Posts tagged: winter recipes
February 8, 2013

Grounding, Sure-Footed, and Simple

We touched home at JFK on Sunday night, and I could already feel a cold creeping up. It reminded me of stormy fights that brew just when it’s time to say goodbye; at least getting sick would make it easier to leave beautiful and charming Copenhagen. Which I want to tell you all about in potentially florid detail–all those vacation breakthroughs and epiphanies and a sense of wide-eyed awakeness. Right now I’m still sorting through them and testing them against the light of real, everyday life.

I am also blowing my nose into oblivion. But I was enormously grateful to open the freezer and find I had the foresight to freeze a bit of this soup before our trip. It has bunches and bunches of greens in it, dill and a lively squeeze of lemon. It’s soup at its best: filled with the kind of clean, bright flavors you long for in the dark of winter or after too much indulgence or when you are sniffling endlessly. It feels nourishing, as if just breathing its lightly-scented steam will put you right again. It’s the kind of food we need when we’ve had major upheaval: it’s grounding, sure-footed, and simple. It’s what I was craving before I set off on what I called my Life Design Inspiration Trip, and what I’m wanting even more now that I’m home.

For all of you with mid-winter colds, heartaches, or who are just experiencing the dull, panging ennui that February so often brings on–this one’s for you.

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January 4, 2013

Themes (and a Salad!) for the New Year

Happy new year, friends! I hope you were able to dedicate some time to yourself over the holidays away from work and obligations to be decadent and indulgent. I rode a train north to Massachusetts to meet my family in Northampton. It snowed on Christmas Day, my niece wore no fewer than three hand-me-down Christmas ensembles, and I felt restored to myself, just for having a wide open expanse of time. Some of what I learned included:

  • Being able to go and stay offline––for days!––feels like the rarest and most glorious kind of luxury
  • I love the Mindy Project (and Dr. Danny Castellano)
  • It can take a full week for the stress and anxieties of work to lose their grip on you
  • If someone offers you a shot of innocent-enough sounding pink gin (which is actually the vile combination of gin spiked with bitters), do not kick it back
  • A long winter walk can ease just about any kind of hurt
  • Grown adults can sit in a circle and be entertained for hours by the smiles, squeaks, and flirty expressions of a five month-old
  • It feels good to set time aside to dream
  • Another rare and glorious luxury: slipping into an outdoor hot tub surrounded by packed snow, bare tree branches stretching over your head
  • I am a woman who wants to wear a furry hat

Over the holidays I watched the documentary The Queen of Versailles, a movie about David Siegel and his time-share business and family. One scary scene brings you into a motivational sales meeting. The man at the front of the room, in sort of creepy Tom Cruise in Magnolia-like fashion, tells a crowd of time-share sales reps that they are just like doctors, like nurses, like firefighters. “Vacations save lives,” he tells them. Well, I had to give him that. Studies do show how vacations encourage physical and emotional well-being, and right now, fresh from time with my friends, my family, and to myself, I feel it. I feel optimistic and grounded, lucky, loved, and centered.

I haven’t been one for resolutions lately. Last year, I gave myself a theme to repeat to myself like a refrain: Back to Basics. With its simple encouragement to stay tuned in to what matters, it’s one I’d like to keep up this year. I’d also like to wear more flattering v-neck t-shirts and read more books. But I think my strongest thematic influence this year, which I will share at the risk of sounding like Iris McKay, is inspired by the two archetypal feminine cards in the tarot deck: The High Priestess, who is complicated and confusing to me, but who stands for potential, mystery, and the magic of the unseen world, and The Empress, who is as wonderfully straight-forward as a woman lounging on a chaise in a woodland scene, wearing a flowing gown and a crown of stars can be. All of my intentions for the year, though, are bound up in a bigger one: to be with what’s here right now. It’s a resolution I could make for a lifetime.

In the spirit of fresh starts, and because you, like me, are probably craving vegetables right now, I also wanted to share my current favorite winter salad. It’s as simple as can be really, and more a template than a recipe: any roast squash will do, some chopped apple, the nut or seed of your choice tossed with lots of shredded kale and a sweet-tart apple cider vinaigrette. Before the holidays I was sprinkling this salad with a bit of blue cheese, but if that feels too hedonistic, I think some pomegranate seeds would be just lovely.

If you feel like sharing, my questions are manifold: what themes/resolutions/intentions are you thinking about for the new year? What vibrant, healthy meals are you making right now? And what did you learn on your winter vacation?


December 14, 2012

Lemony Sardine Pâté

My affection for sardines needs no introduction. And my love of pâté? That requires no explanation either. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was one after my heart.

The laziness in me is obviously a fan, too. Because if you keep a can of little fish in the cabinets, and have a lemon in your fruit bowl for French 75s, and leftover thyme from a fall-flavored shepherd’s pie, you have everything you need to whip up a quick and unexpectedly elegant little snack when friends came over. This was out on the coffee table with two fat wedges of cheese, and I dare say––with much surprise––it was the most popular nibble on offer.

And what better time to debut my little fishies table runner! For years I’ve admired the classic Sill (or Blue Herring) print fabric from Almedahls but never bought it. Do you ever do that? I put off buying something I truly love or really need, checking in on it online, or searching for it again and again on Ebay with no purchase ever taking place. If it’s not a matter of not having room in the budget, then why? Perhaps, a friend once suggested, it’s a way of punishing ourselves with a pinch of denial. Blasted Puritan roots! Well, lately I have been in the kind of full-on pleasure mode that would send John Adams reeling, buying beautiful versions of the things we need: a reading lamp for my nook, new napkins, a soft throw over the back of a chair. As my friend Amy recently wrote, you will never regret buying the best version of a practical thing. And I’d raise her: you will never regret buying a beautiful thing that you use every day. A cheerful sheet set, a little bud vase in a just-so shade of blue, a spoon that makes morning oatmeal a delight. Our purchases need not be expensive (though sometimes, like the bike of your dreams, they can be), but it brings vast amounts of pleasure and a prepared feeling of togetherness to know, yes, I have a set of eight matching napkins for dinner, a blanket for my friend’s shoulders when she sits in front of our drafty window, and the right light to curl up with the last pages of Little Women. In my two weeks of ownership, I’ve reaped $36 worth of pleasure from the spare graphic design of this runner draped across our table, and it’s the kind of thing we can take with us, wherever we call home.

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January 27, 2012

Winter Budget Meals (Is It Payday Yet?)