Category Archives: three things

Three things (you should be making with sweet potatoes right now)

sweet potato slips

1) DINNER | Melissa Clark’s Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes (via Luisa at The Wednesday Chef) I would love to tell you my farm kids eat everything, but HARDY HAR HAR, says the universe, DID YOU THINK YOU WERE IN CONTROL HERE? But friends, they eat this. I don’t really have an explanation. I’d like to say it’s because it is over-the-top, knock-your-socks-clean-off, shout-it-from-the-mountaintops good (WHICH IT IS), but so, for example, is this soup, and my oldest won’t touch that with a ten-foot spoon. I’m learning not to parse these things for too much meaning and instead to just say thank you.

2) BRUNCH | These apple and sweet potato cakes with poached (or fried) eggs and a sweet mustard sauce (via Tasty Kitchen) This morning my son ate eggs and toast and clementines with my husband before he (the latter) went to work, and my daughter ate leftover roast chicken and roughly her own weight in pistachios. She ate those while sitting right in the middle of the dining room table because there are mornings when I have no fight left in me. This was after she emptied her whole bookshelf but before she dumped two giant bins of Legos when I thought it might be okay to pee alone and before she dumped the box of Christmas ornaments I may or may not get put away by April. This is how it came to be nearly eleven o’clock and I only had two cups of coffee in me. This is a long way of saying I love my my fine fine father, who FaceTimed with my kids so I could feed myself these.

3) BREAKFAST/SECOND BREAKFAST/ELEVENSES/AFTERNOON TEA/DESSERT | Nancie McDermott’s Sweet Potato Pound Cake (via our old farm blog, which is looking a bit rusty and which I need to dismantle but can’t quite) Always exactly what I want to eat.

This is not the writing I wrote about, not exactly, but like I said, I’ve been cleaning up a lot of Legos. Also kissing a lot of stubbed toes, homeschooling, moving (again), and watching the sun set over the salt marsh. It’s been kind of a lot.

I’ll be back here when I can figure out how to be. In the meantime, we’ve all got to eat. Make some of this good food! And tell me too how you’re warming your own belly and soul this winter.

sweet potato harvest

Three things

pipers in the gloaming

Gosh, it’s been almost four months since I did one of these posts, and that one was the only time I did it in 2014. Hogwash! I do like some links.

1) PROJECT | Bored and Brilliant: The Lost Art of Spacing Out Join WNYC’s New Tech City managing editor Manoush Zomorodi for an experiment in spending less time on your phone and more time spacing out and doing creative work that doesn’t happen if we never allow our minds to be idle. There will be a week of challenges starting February 2, and in the meantime, download the Moment app to learn more about how you’re really using your phone, and follow the podcast and blog for more.

2) WISDOM | The Strange Art of Trying I’ve been meaning to share Deja’s post since last summer, maybe in a post of my own about our family food culture and my kid and all the things we did right and how he’s still so damn picky at five and how if I had to do it all over again I’d still do most of the same stuff. I think that post may linger in Draft Land forever, but I don’t want to wait any longer to share this. In half a sentence about effort and surrender, Deja says everything I felt but couldn’t articulate about kids and food. Hell, about how to live.

3) PHOTO ESSAY | 1989: America’s Malls I was strangely moved by Michael Galinsky’s photos of late 80s mall patrons. I think it’s to do with how I’ve been chewing on the idea of our shifting commons recently. More thoughts on that in another post, perhaps. Anyway, I was 12 in 1989.

Three things: When you’re chewing on life’s gristle/Don’t grumble, give a whistle…

American persimmon/Diospyros virginiana. September 2014.

American persimmon/Diospyros virginiana. September 2014.

Here are some awesome things some friends of mine have been working on. I offer this particular list because a) these are compelling projects that deserve your time and love, and b) when I remember the powerful, hopeful work my friends are doing, it is hard to stay irate about things I can’t fix, like the way we insist on gendering our children’s lives from the time they are very, very small. Ahem.

1) ESSAY | Look at the Horses Did I first meet Cate at an informal lecture way up on the 35th floor of the curious and beautiful Cathedral of Learning? Or was it twenty minutes outside of the city in a quiet and icy barn one January night? I don’t remember the details but I do know we weren’t more than 19, teetering deliciously on the cusp of adulthood. Her essay about the plans we make and the places we come from is exquisite.

2) COLLECTIVE STORYTELLING | The Way They Worked Hilary and I go back even further, to the chalk dust and linoleum tiles and square roots of Ms. Presto’s early, early Monday morning pre-algebra class, seventh grade. She’s the motor behind a new project that collects the stories we remember about the work of our grandparents. What did your grandparents do? How did they feel about it? How did their work inform your own feelings about responsibility or family? Share a memory, with words or a photo or both – on the project’s website or your own website, or use the hashtag #TheWayTheyWorked on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.

3) FREE E-BOOK | Artisans of Peace Overcoming Poverty The work I did in NYC is always at the margins of my writing. I struggle to give it its due. Family life, farm life, and Fourth World’s radical and inclusive approach to fighting poverty – these are my chorus, and I want so badly to write them into some kind of harmony. I’m going to keep trying, but if you want to learn more about what I was doing before the fateful day I first heard my husband’s easy laughter spilling between the tomato stakes, read this book.

What about y’all? Any good reads or powerful projects you’ve come across lately that keep you looking on the bright side?

Three things: comfort and joy

tree top
Last night I slept terribly. My son woke briefly a little after 1 and after getting him settled again I found myself staring wide-eyed through the dark at the ceiling. I didn’t drift off again until after 4.

I can’t say for sure but I don’t think this is a rerun of last winter’s long insomnia. What I do know is that last night I was fretful about the baby. Moving late in a pregnancy is hard. I’m struggling, a lot, to surrender to some pretty enormous changes in my prenatal care and in our plans for how and where to welcome this baby.

The deep darkness of the wee small hours doesn’t do one’s fears any favors, of course. I lay there for a long time, panicky, miserable, begging for sleep, before remembering: sit up and be with this wakefulness. And so I did. I was immediately rewarded for that tiny act of surrender when I opened Pandora and this was playing. I snorted aloud before switching to a piano station and pulling The Zuni Cafe Cookbook onto my lap. A little later I slipped from under the down comforter and headed to the fridge for a big glass of milk.

I didn’t find any answers, but eventually a certain kind of peacefulness crept in and dulled the edges of my worry. With blessedly heavy eyelids I turned off the lamp and pulled the comforter back over my shoulders.

I woke a few hours later to the sweet smell of hash browns in the skillet and the sweeter sound of dishes being put away. In the muted light of early morning I felt a little better, which seems to be how morning works. I found my slippers, made my way to the kitchen, hugged my husband, and thought with delight about some things bringing me quite a bit of comfort and joy:

1) Heather of Beauty That Moves just announced her latest online workshop! Heather writes: “Hibernate is a self-paced, four week, online retreat – a place to celebrate the pause that wintertime brings. A place to linger through the dark and quiet, to welcome stillness, and allow time to enjoy home and hearth.” Each week will offer ideas to nourish, gather, refresh, create, and rest. I cannot think of something more appealing. I’ve participated in Heather’s 30 Day Vegan and Whole Food Kitchen courses, and I think what I love most is her gentle, non-dogmatic approach and her heavy focus on self care. This course begins January 13. Lots more details here.

2) Nicole of Gidget Goes Home is running The Motherhood & Jane Austen Book Club in 2014 – a chance to read or reread all six of Jane Austen’s novels though the lens of motherhood. Nicole notes that the novels are “chock full of interesting mothers, mother figures, absent mothers and young women who we imagine may become mothers later. We will discuss these characters, how they affect the plot, how they make us feel as mothers, how they relate to mothers we know, and more.” First up is Pride & Prejudice. I can’t wait.

3) Throughout all of that – and also as soon as I post this – I plan to drink a lot of chai. I’ve made a lot of versions over the years, all delicious, but my current favorite method comes from Jess at Witchin’ in the Kitchen. I like my chai spicy and not too sweet, so I’ve been reducing the honey by a smidge, upping the ginger, crushing cardamom pods, black peppercorns, and a star anise pod to add to the garam masala, and using some cardamom-flavored tea in place of straight black tea. For a decaf version I bet rooibos would be nice! Delicious, gorgeous recipe here.

 I’d love to know what’s bringing you comfort and joy these days.

Three things


Today, I’m less interested in food for thought and more interested in sitting a spell. You too?

Read what Katrina Kennison has to say about the last Saturday afternoon in September.

Listen to Carrie Rodriquez and Chip Taylor sing “Big Moon Shining” and feel yourself exhale.

Linger a while over at habit. I’m a guest over there again, starting today and through October.


“Camas Lilies”

Consider the liles of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening
into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?
And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: “Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming.”
Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.

Lyn Ungar
Blessing the Bread: Meditations

Three things (delicious summer food edition)

peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall...

Yes, so, kind of ridiculous to try passing this off as another three things post when most people over the age of about six can clearly count (at least) 20 items here. But hey, I’m talking about tomatoes and corn and peaches! All is forgiven? Moving on.

1) Delicious summer food we’ve made and gobbled down recently:

Fresh corn cakes from David Lebovitz. We topped them with a fresh corn and tomato salad (see below), chèvre, and eggs over easy. Leftovers kept well in the fridge and were delicious reheated in the toaster oven.

Bangain bharta. This is a traditional Punjabi dish made with charred eggplant, tomatoes, and lots of good spices, and I’m putting it in our rotation until there are no more tomatoes and eggplant. So good. We ate it over brown rice and topped with a dollop of plain yogurt and scooped it all up with Camille’s naan, which we made with lard we’d rendered from our own pastured pigs. If you eat and have access to real lard, I heartily recommend that substitution. This particular version was shared with us by a CSA member a couple years ago.

Pasta with let-my-eggplant-go-free! purée from Francis Lam. (Thanks, Molly!) One of those awesome kitchen alchemy recipes, where simple ingredients combine and go BOOM! I would only like to say that after about 12 years of trying, I can say with certainty that I really, really, really don’t like whole wheat pasta. I think I’m going to stop trying. I suggest white pasta here, which, for flavor and texture reasons, will really let this sauce sing. Might even make my own next time.

Fresh corn and tomato salad. No real recipe here, and it changes some every time we make it, which is a couple times a week at least. Shave the kernels off an ear of corn, chop a couple hefty handfuls of cherry tomatoes, chiffonade some basil, squeeze in some lime juice, salt to taste. Scale up as necessary. I love it on top of brown rice and black beans (try Molly’s quick black beans with cumin and oregano) and topped with a fried egg, or on top of those fresh corn cakes above, or straight from the bowl. I bet it would be good in a tortilla soup too.

Cream of tomato soup. I had the Campbell’s stuff often enough as a child, usually with grilled cheese, and while I didn’t have to force it down, I didn’t really understand the fuss. Now that I make my own I sure do. I love Marion Cunningham’s recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The ingredient list is quite short so the quality of the tomatoes matters enormously. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, make sure they are dead ripe, and make sure you love how they taste raw. You can also fix a slightly lackluster tomato soup with a big spoonful of tomato paste. Canned tomatoes are also an excellent choice here. I’ve seen lots of versions out there made with stock, which sounds good too and would be perhaps a little less rich than the one we make. I’m also tempted to try a version with roasted tomatoes.

One-pan pasta from Martha Stewart. I followed this recipe nearly exactly (just subbed our homemade chicken bone broth for half the water) and while it was delicious – I adored the sauce that forms from the tomato juices and pasta starch – next time I will use all broth and will double or even triple the tomatoes. Edited to add: I can’t wait to try the farro verion of this from Smitten Kitchen. Could something this tasty and easy also be a bit more nutrient-dense?

2) Delicious summer food I love but have somehow not yet made this year:

Cultured salsa from Nourishing Traditions. I can’t even begin to explain how good this is. Get yourself some whey (I just strain it from full-fat plain yogurt) and hie thee to your kitchen! It should last for ages in your fridge only it won’t because you will eat it all in two days, and that’s if you don’t have company.

Braised okra with cherry tomatoes, which I wrote about last week.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet corn polenta with eggplant sauce. Polenta made with fresh corn! It’s a little labor intensive but very straightforward. And the eggplant and tomato sauce is good on everything. I put it in a savory galette once with some chèvre and should really do that again.

Tomato and cheddar pie. This one requires a little planning: the biscuit dough for the crust needs to chill for an hour, and the tomatoes need to drain for 30 minutes.  But otherwise it comes together quite easily. The crust is quite forgiving. Once I was a little short on flour, and the dough seemed a sticky and hopeless mess as I eased it into the pie pan.  But it baked up beautifully, and didn’t get soggy even after a day in the fridge. And seriously: tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheese, biscuit crust? Need I say more?

Tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits from Joy the Baker. Everything about this is amazing. The flavors are assertive but perfectly balanced – I recommend all spices and seasonings in the called-for quantities.

Peperonata. Sweet peppers cooked long and slow, with some capers, red wine vinegar, and herbs tossed in at the end. This is ostensibly good with many things – I imagine it would taste great alongside almost any kind of meat, on crostini with some soft tangy cheese, mixed into hot or cold pasta, on top of polenta, maybe folded into a frittata – but I wouldn’t know because we always eat it straight out of the skillet.

Pomodori al forno from Molly Wizenberg. You cook roma tomatoes low and slow and then marinate them with garlic, parsley, and olive oil, before serving them with goat cheese and sliced baguette. This stuff would make you very popular at a brunch and would also make a very fine (and messy!) start to a summer dinner party, but again, I’m only guessing, because I pretty much eat this standing at the counter with the bowl of tomatoes, a hunk of bread, a tub of cheese, and a knife.

Gordon’s Cup, also from Molly. Gin! Lime! Cucumber! Salt! Do it!

Peach pie. I do make a mean pie. ‘Tis the season!

3) Delicious summer food I have never made (so please share your recipes with me!):

Tomato jam


Tomato sauce for putting up. I’m happy to freeze or can. I make sauces from canned and fresh tomatoes all the time, but I’ve never done it in storage quantities. Maybe I should just make more, and freeze it, but I still feel on the lookout for something really worth all that peeling and seeding.


Corn ice cream!

And that’s a wrap.

What about you? What are you eating these days? And can you help me with that last section?

Three things :: 1

Hakurei turnips. November 2012, Virginia.

Hakurei turnips. November 2012, Virginia.

I do so love a good list of links. But I’m also sensitive to what a mad racket we’ve got going inside our brains in this age of easy sharing. Stuck, I turned to my mom and best friend, and blog reader par excellence. Without hesitation she said: “Keep the lists short.”

1) Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Goat Cheese Biscuits from Joy the Baker :: I made both these a couple nights ago and both are out of this world. The soup is warm and wonderful, and surprisingly complex for the pretty minimal effort involved. The biscuits are phenomenal. I’m going to be making them a lot. Also, use what you have! I used up what I think was the last of our turkey broth from Thanksgiving in the soup, and I used lard instead of butter in the biscuits.

2) The Slow Web from Jack Cheng :: This is a long(ish) and deeply worthy read. What he says about how the randomness and frequency of the updates (in our inboxes, dashboards, feeds) stimulates the reward mechanisms in our brains really resonated with me … but really, so did every other paragraph. Yes, I say. Yes.

3) Homespun Mom Comes Unraveled from Shannon Hayes :: An oldie but goodie, I share this one as often as I can. Shannon went on to write the powerful Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture after this essay, and I can’t wait to curl up with a warm drink and her newest book. But that will have to wait until some spring week when I can explore the libraries near our new home. In the meantime – always – I can turn to this piece. She writes: “Somehow, on our paths toward this noble life, one more group of girls has fallen prey to another impossible feminine ideal. And I, for one, am crumbling under the pressure of Über-Momming. Our gardens are a mess, my kids are throwing up on the way to the market, my fingers ache from milking the cow, we’re running out of homemade soap, and attachment parenting is causing my back to ache.” (Also I like what she has to say about gin.)