Gracious Living

Last week was a little slow around here in the kitchen since the chef was battling a cold.  She was winning and then she took a President's Day road-trip to take her baby on a college visit and now she is not winning and the cold is firmly camped out in her head and chest.  Ugh.  Since "she" is me, it's been another week of small uncomplicated meals.  Tomorrow is my birthday and what I really wish for is the return of my sense of smell, sense of taste and appetite.  If I'm going to have cake, I surely would like to be able to taste it.  Hopefully another 24 hours and some Omnicef will make a difference (yes I know antibiotics don't cure colds, but there's a sinus infection in there too just for kicks).

Pondering the weekend and a visit from my brother, Keith and his awesome wife, Karen I am considering my menus.  Tomorrow night, to celebrate my 48th birthday Season's 52 is opening it's Indy location with a preview dinner.  My oldest is a Rhetorical Advocacy major at Purdue (comm/PR) which means she blogs and tweets on a daily basis.  One of her follower's works for a PR firm and asked her who her favorite Indy food blogger might be.  Kelly naturally answered, "My mom".  Good girl.  And that's how I am going with my plus one to the preview dinner in a semi-professional capacity.  I'm sure they would also appreciate my actually being able to enjoy all of their food so I can write a glowing review.  So I am resting.  Tonight I have teriyaki chicken poaching, sweet brown rice simmering and broccoli ready to steam.  Not every meal needs to dazzle.  And I am planning, Friday night is done.  Saturday might be a lovely opportunity to braise some beef short ribs and serve them with polenta or buttery mashed potatoes.   Sunday will bring a chance to make a brunch dish that doesn't have to hold until it reaches a tailgate.  Writing, thinking, and planning as I go.

I've never hosted just my little brother and his wife before.  We usually see each other with the whole family around.  Do you love how he will always be my "little" brother?  I make a very concerted effort to simply refer to him as my brother or my "younger" brother, but some part of me will always see him as twelve (the age he was when I left for college).   Anyway, there will be some serious "grown-up" time this weekend and I am looking forward to some gracious living.

And that brings us in my especially circuitous way to the topic of this evening's blog:  gracious living.  Gracious living is our term of endearment for social hour.  Ten years ago (yes, really ten years) we had the good fortune of moving to a home in Hudson, Ohio in the middle of a fabulous neighborhood.  We lucked on that rare combination of neighbors who also had moved a bit and were at just about the same stage of life.  Those girlfriends are the ones responsible for my love of tennis.  We all started in USA 1-2-3 together and formed a 2.5 team.  Two of my neighbors/team mates owned beautiful homes in Kiawah, South Carolina.   We spent a few lovely Mother's Day weeks on the island playing tennis all morning, lounging at the pool in the afternoon and always enjoying a little gracious living before dinner. Some gracious living sessions were so enjoyable we never made it out to dinner.  Who exactly coined the "gracious living" phrase is lost in my memory, but I love it and I've carried on as best I can as many of us have relocated one or two more times and our tennis time together has been replaced with Christmas cards and facebook exchanges.

So here are some gracious living ideas for you.  I always keep things on hand for any impromptu gatherings.  One that never fails is a block of reduced fat cream cheese topped with any amazing jam or chutney you can find.  Keep a few pretty little jars of strawberry margarita jam, cherries in hooch jam, pear hazelnut chutney or habanero roasted pineapple jam (a very good one from Archer Farms at Target).   Break out some fancy crackers and a cute spreader and you are good to go.  If it's cold out, a similar dish I love is to take a nice log of goat cheese and place it in a baking dish.  Cover it with a really yummy bottled marinara sauce and maybe a sprinkling of compatible fresh herbs and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until bubbly.  Serve with some breadsticks or baguette slices.

If you grab a nice baguette, slice it and brush both sides with a little olive oil.  Top it with a round of goat cheese and bake at 375 to 300 for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted a bit.  Or grill them.  Really yummy grilled.  Get creative and add some pieces of roasted red peppers (the jars of roasted red peppers packed in water from Trader Joe's are excellent) with goat or feta cheese.  Or use the cute little rounds of goat cheese all sliced and covered in herbs from Costco or TJ's.  Or keep some Trader Joe's bruschetta sauce and skip the cheese.  You get the idea.  A good baguette is a wonderful thing.  Salami or sopressata keep forever and the husbands generally are happier if a little meat is on the table.

gracious living at the ready

In the taking it easy mode, I'm wrapping up early this evening.  Have a piece of cake and or a glass of wine (or both) and celebrate with me tomorrow!


  1. Happy Birthday! Hope you can taste your cake. Here's to another year of gracious living for you my tennis-yoga-cooking-blogging friend.


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