Chicken Fried Rice


A few days before Christmas I lost my skillet in my one-time stint as a firefighter against a rogue candle. The skillet had led good life of 8 years, 3 apartments and as evidenced by this blog... a healthy bit of use... so it seemed like a worthwhile lifespan for a skillet I bought from Walmart in 2006. Thankfully Santa's elves blessed me with a new one for Christmas and I was really excited to christen it this New Year's Eve with a brand new recipe.

This New Years Eve felt different than recent years past but not in a bad way. I did some quick reflection and realized it was the first NYE in awhile that I have spent by myself**. It's been a mix of snowy locations, easier "home"ish evenings, and one warm trip to Florida ... but this might be one of my favorite. I spent the day gently knocking items off my to-do list, leisurely drank lattes, watched the Cosby Show on Hulu, and went to a candlelit yoga class. On my way home from the yoga class, I picked up a can of Pringles that I commenced eating while I walked past all the people dressed up and carrying housewarming gifts.

my christmas


Christmas is by far one of my favorite seasons of the year. Sometimes I'm surprised by that fact since I might just give up bacon if I got to live in the sweet spot of May to September year-round. As a family, we've been known to keep our trees up perhaps way longer than deemed socially acceptable... but we don't care. Is there anything better than lounging on your couch with a view of the ornaments and lights? Not really.

If you knew me last year, you might feel like my tree this year looked a lot like Abe from 2012 ... and you'd be right. But the ornaments made it through storage and who am I to turn down an ornaments chance to shine bright like a diamond? I have some ideas already in my head for next years tree and I'm excited about it. This year's tree was named Mark ... in honor of a spider that lived with my sister respectfully until he broke one of her rules (moving out of the kitchen) and she had to take care of business.

eggnog cinnamon rolls


 Before you toss out the last of the eggnog from your refrigerator, I should tell you how I made eggnog cinnamon rolls for Christmas this year. The chance is pretty strong you've either already drunk it ... or tossed it ... but if I don't write about the recipe it feels like it never happened.

Last year, I made about a million batches of eggnog monkey bread all to rave and successful reviews. I liked the idea of having a recipe of the season that I would make a few times to eat and share. Several weeks back, I stumbled upon this recipe for eggnog cinnamon rolls and felt like I had a winner.

Outdoors with Ruby May


There is this really interesting balance that comes with "going home for the holidays" when everyone is home. It's amazing and relaxing ... and an adjustment. It's probably a weird intricacy of getting older and having routines. I'm used to spending my Sundays quietly drinking coffee and watching CBS Sunday Morning - as opposed to discussing laundry logistics, what the cream cheese options are, and whether or not we will all watch the Patriots game together. To be clear, all of those are blessings but just so comical that they are even adjustments.

So in an effort to get a little exercise and quiet time, I took a walk in the woods with Ruby May and baby sister on a perfectly foggy and warm Winter day. It was warm enough to warrant leaving the heavy coats behind along with any element of gloves or hats. We headed out to Norris River Reservation in Norwell and wandered for a couple of hours. Ruby got to run through the woods a bit and find sticks. We got to stroll with appropriately themed Starbucks lattes in hand. A win for everyone. Norris is quickly becoming a great place that I love to frequent when I'm home for a little fresh air (2011 and 2012).

Filipino Feast


I'm a sucker for a reason to make a meal... and I love when the reason comes with a kickstart for what to eat. It's part of the reason we ended up with all those multi-course meals for Downton Abbey last year.

If I'm doing some slightly more adventurous cooking, it tends to be on Sunday. More time for prep. More time for errands. More time for reading the recipe two and three times. So, last Sunday was the season finale of Survivor and seemed like another great occasion to try something different. While a part of me wanted to just pull together a favorite fish dish from my repertoire, it felt like an opportunity to try some Filipino inspired food. The rationale being that this season of Survivor was held in the Philippines.

The meal itself was actually rather easy to pull together. It isn't a "one pot wonder" meal ... rather two - but that's okay. There isn't any fancy prep required. Just simple chopping, sautéing, and patiently waiting for the rice. It isn't exactly the most photogenic meal ever but I think that's the nature of the beast.

life lessons in skiing


Two life lessons today kids. And if life isn't about learning lessons and taking adventures then you are probably just wasting your time. So here is what I learned today:
  1. If you go up the mountain, you have to come back down it... and the terrain isn't going to magically be different.
  2. If the color map costs $1, you should buy it ... even if the ski rental lady tells you that you don't need it.
But today was rather awesome and in a totally different way than my earlier skiing adventure.

All of the trails were fully decked out in white. The trees were bowing under the weight of the weeks weather and it just seriously was a winter wonderland. An empty one at that. Despite a full parking lot, I felt like I had the mountain to myself. In the 2.5 hrs I traipsed around, I only saw 4 people, maybe 5. At one point, I became acutely aware that I could hear absolutely no trucks or people... only the gentle swishing of my skis. Soon after this moment, I realized I had no idea how to fight off a bear or deal with a avalanche. I'm not sure either of those are threats at Windblown Cross Country Ski Center.

