A Weekend in Barcelona Spain

Culture, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Travel

My trip to Barcelona was taken somewhat on a whim. After plans to go to Norway to try and see the Northern Lights failed, the hubs encouraged me to enjoy a weekend in Spain instead. I had long talked about going to Spain and was itching for a visit to somewhere warm. Knowing that Jacob couldn’t travel anytime soon, I happily took him up on his suggestion and started researching my options. A few hours later I had purchased my plane tickets, and not long after that, I was on my way.

Having never been to Spain before, and having never taken an international trip alone, I wasn’t really sure what to expect for my long weekend away. I wasn’t nervous about traveling by myself, more so just anxious about whether I would get lonely or bored, and if I am being totally honest, concerned about just how many tapas I could realistically consume on my own. ūüėČ

I am happy to report that I never found myself longing for company, and I had absolutely no trouble at all putting away countless plates of food. My time alone was exhilarating and refreshing, and Barcelona had a certain charm that made me never want to leave.

My trip started with a visit to La Boqueria, a massive covered food market which is truly any foodie’s dream. I spent a few minutes wandering through a maze of cured meats, colorful juices, and fresh fruits and vegetables, before grabbing a spot at the bar at El Quim de la Boquer√≠a for my first round of tapas.

Struggling to keep my Spanish and French (and English for that matter…) straight, I ended up with a plate of patatas bravas that I didn‚Äôt mean to order (this wasn‚Äôt the only time that I would order incorrectly), but in the end, this was totally okay. I ate quite a few spuds that weekend, and those were certainly the best I had, so good in fact, that I can‚Äôt even remember what it was I was trying to order initially.

Alongside my patatas bravas were a plate of fried artichoke hearts, which are easily one of the best things i’ve eaten since moving abroad. I nearly cried tears of joy after my first bite. As I washed them down with a ‚ā¨3 glass of local cava, I couldn’t help but to think how coming to Spain was definitely a really great idea.

After picking up a bright pink juice from one of the stalls nearby, I rushed off to the next stop of my journey where I toured Antoni Gaud√≠’s eccentric and unfinished church, the Sagrada Fam√≠lia.

There is a lot that I can say about Gaud√≠’s unique masterpiece, but i’ll just leave it at this: Sagrada Fam√≠lia is an interesting church, and indeed beautiful in many ways. However, in short, it’s not my cup of tea. There’s something about Romanesque and Gothic churches that really inspire me, and I just couldn’t find that same sense of awe in Gaud√≠’s modern design. The construction probably had something to do with it, as well as being asked more than once to move for someone’s selfie, but hey, that’s not Gaud√≠’s fault‚Ķ

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I found it slightly ironic that I left for this trip same day as International Women’s Day. To me, International Women‚Äôs Day represents many different things, but this year, it was a time to celebrate aloneness. So often I think women associate being alone as being a bad thing. We’re not complete without a significant other, we’re not capable of exploring a new place without a companion by our side, we’re not as strong of a leader or an influence on our own, etc.

As I wandered around Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million people, in a country where I don’t speak the language, and in a town where I knew no one, I didn’t feel alone. In fact, I felt very much in the warm company of the 1.6 million Catalonians who surrounded me. I didn’t pity myself as I sat alone at a bar with enough tapas to feed three, or as I drank half pitcher of sangria on my own (the second occasion where my Spanish ordering abilities failed me). Instead, I felt exhilarated. I was visiting a place I had always wanted to visit, and enjoying something I truly loved. Why should being alone prevent me from doing that?

As I walked back to my hostel from the Sagrada Familia, I stumbled across thousands of other women as they celebrated all that International Women’s Day means to them. With the march taking place right in front of where I was staying, I first watched for a while from the street, and then spent my evening, alone, in the hostel, celebrating from the window. Again, something was telling me that coming to Barcelona was a really great idea‚Ķ

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Sagrada Familia 

I started the following day with a visit to Park G√ľell, another Gaud√≠ project. Though I enjoyed the main part of the park (the paid area), I loved the free trails and natural gardens that surrounded this area even more.¬†Much of Gaud√≠’s work takes a naturalist approach, and what better way is there to experience nature in a large city than with time spent in a park? Being a perfect 70 degree day, I found a secluded bench with a great view of the city and relaxed in the sun until my next appointment.

Next came what was quite possibly my favorite experience of the trip – a paella cooking class in a lovely private garden just down the street from Park G√ľell. Originating from Valencia, a town about 200 miles south of Barcelona, paella is a regional dish that‚Äôs approached by Spaniards much the same way that Americans approach a backyard barbeque. ¬†It is meant to be leisurely prepared over a glass of wine or sweet vermouth, and enjoyed alongside family and friends.

This “class” was actually called a “cooking experience,” and appropriately so, as an experience was exactly what it was. There was no formal training, per se, just 10 or so strangers who quickly became new friends, enjoying wine and tapas together, and learning a bit about paella along the way.

Our wonderful host shared with us her grandmother’s recipe, and we all cooked together in the backyard of her childhood home. We ate tapas, shaved fresh slices of Ib√©rico and Serrano ham, and learned the art of drinking from a porron, all before enjoying the fruits of our labor with a large plate of paella. I look forward to taking what I learned from this experience and to one day enjoying a backyard, paella barbecue with family and friends back home.

Full and sleepy from so much delicious food, I enjoyed a leisurely walk down a lovely route recommended by my cooking experience host, and then spent the next couple of hours resting at my hostel before venturing out to the old Gothic Quarter of Barcelona to see what I could discover there.

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Jacob and I have this thing when we travel in big cities where we will go out of our way to “get lost.” We intentionally take roads which aren’t the main route, and more often than not, our efforts pay off. Taking that same approach as I wandered around this historic part of town, I found myself in a number of quiet squares, and discovered many quaint streets. Eventually, I stumbled across the beautiful 14th-century Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, and settled in at a fantastic little wine bar across the square. Making friends with the bartender, I tried two fantastic Spanish wines, and jotted notes about my day on the back of a receipt while I let my phone charge behind the counter.

After a quick tour of the church, I stopped in for more tapas at a recommended spot down the street for yet another memorable meal. As I took a seat at the bar, the server‚Äôs first words were “I have just the perfect meal for one person.” After I made it clear that there aren’t really any foods I don’t like, the plates started coming…and it took a long while before they stopped. Some plates of tomato bread, clams, patatas bravas, fried squid, and a couple of other unidentified things later, I left overly full, but again, so happy for yet another great experience.

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Gothic Quarter and Playa de la Barceloneta

The last day of my journey started with, you guessed it, more good food. Having read about a place known for their croissants, I figured I would give it a try. I had been outside of France for three days at that point, and had started missing my favorite breakfast pastry.

Having the bar set pretty high after seven months in Paris, I was skeptical and only purchased one pastry. However, after just one bite, I regretted not buying two. Glazed and filled with mascarpone cheese, my croissant from Hofmann Pastisseria was one of the best things I ate all weekend. Half way through my first one, I had already made up my mind to go back for a second…

To burn off my pastries, I spent the next couple of hours walking around a new area of the Gothic Quarter, and toured another beautiful gothic church, the Barcelona Cathedral. Though there was a short line to get in, this cathedral was quiet, and evoked that sense of awe I couldn’t find at the Sagrada Familia. A ‚ā¨3 elevator ride to the roof made me love it all the more. Offering a fantastic view of the city, and no crowds, I spent half an hour or more on the roof enjoying the views and sunshine, and thinking about how I wasn’t ready for my weekend in Barcelona to end.

Growing hungry, I left the roof with plans to head back to La Boqueria for another round of tapas, but ended up stumbling in to a very Austin-esque coffee shop and decided to enjoy lunch there instead. I don’t know exactly what it was that I ended up eating (story of my life that weekend in Spain), but it was some sort of Asian rice bowl that was utterly delicious, and the kombucha I washed it down with also wasn‚Äôt bad.

Energized and ready to finish my off my weekend strong, I made my way to the beach to dip my toes in the Mediterranean Sea. After half a pitcher of sangria (I swear I only ordered a single glass – and no, I did not drink the whole thing), I headed back to my hostel to get ready for one last memorable Spanish meal.

I think my first meal in Barcelona was probably my favorite, but what I loved about my last was the fact that many of the tapas served were actually meant for one person. Because of this, I was finally able to try a large variety of things without feeling like a total glutton (but really, what did I care?). After one more plate of fried artichoke hearts (which didn’t hold a candle to my first plate from El Quim de la Boquer√≠a), I toasted myself with one final glass of cava to commemorate a such great solo weekend away.

Caramelized Onion “Camemburgers”

Food, Food Photography, France, Recipes

Life in our 193 square foot apartment seems ages ago, even though we’ve only been in our new home for less than a month. Or for me, just one week…

Last month, living in that tiny flat, Paris felt like an extended vacation. Now, in a slightly larger space, and with Heidi asleep next to me on the couch as I write, Paris feels like home.

On those nights where we felt somewhat displaced and homesick, what helped us to feel rooted were the meals we cooked in that little apartment almost each night. With a kitchen smaller than most people’s pantries, and a fridge similar to what you’d find in a college student’s dorm room, daily trips to the market were required, but honestly, that was half the fun. Each day I would walk around the corner to the organic market, or one block over to¬†Rue Montorgueil, one of Paris’ best market streets. When I wanted something that felt a bit more familiar, I would walk just a bit further to the British grocery store, Marks & Spencer, a place that felt much like Trader Joe’s, and sells the most wonderful flavors of crisps (the cornish cruncher cheddar and pickled onion, and the chicken mustard and worcester sauce crisps are where it’s at).

