simple food for one

March 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

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My fiance, who I have been living with for years now, travels a lot. And by a lot I mean he’s gone about half the year. And even though his traveling has been going on for years now, I’m still not used to it. It’s a struggle every time he leaves and I find myself counting the days, hours and minutes until he’ll be home again. It’s a wee bit lonely when you’re used to someone being in the house with you all the time and then they’re suddenly not.

This traveling schedule has forced more than a few adjustments at home. The one I hate the most though is cooking for one. Food is supposed to be shared! I love cooking for friends and family, the more the merrier. I absolutely dread cooking for just myself. I think, no I know, grocery items are built for numbers. This means I am either eating the same thing every night because there’s so much of it and I don’t want to waste it, or I buy a bunch of food and throw half of it away, just so I can have some variety. It seems like a lose/lose to me.

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I have found a few recipes that I like making for one, things I don’t mind having multiple times in one week or recipes that have ingredients that don’t spoil quickly. I have also learned that cooking for one is most enjoyable when you simplify with fewer ingredients and shorter cook times. I’m usually against frozen ingredients, but they can be your friend in instances like this. Words of advice, eat your salads first thing in the week and save your grains and proteins for the end. Also, make meals that have simple bases so you can add whatever it is you have on hand. Like in this recipe, if you don’t have corn, add in frozen peas and spinach instead! Little tweaks can make cooking for one a little bit more enjoyable.

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Serves 1
1/3 cup Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil, split
1/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup frozen corn
1/2 tablespoon fresh herbs
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
splash of lemon juice
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the couscous and sauté for a couple minutes until the rice becomes slightly brown, stirring occasionally. While the couscous is sauteing, heat 1 cup of water in the microwave, until it begins to boil. Add the boiling water to the browned couscous, cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the couscous is plump and cooked through. (*Note: Sometimes I find Israeli couscous needs more water and more cooking time when you’re cooking a larger quantity. You really want your couscous to be soft so it melts in your mouth. If the water is absorbed, but the rice isn’t cooked, just add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup boiling water to the rice and continue cooking. Do this until the rice is cooked through; believe me it’s worth it!)

In a small saute pan over medium heat add the other 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Once warmed add the onion and saute 5 minutes. Then add the corn and saute 2 more minutes, just until the corn is warmed through. Add the fresh herbs (I used thyme which was quite nice, but use whatever you have on hand), salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Once the couscous is cooked add the corn saute and stir until combined. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice, crumbled feta and enjoy.

herb & yogurt pappardella

January 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

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New England, love it or hate it? This is the dilemma I have been dealing with lately. The temperatures in Boston have been hovering around the teens or below for most of January and no warm air is in sight. I won’t lie; the unbearable chill has made me a bit of an unhappy insider, and has left me blowing my nose about every five minutes. (I have been going through a box of tissues a day, yikes!) The dry, itchy skin, the excessive amounts of lotion, the bright red nose and constantly being bundled up like the Michelin man, are not in New England’s favor right now.

I think I question why we live here every winter. I can deal with December; it’s filled with beautiful white snow and holiday cheer. January is usually bearable, it’s cold, but it’s the first month its actually chilly all the time, so you’re not sick of it yet. February, you start to go a bit crazy. It’s still freezing cold, you have been inside for months and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. Oh, and the illnesses that get passed from one person to the next and back to you again, all winter long, are at times unbearable.

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So the question remains, why do we put ourselves through this each year? To be honest, I’m not sure I really know the answer. I don’t participate in winter sports, I no longer ski, and I don’t ice skate or sled. I rarely venture outside when it’s this cold, but hate that I’m trapped in the house all day. Other than enjoying the warmth of a hot cocoa in my hands now and then, I’m not a winter lover.

Something seems to happen each year though, in March, sometimes as late as April, all of a sudden there will be this beautiful, sunny, 60 degree day. And you can’t help but smile and feel that winter was all worth it for a day like this. Everyone rushes from their homes to be outside, filling the parks and bike paths. And then it’s May and you’re buying potted plants and growing fresh herbs, and you think, how lovely is this? Summer rolls in and you gawk at how hot the rest of the U.S. is, while you enjoy mid 70s and 80s. Then fall comes and your days are filled with colorful leaves, apples and pumpkins. And by the time winter comes, you have all but forgotten the winters that came before. You get ready for the holidays and cheer for the first snowfall. And then all of a sudden it’s February again and you’re back to this state of misery, that you had almost completely forgotten.

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It’s a constant cycle that I just can’t seem to get out of. I am still putting up with this year’s New England winter and I am sure there will be many more to bear. I don’t know if I love it or hate it here, but I do know, at the start of February, I could not want more for it to be May.

Serves 4*
Inspired by The Year in Food

8 oz. pappardella noodles
1 cup plain greek yogurt
2 cloves of garlic
2/3 cup fresh basil, lightly chopped
1 tablespoon chives
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1/4 cup fresh parsley
zest from one lemon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small zucchini, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the pappardella noodles according to the package directions, typically al dente in 8-10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, in a food processor combine the greek yogurt, garlic, 1/3 cup of basil, chives, rosemary, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Pulse until everything is chopped and combined.

Toast almonds in a small pan over medium heat for just a few minutes until fragrant and slightly browned. Set aside and let cool.

Once pasta is cooked, place in a large bowl and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and zucchini. Add the creamy yogurt sauce and toss until combined. Top with toasted almonds, the rest of the basil and feta.

*Note: When I tried to cut this in half and make lunch just for two, the herbs didn’t chop up well in my big food processor. So if you decide to make a half portion, give all the herbs a good chop before adding.

tahini quinoa veggie bowl

January 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

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I bought a white dress. It’s stunning because it’s simple and yet elegant. It’s shear and sparkly all at the same time. And I plan to wear it on my wedding day. I have always said that when I got married, I would not buy a wedding dress but rather a white dress. Seemed like a simple enough goal. Well, it was not. Problem number one, white dresses are hard to come by, especially in winter. Problem number two, a lot of white dresses are absolutely hideous and the ones that weren’t, looked horrible on me. I have very pale skin and blended right into most of them, just a heaping blob of bland.

So I fell into the typical engagement trap of going to wedding dress shops, and I went to quite a few; small boutiques in the city, locally owned places in smaller towns and large department store style shops. It was exhausting, and everything felt so plain. I was never really wowed. Yes, maybe the color of this one looked OK and the back of this one was beautiful, but no one dress was stunning. There was no “I have found it!” moment. And honestly, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t fought harder to stick with my non-wedding dress plan. It’s very easy to get caught up in, “This is just what you do, what it costs, where you rent, what you eat, for a wedding.”

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And then I found it, in an ordinary shop of high-end jeans and dresses. There were two beautiful white dresses in the window and I was drawn to them immediately. I tried them on and honestly loved both. The one I decided against had a 20s inspired style was tight fitting with lots of shiny jewels. It was beautiful, but it did not fit our wedding, so a no-go. But the second dress was perfect, other shoppers complimented me in it, my mom had a big grin on her face. We had found the dress! I should preface this with the fact that I had the flu at the time, hadn’t showered that day, and was using all my energy just to stand up in the dress, as well as blow my noise at the same time. If I could look beautiful and love the dress at my worst, it would be just as wonderful at my best.

I am actually quite proud of myself for finding a white dress. I am saving myself more headaches down the road by eliminating the need for alterations and multiple fittings, the dress already fits! Just a quick hem and it will be wedding ready. Wedding planning is nice in these moments when things actually come together and you feel happy about getting closer to the wedding date. There are many more things to do, but the success of this one thing has made me very happy.

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Serves 4
Inspired by Food and Wine

1 cup quinoa
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, shredded (I use a vegetable peeler to get thin strips)
6-8 oz. mixed mushrooms, thinly sliced (shittake, cremini and white are nice)
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
3 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup tahini
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper

Prep all of your vegetables first. This is the most important thing when making a stir-fry because the cook time of each ingredient is essential. You want everything to be cooked but still crisp. Otherwise you end up with a soggy mess of veggies. (Take a look at the photos above for how I chopped all my veggies).

In a small pot, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and simmer over low heat until all of the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Immediately add the carrot and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook 2-3 more minutes. Add the zucchini, some salt and pepper, stirring everything together, cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Add the broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the broccoli is slighty browned and bright green. Add the spinach and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Season with a bit more salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add to the other vegetables.

In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a touch of salt. Stir the tahini mixture into the cooked quinoa. Keep covered for a few minutes to allow the mixture to be soaked in by the quinoa.

Scoop the quinoa into four individual bowls. Top each with the cooked vegetables. Enjoy immediately.

spicy coconut noodle bowl

November 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

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My parents have a new home. They have decided that the blistery winters up north are just not their cup of tea anymore. I mean no one likes to be stuck inside all winter, really. They decided they would be much happier in the sunshine, playing golf, in the middle of December. And you know what, they are.

This past weekend we scooted down to Florida to see their new home. We arrived hoping for sunshine and warm temperatures, neither of which we really got, but what we did see was the beginning of a home that will be filled with family for years to come. The house is still somewhat of a blank canvas. Tables are missing in the dining room, nothing hangs on the walls, the TV sits on the floor, but I could picture it full. The house has a warm feel and when the rugs, lamps, photos and everything else fills it in, it will feel homey for sure.

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The neighborhood they moved into is still being built. The construction workers begin their banging as early as 7 a.m. We met a bunch of wonderful neighbors who are sure to become great friends. We played games of pickle ball, bocce and shuffleboard. And between all the games and chatting, I had a thought. In the coming years, when our family continues to grow and little ones are born, we will be coming to this new house. I have so many wonderful memories growing up in the Vermont house. And although it’s sad to think that we have fewer and fewer reasons to go north, it is also exciting to know that we have a new home to make all sorts of different traditions and memories. This is where our kids will know their grandma and grandpa. This is where we will teach them to swim and drive them around in golf carts. And although it will be different, it will be just as wonderful.

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Serves 2
Inspired by Love and Lemons

Broth
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 scallions, chopped and divided
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup vegetable broth
juice and zest of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 vine tomato, diced

4 oz. soba noodles*

Shrimp
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
6 shrimp, cleaned
salt and pepper

2 cups kale or spinach, packed
1/2 tablespoon basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon parsley leaves

In a large pan heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add most of the scallions and saute 1 minute. Add the fresh ginger, coconut milk, broth, lime zest and juice, sriracha, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer 5 more minutes.

Prepare soba noodles according to package directions.

While the broth and noodles are cooking, prepare the shrimp. In a small sauté pan heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, sauté for 1 minute, add the shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until the shrimp is pink. Add a touch of salt and pepper before setting aside.

Add the kale (or spinach), basil and parsley to the broth and simmer for 30 seconds, just until the greens are wilted. Ladle the broth into 2 large bowls, add the soba noodles and top with the shrimp and left over scallions. Serve with a fork and spoon, mixing everything together when you begin to dig in.

*Note: My grocery store was inconveniently out of soba noodles when I needed them for this recipe so I used a fresh garlic linguine instead. This actually worked out quite nicely but my first choice would still be soba noodles if available.

sundried tomato & goat cheese linguine

October 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I think everyone feels a little overwhelmed at times when planning their wedding. The list of things to do is pages long and each line item can have five or six steps. The process itself involves so many emails, phone calls and follow ups; it can be exhausting. While some things are not much fun to check off the list, signing contracts and writing big checks are not my favorite things, there are a lot of little things that I really do enjoy, like designing our invitations, learning calligraphy and planning our outdoor space. There are a bunch of things on our list that still have questions marks, it can be hard to make big decisions sometimes, or all the time for that matter. The one thing about our wedding that I have had no doubt about since the start, is the location.

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I love my family’s backyard in Vermont. There is something about the space that always gets us outside way more often than we would be in Boston. Even with the typical overcast, crumby weather, I always find a pull to be in the yard, cutting flowers, picking (and eating) raspberries, playing games or just walking through the neighborhood. This past weekend we did all of these things, plus hung white lights in a few of the trees, found decent smore sticks for roasting and spray painted croquet wickets.

These are the things about wedding planning that I really love. Not only does it allow me to spend time with my fiance, but it’s an activity all on its own. These to dos get checked off the list quite quickly and make you feel like you’re making progress. I always feel a great deal of accomplishment when these tasks are finished and they bring a lot of joy as well. Like when you get stabbed with a tree branch for the fifth time and almost fall off the ladder from laughing. These are the moments I hope to remember when I look back and think about our wedding planning days.

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Serves 2

4 oz. linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, sliced
1/2 zucchini, sliced into matchsticks
1/2 tablespoon capers, drained
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup half and half or light cream
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a small bowl whisk together 1/4 cup of the half and half, goat cheese, basil and parsley.

In a large pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once warm add the shallot and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic sauté another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, zucchini, capers, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of cream to the sauté pan and stir until combined and smooth. Allow the cream to boil slightly and then turn the heat down to low. Simmer for a couple of minutes then add the cooked pasta and goat cheese cream. Mix until everything is coated. Serve hot and enjoy.

creamy goat cheese couscous

October 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Boston is doing this wonderful thing in the city. They put dozens of pianos around the downtown area, had local artists paint them up pretty, with signs on each that say “Play Me, I’m Yours.” There are half a dozen different ones just on my walk into work alone. Each time I see one there is always someone playing it, or someone just about to. Sometimes it’s a duo, sometimes there’s singing involved, but there is always a crowd gathering or people who slow down to listen. Not only has this so easily showcased the amazing musical talent that lives in Boston, but the smiles it’s generated alone is quite remarkable

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It’s funny how something that is plopped into an unusual environment can become so accepted. It’s changed my walking habits, so I pass one each morning; and it’s made me slow down, sometimes-even stop, so I can listen and watch people. And more power to the person who has the guts to sit down and play in front of a bunch of strangers. I’ve heard everything from chopsticks to Berkley-style symphony tunes, all of which sound just lovely when surrounded by greenery and happy people.

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This is one of the many benefits of living in a city; having the resources to do such things, which have such a positive impact. The pianos are only up until mid-October. All of the ones that survive the weather will be donated to local charities. So please find one and enjoy the music of strangers, outdoors, while you can.

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Serves 2
Inspired by Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup Israeli couscous
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups spinach, packed
juice of half a lemon
1 oz. goat cheese

In a small pot over medium-high heat add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and couscous. Saute for 2 minutes until the couscous is slightly browned. In the meantime heat up 1 1/2 cups of water in the microwave until boiling. Add the boiling water to the couscous, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. (Couscous should be soft with no crunch when ready and all the water should be absorbed).

While the couscous is cooking, set up a saute pan on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the onion. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and saute for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach and lemon juice and saute for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.

Stir the goat cheese into the cooked couscous until it’s completely melted. Add in the vegetables and stir until combined. Serve hot.

sweet & spicy tofu with broccoli

August 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I have never eaten meat regularly. When I was a kid meat was my green peas. Many nights I heard “You will sit at the table until you eat it.” And I did sit there more nights. I plain didn’t like it. When I got older I rarely ate red meat. I think my biggest consumption of meat was during my college years, way too many late nights of buffalo chicken fingers. So when I made the decision to stop eating meat entirely a few years back, it didn’t seen like that big of a shift in lifestyle. And to be honest, it really wasn’t. I went from eating meat maybe once a month to not at all.

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Over the past couple of years, no meat eating has forced one new food introduction, tofu. I found myself still yearning to make some of my old stir-fry recipes that I loved, but they all seemed to call for chicken. For a while I just set all these recipes aside thinking there was nothing to be done.

When I tried tofu for the first time, I did not like it. Like anything, it took a little bit of getting use to both the texture and the flavor. And honestly, I didn’t know how to cook with it, well not well at least. I definitely made some bad tofu recipes those first few times. But overtime I have not only come to really like tofu as an ingredient but I have learned how to cook with it.

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This has caused an influx of Asian-influenced recipes in our house. Anytime I see a recipe with meat now, I feel confident substituting tofu. And 90% of the time I’m happy with the outcome. There are some recipes that just don’t work with tofu and I toss it. But I think you can say that for almost any new recipe you try, trial and error is always half the battle.

Serves 4
Inspired by the Yotam Ottolenghi

3/4 cup brown jasmine rice
1 head of broccoli, chopped
15 oz. extra firm tofu
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 shallots, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tablespoon ginger
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
fresh black pepper
5 green onions, sliced

Drain tofu and wrap in a paper towel. Allow the tofu to dry out while preparing rice and broccoli.

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a bowl. Once boiling add the jasmine rice, cover and reduce to low heat. Simmer for 35 to 40 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

Steam broccoli over boiling water in a strainer. Steam for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until broccoli becomes bright green.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is warming, slice tofu into small cubes. In a large bowl, toss tofu with cornstarch until all sides are covered. Pour 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil into the pan. Add the tofu to the pan and make sure each piece is touching the bottom (otherwise you will want to do the tofu in batches). Fry for 10 minutes (do not stir). Stir and cook for another 10 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the tofu is crispy and slightly brown. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

Turn heat down to medium and place 2 more tablespoons of sunflower oil into the pan. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Saute for 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sugar and black pepper and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook for 3 more minutes, until the soy sauce has slightly thickened. Toss in the tofu, broccoli and green onions and allow everything to heat through.

Place a bit of rice in the bottom of 4 bowls and top with the tofu and broccoli mixture. Serve immediately.

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