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Bon Appetit’s Dream Grain Bowl: My Take

February 25, 2015

Bon Appetit's Dream Grain Bowl

Bon Appetit's Grain Bowl 1

As part of my word of the year, CREATE, I am intentionally working to create memories with my family this year. I have so many memories of wonderful food from my childhood and I want to make sure and give that same gift to Miles. This winter, I am making a concerted effort to try new recipes and to expand our table and tastes a bit.

My mom gave me a subscription to Bon Appetit Magazine and the afternoon when I check the mailbox and see the magazine peeking out of our mailbox at me is one of the most exciting of each month.

When I saw this recipe, I immediately knew I had to try it. It was the perfect combination of open-ended options (pick a grain! pick a green!) and precise directions (“do not toss”) on which I thrive. Also, it didn’t hurt that it was both incredibly delicious and satisfying and the most healthful meal we’d eaten that week. I have no idea if it’s Whole30 or pale or whatever, but it seems like quinoa + sweet potatoes + kale can’t help but be pretty good for you, right?

Here’s how I modified the recipe:

The recipe walked me through picking a base, greens, “crunch”, “upgrades”, a roast, and the dressing. I used my mixed quinoa (from Sam’s! Don’t judge!) for the base and kale for the greens. I sautéed almonds in some butter until they just barely started to turn a toasty brown – the crunch. I tossed sweet potatoes in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, pepper, and hefty sea salt and then roasted them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes (until they were well-done).

I just tossed some parmesan on the salad in place of the Halloumi cheese.

The recipe called for this dressing, but I didn’t have either turmeric or tahini on hand. (What is turmeric??) No worries. This is why Google was invented. I used peanut butter instead of tahini and just skipped the turmeric (lame, I know – patient precision is not my strongest virtue).

Folks, it took a few minutes more in terms of hands-on time than our average weeknight dinner. But it was so worth it. This grain bowl permanently changed my salad game.

Try it! And let me know what you modify (or maybe you actually follow directions?).

*This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks for supporting The Orange Slate!

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Eating In (And a Recipe for Silver Dollar-Fried Potatoes)

January 27, 2014

Dollar Fried Potatoes      

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For some, dining out is an experience, a journey of exploration, a fun way to experience the local atmosphere. Mark and I tend to eat out only when we’re desperate, when schedules are crunched and food is frozen and we are both too exhausted to think. Restaurants, by association or otherwise, have simply become an occasional necessity for us. Mark gets annoyed by the service or the wait times and I grumble over paying for a recipe that I am pretty certain I could create myself.

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When we really want to indulge, when we really want to relax and de-stress, when we need time and space, conversation and some very good food, we cook at home. There is really nothing that quite compares to savoring a meal with wine or beer (or in my present state, juice) in the warmth of our dining room after we’ve gathered, chopped, combined, and watched with bated breath. For us, cooking is the best kind of magic.

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Poor Mark has also been essentially meat- deprived for weeks in the wake of my morning sickness*. So on Friday, we held a phone conference while I rattled off options from the seafood department of Costco. We settled on lobster tails and met at home promptly at 6:00, ready to tackle our dinner of lobster.

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I’ve been dying to try to make my grandfather’s dollar-fried potatoes for ages and they seemed like the perfect side-dish to pair with lobster. So I prepped the butter sauce and lobster while Mark worked on slicing the potatoes.

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I used red wine for the steaming instead of white and skipped the green onions and the meat was none the worse for the wear. Frying the potatoes was a process a bit more involved than I had bargained for, but the result was beyond worth it.

We happily munched our moist lobster dripping with garlic butter (I had approximately 4 bites of mine before handing it off to Mark…baby nausea is a beast) and thinly shaved, fried-and-lighty-salted-to-perfection potatoes (I stole most of Mark’s), paired with ice-cold Blue Moon (at least for the one of us who is not currently pregnant).

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For that little space of time on Friday night, it might as well have been a warm night in July. Summer is coming, friends. But since it’s taking it’s sweet time, might I encourage you to usher in some of your own warmth?

Go buy something that you would never buy at the grocery store, prepare some time-consuming colorful extravagant dish, and indulge for a little while. We spend far too much time tracking and counting and weighing and assessing and criticizing our food. Let’s spend some time rejoicing over our tables.

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Dollar-Fried Potatoes

Ingredients

Vegetable Oil

5 (or 10 or 15) Russet potatoes

Salt

Preparation

Wash the potatoes and slice them as thinly as possible. Pour 1/3 a cup of vegetable oil into a frying pan and warm the pan.

Fill the bottom of the pan with sliced potatoes and lightly salt. When the potatoes are a deep golden-brown and crispy on the bottom, flip them over.

Remove the potatoes as they finish frying (potatoes may fry at different speeds) and stack on a plate.

Continue to fry until all of the potatoes are done, adding oil as necessary and lightly salting each new batch. Potatoes may be kept warm in the oven as they cook. 

*Yes, you did read that correctly. We are so absolutely ecstatic to welcome a new member to our little family next summer. I have struggled with deciding exactly how to handle this delightful news in the sphere of  social media and am still figuring that out. But I felt that it was only fair to share the good news with my dear readers. More about this in posts to come.

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Tarragon Chicken Salad (With a Cayenne Kick) – And Four Tasty Variations

January 21, 2014

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Somehow I made it to my mid-20’s without ever assembling a chicken salad. But our (now regular) Sunday lunches, an increasingly busy schedule that has forced me to think ahead about our meals, and my growing boredom with my go-to chicken recipes sent me on a quest to find a delicious and easy chicken salad recipe.

Much as I love cozy winter cooking, I’m also ready for something fresh, crunchy, and light – something to remind me that spring may actually come someday.

When I was little, Mom would make a yummy tarragon-chicken salad for luncheons and baby showers, so I knew that tarragon needed to be a key ingredient in my recipe. Last week, when I set out on my quest to find a good recipe, I quickly realized that a lot of chicken salads (Martha Stewart, Pioneer Woman, Simply Recipes) were all quite similar, with only slight variations. Apparently chicken salad is not an exact science. So enjoy this recipe, but be brave. Play around with it and make it your own!

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Tarragon Chicken Salad (with a Cayenne Kick)

2 lbs chicken breasts

2 onions

3 tbl. pepper

1 tbl. salt

1/2 cup fresh tarragon, loosely packed or 1/4 cup dried tarragon flakes

6 stalks of celery

3/4 cup of sliced or chopped almonds

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 sour cream

1 tbl. lemon juice

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the onions. then layer them on the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan. Blend the pepper and salt together into a small bowl. Butterfly and or cut the chicken pieces to ensure that the pieces are similar and bake evenly. Pat the chicken breasts dry and rub the pepper/salt mixture into each breast until the breasts are covered generously. Place the chicken breasts on top of the onion layer. Spread the tarragon evenly on top of the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is slightly over-done.

While the chicken bakes, chop the celery into fine small pieces. In a large measuring glass, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper.  In a bowl, blend the celery, almonds, and cherries into the creamy mixture until the ingredients are well-mixed. 

When the chicken is done, allow it to cool completely. Chop all of the ingredients of the pan (onions and chicken) into fine pieces (about 1/4 inch square). Blend the chopped chicken and onions into the creamy mixture in the bowl. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight before serving. 

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4 Tasty Variations to Try

#1 – Replace the cherries with tart, crisp chopped apples. I did this on the second try and can attest that the apples were equally delicious.

#2 – Replace the sour cream with Greek yogurt for a healthier option.

#3 – Instead of almonds, use chopped pecans or walnuts.

#4 – Replace the tarragon with rosemary for a deeper flavor.

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Easy Perfect French Toast

January 6, 2014

   easy french toast

Remember last week when we brought back Sunday lunch? Well, one of the great bonuses to Sunday lunch is that you can serve fancy sugary breakfast foods and no one complains. At our last Sunday Lunch gathering, we ate a lot of salad and fruit, half of a lemon meringue pie, and some scrumptious French toast.

French toast is one of those breakfasts that is a bit deceptive . . . it looks easy when you watch an expert whip it up. But when I first made it a few years ago it turned out soggy and gooey instead of cinnamon-y, crisp, and golden-brown and I began to wonder if I was missing some kind of insider information.

It turns out that I was indeed. A few years and a lot of batches have taught me the tricks of the trade. But I’ll save you the time and provide you with a quick, classic recipe that will carry you safely past any amateur mistakes.

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Fabulous French Toast

A loaf (or half a loaf) of very dense, heavy bread. None of the sandwich bread stuff.

2 tbls butter

1 1/2 cup of milk

1 egg

A sprinkle of cinnamon

A dash of vanilla (1/4 tsp)

REAL old-fashioned maple syrup, like this

Powdered sugar

Thinly sliced strawberries

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Slice the bread into thick slices, about 3/4 inch each. Select a large frying pan or panini pan. Turn the stove on to a medium-low flame and allow the butter to melt and spread over the pan while you whisk the egg, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla together in a bowl. When the pan is warm and the pan surface is thoroughly buttered, douse a piece of sliced bread into the milk-and-egg mixture and place it on the pan. Repeat until the pan surface is covered in bread slices. Turn the flame up to a strong medium.

Sear each side of each bread slice until the bread is a deep golden brown. Arrange on plates and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Top with sliced strawberries.

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For expert tips on your next Sunday Lunch of French Toast, check out the following:

7 Most Common French Toast Mistakes from Bon Appetit

4 Tips from Mountain Mama

And a multitude of varieties from Food52.

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How To Host A Simple Sunday Lunch.

January 3, 2014

   

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Remember that part on the 2014 bucket list about starting a new tradition? One of my goals this year is to start a few. Sunday Lunch is our first foray into Household-Tradition-Setting.

Sunday Lunch is a sacred tradition in the South, where I went to college. When I was in school, after church services, we would pile into cars and head to the house of some kind couple who had taken pity on the poor cafeteria-fed home-starved college students in the congregation and generously opened their doors. If pity and open doors were short that Sunday, we would head to McAlister’s Deli for soup and absurd quantities of sweet tea.

Fast-forward a few years. I moved to D.C. and starting attending a church that only met in the evenings and promptly forgot about Sunday lunches, those glamorous, relaxed affairs that were now only a vague memory. And then suddenly, things changed again. Mark and I found ourselves once again at a morning service. Home by 12:30, we would bask in the luxury of a long Sunday afternoon with no place to be. And suddenly one day it occurred to me. “Sunday Lunch! We can bring it back!”

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And so we squeezed 8 people around our dining room table one Sunday and ate eggs and sausage and mimosas and cupcakes. It’s now officially my favorite way to have people over. It is low-stress because I don’t have time to fret or plan before people show up at our house immediately after church. It is less frantic than dinner because it is the middle of the day and nobody is actually dying of hunger.

It is relaxed because it’s Sunday afternoon and nobody has anywhere else to be. It gives me lots of room to be creative since there aren’t a lot of rules about what one can and can’t eat for a weekend lunch (carrot cake cupcakes, anyone?). Our Sunday lunch have been fun and cozy and full of ridiculous stories and lots of laughter. And now it’s a thing. Sunday Lunch is back.

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Here’s some tips for hosting your own glamorous, relaxed Sunday lunch.

1.The goal of this endeavor is low stress. Relax. Nobody expects your house to be perfect on a weekend. They all know you were at church before lunch, not slaving in the kitchen. Your guests don’t expect a Baked Alaska or some complex homemade pastry. (True story: last weekend I fed my lunch guests half of a leftover lemon meringue pie. It was utterly consumed and nobody complained.)

2. Serve breakfast foods. Sausage, eggs, rolls . . these can be cooked and re-warmed quickly while you’re chatting and distracted. The cooking of eggs and sausage can also be easily delegated.

3. Share the love. Be willing to ask friends to contribute. Your guests will be happy to participate by bringing the fruit or the juice and your life will be easier.

4. Simplicity is the key to success. It’s lunch, not a 7-day feast. Don’t try to create 10 complicated courses. A simple salad, generous fruit, some yummy bread, some version of eggs, and cookies for dessert will set you up for success.

5. Make whatever you can ahead of time. I normally make the dessert on Saturday afternoon or evening. I also try to prepare the salad before we head out the door to church. If you are especially ambitious, cinnamon rolls or coffee-cake can easily be made Saturday evening and re-heated at lunch-time.

6. Delegate. As guests arrive, ask one to scramble the eggs (everyone is better at scrambling eggs than me anyway). Ask someone to set the table and someone else to toss the salad. Everyone will have fun assembling the meal together in the kitchen.

7. If you are limited on space or unless you have a lot of extra help, limit your numbers. Our table size limits us to between 2 and 6 guests in addition to Mark and me. Ask a few friends or two other couples over at a time. The small number of guests will make the atmosphere cozy. The beauty of Sunday Lunch is in the simplicity and ease. If a lot of guests stress you out, don’t feel guilty about limiting your numbers. It’s far better to host 2 people every weekend than to try to host 15 people one week while totally overwhelming yourself out of ever hosting Sunday lunch again.

