Thursday, March 29, 2012



People in blog-land have been playing Tag, and I'm IT! Sarah tagged me. :-) Here are the rules (it's so fun, and you won't have to get winded or sweaty at all!):
  1. The first rule is to post these rules.  (Done!)
  2. Post a photo of yourself then write 11 things about you/your life.
  3. Answer the questions for you set in the original post.
  4. Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them.
  5. Go to their blog/twitter to tell them you have tagged them.

11 Things About Me

1. I really like living in the city, but I would love to have a garden that partially or completely sustained my family, as well as bees and chickens. The book Farm City was very inspiring to me.

2. I grew up in a committed Protestant Christian family, but in 2005 I was received into the Roman Catholic Church. I read dozens of books on my journey toward "Rome Sweet Home" (ha), and while the decision to become Catholic was painful and difficult, I have never regretted it for one second.

3. I think the taboo against drinking alone is silly. When I'm having dinner alone because the Guy is working late or traveling, or for whatever reason, I will often pour myself a glass of wine. Dining alone is a time to treat yourself well. For me, that means wine.

4. I like to run and do yoga, and I wish I were more committed to both.

5. After a year of working in very close proximity to a candy bowl, I can tell you with confidence that my favorite candy bar is Twix.

6. I HATE scary movies. Especially the supernatural ones, like with spirits and demons and stuff. They give me nightmares and I will not watch them.

7. I got a sewing machine for my birthday in January and it's still in the box. I wish I had already learned how to use it because I want a specific floral A-line skirt with wide high waist and big bow in the front, and I don't have the patience to shop for it. If I already knew how to sew, I could just whip it up. Motivation!

8. I got a perm when I was a freshman in college. It took three hours and 2.5 bottles of the chemical solution. It never relaxed and about a year later I had to chop all my hair off. That was the shortest it's ever been. My hair has never again been chemically treated.

9. Once I went into a tanning bed for 5 minutes. It was too hot, and I could feel myself getting cancer, and I regretted it the whole time. There was also some disconcerting sound that made me feel absolutely convinced that the thing was going to explode and I was going to die in a burst of flames. Needless to say, I'll never do that again.

10. I absolutely can't stand it when you say you haven't seen a movie or read a book or something, and someone says, "WHAT?! You've never seen/read that?! Oh my gosh, I can't believe that." Really? You've seen and read EVERYTHING? For crying out loud.

11. I like rollercoasters and bubble baths.

Sarah's 11 Questions for Me:

1. What is your favorite movie? Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Nobody's ever heard of it, and that is a crying shame. I could watch it over and over again.

2. Do you have a favorite saint? I was confirmed as an adult, and I chose St. Monica as my patroness/confirmation name because she was so faithful and fervent in prayer, and because she is the patron saint of mothers, and I feel that motherhood is a huge part of my vocation (even though I'm not a Mama yet!). I feel like "favorite" saints can change at different times of your life, though - and I really loved reading James Martin's book My Life With The Saints.

3. Name one or two things you want to do before you die. I would like to travel to Israel, and I would like to have at least a couple of kids. I would also like to publish a book. (Sorry, that was three.)
4. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? The best one I can think of recently is a dinner at Fore Street in Portland, Maine. The meal began with an absolutely kick-ass Manhattan, and some great fresh crusty bread at the table. I ordered spit-roasted rabbit, which came with a warm lentil-ginger-cranberry sauce. I had never had rabbit before, so the novelty was exciting. I was in heaven. The ambiance of the place was fantastic, too. Exposed brick and rustic wood, and an open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant. Perfectly lit. Romantic.

5. Do you have a favorite store or shop? I love Myopic Books in Chicago, but really any musty-smelling, stacked-to-the-ceiling, used bookstore will do. Oh gosh, I love the Strand in New York, too.

6. If you were going to be on a desert island with only one kind of food and drink, what would it be? Is this like, one single food and one single drink? Or one type of cuisine? I shall answer both. Without regard to nutrition (since you couldn't possibly eat only one food and live), I would want Reuben sandwiches and Manhattans. Cuisine? Italian food.
7. Are you a dog person or a cat person? DOG. Cats are too sneaky and you never know if they love you or they're getting ready to bite you. And most of the time it's both.

