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you know how they say that winter is all about nesting? how we all gain those extra 5-10 pounds courtesy of meat sauces and carbs and other such comfort foods? well, while i definitely gained my “winter weight”, i haven’t exactly been nesting. or, maybe i’ve been nesting, but i haven’t been cooking nearly as much as i did last winter. i got this amazing giant dutch oven from sur la table for hanukkah, and i’ve used it once. ONCE! that is a travesty.

i’m not sure what got into me this winter. i could use the easy excuse and say i was too busy for heavy duty cooking, but i think the true reality is that i just got lazy. but suffice it to say, my kitchen has not been seeing enough action (you and me both, kitchen), and it’s time to whip my ass back into shape.

this weekend marked the first time that it actually felt like spring here in new york, and i celebrated it with a stroll through the union square greenmarket on saturday afternoon. i only came home with flowers – the best of the produce isn’t out yet – but as i walked through, i was reminded of just how much i love picking up a bunch of fresh vegetables and herbs, coming home, and making magic out of them. spring is one of my favorite cooking seasons – hellooo, sugar snap peas and asparagus – so it’s high time that i get my booty in gear.

as a little inspiration, here are 5 easy weeknight meals i’m vowing to whip up over the next 2 weeks. first up is tonight’s meal: easy weeknight chicken tacos. YES PLEASE.

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other recipes i’m dying to try:

this rigatoni with asparagus pesto and ricotta salata (i heart pesto)

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this roasted harissa salmon with lemon couscous

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this slow cooker healthy chicken tikka masala (i am forever on a quest to make good tikka masala)

NOTE: slow cookers aren’t exactly quick, but they are easy. pile the stuff in before you leave for work, come home, and voila! dinner is served. 

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and last but not least, this creamy corn chowder. i LOVE corn chowder, but never thought to blend it. genius!

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sunday night bologneseit’s no secret around these parts (or any parts, really) that i looove me some carbs. more specifically, pasta. as in, i’m sure i would be really really thin if i gave up pasta. i would look like a miniature version of myself. and i’d probably have b cup boobs (let’s be real, a cups are out of the question). and while both of those things would be really wonderful for my self image, they’d also make me a sad sack of a person, because honestly, WHO WANTS TO LIVE WITHOUT PASTA?!

not i. i think all those people who swear paleo food is delicious and “going gluten free” is the shit are LYING.

why? because there’s nothing like digging into a giant steaming bowl of pasta. pasta is an antidote to sadness, to madness, to anxiety and to stress. it’s like a hug in a ceramic bowl – and this bolognese recipe is no different. comprised from not just one but three types of meat (bacon, italian sausage, and ground sirloin), it’s sure to create a  serious ‘happy in my mouth’ moment. it also makes your home smell incredible while it simmers on the stove, and makes people think you’re an all around domestic goddess.

see? i told you i could never give up pasta.

one of my favorite things to do on sunday afternoons is to wile away the hours in the kitchen. i can dice, chop, and simmer with the best of them, and there’s something almost meditative about slicing onions and chopping fresh rosemary into teeny tiny bits of flavor. this past sunday, i put on spotify’s “your favorite coffeehouse” playlist (the best, i tell you, i listen to it all day long at work) and got to work, and by 7pm, i’d taken a spin class, taken a bath, cooked this amazing meal alongside a batch of peppermint bark brownies (omg, i can’t even tell you about the goodness), and was ready to plop on my couch for an SVU marathon.

a good sunday, indeed.

so, let’s cook, shall we?

what you’ll need:

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium stalks of celery, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 lb dry rub bacon, chopped into 1/4 pieces

1/2 lb spicy (or mild) italian pork sausage, casings removed

1/2 lb ground sirloin

4 tbsp tomato paste

1 28 oz can of tomatoes, diced or whole

1/2 cup dry white wine (sav blanc or pino grigio both work well)

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, washed and chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)

1 tsp fresh thyme, washed and chopped

2 tbsp fresh basil, washed and chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)

2 tbsp fresh oregano, washed and chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)

2 bay leaves, dried

what you’ll do:

start by dicing your mirepoix (a fancy french word for carrots, celery and onions), as well as your garlic.

put a large pan on the stove – a dutch oven like this one is great, but you can also just use a large soup pot if you don’t have anything le creuset-like (you just need to be able to cover the pot to simmer it later on.

sauté  your mirepoix and garlic in the olive oil for about 5-7 minutes, or until soft.

add your chopped bacon and auté on medium heat 3-4 minutes, breaking up the chunks.

do the same with your sausage. then do the same with your ground sirloin – make sure it’s evenly browned (but not fully cooked).

