Tag Archives: Weekend Cooking

Recipes from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl: Cookbook Club #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

Something I’ve always thought would be fun would be a cookbook club where everyone would try a recipe from a cookbook, bring it to the meeting, and the group would talk about the good and bad of the cookbook, the recipes we tried, and the recipes we still wanted to try.

So I got the Good Taste Cookbook Club started at my library last September, and it’s going strong! Except for meeting every other month instead of monthly, it’s just like any other library book club, except that the books we read are cookbooks. Oh, and we also eat extremely well at every meeting!

book coverMy Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl was the January selection. It’s a combination memoir/cookbook that the longtime restaurant critic ended up writing after Gourmet – the magazine she had edited for ten years – was suddenly shut down, with everyone on staff laid off. Its format, design, and recipe layout are unusual for a cookbook (e.g. loose, conversational-style, sometimes inexact, instructions; ingredient lists divided into “Shopping List” and “Staples”; personal notes woven into the recipe directions) which some of the group didn’t care for, but others enjoyed.

“For the past six months, cooking had been my lifeline, and I was grateful for everything I had learned in the kitchen. Most cookbooks, I thought as I reached for an orange and began to squeeze it for juice, are in search of perfection, an attempt to constantly re-create the same good dishes. But you’re not a chef in your own kitchen, trying to please paying guests. You’re a traveler, following your own path, seeking adventure. I wanted to write about the fun of cooking, encourage people to take risks. Alone in the kitchen you are simply a cook, free to do anything you want. If it doesn’t work out – well, there’s always another meal” – My Kitchen Year

I made Lemon Panna Cotta for my contribution to the meeting, which was a very simple recipe from My Kitchen Year, having just three ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, and three lemons. As an example of the inexact directions, the recipe calls for the juice and zest of three lemons, but doesn’t tell you approximately how much juice and zest you should end up with. So I wondered if I had it right as I mixed the lemon juice and zest together and plopped it all into the hot cream, but the recipe worked – simple as it was! Even people who don’t particularly care for lemon desserts raved about it.

I put the Lemon Panna Cotta into plastic shot glasses for individual servings, with the remaining amount filling two ramekins. During the meeting, we discovered that it would probably be best kept refrigerated right up until serving time, because it got a little soupy in the bottom of the shot glasses. (The thinner layers in the ramekins seemed to stay firm, though.)

Lemon Panna Cotta in shot glass-sized servings
Lemon Panna Cotta just after being poured into the ramekin

I also wanted to try the recipe for Food Cart Curry Chicken before the cookbook club met, but didn’t have time, so my personal chef (aka Mr. BaystateRA) kindly made it for me. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was delicious! Mr. B. complained about grinding spices when we had ground spices in the spice cabinet already, but I think the extra work – his, that is – was definitely worth it, for the flavor explosion.)

served in the pans

I’ve read many of Ruth Reichl’s other books, including the novel she also worked on during this year of unemployment (Delicious!). My Kitchen Year is divided into seasons – Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer – and chronicles her time spent in two residences, a New York City apartment and a country home, upstate.

My Kitchen Year happened to resonate with me, personally, because I had an unexpected six months of unemployment starting in the late fall of last year, which caused me to reevaluate my career and how I spent my time. Like Ruth Reichl, who found so much comfort in the kitchen during her year at home while looking for new employment, I did more cooking than usual during those months and also found it soothing. Although, unlike Ruth Reichl, I didn’t write a book (much less a cookbook AND a novel) during my time of unemployment, I discovered that preparing healthful meals can be as relaxing as baking, and got a lot more creative with salads, so I count that as an overall plus.

Now, settled happily into my new job, I’ve been finding less time to cook and had also been going to the gym less often, but thanks to New Year’s resolutions and the encouragement of Joy Weese Moll’s Readers’ Workouts, I’m getting back into a gym routine and have now finally gotten back to Weekend Cooking with Beth Fish Reads!

At our meeting to talk about My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, we sampled:

  • Anchovy Bread
  • Tuscan Bean Soup
  • Perfect Pound Cake
  • Banana Bread
  • Applesauce
  • Khao Man Gai (Thai Chicken Rice)
  • Beef, Wine and Onion Stew
  • Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel
  • Lemon Panna Cotta
  • New York Cheesecake
  • Bison Chili
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chicken Pate
  • Potatoes au Gratin
  • Custard in a Crust (Quiche)
  • Pickled Red Onions

Click to enlarge the pictures:

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.My

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-23-17 #IMWAYR

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It’s blustery with occasional snow flurries, but our nor’easter is going to be mostly rain here, so no snow shoveling this Monday morning!

cover imageI’m reading My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl for the Good Taste Cookbook Club meeting at the library this week. I’ve read the Fall, Winter, Spring sections of the book already, and only have Summer left.

For Cookbook Club on Thursday night, I’ll be making and bringing Lemon Panna Cotta. The recipe is very simple, and I’m hoping it’s as easy as it looks because I’m coasting a little this month because of other projects. I’ll be able to taste some of the other, more complex, recipes that more ambitious members of the group will be tackling.

I’ve been meaning to try The Splendid Table’s recipe for panna cotta, (which includes gelatin, while Ruth Reichl’s does not) so maybe I’ll eventually make them both, and compare!

My Kitchen Year is a beautiful book. Ruth’s personal story of her experience of unexpected unemployment starting in the fall of 2009 combined with gorgeous color photographs from the different seasons makes for a highly pleasurable reading experience. And then there are the recipes! Most of which I want to try.

My Kitchen Year has some personal resonance with me, coincidentally, as I found myself unexpectedly unemployed last fall, as well. I also found solace in cooking and in writing about the recipes I made in Weekend Cooking posts. I never thought to read My Kitchen Year last fall, but I may be able to enjoy it more, now that I (like the author) have moved on and gained perspective on the experience. I do miss having all that time to cook and plan meals, and regret that I didn’t use my time wisely by making copious notes for a book as Ruth Reichl did (haha) but am trying to make up for it by using my time more wisely now!

I miss the Weekend Cooking crowd over at Beth Fish Reads, and hope to get back to writing about cooking again soon.

Happy Reading!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! So welcome in, everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

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Punching Up Packed Lunches #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

The upside of being unemployed–lunch at home with my work-from-home husband.

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After several months of being unemployed, I have recently gone back to working in a library, and so have started bringing packed lunches again. I am lucky to have a husband who often packs lunch for me, complete with unexpected little treats!

The lunches my husband packs for me to eat at work are a balm to my soul.

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But I do try to pack my own lunch at least a couple of times a week, so I checked out this article right away when it came into my email inbox from Refinery29:

11 Things People Who Pack Their Lunches Always Do

The ideas in the slide show reflect different approaches and eating/cooking styles; depending on your level of willingness to plan ahead, spend money, etc., only some may seem worth a try to you. Some of them I occasionally do already, such as  immediately portioning out and putting away a lunch-sized serving for the next day of whatever we’re having for dinner. Tip #9 from Senior Health Editor Amelia Harnish was my favorite, “Pack a fun snack”:

The secret to bringing your own lunch every day for real is making a lunch you actually like eating — something that’s healthy and makes you feel full and satisfied and happy —but it also has to be easy to make. I usually go with a salad with plenty of protein and a “surprise” ingredient, which is mandatory.

Sometimes I top my salad with sweet potato fries; sometimes it’s the chicken I didn’t finish at dinner the night before. Sometimes I add salsa and also pack chips, or it’s even weirder, like a scoop of leftover Indian food. I also build in other treats: cheese sticks, chips, Oreos, whatever you want. Lunch dessert is important. — Amelia Harnish, Senior Health Editor

I’ve been on a salad kick for the last couple of months, and have already been making plain garden salads more interesting with toppings like rice salad, hard-boiled eggs, assorted cheeses, seasoned/dressed canned beans, capers, toasted sunflower seeds, and slivers of sundried tomatoes. Also adding torn leaves of basil, parsley, and/or mint to the mixed greens, and always remembering to pack a little bottle of homemade salad dressing!

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But after reading Tip #9, I tried putting leftover Chinese food on salad greens for lunch, and it was pretty good!

Lunchtime! Just starting Tuesday Nights in 1980, but have heard good things about it!

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The other day I finally thought of returning the favor and made a salad for my husband’s lunch (He works from home.) when I made my own in the morning!

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Some of our best recent salad efforts:

Don’t forget fruit salads!

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.