Happy Friday, friends! It is insanely lovely here today. Gentle breeze, blue skies, right around 80 degrees. Now, if the seasonal allergies I’ve been suffering from over the past two-ish weeks would just move on out, everything would be glorious. So much neti-potting, and grapefruit nasal spray, and Flonase, and Benadryl going on around here lately. I’ll take the hit, though. So worth it to have flowering plants and trees of every possible permutation on view!
In other, non-allergy news, here’s a quick smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention this week:
*Need something for mom? Grace included my bath salts in her round-up of easy DIY gifts with mom in mind.
*Really loving the truthfulness and honesty of this post about how “quick and easy” photos are often anything but. The older I get, the more I appreciate candor and full disclosure. And humility, but that merits an entire post to itself. Oh humility, how I love thee so!!!!
*Been looking for a lightweight , organic cotton bath robe at a good price for, quite literally, years (I can take a profoundly long time to buy things). Thinking this might be the winner. Ignore the fella in it-it’s unisex.
*Starting a Feel Good Book Club soon with some lady friends. Our first read is The Language of Flowers. Looks immensely intriguing. Any of you read it?
*Ordered The Art of Hearing Heartbeats at the suggestion of a new friend. Summer reading is about to get all kinds of wonderful!
*I’ve become an increasingly devoted fan of Clarks shoes. They’re durable, have strong arch support (I have really high arches and get shin splints easily), and have a timeless look to them. I also like that they’re not really the least bit dainty, because, well, I like footwear that keeps up with my lifestyle, which is far from precious or delicate. There’s a new Clarks outlet store in Asheville and I picked up a pair of Faraway Charm in black and a pair of Gunn in black suede yesterday. About to order these Dusty Souls in black and then my shoe collection will be pretty much set for several years.
*Speaking of foot wear, Glenn and I both have a pair of Shoe-Ins that we keep outside of the chicken coop. If we’re not wearing our chicken/outdoor boots and need to go into the coop, we just slide these on over our shoes and head on in. They look like enormous clown shoes, but are actually quite easy to put on and to take off. Even better, Shoe-Ins are made here in the states by a worker-owned cooperative.
*University professor discovers the secret life of plants (ALSO-this kind of information jazzes me beyond description; should you ever encounter similar information/books/videos/etc., do feel free to send it my way).
Mother’s Day is a holiday filled with varying degrees of emotion, isn’t it? Excitement, dread, happiness, agony, elation, grief, disappointment. So much wrapped up in our mothers and how they mothered us, and how those of us that are mothers mother our own children. We all have our own expectations and ideas of what constitutes and defines a “mother.” Whatever your own approach, I wish you a lovely weekend, however it may manifest.
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I post a photo of Huxley in my “What I’m Digging” round-ups because, truly, he’s what Glenn and I dig the most. We headed to Biltmore last Saturday, to take in the massive display of azaleas in bloom. Our little monkey found this tree and immediately wanted to both climb and hug it.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye made, old time’s still a-flying. And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying. -Robert Herrick, from “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time.”
There are things worth waiting for. Some things that you simply don’t actually want to have available every day, no matter the enjoyment you might glean from them. If Christmas, or your birthday, or any other holiday or occasion you partake and delight in happened on the regular, say, each Saturday, after awhile, they’d loose their significance. Their value would diminish. It’s because of their infrequency that they become imbued with such meaning.
This is exactly the case with the annual Ladies Ladyslipper Boozy Picnic that I attended yesterday. Barbara Swell (shown smiling with a glass of bubbly in the last photo), the hostess (and cookbook author and food historian and gifted gardener and all around woman of awesomeness), gathers a small group of women each May, to come and sit one afternoon with the patch of wild pink ladyslipper orchids residing in the forests behind her east Asheville home. Each guest brings along a dish to share featuring an ephemeral food, those fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are available for but a few fleeting weeks every year. We sip mead, and cava, and rosé, and other various libations, nibble on lovingly crafted edible delicacies, and share a few hours of fellowship and conviviality amongst the orchids. There’s a good deal of laughter, a profound depth of conversation, and always a sharing of our hearts. It. Is. Magic.
Yesterday I brought along a loaf of my Rhubarb Buttermilk Bread. From the “Spring To Life” potluck in Handmade Gatherings, the quick loaf features lemon zest, vanilla bean, crunchy nuts (the recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I was out yesterday and subbed pecans with great results), and, the tart, rosy, wonderful, ephemeral rhubarb. Technically a perennial vegetable, rhubarb is in season right now. I picked several stalks from my patch in the garden yesterday late morning, chopped them up, added them to the mix, and had my house smelling like everything you ever wanted nearly an hour later. Make this for your mom. Make this for your best friend. Make this for yourself and anyone you love. It’s only here for a short while, and making time for it, and all those fleeting things in life, is a treasure and a gift ripe for the taking (and baking!).
Rhubarb Buttermilk Bread (from Handmade Gatherings: Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations and Potluck Parties , Roost Books, 2014)
Yield: One 9×5 loaf.
You Will Need:
-1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup rhubarb, chopped
-1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
-6 Tablespoons butter, melted
-Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla bean seeds*
*Using a pointy-end knife, slice the vanilla bean pod open lengthwise, then out scrape the tiny seed flecks with the knife tip.
-4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
-3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
-1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans
-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9”x5” loaf pan, and set it aside.
Prepare the topping:
1) Place all of the topping ingredients into a medium-size mixing bowl.
2) Using clean hands, mix everything together, until the ingredients are fully combined and the butter is in pea-sized clumps. Set aside while you prepare the bread batter.
Prepare the batter:
1) Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl, using either a whisk or a fork.
2) Add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds. Whisk together until the ingredients are fully combined.
3) With a mixing spoon, stir in the chopped rhubarb until it is well blended into the batter.
Assemble the bread:
1) Pour the batter out of the mixing bowl into the prepared pan. Use a spatula to evenly distribute the batter across the surface of the pan.
2) Sprinkle the topping evenly across the batter.
3) Place the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for one hour, until the top is golden and the a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
4) Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
Happy Friday, friends! Right this moment, my mom and Huxley are upstairs giggling and whispering, our German Shephard Fly is on the floor to my left snoozing gently, and every tree within view just outside the window next to me is excitedly flapping courtesy of a robust breeze. It’s chilly out, not quite 60 degrees, with a fair amount of cloud cover but just enough blue peeking thru to let you know that warmer weather is in store. My stomach is full and satisfied, bowled over by “green” eggs & ham, scrambled eggs riddled with homemade ramp and wild garlic scape pesto served alongside hot ham and my buttermilk biscuits. I’m feeling fine.
Here’s a quick little smattering of this and that’s that have caught my attention lately:
*Glenn and I both have been completely captivated by Mildred’s Lane and everything taking place there since first hearing about it several years ago. The lineup of projects on offer for 2015 is seriously stellar, especially the Attention Labs.
*Want to check out some of these female podcasters Grace suggested.
*Introduced Huxley to Enya the other night (it was bath time, and it called for Orinoco Flow). Some loves never die, like my love of Enya. Watermark was pretty much the soundtrack to my entire 15th year of life.
*While I’m reminiscing about music discovered at a pivotal age, I’ll share this little gem that I listened to obsessively. Whilst burning Nag Champa. And often practicing Martha Graham or Twyla Tharp dance moves. Because, well, because that was me at 15/16.
*Very much liking this lovely little milk bottle match striker.
*Superfolk: Discover nature everyday. I would very much to become their best friend, and walk alongside them on their wild Irish shores.
*These earrings by Amy of Agate and Elm are so, so lovely.
*Been slowly savoring my friend Tara’s new book Orchard House for the past month. Lovely prose, vivid imagery, rife with lessons on growing, both ourselves and gardens. Treat yourself to a copy.
*Have recently discovered doTerra essential oils and am very much a fan.
