I'm not one to ever back down from a challenge. Those who know me well can attest to the fact that nothing motivates me more than the words "no" and "can't". It's a problem. 😅 Walking away from a challenge just isn't a part of my DNA. It's the reason that I couldn't give up on my dream to have a custom kitchen island - even though multiple experts told me that my design wasn't possible. Some call it stubborn - I call it persistent. 🤣 It might seem like a positive trait to some but trust me when I tell you that my determination and competitive spirit doesn't always work in my favor. 😜
A couple of weeks ago my family decided to tackle the 450 foot Sleeping Bear sand dune climb in Traverse City. #ifkyk I listened to them strategizing and preparing for the extreme hike for several days and I wanted nothing more than to join in on the sandy family bonding experience but in the end, I decided that the ankle pain that would inevitably follow the hike, wouldn't be worth the "climbers high." It took some will power to turn down such a cool opportunity but I have no doubt that it was the best decision for me. So... I went along as the hike photographer. 😂
I don't think that it's ever going to be easy for me to walk away from a challenge but I'm learning to accept my limitations. Did I mention that this hike is so strenuous that there's a $3000.00 fine if you get to the bottom of the dune and you can't make it up and have to be rescued? I'm proud of this crew for attacking the dune climb based on their ability level. And, proud of myself for NOT participating. 🤪
The challenge of baking something new is also something that I have a really hard time walking away from. I really enjoy the research and the testing phase of a new cheesecake or a cake flavor. And the task of figuring out how to create a new cookie design is also favorite pastime. So when I got a request for a peanut butter cake - without chocolate - I gladly accepted the challenge. And here is the delicious result:
Peanut Butter Cake
4 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Allow to cool 10 minutes in pan - remove from pan and let cool completely. Frost with peanut butter buttercream. Enjoy!
This is the post that my family's been expecting. It is a fact that if you are related to me or in my close circle of friends and you make a culinary mistake - I WILL blog about it. 😅 Culinary blunders make for great blog material but I also feel like hearing about other people's own kitchen mishaps makes us feel better about our own. 🙃
Here's the story: The last time that I made these potatoes, I asked my son to go out and pick some fresh rosemary from the garden. He looked apprehensive and somewhat surprised that I would trust him to go out and correctly identify the right herb in the line up of small green edible plants that were growing along the side of the house. 🌿 But, being the dutiful son that he is - he googled the desired herb, went outside and returned 2 minutes later with a handful of freshly cut herbs. (You see where this is going. Don't you?)
I had my doubts that the handful of herbs that he presented to me was rosemary but, I thought that since we weren't at home in Georgia - the Ohio rosemary looked different.🤷🏻♀️ I gave the fresh herbs a quick examination, disregarded my instincts, gave it the sniff test, chopped it up and added it to the potatoes.
I was a little pressed for time so I quickly assembled the cheesy potato casserole and slid it into the oven before running out the door. (What did I do before we had delayed start time on the oven?) About an hour into the baking process, when we returned home from church, it occurred to me to ask my first born to point out the plant that he suspected to be rosemary. As you probably figured out my now - it wasn't rosemary. It was lavender. 🤣
Lavender potatoes. That's what we had that day. Honestly - they weren't as bad as I thought they might be. I couldn't really taste the lavender but they definitely weren't as good as they were when I had made them with fresh rosemary. So the lesson here is ... Ohio rosemary looks exactly like Georgia rosemary and is looks freakishly similar to lavender. 😅😅
Cheddar Hasselback Potatoes
6 oz. shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 oz. shredded pepper Jack cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
4 lb. russet potatoes, peeled
Bake 1 hour at 350.
Remove foil and sprinkle top with reserved cheeses. Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until potatoes are very tender and top is golden brown.
I've used this recipe for cheddar hasselback potatoes at least a half a dozen times since I added it to my blog cue. I have no explanation for why it's taken me so long to get around to posting this recipe. 💁🏻♀️ But don't judge it based on my lack of promptness.
If you were to look through the pictures on my computer - you would find far more food pictures than anything else. 😬 I'm embarrassed to admit that I've categorized and stored so many food pictures that I had to upgrade the storage on my laptop. 📸 I never set out to be a food photographer - it was just a natural byproduct of becoming a food blogger.
Food is by far the most popular subject of my photographs but you might be surprised to find out that the second most popular thing that I photograph is... birds. 🕊 There's no logical explanation for my fascination with bird pictures other than I feel like it's the complete opposite of the food pictures. Birds are easily spooked, they move, they fly and they're almost impossible to catch in good lighting. Maybe it's the challenge of getting a decent bird picture that draws me to them.
