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 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 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 

March 19, 2017

Pumpkin Lasagna Rolls

Pumpkin in March? That's right. But tomorrow is the first day of spring; winter is over. I said, THAT'S RIGHT.

Poor punkin gets a bad rap due to the "pumpkin spice" mania each fall. But true pumpkin sans spice is really delicious and won't remind you of a jar candle. Its flesh tastes similar to a sweet potato and can should be eaten all year long. Even in March. Plus, it's good for you.

This is one of my favorite dishes lately. The recipe makes six lasagna rolls, which is perfect for my dinner one night (with a mixed green salad) and lunch the next day. Multiple as needed and enjoy pumpkin. Especially in March.

Pumpkin Lasagna Rolls

March 5, 2017

Gruyère-Pancetta Quiche with Hashbrown Crust

In my last post, I mentioned that I retired from teaching cooking classes at the end of December. As I'm cleaning up my computer files, I'm finding lots of pictures from the past 8 or so years of classes...of my fun students, of my awesome coworkers, and of all the great food we made.

I'll miss Kitchen Conservatory, but Nick's older daughter Jordan will be carrying on my legacy there. ;-) More on that soon...

This recipe was the showstopper during my Mother's Day brunch last year. The class was skeptical that the grated potato crust would work...but when we removed the sides of the springform pan, there were audible oohs and aahs. I mean LOOK AT IT.

And it was delicious to boot.

Gruyère-Pancetta Quiche with Hashbrown Crust
recipe from Sassy Radish

February 26, 2017

Weeknight Porchetta

Hey there. I can't believe I haven't posted since last July! To be honest, I'm still not cooking all that much...and when I do cook, I just make simple favorites. Lots of pasta, potstickers, and roasted chicken around here.

So, what have I been doing with my time? Well, I'm knitting A LOT. Since Christmas I've made 50 pink hats for the Pussyhat Project. I sent a few to Washington DC for the women's march, I sold some (and used the money to buy more yarn), and gave many away to friends. 

I dismantled my guest bedroom (since I haven't had houseguests in like seven years) and turned it into my knitting room. I redecorated with new curtains, artwork & a desk, filled two dressers with yarn, and organized all my needles and notions. I love it in there.

In December, I retired from teaching cooking classes. After 8 years, it was time; I wanted my weekends back. I still think about food all the time, though. I still pin numerous recipes to try and continuously watch cooking shows like Chef's Table and The Mind of a Chef.

I did make a nice dinner not long ago, a bacon-wrapped pork loin roasted with garlic and rosemary...and it was pretty tasty. Why don't I do that more often? ;-)

 Weeknight Porchetta
recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit