40. Khadija’s avocado bread!

Avocado is a food I learned to appreciate in adulthood – while I like it, it tends to be a social food in that you need to make a dip or a salad or something communal in order to share it, and after a few weeks of fairly solitary eating, I had an avocado I didn’t want to eat with a spoon but which needed to be eaten.

Thus, here is my first post about a fellow blogger! Khadija posted the singular recipe for avocado bread on the exact day I had an avocado poised on the brink of ruin, and her multi-lingual recipes are documents and clear, while being easy enough for even me to follow. 🙂

I worried Husband would think the bread was too “avocado-ey” but he’s grabbed it as his go to savory bread for the past few days. My mixer made the soft avocado and olive oil incorporate nicely into the bread mix, which is otherwise a pretty standard yeast loaf. it rose less than I wanted, but I was also impatient and I really want to make it again with an extra hour of rising.

Tune in in two days and I’ll be covering another blogger’s zucchini bread recipe with an exciting replacement for eggs that I wasn’t sure was going to work… 🙂

 

39. Ricotta Pancakes

I have been thinking about my friend A lately. She’s works for the church I attended while I was in Spain. Spain is not a very church-going country (a lot of Catholic masses in Madrid are mostly grandparents and small children), but in the middle of Madrid there was a church called Oasis, which means the same thing in Spanish and English. People from all different branches of Christianity came together to think and pray and read together, and challenge each other’s assumptions about spirituality. I loved every minute of it, and have been seeking that kind of community since I got back from Spain. A was integral: she led the Bible study I attended, and she took girls like me under her wing as we got used to living in a new place. She knew about loneliness in a foreign land, and she wasn’t afraid to be real about both joys and hardships.

A had me and another girl over for pumpkin pancakes one morning that I remember vividly – her apartment has come to represent home for me in Spain, since it was a constant and I lived in 3 different places during my years there. Settling into a comfortable chair with a plate of pancakes and looking out the window and watching life flood by in Malasaña (her neighborhood) is still one of the things I miss the most. Both A and I have moved since then, but one of the great qualities of food that I appreciate is that specific recipes anchor me to a place and a time that I won’t get to revisit.

I had a container of ricotta in my fridge last week, probably meant for a lasagna but I happened to see The Kitchn’s post about Ricotta Pancakes

and I was so excited by the idea that I just had to do it. The process works pretty much like they say in the recipe, and I got to use the stand mixer to make real STIFF PEAK EGG WHITES and it was so easy. That’s a very long sentence but it accurately expresses how happy this stand mixer makes me about cooking and baking.

Husband and his friend D gobbled these pancakes happily with a strawberry reduction since we were out of syrup. While a lot of work (definitely not instant Bisquick kind of time frame) they were totally worth it on a lazy Sunday morning. A would have had trouble with them – she’s lactose-intolerant and vegan – but I am sure we could devise a work-around to fill her tummy too. We always managed when we lived in Spain. 🙂

Recipe in a Bottle – Finally, a Name!

So, I won’t lie, I have been somewhat unhappy with the name of my blog since I started writing it. None of the ideas I used seemed to be capturing what I want to happen in this space. But today, I hit on it: Recipe in a Bottle.

Just like an SOS, recipes are about survival, about getting something into the world when you, perhaps, aren’t feeling the most confident about. But the stakes are too high not to do it, which is the same.

I’m also wanting to talk about the ways that recipes connect us, even if strangers give them to us. I am trying to send out messages to all the new family I gained last year, but also to family and friends that I’ve lost touch with over the years, and now to all the bloggers and internet-friends I haven’t met yet!

This makes me wonder: what do recipes mean for you? Are they a way to connect, like they are for me, or are the something else?

(I swear, I am cooking, I just need to work on a few things and I will start posting actual recipes again. Thanks for the patience!)

 

Life is Long

This post comes from a tattoo that my dear friend T has on her arm, reminding her that she shouldn’t get out of doing the good things in her life because they take too much time. Gardening has been like that for me so far: imperfect and tedious and day-by-day, but so worth it, I hope, when food comes out of the ground for us.

Here’s the gardening updates, complete with photos!

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The herbs (dill, parsley, basil) have sprouted! They are in a metal bucket (pretty much everything is modular so we can move or cover it if we get an unexpected late frost).

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The latest addition: a cherry tomato plant! D, of D’s Kahlua Brownies fame, visited us this weekend and brought this, which was perfect because our currently tiny sprouts of tomatoes are san marzanos, a paste tomato. This will make our salads lovely in summer. 🙂IMG_4023

 

The beautiful bearded irises that were planted by those who used to live here, and the lovely sourwood tree we got from Husband’s brother as a wedding gift! We’re excited to get it in the ground next weekend.

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An old whiskey barrel full of potatoes! I never knew how leafy and green their plants were.

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The strawberry plants are bursting with green fruits! So excited for a few good hot sunny days to get them ripened up. 🙂

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Carrots are so distinctive and feathery that I knew they weren’t weeds immediately, which can be hard with other plants!

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Lettuces, spinach, and some garlic sprouts!

So, things are moving along. No harvesting even of the spinach yet (except two leaves I sampled just because they were there) but soon. 🙂

38. L’s Lazy Day Lasagna

So, lasagna and I have a complex relationship. On the one hand, I am transported by ricotta, sauce, and noodles – the whole thing screams comfort and is an ideal dish for hiding layers of good veggies. However, I seem to manage to mess it up: watery sauce, too crunchy noodles, pans that don’t neatly fit all of my noodle layers.

L, one of Husband’s friends from Americorps, sent me a promising recipe for lasagna for a “lazy day”, and in my perusal of pinterest I discovered an irresistible variation: the lasagna roll-up. With the roll-up, I got the same tasty fillings but hopefully I could manage the baking stage better? The challenge appealed to me. (I have no pictures of it, sadly, but next time I make it, I’ll update the page!)

As always, I made some tweaks to L’s recipe, but the big one was trying “whole wheat” lasagna noodles giving to me by a friend last week. These noodles came out chewier than average noodles, but I appreciated that when I was spooning filling onto the noodle, rolling them up, and filling a casserole dish with them. I even put pepperonis on top!

I would do the roll-up again, and I enjoy the simplicity of L’s recipe, but I’d encourage you to tweak this the second, third, or fourth time you make it – I made it again with a spinach/alfredo/chicken filling and it was lovely! So it goes when revamping and making recipes your own.

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An example of past lasagna messes… delicious but definitely messy.

L’s Lazy Day Lasagne

 

6 ounces lasagne noodles

¼ tsp dried oregano, crushed

one 15.5 ounces can spaghetti sauce

one cup cottage cheese

one 6 ounce package sliced mozzarella cheese
cook noodles in boiling salted water following package directions; drain. Add oregano to spaghetti sauce. In greased 10x6x1.5 inche baking dish, make layers in order half each noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese slices, and spaghetti sauce. Repeat. Bake in oven at 375` about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 min before serving, serves 4.

Recipes for Productivity

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This is the first non-food picture I’ve really used in this blog (gardening being, very tangentially and in a weird time line, a food concept). As I finish the last few recipes from my friends and family and start working on recipes given me by many other bloggers, I’ve been thinking a lot about summer break; not just the fact that it’s a break, but that it’s a break in order to be able to make some things happen.

I listen to a lot of podcasts on my commute, and one of them recently discussed what we mean when we say productivity; it isn’t enough that we feel stressed, or that we are never sitting still. If anything, those structures seem to sometimes reduce the projects we actually finish.

I’m realizing that I want to be pouring more resources into my community, family, and friends. That sounds vague, I know, but what I want is to be spending my time on things that add value; taking ingredients and turning them into a meal, or sweeping the house so it’s already clean when Husband gets home so that he doesn’t have to do it, or writing a novel (!!!) so that future nerdy 12-year-olds can feel some of the wonder that novels gave me when I was their age… those are the things that seem valuable to me. If I was in a really bad place right now, productivity might be measured in money earned, but I’m doing okay right now, and it seems more important, both now and in worse conditions, to have good family and friends who are happy and healthy around me, than just to have another dollar.

So, as alluded, I will keep cooking, take on more home duties (Husband’s job has no summer break, so this seems like it will make our time together more fun), and work on my novel. I have also been crocheting a lot, including the above baby blanket, in order to raise money for Relay for Life, which is next weekend! I am really excited to meet all the other people who have been part of the effort around town and have a big cancer-fighting party with them.

All this to ask: what activities do you love that contribute to the resources and value in your community, family, and friends? These are simpler than we think, but still so important. What activities matter to you that don’t get their fair value in money/in the marketplace? How do you fight for the time and energy to spend on these pursuits?

37. M’s Spicy Peanut Soup

M was one of my favorite people at school – she was a year ahead of me and thus graduated after my first year, but no one really replaced her in my second year. She was one of the most driven, down-to-earth people I met – she was committed to writing in a way that I rarely saw, even though her classmates were all trying to become writers as well. Her work was unique and rooted in the places she’s lived all over the world. I enjoyed sitting on old couches with her during poetry readings and listening to what was going on in her long novel project. When I found out last month that she was going to have this same novel published this year, I was hardly surprised: it just makes sense.

It’s almost summer break, which is a wonderful opportunity for me to get back into writing. I am hoping to channel M when the school year is over and my work becomes writing the novel I’m working on. As I was thinking about her and her drive, I remembered this recipe she shared with me: it was a soup that tasted pretty much exactly like peanut butter, but which was actually chock-ful of vegetables, chicken, and spice.

To remake it I pulled veggies from the fridge that had seen better days: a sweet potato, two onions, a pile of scrawny carrots, and a pile of nearly-too-old celery. I cut it all up into small bits and sauteed the whole pile in 2 tablespoons of butter. I boiled some chicken, two breast pieces, and then I added all the boiled water into the veggies and pulled the chicken into pieces with two forks. I added half a cup of peanut butter and a small can of tomato paste to the veggies, and mixed till it looked velvety and… well, like peanut butter. I finished it with a tablespoon of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and the pulled chicken bits.

The result was strange – the peanut-ness permeates everything, including things like celery, which is definitely not a normal flavor combination in the States. However, the earthy tingle in my throat from the hot sauce after I swallowed made the soup feel complete, like all the flavors were actually perfect together. I recommend giving it a shot, either with your own veggies or with the original combination suggested by various peanut stew recipes on the internet. I am using this soup like productivity fuel, as I hope to write as well and as often as M does.

While I couldn’t find the original version I used years ago, here’s the version I worked from this time: African Chicken Peanut Stew

36. L and G’s Ham and Cheese Sliders

One of the most peaceful things I’ve been doing lately is spending time with friends’ children. Granted, there are bouts of intense wailing and raw need, but when these babies are asleep (which they are, frequently, if not for long enough for their parents to sleep) they really are incredibly calming, all folds and softness and vulnerability. In many social situations, I usually bring crocheting to work on as my friends and I talk for hours, but holding a sleepy little one has become my default as I sit on a comfy couch and unconsciously sway back and forth.

L and G are family friends of Husbands’ (they have a lot of them!) who live on a lake and own a boat. Some of my favorite memories from the summer of 2014 are swimming in the lake, sunning on the boat, and playing darts in their garage. That memory of ease and summer relaxation seems connected to this simple but flavorful tiny-sandwiches recipe.

I had been saving the recipe for these sliders for an outdoor picnic or some other context that needed many tiny sandwiches, but quick hot sandwiches turned out to be perfect while everyone passed the sleepy baby around – I used turkey rather than ham and cut out the mustard, but they turned out browned, savory, and perfect. More an assembly than a real, scary-consequences cooking job, this kind of recipe is perfect for someone who wants to up their sandwich game but isn’t quite trying chicken cordon bleu any time soon. Also, anything I can eat one handed while my other arm falls asleep under a cute baby’s soft head is a winner in my book.IMG_3981

Ham and Cheese Sliders

24 mini sandwich Hawaiian rolls

1 lb ham sliced

1 lb swiss cheese sliced

¾ c melted butter

1 ½ tbsp. dijon mustard

1 ½ tsp worchestershire sauce

1 ½ tbsp poppyseeds

1 tbsp dried minced onion


Mix and pour over sandwiches. Build sandwiches first, and then bake uncovered for 20-25 min.