Ultimate Potpourri

Heat 3 tablespoons coconut oil in large skillet. Add three chopped onions, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger. Breeeeeeathe.

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When you’ve arrived back on earth after that little detour to the pearly gates of allium heaven, making this cauliflower and chickpea curry with basmati and garlic naan is also not a bad idea.

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The Irish Frittata (aka Spanish Tortilla)

My Dad is zero percent Italian, but likes to pretend he isn’t by over-pronouncing Italian food words ala Giada de Laurentiis (“spig-itty,” “mooz-a-rill,” etc.). One of his favorite things to cook is Sunday brunch, which combines daytime fancy cooking with WASP-approved day drinking, two of his most treasured activities. For almost every Sunday brunch, he makes a frittata with his five favorite toppings: cheese, broccoli, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

It’s really a good frittata, but I have eaten this thing about seven hundred times. These frittata toppings are so dead to me.

But the basic idea of delicious stuff stuck together with eggs and broiled in the oven and then sliced up, served hot or cold, with a salad or toast or some fruit, you can’t knock it. It’s a perfect weeknight meal that will yield leftovers and taste even better the next day.

I had a big (pregnancy) craving today for some real Spanish tortilla, that salty, potato-ey cold slice of carbohydrate, infused with olive oil and golden bits of onion. This thing is a vaguely-Irish pregnant lady’s dream dish.

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I used this recipe, but with fewer eggs (I only had six) and less olive oil (because wow). It was glorious. And it’s going to be even better tomorrow.

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Here she is served up with a pile of steamed broccoli, a few slashes of Cholula, and a totally random and deeply lonely slice of roasted red pepper.

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your frittata/tortilla/egg casserole comfort zone. There is more than one way to stick stuff together with eggs.

Cheaters Farro Risotto

I love cooking fussy dinners when I have the time and energy. There’s something meditative and satisfying about standing at the stove methodically stirring until a risotto transforms.

That said, I rarely have the time, energy, or desire for said meditative and satisfying stirring. Most nights I’d rather whip up something quick and relatively healthy, preferably involving copious amounts of cheese, so I can make it back to Guy’s Grocery Games before the commercial break is over.

Enter: Cheater’s Farro Risotto. The whole thing cooks up in about 20 minutes (with a little more time up front that involves nothing more than boiling a kettle of water). I use quick-cooking farro instead of Arborio rice here, because it’s higher in protein and fiber, and as the name suggests, cooks up quickly. Have you heard all the buzz about ancient grains? Yeah, I don’t get it either. Rice is old as hell, too. Moving on.

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First you have to make your broth; this is a two-for-one deal. Soak 3/4 cup of dried wild mushrooms in 4 cups of boiling water for 30 minutes while you put your feet up and enjoy a contraband pregnancy diet coke. After 30 minutes, strain the liquid into a bowl. Feel free to add some leftover chicken or vegetable stock or concentrate to gussy it up. Let it simmer in a lidded pot on the back of the stove while you get everything else rolling.

Chop the soaked mushrooms into bits. Sauté in a heavy-bottomed pot (I use my Dutch oven for almost everything) in some olive oil, butter, salt, and thyme. Give it a couple of minutes, and then transfer to a bowl. Add a little more olive oil to your pan and throw in a small, chopped yellow onion. Let that hang out for a couple of minutes, and then throw in some minced garlic. I also added some thyme and crushed red pepper. Season with salt. At this point, you can add those ‘shroom bits back into the mix. Your house now smells amazing.

This is where the shortcut comes in: Trader Joe’s 10-minute Farro.

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Throw the farro in the pot and let it get all cozy with the mushroom and onion mixture. I like to think it’s “toasting up” a bit and absorbing some of that earthy, shroomy flavor. After a minute, add a ladle of simmering broth, and stir until it’s absorbed. Keep doing this risotto-style cooking (one ladle at a time, though you don’t really need to stir all that much) until you’ve got all your broth in, and it’s creamy but still loose, about ten minutes (long enough for one full game of iPad Jeopardy). The farro should still have a bite to it.

Right at the end here, to send it straight over the edge, add in a cup of thawed green peas, a big nob of butter, and a (very) generous grating of parmesan cheese. Adjust your seasoning if you need to. Serve in big bowls with more parmesan at the table. My husband got a big, fat pork chop nestled on top, but it’s really pretty spectacular just on its own.

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Ingredient recap:

1 small yellow onion

2 cloves garlic

3/4 cup dried wild mushrooms

leftover stock, if you feel like it

1 package of 10-minute farro (Trader Joe’s)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

a sprinkle of crushed red pepper

olive oil and/or butter

parmesan cheese

1 cup of frozen green peas

How to: Make a Weekly Meal Plan

1. Lots and lots of coffee. This is decaf, but there’s no reason for you to suffer like I do.

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2. Take a look around the kitchen for stuff you use all the time that you may be out of. For me, this means almond milk, juice, seltzer, fruit, peanut butter, etc. You get the idea- the staples, whatever they might be in your house.

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Crispy cornbread stuffing with pork sausage, two fried eggs, and generous Cholula

3. Start to organize your list. I mainly shop at Trader Joes, and there are really only 4 aisles. I like to organize my list accordingly, so that each item is in it’s own section according to what part of the store I’ll find it in. Otherwise, I’m wandering aimlessly with a huge list of stuff and have to keep reading through everything. Try to keep all the fresh fruits and vegetables in one list section, the frozen in another, dairy and breads in another, and so on. Organizing now means way less hassle later when you’re playing bumper carts with the world’s most impatient people who all decided to go to TJ’s at the exact same time and do NOT want to let you into the cheese aisle for that aged gouda. (And please for the love of god, try the aged gouda if you haven’t already. It has flavor crystals.) Write down the must-haves that you’ve already identified are low or absent from your kitchen.

4. Put on some relaxing tunes and grab your favorite cookbooks. This might seem like an unnecessary step but hey, it’s Sunday morning. You deserve it.

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Roasted tons-of-vegetables salad with quinoa and Goddess dressing

5. Think about your week. What nights are you around and able to cook? What night do you have that crazy deadline where you will definitely not be able to manage anything more than a frozen pizza and an Olive Garden style side salad? (I usually have one or two of those a week). Are you having company? Have you decided how you’re going to get out of vacuuming and find time to finally store the two-week-old halloween decorations that are still all over your house yet? Me neither.

6. Choose what you want to make. I like to peruse my favorite cookbooks and get inspired. If there’s something I’m craving, I put in on the menu. Bigger, more elaborate meals get slotted for the weekends, and easier stuff gets stuck on a weeknight. (I usually end up switching things around a bit throughout the week based on what I’m in the mood for, but this general outline works for me). I have two lists going simultaneously; one that outlines each night I’m home and cooking, and my shopping list right next to it. As I add the meal plan for a night to one side, I update everything I’ll need for it on the other list.

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Here’s my plan for this week:

Sunday: Fresh mozzerella and roasted chile salad with basil; wild mushroom farro risotto with kale, parmesan, and pine nuts; plus some kind of meat for Kyle.

Monday: Cauliflower and chickpea curry with whatever substitute for paneer I can find; rice and garlic flatbreads (TJ’s has great frozen naan).

Tuesday: Spanish tortilla; steamed broccoli with garlic.

Wednesday: Lentil soup with Chickpeas; more garlic flatbread.

Thursday: Black bean tacos with all the fixin’s.

Friday (dinner party): Roasted chicken; homemade vegetable pot pie; butter-braised radishes; a little arugula salad.

The general idea is to use what you already have (the sad kale wilting in my crisper will get tossed into tonight’s risotto) and what you have to buy a lot of (a bag of potatoes will work for the vegetable pot pie and the Spanish tortilla). I also try to plan for dishes that will yield leftovers earlier in the week, so we have food around to pack easy lunches for work. Bringing your own lunch is such a money-saver, but that’s another story. Make the stuff that uses fresh vegetables (broccoli) earlier in the week, and the dishes that use up pantry staples (lentil soup) later in the week, so nothing goes bad on you.

And that’s it! Off you go. Your gorgeous, carefully planned list should prepare you for everything except the 47 new seasonal pumpkin-infused items that mysteriously wind up in your cart. There is literally nothing that can protect you from that.

Why I’m Going With a Science-Themed Nursery

I really don’t like pink.

It’s really amazing to me that we still live in a world where many baby things only come in two, very gender-specific colors. I battled this often while creating my registry, which by the way, is a totally insane thing for a first-time mom with slightly greater than zero baby knowledge to have to do. Why do I have to choose between pink or blue organic orthodontic silicone pacifiers? Why does a baby with no teeth need something labelled “orthodontic”? If I buy the blue ones, everyone will assume that my little bald raisin baby is definitely a boy, which, why should that bother me anyway? See how rife with self-doubt and controversy these decisions can be? No?

Personally, I don’t get why the one thing we want to advertise about our newborns, the one definite fact, is that this one’s a boy or a girl. Pink or blue. Grotesque sequined flower headband that probably itches or navy sports onesie, it’s out of your hands.

Time to defy the dichotomy. (Just kidding, this is what tons of people do- that’s why many things are made in a third color: yellow. Yellow is for the people who want to be surprised and the gender-neutrality nuts.)

Poring over the 452 (I just checked) pacifier choices on Buy Buy Baby makes for a confusing Tuesday night, but it got me thinking. Here I am making tons of choices for a tiny almost-person that really isn’t alive yet. What am I trying to sculpt her little being into? What do these choices represent to me? What do I want all this stuff to say about who I want her to be?

I want her to be curious. I want her to look around her little world (her bedroom, the sky, the front yard, outer space, the $300 car seat I picked out that’s latched into my mother-in-law’s old Honda civic) and just be blown away. What is all this stuff? And then, how does that work? Followed by, well why is it like that? I want the kind of kid who asks you why the sky’s blue so many times you want to fling them across the room. I want her to think, explore, and break things to see what’s inside (just not any of my stuff). I want her to grow up knowing that the right answer is usually fifteen more questions.

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So, my nursery will not be pink. It will be bright, sunny yellow, sky blue, and bell pepper red. Instead of lace curtains, a beaded Sex and the City chandelier, and a fuchsia chevron mural, I’m going primary. I think I’ll frame some Carl Sagan quotes. I already bought her an abacus (which, truth be told, I hope she never asks me how to use- no idea). There will be lots of animals, planets and vegetables, plenty of bright colors to look at, plenty to explore while she’s lying there not thinking about anything because she’s not old enough to know what’s going on besides “I just pooped my onesie again.”

I look at pictures of pretty pink nurseries and just about all I can say about them is that this child is definitely a female (and that the mom or dad really, really like bling). What if that child grows up and goes to NYU, joins a riot grrrl band, shaves her head bald and decides that gender is an archaic concept? (Totally did that). I want to give my daughter the freedom from birth on (the chromosomal stuff isn’t really her choice) to change her mind about who she is and who she wants to be as often as she can conjure up a new identity.

One day she’ll see pictures of this place, and we’ll talk about why her weird mom framed a drawing of Neil deGrasse Tyson and hung it over her crib: because nothing will serve you more than an inquisitive mind.

Then she’ll pull on one of her five tutus, grab my hand, and we’ll drive to Home Depot together to pick out the pink and purple paint she’s requested to turn her science nursery into a princess room. Hey, that’s fine, too.

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