Wednesday, October 27, 2010

this natural shampoo smells like orange creamsicles (and it's made in Vermont!)

Like many people, I try to be eco-conscious when I can. In a place like Burlington, it's pretty easy to eat local, to find "green" cleaning products, to recycle—even compost—almost everything. Some things are still a challenge. Like finding a natural deodorant that actually works (any suggestions?). I mean, even though I want to use natural products, I still want to feel and smell pretty. (That's my vanity showing through right there.)

My latest obsession has been finding the perfect sulfate-free shampoo that doesn't make my hair feel like straw or, worse, look like a grease slick. I've tried a lot of "natural" shampoos, but not with much luck. Recently, however, a Vermont-based body care company Flourish has popped up and their products are becoming more available around town—at Healthy Living, at The Green Life. My sister Hannah gave me a bottle of their honey blossom shampoo and I'm totally obsessed and so is Col. It smells like orange creamsicle!

Tonight, they had a little sample party at the Green Life, another Burlington store obsession of mine filled to the brim with lots of tasteful, design-ey, eco-cool stuff. I went and stocked up on shampoo samples, sugar scrubs and little guest hand soaps. I am a product junky, and I would probably buy it for the nice packaging alone (yes, I know, that's very Consumer of me) but this stuff is really great! I just had to spread the word.

And have you been to the Green Life yet? If not, you should go. If not for all the crazy cute baby clothes and accessories, then for the yummy candles and wool felted Christmas tree ornaments shaped like mushrooms and gnomes.


Monday, October 25, 2010

how to: get your husband to cook you dinner

When it's Monday night and you're both feeling blah and you don't want to even lift a finger, you say to him, "Hey, do you want to make pizza for dinner tonight? I'll get the dough out of the freezer... We can even make it with BBQ sauce if you want."

That's it. It's as easy as that. Then he'll say, "Yeah!" and proceed to start shredding cheese, chopping veggies and rolling out the dough before you've even had a chance to say the next part, which is key: "Should we eat in front of the T.V. tonight? And should we watch a movie?"

He'll be so excited about that and about all of the amazing toppings he's going to put on his half of the pie—blue cheese, celery, Frank's Red Hot... (oh, yes he did!)—that he won't even notice you've moved out of the kitchen and sidled up to the counter to watch him work his knife skills like the pro you always knew he was.

He may even want to pour your drink and set out the place mats on the coffee table and maybe even rub your feet. And give you the remote control.

Don't push your luck with that one though. You gotta keep the magic going. Pick a feel-good classic that you'll both like. Something like Pee-wee's Big Adventure should do the trick.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

the year of tarragon

I tend a small kitchen herb garden by the back entrance of our home and every year it flourishes. My lavender especially. By whim, this year, I decided to plant some French tarragon. It's pretty and I thought maybe I could use it in some recipes (even though until now I hadn't used it very much at all).

Over the summer, I became obsessed with its sweet licorice flavor and started snipping it into everything from fresh green salads and dressings to lemony pasta and mussels steamed in white wine.

My other herbs got the cold shoulder this year, but I believe they've have their fair share of time in the sun. This year is the year for tarragon.

And it's still flourishing—even amidst frosts and snow flurries.

This morning, I discovered a new sweeter side of tarragon and my taste buds were just blown away. I was making myself a breakfast parfait with a chopped honeycrisp apple, some banana, plain whole milk yogurt, a touch of maple syrup and some granola on top. I wanted to snip some basil in, but the basil in my garden has gone by and there's no mint either. But tarragon? Yes, there's still tons. And I thought to myself, "This might be crazy, but I'm willing to give it a try!"

And you know what? It was really quite wonderful.

Now I'm sitting here typing and nibbling on some fresh tarragon leaves—tastes just like candy!—and I felt the need to share my obsession.

