how about these apples?



Living in a place where there's an actual fall season is still an exciting thing for me. Having spent most of my life in Florida where it's either hot or not-so-hot, I'm really taking in the changing foliage, cooler weather and everything else that comes along with this time of year. Naturally, after having seen photos from my wedding florist's (isn't she adorable?) Instagram of her apple picking excursion with her husband, I was intrigued and convinced Jesse that we should drive an hour-and-a-half north of here to do just that.

Mistake.

Upon arriving, we discovered that it was apparently the last weekend of the season to go apple picking and the orchard we were headed to was the last orchard that was still open to the public to fulfill this task. Needless to say, there were swarms of people who had the exact same idea I did.

Imagine a carnival. Or a state fair. With carnies and fried Oreos, tourists and corndogs, crowds of cranky children and funnel cakes. Now take all of that and imagine it without any neon lights or rickety rides and replace it with an enormous orchard with barely any apples left. That was what we were walking into. Nope. We ate the last of our corn nuggets (you don't want to know) and high-tailed it out of there, thwarting our original plans for something spontaneous instead.




We landed on Downtown Ellijay. Without getting into the gritty details of our day, let's just say that it was not as we had expected, yet we had a great time. We serendipitously ran into good friends of ours in this random Small Town, U.S.A., had a few beers, grabbed some ice cream and caught up on a patio on a beautiful sunny day. We wandered into antique shops, we showed A how to use a real camera and we counted how many scarecrows were around (too many).






The day wasn't a total loss. We spent time with each other outside of our comfort zones and explored other possibilities. We laughed and connected with each other, away from our normal routines. Although apple picking never actually happened, it didn't matter. I already got the best apples of the bunch.

 
 

the one i love.



I don't know how it didn't occur to me to post this until now, but if you guys haven't seen this movie, you should! We saw it a couple of weeks ago and I still can't stop thinking about it. Here's to a happy Friday and an even happier weekend!

P.S. You can rent it on Amazon video! ;-)

 
 

scout + wolf: the taco bar


If you're like me and you find yourself feeling slightly uninspired with dinner in the middle of the week, there's always the option of ordering in or going out. But, again, if you're like me, you don't particularly want to spend money when you know you've got food in the fridge that could be (read: needs to be) eaten before it's turns into something unrecognizable. 


A few days ago, I bought my very first crock pot. I know. I couldn't believe I had never even owned one before and, obviously with it officially being fall, Pinterest is chalk-full of slow cooker recipe ideas. To break mine in, I went for a classic: brisket and onions. You guys. This recipe is not to be messed with. I started cooking it on Monday night. We had it for dinner on Tuesday. And I put an egg on it this morning. Clearly, it was done right. 


However, this piece of perfectly tender, pull-apart, melt-in-your-mouth meat was huge. It was enough to feed us until Sunday and while I would not be opposed to this, I don't think the rest of my family would appreciate it. Of course, I didn't want to waste any of it and so I peeked into our fridge to see what I could do. And then it hit me: tacos!


I had some radishes that I quickly pickled and left in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours while I set up the rest. Say hello to The Taco Bar. 


It is exactly what you would imagine it to be. Think of it as a more interactive version of "kitchen sink" anything. There are no rules, just what you have on hand and what you'd like to experiment with. A little kimchi here, some avocado there. Why not? Happy Wednesday! 


 
 

goodbye summer, hello fall.


Just like that, we blinked and September flew by. In the last month, we savored the last of the balmy days of summer by taking an impromptu family trip to Savannah and ventured out to the neighboring beaches at Tybee Island. Have you ever been to either of those places? It was my first time and there was so much charm and history I was enamored almost instantly. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Jesse, being the documentarian he is, managed to capture one of our beach days and made a short little vignette for your viewing pleasure. Looking back at the movies he's made so far always leaves me nostalgic for those times. The memories are always with me but to see them as snippets and moving pictures set to great music just make them that much more extraordinary. I hope you enjoy it!


 
 

friends and oysters.


I recently read this post about ladies' nights and how precious those moments can be. Moving around a lot has been both a blessing and a curse in my life. A blessing for obvious reasons--the ability to call a new locale "home", meeting new people and discovering your new favorite whatever. Yet, there are also the difficulties that come with changing scenery--the inability to become close to whoever you meet, feeling lost and at times, lonely. Throw in the challenge of being a mom who doesn't really enjoy mom groups* and it's another hurdle completely.

Maybe it's because I had some great girlfriends in Florida who also happened to have children around the same time as me that I placed an expectation here that it would be fairly easy to meet people like them. I felt (and sometimes still feel) pressure to meet other mothers but after reexamining why I felt this way, I decided to do away with the prerequisite must-have-kids. Who cares if I'm in the mom minority in a group of girls? I guess I always just felt that other moms would be more relatable and then I reminded myself that just because I'm a mother doesn't mean I lost my identity as the person I was before having a child. I still enjoy my independence and going out. I still believe in the power of a great circle of friends and how those friends turn into family. And I definitely don't want to limit myself because of a self-imposed restriction. 

Then some rare gems appeared and before I knew it, we're sipping on fabulous cocktails, having oysters and exchanging stories and anecdotes about each other during a recently discovered "oyster happy hour" at one of the best restaurants in town which also happens to be less than ten minutes away from where I live. It doesn't matter if you're single, married or divorced. It doesn't matter if you're a mom, if you're not a mom, or if you never want to be a mom. The point is, none of that stuff is what defines friendships. It's about being surrounded by people who let me be my complete self around them. Those moments are what feel so familiar, even though sometimes, it could be just the beginning.

[*I don't hate mom groups; I just haven't found one that I really enjoyed being a part of since moving out of Florida. And that's ok! For those who have found their circles, good on you! They're just not for me.]


 
 

scout + wolf pop-up recipe: sweet summer eggplant parmesan



To say that I like Italian cooking would be a gross understatement. To say that I love Italian cooking...now, we're getting somewhere. Being married to a half-Italian man is both awesome (the food! the passion! the family!) and incredibly intimidating (the food! the passion! the family!). Having met him (along with at least thirty of his relatives) for the first time at his family's annual traditional "Italian Night" feast, I had a feeling that I'd fall in love with him and all he came with, secret recipes and all. 

Although I love to cook and experiment with ingredients that are otherwise foreign to me and my kitchen origins, I had my work cut out for me. I had meatballs to live up to, lasagna to perfect, and sauce to master. The truth is, though, admittedly, it's very hard for me to adhere to a recipe word for word. I can be exacting, but when it comes to food, I believe in trial by fire (quite literally). Needless to say, my "versions" of family recipes are always just slightly ...different. ;-)


I decided to make eggplant parmesan the other day. It was a Monday and while it doesn't always work out this way, I have been trying to make "Meatless Mondays" a thing in our household. Why not? It can't hurt to cut out meat (at least) once a week. I started looking through my cookbooks and scouring Pinterest boards. It's the middle of August and we are in prime tomato season. Forget canned tomatoes! I wanted a sauce recipe using fresh ones! And then I found it: Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce.


A little bit about Hazan: from what I've gathered, she's basically the Julia Child of Italian cooking. She wrote a book called The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that is just as ubiquitous as Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Interestingly, despite having no kitchen background, she made it a mission of hers to learn how to cook for her new husband shortly after they married. In her years, she taught cooking classes from their small New York apartment kitchen and eventually wrote books. The rest, as they say, is history.

So what makes this sauce so special? It has four ingredients. FOUR. Tomatoes, one onion, butter (you guys, butter), and salt. That's it. Huh? Where's the garlic? Where's the basil? Where's the whatever-else-you-want-to-put-in-your-sauce to make it sauce? I had to take everything I had ever learned or read about making sauce and shove it in a drawer, to be opened at a later date. I was determined to try Hazan's sauce but just as I mentioned earlier, I couldn't help but divert from the original recipe. Instead of using canned tomatoes, I opted for the beautiful fresh yellow and red ones I had sitting on the counter just waiting for their opportunity to shine.


