Honey-Lime Watermelon Floats

Honey-Lime Watermelon Floats recipe (via the pigandquill.com) #icecream #dessert #summer

Honey-Lime Watermelon Floats recipe (via the pigandquill.com) #icecream #dessert #summer
It’s October. Or as Lana has taken to saying, “it’s almost Halloweeeeeeeen tiiiiiiiiime!” (Followed, always, by “the scary guys are just pretend, Mom. The scary guys are just pretend.” Thank you, sweet babe.)

So here we are, officially entering into that love/hate time of year where, for procrastinators like me, shit either happens RIGHTTHISMINUTE or gets nudged happily into “early Q1 // happy face // talk soon!,” which would almost explain why I’m pushing a fruity summer float when pumpkins should be springing outta my bum.

But as much as this post is, indeed, about my procrastination (as in, I first made these guys in…August, I think? though we’ve been drinking them far too often since…), it’s also a belated celebration of sorts for this blog that turned five years old exactly one month ago, right under my nose and with very little fanfare.

And for the month of October, itself, which will appropriately mark the year anniversary of my diagnosis while serving as a well-marketed reminder to buy yogurt with pink lids, check your boobies — and, more than anything, trust your gut. (I cannot emphasize this enough. I was so very fortunate to have a doctor who immediately referred me for an ultrasound after I came to her with a teeny lump, but I have heard of many others who had to push their team for imaging or tests, or who were reassured “it’s nothing” only to find themselves facing an even more serious diagnosis months later.)

Honey-Lime Watermelon Floats recipe (via the pigandquill.com) #icecream #dessert #summer
So first: a quick, trans-seasonal cheers to this space and the five years we’ve spent together talking about nothing and everything and parenthood and reality tv and cancer and cookies and pie shakes and pasta (miso-braised/caramelized squash/fauxlognese/spicy spam and so much more…). This unapologetically simple blend of sweet watermelon juice, tart lime, chilled bubbles and vanilla ice cream is for you. (For the dairy-free you, this is equally, if not even more, incredible with a coconut-based ice cream). Even if I haven’t given this space the attention it has deserved over the past year, the support from the blogging community and the many comments, DMs, and emails I received from so many of you lifted me up in ways you’ll never know. So thank you. I’m so grateful for the food and gossip we share here and look forward to spending more time together in the months to come.

And next: a very PINK, frothy cheers to knowing your body, being your own healthcare advocate, and taking the time to truly make your well-being a priority. Even in light of the past year, I still sometimes drag my feet on that last one (it’s been weeks since I’ve intentionally exercised, and despite the 17 reminders I have set, I still forget to take my vitamins every other day), but in the spirit of do as I say, not as I do, make it happen, friends. I kinda like you. Let’s try to stick around for a while, ok?

Happy October, loves.
xo,
Em

Honey-Lime Watermelon Floats recipe (via the pigandquill.com) #icecream #dessert #summer

Honey-Lime Watermelon Floats
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A no-recipe drink for toasting the
By:
Makes: about 4 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ small seedless watermelon, rind removed and cubed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • honey, to taste
  • cold sparkling water or club soda
  • 4-6 scoops vanilla ice cream (or non-dairy ice cream)
Instructions
  1. In a high-speed blender, combine watermelon, lime juice and honey, to taste. (If your watermelon is particularly sweet, you might not need any honey at all). Whirl until completely liquefied. Refrigerate until very cold. (If you're feeling fancy, you can strain the juice if it separates at all -- I tend to be...not fancy.)
  2. Divide juice among 4 glasses. Top until ⅔ full with cold sparkling water; finish with 1-2 scoops ice cream. Enjoy!
Honey-Lime Watermelon Floats recipe (via the pigandquill.com) #icecream #dessert #summer————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

4-Ingredient Rolled Sugar Cookies (Egg-Free)

4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert

4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessertThank you Bob’s Red Mill for sponsoring this post. Create a care package for a loved one today and don’t forget to include some baked goods made with Bob’s Red Mill products. To save $1 on any Bob’s Red Mill product, click here.

When I left Ohio to move back to California seven years ago, I was mostly elated. I had just spent (what I then thought were) the toughest months of my life living alone in a cornfield-adjacent condo, holding down our Midwestern fort while Chris established a shiny new career 2500 miles away. Without the funds to pay both rent and a mortgage on one salary, I needed to either sell our home in Ohio or secure a job in the Bay Area before I could join him. But despite my best efforts, neither happened. For almost six months. Oh, and did I mention that three months into it, we got married? We tied the knot in wine country on a Saturday, and by Tuesday my fellow Group A passengers and I were boarding a plane for The Buckeye State — and an existence largely characterized by my collection of frozen yogurt spoons and Pottery Barn catalogs. It was tricky. And for a lot of it, I was sad.

During this time, the two things that perked me up considerably were care packages of carefully bubble-wrapped sugar cookies from my mom – and the constant presence of my Ohio soul sister, Amanda. The sugar cookies were always the latest seasonally decorated offering from my favorite hometown sweet shop, Freeport Bakery. And Amanda was everything a lonely newlywed could ask for in a friend.

A nearly constant confidant (whether she liked it or not, as we worked maybe 4 feet from each other five days a week).
The most spectacular slumber partier (I indulged her worship of young Johnny Depp, she my obsession with Peanut Buster Parfaits).
And superbly tolerant of my foul mouth and fouler puns (I have nothing to add here that you don’t already know).

So when Chris and I finally settled on a plan to move me back to California, my anticipation quickly turned bittersweet. My time in Ohio forced an almost instant appreciation for everything I had taken for granted back home — but it also forged one of those instant, playground kinships that are so rare to find as adults.

4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert
Almost as soon as my feet hit West Coast soil, Amanda and I created a tradition of exchanging care packages several times a year. They started a little clunky and sparse – as evidenced by the occasional artisanal jam casualty – but almost 40 care packages later, there aren’t enough that’s what she said jokes in the world to keep up with our box-stuffing prowess. (See also: Nice Package.)

Unsurprisingly, Amanda was among the first (of many!) friends to book a flight out as soon as we learned I’d be going through chemo. And again at its conclusion. So for her most recent care package – which is uncharacteristically overdue thanks to treatment, preschool, and prepping for the massive family road trip that is happening as we speak (I am literally writing this at our rented RV dinette, less than a mile from Disneyland, at this very moment) — I wanted to pull out the biggest proverbial guns in my arsenal.

I threw caution to the wind.
And I baked.

(I KNOW.)

4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert
These sunshiny babes are the approximation of the same treat that kept me afloat during those quasi-lonely months in the Middle US: Freeport Bakery’s signature sugar cookies. They’re thick — but not too thick! — and crisp. Almost crunchy, even. And decorated to mimic my favorite summer citrus theme, because Amanda always marvels at California’s abundant citrus trees, which we apparently take entirely for granted. (Freeport Bakery also offers watermelon slices in their summer assortment, but I’m a little too icing shy to mess with a rind and seeds).

Made with only four ingredients, the cookie base of this version has the advantage of being egg-free (particularly handy when there’s a miniature dough gobbler waiting to lick the bowl). And since the ingredients are so few, I opt for the good stuff.

Organic Bob’s Red Mill flour milled from America’s highest-quality premium wheat.
Organic sugar. Grassfed butter.

I also flavor them ever so slightly with both pure lemon extract and Mexican vanilla, which add just enough depth to keep the cookies from tasting purely of sugar, though neither is distinctly discernible. You could certainly use all vanilla to keep things even simpler.

Iced with a thick, crunchy layer of colorful Royal Icing (note: not egg-free) and simple citrus segment details, they’re as close to the real thing as I imagine I’ll ever get. And entirely worth the three naptimes I worked through to make them happen for my favorite Midwestern Savior-Turned-Sidekick, Amanda.

Love you, babe.
xo,
Pork (Em)

4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessert

4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 24-48 cookies, depending on size
Ingredients
  • For the Cookies
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract (or 1½ tsp Mexican vanilla extract + 1½ tsp pure lemon extract, see Note)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • For the *Optional* Icing (Note: icing is not egg-free as written)
  • 3 T meringue powder (contains eggs)
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 5 T water
  • 1½ tsp almond extract (or extract of your choice, see Note)
Instructions
  1. To Make the Cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream butter on medium speed until light and smooth. Add sugar, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, until smooth. Add vanilla (or vanilla + lemon extracts) and mix until incorporated. Add flour and mix until combined, again scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gather dough into two balls, using a little flour to prevent sticking if necessary; flatten dough into discs, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until firm. (At this point you can also freeze the dough -- just thaw in fridge for one day before you intend to roll/bake.)
  2. Preheat oven to 325F. Using a well floured pin and cutting board, roll dough to about ¼" thickness and cut into desired shapes. For the citrus shapes you see here, I used round biscuit cutters of several sizes and just halved them.
  3. Gently transfer cookies to a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, arranged ½" apart, and bake for approx. 16-20 mins, or until edges are just starting to turn brown.
  4. Transfer cookies to cooling racks and let cool completely.
  5. To Decorate the Cookies: While cookies are cooling, combine all icing ingredients except almond extract in a large bowl and beat at medium speed until icing forms peaks, whitens in color and loses its sheen, about 5-7 mins. Add extract and mix briefly until combined.
  6. To make the colors shown here, reserve ¼ of the white icing paste in a small bowl. Cover with a damp towel weighted with a small plate and refrigerate until needed.
  7. Tint remaining ¾ of the icing bright yellow (I used a gel color); then, divide yellow icing among three bowls, adding a smidge of red to one and a tiny smidge of green (or an even tinier smidge of blue) to the other until you reach your desired orange and lime-green hues.
  8. Thin colored icings to a "topcoat" consistency (I won't pretend to be an expert on this by any means, but this video superbly demonstrates the basics of royal icing + approximate amounts of water needed to reach each consistency) and create the base color for each cookie. My favorite topcoating method is to use a tiny spoon to dollop a small amount of icing in the center of the cookie (less is more, you can always add) and then drag the icing just shy of the cookie's edge with a toothpick or trussing needle, dabbing on a little more icing at a time, if needed. (Keep any icing that you're not currently using fresh by covering it with a damp towel while you work.) Allow base color to dry completely before adding details -- anywhere from 30 mins to several hours depending on the exact consistency and thickness of your icing.
  9. To create segment details, bring reserved white icing paste to "outlining" consistency (again, see video link above -- told you it's a gem!) and pipe details onto each cookie using a parchment cone or piping bag fitted with a fine tip.
  10. Allow icing details to dry completely before stacking or storing. Cookies are best enjoyed fresh but will last up to 1 week when stored on the counter in an airtight container, softening ever so slightly. Enjoy!
Notes
Regarding the flavoring of these cookies, I love the flavor of equal parts vanilla and lemon extract, which yields a cookie with more depth than just "sugar" while not tasting discernibly like vanilla or lemon. Feel free to use all vanilla, if it's what you've got.
As for the icing, I find that just a small amount of almond extract transforms Royal Icing into more of a true confection and less of a cloyingly sweet, one-dimensional glue. Again, the almond flavor isn't distinct at all.
Finally, the time noted in this recipe doesn't account for chilling the dough OR icing the cookies, which can vary greatly. If you're short on time or patience, the rolled sugar cookies, sans icing, are almost as tasty as their gussied up counterparts. 🙂
4-Ingredient Rolled (Citrus!) Sugar Cookies recipe via thepigandquill.com #eggfree #baking #lemon #dessertI was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this piggy cooking!

————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes (with Maple’d Greek Yogurt)

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes with Maple Yogurt recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #breakfast #brunch #toddlerfood

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes with Maple Yogurt recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #breakfast #brunch #toddlerfood
This weekend was a reminder of a lot of things.

That the Bay Area isn’t exempt from the effects of climate change.
That Chris and I have about the most generous and supportive parents that exist outside of the Hallmark Channel.
That Lana is at such an enjoyable age, despite the seven times a day she basically tells me to STFU.

On Friday, my in-laws and I scooped up the bug and took her to the beach (where the water was still characteristically ice-cold despite the 90-degree temps), and suddenly this little girl emerged before my eyes, all legs and sandy bottom and wispy mullet. She is so unbaby-like these days that part of her bedtime routine is to pretend to be a baby, in which she “cries” for momma, asks for milk (water) and tells us she needs a fresh diaper before bed. (This is perhaps the only area where she is still, somewhat, a baby, as potty training has been spotty, at best. My fault, not hers.)

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes with Maple Yogurt recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #breakfast #brunch #toddlerfood
At the beach, we formed many a crumbly staircase in the sand, watched our footprints dissolve into sea foam, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut neatly into quarters, and basically lived the dream promised by B&W-photos-that-come-with-the-frame everywhere.

It was such a different experience from the beach trips we made this time last year, or even six months ago. I’m not sure if the thin veil of “depression” (not to be confused with Depression) that has always tinged my motherhood experience is finally lifting, or if this day was just brilliant in contrast to the clouded uncertainty of the past few months, but I had fun. And not in that bullshit “my kids are having fun so I’m having fun” kind of way that characterizes most of the good times had by a stay-at-home-mom.

I actually enjoyed myself. Me.

And when I stopped to consider many of the things we’ve done with Lana lately, I realized this mild elation is becoming the trend.

Our Sonoma weekend over the Fourth. Yesterday’s excursion to the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Even sitting on the floor and playing Duplos (“doops” — we are more. obsessed. than ever.), I find myself not wanting the experience to end. Not wondering if my phone is silently pinging where I left it on the kitchen counter. Not checking my watch every five minutes.

