Kale and Eggs (Or, Why You Should Start a Food Blog)

Kale and Eggs

If you want to know the truth, I have had this recipe in my WordPress drafts for weeks now. Weeks. Every time I would go to post it, just as something quick and easy, I would think, this is too simple, this is nothing special or, I don’t know, here we go with kale again, and I would talk myself out of it.

I do this kind of thing a lot. Maybe you do, too?

Kale Leaves

The last day of our Dole trip, during the one-hour drive between our hotel and the airport Friday morning, Gina from Skinny Taste said something to me and Tim that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. She said, you know, when it comes to her blog, she’s noticed that it’s always been the quick and simple posts, not the elaborate and thorough ones, that have resonated most with readers. She could spend a ton of time crafting something just so, but then it’s that fast and easy breakfast she throws together in a rush that people get excited about.

And what her anecdote about blogging tells me is this: there is real value in creating, even in creating something simple, especially if it’s true. With blogs, it’s not only the award-winning sites that have something to offer; it’s the blogs written by people in their pajama’s, at late hours of the night, created because those writers are dying to make something, to publish something, to give a voice to all the thoughts in their head; it’s the blogs written by people who don’t want to forget their recipes, who want them recorded somewhere for their friends and their grandchildren; it’s the blogs pursued for no other reason than because they’re fun.

I think this applies to more than blogging.

Every now and then, one of you tells me you want to start a food blog—or, to write more or, to experiment with flours or, to learn more about whole foods—yet then you wrestle with questions like “What do I have to say?” or “But it won’t be as good as X,” and I get it because they’re the same questions I wrestle with.

So here is what I want to say to you, to say to us: first of all, you should know that there are bloggers (just like there are writers and musicians and chefs and painters) who will tell you not to even try unless you do what they did—commit to posting thrice a week or, really understand recipes or, shoot pictures that are as crisp and glossy as a magazine’s. There are bloggers, fellow creators, who will discourage you by giving you their blog stats and telling you about their blog trips and saying how long it’s taken them to get to where they are. Try not to listen to them.

When you hear these voices, remind yourself that there is something about the creative process that often makes us hesitate, that makes us question and compare, that makes us think, no one will want to read this kale and eggs post or, I need to tell people how great my work is so that it can feel true. When you sit down with another blogger and hear these things, realize they’re wrestling with the same struggle you are—and keep creating.

Eggs in Pan

In “Cold Tangerines” by Shauna Niequist, she says this about the value of making art, be it books or music or a food blog:

I know that life is busy and hard and that there’s crushing pressure to just settle down and get a real job and khaki pants and a haircut. But don’t. Please don’t. Please keep believing that life can be better, brighter, broader because of the art that you make. Please keep demonstrating the courage that it takes to swim upstream in a world that prefers putting away for retirement to putting pen to paper, that chooses practicality over poetry, that values you more for going to the gym than going to the deepest places in your soul. Please keep making your art for people like me, people who need the magic and imagination and honesty of great art to make the day-to-day world a little more bearable.

eggs for one

There’s nothing wrong with taking a real job, anymore than there’s something wrong with khaki pants, except that sometimes doing the culturally acceptable things are exactly what keeps us from pursuing creativity. The way I see it, just as the world needs more art, the world needs more people who are passionate about making it, and so therefore it needs more food blogs. Not because the writers will become famous authors. Not because they’ll get free things or gain acclaim. But because, at the most basic level, there is value in creating, value in putting something together the way our Creator does. And these days, every time I see a new blog, that’s what I’m thinking.

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Night in Atlanta + Amaranth Porridge

Tim and I spent last Monday night in Atlanta—just a quick one-night getaway to the biggest city four hours from our home, made possible by a wedding gift from our friend Kim. After a rainy drive down that turned into a sunny stop at IKEA, we arrived at Stonehurst Place, our bed and breakfast for the night.

stonehurst front stonehurst front windows

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Stonehurst is a stunning estate built in 1896 and totally renovated in 2007-08. Our room, the Farnsworth, overlooked the screened-in back porch and was decorated with a Hollywood glam theme. It featured its own fireplace, a queen-sized bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, a marble bathroom and a full walk-in closet.

stonehurst room

stonehurst patio

stonehurst room water in the room

One of the last times I’d stayed in a B & B was in Maine, a place whose quaint little towns often make it hard not to stay in a B & B, and the thing I’ve always liked most about them is the extra amenities: at Stonehurst, we had access to an upstairs sitting room with a Keurig coffee/tea maker, fresh organic fruit and baked goods in the dining room, an open front porch overlooking the streets of Midtown—not to mention, breakfast the next morning was a gourmet spread of hot coffee or tea; organic yogurt with berries; and toasted sourdough topped with ricotta, kale and eggs cooked the way we like.

stonehurst sitting area stonehurst upstairs

fun decor at stonehurst

stonehurst upstairs stonehurst bookcases

stonehurst front patio

stonehurst tree

Even though we were in Atlanta for under 24 hours, we managed to fit in a lot of stops, from driving through Buckhead to shopping in the Virginia Highlands (and sipping on fresh-squeezed orange juice from artisanal chocolatier Cacao, a shop recommended by our Innkeeper, Sarah):

cacao in atlanta
fresh-squeezed OJ at cacao

to dinner at Yeah! Burger, a surprisingly impressive burger joint that may look like your standard eat-in fast-food place but inside is actually the adept maker of a spread like this: fresh-squeezed orange juice (we’re obsessed!), fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, a bunless grass-fed burger with goat cheese and sauteed onions, a breadless portabella sandwich with goat cheese and tomato jam, Brussels sprouts and salad.

yeah burger
yeah burger dinner

But it was our final destination that wowed us most: the DeKalb Farmers Market, which is like Costco meets Whole Foods meets an international grocery store, the one-stop-shop for every kind of specialized food ingredient and fresh produce you could ask for. Sucanat for $2.50 a pound. Organic cacao nibs for half the normal price. Fresh-baked spelt sourdough bread. Spelt cherry pistachio bread. Kamut hazelnut fig bread (!!).

We were overwhelmed.

dekalb farmers market
fresh unpasteurized OJ
dekalb farmers market bread
dekalb farmers market kumquats

When we finally left, bags and bags of groceries in our cart, this was just some of our loot:
loot from dekalb farmers market

And among that hoard was organic amaranth (at $2.99 a pound), the increasingly popular nutritional powerhouse related to spinach, beets, Swiss chard and quinoa.

amaranth

I’ve never cooked with amaranth before, but I’ve wanted to ever since I noticed it in the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Like quinoa and millet, amaranth is not actually a grain, but as any gluten-free cook could tell you, it’s often referred to as a grain because it can behave like one, yet with none of the gluten and way more health benefits.

soaked amaranth
scooping out amaranth cereal

Amaranth is rich in amino acid and proteins, and it has four times more calcium than wheat and twice as much magnesium and iron. Research has linked it with fighting cancer, inflammation and heart disease.

amaranth porridge #1
amaranth porridge with bananas

While the seeds can be eaten like couscous/rice or ground into flour for baking, one of their most well-known uses is as a breakfast porridge—something akin to Cream of Wheat or another hot cereal—so when we returned from our fast getaway, the following Sunday morning, we had amaranth for breakfast, in porridge form. It didn’t officially extend our vacation but, hot and creamy, sweet and comforting, it was the next best thing.

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The Perfect Crustless Quiche

crustless quiche slice

February 17 was a big day for my family this year. Not only was it my mom’s birthday, but it also was the first time they came to visit Nashville. Ever! And while I’ve been wanting my parents to visit ever since I first moved last February, I’ll be the first to admit that in the valley of a few weeks ago, it felt a little impossible. So I’m thankful to say that in fact, we had a busy four days, filled with many moments where I’d look at Tim and say, I’m not in pain!, amidst marathons of Downton Abbey, antiquing in Franklin, a visit to the gym and grabbing them Olive & Sinclair chocolate-dipped popsicles at Hot and Cold. It all started when they arrived early Friday morning, having braved a 6 AM flight to get here, and so we had a birthday breakfast waiting—and the star of that show was this quiche.

quiche for brunch

Here are the reasons I like this quiche: 1) You don’t have to make a pie crust. It’s not that I have anything against pie crust (especially not this foolproof one!); it’s just that sometimes, say the weekend where you’re already making two other pies, one pumpkin and one lemon meringue, you don’t feel like another. And even sans crust, I love how this quiche holds together beautifully, firm and solid, like an egg bake.

2) It’s a meal in itself. It’s true this quiche was our breakfast, alongside sprouted cinnamon raisin English muffins and fruit, but it could just as easily be lunch or dinner, maybe with greens on the side.

mid-brunch

3. It is the perfect blend of flavors. I hesitate to use the word perfect here, mostly because it feels a little pushy amidst a sea of competing opinions for the best this or the most delicious that, but I’m doing it anyway because, objectively, this quiche was so good, everyone had seconds, and the one small piece that was leftover after the five of us ate it was gone the next morning. And also, you know how sometimes you cook a new recipe and all you think is how it’s missing something? This quiche was the exact opposite: it was precisely as it should be, from the dispersion of spinach and chard to the blend of three different cheeses.

