Friday, February 25, 2011

Slow Cooker Indian Curry

This is not the most attractive dish I've ever cooked... a melange of brown mush is what it looks like through the camera lens.  However, it is exceedingly delicious, quite healthy, and a snap to prepare.  It is also worth mentioning that the little man ate this with gusto.  Leave it to us to have a toddler who loves Indian curry and hates mac and cheese! If you have a slow cooker, I definitely recommend that you give this one a try.
Indian Vegetable Curry
from the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker Cookbook
1/4 cup canola oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 cup hot water
1 lb. boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1) Saute the vegetables and spices
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, coriander, turmeric and cumin seeds and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the hot water and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. When the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat.
2) Cook the curry
Put the potatoes, cauliflower and green beans in a slow cooker. Pour the contents of the fry pan over them. Sprinkle with the 1 1/2 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the cilantro and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with salt and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
 Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mid-week Loveliness

Some things making me smile this fine Wednesday...

1) Tazo Refresh Tea
We've dipped back into a deep freeze here, and I've been glugging back steaming mugs of this peppermint tea with spearmint and tarragon all day long.  Both invigorating and soothing, it is my new favorite tisane.

2) After ten-odd years of yoga practice, I finally landed a crow pose last night!  I was so excited.  Feeling a bit hardcore at the moment, I must admit.

3) The winter marches on, and new and novel indoor fun for the little guy is priceless.  Did you know that most Barnes and Nobles host a weekly story hour with activities like coloring as well?  Little J and I first discovered this last summer in New Hampshire, but I kind of forgot about them until yesterday.  It was 20 degrees out, and so lovely to find a group of similarly desperate moms there with lots of little playmates for J.  We also really enjoyed browsing all the books and sitting on the floor reading some new ones.  This then segued into a 3 hour nap (aka time for me to productive!).  Win-win.

4) Our dear friends Kelly and Keith are trying to win a Nissan Leaf!
I can't think of anyone more deserving, as they are both dedicated environmentalists who totally walk the walk.  Their beloved and ancient Nissan Pathfinder is ready for an upgrade and I want to see them win!  Would you take a moment to check out their adorable video and vote for them?  THANK YOU!

5) I am guest blogging on a new website called Trufflehead to celebrate the launch of their very cool app.  I'm so excited about this cool app and opportunity!  Tonight I'll be cheffing up Turkey Spinach Burgers with Sweet Soy Ginger Sauce and blogging about it for their site which goes live next week.  Stay tuned for links and launch info!

6)  This guy makes me smile hourly...
Photo by my talented sis-in-law
I just sneezed, and a tiny "God bless you!" came from the other room, where the little man is quietly reading to himself in his comfy chair.  I mean... what kind of toddler does that?  Love this guy.
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vegetarian Musings

I was a vegetarian for seven years, in the somewhat predictable era between late high-school and my early twenties (who didn't dabble in some sort of dietary diversion during that time?).  My college roomie and I now have a good laugh over the show we once made of opening the windows and airing out our apartment in disgust when her boyfriend (now husband) would cook bacon there (we both now quite love all things pork-y). All of my veggie leanings evaporated for good when I moved in with guy roommates who grilled a mean steak during a particularly athletic period in my life post-college.   Then, as now, there is something about red meat that just replenishes my body in a way that nothing else does, especially after a long run.

With that said, I've been thinking a lot about vegetarianism lately.  It's kinder to the planet, the wallet, and the bod.  The warm weather that hit us last Friday got me in a spring cleaning kind of a mode, and it made me want to clean up our diet a bit as well.  I indoctrinated our beloved slow cooker with a slew of meaty goodness from short ribs to brisket to chicken thighs.  Finally, even my meat-loving husband has begged for mercy.  I also have some imminent bridesmaiding to do, and figure I could do with a wee detox to really be looking my best for these special occasions.  Now is not the time for a cleanse for a number of reasons, so my plan is to lean us into a bit of vegetarianism/veganism for a bit.  Nothing too extreme, just a little shift in our weeknight dining.   

I'm inspired to do this for a number of reasons:
1) Did you happen to catch Oprah's Vegan Challenge?  Oprah and 378 members of her staff went vegan for one week, and the results were phenomenal (almost 500 collective pounds lost), as was the episode about the experiment, which featured Michael Pollan and a fascinating discussion about America's meat industry.   Mama O also did a 21-day vegan cleanse awhile back with similar good results.  The episode was incredibly thought-provoking, and reminded me that meat is not a necessity at every meal.
2) Some of my favorite food bloggers are vegan or vegetarian, and reading their recipes makes me want to delve back into this type of cooking.  Mama Pea has been posting a month-long vegan eating plan she created for a family friend that is full of inventive vegan recipes to try (Quinoa Lasagna! Pumpkin Tofu Curry!  African Peanut Stew!).  Heidi Swanson has a new cookbook coming out, and is previewing gorgeous veggie recipes left and right! With literally months of recipes at my fingertips, there is no excuse not to dive in head first.
3) My name is Jane, and I'm a Whole-Foods-a-holic.  I'm sorry, I can't help myself.  From the gleaming produce displays to the ready availability of bizarre-o health foods I love (Kombucha, Svelte, Organic Lactaid), I've come to a point where it is hard to bring myself to shop elsewhere.  That's all well and good, but a mama has to stay on a budget, and it is amazing how much you can cut your grocery budget by skipping the meat counter or making just one or two choice purchases there, instead of having it be the bulk of your weekly shop.  In order to enable my WF habit, I'm going to cut back at the meat counter and stock up on veggies.  Even just with this week's shop, it is already made a significant difference.
4) Finally, some of the most delicious food I've eaten in my life has been vegetarian cuisine.  I was lucky to take a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia with two girlfriends of mine back in the day, and more often than not, we chose vegetarian dishes for our meals.  I still remember those curries, soups and stir-fries as a highlight of the adventure.
We particularly loved this place in Hoi An, Vietnam, where you would place your order, and then the chef would get on his bike and ride to the market for ingredients; so fresh and delicious, I dream about it to this day!

So, all of this is to say that you can expect some great vegetarian recipes here in the next several weeks.  I'm kicking things off with a slow-cooker Indian vegetable curry, which I'll report back on promptly.  And if you have any veggie faves to share, I'd love to hear about them.  In a family with lactose intolerance, cholesterol to watch, and a general winter malaise to shake, I'm excited to embark on this healthy change.  Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fantasy Nesting

Yesterday I visited a new friend's home for the first time. Secret admission: I love to visit other peoples' houses! The way someone chooses to decorate says so much about their personality and what they love. I believe a home is really a window into the soul. Plus, I love to be inspired by the choices others make with their space. Seeing little touches I wouldn't have thought of gives me so many ideas to steal in the future. The home I visited yesterday had me at hello in the entry way, with a simple red glass chandelier that took what is often a space just to pass through and made it into something special.  Another great thing in this house?  A small hallway-space that connected the dining room, kitchen and powder room was painted a gorgeous turquoise and equipped with a tidy downstairs changing table.  Again, a space that could have just as easily been nothing was made into something special and utilitarian to boot (because, really, who wants to shlep up a huge flight of stairs every time a baby needs a new diaper).  I had to restrain myself from whipping out my trusty purse notepad and taking notes for our future home.

As renters, we're putting a minimum of effort into changing this space.  We've hung our favorite artwork, and tricked out the rooms to make them safe, accessible and fun for the little guy. In warm weather, I plan to put much more energy into making our porch a great place to hang out with some inexpensive plants and the hopes that the husband allows me to live my dream of renting a power-washer from Home Depot and giving that wood the what for.   Other than that, we're saving our Martha-mojo (both energy and cash-wise) for a place that is truly ours.   In the meantime, it's fun to daydream and gather ideas from house visits like yesterday's and of course the endless shelter blogs of the interwebs.

Have you ever seen a brilliant blog called The Selby in Your Place?  It is one of my new favorites. Fabulous photographer Todd Selby visits the homes of interesting people (artists, chefs, actors and other creative types) and captures them in such a unique way.   I really loved a recent series he posted on the owners of San Francisco's cult-favorite Tartine Bakery, capturing both their home and their shop.
Besides making me miss San Francisco terribly and develop an irrational craving for croissants, the post made me think about lovely new ways to utilize our outdoor space.
I love that creative feedback loop that happens when you're allowed a window into someone's world.  
What's your favorite voyeuristic inspiration?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Food for Thought

The last few weeks have really been something.  Stomach flu + eye ulcer + mid-winter altogether conspired against my sanity.   However, I am cautiously optimistic that we've come out the other side.  I'm hoping we've seen the last of cold and flu season, I've learned valuable lessons about contact lens wearing, and with a high of 55 predicted for Friday, I'm ready to fly my spring fever flag high (margaritas anyone?).  Now, I'm facing down my rather lengthy to do list after quite literally not being able to focus on it for a bit, so I'm keeping this short and sweet today with some food for thought.

As I simultaneously job and daycare hunt and consider my next incarnation in the work force, I've had time to do a lot of soul searching about what it means to be a working mom.  My brilliant and beloved friend Bronwyn writes the Working Mom blog on Dot Coms for Moms and put up a fabulous post this week called "How Do You Do It?"  She's wonderfully honest about the times she feels she's not doing it all that well, and references some fantastic articles about the working mom conundrum.  Bronwyn's post lead me to watch a TEDWomen Talk by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg for the first time, and I wanted to share it here.  Sandberg talks about why women aren't, by and large, making it to the top, and what we have to do to fix that.

I have plenty to say about all this, but am still marinating on the topic.  I'm off to multi-task my afternoon away, but would love to hear your thoughts on this talk.  More of my thoughts in an upcoming post...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Look Away

Just when we had the stomach flu beat and I was feeling ready to take on the world, my eye started to hurt.  Really hurt.  Fast forward through three days (one with almost no vision in my right eye), two emergency room visits, three kinds of eye drops, one kind of eye goop and a bottle of painkillers, and I sit here reporting to you with a "corneal ulcer", which is exactly as excruciating and nasty as you might imagine.  The above photo really doesn't do justice to the discomfort and general unattractiveness I am experiencing (although there is really no medical excuse for those unkempt eyebrows!).   I can't see very well, which is making typing and everything else quite difficult, so I am going to take a short blog break until my vision returns to normal and I am not in so much pain.

In the meantime, thanks go out to little J, who was really good and patient during our four-plus hour ER debacle yesterday, and to the husband, who is doing a phenomenal job of pretending I don't look like Sloth from Goonies.
This is pretty much an accurate depiction of how I am feeling.
Stay tuned for more when things go back to normal (the eye doc says that should be by the weekend).
Until then, I'll be here, trying not to frighten small children.
xo, SMJ

Friday, February 4, 2011

CalNaturale Winners!

Happy Friday everyone!
I used the Randon Integer Generator at to choose 3 winners for the CalNaturale giveaway, and they were 4, 2, and 1!
This means Abigail wins the case of Sveltes, 
and @Chicrckstr and Alison will be getting prize packs.
Winners, please e-mail with your preferred mailing address, and prize pack winners, please let me know which 2 flavors you want to try!
Thanks everyone for playing, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Coffee Talk

When does one cup of coffee = three cups of coffee?
Discuss amongst ya'selves...
The answer is when it is poured by SMJ!
Lately, my "one cup of coffee" has become more and more like my "one glass of wine."  A cup of coffee is technically eight ounces, and a glass of wine is technically four.   In the morning/evening, I grab a cup/glass, and generally give myself a fairly generous pour of my beverage of choice.  I did a little test with the measuring cup on one of our recent snow days and found that my initial cup of coffee is probably more like 10 oz (love my big, pottery mug) and my wine pour is probably more like five (love my big, goblet-esque wine glass).  That's all well and good, but I then proceed to give myself a "splish more"; a warm-up of coffee, or just a little sip more of wine "to go with dinner".  In the end, by the time I've warmed up and splished over, I am actually drinking more like three cups of coffee and two glasses of wine.

I don't like to obsess over these things, and I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with a couple glasses of wine a couple nights a week; all things in moderation can be good.  However, I am starting to reassess my relationship with caffeine, and I want to be real with myself when I do it.  Just because you are using a single mug, it doesn't mean you're consuming a single cup; for way too long I've been equating one with the other! When you're out and have to purchase that second cup or glass, it is easy to walk away.  When you're home all morning, it is too easy to keep circling back to the pot.  Since I've been working from home, I've been circling back way more than is good for me and it is time for a bit of a caffeine intervention around here.

I love and adore my coffee.  Lattes make my world go 'round.  I don't want to quit cold turkey, but I definitely need to taper my caffeine intake.  When I assess my total health, the places where I struggle all seem to be caffeine-related: insomnia, anxiety, tummy troubles, occasional headaches and afternoon energy dips.  Check, check and check, all conventional wisdom links over-consumption of caffeine to these symptoms.  Everything I've read says that one cup of coffee in the morning shouldn't have a harmful effect, so it's time to face facts that while indeed that single cup of coffee is fine, my one cup is three cups and probably not the best for my bod.

Here are some ideas I'm going to employ to cut down my caffeine intake:
- dust off the French press and actually brew one single cup of coffee in the morning (I am physically incapable of brewing one cup in our large automatic coffee maker, which is really intended to brew eight to twelve cups)
- change my standard latte order from a triple back to a double and eventually down to a single (don't judge re: the triple... that's the standard latte at my local coffee shop, I just didn't say no and specifically order a double, and now I am hooked!)
- replace my coffee with green or black tea at least two mornings a week
- try having a CalNaturale Svelte for breakfast and see how the inulin does as my energy kick for the morning (one more day to enter the giveaway!!!)

Where in your eating or drinking habits do you kid yourself about your consumption?
And what do you do for your morning energy kick?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CalNaturale Giveaway Reminder

As I hunker down in this delightful ice storm, I thought I'd take the opportunity to remind you to *leave a comment on Monday's post for a chance to win some delicious CalNaturale Svelte energy drinks*!  These filling drinks are so incredibly creamy and delicious, they will make you forget all the chalky, bland protein shakes you have ever known.  Promise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


We live in an old building that has been converted into a triple-decker of apartments.  These apartments can be found in neighborhoods all over Boston, and I often wonder what these neighborhoods were like when these places were once single-family homes.  We live on the ground floor of the building, which is a boon for matters of grocery and baby hauling, and we were really sold on the place by the first floor apartment's access to a fenced in yard, great for letting the dog out and the husband's grills.  One not-so-great thing about first floor living in an old apartment like this?  The way the noise travels.  Obviously, it is more ideal to have people making noise below you than above you.  However, we lucked out with this place; the apartment above us was vacant when we moved in, and has remained so.  Until now...

Last weekend, on Saturday (which was also Day 4 of our virulent stomach flu, and the day my nerves had been whittled to wee shreds by days of getting puked on, feeling puke-ish, not leaving the house, and generally having my sanity tested), we got new neighbors.  They started moving in at midnight on Friday night and kept moving things up the stairs and around the apartment until 2:30am.  Sometime in there, I was puked on.  I didn't sleep much that night, and then again Saturday night, when they again chose the hours between midnight and 3am as prime moving time.  Who were these people moving in at this odd hour?, we wondered.  And then we met them.  On Sunday morning.  On the porch.  And it all became clear.

They were Dudes.  Dudes in their twenties.  Dudes with earrings.  Dudes who move into their new pad between midnight and 3am.   We met two of the three total Dudes, all of whom are still in or recently graduated from college or grad school.  One "has a job, but we're not sure what it is."  And, they informed us, we are going to get a fourth Dude, once they "get some wood and tools and stuff and, like, build a wall and make another room."  Seriously?  As we strolled away with our baby who goes to sleep at 7pm, we turned to each other and said, "Wow.  It really couldn't be much worse, could it?"  I mean, as neighbors go, I can't think of who I want to leave beneath less than three to four Dudes.

I joke, but I am pretty much devastated right now.  I am someone who goes to a lot of trouble to curate and consciously create my personal space.  Sometimes to my detriment, the aesthetics of my home really, really matter to me.  I've harangued the husband into installing dimmer switches in every room to achieve the mellow lighting effect I prefer in the evenings.  I cook and bake things that create inviting smells to waft through our home.  I buy candles and create fruit and veggie and flower arrangements, and frame photos I love to make this space ours.  I keep it as clean as is quasi-sane to maintain with a toddler and a dog.  I love to have good music playing and I love silence.  I am very purposeful about what I bring to my space.  So, to suddenly have these Dudes appear and have an immediate impact on my living space, one which I have no control over, irks me to my very core.

I am aware that the most telling word in the sentence above is "control."  That I can't control this Dude situation is what bothers me the most.  I can't control when and how loudly they play their music, I can't control when they choose to hammer things or vacuum or dance or have a parade of small elephants in their hallway (which is what I am pretty sure was happening last night).  I can politely inform them of our schedule and what we'd appreciate from them in terms of consideration and quiet, and I did so last night as sweetly and humorously as I could when I was home alone and they were hammering and nailing with a vengeance just after I put the baby down.  They were not pleased with my entreaty, and this interaction left me with shaking hands, a pit in my stomach, and an immediate need for a very large glass of Cabernet.  We can call the cops, I suppose, if things get really bad, although in a neighborhood where shootings and property theft happen with some regularity, I am not sure that the Dudes are really going to be at the top of their list.  Inevitably, what we're going to have to do is learn to live with this thing that is very much out of our control.

The husband can do that, no problem; he's hands down one of the most tolerant and flexible people I've ever known.  Me, well, I'm admitting it to all of you now: living with things that aren't in my control just isn't my best thing.  This, of course, flies in the face of all common sense about parenting.  Once you get pregnant, even, life starts being completely out of your control, and the sooner you get hip to that notion and learn to be happy with it, the better your life is going to be.  Most of the anxieties and ruts I've faced in the past year or two can really be traced back to me feeling the need to control a situation that I can't, whether it be our housing or employment or childcare.  There is so much that has happened that has left me feeling not at the wheel of my own life, and it really takes it out of me.

I know I need to make a change for my health and the health of my family, and I've been working on it.  Still, I can't help but feel like the Dudes are some sort of parable for me right now.  I wanted to live in this eclectic urban place.  I grew up in the suburbs and always felt fenced in there and like I wanted to make my life in a more colorful space.  So here I am in a city neighborhood surrounded by people of every stripe: the great lesbian couple next door, the Puerto Rican party house out the back door, the artists who make installments in their front yards, and the Dudes.   I'm worlds away from the quiet rows of tidy Tudor homes that made me feel suffocated as a wild teen.  I'm living the bohemian life that I had always imagined might appeal to me.  And with this comes a visceral need to let go of the quest for control.

You can't have it both ways, the saying goes.  If I want my life to be an adventure, it is going to come with elements I can't control.  I need to let go, but I don't know how.  Do you?  Dear readers, have you figured this puzzle out?  I came across a quote awhile back that really resonated with me, and I tagged it on to the bottom of a post in December, but want to put it out again now: "Perhaps true happiness comes not from creating the perfect balance of conditions but from finding a balance that doesn’t depend on it."  I think that applies to my hunt for a job and a place to take care of little J, it applies to my life in this neighborhood, and it most certainly applies to the Dudes.  I know this, but I'm just not quite sure yet how to get there.  Do you know how?  I love the comments and e-mails I receive when I pose these questions, and this one is the biggie in my life right now....

How do you make peace with that which you can't control?
Pray tell.
Thank you.
  The quote above and this photo are both from the Tiny Buddha website, which rocks.