A Change

It's been a good long while since I've been committed to this blog, against my preference.  I've become so busy working on a big life change that I haven't been able to share here, so I focused on what what going on elsewhere.  But now it is time to share, and to be here again.

You may know that I have been working at a corporate job since I graduated from college.  I followed my partner and best friend to Minneapolis, and we were living here together happily.  I love Minneapolis and the people we have met here.  But, I never enjoyed my job, and despite being in a wonderful city with great people, I felt less and less like the person I was in college.  The problem with that is that I loved my college self.  I have never felt more like myself than when I was in my undergrad years.  A big part of my soul woke up back then when I took ownership of my education and started truly shaping my ideology independently.  I immediately related to feminism and women's health issues, and concepts like social justice, privilege and oppression, and agency started guiding what I learned and how I conceptualized the world.  I quickly became a "change-the-world" type, wonderfully naive and optimistic.  But at the same time, my background and my own life expectations were leading me down this road toward business, and I followed that too. 

So then after college, I accepted a job at Target HQ because, well, it was a great job.  It just wasn't "me", and I knew it right away.  But I didn't know what was more me.  But in May, I decided to finally go after what feels like a calling I've been ignoring since I was 18: midwifery.  2 weeks ago, I resigned from my corporate job to go back to school next fall.  I am moving back to Michigan in the meantime to focus on completing prerequisite classes and being a nanny.  I'm not a risk taker, so leaving a comfortable and secure job was a big jump for me.  But I have no doubts that this is what I am meant to be pursuing.  I can't wait for my next adventure to start.


Pear Cornmeal Cake with Caramel

I made this gluten-free cake for Thanksgiving this year, and I'm still debating if eating it for breakfast the next morning was better than having it for its intended dessert purpose.  Either way, it's great paired with coffee in the morning or bubbly at night.

Upside-Down Pear Cornmeal Cake with Caramel (Gluten Free) 
Based on recipe from Whole Foods

2-3 just ripe pears (I used Bartlett) 
1 cup liquid caramel (bought or homemade) + extra for drizzling
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar 
2 large eggs  
1/2 cup strained cottage cheese or ricotta
1 cup almond flour 
2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract 
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice  
1 cup yellow cornmeal 
1 teaspoon baking powder  
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
Preheat oven to 375.  Coat a 9" cake pan with nonstick spray.  Pour caramel into the bottom of the pan and distribute so it evenly covers the bottom of the pan.  Cut pears into thick slices (~1-1.5" thick, to your liking) and arrange in a circle on top of the caramel.  
In a large bowl, beat butter until light and creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in cottage cheese (best if you mash it with the back of a spoon first so it's not so chunky) or ricotta, almond flour, vanilla, and orange juice. Mix cornmeal with baking powder and salt, and fold into batter.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is set and you feel like it's done.  Carefully flip the cake over onto a platter and serve slices with extra caramel drizzled over the top.  


Holiday Gift Idea | Apple Cider Syrup

Happy December!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Ours was filled with so much food & wine, family, ankle-deep snow, and coziness by the fire.

There is a shorter time between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, so it's time to get in the full swing of the holidays!  And to get in the spirit, I have some homemade gift ideas that are great on a budget.  First up - apple cider syrup! 

I brought a half gallon of minimally processed cider to a boil on the stove then let it simmer down for about 3-4 hours until it got nice and thick.  The half gallon yielded exactly this one small jar.  To make it extra special, I added a drink recipe that uses the syrup as an ingredient.  This makes for the perfect holiday host gift.  Enjoy!


Crispy Banana Granola

I'm about to move to a new Chicago flat.  You know that point in packing where you realize there are far too many bananas in your freezer? I hit that point.  Of course the first thought was to make banana bread for everyone I know.  However, I had already used my flour stash, and want to avoid buying any more bulk items until I am stocking my new kitchen.

The solution? Granola! I added in whatever ingredients were in my pantry, which turned out to make a delicious granola while taking care of dwindling bags of nuts and seeds.  

Though bananas are a main wet ingredient here, the banana flavor is very mild and hardly discernible.  Rather than a strong taste, they impart a subtle sweetness that blends nicely with the olive oil and maple syrup for a well rounded, not too sweet breakfast staple.

Let's get going... 

Put 3 cups of oats in a large mixing bowl.

Add about 1 cup of nuts of your choice, roughly chopped.  I had some sliced almonds, some whole raw almonds, and some pecans on hand.

