October 24, 2011

Gluten Free Harvest Risotto

You know what's awesome? Those first chilly nights of fall that beg for flannel pjs and the windows to be opened just a crack. Pumpkins adorning front stoops and hot apple crisp topped with a hearty scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  There is so much to love about fall. Football, sweaters, snuggling under a quilt with a mug of hot cider and the sound of crunchy leaves crackling as they scrape across the ground outside. That's what's awesome.

It's a time to start slowing down the pace, and to prepare for the colder months of the year. We add layers of clothing and meals get a little bit thicker and comforting. The days grow shorter and we start yawning a little bit earlier in the evening... And of course as I type this, Loki is tweaking out like a sugar-high ninja that was just electrocuted. Does he smell a squirrel outside? Did he take too many naps today? We will never know. 

We were long overdue for a good risotto and I got it in my head last week that I wanted to make one that tasted "like fall". A little earthy, a little spicy...We are trying to make meals that are healthier but equally delicious. What would be full of flavor that tastes like fall? How about garlic, onion, mushrooms and sweet potato? And a touch of nutmeg? Done. Here's my Gluten Free Harvest Risotto.

Oh, and it's vegetarian. :)

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

1 cup of arborio rice
4-5 cups of vegetable stock (low sodium)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3 fresh cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 yellow onion, well chopped
1 cup of baby bella mushrooms, well chopped
1/2 cup of white cooking wine
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tbsp creme fraiche
salt and pepper
ground nutmeg
dried rosemary


Bring a small pot of water to a boil, and place sweet potato in pot. Cook until potato is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat, and add garlic and onion. Cook until onions soften and garlic is browned. Add your arborio rice and mix well with garlic and onions until rice starts to lightly brown. Add your cooking wine, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and allow to reduce down. Lower heat to medium-low. Add vegetable stock, one cup at a time. Keep stirring rice and allow the stock to reduce before adding the next cup.

Drain the water from your sweet potato and using a hand mixer, food processor or immersion blender, puree the sweet potato. Add in the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper, and add a healthy pinch of nutmeg and rosemary. Mix again for about 30 seconds or until well blended.

As your rice starts to expand and soften, mix in your mushrooms. Add your last cup(s) of stock and allow to reduce. Remove from heat and carefully  mix in your sweet potato puree. There may be a few chunks of sweet potato that didn't get blended - that's fine! Embrace the chunks!

Serve warm with a light sprinkle of nutmeg. Enjoy!

October 21, 2011

Thoughts of Fall

Another Friday, another week gone by and with fall finally well underway, I am happy to be regularly sporting sweaters, scarves and boots. Can I just say that the crisp cool air gives me life?? Fall is why I could never live anywhere other than New England. There's truly nothing like it.

I have another fill-in-the-blank for you, courtesy of Lauren at the little things we do. Feel free to share your fill in the blanks in the comments or on your own blog!

1. Nothing says fall like the smell of nutmeg and decaying leaves.

2. My favorite autumnal tradition is going to our friend's Oktoberfest to ring in the season.

3. My favorite fall treat is a tossup between pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and my Sunday crock pot meals.

4. Fall makes me think of my birthday, which always feels like more of a new year than January 1. That's probably because I still associate "new years" with the start of the school year.

5. Autumn free form word association, go! color, change, pumpkin, spice, warmth, football, memories, joy

6. My go-to outfit in the fall is usually a dress or big sweater, leggings or tights and boots. And always a scarf. I wear scarves every day for 6 months out of the year.

7. My favorite fall holiday is Thanksgiving! It's one of the few holidays that keeps it real. It's simply about sharing a meal with loved ones and acknowledging what you're thankful for. It's also the day Sean proposed to me, and will always hold a very special place in my heart as "our holiday".

October 19, 2011

A New Take on Taco Tuesday

Tuesdays used to be my favorite as a kid. It meant tacos for lunch. And there was something really appealing in the crunchy neon yellow shell, the orange fatty grease dripping out the bottom, that made me salivate as I stood in the lunch line, gripping a crumpled up $2 in my fist.

It's fun to recreate those meals as an adult. Sean and I enjoy a nice beefy taco every now and then. I even went so far as to make my own taco seasoning when we weren't exactly sure if the seasoning we bought was reliable. I came to realize, however, quite how unhealthy this meal is. We like to go big or go home. So taco night would mean corn tortillas piled high with seasoned ground beef, cheese, salsa (from a jar), maybe guacamole, sour cream, and maybe some lettuce if we could fit any in before doing the taco juggling act of trying to get the majority of it in your mouth without spilling it all over your lap.

Last night I wanted something spicy and comforting, but without the calories. A few simple substitutions gave us a similar meal, but a little easier on our stomachs.

Pan-seared chicken tenderloins, seasoned in salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, celery seed and garlic powder. Add in some sliced bell peppers and onions and a touch of olive oil.

Black beans, heated and seasoned with chili pepper.

Fresh salsa

Fat-free sour cream

Goya corn arepas, heated up on both sides in a pan

Simply build your own and enjoy. Just as messy as a taco, but perhaps a bit easier on the calories. A little bit of sour cream goes a long way and gives you the hint of dairy you might want, minus a pile of melty cheese. Or you can skip the arepa and enjoy it over a bed of crispy lettuce or rice!

October 17, 2011

Crunchy Leaves and Glowy Sunsets

Tonight I put my running shoes back on. Determined, motivated, sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I drove over to the park and started moving. The leaves were rustling, the pond fountains were fountaining, and although it was rush hour across the street from the train station, it was peaceful and quiet.

I had forgotten how good it feels to move.

Each lap around the park, the sun got lower and lower, setting the foliage on fire with the brightest yellows, oranges and reds.

At one point I realized I was focusing on the ground and my feet. I looked up and felt refreshed.

Sometimes I get nervous that I'm going to work myself silly and miss out on a season, on the little things that make each day so charming. Sometimes I get nervous that I am spinning faster and faster out of control, that there's too much going on and I will never be able to focus.

All it takes is 30 minutes in the fresh, cool autumn air, with the pendulum of my feet hitting the ground, and the soft rustling of crunchy leaves underfoot, to bring me right back to where I need to be.

October 13, 2011

Unspoken Understanding

Yesterday when I got home from work, I was in a bad way. My body was telling me to sleep, my mind was telling me that if anyone said anything to me, I would need to curl up in the fetal position and cry, or set something on fire. These days happen. Sometimes, there's nothing you can do except just ride out the storm. I wanted to take the higher road exercise that negative energy off, but instead I dropped the groceries on the table, wearily collapsed on the couch, and exhaled into misery.

One of the incredible things about Sean and the fact that we've been together so long is that we often don't have to talk and vent things out. There's a quiet understanding. I know when to let him be by himself, and vice versa. We also know when an intervention needs to be staged, when misery needs to be brought to an abrupt halt. I wanted to be a happy energetic wife last night. I wanted to cook a yummy dinner while singing a la Snow White. I wanted to have a productive night of photo editing and then snuggle up on the couch and watch Monday night's episode of Castle before falling into peaceful slumber to the sound of the autumn rain pattering on the windows. 

Sounds like a picture perfect evening, doesn't it? But it just wasn't going to happen.

Without a word, Sean knew what I needed. He knew I needed a break. He knew I needed to curl up on the couch and just be together. No cooking, no dishes, no computer. Our schedules haven't been aligning much lately between work and social obligations. We needed a night together. It also happened to be our 9 year anniversary since we started dating. Funny how things work out, eh?

We ordered pizza, broke open a bottle of wine, and spent the night on the couch watching Disney movies (much to Sean's dismay, I shot down his suggestions of Tron and Red Dawn). The minute "Circle of Life" burst onto the screen, a huge smile crept across my face. I was content. I was happy. I felt like a human being again. What could have been an epically disastrous night was a perfect night for us. It was what we needed. Sometimes, you have to break away from the plan. It keeps you sane, it grows the love. 

October 7, 2011

Loki Snuggles Thor

Happy Friday! I am SO ready for this weekend. The weather's supposed to be gorgeous, I have a headshot session lined up for tomorrow (for myself!), apple picking with my hubs, and a boatload of relaxing and picture editing on Sunday and Monday. Is it strange, or awesome, that I am excited to do photo work this weekend? I am leaning towards awesome. Anyways, here's a fun little "fill in the blank" courtesy of Lauren at the little things we do. Feel free to fill these in on your own blog, or in the comments below! Have an awesome weekend!

1.   Something popular that I can't stand/just don't "get" is      planking, owling, horsemaning, and any of those photo crazes  .

2.   Something unpopular that I secretly love is    Uggs. Or in my case, "Fuggs". Yes, they're ugly (fugly?), but they are warm and comfortable and I will wear them if I want to every day from November to March      .

3.  When I've had a bad day I   come home and snuggle on the couch with my kitty. He's an instant therapeutic relief. I also put on music from Glee and sing and dance a little until I can't remember why my day was so bad    .

4. I'd prefer    brunch outside    to    happy hour in a dark bar      any day.

5.  Something that makes me nervous is    the idea of looking back on my life and feeling like I didn't give it my all. It drives me forward every day .

6.  Something worth fighting for is     marriage. Marriage is something that I take very seriously and something that I work very hard at. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make it work (I wholeheartedly agree with Lauren and left her exact answer here)   .

7.  When people think of me, I hope they think    'she's the kind of person it feels good to be around'  .

I leave you with my favorite picture from this week: Loki Snuggles Thor. Thor Does Not Like.

October 4, 2011

Another Year Older

Yesterday, I joyfully rang in the start of my 28th year by spending the entire day with Sean. We finished off a weekend away for our friends' wedding in Maine with a Sunday drive down to Massachusetts to see my family, and then took our time driving back down to Connecticut. Loki was excited to see us after spending 5 days in a kitty hotel, and we had a lot of family snuggle time last night on the couch as exhaustion set in from the ~500 miles driven this past weekend. I could not have asked for a better birthday!

It's always fun to look back on the past year and see how I've changed, fun things I did, goals accomplished. 27 was a big year in a few ways. We moved into a more "grown up" apartment, went on another fabulous cruise, and I started photographing weddings. We watched our niece and nephews grow at rapid speeds and spent more time with family. The idea of our own little family unit expanding started to take shape, and we're hopeful that we'll reach that point in our lives soon, when the time is right. 

I feel more nostalgic, I cry more happy tears, and enjoy my days more and more. I try not to stress out over what doesn't matter. My energy is focused on positive growth, enjoyment, and love.

I was overwhelmed with well-wishes yesterday, and one that particularly caught my attention wished that I would have much to celebrate in the year ahead. I purposely want to use this as my mantra going forward. To find little things to celebrate in each day. Whether it's accomplishing a goal, going to bed before 11, or cooking a really great dinner. Life is meant to be celebrated, and in the year ahead, that's what I intend to do!