Summer vacation is here in Central Pennsylvania, woot woot! Unfortunately, this does not mean that I will be spending the next 2 1/2 months lounging by the pool or sleeping in because I have a job in an office and summer is a busy time of year for us. Despite the fact that my personal schedule remains largely unchanged, I fully celebrate the fact that we have a few months off from arguing about homework and take home folders and launching full expeditions throughout the house in search of someone’s misplaced glasses – which always happens 5 minutes before we need to leave the house to catch the bus. So in celebration of said summer vacation, we’re having S’mores Baked Oatmeal for breakfast!
Every day I pick my kids up at the babysitter after work and every day I get the same cranky question:
“Moooooom, what’s for dinner?”
They’re not even completely inside the car before they’re hounding me about what we’re having to eat. And for the record, it’s not just a casual question. There’s no “Hey Mom, how are you? What’s for dinner?” or “You’ll never guess what happened at lunch today! By the way, what’s for dinner?” No, there is none of that. It is a daily query, raised with the explicit expectation that they will be disappointed, so it is therefore asked in a tone dripping with contempt. Dripping, because there is so much disdain for the as-yet-unknown dinner, it can’t be contained by a simple question. As they sit there in the backseat, every part of their being is exhibiting a hostility with regard to the dinner, that mind you, I haven’t even disclosed yet. But when I respond with “We’re having tacos!” then I get cheers and all is well…for the time being.
I wish someone could explain to me why red onions are called red onions when they’re really purple.
Red, purple, whatever color they are, they are pretty in green salads, pasta salads, grain salads, all kinds of salads. But here’s the rub – red onions are supposed to be fairly mild and a bit sweet, but more often than not I find that they have a pretty strong bite with a tendency to overwhelm other flavors. A simple fix for this problem is to pickle your onions first. They’ll be a bit briny from the vinegar and sea salt, and also have a little sweetness from the honey.
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.