What We Ate: January

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI know we are already halfway through February (which is both shocking and thrilling, considering Edith asks every morning “Mom, is it summer yet?”), but I wanted to record some of our eats from January. One of my goals for this year has been Sunday lunch. It is really the only daytime meal in a whole week that we eat, all four (five) of us, sitting down, together, and I wanted to make it substantial and nice. It is always simple, but a treat when compared to our other lunches throughout the week.

Here are some of my Sunday lunch offerings so far:

Smitten Kitchen Lazy Pizza Dough + Pizza: I used Deb’s recipe, made it on Saturday night, and then shaped the pizzas the next day. I wasn’t perfectly happy with the dough, but it was my first time using that recipe (I usually use Alton Brown’s recipe), but I already know a few things I would do differently, starting with weighing my flour, something I have learned makes a big difference in all attempts at making anything that requires a dough. Instead of margherita pizza, I did a quick homemade pizza sauce with canned tomatoes from my mom’s pantry (we are down to two jars left and I will mourn their passing), some mozzarella, and Italian sausage. Simple, delicious, a treat for lunch.

Another Sunday lunch favorite was this Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken, broccoli, and bacon. It is simple and easy, but also delicious and feels like a special meal. I have also enjoyed putting together a big salad and eating that with homemade bread or grilled cheese. Another Sunday I made a loaf of bread and served chicken noodle soup (this is the basic recipe I use… the lemon juice sauteed mushrooms are the best part) and all of those have felt like a treat.

January has been a lot of simple, repeat meals as I made a big piece of this Chile-Rubbed Braised Beef, froze it in meal-sized portions, and have been eating it weekly. It is great as tacos or just on top of some rice (ideally cooked in bone broth for the extra flavor). I love serving it with garlicky green beans from Salt Fat Acid Heat.

We do a lot of brussels sprouts in the winter and while cooking them with bacon and maple syrup is my go-to, these roasted brussels sprouts with a warm honey glaze are really delicious and add a nice variety to the meal plans. I serve brussels weekly and weekly John Henry sits down with a look of profound concern on his face when he sees brussels sprouts. He gets two on his plate and has to be convinced that he is a brave boy before being willing to eat them. I am pretty certain he is always surprised by how small a trial they actually are.

Finally, my latest foray into the world of bread was cinnamon raisin bread from The Bread Bible. I love this book, love this recipe, and have been very pleased with the results. The bread is a two-day process, but always worth it for some nice toast for breakfast. I accidentally discovered that if I bake the bread after dinner and then leave the loaves out on the cooling rack under a clean dish towel overnight, they don’t get stale, cool perfectly, and get a lovely crust. I am going to do this with every loaf of bread I bake now.

What We Ate: December

2018-12-24 01.48.38 1

Although nothing can be as delicious as this chunk of love right here, December saw a good bit of deliciousness emerge from my little green kitchen. I don’t know if people read blogs anymore, or if posts like this are of interest to anyone, but I want to try to write these each month as a way for me to continue to collect good food and find inspiration for those weeks that I feel like I have zero idea of what to feed my family.

I have been so happy in the kitchen these days, feeling like I am finally finding my place not just as a cook, but as a cook for a family of two adults and two toddlers (Drew is the easiest to feed these days…). My mother gave me Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for Christmas this year (delivered at Thanksgiving) and it has literally changed how my food tastes. Before I received the book, I was finally learning to remember just to add salt to my food while cooking, and to cook by taste. But Samin (the author… the Netflix series for this book makes all of us feel on a first name basis with her, I think) has only solidified those practices for me, as well as taught me some entirely new habits. I am making a lot of the same meals I always make and they already tasted good, but suddenly they are noticeably better. Salt and Samin are changing my cooking and we are all very happy about that.

Chicken paprikasha hit in my household, although it was a bit spicier than suits my toddlers’ pallets. Still, it made a great lunch for my husband the next day and with buttered egg noodles dotted with chopped parsley, what is there to complain about?

