Belonging | Together in the Kitchen

I really love cooking.

I wish I could say I always have, but the truth is that I only began cooking when I was 23 years old. I’ve always longed to have these beautifully poetic childhood memories of cooking in the kitchen with my mother…with messy flour spilling on the counter, lingering aromas of seasonings, spices and all of that. Reality is that my mom is one of the hardest working women I know. However, she and my dad started our family at the age of 19, so working and jobs took precedence. My parents did manage to cook sometimes, but it was always after a really long day of work, so the meals were usually quick, easy and many times, from a box or can.

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Making up for lost time with my grandmother, too. Dementia began robbing her mind a few years ago, so the women of the family insist on recreating her holiday candy recipes each year as a way to remind her and keep what little traditions we DO have, alive.

I don’t feel slighted though, because I had a great childhood, but I do feel a little regret because my parents were so burdened by the hustle that we didn’t really have time for those picturesque moments in the kitchen. The fact is, my mom LOVES to cook and eat delicious food just as much as I do. She would have LOVED to have my sister and me in the kitchen, working our way through beautiful recipes together. The struggle was real.

Somehow in our adult lives — my mom, my sister and I have gained new perspectives and appreciation of whole foods, and have each discovered the joy of cooking a meal from scratch. Thankfully, between cooking classes together or family meals during the holidays, we’ve made up for any lost moments from our childhood.

So back to when I was 23 and newly married…I knew how to make two things: scrambled eggs (a la breakfast burrito style) and fancy ramen (definitely NOT the trendy ramen of the now, but more like adding some garlic salt and veggies to those 25c ramen packets). I was determined to learn how to cook. I challenged myself to try a new recipe every day for 6 months. It was awesome and literally, trial by fire — with some great successes and some major failures. But after a few months, I found myself needing something more than my own isolated musings in my kitchen.

 

I took my first group cooking class more than 5 years ago. This amazing little 24-hr bakery opened up and started offering cooking classes, so I jumped at the opportunity (Shoutout to Stefanie Haviv & Amelie’s — those classes were the BEST!). I had a growing love for cooking, but I had NO idea of the transformative power of cooking with people. Eating together is one thing, but cooking a meal with one another is a completely different experience.

I’ve worked as a graphic designer for more than 15 years now, so for me cooking has become my chosen outlet for creative expression. I have found freedom in the trial and error of learning new recipes and feeling confident to go “off book”. Combine that newly-discovered freedom with an organized group of people who have nothing in common other than their shared love of food…and I was in heaven.

Anytime I find myself in the kitchen with friends or family, or even strangers working together to create a meal, I enter a sacred space…of purpose, of belonging, of connection. Just like our innate need for food and water, making connections with people is one of our basic human needs. Cooking with and for others helps us build and strengthen those connections.

A few years ago, I won a grant at Trinity Episcopal School where I was given the opportunity to dream up an amazing out-of-the-box professional development experience. I signed up for a week-long National Geographic photography workshop in San Francisco.

However, I was still in the early days of my love affair with cooking, so before I arrived in San Francisco, I got a wild hair and decided to email one of my favorite food bloggers and cookbook authors, Adrianna Adarme. I asked if I could come to Los Angeles to cook with her, pick her brain on food styling, photography and whatever else for the day. I knew it was a long shot especially because she didn’t know me from Sam. So, when she surprisingly agreed to host me, I. LOST. MY. DAMN. MIND.

 

It was life-giving and life-changing in so many ways. The photography workshop was my professional development for my job at Trinity, but my cooking experience with Adrianna was the personal development I needed for life.

She let me tag along to her local market, and I watched as she mulled over available ingredients and then laid it all out on her kitchen counter as she began her own process of exploration in the kitchen. I watched as she orchestrated this stunningly simple, but delicious dish — a crostini with ricotta & gremolata, topped with fresh apricots and pistachios.  I knew of Adrianna only what I had read from her blog, but being in her home, in her kitchen, cooking together, I felt like we had known each other forever. And THAT’S the magic of communal cooking. It was connection, it was therapeutic and it was something I knew I wanted to replicate.

So, I want to open my doors and invite you to come cook with me. I’m not a studied culinary expert with a dream kitchen, but I do have an insatiable love for food and for community. In just a few short weeks, I have the privilege of hosting an incredible Sobremesa dinner party as part of Sunday Suppers global dinner series. I would LOVE nothing more than for you to come experience the joys of community and cooking with me. I hope to see you at the table soon!

Thursday, June 21, at 7pm.

Tickets & information can be found here.

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Sobremesa

It’s been almost 10 years since I first heard of Sunday Suppers. Karen Mordechai began hosting these gorgeous dinner parties in her Brooklyn apartment, and the idea of a simple, beautiful dinner party where guests would gather to collectively cook a multi-course meal and then share stories around the table was one that I SO longed to be a part of.

Despite the dates never lining up for me to attend one of the New York gatherings, I’ve always wanted to host something similar in Charlotte. Cooking and breaking bread with people you know (or don’t know) have grown to be a passion of mine over the years. So when Sunday Suppers announced in January that they were launching a global dinner series and were looking for hosts in cities around the world, I applied without hesitation!

What is Sobremesa??

— It’s that time after a meal when the food is gone, but the conversation around the table continues.

