One of the things I struggle with is making time to sit down and eat dinner at home as well as making it feel just as special as dining at a restaurant. I love cooking at home, especially for other people, M or other friends. Back in college, we had ‘family dinner’ once a week and that was always my favorite meal.
For me, eating is mindless and out of boredom. You put a bag of Goldfish in front of me and some Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I’ll knock back the whole bag. All 12 servings. Eating is for nutrition. It’s all those boring string cheese sticks and carrot sticks. It’s for convenience; it’s those prepackaged foods and anything you have to unwrap.
Dining, on the other hand, is a communal experience. It’s passing plates of tasty and fresh vegetables over heads and glasses of wine. Dining is stopping and taking time to spend with those you love, nourishing each other with good food and great company. It is a fancy night out at a Michelin starred restaurant.
One of the small things I’m doing to be proactive is putting a tablecloth on our dining room table and eating off our good plates. What steps do you take to make dinner special at home?
Last year on my birthday, M started a new tradition of baking cakes from scratch for our birthdays. It was really hard for me to find the right cake I wanted to make for my Minnesotan but this one was very tasty. I’m not sure if we’ll keep this up forever, but it’s a really great way to show each other we care in a way that feels special.
For the Cake You’ll Need:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour an 8 or 9 inch cake pan. In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar, beat on medium until well combined and fluffy. One at a time, each each egg, maple syrup and vanilla extract, scraping down sides between each addition.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour and milk in small amount, alternating between the two and mix until well combined. Pour into floured pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and springy to the touch.
Once completely cool, ice the cake.
For the Icing You’ll Need:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
Cream the butter, sugar and maple syrup together on high for about 2-5 minutes, until nearly doubled in size. Cover cake with icing and top with toasted walnuts and a light drizzle of maple syrup.
M made these drinks for us and I’m so obsessed! I picked up pineapple juice at the store on a whim and now I’m so glad I did! This fizzy drink is light and refreshing and tastes like summer. You hear that summer, I can’t wait for you!
To make one, just stir together 1 1/2 oz each white rum, pineapple juice and tonic water. Top off with a few hunks of frozen pineapple and an ice cube or too!
We went to Pancho’s Pistolas with two good friends for dinner after work a few weeks ago. I clearly love tacos, but I was blown away by how fresh and tasty everything was! It was some of the best mexican food I’ve had, and we eat a lot of it! And, the margaritas are handmade and super-duper delicious!
If you go: Pancho’s Pistolas, 700 W 31st Street Chicago IL 60616
This dish is really hearty and worth all the mess. I’d really recommend not doing what I did and getting all your chopped done before the portobellos come out of the oven.
4 large portobello mushroom caps
2 tsp olive oil
3 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon basil
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup marinara sauce
4 1/4 slices reduced fat mozzarella
Preheat broiler. Spray a large cooking sheet with cooking spray. Scrap out the gills from the underside of the portobello mushrooms. Place them on the cooking sheet and broil until tender, about 3 minutes on each side.
Heat oven to 400. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped mushrooms, carrot, onion, and garlic. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
Add broth, TVP, and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover to let simmer. In about 5 minutes, all the liquid should be absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan, lemon juice and basil.
Spoon into mushroom caps. Top with marinara and a slice of mozzarella. Bake until filling is heated through and the cheese is nice and melty, about 12 minutes.
Things have been busy around the Comyn house for the last week, we’re both juggling lots of balls these days. Some great, some not to so great.
I wanted a tasty, wholesome meal last night and I just pulled out the veggies I could find the fridge and starting chopping. Half a white onion, three green onions, four radishes, half an orange and red bell pepper, half a head of cauliflower and one tomato.
Mincing, chopping, seeding-all brought calm. It was kind of amazing to see what a cacophony of leftover, abandoned vegetables yield under some soy sauce, lots of grated ginger, and bit of sriracha.
Half of cup of sticky rice later and I had dinner, just as fast as it would have taken me to make pizza rolls and so much more filling. I was filled up with more than just “I’m good for you-so eat me” vegetables, but the physical acts of cleaning, cutting, chopping and cooking too. And those are just as nourishing.
I served these peas with my regular salmon cakes recipe (please ignore that I ate two serving of salmon, it was a rough day ok?). M told me several times we needed to make these peas again. They are light and herby. This is probably the only time I think it WORTH IT to get the fresh herbs. No subbing the dried stuff, ok?
2 tsp unsalted butter, divided
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 to 2 cups torn leaf lettuce
2 cups peas, frozen or freshly shelled pea pods
2 heaping tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tsp butter over medium heat. Stir in scallions and lettuce. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the lettuce is slightly wilted.
Add the peas, mint, tarragon, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Cover and cook until peas are tender, between 4 and 6 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in remaining tsp butter.