Autumn Sangria

Oktoberfest Sangria

Scrolling through the blog feeds I subscribe to, I began to notice a pattern.  “Sorry I’ve been away so long,” some lamented. Others seemed incredulous, “Can you believe it’s already fall?” Over and over and over I noticed the pattern of apologies necessitated by the rapid passage of time, and it made me wonder.

To be quite blunt, I hope you have not missed my absence from this space. I hope you have been so wrapped up in living your life that seeing a new blog post is more of a pleasant interruption than an expected event. More of a letter from an old friend than a daily newspaper column, if you will.

In the month I have not bothered to upload a picture or share a few words I have been able to hug my niece and nephew, visit my grandparents, catch up with a dear friend,  set foot in Boston for the first time in 25 years, learn a ton about all that is new in my profession, learn to code, smile at a newborn baby, get back on the yoga mat…and the list goes on.

Why, as bloggers, do we feel compelled to issue an apology we leave our online space for a bit? Are we apologizing to our blog readers or to Google? Because honestly, I think it is a safe bet to say that Google is really the only thing that cares when we go about our offline lives.

I, for one, did not start a blog to cater to algorithms. I  came to this space to bake some cakes and splash down some words on a page. I forget that sometimes. Blog vacations help me remember. Cheers!

Oktoberfest Sangria

Oktoberfest Sangria

Oktoberfest Sangria

Autumn Sangria
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 medium pear
  • ¾ cup bourbon
  • 1, 12 ounce bottle peach lambic, chilled
  • 1½ cups club soda, chilled
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  1. Cut the apple and the pear into cubes (you will want roughly 1 cup of each fruit when cubed) and place in a pitcher.
  2. Pour the bourbon over the fruit and allow the mixture to sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the peach lambic, club soda, and a cinnamon stick.
  4. Serve chilled.
I used a green Bartlett pear, 4 Roses Bourbon, and Lindemans Peche lambic to make this recipe. If you do not want to see oxidized fruit in your drink, toss a tiny bit of lemon juice with the fruit once cubed.

Oktoberfest Sangria

Chai Banana Soft Serve with Ginger Caramel Sauce

Chai Banana Soft Serve

Do you ever get that feeling that what you are doing is not going to turn out well? Or maybe your grand idea is not such a good idea at all? Allow me to introduce you to banana soft serve flavored with chai spices.

I am radically late to trying out the banana soft serve craze. All you have to do is mix up frozen bananas! It will taste just like ice cream!

I considered these claims with a skeptic’s eye at best. Bananas cannot possibly top real ice cream. Truly, I never ate a chocolate-dipped frozen banana and thought, “Oh, wow, this tastes just like a hot fudge sundae!”

However, when a blogger friend invites you to post ice cream recipes along with other blogger friends and you do not own and ice cream maker, you improvise. And really, I wanted to find out what all the fuss over banana soft serve was about!

Suffice it to say when this recipe instructs one to to “serve immediately”, it is not a suggestion. It is an order.

The frozen bananas whipped up a remarkably smooth texture…that very quickly melted. From the time I put the soft-serve in a chilled bowl and carried it over to the window to take its picture, I had drips on hand. I live in an apartment. This was not a long walk.

And I’m not talking losing a little soft serve here and there either. I’m talking drips of the caliber you would expect when the sun finally comes out on a winter day and zeroes in on an icicle. Things melt fast. Then, just when I thought things could not possibly get worse, my camera battery died mid-click. I’m not even making this up.

Alas, all was not lost. I made a ginger caramel sauce to pour over the soft serve, and that turned out quite nicely. With fall fast approaching, keep this sauce in mind as a dip for sliced apples. Or drizzle it across a piece of apple pie. I’m seeking redemption in the form of apple ice cream.

Ginger Caramel Sauce

If you too are without an ice cream maker, don’t fret. Your fate is not necessarily the same as mine. This week, the group of blogger friends I mentioned earlier teamed up to share ice cream recipes and bring you an all-things ice cream giveaway. Check out our blogs to see all of our creative ice cream recipes throughout the week:

Ashley at Spoonful of Flavor // Ashley at Cookie Monster Cooking // Madison at Wetherills Say I Do // Erin at The Speckled Palate // Julia at Tag & Tibby // LeAndra at Love & Flour // Molly at Hey There Sunshine // Nick at Macheesmo // Meredith at Meredith Noelle // Heather at Sugar Dish Me // Linda at Brunch with Joy // Katie at Twin Stripe // Erica at Crumby Cupcake // Beth at bethcakes // Meghan at Cake ‘n Knife // Dan at The Food in my Beard // Bethany at Bethany Grow // Cate at Chez CateyLou // Susannah at Feast + West
Ice Cream Week Bloggers

One lucky winner will receive a BIG ice cream making prize pack that’s worth more than $265. See the Rafflecopter below to enter. The prize pack includes:

Ice Cream Maker Giveaway

What did I end up doing with all of my melted banana soft serve? When life hands you melted “ice cream”, you make a milkshake. Enjoy!

Chai Banana Milkshake

Chai Banana Soft Serve with Ginger Caramel Sauce
Serves: 3-4 servings of soft serve, 8 ounce jar of caramel sauce, plus a tad more
  • For the Soft Serve
  • 4 ripe bananas, frozen*
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon clovers
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch of salt and black pepper
  • Optional:
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • For the Caramel Sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1½ tablespoons peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  1. To make the soft serve, simply blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.
  2. Eat quickly!
  3. To make the caramel sauce, bring the cream and grated ginger to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once a simmer is reached, remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 20 minutes. Taste the cream after 20 minutes, and if you want more ginger flavor, allow the mixture to sit for another 10 minutes.
  4. Strain the cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing gently on the solids to extract the full ginger flavor (don't press too hard or the ginger flavor will turn vegetal).
  5. Next, combine the sugar and the water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  6. Stir just until the sugar in moistened, then allow the mixture to come to a boil. Do not stir, but give the saucepan a swirl from time to time. You are looking for the sugar mixture to become a deep amber, and this will probably take 9-12 minutes.
  7. Remove this saucepan from the heat once the deep amber color is achieved and the mixture smells like caramel.
  8. Gently pour in a bit of ginger cream. The mixture will bubble-up furiously, so be careful not to burn yourself.
  9. Return this large saucepan with the caramel sauce to low heat and whisk in the remaining cream.
  10. Next whisk in the butter and salt and until smooth.
  11. Remove the caramel sauce from the heat and allow to cool for a bit. The sauce is good served warm or at room temperature. It will thicken as it cools.
*Peel the bananas and break them up into chunks before you freeze them.
Giveaway rules:

  1. Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter widget below. Everyone gets a free entry! You can enter multiple times, up to 20 additional entries by following the ice cream week contributors on social media. (If you’ve followed in the past, that counts! Just enter the info as prompted.) All entries will be verified. No purchase is necessary to win.
  2. The giveaway is open until Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 at 10 a.m. EST. One winner will be chosen at random and emailed within 48 hours. Winners must claim prize within 48 hours of initial contact. The retail value of the prize is $265. Prizes shown in the graphic are the only ones available.
  3. Open to U.S. residents with a valid shipping address only. Must be 18 years of age as of Aug. 17, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lentil Veggie Burgers

Lentil Veggie Burger

I’ve been thinking about writing this post nearly every day for the past four weeks since I last visited this space. Yes, it’s been four weeks. Four years ago, I would have considered such an absence sacrilegious.

Did you ever start something that you just fell in love with and you did that thing with all your heart and then as time went by you realized maybe you should stop doing it because you don’t really love it as much as you thought you did, or perhaps worse, you realize you are not really all that good at it?

Well, those are my feelings about this blog. Like many of my friends with real world jobs, I started this blog as a creative outlet. I wanted to get some words on a page, experiment in the kitchen, and heck, while I was at it, why not rekindle my on-again/off-again relationship with photography?

Many bloggers who have been at this game a quarter of the time I have can boast much more success. But what does that mean? Although I began this blog strictly as a hobby, I instantly felt pressure to make money off of it. Add affiliate links! Plaster it with ads! Monetize, monetize, monetize!

Now, don’t get me wrong, money is a nice thing to have lining my pocket. But must creativity be inextricably linked with money? When “starving artist” is part of our vernacular, one might think so. Four weeks ago, I probably thought so.

Then I listened to a podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert (I admit, I am her fangirl), and she talked a lot about not ever setting out to let her creativity support her. It’s not creativity’s responsibility to pay our bills. Did you know that she kept a part-time job until Eat, Pray, Love was a certified success? And I just read an article about how Orange Is The New Black star Laverne Cox showed up at her restaurant gig until the show took off. I find those stories radically grounding and refreshing.

Lentil Veggie Burger

A great deal of my feelings on creativity surround writing. I think about writing every day, but I rarely do it for myself. The thought of what might come after terrifies me. Not only do I enjoy writing as much as one who writes can enjoy writing (I confidently claim 99% of writers have a love-hate relationship with the craft), a few people I respect a great deal have told me I am a good writer.

Yet, day after day I don’t write because the very real potential of writing pages upon pages of something that takes all the heart and soul I’ve got and then turns out to be not so good is paralyzing. Until I listened to that podcast, I thought commercial success was really all that mattered.

These thoughts extend beyond the written word. The gal who once scoffed at the thought that anyone would really need a cell phone much less a camera on their cell phones has an Instagram account (guilty as charged). I did not sign up with Instagram in hopes that thousands upon thousands of people would look at my work everyday. I started my account because I loved the idea that I could see beautiful pictures from places across the world simply by swiping my thumb across a screen. Is that not somehow enough?

A lot has happened in the past four weeks. Some of it heart crushing, some of it grand. I picked up a much-needed reminder from one friend to another that not everyone has to be on the same timeline. And I remind myself daily that I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.

One of those “anythings” happens to be the lentil veggie burger I made for dinner on a lazy Sunday. Lentils are one of those things I buy to use in a specific recipe, and then I wonder what else to do with them. I love non-meat burgers, but I also quickly tire of black bean burgers. Using up my lonely lentils in veggie burgers was not only a great way to change things up, but this recipe also allowed me to use everything I received in my weekly CSA pick-up, right down to the cornmeal. Enjoy!

Lentil Veggie Burger

Lentil Veggie Burger
Serves: 4
  • ¾ cup dry lentils
  • 1¾ cups water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup arugula, lightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until very soft, about 30 minutes. Drain any excess water from the lentils once fully cooked.
  2. While the lentils cook, coat a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Saute the garlic, mushrooms, and sweet potato in the skillet over medium heat until the sweet potato is tender, about for 6 to 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the mushroom and sweet potato mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Combine 1 cup of the cooked lentils, mushroom and sweet potato mixture, arugula, and soy sauce in a food processor and process until nearly smooth.
  6. Stir processed mixture into the remaining cooked lentils until combined. The mixture will be quite soft.
  7. Shape the lentil mixture into four patties about ½-inch-thick.
  8. Sprinkle both sides of each lentil burger with cornmeal.
  9. Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and warm over medium heat.
  10. Add the lentil burger patties to the skillet and cook until warmed through, turning the patties half-way through cooking. This process will probably take 8-10 minutes.
  11. Heap with toppings of your choice (sauteed peppers and mustard seen here) and serve.
If you have leftover cooked lentils, you will want to have 2 cups of cooked lentils available for this recipe.
The biggest challenge with this recipe is likely to be getting veggie burgers to hold together as you flip them over and then remove them from the skillet. The patties are fairly delicate but should stay relatively intact if you take it easy.