Basil Fig Vodka Smash for #drinkthesummer 2016!

Basil Fig Vodka Smash | @withfoodandlove

Welcome to the 2nd annual #DRINKTHESUMMER!

Today is a celebration.

Of summer.

Of its magical bounty that’s still in full bloom {stop rushing fall plz/thank uuuu}.

And of community.

Last week I mentioned the significance of finding a tribe/sisterhood/your people, etc. – and DRINKTHESUMMER was born out of exactly that. Our work is done almost exclusively behind a computer and camera and alone. And my need to connect beyond that is primal. I think most of the fine people below would agree. I wanted to create an event where we could all participate in something together, on the same day, at the same time. It’s turning into an annual thing and it’s open to anyone and everyone that has a blog. If you are interested in participating next year fill out this form, and I’ll put you on the list.

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short + sweet | Green Quinoa Salad with Basil Dressing

Green Quinoa Salad with Basil Dressing | @withfoodandlove

Welcome to another edition of {short + sweet}.

I love growing older. It’s an honor, and a privilege. Last week I turned 33. Last week I had a crazy stomach flu for three days. I’ll spare you the details, but my birthday was a blur spent on the couch in and out of consciousness craving ice cream and binge-watching Bravo. When all else fails, ice cream and RHONY cures all – we know this.

I definitely wasn’t craving solid food, especially greens, but after my birthday redo this weekend all I want to eat right now is pure veg. This green quinoa salad is my most popular salad recipe from the archives. It was originally posted in 2014, but after The Kitchn linked to it this summer, I figured I should update the old photos {which I did} and the recipe {which I did just slightly}.

Green quinoa salad, which is basically massaged kale {don’t skip this massaging step!} and cooked quinoa, dressed in a vegan, light and creamy basil dressing that’s powered by Silk. Thanks for supporting the brands that make it possible to bring you free, quality content each week. For updates, discounts, offers and more sign-up for Silk’s newsletter here.

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Pineapple Sage Shrub + scenes from #bossbabefestMSP!

Pineapple Sage Shrub | @withfoodandlove

This pineapple sage shrub is my new favorite shrub.

But first this.

I’ve been putting off writing this post. Mostly because I needed to digest the moments, properly store away the memories and find the words to articulate the love I experienced in Minneapolis-Saint Paul this past July. For about six months Amanda and I planned a retreat for ten women. The setting was on a lake. In a lake house, where we’d all lay our heads under the same roof and dream the same dreams. To love and support each one another.

To build a sisterhood like no other.

Here’s the thing about what we do, as bloggers. It’s isolated. It’s spent mostly at home without any human interaction. With the occasional UPS man knocking at the door or baby crying or weird conversation with a cat, we are alone. In our kitchens and behind our cameras and computers. We spend our lives developing recipes and telling stories out of love, to share them with the universe to build a community. That community is comprised of readers, like you, and other bloggers who eventually become our confidants, coaches, muses, therapists, and best friends.

Only these are the kinds of best friends you can never get coffee with or hug. Only text, call and communicate by modern technology like social media. But nonetheless our bond is strong. Whether it’s a group of twenty, ten or two, wherever you find your friends, your support, your sisterhood – embrace it. Women loving women, it’s a damn beautiful thing.

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How To Make Fresh Corn Polenta + scenes from midsummer!

How To Make Fresh Corn Polenta | @withfoodandlove

It’s hard to escape fresh sweet corn, in the summer, in the Midwest. And besides avoiding GMOs – I’m not totally sure why you’d want to. Because it’s everywhere and it’s delicious. While most corn in the states is GMO, there are some hybrid and non-GMO varieties floating around. My Trader Joes actually sells local {GMO-free} sweet corn for fifty cents an ear. So, I’ve been stocking up there.

With this I have been making fresh corn polenta all summer long. Which is much different than traditional polenta made from ground corn, and in my opinion way better. It’s creamy and rich. Very rich, and a little goes a long way. Fresh and sweet. Quite sweet, and salty/savory pairings here are very important. Simple and versatile. Versatility is one of its best features. It pairs well with any deeply braised veg, sharp cheese, poached eggs, and/or meat and fish if that’s your thing.

Fresh corn polenta is made in four super easy steps. Shuck/shave/milk the cobs. Gently simmer the kernels/flesh/juices in a small amount of water. Process the cooked corn with pepper. Simmer pureed corn once more with butter {or substitution} and herbs and more salt and pepper and you’re done.

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Chilled Summer Soup with Cucumber Salad + scenes from eckert’s dinner in the orchard!

