foliage fun


Whenever summer leaves, I mourn the end of it hard. I'm not sure what exactly it is that I miss the most. It might be the extra hours of daylight, warmth, and limited expectations for productivity. I expect very little from myself during summer weekends. Take a walk. Take care of the tomatoes. Eat a BLT.

But when October rolls around, I'm full on embracing Fall - especially one with this super warm weather. For the last two weekends, it's been beautiful and the leaves are turning and I'm loving it. I grab Ruby May and we hit the road to stretch our legs. She does not like the woods. So I literally end up lifting her out of the car at every stop - which is fun because she's a 60 pound dog shaped sand bag. 

Earlier this week I had a doctor's appointment which gave me the opportunity to see some leaves mid-week. It was really great. Like, want to do it more often great - which is of course hard because of work. But, I've scouted out a few other spots on the South Shore that could be good pre-work hike/walks or after work hike/walks in the Spring. In particular there is a trail across from a train station that made my heart sing. Every now and then I want to run, and this trail made me want to run.

Here's to celebrating October.

[top] - Jacobs Pond, Norwell
[1] - Triphammer Pond, Hingham
[2] - George Washington Forest, Hingham
[3-7] - Norris Reservation, Norwell

buttermilk mac and cheese


I really love macaroni and cheese. Like, really love it.

It would be hard for me if someone were to tell me that I couldn't eat Kraft Macaroni & Cheese anymore. I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I don't believe in white cheddar, I just want normal Kraft. I also don't put milk in it. I don't like it creamy. I absolutely see my macaroni tastes being one of those things that even on my deathbed I'd have a hard time letting someone make for me. Thanks, but I make my own.

But - I can't reasonably make (and serve) Kraft macaroni to thirty plus people. While it is feasible, it would be pretty odd to invite friends and family over for a 30th Birthday party complete with ceremonial koozies ... and then serve them boxed macaroni and cheese. I pretty quickly found this version of my goal on Food52. The first thing that shocked me was how much cheese and milk goes into making mac and cheese. Before attempting on the day of the party, I wanted to give this recipe a trial run.

After stalling for probably a week, I finally got up the courage to make this meal from scratch. So I was incredibly surprised when it was completely easy and done in less than 45 minutes. Homemade mac and cheese is EASY! I am not sure I can go so far as to say "Easier than Kraft" but it's absolutely faster than Stouffers. And like all my favorite recipes, you can customize the hell out of it.

By the time it got to party day, I was totally ready to make this dish - except when combined with the honey cornbread and the chili, I kept miss counting my ingredients. After one trip to the store for eggs and honey, I couldn't bare another to get more milk - which is how we ended up with buttermilk mac and cheese. I do believe that the buttermilk was a differentiating "wow factor". There is no good reason for people to tell me they loved this dish as much as they did. It was clearly the buttermilk.

So here are some notes:

  • Buttermilk - See above. Really, just use any milk. For the second batch, I had run out of buttermilk and ended up using almond milk. It was fine but the consistency of the creamy cheese was different. Buttermilk is the best milk.
  • Panko topping - This dish had an insanely good crunchy top to it. I went with a moderately aggressive sprinkle of panko flakes combined with more sharp cheddar cheese. You'll have to broil it to get it SUPER crunchy but panko flakes are the way to go. During the trial bake, I split the pan between being half regular breadcrumbs - and it's just not as good. Panko flakes please.
  • Make ahead - Initially I was looking for a dish I could make days in advance, a friend cautioned me that mac and cheese could be risky. While I made this the day of, you can easily do enough prep the day before to make it easier. Make your pasta, measure your cheeses, make your croutons.
  • Croutons - Speaking of croutons, Martha's recipe called for them. I always have bread on hand but given the "hot dog" theme to this party, I opted to make them out of hot dog buns instead of white bread. The consistency is different but also lighter than normal bread croutons. Would absolutely use these in a pinch again.

Here's how it goes.

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. 
  2. Fill a large pot with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. In the same pot you used for boiling the pasta, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  4. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  5. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Stir reserved macaroni into the cheese sauce.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cups cheddar cheese and panko flakes over top. 
  7. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes, it's not browned to your liking, broil the topping rather than leaving it in the oven, which may cause the pasta to overcook and sauce to dry out.
Shopping List
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
4 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
3 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 ounces)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 ounces)
1 pound elbow macaroni (or other small pasta shape)

honey cornbread


So, we've been planing the menu for this birthday party for like a month, actually probably more.

