10.17.2014

wine and bridges.


Fall is like that girl you used to be friends with in high school, you really like her, but it’s probably best that you two don’t hang out that often. She reminds you of the old times, the good times, and times you would rather forget....but the nostalgia soon turns to indulgence, and before you know it you are four episodes into a thirtysomething marathon, wearing sweatpants, and eating a whole bag of cheese curls with a toothpick.

Because I'm  fancy that way.

Since we are celebrating Fall, and none of us had taken a vacation in four months, we decided it was time for a day trip. An entire day across the grape curtain, to Wine Country, aka “The Grand River Valley in the Heart of America.”


If you have never been to Wine County, let me tell you, it is snazzy. Besides the covered bridges and turning leaves, there are also equal opportunities for wine tasting, cheese tasting, and ice cream tasting. These people know how to prioritize! If there are any Califorians  non-Midwesterners reading this and thinking the whole Ohio Wine Region Thing is an act. Yeah, no. It’s all real. It’s all vineyards, all the time. And it is glorious. We went to this tiny church converted to a wine tasting room and it was so charming! 



The thing to do in a vineyard is to find a peaceful spot and order snacks and a wine tasting tray. There are plenty to choose from, I love The Lakehouse Inn, I would describe it as somewhere between a winery and a Bed and Breakfast with killer views of the water. but we always end up at the Harpersfield Winery, we save it for last, like dessert. So far, it's my favorite. I pretended I was back in Tuscany. Grape vines and trees and fountains and stuff. I'll bet they do nice events here. Plus they have the sweetest dogs there to greet you. so they don't actually have a No Kids Under 13 policy, but still, everyone there appeared to be 20-something or 60+. At one point I spotted four drunk happy grannies sitting on a corner patio table. So cool.


 Most of the beaches along Lake Erie are pebbles and rocks. But what they lack in sandy sprawling space, it makes up for in beauty. plus there are the covered bridges. It’s pretty much like Bridges of Madison County, except Robert and Francesca are wearing a Cleveland Browns gear, and without the ill fated love affair and death bed confession. okay, it's nothing like that but it's amazing. Now is as good of a time as any to tell you that I read way too many romance novels. I blame Emily Bronte and Jane Austin. cheeky little minxes.

 Earlier that day, we got stuck in a giant traffic jam watched the Grape Festival Parade we had front row seats and the time of our lives. I don’t know why more people don't get stuck in traffic. I highly recommend it. plus, we shared a huge funnel cake. between six of us and there were leftovers.  It was gigantic. I could not believe how big it was and the lady was all, "You guys are just in time! we just rolled in a fresh batch of dough! " and we were all "are they always that big?" and she was all "You aren't from around here areyanow?"

Are-ya-now! that is totally my new favorite word.

just sayin'.


concord grape cornmeal cake 
adapted just barely from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, plus more
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; more for grapes
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 pound Concord grapes (or black grapes), stemmed, seeds removed, divided 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cast iron skillet (or an 8x8x2-inch baking dish). Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl to combine. Add oil and 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk to blend. Whisk in flour mixture, then buttermilk. Stir in honey, being careful not to fully incorporate

Pour batter into prepared skillet. Toss about 2/3 of grapes with a large pinch of flour in a medium bowl until well coated. Scatter over cake batter.

Bake until cake turns light golden brown around the edges and starts to set, 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter remaining grapes over cake. Continue to bake until top is golden brown and cake springs back when pressed, 20-25 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly in pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. yum.

10.10.2014

and I'm happy.

I tend to get cranky with the changing of the seasons. Happens every dang time.

As much as I'd love to be the all-season girl who easily rolls with the changes, it turns out I'm actually the girl who spends big bucks on two bags of mini gourds and a wonky ghost pumpkin.

And boots.
But that's a given.


As luck would have it, just as that tweedy, golden-hued, nubby, brisk-aired itch blew through the back screen door, Howard arrived.

sigh.

(everyone keeps calling him a hobo. we're working on it.)

I love him.

Let me just say, once more for the record, I don't get you "Fall is my favorite season" people with your chunky knits and your leaf frolics. I don't get football or candy corn. I don't really like apple cider. (Is that a real Fall thing? Because I feel like it might be and I do not really like it. Unless it's served with donuts. I like donuts. or chocolate. or caramel. (Now I'm just being silly).)

The main problem is that Fall robs me of my beloved Summer. It makes me angry cold. It makes me wear socks and flannel pajama pants to a bed fitted with fleece~y sheets, and then I'm velcroed in. I can't move. Sleeping gets kinda awkward.

But the real problem is, I live in Mayberry RFD now. And you cannot imagine how beautiful this little town can be in October. Even when it's raining, and the sky looks like soggy cardboard, all I see is gold.

Maybe my love for Fall is deeper than I even knew.

All I know is, you're a looker, Fall.

and how cool is it that you thought ahead to make different kinds of leaves turn different colors for your visit? You must have known how happy tie-dyed leaves covering everything would make some of us.

I don't get it all, but I do get that much.

It'll have to be enough.

In your honor, I'm kicking it. I'm going to go with the flow, even though Kohl's has Christmas decorations out, and I think about summer on the hour, I'm here for you.

I present a list of all I could love about you. pumpkin anything! soups and stews (chili and corn bread). cable knit cardigans. crunchy leaves. boots. filtered sunshine. cozy striped socks (and argyle!). caramel apples. horror movies. Fall spices~cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. scarves (a serious weakness). English tea w/milk. hikes. duvets. corduroy. oatmeal breakfasts. oh, and have your skies always been so blue?

 So today, here I am, with my festive fall foliage, my beef stew and my Frye boots. I'm standing in crunchy leaves, without a coat, sunshine overhead.

And I'm happy.



just sayin' 


 {Pumpkin Spice Muffin with Cream Cheese Filling}
I make this muffin one of two ways: with streusel or without streusel.  Pictured is a "non-streusel",  obviously, they are amazing either way. 

Yields: 20-24 muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin pans.

Muffin batter:
1 Spice Cake Mix
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Allspice
1/4 tsp. Cloves
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
A few dashes of Ginger
2 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
2 eggs
1tsp. Vanilla extract
1 15oz. can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
 
1. Combine cake mix and spices.
2. Combine all wet ingredients.
3. Combine wet and dry and mix very well.

 Cream Cheese Filling:
1 -8oz. Package of cream cheese, softened
A few dashes of allspice
¼ tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tbsp. Sugar

1. Stir cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
2. Add vanilla, sugar and allspice.
3. Mix well.

 Streusel topping (optional):
½ c. flour
½ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
dash of Salt
¼ c. walnuts
1 stick of cold butter

 1. Cut butter into chunks.
2. Combine butter and dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until well combined and crumbs are about pea-sized or smaller.
3. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.


Assembling the muffins:
*Try to do this as quickly as possible...the faster the better! You don't want flat muffins.

1. Place enough batter in each muffin cup to cover the bottom. Do this carefully...it's easy to go overboard and not have enough to cover the filling.
2. Make a little well in the center of the batter with the back of a teaspoon.
3. Put a rounded teaspoon of cream cheese filling in each well.
4. Cover each glob of filling with more muffin batter.
5. Lightly smooth the tops of the batter to cover the cream cheese.
6. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over all of the muffins. If you like them really “streuselly”, use it all, if not, you'll have some for another recipe!
7. Bake at 350 for about 18-20 minutes. (When you check these, just check around the edge since the middle will obviously be gooey!)
8. Remove from pan to a wire rack after about 2-3 minutes of cooling.


yum!


10.03.2014

picnic.

I have been wanting to tell you all about our picnic.

Because life certainly has its wonderful moments, and this was one of them. I had the chance to see some of my favorite people. ever. It's hard to believe we were there, in the Park,  just a few weeks ago.

I came home feeling every single way. I was full. Indescribably free. happy.
I'm still holding those things to my heart. I still feel all of it.
So much happened in just a few short hours, heart things and things I could just reach out and grab.
It seemed like all of them were good, and it still seems like that today, upon further reflection.

I don't know. It feels risky to be so sure.

Why is unbridled optimism sometimes scary?
No, really, why?

It's hard to shape our time together into just the right words.
I could try, but I'm confident it still wouldn't be enough.

What I can say is that Life has plans for each of us.
We use our everyday moments to unleash bold visions and chest-thumping dreams.

It took me a little while to let the knowledge sink in, that even though I was there as a helper, I was there. I was every bit a part of the design. I was there with intention, and not just to help with the dishes.

As soon as it sank in I was even more impassioned.

Yep.
It was good.

We shared our hearts in a way that only a big, friends forever group of beautiful school chums can.
We shared a picnic lunch and a life full of dreams, and then I did a throw-back to high school, cue the drama when I was 15.

I confidently  pulled each one into those dreams of mine. It was just a matter of time.

For now, I only have one picture to share.

I won't lie and say it didn't feel good to see everyone, but the weather almost stole the show. it was perfect. perfect. Warm, sunshiney with clear blue skies, baby.

Everyone brought food and we immediately swan-dived into the deep end. These are my people.
In utter truth and sincerity I tell you this, I count myself very blessed to be able to say that I am still friends with many of the very same people that I walked into my first day of Junior High School with. Our class was huge. We started out as scrawny 12 year-olds and 6 years later, shopped for outfits to wear under graduation gowns. We were there for one another through sixties bangs and bell bottom jeans. We had sleepovers and spats and went on double-dates and then we all went our separate ways. And still, here we are. As years pass, I realize more and more that this is rare.

and that I never want it to end.

Boom.
Friends for life.

We met new people and smooched puppies. And because I'm excitable and kinda scattered, I didn't get a proper shot with any of them.

But right away, I adored them.

As a display of my adoration, I gave strangers chocolate chip cookies and conned them into a water balloon fight. their very first. they brought us steaming pots of sweet tea. and shy smiles.

 Somewhere in the middle, I knew in the depths of my soul that Dear Summer was almost over, in fact she may have hopped out the window and cleared the ditch on the drive home.

 So, today it's fall y'all! The Uggs are on, the windows are wide open, and I'm seven sips deep in a pumpkin latte. This felt like the shortest summer on record, so I'm whining more transitioning to cold weather a little slower than usual. Plus, instead of traditional autumnal shades of red and rust and gold, I'm thinking navy and magenta and avocado.

Still keeping gold, though, because, well everything goes better with gold. And glitter. Obviously.

just sayin'.



apple and honey cake
(from this book)

Topping
4 tiny-to-small apples, halved, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Batter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey (any variety you like to eat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 good pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Glaze
1/4 cup honey
A good pinch of sea salt

Heat oven: To 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform with butter or a nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

Prepare apples: Place peeled, halved and cored apples cut-side-down on a cutting board. Use a knife to create parallel thin slices, but only cut halfway through each apple so that the apples stay intact. It's okay if you cut through, you can just reassemble the halves on the cake.

In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Prepare cake base: Beat butter and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar together in a bowl with electric beaters until fluffy. Add honey and beat until combined. Add vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over cake batter, and mix for just 5 seconds, until they disappear. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined.

In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake batter, to lighten it a little. Fold in the rest in three additions. It will seem impossible to fold in at first because the batter is so stiff, but it will loosen with careful folding. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared (a couple faint streaks of egg white are fine).

Spread cake batter in prepared cake pan, smoothing the top. Arrange apple halves facedown over the cake batter. To warn, 4 tiny/small apples will definitely fit over the cake batter. No need to press the apples into the batter. You can pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.
Bake cake: 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then cut around the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely. You can store it at room temperature at this point, or after you add the honey, for up to 3 days at room temperature. After that, a fridge is best for longevity. The cake is lovelier on day 2 than day 1.

Before serving, if you’d like the glaze to look glossy, or whenever the cake is cool, if you don’t mind if the honey sinks into the cake: Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it liquefies to the point where it makes a thin glaze — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake.