NYC - A food tour with my first born

I am in New York City often nowadays for CAKE&WHISKEY work. Each time I pack my little rolling suitcase, board the plane and step off two hours later with the skyline of the most bustling city in the US greeting me....I get butterflies of giddiness.
NYC was where I asked to go for my high school graduation gift. I have no idea what my parents got me for graduation, but it definitely wasn't a first trip to NYC. It wasn't until two years ago that I went for the first time and I was struck with some Big Apple fever that has never waned since.

But, NYC for me has never been a trip I've taken as a tourist. I've never been to the Statue of Liberty, a Broadway show or the Empire State Building. Instead, I see NYC through the back of a taxi, rushing from meeting to meeting and hoping for a break between to grab a bite to eat and respond to emails if there's free internet at the cafe I've ducked into.

But not too long ago I took Canaan on one of my work trips. And NYC opened up to me in a whole new way. My first born, as you likely know already, is the definition of 'foodie'. He came out of the womb with a whisk and a Le Creuset.























Our three day trip was monumentally memorable. I did have meetings, but I made time for play. And play we did. Finding little spice shops and eateries, walking to restaurants he had researched ahead of time and asking locals for recommendations. Our bellies stayed full and our feet stayed tired as we canvased most all of NYC on foot and by subway. The last customers for late night cannolis in Little Italy, the warm nutella waffles while walking around Central Park, Jazz at Dizzy's Coca Cola Club, buying him his first Swatch watch in Times Square, horchata at Otto's Tacos and getting utterly lost in Brooklyn......best times ever.

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Almond Raspberry Frangipane Tart



I keep a three ring binder of pages sporting short hand scribbles, butter smudges and tomato paste drops. These are my recipes. Recipes I've developed over the years; some by happenstance and others with much forethought. 
Yesterday, as the negative temperature wind whipped powdery snow down the streets of Midwest America and my three boys on yet another snow day played (far too much) Wii,  I baked. More importantly, I invented. And it felt spectacular to be at it again.



Of course, invention in baking isn't all that doable. Nothing new under the sun, right? Unless you are doing molecular gastronomy or something, I suppose. 

I have been super duper addicted to The Great British Bake-Off on TV. And after my trip last year to the coast of England and living in a small town with a bonafide British tea shop...lets just say, I have British baked goods fever. Bad. Real bad. 

This is my take on the British Bakewell tart...with a bit of Frangipane-esque and Pop-Tart-ness in there too. Whatever its origin or name, I'm staking claim to this nutty, fruit-filled little gem. It was intended for dessert. But was consumed by 3pm. I think it actually would make a perfect breakfast. For the record, it is gluten free and low-carb too. 

I have made the almond flour in my Vitamix with raw almonds. I waited 10 years to finally get a Vitamix (those puppies aren't cheap) but my, they are so worth it. At any rate, you can purchase almond meal at most grocery stores in the healthy food section or online. 




I had intended on making homemade jam for this, but time got away and instead I went a Sandra Lee route and did a semi-homemade jam~ which was gorgeous and full of the right flavor and consistency.






 

Almond Raspberry Frangipane Tart

Crust:
1 1/2 cup Almond meal
1/4 cup sugar (you could substitute any other granulated sweetener)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 egg white

Jam:
1/2 jar store bought (or homemade) all-fruit jam (no sugar)
1 small package of fresh raspberries
splash of sweet red wine or water

Filling:
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup softened butter (I used Kerrygold) 
1/4 cup sugar (again, you could substitute other sweetener option)
1 egg
1 egg yolk (left over from your crust)

Topping:
Honey 
Slivered almonds (optional)

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease 4 small tart shells or one large 9" one
2. In a bowl combine almond flour, sugar and salt. Sprinkle the chopped butter into the bowl and use your fingers to break up the chunks and incorporate into the flour until it resembles sand. (Alternatively you could use the food processor for this step.)
3. Stir in the egg white until the dough comes together. Divide evenly among the tart shells and press into the bottom and up the sides evenly with your fingers.
4. Place tart pans in the freezer for 15 minutes. 
5. Remove from the freezer and prick the bottom of the shells with a fork. Bake 10 minutes. Remove and let cool 15 minutes on a wire rack. 
6. If the shells have puffed, use the rounded part of a spoon the gently press the tart shell to let air out. 
7. While the tarts bake, simmer jam, berries and liquid in a saucepan until bubbly and the berries have begun breaking down. Remove from the heat and set aside.
8. In a food processor or bowl, combine the filling ingredients; almond meal, butter, sugar, egg and yolk. Mix or process until smooth and creamy (this will be thick). 
8. Spread a dollop of jam along the bottom of each tart shell. This should be thin, but not sparse. 
9. Top the jam with a thick layer of filling, making sure to not go past the brim of the tart shell but staying just inside. 
10. Sprinkle with additional slivered almonds, if desired.
11. Bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and set. 
12. Remove from the oven and immediately, using a pastry brush, brush a thin coat of slightly warmed honey over the top. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing the tart pan. 
13. Serve at room temperature or chilled. A dollop of whipped cream wouldn't be too shabby either. 

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Puerto Rican Latte (aka Cafe Con Leche)

A couple of months ago, we took our first bonafide family vacation together. The kind of vacation that you save up money for, book plane tickets for, count down the days for and relish every moment of. We've traveled to beaches in the past~ always on family visits to the grandparents.
Someday soon I will share pictures from our 10 days in Puerto Rico.
Words cannot describe the R&R that was discovered there for our family. Hopefully pictures will do it justice.
While there, the mister and I drank copious amounts of café con leche. Usually from little road side stands. And usually served in white Styrofoam cups...the milk foam brimming to the top with a dark sunken spot where the brown large crystals of sugar had fallen.
 
Now home, I'm still drinking my café con leche.
(Yeah...he's that great.)
He's always been a collector of little stove top coffee makers. And although we have both an espresso machine and coffee pot, he prefers the slow method of frothing and boiling every time. I don't complain. The first sip transports me back to visions of boys frolicking on the beach every time. 
 





 









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Kouign-Amman; A boy and his culinary journey



Seeing your child excel at something is a proud moment for a parent. Watching them as they cultivate an inner passion is the ultimate.
Today he worked on his skills. He's had it leafed in his cookbook to try Kouign-Amman for a bit now. Today, on this snowy Saturday~ with his favorite Jazz standards playing on Spotify and his brothers Rainbow looming in the dining room, he started the arduous 12+ hour process of making this difficult pastry.
Tomorrow we'll reap the benefits. Hello Sunday brunch.

 

Kouign-Amann by Megan Smith on Exposure

Crispy Lima Bean Frizzle....and How Childhood Visits to a Historic Village Shaped My Life.

Not too long ago, I took myself on a little overnight R&R trip to the city I called home for the first 18 years of life.
I love those hours I am treated to a couple of times a year and love that my husband pushes me out the door; away from my duties as CEO, wife and mom for just a bit.

I didn't have plans when I pulled out of the driveway. Just a hotel booked and an overnight bag.
The day couldn't have been more perfect for a road trip.

I stopped at the bookstore and bought a How To Learn French CD (two notes here: 1. No, it never dawned on me that podcasts are created for such things until my husband told me. 2. Yes, I took French in high school and only remember "if fait froid" and "il fait chaud" thanks to a high school French teacher that was a little obsessive about the weather.)
With my French CD and a few new magazines (is it really possible to get out of a bookstore with just one item), I got on a long stretch of highway and thought about what would be next. There was a 7pm minor league baseball game that night....which was sold out when I called for tickets. Bummer.

I considered going to a movie, shopping, art museums....all indoors and a terrible way to spend a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

Then I remembered one of my favorite childhood places. A historic village, replicating life in our State back in the 1800's. Bingo. I felt a tinge of guilt going someplace that I knew the kids would love. Still I forged ahead with my solo-date.

Let me just say....a lot changes over time, doesn't it? Those places that we have our fondest memories of~ when visited later in life, are dreadfully disappointing.  Thankfully this wasn't the case when I stepped through the welcome gates at the historic village and literally transported....not back to the 1800's but back to my most cherished memories.

I have an interesting sort of childhood. Good and bad...don't we all? Although the older I get, the more I learn that some of my 'bads' might have been a bit badder than some. And that's OK. I've never been one for crutches or excuses~ life is what you make of it.

