Category Archives: Family

Bringing Your Attention to a New Feature…

About a month ago, my mom asked if I had ever considered including some sort of index on my blog where people could easily locate recipes that I have posted.

I’ve been hesitant to do this. Partially because I still have some adolescent resistance to doing things my parents suggest, even if it’s something I had thought of myself.

Mainly, though, it’s because I don’t see this as a food blog. It’s a mix of things that I’m interested in sharing, and as it turns out, a lot of the time, I’m interested in food.  (Probably because, as busy as grad school can get, I still have to eat.)  But I have absolutely no culinary training.  I’m completely inconsistent in the format I use to share recipes.  In fact, a lot of the time, I just include a link to the original recipe.  And the meals that I post that are my original creations are very loose and most certainly have not been tested beyond, “This is what I made for dinner and this is what I think I remember about how I did it.”

I like to think of it as being reflective of how I would converse with friends about cooking- sharing recipes, ideas, and improvisations. But the benefit of a blog is that it’s like having all of these conversations archived and available to refer back to.  And having an index certainly makes that easier.

So, now you can find all the recipes and I’ve ever talked about right here, and there’s a handy Recipe Index tab on the home page.  You can thank my mom.

 

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Pan-Seared Scallops and Corn-Bacon Hash

Salt. Pepper. Heat. And a little butter or oil.

Good proteins like a really good filet or pork chop need little else to be awesome.

I’m thinking about a helicopter parenting metaphor when it comes to cooking. What I mean by that is you are not doing your meat (or your kids) any favors by constantly poking and prodding and turning. Instead, it’s better to prep them with the essentials, throw them in a hot pan, and then just keep a watchful eye from a distance and know when to intervene (coming in part from intuition and part from reading the words of experts).

Is this an odd way to think about it? Yes. But that’s what happens when someone studying child development enters the kitchen.

If you think this is a weird way to think about it, just imagine if I reversed the metaphor and told parents they should treat their children like a top quality steak. (Actually, in some crowds, I could see that being effective.)

I might be making the link between kids and cooking because today’s recipe comes from Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner: A Love Story, which focuses on making real, doable family dinners. I should note that I have not read anything in her cookbook or her blog that makes reference to cooking her children. Instead, both the book and the blog are filled with recipes, ideas, and inspiration for making dinners to share with the ones you love, whether it be a do-ahead chicken salad for a school night or fancier fare for entertaining adults.

Dinner: A Love Story was one of two blog-based cookbooks I received for Christmas, and the one that I read entirely before New Year’s. Even though Jenny is oriented towards providing support for parents who are trying to have regular dinners with their children, I still feel a connection to her writing. Reading through her book, I get a sense that we have similar philosophies about cooking and eating. Her partnership with her husband, Andy, and their collaborative efforts remind me of my relationship with Nick. I actually first discovered the blog through a Bon Appetit column (shocking, I know). It consisted of a series of text messages between Jenny and Andy discussing what kind of dinner they could conjure up using the random ingredients at home.

I have only cooked one thing from the book so far, but it is a winner.

I remember attempting to cook scallops for Nick early in our relationship. I don’t think it was disastrous, but I remember a lot of anxiety about undercooking the scallops (stemming from a poor decision made by a six-year-old Sarah to steal a raw scallop off a plate being prepped for cooking) as well as overcooking the scallops (stemming from many poor decisions to order scallops in restaurants that did just that). Actually, one time, I was convinced that the fried scallops were actually cylindrically-cut pieces of some type of white fish.

Anyway, I am sure that when I cooked scallops in the past, I turned them constantly.  For a long time, I think I did this with most meats, thinking that was the way to ensure even cooking. Don’t do that. You are not trying to recreate a rotisserie in a skillet. Also, searing works far better in a stainless skillet, rather than nonstick.

I know I said that good protein needs nothing more than salt and pepper. But when you sear scallops (or other proteins) in a pan, it leaves behind these tasty little brown bits (quite possibly my favorite culinary term) that you do not want to lose. So making a simple pan sauce with a little wine and lemon juice, butter, and garlic takes advantage of the brown bits without taking away from the scallops. In this recipe, the pan sauce also gets drizzled into the side dish of corn-bacon hash. Which, as declared by Nick, was the best corn ever.

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Pan-Seared Sea Scallops and Corn-Bacon Hash (adapted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach)

Note: I suggest making the Corn-Bacon Hash first and then drizzling the pan sauce over it just before serving. Mostly because I wanted to use the same skillet for both recipes.

Corn-Bacon Hash

1 strip of bacon (I was tempted to do more but one strip really was plenty)

1 minced shallot

4 ears of corn, kernels cut off (Or, if you are lazy, one 12-ounce bag of frozen corn)

5-6 chopped basil leaves

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan (reserving fat in pan), blot with paper towel, and chop into pieces.  Add shallot to the bacon fat* and stir until soft, about 1 minute. Add corn and cook for 2 minutes. (If using frozen corn, cook longer, until heated through.) Add corn and chopped bacon to a bowl and stir in basil, and season with salt and pepper. Once scallops and pan sauce are prepared, drizzle some of the pan sauce into the corn.

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

20-24 sea scallops**, rinsed and patted dry (this is important for getting a good sear) and seasoned with salt and pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

Juice from 1/2 lemon

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil. When the pan is hot but not smoking, add as many scallops as you can without crowding the pan and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. (I used a small spatula to flip them. Make sure you get all the way under the scallop so you don’t lose the brown crust.) Remove scallops and cook the rest. (While cooking the next batch I kept the cooked scallops on a plate tented with foil.)

After all the scallops are seared, lower the heat to medium and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Then add the garlic and cook briefly until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Make sure the garlic does not burn.

Add the wine and lemon juice and turn heat to high, scraping the brown bits off the pan. Let the liquid boil down until it is slightly syrupy, and remove from heat. Drizzle sauce over scallops, reserving some for the corn.

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*If you think sauteing shallots in butter or oil smells good, just wait until you saute it in bacon fat.

**I purchased scallops by the pound, and one pound had twelve scallops, so I would guess 20-24 would be about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds.

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Wise Words From Myself, Six Years Ago

Last January, my sister (who is far more organized and on top of things than I am) volunteered her time on a Saturday to be my moral support while I worked on cleaning out our office.  By moral support, I mean that she helped me from getting too distracted, or rewarding thirty minutes of work with a three-hour “break”.  And thanks to her guidance, one year ago, we had a functioning office where I could sit by the window and read, work on the computer, or clear out enough space on the desk to do some painting.

One year later, the reading chair has a two-foot-tall pile of books and random stuff on it, I choose to use my laptop in the living room, and while there technically is room to paint, the overall clutter and dust (oh, the dust…) makes it a less-than-inspiring space.  About the dust- the office unfortunately also serves as the home for the litter boxes (joys of apartment living).  Thus this room accumulates dust about 20 times faster than the rest of our apartment.  I try to keep up with it, but once the chair got reclaimed as a clutter receptacle in the fall, there was less motivation to enter that room for any reason other than cleaning the litter boxes.

I really didn’t intend to tell you all that. This is not supposed to be about my disorganization and questionable cleaning skills.

What it is supposed to be about is the fact that I do enjoy office cleaning and organization because of all the fabulous things I find. Today I decided to make some effort to get the room back in order.  So far, I have found the following:

  • a lock that Nick gave me two years ago so that I could safely stow my laptop while at school.  Only this past fall when I started teaching did I really feel a need for it, and of course at that point I could not find it.  And somehow between now and then I created a false memory that Nick asked if he could use it for something. (I have no idea what. Sorry, Nick.)
  • an X-acto knife that has been missing for several months but I gave up on because I created a false memory that Nick broke it and promised to buy me another one.  (Seriously, Nick, I’m really sorry. Don’t worry, I didn’t hold it against you.)
  • a book that one of my favorite friends gave me for Christmas several years ago. This wasn’t necessarily lost, but anytime something reminds me of Katie it makes me happy.
  • a card that another friend/former coworker gave me when we were both leaving our jobs.
  • a journal with two entries, presumably when I was wanting to start a new journal, perhaps one that focused more on personal growth instead of boyfriends. (Note- I have since returned to writing in the latter, about 4-5 times a year.  I’m happy to say there is a good balance between talk about personal growth and husband, but not boyfriends.)

The first entry is from November 2006, just after I graduated with my masters degree in psychology, got my nose pierced, and started what would be almost nine months of temping in the legal department of a national food distributor while searching for a “real job”.  The nose piercing lasted just about as long as the temp job- on the first day of orientation for my real job, I was quickly informed that the piercing had to go.

Anyway, this first entry is a list of goals, not unsimilar to about 100 lists I have made since then:

11/21/06   Things I Want to Work Toward:

  • Painting on a regular basis (That coming year I definitely did. Since then… well, see above about the office.)
  • Writing more often (Oh honey, I don’t think you meant scholarly papers, but yeah… you’re writing more often, trust me.)
  • Reviewing Spanish (Does our honeymoon in Mexico count?)
  • Finally reading the wine textbook I have (That hasn’t happened. I think it’s in a box in the basement. Also, you’ll be shocked to know that your wine consumption has decreased greatly.)
  • Reading more. (Not always, but probably averaging more books/year now.)
  • Taking care of myself: less time at the computer, more time outdoors or exercising; cooking more and eating less pre-prepared foods (Let’s start with the good news: cooking more and eating better? Yes, absolutely. Unless you’re talking about during finals. The computer vs. outdoors and exercise thing is still a constant challenge.)
  • Starting to review for the GRE’s in case I want to take them next year (Well, you don’t take them until 2009, but I can tell you that you rocked them.)
  • Continue expanding my social circle and maintain the positive friendships I have right now (Some of the friends are the same, some that seemed positive at the time really were not. And you’ve accumulated some amazing newer friends since then, too.)

The second, and final entry:

2/7/07

Enjoy right now. Enjoy having a job you don’t care about because it means you’re not tied down. You can take a day off in the middle of the week and sleep in, have a late lunch with a best friend and a bottle of wine.

(Yeah, that probably was not the best idea.)

Enjoy not feeling pressured to find someone to date and being content to be at home on a Saturday night. Enjoy knowing what’s ahead of you: A great job or an experience at another school;

(Done and done.)

A man (or a woman) who makes you forget the one who got away;

(Yes. Well, the man part. The woman part never happened, but nice to know I was open to possibilities.)

Fantastic trips and adventures that you can only imagine right now.

(Some, but still imagining others.)

Inevitably, there will be a time 5, 10, 20 years from now that you miss where you are in this moment. So enjoy it. Embrace the challenge (ok, fear) of barely living paycheck to paycheck. Embrace not having anyone else to worry about and getting to do exactly what you want to do. For the first time you’re checking off the things on your to-do list. And constantly finding new things to add.

It concludes with some cheesiness marveling about how it had been four years since I turned 21 and how time moves so quickly. Oh, 25-year-old Sarah, you have no clue. But despite that, you had some admirable ideas and aspirations. It’s good to see I haven’t let you down.

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Nick and Sarah’s (Almost) Conflict-Free Lasagna

(Or, A Very Belated Christmas Recap, Part 2)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Nick and I both like to cook, but we don’t cook together. Generally our worldviews on food (foodviews?) are pretty different. Remember the Chicken Maryland argument of 2009?

Sure, sometimes we’ve divvied up a meal and each worked independently on separate dishes. And we have collaborated on pizzas but that usually involves a lot of compromise and more inner turmoil on my part than you would ever imagine. I just go to my happy place and smile and nod while Nick applies the cheese in a way that goes against all my culinary and aesthetic sensibilities. (And to be fair, it turns out great.)