When I first started to think about it, I thought about any dish that would be theoretically easy to prep ahead of time and wouldn't be bad leftovers. So with the menu set to be hot dogs, mac and cheese, and chili ... it felt super natural to do a cornbread too. People need their carbs.

Then, when I was looking up recipes for "best ever cornbread" they got a little complicated. Making the best ever cornbread felt hard... especially for 30 people... and in a food processor. So, I said no thanks. We will be skipping on the cornbread. Flash forward to Friday night and I'm in line at the new local brewery. There was a group of guys behind us talking about eating chili and mac and cheese ... and how there was no cornbread. Obviously, my ears perked up and I had to chime in. They felt cornbread was a non-negotiable. Thus, we are back on the cornbread train with 18 hours to go before the party.

The recipe I ended up making was incredibly simple and still got rave reviews. However, I pretty much died inside when as we were cleaning up for the night I realized that I never ever served the cornbread. It was still sitting on the counter all covered up. But, we cut into it and people said it was good so it can't be considered a total failure.

I did end up eating it with leftover chili the next day ... and home run. I feel like I've been an idiot for just serving bread with chili for the last 10 years. From now on its honey cornbread or bust.

Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray or lightly butter an 8x8 inch pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar and honey. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Add the buttermilk and mix to combine.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking soda. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring with a spatula until only a few lumps remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula to create an even layer. Allow the batter to sit for 3 minutes before placing in the oven to bake.
  4. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  5. Remove from the oven, brush the top with melted butter and honey. Serve!
Shopping List (based on this original recipe)
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ c. granulated sugar
¼ c. honey
2 eggs, room temperature
1 c. buttermilk, room temperature
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cornmeal
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (for brushing)

I’m in a relationship

Prior to leaving the city, I don’t think I ever had so many “projects”. I’m honestly not sure what I did with all my time. I think I spent a little more time at the office and I worked out more. Like regularly, as opposed to the irregularly with which I get to yoga now.

But, what did I do with all that time? I think the answer honestly might have been: taking walks, reading magazines, and dating. Well, I still enjoy a good walk and getting magazines in the mail - but dating is taking a back burner. I am now in a relationship with my house.

I have been on a several dates in the last six to twelve months and of all those dates, only two of which didn’t leave me wishing I had spent it on my trails website or thinking about the house. In the last year (exactly), I have been out with 5 different guys
  • Name sounds like a fruit, separated. Not ready for commitment, or honestly even to date. Dated for like 2 months (?). Met on Bumble, I think.
  • Skier guy, pot-head from Somerville. Ended our date shockingly abruptly when he realized I didn’t live in Boston. One date. Met on Bumble.
  • Environmental guy. Met on Hinge? I can’t remember. All dating apps are essentially the same thing. So boring. 
  • Bee Guy. Mutual Friend. Felt like we had a lot in common, but perhaps not “magic”. Some how in the course of the date it came up that he had bees - which I’ve wanted - and it just felt like things were going great. But I got the “just friends” text a week later.
  • Local guy. He lives in the area and we had some mutual friends in common. No attraction, incredibly thoughtful - but not a match. Still texts to see if we can hang out.
So for now, I’m really and truly focusing on everything but dating. I don't want to go so far as to say that I'm deleting the app from my phone but I'm "mentally" deleting it. Strangers, friends, enemies and neighbors are welcome to suggest a match - but I'm mentally taking a break from this aspect of my life. I’m in a relationship with my house, it’s pretty serious / long-term cause it’s a house. This could change but if I was to prioritize all the things I’ve been thinking about lately, dating is last on the important scale.

tomato pie is delicious


First of all. I recognize that this just looks like a pile of melted cheese. But - it isn't. It is so much more than that. It is a tomato pie. Tomato Pie has been sitting on my kitchen to-do list for about a month. Pretty much ever since the moment I knew it existed. After all the times I've googled "what to do with all the tomatoes"... it was pretty shocking to me that I didn't know this concept existed. To be clear, the concept is not complex. It's tomatoes in a pie crust plus some bonus item... but man, it is good. Maybe not the healthiest meal, but damn good.

