mushroom marsala pasta

Posted: April 15th, 2014

mushroom marsala pasta

Finally finally FINALLY I am liking food again.  You never realize how much food surrounds you and how much you think about food until suddenly running those menu plans in your head and thinking about a grocery list or even having your husband say the word “food” makes you have to go throw up.  (I’m not even kidding on that last one. That actually happened.)  I’m still having a bit of trouble with meats, but thank goodness I am back to being able to have peanut butter sandwiches.

chopping mushrooms
mushrooms cooking

It has been rough, but the silver lining of all of this and about how sick I’ve been and how much weight I’ve lost, is that I can pretty much eat whatever I want right now.  I mean, I’m supposed to be healthy about it all (which I am generally being), but my doctor only have jokingly told me that I needed to go buy a pint of really fattening ice cream.  I know it is a really obnoxious problem to have, but I’ve been having a hard time putting weight on and keeping it on.  I’ve been carrying a bag of trail mix around with me  though made of some peanuts and granola and a bit of chocolate, which is mostly seems to be solving the problem.

It also helps that I can cook dinner again.  This weekend was the best food-wise.  I watched cooking shows.  I read cookbooks.  When I had no clue what we were going to have for dinner, I pulled some pork chops out the freezer and made a wine and mushroom sauce to go with them.  I made a menu plan for the coming week and went to the grocery store.  I started planning Easter dinner.

mushroom marsala
mushrooms marsala pasta

I cannot even tell you how I have missed these things, and it is so good to feel like myself again.

So here’s to what feels like a new season, with some new meals and new foods, but most importantly just regular dinners again.

creamy mushroom marsala pasta

Mushroom Marsala Pasta
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis via Smitten Kitchen

This recipe really hardly needs any adaptation, but I did decide, as usual, to use shallot instead of onion.  Also, although parsley is on the ingredient list, we have eaten this dish twice without it and love it.  I cannot even tell you how much I love this pasta.  It is savory with a subtle sweetness that comes from the Marsala, and in the kind of way that makes you have to have another bite and then another because the flavors feel more complex than they should considering the simplicity of the dish.  This one is definitely going on our regular dinner rotation.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, peeled and diced
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned with a damp paper towel and diced
Kosher salt
1 cup Marsala wine
1 lb. small-shaped pasta (like shells)
1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. While you are waiting for your water to boil, heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil, and once the olive oil is hot, add the shallot.  Season with a small pinch of salt and pepper, and cook for about 1 minute, until the shallot is just beginning to turn brown on the edges.  Then add the mushrooms, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms release their liquid and most of the liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes.
3. When your water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions (for small shaped pasta it is usually 8-10 minutes).
4. Once the mushroom liquid has mostly evaporated and cooked down, add the Marsala to the pan.  Cook, stirring often, until most of the Marsala has either absorbed or evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Then lower the heat to medium-low.
5. Drain the pasta and add it to the mushroom pan.  Add the cheese and stir the pasta together with the mushrooms, then stir in the cream.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary, and stir in the parsley.  Serve warm.

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what i’ve been reading {winter 2013/2014}

Posted: April 1st, 2014

{I figured I should get this up now that it’s April.}

{The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz}

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is so different from anything I’ve read recently.  It tells the story of Oscar, who was a geeky kid from the Dominican Republic living in the US with his mom and his sister.  But almost even more than the story of Oscar, it tells the story of the history of Oscar’s family, from his grandparents and mother under the reign of Trujillo (which I knew nothing about and which resulted in plenty of wikipedia research) to his sister’s struggles growing up, and finally ends with a return back to the Dominican Republic.
The writing style of this book is so unique, and I understand why this book won the Pulitzer prize (it has quite a unique voice).  But perhaps, to me, the best thing about this book, is how much it opened my world up because I know so much more about the history of the Dominican Republic now.

{Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain}

Hands down, this is my favorite book I’ve read in the past couple of months.  I was worried about this book being dry or boring or too “non-fiction,” but it wasn’t.  It was fascinating and so well written that I kept wanting to turn the pages.  Quiet covers everything about introverts: from the theories behind introvertism vs. extrovertism, to how introverts tick both physically and emotionally, to how introvertism can be more valued in education and in the business world.  Being an introvert myself, I felt like this book explained so many parts of me.  There were so many times when I thought to myself, “I wish I had known this in middle school or high school.”  But this book isn’t just for introverts; I think extroverts should make a point to read this, too.  It would help us all understand each other better.

{Vessel of Fire by Elena Tucker}

Full disclosure: this book was written by a family member of mine.  But I still loved it (even though, also full disclosure, I didn’t exactly expect to since historical fiction isn’t always my thing).
Vessel of Fire is the story of a young girl named Tamar in ancient Judea, right around the time of the third Jewish-Roman war (again, lots of wikipedia research happening these past couple of months).  Tamar is learning to be a potter from her father, but is generally unsatisfied with life.  Then the Romans show up and throw everything into chaos and Tamar and her family must face difficult decisions about leaving their home.
And while this is the main plot, there is a second story line set in the modern day that pairs with Tamar’s story.  It is the story of an archaeologist who is discovering what remains of Tamar’s village.  The ancient storyline is my favorite, but the juxtaposition of the ancient storyline with the modern day makes Tamar’s story more meaningful.

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a little update {pregnancy, blogging, & tax season}

Posted: March 12th, 2014

Can I be honest with you about something?  I’ve really enjoyed not blogging these past couple of months.  I’ve enjoyed not putting the pressure on myself, although really there has literally been no time between feeling sick and working during tax season.

This is what I will tell you about pregnancy so far though: it is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  The month of January and part of February?  I have never felt so miserable in my life for such a long time.  And now that it is March and spring is coming, I look back on this winter and I really wonder how I survived (the answer, honestly, is a wonderful husband).  But the day where I was so close to going to the hospital until I finally was able to keep the anti-nausea medicine down…why did I think I should go to work that afternoon?  If there was any time to take a sick day, that would have seemed to be it.  And yet I can’t explain the logic that was going through my head.  I guess I just knew I had to survive, and surviving meant going about life whether I wanted to or not.

I’m still not liking food very much, but I am getting back to cooking a bit here and there instead of declaring every night as “fend for yourself” night (in which I would go upstairs and shut the bedroom door while Gerrit heated himself something for dinner or toasted a sandwich).

But I can feel that Spring is here, both in my physical body and in my spirit.  I have been reading again, and writing a bit.  I have most of my energy back and can actually contribute to cleaning up the house now.  I’ve started writing in my planner again, which helps me to at least have the illusion that things are under control.  I don’t know how I survived not feeling like a human being during January and February, much less during the dark and dread of such a cold winter, but I did.  And I’m finally starting to breathe a bit of a sign of relief (even if I’m still having to take the anti-nausea medicine).

I’ve enjoyed the break I’ve had from this blog though, perhaps because it is helping me see things clearer.  And while some people might come back from an almost three month blogging sabbatical with plans and posts ready to go, I am coming back with nothing.  Because I have learned that is exactly what I want (right now at least).

I’m not sure how this blog is going to look in the coming months.  I just want to go on record saying that.  Now that I’m breathing some fresher air, I hope to back more often.  But we’ll see.  No schedule and no expectations (and I still don’t really love food).  But I’m just coming back to say hi, that I haven’t disappeared, and that while I hope to be posting again, I have no expectations.  I hope you’ll stick around anyway.  We’ll see what happens.

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so, we’re having a baby

Posted: January 31st, 2014

I know I’ve been gone from here for awhile with really no explanation.  I was kind of hoping you thought I was travelling to important places or getting my kitchen remodeled (I wish!) or something of the sort, but what actually happened is Gerrit and I found out we were having a baby early in December, and about a week later I started hating food.  And not just some foods that people normally hate when they are pregnant, but absolutely all food.  I literally have not cooked in my kitchen in about 6 weeks, and that plus the ridiculous exhaustion is why I haven’t been around.  (And while I’m not making any promises, I really hope that I start liking food again soon.)

So, because I know no other way to do this, let’s have some FAQs.

When are you due?

Aren’t you excited?!
Well, yes.  It’s kind of been a tedious journey so far though, from even finding out we were having a baby (because of various reasons we were sure it was going to take much longer than it did) to the first week or so (when both us and the doctor thought it would very likely be a miscarriage) to the ridiculous sickness and exhaustion that set it (I seriously would have had several stays in the hospital by now if not for the miracle of zofran), so I’ve really only had time (and energy) to get used to the idea.  But yes, we are both very excited (and appropriately terrified).

How have you been feeling?
Terrible.  Seriously, I keep half-joking to Gerrit that it is going to be an only child because I cannot imagine feeling like I’ve been feeling while also having another child to care for.  Luckily, now that I’m getting out of the first trimester, I can feel the fog lessening every so slightly.

Do you want it to be a boy or a girl?
I refuse to say.

How are your animals going to react? (Really, lots of people have asked me this.)
The dog is going to do great.  The cat on the other hand…she’s going to have a rude awakening.  I’m a little worried that she’ll jump up in the crib and try to sit on the baby’s face.

More information to come, I’m sure.  And I promise I won’t be annoying.

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meal plan 02

Posted: January 20th, 2014

meal plan 2

I’m sorry for my kind of unexpected sabbatical.  I hope I’ll be back to posting regularly in a couple of weeks.  But in the meantime…

I really wanted to get this to you sooner, but, well life.  So here we go: a generally easy meal plan.  There is nothing here that is too complicated; even if a meal takes over an hour to put together, a lot of that time is waiting for chicken in the oven or for farro to simmer on the stove.

meal plan 02
meal plan 02 recipes

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