Adventures in Skiing!

About once a year I go cross country skiing. And while I did go a few other times when I was younger, I'm pretty much referring to NYE 2010 and NYE 2012. So my experience is limited - but that's the great part about cross country skiing... it's like you barely need experience. Slight exaggeration probably - but that's what I love about this activity.

So with the recent snowfall over the weekend and no work on Monday ... I was gearing up for an adventure. I did some light research and found this place just outside Boston called Great Brook Ski. The place is something like 25 miles from Boston but quite literally feels like a world apart. It's reminiscent of visiting my friend Anna in Lincoln. Except with about a million more really tall trees and my rented cross country skis.

christmas stout gingerbread

A couple of months ago, I got a surprise package in the mail from a "secret admirer". Obviously, I can't stand secrets and not knowing the full story ... so I called the company and demanded they tell me who the package was from. I appeased to the gentleman's good heart by telling him that I can't send a proper thank you note without a person. He fell for it. But, I did mean that. I like to thank people for their thoughtful gifts ... especially this one.

The admirer = my grandfather. The gift = an appropriately themed care package based on my annual shipment of Irish Soda Bread. The box included a seriously gorgeous baking dish with a celtic cross in the bottom, a classically beautiful Irish dish towel, and a bread mix. It took me awhile to find the appropriate thank you but I finally got there.

meeting jared


I've been looking forward to last Wednesday for quite awhile. Although it isn't quite Christmas just yet, it was Christmas and my brother's birthday all wrapped in one. Big day right? See the thing is teenage boys are challenging to shop for. I just don't have the eye for what is cool and interesting to a 14 (and soon to be 15) year old boy. The entire OBEY clothing line is just a mystery to me. I don't get it.

What I do understand is that my brother is very calculated in what he likes and doesn't like. He picks things that not all of his friends are on board with - or even know about. So for an example, Jake told me in the Fall that one of his favorite teams is the Clippers, I had to ask why. There is always a reason with Jake. The reason? Jared Dudley. Jake has been watching Jared's career since he played at Boston College, at which point Jake was a mere 9 years old when he graduated.

gingerbread pancakes!


I've long described breakfast as one of my favorite meals. I think it might be because it comes with endless cups of coffee and limited judgement for wearing your pajamas while you eat.

If your definition of "getting dressed"is putting on pants... then I'll be honest ... I haven't really gotten dressed in over a week. By the time this vacation is over, I might actually forget how to use a zipper. In addition, my consumption of Pellegrino and Reese's Christmas Trees has increased dramatically. I had to actually grab the emergency bag of candy from my freezer on Saturday night. Sad or awesome? I'll go with awesome.

On Saturday, I woke up to knowing that while I had plenty of English muffins in the house... it wasn't enough. An impending snowstorm makes me want to hibernate early and often. A year ago, I made these corn griddle cakes to some success ... and for once in my life, I didn't really want a breakfast sandwich. I wanted pancakes... and I wanted them to be gingerbread.

beach bliss


I've been on vacation for a few days and it's been pretty great.

I excel at taking vacations. I guess theoretically this is a staycation since I didn't technically go anywhere... either way, I'm winning. I made an awesome to-do list last Friday of things that I was hoping to get done this week and I've made some great progress in knocking them down. One of the things on my list was to "check out Provincetown". I've never been and people rave about it. That being said, they normally rave about it in the summer... when it's warm... not cold.

I've been watching the weather a bit for a day that held clear skies and today was the day. I didn't really have much of a plan for what to do except that I just wanted to drive down and drive back and step out onto a beach. At the last minute, I decided to take the family dog Ruby May with me... and it was awesome. Ruby May LOVES beaches.

gingerbread madeleines


I oscillate between being really proactive... and a total procrastinator. Sometimes I'm really on my game and prepared for an event ... and other times I'm struggling.

The perfect example of this is my participation in this year's internet cookie swap. The concept is simple. You write about food on the internet? You qualify. Make a cookie that you've never written about previously. Mail one dozen to three different randomly assigned bloggers. Easy peasy. Oh, and you have like nearly a month to do it. Plenty of time.

When my co-worker asked me if I was going to join this year, I initially said no. Then I ate this amazing brown butter hazelnut donut and changed my mind. I had my inspiration and I was going to embrace it. A few weeks ago, I attempted a batch of cookies and at the last minute swapped out hazelnuts for pretzels. While the dough was DELICIOUS, the cookies lacked the right consistency. First attempt = fail. Second attempt = fail. Moving on... With two failed attempts under my belt, I finally found something that worked ... gingerbread madeleines. I love madeleines. Why?

chickpea stew


Disclaimer: This soup tastes better than it looks. I promise. But, I guess it's soup season for reals. It's December - so that makes sense. As I write this posting, it is actually snowing outside and I think that's perfect.

