Category Archives: Cooking

June 12, 2015

Cooking Cooking
Neapolitan Pizza | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Neapolitan Pizza with Homemade Ricotta

Neapolitan Pizza | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

If you start the pizza dough right now, you could be eating this for dinner tonight. 

When I’m teaching classes, many people tell me they are afraid of making pizza dough at home. What is the worst thing that could happen?  It might not be perfect the first time, but you’ll get better at it.  Like anything else in life, it just takes a little practice and patience to learn the technique.  Find the baker in your life and make pizza dough with her the first time, so you can absorb the rhythm of kneading and understand how to listen to the dough.  And if you struggle with practicing meditation, kneading can help. You’ll find your mind empties as you concentrate on the soothing cadence of rolling and turning the dough.  It’s one of the most satisfying cooking experiences.

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April 10, 2015

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Butter Toasted Zucchini Bread | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

Butter-Toasted Zucchini Bread

Butter Toasted Zucchini Bread | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

Elie knows me so well.  Not long ago, he came home with a gift, the Cookbook Book, a beautiful book about cookbooks and how they shape our lives.  A cookbook offers possibility—of romantic dinners, celebrations, family traditions, memories.  Cookbooks inspire us, allowing us to dream not only of the meal itself but how making food for someone shows love, inspires conversations, nourishes, heals. 

Butter Toasted Zucchini Bread | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

Butter Toasted Zucchini Bread | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

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March 30, 2015

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Roasted Cauliflower Cake | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Roasted Cauliflower Cake

Roasted Cauliflower Cake | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Two weeks ago, I turned 40.

If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that I had planned to be biking through Vietnam on that day, but we had to cancel the trip.  Instead, Elie made sure I was spoiled.  I went to a yoga class with Mom, got pampered at the spa, spent time in the hospital with Moe, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Hawksworth.  It was a great day, and a joyful one.

Truth be told, I wanted to be biking through rice fields when I turned 40, because I thought it would distract me from that milestone.  Historically, as my birthday approaches, I click through the running life list in my head, making note of the things I haven’t yet done, my shortcomings, the failures and disappointments, the mistakes I’ve made.  Am I the person I want to be? Have I accomplished enough? Done enough? Am I enough?

It’s exhausting. 

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March 9, 2015

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Olive Oil Granola with Cashews, Pistachios and Pumpkin Seeds | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

The Best Olive Oil Granola

Olive Oil Granola with Cashews, Pistachios and Pumpkin Seeds

The world probably doesn’t need another granola recipe.  There are certainly enough out there to choose from.  But, here goes anyway, because you never know when the next one you make might become your favorite.  And, because this is what we’re eating this week as we sit in the hospital and wait for Moe’s heart valve transplant.

Most granola recipes are too sweet for my liking, so this one has just a hint of maple syrup to give it an earthy sweetness that keeps it just shy of savory.  I like whole nuts in my granola, so I can pick those out and snack on them when I need a little something but not a lot of something.  If you like your granola on the sweet side, just add more maple syrup.  Or substitute honey.  If I were making this granola just for me, I would add coconut. But Elie will eat three-quarters of this granola, so there’s no coconut. The whisked egg white makes those great crunchy clusters that say: this is good granola! But, if you want to make a vegan version, feel free to leave it out. It will still be good.  While many granola recipes call for cinnamon, I like allspice.  And, as the names suggests, I love the faintly aromatic flavor (and health benefits) of olive oil in my granola, but you can substitute coconut oil or melted butter.  Elie likes his granola toasty, so I bake it just shy of starting to burn.

Take those tips into consideration and then make this granola your own.

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March 6, 2015

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Beet Salad | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

Roasted Beet & Blood Orange Salad

Beet Salad | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

We were supposed to be leaving for Vietnam tomorrow, on a luxury biking tour with Butterfield & Robinson.  Instead of packing today, I’m in Vancouver and getting ready to head back to St. Paul’s Hospital, where my father-in-law is there awaiting a procedure for a new heart valve.  We’ve actually been in the hospital with him for the last two weeks, sitting by his bedside first in the intensive care unit and then on the general cardiac ward.  He has had amazing care and is in good spirits, but he can’t go home until his valve is replaced.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that we’re not going on the trip.  It promised to be an amazing tour, and it was Elie’s gift to me in celebration of my 40th birthday.  Although a birthday is just a day, 40 feels like a big deal and a milestone worthy of the reflection, challenge and celebration.  I’ll just now be doing that reflection in Vancouver, which is not such a bad thing.

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February 5, 2015

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Braised Chicken and Poblano Tacos | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

Braised Chicken & Poblano Tacos

Braised Chicken and Poblano Tacos | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

Braised Chicken and Poblano Tacos | www.Simmstown.com | Lisa Samuel

I was eight when I got my first diary. A small, red leather book clasped with a gold lock, sitting under the Christmas tree. I wrote faithfully in that diary each night before bed, with the worries of a young girl’s mind. From that time on, I’ve collected dozens of journals, filled with my thoughts, observations and dreams, written sometimes more regularly than others.

