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I still exist, and I’m happy that you do too. We had an action-packed, relaxing, invigorating, magical summer. Hence the silence on my part.
Umm, apparently June 4th was the last time I visited here, but I swear it was only two weeks ago.
For real, June 4th?
Don’t worry, I’m not sorry at all. I soaked up every ray of sun, every giggle, every trampoline flip and fish caught. (Well, I ate the fish rather than absorbed them.) I just couldn’t remove myself from life enough to post about it, and I think that’s pretty awesome.
Now that fall is settling in and the mornings are chilly, I feel like we’ve slowed down a bit.
Want to look at my summer?
The boy turned 9!
I got my hair cut. (You’re so excited, I can tell)
I caught my first real fish! (I caught a fish once when I was 16, but it was teeny and we didn’t keep it.)
We drove boats. And played in boats. And fished from boats. And tried to ski behind boats.
Boats. Lots of boats. Can you tell that I’m obsessed with boats? I would totally live in a boat.
We went zip-lining.
All of the cousins were together for the first time ever.
I went to my first rodeo! Can you explain to me how I’ve been in Montana for my whole life and never once been to a rodeo?!?
And you guys! I drink beer now! This is a thing! I can’t even tell you how happy this makes my husband. You know him? He’s the homebrewer that I talk about all the time. Don’t worry, beer drinking was completely my decision. And in case you’re wondering whether or not I was replaced by a pod-person, I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll ever, ever, drink an IPA. Ick!
So as you can see, I was busy.
How was your summer?
You all know that I hate the cold.
I would take 97F over -25F EVERY. TIME.
And spending two hours shoveling my driveway, while a great workout, is not my idea of time well-spent.
But I have to say, getting a four-day weekend is pretty spectacular.
Guys. We got snow days!! Not one, but two!!
If you’re from Montana, this is basically unheard of. It could snow an entire foot over night and we’d still have to go to school.
Last week though, we got Friday off because it snowed a foot over night and then we had 50mph wind. I had to pretend I was hearing ocean sounds in order to sleep. It actually worked really well. There still weren’t enough streets cleared by Monday to safely open the schools, which meant that we got to stay home again.
So my mind naturally came up with this frozen treat. If you’re all bundled up and you don’t have to brave the cold, why not?
All you have to do is make some whipped cream
We make whipped cream by adding heavy whipping cream and maple syrup into a mixing bowl. Beat until fluffy and add maple syrup in small amounts until it tastes right.
Sprinkle on some chocolate chips. Drizzle on as much caramel as you can.
More caramel! Caramel recipe can be found here.
These sandwiches don’t get rock hard like you’d expect. Even after they’ve been in the freezer overnight! They were shockingly easy to break in half and bite through. The whipped cream retains its fluffy texture, and frozen caramel might be the best thing in the world. As my husband says, “These things will change your life.”
If I would have known I could celebrate the cold with treats, I would’ve had a completely different outlook on winter.
How on earth has another year passed already?
My child, my amazing child, is READING HIS OWN BIRTHDAY CARDS!!
Obviously that’s not the only difference this last year has made, but I’d say that’s a pretty exciting difference. Wouldn’t you?
*Who am I kidding, I wish I was half as stylish as this kid!
And about 4 inches of vertical growth! I think I may have to keep up this feeding him thing…
By the way, I really need to thank Alton Brown for the most amazing Angel Food Cake recipe ever. The birthday boy was especially pleased.
A few notes about the recipe:
1. I didn’t have cake flour, so I made my own by measuring a cup of all purpose flour, and then taking two tablespoons out. I then added two tablespoons of cornstarch and mixed well.
2. I didn’t really wait for the egg whites to reach room temperature. I forgot. But it was just fine!
3. I used vanilla extract because that’s what I had. But it was just fine!
4. I used my new oven. This has no bearing on the recipe, per se, I’m just really excited about it still.
5. I served this cake with home made whipped cream, sliced strawberries, and homemade caramel sauce. Yeah mama!
I know I haven’t posted anything in awhile. And while I’m kind of sorry about that, I also really enjoyed the downtime.
And to be quite honest with you, I was feeling a bit uninspired in the kitchen. I know, right? Kind of lame for a food blogger to stop having fun in the kitchen.
I don’t want to post fluff just so I can say I posted something. I write when I’m inspired. Or when I’ve had a success.
Or an epic failure.
And there were so many other things happening in my life–all for the good!–that what we were eating for dinner just kind of went on the back burner. (Kitchen pun! It’s ok, I know I’m hilarious.)
But let’s get back to that gorgeous photo at the top.
Dude, we got a new oven!
I’m in love.
Between the new oven and my dreamboat, I’m kind of in heaven. And! I’m ready to get back in the kitchen.
Watch out world!
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you My KitchenAid Stand Mixer:
(The folks at KitchenAid have no idea I exist, and I’m not getting paid or perked in any way. I’m just seriously in love with my mixer, and my amazing husband who gave it to me. This is a total gush post.)
Remember last Christmas when I yelled at family? This year was stunned silence. Speechless awe.
Yeah, Nick gets me. He knows what’s what.
And this mixer is what, let me tell you!
And my talented husband knows how to work that roller.
Sure, the filling tasted amazing. And balsamic brown butter sauce is epic. But paper thin pasta rolled to perfection just can’t be beaten. Or competed with, really.
And making cookies with this mixer? No sweat.
Literally! I don’t have to mix the chocolate chips in by hand anymore!
You know how some people choose a certain car or shoe designer to fall head over heels for?
For me, it’s this mixer. And I anticipate we’ll spend many happy years together.
Now it just needs a name…
I know, I know. “Pork roast? Come on, Jo; two weeks ago I was gorging myself on honey glazed ham and pierogies.
Roast is so…not festive.”
I hear ya! I do. But I think what I need now is comfort food. And the added luxury of not having to come up with a full dinner menu is so nice. It makes the transition out of the holiday mindset just a little easier.
Pork Roast in the Crockpot
Serves 4 with leftovers
I have to admit, I did not use a recipe or write down what I was throwing into the crockpot, so this is an estimation to the best of my memory. Feel free to add or subtract whatever spices you prefer.
2 pound pork shoulder (or other cut of meat suitable for roast)
1 quart beef or vegetable stock (enough to cover the meat in the crockpot)
1 medium onion, sliced into big chunks
1 or 2 large turnips, sliced into half-rounds
6-8 red potatoes, cut into evenly sized chunks
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
Rosemary, basil, salt, pepper, oregeno and thyme to taste
Pour the stock into your crockpot and add all the seasonings. Stir gently to combine. (If you like a thicker, more gravy-like sauce at the end, add 2-3 tbsp of cornstarch to the stock with the rest of the seasonings.)
Cut the pork in half, or smaller, to ensure that it’s covered almost completely in the stock. Then add the vegetables on top of the roast.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours. You just need to make sure the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160F.
Recently, my husband and I took a trip to sunny* California. What follows are a few photos of our favorite meals.
We ended up walking between 5 and 10 miles every day taking in the sites and the food. I’m certain there are many amazing things we missed, but man did we have fun! I guess we’ll have to go back soon :)
*I’m sure that San Francisco is generally a sunny, warm place, but when we were there, I froze! Like, had to buy a coat and why did I only bring sandals froze. Santa Monica and Venice Beach were much more to my taste.
We’ve had a long spring this year. A long wet spring.
Great for the grass and my water bill, not so great for morale.
But even though I’m seriously a happy camper, turning on the oven when it’s 85F in my kitchen is just asking for trouble. And melted popsicles.
So what’s a Jo to do? Make a giant salad! With chicken! And vegetables! And no oven!
Summer Survival Salad
4 unfrozen chicken breasts (I like boneless and skinless, but use what you’ve got)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1-2 cups sugar snap peas (you can leave them whole, but I cut them in half for easier eating)
your favorite mix of lettuce
Marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes, up to a day, in your favorite Italian salad dressing or vinaigrette (I’ll give you my favorite recipe at the bottom).
Grill the chicken (outside! not in your kitchen!) until fully cooked, adding more marinade each time you turn the chicken. Allow the chicken to rest covered in tin foil before you slice it into strips.
In the meantime, assemble your salad. I like to do it in layers, ’cause it’s more fun that way. Then plate and serve.
My favorite salad dressing/chicken marinade
from Emeril Lagasse
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 clove pressed garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Add all ingredients into a lidded container. Shake or whisk until everything is combined. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
What are your favorite summer survival foods?
There’s this thing that happens to me when the sun shines.
Suddenly, things that were so stressful and worrisome become not such a big deal.
Where I would have found myself saying no before, I now find myself enthusiastically saying yes.
I get excited about being outside again, and I don’t even have to be bribed!