Summer Dinner: Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad

I absolutely hate, hate, HATE wasting good bread!  I posted the recipe for the french toast I made with the Tartine Bread cookbook, and thought I would share another great use for day-old bread.  This is a loaf of delicious seed sour dough from The Victorian Bakery here in Kalamazoo, and it couldn’t go to waste!  I decided to do a play on a tomato bread salad the restaurant I used to work at served, and I added included some bacon and romaine lettuce.  I suppose it’s a hybrid of a Tomato Bread Salad and a B.L.T.

Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad

Fresh Mozarella Cheese
One pint tiny heirloom tomatoes
half a head of romaine lettuce
Half a loaf, or so, sour dough bread (day-old or fresh)
bacon (five or six pieces)
a bunch of fresh basil, torn to pieces
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Really, the amounts of things you add here are up to you.  I like the ratio of bread, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce to be pretty even, but this would be delicious with any ratio you choose!  Slice the bread and also the mozarella into one inch cubes, then slice the tomatoes into halves.  Toss the bread, cheese and tomatoes into a large bowl.  Drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.  While that’s sitting and soaking up the goodness, cook the bacon to your liking.  Chop the romaine lettuce and the bacon, and place it into the bowl.  Give it a good stir and enjoy!



A lovely weekend

What a beautiful weekend!  The moderate temperatures are perfect for my San Francisco-lovin’ heart.  Wearing pants is the best.  We got our bikes in working order, and went all over on two wheels.  We made a little trip over to the east side of Michigan (in a car, not on bikes) to bid von boyage to our friends, Dianne and Diego, who are heading back to Dijon, France.  She’s got a lovely blog about living in France, by the way.

I’ve known Dianne since I was six years old, when I moved to a new school and were in the same class.  We would play Miss America and would practice dance routines to the Beach Boys’ “California Girls.”  We ended up heading off to college together as roommates, and really embraced the freedom of college together, including wearing pajamas a lot.  I met Diego, who’s from Spain, when Dianne met him years later in their Masters’ program.  Soon after, they left for Spain, and we left for San Francisco.  It’s always as if no time or distance has separated us when we cross paths.

My friends have a few amazing restaurants near my hometown, so we headed off to one of them for our double date.  I spent weekends and summers of college waiting tables at their first restaurant, the Clarkston Union.  I loved working there so much, fell in love with really good food, and everyone there quickly became my extended family.  My friends, Ann and Curt, are a couple of the hardest working people I know, and their second restaurant is one of my favorites.  The Union Woodshop is a “wood-fired BBQ joint” as they like to call it, as was the Detroit Free Press restaurant of the year in 2011.   We ate ribs and pulled pork and their famous mac-and-cheese.  The boys drank beer from our favorite Kalamazoo brewery, Bell’s, and Dianne and I enjoyed Shandys (beer + lemonade! My favorite summer beverage!) that also had Elderflower liqueur mixed in.  SO GOOD!  We spent the meal ooh-ing and ahh-ing over every bite, planning how we’re going to cross paths when Dan and I head over to Italy and France in November, and rehashing some favorite stories we always like to share whenever we see each other.  We were lavished with so many desserts, and left with full bellies and happy hearts.


Friday Favorites

We went to the zoo this week with a dear friend who was in town visiting.  I have so many photos of the giraffes, and this brachiosaurus.  (It’s not real)  I also have a great many photos of all the goats at the petting zoo – they’re all named after Harry Potter characters!!!  How adorable is that?! Harry, Seamus, Hermoine!  The Weasleys all looked alike and Hagrid was a huge goat!  So sweet.

These do-it-yourself business cards from Oana, and these from Melinda are inspiring and gorgeous.

I’m slightly obsessed with The Way We Ate!

I was pretty stoked to be over on Apartment Therapy Family this week!

I want to spend some time here with a good book.

Excited to make these for our bedroom!

AND!  I’m so excited to announce the winner of the Tartine bread cookbook giveaway!  It was so much fun reading all the ways everyone enjoys eating good bread!  I announced it on the giveaway post, but I will here too – Thanks to the random number generator, congratulations is in order to comment #22: Sue!  I enjoy a good Monte Cristo, too!  (Send an email with your address to: kastner (dot) emily (at) gmail (dot) com!)

Hope everyone’s weekend ahead is wonderful!


Tartine Baking Project: #68 Blackberry Tart with Rosewater Cream

Let’s just start out being completely honest here.  This lovely blackberry tart was supposed to have a cream infused with Rose Geranium leaves.  I spent a ridiculous amount of time calling around to find such a plant.  I started with greenhouses and nurseries, moved on to specialty food stores, a bee farmer who makes flavored honey and also soaps, then on to fellow bakers who pointed me in the direction of a tea house.  Most people had no idea what the plant was, and even after I described it and let them know that I needed it for baking that very day, I received many suggestions to order seeds online.  I didn’t have that kind of time!  Every failed attempt made me want to keep searching even more.  Someone in Kalamazoo had to have a secret little potted rose geranium plant sitting on some window sill somewhere.  Right?!  With more sleuthing (which means more Google searches), I decided to call around to some Middle Eastern restaurants and grocers.  I felt like I was onto something here.  NO. LUCK. The recipe did suggest using rosewater as an alternative, but it felt like the easy way out.

Like many a tart I’ve made before, the process for this tart was pretty simple.  Whipping up sweet tart dough and pastry cream has become second nature.  This go round, it involved folding whipped cream and rosewater into the pastry cream.  (I bet that lady on the rosewater bottle would know where I could find rose geranium leaves…)  Since I now have a bottle of rosewater, I’m excited to look up some uses for the stuff.  It smells amazing.

Here’s a little behind the scenes tidbit: I was excited to wear a skirt I recently thrifted for these photos.  It’s a lovely high-waisted tea length skirt, covered in roses.  I was all set to take photos of me holding the tart, and realized Dan and Jack were gone and no one could take my photo.  Off went the skirt, and it became a lovely tablecloth.

After picking through and finding the ripest blackberries in the bunch, I topped off the tart with a tiny dusting of confectioners’ sugar.  The ripe berries and the rosewater are such a nice pair.  With nearly every bite, it’s difficult to not think of how amazing it would have been with those dumb rose geranium leaves though.  Some day I will find that elusive plant.  I feel like that crazy explorer guy from the movie UP – you know the one with all the dogs hunting for that bird and people think he’s nuts and he made up the bird?  That’s how I feel!  THE BIRD EXISTS AND SO DOES THIS PLANT!

Okay, enough of all that.  This tart is delicious, and rosewater is lovely.  It’s quite the sensory experience, eating this tart.  Even on a gray, drizzly day like we’ve been having enjoying this tart fills you up with summer.

p.s. This is the last day to enter to win the Tartine Bread cookbook!  It’s so lovely, worth the few moments it takes to leave a comment!


Completely Pinteresting: Linoleum Block Stamps

I’ve had my eye so many handmade stamps all over the place!  These are adorable, but they’re made of foam and I wanted the intricacy of carving.  These stamps are great, but I couldn’t find rubber to carve at any craft shop around town!  So frustrating!  So I opted for linoleum block.  I’ve worked with linoleum blocks what seems like a million years ago in a college art class, and I remember loving it.  Downside?  You can’t use ink pads, just a brayer and block printing ink.  That’s fun, just not exactly what I wanted for these stamps.  I was instantly frustrated that I was not as good as this Etsy shop, turns out it takes some serious practice and is not something you can conquer in one evening.  Go figure.  There were a great many stamps I scrapped, but I only cut myself once – so there’s that.

I love, love, love wrapped up the food I make for others, and I’m setting out to get better about sending packages to friends far away!  Now, I’m ready to adorn them all with handmade stamps.  I’ll be practicing, and maybe I’ll even get good enough to send the stamps themselves as part of the gifts I’m sending away.  Fingers crossed!

P.S. I’m going to keep reminding you about the Tartine Bread cookbook giveaway!  Go leave a comment here for a chance to win!


Fifty Shades of Green

I’ve avoided falling victim to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” madness that seems to be sweeping over the world.  Not that I’m above cult-like teen novel series – I read the first Harry Potter book in college for a childrens’ literature course and was instantly invested in the years of Potter ahead, I devoured the Twilight series when I was large and preggo, and I was adoringly captivated by the Hunger Games.  I don’t even know what the shady grey books are really about, I just know that I’m too busy to care.  I do wear a lot of grey, but a book about shades of grey seems boring.  I may be interested in a book about the shades of green though.

I just wanted to share some photos that I took with Instagram at my parents’ house this past weekend.  SO much green anywhere you look!  It was a nice break for Jack and I while Dan was down in Atlanta for work.  I got nothing done from my to-do list, but I did completely appreciate all that was around me.

p.s. In case you didn’t see it yesterday, you can go here and leave a comment for a chance to win the beautiful Tartine Bread book!


My dad’s bread, a French Toast recipe, and a giveaway

Just about one year ago, exactly, my dad set out to make his own bread.  He mentioned wanting to find a great recipe to get the ball rolling, and I suggested the Tartine Bread cookbook.  I’d never made the Tartine bread, or anything from any Tartine cookbook at that point, but I knew their bread was my favorite and the cookbook was beautiful.  After a few trials, dialing in the basics to make it works for his set up, my dad figured it out.  He’s become quite the bread wizard, experimenting with different variations all the time.

The loaf he uses for his everyday bread is amazing – I’ve enjoyed many a sandwich with that bread.  Spending a few days at my parents’ this past weekend, it began calling out to be made into French toast.  The last section of the cookbook is full of recipes for day-old bread.  How clever and practical!  I used their French toast recipe to make the fanciest breakfast delight for my family.

(Keep reading for the best French toast recipe I’ve ever used, and a Tartine Bread cookbook giveaway after the jump!)

Read the rest of this entry »


Home Sweet Home

The last few weeks are quite a blur – lots of birthdays and trips and summer fun.  I’m craving some much needed time to step back, relax with family, and a little prep for the home stretch of my Tartine Baking Project (only five more recipes!) is in order!  Hope the rest of your week is wonderful – I’m off to my parents’ house.  Having my home away from home on my mind, I stumbled on this print (pictured above) recently from Hero Design Studio.  So in love with everything in this photo, really.

I hope the rest of your week is wonderful!  I cannot believe summer is winding down!  I’ll be back soon!


Jack is three!

While we celebrated his party this past weekend, today is Jack’s birthday.  I adore this photo of Jack on the day he was born, sitting in my mom’s lap and holding his daddy’s finger!  It’s impossible to avoid getting sappy when my little dude is celebrating a birthday.  Of course I reflect on carrying him in my belly for oh so long, the long labor, and bringing him home to our tiny San Francisco apartment where we learned the ropes of being parents to such an amazing little dude.  I can’t help but look through photos of his fist few days in the world, as we were learning about his personality, how he preferred to be held and what each tiny cry meant.  All the cliches you constantly hear about how fast they grow and how you really need to savor every single moment are so true.  As much as I miss Jack being a cuddly little baby who would nap in my arms, every year gets so much more exciting.

He’s three now!  We’re having conversations, he’s asking so many questions and is so curious about the world.  He’s insanely observant and beautifully considerate.  Of course there are melt downs and fits, but that’s part of learning how to cope with new emotions all the time.  So as frustrating as it may be at times, like when he’s laying in the shade on the grass in the park refusing to set foot in the hot sun ever again, I try to remember it’s normal and it will pass.  The knock-knock jokes, the constant laughter, the way he melts when he sees babies, his way of sweetly comforting his friends when they’re sad or hurt, and the adorable things he tells us every day outweigh the minor craziness of this age.  I adore this kid, and I feel so honored to be his mama.

Tried to get a sweet little smile, this is what he insisted on!


A 3rd Birthday Party for a little Olympian

We were all set for a superhero birthday party.  Well, that is I knew what I wanted to do for the party – I hadn’t made anything yet.  This was one of those instances where procrastination pays off, because as soon as the Olympics began and Jack was in love with them, we had a total change of plans.  The ideas instantly started flowing – there needed to be a torch, lots of games for all the kiddos to play, a medal stand, and International flags all over the place!  Game on!

I wanted to do this party as frugally as possible, so I made the majority of the decorations from stuff we already had around the house.  We did buy ribbon for the medals, and Gatorade for all to drink.  It is the Olympics after all!  I had my eye on little plates and straws, but I forgot to buy them!  All the kiddos took home gift bags fit for champions, including medals, a granola bar, noise makers for cheering on teammates, and wrist sweatbands.  The day before the party I was talking with some mama friends at the park and I mentioned that I was torn whether I wanted to make cupcakes or a big cake.  My friend Shannon said, “What about those ice cream cone cupcakes.  Kids love those.”  I immediately screamed, “THEY CAN BE MINI TORCHES!”  I don’t remember the last time I was so excited.  It was just perfect!

Jack requested a cake with blueberries and strawberries, so that’s exactly what he got.  For those curious, it’s a basic yellow cake, with a vanilla bean sugary frosting and blueberry-strawberry filling.  We didn’t even slice into it because everyone was having their fill with the torches.  Jack was on the move all day, with his blue Gatorade mustache, and wearing the little shirt I made him for the party.  Iron-on letters are so much fun!  We had the Olympics on the TV, and one of his adorable little pals screamed “Jack’s party is on the TV!”

It was such a hot, sweaty day and I think the two conversations I could muster up were involving two points: how hot it was and how amazed I was that Jack was already three!  Well, technically he turns three tomorrow (August 7).  But, THREE!  Honestly, that blows my mind!  I could go on and on about that, really, but I’ll save you from the blubbery mess of my child growing so fast, and how proud I am of the polite, kind, adventurous little dude we have.

I am just so excited the party turned out to be a lot of fun.  I was so busy running around, but I managed to take some photos of the day.  (I have no photos of his 2nd birthday party, which was pretty adorable).  My one regret from this one: I forgot to play the National Anthem (that I bought on iTunes on my phone just for this occasion) when they were taking turns on the medal stand!  ha!  Pretty sure they had a great time regardless.