Harvest and Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


10 Comments

blackberry & fig jam buns with sour cream glaze

morning-buns-2morning-buns-13morning-buns-3

Confession. My consistent attempts to “waste not, want not” often lead me to many an awkward morning, where I find myself sitting down to dinner before the sun has even had time to fully light up the sky. Dinner for breakfast is decidedly not a thing – but it is for me, bizarre though it may be. My kids wander through the dining room in their PJs and, little as they are, they usually give me a skeptical sideways glance or two when they see the spread that I have laid out before me. Coffee next to a casserole. Orange juice next to the previous night’s salmon or pasta or … roasted chicken. “That’s silly, Mommy!” Elle will say, giggling at the fact that her Mom isn’t having breakfast for breakfast but rather, the same foods that she had for dinner the night before. It is silly, I’ll admit.

The good news though, is that there is a trick to this practice of dinner for breakfast: you can top almost anything with a fried egg and bring it much, much closer to the breakfast side of things. It’s amazing, actually – the egg’ed disguise is incredibly effective. Last night’s roasted veggies? Put an egg on them and you’ve got a stunner of a breakfast hash, and there aren’t too many better ways to start the day, if you ask me. Have some pizza left over? Same thing – put an egg on it, et voila! Breakfast pizza. We all know that steak and eggs is a classic, as is the fried egg burger … and that salmon to which I just referred recently accompanied some chive cream cheese, thinly sliced red onion and a toasted bagel for a dinner-turned-breakfast that I’d like to think would rival anything at your favorite deli. So, thanks to the incredible edible egg, the awkwardness of my whole eating dinner for breakfast thing is greatly reduced. Thanks eggs! Or, thank you to the chickens … hard to say which came first. Continue reading


9 Comments

smoke rings in the dark

Processed with VSCO with a1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a1 preset

I never minded that the grass made my legs itch, or that its dewdrops soaked through my summer dresses. Long and rarely cut by the blades of any man-powered machine, these blades of sweet summertime bluegrass provided a bed for us to do all of our daydreaming in – the best kind of bed. Real bedroom beds are for Lights outIt’s past your bedtime, and Time to get upYou’ll be late for school! Tossing and turning, sleeplessness, alarm clock buzzes and snooze button pressings and Can I have just five more minutes, please? And even, heaven forbid, the occasional nightmare. No, I’d never heard of anyone having a scary or bad daydream out there, in that field. Is there even such a thing? Daydreams are reserved for hopes and happiness, for wistful imaginings and nostalgic musings … where your thoughts go when they want to play a little, to get lost in the best of ways before you have to coax them back to reality. At least that’s what I’d like to think, anyway.

I’d go to this one grassy field sometimes when I was younger, an opening in a grove of tall trees set just behind a popular park in my small Kentucky town, and there I would lay, paying no mind to those pesky drops of water still clinging to the tips of each blade of grass. It was always morning when I was there, so the fierce summer sun had yet to burn them away. No matter though, I’d think as I stared up at the sky, patiently awaiting the arrival of the perfect cloud. Because on cloud watching day, one couldn’t be bothered by something so trivial as a dewdrop or two. Or two thousand. Continue reading


10 Comments

four winter salads

image2-27

“Lauren, don’t wish your life away! You’ll regret it when you’re older …” I’ve heard these words time and time again in my life, as I have always been painfully, regretfully guilty of doing just that: wishing the time away. It’s my worst habit, no question. I seem to naturally look forward to whatever’s coming next … craning my neck to get a peek of what lies just around the bend of life …

“Stop waiting for Friday,” they say. “For Summer. For someone to fall in love with you. For life.”

This is the time of year that tends to draw out the pessimist in me – in many of us – and year after year, I always find myself wishing away the winter season entirely … in one fell swoop, as if it is such a horrible thing. I referenced my disdain for the colder, darker months of the year a few posts back and I’ve been working to make good on my pre-new year’s resolution to embrace the season with a hopeful, much more grateful heart. Now that I have two children who I can literally see changing and growing before my eyes each day, the concept and construct of time and its passing have changed dramatically for me. It freaks me out. Where I used to spend time daydreaming about the future, I now want to stop the clock. While I used to countdown days on the calendar until my next birthday – when I would be older, more grown-up seeming – I now would gladly trade a few of my birthdays for extra days to sneak in over the course of a year, to make time drift by just a little slower …

We’ve spent the past three weeks traveling, our time divided between family in Kentucky and Virginia – two of my favorite places on this planet Earth. It has been the type of vacation where the lines between days blur a bit and you’re not ever totally sure what the number on the calendar says at any given time. Wonderful, it is. Our daily routines of home and the inevitable monotony that results from them are abandoned while we’re away, changing the way we designate the hours and minutes of each day, how we approach them. It’s refreshing to loosen the slack on time a bit, and just be. To really sink your feet down in a moment and enjoy it for what it is, not what is coming next or what you have to do next or where you have to be is something of an art form, a learned skill that I am working to master … If not master, then to at least pass with a satisfactory grade.

“True happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment you are in now.”

Continue reading


Leave a comment

the ghost train

You could hear the food rolling around in the back as the car came to a sudden, unexpected stop. In one unified and seemingly choreographed collapse, the canvas grocery bags had toppled over, letting go of their overly stuffed contents. Two bottles of wine clanked and banged into one another, perched on the precipice of a shatteringly terrible mess. It was red wine, no less. Were it not for the two loaves of whole wheat bread who so gallantly stood in as buffers (buy one, get one!), they surely would have broken, those wine bottles, spilling their dark red liquid all over the trunk of my car. I eyed the receipt that was sticking out of my purse, trying to remember what I’d purchased that could have spilled or burst or wreaked utter havoc in the way way back.

We almost made it, though. We almost cleared the tracks before the lights started flashing and the gate came down. Almost. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d had to stop for a train, and this one seemed to have come out of nowhere … the flashing lights and ringing bells catching me off guard and causing me to slam on my breaks. So alas there we sat, my two children and I, waiting for the impending arrival of the train that we could feel coming before we ever saw or heard it. Here it comes! Here it comes! All aboard! The kids were ecstatic, thrilled. We were first in line for the viewing of this train and last, incidentally, to arrive at the gymnastics class to which we were headed. Thanks, train.

And now, we wait. Continue reading


9 Comments

milk & cookies

While I fear it may give the impression that I am somewhat of a scrooge, in the name of transparency I will admit something to you … {takes deep breath … hovers fingers above keyboard}. Okay, here goes …

My name is Lauren, I am 33 years old, and I have never put up a Christmas tree. There! I said it. I feel better – the weight has been lifted.

Sure I’ve put up decorations here and there over the years, to celebrate the holiday season (and admittedly, because I feel obligated to do it for a number of reasons). But no tree. We’ve just never done it. I’m not really sure why, although I suspect it has more to do with utter, shameful laziness than anything else, really. We’ve moved a lot too, and I’ve adopted somewhat of an anti-hoarding philosophy when it comes to how I approach my belongings (i.e. I try to minimize my earthly possessions as much as possible). So, holiday decor has just never made the cut. Also, there have been small children added into the mix. And cats (alright fine, that’s not a real excuse). And so alas, no tree.

That is, until this year. I am happy to announce that I actually set up my first (grown-up) Christmas tree and have been enjoying every bit of its twinkling, shimmering, holly, jolly glow for the better part of the past two weeks. And surprisingly, nary a cat nor kid has wreaked any sort of havoc on it. The Christmas miracle is alive and well, I can tell you firsthand. Last night after I tucked my kids into their respective beds and made my merry way to the couch, where I planned on doing a whole lot of nothing for the next couple of hours, I found myself mesmerized by this tree … looking completely lovely in its little nook of the room … “brighten the corner where you are,” and all. It was my parent’s tree, and they so kindly passed it along to us this year, since they have another one to enjoy. I suppose they figured that their 2 trees to my 0 trees made for a very uneven score, so they generously helped to even out the playing field by gifting one to us (Thanks guys!). It is filled to the brim (to the branch?) with ornaments that were handmade by my Grandmother, Nora, and that have been the objects of my greatest affection since I was very small. In fact, after my living loves and maybe my cast iron pan, they are the things that I would save in the event of a fire. What’s more, the soft glow of the Christmas tree provides my house with the exact right amount of light to allow for ample vision (important, I suppose) while also somehow blurring the scars and mess and less than ideal marks and smudges on the floor that somehow always seem to escape my cleaning. The light from the Christmas tree somehow magically washes all of those things away, and the room just looks perfect, peaceful. Again, with the Christmas miracles …

So now here I sit, wondering just how long after the holiday I can get away with keeping this tree up and shining each night before I’ve officially become a kooky Christmas lady, embarrassing to both my children and husband alike. I’m thinking maybe I’ll just keep it up and let it ebb and flow with the changing holidays over the course of the year. How lovely would a Valentine’s Day tree be? An Easter tree … the tree for Independence! I know people do this, and I’m about ready to join their club. So long as I can keep those magical lights twinkling, I am one happy camper … just making up for lost tree time.

