The Old Fashioned Way

We all have that one drink: the cocktail standard that we order when we’re feeling fancy, and we want a little more than Blank & Blank. I’m talking about the go-to when you’re dressed up for the night, and you want to feel like your drink made as much effort as you did to be standing in this bar wearing your new bomb-ass boots. For me, that cocktail is the Old Fashioned. And if I want to class up my personal joint (and I am assured that the bartender has time), I order what I consider to be the most classic of bourbon cocktails.

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If it’s not the most classic, it is probably the oldest, or at least the oldest to be given the name “cocktail.” The term cocktail can be traced as far back as 1806, and in the strictest version of the the term it means a drink that is composed of any spirit, sugar, water, and bitters…so if you know the recipe, you can see how the Old Fashioned would be one of the oldest. But in case you don’t know, this is the Scout (and generally) accepted recipe:

Put some sugar (1 cube, a bar spoon full, or some simple) at the bottom of the glass, add two healthy dashes of bitters, and stir or muddle, depending on your sugar type. Add a couple ice cubes and a healthy serving of bourbon (rye is acceptable if bourbon for some reason is unavailable). Stir to combine. Finish with the essence of an orange peel (twist it above the glass to release all those good oils and rub it around the rim) and garnish with said orange peel.

Note: Some people will tell you there should be a cherry in there; those people, in my personal opinion, are wrong. God forbid someone muddles said cherry, and bless their hearts if it was a maraschino. Now I realize I may not be in the majority here; said people include the apparent namers of the cocktail, and a certain hometown establishment for Zelda and me, The Pendennis Club (Maybe if they let more women in, they’d get it right…but I digress. More on them later.). You do you, I guess: Just keep all cherries away from my old fashioned’s, please.


The name “Old Fashioned” probably initially referred to all drinks made in this spirit-sugar-water-bitters style. The term came into prominence in the late nineteenth century and referred mostly to drinks made in “an old fashioned style,” as opposed to with newfangled liqueurs and the like. There were old fashioned cocktails made with gin and whiskey and brandy (see: a gin version mentioned in 1862’s Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide: How to Mix Drinks). But the whiskey and bourbon versions gained more and more popularity as the nineteenth century turned into the 20th, and were soon cemented as The-with-a-capital-T Old Fashioned.

The official story is that the cocktail we know today as the Old Fashioned was invented in the 1880’s at Louisville’s own aforementioned Pendennis Club, by a bartender and whiskey magnate called James Pepper. He invented the drink and mixed the very first one in Louisville, and he later brought it up to New York’s City’s Waldorf-Astoria, where it really made its name (The old fashioned apparently has a similar life trajectory to Zelda’s and mine, fancy that).

In 1885, George Kappeler published Modern American Drinks, which included the recipe for The Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail: “Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.” And essentially, that was that. The recipe has been slightly modified back and forth since then, but has stayed relatively close to the original.

In the 1930’s, the orange peel and cherry garnish were introduced, instigating turmoil among drinkers over what actually makes the perfect old fashioned. But you know you’ve got a good bartender when they ask “How do you like your old fashioned” after you order. Whether you stick to the traditional four-ingredient base, or add some orange zest, or take yours with brandy like they do in Wisconsin, or I suppose even if you muddle yours with a maraschino cherry (*sigh*), the old fashioned, in some way, shape, or form — is here to stay.

The great thing about a classic cocktail is that there’s endless potential to put a new spin on it, and bars these days continue to seize the opportunity, making them with agave or sorghum or whatever they can find. We are, as they say, in the age of the craft cocktail, and you can be sure that the Old Fashioned is in no danger of becoming what its name might suggest. But if you’re making me one? Please, no cherries.

Sources: Thrillist–The History of the Old Fashioned; The Mix–The History of the Cocktail

Holiday Cocktails Three Ways

December is upon us, which means we are in the season of holiday parties and cocktails. Let’s be honest: Our real talent lies in drinking, and the holidays are when we really put thos skills to the test. Come December, you can find us throwing back festive libations at parties and pop-ups and bars, especially those that take the holiday spirit to a scale only possible in New York (see Rolf’s, below). But if you can’t make it to such a Christmas Mecca for your holiday cocktail fix, Zelda and Scout are here for you.

