People have certain rules about what should be on the Thanksgiving table. I, for one, am pretty loosey goosey about the whole thing. This is not surprising to anyone who knows me well because ‘loosey goosey’ pretty much sums up my approach to the culinary world. I like to adjust as I go, add a pinch of something if it feels right and go with what I have on hand. When I sat down to plan what I would bring to the three dinners we will be attending, I knew I wanted to stray a little from tradition but still stay within the lines of the season. Dressing, green bean casserole and pie all made the cut and will maintain their traditional integrity, but I still felt like we could shake things up just a little tiny bit, but don’t worry, I didn’t nix the mashed potatoes.
I understand that no one really needs to have an appetizer right before they consume a weeks worth of food, and most people think the idea is absurd, but sometimes you want dinner to be a little fancy and I don’t know any better time to be fancy than on Thanksgiving. Break out the cloth napkins, the candlesticks and the good china, even make seating cards if you’d like and enjoy the one meal a year where you can pull out all the stops.
Thankfully, this starter won’t take up much of your time (which I know is utterly precious on the big day), and most of the ingredients are likely in your kitchen anyway, so no large additions to the shopping list either. Make the soup and remove the seeds from the pomegranate the day before and throw them in the fridge. Take a few leaves off of the brussels sprouts you’re probably already making and all thats left to do is just throw it all together. We ate it at room temperature and it was delightful, but you can warm it up in a pot if you can stand one more minute at the stove. (more…)
Last week I thought I was at the end of my rope. Our little guy just turned four months and had decided that he wouldn’t nap anywhere else but on me or in the car. Being a stay at home mom, I don’t get breaks like normal people do, so the break I get at nap time is highly coveted. That is the time where I get to do normal human things like take a shower, eat a quick meal and maybe squeeze in some dish washing. However, when nap time didn’t happen or it would only happen in my arms, I slowly turned into a zombie and it was all I could do to not guzzle the nearest bottle of wine and call it a night. I told my husband that I was nearing the edge and just one more day of no breaks could shove me right over, so he graciously took the weekend to train our son how to nap in the pack n play. Now, after this glorious Monday filled with three long naps, a fantastic lunch and some time in the pool, I feel like Wonder Woman. In fact, as soon as the babe was down for the night, I danced into the kitchen and I cooked up a very tasty pasta dish using this pesto. This my friends, has been an excellent Monday, one I’d like to repeat many times over. Good thing for wonderful husbands and their freakish ability to power through all the crying.
This pesto is a great way to finish off the herbs in the fridge. I have wasted so much money buying herbs and then leaving most of them to turn into brown sludge in the crisper. It’s the perfect sauce to have on hand since it goes well with just about anything and makes quick work of weekday meals. Spread some on a slice of bread and plop a runny egg on top, toss with some freshly cooked pasta and top with a scoop of lemony ricotta or stir it into a pile of sautéed vegetables. This was my first time making pesto and I’m completely hooked. I just hope you have better luck not eating it straight out of the jar with a large spoon. (more…)
I’m a worrier, an over thinker, and I find it extremely difficult to say no. Satisfaction is fleeting, only remaining until the next model comes out or a prettier option pops up on Pinterest and if there is a phobia stemming from the fear of being left out, I’m pegged. While these personality traits may have been learned and deeply engrained into who I am, now more than ever, I’m trying to recognize when they inflict and adjust according to what is (I think) a simpler and far more pleasant way to live.
There are a million ways I could spend my free time and Pinterest and Instagram hold a significant corner on that market. For way more time than I am willing to admit, I troll through the newest products, recipes and drool worthy kitchen remodels that adorn the pages of Pinterest while flipping over to see what all my fabulously beautiful and ridiculously interesting ‘friends’ are doing in their perfectly normal lives. As you can imagine, filling my head with this type of stimulation day after day can cause this already anxiety filled girl with a serious case of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’.
