cooking season

There’s something about January and February that makes me enthusiastic about staying in and cooking. Mind you, probably some of it is financial reckoning for Christmas shopping in the previous months, but there’s also something about the start of the new year, the dismal-ish weather, that makes me want to nest at home a bit and make something delicious and interesting.

A Buddha bowl of sorts:

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  • leftover rice sauteed with chickpeas in olive oil
  • shredded carrots
  • avocado
  • tahini sauce (herb tahini, lemon, thinned with water)

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Simple frittata with Swiss chard from the farmer’s market:

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Another farmer’s market find- kalettes! Like kale and broccoli had a baby! A random girl in line with me recommended them and said they were good roasted.

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I agree!

I had them for a few days topped with tahini sauce.

Below, with a pasta with avocado pesto.

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Or just with trusty avocado toast (avocado season yesss) and some Greek yogurt for protein

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Made a super simple, basic dinner for my fella

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  • Salmon, made using this Jacques Pepin recipe
  • Brown rice
  • Wilted spinach salad (whisk olive oil and a wee bit each of lemon juice, soy sauce, and mustard in a hot pan; then once that melds into a dressing add spinach and toss until it’s wilted)

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One night I made veggie enchiladas, stacked in a lasagna-y manner. Corn tortillas, sauteed zucchini and onions, black beans, enchilada sauce, cheese. I put a LOT of chipotle peppers in the enchilada sauce and it was EXTREMELY spicy. The sour cream was a necessary addition hahaha.

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A very unassuming looking fish taco salad but it was actually really good:

  • lettuce
  • sauteed mahi mahi burger from trader joes
  • tortilla chips sprayed with oil and toasted then topped with chile lime seasoning
  • trader joe’s pepita salsa

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I had leftover sour cream and parsley so I threw together a white sauce and added both of those ingredients and some cooked whole wheat angel hair. More of that wilted spinach salad made for a nice side dish.

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This dip is so simple and nice:

  • cook a can of artichoke hearts (sliced in half if not already) in a bit of olive oil til golden
  • roast 1 head of garlic at 350 (I used my toaster oven) for 30 minutes
  • combine the artichoke hearts and the roasted garlic cloves in a food processor with fresh parsley, salt and pepper

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The other night N and I pulled out leftovers from the ropa vieja I made awhile back. Still smashingly delicious. Also cheers for homemade spritzer: fizzy water with unsweetened cranberry juice.

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For slightly fancier meals…

I did not participate in Superbowl Sunday whatsoever but I still really wanted junk food hahaha. I made some deviled eggs (ate half at this particular sitting), bought some dips that were on sale and had them with wheat thins, and had a side salad for “nutrition” hah.

Adulthood is not at all what it’s cracked up to be but there is something magical about the revelation that you can eat deviled eggs absolutely whenever you want. In fact they are really cheap and easy.

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No this was not a Christmas meal, despite what the tree would tell you. My silly boyf kept the decorated tree up until President’s Day weekend hahahaha.

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The meal above, Smitten Kitchen’s perfect chicken noodle soup, was enjoyed on a day that N was getting sick, and I was nervous I’d catch it too if I didn’t fortify my immune system. That soup was just the ticket and I avoided it, whew. Note that I didn’t cook the homemade stock… I used chicken flavored Better than Bouillon and heated up with a bay leaf, then poached the chicken in it.

This beautiful recipe also came from Smitten Kitchen: cauliflower with golden raisins, almonds, parsley, capers, and toasted bread crumbs. YES PLEASE.

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Another recipe that is Worth Your Time: this artichoke potato gratin. *Swoon!* It contains no shortage of heavy cream… I’m not totally sure how it ended up in Eating Well! But I’m glad it did haha.

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The dessert department this month included a birthday cake I made for my friend Shaylen. I’ve made I Want Chocolate Cake Cake before, and if it ain’t broke…

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Another Smitten Kitchen win… perfect cake, perfect frosting, and so quick and easy to make!

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NC is fun

We are having a v v mild winter in NC so I’ve gotten to have all kind of early spring adventures already. For example, one January day it was so lovely my coworker and I had no choice but to follow a (characteristically interminable) staff meeting with an al fresco lunch at Guglhupf. This grilled cheese and apple creation was a delight.

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I also wanted to give protective hugs to all the cherry blossoms popping up at the arboretum. Don’t freeze sweet little friends!

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One awesome night, one of my fave professors from grad school, Anna Maria Siega Riz, was back in town and doing a lecture.

I met up with Marina, one of my gal pals from school, and we started by having chocolatey beverages at my new fave coffee shop.

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Then we went to the reception. Count on the nutrition department to have a plant-forward selection of apps.

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The lecture was great. I wish I got to do more work in the prenatal nutrition field. It’s a passion.

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Another fun activity- I joined my pal Lesli and her coworker (and my new friend!) Gisele for a paint your own pottery gathering. They have both done a lot of paint and wine nights and it just feels… too impractical to me. And too art focused, and I am no great artist.

But painting pottery, at the end, you have a Useful Household Item!

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See my finished product on Instagram πŸ™‚

I was seeking an outdoor adventure so I hit up Colton, who planned a hike near where he lives in Winston Salem. His very agreeable boyf James joined us and off we went to Pilot Mountain.

There was a series of increasingly ridiculous signs so we had to take pictures with them.

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We do not even deserve nice things.

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Pilot Mountain is a great hike. Hilariously you can also drive to the top so we huffed and puffed to to the peak and were greeted by a stream of people coming straight from their cars.

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Lovely views and fresh air.

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Then we had brunch and watched silly things on Youtube. It was pleasant. I always enjoy a brunch champagne cocktail with two gay mormons πŸ˜‚

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This all happened MLK wekend.

I mentioned in my last post that I worked on setting some goals for 2020. One was to contribute more, outside of work.

Step 1 was volunteering MLK weekend! The local Rotary Club set up a meal packing event and we worked as assembly line tables to pack individual components and then seal and pack these bags.

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We ended up packing 100,000 servings worth of meals! So exciting! It was a fun event- lots of people of different ages, races, backgrounds. A DJ playing excellent throwback hits. Families and fraternities and sororities volunteering together. It did me some good.

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Flash forward to the next weekend where I learned about a REMARKABLE DUMPLING ESTABLISHMENT.

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Anyone reading this, consider it an open invitation to come to North Carolina and hang out with me at Sister Liu’s. The dumplings are absurdly good, and the chewy long and slurplable noodles with the egg and tomato sauce? Stop it. So good.

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Dumplings with the boyf was only part 1 of the night however.

I made some plans with the lady friends and here is your first hint… who said this famous quote?

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If you can’t read, it says “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”

HER MAJESTY QUEEN DOLLY PARTON.

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Okay fine not exactly Dolly. But it was a collection of drag queens, karaoke enthusiasts, displaced Tennesseeans… and me and my gal pals from work πŸ™‚ We had the best time at the annual Dolly Parton birthday tribute at The Pinhook, a fun bar in Durham.

There is something so endearing about a random man earnestly singing Backwoods Barbie. I cannot even explain it.

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Of course there was not just one drag queen emceeing… there was also gender swapped lip syncing of Islands in the Stream… Ahhh.

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Later that weekend I got some cake. I feel like Dolly gets herself cake on random days sometimes just because she deserves it.

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And then that saaaaame weekend was restaurant week! I joined pals at Harvest 18 in Durham. It was brunch time but I was really feeling savory and heard the meatloaf was really good so… I got this COLOSSAL MEATLOAF! It lasted me like 3 or 4 meals? Hahaha.

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Random segue- at work we’ve been having these fabulous trainings by our new team member, a psychiatrist, to help us better serve our patients with mental illness.

I loved this slide and thought you might too. I sent it to one anonymous friend who said “Why is he reading from my feelings journal?” haha.

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Another fun NC weekend… Fullsteam, a brewery in Durham, hosted an event for local companies who’ve won Good Food Awards. Look at all these gifted food producing friends!

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We lost our minds sampling all the things. Gosh this post is making me realize that I live somewhere v fun.

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kicking off 2020

I am not a New Year’s Resolution Girl, nor am I particularly a Goals girl, but this year on New Year’s Day I tried being a Reflection Girl and that suited me. My dear friend Andrea has for many years done a Plan Your Year activity from Bullish, and it’s served her well. The first year she did it was the year she freaking went for it, following her dream and moving to Manhattan to seriously pursue her opera singing career. She’s been killing it ever since.

My goals were not that lofty but it felt good to dig into the meat of 2019 and figure out what makes me go “none of that please” versus what makes me go “more, more!”

And I did it at a lovely coffee shop, with a beverage that was like a Moscow Mule, minus the vodka, with the addition of cold brew.

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The list did a good job of differentiating between things I think I should care about but don’t (strength training), versus things I actually care about (helping my fellow humans in these dark times, making my home a more welcoming oasis).

To that end, I did a few projects, small and large.

My new magnetic knife rack makes me SUPER happy (I’ve thought they were smart for space for a long time… then I read an article about all the mold inside wooden knife racks that thoroughly gave me the heebie jeebies and further increased my desire)

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But more importantly I PAINTED MY ROOM ALL BY MYSELF!

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My sweet aunt and uncle gave me a Lowe’s gift card for Christmas and even after making some unglamorous home purchases (snake for my clogged sink lol) there was still room in the budget for paint!

I was inspired by the guest room in the house in this blog post. I think I came quite close to the color!

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Other fun things I’ve done in the new year…

Eaten a chai scone with a chai latte haha

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Made friends with a LOVELY new independent bookstore near campus

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Had time with my ladypals… we had a lovely sushi dinner and then we decided to just do the damn thing and also have glamorous desserts. My alfajore was phenom.

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New art at the church by UNC campus ❀

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Great blue heron close to the trail! Can you spot her?

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I’ve also been getting into fun things with the manfriend.

However.

Have you heard me talk about how good I am at rock climbing? No? THERE’S A REASON FOR THAT.

Bae planned us a super fun evening of climbing at his bouldering gym followed by yummy Italian food at his neighborhood restaurant. I’d been to the gym once before so I got to skip signing the waiver and watching the training video and just got to climbing.

For the uninitiated, bouldering involves no straps or harnesses. You climb on relatively low (no more than 12 ft I think) rock walls, and have big absorbent mats to land on if/when you fall.

Not for the first time I was struck how many of the challenges of climbing, for me at least, are psychological. I have gone around most of my life with solid ground under me and I don’t enjoy giving that up. It goes against my self protective instincts.

Anyway, I decided a fun and easy way to combat that would just be to let myself fall. Just a little bit. I was partly down from finishing a climbing route and I stuck out my bum, confident my ample backside would cushion my fall.

And then… somehow I punched myself in the face with my own knee.

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So after that… my chin hurt. And my cheek hurt. And my knee hurt.

But also my dignity deeply, deeply hurt since when I went to the front desk to get ice they were all “Absolutely, totally, happy to help, and you do however need to fill out this incident report.” Ay yi yi.

In more fun activities with the boy… we ate oysters!

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And split a colossal crab cake platter. This is a HALF PORTION.

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A few days later we went to the farmer’s market where I saw this horrifying bumper sticker.

Don’t… don’t do this. Please. Please. Just. God. I am a dietitian and I think nutrition is so important and just… for the love of… Oh God.

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In happier news after shopping at the farmer’s market we wanted some tasty veggies and accessories that didn’t involve us doing any cooking.

We went to Toast, one of my favorites, and each got the soup+ 3 crostini.

I got:

  • Cauliflower soup with some kind of herby brown butter on top
  • mushroom crostini
  • white bean and pomegranate crostini
  • beet and goat cheese crostini

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And the manfriend got

  • Tomato onion soup
  • Duck rillettes crostini
  • mushroom and cheese crostini
  • goat cheese honey and black pepper crostini

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And then we each tasted each other’s soup. And he went “… I like your soup better.” And I went “… WAIT A MINUTE I LIKE YOUR SOUP BETTER!” And then we switched and this is why we’re a great couple and 2020 is off to a good start.

christmastime

My celebrations started in Richmond, en route on my drive home for the holidays. I went to this deeply cute restaurant, The Daily:

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Claire is one of my favorite people from grad school. She’s been working in Tanzania (!) for the past few years, though rumor is she’ll be returning stateside this spring. It was so fun catching up with her and hearing about her adventures.

Also, because basically the entire foundation of our friendship is the Ted Cruz Bad Lip Reading video, we had to take pictures with Ted Cruz “Smiles”.

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I ate this Buddha bowl which was just exquisite

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And then I was hooooome for the hooooolidays.

We did our usual Very Last Minute Christmas tree decorating. Our tree is always just COVERED in a variety of sentimental ornaments. It makes me laugh when I see people’s plain trees with just white lights and red balls or whatever. That is definitely not us.

This one is my fave.

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From my kindergarten teacher! Yes, us millennials got told we were snowflakes lololol

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Because Malindi and Eric are insane, they once again made the car trip from Louisiana to Virginia with a dog and two cats (!!!)

Billie Jean looked lovely in her Christmas sweater.

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Mearl kept begging to go outside on the deck. (He’s almost completely blind, but he loves the sniffing opportunities there).

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I was a real failure at capturing any pictures of Christmas morning. My Aunt Kathy and Uncle Tom once again made an epic brunch for the whole family. Everything was incredible (Kathy is always trying new recipes and this year involved BREAKFAST CASSEROLE LASAGNA?!) but the problem is I get too happy and relaxed and soaking up the moment so I don’t pull out my camera.

My mom did snap this pic, a candid in which I actually look like myself (v rare). Wearing a crown because we had just done the Christmas crackers. Wearing a gorgey soft cashmere duster sweater, Christmas gift from mama. Slamming back some coffee.

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Then sis, brother in law and I did yet another Christmas (kudos to Malindi and Eric for their patience because they started the day with Eric’s mom, brother, sister in law, nieces n nephews; in other words, had THREE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS IN ONE DAY which is rather tiring).

My dad just CANNOT BE TRUSTED for holiday meals- he will make a slab of meat (usually it’s lamb but this year it was ham which was rather a disappointment for me since I don’t really eat pig anymore) but if he is left in charge side dishes will be microwaved frozen vegetables with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and perhaps neon orange scalloped potatoes from a box. And a dip for an appetizer.

So, I decided to just appoint myself the maker of the side dishes.

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So I made this butternut leek lasagna (the leek sauce was unbelievable; the filling was too starchy and bland and also there was way too much of it), and an arugula salad with lemon juice and olive oil; and that was my Christmas dinner along with a bit of the aforementioned dip.

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As for dessert, I didn’t feel like making something homemade and we all agreed what we really wanted was Razzleberry pie. It’s frozen pie in a box (!) but it is seriously so good… not too sweet, perfect texture. And my grandma always loved it too, and called it Razzle Dazzle pie, which was so freaking cute.

My dad announced he couldn’t find it at either grocery store he went to so that became my job too! Fortunately he took care of the vanilla ice cream which is an essential accompaniment.

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And then, as always, the ridiculous amounts of eating were not done, because it was time to cook maniacally some more and prepare for our annual post-Christmas, pre-New Years party.

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This is just round one of the stuff we madeΒ  (it’s before the ham made it out onto the table… and well before our friends and loved ones piled on their own delicious contributions).

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It involved:

  • My sister’s delicious pesto pasta salad
  • artichoke cheddar dip
  • labneh
  • taramosalata
  • baba ghanoush
  • a buuuunch of crackers and cheese
  • pickleys
  • prosciutto and mozzarella rollups
  • rolls
  • lorge turkey
  • lorge ham

Then my aunt brought these veggies and this UNBELIEVABLE DIP and then I died of happiness. The dip, from the New York Times, involved anchovy, parsley, red wine vinegar, chives, capers, and mayonnaise, and… I would always eat my vegetables if they were dunked in this. Holy goodness. Game changer.

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Of course desserts were also well represented:

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  • Mom’s baklava
  • sis’s mint brownies (drool)
  • sis’s chocolate chip oatmeal bars
  • my gluten free puff pastry pinwheels
  • my Christmas cookies, also pictured below

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The prettiness of this plate is one of my prouder accomplishments πŸ™‚

prechristmas adventuring

Look at my friend Lesli so freakin cut with her hush puppies with sweet potato butter.

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We tried the new food hall in Raleigh! I, ever indecisive, did two laps of the hall with Lesli before deciding to order (fortunately Lesli LOVES DOING THAT TOO! We also both look at restaurant menus online before going to them haha!) Then I still had to get two things.

  1. Deeply crappy lobster bisque from Cousin’s Maine Lobster Truck (will avoid in future even though their lobster tots are good. But $$$)
  2. Deeply delicious strawberry nutella crepe

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My other friends, not pictured, got a BUNCH of stuff, and I got tastes of mac n cheese and meatball sub and fried seafood and so on. Delish!

Also, Lesli’s dessert taco waffle deserves to be documented.

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Another new place… the sweetest lil Japanese spot in Durham. Shoutout to the boyf for introducing me to it because I’ve now taken other people there two more times.

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Very fond of them for:

  1. THE FRESHEST, LOVELIEST SUSHI.
  2. Really good shrimp shumai
  3. Solid soba noodle soup
  4. Family business with dad, mom, sis, grandma (!), and the kids all hanging around the restaurant.
  5. Really great friendly service.

Another evening with my manfriend we went to Wake Forest. He insisted we pull over at this bar in the middle of the woods haha. There were some dudes making a giant fire with pallets. Not really my scene but I was very into the hot fire.

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We got tapas for dinner.

Peppers stuffed with crab (actually just okay even though they sound like they should be life altering right?!)

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Pasta with wild boar ragu (he insisted we get this because everyone else in the restaurant seemed to be ordering it. It’s a good strategy). Plus, in the background, arancini (fried risotto balls- they were delicious, obvi)

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More Christmastimey fun… met some friends at Yonder, a new bar in Hillsborough, that does a monthly event called Noir at the Bar where crime fiction writers read their work. So fun! The December one had a holiday theme.

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One extremely gross and rainy night I got home from work and watched Love Actually and ate chocolate cake with my friend Shaylen. I MEAN. All I need to be happy and cozy.

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I almost always attend the Chapel Hill Christmas Parade with my friends and their little girls. This year big hits included the snowman made of tires strapped to the front bumper of the bus…

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… and the grinch, who had been put in jail by the local police, haha.

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The clinic Christmas party was the usual karaoke extravaganza. Ugh it is the best. Two of the attendings are great musicians (Dr Low Carb can seriously play ANYTHING on the piano) and the rest of us just sing along and bang on toy maracas. It is so pure.

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I hosted my pals for cookie decorating. Obviously I made snacks as well, including baked goat cheese with honey and pomegranate seeds, crispy veggie purses, buffalo hummus with veggies. My friends brought goodies too. Gosh we all love food so much.

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These sugar cookies turned out really good, and decorating them was soothing and fun. Shoutout to my friend Emily for decorating the ornament in this pic, I think it was the most beautiful thing any of us crafted.

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We had our work party which was unremarkable. But they gave us new fleece blankets as our employee gift. And Lola has 100% appropriated it, hahahaah.

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My fellow dietitians and I did a little happy hour type gathering. I got some cheese for the table (always) and we enjoyed beverages too. My coworker gave me this knitted cat mug warmer. I MEAN. All I do is drink tea and love on cats so this is perfection.

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Finally, I leave you with the most festive note… my boyfriend decorated EVERY ROOM of his home for Christmas. And I do mean EVERY ROOM.πŸ˜‚

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cooking, including breaking in my instant pot (!)

Do you love food?

Sure, maybe you do. But not enough as my adorable squishy goddaughter. Juliette is the best.

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Here are some things I’ve been eating that I’ve cooked!

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  • Ramen (I try to buy lower sodium versions, extra credit if they involve whole grains)
  • asparagus (frozen/thawed)
  • egg (poached in the ramen broth)
  • random leftover pickled turnips from a Mediterranean meal that went shockingly well with Japanese ramen

Mmm this was good:

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Smitten Kitchen’s corn and tomato and zucchini galette, minus corn, with various other insignificant modifications made to the filling. This crust is SO agreeable even I’m not afraid of it (and I really am a disaster when it comes to most pie crust).

Comfort food:

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  • chicken sausage
  • polenta
  • roasted apples, onions, and delicata squash
  • salad kit

Random leftovers that weren’t that good together:

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  • soba noodles
  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • salmon
  • lots of everything but the bagel seasoning
  • probably other dressing-y things? perhaps some rice vinegar, soy sauce, etc?

In much more exciting news, I HAVE OVERCOME MY FEAR OF MY INSTANT POT! My first recipe, tomato soup, was a smashing success.

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I had my pal over for dinner and we enjoy the soup with (naturally) grilled cheese sandwiches (she did the grilled cheese-ing and used a heavier hand with the butter and cheese than I do and ugh it was so good). As I recall I randomly had some homemade bread we used for the sandwiches which is why they’re shaped a bit oddly.

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Not something I cooked but something I always stock up on this time of year:

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Random leftover rice dumped on some homade tofu tikka masala:

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Instant pot adventure #2!

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Ropa Vieja from Amateur Gourmet. I polled my Facebook friends for their preferred recipes and an old high school pal recommended this one. It’s not actually a pressure cooker recipe, so per the guidance of my friend, I did steps 1-4 of that recipe using the pot’s saute function and then cooked the mixture on high pressure using the stew setting for 90 minutes, then released pressure and added the last couple ingredients.

It was quite tasty but HEAVENS there was nothing “instant” about it. It also set off the “burn” message a few times so I had to add extra water.

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Tasty food that involves way less work… I love persimmons this time of year πŸ™‚

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I love macaroni and cheese any time of year.

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I made this mac n cheese for my cousin’s family, as her children so far have been sick for approximately 97% of this winter season, and I wanted their family to have some nice comfort food.

Then I tried a bite of it and was deeply jealous that it was much more delicious and decadent than anything I make for myself.

So I made it again and brought it to my office Christmas party πŸ™‚

Another simple plate:

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  • veggie sausage sauteed with mushrooms and onions
  • roasted brussels sprouts with honey, dijon and dill
  • miso sweet potatoes

Boring dinner with a sexy side dish:

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  • Morningstar farms black bean burger
  • Boxed portabella mushroom soup drizzled with lots of balsamic
  • the amazing carrot yogurt herb salad from Ottolenghi Simple, a repeat from what I made for Thanksgiving because it was so delicious and classy

Breakfast with manfriend:

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I finally tried out Gordon Ramsey’s scrambled eggs that I’d admired for so long on Youtube! Because I had creme fraiche!

They were… good. Kind of wet. Not something I’ll feel the need to do again, but I nonetheless love watching the video.

Finally, my New Years good luck food!

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  • I yet again busted out the Instant Pot and made DRY BEANS WOOHOO! AND I DIDN’T HAVE TO PRESOAK THEM! The recommended setting is 20-25 minutes but since beans so often sit on the grocery store shelf for like 5 years, mine took more like 45 minutes. I cooked them with onion, beer (! this was a Mark Bittman tip and whoa it made for some delicious beans and I say this as someone who doesn’t like beer), and vegetable broth. Then when they were done I added a bit of molasses, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika probably?
  • These collard greens, except on the stove for an hour-ish instead of in the slow cooker for 7 hours (?!?!?!)
  • Cornbread in the cast iron skillet

Happy New Year! What has everyone been cooking?

thanksgivings

It was a sweet potato extravaganza at my house for awhile there.

  • Miso sweet potatoes. YES. Made this at least thrice, once for Friendsgiving, once for Worksgiving, and once for My Own Damn Self and No One Else.
  • Sweet potato cake for a very important baptism… more on that later.

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Work Thanksgiving involved my sweet potatoes, above, as well as a lovely collection of sides (went back for seconds on both corn puddings because I am only a human being) and shrimp cocktail. There was turkey but *yawn*

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Okay so this delightful and l o r g e baby is my newest godchild! My cousin’s chonky little girl! She is the BEST!

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I joined the gang at their church for the service, the weekend before Thanksgiving.

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And then I brought that sweet potato cake linked above, which was DELICIOUS. Note that I did not do the marshmallow frosting since marshmallow frosting is moody and cream cheese frosting is The Best Frosting as you all know.

As the baptism and afterparty was not enough merriment for one day, I then went to a Friendsgiving celebration over in Greensboro, which doubled as a farewell party *sob* for my dear friend Mickey who has since moved to Colorado and I’m sure is KILLIN IT but I will miss her lots. It is a testament to the awesome person-bringer-together she is that there were literally dozens of fascinating, friendly, fun people there.

Also, those people were all AMAZING at cooking.

One girl set up an entire Korean hot pot?!

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Mickey’s ex boyfriend’s family (got that?) operates a really awesome small coffee cart business. They made DIY orders for everyone at the party. My latte (with house made vanilla bean syrup) was delicious, and the whimsical spelling of my name was delightful πŸ™‚

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More Thanksgiving season fun- my cousin Ashley and her fiance Ray were in town from London! I got to steal some time with them in NC before I left to VA to see the rest of my fam. We spent part of a morning at a lovely coffee shop which has a giant buffalo sculpture good for posing at. (Ashley and Ray were nice enough to be watching their nephew Chase for the day; that’s him cheesin in the front)

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Shortly after that outing I hit the road to VA to enjoy the delights of my childhood home and my extended family.

I rediscovered old pictures that demonstrate I am a Cat Lady For Life

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As demonstrated further by the photo below πŸ™‚ Working from home was pleasant when done from my bed and with Sheila at my side.

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My dad’s birthday is at the beginning of December so I picked him and my stepmom (and myself!) up goodies at The Pure Pasty < *swoon*. While I waited for them to finish baking the lamb pasty I went to a bizarre coffee place nearby!

The guy there recommended the ruby ginger and it was… both delicious and repulsive? Somehow?

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Β I made two delicious items for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner:

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An Ottolenghi Simple recipe, carrot salad with yogurt and herbs. DIVINE. And…

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Smitten Kitchen’s pear cranberry crumble. With gingersnap topping!

The table was laid, and looooooong. Thanks to my Aunt Dena and Uncle Louis for welcoming so many people!

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The terra cotta warrior looked fiercely over the buffet table…

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A giant donut, you ask? No, my mom’s spanikopita made in a ring mold to cut into beautiful spinach and feta and phyllo slices

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There were just a few additional items to eat (*sarcasm*)

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My (first) plate. I went back for more of both kinds of stuffing hahaha!

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On Black Friday it was easy to stay away from the mall. The weather was GORGEOUS! A bunch of us took a walk around Hutley Meadows park. See the blue heron?!

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Before I left on my way home to NC, I had a lovely breakfast with my mom at Le Pain Quotidien. I hadn’t planned on taking pictures until we ordered… THE EXACT SAME THING! Hurray for cafe au lait and steel cut oats with walnuts and bananas.

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V thankful for the yumminess above and even more thankful for the people with whom I shared the meals.