Sunday, September 24, 2006
Where did last week go? I have no idea.
This post's title comes from a popular shirt seen both upstate in Ithaca, NY and down here in NYC. One can't go for more than a few days without seeing the vivid green and the large white letters proclaiming that Ithaca is Gorges. This weekend, M. and I were upstate to attend a college friend's wedding. The weather wasn't the best, but we didn't let that damper our expedition to upstate New York where we both spent our undergraduate years. Studying at Cornell, one quickly gets used to dreary and rainy weather as that is what it does for much of the year (when not snowing of course!). Today on our way home, we drove into Ithaca and strolled down memory lane for a bit. We had hoped to walk about the campus, but it was raining too hard for that. The picture at the left shows one of the many gorges left by long-gone glaciers that dot the Ithaca landscape. The rain paused long enough for one brief photo-op, so I grabbed it!
As the rain picked back up again, we hopped back into the car and drove around. We admired the new buildings that had cropped up since our last visit, marvelled at the dedicated students up and running around on a rainy Sunday morning and then settled for a dim-sum brunch at our favorite Thai Restaurant. Visiting this restaurant while in Ithaca has become a tradition, and I can't think of a visit that hasn't included at least one meal at the Thai Cuisine. Sunday brunch is particularly special as it is menu-free and entirely dependent on the offerings that day. Served dim-sum style, it's an opportunity to taste a variety of dishes that I know I (a conservative menu-orderer who finds favorites and sticks to them) would not ordinarily try. The waiters show a variety of options, and you can choose to try any number of specialties for $2.50 a plate. We were in foodie heaven. The dishes ranged from a fried radish cake with a spicy cucumber sauce, vegetarian pad thai (their recipe is the standard to which I hold all pad thai recipes), steamed bok choy with a tamarind curry sauce, crab cakes (M.'s favorite), steamed Thai broccoli in mushroom sauce, and there were so many more that I can't even remember. We definitely didn't leave hungry.
And now we're home, contemplating another week. This week I have Curriculum Night at my school. This means at least one very late night while I present myself and my classroom to the parents of my students, as well as multiple hours of preparation. A college friend pops into town tomorrow night, and so no cooking wil be done as we meet up with people to celebrate his visit. I gave myself the goal of using my slow cooker more this year - perhaps this will be the week to get going on that pact! Have a happy Monday everyone....
Monday, September 18, 2006
This morning I gambled on a new pair of shoes. This is something I rarely do. If I wear new shoes to school, I'll often carry a back-up pair just in case. And that thought did pop into my head as I flew around the apartment at 6 this morning. But it didn't stick. Unfortunately. Maybe I have particularly challenging feet - I don't know. I do know that on the walk from the subway to school I could already feel my feet objecting to the new shoes. And as I'm sure those in the service industry, medical profession and other careers that involve standing for long periods of time, it was quite a painful day.
I think I emptied my classroom band-aid box. Sigh.
Oh well, all is not lost. I think I can have them stretched at the store where I obtained them yesterday afternoon. When my feet recover enough for voluntary and unnecessary walking trips that is.
And now, M.'s Sunday night granola. I found this recipe somewhere online - it is originally a Weight Watchers recipe. I made a few changes - I used white sugar because it is all I had. I added some maple syrup (around 2 tablespoons or so) to boost the flavor, and I subbed Grape Nuts for the shredded wheat. The shredded wheat box was on a shelf I couldn't reach at the grocery store, and I was too impatient to wait for a tall person to happen down the aisle.
Watch this granola carefully, as mine was cooked (and burning) way before 25 minutes!
Serving Size : 18
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
3 shredded wheat biscuits -- crushed
1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dried fruit -- of your choice
Mix rolled oats, shredded wheat, almonds, sunflower seeds, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large bowl. Spread evenly on a 15x10-inch pan coated with nonstick spray. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, or until cereal is golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool before mixing in dried fruit. Store in covered container.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 150 Calories; 6g Fat (35.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
My day began with a stroll down a few blocks of the Atlantic Antic. New Yorkers love street fairs. They dot the landscape of the city from late April until the end of October (or so). You'll turn a corner and suddenly - hello street fair! Each neighborhood usually has one at least once during street fair season. Well, today's street fair was on Atlantic Avenue. Atlantic Avenue is a long street that pretty much runs the length of Brooklyn, and happens to be located right next to my building. You can see my building on the left in the picture below.
This particular street fair stretches from my immediate neighborhood to a shopping area I sometimes frequent which is about 25 minutes walk away. So, the fair stretches for at least a mile. And while it contains the usual street fair suspects (the ubiquitous mozzarepa or arepas with mozzarella cheese, funnel cake, grilled corn on the cob stands - just to name a few), there were also local businesses selling various merchandise at rock bottom prices. Restaurants were selling great food, bars were offering various drinks and the general atmosphere was one of excitement and enjoyment on a beautiful New York City late-summer day. I picked M. up a shirt from a local store called Brooklyn Industries (www.brooklynindustries.com) for only five dollars! And it would typically cost almost $30. So, browsing for merchandise like that kept me entertained despite the masses of people stopping dead in the middle of traffic flow patterns for no apparent reason.
