Comfort Foods

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Wellness Soup? I dunno...I am more inclined to something that might be called, This’ll Kill Ya Soup! But, my darling Bill picked it out from Lorraine Wallace’s, Mr. Sunday's Soups, a book she lovingly wrote to celebrate her life with Chris Wallace – Mr. Sunday himself.

Everyone knows Chris Wallace – His Sunday show on Fox News is one of the brighter DC shows on TV. We met Chris and Lorraine in Martha’s Vineyard when they would come up to visit his dad, Mike Wallace – another Wallace that could comfortably be called Mr. Sunday.

But, Wellness Soup??? I just can’t believe I am about to make Wellness Soup, but before I make this righteous leap into tasty nutrition, let me enjoy the emotional nourishment of Lorraine’s charming cookbook.

In his forward, Chris refers to his extended family as a version of the Brady Bunch coming together around the kitchen table. Sunday Soup became a tradition - or a ploy – to create treasured private family moments together each week. Lorraine’s book is filled with charming stories of her family and friends, which does indeed bring love to each recipe.

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house-for-blog-300x300I’ll spare you the tale of Work, because that would seem like I’m complaining. I am not. Lots and lots of things have changed in the past few months, all great things that are keeping us really busy. Perhaps the biggest thing is that we bought a house. A lovely beautiful California Spanish-style home built in 1928, and it could not be more California if it tried. It’s sweet, quaint, and I’ll share some before-and-after photos just as soon as we’re done with decorating, which at this rate should be by 2037.

Although we moved in 3 months ago, we’ve had no time to enjoy the new digs. In fact, these past two weeks have been the first time we’ve been home together with a somewhat regular schedule, and all those things one does are starting to happen again: cooking dinner, sitting on the couch, grabbing a book and sitting next to a window and reading, organizing a garage. I am loving these life activities, and with the way things have been they are just like mini-vacations to me. I never thought I’d say that but it’s true. And considering what’s happening to a huge chunk of the country right now, to have a regular life with a roof over one’s head and working utilities is a blessing. A huge blessing.

This morning I’ll be able to do something I’ve wanted to for a long time: I will make breakfast. In my new kitchen. For us. Novel, ain’t it? But this breakfast will be the first that doesn’t involve two slices of bread and a razor thin smear of Marmite. It will be leisurely, satisfying, and made from The Picky Palate Cookbook: 133 Recipes for Even Your Pickiest Eaters by Jenny Flake.

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It’s back to school and that means bag lunches. Or maybe like me, you don’t have school age kids, but still want to start packing lunch to take to work. It’s easy to get in a rut, but these three cookbooks offer many ways to jazz up your lunchbox.

bahnmiThe Banh Mi Handbook is the latest book from Andrea Nguyen. In the past she has written about Vietnamese food, dumplings and tofu, perhaps convincing you to make your own. But I had to wonder, when I can get a terrific banh mi sandwich for just a couple bucks, would I want to make my own? The answer is YES because Nguyen goes well beyond what you might find at a Vietnamese sandwich shop.

What I absolutely love the most about this book in addition to the versatility is the focus on ease and simplicity. There are lots of shortcuts and no shame if you choose to buy bread or mayonnaise or doctor some liverwurst to make a tasty pate. The book offers the basics and traditional recipes for fixings like carrot and daikon pickles, headcheese terrine and Chinese barbecue pork but also offers tons of non-traditional options too to keep things interesting. Go vegetarian with coconut curry tofu or an edamame pate. I know I’ll be making the warm sardine and tomato sauce sandwich and the oven fried chicken katsu. These are sandwiches that will make your mouth water!

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ImageMy first visit to Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, California was in the fall of 1983. It was a hot day and we sat outside on the massive terrace with a cold drink – in those days white wine, or possibly beer – and looked down at the unbelievable view. A view of the Monterey coast that went on forever. I've never forgotten that first visit. Or that first view. Yes, the parking lot was full of rental cars, and yes, there were crowds of tourists snapping photos but none of that mattered. I didn't know what to expect as we climbed the winding stone steps up through a canopy of oak trees to the restaurant.

But once I stepped foot onto the large terrace and saw the view, I understood the magic of Nepenthe. No matter where you are at Nepenthe, the Phoneix Shop, the Café Kevah or the restaurant itself, the view is there. Always and forever. In my memory there were hawks floating on thermals almost at eye level. That is how high up Nepenthe is. In the clouds. At the end of our drinks it was very hard to pull myself away. Over the years I have gone back to Nepenthe each time I visited the area. How can one not visit such a spectacular place?

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serve-yourself-cover1.jpgThis quick book review will most likely be biased. I’m cool with that. And I’m owning my bias in a big way, here’s why:

1. My husband works out of state several weeks a month.
2. I am from Texas. Mr. Yonan is from Texas.
3. Mr. Yonan is affable, sweet and smart, and has a chapter on tacos.
4. Tacos.

While 1 through 4 are major reasons why I love this book so much, they’re not the only reasons why Joe Yonan’s Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One is currently rocking my kitchen. I met Joe, the Food & Travel editor for The Washington Post, in person last year at IACP when I was presenting a talk on food photography. You can imagine my surprise when we started chatting about being from small Texas towns, and if you’re from a small Texas town there are some things that only others could from Texas could understand and appreciate. Plus Joe spent time in Austin, my 2nd hometown, so you can see the affinity I have for Joe.

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