Roasted Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Basil ‘Bruschetta’

“I think you may have an unhealthy obsession with Rihanna.”

“Is it because I told you if Rihanna asked me to run away with her, I would?”

Roo took a bite of bruschetta and nodded.

“Well, I had to warn you…in case if you saw us together on TMZ.”

“Really. TMZ?”

“It could happen. Anyway, it’s just a girl crush! You know, where you greatly admire someone -”

“Probably too much?”

“No such thing,” I said, rolling a roasted tomato back onto my bread. “Certainly there has to be someone you’re crushing on.”

“Like a man crush?”

“Yeah, like an athlete or an actor you’re obsessed with. Oh! Like Tom Brady.”

“While I greatly appreciate his Jedi-like skills, no.”

I tapped my finger on my plate. “I got it.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t have a guy -”

“Pedro.”

Roo stopped mid-chew. “Martinez?”

“You’d totally run away with him to a deserted island.”

Roo set his bruschetta down and folded his hands together. “Yes, yes I would.”

I laughed, picturing Roo and Martinez taking turns burying each other in the sand.

“You know why?”

“Because you greatly admire pitchers? Particularly ones that have played for the Sox?”

“That and he’s incredibly talented. He’s also pretty laid back and has a very diverse group of friends.”

“You’ve obviously thought this through.” I paused. “If you were asked, would I be invited?”

“Would I be, if Rihanna asked you?”

I smiled. “Obviously not.”

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Roasted Summer Vegetables with Tomatoes, Basil and Pasta

Zucchini or summer squash, sweet corn, bell peppers and red onion

I scooped up a piece of zucchini with my fork. “I feel like a lot has changed.”

Roo looked up from his plate. “What are you talking about?”

“I saw a child today; thirteen, maybe fifteen-”

“So you saw a teenager.”

“A child,” I reiterated, setting down my fork, “who was walking in front of me at Fenway and I could see her butt.  Hanging out of her shorts.”

“Like her pants were falling down?”

“Like they were so short, that I wanted to hug her and give her my yoga pants.”

“You do realize you sound about eighty five right now.”

I picked up my water glass and took a sip. “That’s kind of my point. I mean, when did I become so conservative?”

“You’re really asking me this.”

“I know! But I can’t remember caring about how short a girl’s shorts were when I was in my twenties. I don’t think I even noticed what children were wearing.”

“Well, we all change. It’s part of growing up.”

“I guess.” I said, fumbling with my napkin. “Like, when I was in college I didn’t eat carbs.”

“What?”

“I know. This,” I said, tilting my pasta dish towards Roo, “is delicious. Why would I give that up?”

“But I thought you drank Natty Ice in school.”

“Correction, The Beast.”

“So you didn’t eat carbs, but you drank beer?”

“I know, totally logical, right?”

Roo laughed, “I am so glad we all change.”

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Vegetable Stir Fry with Quinoa

I’m a lazy friend. Not horrible, just lazy.

I keep secrets. I give the best hostess gifts. And I can make you laugh.

Getting me to actually show up at your house?

Terrible. As in 99% unlikely. Which is why Roo was surprised to hear where I was going on Friday.

“You’re actually driving to Gardner. Gardner, Massachusetts?”

“Yes. Past Framingham, near Leominster.”

“But it’s Friday,” Roo said, sitting down on the couch and putting up his feet, “We get tired on Fridays.” *

I shot Roo a look as I felt for my keys in my purse, “Of course we get tired on Fridays! But I still need to go. I haven’t seen AA in over a year.”

“You can’t reschedule?”

“You are the worst!” I said, throwing a pillow at Roo. “Besides, JL is going to be there and I haven’t seen her in ages either.”

AA and JL are dear friends. And powerhouses.

They are the women seen tearing through a Warrior Dash, just because they got up early that morning and thought, “You know what would go well with this cup of coffee? Mud.”


Photos from JL

I am not built like them.


Photo from AA

I’m deathly afraid of heights, whine when I get a blister on my toe, and despite my love of power yoga, I hate sweating.

But the three of us love to laugh, drink wine and share the most humiliating stories. It’s what we do.

I love it.

Conversation ranged from “how girls don’t fart,” followed by “then I woke myself up by farting. On my boyfriend.” to “do they not see me? why am I always sat on? I’m a person!” that night. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while. And on my drive home I was inspired.

AA recently became a home owner and JL has two children. They both train for whatever endurance event is coming up while living very busy lives.

When they get home they need a quick, easy meal that can refuel them while satisfying the taste buds of little ones and in AA’s case, her big guy.

Stir fry was the first thing that came to mind. It’s a one pot meal (especially if you have leftover cooked quinoa) and can be thrown together less than 30 minutes.

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Baked Baby Artichokes with Crunchy Scallion Breadcrumbs

“Hello Monkey! Hello Stink!” Roo said as he walked into the apartment.

“You will not believe what happened in yoga today,” I said, calling out from the kitchen.

Roo dropped his messenger bag on the floor and took off his shoes, “What happened?”

“There was a girl,” I paused, “moaning.”

Roo laughed, “Sounds hot.”

“No! No it was terrible.” I said, ripping the outer artichoke leaves off in frustration.  “It was like I was trapped in a porno movie.”

“It couldn’t have been that bad.”

“It was!” I said, dipping another artichoke into the acidulated water. I removed it and gave it a good shake. “It was so distracting,” I continued, grabbing and ripping the leaves off. “Shit!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I stabbed myself with a thorn.”

Roo came into the kitchen and gently took my hand into his. He looked down at the tip of my ring finger and then back up at me. “You’ll live.”

“I know. I’m just…” I said, taking back my hand, “I couldn’t relax.”

“Maybe you just misheard her.”

“How can I mishear -” I started, then proceeded to moan as I heard in class.

“Like I said, sounds hot.”

“You cannot be serious.”

“Since when did you get all uptight about yoga? Isn’t it about being connected with your true self or something?”

“Perhaps. But my true self isn’t someone who listens to a porn track for 90 minutes.”

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Massaged Kale Salad with Mango, Avocado, Cranberries and Toasted Cashews

“I think you’re worried that I’m going to fall of the wagon while you’re in Japan.”

I looked up from my salad, mid-chew, mouth too full to reply.  Roo timed this intervention just right.

“You just seem stressed about leaving next week.”  Roo continued.

Swallowing the last bit of kale, “Well, I’m not worried.”

“You’re not.”

“No, you were never really on the wagon full-time anyway.”

“What are you talking about?  I’m eating this delicious kale salad; a sentence I never thought would ever leave my mouth.  I mean, I’m eating kale. And liking it.”

I put down my fork, “Burger King receipt.”

“What?”

“A Burger King receipt. You left it on the center console.”

“Oh that…that was just snack I got on the way to my mother’s house.”

“A Whopper is a snack?”

“Correction, it was a Whopper Jr.

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Baked Gnocchi Alla Puttanesca (Kinda)

Sometimes when I have to make a first impression I freak out.  Just a little.

In protest, I put off getting ready till the last minute.  And when I can’t any longer, I run around the apartment with such fervor you’d think it was on fire.  Hair thrown into a sumo bun, trying on clothes that never seem to fit me the way I want and wondering why I just don’t invest in spanx already.

I get wound up.  I start…to sweat.  Especially when I’m freaking out in the bathroom because the light is too dim to actually see my face to put makeup on.

“Stop it Lys.  Seriously, stop sweating.  STOP. IT.”

“Are you having a breakdown?” Roo calls out from the living room.  He’s already dressed, shoes on and car keys in hand.  He’s been ready for thirty minutes.

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Talking to yourself while looking at yourself in the mirror stops underarm perspiration.”

“I don’t think it -”

“It’s a thing!”

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Easy, Spicy, Garlicky Green Beans

Ladylike would not be the best way to describe me.

My mother “glistens” when she works out.  Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to inherit this trait.  Instead, I sweat like a plow horse on a sunny July afternoon.  Thanks Dad.

My dancing could only be described as this.  My moves are as smooth as the big guy in the back with the striped tee.  That’s me, inebriated at weddings.  God help me if I’m sober, as what results is an awkward half-Asian hiding in a corner, clapping along to keep up appearances.   Because you know, it’s not like everyone’s paying attention to the bride or anything.

And then there’s the way I eat.  Granted, I do eat with my mouth closed but I do it at such speed that you’d think I was trying to finish my meal under threat of gunfire.

For this, I blame growing up with a brother who seemed to never escape puberty.  There would be times when I’d turn my back away from my plate and a chicken breast would be missing.  Now I understand that growing boys need food, but really?  That much?  And mine?

Thankfully(?) Roo eats the same way I do.  Growing up with three other siblings (two of them being boys) he learned to be protective at an early age.  That, and if you didn’t eat quick enough, you weren’t able to have seconds as there wouldn’t be anything left.

And when I shovel green beans into my mouth, not taking the time to cut their long stalks in half, instead using the inside of my cheek to bend them in half, Roo doesn’t say a thing.  In fact, he keeps an eye on my pace so that he can stay a few mouthfuls ahead of me.

So he can get seconds of course.

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Tunisian Soup

The house is strangely quiet tonight.