IMG_1088.jpgWorking with just two small burners, a microwave, and a toaster, I couldn’t get fancy with what I cooked, but each night that we ate at home, we ate well. With meals like French onion soup, bangers and mash, pot roast, pasta bolognese, and I kid you not, one of the best burgers I have ever had in my life, we didn’t go hungry. For dessert, we’d drink wine and eat chocolate, or enjoy a treat from one of the incredible patisseries nearby. Who needs to bake when you live in Paris?

Heidi and I returned to Paris a week ago today, but unfortunately, I came down with a horrible cold from all of my recent traveling, so while I now have a larger kitchen to cook in, I haven’t yet had much time to play. I made ratatouille earlier this week, and a delectable, buttery quiche the night after that, but since then, it’s been homemade chicken noodle soup and cup after cup of hot tea. Tonight, I think i’ll move on to a spicy curry, and then as soon as I feel 100%, these “camemburgers” will definitely find a place on our dinner menu.

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A play on the word hamburger and camembert, the hubs thought calling these burgers “camemburgers¬†” would be appropriate and cute, and I fully agree. Rich and gooey, these burgers melt in your mouth, and definitely require the crunch of a cornichon and deserve to be washed down by a good red wine. Though we try and limit how often we eat red meat, we ate these guys twice last month, and I can’t wait to get over this cold so I can fully appreciate another one soon.

Cornichons, which are basically just little baby pickles, should be available in your local grocery store, and are for sure available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods if you have one nearby. If you can’t find camembert cheese, or find the flavor too strong, brie cheese would work wonderfully as a replacement. And while we love a good strong camembert, for this particular recipe, I recommend a milder one as the strong flavor could overpower the taste of the caramelized onions, which no one wants to miss. If you do use a strong camembert, cut off the rind before melting the cheese on your burger.

Caramelized Onion Camemburgers

Yields two burgers 

1 lb ground beef

Brioche buns*

Camembert cheese (or brie if you prefer a milder flavor – see note above)

Cornichons

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

Butter

Mayonnaise

Dijon mustard

Sugar

S&P

Melt a pat of butter in the bottom of skillet over moderately low heat. Add the onion, and stir until your onion slices are well coated in butter. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to very low and let the onions steep for about 10-15 minutes.

After about 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly, and stir in a pinch of salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for about 30-40 minutes, until they have turned an even, light golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare your burgers by forming two patties and sprinkling each with salt and pepper. Next, add a little butter to a skillet and cook your patties until they reach your desired doneness. For this recipe, I like the burgers to still be a bit pink. I believe our burgers were probably cooked to medium. Before you pull your burgers from the heat, top them with a couple of slices of cheese, and cover the skillet so your cheese can quickly melt. If your onions have finished caramelizing, you can top your patty with onions before adding the cheese to help everything nicely meld together. Otherwise, you can add your onions later.

Once your patties have finished cooking and your onions are done caramelizing, it’s time to assemble your burgers. Spread both buns with a bit of mayonnaise, and one side with a little dijon mustard. Add your burger patty, your caramelized onions (if you haven’t already), and a few cornichons. You can either slice your cornichons in half (long ways) or add them whole. The cornichons we buy here are rather small, and we love the acidity and crunch that they add, so we don’t bother cutting ours.

Serve with some herb seasoned fries and fry sauce (we love saut√©ed garlic and herbs mixed with mayonnaise) and a bottle of red wine (really, most reds will go great with this, but we particularly love a good Pinot Noir or¬†C√ītes du Rh√īne) and¬†bon appetit!

*Sure, you could use regular buns, but really, I don’t recommend it. I used regular buns the first time I made this recipe and the burgers were good, however, the second time I made them, with brioche buns, they were GREAT.¬†

Shrove Tuesday, Pancakes, and a Very Special Birthday

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Recipes

Today is a special day for a couple of different reasons. For one, it’s Shrove Tuesday, meaning it’s a day for self-reflection, examination, and confession. Secondly, it’s my dear hub’s birthday, and boy, is he worth celebrating.

This morning we enjoyed banana pancakes together because they’re his¬†favorite, and because it’s Fat Tuesday, and I will take any excuse to eat pancakes. After breakfast, I wrapped his gift and got an early start prepping for dinner. Tonight, we won’t be out for a¬†crazy Mardi Gras/birthday celebration, but instead, we will enjoy a nice dinner together at home, relaxing, finding rest and peace, because during this lenten season, that’s just what we need.

The last six months have consisted of many changes. It was a season of transition and of adaptation. It was an exhilarating, emotional, exciting, and exhausting season. This year, for me, lent is serving as a fresh start. A beginning to the next season, a start to something new. Life finally feels a bit settled here in Austin, a little more routine, and not quite so exhausting.

I’m not sure exactly what I will be giving up this year, or if I will actually be giving up anything at all.¬†I am still trying to figure out what I expect from this season, and am still working¬†on my desires and goals. I long for¬†rest, both physically and mentally, and I desire to be really intentional with my actions. I do know that much. So today, instead of of exhausting myself with worry about how I will go about that, I am choosing to find peace and rest and celebrate the man that I love. Happy birthday, my dear hubs, I am so very glad that you were born!

The-Daily-Doss---Banana-Pancakes
Banana-Walnut, Sour Cream Pancakes

yields eight 4-inch pancakes

1 large egg

1 cup sour cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of ground nutmeg

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

butter, for pan

1 large, ripe banana, chopped

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, vanilla, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Melt a pat of butter in the bottom of a large, heavy pan over medium-low heat. Ladle in 1/4 cup batter at a time, leaving 2 inches between each pancake. Sprinkle each pancake with a heaping tablespoon of chopped banana, and a heaping tablespoon of walnuts.

When the pancakes are dry around the edges and you can see bubbles forming on the top, flip each pancake and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes on the second side. Once cooked through, remove from pan, add another pat of butter, and cook remaining batter.

Serve with powdered sugar, additional walnuts, and pure maple syrup, if desired.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes

Back to the Basics: Homemade Whipped Cream and Pie Dough

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes

There is no dessert more classic at Thanksgiving than a pie, and no better topping for a pie than whipped cream. As many of us will soon be indulging in our favorite holiday desserts, I thought I would share a couple of recipes to help put your pies over the top.

It never fails to surprise me how many people can’t (or don’t…or won’t) make their own whipped cream. It’s one of the easiest recipes¬†I’ve ever made¬†and only requires ONE ingredient. It tastes much better than store bought whipped cream, and though I haven’t compared the prices, a container of heavy whipping cream is pretty cheap. If you can make a pie, I promise you, you can make homemade whipped cream.

While really, all that’s necessary is heavy whipping cream, it’s common to sprinkle in a little sugar to sweeten up the taste. Sometimes, I switch it up a bit and use maple syrup instead of sugar, or maybe add some vanilla or a splash of bourbon, but really, a classic sugar/cream whipped cream is hard to beat.

If you have a stand mixer, this is seriously the easiest recipe in the world. Just put your cream and sugar in your mixing bowl, turn your mixer on high, and in about two to three¬†minutes, you’ll have yourself a glorious bowl of whipped cream. If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer works great as well. It might take a few minutes longer, and it’ll help if you freeze your bowl and beaters for about 15 minutes before you start, but¬†that is still a pretty simple recipe if you ask me.

If you are whipping by hand, you rock! You deserve a big spoonful of cream (and maybe a shot of bourbon) once you are done. If you choose this route, you’ll certainly want to stick your bowl and beaters in the freezer for a few minutes before you start. It’ll help you out and cool you down while you work.

whipped-cream


Homemade Whipped Cream

yields 1 1/2 – 2 cups whipped cream

Ingredients 

2 tbsp sugar

1 c heavy whipping cream

Directions

Whisk together cream and sugar in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form.


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Though slightly harder and a little more work, homemade pie dough is another simple recipe that every cook should know how to make. You have to plan a bit ahead on this one as your dough needs time to chill, but if truly in a hurry, a freezer usually helps to do the trick. Most recipes will ask you to chill your dough in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour (I recommend this as well), but I’ve been in a cinch a time or two where¬†chilling my dough in the freezer for 30 minutes worked.

Unlike whipped cream, there’s a bit of a deeper science to creating a great pie dough, so I will let the professionals walk you through this one. For galettes and tarts, I enjoy Bon App√©tit’s Basic Tart Dough,¬†and for flaky pies, I favor Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough all the way. If you are into graham cracker crusts, ole Deb Perelman also has a great recipe for that. It’s my favorite for cheesecakes and pumpkin pies!

As you prepare your desserts this holiday season, I encourage you to give your own whipped cream and pie crust a try. Intimated by the dough? Start small with the cream. It’ll put your dish over the top and leave your guests hungry for more.¬†If you feel a bit nervous about making your own pie dough, Christmas is still a month away. That leaves you plenty of time to practice!

Bon appétit and happy Thanksgiving!

