Sunday, October 28, 2012

Home is where the heart is

This weekend some 'old' friends visited.  I've known these beautiful women for about 8 years now, basically what I consider my entire adult life. Since I became ME.  They know everything about me that brought me here. They are the kind of friends who make you feel all filled up when they're around. The kind that "get" you, without explanation. The kind who will tell you when you look good, or when that outfit just isn't doing anything for you.  They'll tell you when the boy you're dating is a keeper, and when he isn't, when you're right, and when you're just being crazy.  And when you are being crazy, they understand why, and don't hold it against you.  You know that they're always on your team.

Snuggle Time on the futon. Cuteness.

I also realized that after 4 years, the Capital Region feels like home.  That I'm happy to be living here-- it's a good fit.  I finally know where to get the best sushi, or sandwich, or brunch.  I know which grocery store is cheapest, what Target is the best, what time of day to avoid certain parts of the city, who makes the best coffee.

I also really like living in Troy.  I do miss Albany, being in the center of everything.  But I don't miss the traffic, and the character-less malls.  If it's lacking anything, Troy certainly isn't missing character.  The hipsters, the farmer's market, the beautiful buildings, coffee, pizza, and fried chicken.

Julie enjoying chicken 'n waffles after a long bus ride. 
The Flying Chicken, Troy, NY.

And as much as I want to gush about my old friends, I have really great new ones, too.  Patrick and I threw a costume party last night, and brought together his friends and my friends, old ones and new ones.  And it was FUN.  That's really the best.  You know you have a good crowd when they all mix and mingle and mesh like that. Magical.

The "new" friends :)

Three people at the party last night were brand new to the Albany area, and since many of us others in the room were also transplants, I think we tried extra hard to make them feel welcome. Because we remember that starting over is hard.  Whether it's your first semester at college, or first month in a new city, many lonely days are going to precede the fun ones, and sometimes it can feel like nothing will ever change.  And then suddenly, four years later, you will pause for a moment in a room full of costumed, laughing, hugging, dancing friends and think to yourself, "I finally know enough people to throw a party!"

So, to my friends, old and new, thank you.

Julie, Marisa (City Mouse), and I...Then:

May 2006, SUNY Binghamton

...and Now:

October 2012, Troy NY
(P.S. We're wearing costumes.  We don't normally look like this.)

And to Patrick... thank you for always being such a good sport for my schemes ;)


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Embracing Fall

In past years, I dreaded the fall.  I've always considered myself a warm-weather person -- I much prefer to be hot than cold -- and most winters seem to drag on and on and on...

The last couple of years, however, I've felt myself embracing the fall.  Maybe part of it is getting older.  I think I appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons.  Also, part of it is definitely that the winters haven't been as harsh recently.  But mostly, it's because the fall just has so much darn character, from the weather, to the activities, to the foods.

The sunlight hits us from a particular angle and the sky glows that striking blue.

Crisp fall walks are the best, right Patton?

The best apples come straight from the orchard.

Bowman Orchards, to be exact.  And while you're there, have a scoop of apple cider donut ice cream.

Garlic lovers eat their fill at festivals.

It takes a true garlic lover to eat straight samples. 

And we use up the tail end of the summer harvest.

 Stir fry! Broccoli, peppers, onions, kale, bok choy, with garlic and toasted sesame oil.

Homemade pickled beets over arugula, topped with goat cheese and candied almonds.

More pickles, anyone?

Roasted eggplant pitas!  Prep eggplant and roast at 450 until it's browned (flip once).  Stack on a whole grain pita with hummus, spinach and feta.  Good lunch!

I hope you are enjoying fall, whether you are cooking, outdoors-ing, or participating in other Autumn-ish activities...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hello, Goodbye

September is a wonderful and awkward time of year.

Apple season came early this year.  Go get 'em!

Technically, it's still summer.  We're wearing shorts and sundresses, and planning outdoor activities.  We're buying nectarines...

He really loves fresh produce.

and making fresh marinara.

Connecting with my inner Italian Grandma.

On the other hand, it's fall.  It's cool enough in the morning and evening to wear a jacket, and at the same farm that we bought the nectarines, we gobbled up fresh cider donuts.

The circle of life?

It's the overlap of summer and fall, and endings and beginnings are always bitter sweet.

