Why the ads came down

Stella knows a good thing when she smells it.

Any excuse to use my dog in a food photo. Again. But no one loves food more than she does.

A friend and I were discussing food a few weeks ago when she mentioned she was “over” a lot of food blogs. I immediately understood what she meant; it’s become harder and harder to find ones that don’t get on my nerves after a few months.

Full-time blogging is becoming a viable career, and bloggers are becoming more and more focused on “branding” and posts that come off as press releases. I had a full-on unsubscribe fest last week when a blogger I follow made up too many words (“Yumm-o!”) in a post that was also sponsored by a major corporation.

Food bloggers started as people who were passionate about food and wanted to share their best recipes. Most had day jobs, and they weren’t trying to make money with their websites. Reading those blogs felt like a friend had invited you to dinner, or had passed along a recipe to help you impress that guy or to get through a hard time. Olga from Sassy Radish, Deb at Smitten Kitchen and Molly from Orangette unwittingly impacted my life in major ways through their food writing, because it was so honest and personal. They write from the heart. Continue reading

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Friday Favorites: Springtime

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Phew! The last few weeks have been a total whirlwind, moving into our house, having guests, and preparing for a trip to Austin. There have been workouts, new shoes, and much talk of barbecue and tacos. Spring and this trip are perfect excuses to pamper myself and make over a few of my routines.

I’ve been too busy for recipes, but here are a few things that I’ve been loving this month:

theSkimm. One of my major problems is that I’m a news junkie with very little time to actually read the news. the Skimm solved that problem for me. Created by two former news producers, this newsletter gives you quick, clever summaries of the day’s news, with links to full stories from well-reputed news outlets if you want to learn more. You can click here to subscribe. Continue reading

Missing People and Mushroom Soup

all hearts come home for christmas 

I miss everything lately. Maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s that I haven’t been back to my hometown since 2008. Regardless of the reason, I’ve been throwing myself a little pity party for the past week, thinking back with nostalgia on everything from the weird noises the heating system made in my old house to the easiness of hanging out at my old “local” in Dublin.

Mostly, I have been thinking about things I wish I had done with my family. I wish I’d gotten to know Grandpa Wutz better. I wish I’d learned Polish from Grandma Wutz. I wish I had spent more time with Grandpa Gallo down in his basement workshop, learning about things like pocket holes and jigsaws and how to turn scrap wood into anything imaginable.

grandpa's christmas ornament

While I’m probably going to have to teach myself about pocket holes, I can take advantage of the things I did learn from my family. I can wear scarves like Grandma Wutz did, sew a new bed for my dog using skills Grandma Gallo taught me, and I can make Grandpa’s mushroom soup.

mushroom soup

This soup is the most traditional recipe I have — in fact, really the only one. If I was a recipe hoarder, I would hoard this one. It comes from my maternal grandfather’s family, and it’s a dish my grandmother made every year without fail as the starter to our Christmas Eve dinner. She always says it’s a meal in itself, and I agree — so much so that I started making it for Christmas Eve dinner four years ago, serving it just with some crusty bread and a little wine.

One bite and you’re transported to Central Europe. Who else would combine kielbasa, sauerkraut, ham hocks and mushrooms? I really am not positive how authentic it is, but reliable relatives tell me it dates at least to the turn of the 20th century (despite my grandma’s version containing canned mushrooms, which I think was likely a change made later for convenience).

One caveat: this is not exactly Grandma’s recipe. She always used a ham bone, and she used half the amount of sausage, along with the aforementioned canned mushrooms. I felt like I could make this my own, within reason, and I could never find a ham bone when I was looking for one.

Regardless, it’s something I did manage to learn from my family. And in a way, that’s enough.

