Monday Reviews- A Homemade Life

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Sometimes when I’ve finished a book that I really love, I clutch it to my chest and hug it. It can be for a number of reasons, a beautiful story, a character I really relate to, or a flawless writing style. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this. Anyone?
In the past it has only been novels that have elicited such a loving response, but that all changed when I read “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg. This was the first cookbook that when I finished, I closed it, took a deep breath, then pulled it into an actual embrace (I also do this with new shoes and I’m sure my husband wonders how he got roped into marrying me). At first glance, I would not have expected to feel this way about this book because it has my least favorite book/cookbook elements. Short stories and no pictures. But from the first page, I knew I had to have this book. The way Molly writes and the stories she tells all blend seamlessly into one another and are told with such rich descriptions, that you can see what she’s baking even without a picture. This book takes you through the life of the Orangette author from the time she is little until the day she gets married. Each story is followed by a recipe that accompanies it. From the Tarte Tatin she makes after her first horrible heartbreak to the cake that introduced her to her future husband. Each chapter ties her life and love of food into a beautiful book you will never want to end. The only reason I ever stopped reading it was my craving for all of the delicious recipes. I hope you run out and read this book today, and when you’ve finished, if you hug it, tell me okay?

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Of all the recipes in this book, the one I’ve made the most is her Butternut Soup. As it is only 70 degrees here today and I have a cold that won’t go away I’m in the mood for a little fall comfort food (And lots of Lemon Chicken Soup).

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    Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Vanilla Cream

    Adapted from “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    One 2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 4 generous cups)
    2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
    1 medium yellow onion peeled and corsely chopped
    1 cup apple cider
    4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1 vanilla bean

    Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the squash, apples, and onion and stir to coat with oil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the cider and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Using a blender or handheld mixer purée until very smooth. Return to pot, if needed, and continue to cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, until the soup has reduced by one-third it’s original volume. While the soup is reducing, put the heavy cream in a small saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half from top to bottom. Using the back of your knife, scrape the seeds out of the pod. Add seeds and pod to saucepan with the cream and warm over low heat, swirling occasionally, until it steams. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from heat and discard pod. Set aside. When the soup has reduced to you desired thickness, stir in the infused cream. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

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Monday Reviews- My Father’s Daughter

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Monday Reviews:

I’ve been married for almost four years now (where has the time gone?). Something Nick and I have gotten into the habit of doing is talking about our future kids. How tall will they be? What will we name them? Will they be outgoing like Nick or quiet like me? Around the time I bought my first cookbook, Nick and I really started to focus on where our food comes from. We planted a garden and started focusing on eating local and organic produce and meats. Part of that reason is for our own health benefits but the other part is we want to set a good example for our kids. Is that weird? I’m not even sure when we’ll have children but I’m already worried about whether they will get enough vegetables. Yep, that is weird. Oh well. I want to set a good example for them from the beginning and I know that starts with my diet. I can’t remember how I stumbled across Gwyneth Paltrow’s book, “My Father’s Daughter”. I think it may have been my cousin Angela who introduced me to it but it has quickly become my go to cookbook for dinners with friends and lazy nights in front of the TV.

The thing that strikes me about this book is how much passion is in it. From the introduction, to the pictures, to the recipes themselves, you can tell Gwyneth has poured her heart into this cookbook. The recipes themselves are mostly based on fish and white meat and most can be turned into vegetarian or vegan meals. Gwyneth approaches her recipes as a working mom, so the food is accessible, unfussy, and comes together quickly. Alternately it is still elegant and delicious. Her love of cooking and eating with her children is what I hope I will strive for when I have my own.

I make this soup when I’ve enjoyed one too many treats and need something light but still filling. It is full of kale and onions and makes a great lunch.

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Recipe from My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

White Bean Soup (version one)

(Serves 4)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, stems and fronds removed for another use, bulb thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Pinch red chile flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 14oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 pints vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch kale
  • Course salt

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and garlic, turn the heat as low as it can go, and cook for ½ hour, stirring here and there. A little color is okay, but you really want the vegetables to get soft and sweet. Add the chile flakes, oregano, and pepper and cook for a minute. Add the beans and stock, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, add salt to taste, and let cook on low heat for 1 hour. Stir in kale leaves and let cook for 7 minutes, or until just cooked. Ladle into four bowls, drizzle with your very best olive oil, and serve.

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