Add some seeds! About 1/2-1 cup of seeds of your choice here.  I finished up a bag of chia seeds, which didn't quite measure up to 1/2 cup.  It's all good... granola is perfect for finishing random bags of chia seeds.

Add your wet ingredients.  You could mix the wet items together first and then add to the dry, but I was into a one-bowl situation.  I added about 3 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp maple syrup, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Eyeball it, it doesn't have to be perfect (plus then you don't have to wash measuring spoons...).

Add some salt to highlight the sweet flavor of the banana (trust me).  I added about 1/2 tsp.

Banana time.  You could mash the banana first then add, but I just tossed it all together.  Since my bananas were previously frozen, they were very soft and easy to mash.  Stir well so that there are no remaining clumps of banana, and so all ingredients are well combined and coated with the liquids.

Simply bake at 400F for 20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.  When finished baking, be sure to let the granola cool completely before putting it into a container.  This ensures it stays nice and crispy.

I've been enjoying my granola with almond milk and figs every morning this week.  Give it a try- it's absolutely magical. 


Fabric Covered Table Makeover

I recently moved to a new home in Minneapolis (I'll share pics soon!), and one of the perks of the new place is that I gained a craft room with French doors.  I moved my old sewing table into the room, but it felt bland.  So I decided to update it with a fun vintage-inspired fabric I found at a local shop in my new neighborhood. 



I love the pop of color from the coral and fuschia; isn't it fun?

To recreate this technique, all you need is a flat, smooth furniture surface, some Mod Podge, a paint brush, and enough fabric to cover the piece.

Overall, the project took a total of 2 hours and cost around $25.  Not bad for a fun update!


Peach Hand Pies

The simplest of all summer dessert recipe - well, except for maybe sliced peaches on ice cream.  But of picnic desserts, this is the winner.  

Yes, yes, I know - it's September!  What are we doing pretending it's still summer?  Well, it's still hot up here in Minnesota (hello, high of 96 today), and I'm still reveling in dee-lish local tomatoes, melons, and peppers from my CSA share.  And oh, the peaches.  Therefore - there will be peach pie, and we will be seasonally ambiguous for just a wee bit longer. 

Merrimint's Simple Peach Hand Pies
*Substitute any fruit that's happening at the moment.

1 pie crust (I use Trader Joe's)
4 peaches
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Dash of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 whisked egg (for wash)

Cut rolled, chilled pie crust dough into 12 rectangles.  Peel & dice peaches.  Mix peaches with flour, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.  Place in the center of dough rectangles and fold the edges to meet, pinching to seal (careful - they will be delicate).  Chill for about 30 minutes (if you feel like it).  Brush tops with the egg wash.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Eat without utensils outside somewhere. 


Pimm's Cups and Cucumber Sandwiches

Some photos from an evening spent outside watching the sunset from a Chicago rooftop, complete with Pimm's Cup cocktails, cucumber sandwiches, and a stunning view of the skyline.

To make the Pimm's Cup: 1 1/2 oz Pimms, 1/2 oz gin, stir, top with ginger beer, garnish with a cucumber.
For the cucumber sandwiches: mix a variety of herbs with cream cheese (we used oregano, chives, basil, and parsley).  Layer the cream cheese and thinly sliced cucumber between slices of white bread.


Randolph Street Market

This weekend I visited the Randolph Street Market, a weekend event that hosts tons of vintage, antique, jewelry, art, and clothing vendors.  There was so much eye candy! I managed to leave with a few beautiful old vases that will perfectly suit the last of summer gladiolas.  Check out the scene... 


Lollapalooza 2013

We had an awesome weekend at Lollapalooza - 23 performances, 1 great trip. Ryan and I had a great trip visiting S & P & Theresa.  Our favorite shows include Family of the Year, St. Lucia, Local Natives, The Lumineers, The Killers, Atlas Genius, Tegan & Sarah, Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend, and Phoenix.  And of course, it's always the best to visit family in Chicago.  And we got a gif made!  One of our best Lolla's yet :)


Paper Lanterns

The best kind of traditions are those that start organically - like our new family tradition of lighting paper lanterns off the dock at the lake.  The whole town took part over the 4th of July, and it was truly beautiful. 


Lollapalooza 2013 Playlist

Rinksters are headed to Lollapalooza again this year for another great festival weekend!  Here's L's mix for Lolla 2013.  I'm really excited to see Family of the Year, Blondefire, St Lucia, and Mumford and Sons.  Get ready, Chi-town!!


