One Pot Pasta Dinner

It’s a new year, and I’m still trying to adjust.

I don’t tend to make resolutions because I find that January, right in the thick of winter with still so far to go until spring, is the absolute worse time of year to resolve to do anything. You start out so optimistic and enthusiastic that this year, things will be different, but then the polar vortex suddenly reappears and you endure a string of cold, gray, miserable days, and the toes of all your shoes and cuffs of all your pants get covered in salt and you just throw your hands up in the air and say screw it, who cares if this year is just as crappy as the last one?

What I mean to say is that winter beats the resolve right out of me, and I prefer not to fail at things before I’ve been given a proper chance to succeed. Instead, I like to pick one goal for the year. An attainable, measurable thing that I can do, not a lifestyle or personality change that must be both reached and then maintained. One thing, and I have all year to accomplish it. Something that takes some work, but is manageable. Last year, it was to run a full marathon. I did that in December; it was hard, but rewarding. This year, I want to have a piece of writing published. Essay, article, story, poem. Any piece of writing in any publication that is not a personal blog. That’s it. I can do that.

My only other intention for the year is to simply slow down a bit. Last year came and went in such a flash that I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that it is over and I’m already 13 days into a new year. I worked a lot, too much and too hard. I beat myself up physically, from both work and marathon training. We bought a house. We tried (and failed) to sell a house. We moved, and moving is the worst. I slept terribly. I worried constantly. I stressed myself out way too often.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to just sit back and relax a little more often. I’m taking an hour each morning to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book and delay responding to emails or answering phone calls. Nearly everything in life can wait an hour. I’m trying to do things more when I want to, because I want to, and less out of an obligation to myself, to an imagined other, to some confused sense of timeliness. On my days off, I am no longer looking back at my day and admonishing myself for doing nothing. I read. I cleaned up the house. I took the dog for a long walk. These are somethings. These are not nothings. I will not judge myself for how I choose to spend my time. It is my time. I can do whatever I want with it, and this year I will.

Aiding in my effort to take more time to relax and restore, is the One Pot cookbook my mother-in-law gave me as a holiday gift. Though we upgraded in overall space and comfort with the move to a new house last fall, we downgraded in terms of kitchen modernity, and find ourselves living without a dishwasher for the first time since college. Washing dishes is a pain in the butt and a huge time suck, so cutting out any extra pots, pans, bowls and other items from the nightly dish load is definitely a big positive for me. So far, I found most of the recipes we have made from this cookbook to be simple, relatively quick, and really quite delicious. The following Linguine with Tomato and Basil may be my favorite for both how incredibly easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.


Linguine With Tomato and Basil

What You’ll Need:

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 online, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (it was pretty spicy, would recommend only 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp EVOO, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

What You’ll Do:

  • In a large sauté pam, combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the water.
  • Bring to boil over high heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently with tongs until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with torn basil
  • Serve with oil and cheese if desired.

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Quinoa Salad With Maple Vinaigrette

Our neighborhood had a potluck gathering last night. It was so nice to have an opportunity to meet all of our new neighbors and relax on a beautiful early fall evening, chatting and drinking and getting to know everyone. All of the people we met were wonderfully kind and interesting and we felt instantly welcomed into the neighborhood. It was a great night.

Since I was working yesterday and D was busy running errands all day (we still have a lot of settling in work to do!) we didn’t have a lot of time to fix something for the potluck. Needing something quick, but good for sharing, I found this Quinoa Salad. Tossed with pears, baby spinach, and chickpeas in a maple vinaigrette dressing and topped with pecans, it was full of fall flavors. Hearty, but still light, it was a perfect side salad. I’m sure I’ll be making this again in the months to come and I’m thinking it will pair really well with chicken in an apricot or cranberry sauce.

After a very long, busy week of work last week, I am excited to take the day off today. There are a lot of house-related things that I need to get done, but I am very tempted to spend the day on the couch, just relaxing and recouping. In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new line of designs for my jewelry store, so perhaps I’ll spend the day getting a few more pieces ready for sale. Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on!

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~C.

Spiced Rum Mojito

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This summer never reached a point of feeling like a sustained, true summer. Absent were the weeks of 100 degree temperatures coupled with body melting humidity (I’m certainly not complaining). At times it’s felt like late spring. At others, like early fall. It’s been breezy and cool and absolutely glorious. But without the memory of painful, sweltering heat still recent in your mind, those early harbingers of fall don’t seem to resonate quite as fully as I like them to. Kids are headed back to school, college football kicks off in full this weekend, apparently pumpkin flavored beverages are already showing up in bars and coffee shops around the city (too soon!). Normally these are the early signs of autumn that I welcome with open arms and use to push me through those last fews weeks of hot, desolate summer. They have all snuck up on my this year, though. The whole summer has felt like a transition to fall (again, I’m not complaining!), so the start of college football and an unexpectedly cool night where I have to throw on a cardigan to comfortably sit outside on the deck don’t bring quite the same sigh of relief and hope that they have in years past. But I’m still excited that this time of year has arrived. The shift from summer to fall is probably my favorite time of year. It’s not quite as soul lifting as that first hint of spring, of warmth and earth and sunshine. But I like warmer days that fade into cooler nights. The slow turning of the leaves. The crispness that creeps a little further into the air with each passing week. It’s a slow transition, and I like it all the better for that. The way you both cling to summer and embrace fall all at once. I like apples. Good apples. Fall apples.

D and I have made these spiced rum mojitos only once before, but they strike me as the perfect drink for this time of year. A regular mojito, with its white rum and strong minty, sugar flavor is a purely summer drink. I can’t imagine drinking one on a day that wasn’t blisteringly warm, so that the liquid feels like it is actually filling every channel of your body, cooling and refreshing you from the inside out. The spiced rum mojito is refreshing, but the darker rum mellows some of the sweetness and gives it an almost earthy taste that I actually prefer. It would be an ideal drink for a late summer evening, when the sun is fading and the air cools. Sip it while resting with your feet up on the back deck, discussing your football team’s (fingers crossed) first win of the season.

~C.

 

Spiced Rum Mojito

recipe via The Savory

2 oz Spiced Rum

2 Barspoons of Brown Sugar

Juice of 1 Lime

8-10 Fresh Mint Leaves

Soda Water Fill

Mint Sprig for Garnish

In a shaker, muddle mint leaves with sugar and lime juice. Add rum and shake with ice. Dump contents directly into a Collins glass. Fill with soda water. Slap mint sprig and garnish.

Summertime Pasta With Squash and Corn

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Dan and I are getting ready to move. We have three weeks before we close on our new place, and while we don’t absolutely have to be moved out of our current house by that point, we want to get this place up on the market, so we’re doing our best to shoot for that three week timeframe. Moving is so overwhelming. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, it always feels as massive and daunting an undertaking as it did the time before. Our house is in a state of organized chaos. Since most of our packing, cleaning, moving preparation has to occur in the evenings when we are both home from work, we are definitely going to need some quick and easy meals for the weeks to come.

First up, this Summertime Pasta with Squash and Corn. The recipe calls for rigatoni, but I didn’t have that on hand, so I went with tri-colored rotini. Despite the use of butter, this pasta tastes really light and fresh. I definitely recommend using fresh corn that you cut straight off the cob, and a sweet corn pairs particularly well with the squash flavors. I used regular crookneck squash, but I think any kind of summer squash would work. It’s very quick, very tasty, and very likely something we’ll be eating again and again in the weeks to follow.

~C.

Homemade Pumpkin Bread

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This is my mother’s pumpkin bread recipe. Well, technically it’s Fannie Farmer’s pumpkin bread recipe, but it’s the bread my mother would make every fall and that we would always eat on Thanksgiving morning before starting dinner prep.

If you like your pumpkin bread with nuts, add nuts. If you like it with raisins, don’t tell me about it because I have a vendetta against raisins. Eat it warm with some butter and feel good about your life. Eat it cold in the morning with a bit of cream cheese and crushed walnuts on top and call it breakfast. Eat it on Thanksgiving, hours before you stuff yourself to the brim.

It’s a cozy socks kind of food. A curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book kind of snack. It’s fall comfort at its best.

~C.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup pumpkin purée

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift together flour, salt, sugar, baking soda. 

(I never sift anything. I just dump it all together. Never sifted anything even once in my life and it’s always worked out fine.)

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, water and spices in a separate bowl.

Combine wet ingredients with dry, but don’t mix too thoroughly.

Stir in the nuts or other additions if you have any.

Pour into well-buttered loaf pan.

Bake 50-60 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean

Turn out of the pan and cool on a rack. Unless you don’t have a rack, then just cool it in the pan. It doesn’t really affect it.

 

Easy Apple Crisp

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I made this Apple Crisp last week on the same night that I made the Pumpkin Black Bean Chili. It was a perfectly lovely early fall evening, following on the heels of several perfectly lovely early fall days. Then the weekend hit and it turned suddenly, blazing hot and I figured I’d better wait to share this recipe, because while South Dakota may have been hit with a blizzard, it was 90 degrees in Baltimore in FREAKING OCTOBER and I was absolutely roasting. Apple Crisp was the furthest thing from my mind. Everyone we came across was thrilled about the mini-heat wave, but if I wanted 90 degree temperatures in October, I’d move back to Texas, or just straight on into hell. No thank you.

We have since returned to more realistic fall temperatures. Today is actually a bit cold and dreary, which means it’s the best kind of day for a little Apple Crisp pick-me-up. (Sorry if you’re reading this from somewhere that is still ridiculously hot. It’s an incredibly simple and delicious dessert and you should totally make it! Just maybe serve it with some vanilla ice cream instead of whipped cream.)

The apples we used came from our visit to Larriland Farm. This is actually a picture from last year, but it will give you an idea of the lengths D and I will go to for a perfect apple.

That’s D, swallowing leaves to get me just an inch closer to the clusters of apples. What a trooper.

Though our apple gathering may seem intense, I assure you that this Crisp could not be easier to make. So simple. So quick. So good.

Happy Fall!

~C.

Apple Crisp

Ingredients

5 cups apples, peeled and sliced

1/3 cup water

3/4 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 pound of butter, cut into small pieces.

Preparation

Heat oven to 350.

Coat a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with butter.

Spread the sliced apples in the dish and sprinkle the water on top.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt.

Rub in the pieces of butter with your fingers, working the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Spread the crumbs evenly over the apples.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is browned.

Serve warm with whipped cream or a la mode.

(recipe via The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Vegetable Fritters, and Settling Back In

I have been away from my blog for a while now. At first I was getting ready to go on vacation and my schedule was packed with clients and last minute planning. Then I was on vacation, away from my computer and blissfully cut off from most of the world. And then I was back and life immediately following vacation is always more hectic than it has any right to be. I am finally feeling settled again, though, and am happily back to cooking real meals. In the week leading up to vacation, I was working until late most nights and we were throwing together whatever we had time for, mostly tacos. Then on vacation, D and I tried out a few great restaurants (I recommend Foolish Craig’s if you’re ever in Boulder, and Fresh Craft if you find yourself in Denver) and spent the rest of the time heating cans of chili over a camp stone and figuring out how to justify trail mix as a serviceable lunch for three days in a row while hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park. The short of it is, even if I had found time to sit down and post something to this blog, I wouldn’t have had anything to share. I simply haven’t been cooking.

But trust me when I say that I’m not complaining. I can’t think of anything I needed more than this specific vacation. After a long summer of many big transitions happening both in and around our lives, we very much needed to disconnect. To lose ourselves a little in the natural beauty that surrounded us. To empty our minds of everything except the effort of pulling oxygen from thinning air and the movement of one foot after another, through forests and over rocks, and back down again.

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It was all remarkably beautiful and very peaceful. I wouldn’t call it the most relaxing vacation ever, given that we did quite a bit of strenuous hiking, but it was certainly the most serene.

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But now we are back and there is food to be cooked and recipes to be shared. And so I bring you Vegetable Fritters.

This recipe comes courtesy of my Simply In Season cookbook. This recipe went over well with the crowd we were cooking for this weekend, but I found them to be a bit of a pain in the ass to make. I think these are probably healthier than most of the squash-based fritters that I’ve made in the past because you aren’t actually frying them in oil like you normally do with fritters. They act more like everyday breakfast pancakes, and any oil you use is just to keep them from sticking. The taste was good (we served them with some plain Greek yogurt and that was a nice addition), but I had a lot of trouble keeping them together in the pan. The recipe doesn’t suggest this and I didn’t really have time to do it anyway for this meal, but if I make these again in the future, I think I will salt the squash and zucchini after I shred it and then try to drain some of the water off. I think the problem I ran into is that, as the mixture sat, the liquid from the squash made the batter a little too runny, but the squash itself of course remained solid. So when it came time to actually make the fritters, the batter ran all over the pan and I’d have a clump of squash in the middle that wouldn’t cook up as fast. It was just a pain is all. Lesson learned. Drain the squash first. Heed my advice here, people. Do not let me have suffered in vain!

 

We served these alongside a really delicious grilled Basil-Buttered Salmon, and you should too, if, you know, salmon is something you enjoy.

~C.

 

Vegetable Fritters

Ingredients

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 eggs, beaten

3 cups summer squash, shredded

1/3 cup onion, minced, (or 2 cloves of garlic, minced)

1 tbsp fresh parsley

Preparation

Mix eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper to form a smooth batter.

Add the squash, onions (or garlic), and parsley to the batter and gently mix.

Coat a frying pan with oil and heat over medium hot flame.

Add a spoonful of batter to the frypan.

Fry until golden, then turn and cook the opposite side until done.

Serve (with sour cream or Greek yogurt if you want to be like me)