Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hayfork Wine Giveaway!

Beloved readers, I am so excited about this week's giveaway!  
What is it, you ask?  
A magic elixir.
Mama's little helper.
Made by some of my favorite people in the world.
The only SMJ giveaway you need to be 21 to enter.
I can't believe that I am lucky enough to offer two winners each a very special bottle of wine from the Hayfork Wine Company: one bottle of the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and one bottle of the 2008 Petite Sirah.  

Made by our dear friends Haley Wight and her husband, Erik Dodd, these incredibly delicious wines are made in limited quantity...you aren't going to stumble on these bottles at your local Trader Joe's!  Hayfork wines are worth saving and savoring with great friends on a notable occasion, or just sharing with your sweetie on a special Saturday.  Haley is in the sixth generation of farmers to grow grapes on her family's land in St. Helena, California and her love for the land and the work she is doing with her husband is evident in every sip of this wine.  
Haley and her dad at harvest time in 1981.
 Haley and her daughter on the family land.
The husband and I have been lucky enough to score a few bottles of Hayfork, and we've saved it for special nights when we have something to celebrate.  Anytime we've treated ourselves and opened a bottle, we've been blown away by the earthy, berry-rich flavor of this wine.  Family and friends who are serious about wine and who have gotten their hands on a bottle have all raved as well.  What an amazing experience to be in on the early days of something destined to be so legendary!
So, my lovely SMJ readers, now is your chance to be in on the early days as well!  
If you'd like to enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below.  If you want to, tell Haley and me your favorite way to enjoy a great glass of red!  I'll pick two winners at random this Friday, April 1. 

In the meantime, please be sure to visit the Hayfork website get on Hayfork's Mailing List.  Their next offering will be in May for their 2008 Hayfork Lewelling Ranch Cabernet, and mailing list members  can get in on an order.  Supporting a small family business and drinking delicious wine... is there anything better?
And thank you Haley and Erik... I am so honored that you want to share the good stuff via SMJ!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wish List

On my current list...
1) A pair of classic red Toms for spring

2) A sports massage from Greg Pratt at Etant Spa in Boston's South End (so. good.)

3) Heidi Swanson's new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day (coming out in less than 2 weeks!)

4) Because I can't seem to get my energy back post-flu(s), a run of Energy Enhance Neutraceuticals from Clary Sage Organics in San Francisco
 5) And this little number, from Gypsy 05 (with cardi, methinks it is the perfect spring mom uniform)
What are you after this fine Friday?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pasta a la Gwyneth

As we all bounce back from a seemingly endless bout of illness, I have an urge to purify everything in our lives.  If I could, I'd check us all into some sort of spa/monastery type of place, where we would sip veggie soups, breathe deeply, and get deep tissue massages until last week was a distant memory.  That not being possible, my next best option is cooking clean, healthy foods for us that help nourish our depleted systems.  And who better represents all things gorgeous and healthy than that blond goddess, Mrs. Coldplay herself, Gwyneth.
 Photo: Food & Wine
Laugh if you must, I love my Gwyneth.  I love her laid-back, Brit/NYC hybrid mama style.  I love that she's a macrobiotic health nut who also road trips through Spain with Mario Batali, eating every piece of cured pork in sight.  I love GOOP.  And I love her healthy glow in the photo above, which stands in stark contrast to the pasty, pale, wan look I'm sporting right now after a New England winter and Flu Fest 2011.  She has a new cookbook coming out, and a feature in Food & Wine this month.  One of my favorite gals in one of my favorite mags?  Certainly, I must cook every recipe.

We kicked off my Gwynie-themed menus last night with her Fried Zucchini Spaghetti.  It delivered exactly what I was looking for: clean, light flavors that were easy on our tender tummies, but with enough flavor and oomph to make us feel like we're finally back on Real Food after several evenings of toast for dinner.  The recipe is definitely a keeper: inexpensive and easy to prepare, it would also be great kid food if I didn't have the only child in America who won't eat pasta.   And gardening friends, tag this recipe for summer, when it will be a great way to use all of your zukes (which I understand tend to grow like wildfire).  Gwyneth, is there anything you can't do?
Fried Zucchini Spaghetti
from Food & Wine, April 2011  
1 pound small zucchini, very thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving  
1) In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the flour and a pinch of salt. In a very large skillet, heat half of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the zucchini and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the zucchini to a paper towel–lined wire rack and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining oil and zucchini.
2) Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the 1 cup of cheese, the basil and a generous pinch of pepper. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time, tossing well to coat. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and top with the crispy zucchini. Serve right away with lemon wedges and additional cheese.
 Enjoy in good health!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This is all that matters

Where to begin?

I've been missing for almost a week because that's how long we've all been pummeled, again and again, by the flu.  It started with little J having a sinus infection, which he gave to me.  The very night that I was thinking to myself "one more good night of sleep and I have this sinus thing beat!", the little guy proceeded to spend the whole night throwing up on me, my husband, and all of our worldly possessions (at least that is how it felt at 3am).  In the midst of this, the husband reported that he was coming down with the sinus thing, which hit him full force the next day.  And then as little J came around from the belly bug and started to improve, it hit the poor husband full on, and he spent the weekend battling away what has to be one of the worst stomach flus I have seen in awhile.  Finally, as he and the little guy both took a turn for the better, I took a turn for the worse, coming down with some hybrid version of the stomach thing which did not involve vomiting (thankfully), but did involve all the other symptoms suffered by the husband (and presumably the toddler, who is not equipped to complain as articulately as we are), including a migraine headache and the feeling that someone had beaten on my whole body with a sledgehammer.

All of this sickness has made for many wakeful nights at our house, which seems to have sabotaged a careful year of sleep training for the baby.  He went from sleeping eleven glorious hours a night prior to this plague, to going on a complete and utter sleep strike.  As in, he has barely slept during the night or napped in the last several days.  The husband and I have traded off who sits out the night with him, and who holes up in the guest bedroom with white noise and ear plugs, trying desperately to get the rest we need to really kick these bugs out of our systems.  The result has been a kind of a delirious malaise settling over the household, marked by bad jokes, bad hair, and limited patience.

All the while, we've been attempting to keep on trucking in our normal (and ambitious) routines; the husband cranking to meet deadlines at his two jobs, and me keeping on the job hunt, writing cover letters and calling daycares and trying to figure out what comes next.  Couple this with piles and piles of flu-laundry and my Quixotic quest to disinfect the entire house lest some other strain of the flu put the final nail in the coffin of our sanity, and you have a very tenuous situation.

It's really no wonder that sleep deprivation is a torture tactic for prisoners of war.  Lack of rest colors your ability to deal in reality in such a very profound way.  As a result, I've gone to some fairly strange and dark places in my psyche in the last week or so, coincidentally a period of time when the world has been rocked by more major tragedy than it is possible to comprehend.  And beyond what is happening in Japan and Libya, I've had some friends dealing with some very real health issues, which make me feel almost ashamed to be so emotionally weakened by a simple bout of influenza.  In all, times have been weird, and meals have been toast, eggs, cereal, and take-out matzo ball soup from my favorite Jewish deli in Brookline.  Blogging just didn't feel right.

This morning, I decided I had to make a change no matter what.  Despite having slept only between 11 and 1:30 and 5:30-7, I headed out on a run with the baby first thing, determined to let endorphins carry the day.  The bracing cold cleared my head and seemed to calm the stubbornly sleep-deprived little man.  I think my gait belied my exhaustion, though, because as I rounded the mile-mark of the pond, an older woman walking had a good chuckle at me, panting and pushing 50-odd lbs of stroller.  I decided to ham it up, and stuck my tongue out for effect, saying "he's heavier than he looks!" as I passed.  She shouted back to me in heavily accented English, "At the finish you feel good!  This is all that matters!" And I decided to let this quote buoy me for good.

Eventually we'll all feel better again, and the boy will sleep again.  I'm proud of the husband and me for sticking together and not turning on eachother in our stress and exhaustion.  I'm grateful that the flu will soon be gone, and that beyond this we have our normally robust health.  I'm grateful for friends and family who've supported us through these dark hours. Life is good, we are good. And at the finish we'll feel good, and this is all that matters!

I'm looking forward to getting back in my blogging groove, and have one of my very best giveaways ever up my sleeve for next week, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Out Sick

Stomach bug: Round two is plaguing us here at Casa SMJ.
In the words of Jon Stewart, we have "the bubons from the kids".
I shall return once I've poured bleach all over my home and boiled or burned the majority of our belongings. 
That is all.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Intro - Jon Has the Bubons Again
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook


Monday, March 14, 2011

What to cook this week

Yesterday we got all got home from several days out of town and I could not have been more uninspired to make a meal plan or grocery list.  I was tired from loading and unloading mountains of dog, toddler and mama gear, was suffering from a massive allergy attack, and couldn't think of a single thing to add to the husband's grocery list other than a bottle of Kombucha and pork chops (random, but so was my mood).  Now, with a night of sleep and a Zyrtec in me, I'm full of ideas!  Here are some fabulous dishes for you to try this week...

Photo from Food Network.com
I made this recipe around the holidays, and as I often do with soups, froze some to save for later.  I'm so glad I did, because with my stuffy allergy-head today, I was beyond grateful to have a delicious chicken soup on hand to soothe me without having to do any work at all.  I downed a bowl of this for lunch and was reminded of just how fabulous this recipe is; a tasty, healthy soup packed with chicken, white beans and artichokes, this recipe is perfect for the transition into spring when a warm soup sounds great for dinner, but something lighter than a heavy stew is called for...definitely give this recipe a try ASAP.

Photo from Food Network.com

I made both of these dishes this weekend, and they only furthered my devotion to the one and only Ina (and unlike so many of her recipes, they are both fairly healthy, especially if you do what I did and swap heart-healthy olive oil for the butter in the scallop recipe... it still worked brilliantly).  The scallops are light, flavorful and with a to-die-for sauce; the end result tastes like it took hours to prep, but the recipe comes together in about ten minutes.  And the rice will be a new household staple, especially for spring.  All you essentially do is make a pot of basmati rice and stir in chopped scallions, fresh dill and curly parsley with some fresh ground pepper.  Again, so simple, but it looks so elegant with the flecks of green and the herbal flavor really pops.  If you have a rice cooker you can set on a timer, and can clean your herbs ahead of time, I'd even call this a weeknight meal.

Photo from Martha Stewart Living

I haven't made this yet, but spied it over on Cup of Jo this morning.  Martha layers sausage, Swiss card and bechamel with noodles and thinly sliced lemons.  The result looks so fresh, lovely and like another perfect early spring dish.  I'll take Jo's word for it.  This recipe is going on the menu plan immediately.

Photo from Seeds of Change

I've told you many times before, but it is worth repeating: semi-homemade Indian food is an almost weekly go-to meal in my house.  We never tire of browning some tofu or chicken (tofu more often than not these days), throwing in some veggies (usually fresh spinach, frozen peas, and chopped peppers) and letting it simmer with a Seeds of Change simmer sauce (almost always their Tikka Masala, which must have addictive qualities we're not aware of, since we kind of can't get enough).  All of that happens in about 15 minutes, during which time you can boil a pot of basmati rice, or else toast up some garlic or whole wheat naan (we love the Whole Foods 365 brand) and call the whole thing dinner.   On nights when you don't feel like cooking but take-out isn't in the cards, this is a perfect happy medium.  In fact, Quickie Indian made it on this week's menu plan when I was feeling so "meh" as we tried to think of things to cook; it's our sure-thing slam dunk dinner, and is sure to be your's too.  Namaste.

Happy Monday, all.  Here's to a week of growing inspirations.. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winter's End

On Monday the temperature in Boston started in the 50s and ended in the 20s.  The poor hubs left the house in a vest in the morning, and was freezing to his bones when he came back in the door in the evening.  Unfortunately, that's just how early spring rolls around these parts.  And to my lovelies in Vermont who got two more feet of snow that very same day, my heart goes out to you and your over-used snow shovels.  Even with these surprise deep freezes and lingering winter head colds, I can feel spring just around the corner, which gives me the fortitude to embrace winter for a few more weeks.  In the name of loving winter while it melts away, here is my list of chilly weather things to enjoy before we're sweating it out at playground once more...

1) We have yet to make a really killer batch of chili with all the fixings this winter.  How can that be?  I saw the Barefoot Contessa make an award winning chili with brisket that looked to die for, and I can't believe I'm about to let the snowy season come and go without making my stand-by chicken chili.  Both recipes need to go on the meal plan stat, before the thermometer tips 50 again.

2)  A great restaurant is great all year 'round, but there is something about bellying up to the bar at my favorite place in Maine when it's really freezing cold outside.  Anneke Jans is right on the water, so you get that great whipping wind effect around the windows, and the dark ambiance makes you feel like you've just slipped into a cozy cave, perfect for hibernating.  The specialty cocktails warm you from the inside out and heat your cheeks to face the cold outside.  I love it.

3) I can't wait until my kitchen is filled with berries and stone fruits, but in the meantime, I want to roast the last of the beautiful root veggies and savor their hearty goodness.

4) Before life is all sundresses and flip-flops, I want to make like this gorgeous Italian mama, don all my winter favorites and bask in the crisp sunshine.  I love my tall Frye boots, beautiful sage cashmere scarf (a treasured Christmas gift from the husband many years ago), and wool houndstooth coat that I scored for $26 at a vintage store in St. Louis, and I want to enjoy them before they're cleaned and put away for a bit.
Photo from The Sarorialist

5) Blustery walks: on the beach in Maine, to town for a Caramel and Sea Salt Latte at City Feed, to the playground to be the only maniacs willing to brave the slide in 30 degree weather.
Being crazy enough to venture out in these temps means not having to share any of the tricycles!
I love feeling windswept, then coming through the door at home with a big exhale, cozying up on the couch, and putting on the kettle for tea.

I'm the biggest winter-hater of them all, and if I can come up with some things to love (and even miss) about this gray season, I know you can too.  What will you miss most when you're wiping the condensation from your iced coffee and seeking out a swimming hole?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blog Love

Do you all know about Babble?  It is a wonderful parenting website, chock full of resources on every topic and sub-topic of modern parenting you could imagine.  Besides featuring brilliant editorials on the latest in attachment parenting, the vaccine wars, the mommy wars, and any other prescient debate in the world of moms and dads, they've currently posted a feature on their top favorite Mom Food blogs.  While I'm not in the big leagues (yet) with such heavy hitters as the Pioneer Woman and the Smitten Kitchen, the power of democracy and good friends/loyal readers has landed me a spot in the top 20 of the "Who Do You Like?" section.  I'm so flattered about this, and have been riding the high of warm, fuzzy feelings since Friday, when so many of you busy, wonderful people took the time to click over and vote for me and get me into the top of the list.  I encourage you to go check out this feature!  If you're here on SMJ, you love cooking and all things chaos in the kitchen, and these lists will be full of great new blogs for you to check out.  And while you're there, if you haven't already, would you "like" me (how funny to ask that)?  I'm ready to take SMJ to another level, and would love to gain the new readers to get me there... placing high on this list would definitely help me in that effort!  Thank you for all of your love and support.  I have the best readers on the planet!
xo, SMJ

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good Times Gumbo

Mardi Gras is upon us, which is the perfect excuse to cook some slow cooker gumbo.  I have to say, at this point you all probably think I've been secretly sponsored by the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker Cookbook with the volume of their recipes I've been posting.  Let me say this:
1) I am obsessed with my slow cooker, and every recipe in this book as been easy, foolproof, and over-the-top delicious.
2) I only have one slow cooker cookbook, and it is this one.  Dare I say, it is the only one I'll ever need?  If you aren't a vegetarian, I can't recommend the book highly enough.  It features recipes from around the globe (Indonesian beef stew, Indian curry, ale-braised short ribs with a distinctly British feel), and great general cooking advice as well.
3) The weather has been consistently cold and gross here, and I can't stop braising and stewing things, and the slow cooker makes it criminally easy.  But never fear, the temps are in the 50s this weekend, and with spring just around the corner, I promise you more fresh, seasonal recipes soon, and ones which don't require this special (and beloved) piece of equipment, which not everyone has on hand.

That said, it was Saturday night, days away from Mardi Gras, and another headcold was descending upon the household.  It was time for something festive, something easy, and something to burn those germs out of us once and for all.  It was time for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. And here's what I love about the slow cooker: it was 9:30am, I was enjoying a pleasant latte buzz, and we had all just had some poached eggs.  The husband was working on the computer, and the boy was happily playing with his train set.  In this peaceful, energized quiet, which would be nowhere to be found around the normal time I cook dinner (5pm in a house with a toddler is not a pretty time), I put on some good music, and chopped meditatively for about 15 minutes.
I set the veggies and sausage aside and browned some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a pan.
I put the chicken in the slow cooker, added more oil to the pan, and stirred in flour to make a roux.
Gorgeous, no?  Then I added diced tomatoes and chicken broth, and brought the whole thing to a boil, turning it into the most elegant, rich, creamy sauce.
I tossed all the chopped veggies over the chicken, and poured this sauce over the top.
I hit start on the slow cooker, setting it to cook on low for eight hours.  Then I did the dishes.  This meant that by 10am, dinner was totally prepped, and except for this very easy-to-clean non-stick insert and our dinner plates, the kitchen was clean as well.  People, this is truly priceless.   Better still was the dish itself; rich, hearty, spicy and soothing, it is intensely satisfying without being overly heavy.  The veggies all just melt together, and the chicken is spoon-tender.  Let the good times roll...
Photo from Williams-Sonoma, as none of mine do the dish justice at all. 
I swear, I'm not being sponsored by Williams-Sonoma (but if anyone from there is reading, call me, we'll talk...)

Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
from the Williams Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker Cookbook (aka, my bible) 
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 lb. andouille or other spicy smoked sausages, cut into 1-inch slices
1/2 lb. okra, cut crosswise into thick slices
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced plum tomatoes, with juice
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, plus more, to taste
Steamed white rice for serving

1) Cook the chicken: In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker, then add the sausages. Scatter the okra, bell pepper, celery and onion on top.

2) Make the roux: Return the fry pan to medium heat and warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Sprinkle the flour in the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the broth and the tomatoes with their juice and increase the heat to medium-high. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Season with the 1/2 tsp. salt and the 1/4 tsp. cayenne, then pour the mixture over the vegetables, chicken and sausages.

3) Cook the gumbo: Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Adjust the seasonings with salt and cayenne. Ladle the gumbo over steamed rice and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Days Between

I like to keep things positive on this blog, and there is a lot in my life to be happy about these days: a beautiful family, slow cooker cooking, and two weeks of unlimited yoga at Back Bay Yoga are at the top of my list of reasons to smile right now.   However, like all of us, my life has its ups and downs, and right now the yin to my happy yang is my job hunt.  My job in Vermont wrapped up right before the holidays, and I'd dipped my toe in the job hunting pool while closing out that job, and dove in head first after the new year.  I know we're only two months into 2011, and I feel lucky to have had some great leads and interview opportunities thus far, but nothing has come to fruition.  

Several recently unemployed friends have taken the better part of a year or more to find something new in this still-struggling economy, so I know I have to be patient and be grateful for the interesting opportunities I'm finding, even if the process feels slow.  I also want to just enjoy this precious time I have to spend, totally unfettered, with the little guy.  However, when I find myself really enjoying a moment, like on our walk to town this morning in the bright, windy sunshine, it is tinged with guilt that I ought to be doing something, at that very moment, to further my search, rather than gallivanting about town with the child (even if that gallivanting is productive... hello armload of dry cleaning we dropped off and much needed playground stop for little J).  Where is the sense in that?  I know I'll eventually land a new gig, and when I do I'll miss these days in their own way, so I wish I could just enjoy them more fully right now.

I'm an avid traveler but a nervous flyer, and rarely read or do anything requiring focus on a flight because, as the husband says, I'm "too busy flying the plane."  So true.  I think that's where I am right now as well, unable to really and truly savor this time off ("funemployment", as my friend Jen calls it), for fear that happiness would mean I am somehow compromising my desire to be gainfully employed.  I'm caught between feeling a hole where my professional life usually is, and feeling very gratified as a full-time mom.  This is especially complicated by the really interesting, challenging work my husband and so many of our friends do all day.  I was having trouble keeping a rhythm pattern at the little dude's music class yesterday and found myself thinking, "wow, the hubs is having a daily impact on environmental policy, while I am struggling to keep 4/4 time... awesome."

There you have it, friends, a look inside the darker regions of my mental landscape these days.  All of this is to say that I'd really like to find challenging, meaningful work for a fabulous company sometime in the near future.  Prior to this, my last real job hunt was over six years ago, and I admit I'm feeling out of the loop on the latest and greatest job hunting vehicles.  My lovely sister-in-law introduced me to Indeed and sold me on the importance of LinkedIn, but I'm wondering what other advice all of you might have.  What's your favorite job search engine?  Networking tactic?  Boston-based company?  Any brainstorms you can offer would be gratefully accepted here or via e-mail (sweetmamajane@gmail).

In the meantime, I'm going to do all I can to enjoy the days between.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dinner for One

On nights when I'm home alone, it is really tempting to hit the cereal box or a lovely pile of cheese and crackers for dinner.  When I lived alone in my twenties, both of these were go-to meals, as was hitting the salad bar at Whole Foods on the way home from work, or cracking a bottle of red and a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans and calling it a night.  However, there is something truly decadent and grown up about preparing a proper dinner when dining alone.  It is really the ultimate act of self-care to say that you are important enough to dirty some dishes and a knife, just for you.  

There are a few different directions to go in with such solo dining:
1) Divine Decadence: buying a really beautiful piece of fish or a steak and preparing it exactly how you want it.  To eat something that would normally be served at a fun dinner party alone on the couch is kind of a revelation.
2) Freezer Frenzy: we've usually got a Flatbread Pizza and a couple of other choice goodies in the freezer, and to dip into the stash solo feels indulgent and like something of a raid.
3) "You're Eating What?":  this is when you prepare something that sounds absolutely divine to you, but that anyone else would give you the stink-eye for serving to them, so odd is the combination of ingredients and flavors (a certain someone in my life who likes mayo on bananas and shall remain unnamed, I'm talking to you).   

Option three is the one I went with last night when the husband was out playing hockey, and the result was so good I had to share it, not only in case you too would like these bizarre-o ingredients and want to give the dish a whirl, but as a reminder and public service announcement that sometimes a girl just has to grub down on what she wants, all sense be damned, and that sometimes indulging those whims is a path to genius.

In my fridge, I had enough Brussels sprouts to be a side dish for two or a big old pile of veggies for one.  I halved them all, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled them with Kosher salt and pepper, and put them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees.  As they started to bake, I realized I was really hankering for protein, and assessed my options.  Egg?  Eh.  Frozen shrimp?  Nah.  Then I spied a package of Applegate Farms Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage (I love this brand because unlike many other chicken sausages, they are high in protein, low in fat, so flavorful, and all natural).  I bought the sausage for a pasta dish I have planned later this week, but figured no one would mind if there were three instead of four sausages in that dish, and I stole one.  I sliced it, and added it to the sprouts about 15 minutes into their bake.  I baked the whole thing for another 15, until the sausage was beautifully browned, and the sprouts were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.  I dotted the whole dish with a bit of homemade marinara, topped it with shredded parmesan, and called it dinner.

Wow!  This dinner was so delicious and so satisfying.  I was thinking of various carbs to round out the meal (a piece of garlic naan was particularly calling my name), but decided to just eat the dish as it was and see how I felt.  It was a good reminder that you don't always need a grain or a carb to make a meal complete.  The protein in the sausage and the fiber in the veg filled me right up, and it was so delightful to have a warm, homemade dinner just for me.  A cup of peppermint tea, a square of dark chocolate and Oprah's Oscar After Party made my night a little slice of perfection.  

In busy lives with jobs and families, it is easy to let yourself fall to the bottom of the priority list.  Let this be a reminder that sometimes the simplest things you can do to take care of yourself can pay the biggest dividends.  For me, taking the time to make myself a weird but delicious dinner on a rainy February Monday night relaxed me into a glorious night of sleep that is making today better as well.  Sometimes all it takes is the contents of your fridge and just a few extra minutes to make you feel cared for and special.