Spicy Sweet Potato Quesadillas

sweet potato quesadillas | foodloveswriting.com

A few Saturdays ago, wearing red lipstick and riding boots, I took a free Mexican cooking class with my old Nashville roommates, Sara and Sarah. We met in a bright, sunny space dubbed the grocery store’s “community room,” where the tall ceiling stretched as high as a church building’s and the kitchen featured two portable stoves. While Sara asked questions and Sarah sipped iced coffee with sunglasses perched atop her head, all three of us leaned forward from our third row seats to get closer looks as a man named Michael flashed through a handful of demonstrations, beginning with tortilla soup and ending with fried avocados on sticks.

Michael, who looked a little like a stoic Ron Howard, gave constant tips and tricks to our little, informal group of around 16 as he worked. He explained how to chop an onion (sort of like this), why he likes polenta as a soup thickener (the flavor), when to add spices (to oil, before liquid, as most are fat-soluble). When he completed a dish, we tasted—and, no one is more surprised than I am to say this, but the taste I liked best was the quesadillas.

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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

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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).

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Oven Fries with Lemony Green Dressing + Gruyere (& a Gift)

[Update! Congratulations to Rachel Q, winner of the giveaway!]

Oven Fries with Lemon Green Dressing + Gryere | FoodLovesWriting.com

A long time ago, I heard a superstition that says the activities in which you partake on New Year’s Day set the tone for the way your coming year will go: Spend money, and it will be a year of loss. Receive money, and it will be a year of gain. Work, and you’ll be industrious. Play, and you’ll be full of fun. Eat something green, so the tradition goes, and you can expect the luck of more green (of the financial kind) to find its way to you in the months ahead. So it’s with that old superstition in mind that we bring you today’s cheesy oven fries, kicked up a notch with lemony green dressing, salty and addicting and very green—even though, between us, it’s not exactly money that we’re hoping to find more of in 2013.

(Warning: extremely long post to follow.)

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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.

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Cozy Day at Home + Caramelized Apples and Onions

Caramelized Apples + Onions | FoodLovesWriting.com

The first time I met Tim, he said something in passing about how he’d much prefer a night in, at home, to endless social activity, one party and get-together after another, and I couldn’t believe how much he sounded like me. They say it’s the opposites who are the ones to attract, but, almost one year into marriage, all I have to say is that it sure is nice to share life with someone who also finds pleasure in picking a new Netflix movie or testing orangettes or reading side by side, before falling asleep at night.

Making Tea | FoodLovesWriting.comfall day at home | foodloveswriting.com

If it weren’t for the great enjoyment we both also find in hosting big dinner parties and attending outdoor gatherings and making meaningful connections with other human beings, and mostly the growing desire we both have to stretch outside our comfort zones and love, I wonder just how easy it would be for us to settle in at home, something brewing on the stove and, stay there, content.

Kinfolk and Tea | FoodLovesWriting.com

It’s something we’ve thought so deliberately about recently that, in an effort to find ways to love other people besides each other, we’ve been filling our social calendar fuller than it’s ever been in our married life. We’ve been hosting and attending and gathering and joining, and it’s been good, all of it, delighting in conversations with friends new and old, hearing how people are doing, laughing and crying and learning, seeing how much there is yet to know.

But still, in the midst of it, I have to say there remains something equally special about those quiet, cozy days (or even hours) at home, the kind where there’s nothing much on the agenda besides laundry and reading and making dinner—and the more rare these chunks of time become, the more precious they feel.

Pound of Apples | FoodLovesWriting.com

Fall is good at reminding us of this. As the days darken and chill and we turn on our heaters for the first time in months, there’s an unspoken push towards blankets and cocoa and the comfort of a warm kitchen.

Caramelized Apples + Onions | FoodLovesWriting.com

October beckons us to roast and to caramelize, to slow-cook and to stew. There’s nothing quite like coming in from the cold to the smell of something brewing, and that’s never more true than with today’s easy apples and onions dish.

