In the scheme of things, whipping up a delicious, healthy-ish dinner Monday-Friday should be a relatively easy task, but often, it’s anything but. For many, weeknight dinners are a cause of perpetual “what am I going to make tonight?!” stress.
Enter Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, the duo who redefined the easy weeknight recipe game. The longtime friends used to come home from days spent working at Saveur, only to have to think up dinner ideas for their families. Even after leaving the magazine to pursue different paths—Campion is a freelance writer who contributes to Redbook, Cherry Bombe, Fine Cooking, and more, and also runs the popular food blog, Devil and Egg; Brennan is a freelance food/cookbook editor and writer who also develops and tests recipes—the friends kept in touch, always asking each other “what did you make for dinner today?” An idea was born, and in 2013, they published their first cookbook, Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen.
The book is chock-full of yummy recipes and cooking tips, inspiring everyone to don their chef’s hat and step into the kitchen.
Read on to see which superfoods are always in their pantry and why Greek yogurt should be a staple in your fridge. (And make sure you give the duo’s just-perfect-for-spring quinoa salad recipe recipe a whirl!)
What three (or so) things do you do regularly that help you lead a happy and whole life?
Kathy: Taking my dog for a walk around a local nature preserve without looking at my phone (honestly, I don’t). Cooking dinner with my kids. Laughing.
Caroline: I just started meditating (I feel like I’m very late to the game on this one, but I figure better late than never!). I was having trouble sleeping, in particular, waking up at 3am and letting my mind unravel with all the things I need to do, and never falling back to sleep. I had heard that meditation might help with the “mind-clutter,” so I read a great book called Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers (written by an old Glamour coworker friend, Suze Yalof Schwartz, who also opened a meditation studio with the same name in Los Angeles), which helped give me some basic tools. Then after that, I downloaded the Headspace app, and now I do their mini-guided meditations each morning before the chaos of getting my kids ready for school, all while sitting next to the dogs on the couch. (Bonus: the man whose voice you follow sounds like a character from Downton Abbey.)
What’s your go-to recipe? The superfood that’s always in your kitchen? The food you can’t resist?
Kathy: It sounds horribly cliché, but roast chicken with potatoes is my favorite default dinner. The superfood always in my kitchen is flax seeds. The food I can’t resist: potato chips.
Caroline: I have to say, I make quesadillas on the regular. My family loves them, they’re easy, I always have everything (whole wheat or spelt tortillas, cheese, herbs, and grape tomatoes for a quick salsa, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, etc.) on hand, and I can cater them to everyone’s taste: My son likes just melted sharp cheddar, my husband loves chorizo, I love them with sautéed mushrooms and shallots, extra cilantro, maybe goat cheese—and my daughter loves all the above.
For superfood, I love to soak oats in yogurt overnight (we will have a recipe in our upcoming book!) and so I always have Greek yogurt (whole milk) and whole organic oats, plus a few extras to add on: chia seeds, chopped almonds and walnuts, dried fruit like apricots, and shredded, unsweetened coconut that I toast in a skillet. I also like to have a carton of fresh berries like raspberries or blueberries in the fridge which I’ll add right before eating.
Your favorite way to move, and how it inspires you:
Kathy: Moving quickly makes me feel motivated, like I’m getting something done (even when I’m not).
Caroline: I take a spin class twice a week at a very cool local studio called Ride & Reflect, which is owned by a really inspiring woman entrepreneur who has created this terrific hub of activity and wellness right where I live. I just got back into doing yoga as well, which makes me a more chill person. During the summer, I play tennis, and, a couple of years ago, I got addicted to this game called paddle tennis, which I can best describe as playing tennis inside of a cage. (Don’t knock it ’till you try it.)
The one place on earth you can always count on to help you reset, refresh, and refuel:
Kathy: The bathtub.
Caroline: Maine. We go there for a couple of weeks each summer and it is, to me, the most beautiful, restful, magical place on earth. The water, the light, the air, the people, the food… it’s my favorite place.
Your wellness muse:
Kathy: My mother is in her 80s now, and is as indefatigable and cheerful as ever.
Caroline: Oh gosh, I don’t know if I have one! I would have to say all of the 70+ year-old women who regularly kick my butt at paddle tennis.
The travel destination you can’t wait to explore (or explore again).
Kathy: Bali. I backpacked around the island in my twenties and have been itching to go back ever since.
Caroline: I have a long-running desire to travel to Thailand. My dream is to go for a month, visit as much of the country as possible, stay with a family that teaches me how to cook with all of their wonderful spices and herbs and ingredients, and soak up as much of the culture (and beaches) as possible. I would go tomorrow if I could.
How you relax and unwind after a long day:
Kathy: Lying on the couch with snacks and a big cup of tea to watch a movie, ideally with my husband giving me a foot massage!
Caroline: Honestly, I cook dinner, put on music, and have a very good, cold, crisp glass of white wine (or two).
The hobby or endeavor that nourishes your soul:
Kathy: Swimming, as long as the pool isn’t too cold.
Caroline: Besides being outdoors with my family, I have to say reading, which is something I don’t do nearly enough nowadays. (I blame the easy allure of my smartphone.) I made a New Year’s resolution to go back to books, to really make the time and effort to find that love of just giving myself over to an amazing read. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m starting to stick to it. (I just started reading the memoir H is for Hawk, which has completed sucked me in.)
The best piece of advice you ever received:
Kathy: Be present.
Caroline: I have received a lot of good advice, but this little passage is the one thing that perhaps is “the best” because it came at the right time. I read it in one of those daily affirmation books that was on the desk of my old yoga studio; you would randomly pick a page and whatever you landed on was your affirmation for the day. The message hit home so much with my life at the time that I started really following what it said, and truly, it worked. So much so that I made a copy of the page and look at it often (it’s a little woo-hoo/Shirley MacLaine-ish, but I can’t deny its wisdom):
“Your soul wants you to know: Letting go can heal the need to be in control, the stress of unfulfilled expectations, the anguish of demanding how things should be, and the tension of wanting others to act in particular ways. These things constantly lead to disappointment and unhappiness. Although there’s a time to hold on as if your life depended on it, there’s also a moment to just let go. Now is the time to surrender! By releasing your hold, you’re allowing the creative forces of the universe to spiral through you. You’re permitting the Creator to give you direction and inspiration. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. Help is all around you… open your heart and let it in.”
Caroline and Kathy are also behind the forthcoming cookbook The Dinner Plan: The Keepers Guide to Mastering Weeknight Meals and More, available now for pre-order.
(Image: Maura McEvoy)
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