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pea soup

It has been the longest and coldest winter ever! Aside from a warm blanket, a good furnace that spews hot air (70 degrees to be exact), and tea… a bowl of soup is always a good remedy for a cold day. So… I have been making a lot of soup lately. One of my favorite finds has been a pea soup from the blog called My New Roots.

Julia decided to be a vegetarian, so I have been trying to find protein alternatives to include in her diet. From my research I found that peas are one of the highest protein vegetables out there. Who knew! And luckily, peas are one of Julia’s favorite vegetables. When I found the pea soup recipe, I was excited and hoped that it was going to be a keeper.

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The soup is not only good, and Julia loves it, but it is also one of the easiest soups to make. It only requires a few ingredients… peas, parsley, lemon zest, chicken stock, onion, garlic, and olive oil. To make the soup, you simply sauté the onion and garlic with some salt and pepper until soft. You then add the peas and ~4 cups of your best chicken broth. You boil it until the peas are a bit cooked (I cook it much longer than what the recipe requires since uncooked peas can cause stomach aches… for me at least). Once the peas are cooked, you add the parsley and the lemon zest and cook it for a little more until the parsley wilts a bit. To finish it off, you blend it using a hand blender or a regular blender and drizzle a bit of olive oil. That’s it!

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I have modified the recipe a little bit every time I have made it. The first time I made it, I did not have lemon so I used lime zest instead. I have tried both and I actually like the flavor of the lime zest more than the lemon zest, so I have been using lime zest ever since. I experimented with the soup thickness, since I like it on the thick side. I found that using 2 bags of frozen peas (I use the Wegmans Organic Peas… they are super sweet!) and about 3 1/2 cups of broth is best. If you like the soup on the thinner side, use more broth or less peas. Also, if the soup is too thick, you can always add more broth when blending, as the recipe instructs. The recipe also requires a fair amount of parsley. I have never used the full amount. I thought that it was way too much for my taste, but if you love parsley, go for it. Also, this past time I made it, I decided to add some spinach to it. It worked really well so I will definitely include it from now on.

Yesterday the temperature was in the 40s and today it is going to be in the 50s. I really hope that this is the beginning of the warmer weather. Although, I think that this soups is also good cold, especially since I just realized that the recipe’s name is “Chilled Parsley and Pea Soup“… HA! And I also have a recipe for this amazing watermelon and tomato gazpacho. Who says that soups are not good in the summer too.

snow, snow, snow

Winter is finally back! A while ago we got some snow and it was great! I was able to get out and enjoy the snow. But then we had a warm spell and all of the snow melted away. Such a waste! Then it became super frigid for a few weeks. Who wants to go outside and do anything in 2 degree (or colder) weather?? Finally, the temperature has improved and we even got some snow. What do you do when the perfect conditions arise?? You go outside and play!

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My favorite winter activities are cross country skiing and snowshoeing. I have not skied as much as I would have liked to so far, but I have gone snowshoeing a bunch. My favorite spot to go is Powder Mills Park. It is not because the park is close to my house, although that is a plus… it is because the park has super trails!

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You can always find fresh powder or spots where the snow is untouched by anyone. In fact, every time I go, I am the only person on the trail. The terrain is great! There are some flat sections, some hilly sections, and some rolling sections. To make it even more challenging and fun, I bushwhack through the forest and just explore. The best outing is to follow deer tracks… no need for trail markers.

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Irondequoit Creek

I usually snowshoe on the trails near the downhill ski area, starting on the Powderhorn Trail. The trail is fun since it takes you along Irondequoit Creek and near the YMCA Camp Arrowhead. It is super pretty!

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But since I always go on that trail, this past Monday I decided to explore a different route (across the street from the Powderhorn Trail). I climbed up a steep section and ended up on top of the ridge. I was super surprised about the terrain. The possibilities were endless… I could have been there all day! There is no trail per se… if you look at the park’s trail map, it marks the section as “unmarked trails”. I cannot really tell you where I was, but it was definitely a super fun section.

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My “trail”

What I love about snowshoeing is that you can make it as easy or as challenging as you like. You can simply walk, you can hike on a steeper section of a particular trail, or you can run. That’s right… I said run. Talk about a workout!

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Winters can be a drag, but a beautiful, sunny, snowy day makes winters fun!

roasting galore

It has been a while since I have written. I have been cooking a bunch, but I just have not had the time to write about it. Julia still has only 2 teeth so I still have to be conscious of it when cooking. Hence the roasting galore!

I have been on a roasting kick lately. I have roasted all sorts of veggies, mostly the ones that are in season… eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, sweet potatoes. Recently I have added squashes to the mix, mainly spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash.

Julia loves roasted veggies. The first time I fed her roasted eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash, she just inhaled it. I was amazed! Her reaction has remained the same ever since. I have been adding it in pastas, couscous, quinoa, and my absolute favorite… gnocchi. It is now one of Julia’s favorite dishes too… of course! :)

Gnocchi with pesto, roasted veggies, and prosciutto.

Gnocchi with pesto, roasted veggies, and prosciutto.

My sister-in-law, Jeni, pinned a recipe on Pinterest that I was very excited about. It was for a Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans. Yum… right?? How can you go wrong with roasting butternut squash along with some curry and maple syrup. Heaven!! I have made it several times already.

The recipe is super simple… you simply add the butternut squash, cranberries, onion, and garlic to a roasting pan and then drizzle some olive oil and maple syrup and then sprinkle some salt, ginger, and curry on top. You then mix it a bit to coat the squash with all the goodness that you just added and then roast it for about 20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

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The first time I made it, I did not have fresh cranberries or onions in the house, so I used shallots, which I love roasting, and I added some currants once the dish was assembled. It was really nice.

My friend Kristin and I were talking about the dish and she reminded me about a similar recipe that she made, where she added dried cherries. I immediately thought about using fresh cherries. Wegmans sells frozen cherries, which I love, so I decided to give it a try. The combination of the roasted squash and roasted cherries is amazing! I will not go back to using any other dried or fresh fruit. I highly recommend it! The best part about this dish is that you can just eat the squash by itself or add it to a bed of greens, or to some quinoa, or to any other grain or pasta. It’s definitely a keeper!

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And Julia loves it too, which is even better! Last time I fed it to her, she asked for seconds three times. I love her! :)

I have been going to the market every Saturday morning. I love taking Julia with me and scoping out veggies and fruits together. Although, I think that I have more fun than she does. :) She does like to pick out the fruits… raspberries and blueberries to be exact. They are her favorites.

As you may already know, it is eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash season. Since I love to buy things that are in season, I have been buying them every week. I love roasting them with some shallots, olive oil, and whatever herb or other veggie that I have in the fridge. Julia loves them also. The first time I made them, she inhaled them. She does not seem to mind eating them regularly either. I have been serving them over salad, in pasta, or just as a side dish.

I have kind of gotten bored of just eating them as is, so I decided to seek a new dish. My sister mentioned this dish that included eggplant and mango… the recipe is called “Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango” and can be found in the cookbook called Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. My sister also informed me that Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks included a rendition of the recipe in her blog. After reading the recipe, I was sold. It sounded really delicious and thought that Julia could probably eat it as well, the veggies at least. I read both versions of the recipe and I decided to follow Heidi Swanson’s version… I really do not have any specific reason of why I did that. They are very similar, so I am sure that either version would yield super results.

The recipe was indeed delicious! And Julia loved it too! She loved the veggies, of course. She also liked the noodles. She did not eat too many noodles, but she liked them. I was unsure if she would really eat it after reading the recipe more closely since it required garlic and crushed red pepper. It was definitely a little spicy. But she did not seem to mind it. I am so proud of her!! She never ceases to amaze me… she loves everything that I cook for her. I am so lucky!

I do want to mention that I did make a few adjustments to the recipe. I decided that instead of pan frying the eggplant, I would just roast it, since it is easier, for me at least. I also added some zucchini and yellow squash, which I also roasted along with the eggplant. I did not use tofu or red onion. Since I roasted the veggies with some shallots, I decided that it was enough onion. Plus I really dislike raw onion. The mango that I used was super ripe, which I think that added some liquid to the dish. I kind of liked it that way. The recipe requires removing as much liquid as possible when draining the noodles. I did not mind it a little liquidy… I do not like dry pasta. I also only used 1 garlic clove, since I do not like a lot of garlic and thought that Julia might not like it either. One thing that I did not like about the dish is the difficulty of incorporating all of the ingredients. I found it hard to mix everything together. I find it to be the same with any stringy noodle though, so I should not have been too surprised. Ha!

The recipe is definitely a keeper! I apologize for the lack of a photo. You can just check it out in the cookbook or on 101cookbooks… both photos are beautiful. Plus my photo would probably not have given it justice anyway. :)

I have been riding my bike a bunch lately. I have mostly been riding by myself from the house towards Mendon Ponds Park and back. Since the weather was going to be nice today, I asked my mom and dad if they can watch Julia for us so Joel and I can ride together. They agreed… so riding we did!

We decided to ride the Powder Puff. It is one of my favorite Rochester Bicycling Club rides. It contains plenty of climbing (Railroad Mills, Blazey, Bluhm, Thayer, and Steele), lots of fun descents (Garnsey, Fishers, Lane, Steele, and Vineyard Hill), and a bunch of super fast flat sections (Modock, Cork, Gillis, and Blazey). In fact, I reached about 39 mph on one of the descents and 32 mph during one of the flat sections. So fun!! The climbs on the other hand… I have nothing to boast about there… oh those hills! They still do not like me and I still do not like them. Ha! Also, the ride is only 22 miles so it’s a good somewhat short workout.

I love riding with Joel since he helps me push myself. I especially love riding with him on the flat sections. He usually takes off and I try to draft him so I can stick with him. It’s so fun! Riding with him definitely makes me work harder, which in turn helps me get stronger. I am lucky to have him as a riding partner. I look forward to riding with him again.

I recently started feeding Julia cheese, yogurt, and regular table food. At her 9 month appointment, her pediatrician advised us that we can start doing that. I was taken back a little since for the past 3 months I have only given her simple purées. “She has never had garlic, or onions, or any spices at all. Is it ok to feed her all those things now?”, I commented. “Go for it!”, she said. So I went for it.

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Dinner on the deck!

Her first real food was couscous. I love making it since it is so simple and can be served as a side dish or a main dish. I do not follow a particular recipe… I just make it up depending on the ingredients that I crave. This time I added some olive oil, lime juice, olives, spinach, roasted tomatoes, salt, black pepper, goat feta cheese, and alleppo pepper (I love this pepper! If you have a Penzeys near you, grab some and sprinkle it on anything that you desire. It’s delicious!). I was not sure what Julia was going to make of the dish. She just loved it!!

The next dish that I made was a potato salad. This is another simple side dish that I love to make and it is a little more interesting than your typical potato salad. I found the recipe in the Lucid Food cookbook. It includes potatoes, pesto, olives, and hard boiled eggs. I did not make my own pesto this time. Also, since Julia cannot have eggs, I did not include them in the entire dish. I also added some avocado on top for all of us. Julia loved it since I gave her pieces of potatoes and avocados to feed herself (she loves feeding herself!). Another success!

Next up was a pasta with a chicken broth and shallot based sauce, kale, peas, and goat cheese. Since the pasta was not too soft, I did not think that Julia would be able to eat it, so I chopped it a bit with the rest of the ingredients. She loved this too! I was so excited that she liked the kale! Good thing, since she will be eating plenty of that in her lifetime! :)

The next dish was a little different. I was not sure if I wanted to feed Julia meat just yet. Since I do not eat meat or hardly ever cook it, I could not bare the thought of boiling chicken for her. And there was no way that I was going to get her the chicken dishes in the jar. That sounded even more appalling. Also, I cannot roast a chicken for the life of me. So what to do? Then a few weeks ago I found a recipe that sounded somewhat promising. I decided to give it a try. (I know!! Can you believe it!?!?) The dish includes chicken thighs, a few shallots, a pint of cherry tomatoes, 1/2 a cup or so of olives, fresh thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh mint, and feta. You roast the chicken with all the ingredients, minus the mint and feta. Once the chicken is done roasting, you add the mint and feta. The dish was delicious!! Since we loved it so much and it was easy to make, I decided to make it again and give some to Julia. She loved it too!

I must say that since I started feeding Julia regular food, my thoughts about dinner have changed a bit. I feel like I now have to think even harder about what dishes to make, since she cannot eat everything that we eat. For example, I tend to use nuts a lot in my cooking… specifically for pesto. But at the same time, I am super excited that she can now eat more of the things that we eat. It will definitely make it easier to not have to make multiple dinners for us. I also feel super lucky that she is such a good eater. Still to this day, she has only disliked bananas, pears, and cauliflower. If that is the extent of it, I have nothing to complain about, no?

Sometimes when I find a new place that I fall in love with, I do not want to share the news in fear that it will become super popular and will be difficult to go there. This was the case with The Village Bakery in Pittsford. I have been thinking about dedicating a post to it for a while now, but I could not do it. But it is so good, that I had to share. Plus it has become popular, so I already lost that battle.

As I was driving home through the village last fall, I noticed some construction behind the Starbucks. I kept an eye on it and one day the sign went up… it said “Bakery”. I got excited. I could not wait to check it out. As soon as I walked in, I knew that I was going to spend a lot of time in there. It reminded me of Le Pain Quotidien in DC. The communal table, the fresh breads, the sandwiches, and the pastries… perfect! So the Saturday following my first drop in visit, Joel and I went there for breakfast. I remember ordering the breakfast sandwich that included a poached egg, arugula, pesto, and goat cheese. It was delicious!

We continued to go there for breakfast several more times. Then one day we went there for lunch and I ordered the tuna melt minus the cheese. Oh my! It was the best tuna sandwich that I have ever eaten. I am not kidding! We practically go there almost every weekend and that is what I order each time. I just cannot get myself to order anything else. The bread is perfectly toasted but still super soft and fresh and the tuna salad is just so tasty. I am not sure what they put in it, aside from the obvious ingredients such as tuna and dill. But it’s just amazing!

Ok, maybe I have ordered other sandwiches here and there. The B.A.L.T and the Turkey sandwiches are very good. Joel has ordered the Croque Madame several times and that is pretty good too. The only sandwich that I did not really care for was the Chicken Salad. I really wanted to like it, but I found it too dry. It needed a tomato or something. The actual salad is pretty tasty but as a whole, it is just ok. Same goes for the Egg Salad… it was good. It was tasty and not drenched in mayo, which is a plus in my book. If you like egg salad, I would definitely give it a try.

Each time we go there for lunch, I also have to order 2 cake bites. These are the most delicious and moist cake bites ever! What a brilliant idea… make a cake and roll it in a bite sized ball. My favorite is the vanilla followed by the chocolate peanut butter. The perfect ending to a perfect lunch!

The breads are really nice too. One of my favorites is the VB Table Bread. It’s a really nice everyday bread. It’s not super crusty and the inside is soft. My kind of a bread. I have also tried their brioche and it is good, but does not compare to the brioche at Le Pain Quotidien. That is still the best brioche that I have tasted since having it in France.

I am looking forward to the summer since they have a very nice patio that is decorated with beautiful potted flowers. I spent some time there last summer once Julia was born and I was on maternity leave. It was the perfect location to kill some time while Julia was napping in her stroller. In fact, she has practically grown up there. The place is great for her too. She loves it there. I guess it helps that we have taken her there since she was in my belly. :)

Julia at the Bakery

Julia in the big girl high chair at the Bakery.

Now please try not to go there too much or if you do and is crowded, please save us a seat.

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