We had our first 60 degree day of the year and we celebrated with smoke and fire-aka the best way. My husband has an obsession with all things fire and grilling, and we have quite a list of equipment that he lovingly stares at and daydreams about during long winter months. When we saw the forecast, we knew we’d be setting something on fire (though hopefully not the food we were to eat, I like my food grilled, not cremated.) Chicken is always the easiest. Not as unctuous as a 10-hour pulled pork, and not as labor intensive either, it’s our go-to when we want to fire up the charcoal grill and have an excuse to drink a few beers as we play with fire.
We usually reserve Sunday’s for a great food project, and because I spend so much time in the kitchen already, I always try to multi-task to ease the burden a bit on our weeknight cooking. This is going to be a super quick post- no lengthy details about how to make any of these things, just a round up to show you all the things I omit when I post about Sunday food projects.
We’re THISCLOSE to being over all the comfort food of winter. (Noticed I said almost!) We had another late season snow this past weekend, and something comforting was calling our name. This time we pulled one of our favorite beef stew recipes from one of my go-to cookbooks by Ted Allen. Usually, if I make beef stew, the recipe uses red wine, tomato paste and lots of other aromatics, but this recipe is a unique variation because it calls for Belgian beer instead of wine, and bread is used as the thickening agent instead of flour. It’s easy to assemble, and it is DIVINE.
I’m married to an Englishman. (Never a better way to start a blog post than by laying down a dry fact.) This is relevant because he has memories and cultural food favorites that are not readily available here, or are not a part of our cultural collective. I’ve always tried to incorporate his favorites into my repertoire (with the exception of Supernoodles mixed with baked beans and tuna), but I spent many years afraid to tackle the full roast dinner because the bar is set quite high. I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to compete with years of skill and nostalgia, but every once and a while, I’ll be brave and give it a go.
I remember our food wake-up call very clearly. It was 2008 and Ross and I were living with my parents- we hadn’t been back from England very long. I was working full-time and Ross wasn’t as his visa hadn’t been approved yet. We had very few expenses. No rent, utilities, or anything much more than some food costs and gas. I thought we’d be raking in the money. I thought we’d be saving lots, quickly saving money so we could move out as soon as Ross had his visa and a job. But that’s not what was happening. We were saving some, but not enough in comparison to what I was making (which at that time wasn’t much). We sat down one night and started to add up our expenses from our bank account, and I was gobsmacked to see we were spending $600+ on groceries a month. I believe I cried. Mainly because we were living at my parents house and we’d been spending this much for about 6 months. When I added it up, I was overwhelmed at how much we could have saved or spent in other areas. We were only cooking for ourselves a night or two a week. My parents were so generous and they’d been feeding us since we moved in, trying to help us get on our feet. We were leaking money at the grocery store, and we needed it to stop.
Is it odd that for my birthday, I asked if I could cook for my family? Maybe a bit, but it didn’t stop me. I love to cook, and I don’t have an excuse to do it for my parents and sister and brother-in-law often enough. I wanted everyone gathered around my table, eating good food, and spending quality time. The cooking happened to be a bonus.
For the menu, I needed it to be manageable, and easily stretched to feed 7 people (mom, dad, me, Ross, Mags, Zack, and my Grandma). In the end, I decided to make fresh pasta and bolognese, knowing I could do the bolognese ahead of time, and fresh pasta is always delicious and a special treat. For dessert, I made a cake from chocolate chip cookies (and vanilla ice cream too.) Disclaimer- there are a TON of photos to follow- sorry not sorry)
My birthday is this weekend, and as such I use it as an occasion to abuse my husband’s goodwill by indulging in all the things I love the most this week. People in my life know that I don’t just celebrate a birthday. It’s a birth event. A week-long excuse for me to do as I please. Re-reading this, I know it sounds a little bit diva, but all it really means is that I get to watch a few extra episodes of TV I love, or get to pick our weekend movie without hearing sighs or complaints about the fact it probably stars Katherine Heigl.
For us, there’s no such thing as too much soup. This time of year, we make chicken dumpling soup as often as humanly possible. Our go-to recipe is in Live to Cook by Michael Symon. The soup is straight forward and flavorful. Years of making this soup under my belt, I’ve perfected a dumpling making system that’s too good not to share. Continue reading
We are always on a quest to find delicious homemade curry. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried every recipe variation out there, and I have a few I really love, but I’m still on a mission to try and replicate restaurant quality curry at home. (Imposs, I know)
Nevertheless, we decided to try the Chicken Tikka Masala from the Hairy Bikers’ Great Curries book. Pretty sure no one can mess up a tikka masala.
I love cookbooks. They keep me from cooking the same 6 things over and over (here’s looking at you, 2009,) and I’m often inspired to try new techniques or flavor combos that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
In our kitchen, we have a bookshelf that holds our collection of cookbooks, and my husband’s beer glass collection. Our top shelf is the elite of the elite- the ones we reach for the most. Off that shelf, here are the five easily accessible, great for cooks of all levels books I think everyone should own: