Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Macaroni & Cheese with Cauliflower

Recipe Rursday originated from our plans to cook more often at home. Now we cook almost every night of the week. I pick up new recipes from Food Network or Epicurious, and Smitten Kitchen, Not Martha (links to recipes), and Real Simple come through my blog roll. Other recipes come from friends and family, including Jennifer's Quinoa Salad, which we've made 100x since, and Chris' mom's prep for Chicken Cutlets, which we use on eggplant (since we're pescetarians). With all the snow, this week we were craving comfort food and picked a new mac & cheese.

Macaroni & Cheese with Cauliflower (from Real Simple)
12 oz. multigrain elbow macaroni (we used whole wheat pasta, rotini)
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
4 slices multigrain bread, torn (or bread crumbs, we used a mix of the two)
1/2 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 T olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. grated extra-sharp Cheddar (6 ounces)
1 1/2 c. reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 c. 1 percent milk
1 T Dijon mustard

---Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the cauliflower during the last 3 min. of cooking time; drain.
---Meanwhile, pulse the bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Add the parsley, 2 T of the oil, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper and pulse to combine; set aside.
---Return the pasta pot to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, just until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix in the pasta, cauliflower, cheese, sour cream, milk, and mustard.
---Transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish, sprinkle with the bread crumbs, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 min.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Memorial Service

Today I'm working at the Homeless Memorial Service at Beneficent Church, downtown. The purpose of the service is to celebrate and respect the lives of anyone who died without housing this past year. Family members and members of the homeless community come together in memory of those lost. Details available at Beneficent Church.

UPDATE: Today's service was beautiful, but difficult. It was difficult to see a church filled to the brim in memory of way too many people who died while being homeless. 30+ names were read, but it felt like 3,000. I'm paraphrasing, but Rabbi Alan Flam said it well: "We are all members of the human family and because of that we have a responsibility to take care of one another."

The Providence Journal noted the service in their news blog (including a nice photo), and a brief video of bits of the service can be found here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Christiansen's Milk

Providence, RI., taken 1.19.09.
On its way, for tomorrow: 3-5 additional inches of snow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fuzzy Red Love

This fuzzy red yarn, which I had forgotten about, is inspiring me with its cuddliness. I picked it up on sale, way back when, with the intention of working on a poncho for my mom (for those cold Rams games). I'll have to wait until next week to unpack the needles, but with this wonderfully cozy weather, I'm definitely going to start working with fuzzy red. Hmm. Poncho? Something else?


Corny name, but a great gift for Jose Reyes fans -- thank you Craig & Rosie! Pitchers and Catchers...mid-February. Can't wait.

To tide you over until then? Bleacher Preachers debut their new season this Tuesday night from 5-7 pm. Tune in online and have a listen!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Boxes and Boxes and Boxes

Packing sucks, right? Is it weird that I love it? Moving, it seems, is just another opportunity to say 'we don't need this, do we?' and the shedding continues. 'Where does this go?' and then it either goes in one room of boxes or the other, or it goes in the giveaway pile. Another box taped up and we're one step closer to being packed up. It feels productive! Not the kind of productivity of work, but productivity nonetheless. Zen Habits would be proud.We're moving! the end of this month. And we're both very excited about it. At the end of last month, Chris went lets-get-this-done-now on me, looked up places on CraigsList, made one appointment, and within 48 hours he and I were signing a new lease.

So far, this move has been our least stressful move ever! Maybe its because Chris and I have moved close to 15 times, our totals combined (college & grad schools hike up the numbers), and for this one, we know exactly what we're getting -- a place where we're excited to have our friends coming by again, a place with no need for hanging blankets between rooms or over windows, and a place where we both can work from home. For Willow, a fireplace to curl up in front of and for our pocketbooks, a bit of relief. It's not perfect, by a long shot, but it's perfect for us. More on the new place, post-move...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Gormet Ramen

Some of you, in your humble roots, used to eat Ramen like it was going out of style. This, however, is no ordinary Ramen. When the soup comes together perfectly, I promise that the shrimp will be sweeter and juicer than most shrimp you've consumed. Step one: throw out that hydrogenated flavor packet that comes with the noodles - it may kill you.

The one ingredient you may need to track down is Mirin. While we always have soy sauce in the house for stir-fry, this was a new one for us. Mirin is a sweet rice-based cooking wine that is fairly easy to find now (we found a bottle at Stop & Shop).Alton Brown's Ramen Shrimp Pouch (for 4 pouches):
2 packages of Ramen noodles
1/2 c. dried mushrooms, chopped (in a pinch use fresh, or skip)
20 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 c. finely chopped onion (we usually skip the onion)
1/2 c. sliced scallions
1/2 t. red pepper flakes (or more)
1/2 t. salt
1 qt. vegetable broth
1/2 c. mirin
1/4 c. soy sauce (we use low-sodium)
4 t. sesame oil (we use less, adds a nice flavor to stir-fry as well)

Preheat oven to 400F. Split the Ramen noodles horizontally (each pack will give you 2 bricks) and place each brick in the center of a big rectangle of aluminum foil. Be generous with your foil squares to avoid leaky pouches. Layer on the mushrooms, shrimp, onions, scallions, red pepper flakes, and salt. Place pouches on a cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the broth, mirin, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Pour the liquid into the pouches (distribute evenly), keeping an eye out for leaks. If one of your pouches has been punctured, set it on another square of tin foil creating a double pouch. Carefully fold the foil into a tent-shape (meet the shorter sides together and fold over the top edge, then folding up the longer sides to seal the pouch closed).

Place the cookie sheet of pouches in the oven and bake for 15 min. If you use jumbo shrimp, go the whole 15 min. For smaller shrimp, only 9-10 min. Pour into a bowl and serve immediately. Then call me and tell me how much you love Gormet Ramen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Visiting New York

Last weekend we celebrated a belated Christmas with Chris' parents. They were so thoughtful and generous about the whole thing...on the television, Anita had on the VHS of a fireplace burning, with Christmas carols playing in the background, and even our stockings were filled. For me, the most touching part of the weekend was how his parents kept up all of the decorations for us. The apartment glowed. It was so nice--a joy--to spend this time with them. Our reservations about delaying the visit to mid-January dissolved entirely. Belated or not, when you're with people who love you and treat you well, the timing of the visit is not important.
We were all about the matching fuzzy clothes this year...below, Chris & I in our fuzzy sweatshirts, and grandma and I in our white fuzzies (hers is a robe that she plans to never take off).
Grandma took us out to dinner on Saturday and we were joined by John Greg - Chris' close friend from St. Johns and the man who gave me the gift of The Cat Who... mystery series. I, of course, forgot my camera, but someone has photos from that snowy night.
(Garden Cafe, 1.11.09. I love these sneaky photos!)
One of the highlights of the weekend was Sunday night, when Chris' parents took us back up to our old beat, Inwood (the northern most part of Manhattan), where Chris & I used to live. Chris' mom, Anita, who has impeccable taste in restaurants, loves the Garden Cafe, one of our old favorite date-places. The restaurant's back patio, which is more like a mini-oasis, has treated us well with relaxing evenings.

Across the street is the Piper's Kilt (of Inwood), where we've celebrated past birthdays, graduations, and even a New Years Eve. We've made friends with neighbors there and watched a ridiculous number of Mets games, with Tommy, a bartender who befriended us back in 2006. Neither Chris nor I had had seen Tommy in a year and a half, but the moment we walked in the door, he asked, "How's Providence?" There's no Tommy in Providence, that's for sure. And it's his fault that I ended up on stage singing karaoke that night. So embarrassing. I'm fortunate that they love me.I'll leave you with the glow of their Christmas tree.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Obamicon yourself at Obamicon.Me. I look a little devil-ish here, I'm afraid. Still, you have to admit this is fun.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Baby Yaris in the Snow

Baby Yaris in the Snow.

What a Week

I'm dealing with a wonderfully full plate right now and my attitude is "Bring it On!" This is what I'm up to:
  • Helping my lovely friend Anne with her wedding Save the Dates & invitations - and we have submitted the design & details (to Sarah, who, if all goes well, will be printing them).
  • Packing boxes, boxes, and more boxes. We are swimming in boxes at home. Did I mention WE'RE MOVING!?! We're out on the 31st. Yipee! More on the move soon...
  • Writing a grant application for the non-profit group, Street Sights (sponsored by the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless). Friday deadline...get to work! (Buy a Street Sights calendar, $10!)
  • Tromping through lots of snow (after walking home from a meeting last night). We're in the middle of our 3rd big snow storm this winter (9-12 inches right now). It is truly stunning outside and not too frustrating, now that roads are clear.
  • Working at St. John's every Tuesday night (I've committed!). Last week we served 190 people a complete and healthy dinner. This week I expect we'll serve an even larger crowd. In most major cities there are meal sites for every day of the week. MLK day has more recently become a national day of service, which seems appropriate, given step three of King's plan (economic justice). And, this year, organizations expect record breaking numbers of volunteers. To that end, here's a service site that guides people to local service event: USA Service.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recipe Rursday: Mushroom Wontons

I've heard Alton Brown sing the praises of those little wonton wraps in the produce section, but my inspiration to make these wontons came from Smitten Kitchen (I always think it's Smitten Kitten) and her Lazy Girl's Wild Mushroom Wontons (an easier take on Gormet's Wild Mushroom Pierogies). Have I mentioned her beautiful recipe blog? I don't bake, but I read every post of her mostly-baking blog. In this instance she "cheats" with wonton skins, skipping the homemade peirogie recipe. I, of course, followed suit. These wontons take quite a bit of prep, but even Christopher agreed, "we should definitely make these again." Ours are sauteed until crispy, not fried (note: frying them would speed up the cooking time).Wild Mushroom Pirogies (ALTERED) or "A Lazy Girl's Wild Mushroom Wontons"
Gourmet, February 2001

For filling
1 cup boiling water
2/3 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 medium onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

(..we added a teaspone of red pepper flakes, b/c everything is better with).

For onion topping
1 lb onions, chopped
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Make filling: Pour boiling water over porcini in a small bowl and soak until softened,10 to 20 minutes. Lift porcini out of water, squeezing excess liquid back into bowl, and rinse well to remove any grit. Pour soaking liquid through a paper-towel-lined sieve into a bowl and reserve.

Finely chop onion and garlic in a food processor, then add cremini and porcini and pulse until very finely chopped.

Heat butter in a skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook mushroom mixture, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are dry and 1 shade darker, about 8 minutes. Add reserved soaking liquid and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick, dry, and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes (there will be about 1 cup filling). Stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely.I cut the wonton wraps into squares (instead of making rounds) Put 1 teaspoon filling in center of each square. Working with 1 square at a time, moisten edges with water and fold in half to form a triangle, pinching edges together to seal. Transfer wontons as assembled to a flour-dusted kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining squares, then make more wontons with remaining dough and filling. Note Chris' excellent demo.Cook onions and wontons: Cook onions in butter in a large heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

If you're not making peirogies, you can skip the boiling process. Instead, Transfer wontons with a slotted spoon to skillet with onions. Cook until browned (resist moving them around...they'll tear). Serve immediately. The only thing I'd change for next time is to try frying them with Canola oil so that they crips quicker & maybe will absorb less oil. I also might start by stemaing them in a cup of vegetable stock. Without any changes, these were incredibly good, with crunchy skins and a strong, rich, mushroom flavored filling (Photos from 12/12/08).

Next Thursday - Gormet Ramen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Street Sights 2009 Calendar

Tonight I attended a meeting of the individuals who publish Street Sights, a Providence newspaper that serves as a forum and source of information about homelessness. The goal of the paper is to give voice to the voiceless in our community, as well as to disperse accurate information about issues relating to homelessness.

The organization is selling their first run of calendars for $10 each. The calendars include photos of Rhode Island, bios, and poetry from members of the community who are homeless or previously homeless. All proceeds go to keeping the paper operational. You can find previous issues of the newspaper and locations where the calendars are sold at Street Sights.

I picked up a few calendars after the meeting, so if you're interested...each calendar is $10 and I'm happy to cover postage & drop them in the mail. Drop me an email.


Ft. Myers Beach (1.2.09)

Sfgirlbay recently posted a link to Poladroid--a fun software program that will turn your photos into faux-Polaroids with a click of a button. Not only is the Polaroid frame included, but the software slightly blurs & alters the colors of your photo as well. Very cute. And the fact that it takes time for the photo to "develop"..Love love love.
Snow storm (12/19/08)
Xmas Cat (12/25/08)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Florida Pics

We're back from Queens and busy busy. Florida pics are below. Be forewarned, it's a photo-heavy post. I need to edit a few of them, but that's on the to-do list.
My adorable father (1.2.09)Dad in the pool (1.2.09)Mom on the porch (1.2.09)Neighborhood yard sale - *everyone* out on their bikes! (1.3.09)Dad's find at the neighborhood yard sale (1.3.09)Fort Myers Beach (1.3.09).
We never go to this beach because it's packed with people.
But each time we try something new.Ice pop guy on the beach (1.3.09)
Mom & I on Fort Myers Beach (1.3. 09)
Crab legs at Pinchers (1.3.09)
Crab legs at Pinchers (1.3.09)Florida sunset - back at the house (1.3.09)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Recipe Rursdays: Potato-Crab Salad

I made this potato salad back in October after seeing something similar on Bobby Flay's show. His included warm crab meat, cilantro, & jalapenos (which we didn't have) and my change-up only included throwing in a can of crab meat (which we did have in the house). The results were that it tasted quite a bit like a good standard potato salad & next time I'd spice it up.

Potato Salad (altered from the Food Network)
Bag of small red potatoes (10-15)
1 C mayo (I used less)
1/4 buttermilk (I used 2%)
2T Djon mustard
2T whole-grain mustard (I used a Tbsp of ground mustard)
1/4 C chopped fresh dill
1/2 C chopped celery (I skipped this)
1/2 C chopped red onion (I used a white onion)
1 can of crab meat
Salt & Pepper1. Potatoes: Bring water & potatoes to a boil, lower heat & simmer for 10 min. Place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot & cover with a kitchen towel, allowing potatoes to steam for 15-20 min.2. Meanwhile, whisk together the mayo, milk, mustards, dill & S/P.
3. Quarter the potatoes when they're cool enough to handle & pour the dressing over them while they're warm. Fold in celery (if you use it), onion, and drained crab meat.4. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours (I think this last step is key). Serve warm, if desired. We ate this batch cold. Tasty.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Heavenly Vacation

Yesterday morning, Chris and I were pool-side, reveling in the Floridian sun. We came back early this morning to sleet. Damn the winter in Rhode Island! Ah, but we love you still...
View from Cuarto Ln. (Taken 1/2/09)
Dramas galore were on our shoulders these last few months and this trip was a true relief. The days were bright and sunny--a perfect setting for quality time (which is always hysterical & fun) with my parents. I have a video of them singing "I'm proud to be an American" on the karaoke machine we gave them for Christmas, but I need to save it for future occasions of blackmail.
Southern view over the pond. (Taken 1/2/09)
When I was younger, vacations needed to involve lots of noise (in college), and planning or 'being entertained'. I'm not that old, but I am proudly admit that vacations now, for us, are attempts to find relief, peace, and relaxation. This place is perfect. And in the interest of my mental health and the happiness of my parents (they beem when they're in Florida), I hope we have many more visits with them on sweet sweet Cuarto lane.
Chris & his morning coffee on the porch, our first full day.
(Taken 1/2/09)
South-facing on Cuarto (Taken 1/2/09)