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First, eggnog. Like its October counterpart, pumpkin spice, it is divisive. Its milky goodness is not for everyone, but those who do love it love it a lot. I am one of those people — a Noghead, if you will — and really the only thing that makes this drink better is the addition of alcohol. If you want to get fancier than the sweet and simple classic, Southern Comfort Eggnog + Southern Comfort Whiskey (the only way to drink nog, according to friend of the blog Jason), see below:

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Salted Caramel Eggnog from The Cookie Rookie: This is one for the more ambitious in the kitchen (the Zeldas rather than the Scouts, if you will). You have to make the eggnog from scratch, see, which surpasses my three-step recipe limit. In a large saucepan, combine 3 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 4 cinnamon sticks, 3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg, and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the mixture starts to bubble, remove from heat and allow it to steep and cool for 5-10 minutes. While it’s brewing, in a stand mixer, beat five eggs and 2/3 cup sugar until fully combined. Pour your egg mixture into  your milk mixture and whisk together. Add 1/2 cup caramel syrup, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 3/4 cups dark rum. Garnish with caramel and more nutmeg if you’re feeling fancy.

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Next up, milk punch. Bourbon Milk Punch is a traditional holiday drink throughout the Deep South, but especially in New Orleans. The drink dates back all the way to at least the 19th century, when it was featured in 1862’s How to Mix Drinks, perhaps the very first cocktail recipe book. This recipe from Arnaud’s French 75 bar seems to be the internet-accepted classic version of this cocktail, featured by the New York Times and Garden and Gun alike. Pour 1¼ oz bourbon (or, if you prefer, brandy), ½ oz dark rum, 2 oz whole milk or half-and-half, ¾ tsp vanilla extract, and ½ oz simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled three-quarters full with ice. Shake until chilled (roughly 30 seconds). Strain into a rocks glass and dust with grated nutmeg.

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Finally, for the clear alcohol connoisseurs, we have a seasonal twist on a classic — an Apple Cider Mule. This drink. from Pretty Plain Janes, swaps the summery lime flavors of the typical Moscow Mule for wintry notes of apple and spice. In a copper mug full of ice, as is traditional, mix 1 1/5 oz of vodka (this recipe suggests caramel-flavored liquor, but you do you) and 3 oz apple cider,. Top off with ginger beer, and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks.

Photos via: The Cookie Rookie, Johnny Autry, Pretty Plain Janes

All the Fixin’s: An Introduction

Hello lovelies! Over the past year, one of our favorite series to write — and one of the most popular with you guys, according to an overwhelming majority of folks who filled out our reader survey — has been “Eat This, Drink That.” Scout has explored many wonders of the Southern culinary canon, and Zelda has really honed her cocktail skills. Some of the recipes have gone brilliantly according to plan; others, not so much. But all of them have taught us more about our food heritage, not to mention pastry skills, simple syrups, and how to handle a cocktail shaker.

With this new year, we wanted to turn a new page in the blog as well, but we didn’t want to abandon the food and drink posts that we, and y’all, have come to enjoy. And we also wanted to get back to the original concept of the blog: exploring the idea of home and heritage and what it means to us, in this time and this place, to be “Southern.”

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So without further ado, we present to you our brand-new series, “All the Fixin’s.” The idea comes from a few places: wanting to learn more about Southern cooking and expand our kitchen repertoires, wanting to get in touch with our specific Southern heritages and what they mean to us, and wanting to explore not just the mechanics of making Southern dishes but also the history and stories and cultural weight that they carry. As Zelda wrote in her last Required Reading, food is an essential piece of what binds a culture together, feeding both our bodies and our souls. So much of our history and traditions are bound up in the bread we break together, be it challah or cornbread or buttermilk biscuits. And so with this series, we’re diving deep, each into a cookbook that pulls together the specific flavors of our family trees.

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For Scout, that book is Victuals: An Appalachian Journey with Recipes. Recently written by Ronni Lundy, Scout’s somewhat-distant-but-not-that-distant cousin (she’s not quite sure combination of first’s, second’s, removed’s, etc. applies here), it combines recipes with narrative and history, and really gives some context to the dishes. Most of Scout’s Southern recipes come from her grandmother’s binder, cut from local papers or back issues of Southern Living and stuck together from being carted around for so long and splattered with various batters, and Victuals basically takes those conversations around the kitchen table and puts them in book form. It also doesn’t hurt that the book itself is beautiful, with full-color photos, courtesy of Johnny Autry, of the mountains and the people and the food that accompany their story.

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As for Zelda, she’s taking on Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. A good quarter of her blood comes spiced with Cajun flavors, Tabasco and okra and andouille and the like. Some of the recipes in this very book are childhood dishes she grew up with (see, the jambalaya her mom makes every year for Mardi Gras), and all of the dishes bring up memories of childhood story time, when she and her siblings would beg her dad to tell them stories of his childhood, and his dad’s childhood, in the bayou of Louisiana. Those were summers spent under magnolia trees, watching gumbo or étouffée appear like magic under a great aunt’s spoon. And while the most essential Cajun recipes in her house come on stained and crumpled scraps of paper, passed down from generation to generation, when asked to pick an actual, publicly sold text from which to learn the region’s cooking, this is the one both of her folks picked.

So that’s where we’re going, and we hope you’re as excited to come along with us as we are to get started. There’s shrimp creole and chicken and dumplings and maybe even beignets in our future. Some things may (hopefully) go brilliantly. Others may fall flat. But all will teach us something about who we are and where we come from. And it doesn’t hurt that it will make for damn good eats.

Required Reading: Volume Nine

My mother collects cookbooks. It started (she thinks) with the Moosewood Cookbook, purchased in March of 1983. She had always loved to cook, and to bake especially, learning hamantaschen and icebox cookies in her mother’s Pittsburgh kitchen. From one book, her collection grew, adding Jewish Cookery and Cookie Cookery (related in name only). When my father entered the narrative, he brought a healthy dose of Cajun cuisine to their marriage and the Joy of Cooking, referred to more commonly in my house as simply “The Bible.”

At some point along the way, one cookbook blossomed into a dozen, which grew to a shelf, which ballooned into two full bookshelves and counting. My kitchen in Kentucky holds an estimated 200 cookbooks at minimum, sprawling across specialties and cuisines. I may have learned to cook in the days before Google, but our house was its own encyclopedia of recipes, with my mom the helpful librarian. I’d ask her how to make a particular dish — say, strawberry rhubarb pie — and without missing a beat she’d start pulling volumes from shelves, not to mention scraps of newsprint and magazine cut outs from her Heinz recipe box.

A tiny excerpt from my mother's collection, the "Family Heritage Shelf"

A tiny excerpt from my mother’s collection, the “Family Heritage Shelf”

This is all to say that I come by my addiction to books — cook- and otherwise — honestly. It’s in my DNA: I never really stood a chance. My parents started me off with the classics: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volumes One and Two), The New York Times Cookbook, Moosewood, and, of course, my own personally inscribed copy of “The Bible.” In it, my parents wrote, “In our family, cooking is an expression of love.” And while this is definitely true of our quirky little clan, I don’t think it’s a uniquely Zelda trait. Food, in its best form, is weighted with memory and steeped in sentiment. It nurtures our bodies and our souls, providing comfort or piquing curiosity as it tickles our taste buds. And it’s a cultural touchstone, too — perhaps the most essential and elemental piece of what binds a group or a region together. Who we are, as families or communities, so often comes down to the bread we break together.

Take the South as just one example. The first thing most folks think of when they hear the word Southern is food. You know exactly which kind I mean: soul food, comfort food, food of the people that sticks to the bones and comes from the heart. So much of my own personal understanding of my heritage (Southern and otherwise) is culinary: the gumbo recipe passed down from my grandfather, the hot fudge sauce that appears so effortlessly under the touch of my grandmother’s spoon, the hamantaschen that would arrive at our house each year from Queen Esther, who apparently resided in Osprey, Florida. As an adult, I started to explore Southern cooking as a way of understanding the South and my place in it. Some of my lessons were hands-on — Derby pie with a high school bestie, fried chicken from Scout’s Gaga — but many of them were from books.