Honey-Oat Pain de MieIt took me finally realizing that I spend $4.45 on a loaf of bread at the market every week for toast to decide that I should just make bread myself. I am no expert (although bread is on my list of things to learn about this year), so this recipe is pretty fail-safe, and it is delicious. Soft, hearty, complex flavor (I do half whole wheat/half all purpose flour, which makes it more flavorful, I think), and perfect for toast in the morning or even just a slice of warm bread out of the oven at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Smashed and loaded crispy potatoes:  My family loves potatoes, and I thank my mother for that. They are so delicious, so versatile, and yet so simple and familiar. These have the taste of the baked potatoes I remember eating at lunch when I was ten, but the texture of the best breakfast potatoes that have a crispy outside, soft center, and are accompanied by a pile of crunchy bits that are the highlight of the whole meal. I served these with a roast chicken, and then a few days later, pan fried in a bunch of butter (I have recently upped my butter purchases to two pounds a week and sometimes we don’t even make it seven whole days…) for leftover night and they were just as good, if not better, the second time around.

Speaking of… leftovers. I am finally understanding how to use them a bit better, or even how to create a complete meal with leftovers. My favorite means of leftovers is roast chicken. I have been using this recipe for months now, and it is, by far, the best chicken I’ve ever had, again and again and again. (Although last week topped them all, as I salted the chicken the night before, and oh man. So good.) It makes wonderful leftovers, too, especially if you make sure to scrape all the juices and greases out of the pan into the leftover container. One of my favorite things to accompany leftover night these days:

Quick, essential stovetop mac and cheeseI am weird and don’t like macaroni and cheese. I make the classic baked macaroni and cheese, topped with breadcrumbs, and only taste it for the sake of flavoring. I can’t even be tempted by the boxed Annie’s mac and cheese that my children love far more than the baked, homemade version. But this mac and cheese is actually one that I like to eat. I’m still not sold on it, but my husband absolutely loves it and it is so easy and seems like a better option (maybe?) than the boxed stuff. At least for dinner.

And I would be remiss to mention December if I didn’t end with the food event of the Lacy year: Christmas. A few weeks before Christmas, I arrived at my local farmer’s market meat stand, planning to just get my few meats for the week when I saw the recipe they posted on the glass case for Prime Rib in a Salt Crust. My innate need to eat something delicious for Christmas and to try something new and exciting-sounding sprang up and I locked down a 5+ pound piece of bone-in prime rib. The whole time I worked on it that day, I was terrified I would waste the money and have to serve my family and friends cereal for dinner. After the allotted cooking time, the thermometer read correctly, and I took the meat out to let it rest. After breaking the salt crust and cutting into it, my heart sunk as I thought there was no way it was done. So I quickly texted my mother a picture, and she responded with: “It is perfect. Exactly how prime rib should look. Send me some!” Music to an Odell daughter’s ears when their accomplished mother wants to eat their food. And it was, as she said, perfect.

 

Honorable mention goes to the potato gratin, which is my grandmother’s recipe, and the taste of Christmas for the Odells. Margaret was with us for Christmas, so we especially enjoyed getting to share that taste together.

 

I also made this beast of a coffee cake for our happy little Christmas breakfast, and it tasted anything but beastly.

Christmas is one of my favorite days of the whole year, and we marked it well. On to simpler, but just as tasty eats in January!

 

What We Ate: Fall

Thanksgiving is the food event of the year for my family, and this year we got to host it in our home. My mom’s garden-grown pink, yellow, orange, and purple carrots were the prettiest part of the plate. And, no surprise, the apple pie was the thing I wanted to keep eating and never stop. We had a few other food events this fall that are worth recording, so here they are.

burnished chicken
When fall comes and all of the beautiful root vegetables appear at the farmers market, this dish is always a go-to. I love the crispy roasted edges on the parsnips and the beautiful big shallots. Following the recipe exactly is worth it, down to the whole-grain mustard and the bacon and parsley on top. I served it with green beans with paprika and shallots, and it is probably the best meal I’ve had all fall (multiple times).

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetpotato & leek galette
I’ve never made a galette before, and pie-like crusts are not usually my strong suit, but I figured I’d try my hand at a potato and leek galette with a rosemary and sea-salt crust. I found a really nice aged provolone and fresh ricotta to put on top from our specialty grocery store. (Again, worth the extra dollars and effort it takes to find those ingredients!) The leftovers made the perfect lunch, and even breakfast!

chile-rubbed braised beef
My mom makes this beef regularly and when she kindly supplied my freezer with a beautiful chunk of grass-fed beef, I knew this was the only way to use it. I served it on top of rice, as it is more “kid-friendly,” but my mom serves it often as tacos which is also amazing. We ate it two days in a row and my husband declared it an absolute favorite. Also, it cooks itself which is a huge plus when you have two little toddlers running around.

frittata
Every Thursday is breakfast for dinner day, and when I’m not boring and just do pancakes and eggs or breakfast burritos, I like to make a frittata. I don’t have a certain recipe I use; just a general base and then I like to throw different things into them. I put just as much cream as I do milk into the eggs (#JuliaChild) and then add whatever else strikes my fancy. My family’s favorite is bacon, asparagus, and goat cheese. I’ve done potatoes, broccoli, spinach, parmesan, leeks. I’m sure pretty much anything works in these!

Also, one last note: buy the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook. It’s the best.

What We Ate: So Far This Summer

FBF72E5D-19DE-4A9D-B227-B9FEE0F2CF3FLook, they’re not all from Smitten Kitchen!

Pork chops with citrus dressing
These chops were nice and moist with great flavor. I served them with couscous on the side, which soaked up all of that delicious juice and dressing.

Chimichurri chicken (pictured)
Fine Cooking calls for oven-roasting these chicken legs, but I used chicken quarters and put them on the grill. The flavor was amazing, and I don’t know why I don’t make chimichurri more often.

Tomato and bread salad (also pictured)
I served the chimichurri chicken with Basic Tomato and Bread Salad, also from Fine Cooking. It was the perfect accompaniment and I even drizzled some chimichurri on my salad, too. Yum.

Smashed potatoes and peas with lemon and dill
I served this side with more pork chops and some green vegetables. I got fresh peas from the market, which were so sweet and delicious, but I don’t find frozen peas really taste much different than fresh. My babies love peas, so this was a hit.

Quick cherry crunch
And for our favorite summer dessert: a sour cherry crisp. The recipe is originally from The Joy of Cooking, and I grew up making it in my mom’s kitchen often. The recipe linked calls for canned cherries, which probably wouldn’t taste half as good. I used fresh-picked sour cherries, which I also froze to use for this dessert. When they’re fresh, or thawed, you can squeeze plenty of juice out of them to make the tapioca mixture. I like lots of crumb on my crisp, so I usually do one and a half the recipe of the crumble. Serve this with homemade vanilla ice cream, and it is summer in a bowl. I could eat this every day.

What We Ate April

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetSo, if you want to skip this post and just head to Smitten Kitchen, you would probably save some time. But I have collected a few recipes that aren’t Smitten Kitchen to make this a decently legitimate post.

Ramp, asparagus, and bacon hash
I was inspired by this hash which is amazingly delicious, but sadly I can’t seem to justify purchasing pancetta on a regular basis. So I made my own version and added some beautiful ramps, a delightful little-known spring vegetable. All of this topped with a beautiful, runny fried egg is just perfect.

Piri Piri Chicken
This was the best dinner I have had in weeks, truly: Smitten Kitchen’s Piri Piri Chicken. The grill perfectly chars the marinade on the skin, and I made the sides that she included in the recipe. Everything was just perfect. A note on the red chile: I didn’t have time to search for one and just used chile flakes instead. Next time I’ll probably just add a little more of the bell pepper.

Creamy One Pot Chicken Marsala Pasta
Here is one of the few meals that didn’t come from Smitten Kitchen, and I will definitely make it again. This pasta is delicious and full of wonderful flavor. I bought some especially nice shiitake mushrooms from the farmers’ market and it was worth it.

Warm Lentil and Potato Salad
I am always looking for good, nutritious lunches that I actually want to eat, and this salad is just my sort of lunch. The cornichons and capers add a great kick to the dressing. I prepared all of the elements ahead of time and can eat this for at least a few days after.

Classic French Toast
And to finish with our favorite breakfast: French toast. This is a pretty simple, classic recipe but I think the key is the bread. Challah. It makes the best French toast.

What We Ate January, II

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset
Saturday pizza.

Between the meals of Prego sauce and spaghetti or pancakes and eggs, I managed to make a few more favorites this month.

Chicken tikka
First was this amazing sheet pan chicken tikka that we all loved. Anything that is one pan full of goodness, popped in the oven is a win these days and this will definitely be a staple for the Lacy family. I marinated the chicken overnight and it is worth buying all of the spices to get the fullest flavor. Edith and I both looooved the pickled red onions on top, so much so that I’m now obsessed with them and always looking for new ways to use them. Avocado toast with pickled red onions? Yes please.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken
I was so happy about this one-pan thing that I made her buttermilk roast chicken the next week. Anything with buttermilk is my kind of food.

Chocolate Cake
Speaking of buttermilk (and Smitten Kitchen…), I recently made her everyday chocolate cake, which is kind of  like a cake in the form of a quick bread. My chocolate and cake-loving husband was a bit skeptical about its lack of icing, but pronounced it excellent, as I was pretty certain he would. Because buttermilk. And Smitten Kitchen.

Black Bean Soup
And finally, lunch is the constantly-dreaded meal in this house. Edith has made it a bit more bearable by finally deciding that peanut butter and jelly is worth her time (thanks in large part to homemade jelly from Grandma, I am sure!) so now it’s just me that has to work to find something worth the effort for lunch. Enter black bean soup. My mother would whip this up regularly for lunch on many a school day, so inspired by her, I made it last week while Edith ate breakfast and enjoyed it for a few days. I also had leftover homemade chicken broth in the refrigerator, and I am certain that adds an excellent flavor. When there isn’t sherry around, a splash of red wine vinegar is a decent substitution plus all the lime juice. This soup makes lunch easy, and makes me not resent lunch for its necessity, so I will definitely be making it again.

What we ate January, I

Processed with VSCO with a9 presetMeals hold memories, and I want to remember these especially.

Pork loin + orzo
This brown sugar-rubbed pork loin was a huge hit, and the sauce was amazing. Instead of the orzo with the recipe, I made brown butter parmesan orzo and then served it with green beans in brown butter, as well. (We love butter in this house!) The entire meal was a hit with every single person in this house, and I will definitely be making it again.

Fried rice
With the leftover pork loin, we had this delicious pork fried rice. I discovered at the end that I didn’t actually have soy sauce, so I used Worcestershire sauce so I can’t wait to make it again with soy sauce. Soy sauce or no, the rice was also a favorite of all my buddies and I am inspired to try many different takes on fried rice—it is so quick and easy and a great way to use leftovers!

Chicken “pot pie”
David Lebovitz’s chicken pot parmentier, a French sort of chicken pot pie, is probably my favorite thing I have eaten in a long time. I think homemade stock makes a huge difference, as well as a good chicken. I poached a chicken from our local farmer’s market to cook it and then have stock and used my favorite biscuit recipe on top. This dish has so many layers of flavor from the vegetables to the wine to the fresh herbs.

Baked French Toast
The oat crumble topping on this baked French toast grabbed my attention so I made it when our best friends came to town for a few days. And it was yum. I had to add more liquid, as it seemed like it might be a bit dry as I was putting it in the dish, but I wasn’t too careful when it came to measuring the bread.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
And, of course, the always-popular best chocolate chip cookie I have ever tasted. Make them big, put lots of salt on top, and refrigerate the dough. Then, only make as many as you need for each time you want to eat them so that every night when—in our case—you sit down to watch Duke basketball or The Office, they are warm and fresh and perfect.