Sunday, February 28, 2010

African Peanut Soup

So my mother would not shut-up about her African Peanut Soup. African Peanut Soup this, and African Peanut Soup that. Just when I thought she was done with her soup stories, she visits with the soup recipe in hand. There is no stopping this woman!

In honor of my mother, I present African Peanut Soup. I didn't want to love it (I mean, the main ingredient is peanut a soup!), but it was delicious. Matt agrees and today were were planning to have yesterday's leftovers. The whole time he kept saying, "Is it African Peanut Soup time yet?" I think we both just like saying African Peanut Soup.

We doubled the recipe and had enough soup for a few meals (and we're big eaters) because you eat this soup with rice. Something that's a bit different but delicious and supremely satisfying? I give know what's coming...what for it....AFRICAN PEANUT SOUP!

African Peanut Soup
  • 2 T. oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. grated ginger
  • 1/2 t. crushed red pepper
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (Note: We used a bit less broth.)
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (Note: We used crunchy. Take that, mom! We also doubled this recipe but only used about 1 1/3 cup peanut butter....I mean, that stuff is caloric!!)
  • 2 cups chopped kale or sliced okra
  • 1/2 to 1 pound raw shrimp, coarsely chopped or chicken breast, diced fine (Note: For a double recipe, we used two chicken breasts.)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts for garnish
  • chopped fresh hot peppers or hot sauce, for garnish (Note: If you're not a Crohnie, that is...)
Saute onion, carrot, garlic, ginger, and red pepper in oil until tender. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add peanut butter slowly and whisk until smooth and creamy. If using chicken, add now along with kale or okra and cook 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked and okra is tender. If using shrimp, add it in the last 2-3 minutes before soup is done, so as not to toughen shrimp. Add salt and pepper tot taste and add extra broth if needed. Top with cilantro and serve with a scoop of rice and crushed peanuts.

I'm only including this photo because I loved the colors. I never thought I could love orange this way!

This is my fancy scoop of rice on top. What?! You think I was just going to plop it on there for this photo opp?! I think not.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Valentine's Day and Tomatillo Enchiladas (They go hand-in-hand, you know.)

I was never particularly for, or against, Valentine’s Day. In middle and high school choral members would deliver singing Valentine’s and the only one I received was from my friends…as a joke. (It was only heartbreaking for a few moments after I realized it wasn’t from a boy. Cheeks aflame, I chastised my friends and pretended not to care. Note: You always care.) Some girls, like my sister, had boyfriends in high school. I was not one of them. Girls carried around roses and, even alone, I never minded their boxes of chalky chocolate and cheesy stuffed bears holding polyester hearts with things like, “I LUV you!”. The tackiness was sort of charming. I was genuinely delighted when a friend got a gift. Looking back, I often cringe with embarrassment at how I’ve acted in particular situations, but this wasn’t one of them. I hope my child realizes the silliness (and the fun) of high school, too. My sophomore year of college I was dating a boy from Pennsylvania while I was in New York. Off the cuff, I decided I’d get a tattoo that night and went with a group of girlfriends. That was probably my most memorable Valentine’s Day (having it etched in my skin helps I suppose).

Like most men, Matt does not understand Valentine’s Day, but has learned its rules well. For our first Valentine’s Day together, I mentioned coworkers who received bouquets in the office. “And then Heather got this one that went over her cube and even DONNA got one!” I said only barely concealing my angst. I thought it was very obvious – well, if you read between the lines – that I wanted a bouquet, too, damnit! Matt said it’s silly, it’s expensive, and the flowers from Giant (our grocery store) are just as good (note: they aren’t). The next year even more coworkers received flowers and there is nothing more pathetic that walking by the front desk twenty times in one day hoping one measly bouquet was for you. None were. An email ensued…something like this:

Date: 2/14/2006
Time: 3:34 pm
To: Matt
From: Kathryn
Subject: Hi
Today is Valentine’s day. All these girls are frolicking around with their flowers. Speaking of, am I getting any?

Date: 2/14/2006
Time: 3:52 pm
To: Kathryn
From: Matt
Subject: Re: Hi
Hey K,
I thought you said flowers were stupid? I can pick some up at Giant if you’d like. And a Cadbury bar. Fruit and Nut, again?

Date: 2/14/2006
Time: 3:53 pm
To: Matt
From: Kathryn
You can KEEP YOUR PRODUCE SECTION FLOWERS! Everyone is here with their pink and frilly flowers and their little love notes and they’re all googly-eyed and in love and it would be nice if you were a little more romantic, you know!!
P.S: Yes, please get me a candy bar. But I’m eating it all.

As a side note, I received flowers at the office the next year.

This Valentine's Day Matt was had a whole V-day arsenal, and after receiving a gorgeous vintage-inspired necklace from my favorite jewelry store in town, he said (not rudely, just matter-of-factly), "Well, don't go and expect this next year; this is a special treat." Ah...young love...

Because food and love and Matt all go hand-in-hand, I bought Matt the cookbook Everyday Mexican by Rick Bayless for Valentine's Day. Saucy! Spicy! Hot! Okay, I'm done with the play on words. Matt loves Rick Bayless. He has a PBS show and Matt watches it every Saturday when he comes home from badminton (with a can of tuna in hand and a bottle of Gatorade in the other - gourmet, indeed).

We cooked Rick's Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms. It was the first time I've ever bought tomatillos and they're delightful! Tart until heated and sticky when you cut into them, I was mesmerized by these little green buggers.

I love cooking, and can be a bit of a control freak in the kitchen. "No, you're not chopping that right!" I'd shout when my own knife skills are sub par, or "You call those onions caramelized?!?!". Letting go and cooking with Matt (and not tisk, tisking when the peppers are chopped and not finely diced) has been a long overdue and newly learned behavior. Now we often cook together, and I've relaxed and I can safely say Matt is knows his way around a kitchen more than the average husband. And now? And now he can cook a mean tomatillo-sauced enchilada. (We still have mishaps: for this he pulsed a whole bunch of Italian parsley instead of cilantro at first...but I love that he knows the difference between curly and flat-leaf parsley, so I let it slide.)

So here they are. I'm not going to kid you: the tomatillo sauce has to grow on you (it has a sweet-but-earthy resonance, almost like an old-world wine....I don't even know if I'm understanding myself, here, but you'll see), and for us, getting into the sauce and really digging it didn't take long. The next day we used the leftovers atop breakfast burritos stuffed with eggs, spinach, and cheese.

I love a little Mexican amongst the winter chill.

Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms
from chef Rick Bayless' book, "Everyday Mexican"

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Fresh hot green chiles to taste (I like 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed and quartered (Note: We used canned, because we're ghetto like that.)
  • 1 1/2 (about 10 - 12 medium) pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into quarters
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, or bacon drippings
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 large red onion, thin sliced
  • 10 ounces spinach
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional) (Note: We did not use.)
  • Salt
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 3 tablespoons Crema, sour cream, heavy cream or creme fraiche (Note: We're no Rick Baylesses, so we used regular old sour cream.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup Queso Fresco or other cheese (Note: We easily found Queso Fresco at Wegman's.)

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. With a food processor or blender running, drop in the garlic and chiles one piece at a time, letting each piece get finely chopped before adding the next. Add the tomatillos and cilantro; process until smooth.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil or bacon drippings in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the puree and cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of thick tomato sauce, about 7 minutes. (The more you cook it the richer and sweeter it will be). Add the chicken broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

While the sauce is simmering, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil or drippings in a very large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring nearly constantly, for a couple of minutes, until they begin to brown. Add about three-quarters of the onion and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another minute or two, until the onion looks translucent. Add the spinach and optional chicken and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or so, until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt. Cover to keep warm.

Lay out the tortillas on a baking sheet and spray or brush lightly on both sides with oil or bacon drippings, then stack them in twos. Slide the tortillas into the oven and bake just long enough to make them soft and pliable, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and stack them in a single pile; cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.

Stir the crema into the sauce. Taste and season with salt (add the sugar here too if you’re using it). Holding a tortilla by the edge dip it into the sauce, then lay it on a plate. Spoon a heaping 2 tablespoons filling down the center, roll up and lay seam side down on a dinner plate. Repeat with 2 more tortillas, arranging them on the same dinner plate. Douse the enchiladas with about 1/4 cup of the warm sauce, sprinkle with a quarter of the crumbled cheese and garnish with some of the reserved onion and cilantro sprigs. Assemble the rest of the servings, and carry to the table without hesitation.

A note from Rick: You can simplify this recipe in two ways. First, you can skip the vegetable filling and use only shredded cooked chicken. And second, you can use store-bought tomatillo salsa (you'll need about 4 cups). Blend it until smooth, then transfer to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the crema and check the seasonings (it will likely be quite spicy ande tangy, so you may want to add extra crema and/or sugar). At your restaurant, we make these vegetarian enchiladas with roasted root vegetables in the fall, put each portion in an individual heatproof dish, top with a sprinkling of Chihuahua-style melting cheese and run them under a broiler. Coarse shreds of smoked ham hock (or several rashers of crisp bacon) are really delicious in the (then non-vegetarian) filling.

My chopping Valentine.

Rolled like a true Mexican!

We ate them while watching the Olympics.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Couscous and Chickpea Salad

My favorite cooking is born from boredom, hunger, and a well-stocked fridge and pantry. It also takes 10 minutes flat and measuring is never involved. This weekend I was positively voracious as I popped open a jar of marinated artichoke hearts and greedily ate one, straight from the jar, my fingers in oil. Those things are pure heaven. Matt and I had just been to the grocery store and our produce place the day before, and I had food to burn.

There are certain things I always keep in our pantry: canned beans, for one. Cheap, fast, healthy and filling. I love beans. I always thought the beans and gas correlation was a whole lot of bologna…until we became bean-eating maniacs. Lentils, black beans, pinto beans…it’s getting ridiculous. While at the store Matt is always sure to ask, “What’s our bean situation?” If we’re under three bean varieties, the situation isn’t good. For this dish I grabbed a can of chickpeas. I also always have tons of grains in addition to rice: there’s the quinoa, the whole wheat couscous, the tri-colored couscous, the Israeli couscous, orzo…you name it. I grabbed the couscous (how can you not love something that cooks in five minutes flat?). With the artichoke hearts in hand, and a fridge of just-bought produce, I was ready to go.

Here it is: a little something I threw together for a quickie lunch on Sunday. We often have all of these things in our pantry/fridge, and together, it’s just pure divinity. The dish took ten minutes flat and required no brainpower or culinary tricks to execute: score! I love cold salads like this: they’re so refreshing and you can essentially throw anything into the mix. I added the chickpeas for some heft and protein. We do something similar in the summer, but hot: simply grill every veggie in your fridge and mix with a bit of olive oil and couscous, top with some Parm and some lemon zest and a handful of herbs and swoon. It’s our summertime go-to favorite.

Serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a side.

Couscous and Chickpea Salad

  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 10 oz. spinach, sautéed (more or less)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas
  • 1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts in oil, chopped
  • ½ cup packed Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tb. Olive oil for sautéing spinach (and adding to dish)
  • Few ounces of feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook couscous (one cup couscous = one cup water). When that is cooking, add the tomatoes, beans, onion, and artichokes to a large bowl. Mince garlic and sauté for a quick minute and then add spinach, until wilted. Now add the cooked couscous and spinach to your bowl and mix (add the oil from the skillet, too). Add the parsley, feta, and lemon juice and mix gently. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (I used several grinds for both). Serve or refrigerate.

Just putting on the finishing touches...

Ah....there we go.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chocolate makes everything better

Today I got my period: on day 41 of my cycle. Trying to have a baby is like holding your breath for over a month, only to exhale and start it all over again the next. I wish I could be nonchalant about this, but somehow along the way starting a family has become everything to me. This sort of longing gets into your bones. It starts coloring your decisions. Which is probably why Matt just returned home from picking up chocolate (with nary a complaint). When he saw the tears I think he knew instantly lots and lots of chocolate would be involved (the stash: Andes mints, a Cadbury bar, and mousse...I'm already in a happier place).

With the odds stacked against us (I don't start Clomid until this upcoming cycle, and sheesh, we had a negative home test) we knew - rationally - heck, I probably wasn't, but that didn't stop me from looking at crib combos on this afternoon, or Matt demanding (oh lord, I hope in jest) - if I was pregnant - that we call him/her in "Cletus the Fetus". (I cannot make this stuff up.) Even with my positively screwed up reproduction system (hell, whole pelvic cavity) and a staggeringly long 36-day cycle, 41 days should only be reserved for pre-menopausal women. But I'm looking at the bright side: at least I'm getting a chocolate bar out of this. And yes, maybe I will have that drink.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Butter. I love butter. When I was growing up I refused to put the stuff on toast and opted for "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" Spread. I'm ashamed at who I was.

