sunday suppers

Supper has been a defining factor in our day since the birth of our first son.  The thought behind it, the planning, the timing it all has to coordinate.  And factor in the weather, the days activity and the energy level (of both the cook and the patron), and sometimes it is more thrown together than I would like to admit.  But it turns out those meals made when I think I having nothing left in the cupboard, those times when I can’t possibly muster up the energy to make it to the grocery, those have turned out to be some of my favorites.  Perhaps it is a sense of pride of the ingenuity and frugality of such a thing that make me brush my shoulders off, but mostly it ends up tasting really nice.  Garlic, good olive oil and crusty stale bread can go a long way and in a lot of directions.  Its fun to search around in the back of the fridge for the half a leek you forgot about (they seem to last forever!), the everlasting chunk of parmesan and the jar of dilly beans from god knows when (they get better with age I tell you).  To experiment and see what happens is where the true joy of cooking lies for me.  I am still not so far away from the woes of the first trimester where the smell of an onion, in a bag, in a cupboard, was enough to tie my stomach in knots, and I clearly appreciate the beauty of all the smells of the kitchen and take deep  full breaths of them every chance I get.  And now with the herb gardens, both old and new, growing full steam ahead I have a whole new slew of things to sip up the scent of and sprinkle generously on everything.


Recently, my sweet giant husband (whom is fearful of nothing except taking charge in the kitchen) and I (who fears most things such as getting lost, meteors and giant squid but jumps at the opportunity to use some fine ingredients) agreed he would take over Sunday Night Suppers.  He is going to write down the  ingredients he needs, I am going to swap them up with a smile on my face, then I will kick back my swollen feet, rub my buddha belly, and watch my babies run in the grass while with any luck he too falls in love with the sound of sizzling garlic over a hot cast iron pan.


But me?  You’ll find me under this tree in a lounge chair (I intend on buying just for the occasion), sipping on a tall glass of soda water flavored with (gasp) SWEETENED cranberry juice.  Soon enough I will adorn my relaxed self with a tiny baby and a nice cold beer, but that is still some time away….  

but oh a girl can dream….

11 things I learned while working in a kitchen

Once upon a time, I worked in a few kitchens.  Not many, only a few, and for only a handful of years.  But they were good, and long and exciting.  While I certainly took more than just these 11 pieces of information away with me (like say.. how to chop an onion and peel a shrimp… oh my I was shamefully lacking in knowledge) these items seem so to be the most useful.  

1) Keep your salt and pepper in a little dish perfectly mixed to your liking.  If you feel fancy use white pepper, or don’t.  I keep mine on top of my oven for easy access, ready to go.

2) Chop your vegetables to a uniform size.  They cook evenly and it makes for an attractive dish.

3) Mise en place.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  While those who know my kitchen would scoff at this one, I know in my heart of hearts a few working drawers, a lazy susan that turns and some adequate space and I will, oh I will take my own advice… It makes all the difference in the world.

4) Work Clean.  Chop on one side, compost on other.  Scrape, wipe and crumb as you go.  It will make your clean up more efficient and it expedite the cooking process too.

5) While I am on the topic, a cold beer assists with the cleaning process as well.

6) Taste everything.  Taste it raw (within reason!), taste it while cooking, taste it almost done, taste it perfect.  And then please, oh please, taste it at your seat, in between a few laughs and good conversation.

7) There is always ingredients enough for a delicious soup.  Even when you think you are more than ready for grocery day, scrounge and be creative and I promise you will come up with a soup worthy of the crusty bread you can surely whip up (if you think it’s too time-consuming…. you are wrong and I am not going to say why right now.  But soda bread, and no knead bread are hints.).

8) It is just breakfast… lunch…. supper.  I can remember customers complaining and thinking in my head, “Come on mister, its lunch.”  You get another meal in a few hours.  You too, as the cook, get another chance to please and impress your family, guests and your very own taste buds in a mere matter of hours.  Don’t worry about the failures.  Just try again.

9) Read cookbooks.  A lot of them.  I remember going to my friends (and fellow employee and amazing wonderful teacher in the kitchen)  house and sitting on his bed while he showed me a few of his most prized cookbooks; The French Laundry being one of them.  A few weeks later I took the enthusiasm he passed along to me and spent the money on this pricey item.  I still pine over every recipe.  My cookbook collection is one of those things that make me materialistic.  I love them.

10) A good sauce goes a long way.  Take the time to learn to make them.

11) Working in a kitchen for too long makes you eat terribly.  Skittles and french fries and quick tastes of every single thing concocted in the kitchen sustained me during 80 hour weeks in a hot, cramped kitchen.  Quit now.  Eat well and enjoy yourself.  (Of course, I am joking, but this decision did in fact change my diet dramatically…)


save yourself from boxed cereal….   cook something!

star anise braised chicken

IMG_7280braise your chicken people.  braise it.  