But beyond that, perhaps the most convincing argument, if you want to know the truth, is that my mom, the birthday girl herself, has asked me for this quiche recipe three times, and something like that hasn’t happened since the Great Pot Roast of 2010. After that kind of ringing endorsement, I don’t know what else to say but that here, I bring you, Mom and everyone:

our new favorite crustless quiche!

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Sprouted Coconut Cocoa Banana Muffins

sprouted coconut cocoa banana muffins up close

The first week Tim and I got back to Nashville, while we settled into a regular rhythm of making meals and paying bills and sharing a home office together, I began tackling the to-do list that follows a wedding. There were thank-you notes to write, bank accounts to merge, a pretty major name change to take care of—at the DMV, the social security office, with basically every account I have on record anywhere—and even looking back now, with it all done and finished and behind me, I can tell you there were definite low points (i.e., AT&T: Why is it so hard to get two existing users spun off into a new account? WHY?) and definite high points (i.e., these muffins).

baking muffins

I’ve always been the kind of girl to crave a couple hours alone in the kitchen. When I used to work a regular office job, I’d often come home at the end of the day, tired and not really wanting to go anywhere, and I’d comfort myself with cooking (eventually with my camera and you guys to join me, and thus this blog was born). Sometimes I’d play music or watch an online TV show in the background. Sometimes I’d talk to myself out loud. What mattered was the way it felt like downtime—cooking doesn’t always feel like that.

dark chocolate

If you talked to our friend Corri, for example, who came over for dinner last week, he could tell you what a different kind of cooking looks like. He could tell you about walking into a house and seeing both cooks still in the kitchen, green beans on the stove, chicken in the oven, flour all over the counters, and about hearing the sad, sad story of two back-to-back attempts to remake macarons and failing. At some point during our meal, I’m pretty sure I was apologizing to him for apologizing, that’s how bad things had gotten in my mind—and I do mean in my mind because the reality was our meal was perfectly good, thanks to that very capable man I married—but rather than loving my time in the kitchen and my contributions to what we were eating, I had been frustrated by it, by how my results weren’t matching my expectations.

baking banana muffins

I think that’s part of the difference between baking for leisure and baking for a purpose, and I think that’s what made these muffins such a highlight of our first week of Nashville married life.

muffins in the oven

There were a lot of things I was doing for a purpose that week: waiting for two hours at the DMV, mailing cards, sitting down with Tim to plan our monthly budget—but baking these muffins? That was different.

one sprouted coconut cocoa banana muffin

Because when you’re baking one morning in your pajamas while your husband works in the next room, you can talk to yourself, you can spill flour, you can burn something—you’ve freed yourself to. But when you bake for company or for a business or for the first time at a Thanksgiving dinner with all your family, you constrain yourself into thinking something must be how it must be and anything else is disaster. Or at least I do that.

buttered muffin

These muffins didn’t have to be anything special, just a way to use up ingredients and a way to relax for a few afternoon hours. Heaven knows, Tim and I would eat them regardless of how they ended up tasting. I found the original recipe online, where it came with high reviews, and I improvised ingredients with what we had (hello, huge sale on sprouted wheat flour at Whole Foods!) and ingredients I wanted to add.

muffins in cake stand

When I brought one to Tim, sliced and buttered and still steaming hot, it was just a happy bonus that we liked them—not too sweet, the perfect vehicle for a little jam or honey, yet chocolatey and cakey and a nice morning treat.

buttered muffins

And so it was these sprouted coconut cocoa banana muffins that, set beneath a glass bowl, first graced our dining room table, the dining room table that Tim built, and made our first week together in our first house feel a little more special, a little more right, a little more like home.

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Spelt Belgian Waffles [+ a new blog design!]

spelt belgian waffles

A few days after I came back from Oregon, one night while Tim and I were working side by side, I told him I didn’t know if I wanted to blog anymore.

It was weird—not just because we’re in the midst of working and talking about wedding plans but because I love blogging. I’d be the first to tell you there’s nothing like the feeling of sitting down to write precisely what you want to say, organizing the chaos of life into cohesive sentences and paragraphs, feeling that satisfaction of yes! that is what I mean! when you hit publish and receiving feedback in the form of comments from people who have become your friends.

