Ottolenghi's Baked Mint Rice With Pomegranate And Olive Salsa

I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd written a new blog post until I logged into Blogger and saw the unpublished drafts, the posts waiting for good photos, all the aborted ideas that almost became content for the blog and just...well...didn't. "Use Wordpress," they say. "Blog posts write themselves on Wordpress," they say.

Mhmmm. Sure thing.

The Five-Second Rule and Lemon Tarts

Sometimes, as a creative exercise, I like to write about what I'm doing that very moment; where I am, the things I'm thinking about, what I see and hear and smell or hope for from that day. I  grab my battered, glucose-stained, weather-beaten recipe notebook and turn to a new page. I hope I have a pen - if not, I'll use a Sharpie. If not a Sharpie, there might be a broken pencil in the detritus at the bottom of my purse. If I'm honest, I'm nearly always thinking about food. Whether because of work, or reading, or hunger, some of these pieces end up being food-centric. And it struck me that I could share any of it here, if for no other reason than to invite you to celebrate the occasional greatness of perfectly ordinary weekdays. Also, I believe in the five-second rule when it comes to docks, grass, or clean pavement. Just saying.

the tart in question from Hummingbird Macarons, Norfolk, VA

// stream of consciousness. october 18, 2018 . norfolk, va //


Today is a pristine day. Every street corner feels like the edge of the explored world; a day of infinite possibility and promise. I perch on the sea wall, squinting across the blue glare of the Elizabeth River to where Portsmouth lies moored among her half-built ships.
A boy with pretty blue eyes gave me my coffee for free. I'm almost sure he mistook me for my sister, but it was still nice. To encourage the unexpected holiday theme I put the unspent coffee money toward a lemon meringue tart which I am now munching as I sit on a sea wall and listen to the boats and the flags and the waves clapping lazily against stone.
Take big gulps of air today: big as your lungs can handle. For once there is nothing there but salt and October and pine or so. It is clean air - clean as the taste of the lemon tart and just as bright. Isn't it almost indecent to sit by the river at 10 AM, eating clouds of meringue and sipping coffee - free coffee from the blue-eyed boy? It is Thursday: a workday. But here I am: tart, coffee, olive green coat, cerulean river, ships half-finished in the background.
Perfection (even the distinct perfection of a lemon tart in the sun on a Thursday morning) does not last forever; one strong gust of wind and everything is upended onto the dock below. All but the coffee which I didn't pay for, but saved anyway. There on the bleached green pier lies the tart - meringue-side down, crisp pastry sticking jaggedly up from the spill of lemon cream. It could be worse - the tart could have dropped into the water. So I jump down, coax the pieces back into the box, and join the tart down on the dock where it's warmer and drowsier, sheltered by the wall at my back. I don't see any seagull poop. Or fish guts. Besides, I paid $7 for that tart. I am definitely going to finish eating it, who cares about weird looks from passing joggers.
Two men and a curly brown dog pass in a boat. They are sorting crabs; the crabs are lifted one by one, comically spread-eagled in midair for a moment, then flicked into the proper bin. I crunch on shattered pieces of tart and watch. Meringue is on my fingers. I'd like the draw that dog...meringue is on my jacket. I wonder where they'll sell those crabs? Does the dog always ride on the boat? Can the fishermen swim well if their crabbing boat tips over in the middle of the Bay?...meringue is in my coat zipper and all over the dock and nobody brought napkins. Then the boat is gone and the tart is gone, and it's time for me to wander back uptown and stow myself away in the restaurant for the night. I get up creakily, fold the empty brown box, wipe meringue from the worn wood, climb back up the sea wall to the brick walk above. We're all a mess: my hands, my coffee which ran in rivulets up my sleeve as I walked, the dock, my jacket. But I've never met a happier solitude.


Breakfast Bibimbap Bowl

"You only talked about my bike," Shannon said the other day while we prepped food in the still-sweltering heat of the "cold" kitchen. Shannon, up to her elbows in sordid-looking jars of egg yolk and squid ink, pulses pasta dough in the Robot Coup while I fill a pastry bag with beer caramel and try to keep sweat out of my eyes.
"Out of all the things that could have made an impression," she continues, "all you remembered was my cute bike. I am more than my cute blue bike!"

Harvest Apple Cake

Nothing says "October" to me like a well-spiced apple cake. I always forget that October is coming until October comes and gives me a delightful, visceral shock. October is a fairy tale to me: spun gold and jewel-colors on the trees and wood smoke on the air. It's a time of year that makes me feel steady and ancient and invincible, like I could very well exist in either 1218 or 2018 with very few differences between the two. As a month, October is free from all major holidays (who actually counts Halloween?), leaving ample time to lounge around campfires, hover over candles, and (most importantly) to lay flat on my back in dewy grass to look at the stars or the well-endowed hunter moon. I love it. I love everything about those thirty-one days bridging September and November. I love the food, the flavors, the temperatures, the fact that I can finally wear my favorite sweaters and not turn into a puddle every time I step out the front door.

Peanut Butter Cup Meringue Cookies

The woman in New York City's Upper East Side shouted to me as I approached.
"WORK that jumpsuit, girl!"
 At first I wasn't sure if she was speaking to me at all, but she waved her cigarette and smiled as I passed close to her on the sidewalk. It was only a random compliment from a total stranger, yet more than a year later I think of that beautiful, brown-skinned woman whenever I wear the black jumpsuit. She could have silently admired my fashion choices, but she chose to remark on it to my face. Because of her casual brand of kindness, a powerful aura of confidence surrounds that jumpsuit to this day. There's something to this, I think: although negative words stick around our hearts, kind words stay even longer.

Hurricane Florence Snacks: Molly's Yeh's Marzipan Mandel Bread

September is a beautiful month. The roads at home have stepped up their game, all spangled with bright gold Jerusalem artichoke flowers and purple asters. The fields are heavy with rustling crops, wide swathes cut into the landscape daily by dusty tractors. There's a feeling of anticipation in the air, of hurry - even though the afternoons are still so heavy with sun that it's hard to keep your eyes open if you sit down for longer than a moment or two. Anticipation whispers behind all the false sleepiness of September because apart from those beautiful back-roads and patchwork fields and bountiful produce and mornings that begin to hint at cool weather to come, September brings hurricane season.

Homemade Fig Newtons

Work at the restaurant is going well these days. "Well," if you count all the times I basically neglected to place orders for things I desperately needed and ran out mid-service and had to go all over the place chasing my tail, and ruined three batches of beer caramel, and had biscuit crises, and generally took some gravel in a big learning curve. I've gained some small bit of notoriety in the kitchen. Most of it (all of it) is centered around the fact that because we don't have a combi oven yet, the biscuits turn out differently ever. single. day despite my best efforts. Well, the biscuits...and the fact that chef has never met anyone else in twenty years of cooking who uses her long, kitchen tweezers to instantly become taller and more able to reach things. Matt, our long-suffering and talented bartender, has put considerable effort into making mocktails for me on the nights when we're allowed a shift-drink. Since hiring a sweet polar bear of a high-school boy to wash dishes on the weekend, I've gained a non-drinking buddy and we laughingly down our fake margaritas together and cheers to Matt who is the best sport ever about it. Chef has allowed me some small opinion/choice in pastry innovation too, allowing me to suggest improvements or substitutions, menu item ideas, and assignments to choose new recipes. Even though fig season is almost over, I'm hugely of the opinion that we need a fig and olive oil cake dessert on our menu, pronto. Something like last autumn's fresh fig and olive oil cake? *heart eyes*

Over the years I've come to discover that figs - particularly dried ones - are a surprisingly polarizing subject. Somewhere along the way, dried figs unfairly got sidelined with prunes as boring food that only old people eat and our culture hasn't really recovered yet. People react in such odd ways when you ask if they like fig bars. It's almost as if some adult sat down at a board meeting with a can of baby puffs and started snacking on them. It's low-key socially unacceptable to like Fig Newtons and that is why anytime I'm left to decide on the snacks for a movie night, I bring a package (among other things) - nobody else will touch them and there will be fig bars for days for me and my small crew of fellow fig-lovers.

I just don't understand how you could hate something as inoffensive as a dried fig.

