Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lovely Links (January 2013)


1. I got new glasses! 
2. Anne and I went to a concert celebrating Black Heritage. 
3. Wind chill of something like -20 degrees, sunrise and steam off the lake. 
4. Smiles. 
5. The weirdest weather I ever did see. 
6. Wellies!

I can hardly believe January is already coming to a close! It seems just yesterday we were popping champagne corks, kissing, and making resolutions. Now we're dealing with schizophrenic weather and looking for groundhogs. Here are some fabulous things I came across in my travels around the world wide web this month:

-A thought-provoking look at the question of how to deal with weight issues in children, and a book I can't wait to read.

-These all-natural lip balms come in amazing flavor combos, and would make a perfect gift for your Valentine.

-Pink Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies! Oh my!

-A really cool project from the New York Public Library compiling restaurant menus that date back to the 1850's.

-The colors in this Glazed Beet and Carrot Salad make me crazy. Who says winter is gray and blah?

-An adorable little DIY headband. Pink petals! Yay!

-Eating well all week long starts with braised pork shoulder.

-Pride and Prejudice turned 200, and this is how Chicago celebrated.

-Quick, someone have a birthday so I can make you these adorable multicolored sugar cookies!

-I defy anyone to make it to the end of this without crying. Such a lovely read.

-I keep seeing preserved lemons in ingredients lists, and I think I'm going to try my hand at making them myself. Shouldn't be too hard, right? Lemons + salt + time?

-Tina Fey's thoughts on body image.

-How to shuck oysters, and a few recipe ideas; they're an aphrodisiac, you know.

-What if a Jewish immigrant working in a pickle factory in Brooklyn in 1912 was preserved in brine for 100 years (stay with me) and came out in 2012 to interact with his great grandson?

-A train ride and thoughts on temporarily retreating from technology. Also, travel cocktails.

-A few more sweets for your sweetie: Valentine's Checkerboard Cookies, Intensely Chocolate Sables, Dark Chocolate Cherry Cordial Brownies, and Whiskey Walnut Blondies.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kale, Butter Bean, and Shrimp Couscous Bowl


The other day I went out for a walk, which is quite a production these days. Giant stroller, warm clothes for mamma and baby, diaper bag filled with essentials, keys, phone. I got all the way outside and realized I had forgotten my phone. I stood still for a second, considering my options, and decided that it might be good for me to be without my phone for a few minutes. For the first half of the walk, I had company, so it was no problem. As soon as my friend and I parted ways, though, I started feeling like I needed my phone. At least 4 times, I caught myself reaching for it. It turned into a great exercise, because without the constant ability to check on things and communicate with people, my mind was able to have a little break. I was truly amazed at how refreshed I felt and how sparkling clear my thoughts became.

I think I may make a habit of forgetting my phone more often.


Kale, Butter Bean, and Shrimp Couscous Bowl

adapted from Food and Wine, February 2013

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes to come together, and it is exceedingly delicious. Leftovers are great for lunch, especially if you only cook the shrimp as needed.

2/3 cup whole wheat couscous
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound shelled and deveined medium shrimp
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
one 15-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons capers
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale, ribs removed, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine the couscous with 3/4 cup boiling water, cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp, a sprinkle of salt, and the crushed red pepper and sauté until opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. In the same pan, melt the butter. Add the beans, capers, and lemon juice and cook until the beans are hot, about 2 minutes. Add the beans to the couscous and toss, tasting and adjusting seasonings. In the same pan (again!), add the kale and another sprinkle of salt, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly, until it is bright green but still holds most of its shape. Divide the kale and bean/couscous mixture between 4 bowls, and top with the shrimp.

Serves 4.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Radicchio Almond Carrot Cake with Orange Mascarpone Whipped Cream + Life Lessons from Childbirth

Radicchio Carrot Cake

This weekend I was able to slip away for a couple of hours to take a spin class, my first real workout since Anne was born. As I settled into the bike seat and started pedaling, my brain started whining even louder than the deafening music in the studio. After about 20 minutes of "Ugh, this is terrible. It hurts. I forgot how uncomfortable these bike seats are. Ow, my legs! I hate this! It's only been TEN minutes? I'll never survive!" this thought finally occurred to me:

Lady, you had a BABY 10 weeks ago. Without drugs. This is NOTHING.

After that, I had a lot more fun.


A couple of months before Anne was due, we took a birth preparation class called Birthing From Within (I highly recommend it: if you're in the Chicago area, look up Holly. If not, the book is great, too!). Little did I know how much the lessons learned in that class, and from my own experience of birth, would come in so handy in other areas of my life.

Life Lesson #1: You can do anything for one minute (or one hour, or one day...).

Especially helpful during labor, when there are regularly spaced intervals of pain and rest, is the thought that each contraction will only last for 60-90 seconds, and that at the most, labor only lasts for one to two days. That's it! I have used this one so often, to help me when I had a difficult day of nursing, when I was completely exhausted, to get through 10 days away from home in December (not easy with a newborn!). When something is challenging or painful, the knowledge that it won't be that way forever is very freeing.

Life Lesson #2: Coping with pain through detached awareness + refocused energy.

Ow, it hurts! There's not much power in that, is there? What if you notice and try to describe it? Where is the center of the pain? Where are the edges? In our first week at home, I was exhausted, and it felt like I was on a never-ending hamster wheel of waking, sleeping, nursing, and changing diapers. When you can't count on a full night of sleep anymore, your day no longer starts at 6am and ends at 10pm. So where are the boundaries? It helped me so much to start thinking of my days as a 24-hour block that reset at 7am. That way, if it had been a rough night, we got to start over. And if it was a great night, I wasn't tempted to skip taking a nap while Anne did, because I was preparing for the unknown night ahead. It made a huge difference, and all I did was change how I thought about the day.

Life Lesson #3: A huge effort and a lot of pain yield great rewards.

This is not news, and needs no explaining, but I'll say it anyway: childbirth hurts. A lot. But after it's over you have a baby, and a crazy amount of happy hormones. Caring for a newborn is an immense effort, but you get to snuggle them (!), and after about 6 weeks, THEY SMILE AT YOU (!!). Breastfeeding can be a challenge, but it is an amazing, miraculous food for your baby, and helps you to lose baby weight! Spinning might be a little uncomfortable, but in taking care of my body, I get to provide an example to my baby of how to care for her body, and I stay healthy so that I'll be around for more of her life!

Life Lesson #4: When it's over, let it go. Savor moments of rest.

After each contraction, there is a rest. Time without pain, without work. During the rest, you can freak out ("I can't do this for much longer! That one hurt so much! What if the next one is worse?) or you can let it go. If you let it go, you take advantage of the rest, and you're better able to handle what comes next, whatever it is. If the last 10 weeks are any indicator, I'll probably never be able to predict what's next again, so I'm doing my best to just live in each moment fully. And this moment, right here? There's a lot to savor.

Radicchio Carrot Cake

Radicchio Almond Carrot Cake with Orange Mascarpone Whipped Cream
adapted from Dolci, by Francine Segan

Slightly bitter radicchio in a sweet cake; an apt metaphor for motherhood.

For the cake:

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (sometimes called almond meal)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
1 small head radicchio, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

For the whipped cream:

8 ounces mascarpone
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour a 9-inch round pan. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until light yellow. Add flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, butter, carrots and radicchio and mix on low until well-combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and crackly, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, combine mascarpone, cream, sugar, and orange zest and juice, and whip until well-combined and fluffy. Serve alongside the cooled cake, or spread decoratively over the top.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies


There's a ceiling fan in our dining room, which connects to our kitchen. It is Anne's new best friend. I sit her in her little bouncy chair underneath it and she stares contentedly at it, smiling and cooing. Between that set-up and wearing her in the sling, I can get a fair amount of stuff done! As a new mom, it's amazing the tiny things that can make me feel like a rock star. "Not only did I just mix these cookies and get them in the oven, I cleaned up my kitchen before the baby needed me!" Totally worthy of high fives. Timing errands so that the baby goes in the car seat full and sleepy, takes a nap, wakes up happy and isn't hungry until you're back at home? Oh my gosh, that lady deserves some sort of medal.


