Salted Caramel Liquid Truffle

We’ve been a little tired lately, with work and many trips and visitors – all of this good stress, but Husband is a little under the weather now and I needed something that would make him smile and (maybe) make his throat not hurt. He and I both have positive associations with a little chocolate shop in Western North Carolina, and they have a recipe for their signature dish, so I made it for him yesterday: try it out here, very simple, and basically the most fancy hot chocolate you’ll ever try:

1 – 20 years old

K and I walk in the door but the line is almost all the way there, happy people chattering and other people bustling by with plates of decadent desserts and glasses of wine. K, one of my close college friends, told me that this place was the best dessert bar, and that the best thing to get here was called “liquid truffle” – a tiny cup of thick hot chocolate that tasted like someone boiled out the ganache center of a truffle. I order it, salted caramel flavor, and when it comes, I sip in smaller, slower sips than I ever have – it has tiny crunchy salt crystals, and the thickness of the chocolate coats my throat. I feel the way that wine enthusiasts do, like there are so many more flavors for me to fill my mouth with.


2 – 23 years old

Husband is not Husband, he is not even boyfriend; he’s just a co-worker but we’re in the neighborhood and he says I’ve got to try this one chocolate shop. I smile when I recognize it, and I drink another tiny cup of chocolate, this one 3 years later, after I’ve tasted chocolate and decadence in many places in Europe, and it still feels like the most elongated experience – like the chocolate in a tiny cup could last forever. I’m pretty sure it’s the chocolate warming my tummy, not just my feelings for my co-worker.

3 – Now

Husband is not a baby about illness, but he mentions being “achy” and having a sore throat, which is basically his version of saying he’s sick. I know he loved those liquid truffles, so I idly google to see if I could make one myself – the original chocolate shop released a recipe! I have the simple ingredients from a recent shopping trip and I make the ganache, whisk it into the half and half, and pour small servings that I sprinkle with crunchy salt. I make a cloud of whipped cream in the stand mixer to grace the tops, and we sit quietly with the chocolate, which makes our simple afternoon a bit more magical.

If you have tried the original liquid truffles, this recipe produces, in my opinion, something thinner but with the same flavor; if I do it again, I’ll use 7 or 8 ounces of half and half instead of 10.



How the Kitchen Became my Favorite Room

Husband and I are still, relatively, new to the house we live in – it’s comfortable and in a nice location close to our town’s downtown, meaning we can walk to the farmer’s market and we see some of the same folks at a lot of meetings of folks interested in improving their town. But this summer has been exceptionally good for my understanding of the house; I cleaned intentionally, I figured out the configuration of furniture that I liked, and I even spent time in all the rooms of the house, just to switch things up. Still, when I’m overwhelmed or bored or in-between in any of a million ways, I return to the kitchen.

This morning I woke with a start realizing we’d left the GoSun, with cut bell peppers in it, out in the yard – thank goodness it wasn’t super sunny on this Saturday morning, so they were just pleasantly cool. As with one out of every four dishes in the GoSun, finishing them off in a pan is fine if you just don’t have the time or the sunlight. But almost instantly, even though I was super sleepy running downstairs, being in the kitchen reoriented me. I’m noticing how all this sounds scary in something like a “traditional family roles” way, but it’s not like that – I don’t have a problem with anyone’s way of dividing labor in a household, and Husband and I are definitely still figuring it out. What I have found in the kitchen is a long-term project: there’s usually something to clean, something gross to throw away, something to prepare or freeze for the winter, or a cupboard I can gaze at, thinking of the possibilities for the day’s meals.

We’ve had a lot of guests lately, so I have been eating out, making frozen pizzas so that we can all sit and chat in the living room, generally not forcing my guests to try things I’ve never made before full of unfamiliar ingredients, but I’m setting a weekend intention to start writing out all the sweet recipes I have received from fellow bloggers via this post (and any new ones that arrive!) and start trying at least one a week. I’ll still be posting about the garden and the cooking life, but I’m getting back into the main goal of this blog: connecting with people over the recipes they share with me, and enjoying the way that using my kitchen for that kind of cooking brings me joy.

Picture is not mine – this beauty was taken by my friend E, of one-pan pasta fame. 🙂

Squash Fritters (with Zucchini, Potatoes, and Onions)

We bought so much squash and zucchini, folks. I had to do something.

So I searched the internet for recipes related to squash, and found many that had the same premise: shred squash or zucchini, mix with onion and spices and egg, and fry it up in butter. This sounded LOVELY. I wanted to be a part of it.

I tried to dry the zucchini, potatoes, and squash that I wanted to use on a towel, but my house was pretty muggy so I think they didn’t get quite as dry as would have been ideal for the job. Still, I moved forward. In went two eggs, some garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, and a whole diced onion. I mixed and I heated up butter in a pan, and…

well, it didn’t coalesce. The mush got browned on high heat, but only in a small area, while the rest clumped up and then fell apart then clumped again. It was more like a pan of overly soggy hash browns, which was fine, but wasn’t my goal. The second batch had to be better. I looked at my cabinets and what did I find but… CHICKPEA FLOUR.

I knew that fried falafels are delicious, and I wanted to keep the “healthy-ish” nature of this food by not adding in a bunch of wheat flour… so in went an indeterminate amount of chickpea flour. It helped it to clump and, once in the pan, the clumps stayed beautiful! They were flip-able and when they came out, delicious. I will say, the hash was also super tasty, just not nearly as solid and easy to eat. Also mushier. So yes, add the flour when you try this. This and the recipe we used for saag paneer have me convinced that chickpea flour works wonders.


S’s Kale Chips

I grew up with a fusion of two cuisines: my mother’s family travelled around but was dominated by Southern cooking, with a little German tradition, but my father’s favorite foods were from South Korea, where he grew up. I did not anticipate ever finding a popular food that approximates the salty-crisp nothingness of dried seaweed, but the other day, I did. S was hosting me in her home, and she mentioned she had kale chips she’d made, fresh from the garden. I joked that I wasn’t hippie enough to appreciate them, but I tried one grudgingly. Granted, they are not chips, so don’t be disappointed that it is, in fact, no a Dorito, but they do have a delightful crunch to them, not unlike the dried green sheets that I ate as a child, unaware that usually people just use them to hold sushi together.

So, in my fervor to support our local community gardeners, I ordered not one, but two varieties of greens this week: butterhead lettuce and russian kale. The lettuce works great in salad, but the kale is, understandably, a little bitter. In an attempt to turn the kale into something other than salad, I read on the internet about how kale chips are formed. The general theme is: toss kale with a splash of olive oil, just enough to coat a little. Spread out on a tray, season with salt, and bake for 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven. This worked for me: some of the pieces were browned and some were still green, but none of them were blackened.

The tastiness was familiar, crisp and light but also with a bitter, green flavor. What did surprise me was that, sitting in their bowl right next to me, they became a bit of a “movie snack” – I grabbed leaf after leaf as we watched our favorite shows. I marveled to Husband that I was “addicted” to a food that was healthy! Usually, eating healthy is such a deliberate aspect of my life, never casual or done while also watching a show to relax. It’s great to realize that I actually appreciate this food that I thought was too “hippie” for me!

Canning Plans and Anxieties

Estimating my output of tomatoes this year has me somewhat excited: it looks like we’re going to get 200-300 cherry tomatoes and 50-100 San Marzano paste tomatoes. I’m excited that we raised the San Marzanos from seed, and that the cherry tomatoes all came from the same small seedling that Husband’s friend D sent us. However, we’re starting to hit the point in the harvest, as 10-15 cherry tomatoes come in each day and the San Marzanos are turning rosy, where I have to think about how to handle them.

I love a good tomato-based pasta sauce, especially now that I’m putting some sauces onto quinoa, so I am tempted to can my San Marzanos, which have a reputation for making a wonderful red sauce. I’ve seen lots of sites that say to just cook the tomatoes, add lots of lemon juice, and can them sterilely; I am tempted to do this, but it seems like so much work that I would need more than the few pounds of tomatoes I’m likely to pull this year. I don’t know if the tomatoes will ripen in a way that will make it possible to gather a big group and cook them down.

I also love sun-dried tomatoes, but I don’t know if there is a good way to make them fully dry and keep them on the shelf. I’m considering making a full-on tomato sauce and packaging it for freezing instead of room-temperature, but I think the quart-sized mason jars I have aren’t freezer proof… You can see I’m a bit at a loss. What is your favorite way to preserve tomatoes, in terms of ease of using down the road, ease of preparation upfront, and total flavor retention? I will certainly let you all know what I choose, because while I love a good story, I don’t have any childhood stories that connect to canning tomatoes… I bet my grandmother knows a little, though, so I think I might give her a call this weekend and find out if she’s got any tips.

Also… a small animal stole one of my beautiful, half-ripe san marzanos last night. I’m fine with critters eating in the garden a little, but he just bit it a bunch of times and left!!! Sigh. Sharing the world with animals, I suppose!

Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze on Zucchini Banana Bread

We now get some produce via a local community garden that delivers… for free! The downside is that I got a little order-happy and have way more zucchini currently in my possession than I have any idea what to do with. So… I made zucchini banana bread. No one claims that it isn’t a heaven of butter and sugar and flour, but it also contains two full bananas and a huge pile of grated zucchini. Win win win win.

I used the lovely recipe from Averie Cooks – she has such a professional look to her site but she also includes stories about cooking, which are obviously my favorite. I was going to forego a glaze this time, but reading about hers just made me itch to brown some butter… and this turned out WONDERFUL. My sweet-toothed, veggie-averse father in law came back for seconds of this recipe, so I fully recommend making it. I was low on cream cheese, so i skimped on it a little, and I added cinnamon to it, but otherwise, all the glory of this is in the browned butter and the confectioner’s sugar…

Honestly, I have been wanting to love on my coworkers a little this week, so with the remaining overripe bananas and another zucchini, I’m probably gonna make another batch and bring it in for them. While I’m sure their husbands may get the lions share (both of my closest coworkers are very health-conscious), I bet the fact that it’s plump with veggies and fruit will convince them to sample it. Just the act of writing about it makes me want to make more of it, that’s how much this combines all my loves: comfort food, good stories, and sharing things with others! What is your favorite food to give as a gift?


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GoSun Caramelized Onions (and cherry tomatoes)

IMG_4428I have made a lot of veggie side-dishes in the GoSun at this point, but this is by far the best. On Saturday morning, Husband’s parents were visiting and we made bacon for breakfast, special treat. Later that afternoon, Husband decided burgers on the grill would be perfect for the sweltering evening, and so that we could have  caramelized onions without heating up the house even more, I chose to put the onions into the GoSun instead of cooking them on the stove top. I had the stroke of genius, as I finished up cutting onions, that I should put some bacon grease on them before I put them into the GoSun.

About an hour and a half later, they were WONDERFUL. The top layer was just translucent with little edges of brown, but the bottom layer had been stewing in its mixture of bacon grease and onion juices, and mmmm they were so sweet and soft! I will be throwing them on top of leftover burgers for the next few days, for sure! I also did a batch of cherry tomato halves, which were not quite so good – they just don’t dry out in the GoSun, so I need to do what I did a couple weeks ago and let them evaporate-dry for a few hours before putting them in the GoSun. Keep an eye on tomatoes because they certainly can burn – I had bits of carbonized tomato on my GoSun tube to show for it. Still, the sweet victory of those onions made up for it, and I’m excited to have something to do with all this heat wave temperatures.

What are your favorite foods for a heat wave? Obviously cooking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea when the heat is on, but what foods do you prepare? 🙂 Looking forward to your comments.

Mindful Moments in Kitchen and Garden

A few grateful moments lately, in no particular order:

  • I take a moment, after the kettle has boiled and I’ve filled the french press to make coffee, to go outside. I pick 3 cherry tomatoes, I pull the squash vines back through the fence where they are sneakily attempting to get into the neighbor’s yard, I pull other vines out of the driveway and off the alley so that they are trained in directions that keep them out of harms way. I pick a leaf of mint, rub it between my fingers, sniff. I go inside before the mosquitos find me so I can make breakfast.
  • I cut up celery, 3 or 4 stalks at a time, with a sharp knife. Some of the celery goes into a new batch of chicken salad, because I now seem to crave chicken salad whenever life feels overwhelming. I chop up the rest of the celery and a few carrots and package them together in a plastic bag to be frozen, for a future soup; not that I need to make frozen veggies, but mostly for the pleasure of continuing to chop.
  • When watering in the garden, I take extra care with the fledgeling pepper plant, the lone survivor in a bed that was laid waste by marauding nasturtiums. I yank those terrible sneaky vine weeds off it, carefully disentangling before viciously yanking.
  • The local community garden delivers a cardboard box full of zucchini and squash to my door, and the older couple who run it recognize me from the time I interviewed them about their work. Husband and I bask in the bounty, wondering why such lovely produce is so inexpensive for us, and with free delivery. Why isn’t it treasured?
  • I take a break from cooking to go pick basil or cilantro; cilantro gets thrown in with the black beans for a taco night; basil gets shredded to top the pasta on another night. Husband talks about making a little balcony garden just for herbs next year. We sit outside with a citronella candle burning, surveying our yard and dreaming up next steps.
  • Husband made a bar-height table out of an enormous butcher block a year ago; now, my last step to really clean up the kitchen is to take a scrubby sponge to the surface, removing coffee grounds, a stray onion shaving, all the creeping detritus left after days of cooking. I turn out the light, and go upstairs to sleep under the summer stars.

