Just under two weeks ago, my long-time beau and I were married. Yes, yes – we made it legal on the North Carolina coast at Ft. Fisher Beach. We were both elated, anxious, overwhelmed, and filled with joy. It was a beautiful day.
And like any beautiful day, this day had beautiful food. It was the edibles that I most wanted to share with you.
Our cake was simple in its decor with coloring that complimented my dress. It was exactly as I wanted – simple and refined. Ruffles of icing roses with beach blue accents. Inside, however, it was a chocolate smorgusboard! Our cake was created by One Belle Bakery, a phenomenal Wilmington-area bakery with a plethora of offerings that brought a sweet accent to our day. Our wedding cake was one of the bakery’s signature choices: “Lord Have Mercy.” The cake is comprised of chocolate-chocolate chip cake with layers of chocolate fudge.
The cake was so rich and decadent and, combined with our butterfly-filled bellies, we were scarcely able to take more than two or three bites. Combined with the rich icing, this was the epitome of what chocolate cake is meant to be – rich, dense, and supremely flavorful.
Alongside the cake, we had champagne, raspberry macarons, and lots of love. Our ceremony was very intimate – I called it “elopement style” – and private. So, while food is typically something I revel in sharing, these treats were more about savoring.
The beauty of the cake, the other sweets, all the flourish – it was the perfect accent to a perfect day. A day that celebrated the relationship that we’ve shared for several years now and our commitment to a future together.
So many of the sweet memories in my life are accented by food. Call it a Southern thing. We accent every special milestone and memory with a cake, a multi-course dinner, a signature dish. Every memory worth remembering has a fork in the foreground.
Our nuptials were no exception.
September will now be an extra special month for us. And I’ll never look at a multi-layered chocolate cake the same way again.
And thank you to everyone who shared with us love and well wishes. You were held closely in our hearts on “the big day.”
Nothing beats fresh baked quick breads with ingredients right from the garden – or, in this case, your neighbor’s garden.
When I was writing about our garden this year, one element of the process that I emphasized was how much more enjoyable gardening was when you had people around you to share with. The giving and receiving of fresh produce added a communal aspect to our gardening. In years past, before we planted a garden of our own, we happily accepted fruits and vegetables from our neighbors. But this year, we had our own garden bounty to share and be proud of.
So, when one of our neighbors shared some of their bright carrots, I had to give back. Even after including the carrots in stir fry and salads, we had some left over. And I went straight to work baking three mini loaves of carrot walnut bread, both for us to munch on and to share with our generous neighbors.
Carrot walnut bread is a great way to use those leftover carrots that are just hanging around. Salads and a colorful stir fry, among other dinner recipes, are great ways to carrot-up your food, but carrots taste great in baked goods, too. Instead of baking a calorie-laden carrot cake, I like to opt for carrot nut bread. Packed with carrots, walnuts, and spices, it’s a sweet and satisfying way to eat your carrots and soothe that sweet craving, too.
This quick bread is easy and fun to make. Two bowls, one spatula – done! No standing mixer necessary for this one. My recipe yields one large loaf or three ample mini loaves. This is one you can feel good about eating as well, with olive oil versus vegetable oil and only a moderate amount of sugar.
So, here’s to gardening, here’s to carrots, and here’s to great neighbors!
Carrot Walnut Bread
Yields one standard loaf or three mini loaves
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups carrots, grated
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- Crack eggs and place in a bowl. Beat well. Add sugar and olive oil to eggs and mix until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and sea salt. Blend very well.
- Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, incorporating slowly and mixing well.
- Fold in carrots and walnuts, ensuring a thorough distribution through the batter.
- Using a 9×5 loaf pan or mini loaf pans, pour batter into the pan(s). If you’re using mini loaf pans, fill until around 1/2 full. If using a standard loaf pan, fill with all of the batter.
- Bake at 350 degrees. For a standard loaf, bake for one hour or until golden brown. For mini loaves, bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until golden brown. Either loaf will be fully baked when a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean.
- Allow to cool in pan for five minutes. Then, gently remove to a cooling rack for further cooling.
While many are already counting down the days until sweaters and pumpkins, we all know that summer is still with us, and she isn’t letting go just yet. Temperatures are still quite high, and it’s not time to trade in cool desserts for warm apple pie. No, folks, not just yet.
By now, you may have heard of Atlantic Beach Pie.
When I first encountered the recipe for Atlantic Beach Pie, I had an immediate thought: “This is so similar to the first pie I ever made!” In terms of the filling ingredients, the similarities are strong. With one single difference: The filling in my pie doesn’t require baking. It also doesn’t require a source for good lemon or lime juice. It incorporates a more semi-homemade approach.
When I was a young child and visiting my grandmother – who I called Gran Jean – she taught me to make her secret pie. A pie I devoured. A pie I loved. A pie I had no idea was so simple. She pulled together three ingredients and a store bought graham cracker pie crust and set me to work. “Some of the best things in life as simple, Callie. This is one of them.” Then, one crust and three ingredients mixed together, and voila! A pie was born. My first pie.
Unlike the Atlantic Beach Pie, this pie has no eggs and the filling requires no baking. The crust I make with this pie does, however, but only for seven to eight minutes. The result is a pie with the same flavor notes but without all the baking, without the eggs, and with a crust that is, in my option, far superior. You see, I’ve tried the Atlantic Beach Pie, and while I love the history and story surrounding it, I don’t endorse Saltine cracker crusts. No, thank you.
So, when I learned this recipe as a kid, I was introduced to it with Cool Whip and store-bought crust involved. I’ve since amped it up to include a homemade crust – it’s easy! – and homemade whipped cream – also easy! The taste is more sophisticated and less processed. You know what I mean. Both of my grandmothers taught me a thing or two in the kitchen, and while they are both now deceased, their mad kitchen skills live on in my home day by day in the recipes I execute and an inherited way of knowing just the right combinations of ingredients to execute something amazing.
Fortunately, this pie is an excellent choice for any experience level and is also a great one to involve the kids in whipping up. It’s also great in a kitchen pinch when you need to whip up a refreshing, easy to make dessert. This is a frozen pie that is stored in the freezer. Just remove and cut off a slice or two to serve.
So, for we land locked many, I give you Land Lover’s Icebox Pie. Move over, Atlantic Beach Pie. ‘Round here, we like our crackers with pimento cheese and our pie crusts sweet. This pie is cool, refreshing, and simple in the most perfect of ways. And you don’t need a SPF or a local seafood joint to enjoy it!
Land Lover’s Icebox Pie
Yields eight servings
- 1 12oz. can of frozen lemonade concentrate
- 8 oz. whipped cream
- 1 14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 1/2 cups graham crackers, finely ground
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 6 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Using a food processor, grind graham crackers until you have one and a half cups. Place the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add sugar and melted butter. Mix well.
- Press the crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Be sure it is evenly distributed.
- Bake for seven to eight minutes. Then, remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Placing the pie plate on a cooling rack assists in the process.
- While waiting for your crust to cool, make your whipped cream. (Or make a mad dash to the grocery store!) If you need a recipe for whipped cream, follow my directions included with this previously featured recipe.
- Once the crust is cooled completely, combine whipped cream, condensed milk, and lemonade concentrate in a medium bowl. Mix until fully combined.
- Pour the filling into the pie crust. Be careful not to overfill.
- Cover the pie plate and place in the freezer. Allow to set for a minimum of three hours.
- Once frozen, it’s ready to serve! Always store this pie in the freezer.
Need to make this pie in a pinch or just not in the mood for any baking? Arm injury got you steering clear of the mixing spoon? Opt for a store-bought crust and whipped cream. This will cut the total execution time to five minutes! Face it – we aren’t all perfect domestic divas. Sometimes, to share something delicious with your family and friends, you’ve got to cut corners.
This summer marked the planting of our first garden. As a long-time city girl, I never envisioned that I’d be planting a garden, nurturing the plants, and feasting on the bounty. However, living and eating in both country and city over the years has changed my vision of how we cook and eat. Both my fiancé and I wanted to grow our own organic produce and eat food that we oversaw the production of.
And it was fun! Each day, we inspected the garden, marveling at new growth and daily changes. We grew cucumbers, green peppers, two varieties of tomatoes, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, corn, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
During our first gardening adventure, we also learned many lessons. We called our first garden “The Experiment” and wanted this experience to be one that both yielded delicious fruits and vegetables but also lessons on what we should do differently next year. With the heavy rains that we’ve had in our region of the country, our gardening season is quickly rolling to a close, and we’re now reflecting on what lessons and successes we had this year. I wanted to share our gardening reflections of the year.
Research plant yields and plant what you need. We were incredibly enthusiastic about our garden, and we purchased and planted numerous organic plants and seeds. The results: In some cases, we grew too much! We had more cucumbers, for example, than we could reasonably eat and give away. Our little family can only consume so many cucumber laden salads and sandwiches. Next year, we’re going to just plant what we need with some extra to share.
Berries grow together. We learned that if you plan to plant berries, plant multiple plants together. We grew blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. We had one raspberry bush and two blueberry bushes, and we found the pollinating works best when multiple bushes are grouped together for cross-pollination. In other words, berry bushes like to grow with friends. With only two blueberry bushes and one raspberry bush, we lacked the advantage of cross-pollinating. Next year, we plan to add some more bushes.
Share the bounty. We didn’t grow all the vegetables we love. In our first year of gardening, for example, we decided to avoid root vegetables. We wanted to start with produce that we could see and easily gauge the growth of. We’re fortunate that our neighbors garden as well, and we found that sharing the bounty was a big part of having a great gardening year. We gave neighbors cucumbers, watermelon, strawberries, and tomatoes, and in return, we receiving zucchini, squash, carrots, and other tomato varieties. Gardening is only made better with a communal approach, and both the sharing and receiving of vegetables and fruits made this year even better.
Plant some flowers. Flowers are beautiful and add color to the garden. In the case of marigolds, they have an added benefit. The pungent scent of marigolds detract from animal presence in the garden. In our area, there’s an abundance of deer, and deer love some good garden munchies. We, like our neighbors, planted marigolds near and around the garden area, and we found no evidence of animal meandering in our garden. Plus, marigold seed is incredibly inexpensive.
Love the bees. We learned quickly not to do anything in the pursuit of insect elimination that would detract from bees hanging out in our garden. We learned that our garden needed to be an area frequently visited by bees. Initially, we applied a natural Chrysanthemum solution to detract from the other insects and realized that we were chasing away the bees. Without bees, your garden is doing to be disappointing in terms of its vegetable and fruit yield. We quickly changed our ways.
Plants need space. We scoffed at the notion that we should plant various plants with certain space between them. Space was a premium in the way we chose to organize our garden. So, we planted as we chose, casting aside this advice. While this served us well in some cases, it didn’t in others. For example, our melons should have had more space, and we wonder if perhaps our melons would have grown larger if greater space had been given.
Above all, have fun! Our first garden was a team effort that we both enjoyed. Sure, some of first watermelons were the size of baseballs, but we remained positive and diligent in nurturing our garden. This was an experiment in learning, and we took any plunders in stride. We enjoyed watching the growth and learning what to do differently next year. It was a project that we gained perspective from, with lots of joy and frustrations along the way. Planting and maintaining was fun for us, and we plan to do this year after year, learning lessons along the way.
When I watched the movement to grow your own food grow, I always thought it was a nice idea. I made conscious efforts to seek out more farmer’s markets and local sources for my produce, but I admit that I always discounted the idea of growing my own food. Until this summer. I found that the garden was incredibly rewarding, and there was something incredibly satisfying about putting my own homegrown basil in my pesto, my own watermelon on my tongue. It’s been an incredible experience.
Despite the fact that we live in a more rural area, we executed our garden in a more urban farm style. We used lots of containers and only small areas of the yard for planting. So, whether you live in an area where cows and deer are aplenty or a concrete jungle, you, too, can grow your food and taste the bounty of your nurturing in every bite. I recommend this for anyone, whether you’re growing in the yard or in pots on the porch. Growing your food is a rewarding project that is fun and a better alternative to the grocery. A garden allows you to connect your food from seed to salad, and there’s something beautiful in that process that is missed when you grab the cellophane version at the corner market.