Okay, okay, so at some point The Huffington Post did write an article about fig wasps and the fact that in almost every single fig we eat, there is some form of mummified wasp contained within its sphere. But people eat insects all the time - my chef claims grasshoppers are delicious - and are you really going to be any worse off consuming the dead remains of a Wasp of Yesteryear when you snack on dried figs than you are accidentally inhaling a spider while you sleep? No. The answer is "no" because spiders are of the devil and I'd rather eat some dusty wasp crumbs any day before I'd knowingly eat an arachnid.

Crocs Are The Cockroaches Of The Footwear World: A Researched Opinion

A stock photo is as classy as I'm willing to get over the topic of Crocs

After a mere three weeks of wearing them at the restaurant, my Crocs have died a senseless death. Sounds impossible, right? Aren't Crocs the cockroaches of the footwear world? Throw a nuclear missile at a Payless and you know what would still be hanging on for dear life to it's BOGO tag once the mushroom cloud dispersed? Crocs.
Nevertheless, self-destruct they did. I am now the happy (if somewhat pained-in-the-wallet) owner of a pair of kitchen Birkenstocks winging their way toward me via the Amazonius Primus summoning spell. I hope they'll serve me better than those regrettable rubber husks that I wore for three weeks. I hate to sound like an elitist far as I'm concerned, Crocs can go extinct.

8 Things I Definitely Didn't Know About Restaurants

Hi, people! It's me! I'm alive! I know how to make pasta now! I wasn't side-eyed to death by a score of men in white uniforms my first week on the job. We haven't officially opened yet but let me tell you, this world is a new one. I have learned so incredibly much...because here's the thing: basically all of my skill and time spent cooking up till now seems a little, well, useless. I know it's not actually useless in the long run - I've got some great intuition and head-knowledge built up from years spent in the presence of cooking. But the way things are done among the pros renders the homemade way I've done it forever just wrong enough to knock me off my game and leave me feeling like a newbie. Thankfully, the people I'm working with are great teachers. They're patient. They're kind. They cuss cheerfully and swipe the third tray of macarons that hasn't baked properly into the compost and tell me it's the fault of the terrible oven, not me, and that it's getting replaced next week. I think what has stumped me most of all is less about the food we're making and more about the totally different equipment, terms, quantities and methods we're using. I wish I'd read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential before I started work here. I feel like I would've been much better prepared for the details of work in a professional kitchen. But hey - I didn't have any idea that I was going to soon be working in a fine dining restaurant, did I? This week has shown me that for those who want to learn, there is always opportunity. I do want to learn. And I have. And I will. And that's what makes me so excited for this job and this place.

Save The Hundred-Dollar Caviar

The first thing I want to say about my new job is, I don't have to wear ugly chef pants. I found that out and am going to happily return those ugly-butt things I bought and invest in a couple more pairs of normal black pants. Or because (for all my bank account knows) I've already spent the money: throw it into my Travel To Ireland fund. I think I'll do that.

As of writing this blog post, our team at the restaurant has done almost everything except cook together. Because it's a new construction/renovation project, there are inspections to be finished before we can start cooking in the kitchen. I'm studying our menu, googling all the things I don't know, and hoping nobody laughs me out of the kitchen because of my laymen's chopping skills. In my head I'm imagining the onion scene in Julie & Julia: hesitant slicing and a row of accomplished cooks waiting for me to catch up.

So I Guess I'm A Pastry Cook - Plus a Big Giveaway

I know. I know. It's been so long since I've blogged that you're thinking, "What, she's just going to get a new job and drop off the face of the planet?" Well, evidently. And yet I haven't even started the new job. I've got a training start-date (July 13th). I've said goodbye to all my weekends for the foreseeable future. I've broken a life-long promise to myself to never ever wear Crocs or shapeless pants. And to think I used to be a style-blogger. But I am no style blogger, am I? I'm a food writer, friend, gelato-hound, and not-very-funny comedienne....a recipe developer...a pastry apprentice?

Sour Cherry Cake

 "Make a choice. Take a step. Make a choice. Take a step. It's a rhythm of life. You may not get your answer until you make the choice and take the step."
- Hannah Brencher, Come Matter Here
I have written and re-written the body of this post several times. Thing is, as much as I intended to wonder about why we no longer swap recipes with each other (okay, outside of the food-blogging world), what wants to come out is something different. What wants to come out is a confession. So I'm going to confess it to you guys here, in hopes that if you're feeling something similar, you'll realize you're not the only one. Here it goes:

I'm really scared of succeeding.

Peach And Pimento Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

So here's the deal: I never count myself as a country girl. I didn't take horseback riding lessons or want a horse. I didn't date a farmer. I didn't (and don't) speak with a twang. But I definitely appreciate the fact that though it doesn't often make it onto the application, a portion of my professional resume involves helping to spearhead a baking, produce, and cut-flowers farm operation. I don't know why I appreciate it so much. I don't know. It's just cool to have lived an alternate life as a farmer, landscaper, house-builder, whatever (yes, I spent time as all these things during high school). For a whole year our lives were spent taking weeds off things and bugs off things and - when the weeds and bugs didn't prevail - taking vegetables off things. Listen: when you organically farm on a budget, there are no cool microorganisms you're ordering to do the weed-chopping and bug-pulling for you. It's pure manpower, babes. Man-power and fish emulsion.

Spice-Roasted Vegetables With Chermoula

Back in the day, I would never have agreed to fix a totally vegetarian/vegan meal for dinner. In my mind, "vegetarian" and "vegan" were ways you ate when normal food failed you, or you were allergic to basically everything on this planet except vegetables. I've always loved vegetables as the side-kick, but for too long I gave them very little title notice. Vegetables were the Debbie Reynolds-as-a-Coconut-Grove-girl from Singing in the Rain: cute, but nothing to put alongside the Gene Kellys of the dinner table.

Europe's Bread-Basket: The Romanian Food I Still Crave

little baby Rachel in Arad, Romania, circa 2013. how has it been this long???

"For we have been there in the books and out of the books - and where we go, if we are any good, there you can go as we have been." -Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa
It seems like not that long ago since I wrote about "backward travel" and the strength of being able to see your hometown like you'd see an exotic destination. I still believe those things, but a month of watching friends and family travel Europe, seeing other friends go on-mission to Africa and Romania, seeing favorite bloggers touring Paris's so difficult to be home! All those movies like Mamma Mia and books like Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa are reminding me that places as beautiful as Greece and Kenya exist. It's like all these things have conspired to turn me into one big mass of "I miss the big, wide world."
"Today was shaorma day! We found a corner place in downtown Bucarest and got the fulfillment of our dreams of two years back and had amazing shaorma. He double-wrapped in plastic bags my shaorma and then paper and still it leaked all the lovely juices onto the table and all over my hands but it was delightful. Shaorma. Mmm."

Lemon and Elderflower Mini Cakes

When I heard that Meghan Markle was engaged to marry Prince Harry, I felt a twinge of sad-happy. Of course I would never marry him myself, but I always felt as sort of distant affection for him - my favorite of Diana's sons. However, the real winner in the entire wedding situation is anyone who cared what sort of wedding dress she'd wear, which tiara would grace the head of the newest princess, and above all, what their wedding cake would be like. That gown-veil combo was the ideal cross between Grace Kelly, Maria Von Trapp, and Modern Taste. The tiara was amazing. And when it was declared that Claire Ptak of Violet Bakery would be creating a lemon and elderflower cake decorated with fresh flowers, I knew I wanted in!

Backward Travel: The Strength of Truly Seeing Home

Sometimes you're actually able to travel far afield and see new sights, visit places that have always been on your bucket list, and meet strangers whose un-exploredness makes your heart thunder, swell, and leap toward a shy, "hello," in a language you're absolutely no good at, not even a little bit.

These experiences are truly like no other and even one trip "abroad" furnishes one's mind with more memories to thumb through during "boring" days later on than almost anything else of which I can think. But other times you are land-locked, held in your own place and your own habits for what seems like too long.
That's me this month. I crave to be up and away and going someplace new. I always get to this stage because for three years in a row, I left the country this time of year and spent two weeks in Romania on a missions trip. This will now be the third year in a row that I have not been able to spend time with those friends I made across an entire ocean and a significant part of me feels like being in America during the month of May is just unbearable.

Blackberry-Bay Compote With Yogurt

because I misplaced my camera's battery-charger you get the joy of iPhone photos today!

It's snack time and we're little kids. You wanted "Ants on a Log" but Mom decided that we'd have yogurtandjelly instead. You have to say it like that: "yogurtandjelly." Even though it's arguably our favorite snack, we're not really sure if this is a real thing eaten any other place in the world besides 968 Smoke Tree Lane. In fact, there is a fair amount of evidence that would say yogurtandjelly was invented because individual packaged, flavored yogurts are too expensive to buy in the quantity our family needs them. Whatever the impetus for inventing it, yogurtandjelly is queen in our snack-dom. We tip-toe to peer over the edge of the counter and make the all-important decision of which jelly we want today. If you want to be like Mom, you might choose apricot. If you want to seem grown up you'll pick raspberry. But today we choose strawberry because strawberry tastes of summertime and besides all that, it turns the yogurt pink.

So This Is Your Mid-Twenties....

I think I've officially reached the epitome of being in your mid-twenties: not only do I identify with it in terms of age, but everything about my life lines up with the iconic "being a twenty-something": I'm full of ideas for the career I want, my current work looks nothing like the career I want, I'm single, I'm always busy, I do yoga every day, seldom eat at home, and have the freedom to make spontaneous decisions like waking up at 4 AM for a beach sunrise, or buying four packages of cream cheese and making a cheesecake at 9 PM. Most of my long-time friends are now family-people, my weekends are filled with events related to weddings, and if I have to buy one more baby shower gift, I'm going to have to go live in a Charitable Home for Destitute Twenty-Somethings.

#Cakespeare: An Alternative To #DrakeonCake

Look, y'all. Drake on Cake is a thing. There's an Instagram account. A piece on Delish. A Buzzfeed article. Essentially people anywhere and everywhere in the world are taking Drake's rap lyrics and putting them on cake, half because there are some good lyrics and half because "Drake" conveniently rhymes with "cake." I mean, I get it - #DrakeonCake is just the sort of purposeful, tidy, culturally-significant hashtag that would go viral. Many times I've been close to putting Drake on my own cake. The one problem is this:  I don't listen to Drake. I don't know Drake. Putting Drake on my cake would be like appropriating someone else's family photos and hanging them above my fireplace. I wish I could viably put Drake lyrics on my cake and get to join the super fun party. However, I don't know that I've ever listened to a single Drake song (rap?), let alone a whole album. Looks like the #DrakeonCake party isn't one I can conceivably attend. No. You know what's more my speed? Laugh if you will. Tell me it's nerdy (it is). You want to know the party I'm starting?

I Used To Be A Novelist: Monday In The Stacks

Most of you don't know (or don't remember) that before I embroiled myself in the food world, I thought I wanted to be a novelist. This phase lasted a good long while and spanned the writing of several unpublished novels and the publishing of three before I finally realized I liked people - and being with them - too much to lock myself away and rack up a word-count. Still, novels or not, I love writing fiction and sometimes browse through my file of old pieces. Funny enough, many of the standalone scenes I've written involved apt picture of real life: everyday dramas playing out across the breakfast table. I thought I'd start sharing some of the pieces on occasional Mondays to break things up a bit around here. If you like this one, leave a comment and I'll have a better idea of whether this is something you find entertaining. Cheers!

illustration by Neryl Walker

“Would mademoiselle like me to look out for her partner in the lobby?” The maitre d’ bowed over the table, over her arm, till the white breast of his uniform nearly brushed the pink carnations.
“No, merci,” she answered.
“Mademoiselle is waiting for someone, no? Allow me to page him.”
“Monsieur is most helpful but no, merci.”
“Mademoiselle came tonight alone?”
Corinna Demarque quieted her fretful hands like white doves in the lap of her black dress, and smiled. Allowances must be made for the man’s ill-concealed curiosity. He was, after all, French. Corinna, quite American herself, had an unusually deep well of patience where the French were concerned.
“As it happens,” she said, “I am celebrating tonight.”

Lemon Coconut Macaroons

Lemon coconut macaroons. Can you taste the sunshine? These bright, tropical cookies now encompass the idea of island time and vacation weeks for me. Macaroons aren't something I'm very familiar with. I've made macarons more often than I've made macaroons and I'm not ashamed to admit that when I baked up a batch of these tropical cookies, I was surprised to discover that you whipped egg whites to stiff peaks and folded them into the batter. I guess I was a clueless wonder - tell me, am I the only one who has reached the age of twenty-five without every making macaroons?

Robin's Egg Easter Cake

Happy Easter weekend, fam! I thought that this robin's egg Easter cake was the perfect way to express my undying love for the first flush of spring. I always have these grand ideas that an iPhone photo will never ever show up on my blog at any point in time. My reasons are numerous: who wants to see an iPhone photo outside of Instagram? What brands want to work with bloggers who don't put in the effort for real photos? What readers are going to find an iPhone photo tempting enough to convince them to make the cake or even read the article? Despite all of these questions, I still do it occasionally for your sake. After posting a photo of it on Instagram, you all called for the recipe for a speckled, spackled, pretty little robin's egg-inspired cake.

Juniper-Lemon Balsamic Ripple Ice Cream

It's funny, how life happens.When I wrote my last blog post and touched on the subject of grief and goodbyes, I did not think that the next time I wrote it would be to tell you that my grandmother had actually died.

Roasted Beet Hummus

Make Banana Pancakes, Pretend Like It's The Weekend Now

I met my second little niece this weekend! Friday, after being subjected to an abysmal salad at a restaurant I don't even like, I drove 3 1/2 hours to a sleepy little town at the hem of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My brother and his family live here in a little tan house with a little white porch. His wife gave birth to their second daughter on Monday. Little Piper has joined her big sister, Ellie, in a family that is so full of love and laughter and I can't wait to see her get old enough to have a personality. For now she is full of cries that sound (appropriately) like a baby seabird's. Once I got my fill of baby snuggles, I got to devote the rest of my time and attention to Ellie (2) who was full of dramatic ideals of running away and/or hiding in her play tunnel come bed time. We opted to make banana pancakes instead. Because when the world is rainy, or it's a Monday, or you've gone from only child to big sister and your daddy sprains his "twinkle" (twisted + ankle = twinkle), stirring up some banana pancakes with your doting and very cool and totally single-and-available aunt is precisely what the doctor orders.

Cook To This - The Songs I Kitchen With

The absolute best music to play while cooking is almost as subjective a topic as what the absolute best kind of cake is, or where the absolute best place to vacation is. In fact, I doubt that any opinion on the matter of music, cake, or vacationing could be accurately referred to as "absolute," being that "absolute" means inarguable and these things leave themselves wide open to argument. That aside, we all have our opinions are are entitled to them. Joy at Joy The Baker spends a considerable amount of time on Instagram cooking along to rock music or piping Drake on Cake. Other bloggers go full-on indie with their music, some oldies, some Broadway. I love music and I love cooking to music so it was only natural that I'd try to get you on board with the songs I love. My taste in music skips all over the place but when it comes time to get in the kitchen, I can be depended on to settle into music that could casually fall under the "easy listening" headline. I like melodies and lyrics that can be listened to on their own or provide a gentle background for conversation that is going on in the kitchen. You know sometimes music is going and playing and you're jamming out and then somebody comes in in the middle of a Twenty-One Pilots song and there's nothing for it but to pause  the music so you can carry on a conversation? That isn't the direction I like to take when cooking because for me, there is almost ALWAYS somebody in the kitchen with me. I like music that carries you along and sweeps you away and makes you feel like you're in the montage sequence of a Europe-based rom-com. You know? People always end up asking about the music behind my cooking stories on Instagram instead of paying attention to the food (kidding, kidding). I've decided to answer the question once and for all and put together an official "Cook To This" playlist. It's about an hour and a half long - just right for tackling your latest Great British Baking Show challenge or making a recipe off your favorite cooking blog!

That loud, conversation-trouncing kind of music that we just discussed is what this playlist is not. The songs I've thrown together here are just as pleasant at a low volume as they are when you have the kitchen all to yourself. The list isn't curated to be played in any specific order so those of you who don't have Spotify premium? I got your back - just hit "shuffle" and let the algorithm sort itself out! Of course, if you do want to play the playlist all the way through, I've rigged it so you've got a little bit of Jack Johnson and Sara Bareilles and The Afters all mixed in with Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Connick Jr. so you'll still be surprised. All set? Here you go. Enjoy, and tag me in your Instagram stories if you happen to cook while listening so I can enjoy it along side you!

“Give me book, fruit, French wine, and fine weather and a little music out of doors played by someone I do not know.” - John Keats

Power Couples: My Favorite Love-Stories And Their Snack-Baes

I've always loved to read, My mom would limit me and my siblings to 15 books (each) per library trip and would discipline me by taking away reading rights. Books, stories, and the way they draw people together in life are some of my truest loves. I thought it would be fun to set up some of my favorite romantic books on dates with some of my favorite snacks. You know, a sort of power-couple speed-dating event? We all know that books pair best with a drink or food and that a cozy evening in isn't complete without one or the other to accompany your favorite story. For this post I chose books that, while well-known, aren't exactly over-read. That way you aren't sitting here with yet another suggestion to read Pride & Prejudice, as much as you might love it. Each book suggestion comes with a snack suggestion, so scroll through and swipe right if you like what you see. ;) Happy Valentine's Day!

When "I'm Tired of Being Single" Means So Incredibly Much More

No, this post isn't about food or about Valentine's Day, really at all. Though Lipstick & Gelato is a food-blog, it is also about the heart of matters. About your heart, and mine, and the way it all comes out in the food we make. So in that vein I'm serving up some honest-to-goodness vulnerability. Some real talk. Some "this is what took up all my heart-space this week." It isn't a feel-good post, but it's an honest one and I hope that it hits someone like an embrace. XOXO

"I'm so tired of being single.
I don't think I even knew everything that I meant when I sent that text. Despite my greatest efforts to get over myself and find joy in my freaking-awesome single stage, despite my gratefulness for the community I get to do life with, despite taking care of my body better than ever, getting plenty of sleep, having a jam-packed social life and anticipating the birth of my second niece, in these baby months of 2018 I just can't seem to kick the longing for more than a week or two. So I sent that text to more than one friend and spent that day feeling the kind of aloneness that only comes to a heart-sore extrovert on-shift by herself on a slow day with approximately two sales transactions to break the monotony. These bouts of longing come now and then but I am usually good at sprinting through them, whether by

Golden Mango Immune-Boosting Smoothie

Here in coastal Virginia, winter is trying to die. We've had a few days of brilliant sunshine which have reminded some of us that there's this really huge star called the Sun that sometimes does this cool thing where it kisses us with immune-boosting vitamin D. Other times, though, it seems like summertime and sunshine and fresh produce and not having to worry about getting the flu every time another human looks in your direction is but a dream.

Lavender London Fog Layer Cake

Fun fact: I'm going to Florida soon. Other fun fact: when I first visited Florida and passed a highway exit labeled "Tropicana Field" I 100% thought it was the place where the orange groves are located and got super excited and then basically melted of embarrassment when I was told it had something to do with sports. Other fun fact: it's Super Bowl Sunday. Again. And instead of a Super Bowl snack recipe, we've got a Valentine's Day recipe. Why? Because I un-apologetically care more about love than I do about which terrifyingly massive football player has hold of the ball.

5 Easy Ways To Fix Eggs During Your Whole 30 Challenge

do you like these eggs I doodled?
Day 29 of the Whole 30 challenge! In some ways I'm surprised I actually went through with it, and in other ways I always knew I could and would. I know I haven't been the absolute best at writing about it as I went along, but I feel there are so many other bloggers who were more on top of this thing than I was. Not every meal was brilliant. I know I drank non-compliant almond milk and fries which weren't in the spirit of the Whole30 challenge (and later found out were "salted" with a mix of sugar and salt. That was my biggest cheat). But I did it! Besides - can anyone ACTUALLY do a perfect Whole 30? I bet someone can, but she isn't me. All nit-picking aside, I did the thing, guys! And it really does feel good. There is nothing better than knowing that you've been taking good care of your bodies, right? In the past I've definitely underrated this, but I'm growing to love it.

