Jean Marie Brownson's Chorizo and Seafood Stew (Photo © Bill Hogan, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune and Agate Publishing.)
Jean Marie Brownson’s Chorizo and Seafood Stew (Photo © Bill Hogan, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune and Agate Publishing.)

Between all the exciting holiday parties is the option to entertain yourself at home. Open a bottle of wine. Read a book that has been collecting dust since it was gifted last year. And, make a fancy or simple dinner. The inspiration? JeanMarie Brownson’s Dinner at Home cookbook.

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Jocelyn Delk Adams German Chocolate Cake
Photo © Jocelyn Delk Adams

In the back of my mind, Jocelyn Delk Adams, author and founder of GrandBaby Cakes blog, is family. I’ve never personally talked with or met her, but we’ve communicated via email or social media on several occasions. Her messages are as sweet as her blog, which is full of comfort, down home, Southern desserts with a few savory dishes between the cake recipes.

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Haitian Carrot Crab Salad

Haiti is a country of courageous people. During the period of America’s colonial past, it was the only country to have a successful slave rebellion, and they continue to pay for their fighting spirit into our modern time. Besides an eventful past, Haiti also boasts a rich cuisine. Its dishes are influenced by Taino (Native American), Spanish, French and African cultures. When Haitian-American culinary curator Nadege Fleurimond decided to write a book about her motherland, she knew the research started with a journey to each of the Haiti’s ten regions. Although she already knew the recipes, she wanted to learn the soul of Haitian cuisine.

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Wonton Soup with Bok Choy and Edamane

Dad’s recipes start with making broth by scratch before proceeding to the actual preparation of a dish. We have playful arguments about whether homemade or store-bought stock makes a difference in recipes. Of course he’s right, but when it comes to time, the quality of ingredients are sacrificed. As his nine-to-five working daughter, it is my duty to rewrite his recipes starting with organic, low-sodium store-bought broth (preferably from a box, instead of a can or powder to avoid a metallic and salty taste). Such changes encourages people to attempt Dad’s recipes. After all, most beginning cooks are intimidated at the thought of staying in a kitchen for a long length of time.

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The Freekeh Cookbook by Bonnie Matthews

Here’s a typical weekday situation: A recipe calls for rice. There’s only 30 minutes for dinner. Healthy brown rice takes 45 minutes, and unhealthy white rice is 15 minutes to cook. When it comes to time, I’m guilty of choosing the latter. I have tricks for using grains in weekday meals, such as doubling the requested amount and storing the difference in the freezer, or cooking slow-cooking grains—such as barley and farro—on weekends.

One of my favorite healthy and quick-cooking grains is whole-wheat couscous. Quinoa is another favorite, but the rinsing process is time-consuming. My recent discovery is freekeh, a familiar grain in Arabic cuisines with a 15 to 20 minute cooking time.

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