Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 Minutes = Healthier Comfort Food!

Like mother like daughter.

I love macaroni and cheese.  I do.  I know it's on the top of the nono list for dieters-- tons of carbs and (horrors!) cheese!!!  But I love it, and I have to say, there is nothing so comforting as sitting down to a delicious bowl of macaroni and cheese when you're tired and hungry (which, as a mom of a toddler, I often am).

Luckily, this is on my picky toddler's list of foods she will eat.  Hooray!

Now, you can of course make it from scratch.  If you do that, I support you-- I applaud you in fact.  I tried it myself recently with this recipe from, and it was fantastic.  It was not unduly difficult, but it definitely took more time than ripping open a box and following the idiot-proof directions.  And lately, I kind of need idiot-proof.  I don't know, maybe it's the heat.

So how to make it healthier?  And in 5 minutes (you may know how I adore 5 minute recipes)?  Vegetables!

Why do these things only suddenly matter to me when I'm trying to get my toddler to eat?  I don't know.  Never in my life before child did I ever think-- you know, I should really put some cauliflower in my mac 'n cheese... or carrots... or broccoli...

But now that I have a toddler, that's all I think about.  How can I sneak into this toddler-friendly food more nutrition so I don't feel bad about feeding her simple carbs and cheese (oh my!)?

Little One is very picky.  She's big on visuals.  If it looks like the real thing, she'll take a stab at it.  Sticking green peas and broccoli in her yellow macaroni and cheese is a big turn off (that being said, she'll eat them at another sitting in another setting, but not with this dish... don't ask.)

Sticking steamed and pureed veges into the mix at the end of the cooking process is the perfect answer for us.  Last time I made the dish, I cheated even further and stuck some carrot baby food into the cheese mixture.  This time, I had left over cauliflower that was screaming to be used, so I followed Mark Bittman's advice, and put it in the macaroni.  Here's how my version goes... 5 minutes of actual working time and you're on your way to healthier comfort food!

Steamed Cauliflower for Healthier Mac 'n Cheese:
This recipe, although you have to wait for the water to boil and the cauliflower to cook, technically involves only 5 minutes of labor.  So it's easy.  Like really easy.  And you can do this once, freeze the leftovers, and simply add it in whenever you need it!

1. Take a head of a cauliflower and core and chop it into large pieces.

2. Boil water, salt it, and then add cauliflower and cook for 20-25 minutes until tender.

3. Drain.  Take a potato masher and mash it up together with a bit of olive oil, mustard, and nutmeg until really smooth.  Quantities are up to you.  My preference is 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1/2 tsp nutmeg.  (This can also be done in a food processor if you prefer... but it's more clean up time, so who needs it?)

4. Mix in your desired amount with prepared macaroni and cheese.  The trick is to add just enough cauliflower that you get the nutrients without overpowering the pasta/cheesiness.  For a box of mac 'n cheese, I used a cup of cauliflower puree.  I like to add some extra grated Parmesan so the dish doesn't loose it's cheesiness.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Inspiration to Declutter: Trust More, Need Less

It really feels like spring today.  Finally.

I can tell because I was out for two and a half hours with the Little One at the playground this morning, and not once did I stop to blow my nose or search for my gloves.  It was gloriously warm all day, the sky was blue, and the park was surrounded by yellow daffodils and even a few purple hyacinth that smelled like old fashioned perfume.

Spring is definitely a time for getting outside and enjoying the weather.  However, it's also the traditional time for spring cleaning-- decluttering your space and airing out your home to prepare for the season.  Maybe it's because we suddenly realize how musty and stuffy our homes are only after we experience the joy of warm air and blossoming wildflowers.

I'll be posting more on spring cleaning in the future.  For now, read this article on Apartment Therapy that will really inspire you to declutter.  The basic moral of that story seems to be, "Trust more, need less."  I'm definitely going to try it out.

Want more stuff to read on the value of small spaces and decluttering?  Check this and this out.

Friday, March 29, 2013

"I Can't Believe It's Not Leavened!" (Best Passover Muffin Recipe Ever!)

Is it weird that every holiday for me centers around the making and eating of food?

Weeks ago we made plans with friends and invited them over for a weekend brunch.  I didn't realize then that it would be Passover and I wouldn't be able to rely on crusty baguettes or my favorite zucchini bread to supplement the menu.

In our family we give up bread and other associated products on Passover to commemorate the Jews' hasty exodus from enslavement in Egypt and eat matzah-- unleavened, cracker-like, disgusting, aptly named "bread of affliction"-- for 8 days.

So I Googled like crazy, as I often do.  And lo and behold, I am not the only one who obsesses about holiday foods!  A search for "passover muffins" yielded pages of recipes, and after sifting through them I was able to make up a recipe of my own to suit this weekend's brunch.  It seems that I am not the only one who spends two weeks out of every year in a frenzied search for recipes to soften the blow of eight days of no bread

If I do say so myself, these Kosher for Passover muffins will knock your socks off.  They're fluffy, tender, moist, and to be honest, make me feel a little guilty for enjoying myself so much!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

This Week's (Big) Small Find: Magnetic Message Boards

I kind of love these.

Fabric Covered Magnet Board (18" x 12") Turquoise Damask
Fabric Covered Magnet Board by LivyLouDesigns, $26.50 on Etsy
This designer makes fabulous (and even customized) magnetic message boards that include vintage button mega-magnets.  Ribbons and fabric mean it would look right at home in a bedroom.

When I was in college, I collected the corks from the bottles of wine we drank at parties and get-togethers, and when the year was up I used them all to make a homemade pushpin cork board.  I loved it.

Of course, after a couple of years the cork stopped healing and became riddled with holes.  My board ended up looking more dingy-funky than vintage-eclectic.  Not to mention that every photo/memento/message I posted up there was tattered with pinholes.  So, although I am a big fan of DIY and would recommend that project to anyone who drinks enough wine to make it happen, I think it may be time for something a little more grown up.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Happy Purim! The most joyous holiday of the year!"

So says the book "Good Night Israel" that we have read to the Little One every night for the last week.  The book says good morning, good evening and good night to many different places and people in Israel, and touches on the Jewish holiday Purim, showing kids dressed up in funny costumes, making noise and having fun.

On the next page there is a picture of kids making hamantaschen, the triangle fruit filled cookies traditional to Purim.  On that page, the book asks, "Would you like to help make hamantaschen?"  And dear Little O, she always answers with a resounding "Yes!"

So you can imagine I was excited for Purim to come.  I told her how we would make hamantaschen.  I told her how we'd roll the dough, fill it with fruit, and bake it in the oven, a la the patty cake song.

I had the Jewish equivalent of visions of sugar-plums dancing in my head.

It didn't turn out quite like I planned.

The trauma began with my electric hand mixer,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Week's (Big) Small Find: Closet Organizers

Photo courtesy of Maegan
A girl can never have enough closet space.  Especially if that girl lives in New York City.

Add a roommate/spouse/kid or two, and you're really faced with a closet conundrum.

It's ironic that in the land of chronic shoppers, those same folk have no place to put their samplesalefleamarketboutique finds.  Walk-in closets are a luxury for the few and the lucky, and the rest of us are faced with a bi-fold door or two of storage.

This week's (big) small find is something that everyone can use... closet organizers.  There are a gadzillion to choose from, and this post will just cover a few, but whatever kind you choose, you will definitely benefit from this home improvement.

elfa System at The Container Store:

The queen of closet organization, as far as many New Yorkers are concerned, is elfa.  The Container Store really knocked it out of the park with the flexibility and allure of this system.

There is an online tool that allows you to design a closet customized to your closet dimensions and your storage needs (like if you're a shoe hoarder, or have a lot of dresses, they account for that and will design accordingly).  The parts are attractive, practical and available in different finishes and colors.

Down side?  Price.  Big price.  Probably worth it though-- their systems are extremely durable.

elfa system at The Container Store

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Savory Beef and Vegetable Stew: slow cooker tested, toddler approved!

Back in December, when I shared my recipe for a kale and chicken meatball soup, I made the bold statement that I'd be making a lot of hearty and healthy winter stews this season.

Well, I'm ashamed to say that although I have been making stew after soup (still don't know the difference!), I haven't posted too many of them here because, frankly, they don't photograph well!  I've been really trying to take advantage of my slow cooker, and honestly although food that's been stewed together for hours tastes DIVINE...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Wake-Up Call For Your Slow Cooker: Caribbean Inspired Pulled Chicken

When I was pregnant with Little One, a friend told me that we HAD to take a "babymoon."  One last hurrah as a couple, in some relaxing locale, where we could enjoy each other and the peace and quiet before diapers and sleep training and playgrounds took over our lives.

