Italian-Style Green Beans

When Tim makes Italian-style green beans, he thinks of his grandma Emily, a beautiful Italian woman with short white hair and smiling blue eyes, who still explains recipes with a flick of her wrist and an “Oh, it’s so simple!” When I make Italian-style green beans, I think of Tim, the man who brought them, along with avocados and perfect grilled cheese sandwiches and raw milk bought straight from the farmer, into my life three years ago.

Italian-style Green Beans | FoodLovesWriting.com

Read More

Melissa Coleman’s Honey Butter Popcorn

Honey Butter Popcorn | FoodLovesWriting.com

Listen, I’m under no delusions that you’re all out there, biting your fingernails, anxiously awaiting our fresh blog post this morning, but I’m still going to tell you about the roadblocks involved in its getting here because apparently, admitting to your blog community that you aim to post every Tuesday and Friday is a little like telling your friends and family you want to lose fifteen pounds in the new year: the experts say this will keep you accountable, but in reality all it assures you is that now there are an even greater number of people you stand to disappoint—not to mention, the self-imposed pressure seems to draw all manner of new and unexpected obstacles into your path. Today’s popcorn recipe, for example, comes to you in spite of dark days, failed brownies and one long and drizzling Sunday afternoon eaten up by hours playing with my new watercolor paint set (although, to be fair, those hours did bring our fresh January blog header).

Read More

Joanna Linberg’s Cajun Sweet Potato Fries

cajun sweet potato fries | foodloveswriting.com

If my life were a novel, the way I found Joanna Linberg’s blog, Honey & Salt would be a classic example of foreshadowing. Picture it: November 2010. I’m posting some scattered thoughts on thankfulness (or, really, unthankfulness) here at the blog. Three days later, unbeknownst to me, a magazine editor from Iowa links to that post in a roundup at her site, sending a pingback to my email inbox, landing me on her thoughtful piece of the Internet; I start reading her blog; we become friends; we visit each other; we cry in my kitchen; we write letters; and now, here I am, bringing you a sweet potato recipe from the woman I would now call one of the most thankful people I know.

You probably remember Joanna—the Joanna of Brad and Joanna, the friends we went to see in St. Louis last month? She could just as easily be called the Full of Wisdom Joanna or the Writes Beautiful Letters Joanna or the Joanna Who Points Me to Truth and Gratitude Every Time We Talk. But, I suspect, to you, she will quickly become the Joanna Who Makes Cajun Sweet Potato Fries, and nothing else will matter, at least after you try this recipe that is, because, people, it’s something else.

Read More

Crockpot Thai Chicken Curry

crockpot Thai chicken curry | foodloveswriting.com

I realize two days before Thanksgiving is not exactly the ideal time to post a Thai chicken recipe, not when the majority of cooking America is, at this very moment, abuzz with turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie. But, forgive me, I have this habit of assuming all of you out there aren’t so different from me, and so I figure maybe you’re also two days away from attending a delicious Thanksgiving meal in another state, one that’s so completely out of your hands, you already know all that will be expected of you is to show up, maybe chop a vegetable or two. In that case, finding another Thanksgiving recipe is not the pressing issue on your mind, but, what to make for dinner tonight, the night before you fly home, is—and so here’s something easy and quick.

chopping vegetables | foodloveswriting.com

The truth is, even if I were in charge of the meal on Thursday, that would only mean remaking a dozen or so of the same dishes my family eats every year: turkey and potatoes and green beans, maybe a gelatin mold and some homemade cranberry sauce. Can you relate to this, too? Last year, my mom added sprouted dinner rolls she found at her natural grocery store, and I’ve heard stuffing has been taken off this year’s list, but, overall, our Thanksgiving meals are pretty predictable. In this social media world of the latest and greatest and newest and best, predictable can sometimes seem like a bad thing, but, in truth, when it comes to the holidays, predictable means the stability and security of annually gathering around the table to do the same thing we’ve done every year—and that’s something I find as comforting as looking through old baby albums or hearing my dad make his coffee in the mornings when we’re home.