Mr. Roosevelt cut to the heart of it by declaring, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is an incredible truth that speaks to my heart so completely. While I won’t be able to attend every party and I will never have the body of a super model (especially after that child I grew in there!), I can rest in and be thankful for all of the immensely beautiful and tangible blessings in my life now. I have the privilege of talking to my mom every day, waking up to the most precious boy every made and I get to sleep next to my best friend each night, even if he does steal the covers. Although my life doesn’t look like the carefully curated boards on Pinterest or the beautifully filtered feeds on Instagram, it’s okay because no one’s really does. We all have dirty dishes, unkempt hair and bad breath in the morning. Most of us have extra weight we would like to lose (so we only post pictures from the shoulders up) and that kitchen remodel just keeps getting pushed back because it’s more important to take the kids to Disneyland then to have that perfect reclaimed barn wood floor you pinned last year. If you really think about it those moments that can not be pinned or instagrammed are the ones that really matter. If I were ever (God-forbid) to lose my husband, I would hate the fact that the blankets never move at night or that I would have no reason, other than good oral hygiene, to brush my teeth in the morning.
So, in an effort to live life simply, enjoying those moments only shared with those partaking in that joy face to face, I will be content there knowing that even if the grass is brown, it’s that grass that means the most and it has the most power experienced in real life, with the real souls around me. This week, cook with your loved ones, make a delicious soup and enjoy it together in that dingy old kitchen and be satisfied.
When we were first married, we moved to San Francisco. We fell madly in love with the city, even all the quirks like the fog and the naked men. Within the first year we started attending a church we really felt at home in and found ourselves immersed in a glorious community. Once a week we hosted a community group (part bible study, part hang out) that quickly became our favorite day of the week. We made friends that turned into family, we felt so at home. After living in SF for two years, we made the difficult decision to move to the south bay, about a 45 minute drive out of the city. Leaving (what felt like) our beating heart in San Francisco, we felt being closer to our jobs and my husband’s family would be the best thing for us as we planned to start a family. Even now, if you ask me if it was the right choice to leave the city, I don’t know that I could give you an honest answer. I want to believe moving was the right thing to do but that beating heart aches for those steep streets.
Life in the south bay is different. It’s slow and calm. Rarely do I ever hear our neighbors and there are few people who look like they are in need. Everyone is an engineer and has 2.5 kids. There are pools and backyards and strip malls. KFC, Burger King and Taco Bell are within walking distance as well as Big Lots and Lucky. Starbucks is the closest thing to coffee and mediocre deep dish pizza fills in the gap on a desperately lazy evening. Our condo complex is like a silent secret garden with new and interesting people popping up all around us. There are four different couples in our immediate block who have children under the age of one year old. The neighbors across the way have a very friendly cat and a dog who will reluctantly warm up to you. The couple a few doors down has a little girl who will melt your heart. Less than two miles away, O has his grandpa, grandma, nana and papa. We have a group of friends we meet with on Wednesdays that have committed to navigate through life together as we all start to grow our families and learn what it means to follow Jesus within the craziness of this life. Our condo is large with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We even have a dishwasher.
As I watch Oliver grow and learn, smile and giggle, I realize that being close to family is important. There are all these people around who love him (and us) and want to share that with him. While San Francisco has it’s own charm (including one of my sisters), I can say I’m starting to warm up to life in the slow lane. I don’t know that my whole heart will ever be here, because I’m not convinced I can completely shake the adoration I hold for the city, but most of it feels very blessed to live where we do. To be able to make a quick dinner for nana and papa with little notice because we are lucky enough that they were literally ‘in the neighborhood’, makes me so happy. I hope that our son can grow up appreciating community like we have been fortunate enough to experience. Whether that’s in the city or the suburbs, it is integral to the satisfaction of our souls and fulfills in us something we were meant to long for. (more…)
Until tonight, I never quite grasped how important Julia Child was to American cooks. I have read her endearing memoir and flipped through her cookbooks, but until tonight, I had never cooked through a full recipe of hers (unless you count a basic vinaigrette). Last week, my husband gifted me a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s a classic and one that I believe every home cook should have. Although I’ll likely never prepare an aspic or de-bone a duck, there are so many recipes within these pages that will be part of my permanent collection. Her recipes are straight forward, impeccably on point and explained perfectly. There was not one confusing thing about this chocolate dessert, which for a maiden mousse voyage, proved to be very helpful.
Tomorrow would have been Julia’s 100th birthday. People from all over the globe are celebrating the contribution she made to the culinary world through her extraordinary life. She effortlessly empowered men and women to become better cooks, to be fearless in the kitchen and to love what they do. One of her most famous quotes, “Never apologize!” seems unfit coming from such an accomplished chef, but her accomplishments did not come immediately. In her memoir, My Life in France, she recounts a meal she made for a friend that was nearly inedible, but instead of apologizing and offering something else, she just powered through it and moved on, without a word. Her husband Paul, quipped in some letters to his brother that Julia was not a great cook at first, but she was determined and she improved every single day until eventually she commanded the kitchen. What an inspiration! We all begin that way don’t we? No one starts something they know little about with the skill of an expert, we learn as we experience and as we do.
