Category Archives: Cooking & Baking

On Friday Night Pizza

Once upon a time in a far off land I did not have a child. It seems like a dream that at some point in my life I slept in on weekends and just went and did things like shopping at the mall without giving anyone any notice.

In that far off time before The Sprout Friday night was often sushi night. My husband and I would text each other and determine we would meet up at our normal sushi place at a specific time. Or sometimes I would head to his workplace (which was close to said sushi place) and we would roll with some of other equally carefree childfree people for sushi. Mmmm sushi! It was a great way to herald in the weekend. No cooking, no dishes, full of good food as we went to bed, ready to have an awesome weekend.

Those days ended shortly after The Sprout. We took The Sprout to our sushi place a time or two. He enjoyed rice and nori. It was good times. Then our sushi place moved to a much smaller location, where we could not stake out a small table in the back away from the carefree childfree folk. And Friday Night Sushi was no more.

I love cooking. I do. Friday night I never want to cook. I don’t even want to exert the tiny amount of brain power to figure out what I would cook if I wanted to cook. I just want to shove food in my mouth and celebrate that for 2 blissful days I do not have to explain what a deposition is to anyone.

After Friday night sushi was no more we floundered (pun intended). We would try going out, but Friday nights at restaurants with a kid is one of Dante’s levels of hell (the 5th one with all the sullen people & crazies fighting each other). It was not relaxing and did not make me feel excited for the weekend. It made me wish I was back in my quiet office alone. Then we tried delivery of various iterations. This was the best solution but delivery on Friday night seems to take eternity (1st level of the inferno  in limbo hanging with Homer). Plus it never failed that something I had ordered specifically for myself it ALWAYS what got left out of our order. I apparently have some sort of bad delivery karma. Plus the Mister and I would spend an HOUR (this may be an exaggeration) trying to agree on where to get delivery from. And then was there something The Sprout would eat. The Sprout has high standards when it comes to food, like most three year olds. So we would finally eat dinner at 9pm. I am not European or something, I do not believe in dinner at 9pm. 9pm is for watching your DVR.

Finally (it only took me three years) I solved the problem. Fridays are Pizza night. All three of us like pizza. There are about a million ways to have pizza. There is relatively little clean up from pizza. Problem solved! I highly recommend making your Friday night Pizza night or whatever easy meal you and your family love that doesn’t require lots of time or energy. It has made Fridays awesome. We all look forward to pizza. We eat at a normal time. I don’t end up with lots of dishes and I again feel excited and energized to start the weekend.

One of the many pizzas we have eaten are English Muffin Pizzas, which The Sprout loved helping make.

On Cooking Ahead

It is no secret that I love cooking. However, the last three months have been extremely hectic, which has meant on daily basis cooking just wasn’t happening. Determined not to start living out of take out containers I started spending time on Sundays, the one relatively calm day, cooking so that the week would have home cooking. Here is what I turn to to cook ahead of time.

1. Steel Cut Oats in the Crock Pot: I love steel cut oats but I don’t think in the entire time I have known of their existence I have ever had time to cook them without a crock pot. This recipe is so easy and makes enough for 2 people for about 2 to 3 days.

2. Egg White Muffins: Another good office breakfast option. I use silicone muffin cupswhich save time in clean up as the egg releases better than from a muffin pan. I usually just use whatever I can find in the fridge for these. I like to throw some spinach because it is unoffensive and helps me eat more veggies. [Fancy recipes for more ideas]

3. Roast Chicken in the Crockpot: In all honesty, my husband is typically the one that cooks the chicken. Mondays we typically do some sort of meat in the crockpot to have it throughout the week and he has taken charge of the task. This is similar to the recipe he uses minus the cayenne. We did use cayenne the first time but it was a bit too sharp for our taste.

4. Salad Prep: I try to eat lots of salad especially for lunch. But the key to actually making salad is to prepping ahead. Like roasting beets and cooking grains to put in the salad ahead of time.



5 Things of Interest – The Suffering with a Cold Edition

These are some necessities for me when I am sick:

1. Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea: When I have a cold as of late, it seems to like to hang out in my throat, making me sound like Fran Drescher. This tea tastes good and helps ease sore and dry throats.

