Wednesday, November 30, 2011


feeling empowered today.

empowered by this idea

empowered by this power breakfast (you must try! delish!)

empowered by the little man seeing this gorgeous image and saying "it's mom!"
via The Sartorialist
It's nice to know that when you are sucking down a date shake in your brown hoodie and waiting for a Tylenol to make your headache abate, someone might mistake you for a willow-y Italian model.  Thanks, dude.

empowered to be heading out on a run on yet another gorgeous late fall day.  amen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pho Sho!

I'm happy to report that our Thanksgiving dinner was a smashing success!  The surprise scene stealer was not the bourbon turkey or the fougasse stuffing, but the phenomenal balsamic braised brussels sprouts with pancetta from Smitten Kitchen.
The recipe is labor-intensive, requiring about thirty minutes of your undivided attention adding ingredient after delicious ingredient to an aggressively simmering pan, but the end result is well worth the effort: each bite contains something a bit sweet, a bit savory, a little crunchy, a tad tender, and endlessly complex.  I would call this a go-to holiday dish for the rest of the season, as well as a perfect special side to accompany any mid-winter dinner party.

And even though I'm sure that your turkey leftovers are dwindling at this point, I had to share the other culinary highlight of our weekend, something that is sure to be a new tradition on every Black Friday to come: turkey pho.
I found this recipe on food52, and immediately knew that I had to try it.  I love a leftover turkey sandwich as much as anyone, but I never like the continued sluggish feeling you get from reliving the Thanksgiving over again in leftover form.  I also suffered from a bad cold/flu thing for much of the holiday weekend (such a bummer), and was on the hunt for healing herbs and spices to rid my system of the bug.  This soup seemed like the perfect hybrid of healing remedy and innovative leftover usage.

On Friday morning I simmered the turkey bones with a carrot, apple and onion from about 8am until 1pm, creating a rich, savory broth.  I strained it and allowed it to cool so we could skim the fat from the top.  While the little man napped, I shredded a big pile of leftover turkey breast meat by hand while chatting with my mom, who cleaned two heads of lacinato kale and tore it into bite sized pieces.   In the evening, as we sipped on prosecco, I toasted a blend of aromatic spices (star anise, coriander, cloves, cinnamon sticks) in a cast iron skillet to bring out their flavor, then let them simmer with my stock, a huge pile of sliced fresh ginger, and the greens of bunch of scallions for the duration of happy hour, then strained the broth again.  Finally, I threw in a package of cellophane noodles, the shredded turkey and torn kale.  Ten minutes later, dinner was ready, set up with a fixings bar of lime wedges, chopped scallions, chopped cilantro and Sriricha. 
Everyone raved over this dinner.  It was warming, filling, soothing, and a completely different incarnation for our Thanksgiving turkey.  I'm sharing it now because even though our turkey is long gone, I plan to make this soup many times over the course of the winter; I think it is my new favorite version of a cold-mending chicken noodle soup.  You also don't need a turkey to make this happen!  You could apply the same method to a leftover roasted chicken, or make a delicious vegetarian version by simmering the spices with a veggie stock, then adding all kinds of veggies (matchstick carrots or sweet potato, spinach, bok choy or almost any leafy green come to mind).  You could also make a simple seafood version with shrimp.  I can tell you that you'll see all kinds of variations of this recipe in my kitchen throughout the coming winter; I'm a little obsessed.  So obsessed, that I've decided I may need this shirt:
The perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite foodie.
I'm not saying it is because of the soup, but my cold is gone!  And with that I say, bring on the holiday season.  And more pho!

Turkey Pho 
via food52
This recipe makes 2 big bowls, I quadrupled it to feed our family with planned leftovers.
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick 
1 quart homemade turkey stock (or homemade or store-bought chicken stock)
1 bunch green onions (green top parts only) chopped
1 3-inch chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 teaspoon brown sugar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or more to taste
1-2 cup kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound leftover turkey breast, shredded
1 bunch (approx. 2 oz.) cellophane/bean thread noodles (or enough flat dried rice noodles to serve 2)
1-2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped- for garnish (optional)
1-2 tablespoon chopped green onions (white parts only), minced- for garnish (optional)
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
Sriracha chili sauce to taste

1) Toast the spices: heat a cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon stick and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices into a bowl to avoid burning them and set aside.
2) In a large pot, add the toasted spices and all ingredients from stock through fish sauce and bring to a boil.
3) Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
Taste the broth and add more sugar or fish sauce, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
4) Add the kale and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Remove from heat.
5)Add the shredded turkey and the cellophane noodles. Allow to sit for a few minutes while the noodles soften.
6) Ladle the broth into bowls. Divide the kale, shredded turkey and the noodles evenly into each bowl. Sprinkle on the garnishes and add sriracha to taste. Squeeze lime juice to taste over the top of your bowl before eating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Healthy Little Treat

Holiday weeks, even with all their fun, sometimes leave us feeling a little run down and worked over.  The stresses of travel, the indulgences in food and drink, and the removal from our regular exercise and sleep routines can send our bodies reeling.  I find the best way to combat this phenomenon is to take small steps to take extra good care of myself along the way.  I try to double down on my vitamins adding extra C, to be sure and take a run or a walk whenever possible, and to make a point of staying well-hydrated, especially when I am on chef duty and sweating away in a hot kitchen.  My sister recently taught me a trick to make plain old tap water a bit more elegant and nutrient-dense, and you may recognize it from your last spa day or detox experiment.  I've been enjoying this yummy, healthy treat all week... simple, lovely cucumber water.
To prepare a batch, simply slice a cucumber, add the slices to a pitcher of water, cover, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, strain the cukes out, and enjoy.  I've been making mine by adding a quarter of a cuke to a mason jar, and drinking straight from the jar as I go about my morning business.
Cucumbers have many health benefits: their alkaline properties combat the acidity common to so many holiday foods, and they are known to prevent water retention and bloating, while adding a dose of vitamins A and C to your water.  You could also add thinly sliced lemons to the water, and/or fresh mint.  Taking the time to make this delicious addition might make you more likely to reach for the agua and stay hydrated, and I find that these small nods towards self-care have a compounding effect.  If you feel like you are taking good care of yourself generally, you're more likely to go for that run, or get that extra hour of sleep that can make all the difference.  More simply, your guests may really enjoy this healthy beverage as well!
Happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beach Day

Bright and early Sunday morning, I bundled up to take the little man for a latte and muffin run while dad slept in.
I quickly realized we could both shed most of our layers, as it was going to be an absolutely gorgeous day.  With a predicted high of 65 degrees, we knew there was only one thing to do: pack up the car and head straight to the beach.
I love Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA for many reasons.  The flat, hard sand and wide expanse of coastline with only the shallowest of waves makes this the perfect beach for children to enjoy, and from October to April, dogs are welcome too.  The beach buildings and wide boardwalk steps are emblazoned with poetry to greet you.

And the smooth, blue water and endless sky just soothe my soul.
A boy, a dog, a stick: life is good.
Nothing like a couple hours of good, solid digging.
Chasing the waves.
My three boys. Love.
Living in New England, days like these are a beautiful gift.  Within weeks we'll be sitting inside watching the snow fall, and daydreaming of our late November day wearing flip flops on the beach.  I can't think of a better way to kick off this holiday week than to press pause on life for a moment and stare out at the water for the morning with my boys.
The best part?  Something about the sea air makes us all rest more soundly.
Here's to a peaceful, restful week for us all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Apron Armour

Are you like me?
Are you prone to fall down, stumble, trip, spill and otherwise make a mess?  Does flour come at you in a POOF of white dust when you accidentally start your stand mixer on high? Did you inadvertently pour half a soy latte into your purse after tripping over your husband's hiking boots when coming in the door with your hands full this morning? (Maybe that was just me). Do you also, despite a deep love of cooking and entertaining, sometimes get a bit of a flustered, unkempt feeling when called upon to quarterback the preparation of an important, fancy meal?  If you answered yes to any of these things, let me clue you in to my secret weapon, just in time for Thanksgiving.  It's called Apron Armour.
Antropologie apron amazingness... resistance is futile!
Years ago, my sister got me the most adorable apron from Anthropologie.  It is turquoise and yellow with deep pockets, and it has a charming matching pot holder mitt.  I loved it from the get go, but often forgot to actually put it on when in the thick of a major cooking project.  However, last Christmas, I hadn't had time to really think through an outfit when a posse of friends arrived for a cocktail party, so I just threw the apron over whatever I had on, and something miraculous happened.  I felt cute!  I felt pulled together!  I felt like some sort of modern Martha Stewart-June Cleaver-Nigella Lawson hybrid.  And I liked it!
Domestic Goddess
Here are the reasons that I think Apron Armour is the key to holiday success:
1) For the most practical of reasons: to protect your clothes, whatever they may be. As I mentioned, I  am something of a klutz, and usually spill or drip something on myself while cooking.  Even if you are just wearing yoga pants and your sister's college sweatshirt, this can be cause for disgruntlement.  With an apron on, you are protected, and don't have to fret a moment about spillage.
2) I found in my Christmas cocktail experience that wearing an apron really did feel like culinary armour; like there was a layer of protection between me and reality, like a football player probably feels when donning his helmet.  I know it sounds silly, but I challenge you not to put on a cute apron and not feel imminently more secure.  It is just one of those phenomenons it is best not question.
Adorable/flirty hummingbird apron on Etsy
3) Speaking of Tim Riggins football players, there is also something to be said for having the proper gear for any endeavor, athletic, culinary or otherwise.  Things like helmets and aprons were made for a good reason: to protect you, and because your activity is infinitely improved by their proper use.  Protection is always a good thing.
Gwynnie, I adore you always, but why are you even wearing this foxy apron if your bazillion-dollar white t-shirt is still exposed?  Oh yeah, because you are modeling for a photo shoot, not actually cooking.  It's okay, I still love you.  And I love that apron.  And the tea towel.  And that branch-y flower arrangement behind you. 
In short: wear an apron, feel cute, stay clean, improve your life and your mood.
Trust me on this one.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thinking Thanksgiving

This year, I'm the head chef for our family's Thanksgiving.  Everyone else is injured, inundated with work, or not naturally prone to the culinary arts, and so I am taking up the helm of this Turkey Ship, and I'm ready to bring it on home with a delicious, yet relatively simple feast.  Here is my menu as it stands now:
Nigella Lawson's Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts (basically warm, spicy, sweet mixed nuts... you can't go wrong)
pomegranate seeds and green grapes
a few hunks of cheese (probably a five-year-old gouda and a triple creme brie from the local cheese dude)
*I like to keep Thanksgiving apps sparing and simple.  With so many labor-intensive dishes in the meal to follow, you don't want your guests to spoil their appetites or have a bunch of extra, early prep on your hands.

Bourbon Turkey with simple pan gravy
Joy the Baker's Cranberry Sauce (Pictured above.  I'm now more or less stalking Joy the Baker.  It can't be helped.)
Fougasse Stuffing (Fougasse is a gorgeous bread made with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt.  Our favorite bakery in my parents' town makes a fabulous one, so I'm going to take a basic stuffing recipe and make the fougasse the focus of it, rather than those little Pepperidge Farms crouton bad boys you can pick up at the store.  I am totally rolling the dice by making up and not pre-testing a recipe for one of Thanksgiving's centerpiece dishes.  This is way ballsy.  Pray for me.  I'll let you know what happens.) 
Smitten Kitchen's Balsamic Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Maple Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes (I am going to completely wing this recipe and will report back, as these could potentially be a winner for all of your holiday season menus).
My mom is also going to make her mother's old-school and much-beloved recipe for a chilled cucumber-sour cream salad.

The areas in which I am still brainstorming are beverages and desserts.  Festive cocktails set the tone for the whole day and meal, and I really think you can't go wrong with a bellini.  I love to mix prosecco and pomegranate at the holidays because the ruby red color is so festive, but the wine shop on my parents' street also sells a special pear puree, and I'm thinking that would also be mighty good with some bubbly.  Why choose?!  In an ideal world, we'll stock up on prosecco and both juices.  I am also very intrigued by this Hot Vanilla Cider I just spied on Shutterbean:
With so many Knob Creek lovers in the family (hi hubs, hi bro-in-law, hi me), it seems we could hardly go wrong with this fun cocktail.

As for desserts, I'm caught in a Libran indecision land between adherence to the classics (my sister is a sucker for a perfect, flaky crusted apple pie) and food-blog-stalking innovations (see below for Joy's pumpkin pie bars).
I'm also half-inclined to order store-bought desserts from one of many killer bakeries in the area, because with a two-year-old afoot, having never cooked a major meal in my parents' new kitchen, and with all that everyone has been through this fall, trying to make flawless pie dough from scratch along with all those other goodies sounds perhaps just one step over the line.  And selfishly, I'll more than get my pie fix when my father-in-law brings on his epic pie-creating magic at Christmas (the man has a gift).

On the other hand, I may just have to try making this Salted Caramel Pie from November's Issue of Food and Wine Magazine.  It looks simply outrageous.
Only time will tell.
Special bonus: are you Thanksgiving-procrastinating and only planning your menu now? Does all of the above sound great to you?  I'm creating a comprehensive shopping list for my menu and would happily e-mail you that Word doc if you want to play along at home.  Leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail and I'll share the love.
What are you cooking/baking/eating/drinking on Turkey Day?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I'm sorry.
Somehow I haven't blogged in almost a week.
I've been a bit distracted.
Doing what, you ask?
I've been running a lot, out under the glory of all of these fall leaves.  In New England, when the weather starts to change, people tend to panic and spend as much time outdoors as possible, knowing that soon we'll all be shut in behind an endless wall of icy snow (or maybe that's just me).  With the help of some mama friends and the husband, I've also been able to do more runs without the stroller lately, which is absolutely phenomenal.  My back feels amazing, and the time to think and really run hard while not pushing fifty extra pounds is a complete game changer (so, big shout out to my mama posse and my hubs on that one, my body thanks you kindly).
I also just made these S'mores Brownies from Joy the Baker, which were off the charts obscenely delicious.  You add a cup of crumbled graham crackers and a pile of chopped marshmallows to an already decadent brownie batter, then toast a dozen marshmallows on the top.  Ob.scene.  They may also explain why despite all of the said running (I logged almost 20 miles last week!), my jeans are feeling a bit tight.  Funny how that works.
 Speaking of Joy the Baker + running, she has a podcast series that I've just discovered and I'm slightly obsessed with it.  Listening to her and her bud Tracy gab (in a very Seinfeld-esque way) about the "most important unimportant stuff in life" makes my runs go by in a flash.  I actually ran an extra mile and a half last week practically by accident because I was so caught up in their hilarity.  If you like to listen to podcasts, check these gals out.  I just love 'em.

What else?
I made some of my super delish Tuscan Ribollita to bring to a friend with a new babe.  I hadn't made this soup in awhile, and I must say, it is the perfect soup for the season, and very easy to make.  Whip up a pot tonight! 
Finally, I've been spending as much time outside with this guy as is humanly possible.  I realize that it is just wrong for a self-proclaimed environmentalist to be enjoying this current bout of global warming as much I am, but I can't help myself.  Seventy degrees in Massachusetts in November?  
Don't mind if I do.
More soon, promise.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fear Itself: Confessions of a Former Badass

Today I'd like to talk about fear.  Not haunted house, scary movie, fear-of-dying fear, but rather the run of the mill daily fears which can keep us from living our fullest and best life.  I've been doing a lot of ruminating on this topic lately.  Now that the little man is more of a fully-functioning, self-entertaining child than a needy infant, I've had a moment to reflect on life's changes since his arrival, and to discuss them a bit with my husband.  Not surprisingly, life now is somewhat unrecognizable to what it was several years ago, and while some of those changes are wonderful, timely, and welcome, in other areas we need a course correction, the primary one being our sense of adventure.
Hubs + me on top of Vermont's Mt. Mansfield in our super-adventure days.
Let me preface this by saying that I used to be a tad bit of a badass.  When the husband and I met and got together, I had been working on and off as a wilderness guide for the better part of six years.  I guided kayak trips on the San Francisco Bay and New Hampshire's Piscataqua River Basin, I co-lead a months-long backpacking trip for college students deep in the backcountry of California, I solo lead a work crew of high school students and spent a summer building a boardwalk across a marshland with my own little hands.  When the husband and I got together, I was running backcountry leadership training programs for the east coast's oldest conservation organization, teaching experienced mountaineers twice my age how to run their wilderness adventure trips.  I appeared to be fearless and imminently capable, which the husband has often told me is one of the reasons why he fell for me in the first place.

I will break here to highlight the word "appeared" from the last sentence of the last paragraph, because, here's the thing... I was not raised to be a wilderness adventure person.  I grew up in a very cushy New York suburb, and went camping a total of one time in my childhood, with a lovely Mormon family who took me and about 23 other kids on a weekend car camping expedition not too far from where we lived.  Mountaineering it was not.  I truly fell in love with the backcountry during my college years when I was an environmental studies major and my family took a (cushy) whitewater rafting trip in the summer between my sophomore and junior years.  Nights spent sleeping under the stars (and one particularly handsome raft guide) had me crushing on the wilderness lifestyle, and I decided that guiding was for me.
Deep underground exploring Vietnam's Củ Chi tunnels.  A bit badass!
From there on out, I had to fight every over-cautious, sheltered bone in my little suburban Jewish girl body to achieve my goal of becoming a Patagonia-clad, deeply tanned, uber-capable badass.  I pushed myself hard, and encountered a lot of fear along the way; fear that I've never admitted in the past, but here it is: guiding trips on the heavily marine trafficked, literally shark-infested San Francisco Bay?  Scary!!!  Being solely responsible for a half-a-dozen teenagers in the midst of a massive lightening storm in the middle of the night with no place to take shelter?  Terrifying!  On a solo overnight in bear country in the high Sierra?  Peeing myself in the tent with nerves. Yet, I did these things, and I felt a tremendous amount of satisfaction as I checked each one off my list.  Still, the underlying fear I felt even as I maneuvered in these high adventure circles had me feeling something like a fraud.
Running the 2003 New York City Marathon and continuing to dabble in badass.
Let us fast forward, then, to 2008-2009, when I was pregnant and a new mom.  People, this is hands down the most frightening thing any human can ever attempt to accomplish.  Gaining 65 lbs and pushing an 8.5 lb human out of your body?  Effing terrifying (...and yes, I said 65 lbs.  Got something to say about that?  Think carefully, or I will sit on you next time I am pregnant).  Having your breasts be someone's sole food source?  Mighty intimidating!  Using a robotic machine to pump milk out of said breasts between meetings in your work day?  Yeah.  Needing to operate in the world on an average 4.5 hours sleep?  Challenging! Having a piece of your heart and soul embodied in another human being out in the world to potentially get hurt in any number of physical and emotional ways every day for the rest of your life?  Well, I have no words.  It has been an adjustment to say the least, as has both juggling being a working mom, and then coming to terms with being a stay-at-home-mom and the guilt that comes with not making a financial contribution to the family (so complicated, these emotions!  I could go on for days!).
Let's be real: my most badass moment to date.
So, this brings us to the present day, and my current thoughts on fear.  Last Saturday, over coffee, the husband and I were talking about how different life is now.  The badass backcountry chick he was once all moony over is way, way back on the back burner of my personality these days.  I wish I was a real, legit, super-mega-total badass like my friend Haley who has been known to hit the backcountry with her newborn in tow, and casually breastfeed against a giant Sequoia, but my nursing tendencies turned out to run more towards sipping a glass of ice water while obsessively watching the Food Network.

Once I kind of got the hang of the new parent thing, we were then mired in moving and other transitions, and slowly but surely, our life has become more safe and predictable, with nary a camping trip to speak of in the last few years, and precious fewer hikes, surfs, and other adrenaline-boosting activities than both of us would prefer.  Now, with little guy being incredibly self-sufficient (except for the diapers) and adventure-ready himself, I know it is time to course correct, and become something of a hybrid of the wannabe badass I once was, and the more staid, predictable mom-person I currently am today.

So, how to do this?  Well, I'm thinking the answer is baby steps.  Yesterday, for example.  The hubs needed the car, and I needed to get the little guy across town in a timely manner.  The obvious answer?  Bicycling!  Something which I've been terrified to do with him in the city.  I witnessed a horrible and fatal bike accident right after we moved here, and it put the fear of city cycling in me.  I love to ride bikes, but am very cautious, and happily let the husband be the one with the baby seat mounted on his handlebars.  Yesterday, though, I had to bite the bullet, or lose the most precious commodity in my life, time.  So, on went the helmets, and out onto the city streets we went.  I definitely messed up the the gear shifting element (not easy to shift when a large toddler is front and center on your handlebars), and probably was biking about 1 mile per hour, but you know what?  I did it.  And when we reached our destination and I caught my breath, I felt that old, familiar satisfied endorphin rush.  And I liked it.

Now the thing is to reconcile our current reality and limitations with the original love of adventure and the outdoors that brought us together in the first place.  I've been so busy just trying to survive in the last few years that I've let my sense of adventure slide, especially when the couch is so cozy and the Friday Night Lights DVDs are so plentiful and captivating.  I've let that cautious suburban girl in me take over, even though I'm not as fond of her as I am of that tan chick paddling amongst the sharkies in the SF Bay.  I've let her take over largely because of fear; irrational mom fears like toddler + campfire or toddler + mountain cliff or toddler + open bodies of water, but also more simple fears, like being cold and uncomfortable when so much else in life is necessarily uncomfortable these days (see: grocery shopping with a two year old boy) or losing another night of sleep to being kicked by the little man in my sleeping bag, when good sleep still seems so, so very precious, fleeting and necessary to our sanity.  And in typical fashion, I've gone to extremes, and it's either a backpacking adventure or the couch.  Sigh.  How do we fall into these traps, even as we're so very aware of their existence?
Sea kayaking with my dad.  So relaxing and soothing it can hardly be considered badass, but an adventure nonetheless.
So, baby steps.  A small, nearby hike.  A mini, short surfing expedition.  A carefully plotted morning out fishing.  These things must be done, but for some reason, finding balance truly seems to be the most fearsome parenthood challenge of all.  And becoming a parent is hardly the only thing that can throw you off your game.  A move, an injury, a new job, a bad break-up; any major life event is usually enough to halt your usual routine and make taking it back up a striking challenge.  In our case, it has just been years, rather than weeks or months, since the shift occurred, making change all the more difficult.

Are you still with me?  All of this pondering leads me to this: a promise to myself and my family to prioritize the effort for balance, and a return to some of things that were important to us before life changed so dramatically.  After all, this is all we really have to rely on when life demands a fundamental shift from us: a silent, determined, will power-driven commitment to change.  I believe that people can change, but not overnight.  These shifts demand a daily nudging, a series of small, almost imperceptible mini-changes which over time grow to mean something truly significant.  So, that's where I am... slowing pushing the boulder of post-parenthood life a bit back towards the middle.   With some resolve and a little help from my dormant inner badass, I know I can get where I want to be.
How do you get out of ruts and channel your inner badass?
Woods walk last weekend.  Perfection.  Mini-excursions are the new badass.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


So.  I've been blogging for just over two years now, if you can believe it.  In the beginning, this was something I stole little bits of time for when I could, between pumping at work and commuting two hours a day on treacherous Vermont highways, and learning to become a mom.  As time has gone on, I've become more attached to this little place where I can ruminate, create and share, and I've decided it is time to consciously put a bit more time and energy into this project*.  Now that I'm at home full-time, I have developed an ambitious list of blog-related housekeeping to attend to, and I've just tackled the first chunk of it and am eager to hear your thoughts!

For one thing, I wanted to make the site easier to navigate, particularly the recipe section.  I aspire to author a cookbook one day*, and thought organizing and indexing my recipes would be a good place to start.  Going back through 2+ years of cooking projects was so much fun (if slightly tedious), and it was surprisingly satisfying to compile my recipe index.  Better still, seeing that list of recipes makes me want to add to and diversify it, so expect more original recipes soon. You can find the recipe index in the new top bar under the blog header, and I hope you find it helpful to your cooking efforts!  If it looks like I've forgotten something or I can otherwise make it more user-friendly, please let me know!

Also in the top bar you'll find two other new sections: about and press.  I'm hoping to push forward some readership-increasing endeavors soon*, and if you're not my mom or college roommate (hi guys!), I figured you may want to know just who you are reading about when you land here.  As for the press section, it is somewhat modest right now, and I've put it up there more or less to challenge/taunt myself into actively working to be more widely published*.  I'd like to be more ambitious about my writing in general, and this is my way of throwing down the gauntlet at myself.

*Public declarations of intent are scary, but necessary to my competitive, A-type brain. I've found that the best way to produce results is if I challenge myself to do something and write down my intent.   Some of my favorite life gurus have lovingly pushed me to take my writing to "the next level", so here goes...
I could only dare to dream of sporting such a casually tousled up-do and delightful desk bouquet whilst plotting my omnimedia empire...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Veggie Dinner of the Year: Miso-Curry Delicata Squash with Tofu and Kale

Last night I cooked the best vegetarian dinner I've cooked all year: Heidi Swanson's Miso-Curry Delicata Squash with Tofu and Kale from her new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day
This dish was so simple to prepare, so healthy, and so flavorful and warming; you must put it in your rotation for the holiday season immediately.  On those upcoming nights where you're feeling bloated from your cookie swap or that glass of egg nog you should have just turned down, and you're feeling like you just don't have time to cook with the holiday madness swirling around you, give this recipe a try.  It is seriously just the thing.  It is also terrifically vitamin-packed to keep the cold weather germs at bay.
As I set out to cook dinner last night, pulling tofu, kale, and squash out onto the counter, the husband and I exchanged knowing glances that read: "Man, wouldn't ordering pizza just be soooo much better than this hippie feast we're about to put together?"  But we were determined to stick to the meal plan, so tofu and kale it was, Saturday night party food cravings be damned.  I am so glad we did.  This light, energizing dinner sings with flavor from the miso and Thai curry.  The tofu, squash and potatoes get crispy, crusty and caramelized in the oven, and each bite has an incredible burst of texture and flavor, especially since the delicata squash skin is edible and adds a special chewiness to the dish. 
We served the dish over rice, but it would also be wonderful with quinoa or just on its own; the squash and the potatoes provide plenty of carbiness.  This is a very filling dish, despite its lightness, which is why I think it is perfect for the holiday season.  On those nights when you are really starting to feel gross, this dish will hit your nutritional reset button without leaving you feeling diet-y and deprived.  You could also pre-whisk the sauce and pre-prep the veggies to really move this into easy weeknight dinner territory.   Try it this week!
Miso-Curry Delicata Squash with Tofu and Kale
from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4
12 ounces delicata squash
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white miso
1 tbsp red Thai curry paste
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
4 medium new potatoes, unpeeled, cut into chunks
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups chopped kale, tough stems removed
1/3 cup pepitas, toasted, or tamari pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven.
2) Cut the delicata squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to clear out all the seeds. Cut into 1/2 inch thick half-moons.
3) In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, miso, and curry paste. Combine the tofu, potatoes, and squash in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of the miso-curry paste. Use your hands to toss well, then turn the vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet, and arrange in a single layer.
4) Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until everything is tender and browned. Toss once or twice along the way, after things start to brown a bit. Keep a close watch, though; the vegetables can go from browned to burned in a flash. (Note: It took me almost a full half-hour longer than this to get the doneness I wanted on my tofu, squash and potatoes.  It makes me wonder about our oven!  I googled the recipe to see if any other bloggers or cooks noted this cooking time discrepancy, and it seemed to be just me.  In any case, cook until the veggies and tofu are brown, no matter how long it takes!)
5) In the meantime, whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso-curry paste, then stir in the kale until coated.
6) Toss the roasted vegetables gently with the kale, pepitas, and cilantro. Serve family style in a large bowl or on a platter.

*due to a camera fail, photos are via Food is Forever, Chez Pim, and my darling lemon thyme

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mexican Comfort Mush

So... this is one of those recipes that I debated sharing.  
It was Wednesday.  I wanted enchiladas, but didn't feel like doing any rolling of tortillas, making of sauce, or scrubbing of baked-on cheese from Pyrex dishes.  I also had an afternoon run planned, so I wanted to be finished preparing dinner during the early-afternoon span of nap time, which meant employing the slow cooker.  I had a pile of delicious ingredients...
I also had a vague idea of how I wanted to prepare this dish.  What did I have in mind?  A lasagna-like interpretation of enchiladas, with layers of corn tortillas, black beans, cilantro, shredded chicken, sweet corn and cheese melded goo-ily together through several hours in the slow cooker with a tasty (yet store-bought) enchilada sauce.  I poached and shredded a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, then went to work, assembling layer after layer of the above ingredients in my slow cooker.
I then set it to low for five hours, cleaned the kitchen, and went about tackling the rest of my list of things to do.  When I had returned from my run, showered, and we had gotten the little man down to sleep for the night, I set about plating our dinner.
I had expected to dish up something that looked like this...
Photo via
Instead, I served this...
...which is really best described, as the post title suggests, as Mexican Comfort Mush.  The tortillas had basically disintegrated, becoming some sort of unintentional polenta.  The chicken had all but disappeared as well, as it was so tenderized by the slow cooking process.  But the dish smelled fantastic, and it was 7:45 and time to eat something, so I went ahead and served it, already kind of branding it as a failure in my mind before we had even taken a bite.

Here's the thing: it was really delicious.  Comforting, warm, nourishing, and full of protein, this dish totally hit the spot, and we both went back for seconds.  We kept remarking about how good it was, especially with a little dollop of sour cream on top.  It was almost like some sort of really thick, dense, tortilla soup/stew hybrid.  I was happy to eat a dish of this for lunch today, and I'll make it again, although I think that I'll continue to tweak the recipe until I get something that resembles more of a casserole than a mush.  The concept is a keeper, the execution just needs some work.

Despite its imperfections, I thought I'd share the basics of the recipe with you today in the hopes that maybe you can play along as I work on perfecting it. Veggie friends, you can play too, as I think the chicken was somewhat superfluous, and could have been easily subbed out for shredded sweet potato, or perhaps even tofu.  Please let me know if you try preparing this recipe with or without any tweaks, and together we can create slow cooker enchilada casserole nirvana!   Or follow the recipe as it is, and get ready for some mushy goodness that you can perhaps serve to someone who has recently had their braces tightened or their wisdom teeth out, or a toddler slightly less picky than my own!
Here's what I started with:
Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Take One
10 small corn tortillas, cut in half
32 oz. red enchilada sauce
1 8 oz. package shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1.5 cups corn kernels
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1) Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add chicken thighs and simmer until they are cooked through, approximately 10 minutes.  Allow them to cool, then shred by hand, or chop coarsely.
2) Cover the bottom of the slow cooker with enchilada sauce.  Begin creating layers of tortillas, veggies, chicken, cilantro, sauce and cheese, until you've used all of your ingredients.  Make sure that the last layer is covered in cheese.
3) Cook on low for 5 hours.  Serve.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beautiful Things

Happy November!  
I'd like to kick off the month with a random list of beautiful things currently catching my fancy...
I love this delicate Dual Birthstone ring from Ariel Gordon jewelry.  I think it would be so sweet to customize it with the birthstones of you and your honey (doesn't hurt that ours are two of my faves: amethyst and tourmaline), or what a perfect keepsake for a mama of two (or you could do both and stack 'em! Love it even more!).
Ina Garten's Old Fashioned Apple Crisp, which I made this weekend, and it was in.sane.  The husband called it "the best thing ever".  Her secret?  Tossing the sliced apples with the juice and zest of a whole lemon and a whole orange.  And that every recipe she has ever written is the best of whatever it is, because the woman is a food prophet.
This mojito looks glorious.  Summer may be over, but we can still enjoy a rum drink here or there, can we not?
This photo of a Japanese lantern festival took my breath away.
And this poem, which is one of my favorites, always lifts my spirits when I'm feeling down:

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
  love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.