chickenstock_feedmedearlyIf there ever was a discussion more fraught with angst and frustration in our household, it’s about chickens.

I’d say that I’m a bit thrifty when it comes to food. I touched on it briefly in my post about smart tactics for the kitchen, but truly, when it comes to throwing away perfectly good food, I just can’t do it. This of course doesn’t mean that I keep old food long past its prime. I’m a chucker once things run their course. But good food, perfectly usable? That’s a different story.

So our freezer is where good food goes to die. If there’s a leftover dish that we know we can’t eat because we’re out of town or we’ve eaten it for two days straight, into the freezer it goes.  Baguettes that were accidentally left out overnight? Freezer. And best of all, a chicken carcass or two, you know the drill.

The problem is that we live in New York City, so as much as I’d love to have a second freezer for all of my left over food, it ain’t gonna happen.

Our freezer runs out of space quickly, which results in chicken carcasses (carcii?) taking over whatever available space we have.

So we argue about bird bones.

Rodney, clearing the remains from a rotisserie chicken: “Are you done with this?”

Me: “I’m going to make a stock with it, stick it in the freezer.”

Rodney:  “We have 10 chickens in the freezer already.”

Me: “Put it in that little space where the ice comes out.”

Rodney: “You’re going to break the ice cube tray if you do that.”

Me: “That’s fine, I don’t use that thing.”

And truly, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t have ice cubes. For my Scotch-drinking husband, this is tantamount to losing power.

So the arguments continue: fresh stock vs. a broken fridge.

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Thanksgiving is over. Time to stop talking about it, it’s done, let’s all regroup on this topic next year. (That was primarily a note to myself, goodbyes are hard.)

But seriously, it’s time to shelve all of the Thanksgiving talk because truly, we’re deep into the holidays at this point. We need to shift gears. We need to talk about things like snowflake cookies and Yule logs.

Unfortunately, right now I have limited pictures of our holiday food to share with you. Why? Because last year at this time I didn’t have the faintest clue that I’d one day write a blog. But here I am, fessing up, and facing a bit of an emergency: I have to tell you about our Christmas Ham and have no pictures of the end product.

I hope you can forgive me. I’m only a team of one. I’m not Bon Appetit magazine with a staff of recipe testers who start buying, cooking, and photographing holiday hams in June. If I bought a Ham right now for picture purposes, we’d be eating ham leftovers for weeks. Come Christmas I’d be so over ham. And what a horrible tragedy that would be.

But thank heavens for ham steaks, which are available at Whole Foods. Perfect when you’re in a ham pinch but you don’t want to buy the full beast. And it’s just enough meat to showcase the best part of our ham dinner, the king of condiments: mustard.

We haven’t always been Christmas ham devotees. In fact I cooked my first just a few short years ago. In the past we used to serve turkey, a family tradition.

But that was in Canada, where Thanksgiving and Christmas are separated by months, not weeks. In the US, I’m just getting through my freezer stash of turkey leftovers when it’s time for another bird. Too much, too soon. I apologize turkey lovers, apparently I’m showing my true stripes and it’s not impressive. But really, I can only do so much turkey.

So I put my foot down one year. I shook things up. I cooked a capon.

Which is about as different from a turkey as a strip steak is from a T-bone.

But the capon was a foot in the right direction. Old traditions die hard, and this was a tough one to move past.

The following year, emboldened, I thought I’d take an even bigger step. Go for something a little more Dickensian. A goose? Perhaps. But after floating the idea around the family, there was some resistance. Goose didn’t seem appealing to the majority of those polled.

We needed something mainstream, and so we picked ham. Hallelujah, a new tradition was born.

It just so happens that we were having a bunch of friends and family to the lake to celebrate Christmas dinner that year and I wanted an easy dinner. I was wiped out after three straight weeks of ordering, unboxing, sorting, wrapping, labeling, hiding the mountain of gifts that would end up under our tree. While not a spoiler during the other 11 months of the year, I fall hard for the holidays.

So I planned ahead for dinner: I bought a big smoked ham from my butcher Mike, got a bunch of rolls and different kinds of bread from Amy’s in Chelsea Market. (And hey! I was able to dig up some photographic evidence):

bread 094

And best of all, I stocked up on all kinds of mustards – spicy, sweet, and whole grain. When you’re taking the easy road with dinner, you have to impress with something, and pretentious mustard fits the bill. (By the way, here’s what I’m serving with our dinner this year):

mustard 092

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Kale and artichoke dip 079
I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sheepish when it comes to dip. It just seems so retro, like it belongs in one of those old 1950s cookbooks with the plaid dust jackets. The kind of book that depends on ingredients like Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup and canned pineapple.

That being said, I have a good friend who happens to be a trained chef, and her go-to party dish is always a dip. Fine, maybe dip can be cool after all, especially when it’s her version with caramelized onions and Indian spices.

And here’s the truth, dips do get a bad rap, and it’s not because they don’t taste good. It’s because they were popular at a time when jello salads and SPAM burgers were in favor. They were just hanging’ with the wrong crowd, so to speak.

My biggest problem with dips today is their placement, with all of the other appetizers, at the beginning of the meal. Aren’t those foods the best part of the meal? Who doesn’t want to gorge themselves on a heaping plate of wings, or a gigantic vat of nachos? I think I speak for all of us when I say that we have no need for the rest of the meal. No need at all.

So it was with great fortune that I ran out of food the other day. The fridge was nearly bare. This was time for brute tactics.  I managed to find a wilting bunch of kale and a few types of cheese along with a package of nearly-expired prosciutto. Perfect. Digging around the freezer revealed some more potential treasures: a big bag of frozen artichokes and some grated Parmesan. Hmmm….

And then it hit me. Dip. I’d be able to make a dip just for myself. A whole tray of it. No holding back, no whetting of the appetite, no guilt, no remorse. I’d have some crusty bread in one hand, and a glass of white in the other.

Kale and artichoke dip_feedmedearly

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Fall cooking

I’m equally sad and excited when Fall rolls around. Fortunately I love to cook, which keeps the cold weather blues at bay. I love summer, our weekend trips to the lake complete with an endless supply of popsicles and watersports.

But something about turning on the stove and simmering soups, stocks, and stews for hours on end is so comforting. I love the smell of Fall cooking. The earthy vegetables, the slow-roasted meats. It’s a smell that permeates your house, and makes it feel like home.

It’s a completely different kind of cooking from the meals I tend to make in the summer. And especially this summer – I was on a huge raw kick – tomato salads of every kind (see my tomato concern from this week’s Wordless Wednesday post), diced fruit with honey and mint, and raw vegetables marinated in olive oil, vinegar and herbs.

But I’m ready to re-embrace my stove.

People tend to gripe about Fall cooking. They say it’s less healthy, full of butter and bacon. And it takes time. Which is often true.

But it doesn’t have to be. Especially the part about it taking time – I’ll keep my rich Fall dishes, thank you very much. There are over 200 days until I wear a bikini again, and I’m fine with putting a little meat on my bones.

Quick Fall Cooking_FeedMeDearly

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summersaladsIf you’re anything like me, you’re the kind of person who hates to turn on the stove in the summer. I’m not even talking oven. I’m talking stove. Burners. Flames. Heat of any kind.

To me, the best part about summer is the ability to eat fresh, clean, unadulterated foods. Salads that take minimal prep. Baguettes that can ripped open and served with a big hunk of cheese and some sliced meats from the deli.

Nice meats of course. Not that packaged stuff in the refrigerator case. But the kind where you have an actual conversation with the meat-slicing guy, specifying thickness and weight and watching him shave off mounds of prosciutto, mortadella and speck just to your liking.

Don’t get me wrong, I do turn on the oven or stove at times. It’s a necessary evil in the summers when you’ve got cranky kids at home who are asking for pasta. Or you want to grill or boil that bright yellow corn you just picked up at the farmers’ market. Make bacon-studded caramel popcorn. Bake a vat of nachos. The essentials.

But I’m not an air conditioner type of girl, I’d rather throw open the windows and let in the breeze. Well, nudge the windows open to the full width allowed by our child protection guards (that would be three inches). And with New York temps often above 100 degrees with the humidity, I try to minimize the use of our range as much as possible. For obvious reasons, I’d like to avoid creating Indian sweat lodge conditions inside our living room.

So in light of our range-free zone, I wanted to share a few salads with you that have been making their way through the rotation. No-cook meals that take minutes to prepare and take advantage of the super fresh and ripe produce available at this time of year.

These salads are perfect for a quick lunch. If they do end up on the dinner table, they’re probably best as sides.  On the occasion that I’ve served just salad, Rodney has claimed that I’ve put him on the starvation diet. At which point I tell him to go out and buy himself a burrito. Or make his own damn dinner. In the nicest way possible, of course. I know that he’s teasing. But seriously, I doubt anyone would starve after having been served a half block of Feta over a mountain of tomatoes. I don’t know about you, but I can stuff myself on a big salad any day. 

And by the way, in light of these summer salad quick fixes, I’ve started a new page on my blog called “Instagrammies” (Instagram + Recipes). I was taking pics of quick-fix lunches and dinners and uploading to Instagram, but felt like it would be useful information to share. All of these meals were pulled together after a scrounge of the fridge, nothing was pre-planned or pre-prepared. And they’re not full recipes, just the title and you can figure out the rest.  If you have any questions about the meals I post in that space, feel free to reach out.

 So enjoy the last few weeks of summer heat-free cooking. It’ll be over before you know it.


1: Greens, cucumbers, radishes, heirloom tomatoes, basil and edible flowers, olive oil & vinegar, s&p, and burrata cheese

2: White beans, radishes, cucumbers, olive oil, big squeeze of lemon, and flaky sea salt

3: Baby heirloom tomatoes, French feta, sherry vinegar, olive oil, a heavy spray of Maldon salt & freshly-ground black pepper

4: Greens, vinaigrette, rotisserie chicken (dark meat please!), smoked ricotta salata and nectarines, s&p