And He's Off...

My littlest one started kindergarten last week. He's the one that's almost single-handedly carried Mike and I through some tough stuff over the past three years with his ability to find humor in literally everything. Nothing gets him jazzed more than making us laugh...which isn't hard. This dude is funny.

So off to kindergarten he went on Friday. I cried more than I thought I would. Wasn't nearly as prepared for the final send-off as I imagined I'd be.

The day before school started, Otto and I drove some old country roads. He fell asleep in the car on the way and when he woke up, we were in the woods, off to hike and paint. Then there was ice cream and doughnuts before heading back to the Smith Homestead to brag...of course... to the brothers about the adventure.

The last two pictures are to be credited to Otto Rockand Smith, who takes pictures whenever, wherever he can.











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Handpainted Raw Cashew Macarons


When I have to be away from home, either work or play, it never fails that I yearn for time in the kitchen. Even though I didn't start cooking until I was married...and didn't start cooking well until after I had children, the kitchen feels more familiar to me than most any other place on Earth.

So this week, after I had been away for a handful of days, I asked Canaan, "did you miss me while I was gone?". His response was this: "Well I really missed your cooking. And the way you keep everything nice around the house. You're really good at that mommy stuff." I smiled. Partially because that's such a guy response from my nearly teenager. But more than anything, in that moment I felt deeply content with my role in these boys lives. Both the tangible and intangible pieces and parts of bellies fed and the comforts of home.



But lets talk about macarons. They aren't my most favorite dessert to eat...but they might be one of my favorites to make. The headlines you read about macarons being a tricky beast to tame are true. I've had more than my fair share of flat-as-a-pancake macarons emerge from the oven. Still good enough to eat, but definitely not Parisian worthy.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a handpainted macaron and it paralyzed me with some major surges of creative impulse. Despite my love of both art and cooking, I've never had a hankering to sink my teeth into cake decorating or sugar sculptures. But this. This! I could do this...maybe. If I could get my macarons to rise.

So yesterday, girded with gumption and a bit of time, I dove in.




I wanted very 'clean' looking macarons. No flecks of brown skin from almonds. And as a major risk taker in life who often will bet everything on an instinct and belief, I passed over the traditional almonds and went for more visually pure, raw cashews.



The two most time consuming parts of macarons are this: 1. making nut flour  2. giving the macaron batter time to form a crust before baking.



Otherwise, macarons are easy peasy to make. Don't be intimidated!!! Set aside time to do it right and you'll get it right. Promise.

Below, the recipe. Please consider buying a kitchen scale. I know you've read that before and passed right over the advice. But its time. A kitchen scale will cost you about $10 at the grocery store and is not a wasted purchase. The more I bake, the more I have relied on accurate measurements of ingredients to get me the result I desire. And what's the point in buying ingredients and putting in the effort to get a substandard result? Incomprehensible!






The handpainting is totally by choice. It was my therapy after a few tiring days. If you do want to paint your macarons, obviously use food coloring- not art-grade paints. I used a small watercolor brush and only three colors (red, blue and green). They are easy to paint. No real trick to it. But I would suggest you paint it with the macaron on a flat surface, as opposed to holding it between your thumb and index finger. Holding the macaron lends to squeezing the macaron which results in potential cracking. Serious disappointment.

So without further adieu....Raw Cashew Macarons....


Nothing to Gain, Nothing to Lose



When I was a child I was an unbridled dreamer. I didn’t think of winning or losing or pros or cons in my quests of discovery. I simply moved in tandem with my soul.
This was not a selfish period of my life….rather the opposite. I believe our hearts are naturally bent towards others; serving, bringing joy, making someone feel as if they are accepted fully and loved unconditionally when they are with you. And so it was for blue-eyed Megan Wilson. 

I dreamed only of harnessing the non-tangibles~ friendship, love, generosity, curiosity and happiness. I giggled for hours with my best friends while painting our fingernails. I bought my first toaster when I was nine years old at a yard sale with my next door neighbor Robbie so we could set up house together. I spent weeks painting a picture to gift to a family member. I sat on the floor in front of my deaf grandmother, letting her soft, wrinkled hands wrap around mine, forming my fingers into the letters of the alphabet so we could talk. I wrote letters to my pen pal in Egypt. I learned recipes so I could bake for my mom. These were my goals. My dreams. Simple, I know. Yet, they filled this girl’s soul to the brim with purpose and joy.

Of late, my heart beats faster, racing to find that place of unbridledness again.

I cherish a business mind. I’m surrounded every day by some of the most creatively charged, highly motivated brains God has on Earth right now. And it’s awe-inspiring. I too have been said to have a business mind. On paper, I guess this is the case. But I really don’t. Not really. I don’t have the fight in me for the win or loss. Because the greater vision means more.

In the midst of building a career, I had forgotten that until someone recently reminded me.

Big things loom on my horizon. Some may play out and others may never fully develop and I’m unphased by the outcome. Because, if I can stay close to my soul~ it tells me to serve, bring joy and create a sense of home for everyone I meet. Everything else is icing on the cake.

I need to get back to those non-tangibles. I want everything I do to not be guided by a fear of losing or anticipation of gaining but for long-term reward that cannot be measured by man. That’s what my heart beats faster for.

The kisses of the wind pull the currents of the ocean back and forth. And on one night not too long ago. the ocean and the wind brought with it a mist. A kiss to my cheeks.  Soon the mist became tiny droplets of rain, which steadily gave over to a downpour. I took shelter under an alcove, large enough only for a small stone bench. And there I sat. And breathed deep the sounds and smells and unexpected treasure life had given me in that night. And my soul was filled.

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.”  Victor Hugo, Les Misérables



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Roasted Tomato Tart


Othniel Rockland, or "Otto" as we call him....or "Toot" as he sometimes misspells it...is growing up. Kindergarten will be here in the fall. His first tooth was lost recently followed almost immediately by a second. Both bottom front teeth which now has this adorable boy speaking words in the most fantastically humorous way.

All three boys love being in the kitchen with mama. Otto included. He gets bored easily though so quick tasks with prep work already out of the way lend to his finer moments as sous chef.

Here in Ohio, summer is here. My raised bed gardens are in full swing, cabbage and cauliflower, peppers and basil, kale and tomatoes coming in to their own. Next week the second bed will be planted with peppers and butter lettuces, hot peppers and even more tomato varieties.

One of my favorite ways to bring summer to the dinner table is with a tart. Tarts make my world go round. I think I first fell in love after discovering Jerome Audureau's cookbook, Once Upon a Tart over a decade ago. Last spring Canaan and I visited the Greenwich Village bakery for....well tarts, of course. They were divine...but you know what?  Tarts from my kitchen taste just as good. And the ones from your kitchen will as well. Because tarts are just that forgiving and rewarding.

This one was an evolutionary process. A bit of this, a bit of that and (thankfully) the end result was Greenwich Village bakery worthy.


Otto’s Roasted Tomato Tart
Adapted from Once Upon a Tart • Art of Homemaking: homemaking101.com


Tart Crust
2.5C    Unbleached AP Flour
3T       Cornmeal
1t        Salt
12T     Cold Unsalted Butter
3T       Chilled Vegetable Shortening

Tart Filling and Topping 
2T       Grainy Dijon Mustard
8oz     Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2C   Shallots, caramelized
2 T     Fresh Basil
2         Eggs
1 slice Rustic White Bread
Several thinly sliced, ripe tomatoes, baked in the oven.

In a food processor, or by hand, combine flours and salt. Pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles moist crumbs; do not overwork dough. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with 4 tablespoons ice water. Shape into a ball, adding ice water 1 tablespoon at a time (as many as 6 more may be needed) until dough is just past crumbly and holds together.

For two tarts, divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic wrap, and press each with palm of your hand into disks. For one tart, wrap in plastic and shape into one large disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out. (I made several mini tarts instead.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough into two 9-inch disks or one 10-by-16-inch rectangle 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet and crimp edges 1/2-inch high. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick all over with fork. Place parchment paper or foil on top and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove paper or foil and weights from dough, and continue to bake another 5 minutes until dried slightly on top. Remove from oven and set aside to cool; do not turn off oven.

For topping: Spread mustard thinly over bottom of cooled shell. Sprinkle caramelized onions on top of the mustard. Scatter evenly with cheese. Whisk eggs and pour a thin layer over the cheese.  Arrange tomatoes in even, slightly overlapping rows. Sprinkle with basil, season to taste with pepper and top with bread crumbs. Bake until the egg sets and the tart begins to brown and bubble. Approx. 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot or at room temperature.














































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Bombay Burgers with Cucumber Raita


In that 'uncharacteristically manic' life we're experiencing right now that I referred to in the previous post, we are still eating most meals at home. Which is pretty remarkable given I really just want to order pizza and Chinese on an automatic rotation after being in the studio all day.

But that gets expensive. And it makes my hips big. And it really wouldn't be good parenting of me to do have sodium intake at those levels. So therefore, I cook. Which, as you know, I love. So its not a hardship, per say. It just takes a bit more planning than it did when I had 10+ hours at home to chunk away at a nightly meal.

I've been on a total Indian food kick lately. Like major cravings kind of kick. (no, there is no bun in the oven.) But there's something resonating deeply with my tastebuds that's crying out for ginger, curry, tumeric, coriander....

Last night I took those cravings (relentless, I say) and made Indian infused vegetarian burgers for dinner with a really flavorful cucumber raita. This is really easy-peasy. I made the mixture for the burger the night before while packing the kids next-day lunches and just formed and grilled them on the gas range about 15 minutes before mealtime.

Be forewarned, they are fork & knife burgers, Way too messy for handling. I used Ezekial 4:9 English Muffins but you could use ordinary hamburger buns, put this bad boy on a bed of napa cabbage or just eat it naked.

BOMBAY BURGERS WITH YOGURT SAUCE

1 C Dried Red Lentils
1 lg. Potato, diced small
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. shredded coconut, unsweetened
1 T flour
1 t. curry powder
1 t. ginger
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 t, lemon juice
1 C almond meal (or wheat germ)

Simmer potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes. Boil in enough water to add the lentils. Add lentils after 10 minutes and simmer until the lentils are soft but not disintegrating.
Drain the potatoes and lentils WELL. Put the potatoes and lentils into a large bowl and mash the very large potatoes, leaving the smaller ones for texture.
Add all other ingredients to the bowl except for the almond meal.
Allow to cool or place in the fridge until ready to form patties (I covered with Saran Wrap and put the bowl in the fridge until the next evening.)

When ready, form the patties. This recipe should make 4 large sized patties. Put the almond meal in a shallow bowl or pie plate and place the patty in the meal, covering both sides. Place each burger on a well oiled griddle or skillet and cook for approx. 5 minutes on each side over medium heat. You are looking for a nice browning on each side and for the center to be hot.

Remove and place immediately on the bun. Top with the raita and dig in (with fork and knife, of course.)

CUCUMBER RAITA

1/2 cucumber diced or shredded (your preference)
1 cup plain yogurt (I use 0% Fage)
1 t. fresh ginger, grated
1/2 t. garlic, minced
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t paprika
1 T parsley

Mix all in a bowl and let the flavors develop for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Mix before topping the burgers.

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Stop. And. Breathe.

I'm not going to lie. Life at the Smith Homestead is uncharacteristically manic right now. Canaan, the eldest, has gone and made mama and papa proud by landing a big role in the community children's theater play. Not an easy feat. And now he is immersed in upwards of 20 hours a week of practice leading up to three weeks of performances.

So there's that.

Ezra is on track to become David Beckham (even wearing his cologne...yes, it exists). He's honed in on some pretty fancy footwork for an 8-year-old playing on a 10-year-old league. I never thought I would be a soccer mom. And I can't believe I'm saying this but I seriously L.O.V.E. being a soccer mom. Otto's following suit and has donned the cleats and shin guards for his first season as well.

The magazine keeps me challenged every single day. And Mr. Handsome is making his own mark right now in his industry. Proud partner I am.

But even with nightly schedules to keep, remarkably we are really, really.....chill. We've found a workable flow and it feels incredible. There's still nightly dinners around the farm table (albeit a bit more rushed than usual) and there's cuddles on the couch, dance parties, date nights, baking, painting, laughing and goodness at every turn.

And then there's this.

Our beloved Othniel Rockland (Otto) has become a bonafide photographer. Yep. That unpredictable third child who just turned 5 in February swiped my Nikon D60 (not the newest thing on the block, but its still worthy of a good shot now and again) and started taking pictures a couple of months ago. I attribute it to a Curious George episode he watched ad nauseam.
At first, I was uneasy about the whole idea. "Otto, go put the camera down. You might bang it and mess up the lens." He put it down, but the next day had it in hand again - I could hear the click of the shutter in the next room.

I decided to bend on my own knee-jerk rule. I let him take a handful of pictures.

Over the past few weeks, he'll pick up the camera as he sees it laying on a reachable shelf and he'll start photographing. The pictures run the gamut. And lets just be clear before I start bragging on this little genius, 99.8% of his pictures are waaaaaaaaaaaay blurry. Like unidentifiable objects blurry.

I finally sat down and emptied off the card. A memory card filled with Otto's pictures. I was blazing through them at lightening speed, stopping every so often to appreciate a good angle, have a laugh at a funny face his brothers amused him with or simply squinting to make out where in the heck he was at the time of that photo shoot.





And then I was stopped dead in my tracks at the set here. Mike had told me that Otto was eating breakfast and said aloud, "the light on these flowers is so pretty! I need to take a picture!"
I got a bit choked up seeing these. I don't really know why but I think it goes back to that manic/peaceful thing we're experiencing right now. These images confirm that we still are carving out times for slowness and beauty and creativity. We are teaching our children to appreciate...not just run through life, head down. Usually I might say something like, "its a good reminder to me to do the same..." but you know what? I actually am. And I am totally high fiving myself on that one.











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