I have had my eye on this cookbook for a long time, and I got it as a Christmas gift! It is already even better than I thought it would be! To tell you the truth, I really love the recipe that's on the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag - it has never failed me. These cookies are a complete departure from those. I love the nutty flavor of the whole-wheat flour, and the crumbly texture it gives the cookies. The kosher salt gives an extra crunch and a little extra sparkle. Adding an extra teaspoon of vanilla and dark instead of light brown sugar lends a sophisticated depth. The cookies really are best straight from the oven, or later that day (as Kim says in the book), so I would suggest you do as I did: bake a pan or two when you make the dough, and then refrigerate the rest of the dough (already formed into balls) to be baked throughout the week as you want them. They are fantastic with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and toss together with a fork. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars, and mix on low until well-blended, about two minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until well-blended. Add the chocolate chips and mix well.

Scoop dough into balls about 3 tablespoons in size, roll slightly between your palms, and place about 3 inches apart on the prepared pan. Bake 16-20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time, until cookies are evenly browned. Slide the parchment and cookies onto the counter to cool.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake


I used to read about this plight of new moms -- that every time they had a few minutes to themselves (a blessed few minutes when the baby is asleep!), they would spin around in a circle trying to decide how to spend those minutes. Your brain starts overheating with all these suddenly urgent things you need to do: Shower! Nap! Do some laundry! Empty the dishwasher! Do yoga! Read a chapter of that book that's been sitting on the coffee table for weeks while you watched all 11 seasons of Frasier (who did that? certainly not I.)!

By the time you've decided what to do, say, made yourself a cup of tea and sat down with that book... the baby wakes up. And then you slap yourself in the face for wasting all that time deciding how to spend your time.

What to DO?!


I figured out last week that if I made a list of daily goals, I would with absolute certainty not accomplish them, and then at the end of the day I would look around the living room and wonder where all the time went. HINT: It went into the tiny human being who needs to be held and fed about 18 hours a day. Worth it! Still, I'd like to be able to get some things done. So my new idea is to start having a weekly list of goals -- manageable things like fold the laundry, try one new recipe, read a chapter of that darn book, finish writing the thank-you notes -- and just try to pick one every day. Similarly, I would like to make a list of things to do while the baby is napping, so that when I start spinning in my circle, I just glance at my list, pick a thing, and get to it. I'll let you know how it goes.

This year, we celebrated my birthday a little at a time. Gifts from my family, a few cards in the mail, a bottle of Zinfandel from a vineyard we toured on our honeymoon in Napa. A few days later, two different varieties of local honey from the Bay Area, lavender bath salts, a book of quotes by Desmond Tutu, and little sticky page flags with watercolor prints of fruits and vegetables on them. With every box I opened, I thought how lucky I am to have a few close friends who really know me. On Saturday, we took Anne with us for lunch at a new Thai restaurant/sushi bar, and then I went (all by myself!) to have a massage. Little by little, in this new year, we are creating a life for ourselves that is rich and extraordinarily satisfying. We're making plans and growing and learning more each day about love, sacrifice, balance, and priorities.


My favorite cakes are the everyday ones; simple cakes that are baked in one pan, that come together quickly and with few ingredients, but leave nothing to be desired in terms of flavor. This cake is a perfect thing to bring to a tea party on a cold January morning, which is just what Anne and I did.


Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons freshly grated grapefruit zest
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/3 cup kefir (or buttermilk or plain yogurt)

For the syrup:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup grapefruit juice

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8.5x4.5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine the sugars and grapefruit zest, and blend them well with your fingertips, to infuse the sugar with as much citrus oil as possible. Whisk in the oil, and then add the eggs one at a time. Mix well.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a second bowl, and fluff them together with a fork. Combine 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and the kefir in a liquid measuring cup. Add half the flour mixture to the oil and sugar mixture, then the grapefruit juice and kefir, and then the rest of the flour, mixing well after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan while you make the syrup: combine the grapefruit juice and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack set over a pan, poke holes all over the top with a toothpick, and carefully spoon the syrup over it. Allow to cool completely.

To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, grapefruit juice, and salt in a bowl, and whisk until smooth. Pour the glaze over the top of the cooled cake.

Note: if you are bringing this cake to a tea party, wrap the cake and glaze separately, and pour the glaze over when you get to your destination.