Peach Pavlovas (& a video)

Did you see it?

The trailer I made for The 505 West! It’s an absolutely astounding AirBnb located in Princeton, just 30 minutes from where we live.

See, this whole thing started when I found out Matt had created this gorgeous space above his restaurant, Horseradish. I was already obsessed with the restaurant and became equally as enamored with the rental.

It is really and truly one of my favorite places to eat and spend time in the area. It reminds me of any number of trendy places in Chicago or Greenville, without the “trying so hard” feeling I often got in those cities. There’s just a comfort to be found sitting on a stool in the restaurant, looking into the open kitchen or perusing the shelves near the front door. I spend a decent amount of time there (though not enough, IMO). Seth and I go on dates there, I had my bridal shower there, it’s a lovely place for a quick lunch. Originally, we’d tossed around the idea of doing food photography work, as I’ve been making headway in that department (see here and here). But, truly, Matt doesn’t need me. He takes lovely photos on his own. And on his phone! Much to my frustration.

So, it morphed into this. A night in the suite and a day in the kitchen. All documented and (somewhat) perfected and presented. (Although if I’m being honest about it being perfected – this is the second time I’ve uploaded the video. The first time was missing the audio transition and I was so mortified I took it down!)

Matt was so kind to open his doors to us. He introduced us to his friends, Elsah and Roger, owners of a local catering company. They have experience and advice and stories I gobbled up faster than the food they made. We laughed, drank Jack Rabbits, and made marshmallows. I took video of it all, that you’ll see at a later date.

I also took a ton of pictures. Just like I did of these pavlovas!

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Margarita Pie

This last weekend was marvelous.

I took 1.5 days off (the first time I’ve done that in a LOOOOOONG time), finished a few sewing projects, and baked. for. fun.

Better yet, everything I baked turned out beautifully! Better than things have in quite some time.

Because, for as much as people think baking is all scientific and precise and perfect, I find that it’s also about trusting your instincts, your gut. It’s about believing in yourself. Perhaps, if this last weekend has shown me anything, it’s that I haven’t done that in a LOOOOOONG time either.

It feels good to do that. And it tastes even better.

And this Margarita Pie tastes the best! The crust is a simple press-in of saltine crackers (inspired by Atlantic Beach Pie, something I had never heard of until a bar customer and fellow baker told me about it!). The filling is a riff off of key lime pie – with a healthy splash of tequila. The whipped cream is spiked with Grand Marnier – like a floater on top of any good quality marg. It’s special. It’s sweet. It’s even better than what I’d imagined it could be.

Margarita Pie

Active Time: 35 minutes

Inactive Time: 5 hours – overnight

Total Time: 5 hours & 35 minutes – overnight

Yields: 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 sleeve saltine crackers

4 graham crackers

1 TBSP granulated sugar

½ tsp. salt

8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

3 TBSP lemon juice

14oz. sweetened condensed milk

5 egg yolks

½ tsp. salt

3 TBSP good quality tequila

For the whipped cream:

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

½ cup powdered sugar

1 TBSP Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur

½ tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the crackers until only fine crumbs remain. Add in sugar and salt and pulse to combine. With processor running, stream in butter until mixture resembles wet sand. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 7 – 9 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool slightly. While crust bakes, whisk together the ingredients for the filling until smooth. Pour into prebaked crust and return to oven. Bake for 18 – 22 minutes, or until edges are set and center only slightly jiggles at the touch (it’ll firm up the rest of the way while cooling). Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. Transfer to fridge to chill for four hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine all ingredients and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy and soft peaks have formed. Spread onto pie before slicing and serving.

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins (& the vet)

Seth agreed to a lot when he married me.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

He agreed to stick with me through good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

I don’t think he realized it wasn’t just my sickness or my health. It was also Edgar’s.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Earlier last week we took Edgar to the vet to get his vaccines updated and to get a little check-up. We hadn’t been to the vet since last summer when he jumped out of a first story window…and then a second story one…and then ate an entire batch of oatmeal raisin cookies. We’d racked up enough frequent flyer miles for the year. And aside from a having a dog whisper visit the house, he hadn’t required much follow-up care.

While we were there, we asked the vet to examine what we thought to be a hernia. I was told the little nickel-sized protrusion on the center of his ribs was just that when I adopted Edgar. “Happens all the time. Lots of dogs get them. If it doesn’t grow and doesn’t get hard, don’t worry about it.” For two years, it neither grew nor hardened. All was well with his undercarriage.

Then, while Seth and I were away on our mini-moon and my mom watched Edgar, it got a little bigger and a little darker. Not too much cause for concern, but if we were going to be at the vet, we may as well get it checked out. So, she drew fluid. And informed us it wasn’t a hernia but, was in fact a xiphoid cyst. And still absolutely nothing to worry about. It was simply bigger and darker because he’d bruised it. Ok, cool.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Or so we thought.

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Browned Butter Sage Stuffing with Walnuts & Cranberries (& a Thanksgiving Menu)

This is better than I thought it would be. Truly, when I went to put together suggestions for this year’s festivities I thought it would be slim pickings. That there wouldn’t be much to choose from because I hadn’t gotten up nearly as many posts as planned. I’d been behind, slacking, negligent about my duties and responsibilities. Turns out, that wasn’t (entirely) the case. It’s rewarding to look back on the year and see what’s been accomplished. I got more up than I planned! And a lot of it would fit nicely on the Thanksgiving table, if there’s still room.

Browned Butter Sage Stuffing with Walnuts & Cranberries

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Maple & Vanilla Bean Granola (& envy)

When I met Jen, I didn’t like her.

Maple & Vanilla Bean Granola

Not actually. But I didn’t like how she made me feel. Behind, inexperienced, and so uncool it was painful. Of course, this had nothing to do with her or her actions towards me, and everything to do with myself. And my insecurities. It was a new job, I was still unhappy in SC, everyone else in that kitchen knew the rhythm and how things worked. How they worked. I didn’t. And it killed me not knowing.

There were inside jokes I wasn’t a part of, techniques I’d never heard of before, a storage system in the fridge that was entirely new to me. Next to her – tall, blonde, round blue eyes behind the hippest glasses – I felt as if I could bathe in a thimble. And often wanted to hide under one during my shifts.

Maple & Vanilla Bean Granola

My dislike for her was solidified the day she showed me how to make gnocchi (something I’d never done before, phony food connoisseur that I was). Her technique was simple and quick and almost effortless. She was as fluid as the water simmering between us. I was green with envy at her abilities. During conversation, I found out she was a few years younger than me and turned the deepest shade of forest. I felt so behind, she seemed so ahead.

Maple & Vanilla Bean Granola

And then, one day, she messed up. She left granola in the oven too long. Way too long. It was burnt. Charred. Inedible. She’d ruined a dish.

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