Aspargus for Dinner

With a stop at Kruger’s Market earlier that day, it came to be that in honor of the original intention of Sunday’s holiday, I found myself grilling asparagus for dinner that night.

A plate of nostalgia: baked potato croquette, roasted asparagus with lemon and Cajun-rubbed beyond meat

I have these floating, yet clear, memories of my late mother sauteing broccoli raab or asparagus with olive oil and garlic lemon and all things super Italian on a regular basis. I didn’t eat much meat before I started going vegetarian –  it was a texture thing that became a depressing, gross out thing –  and most of those vegetables she cooked with care made it to my plate, too; but they take premier residence on hers. This mental picture of extended family gatherings and ravioli or manicotti being passed around, and only the minority of diners passing on the lemony raab  just sits in my mind. It first struck when I first started buying my own raab and rapinis in 2005, the year of her passing and my first Spring in Portland, to see what the farmers market rage was all about.

Broccoli Raab, Portland Farmers Market

These old memories – the new realizations, hit just a couple of months ago, out of the blue. My mom had three children and often worked two jobs, on top of visiting my grandparents and great aunts several times a week, and two dramatic marriages (oh, and that cancer), and yet, as the saying goes, she nearly always had dinner on the table, often quite reminiscent of the plate above.

Perhaps the memory was waiting for the day I didn’t tear up when thinking like this, years after her passing. It’s wild to know I’ve lived this new life in Portland so long without her. Though, it’s not thinking about dinner appearing that surprised me, it was quiet realization that she truly enjoyed setting that time aside to create it.

Bit by bit, her favorite cookbooks and well worn recipes from newspapers (Sweet Potato Pie Casserole, I’m talking to you), impressive family holiday spreads, baking peanut butter fudge cookies, frosting cupcakes for class, using a food processor to puree the filling for her well-loved stuffed mushrooms (which she kept making, despite developing a severe fungus allergy – and I remember bits and pieces of that fateful ravioli at a restaurant on Long Island well), savoring good wine and balsamic, aged Parmesan and visits to gourmet Italian markets, the early days of the Food Network, forming those croquettes out of leftovers mashed potatoes, and even her go-to fried potatoes & scrambled comfort food – it all starts to reappear: and I try to savor them, one by one. You never want those visions to go.

Making Angelfood vegan marshmallows in my mom’s old mixer, 2009

I found myself writing this while waiting for pizza dough I made in her old Kitchen Aid mixer, that my sister shipped me in 2006, to rise.

Anyway. This remains related…I used to think that I was fairly productive home cook once I realized I wanted to learn…and when I started casually documenting it. I balanced my interests on top of a full-time day job and projects (and real life), but gosh, things are even more intent these days.

Craziest yet – I started finding myself developing my own recipes out of my own projects and cravings (and new budget!), like the day I got fed up with restaurant stock and decided to make my own pho chay from scratch. I’ve never been a recipe blogger – it happens, and I’ve done it for specific calls and Heartichoke menus, but it’s not something I usually set out to do. I’m not often one to write things down! The very first time I can remember making my own recipe from scratch was for an old issue of Herbivore, Red Wine & Hazelnut stuffed mushrooms inspired those my mom made (which I think had crab, but I digress), and went to my kitchen and started tasting, mixing, stuffing and developing from there.

My first from-scratch recipe: Hazelnut and Red Wine Stuffed Mushrooms

The window of the past near-year, and the much-welcome time on my hands to…exist, create, and think, gave me more of that time to create, think and contemplate meals and flavors. I remember a conversation with a friend soon after my layoff, with my remarking that I had more time to actually cook meals, and her replying that wasn’t anything new, and my own surmising that my cooking now had more “thought into it”….and truthfully, more enjoyment in the end.

With that (and several digital cameras and years later), here’s what I’ve been attending to, and creating:

The beginnings of cacao nib cold brew

The photos above and below are examples of  existing recipe that you find yourself inspired by, and adapting, again and again, til it’s something that seems new. My go-to cacao nib cold brew steps for your own little French Press are right here.

Smoked jalapeño‎, chipotle & tomato bisque with noochy garlic toast

I recently received some Beyond Meat samples, as two photos from this post showcase, and have also been making my way through Wholegrain Vegan Baking for this month’s blogtour. I’ll be sharing what I’ve made so far this upcoming Monday, May 20…mere days before VVC II takes place.

Greek Pizza with tofu feta from Artisan Vegan Cheese, green and kalamata olives, fresh tomatoes, parsley-pesto rubbed beyond meat, whole wheat/spelt crust, etc.

Another project complete:

DIY chocolate liqueur
Division Street Pho Chay: The Cari (Curry) Edition
Gong Bao Tofu & Japanese Eggplant, take 2

Once the noochy wind storm that is Vida Vegan Con II passes, I’ll have more to say and more to share. I know my mom would have loved it all.She would have been been tickled by my little website adventures and adored Portland.

My mom and I in 1985, in the bottom right-hand corner

I wish I could have cooked for her once I actually learned how to.


  1. Jess, what a lovely post. It makes me appreciate my own mother and all the cooking she has done for my family even more. Also, you’re so inspiring with all of your homemade goodness. I often think about you and all you’ve created when I’m in my own kitchen, and hope to someday get to the point you’ve gotten to! It really is possible to make everything we eat from scratch. It may not be necessary, but it’s totally cool, usually better for you, and, most importantly, downright fun! Thanks for being so awesome.

  2. Jess, this is such a wonderful and poignant post. I really loved reading it. I hear what you mean about realizing that you mom enjoyed taking the care to make a nice meal.

  3. This is such a beautiful post,Jess. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to share these kinds of memories with the whole world. I hope it is somehow healing too.

  4. Wow, I am beyond impressed with this post. I just recently found your blog and am so happy that I did. This post alone shows so many wonderful recipes that I will have to try (especially the pizza! have never seen anything like that).

    Thanks for taking the time to post this and for all that you do. Look forward to learning more from you as I follow along :).

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