Somehow, however, we can make a great lasagna together. And by together I mean absolute 50/50 effort, putting things into the same pan, and having to coordinate with each other.

We did this for Christmas dinner to take over to my parents. There was a moment when Nick got impatient with my meticulous layering on the spinach, one leaf at a time. But instead of making an issue of it, he just suggested that he work on the spinach and redirected me to preparing the next noodle layer. His impatience did get the best of him later on when he grabbed a spoon from me and dumped out the rest of the sauce that I was carefully pouring out. I resisted throwing a handful of shredded mozzarella at him and simply explained I had been trying to reserve some sauce for another layer, but no problem, we’ll improvise!

So we rode out those momentary glitches. In the end we still liked each other and we produced a beautiful lasagna for dinner.

It was a Christmas miracle.

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I was too excited about the lasagna to remember to take pictures until we had devoured the majority of it. For those of you who feel cheated and are terribly disappointed to not see the lasagna in its entirety, this is a different, but similar-looking and equally delicious, Nick and Sarah lasagna:

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Back when I started writing this right after Christmas, I had planned on including the recipe. Now… I don’t remember the recipe, since we kinda made it up.  I did not eat a lot of lasagna growing up, but I know a lot of people who are very picky about lasagna. Typically, the criterion for these individuals seems to be whether the lasagna was prepared by their mother, and if it was not, it’s no good.  I’d love to hear what others think makes or breaks a lasagna, but in my limited experience, it seems like if you have decent, fresh ingredients, it’s pretty hard to mess up.  We used Giada’s recipe in Everyday Italian as a guide, if you happen to be looking for a recipe.

Oh, I made an antipasti* platter for Christmas, too.  And since it looked pretty, I had to share it. Best appetizer ever- no cooking and the prep is limited to finding some yummy things at Wegman’s olive bar (which you might remember that I love), cutting up some cheeses and veggies, rolling up some meats, and making it look all fancy.

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*Okay, it is antipasti, antipasto, or antipasta? I came across all three when I was looking for ideas. Can someone who is familiar with the Italian language and/or cuisine explain this to me?

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Something for Everyone: Chickpea Stew and Much-Anticipated Christmas Card Photos

Final paper submitted: check.

Final exams graded: check.

Final grades submitted: check.

Return to healthy eating: check. Kind of.

It was disturbing that I was pretty certain that I could count on two hands the number of vegetables I had consumed since Thanksgiving. So as soon as the semester was finished, I wanted to get some nutritious meals in my stomach, especially before I started baking and filling myself with sugar through cookie taste-tests (which are clearly necessary). I was also eager to take some time to cook a yummy dinner for Nick, who has been incredibly helpful and supportive (as always) while I was wrapping up the semester.

This recipe from Bon Appetit from Chickpea Stew looked like a good start. Quick and easy, lots of healthy ingredients. I made a couple of changes from the original:

  • As usual, organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs were not to be found at the store, so I used one large chicken breast instead. In the first step, where the chicken is browned, I seasoned it with both salt and some smoked paprika.
  • I drizzled some olive oil on the bread cubes and toasted them for about 15 minutes while the chicken was cooking.
  • Based on reviewers’ suggestions, I substituted four cups of chicken broth for the water. I also stirred in a few generous handfuls of torn kale at this step.

Delicious. There are no photos, but it’s not a particularly pretty dish, so you’re not missing much. But please do try it.

And now the holiday preparations can begin.

All of the gifts have been purchased. All of the cookie baking supplies have been stocked. And, most importantly, our Christmas cards have been sent.

This was the winner:

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Yes, I am wearing a tiara. And yes, Nick is wearing bronzer. And white eyeshadow to enhance the, “Oh crap, I left my sunglasses on” look. The facial hair is real. He grew his beard out for a month in preparation. Now that’s dedication.

Some other favorites:

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I was disappointed that none of the pictures with the cats made the cut for the card. But I do like this one where they seem to be reaching out to comfort each other.

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I would say the response to our card has been about 75% positive, 10% confused, and 15% silent. And now Nick and I are stuck trying to figure out how to top it next year.

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Random Moments of Happiness: Days 24-25

Day 24: Online DIY Crafts. What is it about this time of year that suddenly makes me want to make crafts? Eleven months out of the year, I have nothing more than the occasional fleeting thought about wanting to DIY anything. But as Christmas creeps near, suddenly I find myself stalking blogs and Pinterest boards and having an urge to raid the aisles of Michael’s or Hobby Lobby for hot glue guns, decorative paper, hole punches, and Xacto knives.  Last year, I made about seventy (give or take) gift bows out of magazine pages.

Most recently I’ve been lurking about How About Orange.  Who knew you could make tiny boxes out of paint swatches, or that paper snowflakes could look this good? And there might just be some other ones that I’m not going to share right now in case I want to use them for Christmas presents….

Day 25: Awkward Family Christmas Photo Shoot, 2012.Yep, it happened. We still have to design the cards and get them printed, but the hard (and fun) part is over.  I still can’t tell you very much. But I will tell you that my sister (our photographer) at one point said, “This just seems wrong.” And at another point, “I’m uncomfortable!”  Mission accomplished. Don’t worry, we compensated Emily for her time and discomfort. With chili.

 

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Random Moments of Happiness: Day 22

Thanksgiving… Nick and I realized this was our fifth Thanksgiving together. Sixth, if you count the first year where he cooked dinner for me on Thanksgiving Eve. It always amazes me how when I think about things like that, I cannot believe we have been together that long, but at the same time cannot imagine my life without him.

Sorry for that little sappy tangent, but it has a purpose, I promise.

At some point in my mid-twenties, I signed up for eHarmony. Do you remember when dating sites were considered somewhat taboo? I remember being super-embarrassed to tell people I had met someone on Match.com. But now that I think about it, several of my good friends met their spouses through various sources on the internet. Nick actually happens to be the only boyfriend I didn’t meet online, although Myspace did facilitate a lot of our early communications.

Okay, now that tangent had less of a purpose.

I think what I was getting at was that on eHarmony, one of the recommended prompts for early communications with potential soul mates was something along the lines of “What would your ideal holidays with your partner be like?” I cannot remember what my exact response was at that time, but I suspect it would have said something about wanting a nice balance between quiet time with just the two of us and time spent with our immediate families. Nothing rushed or requiring too much running around.

The awesome thing is that Nick and I have pretty much achieved that. Our Thanksgiving morning consisted of Nick’s finest breakfast sandwiches to date (did you know they make giant sandwich-sized English muffins, now??), the soundtrack to a Muppet movie (Nick will have to tell you which one), and lazily hanging around reading (yes, on Thanksgiving, I was reading about Christmas cookie recipes in the December issue of Bon Appetit).

Then we drove over the Bay Bridge and through the woods (kind of) to Nick’s sister’s house for a low-key, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner with his family. I think I mentioned this last year, but I am so appreciative that we both have families who are very flexible and understanding about us having two families to spend holidays with. There are no demands about having to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day, or requests for us to eat two Thanksgiving dinners in one day. So, to all of our family members, thank you for not being crazy. At least in this regard.

Also, I am thankful for having in-laws who do not judge me for changing into yoga pants after dessert. (Not so much because I needed an elastic waistband… I was just tired of wearing a skirt and having to sit like a lady.)

Besides the good company and food, the other Thanksgiving perk was getting to see Bailey and Matilda’s cousins, Tigger and Katie. Tigger is like a short-haired, orange B-cat. This was our first time meeting Katie, and while she is still warming up to people, I did get a few head hugs.  Also, both of them have really cute white feet, which is one thing that B and Matilda are lacking.

The formula to a good Thanksgiving: family, food, and felines.

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