Tabbouleh + Chicken with Garlic Parsley Marinade

Tabbouleh with Marinated Chicken Breast

I didn’t grow up in the kind of family with heirlooms. Our “good dishes” were a scalloped-edged Pfaltzgraff with a finish easily marred by butter knives. My mom’s modest collection of jewelry contained mostly the costume variety—sparkling, perhaps, but of no special value. We inherited no military relics or quilts sewn by great-great-grandmothers or brooches that crossed an ocean. But when the time comes (hopefully many decades from now) to divide my mother’s belongings, I will fight tooth and nail for one thing: her green plastic colander. Continue reading

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Black-eyed Pea and Bacon Hash

Black eyed peas and bacon hash

Nothing makes me more optimistic than the first page of a new journal. The world shimmers with promise and wonder as I survey the tidy lines, mustering a sentence worthy of the white space. My handwriting that first entry is notably neat, the prose aiming for profundity (though frequently missing). I’ve amassed dozens of first journal entries since I began writing them at age eight. Unfortunately my perfectionism predates my passion for writing; I saw anything but daily journaling a failure and often ripped out a month’s worth of entries because I skipped a single day.

I’ve matured a bit since my journal-purging years. I can even return to a blog after 33 post-less days and refrain from deleting the entire site. Continue reading

Butternut Squash Soup with Crunchy Rosemary Topping

Butternut Squash Soup with Crunchy Rosemary Topping

For someone who so relishes the cooking and consuming of food, it may come as a surprise that I was once a picky eater. While the rest of my family chowed down on spaghetti and meat sauce, I’d twirl my strands of buttered noodles seasoned with Kraft Parmesan and Mrs. Dash. I refused to eat the skins of chicken nuggets, forcing my parents to follow a greasy (and often finger-scalding) ritual each time we visited McDonald’s. (They would have ordered me a hamburger, but I despised those, too.) When I was five, I told my mom I hated three things: green bean casserole, Satan, and meatloaf—in that order. At age seven, I sent back a Chi-Chi’s hot dog that arrived at the table with suspicious black lines (grill marks). And, at the pinnacle of my picky eating, I refused to eat the hot dog a babysitter prepared for me because she microwaved it for 25 seconds, not 18.

I was in high school before peer pressure forced me to expand my palate. No one wants to be the weird girl who still picks every single topping off her pizza, or the one who asks her new friend’s mom if she can use a chicken bouillon cube to season her Oodles of Noodles in lieu of the included packet. And at some point my parents decided they shouldn’t have to puree the chili beans of a girl with a driver’s license. (To which I say, touché.)

These days, I’m willing to try anything once. But the bar for what I consider “good food” is still quite high. Continue reading