8. Do you watch any TV shows? ...Yes. Too many. I usually only watch them on Hulu or Netflix, though. I don't stay home on Thursday nights and deny real interactions to watch TV. That said, I watch 30 Rock, The Office, Modern Family, Parks and Rec, Up All Night, Once Upon a Time, Smash, GCB, and (intermittently) Grey's Anatomy. I also watch Friends when I'm doing things around the house. And I wish Pushing Daisies had lasted for 10 seasons, it was so fantastic.

9. What’s your favorite blog post that you’ve written? Only one? I can't decide. It was this one or this one or this one. :-)

 10. Are you on Pinterest? Oh yes. I love it. Particularly for keeping track of recipes I want to try and ideas for diy/kid/decorating projects.

 11. What would you consider your greatest accomplishment? My marriage. We were 17 when we started dating, and we've done a lot of growing up and changing since then. We're closer and more in love now than we ever have been, and I think the daily living of that relationship is my greatest accomplishment.

My 11 Questions for YOU!

1. Would you rather read fiction or nonfiction? Why?
2. What would an ideal day look like?
3. What was your favorite vacation?
4. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would you live?
5. What is one thing you've always wished you could cook at home, but have been to scared to try?
6. How do you take your coffee?
7. What color Starburst is your favorite?
8. What was your favorite class in college?
9. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you want to be when you grow up now?
10. Do you subscribe to any magazines?
11. What is the one part of your daily routine you can't live without?

Cynthia, Cassie, and Giana... TAG! You're it!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No-Knead Pizza Dough

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This is the pizza dough to end all pizza doughs. It involves no kneading, no rising (only resting), no special equipment. While baking, it blisters and bubbles, and comes out crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. It is nothing short of perfect.

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This dough is like an automatic party. Instructions: Prepare dough one day ahead. Add a few friends, a bottle of wine, and small bowls of toppings. Let each person create their own pizza, and let the fun begin!

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No-Knead Pizza Dough 
adapted from Bon Appetit

7 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

Whisk flour, sea salt and yeast together in a medium bowl. With a wooden spoon, gradually stir in 3 cups of water until well incorporated. Use your hands to form dough into a rough ball, and transfer to a large clean bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 18 hours in a warm, draft-free area, until it is more than doubled and the surface is covered in tiny bubbles. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and shape it into a rectangle, then cut into six pieces. Working with one piece at a time, fold the corners in toward the center, flip it seam side down, and gently shape into a ball. Transfer to a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, and then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for an hour. (You can also put it in the refrigerator at this point, and it will keep for 3 days. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours before continuing.)

While the dough is resting, place a pizza stone on a rack in the top third of the oven, and preheat it as hot as it will go (about 550 degrees) for about an hour.

Working with one dough ball at a time, dust with flour and transfer to a floured surface. Gently shape into a 10- to 12-inch disk. Transfer disk to a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with flour. Increase the oven heat to broil. Top the pizza with your desired toppings and use quick back-and-forth motions to slide it onto the pizza stone. Don't overload with toppings; it becomes hard to move. Broil for 5-7 minutes, rotating halfway through to prevent burning. Remove when the bottom is crisp and golden and the top is blistered. Slice and serve!

Favorite topping combinations:

-Barbecue sauce, diced chicken breast, cheddar or co-jack cheese, and bacon
-Fresh tomato, onion, and bacon, with shredded mozzarella
-Olive oil, lemon zest, and Parmesan, topped with arugula after baking
-Caramelized onion, balsamic-glazed mushroom, and Gorgonzola

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mrs. Rossitano's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Little by little, I have somehow become a person who watches TV. It started with The Office, and then 30 Rock, and it just started snowballing. Parks and Rec, Up All Night, this new show Awake which is on right after the NBC comedies (and we haven't been able to turn off - so good!). Modern Family, Once Upon a Time, Smash! Oh, and GCB. Hi-larious. I tell myself it's OK because 1) I'm not flipping channels out of boredom and watching whatever's on, 2) I don't watch trashy reality TV (not until the Real Housewives of Disney becomes a reality, at least), and 3) I multitask. While the TV is on, I iron, I knit, I fold laundry, I flip through magazines looking for recipes. And once in a while, something happens that totally vindicates my decision to be a TV-watcher.

"This shouldn't work! How they met is disgusting! Their age difference is just weird! They shouldn't go together! But you know what else shouldn't go together? Veal, fennel, lemon, cheese and pork! that's right! Your meatballs! Lynn and Frank are just as good as your meatballs." -Liz Lemon

If you can watch that and not want to eat spaghetti and meatballs, you're a stronger person than I. So I wrote myself a little list, and the next time I was at the grocery store, I picked up ingredients to recreate Mrs. Rossitano's meatballs.


"These meatballs are good! Like, IKEA good! Is there parmesan in this? And lemon! And a little fennel?" Yes! It's all in there! And it is exactly as good as Liz Lemon makes it sound.

San Marzano Tomatoes

Mrs. Rossitano's Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 slices bread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk, or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons milk
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground veal
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons lemon zest (from one lemon)
vegetable oil

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can or 1 quart tomatoes, crushed
dried or fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

1 pound spaghetti

In a small bowl, combine bread and buttermilk. Allow to soak for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine pork, veal, Parmesan, egg yolk, salt, pepper, fennel seeds and lemon zest, and the bread/buttermilk mixture. Mix with your hands until well incorporated. With wet hands to prevent sticking, gently shape into approximate 1 1/2 inch balls, about 15-20 meatballs total. Be careful not to pack them too densely. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard remaining oil.

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving some of the starchy pasta water.

In the same pan you used for the meatballs, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute garlic until golden but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Season sauce with basil, salt and pepper. Nestle meatballs in sauce and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove meatballs to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Toss pasta with sauce in the pan, thinning sauce with pasta water if necessary. Top each serving of spaghetti with several meatballs, and serve with grated Parmesan for passing. If you're feeling fancy (or you have fresh basil on hand), garnish with basil chiffonade.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Cleaning: The Fridge

Spring Cleaning: The Fridge

This weekend, my kitchen and I came to blows, and I am proud to say that I emerged victorious.

When your life is busy and full, it's easy to let clutter and mess creep up on you. It happens gradually. You run by the grocery store after work to pick up a few things for dinner, and you don't put everything away. You accidentally buy something you had forgotten you already had. Leftovers get piled high and pushed to the back of the fridge. Then one day you realize you can't find anything, and although the cupboards and fridge seem stuffed to bursting, you feel certain there is no food in the house.

It makes you feel crazy, doesn't it?

Having a clean, well-organized kitchen makes it much easier to cook, reduces stress, and shrinks your grocery bill by eliminating redundancies and making it easier to see what you have to use up. I tend to look at recipes and shop for what I want to eat, rather than starting with what I have on hand and building meals that way. First step to change: getting everything clean, organized, and clearly labeled.  Let's get started!

Working systematically through the different areas of your fridge and freezer, repeat the following steps:

Step 1: Take everything out and sort through it. Is anything obviously spoiled or freezer-burned? Can you identify it? Do you even remember putting it in there? Toss toss toss!

Step 2: Fill the sink with hot soapy water, and scrub out the inside with a clean soapy rag. Rinse out the rag and wipe down with clean water, then dry with a towel.

Step 3: Look critically at the setup. Is this particular arrangement working for you? Is there anything you can do to change it? I decided that the dinky wire shelf in my freezer was not cutting it, so I replaced it with a wider and slightly taller shelf. Same thing in the fridge: a tiny shelf in the middle that got absolutely no light made it virtually useless. Rearrange shelves until you come up with something that works.

Step 4: Try to organize each area by category. Don't obsess. Not everything fits into a category, but if you establish general areas (i.e. one drawer for fruits and veggies, and one for meats and cheeses), you'll have an easier time putting things away and finding them in the future.

Step 5: Establish a system for labeling leftovers. This is crucial! It can be as simple as a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie. Write what's inside, and when you put it in there. The dates will help to remind you which things to use up first, and the labels will help your family members to be able to find something to eat without asking you!

