One from Ina, One from Deb

I made the Roasted Salmon Tacos from Cooking with Jeffrey this week, and they were delicious. I went easy on the spices on the salmon, because (miraculously!) the kids will sometimes eat salmon, and I didn’t want to mess with that. Even so, these did not lack for flavor, and I ate the leftovers cold, minus the tortillas, for lunch the next day. The slaw isn’t heavily sauced or sweet – it’s simply dressed with white wine vinegar and fresh dill.

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Earlier in the week, I made a smitten kitchen recipe for roasted sweet potatoes and spiced chickpeas. This recipe avoided my major complaint about sweet potatoes for weeknight meals – that they take so long to cook. By slicing them into wedges, the cooking time was cut way down, and the whole meal was delicious. The dollop of lime-infused Greek yogurt added just the right touch.

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Speaking of Ina and Deb, I’m on their home turf this week, at the mockingbird conference in NYC. I am restraining myself from stalking them, and having so much fun meeting friends I’ve only known online and on the phone – the devoted editors at mockingbird, and other contributors I’ve admired from afar for a long time. I even got to introduce my dear friend Sarah, and I heard the amazing Fleming Rutledge speak, which might have been even better than if I had gotten to meet the Barefoot Contessa or the smitten kitchen. I’m having the time of my life, and I think the boys are having fun at home, too. I owe Neil whatever dinner he’d like when I get home, because he managed field day, music lessons, and double dentist appointments without complaining once.

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Happy Easter!

As has been well documented, I love Easter. It is my favorite holiday, for big reasons (Alleluia, he ain’t in there!) and small (deviled eggs! seersucker suits on little boys!).

This year, we spent time with the same friends who have included us in their Easter celebrations since we moved to Houston. I made two recipes from Cooking for Jeffrey: herbed fromage blanc and root vegetable gratin. Both of these recipes were really easy, easy to make ahead, and delicious.

The night after Easter Sunday, I hosted a book group. I made another recipe from Cooking for Jeffrey: an aperol spritzer. I had never heard of aperol before, but it’s a citrus aperitif, and the spritzer combines it with prosecco and sparkling water, with an orange slice for garnish. Everybody loved it, and I think this will bear repeating throughout the summer.

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Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille with Polenta

Hello again! It’s been a while. My dad is known for saying that life is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. (Poet laureate of Dogwood Lane.) I don’t know if that means I’m getting old, but life is going awfully fast these days. Rowan is a long, lanky nine-year-old, and Ben will turn six in the next few weeks. This summer will mark three years that we’ve lived in Houston, which means that Ben is about the same age now that Rowan was when we moved here. That hardly seems possible.

Neil and I took a wonderful trip to Washington, DC in February, while my parents stayed with our kids. I don’t know who had the most fun. In March, we all went “home” to North and South Carolina for Spring Break. Work has been taking up a lot of our time, and school has been filling in the gaps where work might have left us a minute to catch our breath. I’m not complaining – we wouldn’t have it any other way. But it hasn’t left a lot of time for cooking.

So, it felt like a special treat to spend some time in the kitchen tonight, when I made roasted vegetable ratatouille with creamy polenta from Cooking with Jeffrey. It was delicious, and beautiful, and ridiculously easy to make. When I looked at the leftovers and realized we probably wouldn’t eat them tomorrow in their current state, I pureed them in the food processor to make into a roasted vegetable marinara for the freezer.

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“To Care and Not to Care”

I have an exciting thing to share!

It has nothing to do with Ina, but it does have to do with food and cooking.

Most of you know that I’ve written and spoken for Mockingbird Ministries, which “is a ministry that seeks to connect the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways.” The Mockingbird website does a much better job of describing itself than I ever can:

Behind our entire project lies the conviction that none of us ever move beyond our need to hear the basic good news of God’s Grace. In particular, none of us ever fully escape the gravitational pull of personal control (and anxiety) when it comes to life and how we live it. Hence the name “Mockingbird,” which refers to the curious characteristic of the bird itself: to repeat the message it has heard, over and over again.

Neil and I first began reading the Mockingbird blog several years ago, and then I began writing for them last summer. It has been one of life’s greatest pleasures to write with them and for them, and to spend time in their midst. I am so grateful.

And so, when the Editor of the Mockingbird Magazine asked me to write something for their Food and Drink issue, I was ecstatic. (Incidentally, I’d just thumbed through the last issue of the magazine and saw that the next issue would be about Food & Drink. I turned to Neil and said, “I want to do THAT.”) I’ve never written for a magazine before, and it was so much fun. It stretched me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be stretched, and I loved the process. Their masthead is “To Care and Not to Care,” which I think sums it up. They/we care deeply about the subject matter at hand, but they don’t care so much if you ask a lot of questions and need someone to help steer you in the right direction.

