Monday, February 28, 2011

Sweet Souffled Ricotta Cakes (aka really delicious, fluffy pancakes that will melt your cold, cold heart)

My mom mailed me Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison for my birthday (thanks Mummy!). Ian and I had a friend over for brunch this morning and I cooked some delicious little pancakes for us based on this recipe.

Sweet Souffled Ricotta Cakes
Adapted from Deborah Madison

This recipe could be either savory or sweet. We topped our pancakes with honeyed Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, and with homemade pearsauce, but maple syrup or whipped cream and berried would be delicious as well. You could also omit the sugar and make savory pancakes. Fresh herbs mixed into the batter would be quite nice, or served with a light vegetable puree. 

3 eggs, separated
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk (skim, whole, or almond)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar (if sweet, omit if you are making savory pancakes)

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until smooth. Add the ricotta cheese, stirring until well blended. Then add the milk and butter, again stirring until well blended. Sift in the flour, baking soda, and salt, adding the vanilla and sugar once well blended. Set aside.

With a hand beater or standing mixer, beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, with butter or oil if desired. When pan is hot, reduce heat a little and drop 1/4 cup of batter at a time to make smaller pancakes. Flip after 1-2 minutes, when the first sides are nicely browned (be careful, the batter will still be a bit loose and will bubble on top when they are ready to flip like a traditional pancake!). Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mollie Katzen's Spinach-Rice Casserole

As today was the first get-back-on-track food day I have two delicious recipes to share!

Spinach-Rice Casserole
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

We gave this recipe a solid 'A' in our cookbook notes. It's easy to make and a delicious, wintery, comfort-food. We made this recipe with cheddar and milk from our co-op, but you could make this a vegan recipe if you chose to (although it's really lovely with the cheese). While you can use short, medium, or long-grain brown rice, you will save yourself calories by avoiding short grain brown rice. The broccoli slaw can be found by the salad mixes in the produce section. Our mix was a "rainbow mix," with a little bit of shredded carrots and cabbage in addition to the broccoli. Yum!

1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 Tbsp. butter (or olive oil/margarine if you're going vegan with this)
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded broccoli slaw mix / diced broccoli stems and florets
2 bunches fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 tsp. salt
5 garlic cloves, minced
dash of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3 eggs, beaten (omit for vegan)
1 cup milk (omit for vegan)
1 - 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (omit for vegan)

Cook the rice per the manufacturer's instructions. When the rice is finished, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

While the rice is cooking, heat the oven to 350F. Heat the butter in a dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion for 5-7 minutes until it start to brown and soften. Add the broccoli and a few teaspoons of water. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli turns bright green and starts to soften as well. Add the spinach, garlic, and salt. Continue to cook over medium heat, about 5 minutes or until the spinach wilts and cooks down. Remove from heat and mix in the cooked rice, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (not full 1/2 cup!).

Beat the eggs and milk together until well combined. Pour the milk-mixture over the vegetables and rice and stir, adding the cheese until everything is well combined.

Spread into a 9x13 inch baking pan (you will probably need to grease if you aren't adding any dairy products). Use a scraper to press the mixture down evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds on the top of the casserole.

Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes until the casserole is heated through and is beginning to brown on top. Remove and let rest for about 5 minutes, then serve!

Farewell February, Hello March

Two observations:
  1. Almost no one reads this blog (which is fine by me)
  2. Ian and I post much of our activities and big news on our joint blog, Bling, Blang, Blung
Which is why I'm about to get real personal on this blog.

So, if you've been tracking our blog, you will know that Ian completed his job search, was offered a three-year fellowship at Columbia University, he (well, we) accepted the offer, and are planning to move to New York City in July or August of this year. This is perhaps the most exciting and, at the same time, terribly frightening thing we've done together. The other option was a tenure-track position at Wayne State University. While this job had (we think) greater security and would've kept us in the area and allowed us to buy a home, of course the prestige of Columbia is much greater and will therefore be much better for Ian's overall career. That and we're both really ready to be out of Michigan and have been for awhile.

However, a we weren't really counting on taking a three-year position. We were more thinking that any offer Ian would take would be a tenure-track job, thus more than three years somewhat guaranteed in one place, which would have allowed me to start my graduate work in the next year or so for my doctorate. I by no means regret our decision (and it was fully our decision, let me be clear), but this throws a wrench in my long term plans, which went a little like this:
  1. Ian get's offered tenure position at school and starts in Fall 2011
  2. Rachel either gets in same grad school to start Fall 2011 in Psychology program due to spousal hiring/promotion, or starts same or area program Fall 2012
  3. When Rachel finishes classes in 2014-2015 and starts working on dissertation, Rachel and Ian have bambino. 
  4. Rachel continues grad school and finishes dissertation/graduates 2017-2018, right when Ian is either given tenure at current school, or goes back on the market.
  5. Rachel either finds job in current area school or in professional, related field, or Rachel and Ian go on job market together and spousal hiring more than likely provides jobs for one or the other, depending on who the shinier candidate is at that time. 
Dilemma!  In this plan, I have a baby in 3-4 years (before I turn 30), and start on my doctorate in the next year and half! However, I can't do both of those things the way that I originally wanted. So I bottled. And bottled. And bottled. And then, after I exploded into a ball of tears and snot in a feminist crisis in Ian's arms last week, we created the following possibilities:

The Feminist Dilemma Flow Chart

You may need to blow that up to read it. It's intense.

So, after creating the flowchart (currently on our whiteboard by the door), I sat and thought. And thought. My lovely husband who is so kind and beautiful to me left most of the decision up to me. Having flushed out all possible scenarios and their pros and cons (like the planning, goal-orientated nerds we are), yikes! It really came down to the following questions for me:
  1. What is more important, family or my graduate degree?
  2. Do I have other career options that will be fulfilling and viable besides going further in academia?
  3. Are we ready for a baby?
  4. Can Ian and I really last for 2+ years in a long-distance relationship? Am I willing to give up our intimacy and proximity for my career goals?
 I thought these things through good and hard, read a few books, talked to my best friend and my academic adviser. What it comes down to us, no, I am not willing to seriously entertain the idea of being apart from my husband whom I cherish and love. If we were in opposite positions, where I had the degree and he didn't, he would do the same for me. We have been together for three years and have established a wonderful relationship that has a good foundation that is ready for not only the challenge of living in New York, but starting a family as well. Although my first career goal is to get my doctorate and research, I do have other career possibilities that excite me, whether they're temporary or become fulfilling and what I want to pursue in the long term.

And the awesome thing is, after we made this decision together (Rachel: 75%, Ian 25%), I feel totally and completely happy and at peace about it. Ball of tears and stress? Goodbye!

So: pre-conception gyno visit scheduled for three weeks out to make sure my medications and vaccinations are in line, and obsessive reading on my end, which leads me to the next big, and quite personal, topic: weight.

I last 15-20 pounds before my wedding last spring and was down in the upper 120's in the "healthy" weight range for a lady my height. And... starting on my lovely honeymoon and following, I, for the most part, stopped watching portions, listening to my body, or sticking with any sort of exercise plan. And guess what? I gained every pound back in 6 months, which is something I'm not proud to admit. A few times I've gone on a week-long kick to try to start exercising again, but nothing has really stuck, just some shame (and, to my great dismay, an unholy tightening of clothes on my torso).

Before we start trying for a baby, I want to start treating my body right again. Even if I'm not in my ideal target weight, I want to have 30 minutes of activity, whether it's aerobics or yoga in my living room or a long walk after dinner. I want to make sure I'm staying within my calorie goal eating good food - we have been eating out and being lazy in our cooking way too much, and that has to stop.

Today was the first day, and overall, I think it went really well.

I'm really excited. Now that we've decided we want to start trying for a baby, I can't wait to make sure I'm in good shape for pregnancy and for the whole process! Ian is really excited as well (of course we wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't completely on board!).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review: I'm Okay, You're a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood

I'm Okay, You're a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood
I'm Okay, You're a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood by Susan Jeffers

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I suffered through over half of this book before I finally dropped it for good. I thought maybe it would eventually organize itself into something thought provoking based on the reviews, but Jeffer's writing is unorganized, lacks depth, and isn't helpful at all at answering the questions that would lead a parent or potential parent to this book. I can understand how a really frustrated parent that went into mother/fatherhood with glossy expectations would find solace in Jeffer's words, but an essay would suffice. To save you the trouble, here are Jeffer's main points:

  • Jeffers loves her kids but really disliked being a parent and seems to regret procreating (apparently all of her friends and examples feel the same way)
  • Only a select few find joy and fulfillment in having kids
  • Children are messy, angry, crabby, selfish, and will fill you with rage and probably wreck your life
  • Children will ruin your marriage/relationship

If you are deciding to have or not have kids, or the timing to do so, I would strongly recommend The Parenthood Decision by Beverly Engels. This is an extraordinarily helpful read that helps you sort through motives, readiness, and discusses having children in relation to your goals as an individual and a couple.

View all my reviews