At any rate, this day, while peaking into the schoolhouse, the pharmacy, the blacksmith's shop, the millinery store.....I had the most awakening experience I've had in quite a long time. It actually sort of blew my mind.

As I walked through this replica town that gave me some of my most beautiful, exciting memories as a young girl, I discovered.....I discovered that I had imbedded those feelings and images of comfort and happiness that this place gave me and I carried them through to my life as an adult.

And I never realized it until that very moment.

Curried Turkey Meatballs and The Choice to Always Be a Homemaker

Autumn is here in our sleepy town of Oakwood. I'm sitting in my sunny upstairs bedroom with windows on both sides opened, listening to the neighbors crunch the fallen leaves as they take their morning walk to town for a cuppa and a scone at the best little English tea shop. 







































These mornings are usually only ones for the weekends~ as I am rushing out the door alongside the boys and Mike to get to the studio (3 blocks away) for work during the week.
Today is a luxury~ Issue seven just headed to print yesterday and so I will savor this mug of coffee and bowl of overnight oats with pumpkin a little more slowly.
I am often asked if life is still 'normal' for us. And by that I know what they mean. What they want to know is, 'are you too busy to do homemaking anymore?" My answer is always "no".

Can you ever really leave behind a passion that is written on your heart?
I surely hope not.
In my case it is impossible.

Creating home is my ethos. Simplicity with purpose makes sense to me. Candlelit family dinners around our farm table are a foundational practice for our family. Baking with my boys brings me greater joy than any issue hot off the press ever will. And curling up for Masterpiece Mystery with Mr. Handsome will always give me butterflies.
























The magazine is a beautiful addition to my already full life.

A few weeks ago I was tucking Ezra under the covers for sleep. He looked up in a moment of seriousness (rare for this giggle box of an 8 year old boy) and asked, "Do you think you'll do the magazine forever?" Immediately mom-guilt set in. "Poor boy", I thought, "he misses having me home. My travel schedule must really be getting to him finally...... (my mind did several laps around this sort of thinking in a matter of seconds.)
My question back to him was, "do you miss having mommy home?" His response took me back. And it filled my heart with gratitude for such an amazing set of men I get to have in my life everyday. His response was this- " I hope you always do the magazine mom. It's so cool and it makes everyone who reads it really happy."

Woah. How's that for affirmation?

The Breakdown (and Rebuilding) of a Marriage


Ok...I really didn't airbrush this. It uploaded with a haziness (weird.) Mike says he's excited about no wrinkles ;)
 
Over the course of 8 years writing this blog, I haven’t steered clear of heavy topics.
I love blogs for their realness. Yet often they take us, the reader, out of reality with their overly whimsical view of someone’s supposed daily life. My life is quite whimsical (to me) but also quite real. Like nitty-gritty real….no one escapes nitty-gritty real, right?
The purpose of my blog has always been to document life here at The Smith Homestead….because I have a fantastically bad memory. The blog has been my source of memory-lane-walking over the years, a wonderful gift I’ve given to myself to keep it maintained and alive.
Mixed into this life of food and family and home renovations and backyard parties and crafts and entrepreneurial ideas…all of which are REAL stuff….is the other real stuff. The layoffs, the financial struggles, the failures and missteps, the spiritual questions and heavy life issues that weigh heavily at points in the journey.
Recently I’ve briefly shared about, but I want to dive in a bit deeper today, into something that hit our little homestead hard over the past 3 years.
The discovery of rock bottom in our 15 year marriage.
My brief mentioning’s have flooded my inbox and my FB messenger with notes from friends and readers who find that they too, are at their own rock bottom with their partner.
So this post is a bit of a journey through what I have learned over the past year in particular and a bit of wisdom I’ve stumbled upon that just might resonate with another struggling at this same point in the journey. I’m not going to dive super deep into details…because blogs aren’t the place for that. But if you want to grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a chat, let me know. I had an amazing friend that walked this journey with me and I am eternally indebted to her and happy to pay it forward.
Let me first say, I am learning more and more as I open up with others about this topic that this is really, really common. That isn’t to say it’s a good thing. But if you do find yourself in a place like I did….like we did… don’t ignore it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t feel like a failure or wonder ‘what’s wrong with me?’.  Don’t run to the doctor for your first prescription of Zoloft and don’t start making drinks with friends after work the new norm.
Instead...