The Best Thing I Did Before I Had My Baby

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By far the best thing I did was prepare and freeze a ton of dinners. This is not new advice. But I took it with gusto and I am pretty proud - eight weeks after Sophie’s birth, we have one more frozen bag left.

Not only did this food sustain us when I couldn’t even remember how to use a can opener, it helped me prepare for her arrival. It helped to (finally) slow down, and savor that last bit of time “alone.” It allowed me to listen to podcasts like The Daily and Taste.

I made: chicken soup with orzo, butternut squash soup with apples, pasta e fagioli soup, pulled BBQ chicken, slow-cooker brisket, and turkey chili. The only thing I wouldn’t make again is the brisket, but it was still good. I was going to make three more recipes, but our darling Sophie arrived one month early. Side note: I liked the Dinner: A Love Story blog before I had a baby, and now I have developed a deep obsession with it. I want to hug Jenny’s first cookbook and read it every night. So many of her words speak to how I feel as a new mother, and how I want my family to be.

This would make the best gift for any new mom - make and freeze something delicious, write the date in Sharpie, and bring it straight to her freezer.

While we’re on the subject of food, Sophie has enjoyed quite a few restaurant meals already. I took her to Ristorante Morini for a ladies’ lunch before we went to The Met; we took her to brunch at Loring Place (new favorite NYC spot) and for a festive outing at West Village favorite Rosemary’s; she’s been to Heights Cafe and Gallito’s Kitchen in our neighborhood. NYC, in general, is a great place to have a newborn. I’m able to get out and about without feeling stuck in our apartment. If only I didn’t have to lug that stroller up and down so many stairs.

Part of me wants to show her the world; part of me wants to never leave the bubble of our cozy little apartment. I will always treasure this time.

The Best Summer Shrimp Stir-Fry

Right away, you might be able to tell why this stir-fry is so good. You can lick the butter off the screen in this photo. There is nothing I appreciate more after traveling than being able to cook at home, especially with New York's amazing grocery stores. I go in for one thing, I come out with 17 things. Fresh corn on the cob, summer zucchini, cherry tomatoes, juicy shrimp, and a healthy sprinkling of parsley. Summer on a plate.

The Pioneer Woman: Summer Stir-Fry

The Best Homemade Caramel Popcorn

I am completely obsessed with the Essential New York Times Cookbook. Edited by the talented and funny Amanda Hesser, the book has over 1,000 recipes that Hesser found, tested, and updated from 150 years of Times archives. It's tempting to want to cook my way through it (a daunting task) but every single thing I've tried has been delicious. Usually I try to include a lot of vegetables with dinner but on a recent night when my boyfriend was really sick, I decided smoothies and homemade caramel popcorn was in order. So I made vegan chocolate cake batter smoothies (healthier than it sounds-includes oats, cashew butter, almond milk, carob powder & chocolate chips), and "To Sugar or Crystallize Pop-Corn" (otherwise known as caramel corn) from the Times cookbook. The recipe was originally printed in 1878 (!!) and is an addicting mix of sweet and salty. You can't tell in the photo that the caramel is on the popcorn but it is - the perfect light, sweet coating.

I will never make microwave popcorn again. It is way too easy to use a little bit of corn oil, popcorn kernels and a large pot on the stove.

"To Sugar or Crystallize Pop-Corn" from the Essential New York Times Cookbook

Corn Oil
1/2 cup popcorn
1T unsalted butter
3T water
3/4 cup sugar
Salt (optional - I think you definitely need it)

1. Cover the bottom of a large heavy pot with corn oil. Add the popcorn, stir to coat, cover, and place over medium-high heat. Cook, shaking frequently, until all the popcorn has popped. Remove from the heat and keep covered.

2. Combine the butter, water, and sugar in another large pot, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissoves and the mixture begins to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour in the popcorn, and stir quickly to coat the kernels with the caramel--some will stick to the pot. Season with salt if desired, and scrape into a serving bowl.

Makes 4 quarts

The Perfect Travel Salad

When I made this for the first time, I had to step away so as not to greedily shovel steaming hot forkfuls in my mouth. Then, a revelation. It's even better cold. I can take it on a plane and avoid tasteless airport sandwiches or salads with tired wilted iceberg lettuce and goopy dressing! I made some yesterday for my flight to L.A. this week. You can put it on a bed of spinach or eat it straight up.

All hail Nigella Lawson for her awesome app and this recipe that I tweaked a bit to my liking. 

Quinoa, Cranberry and Pecan Pilaf...or The Perfect Travel Salad

Serves 4 or 2 as a main dish (I always double the recipe now because it disappears quickly)

1t olive oil

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1t ground ginger

1t garlic powder

2 cups cold water

1t sea salt flakes (Have you tried Maldon yet? After a year of having these perfect flakes in my kitchen, I will never be without. They're even available in my local gourmet shops now!)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup pecan pieces

2T fresh cilantro, chopped (I always throw as much cilantro as possible in)

1. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid. 2. Add quinoa and stir in hot pan for 30 seconds, then stir in ground ginger & garlic powder, followed by water and salt. 3. Bring to a boil, then cover. Turn the heat down low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. 4. The water will have been absorbed but turn heat off and let sit for 5 minutes. 5. Fluff with fork, and add cranberries, pecans, and chopped cilantro.

Pack in Tupperware that you don't care about dumping in a trash bin at the airport or on a plane. Be the envy of your seatmates. Enjoy!

A few more things I do to try and stay healthy on the road here.