The Freezer: Before

freezer before

The Freezer: After

There are a few things that I try to buy in bulk and keep in the freezer. Butter, salted and unsalted. Bacon. Organic free-range chicken (whole chickens and some boneless breasts for quick meals), and ground beef. Pecans, walnuts, and almonds, which can go rancid quickly if not kept cold. Whole grain flours (not in bulk), for the same reason.

freezer after

Freezer Door: Before

freezer door before

Freezer Door: After

If you like to bake and there aren't always enough people around to eat up the things you make, pop them in the freezer. Homemade waffles are sealed two-by-two in sandwich bags, and put Eggo waffles to shame. Freeze leftover muffins and cookies, too. You keep yourself from overeating (who in the world can resist fresh baked goods?) and you provide delicious treats for your future self. Frozen bananas become smoothies and muffins!

freezer door after

Fridge Door: Before

fridge door before

Fridge Door: After

Guess what I found in my butter shelf? ...Anchovy paste. Don't be like me! Don't accidentally bake with anchovy butter! Give your butter a private room. Think about all that butter does for you! Doesn't it deserve some privacy? Also, why does Asian cuisine contain such a bewildering number of specific sauces? Sweet chili sauce, sriracha, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and toasted sesame oil, chili oil, ponzu sauce... Make it stop!

fridge door after

The Fridge: Before

fridge before

The Fridge: After

fridge after

Once I got through this ordeal of cleaning and tossing and rearranging, I felt better. My heart swells with pride every time I open the fridge, and I feel the sense of accomplishment radiating through other areas of my life, motivating me to change and improve! I'm gaining momentum and taking control, and little by little I'm allowing peace to replace the chaos in my home.

Want to see some more inspiring refrigerators? Go visit Tracy and Jen!

Friday, March 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday!

A random smattering of delicious or delightful things that have been in my life lately!

(Visit Jen for more quick takes!)

1. Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes with fondant buttons!

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Becky brought these adorable and delicious treats to Meg the Grand's second sewing class! I may or may not have gotten frosting on my sampler. I am proud to say that under Meg's tutelage, I now know how to sew two-hole, four-hole, and shank buttons, how to make a covered button, how to attach snaps, and how to sew hems using a slipstitch and a catch stitch. I feel very accomplished, and I have already used my new skills to repair some items that were waiting patiently in the closet. Sewing = useful life skill. Fact.

2. Vanishing of the Bees + Bee Treats!

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Last Saturday night, we walked over to the Logan Square Kitchen to watch the Vanishing of the Bees, a fabulous documentary chronicling the hazards of modern beekeeping, narrated by Ellen Page. The event benefited the Chicago Honey Co-op, and there were some amazing treats! I had that incredible-looking piece of honey candy, and the Guy had a bee cookie. The movie is available on Netflix Instant, and I highly recommend it.

3. Excuse me... where are the quinoa flakes?

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I love it when a recipe calls for something I've never heard of! It's so exciting! Where will I buy this mystery item? What will it look like? How will it taste? What will it act like in recipes? I love it. This week, I got sunflower seed butter, sucanat, and quinoa flakes for this recipe, curry for a lentil soup recipe I've had in the hopper for a while, and pickling spice for homemade corned beef. Also chia seeds! I've been reading this great book about ultrarunning, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It is completely fascinating. The author had experienced nothing but injury and pain in his experience of running until he discovered a hidden Mexican tribe called the Tarahumara. They live in the Copper Canyons, and are some of the world's greatest and most joyful runners; they run hundreds of miles at once, practically barefoot, just for fun! But back to my point: their idea of an energy drink is called chia fresca, which is just chia seeds soaked in water or fruit juice. The seeds are full of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, protein, fiber, B vitamins, and essential minerals. I'm excited to try it!

