Who needs chocolate when there’s lardo?


Remember last weekend? Not your weekend, mine. Remember, it was me, locked in my house, alone with three cute yet exasperated and grumpy children, 33% of whom were ill?

From early on, I knew what I was facing. Husband leaving town: check. Baby getting dreadfully ill: check. Weather system moving in for entire weekend: check. I knew that my opportunities for contact with the outside world would be limited; knew that I needed to use my venturing-out time wisely. Figured out that, if I played my cards right, I could get just a couple errands done without having to jeopardize the fragile state of the Wee One.

One of those errands was a trip to the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market. And before you question my judgment, envisioning me, unable to restrain myself from strolling about said market, browsing while waiting for my handmade French breakfast crepe and picking up a fresh-cut bouquet of flowers for the breakfast table while dragging a feverish 18-month along for the ride, let me defend myself:  1) I had not been to the IWFM in about a month, 2) I owed cash money to the good folks at Big City Farms for our summer’s CSA, and those guys can be found there, 3) I needed chicken, and 4) It was the VERY LAST SATURDAY for the Winter Market. Yes, the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market starts up this Saturday, but not all vendors will make that transfer. So, you see, I simply HAD to go. (And no, crepes and bouquets were not a part of the experience. One friend told my husband later in the week that he had “seen [me] at the Market on Saturday, and I looked like I was all business.”)

Continue reading “Who needs chocolate when there’s lardo?”

Nourishing Dried Fruit Scones (dairy-free, soy-free, vegan)


This weekend, my house felt a bit Lord-of-the-Flies-ish. Tim was out of town, it rained all weekend, the Wee One had one of her fevers, and my preschooler relished a phase where he’s deemed the best way to pass the time is to pick up a random object and hit his older sister with it. To say that my house was operating at a level of chaos I’m a bit uncomfortable with is putting it mildly. By Sunday morning, we were all so sick of being cooped up that I knew the best way to rally the troops was to bake something new. So bake we did (after a few threats to can the whole project finally kept the 4-year old away from the 6-year old) — and except for the pieces of dried fruit meticulously picked clean and left behind on two plates, I’d say we all enjoyed the results.

This weekend’s baking (and sanity-salvaging) challenge: convert a scone recipe to dairy-free.

Until you’ve spent a few years trying to make dairy-free baked goods taste somewhat like their butter-laden counterparts, you don’t really realize how difficult that task can be. It’s all about the fat — good baked items (with some exceptions) need it. And many of the available options for butter replacement either don’t accomplish that task quite right, or they rely on corn or soy oils (i.e., vegan margarines) which we are either allergic to or are simply avoiding.

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Grilling meat: embracing a stereotype.


I consider myself manly in many ways. No, I don’t benchpress anything heavier than, say, a 5 1/2-quart Le Creuset dutch oven. And while I’m definitely plucking more random hairs than I did 20 years ago, I’m not really that masculine looking. But give me a good craft beer, and sit me in front of a television set during college football season or March madness, and I’m a pretty happy girl. Or take me to a social event, and I’m more likely to drift toward a group of men conversing than a group of women. I’m not sure why I tend toward these ways; I grew up the middle child of three girls. We’re all that way — call it genetic?

But in our kitchen, my spouse and I? We fall into some typical gender rolls. I do most of the cooking, and Tim helps do dishes. I mop the floors, and he takes out the trash. I grocery shop, and he eats what I buy. But when it comes to grilling, he’s the one in charge, always. I literally don’t even know how to light a grill fire. Part of me is slightly ashamed of this, but then the other 99% of me thinks this is a great setup, and I’m more than happy to let him take the reigns. Because, as much of a control freak as I can be, I don’t really care at all to be in control of a grill.

I wonder: does grilling require the recall of some sort of primitive hunter-gatherer instinct? What is it, with men and fire?

Ultimately, I don’t care what causes the preference. Because My Man? He’s good at grilling.

Continue reading “Grilling meat: embracing a stereotype.”

Would it be strange to buy a house because of the kitchen sink?

I believe I’ve mentioned that the house we’re currently living in is a rental. A spacious, beautiful house with a magnificent backyard — not your typical rental. The only drawback to this house is that we have to be out by the end of May. No option to extend the lease, as the owners are returning home from overseas and would kindly like their house back, thank you very much.

We’ve known this since day one, so in January we began looking for houses. Having gone through this process a few times before, we knew that it would be both exciting and frustrating; interesting and potentially heartbreaking. In the past couple months we’ve had offers on two houses that didn’t go through (both were in some process of foreclosure), but neither of those was particularly traumatic, as they both needed some work and we thought each would be great if we could get them for a really good deal. If not, no big deal — something else would work out.

Now, we’re shy of 6 weeks from having to move out. We’ve been getting a touch nervous. Generous friends here have offered to share their house with us, indefinitely(!), if push comes to shove and we don’t find a place we can afford that will also work for us for the foreseeable future (these friends are much, much better people than we are). So I take great solace in the fact that we won’t be homeless; but I’m also just ready to have a house that’s ours. After spending 2 years in a live-in reno in Athens, then moving into a rental here, that makes over three years of living in houses that just don’t feel like ours. I want to finally frame all the kids’ artwork; plant a garden; paint an entire wall with chalkboard paint. Call a place our home.

We’re on our second realtor, and have looked at many, many houses. But I’ve yet to walk into a place and just think, This is It. Until yesterday.

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My Babies


Confession: I have a tendency to kill living things. Things that happen to be green.

When I was in grad school, I had a roommate who traveled for an entire summer. She had a few houseplants scattered ’round our apartment, on tables near windows and such. She left for the summer, and upon her return, walked into the apartment and gasped. Her houseplants were all brown, dried and dejected — as well they should’ve been, after not being watered for three months. In my defense (a weak one) — she never actually asked me to care for the plants; she just assumed I would do it, since I lived there and was supposedly her friend. When she asked, in confusion, why I didn’t do that, I answered her honestly: I just didn’t notice them. If it didn’t meow, or in some other way alert me of its need, I could effectively ignore it.

How I wish I could say I’ve changed. And maybe I have improved just a smidgeon — but I still repeatedly kill a maidenhair fern that I bought for our first house in Athens, 8 years ago (maidenhairs are known for their hardiness — so when mine turns completely brown, I just cut off all the foliage and start watering it again; it miraculously begins to show tiny green shoots, and eventually returns to a state of growth). I’m not sure what my problem is — part of me thinks I should have a greener thumb, what with being married to a guy who does ecology stuff (though he’s admittedly more of a policy man than biologist) and being into other domestic-like ventures such as cooking. I’m a pragmatist to my very bones, however; and while I love art and things of beauty, I tend toward items that have function as well as form. Perhaps that’s why I’m better at taking care of my potted herbs.

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The week in a very few photos

I’m feeling totally underwater this week. While playing catch-up with groceries, laundry, and sleep after our week-long jaunt, it also happens to be a crazy week here, with multiple routine doc appointments, a double-shift of preschool co-oping, and a huge fundraiser this weekend for the school. I’m simultaneously trying to get us back into a normal routine while cutting time corners where I can — and this feels a bit like running backwards. To top it all off, my 18-month old has decided that napping is overrated — this started last week, when I could understand her not wanting to nap in a portable crib at an unknown house. But this week she has no excuse. And all I can think is, please, please, no. You’re officially not allowed to stop napping. Because then Mommy might actually have to start utilizing copious amounts of Nick Jr (“Copious” being the amount we’d reach after adding a little to the television she already sees, the very same television that my eldest didn’t lay eyes on until she was two.)

Anyway, I have photos. And a couple recipes on deck. But today, the easiest to share are the photos, which I didn’t take enough of while in Georgia. The week felt so hectic, there were multiple times that I just left my camera at the house, and other times that the light was so bad it wasn’t worth trying. The week now exists in my memory as bit of a sleep-deprived blur; but I do remember having a lot of fun, between the necessary stops for iced coffee, and stuffing myself with oft-missed and pleasurable food things along the way:

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Food is as expected, but it’s hot as, well.

We’re in Athens, Georgia this week. Where today, the high will reach 90º. Must be a cooling trend though, after yesterday’s high of 92º.

Did no one send the memo that it’s early April? Isn’t it breaking some law somewhere, to be this hot before sometime in mid-May?

I become supremely grumpy when it’s this hot. Which is one reason there was a sense of relief when our move last August took us northward — I’m kind of over being grumpy from May through September. Yesterday, it was hotter here than it was on any day last summer in Indianapolis (if my memory serves me correctly). But that was probably a fluke; maybe this summer will bring a record-breaking heat wave that will summon the return of perpetual sweating, sauna-worthy humidity, and an irrational fear of being outdoors.