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December 28, 2014

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Sausage Balls | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Joyful, Thankful and Sausage Balls

Sausage Balls | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.comThe end of this Christmas season and the beginning of a brand new year launches me into excessive self-reflection, leaving me equal parts joyful, thankful and sad.  Joyfulness for the grace that Christmas brings and the boundless possibilities a new year holds.  Thankfulness for the most amazing husband, for loving relationships, for the opportunity to freely pursue my passions, for feeling safe, for health. And sadness for the grief I carry in my heart—both my own sorrow and the prayers I have for others.  

I know I’m not alone in this schizophrenia of emotions, and many of you share this roller coaster with me. It seems to be another hallmark of the season—one moment humming while cheerfully covered in flour and butter and the next fighting away tears.

As I start this new year, I’m committing to acknowledging the sadness but focusing on the thankfulness and joy, to letting go of unrealistic expectations of what should or could be, rather than the blessing of what is.  If you’re struggling to balance your emotions along with me, I hope you will do that too. Focus on the joy. Focus on living with abundant thankfulness.

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December 14, 2014

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Brussels Sprouts, Fennel & Pomegranate Seeds Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Easy Entertaining & a Salad

Stress-less Holiday Entertaining | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

I almost didn’t write this post.  The topic of easy holiday entertaining sounded trite to me, and maybe even a little pompous.

Because really, holiday entertaining can be stressful.  Especially if we start to compare ourselves to Pinterest boards and Instagram posts and beautiful blogs portraying perfectly set tables (or perfectly imperfectly set tables) and hand-designed place cards and gorgeous vintage platters of food and homemade gifts.  But that’s not real life.  It’s like a photoshopped version of life, one in which all the imperfections are erased—the dirty dishes, late nights of planning, the closets filled with the contents of the last mad-dash to straighten and organize.

But then I started thinking: I have a lot to say on this topic.  I have learned so much over the past few years about welcoming our friends into our home.  On a typical week, we may have friends over two or three times, sometimes planned and sometimes spontaneous.  And so I’ve learned how to make it easy(er).

Here are my lovingly-given thoughts on how to welcome family and friends into your home over the holidays with as little stress as possible.

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November 25, 2014

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Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Honey-Roasted Carrots

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the meaning of family.

There is the family we are born into, and then there is the family we choose.  Some of the family we choose might include the family we’re born with—family members who are kind, compassionate, loving, joyful, giving or interesting individuals with whom we value spending time.  Elie and I both have many people in our life who fall into that definition of family.

But then there are the people we encounter in life who embody those qualities; and we fall in love with them, and they become family.

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Three-and-a-half years ago, I was recently divorced after a 10 year marriage and moving to Bellingham—where I didn’t know anyone but Elie—to embark on a wonderful new relationship and to launch a new career.  In my previous marriage, we focused on family, but we didn’t develop many friendships.  With Elie, my world expanded.  Not only does Elie nurture his relationships with his family, but he has a rich and vast family of friends who play meaningful roles in his life.  It makes me teary to think of the open-armed welcome I received from this other family, and how I have grown to love these people and the additional friendships Elie and I have cultivated together.  I wake up every morning thanking God for this life with this incredible man and this extended family who inspires and challenges me.

I think that’s the lesson.  There is a vast, full and enriching life awaiting all of us, if only we reach out, welcome and embrace it.  Whatever circumstances we are born or married into, we have the ability to expand that world with relationships, experiences, friendships.  And in the process, our life becomes infinitely more fulfilling.

Last week, we had our second annual ‘Friendsgiving,’ hosted by Steve and Jamie Moore.  We met Steve and Jamie when they started planning our wedding, but they have become a big part of our chosen family.  We love these two amazing people and Baby Moore, who will soon be taking his or her place in this family.  This year, Steve designed a spectacular space and table, I made a classic Thanksgiving dinner with a few updates, and Jamie created a gorgeous display of pies.

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.comFriendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.comFriendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.comFriendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

The Honey-Roasted Carrots were one of the favorite dishes of the night, so I thought I’d start by sharing that recipe.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Honey-Roasted Carrots

Even people who don’t normally like cooked carrots will love these sweet-but-not-too-sweet, caramelized carrots with a kick.  Even better, it’s really easy.  After the turkey is out of the oven and resting, just place these in the oven to roast.  They can be served hot or at room temperature.

Serves 8

2 pounds carrots with the tops still attached
Sea salt
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Zest of one lemon
½ teaspoon fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Trim the tops from the carrots, leaving a little bit of the green still attached at the top.  Peel the carrots and place them in a large bowl.  Season with sea salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, butter, lemon zest, thyme and red pepper flakes.  If the mixture is too thick to pour, just microwave for a few seconds until thinned out.  Pour the honey mixture over the carrots and toss the carrots to coat.

Place the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Place in the oven and roast for 20 – 25 minutes or until the carrots are cooked through and starting to brown and caramelize.  Remove from the oven, place on a serving dish and top with the toasted pecans.

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Friendsgiving | Honey-Roasted Carrots | Lisa Samuel | www.Simmstown.com

Photographs by Matthew Land Studios

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