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Falling for Fall | Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes

30 Oct

Oh how we love this time of year when pumpkin makes an appearance in every corner of our lives from our oven to our pups’ dinner bowls. Pumpkin baked goods, pumpkin brewed craft beer, savory pumpkin dishes, pumpkin carving, roasted pumpkin seeds…and the list goes on…

We had some leftover buttermilk (from the best yellow cake recipe I’ve ever made….a future post, so stay tuned!) that screamed “Oh hi, PANCAKE opportunity!” to me as I headed into the refrigerator to get fixings for my weekend coffee.

So I made these amazing pancakes from Heather Cristo’s blog. Um, who can resist a recipe that has the word “best” in it? Clearly not me!

Verdict: They were really yummy! I’ve included some notes about the recipe, etc. below. 

Maker’s notes

Recipe | I added a 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice to the batter (because we had it on hand).  I was hesitant to add more because I didn’t it to overwhelm the yummy pumpkiny goodness. It added a subtle spice & depth of flavor. Add more if you want to really taste it. I love a salty pancake and don’t usually add much (if any) sugar to things that I’m going to drizzle with maple syrup. That said, these were a little too salty. If I made these again, I’d cut back on the salt (to 1/2 tsp) and add a tablespoon of sugar (raw, white, brown, light brown…whatever we happened to have in the pantry).

These would be really easy to make vegan by making your own “buttermilk” (using soy milk adding lemon juice or vinegar) and adding a butter substitute for the butter.

Cooking | I cooked all of them before we sat down to eat, keeping them warm on a low temp in the oven on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.

Leftovers | I wrapped up the leftover pancakes and tossed them in the refrigerator.  We heated a couple of them in the toaster (Jess’s brilliance!) the next day & had them with a cup of tea as we stayed safe inside while hurricane Sandy danced with the power lines outside our house.

If you have pups, here’s a great use for the leftover pumpkin! Mix a tablespoon of pumpkin in with their food. They’ll love it and it’s great for their digestive health — it magically helps with diarrhea or constipation. Just make sure it’s the same kind of pumpkin you’ll have leftover from this recipe — canned plain pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling kind with added sugar & spices).

Happy making! Happy Fall!

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Pup Updates & the Kindness of Strangers | Giving Thanks

13 Oct

As I type this post, I realize that it’s too late for Canadian Thanksgiving & too early for American Thanksgiving. But just as I did growing up every night at supper & with every thank you note my mom made me write (yep, I still write them today), we try our best to express our gratitude each & every day for the things we feel oh-so-lucky to have in our lives.

A month ago, while I was in Portugal for work, Jess had to rush Stevie (our eldest Boston Terrier) to the emergency vet care because he was yelping, walking with a hunched back & shaking like a leaf. After a few trips to the vet, some tests and a whole bunch of worrying, he was diagnosed with a chronic degenerative condition called IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease, presenting in the vertebrae in his neck). The vet sent him home with medication (for pain & inflammation) and orders for mandatory 24-7 crate rest. Yes, that’s right, crate rest, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has to be carried outside <–> inside & to <–> from his food bowls and he needs to spend all day every day for the next 2 months in his crate. Seriously? Seriously! It’s strange & a pain (we live on the 2nd floor and our front stairs are steep & it means we have to take both dogs out separately if one of us isn’t home). But IVDD isn’t to be messed with as it could result in paralysis and/or very expensive surgery. So we’ll all be making the best of it.

At the end of the 2 months, Stevie will get re-evaluated & hopefully his neck will have healed enough that he can be more of his normal dog self — going for walks, snuggling with us on the couch at night, etc. Sadly he won’t ever be able to jump again or do some of his best tricks (like his “stick em’ up, bang bang, play dead” show stopper) & we’ll have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t jump on the couch or bed or on the dining room table filled with pies at our next family holiday (much to our utter amazement, we watched in disbelief as he boinged straight up off the floor & landed squarely on the dining room table at Jess’s parent’s house one Christmas). But we are so lucky that he’s still part of our little family and that the IVDD was caught very early.

We celebrated Stevie’s 5th birthday with pupcakes for all (remember this recipe?) and a small sigh of relief. Being in his crate certainly hasn’t changed his appetite…

As if the above wasn’t enough stress for two concerned pet parents, Ollie, our younger Boston Terrier (who’s always been a little “special”…SHHHH!) gave us a scare a little over a week ago. I got the call from the dog walker that I’d been fearing every time I saw her name appear on the screen of my phone (up until this call they were very benign check-in emails & texts…always a relief!). She’d lost Ollie during a hike in the Middlesex Fells.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Fells, it’s piece of conservation land (reservoirs, ponds, hiking trails, etc.) just North of Boston that’s over 2,500 acres large — taking up space in 5 towns. I knew when she called me at 11:30am that she’d already worriedly traced her steps several times (before she even told me so) before she called me. She reassured me that luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day and there were lots of people out & about in the Fells. He still had his harness & tags on and was trailing a 10 foot leash so surely he’d attach himself to another group of people & someone would call us in a couple of hours. She said she’d go back & look some more & her husband was leaving work early to continue the search.

I called Jess (who was also at work) & basically lost my sh*t on the street in front the office where I work, hiccuping details through tears. And then, we both went into crazy pants solution mode. Jess: texting/calling everyone she knew who might be able to help; me: posting a picture of Ollie with the few details I knew on Facebook. We both called nearby animal shelters, vets and pet hospitals, animal control agencies, local police, etc. It became a full-time job. (I’ll insert insane thanks here to both of our jobs/bosses. We are very very lucky.) Jess went to the Fells with a friend & her dog to continue the search. Work peeps & other friends joined, too. I stayed at work to wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make phone calls, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make & print posters, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog. But in that time of panic & complete & total solution mode, something really amazing happened — social media, did what she’s so good at doing, she put our cause on blast. I had complete and total strangers messaging me on Facebook, asking me if they could spread the news on listservs, message boards, etc. We had new (like we’ve-only-hung-out-once) friends going to the ends of the earth to spread the news even further before taking off to help in the search. I had friends emailing me saying that THEIR friends were going to the Fells to search for Ollie. There were texts and phone call offers of help. Friends who don’t even have pets were buying treats & joining the search. People, some of our nearest and dearest friends included, quite literally dropped what they were doing and joined the “bring Ollie home” party. It was totally and utterly amazingly overwhelming.

Now…the happy ending. At 5:20 PM I packed a thick folder of flyers into my bag and left for home. Jess was on her way to meet me there & we were going to come up with a new plan/approach. Ollie is small (about 20 lbs) and mostly white and I was sick to my stomach thinking about the dark, the woods and…the coyotes. I got off the T at 6:00 PM and took out my phone to respond to (yes, even more) friends offering help. That was when I got the best text ever from Jess: “Ollie’s been found”. I practically skipped the whole way home. Our dog walker’s husband had found Ollie near one of the reservoirs and he was okay.

I anxiously waited for Jess to get home with Ollie. I gave him a hug (REUNION!) & then carried him straight to the tub. He was smelly & dirty and very scratched/scraped up from his unsupervised “adventures” but he was HOME! Look how tired he was…

People are still “checking in” to see how Ollie is doing. Thank you technology, friends (new & old!), co-workers, family & concerned strangers — our hearts are still exploding with relief and gratitude.

Making & Baking Our Way into Fall | Pics & Links

3 Sep

Oh hi! Here’s what we’ve been up to (a meaty post with pictures & links!)…

Savoring summer, time with Kate’s dad & the best lobstah roll ever (PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet).

Making pickles! Refrigerator style using this recipe and farm fresh pickling cukes from a farm near Jess’s home town. We added cloves of garlic & black whole peppercorns to each jar. We also made a spicy batch for our neighbor by tossing in a sliced jalapeno from our container garden (YAY!). We’ve been eating them on EVERYTHING (pictured below on turkey sandwiches).

Salivating over a new issue of Bon Appetit and celebrating awesome neighbors with this delightful coffee cake. Toss blueberries in panko breadcrumbs? SURE!

Here’s what the blueberry coffee cake looked like sliced (just before it got hand delivered to our favorite neighbors). This Instagram filter makes it look straight out of my mom’s 1970 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part I! Long overdue wedding card/art piece for friends Emily & Chris. Those are heart shaped bits I cut out of their save-the-date & invitations. I love sewing paper.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part II! Finally getting around to finishing this advent calendar project for 2 very special little boys (yes, that’s 48 little fabric bags). Promised last year that I’d make these & we’d fill them with goodies each year…literally the gift that keeps on giving! The first time I stumbled across this project on Lansdowne Life, I obsessed over the adorable vintage looking fabric…to die for, right?!? Can’t wait to fill the bags with goodies & send them off. Oh & those pinking shears were an amazing vintage find at a little consignment shop on the Cape. 

Officially launching Opal & Ollie on Etsy. YAY! A selection of my etched glass mason jars are also available at Magpie in Davis Square & On Centre in Jamaica Plain.

Summer of Love | Picnic Recipes Galore

25 Jul

Summer is for harvesting garden goodies, hanging out outside — picnics, hammocks, BBQs & early morning outdoor bootcamp — cold brewed coffee, fizzy fruity delights, cooking with farm/our container garden fresh ingredients, crafty endeavors, new friends & romps with the pups. Phew…all that and we’re back in BlogLand with a vengeance!

We celebrated our first anniversary (and 7th year of togetherness!) over the weekend & it was filled with commissioned art (thanks to Nan Lawson, Flowers In May & the fact that paper is a traditional first anniversary gift), yummy food & sentimental goodness (Remember when I wanted a set of these ? Well, Jess surprised me with a vintage 1940’s set in mint condition. *swoon*).

custom illustration by Nan Lawson

custom anniversary illustration by Flowers in May

I had ambitious plans to surprise Jess with a romantic outdoor picnic — filled with smartly designed paper goods, mason jars upon mason jars, yummy food reminiscent of our wedding catering — spread on a handmade little blanket/quilt made out of fabric from our wedding. But I participated in ArtBeat as a craft vendor on Saturday & totally ran out of time (despite planning the picnic menu & starting projects months ahead of time).

my table at ArtBeat! Opal & Ollie Etsy shop opening in August! stay tuned…

So…the weather forecast wasn’t promising & I decided, the morning of, that we’d either eat inside or on the deck. Oh, and, I didn’t finish the blanket but I made really great progress & will finish it one night this weekend. We used an adorable picnic blanket as a tablecloth that our friends Cobi & Sarah gave us as a wedding shower gift. K.I.S.S., right?

Now on to the good stuff!

The menu (with links to recipes & my notes)…

Deviled eggs | Recipe: Mark Bittman (basically your traditional deviled egg recipe: hard boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, S&P) | I topped each with a tiny bit of dill relish instead of paprika.

BLT corn salad lettuce wraps | Recipe: Joy the Baker | This charred corn salad was incredible. I used high quality bacon & oven roasted it. Charring corn in a small apartment kitchen over an open gas burner flame is amazingly fulfilling! I wondered if the corn would actually cook & it did…perfectly! It turned a darker yellow as the kernels crackled & blackened. Mess warning: the stovetop was eat-off-of-it clean before this endeavor & corn shrapnel was everywhere after 3 ears of corn were nicely charred. Well worth it though!

Best berry salad | Recipe: Our very own!

Chocolate yogurt snack cakes | Recipe: Smitten Kitchen | Ah-mazing! I added a teaspoon of espresso powder to the recipe to bring out the depth of chocolatey goodness & dusted the cooled cakes with a little bit of powdered sugar. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. Oh, I had trouble finding whole milk yogurt (weird because I remember seeing it years ago – before the shelves were overflowing with a million brands of Greek style yogurt) so I opted for 2% Swiss yogurt.

Coconut rice pudding with fresh mango | Recipe: Mark Bittman (traditional rice pudding from How to Cook Everything, see very bottom of this post for recipe) | I substituted light canned coconut milk for the cow’s milk. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract after the pudding finished cooking. I served it cold with diced fresh mango to mimic the flavors of Jess’s favorite mango sticky rice dessert from a local Thai restaurant.

Home-brewed Arnold Palmers | Recipe: Tyler Florence | The slushy & bright homemade lemonade makes this drink extra special. Definitely prepare this a few hours ahead of time as all of the components need to be nice & cold. Served up in a mason jar with tiny heart etched in the glass (by yours truly!).

mis en place: chocolate yogurt snack cakes

roasting corn!

the spread!

Arnold Palmer with a twist

Rice Pudding (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
2 cups water

1 cup long or short-grain rice (I used arborio)
dash salt
2 cups milk (I used canned light coconut milk)
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (3/4 cup was plenty for our taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (I skipped the spices because I knew I wanted to top with mango)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the rice and the salt. Cover & cook over low heat until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover, pour in the milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until about 1/2 the milk is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue to cook until the rice is very soft and the milk absorbed. About halfway through the cooking, taste and add more sugar if necessary. 
3. Spoon into custard cups and serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. I served it topped with diced fresh mango. 

This keeps well for 2 days, or more, covered and refrigerated. Serves 8.

Picnic Food Pick | Hummus & Flatbread

7 Jul

This is a fairly simple & fast recipe that’s fun to make and take to a gathering any time of the year. But both the hummus & the flatbread will survive quite well sitting out on a picnic table in hot summer temps (unlike your gran’s famous potato salad!).

We brought this to our friends’ 4th of July BBQ (along with our appropriately patriotic berry salad & frozen chocolate dipped bananas on sticks). The hummus & flatbread made a perfect party platter with the simple addition of a bowl of baby carrots & disks of seedless cukes.

Hummus

Ingredients
2 cups chickpeas, rinsed & drained

1/3 cup tahini (can be found in most grocery stores in the “ethnic food” section)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used 3 juicy lemons…I like my hummus lemony so I’m a little heavy handed with the lemon)
1 tsp salt
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil (I used olive oil our neighbor brought us from Italy!)

Steps
1. In a food processor, blend chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt & garlic until smooth.

2. With the food processor on, stream in the oil (through that little shoot in the top of the processor) & blend until well incorporated.
3. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Maker tip: If you cook a lot with garlic, I highly recommend investing in one of these stainless-steel babies. They squish, I mean press, the garlic perfectly every time, are super easy to clean (my favorite!) & save your wrists from wrestling with presses that pale in comparison.

Multigrain Flatbread

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Then in a large bowl, combine the flours, oil, baking soda & salt. Add enough buttermilk (I used it all) to make a stiff dough.

2. Knead dough for 30 seconds on a well-floured surface.
3. Return dough to bowl & cover with a damp paper towel/clean kitchen towel to prevent drying.
4. Roll 1/4 cup handfuls of dough into a ball & pat into a flat circle.
5. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into 10 inch circles (mine were definitely NOT 10 inches — probably more like 8 but they were still nice & thin). Oh and they will not be perfect circles. That’s okay — we’re making something homemade so it’s nice if it looks rustic. That’s the beauty of it, people.

side note: my Uncle Bob made that amazingly beautiful cutting board!

6. Place the circles of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or preheated pizza stone (I used the latter) & score each little round of dough to make little triangular pie slices. Scoring the dough isn’t as hard as it may sound — just use a really sharp knife & lightly drag it across the dough (be careful not to cut all the way through). See picture below.


7. Repeat steps 4-6 with the remaining dough.
8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 8-10 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack briefly before breaking along scored lines.

I heaped the flatbread wedges in the center of a clean kitchen towel & tied the corners together for easy transportation on the tray of hummus & veggies. 

Happy dipping & eating!

Berries All Around! | Best Berry Salad

23 Jun

image credit: my mom’s childhood “Fun to Cook Book” printed by the Carnation Milk Company

Jess first made me this yummy treat as part of a little picnic (@ Walden Pond!) we went on when we first started dating. Berries are in season & they’re everywhere! Take advantage of local “pick your own” farms — or the sales in your local supermarket & bring this along to your next BBQ. It’s really easy to whip up & your friends/family will thank you! Extra bonus: it’s healthy too. 

Best Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 quarts of strawberries
2 pints of blueberries
1 pint of raspberries 
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/2 cup “Craisins”
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 
2 Tbsp cane sugar or other natural sweetener

Steps

1. Rinse the berries in cool water & drain.
2. Hull & quarter the strawberries.
3. Put the berries, Craisins, walnuts & sweetener into a large bowl & gently toss with a wooden spoon.
4. Let the salad rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to let the fruit macerate.  
5. Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate. 

Happy picnicking! 

Blueberries All Around | DIY Syrup, Compote & Dad’s Day Memories

17 Jun

I have always loved blueberries & my most delicious memories from childhood (and beyond!) are my dad’s amazing baked goods. We’d wake up on the weekends to freshly baked blueberry muffins (one of his specialties!) or celebrate the 4th of July with blueberry & rhubarb pies. The list of yummy baked confections goes on & on — keep an eye out for future posts featuring some of his secret recipes!

While there aren’t any baked goods featured in this post, this one goes out to my dad: carpenter by trade, baker self-made — & an all around amazing guy. I couldn’t be luckier (or more inspired)!

Inspiration can come from anywhere — a memory, a sale, a recipe, a special birthday, etc. So when ridiculous quantities of blueberries were on sale at a local specialty market & a friend’s birthday (whose SodaStream dreams were about to come true) was right around the corner, I dug out one of my favorite making books, can it, bottle it, smoke it by Karen Solomon, & got inspired!

Blueberry Lemon Syrup (from book referenced above)

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (the BEST/freshest available)
2 cups sugar (I used organic can sugar & a about a 1/4 cup less than this)
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
pinch of kosher salt

Directions

1. Combine the berries, sugar & water in a large saucepan over medium heat & bring to a gentle boil (be careful not to let it boil over).
2. Reduce heat & simmer, covered, for 3 minutes — just enough time to let the berries release their juice.
3. Take the pan off the heat & stir to cool slightly then pour the contents of the pan through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl, stirring but not pressing the berries to harvest as much syrup as possible.
4. Reserve the berries for another use (more on that later). The recipe suggests pureeing them in a blender to make a great jam or using them as an ice cream topping, pie filling or compote.
5. Stir the lemon juice & the salt into the syrup.

Storage 

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a glass bottle for storing in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 6 weeks. (I just used a batter bowl with a little dip in the side & that worked just fine — no need for the funnel or extraneous kitchen equipment.)

Making soda

Stir 1 part syrup into 2 parts sparkling water. Add ice cubes & enjoy. (Shot of vodka optional.) It’s very pretty looking & a yummy summer beverage!

Using the blueberry leftovers

I put the leftover blueberries from the syrup making process into a mason jar & tossed it in the refrigerator. I used the compote as a topping for a week’s worth of DIY yogurt parfait breakfasts using a couple of tablespoons of compote, 0% Chobani plain yogurt & Trader Joe’s blueberry muesli. We also mixed some of the compote with fresh berries & used it as a topping for angel food cake. YUM!
 

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