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Dispatch from the basement

  you may have noticed that I haven’t posted from home since we moved into our tiny, dark (and thankfully temporary) basement apartment. Why? Because it’s just not that nice.

What IS nice is our patio. Somehow we never manage to eat out there, maybe from lack of chairs, or maybe because of the mosquitos. Or maybe because dinner is chaotic enough without a change of venue.

I realized this week that there’s no reason I can’t just take my plate out to the patio and take a picture of it. So that’s what I did. 

Pictured at top is an ad-hoc tomato, basil & white bean salad with lemon juice and coarsley grated Parmesan cheese.

Below is our favorite pinch-hit dinner (besides penne alla vodka) pasta with arugula, pepper and pecorino cheese

 Happy Friday!

Sauerkraut to the rescue!

Preparing sauerkraut

You may or may not know this, but I’m no spring chicken. I’m lucky that mostly I feel pretty good in my forties, and that I don’t have grey hair yet. But in the past 8 or so years, I’ve noticed that my stomach really isn’t what it used to be.

I once boasted an iron stomach. Stomach viruses were foreign to me, I could eat week-old food I found in the bottom of my purse and be perfectly fine. But now I get stomach viruses several times a year, and it’s awful. Aw-ful.

So what’s an old-ish person to do? Should I give up gluten, or dairy, or sugar? Break up with coffee, wine and bread? Maybe I should quit my job and join a special milkshake pyramid scheme?

Hah! You know that’s not my style.  Instead, I’m making sauerkraut.

Fermented raw sauerkraut is apparently one of the best sources of edible probiotics there is. It’s cheap and easy to make, it tastes like pickles. It will appeal to your inner science nerd, and it doesn’t require giving up any of the foods that make life worth living, or quitting your job.

I can’t tell you if it works yet because my first batch just ripened a couple of days ago. Let’s just say I’m very optimistic.

I used a recipe from the Kitchn for my first bach.Ripening sauerkraut

 

Summer

It’s Cape time again. Cape time! Usually we get here earlier in the season, but it’s kind of nice to start when it actually feels like summer.

We’re attempting once again to simplify dinners. Less food, fewer dishes, less waste, less cleanup, less work… more relaxing! I’m pretty sure I said the same thing at the beginning of last summer, so we’ll see how it goes, but so far so good.

Friday’s dinner (not pictured) was grilled chicken—which Rose claimed was as good as the chicken they serve at school—with potatoes and super-fat, ultra-tasty asparagus grown by the Drews.

On Saturday we ate from the sea. Drew cooked up some black sea bass and stripers that he’d caught, which we had with rice and an assortment of vegetables.

Sunday was the picture of “New Cape Simple.” Fresh-dug clams, which my mom—somehow on her walker—turned into spaghetti alla vongole. For the non-clam eaters, a double-batch of Marcella’s famous sauce, which disappeared even more quickly than the clams. And a very simple salad with avocado, tomato, lime and spinach.

There was nearly a crisis when we thought we might run out of salad, but we didn’t. Clean-up was minimal, we didn’t even fill the dishwasher. And there were practically no leftovers!

Something else we learned late last summer, and are trying to carry through to this year, is that sometimes a sit-down dinner is not the best thing when you’ve got a lot of kids around. On Saturday, we put the two toddlers at the coffee table with dinner and some toys while the rest of us ate at the big table. I think they ate more than if they’d been sitting at the table with us.

On Sunday we had upwards of 20 people, so we served dinner buffet-style and folks just got a plate and ate wherever. It was so much easier, no counting of place settings and somehow still ending up with not enough seats, no herding of young boys who really don’t want to sit down anyhow, no need for multiple serving dishes, no extra tables and chairs. More relaxing!

Wishing everyone a very happy, and very relaxing summer.

xoxo

Another last supper

Tonight is our last night in our new, old, new, temporary, one-day-forever home. We’re moving tomorrow. It’s also our anniversary.

There’s nothing like packing all day on your anniversary, while you have the horrible virus from hell, and a 2 year old who also has the horrible virus from hell, and who falls apart (with real tears) every time he sees you putting something in a box.

But, we made it through and my folks sent over a nice sushi dinner and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.

