Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday Cookies

I went a little crazy and made almost 200 cookies last weekend. I was worried about not having enough, so I multiplied most of my recipes by 1.5 and didn't realize I would end up with quite so many! I like to give them out to coworkers and bring to holiday parties. We were certainly busy with holiday celebrations this December. This year's gatherings included a sign that we are getting older -- a party with multiple babies and congratulations to some newly pregnant friends! 

Pumpkin snicker doodles are one of my trademark cookies that I make most holidays, since I usually have homemade pumpkin puree in the freezer, and they are a unique treat. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are another good standby, though not necessarily very seasonal. 

Almond biscotti are a favorite of my parents, so I tucked a batch for them under the Christmas tree. Some years I make chocolate gingerbread cookies with cocoa powder, but I opted instead to jazz up a standard spicy gingerbread recipe with walnuts since my brother-in-law does not like chocolate. I actually adapted Simply Recipes'  gingerbread biscotti recipe into cookies, so they are not overly sweet and are also great alongside a morning coffee or tea. 

New to me this year were the coconut macaroons. I have been afraid to make macaroons since failing at them several years ago. I'm not sure what wrong previously, since they were easy to make and tasted delicious. In fact, Evan and I voted the macaroons as our favorite cookie in this holiday batch, so I'm going to make more for our New Year's Eve party. 

Note: One trick I like to employ after making dough is to form it into logs and stick it into the freezer. That way it can easily be sliced and baked into uniform cookies. Usually 30 minutes is enough. You can also store dough logs up to a few months in sealed plastic bags, which also gives you the option to slice off a few at a time and bake them in your toaster oven for portion control.

Gingerbread walnut cookies
(adapted from Simply Recipes - minus the fresh ginger, with walnuts instead of almonds. Bake for 10-15 minutes like a regular cookie instead of baking twice like biscotti. Makes approximately 30 cookies.)

Coconut macaroons
(via The Kitchn)

Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies
(recipe here on Color Me Green)

Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies
(recipe here on Color Me Green)

Almond biscotti
(recipe here on Color Me Green)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Turning Thirty

I turned 30 last month. I wanted to do something different from the usual gathering at bar, so I organized an open mic slash party. It was a very merry night in a bar squeezed full of friends and music. The Fifth Estate definitely lived up to its recommendation on FiPS as one of the best bars for party hosting in Park Slope. It was pretty ideal since we basically had the bar to ourselves without having to pay to reserve it, there is a music stage, and they let us play our own iPod music and set up tables with snacks. Everyone was surprised that I made my own birthday cake, but I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to bake pumpkin and chocolate beet cupcakes.

Frank made a hilarious song for my birthday - you should all take a listen (thanks Frank!).

We ended the evening with a family band - my husband, my sister and I covered Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" - same as the last song at our wedding.

Earlier that day, Evan treated us to brunch at home cooked by a private chef. Mirijana of Wild Feast on Kitchensurfing served us a delicious multi-course meal. She specializes in curing and smoking her own meats, so brunch started out with a charcuterie spread involving wild boar, duck and lamb, and went on from there to scones and pancakes and more. If you're looking to try out Kitchensurfing, I definitely recommend Mirijana for a splurgy, special meal.

Evan's gift to me was this leather clutch from Flux Productions, who sells on Etsy and at the Brooklyn Flea. Thanks husband, for knowing how much I appreciate quality goods that are handmade with care.

As for how it feels to be makes me realize that ten years of my adult life have already gone by doing the typical Brooklyn twenty-something lifestyle. Working and stressing about work, indulging in bars and restaurants, reading on the subway, going to the farmers market religiously. Always wishing I had more time to devote to writing and exercising. Around twenty five, I changed things up and pursued more things I was meant to be doing - moving to the environmental sector, playing in a band, bike commuting. But the general patterns have remained constant. I'm thinking a lot about what the next changes will be and what the next ten years might hold.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Let's see if I can write about Thanksgiving before Christmas arrives. We had a white Thanksgiving this year, especially at my parents' house atop a mountain, which was laden with a foot of snow. As usual, I spent all of Wednesday cooking. I like to get things done early so I can sleep in and just reheat dishes on Thanksgiving. My mom made the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cake. I made the rest of the sides, and other relatives brought more desserts.

Green bean, chickpea and carrot salad

Every year it's a challenge to find a way to prepare the green beans stored in the freezer from my mother's garden. They always tend to defrost mushier than expected. This salad worked, but next year I think I'll try a more traditional green bean casserole, which I've never done before.

Thinly slice half a red onion and sauté it on low heat until caramelized. Chop a few large carrots into small cubes and roast until lightly browned and tender. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Chop a few handfuls of green beans into small 1-2 inch pieces. In batches, blanch the green beans by briefly steaming, placing in cold water and then draining. Whisk a dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper.  Gently combine all ingredients and stir in the dressing to lightly coat.

Roasted brussels sprouts

Such a family favorite that my grandfather mentioned them in his speech at my wedding!

Same salad salad as last year. This continues to be my favorite kale salad to make.

Roasted sweet potatoes with honey and sage

I tried to double the honey from last year's method for sage leaf sweet potatoes. What a mistake - the sugars quickly burned the pan and the bottoms of the sweet potatoes, while the potatoes were nowhere near cooked through. I was able to salvage them by slicing off the burned edges and coating in olive oil and a sprinkling of dried sage and then continuing to bake for a while. I want to find a new sweet potato recipe for next year. I like Rachel's idea of baking them whole first and then chopping and fancying them up with additional ingredients.

Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits

I usually make rolls but have always wanted to try my hand at biscuits. Through my research, I learned that biscuit dough should be made immediately before baking for maximum rise. And said biscuits should then be served immediately while warm and fresh, since they will turn somewhat stale by the next day. To avoid making a floury mess in the last hour before Thanksgiving dinner, when the kitchen is a flurry of people arriving, turkey carving and foods reheating, I chose to make them ahead and freeze them.

Working with the Kitchn's recipe, I grated a stick of frozen butter, soured milk with vinegar in place of buttermilk, and included 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour. Even though they were only frozen a day, it felt worth it to be able to easily pop the frozen biscuits on a pan to bake right before dinner. This method is not supposed to affect rise. However, my biscuits weren't as fluffy as ideal - but I don't know if that was because I used whole wheat flour, because I rolled them too thin, or from the freezing method.

My new joint Thanksgiving tradition with my husband tends to be a three day affair of food and fun, involving Thanksgiving with my parents, then a hunt and game bird feast on Friday (it was our first time back at the farm since our wedding in June), followed by birthday celebrations on Saturday. My mother-in-law and I happen to share our birthday at the end of Novemebr. 2014 is a milestone birthday for both of us, so this year we also had a big party for her over Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Non-Traditional Non-Diamond Engagement Ring Roundup

A year ago, I was going to friends' fall weddings, discussing upcoming nuptials of other recently affianced friends, and feeling anxious to move forward with our own engagement, and thus looking at rings. This fall wedding season is reminding me of that time, and so now, I'm finally getting around to sharing a round-up of my favorite non-traditional, non-diamond engagement rings.

I scoured the internet looking for non-diamond rings with small stones and a setting that wouldn't stick up much (aka bezel, rosecut, flush or inset), made by an independent designer, ideally with reclaimed and ethical metals and stones. It is remarkably hard to find non-diamond rings, so even though there are some diamonds below, they all accept custom orders and could presumably substitute another gem. I learned that sapphires and rubies are the hardest gems after diamonds and thus the best alternatives for an engagement ring that will get a lot of wear - although rubies seem to be much less common than sapphires. I also learned that sapphires and other stones like topaz actually come in a variety of colors. I had a really hard time deciding among all the pretty rings, and so did Evan, so in the end, we picked it out together, which helped us agree on something we both liked.

A note about shopping for rings: I'm lucky to live in Brooklyn where there are a lot of independent jewelers. Two great Brooklyn jewelry shops are Catbird in Williamsburg and the Clay Pot in Park Slope. We ended up getting my ring from the Clay Pot, because they will help you order a custom ring from a designer, which Catbird won't. But all of these designers can be contacted directly for custom work, and if you can't get to Brooklyn, they also sell online.

Claire Kinder is based in Brooklyn and Vermont and sells some of her work at Catbird. Her etruscan diamond ring comes in various sizes, and her samples of custom work and include a version of this with a sapphire.

Just last fall, Satomi Kawakita started making her famous hexagonal ring with a dark blue sapphire, in a variety of sizes to suit your desires.

Carla Caruso 's three stone and leaf ring comes with diamonds or white sapphires. I really like the leaf motif, but decided against a white sapphire because anyone looking at it would assume it was a diamond, and I didn't want to help perpetuate the assumption that engagement rings should be diamonds. She's based in Boston, but sells at the Clay Pot.

Mociun has a shop in Williamsburg. Her website has several pages of custom work filled with crazy beautiful asymmetrical combinations of mixed colored stones. If I was into prong settings and a bigger ring, this would be the ticket. I didn't even know that green sapphires existed until last year, but they have such lovely seafoam hues. I would have loved one in my own ring, but my designer (Marian Maurer) didn't have access to green sapphires small enough for my ring, so I went with all blue.

Ariko is another Brooklyn designer featured at the Clay Pot who accepts custom work. I like the slightly textured natural look of her bands. She sells this almost purplish sapphire ring, but my favorite of her designs is her silver diamond ring.

Digby & Iona is based in Greenpoint and sells some pieces at Catbird. I love the patterns they use on their bands - vintage-y waves, arrows and triangles. They have always offered a range of colored diamonds, but they are now offering unique watermelon tourmaline stones, and accept custom requests.

Sarah Perlis has a showroom in the Lower East Side and offers a whole ton of sapphire and semi-precious rosecut rings.

Philly-based Bario Neal creates awesomely unique rings with reclaimed or fair-mined metals, ethically sourced stones and environmentally friendly practices. Their textured rosecut ring comes in colored diamonds, and they accept custom work, though they have a longer lead time than some other designers.

If you do want a traditional setting, the website Brilliant Earth is a good resource for ethical sapphires and vintage rings, along with conflict free diamonds.

Etsy is another great place to find non-tradiational engagement rings online. One Garnet Girl is one of my favorite Etsy wedding jewelers, offering a variety of stones and colors. 

And of course, there's the Brooklyn designer who made my ring, Marian Maurer, who uses recycled gold, which isn't that common. My ring was essentially a smaller version of her Kima ring, made with three blue sapphires.

To see even more non-traditional engagement and wedding rings I found, check out my pinterest. Does anyone have a unique ring they want to show off or any favorites I missed? I'm happy to feature it here on my blog. And stay tuned for the next ring roundup, with highlights from my search for a wedding band...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Vegetarian Meals

Evan is on a month-long challenge to eat vegetarian Sundays through Thursdays, and I'm along for the ride. It's forcing us to be a little more experimental with our meals. Here are some of our recent dinners:
Bean and summer vegetable tacos with cilantro-lime dressing

Bean and summer vegetable tacos with cilantro-lime dressing
To make the filling: Sautee thinly sliced peppers and onions until browned and softened. Meanwhile, cook corn on the cob in boiling water for a few minutes. Let cool and cut the corn off the cob. Combine the vegetables with cooked pinto (or black) beans.
To make the dressing: blend together two cups of fresh cilantro, two garlic cloves, the juice of a lime, a cup of yogurt, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
To assemble: Warm corn tortillas on a hot pan for a minute on each side. Spread the dressing on the tortilla, then add the bean and vegetable mixture and top with radish slices and mixed greens and pour more cilantro dressing over top.

The next night, we fried up tempeh cubes and served them over salad greens with the cilantro-lime dressing.

Barley-scallion fritters
I made a ton of barley in my crockpot that was intended for grain salads, but overcooked it into mush, and needed to come up other uses for it. Here's one - fritters. They tasted like a scallion pancake just begging to be dipped in soy sauce, but the barley gives it more whole grain goodness. Some other ideas for my mushy barley that I stashed in tubs in the freezer: baking it into bread, adding them to veggie burgers. Do you have any other ideas?

Combine a couple cups of barley, one bunch of diced scallions, a half cup of flour, two eggs, salt and pepper. Heat a pan with a shallow coating of sunflower or peanut oil and let the oil heat up. Fry large spoonfuls of the batter in batches, scraping the dregs and adding more oil between batches. Cook fritter for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden browned. Remove to a napkin-lined plate to absorb excess oil.

Eggs poached in kale and tomato sauce.
This is a riff on shakshuka that I invented to use up leftovers, since I only had 1 1/2 tomatoes, but also had some ricotta that needed to be eaten.

Sautee 2 cloves garlic, diced small onion, a couple tomatoes and a few cups of chopped kale in olive oil. Let it simmer for a while to break down the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are more saucy, about 15-20 minutes, add a half cup of ricotta. Use an immersion blender to puree it into a sauce. Make indentations in the sauce and poach four eggs in it. Cover the pan and check every couple minutes until the whites are cooked. Serve with toast.

Evan's on an Indian kick and is determined to perfect dal. He's made this recipe for khatti dal from the New York Times twice in the past two weeks. Make sure to watch the video for technique - which strangely strays from the ingredients called for in the recipe.

A summery tomato salad of cubed fresh mozzerella and tomatoes, a handful of farro, and a handful of chickpeas over arugula with a dressing of olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Ceremony

We set out to create a personalized ceremony that would recognize the participation of our community and be filled with music. Whenever I read it over, I'm happy with how we captured the essence of our relationship and our intentions in life with each other. Others seemed to agree, since we received several compliments on how moving it was. At the bottom of this post is a list of all the resources I used to write the ceremony, as well as our whole ceremony script for others to steal in kind, which you can also download here

We were originally inspired by the idea of a Quaker wedding ceremony (as seen on A Backyard Wedding) where anyone is free to get up and speak, much like Quaker religious ceremonies. However, I came to realize that a) I was worried the ceremony would run on too long and cut into other wedding time and b) my controlling nature would not allow for that. Instead, we asked specific people to participate in the ceremony. We ended up with a friend officiating; a friend playing jazz keyboard for the processional and recessional; two musical performances; and words from grandparents on each side.

We knew that we wanted a friend or family member to officiate, rather than a stranger. We lucked out with Evan's friend Ian, who has great stage presence and composure. I dislike speaking my own emotions aloud, so I didn't want to read my own vows, and I was happy that Evan didn't want to either because he thought he would tear up too much. I am very grateful to Ian for being willing to read the words we wrote.

As a writer, it was important to me to carefully craft the exact words that would be spoken during the ceremony. It was a process that I really took my time to enjoy. True to my thorough nature, I pored over as many wedding vows and readings as possible–on several blogs, as well as the book The Wedding Ceremony Planner–when Evan was away for a weekend. I compiled all of the lines that spoke to me and then edited them down. It's fascinating how a line that sounds like generic love language to one person can be meaningful to another. I also felt the need to edit, edit, edit because so much suggested wedding language repeats the sentiment of the vows in other parts of the ceremony. The next weekend, Evan and I spent an afternoon going over it together and chose what to include. During the ceremony itself, I realized that the act of deciding on the vows with Evan was actually just as meaningful to me as when they were spoken aloud.

We chose to say "I will" and "We will" rather than "I do," because I read somewhere that this acknowledges continuing to act on your vows in the future, not just making a promise in the present. A couple other unique touches: We added a line to commit not only to how we will treat each other, but also to how we will treat the world, which was inspired by Sara's ceremony from 2000 Dollar Wedding. At the end, it was Ian's idea to have our wedding guests pronounce us married, since he wasn't actually ordained and didn't have any special authority, and since we were already legally married the week before. It was a nice way for our community to acknowledge their role in our wedding ceremony.

Our immediate family and best men/ladies all chose to give toasts rather than speak in the ceremony. Evan's grandfather agreed to give some marriage advice during the ceremony, and is it turns out, he wanted Evan's grandmother up there too. Then, when they were done, my grandfather was moved to get up and speak, which was not planned, but did turn out to be a sweet moment.

Evan was part of a choir that sang "Set Me as a Seal" during his cousin's wedding at the farm three years ago. Sadly, I wasn't at that wedding, but I have sung and appreciate that piece, so we were inspired to have family and friends sing it at our wedding too.

Afterward, a few people wanted to hug us immediately, but then we made our escape before it turned into a receiving line. We headed off into the fields to sneak a moment alone together, with our photographer trailing us.

A Practical Wedding: Sample Vow Roundup
A Practical Wedding: Tookkit for Writing Wedding Ceremonies
Wedding Bee: Hand-Writing Our Wedding Ceremony
2000 Dollar Wedding: Write Your Own Ceremony Script
Another Damn Wedding: Our Ceremony
Kiss My Tulle: Our Wedding Ceremony and Vows
A Backyard Wedding: A Quaker Ceremony

Our Ceremony Script
download here

[Tim plays "Kiss on my list" by Hall & Oates for bridesmaids
Followed by "Julia" by the Beatles for the bridal procession]

Welcome! Please take a seat.
[Ian introduces himself]

On behalf of Evan and Julia, thank you for coming to their wedding at
this beautiful place, Deer Hollow Farm, which is familiar to many of you 
as the site of annual parties and a favorite retreat for
Evan and his family for almost 20 years.

Today, we recognize their decision to join their lives in marriage.
We celebrate the love they have found in each other and
the beginning of their journey together as life partners.

The photographers’ photos will be available online after the wedding,
so we ask that you put away your cellphones and cameras
to be present in this moment.

Community Statement
You were invited here because you are the
people who mean the most to Evan and Julia.
Today represents not only the joining of Julia and Evan,
but also the joining of their families and friends.
A marriage needs the help of a community who will be there
to stand by the couple during hard times and to share in happy times.
May we always do everything in our power to support the
union that will be made here today.

Choir Performance
[Choir performs “Set Me as a Seal”]

Marriage Advice
[Evan's grandparents speak]

Second Musical Performance
[Aaron and Carrie perform “All the Right Reasons” by the Jayhawks

Reflection on Our Relationship
Marriage is a bond to be entered into only after
considerable thought and reflection.
We are all always growing, and when you marry, you commit to
witnessing and caring for the ongoing growth of your partner.
In marriage, you promise to love not only as you feel now,
but also as you intend to feel.
In marriage, you must keep your love alive through the choices you make 
moment by moment, day after day, and year after year.

Julia and Evan have asked me to express why they are choosing each other.
From the beginning, they fit naturally into each other’s lives.
As most of you know, they share many common interests—
a love of music, good food and cooking.
They work together at the food coop, bike together around the city,
and have fun with each other’s friends.

They have found the rhythms of living together to be
healthy, relaxing and creatively engaging.
They trust and respect each other and appreciate each other’s intelligence.
Their affection makes them both feel loved every day, and
they will feel proud and lucky to call each other husband and wife.

Julia appreciates Evan’s focus on enjoying life’s simple pleasures,
his easygoing, genuine and open nature, and that he understands 
the value of this one life, and the value of health, family and friends.

Evan appreciates Julia’s view of the world as a place that we must work to improve, 
and the fact that she does more than just talk about it. 
He is blown away by the way she loves him and is inspired by her love 
to be a strong, supportive partner and a force for good in the world.
Ian: Julia and Evan have written their own vows, but I’m going to read them.
Please join hands to make your vows [to Evan and Julia].

Ian: Will you, Evan, take Julia, as your wife and faithful partner for life?
Evan: I will.

Ian: Will you, Julia, take Evan as your husband and faithful partner for life?
Julia: I will

Ian: Will you choose each other every day and love each other in word and deed?
Will you create a life of mutual respect, compassion, generosity and patience?
Will you be open and honest, trusting in each other and inspiring trust?
Will you cherish each other as individuals, partners, and equals,
knowing that you do not complete, but complement each other?
Will you accept each other for who you are now and who you may become?
Julia & Evan: We will

Ian: Will you support and challenge each other as you grow together
and do meaningful, productive work at home and in the world?
Will you maintain in yourself and inspire in others environmental consciousness and an active commitment to make the world more just for all?
Julia & Evan: We will

Ian: Evan, will you take care of Julia, delight with her in happiness and
comfort her in sorrow, through all your years and all that life may bring you?
Evan: I will

Ian: Julia, will you take care of Evan, delight with him in happiness and
comfort him in sorrow, through all your years and all that life may bring you?
Julia: I will

Ring Exchange
Ian: Now Evan and Julia will exchange rings.
Evan: I give you this ring as a symbol of my promise
Julia: I give you this ring as a symbol of my promise

Closing, Pronouncement and Kiss
Evan and Julia, we wish you wisdom and devotion in the ordering of your common life, 
that you may each be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, 
a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.
May you always need one another,
not to fill your emptiness but to know your fullness.
May you provide for each other,
not out of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
May you form a circle of love that gathers your whole community.
May you work together to construct a life rich with
health, happiness and deep satisfaction.
May you have many long years to enjoy each other’s company.

Friends and family of Evan and Julia, please rise and repeat after me:
Evan and Julia (Evan and Julia)
As your loving friends and family (as your…)
We now pronounce you married (we now pronounce you…)

You may now kiss!
[Tim plays “This Will Be Your Year” by the Zombies]

All photos by Jenna Salvagin Photography