faith, family, Food

Kneading Prayers

The sweet potato rolls I make every Thanksgiving require 8 minutes of kneading, which works out perfectly. I knead 1 minute of prayers into the dough for the families of each of my six sisters, a minute for my family and a minute for my mom and her husband.

I’ve been kneading prayers into various doughs ever since Sarah gave me the idea two years ago.


Tomorrow I’ll spend most of the day making the rolls for a support group that meets weekly at my church.

And though they are strangers, I’ll be kneading 8 minutes of prayers into the dough for them, too.

Friday I get to help serve the Thanksgiving feast.

And meet the eaters of my prayers.

If I have time, I’ll make them a pie, too.

Or maybe these apple blossoms.


Sweet Potato Rolls

Combine 1/4 c. warm water with 1/4 oz. dry yeast. Let it get foamy.

Scald 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, remove from heat.

Stir in the following:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Let cool slightly.

Place 2 cups roasted, peeled sweet potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Combine them with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Then beat in 1 large egg, the milk mixture and the foamed yeast.

Mix in 7 cups of sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.

Switch to your dough hook and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled. (approx. an hour)

Punch dough down and knead again with your hands just until smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 20 equal pieces. I weigh each piece because I’m a spaz and they bake better if they are uniform. Shape each piece into a roll.

Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snip an X in the top of each roll with a pair of kitchen scissors. Brush each one with melted butter.

Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans half way through.

Cool on a rack.

I make two batches: a rounder, smaller dinner roll and a larger, slightly flattened roll like the ones in the front of the picture. I use the larger rolls for turkey sandwiches.

You can make the dough the day before, shape it into rolls and put the sheets in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to bake them, snip, brush, bake and serve fresh from the oven.

It’s the cardamom that makes them so good.

Bon Appetit.


Please Roast Some Garlic.

Pasta could be considered a vice, I suppose, if you start looking forward to lunch tomorrow even before you finish dinner today. Like I did yesterday.

A jar of soft, sweet garlic was calling to me from the top shelf of my fridge. It had been there since last week, when I roasted way more garlic than I needed. It was demanding to be transformed into deliciousness.

So I complied.

I minced a large shallot and then pulled the jar of garlic and a small bowl of minced sweet onion – leftover from Sunday night’s dinner – out of the fridge.

I boiled a pound of spaghetti. Easy enough. Make sure you dump in at least 2 TBSP of salt once the water starts boiling.

While the pasta was boiling, I grated a big pile of parmigiano reggiano.

When the spaghetti was cooked, I dumped it into a colander and then used the same pan to make the sauce. ‘Cuz who wants to wash more pans than is absolutely necessary?

I dumped a hunk of butter – about 3 TBSP worth – into the pan with some good olive oil – about 2-3 more TBSP worth.

I used unsalted Kerrygold butter made from grass-fed cows. I like to imagine that all cows in Ireland are fed nothing but grass and that none of them are given unnecessary antibiotics and growth hormones. I like to imagine that Kerrygold Irish butter is made in Ireland.

When I was done imagining I dumped in the shallot, the onion and the garlic – mashing the soft garlic into a paste with the wooden spoon as I stirred.

Hmmm, lots of dumping was going on. That’s okay.

Next I sprinkled in some salt and pepper. I used my fancy/shmancy light gray Celtic sea salt, just FYI. Then I gave it a light dusting of cayenne pepper.  Just a LIGHT dusting.

As soon as the shallot, onion and garlic were a nice caramelized brown, I dumped in the cooked pasta and folded until it was completely coated with garlicky goodness.

That’s it.

The hub and I piled it on our plates (the daughter doesn’t like pasta but who cares?, she wasn’t home).

Then we topped it with the parm regg.

Oh My Goodness. It smells and it tastes sooo good.

I went for seconds. I wanted to eat the whole pan of it except I knew I’d be sick if I did.  That’s when I started looking forward to the leftovers for lunch.

I awoke looking forward to them.

I’m eating them right now, as I type.

I probably shouldn’t have heated up ALL that was left, and I probably shouldn’t have dumped it ALL on my plate, but I did.


I also shouldn’t have snapped a pic of such a plain-looking dish.

Fortunately, I picked more basil than I needed the other day and behold – emergency dried out basil leaves right there on my counter!


There, that’s a little better.

This is a seriously delicious dish. A SERIOUSLY delicious dish.

Really, go roast some garlic!

Meanwhile I’ll be looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch, when I’ll enjoy the leftover leftovers because I REALLY shouldn’t have dumped it ALL on my plate.






Food, life

I Love a Good Cookbook

I would choose Nora Ephron to write my biography.  I’ve said it before on this blog, but when she weaved recipes into Heartburn it gave me a literary thrill.

I made a killer chili when I was a kid.  So if Nora were to tell you about the year my parents divorced and how I used to run home after school, make dinner for my younger sisters, and then run back to school in time for track practice, I am positive she would include my chili recipe.

And because it was such a big, special event, I am sure she would tell you about the retreat I planned for a group of college kids.  I wore a lot of hats at that retreat: planner, organizer, speaker, and head chef.  For Saturday’s lunch I served my version of a fatoush.  As we ate one of my guests – a young woman from Tennessee – excitedly exclaimed, “I have never had food like this before!”  She grew up on biscuits and gravy and other Southern specialties.  After she returned home she e-mailed me for the recipe.

I’m thinking Nora would include that one, too.

And so will I:

Grilled Chicken Fatoush

⅓ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried greek oregano (or 2 Tbsp. minced fresh)
salt and pepper to taste

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I buy cutlets because they grill faster).

English cucumber, sliced into thin half moons
Campari tomatoes – cut however you like them
big bunch of fresh parsley, rough chopped
pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
red onion sliced super thin
romaine lettuce, chopped
fresh dill, chopped (optional – if it’s summer and your garden is producing)
fresh mint, chopped (optional – if it’s summer and your garden is producing)
LOTS of feta cheese, crumbled
a pinch of ground sumac berries (optional – the kind you buy at the spice store, not the poisonous sumac berries that grow in your yard)

pita chips (recipe follows)

Whisk together the dressing ingredients until they are emulsified. It should make about ⅔ cup. Reserve ⅓ cup of it to dress the salad, and pour the rest into a ziplock bag with the chicken. Put the chicken in the fridge and let it marinate for 30 minutes (longer is better but not too long or the texture of the chicken will get a bit mealy).

Combine the salad ingredients – use whatever quantities you like.

Preheat your grill to high. Grill the chicken until thoroughly cooked – about 3-4 minutes per side if you use cutlets. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

To serve:

Toss the salad with the dressing. Toss in the pita chips (right before serving so they don’t get soggy.) Pile salad on each plate, lay slices of grilled chicken on top.

pita chips:
2 or 3 of the large, thin pitas
olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut or tear the pita bread into small pieces.

Throw it in a large salad bowl. Toss in the minced garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss thoroughly with clean hands.

Spread in single layer on a large cookie sheet.

Bake on second rung of oven until toasted, 7 -10 minutes in my oven.

Use the same large bowl to make the salad so the little bits of garlic that cling to the bowl don’t go to waste.

Note: If it’s too stinkin’ cold to grill, sear the chicken on the stove in a cast iron pan (grill pan if possible) and then finish it in the oven as soon as you pull the pita chips out.

Bon Apetit!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ghostwriter.”