We ate dinner on the living room-slash-bedroom floor, with our hands and a couple of pieces of newsprint as a picnic blanket. We drank champagne out of jars. The kids gave us a 5 minute head start. “Go ahead and start without us, we’ll be in the bathroom for a while” said Rose. It was super romantic.

We’re moving into a teeny, dark, basement apartment for 6 or 9 or maybe-but-hopefully-not 12 months, while we turn my parents house into a totally awesome, for-reals, two-family home. I’m a lot worried about the lack of natural light, but ultimately it’s going to be amazing.

The movers arrive in 9 hours. Eyes on the prize. Good night!

Vietnamese noodle salad: “super-easy except for the prep”

So glad my sister reminded us about this recipe. We all absolutely love Vietnamese Noodle Salad with (or without) Shrimp. And it really is super-easy, except for the prep, specifically all of that julienning.

Fortunately, my mom did a lot of the prep in advance, which made it easier for my sister to single-handedly pull together a massive platter piled high with this delicious dish.

In case you’re wondering what we have planned for next week: Monday is going to be burgers, dogs, Carrot Salad with Harisa, Feta & Mint and a green salad. On Tuesday, Rose has requested sushi takeout instead of our usual Frank Pepe. Wednesday will be Linguini with Pecorino, Pepper & Arugula. And on Thursday Shane’s going to make some of his awesome pizza pie from scratch. We like to wing it on Friday.

Happy weekend!

The week: part 2

My last post was all about planning dinner for the week, so I thought today I’d post about prepping all the food for the week, breakfast and lunches too.

Since the kids love pancakes and I’m always making them on weekend mornings anyhow, I’ve taken to making extra pancakes which I heat up in the oven on school days. I use this pancake recipe. We go back and forth between liking them thin and thick, right now we’re in a thick phase, with chocolate chips.

If you’re going to do this, I recommend not refrigerating the cooked pancakes, they get too stiff. Just wrap them well and leave them on the counter, they’ll last 2-3 days easy. When you wake up, wrap however many pancakes you need in foil, pop them in a warm oven while you shower, and they’re ready when you the kids get up (assuming you do things in that order).

I’m an oatmeal junkie and that’s what I bring to work for my breakfast. Rather than the tedious process of microwaving at work, I do overnight oats in a jar. You combine some old fashioned oats with the liquid of your choice (I like almond milk), sweetener (maple syrup) and whatever else you like. Let it sit in the fridge overnight or for a day or two and it’s edible right out of the jar.

We do lunches the night before because we’re just not that good in the mornings. I can’t imaging finding time to make lunch in the morning short of waking up in the fives, which is something I really try my best not to do, ever.

At the top of this page is pictured Sid’s lunch for tomorrow. He’s got a sun butter sandwich, some of the shepherd’s pie that Shane made (which Sid would never eat for me but may eat for the nice ladies at daycare), an applesauce packet, yogurt and an orange.

My lunch is almost always a hearty salad. I like to make up a batch or two of grains on the weekend (farro, quinoa, wild rice, barley) and then roast up a root vegetable or two (beets, sweet potatoes, carrots) and use those as my base.

The night before I add fresh herbs, olive oil, a dash of vinegar, maybe some cheese or nuts and a big handful of greens at the very top. If you put the greens in last and then don’t toss the salad until you’re ready to eat it, the greens don’t wilt in the dressing.

Shane takes care of his own lunch (thank god), and we tag team making the kids lunches. Rose alternates between buying lunch at the cafeteria and bringing a sandwich, pasta or whatever is currently working for her.

So once all of that is done and while Sid has his afternoon nap I plan the dinners for the week (see below). Our dinner plan includes recipes, when relevant, and has spots for family members to volunteer for shopping, cooking etc. We also put notes about who will or will not be around for dinner and whether Rose is buying her lunch the next day, or needs it prepared.

And look at that, I only spent most of the day getting our food sorted out for the week. Happy work week friends!

 

The light!

Pasta_2_revI finally received and assembled (and tried) my new food photography light and it’s amazing. It’s like—yes it’s true—it’s like night and day.

Just look at the lovely image above of Penne with 5 Cheeses. Looks great, right? Like I took it in daylight, which is impossible because we’ve just suffered through daylight savings time and now it gets dark at 2pm (or whatever).

Take a look at the image below, it was taken at the same time of day (9:30pm), under our perfectly nice but horrible for food photography overhead lighting. Ick, right?

Well yay Lowel Ego light (and check out the yummy pasta recipe above too).Pasta-1

Farro with butternut squash, almonds & goat cheese

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetIt was Sunday night, and I was really in the mood for farro. My usual recipes didn’t appeal to me so I thought I’d try this one.

Not surprisingly, we didn’t have all the ingredients and I decided to mess with the recipe. The result was amazing (and smelled amazing while cooking too!) The recipe is below.

We also had salad with broccoli, leeks, basil, goat cheese and radicchio, and pork tenderloin. But what I’m taking home from this dinner is the farro.

P.S. If you have a baby, he or she may devour this dish.

• Farro with Roasted Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese & Almonds •
adapted from this recipe from 101 Cookbooks
serves 6 as a side dish

1 cup farro, rinsed and drained
salt
3 or more cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice 
1/2 large red onion cut into inch-ish sized chunks
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup almonds, toasted & chopped
1/4 cup (about half a small log – more to taste) goat cheese, crumbled

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan, boil the farro in plenty of salted water until al dente. When done, remove from heat, drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, toss chopped butternut squash, thyme, onion & balsamic vinegar in a bowl with a good amount of olive oil and salt. Roast in a baking tray for about 45 minutes until fragrant and cooked through, browned nicely and not too mushy. Toss with a spatula for even cooking and taste along the way.

When the squash is done, toss it in a large bowl with the farro and almonds, taste for seasoning, adding more salt and oil if needed. Add crumbled goat cheese and toss one more time. Serve warm.

What I like about Fridays

IMG_5196It’s been over 6 months and I still don’t really feel settled into our new home/city/life yet. I still miss New York. I miss it a lot. Like in a totally heartbroken, feel like I’m in mourning most of the time, kind of  a way.

I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but hey, it’s how I feel. Except on Fridays.

Fridays feel normal, probably because they’re most like my old life. On Fridays I work from home, and then I pick up Rose from school, I chat with a mom or two at pickup, hang with my kids and… I cook dinner! (Usually)

On this particular Friday my mom and I cooked together. She made Baked Chicken Meatballs from Smitten Kitchen. I made Lemony Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Turnips, Potatoes and Horseradish Creme Fraiche from Dash & Bella.

IMG_5195The highlight of the meal was the roasted brussels etc. from Dash & Bella. First of all, it’s totally my kind of recipe, no quantities or proportions, just a general guideline, a cooks-cook kind of a recipe.

Throwing big chunks of lemon and all of those fresh herbs in with the vegetables, really makes the dish. And the combination of different textures—turnip, brussels sprouts, potato—keeps things interesting.

We had a bit of trouble with the horseradish creme fraiche, I added too much horseradish and it caused it to separate, like when you’re halfway to making butter. Next time I’ll just add a small amount of horseradish. And I promise you, next time will be soon.

The chicken meatballs were well-received as well, but couldn’t hold a candle to the veggies.

Happy Weekend. xo

• Lemony Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Turnips, Potatoes and Horseradish Creme Fraiche •
from Dash & Bella

Preheat your oven to 425 °F.
 
Use a large sheet pan or baking dish so that everything has room to get nice and crispy. We had a lot of veggies, so I used two pans.
 
For veggies we used: a few peeled garlic cloves, sage, rosemary, thyme, a big pile of halved Brussels sprouts (funky outer leaves removed), quartered Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 1.5″ pieces) turnips, and 2 quartered lemons. Make sure potatoes and turnips are cut to about the same size.
 
Put all your veggies into a bowl, and then be really generous with the salt, pepper, and olive oil; use your hands to make sure everything is well coated.
 
Pour everything out onto a sheet pan or two, and pop in the oven. Keep checking and tossing the vegetables around so that they cook evenly.
 
Bake until the vegetables are just cooked through and golden brown, the potatoes will take the longest.
 
It’s even okay to let things burn a bit. 
 
Serve with Horseradish Crème Fraîche (freshly grated horseradish and chopped parsley mixed into crème fraîche). Be careful not to add too much horseradish, you want to keep it creamy and relatively mild.IMG_5197