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A tale, as excerpted from “The Buried Life”:

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’”

I am the professor.

The jar is my fridge.

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A kindly yogurt company delivered the golf balls last week in the form of probiotic yogurt drinks, yogurt squeezers, and 10,000 containers of yogurt.

The pebbles are now the milk, fruit, meat, and other items that called this (formerly spacious) receptacle home. They have been displaced.

Plastic boxes of cherry tomatoes, jewel-like jars of anchovies, preserved lemons, sandwich bread, all pushed, prodded, wedged, and jammed until virtually no negative space remains. The fridge light has gone dim, covered by sprawling leek greens.

There is no room for sand.

While I’m grateful to my friend the yogurt company for this bountiful gift of dairy, I can’t make enough smoothies to free up the kind of space that I need back. The kind of space that wouldn’t require that I shift five items in order to replace a package of ham. The kind of space that prevents bread from molding because “look!” there’s some bread on that middle shelf. The kind of space doesn’t make me curse.

When putting the smoothie machine into overdrive isn’t the answer, you turn to tried and true methods: the leftover meal. Now here’s a trustworthy guy. He’s accepting of all friends – no matter the color, shape or state of disrepair. The wilting mushroom; the forgotten bundle of asparagus; the piece of cheese who’s sweating it out, racing towards his expiration date.

Leftover dishes are aplenty – I’ve made soups, lasagnas, and you should all know by now that I’ll throw anything into a skillet with soy sauce and call it fried rice.

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With the exception of getting dumped on Valentine’s Day, I may win the title for V-Day disaster stories.

Actually, this was worse than a breakup.

I waivered about whether to tell this gruesome tale, but in the effort to make this a full-disclosure website, it would be wrong not to tell.

How could I lyricize my love for Valentine’s Day when the mere mention of the name sends shivers down my newly limber spine. (thank you yoga)

It all began innocently enough….my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were in town for a few days last February. It’s rare to get the teams together, so when we do, there’s always cause for celebration. The morning of February 14 was glorious with fresh, still-white snowfall from the previous evening.

My sister-in-law had booked us a table at a new local restaurant. I’m reserving the details around when and where. That quaint little restaurant doesn’t need to get dragged through the mud.

Our plan was to meet Kelly and Keith first for a drink at their hotel. They were staying at the Soho House, a swank hotel located smack dab in the middle of the Meatpacking district. It’s the kind of place where your outfit is never respectable enough for the front desk crew. Somehow these gatekeepers are always several feet taller than me, giving them the advantage of what I’ll call “nose-peering”, making me feel infinitely smaller than my size would suggest.

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Where I come back in spades is my ability to orchestrate an immediate cocktailing session. Nobody gets down to business faster than I do. Thus, nobody can out-drink me in the first hour of an evening. Perhaps I could go toe-to-toe with the fictionalized James Frey, but aside from him (it?), the competitive landscape is pretty slim.

Fortunately, my second secret weapon is that after an hour, I swiftly dial back the drinking and enter a self-imposed maintenance mode where chatting becomes the priority, and booze is all but forgotten.

I wish that I could say that it’s intentional; I’d make a fortune peddling self-help books and safe consumption podcasts. The world would be a better place, filled with happy drunks and fewer injuries.

But something went terribly wrong last Valentine’s Day and my body’s normal tailoring response was nowhere to be found. Perhaps it was partying with the front desk crew.

I fault the Soho House for messing with my usual program.

This hotel knows how to ramp up the excitement for an evening. What other hotel sends you a bartender, plucked from America’s Next Top Model central casting, with a drink cart, straight to your room?. So while we were sitting there on velvet couches, surrounded by opulence and exposed brick, our very own She-Nymph was mixing up custom Moscow Mules. Right before she opened a bottle of champagne. Because hey! It’s Valentine’s Day! We’re all celebrating!

