Julie Seyler is a foodaholic, writer, and author of the blog, TwoBitTart.com. A graduate of culinary school and an itinerant student of gelato, pastry, and, most recently, Italian pasta, she labels herself neither Chef nor expert, but a chronicler of culinary vice. Follow her on Instagram: @TwoBitTart.
She came to me in a dream…and had all the answers.
Do you ever have those dreams that impart so much truth, wisdom, and clarity that you commit to remembering every bit upon waking?
I had one of those dreams the other night – the message was relevant and so dreadfully important. The key to my happiness was locked in its meaning. If I could remember, my life would transform. As I stirred from sleep, the details scattered from my mind like raindrops flung from my opening eyelashes. Oh, the horror! Of course, securing life’s answer is never that simple.
I’ve been talking with a friend lately about metamorphosis and transformation. Why do we confine ourselves to be the person we have scripted? I’ve spoken before about our personal “story” – the story that we’ve concocted to describe ourselves…something to put behind the “I.” “I am this,” “I do that,” and “I like those.” When we do so, we conscribe our own possibilities.
So, what did my dream have to tell me? Alas, the details are gone, but snippets are still fluttering in my mind. My dream was about things that hold us back from true transformation – from radically changing our story.
Fear of failure
Fear of success – “who am I to deserve this?”
Idleness – why bother, I’m content where I am
Comfort in the known – transformation is inherently uncomfortable
Morals, values and laws that may no longer apply, serve a purpose, or be correct – society’s and our own personal beliefs
The opinion of others
The energy to make it happen – with barely the strength to get through the week, how do we find the strength to transform?
If we can overcome these obstacles, then true, lasting, profound change can be ours, but that, my friend, is a difficult road.
The key to everlasting happiness may be elusive, but a bowl of comforting and fleeting happiness can be found in this hearty and soul-satisfying pea soup. Enjoy!
Enjoy this hearty, smoky, classic pea soup on a chilly fall evening with crusty bread and a simple pear salad.
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups dried green split peas
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 smoked ham hock
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
Sour cream (optional)
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook until the onions are soft. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Add the split peas and stir to combine. Add the broth and the ham hock and bring to a boil.
Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. If soup is too thick, add a little more broth. The soup is ready when the peas are soft, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Transfer the ham onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones, shred, and stir back into the soup (discard the bones and any skin). Remove bay leaves and season with salt, pepper and finish with white vinegar. To serve, dollop with sour cream (if using).
When your sister says, “Dad was the best dad ever,” it makes you question your memory. You wonder if you’ve incorrectly rewritten your story to match the narrative you want to tell. You wonder if you’re falsely playing victim for attention. So, you try to remember the forgotten good times, special times with your dad, when he loved you, supported you, and truly saw you as his child. You recall a handful of times, age 13 or 14, when he took you to explore the local tide pools and then…nothing. You cannot remember another instance, although you rack your brains for more. So, you pull the dusty photo album from the closet shelf, you turn the pages of your life, one year after the next, birthdays, Christmas, visiting grandparents, attempting to find other special times with him and then you realize there are only two photos of you with your dad. Two photos, taken long ago, when you were a few months old, before you could even remember and then…nothing. Not another photo, for the whole of your life.
I’m sometimes asked where I came up with the name Two-Bit Tart. I can thank Dad for that. When I was a teenager and young adult primping for a night out, he would sometimes comment, “You look like a two-bit tart!” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the antiquated term, it means “cheap hooker” – a slur. Thanks dad. Years later, I defiantly chose that name for this blog to say, “I remember how you treated me, but the emotional abuse I suffered did not – will not – break me.”
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 9-inch- cake pan; line pan with parchment and butter parchment. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup sugar and cook until sugar dissolves and mixture turns deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add apple and gently shake skillet to distribute caramel evenly. Cover and cook until apples release their juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until apples are tender and caramel thickens and coats apples, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer apples and caramel syrup to prepared cake pan, spreading evenly.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl to blend. Place polenta in large bowl; pour boiling water over and stir to blend. Add remaining butter and 3/4 cup sugar to polenta mixture. Using electric mixer, beat until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each. Gently pour batter over apples in pan.
Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan 5 minutes. Run small knife between cake and pan sides to loosen cake. Carefully invert cake onto microwavable platter and peel off parchment. Cool 15 minutes. (To rewarm in microwave, heat on medium about 2 minutes.). Serve with freshly-whipped cream or ice cream.