4. Sushi and a mojito are a totally appropriate work lunch.

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Chicago Restaurant Week was a blast this year. There's only so much decadent eating out that you can cram into one week, especially when that week corresponds with two fast days at the beginning of Lent, but I did my best. Some girls from my office went to SushiSambaRio on Fat Tuesday for their $22 3-course prix fixe. The last time I was there was for my bachelorette party, and this was quite a different story. We were almost the only people there! The food was delicious. Gyoza, a sushi plate (including a spicy shrimp roll which was to die for, and an unusual but tasty piece of kobe beef sushi), apple crisp and mochi. Saturday night I had a lady date with a friend at the Bristol, a local seasonal gastropub with a knockout menu. Unbelievable.

5. Bridgeport Coffeeshop

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I'm a big fan of Bridgeport Coffee, as I've said before, and I was recently able to make it down to their coffeeshop, where I was greeted by skilled, knowledgeable, and friendly baristas, a warm neighborhood vibe, and a pitch-perfect latte. I'll be back.

6. Boys and girls have different ideas about tea party fare.

Tea parties are different for boys and girls.

Tea and cake for me, giant pile of tater tots for him. Married bliss.

7. Spring has sprung!


This doesn't mean we're totally out of the woods, but these little sprouts are such a happy, hopeful sight!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bacon Black Pepper Waffles

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Last week, I accidentally locked myself out of my apartment. I already had plans to meet up with my husband a little later, so I found myself with some time to kill. Since I hadn't realized that I was key-less until I was getting off the train, I decided to walk over to our building and see if I could sneak in. Long story short, I discovered that our apartment is safe and secure, at least from low-level thieves and robbers. I also discovered two other things! First, the copy of the Joy the Baker Cookbook that had been pre-ordered as a birthday gift from a dear and lovely friend was on my doorstep. Second, the bar around the corner from our house has $5 glasses of wine on Tuesday nights. Problem solved. I sat at the bar for a full hour, sipping my wine, marking down must-try-now recipes, and cracking up (out loud, of course) at Joy's hilarious recipe descriptions and stories. It was the world's luckiest lockout.

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In the week between then and now, I have made three of the recipes in the book, and all have been complete knockouts. Kettle corn made a fine dinner for one alongside Heidi's blood orange gin sparkler. The brown butter chocolate chip cookies are an absolute delight. I had never refrigerated my chocolate chip cookie dough before, nor had I ever let the cookies rest sufficiently on the pan after baking. These tips took the cookies from good to perfect!

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Smushing waffles and bacon together into one over-the-top breakfast treat was a stroke of genius. Adding pepper? I don't even know. Delicious. Make them for dinner today! And then grab your own copy of this fabulous fun book! The recipes are so accessible, the photos are gorgeous, and you will want to be Joy's friend forever.

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Bacon Black Pepper Waffles
from the Joy the Baker cookbook

For the bacon:
10 slices bacon
2 teaspoons fresh, coarsely cracked black pepper

For the waffles:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh, coarsely cracked black pepper
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups buttermilk

To make the bacon: position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange bacon slices into a single layer across the sheet. Sprinkle generously with black pepper. Place in the oven to bake until bacon is brown and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place bacon slices on a plate lined with paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, chop bacon into bite-sized chunks and set aside while you prepare the waffle batter.

Set your waffle iron on a level, clean surface and turn on to preheat.

To make the waffles: in a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, vanilla, and buttermilk. Add the buttermilk mixture, all at once, to the flour mixture. Stir until just incorporated. Fold in the bacon. Try not to overmix the batter. If a few lumps remain, that's OK.

Cook according to your waffle machine instructions. Serve with warm maple syrup. Waffles are best served immediately.

Friday, March 2, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Meatless Meal Ideas

It's the second Friday in Lent, and people all across the country are pulling into the drive-thru at McDonald's for a Filet-o-Fish, packing up the kids for a fish fry in the church basement, and dusting off their trusty tuna noodle casserole recipes. Today, I would like to share some ideas to get you out of your fishy Lenten rut! Enjoy!

1. ...But we like fish!

Photo from YumSugar

I totally understand! Fish is delish! But there are more interesting (not to mention healthier and more sustainable) ways to enjoy this tradish (oh no, somebody stop me) Friday option. Before I go all crazy and suggest things like lobster and king crab, let's remember that we are abstaining from meat for a day for purposes of penance and self-denial, not as an excuse for a different type of feast. So here are some non-feasting, non-tuna-noodle options: salmon with sweet chili glaze, lemony white bean, tuna, and celery salad, sardine sandwich with horseradish cream, or smoked salmon pizza with red onion and capers.

