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Our first sukkah!

BKS building the sukkah

Ben and I built our first ever sukkah this year. It is HUGE (8×12′), big enough to fit our 6′ table and four comfy chairs around it. It is awesome. We mail ordered the 6×8′ s’chach from The Sukkah Project and built the frame from 2x4s (and two 1x2s) from Home Depot and some metal framing braces.

best sukkah ever

Here’s a photo of our sukkah all lit up and set for a nice dinner. Lovely! The back wall (up against the parking garage) looked bland, so I picked up a plastic shower curtain from the BB&B clearance section to hang up there and it really helps it look less blocky and more festive.

A friend from Interlochen, JMV, came down from New York for the first day of sukkot and I had to remind my new bosses that I wasn’t kidding when I said that there were 3 major Jewish holidays in 3 weeks (really 4 in 4 weeks, but I usually only fully observe two of them, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Ben worked his spousal magic and had a wonderful dinner waiting for us when we got home (picking up cupcakes at the train station, en route home) for Erev Sukkot (the night before the first day). We had a great time and ate too much together. JMV and I spent the first day of Sukkot living in the sukkah (i.e. vegging out, the weather was lovely!).

That’s the latest from here. I’ll try and catch up on my photos from Boulder and then tell you all about my new J-O-B soon!

 

Avocado Pie FAIL!

Let me start by saying that this pie was DELICIOUS! It also looks like Slimer from the Ghostbusters cartoon. I’d say it also qualifies as a FAIL inspired by Pintrest.

Almost every week one of my favorite bogs, Serious Eats, has a Share Your Sweets photo roundup. This weekend’s challenge was “summer pie.” I had just bought a bag of HUGE, Costco-sized avocados (from Costco) and decided that since I’d purchased them in August they were a summer fruit and therefor I would look for a recipe for avocado pie (also because I realized WTF am I going to do with 7 huge avocados when they all ripen within 24 hours of each other?!). This seemed like a good plan to use up the smallest two (AKA normal sized) avocados.

Here were my inspirations:

Pinch My Salt’s seemingly simple avocado pie, as modified by chez us.

Yeah. Mistakes I made:

  1. We didn’t have any sweetened condensed milk, so I googled how to sub evaporated milk and sugar (hint, it’s 3/4 cup of sugar for every 5 oz of evaporated milk, I eyeballed 1 1/3 cups of sugar into 12 oz of evaporated milk to “keep the sugar content down”). You have to heat the mixture to combine the sugar and then cool it completely before using it, mine was tepid. FAIL ONE.
  2. I misread 3.5 oz of lemon juice for 3.5 Tbls. FAIL 2. Plus, I used lime, but that shouldn’t have mattered as much as the missing 1.5 Tbls of juice.
  3. I tried to “bling out my pie” by slicing a small avocado into thin slices and fanning them in the crust before pouring in the goop. FAIL 3. SPLORT!

Oh, you want to see how mine came out? Sure, OK:

VERDICT: I will try it again with the right ingredients, without sliced avocado, and without the meringue topping and maybe just a dollop of plain yogurt or unsweetened whipped cream. Even with the slightly reduced sugar it was a seriously SWEET dessert. I remember sweetened condensed milk as a more mellow sweet, kinda caramel-y, rather than the assertive WHITE SUGAR sweet that I got from the glop I made. With so many possible easy fixes, how can I not try to make this again in the future?

avocado lime pie

avocado lime pie “glamor shot”

I know I’m not going to win any food photography contests any tim soon, but I really did want to try with this! Look, I had props and everything! I was going to cut open the avocado and display the 1/2 with the pit, but decided against “wasting” good fruit on such a deliciously sloppy pie.

FINAL LATE NIGHT THOUGHT: If I rename this Slimer Pie, would that make it better?

NUTRITIONAL INFO: I don’t want to know. I guessed 7 WW PointsPlus per 1/8th. It might be closer to 11. Like I said, I don’t want to know. I ate my slice 90 minutes ago and now I have a slight sugar hangover.

Colca Cañon Quinoa Soup

For a yummy KOSHER soup recipe, please click on, visit, like, save, etc. my Colca Cañon Quinoa Soup recipe on Food52.com. If you all like, save, click on read my recipe enough times over there in the next 2 days, maybe I’ll win some swag from Bob’s Red Mill (a company I’d love to support more, if their products weren’t so out of my price range).

What happens when you’re bored in the summer and a former Michgander who is SUPER excited by gorgeous, late season cherries in the grocery store? POPSICLES!

See that photo below, those beautiful cherries are are almost as big as the lime in the background! Yum. This popsicle tasted a lot like store-bought cherry yogurt but less sweet and with a little extra tang from the lime soaked into the cherries. Mmm.

CHERRY LIME YOGURT POPSICLEScherry lime popsicle

  • 1 cup of cherries, pits removed and chopped into bits
  • 1 Tbl sugar
  • 1 Tbl lime juice
  • 7 oz Fage 0% yogurt (one single serving package)
  1. Chop up your cherries (I cut them into 8ths), removing the pits as you go (if you don’t have a cherry pitter).
  2. In a bowl, macerate the cherries in the sugar and lime juice for at least 30 minutes, but no more than an hour.
  3. Combine the yogurt with the soupy cherry mixture.
  4. Spoon the mixture into your favorite popsicle molds, using a chopstick to knock out as many bubbles as possible, insert popsicle sticks or the handles that go with your mold before freezing.
  5. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.
  6. To remove your popsicles from the mold, place the mold in a glass of room temperature water for about 3 minutes to soften the edges and make it easier to remove the popsicle from the mold.

Nutritional Info: 3-4 servings, depending on your popsicle mold size. 1 WW PointsPlus each.

Here’s my take on it: I like baking bread, cookies, canning, entering recipe contests, etc. because they give me projects, goals, and satisfaction when I’ve completed/entered them! Sending resumes out into the great void of employers is demoralizing and depressing (I send out 12-20 cover letters  and resumes per week, I hear back maybe 3-5 times per week, most of those being something like “We have received your resume and will contact you if we would like to interview you.” If I don’t get some curt, reply-all, email I don’t know if a person or a computer has screened me out but I typically don’t get so much as a note saying “Your application has been received” to let me know that the email and attachments even went through. Thank goodness for mailer daemon or I might think they’ve all been rejected!

And Emily Marchar‘s take on the subject of why my peers and I like doing stuff is why she’s a writer and I’m not:

There’s a degree to which this New Domesticity helps people justify and feel good about the choices that they basically had to make. A lot of women are pushed out of the workforce, and nobody wants to feel like they’re a pawn, nobody wants to feel like they don’t have any power.

D.I.-Why?: Emily Matchar on the Allure of the “New Domesticity” | The Hairpin.

home made sushi

home made spicy tuna and carrot maki rolls, for a gluten-free friend’s birthday in 2009

UPDATE: And while we’re at it, THIS! Our life isn’t ready for a baby but I am: let’s talk about dealing with baby fever” | Offbeat Families. I just wanted to throw that our there too, to add to this morning’s general “Woe is I” feeling. I ♥ you, ladies of the interwebs.

I don’t really like blogging about my Weight Watchers success. It makes me feel weird, like I shouldn’t have let myself go so far before I had to look for outside enforcement, but that’s the nature of having a problem. You won’t accept help until you look for it yourself. Going to a WW meeting mustn’t be too far off from an AA meeting, food addicts, alcoholics, we’re not that different. Well, maybe our stories are less depressing at WW, but we’re there to be supportive of each other and to share what’s working and what isn’t and learn the science behind the whats and whys of the program.

Anyhow, it’s working slowly but surly for me. Since Thanksgiving 2012 I’ve lost 20 lbs (well, I hit that milestone a month ago and have been near it since, but I haven’t been great about limiting my birthday/wedding celebration consumption either). Yes, that’s 9 months to loose 20 lbs, or about 2 lbs per month overall. I’m actually quite proud of it and expect that because I’ve lost it so slowly it’s more likely to stay off.

Every time I hit a setback it’s been 3-4 pounds over 2 weeks after some major event revolving around food: baby shower, road trip, baby shower, wedding, birthday, etc. Then it takes me a month to get back on track, and loose what was there before too, which is really frustrating because I feel like I’ve lost the same weight over and over again. It also means that sometimes I loose 6 lbs in a month when 1/2 of those were pounds I’d already lost and yo-yoed back because I ate too much salt/fat/whatever and just had an awful weigh in previously. FINALLY though I’m starting to see that I look and feel different. My waist is back where it should be and old clothes not only fit but are a tad roomy! And the best part is that yoga is getting easier, not because I’m getting stronger, I feel I may have in fact lost muscle tone because I’m not as active as I have been in the past, but because there’s less belly to have to modify around!

The biggest milestone for me is that my wedding dress not only fits again, but it fit without the Spanx I wore underneath for my wedding! WOOHOO!

wedding dress on 30th birthday

pointing out my favorite wedding photo in my wedding dress almost 3 years later
PS- please ignore the mezuzah that appears to be sticking out of my head

Go me! Oh, and I got new glasses too. Not a huge change, but I also got my first pair of prescription sun glasses rather than the magnetic/clip-on sunglasses that went over my regular glasses that I had in the past. I feel like a real grownup now. Watching my food intake, trying to track my physical activity, and real sun glasses. I guess 30 isn’t so bad, it just can’t the tequila/beer and nachos/pizza festival that 23 was and I am 100% OK with that; I like veggies, whole grains, and lean protein!

This is one of my go-to meals for when I realize it’s after 6PM and there’s nothing to eat for dinner yet. Yes, it’s a pasta dish but it’s also 1/2 good stuff too! Carbs get a bad wrap from some folks, but I don’t care because I know that I’m one grumpy chica if there’s nothing in my tummy but veggies and protein; carbs are what make me feel well fed in a way that other foods don’t.

To me, carbs are rice (brown over white), pasta (depends on the sauce, but regular and whole wheat both have their place), bead, corn, and potatoes. Seriously, it’s not a meal to me if none of those things is present. I was NOT a happy camper during phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. Also, it is expensive to fill up on non-starchy foods. Per serving grains and starchy foods are relatively cheap compared to veg and protein, even organic grains and starches!

Anyway, here’s my newest recipe that is SUPER simple and only takes as long as it takes to boil water and make a box of pasta (about 30 minutes for me).

Kale Chorizo Skillet Dinner

  • 1 box (12 oz) of WHOLE WHEAT PENNE*
  • 1 box (10 oz) FROZEN CHOPPED KALE
  • 1/2 package (6-8 oz) SOY CHORIZO SAUSAGE (chopped up, if in link form)
  • 3 cloves GARLIC, sliced
  • 1 Tbl OLIVE OIL
  • 1/4 cup REDUCED-FAT COLBY JACK CHEESE, shredded
  • bonus ingredients: SMOKED SALT
  1. Bring a medium sized pot of salted water to a boil (I used a 4 qt sauce pan). You don’t want to use your largest pot because you want the water to be super starchy. Get your pasta in there as soon as it comes to a boil. Don’t forget to set a timer for the pasta according to your packaging!
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium.
  3. Defrost your kale in the microwave, give that “defrost” button a try!
  4. Sautee the garlic until golden brown, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the chorizo to the skillet, chopping it up with your spatula, keep stirring frequently.
  6. Once the chorizo is heated through (it may or may not start to brown), add the defrosted kale (drain off any water present before adding kale).
  7. Just before the pasta timer goes off, and you’ve got your colander set to drain the pasta, add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the kale chorizo mixture, stir.
  8. Drain the pasta, combine in the skillet with the kale chorizo mixture.
  9. Serve topped with a sprinkle of cheese and smoked salt.

Serve immediately and goes well with your favorite rosé or cervesa/light beer!

Serves 6. 6 Weight Watchers Points+ per serving.

*Ben was the cook tonight and couldn’t find the whole wheat penne behind the regular penne in the cupboard, oops. I thought that it wasn’t as good as the last time we made it because it was a) lacking in the slight nuttiness of the whole wheat pasta and b) there is more regular pasta in a box (16 oz rather that 12-13.25) so the add-ins were more sparsely distributed. Oh well.

And while I still have your attention, I’d like to compose a mini love letter to my Cuisinart Ceramic Nonstick pans and dutch oven. After a few years of use they’re getting some nicks around the edges of the pans (either from moving or knocking around in the drying rack) but they cook so wonderfully! If you’re looking for teflon-free nonstick these are my #1 recommendation.

OMG, you guys, these cookies are AMAZING, tiny, buttery, slightly sweet, matcha scented gems. Plus I got to use my cookie gun. Yeah, you heard me: cookie gun. Well, technically it’s called a cookie press, but look at it!

cookie press

Kuhn Rikon Cookie Press

Yeah, that’s a cookie gun.

For these cookies I was inspired by Food Network‘s Honey Spritz Cookies, found via The Foodie’s Kitchen; but those cookies sounded too wintery so I had to change them without trying the originals or having used a cookie press in probably 15 years. I’m living on the edge here. The edge of DELICIOUS!

Honey Green Tea Spritz Cookies

Honey Green Tea Spritz Cookies

Honey Green Tea Spritz Cookies

  • 2 c minus 2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp matcha (potent green tea powder)
  • 1 stick (8 Tbl) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 c white sugar
  • 1 egg (large)
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F after putting the racks in the 1/3 and 2/3 position. Move two clean, unlined baking sheets away from the oven to keep them cool.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In your mixer bowl, beat the room temperature butter with the sugar. Beat the butter and sugar on medium high, stopping every few minutes to scrape the bowl down. In about 5 minutes you should have fluffy, glossy, creamed butter.
  4. Use cooking spray to lube a measuring cup and measure out your honey.
  5. Add the honey, egg, and vanilla extract to the creamed butter. Mix to combine, stopping to scrape the bowl down every minute or so.
  6. Following the directions that came with your cookie press, fill the chamber about 3/4 full of dough (I make small blobs and shove them in and then keep packing them in until it looks full). *
  7. Press out your cookies! Fill two whole trays. **
  8. Bake for 5 minutes, rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom (unless you’re cooking in a convection oven, then just subtract a minute), and then bake another 6 minutes for 11 minutes total. ***
  9. Let cool for 1-2 minutes before moving to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

* It will take 2-3 loads of cookie press to shape all the cookies. There will be a bit of ugly, raw dough at the end that you can’t shape., just eat it because you know you want to!

** The first few might come out ugly, that’s OK, pull them off the try and you can re-stuff them into the press later.

*** I baked mine for 6 minutes and 6 minutes and they came out a bit browner on the edges than I’d have liked. If your third tray is going in the oven solo, just use the top rack and bake for 11 minutes.

Nutritional Info: 1 Weight Watchers PointsPlus point per cookie/1 Tbl of raw dough (every nibble counts!)

PS- Does anyone know how to get my baking sheets CLEAN again? Bon Ami and elbow grease hardly make a dent in the baked on brown spots!

Last Thursday, the 8th, was my birthday! It was pretty low key. The previous Sunday we hosted a birthday brunch at home and had a bunch of friends and some family over too. It was lovely, but my younger brothers “forgot” and didn’t show up, which was a bit disappointing. Oh well, I should have know I was asking for too much when I set brunch for 10:30ish AM, about 90 minutes before I should expect anything from them on the weekend.

Anyhow, I’ve been on a big salad kick and made a HUGE salad (I had to split it into two bowls) for the brunch, along with a lemon poppy seed bundt cake, coffee cake, and we also served watermelon, fresh feta, and aged manchego (Costco has some amazing cheeses). Ben made a big batch of creamy scrambled eggs with herbs, and he also spent a chunk of time the previous day ironing out crackers in the pasta roller!

Sadly we forgot to take any photos. Doh. Here’s a photo a the “major salad” that I made for the same pre-wedding potluck that I made the curried popcorn for. It’s the same as the salad I’d made for my birthday brunch, but the tiny grapes were a birthday present and thus not present in the birthday salad (they did sit quite handsomely in a tupperware on the table of food for eating.

major salad

Home grown basil and home made balsamic vinigrette are the “secret” ingredients (along with cracked buckwheat cooked with a spoonful of vegan broth powder).  I love big salads because I feel like they’re OK to keep snacking on when the social context calls for continued eating but in terms of more filling foods (like cake or pasta) and WW points I’ve met my limit for the meal. You can even stretch out major salads like this by adding more spinach as you empty the bowl, there’s usually a little pool of over dressed toppings on the bottom of the bowl anyway.

Oh, so you want to hear about my real birthday? Like I said, it was pretty low key. I thought I was going to have a temp job, I got a call right at 9 AM, but then the computer system at the staffing agency went down and they actually lost the client to another agency because of the lack of communication and they couldn’t call me back to let me know because they couldn’t look up my number! That was a bit frustrating, but by noon I knew that it wasn’t going to work out and called a girlfriend who was savoring her last week of maternity leave to see if she wanted to meet up for lunch. We ended up at Tara Thai in Bethesda after wandering around a bit and then wandered some more. I’d brought my gym bag with me in the car and begrudgingly went (my ankle is still a bit weak from a fall 3 weeks ago) and I walked 3 miles on the treadmill while watching Ellen. Dinner was equally low-key, a progressive meal of frozen yogurt and hot food and salad from the local up-scale/healthy grocery with a friend from WW and his wife and Ben too.

Ben’s parents came down to visit over 4th of July weekend. His parents stayed with his aunt and uncle, who live in Tenlytown, near American University. We spent some time with the whole clan while Ben’s parents were here and did some touristy things too.

Here are my photos from our day at the Library of Congress. If I recall correctly it was plain old hot that day. There was so much to keep us occupied at the LoC that we were there for over 4 hours, before heading to Tenlytown for dinner. The following day Ben took his parents to see The Star Spangled Banner at the American History Museum (while I went to Pilates) and then I met up with them at EPA HQ to walk through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to get to the Time and Navigation Exhibit at the Air and Space Museum. It was an absolute DC-style museum binge for two days straight. I was all museumed out by the time we took the metro home to Rockville to try out Spice X-ing and show Ben’s parents our apartment.