Fall Food Roundup

I’m going to be honest with you and admit that I have a very, very low tolerance regarding how many pictures I’m willing to edit in one day.  My poor blog has been neglected because I’ve avoided finally getting to editing the remaining pictures from my trip to California to visit my sister and her family, but today I buckled down and finished it!  So at the end of this post I’ll throw in a few of my favorite pictures from that marathon editing session I just did. (It’s also hard to edit pictures that make me feel sad because I miss those darn family members).

So even though I’ve taken pictures for two new recipes to share, I just don’t have the motivation right now to edit a bunch more pictures.  BUT now that I’m free and clear in the “people pictures” editing world, I don’t have to guiltily avoid my camera and I’ll have the photos for a new recipe for you this week–Tuesday or Wednesday, at least.

Anyway, some of you may not have read my blog throughout the years, and have probably missed some of my favorite recipes.  Since it’s solidly into fall (and therefore the BEST cooking weather), I wanted to go back and share some of my favorites–old and new–that I make again and again, or just wanted a reminder to make again this fall.

Vanilla Chai Latte: comforting, warm, spicy–perfect for a relaxing way to end a busy day.

Vanilla Chai Latte

South African Multigrain Rusks: a favorite in our family, for dipping into tea or coffee when you need something before the next meal.

South African Rusks

Double Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti: a sweet and tart accompaniment to those warm drinks.

Double Chocolate Cranberry BiscottiApple Cinnamon Muffins: because–well, apple and cinnamon.
Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Cinnamon Sugar Almond Butter: easy to make from scratch, and a perfect salty-sweet-cinnamon flavor.

IMG_7273Cinnamon Swirl Bread: for the ambitious baker craving that sticky cinnamon swirl that makes fall…fall.


Tequila-Lime Chicken Wings: these are killer wings.  Tangy, salty, crispy–everything you can want in a chicken wing.

IMG_6062-800x533Chorizo Kale Pasta Bowl: a quick, throw-together meal (though I always now add diced tomatoes–add with the kale).

Kale Chorizo Pasta BowlGumbo: I’m actually headed to New Orleans in a week! Can’t wait to eat some serious gumbo!

IMG_29881Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon: a classic, hearty stew that you’ll dream of for weeks afterwards.


and last but not least,

Garlic Lentil Soup: a simple, spicy, and soup-er (yeah, I did that) smooth soup that’s not as scary as the ingredient list may lead you to believe.

Garlic Lentil SoupAs promised, here’s a few totally unrelated pictures from my family photoshoot this summer.

IMG_6378 IMG_6494 IMG_6352 IMG_6088



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The Bears Den (A Trip to the Catskills)

Fritz and I took off last weekend to go to a cabin in the Catskills with his sister, Eber, and her boyfriend, Jake.

View from our cabin deck

View from our cabin deck

It was just the perfect weekend away.

Required jumping on train tracks photo.

Required jumping on train tracks photo.

Eber's hair is a thing of great beauty here.

Eber’s hair is a thing of great beauty here.

We had piles of droewors and biltong (South African preserved meats, kinda like beef jerky but 23923x better), too many bottles of wine (well, is there such a thing?), perfect weather, scenery like you wouldn’t believe, and great company.

Brother and sister.

Brother and sister.

The stars aligned to make this a great weekend away, which was so needed now that we are 5/12ths of the way into Fritz’s prosthodontics residency (not that I’m counting) (I’m totally counting–there’s one year, 251 days, 19 hours, and 33 minutes left as of right now).

Model McModelson

Model McModelson

Eber and Jake

This is totally inappropriate to write on my blog that my entire family reads, but isn’t it such a relief when your family members choose someone great to bring into the family?  It’s just so awkward and terrible when you don’t like the boyfriend/girlfriend, and Jake has been around for a few years now so we are pretty confident that he’s the bomb dig (also, it’s nice to have another American around!).

So Shakespearean…or something.

So Shakespearean…or something.

Also, Eber had never carved pumpkins before, and after I gave her a few tips (okay, actually just poured a glass of wine), she blew my basic cat pumpkin out of the water by carving layers of bark and using pumpkin guts to her advantage in her weeping willow pumpkin.  And this is all using the most primitive of carving tools.

Creepy SO faces are an essential part of the total package.

Creepy SO faces are an essential part of the total package.

Anyway, we snuggled under blankets on the couch watching movies, roasted marshmallows and smoked cigars in front of a fire, went on a hike up a (small) mountain, and visited a small (teeny, tiny) harvest festival.  We chatted and caught up and bantered back and forth all weekend.  Oh, and Eber and Jake rented a Mustang convertible to drive up from NYC, so we drove around a little with the top down, too.

He thinks it's hysterical to make it look like I'm pregnant in pictures (I'm not).

He thinks it’s hysterical to make it look like I’m pregnant in pictures (I’m not).

Fritz and I

I miss it already.



But maybe we can do it all again in one year, 251 days, 19 hours, and 22 minutes?


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Sriracha (HOT! Chili Sauce)

Well, it’s definitely my favorite season in the beautiful city of Rochester.  The trees are changing color and dropping leaves so the leaf blowers are hard at work, it’s getting dark around 7:00 (already!?), and I’ve already made an apple pie and ramped up my hot beverage consumption drastically (though still not a pumpkin spice latte girl–just plain coffee and tea for now).  Even though during the day temps have been at a blissful 70-77 degrees, the nights are in the 50s and I am LOVING it.

Changing Leaves

One of the reasons I absolutely love autumn (aside from the obvious: fashion and colorful landscapes) is that I really start to feel inspired to cook again.  Summer is all about trying to fit in vegetables in green monsters and sending Fritz up to the roof to grill; fall is stews and squashes and root vegetables in cast iron pots.

Oh, and the return of The Walking Dead.  I’ve been binge reading and watching all my favorite post-apocalyptic books and movies in preparation.  Can’t wait!

Anyway.  Cooking.  I got this recipe along with the CSA vegetables (from Markwood Acres) this week, and it was the perfect time to use up a pile of jalapeños that I’ve been scared of since I almost burned mouth off last time I used one (seriously–I think I drank a gallon of milk and ate my weight in yogurt to recover from that…including having to bathe my hand in yogurt).  It was actually pretty straightforward and needed just the smallest amount of babysitting, but beware that it does take five days of fermentation before it’s finished!

This awesome utensil tea towel is one of a couple vintage ones my Grandpa gave me a few years ago.

This awesome utensil tea towel is one of a couple vintage ones my Grandpa gave me a few years ago.

Sriracha (HOT!) (makes 1 pint of hot, HOT sriracha)

  • 10 ripe jalapeños (I used 5 red and 5 green)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 T brown sugar
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 C distilled vinegar
  • 1-4 T tomato paste (optional)


This is the best part–combine jalapeños (stems, seeds, and all–just washed) with the garlic and brown sugar in a food processor or blender.  Not having to trim/deseed them means your hands are safe.  Blend using pulses, cleaning the sides if necessary, until it looks the consistency of cooked oatmeal (rough/thick soup).

Place peppers in a glass container (avoid touching it with your hands if you can!), and cover with plastic wrap for five days to allow it to ferment at room temperature.  Once a day, stir with a spoon and recover.

After five days, place the peppers in a saucepan with the vinegar and salt.  Simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, then press through a fine sieve to leave the seeds and skins behind.  You should have a little more than a pint of thin red liquid.  Discard the seeds/skin, and return the liquid to a pot.  Add tomato paste if desired (it can dilute some of the spiciness, but add a touch more salt), and simmer until it reaches the desired thickness.


Like most hot sauces, sriracha should stay pretty thin and viscous.  That helps you not get too much spice!  I added one tablespoon of tomato paste just for the taste and mellow the spiciness a bit.


Jars can be kept in the fridge for at least a month, and you can seal larger batches using a water bath if you have a lot of jalapeños to use up!


I think this is a great gift for a friend (specially those hard-to-shop-for men in our lives), and if you seal the jars in a water bath you can make them ahead of time and keep them until Christmas (is it too early to talk about Christmas?)!

As usual, be careful using hot peppers and if you are worried about touching them, wear gloves!  Home-grown peppers, especially, since it’s harder to know exactly how hot they are!


In the spirit of enjoying my favorite season, I was able to drag Fritz out of the lab just long enough for a quick walk at Mendon Ponds Park (one of my favorites).  I adore this park, even though the trails are horribly marked and we pretty much get lost every time we go.

Beautiful Mendon Ponds IMG_6853

I also taught Fritz how you can make cattails explode by whacking them against a tree (or another human?) this time of year.

Not this kind of cat tail.

Not this kind of cat tail.

It’s sad how excited I was that he had never seen that before.

And because I love you, here’s Emerson in a cow suit:


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Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage

I’ve posted this recipe on the blog before (you can see it here, if you are positive you want to brave horribly edited and strangely close-up photos), but since that was January of 2011, I figured it was about time for an update–both the recipe and the pictures.

IMG_6732 Plus some cats?

And they wonder why they are banned to our bedroom while we eat.

And they wonder why they are banned to our bedroom while we eat.

I actually managed to jot down all the ingredients and steps on a post-it note while I was cooking, so I can be confident this time around that you can replicate this pretty close to exactly.  This is a traditional family recipe, passed down from my Dad’s Hungarian side of the family, and it has become one of my ultimate comfort foods in the cold-weather months.  I really wouldn’t be able to choose between this and chicken paprikash and nokedli in a comfort food showdown, so it really depends on what ingredients I need to use up or input from Fritz when I need a good old-fashioned cooking therapy session.


Stuffed cabbage was the meal I made to make myself feel better when Fritz got snowed in and couldn’t make it out to Purchase College to see me for our first Valentine’s day together.  And it was just one of many foods that Dad and I tried when we toured Hungary for nine days after I graduated high school in 2005.  I guess that’s the thing with these heirloom recipes–you can’t help but get all wrapped up in memories when you create the tastes and aromas that are so familiar and poignant.


But maybe that’s just me?  There’s nothing I love more than a hefty dose of nostalgia–Fritz always teases me about how melancholy I am.  That’s probably why fall is my favorite season and I still love listening to old Coldplay and Bon Iver albums and writing in sentence fragments.  But what can you do, ya know?


As with any family recipe, this has probably been slowly changed and altered over the years, but I’m sure it’s still recognizable to the average Hungarian.

Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage

  • 1 large head of green cabbage
  • 1 t vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 C cooked rice (cooked al dente)
  • 3 lbs ground meat (I usually use a mixture of turkey and beef, but traditionally it’s just beef)
  • 1 t salt
  • several generous grinds of fresh pepper
  • 2 cans sauerkraut (I had two 24-ounce jars)
  • 1/2-1 onion, sliced into half-rounds
  • 2 large cans tomato juice (46 oz cans x two)
  • Additional salt to taste

FYI: this stuffed cabbage recipe makes enough to feed a large family…for a week!  I always use really large cabbages, ’cause this recipe freezes really well and I always like to have lots of leftovers.

Start by preparing the cabbage.  We boil the entire head of cabbage until the leaves are soft enough to be rolled without breaking.  To keep from over-cooking the outer leaves, I remove several leaves every 10 minutes or so and set them aside while the inner leaves soften.  If you keep the entire cabbage cooking until the inner leaves are tender, the outer leaves will fall apart when you make the rolls.

A blog reader also mentioned that you can freeze the entire head of cabbage and then allow it to thaw, and this process of freezing and thawing softens the cabbage leaves enough to let them be rolled–I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds plausible to me!

While the cabbage leaves are cooking, sauté the diced onion in the vegetable oil until nice and brown.  You can also cook the rice at this point (I had some leftover, so I got to skip this step).  You want to cook the rice just until it is al dente, otherwise it will get mushy as the rolls continue to cook.  My family traditionally uses Minute rice and skips the pre-cooking step, but I hate buying Minute rice when I have regular rice at home.  You want to end up with three cups of cooked rice.  I have also used cooked brown rice with good success!

Prepare the filling: combine the turkey/beef, cooked rice, browned onion, salt, and pepper.  Mix the combination well and set aside.

This is my set-up.

This is my set-up.

Once the leaves are all softened, separated from each other, and cooled, you can prepare to make the rolls.  I take each large leaf and slice off the thick spine on the outer side of the leaf–this also helps the leaves to roll easily.  Toss the spine in a small bowl with the second onion, cut into slices.

Awkward hand picture.  Sorry.

Awkward hand picture. Sorry.

Place a small handful of meat on the bottom inside of the leaf, then roll it up to the top and tuck both sides into itself (see the pictures for a better image).

How much meat you put in changes on how big each leaf is!

How much meat you put in changes on how big each leaf is!

I like to imagine the next steps to the tune of the Cupid Shuffle...

I like to imagine the next steps to the tune of the Cupid Shuffle…

Tuck the right (tuck the right, tuck the right, tuck the right)

Tuck the right (tuck the right, tuck the right, tuck the right)

Tuck the left (tuck the left, tuck the left, tuck the left)

Tuck the left (tuck the left, tuck the left, tuck the left)

One of the greatest skills of cabbage-roll-making is rationing the meat-to-leaf ratio and making sure you don’t end up with extras of either.

Once the meat mixture is used up, slice up any additional cabbage you have leftover and add it to the onion.

To assemble everything, find a large (really large) stock pot and toss down a generous layer of onion/sliced cabbage.  Add in a layer of cabbage rolls, then a layer of sauerkraut.  Repeat: onion/cabbage; cabbage rolls; sauerkraut.

Pour the tomato juice over the top, and add some water if necessary so that most of the cabbage rolls are at least partially submerged.

Bring a light boil, then reduce to low and simmer for several hours, until the filling is cooked through and the flavors have melded together.  Serve with mashed potatoes.


This recipe is always 100x better the next day.


And the next day.  That’s the beauty of stuffed cabbage.

IMG_6723 It takes some serious work, but it’s so worth it in the end.  And the cats agree.



At least Emerson has the manners to stay on the chair and keep his paws off the table.

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Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s probably at least six million chocolate chip cookie recipes out there that claim to be the best, so when my sister called me and told me that she’s found “the one“, it was pretty easy to just smile and nod and agree to try them eventually.  A few weeks later I found myself craving a bake sesh, and Erin just so happened to Instagram a picture of herself making these cookies with my niece.  She reminded me of the recipe, and I went to work.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 4

Except I forgot I didn’t have any eggs (or flaxseed), so I had to substitute with the best of my Googling abilities.  Then I realized I didn’t have any brown sugar, either, so I had to do a little white sugar and molasses mixing.  Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting anything special at this point (but knew it was my fault).  So when these cookies came out of the oven and I tried a bite, I was really super extra impressed at how good they were.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

And Fritz ate the rest of the batch in two days, so I’m fairly certain he was a fan, too.

And don’t worry, Erin made a few batches of these cookies while I was visiting her in California.  I had to set a limit for myself of two (or maybe three) a day, because they are just so good.  They are soft (and stay soft), sweet and a little salty, and just the perfect amount of underdone-tasting (I think this is because of the cornstarch in the recipe?).  Seriously good.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

I keep ruining batches (just made some but accidentally bought mini chocolate chips and then overbaked half of them), and they are still the best cookies.  Slightly overbaking them gives them a slightly crispy edge and bottom, and they taste a little more buttery than their softer counterparts.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 3

So thanks to Erin and Kelsey at Apple a Day for passing on the recipe!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 25-30 medium-sized cookies)

  • 3/4 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • 1/2 t salt (I use a generous 1/2)
  • 1 C chocolate chips (semi- or bittersweet)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with a silpat mat or parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or by hand, you crazy kids), cream together the butter and the two sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and the egg and mix well until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.

Add in the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt and mix until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Place small scoops of cookie dough on the baking sheet, about one inch apart (I use about a T size for each cookie).  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes–be careful not to over bake!  The edge of the cookies may brown slightly, but you want to take the cookies out before the tops start to brown.

