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2017 Recipe Scrapbook

On this frigid New Year’s Eve, I thought it would be fun to document some of the recipes and corresponding occasions that warmed my kitchen (and my belly!) throughout the year 2017.

This year has been challenging, rich, full… then again, I suppose those are some pretty accurate descriptors for LIFE in general and not specific to any calendar year. I’m grateful that cooking has made the year fuller and richer (I think there’s a double entendre in there)!

I hope that this list serves useful to you if you’re looking for some inspiration for the coming year, and please do share your favorite recipes of 2017 in the comments section!

XO,
Ginger

Celebration Meals

mom and me smitten kitchenMy mom and I both gave each other Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites this year for Xmas. (I credit my mom with teaching me how to cook, and she can thank me for introducing her to Deb Perelman 🙂 ) After driving back from Xmas celebrations in Chicago, I was eager to create a festive mood at home (and make the most of my week off from work) by trying the book’s spiced carrot and pepper soup with couscous swirl, paired with a kale caesar [salad] with broken eggs and crushed croutons:

soup and salad smitten kitchen

Go figure that in my anticipation of the cookbook, I borrowed my mom’s cast iron skillet to make Cacio e Pepe Potatoes Anna from Perelman’s site. Potatoes wrapped with a bow, in my opinion:

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Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 1.36.44 PMIn August, my husband Padraic and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. I made a Jeffrey out of him with Ina Garten’s recipe for Real Meat Balls and and Spaghetti. (I love how Ina is always calling for food to be “real” — “real mayo,” for example. And I love her mixture of snobbery and warmth). You can read elsewhere on this blog about my first attempt with this dish.

When Padraic and I had my parents over for a celebratory dinner, I tried a recipe for sweet and spicy pineapple pork from Rachel Ray’s Book of 10: More Than 300 Recipes to Cook Every Day.

Today, on New Year’s Eve, I’m experimenting with another recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook: artichoke and parmesan galette. I tasted it for you… surprisingly lemon-y 🙂

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Weeknight Suppers

Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes is just plain awesome for weeknight, aka, work night, cooking, because the meals are not only quick and easy, but flavorful and special-feeling. For some reason I lean towards chicken when making chinese food. Perhaps I need to get more adventurous. For now, here are two keepers:

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken

Back in September, I tried slow cooker pesto mozzarella chicken pasta:

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Here’s are two more gems from Smitten Kitchen:

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

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Quick Pasta and Chickpeas

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And… two recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat  that make for simple, special weeknight suppers:

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
Thai Beef Salad 

The Pioneer Woman’s Migas is filling AND cheap:

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I happened upon this yummy recipe for cauliflower-cheddar soup while waiting for a prescription to be filled 🙂

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And finally, lentils! The theme of the new chapter in my life in which I’m paying out of pocket for health insurance AND paying grad school tuition. Thank God they’re so delicious!!

Fridge-Clearing Lentil Soup
Brown Lentils and Rice with Caramelized OnionsScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 2.56.11 PM

 

STUFF I MADE THIS SUMMER

I spent the summer querying a lot of magazines, writing a long-ass article about teaching gifted students that was finally published this month, for which I still haven’t gotten paid :/ getting accepted into an MFA program, hemming and hawing over whether to quit my teaching job and then writing what turned out to be a novella-length short story about a comically inept teacher for my workshop class, digging into my role as Aunt G, and cooking like a good ole southern Grandma for large family get-togethers…

Here is some of the STUFF I MADE:

The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti

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Orange Pound Cake

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Cristina Ferrare’s Strawberry Shortcake

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My Great-Grandmother’s Baked Beans 🙂

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Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Tomato Feta Pasta Salad

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Shrimp & Sausage Paleo Skillet Meal

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And a few more for good measure:

Mentoring on Sunday Afternoons

This last category is bittersweet… My mentee, a former resident of Epworth Children and Family Services, is currently “on run” and so we are no longer able to meet. For a few months, though, we filled our Sunday afternoons with cooking and scrapbooking about what we had cooked. When she told me that cooking — and documenting it — was how she wanted to spend our time together, I thought, girl after my own heart!

We did a bit of a tour through Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks:

Recently, when I received a one-line e-mail from her therapist saying that she was gone, I was tempted to view our time together as “a waste,” thinking back on the volunteer coordinator’s lofty words about how it “only takes one person” to make a difference in the life of a child. What difference could I possibly have made?? I lamented.

Today, and in the new year, if there are any resolutions to be made, I believe it is to withhold judgment about any of my pursuits (or relationships) and do my best to be present in them, living one day at a time. I am grateful for my brief time with a young, resilient 14-year-old young woman. It is enough for me that we had a good time together on a few Sunday afternoons in 2017. And yet… I’m glad that we documented our time together, so that some Sunday afternoon in 2018, I can return to this page, and remember her… and the food 🙂

Cheers to the New Year, to cooking, and to treating time with a little bit of reverence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading With Tongue in Cheek

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I read cookbooks cover to cover. They are my preferred form of “chick lit.” I prefer a bellowing, copper-pot-whapping Julia Child to a shoe-addicted Carrie Bradshaw. I am a sucker for the neat and tidy fantasy of a day that begins with “tri-berry muffins” and closes with a single portion cheese soufflé. I’m a sucker for glossy images of heirloom tomatoes or, for goodness’ sake, a large oven-baked pancake that can be sliced like a pie!

Recently I plucked Judith Jones’s The Pleasures of Cooking For One off the bookshelf. As the senior editor and vice president of Alfred A. Knopf, she worked with Julia Child and James Beard on their legendary cookbooks.  She also co-authored several cookbooks with her late husband, Evan Jones, and after he passed away, wrote a memoir called The Tenth Muse. The Pleasures of Cooking For One was published in 2009.

When Jones’s husband died, she encountered new challenges inherent in solo cooking, and the possibility of giving up home cooking altogether. Soon, she realized the relevance of her situation to unprecedented numbers of Americans living alone today:

“Fifty-one percent of the population in the New York metropolitan area lives alone. Yet no one seems to cater to their needs. Supermarkets do everything they can to make us buy more than we need, and the food industry has for more than a century been selling the idea that it is demeaning for women to cook and a waste of time when they can buy ready-made products instead” (vii).

And… voilà — the inspiration for recipes catering to a developing nation of loners. She gets us pampered urbanites as excited about being resourceful with food as we are about dining out for brunch! And she appeals to our sense of creativity, which, you know, we like — spreading the philosophy that home cooking is not about individual meals, but about using our creativity to plan, save, and repurpose. Recipes for modest portion sizes are accompanied by tips on how to avoid buying gargantuan quantities of raw ingredients, how to think about cooking as “one dish leading to another” (4). It almost sounds like recycling! Pretty hip.  She has a whimsical, savvy, and hearty approach to cooking that is actually focused on eating what you cook — all of it — with equal emphasis on creativity and frugality. This is the mark of an authentic, experienced cook, and I have to say, her groundedness cramps the style of celebrity chefs and their carefully crafted branding.

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 9.50.21 PMNotwithstanding the occasional name drop (such as “Potatoes for Julia”) practical food is the focus (Child, that is, to the left is a replica of her kitchen on display at the American History Museum in Washington, D.C.) But the chick lit aspect is there — in the first chapter “On Cooking Through The Week,” I’m transported to a cosy kitchen with a New England, cottage feel. It’s a far cry from Manhattan, Jimmy Choos, or Prada bags, but you can’t help but feel modern, enlightened, resourceful, dare I say, classy, when you improvise chicken breast with herbed butter for dinner, broiled over a bed of root vegetables. On day two, you’ll just shred the leftovers, steam some vegetables, throw together a light cream sauce, grate some cheese, pull out your individual sized gratin dish, and make “Chicken Divan.” On day three, maybe you’ll throw it back to 19th century New England with some “Minced Chicken on Toast.”

Frugal, whimsical, high-low, yes. Is it sexy? Eh. In a section on “The Nine Lives of a Turkey,” Jones refers to the maxim, “having a good country ham in the refrigerator is like owning a good black dress — you are ready for anything” (22).

Whatever it lacks in glamour it makes up for in practicality. The concept speaks to huge segments of the population — young, urban professionals, older people who find themselves newly accustomed to the single life, or families who have trouble navigating the huge quantities of food at the store. We are encouraged to go all out with cooking, but in a responsible way.

Jones’s passion for cooking implies her tenacious desire to keep on keepin’ it classy, despite life’s changes or challenges. This zest for life, represented by Jones’s willingness to dig deep in her kitchen cabinets, is what makes this book so charming and spirited. I think the chapter titled “The Magic of Eggs — And the Seduction of Cheese” says it all. Well, I’m up to the challenge, Ms. Jones (two people here, but still large quantities of food), thank you for the inspiration. If you are reading this entry, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll check out the book for yourself. It’s worth it, no matter the size of your household. In the meantime, I’d like to pay a tribute “the magic of eggs” when it comes to making resourceful meals at home:

Omelet For Two

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Oven proof sauté pan
Bacon
Butter
1 potato, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
5 Eggs
Milk or cream
Salt and pepper
Scallions
Cheddar cheese

Fry Up The Filling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and chop bacon. Sauté bacon until brown and crispy; drain. Wipe the sauté pan clean. Add a dab of butter, the diced potato and onion and cook until the onion starts to brown and the potato starts to tenderize but still has some firmness (about 10 minutes).

Whisk The Eggs

While this is happening, beat together eggs, 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup scallions and 4 oz of grated cheddar.

Let The Magic Happen

When the onion and potato are ready, add the bacon back to the sauté pan and pour in the egg mixture. Put the pan in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. You want the eggs to puff up and be almost fully cooked in the center. Sprinkle the top with extra cheddar if you want. It’s magic.

[Images: cover of book,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Child, nathanmac87’s photostream; recipe adapted from Ina Garten.]

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