Around here we (I) cook meat once every ten days or so.  Mind you, I make it last at least three meals and a few lunches, at least until my boys are ravenous adolescent boys that is.  But for now, though its been quite a transition for the man of the house, it works out just fine.

For this you put a chicken, some chopped onion, celery and carrots, two bay leaves, one star anise pod, some fresh parsley, some fresh thyme, and a big honkin chicken in a pot.  Cover it with some good old stock and simmer for an hour.  Turn off the stove and let it sit for another 30 minutes.  Serve chopped up with some broth, and some of those veggies and woah.  Succulent.

This week it turned into Caribbean Rice with chicken and garbanzos… delish.  And again was transformed into a chicken pita with cucumber yogurt sauce, black rice, and kale salad.  I also simmered a pretty stock that will flavor our meals to come.  Don’t forget to leave your onion skins on when you make a stock, it makes the richest color!  You won’t regret it.

So, go ahead.  Braise it baby.

#46 Acorn squash bread Stuffing with cherries and pecans

While stuffing surely isn’t bread, it isn’t exactly anything else though now is it?!  So, because I make up the rules, I am including my stuffing recipe.

Make two loaves of Acorn Squash Bread.

Let it get stale for two days, or slice and chop and toast in the lowest setting your oven has for a few hours.  Sauté an onion and about 5 stalks of celery with the leaves in some butter.  Toss the bread chunks in.  Mix in about 3-4 tablespoons of sage and rosemary and thyme all freshly chopped.  And about 1-2 tablespoons of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley (although I am quite sure curly would be fantastic too).  Toss in 3/4 cup of chopped pecans and 3/4 cup of dried cherries.  Melt 2 sticks of butter and pour in coating evenly throughout.  Finally gently fold in 1/2 cup of whole milk.  Salt to taste, and place in a baking dish in the oven at 350 for about 2 hours.  Or of course you could stuff it into your turkey!

Somehow I managed to delete all my thanksgiving preparation photographs… That is the downfall of digital I suppose!  So, you will have to use your imagination, but don’t strain too hard, it looked exactly like all stuffings do, just with cherries….

Bread #25 Cooked oatmeal bread and a wonderful summer supper

Alas!  The perfect solution for leftover oatmeal!  This one goes down in the books as most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich bread, most delicious sweet toast option, and most economical for re-using leftovers.  It was also a relatively short process.  Perhaps it just felt this way because my last few choices were fairly tedious.  No matter, it is good.  Freezes incredibly well.  I used an old bread bag to seal it in the freezer which it looks professional to me!  Like the real thing I tell you.  Wait… it is the real thing!  Only better!  I adjusted Mr. Beards recipe so much I feel that I can call it my own.  But to give credit where credit it is due I will say that this man’s recipe was my guideline and inspiration for this weeks pick.  Turns out he copied it too though.  So what do you know?  What makes an original recipe anyways?  I have always wondered where this fine line is drawn.

1 cup rolled oats

1.5 cups water

Boil for about three minutes until fairly hydrated.

Proof 1 tsp. sugar, 4.25 tsp. active yeast, 1/2 cup warm water until bubbly.  Mine got out of control fast.  Perhaps its the warm weather?

Not sure.  Add 1 cup of warm milk, dash of salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar and the oats.  Stir it up.  Mix in flour one cup at a time.  I used an equal combination of whole wheat flour, quinoa flour, brown rice flour and all-purpose white flour equalling five cups total.  Mix until you can knead it.  Knead it until it’s not too sticky anymore.  Place it in a buttered bowl covered with a towel until doubled in size.  Ninety minutes should do the trick.

Punch it down and knead for another 2-3 minutes.  Slice into two equal parts.  Flatten it out with your fingers into a small rectangle.  Fold over onside to the middle (one-third) and then seal it.  Then roll it over onto the other third and seal it up into a little loaf.  Place in a bread pan that has been greased up nice and slick with butter.  Do the same with the other half.  Let them rise covered with a towel until they reach the edges of the pan.  Then plop them in a preheated oven of 375 for 45 minutes.  At this point slide them out of their pans and place them back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes.  This will crisp the bottom and side crusts up really nicely.  Take them out and give them a tap to make sure they sound hollow.  Let them cool completely before slicing.  Dollop of peanut butter.  Slather of jam.  Take a seat outside at your picnic table and take a big old bite.  Enjoy.

Or serve it with potato salad.  So good.

And finish it up with mini blueberry custards.  

Summer sure tastes good around here