Mushroom Risotto and Easter

Easter was gorgeous. We started the day with fancy clothes and church and ended it with family and good food. The whole day was sunny and the blossoms were at their fullest peak.

Living in Maryland has been such a treat for this girl from the desert. The fact things just grow without irrigation systems is amazing to me. We ordered some Seedles to help save the bees, and I can’t wait to see wildflowers in our backyard.

Yesterday’s recipes:

Pan Roasted Lemon Chicken

chicken 2


  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine olive oil, mustard, lemon zest, oregano, thyme and salt in a small bowl. Using your fingers or a brush, work the lemon rub onto both sides of the chicken.

In a large bowl, whisk together chicken stock, lemon juice and lemon zest; set aside.

Mushroom Risotto
(it’s amazing what some cheese and butter can do to rice!)


  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used a little wine vinegar mixed with half cup of water and white grape juice)
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and drizzle with another 2 tablespoons olive oil; cook until soft and tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on how thinly you sliced the mushrooms. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe adapted from here.


Hello again (and some monkey bread)

Well, hello there! Three and a half years later, let’s check in with where we’re at, shall we? Dave and I added another taste-tester to our kitchen crew. And our new home base is on the East Coast instead of the mountains.

On the political front, President Trump happened. It’s still hard to believe that’s real life. Remember those days when the worst thing I had to say about the election was that the Romneys and Obamas seemed a little out of touch? Bwhahahaha. Oh, the “good old days.” Now that I am no longer clerking, I am a bit more free to express my political views on various events. But considering that the events of today involve the appointment of an education secretary who wants to dismantle the education system, allegations of election interference from Russia, and refusals to comply with constitutional conflict of interest guidelines — let’s just say the part of me that wishes to avoid crippling and overwhelming anxiety may be finding more blog material from my cookbook than the news.

In the meantime, I am rejoicing in the fact that E. — now a preschooler instead of a baby — recently outgrew her dairy allergy. That means that recipes like the one below are back on the menu. I have gained seven pounds in three weeks so we might be overdoing the cheese and cream and milk and ice cream and butter (oh! the butter!) just a little. I’m sure that whole moderation thing will return once we get over celebrating just how very good food tastes again.

monkey bread

This week’s recipe (courtesy my friend Marie):

Monkey Bread

18 frozen rolls, cut in half
1 c. walnuts or pecans
1 (3 oz) butterscotch pudding, not instant
½ c. butter, melted
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Thaw the rolls enough to cut in half. Mix nuts, pudding, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Dip the rolls in butter and roll in coating. Sprinkle some of the coating on the bottom of a greased bundt pan and add half of the rolls. Sprinkle more of the coating, add the rest of the rolls and sprinkle the rest of the coating on top. Cover for 2-3 hours or leave overnight. Place in a cold oven, do not preheat. Set the oven for 350° and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. If the rolls look undercooked place tin foil on top and cook up to another 20 minutes.

Picture link here.

Marv ‘n Joe

A friend of mine brought over her homemade version of a Marv ‘n Joe a couple of weeks ago. It took me right back to college in the most delicious way possible.

The food court at Utah State University contained all the usual fast food options–pizza, burgers, Americanized Chinese and Mexican foods. There was also Hazel’s. Hazel’s baked fresh honey wheat, sourdough, raisin, and other bread. You could get a sandwich. But since I’m sure that cost something outrageous like $5, most students just paid a dollar for a thick slice of their favorite bread flavor warm and dripping with honey butter. If you were especially loaded that day, you could fork over the $2.25 for a Marv ‘n Joe–a filling, open-face sandwich creation named after two engineering professors named, you guessed it, Marv and Joe.


Hazel’s is gone, and I’m not sure what has happened to the student staple. But if you want to try it for yourself, here’s how it’s done:

  • Take a thick piece of french bread.
  • Spread butter on top.
  • Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.
  • Place2-3 slices of tomato to cover the top of the bread.
  • Pour a small amount of olive oil and vinegar.
  • Top with a piece of provolone cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  • Now broil or toast until golden and bubbly and delicious.

Recipe courtesy this blogger who worked at Hazel’s and was taught how to make them by Marv himself. Photo from here. Too bad Marv and Joe didn’t work out royalties with Hazel’s. Even at the cheap price of $2.25, I bet they’d be rich.

Burrata bites

Awhile ago a friend told me about Tony Caputo’s deli. I was so excited I started browsing their site at work, planning my visit about a week before I’d be able to slip over for lunch. And it was while browsing their site that I found this page. And then this video:

I had found it. The mecca of cheese. It’s hard to describe the texture of something so creamy, so smooth, and simple yet rich. So I’ll just encourage you to go get some.

