April 29, 2013


Top two: Saturday's breakfast. Biscuits and sausage gravy, bacon and white cheddar scrambled eggs, and cinnamon toast with cream cheese frosting. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: whenever you see biscuits and gravy, it means we are hungover.

Bottom two: Sunday's breakfast. Molasses biscuit cinnamon rolls with molasses cream cheese frosting, and poached egg with bacon, breakfast sausage, and Parmesan. Micah bought a bottle of molasses on a whim and I am into it.

Friday night, we celebrated big with a small walking and drinking tour of Ninth Street. Saturday, we drove by two very different houses that were not immediately dismissed because of location or neighborhood (a first!). We enjoyed absolutely perfect grilling weather: mostly cloudy, that "non-temperature" that's not cool or warm, a breeze, and no flies or mosquitos. He experimented with smoking a whole chicken while we talked about those houses and upcoming vacations. Sunday was rainy and chill – we made a palette on the living room floor and put in some very serious Lazing Around time.

April 25, 2013


My mom visited recently, and brought Micah and I a small pile of thoughtful, food-centric gifts. Among them was a pasta cutter, which I took as a sign from the universe to revisit stuffed pasta.

Since I've made stuffed pastas a few times now, I was able to change an ingredient or setting here and there and see how it affected the final product. I switched out a flour, and used a slightly thicker setting on the pasta roller. The flour didn't really affect anything, but dang – the setting really made a difference. These ended up being just a bit too thick for my liking after they were cooked. They were delicious, mind you, and I know I'm splitting hairs here. But that's how you learn! – and that was my favorite part of this pasta "lesson" (besides using that cutter – so much fun, thaaank youuu Mommm). Each time, I become a little more aware of the subtleties of the recipes and machinery. I'm developing an eye and a sense for what a dough needs, and really learning what the most appropriate setting for each kind of pasta is. And this has been some tasty learning.

April 24, 2013


Top: My herbs, so far. Rosemary, lavender, sage, genovese and purple basil.

Bottom: Last year's Kentucky Colonel spearmint, neglected and flourishing.

Since we're planning on moving into our dream home sometime this summer/year, we decided to forgo a traditional, all-out vegetable garden. It was a hard decision - we quite enjoyed ourselves, and learned so much last year. But it seems like the right energy to put out into the universe: that we believe we will move soon, that we are ready to move soon, that we are willing to sacrifice short-term pleasures for longer-term goals. And I am all about the power of intention.

But, we still have the urge to plant things. To grow our own food, to watch fruits ripen and eat them straight off the vine (or in the case of my herb garden: to directly muddle them into cocktails). So, we've each taken our own approach. I've potted everything: so far, an array of herbs, and grape tomatoes. Universe translation: Have pots, will move! Micah is going to use our plots for short-term, high-yield crops (like bush beans). Universe translation: Beans today, gone tomorrow!

The one lovely, unintentional (pun INTENDED), exception to this has been my Kentucky Colonel spearmint. I kept it potted last year, and after it flowered out and seemingly died, I dumped the remnants of the pot into one of the main plots, and turned it into the soil. Fast-forward to this spring, and bam! – its infamous runner roots did their thing and created a spiderweb of new mint plants (if you look real hard, you can see where they all originated in the middle, from a single plant).

I know that many people lament the invasive spread of mint in their yards, and I will dorkily admit that this is one of the most irresponsible things I have done as a renter. Yeah. I LET MINT SPREAD. Probably because I just don't get the problem. Too much mint? Make things with it. Tea, ice cream, juleps. Or mow it down and enjoy the most rapturously fragrant yard on the block. Anyway – rant over.

My plan for the mint is to let it go buckwild, and use as much of it as I can while I'm still here. Then whenever we move, I'm going to cut a clipping or two and let it take over some wild corner of my new yard.

...Or maybe I'll pot it.

April 22, 2013


Top two: Saturday's breakfast. Egg white omelet stuffed with spinach and topped with smoked salmon, shaved asparagus, and taleggio. Side of toasted English muffin with taleggio. (I'm a fan of taleggio.)

