Monday, November 30, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year

The Season has officially begun: Christmas music flows from every radio and TV commercial break, the trees downtown are covered with lights, and I'm getting crafty on iPhoto and designing a holiday card as we speak.  I love this time of year, but it can also be one of stress and unhealthy over-indulgence (don't get me wrong, I'm all for indulgence, but even within the realm of delightful decadence, there is such a thing as crossing the line into outright gluttony, and oh, what a fine line that is).  We land in January feeling bloated and bewildered, wondering what happened, and needing to create a long list of resolutions to feel better.  My idea for this year?  December 1 resolutions!

I'm emerging from my Prosecco-soaked Turkey Day ready to have a cleansing, clarifying, grounded and grateful December.  I'm launching a bit of a detox, and pressing the reset button to prepare for a healthy holiday. Why wait until 2010 to make a healthy change?  My plan:
1. Running.  At least twice and hopefully three times a week this month.  I love my lunchtime runs with my work buds, and want to hit the roads with the husband as well.
2. Yoga. Must. Go. Period.
3. Water water water.
4.  A brief alcohol hiatus, and perhaps limiting my vino to weekends and special parties only this month.
5.  Mostly vegetarian dinners for a bit.
6.  Plenty of sleep (as Baby J allows).
7.  A new leisure book.  Reading in bed is so therapeutic, and I'm not reading anything right now.  Any suggestions for a great December read?
8. Enjoy all the festivities of the month and soak in the quality time with the people I love.  Don't get caught up in rushing, consuming, waiting and worrying.  Savor each moment as it happens.
9. Gratitude.  In the hustle and bustle of this time of year, it is easy to forget what is important.  I'm going to spend a little time before I go to bed each night being grateful for all this year has given us.  I think that is going to be the best way to stay grounded this time of year.

 How to stay zen in an often un-zen season?
What are your favorite ways to stay grounded and healthy?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Case of the Sundays

The only problem with delicious long weekends is when they come to an end.  My sister and her boyfriend just got on the road and it was sad to see them go.  We all had a blast relaxing, eating, and playing with Baby J.  A little weekend recap:

Foreground to background: spice-rubbed turkey, stuffing makings, Joy of Cooking, pomegranate bellinis, sister playing with nephew.

Thanksgiving buffet with husband finishing turkey carving.

Sister's boyfriend's plate with a little of everything.  We decided his was the most photo-worthy. 
Well done, B.

To burn it off, there was football in the park (look at the blur of speed and agility that is the husband).

And a little family photo shoot.
Now, the holiday season is officially underway.  We're looking forward to a quiet one, with lots of R&R on the homefront.  I think to kick it off I'll be launching a week of detox.  I am feeling a bit bellini'd and pied to the max, and ready for some water and running in my life.  And sleep.  Starting with a nap right about now to ease my case of the Sundays. I hope you had a great holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I am full of gratitude this Thanksgiving.
I am grateful for my healthy, happy beautiful baby boy.
I am grateful for my husband and his humor, help, affection and admiration.  I am grateful that we're a team, and I am grateful that he is feeling better! 
I am so thankful to our families for traveling to be with us this holiday season and graciously sparing us air travel and long car rides with an 8-month-old baby.  You guys are the best!  We will make it worth your while, I promise!
I am grateful for my job, and for my fantastic co-workers who have done so much to make my transition into life as a working mom easy, hilarious and fun on a daily basis.
I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for my girlfriends, who are the light in my life and keep everything in perspective for me.
I am grateful for all the incredible food we'll consume this weekend: local, organic and delicious.  I feel blessed to have access to this kind of healthy food on a daily basis.  I am grateful for our beautiful co-op and all of our local farmers and food artisans!  I am so lucky to live in Vermont.
Finally, during this season of entertaining and special dinners, I couldn't help by be inspired by the photos from the White House state dinner last night. 

I LOVE the purple, green and gold colors together and the magnolia branches in the candlelight.  I want to bottle that shade of green and use it all over my house.  And how gorgeous is Michelle Obama? 

Photos from the New York Times
I am thankful for a stylish First Lady with the most awesome aspirtational arms (someday, maybe, with enough chaturangas, I might have shoulders like that), and I am so grateful to live in a country with this much bounty, and with a progressive and inspiring leader at its helm. 
Lastly, I am thankful for this blog, and those of you who have been kind enough to take an interest in it.  I'm so enjoying the creative space, and the chance to share thoughts, ideas, food and whims with you all.  I am so grateful for your comments and your time.  Thank you!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Master Menu + Perfect Prepared Pie

Better late than never, the husband and I finally sat down and plotted our Thanksgiving menu after Baby J went to bed last night.  Several of you have asked what we're serving, so I thought I would share.  Our guests include my younger sister, who has about the healthiest palette known to man: she doesn't do dairy or many fats, and is generally not a fan of Thanksgiving fare, so we've upped the veggie sides with her in mind.  We're going to start with my favorite holiday libation, Pomegranate Bellinis and some simple munchies:  olives, nuts, and a little goat cheese and crackers.  The main menu features:
Bourbon Turkey
Sausage and Apple Stuffing (the husband is winging this one - I'll report back)
Pan Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Green Beans with Shallots and Peppers (these will be roughly based on this recipe, but I'll use fresh orange peppers to up the plate-color-quotient and sub out shallots for garlic for holiday fanciness)
Spinach Salad with Pomegranate and Caramelized Pecans (goat cheese on the side due to 50% lactose intolerant guests)
Caramelized Corn with Fresh Mint

We'll end with apple and pecan pies.  I believe the boys are going to try their hand at creating the pecan one, but the apple one will most likely be a Vermont Mystic Pie.  If you've never tried a Vermont Mystic Pie, let this Thanksgiving be your first VMP experience!  You won't regret it.  Vermont Mystic Pies were created by our great friend Laura, along with some of the backers of Ben and Jerry's.  The husband helped in the kitchen in the early days, and the apples are from an orchard literally a stone's throw from where he grew up, so this is a product close to our hearts.  The pies are frozen and bake to perfection in the oven, so you get that whole amazing pie aroma filling your home without having to do any actual work.  The ingredients are all natural, with great Vermont products like Cabot Creamery butter, King Arthur Flour, and Champlain Orchards apples in the mix.  These pies are available all over the country now, and also come in blueberry.  They also make pie shells, which I'd highly recommend for your pumpkin or pecan pie if homemade pie crust is not in your repetoire.  An easy dessert filled with sustainable products is a win-win!
What favorite recipe will you be cheffing up this year?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Pomegranate Power

Thanksgiving has really come out of nowhere this year.  How is it the end of November?  Due to the mellow and small nature of our dinner this year, and the aforementioned illness we're combating, we haven't plotted our menu to the usual over-the-top extent.  Next year I'll likely provide you with a full-blown menu with recipes weeks in advance, but this year, ideas are smaller in scale and later in coming.  That said, one of my favorite holiday ingredients is the pomegranate.  The sweet-yet-bitter flavor, the garnet-like intense jewel color, and the unique and regal nature of this fruit make it a winter favorite of mine.  Pomegranates are also packed with vitamins and powerful antioxidants, which we could all use this time of year.  Some ideas for how to add pomegranate to your menu:
Cocktail Hour Pomegranate Bellinis
This is a favorite cocktail of mine, holidays or not!  In fact, the husband and I served these at our wedding.  You needn't use pricey champagne to mix this drink.  Prosecco or cava are much easier on the wallet and taste just as delicious.  You simply need a bottle of bubbly and a bottle of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice.  Mix two-thirds bubbly with one-third POM in a champagne flute and serve.  Repeat as needed! At Christmas, you can add a thin wedge of lime to the top to play up the green-and-red theme.  You can also float a few pomegranate seeds on the top for some festive decoration.  And may I suggest that you serve these delicious cocktails with the world's most addictive nut recipe, from NYC's Union Square Cafe, via domestic goddess Nigella Lawson?  I promise you'll thank me for this one.  The nuts are to die for and play off the pomegranate to perfection.
Spinach Salad with Pomegranate, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Pecans
You'll need a bag of baby spinach, the seeds of one pomegranate, 4 oz. of goat cheese (this one is my fave), and either a bag of spiced or candied pecans if you can find them at your store, or else you can heat a bit of butter in a pan, melt about a tablespoon of brown sugar in it, throw in a handful of pecans and stir until they're covered, finishing the mix with a dash of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Pour the hot nuts onto a silpat or piece of greased parchment and allow them to cool, then chop them.  Toss all the ingredients together with a simple balsamic vinaigrette (either your favorite store-bought, or whisk together equal parts good balsamic and EVOO with a drop of honey).  Finish with fresh ground pepper.  The pomegranate seeds make this a visually stunning dish.  
Pomegranate Brekkie Yogurt
Hosting overnight guests and want to serve a light breakfast before the huge holiday meal later in the day?  Try Greek yogurt (Fage and Oikos are my favorites), sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and finished with honey.  This is a light, sweet, tart, mouth-popping treat that leaves you feeling simultaneously virtuous and scandalous.  Pair with some whole-grain toast for a complete meal.  This was really all I felt like eating when under the weather this past weekend, and it made me feel much better every time I gave in to the craving.