There are a few things to know about tomato pie but essentially it is very easy. It becomes even easier when you don't make the pie crust. While I would normally like to be one of those people that makes their own pie crust, sometimes it just isn't worth it for an experiment.

  • pie crust // just buy it. don't make life harder here.
  • salty // it is very easy for this dish to get salty between the bacon and the tomatoes. I was a little more liberal with the salted tomatoes than I would be the next time. It's not the end of the world but just something to keep in mind.
  • crust // don't get on your high horse about how mayo is gross and you don't want it on the topping. If you are that worried about it, just try to cut back the amount and maybe mix in some bread crumbs or something to give it structure. The crust is so incredible.
I followed the original Food52 recipe pretty closely but have made some modifications to the process order below. While the recipe is simple, there is a lot of "do this quick thing and then wait a bit". So, a slightly adjusted order will help with speeding this whole show along.

  1. Slice the tomatoes and place them on a large cooling rack covered with paper towels. VERY lightly sprinkle the slices with kosher salt to help pull moisture from them, and cover them with another layer of paper towels. Let them sit like this for at least an hour.
  2. To blind bake the shell: Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Stab the crust with a fork all over and line the pastry shell with parchment paper. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the surface under the paper looks light brown. Remove the paper and return the shell to the oven for another 5 minutes or so, until drier and a more golden brown. Remove the shell to a rack, and let cool completely before proceeding with baking your pie.
  3. In a skillet, cook the chopped up bacon until it is just about crisp then add in the diced onion. Sauté until golden brown. Mix mayonnaise, grated cheese and oregano in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Set oven temp to 350°F. Assemble the pie by roughly chopping the tomato slices and spreading the pieces evenly into the pie shell. Generously cover the top with freshly ground black pepper, sprinkle with the onions and bacon, and, finally, top with the mayo-cheese mix. Place the pie in the oven and bake for about 1/2 hour, or until the top is nicely browned and the pie is bubbling. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool for at least 1/2 hour before cutting and serving.
Shopping List
Pie Crust
4-5 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced and blotted dry
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 large, sweet onion, sauteed
1/2 pound thick cut bacon, cut into lardons, and cooked till crisp
1 teaspoon dried oregano

how to not hurricane proof your garden


While it's only been about a week since the last recap, I feel the need to document another update. The reason? The whole thing could be decimated by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Jose by Wednesday. WTF. The idea of the wind turning all my tomatoes into a homemade windblown tomato fight seems terrible, so I'm trying to prevent that from happening.

Turns out, the internet is not very helpful. Despite googling "hurricane proof garden", I'm getting a lot of advice about sandbags and what trees to plant. Nothing that really helps me with 3 days notice and in an area where I can't plant trees. So my strategy is really going to be to prune up the plants, pick any fruit that is within a week or so of being ripe, and hope for the best.

But to be real, I'm eating like a lot of tomatoes. All the time. I probably have at least one tomato a day? I'm not sure what the difference is this year but I'm having a harder time giving them away. I think since the prime tomato season is about two weeks later than in 2016, most of my seasonal neighbors have left so I'm left with all my tomato inventory. More sauce for the winter?

With regards to the rest of the garden... Last weekend (or so), I pulled out all the snap peas since they were past their prime and in doing so found two surprise tomato plants! I have no idea what they are growing from so that'll be a good surprise. Based on their location, they could be the yellow from last summer or the red lightening from this year. Or well anything I guess because I tilled all the soil in this garden and moved it all around.

Otherwise, the garden is growing like a normal person's garden. Largely things are productive and not out of control. Last year the tomato plants were insanely productive and required weekly trimmings to keep the growth under control. In a slightly fortunate way, the early season disease issue helped to stave off the insane growth because I had to prune so aggressively.
But here's the rundown of where things are!

tomatoes // some real varied updates here. Red Lightening? Good. Orange Juice? Just ripened this week. These suckers are huge! Black Truffle? Lots of fruit on this plant. Black Cherry? My ultimate favorite this season. Mystery plant? Still a mystery.

Kale // really shot up. This week I put "preserve kale" on my to-do list. I hope I do a better job this year than last. I took all the kale into the giant bathtub to wash it off, then I chopped it all up ... and then I found a bug. So I tossed it all out. What a waste. I can do better this year.

Carrots // beyond crushing it. They are going to be fine in the ground for like another month (if not longer), so I can focus on the tomatoes and kale for now. But, if you need carrots? I'm your girl.

Radishes // Again, I need to be better about eating these. They are overgrown at this point.

Mexican Gherkin // More little yellow buds showed up in the last week. I didn't do anything different so maybe the weather was just right for them - or the slow death of the zucchini means more life for the mexican gherkin.

Onions // Ready to come out of the ground and be dried!

Peppers // So some new flowers popped up this week on the yellow and red pepper plants. I'm not going to get my hopes up, but this would be pretty great. I have literally gotten 1 normal pepper this year. A few jalapeños did show up too!

Eggplant // no new flower babies - but I'm not sure that I'll grow this again. I haven't actually been motivated to try the eggplant that I so lovingly selected and grew. So far this season I've got 2 baby eggplants from this one bush.

Zucchini // A few new flowers showed up last weekend. I almost thought about picking one of them and frying that sucker right up... and then I continued to just only eat tomatoes.

garden update


It's been over a month since the last garden update and a lot has happened. The majority of the tomatoes flipped from green to red, the beans have been harvested, and so far none of the giant tomato caterpillars have arrived. Small victories. A little part of me is nervous every morning that I weave my way through the rows checking for ripe fruit but I've been lucky so far.

The flowers have been doing pretty well - with the sunflowers really stealing the show. It's pretty awesome when people compliment them from the street. But they really take care of themselves - and the most impressive ones actually grew themselves from last year's leftovers. The white dahlias are managing to hold on and the cosmos continue to attract so many bees. I love it. I did plant a second batch of cosmos to hopefully extend this season into the fall a bit. We'll see how that goes.

I won't say that I've been super pleased with all the veggie varieties this year. I'll write that all up in a tomato recap but some of them have been amazing and some have been pretty bland. The most ridiculous part is the one I like the most is a mystery variety. I got a letter from Burpee a few weeks back letting me know they had some mistakes in production and my "Black Krim" is not actually "Black Krim". The next week I got a second letter from Burpee letting me know that my "Purplesnax" carrots were also wrong. So no red-purple tomatoes and no purple carrots.

Here are more of the update details:
tomatoes // a real mixed bag of feelings here. Red Lightening? Looks awesome, but not incredibly flavorful. Razzle Dazzle? Sad pink color when it's ripe - but great for beefsteak slices. Black Truffle? Only one so far, but my favorite 2016 carryover. Orange Juice? So big... but not ripe yet. Black cherries? AMAZING. Mystery tomato? Perfection.

beans // harvested a few weeks back and tossed in the freezer for the winter. Next year? Grow some pole beans to take more advantage of the vertical space.

snap peas // overgrown and I never really captured them. I did eat them standing in the yard and I did really enjoy watching them grow up the trellis.

carrots // the traditional variety is doing really well. I've pulled up a few of these babes and they are growing nice and straight. I'm sure that they'll become oversized and gnarly in the fall but right now they are perfect. Lots of carrots for soups this winter.

onions // doing just fine - but not amazing. While they couldn't be easier to grow, I'm not sure it's really worth it. I'm not exactly trying to become a homesteader and there just isn't the same degree of satisfaction from growing onions.

peppers // giant failure. I have 5 plants and I've gotten two peppers, one of which actually went bad before I could even pick it. A bunch of water pooled on the top of it and softened the pepper and rotted it out. I keep seeing flowers on one of the traditional green plants and then nothing.

radishes // still crushing it. I just don't eat them nearly enough. Some of them might actually be overgrown now. I'm not a very good radish owner.

cucumber // the mexican gherkin cucumber has grown more vines and at one point had a bunch of tiny little cucumber flowers. I only have about 4 or 5 itty bitty gherkins which is more exciting than not. They do look so incredibly different - but perhaps not worth all the emotional investment and enthusiasm that I have thrown to them.

eggplant // love the petite little size of the patio babies. Only have gotten 2 so far. It's been behaving like the pepper plants - all the flowers, none of the fruit.

zucchini // pretty productive. One of the squash plants suddenly died one afternoon - to the point where I questioned if I had accidentally over fertilized it or something, but according to the internet it fell victim to some squash bores - whatever that is. Next year? Need to find a better place to put this. It needs more personal space than I have afforded it - but to be fair, that was when I thought it could climb a trellis.

lobster pesto caprese


I'm going to admit that I've slightly overdone it with the tomatoes, burrata, and pretty much pesto of any form. It is pretty much the only thing that I've eaten for several weeks now. The fact that I've tired of burrata is terrifying to me. But - this season is fleeting and I'd rather eat them until I'm exhausted than have regrets in November. Ugh November.

But last weekend we had some beautiful warm weather. Like the days we dream of all winter. I took a mid-afternoon kayak ride and timed it just right that I could float without the tides taking me away. Then we had a casual sunset bbq to capture more glow from our fleeting summer.

When I lived in Boston, none of my neighbors gave me anything. I guess that's not totally true. I had Rinato who repeatedly invited me over for dinner but also said his wife would kill me. But - there was no "leaving things at doorsteps" happening. Which is really okay because this is a city and there are rats. But now, I have neighbors and last weekend one brought me a lobster. That he caught that day. And shelled for me.

Since I was already in the middle of eating a hot dog and fritos (I'm fancy), I waited a night to capitalize on the lobster generosity. I think I nailed it - and you should also do this with your lobster. It is a perfect way to give people lobster in summer without going broke buying lobsters for everyone. Not everyone can have neighbors that drop lobsters at their door.

Here's how it goes. It's incredibly simple - especially if you already have the pesto made and the lobster shelled.
  1. Using a food processor, prep and make your pesto. Follow this recipe here. I used walnuts for this pesto.
  2.  Cut up your lobster meat to a medium/small size and then toss in the pesto.
  3. Plate the lobster with some freshly cut garden tomatoes and a half ball of burrata. 
  4. Drizzle the plate with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with basil and a bit of salt. 
Shopping List
grated parmesan
lemon juice
cherry tomatoes
lobster meat

mocha nut donuts

I am not a chocolate person per say. I skew bacon and salt. I know those aren't the same - but it's true. I have an addiction to salt. I got it from my grandmother along with night terrors - both great traits. I'm a real catch. All that being said, I have frequently send urgent text messages to my sister demanding brownies. 

So, while these chocolate donuts are a little bit out of character for me... they are pretty much like a circle brownie that you can eat at breakfast time without judgement. The recipe comes out with probably 2 dozen mini donuts... and you'll need every one of those. You'll probably eat two just to be sure they taste good.

The real driver for making these came from needing to return my neighbor's plate. They brought it over to me with lobster on it... and it just felt right to return it with a little something. Their house is always BUMPING with people so mini donuts seemed like a good solution. I originally started off thinking about a coffee cake donut but after some googling ended up with this mocha situation. I'll be making another batch pretty soon because my baby brother politely requested a shipment at school.
So here's how they go. It's all real straight forward and easy... until you start melting chocolate. That's where I begin to unravel and literally get it everywhere... but maybe you are a stronger person than I am. All in, you could get these donuts from ingredients to countertop in less than an hour and that sounds pretty good to me. Just pick up this donut pan from Amazon and you'll be ready to roll.
Making the donuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F for the donuts. Grease your donut pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, espresso powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, sour cream, milk, and coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, whisking to combine.
  4. I added a little more milk to my dough to get it a tiny bit "looser". You don't want it to be thin like a pancake or even like cake mix, but it made it a bit easier to put in the donut pan. I'm sorry I can't be more specific here but just trust yourself and maybe add a dash of milk. Maybe.
  5. Transfer mixture into a pastry bag or large ziplock with a hole cut into the corner. Pipe batter into donut molds. For full size donuts, aim for 2/3 full. For mini donuts, it's harder to do anything less than 100% full but just be sure to not cover the place where the hole is.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes.
Assembly and the glazes
  1. For the crunchy topping, combine some chopped walnuts, brown sugar, and a touch of cocoa powder. It's not a science so use the proportions of things you like the most.
  2. Melt your chocolate via double broiler (or microwave if you are very talented). I always add butter or coconut oil to smooth out the chocolate but it can be optional. 
  3. Dip each donut into the glaze, then dip into the crunch topping. Allow to cool slightly before eating.
Shopping List
for the donuts1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa
⅓ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons espresso powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg, room temperature
⅓ cup sour cream
⅓ cup milk
⅓ cup coconut oil

for the glaze & crunchdark chocolate chips
2 tsp coconut oil
chopped walnuts
brown sugar
cocoa powder
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