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It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, Hurricane Sandy swept through the Northeast corridor, flooding New York City and leaving many of us powerless for days.  It was a surreal experience to hear in late October that yet another Hurricane was gathering strength and heading towards our city. Just the year before, we were hit by Irene, which caused minimal damage, but had thrown me into a panic. The night Irene landed, labor pains started, and I was forced to dial around town for a hospital that was still admitting patients. My hospital had closed earlier that day and hell or high water, no pun intended, this baby was coming.

Hectic birth stories aside, many of us New Yorkers anticipated Sandy with a healthy dose of cynicism because Irene had quickly turned from a roaring lion into a virtual kitty cat. “This is it?” I remember Anderson Cooper asking as he walked around downtown New York during the heart of the storm, the worst of the storm surge lapping gently over the barrier.

And so, like many NYC families, as we heard about Sandy’s approach, we did little to stock our apartment with adequate food and water supplies, flashlights, and size D batteries. The boy had cried wolf, and we wouldn’t be fooled again.

Lesson learned. Storms are unpredictable, and when they hit, they hit hard. I will never again be unprepared for an event like this. That is, if it ever happens.

Early before Sandy’s arrival, we tried to enjoy our last few moments outside, knowing that we’d likely be stuck indoors for a day, maybe two.

Once we were officially quarantined for the evening, we did what we do best: cracked open a bottle of wine and hung out with the kids as they played in the hallways.

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And of course we watched CNN.

I have a love/hate relationship with CNN. It’s the only channel worth watching in the face of impending doom. Who doesn’t love to watch the reporters as they brave Mother Nature, yardsticks in hand, ready to measure accumulated pools of rain, wave height, and beach recession. Feet firmly planted, winds lashing their faces, soaked from head to toe, they warn us to “STAY INSIDE”. It’s courageous and unnecessary all at the same time. Do we really need to watch our reporters get blown away by gale force winds? I think the answer is yes, because CNN specializes in news as entertainment, and on nights like this, the entertainment is thrilling.

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We even had a little bit of fun surfing the winds that came through our window.


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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about smart kitchen tips, including this little reference to saving your leftover bread and turning it into bread crumbs. A mere blog post won’t do justice to the genius of this technique, but I’m going to try.

The process is easy. Just take your old, leftover, stale bread – baguettes, bakery loaves, whatever you’d like, and give them a whirl in the food processor. I don’t even take my crusts off, as many directions for making bread crumbs suggest. Just rip your bread into chunks, and pulse them a few times until they resemble coarse crumbs….And there they can sit, bagged in a Ziploc, ready and waiting in your fridge until you’re ready to make them the star of your show.

You’re making the same kind of bread crumbs that you’d find in a box at your local grocery store, but a fresher, better-tasting version.

Not a fan of the bread crumbs from grocery stores to begin with?

Neither am I. On the odd occasion I’ll use Panko, but I won’t touch the other kind. You know the kind that I’m talking about – the ones that you’ll find on grocery store shelves stored in cylindrical cardboard containers –  plain or Italian. They’re usually sitting there next to the shelf-stable grated parmesan with the green lid. I’m being as complimentary as possible here, but those bread crumbs taste like oregano-infused sawdust left in open-air containers in someone’s garage.

Breadcrumb collage

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You think I would have learned my lesson with bitter melon, but here I went again this week, serving the kids a raw vegetable that arguably tastes better cooked. We spent the majority of Spring and Summer eating raw fruits and vegetables, so maybe I just got a little too comfortable . And lazy. But it has to end, because I can’t justify serving them raw Kabocha or parsnips. And the last thing that I want to do is turn them off a wide set of veggies because of user error.

Like this gorgrous Romanesco, which, truth be told, doesn’t have the most pleasant smell or taste when eaten raw. Cooked, another story. Stay tuned on Monday when I’ll show you how I’ve been prepping my Romesco this week. 

ME: Today, our mystery food is called……..Romanesco!

LAUREN: Ooooh.

ME: What does it look like?

SAM: It looks like a tree.

ME: It does!

LAUREN: It kind of looks like a little tree that has flowers. And it, like, feels kind of like broccoliish – like kind of smooth and hard. Because at the top it’s kind of smooth, but at the bottom it’s hard. And it really looks like plants are growing out the bottom.

ME: What a wonderful description, so many descriptions. Emma, what about you?

EMMA: It looks like a tree. It fell down in my bowl!

LAUREN: But why did she copy me?

ME: Because she probably liked your description so much and she wanted to copy you. OK, now it’s time to smell it.

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Halloween is just around the corner. That’s right parents, it’s the season for getting your little ones geared up with some cute, wild, and occasionally strange outfits. I have to say, that I’m a costume buyer myself. It’s shameful to admit it, but I’m never on top of my A game when it comes to making Halloween costumes ahead of time. So I usually take the easy way out by bringing my kids to one of the Halloween pop up shops that seem to sprout like weeds in our neighborhood at this time of year.

But for those who have the time or energy to make costumes from scratch, I’ve done some research for you. I’ve searched through Pinterest, and have found what I think are the best of the best in a number of important categories.

First up, the cute costumes. Best for babies and young toddlers – is there anything cuter than a little ones dressed up as snap peas in a pod, a bumble bee, or the quintessential Mary’s little lamb. And look at this little dude on the left – Yoda? So sweet.

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Next in line, we have the awesome costumes. Parents, please make sure that your child has at least one year dressed in one of these types of outfits. It takes confidence to pull off, but the payoff is significant, resulting in a higher than average candy pull.

The awesome_FeedMeDearly

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If there’s a cold weather dish that I spring for most, it has to be chili. Or stew. Or soup. Or some kind of braise with a big hunk of meat.

But let’s go with my first answer. Because chili is one of those dishes that has so many variations that you can make it every week and never get bored.

I used to be fanatical about following recipes for chili- the world of dried chiles and  spices can be overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with it (which I admit, I still am for the most part). My go-to fruit & vegetable market in in NYC, the Manhattan Fruit Exchange, stocks a big variety of chiles, from the wrinkled, smoky ancho chiles to the tiny chile de arbol. Although I’m pretty adventurous with most foods, I’ve always been a little fearful about picking chiles off the shelf – how can you know how spicy they’ll be? Are there any special preparations that are needed, such as soaking or dry toasting? So for years I cooked chili with guided instructions only.

Fortunately, there are a ton of recipe to choose from both online and off – I even have a cookbook that has nothing but chili recipes. It’s right there on my bookshelf next to the book that has nothing but smoked salmon recipes, and the two separate mac ‘n cheese cookbooks. Thankfully I’ve slowed down on  my cookbook purchases lately, leaving me with a little more money for other essentials like our gas bill, exotic fruits and light-up kids’ shoes.

But strangely, despite trying a huge range of dishes, I never found a chili recipe that I truly loved. And I’d end up doctoring and tweaking my dish until it resembled nothing like the dish I’d originally intended.

I’ll never forget the year that I entered a chili cook-off at a friend’s house. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and he suggested to a group of us that we bring over some beer and vats of chili and have a taste-off. 

And so I began to plan. Eager to impress my crew of judges, I searched through cookbooks and hunted around online until I found a recipe that was impressive enough to wow the guests, who would be tasting each dish blind.

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