A dreamy trip to California

As many of you know, I worked at Bouchon Bakery in The Time Warner Building in New York City for over three years. It wasn’t always easy working for Thomas Keller but I did learn a lot about food, service and hospitality.  Chef Keller is obviously very talented with food and also in the industry of making the guest’s needs come first.  To this day, when I am cleaning I often think if he would approve of the appearance of my shop.  Some days, I would love for him to walk in and see what I am doing and on other days, I might hide behind the table stacked high with boxes of chocolate.  The Thomas Keller ‘Empire’ is based in Yountville, California and during my three years at Bouchon Bakery I tried and tried to get sent out to California to work, but to my disappointment, never got on that plane out west.

This past weekend, my husband surprised me with an early birthday present… a trip to Napa Valley with three friends.  This was my opportunity to recharge, drink some wine and eat some amazing food.  There was definitely talk of going to The French Laundry for dinner but I decided that is a once in a lifetime meal and I want to experience it with my husband.  We did have an amazing meal at Single Thread Farms but I’ll save that for another time.  We made a reservation for Sunday Brunch at Ad Hoc.  Ad Hoc is likely the most casual of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, serving a single meal, family style for weekend brunch and nightly dinners.  I started brunch with a Bloody Mary(a true sign of a vacation without kids!) and it only got better from there.  Our meal consisted of a simple spinach salad filled with pickled red onions & grapes and topped with a creamy avocado dressing.  The main course was Chicken Fried Steak topped with gravy along with roasted potatoes.  We added a Spanglish Sandwich which was the best combination of  a fried egg, toasted bread, cheese, tomato and lettuce I’ve had in a long time.    Feeling very satisfied, we were presented with a Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting for dessert.  It was rich, tangy and sinfully sweet.

After brunch I wanted to explore the rest of Yountville and check out the rest of Thomas Keller’s restaurants.   A walk down Washington Street took us past Bouchon Bakery with a line winding down the block for their fresh baked goods and coffee.  Next was Bouchon  the bistro famous for classic French dishes and finally we stumbled into the garden at The French Laundry.  I’m not sure we went in the proper entrance to the property as I never saw the famed Blue Door but the garden was amazing.  We passed diners in a small dining room which opened out into the garden and the beautiful fall afternoon.  The setting was magical and I look forward to returning one day to experience it for myself.  We meandered back down the street to where we started our walk and got in the car to drive back to the airport.

The trip to California was exactly what I needed. It was a chance to catch up with old friends, catch up on my sleep and catch up with dreams of the past. I am so glad I was able to play ‘hooky’ from my life for a few days. I have returned refreshed and ready to take on the busy season ahead.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Our Shared Table, the Countdown to Thanksgiving

The warm hug of radiating love. The gentle melody of dancing laughter. The glimmer of magic manifested from being surround by those whom you love. These are just a few of the reasons why I love Thanksgiving, moreover the holiday season as a collective. Coming from a large family, the holiday season has always been a magical time for me, as there is something so special about gathering with your family and friends. From the smell of burning wood, cinnamon, and baked apples, to the outward pouring of love and joy, and not to mention the immense spread of food, it’s hard to articulate the exact feeling that the holiday season induces, other than bliss. My wish, now more than ever, is that every being on the planet is able to experience the joy, love, and light of their respective holiday.

My family always seems to go all out when it comes to holiday feasts, as the bounty is truly never ending. Thanksgiving is the one holiday that all of my relatives on my father’s side spend together — roughly 100 of us give or take — all sharing a meal together. From Turkey, ham, meatballs, candied carrots, stuffing and mashed potatoes, to lefsa, rommegrot, krumkake, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and scotcheroos, our thanksgiving table is one of indulgence to say the least, a beautiful holiday spread that everyone not only shares in eating, but also shares in creating. Despite the cold temperatures outside, my family’s Thanksgiving is one of the warmest places you could be, the physical embodiment of love, laughter and joy. Housed at the local legion due to the staggering number of us, our Thanksgiving is a time of reconnection and shared joy, a warmth that I wish everyone had the privilege of experiencing.

In years past, after celebrating with my dad’s side of the family, my immediate family and I always went to my mom’s parent’s farm to spend the afternoon and evening, and of course we’d indulge in more food, only after taking naps by the fire, however. Already stuffed from dinner, we’d all make a cozy bed on either the sofa, recliner, or floor, and rest by the glow of a warm fire for hours, only to awaken and eat more food, usually, but not limited to, pumpkin pie, turkey, snicker bar salad and my grandma’s incredible home made bread, which no one could ever get enough of. I am so thankful for these memories and I will treasure them always.

This year, try spicing up your holiday spread with some incredible products from our marketplace. Take your pumpkin pie to the next level by making the crust with Paul & Pippa Cocoa Biscuits or Lady Carrot Cake Biscuits, either of which would lend a modern twist to the classic favorite. As mentioned in posts past, honey is an amazing addition and compliment to both sweet and savory dishes, so this Thanksgiving, make sure to find a place for Bee Local Honey on your holiday table by using it in a glaze for your holiday ham, a sweetener for your cranberry sauce, a candy coating for your pecans, or as an infusion for your butter to then be used to spread on warm bread and dinner rolls — all of which will definitely pack a delicious holiday punch. If looking for even more invention, try adding some Gus and Grey Pearfection Jam to your your stuffing recipe, as sweet always compliments savory and vice versa, and the flavor of pear and cinnamon are the perfect addition to your holiday feast. Semolina Artisanal Pasta could be a fun addition if you’re looking for something a little less traditional, in which case you could mix cooked pasta with roasted vegetables, cheese, and herbs and toss with a simple lemon and Bee Local Hot Honey vinaigrette for an easy yet sophisticated pasta salad.

The options for holiday food is truly endless, so please check out our recipe box for season inspired recipes and ideas, as well as our Pinterest board. Find the link for both pages below.

We would also love to spread joy and compassion this holiday season, as we are well aware that not everyone is as fortunate as we are, so we’ll be donating a portion of our holiday sales to a New York City based food charity this holiday season. Whether you have a little or a lot to give, please find someway to help those around you this holiday season by either donating food to your local food bank, or volunteering to make meals for those less fortunate, as together, we can help try to make the holiday season a magical time for everyone.

Happy Friday.
-Payton

Recipe box: https://www.juliesbeet.com/pages/recipe-box

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/juliesbeet/thanksgiving-inspiration/

Spooky Tricks and Treats

Trick or Treat?  Here’s a good one… “How do you get a tissue to dance?”  “You put a little boogie in it!”

The last weekend in October means that Halloween is near.  Whether you are trick or treating or handing out candy or heading to a costume party, dressing up is one of the really fun Halloween traditions.  I particularly love Halloween in New York City because there are many instances when you aren’t quite sure if someone is dressed up or not. Does that person really like a pointed black hat or are they dressed up like a witch? Is that a fashion statement with the stripes and polka dots or is that a clown? Someone dressed in all black with white gloves could be a mime or could just be headed home for the night.  I try to DIY my children’s costumes for the most part and this year is no exception.  This weekend I’ll be working diligently to complete our Disney Cars themed costumes using paint, old boxes and the art skills I wish I had!

While I am hard at work getting our costumes in order I’ll be dreaming about what kind of sweets we will indulge in.  Halloween is a pretty good excuse to consume large amounts of sugar but it doesn’t all have to be junk.  Check out this recipe for Caramel Apples with Lucy’s Granola Toffee Crumbles & Rococo Chocolates Chocolate Shavings. Growing up my mom always made(and probably still does) pumpkin cookies filled with oatmeal, chocolate chips and raisins.  When I was little we would decorate them with orange frosting and use more chocolate chips, raisins and candy corn to turn them into jack-o-lanterns.  Now I realize these cookies are pretty delicious without the added sweetness. I’m sure I’ll sneak a snickers bar or two from my kids stash when they go to sleep on Halloween but for the most part I try to stick to the good stuff.

Once Halloween is over we’ll be full-on into pumpkins and turkeys for Thanksgiving. I am going to enjoy the last weekend of sweet Halloween bliss before the Holidays get into full swing.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Fall is for making SOUP!

I spent the past week in my hometown of Spring Grove, Minnesota for a lovely little country escape to recharge my batteries — I love returning home and being surrounded by my family. While home, I got to attend three of my sisters senior volleyball games, which was so special to me, as I absolutely adore living in New York, but I really dislike missing out on witnessing my siblings grow up. My sister’s team won all three of their games, ending their regular season matches ranked number two in their state division. If the girls keep playing as well as they have been, hopefully I’ll be able to fly back to Minnesota and watch them play in the state tournament — fingers crossed!

It was unusually cold in Minnesota during my time at home, and it even snowed on Sunday, which although I despise the cold, it was beautiful to look at and made for the perfect day of baking and cooking in a warm kitchen. I made pumpkin cinnamon rolls which I mentioned a few blog posts ago, chocolate chip espresso cookies, as well as several different types of soup during my week long stay. I also had the distinct opportunity of having my wisdom teeth removed during this trip as well, so soft foods, or moreover soup for every meal, was essential. Sadly, said soft foods didn’t prevent me for developing a dry socket, but that’s neither here nor there.

I love soup, especially during the colder months, because it’s quite easy to make, and you can add almost anything to a soup, as it’s quite forgiving. There is really nothing like a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter day or night to bring a sense of warming comfort to your body. I like soups and stews in all forms, flavors, and variations, from thin and brothy to thick and chunky — I will never say no to soup, especially if loaded with crackers and served in a bread bowl.

I had my wisdom teeth removed the day after I flew into Minnesota, so in an effort to be prepared, I made myself a big pot of butternut squash and cauliflower soup — because I could only eat soft foods, I wanted something that was smooth and creamy, but also hearty. This soup was quite simple to make, as I used roughly 10 ingredients, and it took less than an hour to complete.  I started by sweating onions and garlic in avocado oil with a generous pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper, followed by a pinch ground ginger and nutmeg to bloom the spices — when using dried herbs and spices, it’s best to add them in at the beginning of the cooking process so that they release their full amount of flavor and potency. After roughly 10 minutes of sweating, I added a whole butternut squash which I had previously peeled, seeded and cubed, a head of cauliflower which I roughly chopped, and two peeled and diced potatoes. I quickly sautéed the vegetables and then added in an entire carton of vegetable broth, covered the pot, brought the ingredients to a boil, and then reduced to simmer and cooked until all of the vegetables were very tender. I allowed the soup to cool slightly and then I blended it in batches to a very smooth purée and adjusted the seasoning as necessary.  If you are a recipe follower, click HERE for the complete version. This soup was so delicious, and quite creamy all thanks to the potatoes. It was the perfect meal to enjoy on a cold day, and especially after getting my teeth pulled.

The next soup I made was carrot and ginger soup, which was also puréed, and actually similar in taste to the butternut squash soup, but this time, I opted for fresh ginger root instead of ground ginger to give the soup more of a spicy ginger kick, and I swapped out potatoes for cashew cream. To make cashew cream, simply soak raw and unsalted cashews in water for at least 8 hours — you can also boil the cashews to expedite the process. Once soaked, drain the cashews and place them into the bowl of a food processor and begin to pulse, slowly adding water to create a cream consistency — this will add a luscious mouth feel to the finished soup and will also aid in the thickening process. This soup begins the same way as the other soup, by slowly sweating onions and garlic with salt and pepper in a large pot, but this time, fresh ginger root was also added. After the onions, garlic, and ginger have cooked for roughly 10 minutes, the peeled and cubed carrots are added and then sautéed for roughly 10 more minutes. Once sautéed, add vegetable stock, cover and bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until the carrots are very tender. Once tender, allow the soup to cool slightly, then purée until smooth in a blender, return to the pot, add in the cashew cream, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Not only does this soup taste delicious, but the fresh ginger also gives your immune system a boost and could aid in the prevention of fall illness due to the colder temperatures. If you wanted to make this soup a little heartier, you could also add in red lentils for a boost of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates!

I really love soup. It’s one of the easiest things to make in advance and store in your refrigerator as a make ahead meal. Soup and stews are also an easy way to pack a ton of vegetables and nutrients into your diet, which is essential during the colder months to help keep your immune system strong and yourself healthy. A big pot of soup and can be thrown together in no time, with as few or as many ingredients as you desire. As a treat to yourself and your body, try experimenting with different soups this fall and winter. Your taste buds and immune system will definitely thank you!

Happy Fall,

Payton

Apple Season

Apple season, as I’ve mentioned numerous times before, is my favorite fall produce season. I dream year round of the moment when the morning air becomes crisp and steam dances from between my lips as I enter the world dressed in my fall layers. I love nothing more than starting my day before the sun rises during the fall, outdoors with a hot coffee in hand, just to admire the enchanting beauty. Apples are the perfect companion to fall weather — Mother Nature obviously knows what she’s doing — as they pair so wonderfully with warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, which make them the best addition to a chilly Autumn morning. Regardless of the season we’re in, I eat an apple nearly everyday, but that number always multiplies during the fall months, not only due to their delicious flavor and the vast variety of apples grown in New York state, but also because of their versatility.

Of course, it’s no secret that I have the wildest sweet-tooth, so my favorite way to enjoy apples during the fall months is in baked goods… especially apple pie. Growing up in rural Minnesota, I had the sweetest elderly neighbor named Margie who would always bring my family baked goods, and when fall rolled around, Margie would bring us an apple pie at least once per week. Her apple pies were famous in my small hometown of 1,300 people, as Margie had the best apple blend, which of course she kept a secret, that made for the most amazing apple pie — which is not too sweet, not too tart, not too firm, nor too soft, blanketed in a rich, buttery, flaky crust, painted with an egg wash and dusted with demerara sugar… oh, and the filling also had a shot or two of rum which only added to the magic. I have never once baked a pie as good as Margie’s, nor do I know if I ever will, but each fall I make it my mission to create something as similar to her pie as I possibly can.

I am also a sucker for simplicity, so I adore a caramel apple. There is the cutest family run farm-stand along Highway 52, minutes outside of La Crescent, Minnesota, which is home to some of Minnesota’s best apple orchards. This farm stand sells well over a dozen varieties of apples, bagged for your convenience, as well as squash, pumpkins, gourds, and a lot of other fall produce. The best thing at the farm-stand, though, has to be their caramel apples. You can choose from a classic caramel apple, to a chopped nut coated caramel apple, to a candy speckled caramel apple, to a chocolate drizzled caramel apple… my favorite of which being the chopped peanut coated caramel apple. I used to beg my mom everyday during the fall to pick me up a caramel apple — or two — on her commute home from work. A few weeks back, I shared a delicious caramel recipe that will perfectly coat your favorite apple of choice, plus provided a few ideas for amazing toppings. Making caramel apples is a great activity to do with your kids, especially if you picked the apples yourself!

When it comes to savory dishes, apples can provide an amazing burst of sweetness without adding processed sugar to your meal. An apple inspired coleslaw pairs perfectly with grilled bratwursts, adding a kick of sweetness to create a rounder, more complex flavor profile, taking your bratwurst to the next level. For your next tailgate party, be sure to have apple coleslaw as one of your condiments… you certainly won’t be disappointed. Try adding shredded apples to a saute pan with onions, salt, and pepper, and caramelize low and slow to develop all of the natural sugars in the onions and the apple. Traditional caramelized onions are amazing on their own, but they are even more incredible when an apple is introduced into the mix, adding even more sweetness. Try this onion mixture on your burger to kick the flavor profile up a notch — or three — or in a smoked honey ham and cheese panini. Apples are also a great addition to your meat and cheese board, perfect for a holiday party or get-together. You could also impress your dinner guests by adding a layer of sliced apple and sliced fennel underneath and on top of bone-in chicken breasts with a mustard focused marinade before roasting. Really, you could try adding apples to any of your savory dishes to round out the flavor by adding a touch of natural sweetness.

There is really nothing I enjoy more on a cold Autumn evening than apple cider, especially if it’s heavily spiced with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and star anise, with a touch of citrus, and a shot or two of dark rum, whiskey, or brandy — the most amazing hot cocktail if the colder temperatures have you feeling ill… or if you’re simply wanting a yummy nightcap before bed. You can opt for store bought cider, or make your own by sauteing a mixture of gala apples, braeburn apples, honey crisp apples, and granny smith apples in a large stock pot with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and nutmeg, then add filtered water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for at least an hour — the longer you cook, to more developed the flavor becomes. Then, remove the whole spices, blend in batches or with an immersion blender, strain, and enjoy! I love how apple cider showcases the magic of the fall months, as it’s sweet, warming, and so very cozy!

Lastly, apple picking is so much fun, and is easily enjoyed by people of all ages! I love going to family run apple orchards in the fall, surrounded by cascading leaves of crimson, scarlet, and gold, and being gently caressed by Autumn’s cool breeze. There are some incredible orchards not far from NYC, teeming with fall inspired activities like corn mazes and pumpkin patches, but more importantly, bake stands, which 9 times out of 10 will sell apple cider donuts — which may be one of the greatest types of donuts ever created! Please find time to visit an apple orchard this fall as it’s one of the best ways to spend a fall day.

Happy fall!

Payton

NYC Fall Activities you don’t want to miss

Fall is officially here and if you’re like me, you’re looking to take advantage of all that the season has to offer. Here is a round up of some great events and places to visit this fall.

New York City Wine & Food Festival: Taking place in multiple venues throughout NYC the weekend of October 11th -14th this food and wine festival is a must see.  You can choose from large events featuring television personalities like Giada DeLaurentis to intimate dinners at restaurants like Café Boulud.  The festival raises money for Food Bank New York City so you can feel good while you are out enjoying delicious food.

The New York Coffee Festival: From October 12-14th this festival will be held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea.  This event is about sipping and tasting the best coffee around. It is a mix of coffee professionals, coffee aficionados and tired people looking for a pick-me-up!  I attended this event a few years ago and have to tell you there are also loads of delicious sweets to pair with the abundance of coffee.

Pumpkin Patch at Demarest Farms:  My children love picking out the perfect pumpkin to decorate ahead of Halloween and Demarest Farms makes it super fun.  There is a tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch where you’ll also find some farm animals, apple cider, apple cider donuts and some play structures for the kids.  You can purchase your tickets online to save time when you get to the farm!

Apple Picking at Ochs Orchard:  This Orchard is the perfect place for a quick getaway from NYC and finding delicious apples.  Pick Your Own Apples or just go and enjoy the farm life and get your apples from their market.  The market is full of fresh produce and some really delicious small batch jams, jellies and food products.  Right up our alley!

Whether you head out to one of these destinations or choose to spend your fall afternoons watching football on tv or maybe playing football in the park,  I hope you’ll enjoy what this amazing season has to offer indoors and outdoors.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Road trip time!

Last Friday, I loaded up our minivan with all the supplies my family and I would need for our ‘vacation’ to Rhode Island. (My four-year-old thinks any night away from home is a vacation.)  We were headed to our friend’s house for their annual Lambaste. The trip did not get off to a good start. I woke up that morning with a stiff neck that got worse over the course of the day. Driving for 3 plus hours didn’t sound like fun to begin with and add in the traffic getting out of New York City on a Friday evening and our trip seemed doomed.  In the first hour we drove less than 20 miles, took three wrong turns because our navigation wasn’t working, stopped to use the bathroom and my son threw up his dinner.  At that point I asked my husband if we should just go home.  He convinced me otherwise and I’m glad he did as the trip got easier once we were out of the traffic and on the ‘open road’.

Our friends hold their Lambaste annually and it is something we look forward to attending. Not entirely for the lamb, but for the amazing afternoon that surrounds the lamb.  The lamb is slowly roasted over an open fire with someone holding the responsibility of constantly turning a crank to rotate the lamb to roasted perfection.  The party has changed over the years as we have gotten older.  What used to be a bunch of twenty-somethings drinking all afternoon and eating lamb has now turned into a family affair.  There are lawn games, non-alcoholic beverages, an amazing array of pot-luck sides and even a band.  This year the lamb was perfectly roasted, tender with just a hint of garlic.  In years past there have been large quantities of lamb remaining to be turned into breakfast the next morning.  This year, there wasn’t a piece that didn’t get gobbled up.

With our bellies full of lamb, and maybe a few brownies and cookies for dessert, we packed into the minivan for our trip back to New York City.  With the excitement of the day behind us, the drive home seemed like a nice way to wind down.  Everyone in the car was asleep within the first 30 minutes (except me, the driver!).  Almost a week later, the kids are still talking about our vacation to Rhode Island and looking forward to when we’ll return. I hope you have a chance to getaway and enjoy all that fall has to offer.

Happy Friday,

Julie

A walk through the Farmers Market & beyond

Imagine yourself strolling the aisles of the Farmers Market on a brisk fall morning, maybe with a hot coffee or hot spiced cider in hand, browsing the beautiful bounty of the fall season. Although the early morning hours have yet to be kissed by Autumn’s crisp lips, cooler days are soon upon us, and with them comes an incredible array of fall produce. There is nothing I enjoy more on a fall morning than waking with the rising sun, brewing a cup of coffee, and traveling to the Union Square Farmers Market to be windswept through the smells, colors, and tastes of the fall harvest. Since I am not Winter’s biggest fan, I try to enjoy every moment of the fall season, knowing all too well how short lived it is. Even in New York City, the fall air is painted with notes of caramel, cinnamon, hazelnut, allspice, clove, nutmeg, and ginger, the quintessential fall flavors that play in such perfect harmony with one another, seeming to dance through the bustling streets. It’s pure magic. Please, if you have yet to do so, find your nearest farmers market and take yourself there on a fall morning and taste anything and everything that you can. You’ll be so happy that you did!

It’s hard for me to name a favorite fall farmers market find, but apples are near the top of my list. We are so lucky that New York state is home to some incredible apple orchards, growing a vast variety of apples, so whether you like crisp and sweet, crisp and tart, or any combination in between, you’re nearly guaranteed to find the perfect apple! I love apples for their versatility, as they can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, served cooked, raw, hot or cold, apples add a little magic to any recipe they touch. I add cubed Gala or Braeburn apples to my morning quinoa and oatmeal porridge to add a delicious sweetness and crisp texture. In combination with a touch of cinnamon, a dash of pure vanilla extract, and a generous drizzle of almond butter, this is the perfect ‘get up and get moving’ fuel! Pancakes are my breakfast of choice on Sunday mornings, accompanied by a hot cup of coffee, so you best believe that all pancakes that I consume in the fall months contain apples. Make your favorite pancake batter, I always add cornmeal to my pancake batter to add texture and create a more complex flavor, and ladle onto a hot griddle. While the pancake is cooking on the first side, I thinly slice a Honeycrisp apple, with the skin on, and right before the pancake is ready to flip, add a layer of sliced apple on top of the pancake, sprinkle with a little apple pie spice, flip, and let cook through. This pancake is magic! The apples become slightly tender and caramelized and adds so much depth to your basic pancake.  Apples are also a delicious addition to meat or poultry, add before roasting, as they caramelize in the oven and release a syrupy sweetness that compliments the savory meat so well.

One of my other treasured farmers market Autumn finds are squash and pumpkins. There are so many varieties to choose from and endless ways to cook with them. As I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m a sugar junkie, so I’m always dreaming of pastries and other sweet creations. One of my favorite things to do with a sugar pumpkin is to roast it low and slow with a sweet apple, like Gala or Honeycrisp, until it is very tender and caramelized. I then puree it, creating a pumpkin pie filling far superior to any canned version! Use this puree for pumpkin cinnamon rolls, my all time favorite fall treat, served with maple cream cheese icing — I’ll do you all a major favor and post this recipe in the coming days! This puree can really be added to anything, like oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes, so on and so forth! I also use it to create a simple pumpkin butter bursting with fall flavor. To make, simply add pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, and pecans to the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Enjoy on toast, spiced cornmeal waffles, or evenbetter, by the spoonful! For a savory option, I cube butternut squash, kabocha squash, or acorn squash, and roast with thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper, and served chilled as a salad component. You could also turn roasted squash into a beautiful fall soup! Squash add a lovely buttery, nutty, and sweet note to any recipe, so it a very versatile fruit to cook with.

As the air begins to breathe a cooler breeze, I find myself craving pastries and baked goods more than usual. The bake stands at the farmers market always seem more magical, more alluring, to me during the fall months. Teeming with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove, the baked goods throughout the farmers market seem to scream my name. Body & Soul Bakery makes some amazing vegan pastries, ranging from muffins, to cookies, to cinnamon rolls. My favorite items being the apple spiced muffins and miniature pumpkin pies, which both pair amazingly well with a hot cup of coffee or hot cider. There are countless other bakeries offering a wide array of breads and pastries, which during the colder months, I feel are more common to crave.

To end my farmers market excursion, I’m always sure to pick up a few ingredients for a craft cocktail. There is nothing I enjoy more than a warm, warming cocktail on a cool fall or winter evening. I love mulled wine, spiked cider, and a hot toddy. If it’s hot and boozy, I certainly won’t say no. There are a few amazing craft distillers at the Union Square Farmers Market, so if you’re like me and enjoy a hot toddy, be sure to pick up a nice bottle of whiskey. If you’re more the cider or mulled wine type, pick up an assortment of apples, ranging from sweet to tart, peaches, prunes, plums, and grapes. There are countess recipes for mulled wine and spiked cider online, so do a little research before picking your poison. To make both, its really as simple as infusing either wine or apple cider with spices and fresh fruits in a saucepan over medium heat, portion the hot liquid out into glasses, and then topping off with a shot of liquor.

I love fall and all of the beautiful and delicious produce it yields. Treat yourself to a morning of culinary exploration, right as the sun rises, before the crowds arrive, with a lovely hot drink in had. I can almost assure you that you won’t be disappointed. You can thank me later.

Happy Friday!

Payton

 

How Does She do it All?

We’ve turned the calendar to September, the kids have started school(finally!) and the weather is starting to cool off a bit.  The transition from care-free summer to the structured school year has begun.  I used to think of myself as a very organized person, but those days might be far behind me.  Now that I am a mother of three, a wife and a business owner I find I need to work a little more at keeping everyone (including myself) on task and in the right place at the right time.  Here are some of my tricks to keeping up with it all and please, please, please share your tricks in the comments below.

REMINDERS:  The iPhone is a fantastic thing when it comes to needing something to remind you when you need to pay your bills and about other items on your to-do list.  I have a monthly reminder for all the bills that need to get paid and I put EVERYTHING on the calendar from dinner dates to my kid’s classes along with birthdays and anniversaries too.  It is easy to set a recurring event, so something will pop up daily, weekly, monthly or annually.

LISTS:  From grocery lists to shopping lists to to-do lists, I write everything down. Sometimes a task goes from a reminder to a list but at least I am thinking about it again and again until it gets crossed off.  This is also a trick I use to keep my kids from wanting everything at the store, if it isn’t on our shopping list then we aren’t going home with it.

TEAMWORK:  While it would be nice if I could give everyone my undivided attention it just isn’t possible. Building a team of people I trust allows me to be a part of it all.   I learned early on in my career that it is important to lead by example and I find this just as important at home (changing poopy diapers is no one’s favorite task) as it is at the shop.  I may have nominated myself as team captain but I the support I receive is amazing.

My reminder just went off to post the weekly blog post.  Maybe I am one step ahead, at least for this week!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Meal Prep for the Win!

The 2018-2019 school year is freshly underway, and although I’m not a parent, I know the chaos that a new school year brings. Growing up in rural Minnesota in a town, moreover village, with a population of 1,300 people, a lot falls on the eldest sibling  — which is me — when it comes to helping out with the younger siblings. Having two working career parents who often traveled for work didn’t help lessen the workload, either. From the age of 12 or 13, I was responsible for not only getting myself up and ready for school in the morning, but I was also responsible for getting my younger brother and sister up and ready, too. It wasn’t always easy either, as I liked to be to school by 8am so that I had time to socialize with my friends before class, but my brother and sister prefered sleep much more, so I rarely hit my 8am target. I was an alarm clock, wardrobe stylist, hair stylist, personal chef, and chaperone on the walk to school — which granted was no more than a block away from our home — so believe me when I tell you that even though I’m not a parent, I know the chaos that a fresh school year brings.