Friday, October 22, 2010

autumn elixir with mumma

I put other things aside last night to have dinner with my mummy. It was sort of a last minute thing. I can't remember the last time the two of us spent time together, just us. She's been staying with my sis this week, so came over as soon as I was done work. We chatted as I cut up squash, onions and apple to roast for a soup.

I told her how inspired I've been by this whole 20/20 cure project. [Update on that is here: Yesterday's task (day 4) was to give one thing away. I actually have 3 things to give away (a chandelier, a small table and some chair covers), but I'm waiting till tomorrow to bring them to Recycle North. Today's task (day 5) is to get some "green" home cleaners. That wasn't hard, considering I try not to keep a lot of chemicals in the house. And the one bottle of bleach I do have scares me. I keep it hidden away in the basement...]

Mummy got inspired just talking with me about it, and said she couldn't wait to go home and clean out the storage room in the basement. Here's hoping you do, Maman!

It didn't take long for the veggies to roast, then I sauteed up some other yummy tidbits, added some spices, grated some fresh ginger and turmeric, and blended the whole thing into a flurry. I just happened to have a few candied walnuts leftover from my friend Elisa. I sprinkled those on top. We ate it simply with some warm baguette. It was just the ticket.

It was apparent that all beings in the house felt warm and fuzzy all over. Even our timid cat Suki came out of her social nut-shell and gave Mummy the special treatment, purring and rubbing up against her leg.

The soup, by the way, was delicious. I e-mailed Mummy my makeshift recipe (I realized it's not that easy to do when you're just throwing things in the pot). She replied saying, "This is the new name for your amazing soup: AUTUMN ELIXIR!!!"

Penelope's Curry Ginger Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (AKA Autumn Elixir)

  1. Roast one butternut squash (cut in half, scoop, cut sides down on oiled pan, 40-50 minutes at 400)
  2. In a Dutch oven or other big pot, saute: a chopped onion, a couple of chopped celery stalks, and some chopped garlic till tender and fragrant
  3. Add 1 tsp curry powder, dash each of cumin and ground coriander
  4. Add 1/2 bouillon cube and a few cups of water (or broth)
  5. Add the cooked squash
  6. Then grate in at least a teaspoon, I like more, fresh ginger. Grate a little bit of fresh turmeric too if you have some. Then cook it a little bit more.
  7. Puree (Here's where my magic wand is really handy. What are they called? Immersion blenders?)
  8. Add salt, pepper, honey to taste
Last when I made it for mummy, instead of doing halves, I peeled and diced the squash, then tossed it with a chopped onion, 2 or 3 whole garlic cloves, a chopped apple, some olive oil, salt and pepper. I cooked at 450 for 20-30 minutes...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

day 3: feeling saturated & inspirational photos to sooth

There's something magical that happens when you first open a tube of watercolor paint, squeeze some of the saturated pigment into a dish, soften it slowly with water and a paint brush, then sweep it in light strokes across a piece of cotton paper. By way of the water, saturation inherits clarity and airiness. It becomes accessible and approachable.

I don't think this is necessarily a good quality that I have, but I tend to fit too much in. I have a hard time saying no to requests and invitations, I make commitments, and on top of that I set unrealistic goals for myself. Does this sound familiar? I think we've all just become really good multitaskers. It all seems to work out, though, in some uncanny way.

I know I'm over-saturated when every spare moment is spent (yes, even spare moments are spent doing something!) looking for moments of asylum and clarity.

I need something to water me down.

This 20/20 cure thing I'm doing is really helping in that regard. Today's task was to find inspirational photos for our home. It was perfect actually, because this month's Elle Decor was in my mailbox when I got home and I had no trouble flipping through and finding tons of photos to inspire.

Colin and I decided that our next project is probably going to be turning the basement into a guest suite. We're inheriting an amazing bed from Kevin's parents. For colors, we're really feeling warm earthy tones with lots of airiness to balance it out.

I keep thinking to myself: how would I want it to be if I were going to stay there for a weekend myself? I would want it to be a quiet get-away: an asylum; a calming space to wash away some of the saturation and turn it into a watercolor. Sounds lovely, right? I want our basement bedroom to be an airy watercolor painting.

These pictures make me think of that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

day 2: flowers before and after

I'm the kind of person who thrives on small goals—and deadlines. I get satisfaction from writing lists and checking things off. So, feeling the need to feed my creativity, I decided to do the 20/20 cure on Apartment Therapy as a way to get inspired to beautify the space around me. Every day, for 20 days, there is a simple assignment. Things like clean 1 room or hang artwork. I can do these things!

Today is day 2 (yesterday, day 1, was clean 1 room; I chose the bathroom. Now it's clean!). Today's assignment: buy flowers. Well, I didn't buy flowers, because I have some gorgeous lavender blooming out back. And so this, morning, I made myself a few minutes later than usual for work so that I could refresh a dead bouquet that's been sitting on the coffee table longer than I'd care to admit. It was well worth being late for work.

Hey, I'm putting myself out there posting these before & afters. Now you know one of my dirty little secrets: I have bouquets of dead flowers sitting around the house. But this morning, I dumped the dead flowers, cleaned out my beautiful bud vase and filled it with a fragrant bunch of purple buds. There, now I feel so much better...



Monday, October 18, 2010

some cheese please! (argentina style)

These days, Mondays have been living up to their sour reputation. I don't know if it is the chaos at work, the shift in weather, the dry air and itchy skin. Or if it's my attitude or other people's attitudes. Or maybe all of the above. Today, on the drive to work, the pledge drive on VPR didn't help. I love VPR; I'm a sustaining member. Heck, I even listen to the pledge drives out of solidarity. But on some days, when I'm already feeling cranky, little quips about artist mugs and "today is the day" really rub me the wrong way.

(At this point, if he were here, Col would be saying, "do you want some cheese with that whine?" and I would say, "yes please!!!")

On days like today, my defense mechanism is to be as mechanical as possible, to try to be professional (even if I don't feel like it), to sit through meetings, get my work done, and leave when I've accomplished what I need to. But that takes a lot of discipline. By 4 pm, I had already hit an emotional brick wall. By 6pm, I was delirious. "Can't wait... for... couch..." The drive home was tolerable though and the 6pm crew was well on their way to making their $10,000 goal by 7. Go public radio!

But I had barely walked in the door and still had my coat on when I got a text from my sister Hannah, "do you want to grab dinner @ duino?"

Omg, are you serious? I wanted to lay on the couch and stay there all night and be anti-social. But I rarely see my sister, and I meet her for dinner even less than that. And I've really been wanting to go back to Duino Duende. Not for the amazing tostones—as amazing as they are—but for Argentina night. Hannah's friend Richard has been doing an Argentinian themed menu on Sunday and Monday nights for the month of October and I have yet to check it out.

After ordering a huge mug of mulled cider for each of us, we started with a grilled provolone cheese that was drizzled with honey and had little slivered apples and a few arugula leaves sprinkled throughout. Maybe some fresh thyme as well if I remember right? There were some pieces of baguette underneath it all. It was very simple; very delicious. It sort of reminded me of my favorite salad that I get at Trattoria Delia sometimes that is grilled mozzarella atop arugula and grilled eggplant and zucchini. Only this was much cheesier. And gooey-er.

Then we ordered and shared two main dishes: one was a handmade squash and sweet potato gnocchi with a roasted green pepper and tomato sauce. It had a light smoky charcoal flavor that was very lovely—not too much, not too little. The gnocchi was very tender, like little pillows of fluff that just melted in your mouth.

The other dish was a flatbread made with lots of yummy caramelized onions and other fall veggies. Lots more gooey cheeeeeese. And each slice was topped with a triangle of traditional flat bread made from chickpea flour. I think it's called fainá. That dish was my favorite. It had a slightly floral herbacious undertone—I think maybe it was fresh oregano? Lovely.

Then dessert was was traditional cake made with cornmeal, then topped with dulce de leche and toasted coconut. It had this crazy anise flavor, too, which, together with the corn cake, was just very new and exciting.

Somewhere in between all this, Hannah and I decided to start a writing club. And she reminded me that I have a humidifier (yay) and I should start using it tonight and it will solve all my problems.

And there. See? I feel so much better now. That was definitely worth scraping up the energy to leave the house instead of indulging my bad 'tude. Good food and good company really does nourish the soul. If you think about it, the Monday night special thing really is genius. It gives us something to look forward to!

So, I think next weekend is the last weekend for the Argentina menu, but maybe Richard will be doing some more special nights featuring another country's cuisine? I'm not sure.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

me vs. the machine

We got a slow cooker as a wedding gift. Colin has really wanted a slow cooker for a while. He doesn't do a lot of the cooking at home, but he does make some pretty fantastic soups, stews and chilis. And he thought the slow cooker would expand his horizons even more.

I, on the other hand, was dubious. I don't know what it is with me and slow cookers, but I just haven't learned to embrace them. I have a mental block figuring out how it is that they actually save people time... and how anybody with a day job can fit in all that prep work before going to work. I have this image of me multi-tasking in the morning (as if I don't do that enough) making coffee, feeding the kitties and chopping onions in my pjs. It just doesn't work.

But my friend and co-worker Michelle can't stop talking about how her slow cooker has revolutionized her life. Some days, she'll have two going at once making tons of food that she can freeze for later. She even got me a cookbook that was recommended to her by one of the foodies at work: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. It's filled with 350 unbelievable-sounding recipes from Thai Pork with Peanut Sauce to Carrot Cake (yes, really!). I've leafed through its pages several times in search of inspiration, only to read a few recipes and feel totally overwhelmed by the logistics and planning needed. Needless to say, we've had this machine for a year and have only used it once—that was Colin; he made baked beans. They were delicious.

But my other co-worker recently gave me some helpful advice (yes, we do talk about slow cookers that much at work): keep it simple and just use it on the weekends.

This morning, I didn't have a choice: I had volunteered to make chili for Sunday family night only to remember too late that our stove is not really working right now. Well, the baby burners work, but that won't cut the mustard with my Dutch oven.

So I took a deep breath and searched for vegetarian chili in the index of NYMSCC. There were two. The first recipe called for soaking beans overnight. Dang. That's where the planning would really be helpful. Luckily, the second recipe called for canned beans. And it looked pretty simple.

I dropped Col off at the airport around 11:15, went straight to the store to pick up some ingredients and got home a little before noon. I boiled water and soaked the bulgur, chopped and sauteed onions, peppers and garlic. I opened tons of cans, strained beans. And measured tons of spices. Now it's quarter after 1 and the chili is simmering away. It still took me about 45 minutes to prep, but that's okay with me. It's Sunday. And now I have one recipe under my belt and maybe this is just the beginning.

I guess the real test is how good it tastes, but I won't know till later... it's slow cooking afterall.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

favorite fall weekend, v. 2010

Tonight at dinner, Col said to me, "maybe you should get back into your writing again." It's true, I've been thinking the same thing, but in response I used my normal crutch and said, "I know, but lately it just seems like a chore, when I get home from work and am feeling drained... the last thing I want to do..."

But he bounced right back and said, "maybe you should try thinking of it more as a treat, rather than a chore, as something you can do after dinner when everything else is done."

So I said, "Does that mean you'll wash the dishes from dinner so I can go write?" Ha. Trapped. He's washing the dishes now (which is fair, I mean, I did cook the dinner).

Col's traveling again this week. He was in Puerto Rico last week and in Japan a few weeks before that. Now he's going to the West Coast for work. California then Seattle. It sounds like it's going to be a hellish week. Any-who, we decided to spend an amazing day together before he takes off tomorrow morning.

Shelburne Farms closes this week, and we haven't been all summer, so we went for our annual fall brunch at the Inn. You know, it's on this amazing piece of property by the lake, but we've been having a Nor'Easter for the last couple of days and the Lake was in turmoil, churning and frothing and boiling, Col was so excited, he almost went home and got his surfboard and wet suit to try and ride the breaks. It was that intense.

But we went to breakfast instead. Which was lovely and we got the typical farmhouse breakfast.

Afterwards, we met up with the Kouri fam at the petting farm and saw lots of tame and fluffy animals. Sapphie couldn't get enough of the chickens. My favorite part was the little hut with the mama pig and all of her little piglets.

It then starting pouring on us and we cut our visit short, but not before we visited the cheese-making room, where I reminisced about the summer I worked at Town Farm Dairy in Simsbury, Connecticut. And my main job was cleaning the glass bottles, washing the pails and various parts from milk processing. And stirring the curds. I often forget about that past life...

Anywho, tonight, I cooked a date night dinner for Col and me. I made a Vindaloo Curry with my new spice mix from the Teeny Tiny Spice Co. It was very good! Col said it was like something you get in a restaurant and I couldn't bare to tell him how easy it was. Then I made a yummy Autumn salad and I feel like I should write down the recipe so I don't forget it.

Chopped Boston and romaine lettuce
Some chopped spinach leaves
Slivered raddichio
All of these cut into slivers/matchsticks: hearts of palm, a couple of radishes, crispy apple
(I've also added slivered hard-boiled eggs and chopped pistachios to this salad and it's very good)

Garlic clove crushed
Juice of half a lemon
Couple tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2-1 teaspoon honey
Salt & pepper to taste
Couple to a few tablespoons olive oil

At least I think that's everything. I always change up my recipes, but this is what I remember from tonight. Put everything but the olive oil into a lid jar and shake like crazy till honey is dissolved. Then add the oil and shake like crazy again.

Oh and Col's contribution? Some amazing tropical fruity drinks to tame the spice. Yummy, yummy to my tummy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

new food discoveries

I've been wanting to write about a couple of new food discoveries I've made in Burlington for days now, and now that I'm sitting down to do it I can only remember what one of them was. Shame on me!

Bluebird Tavern recently opened up a kiosk on Church Street where you can get some basic sandwiches and pastries, but the stuff you really want to try is their coffee. Holy cow. I got a double cappuccino the other day with whole milk and it was seriously out of this world. Neck in neck with Sapa's Vietnamese coffee, which was previously my favorite, but they're totally different animals. You know I try to spread the coffee love, but that I can't stop thinking about the capp I had 6 days ago...

I still can't remember the other food discovery, but in other local restaurant news, I'm so glad to say that our beloved Smokejacks locale has finally re-opened as Church & Main, a new restaurant on the corner of, well, Church & Main Street. We will have to go there soon. Love that Burlington finally has places to eat downtown again.

Friday, October 08, 2010

kachumber cooler

Hey y'all. My, my. Well, well, is it the weekend again already? So, I was in New York City on Wednesday for work and before we flew back, my colleagues and I grabbed dinner at Tabla, an Indian restaurant on Madison Avenue. The food was pretty good, but what I haven't been able to stop thinking about is the cocktail I had that was out of this world: cucumbers, green chili peppers and gin. Are you kidding me?! I decided to try to find a similar recipe online and I actually found the recipe from Tabla on Yay! Friday night delight.

Kachumber Cooler
makes one cocktail

2 half-inch slices of cucumber

8 leaves fresh cilantro

2 quarter-inch slices of fresh green finger chili (any medium-mild chili, such as jalapeno or Anaheim can be substituted)

1 3/4 ounce gin (Tabla uses Plymouth, I will use Hendrick's)

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Muddle cucumber, cilantro, and chili in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass until well broken and slightly mashed. Add gin, lime, and simple syrup and shake vigorously. Strain into a double rocks glass, half filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

LinkWithin - 4 posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...