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Still Here

Well look here, it’s been a year. And what a year it’s been. I’ve been itching to come back to this space for awhile now, but kept holding myself back. You know how you let too much time pass before giving that old friend a call, and you think, well now it would just be weird to call, so much time’s gone by? That’s how I’ve felt about my blog. There’s still so much I wanted to do with this blog, and life just got in the way. I’ve been busy, writing elsewhere, and helping people with their blogs. I feel very fortunate to have crafted sustainable work out of multiple jobs, but I miss having an outlet of my own. So I’m not making any promises, but I want to really strive to carve out time to keep coming back here.

Around this time last year I was neck-deep in wedding planning (which I actually found to be a lot of fun), albeit incredibly time-consuming. Last year incidentally turned out to be the year for weddings. Ours was magical, and is a day I’d like to relive in my mind forever and ever. We had stunning weather (thankfully, since our wedding was outside), and most of all, it was a lot. of. fun.

We feel incredibly fortunate to have had so many incredible, talented, generous people be a part of our wedding. From the gorgeous, ridiculously talented Stephanie Trippe, who made me the most comfy wedding dress of my dreams, to our dear friends Caitlin and Jess, who serenaded us with their ethereal voices, to our adorable, energetic, tiny photographer Casey who captured so many precious moments of the day and night, to our generous, artistic friend Masha who embroidered our names and wedding date onto a vintage hankerchief that bound my bouquet — the list is endless. We had so many special details woven into this wedding, and it wouldn’t have been possible without every single one of these amazing people. We truly  couldn’t have been luckier to have had such a beautiful, memorable day, shared with all the ones we love.

It’s amazing how much has changed in a year. Here it is spring again, my favorite (all-too fleeting) season, and I’m feeling excited for the possibilities lingering in the air. I’m eagerly (and impatiently) awaiting the arrival of rhubarb, asparagus, radishes, and peas, and I am looking forward to a trip to NYC in less than two weeks. It’s been a year since I was there as well, and I miss it in my bones.

It’s been a Mazzy Star-listening, banana bread-making, puppy dog cuddles, reflective kind of morning.

So this is just a little “hello,” to say I’m still here.

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Turn Loose

Sometimes you just have to have your power go out for two days (and counting) to motivate yourself to finally sit down and blog. Sometimes you have to wait until noon for coffee, and trudge out in nasty winter slosh for homefries and a biscuit the size of your head, and get your socks drenched and crash at friends’ houses. And sometimes you have to reconcile that those bananas you were waiting ever so patiently for to gracefully reach the perfect ripening point for making banana bread are probably gonna have to be tossed out. Espresso banana bread, you are still on my horizon, even if I am getting the runaround.

2014 has been a cold one so far, as winter just seems to refuse to release its stubborn grip on us, repeatedly (and inconveniently) giving us the proverbial middle finger. Turn us loose, winter! Several winter advisory warnings, one painful and embarrassing fall resulting in one big bruised elbow, lots of House of Cards episodes, and two days of cafe hopping and wifi mooching later, here I finally am. Blogging for the first time this year…and for myself no less! Between wedding planning and multiple jobs, it’s been a cold (albeit productive) new year! I’ve been contributing more regularly to FoodieCrush, which I love, and I’ve been continuing to blog for a sweet local restaurant and a couple wonderful local hotels. I like being busy, and I am excited for what the upcoming year holds. A lot of change, a lot of travels, new friends, and new opportunities. You can see some of the latest stuff I’ve done for Foodiecrush here and here.

Can I just say I’m kind of jealous of this little Union Square Green Market party going on right now (via Instagram), with Deb and Mimi and Nicole? So much beautiful creativity in such a concentrated location!

