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...