Color Theory And The Food World

When humans encounter color, an interesting thing happens. We not only see the color, we feel it. It seems that people attach a significant amount of emotion and feeling to color, which is evident in marketing schemes, power outfits, and even the crayons you most used as a child. There's a reason Captain Hook baked Peter Pan a poison cake and turned it green. Because cake is supposed to be many things, but sickly green? It's not one of them. I feel the same cringing that overtook Tinkerbelle when anyone posts a photo of matcha waffles, grassy smelling and almost comically green. It does not look like something I remotely want to eat and I sometimes wonder...what has happened to the colors in our food palette?

Bring An Emergency Potato (And Other Remarks)

I chose a seat near a window today. Great drifts of snow - sullen and sulky because the air is fifty degrees now and they're gradually down-sizing - are heaped upon the sidewalk. I almost didn't make it to the coffee shop down these back-streets it wasn't in the budget to plow.

When Love Is Silent

Although there are definitely some things on which we blatantly disagree, I sat in my car watching Oprah Winfrey win the Cecil B. DeMille award and listened to her speech and thought, thank you. For her coherency, her heart, and her compassion. For her ability (in this case) to put into words things that needed saying. Sometimes when I write about cooking or entertaining, I wonder if anyone cares. Not you, my readers, but anyone in the wider sense of the world. Does it matter if a person does or does not throw a dinner party? Does it matter if a woman knows how to set a pretty table for her girl gang when in other places in the world, girls are being gang-raped?

Plantain Chips With Lemon Pepper Aioli

Whole 30 comfort food. It's a category, you know. Although a very small, narrow, diminutive category. The world, in South-eastern Virginia, is quiet. "Bomb cyclone," "snowpocalypse," "blizzard." All of them terms for the reason the world hushed when the snow began to fall. Of course it didn't stay quiet - everyone crammed the roads and descended en masse on the grocery store - but once we were all settled in, silence reigned and has held sway ever since. My dad is still out plowing snow, 40-some hours later. The rest of us are solidly stuck where we are. We went out for a walk yesterday and again this morning, trying to read a story in the snow-tracks and succeeded in getting happily chilled. By now the snow on the road has oozed and packed into a solid ice-cake, rendering us pretty much immobile, though we might hazard it in pursuit of coffee later on.

Adjusting to eating the Whole 30 way hasn't been terribly terribly difficult. There were headaches the first couple of days, then cravings ranging from cheesecake to grilled cheese sandwiches, but we survived the snow without defecting! Most of my cravings have arisen from lack of the distinct crunch that belongs to toasted bread, tortilla chips, wheat crackers, and the like. Vegetables are crunchy, potatoes can be crispy, but none of them have the crunch I was looking for. Then I learned about plantain chips.
"Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope."
I wasn't sure what to expect, having never eaten a plantain, but I went ahead and heated half an inch of precious coconut oil in a pan, sliced the plantain thin, and dropped it in. When the little coins turned to gold and got scooped out, I tossed them with a sprinkle of sea salt and tasted one. Guys, game-changer. They crunched! They actually crunched! Vaguely sweet with the perfect texture and saltiness. Exactly what you crave while eating this way without going entirely off-plan. Sure, plantain chips aren't supposed to make up the majority of your diet here, but it's certainly an ideal Whole 30 treat. When paired up with a homemade lemon-pepper aioli (and a bunless burger with prosciutto and avocado) these plantain chips make for the most amazing, indulgent, satisfying Whole 30 meal you ever did see. Here's to surviving the snow and staying on-track.

Plantain Chips with Lemon Pepper Aioli
serves 4
-for chips-
2 plantains, sliced thin
1 cup coconut oil
sea salt

-for aioli-
1/2 cup Whole 30-approved (or homemade) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
  1. Heat coconut oil in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until a plantain slice dropped in begins to fry. Add other plantain slices (not too many at a time) and cook until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, salt, and allow to cool.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients for the aioli till smooth, and serve in a small dish for dipping, or drizzle over the burger!