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HOMESTEADING / ROASTED POTATOES WITH LEMON, ROSEMARY AND GARLIC

I’ve been dreaming lately, maybe fantasizing is a better description, about living on a farm. I keep envisioning a huge garden, kids running around outside, lots of chickens, a few goats, and (Kyle thinks I’m insane) a pig, a donkey, and a sheep (all of the “micro” variety). If you’ve never searched the Web for images of “baby doll sheep”, it’s a good use of your time. If you’re really looking to procrastinate search for “micro piglets” and “miniature donkey” as well. I just got enthusiastic and searched for other miniature farm breeds and discovered miniature cattle!!! I am getting a bit off track…

Beyond the animals, I am picturing simplicity in the form of sheets drying on a clothesline, sitting on the porch shelling peas, reading books, scraped knees, maybe even a little art studio. When things in life get stressful, this is where my mind wanders. In fact I sort of meditate myself to sleep at night by picturing a quiet, white, bedroom; sheets slightly crisp from drying on the line, and smelling wonderfully fresh. I used to visualize Parisian cafés and an apartment in the City of Lights, but now I can’t see anything other than a little farm life. Not that I’d turn down a Parisian apartment, or a house in the French countryside for that matter.

My Nana had a farm where we used to go spend a few weeks every year. For a time in the summer all the grandkids descend on Nana’s farm and we would spend part of our summer vacation catching Garter Snakes (admittedly, I never participated in this particular activity. I stick with things that have between 2 and 4 legs. Three legged dogs are just fine.), admiring and feeding her horses and her donkey, helping her with chores, making apple sauce, driving her crazy, and climbing rafters in the barn and jumping into the owl-pellet filled hay piles (we didn't tell her about this until we were much older).

nana's farm
On Nana's farm. July 1990.

There's a pretty large part of me that wants to rediscover that flower crown, rainbow sandal-wearing self...

While relocating to a farm life isn’t in our immediate future, I hope that someday we can make it a reality. In the meantime, I’m doing things around our home to help create the kind of environment I’m dreaming about. Since I’ve been hit with the homesteading bug, I’ve been focusing my energy on creating things from scratch. As I mentioned last week I made my own deodorant, and elderberry syrup. This week I made my own laundry detergent, cloth diaper detergent, dishwasher soap, and reusable baby wipes. When we run out of our current lotions and certain beauty products I have half a mind to try making those too. I’ve also been making things like mayonnaise when we can get farm fresh eggs, and I have plans to try my hand at making my own ketchup, mustard, crème frîache, ricotta, and yogurt. I already make Lulu’s baby food, most of the stock we use, and almost all of the meals in our house are created from scratch. As I figure things out and learn what works best I will share all of these directions and recipes!

We’re getting geared up to plant the garden this weekend, and I ordered a clothesline and pins this week. We’ve been spending as much time as possible outside; which becomes more and more enjoyable as we continue working on our backyard. So while farm dreams have to wait, homesteading has begun in full force. As a work-from-home, full-time, very-much-on-a-budget mom who has a high need to constantly create and cook, these activities satisfy me in every way. In addition to getting more hands on with the little things, I've also been "unplugging" more, reading more, laying in the grass with the kids and looking at the clouds more. Well, let's be honest. Gigi and lay on the grass and look at the clouds; Lulu eats the grass.

lulu

Now, as promised, here is my roasted potato recipe. I always cook it alongside my Roasted Chicken, the recipe for which I shared last week. You can certainly make these potatoes on their own but part of the key to their delicious flavor comes from the drippings of the Roasted Chicken and the garlic that roasts with the chicken. (I’ll add some adapting notes in case you plan to just make the potatoes on their own).

ROASTED POTATOES WITH LEMON, ROSEMARY AND GARLIC

ROASTED POTATOES 
WITH LEMON, ROSEMARY AND GARLIC

Roasted Potatoes (cooked along with a Roasted Chicken):


Ingredients.

4 lb new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1” pieces 

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large sprig rosemary

1/2 lemon, sliced into 1/4” rounds



Directions.

Fill a large pot with cold water, add the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil and par-boil the potatoes for 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Hold a lid tightly on the pot and shake the potatoes about until the get very slightly bashed up around the corners and edges. 



Preheat the oven to 450˚F.

Transfer the potatoes to a large roasting pan, add the lemon slices, and the sprig of rosemary. Season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3/4 olive oil over the potatoes, and toss everything together.

Cover the potatoes tightly with aluminum foil, and roast in the oven with the chicken, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, toss the potatoes about, and roast for an addition 30 minutes. At this point you will be basting your chicken, using the baster or a large spoon, transfer about a half cup of the chicken drippings to the potatoes and toss around. Put the chicken and potatoes back in the oven for another 30 minutes.



At this point (after half hour roasting covered, and an hour roasting uncovered) the chicken will most likely be done roasting. Add about a quarter cup of the drippings to the potatoes, along with the roasted garlic cloves, toss and put the potatoes back in the oven for about 10 minutes; until the stock is absorbed and the potatoes are nice and browned and crisp. (If the chicken isn’t done put it back in the oven along with the potatoes until it’s done).

Discard the rosemary sprig and the lemon rinds. Enjoy with your chicken!

Roasted Potatoes (cooked alone):
Ingredients.

4 lb new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1” pieces 

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 sprig rosemary

1/2 lemon, sliced into 1/4” rounds

1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peels on

1/2 cup chicken stock

Directions.

Fill a large pot with cold water, add the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil and par-boil the potatoes for 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Hold a lid tightly on the pot and shake the potatoes about until the get very slightly bashed up around the corners and edges. 

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

Transfer the potatoes to a large roasting pan, add the lemon slices, and the sprig of rosemary. Season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3/4 olive oil over the potatoes, and toss everything together.

Cover the potatoes tightly with aluminum foil, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, toss the potatoes about, and roast for an addition 30 minutes. Add half a cup of the chicken stock and the garlic cloves to the potatoes and toss around. Put the potatoes back in the oven for another 30 minutes. 

Add a quarter cup of chicken stock to the potatoes, toss and put the potatoes back in the oven for about 10 minutes; until the stock is absorbed and the potatoes are nice and browned and crisp.

Discard the rosemary sprig and the lemon rinds. Gently peel the garlic cloves and add the roasted garlic back to the potatoes. Toss everything together. Enjoy!

ROASTED POTATOES WITH LEMON, ROSEMARY AND GARLIC

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THAT DAMN JELLY BEAN / Roasted Chicken with Herbs, Garlic and Lemon

Yesterday was one of those strange days where for everything that went perfectly, something was totally off… but in the end it was a really lovely day. We woke up early, a habit picked up when we were all sharing a room in Mexico for vacation last week! Did I mention we were going to Mexico? Well, we did and it was really lovely. My in-laws took us all (our family and Kyle’s brother’s family) to their time-share spot in Cabo. We went once before, when Gigi was only two months old. It sure was nice to get away and we came back to bursting tulips and 70 degree weather!

Lulu has a nasty cold, probably something she picked up by licking the airplane seats on the way home from Mexico, and sounds like a cranky frog. Despite her bug I had big plans for the day to get up to the local nursery and look at some different varieties of “stepables” to plant between our pavers on our patio, and to pick up a local planting guide so we can start planning and planting! So after Lu’s croaky morning nap, we stepped out to run our errands. We headed straight to the garden store, which is bright and open and was full of people buzzing with spring-fever. It felt so wonderful to soak in the late morning sun, smell the lavender, run our fingers over the crawling thyme, and eye the perfect rows and rows of Ranunculus.

gardening

Towards the end of our time at the garden store, Gigi was not being a great listener. I should have quit while I was ahead but I needed a few items from the grocery store, so I ignored my mothers’ intuition and we headed in. After all, we only needed six little things!

I was not all that surprised when Gigi had a major meltdown in the middle of the produce department. It all started when she stole a jelly bean from the candy bin. Why, one might ask, is there a big candy bin in the middle of the produce department? Anyway, we had a bit of a showdown that went a little something like this, “G, do not pick up that candy. Do not put that jelly bean in your mouth. Spit that jelly bean out right now! You are not choosing to be a good listener.” She said nothing, but when I finally pried that damn jelly bean out of her mouth she started wailing, “I want GRANDMA!!!!!!”, over and over again. I suspect G was suffering from a case of The Grandparent Withdrawal; I’m sure you know the symptoms. I plunked her in the cart, dashed away from the produce department over to the far end of the store while she cried and kid kicked my leeks, and grabbed the last couple items I needed before fleeing the store. I’m sure I was quite a sight carrying Lulu on my left hip, and Gigi around her middle with my right arm, crying and legs flailing, with the grocery gal following behind with my bag of bruised produce.

Once the girls were buckled in their carseats, I headed to the coffee shop, popped in for a couple of lattes (one for me and one for my sweet friend who just welcomed her third baby!), drove to her house and dropped off her caffeine (while G fumed in the car). I got a quick look at her beautiful new, fresh baby, and despite having a very snotty baby and very frustrated kid in my car, I felt a wave of desire. There’s just something about a teeny tiny newborn, sleeping with their delicate little arms up over their head, that makes me think crazy things. Once we were home, G said, “I need a naaaaaaaaaaaaaap!” Agreed.

I got the girls in bed as quickly as possible and started making dinner even though it was only 1pm. I just felt the desire to cook and prep, and zone out while I peeled garlic for a while. I didn’t even bother using a fast-peeling method, I didn’t even whack the cloves with my knife; I just did it, one clove at a time, tediously removing each little sticky strand of skin from the cloves while the breeze knocked around the curtains and the house was silent. I trimmed my herbs, scrubbed my chicken, juiced my lemons, in complete, blissful silence. By the time my chicken was prepped and in the fridge, I’d found that my heart rate had returned to normal and I was thinking back on how “funny” our little produce-section scene must have been to witness. It was, after all, a classic toddler-mom standoff… over a stupid jelly bean. If there’s one thing you need while raising a toddler, it’s a sense of humor… well, that and a good recipe for Roasted Chicken that takes just long enough to prep that you can regain said sense of humor after a trying morning.

I make my Roasted Chicken with Herbs, Garlic, and Lemon about every other week. It’s best when prepped around 1pm, so the lemon juice has time to tenderize and marinate the meat a bit. Doing the prep earlier in the day also makes dinner time feel like a breeze, and you end up with a crisp-skinned, tender, flavorful, comforting, chicken dinner. I almost always accompany the chicken with a side of crispy oven roasted potatoes (for which I’ll share the recipe next week), and a fresh salad. It’s one of our staple dinners, and it’s a dinner that fuels a few days’ worth of meals. I have stock simmering on the stovetop now to make Posole for dinner tonight, and tomorrow I’ll use a bit of the shredded chicken to make a spinach salad with and bruised veggies and a homemade dressing.

There is something pretty satisfying, and relaxing, about stretching one meal into three or four; about feeding a family of four for a few days from one main source. Plus, the homemade chicken stock should help us fight back against this spring cold (along with the homemade Elderberry Syrup I made last night)! I also made deodorant yesterday (please, please tell me if it’s not working, okay?). We’re talking serious homesteading over here! It just so happens I have some things to tell you about in regards to “homesteading” but it will have to wait for another day… maybe next week when I share the potato recipe with you. Potatoes and pioneering seem like a good match up.

In the meantime, here is my recipe for Roasted Chicken with Herbs, Garlic, and Lemon.

lemon chicken

lemon chicken

ROASTED CHICKEN
 with herbs, garlic, and lemon

Ingredients
1 whole chicken

juice of 3-4 lemons

1 lemon, sliced

large handful of fresh herbs, thyme, rosemary, parsley (whatever you have on hand)

1 head of garlic cloves, peeled

extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

Directions.

Clean the chicken, inside and out, by scrubbing it with a good amount of kosher salt. Rinse it under cold water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Using a pair of poultry or kitchen shears, cut out the backbone. Set the backbone aside for making stock, or discard.

In the bottom of a roasting pan or casserole dish, place a pile of  herbs and fan out one lemons’ worth of lemon slices. Place the chicken, breast side up, over the herbs and lemon slices. Toss the peeled garlic cloves into the pan between the drumstick (you want them exposed, not tucked under the bird).

Pour the lemon juice slowly over the chicken, drizzle it with a good amount of olive oil (I use about 1/3 cup). Season the chicken and the garlic cloves generously with salt and pepper.

Cover the chicken tightly with aluminum foil and pop it in the fridge for a few hours… it doesn’t have to sit and marinate but it’s great if possible.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, take it out of the fridge and preheat your oven to 450˚F. When the oven is heated, place the covered chicken in and roast for 30 minutes. After the first 30 minutes, remove the foil, baste the chicken with the juices in the pan, and return it to the oven for another 30 minutes. Then, baste it one last time and check the temperature. The size of the chicken you have will vary this final cooking time… generally a 5lb. chicken will take another 30 minutes or so.

I pull my chicken from the oven with the breast temperature is 170˚F. Be sure to let the chicken rest for ten minutes or so before carving it up. Serve it along with the roasted garlic cloves, or my crispy oven roasted potatoes (which use the garlic cloves from the chicken)!

*Note: for some reason my pdf uploader dealy isn't working on this site, but since I'm nearly done with my rebuild I'm not bothering to fix it! The new site will be up and running (hopefully) very soon!

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SHARED BETWEEN FRIENDS / Pregnancy

shared between friends

Shared Between Friends is a series designed to open a thoughtful, judgement free discussion about topics that are normally reserved for close friends. My hope with this series is that, by being open and honest about a number of topics, others might feel less judged or alone in their parenting choices and journey. You can read more about the series here.

Talking about pregnancy seemed like the next logical topic for this series since, ultimately, it's the first step in the journey of motherhood. I asked my girlfriends to share a little bit about their pregnancy experience(s)...

KACIE. Mother of two girls (10 months & 3)
I enjoyed parts of my pregnancies, and hated other parts of it. I loved the parts of it that didn’t have to do with me: the kicks, the overall concept, the baby growing… but I really disliked the effects on my body and mind. The hardest things for me during pregnancy were the hormonal ups and downs, the sensitivity to smell (I couldn’t stand the smell of beer/alcohol during both pregnancies which at the time felt like a major issue since I’m married to a brewer), watching my body grow and morph, the weight gain. The hardest aspect of my pregnancies were the (seemingly) endless contractions. I had uncomfortable contractions from month about week 12 on. Constant contractions caused by anything and everything, and early labor and hospital visits with both pregnancies as well.

I enjoyed the pace of the first pregnancy in the sense that it was all so new and I felt like I had lots of time to think, feel, and prepare. But, I also loved how fast the second one went by, and that I knew it had an endpoint, and an endpoint that was extremely rewarding at that! Ultimately, as hard as pregnancy and birth can be, it’s completely worth every discomfort, every contraction, every wave of nausea, every visit to the OB, every glucose test, every blood test, the stress, the hormonal nuttiness. I’ll take the stretch marks, the contractions, all the things that will “never be the same”, because having these little people in my life is totally worth it all. I think in the end, that is what most women would say about pregnancy. Everyone seems to have different challenges but, in the end, it’s actually a very short period of time that you hand over your body to this larger purpose (no pun intended).

Honestly, I feel so grateful to have had the oppurtunities to be pregnant. I know that for many people it doesn't come easily, and sometimes at all, and I've gotten to grow two pretty marvelous little ladies... it's such a privelege.