This weekend is full of wonderful things to do if you happen to be in the area. We look forward to both the Asheville Herb Festival and the Artisan Bread Festival all year, and both are happening this weekend. Highly recommended, despite the heavy car and foot traffic and the inevitable complete emptying of one’s wallet that ensues.
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*This photo Tim Robison took of Huxley and I is from last year. Amazing how much my little buddy has changed since then, and how much he’s also remained completely the same.
There are some activities in life that are best experienced, instead of described. For example, you might have a sense of what it is to love someone, but until you’ve actually done so, you don’t fully know what love is, with its one-two punch of ecstasy and agony. Or, take the funky aroma-ed liquid that is fish sauce. You might’ve read about it in a Vietnamese cookbook, or heard your sister talk about her profound aversion to it, but until you’ve tasted it for yourself, there’s really no way to fully convey the power of fish sauce (for the record, I love the stuff).
This is the case with writing a book. I’m actively working on my 9th right now. It’s hard work, friends. There’s the enormity of holding a book’s entire concept in your mind in advance, and then figuring out how to translate your rough ideas into words that fully convey the essence of whatever it is you’re discussing. There’s a huge amount of self discipline, a fair dose of stress (every single time I send off a manuscript to my editor, I get an eye twitch that lasts for about a month, or longer. Every single time.), and an inevitable “I don’t want to work on this any more!” moment. But, in the end, there’s the book itself. It is a battle hard fought and wholly worth winning.
Four friends of mine recently crossed the finish line on their own books. Having friends that write books is kind of like having friends that also have children, if you too have kids. Or that are colleagues in a field of study that is a bit esoteric and difficult to decipher to the uninitiated. Or like being a huge fan of The Matrix (raising hand) and being able to totally geek out with fellow Matrixians (is that even a thing? It is now). You get each other. You feel each other’s victories and challenges in ways others don’t. Authors of the world, I salute you. Bringing a book to life is no joke.
**The CSA Cookbook: No-Waste Recipes For Cooking Your Way Through A Community Supported Agriculture Box, Farmer’s Market, or Backyard Bounty, Linda Ly (Voyageur Press).
Have you ever been faced with a bounty of produce, either because you subscribe to a CSA, or you went a bit wild at the farmer’s market, and ended up stumped by how to use it before it goes bad? Then this is the book for you. It’s also the book for anyone that ever held lush, green carrots tops or the green rind of watermelon in their hand and felt that there must be a better final destination for them than the compost pile. In The CSA Cookbook, Linda (also known as Garden Betty on her award-winning blog) provides a wealth ideas for using up produce in delicious and innovative ways. Chapters include: The Basics, Tomatoes & Peppers, Leafy Greens, Peas & Beans, Bulbs & Stems, Roots & Tubers, Melons & Gourds, and Flowers & Herbs. I’m especially interested in her ideas for bits of produce otherwise discarded, like that gorgeous Watermelon Kimchi in the second photo. The photos are beautiful, her tone approachable and encouraging, and the recipes imminently inspiring. Get this book for yourself and anyone you know that loves cooking! And do be sure to check out the book’s beautifully filmed trailer. It’s sure to get you excited about the season of growing we’re moving into and Linda’s suggestions for making the most of it!
**Drink the Harvest: Making And Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders, Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest (Storey Books).
I first met Nan and DeNeice this past August, when we were set up at the same table to sign books for the annual Asheville Food & Wine Festival. But before I physically met them, I’d already heard about their book, and knew that they both lived in the area. Getting to meet them and hear about the book’s creation and process enriched my already existing admiration for what they had produced. Drink the Harvest is just the sort of book I’m most drawn to. It’s full of step-by-step process shots and clearly written instructions on how to grow, harvest, and create fruit and vegetable-based beverages. Juices, teas, syrups, wines, meads, and more are all accounted for. The artistic direction is really thoughtfully done, too, with pages that look juice-stained, as well as with backgrounds of cheesecloth and paper towels. Not least of all, I was especially excited to learn that the photography was done by husband and wife photography & food styling team Johnny and Charlotte Autry. The Autrys are the Asheville-based dynamic duo that I’ll be working with on my newest book (an image from the Drink the Harvest is the third one above). I am beyond thrilled that Glenn and I have the chance to partner with this award-winning couple! Nan and DeNeice’s book would be a lovely gift for someone that is into making homemade cocktails, or a friend that perhaps has a home with room for growing fresh produce, or anyone, really, that likes to entertain and enjoys serving homemade, from-scratch beverages to their guests.
