Just a few words and pictures to let you know what we're currently up to!
I discovered Sarah Kieffer of Vanilla Bean Baking Blog on Instagram, and I'm in love! Or rather, WE are are- Matt has used this recipe book more than me so far! I got her new cookbook, Vanilla Bean Baking Book, and her recipes, stories, and pictures all just take me to my happy place. Plus, everything we have tried has been delicious. A couple weekends ago, we spent hours making cinnamon rolls and strawberry cream cheese danishes. YUM!
We have two bedrooms upstairs in our enclosed attic complete with dormer windows and A-frame ceilings, but for the two years we've lived here, we haven't used them for more than storage- we haven't really needed the space! And the insulation up there is nothing more than old newspapers from the 1930s... so that's an issue. But we're hoping to move up there soon.
We sold our old bed (that I had had since childhood) and got a wrought iron bed frame inspired by @homeiswherethehartis- something simple that will fit in a small space and still allow the maximum amount of light in. It arrived several weeks ago and is still sitting in boxes in the basement, but the dream is becoming more real!!!
Matt often laments that he didn't become a farmer, and I always say that if dies, I'm finding my next husband on farmersonly.com :) For his birthday this year, we got a grow light and SO many seeds. And he is one happy boy.
And last but not least:
EXPECTING | October 2017
Just a little Merry Christmas to our neighbors who have made Minnesota feel even more like home. To the family at the end of the street who brought us ice cream the week we moved in and, we recently discovered, are the ones who cleared our sidewalk twice for us after it snowed. To our neighbor across the street who collects the bags her newspapers come in so we don't have to buy supplies to pick up after our dogs on walks. To our neighbors across the back alley who often have us over for dinner and can ALWAYS be relied upon when you need a teaspoon of this or a quarter cup of that. And to all the neighbors who check in to make sure we have somewhere to go for the holidyas! We knew so little about where we were moving when we came to this neighborhood, and we'll always feel so grateful for neighbors whom we can trust and laugh with, and whom we can & do enjoy spending time with- Bonfires and BBQs, Friendsgiving, and random backyard & alleyway chats. Merry Christmas! We love you!
...AND we're sorry about our barky dogs :)
The temperature this morning read -18 degrees, but we're warm inside, listening to Christmas music and enjoying the view of our neighborhood blanketed in snow. Having grown up in California, every morning I wake up to snow on the ground is as magical as it is for A Christmas Story's Ralphie on Christmas morning. It's a beautiful experience to see a place transformed to white, to walk in the stillness of snowfall, watch the lamp lights illuminate the delicate descending flakes, and make the first steps in the newly fallen snow.
So when I was trying to decide how I wanted to decorate my annual Christmas sugar cookies, I was drawn to the idea of white on white glittering snowflakes. I've dreamt my whole life of a white Christmas, so my cookies celebrate that I now live in just such a place. I enjoyed decorating each one while watching Christmas movies late into the night, and I love how the way the snow glitters outside in the sunshine looks just like the sprinkles on my cookies!
As much as we enjoy this winter wonderland that neither of us got to grow up with, it does mean that we're not with family this holiday season. Making these cookies was a way to feel close to them and to make it feel like home. From childhood, these cookies were made for me by my aunts, grandma, and mother, shaped for Valentines, Halloween, and Christmas. They would lovingly make and roll out dough, cut out individual shapes, and frost each cookie, a real work of art and labor of love. And according to family lore, Grandma got the recipe from her mom who got it from her mom, my great-great grandma Farnsworth. I love thinking of such a treasured tradition going back so far and being shared by generations of women.
My Great-Great Grandma Farnsworth is on the far right with my Great-Grandma standing just in front of her (1900). My grandpa sent me this picture and said this may be where the sugar cookie recipe originated, in Sun Valley, ID. I can't imagine what it must have been like making our cookies in that cabin, but I love the idea of those sweet children enjoying these same cookies.
The recipe hasn't changed much in my life, but the technique has improved over time, and I have often joked that I wouldn't feel like a real woman if I could not master the art of the sugar cookie! I make them often, and always to share- It's not worth it to keep them all to yourself when you've put so much love into them! And so this year I thought of my family as I made the cookies, both the women who made them before me and the people who would be enjoying them so far away.
The packages are sent, and my fingers are crossed that the cookies will survive the journey! And of course I kept some for friends and neighbors and stocking stuffers. I made a double batch, filling my KitchenAid to the brim, and I still wish I had more to keep and share!
Frosted Sugar Cookies
The women in my family can certainly bake. I left home with a book full of family recipes that I've used and shared to start new friendships, to woo my husband, to bring comfort and cheer, and to remind me of home. I've added quite a few of my own recipes since then and made a few adjustments to some of my mother's.
This is her pumpkin bar recipe- THE pumpkin bar recipe in our family. It's the only kind of pumpkin I remember eating growing up. I imagine my mom made them for holidays and baby showers, and I remember never being able to eat just one square. We have a habit in our family of cutting small pieces of desserts like this, so it feels like you're eating less, and you get to keep going back for more :)
Pumpkin bars are quick and easy, but they lack the visual appeal of a grander dessert. Recognizing that the main difference between a bar and a cake was the pan, bake time, and presentation, I started using this recipe in ways that would better satisfy my creative imaginings. We've had pumpkin "bars" as cakes and cupcakes, mini bundts, and quick & easy in a ramekin.
Since leaving home, I've started making pumpkin bread too (a Robertson family classic), but given the choice between bread and cake (with cream cheese frosting), I found myself going for the sweeter of the two this week. A cake to welcome in the fall. We shared some and ate a lot and every bite was delicious.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Combine 3 oz. softened cream cheese, 1/2 cube softened margarine, 2 C powdered sugar, and 2 tsp. vanilla. If consistency is too thick, add milk, a little at a time. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar.
I don't know how Matt became acquainted with Jaques Pepin, but ever since he first saw his cooking show, we have eaten pretty well at the Robertson house whenever Matt is making dinner. Matt is much better at trying new recipes and techniques than I am, and some of his French recipes he has found have become new staples for us! A Jaques inspired favorite of mine is this Garlic Soup. It's the kind of perfect Fall soup that inspires you to "Mmmm" as soon as the spoon is in your mouth. It's thick and rich and creamy, and it warms you through and through.
Jacques Pepin's Garlic Soup Recipe
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium leeks, trimmed (leaving most of the green), split, washed, and sliced
12–15 garlic cloves
7 cups canned chicken broth (we substituted about 2 with Matt's homemade turkey stock)
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 cups cubed (1/2-inch) firm-textured white bread (we used sourdough)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy pot. When it is hot, add the leeks and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the stock, potatoes, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and boil gently for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the bread cubes and sauté, stirring almost continuously, until they are evenly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
When the soup is cooked, push it through a food mill. Stir the butter into the hot soup and serve with the croutons.