Monday, January 30

Soup Love.

I think I'm one of those people. 

Those people who are skeptical of doctors, medicine, science... etc. 

But not in a way that I doubt it exists. Or that I think it shouldn't.

More in the way that I'm always afraid it's going to do more harm then good.

I refuse to get a flu shot. I haven't had the flu in years (knock on wood) and I just can't jinx that streak. And I'm pretty convinced that if I were to get said flu shot, I would make myself susceptible to it. I'd introduce the thing to my immune system and then always have to get it, or suffer the consequence.

I hate having blood drawn. It makes me so incredibly nervous. I shake. I babble. I talk nonsense and become unresponsive in conversation. I hold my sleeve in position for just long enough for the nurse to let me know, "It's okay to let go of that." It's all in fear of being attached to the black and blue arm within which the nurse could not find the vein. Shudder.

At the dentist I tense up. My lips are constantly pursed until, of course, I leave and discover they have become chapped. Getting Novocaine shots sends chills up my spine. Because I can't see what you're doing. And I know it's going to hurt.

So here I sit after a visit to my doctor on Thursday. I haven't been sick all winter. My nose is running. My throat is sore. My ears are pretty convinced that my head has been underwater all day.

And I'm convinced that this isn't totally all unfounded.

But just in case anyone else is in my boat and feeling a little sub-par, barring of course that my talk of snot hasn't just turned everyone off from food in general) I've assembled a collection of fantastic soups. I believe in the healing power of food. (Just stay away from tomato if your throat hurts!)

From this blog:
Winter Minestrone (So many veggies!)

Easy Roasted Chicken Noodle - How Sweet It Is (OH. MY. GOD.)
Potato Leek - Melissa Clark (Favorite)
Butternut Squash - A Couple Cooks (Squash soups are easy AND delicious)
Tortilla Soup  -  Food Network (So long as spicy's not a bad idea..)
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup - 101 Cookbooks (As long as the color green won't turn you... green)

Thursday, January 26

Ginger & Spinach Stuffed Chicken with Quinoa and Parsnips

Hey. I'm different today than I was last time I posted!

No, I'm not pregnant. I'm old!

Well, no.. I was old on Tuesday, too. But today I have proof. I've leaped over the great dividing line between the beginning of your 20's and the end. I'm heading towards 30 at an alarming rate, but honestly... I'm loving it.

Why is it that all of our lives we are taught to fear aging? Like it's not going to happen to everyone. As though if we hate it enough our own personal Peter Pan (<3 alliteration) will come knocking at our window and whisk us away with pixie dust.

At 25, the 10 most important things I live my life by are:

1) Love yourself and surround yourself by people whom you love and who love you back
2) Put your Thin Mints in the freezer
3) Truly care about other people's feelings. Really care.
4) Do things that make you feel healthy
5) Then do things that are less healthy, more fun
6) Appreciate the shit out of everything you have
7) Learn how to chop vegetables properly; you'll have a lot more free time
8) Find something you love to do that makes you happy and forget about what anyone else might think
9) A good Yankee candle, a glass of wine, and some chocolate can fix a multitude of problems. They can potentially cause them as well.
10) Dance your cares away. Worries for another day. (Yea, I did just quote Fraggle Rock. That happened.)

See? Who gives a shit about your wrinkles. At 18 I couldn't have even dreamed of putting together that list. And as much as I liked to think I was, I wasn't nearly as happy. (Ok, that doesn't mean I'm not going to go out and buy a wrinkle cream soon...). Of course I don't know everything. And I'm sure I'll find myself changing my mind some day. But I think the most important thing about getting older is that we are all still growing. And we can all do something every day to continue to grow.

 Just don't lose sight of the goal. And that's to enjoy the hell outta your time here.

And of course, eat wonderful things. And share them with others.


Magic Tape Nineteen by TheMagician  

Ginger & Spinach Stuffed Chicken with Quinoa and Parsnips

1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1-15 oz package of baby spinach
1/2 c. of chicken stock, plus a splash
3 chicken breasts (boneless skinless)
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 leek, diced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c pecans, chopped
1 c. quinoa
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a drizzle of EVOO over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add spinach and a splash of chicken stock and saute for 2-3 minutes or until it begins to wilt.

Clean and trim the chicken breasts, then cut a slit into each of the breasts on the longer side to open up a pocket. Be careful not to cut through! Stuff the chicken with spinach, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.

In the same pan as above, heat a bit more EVOO over medium heat. Sear each side of the chicken for 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile in a dutch oven, heat a bit of EVOO over medium heat. Add parsnips, leeks, and pecans and saute for 3-4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 c chicken stock and soy sauce and remove from heat.

Place chicken over the parsnips and leeks, keeping the split end facing as upturned as possible. Spread some of the parsnips and leeks over the chicken. Cover dutch oven and place in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package directions.

Once the dutch oven is removed from the oven, remove chicken breasts to a plate and toss together cooked quinoa and the remaining contents of the dutch oven. To serve, place chicken breasts back into dutch oven.

My new dutch oven's maiden voyage into the oven!

Sunday, January 22

Winter Minestrone

First of all, check out my winter wonderland...

... Allow me to get excited really quick... snow! Finally! Poor Jagger; he hates it sooo much. But please take a moment to laugh at his awkwardness, because he's a huge baby and it really is laughable. We'll keep him inside, don't worry.
Of course snow is the perfect occasion for a huge pot of soup and homemade rolls. It's for warm fuzzy socks and laying on the couch with a good book. It's for snuggling up with a warm blanket and maybe a lazy dog. There's really nothing more comforting; so long as you don't have to leave the house.

But you've got to understand that I'm committed to my huge pot of soup. And you better believe I trekked to the grocery store for fresh vegetables. Because I believe that canned soup is gross.

I will never consider myself a food snob. I hate the term "foodie."

Because as much as I love and appreciate good food, my love for food encompasses even the simplest of things. I've told you of my love for snacks. I will spend an hour making macaroni and cheese, but I will never be too good for the boxed stuff. I have an almost frightening love for peanut m&ms and a secret obsession, thanks to my grandparents, with sandwiches made from Campbell's Pork and Beans and white sandwich bread (and yea, I put ketchup on that). I'll dig on boxed brownies and Funfetti cake any day. What can I say? I'm an American till the end.

But I really think that canned soup is sad. Depressing. Floppy noodles, bits (not even pieces) of chicken that probably wouldn't even make it to McNuggets, more sodium than a human should have in a week, tasteless vegetables... I could continue, but I won't. Mostly because I feel mean if you're eating canned soup right now. (I'm sorry; it doesn't make you a bad person.)

Because for a bit more effort we can all have something really great.

If you've never made your own soup before, I really strongly encourage you to try it. It's soup-er easy and soup-er worthwhile. (Bada-bing!)

In general, when I make soup I usually take the "throw whatever is about to start rotting in the fridge into a pot" approach. Sometimes it wows; sometimes it doesn't. But I hate wasting food, so either way it always works for me. But this minestrone is definitely worth following the recipe.  This recipe was given to me highly recommended by a very trusted source, so I knew I had to follow directions. With one change. Couldn't help myself?

It's flavorful and healthy. The vegetables taste like vegetables. The sodium levels are kept in check. It smells like heaven on a snowy day. And best of all, it's really fairly easy. In fact, as long as you can enlist a buddy to help chop vegetables, it's really just as easy as opening a can (ok, maybe that's an exaggeration).

Soundtrack: More Brothers Past... I know. You don't even have to say it. I'm hanging my head in shame already. AHH BUT I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Winter Minestone
Adapted from Alice Water's - The Art of Simple Food via Sharon Lustig

1/4 c EVOO
3 carrots (mine were smaller, so I used 4), peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
5 thyme sprigs (mine disappeared somewhere between the grocery store and my apartment, so a tsp of dried thyme works just fine; however I would recommend at least attempting to obtain fresh)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp kosher salt
4 c. vegetable stock (We all believe the key to this recipe is in the stock - use Medford)
2 c. water
1 leek, diced
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1" lengths
2 c. red swiss chard, coarsely chopped
1-15 oz can diced tomatoes or 1 1/2 c grape tomatoes, halved (I used the canned diced)
1 rind of chunk of Pecorino-Romano cheese (Or Parmesan), plus additional grated to serve
1 c. butternut squash, cubed
1 can cannelloni beans (with liquid)
1 can red kidney beans (with liquid)
Salt (additional) and pepper, to taste

Heat EVOO over medium heat in a large heavy pot. Add onion, carrots and parsnip and saute for 15 minutes or until onions are translucent, stirring often. Add garlic, thyme sprigs (or dried), bay leaf and salt and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock and water, stir and bring the contents to a boil. Once boiling, add leek and green beans. Cook on a boil for 5 minutes, then stir in cheese rind, squash, tomatoes and chard. Once soup boils again, reduce heat to medium, then cook another 15 minutes.

Add beans with liquid. Stir and taste for salt, adding more if necessary and a bit of black pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove bay leaf, thyme sprigs (if used) and cheese rind. Serve with grated Pecorino (my preference) or Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, January 15

Pasta with Meat Sauce

First of all... this is me right now:
Coffee shop <3
If you can think of a better way to cure a hangover than pasta with meat sauce, I'd love to hear about it...

As you can see, the proper ratio of sauce to pasta is 4:1
The trouble is, a classic Bolognese ragu will run you around 3-4 hours... and it won't be exactly what you're expecting. Why? Because it contains like 1/2 a tomato! There are also no herbs, no garlic. Clearly this wasn't a recipe invented by an American.

In fact... did you know that there were actually no tomatoes in Italy until long after tomatoes were introduced to Spain, which happened of course after the discovery of... you guessed it. The Americas! Peep this: "In fact, in 1544, the Italian herbalist Pietro Matthioli, classified the tomato plant along with other poisonous plants." (Source!This bit of information certainly squashes just about everything I ever thought I knew about Italian cuisine. So there... Olive Garden, I'm talking to you.

But anywho, as an American and a lover of all things tomato sauce, I will still argue that meat sauce is one of the best ways to cure a hangover. Besides a couple bacon Bloody Marys and this breakfast pizza, of course. The best news? This sauce freezes well and you can defrost and use as needed. Because the hungover American doesn't want to cook.

PS Don't let me convince you this sauce isn't delicious even when you're not hungover too. It pretty much rules all the time.

Soundtrack: In honor of this weekend:

Can You Keep a Secret by BrothersPast
Heroes by BrothersPast
Bitches and Candy by BrothersPast

Pasta with Meat Sauce
Serves 4

EVOO (also a term that would probably make a few genuine Italians roll in their graves)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (I used 90-10 and it worked out swell)
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4-1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt and pepper

Heat EVOO over med heat in a stock pot or large sauce pot. Saute onions, peppers, and garlic for 1-2 minutes, just until aromatic. Add ground beef and cook until browned.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar, basil, oregano, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 40 minutes, max 1-2 hours. Season again to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over pasta.

Monday, January 9

How to Make a B&W Bday Cake

Or better known as the half chocolate, half vanilla sheet cake that you remember from every childhood birthday party ever. Just add sundae cups and a couple screaming toddlers!

My roommate recently turned old. So we turned back the clocks and tried to have an old school 5 year old birthday party. There were hats. 

There he is! How mature!
I probably would have had a lot more fun decorating this one if...iiiifff I was good at cake decorating... AT ALL. I should really probably take some classes. But I think I achieved my goal here! And used 6 sticks of butter in 1 baked good. I deserve at least a few high fives for that.

Soundtrack: Dancing + Cake... Yes.

Wax Your Tips by Business Casual Disco

Step 1: Make butter and sugar become friends.
Check to make sure you have eggs before this step, if you learn anything from me.


I made the vanilla cake first, but you could pick either.
Just bake in an 8x8 pan.

Poke some holes in it! Is it done? It smells done...

To dissolve cocoa powder in water, I usually boil the water,
then pour it in to the pyrex and dissolve the cocoa there.
You probably don't want to measure the water first, then boil...
Evaporation or some shit...

Ok, just another batter...

And another finished 8x8 cake.
Now... I know you're excited. But please let the both cool.
Frosting is made from butter. Melted frosting... just ew.

Make some more butter and sugar be friends.
Basically, just beat them until they get along.

Your tools...

Oh yea, and a bread knife.
Measure out the exact middle of each cake.
Yea, I said exact. You want the tops to match the bottoms.
Curtains... drapes.. what?

Now.. if 1 cake rises more than the other, it means you fail.
No, that's not true. We're all winners here.
It means you're going to have to shave. This metaphor just needs to end here.

2 parts to a whole!
Now you just match them up!
On a cake stand if you can find 1 at Target on sale for $5.

When you hide the cakes insides, try not to forget which side is which.
Yea. I did that.

Cheesy decoration is essential here.

The worse it actually looks the better!

Be careful with fire. Especially if you have been drinking.
Especially if you have been drinking enough to sleep on the couch the whole next day.

Don't bother with cutting the cake. Or utensils.
He's taking a big bite of life. Can't you see this picture OOZING with metaphor?
And there you have it! In a nutshell. How to waste more time than you ever thought possible.

Thursday, January 5

African Peanut Stew

It was brought to my attention yesterday that I am a non-discriminatory snacker. An equal opportune-snackist, if you will. Pretty much... I love all the snacks. I never really thought about it before, but it's so true! 

If someone argued that pretzels were a great snack, I might agree. Cheese and crackers? Delicious. Fruit? Yum. Chips and salsa? Sure!  Fruit snacks? Fruit leather? Muffins? Ok, pretty much all baked goods (I won't waste your time by listing them all). Chocolate (ahhh peanut m&ms)? Oh YES. Marshmallow fluff straight from the jar? Personal fave. Basically if it's in front of me and I'm hungry.. I'm snacking on it. Anyone else? 

I mean, not to say that I sit around stuffing my face.. I totally don't. But ya.. I like to nibble. On all the snacks.

It can't just be me... Please tell me we have snacks in common.

As I made this delicious and aromatic peanut stew tonight, I snacked on some awesome cheese and crackers. And they were awesome. Why is cheese so good? Someone please tell me.

Dill havarti + Toasted Wheats
And why is this stew so good?

It certainly doesn't look all that good. But, I saw it and I had to have it.

And I'm really glad I tried it out! My instincts rule.

I found the recipe for this African stew at this adorable blog Figsinmybelly just this morning... aaanndd less than 12 hrs later I was enjoying my own version. Hey, what can I say? I was sick of soup and needed a new comfort food.

And hooommmyygooodddd I'm sooo glad I tried it! Score, points, winning, etc. I obviously made a few substitutions, as suggested in the blog post, so for the original recipe please go here or here. As you can see from the difference in the photos on Figsinmybelly, depending on the amount of broth or peanut butter added, you can thicken this stew to your liking. I liked the thicker version a lot. A lot. I kept the basic sauce recipe the same (except increasing some spices because I added chicken).

PS Here's a boy who looks bored. Be happy you're not this bored. 
If you are, 


  Tensnake RA 187 - Resident Advisor Podcast // 12-28-2009 by Tensnake

African Peanut Stew
Adapted from Figsinmybelly, G-nut Stew
Serves 4

2 tbsp EVOO
1 med onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
3 med chicken breasts, cubed
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 c chicken broth
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 15-oz can chickpeas
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (or more to taste)
1 15-oz bag baby spinach
4 scallions, diced

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute for about 5 minutes (if cooking in a dutch oven add a bit of broth to keep things moist). 

Add cumin, coriander, chicken breasts and sweet potatoes. Continue to saute for another 5 minutes (if using a dutch oven, add broth as necessary to keep things moist).

Add salt, broth, green pepper and chickpeas. Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked though and sweet potatoes are soft.

Add peanut butter and stir until combined into the sauce. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and immediately stir in spinach, adding a handful at a time until wilted and mixed in completely.

Serve with rice, quinoa or couscous (I served with couscous).