Summer Bucket List: Make a cookbook

It’s August. That sticky month where summer exhales in a warm breath on your neck, smelling of freshly mowed grass and rich dark compost.

Normally I’d be writing about the latest backyard barbecue or late night canning session, but this summer is scripted completely differently than the last, oh, thirty-four or so. Social events, garden work and home preserving have taken a backseat to my latest occupation: book writing.

I’ve been so busy and completely immersed in this project, that I’ve neglected to share with you just exactly what ate up part of June and most of July.

It’s called Brown Eggs and Jam Jars and is slated for release in Spring of 2015 by Penguin Random House. You can read more about the cookbook on Simple Bites – and even sign up for a nifty newsletter of sorts.

 Image by Tim Chin

While book-writing sounds like I am ensconced all day at a private (and tidy) desk in my sunny loft, dreamily tapping out my food memoirs, what actually is happening is much more frantic.

Any given week could involve pages and pages of list-making-recipe-scribbling-ingredient-brainstorming-headnote-musing, dashing all over the city sourcing ingredients, recipe testing with three kids around and underfoot, eating and testing again, dishesdishesdishes, hurried antique prop shopping with very unhurried shop owners, more dishes, more eating, and then writing, some, but never enough.

Then there are the weekends of the photo shoots, which we are doing one chapter at a time, to capture our family food life directly amid the seasons of this produce-driven cookbook. Again, lists and more lists. Staying up late to iron the linens, buff the props, and clean up my gardening nails – if I’m lucky.

The morning of the shoot comes quickly and I am in the kitchen preparing each dish for its turn in the spotlight, looking for the heroes among the ingredients – that ruby red tomato, a perfect cluster of radishes, the evenly browned bun, and the diamond-shaped grill marks on the featured protein.



Image by Tim Chin

At some point in the day, I’ll rush out of the kitchen, round up my kids, dig feverishly through their drawers for something- anything– that doesn’t clash terribly or have Ninjago on the front (pre-laid out outfits for the whole family? Haha, I wish), scrub their faces, and march them outside to the garden, or wherever we are shooting that day.

I’ll draw a curtain at what happens after that, but lets be honest and admit that a small amount of bribery is offered and a good number of stern words are emitted before the shoot is half over. They’ll thank me later.

I had big plans to hire a virtual assistant, send my kids to day-camps and recruit guest bloggers for Simple Bites, but of course none of that happened. Instead I am fitting this new project into our life, weaving it into the day to day, and giving up other time consuming things.

I’ve relinquished my garden to nature (not entirely by choice, though that is another story completely), I won’t watch another minute of TV until Downton Abbey returns, and I have a tidy set of auto responses written to ship out to inquiries, invitations and opportunities that come into my inbox.

No more. Not now. This is my season to put my head down and write this book. 

It could very well be Christmas before I post here again. It is yet another area where I am giving myself grace to lay aside until time permits. You know where to find me in the meantime.

Grasping at summer


I’ve never been one to usher in the arrival of fall with whoops and cheers, eagerly abandoning the over-ripening tomatoes and mammoth zucchinis for early apples and taut leeks.

I know the fall produce season is a good long one, so these days I overlook the (howbeit, beautiful) bushels of oval Roma tomatoes at the market, and pass over the heaps of Spartan apples in favor of yet another basket of peaches, a flat of berries (perhaps the last for many months), a dozen ears of corn, and the largest bundle of basil to be found.

Back in the kitchen, I turn the basil into pesto and freeze it in muffin cups for use during the winter. The boys hunker down by the compost pile and shuck the corn for me, so I can cut it off the cob and add it to the freezer as well.

I serve up salad after salad for dinner, followed by generous slices of melon, which we all -even Clara- eat until the floor under the table is sticky and the rinds are heaped on our plates.

I understand that autumn’s arrival is inevitable. I don’t pretend to ignore the landscape of school supplies spreading across the buffet. I’m aware, painfully so, of the faint tint of gold on the leaves in the back forest.

Even today, as we picnicked with lemonade and cookies on the grass (an undeniable attempt to salvage summer), I felt a chill in the air. Clara’s bare feet felt clammy. And I shivered even though the sun was shining.


Yes, August hangs by mere moments, but I’m choosing to live in them, deliberately.

