Remodeling a house can sometimes feel like Christmas. You pick out that special gift you want, let’s say it’s a flooring tile, and mark your calendar for the day that it’s going to be installed. The days drag by slowly as you imagine a shiny new bathroom, and the dirty old broken tile will finally be forgotten as you gaze at the new. And then suddenly – the big day is here! You wake up giddy with excitement knowing that TODAY IS THE DAY that your new floor will be installed!
Unfortunately, some of these days do not go exactly as planned, like yesterday, when halfway through an installation I checked on the progress only to realize that they were installing the wrong damn flooring. I then had to sheepishly tell the workers that, “ummm, excuse me, but it seems as though you’re installing something ugly and could you please take it up and come back another day with the flooring I actually wanted? Please and thank you.” And then I realized that Christmas had not come early for me, and I have house guests coming this week that are going to have to use a bathroom with exposed broken tile, and then I wondered exactly how inappropriate it would be to have a vodka tonic at 11am.
But instead, I’m turned to the next most comforting thing besides vodka: pancakes. Well, a version of them. Hoe cakes are a simple Southern classic, where essentially you take your favorite cornbread batter and instead of baking it in skillet, you fry it up like a pancake. And let’s be clear – this is Southern style cornbread, not that weird sugary stuff the Northerners eat. To top it off I loved this black eyed pea salsa – it’s fresh, light and adds a bit of crunch to the soft hoe cakes.
Look, the lesson here is when life doesn’t go your way, don’t turn to vodka. Turn to pancakes. They don’t have rehab for pancakes. Fact.
This post is totally misleading. Anyone visiting my blog for the first time would be under the impression that I’m one of those smart, grown-up types that eats a plate of vegetables for lunch on a regular basis, instead of the grilled cheese that is so often in its place. They would have no idea that every time there’s cake in my house I will rationalize eating it for breakfast. (Eggs! Milk! Healthy ingredients!) They might even suspect that I’m one of those people that gets up early on Saturday morning to get the best produce at the farmers market, when really I sleep in late and swear I’ll be at the market next weekend.
But hey, every now and then I get my shit together, roast some veggies, and love every second of eating them. I feel superior to everyone around me for approximately 4 hours, until I open the fridge to make dinner and realize that the only vegetables I currently have on hand are limp celery and pickled jalapenos. But those 4 hours were totally amazing.
This dish is so easy, and on the few occasions that I do go to the grocery store and buy fresh foods, these are items that always make it in my cart. With the sweet roasted carrots paired with the cool avocado and spicy curry powder, you love eating a plate of vegetables, and not just because you feel like a real adult for a few hours.
So hey, roast some carrots. Slice an avocado. Feel superior to everyone else. It’s totally cool.
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Sometimes I need comfort food. Sometimes I need food that is dripping in cheddar cheese. Sometimes I need pasta. I need to eat food that is served in a big bowl that I can curl up with.
The only problem is that sometimes I also need to be in bathing suit condition. As much as I love mac and cheese, it just isn’t an option a week during the summer, when a trip to the pool could happen at a moment’s notice. So I do what I usually do: take the dish I’m craving and beef it up with some whole grains, fresh veggies, and hope it balances out the cheddar cheese.
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“You better go buy some strawberries tomorrow, don’t wait another day.”
This was the ominous warning Henry gave me yesterday when I plucked a particularly perfect berry out of a basket in his kitchen. Apparently the local J&D produce place in town had warned him that due to high rainfall this year, the local strawberry fields were flooded and berries were rotting early. So today was the LAST DAY to get any local berries, which is what led me to almost getting in a fight at the J&D parking lot when 4 cars were all trying to cram into the one little spot left. If I had been at Target I would’ve been like, “screw this” and just headed on home, but strawberries are worth putting up a fight. Fact.
I have been trying for the last hour to figure out a way to fully express my love of strawberries and have finally concluded: it can’t be done. It just cannot be expressed in words. Especially during the summer, I would eat them every day and with every meal if possible. Strawberries make everything better, from salads to biscuits to pie. Mojitos? Make mine a strawberry mojito, please and thank you.
Traditional panzanella is made with chunks of crusty bread and tomatoes, and is a dish that has long eluded me. See, everyone falls into two categories: those that love raw tomatoes, and those that don’t. I am of the latter variety. So, although it looks so pretty and inviting, I just know that I’ll never be able to get over the bitter raw tomato taste of a traditional panzanella.
Strawberry panzanella, however, is a whole new ball game. Same pretty look, but a far sweeter taste. If you’re reveling in summer berries where you are, this salad is a must. And yes, it will make that fight over the last basket of berries totally worth it.
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I didn’t think I would enjoy making this as much as I did. When it comes to cooking, I’m really into the “under 30 minutes and less than 5 steps” category. Once you start adding in multiple processes and using scary words like “bechamel,” I begin slowly backing away. I mean, do you realize that multiple sauces and mixtures means more dishes to clean? Haven’t you people heard of one pot wonders? Why can’t every recipe read, “Add all ingredients to bowl. Stir. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.”*
*note to self – great idea for a cookbook
However, when I saw this dish on Giada’s show, it seemed too delicious to pass up. But I was shocked at how easy this was to prepare. And it included a lot of stirring, which if you’ve had a stressful week can be very relaxing, in a hippie, zen-like sort of way. Let’s break it down. Continue Reading →
You know in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” when Colin Firth is like, “You’re a total mess but I like you, just as you are,” and you can’t help but be all, “awwwww he’s so sweet! He loves her even though she’s kinda chunky and has a terrible case of mouth diarrhea!”?* Well….okra, you are green, fuzzy on the outside, a little slimy on the inside and I love you, just as you are. (awwwww)
A lot of recipes involving controversial ingredients will come with a disclaimer of, “Even if you normally hate spinach, you will still love this recipe.” To be clear, this is not one of those. If you aren’t a fan of okra, you won’t like this. If you only like okra when it’s breaded and deep-fried, proceed with caution.
Although I love fried okra just as much as the next Southern gal, and firmly believe that any form of gumbo that doesn’t include okra is a crime against humanity, I feel that all too often it becomes hidden away in these recipes. It’s there of course, but all dressed up in breading or Cajun spices, when really it deserves the chance to be the star of its own recipe. Just like Olive in “Little Miss Sunshine,” sometimes you just have to let okra be okra. (Apparently okra inspires me to think of movie analogies. Or I’ve just been watching too many recently. Tough call.)
If you’re a die-hard fan of okra, I hope this hits the spot like it did for me. If you love fried okra, maybe try this recipe first. If you hate okra, please try back next week. Thanks for reading. xoxo
*I’m not sure, but it’s probably unadvised to include the word “diarrhea” in a recipe post…twice…my apologies…
Things I have learned in the past 24 hours:
1. If a company gives you your very own business credit card, put it into your wallet immediately. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put it on your desk right before your sister helps you do a major cleaning of your home and you get all trigger happy with throwing away trash. Eventually the line that divide “trash” from “credit card” becomes blurry.
2. Always keep a nice change of shoes & shirt in your car. Inevitably there will come a time when you will decide to go to work in “comfy” clothes, i.e., jeans, a T-shirt and ripped Toms. This is the day you will forget you have a networking function after work with no time to change in between.
3. Do not drop your phone into bowls of soup. This might seem obvious but apparently I need a refresher lesson.
4. A perfect Bellini after work will always make you feel better. Always.
5. If you go home, change into sweats, and eat a big bowl of this kale salad, it’s basically like you worked out. Science. Plus – this salad is insanely addictive and you will love every moment. Just do it.
You know what I am starting to miss? Being a renter! I want to go back in time to my former apartment-renter self and say, “Hey you! You know how on the weekends you like to sit on the couch and sip coffee while watching cooking shows and you won’t even have the slightest inkling that perhaps there’s something else you should be doing with your time? ENJOY THESE DAYS. Soon you’ll get out of bed and on the way to coffee machine be overwhelmed with projects that are left to be done and if you sit on the couch to watch 5 minutes of a show your subconscious will start to scream, “You’re falling behind!! The paint is peeling and the weeds are growing and dust is settling and you’re watching a TV show?? What is wrong with you?!?”
At least there is one room in the house where I finally feel like we are ahead of the game. Until a week ago I was coming home every day, resolute in the knowledge that I would once again be microwaving my dinner and staring longingly at photos from food blogs that were taking full advantage of their access to a functional kitchen. Although I’m over the moon with how it turned out, I won’t be volunteering to oversee anymore kitchen remodels in the near future. I also might very well start sleeping in the kitchen in an effort to avoid the rest of the house.
Since I’ve had my kitchen back, I’ve found myself wanting to cook nothing but my favorite stand-bys. This is the basic recipe I use whenever I’m craving pizza – obviously you can add any additional toppings that you like, but this sauce, crust and cheese will satisfy any craving you have. I’ve experimented with pizza dough for a while and finally found that the combination of bread flour & whole wheat flour give the dough just the right texture and flavor. Chewy with crisp edges, and a slight nuttiness without tasting like a complete whole wheat flour dough.
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Hey friends! How has your week been? I’ve got a post coming up that should explain why I’ve been a bit absent, but here are a few updates from the last few days:
Caught up on Downton Abbey and cried and tried to hide it from Chase because I ALWAYS cry during sad scenes and feel like a sap.
Watched the premiere of Smash. Does anyone else watch this show? Anyone? Buehler? Look, regardless of your thoughts, it was totally worth watching for this song, which I have been listening to on repeat for the last 48hrs.
I may or may not have eaten a mix of potato chips and cookies for more than one of my meals. But since I was home alone during these alleged meals I will maintain my innocence until proven guilty.
I am entirely unprepared for Valentine’s day this year. No dinner reservations, and no recipes for heart shaped food or anything involving red food coloring. Sorry, I know it’s a disappointment.
But..I made cornbread! With cheese! This is good, right? You’re not too disappointed I hope? And really, what could be better to share with a loved one on Valentine’s Day then carbs and cheese? Hope you enjoy. xoxo
This was one of the last dishes that I photographed before the move, so it will be the last recipe post with photos taken from a maximum 2 feet away because I had no room in my kitchen. Watch out world – wide shots are coming soon!
Even though this was one of the last recipes I made in my LA apartment, it is also possibly the first dish I’ll make in the new home. These shells are simple to make and great comfort food during the winter months. If you have a couple of casserole pans to spare I recommend doubling the recipe and freezing some shells for later use; they should be fine in the freezer for at least a month. There are few things better than coming home after a long day, dreading the thought of cooking and then remembering you have some delicious pasta shells waiting for you to just throw them in the oven.
And in case you were wondering – no, we’re not in our new home yet. Our fingers are crossed that we’ll finally be moving in tomorrow and Chase and I will be able to resume an activity that has been missing from our lives for far too long:
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