Love War Stories, Apricot Almond Muffins, and Impending Seasonal Changes

I can't help but feel like summer is on a timer here. I mean sure, I'm as ready as anyone else to leave these 95-degree, 110% humidity-filled days behind, but am I the only one who starts to panic just a little when contemplating snow?

The good news is that not only do we have some time before boots and parkas rule the wardrobe, but the time in between now and then, popularly known as fall, is the best time to be a human who eats. Need proof? Get thee to a farmers' market and take in all of the beautiful produce that you thought was done growing. And if you're anything like me, you'll start to hyperventilate about all of the amazing food you want to cook with this fresh produce and how little time you have to cook it. My advice: don't worry. Take a deep breath. Then, go talk to your farmer and order in bulk. I came home last weekend with 20 pounds of tomatoes and 10 pounds of peaches from Mick Klug farm, and I couldn't be happier. 

Apricot Almond Muffins and Love War Stories

I spent the morning canning plain tomatoes, roasted tomatoes for pizza and pasta, and making crazy salsa that I promise I will post the recipe for, and I couldn't be happier. I feel a little less terrified at the prospect of winter, especially because I just made these gorgeous apricot almond muffins, which would be just as delicious with dried apricots. Probably. And they would definitely still match with Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez, which rocked my world. 

TLDR enjoy summer while it lasts, steal a little summer for your winter, and read the books I tell you to read. Cool. Happy Sunday eve!

Feminist Press provided a copy of Love War Stories to Page & Plate for the purpose of this independent review. 

WE BACK with Sweet Jerk Pork Chops and Missing Persons

HELLO. If you follow this blog enough to notice that I didn't blog last week, I mean, wow. Thanks. I'm truly honored that you noticed my laziness. You have my congratulations and respect. To reward you, I will now return to my regularly scheduled content. Bam.

Between weddings, holidays, and time off, I've had plenty of time to cook up a storm. However, between days of 97 and 101 degrees with one hundred percent humidity, I wanted to do anything BUT cook up a storm. For those of you who are with me and have a grill, welcome. I have a great recipe that you can do on your grill without heating your house up a single degree. For those of you who are with me and don't have a grill, bear with me, heat up your house a tiny bit, and enjoy these delicious sweet jerk pork chops anyway. You gotta do the best you can with what you have, and in this case, what you have are some sweet spices and barbecue sauces from Savory Spice Shop (thanks, guys!). 

While you're sitting in the room furthest from the kitchen avoiding the heat pouring from your oven (I feel you), might I recommend checking out Stephanie Carpenter's Missing Persons? It's a beautiful little collection that just miiiiight make you forget how big your hair has gotten from the humidity. But no promises. It's silly to promise anything when the humidity is this high.

Sweet Jerk Pork Chops and Missing Persons

Buckwheat Breadsticks, Florida, and Restraint

 

I'm not known for my restraint. Given the choice, I will always add more sprinkles, toss that extra bit of salt in, and buy that book that I quite possibly didn't really need. Luckily, there are some recipes where restraint isn't important. There are some recipes where it's more important to just go for it and dump those extra few sesame seeds (black or white) into that dough and trust that it'll end up delicious. The buckwheat breadsticks we're serving up this week is one of those recipes, and it was a huge hit at Friday's demo-catering event. (More about that in this month's newsletter, to which you can subscribe here.) (<--- self promotion) 

Florida and Buckwheat Breadsticks

 

There was little restraint shown for those breadsticks, but Lauren Groff, on the other hand, was practiced and cool when she wrote Florida, a collection of stories. And if you want to hear more about that, go read the review. I'm restraining myself from giving it all away.   
 

Spicy Summer Salad and Dead Girls and Other Stories

Man, talk about an attention grabbing blog post title. 

Today I'm going to wax poetic about salad. I was chatting with a friend over the long weekend, and he told me (TO MY FACE) that he believed anyone who says the like salad is a liar.  I was frozen in place. How could he think this? I liked salad, right? Am I the only one who likes salad? Have I forced Colin to eat salads, thinking he loved them, when all the while he was disgusted behind my back!? (No clue, I love it, no, and no, he likes them.) 

OKAY so here is my defense of salad: if you don't like salad, you haven't had a good salad. You've had some gross, watery lettuce glued together with Ranch dressing. Here is the beauty of salads: you can put whatever you want on a salad. It doesn't even have to have lettuce! I hate lettuce! But I LOVE SALAD. Because I make amazing salads that have all sorts of fun veggies and cheeses and dressings, and they all go together and make delicious bites you feel good about eating. I love salad because salads are beautiful and unique. As evidenced by today's recipe for a spicy summer salad. Go make it, all you non-believers. You'll believe me then.

In other things that are unique and beautiful, today's book by Emily Geminder, Dead Girls and Other Stories, came from Dzanc Books, who were kind enough to send it my way for a review. It was a wild ride, and you should definitely check it out. Very, very interesting, and very powerful.

Dead Girls and Spicy Summer Salad

Note: Dzanc Books provided Page & Plate, LLC a complementary copy of Dead Girls and Other Stories for the purpose of this independent review.

Grown Up Pop Tarts, Two Sides, Three Rivers, and Stuff You Know You Love

Before you start reading, just know that I'm very high on the fact that the sun is shining, it's almost Friday, and I've had a pretty great week. There will be lots of exclamation points and excitement. You've been warned...

OKAY. The first thing I'm excited about is today's book, Two Sides, Three Rivers by Sharon Dilworth. It is so very super special and extra exciting for me to review this book because Sharon was my thesis advisor throughout my senior year of college. Naturally, she not only helped me become a better writer, but also ended up counseling me on searching for jobs, navigating senior year, and recognizing the value in a nice, big glass of wine. She is one of my idols, in writing and in life, and all of that was totally reaffirmed by this collection of short stories. She is a brilliant writer, and I hope you order her book (published by Bridge & Tunnel Books, a Pittsburgh publishing house!) and enjoy it and marvel at her incredible talent.

Two Sides, Three Rivers and Grown Up Pop Tarts

I'm also excited (or just over-caffeinated, both are possible) about the grown up pop tarts that Colin and I made this week. I was not a lover of Pop-Tarts, but I can definitely get behind this adult version that could technically be called a hand pie. I guess. But isn't grown up pop tart so much more fun!? Yep! We're done here. 

These are two things you owe it to yourself to read about, trust me. And now, me and my giddiness are going for a nice long run around the City to burn off some of this energy.

One Pot Pasta, Sherwood Anderson, and Simplistic Elegance

 Enormous Pittsburgh mug used for measuring large quantities of water courtesy of Kevin,  The Office  loving pal and fellow cook.

Enormous Pittsburgh mug used for measuring large quantities of water courtesy of Kevin, The Office loving pal and fellow cook.

If there are two well-worn things I've carried with me since I graduated college, it's a recipe for one pot pasta that's been in rotation for years and an obnoxiously shiny copy of Winesburg, Ohio that's been on my bookshelf for even longer. Even though the book looks like a poorly executed ad for a tiny, rural town and the pasta is embarrassingly easy, there's something to be said about the tried and true simple things, especially as fall descends and the Chicago CTA turns into ground zero for every strain of the flu imaginable. Seriously is there anyone riding the purple line who doesn't have at least a little sniffle? Am I the only one who Googles "Is Ebola transmitted through sneezing?" every time I get on the train?

Fall is a time that cries out for elegant and hearty dishes made from the bountiful harvest and lots of lounging around and reading age-old classics, at least according to the ads in the magazines marketing toward middle aged women that I so frequently read. (Southern Living is my jam.) But honestly, with work and travel and calculating how much vitamin C I can take before I supersaturate my body, who has time for decadent dinners and 400 pages of women complaining about not being married (cough, cough Jane Austen)? Not me!

 Apparently we're all good, by the way.&nbsp; I'll keep you updated; I check daily.

Apparently we're all good, by the way.  I'll keep you updated; I check daily.

What I do have time for is a criminally easy pasta recipe that you can make any time of the year and feel good about and a quick read that pretty much falls into that same category. Seriously people, I'm talking pasta and water as main ingredients and short stories you could read in between stirs. Throw in some fresh heirloom tomatoes from the farmers' market and a reason to read through all of my horrifically dramatic writing from those college days past, and I'm in. Anything that gives me more time to pop another cough drop and do another quick Google to check my heath.

Pizza, Short Stories, and Variations on a Theme

Once upon a time, I used to think that pizza was bad for you, and I refused to eat it except for the crust. Then, one day, my fairy godmother of Internet browsing sent me stumbling onto a picture of beautiful, thin crust pizza that takes less than an hour to make and actually isn't that bad for you. And I was really, really happy. Because I had pizza. Once a week. At least. Not kidding.

pizza.JPG

But then, I started to get a little bit bored with regular pizza. I wonder if maybe there wasn't another dish out there, something less normal, something a little more exotic, that I should be making instead. And then I went to the Lincoln Park Farmers' Market and had a pizza from Our House Pizza. And I died a little bit and went to pizza heaven. Then I came back to earth and made it a mission to recreate that pizza and figure out what made it so good. 

I'll save you the trouble that I went to and tell you the answer: what makes that pizza so good is how extraordinary an ordinary pizza has become. We've all had pizza (I hope).  But have we had pizza with squash, corn, and an egg creating a beautiful mess on charred mozzarella? Nope. It's reminiscent of a familiar food while being different, exciting, and memorable. And it's perfect. So you should go make it. And while you're at it, check out Tenth of Decemberwhich is full of ordinary things made magical.