On duty before school, as well as after school, I was responsible for finding my brother and sister after school and getting them to their numerous evening programs and sport practices, usually with the addition of my younger cousins, too; only to be amplified once I got my drivers license. This may sound like a lot of work, especially for a young kid who was also juggling school work, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss those days, as I really do miss them. Although I haven’t had these responsibilities in a number of years, this new school year is hitting me harder than most, as my youngest sibling just started her senior year, and being the sappy, sentimental, and overly emotional person that I am, I can’t help but feel sad when thinking back on the younger days. But alas, change is inevitable, and the excitement and awe of witnessing my sister blossom into a beautiful young woman far outweighs the sadness brought about by change.

While on duty as an older brother made live-in nanny, I learned the invaluable lesson of being organized and overly prepared. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and being the overachiever and natural nurturer that I’ve always been, I found much joy in batch cooking and meal prep, which alleviated a lot of unnecessary stress when trying to feed my siblings before and after school, or when trying to pack them a lunch on days when they didn’t like the lunch option. If you’re struggling with a lack of time when trying to get your kids up, ready, and fed before school in the morning, meal and snack prep could really help you keep your mornings and days on track and running smoothly. Start with basics like vegetable packets — maybe carrots, celery, and blanched broccoli — and your favorite veggie dip, fresh fruit packets — including berries, melon, and grapes — and trail mix packets. If possible, please try to use reusable bags or BPA free tupperware containers. For breakfast, which was rarely eaten at home but rather while running out the door  — I would prepare large batches of baked breakfast sandwiches, which usually included eggs, cheese, and breakfast meats, sandwiched in between two english muffin halves — that is until I discovered how to create syrup infused pancake muffins — that I would wrap in parchment paper, label, then place in a sealable container and freeze. Because I’m a sugar junkie, I would also prepare large batches of pancakes, french toast, and waffles that I would freeze and then place in the toaster oven for quick reheating making for a simple yet delicious breakfast in a pinch. Having a few snack and breakfast options on hand really does make a world of difference.

My mom always kept our refrigerator and pantry stocked to the brim, so on days when my brother or sister requested a packed lunch, throwing together a simple and filling lunch was quite easy. If I were to pack them a lunch today, however, I think I would forgo the deli-meat sandwich with a side of chips and instead send them with a hummus and veggie wrap with the addition of roasted chicken and a side of fresh fruit, or something slightly more healthy and nutrient dense than a sandwich. You could also batch cook a few different types of burritos, wrap them in parchment and then again in foil, and freeze — that is if a microwave is provided at the school for reheating purposes. A simple veggie lasagna with whole wheat pasta noodles would be lovely as well, and requires very little time to prepare ahead of time and it also freezes nicely.

The favorite of my creations, hands down, had to be my homemade chocolate chip cookies. I would make triple batches of these cookies once per month — they were a favorite of everyone in my family and the most coveted snack, more like treat, to bring with you to school. The secret, which I’m sure I picked up while watching the Food Network, was a mixture of white chocolate chips, semi sweet chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips, as well as a heaping scoop of peanut butter, and last, but most definitely not least, a packet of white chocolate pudding mix — I know, quite odd, but let me tell you, these cookies are magical! The white chocolate pudding was the star of the show, not only adding another level of chocolate flavor, but it also created the best chewy texture. I will write and share the recipe for these cookies on the Recipe Box page of our website in the coming days.

Conclusion. The school-year does not have to be chaotic, and can actually be quite fun and enjoyable if well prepared. Try planning a weekly or monthly menu with your family, and after you have a menu set, give batch cooking and meal prepping a go to give yourself more time during the week. Simple, make ahead meal and snack options will save you so much time in the long run. Cheers to reducing chaos this school year!

Happy Friday!

Payton