Sunday, June 24, 2012

we've moved!

"lauren laughs" has moved to this site forever more.  onward and upward, folks.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

comfort food

friday night jay and i were home alone after a rare day spent together (we were both off on the same day, hooray!)  we felt pretty good after seeing one of our charlotte friends at lunch, purchasing some things off our registry for the house (seems no one wanted to give us the bathroom trashcan!), and ordering a pair of warm fuzzy boots to accompany lauren on many nyc walks this winter.  but as pleased as we were, we couldn't deny the slight twinge of homesickness--knowing half our charlotte friends were gathering at thomason's house to send off the kinlo's, and the other half would be gathering at hudzik's house the next night.  a random commercial flashed a picture of the charlotte city skyline.  we looked at each other with frowny faces and tears in our eyes. 

and then we started cooking.  because really, we had just enjoyed an awesome day in nyc. 
for dinner we made shepherd's pie with a twist.
in a skillet, brown:
1 lb lean ground turkey
then season it with:
ground pepper
add some beef stock to it and let it simmer.

add two potatoes and two turnips (chopped) to a pot of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes.

spread meat mixture into a two quart pyrex dish.  spread 2 cups frozen peas on top.

drain "neeps and tatties" and mash 'em with a little butter.  we added 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar to the mash.

spread the mash mixture on top of meat and peas, sprinkle another 1/2 cup cheese on top.
bake uncovered at 375F for 35 minutes.  let it sit (and cool) for a bit before serving.
while the shepherd's pie was in the oven, we made up some apple muffins.  my girlfriend bethany turned me onto an awesome food blog called smitten kitchen, where i found my inspiration for these muffins.  our edited recipe follows:

1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup local honey
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large apples, peeled and chopped

we mixed all the dry ingredients together (next time i think we'll do equal parts flour and oats) in a large bowl and all the wet ingredients together in a small bowl.  we added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixed it up, and then folded in the apples.  i cut my apples way too chunky--i was shocked the muffins came out at all!  the batter really fills in the space around the apples once it bakes, but i still think i'll chop up smaller apple chunks next time.

spoon batter into muffin tins and bake at 450F for 10 minutes, and then 400F for 5 minutes (note that baking at two different temperatures is difficult on a micro-oven, but it can be done!)

by the time we finished eating our shepherd's pie, the first batch of warm apple muffins were out of the oven.  we made 16 muffins, but immediately took 4 of them to keith as an excuse to meet his new puppy chloe, and to say sorry for accidentally missing yoga the night before!  baked goods are made to share.

i should add that our playlist for the evening included the soundtrack from lion king (the musical) as well as eddie money.  my apologies to the neighbors if they heard us singing!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

cooking, cuts and crazies

ok.  things we've made: cabbage and apples, soup and roasted winter veggies.

for the cabbage i just cut one apple, one head of cabbage, and half an onion and sauteed it in some olive oil, salt and pepper over medium heat.  oh, and i added a dash (and i mean dash) of cumin for some kick and a double dash of cinnamon.  it was yummy, but i cut the crap out of my thumb.  it's healing.
then i made some soup because i needed to finish off our CSA veggies (it's hard to use them up when jay is working nights).  i'm not sold on any recipe yet, but i'll just tell you that i sauteed some peppers (including half a habanero), garlic and onions with some spicy turkey sausage.  i added 4 small potatoes and a turnip, diced, then some chicken stock, and then every other veggie i could find (cabbage, tomato, carrots, green beans) and let it simmer half an hour.  by the time my girlfriend farrell came over with a bottle of wine and jay came home with a loaf of crunchy bread, we were set.  the habanero definitely kicked the spice up a notch. 
today jay and i went to "the lobster place" at chelsea market and we were totally overwhelmed by the types of fish they offer.  we opted for something mostly prepared--the salmon burgers.  yummy.
at home i chopped up some butternut squash, some other kind of short squatty yellow squash, some cauliflower and a little garlic.  i tossed it with some olive oil, sage, little bit of curry and paprika.  i roasted it all on a cookie sheet at 450F for 40 minutes (i probably could have taken the veggies out at 30 minutes, but jay was on a run, so i let them roast a little longer).  the salmon patties were cooked in a skillet over medium heat for five minutes on either side.  easy peasy. 
i'm pretty excited we have local tomatoes that still taste like tomatoes in october, so i sliced that up too.  this meal was special enough to break out the place-mats and napkins boriana and julie gave us for our wedding.  and a bottle of wine from william, aerated with our snazzy wine thingy from anna and laurel.  other than accidentally missing yoga (sorry keith), it was a great night. 

we're still cookin'.

almost forgot the part about crazies--i was ecstatic when farhan called to say he was visiting a school up here and wanted to crash our living room floor.  oh, how our friends get us through our homesickness!  but towards the end of a great visit, farhan and i were exiting the c-train at 23rd street when some dude in aviators walked up and swung at farhan's face.  i don't think farhan dodged the punch, i think the guy just missed... i think maybe he just wanted to scare us?  he definitely scared me.  and the one word that came out of my mouth in that moment was... "GOSH!"  (gosh?  really?)  at which point the guy started yelling at me and threatening to spit in my face.  farhan and i were (and are) totally ok, but like i said, crazy.  it was a total fluke, and i know people that have lived here for years that have never seen such things.  and i know the same could have happened just as easily in charlotte or even little lexington.  nonetheless, jay ordered some pepper spray for me to carry around.  and i will carry it with full knowledge that i'll likely never have to use it.

so that's the scoop.  i cooked some veggies, i cut my thumb, i met a crazed dude. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

butternut stuffed deliciousness

jay went to union square to pick up our CSA goodies today and came back with a colorful array of local produce--hooray!
when he saw we had a bunch of peppers and an onion he decided to pick up some turkey sausage to go with.  i came home from class (after taking my first midterm, yay!) and cracked open my "simply in season" mennonite cookbook that mary carroll introduced me to a couple of years ago.  i turned to the fall recipes and came across a stuffed acorn squash recipe, which was enough to inspire our own creation.  here's what we did...

cut butternut squash lengthwise and spoon out the guts.
place squash rind up on cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes at 350F.

while squash is cooking, squeeze spicy turkey sausage out of casings and cook over medium-high heat.  before it gets too brown, add onion and red pepper.

take squash out of oven, stuff it, and put it back in oven for 10 minutes at 375F.  note that butternut squash doesn't leave a lot of room for stuffing--don't let that slow you down.

while the stuffed squash was baking we blanched some green beans.

and voila!  jay and i couldn't believe the flavor.  was it the turkey sausage that was so good?  or the squash?  we decided it was the two together--a perfect marriage of deliciousness.

next adventure--i'm thinking some kind of smorgasbord soup.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

neeps and tatties

i wasn't really sure what to do with turnips until my upstairs neighbor william told me about a scottish dish called "neeps and tatties"... huh?

i looked it up and the simplest recipe i found was actually on an english blog--sure the scots would just love that.  they even reversed the name to tatties and neeps!  so here's what we did:

take a turnip and some potatoes (we just used what was in our CSA bag o' produce), chop them into small chunks, add them to water, bring water to a boil and let boil for 15 minutes.  the recipe said to peal the potatoes, but we like our tatties with the skins on. drain the potatoes and turnip well, mash 'em up with a bit 'o butter.  the recipe called for fresh chives, but jay couldn't find any, so we used dried chives and marjoram.  fresh stuff next time!

our neeps and tatties were delicious along side some bbq chicken and yellow beans.  the chicken was prepared with bbq sauce from mac's in charlotte (YUM!) and it turns out jay doesn't like dark meat... so more for me!!  the yellow beans were also in our CSA bag 'o produce.  we just blanched them and added some lemon juice.  all that and a glass of wine made for a pretty balanced meal.

and we get to say we made neeps and tatties.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

fall break = fall baking

i'm on fall break--meaning i've had no classes friday through tuesday.  can you tell?  i have time to cook/bake/blog??

i get a little nervous every time i walk past the library and see it full of peeps studying while i spend a little qt with my still "new" hubby.  but if i were intended to work the whole time, they'd call this long weekend "reading days" instead of "fall BREAK" right?

and so jay and i made pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip muffins for breakfast.
i borrowed the recipe from fitsugar and then made it my own, as everyone should when baking!

ingredients we used

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup organic brown sugar + 1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 15oz can pumpkin
3 tablespoons apple sauce
one egg + one egg white
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

how to make 'em
  1. preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line muffin tin with muffin cups.
  2. mix dry ingredients in large bowl
  3. mix wet ingredients in medium bowl
  4. add wet stuff to dry stuff and fold in chocolate chips and walnuts
  5. fill up muffin cups and bake 18 minutes
made 15 delicious (and pretty darn healthy) muffins

here is our "oven" which doubles as a micro-wave.  (or it's a micro-wave that doubles as an oven).  it is very space efficient!  it does not toast or broil though.  and you can't fit multiple things in it, so you have to plan ahead.  we are learning to make it work!

things i learned: we're out of agave, oops!  i meant to use agave instead of sugar/honey.  also, i like to use apple sauce as a substitute for oil.  because we have the world's smallest fridge and can't be storing apple sauce at all times, i bought those mini apple sauce servings you would throw in your lunch bag.  they don't have to be refrigerated, and they're usually about the same amount as what you'll need for baking anyway (1 cup).  also, if you eat these muffins right out of the oven, you are bound to get some melted chocolate on your face.  mm hmm. 

thoughts for next time: the muffins stuck to the paper cups a little--alicia recommended a recipe that suggested spraying cups with coconut oil first?  i need to learn more about coconut oil!

Monday, October 10, 2011

keepin' it local in the kitchenette

there's no question about it: cooking in a kitchenette sucks.  and yet we have all these nifty wedding gift kitchen gadgets, accompanied by notes from friends encouraging us to cook together, and we do enjoy cooking.  i did a search of "how to cook in a small kitchen" or "cooking in nyc" but everything i came across included a full-size fridge and a kitchen you could actually walk into--oh to be so lucky!

so we're creating our own resource for kitchenette cookers.  we'll see if it ends up being any help to anyone--at least it will get us out to our local markets and into the "kitchen!"

we ventured over to the green market at union square today.  jay was psyched to discover red jacket orchards from his home in upstate new york, so we bought their apples.  we walked past every stall before stopping for lunch to discuss our plan of action.  we fully intended to get some eggplant, squash, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic... but then jay got distracted by some goat's milk ice cream (yum) and i got distracted talking to a farmer.  turns out the central valley farm out of asbury, nj has a CSA option that is very city-friendly.

CSA stands for community supported agriculture--and if you don't already know about it, i encourage you to learn more.  most CSAs i've encountered have included so much local farm fresh produce, i would never get around to eating it all.  most CSAs also ask that you pay for the entire season upfront--this is what ensures the farmer that his/her crops will be viable in the coming season.  buyers are like share-holders that keep local farming alive.  but central valley farm has a CSA program that allows us to buy one bag of produce--whatever is fresh off the farm that week--for $20.  and you only pay on the weeks you need it--no up-front commitment.  because jay and i had already bought apples and ice cream, we only had $18 remaining, which the farmer was happy to accept knowing he'd just secured a new weekly (or bi-weekly) patron. 

one thing i like about CSA is that it takes the decision making out of produce-shopping.  i hate making decisions!  instead we just take what's fresh (this week it's spaghetti squash, tomato, bell pepper, yellow string beans, potatoes, a turnip and a head of lettuce) and get creative cooking with it.

so tonight's dinner:

we took the spaghetti squash, cut it in half length-wise, scraped out the pulp and seeds, placed it on a cookie sheet rind-up, and baked it at 375 for 40 minutes. 

jay cut organic chicken thighs into pieces and threw them in a large skillet.  at that point we realized we had no olive oil in the house (gasp!!!) nor did we have onion or garlic--next time we'll include those ingredients, but you work with what you've got.

once the chicken pieces were browned but tender, we turned down the heat and added diced tomatoes and bell pepper, seasoning it with salt, pepper, oregano and red pepper flakes.

we took the squash out of the "oven" (i'll have to take a picture of our combination microwave/oven sometime) and used a fork to pull the strands of squash from the rind.  we added it to the skillet, mixed it all together and served it up.

it was delicious.  shredded parm kicks it up a notch.

things we learned: we need olive oil, onion and garlic (how have we survived without these essentials for 2 months??)  we also learned that using the drippings from the chicken instead of olive oil added a lot of flavor to the veggies--like cooking rice in chicken broth.  we wished we'd had one more tomato.

it was a yummy, easy, healthy dinner.  it was also jay's first time to eat spaghetti squash.  he liked it.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

learning to escape

before moving to west africa, i had to read and learn a lot about culture shock.  i was told that it was common to hit a major slump about 3 months into your stay--a truth i experienced, as did every other missionary and peace corps volunteer i know.  jay and i aren't in west africa, but nyc is enough of a culture shock to merit that same reaction.  and 3 months into jay's stay (he moved here before me) everything started to suck.  everything was draining.  and about the time he pulls out of his slump, i'll likely fall into my own. 

so we hit the road.  we searched all over for b&b's outside the city, near train stations and hiking trails.  our options were limited since it's a holiday weekend, but we finally settle on Crabtree's Kittle House Inn in chappaqua, ny.  were we dorks hoping to see bill & hillary clinton, who live a few blocks away?  yes. yes we were.

the good thing about the inn is that it's less expensive that many places we looked at.  it's not a b&b, but does serve a lovely continental breakfast.  it's a 50-minute train ride from the city, and an $11 cab ride from the chappaqua station to the inn.  the bar and the restaurant provide lovely piano music on thursday and friday nights, serve up delicious meals and boast the most extensive wine list in the entire US.  indeed if you ask to see the "long list" of wines, you'll be handed a 3-inch binder of wines ranging from $28 to $25,000.  very impressive.

the down side to the inn is that it can be noisy--a lot of people like to throw parties there--weddings especially.  we were glad we left saturday before 2 weddings came in.  also, the rooms are very clean, but a little stark--not as cozy as the rest of the inn.  and while the remote location makes it a quiet escape during the day, it also makes it hard to do anything but sit around unless you have a car...

so we rented one :)

ahhh, to have a car!  i didn't realize how much i missed the radio!  the fast moving pavement beneath the wheels!  the bubble containing just me and jay!  you know i'm all about public transportation, but i really must admit that a car is a lovely luxury every once in a while.

armed with said car, we began our exploration.  first to wilkens fruit farm.  don't ever go there.  remember how fun it was to go apple picking with your school buddies on field trips?  turns out kids still take field trips to apple orchards--700 kids to be exact.  we took a cute picture and left.

next we went to FDR state park because i was itching to walk some trails and jay was eager to appease me.  while our trail walking wasn't as successful as we had hoped, we still got our fix of being outdoors, getting our feet muddy, catching some rays, and breathing in the fresh air, away from the sounds of construction, shouting and honking.  sweet.

on our way back to chappaqua, we noticed a sign for rye, ny, and made a quick detour.  jay had visited rye as a child and was excited to go back to the boardwalk.  i was excited to visit the birthplace of one of my best friends (jamie) as well as the church home of one of my favorite priest-geeks (father matthew moretz).  i think it's safe to say we'll go back to rye.

and that's our trip in a nutshell.  we learned that you don't have to go far to get out of the city.  we also learned that it costs about as much to go 50 miles as it does to fly to charlotte. hmmm....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

mean people suck

remember that bumper sticker in the 90's?

there are many things i have wanted to write about the past few days--my time spent as a prayer minister at st. paul's chapel (across from ground zero) this past weekend, dad and wade's visit and help with our extreme apartment makeover, pepper's adjustment to city life and learning to poop on the sidewalk, how much greek hurts my head, jay's and my first "house" party... and on and on.

but yesterday's adventure on the M23 bus with jay takes the cake.

two high school friends of mine, becca and christy, collaborated on a "dance in public" event on the east side.  i was eager to go, and jay agreed to check it out, so we hopped the bus on west 23rd until we reached the end of east 23rd.  we were sitting near the front of the bus, where the seats face the center aisle.  across from us sat two women, both with canes, with an empty seat between.  up walked a very tall and big-boned woman, and she sat between them.

now this woman was big in that she was tall and thick.  she was not morbidly obese.  and while i'll admit i'm the first to insist on putting down my armrest in an airplane to protect my seat-space, i could not believe how poorly this big-boned woman was treated. 

the cane-carrying woman to the big-boned woman's right started spouting off: "you are just sick.  you are fat.  you really ought to take a look in the mirror.  how do you expect me to sit next to you?"

horrified, i elbowed jay, who started listening in too.  the big-boned woman responded, "i'm not taking up your seat. i'm not sick.  i think i look fine." 

the cane-carrying woman went on, "oh, just shut up, shut up." 

it was crazy.  jay and i were both embarrassed for the big-boned woman.  jay turned to me and said, "if that old woman is still on the bus when we get off, i'm going to say something to her on the way out." 

we hit another stop, and the old woman started up again: "look at yourself.  how can you not know you're fat.  you are really sick." 

i'd had it.  and knowing jay had my back, i spoke up.

"ma'am?  ma'am.  can you please be quiet.  what you're saying is very rude." 

"this is a private conversation and none of your business, " the old woman snapped back. 

"actually, you're on a public bus, and talking loud enough for us all to hear," jay said. 

and this little exchange went on.  she made fun of me for calling her ma'am... "what are you, from the south?"  "yes ma'am."  "well maybe you should go back there."

jay told her she gave new yorkers a bad name. 

the big-boned woman smiled a "thank you" as she exited the bus.  the old woman exited at the end of east 23rd with us.  we made sure to steer clear of her cane, lest she whop us upside the head.

my hands were shaking after the incident.  in talking to one of my peers today about it, he pointed out that while speaking up was the right thing to do, it did require us butting into someone else's conversation, and so you're left with opposing feelings of right and wrong.  maybe that's what makes people uncomfortable when approaching justice--at times you have to be wrong to be right.  i was worked up for sure.

a few minutes later we were watching becca dance, talking to christy and admiring a giant pink moon rise over the east river.  the beauty of the city was restored. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

this is my solemn vow

well, we did it.  we got married.  though i did get a call from the register of deeds saying they are missing a witness signature on our marriage license, so i guess we're not legit yet? but our hands have been joined and our vows have been exchanged, and two have become one.

every time i talk to one of my parents or to my friends, everyone says (even if they've said it before) that our wedding was perfect.  and it really was.  it's amazing it went as smoothly as it did, given i moved up to NYC the week before for orientation... and truly thought about wedding stuff very little.  no time to!  let me tell you why the wedding was perfect.

a LOT of friends and family made it so.

sloan and jamie let me (and pepper!) stay with them the month leading up to the wedding.  sloan helped me put together programs.  lois ann carted me all around town to pick up stuff for hospitality bags (when i had no car) and then helped me put them together, and then dropped them off, and then hosted my pakifam.  boriana made our slideshow.  jenny and michael set up the projector for our slide show.  alice helped us figure out our wine and beer list.  molly gave us a 20% coupon to use on our mac's bbq catering bill.  aaron picked up the kegs and paid off our wine vender.  eric managed the kitchen and bussed the tables during the reception while his daughter washed dishes.  nikki ran the whole reception and sweat buckets putting up and breaking down tables.  lilian helped me wash all the pint glasses we gave as favors.  john tended our bar.  anne and stark helped out with flowers.  lori lent me her veil and earrings.  colleen lent me her fastenator (flowers for my hair).  chris worked his magic on the organ, allie and katie sang beautifully, and aaron's rendition of "shenandoah" on the mandolin was awesome.  my dad and wade totally transformed the blue room into a true reception hall. donna and greg threw an awesome rehearsal dinner.  my mom bought me the most beautiful wedding gown.  my aunts threw me a lovely bride's lunch, complete with vases and tea cups they flew up from TX that belonged to my great grandmother.  farhan did a wonderful job reading, as if he were speaking directly to us.  verdery and john celebrated a beautiful marriage blessing and eucharist.  chip blessed us and the reception.  jamie brought pepper to us before the wedding so we could take pictures with her.  meggan and channing and my brothers picked up my dress.  mary brooks made took care of anna and baby stella.  john acolyted.  eden made yummy desserts.  aaron, dick, nate, jesse, pete, paul, stephen and pierce all stood by jay and kept him sane and made us feel SO special for being there--no matter the distance.  sloan, caitlin, erin and julie kept me sane as well as entertained, making sure i ate and drank, and just made me feel so loved.  steve and farrell let us crash their cabin for our 2-day minimoon.  and that doesn't even include the people we paid to do stuff (our wonderful photographers, etc).... are you getting the drift?  our wedding was perfect because we had A LOT of HELP!!!!  and from FRIENDS, all of them!

things that i thought were perfect:

jay's grandpa's blessing at the rehearsal dinner.  the toasts (and roasts).  the girls' dresses/flowers/necklaces--they just looked perfect!  they boys' suits/ties/pocket squares--it all looked so sharp!  my dress--it really was stunning, and i felt like the most beautiful girl i've ever been.  our moms--they were so beautiful, and we love them.  our dads--they both kept their cool and kept us cool too.  our granddads--how blessed are we that we each had a grandparent come all the way to charlotte.  the order of service--every hymn, reading and prayer was handpicked especially for us.  our food--who doesn't love bbg?  our friends--they would have partied all night long if they could have.  even things that didn't seem perfect at first were perfect after all--like our first dance that we thought went too long, but enjoyed it anyway because we realized it was probably the only time we'd get to talk until the reception was over.  and when it was over, we came back to the hotel and sat on the bed, still in our wedding clothes, going through the amazing photo-guestbook our guests help put together, reading cards to each other from friends and family, and laughing at the sheer beauty and blessedness of the day and our memory of it.

not to mention jay--the perfect partner for life for me--who loves so sacrificially and supports me so fully. 

i titled this blog "this is my solemn vow" because i said those words with so much intention and deliberateness at our wedding--every phrase of our vows i said as emphatically as i possibly could to jay, because i know how blessed i am to be bound to him.  like, 'hey, monkey, i REALLY mean EVERY word of this!  i want you to know i mean this as much as i can possibly mean anything ever.'  i (like every bride, i would hope) am completely convinced i am the luckiest girl in the world for marrying jay.

so anyway, that's a very long description of a very special day, made perfect by the people we love!  and while it may not be the most interesting blog post ever, i just can't say thank you enough.  thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone that made our day perfect.  we will carry the memory of that day and your role in it with us forever.  thank you.