Food Love

I’m really terrible at this “writing regularly” thing. Actually, lately, I’ve been terrible at doing a lot of things regularly. Sleep schedule? Pshh…I can’t even. Work schedule? Let’s just say I love working from home because my hours are whatever I want them to be, for the most part. Exercise schedule? Chucked that back during the morning sickness phase with Baby O – I’m lucky to get in 3 decent workouts each week, and with the third trimester starting exactly yesterday, I’m fine with that for now. Really one of the only things happening regularly these days is cooking. Cause this combo WAHM-SAHM has a budget and a discerning palate. I find that more and more these days, I always regret spending money to eat at a restaurant when I know I could probably make a lot of those things better myself, at home.

Case in point:

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Killin’ a buffalo wing craving with some Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bowls. All the “nom,” none of the “ughhhh.”

So..COOKING? Well, I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me. Few things nourish my heart and soul more than just getting in my kitchen, turning on some JJ Grey or Blitzen Trapper, and hunkering down in front of my beloved Coastal Blue Le Creuset (new obsession going on my Christmas list for this year: Anything in their new color, Hibiscus).

An aside: Yes, I agree that Le Creuset is very much a “paying for a brand” thing, and I think Ikea’s budget version in ivory is just as fabulous for only about $50 – so pay no attention to my wasteful obsession with pastel colored salt and pepper mills, cause the magic, like the real magic lies in cooking in a giant cast iron, enamel-coated cauldron that basically just gets more amazing every time you cook in it and looks like something straight out of Southern Living when you fill it with beautiful veggies and perfectly braised meats. Oh, I could just go on and on about my stockpot. I got her on a 40% off discount at the LC outlet and I use her at least once, sometimes twice a day. She’s never met a chuck roast she couldn’t conquer. Her name is Betty and she’s a bad –

…nevermind.

…I may have a problem. (I highly suggest the LC outlet off I-95 near Bluffton if you, too, would like to develop this addiction.)

Where was I? Cooking…right.

So over the years, I’ve learned that I rarely feel quite so comfortable in my own skin or at home in my own head as I do when I open my mouth and MY MOTHER comes falling out. Yes, that thing that all 20-somethings try to avoid, turning into their mother? I’m owning it. Judy is IN there, you guys, she is inextricably lodged in my soul and I am too much like her to get into it now, but suffice it to say we both love on people by cooking for them. If I have ever cooked you a meal, then please know I love you. That’s what that means, in Becky-Speak. And if I love you and I haven’t cooked you a meal, well, we need to get on that. Plus, I started frying chicken this year for the first time in my life and I’ve found my zen. Some people yoga…some people wine…apparently I fry chicken.

But my mom was always this way and still is today. I used to wonder why her way of welcoming me or anyone else home was to explain the full contents of the refrigerator (starting with the leftovers – gotta start with those), but now I get it. I totally get it. It’s because that food she’d made was a bigger hug than she could physically give you. It was a much more tangible way of saying “I love you.” This was why the book “Like Water For Chocolate” just gutted me. Think about this for a moment. If you have food memories of any kind, then you understand this better than you may realize.

Chicken bog, for me, will always be tied to football and funerals – even my husband says this is true for him, as he came to realize in the nine months or so that we were engaged that if he walked in my parents’ house and chicken bog was on the stove, someone must’ve died. It’s still a running joke with us. And if not for the funeral connection, I’d eternally think of chicken bog and boiled peanuts and be transported back to the OLD Conway High School football stadium, “The Graveyard.” It stood then perpendicular to what today is the site of the Coastal Carolina University Brook’s Stadium that went up in my college years at CCU. That smell, boiled peanuts and chicken bog – that’s a gorgeous red-headed senior football player capturing my girly attention (though I doubt he ever knew my name), new American Eagle jeans, the edge of autumn hanging in the crisp air, and that smell narrating my consciousness as it wafted from the stands of people who all knew my parents on a first name basis.

Like a green sky the morning before a hurricane hits – in much the same way is Chocolate Delight associated with an impending family reunion (and the accompanying unsolicited comments about whatever weight was lost/gained in the year leading up to it). Cinnamon Toast in the oven, made with really unhealthy, terribly delicious “butter flavored spread” is a flavor representation of my dad and my son, at the family lake house, working off a few minutes while the house is quiet and the coffee is brewing. Vegetable beef soup made with ground beef and not quite enough salt? That is a trip to my granny’s house circa 1995, in a tiny wood paneled kitchen, not enough room between the table and the wall to get scooted in, my grandfather perched in his chosen spot using a smokeless ashtray, cough-laughing at me and my kid brother.

Not every food memory is perfectly executed and seasoned. But I’m pretty sure my food memories could build the strangest, most heart-warming buffet ever.

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French toast on a Tuesday morning, just…because.

So it has been brought to my attention after several Facebook posts and a few private messages asking for recipes over the last few months, that I’d kind of like to spread the love. And that will be done here, at Roonis Writes!

Cause let’s be honest…I can vent right up there with the best of them, but I’m 32 and busy birthing babies and raising them, and the world is slow to change. My venting energy is wasted most of the time. I’d rather post pretty recipes and little anecdotes to go along with them. Yum.

And here’s one to start it off:

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Smoky Basmati Rice with Field Peas, Okra, Bacon, and Saffron

1.5 c. smoked basmati (red bag at Publix – it smells amazing) or white/brown basmati rice
3 c. chicken broth/stock
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. okra – stems removed and cut into pieces
2 c. white acre or other field peas
3 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
6-7 saffron threads, ground between your fingers – these are optional if you don’t have it, as I know it’s not a common seasoning, but it is SO good in this dish!
Other seasonings: Celery salt (1 tsp), paprika or smoked paprika (1-2 tsp), cayenne pepper (to taste)

Start by sauteeing onion in olive oil until it’s softened up, then add bacon and cook til browned and some fat in the pan (bacon fat = happiness!!). Add field peas next and saute mixture while stirring frequently for about 5-7 minutes. Add rice and saute for a moment to toast the rice a bit and let it soak in some of that bacon fat! (I’ll post healthy dishes, sure, this just ain’t one of ’em). Then add chicken broth and 2 cups of water (or you could do 3 cups total of chicken broth – up to you! I just used what I had in the fridge.) **EDIT: I should add here, you can add your seasonings at the end EXCEPT the saffron – that goes in right after you add your broth/water). Add okra at that point, as well – you can add it earlier, but I like the okra to still have some firmness, so I put it in later than some would prefer. Reduce heat to low-medium and cover for 10 minutes or so. Check to make sure rice isn’t sticking around 10 minutes in, then add seasonings and adjust salt up or down to taste (if you use all broth, you’ll need less salt, if you use all water, you’ll need more, etc).

This would be AMAZING with some shrimp or shredded chicken added in! Oh, and hot sauce! HOT SAUCE ALL DAY.

See y’all around for the next rant or recipe…

I'm kind of failing at this whole blog thing: an update.

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