Monthly Archives: January 2014

let’s eat: on the menu

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The question I get asked the most is – where’s the beef? Well, it’s generally phrased in a slightly different way, like “I noticed that you eat a lot of vegetables and grains… are you vegetarians?” The answer is simple, and complicated. 

I asked M if he would write up a little something about why he decided to become a vegetarian, but he declined. He said it wasn’t really anything to write up – he simply decided to not eat meat, and now he doesn’t. He was not a vegetarian when he lived in South Africa towards the beginning of graduate school, and he was one when I met him right at the end of school. Simple as that. 

I am not a vegetarian – in fact, I enjoy eating meat and I don’t have any ethical reasons against eating it. (Trust me, I have plenty of ethical concerns related to meat, but it can occasionally be found on my plate.)  I have never been a voracious carnivore – I much prefer a really, really good steak on my birthday once a year to weekly (or daily) meat of no consequence, or flavor (I’m looking at you, grilled chicken breast). Our girls eat meat at school and at restaurants and occasionally at home, but for the most part, we eat a vegetarian diet around here. 

M was out of town for the three day weekend last week, so Sunday night I had leftovers and I fixed the girls one of the dinners I had prepared last week at Time For Dinner. It was essentially chicken tenders coated in a cornflake and parmesan breading, and it was decent, but nothing too spectacular.

Monday I was home with the girls, and I decided to make one of our favorite dishes – Heidi Swanson’s Stuffed Shells. Her blog is one of the few food blogs that I follow, and her Super Natural Every Day cookbook is a go-to resource for us at least once most weeks. The lemon zest brightens everything in this recipe – nothing is tricky at all about it, it just requires a little bit of prep time – the boiling, the sauce making, the assembling. I made it just after lunch – all the way through assembly – and then M threw it in the oven to finish when he got back home from his trip.

This past week was going to be a busy one for us – M had nightly projects to do around E’s school leading up to the open house on Saturday, and then I had a reception to plan and throw for it as well. We opted to cook the other Time For Dinner meal I had assembled, and I moved it from the freezer to the fridge on Tuesday morning to defrost. I arrived home on Tuesday evening to find grilled cheese and tomato soup going – the TFD black bean soup was still a solid chunk of frozeness in the refrigerator. (Illustrating my point – to myself – that freezer food that has to be defrosted and still cooked for another hour isn’t really convenience food to me.) The soup continued to defrost in the fridge for a few days – saved for lunches over the weekend.

This week we opted for a Blue Apron box (I’ll write more on it next week), and so Wed / Thurs / Fri meals were already shopped for! Wednesday night’s dinner was Bangaladumpa Upma Koora (what a mouthful of a name!), and it was delicious. There were so many things I loved about this meal – beyond the actual food itself. I loved the fact that it had so many things that I had never cooked with and wouldn’t even know where to start to find. I read the detailed information about the meal to the girls at the table, looking up asafoetida spice to 1. figure out how to pronounce it, and 2. learn why it was used in the dish. It’s a powder derived from the sap of a plant in the fennel and carrot family, and it’s used to flavor foods eaten by people who practice Jainism and adhere to a very strict vegan diet, including the exclusion of potatoes and many other root vegetables. The spice, once cooked, smells and tastes of onions and garlic, so it’s beneficial to a diet that excludes the use of those flavoring agents. It led us to look into exactly why root vegetables are excluded, and the conversation around dinner was pretty interesting. If you can get your hands on the ingredients, I highly recommend this recipe – it’s not difficult to make, and it’s so very, very good.

Thursday night we had Cacio e Pepe pasta – traditionally, a favorite dish of mine that we haven’t made in a very long time. The twist on this recipe was the turnip greens in the sauce (and the fresh turnip pasta) – and the turnips themselves were sliced with pears and tossed in a homemade lemon vinaigrette that E made. Again – a fairly simple dish to prep and make, and a recipe that we will be making again. We only purchase the two serving meals from Blue Apron – often they are enough to feed all four of us, but we also add fruit and sometimes cheese or yogurt or another vegetable to the table to stretch things out and to give some other options for the less adventurous. I served up small amounts of the peppery pasta to both girls, and F promptly skipped over everything else on her plate and devoured hers and then started in on mine. 

Friday night was supposed to be the last meal from BA – but by Friday we were both feeling overwhelmed with our to-do list for the evening. M took the girls out to dinner and over to the Magic House while I came home, ate a quick bite of leftovers and headed out to the grocery and back to bake the night away. We pushed off Friday night’s plans until Sunday – so more on that next week!

