Book Review: The Love & Lemons Cookbook

There are even more recipes on Jeanine and Jack's blog,
Love & Lemons.
The Love & Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking by Jeanine Donofrio (Avery) is a delightful cookbook that celebrates fruits and vegetables, because sometimes all you need is a little spark of inspiration to break free from your cooking rut. The photography, by Janine's husband Jack Mathews, is bright and colorful. The book is unusual in that the recipes are organized by ingredient, and there are entire chapters on avocados, artichokes, and stone fruits. The recipes are simple, truly celebrating the bounty of the season and easy enough to prepare on any busy weekday night. As the temperatures become cooler and the air turns crisper, I can't wait to try the "Roasted Cauliflower & Red Pepper Soup," "Spring Leek Soup with Purple Sage," and "Cardamom Apple Crisp." This is definitely a cookbook that I can easily and enjoyably cook my way through; I'll just have to stock up on lemons first.

Recipe: Homemade Granola

I love granola but it can get expensive really quickly if you solely purchase it in a store. I searched for a recipe and my favorite was this one from Bon Appetit, but of course I had to alter it. I couldn't imagine a granola recipe without real maple syrup (spoken like a true Vermonter), and I substituted walnuts for the pecans and melted butter for the vegetable oil. Oh, and I added cacao nibs, although that doesn't mean you can't also add chocolate chips later. Enjoy!

You'll need
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
4 Tablespoons real maple syrup (I prefer dark)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup dried fruit (I used dried cherries and diced dried apricots)
1/3 cup cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a separate bowl, combine all ingredients except for the dried fruit and cacao nibs. I added the hot, melted butter last and stirred everything together. Spread mixture on cookie sheet and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Granola will be golden brown when ready. Let cool, and then stir in fruit and cacao nibs.

My favorite way to enjoy the granola is over Greek vanilla yogurt, shown here as a dessert with an additional swirl of maple syrup and chocolate chips. Add fresh berries for a healthy boost.

How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

One thing I've been told over and over both in my personal and professional life is that I always seem calm. The funny thing is that I'm often told this during situations when I have been dealing with managing stress head-on. As a classically-trained violinist since age five who used to do a lot of auditions, I have learned a few tricks for how to remain calm under pressure (or at least to look calm on the outside).

1. Have a mantra or special sequence that gets you to chill out every time. Ever since I was little, I've had a mantra, a repeated word, that helps to slow my breathing and calm me down if I'm panicked, nervous or stressed. When I say it either inside or as a whisper, I can actually feel the tension diminish dramatically. Before a performance or job interview, I say my mantra, sit in a quiet place, and breathe deeply for a couple minutes. I also find that doing arm stretches helps to loosen me up and makes me feel more energized.

I also love this book for more
ideas on staying calm and
boosting happiness.
2. Smile. Sometimes the only thing you need to do to calm down is smile. Use a photo as your phone lock screen or desktop image that will instantly make you grin. I always have a photo from my travels on my computer and a photo of one of my pets on my phone lock screen for that reason. If you're going through a stressful time at work, smiling will also help others in your office relax.

3. Get enough sleep. This is probably the hardest thing for me because sometimes it can be difficult to shut my brain off and fall asleep if I'm stressed. I always have Sleepytime tea, lavender essential oil, and melatonin on hand for those times I need extra help. Prioritize sleep during stressful times.

4. Think about a time you were nervous or stepped out of your comfort zone. When I look back on my life, some of the moments that made me the most anxious beforehand ended up being the best. When I was 22, I bought a one-way ticket to the Czech Republic, with a month-long stint working in the French Pyrenees beforehand. I knew some people thought I was crazy, but I had traveled abroad alone a few times before and knew it was the time in my life to do it. I remember the night before I left, I felt like I was making a huge mistake. Turns out, it was one of the best things I've ever done.

Now, I'm curious to hear from you: What works for you when you need to remain calm under pressure?

Four Friday Favorites

This new feature will be a celebration of four random things that I love in no particular order.

1. "Pupsicles" and Zoku Classic Pop Molds (order here)

I've been making our ten-month-old border collie/Australian shepherd rescue puppy, Carter, popsicles since it's been so hot and humid this month, and these Zoku classic pop molds are by far my favorite. They're easy to make and sturdy enough that I let him lick them right on the stick, although it helps that he eats like a person. To make the popsicles, "pupsicles" as I like to call them, I blend a mashed banana, Greek yogurt, a couple teaspoons of natural peanut butter (please make sure it does not have xylitol in it, which kills dogs), a bit of local honey, and water together and pour into the molds. I make approximately 2-3 at a time and let Carter enjoy a third or half of one at a time.

2. Camille Styles Entertaining: Inspired Gatherings & Effortless Style by Camille Styles

I've been enjoying this book, created by one of my favorite bloggers, since it was published in 2014, and I continue to pick it up with each change in the seasons. It features more than 300 pages of beautiful photos, recipes, entertaining tips, and inspiration on how to embrace the season and celebrate the everyday.

3. Tata Harper Very Bronzing (order here)

I happen to live just a few miles from Tata Harper's farm, but I would love it even if it wasn't a local brand for me. This is the only bronzer I need in the summer, and I wear it over my Marcelle BB Cream in Golden Glow (I've never worn foundation because it feels like a mask but swear by this lightweight BB cream). The medium brown bronzer gives my skin a dewy finish without being greasy, and I love that the brand's products are natural.

4. Summer Sunsets
My favorite thing to do in the evening is to sit on our front porch with some chilled, local hard cider or wine and watch the sun set over the Adirondacks. It's always spectacular, and the perfect way to bid another summer day farewell.

Summer is Here

Happy summer! I just wanted to share this photo from yesterday evening. My husband Michael was mowing around our huge vegetable garden and our border collie Australian shepherd puppy was sitting on the hill watching him beneath the beautiful sunset. A simple moment at its finest.

Three Simple Ways to Create a Social Media Strategy That Works

Your business is growing and it's time to create a social media plan. It's no longer an option to have a business and not be active on social media. But where do you begin?

Have a goal (or three)
Sure, everyone wants more likes but this goal should extend beyond that. Are you an artist looking to sell more artwork? If you're a nonprofit, maybe you'd like to receive more donations. Are you working with an animal rescue group? Posting photos on Facebook would help more dogs find their forever homes. Write down your goals and think about how you'd like to utilize social media to achieve them.

Know your audience
Think of your typical customer and which platforms they're on. Are they active millennials? Then it's probably important to be on Instagram. Maybe your target market is retired and on Facebook to keep up with their grandchildren's photos. How will you reach your audience? Photos always do well to engage your audience. Working in higher education, it was always fascinating to see how many more "likes" a photo of campus received than a news story. A post that created nostalgia, such as asking for advice for a first year student, also did well. Once you know your audience, it'll be easier to pick the platforms that work best to reach your customers. Start with two and grow from there. My personal favorites include Facebook and Instagram.
Recommended reading material

Develop a schedule and track your analytics
I used to work at a place where there were three of us who alternated days we'd post on Facebook but I think it's usually best to have one dedicated social media expert. When I worked at Bard College, I was the social media person in the office, which meant that I could develop my own calendar. I tracked how well each post did based on the time of day and type of content, and was able to be flexible and change as needed. I partnered with the College's social media coordinator to exchange content; you don't have to be constantly creating new content. Share a story that relates to your business from another company or publication.  

Once you know these three pillars of a successful social media strategy, it's easier to come up with exciting content that your followers will want to read and share with their friends. If you have a business, people are already talking about you on social media. Don't you want to join the conversation?

Recipe: Watermelon & Citrus Salad

It's been an especially hot week in the Champlain Valley of Vermont and when it's this warm, I crave watermelon. Last night, I started making a watermelon salad that became what you see above and it was so delicious that I have to share my experimental recipe with you. It nicely complements grilled chicken.

You'll Need
1/4 of a [seedless] watermelon
2 pickling cucumbers (pickling cucumbers are my favorite because they're extra firm)
1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced and include the fronds
1-2 oranges
Zest and juice from one lemon
3-4 tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted (and half a tablespoon of butter for toasting)
1/3-1/2 package of fresh goat cheese (here's my favorite
Trader Joe's orange muscat champagne vinegar, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cube the watermelon and add to a bowl, along with thinly chopped cucumbers, fennel, and oranges. Zest and juice lemon and add to mixture. In a small frying pan, add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and let it melt. Add pine nuts and lightly toast. Allow nuts to cool slightly before adding to bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons (do a taste test) of the orange muscat champagne vinegar and freshly ground pepper, and stir. Finally, add fennel fronds and goat cheese and stir a final time before serving. Enjoy!

* Strawberries, blueberries, and grapefruit would all be a delicious addition to the salad.
* Don't have a Trader Joe's near you? You can order the vinegar through Amazon. Also, any fruity vinegar would do or try a lemon olive oil. Yum.

Recipe: Summer Morning Smoothie

I have a confession: I hate greens in my smoothies. I've never liked vegetable juice because I'd rather just eat my vegetables. My freezer is always stocked with frozen berries though, and the blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are from our garden. I love spring and summer mornings when the windows are open and it's breezy and warm. The birds are chirping outside and it's the perfect welcome to the new day. Why not make a refreshing and healthy fruit smoothie?

This [vegan] smoothie provides a welcome helping of fruit and an energy boost. Frozen fruit is great because you don't need ice and the consistency is nice and thick.

You'll Need
One banana, sliced
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cherries
3/4 cup orange juice or apple cider
3/4 cup vanilla or regular almond milk
One teaspoon lemon juice

Blend until smooth. Makes two servings.

Welcome to Silk & Gelato!

Writing essentials.
I'm excited you're here. In my experience, the most difficult blog post to write is the first one. So here goes....

What's in a name? Silk, because I used to wear a silk scarf pretty much every day. While I don't wear as many scarves, I still love them and silk remains one of my favorite fabrics. Gelato celebrates my Italian heritage. I'm also Norwegian and German but it's the Italian side that I'm the most in touch. I learned to cook and bake from my mother, who made pasta from scratch and baked fresh bread that my older brother and I would smear with gobs of butter while it was still piping hot.

What's the site about? I'll share some of my favorite simple pleasures, like recipes for my favorite snacks (if you follow me on Instagram you'll see some of my favorite food shots and pictures of Carter, my beloved border collie/Australian shepherd puppy), natural beauty product reviews, book reviews, interior design ideas, pretty photos, career tips, and exclusive interviews with women who inspire me. I've been working on content for a while and I'm excited to share with you. This blog will be about savoring and celebrating the small things in life. I live in rural Vermont and work in technology: I send out massive email campaigns, implement marketing strategies, and fix HTML issues while staring at gorgeous rolling mountains. What's better than that?

Thanks for stopping by, and please get in touch! Drop me a line, a story idea, or a favorite recipe here.

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