We also live close to the Transit Museum, which houses and preserves buses, trains and automobiles from New York's history. On various occasions (such as this), the museum will bring out a few specimens from their collection. And some of them were pretty cool (disclaimer - I have no idea who any of these people are as I was walking around alone but hopefully they won't mind being on the internet!). So I wandered over to check out a few of the vintage forms of transportation.
When the crush of aimless and annoying people became too much, I wandered off to check out a few stores on a nearby street. My good shopping karma continued, and I found several really cute items on sale. Next up on the afternoon agenda is a little planning for the week ahead, and making a batch of light granola for M.'s breakfasts this week. Sunday afternoons are a great thing. :)
More vintage transportation pictures below...
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Today, the world seemed liveable. Despite not nearly enough sleep, I feel ten times better than I did yesterday. My day at school went pretty well, considering it's September, and I didn't mind pulling out my "stern teacher" mask too much at all! It was actually kind of fun. :) And, I got home early-ish. I had time to make the soup I was supposed to make earlier in the week, and whip through most of the second disk of Grey's Anatomy (Season 1) while chopping and simmering the soup.
All in all, it was a good day.
The notes below are from Eating Well, the source of the recipe. I stuck to the recipe, but I did sub pattypan squash for the zucchini. I could have sworn I purchased zucchini, but it seems to have vanished into a black hole lurking in the back of the fridge. But the pattypan worked delightfully. I garnished the soup with a touch of grated parmesan cheese, and served it with a divine rosemary ciabbatta roll. The rolls come parbaked from an online grocery service here in NYC, and when they come out of the oven after 12 minutes of baking, they are pure crispy but doughy heaven. I always keep a bag in the freezer during soup season.
Tortellini and Zucchini Soup
Yield: 6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Ease of preparation: Easy
Everyone knows tortellini make a quick weeknight pasta dinner—but they also add substance that turns this quick vegetable soup into a meal. One caveat: Read the label carefully; avoid pasta products made with hydrogenated oils or unnecessary preservatives. Make it a Meal: Enjoy with a slice of multigrain baguette and a spinach salad.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, finely chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
2 medium zucchini, diced
9 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh or frozen tortellini, preferably spinach-&-cheese
4 plum tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots and onion; stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Stir in broth and zucchini; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add tortellini and tomatoes and simmer until the tortellini are plump and the tomatoes are beginning to break down, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir vinegar into the hot soup just before serving.
Per serving: 204 calories; 8 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono); 10 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 4 g fiber; 386 mg sodium; 399 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (80% daily value), Vitamin C (35% dv).
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
So yes. September is a challenge for teachers. Every year you forget, but every September it comes crashing back. Kids don't know routines, they don't know what to do and the energy it takes to sustain them through the day is just amazing. Especially the population I teach - there are times I'm practically singing and dancing just to keep them listening to me. And I'm no singer/dancer - take my word for it! And, I have THAT CLASS - at least right now. The one no one else can do anything with and are thrilled to see leave. It does make me feel better about being so tired though - if the librarian was as exhausted as she was after 30 minutes, then I'm doing okay dealing with them all day.
So - I'm being content with my loserness this week, I'm drinking lots of hot tea and I will be cooking up a storm this weekend so make sure to come back. I've got a fridge full of veggies that aren't getting any younger, so desperation will definitely lead to inspiration, cooking overdrive and use up mode over the weekend.
Here's an old picture of Helios so that this post isn't totally boring. :)
Monday, September 11, 2006
Tonight I was supposed to make soup but I got home quite late. So no dice again. But, once I have my delicious can of soup for dinner, I am hoping to make a barley edamame salad from this month's Cooking Light for lunches this week. Assuming that all goes well, I'll have an actual cooking post tomorrow!
In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures of my home away from home aka my classroom. :)
The art shelf in the back and the reading/math game shelf on the side.
A global view.
Our writing center. Don't you like the job chart? I made it. :)
And do you see what time is on the clock? This is why I haven't been cooking as much - but it will get better. This I vow.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
1. A thick, super creamy, no holds barred, not even remotely light chocolate milkshake. It's the kind of indulgence I so rarely never allow myself (in fact I can't remember when I last had one) but if I knew my time were running short, that would be the first thing I'd grab.
2. A super soft, warm from the oven chocolate chip cookie. Warm, buttery goodness that melts in the mouth as your fingers get greasy with the yummy butteriness ...
3. A warm, gooey slice of New York pizza. I make my own pizza at home and it's wonderful, but having lived in New York for over five years I must say I've gained a healthy respect for the NY slice. Cheap, filling and oh so good!
4. A creamy piece of Cailler milk chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate is better for you. Blah....blah....blah. For me, the ultimate indulgence is this chocolate. We discovered it on our honeymoon in Switzerland, and luckily for me I can't find it here in New York. Or, not luckily for me, but luckily for my waistline. Because when its around, I just can't stop eating it. When we toured the factory, they said the secret was the fact they use real milk. I don't know what it is, but I'm hooked!
5. An old, but perfectly aged Burgundy wine. In college, I (and many of my peers) took a wine course in which we got to learn about and taste wine. On Burgundy day they opened a 197_ (I don't remember the exact year) red Burgundy wine from an excellent vineyard (which I also don't remember). I think it was a Grand Cru (but I could be making that up as well), and the experience of tasting it literally changed my life. I've never had anything like it since. Dark, almost rusty in color the taste was so perfectly mellow and smooth - I still remember the experience like it was yesterday. On that day, the quest for really excellent wines suddenly made sense.
Gosh, you can tell I have a sweet tooth, no?
I don't even know who to tag for this meme. So I won't. But the more the merrier so play along! :)
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
When I was a child, I never understood grown-ups' fascination with the weather. My parents would discuss it seemingly endlessly with their friends. Hasn't it been hot? There's a cold snap coming tomorrow - to my young ears this seemed no more interesting then watching paint dry.
Well, as an adult I'm learning to recognize how interesting it can be when Mother Nature bestows a stretch of gorgeous weather on a region. Or, how interesting it is when the weather is NOT gorgeous for days on end. And in New York's case, it is decidedly NOT gorgeous right now. Barring the past two days (which were lovely), it has been cloudy and rainy for almost ten days.
Trudging home took forever today. The subway I usually take wasn't running because of flooding on the tracks - a nice little perk of suddenly torrential downpours. Especially excellent after ten hours of work. Taking alternate routes home took upward of an hour which is almost double the time it usually takes me. I went to yet another store hoping to find snack bowls for my class, found something okay but not great but bought it anyways because A. it was raining and I wasn't going anywhere else and B. school starts Thursday. I'm still looking for a plastic pitcher though - did they go the way of the dinosaurs or something? Who knew a basic plastic pitcher would be such a trial to find. The CSA vegetables were super heavy, the people weighing their fruits and veggies in front of me were super annoying and it was just that kind of evening.
So, after putting away the fruits and veggies (which will remain incognito this week because I ran out of energy for photographing them all), I picked out a darling little summer squash. I pan-seared it with some light butter, garlic, salt and pepper until the squash slices were a delightfully golden brown. Then I tossed the slices with some basil that was so fresh and pungent that it almost tasted licorice-y, and I threw it on top of a salad dressed with yellow grape tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, organic carrots and cucumbers. This, served with Amy's Organic Cream of Tomato Soup was a warming and soul-satisfying dinner that made the trials of the day disappear.
And the most satisfying part of the meal was the fact that my salad resembled sunshine on a plate. And that, for the first time since leaving school, made me happy.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Before we moved to Cuba, the complimentary nature of black beans and rice was simply not in our family's vocabulary. But once you spend time in Cuba, it quickly becomes so as it is an economic staple, and often all there is. In fact, my parents once walked out of the Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca, NY simply because one of the four choices that evening was black beans and rice! And they just couldn't have any more black beans and rice, being fresh off the plane from Cuba. I personally have yet to reach that point, as black beans and rice is one of my absolutely favorite combinations. I can eat it day and day out with little complaint. But, as a vegetarian I do prefer to make it at home (or eat it at a very trustworthy restaurant). One of my least favorite parts about eating beans and rice in Cuba was finding little ham or pork bits swimming in the creamy black legumey goodness.
This recipe is from a book I bought at some point during college when I was no longer spending much time in Cuba, but missing the food. Called Memories of a Cuban Kitchen (by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz), I think I've made a grand total of three of the more than 200 classic recipes the book contains. This particular recipe takes some time to prepare, however the recipe yields a tremendous amount from such few ingredients. This batch will be our brown-bag lunches for the week!
I made a couple changes. The recipe calls for 2/3 of a cup of olive oil, I used 1/3 and actually subbed some canola oil as I didn't even have enough olive oil left to make 1/3 of a cup. I roasted and chopped some poblano peppers, and threw them into the sofrito since they needed using up. And, I quick-soaked my beans. I brought them to a boil for 2-3 minutes, and let them sit for an hour. I then continued with the recipe, although I found my beans didn't require the 2 hour softening time the recipe called for (which was a good thing as we would have been eating at 10 o'clock if they had). And, as much as I'd like to have my act together enough to soak the beans the night before, its just not happening.
I served the meal with my version of light tostones. Tostones are twice-fried green plantains. They're absolutely delicious, but not something I like to cook too often. So, I've found that by browning the sliced green plantains in some cooking spray once, adding water to ensure they actually cook, removing to paper towel and salting before re-browning in cooking spray, I can create a passable "light" tostone. I keep tinkering with the concept, however this batch was the best yet. Along with the "light" tostones, we had roasted golden beets, and the chopped garlicky beet greens . Imagine the empty space to contain a bowl of beans and rice, and you've got the idea. I also like a little 2% cheddar cheese sprinkled on my black beans and rice, however that is entirely personal preference and up to the chef (and the consumer).
Mom's Black Beans
Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz
Author's notes- My mother's black beans are rich and thick with a smooth opaque broth. My family judges Cuban restaurants by their beans - in other words, are the frijoles negros as good as Mom's? Very few have even come close.
1 pound dried black beans, rinsed in cold water, picked over and soaked overnight in cold water to cover by 1 1/2 inches (remove any beans that float to the top)
1 bay leaf
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and cut into quarters
For the Sofrito
2/3 cup pure Spanish olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, optional
1 teaspoon finely chpopped seeded aji cachucha or green chile
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. The next day, check that the water is still covering the beans by 1 1/2 to 2 inches, and add more water if needed. Pour into a large saucepan, add the bay leaf and the pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and cook uncovered until the beans are tender and they have almost cracked open (about 2 hours). Check the beans while they are cooking, and if they need more water add some hot water.
2. To prepare the sofrito, in a skillet heat the oil over low heat until it is fragrant. Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper, and cook stirring until onion is transparent (8-10 minutes). Add cumin, vinegar and chile pepper, and mix well.
3. Add the sofrito to the beans, mix well and cook over low heat covered utnil beans crack open (30-40 minutes). Season to taste and serve
Saturday, September 02, 2006
I've decided to learn how to knit. I briefly went through a knitting phase last October, but dropped it pretty quickly because working full-time and attending graduate school full-time really didn't leave much time over. But now that's done, and I think knitting is something I would enjoy. And I admire the crafty people like Crystal and so want to be like that in my own little amateur way. So, I am knitting M. a scarf. Presenting Helios, my favorite feline model and M.'s scarf-to-be.
I started it last night, and got a good 3 + hours in today. And, its almost finished. Of course, its a basic knit stitch, and a chunky enough yarn that there are only 10 stitches per row but hey! It's a start. I'm knitting. I did figure out how to change different colored yarns - that seemed very tricky, although I'm sure its not to the more experienced knitters in the world. So, from time to time knitting projects may pop in among the veggie recipes and baking successes and catastrophes.
I leave you with wishes for better weather then we're having, and another view of Helios and the scarf. He is very impressed by the loose threads. But then, he's a cat. :)
Friday, September 01, 2006
We all really enjoyed the macaroni and cheese. With the cool and cloudy weather we've been having lately, I've found myself craving comfort foods like macaroni and cheese. And this was a recipe I've wanted to try. I did subsitute Muir Glen's Fire Roasted Tomatoes for the type of diced tomato called for in the recipe, which I would do again. The smoky taste of the fire-roasted tomatoes compliments the smoky taste in the chipotles well. M. thought the taste of chipotle was a bit overwhelming, and recommended cutting back a bit. So next time I make the dish, I'll only use one chili and see how that goes. But it is safe to say that this will be a dish repeated in this house as we both really enjoyed it. And so did our dinner guests.
Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese
Cooking Light's Notes - This macaroni and cheese is a favorite of ours because it is incredibly tasty and easy to prepare. You don't even have to make a white sauce for this creamy dish. The acidic tomatoes counter the richness of the cheeses.
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can; set aside. Remove 2 chipotle chiles from can; finely chop to measure 1 tablespoon. Reserve remaining chiles and adobo sauce for another use.
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped chiles, onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cook 4 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Sprinkle with flour; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium; add tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes or until thickened. Add reserved 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, pasta, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, milk, Parmesan, and egg; stir to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
CALORIES 324(24% from fat); FAT 8.5g (sat 4.6g,mono 2.4g,poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 34.2g; CHOLESTEROL 56mg; CALCIUM 307mg; SODIUM 756mg; FIBER 2g; IRON 2.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 39.6g
Cooking Light, JULY 2004
So here is what we got from our CSA this week (albeit three days ago).
We've got some lovely carrots, a nice big bunch of beets, the ubiquitous head of lettuce, some very dirty tomatoes and a bunch of purple radishes peeking in from the side.
A bowl full of plums
Peaches and nectarines.
And apples and pears.
I just LOVE these little baby apples - they're tangy but not too tangy. I hope they keep coming!