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WHAT A DIFFERENCE…

We are, dare I say, fully recovered from our round of illness(es). What a difference a week makes! Last week I genuinely thought I might not make it through… our neighbor said he thought he might have to come “Old Yeller” me. But, with help from my wonderful husband, some tentative fresh air with friends, and a quiet art project filled week, I slowly started to feel more and more like myself. I’m back in the kitchen cooking up an end-of-summer storm, raiding the garden for the last of the summer harvest, stocking up on chocolate chips for cookies, and planning all kinds of menus for the soon-to-be drizzly, dark evenings.

Lulu is all energy and smiles again too, thank goodness. That poor girl had that terrible cold, a stomach virus, and was cutting five teeth all at once. Most of the teeth are most of the way through so she’s a lot more relaxed, much happier, and she’s got her appetite back. Since she’s a little pip, only weighing in at eighteen pounds, these stomach viruses (we’ve had three in the last six months!) are stressful. She’s also sleeping through the night again after we got off track a couple of months back. Needless to say, she and I are both much more chipper with uninterrupted sleep and full bellies.

Since I spent the weekend before this past one laid up in bed, we spent this entire weekend out doing fun things. On Saturday morning we went for a fantastic little hike with the girls. We slathered on sunscreen and hopped in the car with snacks and water and coffee, and we spent the majority of the day counting caterpillars, throwing rocks into streams, and singing songs from Les Misérables (Gigi is obsessed with the story and music… she’s been introducing me as Jean Valjean to everyone for the past month).

On Sunday I spent the day with my best friend and some of her wonderful friends in Portland. They ran the Race for the Cure 5k, and we went to brunch and ran errands. Normally, going to Target and Ikea on a Sunday would sound pretty intimidating but without kids in tow it was actually pretty easy! While I was gone, Kyle took the girls out hiking again and out for a Daddy/Daughter lunch. It was nice for me to have a little break but I sure would have loved to witness the morning he had with them.

With our busyness this weekend we stuck to simple foods: barbecued chicken, grilled peppers, sautéed spinach, grilled steaks, and soup. During this week and the last I’ve entered back into my tartine habit for lunches. They’re just so easy and filling and versatile! I’m trying to utilizing what vegetables are still growing in the garden. Mostly what we have going strong at the moment are cucumbers, and tomatoes. I can feel the weather is about to make a serious commitment to rain and lower temperatures so I’m making the most out of this last gasp of summer in the garden.

This tartine is a spin on an amazing salad we had once at Cinq Mars in Paris, and that we spent the remainder or our trip trying to duplicate with cucumber, cilantro, and goat cheese we bought at the markets on Rue Cler. This tartine is decidedly summery with it’s crisp cucumber, bold cilantro, and bright lemon vinaigrette, but it would be fantastic any time of year. I’m positive I’ll be making this all autumn long.

CUCUMBER, GOAT CHEESE, AND CILANTRO TARTINE WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients.
4 slices of French bread, toasted
4oz goat cheese or chèvre
1 cucumber, shaved into thin ribbons
1 handful fresh cilantro, washed and very finely minced
1/2 lemon
, juiced
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Maldon, or flaky, salt

Directions.
In a small bowl whisk together the juice from one lemon with an equal amount of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, mix together the goat cheese and cilantro. Smear each toast with lots of the cheese, top with ribbons of cucumber, drizzle with plenty of dressing, and finish with a bit of salt and pepper, and lemon zest.

Serves 2.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
CUCUMBER, GOAT CHEESE, AND CILANTRO TARTINE WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

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  • Rebeka - Ok I have to admit that I LOLd pretty hard at that Old Yeller comment. Inappropriate? Maybe. But it’s 4:23 on a Monday afternoon and I’m tired and it was funny. So, so glad you guys are feeling better!!ReplyCancel

  • stephanie - So delicious…so French…so happy you are feeling better. Thanks for the recipe! XOReplyCancel

I hadn’t intended to take a two week break from posting. But we headed out on a family vacation  at the start of the month which was truly wonderful (I’ll share some photos later this week), but on the tail end of our trip Lulu first came down with a head cold which was quickly passed along to Gigi and me, and then she got a stomach virus which she quickly passed along to me. We are a little worse for wear around here… hanging on my a thread really. Here I’ve been wishing fall to hurry and show up, all the while forgetting that young kids + fall = cold and flu season. I’ve been making my favorite spicy-sweet tea in the hopes of turning the corner on this cold and flu bender we’ve been on.

This tea, a perfect sore throat remedy, was first introduced to me by my sister many years ago and has since become a staple around here when Kyle or I have the sniffles. It’s extremely simple: sour lemon, soothing honey, and fresh, spicy ginger make the base of the tea, and a little pinch of cayenne pepper adds just the right amount of tingly heat. It’s the daytime version of the hot toddy, although a little splash of bourbon or whiskey in this tea is certainly acceptable.

I’m sitting now while the girls are napping, sipping a piping hot mug-full of this cold remedy and hoping that, after a week of being down… and I mean, down… that I’m about to turn the corner on this rotten bug. Hope you all are having a very healthy start to fall.

SORE THROAT REMEDY

Ingredients.
1/2 lemon, juiced
thin slice of lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1” fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions.
Heat water to a boil. Place the lemon juice, lemon slice, ginger, honey and pinch of cayenne in the bottom of a mug. Fill the mug with boiling water and stir until the honey is dissolved. Let the tea steep and cool for five minutes before sipping.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
SORE THROAT REMEDY

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  • stephanie - This sounds delightful! Thanks for the recipe! XOReplyCancel

ITALIAN HAND GESTURES…

Yesterday when we were at the park I found a four leaf clover. I usually find a few a year but I’ve found a couple in just the last month. I carefully carried my lucky clover home and, as soon as we walked in the door I led Gigi over to my Grandma’s hutch upon which is perched a few special books: an old copy of Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, and Is Paris Burning? both given to me by Kyle’s Nana, and an old copy of Emma. I picked up Emma and opened the rickety pages to chapter 24. Right between pages 232 and 233 is where I keep my four leaf clovers. I showed Gigi how to press it into place with the others and carefully close the book before sliding it back into pace on top of the hutch.

Opening the book and catching a glimpse of of Austen’s words made me immediately want to pour myself a cup of tea and curl up in the corner of the couch with Emma in hand. I love Jane Austen. After all, one of Gigi’s middle names is Bennet. Every fall I feel drawn towards comfort. I want to re-read favorite books like A Prayer for Owen Meany, Animal Dreams, and Anne of Green Gables. But mostly I want to read Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility.

I don’t usually do it. I normally let my logic get in the way. As I reach up to the bookshelf to get an old favorite, I see all the books I haven’t read yet; some of which have been patiently waiting their turn for years. I feel sorry for those poor, patient books and feel obligated to choose from the ranks of the unread. But this fall I’m going to just exactly as I please and I’m join got read my comforting Jane Austen novels.

To make up for my familiar-leaning reading choices to come, I am planning to challenge myself in the kitchen. I’m going to crack open new cookbooks, and check out some new ones from the library. Did you know that you can check out cookbooks from the library? At our little one you can so I imagine you could at your libraries as well! While I’m sure I will cook a fair amount of my favorite comfort food, I’ll also be challenging myself with new foods and new variations of favorite dishes.

One of my favorite dishes is panzanella. A panzanella is a classic italian salad that usually includes cubes of day-old bread, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella, and basil. I love to make it in the summer with this classic approach, but seeing as it’s already feeling like autumn here I wanted to take a fall approach to this dish. I’m sure my recipe will make some Italian Grandmothers click their tongues and make some wonderfully-Italian hand gestures, but we loved it. We’ve made it quite a few times now; twice for lunch and twice for dinner.

