Monday, November 28, 2011


I had fully intended to participate in (and win) NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row. But I didn't. Or won't.

Instead, I cooked:

I baked bread
Soup and corn bread. Curry. More soup. Snobby Joes on Honey Wheat breadSpiced Sweet Potato and Rutabaga Gratin with Chile Cornmeal Crusted Tofu and Green Pumpkin Seed Mole... 

But since I have such a sweet tooth I had to make Hot buns hot buns. Peanut Butter Cookies. Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. And Apple Galette with Fresh Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

Tomorrow I tussle with yogurt.

It is November, after all. The comforts of home and the warmth of the oven are infectious. And as much of a thrill as I get out of spattering empty white space with the frantic black stain of words, there is just something wonderful about feeding my family a plate full of healthy, good tasting food.

What have you been cooking up this month?


As a special (nondeadly) treat this Saturday evening, some or all of us here at Writing Up an Appetite will be in attendance at Mother Fool's Coffeehouse where Author Sandra Beasley will be reading from her book Don't Kill the Birthday Girl

The following is taken from the book's website:

When butter is deadly and eggs can make your throat swell shut, cupcakes and other joys of childhood are out of the question–and so Sandra’s mother used to warn guests against a toxic, frosting-tinged kiss with “Don’t kill the birthday girl!” Tackling a long-marginalized subject, this book intertwines a cultural history and sociological study of food allergies with humorous and sometimes heartbreaking real-life experience. From a short-lived gig as a restaurant reviewer to the dates that ended with trips to the emergency room, step inside the story of a modern young woman coming to terms with a potentially deadly disorder.
We hope some of you will be able to join us for this Free event. 

Ms. Beasley has an upcoming guest post featured on our blog in December.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time for a Little Something

by Lisa
Christopher Robin said:
"What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?"
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best?" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have: and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, "What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying 'What about a little something?' and Me saying,' Well, I shouldn't mind a little something, should you, Piglet,' and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing." ~ A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Our fondest memories of food are often inextricably bound with our memories of people, of having “a little something” in the company of friends and family. On of my fondest food memories is of my mother’s breakfasts, made at a time before microwave ovens and drive-through restaurants. Those bygone mornings somehow never felt rushed, although we had school and work and a full slate of tasks ahead of us. The farm was very quiet early in the morning, and in our small house I easily heard my mother opening the refrigerator, turning on the stove, cracking eggs, whisking batter. Before I opened my eyes, my nose was tickled with scents of pancakes and eggs, or waffles and bacon, or French toast and sausage. We always ate breakfast together, at least before my brothers and I started high school. Breakfast and supper were the bookends to our days, gathering us in together between times of being apart.

When I was very young, on Sundays I walked to my grandfather’s house for a late breakfast of cold, lumpy oatmeal sprinkled with sugar and laced with fresh-from-the-cow milk, a delicacy only the two of us appreciated and no one else in my family seems to remember. Afterward we played canasta or took a drive to the east pastures or we sat together and sang songs.

Almost none of my memories have to do with eating alone or of particular food apart from the person who made it. My grandmother’s “leftovers with the gravy on top,” as a cousin called it, would win no culinary awards, but the fact that she made it and served it in her tiny kitchen with her loving hands gave it four stars in our reviews.

Like the philosopher Pooh, we are wise to realize that our anticipation of food—and all good things—as well as our memories of it, are often even better than the thing itself. Just for a moment, imagine preparing a special dish for someone very special in your life. Think about choosing the recipe, buying the ingredients, making preparations, setting the table, sitting down together, sharing the food. The joy has already begun and will last much longer than the actual meal.

Our memories work in the same way. They last as long as we choose to hold on to them, and they are as sweet now as—maybe even sweeter than—when they occurred. All of this is to say that we needn’t worry too much about preparing fancy meals to show our love. Expensive groceries and gourmet techniques do not guarantee lasting memories. The secret ingredients are time, care, and togetherness.

This month I want to share a recipe that makes it easy to share your time and care with those you love. Package this yummy granola in big glass jars and tie with a pretty ribbon, perhaps with the recipe included.

It's time for a little something, don't you think?

Holiday Granola

Dried cranberries and chocolate chips dress up otherwise ordinary granola.

