Things I’ve learned lately: FOOD

Welcome to my table, I’ve saved you a seat. Throughout the many years of this space I keep on the internet, I have chronicled my love for cooking and feeding people with a reverence saved for church. It’s kneading the yeasted dough, the soft velvet belly of the Easter Challah that brings me to the cross every year. It’s watching my son’s soccer team devour the brown butter rice kripsie treats that knocks me over with joy. It’s being in the kitchen with my Grandma cooking for Sunday lunch that transports me back to safety, every single time. And it’s the conversations, fingers dipped in sauces, elbows out, glasses clinking that keeps me wanting more.

If I’m a writer, then food and the table are my ink. This is the one story I hope I never stop telling.

Over the years I’ve written many posts on menu planning and grocery shopping (there’s even a video, that I refuse to rewatch, but go for it if you dare) so I’ll leave the link to those posts here for you, if interested.

I’ll break down this post for easy reading like this: Cookbooks, Go-To Savory, Go-To Sweet, Drinks, Hostess Gifts.

Cookbooks

From left to right: Grow Cook Eat, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Carla Hall’s Soul Food, Primal Gourmet, Weekday Vegetarians, Binder of recipes I’ve collected, Cookbook of favorites my mom gifted me before I was married, Lark Parties, Lark Cocktails, More with Less, Bread and Wine, Dinner: A Love Story, The Home Cook, Half Baked Harvest Cookbook, Half Baked Harvest Super Simple.

A few words on a couple of these: the most used cookbooks are Half Baked Harvest, the cookbook of favorites my mom gifted me, Mad Hungry (not pictured) and Dinner: A Love Story. And the trusty, but never rusty: Pinterest.

I’m a huge fan of Smitten Kitchen, also, but I don’t own her books. I am a regular visitor to her website, though. And I love her newsletters. She’s one of my favorite food writers. As is Shauna Neiquist (and Bread & Wine is the reason my friend started a cooking club that I got invited to and have been doing for 6? 7? years now) and Jenny Rosenstratch (Author of Dinner: A Love Story and Weekday Vegetarians). I read their cookbooks cover to cover.

Go-To Savory

Tacos (duh) – and we have no recipe. We make our meat and then assemble all our fixings onto a platter or small bowls and everyone builds their own. We fry corn tortilla’s sometimes (they’re not hard, just softer and warm) and it is so good. Always, always finish with the squeeze of a lime.

Taco salad, from my childhood favorites book. Chicken Tinga Tacos, from Half Baked Harvest.

Chicken and Rice Soup is in heavy rotation.

Galette’s are a busy evening go-to.

Chrissy Teigen’s chicken lettuce wraps.

Lark Parties: Jerusalem chicken.

I try most of the recipes I pin on Pinterest, and don’t keep the ones we don’t like. We’ve not been disappointed with either of the Half Baked Harvest cookbooks and make a lot of her recipes again and again and again.

And sauces and salads (dressings). I almost always have something to schmeer on a plate of eggs and have a herby, creamy dressing for salads. Like this, and this or this.

Go-To Sweet

Make this exact recipe for Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats, the only thing we do different is add sprinkles. You’re welcome. I have memorized this and it takes me less than 5 minutes from start to finish. They are a crowd pleaser and I want you to have this in your back pocket.

Also this recipe for Pumpkin Bars, which is in weekly rotation mid-September through early November.

Drinks

Lark Cocktails is a FUN book to make drinks out of. We love the French Pear. We try to have one or two cocktails that we enjoy and know how to make that we keep the ingredients for on hand. Aaron is a stout lover and I enjoy wine (Malbec (red) or Sauv Blanc (white)).

Adult only staples: gin + tonic with lime, some kind of whiskey, dark rum for moscow mules or dark and stormy’s.

Hostess Gifts

I think homemade kitchen items are a lovely hostess staple. Canned veggies from your garden or cut flowers from your yard. You can distill homemade vanilla with only 2 ingredients, and it’s a lovely Christmas or Hostess gift. But here are a couple of the things I like to buy locally:

Fustini’s 12 Year Balsamic Vinegar: yummy on everything. Berries! Salads! Tomatoes! Eggs! It stands alone and is a great partner. You can’t go wrong here.

