Reading | Delancey & A Homemade Life

I think my favorite new genre is the cookbook as memoir. I've been reading, simultaneously, Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life and Delancey. The other afternoon at the library, while picking up a book I'd put on reserve, I grabbed one of the cookbooks from the metal cart right next to the checkout desk, as has become my tradition. In weeks past, it was The Vegan Scoop and Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home. This week it was Dinner: A Love Story. I haven't made anything from these cookbooks yet, but I've found myself wanting to spend more time in the kitchen. Rather than poring over Pinterest to find a new recipe, I've been using tried-and-true base recipes as jumping off points and getting creative.

I suspect I like these kinds of books for the same reasons I enjoy blogs (in fact, I'm reading Molly Wizenberg's books as a result of being a long-time reader of her blog, Orangette). They delve into the daily and the mundane in a way that makes it seem less humdrum and more of an art. In the way that Martha Stewart made meticulous planning seem necessary to entertain, this genre and its authors are stripping those airs away.

It's strange for me to read about people who come to cooking later in life. Growing up it felt like we were always cooking, always preparing for the next meal. Now that she's older, my mom is a fan of cooking all day so we can have food for the days that follow, but when we were younger, I remember her most clearly in front of the stove, all of us kids fluttering around her asking to help. So many of our pictures include my sister and I, elbows deep in flour and sugar, standing on our dining room chairs cutting out sugar cookies. One of our favorites is of me standing and staring in awe while my sister Bea operates the Easy Bake Oven, my NKOTB t-shirt reaching my knees. I'm grateful to be able to say that as far back as I can remember, there have always been home cooked meals, big messes, and piles of dishes.
These days, my mom and I spend the majority of our phone calls recounting our meals to one another, planning menus for my next visit home. These aren't fancy meals. Often, we're talking about how we buy bananas just so they can rot and we can make banana bread—the same recipe she's been making for us since I was a toddler. I bought two single slice packs of Spam on sale at Target the other day, and I can't wait to call and tell her about the musubi we plan to make with it. For Mother's Day, Bea and I went in on a charcoal grill and all the accoutrements so she could make her famous ribs and marinated chicken. She cried when they unveiled it to her.

When I read the first 20 or so pages of Dinner: A Love Story, I started to see these early days of Mike and me living together as I might 10 years from now—the start of tradition, of ritual. Our weekly meal planning and grocery trips, our monthly BJs hauls, our sporadic and often fruitless attempts at couponing, our little green card catalog on top of the fridge that holds our favorite recipes scribbled on index cards. These are the beginnings of what will be the backdrop of our family's daily lives; no matter where we live or work, these are the things we will always do, a sense of routine we can rely on no matter what life throws at us.

I'm so happy to see a celebration of the power of food. There have been a lot of books and documentaries about the harmful and destructive aspects of the food industry, and I think these stories—Molly's and otherwise—are a way to reclaim the nourishing and positive powers of gathering some friends, fresh ingredients, and eating.


Not Intent On Arriving's Writer Wednesday

Many months ago, I received a very sweet email from Kristin of Not Intent on Arriving, a blog about travel and daily life. That was some time in November, and she wanted to do an interview with me for her Writer Wednesday. Of course, I immediately said yes and after several weeks (months?) of it slipping my mind, I finally got back to her! In April, she posted the interview, and I'm just now seeing it because there are over 300 unread blog posts in my Bloglovin' (at what point should I just mark all as read and start over?) That said, you can see it here! Thanks again, Kristin!


Made | Breakfast ice cream

If you know anything about me, know this: ice cream is my favorite food. Unfortunately, in my journey to becoming healthier (i.e., eating more whole foods and less refined sugar), I've had to cut back significantly on my ice cream intake. Don't worry about me, though: I got an ice cream maker last month, so I've been perfecting my coconut milk ice cream recipe using natural sweeteners like honey or pure maple syrup. This is all very necessary science in the face of a rapidly approaching summer.

Summers before, I've survived on frozen grapes, popsicles, iced coffee, and ice cream. Two summers ago I bought my first popsicle molds and proceeded to experiment with freezing Greek yogurt with berries stuffed in it. "We can eat these for breakfast!" I exclaimed to my sweaty roommates.

With my new ice cream maker, I decided to take it one step further: breakfast ice cream. OK, so technically it's breakfast frozen yogurt, but you get the idea. Everything in this recipe—including the name—is aimed at the goal of getting myself out of bed and an air conditioned room to go to work this summer. Don't worry about Mike, he has summers off so he can hide out in our room all day long. But I'm going to need to more desperate measures.

Full disclosure: It's currently in the 60s outside, so this is all just preparation for a sweltering summer that part of me is hoping will come. If it doesn't, then I'll just eat this because it's delicious rather than to keep my insides from catching on fire. Enough chit chat. Let's get to it.

For a simple breakfast ice cream, you'll need Greek yogurt. If you like plain Greek yogurt, then go for it! I opted for Trader Joe's (delicious) honey Greek yogurt. Grab some cheese cloth, a fine strainer, and a bowl.
Dump all that yogurt-y goodness in there. Finally! A use for that cheesecloth I bought a lot of months ago!

You're probably thinking, Isn't Greek yogurt already strained within an inch of its life? Yes, but there's still a lot of liquid left in that inch, so to be safe, let's just exercise our patience and put our yogurt in a strainer in the fridge for a few hours. You know that mysterious clear liquid that appears at the top of your yogurt a few days after you open it? That's what we're getting rid of. The two pound container of yogurt I bought strained out about 2/3 cup of liquid in the fridge over the course of five hours. Less liquid = less icy breakfast ice cream. 
After your yogurt is strained, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. It will freeze just like any other ice cream batter, though maybe a little bit faster. Add any mix-ins you want in the last five minutes of freezing. I added peanut butter and granola to mine to complete the breakfast theme. I scooped the frozen yogurt back into its original container and froze it overnight to harden.

When it came time to eat it, I added slivered almonds and sliced bananas with a side of coffee. Add some fresh pineapple, cherries, banana, cacao nibs, and you have yourself a breakfast banana split! The possibilities are endless here, folks. 


Made | Baked churros

One of my favorite things that Massachusetts natives say is "pokey." In the south, my stepmom called it "dawdling" or "lollygagging," and it's one of those terms that lovingly teases the person it describes. I'm not usually a pokey person; in the mornings, I can get ready in less than half an hour—that includes showering, drying my hair, getting dressed, and making a smoothie. It's pretty impressive. But there's something about the weekends that makes me lose all of my ability to efficiently prepare to leave the house. Just ask Mike. 
The Saturday before Cinco de Mayo, Mike and I were planning to head to Western Mass to visit his parents and grandparents then head to Connecticut for a friend's Cinco de Mayo party. I had put off making some sort of dessert to bring to the party until the morning of, and even then, I lay in bed debating whether or not I would make something. After finding this recipe (via Studio DIY), I decided to go for it. 
I like churros as much as the next guy, but I hate frying things. Set aside all of the health concerns, I hate the little dots of sticky oil that gets all over the stove afterward. I hate the smell that lingers long after all of the fried foods have been eaten. I hate the yellowish color that the backsplash behind the stove takes on after a few too many sushi nights (we always make tempura). So this baked churros recipe seemed perfect. The simple choux batter came together quickly and in one pot before I dumped it in a pastry bag like this (I did not use this technique, but I definitely will next time!). 

As the recipe promises, they turn out a little soft and eggy without the broiling step (even covering them in cinnamon sugar didn't really help), but we were transporting these to another state, so I knew they'd just get soft again even after broiling. So I did what any self-respecting baker does when faced with a baked good that could be better: I drizzled chocolate over them. 

It made all the difference. And despite requiring a pastry bag and a double boiler, this recipe cooked up and cleaned up (while they were in the oven and then while the chocolate hardened in the freezer) fairly quickly. We managed to get on the road before we hoped we would be. No pokeys around here.