Thursday, May 26

This Old House

First off, thank you all so very much for the kind birthday wishes.  I had a week filled with lovely surprises and I was reminded how truly blessed I am to have such a loving family and group of friends.  The memories of celebrating my 29th birthday as we purchased our first home made it a birthday I won't soon forget, nor will the orange scented whole wheat french toast with raspberry sauce and creme anglaise that I had.  Yum, yum, yum.                 

In the last couple of weeks, we've managed to demo our kitchen, take a road trip to Atlanta and pack up our apartment - all while fixing decades worth of bad paint jobs before we install our new kitchen.  Suffice it to say there's been an absurd amount of drywalling, sanding and repeating goin' on around here.  Not to mention surviving the cicada invasion of 2011.  Have you ever seen (or heard) those suckers?!  They are BIG and NASTY, and apparently rear their ugly heads (quite literally) every 13 years in Tennessee.         

I need to come clean about something, by the way.  I swore up and down it would never happen, but last week I busted out an "I'm jist sayin".  It's officially official: I think the cicada invasion triggered my being a true southerner.     

All kidding aside, these last couple of weeks have allowed us to develop a relationship with our little home, albeit a rocky one at times.  We're growing with it and learning to love it for it's charms and quirks that come with a near sixty-year old home.  Somedays I wonder what we thought would be so romantic about buying a "charming" mid-century ranch home that we could put our stamp on.  Who cares about stamps anyways?  There isn't a whole lot of romance in windows that barely open and a basement that leaks after a big storm.  Nevertheless, it's our home, and I think it might be a good sign that my dog whimpers with joy and excitement every time we pull into the driveway.  

The first inspiration for my "industrial farmhouse kitchen."

Like with anything in life, I'm learning to take things in stride.  I'm trying to chill out a little on the whole "perfectionism thing" and not obsess too much over making my house look like a photoshoot from Sunset Magazine right away.  A little delayed gratification is something I can learn to embrace, and heck, it might even make me a better person for it.

And while we're on the emotional roller coaster that comes with being first-time home buyers, I know these experiences will be ripe with memories in the years to come.  It surely hasn't been all romance with this old house, but these are the things that make life crazy and complicated and wonderful.  

Here's a recipe I found alongside lemon and thyme grilled pork chops, and a grilled potato rosemary cake in Sunset's June issue.  I won't be entertaining quite yet, but do me a favor, will you?  Throw a killer Memorial Day BBQ with your favorite peeps and maybe even get a little drunk while rockin' out to some good country music.  Okay, it can be a tad more sophisticated than that, but that's what I would do.  I'm just sayin'.               

photo courtesy Sunset Magazine

Carmelized tomato bruschetta   
1 slender baguette (8 oz.)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pt. large cherry tomatoes, halved
About 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and pepper
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup small fresh basil leaves

1. Heat grill to medium (350° to 450°). Cut 18 thin slices from baguette, each 3 to 4 in. long. Save remaining bread for another use. Set baguette slices on a tray to carry to grill and brush all over with about 1 tbsp. oil.
2. Grill bread with lid down, turning once with tongs, until browned, 1 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.
3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or other ovenproof frying pan on cooking grate with grill lid down until water dances when sprinkled on skillet, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. oil and spread with a heatproof brush. Pour tomato halves into pan, then quickly turn with tongs so all are cut side down. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Cook with grill lid down, without stirring, until juices evaporate and tomatoes are blackened on cut side, 10 to 15 minutes. Gently loosen tomatoes from pan with a wide metal spatula as they're done and transfer to a bowl.
4. Spoon ricotta into a bowl and drizzle remaining 1/2 tbsp. oil on top. Put basil in another bowl. Set out toasts with tomatoes, ricotta, and basil so people can build their own bruschetta. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, May 11

Strawberry Madness

Ah May, what a beautiful and intricate weave of events you bring.  From a cold and wet Spring we lurch into the heat of Summer.  We're teased with the decadence of strawberries -just a hint of the bright and colorful flavors to come in the months ahead.  Historically speaking, May has always been a month of big changes for our little family and in the scheme of things, quite the launching pad for big life events.

As you sit here reading this, hopefully enjoying a delicious cup of joe, my hubby and I will be closing on our very first home. (!!)  And while I can tell you that we're both thrilled, I can't quite convey the feelings I have at this moment.  I'm just glad we both agree that we're a bit shell shocked; none of it seems real and we're both trying hard not to think about all the crazy-ass things we have in mind for the house and just relish in the moment.  Ahh, to be homeowners.     

By the way, have I told you we're demoing our kitchen this weekend?  Madness, I tell you.  I wish I could say I have the stomach for this.

I've decided though, notwithstanding the faint nausea that occasionally creeps up, May is my favorite month.  Nevermind that it's the month of my birth and I love being spoiled (have I told you about birthweek yet?).  It's also caught between the beauty of Spring and the heat of Summer when it's still being eagerly welcomed.  If that weren't enough, the bounty of strawberries should be.

As I approach my 29th Birthday, buying a house and entering the last year of my twenties has a peculiar way of making me feel like a grown up.  I definitely enjoy the luxuries of being an adult, but I don't think I'll be taking myself too seriously anytime soon.  Especially not while I still jump up and down when I'm super excited.  In all likelihood, I'm probably doing it right now.  

I'm sure one of the reason's I love strawberries so much is because I associate it with happiness.  May=Strawberries+Whipped Cream+Birthdays=Happiness.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Yep, it's strawberry madness.   

As I sit here enduring self-inflicted rashes that could only be a result of too many strawberries, I wanted to share my current favorite breakfast (and sometimes lunch) that I recently saw in MSL.  It's quick, it's simple and gives a much needed boost of energy.  Just smother (preferably sprouted or whole grain) toast with almond butter and sliced strawberries and voila!  Just don't be surprised if my next post is about strawberries too beacuse I plan to stretch this moment out for as long as I can.   

Monday, May 2

Sunday Showers and a Spring Frittata

I didn't leave my house once on Sunday.  In fact, the only time I went outside was at 8:00 am to let Ava go potty.  It was stormy and lovely and I finally found some time to catch up on my magazines and a book that I just received in the mail.   

I had a strange energy about me all day;  the book I speak of had me all wired and thinking about all kinds of things, while the sofa wasn't quite ready to give me up.  I was feeling creative so I finally decided I needed an outlet or I might've burst at the seams.  Do you ever feel like that?  I decided I had far too much on my mind to let a whole day go to waste.  

Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to get a book in the mail that wasn't supposed to be on the shelves until mid-May.  I ordered Plate to Pixel back in February and since then have been anxiously awaiting it's arrival.  It's written by the one and only Helene Dujardin, a French ex-pat and writer of Tartelette, who's passion is food photography and styling.  I literally could not put her book down - her photos were sensational and her writing identifiable.  Naturally, I was no longer able to sit still.  All I could think about was getting into the kitchen- fast!   

The stormy weather had me craving comfort food.  But comfort food that was already in the pantry because heaven knows, I wasn't about to change out of my pajamas.  Life has been non-stop here at the Isaacson pad, so there weren't too many things to get excited about in the fridge.  I missed my farmer's market this weekend, so what's a girl to cook when everything is on the brink of turning?

I remembered a recipe that my Grandma uses with leftovers -sometimes for dinner, but more often than not -brunch: fritatta!  If you're not familiar, it's basically an Italian name for an omelette but way better.  I myself am not a huge fan of the omelette, but frittata's are different.  The bottom usually has a layer of thinly-sliced potatoes and is then smothered with a concoction of eggs, leftover veggies and cheese.  Just like omelettes, you can use anything you want.  If I'd made it to the farmer's market, I would have used asparagus and gruyere as my main two components.

What I did have on hand however, were heirloom tomatoes, spinach, parmesan and basil.  No complaints here!  It was so simple and it had me wondering why I don't make this more often.  The rest of the afternoon I rigged my dining room to play with some lighting techniques.  I'm officially beyond excited to have a real "grown-up" office in our new house.  I'm all about making this next home beautiful but functional and real.  I have a feeling this will turn into a foodie/design/DIY blog in no time flat.

The best thing about frittata is that you can make it with anything.  Leftovers, frozen veggies or whatever you have in your fridge.  Be inspired by seasonal ingredients and go for this meal when you need something quick and easy.  I’m obsessed with the velvety texture of this dish.  Other yummy ideas: feta, spinach and mushrooms or ricotta, basil and leftover penne.

Spring Frittata 
Cook time: 40 minutes Yield: 6 servings 


4 large potatoes, washed, peeled and thinly sliced
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk 
1/2 cup of your favorite cheese – I use Quattro Formaggio, a mixture of provolone, asiago, romano and parmesan cheeses
2 handfuls of spinach
a few sprigs of parsley, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh pepper


Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in medium frying pan. Add potatoes and salt generously. Toss occasionally, letting each layer get brown and crispy, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

While potatoes are cooking, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Add cheese, parsley and spinach.

When potatoes are soft and nearly falling apart, spread evenly over bottom of pan. Add egg mixture. Do not stir. Cook over moderately low heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until sides are cooked. Remove from stove top and transfer to oven uncovered in oven-safe pan.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until top sets. Remove from oven and invert onto large dish. Re-invert on another dish. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Cut in wedges and serve hot.