Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Green Adventures

Nothing says "I'm a grown up!" like planting my own herb garden. Well, I suppose there are many other things, but I suppose my connection between homegrown herbs and adulthood involves my spacious apartment with private outdoor space.

I ventured off to Home Depot today with no intention of buying seeds, but there they were next to the self-checkout, just dying for me to plant them. So, let's see how it goes with Cilantro, Parsley, Oregano, and Basil. Perhaps tomatoes will join the fun after the frost ends.

So here goes: Jackie's herbs, summer of 2011:



Here's hoping there will be some green in the next photo!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring Break Catch Up!

Ahh, Spring Break. Something that adults never get, right? Well, that is one of the wonderful things about being an academic. Sure, I will never make any money, but I can't complain about the time off.

Yes, I realize I am coming back from yet another blogging hiatus. I am still in shock that 7 weeks of class have already passed. I actually worry about what the warm weather will do to me, because I already feel that my motivation level has declined since the beginning of the semester. Either that, or I have made the glorious realization that in grad school, you really don't need to do all of the reading. It has improved my sanity, plus it frees up the time to do the finer things in life, which for me right now are yoga, running, and cooking.

The cooking has been ongoing since my last blog, but I just haven't bothered to post anything about it. I did muster up a photo of a risotto I made a week or so ago--lemony shrimp with asparagus. Yum.



So, this has been a rather crazy start to the semester, to say the least. I decided to try to hunt for some sort of summer job to start to put a dent in my school loan debt. Its crazy how much I miss teaching after just a few months off. Of course, I miss the good things--the great moments in class, joking around in the department office, coaching (awww coaching...tear), and I never think about all the times I spent writing comments, sitting through faculty meetings, enduring a track meet in the freezing cold/rain. If I understand parenthood from my friends and family with kids, it seems as though I am suffering from a similar kind of amnesia. You forget all the pain and suffering and only think about the good times. Seriously though, to get mushy for a second, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Anyway, all that nostalgia aside, I decided that teaching over the summer was the best way to go. I sent resumes to private schools in the area, and instead of finding a temporary job, I ended up landing a full-time job teaching history again next year. Best part of the position? I am going right back to coaching cross country and track. So that was a surprising development to say the least. It means I will finish up my MA coursework this summer and write my thesis over the course of the school year. Let more insanity commence!

Just the day after the interview, my boyfriend's niece was born--Lucy Therese. She is a wiggle worm and a pumpkin all rolled into one:

video

The weather has FINALLY been getting warmer, so I am running again, thank goodness! I am weaning my way back into it, since I took a good 6 weeks off when there was snow all over the ground/sidewalk/everywhere. Since I ran a half marathon this fall, it is hard to go back to running just 5 or 6 miles at a time, but the weather is still cool enough that I don't want to be out much more than that anyway. I also feel like a hypocrite because my shoes have definitely seen better days, and I am waiting on my tax refund to buy a new pair. I used to always lecture my athletes about keeping their shoes up to date, and here I am, totally not practicing what I preach.

Ok, so back to cooking. I feel like I had to give you all some sort of update since it has been a while, and a new job/new bundle of joy is certainly news to share. I am not going anywhere for spring break this year. The fact that I won't even fork up the cash for a new pair of running shoes should indicate my current financial situation. So alas, no vacay. Honestly, though, Spring Break at NYU is only a week long, and I have plenty of school work I should be doing, so I'm pretty ok with sticking around. Plus, it frees up some time for culinary experiments.

I took a stab at making my own gnocchi, and it actually turned out pretty well. My only regret is that I made them a little too big, but I was surprised at how easy it was. Time consuming, and creates a lot of dishes, but easy. Don't believe me? Boom:

Homemade Potato Gnocchi
Adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
1 teaspoon course kosher salt
large pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet; spread out and cool to room temperature. If you don't have a food mill or potato ricer, just mash them--they will turn out fine!

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add 1 cup flour; toss to coat. Form well in center of potato mixture. Add egg yolk, coarse salt, and nutmeg; stir with fork until mixture is evenly moistened (mixture will look shaggy). Turn mixture out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is very sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet.



Working in batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until gnocchi rise to surface of water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer gnocchi to bowl. Drizzle gnocchi with olive oil and toss to coat. Gnocchi can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Voila!



Yes, they look like giant dough balls rather than the gnocchi you order at a fancy Italian restaurant, but trust me, they taste really good! For now, I will serve with a simple tomato sauce, but I am off to the store later to find the fixins for a tasty sauce.

That is enough procrastinating for now, I am afraid. This apartment will not clean itself. I wish a roomba could not only vacuum, but also organize your filing cabinet...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yoga is philosophy, right?

Oh, if I could do this all day instead of reading philosophy that makes NO sense.



This series gave me a couple ooos and ahhhs at a recent yoga class, I'm still working on it though--notice the slight foot slippage when I am coming back into crow from tripod headstand.

Other than that, this is a pretty self explanatory sequence.
Crow (Bakasana)
Shoot back Chaturanga
Vinyasa
Bakasana
Tripod headstand
Bakasana
Shoot back Chaturanga.

Oh, how I love yoga. Emmanuel Levinas? Not so much--he took up too much of my weekend and still left me confused and unfulfilled.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Carrying my own weight...and making tasty things.

I may or may not have looked like this the other day on the way home from the grocery store:

Ok, yes, I am extremely stubborn, and I park a few blocks away from my house, and the idea of making two trips to bring in my groceries was just more than I could handle. So I slowly walked around the corner and trudged up to my third floor walk-up. If memory serves me right, I had three reusable grocery bags on each arm and I was carrying a 12 pack of toilet paper in front of me. Oh, and I also picked up a pair of knee-high boots from the cobbler, and somehow I was carrying those too. Don't ask how I got them up there--in retrospect I kind of wish I had a picture. Silly me.

I think this stubbornness dates back to my days working at Hotchkiss where I lived in a 4th floor walk-up. I must admit, the one-trip goal would fall apart whenever I purchased a giant tub of kitty litter.

As I walked towards my house, I noticed no one walking in the neighborhood offering to help--which is fine, because I would have refused it anyway. Partly because there can be sketchy-types around here...and I don't want them to run off with my hot commodities from Trader Joe's! Also because I am trying to prove a point. People often look at me and my slight frame and automatically think that I am weak. That is where I love to prove them wrong. And that is where yoga is so wonderful--in the sense that it allows me to be aware of my body weight and be able to support it, plus a whole lot of groceries, a small child, a 16 pound cat--well, you get the idea.

The other lovely thing about these groceries (after I got them up the stairs, of course) is that I continued my culinary adventures. First, there was a 44 cloves of garlic soup--I regret I did not photograph the finished product (probably because I ate it all), but I did snap some roasted garlic cloves. Word to the wise: you can never have too much garlic:




Just look at that and TELL me you are not hungry. Seriously.







Next--I and I am practically drooling just writing about this one--was a tomato and italian sausage risotto. Behold, the before picture:



SUCH a simple recipe, and mainly made from ingredients I already had. It was so ridiculously creamy, I definitely had seconds on this one. I already can't wait to have company or weekend visitors so I can whip this one up again (are you reading this, mom?) Oh wait, I am speaking with the benefit of hindsight because I actually ate it. You want to see the end result? Well, if you must...voila:


Just seeing the wilted spinach again made me wish that I hadn't already eaten lunch!

I am writing this blog on Sunday, January 23rd, otherwise known as my last day of freedom. I get the sense that this semester will be busy...I am taking on part-time work, and of course, for those of you that know me, there is the lovely 4 hour round-trip commute to class. But I love it, I really do, and I am truly looking forward to going back.

I am getting ahead of myself. Sunday--day before the first day of class. This translates into scone baking day! There is something about a scone that just warms me...I don't care about the mess I make in the kitchen (well, maybe Pat cares, but we'll disregard that), because the end result was all worth it. This time I whipped up some oatmeal raspberry scones. Again, SO easy. Don't believe me? Ask my mom...I literally went from not using my oven once last year in New Jersey to now, where I am seriously contemplating putting a mixer on my next birthday wish list. Right, on to the pictures.
I rustled up these guys--I think the only ingredients I didn't already have were the raspberries (I used frozen and they were fine), and the oats--definitely old fashioned are best. After adding the raspberries, I may or may not have resembled Lady Macbeth when I crafted these with my bare hands--















They were so gooey and pretty that I almost felt bad putting them in the oven. The end result may not look as vivid, but believe me, it certainly makes up for lack of bright colors in its taste:














Let's hope that this semester won't completely thwart my cooking adventures. Maybe if my professors followed this blog, they would sympathize. One can dream, right?

Oh, what's that? You want recipes? Be my guest...

44 Clove Garlic Soup -- Smitten Kitchen
Tomato and Sausage Risotto -- Smitten Kitchen
Oatmeal Raspberry Scones -- Joy the Baker

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Break Mission: Become Julia Child

In late August, I wrote about my adventures in baking. Sadly, my school work caught up with me as the semester progressed, which makes winter break all the more exciting. Over two feet of snow on the ground leaves me with the excuse to stay inside and to to take refuge in my kitchen.

It started with a leftover bottle of Coca Cola from New Year's Eve. I am not much of a soda drinker, but I also didn't like the idea of pouring it down the drain. The soda led me to Coca Cola Chili, which I neglected to photograph, nor was there a picture online (boohoo). Take my word for it--tasty cold weather goodness. It was spicier than I expected, but for those of you who know me, (and my tendency to order extra chilis at Thai restaurants), it was just right. Well, except the lack of starch, which prompted my next mission: jalapeno pepper jack scones--


Photo Courtesy of Joy the Baker

Lovely. I forgot the gloriousness of chili and a warm scone when it is cold outside. Plus, it was cheap to make, which is good for my grad student budget (never mind all the money I spent at Lululemon this week.

A few nights later, we were out of ice cream. What's a girl to do but to make homemade almond-vanilla rice pudding?


Thank you to Smitten Kitchen.

Quite possibly one of the most quick and easy recipes for an irresistible dessert. I say irresistible because I may or may not have snuck spoonfuls of it from the fridge until it was empty.

As if I hadn't had enough sweets; my next recipe was Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Scones, also from Smitten Kitchen. My rationale was to make something that Pat could take to work every day, like I did in my Grad Student or Domestic blog back in August. But it was also because the jalapeno pepper jack scones were so good, and I needed some sweet to balance the savory.

VoilĂ .
Another Smitten Kitchen Creation.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I am on a perpetual budget, or at least I will be until I pay off my student loans (ahem, which may never happen...), so I never want to let anything go to waste. I still had leftover cola. Which brought me to the soda jerk beans I that I made today:


Yum. Thanks, Epicurious .

So here I am...two feet of snow on the ground, and with leftover Coke, Sprite, and now Ham. Clearly I will have to find a solution to this predicament with an upcoming Trader Joe's run.

Weekend mission: Make and consume Mushroom Bourguignon. And begin photographing my own food.

Smitten Kitchen does it again.

And maybe some thesis research. Hmm...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Anti New Year's Resolution

Alright, I know what you're thinking. I have no right to be complaining about anything when I go on a blogging hiatus for several months. Yeah, about that. I guess reading a thousand pages a week kept me distracted for a while. But I am still alive--if anyone is even following this blog anymore.

On to my first point. I get irrationally angry at all the New Havenites who drive their cars around like this:



Seriously? How lazy can you get? Ok, fine, I stole this photo from Google images, and we definitely didn't get this much snow last night...but come on, people! And I know this is a habit not exclusive to my neck of the woods. I remember doing my commute to high school (almost 10 years ago, good GOD), and panicking when I saw a sheet of ice flying towards my windshield.

The sad thing is, I am no longer surprised by the laziness. People look at me like I'm crazy when I want to walk up an escalator. When I see people just automatically stop when they walk on to those blasted people movers I just think of the shapeless blobs on motorized carts in Wall-E. Or those people that take the elevator up ONE floor? Why?!

Yes, yes, I am a bit of a fitness freak, but I just don't understand why people don't want to use their bodies. My boyfriend has an elderly relative in a nursing home, and every time we visit her, I think to myself, I want to use this body now, while I still can.

Fine, maybe I was Jillian Michaels in a past life. Either that or those years of coaching high school track have rubbed off on me. I know this is the time for new year's resolutions, but I frankly don't believe in those. If you want to make a change, you should do it at any point in the year rather than waiting for January. This blog is more preachy than most--I know--but I mean it with love. Get off your butts, people! You only get one body! Wouldn't you rather be doing this?



Or this?



I got carried away. Maybe you should start smaller than that, but you get the point. If my dad with one leg can get a killer workout at the gym, so can you...no excuses!

I promise that my next blog will not be preachy...remind me if I wait 3 months to post again :o)