My fall panzanella boasts quite a range of flavors: sweet cherry tomatoes, salty pancetta, robust hard boiled eggs, and fragrant fried sage leaves. The dressing is made with bright champagne vinegar, mustard, garlic and lots and lots of chives. It’s tart and absorbs into the cubes of bread, breaking up the earthy flavors of the main ingredients. The result is a wonderfully hearty, but not too heavy salad that stands as a main course.

No matter what you’re reading, or what you’re cooking, we wish a you a very happy start to fall. Gigi, Lulu and I made this cooking video of this recipe to share with you!

PANZANELLA WITH PANCETTA, HARD BOILED EGGS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND FRIED SAGE

Ingredients.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. rustic white loaf, cut into bite size pieces
10-12 large fresh sage leaves
8 slices pancetta
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut into eighths
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Chive Champagne Vinaigrette
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, very finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup very finely sliced chives
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions.
In a small sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil until shimmering. Gently place in a few leaves at a time and allow to fry for 10-15 seconds. You don’t want them to brown! Remove using tongs and set on a paper towel to drain. Repeat with the remaining leaves. Set the leaves aside and save the oil. (See the video below on how to fry sage leaves.)

Turn your oven on to broil. Carefully toss the bread with the sage-infused oil on a baking sheet. Broil on the middle rack, tossing once or twice, until some of the bread has started to toast and is lightly brown. The goal is to give the bread a bit of color and texture, not to completely toast it. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a large bowl.

Using the same baking sheet, lay the pancetta slices out in a single layer. Place them in the oven, under the broiler, until they are crisp, flipping once. Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper towel to drain.

In a small bowl whisk together the champagne vinegar, garlic, chives, and dijon until combined. Then drizzle the oil in slowly while whisking. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Break up the pancetta a little bit as you add it to the bowl with bread, then add in the tomatoes, sage leaves, and eggs. Toss together gently. Plate, drizzle with plenty of dressing, taste for salt and pepper, and serve immediately!

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
PANZANELLA WITH PANCETTA, HARD BOILED EGGS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND FRIED SAGE

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  • Vangie - I love it!ReplyCancel

  • anja_cieri - I love this colorful idea!I have to try this out one day. Great video, you & girls are amazing :)ReplyCancel

  • gaby - It’s so funny because just last month I decided that I wanted to re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series from start to finish, even though I’ve read each one at least 3 times already. I’m currently on the 6th book and I’m loving it! Once I finish I plan to go re-read some Jane Austen.

    Also, I’ve been meaning to make a panzanella salad for so long. Must try your recipe xReplyCancel

    • Kacie - Gaby,
      THAT is funny. I love the Anne books so much. Cheers to Jane Austen! xoxo Happy cooking. ;)ReplyCancel

A STATE OF FLUX…

Everything is in transition and I feel like we are being pulled, slowly but surely, in new directions as autumn makes it’s ever-so-slow appearance. Our friend’s who are teachers are heading back to the classroom, kids are getting their chlorine-damaged, summer hair cut and shopping for back to school clothes, and the days are noticeably shorter. We still get to sleep with our window cracked and I can sometimes smell a wood fire smoke from someone’s fireplace nearby. It’s supposed to be in the 90’s today, so fall is clearly in no rush to take it’s place, but it is coming.

My family is in transition too, or our children are anyway. Gigi suddenly looks so tall, and sooner than later she’ll be four! She’s going through a interesting phase right now: testing the boundaries, negotiating a lot, often telling me, “I can do it myself. I’m really big.” Which she is. She gets herself dressed most days and sometimes it’s close to nap time before I realize she’s had her underwear on sideways or backwards or inside out. When I point it out she’ll say, “That’s okay. It’s comfortable. I like it that way.” We started reading a chapter book aloud together and while I read to her she wiggles her head in on my shoulder and sucks on her blankie and the little “click-click-click” of her sucking reminds me that she’s still very little, in spite of her growth spurt and self-awareness.

Little Miss Lulu is making her way from babyhood into toddlerhood. She took her first steps and is now cruising somewhat-steadily around the house. She is one opinionated little tot – she has even started picking out what clothes she wants to wear. She will walk to her drawer and throw things out onto the floor until she finds the thing she wants and then she will push it into my hands and grunt, “Ehh ehh ehh!” Needless to say we are working on the sign for “please”. Lulu is adventurous and spirited and so, so funny.

Our home is also in transition as I continue on my path of simplifying. You should see the pile that is growing in the garage for donating! I can’t be stopped! We now have twelve and a half empty drawers throughout out home! Twelve! I’m just going through and getting rid of things and moving things about and making room. The next phase will be to fill the drawers with the things that survive my sweep. I am chipping away at the project, as you know I’ve been working at it for months! It’s all starting to make a real difference; a difference we can see and feel, and that is really exciting.

Our sweet little garden is in a state of flux as well. We have planted sections of the garden beds with cool weather crops. We’ve planted beets, carrots, raddichio (per Gigi’s request), butternut squash, bok choy, napa cabbage, and more carrots, romaine and butterhead lettuce, and kale. We still have some of our summer crop offering up it’s bounty: we still have loads of kale, pickling cucumbers, summer squash, and cherry tomatoes. If this summer continues it’s slow transition we may actually see some of our Roma tomatoes turn color!

We have so many cherry tomatoes I can’t say I’m disappointed with our tomato plants this year, even though only one out of four seems to have really come through. We have sweet, plump cherry tomatoes ripening daily. Some days I pluck a dozen; last night Kyle harvested close to forty! My favorite thing is to wander out while the girls are napping and find the deepest red ones and pop them in my mouth right there in the garden. Standing in the grass with bare feet, eating sun-warmed tomatoes straight from the vine is my kind of luxury.

It is amazing to me that one plant, whether it’s our impressively producing cucumber plants, our silky heads of lettuce, our never-ending kale, or our bright, bursting tomatoes each started with one tiny seed. That one pack of those tiny seeds that costs a couple dollars can feed us so many meals through so many months is astonishing and a little humbling. At this particular time we have so many cucumbers and tomatoes, we also have harvested an impressive number of Torpedo Onions. Torpedo Onions are mild, sweet heirloom onions. I thought I was planting shallots but, no, I was planting giant, beautiful, Torpedo Onions. I’ve been throwing together a very simple salad using the cucumbers, tomatoes and onion. The salad follows along in the Greek tomato-cucumber-onion-feta tradition but I love making a simple, tart vinaigrette and then showering the salad with lots of fresh tarragon (of which we also have plenty)! If you can’t find the Torpedo Onions, which you may stumble across at a farmers’ market, you can use a bit of shallot or any mild, sweet red onion.

This simple salad is a wonderful lunch, or as a side for anything grilled. It would be great alongside some seasoned and grilled eggplant! We will definitely be planting eggplant next year! But enough about all of that… I’ve got to go water the garden and get ready to make some salsa, pesto, and pickle some jalapeños and Torpedo Onions.

CUCUMBER AND CHERRY TOMATO SALAD WITH RED ONION AND TARRAGON

Ingredients.
3 cups cucumber, chopped (partially or fully peel them if the skin is bitter)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup 
crumbled feta
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
1/4 sweet red onion or shallot, finely minced
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions.
In a medium bowl, toss together the cucumber, tomatoes, feta, onion/shallot and tarragon.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a small bowl, slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle plenty of the dressing onto the salad, toss well, and serve!

Serves 2 as a lunch, 4 as a side.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
CUCUMBER AND CHERRY TOMATO SALAD WITH RED ONION AND TARRAGON

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LESS THAN ORGANIZED…

I like to think of myself as a very organized, forward-thinking person. Sometimes I even excel at being that person. When I’m organized and on top of things, I feel so much more calm and centered. Sometimes I am the mom at the park who has the spare change of clothes, extra socks, and hand sanitizer in my “emergency” bin in the car. Sometimes I am at the grocery store with my perfectly curated list and I actually know where my debit card is! Sometimes my house is tidy, my thank you cards are stamped and sent, and our drawers are full of clean clothes.

In my last recipe post I was practically begging for summer to be over and, after more thought on the topic, I’ve realized that part of why I feel so ready for fall is that in fall I’m so much more organized. The “Summer Me” does not know how to stay organized, in fact, “Summer Me” is kind of a disaster. I’m the mom in the park who notices two minutes in that her three-year-old has forgotten to put on important undergarments. In summer I am the person who realizes after their groceries have been rung up that they forgot their wallet. In the summer our house is tracked with dirt from the garden, the “to do” boxes go unchecked, our laundry grows into mountains, and her kids often go a day or two before we stopped to question when their last proper bath was. I do enjoy elements of these wild days, but by mid-August I’m ready to get things back in order.

I often wish I was either more organized or more laid-back. I’ve been working on being both aspects of life; trying to get on top of things while trying to let go of expectations and relax. Where I am on the spectrum or organization varies depending on the season, at the moment I’m leaning towards “not at all”. As much as I want to be carefree, I rely on organizations and routine to hold “it” together. When I’m organized, I am more laid back… sadly, this doesn’t seem to work in reverse, or so summer keeps reminding me.

My cooking also varies based on where I’m at in the spectrum between organized and… less than organized. In the winter, when I tend to be very organized, I channel my inner Julia Child – cooking and baking with more precision, time and effort. In the summer when I am feeling frazzled and busy, my recipes tend to be simple and tossed together, often without much premeditation or structure.

This cold pasta salad came about when one of those recent frazzled, busy days. We had taken the kids to the swimming pool and came home hungry and wiped out in the way that swimming pools wipe you out. As Kyle quickly bathed the babies, I whipped through the kitchen throwing together what would turn out to become a new favorite summer meal.

I quickly cooked and cooled some penne pasta, whisked together a tart Champagne vinaigrette, sliced and diced a ripe peach, shredded some left-over chicken breast, added some fresh tarragon and pungent Gorgonzola and miraculously had a made-from-scratch dinner on the table before the girls had finished their bath! These kind of meals are my saving grace in summer. I don’t pull them off often enough, but they serve as a reminder that, although we may have had way too many slapped together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner this summer, I still have the hope of regaining my formerly organized life. If not this month, than maybe next month.

COLD PENNE WITH ROASTED CHICKEN, PEACHES, GORGONZOLA AND TARRAGON
Ingredients.
1 lb. penne pasta
2 cups shredded roasted chicken breast (my roasting directions below)
2 large, ripe peaches, pitted, and diced
4 oz gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced, fresh tarragon
small handful fresh tarragon (whole leaves)

Directions.
If you don’t have left-over chicken on hand you can easily roast some. I buy bone-in, skin-on breasts. Preheat the oven to 375˚F, drizzle the breasts with olive oil, season with lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165˚.  Allow the chicken to cool before discarding the skin and bones and shredding the chicken.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the penne, cook until al dente, drain, and rinse with cold water until cooled. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the minced tarragon, dijon mustard, and the champagne vinegar until combined. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, while whisking, until the vinaigrette is well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl gently toss together the pasta, chicken and peaches, and transfer to a large serving dish. Top with the gorgonzola, the fresh tarragon, and the vinaigrette. Finish with a few turns of freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy!

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
COLD PENNE WITH ROASTED CHICKEN, PEACHES, GORGONZOLA AND TARRAGON

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  • alma - The funny thing is as I read this I thought you were talking about me. I also “struggle” to stay organized in the summer. I think we may just be having too much fun :) I hope you’re enjoying your summer and this penne looks delicious I will have to try it.ReplyCancel

    • Kacie - Alma, Well, I’m glad it’s not just me! We have been having quite a bit of fun. ;)ReplyCancel