By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image from the Vermont Sail Freight Project.
My New Year’s resolution for 2008 was to go carbon neutral. I did my best to cut down on my carbon footprint, and what I couldn’t eliminate (it does get chilly in New York and I am Southern and therefore perpetually chilled), I compensated with carbon offsets. I bought as much food as I could at the farmer’s market (including flour, which up until then I didn’t realize you could buy there) and lived as local a life as possible. This went great — really, really great — until about March.
And then I flew to Prague and the whole thing fell to pieces. In Budapest I ate tomatoes flown in from Spain. In Vienna I went out for Thai and gulped down a Singha. Back in New York, I failed to pay for any trip offsets (plane fuel, it turns out, is really quite expensive to both buy and offset) and then, sin of all sins, I went to the grocery store, bought some veggies from Mexico, cooked up a box of mac and cheese with some Goya black beans, and watched a Masterpiece Mystery marathon.
My carbon zero project was pretty much an abject failure.
Enter: The Vermont Sail Freight Project.
What is it exactly? Keep reading.
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Pistachio and Cardamom Truffle how-to from Buttercream & Roses, one of the most beautifully photographed food blogs out there.
Yesterday, my manly-man Marine husband turned to me in the kitchen and said, with what can only be described as childlike glee, “It’s almost time for Christmas movies!” While he proceeded to start quoting Christmas Vacation to our clueless four-month-old son, I started thinking about Rudolph, Frosty, and Chocolat.
If you haven’t seen it, Chocolat is a fantastic movie about a young mother and her daughter who open a chocolate shop in small French town and shake up the status quo. It’s a precious watch and very belly-warming (which is like what Eat, Pray, Love should have been, because the “Eat” part of the book was really my favorite). After all, Chocolat has a great many things going for it. France! A cute child! A love story! French accents! Chocolates!
Note: If, like I, you think Chocolat is a slightly bizarre holiday movie selection, know you are not alone. Time Warner Cable sometimes has a lot of explaining to do. But when it comes to chocolate, should we ever look a gift horse in the mouth? I say no.
Not a chocolate person? Neither was I. Keep reading.
Supper is our favorite Halloween tradition. That’s really saying something, since we’re the crafty sort of people who start making our costumes before summer is even over and have been planning our son’s first Halloween costume since before he was even born. (We’re doing a Jurassic Park theme this year, and he’s a baby dinosaur. I’ve been working hard on his baby triceratops costume for awhile, and I think it’s come together pretty well! I just hope I finish before tomorrow.)
We love the whole trick-or-treating concept (and trunk-or-treating, our church’s version) and being neighborly with friends while watching the little ones have too much fun, too late at night, and with too much candy. We enjoy all of these things, but we don’t like them nearly as much as we love Halloween supper. And that’s because on Halloween, we eat our supper straight out of a pumpkin.
Recipe and instructions straight ahead!
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Gorgeous DIY farmhouse table from iheartnaptime.
When we moved into our current house, I struggled with where to put our dining table… and our kitchen table. This house has an open floor plan, and we have two wonderful tables. Both are pretty, old wood — a formal mahogany dining table, and a massive vintage oak table my husband convinced me would be perfect in its already-heavily-loved state. “You need some place to do all your projects,” he reasoned, “and someplace where I’m not worried about putting down something hot. And we need someplace where the kiddo can do his homework while we cook dinner. We’re kitchen people. We need a good kitchen table.”
We are kitchen people. We really, really are. In our current kitchen, we have a small sofa, a ghost chair, a really comfortable club chair that’s actually this chair from Ikea with a good upholstery job. We spend easily nine tenths of our time at home in the kitchen (if not more). We love the kitchen. It’s our favorite room in the house. Like I said, we are Kitchen People.
But we’re also Formal Dining Room People. We love the whole show of it. The candles, the pretty china, the routine of celebration and feeling like this meal is something special. But all meals are really something special, even if only in their everyday regularity, and more importantly, we couldn’t fit both tables in our small, open floor plan space. So the conundrum became: Which table do we keep?
Which table won out? Keep reading.
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Picture of Laurie Colwin at the Empire Diner in New York in 1990 taken by Nancy Crampton.
We are guilty of watching far too much t.v. (NCIS, why do you continue to woo me despite your sliding plot lines?) but I rarely, rarely watch the Food Network. This seems kind of crazy to even me. I love food. I love Master Chef (and Master Chef Junior! Which is too cute for words!). I enjoy many of the recipes that originate on the Food Network, but besides a Thanksgiving marathon while I get the house and feast together, it’s just not something I like to watch.
Behind the scenes, though, it’s absolutely fascinating.
In his new book, ‘From Scratch,’ Alan Salkin delves into the realities of the Food Network and how it went from piddling, middling maybe-watched network into the media baron of the food industry. Did you know that in the beginning, Mario Batali was actually cooking without an oven? And when he pretended to be putting a dish in the oven to cook, he was actually stomping his foot on the floor to mimic the sounds a real oven would make?
Somehow, there’s a strange honesty in that to me. Like it says so openly, yeah, this is all performance, and we get it. That’s something I just can’t find there today.
What’s missing from Food Network? Keep reading.
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Pretty handmade blanket via Martha, who else?
Growing up, birthdays in our house were met with one, very special regularity: The birthday girl got breakfast in bed. As the most breakfast-averse child in existence, I loved this one treat. Breakfast in bed was a celebration, and it could be anything I wanted. Maybe a piece of festive, leftover pie. Maybe a cheese sandwich and some cocoa. No matter what was on the tray, I knew for certain before I opened my eyes that today was going to special: After all, the day started with breakfast in bed.
As adults, we’ve hung on to breakfast in bed. Before we became a family of three, we looked forward to rainy days where we could bring the newspaper back into the bed for a morning of flannel pajamas, fuzzy socks, and a cozy start to the day. Nowadays, our kidlet loves to snuggle with us in the morning, so we take every opportunity to spend an early Saturday just chatting about baby things with him all cuddled up in our bed… and breakfast by our sides.
As important as dinner at the table is for good family habits, breakfast in bed is the perfect start for a day of happiness.
Because I am evangelical about breakfast in bed, I don’t recommend getting all fussy and gourmet with it. Rather, I suggest starting with what you already love: Whatever your morning routine is, try waking up a few minutes early and savoring it in bed. I guarantee it’s better than hitting the snooze button. Even if all you do is snuggle out of the bed to grab some O.J. and snuggle back in, try it. It will make your day.
Haven’t convinced you yet? Keep reading…
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Pretty apple picking engagement session (why didn’t I think of that?) from Something Turquoise.
For anyone who grew up in Cleveland, Patterson Fruit Farm is a fixture of Fall. The local epicenter of apple picking, every Autumn warranted an annual trek into the chilly fall air at Patterson’s so you could fill your arms and bags to the brim with fresh apples. McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Cameos, and Winesaps lined up single-file through their orchards just waiting for swinging children, families with ladders, and happy hands in woolen mittens. Fall means apple picking, especially at Patterson’s.
Patterson’s is a pick-your-own apple farm and apple market that makes anyone who has ever had the great fortune to visit immediately recall the smell of their famous apple fritters filling the air with sugar and spice the minute the weather starts to cool. I’ve yet to meet a Clevelander who hasn’t spent time at Patterson’s, and the day I do, I will drive this person straight to the farm and stand in line with them to treat them to a warm apple fritter. Patterson’s is just that kind of place.
No matter where you grew up, chances are high that you have your own Patterson’s, too: A place where you always went apple picking. A place that told you, in its annual regularity, that the year was really in full swing and that Fall was truly, finally upon us.
It always seems to me that in Autumn, we begin preparing ourselves for nostalgia. We reminisce about our first days of school as the children head back for theirs, we let our hearts get warmed by the simple act of pulling out our favorite fuzzy slippers, we ready our tables for our feasts of thanks. All of Fall feels like one big prelude to the season of joy and giving that follows it, and for me, there is no moment so full of tradition and sentiment as the day we all pile into an orchard to fill our arms with apples.
