Friday, December 30, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I'm a big fan of John Irving, even though his works can be rightfully judged for the repetitive themes creeping up in practically all of them, i.e. circus bears, anything Viennese, unconventional relationships... For the record, my favorite is Hotel New Hampshire. While reading, I remember thinking it was too twisted for me, but by the time I was finished, I was overwhelmed by the power of what is a really great book, about family and just how important it is.
Anyway, a few nights ago as I set out to make dinner, one of my favorite and most comforting dishes, I thought of a John Irving quote, this one from The World According to Garp. "If you are careful," Garp wrote, "if you use good ingredients, and you don't take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day: what you make to eat." Granted, ever since the arrival of baby A, my days are a mixture of wonder and delight, so I wasn't feeling sorry for myself as I sorted a brightly colored pile of vegetables atop my cutting board. I was, however, dwelling on the happy thought of our dinner, a simple, homely meal that I first learned about from a dear former colleague, Teresa.
I was especially close to Teresa because in addition to working with her every day, she was also the mother of one of my favorite students. We spent many hours discussing her daughter and how to best help her succeed, but we also bonded over a love for good food. Teresa's family is large and Irish-Catholic, three boys and one girl. It's not difficult to picture her bustling household. Despite being in a constant state of busy-ness, Teresa always made sure to have the family sit down together for a home-cooked dinner. I know those words are tossed around a bit casually these days, but the sad thing is a routine like that is something families tend to aspire towards rather than insist upon.
In addition to making sure her family spent quality time together at the dinner table, Teresa also made an effort to making birthdays and holidays, even the smallish ones, really special. For Valentine's Day, she set the table with vases of red roses and her best china and crystal, and the kids drank out of wine glasses. For her son's fifteenth birthday party, she draped a sheet on the side of the house in the backyard and rented a projector-surprisingly, the angst-y teens had an amazing time watching the relatively tame When a Stranger Calls while devouring party treats. When her nephew turned 21, the entire family, minors included, met at an Irish pub to share in a first pint. Teresa's special attention to details that don't even require a lot of cash or time always made an impression on me. She would get along famously with my mother-in-law, who also works to make every occasion exactly that, an occasion, with a real reason for celebrating. Now that I have baby A, I often think about what kind of home I want ours to be. More often than not, Teresa's (and my MIL's) come to mind.
Mexican Chicken (serves 4)
(the amounts listed can easily be tweaked or adjusted to suit your purposes-I often double up on the vegetables because it makes me feel virtuous)
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts or tenders
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 yellow squash
1/4 cup sliced green olives (I don't love olives, so I don't include them)
1 4 ounce can of diced green chiles
1 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained
1 large tomato, chopped
1. Brown the chicken in a large skillet or pot. The dish seems to work best for me if I've sliced the chicken into bite-size pieces or strips first. Once the chicken is browned, add the garlic and onion to the pan and continue to sauté until lightly browned.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, one at a time, sprinkling them one on top of the other. It works best if you go in order of ingredients, with the juicy tomato last.
3. Simmer on low heat for two hours. Do not stir! It will be tempting, but this way the chicken stays especially moist and tender.
4. Serve with rice. If I'm feeling especially healthy, I'll make a batch of brown rice, though it's not SH's favorite. I might compromise with half white, half brown, which is very conveniently done in my rice cooker.
Again, this dish is extremely simple and unfussy. It is also delicious. At Teresa's suggestion, I make extra for the next day. I dish out spoonfuls onto single tortillas, then top with grated cheese (cheddar or Monterey jack, but it's totally a matter of preference) and a second tortilla. I crank up the oven and let the tortillas sit until the cheese is oozing out of the sides in a delectable-looking manner. Then I serve my oven-baked quesadillas with a bottle of Cholula and a cold drink. Yum.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I sat poised over my laptop at exactly 9:58 yesterday morning, two minutes before the presale for Coldplay tickets began. As is usual in these situations, my back was tensed and ramrod straight. My credit card number clearly memorized. My mind plotting the diagram of the stage and which side had the best view. I would not be defeated this time, Ticketmaster/LiveNation/supplier of concert tickets.
The good news is that I did manage to obtain tickets. It's tough, obviously, to get great seats when buying for group, even a small one like ours, but the alternative of not sitting together is dreadful. It looks like I'm going to have to use my "wait a few months" strategy to improve upon our otherwise fairly forlorn seats. Take note, Coldplay. This is what happens when you wait a veritable ETERNITY to return to the US for a tour.
For the record, Mylo Xyloto isn't my favorite album (that would be Viva la Vida), but I'm warming to it day by day. Besides "Paradise," I'm really loving "Hurts like Heaven" and "UFO." I should also say that I'm still rattled every time I hear Rihanna's voice on "Princess of China." Something wrong about that.
P.S. I feel that there was some illegal substances involved in the production/conception of this video.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I'm just going to come right out there and say that I am exceedingly proud of myself for the construction of the piece of deliciousness you see pictured above. I made it when sweet baby A was only 2 months old (yes, that's right, almost THREE MONTHS AGO). Yes, it is true that newborn babies tend to sleep more, leaving us new moms with slightly more down time than we have when they're older and nonstop awake and rolling all over the floor like there's a fire in the house. By no means is it easy, however, to prepare food for yourself with an infant, no matter the age. Hence the pride.
Strangely enough, when I was pregnant I didn't want much to do with sweets at all. It wasn't exactly a pregnancy aversion, because I'm not the hugest dessert person, but it was weird for me to avoid things that were traditionally my favorites, like dark chocolate, cinnamon doughnuts, and lemon bars. I kept up a steady diet of cheeses and savory items, from which baby A clearly benefitted (see entry on ginormous nature of my newborn babe). The pendulum rapidly swung upon his birth, however, and all I wanted (and still want) are sweet things. Vanilla meringues and chocolate chip cookie dunkers from Trader Joe's. Salted caramel cupcakes. Every new Ben and Jerry's flavor in the freezer. Yes, even brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts (I'm capable of sinking quite low).
It is because of my unquenchable craving for sweets that I opted to take a whole bunch of pears from a delicious gift basket and swiftly turn them into the opposite of healthy, this bittersweet chocolate and pear cake. I have probably mentioned this before, but I'm not a fruit person. I know I need to eat it, and I do, but I don't like it! A giant bowl of freshly sliced pineapple will make me happy, and maybe some delicate raspberries or really juicy strawberries, but the rest of the general fruit population I could probably live without (in my defense, I've never met a vegetable I didn't like).
Needless to say, as I looked at those pears one summer day, a little memory crept into my mind, that of reading about Deb's recipe for a pear and chocolate cake. Two things particularly stood out, the shards of dark chocolate and the lightly whipped cream. Side note: I would eat anything, I think, if accompanied by lightly whipped cream.
Conveniently, I had two bars of bittersweet chocolate in my pantry (saved for making these, also a heavenly treat I enjoyed this summer) and a container of heavy cream in the fridge. Feeling virtuous about the fact that I was indeed going to put the pears to good use, I set about making the cake.
The cake is a wonderful piece of heaven. I know that it really is especially good because my pears were rather forlorn and old-ish, so the fact that it tasted so good in spite of that fact is a testament to the success of the recipe. It's also not that difficult, because I made most of it while baby A sat cheerfully in his bouncer right next to me, and even though he is very good-natured, he has an extremely short attention span. You should make it immediately. DO NOT FORGET THE CREAM.
P.S. I don't know if I have ever been more excited about a food blogger's upcoming cookbook than I am about Smitten Kitchen's. I can't plug her site enough.
P.S. Minus the elaborate back, the dress was heinous. It matches the ring.
P.P.S. I aspire to post more than movie trailers in the month of December.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
To follow up on my post reflecting on my lessons and revelations as a new mom, I thought I might take note of the things that I have found most helpful in these first few months. There must be something like 5,000,000 baby items out there, tempting or confusing new moms and moms-to-be everywhere. It's increasingly a challenge to sift through them to figure out what really might be necessary or provide comfort and support. Just like any other new mom, I had a giant baby registry, even though I really made an effort to keep my list practical and devoid of space-consuming or frivolous items. I'm quite glad that I registered at Amazon-had I actually physically been in a baby store (it would have been Buy Buy Baby, btw, that place is a baby wonderland!), there is no telling what would have made it on my list. I took stock of the things I feel I couldn't live without and have recorded them here. In a few more months, perhaps I'll create a "nice to have" and "totally unnecessary" list.
Gerber cloth diapers. I know not every baby is a monumental spitter like my precious little baby A, but most will still muss up their clothes from time to time after eating. Forget about buying lovely burp cloths with cute designs, because these are all you will need! Side note: if I were to go the cloth diaper route in the future, I would certainly be more inclined to try the hip, efficient all-in-ones or pocket diapers. No prefolds (which these Gerber cloth diapers are) for me!
multiple changing pad covers. I was blissfully ignorant when I included a single changing pad cover on my registry. After only a few days at home, and multiple poop explosions and/or pee fountains which my inexperienced hands failed to catch with a clean diaper or washcloth, I realized it would be a whole lot easier if I had a few spares. Of course, it's not really necessary, if you stay on top of your laundry or are not averse to throwing a regular towel down on the changing pad if you've forgotten about your laundry and your lone pad is swirling around in a whirlpool of eco-friendly detergent. A towel will suffice, but because they're not actually fixed to the pad, baby will be quite a bit more wiggly and slippery. I currently have three covers, which is just about the right number.
bouncer. Of all the soothing/entertaining baby gear we acquired, the bouncer has by far been the most useful. I know every baby is different, and some will respond more positively to certain items than others, so this item might not be as essential for you as it is for us. The swing, for example, was something most moms encouraged purchasing, but baby A never warmed to it at all. The bouncer, on the other hand, has been wonderful! I keep it in the kitchen all the time, where it props up little A while I'm eating breakfast and lunch or cooking dinner. He likes it mostly for his vantage point right now, though as he becomes more mobile I'm sure he'll appreciate the movement factor.
iPhone. Last on my list, but certainly not least. I admit that it's a bit snobby for me to include such an expensive device as an iPhone, but I am getting every single penny's worth. There is seemingly no limit to the usefulness of this device. In fact, I don't believe I ever truly appreciated it until I had a baby. It was cool to be able to surf the web in such a clean, flawless, fashion, and I loved having the dual function of the iPod feature, of course, but I never really used my phone to its full potential. Now, I entertain myself while nursing with the Netflix and Kindle apps. In fact, I've read more books in baby A's first three months of life than I did during my entire pregnancy (full disclosure: when it comes to books, I will always be a three-dimensional, classic, words on the physical page kind of person-I just make an exception for the up-all-night stage of babyhood). I've added a Raffi station to my Pandora app, and it's a cinch to thrust the phone into the iHome in the nursery, though the phone's speakers are just the right volume to use anywhere. I tried multiple new baby apps before landing on my favorite, Baby Connect. It's excellent, keeping track not only of nursing, diapering, and sleeping, but also milestones, moods, medicines, and doctor's appointments. In the anxiety-inducing first days of new-motherhood, it's hugely helpful to have an easy way to keep track of everything, rather than having to find pen and paper all the time to write down each pee and poop. The camera is, of course, of exceptional quality, and it's wonderful to be able to email or text videos and pictures instantly. What I would NOT suggest is using your phone to engage with that devil, Dr. Google. STAY AWAY FROM GOOGLE, NEW PARENTS! Too long there, and you'll be diagnosing your precious newborn with all number of horrific, and probably obsolete or nonsensical illnesses.
There you have it! My can't-live-without-'em list! Excuse me now while I ensure one of my three changing pad covers is clean...
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
In the two and a half short months that have passed since I became a mom to the most beautiful boy in creation (see above, I really don't think I'm all that biased), I can't honestly say that I have become a real fountain of knowledge when it comes to babies and motherhood. It is abundantly clear that I have loads more to learn, and that it will be
You will never need an alarm clock again. Every time we have an event planned for the next day, I instinctively reach for my cell phone's alarm option. Then I stop. Why in the world would I need to set an alarm? It's a guarantee that we'll be up with the dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Or at least one of us will be bright-eyed. That one being baby A.
Clothes are no longer interesting. I wasn't the biggest fashionista before my little baby arrived, but whatever style I did manage to pull off has perilously declined. My wardrobe is now extremely minimal, confined to two or three pairs of yoga pants, my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans (I have breastfeeding, that marvelous devourer of calories, to thank for that), four or five soft tees that are easy to pull up, and four nursing tanks. I occasionally attempt to look slightly more dressed up with a cute Gap button-down shirt, but those days are rare. On the other hand, I have developed a serious shopping problem when it comes to my baby. I obsessively check Zulily every morning when we get up, and can spend hours perusing the Gap and Gymboree websites. It's probably not a good thing that it's so simple to shop online. I may or may not have spent an outrageous amount on ensuring that little A has a different Halloween-themed outfit for every day of the week leading up to Halloween.
Your brain is smaller. I'm not even making this up, actually. Yes, I noticed almost immediately during my first real, non-baby oriented adult conversation that it felt like an entire layer of functioning brain cells had literally been shaved off the top of my now pea-sized brain. This is not simply a side effect of sleep deprivation, either. Even at two months, when my darling little A sleeps enough at night that I generally get 7 hours of sleep, I can tell that there is a real struggle to get all those neurons firing when it comes to anything that doesn't have to do with caring for my baby. As it turns out, the female brain actually DOES shrink during pregnancy, a fact I discovered in the conveniently titled book, The Female Brain. Incidentally, it's a very good read!
Grooming hits the skids. I embraced an extremely simple beauty routine in the month before A was born. It involved a neutral shade of Clinique eyeshadow, a trusty Laura Mercier concealer, dab of Maybelline mascara, hint of black eyeliner, and my standby, Benetint cheek stain. I figured I would be able to manage it after the baby was born, and for the most part, I have had an extra two or three minutes after showering to make myself slightly more attractive and less like I've been up all night. However, after the passing of two months, I decided that I might want to spend a bit more time on the ol' routine, and one morning, I dug through my makeup bag a bit to look for a different eyeshadow, only a slightly deeper, but more sophisticated brown shade. As my fingers brushed across the few other items in my bag, I realized that I had completely forgotten how I wore them before. What shades did I combine? Did I actually use that blue/black eyeliner? I have literally lost my beauty know-how.
It's not just the baby that will need a spare outfit. I know that not every baby is a spitter. In my mind, I imagine these babies as mostly girls, who after a few gentle pats on the back, release delicate, subdued burps, and have eaten so quietly and gracefully that mere drops of milk occasionally escape from their mouths. My dear, sweet baby is the complete opposite. He has the digestive habits of a burly, uncouth man. I'm envisioning a logger. Or steel worker. Or maybe an ice road trucker. After he eats, he lets out huge, echoing belches. During his dinner, he likes to do what I call "making a little room"-forcefully releasing giant amounts of poop. Let's put it this way-it hasn't been just once that I've had to change my pants because a large, colorful pile of poop has stained them with a most unbecoming curry-bright stain. Most troublesome to the wardrobe, however, is the massive amount of spit-up that results from my overly enthusiastic eater. It results in several changes of his clothes, to be sure, but I'm seriously considering packing along an extra top for myself every time we go out, lest the employees of Trader Joe's or proprietors of my local children's bookshop think I'm embracing a bold new fashion statement which involves rivulets of creamy white spattered in unusual patterns all over my clothing, emitting a sourish odor. It would be a mistake to assume it's simply your top layer that is exposed-many a day I have had to rush to find a clean bra or nursing top, after I've discovered a small reservoir of spit-up in the middle of my bosom, accompanied by a few curds of milk. I'm so happy my baby is getting enough to eat, but let's face it-I can't exactly walk around with a puddle sloshing around in my bosom.
Hopefully, the next few years will find me adding to this list. Of course, I aspire to be a parenting pro, but I have a feeling that my new boss, baby A, will have plenty of curveballs to throw my way. One thing I know for sure is that it will be worth. every. minute.
P.S. That oft-shared piece of advice, "sleep when the baby sleeps"? I haven't exactly clung to it. The hour or two I have during the day when A is asleep (he sleeps very well at night, but pretty much boycotts daytime naps) allow me some real "human" time. I'm able to clean up the house a bit, catch up on thank you notes and school work, and maybe even blog (which, as you can see, is a challenge-it's been over a month since I posted!)! Incidentally, you will find that it's often next to impossible to lay down your precious sleeping baby when he is snuggled, warm and cozy, against your chest. There is no better feeling in the world, and since I know it won't last forever, many a nap has passed in my arms. And really, is there anything more important I could be doing than cradling my little love?
Monday, August 22, 2011
Meet Baby A. He was born on July 5, at 4:15 pm, approximately twelve hours after we arrived at the hospital. We are absolutely smitten with him, in all his perfection! He was a solid 9 pounds, 9 ounces, and 21 inches long. It wouldn't have mattered one bit, of course, had he been a little peanut and weighed 6 pounds, but I had always secretly had my heart set on having a ginormous baby. I got my wish!
Our first month has been a dream, and I know that some day soon I will long for the sleep-deprived nights and most precious feeling of snuggling with a newborn, who wants nothing more than to be in our arms. It has already gone so much faster than I thought it would. My heart is bursting with love, every single second, for our little boy. He is the greatest blessing we could have ever been given, and I still cannot believe he is ours.
Friday, August 19, 2011
I've never been a big reader of Ecclesiastes, even though I'm very well-versed when it comes to the Bible. I know it's full of wise sayings, but its position there, tightly ensconced between the even wiser Proverbs and the passionate lamentations of Isaiah and Jeremiah has occasionally had the unfortunate consequence of losing my attention.
The one passage that I have always remembered from Ecclesiastes is probably the most oft-quoted. Nevertheless, there is hardly anything more appropriate for the tumultuous and surreal surges of feeling that I have experienced during my almost two-month hiatus from blogging.
I steer clear from getting too personal on my blog, preferring instead to write about food and fluff, but as it is a record of sorts, I wanted to mark the time before I begin to write again in my normal flow and rhythm. For now, I write as a mother, and also as a woman who has lost her own mother. That the two events, a birth and a death, occurred within 10 days of each other still seems impossible to comprehend.
I take comfort, however, in these words, for they are too true. I take comfort in the fact that my mother was able to meet my son, arriving on the very day he was born, a virtual miracle given her condition. I take comfort in the knowledge that my mother has been eased of the burden of her illness and sadness, and must now blissfully enjoy a reunion in heaven that she has longed for. I take comfort in the fact that I know I will see her again, and that she can look down and relish the sight of my little baby A. I take comfort in the sight of my baby's incredibly beautiful, perfect little face, for he has brought me so much joy in the midst of sorrow. And sometimes, that is as it should be, a natural part of life.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
Almost three years ago, I wrote about a book my mom recommended, One True Thing, which is about a young woman's relationship with her mother. It's a terribly sad, terribly good book, and it subject matter is even more resonant for me now. I thumbed through it recently, and as I always have when rereading, turned to the passage when Ellen, the protagonist, is asked whether she loved her mother.
"The easy answer is yes. But it's too easy just to say that when you're talking about your mother. It's so much more than love-it's, it's everything, isn't it?" as though somehow they would all nod. "When someone asks you where you came from, the answer is your mother."
When someone asks you where you came from, the answer is your mother.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I had such high aspirations for all the blogging I would do in these last lingering weeks before my little baby W arrives*. "What else would I have to do?", I thought. I envisioned golden mornings at my new breakfast table, typing away, and perhaps the occasional entry after my daily afternoon nap. As it happens, however, I have found myself to be one of two things lately: INCREDIBLY distracted and TREMENDOUSLY exhausted. Despite the plans I make for each day, after one big grocery shopping trip or drive down to Palo Alto for yoga, I'm done for the day. I inevitably eat a big lunch and collapse on the couch for a lengthy snooze. Upon awaking, it takes approximately five to ten minutes to successfully get off the couch, because apparently having one's 9-months-pregnant body in the same position for any extended length of time results in a feeling akin to being run over by a truck. You would think once I got that accomplished I might decide to do a bit of blogging, but instead, that's the moment when I manage to get a burst of energy, or enthusiasm, rather, for doing something productive. For the past week, this has resulted in a crazy cooking spree, the fruits of which have been a diverse variety of frozen meals for those days when all our family help has left and I'm responsible for taking care of my little baby and cooking dinner for SH and I.
This has been my plan all along, and it was something I talked about eagerly for months, telling everyone of my lofty goals for installing a chest freezer in my garage that I would be sure to stock completely full of dinners before baby arrives. Of course, that hasn't exactly turned out as planned. I've got a surprising amount of room in my freezer, which is a good thing, because as you might imagine, there is nothing waiting for me in the garage at the moment, besides a huge post-remodel mess and lots of dismantled cardboard boxes.
Thankfully, my cooking has gone exceptionally well, despite the fact that in an effort to reduce meal boredom later in the summer, I've cooked separate, non-freezer friendly meals for SH and I each night, and they've been served at an alarmingly late hour. In addition to lasagna, bolognese, my favorite turkey noodle casserole, and a delicious chicken dish that I'm definitely going to write about at some point, I froze several batches of my own original turkey chili.
Don't get me wrong, my humble little recipe is not exceptional in any way, and could easily be modified or altered. I'm sure there are hundreds of similar recipes out there, but I can't help but feel a little proud of the fact that I finally produced something on my own that is, I must say, extremely tasty and satisfying. It's also very easy, and quite healthy. So, without further adieu, I present my turkey chili:
Turkey Chili, a Katie original
1 lb ground turkey (I've taken to buying packages and keeping them in the freezer specifically for this dish)
2-3 zucchini, sliced into thirds length-wise and then chopped into half-inch size pieces
1 squash, given the same treatment as the zucchini (if your zucchini or squash are on the smallish side, feel free to add another)
1 small to medium onion, finely chopped
1 jalepeno, finely chopped (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons red chili powder (I get mine special-ordered from New Mexico, in both red and green varieties, but you can easily find it in the spice aisle)
2 cans Rotel (or any brand of canned diced tomatoes and green chiles-in fact, the ones I find at Safeway and Trader Joe's are actually bigger than the cans of Rotel, which are more like 12 oz cans as opposed to 14)
1 28 oz can of hominy
Cooked rice for serving
Grated pepper jack or monterey jack cheese (optional)
Diced avocado spritzed with lime juice (optional)
1. In a medium-sized saute pan or large pot, brown the turkey in about 1 tablespoon EVOO over medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks with a wooden spoon.
2. Shift the turkey over to one side of the pan and add the chopped onion. Cook until slightly translucent, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. If you're adding a jalepeno to the chili, mix in with the onion.
3. Mix the onion and cooked turkey together, then add the squash and zucchini. Cook together for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently, just until the zucchini and squash soften a bit.
4. Add chili powder and season with salt and pepper.
5. Pour the diced tomatoes and green chiles into the turkey mixture. Fill one can with water and add this as well. If you would prefer a stew-like texture, stop here, but if you want your chili to be more soup-like, add two cans of water (Bonus: your cans are now conveniently clean enough to toss into the recycling bin!)
6. Allow the chili to begin to bubble, then add the entire can of hominy. Reduce heat to low and maintain a simmer until the hominy has completely heated through. The flavors will deepen a bit if you simmer for a half hour or so, but you could easily eat the chili once it's at a uniform temperature.
7. Serve with rice and top with grated cheese and avocados.
My SH and I are usually able to eat this for a few days, and I was able to divide this version of the recipe up into two freezer bags. I was hugely proud of myself as I flattened the bags carefully and placed them into the freezer.
I must acknowledge that I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to be at home in these last few weeks. So many expectant moms don't have that opportunity, and I know that I am VERY blessed. No matter how thrilling and exciting a time it is, I can definitely say with confidence that the last bit of pregnancy is physically exhausting-you are simply not yourself and not able to do everything you used to do. I tip my hat to those of us who are working until the last day or running around after other small children! And I definitely must thank my SH, for working so hard to provide for us so that I can be at home.
*No, that is NOT a clue to our baby's name! It's simply a notation for our last name. We haven't chosen it yet, though we have a short list.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Just in case you were wondering if my Twilight-love was still intact.
Bella's wedding look! Brazil, really Brazil! Bed-breaking!! Oh my!
Saturday, May 28, 2011
During these last few months while my beautiful new kitchen was taking shape, I often imagined what I would do when it was finished. I was sure that I would immediately embark on a cooking frenzy, relishing the view of my chopping boards on the cool green granite countertops and the very chef-like heaviness of the burners on my new stove. As it turns out, the exact opposite occurred. When the kitchen was finally ready, I couldn't bear to defile its pristine perfection. The idea of a simmering pot on the stove or splash of sauce on the counter seemed dreadful, and I could not stand the the thought of a dirty dish in that beautiful new sink.
However, after at least three dinners of salad and bowls of Panera's broccoli cheddar soup (my one true pregnancy addiction), I decided that I needed to snap out of it. A kitchen is meant to be used! We didn't spend all of that money for looks alone! I figured that rather than branch out with a bunch of new recipes, it might also help if just went back to some tried-and-true stuff, which inevitably meant turning to Rachael Ray.
This most WONDERFUL fish dish is one of the best things that I've made from 365:No Repeats, which is also by far the RR cookbook that I've used the most-sections of it have fallen out of the binding and it's a bit water-logged. I've prepared it a few times, but not for at least a year or so, and I had almost forgotten how good it was.
As I have confessed on many, many, occasions, I adore things with a "crust," especially when it's made of cornmeal. Cornmeal in particular makes for a very low-maintenance crust-no soaking in egg or flour is necessary. It clings quite well to fish, though to be honest, I'm not quite as sure about chicken. Catfish is a cheap, delicious option, and also quite safe for pregnant women, so a win-win for me.
The pilaf, though a bit more time-consuming than you might like, is totally worth the effort. My SH was out of town when I prepared the dish, so I had to resort to the light and easy-to-carry blender instead of my ginormous and heavy food processor when it came to making the spinach puree. It worked like a charm, and reminded me that I really should be making smoothies more often. It was highly satisfying to pour the bright green puree, smelling sweetly of basil, into the herb-flecked rice, and the lovely green pilaf goes perfectly with the fish. I suggest a generous squeeze of lemon.
P.S. The picture I've included is obviously what one might call a "pregnancy-sized portion." Although I could easily see my non-pregnant self devouring that same amount of green rice. It is very, very good.
Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish and Green Rice Pilaf, adapted from 365: No Repeats, by Rachael Ray
5 tablespoons EVOO
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from 4 sprigs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used extra chicken stock)
3 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a couple of generous handfuls)
1/2 pound fresh spinach leaves, trimmed and cleaned
20 fresh basil leaves
1 lemon, 1/2 juiced, the other half cut into wedges
4 6-8 ounce catfish fillets
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Bring a medium sauce pot filled three-quarters full with water to a boil.
2. Heat a second medium saucepan or pot over moderate heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the EVOO (once around the pan), the butter, shallots, thyme, salt, and pepper. Saute the shallots for 2 minutes, then add the rice and lightly brown, 3-5 minutes. Add the wine and allow it to evaporate entirely, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover the rice and reduce the heat. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes, until tender.
3. Salt the boiling water in the other pot and add the parsley, spinach, and basil. Stir to submerge the greens for 30 seconds, then carefully take the pot to the sink. Use a slotted spoon or a spider to remove the greens to a colander. Discard the water. Rinse the greens under slow-running cold water to stop the cooking process. Give the greens a gentle squeeze to get rid of the excess water. Transfer the cooled, drained greens to a blender or food processor. Add about 2 tablespoons of EVOO and the lemon juice. Puree until completely smooth. Reserve the puree for finishing the cooked rice. (*I was very lazy when I made the dish this time-I didn't use a colander, simply the lid to my pot, draining it as best I could. There were no ill effects!)
4. Preheat a large oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Season the catfish with salt and pepper and coat evenly and completely in the cornmeal. Add the coated fish to the hot skillet and sear for 2 minutes on each side, then transfer the skillet with the fish to the oven and continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish is firm to the touch and opaque.
5. Once the rice is cooked, add the reserved greens puree and stir with a fork to combine and fluff the rice. Pile the rice onto dinner plates and serve the cornmeal-crusted catfish on top. Pass the lemon wedges at the table.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Before you judge me for my indulgence in a little supernatural teenage melodrama, I should point out that the dreadful time of year has arrived, the ONLY bad thing about summer-network television hiatus. Or hiatuses? Season finales are happening left and right, signifying the end of my favorite Thursday night shows. I had no other choice but to revert to something fresh and new, with at least a season's worth of episodes I had missed. Before I get into my chosen selection, The Vampire Diaries, I should state with vehemence that there is definitely a positive effect of a lack of good television in the summer-it motivates you to be outside enjoying balmy patio dinners or day-long trips to the beach. Those things will ALWAYS trump television shows. For that rare evening, however, when you're either exhausted or maybe even a bit bored, it's always nice to think you can find something on the old tube. My SH and I particularly like shows because of their neat and tidy time slots of 30 or 45 minutes-with a movie you feel that you have to sit down through the whole thing. I should confess now that Vampire Diaries was not sanctioned or endorsed by my husband. He would rather poke his eyes out, I'm sure, than watch a show inevitably inspired by, though refreshingly more humorous and complicated than my beloved Twilight saga.
Needless to say, I'm really getting sucked in by the goings-on in Mystic Falls, Virginia. It's a bit silly, of course, but I like the little mysteries, historical flashbacks, and new vampire lore. I ESPECIALLY like heroic, good-hearted Stefan Salvatore. He's no Edward Cullen, of course, but he's slightly less broody. Shockingly, I far prefer him over his villainous brother Damon. Normally, I like there to be a bit of an edge in the dominating male characters of a drama or love triangle. This is why, during the Dawson's Creek years, I adored Pacey and loathed Dawson. Needless to say, Stefan, despite his goodness, has just enough darkness to keep him really interesting.
Off to shamefully watch an episode or two more, while my SH takes a late-evening Friday nap.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
On my months-long blogging semi-hiatus, whilst in the middle of a stressful house remodel and exciting preparations for our little bundle of joy (who, by the way, FEELS like a big bundle!), I developed an affinity, love and sometimes obsession, with several new things. As I am basking in the glory of my new kitchen, not particularly feeling like defiling it by cooking anything yet, I thought I might share.
-the good old Bartlett pear. I am not a fruit person. It is a total struggle for me to consume my daily fruit allowance. Yes, this makes me a sort of weird anomaly amongst all the normal folk who joyfully peel oranges and virtuously enjoy bananas. Now, there are a few fruits for which I have an affection. Give me a bowl of freshly sliced pineapple and it will be gone within minutes. Douse some blackberries in cream and I'll devour them (that could be the cream, I suppose). Those fruits aren't exactly common everyday fare, though. I simply don't manage very well with fruit. Thankfully, I adore virtually every vegetable, so I'm not a complete nutritional delinquent. In the past few months, however, I have taken to eating a lot of pears. I found it strange that they've tasted so good for so long-I always think of pears as autumnal or wintry fruits. Perhaps it's our unseasonably cold spring. Either way, I am really enjoying the bounty of pears and gradually edging towards a new appreciation for fruit. The Bartletts have been especially pleasing-sweet and juicy, but more tender than apples. I might even be inspired to make, as my first dessert in the new kitchen, this most heavenly sounding cake as an homage to my newfound love of pears.
-Philz hot chocolate. Philz is mostly famous for their delicious coffee, where each cup is individually brewed. They have some sort of crazy system set up at each barista's station, with rounded slots built into the counter, each one its own little coffee pot of sorts. For obvious reasons, I haven't been going four times a week for the coffee, though I have tried it in the past and it is absolutely delicious. No, I have been visiting on an almost daily basis to enjoy their hot chocolate. Hot chocolate has been my morning beverage of choice throughout these past eight months, mostly for the comfort of having something hot in the morning. After a while, however, I got absolutely sick of it, mainly because it is just too sweet. In fact, what I've missed about coffee the most is not the caffeine, but the taste of something hot, creamy, and slightly bitter, not shockingly sweet (for the record, I am aware that hot chocolate contains an amount of caffeine, which is acceptably negligible). You can imagine my surprise when I ordered hot choc at Philz for the first time and was asked "How sweet would you like that?" Music to my ears! From that moment on, it has been an immense challenge not to go every single day to sip on a deliciously creamy, only slightly sweet cup of hot chocolate. Now, I realize that writing about a local chain of coffee shops isn't exactly fair. It's not as though anyone can run right out to the closest Philz, but those of us who are sick of the sweet can be inspired to tone down our hot choc a bit! My dear mother-in-law has this skill mastered. She uses regular cocoa (Ghiradelli, Droste, or a similar brand for the best taste), adds a tiny bit of water to make a paste, and stirs that into hot milk. Then she adds spoonfuls of sugar to taste, and tops it off with freshly whipped unsweetened cream. Divine.
-quinoa + spinach. My affection for quinoa is not new, but most of the time I've made it, I've followed a Rachael Ray recipe, which usually means it's got a nice depth of flavor from being boiled in chicken broth and is jazzed up with a medley of finely chopped herbs or lovely combination of sauteed vegetables. That's all fine and good, of course, but when trying to make lunch in a hurry, I just haven't felt like going through the hassle of throwing together a bunch of different ingredients. Knowing how exceptionally good for me quinoa is, though, and how quick and easy it is to cook on its own, I decided I needed to come up with a way to make it more tasty AND timely. Enter bagged spinach. A staple of our diet, I almost always use it as a sauteed side dish, though I know I should be consuming it raw in salad form sometimes as well. I decided that in the 10 minutes it takes the water to boil and quinoa to soften, I could easily chop up a few garlic cloves, let them get toasty and brown in a bit of EVOO, add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and then saute a whole bag of spinach. Once the quinoa is done, I throw the whole mess of spinach (which as most know, has know wilted down to a tiny sad pile) into the pot with it and mix thoroughly. Now my quinoa is flavorful and made even more healthy with the addition of veg, as Jamie Oliver would say.
-etsy. I'm not new to Etsy and its many delights, and I'm not at all ashamed to say that my first Etsy purchase was a replica of Bella's Twilight mittens. THEY ARE CUTE! DON"T JUDGE! THEY WERE A GIFT! I could spend hours perusing all the many shops, and I love the customization of the home page once you've made a few purchases. Anyway, my love for Etsy grew into a obsession when it came to baby stuff. Here you can see screen shots of my chosen fabrics for custom baby bedding, courtesy of a lovely Etsy shop. Once I found the zoo print, I started to look for all sorts of coordinating items, and it's been difficult to rein myself in. Why shouldn't I have matching stroller blankets, car seat strap covers, burp cloths, or diaper bag accessories? I jest-I'm perfectly aware that the vast majority of baby-related items out there are unnecessary. Doesn't mean that I might not splurge on the stroller blanket though...
-dinner: a love story. I'd never heard of this particular blog until I stumbled across a new column in the latest issue of Bon Appetit written by the husband and wife team who maintain the blog. The majority of the posts are written by wife Jenny, but her husband contributes occasionally. It's a GREAT food blog, and clearly also a good family blog. I feel like it was the perfect find for my new transition into motherhood.
-the killing. This extremely dark mystery is based off a Danish television series, and once I heard the American remake was going to air on AMC, I figured I must check it out. AMC has quite the reputation for quality television these days (and by quality, I mean good writing and solid acting performances, not so much uplifting stuff or light humor) and the show got a lot of good press before it premiered. It's set in Seattle, which I love, though they are doing their very best to make it look like the MOST rain-soaked, dreary city on God's green earth. I can say with confidence that it's not that bad! The 13-episode season follows a single case, which is a nice marked difference from a typical procedural drama. It's tough to watch, but at the same time, enjoyable for the lack of melodrama and unusual main characters. I'm particularly impressed with Holder, the male detective with a potentially shady past. He's also Swedish, and I must confess that I'm fascinated with the ability of European actors to imitate the American accent. He does a bang-up job.
There you have it. A few of the things that have proven welcome distractions during these long months. I should probably stop thinking about Philz hot chocolate right this moment and get to doing something productive in my kitchen!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
My last, completely legitimate and totally exciting reason for a lack of writing in these past few months. In just 10 weeks, we're going to be meeting our baby BOY, an event that we have been longing for for years (and for me, longer than I can remember). We are so grateful and thankful to God for granting us this blessing, and our prayers daily include the safety and well-being of our son.
P.S. I am proudly wearing one of my Kings of Leon shirts. Somehow I feel they would be proud.
P.P.S. In case anyone is wondering, the blog post title is a song lyric. Conveniently, courtesy of KOL. Just wanted to clear that up.
A house remodel. The cause of stress, anxiety, and much pulling-of-hair. Yes, we decided to take it on, seeing as how I was living like a pioneer woman with no dishwasher, and the general layout of our bathroom was something cavern-like as opposed to being light and accommodating. We felt if we didn't do it now, we might never, so after meeting with four contractors and getting all sorts of advice, we embarked on the project with the help of a lovely designer, whom I'll just refer to as CP. It is almost done, and I cannot WAIT to store my Fiestaware in those lovely glass-fronted cabinets.
An early view of my beautiful sage-y green, subway tile backsplash. I had my heart set on a green and white kitchen, something that would look natural and beautiful, making a nice segue into our backyard. Let me tell you, finding a nice green tile that will not break the bank is no walk in the park. There was lots of green glass, and plenty of minty and forest green, but nothing that fit my bill. Until I encountered "Sequoia," the perfect shade. As I soon came to expect along this journey of renovation, there was a huge obstacle to my happiness once I chose my tile. It cost millions of dollars. Well, not millions. Not even hundreds. I am exaggerating because of my initial despair. I decided to persist in my search, and finally found a store that stocked "Sequoia" at half the price. Another lesson learned about remodeling: if you have all the time in the world, you will be able to eventually get what you need, at the proper price point. Of course, I do NOT have all the time in the world, but just happened upon an incredible piece of luck, not just with the kitchen tile, but also with my granite. A big part of me wanted to have tile on the counters as well, but my propensity to spill anything and everything caused my SH to immediately veto the idea. So, granite it was, and again, I was on a quest to find something that might have a hint of green. Enter "Costa Esmeralda," the absolutely PERFECT choice for our kitchen. Not too light, not too dark, with flecks of green (and brown, my favorite), it was just right. Yet again, I was stymied when it came to finding what I needed-my Costa was very popular and simply not available when we needed it. I have a terrible tendency to like the most popular things. Fortunately, CP kept calling the granite/marble shop, and when some poor soul failed to pick up their granite after an extremely long grace period of a week, we managed to snag it for ourselves.
The almost-finished bathroom, so light and beautiful and blue! I am in love with the floor, and thankfully, was not presented with so many difficulties in selecting and ordering the tile. My SH is quite hirsute, so not only is the color of my floor gorgeous, its deep blue shade serves as a disguise of sorts.
The pièce de résistance! My made-in-England, weighs-as-much-as-a-person farmhouse sink! CP tried to keep me in line with our budget, warning me that this sink would cost a king's ransom (not really, but a good deal more than an average old sink), but it was the one thing that I just HAD to have. Despite the fact that we had to reconfigure the cabinets to make it work, I know it is going to be worth. every. penny.
Mere days remain before I'll be cooking away again in my new kitchen. It has been arduous and difficult at times, but I am full of excitement at the improvements now present in our little house.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
I HEARTILY admonish you to check out the second season of Jamie's Food Revolution. The first season was probably the best thing I saw last year. I adore Jamie for obvious reasons: fresh and easy recipes, the ability to make a novice cook feel like they can make something delicious, propensity to name children after flowers, adorable lisp, and of course, his Britishness; but what he is attempting with his food revolution is very significant and necessary. We should be paying attention.
Yes, I dropped the ball on my recapping. I was confident that I would be able to get my proverbial act together and plow through the five or six episodes I had missed, but as the season progressed, I gradually lost my TC enthusiasm. Chefs I admired fell by the wayside, one after the other, and I began to worry that the finale would be bereft of any of my favorites. As it turned out, Antonia was the only one left standing that I really admired, and the eventual showdown was between Mike Isabella and Richard Blais. Though I made an early prediction that Richard would go far, I had no idea at the time how much I would grow to dislike him, and the the judge's decision at the finale was a real disappointment to me. Granted, I appreciate their consistency when it comes to grading the best dishes on a challenge-by-challenge basis, and Richard clearly had the best tasting food (despite the horrid and repulsive-looking foie gras ice cream). I simply could not tolerate Richard's self-pitying, inexplicably insecure behavior, which was only made worse by the occasional burst of arrogance. He repeatedly stated that the only reason anyone remembers his season is because he didn't win. Ironically, the winner of his season (and the only female winner of Top Chef), Stephanie Izard, has been one of the most successful in the show's history. She scrupulously planned and developed a concept for her own restaurant (The Girl and the Goat) during the time since her win, and it has opened to rave reviews and great success. Richard, on the other hand, has struggled in the restaurant business. It's a highly competitive, risky industry, with huge failure rates, I'm sure, but a bit of humility would be much appreciated. Richard's strange tendency to doubt his food and propensity to say he "hates everything" he has done after the fact is hugely annoying, and disrespectful to his fellow chefs and competitors. Needless to say, his final victory, however deserved, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I couldn't even include a picture of him on this post in good conscience! Let's just say I'm looking forward to a new season with fresh faces.
Hark! It is the second month of spring, and I am finally emerging from my veritable cocoon of busy-ness to write about my musical frivolities once more. Because of my various distractions, I really didn't invest a lot of energy into what I was listening to in the past few months. I'm not one that is capable of writing papers while listening to music, unfortunately. Now that I'm getting back to a more normal routine however, I am all over finding new musical sources of inspiration and calm. There are some "repeat offenders" on my list, but that probably won't surprise you.
england-the national. Yes, I'm still completely addicted to these guys. It doesn't hurt that this song is conveniently titled "England" and contains lyrics like "You must be somewhere in London, you must be loving your life in the rain...." Be still my heart!
down by the water-the decemberists. I haven't listened to much more of their latest album, but I became completely enamored of this song after hearing about from Rose. No big surprise there. "Down by the Water" is a bit more folksy-sounding than "The Crane Wife 3" and "O Valencia!" but change can be good!
sort of revolution-fink. Herein lies another case of me being caught up and emotionally manipulated by the music used in television. My beloved Friday Night Lights is the show in question, and I'm confident the song accompanied a scene both gut-wrenching and powerful. Would I have loved the song so much had I innocently come across it whilst perusing the Itunes store? Probably, but a father-son moment between Coach Taylor and Vince or the sight of a guilty Billy Riggins most likely sealed the deal.
the cave-mumford & sons. I am very, very late to the Mumford & Sons party. Thank goodness for my sister's newfound adoration and persistent dropped hints. I am dangerously close to obsession with the latest album, "Sigh No More"-despite the fact that it may be the first I've bought which contains a parental advisory (for one errant word!)! I am also further convinced that pretty much everything musically great must originate in England.
pickup truck-kings of leon. I love the sound of this song. It's drifty and slow in the beginning, with a refreshingly strong and surprising chorus. I tend to not focus a whole lot on the lyrics when it comes to the Kings, and I advise you to do the same. Just get caught up in Caleb's soulful whine and enjoy the fine, fine music.
rolling in the deep-adele. Adele is hugely popular, so this particular selection isn't especially original, but I'm allowed! She is the pure, clean, and untroubled version of Amy Winehouse, and only 21! Unbelievable.
maps-yeah yeah yeahs. A bit of an older tune, but great to revisit. I thought it added a nice sound to my spring list, which is relatively somber.
vagabond-wolfmother. Two summers ago, I listened to the soundtrack to 500 Days of Summer like it was the last CD on earth. I put it on repeat while I was working in the classroom, and shuffle while I puttered around in the garden. This particular song was the one I loved to hear with the windows rolled down on a golden California day. It's taken quite a while for us to finally get to that weather this year, but I was ready when the sun finally arrived, with this song.
bigger than us-white lies. My very first posted playlist contained a song by the White Lies which I still LOVE, so you can imagine my happiness when I discovered the release of their newest album. They're British. Of course.
i want a house-twin sister. I overheard this song on an episode of Grey's Anatomy, and I'll be the first to admit it's a bit strange. After a few listens, though, the quirkiness is irresistible. Like "vagabond," it's a great song for an afternoon drive with the windows rolled down. A slow drive, that is.
laughing with-regina spektor. This song is certainly not light-hearted, but I appreciate the lyrics. No one is quite as good with the piano and high notes as Regina Spektor.
comfortably numb-roger waters featuring van morrison & the band. I've taken to watching The Departed a lot lately. There is nothing more to say.
the immortals-kings of leon. This particular tune was selected for use in promotions for March Madness, so I suppose my newfound appreciation for it also falls under the television manipulation category. It helped that my Duke Blue Devils were prominently featured in the music video.
winter winds-mumford & sons. Though I pretty much can't get the ENTIRE ALBUM out of my mind, I figured it was best that I start with just two or three on my spring playlist. This one is especially pleasing.
helplessness blues-fleet foxes. My darling sister has become completely immersed in the folksy/indie/alternative genre, and she can't stop talking about Fleet Foxes. They're like her Coldplay. She particularly loves this song, and when I saw it available as a free download, I decided to check it out. So good.
blue mind-alexi murdoch. This is by no means a new tune in my library. In fact, I have an extremely powerful memory of listening to it on my Discman (!) the summer I moved to New York. I lived with my aunt in Fairfield, CT, for a few months, and I had to take a commuter train every day to the city which left at the ungodly hour of 5:50 am. I can remember hearing this song as the sun started to break, hurting my tired eyes a little. Even though I was exhausted, it helped relax me and give me a sense of calm and purpose for the long day to follow. Still works today.
come thou fount of every blessing-sufjan stevens (friday night lights soundtrack, volume ii). This is my favorite old hymn, and I love this barebones, banjo-accompanied version.
devil town-tony lucca (friday night lights soundtrack, volume i). Friday Night Lights ended its five-season run just over a month ago, and I felt I must honor its passing with the iconic "devil town." The song played in a pivotal, mood-encapsulating scene in the first season's penultimate episode, and the producers/music supervisors/powers that be decided to recreate the feeling by replaying it in the same episode of the fifth season. I don't exactly know how to explain it, but the song perfectly conveys the sentiment of the show, the whole small town, football is everything feel that is what makes it so near and dear to my heart.
There you have it! It is GOOD to be back!
Monday, March 14, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Thankfully for me, the "whole grain" movement is something I can joyfully welcome with open arms and hungry belly. It is though I have a genetic predisposition to crave the hearty, earthy tastes of pretty much any grain. Rice (in any of its varied forms) and I are soulmates, but I will also happily devour bulgur, quinoa, and couscous. I adore a hearty sprinkling of wheat germ on ice cream or as a toasty topping to homemade macaroni and cheese, and find flax seed on oatmeal (preferably steel-cut oats as prepared by my lovely mother-in-law) to be an excellent addition to an otherwise "not crunchy enough for me" dish.
Thus, it was pretty much no surprise to me that I wouldn't have a problem enjoying the nutty flavor of whole wheat pasta or fully appreciate the depth of flavor added to a baked good made with whole wheat flour. I think they're easily as tasty as their pasty, less nutritious counterparts-I'm talking to you, white rice, plain semolina pasta, and, HORRORS, white bread!
In order to continue to bolster my virtuous culinary ways, I decided to purchase Good to the Grain, a relatively recent cookbook that got quite a lot of great reviews in the blogging world and elsewhere last spring and summer. It's a baking cookbook, so there aren't a lot of recipes for whole grain salads and sides, but it's still very diverse, including sections for several different kinds of whole grain flours. Of course, as is usual with my cooking goals, it took me some time before attempting a recipe. Tons of them look great, but after reading this post on Orangette, my favorite food blog of all, I decided that whole wheat chocolate chip cookies were definitely the best place to start.
The results? AMAZING. Huge, delicious, cookies with a wheat-y, slightly subtle taste that made me almost feel as though I really was eating something good for me. Which they're not, I must admit, even though I tell myself that bittersweet chocolate is actually full of antioxidants and is therefore justifiable. Speaking of the chocolate, there is something so much nicer about finding slivers and uneven chunks of chocolate throughout the cookie, rather than perfectly formed chocolate chips. It gives the cookies a nice dimension and better texture, I think. I also can't underestimate the size-they're giant. I'm pretty sure that if you wrapped one or two up they'd be a perfect thing to take on a long hike. To serve as the kind of snack you might need in an emergency.
I'm fairly certain this version of a chocolate chip cookie is now my favorite. It's going to take a lot to convince me that there is something better out there! I suggest you make at least two batches, immediately!
*By the way, I didn't even crack open the cookbook, but instead followed the recipe on Molly's site, though I stuck to Kim Boyce's original specifications.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
This app is either going to be a huge lifesaver OR the bane of my existence. I'm not sure which yet.
Should I be alarmed that my normally frugal husband purchased the expensive software for my computer AND insisted that I have the $10 mobile version as well?
I have to go. More "things" need to be added to my list...
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Yes, it's a bit lame of me to post a fifteen second video that was undoubtedly aired during a timeout on ESPN this week. However, I just wanted a quick sneak peek promo of Survivor's new season, in which my beloved FAVORITE, Boston Rob Mariano, gets yet another shot to win the million. I'm not at all ashamed that I keep looking at the clock and eagerly waiting for the premiere to happen. I. CANNOT. WAIT.
I have been a lackluster blogger as of late. The few posts I have managed to churn out have been poor efforts at recapping my FAVORITE reality show. You would think I would have been all over the chance to regularly keep up with my all-star chefs! The fact that I have been so bad at it should tell you that I must have had good reasons keeping me from successful and healthy blogging!
The largest hurdle in my way has been the monstrous amount of reading I've had for my two courses this quarter. Taking multiple classes would have been a walk in the park in
the days of yore college, when I had the ability to function on a mere two hours sleep and my entire universe was concentrated in the relatively few miles that made up my college campus. Now, I'm out of academic (and physical!) shape, have other additional responsibilities, and spend lots of time driving to and fro. Truly, I have loved reading the novels visible in that pile, but my aspiration to carefully complete each one has resulted in a necessary sacrifice of my time. Though I had read most of them before, I determined to read them all again, start to finish. I am proud to have completed my goal thus far, though we'll see how I can manage when we finally arrive at our last book for the quarter, Absalom, Absalom!
Each week we are required to write a brief paper (only a few pages long) honing in on an issue or thorny problem that stuck out in our minds while reading. It's given me a chance to scrutinize all my notes and highlighting, so I include a smattering of quotes here. My favorite book so far? Wuthering Heights, though I admit that my teenage notions of great love from my first reading were dissipated immediately when my more mature adult perspective saw Cathy and Heathcliff for who they really were. Most pleasant surprise? The Scarlet Letter. I should not have read it in high school, a time when most great literature is tragically unappreciated. It was excellent.
"Even where the affections are not strongly moved by any superior excellence, the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds, which hardly any later friend can obtain. They know our infantine dispositions, which, however they may be afterwards modified, are never eradicated; and they can judge of our actions with more certain conclusions as to the integrity of our motives." -Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
"My sensations were those of extreme horror and dismay. In vain I attempted to reason on the probable cause of my being thus entombed. I could summon up no connected chain of reflection, and, sinking on the floor, gave way, unresistingly, to the most gloomy imaginings, in which the dreadful deaths of thirst, famine, suffocation, and premature interment crowded upon me as the prominent disasters to be encountered."
-The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Edgar Allan Poe
"My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and, if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I would not be a part of it."
-Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
"But there was a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghost-like, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it."
-The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
"To add to the difficulties and dangers of the time, masses of sea-fog came drifting inland-white, wet clouds, which swept by in ghostly fashion, so dank and damp and cold that it needed but little effort of the imagination to think that the spirits of those lost at sea were touching their living brethren with the clammy hands of death, and many a one shuddered as the wreaths of sea-mist swept by."
-Dracula, Bram Stoker
"Here at present I felt afresh-for I had felt it again and again-how my equilibrium depended on the success of my rigid will, the will to shut my eyes as tight as possible to the truth that what I had to deal with was revoltingly, against nature. I could only get on at all by taking 'nature' into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue."
-The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
And now for the REAL reason why I have difficulty taking a few minutes to sit down and blog about whatever recipe or movie is on my mind. Meet my nemesis:
Yes, my other course revolves around this hefty, inscrutable tome. It is my second on James Joyce, both taught by a lovely, gem of a professor who has been a faithful guide through the murky forest of Joyce's words. I knew I would certainly never be able to sit down with Ulysses outside of an academic setting, and considering its fame, I felt I should take the opportunity to study the book with a real expert.
I can't say that I'm full of regrets for the decision, but I can certainly tell you that I have never been challenged in such a way before. It is easily the most difficult text I have ever encountered. In the beginning of the course, I spent most of my time racking my brain to figure out what was going on, even sentence by sentence. Now, rather than get frustrated, I simply accept that I'm going to miss some things. I can readily identify the reasons why Joyce is such a huge literary giant, and will thoroughly attest to his talent. When our class finishes, however, I don't think I'll be returning for a second reading any time in the near future.
Just to get an idea of the sheer craziness that goes on week after week, try this rather tame quote on for size:
"A frowsy whore with black straw sailor hat askew came glazily in the day along the quay towards Mr. Bloom. When first he saw that form endearing? Yes it is. I feel so lonely. Wet night in the lane. Horn. Who had the? Heehaw shesaw. Off her beat here. What is she? Hope she. Psst! Any chance of your wash. Knew Molly. Had me decked. Stout lady does be with you in the brown costume. Put you off your stroke, that. Appointment we made knowing we'd never, well hardly ever. Too dear too near to home sweet home. Sees me, does she? Looks a fright in the day. Face like dip. Damn her. Oh, well, she has to live like the rest. Look in here." -Ulysses, James Joyce
Just over halfway done with winter quarter-here's to better blogging in my future!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
By some miracle, I am now a mere three episodes behind in my recapping efforts. Granted, catching up requires several hours of television watching, but as the cursed water company has taken over the street for the day AND shut off my water, I figure this is just as good a day as any to catch up. It's not as though I can take a shower and prepare myself properly for any outings.
At this point, the least I can say for Jamie is that she put up an admirable effort in praising Casey's fearlessness for preparing chicken feet. The chefs spend a bit of time in the stew room admiring her and all secretly wishing Jamie was gone. I'm pretty sure they would have all devoured ALL of Casey's bad chicken feet if it meant she stayed and Jamie had gone home. Marcel uses his time to instigate a fight with Trying-to-Reform-Angry Dale. Something about how he cooks for the people, and for the challenge. Tre tries to stay out of the tirade, while Dale tosses back a few calm curses. Apparently, he has taken anger management, and is above all of Marcel's "saltiness." We'll see, Dale.
For some unknown and ominous reason, the chefs are up and 'at em at 4:30 in the morning. They head into the Top Chef kitchen and find a personalized note from Padma and Tom, accompanied by a map to Montauk. Must be a fishing challenge. Thank goodness the chefs have their Toyota Siennas for the drive.
Despite my slight prejudice against all wealthy areas of the country, I must admit that the lighthouse point where the chefs met Tom and Padma was quite stunning. It was made even more lovely by the early morning sun casting golden light on Tom's head. My favorite informs the chefs that they will be going out fishing in four teams, two teams per boat. They will be cooking what they catch in five hours for a double elimination challenge.
Team 1: Angry Dale, Carla, Tre
Team 2:Mike, Angelo, Tiffany D.
Team 3: Antonia, TIffani F., Jamie
Team 4: Marcel, Fabio, Richard
As they prepare to head out, Angelo displays a remarkable knowledge of shark biology and admits that he is terrified of the water. A bit odd considering that seafood is is specialty. Have some respect for your product, Angelo! Fabio, on other hand, is completely in his element, having come from good Italian fisherman stock.
Dale, also a descendant of a fishing expert, was the first to catch a fish. It's impressively huge. Antonia screams like "a fourth grader" when she picks up her first, and soon, the boat they share with Team 1 is loaded with fish. Afternoon crickets are chirping on the other boat, which has yet to pick up a fish. After three hours. I start to worry that those two teams will have nothing to prepare for the challenge. It's a bit odd, because it appear that the two boats are within sight of each other.
Finally, with practically an hour left to go, Teams 2 and 4 start reeling in some fish, despite having to resort to a rather intimate technique which Tiffany does not completely appreciate. Back on the successful boat, Dale ends the trip with the triumphant catch of an enormous striped bass, which he believes resembles Marcel in some ways.
Once they're back on land, the chefs head to a local farmer's market to shop. I loved this, despite the fact that I KNEW we'd have to hear from Jamie about how she feels totally in her element when shopping locally and within season. An especially great moment was witnessing the camaraderie between Richard and Fabio as they pulled a cute green wagon full of produce around behind them.
The next day, the chefs head to a beachfront area with an awesome view of Manhattan, where they'll be serving for an evening beach party. It's difficult to figure out what's going on with the respective teams in the midst of Jamie's myriad of complaints.
Fabio, Richard, and Marcel have opted to make one dish, which, as well all know, is a huge risk. "Baby-kisser" Fabio concludes that it's a great plan, because if they end up on the bottom, the judges will have a hard time figuring out who to eliminate. He also mumbles something about reverse psychology.
Carla informs us about the infamous bloodline of the blue fish. It's not the greatest fish anyway, but if the bloodline is not properly removed, it becomes downright unpleasant. I have a feeling this might become a problem.
As is his wont, Tom visits the chefs during prep time. Predictably, he questions Marcel's team for only cooking one dish and slightly chides Dale for not making his own flour tortillas. We hear more about the blue fish and its tendency to be overly fatty and delicate.
Tom and Padma are joined by Gale and Kerry Heffernan, a Long Island chef and close friend of Tom's. I read up on Heffernan after the episode, and through Tom and Gale's blogs, learned that he had never done a television appearance before. He was a natural, and it was enjoyable to see how much Tom enjoyed his presence.
Perhaps it was the lovely locale or lively presence of a beach party, but the chefs displayed an uncharacteristic calm and charm while serving. Catching the big fish was transformative for Angry Dale, and he prepared a delicious, perfectly appropriate fish taco. Carla's "ode to New York" lettuce wrap, ensconcing smoked blue fish and bagel croutons, was a huge hit. Antonia prepared the notoriously difficult porgy, crafting it into a delicious po-boy with Old Bay mayo that the crowd devoured with relish. Angelo, Mike, and Tiffany's dish suffered from too many components. It didn't help that Angelo referred to every one of those components as "beautiful" while plating. The curse of the bloodline came up with Tiffani's smoked dish, and Jamie's poorly cooked fish died a second death, drowned in cucumber water.
Surprisingly, Angelo's team was called out with Dale, Carla, and Tre for the favorite dishes of the night. It's starting to get a bit confusing, because the top group hasn't been consistently brought out first. This time, the winner would be Carla, who skillfully prepared a less than stellar fish in an inventive way. Her prize? A trip to Amsterdam. She is really starting to pick up some steam!
Fabio, Richard, and Marcel did indeed face criticism for preparing only one dish, but also because their dish wasn't especially fitting for the setting. Despite the disorganization of their dish and unnecessary components, their errors seemed minor compared to the lack of flavor in Jamie's dish or the mistake of including the bloodline in blue fish. Poor Antonia was put on the spot by a icy cold Padma, who asked if she could have done anything to salvage their dishes. On a positive note, she was praised for having Tom's favorite dish of the night, and informed that if she had been on another team, she would not have been facing the judges.
To no one's great surprise, Jamie was FINALLY sent to pack her knives. It was such a long time in coming that the remaining chefs (and me) barely noticed that Tiffani F. was the second half of the double elimination. I'll miss the brazen redhead, and only wish that Marcel could have gone in her place. He is simply insufferable. It was a nice touch to hear her final thoughts-they were refreshing humble. I didn't even pay attention to the last time Jamie appeared, and can only hope that we never see her again.
I believe 3 o'clock has arrived! My water has returned! This can only mean the end of my relaxing day...