Whether you relate to our routine or not, whether Thai chicken must stay off your radar until at least Friday or whether Thanksgiving isn’t even on your calendar, let me offer this recipe today anyway. If you’re leaving town tomorrow and want something foolproof for dinner tonight, this is the recipe. If you’re shopping all day Friday and want something easy to come home to, just have someone turn this on two hours before you do.

But mostly, if you’re that kindred soul I always write to, the one who has also tasted Thai chicken curry—and maybe, like me, for the first time with friends this summer—and found it to be so good, so just-the-right-amount-of-heat, that you regularly find yourself craving it, remembering the slight burn on your throat, you’re going to love this.

crockpot Thai chicken curry | foodloveswriting.com

The recipe comes from one of my old Nashville roommates, Sara (not to be confused with my other old Nashville roommate, Sarah), who posted a picture of it on Instagram recently, and, in response to my comment, emailed me the ingredients and directions with a, “I hope you make this. like now! It’s AMAZING!” added on.

Thai chicken curry | foodloveswriting.com

Tim and I ate it last week, shared some with a friend, and, then, ate the remainder for lunch the next day: every time, it had us reaching for water glasses with smiles on our faces. Quick and simple, with the fire of the curry paste, the kick of the ginger and the cool splash of lime squeezed on top, it’s going to be my go-to Thai curry recipe every time the craving hits from now on (and, Thanksgiving week or not, that’s always now).

Happy holiday weekend, friends! Hope you know how thankful we are for each of you.

Read More

Kabocha Squash Custards (Gluten-Free)

Kabocha Squash Custards | FoodLovesWriting.com

Every time I make my pumpkin pie, which, in our household, is not reserved for the holiday season that is fast approaching, I end up with enough extra pie filling for one little ramekin.

And when the two dishes come out of the oven, the pie plate and the ramekin, both of them sitting atop the stove to rest, Tim and I cannot help ourselves from digging into that mini custard, the two of us with spoons, blowing away steam and reveling in the hot and caramelized comfort.

So about a month ago or so, it occurred to us: Forget the pie.

Why not pour all the filling into ramekins?

That’s how these kabocha squash custards were born.

Kabocha Squash | FoodLovesWriting.com

Here is what you need to do to start: Get yourself a kabocha squash.

Do you guys already know about kabocha squash? This squatty gourd, also called Japanese pumpkin, came into our lives this fall, as one of the heavier ingredients in a weekly CSA box. At first, it seemed a clone of butternut or acorn squash—slightly different in appearance with a gnarled stem and bumpy exterior, but overall the same, at least in terms of use—but then, one day, after roasting it and puréeing the insides, I took a spoonful of the thick, whipped mixture to my mouth and shrieked.

Tim! You have to taste this!

You guys. Think butternut squash but thicker and sweeter, velvety in texture, practically a mousse once blended, all on its own. One bite in my mouth, and I’m telling you, it was the first time in my life where I thought baby food—you know, the kind where you just blend a cooked vegetable into mush—sounded like better cuisine than my own.

Kabocha is to squash what LOST was to TV.
What sunlight is to afternoons.
What October is to the calendar.

In other words, kabocha squash is not just another squash but the best squash, the one I always reach for first when I’m at the store.

Kabocha Squash Puree | FoodLovesWriting.com

To prove my point, I offer Exhibit A: me, standing in the kitchen a few weeks ago, waving my arms in the air with a dinner guest, my eyes wide and eyebrows high, talking quickly and excitedly about the Dessert That Is Pure Kabocha Squash. It doesn’t need sugar, I kept saying to him. It’s perfect on its own! Get yourself a kabocha squash!

Making Squash Custard | FoodLovesWriting.com

Then, there is the fact that we’ve made these squash custards four times in the last month, for a dinner party, for a pre-St.-Louis-road-trip breakfast, for an everyday snack. The recipe makes five to six (five is ideal; six is slightly pushing it but possible), and Tim and I, on our own, have no trouble polishing them all off, in one day.

True, for a recipe like these custards, you could use pureéd sweet potatoes or butternut squash or acorn squash or pie pumpkin in lieu of the kabocha squash purée, but, in response to that, it should be said: it was kabocha squash that, once blended into these custards, had Tim looking me straight in the eye at our dining table, swearing, and I quote, “This is what my dreams are made of.”

Squash Custards | FoodLovesWriting.com

Something magical happens to these custards in the oven: the filling cooks and the edges caramelize, creating a dark, sticky ridge around the soft and sweet insides. We especially like them warm, whether topped by ice cream or homemade whipped cream, but they’re also lovely cold, straight out of the fridge.

Kabocha Squash Custards | FoodLovesWriting.com

And while normally, this is the point in the post where I’d have something nice and neat to wrap up the paragraphs with, today I’m just going to end with (1) Make These and (2) Tell Me about It, because, listen, it’s almost Thanksgiving and tomorrow’s the weekend and, no kidding, we love these custards almost as much as we love hearing from all of you.

Holding Squash Custard | FoodLovesWriting.com

One last thing on the thankful front, by the way: to those of you who’ve downloaded the ebook, and especially to the ones who’ve written us with feedback and the bloggers who’ve given unsolicited endorsements for the ebook page, thank you. We feel blessed.


Read More

Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Avocado Mousse (gluten-free, maple-sweetened)

Holding Pumpkin | FoodLovesWriting.com

Fall is to seasons what blogging is to writing: easy to love. While of course I wouldn’t want a world without spring flowers or summer daylight—any more than a world without Jane Austen or Jhumpa Lahiri—I have to say that stepping outside to a golden world of falling leaves and pumpkin patches and cardigans is the kind of thing that puts an easy smile on my face, very much like sharing little windows into our life here on the blog, reading windows into other people‘s lives and, mostly, getting to interact with all of you about it.

Fall in Nashville | FoodLovesWriting.com

I started this blog in 2008, a year out of grad school, working 9-5 in an office job where I wrote descriptions of the houses people were trying to sell. Before that, I’d done some freelance work for newspapers and magazines, just small projects here and there, because I knew I wanted to write but I didn’t know if I could, much less about what. And over the last four years, while I’ve written to you about my grandma and quitting my job and moving and getting engaged and an October wedding and the way I am hungry for truth and beauty, this blog has been the place for finding out.

When we made the announcement about the book last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

When I think about launching it soon, I don’t know quite what to expect about that, either. Part of me wants to apologize—it’s just an ebook—and part of me wants to downplay it—so, in case no one reads our story, it will be less of a blow.

But the truth is, honestly, the ebook is a lot like this blog, and this blog has been such a source of joy and friendship and encouragement over the last four years, I’m ashamed of myself for not celebrating it.

We’re launching an ebook, you guys!

I love the story it contains the way I love fall and roadside stands of mums and huge vintage trucks stuffed with orange pumpkins. I love it the way I love walking outside on an October Saturday, soaking up the beauty around me.

And, while I’ve been writing and rewriting it the last several months, I’ve been really, really hoping you’ll love it, too.

pumpkins | FoodLovesWriting.com

We’ll be sharing more information about the book in the coming post (or posts), and just thinking about some of that sharing gets me so excited, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve, all fidgety and bursting inside. But for the meantime, here are a few things:

First, it’s an ebook because an ebook is a format that’s fast, convenient, affordable (to make and to buy) and accessible for you. It has allowed us to put together our story in a manner of months, and in the way that feels right to us. Publishing an ebook is a way to share more of our journey with you, and, as I was saying at the beginning of this post, that’s always what this site has been about anyway.

Picnic Torte | FoodLovesWriting.com

Second, the ebook tells about how the blog started, how Tim and I met through it, what struggles and beauties we found along the way; it also tells a story much bigger than that, about hope and fear and learning to let go.

chocolate torte | FoodLovesWriting.com

Last thing, for now, is that when we made the video last week, as you know, it was over a picnic lunch in the park, one in which we hauled dishes and linens and baskets of food to a concrete table surrounded by tall trees and falling leaves, and where we ate, among other things, a chocolate torte made of an avocado mousse so creamy and rich, I almost didn’t want to post the video on Friday, but this torte instead.

chocolate torte and chocolate avocado mousse | foodloveswriting.com

The crust is mostly maple syrup, coconut oil and nuts; the mousse is mostly avocados and maple syrup; and the combination is so easy to love, like blogging and like autumn and like long afternoons in the sun, you won’t believe it—and that’s whether or not you’re eating it beneath a canopy of maple leaves in the mid-afternoon.

Today, I leave you with this torte. More soon.

Read More

Kale Mashed Potatoes + September in Nashville

tim's plate

Tim went away for a work trip last week, just for two days really, but all the way to New York, putting him not only out of state but also in a different time zone, for the first night (and nights) we have ever been apart since we got married. It wasn’t something we looked forward to, upcoming nights apart like these, and, leading up to the trip, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel dread (or that I didn’t say to him, when I dropped him off at the airport, “Do you think it’s too late to cancel?,” both of us laughing).

It wasn’t that I thought I’d be afraid at night or have nothing to do with myself or break down on the side of the road and not have him to call (OK, a little bit the last one, but only in the same way that I tend to imagine a plane going down once I get on it)—it was mostly that when you love someone, you want to be with them, and I love Tim.

reunited at the table

I feel really grateful to have him, and I know I’ve said that before, but I say it again because gratitude isn’t the kind of thing that you can leave on auto-pilot, and whether it’s a good husband or a beautiful September or a dinner that we share with someone we love, it’s more natural to take it for granted than to mark it down.

When Tim came home Saturday afternoon, I think we both let out a collective exhale, grateful to remember we are not each other’s best gifts (and that the One who gave us each other never leaves), yet grateful to be together again. And then, the next day, we killed the fatted calf, so to speak, with home-cooked filet mignons and big salads and mashed potatoes stuffed full of greens.

celebration lunch

Then, afterward, in that golden hour when the sun makes everything glisten, we grabbed blankets and sweaters and escaped to the park, soaking up the crisp September air, bright white skies and, mostly, the gifts we’re being given, today.

golden hour in tennessee
trees
fields of tennessee
tim and shanna at the park

We brought the camera, and the thing that’s so great about bringing your camera for a few hours at the park is that you get the chance to look through its viewfinder, capture moments through its lens, and mark them down, the way you do when you’re listing things you’re thankful for.

us on a blanket

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the pull so many of us have towards beautiful things, such as the ideas we mark on Pinterest or the stories we scroll through on blog posts or the pleasure I receive from seeing pretty pictures and photography. When I was really sick earlier this year, I would say to Tim, let’s go walk through Anthropologie!, just to soak up the atmosphere and remember there is beauty in the world. You could, I think, look at all this pull and say there’s something wrong with it, that we want to create imaginary lives that are perfect and flawless and fun to look at, all the time, and that doing so ignores the realities of pain and suffering and poverty and despair.

But personally, I think it points to something bigger.

TimandShannaFoodLovesWriting

There is something in us, in all of us, I believe, that craves beauty—whether that shows itself in Pinterest folders or fantasy football scores or keeping the kitchen clean. My blog friend Sarah says we crave beauty because we were made for the Beautiful One. It’s not that we don’t see hard things, or experience them; all human beings do, even if in different degrees. We have loved ones die. We fight with our spouses. We experience serious physical pain that shows us how small we are. But it’s just that, in the midst of all of this, we’re also drawn to what’s beautiful and right and good and true. We look for it, go out to find it, hope for it and want it to exist.

daisies and us

I think about that all the time lately, when I’m snapping photos of wild daisies growing in the grass, sidled along a busy road; when I’m setting a plate before me, as colorful as a garden or an elaborate painting; when I’m listening to someone tell me how she wants to make her living room look a certain way. There can be unhealthy motives in these things, sure, as in any things, but a lot of times, truly, I just sit back and think, how good of God to give us pleasures such as these to enjoy.

us

Pleasures like sunlight in the evening and foothills in the distance. Pleasures like a bed to sleep in and food in the fridge. Family who loves us when we hurt them. Books that make us think.

Gifts around us, all the time.

Read More