christmas cheer

My computer was being a bit exhausting and I couldn’t get into WordPress. That’s an excuse (though my laziness has also contributed) for this hilariously out of date content.

In the park near me, a family likes to decorate their tree and gnome for major holidays. Christmas was very festive.

IMG_0349

I guiltily don’t remember who gave me these festive kitties with bows and Christmas fruitcake but I love them and they livened up my living room.

IMG_0350

As per usual I did Christmas cookie baking.

IMG_8564

I confess that decorating Christmas cookies while gabbing with your friends, who decorate the majority of the cookies= fun and easy. Decorating Christmas cookies on one’s own= surprisingly time consuming. Though playing Christmas music helps.

IMG_8555

I made (on two separate weekends so the pics don’t all match):

  • Chocolate crinkles (don’t remember the recipe but honestly all the ones online seem to be pretty much the same)
  • Chocolate chip meringues (see above. I prefer a recipe that leaves them soft rather than crunchy in the middle. Note that I used Trader Joe’s 85% dark chocolate to make these. People lost their MINDS! Also gluten free which is handy)
  • Easy and delicious sugar cookie recipe, same as last year
  • Smitten Kitchen’s peanut butter cookies (gluten free)

Then, in the course of my deliveries, some people also made cookies for ME! Lucky me!

My friends and their kiddos made a few batches including these adorable Grinch cookies (which I did not know were a thing!)

IMG_0351

And my coworker Chelsea made incredibly impressive gingerbread decorated with perfect royal icing

IMG_0352

I also made a delivery to my cousin and the kiddos and got to enjoy the nutso Christmas decor in their suburban community. Nothing celebrates the birth of Jesus like Baby Yoda.

IMG_8559

I popped into my favorite coffee shop and they had a giving tree! I picked this lady.

IMG_8561

I picked up a gift card to a wonderful local Italian restaurant (felt great supporting them too!) Look at this awesome organization. They sent me a thank you note and a Christmas ornament 🙂

IMG_8562

Also note that the coffee shop, Joe Van Gogh, gave me an adorably decorated cup. What gorgeous and festive handwriting!

IMG_8565

Another highlight of Christmas in North Carolina was celebrating virtually with my bestie in Chicago. I sent a package to her, her husband, and their son (my godson!) and we had a delightful little Facetime date. I sent him a (non-Covid!) mask so he could match his doggie brother and he looked so freakin’ adorable.

IMG_8669

three cooks

Cook 1: Me! I’ve had varying degrees of cooking inspo throughout 2020, but I’ve had some successes I can share.

Cook 2: My boyfriend! He experiments in the kitchen in that wacky boy way so I have some fun stuff of his to share.

Cook 3: Deb Perelman, aka Smitten Kitchen, whose recipes appear over and over in my kitchen. She is the frrreakinnn best. I consider myself fairly cult-proof because I’m constitutionally suspicious of self-improvement, but if Deb started a cult I’d totally join.

Here is my reaction to her recipe for cauliflower tacos. Thanks so much to my guy for capturing this beautiful photo of me hahahahahahaha.

IMG_7119

Note that the taco recipe is quite malleable. I didn’t have black beans, so I used refried (the salsa ones from Trader Joe’s). I didn’t have the cheese she specified, so I used goat cheese. I would say the most spectacular component, the one you couldn’t have these without, is the pickled onions. Just divine!

IMG_8388

Also in the Mexican fusion recipe spirit was this un-be-liev-able pizza N made. He’s been making awesome homemade pizza dough for quite awhile now and basically never repeats the same topping twice. But I’m hoping he’ll make an exception for this refried black beans egg, cheese, tomatoes, basil (?!) green onion creation. With chips and salsa atop just to gild the lily.

IMG_8412

Another meal we collaborated. I had roasted a chicken and potatoes trying to use up some of my scads of oregano before my plant froze. I brought that and N had bought artichokes, my faaavorite vegetable, just for me, plus he fried up some summer squash which was also great.

IMG_8416

Another time I had more chicken leftovers with some nice spicy zippy farmer’s market greens with a quick vinaigrette. Fancy lil french bistro lunch!

IMG_8437

As the weather grew colder and we entered soup season, I threw together a carrot soup that I ate for a few days. And I started buying the BEST pizza they make at Weaver St Market: a thick, foccacia like crust with some whole wheat in it, topped with a medley of cheese and spinach and artichokes, and (key) accompanied with this zingy herby salsa verde to drizzle atop. SO GOOD.

IMG_8433

When the weather was warmer I’d taken some yummy farmer’s market bell peppers and filled them with:

  • Trader joe’s soy chorizo
  • rice
  • cauliflower rice
  • feta
  • sauteed onions I think?
  • I don’t really know what else
IMG_8496

I forget about stuffed peppers- they are such nice comfort food that are also vegetable-rich!

N has been doing this fun project that has benefited me ENORMOUSLY called Let’s Try A Bunch of Ways of Making Eggplant Parm.

Yes please. He’s done fried vs baked eggplant slices, breaded vs unbreaded, including noodles in the layers, all kinds of wacky seasonings on the eggplant… I am benefiting thoroughly from the experiment.

IMG_8508

Having extra piecrust around at Thanksgiving fortunately reminded me how great quiche is! The perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner! This had spinach and goat cheese and probably some sauteed onions too.

IMG_8525

Another UH-MAZING Smitten Kitchen creation- Broccoli Roast. Make this and I swear to you, you will always be excited to eat your vegetables. The spice rub and the olive oil crisped broccoli… just unreal! I used two whole heads of broccoli and the entire spice rub in one batch. I will make this again for SURE.

IMG_8548

The broccoli made a lovely well rounded meal with:

  • Veggie sausage
  • Leftover Thanksgiving roasted sweet potatoes
  • Leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce
IMG_8550

A nice winter salad for when citrus is in season:

  • Arugula (or whatever greens you like)
  • Shrimp
  • Avocado
  • grapefruit
  • Your vinaigrette of choice
IMG_8552

Neither my boyfriend nor I cooked this meal but we very much enjoyed eating it. Dumplings (the shrimp, egg and chive are the BEST!) and veggie noodles from Sister Liu’s.

IMG_8554

Finally, in the all too rare category of Vegan Winter Comfort Food, I submit this Madhur Jaffrey recipe:

  • 1/2 to 1 head cabbage
  • Neutral oil
  • Shiitakes, fresh or dried and reconstituted in warm water (I used a package of the fresh guys)
  • tofu, crumbled
  • a couple teaspoons mirin (Japanese rice wine)
  • a couple teaspoons soy sauce
  • salt to taste (you’ll need a decent amount because once you start cutting up a cabbage you realize the astonishing quantity of vegetable goodness it contains).

Thinly slice the cabbage and mushrooms. In your BIGGEST and deepest skillet (I used my 12 inch one and my 1/2 a large farmer’s market cabbage was still overflowing at the beginning), sautee the cabbage in oil til it wilts. Depending on how much cabbage you use this can take a few minutes or quite a bit more time. Add the mushrooms and sautee a bit more. Add the tofu. Add the mirin and soy sauce and salt. Toss together a few more minutes

IMG_8566

Eat while wearing cozy socks. Nice with rice.










change of scenery

After my birthday I’ve gotten to have a couple outdoor hangs with my best gal pals. My friend Emily gave me this delightful thing for my birthday 😂

IMG_2220

I’ve continued to really enjoy visiting my cousin Sophia, her hus Mike, and their delightful kids.

They went all out with both Halloween and election-themed decor (and the Washington Nationals flag which is a permanent fixture)

IMG_8392

As Mike said, we are all that skeleton.

IMG_8391

The kids decorated this pumpkin and I love it so much. Chase the four year old fairly faithfully followed the template to make a sheep. Juliette the one and a half year old splashed on day-glo paint haha.

IMG_8393

And one day Chase decided the most fun activity imaginable was washing my car…?! He spent most of his time on that window for some reason. It was pretty dang cute.

IMG_8406

I’ve visited Shaylen and Kyle in Raleigh. They are due with their first baby on Christmas Day (!!!) We’ve been taking nice walks in beautiful Dorothea Dix park.

IMG_8396

Sometimes their delightful dog Bu joins us.

IMG_8473

One day we didn’t want the outdoor hang to end so we got takeout from Raleigh Raw (I got a poke bowl, obviously the prego lady got something different!) and ate on their porch. Mm.

IMG_8397

Another day I headed down to the Raleigh/Cary area to take a long meandering walk with my friend Whit.

Our ultimate destination was La Farm Bakery, which produced this unreal S’more creation:

IMG_8441

They have a really nice outdoor seating area with heat lamps and we were super comfortable. Woodrow the dog had a great time. Here he is going “A s’more! I love s’mores! Thanks so much for offering to share with me!”

IMG_8440

Also on our walk we saw this on point yard decor hahahaha.

IMG_8438

Well, enough people did indeed say nope (though not in my state, unfortunately), so we had a DONALD TRUMP DEFEAT to celebrate!

We went and hung out in this new area of Durham that I can vouch is adjacent to a VERY transitional neighborhood where I visit my patients… but has this corner by Highwire Brewery which is super hardcore gentrified 😬 It’s great because they have a really large outdoor area shared by all the businesses in the vicinity and it’s easy to physically distance from others while simultaneously getting to people watch. I missed people watching!

I got a mimosa because it was a champagne occasion.

IMG_8448

N got us treats from the food truck… chicharonnes for him and tater tots (!!!) for both of us.

IMG_8450

Then I got cinnamon donut ice cream (!!!) from Two Roosters, which is on the same campus. QUITE an indulgent day.

IMG_8455

Then we meandered around downtown Durham for a bit, where people were going NUTS. Video I took is here. Kinda reminded me of Harry Potter Book 1 where the wizarding world is going nuts because they think You Know Who has been defeated. There was an area downtown where there was literally a DJ spinning the Cha Cha Slide and people dancing like they were at a wedding reception.

We stayed on the outskirts of the crowd, since though mask use was pretty good, it’s still, uh, a pandemic. At a certain point I got SUPER overstimulated since I hadn’t been in a large crowd of people since March (!)

So I was happy in the following days to return to more peaceful pursuits.

Strolls in Merritt’s pasture.

IMG_8425

Jaunts in the woods in Carrboro

IMG_8472
IMG_8476

And then for something COMPLETELY different… N and I were chatting one Friday night about what to do for the weekend and he said, “What if we go to the beach tomorrow?”

Of course pandemic logistics went zooming through my head but also a feeling of I HAVEN’T SEEN THE OCEAN ALL YEAR.

And N was an absolute champ and did alllll the driving and let me sleep in the car (which I actually miraculously did a tiny bit) which means we left at about 5:30/6 and were pulling in to Wrightsville Beach at 8 am!

We were originally going to go to a bagel place but then we went by this restaurant and saw a line of people waiting outside including a squad of cops and then an entire fire truck pulled up (!!!) and we knew the food was legit.

Super cute place, I’d be here all the time if I lived in the area.

IMG_8511

We grabbed takeout and enjoyed our coffee on the BEEEEEEEAAAAAACCCCCHHHHH.

Ahhh.

IMG_8514

So many highlights:

  • A cat! Named Tito! I was strolling along the dunes and I saw this little black and white creature and it didn’t make any sense but yep a cat! On the beach! I peeked at his collar and saw that the address was like “Seashore Lane” or something so I figured out he was a local. And then a lady walking by was like “Oh yeah that’s Tito, he lives around the corner. Usually he doesn’t come this far!” but there he was just hanging out in the sunshine and asking for pats! Which I happily gave him.
  • So many jellyfish! Pretty much the only folks in the water were surfers in wetsuits. When the waves crested you could see pinkish orange blobs suspended in them that were all jellyfish, and there were tons of them washed up on the beach! So spooky

I didn’t take that many pictures because I was trying to soak up the sights and sounds and smells. It was perfect.

Then around lunchtime I wanted to teach N about Indochine, one of the local favorites my coworkers taught me about when I was interning in Wilmington.

Their dreamy courtyard was already perfectly equipped for the pandemic. We sat by the koi pond!

IMG_8517

Our meal was freaking gorgeous.

IMG_8518

We split the dumpling sampler (!)

IMG_8520

And then while N dominated the chicken wings, I went nuts on what was definitely the best part of the meal, this salad:

Goi Ngo Sen (GOY-NEW-SHEN)- Shrimp mixed with daikon radish, carrots, cucumbers and scallions topped with out traditional Vietnamese dressing, caramelized shallots, peanut and cilantro.

IMG_8519

OMG.

We spent a little of the afternoon walking around downtown Wilmington but it was too crowded and there were not enough folks wearing masks 😫

So we went back to the beach, soaked up a little more sun and surf (I got sunburned in late November which yes is bad but also what a novelty) and then headed home.

birthdays

On October 7th, I turned 32. The same age my mother was when she had me. Was this alarming? Yes, yes it was. Though there is some relief to 2020 being a total cluster because instead of too much “What am I doing with my life? Am I grown up yet?” thinking, there is just “Am I doing what I can not to make this pandemic worse?” thinking keeping us busy. Heh.

My sister was totally ridiculous in the best way on my birthday. When I messaged the family group text that I was bummed to remember I shared a birthday with Vladimir Putin, she came through with some HAUNTING photoshops.

IMG_8358
IMG_8357 2

She also continued a super fun tradition of gifting one another gifts for our pets. Lola ADORES her new donut shaped bed.

IMG_8375

As for me, I spoiled myself a bit (see spontaneous cupcake purchase below- the boyf and I enjoyed pumpkin spice and snickerdoodle flavors)…

IMG_8350

But REALLY got spoiled by N! Rather than wake me up early (he makes lots of jokes about how much I *love* sleeping but really I think he’s just jealous because he gets so little) he instead dropped off some treasures on my porch on my birthday before work.

Roses…

IMG_8351

… pumpkin cold brew and a cinnamon roll 🙂

IMG_8352

On my lunch break on my birthday I got my FIRST HAIRCUT IN PROBABLY A YEAR!

A clever salon near me was doing outdoor haircuts, and it was a glorious day.

IMG_8355

She said she needed to take off three inches to get rid of my janky split ends. Honestly I suspect it was more like 6. This was SUCH A PLEASURE!

IMG_8356

Then my birthday eve N and I went to the newly revamped outdoor dining area at Acme! It was DELIGHTFUL!

IMG_8360

Being in public without a mask on (only as we ate; we wore masks when we were up and about and I tried to wear mine every time our server came close to us) felt a lot like being naked in public?! But I was so glad to have a relatively safe, well-ventilated space. Such a thrill!

IMG_8361

They had a state fair theme going (the NC State Fair didn’t happen as usual, obviously) so we got a complimentary starter of kettle corn, cocoa puffs, and M and Ms.

IMG_8359

I had a cocktail involving rosemary and gin and honestly don’t remember what else. I’m a lightweight already and since my intake has gone even further down in coronatimes to… once per month, maybe?… this got me giggly very fast.

IMG_8362

We got a half dozen oysters which felt SO festive!

IMG_8363

And some luscious and large deviled eggs

IMG_8364

And we opted to split two entrees which were both INCREDIBLE (and more meaty than is usual for me since I found out shortly before this that I was anemic!)

  • Pecan-crusted fried chicken (! so moist and incredible!) with butter beans and mashed potatoes with tomato gravy
IMG_8366
  • Short ribs with some kind of kidney bean corn tomato stew underneath… super smoky and great.
IMG_8367

And my spontaneous man also ordered a second round of oysters which came with the entrees hah!

IMG_8368

I was too stuffed to even think about dessert… but I didn’t even need to because N had picked up cake at Nantucket, the restaurant that provides cake slices that are legit about 6 by 8 inches?! Just ridiculous! This involved chunks of ganache and cookie dough. Woah.

IMG_8370

And then, as if we hadn’t had enough fun, two weeks later was N’s birthday!

We have been doing this super adorable thing where we work from home together once a week or so. So, I brought him breakfast at his place.

We both had coffees and then I picked up rather different his and hers breakfasts…

His: country fried steak (!) and eggs on a biscuit

Hers: avocado toast lololol

IMG_8400

He had fun with his kiddos his birthday eve, but I took him for dinner the following week.

We sat on the lovely patio at Guglhupf (which for some reason I forgot to photograph) and again split two entrees (plus, not pictured, raided the amazing German bakery for pretzels and desserts):

  • Doner kabob with a side of spaetzle
IMG_8414
  • Reuben with a side of potato salad
IMG_8415

Proving that we are always learning new things about the people we love, N demonstrated for the first time that he is wholly obsessed with high quality mustard and got like three separate large servings throughout the course of our meal, one of which is pictured above 😂

activities

Some sanity promoting activities for coronatimes…

  • Backyard hangs. My friend has a great backyard- one time we just all hung out and ate pizza and celebrated my friend Karen who quit an unsatisfying job. Another time we watched A Nightmare on Elm street on Becka’s projector, to celebrate Halloween!
IMG_8210
  • Trying new bakeries. My boyfriend was on one of his many MANY trips to pick up something free/cheap from Facebook Marketplace (he loves bargains so, so much) and stopped by Utica Bakery. Everything was very good but I almost LOST MY MIND at the cannoli cookie.
IMG_8213
  • Visiting Honeysuckle Tea House. On a warm day it is actual heaven.
IMG_8214

Very happy monarch butterflies feasting.

IMG_8215
  • Explored another outdoor spot. This time in Saxapahaw. A wee walk around an island in the river.
IMG_8232

Whatever this bush/tree is smells like heaven. Can anyone identify?

IMG_8218
  • Apropos of nothing, eating continues to be a real pleasure/distraction. So here’s a really great fancy toast I got. Perfect bread, perfect summer tomatoes, creamy feta spread stop, kale pesto, and toasted pine nuts.
IMG_8225
  • A random trip to Raleigh- the art museum had a heavenly, HUGE field of wild flowers. See the people walking on the hill in the background for scale.
IMG_8249

What a lovely thing for eyes to rest on.

IMG_8245
  • A brief non fun interlude… as you can see above I spent a lot of time in places with allergens and it was not so shocking that I ended up with a scratchy throat/runny nose, etc. But it doesn’t feel so insignificant in coronatimes. So…
IMG_8253
IMG_8254
IMG_8255

WHEW!

IMG_8258

Back to having fun:

  • Physically distanced visits with my cousin, her hus, and her wee ones. Presenting the many colors of Juliette: Bright yellow skirt, hot pink shoes, purple popsicle juice dripping throughout, blue sidewalk chalk on face, green stamps (not pictured) on her back due to her big brother’s art project in the morning. She is the BEST!
IMG_8260
  • A relatively safe and social distance-able activity is getting ice cream cones with your friends! This one from Bruster’s featured a scoop of cinnamon on the bottom (swoon) and a scoop of peach on the top (yess). Perfect combo.
IMG_8267

Still I’ve been inside a fair amount. So…

  • Puzzles with “help” from Lola.
IMG_8279
  • Watching my new neighbors’ dog Ramsey who is an actual angel.
IMG_8298

After weeks of careful safety, the all time BEST thing happened in early October, the weekend before my birthday…

  • More beautiful outdoor walking on a repurposed old train track turned trail.
IMG_8323
  • Homemade beautiful apple pie eaten al fresco
IMG_8329
  • Looking through old family pictures (atop- great grand uncle Luke; lower right- great great grandfather Demetrios; lower left- great great grandmother Evangeline)
IMG_8334

All of the above was possible because I GOT TO SEE MY MOM!

Two weeks of heightened care prior to the visit. Not stopping en route at a COVID19-sketchy truck stop to pee (this was possible because I restricted fluids before hitting the road). Seeing almost no one except my mama (though we did do a brief al fresco distanced lunch with my auntie which was a delight).

As you can see by my previous post, such things were NOT possible for Thanksgiving since a whole lot of EVERYTHING RELATED TO CORONAVIRUS is moving in the wrong direction.

Thanksgiving 2020

A brief post, mostly made to remember the DELICIOUS menu the man and I prepared for our weird Thanksgiving 2020.

IMG_8528

The day was of course totally different from normal years, but the two of us (and Lola cat) managed to have a fun time doing things like:

  • Playing Outburst (Lola demonstrating her technique below)
IMG_8529
  • Watching the parade/dog show (my boyfriend loses his mind at dog shows, who knew?!)
  • Zooming/facetiming with our respective families
  • Going for a walk and hardcore judging the mob of 17 (!) unmasked people who walked by us
  • Snacking N’s delicious deviled eggs
IMG_8530
  • Cooking lots

And then after our cooking was done we ate. And ate. And ate. And ate.

IMG_8538
  • N bought a smoked turkey breast and made it using this technique. I’d never had a smoked turkey breast and holy cow it was great. I am usually deeply indifferent to Thanksgiving turkey but I went back for seconds on this.
  • N also made gravy. He said he was watching a morning television Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes bracket and said he was very disappointed that the two finalists were stuffing and rolls. So I said, “Well what is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?” And he said “Gravy!” lolol.
  • The best mashed sweet potatoes from Serious Eats which really did live up to their name. Roasting for two hours seemed a bit silly but it was totally hands off and they were melty and dreamy when they came out, and then with the flavor of the brown butter and thyme, holy cow. Note that I skipped the maple syrup because they were plenty sweet. Also note that I roasted the sweet potatoes 2-3 days in advance with no ill effects.
  • Two-bread stuffing that I chose because it won this recipe show down. I made the cornbread the week before Thanksgiving, then froze it. Two days before Thanksgiving, I let it and the regular sandwich bread (I used the last bits of all kinds of random bread loaves including a few flaky breakfast pastries) sit out overnight and stale. Then the day before Thanksgiving I sauteed the veggies and herbs and things and mixed them up with the torn up bread and the broth and let them sit overnight. Baked on Thanksgiving day, hands off. Super easy.
  • Smitten Kitchen’s homemade from scratch green bean casserole. I used Trader Joe’s frozen haricots verts rather than fresh green beans, and didn’t bother blanching. Made both components the day before and kept the onions out, at room temperature, just loosely covered by the paper towel. I heated up the green beans bit til hot and bubbly and then baked the onions on top for 10-15 minutes. N usually doesn’t like green bean casserole but got seconds on this.
  • Cranberry sauce which I as usual just winged. In a little saucepan I threw together a bag of fresh cranberries, a small pear chopped up, maybe 1 T grated fresh ginger, maybe 1/4 c maple syrup, and maybe 1/4 c sugar. Cooked til it looked like cranberry sauce haha.
IMG_8543

It was a rather beautiful and colorful plate. N got this artsy shot.

IMG_8544

As for the dessert department…

  • N made chocolate pudding pie, for which he considerably amped up the chocolate intensity by making the pudding using, instead of regular milk, a mix of chocolate milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. With beautiful chocolate shavings atop the cream.
  • N also made pumpkin pie. Again he went rogue on the filling and used a mix of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, and put in both pumpkin pie spice and additional cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • I made this bittersweet chocolate bourbon pecan pie that was seriously the best pecan pie I have ever tasted. I mostly followed the recipe but diverted in a few ways 1. I used browned butter instead of melted butter because yes please. 2. Instead of chocolate chips I chopped up 1.5 Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Lovers 85% Dark Chocolate Bars because it they are super intense and delicious and thought the really bitter chocolate would nicely play off the intense sweetness of the filling. 3. I blind baked the crust at 425 degrees for ten minutes before filling, because I wanted to avoid a soggy bottom. Oh also I used a little bit of agave syrup in the filling because I didn’t have quite enough corn syrup but I don’t think that did anything too dramatic! It was freaking unreal. Note that you definitely taste the bourbon! Maybe not a great pie for kids haha.
IMG_8536

I had maybe 1/4 to 1/2 slice of each pie on Thanksgiving itself but in the following days I have had pie for breakfast each day and a worrying number of additional servings haha. This is what happens when you make three pies for two people! I’ve been foisting off leftovers like crazy.

simply the best

As I’ve said previously, while others around me get passionate about fall, I just mourn. Summer is the best and watching the days get darker while dealing with angst related to the pandemic, the election, the inability of other human beings to be decent to one another… it may rid me of my little remaining sanity.

In remembrance of happy times, let me recount the many delicious things I cooked this summer with the fine, fine produce of summer.

IMG_8079

I threw together a watermelon gazpacho with no particular recipe and it was swell. I know it involved watermelon cucs and peppers (mostly blended up but a few attractively diced as you can see on top) and some olive oil and vinegar and herbs. Topped with feta. SO refreshing and lovely.

IMG_8063

Played with the grill some more and cooked up some zucchini strips. Made them into little toasties with hummus.

IMG_8072

Burger got topped with cheese and caramelized onions, then combined into a salad with arugula and those dreamy candy-sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes.

IMG_8114

More watermelon, topped with (perfection) chili lime seasoning. Plus hummus soup on the side for a hot n cold combo.

IMG_8133

Miso eggplant. Made with cute tiny fairy tale eggplants.

IMG_8149

How cute are these PURPLE, green and yellow string beans? Tragically when cooked they were all the same color.

IMG_8150

Used them to make an Ottolenghi recipe for tofu and string beans with this unbelievably flavorful and delicious chraimeh sauce. WHOO BOY this recipe is worth your time. The sauce I could have just licked from the pan.

Another Ottolenghi winner:

IMG_8157

Plain Greek yogurt gets blended with lemon zest.

Then it’s topped  with roasted cherry tomatoes with lots of garlic, herbs, lemon peel, olive oil, and everything nice.

IMG_8158

The hot tomatoes and the cold yogurt create this intermediate layer that’s creamy and sweet and flavorful and deeply, deeply luscious and must be sopped up with bread. SWOON this was good. Version of the recipe here.

I will say this pasta and cherry tomato dish from Ottolenghi took a long time and tasted like… pasta with cherry tomatoes. So not needing you to put in the effort for that one.

IMG_8183

Ugly but VERY nice and simple

IMG_8111

Avocado cucumber salad from Smitten Kitchen. I will say I use a lot less mayo than she does, and comparatively more Sriracha. I am inherently a bit leery of mayonnaise, and the avocado already provides lots of creaminess. This dish takes maybe 5 minutes to make and will make you so, so enthusiastic about eating vegetables. A winner.

IMG_8201

On this particular day I had it with a bowl of avgolemono soup. Mm.

Sadly as summer winds down more of my meals may look like this rather uninspired day

IMG_8156

A crossword to calm my anxious mind, and a meal that reflected being low on provisions. Edamame and mac n cheese from the freezer. A slight nod to seasonality with tomato salad.

Fortunately there are still some cool weather meals that are yummy. For example…

IMG_8287

Chana masala from Smitten Kitchen. Much more flavorful than the typical stuff you find (confident and abundant spices and lemon juice) and the texture was extra nice because I used dried chickpeas that I prepared in the Instant Pot. On the side, since I didn’t have basmati, I used cauliflower rice but made it substantially more delicious by heating it with coconut milk.

Fortunately it’s not all pantry staples and freezer veg and I have one particular family of veg that I give a particular shoutout…

IMG_8202

Big props to pepper plants for growing like champs! The farmer’s market guys said we could expect to see them through Thanksgiving!
Above is a plate of my summer’s MVP vegetable, the shishito pepper. I learned while cooking at the boyf’s that these are extra delicious when you blister them in a cast iron skillet. We had a big mac esque dipping sauce on the side that we had leftover from a restaurant meal. Other times I throw together a dipper from plain yogurt, smoked paprika, and lemon/lime juice. Whatever you dunk them in, shishitos are terrific.

IMG_8205

My fella provided the entree of this particular meal- avocado carbonara! The recipe still had bacon (bacon is really, really important to him) but instead of the eggs and super huge quantities of parmesan, the sauce gets a lot of its rich creaminess from avocado. Super nice!

And continuing the pepper love affair…

IMG_8181

My cousin’s husband, ably assisted in the garen by his four- and one-year-old children, has another bumper crop of hot peppers!

They showed up here…

IMG_8184

I threw together a taco night for me and the boyf. Toppings included:

  • Pico de gallo with raw hot peppers
  • A sauce with roasted hot peppers plus sweet onions plus more things that turned out VERY VERY VERY HOT! haha.
  • black beans
  • cheese
  • crumbled and spiced tempeh (see above re: bacon; I’m trying to expand the boyf’s experience with meatless meals)
  • avocado

And just for funsies another meal at the manfriend’s. He threw us together a wacky and delightful tasting plate.

IMG_8303

Finally, as fall begins, one of my best friends’ birthdays usually falls on or around Labor Day. Her birthay allowed me to wrap up this post with something sweet!

IMG_8308

This year as in many years past I made her a birthday cake. From Cooking Light, Nathan’s Lemon Cake is delightful. Perfect amount of lemon, dreamy texture, indulgent yet light. Note that I halved the glaze due to a powered sugar shortage and there were no ill effects.

IMG_8309

this n that

Hello yes I’ve been missing a bit. Some of it has been actual busy-ness (training a new person at work, etc.) Others has been mental busy-ness (worrying about the pandemic and the election and all my interpersonal relationships and everything in the world ever ever). This is called ANXIETY. It is also called 2020. I am working on it.

At any rate, I still like this little space for remembering and reflecting on my goings on. Here’s some fun stuff that happened this summer.

I got a grill!

IMG_7995

In fact my wonderful auntie just sent me a grill! Just because! Just on a random day! There is something so thrilling about getting something by surprise, for no particular special occasion. It just means someone was wandering around going throughout their day and thought of you. And sent something useful and delightful!

I broke in the grill by entertaining my gay husband for the Fourth of July.

We made:

  • Honey chipotle salmon from Sally’s Baking addiction (let the record state I like it better with olive oil than butter and better with maple syrup than honey. Better textures and flavors, IMO)
  • Summer squash in a foil packet with olive oil, onions, and various Indian spices like cumin and coriander
  • Peaches with cinnamon sugar
  • And not on the grill but very summery and delicious: my mom’s Greek potato salad. Boil red potatoes, and toss with thinly sliced onion, lots of fresh oregano, salt and pepper, a bit of white wine vinegar, and SO MUCH OLIVE OIL. Like, add what seems like a ridiculous amount of olive oil and add some more. It’s where the salad gets most of its flavor and it’s so so good.
IMG_7999

Speaking of overdoing it… 🙂

I one day made a choice to order tacos while hungry. It’s a bold mood. Took ’em over to the boyf’s place.

IMG_8008

We had:

  • corn with mayo and chili powder and cotija cheese
  • chips and guac
  • ceviche
  • various tacos. I got him meaty ones (can’t remember). I got myself pescatarian-y ones. From top to bottom, falafel (!), fried baja-style fish, and roasted cauliflower and harissa.
IMG_8013

Lola enjoys summer, obviously.

IMG_8018

Just exhausted.

IMG_8019

Time in green spaces continues to be helpful for body and brain. Flowers by Johnnys, a fave coffee shop, which now has a rather ideal socially distanced, outdoor, wifi equipped setup for getting work done.

IMG_8020

Trail hikes

IMG_8034

I was sweating and this lil friend thought it was tasty!

IMG_8059

Cool mural

IMG_8074

Lizard by my house! Hi lil skink friend!

IMG_8115

My two most reliable quarantine walking buddies moved from a five minute drive from me to Raleigh, more like forty minutes away 😭

I knew I had to suck it up and drive to go see them. Fortunately that gave me an excuse to revisit an uh-mazing French bakery, lucettegrace, which my sis introduced me to when she lived in Raleigh.

IMG_8083

For the three of us I got:

  • intense, delicious brownie
  • a honey pie (!) with fresh apricots (!) pistachios (!) and a crispy phyllo top layer
  • four types of macarons
  • this beautiful pink creation, below
IMG_8084

It involved chocolate mousse and almondy cake and raspberries and I forget what else but it was quite remarkable.

A few more outdoor dining adventures too…

I find the food at Namu really unremarkable. But the outdoor ambiance is great. Next time I’ll just go there for a beverage.

IMG_8153

Dulce in Durham has really nice gazpacho, and as a side dish, instead of just plain bread, they give you a mini grilled cheese sandwich! ❤️❤️❤️

IMG_8179

Because my beloved Andrea is in New York we could not eat together alfresco but we could use the Netflix Together app to cowatch a really stupid rom com while eating our respective meals.

IMG_8058

Finally, to wrap up the randomness of this post, a series of slides from a fascinating lil webinar I attended about the gut-brain connection in eating disorder treatment. We are just starting to learn about the gut!

IMG_8159
IMG_8160
IMG_8161
IMG_8164

plate method

Honestly I often do use MyPlate to plan my meals, because I don’t want to be a total hypocrite when I recommend it to my patients, and because it does a solid job creating a satisfying and nutritionally balanced meal.

Here’s an example:

IMG_8053

Another collaborative meal with the man. Chicken sausage (1/4 of the plate is protein), corn on the cob (1/4 of the plate is starch), and a lovely selection of cucumbers, tomato/basil salad, and cabbage with vinegar and herbs and peanuts (1/2 of the plate is fruits and/or vegetables, skewing toward vegetables ideally especially if you have blood sugar issues).

IMG_8054

Let the record state that the manfriend made the cabbage and I never would’ve come up with the combo and it was great. Let the record also state I went back for more chicken because the portion was rather small.

Another meal made by the boyf, this one all him with me doing NO WORK.

IMG_7967

Grilled cheese (bread= starch, cheese= protein, and uh of course fat haha), soup with veggies, beans, and a bit of meat (more starch, more protein, a bit of veg), and big salad (veg).

IMG_7969

I’ve made Smitten Kitchen’s crispy rice bowls a gazillion times in part because they are so nicely balanced. Brown rice (starch, and a whole grain to boot), fried eggs (protein), and lots of nice cool vinegary veggies. Plus healthy fats and a bit more veg from the dressing.

IMG_7972

A simple work lunch- kale salad (veg, plus a bit of protein and starch and fat from nuts and cheese and crispy breadcrumbs) leftover baked tofu (protein), cornbread (starch).

Here was a nice little thing I did with farmer’s market carrots:

IMG_7973

I followed-ish a recipe that recommended roasting them with thyme and olive oil and then topping with crumbled goat cheese.

IMG_7977

Rounded out that veggie/protein/fat serving with smoked fish (more protein), cornbread (starch) and more of the kale salad above.

Another celebration of farmer’s market ingredients:

IMG_7980

Transplanting Traditions is a great local farm that supports refugees. They tend to have some interesting crops. This particular week I tried water spinach, which the farmer gals recommended making into a stir fry with soy sauce and garlic. I added some sweet onion as well, and some shrimp for protein, and some rice on the side for starch. It was smashing! Though man does spinach shrink when you cook it!

IMG_7983

A dreamy salad: farmer’s market greens, peaches, goat cheese, homemade vinaigrette. Fruit and veg with fat and a hint of protein.

IMG_7984

Rounded out with roasted chickpeas for protein and starch.

Yeah, this was DEFINITELY not a big enough meal haha. Went back for more snacks of some kind.

IMG_8017

I had some leftover chipotle honey marinade from another cooking project so I sauteed some shrimp (protein) and zucchini (veg) with that and then had rice on the side. Simple and good!

IMG_7963

Quick weekday lunch: toasted bread (starch), roasted cherry tomatoes with olive oil (veg, healthy fat), and veggie burger (protein, starch).

Occasionally I am extra virtuous and only want a salad for lunch (very very occasionally haha)

IMG_7966

Smitten Kitchen’s kale salad.

IMG_7993

And here is cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe’s (surprisingly good as long as you ignore the package directions and do not add any water. Just sautee in oil/butter). I have it with sage from my yard!

And now we depart from the theme and simply acknowledge that sometimes I eat All The Carbs.

IMG_8014

Pancakes, one with sauteed peaches and one with peanut butter.

IMG_8041

Trader Joes tomato basil burrata ravioli (swoon!) with blistered tomatoes

IMG_8045

Homemade panzanella- leftover cornbread, tomatoes, basil, buttermilk-ish dressing.

IMG_8047

Pasta alla Norma from Ottolenghi simple. Such a lovely celebration of fresh summer produce. The eggplant was uh-mazing.

IMG_7960

And crispy peach cobbler from Smitten Kitchen. I confess it makes a great breakfast!

emerging

Smitten Kitchen’s bolognese was one of the better things that came out of spring 2020. Highly recommend. (I goofed and got a can of whole tomatoes instead of tomato paste and there were no adverse effects whatsoever).

IMG_7782

I do recommend making it the night before you eat it just because rather a lot of beef fat collects at the top and it gets a bit greasy. (Note that I got 85% lean beef- she tells you to do 80-85% so if you do the former it will be even greasier). But the fat is easy to scrape off once it’s chilled.

Spaghetti and meat sauce and salad is really one of life’s perfect meals. My boyf is indifferent to pasta but likes meat sauce very much.

IMG_7784

My boyfriend has kids so he always has maraschino cherries and reddi whip at his home. CAN YOU EVEN?! I went through a phase where I was having like, daily, albeit tiny, ice cream sundaes. V thrilling.

IMG_7785

Speaking of sugar I went and did a backyard hangout with my friends who have two young kids. Their youngest has been losing her mind a little bit (she is a frenetic extrovert). She was thrilled to have a visitor and had tons of fun making loud announcements to me, such as, “I HAVE A BELLY BUTTON.”

The mama of the family just graduated with her masters (!) so I made the whole crew a batch of these nutella muffins. Dreamy!

IMG_7807

Another day I had lettuce from the boyf’s deck (!) plus some herbs and snap peas from my friends’ garden (!) so I made the loveliest freshest little salad and had it with some cheesy whole wheat crepes. I did not hate this classy French-ish meal! (Went back for another crepe or two I think, and knowing me spread it with peanut butter).

IMG_7817

Farmer’s market kale makes lovely salad. Tried this one from Smitten Kitchen. Garlicky bread crumbs are never a bad idea.

IMG_7826

A more basic salad (a kit from Trader Joe’s I think), a veggie burger, and some roasted sweet potatoes. Not all meals are glamorous haha.

IMG_7860

Smitten Kitchen crispy rice bowls, the dish I make more than anything else.

IMG_7868

I had an avocado turn brown and nasty so I threw it out into the bed at the side of my back patio. An informal composting system (lol) I’ve created. The squirrels LOVE me and turn out to love even brown and mushy avocados.

IMG_7788

My friend had a small backyard gathering (!!!) and the world felt almost normal for a little bit! A hot dog on the grill! A Coke Zero! Such treasures I never have in my house!

IMG_7816

I was suuuuuuuch a dietitian and brought two types of salads. In my defense they were great. Summer squash ribbons with oregano, basil and lemon (a long time favorite which is yellow squash’s highest calling) and a basic arugula salad with homemade vinaigrette and walnuts.

On the fitness front, I took a barre class with my friend Lesli.

The setting was absolutely lovely- we had some unseasonably pleasant days and with shade and breeze the outdoor class was perfect. It’s in a random shopping center by a highway that has the most beautiful courtyard ever that all the surrounding businesses share.

And there is a CAT COLONY! I lovingly observed them before the class started.

IMG_7820

As in previous times I have been suckered into taking barre classes, my hip flexors began spasming uncontrollably not long after starting the ab work. There’s something about holding myself in a boat pose that my hips just hate. Argh. The class was still good though.

Other exercise has happened in the park. I already knew to be vigilant for little snek friends, but an enthusiastic neighbor has made (and laminated!) these very wholesome signs.

IMG_7964

A tangent: my employer, Duke, in the light of George Floyd’s death and ensuing events, held a Living While Black event. Duke students, profs, staff, etc. shared their experiences and we heard from some really badass speakers.

Some visuals that stuck out to me:

IMG_7884

For the people who don’t believe in white privilege:

IMG_7885

If you think being color blind is enough you aren’t paying enough attention.

IMG_7888

Now for something very different and very cute…

the boyf’s lil girl graduated from preschool. He made her a unicorn cake.

IMG_7828

And for the proud big brother, a lego cake.

IMG_7829

I can’t even. He sent me pictures of them with a #nailedit hashtag 😂

A fun evening with the boyf… collaborative dinner!

IMG_7850

I brought all the random leftovers from my house. Another incarnation of the sale kale salad as above, roasted sweet potato wedges, mac n cheese with roasted tomatoes, red lentil dal, roasted golden beets.

He made turkey sandwiches. They were BY FAR the best part of the meal hahaha. I need to stop being so extra sometimes and just stick to the basics.

Another amazing basic the boy makes:

IMG_7864

Homemade Caesar dressing. SWOON! Plus croutons (which he made from frying stale BISCUITS, oh boy. He’s a true Southerner) and diced hard boiled egg.

Aaaaaand… the lettuce was grown on his balcony!

IMG_7843

I sent him this post from Wholefully on starting a pandemic garden and he friggin ran with it!

IMG_7872

It is now too hot and the lettuces have bolted but the peppers are still crushing it.

And the squash blossoms which are just the cutest.

IMG_7870

Another day I was sort of losing my mind freaking out about missing out on the joys of summer- my favorite season!- due to this friggin pandemic.

So I made N have a picnic with me.

IMG_7874

Chicken salad, 1/2 a tofu banh mi, watermelon feta salad, ants on a log, corn on the cob. YES.

IMG_7875