Oops. I forgot one.

I made Brisket with Leeks and Onions the night before my parents arrived for their visit a few weeks ago. I learned the hard way that Ina Garten does not use the crock pot, even when a slow cooker is the best method for low, slow cooking. So, I just made the brisket in our slow cooker instead, and it turned out deliciously. The crock pot is one of the best inventions ever for working parents, in my humble opinion. You throw ingredients in at the beginning of the day, and you come home to a warm, cooked meal. There are days that I feel like I don’t sit down between the time we get home around 6 pm until the time we go to bed several hours later. If a crock pot buys me a little sitting time with my favorite people, I’m all for it. Not everything is great in a slow cooker, but brisket is definitely amenable to it.

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Thanksgiving 2016!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration this year. The boys had a week off of school, and my sainted parents came to entertain them for the days when we were at work. They had grandparents’ day at school, a book fair at school, a few days in Galveston on the beach, and then several days at home to read books, take walks, watch movies, and hang out. We all had a great time, and we’re so grateful that they came to stay with us.

For the Thanksgiving meal, I mostly stuck with our old favorites, with a few new things thrown in for fun. I made the maple-roasted carrot salad from Cooking with Jeffrey, and it was nothing short of amazing. Seriously. I never thought I’d get so excited about a salad, especially as part of a Thanksgiving feast, but it was terrific. The recipe can be found here.

We didn’t have room in the kitchen or on our plates to make a sweet potato dish for the actual Thanksgiving meal, but I made tsimmes, a fall vegetable dish from Cooking with Jeffrey, to eat with the leftovers. It was also delicious (and super easy).

We never eat as many leftovers as I think we will, but the Italian White Beans with Escarole (also from Cooking with Jeffrey) was a great light dish to make with turkey stock, and it tasted nothing like turkey. Everybody loved it.

The boys were all lucky enough to go pick satsumas from a dear friend’s backyard tree. I made orange cookies with their harvest. They’re my dad’s favorite.

I thought I would cook more, and I had kind of an ambitious list, but I think my dishwasher might have gone on strike if I had loaded any more dishes into it. As it was, we had plenty to eat and plenty to do. I think we were all grateful to head back to school and work this morning, even as we count down the days until Christmas.

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Bumps in the road, and then a sleeper hit

In case you all were worried that I’d just be having a big love-fest for all of the new recipes in Cooking for Jeffrey, I hit kind of a bump in the road this week. Literally (I hit a pot hole on my way to work this week and got a flat tire out of the deal), and figuratively, with a few of these recipes.

The roasted zucchini were nothing special, and suspiciously similar to the roasted zucchini “boats” in Make It Ahead. You can dress up a zucchini with bread crumbs and cheese and herbs, and it’s still zucchini. There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it’s kind of a lot of work to just get … zucchini and bread crumbs.

I made the saffron challah, too, which was easy enough, except that it didn’t rise. It was beautiful, but it was as hard as a brick because the yeast wasn’t doing its job. I’ll try it again with some fresher yeast, but I was kind of bummed that this didn’t taste as good as it looked.

In better news, I’ve used the pressure cooker to make chicken stock a few times now, and it has turned out beautifully. I made homemade chicken noodle soup on Tuesday night, and it was just perfect. Ina seems to include a chicken stock recipe in each new cookbook, and I just kind of come up with my own each time. The pressure cooker reduces several hours of cooking time to a much shorter time for the same richness of stock, and I don’t have to worry about tending a flame or anything simmering over.

In even better news, I also used the pressure cooker for the 16 bean pasta e fagioli soup, also in Cooking for Jeffrey. The soup was a tiny but labor intensive, even using the pressure cooker for the beans, but it was delicious. Really flavorful, really healthy, and probably even better tomorrow night. This might be the reason that ads for dried beans keep showing up in my Facebook feed…

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Another Ina Evening

I love it when a new Barefoot Contessa cookbook comes out – have I mentioned that yet? Just when the to-do list in the old ones starts to get stale, I have a fresh new list to work through. The poor dishwasher can barely keep up, but he’s kind of cute, so I’ll keep him.

Tonight, from Cooking for Jeffrey, we ate cider roasted pork tenderloin with plum chutney, and spaghetti squash sautéed with garlic and Parmesan. I especially appreciated the careful instructions about working with hot chutney – I felt like Ina was guiding me through it to prevent another kitchen burn (yikes). I used the pressure cooker for the first step of the spaghetti squash, and it made quick work of softening it up without having to turn on the oven for over an hour. It’s still stupid hot here, so I appreciate that. The spaghetti squash recipe proves the conventional wisdom that everything is better with butter and garlic.

The kids devoured the pork (minus the chutney). I have dough rising for saffron challah tonight – I can’t wait!

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Winner Winner

I am really enjoying everything I’ve made so far from Ina’s new cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey. It’s a pleasant surprise, when we’d all started to think that there couldn’t be anything new to offer. This is the first weekend we’ve had at home in a long time, and the first weekend without many plans in an even longer time. I’ve taken advantage of that time to cook some of the recipes in the new cookbook. Tonight’a winner winner chicken dinner was the pan-roasted chicken with lemon and thyme, roasted potatoes with lemon and rosemary, and shaved sautéed Brussels sprouts. Other than the disgusting sound that the chicken made when I butterflied it (gah), and the extra lemon I put on the potatoes (oops), everything was amazing. For dessert, I made the apple bars from the new cookbook, also amazing. (Side note: I finally mastered the shortbread crust after seven years of failing at it, and miserably so. I don’t know what I did differently, but yay?)

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Meathead and Meatballs

This is the week that we celebrate the anniversary of our babies’ baptisms, which I wrote about here, with a gratuitous Archie Bunker clip in there just for fun. The saints in our family gene pool might not have made meatballs, but my mom grew up in an Italian neighborhood on Long Island, and so we’ve happily adopted some Italian food traditions as our own. And so when Ina’s new cookbook had a new recipe for meatballs, it didn’t take long to roll up my sleeves and dig in.

We haven’t done a side-by-side comparison of this and other Ina and non-Ina meatball recipes, but this might be our favorite. (Side note: my kindergartner mentioned a “test” at school this week. It turns out it was a taste test … for meatballs. How adorable is that?) This was an easy home run, and really easy to make the night before. Even the super picky 8-year-old dug in.

I’m just a few recipes in to the new book, but so far, I’m impressed. Every time I think she’s run out of good ideas, she proves me wrong.

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Parish Retreat + New Cookbook + Mbird OKC!

All of that granola was a big hit at the parish retreat, along with my now-infamous pumpkin spice oatmeal (I added butter and subbed more brown sugar for the honey this time, and nobody complained). I also wrote a little bit more about the retreat for mockingbird. 

Right after we got back from camp, Neil left for clergy conference. (I don’t recommend this plan, by the way. At all. If they want my granola next year, they’re going to have to think that through a little bit better.)

While he was away, the new Ina cookbook came! It is lovely in every way, except for a certain seafood curry recipe that I don’t want to discuss. Look at how happy Ina and Jeffrey look, though! This makes me smile.

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I didn’t have a chance to cook from it right away, though, because right after Neil got home, I left for the Mockingbird Conference in Oklahoma City. I had so much fun. I led a breakout session about The Kingdom of Heaven According to Hollywood: It’s Not Where You Think It is, and then I gave a talk about welcoming children in church. I had the best time, and if I weren’t coming home to my favorite three people (and two dogs) on the planet, I would have been so sad to leave. The people at All Souls Episcopal Church in OKC were so warm and hospitable, and the conference attendees were a very gracious audience. I loved it.

This is the first time an Ina cookbook has come out and I haven’t cooked from it RIGHT AWAY, so I have to confess: I took it with me on the airplane. I started making lists for Thanksgiving, and for our family, and for my parents when they visit in a few weeks. I came home with a grocery list, and I couldn’t wait to start cooking. Today, I made a beautiful (apparently French?) dish of roasted chicken with radishes, and roasted broccolini. We learned from our CSA days that radishes taste completely different when cooked, and I don’t know any vegetable that doesn’t taste fantastic after it’s spent some time under a roasting chicken. These were both delicious, and a great way to celebrate being home together.

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