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Fall is here! The temperature is dropping, the leather boots have made their way out of the closet and into the daily mix, and the oven has been cranked, replacing the grill as my cooking weapon of choice.

I picked up another great box of produce from our friends at Bialas Farms on Saturday….

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*Photo credit: Lauren, age 6

And yes, there was dill. Amongst other things, including…

  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Chile Peppers (opt)
  • Kirby Cukes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Bok Choy
  • Poblanos *
  • Sweet Corn
  • Radishes
  • Baby Potatoes
  • Eggplant

Like most weekends after I receive my box, I immediately made a tomato salad. Which meant slicing up some heirlooms & fresh dill, and dressing the salad with nothing but good olive oil, aged Sherry vinegar, Maldon salt and fresh black pepper. Also typical these days, I needed to clear the decks before I ate.

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Lego building has hit a high note recently, something to do with a brand new box of the little blocks as opposed to the bigger Duplos. My kids are mad for these things, I should write a post about it one day.

I’m telling you, they follow me everywhere…

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Forced back into the kitchen for some Lego-free solitude, I decided that my previous salad had been far too healthy and needed some assistance in the form of burrata cheese.

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I discovered a new treat last weekend as well. I’ve been wanting to try this stuff for a while, having been intrigued by the concept of making ice cream with nothing but frozen bananas. Lo and behold the trick actually works although it might have been my blender’s swan song. If you try this at home, make sure that your bananas are soft enough to blend (you can always firm up the ice cream in the freezer afterwards) or that you have a really good machine at your disposal (e.g. Vitamix, Blendtec). (For the record, a shiny new…ok, refurbished…red Blendtec is now on its way to my house, I’m beyond excited.)

I mixed in some of leftover elderberries from last week into the ice cream and topped it all with a mix of chia seeds and pistachios. Salty/sweet/creamy – there is no way that this should be legal breakfast food. But when you’re eating something this healthy, you can eat anything you want, am I right?

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To make the banana ice cream:

Slice 3 bananas and leave them in the freezer overnight. If you’re working with a great blender, you can blend right when you take them out of the freezer, but if you’re working with a lesser blender, make sure to thaw them for 10-20 minutes so that you don’t damage your machine. You can also add a splash of liquid- milk, almond milk, coconut milk, water etc to help things along. Add a cup of frozen elderberries (or other berries) to the blender and blend until the fruit becomes a thick and creamy “ice cream”. If not frozen enough, throw in the freezer for 10-30 minutes to achieve desired consistency. Top with whatever nuts or seeds you have on hand for some added texture – I used plain pistachios and chia seeds.

I have big news this week. It should really be the topic of its own separate post, but here’s a little snippet….I learned to preserve!

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Mondays are usually reserved for CSA posts, but out of town last week and with a failed attempt at arranging an alternative pick-up, I was left with no vegetable share.

Which was a blessing in disguise because, especially on weeks that involve travel, my share gives me cold sweats when I get back to a mound of vegetables only to pick up another mound a few days later. So I luxuriated in a week free of obligations, even ordered pepperoni pizza one night, and made the best of it. I was happily reunited with my Week #12 box on Saturday, so friends, you will be seeing a new CSA post in all of its glory up on the site next week.

Until then, let’s talk grains…

One of my first posts on the blog was about sad desk lunches and my efforts to end them. Sadly, I experienced my last desk lunch only weeks after I wrote the post, after deciding that an office environment was no longer for me. Or “happily” I should say, because it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t put a price on the family time I’ve gained, and the happiness I’ve found from building a career on my own terms.  That being said, splurging on prescription sunglasses owns a close second place on the best-decisions-list because, well…vision is important too.

One of the best meals to make for portability (aka the desk job) is a grain salad. I make these salads with increasing frequency as the weather starts to chill because they’re a perfect vessel for whatever vegetables that you have on hand – light and summery to use up the last remaining crops from August, or rich and hearty for all of the beautiful squash and root vegetables that are about to hit the markets.

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