Last but not least, for the pomegranate uninitiated, one of my favorite cooking blogs offers a tutorial on de-seeding these bad boys.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jewish Penicillin

I've had it.  Affliction after minor affliction has visited this house this fall: headcolds, sore throats, eye and ear infections, and now a bout of the flu for the husband and an unfortunate weaning-related malady for me.  I am determined to enter this holiday season with a healthy and rested household and to this end, this weekend I brought out the big guns in the form of Sweet Mama Jane's Double Chicken Soup, aka Jewish Penicillin.  This soup is labor intensive, and definitely a full weekend project, but its healing powers for maladies physical, mental and spiritual are unparalleled.  The best thing to do is make a massive batch when you are well, and keep plenty frozen to be thawed on the spot when you're feeling rotten and not in the mood to cook.  With my lovely sister-in-law in town this weekend, we were doing not much besides lazing about with the baby and relaxing together, so it was the perfect time to push through some Double Chicken Soup production.  Here's hoping it zaps the plague in this house and ushers in happy, healthy holidays.

2 whole organic chickens
5 large carrots
2 onions
1 apple
1 leek
1 cup orzo pasta
Salt & Pepper
1) Start by making a basic chicken stock.   In a large stock pot, place either one whole chicken, or the carcass of a chicken.  Meaning: you could roast one of the chickens that this recipe calls for for your Friday night dinner and then start this soup with the carcass on Saturday morning, which is what I did this weekend; or else, for a very decadent soup, you could start your broth with a whole chicken.  Either way is fine, just be sure to remove the giblets and rinse the chicken if you are starting with a whole one. 
2) Add 3 of the carrots, the onions and the apple (you could also use any other mild tasting veggies you have on hand that are at the end of their life, celery in particular works well, but also sweet potatoes, just nothing too acidic).  Fill the whole pot with water, and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer, and let cook uncovered for several hours, at least 3 and up to 6, until the liquid reduces by half.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
3) Strain the stock.  You'll need a colander or chinoise, and another large soup pot or several heat-resistant bowls.  Pour the contents of the pot over the colander, and let the broth strain out.  If you used a whole chicken, remove the meat from the colander, and shred by hand, and set aside in a covered container.  Discard the carcass and cooked vegetables (or, if you have a dog, and are feeling like scoring Depression-era-housewife bonus points, feed him/her the cooked carrots and make a friend for life).  Wash the stock pot and return the broth to the pot, and the pot to the stovetop.
4) Here comes the magic secret: now you start the whole broth process again with a fresh chicken.  This is what yields the richest, deepest golden, most amazingly healing broth of the Double Chicken Soup.  Remove the giblets from and rinse the 2nd chicken, and add it to the stockpot.  Bring the pot to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.  Allow to cook, uncovered, again for between 3 and 6 hours, depending on how much time you have and how quickly the stock reduces.  
5) This brings you to Saturday night if you are making this a weekend project.  You'll want to strain the broth again now.  Reserve the cooked chicken meat and shred it by hand, adding to the covered container (which is obvs being refrigerated).  Cover the soup pot and refrigerate over night.  The cold will cause the fat to separate to the top by morning.
6) The next morning, skim the fat from the top of the broth with a wide spoon.

Gross!!!  Hardened fat be gone!

7) Thinly slice the leeks.  In a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat, and add the leeks, allowing them to caramelize, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. 
8) Peel and slice the other 2 carrots and add them to the leeks.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
9) Boil a pot of water and cook the orzo to al dente.  You want to cook the pasta separately from the soup, rather than in the broth, because it emits gluten in the cooking process that would make the soup glue-y.  Better to leave all that gluten in the pasta cooking water!  Drain the pasta and set aside.
10) Add the skimmed chicken broth and shredded chicken to the leeks and carrots.  Bring to a simmer and simmer until carrots are tender.  Add the pasta.   Add salt and pepper to taste.  This recipe makes a generous pot of soup.  There should be plenty to serve to your patients, and then freeze the remainder.

Germs be gone!  Seriously.

Friday, November 20, 2009


So, as I mentioned, we are teething hell at the moment.  Baby J is mostly a champ about the whole thing, but he has been fussy and is so clearly uncomfortable.  He just wants to be cuddled and held right now, whereas usually he is Mr. Independent, hanging out playing with his stuff and not wanted to be tied down in our arms.  The husband was discussing this issue with one of the baby's daycare teachers at pick-up last week, when another mom overheard and interjected, "don't you have The Teething Tablets?"  The husband called me en route between the daycare and the co-op to inform me of this tip, and made a beeline straight for the natural remedies aisle, where he procured these priceless bits of loveliness.

Oh, the Teething Tablets!  Nectar of the Gods!  All parents must be informed of these magical pills. Says the Hyland's Homeopathic website, "This homeopathic combination of natural substances relieves the restlessness, peevish whining and irritability [associated with teething]."  ("Peevish whining." Love it. I can think of a few adults who could use these!) The bottle contains a warning that the baby may immediately fall asleep due to the instant relief.  Um, yes please!  No matter your opinion on alternative medicine, I highly recommend giving these a whirl if your little one is teething.  The tiny pellets dissolve immediately in the baby's mouth and contain a simple formulation of herbs that just seem to ease the discomfort like nothing else.  No frozen bagel or teething ring has the power to buy you a full night of sleep, which we all know is priceless.   I have made it my personal mission to spread the good word about this gem of a find.

What other products have gotten you through difficult rites of passage with your babe?  Let's share the wealth!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Better with Bourbon

We're having a small and low-key Thanksgiving for four this year, but I'm already pondering the menu.  One thing that will be on it for sure?  Bourbon turkey.  Years ago, I was watching Oprah, and saw Carolyne Roehm prepare a turkey this way.  I tried the recipe out (with some tweaks of my own, of course) and my family and I were immediately converted.  One year, the husband and I even drove from VT to ME with a turkey soaking in bourbon in the backseat, so true is our devotion to this recipe.  The alcohol infuses the meat, both brining and tenderizing it, and then evaporates away in the oven, leaving only its oaky, caramelized goodness behind.  The meat literally falls off of the bone.  I cannot recommend this recipe more highly.  It will rock your Thanksgiving world.

1 (16-pound) turkey (local & organic, if possible.  Ours will be from Misty Knoll Farms.)
2 yards cheesecloth
2 to 3 cups bourbon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh sage
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 liter bottle ginger ale
24 Hours in advance:
1) Soak one yard of cheesecloth in bourbon and stuff into turkey cavity.
2) Wrap the turkey with remaining cheesecloth and soak the cloth with remaining bourbon.
3) Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the turkey over 4-6 times.
On Turkey Day:
1) Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
2) Remove the cheesecloth from the outside of the turkey and stuff it into the cavity with the other cheesecloth.
3) Stuff sage leaves under the turkey skin, and rub turkey with olive oil, salt and pepper.
4) Bake at 275 degrees F. for five hours, basting frequently with ginger ale.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic

Well, nothing is tragic really, but for some reason I've had that Jimmy Buffett line in my head all week, and of course even on a respite in Maine, life gives you its balance of good and bad.
- loading the car on Saturday solo in the pouring rain.  The volume of stuff I brought with me on this trip is insane.  Dog bed, bowls, food.  Baby chair, bouncer, changing menagerie, clothes, toys, diapers, bottle and feeding set up, formula, food, stroller.  And for me: two computers, my work bag, clothes, shoes, toiletries. Sheesh.  We need a tractor-trailer.  Or at least a Thule box.
- Baby J has been suffering an ear infection and some evil, evil teething for the duration of this trip.  I've been doing battle with an unwieldy dropper and a pink bottle of amoxicillin + Baby Tylenol.  Not fun.  And honestly, could those 4 teeth just pop through already?  I feel like they've been hanging out just under the gums making our lives miserable FOR. EVER.  Poor little guy.
- Stopping to do a feeding at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store on I-93.  It was the best and most accessible stop, and is clean and well lit. But there is something about feeding your baby in the lobby of a liquor store that just doesn't feel right.
- Apparently, Baby J no longer naps.  Awesome.
- Weaning is a bitch.  There, I said it.  Baby J doesn't seem to care that much, and when it is over, it will be better for everyone, but in the meantime, ouch.
- I've been a touch under the weather myself.  Could be exhaustion, or a reaction to the flu shot I got last week, or revenge of the family headcold, but I am just not quite right.  The longer we are here, the better I seem to feel, though.

- Oh, just about everything else.  For starters, check out my Maine home office:

Coffee: check, beloved Mac: check, delicious breakfast: check, streaming sunlight: check, ocean view: check.  I could get used to this.

- And let's zoom in on my brekkie, shall we?  

Beach Pea multi-berry scone with homemade raspberry-blackberry jam and Brazilian coffee, all served on my mom's drop-dead gorgeous pottery.  Fabulous.

- The sparkling stars in last night's sky + the blood orange of this morning's sunrise over the Atlantic absolutely took my breath away.  Stunning.
- Grandparent time = soul feeding, life affirming, energy replenishing, calming & soothing all at once.
- Family dinner with baby centerpiece= everything that is right in the world.
- Walking on the beach everyday = dreamy.

All in all, this trip is mostly magic.  There is just nothing quite like being "home" to make you feel special and safe.  Reuniting with the husband tomorrow will be magical as well!  Baby J has been on a "dadadadadada" rant, I think wondering just where the guy has gone.  Can't wait to get the fam back together back home tomorrow night!   We are VT bound!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Halibut with Melted Tomatoes and Thyme

Life is good in Maine.  Today I rambled around town with my sister and Baby J, drank a pumpkin spiced latte, lazed around the house, and cooked dinner for the family.  The fresh fish here is so amazing, and this is my favorite way to cook halibut.  This recipe serves 4.

2 lbs. halibut
Olive Oil
4 handfuls cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bunch of fresh thyme, taken from the stem and coarsely chopped
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.  Rinse the halibut and pat dry with a paper towel.  Place in deep baking dish.  Rub with a generous amount of olive oil.  Sprinkle well with paprika, salt and pepper.  Roast in oven until cooked through, ~40 minutes (check often, as this cooking time depends on your oven and the thickness of the halibut steak).

2) Cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with olive oil.  Heat over medium heat.
3) Add garlic and saute until just golden.
4) Add tomatoes, cover skillet, and allow tomatoes to wilt, about 15 minutes.
5) Remove cover and stir in salt, pepper and thyme.  Continue to saute until tomatoes disintegrate a bit more, but still retain some shape.  A thick sauce will form in the bottom of the pan.
6) Remove halibut from oven and cut into serving sizes.  Spoon tomatoes and sauce generously over each serving.

We served this dish with saffron risotto and steamed asparagus.  The flavors were light and complimentary and dinner felt healthily protein-packed. I'm now off to get the kind of sleep you can only get at the beach!  Good night!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seacoast Bound

Ahhhh.... the weekend is finally here.  The husband is headed to Chicago for work, and I decided this was the perfect time to abscond to Maine with Baby J for a little mini-vacation and grandparent time.  Crashing with my parents is the best.  They always take such good care of us, and they live at the beach.  They also happen to live in one of the best little corners of New England ever, right near the fabulous hidden gem that is Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  I honestly couldn't be more excited if I was off to Paris. After a slog of a month or so, this will be such a treat.  On my top 10 list for this little getaway:
1) A second birthday party for my cousins' beautiful daughter, thrown by parents who know how throw a great party!  I can't wait!  Happy Birthday lil' S!  Baby J can't wait to hang out with you and check out your legendary jumping castle!
2) Hanging out with my sister who will also be at home.  Spending most of the day in pajamas, going for a latte run, maybe perusing some outlets, procuring some things to cook a lovely dinner, and chatting the day away sounds just about perfect.
3) Perhaps a wee bit of shopping at Goody Two Shoes for Baby J, whose recent growth spurt finds him with a serious lack of socks. 
4) Take-out from Loco Coco.  Yummmm.  Can't get enough of their taco salad with grilled shrimp.  And their flan is life-changing (inasmuch as a custard can be). 
5) I sadly won't be traveling with the espresso maker, so mornings will find me at Breaking New Grounds for a perfect latte.  They are no competition for the husband though.  If the lawyer thing doesn't work out, he has a very promising future as a barista.
6) Picking up some beautiful fresh fish from here to cook up dinner.  We just don't get enough fresh seafood living in land-locked VT, and mama has a hankering for some halibut (I'll share my simple favorite preparation).
7) Next door to the fish market is the charming little wine shop called South Street and Vine.  They have the most amazing selection of cheeses and they let you try before you buy... love that!  They also have a great wine selection with some very special yet affordable finds; "wine for the table, not the cellar" is their motto.  I can't wait to sip some and chat with the family while we all prepare dinner. 
8) Whenever I am in Portsmouth, I love to stop in and check out what's new at Nahcotta, an amazing little gallery/gift shop downtown.  They always have the most unique pieces by local artists; a feast for the eyes!
9) I'll have to bring the husband some of his very favorite bread from Beach Pea Baking Company; a fougasse for him, and perhaps a mini-passion fruit cheesecake for me.  Because you only live once...
10) Long walks on the beach every day will be priority #1!  I can't wait!
Brace yourself, seacoast, here we come!

Pics are of my mom's rock art around my parents' home. 
I love the way she uses nature to create meaningful design;  very organic and easy on the eyes. 
Can't wait to hang out among the rocks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For your morning

I give you Baby J's first encounter with a bagel...

What is this thing?

Whatever it is, it's awesome!

The start of a beautiful relationship. 
Minutes later, the bagel was on the floor, and the puppy was even happier than the baby.

And finally, Baby J's latest work of art.

Loving the purple and green and the delicate finger strokes.
Brilliant again, Baby J.  MOMA here we come.
Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Products I'm Loving

I am always on a quest for good, organic yumminess to add to my life, and  I've recently come upon a few notable products worth sharing. 

1) Dr. Bronner's Organic Spearmint Peppermint Shaving Gel The husband and I recently vowed to stop buying those pressurized cans of shaving cream which, even when CFC-free, will spend a lifetime in a landfill somewhere.  We are already huge fans of Dr. Bronner's Magic Peppermint Soap, whose delightful tingliness on my face is just as important to my morning wake-up ritual as my double lattes.  When I came upon this shaving gel in a local shop dedicated to organic beauty products, we decided to give it a whirl. We both love; the tingliness is still there and it leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth.  We both feel happy to be free of the metal can and its tub-staining rust rings. Says the husband, "it is kind of like putting grape jelly on your face, but it's cool."

2) Kiehl's Açaí Damage-Correcting Moisturizer  I've long been a Kiehl's junkie, but was recently hating on them after looking up some of their products of on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and being shocked and appalled by some of the chemical goo in my favorite products.  As if they sensed my disappointment, Kiehl's recently lauched their first 100% organic skincare line in these açaí products (there is also a serum, a cleanser and a toning mist, but I have yet to try those).  I decided to give this moisturizer a try upon needing a new product to accommodate my suddenly shiny post-baby skin (after years of nothing but dry, dry, dry).  I am loving this product.  It feels amazing on, has a great scent, and a little goes a long, long way.  It is supposed to be "damage-correcting", minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  Sold.  I use this during the day, and my beloved Lunaroma Cucumber Rosewater Facial Cream at night for a totally edible and organic skincare regimen.  Perfect.

3) Ecover Lemon and Aloe Vera Dishwashing Liquid In our continued quest to change over to all natural and non-toxic cleaning products, we've been exclusively using this yummy stuff.  It smells great, doesn't dry your hands, and just got all of the cheese off of a baking sheet that we used to make nachos grande for dinner (which is another post unto itself - delish).  One whiff of this stuff and the fake lemon smell of other dishwashing liquids will seem downright gross.

4) Weleda Baby Products  I think I may have mentioned these before, but they are so worth mentioning again.  My favorite is the Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash.  I love a two-in-one product, and this one is perfect for lathering Baby J head to toe.  It smells incredible, has no scary ingredients, and is so gentle on his skin.  I swore by their Pregnancy Body Oil as well.  Weleda just knows how to take perfect, natural care of mama and baby.  *Bonus tip: order your Weleda on with a case of diapers and you bump yourself into free shipping territory, baby. 

5) Nature's Path Flax Plus Maple Pecan Crunch  Granola.  How cliche.  Seriously though, the husband is a diehard sugar cereal fan, and tends towards breakfast offerings that include high-fructose corn syrup when left to his own devices.  I've long been on a search for a healthy cereal that meets his high breakfast standards: it must not taste like cardboard, it must not have fiber in the name, it must not resemble twigs, it must be delicious.  I finally hit the mark with this tasty cereal, which also contains healthy flax and omegas, along with pecan and maple crunchiness.  The whole box was gone before I could try it myself, so I will have to give a personal review next time, but I take the rapid disappearance as a high endorsement. 
And it is organic to boot.  Score.

What new (or oldie but goodie) green products are you loving?  I'd love to hear about your finds.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Just Because.

Sweet potatoes.  Delish.

New Brekkie Find

You know I love my steel cut oats.  But I am always looking for new and healthy quick breakfasts to add to the mix, and I just found a winner.  A huge sale rack of Old Wessex products caught my eye at the co-op last week.   After examining all of them, I settled on trying their Organic Creamy Oat Bran for a few reasons: 1) I have enough crunchy/toothsome brekkies in the mix with my steel cut oats and granolas, and 2) Something about a smooth, creamy hot cereal just seemed really comforting and appealing for the coming winter months (note: there is no dairy in this cereal).  This pick was a total winner.  It zaps up in the microwave in just two minutes, although it could be cooked on the stovetop if you were having that kind of day.  More often than not, though, I have no time to eat before leaving the house in the morning, and need to have something quick and easy to fix at my desk, and this fits the bill.  You simply put 1/3 cup oat bran and 1 cup water in a bowl, zap for 2 minutes, and voila: a hot, creamy breakfast that is low in calories and fat, and packed with dietary fiber, which makes it oh so filling.  Not being one to leave things unadorned, I add a half a smooshed banana (we have lots of those to get rid of since Baby J started eating small amounts of banana with his oat cereal), a splash of soy milk, a bit of honey, and a wee dollop of almond butter; upping the protein and vitamin content of this already awesomely nutritious breakfast.  The result: tasty, easy, filling and healthy, and eating this warm, comforting bowl reminds me of when my mom would make Cream of Wheat for us before school in the mornings.  Now if only my sisters were around to chat with over breakfast like back in those days... 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happiness + Sunday Soup

I am so happy today.  The crescendo of my fall chaos has come and gone, the sun is shining and the baby is napping.  We started the day with a delicious breakfast of poached eggs and honey-oat toast, plus Skype sessions with grandparents and good friends (always heartwarming).  Then it was time for my two favorite Sunday activities: a long walk in the woods and cooking up a big pot of soup for the week ahead.

This week I felt like something hearty, so I decided to make a potato-leek soup, but I wanted this to be a bit different than the usual variety.  The inspiration for this recipe is a baked potato with all the fixings (an idea I got from Kath).  The leeks stand in for chives, and you could serve it with garnishes of shredded sharp cheddar and sour cream.  The real gems of this play on a baked potato are the "bacon bits", due to a new product we discovered at the co-op this week.

Awww yeah.  These things are like a cross between Canadian and regular bacon; nice and thick and meaty, and a lot less fatty than any other pork product we've recently used.  To be honest, I've never cooked with as much pork as I have this fall (veggie friends and Jewish relatives, please avert your eyes), and I don't know what this pork-a-palooza is about, other than the husband scoring that guanciale, and there being so much amazing local, uncured product for us to work with up here in VT.  In any case, these bacon ends are pretty amazing, but you could absolutely leave them out of this recipe for a veggie soup that would be equally delicious (and a tad more healthy).
1/4 lb. uncured bacon ends (you could also use regular thick-cut bacon or Canadian bacon, or omit the bacon for a vegetarian soup), roughly chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
5 small red potatoes, cubed
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
6 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 cup milk or cream
Sprinkle of paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Heat a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the chopped bacon (or two tablespoons of olive oil if making vegetarian version).  Saute until the fat begins to render and bacon begins to brown.
2) Add leeks, turn down heat slightly and cook for 20 minutes, allowing leeks to caramelize, stirring frequently.

3) Throw in cubed potatoes and sweet potato, and add the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, and allow to cook through until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

4) Puree soup.  This is another situation where I love, love, love our immersion blender (put it on your Christmas list!), but the puree could also be accomplished by transferring the soup in batches to a blender or food processor.

5) Stir in milk or cream and season to taste with parika, salt and pepper.
Optional: To really play up the baked potato theme you could serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped scallion, and additional bacon bits.

I am so looking forward to the month to come.  This big event at work that just passed was my first major project to tackle post-maternity leave and the pressure was really on in so many ways.  Now that it is over, I feel like my whole being has exhaled.  As I sat among my cookbooks with a huge, steaming latte this morning plotting our Thanksgiving menu and chatting with the husband, I felt more like myself than I have in a long time.   I'm excited to have more time and energy to spend in the kitchen and the woods in the coming weeks and to share the results with you!  Happy Sunday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When the going gets tough...

This is it, people; the most hectic week of my fall.   My biggest event of the season at work is this Friday and Saturday, the little guy appears to be getting three of his top teeth all at once, and a head cold has once again descended on the house.  You will not be seeing any Beef Bourguignon this week.  When the going gets tough, the tough go to Trader Joe's.

No, there is not a Trader Joe's in the state of Vermont.  My love for this store runs so deep that I make periodic pilgramages to the one three hours away in Brookline, MA.  When there, I stock up on affordable and diverse wines, great cleaning products, and simmer sauces galore.  Simmers sauces are the nectar of the gods for working moms: chop some protein, heat some sauce, let it all simmer together while you drink a glass of wine and have a kitchen dance party with your baby, and suddenly, dinner is served and you feel much better.  Tonight, the household was crying out for Italian comfort food, so Trader Giotto's Cacciatore Simmer Sauce it was.  I chopped a pound of chicken, sauteed it with the rest of those mushrooms that were taunting me in the veggie drawer, poured in the jar of sauce, and simmered for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, I boiled a pot of water, and cooked some organic pappardelle noodles.

Pots bubbled away, and I drank a glass of wine, chatted with the baby, and answered my cell phone three times.  Then I drained the pasta, tossed it with the sauce and chicken and presto!  Dinner.

There were exactly two pans, two bowls, two forks, and one set of tongs to clean at the end of this meal.  Quickie dishes mean you can get back to folding laundry, making sure the baby doesn't attack the dog, and continuing to answer your cell phone that much more quickly.

Is this the kind of cooking I normally like to do?  Not at all.  I usually prefer all whole food ingredients, and sauces from scratch and not from a jar.  However, in a pinch, this still beats takeout on the economic and nutritional fronts, and still allows you to feel like you are actually cooking something for your family.  And to have that kitchen dance party, which is the key to surviving such stressful times.  I may go off the radar until this big event is over, but when I return, it will be with a bag of fresh groceries and something out of Ina, I promise.  Until then, I love Trader Joe's!