2. Cute and Comfy Lounge wear: As silly as it may seem, I like to have some cute lounge wear when I’m sick. Nothing worse than feeling bad and feeling ugly too. My in-laws got me a luxurious pair of pj pants from Anthropolgie that are perfect for still feeling stylish while I hack up a lung.

3. Chicken and rice soup: Skip the noodles please. The noodles in chicken noodle soup are rarely good and after being bogged down in broth they are not improved. I recently made awesome chicken and wild rice soup. 1) dice half a yellow onion and a garlic clove or two, cook in some olive oil until tender 2) aid veggies, I like carrots and celery diced in the food processor, cook for a little bit. 3) add chicken and some chicken stock. I just bought a pre-made rotisserie chicken and stripped it and store bought stock. If you feel ambitious you could make your own. 4) Add some water and let simmer for a while so all the flavors mix.

4. Ricola: Again, my colds tend to reside in my chest/throat. Ricola isn’t super sweet or chemically tasting. Although I prefer the lemon and honey flavor.

5. Netflix: I don’t get to enjoy as much movie and tv as I once did before my son was born but if he is off at daycare or asleep, netflix is my go to for some bad tv or movie to take my mind off my suffering.

On My Latest Obsession, Coconuts

The past two months or so I have become a bit obsessed with coconut. It’s gotten so bad when I saw something coconut at the grocery recently and wanted to buy it, my husband looked at me with a serious and slightly concerned look and asked “Are you sure you aren’t pregnant?” (I’m not! Don’t start a bump watch!)

I thought it was time to catalog some of the amazing and not so amazing things I have tried that contain coconut.

1. Watermelon Cake with Coconut Whipped Cream Frosting: I am not a huge watermelon fan as the texture always seems slightly gritty to me. However, at the time we were having a heat wave so a no-bake, cold cake sounded ideal, plus coconut whipped cream. The coconut whipped cream made this for me. Honestly, I could probably eat foam peanuts with coconut whipped cream slathered on them.

2. Nature’s Path Coconut Chia Granola: You see? It’s got chia so it’s good for me. In case you were asking yourself, “Chia? Like Chia Pet?” Yep! Apparently, it’s not just good for growing fake pets but good for you (and good at getting stuck between your teeth). This granola is addictive. I have had plenty of days when I have eaten this for breakfast AND an afternoon snack.

3. Fearless Chocolate Exploding Coconuts: Fearless Chocolate gives grants to do good, which is awesome. And the actual chocolate is tasty. Disappointingly, the coconut in this was not very strong. I was hoping for coconuts exploding in my mouth, instead it was more like someone whispering the word “coconut “while I ate chocolate. C’est la vie.

4. So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage: Since actual coconut milk is super thick (see recipe above for making coconut whipped cream) so for drinkable coconut milk, you have to get something designated “beverage.” It is a tasty drink, cold. My first taste was a small glass cold with an Uncle Eddie’s Trail Mix Cookie. I started to consider making a resolution that I only eat vegan desserts. It was that tasty (plus I thought it would be a good weight reducing strategy since it would limit my dessert options a little.) Then I either pulled the worse shot of espresso (totally possible) or I made a huge mistake in steaming coconut milk. I thought it would be an ideal latte milk but my latte tasted like I licked the outside of a coconut. I couldn’t even finish it.

So there you go. It really doesn’t seem that bad in black and white. Except this list doesn’t include the Whole Food doughnuts and cookies I have bought out of the pastry case because they were coconut something or rather. Then you’d probably be giving me the side-eye too. But when I was pregnant with my son my only craving was sparkling water so, I think we’re safe.

On My Month As a Vegetarian

Prior my husband moving in with me a few thousand years ago (or 10 but who’s counting) I had become a vegetarian; except when I went out to eat. This was for two reasons 1) handling raw meat kind of gives me the icks (also known as the heebie jeebies) 2) I was pretty broke.

When he moved in he demanded three things change 1) we have a TV 2) we have furniture over three feet tall* 3) we have meat available to eat. As the ever accommodating partner that I am (or stubborn strong willed. You say potato…) I only grudgingly gave into these things including having meat on the regular.

I continued to be kind of indifferent to meat. Yes, I have my days when I crave a hamburger or other meaty option but just as often I have a hankering for a veggie burger. As any good couple, my husband and I rubbed off on each other.  I got him to eat more vegetarian meals and he got me to eat meat more often.

Now we fast-forward to June of this year. My husband and I tried not to eat meat for every single meal. We would do vegetarian Indian dishes one night and hamburgers the next. We had discussed the vegetarian diet numerous times but my husband felt he liked meat too much to give it up. Still it intrigued both us. We kept saying “sometime we should just try being vegetarian for a month.” Toward the end of June, we volunteered to bring food to our good friends who were having their second child and the woman is vegetarian. I was pulling up all my favorite vegetarian recipes trying to choose what I wanted to make. I causally said we should pick July to try to be vegetarian for a month and my husband agreed. And so it began.

The Pros of the Month:

1)   It forced us to shake up our dinners: We had kind of been in a dinner doldrums. We had a lot of go to meals we made every week because they were easy and we couldn’t think of what else to fix. When we couldn’t have hamburgers or spaghetti with meat sauce, we had to shake things up. We tried a lot of new meals which were amazing.

Carrot & Garbanzo Bean Salad (cannot find actual recipe; was similar to this one)

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

We also realized Rao’s Roasted Eggplant Spaghetti Sauce was AMAZING with tofu instead of ground beef or ground turkey.

2)   We discovered some new restaurants and food options out that we might have passed over if meat had been an option.

Doomies Home Cooking was great (though not super healthy)

True Food Kitchen was stupendous and much healthier and also had meat options.

3)   We were mindful of the things we were eating in general. If you have any kind of restriction to your options, it makes you think about what you are going eat for sure.

The Cons of this Month

1)   We discovered fast food is very geared toward meat eaters. I am not saying there aren’t fast vegetarian options but it is much easier to find fast food hamburgers.

We were running errands and ended up at the mall to pick up some contacts I had ordered at Lenscrafters and were all hungry (including our almost 2 year old. In case you don’t know toddlers do not handle hunger well!) We figured the food court had to have something. It turned out the pickings were slim! We settled on Frida Taco  My husband and I got Calabasas Tacos, which were made with zucchini. I took our son to get a table and my husband waited for the tacos. When he eventually made it to the table I asked what took so long and he said they had to make the zucchini. Apparently we were the first people to order that option ever.

2)   The Hollywood Bowl does not have a lot of vegetarian options.

My job had an event at the Hollywood Bowl, which included dinner. There were 6 meals options and only one was vegetarian.  And I am not going to lie, it sucked. It didn’t taste bad but it was a sad pasta dish with some pathetic mushrooms and wilted spinach. Meanwhile my coworkers were noshing on amazing looking roasted chicken and thick cut pork chops. The only thing that saved our meal was a huge piece of cheesecake at the end.

3)   People are very concerned when you decide to go vegetarian.

I didn’t mind the conversations it prompted but the initial reaction could be a bit off putting. “A whole month!” was something I heard often. There were definitely time that I didn’t feel like having an extended conversation about what I was eating.

4)   I did not lose any weight.

I had hoped a side benefit of this experiment would be that I would lose weight. I did not. It turns out my favorite junk foods are vegetarian so it didn’t slow me down from some between meal snacking. That is something I just need to work on.

Overall it was a great experiment. The outcome has been that my husband and I have decided to become flexiterian. Basically keep eating mostly vegetarian  and throw in meat but only very high quality meat on occasion. We both realized we don’t really need meat to get through the day and we like the idea of challenging ourselves to eat healthier and more sustainably.

As of today the challenge is over. I have an awful cold so I haven’t left the house or felt very hungry and therefore not eaten any meat yet. My husband ate sushi for lunch to break his meat fast but indicated it was not as amazing as he expected and he was happy to continue on without much meat in his diet.


* I am 5’3” so when I was living by myself, I outfitted my apartment in furniture that I could easily maintain/reach the top of. Apparently it made my 6’ tall husband feel like he had moved into Lilliput.

5 Things of Interest

Eat: Avocado Fries – Oh. My. GOODNESS! I am a die hard avocado lover and I also love fries. It is the most amazing combination of foods I love since salty caramel ice cream!

Want: Kindle Cover from Etsy – This is such a cute and I love the idea of having a place to keep a mini moleskin WITH my Kindle.

Think: 10 Mindsets That Undercut Your Happiness – The title pretty much speaks for yourself.

Look: Afternoon Tea for Lunch – Afternoon is such a beautiful delicate meal and makes me feel so relaxed and happy. This picture captures that feeling well.

Laugh:Going to the Gym, As Told By Cats – Buzzfeed keeps me sane (or insane, your choice.)

5 Things of Interest

Eat: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake – I made that for my husband’s birthday. It was A-mazing! It was very rich though, a sliver was enough in any sitting. I advise coffee to go with it to balance.

Want: Retro Tin– I don’t really need this but my mom has these kinds of tins in her kitchen and it reminds me of my youth.

Think: When Did It Become Cool To Be Busy? – Stop talking about how many hours you’re putting in at work like that is a good thing. All things in moderation…

Look: Adorable Old Russian Couple – I hope my husband and I are this adorable in 40 years.

Laugh: F*** Yeah Lorelai Gilmore Tumblr – Been re-watching one of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls and stumbled upon this gem.

On Cooking and Connection

I am going to admit something; I am judgmental sometimes because it makes me feel better about my own flaws. I realize this is a horrible flaw in and of itself but there it is. This plays into my feelings about cooking. You see I have a lot of flaws when it comes to food. While I have friends who adhere to amazingly restrictive diets, some for health reasons, others because of strict moral code, I do not. In fact, my favorite meal is spaghetti with meat sauce, which 90 percent of my friends cannot eat for one reason or another. So how can I feel superior? I cook a majority of the meals I eat. I eat out for sure, and have lunches out with coworkers on occasion but for the most part, my husband or I make the majority of what I eat.

For a long time I made assumptions about why other people didn’t cook for themselves. Because I was up in my ivory tower of cooking feeling like I was awesome, I didn’t bother to ask anyone I knew why they weren’t cooking more. I just made assumptions. I decided recently I wanted to see what the deal was, so I posted on my twitter and Facebook the following: “If you are someone who does not regularly cook your own meals, why not? Truly curious.”

Some responses I got made me feel rather guilty for my feelings of superiority.

One friend who lives in New York City said he would like to cook more but lives in a place with a kitchen too small to store much food. This is not surprising since from what I have heard people live in closets in New York City. If he wants to cook he first had to go to the grocery store, adding an hour of preparation time to any meal.  Even though I love going to the grocery, I could see how doing it daily would start to wear on your desire to cook. His comments seemed tinged with sadness, that made me regret how I take for granted my huge kitchen with tons of cabinets

Another friend talked about her busy life and child. While I am busy and have a child, I feel very lucky; my employer has allowed me to have an alternative schedule. I am at the office early but leave by 5 p.m. most days, in time to spend time with my family and prepare a normal dinner. My friend works on several projects, as does her husband. When I added up the number of hours she works, I am doubtful she even gets a reasonable amount of sleep, little alone time to prepare a meal. When you add a child to the mix like that, she is probably lucky if she eats three meals a day regardless of where they come from. In addition, she is vegan so its not like spaghetti and meat sauce are an option for her.

Another friend posted a link to an article about a man who created a drink that could sustain an adult without the need for eating.

Though my friend pointed out that it was similar to having a smoothie or shake, the idea of giving up eating was depressing to me.  I understand the concept but to me it seems like going one step closer to treating myself like a machine versus an animal. As much as I love technology, I am not ready to be assimilated. I found the concept rather depressing because it basically seems to stem from a lack of time to eat a proper meal.

My antidotal sample seemed to point to a lack of time to cook, which isn’t a huge surprise to me. I think what surprised me is that the people who didn’t have time wished they did have time to cook. I guess, while busy feeling superior, I assumed people were content to eat out and it turns out to be untrue.

There are a million articles about work/life balance and I am not sure I am any more knowledge to add. In fact, it is something I have struggled with for a long time and will likely continue to struggle with for the foreseeable future. It seems cooking for ourselves is another causality of that battle. Another thing we have to delegate out. I think there is more emotion tied up in losing that ability than other tasks. I don’t think for example people mourn sending their laundry out versus doing it themselves (though I could totally be wrong on that, I know I feel nothing but joy for not having to do my own laundry from time to time when I choose to send it out.)

I think no matter what there are always emotions in eating. I am not just talking about  “eating your feelings.” I am talking about a connection. When you cook for yourself, you are creating a direct link between the raw ingredients and the final product that goes in your mouth. No matter how healthy you eat, when it is made by some unknown person like at a restaurant you lose a little of the connection. And the ability to prepare a meal for the people you love also creates connection. By having the delegate this aspect of our lives we are losing the connection to our food and ourselves and I think we all realize it. That is why my friends who don’t have time to cook aren’t joyful that they can let someone else cook for them all the time. They know they are missing out on a connection. They don’t get to see a raw mushroom that looks kind of weird transform into part of a delicious stir-fry. And they miss out on making something that their partner or child thinks is delicious and getting to enjoy that happiness.  They are missing the simple pleasure of satisfying your own hunger.

I wish I could wrap this up with an easy solution and make this less of a bummer. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution to making time in your life and figuring out how to use that time to feed yourself. In a world where people work 100 hours a week outside the home, finding time to squeeze in cooking is like playing a complicated version of Tetris. I think it is important to figure it out for all the ideas about connection that I discussed (and some I didn’t). Even if you aren’t cooking most of your meals, perhaps just making Sunday Supper a priority or Friday Pizza Night would be a start.  But like I said, it could be far more complicated for some than others to make the time.

Also, I am not going to feel all high and mighty anymore about my ability to cook most of my own meals. Instead, I am going to feel lucky and appreciative that I have the luxury of time to do so.

5 Things of Interest

Eat: Clean Eating Version of Nutella – Once I asked my mother if she liked other nut butters because she hates peanut butter and she said “I like Nutella.” Technically Nutella is hazelnut spread,true. But not exactly the same as other nut butters. Maybe I should try making this clean eating version for my mom.

Want: Stacked Layers V-Neck from Anthropolgie – If I have a million dollars, half would like go to buying beautiful clothes and things at Anthropolgie. This shirt is so fun and I could imagine wearing it with jeans or a cute skirt. I love clothes that can be dressed up or down.

Think: Exhaustion is not a status symbol – An excellent article on work/life balance and overcoming the idea that the most exhausted wins.

Look: Spines – Wind Sculpture – When I was in Japan 4 years ago, we saw wind sculptures and I thought they were so neat. This one is particular may make your eyes cross a little bit trying to figure it out.

Laugh: Baby Dancing to Beyonce – Once I had a kid, kids doing silly things became a lot funnier. I think even people without kids will get a kick out of this one though.

Meals-Made-at-Home Challenge #2 – Update

Being a working mom and trying to eating only stuff I make is not as easy as it sounds (like it really sounds easy to anyone). I would give myself a low C thus far.

The main culprit? Coffee. Gosh, I love coffee. And if you ever have a 1 year old and work full time, you will love coffee too. I tried to circumvent this issue last week by making cold brew coffee to keep in the fridge. My thought was I would pour myself some on the way out the door and therefore resist the pull of the barista in the lobby of my office building. Wrong. Because though cold brew coffee is good, it is not fresh made espresso. Now, I have an espresso maker at home BUT guys that is a lot of work in the morning [insert whining here].

There have been a handful of meals too that we also bought because…working mom over here.

The clean eating has been hard too. We did try dried beans for black bean tacos versus canned. Though it was a little more work, it was nice to simmer the beans for longer. I added garlic, onion and pepper to simmer with the beans which gave them a nice little kick.

We’ll see how the rest of the month goes.