But I’d wrestled with these thoughts while I was in Oregon, surrounded by big bloggers with book deals, international press trips, specified knowledge so out of my world that they’d literally left me speechless when they talked, and really, I’d been thinking about it before then. I find new blogs I like every week. I’m so impressed by the talent—by bloggers who put hours and hours into crafting original, interesting, beautiful material on the Internet for the rest of us to enjoy—and when there’s so much out there already, I wonder sometimes why I want to add more.

We’ve talked about it a few times the last couple weeks, in between drafting seating charts and making homemade ravioli for dinner and pinning table decorations and beginning to move Tim from his three-year bachelor pad to our future home. When he brought his waffle iron sometime last week, we ate spelt Belgian waffles topped with sorghum for breakfast and liked them so much, we made them again, with strawberries, for Sunday night dinner with friends. We’re doing the everyday things of life even as we prepare for the great event of ours, with my giant white dress hanging in my house, our honeymoon booked, plans for me to fly home tonight.

And thinking about that right now makes me glad to have this blog to remember it. Because while I expected, ten days before our wedding, to be telling you about the pumpkin cake my mom’s making or the cookie table our friends are contributing to or how excited I am that it’s all really happening, the thing I most want to say now is this: I am thankful to be marrying someone who, in the midst of it, set aside time to talk about issues as in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-unimportant as blogging, who helped me decide to keep doing it and, thanks to his WordPress genius, showed me how to give it a facelift that makes me excited to come back here next month.

Anytime I start to wonder if blogging is worthwhile, I’ll just remind myself: it brought me Tim.

See you soon.

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Blueberry Scones + UPrinting giveaway

I am not even ashamed to admit that I love a good bargain. I clip coupons; I buy $15 desks. When Jeni’s celebrated its new Nashville location with free scoops of ice cream last week, we were front in line. And when Whole Foods had a $1.99 sale on organic blueberries June 17, you know I bought a whole case.

A whole case.

mixing blueberry scone dough

Organic blueberries, which typically go for more like $4 or $5 a pint, are definitely on my top five list of favorite fruits. They are packed with antioxidants. They’re delicious by themselves, and even better with cream. They’re great to freeze for morning smoothies; they’re great to eat with milk and cereal. And, on top of all that, they remind me of Tim—because he wrote about them in one of the first ways we got acquainted.

blueberry scone dough unsliced

So really, I guess you could say it was my bargain-loving instinct—and the 12 pints of blueberries that accompanied it—that we can thank for this recipe, a pretty basic adaptation of a simple blueberry scone. Mixing the dough couldn’t have been simpler: it took 15 minutes, maybe, and even with the added 20 minutes of bake time and more to clean the kitchen, it was still somewhere under an hour total, which is a pretty small investment for what you get in return.

blueberry scone dough circle

These scones are really beautiful to look at, flecked with the deep purple stain of blueberries and nicely shaped into golden triangles of dough. Fresh out of the oven and topped with a little butter, they are pure heaven. I ate four.

scones on baking sheet

I told Tim, while we ate them yesterday afternoon in his kitchen (where I, yet again, forget to bring my camera and resorted to iPhone/instagram tactics), these scones feel like something you’d be served at a bed and breakfast in Maine, where wild blueberries are simply everywhere, worked into menus from breakfast to dessert.

fresh scones

I think I’d rather like to go back to Maine, if only for all those blueberries. But for now, I’m glad to have a freezer full, as well as these scones, to enjoy.

Oh and hey! Before the recipe, one more thing: A UPrinting Giveaway!
[UPDATE 7/25/11: The winner of the giveaway was Jessie V! Congratulations!]

Details of the Giveaway from UPrinting:
The winner receives:

  • 50 pieces 8.5″ X 11″ brochure printing
  • 100lb Paper Gloss
  • With Folding (Half Fold, Trifold/Letterfold, Z-Fold, Roll Fold, Accordion Fold)
  • Outside and Inside printing, 2 Business Days Turnaround
  • Free shipping

Restrictions:

  • Open only to US residents
  • 18 years old and above only
  • Contest ends tomorrow, June 30, 2011 at midnight CST [NOW CLOSED]
  • Winner cannot have won another UPrinting contest in the last six months

How to Enter:

  • Simply leave a comment on this post, stating what you’d do with the prize AND/OR telling me your favorite way to eat blueberries.
  • Winner will be chosen via random number generator July 1

Disclaimer:
This giveaway is sponsored by UPrinting, an online printing company. Visit UPrinting.com for more information about brochures and available brochure templates. UPrinting will get in touch with the winner for the prize claim within 30 days.

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