I blanched them, peeled them and got to work. If you could've smelled my house! This sauce is ridiculous, a startling burst of sweet and savory that just lingers on your palate long enough for you to keep "tasting" directly from the pot.


Assembling eggplant parmesan is easy, albeit a little time consuming. While eggplant lends itself to being a great summer vegetable, it does have that unique bitter bite to it. A useful tip I learned over the years to minimize it is to salt it after it's been sliced and to let it sit in a colander for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, I pat them dry and dunk them in an egg wash before dredging them in a mixture of panko, freshly grated parmesan, dried oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Instead of frying the eggplant, I bake it in an oven at 400°F for 20-25 minutes on each side, or until your eggplant slices turn into beautiful golden disks. Then, layer and bake. Serve with a little bit of pasta, a light salad and a nice glass of red.


Dinner done.

Sweet Summer Eggplant Parmesan
serves 4

1 large eggplant, thinly sliced to 1/4" thickness
2 eggs
1 tbsp water
1 cup panko/breadcrumbs
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup mozzarella, shredded
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into six rounds
1 tsp dried oregano
fresh basil and parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

The Sauce (adapted from Marcella Hazan)
2 lbs fresh tomatoes, blanched and peeled
5 tbsp butter
1 onion, halved
salt

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Slice the eggplant and liberally salt while setting aside in a colander for 30 minutes.

While the eggplant is doing its thing, coarsely chop your blanched and peeled tomatoes. Throw in a pot with the butter (almost an entire stick, folks!) and onion. Bring to a boil and then turn it down to a lower simmer for about 45 minutes or so. Keep stirring to break up larger tomato chunks and add salt to taste. Set aside when done.

Make an egg wash of eggs and water in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, add panko / breadcrumbs, and parmesan along with oregano, salt and pepper. Start your assembly line of dunking eggplant in egg wash and dredging in breadcrumb mixture. 


Once all your eggplant slices are coated, bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, flip them over, and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until golden. Set aside and raise oven temperature to 400°F.


Finally, build your meal! Spoon a layer of sauce at the bottom of a baking dish. Add eggplant slices and sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top. Keep layering: sauce, eggplant, cheese. Repeat until ingredients are used up. Top your eggplant parmesan with slices of fresh mozzarella and any of the remaining breadcrumb mixture.


Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until your top layer is browned and bubbling. Top with fresh basil and parsley. Let stand for five minutes before digging in.


 
 

introducing: scout + wolf


Coming down and getting back into our new normal after the wedding has been really wonderful. It's easy to get lost in all of the planning, putting things on hold and what not, but now that the dust is finally settling, there's something I'd like to share with you.




Last night, Jesse and I went out on a date. Date nights are some of my favorite because it gives us a chance to unwind, enjoy each other's company and really pick each other's brains about goals. And then, sometimes you have date nights that involve self-evolution and life-changing talks. And sometimes, these talks involve creativity. And passion. And lighting a fire under one's (read: my) ass. Because this is something I've desired and yearned for for years and years. Because lovers, friends, frenemies, family, framilies and everyone in between can become a community who shares something at the table. Because at least 75% of my Instagram photos are of meals. Because the kitchen has always felt like my safe place. Because rare and unusual ingredients get me giddy. Because my Le Creuset french oven is my most prized kitchen possession after a great knife set.

Because...because...because. I can give you a million other "because" reasons. But my most important "because" is simple: Because food. (Duh.)



I'm starting a food blog (eeeeep!) called Scout + Wolf. It is currently under construction so before I actually launch it, I want all of you to be a part of a  pop-up food series on T Spoon of Sunshine dedicated solely to cooking, creating, eating and enjoying. I'll be sure to add recipes that I find inspiring and also include my own. I'd really love your suggestions and feedback! Think of it as a soft-opening and all of you are invited. ;-)

Now that that's all out in the open, what would you like the first recipe to be? I'd love to know.

(P.S. In the meantime, start following Scout + Wolf on Instagram!)