For a short time when I was a little girl, parfaits struck me as the absolute height of dessert sophistication. I’m not sure if I actually had one out somewhere or just saw them in a cookbook or movie (one of the soda fountain scenes from the Music Man, maybe?), but they struck me as so fancy, and I wanted to make my own. My “recipe” was layers of vanilla ice cream and crushed up Oreos, and I’m here to tell you it was delicious. And gave me just the spiffy feeling I was looking for. Unfortunately, my zealous eating meant spoon scratches on our tallest drinking glasses, so my mom put a stop to my parfaits (don’t be sorry for me–I just moved to a regular old bowl of vanilla topped with crushed Oreos. Joie and I ate an astonishing amount of ice cream back in our youth). I can’t say that I had that back in the day parfait love in mind when I first decided to make these pumpkin mousse treats, but as soon as I dipped my spoon into the layers the memory came back. Luckily, we seem to have scratch proof glasses, so this dessert is staying on the holiday roster.
As I was scrolling through the side dish recipes in our index, it struck me that Jessica and I are big fans of salads with nuts, cheese, and veggies. No iceberg or romaine for us! Check out this rockstar list of combinations: sweet potatoes+kale+cheddar+almonds, butternut squash+parmesan+walnuts, kale+goat cheese+pecans, brussels sprouts+asiago+walnuts. Today, I’m adding another knockout band of flavors to our favorite salads: cauliflower+cheddar+walnuts (and grapes).
The first meal Hal ever made for me, for our fourth date, was short ribs. I was on my way back from VA after Thanksgiving, and when Hal texted to say he was making short ribs in his slow cooker, I was very much impressed by the idea of a gent with that kind of kitchen equipment. When he later confessed that the slow cooker was in fact purchased just the day before for this specific recipe, I was a total goner. To go along with the short ribs he made mashed potatoes and carrots, and we started dinner with raw oysters (a bold move, but, as it turns out, also an effective one). When we were deciding what to make for our first married Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to go back to that first homemade dinner, and so we celebrated my favorite Hallmark holiday with oysters–grilled on the stove, à la Cochon–and short ribs. Not in our now shared slow cooker, but braised in a dutch oven.
My hands-down favorite, absolute best, tip-top recipe resources are my friends and family. Aren’t we all a thousand times more likely to try a recipe from a trusted friend than something random from blogs, cookbooks, or food magazines? Maybe it depends on the palates of one’s friends. Luckily, my people have darn good taste.
Inspired by Laura’s awesome example, I made a resolution to post a picture to Instgram every day this year. It’s a small thing, maybe, but I’ve found it to be a really good exercise to take the time to look for something that I think is beautiful or that makes me smile each day. And on the days when nothing really pops up and presents itself (Laura warned me that there would be many a time when I’d contemplate just saying to heck with it and snapping a pic of a box of cereal), I of course turn to my food for inspiration. Which usually works, except. There are some meals that will just never be Insta-worthy. Food that might be delicious, but is visually blah…or even on that boarderline of gross looking. The awesome lentil bolognaise recipe I recently discovered is fantastic example of this–the original post even calls is “deficient in the looks department,” and to say it looks like a pile of mud would almost be a disservice to mud. But boy is it tasty.
Remember when Martha Stewart took the internet by storm with her one-pan pasta? It was a magic trick: five minutes of prep and nine minutes of boiling turned a few ordinary ingredients into a savory, craveable dinner. I can’t name another recipe that wound up so many bloggers, including us. This fall, the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living released the One Pot cookbook, promising “120+ easy meals from your skillet, slow cooker, stockpot, and more.” A whole book of recipes in the model of the prep time-zapping, dirty dish-erasing one-pan pasta?! How thrilling!
I was skeptical.
One of the best things about cooking, in my opinion, is the awesome moment when you realize that something you thought was too tricky to pull off is actually super simple. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but when it does you feel like such a champion. For some silly reason–the fact that I only ate them in restaurants growing up? the intimidation factor of a closed shell?–I had always assumed that clams were too complicated for home cooking. So when I had the chance to watch my friend Cristina (a really fantastic cook and hostess) steam clams on her stovetop at a party this summer, I told her I was eager to watch and learn. She gave me a look and told me it was really easy, and I told her I still wanted to memorize every secret. She laughed at me very kindly, and went on to show me how ridiculously simple steamed clams actually are. Revelation!