Picnic Dinners


One of our favorite new dinner routines is to pack a picnic, a blanket and a Frisbee, and explore a new park.

Dinners don’t require much prep–just a quick stop at the grocery store and a few odds and ends from the fridge, tossed into a basket or bag. We’ve been buying a baguette and cheeses, especially those little marinated balls of mozzarella because Tom is obsessed. My friend Eva included some baby brie rounds on a cheese plate this weekend, and I think those would be awesome too, because they’d get all gooey as they sat outside. Once, for my birthday weekend, we picked up a few other sides at Whole Foods for our elaborate smorgasbord, but I also like to just prep a salad during the day and slice up some fruit to round out our meal.

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Make your own whole wheat bread; why Michael Pollan insists

Mornings are cool now, sometimes even downright chilly. And with this fall weather, I’m ready to start baking again. Turning the oven on during the summer never seemed appealing–except for various pizzas, of course–so meals were often simple, little cooking required. No more. Let’s crank the oven on, pull out some yeast, and fill the house with wonderful smells that may even waft through our open windows. Perhaps we’ll finally meet our new neighbors this way. Cookies worked in college dorms, maybe bread is the secret in the real world.

This loaf had a surprise inside.

One morning this week, after recovering from the previous three-article, 13-hour day at work, I made the most of my time at home before another meeting needed babysitting. That meant making bread, something I’ve been meaning to do more often, thanks to Michael Pollan.

More and more, after reading Pollan’s “Cooked,” I question the lengthy list of ingredients on the plastic wrapper. It’s been quite some time since I’ve even purchased “regular” sandwich bread at the grocery store, instead foregoing sandwiches for other dishes. That’s primarily because I can never even eat my way through a whole loaf before needing to store slices in the (overstuffed) freezer for safe keeping. Soon, maybe my loaves will be eaten more quickly, shared at the table, feeding not just one. Until then, I’ll share bread with friends and my sister, and cram lingering pieces into the freezer.

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TWD: Focaccia

Aside from poor Jill (my family’s 12-year-old lab/collie mix) hiding behind lamp poles to escape the crazy puppy who just wants to play (I can’t make up something like that), and Rachel getting caught in a small fence in our backyard and letting out the most pathetic crying noise you’ve ever heard (she seems fine now), my weekend trip to Roanoke was overall quite successful. A shopping trip with Katie G. means I have a few more outfits in my closet, and our family shared a wonderful meal with Sarah’s family at Rockfish Food & Wine on Grandin.

But perhaps the best part was getting to cook bread, soup and cake with my mom.

When we get together these days, our kitchen is put to good use. She teaches me things (weighing flour on a kitchen scale is faster and more accurate), we get to work on our cookbook challenge together, and most important–we both get someone to share our delicious food with. And my poor dad has a never-ending sink full of dishes that he diligently washes.


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TWD: Semolina Bread

Not going to the grocery store for a few weeks when I needed yeast and semolina flour kind of affected the plan to make this semolina bread. And I still haven’t been. Being gone the past two weekends and with Tom visiting, I just didn’t have time to make bread either! We did make the blueberry-nectarine pie, and once he left, I made the biscotti. Fortunately, my mom made the semolina bread for TWD this week.

Look how pretty is is! Here’s what my mom said:

The bread was really easy to make. The starter came together nicely and it worked really well in the food processor. I wish I had let it rise a little longer in the loaf stage — it seemed a little heavy to me but it did taste good. Nice and crusty! I would reduce the salt in half to a teaspoon. I used 1 1/2 tsp as suggested by other bloggers but I still think that was a little salty. Most of my recipes use 2 teaspoons for 6 cups or so of flour and this recipe was half the size.

Find the recipe and other blog posts here.