budget cooking

homemade corn broth

This is my seventeenth summer going to Cape Cod. Michael first took me just a few months after we started dating in August of 1995. I was a kid back then, just 21 years old, but still remember that summer so vividly. The 300 mile drive in his little red Toyota Celica, and the box of cassette tapes he used to pack for road trips. It was the first time I’d heard Cracker, and found myself singing Movie Star again all these years later as I made the drive out here last week. I still keep the Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 2 cassette in the glove compartment.

As we make the drive out here, I still murmur silly things like Bic Pen Drive, as we pass the Bic Drive exit on the I95. And crude things like “Exeter, I wasn’t even in her”—Mikey made that one up as we drove through Rhode Island once. Then there’s Mash-the-peas, as we pass Mashpee, one of the towns on the Cape. The motel we stayed at, Terrace Dunes, is just down the road from the house we rent now. I glance at the efficiency unit we called home for those two weeks every time I drive by it on my way down Shore Road.

And there I go with the “we” again. Technically, I’m still part of “we” because it’s me and the girls, but often the “we” I refer to in conversations is me and Mikey. It’s hard to remember that “we” is now just “me”, at least in the immediate, physical sense of the being.

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italian fried rice

Isabella has been completely immersed in the world of Harry Potter lately. Her curiosity began just before Mikey passed away. We watched the Sorcer’s Stone as one of our pizza and movie night treats. It whet her appetite, and all she wanted from that point on was to read the books.

Michael had promised to buy her the Sorcerer’s Stone as a reward if she finished her math summer study packet before we left for Cape Cod. They had been working on it together during the weekends when he was off from work. The night Michael died, I walked home to tell Isabella the news. She knew it in her heart, but had held out hope that I would return home to say he was okay. I knew that feeling. I held onto a shred of it as I sat in the ER, wishing desperately that it was all a dream.

After we talked in the hallway, and went back in the house crowded with friends and family, Isabella asked me what would happen with her homework packet. I unapologetically said “screw the homework packet”. It wasn’t the proper thing to say, nor appropriate language for an 8 year old to hear, but that’s exactly how I felt. She worried what her teachers would say, and I assured her they would understand.

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sweet pea & parmesan crostini

I’m still wiping the sleep from my eyes, though I’ve been up for hours now. I’d like to say it is because I was dreaming about sweet peas—that would certainly make for a more interesting story. Imagine, being lulled into unconsciousness with thoughts of delicate green tendrils, sprouting the first peas of spring, sugary enough to eat just shelled from their pods.

No, that is not how my story goes. Instead, my fatigue is due to bolting from bed to answer the shrieking screams of a three year old demanding fresh cold water in her sippy cup.

Yeah, you can only imagine my reaction. I’m choosing to believe it wasn’t really about the water. It’s never about the water, the toy or whatever seems to be the cause of their tantrums. I need to believe that, if only to retain any morsel of sanity.

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lazy girl chickpeas

A few years back a good friend, who happens to be Armenian, said my hummus reminded her of her mother's. She wasn't alone in her enthusiasm recently. The hummus was a hit at the girls' birthday party last weekend. Another friend's husband said I should open a shop selling it. While I'm not ready to make that move just yet, I did decide to share the secret to making really great hummus.

It's all in the beans.

More precisely, in how you cook the beans. Sure, you can just use water. But adding a few aromatics to the pot transforms them above and beyond the canned variety. Thanks to Olga, I started adding a bit of olive oil too—my heavens talk about upping the ante folks.

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white bean hummus

Would you think me totally crazy if I said hummus has become a comfort food?

The simplicity of homemade flatbread and a creamy bowl of hummus quickly cures hunger pains when I'm in the midst of a crazy work day.

In the early evening, a smear along with some cut up carrots curbs my pre-dinner snacking (I recently tacked a photo on the fridge from my skinny days for swimsuit season inspiration).

And the kids finally love it too. I've written lots of articles about snack foods for kids, and hummus inevitably makes its way into them, but until a few weeks ago Isabella would dab her finger in the bowl, then wrinkle her nose.

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homemade whole grain mustard

While shopping today, I had another one of those moments.

You know, the kind where insanity takes over and beats all reason and sense into the recesses of my mind.

I added mustard to my pantry shopping list after noticing there was just a teaspoon or two left in the jar. I've been quite happy with Maille for years. That was until today, when faced with forking over $3 for a jar, I decided to put the mustard seeds I had at home to good use.

I'd been meaning to make it ever since I came across the recipe in Heidi's new book Super Natural Every Day. By the way, this book has not left my countertop since the review proofs came in January. Now that it's officially released, you must scoop up a copy for yourself.

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vanilla bean syrup + homemade yogurt

 

On any given week, there’s a slew of cookbooks and box of gadgets outside our front stoop for people to help themselves. This makes me quite popular with the neighbors and passersby. After years of accruing appliances and gadgets, I’m learning to only hold onto the things I really use. Much of what I receive these days, comes way of samples sent for work, so parting with them really isn’t with sweet sorrow. Either I test them and move on, or an item is so exceptional it makes the cut and gets much coveted countertop space. It’s been my experience that anything not sitting right in my eye’s view will idle away and collect dust.

Since we renovated our kitchen three years ago, I promised anything that didn’t get play time within the last six months had to go, and I do a purge every few months to stick to that rule. Which brings me back to needing my essentials out on the countertop. Except for taking down the pasta maker which sits right above the stove or hauling out the pressure cooker which sits happily on a shelf in the pantry, I find it completely annoying to go digging for an appliance just to make a recipe. Time has taught me there’s usually more than one way to get equally successful results.

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oat soda bread


I woke up yesterday to the harsh reality of January.

Time to set the alarm.

Time to start packing school lunch again.

Time to help with homework—that is perhaps the suckiest part of it all. Isabella spent 35 minutes on it today, and only got halfway through one day's assigned workload. She knew it was coming, and had a horrible bout of anxiety at the mere thought of it. In hopes of calming her to sleep, I gave her my locket to sleep with.

Then broke out the lavendar sachet.

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homemade chestnut spread—two gifts in one

I love winter. Having grown up in NYC, I don’t fear these frigid temperatures. I just wish they would stay consistent.

What I do detest this time of year is the darkness that descends come 4:30pm. By five o’clock all chances of decent photography are totally eclipsed. I prefer natural lighting, so all my photos are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Why does any of this matter? Well, I was going to share some peanut butter bon bons with you all, but there was no time to get a good shot today. It will have to wait for another day, though I promise before Christmas, so you can spread some yummy peaunt butter cup inspired, no-bake cheer with friends and family.

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instant turkey pot pie

Last night, after the final dishes were washed, the floors cleaned and leftovers stowed away, I settled in with the Sunday Times. Yes, I’m quite behind in reading, considering this was a Thursday evening and we’re talking about the past Sunday’s paper.

In the real estate section was an article about high-end assisted living communities for retirees. Watching your parents age is one of the toughest parts of growing up. It has weighed very heavily on the Mr., being an only-child, as to how we can help, considering his parents don’t have the means to spend thousands of dollars a month on a retirement community. We have our own financial future to ponder and college for two to plan for, as well.

This leaves the Mr. and I are at a crossroads. In their early 80s and hearing-impaired, they are legally deaf, we realized earlier this year that they are reaching a point at which they can’t live on their own much longer. Thankfully a caring neighbor set them up with a social worker, who in turn got them signed up for City Meals on Wheels. Cooking was always something done out of necessity, and the fact that my mother-in-law's arthritis now makes it difficult for her to even lift a pot, this has been a vital service. One puzzle piece in place.

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