So for now, as I will away this winter, I will dream of wildflowers, open windows, rhubarb, asparagus, and sundresses, NYC in the springtime, and this strawberry supreme cake that I can’t stop thinking about. Oh, and I will certainly try to be a more devoted blogger. I promise. Here’s a little peek of what I’ve been up to so far this year…

A few of my favorite things…

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How to Halloween

*Cue the menacing evil cackles,  thunder sound effects and organ music!*

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. Over the years I’ve been everything from a witch, to Minnie Mouse, and a southern belle, to Little Mermaid (with a ridiculous wig and a turtleneck, despite my fervent objection), to a battered Stepford Wife (really wish I had a picture of this one), and a zombie child, to probably the most frightening of all, Sarah Palin. My crafty mom and grandma would piece, sew, and gather costumes together for us when we were little, and we’d tend to order pizza for dinner on Halloween night, which became a fun tradition. I was that kid who dumped the contents of her pumpkin on the living room floor at the end of the night, counting each piece and organizing it into piles, by category… Also, one year when I was passing out candy, feeling too old to go trick or treating but bitter about it, as a last minute whim, I slathered peanut butter on half my face, to create a “Two-Face” look. The peanut butter melted off and I’m sure I didn’t scare any of the trick or treaters.

I’m particularly excited for Halloween this year, because it marks my first Halloween with Jay! We’re going on five years of dating, but every single year (with the exception of me being in NY last year), he’s had rehearsal, so we couldn’t do anything together. Not this year! He’s going to be in a production of Into the Woods and while he’s not playing the Wolf, he’s always loved that role. So, in the spirit of the play, we’re going as the big bad wolf and little red riding hood, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Here are a few looks into Halloweens pasts…

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Last year, I spent Halloween gearing up for Frankenstorm (luckily we were unscathed, even though parts of our neighborhood did get flooded). Molly and I went to a serial killer haunted house on the lower east side, and Caitlin and I went to see a band called Morricone Youth perform their own score of Nosferatu, at Nitehawk Cinema. I remember seeing so many great costumes last year, including a women dressed as Annie Hall, who was a deadringer for a young Diane Keaton (it was uncanny, she resembled her to a t), and a guy with a red hoodie, riding a bike with an ET stuffed into his front basket. There were also some seriously scary Halloween decorations in the city…

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Part of the fun of Halloween is the scary movies. Slasher movies don’t do it for me, but here are some of my favorite suspenseful films that never fail to send shivers down my spine:

  • Watcher in the Woods: I’ve been watching this obscure movie since I was little, and to this day, it’s still probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. My dad would always watch it with us, get this terrified look on his face and pretend he saw something out the window, scaring my sister and me every single time. Surprisingly, it’s a Disney movie, and has that chick from Ice Castles in it, alongside Betty Davis at her creepiest. Sure there’s some cheesy special effects and cringe-worthy acting (after all, it is an 80s movie), but its disturbing theme music alone is enough to give me chills and I still l find it just as scary today, at 26, as I did at six. Narek! (Just watch the movie).

 

  • What Lies BeneathUnfortunately this movie has never been as scary as it was the first time I saw it, but I just think it’s so well done. It’s a classic suspenseful mystery with a great twist (although a little predictable), and it’s pretty darn creepy.
  • VertigoThis is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie and the one I find to be the scariest, as well as one of his more brilliant films. I love the complexity and unpredictability of it, as well as  Kim Novak’s mysteriousness against the breathtaking, eery scenery of the Bay Area and the Redwoods.
  • The Sixth SenseI’ll never forget seeing this in the theater for the first time and having my mind completely blown by that famous end-reveal. I’ve always found movies about ghosts to be the scariest, and I thought the ghosts in this film were very realistic looking. There are so many suspenseful scenes in this movie and even years and multiple watchings later, it still has the ability to scare me.
  • The DescentI watched this in college and I don’t know if it’s because it plays on one of my biggest  fears (claustrophobia) and I found the ending incredibly disturbing. Plus I love that it’s an all-female cast!
  • Whatever Happened to Baby JaneAnother movie where Bette Davis is purely terrifying. It’s twisted, and won’t look at a caged bird in the same way again.
  • Practical MagicOkay this one isn’t so creepy anymore,  as it is a guilty pleasure. I am kind of obsessed with this movie. I love Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock and they’re in their prime in this movie. It’s just a lot of fun.

And if you’re in the mood for a scary read, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic, The Yellow Wallpaper—a short story from the 1800s, about a woman’s journey into madness, is a must. It’s one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. It’s a quick read too.

Halloween is also special because it’s an excuse to consume more candy than is considered socially acceptable. I’m not a big candy freak but I definitely eat more than candy than usual the week of Halloween, and here are some of my favorites:

  • Pink Strawbursts: Seriously, why are they so good? All of the others might as well be useless because these are the only ones I care about, and I will furiously and tediously unwrap every single duo packet until I uncover one. But just for Halloween of course.
  • M&M’s and Peanut M&M’s: These are easily my favorite.  I normally opt for the peanut ones because otherwise, I could just chain-eat the plain ones.
  • Krackel Bar: While I’m not a fan of Hershey’s chocolate and I prefer dark chocolate over milk, this under-appreciated mini candy bar is an exception (along with real Cadbury Dairy Milk), and I’ve loved it as long as I can remember.
  • Candy Corn: But only about four pieces and then I’m done.

Whether you go to a party or not on Halloween, you should definitely have something fun to drink. There a lot of great bottles of wine with fun, “spooky” names and labels, perfect for Halloween. I’m excited to try this shiraz-durif blend, 19 Crimes (a modest $11.99), which comes in a black frosted bottle with a vintage sepia photo-label of an ex-con and a depiction of the particular crime they committed. I also think this cocktail titled “The Blackbeard” looks incredibly fun and creative.

Whatever you do and however you celebrate, have fun and be safe, and don’t get lost on the way to granny’s!

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Bluegrass and Bourbon

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We just returned from a week long road tripping adventure to Asheville and Kentucky, where we visited my grandparents, who live outside of Lexington. We gorged ourselves with southern food, toured Woodford Reserve (I may have eaten four bourbon balls), and spent a day in Louisville—what a quirky little city. We went vintage shopping on Bardstown Road, marveled over the classy Brown Hotel and drove through the scenic Cherokee Park (designed by Frederick Olmsted, who also designed Prospect Park and the similarities were uncanny!) We stopped for Mexican Hot Chocolate and Apple Bourbon Bread at this adorable coffee shop called Please and Thank You, and also had beers in a former church, called The Holy Grale! I’m wishing we could have eaten there because the menu looked amazing (particularly the poutine with roasted corn, jalapeños, cheese curds and duck gravy). Next time around I’d also love to visit Milkwood and Hillbilly Tea and catch a show at The Actors Theatre of Louisville.

As luck has it, I only have a month before my next little adventure. I’ll be reunited with my city…and in the fall! I’ll fly up to New York for a couple days and then take the train into Carmel, to spend my second Thanksgiving with Jay’s family. I’m so looking forward to all of it. I’ve been reminiscing about my time in New York last fall, and thinking of where I was and what I was doing. This month last year, I was going out for Oktoberfest at Radegast, with Louisa, calling every candy shop and purveyor in town, requesting samples for our Halloween candy feature, going to the Serial Killers Haunted House with Molly, and stocking up and freaking out over the impending arrival of hurricane Sandy. Time flies.

Wedding planning is progressing and we met our pint-sized photographer Casey, for pints at The Federal in Durham the other day, and she is so cute and kind and genuinely excited to be a part of our wedding. Check out some of her and her husband Matt’s beautiful work here. I am loving how this process is unfolding.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. Here’s pretty much what I have in rotation on my playlist:

  • These Days – Jackson Browne
  • Off He Goes – Pearl Jam
  • Firstborn – J. Tillman
  • We are Fine – Sharon Van Etten
  • The Pharaohs- Neko Case
  • Deep Red Bells – Neko Case
  • Lakehouse- Of Monsters and Men
  • My Unusual Friend – The Fruit Bats

and this sweet little gem

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The arrival of fall brings forth a hankering for what I like to call “hibernation food,” you know, warming comfort food, one-pot meals that can simmer away on a Sunday afternoon. Hibernation food is best consumed while wearing socks and sitting on your couch, watching Downton Abbey. It pairs excellently with red wine. Yesterday’s dreary weather  begged for homemade creamy tomato soup  with grilled cheeses and apple salad. And cookies. This afternoon during a beautiful jog, I was thinking about food (as I often do while jogging), and deliberating over what to cook for tonight’s dinner. It needed to be relatively quick because Jay had to leave for rehearsal and I wanted him to be able to eat before he left, which meant I had two hours to grocery shop and make it happen. Since Sundays mean roast chickens are on sale at Whole Foods, I picked one up and made a casserole with some beautiful broccoli I got from Farlow Farm, at the Curb Market. I added some mushrooms that were about to go bad, and some leeks, because leeks are awesome. This simple casserole definitely met the hibernation food criteria. I highly suggest you make some.

