Friday, March 29, 2013

Pasta on the go

Finally a day without obligations. I decided to take it easy, watch a movie, but then I had too much energy and I started cooking. I love the idea of packaged lunches in a mason jar; first of all, mason jar are beautiful, second, the food is stored in glass and not plastic, and third it can be reheated in the microwave, beautifully portable for lunches and picnics, even for the little ones. I made one of my favorite pastas, placed a handful of baby spinach in the mason jar and the hot pasta on top. The hot pasta will wilt the spinach slightly but it keeps fresh until the pasta is reheated and mixed in. 

penne_in_a_mason_jar

Pasta in a Mason Jar
4 oz penne, cooked according to instructions
Sauce:
  • 3 TB ff cottage cheese
  • 2 TB part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 TB shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can  low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ts sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1  teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 TB grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 package baby spinach, fresh
  • 3 Mason jars
Cook the pasta according to instructions. Drain. Combine the cottage cheese, ricotta, and mozzarella in a bowl and stir with a fork and set aside.

Heat the oil in a larger saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, chili flakes, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Return cheese mix and pasta to saute pan, and mix gently. Place baby spinach in mason jar, and 1/3 of the pasta on top. Close with lid. Refigerator at most for 1-2 days.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So ready

I am so ready for spring. Ready for warmer temperatures, sunshine, biking, sitting outside for a cup of coffee, ready for buying basil plants and just a stretch of warm sunny weather, walking around in a sweater and not in a down coat. But it is still unusually cold, dark, rainy and there is still plenty of snow. Last year around this time we had a week of temperatures in the 80s. Eighties!! This year? It is still around 35F. Maybe, the weather will switch over all of a sudden to spring, and I am sure everyone will dance out into the streets, smiling, laughing, walking dogs and putting the kids on the kid bikes. Not this week, though. The easter bunny will need a sweater, too.

Lunch consisted of a tasty saute of beet greens, onion, mushroom, potatoes, kalamata olives with a dash of worchestershire sauce, apple juice, apple cider vinegar and pomegranate molasses (+ salt and pepper + same feta).


Monday, March 25, 2013

Interior decorating find

I am in business to redecorate my dining room. It is a Cape Cod style room with a trim around the four walls. Originally, it was painted a light friendly pastel green on the lower part of the wall but at some point I decided I am not a green person so I painted one entire wall a plum color as contrast wall, and the rest uniformly in eggshell. This did not last long and the entire room became eggshell. Over the years I realized I no longer threw dinner parties, and I pondered if the 'bland' dining room might have anything to do with it. Since then I am throwing the idea around of reintroducing color to the room. A pastel gray? Too cold? Back to a warm pastel green? Warm and inviting? A more nougat color? Warm, and neutral. Terracotta red? Warm but too stimulating?

Accordingly, as any home designer, I've been collecting ideas on pinterest and today I came across a designer who could be my designer soulmate. So many fabulous ideas! The yellowcapecod is a private home styling business run by Sarah Macklem, with a beautiful blog which is a true treasure chest of styling ideas, in the small and large, and on a budget.
This spring table decor with white tulips and pussy willow comes with a tutorial.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring is in the air

We got 20 inches of new snow, and yesterday morning was devoted to shoveling. Today, I can enjoy this beautiful snow paired with blue skies, sunshine and mild temperature and... birds chirping in the still empty trees. Nothing makes me feel more like spring than warming sunshine and hearing birds singing again. It can't be long anymore. My lunch was also deliberately sunny, a flavorful carrot soup, very simple, some butter, onion, fresh carrots, thyme, cooked in fresh pressed carrot juice.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Gap controlled

My first indication that spring and summer are on the way is always that bikinis are back at Target. There is no signs outside yet at all, it is cold, snow, dark, short days, beginning of February, but Target knows better, right? These days the signs and colors of summer to come are in all the stores, flowers, flower print jeans, yellows, whites, bright colors, light blazers, like the current clothes @ GAP.   Can't be long, just a few months...


Spring blossom fever

In January I bought a small Meyer Lemon tree with a single blossom. After a privileged position at the most sunny spot in the house, the bush turned into a fragrant, beautiful blossom fever. The flower smell wonderful. It might be a home-grown lemon summer.

ML_1

ML_2

ML_3

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reader Swan Song

Yesterday, I logged into Google Reader, and there was the message of its impeding death. Why? I thought. This such a useful tool. For a second I thought back when I clicked all the blogs I read individually to switching over to using Bloglines and then to Google Reader. Now, it’s bye-bye google reader. What to use next? I settled on Netvibes. In its reader + expanded post view it is fairly similar to Reader, easy and fast browsing through posts. However, same drawback as Reader: no page hits on the blogs. :-(     Added advantage: netvibes did not crash with the onslaught of new users (unlike NewsBlur).

Transition to Netvibes from Google Reader:

  • In Google reader click on the wheely type icon to the right, and click on Reader help.
  • Next page, select “How can I download my reader data?” which takes you to Google takeout.
  • Click on “Create archive” to export your subscriptions as a ZIP file
  • Unzip the saved file to your desktop (you can download a zip software version for free)
  • Go to Netvibes, click on “Add content” then the tiny “OPML: Import”, underneath the orange feed icon. “Choose File” and select the “subscriptions.XML” file you just unzipped
  • Click on “Import”.
  • Done.

The feeds are organized in folders like in Google.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring energy

The weekend was nice, I felt this lightness in me, the added hour of daylight, the gentle temperatures, the warm spring sun, the prospect that now things can only go towards summer and outdoor life, lifted my spirits and put a spring (!)  in my step. Anticipation, expectation, attitude is everything --- again. I am ready to shed layers, layers of clothes, layers of blankets, layers of transportation and breathe fresh air. The first spring greens will burst through the soil soon and in a few weeks, the beds of daffodils will confirm the change to my favorite seasons of the year. There are still bunches of frozen thyme in my freezer which I add liberally to my lunches, like this potato carrot edamame pan (peel and cube the potatoes and microwave with 1-2 TB of water for 5min, then add to the pan with frozen edamame and fresh carrots, salt, pepper and olive oil—and thyme). The fresh local produce is still rare, but like the spring flowers the plants will burst through the soil soon, too.

This year I managed for the first time to get a rosemary plant through the winter. It liked its cool but sunny place, sufficient water and regular feedings. Is that the secret? Sun light makes such a difference. For everyone.

potato_pan

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mud season

I think we have officially entered mud season. Fortunately, the snow storm that blanketed Boston to DC did not make its way up north, and the next few days are sunnier AND warmer. This week also included some car shopping, and driving my first hybrid car. The tipping point of the extra to pay for a hybrid and the gas price is only there if you really drive a lot (I don’t), but they are a no brainer. You just gas up and driving the hybrid kicks in the generator and it charges its own batteries. The electric motor kicks in whenever it can. 70M/Gallon? Impressive. I thought one would have to plug them into a power outlet and map any journey around power outlets, but that part is optional. My next car, maybe not this one yet. With the next car, inexpensive all-wheel hybrids will be available (they are available but they are even more expensive than regular SUVs) or global warming confirmed that winters are a thing of the past, and 10 months of the year the road is clear, making all-wheel drives unnecessary. We will see….

Things I liked today:

mud_season 

mud_season2

hybrid

moxie

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Teddymouse

Found my little girl sleeping this morning in her heated cat bed, all snuggled up with her teddy mouse, which technically really is a teddy rat from IKEA.

val

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Home-made almond milk

Today I tried something new: home-made almond milk. It tastes very differently from commercial almond milk like Silk or Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, and I am not sure yet which one I like better. The processes is surprisingly simple: soak 1 cup of raw almonds overnight, rinse, mix with 3 cups of filtered water, blend for about 1 min in a high powered blender, press through a cheese cloth or nut milk bag, pour into a storage container, and add sweetener if like -- there you go. Using less water makes for a thicker milk. It can be flavored with some cinnamon, vanilla, and add a bit of sea salt.

almond_milk_1

almond_milk_2

almond_milk_3

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scarlet quinoa with lentil patties and spinach

It is snowing and raining and raining and raining, but who am I to complain, I am on spring break. Lousy weather or not it is great to be on my own schedule, and even cook something more elaborate. Yesterday’s flavorful lentils became individual lentil loaves, and to this I added scarlet quinoa salad and wilted spinach with roasted corn. Real lunch!

lentil_patties_

Scarlet quinoa
  • 1 cup tri-colore quinoa (Trader Joes) (or any regular quinoa), washed and rinsed
  • 1/2 TB butter or clarified butter (ghee)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced (microplaned)
  • 1/2 sweet onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine (pinot grigio or chardonnay)
  • 1.75 cup water
  • 1 medium sized red beet, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 3-4 cloves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter (or ghee) and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant (1min) on medium heat. Add the quinoa, mix all the ingredients and toast for about 1/2 min. Add the white wine, stir and cook it off (evaporated). Add the water, the beet and the cloves. Bring water to a simmer, and lower the heat, cover, and simmer on medium low for about 30min until the quinoa is cooked. Fluff it with a fork, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Flavorful lentils

Sundays are days to cook staples for the week, for example lentils! Typically, I prefer beluga lentils or French lentils, because of their looks, color, and flavor but I still had a whole jar with regular plain old gray lentils. How to make them a bit tastier? Aromatics to the rescue (this recipes works for all kinds of lentils). Spike a peeled, half medium-sized onion with cloves, add a bay leaf and 2 garlic cloves, and cook for 30min until soften. Discard the onion, bay leaf and garlic. Delicious!

cooking_Lentils