But what to do with all those apples?
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image from the Russian Discover Wedding.
When I was little (and, okay, still) the answer to that famous question — who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? — was always me. I did it. I stole the cookies from the cookie jar. Sometimes I stole all the cookies. Sometimes I stole all but one. Sometimes, like today, I wonder if cookies are the answer to all of life problems, because there is little that can’t be made better if it includes a nice cookie. Call it a biscuit, a wafer, a Girl Scout perfection, a piece of melty chocolate that makes you grin just thinking about it… but cookies in a cookie jar are a wonderful thing.
For some reason, now that I’m a grown-up with my own home, I don’t keep a cookie jar on the counter. Do you? I’m not sure if its absence is because I made some conscious decision about bugs one day after a particularly disturbing visitation by representatives of the local wildlife, or if the counter space just got eaten up by appliances, or if I just sort of forgot, but either way, I realize I need to bring it back. What is childhood without a cookie jar for sneaking?
Four of my picks for cookie jars when you click through!
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image taken by Bill approximately three seconds before I told him to stop taking photos already and let me eat!
As soon as it’s fall, I start craving food that matters. Not just the Pinterest-worthy picnic sandwiches I attempt to make all summer or a good pasta salad I can nibble on for days, but the kind of hearty food that makes your soul warmed and happy. And when it’s not yet November and not yet chilly, that doesn’t leave a ton of options. But there is one. A food perfect for football, fun to make, easy to do outside when the days are still comfortable, and just generally ideal for every kind of get-together you can imagine: The chicken wing. Fall is perfect for really, really good chicken wings.
As the regular sort of Americans who look forward to college football (go Dawgs!), crisp autumn mornings, and bouquets of newly sharpened pencils,* the idea of adding some chicken wings into culinary rotation sounded downright logical as soon as Mark Bittman suggested it.
Did we make wings ourselves? Did we order in? Maybe both? Keep reading…
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Pretty tamales from Fake Food Free, which features the delicious-sounding Jerk Style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamale recipe from Ham: An Obsession with the Hind Quarter.
Does your mouth water the minute you hear the word taco? Do you find yourself hunting down street fairs just to buy an arepa?* Does the word “masa” instill your heart with hope and your kitchen with potential? Do you go to Trader Joe’s just to buy tamales?**
I do. Guys, I really, really do. I go to Trader Joe’s to buy steamed pork buns I can microwave. I go to Trader Joe’s to buy lentils ready-to-eat in the produce section. I go for their chocolate covered mango coconut bites (which should be illegal), habanero lime tortillas, and cut-rate Port Salud cheese. But mostly, I go for their tamales. Delicious, magical, hot tamales.
Tamales, for the uninitiated, are like extremely delicious hot pockets made with masa flour or cornmeal. Now everyone who has ever eaten a tamale forgive me for the dumbed-down description, because a tamale is so much more than that. It’s a vehicle for consuming delicious foods in a yummy wrapper. It’s a reason to sit down to dinner. It’s an invitation to love food.
A little history, and lot more tamales, when you keep reading…
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Photo of Hi-Rise Bread Co.’s Georgia Ruben by Will Levitt for Serious Eats. I ate my own sandwich way too quickly to take a photo of it!
As every school child knows, there’s nothing better than a good sandwich: crusts off, peanut butter and jelly in equal parts, maybe even a little nutella and banana for a treat. But for those over the age of ten, sandwiches can get a bad rap. They get traded for wraps, for salads, falafels. And while I’m all for falafel, it doesn’t hold a candle to a good sandwich. A good, grown-up sandwich.
