veggie tales

sherriedmushroomseggs

For those of you who are wondering, our meat-lite(r) regimen is going pretty well so far.

homemade ricotta

This week was a little challenging, what with Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, and a two-day loss of heat in our apartment building, but we still managed to find a good balance of foods that were hearty and comforting, while heavy on plant matter.

veg pizzas

stracciatella and jersey tomatoes

I made pizzas for the first time in ages using dough that Mike prepared in advance. One pie featured roasted broccoli, red onions, and fresh ricotta that Julian helped me make; the other a simple tomato sauce, stracchiatella (from Brucie, via Good Eggs), and piles of peppery arugula.

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Lunches have mostly been bean & grain bowls, brightened up with pickled vegetables and hot sauce, and crowned with an egg or avocado or both.

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Mike was inspired to warm our cold apartment by baking bread, these 4-hour baguettes, to be exact.

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They were perfect with a smear of butter, as well as alongside this zippy Lemony Gumbo Z’Herbes – a light and lovely dish to celebrate Fat Tuesday (and to warm my belly at lunchtime on Wednesday).

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I tried my hand at a Beet, Greens & Cheddar Crumble, which while tasty, could use some tweaking. We liked the dish enough to want to repeat it, though, and soon.

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The highlight of this past week, however, was making Marcella’s lasagne for our Valentine’s Day dinner, and preparing it with my little kitchen helper.

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I love that Julian is showing more and more interest in cooking with us, and I was delighted that he was so into helping me put together this meal in particular. Making a classic lasagne bolognese – from mixing and rolling out the fresh spinach pasta, to building the bolognese and bechamel sauces – is truly a labor of love, and I was so happy to share the experience with him.

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He couldn’t wait for the finished dish, so I cut up a couple of our pasta sheets for him and tossed them with a little butter and cheese. He ate two bowls (!), giving me hope that this age 3 finickiness may be temporary after all. Here’s to the green stuff!

toward the light

apples

January is the month when most people who are inclined to, try to jump-start lifestyle changes by way of New Year’s resolutions, gym memberships, “dry January,” or any number of other regimens. But for us, January is a month still jam-packed with celebrations: birthdays, anniversaries, and the accompanying (over)indulgence. By the time February rolls around, we are definitely ready to lighten things up a bit, to take stock of the past 12 (or 13!) months and to think about things we’d like to change or improve in the months ahead.

For the last four Februaries, I have been either pregnant or nursing a baby, and my main dietary focus was on giving those little creatures what they needed to grow healthy and strong. Prior to that… well, let’s just say that at times, I enjoyed my child-free lifestyle a bit too much. Now, at 43 years old, with two small children and a demanding job outside of the home, I’m really feeling the weight of it all.

multibeets

When Mike and I first met, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. By the time we started dating a few months later, I had already begun to lose what would be a fairly substantial amount of weight, by making a few simple changes to my diet and activity level. Twelve years and two kids later, I’ve gained almost all of it back. It was a slow creep at first, but I’ve put on nearly 20 more pounds just since Mira’s birth.

I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and while I have some underlying health issues to work on too, this week, after coming up with a game plan, I kicked off a new regimen of my own. I’m only a few days in, and while the numbers on the scale haven’t budged, I’ve already noticed a marked improvement in the way I feel.

merlotbeans

Like many people, I’ve never done well on a deprivation diet. What has worked for me in the past (and what I hope will work again) is to focus on adding things – whether more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, oily fish, or fermented foods – and replacing the bad or questionable stuff in my diet with better, more nutrient-dense items.

planning

One of the best and worst things about living in New York is that you can get anything delivered to you. I’ve relied far too heavily on delivery services for breakfast and lunch at the office, and I think we can all agree that eating takeout at your desk while working is not an ideal way to work or to eat a meal.

So one of my goals when planning dinners for the week is to do so in such a way that leftovers can be incorporated into breakfast or lunches later in the week. (This is in no way revolutionary, but we aren’t great about working through leftovers, so having a plan for them is going to be key.) This week, Monday’s dinner was Martha Rose Schulman’s Polenta with Beans and Chard. The bean stew was delicious over polenta, and I used some of the leftover beans and chard to top a grain bowl for my lunch on Tuesday.

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Mornings are just plain hectic at our house, no matter how we try to plan ahead for them. (Have you ever tried to pack a lunch the night before for a 3-year old?) Our current routine is that Mike wakes first, showers and gets ready for the day, and while I shower and dress, he fixes the kids (and himself) breakfast. Then he gets them dressed and ready while I sip something warm and get our lunches together.

morningmiso

In the past, I’d drink coffee, but since caffeine doesn’t really agree with me anymore, these days it’s a mug of warm lemon water. As far as my own breakfast, I’ve been packing a travel mug of miso soup to heat and sip when I get to my desk. It sounds weird, but it’s actually quite satisfying, and the miso is good for my gut – which needs all the help it can get these days.

Once I arrive at the office, I’m setting reminders to do two things: get up and stretch/move regularly, and drink more water. I always thought I drank a lot of water during the day, but I recently realized that when I get super busy and involved in a project, hours can pass before I get out of my chair or refill my bottle.

bean bowls

As for lunch, I still won’t always be able to get away from my desk to eat, but I want to work on at least eating better – whether it’s a meal that I brought from home (preferable), or better delivery choices (in a pinch). Those choices include the ubiquitous grain bowl, with beans or another lean protein, a ton of vegetables (I like a mix of fresh + roasted + fermented/pickled), and a zesty or spicy dressing; or a big crunchy salad (again, with lean protein). If we’re flush and I’m feeling splurgy, I’ll order my favorite sushi lunch from time to time.

greenleafies

And that brings us back to dinner.

For eight years now, I’ve been blogging about our dinners here, and over those eight years, we’ve definitely seen some changes in both what we eat and how we cook. Having kids has made a huge difference; having less time and money to spend on shopping and preparing meals has certainly had an impact on our choices and menus. And while I think Mike and I have shown that we’re pretty adventurous cooks, and the kids fairly decent eaters, we have definitely fallen into a food rut of late.

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So my final food-related goal for this year is to move away from meat-focused fare, away from rich and starchy “comfort food” dishes, and to incorporate more plant-based foods into our dinners. There have been so many inspiring vegetarian and and “meat-lite” cookbooks released recently, and cuisines and ingredients I’ve been curious about – the time is ripe to explore them. After all, we love vegetables and beans and all sorts of grains – why not move them to the center of our plates?

Dinner: October 2, 2014

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We’ve been a little preoccupied over the last several days with the arrival of our new (book) baby. On top of our usual routine of work and preschool and writing and life, we’ve been scheduling travel arrangements and promotional appearances, and discussing exciting new projects. It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind.

SHRUBS on the shelves

We’ve seen the book in person now, displayed on store shelves around NYC, and friends across the miles are sharing photos of their copies as they receive them. Likewise, reviews are starting to come in, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say we are truly surprised and humbled at how well it has been received. THANK YOU.

Mike was a guest on Heritage Radio yesterday, so I stayed home with the kids. I had hoped to put together a simple chicken and sausage gumbo for dinner, but the little ones had other plans. With no time to make a proper roux, I scrapped that idea, and decided instead to do a sort of one-pot creole chicken dish, incorporating the ingredients I had planned to put in my gumbo, plus adding a blend of spices (garlic, paprika, thyme, cayenne, and oregano) and a can of tomatoes, and cooking the rice along with everything else.

I kept the heat on the mild side, thinking Julian and Mira would be eating with us, but they were too worn out from our big day to partake. Instead, Mike and I curled up on the couch after putting them down for the night, and ate with bowls on our laps and wine glasses at our sides while marveling at how very weird and wonderful our lives have become. I never would have dreamed we’d be where we are right now.

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Mike has added a couple of new pages to adashofbitters.com, one for the book, and another for events and signings. We’ve also got a Facebook page, and I’ve created a board on Pinterest to keep track of news, reviews, and all things Shrubs. And there are giveaways!

Whew. Again, who’da thunk it?

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Dinner: September 17 and 18, 2014

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I usually cook in a more improvisational style, but with Julian starting preschool and the resulting change in our schedules, I’ve been relying more and more on recipes from trusted sources. While I sometimes miss getting creative in the kitchen, I have to admit that it’s nice to have a small rotation of meals that either Mike or I can start or finish, and it’s so nice to know that we can all eat the same dinner, even if we do so in shifts.

Last night’s dinner came to us from Bon Appétit – and while I don’t know if I’d agree that it’s “the Greatest Recipe of All Time,” this one-pot dish of meatballs and string beans was pretty darned inspired, and a great use of the green beans and heirloom sauce tomatoes we got in this week’s CSA box. Mike and I ate ours with the suggested crusty bread, while the kids enjoyed theirs with a little lightly sauced pasta. We all loved it.

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On Wednesday night, Mike headed into the city for a swanky booze event, but dinner for me and the kids was ready when I got home from work, thanks to our trusty crock pot. We’ve been collecting slow cooker recipes on Pinterest, and this Slow-Cooker Curried Lentils With Chicken and Potatoes from Real Simple did not disappoint. It was so good, in fact, that the kids ate two bowls apiece.

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I’ll be back in the kitchen this weekend, and flexing my long-neglected baking muscles for a certain little guy who is turning THREE this Sunday. I can hardly believe how quickly the time has gone.