This was one of the best summers I've had in years, and I'm sorry to say goodbye to it. I traveled and celebrated and cooked and drank and danced. I made new friends, and spent quality time with the old.  I tasted wine and collected sea shells. I swam in a lake and in the ocean.  I drove to another country. I made pickles.

Montreal, Quebec

Cayuga Lake, Ithaca, NY 

Making Dilly Beans!

I felt relaxed for the first time in a long time, and I'm anxious to get back to the grind.  But I'm also excited to start a new chapter as an 8th grade English teacher, and hopefully, further establish myself at my new school. I'm excited to make new friends, and try new things.  I'm excited for the learning and growing.

If this doesn't make you excited to read, I don't know what will.

Goodbye, Summer. Hello, Fall!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eggplant, Etc.

Hi there, friend.

Sorry it's been quiet around here for the past week.  That's because it's been pretty quiet in real life, too.  And that's just fine with me.

Wata melon. It's that time.

The back pack has stayed (mostly) unused, and I've spent the week hanging out, sleeping, eating, and yoga-ing.

Full-on Summer Vacation mode. Just in time for the end of summer....


I know it's the end of summer because I've already been to my new classroom once to organize.  And it's been chilly at night and in the mornings.

And I've eaten so much zucchini and eggplant!

Erin's zucchini chips, dipped in milk instead of eggs.  Gooooood. I ate the whole plate.

Then it rained and cooled off, and I got on a spicy curry kick:

Sauteed summer veggies over curried lentils.  Sweet and warm on a rainy evening.

Curried summer veggies on a bed of whole wheat cous cous.  Cous cous is as fun to eat as it is to say.  This was lighter and nuttier than the lentils, more like a stir fry.

And THEN there was the eggplant. Oh, the eggplant.

Eggplant pizza. Saute the eggplant first.  Topped with peppers, onions, eggplant, mozz. Pairs well with Downton Abbey.

I love eggplant, but I didn't have many good recipes using it beyond eggplant parm, which is heavy for summer.  I just didn't really know how to make it taste good when it wasn't covered in bread crumbs, cheese and sauce. (Hence, the bitter baba ganoush fail.)

Then I discovered the technique on Pinterest (man, I love Pinterest), and it worked like a charm.  

Hello, grilled eggplant.

Grilled eggplant panini.

It's what everyone else knows how to do, but I had never actually done it.  

Directions: Slice up the eggplant and layer it in a colander with a bunch of salt.  Set a bowl of water on top, and let it push out all the bitterness.  Then rinse, olive oil, grill (grill pan counts).

Trust me, this will change your life.  At least when it concerns eggplant.

August of our CSA has been bountiful, but it's sometimes hard to eat all the veggies and not get sick of them. It's required research and creativity, but that was the idea when we started it. I've eaten more veggies in the last few weeks than... ever! It's good for the waistline, and almost makes up for all the wedding meat I ate last month...

Enjoy your summer veggies.  Then make these:

... and call it a meal.  It's fine. YOLO.

<3 p="p">

Friday, August 10, 2012

Time to Relax.

I've been to Ithaca twice in the past month... both times to see good friends tie the knot.

Local brews. Do it.


I've known Mary for a really long time (we've been friends since the first day of kindergarten!) so it was especially awesome to celebrate this day with her and her new husband.  She's wanted this for a very long time, and they're a beautiful couple.  Cheers!

Her wedding also marked the end of the my extensive summer travels, and I was really excited this week to.... do nothing. Rest and detox, and spend QT with the kitties. 

Taking in the view from her new favorite window.

I finished Catching Fire in 3 days.  I tried several new recipes that came out really good.  And I still can barely lift my legs after taking the longest yoga class of my life last night.  All of my favorite ways to relax.

The next phase of August is getting ready for school, but I don't want to talk about it yet.

In the meantime, I'll keep pretending that summer lasts forever.  

And I'll leave with you some of my new favorite recipes to try this week:

Fresh corn salad. LOVED this one. Follow this recipe, but I substituted the wheat berries for Israeli cous cous because it's what we had in the cupboard, which made an even lighter summer salad.

Tomatilla-Avocado Salsa (over chicken tacos).  Tomatillas are weird. But this salsa was easy and really delicious.  I'm sad that we already ate it all, and I'm crossing my fingers for more tomatillos to show up in our CSA.  I mean, let's face it, it's mostly an excuse for a taco night.  Taco night is always my favorite night.