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Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms, Broccoli and Thyme  makes 6-8 servings

  • About 4 cups of rotisserie chicken (I used all of the white meat from one) *save the carcass to make chicken stock!
  • 1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (cook in chicken stock if you can)
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, with green parts removed and discarded; sliced into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic or 3-4 small cloves
  • 1-2 TBS of fresh thyme (I just eyeball this and you can do it to taste)
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (use homemade if possible)
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice according to package instructions. While the rice is cooking, shred the chicken (I just do this by hand) and place in a large bowl. In a medium skillet, add olive oil and leeks and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Preheat the oven to 450. Add the mushrooms, chicken stock, half and half, thyme and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 10 minutes or so. You want the liquid mixture to thicken and reduce a little.

Meanwhile, cook the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for one minute. Drain and set aside. Add the rice, broccoli, and the liquid mixture to the large bowl with the chicken and add 1/2 cup of parmesan. Toss with a large spoon or spatula until everything is combined. Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan, and some more thyme leaves. Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid/foil and place under a broiler until the top is golden brown (about 5 minutes). Put on something comfy and eat.

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List Love

  • I wish I could click my heels and go here this weekend…
  • Come back fall weather so I can make these two dreamy pumpkin treats and inaugurate my pumpkin colored Mr. Rogers sweater.
  • This was SPOT. ON. “I love your outfit by the way, where did you get that?” 

                                                       “A fire.”

The craziest thing is, I actually caught the facade of our apartment in this spoof! Too funny and very appropriate, considering Girls is shot about 200 feet away from where I used to live, on Diamond and Messerole).

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This time. Last year.

Some people have spirit animals. I have a spirit city. It’s NYC and I’m missing it hardcore right now. Every year, without fail, I get very contemplative and nostalgic once fall arrives; it stirs something within me. It’s my favorite season by far. I love the crisp air and the way it smells differently. I love falling asleep with the window open and my socks on, and I prefer sweaters, boots and scarves to t-shirts and sandals.

It’s so hard to believe that this time last year I was living in Greenpoint— my little Polish neighborhood, situated in a little nook on the tip top of Brooklyn. I was settling into feeling like a New Yorker. I was interning at Time Out—feeling like a little fish in a big sea, calling restaurants and PR firms galore, gearing up for fall preview, researching beer tastings, cooking classes, festivals and markets, and actually getting to write some. I was afraid of my boss, who was gorgeous but mean and impossible to please. But I can say the woman was fierce. She got shit done.

I had learned how to walk from the West Village to SoHo, to the East Village and to Tribeca. I had a favorite bodega, two favorite neighborhood coffee shops (Grumpy’s and Charlotte Patisserie), favorite walks, and a favorite view (the East River and Manhattan skyline from the pier by Transmitter Park. I worked. I worked on weekends. I learned to carry a lot of heavy things without a hand truck and how to set up a tent by myself. I babysat spoiled upper west (and east) side monster children who behaved so atrociously I thought they only existed as a cliche, in films. I met friends. I made friends. I laughed. I cried. I yelled at cars that almost ran me over (on a regular basis)—”I’m walkin’ here!” I felt empowered. I felt insufficient. I felt inspired. I felt uncomfortable. I felt energized. I felt intimidated. The city knocked me down some days and lifted me up others. It always surprised me.

I don’t miss having to right walk by suffering homeless people on a regular basis, I don’t miss urine in the subways or sharing a teeny tiny bathroom with three other people. I don’t miss waiting for the G train. I don’t miss missing my boyfriend, sleeping alone, and waaaaaaaiting.

But I do miss and miss dearly breakfasts with people I love at Five Leaves, subway music at the Metropolitan/Lorimer stop, strangely and comically running into people I know all. the time. I miss the Blue Stove, the Flea, walking everywhere, the smell of Polish Rye bread baking in the New Warsaw Bakery and wafting out into the night air. I miss that first night where my three roommates and I stayed out all night drinking frozen harrisons and dancing at Enid’s. I miss Commerce Street, brownstone stoops, Cobble Hill, the walk home from the Bedford stop, through McCarren Park, seeing the old man in my neighborhood making pizza all day and then falling asleep on a chair outside late at night, the Union Square Green Market, doughnuts  the size of your head, from Dough, Peter Pan Bakery, walking through Washington Square Park at golden hour, the people, the culture, the food, the transience that can make you feel alone and not alone at the same time. This city will always tug at my heartstrings.

So there you have it. I’m pretty much always missing New York, but especially this fall. So I drink my coffee out of my Brooklyn Flea mug every Saturday or Sunday morning and let myself get nostalgic, and longingly look ahead to my next visit. I look around me and am grateful for the journey I’ve taken so far, the opportunities I’ve been given, the people I’ve met and the memories I have. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

 

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‘Round Here

Oh my, I’ve been MIA again. I’ve been blogging (just not for myself). I’ve been writing about other people’s weddings, corn and succotash, and lavender peach tarts. I’ve been browsing mid-century Finnish enamelware on Etsy (can I just win the lottery so I can buy everything Kaj Franck ever designed??), binge-watching seasons 2 and 3 of Sex and the City (for probably the 15th time), listening to Andrew Bird’s “Wait” a lot on repeat, eating lots of fig & walnut toast with goat cheese and lavender honey, and shamelessly Instagraming my dog left and right. We bought an orchid, so I’ve been focusing on trying to not kill that. I’ve been courting photographers, pondering DIY photo booths, admiring hobnail milk glass vases and wedding planning (!). There’s quite a lot going on around here.

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I’m sad to report I haven’t been baking as much as I’d like to lately and I don’t have any new recipes to share, other than this Peaches ‘n Cream Tart with Lavender and Honey I devised for Durham Magazine’s Blog. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still dreaming of peach and basil shortcake, bourbon blondies with chocolate and walnuts, and sweet corn ice cream…

I made this fig & brandy clafoutis for breakfast on a Sunday morning…(it’s a keeper)

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So far, so good, eh?

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The Jam

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A few weeks ago I made strawberry jam for a homemade Mother’s Day brunch (to be rolled up into some luscious sourdough crepes) and dolled up with some mascarpone-whipped cream. It was fun, it made me feel fancy and it impressed people. So naturally, I was hooked. I see many more jam-making endeavors in my near future! Store-bought jams (even the good brands, like Bonne Maman and Sarabeth’s) tend to to be a tad too sugary. Funny enough, I used a recycled Bonne Maman jar for this jam (those red & white checked lids are just too darned cute)! And although strawberry season is coming to an inevitable close, you may still be able to find some good farmers’ market berries and make this killer jam. I imagine it would work equally well with blueberries or blackberries, though you would probably need to up the sugar amount.

So for the method. Instead of just putting the fruit and sugar together in a pot and immediately cooking,  you take a slower, more graceful approach, letting the berries  macerate for several hours and overnight, creating a wonderful syrup that in turn, will create a lovely, jam.

I’ve made it twice now, experimenting with the cook time and it yielded two different results. The first time I made it I only cooked it for about 20 minutes and it yielded a runnier, syrup-like consistency (precisely what I was aiming for). It was a bright hue and tasted like most strawberry jams (but better)!

The second time around, by accident, I ended up cooking it for about 30-35 minutes or so, at a slightly higher temp. The bottom was starting to scald and get crusty and I was afraid it was ruined. The jam was a much darker hue, almost as if I had put balsamic vinegar in it. It was also thicker, less sweet and richer with more depth and complexity. So it it may have been an accident but it was a happy accident indeed, so let that be a testament to the fact that not all accidents are bad.

I love both versions and think they’re both equally delicious, they’re just different. So it depends on what you’re going for. .. Whichever you decide, this recipe is incredibly simple and guaranteed to be a hit with anyone you share it with (if you feel inclined to share).