I was on a major soup binge last year - and haven't quite hit my stride yet I guess. I haven't quite found my winning soup of Fall/Winter 2013 yet. I actually made this soup back in November but wasn't super duper excited about it ... so I didn't really get around to writing it up.

Don't get me wrong. This soup is great. My little sister proclaimed how flavorful and awesome it was when I served it to her one Sunday. It just isn't that type of soup that you make time and time again. It's also not really a "coffee house type soup". It's more of a "dinner party soup". All your guest will loves it - except that person that hates cumin. They will not like this. Just throw pour them another glass of wine and toss them a roll. They'll be fine.

thanksgiving activities


I am most certainly a person who is rejuvenated by nature - never by the city.

I don't need to run to feel at peace, a simple walk will suffice. And, I did that nearly every day of this longer Thanksgiving break... and I loved it. I was talking to my sister last week about how desperate I was to just get home (and by home, I mean my parents). I haven't been travelling or excessively socializing but I just really needed to refresh my spirit a bit with some relaxing days at my parent's house.

There was a fair bit of cooking over the last few days but also a healthy amount of Netflix, walking, and sleeping. My Jawbone and I clocked in 8+ hours nearly every night. At one point, we did a puzzle. We set up the fleet of family Christmas trees and ate a lot of Cheddar Blasted Goldfish. But, the walking is the part that I loved the most.

thanksgiving replay


This Thanksgiving was different than the past several ones. Normally, we buy a prepared meal from a local restaurant and eat it in the comfort of our own home. We've been doing it like this for as long as I can really remember post getting my driver's license... since I was often the one sent out with a check, the car keys, and an empty backseat.

But this year ... we cooked. Everybody made a little something and it was awesome.

Chili 2013


I've been making the same chili recipe since January 2007. So, it seems appropriate that I try something new. Although I've modified the recipe to make it my own, it originally belonged to my boyfriend's mom at the time.

Now, I needed my own. And, I think I have it. I'm calling it "Chili 2013".

The weather today in Boston was rather frigid. It was perfect for chili and all day hibernating. After a few cups of coffee, I felt warm enough to make the trek to the market for ingredients. In hindsight, I should have picked these things up yesterday ... but yesterday I was busy recovering from the latest two episodes of Scandal via Netflix. 

the latest and greatest


I'm potentially turning into a baby. 

I used to be able to run outside in the cold weather but since I've turned 30, I can't handle the idea of being chilled to the bone. Old age? Laziness? I took this picture on a morning run this week and I'd think it captures the essence of the blustery weather. It does not capture my intensely mismatched outfit - hot pink shorts, red shirt, neon yellow knee socks, and blue shoes.

All week I've been trying to write a post about my Sunday dinner of chickpea stew and it hasn't quite happened. Maybe tomorrow. Instead, I've been eating English muffins and educating my married friends about online dating. There is nothing quite like watching two dads I've known for 5 years play with Tinder. It was oddly comforting to know that things I am turned off by ... are also deemed unacceptable by my friend Greg. 

Otherwise, here is the latest and greatest.

Roasted Potatoes with Haddock Puttanesca


Oh guys. I love tearing recipes out of magazines. It brings me such a sense of satisfaction. I like to refer to it as my "weekend work". This recipe came from one of those magazines this past Sunday.

I had my little sister and a friend over for Sunday morning chit chat and we finished off the rest of the pancetta scones. (Yes, that means 8 scones were gone in less than 48 hrs and I didn't really give any of them away). While we all sat around gossiping and clearing out shows from the DVR, I diligently went through the pile of magazines that has been slowly growing in the last few weeks. There was such a sense of satisfaction when I tossed one to the floor. Both of my grandfathers love/loved to read magazines... and it always feels like I'm channeling them when I crush a few magazines on the weekend. My grandfather, Jimbo, got about a million magazine subscriptions ... so I think that's where my obsession/issue/addiction comes from. I'll never forget all the piles of magazines that were on his coffee table. Ever.

So, that's how we ended up with this recipe. 

pancetta scones are the bees knees


Guys, remember how when I wrote about the Sugar Buns I said what I liked about breakfast? Meat + Carbs + Coffee. Well, you can get 2 out of 3 in this scone recipe ... and it will knock your socks off. I'm not even kidding.

I had thought about making these last week pre-sugar buns ... but I didn't have any pancetta in the house. The North End on the weekends can be a bit of a disaster at times and the idea of wading through tourists buy meat and cheese sounded a bit like torture. But, last night when I was on my way home from work I knew I needed to get milk for coffee ... and perhaps a slice of pizza for dinner ... so it just naturally made sense to add two more things to that list: pancetta and pecorino romano.

