Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Night

The snow is back, but I don’t have anywhere to be. I’m coming off a 9-day work week, but I have the weekend off. I have a full pantry and lots of books. I am content. (This photo was taken out my front window this evening.)

Last week’s cleaning of my panty closet left me with much to contemplate. Like, how does something like this happen? How can I keep such a catastrophe from ever happening again? And how did so many Hershey bars get in there? Needless to say, I’ll have to gear my cooking toward inventory management for a while.


**Supper. I have a significant supply of rye berries to cook with, and last night, I started with warm rye berries tossed with roasted cabbage and caraway-infused butter. (Recipe coming soon.) The rest of the batch of cooked rye berries seems destined for a hearty winter salad, like this one or this one or this one.

**Up next. I have hopes of trying out a s’mores blondie recipe based on these walnut blondies and using up some of those mysterious pantry-lingering Hershey bars. I also have plans to make rye scones based on these. I have plenty of oat flour to use up and Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce and Whole Grain Baking from King Arthur Flour are the cookbooks I’m going to peruse to make that happen.

**Brainstorming. Meyer lemon or blood orange cheesecake using a version of this Lemon Curd from The Archives. Small batch cheesecake. Kumquat or cranberry upside-down cake. Cheddar rye muffins. Pepperoni pizza mac and cheese.

New products…

Recently, I got the chance to try out some new cheeses, crackers, and liqueur, and they were all delicious.

**Cheeses. The Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Co. in Wisconsin that Josh McFadden promotes in Six Seasons is available locally! How lucky for me, because it’s wonderful! I also tried a unique soft sheep’s milk cheese flavored with maple syrup from Hidden Springs Creamery in Westby, WI. It is sweet and creamy, great spread on a cracker or a toasted English muffin.

**Liqueur. My coffee and hot chocolate just found a new friend: North Forest Kreme walnut liqueur from Chankaska Spirits in Kasota, MN. The description on the bottle reads, “A silky combination of maple syrup and walnuts makes for a flavorful treat,” and it’s not wrong. This is great just sipped on its own, too.

**Reading. Last week I started reading the second volume in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Fool Moon. I’ve read this before, but I kind of lost my place in this long series, and I’ve started over. The first book, Storm Front, was even better in the second reading that I remembered it, and I’m enjoying the next one, too. I’m reading it on the new e-reader I got for Christmas, which replaced my broken one. I haven’t decided what to start reading tonight, or if I should just focus on finishing some of the books I’m in the middle of. (Perhaps I have a bit of a problem?)

I’m hoping that this snowy weekend will allow for some R & R, as well as a chance to re-group. There’s baking to do, which should be fun, but there’s also cleaning and organizing to work in. And hopefully a good night’s sleep or two. I hope you are keeping warm and cozy!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Friday Night

I’d like this post to be titled, “Friday Night: Resolutions Edition,” or “Goals and Aspirations Edition,” but I don’t do those things. I don’t do them well, anyway. I’ve set a goal to learn to knit for at least the last 10 years. I’m not ready to admit that it’s never going to happen, just that it’s never going to happen by making it a New Year’s Resolution.

Yes, there are things I want to do in 2019, and telling people about your goals is a good way to help yourself stick to them, but I can’t decide which direction to face, what accomplishments and improvements are most important, where to spend my energy. I could write 100 SMART goals for all of the most relevant aspects of my life and interests. I could. I would probably just get overwhelmed. And bored.

All that being said, I do have a few improvements that I’m actually working on, some things, tangible and intangible, that I believe might help make my life better. Perhaps, since I’m not going to formalize my hopes and dreams, they’re best labeled as…


**Weight loss. There. I said it. It’s an ugly thought for me, but a necessary one. More than 10 years ago, I put myself on a weight loss plan for the whole summer. I had lots of time to exercise, a CSA share to give me access to plenty of healthy food, and, something I was afraid to own before that, a bathroom scale. I tracked my progress with a spreadsheet, and gave myself time. It worked! I lost 20 pounds in roughly 6 months, and another 5 (much more difficult for some reason) within another few months. The best part was that, because I made lasting lifestyle changes, I kept this weight off for years!

Until 2018. The weight has been creeping on over the course of the last couple of years, and I’m going to have to do something. I’ve always had a tough time keeping weight off, so this is nothing new. I know what worked before, so I can do it again, and I don’t have to lose as much weight this time. I have plenty of winter salad recipes, and other know-how to keep my calorie consumption in line. It might be hard to find time to exercise without doing that grumpy early morning thing, though. Sigh.

**Remembering things. I don’t have amnesia or dementia or anything serious like that, but I’m finding that I just don’t commit enough to memory, especially the good stuff. And so I’ve started trying to keep a journal of little things (or big things if they happen) from each day. After just a few days, I’ve actually seen results. Yesterday evening, I was feeling like all that had characterized the day was another bad night sleep and working extra hours. I went back and read what I had written in the morning and remembered that my husband had come back in the house as he was leaving for work to tell me to look out at the beautiful sky. The crescent moon, and the planets Jupiter and Venus appeared somewhat close to each other and were so bright in the clear dark blue, outshining the approaching dawn. I forget things like this?!? I’m so glad I wrote it down!


