Sunday, August 28, 2011

Salty sweet

It's been a wild week in the Cupcake household. We prepped for the "storm of the century" by:
  • buying 4 gallons of water
  • taking down the porch swing
  • baking two loaves of the best bread ever
  • doing laundry at 8 am today, in case the power went out
God help me if I'm ever in a real emergency. Perhaps I can barter some bread for a chainsaw and some Spaghetti-o's.

In addition to stocking our survival kit, we also decided to buy a house. And sell ours, duh.

We currently live in a beautiful bungalow. I love this house. Really. Like, crying actual tears when I picture moving day kind o' love. This house is the first place I'd lived in longer than a year since I was 13. This house is more than just a few walls- we've grown up here.

The husband has poured countless hours, blood, sweat, swear words, and gallons of paint into this house. We went bought it , it was sea foam green- he spent the entire summer perched on a ladder, listening to the Red Sox, painting it a much more palatable shade of blue. He took a sad, rental kitchen and turned it into a gourmet's paradise.

Plus, I'm a house person. I get crazy attached to living spaces. The day I found out my childhood home was bulldozed to make room for a McMansion, I sobbed hysterically. I was gonna buy that house (in 20 years)!

The new house is great and will be ours as soon, hopefully. It's small, too, but on a huge piece of property with a deck, dog run, basketball court (say what?!), and hot tub. We'll make lots of great memories in that house and maybe even a baby or two.

So, it's only fitting, that after a weekend of rain and wind and cleaning and packing and dusting and sorting (OMG we have a lot of crap), that I have a taste of something salty sweet on Sunday night. Something that packages my emotions so neatly into a 1 inch square of chocolate.

Salazon Chocolate Co. Organic Dark Chocolate with Natural Sea Salt and Newman's Own Organics Mocha Milk Chocolate.

Probably going to need to stock up on a few more bars- there's a whole lot of crying and country music headed my way over the next few months.

I'm such a sap.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Pasta Salad

I have a confession to make.

Last year, I did not go to a single farmer's market.

I know! For shame! It was a weird summer- I started a new job and just didn't have a spare minute. I should've found one on the weekends to go to, but I was lame and didn't. Boo to that.

This summer is better! I've been to a few (Hingham has a great one- shout out to Freitas Farm for stellar blueberries and excellent customer service) and the husband has hit our town's farmer's market a few times. He even made blueberry jam (best.husband.ever).

Flashback to the 4th of July- Stowe, Vermont has an especially vibrant farmer's market that has more than just raw veggies.

Steamed veggie dumpling, bean dumpling, and a shrimp eggroll.

Fresh ice cream!

Maple cone!

Not sure what this guy was selling, but you can see the resemblance between Arthur and his sign.

With all the goodies, whipping up a satisfying pasta salad at our campsite was a breeze.

Start a pot of water on your Coleman stove and bring it to a boil. Add one pound of rotini. You could also use farfalle- I think bite-size pasta is a better choice for a pasta salad. Makes it easier to eat!

Start with fresh from the ground radishes- dirt included! Just give them a good wash. Don't they remind you of the Mandrakes from Harry Potter? Nerd alert!

Slice them thinly and add to a large bowl.

Wash your fresh basil and rip it into small pieces. Add to the radishes.

Wash and chop your fresh zucchini- add it to the pasta in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking- cooks them just enough but keeps them crunchy.

Chop up some cheddar. Funny story- I bought this at home and drove it all the way back to Vermont for this dish. Some serious food miles for such a small piece of cheese.

Here, in spirit, is some red onion. Chop it up and add to the bowl o' veggies.

Once the pasta and zucchini is cooked, drain it and put it back in the hot pan. Add the radishes, basil, red onion, and cheddar to the pasta and zucchini and toss to coat. The cheese will melt slightly and coat everything. Instant dressing!

Serve alongside some foccacia and dig in!

Summer Pasta Salad

1 pound short pasta- whatever makes your skirt fly up
2-3 cups chopped fresh summer veg- experiment with squash, peas, beets, tomato- whatever looks good at the farmers market. Note- not all of these veggies will need to cook with the pasta.
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 large bunch of fresh basil, ripped
8 oz. cheese- other option include goat, feta, Gouda, Gruyere, Swiss
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a handful of salt and toss in pasta.

While the pasta cooks, chop up veggies. For any veggies that need slight cooking, add them to the pasta in the last 2-3 minutes of boiling. Once pasta and veggies are al dente, drain and return to the hot pot. Do not return pan to heat.

Add other veggies, herbs, and cheese to the pasta/veggie mixture in the hot pot. Toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, if you have some on hand.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Irish Brown Bread

Just a few more eats to show you, and a recipe for our favorite Irish baked good- brown bread.

Ice cream from Murphy's in Killarney- dark chocolate + cookie for Nick, sea salt + honeycomb for me. Sea salt was a surprise hit for me- love that salty sweetness.

Tea at the Old Courthouse Cafe in Inishmore. Love when they give you your own pot!

Trout, shepherd's pie, and potatoes + french fries from the Curragh in Killarney.

Bailey's ice cream from Jo's in Kinsale.

Seafood pancake and fried fish from the White House in Kinsale.

Whiskey tasting from Jameson Distillery in Dublin.

Beef and cheese pastie from Hanley's Cornish Pasties.

Seafood chowder and traditional Irish coddle from Oliver St. John Gogarty's in Dublin.


And now for the main event...brown bread. It's served alongside most dishes and the beauty of the brown bread lies in its simplicity. It's like the Irish people- cozy, welcoming, and inherently comforting.

Though we don't have the exactly right kind of flour needed for true brown bread, this works as a lovely substitute. I modeled it off of the recipe that Nick's Irish cousin Mary uses- she makes a fresh loaf every day and we got to devour more than our fair share when we stayed with her and her husband Pat in Galway.

Irish Brown Bread

Makes 2 small loaves

4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup steel cut oats
Scant 3 cups almond milk
3 tblsp vinegar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
*Note- you could substitute buttermilk for the almond milk and vinegar. Or use regular cow's milk and vinegar to it.

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, flax, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine well.

In a large measuring cup, pour the almond milk and vinegar. Stir well and let stand 5-10 minutes. This is going to look kind of funky, but don't freak out.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined. The resulting dough is pretty wet and sticky. Freaking out is still unnecessary.

Grease two loaf pans and divide dough evenly between the two. Use your hands to gently shape the loaves.

Put both pans into the oven and bake 30-35 minutes. Test loaves by pulling them out of the oven and flipping over into an oven mitt. Tap the bottom. (ha.) It should should hollow.

Cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.