Mexican Meatball Soup

Culture, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Recipes

When we lived in Boston, good Mexican food was hard to come by. It took over a year for us to find anywhere worth driving to (it was a ways out from the city center)¬†and it wasn’t until the night before we left town that we finally found an authentic taco joint. We craved it often and were so rarely satisfied. We missed pitchers of beer and spicy salsa with bottomless baskets of chips. We longed for Mexican white cheese dip and I always failed miserably at making my own. Each time we would head home to Arkansas, barbecue and Mexican food were always on the top of our list. We’d eat until we were miserable, but it was worth it every time.

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Now that we are in Texas, we have access to more Mexican restaurants than we could ever try in a lifetime. There are probably at least 10 trucks and restaurants just on our block, and a thousand more scattered about the city. The grocery store located just down the street greets you with colorful aguas frescas, and there are peppers there that I dare not try to identify. I love the Mexican culture that’s prominent across Texas and the delicious culinary inspiration that it brings.

This recipe comes from a new friend of mine who can cook Mexican food with the best of them. As we chatted about the weather turning cooler she made mention of one of her favorite Mexican soups. “I’d love for you to teach me how to make it,” I told her, and that is just what she did.

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Silvia, who was born in Mexico, has been eating this soup for her entire life. Her grandmother would make it when she would visit her in Tijuana, and she grew up eating her mother’s rendition in her home in Los Angeles where she grew up. Now that she’s in Texas, she cooks it for her fianc√© and for lucky friends like me.

It’s a simple soup, and really, the ingredients are rather basic. Feeling a bit surprised by this,¬†I had to ask what exactly made it Mexican.¬†“It’s just a soup that we eat in Mexican homes,” I was told. At first, I was a little let down by this answer. I was secretly waiting for that “special ingredient,” the exotic flavor that made it truly Mexican, but as we sat down for dinner, I realized that her answer couldn’t have been anymore perfect. It’s not just the¬†ingredients in a recipe that make it regionally authentic, it’s how you eat it and how you share it that’s important. Happy for the reminder, I finished off my last meatball, feeling glad for new friendships,¬†and full and comforted from this tasty soup.

Like any good cook preparing a family recipe, Silvia did not measure anything out. I jotted notes as we went along, but really, they are only guesstimates. Take these notes for what they’re worth, and have fun using your imagination along the way!

¬°Buen provecho!

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Mexican Meatball Soup

Serves 4

5 cups water

4 Roma tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

1 lb ground beef

2 tbsp rice

1 egg

2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1 tsp cumin

1 quarter of a large white or yellow onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 zucchinis, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large potato, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tbsp olive oil

s&p

lime

tapatío hot sauce

In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté onion in olive oil until soft. Meanwhile, blend tomatoes, garlic, water, and a good pinch of salt until smooth. Poor broth into pot, add carrots, zucchini, and potatoes, and bring to a low simmer.

While your broth simmers, mix together ground beef, cumin, mint, egg, rice and salt and pepper in a large bowl. With your hands,  pack meat into 1-inch balls. Gently place into your broth.

Cover pot and simmer soup until vegetables are tender and the meat is cooked through, about 25-35 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and more cumin if desired. Serve with lime wedges, Tapatío hot sauce, and a side of charred tortillas.

 

Blueberry-Lemon Drop Biscuits

Food, Food Photography, Recipes

Though the first day of autumn falls on Tuesday of next week, here in Texas the air is still warm and wet. I see pictures from friends scattered around the country, sipping warm beverages and baking pumpkin treats. My friends in Boston are pulling out their sweaters, while I am here in Austin wearing shorts and a tank.

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Early last week the temps reached 100, but to my great surprise, Saturday was a chilly, 66 degrees. Imagine the joy for this girl who loves fall, as I got to wear pants AND long sleeves, and snuggle on the couch with open windows, and a cool, crisp breeze. I baked pumpkin-pecan muffins and simmered a pot of French onion soup, and though it was grey and dreary outdoors, I declared the weather to be perfect, a tease of fall and a break from the heat. Though Sunday wasn’t as cool, it only reached a humid 78. It wasn’t perfect, but still a welcome change from the high temps we had experienced all week.

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While I am longing for the weather to consistently be a little more reminiscent of fall, I am accepting it for what it is and learning to make due. Instead of baking with squashes and spices and whipping up hearty comfort foods, I am celebrating a few more weeks of summer with berries, and citrus and light, refreshing bites.

These biscuits were the perfect treat earlier this week, when I longed to bake, but needed something light to eat. Though I was craving roasted squash and a creamy hot chocolate, it was 87 degrees outside, and slightly warm in our apartment. The cold flour and butter smashed between my fingertips was soothing and therapeutic. The sweet smell of lemon lingered in the air refreshing my senses, while the butter in the oven sizzled, oozing from the biscuits.