Roo left an hour ago to meet up with a friend from college at a local bar.

It’s just me, the cats and the sound of rain.

While it would be tempting to have dinner with the tv blaring, staring vacantly at whatever program I happen to come across, I’d rather just sit.

And listen.

Taste.

And enjoy the quiet company that I have.

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Mushroom and Wheatberry Soup with Kale

Some New Year’s resolutions may be to lose weight this year.  Others may want to quit smoking.  And maybe a few would like to spend less money.

I on the other hand, would just like to keep the crew from Hoarders from showing up at my apartment doorstep.

My kitchen cupboards are full, full of pantry staples like flours, dried beans, sugars, canned tomatoes and the like.  Unfortunately, it goes beyond that.

Various dried mushrooms? Shitake, porcini and woodman’s blend (whatever that means…)

Hijiki? Shacking up with arame.  They’re besties.

Dates? Sure, but to get to them you gotta push aside the dried cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, apricots, dried cherries…hold on a sec….where did these cacao nibs come from!?

And with the cupboards being filled to the brim, some items have found “homes” in re-usable grocery bags on the floor.  It just needed to stop.

Soup, was the answer.

The flux of warm, re-circulated, dry air in the lab to a drastically different, wet, cold and sometimes windy Boston side-street, has brought on sniffling noses, stiff joints and knuckles begging to be cracked.  Perhaps it’s a lingering bug, but I’m convinced that the constant change has left my body tired and hungry; hungry for warm bowls filled with hearty ingredients and dunkable broth.

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Quinoa, Greens and Root Veg Soup

I’ve totally been embracing this whole “eating New England style” as November comes to a close.  “New England style” is basically eating the produce that’s available in New England during fall and winter.  It largely consists of storage crops and winter greens.  Produce like potatoes, winter squashes, onions, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and even tatsoi.

Also, soup has been served practically everyday in our little apartment.  LLN basically reflects what Roo and I eat, so hopefully you haven’t grown tired of the seasonal veg and soups that have been featured.  I honestly can’t get enough of it!  I am absolutely in love with swinging by the farmers market at city hall to see what’s available that day.  Sometimes I peruse the tables out of need for a recipe, and other times it’s to just pick up an item or two, if only to support the farmers that trekked into the city, just to sit in the cold all day.  Just a note: the more you frequent a vendor, the more likely they’ll remember you and try to give you a better deal (ie I’ve received a free handful of this or that and sometimes a couple of apples).  It really does pay off to shop local.

Ok, enough about farmers markets.

I’m here to write about soup.  Soup that I was able to make in thirty minutes after a quick chop of some seasonal produce and a stir in of quinoa.  Soup that has a bit of heat from red pepper flake, an earthiness from rosemary, loads of textures and a “complete protein” that makes even the judgmental of a plant-based diet hush as they dunk chunks of warm, crusty bread into the broth.

It’s incredibly flavorful and fast.  It’s a soup that warms our bones on nights when the heat drops below freezing and our uninsulated windows remind us that summer is over and it’s time for tea, blankets and baking.  Lots of baking.

And like most soups, it tastes even better the next day, as the flavors are able to meld together; potatoes completely infused with the spicy earthy broth.

Which leads me to ask, have you made a soup with quinoa before?  What do you typically use quinoa for?  I’ve used it in cakes, salads and now soups.  I don’t think there’s anything this little seed can’t do.

Inspired by The Urban Vegan Cookbook Recipe for Quinoa Soup

Adapted from Spicy and Hearty Potato, White Bean and Kale Soup

Ingredients

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

2 medium onions, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced (love garlic, LOVE)

1 – 2 teaspoons of red pepper flake (if you’re heat sensitive, start with a half teaspoon)

1 bunch of collard greens, (about a pound) leaves removed from stems, torn with hands into easily edible pieces (you can use kale, collards were all I had.  I would not recommend spinach, unless if it was added right at the end, as it’s incredibly delicate compared to kale, etc.)

8 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

Half to 1 cup of dry quinoa (1 cup results in a lot of quinoa with very little broth.  If you’d like to have a lot of liquid in your soup, use half a cup)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of dried rosemary

2 carrots, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

3 to 4 medium potatoes, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Equipment

One large pot

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A spatula/tongs

Pour olive oil into your pot and place over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions, and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the onions turn golden brown (it may take more than five minutes depending on your burner), add the garlic, red pepper flake and rosemary.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, quinoa, bay leaves, greens, carrots and potatoes.  Stir to combine the ingredients.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce the heat to bring the soup at a simmer.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, about fifteen minutes.

Add the beans if using, and stir in.  Simmer for about five minutes longer, then serve.