Working at Home: A Simple Lunch Shared

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“What did you do for lunch today?”

When you work at home it’s the one question you never get asked after a long day. When deadlines loom or the kids are fussy, who has the time, the energy or the patience for a meal? So unless we have a meeting at an actual restaurant, we improvise.

One high-powered executive friend of mine friend slams back cans of black-eyed peas between conference calls—it is unclear if they’re heated or not. A stay-at-home Mom friend tried to cut calories by only eating what her children left on their plates (didn’t work).

We also run into the problem of routines. For as long as I can remember, my 93-year-old mother makes her lunch after her daily exercise class then sits to eat in her recliner while watching The Young and The Restless. My own dirty little lunch secret involves watching The Pioneer Woman cook in her fabulous Oklahoma lodge kitchen while I eat mismatched leftovers and check emails during commercials.

But things can change!

I recently got a call from my friend, Cecelia, inviting me to join her for a last minute lunch at her home. Instead of one of the big fabulous luncheons for which she is well-known, it was a simple lunch shared. Cecelia, who also works from home, prepared  grilled sandwiches and heated some store-bought butternut squash soup. We enjoyed a good warm meal, a great conversation and, after pledging to make it a regular lunch date, we were both back at our desks in far less than an hour.

That evening we were both able to offer “I had a wonderful lunch today…”

My Favorite Grilled Sandwich With Arugula, Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Fig Preserves

*Two slices Pepperidge Farm Bread (whatever flavor you like)
*Plain goat cheese crumbled
*Fig Preserves or Trader Joe’s Fig Butter (or whatever fruit preserves you have on hand)
*Handful of arugula or other leafy greens
*Caramelized onions (you should always have some caramelized onions hidden somewhere in your fridge! The next time you need an onion for a recipe, just throw some extra sliced onions into a skillet with butter on low heat stirring occasionally until they turn golden —at least 10 minutes.)

Spread fig preserves on both sides of bread, and stack the rest of the ingredients.Grill in an iron skillet with butter until goat cheese is melted and bread is toasty.

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The Nectar of the Gods

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by Cecelia

I’ve tasted the nectar of the gods; it’s my mother-in-law’s French dressing.

If you’re not a French dressing fan, this dressing will convert you. It’s tangy and pairs well with a variety of dishes.

When I began dating my husband 17-years-ago, French dressing was far from my favorite. I associated it with menu items like Salisbury steak and fruit cocktail; dishes shunned and replaced with pesto, arugula and sun dried tomatoes by the late 90s.

I remember sitting down to a Sunday supper at my in-laws’ house. The menu was fried chicken, yellow rice and a tossed salad with French dressing. I glanced around the table for another dressing option. Finding none, I drizzled a little French dressing on my salad.

The first bite of salad made me ask my brother-in-law to pass the gravy boat of dressing back down the table. In fact, by the end of dinner I was spooning it over my fried chicken like one of the family.

Today, I make this dressing about once a month. It is delicious on salads (obviously) sliced avocados and, if you pour a little over your fried chicken, I won’t judge you.

You’ll need a blender and three jam jars before you begin.

Sally’s French Dressing:

1 can of Campbell’s tomato soup
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp dry mustard
Dash of garlic powder

Pour all ingredients into blender and pulse until fully combined.

Divide into three small jam jars or other containers. Refrigerate for up to three weeks.

Cecelia is a military brat turned Southerner. She is an avid reader and lover of camellias, blue and white china, gin and tonics and tomato pie.

Robert E. Lee Cake

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by Pookie

Recently, we celebrated the Old Man’s birthday and I made the well-intentioned mistake of asking him what kind of cake he wanted. He yelped out his answer before I even finished the question: Robert E. Lee cake…a delicious, lemony, and incredibly time consuming undertaking.

Although the original recipe calls for real and full fat butter, it is just as good with vegan butter for those, like me, who have a complicated relationship with dairy.

The most important thing with this particular cake is to set aside about four hours to spend on it from start to completion (a lot of time is spent waiting for things to cool). So kick off your shoes and get your county music playlist ready to go.

It is worth every minute!

Robert E. Lee Cake

For the cake:

1 tablespoon of room temperature, dairy free vegan or real butter (I use Earth Balance sticks)
2 tablespoons and 2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 tablespoon salt
8 eggs—separate the yolks and whites
2 cups of sugar
¼ cup lemon juice—strained
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350. Use the tablespoon of (faux) butter to grease two 9 inch layer cake pans. Then take the 2 tablespoons of flour and coat the pans, although you probably won’t need the whole 2 tablespoons.

In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Set it aside for now.

In a second large bowl, beat the yolks and sugar with an electric hand mixer until its thick, about 5 minutes. Add in the lemon juice and zest and keep mixing for another minute. Grab the flour mixture and add that to the egg mixture at about half a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly each time you add more.

Now, remember the egg whites? Take the mixer, with clean paddles, and beat the egg whites until they’re fluffy and stiff. This will take a little longer than you think. Then, spoon the egg whites into the batter and gently fold them in until they’re thoroughly mixed. Don’t rush this part.

Pour the batter into the two pans and smooth out the tops. You’re going to be stacking layers so making it smooth will help later on. Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool to room temperature.

Filling:

6 tablespoons of room temperature (vegan) butter cut in pieces
¾ cup of sugar
¾ cup of strained lemon juice
6 egg yolks (you can save the whites for healthy omelets the next morning)
4 teaspoons of lemon zest

This part is pretty easy but takes a while. Just combine all the ingredients except for the lemon zest in a sauce pan. Cook it over low heat and stir constantly until it gets thick and curd-like. Don’t boil it or the egg yolks will curdle. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon fairly heavily, scrape it into a small bowl and stir in the lemon zest. This will also need to cool to room temperature.

Icing:

4 tablespoons of room temperature (vegan) butter
¼ cup of orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 pound of confectioner sugar
2 teaspoons of lemon zest

My personal favorite part of any cake! In a large bowl cream the (vegan) butter, and then add in about 1 cup of confectioner sugar. After that is mixed, add in a splash of the juice mixture. Keep doing this until everything is mixed together—about 1 ¼ cups sugar and 2 tablespoons of juice at a time. Lastly, you’ll add in the lemon zest. You can omit this if you’d like though, the cake is already very lemony!

Assembly:

Cut the two cakes in half horizontally to make 4 thin layers. Go ahead and assemble the cake on your cake plate, it just makes it easier. Place the bottom layer on the plate and spread about 1/3 of the filling over the top. Then add the second layer and repeat until you have a fully formed cake. Now ice it and try to wait until desert to dig in.

Enjoy!


Pookie is a poet and proud Ole Miss Alum who is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree.