Friday, October 28, 2011


My mom is doing a heroic job of bouncing back from her recent injury (broken arm, followed by shoulder surgery and a lengthy recovery process).  She's back at work full-time and so has had to adapt her work wardrobe to fit over a bulky sling.  Since temperatures are plunging here and she still has to hang outside for recess duty, she needed a warm layer badly, and jackets aren't cutting it right now.  She solved the problem with the most beautiful dark brown wool cape which fits right over her sling, and which she'd better keep one eye on after she recovers, as I'm not-so-secretly in love with it.

After seeing my mom rock this cape so effectively, my friend Angella showed up for a visit sporting an equally fabulous black cape as her winter layer of choice...
Like so many things of this nature, once I became interested in capes via Mom and Ang, I started to see them everywhere.  And the more I saw, the more I loved...
Stylish Scot-inspired capeness via The Sartorialist
Parisian chic, also via The Sartorialist

Cozy knit in my favorite hue from The Sartorialist, but booooo smoking (I hate cigs with an intense passion!).

Preggo cape awesomeness via Hatch
My new favorite blogger, Heather of L.A. in Bloom, rocking a toffee-colored Zara cape outside her gallery.  Super cool.
I fear if I owned this delicious Sundance cape, it would be literally the only thing I wore for the rest of winter.
Black n' tan J.Crew cape... on sale!
Things I love about capes:
1) They are incredibly forgiving.  Be you injured, preggo, or in need of hiding the damage from Thanksgiving, your cape has got you covered.
2) They allow you to swoop dramatically into and out of a room.  I really enjoy swooping.
3) Capes seem to be the ultimate in coziness.  You can really bundle yourself against the elements in one of these bad boys.
4) They are basically the adult equivalent of a swaddle, affording the same sense of warmth and security.

Clearly, I think I need to add a cape to my wardrobe this winter.  And while I realize that I just vowed to venture away from all things black or brown for cold weather, if you're going to be swooping around, it is probably best done in a neutral color, lest your drama veer from chic towards maniacal (its a fine line, friends). Hence, the dark choices above to display my current cape love.  I wish I had a photo of my cape-clad mama to include, but between work and PT, she's not currently available for photo shoots.  When she's doing better, I'll have to share her cape fabulousness as well.  In the meantime, she's truly a superhero.  Up, up and away!

Happy Friday, everyone! 
What are you doing to make dressing for the cold a bit more fun?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Loving Fall

Some of my favorite things about our New England fall so far...
Sunny, crisp mornings spent outside.
Family runs around the pond.
Stunning fall flowers at City Feed.
Cuddling on the couch on chilly afternoons.
Re-upping the tea stash, and having a daily cuppa during nap time.  Very civilized.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Life Changing, Energy Altering Beef Stew

I'd love it if I could be a vegan.  I can't.  Many of my health heroes (see: Kris Carr, Heidi Swanson) are ardent vegans or vegetarians, and I believe them when they say that their vibrant glow comes from green juices and the pure energy of fresh vegetables and fruits.  However, for me, there is something about a piece of red meat that totally revives my body.  When I am having a particularly draggy moment, the husband will inevitably inquire, "When was the last time you had some beef?"  If it has been more than a few days, he'll insist on zipping over to our healthy burrito joint and bringing me some carne asada, stat.  It's miraculous how much better and more energized and alive my body feels immediately after that infusion of red meat.  In fact, it was steak that initially lured me away from seven years of vegetarianism.  The hubs is certain that I have some sort of chemical balance in my body which demands this regular infusion of iron, zinc and B vitamins provided so holistically by our friend the cow.

When I do feel my body needing beef, I go out of my way to make sure that I satiate the craving with local, organic, humanely-raised beef, in a minimal quantity.  Not only does this meat taste better, consuming it sits better with me politically (yes, I'm one of those people, but I think you already knew that). I often turn to a beautiful publication called Edible Boston to get dialed into local purveyors and producers of food in our community.  It was in the fall edition of Edible Boston that I came upon the most incredible recipe for beef stew.

This recipe comes from Boston local farm manager and author Diana Rodgers, who happens to follow the "Paleo diet".  This diet is based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that early humans consumed during the Paleolithic era, and consists mainly of grass-fed pasture-raised meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.  Hardcore.  The funny thing is that in this article Rodgers describes several symptoms (regular sluggishness, digestive issues, blood sugar plummets), that were resolved for her once she started eating like a caveman.  The physical phenomenon she evokes is so similar to what I experience with my red meat infusions that I knew I had to dive in and try the recipes that went along with the article. 
Photo via Diana Rodgers
We love beef stew in the winter, and I already have two favorite recipes that I prepare (Jools' Favourite Beef Stew from Jamie Oliver, and Ina Garten's Beef Bourguignon, specifically).  Both of these recipes involve flour, potatoes, and butter leave you with a very indulged and heavy feeling (which can be quite nice in the dead of winter, but still).  Rodgers' recipe simply features beef, carrots, coconut milk and a tantalizing list of aromatics.  The ingredient list for this stew was so warming and unique, I knew I had to make a pot of this on Sunday.

Dudes.  This stew blew our minds.  Our house smelled so insanely good while it was cooking that the hubs texted me specifically to inform me of the olfactory madness going on while I was out running errands.  And the flavors.  Mmmmm, speechless.  I've never had something quite so warming and singularly satisfying.  Between the fresh ginger, the Indian-inspired spices and the coconut, I must say that this stew is the culinary equivalent of a deep tissue massage followed by a long soak in a hot tub.  After eating a bowl of this, I literally felt like I could bench press the car.  Really.

On top of that, it was easy to prepare... just a small bit of chopping and maybe 30 minutes of active prep before popping it in the oven.  I did have to invest in a $10 jar of coconut oil for this recipe, but after reading about the Paleo reasoning behind choosing this unprocessed, unrefined oil, I was sold anyway.  Did you know most of oils we use are actually rancid by the time they hit our shelves, and devoid of any of the nutritional value of the plants from which they're derived?  Coconut oil, besides being incredibly tasty, is nutritionally unsurpassed, and has a ton of uses for everything from beauty treatments to cooking projects.

All that is to say, this soup will be making a regular appearance on our menus throughout the winter.  The flavor combination is downright dreamy, and the satiety and sense of well-being it provides in one simple bowl is remarkable.  I'll definitely be serving this at many a dinner party to our carnivorous friends.  I'm also thinking it is the perfect dish to bring to a new mama friend to rejuvenate her post-partum energy.  Truly, this is a magical elixir.  Finally, I'll add that I don't think you necessarily need to serve the stew with anything.  I had a good-sized bowl and a glass of water for dinner and was absolutely stuffed.  And the energy provided by this power dinner propelled me through eight hours of sleep, a four mile run and a trip to the playground before I had breakfast.  Amazing.  Maybe these Paleo peeps are onto something?
Photo via Diana Rodgers
Curried Beef Stew with Coconut Milk
By Diana Rodgers
This dish is warm and very rich. It will fill your house with the most amazing aroma for hours as it simmers in the oven. Feel free to add different vegetables during the last hour of cooking.

Serves 4–6
5 tablespoons coconut oil
3 pounds grass-fed beef for stew, cut into 1- to 2-inch
2 medium onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 teaspoons coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups beef broth
1 cinnamon stick
1 can coconut milk (Rodgers calls for full fat, I used light and it was still delicious)
6 carrots, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro for garnish
1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2) In a large Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons coconut oil and brown the beef chunks in small batches.
3) Remove the beef to a bowl and add the remaining coconut oil, onion, garlic, ginger and spices (including cinnamon stick). Cook for approximately 10 minutes, then return the beef and add broth. Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in the oven for about 3 hours. Check periodically to ensure there is enough liquid. If it looks dry, add a little water to cover.
4) After 3 hours, add the coconut milk and carrots. Replace cover and leave in oven for one more hour. Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick. Salt and pepper to taste and serve, garnished with cilantro.

*Note: I was going out after prepping the stew, not to return until just before dinner, so I added the carrots and coconut milk with the broth and let it all simmer together for the full four hours.  It was fantastic this way, but next time I'd like to try it per the recipe, as I'm sure the carrots retain more color and crispness...not sure what effect that timing has on the coconut milk...I'll report back!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gwyneth's Chicken Milanese

For my birthday, my sister sent me Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook, "My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness" and I've been obsessed with it since it arrived.  From the loving forward by Mario Batali, to the Gwyneth's introduction where she so warmly captures her affection for her family, to recipe after delectable recipe, this cookbook is a winner.   I've earmarked dozens of recipes I want to make immediately, many of them simple Asian or Italian-inspired dishes that look perfect for a weeknight. 

While I'm no willowy blonde movie star, I feel a kinship with Gwyneth in reading her book:  she's a busy, working mom with a foodie palate, an organic obsession, health nut tendencies offset by an appreciation for decadence, and a true love of cooking that comes through on every page.  I'm dying to make her Indian-spiced tuna steaks, vegetable paella, sole a la Grenobloise, and every single recipe in the baking section, but I kicked off my Gwyneth kitchen extravaganza with her recipe for Chicken Milanese.
To be honest, I picked this recipe primarily because I was in the mood to beat the hell out of a few pieces of chicken.  I don't know how I've come this far in my culinary life without realizing the sheer joy of wielding a meat tenderizer in the evening hours.  Whatever you've been through during any given weekday, once you have pounded four chicken breasts until they are 1/6 of an inch thick, you miraculously feel better!  I'm also married to an Italian with an affinity for chicken, and therefore can't believe I've come this far without having breaded chicken in our regular rotation.  Chicken Milanese is the world's perfect comfort food.
This is one of those recipes that comes together very quickly, so your best chance at being successful rests upon reading the recipe all the way through, being prepared, and making an assembly line to prep.
Gwyneth totally cooks in her sweats, right?
Gwynnie offers four different topping options for the Chicken Milanese, and the one that was most appealing to me in the blustery fall weather featured roasted tomatoes and arugula.  The roasting process brings out the best of the sweetness in the cherry tomatoes and tossing them with the arugula wilts it slightly, making the most incredible sweet, peppery, savory topping for the crunchy, warm chicken.  We absolutely loved this dish, and I would even dare to call it a weeknight meal.  Chicken Milanese just earned itself a regular spot in our meal plan.  Kiddies love it too. 

Mock her if you must, but I love me some Gwynnie, and I adore this cookbook to no end.  You'll see many more recipe inspirations from it here, and I'd bump it right to the top of your holiday gift list, both for giving and getting.

Chicken Milanese with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula
Adapted from My Father's Daughter, by Gwyneth Paltrow
For the Chicken Milanese:
4 skinless, free-range, organic boneless chicken breasts, washed and thoroughly dried
1 cup milk
2 cups Japanese panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Tomatoes and Arugula:
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse salt
2 cups wild arugula
1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar

For the Chicken Milanese:
Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of baking parchment paper. Using a mallet, pound the chicken breasts until they're very, very thin--you should be able to almost see through them--about 1/16-inch thick. Put the milk in a shallow bowl and the bread crumbs on a large plate. Dip each piece of chicken into the milk and then dredge it in the bread crumbs, tapping off the excess. You should have a thin, even coating.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet big enough to hold 2 pieces of chicken in a single layer. Cook for about 4 minutes on the first side, or until evenly browned and crisp. Flip and cook for an additional 2 or 3 minutes, or until the other side is browned and crisp and the chicken is firm to the touch. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and the remaining 2 pieces of chicken.

For the Tomatoes and Arugula:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the tomatoes in a small baking pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're split and blistered and super sweet.

While the chicken is cooking, toss the arugula with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Fold the tomatoes into the arugula.

Place one piece of chicken on each of four dinner plates and mound a handful of arugula over each piece, making sure everyone gets plenty of tomatoes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pop of Color

The other day I completed my bi-annual closet swap ritual, where the outgoing season's clothes are wistfully stashed in a large Tupperware bin in the basement, and the incoming season's clothes are shaken out and re-hung in the closet, ready to report for duty.  This year, this project made me realize two things:
1) The whole summer came and went, and I pretty much stuck to the same rotation of utilitarian skirts and shorts, and most of my cutest, most summery sundresses never even saw the light of day.  How did that happen???
and 2) Whereas in the summer my wardrobe features all hues of lavender, turquoise, white, buttery yellow and soft red, in the winter, my whole closet is black, brown, and gray.  Snore.
Exhibit A.  Apparently I think that winter = funeral. Hello, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I believe that my wardrobe evolved to look this way through a mixture of New England pragmatism, mom-based desperation (when you are covered in peanut butter moments after getting dressed no matter what you wear, it is hard to want to branch out beyond the basics), and a genuine dislike of cold weather which makes me want to approach it by shrouding myself in all things dark.  However, yesterday, with all of this gray and brown staring me in the face, I realized that it is time for a change.  Having accepted and embraced the fact that we choose to make our home in snowy New England, I want to rise up to meet the cold weather with brights that elevate my mood.  And my son, lover of all things Elmo, will surely be more responsive to a mom clad in Muppet-esque red than in funereal black, right?  Sometimes, just adding a drop of color is enough to change your whole day. 

I'm not in an closet-overhauling place at the moment, but I do have a bit of birthday loot on hand for a couple of new pieces, and so I vow that with that and any future opportunities to grow my winter wardrobe, I will steer away from the black and from the tan, and add a pop of color to my life.  I turned to polyvore to make myself a little inspirational collage, and just looking at it makes me smile.
Pop of Color

What do you do to keep the winter blahs at bay?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best Trick Ever

We have a toddler in diapers.  We have a dog who goes out in the rain.  I like to cook with a lot of garlic.

All of this is to say that sometimes, despite my very best efforts, the house smells a bit.... not so fresh.  I have a nose like a fox, so I'm pretty diligent about throwing open windows, burning lovely candles and baking something once a week that makes the house smell delicious, but sometimes we need something a little extra to make the house smell as welcoming as I prefer. Yesterday, with the rain pouring down, the wet dog smell becoming pervasive, and guests on the way, I had to take action.
Love you, bud, but do not so much love the smell of your wet fur.
I always have a few essential oils on hand, and particularly love the scent of lavender, mixed with some lotion and rubbed into my hands, neck and shoulders before bed.  I find the fragrance so relaxing, and wanted to infuse the whole house with that pure floral elegance.  And so, I've discovered the BEST.TRICK.EVER.
Photo via Aura Cacia essential oils (my faves!)
Did you know that if you put about a cup of water into a saucepan on the stove, add about 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil, bring it to a boil and then turn it way down and let it simmer, in about 15 minutes, your whole house will fill with whatever scent you've chosen?  And not in a cloying, perfume counter, Yankee Candle way; never fear.  The stove top method mellows the oil and just makes the softest hint of it fill the air.  The effect is unbelievably soothing and so much more effective than lighting candles.   I loved the way this worked with lavender, but a peppermint, eucalyptus or clary sage oil would also work beautifully.  Next time your living space needs a bit of refreshing, give this method a try!  I loved how we became redolent of spa instead of pre-school so quickly.  Ahh...
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sweet Pumpkin Muffins

New England is on a fall weather roller coaster right now.  One day it is 80 degrees and all shorts and salads and spritzers, the next the temperature plummets and has you reaching for sweaters, squash and slippers.  Whatever the thermometer reads, it is mid-October and time for some autumnal activity in my book.  So despite yesterday's warm sunshine, the little man and I brought out the mixing bowls, pre-heated the oven, and baked some pumpkin muffins.
Pumpkin baked goods are everywhere right now, as are pumpkin baking recipes.  I like this one for a few reasons:  it uses a full can of pumpkin, so you aren't left wondering WTF to do with a some tiny third of a can of leftover pumpkin, and the large amount of eggs give the muffins an almost custard-y texture I adore.  I realize the two cups of sugar and one cup of butter might be a bit scary, but I feel that sometimes, when it comes to baked goods, you just have to go for it.  I also like how this recipe calls only for cinnamon, and not the usual melange of pumpkin pie related spices that so many fall baking projects include.  I love allspice, nutmeg and ginger as much as the next girl, but I think the simplicity of this recipe really lets the pumpkin flavor shine through.

The little man loves these muffins for an mid-morning or afternoon snack, but the big man prefers them as a dessert, so I added a half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the half of the batter.  I just scooped out the first dozen muffins, then stirred the chocolate chips into the remaining batter before scooping them. Now, everyone is happy.

Sweet Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 2 dozen muffins
4 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 15 ounce can pumpkin (just pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which is much sweeter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter or Earth Balance, melted
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1) Preheat oven to 375F.
2) Beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla and butter/Earth Balance together in a large bowl until smooth.
3) Mix dry ingredients together and mix into pumpkin mixture.
4) Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full (because of the 4 teaspoons of leavening agents in the recipe these muffins really rise... so don't overfill the cups or you'll have a hot mess on your hands).
5) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

*Just one little mom-note to conclude: it may be messy and kind of a pain, but baking with toddlers is incredibly good fun.  The little guy was so excited to be included in this project, and kept exclaiming "Muffins are yummy!"  "Time to mix!" and other adorable shows of being enthralled.  When his dad came home, he went careening up the hallway exclaiming, "We made MUFFINS!!!".  He was so proud.  Well worth a little flour on the floor.  Many more little one-friendly baking projects to come... 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nothing Like Some Comfies

I must share that my all time favorite pair of comfy/pajama pants are on super sale at J.Crew today.
These pants are luxuriously soft and have been deemed "cute" by the husband (a rarity in the comfy pant category, my friends). They are on sale for $29.99 down from $45, and you can get an additional 30% off today by entering the code "MUSTHAVE" at checkout.  That's 20 American dollars, ladies... a steal, I would say. The weather is cooling, and the time for comfy, cozy pants for movie watching, fireside snuggling and general lollygagging is upon us.  Get over to and snap these up!  This ends my public service announcement.
*And I am not being subsidized in any way by J.Crew for posting this, I just really care that much about your comfort.  xoxo

Thursday, October 6, 2011


My cookbook wish list is ridiculously long (especially considering how many I already have), but what can I say?  Some people collect stamps and coins; I collect cookbooks.  My cookbook library gives me a certain sensory/OCD/inspirational joy that few other things do.  So I had to share a just-out cookbook out that I spied today on The Wednesday Chef which just jumped to the number three slot on my list (behind Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, in case you were wondering).  Check out Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff.
The Wednesday Chef's comprehensive review makes this book sound like the canning bible of our generation.   Full disclosure:  the husband and I love to can.  With the help of my mother and sister, we made, jarred and labeled 100 jars of homemade salsa to give away as favors at our wedding.  Other years, we have put up pickles and jam, and the whole process is poetic and soothing.  The full, humid kitchen, the soft pop of the jars as they seal, the satisfaction of filling the pantry shelves with your hard-earned goodies; we both love this ritual.  Since moving to the city, we don't really have the kitchen or pantry space to properly can and store things, and so this harvest is passing us by without a major project on the horizon.  That's okay this year, but in our next home, I'd love to get back to preserving as many fruit and veggie goodies as we can get our hands on. 
Photo via Canning for a New Generation
That is where this lovely looking book would come in handy.  Most canning books are dusty tomes from the seventies that don't take into consideration today's lifestyles and palettes.  I'm drooling over the diversity of recipes that this book features, from kimchi to salsa verde, and the eclectic jams from black plum cardamom to tea jelly.  I want a wall that looks like the one above.  I can't wait to get my paws on this book and get canning!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breakfast for the Big Chill

For awhile it was hot here.  Really hot.  The kind of heat that makes you move slowly and not consider consuming any beverages that are not poured over ice.  Even last Friday, I was wearing shorts and a tank top as I went about my daily routine.  As our late-arriving summer spread into September, my morning priority after my usual bout of chores was getting us outside to enjoy the sunshine.  And so, I fell into a breakfast rut.  A delicious and healthy rut, but it basically revolved around my new cereal obsession, Kashi Golden Goodness.  This is one of the simpler Kashis, but I love it: tiny little whole grain flakes mixed with rolled oat and puffed wheat clusters.  I used to loooove Honey Bunches of Oats, and Golden Goodness is like a healthy, grown-up version of that cereal.  But I digress.  For most of the summer, I was throwing my Kashi in a bowl with some blueberries, pouring on my milk, down the hatch, and out the door we'd go.  Easy. Peasy.
Now, suddenly it is fall.  The temps here dropped twenty degrees over the weekend.  I love the crisp morning air, and am ready to add some heat and creativity back into my morning rituals, especially now that hunkering down and sipping something for awhile is far more appealing than rushing right out the door bright and early.

For starters, gone are the days of magical iced coffee; it is time for my espresso maker to get back to work.  This is the winter where I perfect my latte making!  I'm discovering some tricks (you can't tamp down your espresso too hard, and your dairy has to have some fat to it, or it isn't going to froth properly), and I hope to learn more as latte season progresses. I also love how the best professional baristas will make designs in the top of an espresso drink.  My favorite is when you get handed a drink with a heart on the top...
Latte from Joe - The Art of Coffee in my sister's 'hood in NYC.'s like the coffee dude just wants to start your day with a little love.
So, I've decided to start drawing on my own drinks, both to recreate the coffehouse experience on the cheaps, and to try to add a little love to every morning...
Latte a la SMJ, this morning in my kitchen.
Here we have a large, sloppy heart to represent all the large, sloppy love in my large, sloppy life.
I will report back when/if I improve at latte-heart-making.

For the rest of my cold weather morning fare, I once again find myself drawn to and inspired by the great photos by Jennifer Causey at Simply Breakfast.
I'm so ready for treats like eggs on polenta, toasty bagels with smushed avocado, toast smothered in preserves, and fried eggs on nook-and-cranny-licious English muffins.  It is time to slow our mornings down and enjoy a legit breakfast.  If Simply Breakfast doesn't inspire you to take the time to cook something proper in the AM, nothing will.  And if you need daily inspiration, Jennifer is coming out with a 2012 calendar of breakfasts!  This excites me an unreasonable amount.  If wanting a breakfast calendar is wrong, I don't want to be right.  
Hooray for brisk mornings, a stiff caffeine hit, and a beautiful breakfast with love on top.
What is your favorite cold weather morning grub?