31. E’s One-Pan Pasta

E and I were both a little puzzled by the lack of community when we each moved to a new town for graduate school. We lived in apartment buildings next to each other and met through school; Husband was far away and E was single so we became each other’s frequent companion for grocery trips and long walks and chats about everything new that was happening to us. We were around each other so often that one jokester in our program told me that I didn’t have a boyfriend, that I’d just given E a boy’s name in my phone and texted her constantly.

One of my cherished memories was that she and I would each struggle to cook for one; we had many favorite foods but no recipe is anything but cumbersome in single-serving quantities. Instead, we’d each make large batches that we’d eat on for days, but for a little while, we would also box up some of whatever we made and trade: she’d get some spicy peanut soup and I’d get shepherd’s pie; she’d get mushroom enchiladas and I’d get sweet potato-topped pizza.

After graduate school, E moved to the neighboring state, and came to the wedding as one of my bridesmaids. Her eye for color and style was essential as we prepped the barn and set out all the decorations. Husband’s grandmother couldn’t stop telling me how beautiful E was that evening – from her stylish glasses down to her strappy shoes, she had created a wonderful bridesmaid ensemble. All my girls picked their own dresses, just sticking with the theme of “some kind of green hue” – the result was eclectic perfection.

She sent me a simple recipe for one-pan pasta, which I’d never tried. I use two pans usually: the pot for boiling the pasta, and the frying pan for sizzling up some homemade tomato or alfredo sauce. This pasta looked so good and light that I made it as a side with a different recipe, Chicken Scampi, and it was truly a breeze: chopping the tomatoes, onion, and garlic takes a bit of time, but as long as the onion pieces aren’t thick, don’t worry about dicing them small: as they boiled, they became almost noodle-like and added to the bulk of the pasta. I didn’t have shredded parmesan, so I cut a sizeable hunk of garlic-and-herb goat cheese, maybe 1.5 ounces, and stirred it into the pot – the slight amount of remaining water swirled through the soft cheese and made a very light coating sauce. With the scampi, it was extra good, but I’d eat it by itself (as I’m sure E does; she’s a vegetarian and is always finding delicious, filling ways to avoid meat).

I do wish E still lived close enough for me to bring over a bowl of steaming noodles, but it’s nice that she shared the recipe with me – a long-distance form of food-sharing.

E’s One Pan Pasta

12 ounces linguine

12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1 onion (thinly sliced)

4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

4 cups water

 

Combine into a big pan, boil mixture, stir frequently, until water is nearly evaporated. Add shredded parmesan cheese!

Liebster Award

liebster-awardSo, it turns out that there is a cool blog-chain thing called the Liebster Award, which both All the Pasta and Foodeez Junction have nominated me for. It lets you call out blogs you draw inspiration from, answer some questions about yourself as an author, and send folks on to more great food blogs. I’ve read it is for only blogs with less than 1000 followers, which seems within the spirit of The Recipe Project – I’m trying to connect one-to-one, bring stories from one cook about their connection to a food. So, I hope that you’ll like my curated list of blogs that combine storytelling and food!

  1. I’ve Got Cake

2. A Guy Cooks Abroad

3. My Cooking Adventures

4. Unwed Housewife

5. Stir the Toast

6. Fabulous Fare Sisters

7. Diary of a Graduate

8. A Solitary Feast

9. Finding Mis en Place

10. My Kitchen, My Thoughts

I am supposed to answer 10 questions and ask 10, but I’m going to answer my favorite 5 questions from All the Pasta and my favorite 5 from Foodeez Junction so that I don’t bore you all with a mega-post.

  1. What’s your favourite post you’ve made so far? (Shameless self promotion!)

I think I still like my first post, about biscuits, best. I’ve been working on biscuits off and on since then, incorporating new people’s advice, and I’m excited to write a new post with new biscuit updates. 🙂

2. How do you find inspiration for each of your posts? (finding recipes to try, things to talk about)

I started out with the recipe haul I got from my wedding (see What is this? For more info) but am trying to start amassing recipes from my favorite food writers, fellow bloggers, and new friends so that I can keep up the pace and really discover some treasures.

3. Would you still blog if you knew no one would read it?

Weirdly, yes (not to mention barely anyone does at this point, ha!). This project started as my attempt to catalog recipes as a new partner in a marriage, as an excuse to write about my friends and family (each post is a bit like a letter to the person who gave me the recipe), and as a way to practice writing while working a job that doesn’t have me writing all that much.

4. What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

Moving to Spain; I probably would have chickened out if I had really known how lonely it is to live in a new country by myself! However, the two years I spent there ended up being so enriching for every year of my life after, be it the food, friends, or work I did, that I’m glad I miscalculated. By the time I was there, it was too expensive to give up, and I am a better person for it.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to still be writing this blog, albeit with different and wider-ranging recipes; I hope to be involved in local non-profits, still working my wonderful job, a better gardener, living either in the same creaky old house I’m in now or in a big city apartment somewhere… I have a lot of daydreams. Fewer concrete realities.

6. What do like most while blogging?

I really enjoy the time when I’ve finished a post and I get to share it with the person or people who I mention in it. I started the blog as a way to connect with old and new friends, and so having a good reason to bring an old friend back into my life (like, I wrote about you!) has been really rewarding.

7.Who and what keeps you motivated?

I think my husband, probably, because he’s the person who most immediately needs to be fed, and he also is constantly challenging me to stick with my project ideas (rather than picking them up and dropping them all the time, which is my general style). I am motivated a bit by the idea of making all my kitchen successes and failures “count” by sharing them with others.

8. Which blogger do you find more inspiring?

Lately I’ve been revelling in Orangette – it’s just so inspiring to have stuck with a project for that long! It makes us three-months-in newbies feel like we’re actually starting on a long-term journey.

9. What is your favourite holiday destination?

Oh goodness. The beach? Is that good enough? Somewhere I can swim that’s warm.

10. What is your biggest accomplishment?

That’s another good one. Getting a job in the past year feels huge to me, but planning and executing a wedding last year (without planning any executions, lol) is probably another. I’m not the world’s best event planner.

and for good measure…

11. What’s your favourite food?

Foods that combine goat cheese, avocado, bacon, and pecans/walnuts (any two or three of those, honestly) – Probably some kind of toast with those things in some variation.

Here are my questions for you to blog about and link back to me:

  1. What cooking epiphany is most memory for you?

2. Who do you associate your favorite food with most?

3. Where would you love to live (specifically to try the food, perhaps?)?

4. How did you decide to get into blogging?

5. What kind of food do you like cooking the least?

6. What is your most essential kitchen gadget?

7. When did you know you liked food more than the average person?

8. Do you blog because you love writing, or because you love the subject matter, or both? Why?

9. What do you think is going to be the “next big thing” in food?

10. What food related thing do you want to learn more about?

So, I hope you all consider nominating your own folks for this award! I appreciate the inspiration that your blogs give me and the foods. If you want me to try your favorite recipe-with-a-story, comment below and I’ll try my best!

 

 

30. E’s Creamed Cheese Pound Cake

On my Dad’s side, other than my grandparents themselves, most of the family are farmers. I’m a couple of generations removed from that life, but my biggest memory from the life of Great-Aunt E is pulling into the shade of an enormous tree beside their cavernous farmhouse and looking over fields and fields of crops. I remember the shady rooms of the house and sitting at a picnic table outside for meals during family reunions when I was so small and everyone seemed to be so much older than I was. I don’t remember specific sweets, but the one thing I do remember is the pound cake.

In my quest to make the desserts I have been bestowed without rounding out entirely, I noticed that the recipe easily could be done as a 1/3 batch – I had a small loaf pan that would make this manageable quantity of cake in a reasonable quantity of time. I did it on a beautiful afternoon, as I seem to often do, when Husband was out on the porch reading a new book I’d wanted him to try for a while. If you haven’t read The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart yet, you really should. The good-hearted adventurers and harrowing odds helped me get outside my own obsessions last year during the wedding planning process, and I will always be grateful to have found that book during such a season. It sucked Husband in so thoroughly that the 2 hour cook time for the cake breezed by and when it was almost done he sauntered into the kitchen and said, “what are you making?”

I will warn you that this cake is not frilly, no sauces or frosting or cream. I cut the first piece when it came out and thought “what do I have that I could put on this?” and realized that anything at all would take away from this experience. The only thing I could think of, which I didn’t have in the house for the same reason I was making a tiny cake, was butter pecan ice cream. My grandfather’s favorite treat is a scoop of butter pecan ice cream right before bed, and so the many times I’ve had a thick slice of this pound cake at my grandmother or great aunt’s house, it was accompanied by a pooling puddle of sweet cream and pecans.

My great-aunt E couldn’t attend the wedding; she sent her regrets in loopy script and mentioned how she’d been caring for family members and there simply wasn’t a way to get up to see us all. She put a little P.S. on the card that nearly broke my heart, asking if, on the off chance that someone could relieve her, could she come up with a friend for the day? She didn’t even want a meal reserved for her. I reserved one anyway, because when you are planning a party for a hundred people, what’s a few extra places anyway? She could not make it, but her desire to come wish us well, in spite of her commitment to caring for loved ones, was one of the sweetest memories I have of the planning process.

Unlike many of the recipes I’ve tried, this one worked perfectly, like a charm. The crumb of the cake settled down into neat, non-crumbling slices and the crust caramelized into crusty edges that were brown but not burnt, melty bits mostly composed of the butter and sugar the recipe starts with. We ate piece after piece, with pretty much every meal until the small cake was gone 48 hours later. If there was a perfect form of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, it would be this: something about cream cheese just makes every morsel taste like more than itself. Maybe that is why we call food rich: because it feels like it should be more, have more, than the volume it takes up in space.

 E’s Creamed Cheese Pound Cake (we cut it to 1/3 of the following ingredients)

1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)

8 oz. creamed cheese

3 cups sugar

6 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tsp. vanilla flavoring

Cream butter with creamed cheese and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and incorporate. Slowly add flour and end with the vanilla. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours.

 

 

Out and About, Houston.

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I will try to get some good food-based posts up this week, but for now I’m going to have to delay because I’m at a work event in Houston Texas! There are fried green tomatoes and extremely spicy salsa and very dark roast pecan coffee, and I’m in heaven (I don’t live in Texas, but I’ve managed to spend time here every year for the past 6 years. Love affair), so I will try to take some good food pictures so that I can do some copy-cat Texas food later this month. For now, though, I send you the Texas sunrise and hope that you send me your favorite cowboy-style recipes, and anything else you’ve come up with lately. 🙂

8 Hours Old

This week, my friend J gave birth to a tiny human. I knew from prior experience that families with newborns appreciate not having to cook, on account of a tiny human demanding their constant attention. So I brought over quinoa salad and a version of B’s Chicken and Rice Casserole from early in the blogging days, and a pile of oranges, and went to visit the new little family.

I had somehow assumed their parents or siblings or someone would be there, or would have been there, but we actually arrived only 8 hours after the birth with the food for them, and no one else had met the little guy yet. It was an accidental honor: I just didn’t want them to starve, but instead the quiet, exhausted father E looked at us with great relief and led us into the bedroom, where J looked even more exhausted but happy, and a tiny sleepy person was nestled under the covers. I couldn’t believe it.

Perhaps most people have actually seen babies this young, this new to the world, but it was really overwhelming to me, as Husband found out when the rest of the evening I would randomly comment, “He was so small!” or “He was so soft-looking and pink!” I have spent time with J as she has grown that little guy inside herself, and now, he’s out! I am, needless to say, very impressed by pregnant women in general and J in particular.

It felt a little sacred, to be bringing a meal to new friends like that, to be included in such an intimate and important day as the birth of their son. We aren’t long-time friends of E and J, but I can feel us growing closer as we manage to be there for each other when the help is really useful. They, too, are not living in a town where they grew up and thus all family and long-term friends are elsewhere. Many of them will come this weekend to celebrate the birth, but by virtue of proximity, and the ability to make a mean casserole, we were inducted into a really amazing place in this little one’s life. He is no kin to me, but I already sorta want to protect him – friendship is powerful.

Anyway. No new recipes. But I’m starting to notice how food is bringing me opportunities to connect in ways I didn’t anticipate earlier this year. I appreciate its never-ending newness, even when the recipe itself is an old standard.

Food and Stories and Expansion!

I just got back from a weekend of no cooking: it was a whirlwind road trip where I ate more junk food than I have in a while mostly due to the fact that we spent a lot of the time in the car. There were good food moments though: some truly tender green beans at Red Lobster with my family, succulent Easter ham and scalloped potatoes with Husband’s family, and eggs whipped up by my mother in law to a perfect level of fluffy. While I am not the biggest fan of food-on-the-go, which was necessary at points during the many legs of the trip, it sure did make me miss cooking. I’m excited to whip things up this week!

I still have quite a lot of recipes to work on, and two exciting guest-blogger recipes to try and link back to, but the fact remains: at 3 recipes a week, I’ve really run through a lot of recipes, and they aren’t coming in fast enough to write about them alone!

I thought the challenge would be enough and I’d finish it out early in the year, but I really like writing about food! I’ve decided I want to keep going, and to keep going in a way that continues to honor telling the stories of foods while also connecting with the people around me. This will include things like:

– nostalgic posts about foods I remember and will try to create (along with the memory that made them so nostalgic in the first place!)
– guest-blogger posts about their relationships to the most important recipes in their lives.
– posts about relationships to a particular ingredient and the ways they’ve learned to like said ingredient (extra points if I can get said ingredient in season locally!)
– book reviews of books that I’ve been reading about food and cooking – these aren’t sponsored in any way, just the food memoir and kitchen writing that I found at the library and find compelling enough to discuss.

I cannot promise 3 posts a week, but I really enjoy the challenge of trying to do that many, so I’ll keep giving it a shot! For now, have a picture of a beautiful cucumber-tomato-and-quinoa salad I made with A a few weekends ago when she visited. I am tempted to keep some around for all the times that I feel “meh” about greens but want something nutritious to eat!

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29. B’s Peanut Butter and Jelly

I met Husband’s friend B on a camping trip – he was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, sarcastic and funny, and very athletic. We didn’t have much in common, life-experience-wise, but we definitely bonded around dumb jokes and ridiculous humor. Thus, I was not particularly surprised to find this in the mail along with the other RSVPs last year:

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In honor of B’s goofy spirit, I decided to make this recipe, despite the HUGE AMOUNT OF EFFORT REQUIRED. He skipped a few of the steps in his description, so I will let you know what went into this meal.

FIND A BREAD RECIPE AND MAKE BREAD: I had run out of yeast recently, so I found this recipe for Whole wheat oatmeal honey bread, which I whipped up in not too long. Good thing it took about an hour from start to finish, because I needed food!

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FIND AND PULVERIZE PEANUTS: I don’t have an electric chopper, so I used my hand chopper to crush peanuts down almost to the point of them coalescing into peanut butter. I gave up on this because 1. my hand was tired and 2. I knew he was going to make me mix it with the jam, and who was gonna be able to tell?

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FIND STRAWBERRIES AND MAKE INTO JAM: I didn’t use a recipe for this; I poured frozen strawberries (who can find fresh strawberries this early? No one, I tell you. I don’t have a greenhouse!) and water and sugar into a saucepan and boiled it for ages. When it was thickening, I poured it all into a mason jar and sealed it up to make sure it wouldn’t get too scary inside.

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At breakfast, after a whole evening’s work, I assembled the ingredients: bread, toasted, and a mixture of crushed peanuts/almost peanut butter and strawberry jam.

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I have to say, this was delicious, but perhaps the most work for the littlest pay off of all my recipes so far. B really ought to have sent me something easier, especially since I didn’t even grow the grain, peanuts, or strawberries myself.

Happy April Fools, everyone!