**Simple. Meals have had to be simple, but they have been totally delicious. I made a pot of black-eyed pea soup that I shared with friends for New Year’s Eve, accompanied by a batch of Grandmama’s Buttermilk Biscuits. I have some black-eyed peas left, and this recipe at Food 52 looks like a great way to use them.

I’ve also been messing with Cacio e Pepe (black pepper and Romano cheese) pasta, crispy breadcrumbs, and using leftovers (this week it was brown rice and peas) as a base for frittata. I use a formula similar to this one.

**Books. I received a copy of Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden for Christmas, and I’m totally excited to cook from it.


One thing I never seem to have to resolve to do is read more books. Well, maybe I could resolve to finish more, but cracking a cover and turning to page one is just so satisfying! I started re-reading A Wrinkle in Time from a beautiful volume of Madeline L’Engle’s series, another fabulous Christmas present. If I don’t fall asleep immediately after posting this, I’m going to start The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone. (Again, Christmas. I have wonderful people in my life!!)

I have the weekend off, so reading and cooking, not to mention exercising and journaling, should get two whole days of attention. Happy 2019!

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: Review, Favorites and Adventures Ahead

I don’t keep a personal diary. This humble record of recipes is the closest thing to a journal I’ve ever consistently kept for more than a few days. It is a bit difficult, therefore, to look back at a whole year and contemplate what has happened. I simply can’t seem to remember much.

Mostly, The Day Job ate 2018, and the news and politics were disgustingly stressful. (None of those things appears to be headed for much of a change in character for 2019, alas.) I did make and eat some delicious things, and I did a better job of posting this year than I did last year. I added a “Friday Night” feature, that functions as a journal of sorts, and gives me a space to sort some things out, whether they be personal or edible. It is also the place where I write about some of the other things I am interested in, such as reading, gardening, and the small amount of traveling I get to do.

Every season produced favorite recipes, with a winter CSA share contributing to hearty roasted vegetable mixtures and comforting soups, the farmer’s market making spring bright and fresh, my own garden adding to summer excitement, local apples making fall as special as always, and tasty baked goods making the holidays dangerously delicious. Here are the 15 recipes that I feel best represent 2018 at The Messy Apron, my favorites from the whole year, such as it was.

Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal is sweet and rich, and perhaps not as distant from cookies as breakfast ought to be.

Hot, thick, stick-to-your-ribs soups were needed for comfort this year, especially Curry Carrot Soup, which went over well with a crowd of friends,


And for a classic sandwich bread for a soup and sandwich lunch, I offered this recipe for White Sandwich Bread.

For a bit more winter vegetable adventure, there was Maple Glazed Winter Squash and Potatoes

Lighter, fresh fare, like this Radish Cilantro Salsa characterized the transition to spring and summer.

Once summer was in full swing, things could really take off, with fresh produce dominating the style and flavor of what came out of my kitchen, like Scalloped Corn with Sour Cream and Chile

And Roasted Tomatillo and Chickpea Curry, with the tomatillos I grew on the mad bush-vines in my garden.

My own garden also produced plenty (plenty!) of zucchini which featured deliciously in Blueberry Lemon Zucchini Bread

And, my surprise favorite of the whole year, Zucchini Cheddar Risotto, which I can’t wait to make with 2019’s fresh zucchini (such a long wait!!!).

When the apples came in, I finally got around to a cake recipe from my grandmother, which was amazing: Glazed Apple Walnut Cake.

Finally, cookies, bars and other sweet treats featured in my baking all year round. Four great ones stand out: Fudgy Mint Brownies,

And my favorite for the holidays this year, Brandied Fruit and Nut Bars.

There are lots of other things I messed with throughout this year that didn’t make the pages quite so prominently, such as my somewhat successful attempts at homemade sourdough, some baking with roasted sugar, and caramel sauce with cubic yards of room for improvement. Plus, there was, and will continue to be variations on tossed pasta dishes, soups that aren’t really a recipe, pot and pots of beans, impromptu bean and/or grain salads, and frittatas stuffed with leftovers.

As always, I have so many hopes and plans for the coming year. I may try to keep a journal for once, if for no other reason than to have something to help me remember anything that may happen. I regret that the spin for the near future on The Messy Apron pages will have to include some healthy eating for weight loss. I’ve fought that battle my whole life (except when I was a fat kid and didn’t bother fighting), but my age and lifestyle (The Day Job!) are conspiring to make things especially critical. I hate diets, scales, resolutions, self-hatred, and, frankly, exercise for the sake of exercise, so I don’t really know where this is going to go.

But go it will. It must. Let’s go exploring in 2019!