Anyway, enough about my Christmas tree. Let’s talk about milk and cookies. The notion of leaving out a small (or not so small) plate of cookies and a tall glass of milk for Santa is easily one of my favorite Christmas traditions and it is the inspiration behind this recipe. Along with several other blogger friends, I was invited by Natalie and Holly of The Modern Proper to join their virtual Christmas Cookie Party – Calm and Bright Cookie Night – and share a favorite Christmas cookie recipe with you. You can check out all 33 blogger’s recipes by heading to TMP (beginning today where they’ve got a full list of fantastic cookies going on – the perfect way to celebrate a favorite holiday baking tradition with friends who are scattered all over the place (and the Internet). My Milk and Cookies Trifle is a play on the beloved Christmas Eve cookies and milk tradition, and it is a really fun dessert to serve not only at a holiday party or to Saint Nick himself, but any time of year, really. That’s part of the beauty of this recipe – it’s perfectly holiday but really flexible and sort of seasonless at the same time. Trifles are easy, casual things that are messy by design; sort of like a laid back version of a layer cake, which is a-okay with me. I’ve got a recipe here for my gloriously thin and crisp chocolate chip cookies that are **AWESOME** and ideal for a trifle like this. You want a crisp cookie that will stand up to the milk and cream, and these are just the ticket. The caramel flavor that comes through in the dough is so, so good with the cream (thanks, molasses!). Somehow this seemingly simple trifle is better than the sum of its parts, and its parts are pretty special, so that’s saying something.

That said, and in the name of calm and bright nights and magical christmas tree lights, I leave you with this wonderful recipe. I hope you are all enjoying a great holiday season and I am looking so forward to sharing some exciting news with you soon. Until then, happy baking!

 

Milk & Cookies Trifle RECIPE

*adapted from the Food Network Kitchens

 

INGREDIENTS

 

2 cups dark brown sugar, packed

1-3/4 cups (3-1/2 sticks), unsalted butter, at room temp

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided

2 teaspoons molasses

2-1/4 cups all purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 lb semi-sweet chocolate chips

4 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups milk (any percentage will do)

Chocolate shavings or chopped chocolate, to garnish (you can shave a chocolate bar with a veggie peeler to do this)

 

DIRECTIONS

 

for the cookies: 

Preheat your oven to 360 degrees F. Line baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until they’re soft and fluffy; takes about five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Add 1/3 cup water, the vanilla, and the molasses. Mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Add this mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until well-combined. When the flour mixture is totally incorporated into the butter mixture, add the chocolate chips. Stir or mix to combine.

Drop the cookies, only six at a time, in about 2-teaspoonful sized portions onto the prepared baking sheets. They will spread significantly so make sure not to crowd them. You can also stick to baking just four at a time to be safe. Freeze the cookies (on the baking sheets) for 20 minutes prior to placing them in the oven. After the 20 minutes, bake the cookies for 15  minutes, checking them a little early to ensure they don’t overcook. You want them to be thin/flat and very golden brown, but not over done. All ovens work a little differently, so you can gauge your baking time off of your first batch.

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for at least 10 minutes before you try to transfer them anywhere, as they will crisp up dramatically in that time. Set them aside and continue baking in batches of 6 until you’ve made at least 24 cookies. The trifle only takes about that many, but the cookie recipe will make quite a bit more than that. The dough freezes beautifully, though, and I typically freeze what I don’t need right away for a later time.

 

to assemble the trifle:

In the bowl of your stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream, confectioner’ sugar, and vanilla extract. Whip on med-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 – 4 minutes.

Add the milk to a bowl.

Add enough whipped cream to cover the bottom of a large trifle dish. Or you can do this in individual servings in smaller glasses. Next, dip about three or four cookies in the milk, and then place them in a layer on top of the whipped cream. I typically break them up into smaller pieces to allow for easier serving and also it helps to make an even layer. But you can leave them whole as well. Top with more whipped cream and then more dipped cookies, working up until you’ve nearly reached the top (you can go as high as you’d like here). I like to end with the whipped cream and then garnish it with a shower of chocolate shavings. Serve right away. (tip: if you want to make the trifle a little ahead of time, you can just sub in Cool Whip for the whipped cream, as it has a much longer shelf life and will not break on you in the fridge as quickly. You can do that a day or two in advance).

 


2 Comments

a bad wrap and the presence of presents

Apple & Cardamom Frittersimg_5286 img_5279 Apple & Cardamom Frittersimg_5258

“Mom, I think I did a bad job wrapping this one.” Elle held the small box so close to her eyes that they almost crossed as she inspected her handy work. “No, no it’s beautiful!” I assured her. “Gifts are like people – it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Actually, it’s really just the thought that counts …” She stared at me quizzically then, my four-year-old daughter, and I laughed. “Anyway, it looks good to me.”

With more Scotch tape landing in sticky, tangled heaps on the floor than on the actual presents, we managed to “successfully” wrap a single, solitary box and enjoy its sparkling red and green presence for a grand total of five minutes before the kids had already torn into it, ready to do it all over again. The act of wrapping and unwrapping the presents is just as much fun to my kids right now as the actual receiving of the gifts, it seems, and it just shows to go you (as my grandmother would say) that children can make a game out of anything – a game that will rival most any toy that you could buy at the store. It is for this reason that we don’t keep presents under our tree … at least not yet … at least not REAL presents. We keep a few boxes for my kids to wrap and unwrap and do all manner of make believing with, but the real ones are stowed away out of sight … for now. Continue reading


4 Comments

the biggest apple

I’ll begin at the very end.

“Where you headed, ma’am?” He asks as he effortlessly weaves the cab up and down the busy streets of Brooklyn. “Indianapolis,” I reply, staring out the window. They call it “the concrete jungle,” and on this particularly gray, windy Wednesday morning in late September, it was living up to its name quite well. I watch the city fade into the background as we work our way toward Jersey.  A perfect view – a favorite view. Although I much preferred the view just two days prior, as I made my way into the city, not out of it  …  the one where the city gets closer with every passing second and you can feel its energy without even trying. I love that about New York. It is one powerful, beautiful, crazy, overwhelming, treasure of a city and it’s always captivated me, ever since my parents first took me to visit when I was 18 years old.

We’re on the bridge now and it’s like watching an old movie reel scrolling by in split-second glimpses, perfectly framed by the bridge’s rails and beams. The ubiquitous sounds of the horns and traffic and roaring world outside the cab’s windows contribute the soundtrack to our ride.

The latest edition of Saveur magazine is peeking out of my carry-on bag and I feel a mixture of both happiness and sadness; happy that I was able to be a part of such a wonderfully memorable two days at the Saveur Blog Awards and sadness that it all came and went too quickly, as all good things tend to do. Now that it’s over, I can see it more clearly – really appreciate the time I spent in the city – the who, what, when, where, and whys of it all …

 

Who. Saveur Magazine, as I’ve waxed pathetically about in previous posts, is an all-time favorite food read for me and has provided me with the ultimate fodder for fueling a lifelong love of all things culinary. What can I say? I’m a true fan. Oh, and it’s pronounced Sah-v-oor if you’re wondering (I was).

What. The annual blog awards. I have to remind myself that this isn’t necessarily a huge to deal to everyone on the planet, but when you’re totally wrapped up in what it is that you do, and you throw so much of yourself at it for so long, it’s a big deal to you. To me. Yes, it was a big deal to me.

When. I think these awards came at a particularly poignant time for me. As a full-time mom with a husband who has an incredibly demanding, time-consuming career, parenthood is so very much at the forefront of my life right now – my every waking moment is calibrated toward it in one way or another. So, a getaway that was truly about me and something that I love was just amazing – surreal almost. I’ve learned that by maintaining this world of food and stories and photos, I am able to be a better mother to my kids because I’ve tended to myself in an important way; a way that I’m not sure I even knew I needed before I set out on this blogging journey of mine, to use a cliched expression. It definitely feels like a journey though, I can tell you that much. Getting to hang out with a bunch of other people who do what I do and like what I like felt really good. The timing was so, so right.

Where. My favorite place. The city that never gets old, never disappoints, never fails to excite and inspire. The city that never sleeps. I still love you, New York.

Why. I was there because I’d worked hard at something that I really loved and some people happened to have liked it. And that felt pretty good.

How. The funny thing was, by the time the awards rolled around on the last night, it seemed like most people had almost forgotten that they were even a thing – that they were even going to take place at all. I found myself standing in awe on the rooftop deck of the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on the night of the awards, staring out at what has to be one of the most incredible views anywhere in New York. I will never forget that. It’s the kind of view that makes you feel simultaneously on top of the world and painfully, insignificantly small all at the same time. They passed tray after tray of delicious small bites and I mingled with the wonderful new friends I’d made over the course of the past two days and tried my best to soak it up and appreciate it, every little bit of it.

 

I’m almost positive my cabbie just caught me smiling. Our eyes meet in the rear-view and he’s caught me red-handed, basking in my reverie. He smiles. I smile. He turns on the radio. We both laugh. It is, and I kid you not, Alicia Keys belting out, ”  … this place will inspire you … make you feel brand new …  there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York … New York … New York.” Continue reading