Ratatouille. Not the Disney movie, although that's really good, too.  This was an easy and delicious way to use up a ton of summer vegetables all at once.  The eggplant came out especially buttery and delicious sauteed in the olive oil.  All the work is in the chopping, which isn't so bad.  Emeril knows what he's doing.

I hope you're enjoying this last stretch of summer.  Have fun, and keep cool. 

-- D

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Hand-written recipes are the best recipes.  

The above recipe was given to us by my mom.  I asked her to "email me the recipe," and this is what I got.  But I like this better.  It's like a little love note. My mom's good at that.  And she's good at picking recipes.

Most of the things I make are a blend of stuff I already know and what I've discovered on the internet.  It's an experiment, and it never comes out the same.

However, hand-written recipes are always good, because somebody that you know tried it, then took the time to write it down, with you in mind.

They also make me feel sentimental (Clearly.  Excuse me while I stroll down Memory Lane.) Because they make me think of my grandma and great grandma.  Hand-written recipes remind me of Christmas time, when I've helped my grandma make the old Italian cookies from recipes that were written down 50 years ago, the cursive neat, the pages faded and yellowed, folded too many times.  They instruct you to add "pinches" and "handfuls" of things, and use ingredients like lard (that's why they're so good). And when I bite into them, I think to myself that these taste exactly the same as the cookies my great grandma would have been eating years and years before.  They're like an edible time machine, and make me feel more connected to her: that makes me happy.

Big Grandma and I, circa 1986. We're thinking about ya, Gram.

Well, this isn't Christmas in July, and this recipe is probably the opposite of cookies.  But, it's written, with love, from Mom, and is probably one I'll continue to make year after year.  Is it weird that pickles will make me think of my Mom?

Mom's "Fresh Cucumber Salad," or Bread and Butter Pickles (copied from...?)
Copied exactly as written-- interpret as you will. I added my notes.

3 fresh home-grown cucumbers
add strips of green/ red peppers (we used a long hot)
1 T celery seed (replaced with fresh dill sprigs and pickling spice)
2 cups sugar
optional - add chopped onions (do it)
2 cups white vinegar

Set on counter 4 hours in a bowl.

Place into jars.


"Fresh Cucumber Salad" is all the way to the left, top.  The beets are the pink ones. Bottom pic is turnips and scapes.

Okay, I can't help myself - I always mess with recipes rather than follow them exactly.  It has more to do with what's in my cupboard at the moment than anything else.

Anyway, this was a good way to preserve some veggies.  We were overloaded with cucumbers and other vegetables from our CSA and decided to refrigerator-pickle them to stretch out their expiration dates. (Refrigerator pickling saves them for weeks-months, whereas canning saves them through the apocalypse).  We've used variations of this recipe and this one from good old Alton Brown to pickle beets, turnips, and garlic scapes, too, but those take longer to cure, so you'll just have to wait and see how those turned out (although, I don't see how they could turn out bad...).



Thursday, July 26, 2012




I've just returned from a little road trip to Montreal, and I have some lovely meals to share with you.

If only we could have really shared, then I wouldn't have had to do quite so much yoga upon my return.  The French like their food rich.

Confit de canard with pancetta and arugula. (Excuse moi.  My French is bad.)The only salad I ate all weekend, and we shared it three ways.

Some nights we ate fancy -

Le beouf.

- some days were more casual.

La Binerie.  Baked beans are a Montreal thing, and these were the best I've ever had, hands down (I ate two helpings).  The crepe also contained Quebec cheddar, which was hearty and had some zip. Tres bon!

And I made sure to save room for French pastries. The flakiest, and butteriest of them all.

We ate the apricot one.

We did see the sights, but we also love to experience the local flavors of the region, and those tend to be what I remember the most.  We saw some beautiful cathedrals and buildings among the cobblestone streets:

 Vieux Montreal. (Old Montreal)

Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal.

Montreal is a lovely city.  But at these times I felt like a tourist. An outsider looking in.  Voyeuristic.

It was sitting in the open air cafes, sipping a wine I've never heard of and enjoying a meal with a French name I could barely understand, that I felt the most connected with the city.

Montreal is a straight shot up from Albany, four hours, easy peasy.  And then suddenly you're in another country, speaking another language, eating amazing food.  Life is good.

Au revoir.