Just a few weeks ago, Hal and I celebrated two years of marriage and four years together (we organized our anniversaries very efficiently: first date on November 7th 2012, engaged on November 9th 2013, and married on November 8th 2014!). In the time that we’ve been building our relationship, we’ve of course started to create traditions for our little two person family. We watch Die Hard every Christmas, we go back to the bar where we got married on our wedding anniversary, we exchange teeny gifts on New Years (brought by the New Year’s Elf, of course), and when we get back to my childhood home after celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family, we have a second dinner of sausage and peppers.
As Laura said a few weeks ago, there’s always room for more pumpkin. Especially when you’ve chosen to spend your life with a person who brings up pumpkin pie all year round, who finds a way to work pumpkin puree into cocktails, and for whom you have a secret Pinterest board called “for H” made up almost entirely of pumpkin recipes. I know that as a culture we’ve reached a mega pumpkin overload, what with our lattes and Cheerios and even potato chips that now come in pumpkin spice flavor. But let’s not let that overkill (seriously, chips. why???) distract us from what a fantastic ingredient real pumpkin really is, in both sweet and savory dishes. My most recent reminder? Pumpkin pasta sauce.
As I’ve said many times before, I’m a recipe person. Especially the first time I’m making something, my preference is absolutely for a nice tidy list of ingredients and instructions that I can follow to the letter. I’m highly envious of folks, like my husband, who can just follow their instincts and create something delicious without a recipe. So I’ve been interested in the trend for “not a recipe” recipes I’ve seen floating around lately, like Bon Appétit’s Cooking Without Recipes series and Food52’s new (Not)Recipes app. I like reading them, and I like looking at them, and I like wondering if a more narrative less list-y approach *really* makes something not a recipe…but nothing pulled me to deviate from my recipe love until I saw a Bon App post titled, “Got a Can of White Beans? You’re Halfway to Dinner Tonight.”
As far as I’m concerned, Smitten Kitchen’s Spinach and Cheese Strata is the ultimate in breakfast casserole perfection. Jessica told me about the recipe a few years ago and after making it once, I put it into permanent brunch rotation. It has never failed to impress and delight: it’s excellent for company because it’s unapologetically cheesy and carby and it’s excellent for the cook because it’s assembled the night before and simply baked the next morning. I love it because of the flavors (creamy, nutty, custardy) and because it tastes like more than just scrambled eggs with fillings—it’s a savory bread pudding. The only problem with the recipe is that I found myself making it too often. How many times can you serve the same guests the same thing without it becoming weird? I decided not to find out.
Way back on January 3rd of this year, my honey sent me an email with the subject line “Soup Recipes!” The body of the email was a link from esquire.com, and did not contain what I would normally consider very Esquire-y content: a slide show of fifty “cold-weather soup recipes” collected from a whole bunch of different food blogs. I did not expect gems, and I think I may have ignored it, because a few hours later I got another email, this time titled “Soups!!” (up to two exclamation points, so we know he means business), with a pared down collection of five links from the original fifty. That I could work with. I picked the one that sounded best to me, “Rustic Tuscan-Style Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Soup” from a new to me blog called Shared Appetite, and holy heck did I (we!) pick a winner.
Last summer, I started volunteering with a local non-profit that encourages children to eat healthier and move more. The lessons are built around a community garden and teaching how to “grow your grub.” Let me tell you, it is fun—both for the kiddos and for me. There have been so many highlight reel moments. Kids squealing with excitement over finding a ripe watermelon. Proud mini-miners showing off their absurdly large sweet potatoes. Tiny fingers poking seeds into soil, one by one. Needless to say, Thursday with genHkids has become a favorite part of my week.
The formula on Butter Poached for a winning mid-week dinner recipe is obvious: sausage, minimal clean-up, cream and/or cheese, and pasta. If there’s a veggie involved, we’re happy to have it. You’d think that by now I wouldn’t be so excited about a sausage + pasta dinner recipe, BUT I AM. This is my latest find and it’s among the easiest ever.