Monthly Archives: January 2007

[recipe] Dedham Dinner 1: Pasta and (not)meatballs, spinach

Dedham Dinner #1: Pasta and (not)Meatballs, Sauteed Spinach

Here is a regular meal I put together on busy weeknights, say, when I have a press release early the next morning. It’s quick, vegetarian, and can come entirely from one store – in this case, trader joe’s. It is a toddler friendly feast, with a small green side nod to veggie-loving adults.

  • One jar of marinara sauce, or 1 qt – l of your own homemade marinara
  • One package frozen “meatless” meatballs
  • One pound (1/2 kg) penne or other toddler-friendly pasta
  • about 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 10 oz (2 5 oz packages) fresh baby spinach, washed

You will also need two skillets and a stockpot.

First: get 6 quarts salted water boiling.

Second: put (not)meatballs and sauce in lidded skillet, and set heat to simmer. Let them bubble away for a good 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry- everything cooks through.

Is the water boiling yet? Yes? Add the pasta. Tubey pasta (penne, ziti, even elbow mac) is what my toddler can more easily manage, so that’s what we throw into the pot. It usually takes 10-15 minutes to get to al dente.

Put the sauce and (not)meatballs into a serving bowl. I know that’s not real italian, and that the “gravy” should be in a gravy boat with a ladle, but we’re looking to minimize cleanup while providing the option of lots or a little sauce per serving.

Rinse and wipe out the skillet – it’s going in for a second round. Get the skillet back on the burner, medium heat. Warm the olive oil in the pan, then add the garlic. Stir cloves around for about 3 minutes, then add the spinach. Sprinkle the lemon juice on top, along with a pinch of kosher salt, then put the lid on the skillet. Come back in 5 minutes, and stir spinach around to get raw leaves to the bottom of the skillet. It’s ready to come off the stove in less than 5 minutes, when the leaves have compressed to a bright, dense silky green.

Drain pasta in the meantime, and put in big serving bowl. You’re ready to assemble dinner for each diner. Or, if your family is less fussy, just add the sauce bowl to the big pasta bowl and serve.

All in all, it takes 30 minutes.

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Filed under dedham, dinner, dinner recipes, Food, quick cooking, quick dinner, quick recipes, Recipes, Recipes yummy!!!, supermarket, toddler, trader joe's, vegetarian

On Saturday Afternoons In 1963

Three years ago, I was pregnant for the first time with who would be Benjamin. January proved a challenging month – the low sharp pains when listening to the SOTU, or coughing, ended up being ligaments letting go for the first time, never to spring back.

More tensions as the first attempt to find a fetal heartbeat was a quiet failure. I was deeply troubled for the two weeks between the silence and my next visit.

And then, one January afternoon, I heard it. I imagined it would be like a hummingbird, but no. The sound was loud, a locomotive, chaos with a beat. I cried with my midwife, clutching her hand. I cried in the parking lot, calling my husband and my mother, choking with joy about the steam engine inside me. And then, I started the car, and Rickie sang this song.

Whenever I hear it, I think of my son, of the first time I heard that engine. I listened to that cd everyday of my pregnancy, until on the morning of my wedding anniversary, vandals with a crowbar broke into my car and pried my cd player and the RLJ cd from the dashboard.

Roll on, Rickie.


Rickie Lee Jones

The most as you’ll ever go
Is back where you used to know
If grown-ups could laugh this slow
Where as you watch the hour snow
Years may go by

So hold on to your special friend
Here, you’ll need something to keep her in :
“Now you stay inside this foolish grin … ”
Though any day your secrets end
Then again
Years may go by

You saved your own special friend
‘Cuz here you need something to hide her in
And you stay inside that foolish grin
When everyday now secrets end
Oh and then again
Years may go by


Filed under anniversary, delight, heartbeat, mother, Motherhood, Politics, pregnancy, Rickie Lee Jones, son, what i did for love, women

pacific spring

One thing I have yet to get accustomed to in 5 years in Seattle is the January spring. The air is fresh, wet, and sweet; green shoots, quince buds, and the brave leaves of primroses emerge to a nearly universal response of delight. The luscious, drinkable air carries the songs of robins – yes, robins in January – a joyous surprise to me, even after the passing of 5 Januaries.  And usually, by 3pm, a show of sunshine lets you know that spring really is around the corner, even if a former area resident thinks it can really hang you up the most.

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Filed under clean air, delight, primroses, quince, Rickie Lee Jones, seattle, spring, spring bulbs, weather, winter daphne

dd specials or, making quick dinners from a full trader joe’s shopping bag

In our house, we often partake of what I called the “Dedham Dinner” or DD for short. The DD is my adaptation of the dinners my mother served us as children. The major differences between my meals and their 30 yo predecessors:

  1. My mother hated cooking; I love to cook.
  2. My mother did not like spices; I do
  3. My mother used a lot of hamburger; I’m a vegetarian, and
  4. Trader Joe’s

The variety and convenience of the foods they offer has reduced the time I spend shopping and cooking, a real benefit when one has a full time job plus a toddler who likes to pretend that he’s a monkey and Mama is a banana tree. Plus, the prices are reasonable.

I still shop around a bit for produce; the fresh fruit selections often disappoint, in part due to the packaging. That said, I’ve never had a problem with the veggies.

I’ll post some sample dinners in a few.

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veggie cold tea

I make this for myself when I get under the weather, esp in the winter months.

  • 2 qt water or vegetable broth
  • handful of shredded carrot
  • handful of winter greens (collards, kale, mustard)
  • salt and 12 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 of a ginger root, sliced thinly
  • one whole lemon
  • 1 clove garlic per serving

Heat first five ingredients together in a saucepan. Squeeze juice of lemon into brothy mixture, then toss in both lemon halves. Bring to a boil. Pour broth and veggies into a mug, then add a freshly grated garlic clove (I use a metal ginger grater) into the mug. Drink up, and feel better.

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Filed under cold remedy, garlic, ginger, hot drink, hot drinks, soup, vegetarian

my favorite search term set that brought someone here

“vomited on boy next to me”

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shiksen soup (recipe)

I regularly make chicken soup for my husband and friends when they are ailing, or if the weather is unusually cold and raw. I always thank the chicken. A good neighbor, friend and fellow east-coast exile named this shiksen soup to honor my good intentions and rc religious origins.

The rationale for using breast meat is convenience, not superiour chicken choice for a long-cooking soup. If I had the time to make proper stock, I’d be using fattier pieces or a whole roaster and drippings. As it is, using heavily garlicked olive oil as the fat has its advantages. The root veggies give the soup a full but not cloying sweetness.

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large ribs of celery, diced
  • One medium-large onion, diced
  • handful of smallish garlic cloves (red korean if you can find it), minced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast meat (partly frozen is great), cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 lb of peeled sweet potato, cut into chunks
  • 1 lb unpeeled carrots, sliced into rings about 1/2″ thick
  • 1 lb unpeeled parsnips, sliced into rings about 1/2″ thick
  • 2 quarts broth (Swanson Chicken broth or TJ Organic Vegetable broth)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add celery and onion, cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Lower heat a bit and add garlic; cook until garlic is softened.

Raise heat back to medium and add chicken. Stir frequently. You’ll see more moisture in the pot as the chicken cooks through. If you have time, cook until outside of the chicken pieces brown a bit.

Add broth and vegetables, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer and let sit on the stove at least an hour, longer if you have time. Season to taste. Serve with thick crusty bread.

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Filed under chicken, cold remedies, cold remedy, Recipes, recipes for carnivores, Recipes for the Soul, Recipes yummy!!!, soup

on the scale at 2.5

Ben turned 2.5 yesterday; his daycare teachers remarked on his profusion of words and stories after a two-week hiatus.

They were spoken with greater urgency and speed than usual; after all, there is a fox in Grammie’s woods; Pumpkin the Cat and Tiger the cat and Winslow are running away, through holes in the doors; George and the man in the yellow hat are now living in the city, maybe Ben’s city; big hot pizzas are cooking in fiery ovens,  and everywhere there are trains, some fast and some very fast,  and mi – fah-leet. (That’s mama’s phonetic spelling of “very dangerous” in danish).

His personhood is becoming more and more evident – pro-dancing, pro-cookies, pro-monkeys, pro-singing, pro-animals,  and anti-toothbrushing.

He held up better than anyone could reasonably expect, given the wear and tear of air travel and Christmas frenzy. Henrik described the open house at my aunt’s house on Christmas eve as a sort of “Crazy Aunt room” where “they’re all dressed like ornaments.” (Big words from someone who had all of his outfits coordinated in advance by a former model, including the freaking socks.  And yet, absolutely true.)

It’s amazing how much he takes in, and what he lets us know he sees.


Filed under Birthdays, communication, Fathers, funny, mother, Motherhood, son, talking, toddler

what I did for love: sausage-stuffed mushrooms recipe

The tag for this post is “what I did for love”. Or more accurately, for denial and disfunctional love. Otherwise, there is no answer to the question, “Why would a vegetarian with a talent for tasty veggie cooking make these pork-based artery busters for her family at, of all times, Christmas?”

My father made these every year as a much-anticipated start to the Christmas feast at our home. When their marriage ended in an especially ugly way, my mother was happy to have all reminders of him purged from our home, especially at the holiday. Instead, the vegetarian trucked out from Porter Square and made the mushrooms (and carved the turkey)… mostly because other people really liked the mushrooms. No, really. As in, they would schedule their arrival based on when they expected the mushrooms to be cool enough to eat. Even my mother ate two or three that very day, and I’ve been thanking pigs for their sacrifices every Christmas since.

Sausage-stuffed Baked Mushrooms

Highbrow cooks may want to tweak the origin/branding of the raw materials, but it can’t guarantee better results. My one experience with real reggiano was a complete waste of cheese for me and the diners. The warm fat from the sausage and butter, along with the smack of salt and cakey stuffing, is what keeps people coming back for more.

If you have leftovers, chop and use them as the base for a low-brow bolognese.

  • One pound fresh white button mushrooms, preferably 2″ in diameter
  • One 4 oz stick of butter, preferably unsalted
  • One medium yellow onion, diced
  • One pound tube of commercial breakfast sausage, such as Jimmy Dean
  • about 1.5 cups of “Italian” or seasoned breadcrumbs (not homemade)
  • One 8 oz can (yes, I did say can) or tub of grated parmesan cheese

Preheat conventional oven to 375 degrees F.
Stem and clean the mushrooms. Reserve the stems and chop finely. Place the mushroom caps on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
Heat the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is completely melted, add the onion and mushroom stems. Cook until onions turn translucent and soft.

Cut the wrapper off the sausage tube and add the meat to the sauteed onion and mushrooms. You want to use a fork or spatula to break up the sausage into something closer to ground meat. Cook until mostly grey, and do not drain.

Take off the heat, and add breadcrumbs and grated cheese until the mixture will hold a loose ball. You may not need all of the breadcrumbs and cheese, as it’s truly a matter of preference.

Once you have a moldable but not stiff mixture, use a teaspoon to ladle stuffing into each mushroom cap. You may need to revisit the stuffing skillet for big caps. Once all the caps are stuffed, sprinkle generously with grated cheese and slide into the oven for anywhere from 30-45 minutes.

Start checking at the 30 minute mark with a sharp, thin-bladed knife. You want the cap to be tender, but not mushy. Let cookl for about 10 minutes before serving, then get your defibrillator ready.


Filed under appetizer, christmas recipe, cooking, cooking and food, Fathers, Food, Love, mushrooms, personal, Recipes, recipes for carnivores, Recipes yummy!!!, sausage, stupid ideas, what i did for love

holiday service outages

We left a cold dark (no power, no heat) house on 16 Dec for 2 weeks of East Coast hospitality. We had the smoothest of flight transitions in Denver, about two days in advance of the paralysis. Arriving in Boston, we found that the driving routes from the airport continue to mutate, though the velocity has improved a bit. Some reflections in the works on travel with toddlers, why red-sauce italian everynight is bad for you, and rethinking the holidays. God nyt ar, everyone.

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