My grandmother in Home Economics class at her Atlanta school, age 14 (yes, you read that correctly)

My grandmother in Home Economics class at her Atlanta school, age 14 (yes, you read that correctly)

Though I still have a long way to go to match my mother’s collection (and nowhere near enough shelf space to accommodate such a repertoire), I have amassed quite a few cookbooks of my own. I love them for the poetry of their descriptions, the beauty of their photographs, the wry wit and wisdom inked into the page by their authors. And I love them for their potential, all those untapped recipes just waiting to be brought to life. To write up all my favorites would take far too many pages, so I’ll start on theme, with the culture that brings us together in this particular corner of the internet. Some of these I own, some reside on my mom’s shelves, and many are still on my wishlist. If you want to get to know the Southern people, you must get to know their eats. This is where I’d start.

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General Knowledge:

The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories (2015): Compiled by the editors of Garden and Gun Magazine, this recent addition to my shelves runs the gamut from classics to regional delicacies, with anecdotes and advice woven in between. I’m a particular fan of the gorgeous copper detailing on the front cover, and of the glossary titled “The Southern Larder,” which goes through many of the quirkier ingredients called for in the book and explains what they are and where you might find them.

Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking (2012): Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence in American Cooking, this tome is Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart’s answer to Julia Child’s similarly named masterpieces. Dupree calls Southern cooking “the Mother Cuisine of America,” and this extensive guide will walk you through all the essentials, from biscuits to gravy.

The Heritage of Southern Cooking (1986): Camille Glenn, pictured in charming cartoon detail on the books cover, used to be the food editor at Scout’s and my hometown paper, the Courier-Journal. She left no stoneware unturned when compiling this book, which holds 550 recipes, from duck to dessert. My mom swears by her recipe for pecan pie, an essential in any Southern baker’s wheelhouse.

At My Grandmother’s Knee: Recipes and Memories Handed Down by Women of the South (2011): Faye Porter dedicated this book to “all the women in my life who have shared with me the joy of cooking, baking, loving, making a home, and giving from their hands and hearts.” And while we hate to indulge gender stereotypes (Southern dudes can cook too!), it is true that most of what we learned about cooking, and about the love of cooking, came from our mothers, our grandmothers, and the other great women in our lives.

The Taste of Country Cooking (1976/2006): It is impossible to talk about Southern cooking without talking about black Southern cooking and the essential contributions that so many African-American chefs made to the region’s culinary identity, often without receiving any acknowledgement or credit. Edna Lewis, thankfully, is a great chef who did get the spotlight she deserved, and her tribute to the foods of her childhood home in Freetown, Virginia, is considered one of the great classic Southern cookbooks.

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Sweet Treats:

The Southern Baker: Sweet and Savory Treats to Share with Friends and Family (2015): It’s the subtitle of this volume, compiled by the editors of Southern Living, that I think gets at the heart of what makes Southern cooking so unique. A Southern dish is not meant to be precious. It is not fussed over or plated with surgical precision. It is meant to be shared, served up in big sloppy spoonfuls or generous slices and always, always with love.

Kentucky Sweets: Bourbon Balls, Spoonbread, and Mile-High Pie (2014): I actually interviewed Sarah Baird, back when I was writing for the Louisville Eccentric Observer and her book was just coming out. Sarah’s training is as a culinary anthropologist, and she told me, “ I have a deep interest in how food impacts culture and society: the intersections between culture, society and food; how those work together; and specifically, underrepresented or underserved stories about food.” This book was her attempt to tell some of those stories, from the often overlooked corners of her (and my and Scout’s) home state.

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Regional Specialties:

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (1984): My personal Southern heritage comes well-seasoned with Tabasco and filé, and this, my father claims, is the best Louisiana cookbook out there. Whether you’re looking for gumbo or jambalaya or Prudhomme’s famous blackened redfish, this book has all the Cajun and Creole classics your stomach could desire.

The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery (1992): Where my Southern roots come from the bayou, Scout’s are grounded in mountain soil. In true Appalachian spirit, the recipes in this book are interspersed with a healthy dose of storytelling and advice. The recipes in this book are unpretentious and full of flavor, just like the folks that make them.

Community Cookbooks: The South has a great tradition of hometown cookbooks, put together by Junior Leagues or women’s groups and offering the best portrait of a town, an identity, and a cuisine. Some of the best (in my, my mom’s, or Scout’s opinion) include The Mountain Laurel Festival Cookbook (Bell County, Kentucky), Talk About Good! (The Junior League of Lafayette, Louisiana), The Plantation Cookbook (Junior League of New Orleans), and Recipes to Remember: A Kentucky Cookbook (Kosair Children’s Hospital Auxiliary; Louisville, Kentucky).

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The New South:

Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen (2011): Brian Sonoskus, chef and founder of the Tupelo Honey Cafe, was one of the founders of the farm-to-table movement, which has since spread from North Carolina to Williamsburg, Portland, and beyond. But what is normally written off nowadays as hipster posturing is in fact a very traditional Southern concept: that you should use the best of what your region has to offer, that you should know the folks who grow your ingredients, that quality ingredients assembled with love and care will offer a far greater reward than your fussiest amuse-bouche.

Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen (2013): Chef Edward Lee was born to Korean immigrant parents and raised in Brooklyn. So how did he become the most famous chef in Louisville, and one of the most innovative culinary voices in America today? This book tells the tale of his unique, Southern cooking, which mixes together flavors and techniques from his heritage with the traditions of his adopted home.

images via: Zelda’s mama’s photo archives, GARDEN AND GUN, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS ALLIANCE, TUPELO HONEY CAFE

Six Breakfasts

On our Just Folks questionnaire, we end by asking all of our respondents to make one final choice: Bagels or biscuits? It’s an important question when trying wade through your Southernness and your New York-ness, and a person’s answer can speak volumes about their identity on a cultural and personal level. It also brings me to the topic at hand: breakfast. As the cliché goes, it’s the most important meal of the day (I would argue it’s also the best, because eggs…and cheese, and bacon, and bread, etc). Breakfast has so many forms, changing with our tastes as we age or relocate. It can say a lot about a person, how you choose to kick off your daily culinary journey — who you’re going to be that day, how you’re going to approach the world, where you are in life. With that in mind, here are six breakfasts I’ve eaten.

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French Toast Casserole and Scrambled Eggs on a Long Wooden Dining Table; Louisville, KY: Once or twice a semester, our school cafeteria would have Breakfast Day. In my personal opinion, these were the best days of the year. It was the one day that I would look forward to our school-provided hot lunch. This was a time before we all figured out that you could eat breakfast food whenever, and no one would bat an eye. Our dining room — yes, we called it the dining room not the cafeteria — was lined with long tables made of dark wood and chairs too large to fit around them. We ate family-style in grade school, passing scrambled eggs back and forth and learning our table manners. I ate at those same tables for thirteen years, and I think about it every time I eat breakfast food not for breakfast. It still feels a little like a treat, like I’m not really supposed to be doing it.

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Syrup-Drenched Pancakes on a Tan Plastic Plate; Brevard, NC: Camp meals are the best — both Zelda and I will extol to you the merits of being able to make a whole room break out into song over pancakes (or in her case, crêpes). My last summer at camp, my cabin, as the oldest campers, was basically in charge of starting the day. We’d get to the dining hall early, set up all the bright green painted tables with tan plastic plates and cutlery that was bent and twisted in every direction from years of use. We’d ring the bell to call the rest of the camp to eat and lead them through many choruses of song, banging on tables and playing the cups long before Anna Kendrick. A week later, when we had to cover for the CIT’s who usually did the dishes, I’d curse people (like me) who had no regard for the people that cleaned that plate and poured their syrup with reckless abandon. I loved Rockbrook, but I never loved it more than at breakfast — teenage and preteen girls singing at the top of their lungs at eight in the morning.

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Bacon, Sausage, Eggs, Biscuits and Gravy on a Salvaged Wood Dining Table; Snowmass, CO: My mom and I used to go skiing every spring with her two best friends, Carol and Dave, and their daughter, Taylor. One year, my grandparents went with us. It was an exciting trip, and while the most impressive story to come out of that trip is my grandma riding in a dumbwaiter, my favorite bit was on the final full day when we gathered around the dining table for what we like to call a “Horty” breakfast. That’s the full Southern breakfast fixin’s, most importantly biscuits and gravy. There’s nothing quite like biscuits and gravy to bring people together: There’s a reason they call it soul food.

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Sourdough Cinnamon Toast, standing on a Linoleum Kitchen Floor; Norris Lake, TN: My mother’s parents lived on a branch of Norris Lake just outside of Tazwell, Tennessee. It was four-ish hours from Louisville, and we drove down at least one weekend every summer. My grandmother, Gaga, would make sourdough bread from scratch before we came down to visit. Being at the lake always made me wake up with the sun, but somehow Gaga was always up before me, up before everyone. My room was off the long narrow kitchen. When she heard the creak of my door, she’d cut two slices of the new loaf, add butter and cinnamon, and fill the house with amazing smells that never ceased during our time there.

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A Spinach, Bacon, and Red Onion Omelet in a Lime Green Chair; Towson, MD: The omelet station in the main dining hall was always crowded. Every time we’d get to brunch, no matter how early, there was always a long line. Except for once. One magical day, I saw a glorious opening. Seizing it, I got myself a fresh omelet without having to totally miss out on having brunch with my friends. Truly, it was one of the finest food-based achievements of my college career, second only to my triumph conquering the Monday before Thanksgiving meal. The result from both was the same: sitting around vaguely IKEA-esque tables with my cohort, gorging ourselves on the unlimited food the meal plan provided, eating off hangovers, and laughing loud.  

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A Corn Muffin and a Can of Diet Coke standing on the B38 Bus; Brooklyn New York: Breakfast in New York isn’t as glamorous as Audrey Hepburn makes it look. We can’t all sip our coffee and eat a croissant outside Tiffany’s as the sun rises. My commute is longer here, and like most people I often use that extended time to do things I couldn’t do if I was driving — like eat breakfast. I usually just stuff a muffin or a banana in my bag and grab a can of Diet Coke before heading out the door and end up eating it on the bus or over my desk when I get to work. Not the most exciting or unique meal, but it’s still indicative of a time and a place and who I am right now. I like where I’m at in my life, for the most part, and if that means breakfast is a literal balancing act, then so be it. I’ll have time to scramble eggs later.

Photos via: SkinnyMs, Ethan Calabrese (Delish), Pillsbury, Kidspot, SailusFood, All Recipes

Fourth of July Fruit Tart

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and from Berkeley to Brooklyn folks will be celebrating our nation’s independence the American way: with lots and lots of food. Every cook-out is bound to have some of standards — your burgers, your hot dogs, your potato salad, maybe even an apple pie — but if you really want to impress your fellow party guests, this recipe is just the ticket.

Nothing screams summer like some fresh berries, this blueberry and raspberry combo, nestled on a bed of easy pastry cream, gets 50 stars from us. Red, white, and blue never tasted so good. Plus, it looks very impressive while not being horribly tricky to assemble, allowing you to wow your guests and still leave plenty of time for day drinking by the grill. And what is more American than that.

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Fourth of July Fruit Tart (adapted from King Arthur Flour Company)

Makes one 9” tart, serves 8-10

Dough:

½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract (optional, but highly recommended)

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

1 ¾-ounce box of instant vanilla pudding

3 cups heavy cream, cold

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

1 pint fresh raspberries

1 pint fresh blueberries

Glaze (optional, can be omitted if you’re going to serve the tart immediately):

¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

¾ cup fruit juice (Apple, white grape, and cranberry all work nicely. You could even go for a cranberry-blueberry, cranberry-raspberry, or other blend. Just make sure you steer clear of cranberry juice cocktail.)