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 cups rolled oats (not the quick kind)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, honey or maple syrup, and vegetable oil. [addendum 11/23: warm the mixture if necessary to soften the honey.] Stir and set aside.
3. In a large baking pan, combine oats, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Pour in liquid mixture, and stir to coat ingredients evenly.
4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so to prevent sticking. When finished, the granola is lightly browned.
5. Remove from oven. Cool completely before stirring in dried cranberries and chocolate chips.
Makes about 8 cups.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lentil Soup, Writing and Commiserating

I am very pleased to welcome Tricia and Siana of 2GirlsOnaBench to our humble kitchen this morning. Get out your Dutch oven and a well rounded bottle of wine--we're making soup!

I’m on day three of not washing my hair and it’s not looking good.

Cut these potatoes.

You can do that, you can not wash your hair for three days, but I can’t. But I don’t care I’m just hanging out with you.

Stir this wine in.  And drink some too.

We’re making lentil soup.  We haven’t seen each other in weeks because we’ve been quarantined from colds and then busy, and then family weekend events and then whatever.

We should be writing but, well, we’re making soup instead. This soup recipe has been handed down from Spain to us, which we have modified from college dorm room to apartment to house.  In that order.

Remember in our first apartment when you made this and then left the chopped bell pepper in the fridge for like three weeks. It smelled and then everything tasted like bell pepper.  Even the butter, the butter tasted like bell pepper. And it was all your fault.

Yeah, well, remember when we made it in our dorm room and you put it in the crockpot and it boiled over and was a mess on the floor because we didn’t have a kitchen. It smelled and you left it there for three weeks.

We love lentil soup, Siana got the original recipe from her host mother when she studied abroad in Spain and we’ve been modifying it for the last many years. We always make it together because our spouses don’t really like it so we just make a lot and share it.

Here’s the recipe:

1 bag of dried lentils
1 carton of chicken stock (vegetable stock works too)
2 cups of water (add more if needed)
2 potatoes diced (Yukon golds or red potatoes work best)
2 ribs of celery diced
½ onion chopped
2 carrots diced
1 green bell pepper diced
3 cloves of garlic chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ cup red wine
2 Tablespoons olive oil

 Saute onions, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil in a dutch oven or big soup pot.

  Add potatoes, bell pepper, lentils, chicken stock, water and salt and bring to a boil.

Simmer for at least 1 hour, maybe more.  You may need to add more water if it starts to look like it’s getting dry or thick.  Towards the end, add the wine and then drink the rest. It may also take more than one hour, monitor the simmering process, it seems to have taken us a long time to make this, but we’ve also been talking and drinking wine while we’re simmering.

Serve soup with crusty bread and enjoy.  You can add a drizzle of olive oil on top if you feel dangerous. Just do it, we’ve been inspired by Barefoot Contessa, she always does that with soup. Go crazy.



So we didn’t write anything except this recipe. But we decided that’s better than nothing.  We’ll tackle our script next week. Or maybe after Thanksgiving. Or after Christmas.  Oh hell, after New Years, who are we kidding? - Two women, trying to write, make films, maintain full time jobs, hilarity ensues! 
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

From Marie Callender to homemade, there was always Chicken Pot Pie.

My love for cooking waxes and wanes.

In the beginning, when I first moved to Wisconsin and shared living space with three bachelors (one of whom I had dibs on), any time spent in the kitchen was more cumbersome than fun. None of us really wanted to cook, but we all wanted to eat. So, our meals came frozen from Marie Callender or vacuum-sealed by Ramen or boxed up and tossed into a paper bag marked with the name of the restaurant on the corner. We cycled through the pizza oven, microwave, and one saucepan but rarely paid attention to the dishes in the sink, which would explain why the kitchen was low on the list of places to hang out.

Later, my husband and I married and moved into a one bedroom apartment, and I marveled at the sight and size of the oven: fit for a kid but with a real working gas range and oven space just big enough to tease you into thinking you were really cooking. I tried my hand at formal dinners, removing all but one oven rack to squeeze in a turkey for our first Thanksgiving, and later sweating over the miniature range to cook chicken and carrots. It took a long time to learn the art of getting every dish onto the table at the same time, warm and well...done.

After a few years, a bit of confidence, and a subscription to Martha Stewart Magazine and Cooking Light, I delighted in a little cooking glory. I baked brownies to die for, cooked a Mexican Casserole made with green chiles and chicken that had to be doubled when family ate over, pureed Creamy Asparagus Soup that looked just like the photo and was worthy of a repeat. I discovered an easy Chicken Potpie recipe that could be prepared the night before and thrown in the oven for dinner the next day, giving the appearance that I spent hours on the meal. My Pecan Pie didn’t rival my grandmother’s but elicited oohs and ahhs just the same.

Life in the kitchen was full.

Then, tiny hands graced our breakfast island, and finicky taste buds resulted in too many leftovers. Wanting my kids to "just eat something," I fell victim to the boxed food aisle at the grocery store again. We cycled through fish sticks and tacos and breakfast for dinner (I write that in past tense, though often our weekly menu still rotates through these dishes). We survived on quick, easy, and bland. Making dinner, and eating it, was a chore.

But as my kids grow older and become a little more willing to try new things, I feel the pull towards bigger, brighter, and more exciting menu choices. Maybe not Creamy Asparagus Soup (yet), but I might bring back some old standards like Chicken Potpie -- dishes that say "easy" and "gourmet" at the same time.

I mean, who can resist the pie?

(ripped from the pages of an old Cooking Light issue over ten years ago) 

Crust (in a pinch, which is often, I use a store-bought crust, and that works just as well).
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
3 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening

3 cups Chicken Stock, divided
2 1/3 cups cubed red potato (about 1 pound)
1 cup (1/4 inch thick) sliced carrot
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots or onions
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup frozen petite green peas
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of black pepper
Cooking spray

  1. To prepare crust, lightly spoon 1 cup flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1/4 cup flour, ice water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Combine 3/4 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add vinegar mixture; stir, just until moist. Press mixture gently into a 5-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap; cover with additional plastic wrap. Chill for 15 minutes. Roll dough, still covered, into a 13x10-inch oval. Place dough in freezer 5 minutes or until plastic wrap can be easily removed.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. To prepare filling, bring 2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add potato and carrot, cook 2 minutes. Drain mixture in a colander over a bowl, reserving cooking liquid.
  4. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; cook 3 minutes. Lightly spoon 1/2 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup Chicken Stock; stir with a whisk. Add to skillet. Stir in potato mixture, reserved cooking liquid, chicken, peas, 3/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, and pepper. Cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly. spoon chicken mixture into a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Removed 1 sheet of plastic wrap from dough. Place dough on top of chicken mixture pressing to edge of dish. Remove top of plastic wrap. Cut 5 slits in top of crust to allow steam to escape. Gently brush crust with milk. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes.
What’s your favorite throw-together, toss-in-the-oven, feel-fancy and gobble-it-up kind of dish?

(Below, the Hillbilly Gypsies perform "Crow Black Chicken")

“Easiest work that ever I done was eatin' chicken pie.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

American Stew Pot

Home is where one starts from. T.S. Eliot

Growing up there wasn't anything I wanted more than to move to New York or LA and live a ferocious life. After High School I read "On the Road", dreamed technicolor dreams of what it meant to be free and writing out the poetry of unhindered travel--a wild-eyed bard in a VW bus heading away. I went to Colorado for a time, got smacked out of my reverie, and came back to Wisconsin six months later.

There's something to be said about having a home base, a thing that gets overlooked in the wide eyes of America's road hungry dreams.  Since capsizing in Colorado I've traveled back and forth across the country's bumps and bridges--thrilled at the outset, exhausted at the end. Every time I've come back home I've felt lucky for my walls and bed, and thirsty for the familiar.

My husband and I have settled our nest in a small town south of Madison, a place from where we stretch and return with a yard and side walks and trees and snow. We revel in our Main Street holidays, and our stew pot nights. We eat soup by the ladle full paired with a very fine beer.

Winter Squash Corn Curry Soup

1 Butternut and 1 Acorn Squash (Winter squash of your choice or squash and sweet potato!)
1 Cup fresh or frozen corn kernels                                                                                                                1/2 Medium onion, finally chopped
2 Cups chicken or vegetable stock                                                                                                            
1 T Curry Powder                                                                                                                                       Garam Masala, Salt, and White Pepper to taste
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream, Evaporated Milk, Milk or Milk substitute 

Preheat oven to 400. Halve and seed squash. Lightly grease baking pans (have some kind of edge to hold juice in) and place squash cut-side down for roasting. Bake 25-35 minutes, until squash is tender to poke with fork.

Meanwhile, prepare onion and sweat on low in soup pan with butter and corn. When squash is tender, cool and scrape into onion mixture.

If you have an immersion blender, add milk and curry at this time and blend until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, add milk and squash mixture in batches to blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return to soup pot.

Add stock and warm on stove, but don't bring to a boil. Season to taste.      

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