Homemade BLT

I haven't done as much cooking as I would expect recently... but this week I did make a beautiful BLT. I've loved BLT sandwiches since birth and truly believe they are the best sandwich. In honor of the sun returning to Boston with some degree of consistency this week, I imagined a great afternoon sitting at my kitchen table, noshing on a BLT and sending out some emails. Unfortunately, there isn't really a great place for a BLT in the North End. There are good places, but not great places.

The only obvious answer was to make my own bread and mayo for the event. 

In the past I've made a few different types of bread, but this time I attempted ciabatta. Whenever I'm looking up (almost) any recipe idea, I always add the word "easy" to the search. I'm sure there are hard ways to make ciabatta but I'm not interested in it now. While the initial steps could appear cumbersome, it is actually super easy to make (far easier than amazing scones). The bread turned out perfect as far as I'm concerned and I will definitely make it again. And soon.

In the event making bread wasn't enough of a challenge for one day, I figured I would add mayonaise to the docket. I've witnessed people making mayo before and it felt challenging but do-able. Certainly reasonable for a sunny afternoon in my kitchen - but then I found a 30-second mayo recipe and I was convinced. I'm sure there are more sophisticated and refined ways to do this, but homemade mayo in 30 seconds? Done.

The trick to homemade mayo is having the ingredients at room temperature. I obviously hadn't planned ahead for this - so I just put the egg on my fire escape in the sun.... and then went for a quick run. Success.
Here's how each of these come together. I honestly didn't take pictures of this process because I wasn't convinced it would work - but it did. Sorry about that :)

hot toddy time

I've recently been given the gift of time. The time to do nearly anything I want... at least in the short term :). While I won't say that every day has been easy street, I am significantly enjoying myself and feeling really productive... at least until this week.

This week, I've come down with some nasty, mean, voice-stealing, throat-scratching virus. You know that episode of Friends where Phoebe has the sexy singing voice? Yeah, I don't have that. I've tried so many different remedies, pills, and potions that it is maddening. Today I walked 9 miles in part because walking is more distracting than watching tv and distractions are what make the scratching go away.

Fun note? On my second trip to the doctor's today, she asked me if I had tried their "magic mouthwash". I kid you not it felt like I was in the middle of Jack and the Beanstalk and someone tried to sell me magic beans not covered by Tufts Health Insurance. I bought the $30 magic juice... took a swig... and then read the bottle. No water for an hour after taking it. Pure torture. I gave up at 39 minutes.

Here are some other things I've done in the last two weeks:
  • organized my bookshelves by color
  • got rid of one more moving box (yes, I moved exactly 1 year ago today... I'm slow)
  • made some snack organizing boxes... and organized my pantry snacks. One box has "good snacks" the other is chex mix and gold fish.
  • worked out nearly every day
  • planted some flowers from seed. I'm hoping to grow some dahlias of all shapes and sizes. Double crossies.
  • whipped up this great asparagus salad
  • paid my library fines ($19) and got a new card
  • visited the seals nearly every day

roasted pear and chocolate scones

My interest in making scones might be getting a little out of control - but I really won't apologize for it.

Scones are rising to the top of my list recently. It feels like you can put almost anything in them - which is why I like them so much. Kind of like the pizza, you can really use them to take care of any spare ingredients you have around the kitchen. This week my spare ingredients are pears. The pears were a gift from my grandfather. Sometimes when I call him walking home from work we talk about what he's been eating. Since he isn't much of a cook, he eats a lot of salads. Given his new found appreciation for baby spinach, I thought I might be able to sell him on kale. Not quite happening - but he did promise to try this salad if I make it.

He is rather sweet on pears - which I think are super weird and refused to bring into my house. So obviously, he gave me a half dozen. Turns out, I've been judging pears based on their looks. They aren't quite bad... but they are especially good in scones. I'm still going to pick other fruits over pears, but I'll hold back on the judging fruit based on its looks. Especially if you add just the right amount of mini chocolate chips.

white bean, sausage and kale soup

The winter is finally almost coming to a close but there is still a bit more time left for soup.

Two years ago, it feels like all I did was make soup ... and this year not so much. While I've been cooking a little bit more than the writing lets on, there has been minimal soup and minimal amounts of kale. Kale is one of the aspirational vegetables that I would often purchase on the weekend, but barely barely barely get around to using before it gets crazy wilty.

This time was very different. I was home for the weekend last week and envisioned this coming together when I walked in those automatic grocery store doors. I did a little googling to make sure I wouldn't miss anything big in terms of ingredients and was on my way. BTW, it's amazing how much more affordable suburban groceries are. Clementines are pretty much always $5.

banana bread scones (+ nutella)

A couple months ago, I was regularly crushing chocolate shakes every day. It was a pretty good routine. I would make them in the morning before work, toss them in the fridge, then savor them in the afternoon instead of a bag of Goldfish. Because of this, I started buying bananas... which I really don't like. But in a smoothie, you have no idea it's a banana.

Then I forgot to rinse out my smoothie bottle, it got gross... and the smoothie train stopped but I still had bananas to eat. They've just been sitting on my counter for awhile slowly ripening day by day. I knew I had to take care of them this weekend but was kind of resilient to just making banana bread. It felt like a cop out. I stumbled upon this recipe for banana bread scones via Pinterest and was sold. 

Instead of following the directions completely, I leveraged what I had learned last week from America's Test Kitchen to modify the recipe. I was a little worried how the mashed banana would affect the dough but it turned out just fine. I've already eaten two scones... and they've been out of the oven for a mere 25 minutes. While you don't need nutella to enjoy these, I can assure you that you won't regret it. The nutella gets a little melty on a warm scone... and it's heavenly.

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

I never ever aspire to be a vegetarian. I don't even think I could date a vegetarian. But, sometimes there are some really winning recipes out there specifically crafted to be just that... meatless. This is one of them. Vegetarian Shepherd Pie.

I first made Shepherds Pie back in 2013. I was shocked at how easy and seriously delicious it was. Plus, the leftovers were also amazing. Shepherds Pie is essentially topped with mashed potatoes ... and nobody is ever mad at eating those on day 2-5. If they are, I don't want to know them.

This recipe came to me via a NYC chef that I've followed before. I've previously made her Baked Eggplant Rigatoni, Spinach and Lentil Soup, and Caesar Kale Salad. Since I've been working more, I feel like I have less time to actually treat my body like a temple... so this recipe is my attempt at that. I'll just restrict the meat. I did panic at the last minute that this was just "too healthy"... so I added butter and parmesan to the potato topping. Genius.

coconut oil honey almond granola

 Homemade granola is something to file under: "way too easy" and "never buy store version again".

I can almost guarantee that I won't stick to that promise... but homemade granola is beyond easy. It is also super quick. I'm not sure why, but I had it in my head that making granola would be slightly more intensive of a process. This was quite literally 15 minutes of which 10 were in the oven.

I made this on impulse one Sunday evening after making a Vegetarian Lentil Shepherds Pie. I stumbled upon the recipe via Pinterest and realized I had all the ingredients - except vanilla extract. My sister stole my extract months ago... and this was really the first time I've missed it. I know its not the same, but I just use almond extract instead and everyone is still alive and happy.

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