Celebrating a Second Spring with Stinging Nettle Soup

Spring is an elusive season here in New England. You’ll get a 60º day, followed by days of rain, sleet, and even snow. Or Mother Nature will deliver us a handful of spring days, follow them up with a few weeks of mud season, then boom thrust into the dog days of summer. I imagine her cackling, pretending to be sorry we didn’t get more spring-like days, but really she’s not sorry one whit. Which is why it feels as if we won the weather jackpot this year.

Spring buds in Oklahoma City

After our youngest moved out of the house in January, my husband and I realized how much extra space we had. So we decided to bring our daughter all the things she’d been storing at our house, combine the massive drop-off with a mini family vacation, and gain even more space in our cozy home. Because let’s face it, to truly become empty nesters we needed the house to be emptied of all the kid’s stuff.

Weeks prior to our departure we swept through the house, finding stashes of books, clothes, art supplies, tools, sleeping bags, and letters our daughter had saved. Once it was all staged Shawn started to box it up. There were more than a few discussions where we wondered if all of her stuff  would fit in the back of the truck. Thankfully it all fit in, like some sort of crazy 3-D puzzle. And so a few days after our 25th wedding anniversary* we took off like a herd of turtles. The back seat of the truck was stuffed high with our own travel gear, a few knitting projects for the road, some books on tape, and our dog Oliver who was happily perched high atop all these bags ensuring a proper view out the window. Just 1,623 miles to the “drop off.” Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under 50 Recipes

Beware the Whomping Willows

Things don’t always turn out as you’d expect.

Dunes at Tyndall AFB

After having children I developed a sixth sense (otherwise known as Mom logic) for figuring out what might happen, then preparing for it. Part of my job as food stylist was to anticipate the unexpected. I’d pack my kit, knife bag, and various tools, but in addition I’d have plans B, C, D & E ready for when things went sideways. And trust me – they almost always went sideways.

My best friend and I are both firm believers in imagining the worst possible scenario in any given situation so when it doesn’t happen, as it usually doesn’t, anything else which might have cropped up is a cake-walk (note my husband and therapist are not fans of this last method even if I think it works for me).

The point in noting all of this is simply to say that usually I can deal with most of what life throws at me and mine. Not always gracefully, but I manage. Occasionally even with a modicum of aplomb. Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under In between

Simple Gifts

I woke up the other morning with a list running through my head. Not a grocery list or a to-do list, but a list of several people and things I am grateful for.

Late summer plumbs in a hand-made bowl.

It feels as if, just like the cornucopia of food at the local farmer’s markets in August, I too have a bounty of blessings. The unexpected gift from a friend at church who made me a set of pottery bowls because he thinks every good cook should have a set of nesting bowls. All summer long those bowls have been filled with seasonal fruits and other yummies. The gift of father who lived a very abundant 88 years*. A husband who is willing to dumpster dive in order to find the pearl earring I lost while we were doing some demo at a volunteer job. Yes miracles do happen – he found and rescued the lost earring from a soggy shop vac bag. Plus the every day gift, which makes it that much bigger, of my wonderful family who love to eat whatever I come up with in the kitchen.

There have been challenging moments over the last few months because that’s just the teeter-totter of life, but I’m trying hard to focus on the plus side of things. One giant plus I discovered during a dinner at a friend’s house. It was a lovely, late-spring meal and since I was one of the guests who lived close by, I offered to bring a few culinary contributions. My friend Jessica tasked me with bringing the green sauce for the poached salmon plus a gluten free/dairy free dessert. I knew which green sauce I was supposed to bring, but of course me being me I began to tinker and play around in the kitchen. I arrived not only with the requested green sauce and a gf/df rhubarb crumble, but two other green sauces I thought might go well with our supper**. While all of those green sauces were yummy (trust me – I put generous scoops of all three on my plate and drizzled or dipped with abandon) the one I have been making weekly ever since that meal is Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under 50 Recipes

Shaping by Hand

Of all the cookie recipes I’ve baked one of my favorites is Homemade Fig Newtons. Perhaps it is the gooey fig center of dried figs moistened with fresh orange juice. Or maybe I can’t resist the little pastry wings that bake onto the edges of these homemade Fig Newtons. It could be the satisfaction of making something you typically buy, but which has the bonus of tasting even better than the store-bought version. Or simply the alchemy of nostalgia mixed with butter, sugar and figs.  However you slice it up, this recipe should definitely be in your recipe box, filed under Yummy.

Homemade Fig Newtons

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 50 Recipes

My Favorite Shared Meal & Give Away

Today is Maundy Thursday, which means tonight was my favorite church service of the year – probably due in large part to the fact it involves a shared meal.

Maundy Thursday service

Several years ago our rector started a Maundy Thursday service she called a Journey to Cavalry. We begin outside the church and “travel” inside, stopping for hand washing (I know foot washing is traditional, but…), followed by an agape meal, the eucharist, and finally ending up in the “Garden of Gethsemane” which has been set up in the parlors. Different members of the congregation take turns in the garden, praying and staying up all night.

Agape meal

When we started this tradition the agape meal consisted of us milling around a small table sharing the food with each other. We still share the food, however as the service has grown we’ve added tables down the center isle of the church and more radiating into the transepts. Various parishioners provide the colorful tablecloths and china, and this year my husband added dozens of red oak candle holders which he made. We filled the candle holders with votives and candles left over from All Saints day and the midnight Christmas mass. Remembering, reusing, recycling, followed by rejoicing on Easter Sunday.

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under 50 Recipes

Not Too Sweet

Hilary and Missy knitting

The women in my knitting group have something in common besides knitting. They all follow a gluten free diet. Which makes me the odd duck of the group, wheat eater that I am. So once a month I try to come up with a yummy GF recipe. Not that our endless cups of tea, comradery, and gentle clicking of needles needs much sweetening, but it’s an excuse to explore new recipes. Besides my friends are a willing group of guinea pigs taste testers.

If you’ve read this blog before you know the idea behind it are the stories of how I came across/found/or was given each recipe. A large part of the fun is about the route I took to get the recipe. A map as it were, between biting into something delicious and where I was before I even knew I wanted to bite into that morsel of food in the first place. This tracing of a recipe back to its source is intriguing for me – especially when it comes to the interweb and folks I’ve never met.

Occaionally Eggs gluten free chocolate cookies

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under 50 Recipes

Favorite Tool #19 – Scoops

Stacks of cake pans

There are things in my basement no normal cook has. Graduated sets of round, oval, square, and hexagonal cake tins; four hundred and seventy-three cookie cutters; a brain-shaped Jell-O mold; and fourteen trigger release ice cream scoops in various sizes to name but a few. Tools of the trade from my food styling days, when one job might require a six-inch cake tin for a dense flourless chocolate torte, while another job would call for an eight-inch pan to bake a classic buttery Scottish shortbread in, and a month later I’d have to haul out a fourteen-inch cake pan to use for a party-size spanakopita featured in a brunch spread. For the most part these uniquely sized tools and cookware sit forlornly on the shelves waiting to be used again, gathering dust or serving as spots for spiders to weave their webs. Too special to donate to the church tag sale, yet not ordinary enough to live in the kitchen and be used for everyday cooking, these tools tell the story of a well-prepared food stylist. Ready for any recipe a food editor or art director might present me with. Occasionally I will go down into the basement and grab one of these oddball kitchen tools because it is just what I need to get the job done.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Favorite Tools