On Sunday I cannon-balled off the diving board at my in-laws, amid shrieks from my boys. I let myself sink to the bottom of the pool, relished the cool quiet, then surfaced in the sun. Perhaps it would be the last swim of the season.

I stripped Clara naked and dunked her in the clear blue salt water as well. She’s only going to have a soft teeny dimpled bottom to appreciate for so long. At five months she’s sitting and nearly crawling. In as much as I’m aware of the season’s turning, I’m as painfully aware of how quickly she is growing up, transforming from infant to little girl.


Christmas products are in stores and holiday baking is starting to plaster Pinterest, yet I’m firmly stuck on summer. I’m buying up stone fruit and baking desserts like Vanilla-Biscuit Peach & Plum Cobbler, which Danny and I consume together after the children are in bed, our spoons congenially scraping the bottoms of our bowls together.

The best way I can come to terms with the approaching autumn (and subsequent winter) is to preserve the summer season in jars. This week I roasted trays and trays of peaches slowly in the oven, and as they perfumed the house, they reduced into a thick, rich butter. I seasoned the butter with a dusting of fresh cinnamon, tipped it into hot jars, and gave them the hot water canner treatment for 15 minutes.

Once cooled, the pints of cinnamon-peach butter join the other jars in my pantry: sweet zucchini relish, pickles, cherry-plum jam, strawberry jam, blueberry butter, sliced peaches, cherries in vanilla syrup, and more.

Slowly, one jar at a time, I am conceding the end of summer.

Strawberry Season Recap


They came and went in a flash. Not gone entirely, I suppose, as late varieties still linger at the markets, however when I pulled up at my local U-Pick I was told the strawberries were finished. That was the beginning of my raspberry picking adventure, and another story altogether.


Before the season was over, I did manage to get a few berries tucked away for winter, with the help of Mateo, who washed and drained the lot. He is most enthusiastic about this summer berry, and couldn’t care less about the rest.


Not all the berries went into the freezer; we made sure to feast on them along the way.

First up was a creamy, dreamy strawberry-buttermilk lassi: berries, ice, buttermilk, a sprinkling of sugar unless you like it tangy. Blend. Drink.


There must be roasted strawberries each season, jarred up in their own juices and frozen. For crepes. For cornmeal pancakes.


On they day the strawberries were roasted, I tucked several into a panini along with fresh basil and a few squares of chocolate. Summer lunch at its best.


Ice cream was made, strawberry-sour cream ice cream, at that. Two little boys pulled up stools and watched the pink cream freeze and take on shapes.

It was so good, I made two more batches that week.


And of course, jam. First a Honey-Strawberry Jam, then a Strawberry-Rhubarb Orange Jam from the new Food in Jars cookbook from Marisa. It will go down in history as the very best straw-rhub jam I’ve ever made, with its perfect consistency and balance of sweet and tart.


Strawberry season may be over, but I’m still canning. It’s Canning Week over on Simple Bites, kicking off with Sweet-Cherry Plum Jam, and continuing with Marisa’s sultry Peach Barbecue Sauce. Come join the party.


What are you doing with summer berries?

The Early Days


Adoration. Elation. Admiration.

Each time Motherhood encircles me and I find myself once again caring for a precious newborn, I am tenderly reminded at how deep my love of babies runs and how much I adore this stage.

It is everything about them. The folds of their soft neck, the downy tufts of hair, every little sigh and squeak they emit while asleep.

It is being surrounded by handmade blankets and tiny knit sweaters as soft as a bunny’s belly.

As much as the laundry piles up, there’s a thrill in folding perfectly white onsies, matching darling little socks, and hanging a row of frilly dresses in the closet.

It’s knowing that nothing else matters outside of the family cocoon, and nothing is worth more than falling asleep with your baby asleep on your chest.

The nourishing and bonding that happens now is far more important that anything that could possibly be going on outside the home – or in the virtual world.


I love every stage of childhood, but I think the most beautiful, most cherished, are the fleeting days and weeks of a newborn. Clara is one month old today, and I fully intend to enjoy every moment I can with her.

You won’t find me posting much in this space (I’m even taking a blogging break from Simple Bites) because, as I’m sure you’ll understand, I’m making the most of the early days…


** All images courtesy of Angela Chin of Tim Chin Photography**

What I Did Last Weekend



Clara Aimée Zoë
Born Saturday, March 10, 2012
8 lbs, 12 oz.

Welcome, Baby Clara!
Quantcast