Like most of America, and in particular anyone who is a parent, I have been gut-wrenched in ways that continue to evolve as more details about Friday’s shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, emerge. I work part-time in an office located in the town next to Newtown and the tentacles of that crazy day have reached into the office where I work. One of the teachers who died protecting her students is the daughter of a copy editor in the newsroom of my part-time office, and my design director lives in Newtown. Thankfully, her children were not students of Sandy Hook Elementary.
I do not know how you go on when your child dies, much less is senselessly murdered by a deranged person in a place you once thought of as safe. I suppose this is just another example of how God or Biology or Whatever so wisely made breathing part of the autonomic nervous system; it happens whether or not we want to make it continue and so, under moments of extreme horror and sadness, we can’t literally choose to stop breathing.
I am the mother of older children. They are in the 20s and on their paths. And yet, I continue to worry, depending on the moment, on where they are going and how they will get there. I read something recently that made total sense to me. An older woman was handed a baby. After tickling her and hugging her, she turned to the mother and said, “When they’re young, they sit on your knee. When they’re older, they sit on your heart.”
And so, when our youngest child, Sam, was in the air on Saturday, winging his way home from a semester in Prague, I was more worried than I usually am when someone I love is in the air. And when he happily arrived and I hugged him for the first time in four months, I took a deep breath and for just a moment relaxed.
Sam loves bacon and ranch dressing and cheese. It was a no-brainer to make this recipe for his first dinner home.
Bacon and Cheese Slow-Cooker Chicken
from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 chicken breast halves or equivalent number of thighs
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
12 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
Pour the olive oil in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the chicken pieces on top.
In a small bowl, combine the teriyaki sauce and ranch dressing. Whisk together and pour on top of the chicken. Add the shredded cheese and bacon pieces, trying to place in between chicken pieces where possible. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours.
True statement: I will follow the Sedaris siblings (ok, at least David and Amy) anywhere they lead me. David decides to stop using human characters and to form his tales as animal fables? I mean, I’ll miss the family dirt, but I’m game. Dude could write the alphabet and I’d read it cover to cover. His sister, Amy, decides to shed her fat suit (you’ve seen “Strangers with Candy,” right? RIGHT?) and transform into the hostess with the mostess? Then I guess it’s time to throw a party. There are few people I think could actually take Martha Stewart down, and Amy Sedaris is one of them. And yes, I’d pay to see that fight.
I happen to be a fan so I was thrilled to get in on a group conference call last week with Ray about her new cookbook, Look + Cook, which goes live today. When I say “live,” I mean that literally because the book, in addition to feature 100 “can’t-miss main courses in pictures,” also includes interactive 30-minute meals online where she cooks the recipes with the clock running in real time. In other words, you can follow along online or in the book by pictures and see how things really are supposed to look as you put the meals together. It’s multi-media all the way, which is impressive.
In the interview, Ray said the first 100 meals “are the equivalent of a paint by numbers set.” You can also, from the pictures, see if you’re really interested in making this particular meal. How many pots will you really need, for instance?
Anyway, the photographs look positively yummy, and I will definitely be trying a few out and let you know what I think. In the meantime, if you want to see the videos, click here.
Hey Rachel: It’s hard to know where to go after your post yesterday in which you basically throw down the food gauntlet with all these boasts about the food day extraordinaire you are going to have on Friday. But since it is after all in celebration of your birthday and you are married to a great cook, I will tamp down my envy (mostly) and say that I am genuinely happy you’re going to have such a day of complete gourmet gluttony without having to lift a finger … and then I’m going to post about the Barefoot Contessa, who, yes, I spoke to on my birthday… so there.
Anyway Ina Garten in person — at at least in phone person — was as nice as I imagined her to be. Just down to earth and friendly, just like her recipes in her many fabulous cookbooks. I have her new cookbook, How Easy is That? (and if you want to hear some exciting news about getting your very own copy, be sure to tune in tomorrow, readers), and tried a few of the recipes over the weekend.
They were both fantastic. Here’s the roasted nuts recipe, that is absolutely killer and I guarantee will earn you kudos any time you make them. The mix of rosemary and chipotle is just brilliant. Enjoy!
Chipotle & Rosemary Roasted Nuts
Serves 8-10 (or maybe a lot less if you become as addicted as Peter and I did)
3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
2 cups whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 cups whole pecan halves (7ounces)
1/2 cup whole almonds (3 ounces)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
kosher salt to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine all the nutes, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, organige juice and chipotle powder on the sheet pan. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt and toss again.
Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula until they are glazed and golden brown. Remove from teh oven and spring with 2 more teaspoons salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary. Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring periodically to prevent sticking as they cool. (This is important to do. Otherwise, they will stick. Trust me.) Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or completely cool and store in airtight containers at room temperature (assuming there is any left over).
Rachel here: Oh, summer. We’ve had an abnormally cool and grey summer here in the Bay Area with the heat finally arriving this week as we begin to consider the start of fall. This has left me and my fellow Bay Area dwellers scrambling to soak up these summery days before they disappear into the rain and fog that dominates…well…the rest of the year. Anyway, nothing is more summery than grilling and grilling is often best when done with marinaded food. Below you’ll find a veggie marinade of my mom’s followed by a chicken marinade of mine. What’s one of your favorite marinades?
Janet here: I’m not sure why I never made whoopie pies when our kids were little. I mean it seems like a no-brainer for someone who likes to bake, has a bit of a cupcake fetish, and who was a major Ring Ding, Yodels kind of gal as a child. But I didn’t. In fact I’m not sure I even knew they existed until fairly recently.
At any rate, I’ve had kind of a fixation about them ever since learning about them. I even went out and bought a whoopie pie baking tin, whose holes are decidedly thinner than traditional cupcake baking tins — this from the woman who doesn’t own a food processor. Maybe it’s a mid-life thing.
Janet here: It’s hot, hot, hot again on the East Coast and the idea of turning on an oven is pretty much a non-starter for me. While I would like to believe everyone in my family would just eat this incredible blue cheese cole slaw for dinner (click here for recipe), in fact I do have to serve up something else. This lemon chicken, adapted from the Barefoot Contessa, is mighty tasty as well as being a good excuse to serve the cole slaw. It does require planning ahead a little bit — you have to marinate the chicken overnight — but then you can send someone else outside to grill the chicken while you stand by the fan and stay cool!
Janet here: I had never made a key lime pie before but have always loved them in restaurants. They’re a great cheesecake substitute when you want something creamy but a little less dense. (Those moments are rare I admit, but when the craving is there you have to go with it — at least that’s my philosophy.) Anyway, key lime pie is also a little bit of a rebel I think, the way it mixes its sweetness with a kick of tart. I love that about it.
This key lime pie is from one of my fav cooks, the Barefoot Contessa, and was ridiculously easy to make. I made it one day when my father-in-law was coming for dinner. It’s a favorite of his and I thought it might cheer him up a bit after the death of his wife. Not sure the effects were long lasting but for just one little moment, he was one happy man.
Janet here: While it may not seem as if a Great Camp in the Adirondacks is about food, for our family it is. That’s because we have spent two weeks there just about every summer for most of the last 20 years. Only a trip to London, out West, a wedding and the birth of our grandchild has held us back.
I know we’ve been lucky as a family to make this happen for so long. I was sure that our children would begin to reject this rustic retreat on the shores of Upper Saranac Lake as they reached the teenage years and entering a technology-free zone for two weeks would become decidedly uncool. (Full disclosure: our rental cabin did get cable TV a few years ago, but the only way to get cell phone service is to stand on a picnic table by the dock and even then it’s dicey.) Instead, I have been thrilled that they’ve continued to love it and that they’ve been clambering to return and worked to make sure their summer jobs allowed them at least one week with us in this very special place.
But on to the food:
Rachel here: There are few things better than good avocados, I think. I’ve always loved them, but once I became pregnant with M I became kind of obsessed because they’re a superfood of sorts. A superfood that is easy to eat? Sold. At some point during my pregnancy I began eating avocados sprinkled with a dash of salt nearly everyday. Anyway, fast forward to last night and we’re not only in the peak of avocado season but M was in the midst of a hearty evening nap.
The stars rarely align so nicely. Anyway, John and I tiptoed away from our sleeping baby into the kitchen and I sliced into the avocados I’d bought earlier that day. One taste and I knew that I’d be forgoing a more involved guacamole in favor of the simplest version possible. These were the creamiest, most perfect avocados around.
I made a little side salsa with the ingredients I’d bought on the chance that the avocados weren’t so wonderful. We popped open a bag of corn chips and a couple of beers and stood in the kitchen relishing the quiet and each other’s company as the evening settled in around us. It was so simple and so wonderful.
Scoop avocado into a medium bowl and squeeze the juice from one lime over it. Add 1/2 tspn. salt and mash with a fork (I like mine chunky). In a separate bowl (or the same one if the avocados aren’t great), combine tomatoes, onion, juice from the half lemon and the remaining 1/4 tspn. salt. Mix and serve with the guacamole and chips. Enjoy!
Janet here: I don’t make guacamole often for one simple reason: I would eat the whole damn bowl. Yup, I love it, especially guacamole that’s got a little zing to it. Sadly in the Northeast, buying ripe avocados is virtually impossible so you have to plan ahead if you want to get your guacamole fix to give them time to ripen. (Another example of California’s food superiority.)
Anyway if you want an avocado fix, this salad adapted from the Barefoot Contessa at Home does the trick quite nicely. It’s easy to whip up and makes a nice side salad on a hot summer night when turning on the oven is the last thing on your to-do list.
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced into 1/2 inch pieces, seeded
7 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno peppers
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ripe avocados, seeded and peels, 1/2 inch diced
Place the tomatoes, pepper, black beans, red onions, peppers and lime zest in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables. Toss well.
Just before you’re ready to serve, fold in the avocados. Check the seasoning and serve at room temperature.