Category Archives: let’s eat

recipe: hot honey carrots

It’s been a marathon weekend of painting around here – sandwiched in with regular weekend life, which means the painting happens in the “off hours” and off hours=late hours. I mentioned these carrots last night, and thought I’d wait and post this recipe this morning, but as soon as I turned on my computer and read the headlines, I ceased to really care about carrots. Now it’s the end of the day, and I’m worn out. Worn down. What do you do? I don’t know. Go to church? Go to a bookstore? Go for a run? I did all of those things, and they engaged my mind and my spirit in different, and difficult ways. I’m spent. All I have is carrots, and it’s nothing, I know that. I have outrage, and half written posts on all the hot topics – race, politics, religion, sex, guns. It’s summer and it’s busy and it’s so hard to tie up these things in neat packages, so for now I’ve got nothing. But if you know me, you know it’s there, simmering.

Tonight I sliced a watermelon, placed the triangles in the freezer for a few moments, topped them with goat cheese I whipped honey and vanilla into, and spread blueberry compote on top, followed by mint. For dinner, or at least for the salad portion of dinner. I spent the better part of the afternoon with E, and we talked about lots of things, many of them listed in that heavy list above. Tonight we talked again, and now she’s asleep and I’m the luck-luck-luckiest mother on the whole planet. How how have I earned that? Can I express my gratitude in food the color of rainbows?

You’ve probably seen this bumper sticker around town. I know a few people who have them on their cars. I parked next to one this afternoon.

LovePeople

I know it’s not the solution, but I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s just carrots, and not even fancy ones. It’s not enough, cooking them tasty food, but it’s a tool in my tool belt that helps me drive in the first sentence.

Love people.

…..

It started with a small bunch of carrots I picked up at the market last weekend.

IMG_1437

(You can see the carrot tops sticking out from under all the flowers I purchased at the market. And the rhubarb. They sort of blend into the grass, but they lent some legitimacy to my market visit.)

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with them, but I figured I would probably roast them. But after scrubbing them and cutting off most of the leaves and stems, they were just so tiny and cute, they were calling out for a little fancier treatment.

In my head I pulled together two different ideas and sort of melded them into one, and the results were so good that I instantly regretted not buying more. I remedied that situation by buying three bunches yesterday morning, and thought I’d share this recipe as a great side dish or even an impressive (and delicious) starter course – I think it’s really lovely.

Fresh spring carrots, tops intact, the smaller the better. If you can find a variety of heirloom carrots in different colors, they look so beautiful in this dish. Scrub them really well, but you don’t need to peel them. Get them good and clean around the base of the greens where dirt likes to hang out.

IMG_1573

Preheat oven to 425, rack in the middle position.

Trim the tops, leaving about an inch of stems left. These actually taste really good when you roast them, but you can also just use them like a little handle to pick up the carrots and eat them with your hands. Slice the carrots in half lengthwise.

IMG_1574

Toss carrots with olive oil, whole, unpeeled garlic cloves, fresh sprigs of thyme, and salt and pepper to taste, be generous with all of the above. I use my hands, it’s quicker and more effective.

IMG_1583

Roast carrots for 30-50 minutes. I know this is a huge range, but it really depends on the size of the carrots. I set my timer for 20 minutes, gave them a quick toss at that point and then checked at the 30 minute mark and again at 35. 35 was the magic number for these. You want them good and crispy on the edges, slightly shrunken and wrinkled, a little disheveled.

IMG_1578

The inspiration for the rest of this came from a few places – my Fat Radish cookbook and my Ripe Cookbook. (And before I forget – @mylavenderblues on IG is where the watermelon recipe came from). Both of these suggested some form of sweet and spicy kick, executed in far more steps, and then I remembered the honey and red pepper flakes we drizzled on a Blue Apron recipe for pizza once, and then I thought “Mike’s Hot Honey!” plus the drooping, water-starved mint we brought in from the yard to hopefully rescue in the kitchen. (Mike’s Hot Honey was purchased at Porano Pasta, and is available here. Or make something similar by adding red pepper flakes to honey.)

IMG_1581

And that’s it. The carrots are roasted to perfection, and everyone can drizzle with as much honey and mint as they’d like. It’s a great flavor combination, and it adds so much to dinner, or even snack time. They reheat well, so make plenty. Make them for somebody you love.

things I thought of *after* I pushed “publish” on that last post

IMG_0818

Since I finished that last post, I’ve thought of a few additional things that I should have added. I apologize if I’ve said some of this before – I think maybe I’ve talked about it briefly on some of my Instagram counter photos, but Leslie’s comment about cooking dinner with three little kids underfoot made me think of it again.

I’ve talked a lot about menu planning and shopping with a list, and you can read that here if you missed it and are interested. If you’re not interested, I completely understand. Grocery lists are not that riveting. Unless you are our friend, and you write a book about them, and you get to appear on The Jimmy Kimmel Show to promote it. Otherwise, sort of a snore.

Knowing what we’re going to have for dinner and having the ingredients on hand is half the battle. I have a really hard time tossing make-at-home dinner plans to pick up takeout, even when I find myself tired and hungry at the end of the day – and sometimes at the end of a hard gym class or a long run. It’s not the easiest thing to walk in the door at 6:30 or 7:00 and start the process of making dinner from scratch. This is what helps me stay motivated, and on track.

1. My husband cooks dinner as well, but he does the afternoon kid shift, so he’s often doing pickups and shuttling around to activities, which means about 60% of the time I’m on deck for dinner. We typically email or text each other at some point in the day about dinner plans, and if there is a long lead item in the mix (like roasting vegetables or hard-boiling eggs), he’ll get some of that prep done before I get home. He used to do the majority of the cooking, but I’ve really grown to love it, and find it calming at the end of the day.

2. I walk in the door, take off my shoes, wash my hands, and immediately start pulling ingredients out of the fridge. If I stop to read the mail, or change clothes, or sit down – even for five minutes – I lose all motivation and suddenly feel like I might starve to death that instant. If I get all of the ingredients out, within two minutes I’m in the groove, and even if dinner takes another forty-five minutes, it doesn’t bother me.

3. Sometimes I have a drink while I’m cooking. It can make the task feel like a more pleasurable one – like I’m doing this for fun, and I’ve come to regard it as just that.

4. Ingredients out, produce washed, big strainer in the sink, ready to go. I do all the prep on my 15″ wide countertop between my range and my sink. It’s tiny. I chop vegetables and swipe the scraps directly into the strainer in the sink. I put everything into glass bowls and ramekins, and most nights they fill the countertop and my cutting board when I’m done. I carry the strainer with the scraps to the trashcan, open up the dishwasher (that I’ve emptied over breakfast), snap a photo of the ingredients to keep track of what I’m making, and get started.

5. I fill the dishwasher as I go, and I try to keep things clean as I’m cooking. Some nights I’m still a disaster, but I’ve improved over time. I set timers for everything, just in case I get distracted. I call for help when I need it, and for the table to be set. If there’s a lull in the action, I wash and slice fresh fruit, which we pass around the table each night.

IMG_0734

6. The house starts smelling really good, and dinner is ready. We crowd four people around a table for three, and practice our manners (and our patience). Some nights it’s just a mess, most nights it’s okay. Some nights it’s perfect, like the best sort of family dinner you could imagine. Everyone clears their spot except for the little one. She feigns exhaustion at the slightest hint of a chore.

7. We never leave the kitchen without completely cleaning up, and packaging up leftovers for lunch tomorrow. (I love leftovers.) Most nights M and I do that together, while the girls move into their bedtime routines. Sometimes one of us accompanies them when meltdowns seem close at hand. I love the feeling of a clean kitchen at the end of the day. Turning out the light and climbing the stairs to the bedrooms above is one of my favorite things about our days. It’s nothing and everything all at once.

IMG_1412

Glamour shot of the inside of my refrigerator, with all my leftovers lined up in a row. We also have a lot of cheese sticks this week. And a lot of cheese in general!

(question): in the kitchen…

How about another reader question? Nancy asked me to write about dirt – kidding, although I appreciated the compliment. There are several Nancys that read and comment here, but this Nancy has known me since we were roommates in college. I’m pretty sure neither of us ever cooked in our senior year apartment – the only real memory I have of that kitchen is that another roommate used to leave typewritten notes of warning about relocating the dish drying rack to an unapproved location. There was a definite passive-aggressive vibe in that room; Nancy and I survived it by fleeing to Copenhagen and Genoa, respectively, and we don’t regret those decisions one bit.

Backing up in time just a little – back to my freshman year of college, the only other time I had a kitchen at my disposal. These were the olden days, when college students were stuck into shoebox size dorm rooms with roommates and you had to “loft” your bed on cinder blocks to fit your rubbermaid clothes storage beneath it. None of these elaborate suites with full kitchens and laundry rooms and private bedrooms and bathrooms for each student that kids get these days!

clemsonhouse

I did get lucky as a freshman, and scored a choice room on an honors floor in a dorm on a hill that had formerly been faculty housing in the fifties and sixties. (I thought that black and white photo of Clemson House I found online really drives home how old I am!) The suites weren’t large, especially with three girls in one room, but we had a tiny galley kitchen with ancient appliances, a pass thru closet area that held a couple of dressers, and our own bathroom! So it seemed super plush. The dorm was co-ed, and mostly upperclassmen (smart upperclassmen), and we had our own smaller dining hall restaurant on the first floor. It felt like a small community on a larger campus, and I’m completely grateful for that setting. It was like instant-belonging, without having to seek it out in other social groups or party scenes.

