The 2023 March Collection
: the best meal I've ever cooked, bumping into a Mississippi author, and more on listening:
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We have arrived at the March Collection—the tenth edition of this monthly sharing of my discoveries. Be sure to head over to the comments after reading and let me know what’s new in your world. Any books you’d like to recommend? Recipes you’re loving? What have you been noticing around you lately? Satisfy my curiosity!
Check out past collections if you missed them:
THE DECEMBER COLLECTION - a return to Italy, 580 handwritten letters, and walking a mile in someone else's shoes
THE 2023 JANUARY COLLECTION - a fancy lunch menu, mysteries & memoirs, and the case for fuzzy blankets
THE 2023 FEBRUARY COLLECTION - flatbread, books that challenge, and the glorious full moon
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
*You can use these links to jump around to different sections
What I’m Cooking
Last month I was all about ease, subsisting on quick meals made from products found at Trader Joe’s. This month, after a week of traveling and eating restaurant fare, I wanted healthy, nutritious, clean food, so I’ve been cooking lots of lean meats, fresh veggies, brown rice, fruit smoothies with a touch of cashew butter, and scrambled egg omelets (because I can’t make them pretty but they still taste just as good). I’ve also avoided sugar and most flour-based foods, and my body feels so much better!
Along with cleaner eating, Mike and I decided about a month ago to stop drinking alcohol. Not just for Lent. For good. We’re not heavy drinkers—normally a craft beer or two with pizza at our favorite brewery, a margarita with some Mexican fare, or a couple of glasses of wine over a charcuterie setup. So why did we stop? I plan to write about that in a future post, so make sure you’re subscribed.
And now I present to you this one really incredible recipe I found this month!
No-Stir Mushroom Risotto with Walnut Chili Crunch
If you’re not convinced by the title, I compel you to read on. Mike said, “This is the best meal you’ve ever cooked,” and I’ve been cooking for him for over 15 years.
Whenposted this recipe on her Substack I was intrigued. What made me try it was that I needed an idea for dinner, and most of the ingredients were in my fridge and pantry.
Refer to Caroline’s recipe for ingredients and instructions, then come back here for my riff.
First, I cooked the onions and mushrooms in my 6-quart Dutch oven, then added salt and pepper, brown rice, and vegetable broth (instead of her recommended beef broth) and popped it in the oven. Not a huge departure from her recipe.
Next, I made the Walnut Chili Crunch mostly according to her instructions, but I only had a few walnuts so I used half walnuts and half pecans. I also did not have fresh parsley, so I used dried.
I had a package of Trader Joe’s fully cooked pork belly that would soon expire, so I cut it into bite-sized pieces, tossed them into a hot skillet, and cooked until brown and crispy. I then transferred them to a paper towel-lined plate to fool myself into thinking I made the pork belly healthier by draining the grease.
When I took the pot of rice and mushrooms out of the oven, I skipped the white wine, extra broth, and cheese. I only added the juice of the lemon I zested for the crunch.
Assembly (my way):
Add a scoop of the rice-mushroom mixture to a bowl
Top with about 1/4 cup of crispy pork belly pieces
Sprinkle a bit of an Italian 5-cheese blend (it’s what I had on hand, but Caroline has some great cheese ideas for this)
Topped with a couple of tablespoons of the nut crunch
This was nothing like anything I’d ever eaten! The flavors were so complex, and the meal left me completely satisfied. It reminded me a little of the Broccoli Rubble Farro Salad that I discovered and wrote about in last year's August Collection—especially when I paired leftovers with a crispy fried egg for breakfast (and as I wrote back then, I did not do fried eggs until that recipe turned me on to them).
Do check out more of Caroline’s recipes. I love that she offers suggested alternatives for ingredients in case you don’t have everything on hand. And let me know if you try the No-Stir Mushroom Risotto!
What I’m Reading
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I’m continuing to read two of the books I wrote about last month: Mississippi in Africa and Deep South Dispatch so I haven’t added much to the stack this month. I thought I’d get a lot of reading in with the trip we took to Cincinnati with our granddaughter, but that was a pipe dream.
Lonesome, Party of Six by A. Ainsworth
I metin Substack's Writers Office Hours a few weeks ago and learned he was a fellow Mississippian and author of several books. The premise of Lonesome, Party of Six caught my attention.
Six lonely diners on a day built for family. One stranger who notices. Their lives would be changed forever because of her one intentional act of kindness.
I was in the market for my next fiction read, so I ordered a copy. While it started a little slow for me, I was hooked once I got to page 38, the section called “Pops,” where Ainsworth begins to flesh out one of his many characters. The book is marketed as Christian Fiction, but I think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming story that digs into the power of story, the serendipity of connection, and the impact of small gestures.
I didn’t realize it was the first in a series of six (we see what you did there, Al!), but the first stands on its own without needing a sequel to resolve any storyline. But I’ll be purchasing the second because Al’s writing was just that enjoyable!
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
I’ve fallen so far behind in reading what my fellow writers are posting on Substack that I almost missed a wonderful post byabout this book. She even had the privilege of interviewing the author!
I’m a sucker for well-made kids’ flicks, and I don’t like to watch a movie adaptation without first reading the book. To prepare for Netflix’s upcoming release of the film, I purchased the Kindle edition and the accompanying audiobook and dove into the enchanted tale of an orphaned boy, a conjured elephant, and Peter’s quest to find his remaining family.
I confess that I started the audiobook while waxing my event venue’s floors with every intention to finish the story with the ebook—but the narrator (Kate DiCamillo herself) was just too good! I’m not sure why I haven’t read more of DiCamillo’s works, but I’m sold. If she’s narrated all the audiobooks, I’ll likely be listening instead of reading.
On the Web
A few months ago I began keeping a log of what I was reading on the Internet so I could easily return to it if needed. It also helps me remember what I’d like to share with you here each month. With that in mind…
Listening with Silence
Imagine my surprise this week when I checked my log and revisited this post byover at :
Didn’t I just write about that last week? Was my subconscious channeling this article as I recently considered listening and the art of shutting up? I believe that everything we consume sticks with us in some way, so yes—Rob’s words had already planted a seed in my head that helped grow last week’s post. If you’ve been pondering my words there, do give his thoughts a look, too.
90 Days to Broadway publishes , and a couple of months ago she began a new section of her newsletter to chronicle her new project: to get cast in a Broadway show in 90 days. Seems impossible, right? Well, that's the whole point.
Each year Michael offers a course called Creating the Impossible: A 90 Day Program to Get Your Dreams Out of Your Head and Into the World, where participants are challenged to choose an impossible project to work on for 90 days…
I have enjoyed every one of Kerri’s weekly updates, especially Week 7, where she talks about potential:
CTI is about loving something into existence, not willing it. The love part will give this life….
But as soon as I put myself out to the world and got positive feedback—as soon as I was told I had the potential to make my dream a reality…I proceeded to fall apart. The minute my impossible project became possible, joy and ease turned into striving and proving, and I fell into a familiar old cycle of resistance, shame, and self-doubt.
Kerri is so brave to share this adventure with us. Start at the beginning and be encouraged by her journey!
What I’m Noticing
Community begins with kindness and listening
Last month I told you about how I saw from my kitchen window a neighbor walking and hurried Mike out the door to give him some of the Vegetable Beef Soup I had just made. We’ve seen Sam twice in the last week, and both times he’s thanked us again for that soup with the biggest smile on his face. A couple of bowls of soup opened the door for me to listen this week as Sam and I stood in front of my house and he told me stories about his dad.
Dare to do something crazy, y’all, and offer to share your meal with someone you don’t know that well.
The kids are alright—and so am I
Those of you who have been here a while have heard a lot about Jonah, our youngest child,but we have three more adult children (and two of those have life partners) as well. No matter how old they get, I admit I'm still thinking of all the "what ifs" that could happen.
What if he can’t find a job?
What if she can’t afford it?
What if they can’t work through this problem?
But you know—the kids are alright. They’ve got some really great skills and traits in their arsenals—problem-solving, creativity, loyalty, discipline, kindness, resilience, and so much more—and they’ll figure out this thing called life just like I did (and still continue to do). In fact, if you put all six of them together, Marvel could probably drop them into a film.
In the last few weeks, I’ve had deep conversations with each of them (more chances to practice the art of listening!), learning of something they’re struggling with or working out, and I’ve left each one knowing they have what it takes to handle it. No longer fledglings, the birds are all flying, and I’m more than okay with that!
Some parents don’t know how to have a relationship with their children when they no longer need them, but I’m figuring that out. It’s about being here to listen, to celebrate their wins and to sympathize with their losses. The cool thing is that they’re also asking me about my wins and losses with genuine interest. Love is in the listening!
The sun is sticking around longer
It always seems to happen overnight, but I know that’s just not true. Still, this week I walked outside after finishing my workday and preparing dinner and thought, “There’s actually some daylight left!”
Maybe it’s that the days are getting warmer (or even downright hot for those of us in the southern United States!), the catalpas and honey locusts are blooming, or the excitement of entering Daylight Saving Time (DST) this weekend.I'm giddy with the thought of more time in the evenings to explore the bit of wooded area on our property, wander the sidewalks of town and meet new neighbors, and sit around the fire pit, inviting passersby to join our conversations.
DST also means I'll be up early enough to take my coffee outside in the morning and watch the sun rise into the sky. Perhaps I’ll meet Donny and Marie and their little family again. The world is ripe with possibilities this time of the year!
A quote to close
In this week’s Write Together Friday,shared a quote by Carl Jung that's been on my mind since:
“The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.”
Invite someone to share their story, then listen.
Anyone else is trying to eat clean?
What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
What impossible project would you take on if you could forget about the possibility of failure?
Who do you cook for?
What are you doing with the longer days?
Should I create an actual Hall of Fame in my house?
Let us know in the comments!
Do I have an actual Hall of Fame? I don’t, but this seems like a good time to create one. What do you think? I’m gonna grab a Sharpie and write Michael’s name in my actual hallway.
But if you had known me in my 20s…
Story, listening, connecting—the pattern continues this week.
For the record, I hate switching every six months, but I love gaining an hour of daylight in the evenings!
Yummy sounding!! I have a container of risotto and have never used it. Now I will! Thank you. I do not like the "time change." But, it is what it is, and I will adapt. I applied for two different jobs, and so far, my applications are still "in progress," which means they haven't rejected me yet. (My answer to adapting to change-creating my own) Both are in education (my wheelhouse). We shall see. Thank you, Holly as always for your welcoming ways.
Holly! What an amazing March Collection, so much goodness in here. :) I love to read so will add those books to my list. I'm currently reading books about homeschooling as I have just taken that on... So these longer days I'm using to make lesson plans. :)
The quote resonated deeply with me and I'm grateful you shared it. It helped me on the days I was nervous to hit "publish." Keep telling your stories and I will be here to listen. Take good care.