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Cook Happy Project Week Three

Hello, reader. I come to you today, midweek, because I will be out of town this Sunday and wanted to stay on track with regular posts.

Sondra Primeaux and Tammi Salas, formerly the hosts of The Unruffled Podcast about creativity in sobriety, introduced me to the concept of a “sober lush.” The sober lush may not drink, but she certainly knows how to indulge. Give her a soft cheese. A fig with a drizzle of fine honey. A facial. A massage. A nice candle. A stroll through the grocery store without a list, selecting items that call her name. A meander through a bookstore. Permission to lie in bed and listen to music. Permission to cancel plans. A cake pop for breakfast. (Can you tell this is familiar territory for me?)

Indulging in ways that don’t damage my health (or my wallet) has been a key part of my healing process through a difficult year 2021, and I plan to continue a smattering of these simple self-care practices into my next trip around the sun.

And so the “sober lush” persona is one I channeled this week in the kitchen, in my own way, buying myself a bouquet of fresh flowers, pumping jams from Spotify’s “Strong Independent Woman” playlist, and whipping up two hearty potato recipes to fill me up in this chilly, drizzly start to 2022.

The first for “roasted potato leek soup” is another sampling from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics cookbook. Indeed, this is a luscious sober lush’s brew, incorporating crème fraiche, heavy cream, and freshly grated Parmesan in addition to the heavily caramelized vegetables, but not without nutritional content in a generous heaping three cups of arugula. The process is made ever-so-much simpler if you have an immersion blender on hand. 

Peeling and chopping potatoes for the soup, the bag of leftover Yukon golds I had bought beckoned, as of to say, “Use me up sooner rather than later!” And how satisfying it was to extend the reach of this main ingredient with homemade latkes, using little more than a few tablespoons of flour, a whisked egg, and some salt and pepper. I believe it’s worth it to cook them in clarified butter versus vegetable oil, but if you don’t have the patience to make your own, consider keeping a pre-made jar of it in your fridge—also known as Ghee. It’s highly versatile and offers great flavor when sautéing vegetables. Oh. And spurtles. A Xmas gift from my mom, I used these to flip and stir the latkes. They are fun and handy silicone tools for all the moving-s*%# around that is part of cooking.

With that, I hope you enjoy the rest of the week and the coming weekend. Indulge in some starch, and treat yo self!


Roasted Potato and Leek Soup
Adapted from Back to the Basics

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed into 3/4-inch chunks
4 leeks, white and green parts, sliced and chopped, rinsed of all sand 
Olive oil 
Kosher salt
Black pepper
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
6 to 7 cups chicken stock 
3/4 cup heavy cream 
8 oz creme fraiche 
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese 


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil. Chop and wash the leeks. (I used a salad spinner to clear them of all sand. You want to do this thoroughly!) Place leeks on one baking sheet; peel and chop potatoes and place on the other sheet.
  • Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper over chopped leeks; repeat for the chopped potatoes. Roast for approximately 40 minutes until tender and caramelized. During this time, prepare a bowl of chicken stock (I used 7 cups water + 7 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon). Remove the leeks and add the arugula leaves over the potatoes, roasting for about 5 more minutes until the arugula has wilted. 
  • Dump the contents of both sheet pans into a large stock pot and add in a bit of the chicken stock. Use an immersion blender to puree everything. Keep adding stock and blending until you get a thick soup consistency. (You can also use a blender if necessary.) Add the heavy cream, crème fraiche, approximately 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Finish off with Parmesan cheese. 

Potato Latkes
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Food Network recipe

4 Yukon Gold potatoes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg, whisked
Several heaping spoonfuls, Ghee


  • Rinse and peel the potatoes. Grate them on a box cheese grater and place the contents in a medium bowl. Wrap handfuls of the potato shreds in paper towels and wring out as much water as possible (wringing each handful twice if you can muster the patience).
  • Wipe out bowl and return potato shreds, adding the remaining ingredients and stirring together (how about with a spurtle?)
  • Heat the Ghee over medium heat. Add clumps of latke batter, big or small, whatever your prefer. Cook a few minutes on each side, paying close attention to the pan.

Oops, I lied—not done with you yet! So I was reminded this week of why I chose the “cook happy” moniker. I was feeling kind of down in the dumps—a combination of hard life stuff, gloomy January weather, a bit of boredom, perhaps— and I was able to restore my equilibrium by cranking up the aforementioned playlist and throwing together a little lemon pound cake, then working up a sweat to the tune of this silly Zumba workout. I typically have the cake ingredients on hand (and you could really sub out any citrus fruit), so it’s nice to have this recipe in my back pocket when I need to cook (or bake) myself back to happy. In all seriousness, it’s empowering to recognize that healthy and harmless mood-altering activities abound—“move a muscle, change a mood.” (A caveat: I did not make the sugar glaze. Not necessary, in my humble opinion!)

Easy Lemon Pound Cake
Adapted from the Food Network

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature if possible (or microwaved for 10 seconds)
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice (approximately 2 lemons’ worth, especially if you microwave them for 10 seconds first)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Generously butter a standard loaf pan.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Cream the butter for several minutes using an electric mixer, if possible. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. (Be patient with this step. Whipping lots of air into the butter pays off!)
  • Add the sugar and cream for a few more minutes.
  • Add one egg at a time, mixing on a low speed to incorporate it in the batter.
  • Mix in the vanilla extract.
  • Add some of the lemon juice, alternating with the dry ingredients, until you achieve a nice thick batter.
  • Fold into the pan and bake for approximately one hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

One response »

  1. The Civilized Lunch Project

    Ha! My favorite indulgence is the right to cancel plans. Have a wonderful trip.


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