Saturday night was Date Night – and I capitalize that for a reason. We were simply not able (or in the mood) to do much going out during the last half of last year, but we’re trying to do better this year. I lined up a sitter early in the week, and after a late afternoon family nap on Saturday, the two of us headed out to Planter’s House for dinner / drinks. I’ve been really excited for this opening – I’ve admired (and enjoyed) Ted Kilgore’s skills at Niche / Taste, and the evening didn’t disappoint. Make sure you choose the seat at the table with the view of the bar, and enjoy the show. I’d recommend the Dutchtown Collins (enough to order a second) and the mussels in a butter broth were divine. Don’t leave without the donuts for dessert. Another waiter walked by as I was sopping up the remnants of my dinner with toast, and he sort of nodded and stated, “the donuts, right?” – not because he could read our minds, but apparently because what else are you going to say? The donuts, right? New forks were placed on our table, and within a minute the donuts were there.

The perfect ending to a great meal, and a busy (but delicious) week of eating.

scenes from a saturday

Open House has come and gone. There may have been some wee hours seen last night in the kitchen, as well as some early morning schlepping and setting up. But now the house is quiet. Three out of four are sleeping, and number four is headed that way. Here are a few photos of the flowers – I thought they were particularly beautiful for a sunny, cold January event. 

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I picked these up last night at Whole Foods – my good, go-to flower source when I wait until the last minute. I never go with a plan, since I never know what they are going to have. I generally shoot for under $50, and last night I scored enough flowers for two large and one medium arrangement for under $40. The seeded eucalyptus is always so pretty – I love the color of the leaves and the droopiness in casual arrangements.

Daisies

I always think of Gerbera daisies as being hot pink and orange and yellow and sort of brash, but the white ones with dark centers are stunning. I bought three bundles of those, and one dusty pink one to intersperse in a small mason jar for a little bit of color. The eucalyptus has a pink blush to the stems which is perfect with the pink flowers.  

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

The food was delicious – many great cooks contributed, and there might have even been a cake. A chocolate chiffon one with a whipped chocolate frosting – more mousse-like than icing-like. The recipe is from Vintage Cakes (a favorite of mine) and the style is unfussy and delicious – just the way a cake should be. I tend to stay away from cakes when I think of finger food receptions, but honestly, a cake makes one of the prettiest centerpieces, and no one minds standing around for a bit until it’s sliced.

Soulard Star

Hope you are having a lovely weekend, with (perhaps) a nap in your near future.

admiring: 24 january 2014

For several years (when I was working only four days a week) I would post on Fridays about something I had ‘found’ that day – a purchase I had made around town, something delicious I ate, but most often I would write about something the little one and I had done together that day. My Fridays aren’t nearly as carefree and filled with inspiration these days, and I sort of miss that weekly wrap up.

I started switching over to posting about things that I admired – furniture or lighting or artwork, or any number of things I had stumbled across in my readings online. I enjoyed doing that as well – collecting images in a way that was more enjoyable to me than just pinning them somewhere.

The other habit I’ve had forever is to hear a story or see a funny video or read something that makes me immediately think of someone else, and I shoot out a quick email with the link – I knew you would enjoy this, I thought of you today when I heard this. I figure this place is sort of a gathering of like-minded individuals, so I might skip the emails and just post some of these things – friday finds, designs I’m admiring, great stories I’ve listened to – in one place.

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This interview yesterday on Fresh Air with Ann Patchett. It should be no surprise that I was particularly in love with the conversation at the end about independent bookstores – and local retail treasures in general. Well worth a listen to. I gave Patchett’s latest book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, to my mom for Christmas. I haven’t read it myself yet, but plan to in the near future.

What I have been reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I picked this up at one of our favorite bookstores – The Book Vault in Oskaloosa, Iowa – over New Years, and finished it in four days. I have The Goldfinch now to read, but the buzz around town on that one is it’s impossible to put down once started, so I’m holding off a bit until I get a few more things done around here.

Anything – and I mean anything – from one forty three. (I also follow them on Instagram – I love seeing their prototypes before they are in the shop.)

This amazing year-in-review photo book. I love reading her blog, and I’m especially inspired by her mad photo organization skills.

Frozen bubble pictures that celebrate this crazy cold world right now.

Winter Song Stories featured on NPR. Particularly this piece on Schubert’s Winterreise piece – perhaps the post that gave me the most pause this week. If you only click on one link this week it should be this one. I truly love this series.