“This is going to be an interesting day,” she muses, followed by, “what IS my worst impulse, anyway?” She’s acted on a few impulses lately, primarily bad ones, in retrospect. She’s uneasy imagining where her absolute worst could push her.
Created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975, Oblique Strategies is a technique for cultivating seeds of innovative creativity. Originally in the form of printed cards, each strategy, like “Give way to your worst impulse,” offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists (particularly musicians) penetrate creative blocks. The cards contain a suggestion, aphorism, or remark which can be used to break dilemmas in creativity. Some are specific to music composition; others are more general, but all can be used to break through any creative dilemma. The cards are now available on an app which she recently downloaded. Strategies include:
Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame
Go slowly all the way round the outside
What are you really thinking about just now? Incorporate
Forever struggling with her elusive impetus to write, she is on a continuous lookout for tools to ease her tortured (or non-existent) process. Downloading the strategies onto her phone, she concluded, in addition to helping her write, would make a great tool for breaking through her quotidian life blocks as well. And so begins her dilemma on surviving a day when her directive is to give way to her worst impulse.
She would have preferred, “Imagine the art as a set of disconnected events.” Disconnected – yes – like this introduction and the recipe below. That’s something she’s extremely familiar with.
Classic chewy oatmeal cookies bookend rounds of vanilla ice cream rolled in mini-chips.
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 ½ quarts ice cream in a square tub, such as Breyers
½ cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375⁰ F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or Silpat liners. Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
Brown butter by melting in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring and scraping bottom of pan until milk solids are dark golden and butter has a nutty aroma. Stir in cinnamon.
In a large bowl, combine cinnamon butter, sugars, and oil and whisk to combine. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla and whisk until mixture is smooth. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until combined. Add oats and stir until evenly distributed.
Divide dough into 18 portions (I use a small ice cream scoop). Arrange dough balls 2” apart on prepared sheets. Using damp hands, press each ball into a 2 ½-inch disk.
Bake 8-10 minutes until cookie edges are set and centers are still soft, but not wet. Let cookies set on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cut cardboard from ice cream and slice into 1” thick slices. Using a 3 ½-inch cookie cutter, cut 2 rounds from each slice, 9 slices total. Sandwich ice cream between two cookies, and roll in mini chocolate chips. Freeze until ready to serve.
*Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Classic Chewy Oatmeal Cookies
I am besotted by Autumn, yet my love is unrequited. I wait at windows that darken imperceptibly earlier in the evening, willing the trees to burst into sunset hues, yearning for a chilling of the air that never comes, begging for the first crackling fire in the dusty fireplace. Still, she does not heed my lament. She unfurls day upon day of scorching heat, forcing tanned leaves to wither and serenely suicide without a hint of colorful fanfare. She’ll arrive when she is ready, for her own selfish pleasure and not a moment sooner, no matter my desires.
Despite this interminable summer weather, October in my kitchen means hearty soups and stews like this Pork and Potato Green Chili.
A hearty, spicy chili of tender pork and potatoes.
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 fresh Anaheim chiles – seeded, stemmed and chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
1 ¼ pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 16-ounce jar salsa verde, medium heat
1 Tablespoon lime juice
½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese
¼ cup shredded cilantro
In a soup pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add the chiles and onion and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, 5 minutes. Add the pork; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until browned, 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, salsa and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, partially cover and simmer, stirring the chili occasionally, until the pork is tender, about 40 minutes.
Add lime juice, season with salt and pepper, and divide among bowls. Garnish with the cheese and cilantro.
Have friends over for dinner this weekend without all the work. “Soup Sundays” is the low-key, fuss-free version of a full-blown dinner party. For my inaugural Soup Sunday, I made two soups a few days ahead and, for dessert, baked a simple apple crostata with the booty from my apple-picking adventures on Saturday. Friends brought bread and salad, we opened a few bottles of wine, and celebrated the first Sunday of October.
I’ve decided to make it a weekly standing date. Next Sunday, we’re making it even more casual with the “Pajama Party” edition.
A low and slow simmer results in tender beef and chewy farro in this comforting and hearty soup. Just let time do its thing.
8 cups unsalted beef stock
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup uncooked farro
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 large thyme sprigs
3 bay leaves
¼ cup unsalted tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds beef stew meat, divided
2 ½ cups chopped carrots
In a 6-quart slow cooker, stir together beef stock, onion, celery, farro, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Dollop tomato paste on top.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add half of beef and cook until well browned, about 6 minutes. Add beef to slow cooker. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and beef. Scatter carrots over beef. Cover and cook on LOW until meat is tender, about 8 hours. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Adjust salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls.