Monday, December 16, 2013

Seriously nothing

Listen, guys. I'm not doing anything lately. Nothing. Not a thing. I have virtually nothing to tell you about.

Everyone I have talked to in the past two weeks is doing everything right now. Getting ready for the holidays - getting ready for a baby - moving to a new house - hustling about with busy children - getting ready for the holidaaaaaays. But not me. I'm doing nothing.

I don't even have a program to watch!

This level of inactivity happens to me in the winter always, but not in December. Usually it's long after the new year, when the windows are frozen shut and my groaning car wants to leave the premises less than I do. That's when we hunker down and make hot drinks and pull Risk out of the closet, or maybe queue up Super Mario War and eventually (if we're lucky) head in the direction of the equator.

But this December is basically February, with the windchill reaching -15 on a regular basis. The burst of cold caught me off guard with no ambition to turn to those snowed-in or frozen-in activites, nor pretend it's OK and get on with my life outside the apartment. So here we are, or here I am, doing mostly nothing.


I had last Monday off of work. I usually revel in a day to myself with no plans, but I had just gotten done doing nothing on Saturday and Sunday. 

So on my day off of work, I:
1. Backed up my computer files onto a jump drive. This was the first time I have ever done this in the six years I have owned my computer, so it took a while. A jump drive is probably not even what you're supposed to use, but this was pretty good for me.

2. Scheduled a windshield replacement for my car, as the small crack on the bottom right of the windshield grew on Monday (-10 degrees that day, I think) to a pretty dramatic swoosh to the top left of the glass.

3. Walked to Whole Foods, then made this minestrone soup. The swiss chard leaves that were hanging  out of my grocery bag froze on my walk home and shattered in dark green pieces onto the snow. I started making the soup at 3 p.m. while my photos were transferring to the jump drive, and it was ready to eat around 4:00 - not anywhere near a regular meal time, but I ladled myself a small bowl anyway to sample on while I watched Jeopardy!. With a velvety tomato broth and hint of rosemary behind the little white beans and pasta, it was just the accomplishment I was looking for to round out my day.

At least the soup was a success!

Winter Minestrone
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Note: The fresh rosemary and parmesan rind make this soup special, so don't skip on either of those. You could switch up nearly anything else in the soup to your preference.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into coins or half moons
1/3 to 1/2 pound bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
6 cups good quality beef broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 ounce piece of parmesan rind
2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans
3/4 cups small pasta, like cavatelli
a few handfuls fresh spinach or leaves of swiss chard, torn

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrots, bacon and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a food processor, puree on can of cannellini beans with 1 cup of beef broth. 

Add the been puree to the soup pot along with the can of tomatoes, remaining beef broth, rosemary sprigs and parmesan rind. Raise heat to medium high to bring to a boil; add pasta and cannellini beans. Cover and turn to medium low to simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and stir in spinach; cook a few minutes more until spinach is tender.

Soup is great with crusty bread on a quiet afternoon.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hey thanks, salad

In the spirit of expressing gratitude this time of year, I'd like to share my appreciation for some late fall vegetables and a zippy horseradish vinaigrette that I tossed together in a bowl last weekend. A particularly nourishing fall salad that cleared the clutter out of my mind and made me feel more awake than I have in weeks.

Hey thanks, salad.

I suppose I should also say thanks, treadmill, for helping me realize on Saturday that I should be eating more bowls of roasted fall vegetables, and cutting back on the holiday cheer. I ventured into a four-mile run that day, in our condo-association "gym" where two treadmills on a mezzanine overlook a swimming pool. It was my first run in two weeks and oh, it was bad.

So, after that treadmill death run, I ate this power salad: first, on Saturday night alongside a piece of salmon, and then as leftovers right out of the tupperware on Sunday morning, standing in the kitchen, immediately after I finished taking pictures for the blog (all the while being prodded to "hurry up so I can eat that" by the other one that lives here). I give this salad full credit for the energy that carried me through my next run: a quite good five-miler on Sunday late afternoon, when cold wind blew the last bursts of brown leaves over the road and everyone else was indoors. I didn't run fast, but I ran strong and remembered that I like running. Quite the change from the miles I slogged through the day before.


While we're at it, I should say thanks, Thanksgiving. You never fail me. I'm came into your holiday last weekend like I had just reached the finish line of a marathon, at first ragged and weary, then with a sense of euphoria at finally taking a break from things. I spent the next four days hobbling around with a fuzzy mind and eating everything in sight. Just what I needed.

And thank you, even more, to Adam for all-around-great-guy-ness. On Monday night, I finished a big project at work and then trudged out into the snowy night to catch my much-delayed bus. I sent him a text message: Good night for tortilla soup! Too bad we don't have Modelos with limes. :) And by the time my bus dropped me off, there we had it: Modelos with limes. Does it get any better than that? 

And thank you, Gilt, and your impulse-sale tactics. My Nespresso machine arrived yesterday.

Thanks, this.

And hooray right now for beets and squash, and hearty soups and stews and bubbling sauces on the stove, if I haven't said it before (oh wait, I have). What a great time of year to cook.

And, to you: hey, thanks for reading my blog. I hope you try this salad.

Fall Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette
Vinaigrette recipe from Sprouted Kitchen

Horseradish vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish (added an extra 1/2 tbsp)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 a shallot, minced
1 tsp. honey
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. each sea salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together the horseradish, garlic, shallot, honey and cider vinegar until combined. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

For the salad:
1 sweet potato, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1-2 handfuls of Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, halved
1/2 bunch of kale, torn into small pieces
Olive oil (few tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar should also work)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
small handful walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and kale on a baking sheet or two (try to not crowd it too much). Drizzle with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and the white balsamic vinegar, then dust with nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Toss around with your hands to coat everything evenly.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes and Brussels sprouts are cooked through and have browned a bit. The kale will get a bit crunchy. Toss with the vinaigrette (I used about half of the vinaigrette from the recipe above) and toasted walnuts.