Sunday, November 17, 2013

obligatory butternut squash recipe post (schmancy butternut squash mac n cheese)

I know, I know. 

Everyone and their mother is sharing recipes featuring butternut squash. After all, 'tis the season!

I'd sit this one out, except: a) I love butternut squash, and b) I love obnoxiously pushing food I love at people. Sorry I'm not sorry.

I had a reallyreallyreally hard time not eating this straight out of the pan before it was even finished, but had to keep reminding myself that eating 8 servings of pasta, cream, and cheese in one sitting would probably not be wise if I finished the dish, I wouldn't have a final photo of bubbly creamy cheesy goodness to share!

See those darker bits? Pure, caramely squash goodness. Because "caramely" is totally a word.

You'll notice (maybe) from the first photo that I used a package of pre-cut butternut squash. Generally I don't buy these packages, because I forget about them in the fridge until it's too late (and by "too late" I mean a week, which is totally ridiculous. Get your act together, squash!). Somehow I remembered about this package before it was too late, and celebrated joyously before getting down to it. If you're not afraid of a whole butternut squash, they keep for way (way way way) longer.

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese (serves 6-8)

1 box elbow macaroni (8 servings)
1 package pre-cut butternut squash, or one squash peeled, de-seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-2/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk (the higher the fat content the easier it'll reduce - I used whole milk)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (don't buy pre-shredded if you can help it, it doesn't melt the same)
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry sage
1-2 pinches ground nutmeg (to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400*. Toss butternut squash with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sage. Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet (lining with foil will help with the clean-up but still maintain the caramely bits you'd get from direct contact with the pan). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the squash is easily mashable. Mash roughly with a fork (or puree if you don't want any texture/chunks of squash in your mac) and set aside. Don't turn the oven off! You're not done with it yet.

While the squash is cooking (when it has about 20 minutes left), start water in a pot for the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box. Melt butter in a medium shallow saucepan. Once melted, add flour and mix to form a roux. Stir almost constantly for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, until the mixture has darkened to a golden brown. Add cream and stir until the roux is fully incorporated. Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let the mix cook for another 5-10 minutes until reduced to a slightly-thicker-than-heavy-cream consistency, stirring occasionally. Mix in cheese and mashed squash, and let the whole mix cook for another few minutes to make sure everything is melty goodness. Taste to see if you want/need any more seasoning.

Once the pasta is done, drain and transfer to a large oven-safe dish (I used a cast iron but I bet a casserole dish would work well too). Pour cheesy goodness over top, stir well, and toss in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the top is bubbly and golden. If you're feeling extra fancy, sprinkle some extra shredded parmesan over top for the last few minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

goat cheese and spinach ravioli with brown butter scallions and parmesan

I love cheese. 

In particular, I reallyreally love goat cheese, pretty much any which way. I've probably mentioned this before. 

When I babysit Chester for my parents, I take full advantage of having an awesome kitchen at my disposal (and I make sure to clean up after myself too, dad, if you're reading this). 

How are these related? Is there a point here?

Why yes, there is. 

After seeing a picture while at the house of fresh ravioli filled with goat cheese and butternut squash, I decided I just had to have some. Since there was no butternut squash around (seriously? Get your act together grocery store! It's fall, otherwise known as butternut squash season), I settled for spinach instead. 

If you haven't made pasta before, it's super easy and rewarding! Even if you don't have a pasta roller, I promise. I used a rolling pin this time around since I don't carry my pasta roller around with me in case I decide to make pasta on a whim. It just doesn't quite fit in my purse. 

This pasta was nice and light, but also a substantial meal. Because, cheese. And butter. You can never have enough brown butter. Trust me on that one. 


Goat cheese and spinach ravioli with brown butter scallions and Parmesan (serves 2-4)

4 ounces of soft goat cheese
2 cups fresh spinach (you could probably sub about 1/2-1 cup frozen spinach and thaw it)
1-1.5 cups flower, plus extra for dusting
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons water, more if necessary
2-3 tablespoons butter
3-4 chopped scallions
Pinch of salt (for the pasta dough)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Measure flour into a small mixing bowl. Add eggs, salt, and olive oil, stir to combine. If the mix is too dry, add water slowly, one tablespoon at a time. The end result should be similar to pizza dough. Let it rest while you make the filling. 

In the pot you plan on using for the pasta, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Drop the spinach in (if you're using fresh) and let it cook for just a minute or two, enough to wilt it. Drain the spinach on a paper towel, and then chop into small pieces. Mix spinach into goat cheese, making sure it's well incorporated. It won't take long and should look like spinach dip. Salt and pepper if necessary and set aside. 

Break the dough into four smaller pieces, dust a cutting board with flour and roll one piece out until the dough is pretty thin. You're looking for something thinner than pie crust, but not see-through. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1.5"ish squares (it really depends on your personal preference). 

Spoon a small dollop of filling onto half of your squares (not all of them, because then you have nothing to use for tops to the ravioli. Not like I made that mistake...). Dab a little water around all four sides of each piece with filling on it, line up another square on top, and lightly press the two together. The water makes sure they stick. Repeat with the remaining filling and pieces dough. 

Bring a pot of salted water (I used the spinach water. Yay extra nutrients!) to a boil and carefully drop the ravioli in, in batches. I cooked about 6-8 pieces at a time so as not to crowd the pot. The pasta will float when done, about 2-3 minutes. 

While cooking the pasta, melt butter in a large pan over medium heat, letting it brown. Once it's begun to brown, add scallions and sauté a couple minutes. Drop cooked ravioli into the pan and let it pick up the butter and maybe even brown a bit, another 1-2 minutes. Transfer pasta to a plate and garnish with Parmesan, and a scallion tied in a knot if you're fancy/crazy. Serve immediately!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

braised beef shank over creamy polenta

When did fall get here? Not that I'm complaining, but it was unbearable one day, and dark-at-5-bundle-up-closed-toed-shoes weather the next. Mother Nature left me the equivalent of being caught with an awkward 2am fire drill when you're asleep and not wearing pants, in terms of my pantry. Lots of fresh summer veggies, and salad. Salad is not a winter food. 

Luckily, I work well under pressure. 

One thawed hunk of meat and a quick trip to the store later, and we're in business!

Now re: the meat. Mind if I wax poetic for a minute? Awesome, thanks. 

We've been doing a CSA-type pickup this season from a farm in VA that does different meats (no produce). Our friends introduced us to Polyface Farms last year, when we joined them for a tour of the farm lead by farmer Joel Salatin. He's a big proponent of raising animals in as close to natural conditions as possible, which means lots of space and optimal diet (which you know, might just be grass). I know I'm not doing him and his operations justice with a few sentences, but feel free to consult Mr. Google for more info.  The farm puts a list of inventory up on their website, and they setup 8 deliveries to several locations each season (March-November). We typically don't order much (perks of living in an apartment), but everything we've tried so far has been outstanding. I may go through withdrawal when the deliveries end and I have to go to the store for eggs for 4 months. Seriously. 

Anyway! When I was putting together the order for the pickup a few weeks ago, I came across beef shanks. I had never cooked them before, but at $2.50/lb they were hard to refuse. I bought four, figuring they'd fit just fine in my freezer. I had apparently been afflicted with temporary short-term amnesia, as I had just convinced my parents to split a chicken larder with me. In case you're wondering, that's 15 chickens. I'm so thankful they have a full-sized freezer in the basement. You're the best, mom and dad!

Thats a 7.5qt slow cooker, in case you were wondering. 

Fast-forward to this weekend. We were having our friends over for dinner (the same ones who showed us the farm), so I thought it would be nice to make a perfect fall dish showcasing something we picked up from the farm. It's kind of like a roundabout way to say "thank you", or "this meat made me think of you". Isn't that sweet?

This dish was amazing. And not just because it made like 10 servings, but because it was easy, quick to prep, and absolutely delicious. As it's been raining in DC for the past week straight (it's probably God crying about the government shutdown), we were definitely in need of a comforting, stick-to-your-bones kind of meal. 

If you live in the DC/MD/VA area, I would recommend checking out the meat deliveries for next year! Not because Polyface is paying me to say this (I'm sure they don't know who I am), but because if you care about the quality and sustainability of your food and its upbringing, this is a great resource. I'd do a schmany embedded link to the site, but apparently posting from my iPad won't allow me to do so. So the order info can be found at 

Let's get to the recipe now, shall we?

Note about the meat: as you can see from the picture above, I used a whole, 5lb-ish beef shank. I'm pretty sure if you go to the store you'll typically see it cut down (think Osso Bucco), but you could either  a) reduce the cook time and check the meat for doneness, or 2) ask someone at the meat counter if honey have any pieces that haven't been cut yet. I guess it depends on what kind of presentation you're going for, mostly. 

Braised Beef Shank over Creamy Polenta (serves a million. Or like, 6-8)

1 5-lb beef shank, or pieces to make up the same amount, bone-in
2 15-oz cans of diced tomatoes (I use the fire-roasted ones, no salt added)
2 cups beef broth
Half a bottle of red wine
2 onions, chopped
1-2 cups mushrooms, chopped (baby bella or cremini)
2 bay leaves
1-2 tablespoons oil (I used safflower since it has a high smoke point and low flavor)
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the polenta

2 cups dry polenta
3-4 tablespoons butter (optional)
~.5 cup milk/cream (the higher the fat content, the less butter you'd probably need. I had 2% milk on hand) (optional)
8 cups water

Heat a saucepan with the oil (or the insert of your slow-cooker if you have an awesome one like me) over medium-high heat until hot. Lay the meat down in the pan and sear for 5ish minutes on each side, until you have a nice golden crust. Remove from the pan. Add onions and bay leave to the pan and salt generously to help the onions sweat. Cook until translucent and slightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, wine, beef broth and mushrooms, and let simmer for about 10 minutes to let the favors develop. Transfer to the slow cooker if you need to, and add the beef shank. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you have smaller pieces of meat you'll be on the lower end of that. Mine cooked for about 7 hours. The meat will be done when it's falling off the bone. 

When the meat is cooked, pull It out of the slow-cooker and shred it with two forks. If you want, scrape the marrow out of the bone and add that to the sauce for extra richness. Return the meat to the cooker to let it soak in more flavor. If your insert is safe on the stove, simmer everything over medium heat to reduce the liquid a bit. You could also add some corn starch, which would have the same effect. For this method, add water to about 1/3 cup of corn starch until it's dissolved, add to the broth and stir. Set the slow-cooker on high and let it go for maybe 20 more minutes. 

When the meat goes back into the slow-cooker, get a pot of salted water boiling for the polenta. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and add your polenta, stirring constantly with a fork or whisk. Caution! Polenta thickens super fast, and then when bubbles pop (like they would in boiling water), the now boiling hot polenta splatters. I always turn down the heat before adding the polenta, and make sure to stir as I'm adding it to the water to lessen the likelihood of bubbles. Cook for about 10 minutes (unless you buy instant, and in that case just follow the directions on the package), and then stir in the butter and cream if you're using them. Don't start the polenta too early, otherwise it'll start to solidify in the pot. As tasty as this is sliced up and fried, it's not what we're going for!

Once the polenta is done, spoon into a bowl and top with the meat. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

zucchini "pasta"

In my (seemingly) never-ending quest to be the poster child for health and wellness (or, more realistically, offset those crazy days), I'm always on the lookout for interesting healthy meals. 

Enter: vegetables masquerading as pasta. 

Now I know some lend themselves better to the task (like spaghetti squash, an obvious choice as the name would suggest), but I like to make things difficult. Zucchini? Without a mandolin? Why not?

While cutting zucchini into thin strips may be an annoyingly tedious and time consuming process, it was absolutely, totally worth it. As someone who loves her carby carbs, believe me when I tell you that you won't even miss the pasta.

Now, don't go in expecting the zucchini to taste like pasta, because that would be delusional. But, it makes for a pretty decent substitute, as a veggie with a relatively low flavor profile. 

I used my zucchini pasta as a sub in my previously-posted pasta with sautéed leeks and mint (link to come later if you don't feel like searching, but I can't figure out how to get a link in when posting from the good ol' iPad), which made for a very Springy green dinner. 

So. Gather thee thy patience and a good sharp knife, and a few zucchini (duh), and make some pasta without the guilt!


Zucchini "pasta" (1-2 zucchini per person, depending on size (of the zucchini, not the person))

Cut off the ends of your zucchini. Slice it lengthwise to about 1cm thick (aka thin - you'd be crazy to think I used a ruler). Slice each piece into matchsticks. Bring a pot of shallow water to a simmer, and simmer the zucchini for about 4-5 minutes. The zucchini should be cooked, but not soft and mushy like it can get (think al dente). Strain out water and toss zucchini with whatever sauce you're using. I threw it into the pan with my leeks and sautéed for a couple minutes, for reference. Enjoy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

warm summer corn salad

I'm not quite sure where the idea for this came from, but I was so happy to have my dad around as the cook for dinner that first night we had the corn salad. I mean, popcorn tossed with browned butter is one of my favorite comfort foods; is it really such a shocker that I would fall in love with fresh corn off the cob tossed with browned butter?

The answer would be no, if you were wondering, or don't know me at all. 

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best, and this is a good example. I could probably eat this salad (if you can call it a salad) every day if i had an infinite supply of corn, and could even figure out where to store said infinite supply of corn. Corn takes up a lot of space, yo!


Butter. Shallots. Corn. Tomato. Get in my belly, pleaseandthankyou. 

Warm Summer Corn Salad

1 ear of corn per person
1 plum tomato per ear
2-3 tablespoons shallots/red onion per ear
1-2 teaspoons butter per ear

Steam corn in a pot of simmering water (1-2") for 8-10 minutes. Slice corn off the cob. In a pan large enough to hold the corn you made, melt butter with shallot/red onion. This helps the onion cook slowly and soften, instead of browning. Once the onion is translucent, add corn and tomato and give it a good stir. The corn is already warm and tomato shouldn't cook long, so this is really just to mix the flavah! Salt and pepper to taste. Try not to eat it all straight out of the pan. Unless of course you only made enough for one (and/or have no intention of sharing). In that case, go crazy. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

this one time, in Israel...part 3

Yes, I fully realize that says "part 3" instead of "day 3". Since we got to sleep in until 10:30 on day 3 because of Shabbat, we basically lost half a day. Basically.

Saturday was pretty tame.


Talk about Jew stuff, learn that growing up as a Jew in the States is totally different than growing up as a Jew in Israel.


Singing in a circle for 20 minutes closing out Shabbat.

Dinner in Tiberias, aka OMGNOTTHEKIBBUTZ.

Lebanese side dishes

Meat Platter - literally a plate of meat

Sunday, we were up and at 'em to start the first super duper long trek (aka roughly two hours) from the Golan Heights to Tel Aviv. First stop, Tzfat!

We found it mildly hilarious that the speakers on these boxes were shaped like Jewish stars.

Tzfat was a pretty neat place, and I was fortunate enough to go back after the Birthright trip ended to check out all the galleries we didn't have enough time to see the first time around. Remember, you have just enough time in each place to make you wish you had just a little more time!

The highlight of the day was probably visiting the Tzfat Gallery of Mystical Art, which is run by an aaaaaawesome guy named Avraham. Whose actual name is Robert. He's from Michigan, but you wouldn't know it, thanks to an impressive beard he totally fits in with the ultra-orthodox population. Avraham spent about foooour thoooooousand yeeeeears explaining the amaaaaazingness of Kabbalah (did you know it's a sect of Judaism? Because I had no idea until this trip). I haven't silently giggled so hard since middle school.


After leaving Avraham and the did-I-just-smoke-something-without-knowing-it? atmosphere, we continued towards Tel Aviv, stopping next in Jaffa (Old Tel Aviv).

Where we decided it would be fun to take a picture in the middle of the street.

When a bus decided to drive up the street.


Then we talked about our goals and dreams while we watched the sunset, and a few weddings, and a parasailer, and a baby or two, plus some puppies. Did I mention we're easily distracted?

That night was what at least the vast majority of the group had been looking forward to for the three-days-that-felt-like-a-million: a night out in Tel Aviv! Have fun guys, but make sure you're back at the meeting point in two hours. 

You can imagine what the next two hours looked like. What you might not imagine is the singing of Happy Birthday to one of our group members, at midnight, in English, on some street corner in downtown Tel Aviv.

Not a bad way to end the night!

stay tuned for part 4...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

easy peasy roast chicken

Some days, I'm lazy.

Are you surprised?

Problem is, if I'm too lazy I don't eat. Finding a compromise that allows me to do minimal prep while still eating well has been quite a challenge, but I'm getting there.

Enter: roast chicken.

This has become one of our favorites lately. Season it with whatever makes me happy that day, throw it in the oven, and just over an hour later we have dinner! Bonus points for having a batch of rice or veggies ready to go in the fridge.

Buy a whole chicken. Preheat your oven to 375*. Place chicken in a pan, legs up/wings down. Season to your Geary's content! Go simple with salt and pepper, or get schmancy and go all out. Cook for 75-90 minutes, depending on the size of the bird. To test for doneness, the internal temp should be 165*. Alternately, wiggle one of the legs. If it pulls off easily and the juices run clear, you're good to go.

Let the chicken rest out of the oven for at least 5 minutes, and carve away!

Yesterday's was slathered with Dijon mustard, then seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt an pepper. I think I've outdone myself.

(Pictured bird seasoned with: garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and paprika)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

matzoh-crusted honey mustard pork tenderloin


That's how I feel right now.

I was so proud of myself, taking the pork tenderloin out of the freezer last night in preparation for the inevitable we-have-nothing-to-eat whine fest that tends to happen when we're in desperate need of a grocery trip, and yet too lazy to actually go to the store.

This morning, I realized I had no idea how I would actually cook the meat. No marinades in the fridge. Not much in the way of herbs or spices. Salt and pepper is boring.

A ha! Mustard! I always love pork chops roasted with mustard, so why not pork tenderloin? I'll just coat it with mustard, roll it in panko for some crunch, and call it a day. Easy peasy.

But only if I actually had panko. Apparently that's just one of those ingredients that I always think I have, until I go to use it and realize that I almost never have it. Probably because I used all of it last time and forgot to buy more. Damn you, chicken tenders.

As I was mixing up the mustard, resigning myself to the fact that the tenderloin would not be crusted, I saw a box of leftover matzoh sitting on the counter. I mean, it's crunchy. It breaks into pieces without you even trying (my fellow Jews know what I'm talking about). Maybe it could be used in place of panko/breadcrumbs?

Let's do this!

While I still wish I had panko, this turned out decently! And now I have a fun recipe for next year's Seder.

Matzoh-crusted Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin (serves 3-4)

1ish lb pork tenderloin (we used one packaged tenderloin from Trader Joe's, about 1.2lbs)
1/4 cup your favorite mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mayo
2 matzoh boards, or about 1 cup panko (definitely go with panko if you have it, obviously)
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425*. Whisk together mustard, honey and mayo in a bowl large enough to fit the tenderloin. The flavor really should be from the mustard and honey, with the mayo in there to help keep moisture in the meat (I personally haaaaate overcooked pork). My pan didn't really fit the tenderloin, so I cut it in half. This also made it easier to serve, but you certainly don't have to do that!

If you happen to be using matzoh, crush it into little pieces and mix in some salt and pepper. If you're using panko, measure it onto a plate you can roll the tenderloin around on, and season with salt and pepper. Pat the tenderloin dry before covering it in the mustard mix - it'll help the stuff stay. Once it's covered in mustard, roll it in the panko.

Place your tenderloin on a pan of your choosing. Drizzle with olive oil if you so choose (I did about halfway through the cook time, because the matzoh was charring a bit - you can see it a little in the picture above). Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of at least 140*, then remove from the oven and let it sit for at least 5 to rest. Slice up and serve!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

so this one time, in 2

When the alarm went off at 7am, I thought for sure I was still at home and about to get up for work. Who wakes up this early on vacation? The correct answer would be that I do, when I'm on a trip where we set out to accomplish roughly 13938571 things in the span of 30 hours (there are 30 hours in a day, right?).

After breakfast, we drove to the site of our next "walk".

"See those fences surrounding us? Can you read the signs?" asked Iftach, once it was too late to turn back.

Danger! Mines!

The number of hours we had known him had increased to about 30 at this point, so clearly we knew we were in good hands. Either that, or we had all resigned ourselves to the fact that we might not make it home. Or we were still partially asleep, jet lag finally catching up, and were rendered temporarily illiterate. Take your pick.

Once we had been assured that we would most likely not blow up, we set off on our "walk", which amazingly felt like a walk for the first 10 minutes or so, if you don't count the stream we had to cross. It really would have been quite easy, we were told, had we been there before the rain flooded the stream, taking down all branches that may have been some assistance to us.

After crossing the stream, we stopped in a clearing.

To play an ice breaker game.

In the middle of a land mine field.

This was the second time out of 394857132 we were told to hold hands, but this time it was for a human knot exercise. My team was...special. We somehow managed to form two linked circles, meaning there was no possible way to win. After what felt like an hour, we gave up, but not before our fearless leaders Sarah and Ariana (and of course Iftach) had gotten plenty of "butts in faces!" pictures. Lucky for us, they caught another team cheating first, so we were spared the sheer horror of performing a dance in front of everyone else.

Photo from Whitney, one of the awesome photographers on the trip. I was probably still tangled.

And then, we "walked" some more.

Three streams, a bat cave, and a stairway to heaven the parking lot later, we were back on the bus, headed for OMGSHWARMAFALAFELOMNOMNOM. We were just a little excited.

In transit, we learned the only two words in the Hebrew language that will matter the entire rest of the trip: sababah (it's all good / cool) and balagan (mess / hot mess). 

Our day out and about ended early due to Shabbat (wait, what day is it?), so we were back on the kibbutz mid-afternoon to give us an opportunity to shower (!!) and/or sleep (!!!!!!) and/or prepare for Shabbat services even though we (in the Victorian sense) had been to fewer than five Shabbat services in the history of ever. It was definitely a fun learning experience though, and now I can say I helped lead a Shabbat service in Israel! I feel so special.

After evening programming, we were perfect little angels and went to bed right away, obviously. Isn't that what you would do if you were told you were allowed to sleep in until 10:30 the next morning?

...stay tuned for day 3!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

so this one time, in 1

"Everyone make sure you're in comfortable clothes and good shoes, we're going to go for a nice walk straight away!" Said our tour guide Iftach, who we had met about 5 minutes earlier and were trusting with our lives.

Two hours later, we were scaling down a mountain.

Welcome to Israel! Where the rare use of the word "hike" should instill a certain level of fear.

Two weeks later, I learned that the route we took down the mountain is typically one which people take up the mountain, and it was, in fact, a lot harder to descend than ascend.

Lesson 1: Don't tell the Taglit kids what they're getting into, otherwise they may chicken out. If the bus drops them off at the top of the mountain and drives away before they realize what's happened, there's really no other option.

Once we made it safely down Mt. Arbel, we were told to gather in a circle and hold hands with our new best friends who we had just met 24 hours earlier, 12 of which were spent sleeping on the flight over. This was probably the least awkward of all the ice breakers. It also proved quite a challenge. Who knew a bunch of 20-somethings would have so much trouble forming a circle? Little did we know, we would have plenty of opportunities to hold hands in circles over the course of the trip.

"Now, turn 90 degrees to your right, and put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you."

Are we going to dance in a conga line? 

"Begin moving your thumbs in a circular motion..."

Are we really massaging the shoulders of complete strangers? *giggle giggle* this is so awkward and hilarious!

"Now tap the person's shoulder in front of you, and say to them "You are a good person."

Well, I'm not really sure about that, I barely know these people

Disregard the fact that the first person I had to tell this to was my brother. I'd rather tell that to a complete stranger! (Just kidding, Jarrad. You are a really good person)

Once we had all rather unsuccessfully told the people in front of us they were good people (seriously, how did we never figure out that 50 people leaning forward and talking at the same time would make it rather difficult to effectively talk to each other?), we were told to turn 180* and do the same thing to the person who up until that point had been behind us. After our kumbaya session, we headed to the kibbutz where we would be spending our first three nights where we learned quickly that cats in Israel are akin to squirrels in the US; they're cute to look at, but they're wild and may or may not carry diseases. Everyone, put down the cats you just picked up.

Rest time (something I learned not to take for granted) was spent bonding with my first two roommates (they moved us around at each new location) over how sore our legs were and how good it felt to lay on our beds with our legs resting against the wall. I thought about how I had lucked out with the rooming assignments, given that I had to spend the next 3 nights with the same people, like 'em or not.

After dinner we learned that it's very windy in Israel. As each person on the trip had maybe 3 friends, including their roommates who they had really just met (has it really only been 12 hours?), we were forced to play several rounds of never-have-I-ever-musical-chairs (aka "the wind blows") in order to increase the chances we would end up sitting next to someone we didn't know.

At this point, it was probably time for count off number 1 of so-many-I-lost-count. Everyone remember your numbers! ...or forget them, because remembering one number for 10 days is really, super hard.

After the evening's activities, everyone gathered on the porch of the common area of the kibbutz to socialize...with everyone back home because this was the first wifi we had been graced with since we left New York. And then we went to sleep, because we had effectively been awake for two days...

Stay tuned for day 2!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

words can't even describe...

They say a picture is worth a thousand words (ew, cliché), and since I'm still trying to decide how I want to recall my trip for the masses, I'll leave you with a few pictures first to whet you appetites. (For those of you confused as all get out right now, I just got back from 3 weeks in Israel)

Friday, January 4, 2013

short rib and kale stew

I've been sick for the past four or five days. For someone who doesn't get sick very often, this was definitely not a fun week. Something's been going around lately, and I was just unlucky this time. Thankfully, the first two days of my sickness happened to coincide with the last two days of the university's holiday, so I was off anyway (insert mild eye roll here. I mean, who wants to use their extra vacation days being sick?). Until this afternoon, I hadn't been outside except to relocate from my parents house (I was dog sitting) back to my apartment.

That was Tuesday.

When I finally felt well enough to brave the world, all I could think about (aside from stopping by the house for Chester kisses, which is just a given, obviously) was making a big batch of soup. You see, as I told my dad this afternoon, I'm not used to getting sick when I live away from home. I'm accustomed to opening the freezer and finding a few quarts (at least) of soup (chicken or mushroom and barley) to meet my sicky needs. Of course, I realized this week when I opened my freezer to (gasp) no soup, that I'd actually have to make the soup in order to have soup available. Novel concept, eh?

What, you mean the soup fairy's dad's not just going to automatically know I'm low on soup and bring me a fresh batch? Get outta here! ok, there's a teeny tiny possibility my mom may or may not have offered, on several occasions, to bring me the soup in their freezer, or at least bring me ingredients to make my own. Did I mention I have the best parents ever, in the history of parents?

So anyway. I headed to the store with every intention of picking up the goods for mushroom and barley soup, but when I got to the meat section (oh yeah, it has chuck roast in it as well. Not sure why we don't call it beef and barley, but we don't), the short ribs were just calling my name.

Change of direction!

As I'm always looking for more excuses to use my schmancy slow cooker, I thought a hearty stew might be a nice change of pace. Of course, it was so good that there are only two containers of leftovers, which kind of defeats the purpose of making a large batch to freeze for later. What are you going to do?

We ate this stew on its own, but you could totally serve it on top of some rice and I bet it would be fantastic! Also, it would totally stretch the servings. Also also, rice is awesome.

Apologies for the less-than-ideal lighting, while I started the stew during broad daylight, I *did* make it in the slow cooker which meant it was not finished until dark.

Short Rib and Kale Stew (serves 4-6)

6-8 short ribs (1-2 per person)
1 large can diced tomatoes (I love the fire-roasted ones!)
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1-2 potatoes, diced (I had purple sweet potatoes on hand)
1/2 head of kale, roughly chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cornstarch

If you're feeling frisky, brown the short ribs before placing them in the slow cooker. If you have a slow cooker with an insert that's stove-safe, definitely take the time to brown! It'll leave some extra flavor goodness in the pan. Dump all ingredients (except cornstarch) into the slow cooker, stir around a little, and cook on low for about 5 hours. The veggies should be soft at this point, and the meat should fall off the bone. To thicken the liquid, mix the cornstarch with about a quarter cup of water (you want a fully disolved opaque liquid), and stir that into the slow cooker. Set the cooker to high and let it thicken for 20-30 minutes. Serve with rice if you so choose.