A Recipe for Success

People who like to cook like to talk about food....without one cook giving another cook a tip or two, human life might have died out a long time ago.

- Laurie Colwin
I still haven't been doing much in the way of cooking - and by "much", I mean virtually nothing. This is not to say we haven't had great meals - or that the notions of food and cooking have disappeared from my radar. I'm still obsessed with new recipes, meal planning, and consuming delicious dishes. It's simply that my obsessions have recreated themselves in a new manner of sorts.

I recently switched magazine subscriptions, so instead of my monthly Food & Wine, I now await the arrival of Real Simple and Everyday Food (not to mention the pass-along copies of Southern Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and Ladies Home Journal that my mom gives me once she has finished them). I have a system for reading magazines. The publications that are combinations of recipes, home tips, and stories are saved in the rack for a rainy day - but the ones dedicated to food and recipes receive a special sort of attention. I won't begin reading one until I know I have the time to enjoy it cover to cover. I dog-ear pages that I want to return to, add to my list of must-cook recipes, and make mental notes about which dishes I want to try first.

In addition to reading about food, I've taken to conducting a sort of cooking school in my kitchen. My husband loves to cook, and until recently has rarely been given the reins when it comes to preparing our meals. He is now in charge of dinner most nights, and breakfast and lunch on the weekends. This means I sit nearby, tossing out directions for the recipes he isn't as familiar with, and throwing suggestions his way that he probably doesn't need or want. The results have been incredible - biscuits & gravy from scratch, beef stroganoff, pan-seared salmon, pot roast hash with crispy roasted potatoes....the list goes on and on.

My odd cravings have also led us to many different restaurants around town - a late afternoon craving for sushi led us to one of our favorite spots, where I forlornly passed over the "real" sushi and settled for a cucumber roll. The need for smoked chicken ravioli took us to Amerigo's, the desire for a BLT and a spicy, salty pickle to a nearby deli.

Obviously, Thanksgiving weekend will provide plenty of additional food fodder - I'm responsible for macaroni & cheese and rolls at lunch with one set of family members, and pies for dinner with another. I've read many recipes, and assuming I can get my husband to help, I should be set.


A Change Will Do You Good

Life is always at some turning point.
- Irwin Edman

The past few months have consisted of many changes in our life and our routines. It obviously began when I quit my job, which affected us in many more ways than we could have anticipated - both good and bad. We went from riding to work together, working together, riding home from work together, and discussing work together, to seeing each other in the mornings and evenings and being able to discuss items outside of the other's realm.

The housework and errand system we'd set up was altered as well - since I was at home, I took care of it. Gone were the Saturday mornings trying to catch up on laundry, Saturday afternoons polishing the floors and sweeping the porch, the Sunday afternoons at the grocery store and Sunday evenings bathing the dogs. We now enjoy lazy weekends doing anything and everything we want, without guilt over what responsibilites may be falling by the wayside.

Without a doubt, the largest change we are experiencing is yet to come - but we are in the midst of preparing both mentally and emotionally for the increase in the size of our family. This not only means there are no more evenings spent enjoying a glass of wine with dinner (for me, anyway), but it now encompasses so much more.

The one thing that has been affected most by each of these changes is the way we eat. First and foremost, my being at home during the day has allowed for more home cooked meals, new recipes, and increased creativity in the kitchen. Breakfasts and lunches became more than a matter of convenience. I was able to delve into the piles of recipes in my "to cook" list.

Now, the way we eat has taken yet another turn. My queasy stomach, combined with the immense fatigue I've been experiencing, has removed me from the kitchen and put my husband in charge of meals- which has more often than not been little more than a can of soup and fruit (or whatever it may be that I can stomach at the time).

But finally - finally - I felt the desire to get into the kitchen on Friday. Our Friday evenings used to be spent decompressing from the week, relaxing and basking in the glow of knowing we could sleep in the next morning. This past Friday actually felt like that again - my husband brought home new records for us to play, we chatted about our week while we snacked on cheese, crackers, and smoked trout - all while a pot of roasted red pepper soup simmered on the stove. I got back in the kitchen, and it felt great...for a change.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
1 stick butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
2-12 oz. jars roasted red peppers
2 tomatoes, diced
14 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Basil, oregano, salt & pepper (to taste)

- Melt butter in skillet; add onion and garlic and saute until onions are tender

- Combine onions, red peppers, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken stock in large pot; add seasonings to taste and simmer for about 25-30 minutes.

- Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until creamy

- Add heavy cream and let simmer another 5-10 minutes


The Newest Addition

The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.
- A. J. Liebling

I feel it coming back - the desire to get back into the kitchen. I have a grocery list written that does not contain ginger ale, crackers, or chicken broth - and this afternoon will be spent trying some new recipes that I'll be sure to share.

In the meantime, I have a new blog under my ever expanding belt - I'll be updating baby news there, while keeping Any Little Reason purely about food. The Littlest Reason is up and running, for anyone interested in hearing me ramble about something other than my culinary preferences.


To Eat, or Not To Eat

So where did these cravings come from? I concluded it's the baby ordering in. Prenatal takeout. Even without ever being in a restaurant, fetuses develop remarkably discerning palates, and they are not shy about demanding what they want. If they get a hankering, they just pick up the umbilical cord and call. 'You know what would taste good right now? A cheeseburger, large fries, and a vanilla shake. And if you could, hurry it up, because I'm supposed to grow a lung in a half hour.
- Paul Reiser, 'Babyhood'

At this point, I don't know what is stronger - the cravings or the aversions. The constant nausea (whoever coined the phrase "morning sickness" apparently never experienced midday sickness, late afternoon sickness, evening sickness, and in-the-dead-of-night sickness) is only eased by allowing food to pass my lips every two hours. It's the most bizarre sensation to use food to comfort a stomach on the verge - and yet, it's the only thing that works (resulting heartburn aside).

I'm snacking between meals on applesauce, crackers with peanut butter, fruit, cheese, and carrot sticks - the only things that sound appealing. As far as meals go, there is a short list of options - cereal, soup, waffles, grilled cheese - with the occasional wild card thrown in, such as tacos, beef stroganoff, german potato salad.

Enter the aversions - there are the foods that I've always loved, that have been my go-to meals in a pinch - that send me reeling at the mere mention or thought of them. Eggs, chicken, pizza, pasta...

The scariest and saddest thing for me at this point is my pure avoidance of the kitchen. I have no desire to cook, I extract no joy from planning meals and flipping through my favorite cookbooks, and I'm lacking both the energy and the capacity to stand in front of the stove while enduring the smells and sights before me.

Everything I've read and heard leads me to believe this will soon pass - and I'm encouraged that will be true.