Monday Bites – Farmer’s Market Sweets


I received a gift this Saturday.  It was called a day off.  We had to cancel our Saturday night shift on the truck to get some funny noises checked out.  But on top of that, we were up at 8am to bring it in.  That’s where the real gift is.  Typically on a day off, we end up sleeping until noon in an attempt to make up for lost sleep during the weeks prior.  By the time we get going,  there are usually only a few hours of sunlight left.  Not this weekend, though.  We were at the mechanics for 8am and having coffee, donuts and yummy egg sandwiches at Monuts by 9:30am.  We. Ate. Breakfast. Together.  It was a miracle, folks.  Afterwards, I dragged my anxious Mr. One-and-Only to the Farmer’s Market.  My biggest regret on those Saturdays where we sleep until noon is that I’ve missed the market.  Plus, this recipe got me curious about rhubarb and I was dying to pick some up.  I decided to use a rhubarb compote in a cookie recipe I’ve done before.


I started with a small handful of rhubarb stalks (4-5) and a small package of fresh strawberries.  I put them on the stove top with 1/4 cup of sugar (or less) and let it simmer until everything was broken down and it looked like jam.  Then, I added two tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, stirred and placed in the refrigerator in a bowl to cool and thicken up.  While it cooled, I whipped up a simple sugar cookie dough from my trusty,  Joy of Cooking.  After the batter was finished, I chopped up pecans in a blender and folded them into my dough.  I like a lot of nuts so the cookies are pretty speckled but use your eye for your own taste.




After the cookies baked and cooled, I spooned a dollop of the compote on half of the cookies and topped them with the other half  to make a delicious pecan sugar cookie sandwich with rhubarb filling.  Oh. My. After my first bite, I decided I needed to make these every year during rhubarb season.
Half way through baking, we decided to run out and catch the last showing of the day of The Great Gatsby (more on that on Wednesday Weddings this week).  I kept the batter and compote in the fridge and baked two cookie sandwiches for us when we got home.  They were warm and gooey, not too sweet, and worked better than a mug of warm milk to put us to sleep.  A sweet ending to an even sweeter day off with my One-and-Only.  I finished the rest of the batch in the morning and took pictures.   I recommend assembling the sandwiches right before eating as the compote makes them soggy if they sit too long.  You could refrigerate them but then the cookie would harden.  Either way, these were a slam dunk in my cookie world.  I might add some peanut butter next time to kick it up a notch – my very own peanut butter and rhubarb jelly cookie.  See what happens when you give me a farmer’s market people! Happy Eating everyone!


Monday Bites from Wilmington NC

Monday bit me hard today.  It was a rough day at work and all I could think about were all of the yummy bites I had last weekend in Wilmington.  By some miracle, my Mr. One-and-Only and I ended up with two days in a row off! And on a holiday weekend at that! When we noticed the calendar empty, he said “Keep it open. Don’t book anything.” And I thought, “I wonder what a hotel would cost for the night at the beach.” With low expectations on Memorial Day weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent priced hotel.  I told him I was planning a surprise. I’m not a good secret keeper but knowing how happy a trip to the beach would make him, I managed to keep the details to myself.  I stocked up on sunscreen, researched restaurants and checked the weather obsessively for two weeks. He figured me out the night before we left thanks to a friend who let it slip via twitter.
We slept in on Sunday night for the first time in months. When we got going, we put the top down on my little convertible and headed east. It was cloudy when we arrived in Wilmington and we discovered our hotel next to a Hooters – not exactly the ocean front dining I had in mind.  We decided not to check in right away but to head into downtown Wilmington for lunch.  We meandered through Front Street, considered a few places but went back to an old standby, Mixto.  Between you and me, I think my handsome other half had Mixto in mind all along.  It wasn’t the tacos, the guacamole or the margaritas that lead him back to Mixto.  It was a sauce that we later learned is called Lizano that put Mixto on the map for us.  It tastes like a unique cumin, honey, chile sauce.  The tuna and tofu tacos were amazing as was my margarita.  It was especially delicious because we were able to  eat outside, have a view of the water and enjoy each others company with out talking about work.  And even though I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something else I should’ve been doing, it was exactly what we needed.  Later that night we enjoyed a classic seafood meal at Elijah’s with good friends and got to bed early at the hotel (which turned out to be pretty nice).


Monday we spent at the beach basking in the quiet sun.  Maybe it was the long night sleep or the extra glass of wine the night before but by then, there was nothing else I felt I should be doing. Before heading back to real life and a different kind of Monday, we stopped at Catch for dinner.  It was recommended by a friend in Wilmington who knows how much of a food snob I can be.  You may remember Chef  Keith Rhodes from Top Chef Texas.  He was also nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Southeast Chef.  I certainly remember his warm personality and was looking forward to seeing how that came through at his restaurant.  Our meal was fresh, colorful, unique, bright with flavor and satisfied every desire I had for my last meal before it was back to the coffee and Luna Bar meals of my busy schedule.  It started with a basket of perfectly grilled fresh bread and ended with a warm chocolate cake.  In between, my partner in crime ordered the soft shell crab special with asparagus.  I had a yummy salmon over a pile of drunk man noodles.  I recommend both Mixto and Catch if you’re in Wilmington or nearby Wrightsville.  They offer very different experiences but both appropriate while on vacation.  Until then, happy eating!


Friday Smiles

I’m smiling today and thankful for thunderstorms. Yesterday it rained toward the end of an already frustrating and long commute. I sat in traffic and added weather to my growing list of annoyances. Today, however, I take it back. That very thunderstorm that, ahem, dampened my day (sorry, I had to) left us with the MOST beautiful day today. The humidity is gone and the sky looks like this:

I sat in my office most of the day today knowing how beautiful it was outside. It didn’t bother me though. Instead I was glad to see the week long rain finally disappear just in time for a holiday weekend! I have something special planned for Mr. One-and-Only and me. details next week! I guess sometimes we just have to get through the storm. Happy Smiling everyone. Enjoy your long weekends – even if it rains!

Monday Bites – Providence Part 2

One of the things I love most about coming home to Rhode Island is getting to surprise old friends.  Most of my visits are for family occasions or other commitments.  I never know how much free time I’ll have so I often keep it a secret until the last minute.  This time I was able to reach out to two high school friends with a simple text, “Will you be home tonight?” I think there were pleasant surprises all around!  It was certainly a treat for me, especially when we found ourselves at Avenue N in Rumford.  We had the Point Judith Calamari to quench my craving for RI style calamari.  My girlfriend talked me into the Butternut Squash and Ricotta pizza.  Yum!  Mr. One-and-Only  thought so, too, and wouldn’t share the leftover slices the next day.  The current menu looks especially tasty with seasonal items like a Spring Pea Bisque, Local Field Greens & Beet Salad and the Artichoke and Ricotta Ravioli.   I can’t wait to go back to try the Avenue N Burger and the New Bedford Cod Filet.  I say go now before they change to their summer menu.  Happy Eating!

2013_5_6_menu 2013_5_6_pizza

Wednesday Weddings – Tis The Season

Last weekend was Mother’s Day, Graduation and the start of the wedding season here in North Carolina.  Restaurants, flower shops and caterers were abuzz all week.  As was Mason Inc. while we planned a small gathering to congratulate the youngest of six siblings graduate from nursing school.  The family requested bright colors for their fun and casual sister who, in their words, “deserved an elegant celebration.”


Knowing it was such a busy weekend in town, I arrived at the Whole Foods Flower Shop early and fought my way to these beautiful white roses and snap dragons.  I originally planned on white tulips with the coral table linens.  When I spotted the snap dragons, though, I knew they’d tie in all of the colors beautifully.  The roses added a level of elegance to the casual feel of the party and I’m glad I changed my mind.  While the family sat in the sun to watch the ceremony, I set up the tables, linens and flowers under a tent at their home.  Later that afternoon, we celebrated with a festive party of fresh flowers, bright colors and a delicious spread from Donovan’s Dish.  As is common in the south, the rain began in the afternoon just as guests were scheduled to arrive and ended just as they started to leave.  The weather certainly didn’t get this family down, though.  They were still celebrating when I left.  Congratulations to all of the mothers, graduates and brides-to-be out there.  Happy Planning!

Monday Bites from Providence

Apologies for my lack of posts these last two week.  It’s amazing how quickly a week can go by! And then another!
I spent last weekend in Rhode Island to celebrate my dear friend, Margaret’s upcoming wedding with a beach themed bridal shower.  I was assigned a trio of salads:  green, potato and fruit.  I made an arugula salad with parmesan cheese and white beans tossed in a basil pesto.  To complement the salad, I threw together a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper (so easy!).  Occasionally, I’ll throw diced prosciutto on it or on the side to keep it vegetarian friendly.  This is a salad I built off of one I had at a restaurant and loved.  Every time I make it, I feel like a very fancy chef – which is of course, the point, right?


To enhance the beach theme with an elegant kick, I decided to make a watermelon and feta salad with strawberries, blueberries and mint.  It was so refreshing and paired beautifully with the ocean breeze that came through the windows as we ate.  I didn’t measure much during all of this prep.  Instead, I watched the visual balance between the colors of my ingredients.  I used one full watermelon, a large package of strawberries, two packages of feta, two packages of blueberries and a handful of mint, chopped.  That being said, I don’t think you can mess this up by varying the quantities of everything.


The irony of my pot-luck assignment is that I hate potato salad, potatoes to be exact.  So much so, that I didn’t take a photograph.  Obviously, I’ve never made potato salad but I knew there was mayonaise, hard boiled eggs and possibly dijon mustard???  It is important to note that the only other food I dislike more than potatoes is hard boiled eggs.  I can’t even look at them. I needed another plan.  I decided to make a mayonaise based potato salad with fresh herbs like dill.  But what else did I need?  I found Ina Garten’s book, How Easy is That?”  and in it was a recipe for  tarragon potato salad.  I used a little less mayonaise, a little more herbs, and a little less salt.  And it was super easy!  I boiled the potatoes, rinsed them in cold water and when cool, added a dressing of the following:  

1 cup* good mayonaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped scallions (white and green)
3 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

*all measurements are for 2 pounds of medium Yukon Gold potatoes – serves 6

Apologies again for my absence last week.  Only two weeks in and I can’t keep up – what a slacker!  I’ve got lots of stuff going on this month, though, so please stay tuned!  Happy Eating!

Friday Smiles – This is Water

My uncle, Steve, had great timing when he forwarded this video to me this morning.  We’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a few months now and it’s getting harder not to let it all turn into a tornado of frustration or anger.  After a small fight with my one-and-only this morning, I drove to work regretting that I had nothing to post for Friday Smiles.  I decided to turn off the radio and in an effort to turn around the negativity in my head, started compiling a list of things for which I’m grateful.  After a short while, I had a very long list.  Lucky for Mr. One-and-Only, he’s still at the top of it.  We won’t tell him until later, though.  Even after my list was complete, I was only half way back to normal.  Then, this video was in my inbox.  Originally, I intended to share my list with you but this is way more fun:

The description on YouTube says, “The book-oriented videographers at L.A.’s The Glossary hoped to bring David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College to a broader audience by setting an abridged version to video. With more than 1.5 million hits on YouTube, the mission is accomplished.”

Fortunately, this morning I had the strength to notice the water and reconsider my negativity.  Next week or month or year, I might need a reminder.  So … I’m filing this away and I hope you do, too.  My favorite quote was, “None of this is likely, but its also not impossible.  It just depends on what you want to consider.”  I’m choosing to put away my cell phone,  pay attention and consider something other than my default.  Happy swimming, people.  Enjoy the water.

A Moment With Our Briana

It is with a heavy heart that I write today from my home state of Rhode Island.  Our beautiful cousin, Briana, lost her fight with leukemia last week.  The family is gathering in Connecticut to mourn and celebrate the loss of one of the most beautiful people I have ever known.  I wish there was a more certain way to explain the beauty and strength of this special woman than my little blog.  She fought with such grace and positivity until the end.  She married her best friend and the love of her life on Sunday, April 28 and died on Tuesday, April 30.  While this was in one sense unbearably sad, it was magical, too.  I’m so grateful that they were able to have the wonderful experience that is a marriage, if only for a few hours.
Many of us have found comfort that she is no longer suffering and instead, is watching over us.  In fact, on my flight from NC, I think I experienced some of that peace.  It was a gray day in NC but as soon as we cleared the clouds, the sky was blue and sunny.  We tend to forget that above the gloom the sky is always clear.  It occured to me that Briana never forgot that there was clear sky above the clouds.  I found myself smiling in a moment that was ephemeral.  I was flying by myself but something told me I was not alone.  I took a second to thank Briana for the pleasure of knowing her and for that little moment of peace and reflection.  Perhaps this is what she’s meant to do now.  We will miss you terribly, Briana.



Monday Bites – Rainy Day Black Bean Soup


1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bottle of beer (a stout or an IPA works best)
2 cans black beans
Spices to taste:
 salt & pepper, 
smoked paprika

The weather has been rainy and gray in NC yesterday and today.   These kinds of days always give me cravings for soup.  I’ve made several incarnations of this one and get compliments every time.    I think the secret is in the beer.

Rinse beans in a strainer and set aside.  Heat a Dutch oven or large pot on the stove on medium to high flame.  Coat the bottom with the olive oil.  Add onions and sauté until translucent, stirring often.  Add garlic and sauté until soft, stirring often.  Deglaze by adding beer and cook until simmering.  Add beans and simmer until soft.  Blend with immersion blender (a standard blender would probably suffice, too).  Add spices to taste.  Warm up any rainy day with this and a hunk of crusty bread, or with homemade Naan as I did here (post on that coming up soon).  Happy eating!

Friday Smiles all the way from Stockholm!

After leaving New York and the wonderfully creative and fashionable world of print magazines, I became obsessed with reading blogs.  One of my favorites is, Design*Sponge.  A while back they posted this lovely video that I’ve been saving for a Friday Smiles post.  Shortly before we moved to North Carolina, while un-employed, I filled my days with the things I’d always wanted to try, one of which was the pottery wheel.  Lately, I find myself aching for more creative inspiration.  I’m posting this today in the hopes that it will do just that.   Not only does this video inspire me to get back to pottery classes, but notice how beautiful the film is.  The artist is Karin Eriksson of Stockholm and the video is by Oscar Liedgren.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  Keep smiling.