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This recipe is very similar to that of a scone, just minus the egg and a little less butter. While I love a good scone, sometimes it’s hard to get them just right. If the shape isn’t funky, the texture is all off. I like my scones to be crumbly, but some recipes make them way too dry, and then there are those recipes where you wonder if you accidentally made muffins, as your final product is much too moist. Biscuits, in my opinion, are usually much easier, and while I love a good flaky, perfectly rounded, buttery disc of dough, drop biscuits are a cinch and take very little work. They are incredibly versatile and are great both savory and sweet. I make buttered biscuits for dinner often, but sometimes like to add fruit and enjoy them as a breakfast treat. The hubs enjoys them with coffee, I like them with tea. Either way, eat them warm out of the oven, for breakfast, or in my case, as a tasty afternoon snack.

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Blueberry-Lemon Drop Biscuits 

yields 8 biscuits 

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tbsp sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold butter

3/4 – 1 cup milk

1 cup blueberries

zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I like to use my fingers so that I can make sure the butter is well blended. If your butter isn’t blended well, the consistency¬†of the biscuits will fall flat.

Mix in your lemon zest before slowly mixing in your milk. Use only 3/4 a cup for a dryer biscuit, or a full cup if you prefer a slightly moister biscuit. Gently fold in your blueberries.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons into 8 mounds on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until set and lightly brown. Sprinkle each mound with a pinch of sugar (preferably coarse or raw), and cool on a wire rack.

A Taco Recipe + A Fun Announcement

Food, Food Photography, Recipes

A little more than a year ago¬†a dear friend of mine told me about a blog that she thought I might like. Always eager for new blogs to read, I clicked the link and starting navigating through the site. I read a few posts and clicked around through the archives–post after post, it was like they were all written for me. By the time I was done, I had happily clicked “follow.” I was delighted to have found¬†a new blog to love, and grateful for the¬†find.¬†

Doss, Coconut-Lime Chicken Tacos 1

The Graduate Wife is the name of that blog, and it is a wonderful resource for women (and sometimes men!) like myself who are supporting a husband or significant other during their academic career. ¬†It’s full of great stories, recipes, and tips to help women through the journey. It has provided me with encouragement on some of my hardest days, and with joy on the happier ones.¬†

If¬†you haven’t guessed my announcement just yet, here it is: I’ll be making¬†an appearance on this¬†wonderful¬†site from time to time, offering a bit of advice that I have picked up along the way, and sharing stories from my journey thus far. ¬†

Doss, Coconut-Lime Chicken Tacos 2

If you are a graduate wife, I encourage you to follow the blog, and even if you’re not, I suggest following it anyway, because really, who doesn’t love a good story?¬†

For the recipe and to learn more about the blog, please visit http://www.thegraduatewife.com . 

Cider is one of those things that I can drink during any time of the year. I love it on a brisk, autumn day when the sun is shining but the air is cold. Some of my sweetest memories  drinking cider take place bundled around a campfire surrounded by those that I love. Jacob and I tried many local ciders during our time in Boston as we traveled and explored the quaint and picturesque New England countryside. We tried dry ones, sweet ones, and ones somewhere in between. We tried making our own once with a gallon of juice that we picked up at Whole Foods, and while it tasted more like champagne than cider, it was equally as delicious and perfect on those cold Boston nights.

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While drinking cider during the fall¬†might just be my favorite, I really can’t complain about a cold and tart brew in the middle of a warm summer. I like them dry, and not overly sweet, just the right blend to cool me down on a hot summer day.

Several weeks ago when the farmer’s market had just opened for the season, I found hundreds of pounds of beautiful local apples- all marked down to half price. They weren’t really good for eating, but were begging to be used in some way or another. I thought about buying some for pies or some other form of dessert, or maybe to make¬†batches of juice or applesauce.¬†I purchased 25, 25 pounds that is, and awkwardly made my way home.¬†With a large¬†bundle of lemongrass crammed in¬†purse, and 25 pounds of apples filling my market bag, my half mile walk home was much more difficult than my leisurely walk there.

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The hubs came home from fishing and could only laugh at my haul. “What will you do with all of those apples?,” he asked, “Maybe I will make some cider,” I replied. One week later on a cold and dreary Sunday afternoon, we juiced every one of those suckers and threw them in a jug with some yeast. On went the plug and there went our cider, hidden away in a cupboard, alone to do its magic.

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Though we should have bottled over a week ago, it wasn’t until this week that we finally had the chance. Though flat and warm, we tasted our blend, and were pleasantly surprised by¬†the results. Sour and sharp, just the way I like my summer ciders to taste. It’ll only improve with carbonation, and served up cold can only help its case. Now we sit, for two more weeks, waiting for a second taste.

About the time our cider finishes brewing, it’ll be time for us to start packing our bags. We have just over one month left in our sweet little home, and maybe only two left in this great little town. We will head to Austin in a few weeks to search for jobs and a new building to call home. I’m constantly surprised how quickly this journery has been. It feels just like last month that I was talking about visits to the market and the concoctions I was coming up with back then.There are still boxes in our apartment that have yet to be unpacked, but I can’t complain about that now as that’s one last thing to worry about when it’s time for our move.¬†While¬†our¬†days¬†have been incredibly busy, we are taking the time to enjoy the things in Arkansas that we both love to do. Fishing, canoeing, hiking and rock climbing; cookouts, camping, and in just two more weeks…cider with friends.

 

 

Boston, Culture, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Recipes, Travel, Uncategorized

Chicks in the City

Food, Food Photography, Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized

If you’ve not read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” I highly recommend that you ¬†pick up a copy right away. As the Boston Sunday Globe¬†puts it, “This book will change your life… Perhaps never before has [food] been written about so passionately.” While¬†it’s not always easy to¬†eat and grow food the way that Kingsolver and her family do, this book has certainly changed the way that I purchase and consume my food. Kingsolver has left me excited¬†for the summer, and with a new appreciation for¬†farm life. I look forward to planting my herbs ¬†and to growing a few other vegetables on our small back porch. One of these days I hope to¬†expand my garden beyond a few pots and to¬†¬†participate in a few other farming¬†activities of my own.

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There was a community garden in Boston that Jacob and I would sometimes pass on our way to one of our favorite markets. I always loved seeing that vast space of green in the middle of a sea of grey. It served as a reminder that farming is no longer confined to multi-acre lots; today even city-dwellers have some of the same opportunities that farmers do. As more and more municipalities relax their rules, the number of people who practice backyard farming steadily continues to grow. While larger cities such as Boston, Chicago, or New York, have limitations on what kind of farming can take place, other urban spaces like Austin and Denver, allow a bit more, such as chicken farming and/or beekeeping.

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Photo By: Kara Isham

While I love the idea of producing my own honey, the thought of beekeeping terrifies me, but for years now, I’ve pictured myself one day owning a few backyard, feathered¬†friends. No one knew this about me, really, besides maybe my hubs, so imagine how surprised (and excited) I was to receive an email asking if I would be interested in writing an article about urban chicken farming in my area. I said yes, of course, eager to learn more about this farming trend. I have always thought I would eventually raise a few hens of my own, so here was my chance to figure out if I really have what it takes.

While it might seem like a large undertaking, I learned that it is less work than one might think. It only takes about 15 minutes a day to attend to a chicken’s needs, and about one hour once a month to see to greater demands. I loved getting to meet all of the different families and their feathered friends. Each family had a funny story to tell about their chickens, and most had beautiful coops that they were eager to show off. Like myself, the people I interviewed decided to raise chickens so that they could know where their food was coming fun. Plus, most just thought that they were fun animals to have around.

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‚ÄúI like watching them run across the yard,‚ÄĚ said one woman I interviewed. ‚ÄúThey look like little, old ladies running with their skirts hiked above their knees.‚ÄĚ

I’m not so sure that I will be able to look at chickens, or little old ladies for that matter, the same ever again.

Hard work is an inevitable part of raising any type animal,¬†but even after seeing the ugly side of chicken farming, I think that I am still interested in raising a few hens of my own. I like the idea of ¬†having fresh eggs, and can’t help but chuckle at the thought of seeing little old ladies with hiked skirts running around my yard!

To read more about chicken farming in NWA, please see this month’s issue of CitiScapes¬†Magazine!

A Weekend in Austin Texas

Culture, Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Travel

I hate how little I have been able to blog lately. Between freelance jobs, a big project at work, awaiting the birth of my nephew, and deciding where the hubs and I will call home next, I’ve had little time for such things. But finally, now that my deadlines have passed, now that my project is complete, now that my sweet new nephew has said hello to the world, now that our choices are narrowing down, now, ¬†finally, I have a moment to sit and write.

Anyone who knows me know that I am not good at waiting. I am a planner and I like to know what comes next. Though my life often feels chaotic and unorganized, I am the kind of person who creates lists for her lists, if that even makes sense. It’s what my husband says about me, and in my chaotic but yet perfectly organized mind, it makes sense.

As someone who loves to know just what comes next, this whole PhD waiting game has been quite the ride. Thus far, 11 applications have gone out, word has been received from eight, and the final three acceptances and/or denials could arrive at any time. Jacob and I both check the mailbox about five times a day, while I’m sure he checks his email about 100 times more.

While this whole process certainly makes me anxious, ¬†I am thrilled to be on this ride.¬†I’ve accepted that not knowing what comes next is exciting–it’s a new adventure waiting to be had. Loosening my grip on planning has been nice for a change. It’s nice in a way not knowing what comes next.

A few weeks ago I was able to travel with Jacob to Austin, TX for a prospective student’s weekend. We left late on a Friday afternoon, driving five and a half hours before stopping for a night in Dallas to see our brother BK. We ate In-N-Out burger and enjoyed a few beers from Harpoon–a delicacy I’ve greatly missed since our time in Boston. We enjoyed a comfortable night in, resting after a chaotic and busy week at home.

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Being the nut that I am, I made Jacob wake up at an ungodly hour (for a Saturday morning anyway) so that we could be in Austin in time to visit a local farmer’s market. If Austin ends up becoming our new home, I need to know that I’m able to trust their local food offerings. Of course, with Austin being recognized as one of the top food cities in the country, I knew that this wasn’t really anything I had to worry about. Though, seeing as how it’d been months since I’d been able to visit a proper farmer’s market, I figured I would jump at the opportunity while it presented itself. We strolled through the booths being tempted by local juices and gorgeous produce, learning a bit more about Austin’s local food movement and picking up a few handy resources along the way.

We continued our day at Easy Tiger on Sixth Street where we enjoyed a local brew, a pretzel the size of my head, and the house made cheese spread and a tangy mustard sauce. The air was warm and muggy, but it was nice to enjoy some heat on a February winter day. We proceeded with a walk down Sixth and some browsing on Congress. We zigzagged through neighborhoods peaking in to strangers’ yards. We loved the quirkiness of the homes, and the enormous succulents growing on the curbs.

After stopping at the hotel for a late afternoon nap, we ventured out for round two to get a taste of Austin after dark. We kicked things off on Rainey Street with friends and a drink at Bangers. We munched on fries with curry ketchup and sipped a Revolver blood and honey wheat. We listened to the strums of a banjo and to the hum of the harmonica. Families played cornhole with their kids, while pet owners snuck their dogs tasty treats. The atmosphere of Rainey was friendly and lively. I could see us there on a Friday after school or work;  meeting friends for dinner, or taking our dog along on a date. 

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Our night ended with a quick walk down Sixth Street to check out the local zoo, and a maple bacon donut from Gordough’s– the most sinfully delicious way to end our day.

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Sunday greeted us with cold temperatures and lots of rain. We browsed the aisles of Whole Foods while waiting for a table for brunch at a restaurant across the street. This particular Whole Foods is like the Walmart of the health food world. It was massive and overwhelming, and nothing like any Whole Foods I’d ever visited before. I could have spent hours wandering this health food heaven, but alas, our table was ready and I was forced to leave after a short 20 minute trip. I left with some Harpoon and a local Kombucha, anxious to visit this store once again.

Our farm to table brunch was a perfect treat on that rainy day. We filled our bellies with good drink and grub before venturing on to the rest of our day. We made a quick stop by Graffiti Park before spending our afternoon  browsing the eclectic shops of South Congress Avenue. We perused through antique goods and vintage finds and tried funky ice cream flavors from a shop nearby. We  took a drive through Zilker Park and pictured what our lives might look like if we decide to call Austin home.

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Sunday night rolled around and our prospective student festivities began. We enjoyed a delicious meal of Indian curry and got to know a few other prospective students of UT. We mingled with current students and teachers, and slowly took it all in. I learned all about people’s research, and chatted about what life in Austin is really like. The night ended slightly less awkwardly than it began, leaving knowing at least a handful of people’s names.

Monday was full of tours, meetings, and lectures. It was a day devoted to learning about UT and about the program that Jacob would be in. He was able to meet some of his potential professors, and to ask the questions that we have both been itching to know. I ventured off on my own during the afternoon, wandering about campus and around town, truly trying to picture myself calling this place home. I made my way back to Whole Foods, and even made my way to Trader Joe’s. ¬†I left with five bottles of Charles Shaw and a new succulent, and headed back to find my hubs.

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Monday night ended with one last reception and chitchat with more professors. We concluded our evening with drinks at a local campus hangout and said farewell to our newly made friends. We walked back to our hotel hand in hand on that chilly, rainy night, scrutinizing the way that we both felt about UT and about Austin as a whole.

The hubs is scheduled to fly to Boulder, CO in a couple weeks to check out another serious contender. Boulder has been our number one choice from the beginning as to where we would love to live, but there are so many things to consider during this decision making process. It’s not necessarily always easy, but it’s our fun little adventure. We are both confident that with thoughtful consideration and prayer, we will end up where we are intended to be.

Deadlines are quickly approaching, so this impatient waiter will soon have to wait no more! This segment of our journey is quickly ending, while our new adventure will soon begin.

Until next time, friends!