Ok, I still check my watch every five minutes.
Every two minutes.

But I think I’m done wishing that we could have “put her back in” at some point along the line. Even as she develops more, uh, personality, let’s call it, I find myself enjoying her company as much as I do her general existence. I know she’ll test me and try my patience, but I like to pretend it’s because she’s figuring out how to do her own thing, how to assert herself, how to establish some independence.

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes with Maple Yogurt recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #breakfast #brunch #toddlerfood
Which is fun delusion to maintain, because tomorrow we start preschool.

So while I spent the first half of this post convincing myself that I’ve got my shit together — that things over here are starting to, if not normalize, at least gel, tomorrow I’m basically pressing reset. Throwing everything I’ve come to love about our routine, and our time together, out the window. And taking my kiddo to school at the exact time she would normally be napping.

Oh, and did I mention I’m going with her? Just when you thought preschool was code for freedom, we chose a co-op.
Hi. I’m Emily, and I’m a Modern Day Hippie.

Fortunately, Lana and I are both irrationally excited, Lana because she toured the school once and they have not one but three of the exact same baby doll she adores at home, and me (I?) because adult interaction during daylight hours is sorely underrated, and co-op’ing is nothing if not paying for new mom friends.

I hope they like me.

These Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes from Leigh Ann Chatagnier’s second cookbook First Bites: Homemade, Nourishing Recipes from Baby Spoonfuls to Toddler Treats are one of the things I intend to use to bribe our new classmates into liking us. To invite us to eat at the proverbial Cool Kids Table. And then the literal Cool Kids Table. (I know I shouldn’t reinforce the idea that these things exist, but c’mon…) It’s not my Snack Week this week, but when it is, you can bet that — in addition to my assigned graham crackers and sunflower butter — I’ll be slinging a tray of these hefty babes, loaded with fresh corn, mild green onions and a healthy handful of sharp cheddar.

They’re perfectly decadent fresh from the pan, with crisp, buttery edges, but they’re even more convenient when frozen and reheated in the toaster oven for a quick snack or an even quicker lunch. I tucked one into my purse this weekend, and Lana happily ate it at room temp while we drove around town. And unlike many of the homemade, on-the-go snacks we tend to turn to (read: date bars, dried fruit leathers, “healthy” cookies), these are satisfyingly savory and an easy “snack meal” when paired with fresh fruit and a handful of crunchy sugar snaps.

Punchline: we like them. A lot.

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes with Maple Yogurt recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #breakfast #brunch #toddlerfood
And unsurprisingly, these little cakes are but one of the many recipes from First Bites that Leigh Ann may very well have intended for babes (the book is divided into sections for babies, toddlers and even simple, nourishing eats for time-starved mommas) but that I’d gladly make for myself, for Chris, for company. Joining this roster: Roasted Curry Coconut Carrot Fries, Spinach and Lentil Fritters, and sticky, hoisin-glazed Asian Chicken Meatballs. And for the wee ones, the babes who are still in slurping mode: Turnip Leek Mash, Vanilla Ginger Asian Pears, and Roasted (!!!) Blueberries with Greek Yogurt, just to name a few. Cover to cover, it’s such a thoughtfully assembled, one-stop shop for feeding humans of all sizes, from a fellow momma who I’ve so enjoyed getting to know personally over the past year (the internet makes the world fantastically small) and who has so clearly poured her heart and intuition into one of the few books I’d recommend for feeding your littles. Congrats on another lovely title, Leigh Ann. ♥

So, now.
Here’s to a week of cooler temps.
Thick, cheesy corn cakes.
And enjoying your kiddos just the way they are.

Let’s hope preschool is ready for us.
xo,
Em

p.s. As a Houston resident, Leigh Ann recently experienced Hurricane Harvey firsthand, and while her family came through relatively unscathed, she and a friend have initiated a GoFundMe to help personally assemble and deliver sack lunches, cleaning supplies and personal items for folks in their community. To donate to Leigh Ann’s cause, visit their fundraising page here.

p.p.s. Order your own copy of First Bites here!

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes with Maple Yogurt recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #breakfast #brunch #toddlerfoodCheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes with Maple Yogurt recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #breakfast #brunch #toddlerfood

Cheesy Corn + Scallion Cakes (with Maple'd Greek Yogurt)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
We fell instantly in love with these savory, hearty corn cakes from Leigh Ann Chatagnier's new baby- and toddler-centric cookbook, First Bites. My addition of lightly sweetened Greek yogurt is completely optional. 😉
By:
Makes: 12-15 cakes
Ingredients
  • For the Cakes:
  • 2 cups corn bread mix (or ¾ cup corn meal, 1¼ cups all-purpose flour + 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernals
  • 3 T avocado oil or butter
  • For the Yogurt:
  • 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt, stirred until creamy
  • 1-2 T maple syrup
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except oil or butter.
  2. Preheat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add avocado oil or brush with butter.
  3. Working in batches of 3 or 4 cakes at a time, spoon about 2-4 tablespoons of the mixture onto the skillet and cook for 2-3 mins per side, until golden brown and cooked through. (See note.) Meanwhile, stir maple syrup into yogurt to taste.
  4. Serve cakes immediately with maple yogurt over the top or on the side for dipping, or store cakes in the freezer for snacking at a later time. (Reheat in a toaster or toaster oven until warmed through.) Enjoy!
Notes
The recipe here is written as published, with permission, in First Bites by Leigh Ann Chatagnier. When making these cakes for Lana, who is for all intents and purposes eating the same food we are, I used canned, full-fat coconut milk in place of the milk; chose sharp cheddar cheese (and bumped it up by an extra handful); used an entire scallion; and added ¾ tsp sea salt.

Using exactly ¼ cup of the mixture for each cake, this recipe will yield a perfect baker's dozen (13 cakes).
————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

Pan-Braised Meatballs with Spring Onions + Parm (Toddler Friendly!)

Pan-Braised Meatballs with Spring Onions + Parm (Toddler Friendly!) recipe via thepigandquill.com
First, a tremendous thank you for the comments, messages, virtual hugs and social media shares in light of my last entry. Shortly after pressing publish, I asked Chris how he felt about the post, and he pushed back with “how do you feel after writing it?” To which I offered, “Better.” So. Thank you for listening, for allowing this spot to be about more than just side hustle and SPAM. For indulging me. If I could hug and squeeze every one of you, I would. But as I cannot, I’ll offer up this — the coziest, most comforting gift I can share via the internet: meatballs.

I’ve talked before about the beckoning allure of meatballs — how they’ll call to me from one of the glossy covers at the checkstand and suddenly my carefully strategized meal plan is abandoned on the spot. (Kidding. I don’t meal plan.)

Pan-Braised Meatballs with Spring Onions + Parm (Toddler Friendly!) recipe via thepigandquill.com
Even in the current phase of my life, where I’m actively seeking more sustenance from plants than animals, the solitary promise of a saucy, perfectly braised meatball is an easy reminder that moderation will always remain the name of the game around here. Meatballs for breakfast, lunch and dinner? A lovely idea, but nay. (Though you’ll soon learn these pan-braised gems are simple enough that you could easily make them for all three…)

Meatballs when it matters? Like, say, that time you got super weepy about chemo and the internet lifted you up up and away with its virtual soothing rhythms? For damn sure.

Bonus points: they’re the perfect kiddo food.

Pan-Braised Meatballs with Spring Onions + Parm (Toddler Friendly!) recipe via thepigandquill.com
If you’ve had the joy of parenting a toddler at any point in your life, chances are you’re familiar with super particular food preferences. And even for a kiddo that has a pretty diverse palate — pickled eggs, ginger, sauerkraut, salmon roe, tofu — Lana is no exception.

She picks the little black pokey thing out of the bottom of her banana (but really, who doesn’t?). She likes her milk to come from nuts, not cows. And she’ll gladly eat her weight in Ikea meatballs while their homemade counterparts are merely regarded as rubble to be stacked precisely alongside her dinner plate.

Until these guys.

Knowing how clutch texture can be when it comes to tiny humans, I took some of my favorite meatball components — grassfed beef, spring onions, handfuls of parm — for a spin in the food processor, and wouldn’t you know? After a quick stovetop braise (a cocotte or Dutch oven works wonders here), these guys are tender, silky, and juicy as can be. Deeply savory.

And exactly what toddler dreams — and virtual hugs of gratitude — are made of.

xo, loves.
Em

p.s. speaking of gratitude, tremendous thanks to Staub for generously providing the matte black cocotte pictured in this post! 😉
Pan-Braised Meatballs with Spring Onions + Parm (Toddler Friendly!) recipe via thepigandquill.comPan-Braised Meatballs with Spring Onions + Parm (Toddler Friendly!) recipe via thepigandquill.com

Pan-Braised Meatballs with Scallions + Parm (Toddler Friendly!)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 16-18 meatballs (about 4 large servings)
Ingredients
  • 1 med spring onion, whites and greens (or 3-4 scallions, whites and greens)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup grated parm, plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large slice sourdough bread cut into cubes (or equivalent GF bread)
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • Lots of black pepper
  • 1⅓ lbs organic grass-fed ground beef
  • Avocado oil, for browning (or other high-heat tolerant cooking oil)
  • 1 jar good, store bought (or equivalent homemade) marinara sauce (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients onions through black pepper in a food processor and pulse several times until onions are finely diced and bread is broken down. Add ground beef and pulse until well combined.
  2. Heat a generous drizzle of avocado oil in Dutch oven over medium to med-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Using wet hands, roll meatball mixture into 16-18 golf ball-sized balls.
  3. Working in batches, if necessary, brown meatballs about 2-3 mins side, until browned on all sides. (At this point, meatballs will probably be cooked all the way through, so if you're making this recipe sans sauce, you're all done!)
  4. Add meatballs back to pan, pour marinara sauce over the top, bring to barely a bubble and then reduce heat and simmer 10-15 mins. Serve meatballs (scattered with lots of extra parm) over hot pasta or quinoa or with lots of grilled, buttered bread for dipping (!!). Enjoy!
————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

Pigtales 06: The One About Chemo

Post-Chemo Photo Shoot with Kait Miller Photography

Pigtales is a glimpse at the going-ons that take place (mostly) outside of the P&Q kitchen. Kiddo stuffs, things I love, general musings and other tales from my life as a momma, wife and semi-professional goofball. This particular post is about my personal experience with breast cancer treatment. For more about my initial diagnosis, see this post.

I’ll jump right in with the disclaimer that this post isn’t going to start out pretty, and it likely won’t wrap up pretty, either. It’s not intended to solicit pity or, conversely, to suggest that what I’ve been through on this journey is any worse than (and in reality, I’m sure it’s far from) what others have faced in their experiences with chemotherapy or cancer or any other hardship.

I realize that, for many people in this world, this cancer — which I am fighting, voluntarily, with Western Medicine and first world technology and a shitload of health insurance — should not even qualify as a hardship.

But — and I say this with an acute sense of Privileged Guilt — it is the hardest shit I’ve ever faced. More physically and emotionally draining than I could have anticipated, particularly in light of the many anecdotes I heard from my doctors and nurses and fellow survivors about “working through chemo.” Or working out (!?) through chemo. Or birthing babies (!?!?) through chemo. The healthcare industry sells chemo as something that “has come a long way,” with many patients these days experiencing almost “flu-like” side effects. So when chemo turned me inside out, I felt weak and inferior. Like I was failing this massive test of fortitude, and it ruined me.

I don’t write this with the intent to scare, or to dissuade anyone from pursuing similar treatment.

I’m sharing this so that, if you’re out there feeling the same way, you know you’re not alone.

Post-Chemo Photo Shoot with Kait Miller Photography
My prescribed chemotherapy regimen (of TCHP, or Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin and Perjeta) consisted of an infusion every three weeks for six cycles, or rounds. My first round went something like this: after two days of feeling relatively normal and energized (which I now recognize as the pre- and post-chemo steroid regimen doing its thing), I woke up sick to my stomach and stayed that way for almost five days. My appetite was non-existent. The idea of drinking even small sips of water seemed impossible. I constantly felt something I can only describe as a “fullness” in my esophagus, willing me not to let foods pass into my body. At the same time, with my stomach was so emptied, my profile showed a deep, cavernous dip under my ribcage. Where my pleasant little pooch of a tummy once lay was now a sunken shell, sharing both the glamour and appearance of a drained swimming pool. My face was gaunt. It was a challenge to stand up straight. And the tears would not stop flowing.

The idea that I couldn’t bring myself to be the energized, functional cancer patient that I had envisioned broke me into pieces.

I cried because I hurt, because I was tired.
On some days, I cried because I didn’t have the energy to play with my kiddo.
On many days, I cried because I didn’t want to play with my kiddo at all.

I was surrounded by family supporting my every move — both literally and figuratively — and pouring their love into Lana, but I was consumed by (my own, self-imposed) feelings of inadequacy and guilt every time I retreated back to bed.

At the root of it all, I cried because I finally felt sick.

And then, somewhere around the sixth day, thanks in part to the company of good girlfriends, several half-slices of carefully nibbled sourdough toast and the assumed waning of chemicals in my system, I began to feel like myself. I reset my expectations for the next treatment. My oncologist floated a spirit of longer-lasting anti-nausea drugs in my chemo cocktail, and I managed Rounds 2 through 4 with increased trepidation and fatigue but decidedly less distress. We developed a routine. My in-laws would come out every three weeks to stay with Lana while I attended pre-chemo appointments on Thursday and chemo on Friday, accompanied always by a game-faced loved one. I’d feel mostly good — normal, even — on Saturday and Sunday. And by the time my appetite declined and my mood began to dip on Monday, my mom would take over, occupying our little Lana for up to a week so I could rest and recover during the hours Chris was at work. We were managing. And I attempted to swallow my pride and allow my body the time it needed to fall unceremoniously apart and reassemble itself again.

