Saving the Season, a must read

Those of you who like to put up food have likely heard of Kevin West’s book Saving the Season: A cook’s guide to home canning, pickling, and preserving. If you haven’t, read on. West’s book is one you want to shelve in your permanent collection.

reading Saving the Season by Kevin West

“It’s not without reason that we’ve learned to watch
The rising and the setting of the stars,
Marking the equal seasons as they change.”

—Virgil’s “First Georgic”

Poetic, literary, and downright practical, Saving the Season is a rarity among cookbooks. Packed with 220 modern classic recipes for sweet and savory jams, pickles, cordials, cocktails, candies, and fermented foods, it’s difficult to decide where to begin, each recipe is worth savoring. I recommend one recipe per season, starting with winter and working your way to next fall: Vin de Pamplemousse, Taqueria Style Pickled Carrots, Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika, and Walnuts in Maple Syrup and Brandy.

reading Saving the Season by Kevin West

Essential canning science and know how are included as well and prove to be invaluable for new and experienced cooks. Who hasn’t wondered once or twice why home canning works, what’s the scoop on botulism, and how to “put up” through all four seasons. With full page color photographs throughout, Saving the Season delivers as much art as it does craft in this must read guide.

reading Saving the Season by Kevin West

The book pays homage to West’s southern roots that included putting up food with his family in their rural Blount County, Tennessee kitchen. Musings on family tradition, history, and philosophy make this a thought-provoking read.


friday, instant film, + a call to act

Two phone-ographs of instant film for Friday.


I read earlier in the week of Fuji’s plans to discontinue their FP-3000B instant black & white pack film. As a fan of black & white instant film, this is completely disheartening. Apparently there isn’t enough demand for the film, so off it will go into film oblivion in 2014.


If you love instant film, please think about signing this petition (along with 8,000 plus supporters) to save Fuji FP-3000B. Who knows if a signature will change this film’s fate, but we have to try. We always have to try.


Vegan Apple Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

From where I sit, the bedroom curtain is half drawn. The window faces the front porch and yard where a leafless slumped cherry tree is wrapped in sunlight. When did the last crinkled leaf fall?


Likely it was sometime between reading novels, pre- and actual-baby bouncing, and baking multiple upside-down cakes — when summer unraveled into fall and soon-to-be winter. I remind myself to see and breathe in this.


Cold morning. Cinnamon Cashew Oats. Salt speckles. Coffee-less mug. Baby snorts. J. S. Bach or some other Baroque composer. Unhinged front door. Half-shot film roll. Thoughts on creative seeds. Milk in one hand. Words in another.


In and out. Sun. Yellow. Cake dotted red.

Apple Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
makes 10 servings

¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegan butter, softened
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup fresh orange juice, divided
2 large apples (about 3/4 pound), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch slices
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup vegan butter, softened
1 cup natural cane sugar
½ cup thick applesauce, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup soy milk + ½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, at room temperature
whipped coconut cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Heat brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons orange juice in a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter melts and the mixture starts to bubble. Let cool. Coat the sides of the skillet with oil or cooking spray.

Bring the remaining ¼ cup orange juice, apples, and cranberries to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring often, until about half the cranberries have popped and the apple slices are soft. Let cool to the touch then arrange the apple slices into a circular pattern (with the cranberries dotted throughout for color) over the cooled brown sugar mixture in the skillet.

Whisk all-purpose flour, almond flour, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

In another bowl, mix the ½ cup softened vegan butter, cane sugar, applesauce, vanilla, and soy milk mixture together with a wooden spoon or hand mixer until well combined.

Add in the dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon just until the flour is incorporated.

Spread the batter over the cranberries in the skillet.

Bake until the top is golden brown and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate. Serve with a spoon of whipped coconut cream.

Whipped Coconut Cream

makes about 1 cup

One 15-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons natural cane sugar or maple syrup, or to taste
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or to taste

Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the can from the refrigerator without shaking it (by refrigerating the can the coconut milk separates and the cream floats to the top while the water remains at the bottom of the can).

Open the can of coconut milk. The solid cloud-like layer on top is the cream (beneath the cream is the water). Scoop the cream into a bowl, stopping when you reach the coconut water (save the water for smoothies).