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Strawberry Jam

2 lbs. fresh strawberries (rinsed thoroughly, hulled and halved)

1 cup of granulated sugar (or 1 1/2 cups if your strawberries aren’t as ripe or if you just prefer a sweeter jam)

Put the strawberries in a large bowl and toss with the sugar. Let sit to macerate for at least five hours (the longer the better), stirring every couple of hours. It’s best to start this in the mid-late afternoon. Transfer them to a large colander placed over a large bowl, to catch the juices. Cover the strawberries and colander in plastic wrap or with a towel and refrigerate overnight.

Transfer the strawberries and their juices to a large pot and bring to a boil. Bring down to a simmer over medium-medium low heat. Mash the strawberries some with a potato masher or a spoon and stir periodically (make sure the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn). Simmer for 20-40 minutes (depending on how thick or thin you want your jam). The longer you cook it, the less jam you will have. Remove from heat. Transfer to a jar (s), seal tightly and let sit in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes. Keep fresh in refrigerator.

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Bananas

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I’ve always been more of a cake gal than a pie gal. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fruit pie—piping hot with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. But when it comes to pies, my heart’s always beaten just a little bit faster over cream pies. Chocolate cream, coconut cream and especially banana cream. It’s funny and surprising how much I adore banana cream pie and banana pudding (and basically any other kind of banana dessert), yet I detest bananas by themselves. I’ve finally just come around to tolerating them in fruit smoothies (even enjoying them frozen and combined with peanut butter, honey, almond milk, ground flax and oats). But when someone eats a banana in front of me and that scent makes its way over, I scrunch up my nose. It’s strange, I know. I’m pretty much just like Ron Swanson, when eating bananas are concerned…

I like switching up the crusts when making banana cream pie. Sometimes I go for a toasted walnut-shortbread crust but sometimes I just want chocolate. This press-in crust (made in a food processor) is as simple as they get. Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, a little brown sugar, melted butter and salt, done.

For the custard, it’s got to be rich (with good eggs and whole milk or half and half/heavy cream) and flecked with vanilla bean. Slice up three bananas so you can be sure to get banana in each bite, layer the bananas and custard and whip up some cream for topping and it’s a done deal. Definitely one of my favorite desserts. Any time I see banana pudding or banana cream pie on a menu, my eyes widen and my heart flutters. It’s the ultimate swoon. See for yourself.

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Banana Cream Pie

Serves about 8-12

For the custard:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups whole milk or alternatively 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup half and half or heavy cream)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk (and/or half and half/cream), vanilla bean seeds and pod and salt. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg yolks, corn starch and sugar in a large bowl, whisking together until smooth. As soon as the stove mixture has reached a boil, remove from heat. Gradually add half of the stove mixture to the egg mixture, whisking quickly, to temper. Add the rest and bring the pot back to the stove (on medium-medium high heat), whisking constantly until the mixture becomes thick and pudding-like. Remove from heat. Let cool for about 5 minutes. Add the butter (by Tbsp) and stir until melted and combined. Let the custard cool to room temperature before covering with plastic wrap (directly over the custard, so you don’t get pudding skin) and refrigerate for at least two hours; preferably four. You can put the bowl of custard in an ice bath to speed this process up if you’re in a hurry.

For the chocolate crust:

  • 1 package of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (if you can’t find these, Oreos are fine but be sure to remove the icing. I’ll leave you to your own devices on the best method for doing that) ; )
  • 1/2 stick (or 4 oz.) of melted, unsalted butter
  • 1/8 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the wafers in a food processor until they become fine crumbs. Add the melted butter, salt and brown sugar and pulse to combine thoroughly. Press into a 10-inch pie or tart pan, making sure to go up the sides and keep an even layer of crust. Bake for about 10 minutes until the crust is set. Let cool completely.

Assembly: 

  • Custard
  • 3 ripe bananas (peeled and sliced to desired thickness—I prefer mine thin)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (powdered or granulated is fine)

Once the crust is cooled, evenly place banana slices from 1 1/2 bananas on top of the crust. Then spread half of the custard mixture in an even layer. Repeat with the remaining banana slices (from 1 1/2 bananas) and top with the remainder of the custard.

