Homemade kitchen: apple cider donuts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my kids are off school today, and it’s raining. They were up late last night and early to rise today which calls for homemade donuts.

Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts

I tore this page out of a magazine and bought apple butter specifically for this task over the school break. I couldn’t wait to be in the kitchen with my kids. You can find the recipe here, it’s from Southern Living Magazine.

I knew they turned out when Oliver kept sneaking upstairs and all I would see is his hand come around the corner by the stove to steal another donut hole fresh out of the oil. I’ve made donuts before but this recipe with the apple and the cider – it was moist (I said it) and dense and flavorful. I went with the Maple Glaze and can never get my frostings to set up like they do in photos, maybe I don’t wait long enough for the donut to cool or don’t add enough sugar to the frosting to thicken … either way it was still delicious.

If you’re surrounded by family and in the kitchen all day today: you still have time to make these for breakfast tomorrow (or snacks this afternoon). Enjoy your weekends! Eat something deep-fried and dipped in sugar. Just carve out a few minutes this weekend to stretch and breathe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Grocery Grandma’s Ribs

Come with me to the grocery store. We’re idly walking the aisles fulfilling our lists and comparing prices, mentally checking off items from our to-do lists, smiling at the strangers passing by and stopping to talk to familiar faces. We handle items in the produce section gently choosing the perfect avocados, testing the mangos, walking slowly through the citrus just so we can inhale deeply. We consider the grapes and wonder why we always buy broccoli only to forget about it. We measure the pears and select this weeks bananas.

We look up to scan the sea of faces one last time, the same group of shoppers that you walked silently in with finishes at about the same time as us and we cross the vast spaces between almost-out-of-here and the check-out-drudgery before we choose a line with a check out girl who seems to be proficient today. We calmly turn our carts towards lane 22 and sideways glance at all the magazines screaming at us to believe Ben and Jen are adopting, that the Princess is pregnant and that sex is better on vacation. We take a small detour towards the candy selections and note they’re on sale, too. What would we really do with 10 reeses peanut butter cups? Are they really for s’mores? We’re honest with ourselves and pass this opportunity.

Almost there. It’s almost time to unload our cart when we see an elderly woman behind us carrying just a few items. She’s not that elderly, but she’s of respectable age. Older than my mother, with kind eyes. She declines our offer to go ahead of us (we have a small load today too, no big deal) when she starts the conversation …

My grandkids called and asked for ribs today. (She’s excited but almost unbelievably)

She notes that they prefer all organic produce and dairy, that they check to make sure she’s adhering to their standardizations.

We make small talk, she’s retired and thought she’d have all this time on her hands. She discovers my kids are school aged and we bond over the silence of our time, how we miss the chaos a little more than we’d like to admit. How we both realize that we’re the lucky ones.

She’s worried about the time, it’s almost noon and usually she has more notice for ribs than this (but thankfully they were on sale). She tells her husband to not expect to get too many, they never know how many kids are coming to the table since her grandkids brag about her ribs and always bring friends. They often feed their grandkids and then go out to eat together after. (And this is when I fell in love with her.)

If you have a head start, you cook the ribs low and slow for 8 hours. Starting at 275 at about 10 am. You cut the fat off the back and rub them, lightly, with seasoned salt. That’s it.

If you’re crunched for time, say you start around noon for dinner – you cook at 325 to help it along. In the last hour or so of cooking you take the ribs out and brush them with barbecue sauce.

She serves them with mashed (organic) potatoes and cooked carrots. (She winks and tells me she forgot the cream but with the 2 sticks of butter in the potatoes, she might get away with it this time.)

I didn’t catch her name but I’ll know her forever.

Grocery Grandma’s Ribs.

"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"
"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"

My kids actually cheered for me after Sunday lunch today. I started the ribs about 9:30 this morning and we ate at 2:30. I used the 325 method and actually tried to doctor up the rub a bit but made it too salty. Just means I get to try it again.

I served it up with mashed potatoes, our favorite kale caesar, some crusty bread, and creamed spinach.

"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"
"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"

We decided tonight that we’ll write a family cookbook. It’ll be a collection of our favorites and instead of chapters we’d have people. Jessica, Oliver, The Whole FamDam.

Jessica’s portion of the book will read like this; Ribs, bread, pies, sweet breads (scones) … the flour and water, elemental stuff of a kitchen. Fire. Meat! She likes sharp food – vinegars and mustards.

Oliver’s portion of the book will read like this; Salmon, rice, muffins, oatmeal, breakfast!, salads, shrimp, Asian infusion. The water, the sea, the salt. With the sweet finish, and anything that feels like a hug in a bowl. Veggies! He likes calm food – tea and rice.

The Whole FamDan of the book will read like this; roast chicken, meatballs over rice, tacos (3 ways), pancakes, breakfast, birthday cakes, Grocery Grandma’s Ribs, hot chocolate mix, Christmas cookies, cinnamon rolls, The foods we made memories with, spring rolls, camping food. The earth, the sky. The grounding and the flying – the take-off and the landing.

And they told me they’d tell all their friends about my cooking and then they promised to always come home.

The Basics

I once asked a babysitter to throw dinner together as I was flying out the door, “Just toss something together! Whatever you find is ok. There’s chicken in the freezer, pasta in the pantry, canned tomatoes. Go for it! Get creative. See you at 9.”

I got a text later asking me what exactly I wanted her to do because “throwing it together” was a foreign language. I then realized that I wanted her to know how to make the basics. Simple pasta sauce, al dante pasta, a salad for a crowd, 3 ingredient bread, a meat rub, a side that goes with almost anything and a way to use whatever you might have. Usually less than you think.

I never got around to teaching my sitters anything in the kitchen, actually I just started keeping frozen pizza’s in the freezer or boxed pasta in the pantry hoping that would suffice, but the sentiment is still there and I want my own kids to know how to fend for themselves when they’re staring down a dinner party, meeting the parents, impressing a love interest or simply surviving in their first apartment. It doesn’t take much, these are the basics.

Let's eat

An onion is the start of so many wonderful things. If you’re in a hurry or stuck for a good idea – start with an onion. If all you do is saute it down to it’s brown goodness, sticky on the edges, a little crisp … and toast a piece of bread and open a can of tuna. You can slice a tomato and eat like a king. No tuna or tomato necessary.

We’ll start with Skillet Cabbage. I grew up on this and in the Fall there’s plenty of cabbage to go around – this is one of our favorite side dishes this time of year.

Let's eat

Grab a large skillet or dutch oven, heat up a few glugs of oil (we use Avocado oil. Coconut oil or EVOO would work, as well as ghee. No wrong answer here) if you’re a stickler for measurements start with 2 TBSP.

Slice up 2 onions, whatever kind you have.

A few cloves of garlic – minced.

A bit of salt and pepper. More salt than pepper, but to your taste.

Saute the onion down to it’s translucent yellow state. Just starting to brown.

While your onions are cooking, slice, julienne, chop – whatever you desire – an entire head of cabbage. Discard the middle, tough white parts.

Add the whole thing to your pan or dutch oven – it will sizzle. The cabbage will sweat, there will be steam. This is the romance of the kitchen. This is the part I love the best. I cover my dutch oven for a few minutes and stir every once in a while.

This will last about 10 minutes. Your cabbage will have wilted to about 50% of it’s original mass. Right before you’re ready to serve it, toss in some soy sauce. Again – start with 1-2 TBSP but add more to taste as you wish and crank up the heat again if you reduced it. More steam, more sizzle.

It’s humble in presentation. But it’s perfect with fish, chicken, pork. As a side if you’re having fried rice. As a base if you have a couple sausages to use, or bacon to fry, left over meat from the grill.

You can always do more – add more. But this is one of my favorite basic recipes.

And now maybe it can be one of yours.

House Keeping: On a roll

Here’s another snap-shot of the bigger picture of our “what-works-for-us” routines. Today, Imma get chatty about grocery shopping and menu planning.

housekeeping

Grain of salt, please. This is not a soap box, this is the sharing circle. And today I have the speaking stick and I want to talk about lists.

(This is where I start singing and dancing. It happens in real life all. the. time.)

On an ongoing basis …

I make lists. Usually of the groceries we’re out of, the recipes I plan to make for the next week or two, the events we have going on or the dinners we already plan to eat away from home and the some-what daily list of the things I need to, or want to, accomplish in any given day.

Back to school

Where we live we have access to some great grocery options. Aldi and Meijer are the stores I shop the most. On the weekend I look at the ad’s online for each store and build my menu plan off of what’s on sale. The front and very back page of these circulars are called their “loss leaders” which means the store generally looses money on the “sale” but gets you in the door to buy everything else. So I know those items are going to be the cheapest. If something we use a lot of is on sale, I buy more than I need for the week and stick it in the freezer. This happens with meat usually.

I always go to Aldi first and whatever I can’t find or get there – I buy at Meijer with anything else that I planned on getting from their ad as well.

We have favorite meals that I try to rotate in regularly so I can stay in the good graces of my children if I flop more than once during the week. Right now I know that we have busy evenings with soccer practice and youth group so I plan my menu based on being able to make something quick, in the crock pot, or pull it from the freezer on the days I know we’ll be here, there, and every where. On the rare evenings we have time to sit at the table and do more than eat and go, I love trying new things or having friends or family over.

After I shop for our groceries, I chop. I call it the Shop and Chop day of the weekend. I’m basically a sous chef for myself. I wash and prep my veggies for the week, anything I can – I make ahead (or double so I can freeze). This means I make pancakes, cookies or bars, freezable dinners, and lunch items or breakfast items in one huge push so the rest of the week is fairly easy.

still life

Back to school

The kids are doing a kid craft fair at the local library today. Oliver made and is selling paper airplanes while Jessica (with some help) made and is selling cookies, mini sweet breads, and scones. We've been busy.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. And I get tired. And usually at the end of that day I want to crawl in blanket with a glass of wine and watch hours of tv. But I do have time during the week as well to bake and cook. I have time on busy days to prep dinner if I didn’t get to it on the weekend. There’s always something else to make or do or fix. We might run out of baked goods for lunches on Thursday so I make more on Friday.

Um, you guys. It’s not that easy to get into this habit. 11 years of being a stay at home mom who contracts creative talents outside of the home has taught me this one thing: if it’s working for you, don’t change it. Don’t try to be Martha Stewart if you are not. Don’t try to be Rachel Ray if you are not. Don’t try to be your favorite blogger in the kitchen or your closet with their awesome photos and target themed baskets if you are not. Take what you can from whatever source inspires you and implement the small things. Or don’t! You do you, you’re good at that.

Onward: Now that I’m in the habit of running my kitchen like this, it has made a huge difference in our evenings and my ability to function past 4pm. I post our dinner menu plan on our chalkboard wall every week (and the full one on the fridge for me) and it’s been one of Jessica’s go-to check points for her week.

Turns out I gave birth to someone who needs structure and expectations. She needs a goal in order to accomplish things and when she has to worry about what might be for dinner (if she’ll like it or if I’ve even thought ahead that far yet) she freaks out. I mean it. She flips a lid. This is oddly one of the ways I love her every week – planning not only our dinners but I plan Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, and Dinner every day. She can check in and if I’m not around to help or guide she can help herself. This has saved us in the mornings when she’s tired or not feeling like herself (read, hormones. Also, 11) and after school when she has a lot on her mind and is unwinding from her day. Not having to think about what she’s hungry for and having to ask or make it for herself is a small way I can help her transition from school to home.

And yes, you lovely little freaks: I do plan out our Breakfasts, Lunches, Snacks and Dinners for every day of the week for a rotating 7 day basis. Say it with me: WHO IS SHE?!

Here’s what I write in my notebook – one page will be the weekly menu plan while the opposite page is my grocery list:

MON
B: Smoothies
L: Home lunch (mini pancakes, carrots, strawberries, cookie)
S: Chips and Salsa/apple slices
D: Taco salad and quinoa

TUE
B: Eggs, Bacon, Toast
L: Home lunch (muffin, protein and cheese, apple, granola bar)
S: Rice krispie treat/banana
D: Curry with rice, green salad

WED
B: Breakfast burritos/yogurt parfait
L: Hot lunch
S: Carrots/sugar snaps and dips
D: Roast chicken with sweet potato fries

And so on … While the opposite side of my notebook will read like this:

ALDI

butter
rice krispies
marshmallows
grapes
lettuce
cheese
turkey
frozen veggies
canned tomatoes
tortilla chips
cheese crackers

MEIJER

pears
milk
toilet paper
avocados
kale
gr. beef
whole roasting chicken
ground mustard
paprika
cinnamon

TO MAKE

Muffins
Rice krispie treats
breakfast burritos
Ham chowder for freezer
banana bread
cinnamon sugar bread

Scenes from my kitchen

What did I miss? I feel like I’m telling on myself just a little bit because this sounds like a tried and true formula and although it’s what works for us, this is a system designed solely based on the way I think. I’m a little bit forgetful. Ask the kids how many times we end up using kleenex because although I noticed we were low on toilet paper – that’s the one thing I routinely forget at the grocery store EVERY TIME. But I buy Rice Vinegar almost every trip.

I read recently that you should have a dinner emergency fund in your house – which basically means always have a box of pasta and can of sauce in your pantry because there will be the night that nothing got done and you still have to feed people or you hired a sitter for the night on a whim and expecting them to make your planned pork loin with sides is asking just a little too much. I don’t eat pasta but we have it in the house for these reasons, I’m never out of lettuce or rice, coconut milk, the oils I cook with, eggs or butter.

ONE MORE THING: We’re members at Costco so we buy a few things (in bulk) a few times a year. Like the oils I cook with 😉 and the wine we drink. I love some of their meats, cheeses, and frozen food options. And I always buy flowers.

There’ve been stints in the last (almost) 12 years where I’ve worked full time outside of my home and having a dinner menu plan has made that possible. I know it’s the cliche thing to say that being “just a mom” isn’t a job and sure, I’ve claimed it and struggled with it for years but you know what? I love this job. And I’m good at it.

I don’t get paid to plan meals and custom make them to our families needs, no one calls me a chef.

I don’t get paid to clean our house and do our laundry so our family has what they need to live outside of the walls of our home, no one calls me a maid.

I don’t get paid to grocery shop or shop for clothes or shoes or to keep my home stocked with the necessities, no one calls me their personal assistant.

I don’t get paid to balance a budget or pay accounts payable or be the operating accountant for our several goals, dreams, and responsibilities, no one calls me their CPA.

I don’t get paid to decorate and renovate our spaces, no one calls me their designer.

I don’t get paid to mow our lawn or keep our flower beds weed free or to plant, consider and keep a garden, no one calls me their landscaper.

I don’t get paid to plan our social life or dinner events, or to host our parties or beautiful evenings under the stars, no one calls me their events planner.

I don’t get paid to do a lot of things and I’m not called a lot of titles: I get paid to take photographs, to write. I call myself an artist and a writer.

My family calls me Jodi, my children get to call me mom.

Somehow it all works out, and I love my life. Lists and all.

xoxo
Jodi

Cooking Club Up North 2016

This past weekend I was in Nothern Michigan with my Cooking Club. We get together once a month for dinner at someones house (we rotate hosting). The rules are: you make food you wouldn’t normally make for your family or your family wouldn’t really appreciate (most of us have young families, so throwing carrots is the main event at dinner. Not always eating, or even enjoying dinner together). Also read Shauna Neiquests book “Bread and Wine” for more inspiration to start your own.

The host comes up with a theme for dinner ei: “green,” “mexican,” “PB&J,” or “soup” and the like, then each member claims a course. Appetizers, drinks, the host does the main dish, a starch, salad, dessert. You all bring tupperware for the leftovers and share the recipes once dinner is over via a private pinterest page. We keep a record of the themes, who brought what, and who hosted last; as well as a list of ideas/dreams to one day do together. We just crossed off “Wine tasting/Cook together weekend.” Every month we merrily abandon our duties of the table to our spouses and children while we shop, prepare, and make one exquisite course to share among ourselves. For just one night a month – we share a table with enthusiasm, toast to good fortune, and get to know each other a little bit more without distraction.

We very much want you to have a cooking club so if you need permission for one more thing to fit into your month: this one is worth it. Gather a few friends or folks you’d love to get to know and invite them to the table. It’s been a beautiful rhythm in my life, and I owe it all to my friend Jeannette for getting it off the ground.

We spent the weekend wine tasting, cooking together, laughing and singing, watching the Olympics, driving all over Northern Michigan, eating, paddle boarding and kayaking, sleeping, and hiking/walking/yoga-ing. There were a few squats in there, some leg lifts. A posture demonstration. And lots of discussion about our kids, oily skin, and hair care (ps, don’t wash your hair every day). I may have fallen down some slippery steps in the rain as we were packing up to go home. It’s possible I have a blue leg to prove it.

Worth it.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our first menu of the weekend included: A cheese plate with homemade hummus, (Tahini from Jerusalem? Yes.) all the cheeses, fruits, veggies, crackers and breads. Moscow Mules for appetizers, white wine with dinner which was Lobster Alfredo, caprese salad, roasted asparagus, crusty/rustic bread, and homemade strawberry sour cream ice cream with biscuits and whipped cream.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

It took us a good 6 hours to prep, make, and actually eat this feast.

The next day we woke up and did not wash our hair. Drank coffee while we got ready and packed up snacks for the day on the road. We had a plan and we were off to conquer it. First stop? The cheese shanty in Leland – their pretzel bread sells out fast and we needed that bread. Then a hike to the Empire Bluff to eat those coveted sandwiches and sweat, on to our wine tasting tour beginning with Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor (please go to Glen Arbor, every body. Just go. It’s my favorite.) and then meandering around the peninsula stopping at various wineries ending up at Tandem Ciders before toasting the day complete at the original Moomers for an ice cream dinner.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
From the left: Kara, Beth, me, Laura, Jeannette, Stacey
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

We worked out when we got back to the cottage for the night. And then we ate some more cheese.

Sunday morning we woke up and took our time drinking coffee, and then more coffee. We all made our way on to the dock to paddle board and kayak before getting back in the kitchen together to prep brunch, toast bloody mary’s, and eventually eat our last meal of the weekend together. We planned on walking after brunch (before heading home) when it started raining. So we cleaned up and closed up the cottage to the cadence of the water falling outside and then piled back in to the van to head home. Slowly. With deliberate stops to drive down main-streets with our windows open and the music blasting. We were those people. I love those people.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our brunch menu on Sunday was frittata, parfaits, french toast, dry rubbed bacon, the green well salad from Shauna’s book, and Mimosa’s.

And I returned home full in a way I hadn’t expected.