You can order a copy of the Food & Drink issue (or the archived issues) here. Or better yet, subscribe to the magazine and support Mockingbird. The magazines are book-quality, with beautiful artwork. I liked it even before I knew I’d get to write anything for it.

For what it’s worth, that refrigerator on the cover image is not my refrigerator. My refrigerator looks like the inside of my brain: cluttered, full, and oddly stashed things here and there. When you open our refrigerator, things jump out at you and occasionally crash to the floor. That cover fridge is my dream fridge. So tidy!

 

 

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Butternut Squash Hummus

I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, but if I were, the recipe for Butternut Squash Hummus in Cooking for Jeffrey would fulfill a few new year’s promises: eat healthier, spend less money, cook at home more, or go meatless on Monday. It was easy to throw this together on our last day of winter break, and I’m looking forward to taking it to work tomorrow, as much as one can look forward to going back to the office after a fantastic week-long break. Ina says that her inspiration for this recipe came from Yotam Ottolenghi, who also happens to be one of my favorites. That explains the combination of some weird flavors: cinnamon, sriracha and Greek yogurt all in the same recipe? Why not? (Believe it or not, it works.)

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Speaking of resolution-y foods (healthy, don’t break the bank, don’t take enormous effort to make at home), I can’t believe I’ve been making this turkey stock risotto for the past four years without mentioning it on this blog. Sam Sifton (of New York Times cooking fame) wrote it for Bon Appetit magazine back in 2012, and we’ve been making it faithfully ever since then. Usually, I make it a few days after Thanksgiving, when we’re growing tired of the usual leftovers, but still have turkey stock to use up. This year, I made a ton of turkey stock (some on the stove, and some in the pressure cooker), and froze a lot of it as a gift to myself to use in the coming months. It’s been great in soup, but also for things like collard greens and blackeyed peas on New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve, after a cold and rainy drive back from the beach at Galveston, we were ready to throw something together to eat at home. The stock thawed in no time, and we had nice pot of risotto ready for dinner.

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Happy Hanukkah and Family Time

When my dad told me a few years ago that my great-grandmother worked as household help for a Jewish man when she first immigrated to the United States from Austria, my world suddenly made more sense. Why else would “our” chicken dumpling soup so closely resemble matzo ball soup, and our apple crisps look so much like Ina’s? My great grandmother, Little Gram, made rye bread, potato pancakes, and peach dumplings, too. That side of the family is heavily Catholic, but the more I learned about Jewish cooking, the more I saw strains of our own family recipes. My parents told me that Little Gram even went over to the Jewish man’s house to stoke the fire on the Sabbath, since he was prohibited by his religion from doing any work that day.

So, I thought of my little Austrian babushka as we made Ina’s potato pancakes (from Cooking for Jeffrey) on the fifth night of Hanukkah. We also happened to light five candles in our Advent wreath that night as we continue or celebration of the Christmas season.

Later that night, my brother and his crew arrived from Dallas. I *love* that we have Texas family that is now close enough for visits like these. In addition to the usual baking that my brother loves, we also decorated an “ugly Christmas sweater” cookie kit (a gift from our sweet friend Dennis, reportedly available at Trader Joe’s). The cookies were anything but ugly because my beautiful and talented sister-in-law makes everything look amazing. That’s true even after a few drinks. I had Ina’s grapefruit champagne granitas (from Cooking with Jeffrey) ready after their long drive. The grapefruit came from a local friend’s tree, and the granita was delicious. It was like a grownup sno-cone.

Happy Hannukah and Happy New Year and Merry Continued Christmas, everyone!

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Merry Christmas!

It has been a day of decadence here. For the kids, that has meant LEGO and Anki Overdrive and marble runs and books, with occasional grazing. For the adults, it has meant starting the day with Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon rolls (a perennial favorite here), continuing with my mother-in-law’s amazing sausage casserole, and ending with Ina’s filet mignon with mushrooms and mustard sauce. Ina outdid herself with this recipe (in Cooking with Jeffrey). All of her steak recipes are amazing, but this one is a rockstar. I used one of my Christmas gifts, a medium-size Le Creuset skillet (in a kicky orange), for the mushrooms. This recipe was not complicated or time consuming, but it was delicious.

We’ll go to bed tonight grateful for delicious food, for our sweet little boys, and for the gift of Christmas.

 

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