Although Julia got her start later in life, she made a monumental impact. I can’t imagine what she would have accomplished had she started in her 20′s. Who knows where we would be now, having had that much time with Julia. Her life, her love and her relentless dedication to the kitchen has shaped us, and for that we are better people and supremely grateful.
Julia, you are the chocolate to our mousse, and we thank you for the light of your life. Happy birthday darling.
When I plan a meal, I have several check points I go through. I want to be sure that the meal is comprised of ingredients from the current season, and that on a whole, the meal feels cohesive from start to finish. If we are having friends join us, I also try to plan a dessert of some sort. This is usually my favorite part of the meal and the item I spend the most time thinking about. I’m a self diagnosed sugar fiend, so naturally this area excites me the most.
Most often, I like to dream up desserts that have several elements and can take hours, but when we are planning a meal for the middle of the week that doesn’t always work out very well. Unless we just decide to forgo dinner altogether and serve dessert alone, I better think of something a little more speedy.
During the summer, I tend toward the natural bounty of fruit that needs little done to it, if anything at all. Fresh peaches, while amazing in cobblers and crisps, can be divine all by themselves and as far as I’m concerned, make an excellent dessert. However, roasting them for a bit and then topping them a sprinkle of crisp and a dollop of creme fraiche won’t make anyone I know turn up their nose.
There is a lesson to be learned in this recipe: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. I’m going to repeat that to myself: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. This is a great mantra for me to remember. Too often I jump right to something unnecessarily complicated. Maybe after repeating this to myself a few hundred times I’ll think more simply the next time I want to make a dessert that takes three days.
This dish is just as versatile as it is quick. You can use whatever fruit is available at your farmers market, in fact I think apricots would be delicious here, so would plums or nectarines. The crisp topping can be frozen and used to stir into yogurt or crumbled onto pies, I also think it could be a great base for a granola too. (more…)
Human beings can be grouped into two categories: those who snooze, and those who don’t. For as far back as I can remember, I have always set my alarm ten minutes before the time I actually should get up. After the first alarm sounds, I snuggle up under the covers and drift peacefully back to dreamland for another nine minutes. When the next alarm sounds, there is a subsequent push of the snooze button allowing for an extra few minutes to gradually come around to the idea of planting my bare feet on the cold wood floor. By the time the next alarm sounds, I’m forced to get out from under the soft protection of our duvet by the tangible fear of being late for work. For some people, this method is purely insane. Let’s take my husband for example. When we first got married, he would set his alarm for a certain time each morning and when that thing went off, he rose up out of bed like Frankenstein from the dead, swung his legs over the side, planted his feet on the ground and never looked back. No lingering thoughts of fluffy pillows and sweet dreams, this man was moving on to greet the day. For sometime, it drove him absolutely insane that I would let my alarm go off, snooze, let it go off again, and snooze one last (sweet) time. He could not understand how this was an effective way to start the day. However, as time went on, he started turning off his alarm, only to just roll over. Now, after three years of marriage, he hits snooze, hits it again, and on some days, one more time.
To me, mornings should start off slow and relaxed. I prefer to linger there in the wee hours and enjoy the gray morning light for just a few minutes before I start to consider what the day might throw at me. I always eat breakfast, sometimes something as simple as a bowl of cereal, but never do I pass it up. Since I like to spend most of my morning in bed, I do tend to rely on quick breakfast foods to keep me satisfied for the better part of the morning. These hearty muffins surely fit the bill. They are moist, slightly sweet and wholesome enough to carry you for a few hours. They would be incredible with a bit of greek yogurt and some honey to give you an extra punch of protein.
[This post is part of a Cook the Book project with 5 other incredible bloggers. Take a stroll on over to see Aimee, Samantha, Natasha, Emily and Claudie to see what quick breads they've baked up this week. I've heard there might be custard filled cornbread, might not want to miss that one!]
This could turn out to be the most exciting summer of our lives. There have been so many changes around here that I don’t think our heads have stopped spinning. We have been through a whirlwind of travel and will continue to be dictated by the jet stream well into the beginning of fall. It has been such a glorious couple of months, most of which I hope to share with you sooner rather than later. For me, this time has been marked by a whole lot of soul searching and healthy doses of reality. I mentioned recently that I tend to jump right to the most extreme reaches of a situation and need to feel the pull of my tether (whom I warmly refer to as my husband). Thankfully, he keeps me grounded when the world is rushing around us.
There is actually one piece of news I would love to share with all of you, and since I tend to be a little impatient with all this good news rolling around in my head, at least this one can slip out, right? Well, come this September, I will be teaching cooking classes! This is something I am deeply looking forward to. They will be held in my home to begin with and will hopefully branch out to others homes, as well as new, inspiring venues. We will start by focusing on the basics of every day cooking and will eventually move on to more intensive subjects like tackling the always cumbersome Thanksgiving menu. My hope is that people who are not as confident as they would like to be in the kitchen will leave our home feeling well equipped in front of their own stove. Our first class will be Monday, September 10th at 6:30pm. We will be learning how to season food. Although that sounds simple, it is quite possibly your most powerful tool in the kitchen. I am always amazed by what a little salt can do.
If you are interested in taking a class, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you on the list to receive a calendar when one becomes available. Our first few classes will have limited space, so sign up soon if you’re interested. We are going to have a great time!
Now, on to this summer tomato tart. Normally, I try to avoid turning my oven on during the warm summer months. I do my best to plan meals around dishes that don’t need much cooking, or can be cooked outdoors on the grill. Our apartment has no air conditioning and it’s on the top floor. Just by putting two and two together you can imagine that equals a toasty home on really warm days. Adding the heat of a 400 degree oven usually doesn’t make it into that equation. However, I had some tart dough that was defrosted in the fridge that needed a filling, and well, there were these amazing little tomatoes at the market and raw tart dough is quite unpleasant to eat even with amazing tomatoes, so on went the oven…
This little tart comes together in no time flat as long as you have chilled tart dough ready to go. A purchased pie crust will work beautifully here as well if you don’t have any dough lingering in your fridge. If you plan ahead though, you might want to try making the crust at home. The recipe makes enough for two of these tarts, so freeze one and the next tomato tart you make will come together rather quickly.
There is something simply beautiful about community. I believe we were built to thrive in relationship with one another, supporting and encouraging those around us through the often tempestuous seas of life. Our joys are never more exciting than those shared with a giggling best friend, and our sorrows rarely felt more true than moments spent sobbing with an empathetic lover. Relationships are designed to, in a sense, complete the equation.
This little blog has allowed me to become a part of a community of men and women who inspire me, challenge and humble me every day. I am thankful to have met many new people who breathe the same air as I do and seem to be cut from the same mold. Whether we have met in person, or only virtually, I am continually in awe of their strength, creativity and outlook on life. A group of us, whom have come to know one another through various ways, wanted a way to stay in touch while encouraging the craft we all hold so dear, so we concluded we would pick a cook book and do our best to cook through it together. The book we chose is a classic, most notably known for the famous yeasted waffles which lie within. The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham boasts 304 pages of breakfast nirvana. Recipes ranging from the standard omelette to custard filled cornbread (Aimee I can’t wait for that one!) keep you coming back to it’s wisdom every morning. Each of us have chosen one recipe from each chapter and will be regularly posting about our efforts. To me, this is more than just working through some undoubtedly exceptional book, it’s about building relationships with friends I have come to admire, and it’s about forming a community here, one in which I hope you will feel a deep connection to and a strong sense of being at home, among friends.
The first chapter of the book covers yeast breads. It’s a fitting place to start since bread is the foundation for so much of our diet. It’s a starting point, a building block we use to jump from. This particular recipe feels like a comfortable place to start for me. It’s familiar. Like many of you I’m sure, I have memories of raisin cinnamon bread with melted butter dripping between the cracks in the bread made by the cinnamon-sugar swirl. It evokes a feeling of family for me, which is exactly how I want this project to feel.
If you want to join us in our endeavors to cover the depths of this wonderful book, please feel free to purchase a copy of the book and cook along with us. Join in our conversation by commenting on our blogs, and be sure to check out the other amazing women involved in this project. Sammy, Aimee, Claudie, Emily and Natasha are all wonderful women, I know you’ll love every one of them. (more…)