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

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Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or using  a stand mixer, beat together all of the ingredients for the crust except flour.
  2. Mix in flour. The mixture will be crumbly.
  3. Press the crust into the bottom and up the sizes of a 9” tart pan. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Cover and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Just before baking, preheat the oven to 375.
  4. Bake the crust for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the filling. Spread it evenly over the base of the cooled crust.
  6. Top with raspberries and blueberries, arranging artistically as the muse moves you. For extra bonus points, you could go patriotic with a star or flag design.
  7. Mix the brown sugar with the juice. Soften the gelatin in the mixture for about 5 minutes, then heat in the microwave or over low heat until the gelatin dissolves. Let cool until lukewarm.
  8. Brush the glaze over the berries, coating evenly. Let cool until the glaze sets, then serve and enjoy!
photos via: KING ARTHUR FLOUR COMPANY

Summer Picnic Essentials

The sun is out, the sky is blue, and the subway is an icebox. In New York, these signs can only indicate one thing: It is officially picnic season.

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Now we love to complain about how crowded this city is — all those people smushed in the cracks between a mishmash of buildings that would give any self-respecting urban planner a migraine. But one area where New York excels is green spaces. This city has parks coming out the wazoo. And not just parks: accessible parks, where you can walk and lounge and cartwheel on the grass to your heart’s content. Some of us are blessed with air conditioning, others make do with an elaborate Rube Goldberg-esque concoction of fans in every size and ilk. But all of us need to get out of our apartments every once in a while, and what better way than with a picnic.

I’m a firm believer that food tastes better outdoors, due to some alchemy of fresh breeze and grass or tree smell playing across your palette like a classical violin. I’ve picnicked on rooftops and riverbanks and islands and once, recently, on a 1920s-themed lawn. And I’ve learned, through my adventures en plein air, that there are a few things you should have to make your picnicking experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. These are some of my essentials.

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A Blanket: I recommend one with a waterproof side, so you don’t end up with a soaked derriere thanks to a recent shower. And if you can find one that collapses for carrying convenience, even better. (Target, $19.99)

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A Large Tote: The fancy-pants among you may be turning up your noses in favor of a bona fide wicker basket of some kind. But even price point aside, I actually prefer a tote for its versatility (and lower splinter potential). Make sure you get one that’s roomy enough for a picnic’s worth of delights, and with long handles should your load be heavy. (Matthew Gray Gubler, $22)

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Insulation: A picnic requires refreshments. And nothing ruins a good picnic like food or drink that is meant to be served cold arriving in your mouth decidedly tepid. You can opt for a cooler or insulated lunch bag of some sort, or you could even combine steps one and two and go full-on insulated tote. (MIER, $15)

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Thermos: What’s worse than lukewarm food? Lukewarm drinks. Repeat after me, kids: Thou shalt chill the rosé. And bring an insulated bottle or thermos so you can enjoy it as the good lord intended (S’Well, $42)

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Sun protection: Once, as a young teen, I was told that I would “make an awesome goth” because of my pale, pale skin and dark, dark hair. But even if you’ve been melanin-ly blessed, you should never venture out under the sun’s rays without a little SPF. And speaking of sun, don’t forget about sunglasses! They’ll keep you from squinting uncomfortably at your fellow picnickers, and make you look cool and stylish to boot. (Neutrogena, $10.49)

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Entertainment: If you have planned your picnic correctly, carefully selected your companions for maximum conviviality and adventure and brought enough tasty treats and drinks to leave everyone sated, you should be set for a marvelous time. But while the picnic can be the activity in and of itself, it never hurts to have a little extra fun in your bag.  A Frisbee, a volleyball, or a compact group game will not go amiss, and will leave your fellow picnic-goers marveling at your expert hosting skills. Also a good call? A Bluetooth speaker to provide the soundtrack to your festive outing. (Jawbone, $59.99)

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Nitty gritty: Finally, these are some things that are not terribly glamorous but will vastly improve your picnic experience: hand sanitizer, wipes, paper towels, and a trash bag. We’re lucky to be blessed with such magnificent lawns and benches and knolls in which to do our summer dining. Leave your space just as clean (or better yet, cleaner) for the next folks.

images via: TARGETMATTHEW GRAY GUBLERAMAZONS’WELLNEUTROGENAAMAZONTHE WILDERNESS SOCIETY