After our two week summer vacation - I came home with a handful of pictures of my family, a few shots of the meals that I ate, a couple cool landscape pictures and a whole lot of bird pictures. 😂 I feel like I owe my family an explanation. Please don't assume that the number of photographs that I have of you (or lack there of) is in any way proportional to the importance that you are in my life. 😂
Taking food pictures on vacation is an entirely different experience than photographing food at home. It's way easier at home where I have access to a camera lens specifically for food pictures and I know exactly where to place food to get it in the best lighting. Food pictures while traveling are way more difficult. I typically don't travel with my food lenses and finding good lighting is definitely not intuitive for me. 😂
Just in case you need more evidence that I'm very mediocre photographer while on the road, you should know that I ended up taking these almond biscotti pictures twice. 🤦🏻♀️ In the end - I hope that despite my sub par pictures - you still get the idea that these biscotti are crispy and buttery and delicious.
2 ¼ cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
¾ brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Bake 30 minutes at 350.
Slice cookies on the bias at 1/2" intervals.
Place back on cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes per side at 300.
Shout out to my mom for letting me raid her pantry every time I visit to find containers and plates to use for my food pictures. You have the best stock of pretty dishes and baskets and fun trays that I've ever seen.
Spending an afternoon on Put in Bay was on high on our list of things to do during our vacation in Ohio this year. If you've ever been to the high energy island positioned at the north end of Lake Erie, you know that it's a special place.
We were enjoying a beautiful July afternoon on Put in Bay when we got caught off guard by an unexpected afternoon thunderstorm. ⛈ So we did what anyone else would do when caught in the rain without an umbrella - we took shelter in the nearest building.☔️ Which in our case - was a butterfly museum. 🦋 How lucky was that? 😂
Hanging out with these beautiful butterflies was a great way to wait out the rain storm. They are truly fascinating creatures to watch. And I learned that even though these spectacular insects spend their lives in a beautiful tropical habitat that is protected from the elements, they refuse to fly when it's raining outside. 🤷🏻♀️
I learned all kinds of interesting butterfly facts that day. Like, did you know that butterflies taste with their feet? 🦋 Adult butterflies only feed on liquids—usually nectar - so the winged insects use the taste receptions on their feet to help them find host plants and locate food. I've never been so happy to not be a butterfly. 😂
I may not be able to float like a butterfly I'm also not on a liquid diet and I don't have taste buds attached to my toes - so... I'll take it. These smoked citrus chicken drumsticks make me appreciate every single taste bud on my tongue. Actually the bright citrus flavor and spicy cayenne pepper in this delicious chicken wakes up all my senses.
Smoked Citrus Chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
1 Tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 pounds chicken drumsticks
1 cup wood chunks
Serve chicken with orange slices.
This grilled chicken would be a delicious addition to any summertime menu. Enjoy!
For me, summer just wouldn't be complete without a trip to Johnson's Island. What, you haven't heard of this tiny green sanctuary in the middle of the Sandusky Bay? It's okay - not very many people have - and I'm fairly certain that the island residents prefer it that way.🤪
The small island in Northern Ohio is a far cry from tropical but it holds a special place in my heart. It's the place where I had the privilege of spending my childhood summers. The childhood utopia where I learned to fish, to swim, to ride a dirt bike, to forage for wild raspberries and play ghost in the graveyard after dark ... in an actual cemetery. 👻🤣
Lucky for me, my parents have made this slice of mid west paradise, their permanent home. Even though the over 700 mile journey from my house can be a challenge, I visit as often as I can.
As a kid, I didn't appreciate this idealistic place to grow up. I assumed that every kid spent their summers riding bikes through the woods and jumping off dangerous cliffs into rocky waters below. 😳 It wasn't until I got older and started to visit with my boyfriend (now my husband) and later, my kids, that I realized what a treasure this little island really is. And of course, they fell in love with it too.
My mom is an amazing cook and she's an expert at fixing meals on "island time". Like when word get around that the fish are biting, no matter what time of day it is, you grab your worms and head to the "hot spot" which means that all other plans get cancelled. Fishing trumps dinner every time. 🤣🎣 And when we wake up to one those perfect Northern Ohio summer days, we grab the sunscreen and heads to the boat. 🚤 Any meals that were planned for the day get either packed in a cooler and loaded on the boat for a picnic or put back in the refrigerator for another day.
Like I said - my mom's become an expert at making delicious meals despite the crazy schedule. I'm not nearly as flexible as she is with my meal planning, but then again, I don't live on an island. 😅 I did however, manage to whip up a quick batch of Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons while I visited this summer. Sure I had to mix together the batter and put them in the frig while for a few hours while we attended a summer regatta party. But I was able to come back and bake them just before I went to bed. #islandlife 😂
Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons
2 egg whites
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond
2 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Let cookies cool on sheet 5 minutes.
Where are my gluten free and dairy-free followers? This recipe is for YOU! Well, it's for me too. I'm not gluten or dairy intolerant and I love these as much as you will. Enjoy!
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