I came home from work on Monday expecting to head to the gym and watch The Bachelor, but instead, I smelled something delicious cooking in the kitchen. It was Gareth cooking me dinner for Valentine’s Day! It was such a great surprise! This was a momentous, historic occasion in our household because this is the first real meal that Gareth has ever cooked for me. He made me Spaghetti Bolognese from his “Cooking For Blokes” cook book. Cooking for someone is one of the most loving things you can do. Eating and enjoying the meal together is a shared experienced of the other’s hard work, effort and the love they put into the food. It was a delicious meal that I will never forget.
My great-grandma, Agnes Minnillo (who we called “GG”), was the most amazing cook. Born in Italy in 1911, GG came to the US with her mother when she was 13 years old. Food and cooking was a big part of her life, and I suppose some of that must’ve rubbed off on me! Her food was simple and delicious; tastes and flavors that cannot be replicated. One of her dishes that I remember most fondly is her cavatelli and meatballs. Every Christmas, GG would make cavatelli, which is the shape of the pasta that we pronounce “cavadills” in Italian-American slang. She would make the cavatelli, tomato sauce and meatballs from scratch. GG passed away in 2010 when she was 99 years old, just shy of her 100th birthday. After her passing, my mom was lucky enough to inherit the cavatelli maker that my great-grandpa (who we called “Bumpa”) had made for GG many years ago. This Christmas Eve, my mom made GG’s cavatelli and meatballs. It was a very special treat and brought back many, many happy memories of GG. GG would’ve been very proud of my mom and this delicious meal she cooked!
Last night, my friend told me about an article she read called “11 Things to Know When You’re 25(ish).” She said that she thought of me when she read number 10 on the list. I think this is beyond true and is a huge part of the reason that I love to cook!
10. Feed Yourself and the People You Love
If you can master these things, you’re off to a really great start: eggup, a fantastic sandwich or burger, guacamole and some killer cookies. A few hints: The secret to great eggs is really low heat, and the trick to guacamole is lime juice—loads of it. Almost every soup starts the same way: onion, garlic, carrot, celery, stock.
People used to know how to make this list and more, but for all sorts of reasons, sometime in the last 60 or so years, convenience became more important than cooking and people began resorting to fake food (ever had GU?), fast food and frozen food. I literally had to call my mom from my first apartment because I didn’t know if you baked a potato for five minutes or two hours.
The act of feeding oneself is a skill every person can benefit from, and some of the most sacred moments in life happen when we gather around the table. The time we spend around the table, sharing meals and sharing stories, is significant, transforming time.
Learn to cook. Invite new and old friends to dinner. Practice hospitality and generosity. No one cares if they have to sit on lawn furniture, bring their own forks or drink out of a Mayor McCheese glass from 1982. What people want is to be heard and fed and nourished, physically and otherwise—to stop for just a little bit and have someone look them in the eye and listen to their stories and dreams. Make time for the table, and you’ll find it to be more than worth it every time.
You can find the full article here: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/features/22864-what-to-know-when-youre-25ish
Roasted Leg Of Lamb, Roasted Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts
This was one of the most difficult (and perhaps least successful) meals that I’ve ever cooked. Gareth and I had only been dating for a few months, so on Valentines Day 2010 I wanted to do something to impress him, so I decided to cook him a traditional Welsh roast dinner. A roast dinner is very common in Wales and throughout the UK and is when you roast a type of meat in the oven (lamb, pork, etc) and then serve it with roast potatoes and vegetables. I chose to make him lamb because he said that was his favorite. So, I began on my journey to cook this meal for him. I had never cooked a leg of lamb, so I called my local butcher and requested a de-boned leg of lamb. When I went to pick it up and saw the size of this lamb leg, I was astounded. I had no idea it would be so big! (The lamb in the photo was HALF of the whole leg I purchased.) Not only that, it was a fortune! So I took this hunk of meat home and began preparing dinner for Gareth. The lamb had probably been in the oven for about 1 hour when Gareth arrived at my apartment, and was far from cooked. Two, three, four hours later… still not cooked. As it got even later, I realized this roast dinner was just not going to happen that night. So we took it out of the oven and went to bed. The next morning, we woke up early and put the lamb BACK in the oven, heated up the potatoes and brussel sprouts, and ended up eating the roast dinner for breakfast. That was the last time I cooked a leg of lamb. Maybe I should attempt it again for Valentines this year!
Although there is no food in this post (unless you count my two pickle ornaments), I am getting into the holiday spirit and I wanted to share some photos of our beautiful Christmas tree! Last year we had our first tree together, which was a tiny, 4 or 5 foot tree because we lived in a studio apartment. Now that we live in a larger apartment, we decided to go all out with a big tree. We bought and decorated the tree on Sunday and it was an all day project. It was a lot of hard work, but the outcome makes it worth it. Merry, merry!
I am thankful for my family, especially my mom, dad and sister.
I am thankful for Gareth and how much happiness he brings to my life.
I’m thankful that my family is expanding to include Gareth’s family.
I am thankful for my wonderful friends who are always there for me.
I am thankful for my new job and the success that I’ve had.
I am thankful for pickles and olives… and pickle stuffed olives.
As I continue to post on FBB, I want to remind my readers what FBB is all about. I don’t believe in dieting or restricting yourself from certain foods, I believe in tasting and enjoying food, but always in moderation. No food needs to be off limits if you have a small portion or taste, or if you find a way to make it yourself with healthier ingredients. If you ignore your cravings it will end up doing more harm than good, I have learned that first hand! I love to try new foods and restaurants, especially when traveling, so those are the meals where portion control really comes into play. If I have a hard time controlling portion size for an extra yummy or special meal, then I hit the gym! You can’t beat yourself up for being human. You’ve got to enjoy life and not restrict yourself from things you enjoy—that is what FBB is all about!
This was a meal that I had at Sofra in London. (www.sofra.co.uk/) This was a “Chef’s Sampling” which was a small bite of many different foods, including hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and spinach and feta pastry. This was a great way to try and taste a lot of different menu items without overeating- a very FBB way to enjoy a nice meal out!
Hot Sauce: If you don’t like spicy foods, then this is not for you. I have a true love for hot sauce and use it every day. I use hot sauce in everything from eggs, meat, vegetables, potatoes, sauces, pasta, sandwiches and more. I have many different types of hot sauce, each one has a distinctly different heat. It’s such an easy way to add a burst of flavor!
Reduced-Fat Sour Cream: I love using reduced fat sour cream because it makes me feel like I’m eating something creamy and sinful, when in fact, 2 tbsp only have 40 calories and 3 g of fat. Using this in moderation and adding it to various recipes can help add a new taste and texture. Try mixing it with potatoes, tomato sauce or steamed vegetables.
Garlic: Who doesn’t like garlic? Garlic can be used with literally everything. I keep a jar of crushed garlic in my refridgerator so I can quickly grab a tsp when needed and not have to deal with chopping a clove of garlic. Easy and simple!
Garlic Salt: I like salt, that is easy to see. Instead of using regular salt in and on foods, I like use garlic salt to add a bit of seasoning along with it.
Dry Ranch Mix: Ranch dressing is notoriously bad for you, but dry ranch mix has all the flavor without the fat and calories- there are only 5 calories in a whole pack! Keep in mind there is a lot of salt, so use in moderation. You can also make a great ranch dip by adding dry ranch mix to reduced fat sour cream or Greek non-fat yogurt. You could also sprinkle it on grilled chicken for extra seasoning or mix into your favorite potato recipe to add some punch.
Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs are great to have around. It adds bursts of fresh flavor in any food you cook. Right now I’m really into the flavor of fresh dill, as you’ll see in upcoming recipes. Fresh basil is always an amazing flavor to spice up a simple pasta dish or vegetable.
Canned Tomatoes: It’s great to keep a can of crushed or diced tomatoes in the cupboard for cooking. Sometimes I’ll steam vegetables and then add in some tomatoes for a bit more substance. You can also use with chicken, eggs or brown rice.