September 27, 2013

Minestrone: Hello, soup season.

It was in a teeny, tiny old kitchen in Missouri that I first discovered how vegetables, water and spices can cook down into something comforting, and even satisfying.
It was my first month on my own post-college, in a new town where I knew precisely one person. I didn't think much of it that day, but the New York Times recipe for Summer Minestrone I found would set the tone for this season I was entering.

I would feed myself without a meal plan, without my mother, without good friends to eat with. Trying a new recipe to eat off all week would become my go-to weekend escape. In a creaky, sometimes creepy, small space all of my own, I learned what I liked to eat and how I liked to cook, not just what  I grew up with but still building on that foundation.

Five years later, my life looks different, though not drastically.  I am closer to home and have new companions in my day-to-day comings and goings. I share the fruits of my kitchen in different ways than I did then.
But as I  sauté onions and carrots, add tomatoes to simmer, and fill my kitchen with the aroma of Italian spices, once again all by myself, I return to fellowship with a simmering pot, with thoughts left to wander, with solitude.

For a good part of the evening, I don't look at my phone or consider the rest of the world's social plans on this Saturday night. I rest in the moment, in my happy place, and travel back to a mid-day lunch of Summer Minestrone and Parmesan toast in my lil' old grad school apartment. This is me embracing who I was created to be, and no one else.

September 9, 2013

Chocolate-Buttercream Cupcakes

Why even bake other kinds of cupcakes?

This is what I ask myself after tasting this Best Cupcake Combo Ever this go-round.

And self, I really have no good response.
 Let me explain:

1. The Cake. Cake more moist and pure chocolatey than what comes from a box, 100x more moist than my other attempts to bake cake from scratch and 100 percent without the fakey-chemically taste that comes courtesy of a box.

2. The Icing. It's butter and cream (milk actually). And sugar and vanilla. The best thing that will ever go in your mouth, and the perfect butter-vanilla complement to chocolate cake.

3. The Garnish. Shaving chocolate is easy, looks fancy, and, of course, is chocolate.

So if someone has a birthday coming up or an unbirthday, wow them with these... unless of course they don't like chocolate. Then they don't deserve birthday sweets.

But beware, if you blink, they will disappear. All 33 of them.