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My favorite sources of inspiration

I got a text a few days ago from my brother-in-law that read: I'm calling in a huge favor...Can I have some inspiration for things to make for dinner? On a beginner to low-intermediate level of difficulty.   First, I'm super proud of him because he's such a great husband to my sister, looking for more ways to help contribute around the house. (I'm a fan of both my brothers in law, just to be clear.) Next, I started thinking about what kinds of recipes I think my sister and BIL would like...mind goes totally blank, followed by massive overload of ideas.  Maybe they'd like some bean dishes. I've got that super easy, use whatever veggies you have on-hand, stir fry I know they like.  Maybe some slow cooker recipes, or stuff you can throw on a grill.  It was a flood of ideas but nothing that helpful. I recalled the adage "give a man a fish, feed him for a day..."  Well, if you give someone a recipe, you give him an idea for one meal. But if I share wher
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My love of great food writing

It must have been some time around age 13 when I started my love affair with cooking magazines and food writing in general.  I had read through all my mother's cookbooks many a time, and was gaining an interest in what other people cooked and ate.  I would check out old issues of Bon Appetit and Gourmet from the library, then buy them (or beg Mom to!) once in a while from the newsstand, which ultimately led to my asking for a subscription to Gourmet for my birthday (at age 14? 15?).  I remember reading these magazines cover to cover, relishing each word, staring at the photos, trying to dream about what the dishes would taste like.  I don't recall whether I was actually cooking any of the recipes or simply drooling on the pages; if I wasn't cooking, at least it gave me an academic perspective on food culture, ingredients, and high-end restaurants where I'd likely never dine. Ruth Reichl was the editor in chief of Gourmet magazine around the time I started to read it. 

Talking about the flops

In my very limited exposure to various social media [disclaimer: I do not have an account with any of the major platforms], I notice that people spend lots of time and space talking about what goes well for them but very little time/space for the things that don't work out.  A study published in The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2018 showed a causal relationship between use of social media and increased depression.  Researchers describe "when you look at other people's lives, particularly on Instagram, it's easy to conclude that everyone else's life is cooler or better than yours."  A song aptly titled "The Internet" by singer Jon Bellion speaks to this phenomenon: Life became dangerous the day we all became famous No one cares if you're happy, just as long as you claim it, How can we change this? The day we all became famous No one cares if you have it, just as long they think you do (Give me a second, I need to get off

Chronicles of a garden

I grew up in a big city.  I guess the neighborhood where I lived as a kid is technically the suburbs, but it still has a big city feel due to the very close proximity to the city.  Big buildings.  Lots of cars.  Fast pace of life.  When I got married, my husband and I moved to a different area in the same city, a part that is somewhat more urban and less suburban than the area in which I grew up.  We liked the area, had friends there, and at that time, I worked nearby.  Yes, it was fast paced, but it was really all I ever knew as home. Fast forward a few years.  We were looking to move to New Jersey, but now we are specifically looking for a neighborhood that was very suburban.  What do I mean by that?  Little traffic, less overall congestion (not only cars but also buildings), a neighborhood that is easy to walk around, among other qualities.  But of utmost importance to us was a home with a big backyard. Backyards are great places.  Kids can create their own makeshift baseba

2019 Farmers' Market Challenge, part 2

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the Bon Appetit 2019 Healthyish Farmers' Market Challenge.  I'm happy to say, I have completed the challenge by trying all 10 fruits/vegetables/herbs on their list.  I've already written about how I prepared some of them; this post is to let you know about the remaining few. Mint I prepared this minty limeade recipe from Bon Appetit, which was the one listed in the Challenge. I didn't think I liked fresh mint, but after drinking this I'm converted! With a hefty dose of mint leaves (see below, picked that morning!), the puckering acidity of the citrus, and just enough sweetness, this drink was just what I needed on a hot summer day. I used 2 liters of seltzer, which was perfect for our group.  I'm definitely looking forward to making this one again. Swiss Chard I feel like if you get great product, you shouldn't need to do much to it for the end result to be delicious.  I was looking for a way to prepare the

The 2019 Healthyish farmers' market challenge

I like to read the Healthyish portion of the Bon Appetit website (in addition to the majority of the site at large) because I never know what I'll find.  One day it's an article on edible face masks, the next I'm getting ideas of how to add vegetables to my breakfast.  But an article posted earlier this month got the wheels turning.  Termed "The 2019 Healthyish Farmers' Market Challenge", the article encourages people to try 10 in-season fruits and vegetables, and provides recipes to give people ideas of what to do with this produce. The fruits and vegetables in the challenge are: Summer squash Peaches Corn Mint Peppers Eggplant Cucumbers Tomatoes Swiss chard Berries I thought this was a really cool idea.  While several of the recipes look delicious, I decided to accept the challenge, but use the produce in whatever applications I wanted, and not to restrict myself to the 10 recipes provided.   So, what have I made so far, and what'

Zahav: A world of Israeli cooking

It's no question that foods have the ability to help us recall memories.  I was particularly moved, however, by the ability of a cookbook to have this effect on me.  This weekend, in a matter of a few hours over 2 days, I read all 368 pages of Zahav: A world of Israeli cooking, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook .  Page after beautiful page, I was transported to my childhood and the food memories of it; allow me to explain. I was 4 years old when my sister Kayla was born.  Since both of our parents worked, they hired a nanny, Batsheva, to care for Kayla (I was already in school).  Batsheva was originally from Israel, of Morrocan decent and, I believe, had some family from Yemen as well.  She truly became an extension of our family; her kids were like our siblings, and Batsheva loved us as if we were her own children.  Kayla still keeps in touch with her 30+ years later!  One thing I remember most from those years is Batsheva's cooking.  It was probably my first exposure to