Walnut-Spinach Pesto on Quinoa!

I read a post online called How to Make Pesto out of (Almost) Anything and got very inspired; my basil crop has been lackluster (this is what I get for growing four kinds of herbs in one badly-drained bucket) but I had a box of spinach/spring mix that was almost bad when I put it in the freezer. This is what I do with greens that are a tad slimy, and I was intrigued to see if I could mix up a pesto that would mask the greens with delicious flavors.

I started by sautéing the greens with a lot of garlic – two enormous cloves that volume wise were more like three normal cloves, sliced. The greens got a quick splash of olive oil too, so that the garlic would brown up a little. While this was happening, I roasted some crushed walnuts till they made the whole house smell nutty.

In my darling three-dollar food processor I whipped those two together with salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. I didn’t know why but I went with the advice to put a generous squeeze of lemon juice in from my trust lemon-shaped squeeze bottle of juice, and then added a little bit more olive oil. I had to get into the processor and scrape everything off the walls once, add just one more tablespoon of oil, and then voila!

I made the quinoa in the normal way (boil 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water, let simmer 15 minutes with the lid on or until the water was gone), and then cut in half about 12 cherry tomatoes because the crop is about to completely take off and I don’t want them piling up. I mixed the quinoa, all of the pesto, and the tomatoes, and when I served it, Husband declared it a success! He said it had a lot of flavor, which isn’t something he often says about vegetarian dishes. Shout out to E for being the first person to teach me that quinoa is a wonderful meal (she mixed cut cucumbers, raw tomato chunks, and feta with quinoa… SO REFRESHING.) and to N for always showing me new ways to use the old favorite. I also am so happy that I have a way to make something pesto-flavored that is disguising a whole box worth of sautéed greens, not just basil… Wonderful!

GoSun Herb Potatoes

If you are a brunch fan, you’ve probably run into a really good pile of home fries here or there: maybe they were deep fried, with the soft outside and the creamy inside, or just set to sizzling on a stovetop with a generous supply of butter and garlic, but fried potatoes have got to be one of my favorite foods. They definitely are in Husband’s top 5 list, which includes mostly simple dishes. After a few weeks of complex dishes (and a harvest of modest potatoes), we decided to see if the GoSun could get a nice crust on a pile of potatoes.

I cut up the littlest of the potatoes into quarters and piled them in alongside sea salt, black pepper, and oregano, as well as some sizable pats of butter. I think butter is going to be a final frontier for me; so many of the best and most delightful dishes of my childhood were heavily buttered, so while I feel pretty proud of my ability to add veggies and more plant-based proteins into my diet, I think a lot of things may still be cooked in butter. I welcome alternatives and often throw olive oil in things instead, but I don’t see myself changing soon… oh well!

The GoSun started in bright sunshine, but quickly was shrouded in cloudy afternoon, so I left the potatoes out there a very long time – actually went to a neighborhood organizing meeting while I waited! When I returned home, the butter was melted and everything was hot, but the potatoes were still raw-crunchy, not fried-crunchy. Husband generously let me go take a bath while he gave them the last edge of cooking in his cast-iron skillet, but I still count it as a win because it took much less time than just cooking them straight-out would have taken. I’m still figuring out how to use the GoSun in a busy work-filled life, but I’m going to keep trying!


Also, huge shout out to everyone who has submitted a recipe! I am going to try to write them out on recipe cards and add them to my list but I still welcome more!