2. Pasta

Photo from Eat, Live, Run
Tired of spaghetti and marinara? Try wintry pasta al forno, stunning stuffed shells, gnocchi with goat cheese, grape tomatoes and basil, or broccoli-basil mac and cheese.

3. Go vegan for a day!

Photo from The Shiksa in the Kitchen

Since we're not eating meat, why not just go all the way and not eat anything animal-based? Try a deconstructed avocado roll; all the sushi flavor, none of the raw fish. These wintry tofu spring rolls look amazing. Roasted kale and coconut salad over brown rice or farro is totally craveable. Never made your own falafel? There's no time like the present. How about this for easy: Italian white beans with Meyer lemon and tarragon piled on top of toasted crusty French bread. Now we're talking!

4. Wait... that's not meat?

Photo from Peas and Thank You

Peas and Thank You is an awesome blog (and cookbook!) for meatless cooking. And also for real-life stories of motherhood that often make me laugh out loud. Some of Sarah's popular, can't-believe-it's-not-meat recipes: Tempeh Spaghetti, Curried Sweet Tater Tot Casserole, Seitan Fajitas, Tamale Pie.

5. Breakfast for dinner

Like we needed an excuse. Scrambled eggs with caramelized mushroom and onion biscuits. Waffles with maple-cinnamon poached pears (no bacon!). Chiles rellenos breakfast burritos!

6. Soup it up.

Roasted tomato and white bean soup with grilled white-cheddar sandwiches. Green lentil soup with curried brown butter. Borscht. Winter squash soup (make it with vegetable broth) with gruyere croutons.

7. Tradish (sorry).

My girl Sarah's got you covered with a great tuna-noodle casserole recipe, as well as one for chipotle bean burritos and caesar salmon wraps. YUM!

Visit Jen for more quick takes. And have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


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This winter has been perhaps the gentlest one I can remember. There have been no blizzards, no ten-day stretches where the thermometer doesn't even get above zero. I've needed my hat and serious boots only a handful of times. Now that it's officially March, anything that happens weather-wise can reasonably be blamed on the caprices of spring. I feel a little disoriented, but I'm not complaining.

Lack of extreme weather aside, there's still not a lot of color on the outdoor landscape during these months. Though it's not cold, it's still pretty dark. We've had our fair share of dreary days, and the grass that has been visible much more than normal is looking pretty tired. I find it really encouraging, when the world is languishing in shades of grey, that you can dig up roots that look like this:


They're so thoughtful.

This soup is delightful. Packed with veggies, warm and comforting, and bright, bright, BRIGHT! Beets and carrots get roasted first, for an extra layer of flavor. I wouldn't say no to a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

(P.S. I'm participating in Soupapalooza with TidyMom and Dine and Dish, sponsored by KitchenAid, Red Star Yeast, and Le Creuset! Come join the party with your soup recipes!)

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If you happen to have beef stock on hand, you can use that in place of some or all of the water and beef bouillon. You can also omit all beef entirely and just use water for a vegetarian soup. Also, this soup is lovely puréed, if you like that. I find it more satisfying to have something to sink my teeth into, especially if soup is the main course. A puréed version would make a great first course.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 large beets, scrubbed clean and quartered
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized russet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 head red or green cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons beef bouillon, optional (use more salt if omitting)
dried or fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream or yogurt, optional
balsamic vinegar, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a baking dish or roasting pan, arrange beets and carrots in a single layer. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over, and toss well. Add about a cup of water to the dish, and roast for about 45 minutes, until beets are tender and easy to peel. Remove from oven and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Slip the skins from beets and dice.

In a soup pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add diced beets and carrots, potato, cabbage, and dried dill, if using (if using fresh, wait until the end to add it). Stir well and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add about 10 cups cold water to the pot, so that all the vegetables are completely covered. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, until all vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot or cold, garnished with sour cream or yogurt, balsamic vinegar, and a sprig of fresh dill.