what went wrong or right or good or bad over the last twelve months, sometimes celebrating a successful year, sometimes happy to close the book on a year we’d rather forget.

This year, I’ve spent my New Years Day considering not the past year, but the coming one, which starts off with a tremendous amount of change. I’ve spent the last three years in the same city, the same apartment, and the same job, but within the next two weeks, all three will be left behind and replaced with something new.

Since graduating college five years ago, this change marks my third city, my fourth move, and my fourth job hunt. Part of me finds this constant change exciting, and I wouldn’t trade it. I’ve gained a strange and wide variety of job experience, from door-to-door political canvassing, to opening a new performance venue at a major university. I’ve learned to eat locally in both the urban Mid-Atlantic and also in the prolific, fertile South. I’ve developed so many dear friends and met such interesting people, more than I ever could have hoped to meet had I stayed in one area.

Yet despite my drive for new experiences, new friends, and new places, I also ache for a sense of home and a connection to the community in which I live. I put down roots quickly and whole-heartedly as a desert ephemeral whose time to bloom is brief, immersing myself deeply in the experiences offered by each area in an effort to create home. The value I find in this is immeasurable, giving me a sense of stability despite my somewhat migrant behavior.

But it does make leaving harder. Just when I feel like I finally have close friends and enough knowledge to give someone directions by road number, it’s time to go. It’s hard to start a completely new job when you know your current one so well. It’s hard to make new friends, chatting over introductory small talk while your old friends start to move on. It’s hard to organize a new kitchen, damn it!

Read on »

Another sneak peek!
Last week, I announced my most recent project: I published a calendar for 2014 full of some of my favorite photos from the blog! To celebrate, I hosted a giveaway to one of you!

And the winner is CathieJ!

As to her favorite month, she replied, “February. Both my husband and I were born in February. I also love to stay inside during the cold snowy month and indulge in my favorite things: crafting and baking.”

Congratulations Cathie! (Please check your email so we can arrange shipping.)
Thank you to everyone who participated. I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy of the calendar, available now on Lulu! Use the discount code FBC18 to get 18% off, or FREESHIP to get free shipping!

Potato Leek Soup

Happy December, friends! I feel like the super-late date of Thanksgiving has caused December to sneak up on me even more rapidly than usual. For me, December usually equates to a significant uptick in baking, candy-making, and gift-crafting that keeps me in the kitchen late into the night breaking up toffee and tying ribbon around pretty little boxes of mulling spices before packing them gently in bubble wrap and shipping them to friends and family across the continent.

And as much as I might like to convince myself that I can survive on party mix, mini cheesecakes, and pomegranate salsa, I work really hard to make sure I also have some real food in my fridge to sustain me. Something, warm, easy to prepare after late nights of baking, and filling enough to get through the busy days. To keep cooking to a minimum, I often turn to soups.

I had a bit of a soup explosion last fall and posted A LOT of them on the site: Butternut Squash Soup, my Favorite Chili, Sweet Potato Soup, Colorado Cape Cod Chowder, and more. This year I’ve been repeating many of those soups, but I did discover a simple potato leek soup recipe that I HAD to share with you.

Simple ingredients
Like so many soups, this one has fairly humble components: potatoes, leeks, and an onion make up the base, and a little butter, salt, pepper, and cream bring it all together.

Read on »

2014 Calendar!
I can’t decide if I am more nervous or excited about sharing this with you. So bear with me.

Since I started this blog two and a half years ago, it has been solely a digital enterprise. Oh sure the cooking and the gardening and the eating exist beyond this little corner of the internet, but my writing and photography and recipes live only here. Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of bringing some of that work to life, creating something that could live on a wall or a desk or a shelf. And no, I am NOT attempting to write a cookbook: I have neither the talent nor the time to take on a project of that scale.

So how about a calendar?

Sneak peek
It seems only appropriate: the available local produce marks seasonal changes for me just as strongly as weather and leaves and hours of daylight. I’ve sifted through hundreds of photos in the last few weeks to find my favorites for each month, and I am thrilled to present the final product to you. I’ve already received a proof, and I am very happy with the result: thick pages, bright colors, and a clean, simple month design make a good calendar in my mind, and this one has all three!

So if you’ve ever wanted some 30 Pounds of Apples swag, your moment has arrived.  If you think this looks like something you want on your own wall, or something you want to give to someone else, I hope you’ll order one! I really think you’ll like it. Everyone needs a calendar, right?

PS:

I also want to give away a copy to one of you. I get so much out of this blog, but my favorite aspect continues to be the conversation, the question-asking, the story-telling from those of you reading. I’m so glad you’re here.

Another sneak peek!

How to Win the 30 Pounds of Apples 2014 Calendar

1. Leave a comment on this post to answer this question: What is your favorite month, and why is it your favorite?
2. BONUS! To enter twice, head on over to 30 Pounds of Apples on Facebook and like the page. Then, come back to this post and leave me a comment saying you liked the Facebook page, and you’ll be entered twice. Fancy! (New likes only, but thanks to all the early adopters!)
3. Enter by 11:59pm EST on Monday, December 2. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 3.
4. Open to US residents only (sorry to my international readers, shipping is so dang expensive!)

Fancy Fried Green Tomatoes

I attended a wedding a couple weeks ago for two good friends I’ve developed since moving to North Carolina. A fairly significant portion of our friendship is based on a love of and fascination with food: we’ve explored North Carolina farms together, swapped recipes, and enjoyed a wide variety of Triangle restaurants. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that their wedding included not one, but two meals, the first an Indian buffet to celebrate Varsha’s culture, and the second an elegant array of quintessential American cuisine to celebrate Eric’s.

I’ve heard people say that no one will remember the food at a wedding, that people have simply come to expect a good meal when they attend a reception. The food at this wedding, however, was anything BUT forgettable. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore, and then after a few minutes, everyone squeezed in just a little bit more because the food was so. dang. good.

And my favorite treat was not an entreé, not a dessert, but one of the passed hors d’oeuvres for the second meal: a fried green tomato dressed up with a bit of pimento cheese and mint jelly. I was so impressed that after seeing a large pile of green tomatoes at the farmers market the next week, I snatched up a couple to re-create them at home.

Simple green tomatoes

Now work with me on this one. I was really, really skeptical when this tray came around. For one thing, I had never eaten a regular fried green tomato before. I don’t particularly like red tomatoes, so I guess I’ve never felt inclined to try a green one. Don’t worry, I now know I’ve been MISSING OUT for years. I guess I’ll just have to compensate for all that lost time by making these all the time.

Read on »

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

There aren’t enough sauces, ingredients, shapes, cheeses, or styles in the world to burn out my love for pasta. If anything, it seems my taste for the stuff has only expanded since I started this blog; my childhood pasta preferences were limited exclusively to spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese, and now I favor short, thick pasta dressed in zesty, flavorful sauces. There’s really nothing like writing a food blog to force me into trying new things. And as much as I want to make some of my favorites over and over again, then I’d have nothing new to tell you about! (However, if you haven’t already tried the Penne alla Vodka, you should really make it your top priority.)

Well, maybe your second priority. Because I’m pretty darn happy with this one, too.

All the bits and pieces

Roasted red peppers are pretty easy to come by at the grocery store. Yes, I know that fresh red bell peppers are EVERYWHERE at this time of year (at least in North Carolina), but for a quick and filling weeknight dinner, I went with these. Plus I already had them in my pantry and it was time to use them up.

Read on »

Perfect Autumn Caramels

Oh dear friends.

October is doing that thing again where it goes by too quickly. It’s my favorite month: the peak of autumn on most of this continent, and I may have mentioned once or seven-hundred times that autumn provides me the greatest joy of any season. A plentiful harvest of food to enjoy in the moment and store for the winter, repressed pigments unleashed in the forests in a glorious display of color, a chance to layer every article of orange, green, purple, and brown clothing I own in endless combinations for my daily attire (it is the only season I feel my wardrobe is remotely fashionable).

And of course, autumn recipes. This one in particular is the pinnacle of fall flavor unity: a basic caramel sweetened with maple syrup and punched up with a quart of apple cider boiled down to pure apple goodness. And now is really the best time to make them because it’s the one time of year you can buy fresh-pressed, unpasteurized apple cider.

Freshly picked apples

And while yes, the primary purpose of my annual expedition is a supply of local fruit to get me through the winter, the added perk is access to this incredible cider. Unpasteurized apple cider, contrary to its grocery store counterparts, is thick, opaque, and must be refrigerated. But it’s filled with the most incredible flavor: you can still taste which varieties were used to press the cider. Most apple orchards sell it, but you can also occasionally find it in specialty grocery stores or farmers markets. Get out there and get some!

I also had a bottle of maple syrup that I bought in Wisconsin. It seemed appropriate to add to this autumn candy, right?

Read on »

Whole Wheat English Muffins

I don’t eat a lot of sandwich bread. Brad can finish off a loaf of bread in three or four days, even faster if he’s trying to eat at home. I, on the other hand, have a tough time getting through even half a loaf before it takes a turn for the moldy.

I’ve always tended to prefer my breads in other forms. Tortillas, bagels, biscuits, cornbreads, and baguettes are much more likely to appeal to me than a loaf of sandwich bread. And more recently, English muffins.

Homemade English Muffins

Considering that I love finding ways to replace my store-bought staples with homemade versions, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I really haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on breads. I do have some go-to recipes for quite a few quick breads, but not many that I cook on a regular basis (the dramatic exception being my favorite, favorite cornbread, which ends up on my menu quite frequently).  So when I ran across a recipe for this, my current bread-of-choice, I decided it was time.

Read on »

Easy Stove-Top Mac and Cheese

I’m just gonna come right out and say it. When discussing cheese and pasta, sometimes one must be blunt.

I like stove-top macaroni and cheese more than baked macaroni and cheese.

This is the truth, straight from me to you.

I mean, that’s not to say I won’t consume a mound of baked mac rapidly if it’s served at a potluck, a cookout, or a picnic. And I won’t say no to a fancy mac, like this one I made last year. But the macaroni of my dreams is prepared on the stove-top: al denté, piping hot, and swimming in thin, just-a-little-bit-spicy, orange cheddar cheese sauce.

Mac and Cheese
Is this a product of being raised on the blue box? Perhaps. Is this a product of wanting my pasta so firm that it nearly crunches between the teeth, a state that is nearly impossible to achieve when baking pasta? That’s probably reading too deeply into the whole thing. Maybe I don’t like the breadcrumbs that typically accompany a baked mac? Maybe I don’t like the waiting?

One significant downside of loving so much a mysteriously created product of food science is that it can be incredibly difficult to replicate at home. What the hell is that orange powder anyway? I theorize it must be fairy dust, for I have searched for years for a mac and cheese recipe that, if not identical, could at least be a satisfactory homemade replacement to the mac and cheese of my childhood.

Friends, I HAVE FOUND IT.

Read on »