Chilled Summer Soup with Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

Hi. How are you? I took a break for a hot minute. Because the last two weeks have been crazy-awesome-insane. The first seven days were spent in Minneapolis at #bossbabefestMSP – I told you a little about this here, and I’ll tell you more about it soon. Then I flew home, and as soon as I toucheddown I hit the pavement running {that’s how the saying goes, right?}. I catered an event for forty for a local start-up company. I shot a big spread for FEAST Magazine. It’s coming out in September, and I really love this one! And then, I prepared a meal for thirty in an orchard, all in the same week.

Eckert’s, a local farm that I have worked with in the past on my pop-ups asked me to come out to their orchard and put on a dinner for {30!!!!} local chefs and food influencers. I wanted to say no and go hide under a rock, but I said yes anyways. I knew right away what I wanted the table to look like. Simple, white, pops of color, mostly peach. And then quite quickly the menu took shape by utilizing what their land had to offer. I planned a 5-course menu in my regular plant-centric style, and asked Julia {friend/fellow STL blogger/food styling goddess} to come and make some of her killer short ribs to go with my polenta. She obliged, and the night was pure magic.

For the guests, the night started out with peach chamomile spritzes, a wagon ride through the farm, picking corn in the fields and eating it off the cob. Then a meal set between the orchard and the vineyard full of chilled summer soup, peach and green tomato salad, fresh sweet corn polenta, Julia’s short ribs, goat cheese cheesecake with hibiscus blackberries and plenty of Old Bakery Beer. For me and Julia, we ran around like crazy people trying to pull off a very put together facade and chill vibe. Fact though, we had no chill. But, I do think we actually pulled it off. Maybe?

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short + sweet | Macerated Hibiscus Blackberry Pots

Macerated Hibiscus Blackberry Pots | @withfoodandlove

Welcome to another edition of {short + sweet}.

Macerated hibiscus blackberry sauce! You guys!! I’ve been eating this on everything. But first, hi from 30,000 feet somewhere over the upper Midwest. I’m typing this on an airplane as I travel to Minneapolis right now. Remember that thing I told you about that I’ve been planning with Amanda? Well, it’s finally here! We’re spending the next four days at a retreat we’ve organized that’s taking place on a lake in Saint Paul with some of our favorite bloggers. We’ll be eating and drinking, styling and shooting, and inspiring and learning our little hearts out from one another. Follow along on social all weekend long! #bossbabefestMSP

Our retreat and this post, have been graciously sponsored by Vital Proteins. The most trusted, leading collagen supplier on the market. Do you supplement with collagen? The benefits are endless, but particularly lend to improved skin/hair/nails, bone and joint, and gut health. I am somewhat new to this. I have been using collagen, mainly in smoothies, to heal my gut on and off for a few years. But I really must admit that as a mostly plant-based eater, the idea of collagen kind of grosses me out. Sometimes there are a tastes and odors that remind me what I’m actually consuming. But Vital Proteins has a new sustainably sourced, marine collagen out now that is 100% odorless and tasteless. It does not gel, and it does not change the texture or flavor of your food. So you can put it in practically anything – like these macerated hibiscus blackberry pots. Or these other nine brilliant ideas that Amanda has rounded up for you.

This recipe has the marine collagen mixed into the yogurt. But because it’s tasteless and doesn’t change the texture, it is totally optional. The macerated hibiscus blackberry sauce comes together so easily, without refined sugar, and minimal ingredients. I’m using the yogurt here as a vessel to shovel it into your mouth. Really you could put it over anything, but it’d be especially fantastic over cheesecake, shortcake, oats, ice cream, and in cocktails.

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Heirloom Tomato Peach Corn Salad with Creamy Basil Sauce + scenes from hannibal!

Heirloom Tomato Peach Corn Salad with Creamy Basil Sauce | @withfoodandlove

Amidst our nation’s utter breakdown and temporary demise, I took my husband upstream.

To a quaint Mississippi River town.

To search for clarity.

Gain perspective.

Reflect, and pray for peace.

Chris turned 42, and for a weekend we found respite together in Hannibal, MO. The birthplace of Mark Twain {Samuel Langhorne Clemens}, one of America’s greatest novelists and humorists. And one of my husband’s favorites. Twain was, amongst many things an advocate for human rights, specifically for women and people of color. He had radical ideas in a time of intolerance, and wasn’t particularly concerned for what others might think of this.

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With Food + Love © 2016 | All photos + words belong to Sherrie Castellano -- do not use or distribute them without permission | SC is represented by The Lisa Ekus Group