Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Recipes: Vegetarian Croc Pot Faves

Since the entire country is experiencing crazy cold temperatures, it's time to warm up with some stewey, hot veggies. If you're a busy (and sometimes lazy) vegetarian like myself, you've probably found yourself wondering why all the slow cooker recipes seem to require lots of meat. Us vegeterians want to use a croc pot too!

That's why I've compiled my favorite slow cooker dishes... the only way to bear this polar vortex! I use my trusty Breville Slow Cooker & Rice Cooker Combo which has proved to be useful and compact since storing two large devices is sometimes difficult in a Manhattan apartment!

Each of these recipes requires little prep work and even less clean up. I love to let dinner cook itself while I take care of the kids' bedtimes... I don't have to worry about something burning on the stove while I'm watching the little ones happily splash away in their bath. And then when bed time finally arrives.... ahhhh, we sit down with a yummy, hearty dinner for two. Perfect for any busy mom!

Chipotle Black Bean & Quinoa Stew

Spinach & Artichoke Soup

Veggie Chilli with Sweet Potatoes

Chinese BBQd Tofu & Vegetables

Madras Lentils

Thai Red Curry

Veggie Lasagna

Overnight Oatmeal with Apricots & Buttermilk (amazing breakfast!)

Do you use a slow cooker? What's your favorite recipe?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I usually only review books that I enjoyed or that I think many of you might enjoy... but am reviewing The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton because it has generated so much buzz, especially after winning the 2013 Booker Prize. I'm not a big reader of historical novels so perhaps that is one of the reasons this book failed to wow me, even despite its many rave reviews. The book is set in the gold rush days of 19th century New Zealand... it has a clever structure, some strong writing, and is generally a page-turner for the mystery it unfolds. I'm not quite sure why I was bored, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that I read this novel right after reading The Goldfinch which had blown me away.

Twelve men meet at the Crown Hotel in Hokitika, New Zealand and a thirteenth man, Walter Moody, walks in. Moody is an educated man from Edinburgh who has come to find gold. The book shifts among the stories of these men who are connected in many ways, altering perspectives and bringing forth a mystery that all of them are trying to solve. The characters are well drawn and analyzed, but that is in equal parts the glory of the writing and the source of its confusion. The forte of this book is definitely in its structure, which uses astrological symbolism... but in my opinion, the intense and carefully thought out structure takes away from the story and adds to the confusion and weighs it down. There are twelve characters who correspond to the Zodiac signs and seven “planetary” characters, as well as one “terra firma” character - the hermit prospector whom the mystery revolves around. The book itself is divided into twelve parts, and each part is approximately half of the length of the previous part. Part I is 360 pages and Part XII is one page. Each chapter has a short italicized summation that gets longer as the chapters get shorter. This is definitely an amazing achievement, but not one I care for at all. This book is narrated in Victorian fashion and really requires a lot of concentration to get through it.

Still, it did win the Booker Prize (even though that's the biggest mystery to me!!) so you may enjoy reading it even though I did not.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recipe: Creamy Carrot Parsnip Soup & Kale Quinoa Salad

After a long holiday hiatus, I'm so happy to be back to blogging. What a month it has been - all of us have been sick (cough, cold, fever, pink eye - you name it, we had it!) but are finally on the mend and ready for the new year. I also went back to work after the holidays, so it has been a tough adjustment for me. I do love my job and was feeling ready to go back in many ways... and it really was time to stop wearing sweatpants all day! But it's so hard to leave TWO adorable faces every morning, and its been tough logistically. This is my third week back and I'm finally feeling more settled... and ready to get back to the blog.

If you've been freezing this week, just like us New Yorkers, try this hearty Carrot & Parsnip soup, paired with a light and refreshing quinoa salad. I never used parsnips until I had a baby, but it is a great and versatile root. Packed with antioxidants, and potassium, it is great in a puree for baby food because its starchy and slightly sweet. I followed the recipe above but subbed in veggie stock for the chicken stock, spiced it up with indian red masala, cumin seeds and salt, and skipped the sour cream. This is such a smooth soup, you will feel instantly warm and relaxed as you slurp this up! Yummy for your tummy and great for your soul.

I made the Kale & Quinoa salad with ingredients I had on hand -- mixed boiled quinoa with cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, baby cucumbers, avocado and pomegranate seeds. The pop from the pomegranates is key to this salad... if you don't have these on hand, try cranberries or craisins instead. I tossed it all in a homemade dressing whipped up in the Vitamix...  1 cup of greek yogurt, 1/4 cup sour cream, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. of diced jalapenos, and pinches of paprika & salt. It was so good and paired well with the slightly sweet soup.

What's your favorite winter soup??

More recipes, book reviews, mommy chatter coming your way soon! Thanks for visiting and stay tuned :)