{Review}: Home Cooked by Anya Fernald

Quick Review: A thoughtful, approachable, visually appealing cookbook that makes even The Most exotic recipe seem  within reach.

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Isn’t this book pretty? I’m definitely guilty of judging a book by it’s cover. The photographs and layout inside Home Cooked by Anya Fernald are gorgeous, too. A cookbook is more than just  recipes– good ones also tell a story (unless it’s the Joy of Cooking or How To Make Everything, my favorite go-to for regular old recipes).

Anya Fernald is the founder of Belcampo Meat Co., founded in 2011 with the mission of creating sustainable pathways to meat processing through its slaughterhouse, farm and restaurants. In writing this cookbook, Fernald showcases the simplest of ingredients and elevates home cooking without putting it out of reach for the everyday home cook.

I admit, though, not every recipe in this book is for me. There are a fair amount of recipes that involve ingredients that have never found their way into my kitchen, like pig feet (for trotter broth) or chicken hearts (to be sautéed in brown butter), but to Fernald’s credit, she makes even offal seem appealing. (Still not going to be made in my kitchen, though.)

There are plenty more recipes that I do plan to make!  So far, I’ve been able to try two of the recipes. One was the farinata, a chickpea flour pancake, which proved to be an excellent vehicle for almost anything. With only five ingredients, plus one optional ingredient (mortadella!), and a fast cooking time (ten minutes), it’s a simple, affordable, highly adaptable addition to my repertoire of dinner accompaniments.

The other recipe was for pickled beets, but instead of beets, I pickled beautiful radishes from my weekly produce box.

A quick flip through the book reveals that nearly all the recipes consistent of ten ingredients or less, which makes even the most intimidating-sounding recipe feel do-able. No fancy, hard-to-find ingredients (offal notwithstanding…) or specialty cooking tools needed here!

More about Home Cooked by Anya Fernald, from Penguin Random House:

A recipe collection and how-to guide for preparing base ingredients that can be used to make simple, weeknight meals, while also teaching skills like building and cooking over a fire, and preserving meat and produce, written by a sustainable food expert and founder of Belcampo Meat Co.


{I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes. All opinions are my own.}

Short on Space, Long on Hungry Kids: Storing Bulk Buys in a Small Kitchen

I only have three kids but I might as well be feeding an army. It took me an awful long time to understand why people shop at warehouse stores. That one little bag of Pirate’s Booty from the supermarket barely lasts the ten minutes it takes me to put the groceries away. In our old apartment, we had tons of cabinet space so shopping in bulk was no problem. In our little cottage, however, it is a different story.

See this? This is my “pantry.” It’s all I’ve got…my one other cabinet holds our drinking glasses, small dishes and mixing bowls. I have a little shelf to the left of this cabinet where I put our bananas, and containers of spices. 
So, I stopped buying in bulk. But I finally reached my breaking point this summer. Having the kids home all day, everyday meant that I couldn’t keep any food in the house–it was all flying out the kitchen in a day or two. Kids have a fast metabolism and since I try to keep my kids active, it’s inevitable that they’ll be hungry throughout the day. It’s annoying and expensive but I can’t blame them. 
With the new school year rolling around, I knew I had to do something– besides the fact that I wanted snacks to last longer, I wanted to stop spending so much on them! If I was going back to warehouse shopping, I not only needed to make the food last for a month but I also needed a place to put all the stuff. And that’s when I decided that I would just ration the food, not just to make it last but to also get it to fit in this tiny cabinet (just barely, as you can see from the photo above). 
I did not go to the warehouse and buy a jar of mayo big enough to last us ten years, nor do I ever buy anything fresh there (gross…).  I stuck strictly to snacks for the lunchbox and for after school. I bought a giant thing of raisins, snap pea crisps, granola bars, trail mix, rice rolls, and animal crackers. 
When I got home, I calculated how many servings I could dole out every week to make it last all month by dividing the number of servings by four, then doubling or tripling that amount to account for each kid, each week. So, what you see in the ziplock bags above is one weeks’ worth of each kind of snack. The trail mix is a hot commodity and would disappear in seconds if the kids had unfettered access to it. Because of that, I divided the servings of trail mix into two ziplock bags, and labeled each one with the girls’ names. I told Alice and Stella that they could have as much trail mix as they wanted but if they ran out before the coming weekend, too bad! They’d have to wait before I would refill the bags. 
After sorting a weeks’ worth of snacks, I put the packages of food into a storage bin that lives in my laundry room-slash-utility closet-slash-supply closet off the kitchen. (The animal crackers came in a huge plastic container so I transferred those to ziplock bags.) 
We’re entering the first week of school for both kids (Alice started last week, Stella starts Wednesday), so we’ll see how it goes. I have high hopes that my little experiment will work because I am not going to the warehouse more than once a month. In a similar vein, I plan to avoid the grocery store until this coming weekend. Menu Mondays will return next week, but after a summer of not really planning out meals, I’m really sick of running to the store every couple of days– it’s terrible for the wallet, too! 

