Finally: Dinner Party 2

So, we had a dinner party in January, and there was one in March that got cancelled, so finally, finally, we’re having dinner party the second. Meatball/”Meatball” cook-off style.

I’m hosting this in tandem with N, who has me very excited about cooking up a few kinds of meatballs in hopes of being the crowd favorite. Husband has invited a friend from work, we’ve invited a neighbor or two, and some of the folks from the first dinner party are returning. A good time and a full stomach is sure to be had by all.

I am so excited to get home tomorrow, folks. I love travelling, but I’m ready to be cooking in my own kitchen again, sleeping in my own bed, moving forward on my summer projects at my normal space. I miss coffee fresh-ground (sounds snobby, but everyone’s got a comfort thing like that, I think) and obviously, I miss Husband. This is the first 8-day absence since marriage! I’m ready to bug him to go get ice cream with me again.

So, I promise I’ll get back to posts about actual recipes, but it’s been fun to have the chance to write a little more creatively while on the road. If you are just tuning in, please do check out the many numbered posts about recipes I’ve tried for the project; it’s not always a personal travelogue around here. 🙂

Cookbook: 101 Classic Cookbooks

One of my activities this week has been reading 101 Classic Cookbooks, a present from my cousin for our wedding. It was a prescient present, given that I had asked for recipes from everyone but didn’t know that I would be so taken with blogging.

This book is very cool, because half of it is recipes, like a traditional cookbook, but the first half of the book is beautiful descriptions of the 101 cookbooks that the editors thought were most influential to the history of American cooking. It goes from hundreds of years ago right up to the most ultra-modern cuisine, and the reason I liked it was because it shows how the whole world has influenced American cooking. While it is a kind of cuisine in its own right, it can trace threads of influence from so many different groups of people who have immigrated, become Americans, and made their mark on our dining experience.

I’m excited to try more of the recipes they include because they’ve found 4 or 5 recipes from each book that are either indicative of the time or very delicious – there’s even a recipe for roasted possum, but I doubt that will be my choice to try! I’m excited to try their recipes for Spanish foods that I haven’t gotten a chance to attempt yet (I know I make a lackluster paella, so I need some help there).  It’s also fun to imagine a hundred or two hundred years ago, someone sharing a meal that I can still mostly recreate here and now, in the modern world.

Some of the folks who came to my wedding didn’t give me a single recipe but instead recommended cookbooks; while I’m not Julie of Julie and Julia, cooking a whole book worth of recipes, I’d sure like to know which cookbooks I can borrow from the library are standout good, like 101 Classic Cookbooks is. Any recommendations? I also love hearing if a cookbook has a special story for you – you know how it goes on this blog.

 

 

 

Sister’s Gouda and Butternut Squash Casserole

So the main stop on my road trip this summer has been to visit my sister, and last night, she cooked for us! I realized that I appreciate more than ever the space of my own kitchen, and it has translated into giving my sister space to cook the way she wants. She cooks like a person who works in a real kitchen: quick and high-heat and occasionally messy but always producing stunning food.

She made us a variation on this recipe: https://www.blueapron.com/recipes/baked-butternut-squash-gouda-pasta-with-brussels-sprouts-chestnut-breadcrumbs which she got from her Blue Apron subscription. With us, she substituted a few things: chestnuts were replaced with slivered almonds, the spice blend was her own (lots of rosemary and garlic), and there were no brussel sprouts. I know someday I will grow up enough to like brussel sprouts, but this day was not that day.

The result was a brimming full casserole dish with truly wonderful, grown-up macaroni-and-cheese feel: it had sweet bits with the squash, savory gouda and parmesan, and just the right crunch with the almonds. If I made it, I’d probably have done a little more sauce so it could fill each rigatoni tube, but honestly, her way was healthier so I should probably stick with her genius.

Watching my sister cook made me realize how far I’ve come: my sister has been interested in high quality cooking for a long time, but my experience with it is still new; these six months of blogging have taught me a lot though! I’m pretty excited to be rounding the bend on half a year cooking and blogging, and it’s neat to measure myself against someone whose cooking will always be better than mine, but who I now can almost keep up with in terms of knowledge of techniques, even if my results will always be less magical (at least a little bit). I am definitely trying this at home though!

 

The Happiness Tag! :)

So, blog awards aren’t always my thing, but I really like one that’s going around: the Happiness Tag. It’s just a request to say the things that make you happy, and then ask others the same question. Since I’m writing a food blog, I’ll use this happiness tag to talk about some foods that have been making me happy lately.

Happiness foods:

  1. Salmon: I have never eaten a lot of fish, but once in a while salmon is filling me with happiness these days. When cooked right, it’s flaky and mouth-melty, and yet is lighter and makes me less heavy and sleepy than lots of other protein sources. I’ve tried it lately with feta and herbs, and also in a green salad – so wonderful and summery.
  2. Pecans: While these are quite expensive lately, due to water shortages and other things, just a few go a long way! I have added a pecan or two to some cream cheese on top of celery lately and drizzled honey on and felt like I had the best dessert you could ask for (while still eating celery, let’s be real here…). Their nutty flavor is even more intense after toasting with a little butter on them.
  3. Cherry Tomatoes: Little tomatoes are great for adding to just about any summer dish! When I left for my road trip, the first few tomatoes were growing, little and green, on our cherry tomato bush and I’m so excited to get back and eat sweet, tiny tomatoes. I recently learned on the Gastropod podcast that the oldest form of tomatoes were actually tiny, a bit like cherry tomatoes now (not the same variety, but still!). Easier to eat without having tomato goo spurt everywhere too.
  4. Dried apricots: These fruits are the mvp for the road trip, and I’ll tell you why: most dried fruits I know are either overly sweetened (sorry pineapple) or overly chewy (craisins just aren’t for me). Apricots, when sold without extra sweetener, are the perfect mix of soft and chewy, and aren’t lip-puckeringly sour while also not being cloying in their sweetness. Love them.
  5. Milky coffee: I try to drink my coffee black most days (save a few calories without giving up a drink I love? Okay.) but milky coffee has been a nice vacation-time luxury for me lately. I don’t add sugar usually, just enough milk to make the whole thing blonde – milk has a lot of natural sugars in it anyway that make me happy.

Hey fellow bloggers: want to take this on? I nominate:

1. Panini Girl

2. Love Ling

3. Messy Counters and Floured Paperbacks

4. Cumin and Curryleaf

5. Ginger Jams

6. Grateful Life Wellness

7. Food Ann Made Today

8. Live Eat Create

Looking forward to hearing what makes you happy! 🙂

 

53. No Thyme to Waste’s Braided Challah

A few days back, I was having a nostalgic day and decided to bake a loaf of challah. I have no claim to challah’s long history, but in college it was a bread I learned to make in my parents’ bread machine and so whenever I was about to head back to school, I’d make two loaves: one to eat with my family, pulling sections of the braid off with our hands while it was still warm, and the other to slice cool in my college town, accompanied by my roommates or nearby dorm neighbors. The bread seems built for community building: soft, pliable, woven together, and always slightly sweet and eggy.

I found No Thyme to Waste’s recipe for braided challah and was also somewhat enchanted by her blog – it uses the same WordPress theme that I do, but to much greater effect! I’m inspired to include recipe cards with any recipes I make from friends or from a handwritten card – obviously will keep linking to recipes that come from other blogs. I was impressed that it used so much whole wheat flour, and this recipe didn’t disappoint: Husband does not like super whole-grain bread and he thought this was the best loaf I’ve made yet! We ate on it for days, letting it replace store-bought bagels in the morning, toasted with a layer of cream cheese all over it. I didn’t have the seeds to put on top, but otherwise I pretty much stuck with the recipe; I’m learning that it pays to follow the directions with bread.

While I didn’t get to bring any on this road trip with me, I’m hoping to be able to at least prepare a few meals while I’m here visiting with my sister – she’s a much healthier eater than me, but if she let’s me, a loaf of homemade bread might be just what her kitchen needs.

 

Eating… On a Road Trip

I’m on a road trip! So that’s fun. But it does mean that there isn’t much cooking happening. I’ve been thinking about the ways I eat when I’m on road trips, and how I can make myself not feel awful when eating all the fast food and snacks that I seem to have available to me.

Recipe in a Bottle Rules for Road Trip Eating:

  • Pack healthy snacks: I fully like to treat future-me like I will magically prefer dried apricots and stalks of celery to candy and cookies. Even if I’m not crazy about those things once I’m actually on the trip, my body thanks me for the daily injection of fruit and veggie.
  • Avoid fast food sides (law of fries): I love me some good fries, mac and cheese, kettle chips, whatever, but while I’m on a trip, I try to limit myself to a sandwich or other main entree. It’s a great way to cut half the calories in a fast food ‘meal’ and not feel bloated afterwards.
  • When seated, aim for salad: I am not a natural salad lover, but lately I’ve become convinced of how much better I feel on long trips if I sneak a salad in here and there!
  • Find mini-exercises for gas station breaks, etc.: I try to lift up on my tip toes a few times every time I leave the car for a little while, which is helpful for my muscles. Before and after the trip, I try to take some stretches, a walk if I can manage it, and do a plank for a minute. These things won’t prevent a little road-trip weight gain, but they sure do make me feel better and less tired.

Overall, these aren’t revolutionary, but as I eat out with my sister and my mom (and eat our leftovers during other meals) they are keeping me feeling less sluggish than I tend to get while travelling. This is important, because it’s supposed to get up to a heat index of 105 today! Eeek! Stay cool and eat well, friends. 🙂 I’ll be back with recipes soon.

52. Jen’s Parmesan Meatballs

In my search for meatball recipes (Linda from Scribbles and Grits got me thinking meatballs with a sweet-and-sour recipe she gave me, as did my friend N when she came up with the idea of a meatball-themed dinner party), I came across the blog Carlsbad Cravings.

It is a beautiful blog and has so much wonderful food, including the meatball recipe I eventually decided to try, Parmesan Meatballs. I was also making curry that day, so these were a separate, stand-alone dish, eaten with flatbread on the side.

Following her directions was very easy, and I was stunned by how well the skillet works for this – I tend to leave cast-iron cooking to Husband, worried that I’ll ruin it somehow, but the meatballs crisped up perfectly on the stovetop and browned fully in the oven. The spicing was perfect and the amount of cheese was substantial without detracting from the rest of the meatball. This is a serious contender for my next meatball-themed dinner party, which looks like it will be soon! It will also be my first meatball-themed dinner party so wish me luck on that venture.

Enough dawdling for me. Back to work. 🙂