Granola

GranolaYell O!
My nephew is moving into his college dorm today…and the fact that I just typed those words is blowing my mind. It seems like yesterday that he was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. Now he is staring Psyche 101 in the face.

For all of my disbelief and other emotions, what I am most surprised about feeling is jealousy. Or maybe that’s too strong of a word.

See, my nephew is starting the same college that my sister and attended (he has good taste). And, the college years were some of the best years of my life. I would love to go back to those carefree days. I learned so much during those four years—mostly about life in general instead of academics. My parent’s advice to both my sister and I before we started college was “Don’t let your education interfere with your education” and I took that to heart. Sometimes to the extreme! I mean I did actually graduate, just not with a 4.0.

Of course the old adage You can’t go home again rings true especially in this instance. If I went back knowing what I know now, my experience would be totally different. However, that doesn’t stop me from reliving those good times (and the bad) and wanting just a little taste of that life again. So, I’m heading back for Homecoming in November. Save me a spot at Rennie’s!

In the meantime, I am looking forward to experiencing college life through my nephew’s eyes. I also plan to make sure he remembers us back here at home (I always had a problem remembering to call…) You should know that there will be regular care packages which will always include his favorite granola. I have posted it before because I make him a huge batch every Christmas. But, now it will serve as a reminder of home and of how proud we are of the man he has become. Good luck Noodle! And Go Ducks!

Granola
Adapted from Alton Brown and The Food Network
Yields 6 servings

I have found the best way to get nice, big chunks in my granola is to use 1/2 natural maple syrup, and 1/2 commercial syrup (such as Log Cabin). But, if you are a purist, go ahead and use only the pure maple syrup. You just won’t get the nice, big chunks in your granola.  Read more…

Gam’s Egg Salad Sandwiches

Gam’s Egg Salad Sandwiches‘Wichcraft
Where would we be without the sandwich? There is nothing more simple to pull together for a meal than the sandwich. Sandwiches in some way shape or form are the most consumed lunch dish around the world. I know in my house, life as we know it would come to a screeching halt if there were no way to make a sandwich for lunch.

Now, some people have different ideas about what constitutes a sandwich. The most basic definition is meat between two slices of bread. By that standard, a cheeseburger is a sandwich. Umm..no. A burger is a burger and in a class unto itself. Same with a hot dog.  A legitimate sandwich, in my world, does, in fact, start with two slices of bread but what goes in between those two slices can be a varied wonderland of possibilities.

I have made it my goal as a parent to make sure that my kids know how to make a serious sandwich. Turkey on white bread with a little mayo, while tasty, is woefully lacking in creativity and style. Take that same turkey, add a little cranberry sauce or even a lovely chutney with crispy lettuce and a slice of Havarti on crusty sourdough and now we’re talking… bonus points for using the dill Havarti.

One of my sons has become a master of the monster sandwich. This work of art consists of multiple slices of every possible deli meat I have in the fridge, mayo, cheese, tomato, avocado, and lettuce on a fresh roll the size of a Volkswagen. (He’s 14. He’ll burn it off in an hour…) His creativity more than makes up for his lack of restraint. If the meat choices lend themselves to an Italian feel, he will go with a little oil & vinegar just to spice things up. This feast is then washed down with an entire gallon of milk! But, that’s a discussion for another time…

Then there is my other son. Sigh. He’s my bologna, bread and mustard kid. He could eat the same thing day after day and not get tired of it. Zzzzzzzz…On the positive side, I have managed to get him to prefer eating the good wheat bread and the really good German bologna instead of the other scary stuff. So, at least he is eating actual food while sits there set in his ways. The struggle is real my friends…

There is one simple sandwich that we all love. And, if you mess with the recipe in any way there will be riots in the street…or perhaps just in our house. I have been making egg salad ever since my grandmother showed me how she made it when I was eight years old. It’s a classic. Though, there aren’t too many people packing in it their lunchboxes.

The simple recipe consists of hard boiled eggs, mayo, dry mustard, and a little salt. That’s it. The egg salad is then spread on wheat bread and only wheat bread with absolutely nothing else. Lettuce need not apply. This is the sandwich that the kids usually take to school on the first day much to the befuddlement of their friends. If I happen to have hard boiled eggs in the fridge, this is always how they will end up.

If you are a fellow sandwich worshiper, I recommend giving this classic a try just as a nice change of pace. Feel free to adjust as you see fit…

Gam’s Egg Salad
Yields enough egg salad to make 3 or 4 sandwiches depending upon the size of the bread. Read more…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup

Mexican Matzo Ball SoupHigh Holiday Spice
When I think about Rosh Hashanah, I immediately think honey cake and brisket—this makes sense being traditional foods to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Those are quickly followed by chicken with pomegranate sauce and of course, fresh warm round challah. (I’ll pass on the Gefilte fish.) These are all foods I love (minus the fish) and one can find a lot of comfort in tradition. But, sometimes it becomes necessary to spice things up.

I ran across an article in the NY Times food section yesterday about a chef, Fany Gerson, who is of Jewish heritage but was raised in Mexico City. This fascinated me because while there are people of Jewish faith in any number of places, I just never put those two things together in my own mind. And, by doing so, my mind is blown. (Apparently, Mexico has one of the largest Jewish populations in Latin America…who knew?)

She grew up eating the same traditional foods for the holidays but over the years, the recipes were personalized using the flavors of their surroundings. As I read the article my mouth started watering at the description of the foods they would eat. Freshly baked challah with cinnamon and apples? Yes, please. Rugelach with chipotle-laced cherry filling? OMG! I did not see a mention of a cookbook in the article but I hope to God it’s coming soon.

One of my most favorite things, holiday or not, is Matzo Ball soup. I will choose matzo ball soup over chicken noodle any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is why when I saw this recipe, I flipped out. It combines two of my favorites…Matzo and Mexican. How can you go wrong with that? This one is definitely on the menu this weekend. I don’t care if it’s 90 degrees outside…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup
Read more…

Mac & Cheese Two Ways

Mac & Cheese Two WaysDinner Dilemma
When I am stressed, I look towards comfort and comfort foods—carbs mainly. That could be potatoes, bread, or even pasta with cheese, But, carb-filled comfort food is what I crave. The problem is that it isn’t really good for you. Most of the really good stuff is fairly non-healthy so it makes it pretty hard to be good to your body while soothing the soul.

This past week has been a series of late meetings, double bookings, surprise practices, and the always well-timed Back to School Night. Finding the time for a legit dinner has been hard. Sure, there’s always Door Dash or picking something up on the way home. But I can’t do that two nights in a row without getting cranky. I need to have a “real” meal.

My other dilemma is that the weather has been cool enough that I want the kinds of things I would normally be making in November like stews and heartier fare. How to create the comfort of slow-cooked food and be able to make it in the spare minutes between meetings, practice, and Algebra I? Most of my favorites like this Shepherd’s Pie will take an hour or more to make. Except for pasta. Pasta is quick. But, I can’t have that night after night. I’m high maintenance that way.

Yes, I could always throw some steaks on the grill. But to be honest, with summer ending I’m getting kind of tired of the grilled stuff. I’m ready to roast.

I don’t think anything is really going to make me happy…except for the whining. Sometimes letting your inner 3-year-old out to play can be cathartic (if not annoying to those around you). It can also be exhausting which is why tonight, we’re going with mac and cheese and a salad because I just can’t adult anymore today…

If I am really lucky, I will convince my daughter to make it after soccer.

Mac & Cheese Two Ways
Adapted from Ree Drummond and the Food Network
Yields 6 servings

This recipe is delicious two ways, either as baked macaroni, or a creamy, stovetop macaroni. Your choice, depending upon how your day is going. (It takes an extra 20 to 25 minutes to bake, and it is definitely worth it on a good day!)

And, to make basic Mac & Cheese a bit more fun, you can consider frying up some bacon and caramelizing a white onion for toppers. Just get them started before you put the water on to boil, and things should all come together at the right time. You can place them in separate bowls on the table along with some chopped chives or other herbs, and people can top their Mac & Cheese as they wish.  Read more…

Lamb Curry

Lamb CurryCurry Curriculum
No matter what the calendar says, when the kids head back to school my mind flips a switch and I am convinced that it is fall—even when it is 95 degrees outside. My delusion means that I start to look at more fall-like foods for dinner. But, who really wants to turn the oven on when it’s still hot out? To soothe my fall food craving, I have been giving my Instant Pot a workout.

Since everything is done in the Instant Pot, we end up with fewer dishes. And, it doesn’t heat up the whole kitchen like turning on the oven does. Plus, it makes meat amazingly tender in half the time it would normally take. This means you can pretty much make whatever you want mid-week.

I am one of those people who likes to eat spicy food when it’s hot out. I mean, I will eat spicy food anytime, really. But, something about a warm night and some spicy curry seems right. (Of course, it could also be the cold beer to go with it.) And, if I am making curry, chances are I am making it with lamb.

Chicken curry is fine but when I really want a rich, aromatic curry, lamb always seems to fit the bill. There are a lot of different recipes for Lamb curry and all its different iterations. (I once almost killed my husband with an uber hot lamb Vindaloo.) If I am making it mid-week though, I like to go for a more basic version.

The Lamb Curry is my go-to recipe—though I do change it up from time to time. It can be made both in the Instant Pot or on the stove on a low simmer where it will just take longer.

Lamb Curry
Adapted from Piping Pot Curry
Yields 4 Servings Read more…