Chunky Applesauce

We all have different ideas of what is comforting: familiar movies, certain songs, a big bed piled high with blankets. When I’m lonely, comfort might come through a friend dropping by. When I’m tired, an afternoon nap. But when it’s early October and I’m feeling overwhelmed or discouraged or just like I miss someone very much, point me to the kitchen. Cooking is such a gift, you know? You can walk into the kitchen with a million things on your mind---the client you lost at work, the list of things you have to finish by Monday, the way that long phone call just ended---and grab something off the counter, say, five green apples, crisp and tart and beautifully tangible, able to be held in your hand in the way ideas and anxieties and conversations can’t. You can peel them, one long and curly strip after another, watching their bright skins fall into the trash even as your shoulders relax, focusing on your knife slicing the exposed flesh rather than focusing on whatever was on your mind … [Read more...]

How to Make the Perfect Apple Strudel

After three attempts, two days and one satisfying result, I can honestly say I know something today I didn't know a week ago---well, make that, I know a lot of somethings, and they all have to do with one thing, the kind of thing that's no small feat, especially when you're a slow learner (hand raised!) and prone to catastrophe (why yes, that was me that put wax paper in the oven on attempt #1)---I now know how to make the perfect apple strudel. There are bigger accomplishments to be made in life than this, I know, but there are few I'd be more happy about and few I'd be more excited to share with you. So here is the story. You could say things began last Saturday, at an evening wedding on the lake, where all the tables in a big white tent in Michigan were topped by gorgeous, green apples and a certain beautiful bride insisted we take a whole basket home with us, because have you read her blog? she's always generous like that and, our arms full while we walked to the car, we … [Read more...]

thin, chewy pizza crust

You remember what it was like when you were a kid and you hated to go to bed? You could have just had the best day in your life---a birthday party, playing with friends, swimming, riding bikes, building pretend houses, eating fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, whatever---but when the sun went down, you knew what was coming. No matter how great the last few hours had been, no matter how much joy you'd been offered---and especially no matter what anyone else had told you about thankfulness---there was only one thing on your mind when your mom said to put your pajamas on, and it was a disheartening thing indeed: all this fun had to end. That's a little how I feel this morning. It's funny to think about, really. I mean, we all look at a child throwing a tantrum before bed and see precisely what he doesn't, the very factors that would take his fear away: Morning will come, we want to say to him. There's more fun to be had. And besides, you have to rest; you need it. We know he … [Read more...]

Curried Coconut Chicken & Peanut Butter Noodles

Listen, it's not like I never do adventurous things. I mean, you know: I ride roller coasters. I cut 11 inches off my hair. I launch out into self-employment. And hello, there was that mountain in Maine I won't let anyone forget about. Remember?! But when it comes to my kitchen and new types of cuisine, even I will admit that I stick pretty close to the basics: American, Italian, sometimes Greek, but pretty rarely anything outside that. And if it weren't for my friend Stacey, who came over Tuesday night to, at her suggestion, try making Thai food, that would all be exactly the same. Our plan of attack was simple: pick two recipes, adapt the ingredients to be fully natural, follow the instructions and cook. … [Read more...]

Spelt Carrot Cake

Speaking from a history of impatience, I can tell you it helps, at least a little, if you can mentally psych yourself up for the things you have to wait for. Like, it takes time to learn things, have you noticed that? It doesn't matter if you're picking up a new instrument, taking driver's ed, meeting a stranger or experimenting in the kitchen: nine times out of ten, you're not going to get it the first time---ten times out of ten, if you're me. Then there's the post office. It will be crowded, trust me, no matter when you go, so bring your iPhone and catch up on Words with Friends games while you listen for your number to be called. Rush-hour traffic? We all know what that's like. Expect delays or, you know, quit your office job to avoid traffic altogether. Just knowing these things, simply anticipating the waits, makes it easier to push through them, easier to handle. At least for me. That's why I wish I could always know time frames beforehand, I really do. It's kind of … [Read more...]

and here we are, with babka

I'm not going to ask where the time went. That's what everyone says, halfway through summer, after the fireworks and before back-to-school, when we're finally settled into the heat and humidity, when our arms are bronzed and our long-daylight days have begun to seem commonplace, when we're looking at the calendar and saying, July 20? July 20! More than halfway through 2010? I am just getting used to it not being 2009! and we think of all the things we still want to do and we think of all the people we want to do them with, and our hearts start to race a little bit. OK, hang on. How about instead of rushing ahead we just stop, right here and now, and take a look at this day, this July 20, this Tuesday we have and will never get again, and appreciate what's brought us here? I'll start. With chocolate babka. … [Read more...]

finally getting it now

I don't remember the first time I ate a strawberry. Do you? I wonder if I liked it right away or if it took some time. I wonder if it was like tomatoes, where at first I hated the texture, and then I had some sliced on pizza and didn't hate them, and soon started to want them (on pizza, on sandwiches, growing more plants every year). I kind of feel like I always liked strawberries, but who knows? I mean, some things take time to warm up to. For example, I do remember the first time I soaked flour, and it was no strawberry. Remember that bittersweet soaked whole grain bread experience, the one where I was never quite sure if I'd done it right and the yeast plus my inexperience added up to ho-hum? I could have given up right then. I could have said no more soaking! It's not easy to like! But then again, where would that attitude get me? I'll tell you where: to a world without tomatoes, cherries, cheese, kefir, eggs, exercise and, heck, even some of my favorite people. So I … [Read more...]