We’ve been spending lots of time in our garden this summer. If you follow my Instagram feed, you’ve been seeing lots of green and a variety of colored, lush bounty. This is our first year as urban farmers, and we’re having so much fun! And with all the fresh, organic produce filling our freezer and refrigerator, I’ve been making more smoothie concoctions than I ever thought possible. (Cucumbers in a smoothie? Yum!)
We planted and have grown a number of berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. In the field behind our home, blackberries grow wild along the treelines on either side, and it’s been a longstanding tradition for us to gather them in mass, filling the freezer with bags of dark purple. Last year, I was baking pies mostly with these beautiful berries, but this year, I’m focusing on making cool, refreshing drinks with them instead.
With four different types of berries in my freezer, the decision was simple – use them all! And the combination of these four berries with almond milk is a treat not to be missed. This smoothie has a strong fruity flavor not overpowered by the inclusion of almond milk. I’ve found in other smoothies I’ve sipped that the flavor of the fruit is overpowered by the creaminess of the milk included, making it more like a milkshake than a smoothie.
In this smoothie, however, it’s all about the fruit.
Aside from creating fun drinks from my seemingly endless stream of berries, I like making my own smoothies because I get to control the amount of sugar in them. When you drop by your favorite cafe to get a cool smoothie, you’re likely taking in more than 30 grams of added sugar. However, when you make your own, you get to make that decision for yourself. Personally, I enjoy my smoothies with just a bit of honey and allowing the fruit to add the rest of the sweetness. Fruit is naturally sweet, and I like it served that way.
Whether you get your fruit from the garden, the farmer’s market, or the grocery, I highly recommend organic produce. My argument doesn’t center around pesticides or health. I make this statement purely on the basis of taste. Organic fruit just tastes better. Try a conventionally grown strawberry and an organic strawberry. That’s all the proof you need of what adds up to a better, sweeter berry. And this smoothie is far more flavorful and sweet with organic fruit. You’ll need far less sweetener when you opt for organic.
Enjoy my berry bounty smoothies for two – a sweet and refreshing celebration of the four best summer berries all in one glass!
Berry Bounty Smoothies
Makes two smoothies
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 cup frozen blackberries
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- 1 cup chilled almond milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Combine all the ingredients in your blender. Pulse until fully combined and smooth. Use a spatula to redistribute the mixture as necessary for a perfect blend.
- Serve in chilled glasses with a straw and a smile.
Summer is here, folks.
I doubt that’s any sort of news flash for you. Your T-shirt has already begun to stick to your body; the beach is beckoning your name. Hello, summer. We missed you. Kind of.
I’m always looking for new ways to cool off during the hot Virginia summer days in the 80 and 90 degree range. One of my favorites: pops! They are cool, refreshing, fruity, and for me, they make a great way to use sliced melon and berries.
We’ve been busy, busy in the garden over the past few weeks, and one of my favorite crops from our urban farm is the raspberries. Juicy, sweet – in a word, perfect. I eagerly awaited the debut of the berries, and now, they’re here and ready for cool classics and new recipes. Muffins, smoothies, pops – I use berries in all my kitchen adventures.
The recipe I’m featuring today is one of my summer favorites. It’s essentially a smoothie on a stick. Made up of whole milk, fresh melon and berries, and sugar, it’s delicious, refreshing, and packed with nutrients and some protein. Sure, it has sugar, but the amount is far less than you would find in a supermarket popsicle or a smoothie from your favorite drink spot. My fella even loves these, and he is not a raspberry fan as a general rule. I couldn’t pry this pop from his fingers!
The combination of honeydew and raspberries is sheer perfection. Honeydew is sweet with a mild flavor, and the combination of raspberries brings a bold tang. Fruity harmony. And the beauty of an urban garden like mine is that you can combine your favorites from the garden with organic fruits at the local grocery.
These pops are incredibly easy to make. Popsicle molds, a food processor or blender, four ingredients, and you’re ready to go.
Honeydew + Raspberry Smoothie Pops
Makes six, 4-ounce pops
- 2 1/2 cups honeydew, sliced
- 2 1/2 cups raspberries
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Place 1/2 cup of raspberries aside. Combine all other ingredients in your blender or food processor and pulse for one minute.
- Using your popsicle molds, fill each mold with mixture to 1/3 full. Then, drop two to three raspberries into the mold. Fill another third and repeat. Then, fill to the top with the mixture.
- Insert popsicle sticks and place in freezer for a minimum of four to six hours. Once thoroughly frozen, enjoy!
Tip: Depending on the size of your mold, you may have some of the mixture left. It makes a delicious smoothie to enjoy while you wait on your pops to freeze! Also, another trick, to get your pops free from the mold, run the mold under warm water for approximately 20 seconds. That should loosen your pop and make it easy to remove.
Ice cream is the edible staple of summer.
At my house, we’ve been toiling away at our first organic garden. And like any adventure we embark on, we went all in. We are growing a plethora of fruits and vegetables, tending them daily and watching the bountiful magic happen. With the garden variety of plants we’re growing, one crop is the most plentiful: strawberries. So many strawberry plants and so many berries! With each pint, I grow more astounded – and more inspired.
From the onset of our organic gardening adventure, I knew one sweet fate of the strawberries: ice cream.
I make ice cream every summer. As I always say, anything made at home versus in commercial production is always best, and ice cream is no exception. The combination of my homegrown, organic strawberries with local cream and milk yields a final result that is nothing short of heavenly.
Cream is foundation of any ice cream, and I always look for the best, local dairy products I can find. In the western portion of Virginia, there’s none better than Homestead Creamery. The milk and cream come from two local farms and is always free of antibiotics and hormones. It’s also sold in glass bottles that keep the product fresher longer and makes me feel like I’m experiencing an age long gone when milk wasn’t packaged in plastic or cardboard. The inclusion of this locally sourced milk and cream means that I get a fresher, more robust ice cream, and I can take pride in supporting my local economy.
When locally sourced ingredients combine with fruit fresh from the garden, magic happens.
This ice cream is best when you hit the farmer’s market or your garden for the ingredients. However, where you choose to grab your berries and cream is up to you. That’s the beauty of making your own food in the kitchen – you’re in control!
Making ice cream from your kitchen is fun and rewarding. This recipe is simple, and with a few steps, you have ice cream that you can share – or keep all for yourself! – that truly has your stamp on it. Strawberry ice cream is the taste that spells summer to me, far more than any other flavor. No chocolate or tropical flavors could better usher in summer than a big bowl of strawberry ice cream. Enjoy this cool taste of summer from my kitchen to yours.
Sweet Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes four servings
- 1 1/2 pints frozen strawberries, thawed
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar or granulated sweetener
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- First, remove any stems from your thawed strawberries. Place them in a food processor and pulse for 30 – 45 seconds. The mixture should be smooth and yield 1 1/2 cups. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
- In a large saucepan, combine milk and vanilla paste. Bring to a simmer. Stir frequently for 10 minutes or until the vanilla paste is fully incorporated and remove from heat.
- In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar or sweetener. Mix until thick and pale. Slowly stir the mixture into the saucepan of warm milk. On low heat, cook while stirring constantly. The mixture is ready to be removed when it coats the spoon or when your cooking thermometer reads 185 degrees.
- Remove the sauce pot from heat. Using a sieve, drain the liquid mixture into a separate container. Allow the custard mixture to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches room temperature, cover and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of three hours and thoroughly chilled.
- Once your custard is chilled, combine with heavy cream and your processed strawberries. Mix well.
- Pour the mixture into your ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Place in the freezer in an airtight container for a minimum of two hours additional freezing.
I often use Splenda in this recipe in place of sugar and have found that I achieve perfect results. Also, fresh strawberries can also be used in this recipe – simply refrigerate longer after processing. I have found, however, that using frozen berries improves the overall texture.