Monday, September 26, 2016

Cooking with Rheumatoid Arthritis

I fried over 80 chickens in my backyard over the course of the snowiest winter in decades in Georgia, and on into the steaming hot summer months. I cut up chicken by hand nearly daily. Testing recipes for my fifth cookbook, Fried Chicken, was a physical challenge like I had never experienced. By the time I finished, no wonder my hands hurt. My pain started that spring, in 2014, when my hands would be so sore and cramped by the time I went to bed, I would tuck them under my pillow to encourage them to flatten out and rest.
            That year, my 8-year-old son and I would throw the football in the yard a few afternoons a week while the weather was warming. We gradually went from a leather ball to a toddler’s foam football because the impact of the ball on my hands was so uncomfortable.
            My right hand was mainly affected and I truly thought I had just overdone it in the kitchen. I didn’t take my discomfort too seriously until my left hand began to hurt. Within a couple of months, the joints on my big toe on my right foot started aching. My hands began to be stiff for a while after I woke up each morning. “Can I have a braid?” or “I need help with my buttons” from my daughter before school became dreaded questions to hear. I went to my general physician and learned that when pain is mirrored on both sides of the body, it raises some red flags. She drew blood and I waited.
            Her nurse called when I was with my children at a local indoor trampoline facility where I had promised I would take them all summer. I sat there in that loud and pretty unpleasant atmosphere (for adults) and first heard the words that I needed to see a rheumatologist. It had been an extremely long time since I was in a public place trying not to cry. From the first ring of that call, that changed.
            After several weeks of waiting for my appointment, I met my husband at the local rheumatologist’s office and got there just a few minutes before he did. As I sat in the waiting room, the youngest person by at least 30 years, I was in disbelief. I heard the words rheumatoid arthritis several times that day, but a few tests had to be run to start to narrow the answer down to one we could treat. I needed to let go of more blood than I thought must have been flowing in my veins.  I then left with prednisone as the icing on this ironic cake.
            I managed to get out of the office and into the car with my sunglasses on, my lips quivering. When the car door closed, I wept in the way that only loss brings about. All I could think was, “If my hands won’t work, I can’t work. I’ve loved to cook nearly my entire life. It’s my income, my hobby, my identity, and the way I feed my family.”
            I’d seen elderly women with disfigured hands from rheumatoid arthritis and always felt so sorry for them. My hands are in every cookbook I’ve written and are often in close-ups on camera.  I’ve served as the hand model for television commercials you’ve probably seen. I truly kept thinking I would wake up one morning and realize I dreamed it all.
            After much prayer and a lot of time to wrap my brain and determination around my diagnosis, I’m now ready and relieved to talk about it and share my journey.  It’s one that’s just beginning, but at least now I have answers to so many of the physical issues I’ve had over the years. Since that first doctor's appointment, I've written my sixth book, The Southern Vegetable Book, and my work and my life in the kitchen are continuing in full swing. Rheumatoid arthritis is going to be with me for the rest of my life. But, I’m determined my ability to cook anything I want will as well.

All photos by Iain Bagwell from The Southern Vegetable Book by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2016).
Copyright 2016 Rebecca Lang. All rights reserved. 
Please visit for more information.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Building My Dream Kitchen

I've had the incredible blessing to be able to build the kitchen I've always wanted. Like most people that cook, it was something I've thought of for years. InSinkErator, Southern Living, and I have documented this fun and tedious process to share. Watch how it all started and follow along as the kitchen comes together!
Our builder, Tyler Davis of Athens Building Company, on set with me as we start listing kitchen must-haves.

The biscuit counter with windows above at the very beginning.

The wall of the soon to be hood and range.

The workings behind the fabulous InSinkErator Instant Hot Water Dispenser

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Cool Sweets for Hot Days

Watermelon Sherbet

8 cups chopped watermelon (about 3 lb.)
1 cup half-and-half
34 cup sugar
Garnish: mint sprigs

1. Process watermelon in a blender until pureed, stopping to scrape down
sides as needed. Transfer 412 cups puree to a large bowl. Reserve any
remaining watermelon puree for another use. (Or grab a straw for a cook’s
treat.) Whisk in half-and-half and sugar.

2. Pour mixture into freezer container of a 112-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container, and freeze 4 to 5 hours. Let stand at room temperature 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 112 qt.
Hands-on Time: 20 min. Total Time: 5 hr.
Note: The total time for this recipe may vary, depending on your ice-cream maker.

Raspberry-Lime Frozen Pops

12 cup sugar
6 cups fresh raspberries
14 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
14 tsp. vanilla extract
Garnish: fresh raspberries

1. Heat sugar and 12 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until
sugar dissolves (about 3 minutes). Cool slightly (about 5 minutes).

2. Puree sugar syrup, raspberries, and next 2 ingredients in a blender until
smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

3. Pour mixture into 10 (4-oz.) plastic pop molds (about 13 cup mixture in
each). Top with lids of pop molds, and insert craft sticks, leaving 112 to 2
inches of each sticking out. Freeze 6 hours or until sticks are solidly anchored
and pops are completely frozen. Garnish, if desired.

Makes: 10 servings
Hands-on Time: 10 min. Total Time: 6 hr., 10 min.

Slicing a watermelon with ease
I'm always amazed at tools that make things in the kitchen much easier than before. The Grommet recently sent me i Genietti Watermelon Slicer and Server to try. I've been a believer that slicing watermelon is best done outside since juice tends to run in every direction possible. I can now slice and serve watermelon in the luxury of air conditioning! 

Recipes and recipe photo from Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang (c) 2012 Oxmoor House and Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Skirt Steak with Fennel Slaw

Skirt Steak with Fennel Slaw

Fennel brings a light and bright flavor to a grilled skirt steak. Skirt steak is packed with flavor and is super-tender after marinating. It’s a mainstay at our house.  Try adding corn tortillas on the grill for impromptu tacos.

Makes 4 servings    Hands-on 30 minutes    Total 1 hour

1⁄3 cup red wine vinegar
1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1⁄2 tsp. table salt
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1⁄2 lb. skirt steak

Fennel Slaw
1 1⁄4 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
1⁄4 cup sliced green onions
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced celery
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. diced jalapeƱo pepper
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1⁄8 tsp. table salt
1⁄8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare Steak: Preheat grill to 350° to 400°F (medium-high) heat. In a large zip-top plastic bag, combine the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper. Shake to combine. Add steak to the bag, seal bag, and marinate 30 minutes. Remove steak from marinade, discarding marinade.
2. Grill steak, turning once, 10 minutes for medium-rare. Let steak rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
3. Prepare Fennel Slaw: Combine all ingredients. Chill until  ready to serve.
4. Slice each strip of steak in half to make 2 shorter strips. Slice down the long side (across the grain) of each strip to create 1⁄2-inch-thick slices. Serve with slaw.

Excerpted from The Southern Vegetable Book: A Root-to-Stalk Guide to the South’s Favorite Produce by Rebecca Lang. Copyright © 2016 Time Inc. Books. Reprinted with permission from Oxmoor House, an imprint of Time Inc. Books. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

10 Things You Never Knew About Vegetables


Vegetables are coming into full swing! Buy the book and get cooking!

(c) 2016 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 
The Southern Vegetable Book by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2016)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Countdown to The Southern Vegetable Book

There's only one week left until my new book is out! Pre-order now and make plans for some great book launch events coming soon.

April 7 Avid Bookshop
April 19 The Cook's Warehouse 

To kick off the countdown in sweetness, eat cake for the wait.

Layered Carrot Cake
Pineapple and freshly grated carrot sing of spring sweetness. Nothing is sacrificed in this lightened-up cream cheese frosting; it’s just as decadent  as you always remembered.
Makes 16 servings    Hands-on 30 minutes    Total 2 hours

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp.  granulated sugar
3 tsp. baking soda
11⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
11⁄2 tsp. table salt
11⁄2  (8-oz.) cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained
1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
11⁄2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
41⁄2 cups grated carrots
Vegetable cooking spray

1 (8-oz.) package 1⁄3-less-fat cream cheese
1⁄4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tsp. fat-free milk (optional)

1. Prepare Batter: Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine first  5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together pineapple and next 4 ingredients; add pineapple mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients  are moistened. Fold in carrots. Pour batter into 2 greased  (with cooking spray) and floured (8-inch) round cake pans.
2. Bake at 350°F for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans to a wire rack; cool completely (about 1 hour).
3. Prepare Frosting: Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until blended. (Do not overbeat.) If desired, beat in up to 4 teaspoons milk to desired consistency. Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 2⁄3 cup frosting, and top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

Excerpted from The Southern Vegetable Book: A Root-to-Stalk Guide to the South’s Favorite Produce by Rebecca Lang. Copyright © 2016 Time Inc. Books. Reprinted with permission from Oxmoor House, an imprint of Time Inc. Books. All rights reserved.