Snapshots of Summer

Hello, hello, hello!

It’s been a long time since my last post.  Spring and summer have been very busy since I started a full-time job after being home with my sweet daughter (and working part-time) for many amazing months.  In March, I was thrilled to accept a position as a baker and sales representative at a bakery in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.  I’m so grateful for this wonderful opportunity!

Here’s a collage of my summer, highlights of what I’ve been up to and of course, what I have been eating.  Enjoy!

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  1. Two of my favorite combinations: prosecco and the back porch of my dearest friend’s home.  I’m loving this bottle of bubbles.
  2.  Weekend ritual of green smoothies and watching the choo choo trains.  There’s a charming little cafe located at one of the nearby train stations and little T loves their green smoothies.  We did a 30 day green smoothie challenge in July and T happily participated.
  3.  The bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids of my friend’s wedding.  Flowers were arranged by family and friends.
  4. We went on a nature walk and foraged along the way collecting wineberries.  These sweet little hands helped too.
  5. My friends live in the city and have a thriving apricot tree in their little back court yard.  They invited us to pick some of the fruit.  We went home with 25lbs of apricots and barely made a dent in that tree.
  6. Evening stroll down the street. We live in a mid-century modern neighborhood that was built on what was the grounds of a Gilded Age mansion, designed by Horace Trumbauer.  The statues in my neighborhood are remnants of the gardens.
  7.  10lbs of blackberries about to become jam.  My husband and I are huge fans of the Food in Jars blog.  Try the peach jam recipe–you won’t regret it.
  8. A  birthday tradition. We celebrated T’s 2nd birthday this summer.  On her birthday (this year and last) I presented her with a blank canvas and paints to create her birthday masterpiece.  I love it.  It’s a fun way to commemorate the day.  (first birthday to the left, second birthday to the right)
  9. My little gardener.  She’s been spending a lot of time at grandma’s house and therefore spending a lot of time in the vegetable garden.
  10. We spent a couple days at Ocean City, NJ.  I wish I could eat fried calamari and corn fritters everyday.
  11. My hubby and I went on out first ferris wheel ride together–good old fashioned romantic fun on the boardwalk.
  12. We celebrated the final weeks of summer with homemade lemon-orange gelato.  I love gelato. I love gelato. I looooove gelato. Did you know there’s less fat in gelato than ice cream? So it’s way better for you.

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Plum Apple Ginger Crisp

 

Fruit crisps are one of my favorite desserts.  They’re so easy to make and I always seem to have the ingredients on hand. I had some long time friends over for dinner the other night and needed to whip up a dessert.  I had a few plums and apples in the fridge, which is always a great combination.  I had some ginger root too so I decided to add that to liven up this classic dish.

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Nom. nom. nom.

 

Filling:

3 plums (remove pit and slice into small pieces)

1 apple  (peeled and grated)

2 TB sugar

2 TB flour

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

Topping:

3/4 c. all purpose flour

1/3 c. old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

dash of salt

1/2 stick of butter (cold and cut into small pieces)

 

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease 4-6 ramekins and place on baking sheet.

Mix all filling ingredients together.  Pour the filling into the ramekins, leaving enough room for the crumble topping. Set aside.

For the topping, combine flour, oats, sugars, walnuts and salt.  Add cold butter and mix until the crumble and butter form pea sized pieces.  I just use my hands but you can use a mixer with a paddle attachment.  Evenly distribute topping amongst ramekins.

Bake for 30-35 mins, until top is golden brown.  Serve immediately or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

 

Enjoy!

A Summer Picnic Birthday

We recently celebrated our daughter, T’s first birthday, also known as WE SURVIVED the first year of parenting. Yay!

Birthday girl waiting for some cake.

I’ve been planning this party for months…maybe several months…maybe shortly after she was born.  I’ve never been much of a party planner but I was so looking forward to planning this event for my sweet little girl.  I quickly decided on the theme: A Summer Picnic.  I then recruited the help of my Mom and sisters–party planning enthusiasts.

My Mom gave me Trophy Cupcakes and Parties!   I highly recommend this book. Jennifer Shea shares delicious cupcake recipes while outlining the best way to plan parties.  She highlights the main items of an event in a way that will help you to brainstorm your party ideas.  Following her party planning guide, I listed my ideas for T’s Summer Picnic Birthday below:

Theme: Summer Backyard Picnic

Decor: Bunting Banner, fresh cut flowers–we got gorgeous flowers from Whole Foods Market, mason jars

Color Palette: Red & white gingham

Invitations: Paperless Post.  I chose this invitation, “Strawberries”  and changed the wording to say, “Let’s Picnic!”

Bites: Fried Chicken, vegetarian wraps, grated carrot salad, cucumber dill slaw, baked beans and potato chips

Dessert: Birthday cake, ice cream sandwiches, melon salad

Sips: Homebrews, wine, water, lemonade, iced tea and juice boxes

Entertainment: yard games and bubbles

Favors: Strawberry sugar cookies

Picnic spread: wraps, fried chicken and donuts (yes, donuts), sides and chips.

Picnic spread: wraps, fried chicken and donuts (yes, donuts), sides and chips..

The picnic menu.

The picnic menu.

Paper boats for serving a picnic meal.

Paper boats for serving a picnic meal.

There was no way that I was slaving over a hot stove in the soupy, humid summer heat.  The main dishes were catered.  Fried chicken from no other than Federal Donuts located in Philadelphia.  I couldn’t have been happier with this decision.  Fed Nuts provided choice pieces of perfectly fried juicy chicken (we got the buttermilk ranch and naked flavors), three glazes, spicy pickles and of course, HONEY DONUTS!  My guests devoured every last piece of cock-a-doodle.

We needed a vegetarian options and there wasn’t even a second thought on this one.  We sought the delicious culinary skills of Be Well Bakery & Cafe.  My guests could pick from three light but hearty wraps: Hummus & veggies, California (cream cheese & veggies) and cranberry apple walnut.  This was the perfect addition to a summer picnic menu.  Often wraps aren’t that exciting.  However, my guests kept saying that they were sooo good and yummy over and over….and over again.  Thanks, Be Well!

My mother and I made all of the sides.  The only rule was that it could not involve my stove or oven.  My Mom suggest her famous baked beans (unfortunately a secret recipe). I said, “Cold sides only!!”  but I didn’t say, “No crock pots”.   So the baked beans made it on the menu.   The guest were grateful.  Most important, the birthday girl loved them.

I wanted light, make-ahead side dishes.  Carottes râpées or grated carrot salad, is a french salad found in many cafes.  It’s very basic. Mine was made with grated carrots, walnuts, raisins and vinaigrette.  I also chose a coleslaw made with cucumbers and dill.  We also served a variety of Mrs. Vick’s Potato Chips.  

Birthday head gear and thorn.

Seating for the Birthday Girl.

Outdoor seating for guests.

Outdoor seating for guests.

For dessert, we served a summer shortcake from Zake’s Cafe in Fort Washington.  I had this cake at a friend’s 40th birthday celebration.  I was sold after the first bite but continued to eat two large slices of cake just to make sure.  I threw together a melon and mint salad  and also had the classic ice cream sandwiches to offer.  Speaking of sweet things, my sister got the cutest party favors from Velvet Sky Bakery in Jenkintown, PA.  They created yummy and beautiful strawberry sugar cookies which we displayed in wooden berry boxes.

Thank you treats.

Thank you treats.

Thank you treats.

Strawberry sugar cookies for thank you treats.

As for drinks, I wanted to keep that simple: red and white wine, water, lemonade, iced tea and of course juice boxes for the kiddos. However,  my beer snob husband proclaimed that we would only serve a selection of his homebrews because he refused to serve anything but quality beer at his baby girl’s birthday party.  It was so sweet how enthusiastic he was about crafting beer for her birthday celebration.  He even came up with originial names in honor of Miss. T.  There was the Not Napping IPA (self explanatory), the Little Bear Saison (a nickname), and the Dog Dog Dog Dog Brown Ale (To commemorate one of her first words).

Personalized taps for home-brewed beers.

Personalized taps for home-brewed beers.

Beverage station.

Beverage station.

Drinks for adults and kiddos.

Drinks for adults and kiddos.

The decor was easy because my Mom happen to have everything I was looking for to create a summer picnic look.  She provided red and white gingham table cloths, many mason jars for flower arrangements, drink dispensers, glassware, really anything you could need. We joke that she needs a shed to house all her party equipment. Although we’re serious.  We needed a few elements to really make it stand out as a picnic.  We used paper boats instead of plates as the vehicle for the picnic feast, red and white patterned paper straws, and chalkboard signs for the menu. One extra special touch was that my mom had saved the bunting banners that she and a friend had made for my baby shower when I was pregnant with T.  They were used to celebrate her pending arrival so it felt right to use them to honor her first birthday.

Kids' station providing bubbles and bug-free fun!

Kids’ station providing bubbles and bug-free fun!

I hope you enjoy the photos of T’s Summer Picnic Birthday.  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the carottes râpées, cucumber dill slaw and melon & mint salad recipes. 

 

Purveyors & Vendors

Paperless Post 

Whole Foods Market

Federal Donuts 

Be Well Bakery & Cafe 

Zake’s Cafe 

Velvet Sky Bakery