The Lazy Cinnamon Bun.

I have a terrible, well-meaning habit of offering help without really thinking it through. I just want to be helpful! Is that so wrong? No, I guess not but sometimes, it really comes back to bite me in the tush. 
The PTA is having their annual 5K tomorrow, and our elementary school’s Odyssey of the Mind team is having a bake sale during the race to raise funds for their trip to the nationals in Iowa. While talking to one of the moms who manage the team, I somehow roped myself, through no fault of that mom, into offering to bake something. Not just any old thing but freaking cinnamon buns. Those of you who have made these from scratch know just how time-consuming it can be.  But the date seemed so far off then, I was sure I’d have to plenty of time to gather all the ingredients and get it done. 
Then, Friday rolls around and it dawns on me that in addition to getting ready for our camping trip this weekend, and getting Alice to a softball game tonight, I have to make good on my offer. There was no way I had the time or energy to whip up from-scratch cinnamon buns and so I wasn’t even going to try. Instead, I came up with these lazy cinnamon buns! 

Menu Mondays: Alice Edition

1. Alice made the menu this week. She even wrote it all down. Kindergarten is incredible. Also, she is making the perogies, probably. She made them last week and did a great job. 
2. The Chickn’ Nuggets are from Quorn, a brand that I really like because it doesn’t use soy-based protein like most vegetarian products. 
3. Friday, it’ll actually just be me, Stella and Micah up to Albany because my mom’s photograph is being exhibited at the 36th Annual Photography Regional at the Albany Center Gallery. Go, mom!! Alice and Henry will be staying home so she can attend her school’s science fair Saturday morning. She’s already requested to have a dinner date at Redding Roadhouse

Menu Mondays: Meat on Special Edition

  1. Meat on Special? It just means that a local supermarket, a very fine one, was having a sale on ground chuck (yes, I’m aware of the recall! We were not affected by the recall, no worries) and Bell and Evans chicken. So, I bought more than I usually would and threw it in the freezer. 
  2. What is a crepesdilla? I’m still in love with those masa crepes from Deborah Madison and I’ve decided to make quesadillas with them, instead of buying tortillas. Cheddar cheese was on sale, so I bought two blocks–one for mac and cheese (for lunches) and the other for the quesadillas. 
  3. Pasta was also on sale, so I bought a few different kinds. I already made spaghetti and meatballs last night. I bought pork sausage for the meatballs and I have some left, so I’m thinking penne with sausage and broccoli. 
  4. The little dude is starting to eat some food, so I’ve been roasting up sweet potato sticks for him, and he’s had some of my oatmeal a few times. Very exciting times! 
  5. My girls love granola bars and so do use grown-ups, so granola bars tend to be a pricey purchase, since a box doesn’t go far. I found a recipe for Nature Valley-style granola bars and it’s pretty good! The website is ugly but don’t let that scare you. Mine actually didn’t come out that crunchy, I think, because I made my own brown sugar, and I was out of butter so I used oil instead. I also added flax seeds and cinnamon. http://www.budget101.com/scratch-recipes-storebought-items/honey-crunch-granola-bars-3421.html

Menu Mondays

2. This fish recipe is so good, and I’ve made it with halibut, mahi maui and cod. Delicious.
3. My recipe again, though I’m out of cheesecloth, so I will probably roast the chicken breast, pull off the meat and make a stock from the bones. http://realnani.blogspot.com/2013/11/balabusta-cred.html

Also, confession time: Last week, I had the menu down but not so much with the planning. I didn’t buy enough cheese, and I didn’t have any steak leftover for the tacos. So, I ended up winging it towards the end of the week. But winging it is pretty easy when you have beans, rice and random vegetables. Also, one night, my kids asked for frozen peas and toast. Weirdos.

Menu Mondays

{Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a free copy of The Good Mother Myth! See that post here: http://realnani.blogspot.com/2014/01/GoodMotherMyth.html}

  1. I was inspired by my friend Sovina to put flank steak on my menu this week. She makes skirt steak but the flank was cheaper and looked better than the skirt that was available at my supermarket. 
  2. The millet and falafel patties are so good, and come from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook. There are a lot of great recipes in the book, and a whole kid-friendly section though there are a few recipes in the other sections that my kids like. 
  3. In case you didn’t notice, Wednesday’s dinner is based on leftovers from Monday’s dinner. See what I did there? 

Menu Mondays

  1. We are not vegans but we do not eat a lot of meat, so I take a lot of inspiration from vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. We eat dairy and eggs, so I often use the real thing even in vegan recipes. 
  2. Also on my list for the week: make greek yogurt (which can be made from regular yogurt by straining it through a cheesecloth), make breadcrumbs and make hummus. 
  3. You can use any fillings you want for taco night. We always have tomato, avocado, and cheese. Some filling ideas: sweet potato and black beans, that old standby–ground meat, carnitas (which is what we had this week!)
  4. Speaking of carnitas, here’s an easy way to make it. Buy a pack of boneless country-style pork ribs (or however many pounds you need to feed your brood… I buy a little more for lunch leftovers). Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat a little canola oil in a dutch oven or other ovenproof pot, and sear the ribs on all sides. Remove to a plate. Deglaze with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Add sliced onions and carrots, along with some smashed garlic to the dutch oven. Stir until softened somewhat, then season with herbes de provence or your favorite spice mix, salt and pepper. Add the ribs back into the dutch oven, and cover with a can of peeled or crushed tomatoes. (You can even use ketchup…!) Add water to cover, and put the pot in the oven for 3-4 hours, depending on how many pounds of ribs you have. Check occasionally and add more liquid as necessary. Pork is done when it is falling apart. Remove to a plate and shred it. Put vegetables into a blender (or use immersion blender), then add back to the pot along with shredded pork. Serve warm. You can make this ahead and reheat when ready to serve. 
*BFD=Breakfast for Dinner

Balabusta Cred.

The minute the weather cools off, I go into balabusta mode. Do you know this word, balabusta? I’ve heard it before, in the little snippets of Yiddish swirling around, but didn’t know what it meant. I looked it up after reading about a cookbook from the restaurant of the same name.

Balabusta is a Yiddish expression describing a good homemaker

 Yup. Except maybe I would be a passable homemaker, not always a good one! I’ve been in the kitchen a lot lately, making soups and baking bread. I started making my own chicken soup a few years ago, relying on my memory of various chicken soups I ate growing up, between my mom, my stepmom and my grandma. But this weekend, I think I made my best one yet. The husband and 5 year old agree that it is delicious!

Chicken Soup 

Serves a crowd. 
  • Two chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on (please!) 
  • Two carrots
  • Two stalks celery
  • One onion
  • Bay Leaf
  • Sprigs of thyme
  • Dill, dried or fresh
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Place the chicken in a roasting pan or baking sheet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, coat with oil and add a few sprigs of thyme to the roasting pan. Roast at 425 for 30-45 minutes, depending on size of chicken. The juice should run clear, and the skin should be golden and crispy. 
  2. While chicken is roasting, heat oil in a soup pot, chop veggies and add to the pot, along with salt and pepper. Cook until veggies are soft, then add bay leaf and thyme sprigs. 
  3. Let the chicken cool enough for handle, then remove skin and pull meat off the bones. Chop or pull the meat and set aside. Tie the bones up in a cheesecloth. 
  4. Add cheesecloth-wrapped bones to the soup pot and cover with water. 
  5. Bring soup to a boil, then lower to a simmer and partially cover. 
  6. Simmer soup until color turns deep golden. Add more water as necessary, to keep bones covered. 
  7. Remove bones from soup and discard. 
  8. Add  chicken and dill; continue to simmer until ready to serve. 
  9. Serve with fresh bread or crackers. The bread in the photograph is my new go-to recipe from King Arthur Flour, which can be found here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-sandwich-bread-recipe
Also, this: 

Presto Pesto, Vegan by Default.

It’s been awhile since I wrote a food post, but I made a pesto sauce tonight that I want to record for posterity and share with you all, because it was delicious, if I say so myself!

Because I’m pregnant/lazy/tired/hot/etc, I haven’t done a big shop yet this week and I’ve been scrounging around in the pantry, fridge and freezer to put together meals. Tonight, it was either bean and rice burritos, or spaghetti. Since the burritos would’ve required me to make some tortillas, and that requires far more energy than I care to expend at the moment, spaghetti it was. But who, but a three year old and a five year old, wants to eat plain old spaghetti? So, I looked in the pantry,  fridge and freezer and here’s what I found:

  1. Frozen peas
  2. Lemons
  3. Garlic
  4. Olive Oil
  5. Pine nuts
With these things, I cobbled together a vegan pea pesto, just eyeballing the amount of each ingredient. (And lest you think this is purposely vegan, it’s not. If I had found parm in my fridge, it would’ve been in the sauce…) 
Here’s what I did:
In a skillet, I heated up some olive oil and threw a few crushed cloves of garlic in there. 
When the pasta was nearing the end of boiling time, I dumped the frozen peas into a colander and stuck the whole colander in the boiling water. I took it out when the peas looked a healthy green, then rinsed them under cold water. I poured the peas into my food processor (reserving a bunch to put in the kids’ pasta), then drained the pasta. To the peas, I added the juice of one lemon, and a lot of pine nuts. I can’t say how much… the whole bag, pretty much. I pureed those up, adding the olive oil in a stream through the feeder until the consistency looked right. I left it a little chunky, just thick enough to coat the spaghetti. I didn’t add garlic to this mixture because of the garlic-infused olive oil but if you don’t make the olive oil, then definitely add a few cloves of garlic. 
I portioned out two bowls of plain spaghetti, added butter and the reserved peas. I gave these boring bowls to the kids. The remainder of the spaghetti, I added to the infused olive oil, stirred it around and served it up in bowls for Henry and I, with a big spoonful of the pesto on top. Seriously delicious. 
Also, no pictures because do you know how hard it is to photograph green food well? Very.