Without further or due, I’d like to welcome to my new Substack newsletter, The Supper Letters — a newsletter about this midwest-dweller’s exploration of cooking, living, loving, and eating well. The first issue launches in May 15th!
With the combination of the numerous photos I take of my food (see my Instagram story highlights 🙃) and my itch for writing about my experience in the kitchen… this newsletter was inevitable. (It’s just taken me a really long time to come up with a name!) If you enjoy my the little vignettes of food writing, “What’s on My Plate,” and “My Week in Meals” posts here, you’ll love what I have to share over on The Supper Letters. Come and join me on this journey!
I hope these letters can be a soothing, cozy addition to your inbox. I hope they can inspire you to eat well and love well. They are honest reflects of me figuring out life through cooking and sharing conversation around good food…
I haven’t been in the kitchen too much these past few weeks. My days have been filled with work, travel, and being present for the ones I love.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t eaten good food, though.
There are a few dishes that have held rich flavors and have brought together good conversation.
The first one being this Chinese food when my Love and I were in Madison, Indiana, last weekend. We drove down to the little river city city for a couple of days to get some R&R post- and pre-busy weeks. We stayed at the lovely new hotel called Fairfield, that was constructed in Madison’s Historic Eagle Cotton Mill. It was right by the river, with a beautiful view of the waterfront and the bridge that connects Indiana to Kentucky. Saturday night, we decided to order take-out and bring it back to the hotel to enjoy the view. And I’m so glad we did, because the food and the view was better than any sit-down returned we could have chosen. We got Chinese taken-out from Hong Kong Kitchen. It was the richest, most delectable Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. I got the Orange Chicken, a favorite of mine. But instead of being a fast-food like glazed, nuggets of fatty chicken, this was chunks of white meat with a thick sauce that was flavored with real orange peels and zest. I also got the fried rice, which wasn’t to oily or yellow. I could tell it was freshly cooked and fried.
My Love and I enjoyed the view while the sunset. We also got a little bit of (overpriced but delish) wine from the hotel’s little kiosk. We delved into good conversation and questions for each other the rest of the night. It was exactly what we needed between bouts of busy life. I can’t wait to go back to Madison again soon. For the food, the views, and more rest and good conversation.
Another place where I’ve had good food is in my Love’s new apartment. After a big day of moving, we sat down around his dinning room table and had Greek’s meatlovers pizza. The pizza crust was delightfully fully and thick (my favorite kind of pizza crust) and, being the Midwestern I am of course, I dipped in it ranch sauce. It was the perfect moving day feast. Earlier that day, I also got the chance to make a wonderful salad, which included chopped Roman lettuce and kale, quinoa, a few grape tomatoes, roasted chickpeas coated in lemon, cumin, sesame seeds, and a lemon dressing.
And finally, Easter. My family had our traditional celebration a few weeks back, because we couldn’t all be together today. We cooked family recipes and enjoyed a lovely easy spring celebration. I contributed two things to the meal: deviled eggs and hot cross buns. Deviled eggs are a holiday staple that we make for almost ever major holiday, but this was the first year I baked hot cross buns. I used a traditional English recipe, but instead of sultanas (I couldn’t find them at any local grocer) I used chocolate chips (because I don’t like raisins). These little buns where warm and decadent. I used an apricot glaze on them, which gave them a wonderful little sheen and melted nicely with with the warmth of the cinnamon and allspice. They were rose to perfection, opening up to be nice and fluffy inside, which made be giddy. I’ve always had trouble proofing bread. Overall, I think my first time making hot cross buns was a success.
I’d also like to mention that my mom made these lovely little confetti cupcakes that just made me so happen when I bit into them. They even had little rainbow sprinkles on top.
For the actual celebration of Easter today, my siblings and Love got together and had a little feast, which one of my siblings provided the food, I brought one dish: deviled eggs. If I could only bring one dish of a family holiday gathering, it would be deviled eggs — forever and always. Although next year, I want to attempt dying the eggs pink first and then deviling them, like this.
Even though I haven’t been in my kitchen much because of busy week on top of busy week, with little a R&R vacay in between, I’m glad to capture these little moments where food had brought together good conversation and memories.
This spring, I’m looking forward to writing more about the local foods I’m picking up as they start to become available. Along with that I want to start a mini garden in my apartment and learning about preserving and pickling, something that I have been wanting to experiment with for a long while.
For the past two years, a group of restaurants in Franklin, IN, have come together each spring to create specials and unique menus to celebrate the local food scene. They call it Feast in Franklin. This year, the feast took place from Monday, March 14, through Sunday, March 27. As a person who loves to eat good, local food — and since most of the restaurants were within walking distance from my home this year — I was excited to try my favorite group of cafes, pubs, and diner’s fresh eats. I visited four out of the nine participating restaurants during these two weeks. I wish I could have made it around to all nine restaurants, but I would give the ones did visit solid A+. I hope to have more time next year to taste the special menus of the places I didn’t cross off my list this year.
Here’s a recap of some of the food on my plate during Feast in Franklin 2022.
We’ll begin with Main and Madison Market Cafe
A classic cafe, Main and Madison is my go-to cafe for decadent pastries, silky lattes, and rich entrees. Their Feast in Franklin menu was no short of these three rules. I usually sit in the cafe with my laptop or a book, but this meal was worth my whole attention.
What we got: An impossible breakfast sandwich, vanilla latte, and a blueberry scone.
Then comes Richard’s Brick Oven Pizza
Richard’s Brick Oven Pizza is a cozy, eclectic restaurant that is my favorite to visit on a late, balmy night. The garage doors let the ambient light leak onto the sidewalk and pull you in from the darkening evening. Along with having a great bar featuring many local hops and vines, their brick oven is the centerpiece of the room, where you get to see the pizza baking while sitting at your table and sipping on something delightful. Richard’s pizza is probably my favorite in the entire town — hence the reason I didn’t get a good photo of the whole pizza; we dived before I got a chance to take a good photo!
What we got: A house salad; brick oven pizza with pesto, bacon, and garlic; and chocolate truffles with blueberries for dessert.
Next up, The Willard
While the food is similar to any classic American pub fare — burgers, pizza, combo baskets, and craft beer — TheWillard is unique because it is housed in an 1860s home with a long history. In the 1920s, it was known as The Willard Hotel — a neon sign that graces the dining room states so boldly. You can feel the Willard’s extensive history as soon as you walk up the front steps and into the door. Often, it’s busy on the weekends, so my group and I sat a the bar and ordered our food before we hopped over to The Artcraft to see the movie Caddyshack on 35mm film.
What we got: The ranch pizza; a combo basket that included poppers, breaded mushrooms, cheese cubes, onion rings, celery sticks, and ranch dip; and a basket of breadsticks.
Last but not least, The Garment Factory
The Garment Factory was the last stop of the Feast in Franklin tour for me — and it did not disappoint. This building’s rich history and beautiful event space overlook Youngs Creek. The Lounge at The Garment Factory serves traditional American food every Tuesday and Thursday evening. It’s one of my favorite spots to dine in the evening after a long day. After a bit of wine and a three-course meal, I can say from first-hand experiences that you can walk back home with a full stomach.
What we got: Chili soup; a fajita burger with fries; a lemon raspberry cake (his desert); a chocolate brownie with vanilla; and a chocolate drizzle (her desert).
Overall, this year’s little Feast in Franklin adventure was a success. Even though I didn’t make it to all the restaurants for their unique menus, I still visit them frequently… and they are amazing! I’ll list them here so you can check them out yourself the next time you’re visiting want a bit to eat.
So initially, I was going to write my second A Week in Meals, but this week was Thanksgiving. And this year, I was tasked with shopping and cooking the majority of my family gluten and dairy side of our thanksgiving meal. (Part of my fam eats gluten/dairy-free, and they took on their menu.)
I spent two days prepping and three days cooking. Overall, I think I cooked/baked 15 dishes.
Needless to say, we did not run out of food. Also, needless to say, I didn’t do much other cooking than thanksgiving cooking last week. I ate takeout a few times — both for my sanity in the kitchen and so I wouldn’t be tempted to dip into the dishes I had already finished. (Thank you, Enzos Pizza and Great Wall Chinese.) So for the most part, the things I ate right up until the holiday weren’t that blog worthy. So instead, I’m focusing this blog post entirely on the prepping, baking, cooking, and eating of Thanksgiving.