Post-Chemo Photo Shoot with Kait Miller Photography
By the time Round 5 was upon us, my optimism had almost returned. The end, it seemed, was in sight. Chris reminded me daily that I was so close. That we were so close. As a dangled carrot, I booked a post-chemo trip with my best friend, Kevin — a pilgrimage to see Celine Dion in Las Vegas 15 years in the making. It was the home stretch.

Two days after my fifth infusion — and just a day after my first shot of Neulasta, an injection designed to stimulate white blood cells within your bone marrow to help offset an immune system compromised by chemo — we hosted Lana’s second birthday party, an intimate garden party brunch in the backyard. It was everything we wanted for our sweet (not such a) baby girl. Family, friends, Fruit Loop-topped donuts and, save for the bigass bow on my head, very few reminders of the cancer that had hijacked our lives six months prior.

So when I awoke the next morning, as sick as I felt after that very first infusion, my delicately rebuilt psyche withstood those looming waves of depression with all the strength of a sandcastle. The idea that I had made it so far only to feel sick with failure again dissolved my optimism almost instantly. I was very nearly back where I had started.

A few hours later, I found myself standing in the shower, staring at my glittery, birthday cake pedicure, willing myself to move or cry, but too exhausted to do either. I passed 10 minutes this way. Then 15. Then 20. At 25 minutes, I plugged the drain and sat down for a bath. I wrote the beginnings of this post in my head. Counted the bathroom tiles. Said aloud some of the scarier thoughts I’d had since starting chemo.

(At one point during that very first round, I sobbed weakly into Chris’ shoulder that I just wanted to go to bed and not wake up. To be clear: it’s not that I wanted to die, but in that moment, the only foreseeable way to make the hopelessness stop was to make everything stop. Those were heavy words. If you’ve experienced true depression, perhaps you can relate.)

That evening, I called a Cancer Mama friend (much like blogger friends, they’re often virtual and wholly invaluable) to talk through some of my feelings. Or more accurately, to make sure I wasn’t crazy. That I wasn’t as weak as I was making myself out to be. That others before me had also cowered in the face of chemo’s chemical warfare. Breast cancer patients are painted to be these pink warriors of hope, spewing strength and optimism like pubescent body fluid.

Despite my best intentions, that was so not me.

So I voiced my concerns over the phone. How down I was feeling. How down I was feeling about being down when so many others in our shoes were worse off. Suffering from acute pains or grim diagnoses or fighting for one more day with their kids while I whined my way through a cancer that has, for all intents and purposes, been labeled by my medical team as Curable.

“Who the fuck am I to wallow in misery when others among us are dying,” I asked her. “They’re literally dying, and I’m hiding from my kid because I’m sad. What is wrong with me.”

“You can’t force yourself to be grateful,” I remember her saying, but with that cool, chuckly tone that friends use when they’re telling you something you should clearly know for yourself. “That’s not fair to what you’re going through at all.”

With her permission, I wallowed. And I Hulu’d. From bed, and without guilt, because it seemed like the only possible way to pass the time. “I can’t believe there are nine more hours until I get to go back to sleep,” I moped to my mom one morning, before settling in with one of Lana’s snack cups full of pretzels and the second season of Naked & Afraid.

I desperately wanted to give a rats ass about anything, but the only functional emotion I could access was despair.

Despite my pleading hope that the sixth and final round of chemo would be different, within two days of my last infusion, I was cripplingly sick. My immune system was all but nonexistent, my heart was racing due to severe dehydration and Chris and I logged not one but two date nights in Urgent Care, with me alternating between violent, wracking sobs, and apathetic cat naps.

Chemo was officially done, but I was still staggeringly, unshakably, chemically sad.

Post-Chemo Photo Shoot with Kait Miller Photography
Ten days — and four more white blood cell boosting shots — later, I sat in my oncologist’s office, trying my best to communicate how poorly I had handled the last two rounds of chemo without using the phrase fucking railroaded. (I failed.) But for some reason, I couldn’t quite bring myself to fully detail just how down I had been. I found myself generalizing with cute little phrases like, “it was pretty damn bad,” or “the emotional toll was a little taxing,” but there was some underlying, prideful part of me that still couldn’t just say:

“I felt so alone.”
“I wanted to cease to exist.”
Or, maybe the most impactful: “I feel like I was misled about what to expect.”

To be fair, this rambling is not about pointing fingers or setting the record straight when it comes to chemo. And if any of the adages I heard over again from my medical team are true, it’s that everyone is different. Every body. Every cancer. Every treatment. I know this. And if I could somehow ensure that no one ever faces an experience as debilitating as mine again, I would. I would pay in spades. In unicorn lattes. In human baby teeth.

But if you’re reading this, and you feel like shit. If you feel absolutely nothing. If you feel like the Lifetime Movie Channel can’t even begin to touch what real depression feels like — it’s the meds, man. Which means, and you’ll have to trust me on this, it’s a temporary hell. It lifts, even if ever so slowly.

And when all is said and done, there are few more divine than Celine.

xo,
Em

p.s. tremendous thanks and big hugs to Kait Miller for all of the imagery in this post. ♥

Post-Chemo Photo Shoot with Kait Miller PhotographyPost-Chemo Photo Shoot with Kait Miller Photography  

 

Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake + Scenes from Sonoma

Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - A show-stopping summer dessert that comes together in 5 minutes!

Sonoma Weekend Getaway - The Most Fabulous (Kid-Friendly!) Modern Farmhouse @airbnb! (thepigandquill.com)Sonoma Weekend Getaway - The Most Fabulous (Kid-Friendly!) Modern Farmhouse @airbnb! (thepigandquill.com)This post is sponsored by I Love Ice Cream Cakes. As always, I only support partners whose products and practices complement those employed in The Pig & Quill kitchen.

I am the queen of planning elaborate vacations that never happen. Working by the glow of my laptop, late into the night, researching houses and hotels, the best coffee! the best breakfast sandwich! the best ramen! the best ice cream! until I’ve compiled an itinerary so fitting, in a destination so revered, that my skin literally prickles with excitement.

And then something comes up — a work trip or a case of the sniffles or a new subscription to HBO. Distraction ensues, and my tirelessly planned escapade never fully gels. I know this is likely to be the case before I even dive in, and yet I can’t help but mope a little (just to paint a picture: popcorn-to-face, seven episodes deep into the newest season of Silicon Valley), when the realization sinks in.

Which is why our most recent weekend in Sonoma was such a surprise smash.

