Monday, December 28, 2009

End-of-the-Year Exfoliation and Celebration

I have the week off from work and hope to do productive things like hit the gym to kickstart the oh-so-typical-but-much-needed resolution to get back in shape; walk the dogs; grocery shopping, and boring grown-up errands that I'm currently avoiding.

Also on my to-do list for this week is an end-of-the-year exfoliation to purge extraneous stuff from the apartment. There is no better time than just after the holidays, when we are flush with new gifts and must do a bit of "out with the old, in with the new" to make room for it all, to consider what things we really need and what is just cluttering our lives. Inspired by Jess over at Makeunder My Life, who diligently improves her life with weekly exfoliations, I have been lazily collecting various odds and ends over the past several months and hiding them away in the junk cabinet until I have time to properly figure out what to do with them. Even though we got rid of a lot of stuff before we moved six months ago, the process of packing and unpacking endless boxes only further drove home the benefit of having less to move next time around.

There are so many ways for your trash to become someone else's treasure that there is no excuse for your "trash" to actually end up in a landfill:
* offer unwanted items to friends and family
* or use it as an excuse to throw a party and invite your friends over for a clothing swap
* sell or give things away on craigslist and freecycle
* sell clothing to consignment shops like Buffalo Exchange and Beacon's Closet here in Brooklyn
* donate unwanted clothing to organizations like Salvation Army
* repurpose old clothing as cleaning rags or material to patch jeans
* bring worn-out clothing, bedding, and shoes to textile recycling drop-off sites - now available at many farmers markets here in NYC!
* if all else fails, put on your stoop with a "take me" sign

But right now I am lazily enjoying just sitting in my pjs sipping tea and dreaming about what foods I should make for our New Years extravaganza. I am renting a house in the Hamptons with a group for the whole weekend, and I want to take advantage of the huge kitchen. So far I am thinking of making focaccia and pumpkin cinnamon rolls and crackers to go with cheese and beyond that, the possibilities are endlesss, so I can't decide. Steak or seafood or an easy roast or an array of cute finger foods for New Years Eve? Maybe a hearty yet healthy vegetarian chili for New Years day?

Do you have any favorite New Years Eve food traditions? Can you suggest any great dinner party ideas? What will you be doing to ring in the New Year?

via kingpomba flickr stream

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In the Silvery Polar Night

Last night found me walking three quarters of a mile uphill through the snow at 3am. After a full and merry night at a friend's holiday holiday party in the south slope, back to the north slope we had to go. No cabs were running; we didn't trust clumsy buses on the slippery roads, so there we were. My new waterproof boots holding up their end of the job, I felt invincible and alive and keenly aware of my breathing and pounding heart that propelled me forward for much-needed exercise. I couldn't help but keep walking and walking, looking back every so often at my partner lagging nearly a block behind.

In the unusual stillness of the night, I wasn't in New York City as I know it, where I have never seen such a thick layer of fresh clean snow, but rather in the magical New York City depicted in Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale.

People were thrilled by the sudden onset of so great and (they thought) so unprecedented a winter. Even those who feared and hated cold weather and snow were quickly seduced by the silvery polar nights, and joined in a medieval pageant of sledding, gatherings about the fire, and evenings under the stars. It was as if the occasional joyful paralysis that winter sometimes lays at the foot of Christmas had come for good. Layers of clothing made the flesh more mysterious and enticing than it had been in many a year, a certain courtliness was restored, and the struggle against the elements reduced everyone in scale just enough for people to realize that one of the fundamental qualities of humanity was and would always be its delicacy. The entranced citizens did not go to so many places or work as hard as they usually did, but they lived far better than they had ever lived.
- Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin, page 600**

And today I never left the apartment, but stayed inside all day to bake Christmas cookies. In fuzzy socks and a fleece bathrobe because I don't think the heat turned on once today (wtf). I hope you all enjoyed our snowy weekend.

** It is an EPIC tale of love, morality, fantasy, and New York City from one turn of the century to the next. I still don't really understand everything that happened, but it features truly beautiful prose.

via themikebot flickr stream

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Greening My Holiday Decor

Every year I think about getting a Christmas tree but then...don't. Mainly because the cost of a tree plus a stand seems unnecessary for a small apartment, especially when I'm already spending left and right on gifts during the holidays, and also because we always unwrap presents from beneath my parents' tree on Christmas morn.

This year I had my heart set on a little potted fir tree, thinking I could keep it alive ever after in the yard. Thus solving the environmentalist's condundrum of whether a live tree that is chopped down and thrown out is better than a fake tree made out of plastic but used year after year. However, I was disappointed that the tree vendors at the farmers market near me are only selling cut trees. I've seen some potted trees for sale at the usual sidewalk setups, but I'd rather not support them since they probably use pesticides and probably racked up carbon miles by bringing the trees from Canada.

So no tree it is. But over the past few days I've created a warm holiday feel in the apartment through other decorations, incorporating reusable or recycled materials.

* A fake evergreen garland and ornaments bought on sale years ago. Easy to store in a small apartment and we bring them out every year. The lights were donated by my parents - I think it was an extra string they had lying around. Unfortunately I don't think they are LED lights, so I am trying to remember to turn off some of our regular lamps to plug in these lights instead during the few hours each evening I am home.

* I was excited to hang stockings from my new mantel, until I realized they would be within reach of the puppy's grasp and possibly shredded within a day. So I hung them from the window instead with the garland, which looks great.

The stockings are from etsy seller The Little Green Bean, who makes stockings out of recycled coffeebean bags and old sweaters, and I just saw she has a whole bunch of other cute holiday things for sale. I'm excited to exchange little stocking gifts the night before Christmas eve, before heading to my parents' house for the holidays! Possibly with champagne (or maybe hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps) and cookies? Can I make this a new tradition?

* Inspired by hanging stars made from kraft paper at bigBANG studio's Thanksgiving, I cut stars out of cardboard boxes leftover from a birthday gift. I jazzed them up with some gold paint I found sitting in my craft drawer and then strung them up with yarn, fishing wire, and tape .

* I have a tradition of hanging paper snowflakes and leaving them up all winter for continual cheer. I thought I saved last years's to rehang, but I couldn't find them, so I cut this year's out of repurposed white wrapping paper (as I've said before, collecting bags and gift wrap in my craft drawer is oh so handy). Click here for a basic how-to on paper snowflakes - from there I like to just use my imagination to cut out designs!

Tell me about your decorations this year. Did you get a tree? Are you making any fun crafts? Are you trying to incorporate sustainable materials? Here are a few more ideas from other bloggers to spark your decorating:

* LifeUnscripted's Old Fashioned Tree Garland
* EcoYogini's Green Holiday Decorating Complete with Eco-Recon
* Green Phone Booth's I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dogs and Couch Lust

I imagine most of you come home from a long day of work and are able to plop into a big comfy couch for some relaxing.  Sounds nice. Have a glass of wine, a fuzzy blanket, and cozy up for a movie. Not in this household.

In our last apartment, we had a futon instead of a couch because no couch could have fit through the hallway into our home. The futon was perpetually covered in dog hair because we never trained Spencer to stay off it. So I'd have to change into my pajamas if I wanted to sit on it, so as to not ruin my clothing. Looking back, the situation wasn't so bad. In fact I'd love to go back to those relatively peaceful one-dog days. But futons are not especially comfy; it still did not fill my void for a soft place to crash.

Then we got the puppy and moved into a new apartment. We could definitely fit a couch in here. However, it would be a serious waste of money because the puppy is a serious force of destruction. Back before Milo was housebroken, he had the habit of peeing on the futon every now and then. Okay, we thought, we'll get a new mattress and cover it with a plastic mattress protector and cover THAT with a sheet so that the mattress itself doesn't get ruined and we can just swap out the dog-haired sheet for a new clean sheet every now and then. Sounds like a genius plan right?

Well we went through three mattress protectors - the dogs tore through each one while we were at work. They also tore through the sheets and started chewing holes in the foam mattress. Oh how Milo loves foam.

Here's what we've worked out now: we keep the mattress itself stored away in a closed room most of the time and only put it out when we have company or want to watch a movie with the full HDTV-huge-speakers experience instead of the laptop-on-the-bed experience. I have yet to patch the holes in it. Our living room is dominated by the empty futon frame.

Funny thing is, Spencer is so in love with lounging at an elevated height, he now uses the coffeetable as his "couch." What does he think he is, a mountain goat?

Of course, when the mattress is down and we don't happen to be sitting on it, the dogs go to town. Silly humans, this isn't for you - this is our playground! Spencer was never trained to stay off furniture, so it was impossible to train Milo to stay off too.

As a result, I have some serious couch lust and drool over the comfortable clean lines of your lovely sofas, like Maria's over at Vintage Simple. But sadly I don't see it being possible until I have enough space for a dog-free living room someday. What home features do you lust after despite their impossibility?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Life With Dogs

Milo (seven month old golden retriever/german shepherd/husky puppy)

Spencer (five? year old pitbull/terrier shelter dog)

I'm putting together a series of posts about how my dogs ruin my life. I know a lot of you out there think you want a dog. Because they're cute and cuddly and friendly and great companions that keep you safe and especially cute with babies. All true. But it's really important to consider how your life as you know it will change, and not necessarily all for the better. I have plenty of cautionary tales testament to this. Tales that explain why I'm so jealous when I read about your cute little (comparably) easy cats.

We have two not-so-well behaved dogs, and you're probably thinking, but I would train mine right. Well, that's what I thought before we got a second puppy. It's not always possible. It depends on the dog's temperament and its past experiences (in the case of a shelter dog), and it's hard to raise a big dog in a small space and be able to give it the attention and exercise it needs, AND it's hard to work with other household members to consistently stick to proper training to keep the dog in check. After all, I'm not the only one struggling to live with their dog. I've written before about my frustration at not being able to have a normal life with dogs like other people, but things have not gotten any better since then. So please bear with my woes, and any words of advice will be much appreciated.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Birthday Housekeeping

That's right, today is my birthday and I stayed home to do some housekeeping. Not the real kind, the blog kind! I enjoyed sleeping in and then sitting in my pajamas at the computer next to sleeping dogs most of the day.

* I finally created a recipe archive! I've been meaning to do this for a while, especially since I get a lot of hits from individuals who made their way here via google searches for my recipes originally posted on Wounded Chef, AND because the search function on this blog doesn't seem to go back before July 2009 when I combined blogs. So if you're wondering what to cook tonight, go ahead and browse the recipe archive for some inspiration!

* I was anti-twitter for a while, but now that more and more blogger friends are tweeting, I decided I might as well give it a try again. Click here to join me (tocolormegreen) on twitter.

* I also recently added the option to subscribe to Color Me Green via email, so if you're not already subscribed via RSS or Google Reader and want emails in your inbox to keep you updated on my ramblings, sign up using the gadget in the sidebar to the right.

PS. Don't worry, there's more to my birthday than this. I went out for a totally over-the-top meal last night, and friends are joining me at a bar later this week for celebratory drinks. Now I'm off to bake some holiday cookies with a friend! Cheers!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving and Dried Flowers

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I contributed roasted brussel sprouts and my mini apple pies and pumpkin cupcakes (and whoops, realized I left out the leavening in the cupcake recipe, which is fixed now!). Poor things got a little messy looking on the train ride, oh well. I must say, it takes wayyy longer making mini pies on your own than with a friend...dunno if I'll be doing that again.

So we feasted on delicious food and left with full bellies. No turkey for me this year, though. I am proud to have stuck to my guns about being careful what meat I eat. Given that most turkeys consumed around the country on Thanksgiving have such huge breasts that they can't walk or fly or procreate and live horrible little lives, I was okay with abstaining. I understand it's not easy or cheap, and therefore not possible for everyone, to procure heritage turkeys, but I'd love to have the opportunity to host Thanksgiving one day with a formerly happy turkey on the table.

I am now engaging in a long weekend of semi house arrest. It's very relaxing, and I'm looking forward to many more days of luxurious sleeping in coming up this month*, since I have to use up several vacation days before the end of the year.

So, these dried flowers. They would make a beautiful Thanksgiving table centerpiece. But Thanksgiving aside, this bouquet from the farmers market was $8 well spent, since they will be beautiful in my home all winter long. I got into the habit of buying fresh flowers weekly at the market, but as with following seasonally available produce, I'm letting fresh flowers give way to dried now that winter's on its way. Much easier upkeep too - like Ginny, I appreciate that there's no need to change water and trim stems. They'll perpetually stand proudly, bringing some cheer into my home. Case in point, I also still have the pussywillows from last spring. Dried flowers would be a great eco-friendly and cost-effective option for restaurant centerpieces, not to mention weddings.

I arranged them in glass vases and old bottles around the apartment, and the sculptural look of this last one is my favorite.

*I'm also looking forward to birthdays and the holidays! The end of November through the end of December is an exciting time for me...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sixpoint Oktoberfest

One of my favorite local breweries, Sixpoint, recently came out with their first Oktoberfest beer, which I tried at the release party last month in the sweet little backyard of Sycamore in Ditmas Park. Beers were served in massive three-pint steins the size of my face, along with plates of bratwurst and potato salad. Oktoberfest indeed!

This is my favorite Sixpoint beer yet. I love complex fruity and spicy beers, such as cloudy Belgian wheat beers typically flavored with coriander and orange peel, as well as Harpoon's Winter Warmer spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. If I remember correctly, Sixpoint Oktoberfest had a hint of fall spices and was a touch sweet and round around the edges, softening Sixpoint's distinctive bite. I know it is currently being served it at The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights, Flatbush Farm, and possibly Bar Great Harry. Give it a try if you see it on tap. What's your favorite beer for the fall?

It was a wonderfully warm October afternoon, so I biked to Ditmas Park. I never realized how easy it is to bike southward from Prospect Park, thanks to a dedicated bike lane on Ocean Parkway. Five miles of pure unadulterated biking on a quiet tree-lined path that takes you straight to Brighton Beach. I plan to hit that up next summer for some exercise-beach action.

photo 1 via Sixpoint's twitpics, 2 via personal collection, 3 via NYC Bike Maps Photo Gallery

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Waking Up

I think the hardest thing I do every day is

getting out of bed

I don't know about you, but I must be a night owl. I never want to go to bed. Once I'm actually in bed, I have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep*. By the time I finally get into a deep sleep, it's morning and I'm supposed to wake up even though all I want is to drift back off into slumber. It's especially hard when winter comes around. There I am, snuggled in my warm cocoon of blankets. Why on earth would I want to leave that to undress in the cold air of the morning?

I don't think I'm alone in this morning difficulty, and I don't understand why humans evolved to have BOTH a hard time falling asleep and a hard time waking up. Searching the meaning for common trait within the principles of evolutionary psychology has eluded me. I can posture that being a light sleeper would have been beneficial for our ancestors who needed to be constantly alert to danger. But can you see any way in which being a heavy morning sleeper is adaptive, when our ancestors had a full day of food-finding work ahead of them?

Because when you think about it, how did humans EVER will themselves to get up in the morning before central heat (ie. most of human history)? I still remember clearly from my childhood Laura Ingalls Wilder's tales of waking up on the most frigid howling winter mornings to light fires, break ice in water, and feed the animals at dawnbreak. Not something I could do easily.

Oh yeah, and what about the days where all I want to do all day is go back to bed? Because this has been happening a lot lately. Does all this just mean that my sleep cycles are out of whack? I know exercising is supposed to help boost energy, but it is a bit of a catch 22 when I don't have the energy to go to the gym or do anything after work but drag myself back home and into pjs.

What gets you up in the morning? I know it's probably coffee for a lot of you, which strangely has no stimulant effect on me as far as I can tell. For me, it might be bagels. I eat them way too often, but a bowl of oatmeal just isn't enticing enough to make getting out of the house and into work mode seem worth it.

via flickr

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Weekend Pt 2: Mac and Cheese-Off

On Sunday, my sister invited me over for a "Mac and Cheese-Off." For this event, there were only four of us to eat the three dishes of mac and cheese that we had prepared. Needless to say, there were leftovers.

The winner: my broccoli cheddar mac and cheese. You gotta get your veggies where you can... (recipe below)

The runners-up: Lisa's mac and cheese with chevre, butternut squash, and caramelized onions; John's mac and cheese with crushed walnuts, gorgonzola, and Swiss MSG sauce (don't ask cuz no I didn't understand what it was either)

Afterward we walked off the cheese with a sunset stroll through Riverside Park.

Broccoli Cheddar Mac 'n Cheese
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 small or 1 large head of broccoli
1/2 lb curly pasta
3/4 lb cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a casserole dish with butter.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil.
Separate broccoli stems from florets. Dice stems and then dice florets, keeping them separate.
Grate cheese.
Heat butter in saucepan until melted. Slowly whisk in flour, then milk, then spices. Let simmer until milk mixture is hot. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup grated cheese, creating a melted cheese sauce.
Once water is boiling, add the pasta and broccoli stems. Bring to a boil again and cook ten minutes or so until pasta and stems are both al dente. Then strain thoroughly in a colander.
Combine pasta, stems, florets, and cheese sauce in casserole dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup grated cheese.
Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes until edges are golden brown.
Makes 4-6 servings.

Last Weekend Pt 1: Drunk Art

Before THIS weekend starts, I have to tell you about LAST weekend, because it was one of those rare weekends that left me feeling recharged and invigorated. There was the birthday party Friday night. It was my first time back in Williamsburg since the move and I think I talked a lot about missing Billyburg that night. On Saturday afternoon, there were some light errands and a new lunch place found (the ever-elusive combination of burgers for meat-eaters plus good vegetarian options for me. Meag, now I know why you liked Bar Toto!)

Saturday night I hit up First Saturday at Brooklyn Museum, which is just awesome. Get drunk and explore the exhibits*, and there is a crazy dance party. Michael Jackson + James Brown = couldn't help dancing. I went to check out the new Rock & Roll photography exhibit but it was a bit too crowded to take it all in, and there was a lot more in the museum we didn't get to see. Don't know why I've never been before, but I'll definitely be back, especially because it's such a pleasant short walk from my apartment to the museum.

It was an evening that made me feel alive. Doing something new, experiencing art, being out among other young Brooklynites, feeling a part of something exciting. This is why we live in NEW YORK CITY. These are the kinds of things I wish I did more often. It was more than just another weekend night/another boring drink at the bar. I was so energized afterward I didn't want to just go home so I ended my night at Pacific Standard, an excellent choice for craft beers and board games.

What makes your weekends exciting? What are the things that make your life sparkle and keep repetition and boredom at bay?

* Thank you to the trustees of Brooklyn Museum for entrusting your treasures within the reach of drunken revelers.

via Brooklyn Museum's flickr

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes and a bit about honey

So what I have I done with all that pumpkin? My friend Diana's birthday was last week, and since I hadn't seen her several MONTHS, I wanted to do something extra-nice and decided to make cupcakes for her party. I thought my cupcakes would be THE birthday cake, but actually another guest made an awesome cake - a vanilla layer topped with chocolate cake cut into letters that spelled out Diana's name - how could anyone top that? So my little cakes were woefully upstaged but still all gone by the end of the night nonetheless.

I figured my bourbon cream cheese icing recipe would be the perfect accompaniment to pumpkin, but upon tasting, I decided the icing needed some more sweetness and added a tablespoon or so of maple syrup, which was perfect. I think these cupcakes could also serve as light little muffins, if you added in some chopped nuts or chocolate chips and forgot about icing. Ignore the dark cupcake edges in the photo - I accidentally left these in the oven too long.

Also, you may notice a pattern in my recipes by now. I always cut back the sugar and replace a portion of it with honey. I do this because honey is a local, natural, less-processed alternative to sugar. In addition to containing vitamins and minerals, honey has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so it is absorbed more slowly and healthfully. I also appreciate that I can get my honey from local farmers at the Greenmarket, unlike sugar, which is grown far, far away. However, I don't completely replace sugar with honey because most honeys have a strong flavor that can overwhelm baked goods. One of these days I'll give it a try and see what happens, though. Who knows, I might be pleasantly surprised!

Some notes about baking with honey: Because of its strong sweet taste, you can use less of it than you would sugar. It's not a 1:1 substution but more like 1/3 cup honey for every 1/2 cup sugar. In addition, because it's liquid, you can cut back slightly on the other liquid ingredients in a recipe. In this case, the honey helps make up for the fact that I cut the butter down to 6 tbsp from a full stick, or 8 tbsp.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
bourbon cream cheese icing recipe, halved, with addition of 1 tbsp of maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two muffin tins*. Cream butter and sugar. Whisk in honey, then eggs, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and finally milk. Dump in flour and spices and beat until batter is combined and smooth. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick or fork inserted comes out clean. Let cool (in fridge or freezer if you need to save time!) before icing. Makes about 20 cupcakes.

*Or should they be called "cupcake" tins if you are making cupcakes? Why don't these things have a universal name?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall Blur & Pumpkin Roasting

Last week was a blur of too much time sitting on my but at my office desk, bumming in my pjs at home, and sleepless soul-searching nights. So the highlight of my workweek was probably taking the time to roast this sugar pumpkin into pumpkin puree - because it means I get to bake yummy pumpkin goodies. So far I made these pumpkin "brownies," (I recommend baking for 30-40 minutes) and pumpkin cupcakes for a friend's birthday party, which I'll tell you about later. I might be making an extra-special pumpkin treat tomorrow, and I already bought another pumpkin to freeze some puree for future baking. Guess I can cross pumpkin roasting off my fall to-do list!

Roasting pumpkins is an easy alternative to buying canned pumpkin this time of year. And it's a good idea to avoid canned foods, as cans are lined with the dreaded endocrine disruptor BPA, which has been shown to leach into canned products. Make sure you find a sugar pumpkin, not a pumpkin intended for Halloween carving/decoration, as sugar pumpkin flesh isn't as stringy and yields a sweet taste like the canned kind. Sugar pumpkins are available at farmers markets and some grocery stores, but if you can't find one, you can subsitute butternut or hubbard squash.

Stay tuned for more pumpkin recipes on here soon, hopefully.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree
Preheat oven to 400.
Wash but do not peel pumpkin.
Slice the pumpkin in half and scoop out the pumpkin seed goo and stringy flesh (reserve to roast the seeds).
Lay each half in a pan with deep sides, flesh side down.
Add a half inch to an inch of water.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until flesh is completely soft and mushy.

Or if the shell is too hard to cut through, simply plop the whole pumpkin on a greased baking sheet.
Turn over halfway through baking, approximately 40 minutes each side.
At that point, you should be able to slice open the pumpkin easily.
Let cool before handling.
Again, scoop out the pumpkin seeds and reserve.

Scoop the soft flesh from the shell, and completely mash it with a fork. Store in an airtight container to cook/bake within two weeks. Or divide the puree into single-cup-size portions and freeze for later use.

My $2 sugar pumpkin yielded 4 cups of puree - a very good deal!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween on Long Island

the adorable "little house" down the street

Originally I was going to host a Halloween party. I was going to be Silk Spectre from The Watchmen - I have the hair so I figured I could rock it. But instead I ended up spending a quiet two days at my boyfriend's parents' home on Long Island. Didn't the weather on Saturday (before the rain) seem perfectly Halloweenish with the Indian summer warmth plus spooky winds blowing around crunchy leaves?

In a way I was relieved not to have to put together the superheroine outfit I'd envisioned. My plan was to buy a black swimsuit for the costume that I'd be able to wear again in real life. However, I wasn't able to find a suit that fit well enough for me to brave it on the beach, and I couldn't justify spending the money or the earth's resources on something I'd never wear again.

I started getting a little sad as the Halloween weekend approached, hearing everyone's plans of fun costumes and parades and parties and dancing that I'd be missing out on. And I despaired of yet another Friday night sitting around instead of going out. My sister came to the rescue and invited me to a friend of a friend's costume party in the West Village, so I still got my Halloween fix on Friday night before we left for the weekend on Saturday morning.

With little time, I drew upon my backup plan to dress up as a housewife a la Mad Men: heels, halter dress, apron, red lipstick, and French twist hairdo. Proving that I didn't need to buy anything for my Halloween costume after all. Sometimes it's a surprise to see what you can come up with when you apply your imagination to your own closet.

What were you for Halloween? How did you create your costume? Did you buy it, make it, borrow it, or reappropriate it from clothing you already own? Share your costumes - we can all use ideas for next year!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mini Apple Pies

I've always been intimated by making pie - and it seems I'm not the only one. Despite my successes and near-successes with yeasted doughs, I let myself be intimidated by other people's accounts of finicky pie dough, not-cold-enough butter, and the shortening vs butter dilemna. Well a couple weeks ago, my cooking-project partner Elizabeth came over so we could test out making apple pie from scratch and work down my store of local apples. Once we had everything together, I remembered that I don't actually own a pie tin, but no problem - mini-pies it would be, baked in a muffin tin!

I followed the sage advice from Smitten Kitchen's Pie Crust 102 tutorial, along with Brooklyn Farmhouse's method for making mini-pies. I highly recommend Smitten Kitchen's recipe since the dough came together quickly in my food processor, was surprisingly easy to handle, and didn't tear while rolling it out at all. Most importantly, the finished pie crust was deliciously tender and flaky! We did have quite a bit of leftover dough, however, which I saved in the fridge to make a delicious free-form apple tart later that week. I have an inkling this dough would be great for empanadas too - hopefully that will be my next big kitchen adventure now that I've overcome my fear and conquered pie dough.

Brooklyn Farmhouse recommends cutting out 4-inch circles for the base of each mini pie and 3-inch circles for each top, but that seemed too small for my muffin tin, so we roughly cut circles of dough that were probably about an inch larger. You don't need special cookie cutters for this - just find glasses or jars that are approximately 4 or 5 inches in diameter.

I left the pie filling to Elizabeth since she's made pies before. she peeled and sliced 3 apples, and then combined it with a little sugar, a little lemon juice, fall spices like cinnamon and ginger, and a sprinkling of flour in place of cornstarch. (Elizabeth, if I'm remembering this wrong, please let me know!)

The best part of the night, aside from chatting, was feasting on the final product: warm mini apple pie topped with Elizabeth's homemade butter pecan ice cream and a drizzle of local apple liquer. It truly tasted like a restaurant-quality dessert and each serving of mini-pie was the perfect portion for each person. These would be a hit at any classy fall dinner party.

As for our project, in case you are curious, it has gone on hold since life has been busy and we are reevaluating our roll-out plan. But the best part so far has just been getting to cook fun new foods with a friend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Passing it around the Playground

Ms. JC of Mystic Domestica was gracious enough to tag me with a fun questionnaire, so I'm playing along.

First I must give a caveat...I don't really believe in owning books and DVDs. I would much rather borrow them from the library or the internet and save the space in my apartment, the money in my wallet, and the resources from the earth. With that said...

1. What books are on your favorite shelf?
Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, cookbooks (see below), travel guides to Buenos Aires and Belgium, a couple music history books from college, and a couple books of piano sheet music I rarely play. I wish I still had my copy of The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin.

2. What DVDs are on your favorite shelf?
None, see above.

3. What are your two favorite cookbooks?
My food bible, The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters; and the book that taught me how to bake bread, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book

4. Select 1-3 recipes you would cook for your special guests.
Bruschetta to start; Pizza to continue with my love for Italian food, bread, and tomatoes; and German chocolate cupcakes for dessert.

5. What will we be drinking?
Red wine, white wine, growlers of beer, and as the night wears on and we start to make bad choices, bourbon from the bottle.

And 5 random facts:
I'm going to spice it up and make it five guilty secrets:

1. I am a sucker for highly processed snacks such as Cheez Its and M&Ms when someone puts them in front of me.
2. I am obsessed with weddings even though I wish I could stop the crazy
3. I am a feminist throwback who wishes I could stay home and cook all day
4. I often contemplate how much easier life would be without a dog or two
5. I sometimes go days without showering due to laziness

I don't like picking out favorites, so if you're reading this and would like to answer the questionnaire, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Member

Tonight, I have my first work shift at the Park Slope Food Coop. That's right, a couple weeks ago I joined the coop, now that I live in the neighborhood. It's a grocery store that stocks all-natural, organic, and local products and is almost fully staffed by its members. All 14,000 members are owners (by paying an investment fee and getting to vote on store decisions), workers (by working a shift every four weeks), and shoppers. And because the organization is just out to break even, most items are way cheaper than at regular supermarkets.

And the BEST part is that I can fill a shopping cart, and a worker will walk with me and the cart back to my apartment to unload, and then the worker will return the cart for me. How AWESOME is that? Because one of things I hate about grocery shopping in New York City is overloading my arms and back with as many bags as I can carry and then schlepping it home. We used to make monthly car trips to Fairway in Red Hook for grocery needs that can't be met at the farmers market, but now that we don't have a car anymore, the coop is perfect. Tonight I learn how to be a cashier. Wish me luck!

photo via flickr

Thursday, October 8, 2009

To Do: Fall

Inspired by Sara's list of 30 quintessential fall activities over at Pink of Perfection, I thought it might help me organize the plans and ideas swirling around my head if I made my own lists of fall activities: things I hope to accomplish; food I'd like to put away for the winter or make while it's in season; and things I'd like to to remember to do to enjoy the season while it lasts. As you can see, I was also inspired by Rachel's post on Heart of Light this week advocating for relishing the moments in each season. I hope to make To Do Lists a common feature here as I continually struggle to keep afloat with all there is to do, feel, experience, and achieve in life.

Can you think of anything I might be missing? What's on your fall to-do list?

To Do
* bring the hardy plants inside
* make my Halloween costume ended up opting out of Halloween
* knit a scarf started a scarf
* fall cleaning and reorganizing
* put the air conditioner in storage
* buy new stockings and boots (old ones don't fit well)
* mend sweaters
* Thanksgiving menu planning - no thanksgiving to plan yet again :-(

To Make in the Kitchen
* hang herbs to dry
* buy the last of the berries on sale at the farmers market to freeze - guess I missed this already
* turn the basil plant into pesto - already used up all the basil
* applesauce
* apple pie
* granola
* fresh baked bread
* roast sugar pumpkins into puree for baking
* chocolate chip pumpkin muffins made chocolate chip pumpkin blondies, but i wasn't happy with them
* carrot cake
* crockpot chili
* butternut squash ravioli with sage and butter sauce
* squash and bean casserole

To Enjoy
* chai tea
* cider donuts
* pumpkin carving - guess I'm not doing this one this year
* apple picking
* mulled cider
* hard cider
* red wine instead of white
* wearing fuzzy socks
* taking hot showers
* hiking in the turning leaves
* crisp bike rides
* summery produce while it lasts think tomatoes, zucchini, corn...this year I refuse to start cooking with squash until the summer's bounty disappears

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


During our stay upstate we also made a visit to Bobolink Dairy. My sister Lisa is a sometimes employee of Bobolink depending on her ever fluctuating schedule, but even though the farm is only 10 minutes from my parents' house I'd never been to see her there before. A small dairy operation offering grass-fed Jersey cows milk cheese and artisan bread, Bobolink has an onsite store open to visitors and brings their goods to farmers markets in New York City and the surrounding area. I bought some cheese and veal (which I left in my parents freezer, doh!), poked my head into their bakery, and we said hi to the pigs.

I <3 supporting small sustainable farms. When I heard from Lisa and her friend about getting to spend the day kneading and baking bread covered in flour, and about the delicious communal feasts featuring the farm's own meat, and about living in an old farmhouse surrounded by grassy fields... it momentarily made me want to be an intern. Until I remembered I wouldn't like waking up early or manual labor or getting up close and personal with large animals. Have you ever wanted to work on a farm?