Bowl of Apples + Onions | FoodLovesWriting.com

By the time the onions are soft and translucent, your home will smell as good as Thanksgiving dinner; and, standing above the stove, your hair pulled back and your house slippers on, the house quiet and still, save for sizzling, that right there will be so good, so rich, all you can do is give thanks for such a moment and, enjoy.

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Butternut Squash Spelt Biscuits

Autumn Squash | FoodLovesWriting.com

I have the worst case of writer’s block. I don’t know what to say. I feel like Tim is going to tell me, any minute, that he’s finished what he’s doing and we need to go, so I can’t focus on what I’m writing because I keep thinking, we’re about to drive to the grocery store and we also need toilet paper and I can’t forget to set my alarm clock for tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m.! It’s Thursday night, the one night this week when we haven’t had something going on, and what was supposed to be a relaxing evening at home has turned into a nonstop day that continued into a nonstop night, and it’s 8:30 p.m., we’re only now about to go to the store, and I still haven’t written a blog post.

Part of the busy schedule this week has been, get this, because of food. In a strange turn of events, we ended up with three CSA boxes in the last two weeks, giving us bushel and bushel and bushel full of fresh food, all of which we needed to do something with so as to avoid the one thing I absolutely do not want to do, as in, waste any. This may have led to tears once or twice. Besides beets (roasted!) and beet greens (pesto!) and yellow squash, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers (ratatouille!) and potatoes (home fries! mashed! fritters!), we’ve had squash. Oh, have we had squash: butternut, acorn, spaghetti. Most of it roasted, so as to make pureé. Also, pumpkin—namely, a 20-pound monstrosity I carried around the house and outside for a photo as if it were a small child. Well, it weighed as much as one.

The Giant Pumpkin | FoodLovesWriting.com

And tonight, while the fridge is stocked with roasted peppers and sautéed beet stems and a tomato-kale-pepper salad, while there are half a dozen butternut squash biscuits left on the counter and some quinoa grains soaking to be cooked tomorrow, I’ll be honest and say I know a week of longer work days and unexpected meetings and two extra bushels of vegetables is not exactly the stuff of nightmares, but, honestly, I’m tired. Tim and I are having friends for dinner tomorrow and then an overnight guest through Monday, and as I sit here, looking at the photographs of squash and biscuit dough, reading through the paragraphs I’ve written, the main thing I keep thinking is, would I want to read this if I were someone coming to the post? And I want to start over. But then, what would I write? See sentence two above.

Flour and Dough | FoodLovesWriting.com

The thing I’ve found in the last year or so, especially back in the midst of planning a wedding, is that when I get too busy, the kind of busy where I’m running from one thing to another, seldom processing anything, I only function at 50, maybe 60%. This is fine when you’re doing the dishes—less fine when you’re trying to put together paragraphs (and, ahem, putting together paragraphs is what some of us do for a living).

Cutting Biscuits | FoodLovesWriting.com

Writing is thinking. If you can’t think, you can’t write, mark it down. And the best writers, the ones who turn words with precision and truth, are the ones who are taking time to think about what they say.

Butternut Squash Biscuits | FoodLovesWriting.com

So tonight when I have nothing to say, I guess I’m really saying, help! I need time to think! And so, while Tim and I run out to buy groceries and Q-tips, cracking open a chocolate tart between the two, I say to him, listen, let’s talk. How are we so rushed lately? What is going on? And we talk and we think together, and we look for ways to pare down and take tasks off our plates.

And by 11 p.m., we’re in bed, me on my laptop, writing these last words (because I love this place! So it stays!), Tim surfing the Internet from his phone, ready to rest.

By the way: If you haven’t seen this on Facebook already, we’re thinking of doing a Q+A post sometime soon, answering any personal, blog or food questions (well, almost any questions) you guys have. Do you have a question? Ask it here: facebook.com/foodloveswriting.

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