add tomato paste, wine, chicken broth, and your 28 oz can of tomatoes* (i like chopped because i’m lazy, but whole is thought to be better – who knows why?). mix thoroughly, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. things are going to start to smell realllly good.

add your herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, etc. you can really throw in any herbs you’ve got laying around – they’ll add more flavor; it’s hard to go wrong. i love thyme and rosemary, so i always use those, and bay leaves are sort of like a magical ingredient. you put ’em in, simmer, take ’em out, and VOILA, flavor blast.

simmer an additional 10 minutes. remove bay leaves.

at this point, you’re ready to serve – but the longer you simmer this stuff, the better, so long as you do so on really low heat. i let my sauce simmer for about 45 extra minutes, and let’s just say, it didn’t do the bolognese any harm.

when you’re ready to dine, serve over pasta (i love penne or rigatoni to catch all the meaty bits, but spaghetti would look nice too), and grate fresh parmesan cheese atop your delectable dish. now, dig in, enjoy, and try not to guilt yourself for eating so many carbs. what, that’s just me? sunday night bolognese

*some recipes call for no canned tomatoes, just tomato paste. if you omit the canned tomatoes, you’ll end up with a less sauce-y sauce – more meat with a little bit of tomato. i like my meat sauces pretty sauce-y, so i always throw in the extra canned tomatoes (you could use fresh too!)

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sometimes i think about how skinny i’d be if i didn’t eat carbs, or really, pasta in particular. i love rice, but i could give it up. i’d miss bagels, but i could do without them. i could care less about traditional bread; i’m not a sandwich girl. but pasta. pasta i could not live without. those paleo folks who shred zucchini and call it pasta? kudos to them, but i ain’t buying that shit. pasta is pasta, and i’m not going to cut up some veggies and call it a carb. hells to the N-O. i eat more pasta than i should, that’s for sure – so when i do eat it, i try to make sure it’s relatively healthy, and not doused in some disgustingly fattening sauce (alfredo, i’m looking at you). i always toss my pasta with a) homemade pesto b) homemade meat sauce or c) fresh veggies and herbs. the canned stuff makes a rare occurrence when i’m feeling uber lazy, but i do my best to ensure that if the pasta is boxed, whatever goes on top of it is fresh.

such is the case with this easy-as-pie recipe, for lemon parsley spaghetti with garlic and parm. when i made it the other day, i was craving greens, so i tossed some broccoli in as well. all you need are lemons, garlic, butter, italian flat leaf parsley, olive oil, parmesan, and spaghetti. that’s IT. and trust, this stuff is good. you could whip it up for a dinner party and impress your guests.

what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 lb spaghetti (you could sub linguine or any other thin pasta here)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil ( i use trader joe’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped (make sure you don’t get the curly kind! italian parsley is flat leaf)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • salt + pepper
  • parmesan cheese

what you’ll do:

boil water for your spaghetti. while it boils, slice and dice all your goodies. grate the parm, chop the parsley, dice the garlic, zest your lemons, and squeeze ’em of their juices.

once your water is boiling, toss in your spaghetti with a pinch of salt. while the pasta cooks, throw your butter and olive oil into a skillet, and let the butter melt. turn the heat down to medium, and throw in your garlic. saute for a few minutes, until your entire kitchen smells like garlicky goodness (the best smell on earth). when garlic browns, turn off the heat.

drain your pasta, and toss is with the garlic/olive oil mixture. next, mix in your lemon zest/lemon juice/parsley. top with parm, season with a bit of salt and pepper, et voila! a delicious, easy, springy and oh-so-pretty meal!

ps: if you wanted to add protein, some lemony shrimp would be perfection on top of this dish.

pps: if you wanted to add veggies, simply chop them up and throw them into the pasta water for the last few minutes to cook them up, then drain them with your spaghetti.

c6120d988442a300b66f9321d79b23e0oh goodness, friday, i am so glad you are here. is it just me, or was this the longest week ever? i feel like i’ve been living my life in double time lately, and i don’t think things are going to slow down until we hit the holidays. my weeks have been such a whirlwind that i’ve been laying low on the weekends. it seems like the only way to preserve my sanity. tonight, i’m going to treat myself to a mani/pedi after work, then take my freshly painted toesies to trader joe’s, where i’ll pick up the fixings for the mini dinner party i’m hosting tomorrow night. i’m planning on making an old classic from the silver palate (hello, 80s!) cookbook, chicken marbella. something about prunes, capers and brown sugar all cooked up with chicken just screams cozy to me. i’m pairing it with a big arugula salad with shaved parmesan and balsamic, wild brown rice, and peanut butter white chocolate chip cookies. oh, and a cheese plate to start (inspired by this recent post on domaine). there’s really nothing i love more than a long, lazy dinner (okay, maybe not lazy, i have trouble keeping my OCD in check and not clearing plates before people are ready) with friends, multiple bottles of wine, and lots of yummy fall candles lit around us. saturday night perfection, in my book.

besides that, i’m taking a level 2 bar method class with one of my favorite teachers, robyn, who recently left new york for california. she’s back for the weekend, and is teaching a reunion class of sorts. i’m going to be so sore, but i can’t wait to see her. after that, i’m headed to get my hair done uptown, then back home to put the chicken in the oven. sunday will be brunch at the smith, then errands in the east village. a perfect relaxing weekend to prep me for the week ahead (which involves my very first business trip to raleigh, of all places, for a video shoot!).

what do you have planned for the weekend?

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you guys, i made this for dinner the other night (as documented on instagram above), and it was so spectacularly easy that i forgot to take pictures of my progress. essentially, i have a before picture, and an after picture, and that’s about it. but that’s okay, because as i said, it’s pretty much the easiest recipe EVER, so there’s not that much to document. i found the recipe here, and adapted it a bit to suit my kitchen needs.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce (i used trader joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces mozzarella ( i got mine at trader joe’s)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 3-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 pre-cooked chicken breast (i had some breaded chicken left over that i chopped up)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to package in a large pot of water with salt. Once pasta is fully cooked, drain and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. In a large pan warm spaghetti sauce over medium heat. One the sauce is heated, add in heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Once cheese is melted pour sauce over noodles.
  4. Cut grape tomatoes in half and mozzarella in 1/2 inch cubes. Then combine the mozzarella (save about 1/4 cup) and tomatoes with the pasta. Add your chopped up chicken (shrimp would also be yummy!) Pour into a 9×9 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Top with fresh basil. Enjoy!
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image from drizzle and dip; i forgot to shoot mine (too busy eating it!)

i made this the other night, and let me tell you, it was balls to the wall awesome. never made risotto? never fear – it’s not nearly as complicated as it might seem. i adapted this recipe to my liking, which meant adding more rice, more wine, and skipping the mussels. what can i say? seafood’s not my style (though i can holler at shrimp from time to time!). roasted tomatoes with thyme, however…that is my style. big time.

there’s nothing like the sound of freshly sliced tomatoes hissing and popping in your oven (sidenote, i just accidentally wrote “pooping” instead of popping!). every time you hear that crackle, you know there’s some sweet tomato-y goodness coming your way.

the wonderful thing about risotto is that once you’ve got the base recipe down, the dish is endlessly customizable. i’ve made beet risotto, mushroom risotto, asparagus and sweet pea with lemon risotto…you really can put just about any flavor into this creamy rice and it’ll be irresistibly delicious. i’d actually never made tomato risotto before, but after eating it the other night, i’m pretty sure i’ll be adding this recipe to my regular rotation.

one of the things i love most about risotto is that it forces you to relax. the dish requires constant attention on the stovetop, so you can’t do anything but stir. and drink wine, and chat with friends, or listen to music, or let your mind drift. there’s no multitasking, no, “i should prep my lunch while this cooks” or “i could be cleaning the bathroom right now” (these are legitimate thoughts i have, by the way). all you can do is stir, and breathe, and let me tell you, you want to breathe, because onions sweated in butter and salt and pepper smell incredible.

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so, let’s get cooking, shall we?

here’s what you’ll need:

for the roasted tomatoes:

4-5 large tomatoes (i chose plum, but you could do any kind, really)

about 2 rows of vine tomatoes (about 2 cups)

fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

for the risotto:

1 small onion, diced

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

salt and pepper to taste

1.5 cups of arborio rice

1/2 cup of wine, poured liberally (and a glass for you to drink while you stir)

6 cups of chicken stock

1/2-3/4 cup parmesan cheese

here’s what you’ll do:

*start by roasting your tomatoes. slice the big ones, leave the little ones be. spread them out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. add a few sprigs of thyme onto the sheet as well – they’ll infuse the tomatoes with extra deliciousness. bake at 350 for 25-45 minutes (mine took almost 50; every oven is different). you’ll hear the tomatoes pop and sizzle as they cook. you want them to look wilted, but not too smushy, when they come out. the image above is a good indicator of what you’re going for.

*note: you can do this step ahead of time

set aside 1/4 of your roasted tomatoes in a bowl. you’ll use them later.

now, blend or food process the remaining 3/4 of the tomatoes until they resemble a thick soup. you’ll be stirring this goodness into your risotto in a bit. set aside.

put your stock onto a second burner and heat thoroughly. you’ll use the stock to cook the rice.

to make the risotto itself, put your diced onion and your butter into a large saucepan. cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions have sweated, the butter has melted, and the kitchen smells like your favorite italian restaurant. now, add your rice. cook for about a minute, until the rice turns clear and the pan begins to crisp. dump in your 1/2 cup of wine (feel free to add more, the alcohol burns off anyway) and stir. scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon as you stir to fully deglaze the pan and get all those delicious little browned butter bits up.

add about two ladles-full of chicken stock (though you can use veggie if you’d like to make this recipe vegetarian) into your rice, and stir. turn the heat down to low, and leave it there. for the next twenty minutes, you are a slave to your stove. all you need to do is stir, add more stock, stir, add more stock, and so on and so forth, until your rice is cooked all the way through, and your risotto is a beautiful creamy texture. again, this should take about 20-25 minutes. if you don’t use all your stock, don’t worry! once your rice is done, mix in about 1/2-3/4 of freshly grated parmesan cheese. mmm, cheesy.

now, take your blended roasted tomatoes, and mix those in as well. now, your risotto should be creamy, cheese, and a beautiful tomato red. go ahead, stick your spoon in and have a taste. hallelujah, it’s delicious, isn’t it?

now, take those tomatoes you reserved earlier, and stir them in as well. if the pieces are too big, feel free to cut them into bite sized bits first.

dole out into soup bowls or small pasta bowls. this should serve around 4-5 people for dinner. sprinkle a bit of parm on the top, and garnish with a small sprig of thyme. et voila, a delicious dinner!

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one of my favorite things about spring in new york is how it reinvigorates the farmer’s market in union square. the market never quite disappears in the winter, braving those chilling days when it feels like the wind could cut straight through your cheeks and leave you wounded – but in the spring, it truly comes alive again. the square bustles with people: moms pushing double strollers and dads carrying babies and baggus. teenagers skateboarding past the strawberries and young couples picking out fresh flowers one by one. this past weekend was the first one in the city that truly felt like spring. i went to sleep on friday night, and when i woke up saturday morning, the sun was shining bright. the clouds were so fluffy it looked like if you jumped high enough you could land in them, sinking into their softness and squeezing in a 20 minute power nap. it was the perfect spring day: crisp air, highs in the upper fifties, the promise of something new and beautiful to come.

weather like that, it makes you forget that someone puked on the subway before. it’s like someone colors the city with a hazy, rose tint, and all of a sudden, everything is wonderful and nothing bad exists. it is, in other words, the perfect time to go shopping. and so shop i did. i came home from the farmer’s market with a slew of fresh fruit and veggies and on sunday afternoon, i took to my kitchen and went nuts. i made homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream (recipe to come later this week), and then decided to meld all my fresh spring veggies into one delicious spring pasta. it was so delicious that i thought you might want to make it for yourself. what’s that? you do want to? great. the how-to is below.

The Recipe

2 cloves of garlic, diced

2 cups assorted sliced veggies – i used asparagus, zucchini, green beans and spinach

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/3 box of penne (i like barilla)

2 tsp of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

parmesan to taste

Make it

this recipe is insanely easy to make. it’s so simple, in fact, that i’m not even really sure it counts as a recipe. but whatever. it’s my blog and i can lie about recipes if i want to. so, let’s do this thing.

to start, slice all your veggies. you can use whatever spring veggies you’ve got around. i threw some frozen peas in at the last minute, and damn, were they good. your veggies should be cut into approximately 1″ pieces. they don’t have to be baby bite size, but you also don’t to be shoving an entire asparagus stalk in your mouth at one time. and if you do, well, you’re not allowed to eat at my house.

put a pot of cold water on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. when it gets there, dump in your pasta and add a pinch of salt. while your pasta is cooking, saute your veggies. put your olive oil into a pan and give it about a minute to heat up. add your diced garlic and give that a minute to get all fragrant and wonderful and garlicky. now, dump in your veggies. if your pan is too dry, feel free to add a bit more olive oil. a little more EVOO never hurt no one. while your veggies cook, zest your lemon into the pan. mmm, smell that lemony deliciousness. SO GOOD. don’t juice it just yet. that will come later.

when your pasta is done, drain it and reserve a tiny bit of the pasta water. pour it into a pretty bowl. now, add the sautéed veggies on top of it. take a fork and mix it all together for good measure. now, juice your lemon over the pasta and mix again. smells good, doesn’t it? season with salt and pepper to taste, and grate some fresh parm on top.

et voila! a delicious spring dinner.

note: if you’re looking to even this dish out, i’d recommend sautéing some shrimp with a bit of lemon juice, or grilling up some chicken to slice on top of it. protein’s great and all, but man, sometimes a girl just wants CARBS.

now, go forth and make something springy!