My Nana was a most extraordinary lady. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since we lost her. As this is Holy Week there are surely parallels to be made about resurrection and new life. But frankly, they do not bring me comfort because they do not bring back her smile or her dancing or her enthusiasm for life which was contagious to those around her. I feel like I should do more here in tribute to her; I want to do more here in tribute to her, given the profound impact she has had on my life. At her memorial service I talked about how I believed that Nana’s legacy was that she taught us the language of food. She showed us how we can channel our feelings of grief, joy, and frustration into the preparation of food and use it to show other people that we care about them. It would seem fitting then, that tomorrow we plan a huge dinner in honor and remembrance of her. But the idea of doing so seems like an overwhelming task because there is simply so much to say, both with words and with food. Where do you even begin?
Answer: You begin with bunnies. Pear bunnies, to be exact.
The first time I tasted green curry, my mind was blown. Believe it or not, I had no idea that curry sauce existed that didn’t contain the curry spice blend. The spice curry is actually a blend of other spices including turmeric, cumin, and coriander, among other things. But Thai green curry has an entirely different flavor profile that includes really bright ingredients like lemongrass, galangal (a relative of ginger), cilantro, chilies, and lime leaves. I love food and I love learning about food, but Asian food knowledge is not particularly in my wheelhouse. As much as I enjoy different varieties of Asian food, I don’t eat it often. This is entirely due to the fact that many of those cuisines use ingredients and sauces that often contain shellfish, to which I am highly allergic. The sensitivity of my allergy is such that even using the same cooking utensil for my boring old chicken after using it for a batch of shrimp can create a problem, so I have come to avoid certain restaurants because the risk of cross-contamination is so great.
I am a pack-my-lunch kind of girl. This would probably be a good opportunity to go off on a tangent about how packing your lunch will keep your food and caloric budget in check. You know how it is – you go out for lunch with every intention of ordering the grilled chicken salad with vinaigrette. But then you sit down and before you know it the server comes to get your order and in a moment of weakness you decide that your salad needs french fries, crispy chicken, and ranch. After all, it’s been a rough day, some crispy chicken won’t hurt. You deserve a treat. Clearly, packing your lunch that day would have been a healthier option. Blah blah blah. You know it, I know it. When it comes to rationalizing, I’m the queen. I can rationalize just about anything. A reason to eat that crispy chicken salad? Please, I could write a whole page about it. Given my proclivity for food-related rationalization it is in my best interests to pack lunch most days so that I can maintain some control over what I’m eating. This works well for me in the end because I am nothing if not a person who likes to be in control. Suffice it to say, when I find something new that works well for me to make ahead on the weekend and pack for my lunches during the week, I’m pretty siked about it.
As I sit here, the remnants of Winter Storm Stella are whirling around outside, although the major storm is blessedly moving on, leaving mostly flurries and wind behind. At our house we have a little over a foot of snow, which I spent the morning shoveling while I carried on a strongly-worded internal dialogue regarding the snow’s lack of cooperation. “I’ll do the driveway, you shovel the walks,” Ray said. It seemed like a pretty good deal given that we have a long driveway. Except I didn’t take into account that this snow is ridiculously wet, which means that upon scooping it up, the blasted snow immediately packs down, sticking together and to the bottom of the shovel. It never really slides out of the shovel, no matter how hard you attempt to heave it in your intended direction. So you scoop some, deposit about a quarter of it where you wanted, then bang the shovel on the ground to unpack it, then scoop it up again. And repeat. I consider it a great personal achievement that I finished both the front and back walks, twice, without actually launching the shovel into the woods. Or at Ray.
Is there anything more comforting than roasted chicken for dinner? If I was being honest with myself, I would have to say that doughnuts are at the top of my list of comfort foods, so far ahead of other treats that they may as well be the only thing on the list. Sadly, despite my undying devotion and publicly-expressed love of those little gems of fried dough, doughnuts no longer like me, so I have had to find comfort in other foods. Which is how we got here, talking about chicken.
Roasting chicken sounds like something that should be difficult, but it isn’t. Bypassing the whole chicken and just buying all split breasts makes the process even easier because all of the meat is going to cook together and you don’t have to worry about the breast drying out while you wait for the legs and thighs to cook. If your breasts are all about the same size, they should cook in about the same time. Look for packages labeled split breasts that still have the skin on and rib meat included.
If there is one type of food I make more than anything else, it’s soup. At any given time, my freezer is filled with soup. So much soup in fact, that we are always left scrambling trying to find space for my husband’s venison after hunting season. This is a situation which I know he finds to be especially irksome, however I have told him that this could be resolved if we got a larger freezer. He has thus far refused. And so, the Battle of the Deep Freeze will continue to be waged into the new year.
There are not too many ingredients that can pack the punch of flavor that you get from roasted garlic. In raw, or even sauteed form, garlic can be a tad bit spicy and intense. Make no mistake, I love garlic, but sometimes I don’t want the flavor to be quite so aggressive and overwhelming. At those times, I like to roast it first. Roasted garlic caramelizes the sugars naturally occurring in the garlic so it gets surprisingly sweet. Once it’s roasted, it can be added to soups, sauces, dressings, or just mashed up and spread on crostini.
There are times that I think about taking this blog in a strictly healthy direction. But then I think about things like sugar cookies and I realize that if I could never post about fun treats like that, I would be sad. Besides, what’s more fun than birthday cake-shaped funfetti sugar cookies?
Answer: almost nothing…. if you’re 7, which Bert was when I made these cookies for his class at school. That’s not to say that sugar cookies are just for kids. Don’t let the adults fool you, they are suckers for sprinkles and icing too. Make some and you’ll see.
Pumpkin is a tricky ingredient. By the time November rolls around, we are conditioned to think that everything we eat needs the pumpkin spice treatment. We get used to the sweet and warm spiced flavors that often accompany pumpkin, so adding it to your smoothie or coffee sounds like a good plan, but have you ever eaten a spoonful of plain pureed pumpkin? It’s really not so awesome. However, if you don’t sugar it up first, pumpkin is super healthy. Pumpkins are low in calories and high in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals, so it is well worth your time to seek out savory pumpkin recipes that don’t require lots of additional sugar to make it palatable.
I think of a recipe as something that requires measurements and specific amounts of this and that, but since this sandwich is absolved from all of that fussiness, I guess you would actually call it a non-recipe. I list below about how much of each component I use for reference but the beauty of this non-recipe is that you can use as much of each ingredient that you think looks good.