No, you’re not crazy. I haven’t written anything here in years.
That’s not a figurative statement. I literally haven’t written a darned word for this blog in nearly three years.
So there you go. An acknowledgment of the obvious.
I’m writing here now because I want to avoid Twitter and the news for just a little bit, and I figured I could yak away on my blog and get some of my words out of my system without roiling my blood because of whatever new nonsense (or is it non-sense?) has come out about the current administration in the last hour or less.
So what would I have shared on Twitter that I’m going to share here?
Just that I’m in the midst of a mini-cooking spree.
A beef stew is simmering on the stove and some chicken thighs are roasting in the oven. When it’s nearly ready, I’ll make some dumplings, too. The biscuit-y kind, not the noddle-y kind.
With the roasted chicken thighs, I’ll eat the crispy skins as soon as they’re cool enough that I want burn the roof of my mouth. The chicken itself will go into some kind of creamy pasta casserole. I’m not sure what exactly, but I’ll figure that out later.
I might also make an easy, tomato-y, spicy ragu for another pasta dish. Details to be determined. And the actual dish’s existence will be dependent on my nap schedule this afternoon.
Now, if you’re wondering what the heck I’m going to do with all this food, I don’t blame you. It is just me for the humans in my household, and Banjo isn’t keen on much that isn’t ham or her usual kibble.
Well, I’ll portion most of it for future meals. Some will go into the fridge for this week’s lunches at work. Others will go into the freezer for future lunches. If something’s really good, I’ll take a bowl or two to my Mom.
Why do this, you might ask? (or not, because it’s not like I’m doing anything revolutionary here, really.)
It’s all part of my 13+ months of taking lunch to work. It started out as a way to save some money, but also because I was sick and tired of the options near my office.
Now it has simply become a habit, and one that’s well worth the effort because cooking at home on Sundays helps me calm down. And if you know me, you know I could stand to calm down a smidge at times. (hello, high strung Taurus over here.) Now with all that’s going on in the world, I’m even more distracted and wound up than before. And I can only write some many emails and cards, and make so many calls to my elected officials before I get sick and tired of spitting into the wind of their indifference to constituents like me.
Wait… Wait… Breathe in. Breathe out…
No politics… That’s why I was avoiding Twitter and the news.
Deep breaths. Everyone repeat them with me. In… Out……. In… Out…….
Now what about you? How are you taking care of yourself these days? Are you cooking more? Taken up a new hobby or delved deeper into one you already love?
Lately, I’ve been making more of an effort to cook dinner at home and to prepare meals that’ll make good leftovers for lunch at work. My cookbook and magazine habit has been pretty darn helpful in this effort.
In particular, I’ve been ripping out roughly half of the recipes in Southern Living and Bon Appetit lately. And I’m even using the recipes. Well, some of them. Others are stacked very neatly just waiting for their turn.
But they’re going to have to wait a while, because this recipe for One-Pot Pasta with Tomato-Basil Sauce from Southern Living is my current favorite. In about two months, I’ve made it four or five times. And for a recipe that serves six that means I’ve basically been eating it every other day.
What I like about this recipe is that it’s rather forgiving if you don’t have all of the ingredients. For example, I don’t always have fresh basil, but dry spices like thyme and rosemary work fine. Same goes garlic; quite frankly, some nights I’m just too darned lazy to slice an onion and chop garlic and I just don’t add it. (what? like you don’t have lazy nights in the kitchen?)
I will say, don’t substitute the spinach for broccoli; it doesn’t quite work. Also, use a sturdy pasta that does well when cooked for a while. I use De Cecco’s Fusilli Corti Bucati, which has a 15 minute cook time (according to the box). I’ve tried a couple of other pastas, but they overcook or get a bit gummy. This pasta cooks up nicely and gives the dish an almost creamy texture.
When serving this dish, top it off with a grated hard cheese like Grana Padano or parmesan. You’ll be good to go for dinner and maybe have a dish or three leftover for lunch, too.
It’s been nearly two months since my Dranny, Lovetta Childs, passed away on July 7.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to find some new sense of normal, but there are times when the grief hits me unexpectedly and leaves me with tears running down my face.
Sunday mornings are the hardest though. It’s the day of the week when she passed and Sunday mornings are so quiet that there’s almost no chance that the memory won’t come directly to mind. So I’m left reliving the morning when she passed and wondering when exactly the pain of the grief might subside.
I try to remember happier memories of my Dranny whenever possible. So at times like this, I try to replace the memory of the morning she passed with the memory of the morning I was with her in ICU after staying overnight with her. She had woken up at 4:30 or so and asked me whether or not I had the coffeepot set up for the morning. Something that was always a concern in our house because my Dranny needed her cup of coffee first thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I inherited my caffeine addiction from her.
I assured her the coffee would be ready first thing and that I had our cups all ready, too. Later that morning, she was alert and responsive, and she had improved dramatically. In fact, the ICU nurses were expressing cautious optimism that she’d be out of ICU in no time at all and back home within days.
That morning, I stayed with my Dranny and we had our cups of coffee, gossiped and fought over whether or not I was going to share her eggs. She won. I shared in the misery of eating what I’m pretty sure was plastic masquerading as scrambled eggs. But by gosh, we were having coffee, gossip and breakfast together, and it was my time with my Dranny and it reminded me of all the mornings that she and I had sat on her patio or at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee before everyone else was up and at it. Those quiet mornings when we would talk about anything, everything or nothing at all. Those mornings are part of my collection of precious memories of my Dranny.
This morning, I’m sitting on my patio. Drinking coffee out of the cup I keep at the house just for her. Because my Dranny only drank coffee from her Fire King cups. And I’m remembering how lucky I was to have had her in my life for so long as I did.
You can take the girl out of Texas, but you’ll never take the Texas out of the girl.
This is a phrase that perfectly describes my friend Amber of Bluebonnet & Brownies and so many of us that do or once did live in the Texas diaspora as Tex-pats (you know, Texans that are living outside of Texas). We became friends when I was living in Nebraska and quickly learned that we could share a laugh, a hug, a Shiner Bock and some barbecue – no matter the distance between us or the distance from Texas.
Nowadays, we continue to share a love of Texas and especially the Hill Country, where bluebonnets grow wild and blanket the countryside in the spring. I’m lucky enough to live in Texas again and can share snippets of these moments with Amber, who is still living in the diaspora.
Today, though, I get to celebrate Amber’s Texas Baby Shower with her and all y’all.
I’ll be honest, I had planned to make Coca-Cola Cake because I thought that would be fun. But Coca-Cola Cake is a new-to-me recipe and I realized that I wanted to share a recipe that had some family history for me.
Banana Pudding is a familiar recipe for just about anyone I know. Which one of us, especially us Texas kids, didn’t dig into a dish or three of it at family gatherings or church potlucks? And in my family, my Dranny would make it special for us kids by serving it up in her gold goblets that she passed on to me. Lately, these memories have been precious to me. And as we celebrate Amber’s first baby, thoughts of family and happiness together should be shared and passed on.
Amber (and your Brit!), you’re going to have an even more beautiful family with the addition of your little bluebonnet baby. Congratulations!
In the serving dish (or dishes) of your choice, layer vanilla pudding (or chocolate, if you’re feeling crazy…), banana slices and Nilla Wafers together. The ratio of pudding to bananas to Nilla Wafers is your choice.
Two things to keep in mind, the Nilla Wafers will get soft and smooshy as they absorb the pudding, and the bananas will get a little brown if they’re not covered with pudding. For that reason, I assemble mine in individual serving cups right before serving. But if you’re going to a potluck, layer the bananas on the inside and lay the Nilla Wafers on the top. If you like.
Be sure to check out posts from others who are helping celebrate Amber’s Texas Baby Shower today!
Sugarcrafter | Breakfast Tostadas
My Kitchen Addiction | Baby Texan Cookies
My Baking Addiction | Texas Sheet Cake
Simple Bites | Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn Salsa
Stetted | Queso Mac
Food for My Family | Texas Pepper Barbecue Sauce
Dessert For Two | Frito Chocolate Chip Cookies
Confessions of a Cookbook Queen | Coconut Tres Leches Layer Cake
TidyMom | Pizza Bread Sticks
Miss in the Kitchen | Blackberry Milkshakes
Art of Gluten Free Baking | Peach-Pecan Pie, Gluten-Free
Bon Appetit Hon | Cheddar Ranch Crackers
Food Babbles | Southern Pecan Pie
Jelly Toast | Peach Iced Tea
Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle | Decorated Elephant Cookies
i am baker | Texas Brownie Cake
Cookies & Cups | Sticky Toffee Pudding Cookies
A Farmgirl’s Dabbles | Peanut Butter Bonbons the Size of Texas
Steph Chows | Fiesta Dip
In my family, to make dinner, you have to have a “baby.”
Baby is not a living, breathing thing.
Baby is my Mom and Dranny’s trusty wooden spoon that is probably older than I am. It has scorch marks, dings, dents and all kinds of so-called imperfections that make it perfect for making supper, stirring cake batter or mixing up a big ol’ batch of potato salad.
And when I was getting ready to move in to my own apartment, one of the first things my parents gave me was my own set of wooden spoons. None of them fancy, but each one a little different. I still have most of them, but I only use one of them regularly. It has become my “baby.”
It’s been burned when a roommate left it in a pot too long. It has cut marks along the handle from where I used it for some cooking experiment. And it is the perfect size for all kinds of recipes.
Until recently, the one spoon was enough. And then my Dranny offered to let me go through her spare utensil drawer.
Folks, I do not exaggerate when I say I spent a good hour or so going through the drawer deciding what I could use versus what I wanted to take home with me just because I knew my Dranny or Mom had picked it out and used it. I figure that maybe, just maybe, using one of their old spoons would bring a little of their cooking magic into my own kitchen.
I officially adopted several spare utensils, but my favorites are the wooden spatulas and the bamboo spoon I brought home with me. My original spoon is an all-purpose work horse. The wooden spatulas are perfect for stove-top cooking, especially when I’m using my cast iron skillets. And the bamboo spoon, with its well-placed hole, is just the thing for mixing up bread dough.
But even if I wasn’t using these spoons regularly, they’d still have an honored spot in my kitchen because having them close by is like having a little bit of my Mom and Dranny with me in the kitchen. And, when it comes right down to it, that’s what matters most to me.
Sometimes, a simple supper on the patio is the best kind of supper there is – especially during the summer.
The hardest part about making a crab salad – assuming you’re lazy like me and get your crab already picked and cleaned – is chopping some celery and onion to go into the salad. Stirring the ingredients together could be a challenge, too, if the bowl is too small. But that seems like something that should be easily avoided (unless you’re me and you almost always underestimate how big a bowl you need…)
I’ve shared a version of the crab salad before – as inspired by trip to Maine, where I was avoiding the lobster like the plague it is. I did things a little differently this time just because I could (recipe below).
I also recommend making yourself a simple cocktail. In this, I had a Topo Aperol, which is about one part Aperol Liqueur (an Italian aperitif) to 3 or so parts Topo Chico (a sparkling mineral water that you must love if you live in Austin).
Crab Salad on Endive
6 ounces crab claw meat, prepared and picked clean
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 or 2 tablespoons Duke’s mayonnaise
pepper, to taste
Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
Mix all ingredients together. Serve on endive leaves.
Enjoy with a Topo Aperol!
And so it begins. The season of the tomato mayo sandwich.
I like a lot of foods, but I really like tomato mayo sandwiches. But only when tomatoes are in season and they’re super fresh.
If past summers are anything to go by, it’s likely that I’ll eat a tomatoes worth of sandwiches just about every day for the next month or so.
And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then here’s what you need to do.
Go out and get the freshest tomatoes you can find. Do not refrigerate them. Get some bread (a soft white bread that doesn’t have to be toasted is recommended). Grab a jar of Duke’s Mayonnaise (or Hellman’s or Best, if you insist).
Slather some mayo on the bread. Cut the tomatoes in nice, thick slices (no pansy slivers of tomatoes here!). Layer the tomatoes on the bread. Season with salt and pepper.
For true sandwich approach, top with another slice of mayo-slathered bread. Or for maximum tomato to bread ratio, leave it open-faced.
Voila! You’re done.
Now enjoy that sandwich and keep a napkin close by to clean up the juice that’s likely to drip down your chin.