I know, I know. It’s only mid-August, but once school starts, it’s basically soup season, right? I think part of these feelings must stem from how absolutely frigid they keep my school library. I need a warm little meal packed from home on my lunch break while wrapped in a cozy sweater more than ever. Maybe if I were still out in the wild world, and not tucked away in my windowless, season-less arctic tundra of a library, I’d be munching on tomato sandwiches, lettuce wraps, and peaches with burrata cheese and sprigs of basil as most are wont to do in mid-August. I used to be a Children’s Librarian at an amazing public library down here and one of my co-workers would pack herself soup for lunch no matter the season and I kind of love that. Feels very librarian-y. I’m not so extreme as to cut all other meals out of my life once school starts, but I do like making soup on the weekends. It’s one of those foods that tastes even better the next day, and you know I’ve been thinking about getting my sourdough starter revived too. There’s nothing that goes together so well as soup and a crusty boule of sourdough. I thought I would share some of my favorite soups and a few that I’m thinking of trying this season just in case you are in the mood for soup too.
Lemon-y Lentil Soup. One of my all time favorites. Make SURE you get red lentils, They break down in such a way that makes this soup so thick and delightful. Brown and green lentils keep their form too much for this one.
Classic Chili. We make our first batch of chili a big event. It’s an opening day of football tradition. Don’t skip the fixings. My husband makes the BEST chili and I’ll have to get him to type it up one of these days, but this one looks pretty similar. We always top with cheddar cheese, red onion diced tiny, corn chips, and sometimes sour cream if it’s a spicy batch.
Pasta e Fagioli. Ok you guys, I have a recipe that I’ve always used for this (my husband I took a cooking class in our early days of marriage and the chef taught us how to make this soup!), but early in my instagram days an Italian girl messaged me that what I was making was so far from a true Pasta e Fagioli that it couldn’t even be called that. And then she sent me a link to this very complicated looking recipe, and so I’ve never talked about this soup again on my account. Ha! Maybe I’ll get the courage to share my recipe again, but for now – try the one I’m linking now. It looks simple and yummy.
Country Potato Soup. (Pictured above) Obviously this is the magnolia recipe from Joanna Gaines and it’s soooo good. I dream about it every year when the 70’s hit.
Street Corn Chowder. I just made this over the weekend, and it’s as good as I remember. You can use frozen corn instead of corn on the cob and this makes it a year round option.
Soups I want to make this Fall:
- Pumpkin Soup – Last year I made soup in a pumpkin and you better believe I’m doing it again.
- Taco Soup
- Chicken Noodle
- Beef Stew
- Tortellini Soup
- Tortilla Soup
- Lasagna Soup
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese (obviously)
Tell me your favorite soup for soup season in the comments! I’m going to make it a season of soup!! And if you too are making it a soup season – this is our favorite dutch oven. I use it for sourdough and every soup we make! In other cozy news. I want this, this and this.
I love a big old layer cake for a birthday or big party, but for a special little weekend treat or a mid-week pick me up, make it tiny. I don’t need a big cake lingering around my kitchen tempting me (and my children) for too long. Just big enough for a Sunday dessert and a snack during the week (and ok, maybe enough so that I can have breakfast cake one day, because leftover cake does make the best breakfast, as I’m sure you well know.)
I adapted this recipe from the Very Vanilla Cake from Simple Cake by Odette Williams. It almost feels more like a muffin than cake. Muffin Cake! I love it. It was yummy, and I recommend you make it. I used a six inch by 3 inch cake pan, but I think you could use an 8 inch cake pan if you only have that. It will just be thinner, and you’ll want to adjust your baking time!
Blackberry Cake with Blackberry Glaze
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup blackberries, chopped if very large
3 T mild-flavored oil, such as canola
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare pan by greasing a 6 by 3-inch cake pan with butter, line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the paper.
Add the lemon juice to the milk to sour it. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes or until curdled.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Set aside.
Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and sift.
Using an electric mixer with beaters or a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed and then gradually add the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes or until light in color and fluffy.
With the mixer still on medium speed, gradually add the eggs. If the batter curdles, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour to bind it back together.
On low speed, add the flour mixture and then the oil and milk; mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add blackberries and fold in with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes. When a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed, remove the cake from the oven and let it stand to cool. Run a butter knife around the cake to gently release. Invert the cake, peel off the bottom piece of parchment, and cool on a wire rack.
When completely cool, pour glaze onto center of cake and let it run down the sides. Decorate if you choose to with extra blackberries, cut, and watch disappear!
For the Glaze:
1 cup (115g) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon butter
2-4 tablespoons very hot blackberry juice
Sift the sugar into a small bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the butter to the well. On the stove combine about 1/2 cup water with 1 cup blackberries. Bring to boil and mash the blackberries. Strain into a measuring cup, discard pulp or you could mix that in with the cake. Start with 2 tablespoons and pour into your small bowl into the well of butter. Mix and add a bit more until you get the right drippy consistency. It should be thin enough to drip off your spoon slowly, but not so thin that it will just run off of your cake.
A few months ago, I put a little question box on Instagram and asked for cookbook suggestions from you guys. I’d like to build up my little cookbook collection, but I’d rather not have cookbooks sitting on my shelf that I don’t use. I knew you guys would have the best suggestions, and wow. You all came through. I had hundreds of responses of books you all say you use over and over again. I had to get all of this crowdsourced cookbook knowledge down here. I’ve separated by Baking, Weeknight cooking, Weekend/Date Night Cooking, Cooking Basics, and special dietary cookbooks. Each cookbook is listed by title, author, and then if you click on it, it will take you to amazon to look at the description. They are affiliate links so if you choose to purchase, I will get a little kickback (like 10 cents. just trying to put dinner on the table here. lolol.) This list makes my librarian heart sing! I’m going to start requesting one from the library every week and I’ll browse through, pick a couple recipes to try and see if it’s worth purchasing to have and to hold forever and ever. I thought you guys might like to see the list if you too are looking to beef up your collections! As always, I’ll share reviews on Instagram, and I’ll share any I decide to buy too. Side note: can’t believe the number of vegetarian cookbooks suggested!
Sister pie, Lisa Ludwinski
The Book on Pie, Erin Jeanne McDowell (This is my suggestion! I very much love this cookbook!)
Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook, Kathleen King
Bake the Seasons, Marcella DiLonardo
Flour Water Salt Yeast, Ken Forkish
Flour and Grace, Valerie Kuhns
Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson (I have and love this book. It’s my sourdough bible!)
Midwest Made, Shauna Sever
100 cookies, Sarah Kieffer
Flour, Joanne Chang
Bread Toast Crumbs, Alexandra Stafford
Dessert Person, Claire Saffitz
Sweet, Yotam Ottolenghi
Sally’s Baking Addiction, Sally McKenney
Betty Crocker Cookbook
Fat Salt Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat
How to Cook Without A Book, Pam Anderson
Americas Test Kitchen Cookbook
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child
The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters
Small Victories, Valerie Turshen
The Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer
Minimalist Kitchen, Melissa Coleman
Simple, Everyday Dinners
Skinnytaste One and Done, Gina Homolka
Half Baked Harvest Super Simple, Tieghan Gerard
Half Baked Harvest Every Day, Tieghan Gerard
Jamie Deen’s Good Food, Jamie Deen
Feeding a Family, Sarah Waldman
All About Dinner, Molly Stevens
The Modern Proper, Holly Erickson
Dinner, Melissa Clark
Vietnamese Food Any Day, Andrea Nguyen
Local Dirt and Dishing up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis
Taste of Home Cast Iron Cookbook
Let Me Feed You, Rosie Daykin
Magnolia Table, Joanna Gaines
100 Days of Real Food, Lisa Leake
Everyday Dinners, Jessica Merchant
Huckle & Goose, Anca Toderic
It’s All Easy, Gwyneth Paltrow
Everyday Dinners, Jessica Merchant
Hope’s Table, Hope Helmuth
Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drumond
Ottolenghi’s Simple, Yotam Ottolenghi
Dinner: A Love Story, Jenny Rosenstrach
Grains for Every Season, Joshua McFadden
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perlman
Scrumptious, Christy Denney
Comfortable Kitchen, Alex Snodgrass
A Year of Simple Family Food, Julia Busuttil Nishimura
The Complete Slow Cooker, America’s Test Kitchen
Once Upon a Chef, Jennifer Segal
Milk Street Tuesday Night, Christopher Kimball
Prairie Homestead Cookbook, Jill Winger
Date Night/Weekend Cooking
Cravings, Chrissy Teigan
Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi
The Little House Cookbook, Barbara M. Walker
Cook Beautiful, Athena Calderone
Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet, Padma Lakshmi
Nothing Fancy, Alison Roman
Ina Garten cookbooks
How Easy Is That Is
Eating Out Loud, Eden Grinshpan
Giada’s Italy, Giada Di Laurentiis
A Love of Eating: Recipes from Tart London
Cook this Book, Molly Baz
Williams Sonoma Brunch and Breakfast, Norman Kolpas
Simply Julia, Julia Turshen
Williams Sonoma Comfort Food
The Lost Kitchen, Erin French
The picnic, Marnie Hanel ( I NEED this book)
Cooking With Nonna, Rossella Rago
Molly on the Range, Molly Yeh
Sprouted Kitchen, Sara Forte
Let’s Stay In, Ashley Rodriguez
Dishing Up Maine, Brooke Dojny
My New Roots, Sarah Britton (vegetarian)
Cook Once, Eat All Week, Cassy Joy Garcia (gluten free)
The Nourished Kitchen, Jennifer McGruther (traditional foods lifestyle)
Ruffage, Abra Berens (vegetarian)
Love and Lemons, Jeanine Donofrio (vegetarian)
The Forest Feast, Erin Gleeson (vegetarian)
My Darling Lemon Thyme, Emma Galloway (vegetarian, gluten free)
Little Green Kitchen, David Frenkiel (vegetarian)
Run Fast, Eat Slow, Shalane Flanagan (for athletes)
Love Real Food, by Kathryne Taylor (vegetarian)
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon (traditional foods)
Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, Alexis Kornblum (paleo)
Mostly Plants, Tracy Pollan (vegetarian)
Simple Green Suppers, Susie Middleton (vegetarian)
Whole by Natural Harry (vegetarian)
Oh She Glows, Angela Liddon (vegan)
Elsa’s Wholesome Life, Ellie B (vegetarian)
No Crumbs Left, Teri Turner (whole30)
The ones I’ve requested from the library – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple, The Modern Proper, Sister Pie, Hope’s Table
I’ve always tried to keep a bit of a gratitude practice. Just taking a moment to feel deep gratitude for bits of my life that I generally take for granted. I used to even keep a gratitude journal where I would jot down a few things every day. Studies show that this helps us feel more satisfied in our life as a whole and happier in the long run. You might not know this about me, but in my adult life, I’ve kept a number of blogs before, admittedly a bit erratically. And they’ve all been fairly similar, but I have never been very good about keeping up with the practice of writing. Nonetheless, the writing bug is within me, and I think I’m generally more satisfied when I have a spot to write. I’ve always written about memory-keeping, books, food, lifestyle. Things that matter to me. And one thing that I’ve always done is write essays about simple joys. The ritual of making an iced coffee in the afternoon, cracking the spine on a new book, tiny bouquets of wildflowers, taking the long way home, the feel of a tiny hand gripping yours, a favorite pencil, writing on the first page of a new notebook and the like. Just simple things that make my heart swell a bit in my every day life when I slow down to think about them. I’ve called these different things over the years. I believe I called them sparks of gratitude in one blog, a small, happy life in another. But for the last couple of years, I’ve thought of them as Simple Joys, so that’s what we’ll call them here. We’ll make this a bit of a series.
The first one I’m sharing is a simple joy that’s so fresh in my mind because I’ve just finished the ritual. Every Sunday, when everyone has finally tumbled out of their beds and bellies are full of warm breakfast, and I’ve had at least one (maybe two!) coffees, I declare to the whole family that it’s “Linen Day!!!” I generally exclaim it with great excitement, with what I’m sure looks like a crazed smile on my face. The boys (who are 4, 3, and 1) have no idea that most people don’t get jazzed about stripping the beds and washing all the sheets. Indeed, most people probably find this a chore that they *have* to do rather than *get* to do. Nonetheless, there’s anticipation in the air in our house. Everyone bounds off to the bedrooms to start taking the sheets off and carting them off to the laundry room. Today we even had the great fun of using our sheets as an excuse for an indoor sleigh ride. Three boys piled on a sheet, being pulled through the house amidst giggles of joy. If that doesn’t scream joy, I don’t know what does. But it’s not just that. It’s not just the stripping of the beds. Honestly the making of the beds is where things die down a bit. But then – THEN! there’s that moment just before bed, when my little ones crawl into their clean beds just after a warm bath and their breaths start to slow, heavy lids drooping with sweet dreams. At that moment, I take a deep breath, and I know that another week is about to come, and no matter what it brings, my kids have a safe, clean spot where they’re showered with love to sleep at the end of the day.
But those clean sheets you know, it’s not just for them. It’s for me, you guys. It’s for me. Obviously I wash their sheets, but I wash ours too. And that moment when I climb into our clean bed, I fairly shake with contentment. You can tell when a bed has freshly washed sheets on it. You just can. It’s like I’m giving myself a warm hug and a pep talk for the week. You can do this. It’s a new, fresh week, and you can do everything that lies ahead of you. It’s such a simple joy for me, friends, I hope you find some in your week ahead too.
Something about the school year starting just turns me into this kitchen monster. It’s like I have to spend time in the kitchen. I think it’s being out of the house all day, and the fact that our kitchen is one of my favorite places on earth and cooking and baking is one way that I say “I love you” to my family. Anyway, lots of good things happening in the kitchen. Here’s this week’s meal plan just in case it might inspire your meals this week!
Monday – Crock Pot Gyros – crock pot Mondays are truly a gift during the school week. I come home to dinner being pretty much made. I’ll buy tzatziki from the store to make it easy, and if I’m especially productive, I’ll chop up the veggies on Sunday night.
Tuesday – Taco Salad (I don’t really use a recipe for this – just crushed Doritos, taco meat, lettuce, and a whole bunch of toppings) – served with an ice cold margarita with salt on the rim for me, and no salt for my husband. I’ll have the boys cut up the iceberg lettuce for our after school transition activity while I brown the meat and Lukey terrorizes us all.
Thursday – Leftovers
Friday – Pizza! (Of course)
Saturday – Churrasco Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce – served with roasted fingerling potatoes, a big green salad and that rosé punch you see below. Throw in a board game after the boys go to bed and it’s basically a date night at home.
Sunday – Street Corn Chowder – served with crusty sourdough and all the mix-ins. Do not skip the cream sauce in the recipe. Amazing.
Bake – Peach Pound Cake – I think that I’ll make this in a Bundt pan with a glaze on top. Yum.
Cocktail – Rosé Punch
Treat – Fluffernutter Cookies – we usually make a treat on Thursdays as it’s leftovers night, so the time spent in the kitchen for dinner is low. This recipe will be a great one for the boys. I have a bag full of stale marshmallows and I think I’ll put them in charge of wrapping the marshmallow up with the dough.
Bon appetit, friends!
What are you making this week? Anything I need to know about? You know I’m already thinking about my next meal plan!
A couple of years ago, my mom made everyone in our family beautiful bound books with recipes from the whole family. Grandma’s sugar cookies are in there, a whole bunch of my mom’s recipes (cheesecake, meatballs, crab dip, spice cake, etc etc etc.) my dad’s buckeyes & golden cadillacs (wait until the holidays roll around and I’ll talk more about those), my sister’s shepherd’s pie, my banana bread, my cousin’s mexican layer dip, my aunt’s bourbon slush. You get the idea. If it’s a recipe from the Brown family – it’s in the book. She handwrote all of the recipes, had them copied and gave each one of us kids one. A rather beautiful heirloom sort of gift if you ask me. It’s cherished and I pull it out more than several times a year. Especially on the holidays where we can’t make it home to Indiana – I just need those recipes from home.
Well, having that recipe book (my sister and I refer to it as “The Family Bible”), made me start thinking about my own family and the recipes that I make over and over again. You guys know I love to try new recipes, but there’s nothing like making a food your family knows and loves. Well, I decided to start our own family food bible. Calling it a cookbook just sounds too official, doesn’t it? And it’s not as if I’ve made these recipes up. They’re just ones we love. When I find myself reaching for a recipe more than once, or if my family especially loved it, into the book it goes. My favorite vanilla birthday cake recipe is there, my favorite biscuits, dinner rolls, chocolate chip cookies, and the like. It’s largely full of baked goods. I should probably start jotting down some of our dinners too. I’ll get there eventually!
I’ve mentioned my little recipe book several times on Instagram – usually a comment like “This is so good it’s going in the recipe book!” and I always get questions. “Tell us more!” “Where is your book from?” “What’s the recipe book?” Well, I’m sorry to break the news to you that it’s nothing very pretty or fancy at all, it’s just a blank sketchbook from Michaels. You can probably get them anywhere art supplies are sold, or any type of office supply store, but over the years, I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those precious “grab in a fire” items for our family. There’s something about a handwritten recipe, isn’t there? I use a smaller sketchbook as my gardening book too – I jot down what I’ve planted, dates, outlines, notes on how things are growing.
Do you have something like this? My sister has a binder where she prints off recipes and puts them in, and I know lots of people have little recipe boxes with cards inside. I do love this book though. Over time, I’ll tweak recipes and include notes or maybe put in some little memories. I can imagine jotting down what Charlie first bakes on his own, or Ben’s favorite pizza toppings, or that Luke would only eat yeast rolls when he was two. The cover will get worn over time and years of being pulled out for the Birthday Cake recipe and the Christmas Cinnamon Rolls, and the First Day of School Blueberry Muffins, and I think that will make it even more precious to me. Watch my boys not care at all about it when they get older. HA! Maybe their wives will. Or maybe we need to go for just ONE MORE baby, perhaps a girl?? (insert a heart attack from my husband.)
Recipes inside the Metroka Family Cookbook (so far)
- Mascarpone Icing
- Yeast Rolls
- Lemon Poppyseed Bread
- Christmas Cinnamon Rolls
- Banana Bread
- Favorite Granola
- Homemade Ice Cream
- Friday Pizza Dough
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Pie Dough
- Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- Sandwich Bread
- Mrs. Whitney’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy
- No Bake Cookies
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- First Day of School Blueberry Muffins
- Grandmama’s Blueberry Buckle