ANNA. Mother of one girl (6 months).
When my husband and I agreed we were both ready to have a baby I was really excited.  I had been ready to try a few years before he was.  I'm so glad we waited until he was on board to try because I wanted and needed the pregnancy to be a 'team event.'  It was nice to feel in control, in the sense that at it was a planned pregnancy.  Knowing I wanted to get pregnant long before I actually did so I was able to talk to a doctor and start taking prenatal vitamins so I felt prepared.  However, I was so surprised to find out how much I really didn't know about being pregnant.  We had a relatively easy time getting pregnant.  I had been worried about it, having had many friends recently who either were having a really hard time getting pregnant or had had miscarriages.  We were fortunate though, getting pregnant on the 2nd or 3rd try.  After that, besides the normal aches and slight nausea, I had a very smooth, healthy pregnancy.  Even being a whopping 12 days past due is considered somewhat normal.  I did, however, feel so big, emotional, and uncomfortable that I was so ready to have our baby.  Kacie can attest, I called crying a few times that week!
At this point is where my pregnancy took a turn for what I really hadn't planned for.  There is something that doctors and other mothers tell you that has so much truth to it.  It's comforting to have a birth plan but be very prepared to not follow it at all.  I won't write my entire birth story here, but I'll sum it up.  I was prepared to labor as long as possible at home and then have an as natural as possible birth in the hospital.  What really happened was after a short labor at home I was worried there was too little fetal movement so went to the hospital.  We found out our wee one was stressed with a low heart rate.  At this point one intervention followed another until my doctor came to my husband and I with the cesarean option and we took it.  We were fortunate to be able to take the time to weigh our options and make what we felt was the best decision for everybody, especially baby.  I felt really good about our decision and we had a super happy healthy little girl.  At the time and for months after I had no regrets.  I still don't, however here is where I start to have small tinges of guilt that I have to ward off.  I read articles every now and then about how doctors are pushing c-sections too soon and woman are too worried about there due dates.  I find myself thinking I should have been less worried about being so far past my due date, more relaxed at home when I started laboring,  more ready to labor for longer to just see.  This is where friends and my husband are so good.  They help remind me that I made the best decision for us and everyone came out with the best kind of results in the end.  There will always be studies and we're planning on having another at some point so maybe I'll have a chance for a V-back.  So I need to just lay off myself and don't let my own criticism get the best of me.

LAUREN. Mother one girl (2) and a baby boy due in June.
I love my daughter, but I hated pregnancy. The entire thing was just so weird. I had a fairly easy pregnancy the first time and so far have had an equally smooth pregnancy this time around, but I have a hard time with all the body changes. I'm not a tiny, cute, glowy goddess-type of pregnant lady - I'm one of those girls who gains her fair share of weight and it makes me miserable. I feel awkward in my own skin like my body has been hijacked and become unrecognizable. Basically I spend nine months feeling cumbersome and oafy and I just can't wait for it to be over. I feel like a douche for saying that, but it's the truth. Pregnancy just isn't my jam. I also HATE postpartum...with a violent passion. It's super gross and uncomfortable and everything feels out of your control emotionally. I pretty much wish I could just fast forward to the part where I have a three month old. That would be fantastic. I swear I totally love motherhood and it's totally worth it a million times over...but pregnancy...it's just not my favorite.

MARION. Mother of one girl (6), one boy (2), and stepmother to a girl (13).
I'm not going to lie: I despised being pregnant. My two pregnancies were the two most mentally challenging experiences that I have dealt with to date. Don't get me wrong, by all standards I had relatively "easy" pregnancies. But, I was miserable.

I am fiercely independent. I need space and alone time more than your average bear, and being pregnant was like the antithesis of being alone. Everything I did, everything I smelled, everything I ate was shared with this other being. I went to a friend's wedding when I was about 7 months pregnant with my first, and one of the groomsmen and I were talking about the whole making of another person.  I was explaining the whole process to him and he said, "so it's like a parasite". And I thought, "damn, yeah, that's exactly what it's like". I was young and unprepared for my first child, (well, who's REALLY prepared for their first child?), so I had thought that was a big part of why I had such a hard time  dealing with it. I thought the second time around I would embrace the beauty and wonder of creating a child. Alas, no. Round two proved just as trying as round one.

I love my children. I love that my body was able to make them. Nourish them. Grow them. But my love of pregnancy ends there. No juicy post pregnancy cocktail that my body pumped out can make me forget not being able to sleep on my stomach, (or sleep at all for that matter near the end), or muffin top cankles, or not being able to simply bend down with out a production of grunts, moans and sighs. Nope, pregnancy was not for me. I sure am glad I did it, though. Life would be awfully boring without my two little wildly independent parasites-turned-wonderful-human-beings.

ELIE. Mother of two girls (8 & 6), and one boy (4).
Pregnancy was the only time I felt that I could rock a two piece swim suit. With that said, being pregnant was not awesome. I didn't feel a glow, or at my utmost feminine (as I've heard it described). Pregnancy makes hair pop up in places on your body that hair should not grow, it makes parts of your body bulge/droop that were better off before it bulged/drooped, and sometimes those changes don't go back to "normal" after pregnancy. Sometimes the random hairs stay!

My pregnancies were thankfully very uneventful. I had my kids at 25, 27, and 30 and so there were no extra blood tests or ultra-sounds, except with my son because I had polyhydramnios, too much amniotic fluid. So... I got to have a couple extra ultrasounds, and I GOT to do the glucose test THREE times during that pregnancy, but other than that, very routine pregnancies.
 
My heart breaks at this fact, but I don't really remember what it's like to be pregnant... For me, each pregnancy was so different. My favorite pregnancy was when I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was too busy with a toddler to fixate on anything going "wrong" (as I had with my older daughter's gestation), but since the toddler was only 18 months, we had no agenda or place to be (like we did with my son's gestation- biggest sister had ballet, preschool, swim lessons, etc.), so I wasn't rushing around like a mad woman. I remember my water breaking during the pregnancy of my second daughter, and my husband and I had a conversation that entailed "not good timing... had plans to go refrigerator shopping over the weekend..." Whoa! Life was so chill back then! 

We would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences on these topics. Make yourself a cup of tea, fill your favorite mug to the brim with coffee, whip up a hot toddy, or pour yourself a big glass of wine and let’s talk...

*This is a space for inclusive, open, supportive, collaborative discussions... unsupportive, unkind, or judgemental comments will be deleted. Please be thoughtful and respectful. Thank you.

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A SWEDISH CHILDRENS BOOK / Majas Lilla Gröna

In the summer of 2012 when we traveled to Sweden to visit my brother, we spent a day in Stockholm and spent the majority of that day at the beautiful park called Rosendals Trädgård. It’s one of the things about Sweden (many) that I continue to dream about. It’s truly an extraordinary place. When we were there we wandered into their shop where you could buy cookbooks, freshly baked bread, kitchen gadgets, utensils, etc. This children’s book, Majas Lilla Gröna by Lena Anderson, caught my eye because of the beautiful cover art. I asked one of the shop owners if they had any copies in English, which they did not. I took a snap of the book cover on my phone, thinking I’d be able to find it online when we got home. But, despite searching everywhere I couldn’t find it! Since gardening, and eating, are such a big part of our days, I try to find things for the kids that portray growing, preparing, and consuming food in really positive, magical ways.

Last week a little care package arrived from our friends in Stockholm. Their was a nice card, and a few Swedish children’s books, including this one! I have no idea what the words say but it’s just beautiful, and it’s easy enough to make up a story to go along with the lovely illustrations. Flipping through this book makes me so, so excited to get our garden planted. The tone of the book is so magical, peaceful, and creative, which is exactly how I want our backyard, and my children’s memories of their childhood to be… and I can’t help but hope I look a bit like this lady when I grow older.

majas lilla gronamajas lilla gronamajas lilla gronamajas lilla gronamajas lilla grona

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SO I BAKE / Bourbon Chocolate Banana Pound Cake

bourbon chocolate banana pound cake

Ten minutes ago I was half asleep on our bed, lying in the sunshine with the cat… but I didn’t give into the nap, although I probably should have. I have been working tirelessly on my new website… except I don’t think it counts as working tirelessly if you are really tired? I’m not sure how that works. I’m nearly done with website #1 and it’s heartening to know that in just under a month I rebuilt a rather complicated website on my own. I guess I have learned a thing or two these past four years of blogging. So, no nap for me today. Instead I made myself a hazelnut latte with our newly fixed La Pavoni espresso machine. It feels a bit sacrilegious to be pouring a glug of hazelnut syrup into a latte made from freshly roasted beans and whipped up with an $800 espresso machine. In fact, I hate hazelnut flavoring, chocolate hazelnut, hazelnuts in general. But, like my Hot Tamale addiction, my affinity for hazelnut lattes started during my pregnancy with Lulu. Here I am ten months after she was born and I am still drinking them.