My dad worked for Procter & Gamble, and we seemed to always have an endless supply of Duncan Hines mixes on hand at home. My parents would bring me a case of them when they would visit, and I’d buy eggs and vegetable oil at the grocery store (Bi-Lo, I think? There used to be a Piggly Wiggly there too). Most evenings I’d stir up a batch of chocolate chunk brownies or cinnamon swirl coffee cake, and the wide, carpeted hallways would fill up with students studying and talking. The smell would fill the floor, and it only took a week or two before our snacks became legendary. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the building that dared to use the oven, outside of the unsuccessful grilled cheese smoke-offs that forced building evacuations at least twice a month.

P1010024

(I also managed to find a photo of a typical kitchen in my dorm online! Although that oven ^^ looks a lot cleaner than ours did.)

There was very little skill involved in these baking sessions, outside of vigilance on the bake times – the thermostat was busted, and the timer only rattled a bit instead of buzzing or dinging. I became very skilled at judging doneness by smell; to this day, I equate comfort and belonging with the smell of fresh baked brownies. I’ve upped my game a bit on the recipes, but the end result is just as rewarding.

…..

So Nancy asked me about my strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen. I think my strengths list has grown over the years from constant practice. I’m very comfortable with a knife – and love my really large chef knife, the sharper the better. With my contacts in, onion slicing doesn’t bother me too much, and I’ve gotten pretty efficient at slicing and dicing. We have a mandolin and a food processor with slicing attachments. We even have an apple slicer. I never use any of those. I much prefer a knife and a cutting board – easy to use and easy to clean.

I don’t enjoy peeling the papery skins off garlic, but I just got something similar to this and it works pretty well. I love my garlic press, so I never have to mince garlic and smell like it for days.

The biggest change I’ve made to my kitchen habits is to thoroughly read through recipes multiple times before buying ingredients and again before starting the prep work. I often reread them the night before, just to make sure I’m not missing some “make ahead” step, like overnight soaking or marinating. I prep absolutely everything in advance, and it makes all the difference in the world. No matter how much faster I think I can be if I start the cooking process while still prepping ingredients – it always comes back to bite me. I’m not a great under-pressure cook. I like organization and calm in the kitchen. I’ve found this also makes the cleanup process much simpler too. If I start with a clean countertop, everything prepped and ready, then I can place the used bowls and tools directly into the dishwasher as I go. It’s so much nicer than working around an overflowing sink.

Something I’m terrible at is making conversation while cooking. I have trouble focusing on two things at one time, and I always make mistakes. I’d like to be better at this – when family comes to visit they like to hang out while I’m cooking, and I’m notorious for losing track of where I am in a recipe. (Or losing the thread of conversation completely.)

Also related to focus – I’d like to get better at coordinating larger dinners with multiple dishes. The thought is completely intimidating to me, and as a result, we typically have one dish dinners versus a main dish and a bunch of sides. I would also like to find the time to do more cooking and baking – but for now I’ll have to be content with putting a good dinner on the table 6-7 nights a week.

Weird things? I don’t like looking at recipes on devices, like tablets or my phone. I like cookbooks or printed recipes. I love zesting things. I despise having to peel off the skins of roasted peppers, gross. (Although I love roasted peppers.) I get frustrated with my current appliances – my limitations on high heat for browning, and the cold spots in my refrigerator that do mean things to my produce. I’m past ready for a kitchen makeover, but I’m having a hard time getting out of the kitchen and into the studio to make it happen. I’m a pretty neat cook – I rarely wear an apron, and rarely make a mess of myself. We only use cloth napkins and towels, and now I don’t like using paper products other places. I read Cook’s Illustrated from cover to cover, even the recipes I know I’ll never make. My kids do not enjoy everything I make, and there are still complaints. But no one is starving, and pushing them out of their comfort zone is a good thing, and a healthy one. I’m 100% convinced that eating real food makes a tremendous difference in all aspects of our lives, and I’d rather cook dinner (and clean up after it) than go out to dinner. That’s a seismic shift for me over the past seven-eight years.

I owe a lot to those box brownies, I think.