Last week, I received the wonderful news that I was chosen to host for Charlotte:

*NEW DATE* Thursday, June 21, 2018
7pm, Historic Oakhurst Neighborhood

If you’re in the Charlotte area, I invite you to join me for what will be an incredible communal cooking & dinner experience. Please click here to purchase tickets. Space is limited, so get your ticket before they sell out.

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Even if we don’t know each other that well (or even at all), my hope is that we can all gather, cook together and break bread (squid ink tortillas to be exact!) over lively conversation around the table. Surely there will be no strangers after the meal is finished! These dinners will be held four times a year around the globe and anyone can participate.

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The menu has just been released and it sounds amazingly bright and festive — celebrating summer and all its glory:

  • Frutas, Sumac and Lime
  • Sopa de Lima
  • Communal Tacos squid ink tortillas, curried cauliflower, green crema, cilantro, pickles
  • Chocolate Avocado Pudding cream, cinnamon and hazelnuts

On the table

  • Coconut + cacao black beans
  • Charred jalapeno guacamole
  • Lime pickled vegetables / Cilantro + onion / Cojita

But wait, there’s more…

A portion of the proceeds from each dinner will go to The Hunger Project, a global program based on an innovative, holistic approach, which empowers women and men living in rural villages to become the agents of their own development and make sustainable progress in overcoming hunger and poverty.

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If you have any questions or want to attend, please shoot me an email or click here for ticket information.

Cheers ❤

Picture me rollin’… {a recipe}

If you know me well, you know I am a lover of 80’s & 90’s hip hop.

Talib Kweli, Nas, Wu Tang, Tupac, Biggie, Missy, Raekwon, Busta Rhymes, JayZ and more. Any given day, the “Gold School” Spotify playlist is a weekly favorite.

My love for hip hop originated with my very own dad…no kidding. My parents had me at the ripe age of 19yrs. old, so my formative years were spent growing up “with” my parents in their 20s. My dad has always been a lover of a good beat & the man has GOT some rhythm. Actually, if you know any of the Boulware’s from Ridgeway/Winnsboro, SC, you know we’ve got some smooth moves on the dance floor. My dad personally requested that our “father/daughter” wedding dance be to Ciara’s “1, 2 Step” in lieu of some of your more traditional song choices. Yep, that happened.

We officially celebrated my dad’s 55th birthday this past Friday with a family dinner. Lasagna is one of his favorite meals so it HAD to be on the menu for the evening. I’ve made traditional lasagna before, but this time, I really wanted to try something different. Also, one of my biggest frustrations with traditional lasagna is that no matter how long I allow it “set,” it always becomes a gooey mess {albeit delicious, but messy} on the plate. I decided to test these rolls to see if this method would help contain the “goodness” a little better than flat sheets. And it did!

I’ve always heard that music is to cooking like coffee is to the morning. It fills the kitchen with a necessary energy and a creative spirit unlike any other. I believe these lasagna rolls turned out as good as they did due in large part to the assistance of my trusted hip hop playlist. When you try this recipe below, be sure to turn up some tunes (preferably ones that get you moving…it helps with the rolling<3)

Scroll down for recipe

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Picture Me Rollin’ {Lasagna}

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 pkg.         Lasagna Noodles (w/curly edges)
24 oz.         Marinara Sauce (Your choice – I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara
Sauce with Barolo Wine)
20 oz.          Part Skim Ricotta Cheese (I used the Trader Joe’s version, so I had to buy 2-16oz)
1 pkg.         Shredded Parmesan Cheese
2 C.             Baby Kale (or spinach ), messy chopped
1                  Egg
1 lb.            Lean Ground Turkey
1 medium  Yellow Onion, diced
Fresh Basil, chopped
EVOO
Pinches of  Salt, pepper, garlic powder & Italian herbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook lasagna noodles, according to package but pull them on the early side when they are just barely al dente. Once drained, lay them out flat on a baking sheet/cutting board/flat surface, allowing them to cool & dry off.
  3. In a mixing bowl, add ricotta cheese, 1 heaping cup (large handful) of parmesan cheese, chopped baby kale and egg. Mix together and add a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder and any Italian herbs. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to spread on the noodles.
  4. In a large skillet, coat pan with EVOO, cook diced onion 2-3minutes then add in ground turkey, sautéing 4-5minutes until browned, add in 1 cup of marinara sauce. Pinch of salt, pepper & Italian herbs. Remove from heat, allow to cool.
  5. In an 8×8 glass or metal pan, pour 1 & 1/2-2 cups of marinara in an even layer.
  6. To assemble the rolls, spoon out & spread cheese mixture on noodles (enough to cover) and then top with meat sauce, evenly. Starting at one end, slowly but tightly roll the noodle like a pinwheel, pulling in any toppings that try to fall out the sides. Place the roll curly side up with the seam against the pan. Continue with the remaining noodles, placing the rolls close {snuggly} together so the seams are pressing against the other rolls.
  7. Once all the lasagna rolls are in the pan, lightly brush the remaining marinara on the sides. Top with shredded parmesan and place in the oven for 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven, allow dish to cool slightly. Top with chopped fresh basil and serve.

I served these with a SUPER simple Caesar salad {romaine, parmesan, croutons, thinly sliced shallots} and it was great, but you can serve with any salad of your choice.

Enjoy! ❤