Mushroom Soup
 
Author: Kate Wutz
My family’s traditional Christmas Eve soup, a medly of Central European flavors — sausage, ham, sauerkraut and mushrooms.
Ingredients
  • 4 smoked ham hocks
  • 2 lbs brown cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 lbs smoked kielbasa, cut in half and then sliced
  • 2 lbs sauerkraut, rinsed thoroughly
  • Brown gravy:
  • 4 Tbsp butter (or, um, bacon grease if you want to get crazy)
  • Flour
  • Water
Instructions
  1. The night before Christmas Eve, put your ham hocks in the largest stock pot you have. Fill the rest of the pot with water and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for five hours or so. The broth might not look too much like broth, more like ham water, but it’ll be fine. Remove the ham hocks and put in a bowl in the fridge overnight. Chill the broth in its stockpot overnight as well.
  2. On Christmas Eve, skim the fat from the top of the broth and bring it back to a simmer. Meanwhile, peel the meat off of the ham hocks, trim the fat, and add the ham to the pot. Throw your dog a little bite if you’re feeling festive. Add mushrooms, kielbasa and sauerkraut and simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. While the soup is simmering, make the gravy. Melt butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium-heat, then add flour until the mixture is dry (you may, yes, use gluten-free flour or cornstarch here). Watching this like a hawk and stirring constantly, brown this mixture until it’s golden. Whisk in water slowly, beating out lumps, until you have a thick gravy.
  4. Add to the soup and stir to combine (see how much thicker and darker that broth gets? Crazy!). Serve immediately, or store in the fridge for a few days. The flavors get better with a little bit of time.
 

 

Balance (and soup)

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I am not a particularly graceful practitioner of yoga. My legs don’t straighten in Forward Fold, my high lunge is a little wobbly, and my Downward-Facing Dog is still a work in progress. Warrior II and Three-Legged Dog are better, but I still find myself collapsing in a heap on my mat sometimes, unable to have brought my knee to my nose in plank position while also inhaling deeply and pulling in my lower abdomen.

My yoga teacher is (as it seems all yoga teachers are) an incredibly beautiful woman who makes every single pose look easy and fluid. The trick, she says, is to approach each position with humility and patience, trusting in time that your body will find its own strength and balance.

corn soup dairy free chowder

Balance can be difficult to find during the holidays. There’s so much to do, so much rushing around, so much stress and strife and pressure. There are trees to decorate, gifts to buy, cookies to bake, and carols to sing. Christmas means the joy of spending time with friends and family, but also all of the stress inherent in making sure everything is perfect.

Sometimes, there are too many cookies during the holidays. Sometimes, there’s not enough protein. Sometimes, you find yourself having Diet Coke for lunch at 3 p.m. because you got tangled up in Christmas lights.

That’s when you should stop, breathe, and make some soup. In the course of finding my own balance, I didn’t manage to come up with a new soup recipe for you all. But the point is that soup can be the most meditative of things to make — lots of chopping, lots of stirring, and lots of patience.

And besides, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing something really good for your body when you make one of the soups in the following list. And, you know, maybe do some yoga — practice your tree pose — while waiting for it to simmer. It’s all good.

Chicken Quinoa Soup

Chicken, Chard and White Bean Soup

Southwestern Corn Soup

Mulligatawny

Kale and White Bean Soup (via Martha Stewart)

Friday Favorites

paleo gluten-free strawberry shortcake

I promise, I have been cooking — even though it’s unbearably hot and even the thought of turning on the oven has become unthinkable. But I won’t post recipes unless I adapt them in some way, and what I have been cooking lately has been so perfect that I can’t change enough to make them worth posting on my own blog. Maybe in the future they’ll lead to inspiration, but this week, I’ve just been reaping the benefits of others’ ingenuity. It’s been awesome, and I want you to be able to enjoy it, too.

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A Conversation with Mark Bittman

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The following is a Q&A with Mark Bittman, food personality, The New York Times columnist and author of How to Cook Everything and VB6. It was originally published in Edible Idaho South, a local food magazine. I had an amazing time speaking with this man, and I thought all of you might enjoy reading our talk on veganism, ethical and mindful eating, and the importance of cooking at home. Enjoy!

The Minimalist himself, Mark Bittman — food writer, author, recipe developer and passionate advocate for real food — made his first visit to Sun Valley in March as part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts 2013-2014 lecture series.

Bittman became a household name in 1997, with the start of “The Minimalist” column for The New York Times. The goal of the column was to make home cooking more accessible, with recipes that called for minimal technique, minimal time, minimal ingredients, or any combination thereof. Bittman also authored the seminal work, How to Cook Everything, a cookbook dedicated to showing home cooks that yes, they could make that dish, and here’s how. The Minimalist ended its reign in 2011, but Bittman continued to write op-ed pieces on food and food policy for The New York Times, as well as hosting a PBS Show, pioneering the Vegan Before Six (VB6) movement and arguing that Americans need to begin focusing on eating fresh, unprocessed, plant-based foods.

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