Now I am sitting outside looking fabulous, I’m sure, in my old jeans, Kyle’s sweatshirt, and slippers, sipping my latte and pretending to work on my website while my tall, handsome husband attempts to rig together something to keep the moles from burrowing into our irrigation box. I’m going to take this charade one step further and lie to myself that when I finish writing this I’m going to pull on my Carhartts (I don’t own any) and get to work with him. If I were being honest, I’d admit to myself that once this latte is drained I’m going to lean back in this patio chair and be very still, and very quiet until one, or both, of my children wake up from their nap.

This afternoon hour of rest has been well earned this week. Sometimes life is overwhelming, so I bake. There is something about the measuring and sifting, the whir of the stand mixer, the sharp scent of pure vanilla, and the smell of something baking that helps to put things right. I’m certainly not the first person to have discovered the bolstering power of baking, and I dare say I won’t be the last.

Pound cake is my favorite thing to bake in the afternoon, with banana bread holding the morning spot, probably permanently, as my favorite thing to bake before noon. So, what do you bake at 11:00 in the morning? I dreamed up this pound cake a few months ago and have been tweaking it to perfection. I really don’t think of myself as a baker; I’m more of a cook. I like to toss in a pinch of this, a little of that… the precise nature of baking doesn’t always appeal to me. But this cake was worth the effort of trial and error.

I started off using the basic pound cake recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipes cookbook, then came the banana, the chocolate… the booze. The result is something that is at it’s core, a pound cake. It’s heavy in the way that pound cakes are, with a dense, spongy base. It’s vanilla-y, with a hint of banana and sharp layers of bourbon-laced chocolate swirled throughout. It’s not too sweet, not too banana-y, not to chocolaty… it’s not too anything. It’s pretty much just right. In my book, anyway.

One last note on the banana aspect of this cake, I am of the camp that believes that an overripe banana that has been frozen in it's peel, then defrosted is the best kind of banana for baking. But if all you have is a ripe banana on your countertop that will work just fine too.

bourbon chocolate banana pound cake

BOURBON CHOCOLATE BANANA POUND CAKE

Ingredients.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup mashed banana = 1 very large (or two smaller) overripe banana
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons bourbon or whiskey (plus more for the chocolate sauce)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups cake flour, sifted

For the chocolate sauce:
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon or whisky

Directions.
With water in a small double boiler (or pot of water and metal mixing bowl)* simmering, mix together the chocolate chips, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and corn syrup until melted and combine. Turn the heat off (alcohol is flammable) before mixing in the bourbon! Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 325˚F. Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

In your stand mixer, beat your butter for a couple minutes, until it's shiny and smooth. Then add in the sugar and whip on high until it resembles frosting, about five minutes.

While the butter and sugar cream, whisk together your eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and bourbon. Reduce the mixer to medium low speed and slowly drizzle the egg mixture in, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Once the egg mixture is incorporated, add the banana. Finally add the salt, and a half cup at a time, add it the flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a spatula, gently fold the batter together to make sure everything is incorporated. Now you can assemble your cake.

First scoop in a layer of batter, followed by a layer of chocolate, then another layer of batter, a layer of chocolate, a layer of batter, another of chocolate, and, finally, the rest of the batter. It's okay if you have chocolate left over, I usually do and it's perfect on ice cream. Then, using a spoon, make three lines (the long way) down the top of the cake: one on the left, one center, and one on the right. Then take a sharp knife or skewer and, starting in on corner, work your way down the pan, swirling the chocolate into the batter.

Pop the cake into the oven, on the center rack, for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours, until a skewer comes out mostly clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cook, in the pan, for about ten minutes before removing it. Let it rest another ten minutes before serving it. It great warm, at room temperature, and my favorite thing about pound cake is that it is a totally acceptable breakfast item.

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