Wellcookedlife.com is the home for my books, blog, recipes, jam pantry store and unique objects with a story…
Hope you’ll visit me there daily…
Thanks for making winter boots that actually keep my feet warm and dry. We try to imitate your footwear here in the US but we fail. Or we produce boots that are as airtight as a sieve or as heavy as a 5-lb bag of flour (yes, that would make the boots 5 lbs.).
But great winter gear is not all you provide, oh great Northern Nation.
You have, over the years, sent a wave of adorable boys to me. The summer gardener. The unflappable well-read musician. The photographer-surfer. The teenaged gas station attendant who is still…a gas station attendant. All with fantastic wry smiles and enviable hair. And what better to report back to school with than, “Oh, I have a boyfriend…in Canada.”
Canada, you taught me to toboggan and you taught me how to make maple syrup candy by packing snow into a firm shelf and pouring syrup on until it semi-freezes on a stick – instant maple lolly.
For a long time, you made my books seem expensive with your flashy Canadian dollar.
You gave me Joni Mitchell and Margaret Atwood and Eugene Levy.
You brought me friends who spiked my letters with glitter and lounge lizard tapes who understood my humor and even let me spell it humour.
In light of this, oft-overlooked cold nation, I feel it is my duty to share your cheese brilliance. Your cheddar is at once strong without overpowering. Slightly crumbly in texture and perfect for soup.
I appreciate your efforts.
If you like shark week – with its gory images of multiple rows of slicing teeth and overly dramatic voice-overs – then you will be disappointed here.
However, if you swoon over soup, you’ll be thrilled!
What started as “let’s use up the squash and pumpkin from the farm share” turned into “let’s have bisque” and then, with a pile of mushrooms, became “let’s have squash soup on Monday and mushroom soup on Thursday.”
Then Daniel – one month shy of 10 years old – came in. ”If we’re having two nights of soup, why don’t we just have a whole week of soup?” Daniel loves a good theme.
Thus, Soup Week was born.
On the menu board (this is an imaginary board – I don’t have a chalk wall nor do I have a scribe to jot down my soup ramblings):
Pumpkin-Squash-Apple Soup with Crispy Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
Turkey Vegetable Tortellini
Creamy Mushroom Garlic with Fried Sage
Red Onion Soup with Grilled Brown Beer Bread & Gruyere
Italian Zuppo di Farro with Wilted Kale
You know you want this.
We have a two snack per day rule in our house (gasp!) and one of those snacks must be fruit (double gasp!). We started this when the kids were very young and now that 3 of the 4 are old enough to be in charge of their own school or weekend snacks, they don’t protest (most of the time). As a result, we have lots of seasonal fruit around which means I have more apples than counter space and when the rest of the world was freaking out about melons being the harbingers of disease thus resulting in cheap organic cantaloupes we had them lining the windowsills.
But back to apples.
Normally, I cook and bake with the kids. When I don’t, I have that foreign feeling that brings back pre-motherhood days. The biggest change after being a parent is that lack of singularity, isn’t it? Once I was a person in this world who, while connected at various tether-lengths to family or friends or lovers, was free to snip those cords or wander or root at will. Now, no matter where on this planet I find myself, I am always attached. I don’t mean I’m weighted down by my kids or marriage, though certainly I have felt that at times. I guess I’m talking more about responsibilities and knowing that parenting, like cooking, is a process in which the goal is change.
We start with a list of ingredients – in this case apples – and then make them not look like apples by peeling and coring and chopping them. We add in powders and rising agents and, since we know the chemical reaction, are sure the dish we’re making will rise. We know how this cake will taste (well, I do, you haven’t made it yet – get ready!).
Not so with parenting.
There’s some prep, there’s hands-on learning, but the results are ongoing. The cake is every day and never.
Eat up this delightful whole grain apple breakfast-snack-dinner cake tonight. And then do it all again tomorrow.
Whole Grain Double Apple Breakfast Cake
I’ll be honest – this is what’s for dinner tonight. I’m a big fan of protein breakfasts and breakfast dinners. 7 year old Julia loves dinner leftovers first thing in the morning (hummus and avocado, etc) and looks forward to comfort at night. This is best served warm with a dollop of yogurt or ice cream. I make a plate of vegetables to shares and a platter of fruit served alongside this 1-bowl meal. The cake is moist and sweet enough to please without being too desserty (though it is a yummy dessert).
1 1/2 cups yogurt (Greek is great, all work well)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 whole eggs, 1 additional white
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
2-3 apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour (or other whole grain)
1/2 cup sorghum flour (or other combination)
scant tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Oven to 350. Mix all wet ingredients including apples. Add flours, baking soda, and baking powder. Spray a 9 x 13 pan. Add 1/2 batter. Sprinkle with part of the brown sugar and some cinnamon and nutmeg. Add remaining batter. Top with rest of sugar cinnamon. Bake for 50 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Savor the passage of time and the passage of the cake from oven into mouth into stomachs.
So many tastes to please these days – dietary restrictions and health concerns. What’s a kugel to do? That’s kugel, not kegel.
We have a big traditional brisket-filled New Year lunch tomorrow with 33 friends and family. Tonight, I’m serving the following – keeping with some tradition but adding in some healthier options (salted caramel is healthy, right?)
Honeyed wild salmon, quinoa and millet surrounded by piles of caramelized onions, rainbow chard, and whole slow-roasted carrots. Kugel (noodle pudding). Blistered figs in port wine reduction. Honey-Apple cake for dessert and mini buttermilk crust pies filled with chocolate ganache and salted caramel.
Are you joining us?
This morning Will, 4, asks for paper so he can make a book about “Evan the Horse.” He knows no one named Evan nor do we have a horse. The paper comes from my office and the book involves wobbly letters written in no particular order and lots of tape.
Julia has a fever and spends her time moping on the couch, sighing the drama of the ill and bored, and then smiling because she’s relieved she doesn’t have to go to Sunday school. [Disclaimer: Whatever your vision of Sunday school is, it probably doesn't match ours. I'm fully Jewish as is my husband. However, our version of a temple is a hike in the woods discussing nature and asking the kids how they feel. Also, our Judaism involves a lot of food.]
Daniel helps cut celery stalks and questions me in his lawyerly way about why the US has troops in various countries, what we would do if this country were invaded, if we have troops on any borders. Did I mention he’s been playing the board game Risk?
Jamie sulks about Hebrew school and preps for the birthday party he’s working this afternoon during which he and a friend will wrangle 18 six-year-olds in a baseball game and try to avoid concussions.
So I am on book-making, fever-reducing, war-answering, birthday party tip giving duty…while prepping for the 20 person dinner on Wednesday night.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and a time for reflecting on the past year while opening wide for the sweetness of the year to come.
Our last year, as you might know by now, was anything but sweet. We had death and loss and tragedy.
And yet we’re still here.
That is the sweetness of life, that tangy bite of the apples dipped in honey Jews consume on this holiday. True sweetness on the outside paired with the knowledge that underneath are myriad flavors.
We tell the kids that religion is a personal thing, however one chooses to find faith doesn’t matter but having faith matters greatly. This doesn’t necessarily mean faith in God or even in something you can name. But knowing how to keep going when the worst is happening and – and this is what I learned this year – that this suffering doesn’t have to be done alone – is faith. Faith in humanity and faith in family. Faith that after loss comes life again and even sweetness.
I’ll be cooking for the Jewish holidays bit by bit and offering the recipes to you. A couple with which to start off…
Makes 1 10-inch cake
This cake, traditional fare at Rosh Hashana, is moist and breadlike. Less sugary than many cakes, it still makes a good dessert and a wonderful snack. The coffee brings out the honey’s sweetness. I like to make mine in a Bundt pan and dust it with confectionary sugar right before serving.
3½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup warm black coffee
1 cup honey
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar. Make a well in the center and add sugar, cinnamon, egg yolks, oil, and lemon juice. Add coffee and stir to combine. Add honey and stir to combine again.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into the flour mixture. Pour batter into a greased 10-inch tube pan and bake for 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar if you like.
Roasted Buttercup Squash and Apple Soup (vegan)
This soup can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge. I suggest garnishing with a bit of diced apple. This year I’ll serve the soup in mismatching tea cups handed down from my husband’s Nana who escaped Nazi Germany. She passed away this spring and would really have enjoyed this soup because it is served not too hot, not too cold (she was big on everything being just so).
2 sweeter squash – buttercup or butternut or acorn
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt to taste
extra apples for garnish
Oven to 400. Split the squash and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash, cut-side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about an hour until squash is very soft. Meanwhile, saute onions in olive oil. Just before they begin to brown, add the apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and stir. Scoop squash into pot with onions and apple and add 2 cups stock. Stir. With hand blender, begin to blend. The soup should be quite thick. If you’d like it thinner, add more stock. Add mustard, lemon juice, and sugar. Blend very well. Salt to taste. Serve room temperature or hot or cold.
I’ve kept you waiting, I know. And you, unlike my children who can be amused by “find something in the doctor’s office that’s a square” or “would you rather meet Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day or Kevin Youklis from the Red Sox” or “list in order the five places you want to visit”…you are not waiting. I love the emails and the requests.
But the truth is, my new website is not ready. I’m working on it. My designer is working on it. My dog is working on it (he is in charge of lying on my perpetually-cold feet). Soon! So, to tide you over (my kids are big on ‘tide-me-overs’), I offer not one but two recipes AND a glimpse of the goods to come…
Black Bean Burgers
Obviously, if you have the time to invest, soak dried beans overnight and cook them and mash them. But if the back-to-school rush has you hopping around like an extra in the Thriller video (or making outdated references to pop culture), then go with canned. You can prep this in the morning during breakfast and cook at night!
2 15 oz can Black Beans
3/4 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 pinch sea sealt
1/2 cup diced red onion
olive oil or coconut oil for cooking
Drain and rinse the beans. Mash one of the cans and keep the other whole. Combine in large bowl and add rest of ingredients. Gently fold together until well-mixed. Let sit in fridge for 1 hour (or longer). While you form the burgers into patties, heat 1-2 tbsp oil in skillet. Cook each side for about 3 minutes, until crispy and got through.
Lime-Poblano Spinach Corn Salad
1-2 poblano peppers
2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
juice of 1 lime
pinch sea salt
pinch sugar of any kind (honey, agave, maple syrup, brown sugar, etc)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 handful cherry tomatoes or other small tomato
1/3 cup cubed queso fresco
big handful baby spinach, arugula, or other tender green
Roast your peppers by sticking them directly into the flame on your stove. When charred on all sides, stick in paper bag (this will steam them so the skins slide off). Chop peppers. Add all ingredients and toss well. Keep in fridge for a few hours before serving.
Well-Cooked Life, the umbrella site for my blog, pantry & decor store, books, recipes, and writings, will be unveiled soon. Here are some of the items you might find:
Actually, it’s not a siesta at all. It’s the anti-siesta. No lounging, no meandering, just lots of work. I’m busy stocking up the Pantry for falls orders. Today is Strawberry Jam and Strawberry Sundae Sauce. I’m also nearly ready to unveil my new website! The Well-Cooked Life will launch soon and you’ll be able to find my books, jams, recipe blog, and brand new household object store all under one umbrella of delicious chaos. In the meantime, enjoy the last few moments of summer and daydream of sundaes.
Q: What happens when you visit the in-laws for vacation but the East Coast shuts down because of Irene*?
A: You come home with four kids and a hairy beast and a soggy husband and scrounge. The shelves look like Soviet markets circa 1982 or my older brother’s fridge that first year out of college (hint: mustard is not a food group). We let the kids entertain themselves on the long car trip back by reading, taking turns kicking each other’s seat and/or annoying each other by chewing gum loudly or humming, and making up new lyrics for songs. Now, you might be thinking, “Gee, I wish my kids were creative enough to a) know b-sides of Beatles’ songs well enough to change the words.” If so, you were NOT in the car with us and thus didn’t get to hear the 9 year old and 12 year old compete for who could be grosser-slash-less appropriate (Dear Poo-dence was only the first step). But all four of them got along well and laughed and the rain was thick and my husband’s hand was on my arm.
I thought about posting the lyrics, but decided I’d post the recipe for Hurricane Pie. I made two – one to cover tonight’s shitstorm and one for tomorrow’s.
Tomato-Cheddar Cornmeal Crust Tart (aka Hurricane Pie)
Our CSA gave (read: unloaded) about seventeen pounds of tomatoes in the past couple of weeks. I’ve canned sauce and frozen sauce. I’ve dried tiny tomatoes and soaked others in garlic and oil for the jar I keep in the fridge. I happened to have yellow tomatoes and red, but feel free to use whatever you like.