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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Hi there.  Deep breath.  Life moves quickly, sometimes too quickly to even think about sneaking away and sitting down to write.  But here I am, and boy do I have beautiful things to report.

The three things from the title of this post all happened and I want to tell you about them all, though not in that exact order.

The second big thing that happened as of late was that I had a birthday.  April 5. Sometimes it occurs to me that every single day is the birthday of some person, somewhere on this big old earth of ours.  How lovely is that?!  Think of how special and wonderful you feel on your big day–that is how someone is feeling right now.  Maybe I’m an eternal optimist, but if that thought doesn’t make the world seem a bit friendlier, then I don’t know what would.

It’s easy to bemoan the prospects of getting older, but as my mother always says, it sure beats the alternative.  After all, on the cusp of another birthday, we stand to be the recipients of the vastly simple joys of being in our bodies–the sight of springtime flowers, the pleasure of laughing deeply and loudly, the ability to fill our lungs with air and bellies with good food.  All of this if only we can bear the facts that the next year will undoubtedly bring us weeds in our gardens, some type of small or large heart break, a cold snow, a bad sun burn, and yes, the small pains of growing older.  It seems like a great deal to me, especially when it means another year to enjoy treats like these profiteroles.

So now the third thing that happened was that our family had a baby shower for my sister.  Take everything I said about the loveliness of a birthday and multiply it by one thousand.  That is the joy we already feel for this little one we have yet to meet.  My contribution to the party was facilitating a onesie decorating table.  This way my sister and her husband will see sweet messages when they are changing the baby.  Check ’em out, we have some talented loved ones!

And now the first thing that happened.  I made banana oatmeal chocolate chip muffins.  Boom!  Just like that, I was sitting at work and I started thinking about them.  Sometimes, I read a recipe and it stays with me in the back of my brain, slowly nudging at me trying to get my attention, like a hungry kitten paws at your leg.  But other times, it hits me like a ton of bricks, a food that I’m not sure how to make yet, a recipe I’ve never read but am sure exists somewhere out there, in the great expanse of cookbook land.

And so it was with these muffins.  I knew I had bananas at home–if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’ve been loving baking with bananas lately–and I was in serious need of a muffin.  But I wanted one that was more wholesome than sickly sweet dessert.  I combined a few recipes I had, tweaking and tasting until, I got this….


dry ingredients:

2 c flour- 1 ¼  cup whole wheat pastry flour ¾ white flour
½ c oats  (old fashioned)
½ c sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
½ c dark choc chips
wet ingredients:

6 tbsp butter, melted
3 mashed bananas
1 whole egg, 1 egg white
½ cup yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Note:  I think that 1/2 cup sugar was actually too much for my taste buds (although this amount is considerably less than your typical muffin) so if you want to reduce it, please do!  I think the chocolate chips add a lot of sweetness anyhow.  Also, by all means play around with the flour, I am trying to do less and less white but everyone’s taste buds are different.

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter muffin cups or use papers.  This yields about 18 muffins of a good size.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and add to dry, stir until incorporated but don’t overmix.

Once everything is mixed up, fill muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake about 25 minutes or until they are firm in the middle.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

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Well folks, it’s over!!  Last Sunday I completed the New York City Half Marathon.  I was happy before (here with my friend Laura):

And still smiling after the finish (here with my friends Jeanne, Andy, Danielle, and Katie and with my parents):

My training paid off and my run was really enjoyable and energizing thanks to the support of my family and friends.  But boy have I been feeling the need to relax and catch up on the bits and pieces of life that slipped through the cracks during the weeks leading up to the race.  In short, I’ve been a busy bee these days!  I haven’t much felt like cooking elaborate meals and doing the tremendous dish washing that entails.  Simple dinners and soups (I made weeks ago and put in the freezer) have lately been playing a starring role in my kitchen.

Although I love making things from scratch and using fresh, local, healthy ingredients it’s always more of an ideal, an event that occurs a few times a week, than a daily reality.  I rarely cook every single night of the week and I probably wouldn’t want to!  I don’t really know anyone who does–unless they are a chef or they don’t work full time.

My mom is a wonderful cook who somehow managed to work and cook several times a week for her family of four.  We ate dinner together every single night and now that I’m on my own and trying to work and cook for myself, I can scarcely imagine how she juggled everything!  I’ve taken on several of her recipes and tips over time but I recently asked her to refresh my memory of our “daily dinners”, the simple things we ate that tasted special just because we were together.  Here is what she said:

When you were little, usually one night a week we had spaghetti, sometimes meatballs, and we’d get 2 nights out of that, with a big loaf of Italian bread.  We also had French toast often, kind of a ‘breakfast for dinner’ theme, or pancakes and a side of applesauce.  I know we had the oven cheese fondue at least once every 2 weeks, cause you loved it.  If I had left over baked potatoes, we’d have omelettes and I’d dice the potatoes and make homefries.  Tacos were very popular with you guys, although if you remember you did not eat veggies back in the day, so you mostly had meat and lots of shredded cheese!  On Friday nights, we often had scrambled eggs and toast, or grilled cheese sandwiches – I always tried to work in a fruit or veggie side but there was a picky eater who shall go unnamed (look in the mirror) who made nutritionally balanced meals somewhat challenging!

I couldn’t help but laugh very loudly, remembering what an incredibly picky eater I was!!  I’m sure my eating habits didn’t make it any easier for her to make healthy meals for the family.  I’m glad I turned out alright despite the fact that I refused to eat anything green up through my teens!

So here are some tips, passed from my mom and from me, to ease that ever-present question, “what am I going to eat for dinner?”:

-In my kitchen, as in my mom’s, cooking soups and stews are a weekly winter ritual.  They are perfect because unlike other dishes, they reheat beautifully.  Right after eating my dinner helping, I put some into containers for my week’s lunches and save some for the freezer.  Then when I don’t feel like cooking, I always have a delicious soup ready to be defrosted!

-Don’t underestimate the power of the carb+veggie+protein formula.  If you don’t feel like leaving the house for special ingredients or you don’t want to scour a cookbook for the perfect recipe, just use what you have. For example: if you have leftover rice (carb), a can of chickpeas (protein), a can of stewed tomatoes (veg), and pine or walnuts (protein), you can make an easy rice pilaf.  Mix it all up and throw in some spices to taste (cumin, tumeric, red pepper), some raisins or currants, and add any extra veggies you have such as cooked carrots or greens on top.  Heat it all up in a pan.  I did this the other night, and it turned out deliciously:

-Fall in love with your freezer!  Say you decide to make some pizza dough, why not double or triple it?  If you make pancakes, double that batter as well and then you can have breakfast for dinner any night of the week! The possibilities are endless…

-Eggs are highly underrated for dinner by Americans.  In France it is very common to eat omelettes for dinner–actually they are not breakfast food at all!  And think about it–you’ve got your protein right there, with fresh veggies folded in and topped with a little cheese.  A fruit salad on the side makes it a delightful meal.  All of that can be made in a snap.

-And of course, I always fall back on old reliable, the tortilla/wrap.  I try to always have some whole wheat or multi-grain tortillas in my fridge.  Often, I’ll have sauteed some veggies before just to have on hand (such as red peppers, onions, and spinach).  On half the tortialla, I spread refried beans, sauteed veggies, and shredded cheese.  I fold it in half, stick it in a warm oven and in about 10 minutes, I’m ready to go with (healthier than takeout) quesadillas.  It helps to always have salsa on hand too.

So what’s your go-to simple dinner?  I hope these tips inspire you to build up your stress-free dinner repertoire!  Enjoy!!


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won·der·ment

noun

Definition of WONDERMENT

1: a cause of or occasion for wonder
2: astonishment, surprise
3: curiosity about something

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  When I was small, although I enjoyed December because it promised presents and cookies and staying up late, I mostly loved this season because the air seemed heavy with mystery and magic and wonder.

The reality of the adult December is often the whirlwind of holiday shopping, the onslaught of corporate messages reducing the holiday to dollar signs, the stress of pleasing friends and relatives, the overeating of treats, etc, etc, etc!  All of this can slowly drain December of any trace childlike wonderment.

So what are you doing this month to take back December?  A while ago, I decided that the specter of “The Holiday Season” would only overshadow the beauty of this month if I allowed it!  Though many of us cannot shirk the responsibilities of present buying or cookie baking, we can all take a bit of time to slow down, turn inward, and perform a little self-care.  When was the last time you took a deep breath and felt a sense of wonder about life?  Now is the time!

Here are some things that are helping me maintain a sense of wonder through this entire month, I hope they inspire you:

 

Nourish yourself, body and soul

I just wrote this post on Circle of Food about my love for soup-making this time of year.  Now is the time to make sure you are eating healthfully.  Holiday shopping and low blood sugar do not mix!  I am a big fan of Christmas cookies and treats, but at mealtime I like to fill my belly with hot soups.  It not only fuels my body but it seems to nourish my mind and soul!  Enjoy the lentil soup recipe I wrote about–it freezes really well so you can make a double batch and have the rest on hand for later.

 

Spend time with friends, but take the stress out of the equation

My roommates and I threw a Hanukkah party.  Although we did prepare quite a spread of food, we asked friends to provide the drinks.  This took some of the stress out of it.  We had a wonderful time and enjoyed the company of great people.

Here are Danielle and Caitlin preparing latkes!

Latkes are time intensive, but well worth it!

Mmm, cupcakes!  Danielle brought out her battery operated menorah–nicknamed Manny the menorah 🙂  She also said the prayers over real candles in her other menorah.

Here we are with friends from our building who just had a baby!

Take time to meditate in the company of candles or the lights from a Christmas tree

For many years of apartment living, I have had a teeny tiny fake tree.  The other morning, I was passing the bodega on our corner and I smelled the beautiful scent of freshly cut trees.  There were several for sale, just waiting for a loving home.  I decided then and there that I would buy one and put it up in our apartment.

Why postpone happiness?  A simple thing like a real tree has brought me so much joy in the short time I’ve had it up.  I was a little worried that I didn’t have many ornaments, but I soon discovered that there were several decorations around the house I could hang on the tree.  For instance, I had some Tibetan prayer flags and some angels that are hanging on my wall and I am using those as ornaments.  Though they aren’t traditional looking, they are beautiful nonetheless.  I also cut out some stars from cardboard and covered them in tinfoil and hung those on the tree.

Isn’t it a beautiful little tree?  I’m trying to spend at least five minutes in the quiet with the twinkly lights every day from now until January.  If you do the same, I guarantee you will find some December serenity.  I like to use that time to cultivate gratitude for all the good things going on in life.

Relive or recreate some of your favorite December childhood memories

The other night, I went to see New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker.  The crowded theater was packed with smiling faces.  Although many of those faces belonged to lucky children, there were countless adults of all ages who wanted to relive (or experience for the first time) a classic holiday experience.  Here we are outside the theater:

And inside the theater:

I’ve also been trying to enjoy as many Christmas movies as possible!

 

 

Wherever you are, I hope something here has inspired you to take a little time today to cultivate December wonderment.

 

 

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How was your Thanksgiving?  Mine was great.  I saw a lot of family and I hung out and read and relaxed.  Oh and of course I cooked and baked (and ate, and ate).

 

 

What I love best about holidays  (and cooking, and life in general) are the quiet, simple moments that surround the chaos, the chatter, the movement.  I love the small things that frame the main event.  These are the times when I can look around, inhale, exhale, and savor.  I find that these small things we might overlook end up being the very memories we depend on later in times of trouble and stress.

Here is what I was grateful for throughout the holiday weekend (and continue to cherish everyday).

 

Cutting garlic into thin slices to brown up for green beans.

 

The moment right before my apple crostata went into the oven.  Acknowledging the hours and hours that stretched before me, charged with anticipation of the first taste.

 

 

 

 

Nothing is more beautiful than cooking in my mother’s kitchen, the kitchen that nourished me body and soul as I grew, the kitchen in which I learned to love food and lovely act of making it.

 

 

P.S. Are you interested in the apple crostata?  A Martha Stewart recipe of course!  Not as difficult as it may look, the crust has cheddar cheese in it which creates a divine contrast to the sweet apples.  Check it out, let me know what you think.

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