**Sorghum’s Savor, Ronni Lundy (University Press of Florida).
If you enjoy southern foods, then it’s highly likely you’ve already heard about Ronni Lundy. Considered by many to be the current grand dame of all things edible and southern U.S., Ronni really is all she’s lauded to be, of this I can personally attest. It could be argued by many that all they really needed to know about southern food they learned from her. A founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance (of which I am a proud member), she has authored several books and written countless articles on the topic of southern foods, including her newest, Sorghum’s Savor. For those that aren’t terribly familiar with sorghum (also sometimes referred to as “sorghum syrup”), it’s a type of grass (see the 4th photo from the top), from whose canes a syrupy sweetener is rendered. Preceding WWII, it was the predominate sweetener used in the southern U.S.. Its extraction, however, is labor intensive, and declining farm labor following the war resulted in a massive decline in production. It is still very much alive and kicking, though, manufactured by a handful of small producers. Ronni schools readers on sorghum’s history and production methods in her book before offering a wealth of recipes for its use. Chapters include: Basics, Breads and Breakfast, Soups, Salads, and Dressings, Fruits and Vegetables, Main Events, Drinks and Nibbles, and Sweet Treats. As a lifelong lover of pecan pie (it’s the very first thing I ever baked, at age 8) typically put off by any version other than my own owing to its often cloying sweetness, I’m especially interested to try out Ronni’s Sorghum and Bourbon Pecan Pie. Not a drop of corn syrup in sight! This book would be ideal for anyone interested in replacing sugar in their diet with a natural sweetener, anyone that grew up on sorghum and wants more of it back in their life, or truly anyone that loves cooking and is looking for ways to expand on their ingredient offerings and culinary repertoire.
**One Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer-even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make In An Hour Or Less!, Claudia Lucero (Workman Publishing).
Claudia and I first made each other’s acquaintance back in 2009. I was working on my book “Home Dairy.” All four of the books in my Homemade Living series (Canning & Preserving, Keeping Chickens, Home Dairy, and Keeping Bees) profile individuals that are somehow engaged in the book’s topics, either for profit or pleasure. An internet search on homemade dairy products turned up Claudia and her business, Urban Cheesecraft. I ended up profiling her for the book, and we’ve remained in touch ever since. When her own book on making cheese at home came out recently, I knew I’d return the love that she’d shown me all those years ago. One Hour Cheese is a wonderfully written, beautifully photographed, clearly outlined introduction to making simple cheeses in under an hour. The book includes 16 cheeses divided under headers of Creamy and Spreadable, Firm and Chewy, and Melty and Gooey. In addition to excellent process shots (an absolute necessity for any DIY newbie, regardless of the topic, I’ve always felt), I love that Claudia includes serving suggestions for each cheese as well as a cheeseboard for all 16 offerings that asks “How Easy Is It?” and then presents information on the required skill level, how long until the cheese is ready to eat, its yield, suggested uses, recommended milk, and additional bits of information worth mentioning. I had the pleasure of actually meeting Claudia and her business associate Colleen in person a few weeks ago, when they were in town for the Mother Earth News Fair and came over for dinner. She’s just as lovely, kind, compassionate, and considerate in real life as her writing voice conveys!
Let’s hear it for the ladies! If you’re looking for new adventures in food-making, or great gift ideas for Mom, graduates, Dad, and beyond, look no further. These labors of love are guaranteed to please!
I am beyond excited to finally share some huge news with you today! Announcing my much anticipated collaboration on the “Small Measures” line at McDonald’s. Each dish, made by a real Southern grandmother in the back of all southeast US McDonald’s, will feature organic, hand-picked, seasonal, local ingredients. The menu debuts today, and is only available for a limited time.