Crispy fresh cooked bacon is one of my favorite things in the world, but a close second is crispy chopped pancetta. It's amazingly salty and bite-size - so obviously I was really pumped to put it in some scones with some cheese and rosemary. You know that feeling when you are making cookie dough and you just want a bite of it because that chocolate chip looks so good? That danger exists with this recipe because all you see are the hunks of pancetta ... but scone dough does not taste nearly as good as cookie dough. Fyi.

Sugar Buns


I think breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. It's not really because of the food - it's more because of the routine and comfort that comes from breakfast.

To me, a good breakfast isn't complicated. It's hot coffee, some bacon, and some carbs. No fuss. I think when I was in high school, I used to skip breakfast. The idea of that seems like blasphemy at this point - especially to my coworkers who have seen me each breakfast twice in one day. "Jen, is that your first breakfast or the second?" "Jen, free bagels over there.... you know for second breakfast?" Seriously. 

When I used to travel a lot for work, I fell in love with the Starbucks "Morning Bun". It had an amazing balance of sweet sugar, flaky dough, just enough mess on your desk... but it's gone. Starbucks recently renovated their product line and the "morning bun" is now bigger, flakier, stickier, and messier. I miss the old bun. 

pumpkin carving + fire pit + leaves


My pumpkin is the smallest one. The one with a cat face on it. Eleanor the pumpkin perhaps?

I don't think I've ever carved a pumpkin before - or at least not that I can recall. My crazy adorable friends, Chris and Lauren, included me in their annual pumpkin carving competition in the burbs. I have vague memories of seeing pumpkins on our kitchen counters so I'm sure it happened. But, I can without a doubt say that in the last 20 years, I have not tried to make art from a seasonal farm product.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing this weekend but it's probably safe to say that I won't be carving a pumpkin. Carving post Halloween might be akin to wearing white pants after Labor Day? I'm not sure. (I know for a fact that I wore my white jeans after Labor Day. I wore them out for Italian night time drinks and cookies on September the 13th ... it was a Friday. Yes, Friday the 13th).

cod with potatoes and salsa verde


Guys, this dish was so good that I ate it in less than 5 minutes. If I had cooked for more than one, I would have gone back for seconds. I have zero self-control so I think it is a mere miracle that I didn't just make more of the potato and onion part.


I had originally planned to make this dish on Sunday evening... but then obviously made Mexican Chicken Soup. Monday night came around and I was so hungry that before I could thinly slice potatoes... I had faced a bunch of cheddar cheese, pretzels, and meats. According to the internet, fresh fish is only really good for 2 days in the fridge which meant today was the final day.

I wouldn't have thought this was a week night meal going into this honestly. I recently decided to make a concerted effort to cook more from the multitude of magazines I get (Food & Wine, La Cucina Italiana, Bon Appetit, Cooks Illustrated, and Cooks Country). So this weekend I piled a few in my bag before I set out for some light city adventure. Adventure = eating pizza and reading in the sun. I found this recipe in Food & Wine and loved it for the simple ingredients ... and seemingly simple prep.

Mexican Chicken Soup... for Fall


I originally had plans to make a seared cod tonight for dinner... and I'm pretty sure that's the opposite of a Mexican chicken soup. I even procured all of the ingredients for both at Whole Foods this afternoon. But, this afternoon slipped away from me ... and some how it seemed much more rational to cook one dinner and drink wine and listen to Spotify than cook dinner and make soup.

It took me much longer this year to make the transition to soup. I know because I get a daily digest of all my social media postings from the prior years... and by this time last year I had already made the full switch to Fall. Meatballs were made. Cauliflower was roasted for soup. I think Fall feels slower this year for a few reasons of which weather is one. My mentality was still in Summer / early Fall mode until last week ... now? It's Fall. 

Mexican chicken soup isn't exactly Fall - but it's soup and it's really good. A while ago I made this Peruvian Chicken soup ... and it was real good but this is a million times different. It's only been 3 hours but I'm a fan of this version. It has just the right amount of heat / kick / spice for me. It feels different, but it still rather easy.

brown butter peanut butter rice krispy treats

People often ask me what kind of a cook I am? I don't think they are asking if I'm bossy in the kitchen. They are more often asking me to define the general type of "cuisine" I conjure up and then subsequently push on guests and frequently give away. I'm rather hesitant to define myself in the kitchen - but I think I'd say that I most often like to cook meals or recipes that are approachable and yet a little different. I don't think anything I make is really complex. If it appears complex, it probably just requires a bit more patience and reading. Maybe.

So this weekend I was invited to a Halloween party in the burbs and knew I needed to whip something up for the occasion. I rarely feel comfortable showing up empty-handed... it's probably my mom's voice in the back of my head. That being said, you are welcome to come to my house that way. A Halloween party isn't a place for an apple clafoutis or merengue nest with strawberry sauce - it's the place for something sweet that feels a little bit sinful... and maybe even comfortable? Enter rice krispy treats. 

Pig-free Powisset Farm


I'm a Summer baby through and through. I like the long days filled with sun and warmth. I like the activities that come with summer. Reading in the sun, cooking on the grill, bike rides for fun, bike rides to air dry from swimming, bike ride with cocktails.

But there is something about the transition to Fall that makes me want to take nice walks slash hikes in nature. A few weeks ago, I went back to Norris River Reservation with Ruby May the puppy for her first "hike". Since then, I haven't really been seeing what Fall had to offer... which was probably why I tried so hard to pack it all in this past weekend. Saturday at Appleton Farms and Plum Island. And Sunday... at Powisset Farms in Dover .

I kinda of knew from the minute I got home on Saturday that I was going to try and see another farm on Sunday... but didn't really pull the trigger until I woke up. I first saw the farm featured on the Trustees of the Reservation Facebook page ... and it looked compelling. Although I would say I had a far different experience than what I was anticipating. 

brown butter apple clafoutis


Good things happened yesterday and less good things happened as well.

The good things were delivering hot sauce to friends, walks in the "country", reading on a bench in the sun ... and making this dessert (and eating it for dinner). The less good things? I think my allergies are back. My throat is itchy, so I'm not sleeping well, so I'm not interested in running in the morning, so I'm less enthusiastic about the day. It's all a chain reaction thanks to nature and the changing seasons.

But guys, this is really about making a BROWN BUTTER apple clafoutis. Just like galettes, I have no idea how to say clafoutis but I think I really like them. I did a bit of research on them in advance because I was like clafoutis sounds like a disease that can be passed around and not a french dessert - which it actually is.

The essence of a clafoutis is essentially a custard / flan like baked pie style dish... with fruit... that is served warm. Also, it's not hyper photogenic - or at least mine isn't... but it's also delicious and I'm going to eat it for dinner and dessert and probably breakfast for the next several days. I didn't eat mine with ice cream, but I think that would probably be a great touch. Think of it like a bread pudding ... maybe.

escaping to the farm in the fall


I watch the news each morning before I go to work. And each day this past week, those ridiculously cheerful weather people told me how amazing the weekend was going to be. It was like they were advance shaming me for just reading magazines by the harbor.

So, I was borderline determined to savor the Fall weather a bit, see some foliage, and if I was lucky a stone wall or two. 

I really had no idea where to go for a brief adventure. I didn't want to drive for more than 45 minutes and I would prefer to not see crowds of people. I stumbled upon Appleton Farms after clicking through a couple of options that I found on the Trustees of the Reservation website. It fit all of my qualifications and more. It was a working dairy farm! This means baby cows in addition to Fall foliage. Although I felt pretty confident in my decision to venture out to Appleton Farms, I stumbled onto this article on Edible Boston about "happy cows" and was even more convinced. 

embracing the weekend


This weekend was a little bit of everything.

It was boating, birthdays, cooking, wandering, running, and picnicking. There was no cleaning, organizing, or de-cluttering. Sunday alone, I had pork FIVE ways. Yes, five. That is what type of weekend I had.

The past two years over Columbus Day I've run away to Vermont (here, here, and here). I get so excited to gawk at the foliage during the long drive. Sitting on the porch with a hot mug of coffee is always a highlight wrapped in fleece and trying to talk through how we can make beeswax candles. This year, I ended up staying local and doing my best to see some foliage and try a few new things. I can safely say that I did something (slightly) new each day that I hadn't done before.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan Rigatoni


A few weeks ago I was home and scavenging in my Dad's garden for produce. I ended up coming home to the North End with a whole pile of jalapeños, assorted other hot peppers, the rest of my favorite tomatoes... and a solo eggplant.

I never turn down fresh produce. Especially if it's free... or insanely cheap. I mean, this is how I ended up making tomato jam that one time. I don't think I've ever cooked with eggplant before this but I figured it never hurts to try things once. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with this little gem but thankfully the internet happened to serve me up the inspiration just in the nick of time. Feed Me Phoebe originally intended this to be a vegetarian dish ... and not baked ... and deconstructed. Although I rarely stick to a recipe 100%, I strayed pretty far from Phoebe's intentions. I ended up adding bolognese sauce I had ... and baking it.

Homemade San Marzano Sauce


It's officially the end of garden fresh veggies.

As of last night I have finally cooked or eaten, all of the hot peppers, tomatoes, and the lone eggplant that were produced from my fire escape or my Dad's suburban oasis. Earlier this week, I plucked what I think will be the final tomatoes from the fire escape. I didn't keep track but I think I ended up with a dozen tomatoes from the fire escape, despite the rough start with the blossom end rot. I think I'm prepared to do battle with San Marzanos again next year having learned a few lessons.

Homemade Hot Sauce


I'm not one for spicy foods normally. It's like self-inflicting pain that I'm just not normally one to be a part of. I've gotten more accepting of "hot salsas" but the idea of spicy Indian food or the equivalent isn't exactly in my "taste palate wheel house". Is a "taste palate wheel house" a thing?

BUT, a few weeks ago when I was at my friend Anna's I learned about homemade hot sauce. I saw all these hot peppers in her garden and asked what they did with them... answer is hot sauce. Genius. Especially for someone like myself who had access to a whole lot of hot peppers of about a million varieties because of my dad's very fertile garden. Seriously, I have no idea what half these peppers are so I had to google "types of hot peppers" and try to match them up.

It took me nearly two weeks to get my act in gear to make hot sauce... but that isn't because it's hard... because it isn't in the least. Making hot sauce is almost as easy as making pesto ... but with the additional roasting step. Peeling the skin from the bell peppers isn't super cute but it also isn't hard. A few weeks ago I made a Vietnamese salad and as a result couldn't wear contacts for nearly a week... so this time I made sure I purchased some latex gloves from the hardware store in advance. It was a great 86 cent investment.


Lately I've been having wistful dreams of going back to Italy.

When I think about the days I spent wandering towns and taking pictures of doors and old people .... I wish that was going to be tomorrow. Going to Italy was an amazing and relatively spontaneous trip of a lifetime. I love everything about my trip, except Tuscany. Tuscany was hard because I was alone and apparently people don't "do Tuscany" alone. People do Tuscany on honeymoons and in cars, not with backpacks and on trains. Lesson learned.

In anticipation of someday returning to Italy, I actually enrolled in an adult education class for Italian a few weeks ago... but that is a topic for another day. Today is my 600th blog post and like other (relatively) big posting thresholds... I thought too much about this one and as a result haven't been writing. I'm quite sure that it only matters to me that I've written 599 other times.

tomato pancetta basil quiche


I'm getting tired of tomatoes. It pains me to even admit it. I've waxed on and on about how much I love them at times... but I'm getting tired of cooking them.

I don't want any more caprese salads. I guess that means it is really Fall. I want my mozzarella melted in my lasagna and not cold with balsamic. Hi Fall.

But tonight I was hungry and feeling lazy. I get in these places where if I know I'm hungry but I don't eat, I get cranky and start to actually feel terrible. The clock was ticking on my stomach... and the pile of tomatoes I have accumulating. By some miracle my brain flashed to this meal I made last summer for my lady friends. Tomato + egg + oven = Dinner.

it's fall?


I think normally people go through this cleaning phase in their life when it is Spring. It's probably why they call it Spring Cleaning. I don't think I'm afflicted with this guilt complex but I do seem to be suffering from "Fall Cleaning". I have this incredible desire to purge my life and my apartment of unnecessary things.

I started to purge last night but got distracted with watching the Cosby Show on Hulu. That happens to other people I presume. But today it was raining when I woke up ... and so it was perfect cleaning weather. I got myself a breakfast sammy and made a pot of coffee ... then proceeded to ruthlessly attack my linen closet. Linens have less feelings than sweaters and coffee mugs.

Before I knew it, it was 2pm and the sun was shining. It seemed silly to waste the rest of the day organizing back issues of Food & Wine magazine so I scooted out to see my friend Anna in the "country". Anna promised a fair at a nearby farm and I was ready to accept that promise. The fair was probably the most wholesome activity I've seen outside of Vermont. There was a hula hoop contest and an egg toss. I was also denied the right to purchase a piece of pie by a 10 year old because she only accepted tickets, not cash.

Life Lately


So it appears it is now Fall. About 3 months ago, I bought tissues from CVS. My qualifications were that they be on sale and not terrible. Several days later, I realized that I had inadvertently purchased the tissues that were infused with Vick's vapor rub. It was a terrible mistake... until today. I am not normally sidelined by allergies but today I feel rather terrible.

So, I'm sitting in my apartment hugging a bottle of water. I'm a mere hour away from strapping on an embarrassing (but amazing) breathe right nose strip and hitting the hay. I've also learned that Eleanor thinks tissues are for eating? and this disturbs me.

Before whatever satanic allergen bloomed this weekend, I've actually been having a great couple of weeks. There has been a fair amount of cooking - both documented and undocumented, walking, running, breakfast sandwiches, and cheese. So it seemed like a fair time for a good iPhone picture post.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins


I'm not really a muffin person. And since we are disclosing things, I'm also not really a cupcake person. That being said, I'm not going to turn down a cupcake really. They are pretty great - but not as good as strawberry shortcake or a piece of pie or cheesecake. Muffins feel like a convenience food. They are great for "to go" food and most certainly have their place. I think I prefer my muffin to be buttered and tossed on the grill. There aren't many things better than a grilled muffin?

The pros to muffins are that they are great for sharing and for the mail... exactly the two things that I was hoping to accomplish with this blessed batch of baked goods. While I would have loved to use my extra buttermilk from last weeks scones on some breaded chicken... that I would smother in buffalo sauce ... I elected to make these oatmeal blueberry muffins. The catch? The oatmeal is soaked in buttermilk overnight. Overnight oats are all the rage these days with mommy bloggers and Pinterest pinners ... and I'll admit that I'm a fan as well. The oats becoming amazingly plump and pretty much the opposite of instant oatmeal.

lavender blueberry scones


pic courtesy of the bride from Instagram

One of my favorite things in the world is sending mail. One of my other favorite things is getting mail. If the postal service ever shuts down, I'll be a sad girl. I believe people think sending mail is hard but it really isn't. It can be as easy as sending a Postagram. I'm not sure anyone actually dislikes receiving mail... but there are certainly times when it can be extra exciting. Birthdays. Valentines Day. Christmas. Those might be my favorite.

Not everything that I make is suitable for the mail... in fact most of it isn't? Can't really put a cup of soup in the mail. If I could figure out a way to send bagel bombs, I would have several friends getting them immediately. But scones are perfect for the mail ... sans glaze of course.

Which leads me to my latest baked good concoction... I have a childhood friend who is getting married in a few short weeks and I wanted to put something in the mail to her and her fiance in NYC. I took a quick poll of my lady friends to see whether a bride would rather have scones or muffins and went from there. Having just come from Maine I had these slightly romantic notions of wild blueberries but that didn't quite work out... Whole Foods Charlestown wasn't on board with my vision. So I stepped up my game with some lavender, who doesn't love lavender? Boys apparently. When I mentioned at work that I had made scones the night before, girls responded with "delicious" and boys responded with "why the lavender?". Silly boys.

maine in review


Oh Maine.

Every Labor Day visit to Maine is different... and perhaps that's why it is so amazing. One year it's about boating and swimming. The next year it's Monhegan Island. This year? I'm not quite sure how to to wrap it up with a bow. We had lots of lady time around the house which is always my favorite. We ate a lot of cheese products, did some projects, and Sarah and I played with cameras. Like normal, I took a lot of pictures looking up at the sky and down at my own feet.

caesar kale salad


I have always loved caesar salad. I think I even like bad caesar salad. It's just so creamy and sinful but yet there is lettuce... so it's this fake feeling of healthy decision making. I wouldn't say that I'm one to make really healthy eating decisions but I'll never forget getting a peeksy at the nutritional facts one day. Yikes.

Fast forward to last January when I saw this version of a kale caesar salad on Feed Me Phoebe. It looked crazy intriguing and I wanted to be on board ... but was slightly apprehensive about a kale salad. Kale seems trendy ... and I'm the opposite of trendy. Then, I went to Maine and we made this amazing kale salad and I was completely on board.

So that's how I ended up roasted an entire head of garlic solo in my apartment on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Roasted garlic is seriously amazing provided you aren't anticipating getting cozy with anyone for about 12 hours. If you are... Altoids?

beer clams + heavenly kale salad

Birthday dinners are rather important. I'm not saying they need to be fancy - but there needs to be thought behind it. I'd be perfectly happy with a pizza for my dinner because then it'd be about the atmosphere or getting to binge watch my favorite shows on Netflix while we ate.

But, one of the best things about seeing my lovely friends Meghan and Sarah is that they also love to cook and appreciate thinking about meals. I mean, I am always thinking about my next meal ... and especially when it is a birthday dinner for someone we all love.

So this is what we whipped up while on the coast of Maine...
- Beer clams
- Heavenly Kale salad
- Faux margarita swordfish

pesto crusted baked cod (and clams)


Cooking in the summer is not for the faint of heart. Cooking in the threat of summer is almost worse. See, technically we are on the tail end of summer... it could be hot one day or not at all. But since the threat is still alive, I still need to think about whether it would be advisable to think about turning on my oven for a dinner. I don't look at the weather for rain... I look for heat.

Planning meals is something I absolutely love to do - but it also sometimes has me spinning more than my non-existent washing machine. Do I need a side? But how big of a filet do I really need? What if they hate garlic? Does anyone have a nut allergy? Seriously.

simple summer tomato sauce


Guys, there was this time in Italy that I wanted pizza but instead got gnocchi. The gnocchi was served in this knock your socks off tomato sauce that was so simple yet so flavorful. I remember when it was brought to the table, I was like.... wait, this is it? But it was phenomenal.

I'm not going trying to say I've made your grandmother's Italian tomato sauce but I did make a really flavorful simple tomato sauce ... from scratch. Like most things that I attempt to do, I thought it was going great... then it seemed like failure was imminent .... and then it all turned around some how and I had tomato sauce. Rather reminiscent of the chocolate mouse, butter, or french macarons experiments.

greek-ish orzo salad


I'm always a big fan of trying to do things myself once or twice - or at least attempting it. For this reason, I have a pile of clothes in my closet that I refuse to throw out / donate because I'm moderately convinced I can hem / alter them myself.