Lazy Days

Those lazy days of summer aren't so lazy anymore - we've clearly been crazy busy still!  Here's a glimpse at what's been going on lately.  Catching the best of raspberry picking season, making fresh dinners of mussels, greens, and homemade ricotta, and a new road bike!  Hope you're enjoying every drop of summer! 


Rhubarb Maple Baked Oatmeal

As noted in the Plan-Ahead Salad post, there has been a lot of planning ahead for meals happening lately (except for those dinners that end up being cereal or spoonfuls of nutella... guilty as charged).  Mornings tend to be a rush for the door, leaving breakfast as a last thought.  I couldn't say no to the beautiful rhubarb at the farmers market last weekend, and thought it might perfectly suit a make-ahead breakfast.

This baked oatmeal comes together in a flash, and keeps all week for easy eat-and-go breakfasts.  The rhubarb blueberry layer on the bottom gets syrupy and soft, while the oat layer over top softens and crisps around the edges.  Adding sliced almonds gives the perfect crunch in each bite, and local strawberries top the oats off just right.  I have loved eating this in the morning all week, heated in the microwave and drizzled with a bit of maple syrup.  The only downside to this dish is having to turn on the oven on a hot day... but it more than pays off!

Rhubarb Maple Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from Edible Perspective

1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup frozen blueberries (feel free to use fresh!)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp buckwheat flour (or any flour of your choosing)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup oats
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sliced almonds
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  
2.  Mix together rhubarb, blueberries, 2 tbsp buckwheat flour, and brown sugar.  Layer this mixture in the bottom of a pie dish or 9x9 baking dish. 
3.  Combine the dry ingredients: remaining buckwheat flour, oats, 1/2 cup almonds, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.  Once well combined, pour evenly over rhubarb mixture.
4.  Combine the wet ingredients: almond milk, maple syrup, olive oil, and vanilla.  Pour over the oat layer evenly, gently moving around (not quite mixing) the layers to ensure the liquid gets to the bottom. You don't want to mix the layers here!
5.  Top with remaining 2 tbsp of almonds and sliced strawberries.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes if serving immediately, or cool completely and refrigerate if using later.
6.  Relish in how amazing your mornings just became.


Plan-Ahead Summer Salad

L and I have been busy.  Crazy busy.  Wishing we had 6 more hours in the day busy.  There has barely been enough time to sleep, let alone plan, prep, and cook a meal.  This weekend I carved out some time to make some meals ahead for the week.  Working a bit ahead helped to make sure a healthy meal was accessible at my fingertips.

With so much gorgeous produce available lately, the market was teaming with inspiration.  I picked up handfuls of spring greens, strawberries, a few root vegetables, asparagus, and peas with hopes of a veg-heavy spring make-ahead meal.  This salad is the perfect early summer dish- fresh, a bit spicy, colorful, and so delicious.  To make sure it lasted through the week, I used two varieties of kale as the base greens.  Kale is a great salad addition- it can hold up to salad dressing, keeping the crunch and not getting soggy  in the fridge for a few days.

Plan-Ahead Summer Salad
(Serves 4, or dinner for one person for 4 dinners!)

1/2 lb waxy Potatoes (such as red potatoes or fingerlings)
1/4 lb Asparagus
2 slices Bacon
1/2 bunch (about 1 cup) Red Kale
1/2 bunch (about 1 cup) Tuscan Kale
1 small handful Sorrel
1/2 cup Shelled Spring Peas
1 small handful Breakfast Radishes
1/4 tablespoons chopped Chives
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper

1.  Start by roasting the potatoes.  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes or until crispy.
2.  Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Sauté asparagus with a bit of water (a tablespoon or two, enough to create some steam) until tender.  Run under cold water or put in an ice bath after cooking.
3.  Cut bacon into strips.  Saute in a dry skillet over high heat until crispy.  Drain on a paper towel, and reserve.
4.  Wash and tear kale and sorrel into bite-sized pieces.  Shell peas, thinly slice radishes, and chop chives.  Combine in a large bowl.  Add potatoes, asparagus, and bacon, mixing to combine.
5.  Make dijon vinaigrette: whisk together dijon, lemon juice, vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Pour olive oil in a steady stream while whisking.  When well combined, pour over vegetable mixture.
6.  Toss well and enjoy! Immediately, or as needed.
7.  Relish in the deliciousness of in season produce :)