Thanksgiving Countdown - Six Days To Go

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Thanksgiving Countdown:  6 Days Left

We’re in the home stretch!  Less than a week to go! You have your guest list, you have your menu, you have your schedule of when you are shopping and when you are prepping each dish, you even have all the dishes picked out and ready to go.  You have also delegated some of the cooking or baking.  Awesome!  With this amount of preparation behind you, you may actually enjoy getting into the kitchen on Wednesday and Thursday and cooking for your crowd.

Last question:  are your knives sharp??  If the last time your knives were sharp was the day you took them out of the box, maybe sometime around when you were married – it’s time to get them professionally sharpened.  Take them to a store like Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma and have them sharpened.  It will make a world of difference, especially when you are chopping lots of onions and carrots and carving that turkey!  Typically, the cost is $5 to $10 depending upon the size of the knife.  It’s really worth the trip!  Once they are sharp, do not put them in the dishwasher!  Hand wash in soapy water and dry immediately.

I’d like to take a moment and reflect back on the year since last Thanksgiving.  It has been a year filled with some incredible highs and some deep lows.  Almost all of the events marked with some great meals at new places shared with new friends (American Beech, Greenport, LI).  Meals gathered around my table with lifelong friends, or holidays spent around a friend’s table who might as well be family.  It seems my life is measured in meals.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

While you are gathered around the table on Thursday, take a second to stop and look around at everyone there.  Breathe in the love.  I know I will.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thanksgiving Countdown - Two Weeks Out

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Okay people, we’ve got two weeks to go.  I know it’s pretty hard to believe, especially since I feel like the weather just turned to fall, usually a big marker that the holiday is approaching.

Let’s take a minute and recap where your holiday prep should be – and by no means is there any judgement from me if it’s not!

1. Linens and china should be assessed and replaced as necessary.

2. Your guest list should be pretty much set, but save a seat or two for the last-minute friends who find themselves without a place to be.

3. Your menu should be set by now.  I have a confession to make about this:  mine changes daily.  I have a vegetarian and a variety of health-conscious people at the table, so I keep coming across ideas that might be interesting.  I want there to be a vegetarian main dish, not a bunch of sides for them to eat.  But I’m a small group, as of now, so I don’t want the table to be laden with a hundred dishes.  This year, simplicity is key for me – the rest of my life is complicated enough!

This week what I want you to do is plan out next week and try to finalize the menu and guest list.  Look at your week at work and the kid’s school activities, and when the older kids are coming home from college.  Start with Thursday and work backwards.   Look at your menu and recipes and start making your shopping list.  Take a blank sheet of paper and fold it in fourths.  Each quarter page is a different area of the market:  dairy, produce, meat, dry goods/specialty.  Now start going through each recipe and write out the list making sure that everything is in the proper box.  I do this for every event, every dinner party, every catering job. It saves me the trouble of backtracking around the store and making 17 trips because I keep forgetting something.

I also want you to make your plan of attack for Wednesday and Thursday.  Start with Thursday and what time you are planning on sitting down and then work backwards.  For example, guests arrive at 4:30 with dinner planned for 5:00, which means the turkey has to be out at 4:30 (yes, I want it to rest for 30-40 minutes), which means it has to go in the oven at 12 noon (this will vary on the size of your turkey – this timeframe is just an example of the way I want you think).

Points to remember:

• If you are bringing the turkey, and I suggest you do, that will need to be done Tuesday – which means you need to pick up the turkey Monday, hopefully it will be fresh, not frozen, otherwise you will need to start defrosting it on Sunday.
• Take the turkey out of the refrigerator at least one hour prior to putting it in the oven, and let it come to room temperature. It will cook more evenly this way.
• Make sure the turkey rests for 30-40 minutes, tented with foil. This will ensure a juicy turkey.
• Make some hors d’oeuvres that can sit out at room temperature: a cheese platter, chips and salsa and guacamole, a baked brie, or a crudité platter.  This will keep your guests out of the kitchen and out of your way, even though we all know they’ll end up there regardless, but at least you won’t have to be a slave to keeping the treats hot.
• Make sure you take the help that is offered to you. You have friends and family descending upon you, you’ve been shopping and cooking for three days already, let someone do something to help!
• Remember to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

My menu:

Baked Brie

Seasonal Vegetables with White Bean and Rosemary Dip

Mixed Greens with Pan Roasted Pears, Shaved Parmesan and Pecans

Roasted Turkey with Gravy

Lentil Pie

Sweet Potato Puree

Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots, Pecans and Pancetta (on the side)

Pumpkin Bread

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Apple Crisp

 

Recipes (with links):

Thomas Keller’s Roast Turkey with Brine recipe

Lentil Pie

Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie

 

It makes me happy to help you (and me!) stay organized and sane while prepping for Thanksgiving.  Let’s not yield to the media’s pressure to have a “perfect” holiday table.  Let’s celebrate what the holiday should be about:  gratitude, family and friends, and good food.  Bon Apetit!

Thanksgiving Countdown - Three Weeks Out

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Here we are, three weeks away from the big day.  This is the week to get serious about everything.  Your tablecloths and napkins, platters and bowls have all been sorted and either replaced or laundered. Now it’s time to talk about the food, my favorite part!

This week you should place your orders for the turkey (see below for a guide to how big a bird to buy ((see the alliteration??))) and any other meat you’ll be serving.  Don’t assume that your grocery store will have baby lamb chops or a whole tenderloin the week of Thanksgiving, be safe and place an order.  Whole Foods Market will be opening their holiday desk as of November 2, FYI.  Oh, and buy butter this week and stick it in the freezer.  The price will go up during holiday week.

Plan out the rest of your menu now.  If you are having a particularly large group, consider adding a whole turkey breast, in addition to the main turkey, this way everyone is ensured white meat.  I myself, prefer the dark meat, but that’s just me.  Perhaps start with a seasonal soup, such as a Butternut Squash, Pumpkin or a lighter Carrot Soup, all of which can be made this week and frozen.  If soup isn’t your thing, a plated salad would be lovely, such as Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese, or Arugula with Oranges and Fennel or Pan Roasted Pear Salad with Watercress, Parmesan and Pecans.

Now for the sides:  Stuffing?  Wild Rice?  Mashed Potatoes?  Sweet Potato Puree?  Roasted Root Vegetables?  Brussels Sprouts?  Glazed Carrots?  Green Bean Casserole?  Please do not make everything! Here’s my rule about holiday meals:  More options aren’t always better, it’s just more.  And if scheduling won’t allow a lot of prepping beforehand, and if you are the only one doing the cooking, don’t stress yourself out. You want to be able to sit with your family and friends and enjoy the meal, not be worried about getting everything on the table.  Choose one or two starches, one or two vegetables, depending upon how many guests you are serving.  And remember, the more you serve, the less of everything your guests will take.  This guarantees leftovers, if you’re into that which I am, but it also takes up valuable space in the refrigerator.

At this point, we’re up to dessert.  Why don’t you delegate this to your guests?  They’ll be thrilled they can bring something and gives them an opportunity to help out and contribute.  And it’s one less thing you have to worry about.  But if you’re a food control freak like me, and I know you are, at least choose some desserts you can make ahead of time.  This week you can make and freeze your pie dough, cookie dough, pumpkin bread, corn bread for the stuffing, and your cranberry sauce.  If Sundays is your day in the kitchen, this is the day to get that freezing done, while of course you’re making food for the week.

Here’s what I’m doing this weekend:  pumpkin bread, pie crusts and cookie dough.  Shoot me an email if you want a loaf of pumpkin bread.  I also make a yummy gluten free version.

Turkey Guide:

6-8 people                8-10 lb

10-12 people               12-15 lb.

16-18 people               22-24 lb.

You have your plan for the week, go get ‘em!  And if you are glancing at your calendar and starting to hyperventilate because work and life are converging the week of Thanksgiving, let me know how I can help! Email me:  jen@jenuinefoods.com.

Thanksgiving Countdown - Four Weeks Out

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I’m sorry to tell you all something:  we have four weeks until Thanksgiving.  This announcement is not meant to strike fear and anxiety within you.  It is meant to awaken you to the process of preparation.  At this point you should be thinking about your guest list, and looking back to what you loved about last year’s menu, as well as what you’d like to change.  Take out the tablecloths and napkins and make sure they’re not stained too badly, make sure the platters and bowls aren’t chipped or cracked.  Make a list of the items that need to be replaced, and try to do that now, and not the week of the big day.

In the coming weeks, you’ll see the magazines and cooking shows inundate you with glossy pictures of perfectly cooked food and perfectly styled tables meant to make you go out and buy whatever they are selling. They’ll be chock-full of new ideas and new spins on old favorites.  Go ahead and try a few, just do it now, and not the night before the big day.  Try out some new recipes or some unfamiliar ingredients that you’ve been eyeing in the grocery store.

And don’t worry – your food will be tantalizing and your table beautiful.  Your guests will comment on the warm and inviting feelings emanating from you and your home.  After all, you’ve been preparing little by little with the help of me and this blog, and you are relaxed and ready.

Top 10 Kitchen Essentials

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By now you’re sick and tired of all the “Back to School” stuff and for the most part the stores and hype have died down.  The kids are all settled into school and their new activities schedule with their new backpacks and lunch boxes.  But what about you?  Don’t you need something new in the kitchen to make your life easier? I would say, yup!

The following is by no means a sales pitch for a particular store or brand.  It is a list of items that I can’t live without in the kitchen.

To be a successful cook doesn’t mean you need to have a million-dollar kitchen (you should come over and see mine!).  It doesn’t even mean you have to have your kitchen particularly well stocked, although a well-stocked pantry makes last minute meals a breeze. But there are some essential tools that will make your cooking and your time in the kitchen go smoothly and happily.  After all, when you cook with happiness and love, it comes through in your food.  Here are my Top 10 Essential Tools for the Kitchen:

1. Good knives.  Your knives are your most important tool in the kitchen.  They are the foundation for making quick work of all the tasks needed to create a meal – slicing, dicing, mincing, these are all done with a knife, and done easier with a good knife.  It is important to buy the highest quality knife that your budget allows.  It is also really important to go to a store, and test one out.  I tell people that buying knives are akin to buying shoes – you have to try them on and test them out.  If it doesn’t feel comfortable in your hand, you won’t use it.  Once you have purchased a really good all-purpose chef’s knife, it’s really important that you keep it sharp and take good care of it.  And please, don’t put it in the dishwasher!


2. Wooden cutting board. I prefer wood to plastic because it doesn’t dull your knives.  Get the largest size your kitchen will accommodate.  If you’re concerned about using raw chicken on a wooden board – don’t be.  To sanitize it, just cover the wooden board with a generous amount of kosher salt, and rub it into the wood with a half of a lemon.  Then wash and dry and seal it with board oil or cream.


3. Heavy duty stainless steel rimmed baking sheets. The kind you see on cooking shows.  They are sturdy.  They won’t buckle under high heat.  They can accommodate all kinds of cooking and baking tasks.  Don’t get non-stick coated pans – they will scratch when you try to take your cookies off with a spatula (even if the salesperson says they won’t scratch – they will) and they generally can’t be used for a heat higher than 375 degrees, so you’ll only be using them to bake on, which is silly.  You might as well get pans that are stainless steel and use them for everything.  Get the half-sheet size or 11” x 17”.


4. Parchment Paper. I use it for everything – baking, roasting.  In the oven, in the toaster oven.  Baking cookies, roasting vegetables.  It is an all-purpose, indispensable tool.  Get a box of 12 x 17 or half sheet pan size at a restaurant supply store with 1000 sheets, this way you’ll always have some on hand.


5. Stainless steel cookware. You absolutely must have a sauté pan, that’s the pan with the straight sides; a skillet, that’s the pan with the sloped sides; a small saucepan and a larger saucepan.  The sizes will be dictated by how much cooking you actually do; not how much you want to do.  Most complete sets come with an 8” or 10” skillet, 12” or 14” skillet, 3-quart sauté pan, 1 ½ quart and 3 quart pots, with lids.  I prefer stainless steel, from a high quality trusted brand, because of the even layering of the steel which makes for even heating of your food.  The stainless steel does not react with any acid foods you may use.  And did you know that if you heat up the pan first, then add whatever fat you are using (like olive oil or coconut oil), your pan becomes non-stick!  “Hot pan, cold oil, food won’t stick.”  Now, if you are big into omelets and eggs, then yes, get a small non-stick pan, BUT make sure it is PFOA and Teflon free.  If you scratch these surfaces they will leach into the food.  Better yet, get a hard anodized aluminum pan for your easy, cheesy omelets (I use Scanpan brand).


6. Yup, they’re an essential tool.  Use them to turn over your chicken in the skillet.  To grab and plate pasta.  To toss a salad.  To grill your vegetables.  Get the stainless steel ones that lock.


7. Instant read thermometer. Either the dial, or the digital, your choice.  It’ll tell you when your turkey is ready, when your steak is a perfect medium rare and when your sugar is at the soft crack stage.  Must have at least one!

8. Stainless Steel skimmer. It’s a hand-held tool with a stainless steel “basket” on the end of either a bamboo or stainless handle.  Use it to skim out French fries or donuts from your deep pot of hot oil, or take out ravioli or tortellini from the pasta water.  It’s a must have.


9. Silicone spatula. Get one that’s sturdy but flexible to use for everything from stirring stiff cookie dough, to folding delicate egg white batters.

10. Microplane grater. Perfect for grating and zesting everything from lemons to chocolate, ginger and garlic.  Small enough to fit in a draw, but large enough to be useful.

So there you have it, my must-have top 10 kitchen tools.  This list has been culled from 20 years in professional kitchens.  As you can see, I am not a gadget girl.  I don’t use a garlic press.  I don’t have a spiralizer.  I don’t have a tool to scrape the kale leaves from their ribs.  I do have other tools that I use every day, but I wanted this list to be the absolute, must-haves for your kitchen. If you have any other questions, or want my input into what your next kitchen purchase should be, feel free to contact me:  jen@jenuinefoods.com.  

Food Cravings

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Going through a rough time?  Stressed out with work and family obligations?  Super busy juggling to keep all the balls in the air?  Yeah, me too.


Do you find during these super stressful, emotional times that you reach for a cookie? Ok four?


Do you choose a big, juicy hamburger and fries instead of something healthier?  Yeah, me too.


Hello. My name is Jenny, and I’m an emotional eater.  I am also a chef and health coach which makes my emotional and stress eating particularly difficult for me because I KNOW better.


The difference with me is that I don’t let one binge eating session derail my whole day.  I am also acutely aware of when I’m emotionally eating and, more importantly, why.


This last part is particularly important to unlocking the keys to ending emotional eating.  Typically, we binge eat when we are feeling stressed/blue/lonely/angry/bored.  It would be super helpful if you were able to recognize when the binge is about to occur, but it would be even more helpful if you would allow yourself a moment to understand what you are really hungry for.  Love?  Companionship?  Comfort?  Safety?  Excitement?  Exercise?


Here are some ways to unlocking the emotional eating binge:


• Stop, breath and feel.  Emotional eating provides us with a momentary pleasure.  Reconnect with yourself by taking a few slow, deep breaths.  This will calm the mind and body.  Allow the emotions to come through, but most importantly, allow yourself time to really feel these emotions and give yourself time to understand what it is you are really needing, instead of those cookies.  You may simply need some water.


• Break the habit.  First, recognize that emotional eating is a habit.  We have conditioned ourselves to heal our emotions with food.  If you can find something to replace the habit, you will be able to rewire your brain.  For example, get up from your desk and walk around, stretch, go outside for a walk, meditate, take a bath, write in your journal. Do something that will give you pleasure, without the food.


• Go ahead and eat. Do all of the above first and then if you still have the craving, sit down and eat.  Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer, sit at the table and eat slowly and mindfully and really enjoy what you’re eating.  Even if it’s a bowl of pretzels.  But here’s the kicker:  DO NOT feel guilty.  Believe it or not, guilt is the worst culprit of all because it sabotages your enjoyment of the food you are eating and only continues the vicious cycle.


• Substitute. Be conscious of what you’re eating.  If you sit down on the couch at the end of your very long, stressful workday and you know you’re apt to mindlessly eat chips or candy, sub in a bowl of grapes.  If your tendency is to eat a chocolate bar, make it a square or two of dark, rich chocolate.  Indulge in the expensive brand, it will be totally worth it and you’ll wind up eating less than you would if you had a bag of M & M’s.  If you went out to eat and had that big, juicy burger and fries, don’t feel bad – enjoy it and simply reset at the next meal.  And next time, make it a veggie or salmon burger on a whole grain bun (if you have to have it!) with sweet potato fries and a side vegetable or salad.


• Find support. It’s crucial to have people around you who support you and your goals.  Let them know what those goals are, and what you need from them.  It’s not enough that they stop offering you your favorite foods, but that they give you the comfort and connection you may be seeking.  And when in doubt, call me – it’s what I do!


Since Passover, I have found myself coming down from the insane pace I kept up during that week and the week leading up.  And that meant, over eating and not always with the best choices.  I had been missing down time and missing time with friends.  Food plays a central role in my life so I have to be able to roll (no pun intended!) with it and make the best possible choices given the situation.  The key to gaining control of your food cravings is to be aware and start making different choices.


As seen on Pinterest: “I started telling myself that my will to live a healthy life is stronger than my cravings.” Author unknown.


Let’s all do that!

Passover Confessions

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I have a confession to make:  I hate matzah.  I don’t mind the crunch, I just hate the flavor, or lack thereof, conjuring immediate feelings of cardboard throughout my palette.  I hate what it does to my stomach, sitting in my digestive tract all week and beyond.  During any other week of the year, this does not pose a problem.  During Passover, however, this proves tricky.  It is an unavoidable conundrum, but one that I deliberately try to evade.  After all, it’s everywhere and in everything!  The ritual of eating the matzah during the Seder will most likely be the only time during the week that I will eat it.  With the possible exception of Matzah Brei.  Made sweet, as is my family’s tradition.

As a child growing up in a Conservative Jewish household with a kosher kitchen, the laws of kashrut became stricter during Passover.  My mother spent days preparing the kitchen, and “turning it over,” or making it kosher for Passover, so she could do as much cooking ahead of time as possible.  This being rule #1 when both parents work full time.  Every few hours I would peek into the kitchen and see her making her way around each cabinet, dishrag in her hand, boxes and cartons next to her for placing the everyday dishes and cookware.  I took comfort as I watched her with the phone cradled in her ear talking with her best friend in Baltimore who was doing the exact same thing.  This was Passover prep!  As an adult, I approached my own kitchen in the same manner, some years proving more vigilant than others, sometimes simply taping cabinets closed, covering the countertops and placing the Passover dishes on the counters.

As a caterer and chef, planning is my forte.  I start with the guest list, then plan the menu, completely avoiding the matzah issue by choosing dishes that don’t have or need matzah in it.  When I began to host the Seders in my home, I finally had control over the menu and as the years have gone by, I’ve been able to make dishes that contain the least amount of matzah or one of its derivatives, in them.  I look for seasonal, fresh vegetables, sometimes making two or three for the Seder meal itself.  Of course, there are dishes that my family and friends look forward to enjoying all year, as all holiday meals will have, both during the Seder, and all week long.  Dishes such as Matzah Ball Soup; Farfel Stuffing; Matzah Brei; Matzah Meal Pancakes, just to name a few.  The farfel stuffing is made with leeks which, as it happens, is a natural diuretic.  This helps, somewhat, with matzah’s binding effects.

What I try to accomplish is to be really mindful of balancing the matzah, matzah meal, matzah cake flour, farfel, etc. with fruit, a lot of fresh vegetables, and my sense of humor.

So here we are, less than one week out from the first Seder.  My menu is set and my cooking plan is made. I’ve placed the meat and fish orders, including the shank bone.  Next project is the shopping list.  I take a sheet of paper and fold it in four, making four sections:  produce, dairy, dry goods, misc. Then I go through each dish, adding the recipe items needed into each section.  This way I’m not only ensured each item will go on the list, I’m not duplicating anything that might be found in more than one recipe, like parsley.  Hopefully, this will cut down the number of trips to the supermarket.  Five to seven days out I’ll shop for the dry goods and any miscellaneous items that can bought ahead of time, such as the vodka and wine.  Two to three days before I’ll pick up everything else, including the meats, and hope that something in the produce section doesn’t catch my eye and change the entire menu!  Yes, that’s happened.  Staying organized keeps the stress level down when you are hosting a holiday, or any celebration.  Here’s to a happy, healthy and delicious holiday!

Some recipes that will be on my Seder table include Pan Seared Carrots and Italian Allmond Cake with Orange Prosecco Zabaglione. Check them out on my recipe page! Both are easy and delicious and contain no matzah, except for a trace amount in the cake pan.  I hope you enjoy!

Pride. Hold The Prejudice.

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I recently had someone tell me how proud they were of me, of my work and what I’m trying to accomplish.  This person wasn’t a parent or a spouse, but he is an important part in my life.  He isn’t the first important person to pay me a compliment like this, but it was the first time I was acutely aware of my reaction to it.  And that was to reject it completely, as if undeserving of that or any other type of praise.  Why would I react this way?  In truth, it’s mostly due to the fact that I feel like I should be further along on my business path, or I should be in a much different financial position than I find myself.  After wrestling with this subject for a few days I have come to the conclusion that intellectually I know there is a lot for me to be proud of, a lot that I have accomplished and a lot that I’m capable of.  But emotionally, I don’t internalize those feelings of achievement.  I have done a lot of emotional work in my post-divorce life, and really, I’m in a great place, this is just one area that I’m still working on.  I’m grateful for my family and friends, so proud of my beautiful children who are mostly adults now, and I’m excited for the things ahead of me.  I’ve come a long way, baby!  So why the reaction?

You might be asking yourself what this has to do with cooking, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll make the connection.

When you get into the kitchen and prepare a beautiful meal for your family and friends, how many times do you look at the dishes and say to yourself, “it didn’t come out exactly the way it did in the cookbook picture.”  If someone at your table compliments your cooking, how many times do you shrug it off and dismiss it, feeling undeserving because maybe you didn’t follow the recipe exactly, or your onions weren’t a “perfect” dice, or it wasn’t exactly how you wanted it to turn out.  Is your Instagram feed full of food photos and does it make you feel completely inadequate? If so, just remember that those photos have professional photographers and stylists, except for those rare foodies who are also professional photographers.  Well, stop!  Stop beating yourself up.

In this Social Media driven world we live in these days, we have become obsessed with the need for instant gratification.  We (and this is the universal “we”), create something, post it and pray for as many “likes” as possible.  When we don’t get those likes we feel undeserving of any praise at all.  Well, let’s stop the madness!

Let’s make a pact to stop comparing ourselves to others and take pride in what we can do.  Of what we have already done.  Whether it’s toasting bread without burning it, or making a batch of the best brownies, let’s be proud of what skills we have and our desire to learn new ones.  Let’s not diminish ANYTHING we’ve accomplished.  Even if the only thing we got done in a day was to make the bed.  Are you in?

I’ll have the pride, hold the prejudice.  It just tastes better.

January Reset

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Are you as inundated with “New Year, New You” headlines as I am? I see them everywhere, from fitness studios to retailers and everywhere in between. I hate that headline! It makes me feel like I need improvement, that I’m not good enough with who I am already. Guess what, I AM good enough and I AM worthy. I don’t need to be new, some of my habits may need to be.

I’ve started January by hitting the reset button. Work is really busy. There are only 24 hours in the day and 8 of them should be spent sleeping. (Notice I said, should!!) My new goal is to sleep for 7 hours every night. That leaves me 17 hours to do everything else I need to do, and hopefully some of those hours will be spent doing something for myself. Spending time on Facebook isn’t included in that “self-care” category.

It seems my workout schedule has been pushed down the priority list as the craziness of the holidays heated up. I miss it. Yes, you read that correctly. I actually miss the exercise, whether it’s my yoga practice, or my early morning walk around the water, or using my resistance bands. Time to reset and put the exercise back in. Every day.

Part of my work includes event planning. I’m a planner. So if I can plan a 200 person wedding with all the bells and whistles, why can’t I seem to plan everything I need to get done during the day? The answer is, I can. I just don’t always do it. Time to sit down and plan what I want and what I need: a new business plan, time for my new relationship, time for exercise and healthy food, time to learn to take better pictures of my healthy food, time to write, time for a hot bath and a haircut, time for my family and friends. Of course, I don’t want to over program and over schedule myself, this new plan has to include time to sit on the couch and chill out and unplug.

My January will include resetting my schedule so that I can do all the things that I want. What will yours include?

Check out my upcoming Classes at the Jewish Cooking School @Temple Beth-El of Great Neck. Sign up at: https://tbegn.wufoo.com/forms/q1jbyn2214tsq0y/

January 23: Lunch ‘N Learn: January Reset – Learn strategies and recipes to set you on your path of healthy goals, all while you eat lunch.
February 6: Meatless Monday: Roasted Tomato Soup; Vegetable Risotto; Leek & Potato Galette
February 28: Purim Party: Feast of Esther

Practice Vs. Possible

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I don’t know about you, but I always struggle with the practical and the possible. I am a pragmatist, an optimist, but also a dreamer. In my visions I am healthy, wealthy and wise: I have time to practice my yoga and exercise at will; plenty of funds to shop at the farmer’s markets year round; leisure time to spend in the kitchen; entertain friends and family and a budget to eat in the best restaurants in Manhattan and Long Island. In real life, I have a busy work schedule, I’m trying to build a business, I have 2 kids in college, and a super tight budget. Sometimes convenience food wins the day.

I try to make a point of choosing my convenience food wisely and I hope you will too. You will never find me at any fast food joint except for Panera Bread (they have beautiful salads!) and the occasional outing to Chipotle (they have brown rice and guacamole!). My practical side knows that I have one day during the week with a large block of time to devote to the week’s cooking. My dreamer side cooks those meals using luxurious ingredients and has time to linger over those meals, instead of hovering over the computer. There are some weeks where I don’t have that large block of time. My solution is to cook more than one meal while you’re already in the kitchen. I may not have three or four hours to devote, but I can whip up two or three dishes in the hour or so it would take to make dinner on any night. And so can you!

For example, if you’re planning on making a meatloaf one night, while the oven is on, roast up a whole bunch of winter root vegetables – they can start as the side dish and become part of a salad for the next day. Planning on a rice side? Make a double batch (hopefully it’s brown rice) and use it as a base for that salad with the roasted root vegetables.

Have absolutely no time to cook a meal? Instead of going for take-out, head to the grocery store and pick up a fresh roasted chicken, a box of couscous and a head of broccoli. Cut up the broccoli into small florets and put into the boiling water (or stock) for the couscous. Both will cook up and be ready by the time the table is set and the chicken will yield a few different dishes: use the breast meat shredded for chicken tacos, slice up the meat for use in that salad, add some meat to cooked pasta sauce for a healthier alternative to meat sauce. Take the time to make a big beautiful salad and bring it for lunches during the week, adding bits of protein from the previous night’s meal. 

Those are just some ideas to keep you on a healthy path and to keep the possible, practical.