I can nearly guarantee that I will fail at that - but I'm going to try none the less.

When it comes to food, I've attempted things like focaccia, english muffins, donut muffins, and butter for the same reason. In recent history, I've taken quite a liking to the Whole Foods Spinach Orzo Salad in the prepared foods section. Nearly without fail, I pick it up anytime I'm at a WF ... and that is between one to two times a week. That equals $6 for a pile of small noodles and some olives. And a few other ingredients.

back from maine


I guess the upside to the end of the long weekend is that today is Tuesday ... and not Monday.

I spent much of the time in Maine having lady talks and roaming the rocky coast taking pictures with my friend Sarah. She just got a new camera and so it was amazing to have a buddy to talk nerdy with about how she thought about certain shots and what not. She even encouraged me to take the camera off the auto setting and go manual a bit. Wild decisions all around.

off to vacationland


10 points to Maine for scoring a great slogan. I do love Maine and I do love vacation.

I'm headed out today for a few days in Maine and realizing that this is my 4th Labor Day that I've spent in this particular little heaven. It's hard to believe at times. I'm not sure what else I've done 4 years in a row.

I haven't looked at the weather report once and I'm not quite sure what I've put in my bag. But, this is how I do it every year. Throw a lot of stripes in a bag and just know that it'll work out...

While 2010 went undocumented, I didn't hold back in 2011 [linklinklink] and 2012 [link]. I'm sure 2013 will be a great remix of all the previous adventures and include my favorite things ... breakfast in the diner, fleece in bars, and pillow chat with my ladies.

While I'm gone ... I am hoping that this year my fridge doesn't fake its own death and that my baby tomatoes keep growing.

last beach weekend?


I'm not sure if this was the last beach weekend of the summer. It might have been. I certainly behaved like it was the end of wearing bathing suits all day.

There was no cooking. Just a fair amount of eating anything I wanted ... which oddly didn't include a single BLT. I got ice cream from my favorite place twice and had bagels every morning. I had plans to run each morning but instead took walks with Ruby May. Despite being at the beach most weekends this summer, it was the first time in a few weeks that all the "kids" were home and it was pretty great.

I'm not quite ready to give up on summer but it feels like the end is near. I guess the upside is that I can transition to fleeces and leggings.

Urban Gardening

Earlier this Spring I picked up a few little baby San Marzano tomato plants. I got really excited about "harvesting the crops" from my urban dwelling ... and then very quickly lowered my expectations. I decided I would be happy if I got just 1 ... maybe 3 of my favorite tomatoes.

As the summer has gone on, I've adjusted to life as an urban gardener. My tomato plant quickly outgrew my kitchen sill. It battled several heatwaves while I ran away to the burbs. There was even an incident with some size-able hail in May. There were incidents where it rained for days ... and most recently when it hasn't even rained at all.

weekend in review


It's Monday morning and the weather man told me that today would be a perfect beach day. Sadly, I'll be sitting in a swivel desk chair for most of the day instead of smelling like sunblock and cruising through magazines.

That being said, the weekend was pretty dreamy and including lots of quality time with my baby brother. I managed to get a run in both weekend days, eat Everything bagels with chive cream cheese, do a little cooking, and coax the sun into naturally lightening my hair a bit more.

Until next weekend when I probably try to put something else from the garden into a galette dough ...

galette season!


Ever since I made the first galette, I've been dying to make another one.

While it would have been easy to just make the same-ish version I had already made (I'm still loaded with ice cream), I figured I should take advantage of the seemingly endless supply of tomatoes from my parents garden. While some days I'm not sure what to do with all of the inventory, I know that I'll be sad in September when I'm back to paying $3.99 for a pint of grape tomatoes at Whole Foods.

The benefit of tomato season is that I often see whole articles about how to use all the tomatoes we are getting from gardens. In the past, I've stuck to tomato jam, roasted tomatoes, salads, etc but this tomato galette will become part of the rotation for sure. It feels like the type of dish/recipe you could make in just about any season ... but obviously is better in the summer fresh from the garden.

Roasted tomatoes with goat cheese on naan


It takes a fair amount to get me to turn on the oven in the summer.

I don't have one of those fancy apartments where the heat tends to stay inside the oven. If I set the oven to 375 F, my apartment tends to turn into 375 F. But, when summer calls for heat in the oven ... as opposed to just storing an overflow of pans ... it results in extreme strategizing like waking up at 7 am to make donut muffins or grilling chicken 7 hours before my guests show up or just turning on the AC to make this galette.

But, yesterday I found myself with a plethora of tomatoes that needed some love (or just to be used) and I knew that roasted tomatoes would be just magical. Apparently they are good in the fridge for about 5 days (or 6 months frozen), so they'd be just fine if I couldn't resist a beach weekend... which I rarely can.
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