We spent the last week wandering around Cambridge, Mass., the culinary epicenter of good, grown-up sandwiches. As easy to find as Harvard students and Boston Red Sox Fans, are sandwiches built with rustic breads so fresh you can still smell the yeast. They are piled high with meats and vegetables perfectly spiced and slivered, slathered with cheeses, spreads, and homemade mayos that make you wish you had an old-school lunch pail to carry one to work in every day — or at least a good sandwich shop close by. And they make you remember how there’s little as good in the middle of the day as a tasty, delicious sandwich.
Mouthwatering sandwich talk, straight ahead!
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image via Iowa State, where cooking is no longer required ed.
How did you feed yourself when you went off to college? Did you live on macaroni and cheese? Microwave popcorn? Takeout chinese?
A decade later, and I still don’t regret my freshman fifteen. Sure, this is because I put on my weight in steamed pork buns that melted in your mouth and delicious sandwiches from Milano Market, but if we’re all being realistic, there are much better ways to give eating the old college try. A man should not live off Cup Noodle alone. And thanks to a few helpful gadgets, that’s never been easier.
For starters, every dorm basically requires a rice cooker. It should be on the “you absolutely need to pack this” list right next to an alarm clock, some notebooks, and a calendar with Grandma’s birthday and phone number written on it. For the foodie and the non-eater alike, the rice cooker is the most underrated and versatile kitchen appliance. And it doesn’t even require a kitchen! Pair it with the Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.
What else does a dorm room need? Keep reading!
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image from the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which works to eliminate micronutrient deficiencies worldwide.
There is little in this world I need like a rice cooker. Sunshine, barbecue, some sparkle, a good book… And a rice cooker. Preferably this little cheapie red one, because loyal little kitchen starlet that it is, I’ve been relying on it for going on twelve years. And I can’t imagine my kitchen without it.
It’s light. It’s long lasting. And lo, does it make magic happen.
Maybe because I was a lazy single woman who hated heating up a whole pot of water to make one poached egg for going on a decade, or maybe because I’m a very inventive small-apartment-kitchen genius* channeling the culinary ingenuity of Clementine and Laurie Colwin, for years I relied heavily on this little rice cooker for zillions of meals.
And it always got the job done.
Keep reading for 13 things I’ve cooked in the rice cooker in the last year alone.
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Beautiful moth (welcome in my home at any time) from Red Tree Designs.
They come in in your flour. They procreate while you aren’t looking. They ignore the baby on board, organic only, no-pesticides-here-please signs littering your life. They make you the most popular person on the block out of thin air.
And now you have to find a way to get rid of them.
At least, after a seven month deployment and an eight month decampment at my mother’s through my recent pregnancy, that’s what we came home to. A newborn, a reintegrating Marine, a new mom, and a kitchen full of meal moths. And let me tell you: I’m not a big fan of bugs.
It doesn’t matter where you buy your groceries or how clean you keep your home (as I keep learning, almost punitively), pantry pests are the peril of anyone who cooks. My stepmom — the family food guru — maintains that they come in and you just can’t help it, they are simply a part of food life. Every other kitchen queen I know agrees. But I can’t help it: “No, no, no!,” I yelp. These critters make my skin crawl.
More on the creepy crawlies — click here!
By Gabrielle. Dreamcatcher via Megan Morton.
You might be noticing a tragic lack of Raleigh-Elizabeth’s witty words these days, but her absence is the result of a pretty wonderful happening: a baby! His name is Hunter and he is, of course, adorable and loved. Congratulations, Duttweilers!
Personally, I really miss her Do I Really Need A… posts, especially this one as I’m currently packing up all of mine and feeling like I need a heavy purge! And who could forget the fiery discussion after this one?
Friends, if you have a minute to send Raleigh some tried and true new mom advice about getting through the first few months, I know she will appreciate it! What were your favorite products? Unforgettable milestones? Forgettable moments? And what do you wish someone had told you when you were in the throes of all-night feedings and spit-up on every cute shirt you owned?
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Grilled peaches the Bobby Flay way.
Does it get any better than summer? Popsicles, sprinklers, the beach. Lightening bugs, warm weather, drive-in movies. And, best of all, the greatest thing about summer: y’all, it’s time to start grilling!
From the very start of Spring, the smell of someone getting the grill going is enough to make an entire neighborhood salivate. And for good reason! There’s little as delicious as something thrown on the grill and served up with a healthy dose of sunshine. That said, I’ll confess that I grew up in a home where we considered it grilling season year-round, regardless of climate. I blame my dad: I think nothing of a grown man standing outside in a Cleveland, Ohio snowstorm armed with a plate of dinner-to-be and his trusty black Weber.
But maybe that’s just because what happens between a grill and its food is pure magic. Have you noticed? Is there anything better than a burger fresh from the grill? (Especially made with the help of Lindsey’s Secrets to a Perfect Burger!*) Or grilled corn on the cob? Maybe you like to get all fancy and do dessert on the grill too… nothing says summer dessert like grilled peaches served with cinnamon, honey, and greek yogurt or ice cream.
No matter what you’re grilling or where you are on the grill mastery scale (I tend to bring up the rear as a novice griller — I’ve got all the basics down, but the mastery is my husband’s forte. Novice griller, expert eater. Hey, we all have to start somewhere!), summer is the best time to get the hang of the grill and all that goes with it.
Grilling advice ahead!
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Images by Beth Galton and Charlotte Omnes.
Have you seen these photos of food cut perfectly in half?
The photo series is the brainchild of photographer Belth Galton and food stylist Charlotte Omnes. Galton specializes in food, and has done work for some of the biggest food companies out there — Swanson, Campbell’s, Stouffer, and Kraft, to name a few. Omnes worked for years in recipe development before she got into food styling. These cross-section studies are the best of what both have to offer, don’t you think?
Did you have any idea that milk swirling into coffee would be so beautiful?
(Although I have to admit: I had a hunch those donuts would look so tasty!)
To avoid digital retouching, the only change they made to the food to make them photographable was to add gelatin to the liquids.
I wish they had done this when we were little – we could have finally found the prize at the bottom of the cereal box!
Which photos are your favorite?
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image via The Renshaw.
It’s a rare day that I get to taste the food I read about in restaurant reviews. From America’s most dazzling hot spots to small hole-in-the-walls where dinner for two costs my monthly diaper budget, I’m relegated to drooling over the words, not the plates.
And maybe that’s half the idea. Maybe restaurant critics write not just to sell us on the merit of a dish, chef, or fancy restaurant, but to let us have a taste of something they know we probably couldn’t enjoy without them.
That’s the truth Ruth Reichl discovered when she first started out as a restaurant critic for the New York Times. Newly returned to New York after a stint in California, she headed first to Le Cirque (among Manhattan’s fanciest fancy places) dressed not as herself, New York Times restaurant critic, but as the invented Molly Hollis, a Michiganer who wore pantyhose when it was hot out, got no special treatment, and was sat in the frozen tundra of the restaurant on a banquette she was forced to share with the menus and wine lists. When she started to peruse those wine lists (because her waiter had failed to give her one), it was unceremoniously demanded back because someone else – clearly, someone important – needed it. By contrast, when she appeared as herself, Ruth Reichl, Restaurant Critic, she was told — quite honestly — that the King of Spain would have to wait in the bar, but her table was ready.
More on restaurants, critics, and real food ahead!
By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image by K. Blueice.
“Never eat anything for breakfast you wouldn’t eat for dinner.”
This great advice was served to Jeffrey Ozawa, or Gorumando, along with a traditional Japanese breakfast one morning in the Japanese countryside. One by one, a little old woman in a little pink kimono dished up the traditional Japanese dishes of rice, pickles, green tea, miso soup, and broiled fish. A perfect, traditional morning routine.
Breakfasts in other cultures have long intrigued me (partly because I’m so resistant to our own Lucky Charms and pancakes variety) but the Japanese breakfast holds a peculiar fascination: it’s like they skipped breakfast and went straight on to lunch.
Wait till you hear about breakfast in Germany.