Special: from the Archives

group post

In the spirit of finishing, I welcome you to a first ever at Food Loves Writing: a five-part recap of recipes and other things that could have been whole posts in themselves but, for one reason or another didn’t make the cut and almost didn’t make it to you, but, today, at their good fortune, are getting a second chance.

These are the didn’t-make-its and misfits of the kitchen, the ones set aside for later or forgotten about as soon as they were photographed, so now, like the vegetables in my fridge I’m always thinking about, they are being pulled out, in order to not be wasted. Here goes.

green beans in basil dressing

1) First there were the green beans, boiled until cooked but still crisp, and covered in a homemade basil dressing. The dressing was bleh, at best, but the blessed beans were still edible, as green beans usually are, and I can’t remember now, but I think a few days later they were washed off to become green beans cooked with butter or something brainless like that. The lesson here is that you really can’t ruin green beans or, at least, it must be very, very hard, and if I were in the mood for a longer post, I might say that’s just another reason to love them.

2) Then there were the sugar puffs.

sugar puffs

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when you need them

chocolate cookies, plated

When you come home from work on a Monday night in need of chocolate, sure, it might be easy to run to the store and buy a bag of Oreos (particularly if you were running there anyway to stock up on parchment paper as, ahem, one of us was). But, trust me, this is better.

chocolate cookies

When you are driving down the street the next night, lowering your windows because, aha!, the weather has cooled down and here are the September breezes! and just as your window slides down, it pops off its track and falls deep into the insides of the door, and you think, wow, I could go for a cookie right now, trust me, these are the ones you’ll be glad to have beside you.

chocolate cookie

There aren’t a lot of times these cookies wouldn’t make sense, in fact.

Over the last two days: I ate them Monday night while my brother was visiting, and he let me borrow his camera to decide if I could ever understand it (jury’s still out); I brought some to work the next day for me and Becky, where we finished the small stash before 11 AM and had to make toast to tide us over until lunch; and I ate them with Michele and Wendi last night, while we ate organic pizza and looked at the largest map of Colorado I’ve seen (because, side note: we are going to Denver in ONE WEEK!).

These pretty little cookies are as simple to make as mixing, chilling, rolling and baking, and they turn out soft and sweet and covered in shiny bits of crystallized sugar, which makes them perfect for just about anything, at least in my opinion.

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where it all came from

taking a step

Reading last Monday’s post, where everything was long naps and sunshine, it’s hard to remember the way things were going back in early May, when I told you I was standing on the cusp of several big changes, feeling unsure and afraid, willing my legs to take a step but standing motionless instead.

I don’t really want to talk about those days now, or about how anxious I tended to be in them, but I will, for one reason: what they gave me.

See, what I’m not telling you when I talk about a great weekend, or today when I say, I made homemade cinnamon bread and ate thick slices Sunday morning while I stood in the grass and watched the sunshine, is that those changes—the very ones I’d feared and avoided and tried not to make back in May—while they turned out to be a lot of what I’d dreaded, yes: painful, scary, lonely; they also turned out to be a lot of what I hadn’t expected: led by strength not my own, filled with grace I’d been given—the kinds of things that make blue skies and good conversation and a slice of homemade bread that much sweeter.

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that which I’ve started

banana bread

Can I tell you something? I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but, I’m good at beginning.

Name a hobby: Knitting? Taking a photo every day for a year? Running regularly? I will jump in with both feet—I have, I should say—and I’ll tell you about it, filled with energy.

This would all sound pretty exciting if I didn’t have to tell you the second thing, a little something that goes hand-in-hand with this enthusiasm—brace yourself; it’s a little tragic. The equal truth is I am a terrible finisher. Truly awful. Those hobbies above? I knitted two scarves and got bored. I took 88 photos and stopped. And thank goodness I finally talked Alicia out of the 5K I talked her into, because, gosh, I haven’t run in weeks.

It’s bad, I know. Not the kind of character quality that great souls are made of. It gives me more admiration for people like marathon runners or, even, people who are married—there’s that commitment and follow-through that says you are serious and steadfast and faithful.

I want to be like that, and I’m taking small (ok, teeny-tiny!) steps to improve. Starting with this banana bread.

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it’s come to this

zucchini

It’s not very interesting to hear that someone’s content or that she’s counting her blessings, but that’s really all I’ve got for you today, all frustrations and disappointment eclipsed by other, fuller emotions, so I’m sorry. What can I say? At least there’s a recipe at the end.

This weekend, I went antiquing in Gurnee (where I bought seven white plates, a gift and a vintage camera, all for under $35!) and had dinner at Cracker Barrel, after which I fell asleep in the car, just like I did when I was eight. I stayed up late watching television, I went to church, I phoned an old friend from freshman year who still makes me laugh like crazy, and the skies were always blue, and the sun bright, and people I loved nearby.

One of my best friends went on a first date this weekend, too, after we spent the morning shopping, and she looked so nice, I was so proud of her for giving it a shot, and even though she and the guy had an only OK time, the whole thing reminded me how much I love her and am glad to know her. I tried on a jacket at H & M and a random stranger came over to tell me it was supercute, I had to buy it, so I did, and I wish very much I could take him with me every time I go shopping. And there were bike rides and fresh tomatoes from the garden and DVDs of Life that my friend Becky gave me for my birthday, and I just think, you know, in the seasons of life, there are some times that are especially good, and this is one of them.

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it’s not enough, but it’s something

strawberry cake

Oh, my. I hardly know what to say. When I sent that last post out into the Internet, I knew you’d be kind, but I never could have predicted you’d be that kind, or that the next morning, reading your messages, I’d have tears in my eyes learning about your friends who are young, or with children, or well into their middle age with very controlled symptoms, one still embracing a huge passion for food, or that several days later, I’d be sitting at my computer screen and wondering how in the world to thank you people, who not only encouraged me SO MUCH this week but who do that, regularly, like habit, here.

So here is what I think: Even if I had every one of you that commented on that last post over for dinner, one at a time, a meal just for you, and we sat and talked, and ate, until we were past full, feeling happy, it still wouldn’t be enough to thank you. I could bake you cookies and bring them to your doorstep. I could hug you, tight, until you could barely breathe. None of it would be enough.

So, like I am doing all the time with you, I’m just going to say thank you. Thank you. And bring you something.

cake on table

This cake, special as it is, still isn’t enough; I know that. But it’s something, and it’s what I have—kind of like that box of bath soap I bought for $3.00 at Walgreens one time when I was a kid, after my mom had given me some money and I knew her birthday was coming, and I wanted to be like the grown-ups and give something. So I sneaked to the counter when she wasn’t looking, and I bought the box with the money she had given me, and when I gave it to her later, she said how nice it was, which in a lot of ways, was her giving to me again. You guys are like her in that way—you say such kind things, and you tell me your stories, outgiving me again and again, and I here I am, offering my box of bath soap.

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