August 8, 2017

Grandma's Homemade Bread

One of my favorite memories of my Grandma Green, my dad's mother, is watching her cook. She fried chicken in Crisco in an electric skillet...she rolled steamed cabbage leaves around meatballs and stewed them in tomato sauce..she mixed cooked macaroni noodles with shredded cheddar cheese, milk, & lots of black pepper...she baked the best bread.

I can still picture her hands--tanned, thin skin...fingers crooked with arthritis--kneading the dough.

Homemade bread was a meal in itself...warm from the oven, slathered with salted butter...sometimes with homemade blackberry jam.

Last fall, as I was cleaning out my dad's house, I found this:


It's Grandma's bread recipe, written by my dad. Apparently, before Grandma died in 2011 (she was 96), my dad watched her make bread and wrote down what she did.

In April, I tried this recipe. Things seemed to be going well. The dough rose as it should, and the loaf looked pretty good out of the oven.



However, when I cut it I noticed that the bread was too tense in the middle. I should have let it rise longer in the loaf pan pre-baking OR I should have just dumped it into the pan without rolling it up. I think it would have retained some of its lightness that way.



Nevertheless, it was fun to try this family recipe...and to decipher what dad's notes meant. Perfecting Grandma's homemade bread is my goal for the fall...stay tuned!

July 22, 2017

Aromatic Rice (for Good Moods)

You can gauge my mood by paying attention to what I'm reading and eating. Happy, fun memoirs or serious classic novels and smoothies for lunch? I'm hunky-dory! Plath poems or self-help books and lots of buttered noodles? I'm sinking into depression.

Depressive moods also mean that I re-read books that make me think about life...like Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. I particularly love her poetic language. For instance, she describes one character as "Thirty-one. Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age."

I feel that way about myself these days. I am almost forty-four...not old, not young, but a viable die-able age for sure. My mother died suddenly of a heart attack when she was forty-seven. Just three years older than I am now.

One of the other refrains in the novel is "things can change in a day." Roy writes "a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house -- the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture -- must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for.''

I know firsthand how things--whole lives--can change in a day. I've learned that lesson more than once. When I read that passage, I think about--overthink, really--my past. I examine ruined relationships and try to figure out when it all changed, so that I might prevent another sad ending.

And then I eat an entire pizza. Or fried chicken tenders and Nachos BellGrande. Or pretzel chips dipped in Country Crock.

Yep. That was my week. Don't judge me. Nothing major happened...I just found a dead, stinking mouse in the pantry (so gross) and had to take my pup to the vet for stitches (so expensive) and felt left out/unwanted/unneeded (so dumb). 

When I get sad, when I worry that everything will change in a day...when I feel like everything is awful (even though I know they are not), when I feel completely alone (even though I know I am not), when I cry myself to sleep (even though I have no real reason to)...I need something else to focus on. That's when I'll cook myself a comforting meal.

This week, I needed something restorative yet light (because it's a bazillion degrees out and I cannot eat any more pizza or tacos or cheesy pasta), so I made this...

"A fragrant, healing bowl of rice"
Recipe from Appetite by Nigel Slater


Interestingly seasoned with whole spices and flecked with chopped herbs, a bowl of rice is the perfect antidote to almost any kind of overindulgence you can think of. Food to soothe and revive.

July 17, 2017

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole


I have food nostalgia. I often crave foods from my childhood...freshly-picked green beans cooked to death with ham and potatoes; icebox dessert made with layers of graham crackers, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream; canned potatoes fried in butter; bologna sandwiches with American cheese and yellow mustard; kielbasa and sauerkraut; macaroni with hamburger and tomato sauce aka goulash; salisbury steak TV dinners with the brownie that was so hot it would destroy your mouth; an all green St. Patrick's Day supper (see above)...not because they are delicious dishes, mind you, but because they remind me of good times...of family meals around the dining room table or special occasions when we got to eat off of tray tables in the living room. I'm such a sappy sucker.

Disclaimer: I still buy individually-wrapped Kraft singles. AND I AM NOT ASHAMED.

One of the dishes I think about often is a broccoli rice casserole that my mom used to make a lot. She'd thaw a frozen brick of chopped broccoli in the microwave, then mix it with a can of cream of mushroom soup, a jar of Cheez Whiz, and a couple cups of Minute Rice...which was all nuked until bubbly.

I loved this stuff. It is what passed for "healthy" at our house. Broccoli and rice, yo.

But, alas, I haven't eaten anything made with Cheez Whiz in like 25 years...because now I know better.

Anyway, when I came across a "blast from the past recipe" on Pinterest that reinvents this classic casserole with quinoa instead of rice and shredded cheddar instead of Whiz, I knew I had to try it.

Y'ALL. I was not disappointed. This is so reminiscent of Mom's casserole, yet without so many crappy ingredients.

I was hesitant about all the reduced-fat shit, but it works here. And the leftovers heat up well without the oily separation that usually occurs with such cheesy baked things.

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole
recipe adapted from Eating Well...Living Thin

No pics of the finished dish, as we were having family dinner in the living room while we watched Game of Thrones. 

June 14, 2017

Linguine and Clams


I spend the past week on Manasota Key in Florida. My Aunt Nancy lives there, and for the past four summers I've gone to visit...to chill out by spending time on the beach and eating fresh seafood. 

The best dinners out this time were a lobster roll (a crispy bun with lots of lobster meat in a light mayonnaise dressing) from Lock 'N Key restaurant and caught-that-morning-in-the-gulf red snapper (seared and served with green bean almondine and fried plantains) from Beach Road Wine Bar & Bistro


On Thursday, I walked to the little fish market down the road and bought 50 fresh clams for dinner. I specifically wanted to make this recipe...and I'm so glad I did. I plan to make this again at home soon.

Linguine and Clams
recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

April 22, 2017

Pies by Jordan: Shoo-Fly Pie


Last month, I mentioned that Nick's daughter Jordan will be carrying on my teaching legacy at Kitchen Conservatory. As of now, she has two pie classes on the summer schedule with a third one (featuring boozy pies and cocktails!) being planned for June 30.


A year ago last fall, Jordan and I made an apple pie together from scratch in her college apartment. Since then, she has exceeded my own pie-baking abilities. She's been experimenting with all kinds of  recipes and decorative crusts. She's damn near perfected the lattice (over-achiever!). Last fall, she even made FIVE different pies for a bridal shower in one night of pie-baking frenzy. Here are some of her creations:

Treacle Tart

Apple Rose Pie

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie with Peanut Brittle Shards

Chai-Spice Pumpkin Pie

Sour Cherry Pie

Concord Grape Pie

Bridal Shower Pie

You can follow Jordan's pie-making adventures on Instagram @fillyerpiehole



Shoo-Fly Pie
recipe from First Prize Pies by Allison Kave