Michigan candle from The Blackbird. It’s the most amazing candle for a cozy Fall season. I buy one every year and burn it all.

Flaky Sea Salt. Not all salt is created equal. This (and vanilla bean paste) are some of my absolute favorite kitchen items to have on hand. They are so small, you need so little of them – and they make all the difference.

Cotton dish towels, I love this because I can buy a multi-pack and then use one to wrap a freshly baked bread or bottle of wine.

Wine to give: you can stick with something from your region, or a good red blend, which is a nice table wine or great for cooking. Aldi has a good selection of wines that don’t break the bank.

Books for hosting to give or keep: Savor, Wild At Home, Poetry of Place, Paradise Found and the Lark books.

I know this only scratches the surface for me, I had a hard time keeping this succinct. I get in a rut, just like you, with cooking all the time. Watching cooking shows is always a motivator for me. Or planning something to host, like a Fish Boil. I can wrap my head around the daily monotony of cooking if I also have something to look forward to. We used the hell out of our grill this summer, so I was big into marinating meats. And it’s true that if you’re really starved for ideas … just start with an onion. It’ll come together from there.

Cooking doesn’t have to be hard, often the best things we eat are the most simple. Invest in your staples and a good knife. You’ll want a heavy pot and pan. If you’re going to bake more than cook, get yourself the mixer of your dreams. If you’re going to cook constantly, buy the Staub pan and Japanese knives. You can buy one at a time for 10 years and build your kitchen little by little. It’s all an investment … but, listen. This investment; is in you. Your home, your community. It’s a hobby, a way of life and a literal necessity. You’re allowed to enjoy the chore of living well.

As always, sound off in the comments with more ideas or questions. See you back here later this week for more of what I’ve learned … this time about Self.

xoxo

Jodi

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

So, yes. This.

We happened upon a small diner last week with a soda fountain counter, burgers, fries and malts. They even had an old PacMan game and a Juke Box. We threw health to the wind and licked our fingers, dipped fries in vats of ketchup and slurped pop. It was gooooooood. For dessert? Hand-dipped paddle pops.

I just had to make them on my own after that. It wasn’t an option.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

It’s crimincal how easy these are to whip together. So lets talk brass tax …

You’ll need:

Ice cream
Popsicle sticks
Chocolate chips
Coconut oil
Good Life Granola

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

I also had a small pan, wax paper and a sharp knife ready to go.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

I started out by opening my half gallon of ice cream so the cardboard laid flat and I could get to the block of ice cream unhindered.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

With your knife, cut one inch slices out of your ice cream and transfer the slab to your prepared pan – once on the pan, cut the slab in half. So you’ll get two “paddles” out of one cut.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

Ready your popsicle sticks and insert them in the middle, bottom of your “paddles”.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

My ice cream was a tad too soft so I did the best I could. You might want to stick your ice cream back in the freezer in-between steps just to ensure it’ll keep shape.

(At this point, once all sticks are in, place your Paddles in the freezer to harden up for 15 to 20 minutes depending on how soft it got.)

Now to make your Magic Shell! You need a small pan or microwavable bowl. 1 1/4 C semi sweet chocolate chips to 1/2 C coconut oil. Combine, heat til melted and let cool.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

After you’ve let your Magic Shell cool down (it won’t harden – keep at room temperature, do not store in fridge) and you’re Paddles are frozen hard – you can either fashion a way to dip them or just scoop the magic shell over your paddles.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

I didn’t wait long enough for my ice cream to re-freeze AND I didn’t let my magic shell cool all the way. I was very excited. So I had some melt-age. It’s ok. It’s still gonna work just fine.

Now for the topping! Nuts are fun and everything, I have nothing against them but putting Good Life Granola on my Paddle Pops took them to the next level. This is the best granola I’ve ever had (and no, I’m not being paid to say that. I’m not being paid at all for this post actually – just honestly the best ever).

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

Just sprinkle a bit over the magic chocolate shell and then stick your pan back in the freezer to harden up.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

Your pops will result in groans, it’s that good.

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

{how to} make nutty paddle pops!

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{How to} make Cinnamon Sugar Bread.

Printable Recipe

Cinnamon sugar bread. #Fall

Yum. I made this just for you.

You’ll need:

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

I’m still working on the lighting in the kitchen – it does not bode well for photographs. Artificial light and green floors – I battle the yellow 70’s glow in all food photos unless it’s 6pm and the door is wide open and things are just so and well … you get it. I’m working on it.

For this recipe you need Flour, Sugar, Oil, an Egg, Salt, Cinnamon/Sugar, Buttermilk (or milk and vinegar) and Baking Soda.

You start by mixing your Buttermilk with 1 tsp baking soda but if you’re like me and never have buttermilk in your house, you make some. Like this:

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Measure some milk (right now I have Almond milk) just shy of your 1 cup marker. Top it off with Vinegar and let sit for a minute or two.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

It curdles.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Yay!

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Now, add your 1 tsp baking soda and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Pour the milk mixture into your bowl and add the rest of your ingredients.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

1/2 Cup oil.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

One egg.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

1 Cup sugar.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

1/2 tsp salt.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Two Cups flour.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Mix.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Prepare your loaf pan (or muffin tins). I had parchment paper so I used it, otherwise I just oil it.

Pour half the batter in your loaf pan and sprinkle a generous amount of your Cinnamon Sugar on top (1/2 C Sugar to 1 TSP cinnamon ratio). Use a clean knife to swirl around, top with other half of batter, sprinkle a bit more and swirl one last time.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Bake at 350 for 55 minutes to an hour.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Try not to eat it all at once. šŸ˜‰

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Enjoy!

Printable Recipe.

{How to} make tuna melts

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Tuna melts are comfort food for me. They’re also easy and a quick dinner so, you know, bonus.

The weather is finally screaming Fall and the leaves are turning. It’s soup weather, chai, and a steaming cup of cocoa kind of season … my favorite. This weekend we’re finally carving pumpkins, roasting seeds and making Halloween cookies. We’ll probably make these again, too.

You’ll need:

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Whatever you have on hand – but the essentials are Tuna, cheese, mayo/mustard, onion and english muffins. Tomatoes, green onions, green peppers and spices to taste. The pasta is there for a reason … we’re killing 2 birds with one stone today.

I always make enough of the “filling” (not unlike tuna salad) for extra’s – sandwiches or salads etc. For this recipe I made enough for the Tuna Melts and a pasta salad as a bonus for lunches.

So start by boiling your water, adding the pasta and cooking to the boxes specifications.

How to:Make Tuna Melts

While that’s going chop your onion, green pepper and drain 2 cans of tuna – add it all to a bowl and mix to integrate.

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Add your mayo and mustard, salt and pepper to the mix. Measurements? Um. More mayo than mustard … šŸ˜‰ About 1/2 C mayo – 1/8 C mustard. You can always add more.

How to:Make Tuna Melts

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Ready your english muffins for toppings by lining a 9X13 cookie sheet with halves open faced.

How to:Make Tuna Melts

And top them!

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Now add cheese to the tops, a slice of tamotoe on a few of them … mmmmm.

How to:Make Tuna Melts

How to:Make Tuna Melts

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Put them in the oven either at 350 for 10-12 minutes or on Low Broil for 5. Just until the cheese bubbles.

With your extra Tuna filling and your cooked pasta – you can make a tasty salad to use for lunches or a side dish another night.

Add them together:

How to:Make Tuna Melts

How to:Make Tuna Melts

I like to jack it up a bit and add a few more things to the salad – red wine vinegar if I have it, a little more mayo or canned green chilies … then stick in the fridge to marinate overnight.

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Your tuna melts are ready …

How to:Make Tuna Melts

Enjoy!