More carrot coconut soup with swirls of Sriracha ready for quick lunches and dinners.

More carrot coconut soup with swirls of Sriracha ready for quick lunches and dinners.Last night I got home from a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting at 9:45.  Alan hadn’t had dinner either, so I grabbed two of these, a jalapeno chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s, some sharp cheddar cheese and some rice crackers.  Five minutes later, both bowls of soup were warmed (in the microwave), and topped with browned, sliced sausage: cheese and crackers were served on the side.


Update: this is the recipe Carrot-Coconut Soup with Chili and Lime 

Plated dinner

Dinner tonight was SO GOOD! top: ingredients from #platedpics; middle: after 10 minutes of chopping; bottom: oregano chicken kabobs, creamy basil corn, charred lemon


Dinner tonight was SO GOOD!

top: ingredients from Plated

middle: after 10 minutes of chopping

bottom: oregano chicken kabobs, creamy basil corn, charred lemon

I’ve been using Plated to make 3 meals a week and I’m loving it.  I’ll try to write a more thorough review of it at some point.

…and then the sweet potatoes fell on the floor

Today was one of those days.  It wasn’t terrible, but enough little things went wrong that I felt weary and slightly sad by late afternoon.


Buying and selling houses is expensive, you know?  Alan and I are budgeting because we spent $1000 in the last few weeks on real estate costs: buying a title abstract and survey to sell the Rochester house, paying for an inspection for the Hartford house.  I know buying a house costs money (duh), but I thought it was mostly mortgage and such… So our grocery budget is pretty much used up for the week.


I looked in the mostly-empty fridge this afternoon, and then the freezer.  I found some leftover pork ragu and was pretty sure I had cornmeal in the cabinet for polenta.  OK: polenta and pork ragu.  That’s easy.  But I needed a vegetable.  I knew we didn’t have any greens; I usually serve polenta with braised kale or sautéed spinach.  I knew I had frozen peas, but that doesn’t seem to go well with polenta.  Oh, and I had two bags of frozen sweet potatoes!  I could cook sweet potatoes!


The first bag of sweet potatoes was opened, and super-freezer burned.  So I tossed them.  I read the directions on the second bag, and one of the recommended preparations was to roast them.  All right, this is shaping up into a nice dinner: pork ragu, polenta, and roasted sweet potatoes.  I opened the bag and poured them on a cookie sheet, and they were also freezer burned.  So into the trash can they went.


I had some fresh sweet potatoes, so I thought that they might work: third time’s a charm, right?   I quickly peeled and chopped one large and two small sweet potatoes.  I also peeled six cloves of garlic.  I dumped the potatoes and garlic on the sheet pan, and drizzled some oil over them.  Then I sprinkled some salt and dried rosemary, and ground some black pepper over them.  I tossed them together–they were smelling good at this point, and stuck them in the oven at 450.


The pork had thawed, and smelled really good.  The aroma blended nicely with the roasting garlic and rosemary.  I set a timer for 10 minutes, and thought to myself that this dinner was coming together pretty well, considering.  My day still was kind of gray, but at least I’d have a nice dinner with Alan.


The timer went off, and I pulled the sheet pan out of the oven.  I went to the gym this morning, and the workout was some heavy lifting.  My wrists were a bit tired, and before I knew it, the sweet potatoes fell on the floor of the kitchen, like so:

sweet potatoes on the floor{the cats hoped that it was cat food; they were disappointed.  Also, for some reason I can’t get the photo to rotate…}


I briefly considered scooping the potatoes up and roasting them for another 10 minutes.  But then I thought that it’s been a few days since I mopped, and the cats eat in the kitchen, and so I called Alan.  He didn’t answer, and so I swept the potatoes up, making them the third bunch of sweet potatoes I had thrown away.


I thought for a minute that I could call the tomatoes and onions in the ragu the vegetable of the meal, but it just didn’t feel right.  [Side-note: do you consider tomatoes and onions to be vegetables when you plan your meals?  I guess I don’t.  If we’re having tomato sauce, I still want another vegetable.  And if I put a bunch of onions into a stew, I don’t think to myself that that stew is full of vegetables.  They’re ingredients, not vegetables. (Yes, I know that’s a weird non-dichotomy.)]


So I found a sad heart of romaine in the crisper.  After I had removed the wilted leaves, it was even smaller and sadder.  But made it into two tiny caesar salads, and I served dinner.  It was delicious, and I should be happy.  But I’m bummed about the sweet potatoes, and it just wasn’t a very good day.


Alan’s making some yonanas now, which might improve things.  And there’s always tomorrow!



Question of the day:

Do you consider tomatoes and onions to be “vegetables” when you plan your meals?  Have you had any recent kitchen disasters or disappointments?



Week Wrap-Up // Link Round-Up // July 12-18

cherry tree in our backyard; too bad the cherries are mushy and tasteless

cherry tree in our backyard; too bad the cherries are mushy and tasteless

It has been so hot here.  I heard on the radio yesterday that the heat wave has coincided with record humidity here in Western New York, and oh, has it been hot.  Sorry for the absence of posts this week: the heat slowed me way down, which gave me nothing to blog about, and no energy with which to blog!

I’ve been trying to finish up the bathroom so we can get our house on the market.  I got some done Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday I just couldn’t be in that tiny room anymore.  I’ll start (and hopefully finish!) again tomorrow, when it cools off.

Alan submitted another paper to be published this week (it would be his fourth), and is working on yet another.  All those evenings we were going to spend together?  Yeah, right.  But at least he’s not working overnights any more.  And we did find time to start watching Orange is the New Black.

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece are going to be nearby next week, so I’m going to try to visit with them some–in-between working on the house.

Links after the jump! Continue reading

slow roast chicken and vegetable-thickened gravy

For more than 15 years, I’ve been the gravy-stirrer at my family Thanksgiving.  I dutifully scraped the brown bits off the bottom of the roasting pan, sprinkled in just enough flour to “soak up” the fat, whisked in water (and occasionally potato water from the mashed potatoes), adjusted the seasonings, and stirred and stirred and stirred.

When I went gluten-free about a year and a half ago, I knew I was going to miss gravy.  Of course you can experiment with alternate thickeners: corn starch, arrowroot, tapioca.  But those types of thickeners tend to make a particular type of sauce; much more like a Chinese-style sweet-and-sour sauce than a flour roux-thickened gravy or white sauce.

Then I found this recipe, which uses the vegetables cooked in the bottom of the slow cooker to thicken the gravy.  It emulates the texture of a traditional gravy, and adds even more flavor with the roasted onions and garlic.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, and this is my favorite version.

Adaptations for slow cooker and pressure cooker are at the end of the recipe after the jump.


Preheat the oven to 250 F.

The gravy is thickened with 1 extra large oven onion (or equivalent), 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp. of tomato paste, and 1 tsp. of coconut oil (or other cooking oil of your choice).


Chop the onion into fairly large chunks, like so:


Smash the garlic clove and peel it.


Put the chopped onions, smashed garlic clove, coconut oil, tomato paste, salt and pepper in a large dutch oven (off heat).



Stir the vegetables until the tomato coats everything evenly.  The coconut oil helps with this, but it still takes a good minute to get everything combined.


Take a whole chicken, and put it breast-up on top of the vegetables.  Season as desired–I just used salt and pepper here.


Flip the chicken over, and season the back side.  The chicken will cook breast-down


Put the lid on the pot and slide it in the oven.


Cook for two and a half hours.  Remove the chicken to a plate and cover it with foil.

Return the pot to the stovetop, and turn the heat to medium-high.  Once the vegetables boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.


Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it has thickened slightly.


Blend the mixture.  I use an immersion blender and the cup the that came with the blender.

If the gravy is too thick, you can add some of the juices that gathered under the chicken while it was resting.

Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Feel free to  play around with the vegetables to your preferences.  The recipe I started with called for several cloves of garlic, but I found the sweet, roasted-garlic flavor to be overwhelming.  I like the gravy with all onion, and next time I’m going to try to add a couple of leeks in as well!

Keeps in the fridge covered for a week.

click through for written recipe, plus slow-cooker and pressure-cooker variations Continue reading


Alan turned in his dissertation yesterday morning.  He got four copies (180 pages each) printed and bound: one at Staples, three at the university print shop.  He stuck around school most of the day to field any potential phone call regarding paperwork.

At 3:30pm I picked him up.  We hung out at home for a few hours.  We were going to go out, but Alan seemed pretty bushed.  He wanted hamburgers and milkshakes for dinner.  I wanted to go to a movie.  I swung by Wegmans and got supplies for milkshakes and burgers, along with some cheese, rice crackers, and raspberries for an appetizer, and a six-pack of beer.  I also got a movie from Redbox.

Alan snacked while I cooked up a couple of hamburgers.  For Alan, I pressed some jarred jalapenos into the patties, and topped the cooked burgers with pepper-jack cheese and arugula.  I pressed my patties thin and cooked them until they were really brown on the outside.  I melted some cheddar cheese over the top and ate them with a fork and knife (no bun).  Alan wanted a vanilla-caramel-bourbon milkshake like he had at a restaurant recently.  I think I did a pretty good job of replicating it.

We watched the movie, and went to bed early, chatting for quite a while before nodding off.  Copper came up and snuggled between Alan’s knees and mine.  Ptoley looked out the bedroom window for a while, and then went downstairs to sleep, as is his custom.

It was such a regular, mundane evening (dinner, movie, bed), but we haven’t had it in so long.  It felt like the best, most romantic date ever.

I got back to tiling the bathroom today (I’m off to mix up another batch of mortar after this), Alan read some wikipedia articles (a hobby of his), and mowed the lawn.  We’re headed out to a restaurant tonight to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  It’s nice to be back to a rhythm: work, rest, friends, chatting, down-time, entertainment, cats, food.  I’m very happy :)



Did you find a typo in the post? Let me know here.

Week Wrap-Up // Link Round-Up // Jun 8-14


Happy Father’s Day this weekend!

Monday I drove to Niagara Falls to have lunch with my old co-workers from an internship four summers ago.  They are the greatest, and it was so, so good to catch up with them.

Last night I talked on the phone with Alan at 10:15.  He told me he was working overnight, as he has for the last six weeks or so (his typical hours are noon – 4am.  Yes, that’s 16 hours).  I asked him if he’d be home next week at 10:15, hanging out with me.  He said he hoped to!  The end of the dissertation is in sight!!!


Are you a journaler?  I just started a new journal.  This post has me itching to start a dinner diary, too. {Dinner, A Love Story}

My Ladies’ Night has just finished watching Wives and Daughters.  Up next, also by Elizabeth Gaskell, is North & South, which apparently has the most romantic ending of all time (check out the post’s comments).

The grammar of this makes me a little twitchy, but I signed up for iDoneThis.  It’s a simple service that emails you daily to ask what you accomplished that day.  You reply to the email and it keeps track for you.  It reminds me of the maxim: What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.    {via Daniel Pink on Lifehacker, via The Well-Appointed Desk}

This has been all over the internet the last few weeks: Why Finnish Babies Sleep in Cardboard Boxes.  It’s a great example of how systematic problems call for systematic solutions. {BBC News Magazine}

With Google Reader closing shop soon, I’ve transitioned to feedly.  While it’s nice to scroll through all the posts and read those that interest me most first, I really, really miss the “next” button in my bookmark bar.

Do you have any mini-series recommendations?  Any plans for the weekend?  Would you use a cardboard box bassinet? 


photo is homemade cream of broccoli soup with cheddar, which is packed with vegetables and delicious
Did you find a typo in the post? Let me know here.