Sonoma Weekend Getaway - The Most Fabulous (Kid-Friendly!) Modern Farmhouse @airbnb! (thepigandquill.com)Sonoma Weekend Getaway - The Most Fabulous (Kid-Friendly!) Modern Farmhouse @airbnb! (thepigandquill.com)Sonoma Weekend Getaway - Red, White + Blueberry Breakfast Bowls (thepigandquill.com)Sonoma Weekend Getaway - Jacuzzi Winery (thepigandquill.com)Sonoma Weekend Getaway - Jacuzzi Winery (thepigandquill.com)
It came almost out of the blue, an idea I had when the Columbus bestie announced she’d be coming out West to celebrate the Fourth. I opened my airbnb app, fell in love with a chic modern farmhouse that boasted a dynamo range and a salt water pool, and booked the dang thing right then and there.

The house lived up to our every expectation (less than 10 minutes from wineries and town, aka ideal keep-your-kid-awake-after-lunch-so-they-don’t-snooze-in-the-car distance — when did I become this person!) and was the perfect setting for a last-minute holiday weekend BBQ with a few friends, complete with a #summercakebreak in the form of a showstopping Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake that — hi! Lazy, here! — came together in 5 minutes.

Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - A show-stopping summer dessert that comes together in 5 minutes!Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - A show-stopping summer dessert that comes together in 5 minutes! #summercakebreak
To clarify, while I spent the better part of a year building ice cream cakes from scratch in college (punchline: toned arms, chunky butt), the secret to this foxy babe lies in the ready-made ice cream cake from I Love Ice Cream Cakes that we picked up in the bakery section of the local grocer (I Love Ice Cream Cakes are available nationwide, find a retailer near you!). We went with a Jon Donaire® Strawberries & Cream cake to complement our Fruit Basket theme, but I Love Ice Cream Cakes offers a variety of styles and sizes, including original Carvel® and OREO®. Even within the Jon Donaire® line there are quite a few flavor combos to choose from. In fact, our Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake came together so nicely, we picked up a Peanut Butter Cup version when we went back out for packing tape later in the day. (Ahem, those bottles of wine aren’t gonna ship themselves home…)

Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - A show-stopping summer dessert that comes together in 5 minutes!Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - An instant summer dessert featuring everyone's favorite flavor combo!
We appropriated a handful of fresh fruit from Lana’s abundant snack stash — strawberries, cherries, blueberries and kiwi, which I will forever be halving all zig-zaggy after seeing Lily do it on her Stories — plucked a bowl of plump, wine-hued figs from our rental’s three fruiting trees, and our handy store-bought cake became a bonafide showstopper. It was kind of majorly impressive. The babe was absolutely beside herself to learn that ice cream and cake can both exist in the space of one dessert. And much like our scarcely planned Sonoma excursion, it was surprisingly simple to pull off.

Here’s to giving into the whim, celebrating with friends — and, let’s be real, embracing pretty much any excuse for ice cream cake.
xo,
Em

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - An instant summer dessert featuring everyone's favorite flavor combo! Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - An instant summer dessert featuring everyone's favorite flavor combo! Sonoma Weekend Getaway - thepigandquill.comSonoma Weekend Getaway - thepigandquill.com

Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake
 
Prep time
Total time
 
I realize how silly it is to call this a recipe, but if you're like me and had never considered dressing up a store-bought cake, huzzah! Let's call it an insider's tip. Happy Summer!
By:
Makes: 12 servings
Ingredients
  • Assorted fresh, seasonal fruit (washed and dried)
  • Ready-made Ice Cream Cake (we chose a Jon Donaire® Strawberries & Cream Ice Cream Cake, but any flavor that complements your fruit toppings will do!)
Instructions
  1. Ready for this? Immediately before serving, top ice cream cake with fruit, clustering like fruits together for an organic, bountiful effect. (Remove any larger fruits, like whole strawberries, before re-freezing leftovers as they can be challenging to slice through once frozen solid.) For easy, clean slicing, a hot knife is your BFF. Enjoy!
Notes
Obvi I love the striking effect of the fruit-topped cake, but we just as easily dressed up a Peanut Butter Cup cake with heaps of even more peanut butter cups and fresh raspberries, which I can never resist alongside chocolate or PB (think of a PB+J with chocolate!). Experiment and have fun!
Fruit Basket Ice Cream Cake recipe (via thepigandquill.com) - A show-stopping summer dessert that comes together in 5 minutes!————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

Marmalade ‘N’ Cream Pops + Strawberry Cheesecake Pops

Marmalade 'N' Cream Pops + Strawberry Cheesecake Pops (recipe via thepigandquill.com) #popsicleweek #popsicles #icepops #summerdessert

Marmalade 'N' Cream Pops + Strawberry Cheesecake Pops (recipe via thepigandquill.com) #popsicleweek #popsicles #icepops #summerdessert
I know. I’ve been hitting the snooze button on blogging pretty hard lately. But if there’s anything that can raise me from my chemo-induced slumber, it’s Billy’s annual #popsicleweek, which is like the ultimate summer pool party in popsicle form, minus the part where you slink into the water as slowly as possible because holy freezing tatas, plus a hundred or so inflatable swans. Or flamingos. Or whatever hip floatie is this year’s jam.

(It’s a cactus, isn’t it? Fuck.)

Marmalade 'N' Cream Pops + Strawberry Cheesecake Pops (recipe via thepigandquill.com) #popsicleweek #popsicles #icepops #summerdessert
This year, I decided to honor Chris and my fave frozen treats from childhood with grown-up, lazy-girl versions that are as simple as they are nostalgic: a sweet and pleasantly bitter Marmalade ‘n’ Cream Pop for Chris (a less-sweet riff on the two-tone flavor we both adore); and, for me, a tart and tangy Strawberry Cheesecake Pop that’s just a teensy bit more sophis than my beloved Strawberry Shortcake bar (admittedly without the squishy crumb coating, which I kinda really dig). Both treats benefit from lots of concentrated fruit flavor and one-step sweetening thanks to good ol’ jam. Jam!!! And both come together with a few whirls of the blender, easy peasy.

Make one or both and feel like a kid again. Celebrate the summer (this weekend is kind of a big deal here in the U.S. of A.). Crash all the pool parties.

xoxo!
Em

p.s. Billy pimped out the main #popsicleweek page over at Wit & Vinegar with images for every recipe and a fancy directory that allows you to sort by dietary restriction, so this year’s 100+ entries are more fabulously showcased than ever. Check it all out here. Besos, Billy!

p.p.s. See even more #popsicleweek shenanigans on all the social medias!

Marmalade 'N' Cream Pops + Strawberry Cheesecake Pops (recipe via thepigandquill.com) #popsicleweek #popsicles #icepops #summerdessertMarmalade 'N' Cream Pops + Strawberry Cheesecake Pops (recipe via thepigandquill.com) #popsicleweek #popsicles #icepops #summerdessertMarmalade 'N' Cream Pops + Strawberry Cheesecake Pops (recipe via thepigandquill.com) #popsicleweek #popsicles #icepops #summerdessert

Marmalade 'N' Cream Pops
 
Prep time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 5 - 3 oz ice pops
Ingredients
  • 1 heaping cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup marmalade (I used a bitter Seville variety)
  • ½ tsp vanilla
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until well combined (yogurt will thin substantially).
  2. Pour into pop molds (I use this one) and freeze 1.5 hrs; insert popsicle sticks. Freeze until solid, at least 4 additional hours. Enjoy!
Notes
This recipe makes 5 ice pops (it will fill half of the ice pop mold used here). To fill an entire ice pop mold, simply double the recipe!
Strawberry Cheesecake Pops
 
Prep time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 5 - 3 oz ice pops
Ingredients
  • 4 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • generous ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup strawberry preserves (or more, to taste -- see note)
  • 10 vanilla wafer cookies, crushed, plus more for serving
  • 2 T freeze-dried strawberries, crushed (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine ricotta, cream cheese, almond milk, vanilla and ¼ cup preserves in a blender and blend until smooth. Add vanilla wafer cookies and freeze-dried strawberries, if using, and stir (or pulse very briefly) to combine.
  2. Pour into ice pop molds (I use this one) and freeze 1.5 hours; insert popsicle sticks and freeze until solid, at least 4 additional hours. Remove from molds, top with (or dip into) crushed cookies, and serve. Enjoy!
Notes
This recipe makes 5 ice pops (it will fill half of the ice pop mold used here). To fill an entire ice pop mold, simply double the recipe.

Regarding the preserves: sugar content can vary greatly between preserves. If you know that your preserves are exceptionally sweet (or, conversely, not very sweet), adjust to taste before freezing; keep in mind that increasing sugar content of the popsicles significantly might affect their ability to freeze solid.
————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

Three Cheese Butternut Squash Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard

Three Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casserole

Three Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casserole
Some weeks ago I saw a Tasting Table video on Facebook I couldn’t resist. Jumbo shells, stuffed with roasted butternut squash and ricotta, topped with burrata and baked. It was undeniably appealing, instantly evocative of the frozen, cheese-stuffed jumbo shells my bestie Whitney and I used to heat up for summer lunches back when Costco was Price Club and we still owned more cassette tapes than CD’s.

Looking in my fridge, I was heartbroken to remember using the last of our ricotta on that morning’s toast (with sliced pears and honey — never a bad idea) — but was blasted with hope in the form of plenty of parmesan and at least a cup’s worth of aged sharp cheddar, otherwise known fondly around here as “orange cheese” (and exponentially more appealing to a rapidly-approaching 2-year-old whose entire world seems to hang on the texture of her dinner).

Taking the same tiny being into mind, I got the squash roasting and browned up a heap of quartered criminis — we’ve had weeks of late where they’re one of only things we’re certain she’ll devour — then wilted down a massive bunch of chard we’d just received in our CSA (in the same pan, no worries) and crossed my fingers we’d get somewhere close to the comfy, stretchy, cheesy casserole I had envisioned.

And praise baby Jesus.
That shit was good.

Three Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casseroleThree Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casserole
Loaded with veggies (and, yes, unapologetically, cheese — including the blanket of burrata that melts down ceremoniously through a lattice of rigatoni), this is the pasta bake against which all future pasta bakes might be compared. Bubbling and gooey, with plenty of little browned, peaked pasta tops (my fave!) and an interior that’s one part hot spinach dip, one part stuffed mushroom and one part silky butternut squash ravioli.

If the spinach was chard.
And the ravioli was just…silky, thyme-roasted squash and pasta. But the vibes are there.
THE VIBES ARE THERE. And we’ve made it thrice since, with plans for it to share a place on our Easter table in the weeks to come, so make of that what you will.

Simple, veggieful, surprisingly springy and pleasing enough for the “orange cheese” preferring babe.
Who, I’m afraid to admit, is fast-becoming her momma’s toughest critic.

Happy Spring, friends!
xo,
Em

Three Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casserole

Three Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casseroleThree Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casseroleThree Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casserole

Three Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
By:
Ingredients
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 4 heaping cups)
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 8 oz. rigatoni
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 large bunch chard or other sturdy leafy green, stems and leaves separated and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (or other good melting) cheese
  • 1¼ cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz burrata cheese, drained (about 2 balls)
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Toss cubed butternut squash with plenty of olive oil, 1 tsp dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30-35 mins, until tender and golden in places. (This step can be done up to 3 days ahead. If doing so, refrigerate squash until needed.)
  2. Reduce oven to 375F.
  3. While squash cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and cook pasta according to package directions, pulling it out just shy of al dente. Drain. Reserve 1 cup cooking water.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in a deep skillet or large Dutch oven over med-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until brown, about 5-7 mins. Salt to taste, then add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 min. Add chard stems and continue cooking until bright green and just tender, about 3 mins. Finally, add chard leaves and a splash of pasta cooking water and cook until leaves are bright green and just wilted (adding more cooking water, if necessary, to adequately wilt leaves). Scrape up any brown bits from the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add roasted squash, drained pasta, cheddar cheese and ¾ cup parmesan cheese to pot with mushrooms and chard and stir until just combined.
  6. Turn mixture out into a large baking dish and tear burrata over the top, scattering it across the pasta evenly. Sprinkle ½ cup reserved parmesan cheese over top.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 mins or until cheese is bubbling and brown in places.
  8. Allow to rest 10 mins before serving. Enjoy!
Three Cheese Butternut Pasta Bake with Mushrooms + Chard Recipe (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #burrata #casserole

————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

No-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two

No-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two (via thepigandquill.com) #grainfree #sweets #dessert

No-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two (via thepigandquill.com) #grainfree #sweets #dessertInstagram tells me that I promised this recipe would make an appearance two weeks ago. If I had my shit together, I’d pretend that, instead, I held onto it a little longer so I could eek out some excuse to bring you cheesecake on Pi Day — I firmly believe that cheesecake shares more in common with pie than cake, don’t you? it’s the crust! the crust!!! — but then I’d have to also talk my way around the fact that these little pots of creamy, no-bake bliss are actually, ahem, crustless, and BAM! we’d find ourselves in the middle of one big, fat, run-on sentence lie.

So. In keeping with my very favorite theme of telling it like it is: two weeks ago I made these babes during Lana’s nap, devoured both of them before Chris got home (perhaps while bawling over Nashville with my bald head snuggly swathed in a baby blanket, perhaps not). And then played blog hookey for fourteen days, during which time we hosted loads of lovely and helpful houseguests, battled a few sniffles and bore witness to Nick Viall’s seriously questionable wardrobe of Finnish knitwear.

No regrets.
I mean, certainly there are regrets to be had about the knitwear. Just not mine.

No-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two (via thepigandquill.com) #grainfree #sweets #dessert
To be honest, part of the reason I also sat around on this recipe for a while was to ensure I did it justice, giving credit where credit is due — in this case, to one of the closest blog pals I’ve made this year, the lovely Christina Lane of the popular blog Dessert for Two, though this recipe comes from homegirl’s third and most recent cookbook Sweet & SimpleAs you might imagine, Christina’s forté is creating small-batch sweets for just a couple of people, but if my history with her recipes is any indication, the whole schtick could just as easily be called Two for Me! as the second portion rarely makes it near anyone’s face but my own.

See again: these cheesecakes.

Over the past year, Christina and I have swapped endless Snaps and Stories of our kiddos (her little Camille trails Lana in age by just a few days); struggled together with maintaining our “selves” in the face of motherhood (hi, Miss Cookbook Number Three is clearly doing something right); and traded more late-night Bachelor recap texts than either of us should freely admit. She’s sassy and smart alecky, a comfortable user of butter and swear words. Pretty enough that you really, really kinda want to not like her. But you will. You do. I do.

No-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two (via thepigandquill.com) #grainfree #sweets #dessertNo-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two (via thepigandquill.com) #grainfree #sweets #dessert
Fittingly, this recipe is as solid and likeable as Christina, offering all the comfort of a sweet-tart cheesecake filling without any of that persnickety baking and crust-making nonsense. As written, the decadent pots are classically topped with fresh berries, but because I can’t leave well enough alone, I’ve whipped in a little cinnamon (what is it about warm cinnamon in cool applications that is so unexpectedly refreshing!? hello, horchata!) and salty-sweet coconut chips for crunch. They’re every bit worth my procrastination, I promise you, and such a lovely little example of the brilliance that is Christina’s newest book baby.

Biggest hugs, sweet friend! Here’s to many more desserts intended for two. And inevitably consumed by one. 😉
xo,
Em

No-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two (via thepigandquill.com) #grainfree #sweets #dessertNo-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two (via thepigandquill.com) #grainfree #sweets #dessert

No-Bake Cinnamon Cheesecakes For Two
 
Prep time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • finely chopped fresh strawberries, for serving
  • coconut chips, for serving
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until soft and creamy.
  2. In a second small bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form; beat in the powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
  3. Add half the whipped cream to the cream cheese and beat on medium speed until combined. Repeat with remaining half.
  4. Divide the cheesecake between the two ramekins. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
  5. Serve with an extra dusting of cinnamon, fresh strawberries, and plenty of salty-sweet coconut chips for crunch. Enjoy!
————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (GF)

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundt

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundt
Hey lovers! I’m here! I’m practically bald! I’m making and eating cake! It’s Valentine’s Day!

Truth be told, the last couple of weeks were rough. I, it seems, am the complete opposite of a chemo badass. Rather, I’m a chemo wimp. A chemo wuss. A chemo weenie. I wouldn’t wish that shit on my worst enemy. Trump administration included. IT’S THAT GNARLY. 

Given all of that, Chris, it seems, is saint of all saints. I know I’ve sung his praises before, but there’s nothing like seeing your better half at their absolute.freaking.lowest and still being everything you’d be when they’re at their best. Yes, in sickness and health, I know. I also know that shit is 100% theoretical. This shit is real life. And Chris has been present and mindful and whatever the word is for when every fiber of your being is dragging you under and the very presence of your person keeps the surface in sight.

If we celebrate nothing else this Valentine’s Day, it’s that I chose right.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundt
Ah yes, and cake.

This cake is a (very subtle) adaptation of the Easy Olive Oil Cake in my friend Kelly’s new book Superfood Weeknight Meals, and it’s the ideal not-too-sweet sweet for folks like Chris, who like their cake alongside a cup of coffee or tea — or folks also like Chris, who like their cake sliced two-or-three slices thick. It’s earthy and sophisticated, slightly accented with grassy olive oil and rosemary’s piney perfume and, best of all, beautifully simple. Ok, no wait: best of all, good for you! But also beautifully simple.

I made the most of a few gifted Meyer lemons by making a zippy lemon glaze to pour over the top, but in Kelly’s original recipe, the cake is topped with a dark chocolate drizzle and crunchy, chopped walnuts — which, combined with the olive oil, basically makes for the (much more delicious) Bayer aspirin of cakes! And you can quote me on that. But don’t quote Kelly, because she definitely didn’t say those exact words. She did, however, write a bunch of more legit words about how incredibly easy it is to work 10 super accessible, tasty superfoods into every meal: avocados, lentils, sweet potatoes, quinoa, almonds, eggs, spinach, citrus, cauliflower, and, yep, olive oil. It’s one of the handiest books I’ve held in my hands in some time. And did I mention the Breakfast for Dinner chapter? If SPAM was a superfood, this could be the story of my life.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundt
Congrats on what I know will become a favorite cooking companion in our kitchen, Kelly. Superfood Weeknight Meals is as beautiful as that sweet Babycakes of yours.

And to Chris: Happy Valentine’s Day and forever hugs for seeing me through our greatest challenge yet. There’s a steak dry-aging in the fridge with your name on it. ♥

xoxo,
Em

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundtRosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundtRosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundtRosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze (Gluten-Free) (via thepigandquill.com) #baking #sweets #bundt

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • For Cake
  • 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ripe banana
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 T fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1 T meyer lemon zest
  • For the Glaze
  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 T meyer lemon juice
  • 1 T meyer lemon zest
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a bundt pan with coconut or olive oil cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Stir to combine.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, mash the banana. Stir in the olive oil, almond milk and vanilla.
  4. In another small bowl, combine the eggs and coconut sugar. Using a hand mixer, mix for 2-3 mins on medium-high speed. Then, pour egg mixture into banana mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined -- do not overmix. Pour the batter into prepared bundt pan and bake for 45 mins or until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 mins. Flip pan onto a parchment-lined cake plate or cookie cooling rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool completely.
  6. When cake is cool, stir together glaze ingredients until smooth.
  7. Spoon glaze generously over cooled cake. Allow glaze to set, about 2 hours, before cutting and serving. Enjoy!
Notes
To make the cake as written in Superfood Weeknight Meals: omit the rosemary + lemon zest from the cake recipe and top the cake as follows:

In a small saucepan, melt together ¾ cup dark chocolate chips, 3 T chocolate almond milk + 1.5 tsp coconut oil. Stir continually until melted. Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled cake. Top with ¼ cup chopped walnuts.
————————————————–

OH! before you go…

Like whatcha see here — or have a question, feedback, or recipe hack to share? Join The Pig & Quill convo by commenting below (I love, luv, lurve comments) and hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q emails or add me to your RSS reader with Feedly or Bloglovin’ so you never miss a post. x’s & o’s!