Monthly Archives: December 2013

And Thus, It Begins

“It” being the commencement of my holiday baking.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the class of 2013:


Recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman, made extra spicy.

Happy Holidays!


A Week of Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & Dessert—In One Day

It’s been a very successful afternoon.

Keep reading...

Keep reading…

After a delightful & filling brunch with my friend Jessica, I shivered all the way home to plot out my Sunday afternoon cooking. There are usually two goals of my Sunday cooking: make a knockout dinner for me & the bf (his name is Paul. Have I mentioned that?), and make a variety of healthy hot lunches for the week ahead. Today, I added a third goal: make a special treat for my coworker & friend John, who is celebrating his birthday tomorrow.

First up: breakfast. It’s much easier to face a cold & cloudy day when I start it off with a belly-warmer of a breakfast. I like oatmeal, and I REALLY like steel-cut oats. They have a chewy texture similar to barley and farro, but more tender, and you can cook one big pot on Sunday and make enough for 5 breakfasts. It keeps really well in the fridge, and I’ve read that you can freeze it, too (though I have never tried). IMG_6329

Today, I made my oatmeal a little differently. I call this MRS Oatmeal, as the recipe comes courtesy of the great Martha Rose Shulman. She cooks the oats in a mixture of water and 1% milk, and then adds sweetener (I used brown sugar), dried fruit and butter during cooking. I tweaked the recipe slightly and added cinnamon. The results: hearty, creamy, loads of flavor, and each portion can be reheated in the microwave in 1-2 minutes. Easy mornings await.

Next: Lunch, and an experimental one at that— I wanted to make something hot, filling, and light, so I could actually get up out of my chair and walk around comfortably post lunch. I looked in my pantry and fridge and began to strategize. IMG_6325White beans—healthy, protein-rich, good with tomatoes. Well, lookie here! A can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Here’s a zucchini. I can chop that up. Onion and garlic will be necessary. Olive oil, of course. I did a lot of eyeballing and not a lot of measuring, so once i make this again I will take careful notes and repeat the recipe.

Before I got cracking on dinner, I set about the business of making John’s birthday treat. My inspiration was Paul’s father, Bob—an excellent baker—who made these crazy addictive peanut butter & chocolate chip bars a few weeks ago. I don’t think Paul thought they were addictive, probably because I didn’t leave him any. They were that good. Sadly, Bob couldn’t remember where he found the recipe, but a few minutes of skimming The Google’s search results led me here.

IMG_6307The ingredients are all or mostly pantry staples—peanut butter, butter, white and brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. I subbed 1/2 cup whole wheat wheat flour for a half cup of the AP flour that was called for. I didn’t have chocolate chunks, but I did have mini-morsels, though less than the amount listed. There were still plenty. The bars themselves are chewy-crumbly, and very intensely peanut-buttery. Like, if you turned Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into cookie bars. That’s what you get.IMG_6373

Finally, I moved onto dinner. I’ve been trying to clear our freezer, and I did a good job of it tonight. I defrosted about 4 cups of cauliflower and a whole lot of skirt steak. I marinated the steak in a mixture of soy sauce (1/2 cup), sriracha (1 tsp), brown sugar (1 tbsp), pinches of garlic & onion powders and a little hit of sesame oil (1 tsp). Five steaks with marinade in a Ziploc for 2 hours, then grilled in a pan, 3-4 minutes each side for medium rare. Ta-daa.


As for the cauliflower, I really wasn’t sure what to do until I looked over at my credenza and saw two small Yukon Gold potatoes sitting in a basket. I decided to make a mash, though I never had combined cauliflower and potatoes. I figured it couldn’t be that hard, and both vegetables go so well with cheese. CHEESE. There was leftover muenster in the fridge (2 thin slices), and some grated parmesan (1/4 cup). Some milk (1/3 cup), some butter (2 tbsp), some pureeing… bam! A mash. But I went a step further and put it all in a casserole dish, then baked for 20 minutes at 425 degrees until it developed a light crust. IMG_6358

I will totally make this again. It paired really well with the steak, and the glass of Malbec didn’t hurt, either.

It has been a great day for cooking, and for eating. Depending on the outcome of the Saints game, it may not be a great day for football. Carolina is kicking my team’s collective butt. Sad face.

In this week’s Dining & Wine section…

I came upon this treasure from the always helpful Melissa Clark in The New York Times.  Like she says, if you’ve got a can of chickpeas in your pantry, you can put together a hearty meal in no time.

Check out the recipe for this Chickpea Stew with Orzo and Mustard Greens. I can’t wait to make this one, and I’m sure there are endless variations.

Happy cooking.

PS – The latest from Bittman—PANCAKES!

Post-Thanksgiving Reboot, Day 1: Soup’s On!

I nearly burst out of a very pretty orange dress after heavily indulging and imbibing on Thanksgiving. Truth be told, I’d been preparing myself for the Eating Olympics in the weeks before the holiday, helping myself to seconds during family dinners, giving into cravings for afternoon chocolate-chip cookies and cheese in the evenings, and rationalizing the addition of dessert after nearly every meal I ate.

That may not sound so horrible, but I have invested a LOT of effort in revamping and improving my eating habits, as well as my physique, in the past 8 months. I’m 15 pounds lighter than I was back in April, and almost 2 sizes smaller. I credit a lot of that progress to Weight Watchers and my trainer, and to the self-discipline that I sometimes struggled to maintain. I have lost weight before, but what’s worked for me this go-round is balance: I am a good girl most days, and I treat myself on special occasions… or I just forgive myself when I slip up and get back on the wagon the next day.

This whole week is about getting back on the wagon. Because if I’m going to survive the three holiday parties and four family dinners I have between now and Christmas, I need to be good in between. And if I’m going to maintain the strength to just eat two pieces of cheese instead of losing count, then I need to cook and eat food I’m going to feel good about so I can stay motivated.

Easier said than done, but I’m off to a good start: Check out this soup I made:IMG_6295I’m a big fan of Martha Rose Shulman, who writes the Recipes for Health column in The New York Times each week. I find her recipes to be very balanced—yes, they’re healthy and mostly plant-based, but Martha doesn’t used any artificial ingredients, and she doesn’t take shortcuts. She gets a lot of flavor out of just a few ingredients.

I got the recipe for this amazing Barley Soup with Mushrooms and Kale from Martha’s book, The Very Best of Recipes for Health. Luckily, it’s also online. The star ingredient is dried porcini mushrooms, and while they can be pricey, they’re worth it—the stock produced from soaking the mushrooms in hot water is rich, dark, pleasantly earthy and ridiculously fragrant. This soup comes together in under two hours and yields 6 servings, so you can feed a crowd or feed yourself for days. The bf and I will be packing this one for lunch.

Bonus: it’s a full meal in a bowl, and it kept me full for several hours after lunch today. And for the other weight watchers in the crowd, total points plus value per serving is 4. A true bargain, indeed.

Double Bonus, PS, etc: I really want to make this too. How good does that look?