Bottom two: Sunday's breakfast. Elvis crepecakes! Peanut butter crepes/pancakes stuffed with chocolate and banana, topped with peanut butter-honey spread, fried pancetta, and coffee syrup.

This weekend was slow and lazy. Friday night we stayed up late drinking and playing music for each other. Saturday morning was subsequently late. Sunday Micah made some progress on the chicken coop, and we went out for crispy pork belly ramen and Sunday-funday drinks.

This week, I'm looking forward to my massage. I schedule them regularly for myself (maybe – once every six weeks or so) and absolutely believe in the good they do for my body. I've been going to The Retreat at Brightleaf and am in love with Margo, if any Durhamites are looking for a good place to start.

April 18, 2013


I've been trying to jump on the "Infused Anything" train for a while now. I see beautifully art-directed photos of stylish carafes, sweaty and filled to the brim with some strong, colorful concoction. I assume that whatever it is, it is more delicious for the amount of time spent on it, the amount of preparation that went into it – some extra muchness that only time can impart upon the flavors. And I want them in my mouth.

And so I've tried. Micah and I made a rosemary and lavender-infused vodka awhile back. We tasted it shortly after concocting it, and it tasted amazing. Delicate and elegant and floral and herbal and somehow... English. Like if Downton Abbey was a drink. Hurrah! But within a few days... well, Micah put it best: "You know when you have a beautiful bouquet of flowers and after a few days they start to wilt but aren’t yet dead? Yeah, it started to taste like that." We decided to cut our losses and drain it. Maybe do a little more research next time. Upward and onward!

Recently I decided to step it up a notch and do a taste-test. I made rosemary simple syrup, and used it to make rosemary gin fizzes for the two of us, while simultaneously making a fresh version (just muddling rosemary with honey in each glass), and comparing them. And guess what? The fresh version won. It was slightly more bracing, in a good way, and the aroma of rosemary was stronger.

Last week, I decided to switch it up, and use a different liquor and a different herb. Bourbon and mint. The base for a classic mint julep! I imagined Micah and I, each in three-piece seersucker suits, sipping them from antique silver cups on a wraparound porch somewhere, ending a full day of quail hunting and oyster-eating with our stiff drinks and lively debate about the where to find the best Carolina-style barbeque. (My subscription to Garden & Gun has maybe started to influence my fantasies.) Three different kinds of mint (chocolate, peppermint, and Kentucky Colonel spearmint) were roughed up a bit, stuffed in a Ball jar, and topped with Knob Creek. I tried it right then for posterity (and to ease my obviously over-active imagination). Perfect! Surely time would only intensify it's amazingness.

Two or three days later, I strained out the mint. It tasted alright – not mind-blowing – but once again, I got a definite whiff of "sad bouquet" when I went in for the drink. And that, for me, was a dealbreaker.

(Truth time! It should be noted that I continue to drink this concoction in mint juleps, because I refuse to let that bourbon go to waste. BUT, I muddle fresh mint in it every time to cover the smell. And that, of course, completely negates infusing the bourbon in the first place. Yeahhh.)

SO. Learn from my mistakes and misfires. Now I've come to realize that yes, the magic of a great cocktail comes from the time and preparation put into it (and of course, the quality of ingredients). But whereas before I was thinking the key was Special Bulk Infused Liquor (doesn't that sound kind of unappealing, when I put it that way?), now I believe it's crafting each cocktail one at a time, or at least waiting until the day of to prepare anything in quantity. There is something to be said for paying due attention to building a drink, and tailoring it to whomever is about to appreciate it – and the effort and time you've put into it. Like how a cocktail tastes better when you've watched a skilled bartender create it (and maybe why you're willing to pay $12 for it).

Or how a cocktail tastes best when your significant other makes it slightly sweeter / stronger / with extra olives, because they know that's how you prefer it, even if they think it's blasphemy. And you end a full day of work on your tiny rented duplex porch, wearing comfy pajama clothes and catching up on the small-but-important details of your hours spent apart. Cheers.

April 15, 2013


Above: Sunday's breakfast. A hot mess of a sandwich. Herbed focaccia topped with cream cheese, avocado, pancetta, fried duck egg (so, so rich), and sauteed pearl onions and beech mushroom caps.

Saturday morning, we woke up early and hit the farmer's market. Usually we just buy vegetables and fruit there, but this time we got a whole chicken, some super-lean ground beef, and six duck eggs. Protein! (We also got some vegetable and herb seedlings, and some herbed focaccia from Loaf.) Then we stopped at Dain's for Bloody Marys before hitting Home Depot for chicken coop supplies, before hitting Motorco for another round of Bloody Marys. Lycopene! The rest of the day was lazy and domestic – the kind where you can take a three hour nap without a second thought.

I stayed inside all day Sunday – mostly because the outdoors were / are awash with clouds of yellow pollen and tiny green inchworms floating around on their creepy silks, both waiting to land on me and make me break out in hives. I taste-tested my salted caramel ice cream and mint-infused bourbon (more on those later), caught up on laundry, watched Dr. No with Micah, and read.

I'm not sure what this week holds. I don't have any obligations or plans, which usually makes for the most blessedly relaxing – or surprisingly exciting – of times. Or maybe it just means making more ice cream / pasta / bourbon.

April 12, 2013


I get so excited when I start seeing rhubarb in grocery stores and farmers' markets. (So much so that I accidentally mistake rainbow chard for it all. the. time.) Not only is it a harbinger of spring, it reminds me of summers in Michigan – both of my parents have grown (and scavenged) it for years, pairing it with wild blueberries or strawberries in pies, muffins, pancakes, and crumbles.

Micah has never had rhubarb before, so I wanted to introduce him properly. I wanted something a little more informal than a pie, so I found this galette recipe and tweaked it by adding strawberries. I was also curious about that cornmeal pate brisee - I really only use cornmeal to keep pizza dough from sticking to things, and have always known it deserved better. It added a toothsome, almost-savory-ness to the galette that balanced out the bright tart-sweet of the filling.

I also made this galette while hungry, so I ate a quarter of it immediately after removing it from the oven. Straight off the pan and everything. It was hard to not finish it off before Micah got home from work – I had to constantly remind myself of why I made the damn thing in the first place, and store it out of sight. Sigh. Life is hard. But so, so tasty.

April 10, 2013


From the top: the scarf arrived in a printed canvas envelope-bag. Instagram evidence of its constant wear. A close-up of the silk-cotton blend.

After missing out entirely on the first batch, envying all the wear Kathleen was getting out of hers, lusting after all the different sold-out patterns for months, pouncing on my favorite the instant new inventory came in, and waiting a month for them to ship, I finally own a Block Shop scarf!

It's an instant heirloom. A scarf for all seasons. I love how big yet light it is – truly versatile. When I want a light layer, I'll loosely loop and tie it around my neck a few times. When I need protection against wind or cold, I'll wrap it shemagh-style over my head and tuck it into my jacket. When I want to feel like Stevie Nicks, I'll wear it open around my shoulders, like a witchy shawl. I imagine in Michigan this summer I'll be using it as a sarong and beach blanket as well. It's so versatile, that I've donated all my other scarves. It's the perfect example of something I want to keep in my wardrobe: multi-purpose, well-designed, has good vibes, makes me feel beautiful, and goes with everything else I own.

April 8, 2013


Above: Sunday's breakfast. Shirred eggs with sage breakfast sausage, basil, and cheddar. Whole wheat English muffins with brie and rhubarb-strawberry (and the slightest amount of beet, for color) compote.

This weekend was lovely and full. On Saturday, I woke up early to volunteer at the annual Rock and Shop Market (check out their Instagram for pictures - including the third-from-last one, featuring a super-excited yours-truly). It was my first time going, and I had a blast. I signed up for the first shift, which basically meant I (and the three other women in my shift) helped direct vendor traffic in the parking lot, helped them carry all their goods to their table (and find their table in the first place - there were over 75 vendors there!), and answered any questions that came our way - or found someone who could. Once the Market opened its doors to the general public, I helped direct people to the main room, handed out free totes, and tried to look and be as helpful as possible. I also just got to connect with a lot of great, creative, driven people, and give Durham some of my energy. I will definitely volunteer again next year.

After my shift ended, Micah and I sat on the sunny porch at Hummingbird Bakery, had a beer and shared our mornings with each other. He had spent his setting up new accounts at a bank that actually has locations in this state - and so he could deposit all the money we've saved so far for a house into one place. An exciting baby step. After that, we ran by our favorite hot-mess thrift/antique store/hoarder house, Everything But Grannies Panties, to see if they had anything Micah could use for his chicken coop project. We spent the rest of the (long, warm) afternoon in the backyard - him constructing nesting boxes, me pulling weeds and turning soil.

Sunday was a little more of the same - Weekend Breakfast, backyard time, and grilling. Today I'm restocking the fridge and cleaning up the house for my mom's arrival tomorrow. Even though its only for about 24 hours (lovingly called a "hit and run"  or "drive-by" in our family), I'm looking forward to it - and I need to start chilling her chardonnay now.

April 3, 2013


Man, beets are pretty, aren't they? In a murder-y sort of way (the best kind of pretty), which made me lose the ability to edit down the number of photos in this post. So vibrant!

It all started when LoMo Market added a new stop to their weekly tour of the Triangle - the closest one to my house to date. LoMo is basically a farmer's market in a food truck - a great, mobile option if you miss the actual farmer's market, or just want to keep your grocery shopping as seasonal and local as possible. Along with an amazing baguette from Guglhupf, a fancy chocolate milk from Maple View Farm (for Micah), and some hydroponic "living lettuce" for salads, I picked up some beautiful Chioggia beets yesterday and was immediately inspired to flavor pasta with them. (Though - Chioggias specifically might be even more striking sliced thin and served raw to showcase their unique "candy stripes." Next time!)

The beets were lightly roasted to soften them, pureed with a few eggs, then folded into a whole wheat flour and durum semolina blend. Then pasta-making autopilot activates: add flour until dough is barely sticky. Knead until smooth. Cover and rest for at least 30 minutes (a time block I usually use to make filling if I'm making stuffed pasta). Divide dough into 3-4 sections. Roll out each section multiple times through consecutively thinner settings on the pasta attachment. If I'm making stuffed pasta, I'll start constructing them immediately while the dough sheets are still moist. If I'm making cut pasta, I'll let them dry just for a bit, until they get leathery.

I set out with the intent of making mezzaluna and tortellini, but after the first handful of each I realized I had rolled out the dough a bit too thin, so I switched it up and turned the rest of the dough into fettuccine.

I saved the greens - I'm thinking of sautĂ©ing them with some garlic and onions, and serving with the fettuccine and a light cream sauce. I froze the rest. You guys, I now have five different kinds of fresh, homemade pasta in the freezer. It's kind of insane, and kind of The Dream. Though - it's officially ice cream season now, so I might need to make some room...

April 1, 2013


Above: Sunday's breakfast. Deconstructed egg soufflé with cinnamon toast. Micah basically made a savory egg white meringue, then nestled the saved yolks (and a splash of cream) in the middle of the ramekin before baking. The result was crazy - the contrast in textures played up the difference between the cloud-like white and dense, silky yolk perfectly. Plus there were toast soldiers (a term I apparently picked up from living in England that is NOT widely-used here) for dunking!

This weekend was the best. Micah had Good Friday off - so I also took the afternoon off to watch him start building a test chicken coop in our backyard. For someone who claims to not know how to build stuff, what he has so far is very impressive.

We wanted to revive some aspect of last year's unexpectedly awesome Easter, but the weather (and the schedule at the Carolina Theatre) weren't cooperating. Instead, we drove around outside of our downtown bubble to check out some for-sale houses that had recently caught our eye. Later, we parked downtown, and walked to Dos Perros to share drinks (I unabashedly enjoyed something called a "Tardy to the Party") and appetizers and opinions on what we had seen. Our house dreamings are evolving and in-sync – I could talk with him for hours about what we do / do not like in certain houses, how much land we need vs. want, and what we plan to do with the small corner of the earth that we'll one day claim for ourselves.