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
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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.
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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

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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!

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan)

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com)

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com)
Like so many recipes that find their way to this space, this soup was a happy accident. A well-meaning attempt (and I do mean well-meaning, as not a corner was cut!) at Kenji Lopez-Alt’s intriguing Israeli hummus recipe — more on what makes it so intriguing later — watered down, quite literally, into a slurpable meal worthy of your soup spoon.

Too many times I’ve daintily tucked pita into a creamy bowl of restaurant hummus while every fiber of my being screams good lord woman, eating it by the oversized spoonful is the clear winner of all ideas ever! And too many times, apparently, I’ve bump-on-a-logged it, afraid of what my dining companions, or — sin of all sins! — the doler-outter-of-pitas — might think. Because I will admit: when pita is good, it’s responsible for at least half the splendor.

But when hummus is good.
When hummus is this good.
It needs not the company of pillowy fillers.

Indeed, it’s a treat to behold all on its scoopable, spoonable own.

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com)
As suggested, the basis for this recipe is Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Israeli hummus, which claims to turn out that super creamy, whippy-textured hummus available almost exclusively in restaurants or at scary New York deli counters but without all the urban-legend chickpea peeling. Which, to be honest, I probably have time for, but Nashville is back and the sobbing required for every episode of This is Us just really taps my reserves and so isht like peeling chickpeas isn’t a thing that’s going to happen. Also, The Bachelor. It’s a taxing season. Open your mouth when you speak, Nick. OPEN. YOUR. MOUTH. WHEN. YOU. SPEAK.

Rather than peeling the chickpeas to achieve ultra creaminess, Lopez-Alt (here’s where I really want to just call him Kenji) soaks dried beans in salt and baking soda overnight, drains them, and then simmers the crap out of them in more salt and baking soda, plus a whole complement of aromatics for good measure/flavor. That mixture is drained and high-power-blended into a smooth paste (insert: my goof-up of adding more soaking water than necessary), which is then whisked together with a homemade tahini sauce of its own brilliance. I don’t want to give too much away, but it employs an entire head of unpeeled garlic cloves, a butt-ton of lemon juice — and more elbow grease in the form of, again, a high-powered-blender.

Happily (and generously) the good folks at KitchenAid provided the new Pro Line® Series Blender featured here so I could take its 3.5 horses for a spin, and it made light, whippy work of both the hummus and the unpeeled garlic tahini components that are so critical to this soup’s unexpected lusciousness. If you’re without such an appliance, Lopez-Alt does mention that a food processor could suffice, but he supplies enough words touting the supremacy of the former that I assume you might as well not bother.

While the base of the recipe — that being the hummus-turned-soup — I can take almost no credit for, the crisped soyrizo (or, please, classic Mexican chorizo, if you are an eater of meat) is a personal addition not to be missed. It’s a small play on the decadently-topped hummuses (hummi?) you might find in your fave restaurant — here on the Peninsula, Oren’s in my go-to — offering spicy, bright, herbacious and textural complements to a soup that is otherwise akin to liquid silk. It’s also embarrassingly simple — at least compared to the thoughtfully-executed components of the soup base. And should you find yourself with leftovers, it’s an excellent veggie filling for tiny street tacos or folded into a pair of soft scrambled eggs.

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com)
I’ve intentionally written the recipe below to encourage you to seek most of the details for the soup, itself, from the Serious Eats website, making notes accordingly to demonstrate how and where my dippeth became souppeth. The Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata is incorporated at the end.

Before I leave you to that, however, I promised Chris I would note two of his observations re: said soup in this post (not one to contribute to this blog very often, a request of this nature seems paramount in importance) — and those are:

1) A soup based on a dip is most definitely a game-day eat. I think the phrase “Souperbowl Soup” was even dropped, to my giddy amusement.

2) When you mix the topping into the soup, it basically tastes like a bowl of vegan queso dip.

So, you know, if all the Lopez-Alt test kitchen schtick doesn’t sell you…
Vegan Queso Dip. 

Happy weekend, friends!
xo,
Em

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com) Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com) Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com) Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com) This post is written in partnership with KitchenAid, who generously provided the Pro Line® Series Blender you see here. As always, I only support partners whose products and practices complement those employed in The Pig & Quill kitchen.

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • Creamy Hummus Soup, adapted from Kenji Lopez-Alt's Israeli Hummus Recipe (see recipe instructions below for given modifications)
  • drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 6 oz loose Mexican-style soy chorizo, casing removed
  • ½ English cucumber, diced
  • juice and zest of one meyer lemon
  • two large handfuls finely chopped parsley, plus more for topping
  • smoked paprika for topping, optional
  • crunchy sea-salted chickpeas for topping, optional (homemade or storebought, these have proven tasty)
Instructions
  1. Prepare hummus according to Kenji Lopez-Alt's method minding the following:
  2. The Tahini Sauce called for is actually a separate recipe (here); in said recipe, pulsing the garlic unpeeled with the lemon juice is critical to the resulting flavor.
  3. When blending the chickpeas, err on the side of using less of the simmering water, reserving whatever water you do not use for thinning the soup later if a saltier taste is desired.
  4. Whisk in the tahini and taste the final product before proceeding. At this point, I'm assuming you have a lovely hummus - yay! If you're still tempted to proceed to make soup, heat the desired amount of hummus gently over medium heat until warmed through, thinning with either a little reserved simmering water OR plain water, depending on the saltiness of the soup, until soup thickly covers the back of a spoon (think bechamel).
  5. To make the Gremolata: While soup is warming, heat drizzle of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add soy chorizo and fry until crispy in places, 5 mins. Add cucumber and saute until just warmed through. Turn off heat. Finish with lemon juice and zest and plenty of parsley.
  6. Serve soup topped generously with the gremolata, a pinch of smoked paprika, more olive oil over the top and crunchy, salted chickpeas, if desired. Enjoy.
Notes
The first thing worth noting is the time. While much of the time is inactive (that is, about 2 hours of simmering and only 15 or 20 mins of actual active cooking or prep), this is a meal that requires some planning. Add an extra overnight soak if you're using dried chickpeas.

Second, it is not lost on me that this concept could be made exponentially simpler by taking your favorite take-out or store-bought hummus and thinning it into soup with a little good quality stock or water in your high-powered blender and heating it accordingly. Though you won't experience the same thrill of blending up all those silky little soaked chickpeas, I suspect the results would be passable if not applaudable. And I would still very much encourage the gremolata topping. 😉
 

Creamy Hummus Soup with Crispy Soyrizo Gremolata (Vegan) (via thepigandquill.com)————————————————–

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!

Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF)

Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF) (via thepigandquill.com)

Thank you so kindly for the dramatic outpouring of support I received here and across social media following my last post. While I’ve been a bit delinquent about responding to comments and messages, it’s only because your generous gestures have left me without adequate words. 

Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF) (via thepigandquill.com)
I’ve thought a lot over the past few weeks about how to start this blog post. In the wake of my last post, I’ve experienced no shortage of heart-warming gestures of love, support and generosity, any of which would make a fine anecdote with which to kick off this recipe for wintry spice cake. If you fancy yourself a writer (as I sometimes dare to), you may relate to the giddy elation that occurs when, mid-shampoo, words you’ve been struggling with begin to rise from within — coaxed forth by the similarly rising steam, or perhaps the safe anonymity of the fogged-over mirrors — only to find they’ve retreated when you finally make time to put pen to paper (finger to keyboard) too many long moments later. It’s not that I intended to go this long without checking in, but after the first few false starts, it started to feel a little forced.

So today. Tonight. Without poetry or fanfare (and with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark dry-witting away in the background), I’ll leave you with this. Highlights from the long month we’ve been apart. A couple of brief thoughts as we welcome this New Year. And then, I promise, we’ll talk about cake.

  • I parted ways with my right breast.
  • My Boston bestie flew out and custom-built me an entryway table, danced the baby around (wildly and without complaint), and Marie Kondo’d my closet.
  • We made this salad and these cookies on serious repeat.
  • We came up with a plan to preserve little micro-Lanas in case we decide to expand our family down the line. It involves a bunch of little needles, one bigass needle and tinkering with my hormones. Like, a lot.
  • I shed so many happy tears when I opened the most thoughtfully-curated care package from almost 30 friends in the blogging community. I will never stop reiterating how grateful I am for the kinship and camaraderie that we share in this bizarre little online world. You’re the sweet, brazen, inspiring and wickedly creative sisters (and brothers) I never knew I’d come so much to rely upon. ♥
  • I began to tackle a thick stack of thank you notes, which currently sit abandoned and half-addressed. (Consider this a blanket IOU — they’re coming, I swear!)
  • I strategically conned Sarah into bringing her sweet babe across the Bay, feeding me lunch, and stocking my freezer with pineapple fried rice.
  • My in-laws brought my knives in for sharpening for the first time in 10 years and HOLY WOW.
  • I physically therapied like a boss.
  • We celebrated Chris’ birthday with the most memorable omakase experience and the best ikura + uni I’ve had to date (insert something less cliché here about a cool ocean breeze on the tongue).
  • We ate ALL THE FANCY CHRISTMAS COOKIES.
  • For the first time since moving back to CA, we stayed home for the holiday and hosted a quasi-international Christmas Eve potluck: pork and green chile tamales, ravioli en brodo + curry-roasted carrots; and Christmas Day supper: lamb + beef bolognese, creamy parmesan brussies (← a riff on Sherrie’s recipe) + garlic bread.
  • I finally bought an Instant Pot.
  • And made 8-min lentil soup.
  • Which, real talk, is still like 30-min lentil soup when you account for the pressure build-up and release. Meh.
  • (Sorry I said pressure build-up and release. At least I didn’t say climax.)
  • (Oops.)
  • I took a (several hour-long) trip down the rabbit hole touring celebrity homes on Lonny.
  • Santa brought Lana a bike and Chris’ eyes actually sparkled with pride when she threw her leg over the seat and took off, unprompted. Cue Mommy Xanax.
  • I wore these plaid pants on repeat every day since Christmas — now on sale, yay!
  • My mom and I scoured the clearance endcaps at Target for no less than 90 leisurely mins and it was exactly as glorious as it sounds (read: very).
  • We rang in the New Year with a mini Sequence tournament — I’m officially hooked.

In some ways, the past month has been both incredibly ordinary and unfathomably extraordinary. Unsurprisingly, a cancer diagnosis is a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait, leaving strings of unscheduled days or weeks suspended on silken threads between these looming monoliths of surgery and chemotherapy. So here I’ve been. Vegging like a pro and getting psyched up for the next big thing. A little anxious. A little bored. A lot optimistic.

I shared a bit of this on Instagram today, but I’ll say it here, too. While 2016 had its flaws, it also had its bright spots (or was, at the very least, eye-opening for many). Even right at the end, my family found ourselves mourning the loss of my grandfather, who passed the day before my surgery. But the celebration of his immensely storied life that followed was as heartwarming a sendoff as any I’ve seen. He was a phenomenally generous human being. Warm and kind and interesting in the way only someone of 90 years can be. A veteran. A Mason. A farmer.

This cake is made with persimmons from my grandfather’s tree, and even though I first assembled and photographed this recipe more than a month ago, I still find it fitting for the New Year. Fragrant and spiced, a worthy accompaniment for coffee or tea whether served after dinner or at the breakfast table. Nothing that would break any resolutions you might (not) have made, but cake all the same. And with an assertive black pepper and molasses-spiked date caramel that’s as memorable as it is simple to make.

Peace and love to you in 2017, friends.
xo,
Em

Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF) (via thepigandquill.com)Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF) (via thepigandquill.com)Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF) (via thepigandquill.com)

Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Fuyu persimmons, stems removed
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 2⅓ cups ground almonds (preferred) or almond meal
  • 1 heaping tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • coconut oil, for greasing
  • Black Pepper Molasses Date Caramel, for serving (recipe below)
  • toasted sliced or slivered almonds, for serving
Instructions
  1. Put the persimmons in a pot, cover with cold water and boil for 2 hours. Drain, cool, and halve. Add cooked fruit to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9″ springform pan with coconut oil and line the bottom and sides with parchment.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs; then add the coconut sugar, almonds, baking powder and spices. Add the chopped persimmons and stir well to combine. Turn the cake batter out into your prepared pan and bake for 45 mins, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If cake begins to brown too deeply, lightly tent it with a piece of foil for the remainder of its time in the oven.
  4. Allow cake to cool completely in its pan on a wire rack before turning it out and removing the parchment. While it can be enjoyed immediately, for optimal taste and texture, let cake rest, covered, at room temperature or in the fridge overnight before slicing and serving with the date caramel sauce and a scattering of toasted almonds.
Notes
Regarding time: the 2 hour simmer on the fruit IS included in the prep time, but it's so very simple and hands-off; don't let it dissuade you from giving this recipe a try.

As with the Clementine Cake on which this recipe is based, this cake is best enjoyed the next day, rested either on the counter overnight or well-wrapped in the fridge.
 
Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (Vegan)
 
Prep time
Total time
 
By:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 T molasses
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except pepper in a high speed blender and blend until very smooth and creamy, adding more coconut milk if needed to bring everything together (or to thin caramel consistency).
  2. When caramel is creamy, add pepper (beginning with at least ¼ tsp) and blend briefly to combine. Taste, and add more pepper if needed. Repeat until pepper is prominently detectable above the caramel's sweetness.
  3. Transfer caramel sauce to an airtight jar and store in the fridge until use. Enjoy!
Flourless Persimmon Cake with Black Pepper-Molasses Date Caramel (DF/GF) (via thepigandquill.com)————————————————–

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 05: On Thankfulness + News

Family Photography by Kait Miller

Pigtales is a glimpse at the going-ons that take place (mostly) outside of the P&Q kitchen. Baby stuffs, things I love, general musings and other tales from my life as a momma, wife and semi-professional goofball.

I wanted to share this post before the holiday. Wait, scratch that. I wanted to share this post a month ago — on Monday, October 24th, to be exact. The day that, as Lana and I were driving home from ballet, singing Five Little Monkeys for at least the twenty-fifth time and cursing the already setting sun, I received the phone call telling me I had breast cancer.

I was shell-shocked. Dumbfounded. Numb. I mean, once I stopped the car and got Lana into the house, I was a snotfaced, convulsing mess. But aside from that first tidal wave of emotion (which was triggered by the singular thought that if I die, Lana won’t remember me), I kind of entered a silent zombie mode, punctuated every so often by a spoken aloud what in the actual fuck.

Fifteen days later, the electoral college determined that Donald Trump would be our next president. It was a rough couple of weeks, you guys.

But here’s the deal.

Ever-present beneath the overwhelming feeling of fear and the sans-feeling feeling of shock was the constant hum of thankfulness. That we had detected it early. (I found the lima bean-sized lump myself while nursing Lana.*) That I have access to a great team of doctors and solid health insurance. That cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was. It’ll be a rough year, to be sure, but if my new hairdresser is the Buddhist Latina Oracle I suspect her to be, I’ll be stronger for it.

On Thursday morning, I’ll bid adieu to my right breast. (As tempted as I am to do away with both, I’m clinging to the idea of nursing a second kiddo, if we have one.) A couple weeks later, if we decide it’s right for us, we’ll do the fertility preservation thing. (Chemo can send you into a kind of early menopause.) And a few weeks after that, I’ll start chemo.

But before all that, I’m soaking up these last few days as a two-boobied human, researching the shit out of how to pack for a mastectomy (oh hai thousands of cancer blogs I never knew existed!) and basking in the overwhelming show of support we’ve received from family and friends near and far. Two of my besties are coming out to wait on me hand and foot next weekend. Lana will be spoiled silly with lots of extra grandparent visits. And Chris! Well. No one will be surprised to learn that he’s been everything you’d hope a partner would be when shit gets real: composed and snuggly and steadfastly there. (To his teammates at work, who may very well have forgotten what Chris looks like when all this is over: I owe you many, many cookies.)

All things considered, I’m as blessed an individual as they come. And really, if I were anything but thankful at this point, I’d just be asking for a karmic asskicking. Because, simply put in clichéd one-liners:

It could be so much worse.
This, too, shall pass.
And my personal favorite: King Kong ain’t got shit on me.

Peace, love + hugs, friends. And Happy Thanksgiving.
xo,
Em

* LADIES THIS IS THE PART WHERE I SHOUT AT YOU TO KNOW YOUR BOOBIES AND ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION. I was certain the tiny lump I found was nothing, but both Chris and a close friend of mine urged me to check, just for peace of mind, and here we are. Also, for anyone familiar with the disease or who may just be curious about the details of my particular diagnosis, the pathology report as of this moment shows: Stage 1, Grade 2-3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC); very weakly ER+; PR-; HER2+; no genetic markers; no lymph node involvement.

p.s. photos are a sneak peek of this week’s family sesh with Kait Miller!
p.p.s. always thankful beyond adequate verbiage for this little hambone ↓
Family Photography by Kait Miller

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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!

Ultimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette

Ultimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfree

Ultimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfree
There are no new words to communicate how quickly this holiday season came upon us. There are even fewer words to relay how unprepared I am for the coming days of packing, travel and stretchy pants. And the internet knows far more than me about how to put your best bird forward, so I’ll spare you my attempt.

Instead, as has become habit of late, I’ll keep things on the short side (I’m actually working on a new pigtales piece that will exhaust whatever vocabulary I leave on the table in this post) and just drop this most colorful salad into your laps. Something to brighten what can often be an otherwise beige holiday table. Or something to greet you on the other side of decidedly beige weekend. (To be clear: beige in these references is not necessarily a bad thing. Gravy knows no bounds, and rightly so.)

I’ve so named this salad ultimate fall based on the foundation components, alone, but the dressing is truly something to behold, so I’ll start there. A hefty dose of turmeric, given away by the dressing’s beckoning golden hue, meets honey (or maple syrup), freshly squeezed tangerine juice, plenty of black pepper and just enough apple cider vinegar to impart discernible tang. It’s at once bright and refreshing, earthy and warm. Draped luxuriously over a bed of finely chopped romaine; a bounty of fall fruit (matchstick’d persimmons and apples + more tangerine); sharp, grassy herbs; and a confetti rainstorm of toasted almonds and tiny pom arils, it makes for Skittles’ famous mantra manifested in salad form.

Another way of looking at it — what with the cilantro, scallions, almonds, citrus and cold, crispy ribbons of romaine — is as a quasi-autumnal Chinese Chicken Salad. Minus the chicken, of course. Though I can only imagine how suitable a little leftover turkey topping would be. (Read: OH SO VERY.)

I hope to be back later this week with a few more holiday thoughts, but in case I’m tardy (and let’s face it, that’s all too possible), warm hugs and cheers for sharing this space. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

xo,
Em

p.s. the best and simplest spicy, roasted cranberry compote from last year!
p.p.s. My fave mini-Thanksgiving in 60 from the P&Q archives!

Ultimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfreeUltimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfreeUltimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfreeUltimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfreeUltimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfreeUltimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfreeUltimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette (via thepigandquill.com) #vegetarian #vegan #dairyfree

Ultimate Fall Chopped Salad with Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Vinaigrette
 
Prep time
Total time
 
By:
Makes: 4 large servings
Ingredients
  • For the Salad
  • 2 romaine hearts, chopped into ribbons
  • 4 small tangerines, peeled and segmented
  • 2 persimmons, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 large apple, sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 large handfuls cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 scallions, finely sliced (green and white parts)
  • ¼ cup sliced, toasted almonds
  • ¼ cup pomegranate arils
  • For the Honeyed Tangerine-Turmeric Dressing
  • 2 oz tangerine juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T apple cider
  • 1 T raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • pinch salt
Instructions
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a large glass jar and shake vigorously.
  2. Combine all salad ingredients and toss lightly with desired amount of dressing. (Basically, uh, assemble and dress salad.) Enjoy!
 

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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!