A new kind of foodie.

Dear friends,

I’ve been happily tucked away, these days of late, cooking and empty-nesting and enjoying the transition to cool weather and shorter days. My acid-reflux is almost entirely under control, without medication, which in the (modified) words of our Vice President, is a big freaking deal!

I’ve been meatless since Sept. 8 and I haven’t missed it once. I bought two new cookbooks and it’s been a culinary wonderland in my kitchen. If you follow me on social media, you know I’ve posted endless photos of my new, healthier approach to eating.

Despite having dabbled in vegetarianism for years (actually, I’ve called myself a flexitarian many times), I’m still a little surprised how good food can be without meat when you put your mind to it. Let me be clear, though: I haven’t given up all animal products. I still eat yogurt and cheese daily, and I eat eggs a few times a week.

I’m pretty sure it’s not just the meatless approach that has improved my reflux. I’ve also cut out most processed foods (except for the occasional saltine). Once again — this is a big freaking deal, giving up packaged snacks. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Mom and I were watching television and he mentioned how much he wanted a snack. “Just think,” he remarked, “a month ago I would have said that and we would have finished off an entire bag of chips while watching the Daily Show.”

You won’t be surprised to hear that my partner in crime, who’s always been more than happy to follow my lead in the kitchen, has lost 20+ pounds. Don’tcha just hate men and their metabolism? Still, I’ve lost half that amount, without trying. I didn’t set out to lose weight, though I certainly needed to. I set out to cure myself, and I seem to have hit upon the recipe: meatless meals + much smaller portions + no eating at least three hours before bedtime, which for me means no food past 6:00 pm. I’m also taking a probiotic supplement and digestive enzymes with each meal.

Take a look at just a few of the beautiful dishes I’ve made in the last few weeks:

blackpeppertofu

This black pepper tofu was Asian-restaurant quality.

leek

These leek fritters were filling and comforting.

parsnips

These roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette were a platter of health and beauty.

onions

These stuffed onions were mild and sweet and reminiscent of stuffed shells — a perfect alternative to a heavy, baked pasta dish.

pita

This pita sandwich with black bean hummus and veggies was a perfect lunch on the go.

polenta

This creamy polenta with slow-baked Roma tomatoes and a poached egg is a perfect weekend breakfast.

I’ve also made black-bean burgers, Indian hash, tofu enchiladas with green sauce, lentil/quinoa pilaf and salads galore — all of which delighted my culinary sensibilities while protecting my GI tract.

But — by far — the best vegetarian recipe I’ve made to date is this spectacular rice dish:

ricechickpea

It’s called basmati & wild rice with chickpeas, currants and herbs. Even Mr. Mom, who’s been a big fan of my new concoctions, took one bite of this dish and said unequivocably “This is the best vegetarian recipe you’ve made!”

The combination of two kinds of rice with chickpeas (spiced with curry powder), sweet currants and fried onions is unbeatable! If you’d like the recipe, click here. I’d recommend you triple the amount of curry powder in the recipe as I did. You won’t be sorry. By the way, if you have a well-stocked spice pantry, I also recommend you make your own curry powder. I used this recipe, with the only modification being I doubled the amount of ground chili pepper. I guess you can tell by now I’m not afraid of a little heat in my food. I have two dear Indian friends and their culinary influences and tutoring have definitely rubbed off on me.

In eight days, Mr. Mom and I are heading to one of America’s culinary meccas to celebrate our 23rd anniversary. I planned our vacation to New Orleans before I turned over a new leaf, but I’m confident I can eat well there while staving off reflux. I plan to indulge in my favorite treat — oysters on the half shell — hopefully without incident. Whether I can spend an entire week in the French Quarter without succumbing to the allure of beignets remains to be seen. I’ll no doubt take a ton of photos and let you know.

In the mean time, Kate’s coming home for Fall Break, I’m working a 60-hour week due to a flurry of special events, and we’re celebrating Parker’s 19th birthday (with Kate as Executive Chef for our family dinner Thursday night!). I’ll circle back around when the dust has settled to catch you up.

With gratitude {for the bounty of God’s green earth and great chefs, distant and near, who’ve helped me make the most of it},

Joan, who has a whoppin’ big announcement to share with you when she returns, not to be all sneaky or anything, but a little bloggy anticipation is a good thing

PS: If you’re as smitten by these dishes as I have been, I highly recommend you buy these two cookbooks by Chef Yotam Ottolenghi: Plenty and Jerusalem

Acid: 1. Joan: 0.

Dear friends,

soup

Joan’s Miso/Soba/Tofu Soup. So simple, so clean, so comforting.

A few months ago, I had a vivid dream I was having a heart attack. I woke up groggy and fairly suspicious I was having a real heart attack instead of a dream about one. I even awakened Mr. Mom, but after a few moments of assessing my symptoms, I realized I really was suffering from a wicked case of heartburn.

I had been waking up miserable for a long time — bloated, gassy, and nauseated but without the tell-tale “burn.” It wasn’t until the heart attack dream that I bothered to Google “heartburn,” after which I figured out I had all the classic symptoms of acid reflux.

My first instinct, of course, was to load up on over-the-counter medicines. Surely a cocktail of Tums, Pepto-Bismol and Zantac could quell the fire within, I reasoned. It wasn’t until Labor Day — when an excessive platter of barbeque chased by beer and pie resulted in 24 hours of misery — that I was finally prompted to consult my physician.

The prescription-strength Zantac my doc prescribed did nothing to calm my symptoms. I went back to my doctor and ended up with a prescription for a popular proton pump inhibitor, although I was more than a little unnerved by the two-page list of possible side-effects.

I had been joking with colleagues that food is my only joy in life, so I wasn’t about to declare my diet the enemy. But there was something about the warnings on my medicine bottle that persuaded me a lifestyle change might be advisable.

Thus, I’ve spent the last two weeks keeping a detailed food diary in an attempt to identify possible culinary modifications.

It may be a little too soon to go all Sherlock Holmes on my case, but it appears that cutting back on meat (where cutting back = eating vegetarian) has helped quite a bit. It also appears that with the exception of chocolate (to which I have an immediate reaction), various foods and spices aren’t the triggers as much as timing and quantity.

For example, I ate yellow curry three times with no reaction. (The curry was plenty spicy and oily, the combo of which can be troublesome for many folks.) Then I ate spicy Mexican twice, with painful results. The difference was that I ate modest amounts of the curry at least three hours before bedtime, while I consumed far too much Mexican food not long before turning in.

Big meals or regular snacking after 7:00 pm are a recipe for middle-of-the-night disaster, it seems. So far, making a few timing adjustments and eating far smaller portions appears  more manageable than what I feared would be the wholesale elimination of all joy in my life.

I’ve always been a fan of tofu, so switching from meat to soy has been easy-peasy. And loading up on vegetables and whole grains has been similarly effortless. The biggest adjustment has been staying out of the kitchen/pantry after 6:00 pm, when every snack known to man calls my name.

Acid Reflux may have gotten the first punch, but my footwork is improving and I wouldn’t count me out yet.

With gratitude {for a new emphasis on culinary diversity and moderation},

Joan, who, after months of acid-reflux insomnia and 4:45 am wake-up calls to run, spent somewhere north of 15 hours in bed on Saturday and finally woke up heartburn free and well-rested, praise the Lord

 

Kitchen therapy.

Dear friends,

yellowcurry

Whenever life beats me up, I retreat to the kitchen. There’s nothing like a day spent puttering over the stove to help me find my center. Chopping, measuring, blending, sauteeing, frying, tasting, stirring . . . all are a form a meditation for me. Eating my creations afterwards is my Zen moment.

I spent a good portion of Sunday making a shopping list and visiting the grocery store to restock my empty pantry. I cooked chickpeas, which I later turned into hummus, and quinoa, which I turned into this yummy Asian salad I found on Pinterest. I chopped bags and bags of veggies, then I fried up some firm tofu in order to pack “Super Bowl” lunches next week. (By the way, if you like tofu as much as me and don’t have a tofu press, get one now. I love, love, love mine!)

But the highlight of my day was a yellow curry that surpassed the one Mr. Mom and I ate at a new restaurant last Thursday. We’re longtime fans of Thai food so we were thrilled when a new Thai restaurant opened up in our town. Their yellow curry was so good I was inspired to make my own.

I consulted several recipes on the internet but couldn’t find a single one that was precisely what I wanted. So what follows is Joan’s adaption, culled from a variety of sources. It’s not difficult, and it doesn’t have to cook long, but it does take time to prep. The payoff is totally worth it, though, so I hope you’ll give it a try soon and let me know what you think.

And you don’t even have to wait until a bad day.

***

Joan’s Yellow Curry

1/2 recipe yellow curry paste (see recipe below)

1 cup cooked, chopped chicken (I used leftovers from a rotisserie chicken)

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped small

1/2 medium white onion, cut into thin slices about 3″ long

2 carrots, shredded and chopped

1 7-oz jar of pickled baby corn, drained and rinsed

2 TBLS vegetable oil

1 cup chicken broth

2 13.5-oz cans of coconut milk

Chopped fresh cilantro

Hot cooked rice, I prefer Jasmine

Put vegetable oil in large saucepan and heat over medium high heat. When sizzling, add onions and carrots and saute until tender. Add coconut milk, chicken broth, and curry paste and stir well. When mixture is almost boiling, add potato and cover until mixture boils. Lower heat just a bit and cook about 15 minutes or until potatoes are nearly tender. Add chicken and corn, cover again, reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. If not salty enough, add salt or fish sauce. If too sour, add brown sugar. If not hot enough, add cayenne pepper. I made several adjustments while cooking my curry, adding salt, sugar and cayenne until it was “perfect.”

Serve a cup full of hot curry over a bowl of jasmine rice. Top with chopped cilantro.

Yellow Curry Paste

You can buy curry paste in the Asian aisle of many stores. But I always prefer to make mine fresh. It’s easy, and you can taste the difference.

1/2 stalk lemongrass (this is only occasionally available at my grocery store; they were out this week so I omitted it)

2-4 serrano peppers, chopped with seeds left in (I used 2 but recommend 4 because I had to add cayenne at the end to boost the heat)

2 shallots, sliced

4 garlic cloves

1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 TBLS cinnamon (I used 2 but Mr. Mom recommends 1)

2 TBLS fish sauce

3/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp white pepper

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 TBLS ketchup

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup coconut milk, or just enough to keep your food processer blades moving

Put all ingredients in your food processor and blend thoroughly. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

With gratitude {for a day spent in my happy place},

Joan, who has no explanation for why it’s taken her this long to cook a yellow curry since Mr. Mom orders it every time we eat at a Thai restaurant

Well that didn’t last long.

Dear friends,

lovepillow

Remember how I told you I tackled a couple of big projects to keep me busy during my first summer of empty nesting?

Well, yeah. It’s already over.

I don’t know what I was thinking because everybody knows I go crazy when I start something. (Honestly, I can start and finish a project faster than most people can think one up.)

I finished the guest room makeover earlier this week and it’s left me scratching my head. So what’s an idle girl to do but enroll in an online class on foundation paper piecing (a rather complicated quilting technique) in an effort to stay busy.

Anyway Parker’s room, er the guest room, looks so much better.

Before I show it to you, though, I want to show you my inspiration photo. I was browsing through Pinterest and admired it. About a day later my brain clicked and I decided “Hey, I think I’ll make over the spare bedroom like that photo I saw.”

inspiration

Source: Pinterest

I love the combination of spa blue walls, black drapes, natural blinds, navy and red accents and the green chevron pillow. The room I’m working with is small so I wouldn’t have nearly as much space for furniture and accessories, but I knew I could make my own version work.

Here’s my interpretation:

bedroom

For such a small room with so few accessories, there was a lot to do. I painted the golden oak bed and dresser black, and painted the antique oak mirror white. I painted the walls. I bought new bedding, added curtains, a rug, and a nightstand. Changed out the lampshade and wall art. And added dresser-top accessories.  This, after cleaning out the closet and all the dresser drawers.

Since my room is small and I don’t have a wide angle lens, I couldn’t get a good shot of the dresser, but here’s my best try:

dressertop

Parker ribbed me about the mirrored tray. But when he inhabited this room full time, he had a bad habit of leaving his contact lens solution and case on the dresser. The solution he spilled daily on the dresser ruined the finish in several spots, so I instructed him that now, as a guest in this room, he needed to use the tray. I think he rolled his eyes while I was busy making the bed.

Mr. Mom ribbed me about the “goofy-dog-in-a-sweater plate.” I reminded him that at age 7, his son practically memorized our encyclopedia of dog breeds and can still recite chapter and verse of every breed known to man. “It’s an homage to Parker,” I countered. I think he and Parker both rolled their eyes as I carefully arranged the items on the dresser top. By the way — the glass vase replaces the pickle jar Parker throws his change in. Sometimes this crew I live with just needs a little classin’ up.

Here’s a better shot of the mirror:

mirror

Mr. Mom was aghast that I painted the hand-carved oak frame. But you know what? It didn’t bother me in the least. My mother gave this treasure to me  more than 30 years ago after literally pulling it out of a trash dumpster and replacing the broken mirror. It has hung in my home all of my adult life and I like to think she’d like the new look. After all, I get my urge to redecorate often from her. Every few months she was painting something, or refurbishing something, or moving things around. She had the itch just like me and I know she’d understand.

Here’s a shot of the bedside table and lamp:

bedsidetable

Parker’s girlfriend gave the guest room two thumbs up when she visited. Parker’s dirt-bike riding buddy dropped by and said “Dude. Your room turned girly.”

All I know is I’ve got two different groups of overnight guests coming later this summer and I think they’ll appreciate my efforts.

After all — look at this before photo:

before

I know. It was fine for my teenage boy — not so much for an idle empty nester.

You won’t be surprised to learn Mr. Mom encouraged me to “learn to sit on the porch” after hearing me wonder aloud “Now what?”

I tried it. For about 5 minutes before enrolling in my quilting class.

I’ve run out of rooms to make over, but I can sure spruce up a few beds.

With gratitude {for inspiration, energy, and an indulgent partner who patiently helped with moving furniture and all chores involving power tools},

Joan, who learned long ago from her friend Carolyn you ALWAYS paint the wall with select samples and study them in changing light for a few days before making a decision because NOBODY can make a good choice based on a paint chip

PS: I didn’t plan it this way, but the guest bedroom perfectly coordinates with the guest bathroom I redecorated a couple of years ago and featured in this post. Guess I’m more drawn to the black-blue-red combo than I realized.

PSS: In case you’re curious, the wall paint is Benjamin Moore’s Aura in Harbor Fog. It is one of this month’s House Beautiful featured colors, though I didn’t know that when I chose it. I never use anything but Benjamin Moore and their Aura line is pricy but smooth as silk and durable.

The best cake you’ll never bake.

Dear friends,

iceboxcake

I made a cake on Saturday that was not only a showstopper, it was surprisingly easy to put together. Combine showy with simple — and throw in amazingly good flavor — and you’ve got yourself a winner.

My friend Gina was hosting a pool party to celebrate the birthday of a mutual friend, Mary. We’re a group of ladies who have bonded around food so Gina wisely planned a potluck to take advantage of diverse culinary talents. I was tagged for the cake because . . . well you’ve read my blog before, right? Some would say I kind of have a thing for cakes.

But on this day of this week, I just couldn’t get myself revved up. Many of my favorite cakes require specialty ingredients and six or more hours from start to finish. After a week of working double shifts on my home improvement projects, I didn’t have it in me. Honestly, my friends were lucky I showered before I showed up.

Fortunately, I tripped across this Lemon & Thyme Icebox Cake on the blog She Wears Many Hats.

I won’t repeat all the ingredients and directions here because you can and should simply click on my link to her beautiful blog. But I will say a few things about this cake that the author doesn’t.

First, if you don’t have access to fancy-pants cookies, don’t sweat it. I live in a small town and all I could get my hands on was good ol’ vanilla wafers. They worked perfectly. You’ll need two boxes, and you’ll use about 20 cookies per layer.

Second, don’t be tempted (like I was) to use something other than honey to sweeten the cream. The combination of thyme, lemon and honey is both brilliant and sublimely simple. It’s why this recipe works, so don’t mess with it.

Third, make your candied lemons a day in advance. You don’t have to of course, but it’s a time saver you’ll appreciate. By the way, if you’ve never had candied lemons, don’t be tempted to skip this step. They are not only beautiful, they are addictive. Between Mr. Mom, Parker, and me, it’s a wonder we had any left to top the cake.

Fourth, when I first started whipping together the cream cheese, honey and lemon juice, it looked like a watery, curdled mess and I panicked. Don’t. Just keep whipping it with the electric beater and it will eventually come together. More whipping is good in this instance. Fear not!

Fifth, the first layer of this cake is a real challenge. Basically, you’re being asked to put a ring of cookies on a plate and smear them with a sticky mixture of honey and cream. The cookies simply won’t stay put and “spreading” the mixture on top of them is laughable. I ended up dropping mounds of the cream mixture on top and doing my best to smash it around in anything resembling a layer. But from then on, you’re home free because the cookies stick to the cream beneath them (kind of like tiles on grout) and it all works. Next time I make this, I might try putting a little cream mixture on the bottom of each cookie to see if I can get the first layer of cookies to stick to the plate.

Don’t worry about slicing the cake when you’re ready to serve it. (But do refrigerate it first for 2-3 hours. Despite the fact that the entire time I was assembling this cake, Mr. Mom and I were dunking Vanilla Wafers in the cream mixture and eating them, I think it tastes better chilled and you need time for the cookies to absorb the moisture of the cream.) Slice it like you would any cake and transport the slices from the cake stand to a plate with a cake server. You won’t have any trouble.

In case you’re curious, the cookies and the cream melt into a lovely texture that is — to me — reminiscent of Tiramisu. The combination of a light, lemony flavor with a light texture is perfect.

The next time you need an easy but elegant dessert, I hope you’ll give this one a try. After all, it’s Magpie tested and approved!

With gratitude {for other, more qualified bloggers with fantastic ideas just when I need them},

Joan, who came home from the party and took a two-hour nap, which alcohol aside, is in her book the sign of a really fabulous shin-dig

Home remedy.

Dear friends,

I took a few days off over Spring Break with ambitious plans, most of which didn’t come to fruition.

I spent my first day cleaning house and my second day re-organizing my dish pantry. Over the course of several months, the pantry had become a junk closet — one you  could no longer walk into because the floor was covered with piles of objects I was too lazy to put away. But by day’s end, it was clean, tidy and organized.

pantry

Despite my early productivity, additional plans to clean out my quilting cabinet, wash windows, take care of some nagging paperwork, and finish a quilt-in-progress never materialized.

Instead I watched television, took more naps than I can count, and abandoned my dreams of vacation productivity in favor of a very slow pace — so much so that by Friday evening, I was feeling pretty let down.

Whenever I’m feeling lethargic, there’s nothing like a day in the kitchen to re-charge my batteries. Cooking has long been my fail-safe home remedy to cure what ails me. Cooking and baking are both my motivation and my therapy.

I started early with a tried-and-true cake recipe. By the time Mr. Mom woke up and joined me for coffee, he wondered if someone had lent me a hand in the kitchen.

rear

Note to self: Black yoga pants aren’t the best baking attire. No wonder pastry chefs wear white.

After the cake, I set my mind to three new recipes culled from a cookbook by Food and Wine and one from a food blog. By 5:00 pm dinner was on the table, and oh what a table it was!

tabletop2

There was Maple Glazed Chicken with Mustard Jus; Brown Rice and Barley Tabbouleh with Apricot and Mint; Roast Zucchini with Ricotta; Romaine and Avocado Salad with Garlic-Anchovy Dressing; and Vanilla Layer Cake with Raspberry-Cointreau Filling and Chocolate Buttercream Icing.

When food is this good, it’s a treat.

When it’s beautiful too . . .

cake

It’s almost too good to be true.

And it totally makes up for a few undone projects.

With gratitude {for a happy Saturday to end my vacation and the best Spring Break meal in a million years},

Joan, who urges you to try every single one of these recipes because aren’t you hungry now? And PS: Is there anything that perks up a table more than a cheery vintage tablecloth?

Day 23: Gone to bed.

Dear friends,

cozy

On the 23rd day of this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the coziest place in my home, my bed.

It says a lot about me that the place I most enjoy being is in bed. In our household, the most common answer to “Where’s Mom?” is “She’s in bed.”

If I had my druthers, I’d put a bed in the living room. I have a daydream about living in a Manhatten studio where the bed and sofa compete for precious space and the bed wins out. After all, there’s nothing you can do on a sofa that you can’t do better and more comfortably in a great bed. Read, watch television, work, snack, nap, sleep — I do it all in our king-sized bed.

There’s nothing particularly luxe about my bed. My linens are standard fare from Macy’s and my pillows and comforter are from Ikea, But like the princess who hated the pea, I’ve stacked three foam pads on my department store mattress to create an improvised pillow-top surface worthy of the most delicate royalty.

That’s why our bed appears lopsided. Mr. Mom prefers firm mattresses, where firm equals a slab of stone. He chose an extra-firm Sealy while I chose an extra soft Sealy — and our marriage has been all the happier since we put two twin size mattresses together on our king sized bed frame some five years ago.

We also differ on blanket preferences, so this time of year his side of the bed is covered with a Pendleton wool blanket featuring a Native American motif I gave him as a birthday gift many years ago. My side of the bed is covered with a Vera Bradley floral fleece blanket that satisfies my feminine aesthetic and tactile sensibilities.  As a woman who’s known to have a very discerning sense of decor, I find it strange that the clash of the two very different blankets vying for space on top of our comforter doesn’t unnerve me.  But when I look at our bed, all I see is an idyllic Island of Comfort piled high with linens and pillows and blankets just waiting to envelop me.

Friday morning, it was 33 degrees with a stiff wind and  a light rain. To say I got a little chilled during my pre-dawn run is a bit of an understatement. I was so cold I came home and — instead of answering email and getting a head-start on the day’s work as I usually do — I crawled back under the covers and invited Mr. Mom to share some warmth with his frozen wife. The view outside our bedroom window was like a pen and ink drawing of a winter day, gray sky framing a stand of black, sculptural trees. As I savored the coziness and stillness and beauty of the moment, I thanked my lucky stars for the comfort of a good bed and a generous man.

With gratitude {for every moment spent in my favorite place},

Joan, who takes after her father who often said “There’s few pleasures in life more enjoyable than sleeping”

Day 7: Friends and beans.

Dear friends,

beans

I’ve long been a fan of Martha Stewart, even after she went to jail for insider trading. I’ve watched her show, purchased many of her books, and plopped down more than a few bills at Macy’s for her signature home goods. But when she recently criticized food bloggers — well, that’s more than I can stomach.

Practically all the new recipes I cook come from food bloggers. Some of my favorites are Rebecca at Foodie with Family, Lisa at the Cutting Edge of Ordinary, Ree at Pioneer Woman, Krysta at Evil Chef Mom and Annie at Phoo-D.

Krysta and Annie fall squarely into the “not professional” category that Martha dared to snark about — meaning they do it for the love of food and aren’t professional chefs, stylists or writers. Both have been on long hiatuses (they have real life to attend to), but I continue to go back to their archives regularly for favorite recipes. And I can only imagine how much Martha must look down her nose at Pioneer Woman. A home cook who landed on the NY Times Bestseller List and scored her own cooking show? Sacre bleu!

Every single one of women I’ve mentioned on my short list are individuals I’ve gotten to know outside their blogdom and whom I consider friends, even if our relationships are purely virtual. And who wouldn’t rather turn to a friend first for a great recipe?

So suck it, Martha. You’re talking out of your you-know-what on this one.

Case in point: Krysta reappeared on her blog this week with a new recipe that Mr. Mom made for me last night. It’s pure heaven and I want you — no I IMPLORE you — to try it.

Frijoles con todo, otherwise known as bean magic.

Click here for Krysta’s recipe. I won’t bother to say anything more than you deserve to cry in your beans in you never try these beans.

Mr. Mom wants you to know he doubled the recipe and thought it was just right for our family of three. That probably says more about our lumberjack appetites than Krysta’s recipe. I will simply say we ate 2-3 bowls each, because they’re that good, so you really might want to cook more.

With gratitude {for friends with great recipes and frijoles con todo, the perfect comfort food for a chilly fall night},

Joan, who’s also offering a shout-out for her home cook who takes requests, aka Mr. Mom

Space Jam.

Dear friends,

I’m seriously in need of help.

Organizational . . . financial . . . spatial/dimensional . . . psychological. Yep, maybe all four.

fabric

This is my dining room table. My dining room table is not supposed to look this way.

It’s supposed to look this way:

prettytable

We haven’t eaten a meal at the dining room table in more than a month — ever since I permanently camped out with my sewing machine and fabric. Right now I’ve got several projects going. A gift quilt for a friend. A mini-quilt for an online swap meet. Four new quilts for Magpie Quilts.

I desperately need a studio. A light and bright studio. One with a cutting station, a sewing station, a comfortable spot to bind, a design wall, fabric storage. I swear if Kate were one year farther along in college, I would evict her things from her bedroom and set up shop. Or if I could just sell that ratcha-fratching Oklahoma house, I’d demand to build a studio out back, college funds be damned.

I’m one of those women whose tidiness is well-documented. I can walk into a room and tell instantly if a book or a vase or a candle has been moved. We make our beds every day. Our car keys are hung on a hook by the back door. My throw pillows are plumped and positioned just so. My bathroom counters are pleasingly clear and my kitchen island causes me frustration if so much as the day’s mail clutters it. Heck, even our laundry is put away on a regular basis.

I do not leave piles on the dining room table.

Until now.

All I can say is I must really love quilting to tolerate this mess.

Quilting has even usurped Gunsmoke. I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to concentrate on my nightly television/cocktail ritual with Mr. Mom. Fortunately, he’s tolerant of both the disruption and the mess. (I know because I apologized to him. Yes, I’m the kind of nut who apologizes for leaving a mess on the dining room table because if the tables were turned — no pun intended, I promise — it would really annoy me. Just ask him about his laundry room desk.)

I don’t have a solution to my problem. I guess I’m just venting, which goes against my gratitude grain AND my problem-solver grain. I suppose I’m going to have to embrace the situation or risk rubbing my Buddhist-acceptance grain the wrong way, too.

With gratitude {for grains that mostly keep me in line},

Joan, who won’t be quilting OR watching Gunsmoke this weekend because she’s meeting some Okie friends for an overnight excursion to see the Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, AR, and — for once — might have something nice to say about the Walton family fortune

My new favorite salad. Plus a perfect summer supper.

Dear friends,

This is one post where the food takes center stage.

Or in which I was more interested in eating my supper than taking photographs for my blog.

You decide, but either way you’ll have to trust me when I say this is a supper you’ll want to make . . . even without the obligatory photographs of mouth-watering food on a beautiful table to tempt you.

Here’s my token shot of beautiful food — then we’ll move on to the recipes:

salad

Interested now?

I thought so.

Here’s the line up:

  • Grilled flank steak
  • Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing
  • Turkish Potatoes

First — the steak. It couldn’t be simpler and here’s the recipe. I’ve made it several times with a tri-tip, but I tried it last night with a flank steak and achieved similarly spectacular results.  Give it a try and let me know what you think. I predict you’ll think it’s a go-to recipe that will significantly improve your life at the grill, but I’d like to hear it from you.

Second — the salad. Mr. Mom and I had dinner at a friend’s house Saturday night and she served this salad. It’s one of those dishes that the first time you eat it, you immediately begin planning the next time you’ll eat it. In our case, that meant the very next evening. I might have it two or three more times this week because it’s that good.

The salad is my friend’s concoction. The dressing is a recipe she modified from one in Southern Living. In total, it’s simply a plate layered with slices of yellow and red tomato, cucumber, shelled edamame, and white onion rings, then drizzled with fresh yogurt dressing. You can easily use less or more of each salad ingredient depending on your own taste and the number of people to be served.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

  • 1 large yellow tomato, sliced thinly
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, split in half lengthwise, then sliced
  • 1 small white onion, sliced into rings
  • Half of a 1-lb bag of shelled edamame, thawed

Arrange all ingredients on a platter in a layered fashion. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for two hours. Serves 4.

Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 4-oz container of plain nonfat Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Optional: 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours so flavors can meld. Optional: Serve the dressing with blue cheese crumbles on the side. Makes about 1.5 cups of dressing.

Now for the potatoes. They are also a gift from a friend. Because Dilek and her family are from Turkey, I call them simply “Dilek’s Turkish Potatoes.” When I make them, they taste fabulous but never look as good as hers. I can’t figure out why, but since taste rules, I’m okay with it.

Turkish Potatoes

  • 5-6 medium potatoes (I used Idaho)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or a little less, depending on your taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: lemon juice

Scrub and boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and let cool to the touch. When cool, the peelings should easily come off the cooked potatoes with your fingers. After peeling the potatoes, shred them with a box grater. Add the chopped herbs to the potatoes, along with salt and pepper to taste, then toss. Drizzle the potatoes with the olive oil — and, if desired, the juice of half a lemon — then gently stir to combine. Serves 6.

I love these potatoes because of their simple, fresh flavor. I also love these potatoes because they taste just as good warm, room temperature, or chilled. I often make them early in the day and let them sit on the kitchen counter until dinner. (They’re great for getting a jump-start on meal time.) Sometimes I re-heat them in the microwave, but trust me when I tell you they are just as good served at room temperature. For some reason, my potatoes never hold their shredded shape and look a bit crumbled. My friend’s potatoes were perfect and I can’t help but wonder if I have managed to overcook them every time. I’ve also wondered if it would improve the texture if I cooked them several hours in advance and chilled them before shredding. I have no idea, but I do know that even if you overcook your potatoes and they crumble instead of shred, they’ll still taste fabulous.

Here’s one final shot that I managed to snap with my iPhone before our family devoured the entire meal.

plate

With gratitude {for a perfect summer supper thanks to friends},

Joan, who wishes she could claim she eats this fresh and healthy every day, but has a pantry full of snacks that tell the real truth

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 777 other followers

%d bloggers like this: