How to Prepare Your Mind and Body for Childbirth

9 months is a long time. And so that it passed the most comfortable for you, we have the top 9 proven life
hacks that will save you more than once. This article will be usefull for the future farthers and also for russian girls for marriage.

  1. Relax. Relax as much as possible. Take a bath to relax, sleep when you feel that you need sleep,
    light candles, go for a massage for pregnant women, etc. When you are pregnant, there is nothing
    more pleasant than a feeling of relaxation – you don’t need any stress.
  2. Keep a pregnancy diary. In any case, this will help your doctors to give the most accurate
    recommendations and also it can be a wonderful author’s diary.
  3. Stay open to other opportunities.  Keep calm even if your views on everyday life are changing.
    Trust professionals who care about your baby’s birth. The main thing is to think positively, your
    child is on the way to you – and this is the most important event. The rest is just a little difficulty
    along the way.
  4. Look for something positive in everything. For some reason, many people like to tell pregnant
    women horror stories about pregnancy, childbirth, and children. Avoid the negative when there is
    such an opportunity, and if you can’t avoid it, then just try not to take everything too close to your
    heart. Find pregnant women in your environment who think positively or look for like-minded
    people on the forums, and don’t forget to meet with your friends and have a rest to raise your
    spirits.
  5. Give up bad habits. Quitting smoking and drinking alcohol is one of the most important
    decisions a woman must make for the good of her baby. This is not just a whim of doctors or the
    prevailing opinion. With the help of many studies, it was revealed that smoking during pregnancy
    entails a lot of negative consequences for the baby.
  6. Avoid heavy physical exercises. If you have been active in sports, gymnastics, and fitness
    throughout your life, you shouldn’t immediately stop doing physical exercises. However, it is
    necessary to take into account that exhausting sports should be excluded from now. Also, in the
    first months, you need to stop any workout with weightlifting, run for long distances, hard
    crunches, jumps from high into the water, riding a horse or diving.
  7. Attend courses for future parents. At this time, a woman with her husband can begin to attend
    special preparatory courses for future parents. There you can get useful tips for pregnant women,
    go through a program of physical and psychological preparation for the birth of a baby, learn
    about some gymnastic exercises for a woman and share your experiences and feelings with
    others.
  8. Prepare things to the hospital. Usually, women take documents, a bathrobe, slippers, hygiene
    products, drinking water, and baby kits (diapers, swaddling clothes, and so on) to the hospital.
    Now you know what is good for pregnant women and what you should abstain from. The main thing to
    remember is that the expectation and birth of a child is an extraordinary, mysterious, and indescribable
    state, and no bad things should darken your happy and joyful event.

Best Travel Destinations for Beach Lovers

The best beach holiday for two is a trip that is full of romance, fun, and happiness. Beach vacation is the
most common type of holiday today. What do most people need for a good vacation appart from a good gompany of russian girls? They want to lie
under the warm rays of the sun and feel the gentle sea breeze, and, perhaps, sometimes spend time with
animators who organize active outdoor games during the day and entertainment programs and discos in
the evening.
 Cuba. It offers a chic, cultural program on the beach. We advise you to stroll through the streets
of Havana without guides in the evenings because this is how the romance of this country will
penetrate into your hearts in love. As a souvenir, it is simply necessary to grab a bottle of rum. Its
drops will warm your soul for a long time, reminding you how sweet the rest together on the
Caribbean coast was.
 The Dominican Republic. We recommend this state, located on the island of Haiti, as a truly
intended place for a paradise beach holiday. Of course, tourists in the Dominican Republic are
offered chic excursion with themed routes but a trip for two can be perfect even when there is
nothing more than the promised perfect beach holiday. There is no one but you and your loved
one! And this is exactly what both of you need.
 Singapore. Only in this country, two gourmets can get real gastronomic pleasure. The traditional
dishes gathered all the most delicious things from Thai, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and even
Mexican cuisine. Therefore, if you consider such dates with a soulmate romantic and you like to
visit various restaurants of your native city, spend time in warm conversations by candlelight and
adore the process of enjoying food, then Singapore’s beach holiday is the perfect place to
combine habits and sea holidays with your loved one.
 Mexico. In this country, there are miles of paradise beaches, an excellent national cuisine, bright
vegetation, and not so many tourists around. Therefore, let Mexico be the “secret” route for those
who want something unusual. Beach holidays in Mexico are fascinating and the conditions are
suitable for a romantic trip to this country.
 Brazil. Of course, this is a country of carnivals, so the best beach holiday in Brazil will be for
those who are crazy about bright, happy holidays, outrageous costumes and endless dance
processions taking place right in the middle of the street. Don’t be lazy to find out from the tour
operator at what time and what kind of carnivals will pass during your romantic trip. You should
definitely combine beach vacation and these enchanting shows.
 India. It is not so simple to describe this country in two words. But if we note the main thing,
then the best unusual beach holiday for two will be in India. Here you can combine different
types of holidays because it is impossible to limit oneself to only beach holidays in the country
with such a rich history of its existence. And, of course, we recommend you to visit Goa – the
pearl of a beach holiday for two in the Indian Ocean.

A Summer Garden Salad With Charred Lemon, Black Lentils & A Seven Minute Egg

I’ve been feeling a little annoyed with the state of food writing lately. Am I allowed to write that here? I’m not sure. I’ve likely turned half of you off already, though I hope that at least a handful of you stick around long enough to make it to the next line. Hear me out. 

I read a lot of magazines. Like, a lot of them. It’s kind of annoying, in fact. Literally every weeknight, after Jay and I finish our meal, I curl up in a deep corner of our couch and read at least one full magazine. This is not hyperbole. I’ve adored magazines since I’ve been a kid. My first job out of college was at a very well known magazine in New York. For the better part of the past decade, I’ve freelanced with various magazines any chance I get. I’ve long loved the informative aspect of magazines, as well as the storytelling and the gorgeous brevity that is necessary for the format (while we’re on the topic, did you read this excellent piece from NY Mag about brevity and Lucky magazine?). When it comes to magazines, I don’t discriminate. I look so forward to the essays in Vogue and Vanity Fair. I deeply admire the fiction and humor coverage in my weekly New Yorker. I daydream about redecorating our home each time I read a design story in Real Simple or O. As you can imagine, food magazines are pretty high up on my list as well. 

Or, if I’m being honest, they used to be. 

For the better part of the past year, Jay and I have frequently discussed our distaste for the direction many food magazines are moving in. Many nights, during our evening couch ritual, I release a litany of sighs, which ultimately lead to a disgruntled comment, which ultimately leads to Jay agreeing with said disgruntled comment, which then leads to an hours long conversation about why X food magazine now, well, stinks. 

In short (and at the risk of sounding like a grumpy, bitter, woman of a certain age), we’ve both become disappointed by the fact that, for one, the amount of text on the pages of so many food magazines we’ve long admired is completely disappearing, one graf at a time. In its place, the pages are fast filling up with large format, overly stylized photos that frequently tend to put more emphasis on the type of carafe or cloth napkin displayed as opposed to the actual food.

The food, of course, is a whole separate topic, though it basically boils down to this: it all looks and sounds (and I presume tastes) the same. The recipes have become somewhat pretentious, like they all stood in line for three hours to get a seat at the latest artisanal taqueria in Brooklyn, and then sloshed the whole thing down with an ironic can of PBR. Many of the recipes are riddled with unnecessary, but very “of the moment” ingredients, making them seem fussy and, in many cases, unaccessible for those times when the vast majority of us do our cooking and eating (i.e.: at 7:30 on a Monday night). The food seems less real and more stylized, the stories more about trends than actual narratives about where our food comes from and how it is produced. Those once tightly edited narratives that I loved for so many years, it seems, have been replaced by catchy graphics and bold fonts.  

Then, a few months ago, Luisa Weiss, the author of The Wednesday Chef, posted a little something on her Instagram account in which she expressed a similar sentiment. Many people commented on her post to share their likeminded beliefs, a number of whom expressed that they had canceled their subscriptions to several big time food magazines due, in part, to many of the reasons I’ve listed above.

So where have all our food stories gone? Food is so central to our families and to our cultures at large, not only because it nourishes us on a physical level, but also because it nourishes us on a much deeper level too. So what are the implications of a culture that constructs food in the same way it constructs fashion: that is, as something trendy, as an extravagance of sorts (which it certainly can be at times!), as opposed to something accessible, a ritual we all take part in (god willing) every day of our lives.

Because Jay and I own a food business (by the way, I promise I’ll have a more uplifting post next week filled with details about the renovations at our new second location!), we eat out a lot, and have had the good fortunate of having dined at some of the city’s finest restaurants, as well as at some of its best dives and off-the-beaten-path food stands. However, most of the time, we like to eat simple, real foods, the type that can be prepared quickly, the type that fill our bodies with the nutrients they need, and the type that fill our souls with the warm, comforting feeling of home. 

This salad does just that. It is made with a number of greens and herbs from our home vegetable garden, which is going crazy at the moment thanks to such a rainy June. It is not particularly fancy; just a smattering of tender greens, lightly sauteed radishes and asparagus spears, some leftover lentils, a hard boiled egg and a seared lemon, which I squeeze on the whole thing in lieu of a traditional dressing. It reminds me of the type of approachable, honest food we cook on, say, a typical Wednesday night. It tastes clean and simple and good and real.

And somewhere, beneath all the muss and fuss of the day, I think there is a story worth telling in that, one that is well worth the read.  

A Summer Garden Salad with Charred Lemon, Black Lentils & a Seven Minute Egg

serves 2 as a meal

1/4 cup dry black lentils

1 egg

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch asparagus (I prefer green asparagus here), washed and sliced into 2-inch pieces

1 bunch radishes (I used Easter Egg radishes, though any variety will work well), washed and cut in half

1 lemon, sliced in half

6 cups mixed tender lettuce greens, roughly chopped

1-2 cups kale leaves, removed from stems and roughly chopped

2 cups assorted fresh tender herbs (I used basil, flat leaf parsley and chives), roughly chopped

1 tablespoon capers

coarse sea salt

freshly cracked black pepper

In a medium-sized pot, cook the lentils according to the package’s directions. I like to add some of the assorted herbs into the pot while the lentils cooks (maybe 4-5 basil leaves, 2-3 parsley stems and 5-6 chives). When the lentils are done cooking, drain their liquid, remove the wilted herbs and set the lentils aside to cool to room temperature.

While the lentils cook, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the egg (you can certainly add more than one egg if you want to beef up the recipe). Cover the pot and allow the egg to simmer for exactly 7 minutes. Immediately remove the egg and submerge it in cold water for several minutes. Peel the egg and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus, the radishes and the lemon halves (being sure the lemon is faced down so the juicy pulp will begin to caramelize). Allow everything to brown for a few minutes; avoid the temptation to move anything. When everything begins to smell like it has begun to caramelize (but is not yet burned), you can begin to gently toss everything in the pan until the asparagus and radishes are cooked, but still firm. Remove the pan from the stovetop and allow things to cool to a little bit above room temperature. 

In a large bowl, add the lettuce, the kale, the asparagus, the radishes, the lentils, the remaining fresh herbs and the capers and gently toss. Squeeze the charred lemon (both juice and pulp) over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently toss again. Cut the cooked egg in half and arrange on top of the salad.    

Classic Key Lime Pie

Throughout the eighties and nineties, our family made a biannual pilgrimage from our New Jersey suburb to my grandmother’s home in South Florida. Over the years, I acquired many fond memories from these trips. The whir of the ceiling fan that circulated humid, tropical air across my face in the mornings. The sensation of broken coral bits that lined the ocean floor and scraped my sunburned skin. The feeling of thick, Floridian grass rubbing my feet as I darted across her yard to avoid scurrying lizards. 

During our trips, our meals were typically divided in half, a portion of which we’d eat at various restaurants around Fort Lauderdale, Miami and their surrounding suburbs, and the other portion of which we’d eat at my grandmother’s home. On the latter of these nights, the meals typically began with large platters of deep golden fried raviolis dusted with coarse sea salt and torn basil leaves, followed by endless bowls of linguini tossed with lemon, parsley, parmigiano reggiano and gulf shrimp, giant steaks grilled to perfection, and, to end each meal, a few gallons of store-bought ice cream.

And while I loved those nights at my grandmother’s home — the loud cadence of our voices as we all gathered around her wooden dining table, the quiet conversations on her screened-in back patio as we finished off our second bowls of dessert — some of my favorite food memories were formed on the nights we ventured away from her home. Although those meals varied depending on the specific locale — wood fired pizza at a casual spot a few blocks from the beach, endless bowls of stone crabs at a restaurant on the intercoastal — there was almost always one constant on our nights out on the town: every meal ended with a thick, graham cracker encased slice of fresh, Floridian key lime pie.
While key lime pie is almost foolishly easy to make at home, for years, I refused to whip one together myself. Although I’d sometimes crave a chilled slice at times during the year when, regrettably, I was not within walking distance of the beach, the thought of eating this sacred, vacation-only dessert on a frosty winter evening just didn’t feel right, like it was sacrilegious in some way. So even on those days, even after I’d serendipitously stumble upon little mesh bags filled with petite key limes while cupping a hot coffee and browsing the aisles of my local market for ingredients to make rich soups, even when my skin was so pale and my bones were so cold and I longed so deeply for a dose of anything reminiscent of the sun, I steered clear, convincing myself that key lime pie was something special, something reserved for those warm Floridian nights when my skin ached from long days baking in the sun and my eyes perpetually burned with an unmistakable salt water sting. 

But then, a few years ago, my grandmother passed and slowly, expectedly, our family’s long drives south on 95 dwindled away. What were once biannual trips for me have sorely become trips I squeeze in once every few years when I can carve out a long weekend. It didn’t take long after these trips began to fade out that I began to lust after my favorite warm weather dessert from my home up north. For a few years, I got away with ordering slices here and there when they appeared on restaurant menus, though sadly most were made with sugary lime juice concoctions that tasted like chemically counterfeits of the real thing. 

It took me a few years to finally give in, though eventually, I began to make my own key lime pies at home. I should tell you that doing so requires almost zero skill level, nor does it require that you purchase those fancy, tropical colored bags filled with teensy tiny key limes. In fact, it turns out that regular old limes work just fine. 

I’ve tackled a few key lime recipes these past few years, though this one is my family’s favorite by a long shot. The graham to butter ratio results in a crust that is just the right thickness to contain the citrusy filling and to maintain the integrity of each slice’s shape as you navigate it from pie pan to plate to mouth. However, the best part, of course, is the filling. By mixing the egg yolks with a hefty dose of fresh lime zest, every bite of this pale yellow filling is infused with tart citrus, all wrapped up in the creamy, sweet taste of sweetened condensed milk. Whether you enjoy yours on a beach somewhere, or hunched in front of the AC unit in your apartment, it is sure to perk up your tastebuds and leave you with that blissed out, vacation feeling, without all the stickiness from the SPF. 

I hope you indulge in the happiest of happy starts to this summer season. 

Classic Key Lime Pie

from Smitten Kitchen

Crust

1 1/2 cups ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 12 crackers)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 pinches coarse salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling


1 1/2 tablespoons lime zest
3 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (from about 1 dozen key limes or 4 regular limes)

Topping

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt and mix until combined. Add the butter and mix until the crumbs are well coated (I find that it is best to use your hands to mix everything here; just be sure you allow the butter to slightly cool). Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until it is lightly browned. Set on a cooling rack. 

While the crust cools, beat the lime zest and the egg yolks with an electric mixer (I use a hand mixer for this recipe, which works just fine) until the mixture becomes pale and thickens up, which should take a solid 5 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until the mixture becomes thick again, about 3 minutes. Whisk the lime juice into the yolk mixture until combined. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling is set and a knife inserted into the center comes out nearly clean (though not entirely clean). Remove the pie from the oven and set on the counter to cool.

While the pie cools to room temperature, beat the cream and sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream on top of the cooled pie and then chill the pie in the fridge for 2 hours before serving. 


Strawberry Tabbouleh

Next month, this site will celebrate its second birthday. My very first post went live in early June 2013, a post that I announced to no one except the lone person who might by chance stumble upon it by way of some online miracle. When I wrote that first post, our business was a mere year and a half old and Jay and I were a few days away from receiving the keys to our first brick and mortar space. We were nervous and broke and perpetually stressed and yet full of pride and joy and hope for the future (the one we are currently living in). It is not hyperbole to say we barely had time to eat most days (nor is it hyperbole to say our stomachs were in such knots with stress that we barely wanted to eat regardless). And yet, in the midst of all that, I decided to start this site during any quiet moments I could carve out very early in the morning or very, very late in the evening (at a time that, truthfully, probably constitutes as morning). 

I didn’t really know what my goal was for this site when I typed out the first line of text of that initial post. I didn’t have a vision for the recipes. I barely knew how to use the buttons on my camera (my first DSLR, which I purchased with our tax return money a few weeks earlier).

So much about our lives has changed since then. We’re no longer so afraid of our business, but are more immersed in the excitement of knowing we’ve produced something that has real legs. Our shop, which we were so scared to open, and which left us penniless (again, not hyperbole) for many months now runs like a well-oiled machine, the hum of it a quiet, welcomed constant in the backdrop of everything we do. Next month, we will open our second location, a feat that, just two years ago, we believed would take decades to come to fruition. After a long dry spell, I’ve finally found the inspiration to help my freelance writing take off again, and I’ve been fortunate in these past two years to write for some of my favorite publications (the New York TimesBudget TravelSaveur, and a handful of forthcoming pieces that make me so happy they’re sending a wide smile across my face as I type this line). And then there is our marriage. God, our marriage. It’ll be three years old next month. I’ll spare you my many grateful tears and my badly contorted “crying face.” But you probably get the idea.

During that initial summer when this site was still a very new venture, I decided to blindly send emails to some of the people behind my most favorite food sites. Sara Forte from the Sprouted Kitchen was one of those people. I had been reading her site for a while by that point, and felt so inspired by her approachable voice and the realness of her recipes. In a Pinterest-styled world (one that was really, seriously beginning to BOOM back then), her recipes always stood out to me as the type of whole dishes we would actually, for real, make at home on the reg. For a while there, it felt like every food site was trying to push the boundaries and make some super whacked out recipes, recipes that required mile-long ingredient lists and far too many intricate steps for people who work outside of their home most hours of most days. Basically, the web felt like it was beginning to get clogged up with the sort of recipes we would never have the time, patience or energy to realistically tackle on a typical night (say, a Tuesday) in our house. Sara’s recipes, however, reminded me of the type of stuff Jay and I look forward to curling up with on the couch after a long day, the sort of homey and whole foods we really do cook and eat most days. (Oh, you eat dinner at a table? Not on the couch while watching old episodes of Portlandia, your plate balanced on your knees? Weird.)  
But back to that initial email. I don’t quite remember what I said in it, but I do remember that Sara responded to me just a few short hours after I hit “send.” She told me I was a strong writer — a small comment that meant so much to me back then when this venture was still so young and fragile — and in her conversational way commented on my site and generally made me feel like what I was doing might actually be worth something. I doubt she remembers it, but it is one of those notes that has always stayed with me. So thanks for that, lady.

Early last week, I was delighted to receive a copy of Bowl + Spoon, Sara’s most recent book. It’s so lovely, and is filled with gorgeous photography and the type of “I’ll actually cook this at home on, like, a Wednesday night” recipes, ones that are grounded in the types of whole, healthful foods that tend to grace our kitchen countertops. In case you weren’t picking up on my build-up, this Strawberry Tabbouleh recipe is from Sara’s book. I made a giant batch of it last weekend, which we enjoyed with friends during our Derby Day picnic on Sunday, the leftovers of which appeared on our dinner plates last night and the final bits of which I tossed over some eggs at the start of my day today. I plan to make another big batch for a Mother’s Day brunch we’ll host at our house this weekend and selfishly hope some leftovers remain for the early part of next week. 

The recipe itself is simple. Prepare some quinoa (it should be noted that Sara’s recipe calls for bulgur wheat, though I’m a quinoa fan myself) and mix it with fresh parsley and mint, both of which play beautifully with diced fresh strawberries. The whole thing is dressed with a combination of lemon, olive oil and red wine vinegar (I adore the tart mix of berries and good quality vinegar), though I imagine balsamic vinegar might work nicely here too. (The original recipe from Sara’s book calls for one tablespoon of the vinegar, though I doubled that because, well, I’m a glutton for any hit of tartness available to me.) 

It’s a little corny to say, especially during a time of the year when every blog/magazine/website is preaching “perfect spring recipes”, but this side salad really does taste exactly the way the season is supposed to taste: a hit of sweetness thanks to the first plump berries of the year; just enough tartness to wake up your tastebuds after a long winter filled with hearty soups and heavier fare; and a heavy hand of roughly chopped herbs that bring a super fresh quality to the whole dish. 

It’s my new picnic go-to. I hope it becomes yours too. 

Sara Forte’s Strawberry Tabbouleh

from Bowl + Spoon

3/4 cup quinoa

1 garlic clove, finely minced

3 scallions, thinly sliced (both the green and white sections)

1 pint fresh strawberries, diced

1 English cucumber, diced

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

zest and juice from 1 medium lemon

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

crumbled feta

Cook the quinoa according to the package’s directions. Once it is cooked, add the garlic, give it a fluff with a fork and set it aside to cool to room temperature. 

In a large bowl, add the scallions, strawberries, cucumbers, mint, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper. Add the cooled quinoa and gently mix all ingredients to combine. If you like, sprinkle each serving with crumbled feta before serving. 


Minty Spring Pesto

It’s finally spring!!

I’ve waited months to write that last sentence. Here, in the Northeast, we faced the longest, coldest, snowiest winter, one that felt like it would never end. Then, just when we all packed away our puffy down coats at the end of March, Mother Nature slammed us with one final snow storm. She’s temperamental, that one. 

However, this weekend proved that spring is officially here, for real this time. Jay popped the top off our Jeep. I wore boat shoes without socks. We both ordered iced coffees in the mornings and slept with the windows open in our bedroom at night.

This time of year signals my annual spring cleaning spree. As strange as it sounds, I enjoy the act of cleaning our home (there’s something about freshly washed and steamed curtains that just does it for me). It feels like an opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to reorganize our lives, a welcome chance for a clean slate.

While spring cleaning usually gets pretty good coverage in magazines throughout the spring, the focus is typically on purging drawers and collecting dust bunnies. However, around here, our kitchen undergoes a pretty good cleanse too. In recent weeks, we’ve given our pantry a thorough overhaul, finally tossing all the sugars and tiny wrapped candies leftover from the winter months and replacing them with more whole foods that better complement all the beautiful spring produce that has begun to pop up at our local market. 

As a final nod to that, I’ve been clearing out our freezer to make space for all the veggies from our home garden that I plan to freeze during this upcoming summer. While doing so, I’ve found several gallon-sized plastic bags filled with fresh herbs from last year’s garden, still hanging out behind some ice cube trays.

This Minty Spring Pesto is a perfect way to use up the last of those herbs, or any stray herbs hanging out in the back of the fridge or freezer, or those that are overgrown in your herb garden. I’ve tossed this pesto with baked tofu, spread it across roasted vegetables, mixed it with quinoa and whole wheat pasta and drizzled it across quickly tossed together afternoon salads. If, like me, you plan to eat the pesto raw, I recommend you use decent quality olive oil. Other than that, there really are no rules. Mixing assorted herbs is encouraged. So is eating the pesto straight from the jar. When kept covered and refrigerated, it will last you a good two weeks. Ours, however, made it about a day and a half. 

 I hope you’ll enjoy keeping a jar of this on hand throughout the spring to add a little something special to all your recipes. 

P.S. – You might have noticed that this site was also the target of my spring cleaning spree. I hope you’ll like the updates. Please let me know what you think.  

Minty Spring Pesto

from Eating Well

  • 1/4 cup whole almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup packed mint leaves  
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 8-10 minutes, being sure to stir the nuts mid-way through. Add the almonds, basil leaves, mint leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic clove to a food processor or Vitamix and blend until the ingredients are chopped. With the machine turned on low, drizzle in the olive oil and process until the pesto is smooth. If desired, lightly season the pesto with sea salt. 


Cranberry Brownies

I didn’t plan on baking brownies last week. In fact, for the past month, I’ve been committed to a regimen of daily hot yoga classes, complimented by nutty red quinoa salads, roasted vegetables and a healthy sprinkling of sesame seeds. It’s been my attempt to slowly wean sugar and wheat and all that other bad stuff out of my diet, which for the most part has been really great, and much easier than I anticipated. 

And yet, these brownies exist (or existed…they disappeared rather fast). I should tell you upfront they are not made with healthy flours or coconut oil or a pricey cup of cacao nibs. No, these brownies are the real deal –cocoa powder, butter, and that ever frowned upon all-purpose flour (aka white flour…eek!) — which, of course, is the reason they taste just like the boxed brownie mix your mom used to bake up for you when you were a kid. The only exception to your mom’s version is the generous cup of fruit folded into the batter just before you slide the pan into the oven. Which, it should be noted, is the reason I was able to rationalize them as an acceptable part of my clean eating routine.   

My decision to make these brownies arrived with a phone call. A friend of ours, who owns several successful bars and restaurants downtown, dropped us a line last weekend to ask if we’d be willing to meet him for a few day beers to discuss a business opportunity he thought might interest us. 

It turned out our friend is opening a new bar early this summer and is looking for someone to run his food program. The bar is in a great location, with an amazing commercial kitchen already in place, and a rooftop that will open to the drinking public once the weather warms up. On our end, we wouldn’t have to deal with any of the build-out or the permits or any other start-up headaches since, technically, the bar would belong to someone else. All we’d need to do is walk in, drop down our stuff, cook our food, and collect a profit.

Sweet gig. 

After our meeting, Jay and I went out for a casual dinner to discuss all the pros and cons of such a venture. The pro, of course, is that we’d be able to do very little and turn a quick profit. Easy. Peasy. The con, however, is that it would take our attention away from our own brand, right at a time when we are about to open a second location and embark on a hectic summer pop-up season.
There are many factors that go into making a small food business a success. First, you need to sell a good product (sounds obvious, though you’d be surprised!). You need to have a strong brand identity and a relatively cool aesthetic (at least in New York you do). You need to have the backbone to be the boss when it is time to be the boss, though you also need to have the compassion to treat your employees like actual people and not like “the help.” And for us, one of the most important traits of a successful business is this: you’ve got to run your business based on your passion, and not based on the trail of dollar signs you see as your potential end game. 

After dinner, we went home, where we spent the better part of the next two days further hashing out pros and cons, which is how these brownies came into play. I needed something sweet and indulgent to help settle me while my brain spun with ideas. But more, I needed something I could whip up fast, using the most basic of ingredients I already had on hand. (I mean, Jay and I were in mid-conversation while all this baking was happening; it would have been in poor taste for me to dash out the door to run to the store.) 

If you read this blog regularly, than you know I bake for two reasons: to help me celebrate and to help me think. These Cranberry Brownies are a combination of both those things. First off, they were a big help in the thinking department. Over the course of two days, and many conversations about whether or not we were ready to add something else to our (business) plate, these brownies were my source of both comfort and calm. They were the centerpiece for the conversations we had in which we realized we’d never made any of our business decisions based exclusively on money. If we had, we would have run ourselves into the ground by this point, if I’m being honest.  

Ultimately, we walked away from the offer, rationalizing it was best to trust our guts instead of our wallets. 

In that way, I think these brownies turned out to be of the celebratory type too: a celebration of our willingness to stand by our brand’s vision and to make our decisions based on our sense of passion for our business, as opposed to a series of dancing dollar signs.  

The brownie base is adapted from Deb Perelman’s “Best Cocoa Brownies” recipe, which I first discovered a few months back when I needed a super easy recipe to churn out as a “welcome home” gift for a friend who gave birth to her first child. The brownies, which are made with cocoa, that old pantry standby, as opposed to expensive chocolate bars, come out that ideal brownie consistency of both super dense and yet satisfyingly moist, and boast a gorgeous, crackly top that makes them entirely addicting. The other part of this recipe — the cranberries — are inspired by Luisa Weiss’s recent post about “Boston Brownies.” The warm cranberries sort of melt into the brownie batter and prove to be an amazingly tart compliment to the chocolate. 

I hope you’ll enjoy them. 

Cranberry Brownies

adapted from Smitten Kitchen & The Wednesday Chef

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup flour

1 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottoms and sides of an 8×8 baking pan with parchment and set aside. 

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl on top of a small pot of near boiling water to create a double boiler. Stir the ingredients until the butter melts (the ingredients will look a bit grainy). Remove the bowl from the heat and allow to slightly cool, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon between each addition. Add the flour and beat vigorously, until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture becomes smooth. Gently fold the cranberries into the batter, being sure to reserve some to sprinkle on top. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, but no more than 35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out nearly clean (you don’t want it to come out completely clean, or it means your brownies are overcooked). It is likely that the brownies will not look “done.” Remove the pan from the oven anyway and allow it to cool to nearly room temperature. Remove the brownies, keeping them on the parchment, and set on a cooling rack. The brownies will firm up as they continue to cool. 1 Like


Flora

This year, we began our Valentine’s Day the exact way we did last year: with a few cups of coffee, cozy in our home, Jay lounging on the couch and me photographing the many flowers I’ve arranged around our apartment like a crazy woman in a desperate plea for the gray days of winter to end.

I had grand visions of recipes I’d bake for us (and share with you) this Valentine’s Day — thoughts of sweet little winter cakes adorned with tufts of blood orange-stained frosting and dainty chocolate-dipped madeleines. However, instead of staying home to bake all day as we planned, the two of us decided to skip the sink load of dirty dishes and head to a bar for a few snacks and some day beers instead.

Therefore, rather than share a new recipe post, this week I share with you a handful of shots of the vibrant flowers that have helped make our home appear a bit more lively these past few days. 

I’ll be back soon with a recipe and a few words about our progress on the new shop location. Hopefully (magically) by the time I return, the cold weather will somehow be gone. Hopefully…

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

For years now, I’ve maintained a solid reputation of making the world’s worst chocolate chip cookies. It’s ridiculous, I know. There are children who can whip up better versions using an Easy-Bake. No matter what recipe I follow, mine either bake up into small cakes that in no way resemble a respectable, crisp-edged cookie or puddle into a mess of butter and half melted chips. What’s that saying? Something about insanity and trying things over and over again and expecting new results. Yeah…

Over the years, Tollhouse and their seemingly simplistic recipe have become my unspoken enemies. For the better part of 2014, Jay and I embarked on a sort of weird quest to locate New York City’s best chocolate chip cookie. For several months, we were addicted to the massive chocolate chip cookies from City Cakes, an epically tiny spot in Chelsea that works some kind of insane wizardry to produce their unrivaled signature, half-pound chocolate chip cookies that boast a consistently, satisfyingly under baked center and whose sheer size has time and time again solidified my status as “coolest adult in history” by virtue of my three year old niece. For a too-long stretch of time, we ended the day with a little bag from Breads Bakery that contained several of their distinctly crisp and deep golden brown cookies, which we devoured during our ritualistic late-night Netflix binge. Sadly for our waistlines, the list goes on…
One of my resolutions for 2015 was to finally face my culinary white whale head-on (notice the use of past tense, was) and to master this deceivingly simplistic recipe. (The fact that one of my yearly goals is rooted in butter and sugar should give you some indication of what sort of ship we’re running here.)
Like many of my culinary dilemmas, the resolution, of course, rest in the hands of Thomas Keller. I’ve baked three rounds of these cookies so far, one that Jay and I ate entirely by ourselves, one that we shared with our best friends, and one that made its way to a Superbowl party. So far every critic has agreed that they are, hands down, the finest chocolate chip cookies to ever debut from a home oven. 

Keller’s recipe, like so many of his recipes, does not rely on wacky ingredients or unnecessary seasonings or spices to up the ante. Instead, it relies on quality ingredients and the most insane, obsessive attention to measurements for which we on the receiving end must all be grateful. Unlike many recipes, this one omits vanilla extract, which Jay noted eliminated that sometimes mildly artificial aftertaste you get with some cookies. Another change is the sugar ratio, which relies upon a greater amount of dark brown sugar, a change that leads to a more rounded source of sweetness and a much more amber-hued final product. 

The final baked cookies are a sort of enigma: the edges are crisp, while the center is soft and chewy. No matter how much time passes between the moment they’ve been pulled from the hot oven and the moment they reach your mouth — whether it is an hour or a full day — the chocolate chunks at the center remain mysteriously, magically gooey. 
It takes a lot for a girl who is married to a chef, a girl who spends about three quarters of her life either preparing food, considering her next meal, or reading about new food trends, to champion any food as the best. However, no matter how you want to spin it, these really are the best damn chocolate chip cookies around. 

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Ad Hoc

*The only change I made to this recipe is to the chocolate. Keller’s version calls for 5 ounces of 55% chocolate and 5 ounces of 70-72% chocolate. Here, I swapped them for a combination of dark and semisweet chips for no other reason than that they were, in truth, the more affordable option. Likewise, I doubled the quantity of each type of chocolate because, well, I am a balanced combination of disgusting and genius. 

– 2 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 teaspoon kosher salt

– 1 10-ounce bag of dark chocolate chips

– 1 10-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

– 2 sticks of cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

– 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

– 3/4 cup granulated sugar

– 2 large eggs 

Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, sift the flour and baking soda. Mix in the salt. Set aside. 

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat half the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add both sugars and the remaining butter and beat for several minutes until the mixture is well combined, and the butter is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Mix in the chocolate. 

Shape the dough into balls using two level tablespoons per cookie (hint: do NOT mess with this measurement; it produces the perfect-sized cookie). Bake for 12-14 minutes. 1 Like


Spicy Orange And Almond Dark Chocolate Bark

My first experience with spicy chocolate was when I was an undergraduate. I was living in Burlington, Vermont, and one of my roommates, Susan, worked part-time downtown at the most fantastic locally owned chocolatier. At the end of each of her shifts, she’d return to our apartment with a box of assorted chocolates – all the leftovers that were too old to sell but were still perfectly fine to eat. The two of us, and our six other roommates, would gather on her bed with bottles of wine and sample all the fancy, artisanal chocolates we couldn’t actually afford but completely craved. It was a broke college student’s dream.  

It was on one of those nights when Susan spoiled us with a box of miniature dark chocolate bars blended with cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and spicy cayenne pepper. While the crunch of the seeds and the fragrance of the cinnamon felt vaguely familiar, the slow burn of the cayenne on my tongue and the back of my throat felt like a revelation. Chocolate was suddenly so different, so open to the possibilities that lay hidden in my spice cabinet.  
One of my home cooking goals for the year is to cook more with healing spices that don’t typically make the rounds in my daily home cooking. These past few weeks, I’ve been beginning each day by adding a heaping spoonful of cinnamon to my normal breakfast smoothie (almond milk + ground flax + mixed berries + banana) in order to help ward off inflammation. I’ve been sprinkling a generous bit of turmeric on our vegetables, which is supposed to benefit everything from our bellies to our brains. I’ve also been experimenting with cayenne, which is rumored to be good for our hearts and our circulation.  
Since I don’t cook much with cayenne, I’ve been on the hunt for some good recipes that incorporate the spice. While scouring Pinterest and our cookbook collection for ideas, I was reminded of those happy days spent crammed onto a full-sized bed with my roommates, talking about books and boys and all our dreams for our then twenty-something lives, the quiet burn of cayenne lingering on our lips as we spoke. 
This Spicy Orange and Almond Dark Chocolate Bark is a bit of a homage to those nights. The cayenne in this recipe is subtle; it releases just enough of a burn to make it satisfying without feeling overwhelming. And like all barks, it requires the most basic of steps (melt chocolate, stir in a few goodies, let set), but looks incredibly impressive to guests. I like to store mine in an airtight container that I tuck into the freezer so that the bark stays good and firm. Despite its simplicity (no fancy kitchen equipment required), it is quickly becoming one of my most favorite recipes of the new year. 

Spicy Orange and Almond Dark Chocolate Bark

–       10 ounces dark chocolate

–       ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

–       zest from 1 orange

–       ½ cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped

–       sea salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When the chocolate is melted, stir in the cayenne, ¾ of the orange zest and ¾ of the toasted almonds. Spread the chocolate mixture onto the prepared sheet, being sure to smooth it into as thin a layer as possible. Sprinkle with the remaining zest, almonds and a generous pinch of coarse sea salt. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.