Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hope your Thanksgiving was happy!

So what was your favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table this year? As crazy as it sounds, I think mine was peas sauteed in butter with mint--I'd never had it before, and amid the well-executed Thanksgiving standards something a little different really stood out.

But this mushroom-lentil pate wasn't half bad either. Here's how to show the vegetarians at your next holiday gathering that you love them, too:

Mushroom-Lentil Pate
Adapted from The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon*

This really needs to be made a day ahead of time--when it's first made it's rather bland, but after a night in the refrigerator the flavors really get going.

*Also, yes, that really is her name. I'm going to level with you, it's totally a hippie cookbook. But there are three or four recipes in there that we just keep coming back to again and again. Give pate a chance, man!

2/3 C. brown lentils

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 lb. mushrooms (I used 1/2 lb. white and 1/2 lb. crimini)
3 cloves garlic

1/4 C. tahini
1/4 C. nutritional yeast
2 to 3 Tbsp cognac or brandy
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper

Cook the lentils in water to cover until they are very tender. When they are done, drain them if they are very wet. This step can be done ahead of time.

Heat the butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the carrot and onion and saute until the vegetables are softened. Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms and chop them roughly. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes more. Peel the garlic and put it through a garlic press into the pan. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are very tender and their water has evaporated. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Combine the lentils, mushroom mixture, and remaining ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth and pate-like. Don't be afraid to use a generous hand with the salt--I added between 1/2 and 1 tsp.

Refrigerate overnight so that the flavors can blend. Serve at room temperature, on crackers or crostini.

Makes about 3 cups.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gezellig? Ge-what-the?

What am I doing here?

"Gezellig" is a Dutch word that's said to be virtually untranslatable. It signifies a certain brand of cozy--a quality that depends not just on the physical environment (though that's important; think candlelight, simple good food, modest furniture with a patina of history) but also on the comfort of warm, accepting company.

I first encountered the word "gezellig" in this Slate travel piece, and Seth Stevenson's description of the way the Dutch "carve out cozy, delightful moments anywhere they can find them" is still the best explanation of the concept I've seen.

But if you want more, here's the Wikipedia entry about gezelligheid ("gezellig-ness") and there's also this explanation from an Amsterdam travel guide. It's related to the Danish concept of hygge, or mysig in Swedish, as well as gemutlichkeit in German. Coziness seems to be important in a lot of northern European countries with long, cold, dark winters.

But it's not just a winter thing. Four years ago last August, my husband and I spent a week wandering the canal district of Amsterdam, and that was enough to make me crave gezelligheid like nobody's business. And that's what I'm doing here--trying to figure out what's gezellig and how to get me more of it.

So, for example, my mother's gingerbread cake in a newly-thrifted Delftware bowl is gezellig.

On the other hand, our house's entryway, which is basically a tight squeeze between a cabinet and a shoe rack, plus a corner of the kitchen counter piled with crap? Not so gezellig.

But I'll be working on it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Last week I was away for five nights on a trip for work. It was by far the longest time I'd been away from my daughter and only the second time I'd spent the night away from her (the first was this past August, when her father and I went away for one night for our anniversary).

(The picture is from the lobby of my hotel, a former bank. I loved the way they preserved the old, ornate decor, down to the wrought-iron "TELLER" signs at the front desk.)

They say that business trips are a working mother's chance to grab a little slice of heaven, but I don't know. Personally, I think room service pretty quickly palls.

The work that I was doing while I was away involves learning and writing about disorders, sometimes genetic, that profoundly affect children's emotional and intellectual development.

I think about how fiercely the parents of children with those conditions must love their kids. And I think that sometimes, the fact that my daughter is here and--so far, knock on wood--whole is  almost too much to bear.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy accidents

My afternoon coffee (a complete fluke, I have absolutely no skills in the latte art realm), and the "inside shoes" my girl left behind in exactly that spot when we left the house this morning.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I know it's a little early, but I couldn't help it

Indoor bulbs planted means that the holiday season has officially begun at our house.


And once again this year, I underestimated the size of hyacinth bulbs. (There's an obscure foible for you.) So I put one of them in this little bowl I grabbed from the cupboard.

Sometimes the makeshift things make me the happiest.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Halloween Coda

I had no idea I liked Halloween so much!

At three, my daughter is just old enough to get into the holiday, and the sheer joy produced by a cat-ear headband, drawn-on whiskers, and a fun size pack of M&Ms, well...I'll take it.

Here are some activities and tutorials from around the Web that I didn't get to this year. There's always next time, right?

Harvest House printables (Victoria Magazine)

How To Cross-Stitch on a Pumpkin (Elsie Marley) I'm thinking a spider would be kind of awesome...

Halloween paper dolls: Boy and Girl (babalisme)

Pumpkin diorama (Sweet Paul via Ohdeedoh) I'm picturing a masked owl hooting "Nevermore..."

P.S.: The lines in the background of these pictures? My daughter's first piece of embroidery!