Using a stand or handheld mixer, whip the coconut cream on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until the coconut cream forms soft peaks and is light and fluffy. Mix in the sugar and vanilla, if using.


Lately, “shut up and write” plus Empire Falls

The car battery died yesterday. I had plans to take Cody out on the town. Instead I unloaded all the bags from the car, rocked him back to sleep, and sat back down to write. That’s where I am these days, determined to follow Natalie Goldberg’s “shut up and write” advice. Unless you want to teach, skip the MFA and follow and repeat that mantra. The rest is interference, mostly the stuff we devise in our own head’s to keep us from the singular goal of planting a seat in the chair each day and getting out of our own way. Leave the laundry, dishes, and unnecessary to-do items for writing breaks or problem solving edits. The rest, aside from a seven week and five year-old can wait. Between writing sessions, I read.


Lately, it’s Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Have you read it? I picked up a copy at a library sale two summer’s ago on the Cape. After reading fifty or so pages, I stacked the book on my reading pile by the night stand and there it stayed until last month when I get hooked. Seventy pages left and I can barely stand to put the book down. It’s like saying no to a cup of coffee on a cold rainy morning, like today. I’m drinking a cup of  coffee but the book will have to wait.

Empire Falls has been out for more than a decade long enough to inspire me to see the TV mini-series before reading the book, not something I usually do. Russo has a real talent for novel writing—the structure, characters, plot, setting, and pace all elements exquisitely drawn. His characters are real and flawed and despite their shortcomings, forgivable. He writes with a deep understanding of our human condition expressing it with a balanced mix of satire, compassion, humor, and sadness. Set in a old mill town in Maine, Empire Falls is the story of Miles Roby, a modest man who gave up his college education and dream of escaping home when he promises to help Francine Whiting, who practically owns the town (and Miles himself) run the local diner. Janine, his soon-to-be ex-wife is about to marry an obnoxious health-club owner. Smart and sensitive, his daughter Tick, struggles to find her way through adolescence. Will Miles escape the fate set before him years ago? Whether or not you’ve seen the HBO two-part series, read the book, it’s worth every page.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland is next on my reading list. What are you reading lately?

p.s. A few of my healthy go-to recipes are featured at MommyPage today. Check out the interview and recipes, here.


plum, stuffed french toast (+ a giveaway)

Whenever I discover a new book I really like and am likely on the verge of falling for, I carry it with me from room to room stealing glimpses between writing sentences or stirring dinner on the stove. Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro by Makini Howell is one of those books.


The book is beautiful to look at. Understated yet swathed in texture and light, photographer Charity Burggraaf brings Howell’s dishes within close reach. The pages are filled with Howell’s honest straightforward recipes that are as cutting edge as they are personal. I imagine a seat at Plum Bistro reflects the same sentiment. Bold flavors, traditional techniques, and fresh ingredients for everyone who loves to eat and cook, vegan or otherwise.


Flipping through the pages, I couldn’t decide what to make first: Plum’s Smoky Mac, Toasted Chocolate Bread with Cream Cheese Creme Fraiche, Pesto Plum Pizza with Balsamic Arugula, or Good Old-Fashioned French Toast Stuffed with Strawberries and Sweet Soy Cream. After several reads, I chose the later but it was very clear I wanted to cook my way through the entire book.


Chapters are divided into fundamentals and techniques (hello revolutionary “egg foam”, “sweet soy cream”, and “basil soy ricotta”—welcome to my cooking repertoire); breakfasts; salads and soups; small plates; tofu; tempeh & seitan; pasta; grains; and desserts. All the recipes happen to be vegan and many are gluten- and soy-free as well. Howell’s take on vegan cuisine is comforting, succulent, and entirely approachable to create at home.


I’ve fallen for Plum. Maybe you’ll do the same. If you’d like a chance (you do, you absolutely do want this book!), leave a comment here by Tuesday, November 5th and I’ll choose one winner at random.


Bonus entries:

Sign up for my monthly newsletter (see sign-up box on the right side of this page). You can also follow/like me on one or all of my social hangouts: twitter, facebook, pinterest, google + and tell me that you did so in the comments. The winner will receive an email and has one week to respond and claim their prize. If I don’t hear from you in a week, another winner will be chosen.

Good luck!


The giveaway is now closed. Thanks everyone for playing along and congrats, Sara. You won!

Plus, my twist on Plum’s French Toast…


French Toast Stuffed with Vanilla Roasted Apples & Pears
adapted from Plum by Makini Howell
makes 2 servings

3/4 cup vanilla soy milk
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 cup Egg Foam
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted (plus extra for the pan)
2 slices thick bread, about 2 inches thick by four inches long
1 batch vanilla roasted apples and pears
1/4 cup sweet cinnamon cashew cream
serve with drizzled maple syrup on top

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and vinegar until the mixture thickens. Add the foam, vanilla, maple syrup, and cinnamon, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Lightly butter a griddle or large frying pan over medium-high heat (note if using cast iron griddle, preheat pan over medium-low heat for 10 minutes and keep at that heat). Halve each bread slice nearly to the bottom, leaving the bread attached at the spine like an open book. Working in batches, dip the bread into the milk mixture for about 30 seconds on each side, then place on the griddle. Cook the bread until it turns golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes, then flip it with a spatula. Cook it on the other side until the bottom is crisp and browned, about 4 more minutes. Remove the bread, and repeat with the remaining slice, adding more butter to the griddle as needed.

To serve, spoon 1/4 cup apples and pears onto the bottom half of each piece of French toast. Fold the top over, add a spoonful of cashew cream, and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve immediately.


Egg Foam
slightly adapted from Plum by Makini Howell
makes 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon egg replacer (Ener-G brand)
1/2 cup room temperature water

Heat a burner to medium-high heat. put the egg replacer and water in a medium stainless-steel bowl. Placing the bowl directly on the burner, whisk the mixture continuously (to avoid sticking to bottom of bowl) until it starts to foam and thicken, about 2 minutes. When the foam has fluffed up like a beaten egg, remove the bowl from the heat.

Vanilla Roasted Apples and Pears

2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
1 pear, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon raw cane sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon vegan butter

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, toss the apples and pears with vanilla, sugar, and salt. Spread in a shallow 2-cup baking dish that crowds the fruit in a single layer. Dot with slivers of the butter, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the fruit starts to soften, about 15 minutes.

Uncover, raise the heat to 500F, and return dish to oven. Leave fruit to dry out and color slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

Cinnamon Cashew Cream
makes about 1/2 cup cream

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
pinch of coarse sea salt

Soak the cashews in a bowl of water for at least 2 hours to soften. Drain the cashews, place in a blender, along with the water and remaining ingredients. Blend until silky smooth. For a thinner cream, add a tablespoon of water at a time between blending, until it reaches desired consistency. Refrigerate leftover cream in a sealed container.


glimpses of fall

A few instant photos from recent outings. Simmering roasted pumpkin soup. Thinking seeds and fall plus cider donuts. Reading The True Secret of Writing. More soon.

Fall 2013 8

Fall 2013 1

Fall 2013 3

Fall 2013 2

Fall 2013 4

Fall 2013 5

Fall 2013 6

Fall 2013 7


Apple Rye & Hemp Cereal Crisp or The Brief Wondrous Tale of an Apple

A conversation between the apple and me told in thought bubbles…

Me: Tart or crisp? Crisp or tart? Hmm, what to make? Here’s the thing apple. I have less than an hour to turn you and your lot into some sort of baked goodness before the sleeping babe wakes. So what do you want to be?

Apple: It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? I want to be the almighty crisp. Nubby and sultry with a noted earthiness. Yeah, I get what you’re saying. You have better things to do right now. Like sleep or wonder what will happen if the government remains shut down…we all have these and bigger issues to face, so why don’t you get on with it. Start chopping. I’m a little sweet and comforting and can be the sort of thing to inspire answers to all sorts of conundrums.


Me: You’re a mustachioed apple with a belted sword squishing your girth, what do you know?

Apple: Plenty. I know plenty. Enough that when an apple with a mustache and a sword speaks, you have no choice but listen!

Me: Hmm, you may be right.

So that’s how it went the other day when the apples threatened to turn on us. An imagined apple talking cartoon in which I asked the apple what it wanted to be and it answered, crisp. Four pounds down, cored and sliced into slim wedges. With a sprinkling of sugar and dots of butter mixed in. A hearty crisp topping made for a humble fall evening: blend of Rye & Hemp cereal with white spelt flour (for earthy nut tones), walnuts, sugar, and butter (vegan or dairy, both are swell). A hearty crisp in the making with whole grains and cereal as topping.


p.s. Thanks Attune Foods for sending a box of Uncle Sam’s Rye & Hemp cereal. Don’t tell the apple, but when I get a little more time, I’m going to make that tart with Rye & Hemp cereal flour. He’s not the only rebellious one…


Apple Rye & Hemp Cereal Crisp
makes 8 servings

Apple Filling
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white spelt (or whole wheat pastry) flour
4 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch slices
1/4 cup vegan butter

Rye & Hemp Cereal Crisp Topping

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup white spelt (or whole wheat pastry) flour
1/2 cup Uncle Sam’s Rye and Hemp Cereal flour (grind cereal into flour using a high-speed blender or food processor)
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375º F. Lightly butter a 2-quart ceramic or glass baking dish; set aside.

Stir the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Fold in the apple slices and gently mix until all the slices are coated. Pour the apple filling into the prepared baking dish. Place small dots of vegan butter on top of the apples; set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the chopped walnuts, white spelt flour, rye & hemp cereal flour, sugar, and cinnamon together until thoroughly blended. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture just until the mixture comes together with a crumbly texture. Top the apples with the crisp topping.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan once or twice for even browning, or until the crisp topping is golden brown and the apples are fully cooked and the edges of the crisp are bubbling.


Handmade Photo Journal

Hey there. I’ve been working on this DIY photo journal project I thought you might like to try out. It’s the perfect way to put your photos into everyday use and to create a custom designed notebook to fit into your satchel and fill with photos ideas and sketches.


I used recycled paper for the pages (some lined and unlined) and print your own photos for the front and back cover. Graph paper would be a nice addition along with pages from recycled books or novels that you could collage onto. The design and size is flexible. I made the one you see here 5 x 5-inches since the photos I chose were square plus I like the portable size.


Aside from cutting your pages, cover photos, and craft paper spine to size–all you need is a little craft glue, some clothes pins, an old paintbrush, thin boards, a heavy book, and a little patience to put this project into action. Whether you’re super or mildly crafty type, this journal comes together pretty quickly.

I’m sharing the full tutorial over at Mortal Muses today. Stop by if you can…


Into September

Our new babe, Cody James, arrived a week ago Monday and although I’m punch drunk tired from all the sleepless nights, I’m in rock star awe of this little guy. He’s here, he’s finally here! Having a newborn around again means life is much simpler—we tend to Cody’s needs; cook big pots of dal and rice pudding to keep warm throughout the day, read voraciously while he naps curled up next to us in the darkest hour of morning.

Into September (our new babe)

Kate Christensen’s new memoir Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites, in particular, has helped me through those bleary nights. The book is an emotionally driven narrative about eating, loving, screwing up, and bouncing back. It is sensual, heartbreaking, and joyful all at once.

Into September

“To taste fully is to live fully.” One of my favorite parts of the book is when Christensen describes a class she attended at the The Writers’ Workshop in Iowa. “During the first semester of my second year at Iowa, I took a workshop class with Allan Gurganus, who immediately became my favorite teacher there. He was dapper and ebullient and always wore a different tie to each workshop. He was also a warm, inspired teacher, opinionated, brilliant, funny; he loved real writing, hated pretentiousness. He encouraged visceral emotion, humor, real old-fashioned storytelling, rolled his eyes at cerebral formal coldness, egotistical displays of technique. he didn’t care what the literary trends and fashions were. He cared about what was good.” It’s an aside to those of us who desire to write with good pure “ingredients”.

Into September

After reading the last page of the book, I listened to the gurgles and grunts escape through his heart shaped lips. His hands shadow box nothing but air. Knees slide up and down against my chest as I hold him close.

Into September

He’ll lift his head up in no time at all. Let’s not rush it though.


The last of our summery beach days

We’re holding tight to the last of our summery beach days. Short hikes in the woods and the last pages of Tiny Beautiful Things fill the weekend. If all goes according to plan, a big pot of summer tomato soup simmers on the stove by afternoon. We’ll see.

Cape House Beach 6


Cape House Beach 1


Cape House Beach 5


Cape House Beach 3


Cape House Beach 2

Falmouth, Massachusetts

Pentax K1000 | Pentax 50mm f/2 | Fuji Color 200