Let them cool on the cookie sheet before removing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 5

These are absolutely perfect for a day like today in Rochester–rainy this morning, and now sunny and 60s.  I’m excited to be entering my favorite season of all time (FALL!), and will admit to having bought my first spice-scented candle of the season this morning.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 5

Also perfect with a cup of coffee.

Teacup art by my amazing sister, Jordi.

Teacup art by my amazing sister, Jordi.

Have you tried this coffee from Trader Joe’s?  It’s my go-to coffee for a smooth medium-roast coffee, and I love it!

Trader Joe's Coffee

Lastly, here’s some pictures of our new-to-us chairs that my friend Emily alerted us were on their way out from her friend’s house.  They were giving them away, and there’s nothing I love more than pretty antique furniture that doesn’t cost me a cent (and now we can finally seat more than three people in our living room).



The cats love them, and sit in them all day (one cat per chair, of course).


Now off to eat some more cookies!

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Tres Leches Cake (Happy Birthday, Dad!)

Yeah, so my dad’s birthday was a little over a month ago (and I made this cake a month ago).  But the recipe is worth sharing, so I thought I’d dig up my old pictures and bring it back!

Tres Leches Cake

This is my dad:


You will often see him like this, since he’s the other unofficial family photographer:

Dad taking pictures

He also used to be bearded:


(And how cute is this!? Couldn’t resist):

Lili walking

Anyway, he works for the American Dairy Association, and is a major advocate for dairy product consumption of all kinds.  Not only that, he’s an adventurous eater (and makes for an excellent travel partner!), so I thought a tres leches (ew, autocorrect to tres leeches) cake would fit the bill perfectly.

Tres leches cake 2

This was actually more of a quattro leches, since I added a fourth milk product by making a whipped cream topping.  That’s up to you!

Tres Leches Cake (serves 10-16, recipe from Allison Fishman’s You Can Trust a Skinny Cook)

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 t lemon juice
  • 1 C sugar, divided (see below)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 2 t vanilla, divided
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-oz can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 C heavy whipping cream (optional)
  • 1/2 C toasted and thinly sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until bubbles, then add the lemon juice and combine.  Slowly add 1/2 C of the sugar until stiff peaks form (stiff peaks means just that–when you lift the beater out of the whites, they should stay stiffly standing and not “plop” over).  Set aside.

In a clean mixer bowl (I used the stand mixer with the paddle attachment), combine the egg yolks, salt, and other 1/2 C sugar.  Beat until the mixture stiffens, and you can draw a “ribbon” of a figure-8 that slowly fades away.

Combine the flour and baking soda in a small bowl, and add half to the yolk mixture.  Add one teaspoon of vanilla and milk, combine, then finish off with the rest of the flour mixture.  Don’t overmix–just gently combine.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until combined (the batter should feel light and fluffy!), and then pour into the baking dish and cook until golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (about 38 minutes).  Cool completely.

While the cake is baking, combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the last teaspoon of vanilla, and set aside.  Once the cake is cool, piece it all over with a fork, then pour the milk mixture over the top, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Right before serving, whip the heavy whipping cream until it forms soft peaks (when the beater is lifted out, the peaks droop), and spread over the top of the cake.  Top with the crunchy toasted almonds–and cow sprinkles, of course.

Cow sprinkles

We loved the cake and thought it turned out great!  It’s very rich, so expect to only eat small servings at a time.


The leftovers were amazing served with coffee (at least until the black cow sprinkles started to turn the whipped cream green…).


Also, I didn’t take any pictures of us cutting or eating the cake because I’m trying to have a better balance of actually living my life and not making people wait while I take pictures of food, or sneak them in there and miss out on the action.  I think it’s making me a much better wife/daughter/friend, and not nearly as good of a blogger.  But what can ya do.

Happy (way belated) birthday, Dad!

Some of you may have received a couple of obnoxious emails from me about my subscription service.  I used to use one called “Subscribe2″ that emailed everyone who signed up whenever I wrote a new post.  Awesome, except its options were limited, especially when it came to unsubscribing.  I finally decided to switch over to a new service that WordPress uses called Jetpack, but I have to manually input all the email addresses (yeah, that’s a LOT), so it’s taking forever.  Needless to say, if you used to be subscribed and emails suddenly stopped, I probably just haven’t gotten to your email address yet!

Gratuitous cat picture.

Gratuitous cat picture.

Unfortunately, you’ll get an email saying you signed up (again) to be subscribed.  If you confirm this, you’ll continue getting emails every time I post.  If you ignore the email, then you won’t!  Easy peasy.  Once you do confirm, if you decide down the road that you don’t want emails anymore, you can just manage your subscriptions from the emails in your inbox, and not have to figure out how to do it through my website.

Yeah, I’ll be glad when I’m finally done with this.

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A Family Visit

I know I’ve been totally MIA in the last few days (okay, weeks).  I’m on summer vacation, and that means that I took a trip across the country to visit my sister, brother-in-law, see my incredibly adorable niece and meet my brand-new baby nephew for the first time.

It was so, so wonderful.

I ate at least my body weight in chips and fresh-made salsa (and yes, I will be sharing that recipe), played many games (including a new-to-me game, Pandemic), goofed around with my niece and held my nephew, took a gazillion pictures, caught up and talked a lot with my sister, and even got to watch my brother-in-law preach.

The only downside to the trip is that every time I see those babies and revisit with my sister and her husband, it gets harder and harder to be away from them.  I just need to be more conscious of making those moments together meaningful, and finding more ways to connect when we are apart.

Anyway, that’s enough words.  Here’s some pictures.  I’ll be back later in the week with some recipes.


My sister put this up on Instagram. My first time holding the baby.


From Insta-such a strong baby already at 6 weeks.


Nail polish selection.


From Instagram: he already loves watching his sister, and she (sometimes) loves to smother him with kisses and help in any way possible.


Trying some jasmine tea while we were out eating dim sum (and seriously, this girl is a brave eater and tried everything!).


Her face!. I just can’t.


A smile while watching his big sister race around.


These two.


Babying a sleepy water balloon Daddy made for her.


“Go vewy high!”


Those eyes.


This family is gifted with the bluest eyes that have ever blued.


oh, baby.


Hey smiley boy.

IMG_6251 IMG_6229

This family.

This family.

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Summer Vegetable Minestrone Soup

I pronounced the name of this soup as “min-a-strone-ey” for my entire life, until one day I saw it written down and then pronounced differently by a waiter (“min-a-strone”), and now it’s just a blind mental panic when I have to say it aloud until I just go with one or the other.  I’m pretty sure the correct Italian pronunciation is somewhere in the middle, but my impressive lack of ability with languages is just one of the barriers to me ever sounding suave and cultured in an Italian restaurant.


Just one of many, man.

But this soup is the perfect answer to the age-old question that starts popping up midsummer: “what the HECK am I going to do with all of this summer squash/zucchini?”

IMG_5930 Since it doesn’t need to cook for long, you don’t have to worry about cranking up the AC for hours (or just suffering with the oven on).  The big bites of vegetables in a light but flavorful broth leaves you feeling full, but not stuffed or weighed down.  Plus, you can use up buckets of garden produce in this soup–feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand.


Summer Vegetable Minestrone Soup (serves 8-10)

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4 green onions, diced (you can substitute regular onions if that’s what you have on hand)
  • 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 small summer or crooked neck squash, thinly sliced (diced if too thick)
  • 1 medium-sized kohlrabi, peeled and diced
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and cut (large pieces)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 T pesto
  • 6 C liquid (I used 4 C chicken broth and 2 C liquid)
  • Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/4 C small dry pasta (I used acini di pepe)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley to garnish

A big ingredient list, I know.  Just use up what you have!

Brown the green onions in the olive oil in a large soup pot.  Once tender, add the squash.  I let these sauté in the oil for a few minutes to brown a little and add some extra flavor.

Add the remaining ingredients up to and including the pesto.  I stirred the pesto into the vegetables just to make sure it got evenly distributed.  Pour in the broth, then bring to a simmer and add the dry pasta (if you have it, you can use cooked leftover pasta or pre-cook it, but you may need to add less liquid to compensate).  Drop the Parmesan rind in for as long as you are cooking it, and remove before serving.

Simmer until the pasta is cooked, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the parsley right at the end for a garnish and for a fresh, herbal finish to the soup.


Fritz loved this soup–I also ended up adding some leftover chicken that we had, once I realized that he’d be taking the leftovers to school for lunch.  I always try to sneak in extra protein for Fritz whenever I can, since he generally doesn’t eat enough during his busy days at the clinic.


He told me this was his favorite kind of soup.  He loves a flavorful broth that is packed with “stuff” (especially meat), so he feels satisfied right away.

Fritz always tells me that he can feel it “going right into his bones” when he is hungry and takes his first few bites of soup–even more so in the winter, when it’s cold and miserable outside (unlike today: 85 degrees and not a cloud in the sky!).

IMG_5910I have something else fun to share!

My baby sister Jordi turns 20 this month (eek!), and she got her first tattoo last week (for someone with real sensory issues, she did AWESOME!).

She literally yawned while a needle was stabbing her repeatedly in the thigh.

She literally yawned while a needle was stabbing her repeatedly in the thigh.

Macska means “Cat” in Hungarian, and Jordi has always loved the big cats.



Exhibit A: Jordi in a tiger t-shirt at my wedding (the previously mentioned sensory defensiveness meant she could tolerate a fancy dress for a maximum of five hours).


I love this girl.

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Library Love

Those of you who know me in real life know that I love the library.  It is, and has been for my entire life, my number one resource for books, movies, and magazines (in that order).  I go to the library once a week to restock–and sometimes pay my overdue fines (which I like to consider a willful donation to the fine establishments I frequent all over Monroe County).  I rarely buy books because I go through them so fast (this is major bragging, I know, but it’s true) and since I am unable to rent a movie from Redbox without keeping it at least one extra day by mistake, I prefer to spend my overdue fines at the library.

I also use the library to download e-books to my Kindle before I go on any kind of vacation or travel.  Usually I’ll look for popular books a few weeks ahead of time, since there’s often a wait list for new releases.

Henry agreed to model the books I have out this week.

Henry agreed to model the books I have out this week.

This is a little ridiculous, but the smell of the original Softsoap hand soap (the orange kind) always brings me immediately back to the library of my childhood.  My family used to check out STACKS (and I mean serious stacks) of books to read every week.  I’ve just always been a really big reader–from awful(ly good) beach reads, to science fiction and fantasy, to the classics, historical fiction, and biographies and books spanning cultures far away from my own.  I read something a while back that people who are able to speed read (and who don’t need to sound out every individual word in their head while reading) find reading much more enjoyable and less laborious, and I’m so glad that I happened to inherit/learn that skill.

Henry is judging my beachy read choices for this week.  Don't you do it too.

Henry is judging my beachy read choices for this week. Don’t you do it too.

It’s also important to me that you know that I won the third grade frequent reader contest by a landslide (also the timed hula hooping contest in fourth grade–my only athletic win of all time, ever and ever, amen).

The Community Manager at Webucator from my home city of Syracuse reached out to me about helping to promote libraries, life-long learning, and free courses about everything from Adobe, Microsoft office, web development (um, yeah, I should probably take some of those) and more.  The Fayetteville Free Library is the first of an expanding library partnership in central New York to offer the full course list of Webucator free to library members.  Members of the library ask for a voucher that enables them to enroll in any course for free, after which they have 12 months to complete it.


For more information on that (or if you think your library would be interested in partnering with Webucator), read this blog post about the new partnership with the Fayetteville Free Library.  Contact information is available there.

Now, for all you non-CNY residents, you get to try some stuff out too!  Webucator has a list of tutorials that are always available to anyone (for free!), so these could be a great resource for you, friends or family, or for work.  They also have a “Course of the Month” from their self-paced section that you can sign up for for free.  This month is an advanced Microsoft Excel course.  Excel was the bane of my existence throughout all of the lab sections of my biology/chemistry/physics/statistics classes from undergrad (Fritz had to help me format any type of formula required since mine never worked).

And for Rochestarians, I found a diamond in the rough while exploring Monroe County’s extensive library system this past year (when my clients cancel unexpectedly, I usually stop into the library to do notes/paperwork and minimize driving to my house or office).  The Lyell Branch is hands down the best.  They have tons of the most recent movies, all the time, and a great selection of books, a lovely staff, and are very welcoming to their urban community.  Plus, they have gorgeously fragrant lavender bushes planted in the front.  They are definitely not the most beautiful or large library in CNY, but trust me when I say they are the place to go.

FYI I totally choose my books by their spine and then the cover.

FYI I totally choose my books by their spine and then the cover.

The Lincoln Branch Library is another one of my most frequented library stops.  Though I don’t use it often myself (I have lots of go-to toys for my PT sessions), they have a toy library that I frequently recommend to my clients that can’t afford to or would prefer not to constantly cycle through toys for their kids.

See? Libraries are the best.  Share with me all of your library stories and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I also have a fond memory of Mr. Brown, my elementary school librarian, making us line up at the door based on our likes and dislikes (“whoever likes LIVER AND ONIONS can line up”), and me smugly leaping up to race to the door when he called out for the broccoli-lovers.

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Classic Pesto

I know you guys are probably sick of me posting recipes of vegetables that are uncooked.


I also know that I just posted a recipe for this garlic scape pesto a few weeks ago, so it’s hardly necessary to have another pesto recipe on here, but I do have my reasons.

  1. I had a bunch of basil in the fridge from last week’s CSA box;
  2. I needed pesto to make an amazing and easy summer minestrone soup (that I will be posting soon!); and
  3. The last time I posted a basic pesto recipe was in 2010 and for some reason (new to blogging, obviously), I decided not to post any pretty pictures of it all finished and instead included a close-up photo of a giant green caterpillar (which kind of made it look like I intended it to be an ingredient?).  I know.  I feel nauseous just thinking about it now.  You can see it here if you want to have a little chuckle at my early attempts at blogging, but, warning!–giant caterpillar.
Emerson finds this just as alarming as you do.

Emerson finds this just as alarming as you do.

So I just want to reassure you that I do have some other food groups coming up in recipes.  There’s the summer minestrone soup (seriously delicious), and I’ll be baking a tres leche cake for my dad tonight to celebrate his birthday (guess I just ruined the surprise) this weekend.  I also have a post coming up about some free classes at the library!  Exciting!

And I can promise that there were no caterpillars photographed–or used–in the making of this pesto.

Classic Pesto 1

Classic Pesto (makes a pint)

  • 1 C toasted walnuts
  • 2 handfuls basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-3/4 t salt (I like my pesto on the salty side)
  • 1 C loosely packed freshly ground pecorino-romano cheese
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/8 C water

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until evenly chopped and smooth.


(If you buy walnuts untoasted, just place them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-4 minutes, shaking them frequently to prevent burning).

I used our Ninja blender, and it worked perfectly.  I really love that thing.

Classic Pesto 3

You can substitute the nuts for more traditional pine nuts, or sunflower seeds.  I like walnuts because they have a great nutty flavor and are soft enough that they blend easily (unlike almonds).

Classic Pesto 3We ate the pesto last night as the main seasoning in the minestrone soup, and tonight I’ll probably make some basic pasta with broccoli and pesto to clean out the fridge and pantry a bit.

The 37th annual Park Ave Summer Art Festival is gearing up for the weekend–people are setting up tents, music stages, road blocks, and food booths.  We’ve also got a nice pair of port-a-potties located right across the street from my apartment building, so that’s nice.  My baby sister is also getting her first tattoo tomorrow, which is really making me itch to get going on adding to my (only) tattoo.  I have some big plans for it, so hopefully seeing her get it done will motivate me to finally get started on mine!  I’ll share pictures next week!

Also, it just went from sunny and beautiful to POURING and thundering in about four minutes.  I love summer!  And I should probably check my windows…

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