Your hostess

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.09.51 PMHello! Welcolme to The Ordinary. I’m Claire, the mad-scientist-in-chief of the kitchens of the ordinary. Here is a random list of facts about me:

I started this blog as a way to remember all of the recipes that I think up, and a way to share them. I also wanted (though I don’t think I knew it at the time) to write something every day – to sharpen my brain a bit, because I could feel it getting dull with lack of use. Before long I realized I’m not that interested in writing about food exclusively, and I started writing about other things, which gradually took over my focus. So today, Out of the Ordinary is more of a collection of essays disguising itself as a food blog.

I was conceived in London and born in Salina, KS, but I’ve lived in New Jersey most of my life, other than brief stints in London, Oxford and Boston.

I now live in a tiny city between Philly & NYC, which I think is the nicest town in the world.

My husband (and best friend) is a master-craftsman. He makes furniture and built-ins. We have a store called Antick.

I have two little boys. They’re brilliant, funny, sweet and infuriating. They are the most fun to cook with, and they’ve taught me a lot about using my imagination, and about abandoning my preconceptions of how to cook things.

I recently finished my fist novel, Beggarly Riches. Not published (yet!), but I love it anyway, and think about the characters when I can’t sleep as if they’re real people. It took me about 6 months to write it. I’ve started a new one!

I studied film and English. I’ve made two independent features and a featurette. You can see scenes from my second feature here. They’re old school indie – shot on 16mm film and edited on a Steenbeck. I haven’t made anything of note, film-wise, in a decade, but I’ve written a screenplay for another feature which I will shoot soon!

I’ve written and illustrated a few children’s books. You can see some pictures here. Never gotten anything published, though!

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12 – that’s 30 years! I’m raising my boys as vegetarians as well. I’d like to be vegan someday, but not right now. I’m a joyful vegetarian. I don’t think I’m depriving myself of anything – there are so many wonderful things to eat that don’t involve meat at all. It’s a good life!

I love food. I love to think about combining textures, flavors, and colors. I think about it a lot. I get ridiculously excited when I come up with an idea for something new to make. Cooking dinner is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I believe cooking is like creating art, if you use your imagination and creativity. Yes, it’s fleeting – it’s made to be consumed, but you have the added physical pleasure of actually eating it!

And that’s all I’m going to say about that!


43 thoughts on “Your hostess

  1. Hi Claire, writing here from the wicklow hills in ireland and just wanted to say what an enjoyable blog you write. Thank you! Recipes are delicious and musings thoughtul and interesting! Unfortunately i cant see your playlists that you post sometimes as Ireland is not eligible yet?? . Loved the Bill Traylor Off Duo today… what gorgeous drawings!


    • Thank you so much! The Wicklow Hills of Ireland sound lovely. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your kind words. I’m sorry spotify isn’t available in Ireland. I try to post youTube videos most of the time, because I know spotify reception can be spotty. But youTube videos aren’t available everywhere either, right? Anyway…thanks for taking the time to say something encouraging.

  2. Hello, Claire! I just discovered your blog tonight through a comment on an article about crab cakes in the Guardian and I am so happy that I followed the link – I am delighted to find such a fascinating source of vegetarian recipes. You write beautifully, I love your taste in film and music, and I am definitely looking forward to trying your creations. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

    • Thanks for your kind words! It always makes me so happy when somebody takes the time to say they’re glad they found their way here. Makes it all worthwhile!

      Thank you.

  3. Read a few of your articles and been really inspired by your approach to food as found myself getting into a rut with what I know the kids will eat. You’re prompting me to remember to experiment with them some more, they are hardly going to starve themselves! Lovely as well to hear about your boys, mine too can be amazing but also in the next second infuriating, it’s such a primal relationship with such a complex mix of love, guilt and so much more that I also think comes out in what we try to express through the food we give them. I’m rambling but it’s got me thinking so thanks.

    • You’re rambling beautifully! I know exactly what you mean. I feel so happy when they eat, and so worried when they don’t…it’s really beyond rational thought. (I mean, it’s a rational worry, obviously, but the emotions seem to be tethered much deeper, somehow, don’t they?) But you’re right…they’re not going to starve!

      Thank you for your comment! It made me so happy to read it.

      • Cream Cheese and Cinnamon Crescent Rolls I’m always loiknog for easy and delicious recipes that can be made quick and with ingredients I already have. This next recipe is one of those. They turned out so gooey and yummy – you will definitely have to try it out for yourself! Directions

  4. Hi,
    I am a Brit living in America and was looking at various sites and came across yours. I recently turned to a whole food plant based diet who cheats with a little of her beloved cheese. I am so excited to see these recipes and looking forward to trying them out.
    I am hosting a bonfire night party for some colleagues off mine and will be trying some of these out.

    • Thanks for saying thanks!! Sometimes I’d like to live in the wilds of Scotland without an internet connection!! I hope she can translate all of the measurements in the recipes. I should start posting a translation myself, but I’m afraid I’d get it wrong!

      • I always use BallsUp Bingo and for one rsoaen only, they tell it like it is! If a site is giving players the bums rush’ BallsUp and their writers always speak out about it. This site really is on the proverbial ball’!Seriously, take a look at what they wrote about the 888Ladies Golden ticket promotion, what other bingo portal would be that upfront about things?Loving the line We wouldn’t go practising your joyous celebrations for winning a35 million, it’s about as likely as a flying saucer landing on the head of the Loch Ness Monster.

  5. When developing a site, be sure to indulce META tags on your files. META tags are keywords that search engines look for. You can find a website that can generate these tags and you would put it on your HTML/PHP editor.Some website providers have a paid subscription to forward your site to several search engines which may also scan your pictures in time and indulce it on their search system.

    • Thank you so much! I’m very honored. I would like to participate, but I don’t really read other food blogs (I know I know…) so I’m not sure I could come up with fifteen. I’ll give it a think.

      Thank you !!

  6. thanks for sharing all of this, claire. i was looking up a recipe for spicy croquettes after having had a most amazing little baked good in nyc and your site appeared. the recipes look amazing and i can’t wait to start making them!

  7. Hi Claire,
    Followed a link you gave on a comment in the guardian. How glad am I that I did. Great website I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to some of your recipes 🙂

  8. Hello,

    I too found your site through the Guardian link and am very happy that I ended up here. The tapenade looks delicious and you have a lovely writing style. Keep up the ‘ordinary’ work, it’s actually quite extraordinary.

  9. Hi Claire,

    I found your blog through you comment on the Guardian’s recent piece about Cornish pasties. As the vegan daughter of an ex-pat GI bride, I spend a fair bit of time revamping the traditional British dishes I grew up with (among other things). I particularly share your fondness for savory pastries; in fact, we’re expecting more snow here in central Massachusetts, and pie for dinner sounds perfect! In any case, it’s nice to “meet” you, and I’ve taken the liberty of adding your site to my blog roll.


  10. Found your site while looking for cracker recipes. . HOWEVER, I am an avid reader so had to read through all your “tabs” and especially “why savory pastries?” I am half Polish so we enjoy perogies…which I do make from scratch. An insatiable curiosity led me to look up the “history” of this pastry several years ago.

    To add to your essay about this versatile and intercontinental food staple….

    Whether a boiled pastry like a perogie or ravioli, or the baked version of the English pasty, almost every country has a version of a filled pastry. Pastries have been mentioned in writings dating back to the 13th century and have been found in cookbooks from the 1600’s (that I know of). Mention of pastries have been found in writings from Poland, Russia, Italy, France and England to name a few. Similar pastries are found in Central and Eastern Asia (India, Turkey, China, Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia, Nepal, etc. Eastern European perogie (plural) and its variants basically means “pie”. Other common names from the region have a root translation of “to boil”. They have also been called “pocket pies.” The term started as a description for folding ingredients into a ‘pocket’ of dough but later morphed into meaning a pie which could be carried in a pocket for a laborers lunch. They started out as “peasant food” but became popular with all levels of society. King Henry VIII is said to have eaten pasties. One of the reasons they were common in peasant cooking (especially versions such as ravioli, perogies, etc) was it allowed a little bit of food to be “stretched.” In other words, there might not have been enough meat to serve everyone in a family, but by chopping it up and using as a pastry “filling” the food would go further. Although people didn’t have what we nowadays consider “leftovers”, they could create entire meals out of a scraps of meat, vegetables, etc. The pastry acted as the main appetite “filler”, like the hunger satisfying qualities of bread, and also a way to ‘stretch’ flour further than traditional bread baking. While I agree with your aversion to including “hot pockets” into this food arena, they are ‘technically’ just another variation of this centuries old culinary creation.

    I hope you don’t mind this sidetrack from my quest for cracker recipes! To me the history, origin, and uses of the food, the dish, the ingredients, spices, etc. is as fascinating as the creation of the flavors, textures, and appearance of the final culinary delight! I am looking forward to trying some of the recipes I found here. (Okay super curious about the argula/balsamic tart)! And while I continue to dream about the fancy gourmet kitchen filled with super cool and nifty gadgets, I believe I will use my “ordinary” rolling pin for my crackers, just like I do for perogies, noodles, and pie crusts (especially as I don’t own a pasta machine).

    • Fascinating! Especially the change in the meaning of “pocket.” What is pierogies’ dough made out of? I’ve made ravioli, but never tried to make pierogies (yet!) They remind me a it of Indian samosas, which are stuffed with potatoes, except that those are fried.

      Thanks for the sidetrack! I, too, and fascinated by the history of the food, and you’ve helped me to understand it better!

  11. Claire, like any recipe there are several variations. Here are two sites I have used in the past – or I also have a couple of translated Polish cookbooks. One recipe is very basic: 2 Cups flour; 2 small or 1 large egg; few spoonfuls of lukewarm water. Mix together & word dough until firm. Second recipe: 4 Cups flour; 2 eggs; 5 tablespoons dairy sour cream; 6 tablespoons vegetable oil; pinch of salt; @ 3/4 cup water. Sift flour. Make well in center. Break eggs into well & add sour cream, oil, salt. blend ingredients (with fingers:-). Gradually add water working and kneading into a smooth pliable dough. Divide into quarters and keep covered with damp cloth. (Some recipes says knead, rest for 10 minutes, knead again. I have never done that).

    Roll dough to @ 1/16 inch, cut circles, Fill, fold in half and crimp. (I have tried the Pamper Chef device – don’t like).
    Cook in salted boiling water. (Add a few & gently stir to keep from sticking. When water returns to boil add a few more. Stir gently. COVER – steam helps them cook. They will float to top, remove and drain. General guide – medium heat. Savory fillings 4 -5 minutes; Fruit fillings 10 to 15 minutes.
    After draining, pat dry and especially for savory ones, heat oil or butter in skillet and brown pierogies on both sides (5 – 6 minutes). (I usually have sour cream or some other sauce BUT the boys just tend to shove them in their mouths without it).

    You can freeze before cooking. I did this only once…They didn’t make it a week in the freezer. I had shown my son how to cook them and he would make them for a “snack” after school.

    Of course my family likes the potato & cheese filling best! But I have started experimenting adding additional veggies in the potato filling. Haven’t been entirely happy with the results yet – so if you decide to experiment & come up with a hit let me know!

    If your family likes sauerkraut and mushrooms try a Kulebiak – a baked, rolled bread dough with this filling. I have reintroduced borscht (barszcz) – beet soup – to the boys here and this time it is a “like”. They are not picky eaters and will generally try anything.

    Once again, I am procrastinating. Take Care!

    • Thank you so much! I’m excited to try these. I’m sure my boys will love them, too. It sounds similar to the recipe I’ve used for ravioli dough, although I usually add some semolina flour, just for kicks. I like the idea of boiling then frying–it reminds me of making bagels, which I boil then bake. It’s such a lovely consistency when it’s done! Really, I can’t wait to try these! Wish I didn’t have to work this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

      Thank you so much!!

      And I made this crazy Coulibiac, based on a Russian version of a french recipe I found in an old cookbook. I wonder if that’s related to a Kulebiak? I bet it is!

  12. So glad I found your blog (through a link you left on a NYT recipe article comment). Your recipes look wonderful. More importantly, the spirit of your entries is so beautiful and warming. Good luck with everything you’re working on…your writing, thinking, raising a rambunctious, creative family etc.

  13. Hi Claire- It was great meeting you this afternoon. After I tackled the mustard greens, leeks and spinach, I combined a couple of words in the search and found you without any help from D. ! You’ve definitely inspired me! I am anxiously awaiting the post of the tart (?) you made for the shower. I will definitely be checking in each week when we pick up our CSA share! Again, many thanks and enjoy your beautiful family! Margaret

    • Thanks! It was nice meeting you, too. That was quite a party!

      If you get around to blogging any of your recipes, send me a link!

      (WordPress is pretty easy to use, and it’s free)

      • Thanks! Going to try the kale and new potato dish tonight! I have too much kale to juice it all.

  14. Hi Claire… Liz Silva from Hamilton MA here. Found your wonderful blog while cooking for a friend who is going thru chemo. She has chosen to become vegan, and does not have the energy to cook for herself. Your kale/sweet potato/chickpea stew was a big hit, even though she doesn’t feel like eating. Keep up the good work!!

    One question, is there a way to see all of your recipes at once? It may be a function of viewing the site via iPad, but it seems as though I have to scroll the whole blog to find them. Thanks!

    • Thank you for your kind words. It’s very generous of you to cook for your friend, and I’m sure your kindness is nourishing to her, even though she doesn’t feel like eating.

      I don’t think there’s a way to see ALL the recipes at once, because there are so many, but there is a search function, up on the right side, so if you type “Kale” for instance, every recipe with kale should come up. I don’t have the vegan recipes labeled as vegan, most of the time, and I suppose I should! And I don’t have the recipes by themselves without my nonsensical rambles, and I should probably do that, too!! Most recipes can be made vegan, with one or two substitutions. If there’s one you’d like to try that has dairy or eggs in it, let me know, and I’ll try to come up with a vegan version!!



  15. Greetings from southeast Indiana! We eat gluten free at our house and avoid foods with natural and added sulfites, along with other sad avoidances like tomatoes and strawberries… but we’ve learned to work around what we can’t eat (so as to not torture our daughter) and have found creative and wonderful new things to eat! I was looking for a recipe that included white beans and fig preserves and stumbled on your blog with a recipe that looks wonderful (except that it includes balsamic vinegar – sadly missed), but I think it will head me in the direction of a tasty new way to serve beans. I look forward to looking through your recipes for ideas! Thanks for taking the time to blog!!

    • Thanks for taking time to comment! It sounds like you have some challenging restrictions, but sometimes it can be fun to work around them. I hope you find a few things you can make here at The Ordinary! I do use balsamic a lot, but you can usually replace it with lemon juice, if that’s something you can eat.

  16. Hello Claire, i stumbled upon your blog while trying to find recipes for beets and i love the way you write and the perspectives you have. Reading your blog is so enjoyable! I am so glad to have found it. It’s been added to my feedly feed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, recipes and life!

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