Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter Bean Soup

It may be the end of February, but we've been blasted with icy winds and cold temperatures in New York City, which makes me want to get cozy with a bowl of comforting soup. We had some basic ingredients on hand, so I whipped up some bean soup yesterday. (Spoiler Alert: it's even better on the second day!)

Winter Bean Soup
 If you eliminate the bacon or use a vegan substitute, this is a vegan recipe. For the best use of time, de-stem and chop the kale while the onions reduce. Ian gave this a "Straight A" when he tasted it. Little did he know it only took about 40 minutes to make!

4-5 strips bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried or fresh rosemary
bay leaf
6 cups vegetable stock
45 ounces canned cannelloni beans
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 bunch kale, steams removed and chopped coarsely (could use spinach here as well)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat dutch oven over medium-high heat and add bacon. Saute until the fat begins to render, then add the onion. Saute until the bacon is fully cooked and the onion starts to brown and soften. Add garlic, stirring about 30 seconds until garlic becomes fragrant. Add the rosemary and 2 cups stock.

Stirring occasionally, allow the vegetable stock to cook down until it's very thick and almost gone, almost syrupy. Make sure to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pot.

Add the remaining vegetable stock, beans, basil, and chopped kale and reduce heat to medium. Stir occasionally and bring to a gentle simmer to warm everything through and cook the kale. Once the kale is cooked (10-15 minutes) the soup will be ready to eat, but you could reduce the heat and allow to cook longer to better infuse the flavors if you have more time.

Top with a sprinkle of Parmesan and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Commencement

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun read about four women who meet at Smith and become best friends. The book follows them through the college and the first five years afterwards. It was refreshing to read a chick-lit that was about friendship and identity instead of romantic entanglement (I think the last I read one of those was in high school?), but the book still felt a little flat. The first half seemed like more of a giant homage to Smith, which, while making me regret not going to a women's college, was a bit tiresome. I also found the discussion of feminism and sexuality a bit trite. I feel that anyone who wasn't interested in feminism would give up on this book before getting anything useful out of it, and anyone who has had any feminist/women's/gender studies will find Sullivan's characters' discussions one-dimensional and simple. Yet I like how this is chick-lit that discusses feminist topics, so perhaps I should be more kind.

Also, as a side note, I thought it was odd that the characters never discussed the possibility of Bree as being bi-sexual. Bi-sexuality: attraction to both women and men, not a new concept.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 20, 2012


We're back on schedule the best that we can be, and it really is helping with organization and time management. There never seem to never be enough hours in the day. Funny, I used to think that when I was in college. I had no idea. I'm sure my college self would look at my current self and be amazed that I think I don't have enough time to do everything I want (after being shocked that I got married so young and had a baby at all, let alone before I was thirty, but I digress), after all, I'm not working, so where is all of this time going?

And really, I couldn't really say. Except that Felicity and I nap a lot together on the cloudy days, and trying to keep the house out of a state of constant chaos is itself chaotic, and mysteriously so.

Felicity is starting to "talk" quite a bit, and started giggling in the last week or so. It is so precious, it melts my heart again and again. We all knew that babies were cute and nice to have around, but I never imagined the moments of pride and happiness that I feel when she bubbles and gurgles. I admit it, I'm smitten.

Things I Really Enjoy Right Now:
  • Rosetta Stone (German!): We bought a year of German for me. I'm having fun so far and feel accomplished when I can spend some time doing this when Felicity naps.
  • Making weekly menus: As food is one of the things I enjoy most in life, both the preparation and the eating, it really gives me a nice thrill to put together a nice weekly menu. I've been planning the meals, even down to the breakfasts, by day. There is something so nice about planning ahead for the coming week, and having a certain amount of order in what will be eaten and knowing in advance how much time things will take to prepare.
  • Haagen Daaz Ice Cream : I mean, really. Yum. (Disclaimer: I am only eating a serving every three days or so, and by a serving, a mean 1/4 of a pint, I am so disciplined)
  • Chocolate-Filled Nips: my teeth are going to rot, but I don't care.
  • Pinterest: ADDICTIVE. It's officially replaced and my November Birth Community Board as my favorite online activity/website.
Things I'm looking forward to:
  • People are coming to visit us! My best friend Kat is coming from Michigan towards the end of March, my mummy is coming in April (we hope!), Ian's sister Hilly and her husband Ben sometime in the late spring/early summer, and even Ian's mom Jan in the summer (we hope!), as well as my sister Sarah, her husband Jason, and my sweet little nephew.
  • Date night with Ian on Wednesday. Our neighbors agreed to do some exchange babysitting. We watched their kids last night so they could go on their first date in over a year. By watch, I mean that we sat in their apartment and read while their kids slept, but still, isn't that the advantage of having easy babies?
  • Visiting California in the summer with my whole family.
  • Getting cleared by my doctor to start exercising. It will eliminate my last excuse, but I so need to be able to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans without using a hair-binder to keep them up! 
  • Finding out where our next permanent location will be, which of course depends on where Ian gets hired next. This year we just have Washington University (in Saint Louis, MO) to hear back from (we will know at the end of the month if they give him an offer or not), but it will be nice to know where we will be settling down whenever it happens, even if it means we know that New York City will be a more permanent home for us (which would be amazing!)

Weekly Menu

I'm a few days late with this, but here it is.

Salmon and Couscous Skillet Supper
Skillet Penne with Turkey Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Couscous Tagine with Turnips and Dried Apricots
Pan-Glazed Tofu with Hoisin Sauce, served with Sugar Snap Peas with Fried Ginger, and Jasmine Rice

Tuscan White Bean Soup 
Tuna Melts, served with carrot sticks
Beet, Jicama, and Watercress Salad, served with Whole Wheat Cheese Toasts
Thai Beef Salad Wraps

Baked Eggs with Bacon and Spinach
Cinnamon French Toast
Kale Shake
Pineapple Mango Green Smoothie

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Yeah, about that... // Le Grand Schedule

Ian and I spent a greater part of a weekend in January talking about what we wanted to accomplish, from dreams for the future, to things we want to do in the next year, to how we want to plan our schedules day-to-day.

On reflection, we did get ourselves organized in many ways. If anything, it was good to sit down, talk, and plan things together. We're really great at making plans. We are less awesome at implementing all of them. but one step at a time, no?

Somethings that I want to do just aren't feasible right now, like taking yoga classes (cannot afford) or getting in any sort of decent cardio workouts (my body just isn't ready after surgery two months ago, I tried this and overworked myself last week). But at least it's all written out there, right?

The best thing we did was set up daily and weekly schedules for ourselves. I won't way that we've been perfect at keeping them, but we've made vast improvements already. And, as the baby can attest, it's nice to have a little structure!

Daily Schedule
6:30 am     Ian (and possibly Rachel) wakes up
7:30 am     Ian is at the office
12:00 pm   Ian comes home for lunch (which Rachel has ideally prepared in advance)
1:00 pm     Ian is back at the office
4:00 pm     Ian comes home and goes for a run
5:00 pm     We make dinner together
7:00 pm     Felicity gets ready for bed: baby is bathed, lotioned, nursed, swaddled, and read to
8:00 pm     Rachel and Ian spend an "us" hour - game, reading together, talking, cuddling, etc.
10:30 pm   Electronics off, reading in bed
11:00 pm   Lights out (12:00 am for weekends)

And in all of this, Flick usually goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 pm, and will either sleep through until about 4:00 or 5:00 am, or wake up once to eat around midnight. She'll often go back down to sleep until 8:00, which isn't half bad. She also tends to have a longer nap in the mid morning, and one or two shorter naps in the afternoon.

Weekly Schedule
    Monday: Normal Schedule (Ian teaches)
    Tuesday: Ian is home in the afternoon, Rachel leaves from 1:30-4:30 pm to work on thesis
    Wednesday: Normal Schedule (Ian teaches)
    Thursday: Normal Schedule, Rachel has book club / play group at 4:00 pm
    Friday: Rachel has moms group in the morning; Ian is home in the afternoon, Rachel leaves from 1:30-4:30 pm to work on thesis
    Saturday: Sleep in and do late brunch, Rachel gets three hour window out of the house, Ian runs one hour, Ian works two hours
    Sunday: Ian works for five hours, Ian runs one hour

  • The kitchen is cleaned every night (this was a big one for us, we're great at letting it go)
  • Ian is in charge of garbage/recycling every day
  • Bathroom is cleaned every Tuesday (Ian)
  • Mop kitchen and Sweep/Vacuum apartment every Wednesday (joint effort)
  • Rachel does the laundry and changes sheets every Thursday
  • Rachel keeps the living room straightened
  • Ian keeps the bedroom straightened
We're not perfect by any means, but we've implemented as much as we seem capable of handling (I had a rough week emotionally and physically), but so far everything is going really well.

I'm sure I'll write more on the actual goals that I set for myself at a later point, but it's nice to revisit all of this about one month after we set up our schedules and to see that we're actually following a fair amount of it. Yes!

Weekly Menu

I wrote a menu for next week, but it's a really good one and I'm excited for it! We have several dinners out, so it's a little shorter than usual.

Eggs Baked in Peperade, served with crusty bread
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Smoothie
Green Breakfast Smoothie
Oatmeal / 10 Grain Cereal

Taco Salad with Ground Beef and Avocado
Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Figs and Honey, served with Side Salad
Roasted Beet Bowl with Goat Cheese
Tuna Melts

Stir-Fried Chicken and Vegetables with Spicy Thai Basil Sauce, served with Jasmine Rice
Chicken Burgers with Peanut Sauce, served with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Winter Squash Risotto with Sage and Parmesan, served with Braised Greens

Weekend Brunch:
Whole Wheat Pancakes with Blackberry Syrup and Root Vegetable Hash with Poached Eggs and Parsley Pesto

I'm a little in love with this menu, aren't you?