Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Kitchen…

…Is coming up on the blog (and Instagram) this week. I know: It’s not the most Lenten-themed series imaginable. Regardless, I’m talking about kitchens this week because, well, I want to talk about kitchens. I like kitchens. I like spending time in kitchens. I like looking at kitchens. And I like what kitchens make possible: delicious food and happy evenings enjoying that delicious food with people I love.

Also, after creating this kitchen…

           …where this duplex dining room…

…and duplex bathroom used to be…

 …I have some thoughts to share on the whole topic of kitchen renovations. Fancy that.

Creating our kitchen was a stressful, grueling, dirty, exhausting, expensive, and yet, still, somehow, totally fun experience. I learned so much during the year—yes, year—that we worked on it, and if all I learned through that process can save you some stress when you get around to renovating (or even just reorganizing) your own kitchen, that will make all the headaches it gave me a little more worth it.

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Fried Gnocchi Aglio e Olio

The calendar tells me that Lent starts tomorrow. Which is odd because I’m pretty sure it started almost three weeks ago here, when the Black Death first descended on our household. We’ve been battling one health issue after another ever since then, including issues I won’t mention on the same page with food. Regardless, I’m all tuckered out and having a hard time settling on my various Lenten penances. Isn’t sleeping only a few hours a night penance enough?

All this is to say that while tomorrow I might come up with something eloquent to say about fasting, today I’ve got nothing. Except for a recipe that you can cook on days of fasting and abstinence.

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The Gift of the Body

This is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. On Instagram, I’ve been talking about how, after a six-year struggle with anorexia, the Eucharist transformed my understanding of food (I’m also giving away five copies of The Catholic Table over there this week). But it wasn’t just the Eucharist that helped me. Just as the Eucharist transformed my understanding of food, the theology of the body transformed my understanding of my body.

For most of the first 25 years of my life I equated my body’s value with a number on the scale. I thought it’s worth could be measured and weighed. It was a perpetual problem for me, something I needed to control.

Then, when I was 25, I read Pope St. John Paul II’s theology of the body. It taught me that my body wasn’t a problem to be controlled; it was a gift to be cared for. It was me—as much a part of who I was as my soul and as much a gift as my soul.

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Rosemary Almond Chicken Salad

February is always hard for me here in the land of eternal grey. Writing is work. Cleaning is work. Cooking is work. In years past, I’ve been able to escape for a week or so to more southern and sunnier climes. This year, with the baby, I’m lucky to escape to the bathroom for a nice long soak (still a February goal). So, since I can’t fly away, I’m trying a trick from my poverty-stricken grad school days, and acting like it’s spring inside my house.

This week, we cranked up the heat a bit, I pulled out a “transitional” clothing items (aka not wool), and we dined on one of our favorite summer dishes: Rosemary Almond Chicken Salad.

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Practical Hospitality: How Clean is Clean Enough?

Let’s talk housekeeping. Not ordinary housekeeping. Not “Do the Laundry on Wednesday and Clean the Bathrooms on Fridays” housekeeping. But, rather, “Friends are Coming Over Tonight, and We Need to Get the House Ready” housekeeping. What exactly, in that scenario does “get the house ready” mean?

This is an important question, because how you answer it determines: 1) How free you feel to have people over; and 2) How crazy you make yourself and everyone in your household prior to your guests’ arrival.

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Herb-Crusted Pork Loin

How do you do so much hosting with a new baby? That’s a question I’ve been getting a lot these days. The answer is mostly that Toby is a super-pleasant, super-easy baby…and there is only one of him. Turn Toby into a toddler or add another baby into the mix, and having friends over will most likely mean ordering a lot more pizza.

Until then, I’ll keep cooking as much as I can, although most of what I cook are dishes that don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen. Like the Baked Pesto Tortellini dish I cooked for Chris’ office Christmas party. And like the Herb-Crusted Pork loin I served along with it.

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Baked Pesto Tortellini

The other day, I was chatting on Facebook, and brainstorming about putting together an e-cookbook for entertaining. A friend, who has been reading the blog for the past year, suggested maybe I should start a food blog first.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about recipes, hasn’t it?

Well, in my defense, blogging about food when you don’t have a kitchen is hard. Blogging about food when you’re not cooking because of an adorable bundle of chunk who is keeping you up night and day? Even harder. But, now that we do have a kitchen, and the baby is sleeping through the night, I am back at the stove, so I figured it’s time to start putting up the occasional recipe—especially recipes that make it easier for you to invite friends over for dinner and keep the natives from burning down your house while you prepare the meal.

So, here you go.

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Two Years Later: A Before and After

Two years ago today, demo began on our house. You can read about it here. At the time, in my naïve, foolish, little head, I had visions of us speedily and efficiently transforming this house into a home in a little over six months. Just like you see on TV. Oh, sweet innocence of youth.

Three general contractors, mountains of debt, anxiety attacks on the regular, and about 600 martinis later, I’m still making my peace with our decision to buy and renovate this house. Our little guy is helping, though, and the more we fill this place with memories of him, the more peaceful I’m starting to feel about it all.

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The Very Best Kind of Hard

Last weekend, I was speaking in Denver, when a lovely woman came up, introduced herself as a reader of the blog, and then asked, “How is your adoption going?”

Surprised, I stepped aside, and pointed at the baby, sitting in the car seat at my feet (we had just arrived).

I was a little confused about the question, since I’ve bombarded Instagram and Facebook with pictures of Toby almost daily since his birth on July 25. But, as the woman explained, she’s not on social media; she just follows the blog. She’d been waiting months for an update and fearing the worst.

“Post an update,” she urged. “For those like me, who aren’t on Facebook.”

So, consider yourself updated, friends. Tobias James Connolly Chapman is here and perfect in every way.

Credit: Andrea Dahm

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