So we booked a cheap package deal to the Caribbean and went, 6 month baby bump and all.

It was a great trip.  It was too cold to really swim very much, but we sipped virgin pina coladas and relaxed on the beach.  We took long walks, ate fresh fish and lots and lots of mango.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DIY: Natural Moth Repellent Sachets

It's really hard to buy a present for Mr. Minimalist.  He's just one of those people.  One year I bought him a sweater.  Another year, a soft scarf, and the year after that? A nice winter hat.  This is how unoriginal I've become.

Thanks to our moth infestation, we no longer own any of those things.  I guess that's the one good thing about moths-- now I have a list of presents lined up for the coming years.

But in all seriousness, it's a real problem.  Moths are attracted to dark untouched corners, and even in a small space like ours, there are plenty of those.  

Mothballs have never been an option-- I can't stand the smell.  Now that I know that they're terribly toxic to have in your house, I feel justified in my peevishness.  But mothballs do work, and I've had a really difficult time finding a natural alternative to those convenient little parcels of chemicals.

I scoured the internet for solutions to our problems.  And, after ironing, dry cleaning, hot washing and tossing (all solutions to killing the moths and larvae on infested clothing that I read about on the internet), I resolved to go whole hog into the natural moth repellent business.  

What helps?  Although nothing is for sure, there are scores of herbs and other natural ingredients that you can use around your house to ward off those flying nightmares.  Here are the top few:
  • Cedar 
    • You can buy the essential oil, or blocks of cedar wood and keep these around-- but remember the wood goes old, and has to be refreshed by sanding or adding oil;
  • Eucalyptus
    • They are sold where ever flowers are... supermarkets, florists, etc.;
  • Lavender
    • Available dried at florists, natural food stores;

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The 300 Square Foot Apartment

My Micro NY adAPT
Rendering of the new micro apartment                           Photo by NYC Mayor's Office

And you thought your place was small.

A while back, I wrote about finding a cure for big house envy.  I have to say, this will make you feel a lot better about wherever you live, and maybe even inspire you to downsize!

My first studio was just under 400 square feet, but it did not look nearly as spacious as the 300 square foot apartment I just saw featured today on NBC online.  The article gave a quick peak inside a mock-up apartment that represents the winner of the "My Micro NY" design contest.  There are the typical small space amenities-- nesting tables, storage ottomans, Murphy beds.  But they are all done with such suave attention to modern detail that you don't even mind having a bed that folds into a wall.

So next time you're bummed about your teeny tiny place, just think-- it could be micro!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Resolution: DIY

My New Year's resolutions are pretty unoriginal.

Every year, I vow to be more healthy, lose however many extra pounds I'm holding on to at that moment, be more in that moment, write more, be a better listener and refrain from giving unwanted advice.

Invariably, I fail on all counts.

So this year, I resolved to make a better kind of resolution.  I want some instant New Year's gratification.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to work on my traditional goals which are more like constant struggles... but in addition I want a resolution I can literally tick off the list and say-- DONE!

So here it is: DIY.

I used to be very into small do-it-yourself projects...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

This Week's (Big) Small Find: Paint

Sorry, I know this may sound like a bit of a cop-out.  After all, everyone knows about paint.  But, I have to tell you, you're going to love me once you read this.

I've been recovering from a flu that the Little One shared with me and my husband, and when we get sick in this house, the TV comes on... a lot.  I know this is probably bad parenting (and a bad habit for us adults as well) but when I'm sick sometimes I just can't deal, and putting Sesame Street on for the Little One to keep her happy while I nurse my cold on the couch is the best solution.  And while she's sleeping, the channel changes, and I watch all sorts of mindless programming.

So this past week, I watched Rachael Ray...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This Is What Parenthood Looks Like

We had big plans for New Year's 2013.

Well, not really.  Not big in comparison to the thousands of people crammed into Times Square to watch the ball drop.  Not big in comparison with all the revelers at the clubs, or the hordes of students celebrating in the streets.

But big for us.

For weeks, we had planned on a trip to see my folks and a bunch of friends in Boston.  Over the last few years, we have developed a tradition of having a New Year's Day brunch at my folks place-- multi-generational, with little ones running around, and adults of all ages milling around, eating good food, catching up and relaxing.  For New Year's Eve, a friend hosts a small house party which is always intimate and wonderful.

We were looking forward to New Year's Eve...