But while this town bakes, and is covered in a nice, thick layer of bright-yellow pollen, I am still enjoying myself. Seeing old friends, basking in the hospitality of our hostess, and methodically eating my way through all my favorite old haunts. Absence has only made my heart grown fonder — not necessarily for the city itself (did I mention the heat and the mind-and-nasal-cavity-blowing pollen count?), but for its still unfathomable concentration of really good restaurants. How can a town of 110k people serve this much good food?

Continue reading “Food is as expected, but it’s hot as, well.”

So, um…

April Fools?

(can you picture me, sheepish, as I type?)

Because I’m feeling plenty sheepish. Let me describe for you a scene that took place at my house yesterday morning:

I’m sitting in my kitchen with my kids, my coffee, and our houseguest. We’re doing our normal breakfast thing: once the kids are settled with food enough to keep them happy for a good 15 minutes (granted, my husband usually does this), I fix my coffee and sit down to check email. I notice that the “google” logo now reads “topeka.” I ask Tim, “Hey — what’s up with the google logo?” and neither of us think hard or care enough to figure it out. About 10 minutes later, I come across a tweet linking to an article about how boring this year’s google hoax is. Then I realize. It’s April 1.

An hour later, my older two kids are outside playing, and the Wee One is in her high chair. I sit at the screen door, computer in lap, and realize I don’t have much to post about. So why not go the way of google, and bore everyone to tears with my version of an April Fool’s hoax. I try for a moment to think of some crazy recipe to push on everyone, but then realize that would take too much brain power, and I wasn’t sure everyone would get the joke (what if someone actually believed me, and tried to make a junk recipe?). So then I decide: Tim and I opening a restaurant. That‘s one that’s believable for just an instant, but the Aha! moment would quickly follow, because the idea is THAT INSANE.

To me, it really is. But, apparently, not to many really great people who choose, on occasion — despite that gnawing feeling that it will probably somehow shorten their life span — to read this blog. I can only attribute this phenomenon to two possible causes:

  1. Really nice and encouraging people read this blog. I’m still not quite sure how I managed that — since playing an April Fool’s joke about food is just not nice.
  2. The people of Indianapolis — this city on the cusp of great things — really are ripe for better food options. And this is an encouragement to me. Not enough of one to go and start a restaurant, but a big one nonetheless.

So, all I can offer is a giant, electronic apology. In our house, when someone apologizes, we have to look them in the eye. And in return, the offended person must acknowledge forgiveness was granted. I can’t do that with all of you, so instead, I have a small peace offering.

I will never open a restaurant. But what I do, really, want to do — and am working on this very week — is start an underground supper club in Indianapolis. I have a few friends — well-connected, as they say — who are also interested in this type of venture. This idea was born from our experience at a similar dinner club in Athens, and was underscored recently by this article in NYT. These clubs offer talented chefs an opportunity to experiment in ways they might not feel free to do in their own restaurants. It offers a chance for patrons to mix and mingle with those creative minds, and share a dinner table with people they’ve never met. It gives those of us with somewhat limited means an opportunity to have really good wine and beer paired appropriately with seasonal, adventurous dishes — an experience that is truly a luxury.

I’m in the earliest stages of conversations, and this will probably be something that takes much longer than you’d think to pull off — if I ever manage it at all. But we’re gonna try.

Perhaps, for no other reason than to protect my family from an angry mob of 8-10 people.

Maybe I should’ve said we were going to name the restaurant “Topeka?”

(BTW — hats off to Rebecca, who was on to me the whole time. Or at least she was the only one who voiced as much in the comments.)

Big News*

Well, it’s been quite a while in the making, so it’s not news to us, and in fact feels like we’ve always known it would happen. It’s required much convincing, more than one argument, some soul-searching, and market research. It took a move, a change of profession (me), and a hard look at our lives. But we’ve decided, and are ready to make it public.

Tim and I are opening a restaurant.

We have been so excited about the place we’ve found ourselves, here in Indianapolis. It’s a city of people who are ripe for change, and ready to explore dining options. We have met countless people who are ready to go to great lengths to support local business, local food, and a growing culinary scene. I can’t divulge too many details just yet, since we still have some work to do with investors. But I can say that I will be directly involved with the menu (although I won’t be the chef — that’s still up in the air). Location, too — but we’re hoping for a place not too far from the so-called “gourmet ghetto” of 49th and College.

It might seem a strange time for this, for our family. But the city is at a great turning point, and real estate is still cheap. We have a lot of key people backing us, and I’m ready to say goodbye to design work for a longer while. All of these factors, combined, have led us to think the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

How exciting, and scary. But I can’t wait to watch it unfold.

* THIS WAS AN APRIL FOOL’S JOKE. Please read this post for explanation.