8. Enjoy the process. At Sunday Lunch, half of the joy is in setting up and cooking together. Enjoy simply being together and don’t worry about rushing . . . . the afternoon is before you!

Be bold. Bring your own Sunday Lunch back. You won’t regret it.

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Here is a list of a few recipes to get you started as you plan your first Sunday lunch:

Craving some more inspiration for new family traditions? Sally Clarkson’s The Life-Giving Home and Dinner: A Love Story are both full of ideas for home traditions.

Curious about how simplicity and celebration can be part of your home? Send me an email! There are few things I love talking about more. 

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Possibly “The Best Soup I Have Ever Made” or Sweet Potato Soup with Cardamom

November 9, 2013

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When my family came to visit back in August for Kyle’s wedding, I took everyone on a field trip to Union Market. My mom – being someone who knows about fancy spices like saffron and cardamom – bought me some at one of Union Market’s cute spice stands.

I was scared to use them for months (precious spices? What is that? Can I break it? Will I wreck them?) ad kept them in my gadget drawer for 2 months, content to sniff them occasionally, or about three times a day. But let’s be real. The packages of goodness were meant to be used in a recipe.

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And finally, I found the perfect recipe for the cardamom. During my weekly trek to the grocery mecca that is Costco, I bought a huge bag of sweet potatoes. I love potato soup but I was convinced that sweet potato soup would be even better than my usual jaunts down Soup Lane. If sweet potatoes are healthier and tastier than regular potatoes, then it stands to reason that the soup will be equally better. Right?

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I was pretty ecstatic with the result. The soup has a cinnamony, spicy flavor that is so unique and perfect for cozy late fall/early winter dinners. It also only took about an hour of simmering, which makes this a perfect meal for cozy lazy weekend nights.

Mark even declared that this soup was the best I had ever made. Bonus: now you have an excuse to go and buy cardamom. I still don’t know what to do with the saffron but I’ll keep you posted! Any suggestions?

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Sweet Potato Soup with Cardamom

4 large sweet potatoes

2 cups milk

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup white wine

2 tbl. olive oil

4 stalks chopped celery

1 chopped onion

3 garlic cloves or 2 tbl. granulated garlic

1/2 tsp. cardamom

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

Saute the chopped onions, garlic cloves, and celery in the olive oil until the onions are transparent. Add  chicken broth, wine wine, and milk. bring the mixture to a low simmer. Meanwhile, chop the potatoes into 1-inch chunks (leave the skin on). Just when the mixture begins to simmer, add the potatoes, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer for an hour before serving.

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Fall Days, Colds, and Navy Beans

October 30, 2013

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Today started out as one of those scratchy-throated dark wet mornings when you just want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over your head.

It was wet and rainy and cold in the city and the only thing visible through the morning rain was the glow of the red brake-lights of all of the other grumpy drivers.

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It was one of those mornings when all of my students did well – everyone worked hard and played their sonatinas and minuets and Happy Clowns and scales beautifully and focused during their lessons. I was so proud of them all. . . but I still just wanted to curl up somewhere and go to sleep until this head cold decides to go visit another house.

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It was one of those days where I knew exactly what I needed to do when I got home, because this same thing happened last weekend when Mark came home from work grumpy and sick and scratchy-throated. Sometimes, folks, you just need to make a pot of beans.

The rainclouds blew away and now the sun has come out to make a beautiful light-filled afternoon. The world is happy because we get to hold on to warmth for a few more minutes.

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And now the day is truly complete because – in addition to students remembering their B flats and F sharps – now I have my yoga pants and am drinking warm coffee; now a pot of beans is simmering happily on the stove and Mark and I can smell it from the dining room/bike room where we are studying and writing.

Maybe your day is just a little awry, a little chilly, a little headachy or grumpy? Make this pot of beans. I promise it will be better.

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Fall-ish Navy Beans

1 lb of navy beans

4 cups of water

2 cups of chicken broth

1 cup of wine

1/2 bacon, bacon bits,or ham

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 cups of kale, chopped

2 tbls. butter

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. basil

Chopped walnuts

Grated Parmesan cheese

Saute the onions until transparent; add the kale and continue to saute until the kale wilts. Meanwhile, rinse the beans. Add beans, water, broth, wine, and bacon or ham to sauteed onions and kale. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add chopped celery, pepper, oregano, and basil. Simmer for another 45 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese and chopped walnuts on top.

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Meringue: A Recipe and Some Tips

October 28, 2013

Lemon Meringue Title

It all started Friday afternoon, as I desperately fought the late-afternoon jet lag that threatened to settle over me. In an attempt to ward off sleep for a few more hours, I set out to make a lemon meringue pie.

Just short of a year ago (coincidentally just a few hours before Mark proposed!), I attempted my first lemon meringue pie. The pie was yummy but the meringue was a total failure. Instead of the towering peaks of my imagination, the meringue was mostly flat and dense, with just a hint of a wave.

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Determined to overcome my former flop, I gathered a few recipes, did some preliminary research, and set to work. My first batch of meringue was another total failure. I beat the egg and sugar mixture for what seemed like forever before I realized that the shiny sweet substance in the bowl was definitely not planning on peaking.

Undeterred, I did some more research and then set out again. Folks, I get excited about food a lot. But sometimes I get really really excited when I’m cooking. This was one of those time. My meringue peaked perfectly. The egg and sugar mixture  fluffed and poofed and crested like pretty waves. Hooray for culinary successes!

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I realized something else during this experiment. Meringue is actually so much easier to make than I thought. You just have to use the right technique. Really, a successful meringue is the work of a mere few minutes.  So here’s my recipe and some tips:

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A Happy Meringue

6 egg whites

1/2 tsp. white vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Whip the egg whites in a Kitchen Aid mixer or with a beater for 4-5 minutes on medium-high. The eggs should begin to froth. About halfway through the beating, add the vinegar and salt. Once the eggs begin to form soft peaks (the froth should begin to stiffen and stiff curves should start to form in the mixture), slow the beater down to medium and add the sugar gradually while the beater continues. Add the vanilla. Beat for about 2 more minutes until stiff peaks have formed. Voila! Use the meringue as a delicious, dreamy pie or curd topping.

Some Tips:

  • Separate the egg whites into a bowl while the eggs are cold. Then cover the egg whites and let them warm to room temperature, ideally for several hours before beginning.
  • Don’t stop the beater if possible while adding the vinegar, salt, and sugar.
  • Don’t overbeat. Once the sugar is added, only beat for 1-2 minutes more. The meringue is more dense than it looks!

 

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Kitchen Adventuring: My First Apple Pie

October 14, 2013

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Confession: I have never baked an apple pie. Not by myself. Maybe in some heavily supervised environment a long time ago, some one let me cut apples or butter a pie dish.

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I felt like I was way overdue for an attempt at one. Remember The Fall Baking Party? I happened to freeze two extra pie crusts that went unused. Friday evening’s calendar was looking a little sparse, so I pulled the pastry dough out of the freezer and let it thaw.

Between our crop-share and my over-eager shopping for last weekend’s baking party, we had a lot of apples. I went to town with them, slicing, peeling, and chopping. At one point, I recruited Mark to help speed up the process.

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Mark: “Do you take the peel off?”

Me: “Whatever you put in that bowl will go into the pie, so make sure it looks like something you want to eat.”

Mark: Perches apple awkwardly on the apple’s smallest edge and attempts to trim the peel . . . towards his hand. Gets mildly frustrated when the apple refuses to cooperate with his unique slicing methods.

Me: “If you use the knife that way you will probably cut yourself and we will end up eating apple pie in the ER.”

Mark: “This is the hardest thing I have ever done.”

We managed to get the pie into the oven without sustaining any major injuries. At about that time, Brad and Jenny showed up as if they could smell the pie from miles away.

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The four of us impatiently waited for the timer to go off. I heated up some leftover caramel discovered in the fridge; Brad and Jenny went back out into the rain in search of ice-cream; then we all gorged ourselves on apple pie like good American kids.

Folks, it was pretty ridiculously delicious. I would invite you to come over to share, but Mark and I polished off the remains for breakfast.

Just in case I’m not the only girl in the entire universe who hadn’t made an apple pie until Friday, here’s a recipe for you:

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Apple Pie

Find a pie crust. You can buy one or you can use this recipe of my mama’s that took me an entire 15 minutes.

7 cups apples, mostly peeled (a few flecks of peel won’t hurt anything) and chopped into various shapes and sizes (for texture)

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tblsp flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tbl. lemon juice

Measure out the chopped apples approximately. Toss with lemon juice, flour, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon until thoroughly coated. Place the coated apples into the unbaked pie shell of your choice. Cover with this divine crumb topping. Bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until the crumb topping is a deep golden color and the apples are soft.

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Meal 3 – Brown Sugar and Ginger Chicken

October 9, 2013

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We scheduled dinner with a friend for Monday night.

It ended up being one of those crazy weird Mondays. It would be difficult to go into all of the details but a combination of Emily-being-too-optimistic-about-what-can-be-done-before-9:00-a.m., a dirty kitchen that I didn’t have time to clean before my morning lesson, pouring rain, a long drive through the wrong part of D.C., and make-up and regular lessons taking place on opposite sides of town all added up to me being pretty annoyed at my own bright optimism and pretty stressed by a little after noon.

But then a girlfriend came over spontaneously – asked to come over suddenly, just as everything that had made the morning hectic ended- and we worked through the hours of the early afternoon together to the soothing smell of a fall candle, listening to the patter of the rain. And that friend’s sudden need added a soft calm and cheery presence to my out-of-breath morning.

By the time 7:00 rolled around and it was time for our dinner-guest to arrive, somehow everything that was tumultuous about the day had fallen into place. All of the commitments of the day had been fulfilled, the stress of the day had washed away, and dinner was waiting, hot and satisfying, for Mark, me, and our dinner-guest to enjoy.

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And on a day that was – in some ways – stressful and weird and wet and unhappy and – in other ways – cozy and delightful and satisfying, I learned an important lesson. There were moments during that wet busy day when I wanted to call off the dinner, reschedule, move it to another more ideal day, whine that we were over-scheduled and over-committed.

But the truth is that the friend who showed up spontaneously in the early hours of the afternoon and the dinner guest who arrived at our door at 7:00 actually made my day far better than it would otherwise have been.

We talk about how to bless others through hospitality but what we often forget is that hospitality blesses us. When friends carve time out of their schedule to come enjoy a meal with us, when they bring conversation and strawberry ice-cream and waffle cones and warm encouragement, when they bring companionship and empathy and love, they give us wonderful gifts that we could get no other way.

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Sometimes I forget this lesson and I take out my stress by canceling cozy dinners with friends, by constantly moving commitments around, by trying to pretend that it’s the commitments and people and relationships that are to blame and not my own frazzled, self-centered, anxious, rushing state of mind.

We should practice hospitality simply because it is good for us. It is good for our souls to stop the rushing, stop the madness, stop the fretting and to slow down and pause and enjoy the company of those who are on this road with us.

So take my advice today, my advice to myself that I forget so frequently. Are you too busy, over-scheduled, over-booked, frazzled, tight on time? Have someone over to dinner anyway.

It doesn’t have to be glamorous. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The presence of a friend, the conversation, the change of pace, will remind you of what is good. We don’t need to stress. We don’t need to run around frantically. We don’t need to constantly shuffle our commitments on the calendar like so many pawns on a chessboard.

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But we do need each other. Breaking bread together is one of the most fundamental acts of a civilized society. To achieve what is good, to forge those bonds of community, we need to do it. And do it again. And do it more. Until the practice of eating together becomes so natural that we forever shake this terrible habit of feeling like friends and good food are dispensable.

I’ll even help you. Use the menu below and you won’t even have to plan. Just do it. Invite someone over for dinner. On a Monday night. You won’t regret it.

Chairs Around the Table: 3

Main Dish: Brown Sugar and Ginger Chicken

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsps. ginger

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tsp garlic

1 tsp pepper

 5 chicken breasts.

Blend the ginger and brown sugar. Pat the chicken breasts dry and cover thoroughly in the brown-sugar-giner rub. Mix the other ingredients in a measuring cup. Pour gently over the chicken breasts. Let sit in the fridge for a few hours. Place the chicken breasts in a baking pan. Bake at 365 degrees for 30 minutes.

Side Dish: Rice

Salad: Baby kale with Mushrooms, tomatoes, red bell-peppers, pistachios, and this dressing.

Appetizer-That-We-Ate-With-Dinner: This spinach-artichoke dip. I replaced the kale with spinach and added bacon bits and I’m so glad I did.

Dessert – These gingersnaps, plus our guest brought delicious strawberry and chocolate ice-cream along with waffle cones. Scrumptious.

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