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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, these days. But I am always looking for ways to add a little more joy to the everyday, especially during the winter. So I floated an idea by my husband recently: how about we try 19 new recipes in 2019?

I know myself, and it’s super easy for me to rotate between the same half-dozen meals (or, in the winter, the same few standby soups). And while there’s nothing wrong with huevos on a Monday night after boot camp, a big pot of simmering tomato soup, or tacos (always tacos), I could always use a little meal inspiration – and a few more veggies – in my life.

Nineteen recipes seems doable: an average of one or two per month, a way to interrupt or spice up the usual pattern without hijacking it altogether. There’s usually at least one recipe in each month’s Real Simple that I want to try, and I have a dozen cookbooks I hardly ever use. I’m hoping this goal will push me to do a bit of experimenting – maybe even find a new favorite or two.

We started off with a simple chicken adobo recipe (from Real Simple, naturally), then dipped back into Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (an old favorite) to try sweet potato-and-spinach quesadillas. With guacamole, of course.

The verdict in both cases? So far, so good. I’ll check back later in the year.

How do you find new recipes to try? Any tips?

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bunch of grapes bookstore marthas vineyard ma

We began May with a string of grey, rainy days – which are good reading weather, if nothing else. (We did get some sunshine while visiting the enchanting Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on our Martha’s Vineyard trip.)

Here, the books I have loved lately:

Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
This much-heralded 21st-century retelling of Pride and Prejudice is a wild ride. Sittenfeld elegantly skewers both the Bennets and 21st-century social mores in biting prose (and on reality TV). Most of the relationships herein are more than a little depressing, but it’s still fun to read. I thought the elder Bennets were particularly well done. Reminiscent of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which I adored.

Wednesdays in the Tower, Jessica Day George
This sequel to Tuesdays at the Castle finds Princess Celie and her siblings dealing with (more) new rooms, a gallery full of mysterious armor, a highly suspect wizard, and a newly hatched griffin. Really fun – though the ending felt quite abrupt. Made me curious to read book 3!

Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Stephanie Tromly
After her parents’ divorce, Zoe Webster is not excited about moving to tiny River Heights, N.Y., with her mom. But then Digby – rude, sarcastic, brilliant and obsessed with crime-solving – shows up on her doorstep. Think Veronica Mars with a male sleuth and a smart female narrator. Snarky and fun, though a few plot threads were left dangling.

Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year, Neil Hayward
After quitting his executive job, Neil Hayward found himself drifting. A longtime avid birder, he began spending copious amounts of time on birding trips, and found himself pursuing a Big Year (a birder’s quest to see as many species as possible in a year). This memoir traces his journey (geographical and personal). Slow at times, but full of lovely descriptions of birds, and insights into Hayward’s struggle with depression. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 7).

Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow, Tara Austen Weaver
I adore Tara’s blog and liked her first book, The Butcher and the Vegetarian. But this memoir is in a whole other league. She writes in gorgeous, sensitive prose about the ramshackle Seattle house and overgrown garden that her mother bought, and how their family brought it back to life together. So many insights on family, growth and community, through the lens of gardening. Beautiful.

Hour of the Bees, Lindsey Eagar
Carol, age 12, isn’t thrilled about spending her summer at her grandpa’s ranch in the middle of the New Mexico desert. But as she listens to Grandpa Serge’s stories, she comes to appreciate the ranch’s wild beauty, and gains some surprising insights into her family and herself. A lovely, bittersweet middle-grade novel about family, imagination and the titular bees.

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, Ruth Reichl
When Gourmet magazine folded unexpectedly, Reichl, its longtime editor, wasn’t quite sure what to do with herself. This memoir-cum-cookbook chronicles the year after Gourmet‘s demise, when Reichl spent hours upon hours in the kitchen, cooking her favorites and trying new things. Beautifully written (with her lyrical, haiku-like tweets sprinkled throughout) and so many tempting recipes. (I’ve already made two and have plans to try more.) Delectable.

A Certain Age, Beatriz Williams
New York, 1922: Mrs. Theresa Marshall’s dissolute brother, Ox, is finally getting married and he wants to employ an old family tradition: having a cavalier, a proxy, present the ring. Theresa enlists her lover, Octavian, as cavalier to the beautiful Sophie, which naturally leads to all sorts of tangled passions. Deliciously scandalous and elegantly written, like all Williams’ novels. (With cameos by members of the sprawling, blue-blooded Schuyler clan.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 28).

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

We eat a lot of soup around here, especially during the colder months: tomato, black bean, Tuscan sausage, creamy jalapeño. I could seriously live on soup all winter, though the hubs might protest eventually.

These days, we’re mixing a few spring recipes into our menu rotation: a side of sautéed asparagus, a meal of bruschetta on a recent open-window evening. But the nights are still cool enough that I’m making soup frequently. And there’s a spicy carrot-ginger soup – filling but still light and savory – that I’m reaching for on a regular basis.

In case you need a break from your winter soups, but still want something to take the edge off these brisk spring evenings, I thought I’d share it with you.

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup (adapted from Epicurious)
(Major changes: I adjusted the spices, skipped the onions, and swapped in olive oil for peanut oil because my husband is allergic to peanuts. My version is below.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp curry powder (or more/less to taste)

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Greek yogurt (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add coriander, ginger and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add carrots; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches (or using an immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pot; season with salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with Greek yogurt and serve. (The cool, creamy tang of the yogurt really brings out the warm, spicy flavors here.)

Enjoy!

What are your favorite soups (or other dishes) to make in the spring?

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bright bowls mugs anthro

I don’t know anyone who loves chicken as much as my husband.

We eat it more than any other meat around here: wrapped in flour tortillas or warm naan bread; stirred into spicy curries with rice and vegetables; baked in the oven with Jenny Rosenstrach’s mustard-herb butter. Sometimes (don’t tell J) I get a little tired of it.

We also eat a lot of soup at our house: tomato, butternut squash, jalapeño, black bean. Chicken enchilada, Tuscan sausage, carrot-ginger, my grandfather’s chili. I love nothing more on a cold night than stirring a warm, spicy pot of something delicious on the stove. I can eat the leftovers for days. The hubs loves soup too, but he gets tired of it faster.

Recently, we discovered a recipe (again via Jenny) that combines my love of soup with my husband’s yen for chicken. And we have made it three times in the last month.

Avgolemono is a Greek soup, which involves not only chicken but chicken broth and also eggs. (There’s a chicken-and-egg joke in there somewhere, but I can’t quite find it.) It is lemony and light, so it tastes springlike to me, and it involves enough chicken to satisfy even my husband. And – hallelujah – it’s almost criminally easy to make. The only downside is that we have never had leftovers, because we lap up the whole pot every time.

Here, in case you’re in need of a new, simple, delicious recipe, are the instructions. (Bonus: the name is fun to say.)

Avgolemono (via Dinner: A Love Story)

4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked orzo
salt and pepper
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
shredded chicken (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.

Add the orzo and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Let simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking to combine.

Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and chicken if you have it, and serve.

Jenny’s version calls for dill, but I almost never have it on hand, so we tend to make it with just salt and pepper. (Though I bet rosemary would also be good.)

What are your favorite chicken recipes – or your favorite dishes to make in the spring?

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katie baking apple crisp kitchen

I am usually a by-the-recipe kind of cook.

I learned to bake before I learned to cook, helping Mom mix up brownies or scooping chocolate chip cookie dough onto baking sheets in Neno’s (my grandmother’s) farmhouse kitchen. Baking often requires precise measurements, specific steps, double-checking the recipe to make sure you’ve done everything right. Too much flour, too little butter, and your cake will fall flat, or your cookies will remain gooey lumps.

There are a few discrete kitchen tasks I learned early on: chopping vegetables, peeling potatoes, sprinkling brown sugar on a pink slab of ham. But for years, I checked and double-checked the recipe every time I made a dish. I lacked confidence in my own ability to improvise, faith in the muscle memory of my hands and arms.

During these years, I marveled at a few college girlfriends who could whip up a stir-fry or a soup – sometimes fairly complicated ones – without so much as glancing at a cookbook. (Especially in Oxford, this creativity was often born out of necessity, if we found ourselves low on grocery money or newly back from a weekend jaunt and forced to make a meal out of odds and ends in the cupboards.)

But after more than a decade in my own kitchen, I’ve become more confident, more sure. I still use recipes frequently, but by now, there are a slew of tasks and a few dishes my hands know by heart.

Rachel’s tomato soup, studded with garlic and butter and sprinkled with fresh basil (if I can find it). The creamy jalapeño soup passed on to us by my mom’s friend Connie. My version of guacamole, which is less recipe than assemblage: avocado, lemon juice, green tomatillo salsa, red tomato salsa. Chop, mash, mix, taste. Repeat the last two steps if necessary. I stop when the texture and the taste feel just right – but it’s a knowledge born of practice, not anything written down.

More recently, I’ve memorized Molly’s scones, making a batch almost weekly in my orange mixing bowl, dry ingredients whisked together before I fold in dried cranberries and stir in the liquid. I know exactly how they should look (dry-ish, but not falling apart). I’ve made them so many times that while I can see the printed text of the recipe in my mind, I don’t have to flip the book (A Homemade Life) open any more. Instead, I let my hands take over: whisk and measure, stir and fold. Knead and press and cut into eight wedges.

There’s a deep satisfaction in this simple knowledge, especially for me, since I spend my time (and make my living by) moving words and pixels around on a screen. Sometimes I hold a pen, which is more tactile, but it’s a different kind of productivity to take raw physical ingredients and transform them into something nourishing. It’s even better when I don’t have to fuss over measurements and spices, and can simply get on with the work of making dinner. (Or scones.) I like knowing that this knowledge is stored somewhere in my body, that my senses and sinews know things my conscious mind can only guess at.

What recipes do your hands know by heart?

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pasta salad red bowl book

Spring is (finally) springing here in Boston, and though the farmers’ markets won’t be open yet awhile, I’m feeling the need to bring a little spring into my kitchen.

We’ve been eating hearty soups all winter, and while I love them, I’m mixing in a few lighter recipes these days. I’m on my annual asparagus kick, and last week I whipped up our favorite pasta salad.

I’m not a fan of most pasta salads – cold, slimy things full of suspect ingredients. But this particular one is warm, light and fresh. It involves several of my favorite things: juicy tomatoes, creamy goat cheese, peppery arugula. It’s quick and easy. And it makes me think of my friend Happy.

His real name isn’t Happy, of course – it’s Craig. He’s a tall Californian ex-hippie who’s lived in Texas for many years. Back when he used to blog, “Happy the man” was his blog moniker, and it stuck. His granddaughters, and lots of his friends, still call him Happy.

One spring when we lived in Abilene, J and I spent a weekend in Austin (during South by Southwest) for a college friend’s wedding. Happy and his wife, Laura, were our hosts – treating us to fish tacos at Wahoo’s and taking us to a couple of fabulous concerts. But we spent one rainy afternoon just hanging out at their house. Happy whipped up this dish, and we ate it from white ceramic bowls, curled up on their sectional leather couch with our shoes off. I felt so warm and taken care of and – well – happy.

Every time I make this for dinner, I remember that afternoon, and a little of that glow comes back. (Plus it’s delicious.)

This is more of a guideline than a recipe, but here goes:

  • Boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta (we like fusilli or bow tie) according to package directions.
  • Slice a handful of cherry or cocktail tomatoes; saute briefly in olive oil if you like.
  • Toss pasta with tomatoes, 2-3 cups arugula, and a small log of goat cheese, crumbled.
  • Garnish with a few grinds of black pepper. If you have some fresh basil to toss in, so much the better.
  • Eat warm, in your favorite bowl. Enjoy!

What are your favorite springtime dishes?

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black bean soup book candle dinner

I’ve written before about my soup obsession. In the winter, you can find me stirring a pot of soup on the stove (or making use of my Crock-Pot) at least once a week. Every year, I pull out the old favorites like my grandfather’s chili, my friend Julie’s butternut squash and apple soup and my friend Rachel’s tomato-basil soup.

Recently, I’ve added a newish recipe to the mix, and I thought I’d share it with you, because it’s perfect for these frigid, snowy days.

The recipe came from Epicurious, though it originally appeared in Bon Appetit, according to the website. I usually amp up the jalapeño (using two whole peppers – we like spicy food at our house) and add an extra teaspoon of cumin. (I also toss in more carrots if I have them.)

My husband hates onions, so I skip them, and while the recipe recommends toppings of fresh cilantro, green onions and feta cheese, we prefer grated cheddar or a dollop of Greek yogurt. (You could also use sour cream.) I also like to dip tortilla chips in it.

Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeño

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin [or more to taste]
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño with seeds [or more to taste]
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and 1 teaspoon jalapeño. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer 3 cups of soup to blender and puree until smooth (or use immersion blender). Return puree to pot. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon jalapeño, if desired.

The week before Christmas, when life was spinning at twice its normal speed, I made a double batch of this and we ate it all week long. Several nights that week, when the hubs was working late, I heated up a mug or bowl of soup and ate it in front of the Christmas tree, staring into the twinkling branches, giving my brain a break and my body some nourishment.

It’s supposed to snow at least a foot and then get wicked cold again here in Boston this week. You can bet I’ll be making this soup at some point.

What are your go-to soup (or other cold-weather) recipes?

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