POPSICLE WEEK 2k17!

Pimm's Cup Popsicle Week 2017

Sometimes it's so strange to think of who we used to be, how our habits have changed and we moved around a lot to find new ones. How the dogs have grown up. How Milo, who I found in a trash can a little over two years ago, has become this boy that smiles when we catch his eye. How money doesn't matter as much now and I can call my sister to ask how she is and that I love her. How Nolan and I worked and worked and worked on ourselves to be the people we are now. How we stopped paying rent and bought a home. "Five acres guarantees no neighbors," a coworker told us this weekend. That's heaven for me, the echoing footsteps and no one to answer them back.

Pimm's Cup Popsicle Week 2017

We eat at home most days (or try to, anyway). I live in my own head. I'm quiet except to answer a work call or to call the dogs in when I'm bored. I pick orange flowers that grow by the roadside and I did the dishes on my lunch break. Nolan works long hours; but we are self sufficient in our own right.

So different than two years ago, So different, you could say, from when I first participated in Popsicle Week.  Then, I cared about money. Then, I cared about Los Angeles. Then, we spent our money at bars and I didn't drink beer then, so I drank whatever was on the menu. Then, Nolan got a Pimm's Cup for the first time and it's been his favorite since. Then, we would be in silence for two hours on the way back home.

Then, I was looking for ways to escape.

But two years can change a person and I found out I'm better suited for Pennsylvania. We both are. The humidity doesn't bother us. The dogs change with the seasons and we do, too. And that's okay; because we finally found a reason to settle down and enjoy a drink on the porch swing for a minute or an hour.

And so, for this year's popsicle contribution to the zeitgeist that is Wit and Vinegar, I wanted to pay homage to how this tradition has been something to look forward to amid all that has changed. And so, I looked back on Nolan and us and his favorite drink in LA and made a Pimm's Cup popsicle--it's easy, it's fruity, and it's a little bit cold (just like me!).

Enjoy! And check out all the other recipes here! And check out my previous contributions here and here!

Pimm's Cup Popsicle!

Feel free to use your favorite ice molds, but know that the volume measurements below will be way off! I used these! (Can you tell I love Amazon?)

Pimm's Cup Popsicle Week 2017

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Pimm's
  • 1/2 cup lemonade
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 4 strawberries, chopped
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup orange, chopped

Directions and Assembly: In a measuring cup, mix together Pimm's, lemonade, water, ginger ale, and lime juice. Prep eat popsicle sleeve by manually inserting a bit of each fruit and one leaf of mint. Pour mixture over fruit and seal. Place in freezer for a few hours to freeze completely and enjoy! 

Pimm's Cup Popsicle Week 2017
Pimm's Cup Popsicle Week 2017
Pimm's Cup Popsicle Week 2017

First Day of Summer - Make this cake!

I can be lazy, but I am not lethargic.  

For me, summer always translated to liquid days. Days that dragged on. The sound of cicadas were the sound of sun rays. Moths hit the windowsill at night and I stayed up way too late. Summer is a melting feeling, I always felt stagnant and viscous in the heat. I spent my time reading. I spent my time sleeping. I spent too much time in hot cars with no air conditioning, waiting in parking lots for my mother to finish grocery shopping. I spent a lot of time alone in the summer months between 7th and 8th and 9th grades.

For me now, who I am at 25, it is different. I have the dogs, the chickens, a fiance. I have a life I fell into, but pursued all the same. I like summer now, in my little town of Ligonier. The rain comes and goes as it pleases and floods our side yard and still I walk barefoot with the dogs when we play in between the flowering trees. I'm not able to read as much, dishes and laundry and days get in the way; but I bake and I write and I am content in the fact that I am growing up. 

I found a shirt the other day that Nolan got me the first month we moved to California. A black Alexander Wang shirt that still smelled like the cigarettes I smoked in law school. It's no longer an anchor to that past life, but just a shirt I pulled out of the drawer now. I am realizing that we are allowed to change and not be constricted to the confines of a past we tried to idealize. That we are better now, better here, better today than we were yesterday.

I am realizing that I can enjoy summer because I am in this nebulous summertime feeling--at 25 I am no longer suffocating, but verdant and green and surrounding by the warmth I couldn't fully embrace before.

Peach Sheet Cake!

Summertime Peach Sheet Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TB vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 TB white vinegar
  • 2 peaches, sliced and pitted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Line and grease a 14" x 16" cake pan
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt
  3. In another bowl, cream together butter, shortening and white sugar
  4. Add eggs to the sugar mixture, one at a time, and stir until incorporated
  5. In a measuring cup, whisk together vanilla, milk, vinegar, and mayo
  6. Alternate between sugar mixture and milk mixture into your dry ingredients, stirring continuously until you get a soft, light batter
  7. Line bottom of cake pan with peaches in any design you want
  8. Gently pour and spread batter on top of peaches
  9. Bake for 50 minutes or until browned and fluffy
  10. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to enjoy
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake

An Easy Li'l Cake for Sunday!

Meringue and Strawberry Mini Cake

This week was easy, it went by fast. The chickens are growing, the dogs ran themselves exhausted in the field this week. Our friends had a baby and he is beautiful. We had a mid-week stay in D.C. to see Feist. And today, we went out for breakfast and now we're planning our trip to Vermont this summer. So, for Sunday, I'll keep it easy. Make this cake--it is good!

Strawberry Meringue Mini Cake!

Meringue and Strawberry Mini Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 TB white vinegar
  • 3 TB unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 TB shortening
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 white

Directions:

  1. Prepare your 6 inch cake pan with softened butter and parchment paper
  2. Preheat oven to 350*F
  3. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, corn starch, and salt
  4. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together extracts, milk, and vinegar
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together fats and sugar until light and fluffy
  6. Add egg and white with motor running--mixture may look a little curdled, but will come together with remaining ingredients
  7. Now, take bowl out of stand mixer and, using a rubber spatula, alternate in thirds between your flour and your milk mixtures until your batter comes together
  8. Pour into your cake pan, bake for 22-25 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden, pulling away from the pan a bit
  9. Allow to cool completely before decorating

Directions for Decorating: Clean our your stand mixer bowl while cake is baking and cooling and beat on high two egg whites. When soft peaks form, slowly pour in 3 TB white sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag. When cake is completely cooled, pipe meringue onto cake top in any decoration you'd like. Toast with a kitchen torch, top with sliced strawberries and serve.

Meringue and Strawberry Mini Cake
Meringue and Strawberry Mini Cake
Meringue and Strawberry Mini Cake
Meringue and Strawberry Mini Cake
Meringue and Strawberry Mini Cake

Frosted Farm Animal Crackers!

Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers

Circled big in my planner you can read "Chickens Today!" in large letters on May 9th. Since then, our schedules and upcoming vacations have revolved around their needs. We change the water four times a day and feed them just as often. Each morning I count them, twelve chicks curled in wood shavings and dirt, underneath the heat lamp. All accounted for, we haven't lost one yet.

Brett and Chicken

My dad says this is a miracle. He says you always lose one or two. I believe in listening. I believe in fresh air and words of encouragement. I believe in not waking them up and letting them sleep, so I might walk back out in the morning an hour later so they aren't stressed. I believe in letting them be free, to not constrain them to a brooder, so we fenced in half a barn stall for them and they get a chance to run free. And at night, Nolan and I hold hands and walk down to the barn, cutting through the sodden grass from when the spring house overflows and the red, red glow of the heat lamp acts as a makeshift lighthouse when the rest of the world is pitch black.

It's hard to not get attached, to let my mind wander to their future and their happiness. We do the same thing with our dogs, we anthropomorphize their thoughts to fit our actions. We say they're happy so we don't feel so guilty, but how do we know? For the chickens, we keep them warm and safe. For the dogs, we hold them tight on the porch swing and think of them while we're out, picking up hamburgers or tennis balls along the way.

This is a life I couldn't have in California, the expansive life of opportunity, of homestead and hearth. Of empathy. Of nurturing. Of appreciating the fog over the hill and barn and the deer whose footprints break the soil after it rains. Every detail is here in our own world and I try to remember we're a part of it all now.

Farm Animal Crackers!

Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers

I thought of this idea a few weeks ago after agreeing to help one of Nolan's coworkers with a 4-H bake sale, so we bought these cookie cutters on Amazon and I started playing around with ideas. I loved the chicken one (of course, after seeing my little girls grow!), so thought it would be fun to just use those. I spoke with Molly when she was in Philly about this idea and she got me on a good path using powdered milk. And it worked so much better! Yas, Molly!  I also referenced Adrianna's recipe as well.

This recipe can be adapted to smaller shapes, but just be aware of baking time!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 TB unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F and prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat
  2. Sift together flour, powdered milk, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar
  4. Scrape sides with a rubber spatula, add vanilla and egg whites and mix--it may look a bit lumpy, but that is okay
  5. Create a well in your dry ingredients and add your sugar mixture, stir to combine
  6. Finally, add milk to moisten dough
  7. Roll out onto a floured work surface and knead for a few seconds until dough comes together
  8. Roll out cookies to about a 1/4 inch thick and cut out your shapes. Place on baking sheets
  9. Once you have cut out your shapes, place in freezer for 10 minutes to firm up (this will help with the shape being consistent when baking)
  10. Remove from oven, poke a couple times with a tooth pick
  11. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are tanned and top is puffed slightly
  12. Allow to cool before coating in white chocolate (directions below)

To Decorate: Melt or temper 20 ounces of white chocolate. When cookies are cooled, dip one in and coat both sides using two forks so as not to smudge the chocolate with your hands. Transfer to a cooling rack, decorate with some sprinkles, and allow to dry. Repeat with half of the cookies. With remaining cookies and chocolate, dye pink using a quality red food dye. Coat remaining cookies with same method. 

Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers
Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers
Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers
Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers
Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers
Farm Animal Frosted Animal Crackers

A Tea Party with Nordic Ware

NordicWare mini tea party cakes

Rain.

Each day, for the last week, it has rained. The dogs have been restless when they're awake, but sleep most of the day away. Their muddy paws mark the base boards, the tiled kitchen, and, occasionally, the armchairs. We let them on the bed, we let them sleep at our feet. We give them what they want because we can't give them fresh air, warmth, the sun. 

We were busy this week. Photoshoots and cakes and flea market paintings. We ate lunch with Nolan's parents and bought curtains. We took a bath together and then fell asleep on the couch. I feed the chickens four times a day and called my dad to say they were growing. I remembered my uncle on Memorial Day. My brother asked me to be his son's godfather. I found five dollars in the washing machine.

Rain. Like a slow throb in the back of my eyes, I felt tired. Nolan sneezed in the sunlight and I took a puff from his cigarette with my coffee. My body shivering, my eyes still tired, we were up at six most mornings this week. And by three we were tired and by five we were exhausted. And so, this weekend, I wanted to make it special. Something to look forward to mid-day.

I brewed some tea, I baked some cakes. Nolan licked the spatula and squeezed the lemon over the still-warm bakes. We snacked, candles light and a window open, and warmed our hands on the china my mother gave us. A moment when beauty was small but worthwhile, like the steam that rises off the ground and the deer prints are still fresh in mud.

Mini-cakes!

NordicWare mini tea party cakes

The recipe I used was adapted from the previous madeleine recipe, here. You will, of course, need this beautiful bundt charm pan from Nordicware, which will (honestly) change your tea party game for LIFE.  What made me most nervous was greasing the pan, so I went with a little bit of melted shortening then a light dusting of flour and it was perfect. 

If you do NOT have a charm pan (which I suggest you get), you can use a muffin tin, but just add about 1/3 of the way up and add a 2 minutes to the baking time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 TB unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 TB lemon zest
  • Juice of one lemon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400*F
  2. Prepare your pan
  3. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking powder
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla, and zest vigorously until foamy
  5. Add egg mix to flour and stir
  6. Finally, add melted butter and fold with a rubber spatula. 
  7. Fill about 3/4 of the way up, using a spoon to control the amount better, and bake for 10 minutes or until golden and puffed
  8. Immediately turn out and allow to cool. When still warm, squeeze lemon juice over your cakes
  9. Enjoy with a warm cup of tea. Remaining cakes can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days (or frozen forever!)
NordicWare mini tea party cakes
NordicWare mini tea party cakes
NordicWare mini tea party cakes
NordicWare mini tea party cakes

A special thanks to Nordic Ware for sponsoring this post. Nordic Ware has been producing quality kitchenware products in their 70 years and are now one of America's most beloved and iconic brands. Today, Nordic Ware manufactures the vast majority of its products in America, at our Minneapolis headquarters, including cookware, bakeware, grillware, microwave, and kitchen gadgets and accessories.For more information or products, check out their website! I highly recommend buying the charm pan mentioned above, as it is just so cute! With its gold finish, its heavy cast aluminum and its 6 unique charm shapes, it will be a staple in your kitchen for years to come!