Monday, August 8, 2011

Snow Days


June was a rough month for me when it came to writing for my blog. July wasn’t much better. I’d sit down day after day to write, and day after day, nothing would come of it. So I started taking “snow days’ in the middle of summer. A lot of snow days. Maybe it was the sun, beckoning me to come out to play and shirk my responsibilities. Maybe it was that other commitments took priority. Maybe I just got burnt out. Most likely, it was the last one.

For me, blogging definitely comes in spurts. I’ve read many posts from others who say the same. One month you feel like posting daily, the next month you can’t even seem to get one post up a week. Aside from my apparent writer’s block, another huge factor in this is that I haven’t felt like cooking and photographing blog-worthy food. I haven’t bothered to write down many recipes, instead preferring to throw things in a dish without having to measure or remember exactly what I did. Call it lazy, uninspired or unmotivated; it all ends with the same result: blogging comes to a screeching halt.


On the one hand, it’s nice to take a break, not be chained to the computer and or concerned with web traffic and stats. But I get this nagging little voice in the back of my head telling me it’s been three days, four days, TEN!!! days since I last posted. Clearly, I have been in a blogging funk that didn’t want to go away. This always leads to the “Why am I even doing this? What’s the point of this blog?” kind of questions, which of course leads to more funk. It’s a vicious cycle. But then, when at my funkiest, and like the universe knew just what I needed, I’d get a comment that would bolster my spirits.

Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me so much after almost a year of doing this, but I find it incredible that a complete stranger can make such a difference in my day. For example, almost two months after I posted my Angel Hair Pasta with White Wine Cream Sauce, Shrimp, Bacon and Blue Cheese recipe, I got this comment:

“I was cleaning out my kitchen today. Found an abundance of shrimp in the freezer and blue cheese in the fridge. Basil has taken over my garden, so I was delighted to find your recipe this afternoon. Made this for dinner tonight, and it was OH SO GOOD! Thanks for sharing! I will definitely make this again!”

Perhaps it sounds trite, but comments like this make me want to keep blogging. To know that someone out there has made and, more importantly, liked a recipe I created makes it all worthwhile. This person didn’t have to take the time to come back and let me know their thoughts, but they did, and for that I’m thankful.


Spirit booster number two came in the form of another comment, but this time not from a stranger…well, not a complete stranger, anyway…it came from Carolyn of Care’s Kitchen. See, I’ve never met her, I’ve never talked to her, and until very recently, I didn’t even know her name. But she was one the first people I met out in the blogosphere (forgive me for using that “word”), and from the first time I read her blog, I knew I liked her. Blog friends are an interesting thing…you read about each other’s lives, you chat on Twitter, you make comments on each other’s sites…all via the internet. But somehow, you come away feeling like you know each other. So it truly made my day when Carolyn commented on a post awhile back, and ended with “PS - we HAVE to meet some day!” because I would love it if we could, and think that we’d get along famously, if for no other reason than our shared love of wine and cocktails. Blog friends…another reason to be thankful.

Comments like these remind me why I do spend an inordinate amount of time finding just the right word, the perfect mix of ingredients, the best photograph. Comments like these make me happy. And when you’re happy, it’s hard to be in a funk.

Now, let’s get on to the recipe…


Asparagus Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette and Garlic Chips

Salad:
1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed
1 Persian (mini) cucumber, sliced into rounds
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil

Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
squeeze of lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

shaved parmesan cheese and lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

Blanch the asparagus in a pot of salted boiling water for 4-5 minutes, until al dente (tender crisp). Transfer to an ice water bath to chill. Drain and reserve.

To make the garlic chips, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan on high heat. When oil is very hot, add the sliced garlic. Let cook for about 2 minutes, until crisp and browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels. Lightly salt if desired.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, tarragon, sugar, salt and pepper.

To assemble, lay cucumber slices on a plate and top with asparagus. Drizzle with vinaigrette, then sprinkle with garlic chips, shaved parmesan and lemon zest. (Alternatively, cut the asparagus spears into shorter lengths and toss all the components together in a bowl. This is an easier way to serve it and was how I originally made it, but it wasn’t as photogenic.)

Note: Salad can be prepped ahead by chilling the cooked asparagus, cucumber and vinaigrette separately until ready to toss. Garlic chips can be made several hours ahead and left uncovered at room temperature.


This dish was created solely around the use of garlic chips, which I have blatantly stolen borrowed from Care’s Kitchen. When I saw them in a shrimp dish she made, I knew I had to try them. What could be better than garlic chips?? As I’ve mentioned, one of my firm beliefs is that garlic makes everything better, and this salad is no exception. Without them, it would be lacking something. The pungency of the chips adds a necessary punch to the dish, elevating the fresh, green flavors to something special. (I would be just as happy just eating the chips by the handful, but Andy may not be as thrilled with that idea…)


Okay…now that I’ve gotten one post up, let’s hope I can keep the momentum going. Here's to a productive August...

37 comments:

  1. This looks really good. I love all the ingredients..... I wish I could get my husband to eat asparagus lol.

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  2. I think we all go through these ups and downs of blogging. Enjoy the summer, the sunshine and your "snow days". Your blog will always be here for you when you get back. :-)

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  3. I understand not wanting to write recipes down or setting up blog-worthy photos. Some days I just want to put dinner on the table without thinking about my blog. I am happy you are back at it and your timing is perfect! I have a bunch of asparagus sitting in the fridge and zero inspiration on how to use it. This recipe sounds fantastic and I can't wait to try it this week.

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  4. Yum, Karen. That is a beautiful presentation on the white dish. Love this recipe!

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  5. I love asparagus! This looks really good and your pictures are lovely!

    I'm with you on the blog slump sometimes. After a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is write my recipes down and take pictures and then write it all up. But, it is so satisfying when someone makes your recipes and most importantly, actually likes it!

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  6. I've been in a bit of a blog funk as well. I post intermittently but networking, commenting, promoting, etc have just been exhausting. Part of it has been my return to school after 5 years, part of it just a need to step away briefly. I think it's wise to be aware of when you just need to step back and take a break. Loyal readers who care will be there when you return.

    Your photos are phenomenal, by the way. I'm trying to learn food photography and I just can't get my lighting or settings right. Starting to drive me batty. Cest la vie. Haha.

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  7. Totally been there. I like the idea of "snow days" haha. Looks very delicious. Your pictures are beautiful.

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  8. Yeah...we all get in funks from time to time. The heat can do that as much as the cold ;)! Glad you're back and love how pretty this salad is. I only decided I like asparagus a couple of years ago, but I can't get hubby onboard the train!

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  9. What a gorgeous salad! This looks delicious, love your presentation! :)

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  10. I just saw your tweet and before I could RT it, a flood of tweets buried it. Recovered though ;-).

    Your photos are gorgeous. Every day, I say, "OK, I'm going to get to know my camera better." Has NOT happened!

    Would you believe I cannot make tarragon to come back? Thanks for sharing, Karen.

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  11. We can put so much pressure on ourselves with blogging, even if it's supposed to be a hobby! But take the time you need, enjoy it, don't beat yourself up over it. Especially when you come back with yummy recipes like this!
    Isn't it so wonderful when someone comments that they made something of yours and it turned out well? Best reason to blog...EVER!

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  12. I will do this one time. I love asparagus!

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  13. OH MY, incredible recipe and absolutely the best photos i have seen today

    And I appreciate your comments. I have a handful of blogging buddies That I would love to be able to meet up with... One day I am sure it will happen!

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  14. This is quite a wowser of a recipe to de-funk yourself. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Those garlic chips sound incredibly munchable. Well done!

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  15. dear karen' i love your blog and i will apprisiate if you'll send me new items to my mail
    avner_r@012.net.il

    best regards
    talya

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  16. love the addition of the cukes. and great idea to add tarragon. im obsessing over fresh herbs right now!

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  17. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for being one of the first food bloggers to reach out to me when I joined Foodbuzz. I can tell already that this is a friendly and helpful community. Thank you for sharing how comments impact your enthusiasm and your drive to continue blogging. I'm not getting many comments yet, as my blog is less than a month old, but I look forward to the day when someone comments about the helpfulness of something I've written.

    Your blog is beautiful, photographs, your writing, everything. I'm also excited to see that it's powered by Blogger, which also powers mine. Enjoy the rest of your summer as it winds down.

    Cheers,
    Alaiyo

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  18. I've been enjoying some "snow days" myself this summer. It could be that it's hot, or that I've had company, or that my internet has been broken- I could go on and on. :) This asparagus dish looks sooo good- I wish I could find some beautiful fresh asparagus right now to make it! Love the garlic. :)

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  19. What a great salad! I love asparagus! It is amazing how hard it can be sometimes to fit in eating good food? the summer is just so busy!

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  20. This looks delicious! I'm glad you continued blogging....it's amazing how one comment can completely turn your day around! The garlic chips - OMG - how cool are you?!

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  21. This looks really delicious! I'm glad I came upon this post because I totally understand what you mean about blogging coming and going in spurts. :)

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  22. Looks delicious and beautiful pics. Give yourself a break - you deserve one. We'll be here when you feel like writing - your words will be in the blosgsphere forever :-). I get the same lethargic feeling about writing as well. Then I make something which tastes so good I have to share. You got this ;-)

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  23. As a fellow blogger, I completely understand the lack of ideas at times. Comments from readers sure do help! I'm glad I found your blog via Twitter. The recipes look wonderful. Can't wait to try a few.

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  24. this looks great and your right these comments make it all worth while, keep on blogging :-)
    Rebecca

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  25. Agreed--comments are what drive blogs! :) Keep up the good work. This looks delicious!

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  26. This is a great recipe for coming out of your blogging funk! The tarragon vinaigrette sounds fantastic!

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  27. Oh that garlic looks so good! Congrats on the Top 9 today!

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  28. Blogging is an intersting thing for sure! It's like a full time job...when many bloggers HAVE full time jobs...families, kids, etc, etc! I have taken a break this summer on my "commenting" and it shows on my own blog as I don't get nearly as many comments as I used to and well, I understand. It just can take up so much time that I found myself ignoring things like my kids and some responsibilites. It's really hard to balance it all!

    All that said....THIS LOOKS AWESOME! You KNOW I am a FAN of the garlic chip! Love your dressing here too! Love, Love, Love!

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  29. I know EXACTLY what you are talking about! I got into a blogging funk a few months ago and actually excused myself from the blogosphere for an entire month.
    IMO it's totally ok to take as much time as you need for your own life.
    Also, your spot was saved in my Google reader, so I will keep coming back for more :)

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  30. I've been taking snow days too! Sometimes you just have to to get your heart in the right place. The break must of been good because this looks amazing! One of the best recipes for asparagus I've seen.

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  31. I hear you! Life happens and sometimes we have to be kind to ourselves and go to bed at a reasonable time instead of staying up all hours editing photos, drafting text and catching up on all the blogs we follow. I didn't check into Food Buzz for 2 weeks and I have over a 1000 messages in my inbox - its too much!!!!

    Nurture your blogging voice and write quality pieces that attract the attention you have today. I'd prefer to read one fabulous post once a fortnight than 4 hastily written posts in a week!

    When all else fails, eat a cupcake! xx

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  32. Great recipe, Karen! It sounds so fresh and flavorful. I'm totally with you on the bloggy burn out. It should be something fun and not forced. I never want to feel like my blog is a job so I just do it at my own pace.

    P.S. Thanks for the "Hell yeah!" :-D

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  33. I love asparagus! So delicious! I've never made garlic chips before. Sounds pretty amazing.

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  34. Makes me feel hungry! Love the idea of cucumber and asparagus!

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