Most of my family was out of town right up until Thanksgiving, which is why I was tasked with the job of cooking. But I didn’t take it lightly. Deep down inside, I have always wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m not a professional cook, despite the fact that I started this series and constantly post about food on Instagram to aspire to be like DrewBarrymore, Joy the Baker, or Alison Roman. However, I have seen Thanksgiving as the holiday that all the foodies and cooks have heart eyes over. It’s the holiday that is all about the cooking and the food and the eating until your hearts content. Cooking in my apartment kitchen, using all the tools and cookware I’ve compiled, just felt right. It felt exciting, fulling and brought me lots of joy overall.
Not pictured in these photos was the transportation of all the food from my apartment to the house where we had Thanksgiving, then from the house to another house with a fridge that had enough room to store all the food. It was a challenging feat, but we did it.
Over the half a week I cooked, I made my kitchen messy. I cooked leeks and greens gratin, apple tart, green bean bake, cranberry sauce, challah bread, deviled eggs, and pumpkin bread. Actually, I baked the pumpkin bread twice because the first time, the bread leaked all over the bottom of the oven and smoked up my entire apartment.
Note to self: always have a leak tray in case of these specific situations, especially when using a rented oven.
On Monday, I worked a really long day to take Tuesday off and use it as preparation day and baking day.
When Tuesday came along, I woke up early and took a grocery store run to get all the last minutes of ingredients I needed; then, I spent the day prepping and baking.
As soon as I was back and had everything squared away, I started cooking. I worked quickly to keep the butter in the pie dough cold. I baked the pumpkin bread. I chopped apples. I boiled the chicken stock. I gave delicate time and attention to the challah. On Wednesday, I had to work a half-day. But I also finished the rest of the pies. I prepped the leak and greens gratin and green bean baked. I whisked up the cherry whip my mom loves. I chopped, whipped, and ladled the delicate but firm yolks, mayo, and relished into egg whites to make deviled eggs. And then packed everything into my car and headed to my mom’s house.
On the actual day of Thanksgiving, all I had to do was bake the mac and cheese, top the gratin and green bean casserole with toppings and toast them in the oven, make gravy, and heat everything else up. Oh! And the charcuterie board! I can’t forget about curating the charcuterie board.
Several dishes made it to the table that I will try my hand at again. I didn’t have enough elbow noodles for my baked mac and cheese, so instead, I used penne. I thought this would work out just fine, but since they were bigger than an elbow noodle, they weren’t as soaked in the cheese cause and became a little too crispy. I used my homemade chicken stock in the gravy, but even with the thickener added, it was still too runny. I placed the sugar cookies a little too close together on my small baking sheet, and they ended up melding into one another in the oven, turning into square cookies instead of round ones.
There were a few places where I felt like I succeeded, though! The challah bread turned out sweet and exquisite. When I was cooking the chicken stock on the stove, I sat the bowl of rising dough near it, and it rose perfectly, the most perfect I’ve ever seen bread dough rise. And the braid turned out imperfectly beautiful. (I will always make chicken stock and bread together from here on out.)
The deviled eggs turned out a smash — I found this natural dill relish that, at first glance, looks bland but is packed with flavor. Then I topped them all with dill and smoked paprika.
I’m also rather proud of the pies and the second batch of pumpkin bread. These are a staple we have every Thanksgiving, but just making them in my kitchen from scratch using the techniques I’ve taught myself over the last year was fulfilling.
So I have some places I’ve improved, some areas I still need to work on. It might not have been a perfect Thanksgiving meal, but it was a satisfying one — and I think everyone’s stomachs were full by the end of it. Overall, I’m happy my family made it back home just in time for the holiday.
How was your Thanksgiving? What was your favorite thing to cook, bake, or eat?
P. S. — The Friday post Thanksgiving, my Love and I have made a tradition where we make and eat “Ross’s sandwich” with all our Thanksgiving leftovers. Although our recipes might differ slightly from Ross’s coveted sandwich, we make sure always to include the “moist maker,” a third piece of bread in the middle of the sandwich that is soaked in gravy. It’s always a win.
Welcome to the first “A Week in Meals,” a littel collection of some of the things I ate or cooked within past seven days.
I started this project, first of all, because I wanted something to look forward to posting on Sunday. I wanted a dedicated topic to cultuvate over the week and then complie together.
The second reason I started this project is because I’ve had the urge to write about the things I’m eating and cooking. Sometimes when you get those nudges to do something, you just have to follow it and see where it takes you. So here I am. Welcome along for the ride.
I actually made a lot of food this week instead of eating out, which has become a bad habbit of mine. This little project was inspirtion to stay in, see what I have on had in my pantry, and cook.
One thing I noticed while compling this post together was that I cooked a lot of pasta (which isn’t particularly a bad thing). I also advenured a bit and roasted a chicken, which as so much fun.
I will say, that I’m working on the way I’m taking photos. I love photography and have taken many photographs in my time, but I’m still getting around learning the best ways to photograph food (esecailly what lighting to use in my first floor apartment). So bare with me as I lean into the creative process and learn as I go.
And now, without further ado, my week in meals…
I made Pea Parmesan Pasta from Ella Risbridger’s cookbook Midnight Chicken. Along with the starchy, creamy parm sauce and peas in this dish, I roasted cherry tomatoes. They fit in so well. On Sunday, I did a lot of writing and had some family over for the afternoon, so instead of staying up and making an elaborate meal, I just made this simple pasta dish that worked as a quick, 15 minute comfort food.
Similar to my Sunday night meal, I made pasta with parmesan but instead of peas and tomatoes, I used kale. The boiled kale was soft and silky in this dish and I just love the pop of color it adds along with the neutral pasta and parm along with the blue willow dish. (Does anyone else use fancy dishes to make their food more presentable, just because?)
Okay, so after work on Tuesday I got a huge jolt of energy and I funneled it into making a roasted chicken. I already had a whole chicken in my fridge waiting to be used at some point. I was really inspired by Ella Risbridger this week and her recipe for midnight chicken was wonderful, to say the least. The recipe did call for fresh chili, which the grocery store was out of, so instead I used bell peppers and it was still delish. The recipe also make a honey lemon ginger tea that tasted like a hug in a cup. The use of minimal tools and using my hands mostly for the recipes was grounding and a way to really connect with myself after a long day. This recipe will be on the docket to make many times again. Plus, this chicken fed me for the rest of the week.
On Wednesday, I had eaten a lunch with my brother and by the time dinner rolled, I wasn’t too hungry. I still wanted a bit to eat though, so I turned on a pot of water to boil and made deviled eggs. These little nuggets of creamy yolks and soft egg whites were the perfect thing to eat in anticipation for Thanksgiving dinner, which was just over a week away.
I didn’t get a good photo of my homemade fettuccine pasta. The whole process of making noodles is enthralling and requires your whole attention, and then eating them is so comforting that you forget to take any photos. Making pasta is therapeutic—from kneading the dough to slowing feeding it through the pasta maker, flattening it out one notch at a time. I added some of the leftover roasted chicken from Tuesday and make a chicken and noodles dish. My love and I ate the meal by candlelight.
Friday was another busy day wrapping up the workweek. But I made two things that I’d like to share. The first was my morning latte made with eggnog and cinnamon. My goodness was this a perfect combination for the holidays. Being the first time I had eggnog in coffee, I don’t know if I can go back to regular creamer until the new year.
The second thing I made on Friday was this chicken sandwich on a toasted sourdough bagel. I added mayo, roasted tomatoes, and smoked gouda cheese on top of some more leftover roasted chicken. It gave me the energy to slide across home base as I finished up my work week.
On Saturday, my love and I adulted as we ate leftovers from the week with in the midst of Christmas music and holiday decorations. We put up my first Christmas tree in my little apartment, which was a joy to do. Our leftovers consisted of the homemade pasta and roasted chicken from Thursday and a gigantic burrito from Blue Cactus from Friday night.
And that wraps up my first “A Week in Meals” blog. If you’ve read this far, thanks for following along. These weren’t the fanciest meals or photos ever published on a blog; but honestly, the food itself matter less than the solace I found cooking and sharing the meals with the people I did. Even among a busy week, these small meals were a bright spot that led me to feel more connection to myself and my loved ones.
I’ll see you back here next week with another around of “A Week and Meals,” which will include Thanksgiving dinner! In the meantime, what food have you been cooking and eating? Who have you shared a meal with this week?