Whip the heavy cream and sugar in a chilled bowl of a stand or hand-held mixer until stiff peaks form.

Top the pie with whipped cream however you’d like. (You can use more whipped cream but it will be harder to see what kind of pie it is, like I failed to do in the picture)! Garnish with dark chocolate shavings or curls or a light dusting of cocoa powder. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

*Note: If you know it’s going to be several hours or a day before you’re going to serve the pie, hold off on making the whipped cream until the last minute. Otherwise it will lose it’s body and become flat and melty. Plus, fresh whipped cream always tastes better!

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How Lucky We Are

I suspect the cat’s already out of the bag but regardless, I felt it appropriate and necessary to share that something kind of big just happened. There’s a curious new piece of jewelry on my left ring finger…!

The weekend before last, Jay and I loaded the car to head to Asheville to see my mom and stepdad. It took me about 15 minutes in to realize we were on I-40 East (and if you’re familiar with Asheville you know that’s in the opposite direction). After I said something, he pulled out a card he had made with photos of us from four years and four months ago on our first trip (to the Outer Banks). There was a really sweet poem on the back. Even after this surprise I still had no idea, though I jokingly asked, “what are we eloping or something?”

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During the drive, passing through Plymouth, we saw this incredible abandoned old home on the side of the road. It was completely dilapidated and overgrown as if it were being swallowed by the earth. It seemed so stoic sitting there against the bleak grey sky, like a dismal Andrew Wyeth painting. I urged Jay to turn around so we could go explore and he was reluctant but for reasons I didn’t yet know about. (Can we just get there already, so I can ask you?!) But he obliged. There was a lone chair sitting on the front porch, as if it had been placed there for one of us to sit in.

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I found spotted a lady bug in the grass by the house—a good luck omen. It stayed on my arm as I wandered through the house. It was exhilarating and I felt like a little kid on an adventure, letting my curiosity enrapture me as I explored each room. There were kitchen cabinets still open, items still in the dish drying rack and a drinking glass still on the counter. A few items still in the refrigerator. Some pamphlets from a 1980s women’s spring ministry convention lay on the floor, along with some old bottles and other odd ephemera. A couple pieces of furniture remained; torn curtains and a An old pair of women’s shoes, half buried in dirt and leaves were particularly eerie. Jay kept worrying the floor was going to fall beneath me. Much of the roof and floor were already missing. I felt strange about disturbing too much of anything in the house. I think about who might have lived there before and how the house came to be left and forgotten and why some things were left behind. I wonder how many people drive by this house that used to be a home every day and don’t even see it.

Shortly after we left the house, we happened upon fields among fields of the most gorgeous yellow flowers. (We pulled over again). I stood amid them and they came up to my waist. It reminded me of when my mom and I (by total happenstance) discovered endless fields of lavender at the top of a hill in Provence.

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When we arrived in Kill Devil Hills, we sought out to find this pretty little bench not far from the beach that we found on our last trip. We found it under the same cool tree, with just a little less paint and a little more weather than before. A grey tabby cat greeted us and kept us company. Jay had me sit on the bench so he could take some photos like from before. Next thing I knew he was in front of me, down on one knee. The rest is a secret but of course I said yes.

It had rained on our way to the Outer Banks it rained and the weather forecast called for clouds and rain the whole weekend. But once we got there the rain stopped and it didn’t come back until the moment we left.

I love this man with all my heart. I like and love so many things about him…his sentimentality, his corny sense of humor (which compliments my corny sense of humor) and his ability to always pull out a new joke at the most opportune time. His affectation for accents and impersonations, his love, his patience, his smile, his intelligence, the way he smells, how strangely particular he is about his coffee mugs. The way he loves me just as I am and makes me feel like I can always be my true self. There are so many things. And the longer I know him the clearer it is we just go together. I’m excited to plan this big old party with him because that’s exactly what we want our wedding to be. A big old party with all of the people who matter most to us, all together, us celebrating them, celebrating us. Sometimes we jokingly refer to the old man and old lady version of ourselves as Henry and Mildred and so I told him, I look forward to growing into the Mildred to his Henry.

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