And when you do, the best way by far to enjoy it is plain with some good balsamic and homegrown cherry tomatoes and basil. But when that’s not possible (there’s only so much you can do about homegrown tomatoes in November), you could try this:


I used red pears because peaches are already out of season. It was divine. Go easy on the sauce. You could half the amount and still have plenty. But the lemon-sugar basil? Brilliant. I’m using that trick in other recipes for sure in the future.


  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A couple dozen basil leaves plus 1 1/2 Tbs thinly sliced
  • Baguette sliced into quarter-inch slices
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 burrata
  • 1 nectarine, sliced into thin wedges


Preheat oven to broil.

In small saucepan, combine vinegar and honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer about 25 minutes or until mixture has reduced by half. Raise temperature to medium-high and cook for another five minutes until thickened to the consistency of syrup, whisking continuously so the mixture doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and mix together. Add the sliced basil leaves, mix to caot, then set aside.

Arrange baguette slices on baking sheet, brush tops with oil, and toast in oven for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Remove and let cool.

Gently slice burrata in half, then into wedges and place on baguette toasts. Nestle wedge of nectarine in a basil leaf and place on top of burrata. Drizzle with reserved balsamic glaze and sprinkle with lemon sugar. Serve at room temperature.


Photo from (I didn’t take a picture of mine but they really did turn out almost as lovely in real life as they were in this picture) and PDF of recipe available here:

Growing Up

Baby E turns one year old on Sunday. Part of growing up means having to eat more “grown-up” foods. The transition from pureed to solid/table foods took a bit more work on my part than I expected. But now that I’m committed, it’s getting better. She’s turning into quite the food lover and watching her explore new tastes and textures is one of the most fun parts of seeing her grow.

On Labor Day we went to a chili tasting festival at Snowbasin Resort: She absolutely inhaled the sweet potato chili. It was hilarious. And the last two nights have been a total success. Not a single jar of baby food. She ate what we did, including a variation of this spinach and basil soup my mother-in-law made:


My mother-in-law added chicken and possibly some other yummy veggies from her garden. That and some homemade bread were the perfect comfort food. It is definitely soup weather.

Bring on the fall.

Quick lunch

I gave up my kitchen a few weeks ago for the good of Dave’s business. A series of unfortunate events involving totaled vehicles, a trust deed, and a hail storm led to us packing almost everything we own into a 10×10-foot storage unit and moving everything else in with Dave’s business partner (aka my inlaws). Part of the deal is that I no longer do the cooking. And it’s been harder than I thought it would be.

At first, I felt relief. I love cooking. Food keeps me sane. But the pressure, the time, the expense was getting to be too much for this working momma. I hadn’t figured out how to cook recipes I loved in half the time on half the budget and without an extra pair of hands. Working-mom guilt combined with the exhaustion of supporting a spouse through 100-hour weeks meant that too many nights 12:30 a.m. would roll around to a sink full of dishes, a partially cooked meal, and me in tears and still hungry. Given the choice between simplifying meal time and not, I stubbornly chose not and my arrogantly high expectations, way-too complicated recipes, and our depleted checking account slowly drove me insane. But I couldn’t find the solution on my own. So when the solution was forced onto us, there was almost a feeling of defiance as I dumped the bottles of vinegars, oils, and even molasses down the drain in preparation for the move — half-used items I knew would go rancid in storage and that had been rejected by friends. Instead of being disappointed, I thought, instead of thinking about all the time it took to build a good base of cooking essentials, instead of thinking about all the money so carefully earned and carefully spent literally being poured down the drain, about all the work and time that went into selecting and preparing recipes, and all the meals we would be giving up for the foreseeable future, instead I would feel liberated. And so, so glad that this chore no longer rested on me. I would show them, I thought. I would prove how great a life of eating someone else’s food could be. And when this was finally over, I assured myself, I would be back with a vengeance. Name brands, imported oils, glass cruets, a perfectly alphabetized spice rack. I would have turned financial defeat into culinary victory.

For three weeks now I have played my role in this combined experiment of ours. I’ve slept alone, cradled E. when she misses her dad, worked my job, taken the bus, kept up on dishes and laundry, paid the bills, and even learned to tolerate the dog. In return, I’ve been privileged to sit down to homemade meals lovingly made by Dave’s mom and make small talk about work and the day. It’s all been delicious, and so nice not to eat alone, but even with family around me, with every meal I’ve still found myself growing more and more homesick. Homesick for the feel of a wooden spoon in my hand and the smell of spices melding on the stove; homesick for the look Dave gives me as he reaches around me to grab the knife he needs; homesick for the sight of E. in her high chair banging happily with a spoon while I sing songs and stir. Homesick for our little unit, our team, and our own impenetrable space. The bus I take to work passes right by our old apartment. Today I was grateful the woman sitting next to me wanted to talk so that I would be too distracted for the usual lump to form in my throat or the normal tears to well up in my eyes. It will get better. It always does.

But in the meantime I couldn’t stand it anymore. So tonight I grabbed a spatula, some zucchini, and some butter. I boiled some quinoa and simmered it in chicken broth. Dave appeared for an hour before heading out for the night shift and we sang along to Ben Folds as he rolled out pizza dough. It was nothing complicated, and in the end, dinner is still very rightly my mother-in-law’s domain. The goal we’re all working toward is far better served by me contributing in other ways. But after tonight’s efforts, and at least for this week, lunches consisting of cheap take-out or the remainders of the box of Triscuits in my bottom drawer will be a thing of a past. A half-dozen portions of two different recipes quietly take up some room in the freezer so that I can grab something of ours, something familiar, to heat up in the middle of the day when I’m needing a literal taste of home. Something that doesn’t taste like someone else, but like me, and like Dave, and like us. It’s small, but it’s a start. And I don’t think it’s the last time I’ll be moonlighting in my inlaws’ kitchen.

Today’s recipes:

Quick stromboli — roll out pizza dough, add sauce, pepperoni, and lots of fresh, chopped basil. Roll like a cinnamon bun and bake at 425 degrees for 14 minutes. Cut into slices and freeze in single, quick-grab portions.


If you haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” yet, you need to.

“Leaning in” isn’t about forcing all women into the workplace or climbing the corporate ladder as life’s only quest. It’s about digging in, being heard, and making a difference for yourself, your children, and your community. It’s about making sure that women’s voices are counted and valued rather than dismissed, in whatever capacity you feel feel your voice is best suited for. From the book:

“My mother had fewer choices than I did, but with my father’s support, she always worked hard. During my childhood she chose to be a devoted mother and volunteer. When I left for college,she went back to school to study teaching English as a second language. She taught full-time for fifteen years and felt that teaching was her calling. ‘At one point I was asked to become the administrator for the entire school,’ my mother told me. ‘I said no, preferring to stay in the classroom and work with my students. I was exactly where I wanted to be.’

“In 2003, my mother left the workforce to take care of her ailing parents. She was sorry to leave her teaching career, but family has always been her top priority. After my grandparents passed away,she reentered the workforce. She founded Ear Pace: Save Your Hearing, a nonprofit to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in young people. At the age of sixty-five, she has returned to her love of teaching,running workshops and speaking to students from elementary to high school.

“My mother has leaned in her entire life. She raised her children, helped her parents spend their final years in dignity and comfort, and continues to be a dedicated and loving wife, mother, and grandmother. . . . She is my inspiration.

. . .

“I have written this book to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and achieve their full potential. I am hoping that each woman will set her own goals and reach for them with gusto. And I am hoping that each man will do his part to support women in the workplace and in the home, also with gusto. As we start using the talents of the entire population, our institutions will be more productive,our homes will be happier,and the children growing up in those homes will no longer be held back by narrow stereotypes. I know that for many women, getting to the top of their organization is far from their primary focus. My intention is not to exclude them or ignore their valid concerns. I believe that if more women lean in, we can change the power structure of our world and expand opportunities for all.”

I have never had a desire to be a CEO or work for a big firm. My dream life involves a few children, a comfortable house, work for a non-profit, and fresh basil always growing in a pot on the porch. But it turns out that “leaning in” is just as important for women like me as it is for corporate-minded women like Sandberg. In our world, it might be even more. How are us non-profit types going to end poverty, stop rape, battle discrimination, and get our kids the educations they deserve unless we raise our hands and come to the table?

I see women like me “leaning back” all the time just when they should be leaning in. Treading water instead of reaching forward for more. I catch myself doing it constantly. I’m barely keeping up some days. Just getting through the daily slog of laundry and dishes on top of work while mentally and emotionally exhausted from balancing the budget that requires both mine and my husband’s incomes just to meet basic needs. So it’s easy to think, “This isn’t my season. This isn’t my time. I’m going to just step back and do the minimum…maybe no one will notice me if I blend into the wall.” It’s just easier that way—coasting at work, letting myself float along in my calling at church instead of digging in and impacting lives, settling for the mundane and the monotonous at home. But that’s not what the world needs. It’s not what my family needs. It’s not what my daughter needs for a role model. It doesn’t mean that I need to be partner of a firm or work 80-hour weeks. It doesn’t mean that when we can finally survive on one income that I shouldn’t stay home or cut back to part-time work if that’s where I want to be. It just means I shouldn’t give up. That I shouldn’t let life back me into a corner of just getting by. I can only do so much, but I’ll be darned if Sheryl Sandberg hasn’t just inspired me to lean all the way in and take the life I have chosen and the small roles I have now and soak up every last drop. I don’t have fresh basil on the porch yet, but I’ve got a small apartment, a gorgeous baby with giggles to savor, and opportunities at work to really lean in. It’s time to make my work count.

A poem…

when your little girl
asks you if she’s pretty
your heart will drop like a wineglass
on the hardwood floor
part of you will want to say
of course you are, don’t ever question it
and the other part
the part that is clawing at
will want to grab her by her shoulders
look straight into the wells of
her eyes until they echo back to you
and say
you do not have to be if you don’t want to
it is not your job
both will feel right
one will feel better
she will only understand the first
when she wants to cut her hair off
or wear her brother’s clothes
you will feel the words in your
mouth like marbles
you do not have to be pretty if you don’t want to
it is not your job

— it is not your job | Caitlyn Siehl

Tagged ,

What do R.E.M. and turkey have in common? Alton Brown has worked with both. Apparently, the food guru was a music video director before he decided that American food programming was lacking. So in his 30s, he enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute, paying special attention to his courses on the science behind food and cooking.

I can’t even begin to explain how badly I would love to learn to really cook. To be trained in basic but classic chef techniques. I don’t know that I’ll ever earn a full-fledged degree in culinary arts the way Brown did, but it’s tempting. You know, once I pay off my law degree. Which at this rate is going to take awhile. So I have dreams of being a late-middle-aged woman with a couple decades of legal experience behind me, my kids raised and pursuing or having completed degrees of their own, and then going to culinary school with enough time to spare in my life for another 20 years of work in the food industry. Happy sigh. Just the thought of working with spices and flavors all day makes me giddy. But in the meantime, I dream of having the money and vacation time available to enroll in one of the CIA’s weekend or bootcamp experiences (CIA as in Culinary Institute of America — though, if the Central Intelligence Agency offered bootcamp opportunities for the public, I wouldn’t necessarily turn that down either) or taking a class in pastry preparation at LeCordon Bleu while vacationing in Paris. In the meantime, I’d settle for classes at my community college, classes from this awesome local source of gourmet cheese, or maybe even these online training videos from America’s Test Kitchen.

While we all ponder the path our alter egos would pursue, or the second career you’ll choose to follow just for fun after you retire from your first one, here’s the video Alton Brown was shooting before he knew the difference between a mince and a dice:

Yay for 90s throwbacks. And 90s special effects.

What do you dream of doing?

An education …

Dairy free

The words “dairy free” imply liberation. As if lactose had been holding us all captive and the brave few on this diet had managed to escape from its evil clutches. I think it’s just a way to put a positive spin on a horrible mode of existence. For me, the words “Now dairy free!” on a product has about the same emotional impact as if it said “Now free of love!” or “Who needs happiness? Now you can do without it.”

Turns out Baby E has a lactose/dairy protein intolerance. It’s likely just a result of the fact her stomach, like the rest of her, is only 10 weeks old and therefore not quite mature enough to handle some things this big, delicious world has to offer. And since I’m her sole food source at the moment, it means I’ve had to forgo the cream of life as well.

I thought giving up cheese would be the most difficult. I love cheese. I love cheese. I REALLY love cheese. I love cheese so much that my husband gave it to me for Christmas one year (brie… mmm… ) and that it was my favorite gift for my birthday this year from a friend (smoked gouda is divine). But actually it’s been butter and milk that have been the hardest to give up.

It’s required a complete retooling of how I cook, eat, snack, and even unwind at the end of the day. Since I’m LDS, I don’t relax like the rest of the world’s 27-year-olds with a glass of wine or a cold beer. I curl up with a tall, cold glass and some graham crackers or cookies. Mitt knows how it goes:

Anyway, this little experiment has drastically improved Baby E’s happiness and comfort. But I feel far less liberated than the happy “Dairy free!” slogans on all the soy, rice, and almond products I’ve been checking out would imply. The one bright spot has been being forced to search out new sources of recipes. There are an abundance of delicious vegan and dairy free cookbooks, blogs, and websites out there full of recipes full of things like lentils and squash. It’s all very filling. But after a couple weeks of it, I could sure go for that bowl of Cocoa Puffs right now. And I would drink the leftover milk right from the bowl.