Butter sizzles in ours skillet when Matt makes one of his morning omlettes stuffed with shiitakes and Gruyere. I love fresh bread dipped in olive oil and herbs. But butter on warmed bread? I swoon. My mom taught me to always, always use all butter when making cookies and sweets, and I've never deviated. Sometimes I whip honey and butter in our mixer for a sweet heavenly spread, or gooey, rich brownies with loads of butter? Forget the Crohn's, and give me another.

Which is why my making a pasta dish (oh god, there's another one that makes me weak in the knees) with a buttery white wine sauce was pure kismet...My father's birthday was this week, and we celebrated at our place with food....and more food. My family loves food. We can put away a lot of food. My mom works with food. My dad just ordered a case load of organic, grass-fed, free-range buffalo meat from the Home Shopping Network. Need I say more?

We had this dish, with oven-roasted asparagus, a big salad, baguettes, and a rich chocolate cake to top it all off. And yes, with lick-my-fork-good chocolate buttercream frosting.

I love making pasta for company. It's one big pot of ease. Since it was also a special occasion, I threw in loads of pink shrimp, sauteed in the skillet with oil and garlic. And some peppers, tomatoes, spinach, and oh, did I mention the butter? The meal was good, but I tweaked the leftovers today to make it even better by adding more veggies. And yes, a tad more butter. I just can't help myself.

Shrimp Scampi Pasta
  • 2 lbs. raw, deveined large - extra large shrimp
  • 1 lb pasta (something thin, either angel hair or thin spaghetti)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large red peppers (sweet)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 bunch (about 5) chopped scallions
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 5 Tb. butter (BUTTER!)
  • 1 large bag fresh spinach (about 10 oz., give or take)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parm or Romano, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup - 2/3 cup fresh chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • lemon, for zesting

Heat water for pasta. Add salt.

Heat a few Tb. of oil in the skillet with 2 cloves pressed garlic. Saute shrimp (in batches, if necessary) on each side, flipping once, until pink and cooked through. Set aside. Now julienne the peppers and saute for 10 minutes in the remaining oil and garlic (add more garlic to your taste), until tender. Set aside with shrimp.

Now add the additional garlic to the skillet, with wine, salt and pepper and cook on high for a minute. Now add the butter and stir until it's melted. Add the pre-cooked peppers and shrimp, and the fresh spinach and coat with the butter and wine broth until the spinach wilts a bit - about a minute.

Add the mixture to cooked pasta. Now add the diced and halved grape tomatoes, cheese, scallions, and parsley. Toss. Zest a lemon onto the pasta. Serve with additional cheese, parsley, and zest.

The spread. I deleted the unflattering photo of me, but these guys weren't so lucky.

Make this with two pounds shrimp. You won't be sorry.

The perfect ending to a good meal! Wegman's "Ultimate Chocolate Cake". Yeah, we have a history.

I think I'm onto something...

This is my lovely husband. Isn't he cute?

Four years ago during the winter Olympics, my mom said, "Doesn't Matt look like Bode Miller?" By Bode Miller, she meant the delicious American skier.

I've been thinking about Bode lately (no, no, not like that)...but he did just win the Bronze today. And I thought, my god, he does sort of look like Matt...or maybe I just have a thing for Bode.

This is Bode. He's cute, no? In an all-American sorta Matt-y way?

They both sort of have these slanty eyes. And sheepish smile. And I mean that in the most complimentary way.

So, yeah, I think my husband looks like Olympic skier Bode Miller. And that's not too bad in my book.

Digging Out

After the storm, the sun was bright.

My two furs (the dog and the human); looking very stoic.

We hand. Snow blowers be damned! And YES, I did help.

The reason I do what I do..... (not really).

The downed large branch, in the glistening light of day. Suddenly, it's not so irksome.

Matt, at the end of the drive, conquering the dreaded mound the snow plow leaves behind. (Would you believe I did the rest? No? Well, I did.)

She's usually not so stern in real life. She doesn't like her photo taken.

Yep; she's a bit irked.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Look, it's hard to get a clear shot in blizzard conditions. Plus, my dog model wasn't cooperating at all.

This is the shot I used for my updated winter banner, above. This is our backyard, with a tree about to come down. I heard some creaking, so I made like a bandit and got the heck outta there. Note: It's hard to run in two-plus feet of snow.

Oh, lookie here. This is a 40-foot "branch" that came down in the back. This is when I started shrieking and told Matt and Penny to get out of our rinky dink sun room for protection: it was like a blitzkrieg of falling trees!

View from my bedroom window. It looks more elegant from above. (When you go to street level you see all the branches are drooping haphazardly to the ground. It's all very disconcerting and pathetic.)

These are the first branches that fell. They fell on our roof, but that's okay. "You can take our shingles, but you can't take our freedom!"

I thought I'd leave you with this glamorous self-portrait. I need some mascara and a shower, but gosh darnit, I was going to brave this storm and take ridiculous, unflattering photos! You can thank me later.

Rustic Potato Leek Soup

Well, it's officially a snow apocalypse. Total whiteout conditions, feet and feet of snow (from weekend's snow storm), and a 40 foot "branch" just fell in the backyard. That's when I screeched, "Get out of the sun room, get into the main house, now, now NOW!" to Matt and Penny, as they looked in awe at the fallen tree. That was the second branch to fall, and like a clucking mother hen I was heralding everyone to something a bit more structurally sound.

Anyway, it seems quite rational that now is about the time to post a soup recipe. During this past weekend's snowstorm we made bread and soup in between shoveling and watching a bit too much television. This soup takes 30 minutes to prepare, from soup to nuts (HA HA HA), you don't need much on hand, and it's perfect with a big ol' hunk of bread.

Rustic Potato and Leek Soup
adapted from the cookbook Love Soup

  • 3-4 large leeks, white and light green parts
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, pressed (This was not in the original recipe, but I think everything is better with garlic.)
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste (I used a lot of salt.)
  • 3 cups veggie broth
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (Due to semi-poor planning, I used dried.)
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme (I used dried, and about 2 tsps)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 3 Tbs. heavy cream (I used a bit more, and used half and half.)

Trim the leeks and wash well. Dice: you should have about 3 cups. Scrub potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet and add the leeks and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium, stirring often, until they are soft and just beginning to color, about 8 minutes.

Combine the leeks/garlic and potatoes in a large soup pot with 3 cups water, a tsp of salt, and the veggie broth. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Using a potato masher, mash to your desired consistency. Add the parsley and thyme, some black pepper, and the lemon juice. Taste and correct seasonings with more salt if needed. Stir in the cream and serve with more fresh parsley or chopped chives.

Leeks are sexy and sinewy.

I'm gonna add cheese next time. I love myself some cheeeeese.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I have no interest in the Super Bowel (that was a typo, but in light of this blog's subject matter, it's staying!), but Matt bet fifteen bucks on the Saints - and I'm cheap - so I'm glued to the t.v.

Did anyone else just see this Google ad? I'm still tearing up. They have a ton of these Search Story ads. I'm very behind the times, here. I feel woefully old. But they're fabulous...why didn't anyone think of this ad campaign sooner? They have a fantastic narrative...okay, I have to cool it...I'm feeling very Don Draper-esque, at the moment.

(On a semi-related note, is the Super Bowl theme this year that Arcade Fire song? Has football gone... cool?)

Snow day French bread

Everyone was asking everyone what they were going to do during the big snowstorm. Like several others, I decided we (er...Matt) were going to bake. And I'd make the soup, and it would be a picture-perfect day, and we'd cuddle by the fire with our big bowls, and it would be oh-so-romantic. Well, the bread and soup got made, the fire is expensive to light (it's fake, and uses a lot of gas), and we were watching a Dexter marathon so grisly television shows featuring serial killers isn't really a mood inducer. Oh well....the meal was still fabulous.

Here's Matt's French bread, which isn't his at all, but found on All Recipes. You know when you go to a good restaurant and they give you fresh bread, warmed, with butter or dipping oil? This is it...but better. It's crunchy and flaky and soft and chewy. I think I'm in love.

French Bread

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsps. salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tb. cornmeal
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tb. water
  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Punch dough down, and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.
  4. Grease a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water, and brush on. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.
  5. With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.

Chilly outside, and....chilly inside (it's a wonder this dough had even risen).

Due to spatial constraints, we made one long loaf and a few shorties.

En garde, doggie!!!

Q: Can two people consume all this bread in one snowy weekend?
A: Do you really have to ask?

A wintery mix

On Friday night when Matt was going out to pick up our Chinese take-out, he mentioned he was also going to get "some necessities" for the storm. The Chinese place is right next to a grocery store, so I just assumed....I dunno....chocolate milk, or something. Or his favorite cereal. But no. He drove another couple miles to the beer distributor. Here's his "necessity". But of course...

Philadelphia got 28.5 inches. We live in the suburbs and got perhaps 20. You say potato, I say pa-taut-o...tomato, ta-maut-o.

When I was shoveling, Matt was doing this.

And a bit of that. (He has big nostrils.)

Here's Penny the dog, supervising the shoveling effort (without much success)...but doesn't she look so stern?

Friday, February 5, 2010


No one really talks about the general fatigue that accompanies Crohn’s. Now, granted, I am lazy (incredibly so, at times, as my laundry has sat on my floor for 2.5 weeks now), but ever since college I’ve felt more tired than usual. This was before I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and simply thought I have a very sensitive stomach. In the following years my symptoms worsened and could no longer be ignored, and I was diagnosed about a year after I graduated from college. But in school I recall going to my mother’s doctor – who I never had a particular fondness for (okay, my sister and I think she’s a witch) – and explaining I’d been feeling terribly sluggish and she essentially said it was in my head and to lose some weight. Lovely.

And it’s difficult to understand a disease that isn’t visible, and may even be controlled and in remission. I look fine, and recently I feel fine, but I’m often just, simply put, very tired. And I’m not talking about the exhaustion that comes along during a flare and you’re flat wiped out (but that too). I’m talking every day, excuse-me-while-I-yawn, a-good-3.5 hour-nap-in-bed-would-be-nice, how-am-I-going-to-get-through-the-workday tired.

This past week I’ve been wiped out. I come home, put on pajamas, and lay (lie? I never got that one right). I’m stressed, and thus, utterly exhausted. This blog post is not well-written: I cannot even muster the energy to pop in a witty quip! So it goes without saying I am completely excited that we’re having a big snow storm tonight. My bed is fitted with flannel sheets, I have silly glossy magazines galore, bad t.v. to catch up on, and I have all the fixin’s for potato and leek soup and homemade bread. I also just enrolled in a course to prep me for a professional certification and have 200 pages to read on labor laws and risk management this weekend. Sigh. I’m hoping the warm bread and the flannel sheets make up for it.

Have a terrific weekend, all. Snuggle with someone you love and have a cup of hot tea. Also, some delicious recipes are coming.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fancy shrooms

I think Penny (yes, the dog) and I have seasonal depression. First off, Penny has gained 4.6 pounds since her last vet visit. Heck, I gain 4.6 pounds in a weekend, but for a dog that’s a lot. As I was sitting on the couch eating pizza and cookies last week (not fabricated), I said, “Penny, we’re going to go on a diet!” Starting tomorrow, of course. (And yes, I had four bowls of EVIL ice cream this weekend, and yes, there are two days in a weekend…it’s sad, isn’t it?) So much for that.

I get up and it’s dark. I am in an office with fluorescent lighting for nine hours. I leave the office and it’s dark. It’s always dark. I do not like the austerity of winter. The cold barrenness. Because it’s dark – and cold – Penny has not been getting enough walks. She has not seen her dog boyfriend, Max, for months. It’s a travesty, really (cough, cough). In the past few weeks she doesn’t even come up sleep in the same room with us. (She has always, always slept in her dog bed in our bedroom.) She stays downstairs now and looks at us with little interest when we go up to bed. Matt said it’s simply warmer downstairs and she prefers that dog bed. I say she’s leaving the nest and she doesn’t need her mother anymore. She’s also very bitter with her lack of walks, and by golly, that dog can hold a grudge. (Once I dropped Penny off to get her teeth cleaned. When we picked her up at the end of the day she greeted Matt warmly and didn’t – for the rest of the evening – even acknowledge my presence because I was the one who dropped her off. Even Matt recounts this with glee.)

So to bring some cheer in the household (for the humans – forget the dog) I wanted to make a cold-weather comfort dish. Actually, because Matt often gets home before me, he made it. With boys you just have to be very specific and deliberate. Include where everything is located (Matt cannot find anything). You can’t just say “tomato paste.” You have to say, “The tomato paste is located on the third shelf in the pantry on the left. It is in a tiny can.” Yep, there you got it!

(Below is a recipe totally borrowed from Smitten Kitchen. It's warm and beefy...without the beef! I swear you won't miss it. Serves 4.)

Mushroom Bourguignon

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 pounds portobello or cremini mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
  • Egg noodles, for serving
  • Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.

Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream (optional) and sprinkle with chives or parsley.

This is how I found Matt when I came home: cooking in his winter coat.

So I put him in something a little more appropriate. (And by "appropriate" I mean frilly.) I also turned up the heat.

I bought this wine for one reason, and one reason only: The GOAT.

The fungus is among us (above AND below!).