I’m warming my hands today in the fantasy bonfire I’ve lit to burn the January page I ripped off my imaginary wall calendar. I suppose it’s the jolt of another year gone by, plus my blasted birthday, but January invariably hits me like an avalanche of Mondays. Ooof.

But good or bad, moods come and moods go. I plugged my way through January, feeling slow and heavy and trying not to beat myself up about it. But now January is gone and I’m still here.

Hello February! I couldn’t be happier we get an extra day of you this year.

And here’s a pot of soup for your cold February days: classic lentil soup – easy, filling, healthful – spiced with sausage and extra special topped with grated cheese and/or a dollop of pesto. It’s a warming meal to satisfy you in a blizzard, but light enough that you won’t feel like the Pillsbury dough boy if you decide on a midwinter escape to the sun belt. read on…

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It’s not sexy food, but done right, baked pasta is cheesy, meaty, tomatoey contentment. A good baked pasta communicates caring – soothing tastebuds, filling tummies, and showing love with warmth and abundance. It’s just what I want to be eating on a cold winter’s night, and everyone loves it just as much for lunch the next day.

My family loves lasagna, but I find lasagna noodles irksome – they stick together during cooking, and I end up tearing the hot, slippery slabs. Now I just mix pasta with the sauce, pour half in the dish, spread the cheese layer, pour the rest of the pasta on top and end with a little more cheese. To them, it’s still lasagna.

Dry baked pastas bum me out, and I’ve found that I need twice the sauce for baked pasta as I would use in a regular pasta dish. I use ground turkey, because to me it gives the meaty flavor without being heavy. And though no Italian would use cottage cheese, I like how it remains creamy when baked, unlike ricotta which can get dry.

But really, this is a flexible framework. Bake pasta, meaty tomato sauce and cheese in a dish, and you can’t go wrong. Use ground beef, or sausage, or a mix. Can’t stand the idea of cottage cheese? Use more mozzarella and parmesan, and serve it with a dollop of fresh ricotta. Add in spinach, or mushrooms. It’s all good. read on…

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Cozy warm and coconut-creamy, this Thai curry is a dish to fend off the chilly drab of January. Heavy on veg and lighter on protein, it fits that new year’s resolution to eat more healthfully. A comforting bowl to tuck into while you’re catching up on all the work you put off in December, it’s simple to make and easy to eat.

But what I love most about this fantastically flavorful dish, rich red warmth blanketing soft sweet potato and the protein of your choice, is the fresh boost it gives to my post-holiday taste buds. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be glad not to encounter ham again until Easter.

Making Thai curry at home is ridiculously easy, thanks to the ultra-dense flavor miracle of Thai curry paste. Buy a good-quality one for a few dollars, and with it you can make creamy curry dishes that will slay any Thai takeout you might buy.

While Indian curries are usually flavored with dried spices, the base for Thai curries is a thick paste of fresh herbs and aromatics, including garlic, shallot, lemongrass, galanga (a ginger relative), shrimp paste and kaffir lime. Chiles in Thai curry paste may be dried or fresh, and depending on the style of curry paste, additional spices such as coriander, turmeric and cumin may be added.

You’ll only use a tablespoon or two at a time, so a 14-ounce tub will last you a while. Fortunately it keeps forever in the fridge. read on…

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holiday bitmoji

Bitmoji

18 December 2015

What to do this holiday season after presents are opened, food eaten, conversation dwindles and people are sneaking off with cell phones to text friends or check game scores? Fresher than board games, more interactive than puzzles, way more fun than talking about who in their right mind would vote for Trump: make personalized emoji avatars for yourself and your loved ones.

Once you start, everyone, old and young, will want to get in on it. It’s more unifying than Adele.

Bitmoji, a free iOS/Android app to create personalized emoji cartoons, was launched in 2014 by Bitstrips, which originally created personalized comic strips for use on Facebook. Create your own avatar – choosing hair styles, facial features, body type and clothing – and Bitmoji generates dozens of mini-cartoons featuring your character that you can text message or email to friends and family. The expressively illustrated messages run the gamut from sentimental to profane.

You can craft your bitmoji avatar alone, but it’s not nearly as amusing as doing it with friends. In a group, everyone can help each other fine-tune their avatars, weighing in on shapes of faces, eyebrows, eyes and noses. In the end, you can vote on whose has the best likeness.

Once you’ve finished your avatar, Bitmoji generates a hilarious array of cartoons featuring your avatar, tweaking your facial expression to look happy, serious, excited, angry, hopeful, or mock-seductive, depending on the scenario. It’s super goofy and seriously funny. read on…

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soft ginger cookies

Soft ginger cookies

4 December 2015

I want to love Christmas, I really do – the family time, the festive anticipation, the nostalgic songs, the cozy glow. But I want the Little House on the Prairie version, where we make maple candy in fresh snow, and everyone is overjoyed with a peppermint stick and a fresh orange in the toe of their stockings.

What summons my Scrooge is the fairytale spinning that starts the instant Halloween ends, built around the insane idea that our fondest wishes will be magically fulfilled, and we will come together with our loved ones in immaculate joy and harmony. How is that not a set-up for disappointment?

And whose deranged idea was it to make already-stretched parents – mostly moms, let’s be honest – toil in secret for months so that some imaginary bearded guy can look like an effortless gift genius?

A dude invented Santa, no doubt. And surely a beleaguered sister came up with the Christmas cookie tradition as a coping mechanism. Because what better for stress eating than homemade cookies? Amen, girlfriend.

In my kitchen, I want Christmas cookies to relieve anxiety, not create it. These soft ginger cookies check all the boxes for me: comfortingly pliable and buttery, with the festive spices of ginger and cinnamon, they are also easy (obvs), quick (no chilling/rolling/frosting) and long lasting (for sending/gifting).

I crammed in a lot of online holiday shopping before Thanksgiving this year, taking breaks to test batches of these cookies. And honestly the cookies soothed away my holiday grumbles. If I were a country singer, my anthem wouldn’t be about fried chicken and cold beer, it would be about warm cookies and hot tea. read on…

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43 days til christmas

Holiday gift guide 2015

18 November 2015

Supersoft beanies and disco lights, teepees, the world’s best almonds, jewelry and my usual assortment of silly stocking stuffers, this year’s collection is more eclectic than in the past, as the kids in the extended family are growing up.

In five years, this is the earliest I’ve ever gotten out a holiday gift guide. Woohoo! Hope this helps you get a jumpstart too.

Disco light

disco light

This nifty little plug-in is a party on the go. Get a group of kids, a dark room, loud music, and this spinning, rainbow disco light ($9) will keep them going forever. It’s kind of amazing how such a tiny piece of equipment (5×3-inches) can throw off so much fun. I love giving this to my daughter’s friends, who all seem to have karaoke in their future. read on…

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Roast turkey – split and dry brined

14 November 2015 Food
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Every Thanksgiving I try a new turkey method – different turkey, different brine, different roasting method – and though I’ve had a lot of really good results, I’m never convinced enough to call a winner. Some are easy but meh, or great but too messy/involved. Last year I tried two new approaches: 1) splitting the […]

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Caramel dip for apples

30 October 2015 Food
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If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, we’re good for the next month with the dozens of apples we’ve been eating this week dunked in caramel dip. Set out a dish of gooey caramel, with flaky sea salt or chopped salted peanuts on top, and the apple cores pile up quickly. I’m not […]

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Buttermilk cornbread

30 October 2015 Food
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It’s Halloween tomorrow, and I have two recipes to share: the perfect cornbread (because chili and cornbread is such a perfect pre-trick-or-treating meal) and caramel dip for fall’s fresh apples. Cornbread first, because dinner before dessert. Often cornbread has a slightly off taste, and it’s almost always because the baking soda or baking powder amount […]

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Process of elimination

23 October 2015 Diet
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I’ll never be cured of the eczema that has plagued me since birth, but I’m as close to normal as I have ever been. For six weeks I’ve cut out sugar, wheat and rice from my diet, and although I’m jonesing for toast and jam, I have to admit I’m less itchy than I’ve been […]

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