Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

Welcome to my world!

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The Pantry

Thursday
Nov062014

Rainy Day Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is doused in olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted to perfection and blended with vegetable broth for a decadent yet healthy and simple soup!

 

I have been having a love affair with soup lately.

It's gotten chilly here in NYC and my office especially knows how to keep the cold air in. We have a loft-style office with high ceilings, concrete floors and a few tiny radiators along 10 foot windows {I love our office space so much} and well, most days it can end up feeling even colder inside our office than outdoors. I kind of secretly love it. I love wearing big sweaters with skinny pants and boots to work. I love wrapping myself up in a knit Nordstrom shawl if I have a chill. And I really love sipping on a piping hot cup of tea to warm up my hands and my soul.

 

And most of all? I love having a rich bowl of soup for lunch. I totally slacked on any sort of food prep this week, and so for the first time since I can remember, I ended up buying lunch this entire week {--->wallet = unhappy}. Each day I've walked up to Hale & Hearty for some of their amazing soup. They have the most intriguing concoctions, taste like they are freshly poured and they provide calorie counts for each soup. 

I just love soup so much. I find it so filling and comforting and would happily eat it for most days through the cold months.

This is not a sustainable addiction. It's a pretty $7+ a pop {we are talking meal soups here} and I tend to overindulge in the soups that are probably not the healthiest choices. My solution is to begin making my own soup, and I'm starting with this incredibly easy roasted butternut squash version.

 

I made this soup a few weeks ago and can't wait to make it again. I really took the easy way out with this one by using basic ingredients that I could just throw together and wasn't sure how it would all turn out. Luckily, it was truly delicious and will now be a staple in my soup repetoire! It's so easy, reheats like a charm, and is special enough for a holiday table. I hope you enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled & cubed*

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt (or more to taste)

1/4 tsp ground pepper (or more to taste)

4 C vegetable broth

1/2 C fat-free milk

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay out cubed butternut squash on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until squash is tender and soft.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable broth and cooked squash to a boil. Remove from heat and blend thoroughly with an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender in batches to blend, then put back into the saucepan). Stir in the milk and nutmeg. Adjust seasonings to taste. 

The soup will keep for 3-5 days in a tight storage container in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen and reheated.

*I purchased a pre-cut and peeled squash at my local grocery store. More expensive, but Mama just doesn't have the time to peel and chop that thing.

So there you have it, one beautiful bowl of soup!

Are you a soup person? What is your favorite?

 

 

Wednesday
Nov052014

Life Lately

It's Wednesday and I thought a little random catching up is in order! Here's what's been happening as of late! Thank you to everyone who commented on yesterday's post. I think we already have a pretty awesome and supportive group of people right here, and I'm so happy that you took the time to join in the conversation!

Let's get to it!

On Halloween, Penelope got to wear her costume to school and they had a party. It was midday so it just wasn't possible for me to attend. I was pretty bummed and it certainly contributed to my love/hate relationship with being a working mom. But! We took her trick or treating at night which was a lot of fun. While we were out, we left this guy outside our door for fellow trick or treaters. Penelope made it through 3 floors and then started having a meltdown so we headed home to dole out candy instead.

 

I think she had just as much fun doing that!

 

Saturday was our big building Halloween party and Shaun and I dressed as tourists.

It was a simple DIY costume that was actually a big hit!

 


On Friday, we had a pot luck lunch at work. I work for a small company that is kind of like a big crazy family so it was really fun for everyone to participate and bring in their signature dishes and then have a huge lunch together. I brought pizza dip and a super simple apple crisp that was gluten, dairy and nut free (we have a lot of dietary restrictions in our office) and it was surprisingly awesome.


I also did a little traveling over the last couple of weeks. This is me enjoying a full length mirror (I don't have one at home. I know, it's ridiculous).




Last week was my sister Christine's birthday! We celebrated on Monday night with dinner at Zona Rosa in Brooklyn and cake afterwards (obviously). My parents got her a slow cooker and so my gifts consisted of a slow cooker cookbook as well as the Skinnytaste cookbook! I want to get a copy for myself as well.

 

I already told you about the awesome dinosaur birthday party that we went to, but I did not mention that Shaun was chosen to participate in the T Rex demonstration and had his head 'eaten' by a T Rex!




Oh and on Sunday, we had music class and the kids dressed up yet again in their costumes. It was pretty adorable.

Then we headed off to my cousin Charlie's baptism. In my total distraction of chasing Penelope, I have no pictures of the newly christened little nugget, but she was so adorable and it almost {but not quite} made me want a little baby again.

This weekend we have our annual Sweatsgiving dinner with friends. It's crazy to be running right into thanksgiving celebrations since Halloween just ended but it is what it is! This is the one party that we host every year for a small group of friends. We rented our party room and I'm excited to get cooking over the next few nights!

And lastly...I think I'm getting sick, but trying oh-so-hard to fend it off! I went to bed with the hint of a nasal drip and woke up dripping, stuffy and with giant, yucky, puffy eyes.

Oh! One more thing...Dunkin' Donuts has $1.99 medium lattes through November! Woot!


Tuesday
Nov042014

Mom Judgement

Saturday was a pretty miserable day in NJ. It was cold, very rainy, and just not a nice day. We had a birthday party to attend at Field Station Dinosaurs in Secaucus. Despite the weather, the party was to go on and for the little boy whose birthday we were celebrating, well, I didn't blame him for wanting to have his dinosaur birthday! 

We bundled up and took Penelope and had a really great time. The park was truly awesome. Life-sized dinosaurs made it feel like walking through Jurassic Park. I was concerned that P might be a little scared, but she was enthralled with the dinosaurs --->whose child is she? I was so happy that the party continued on as planned because we had a blast. 

This wasn't the first kids birthday party that we've been to with Penelope, but it is one of the first that she wasn't the youngest child there and could semi-participate in the activities. Shaun and I were pretty excited about that. As Penelope grows, she can do more and everything becomes more fun day by day. Going to parties and other events is certainly something that I look forward to with her.

Though most of the party was outdoors, they had an enclosed tent set up for lunch, birthday cake and general hang out space to get out of the rain. When we arrived inside the tent, the first thing Penelope did was to remove her heavy coat that I had put on her. It was chilly out, but if she didn't want her coat on, then I wasn't going to force her. She downed a hot dog, snacks and her water and wanted to eat uninhibited by her coat.

Another mother {who I've exchanged pleasantries with, but that's about it} came by, gave a sideways glance, and said to me, Isn't she cold? and then walked away. 

My first thought was...well, no, clearly she is not cold if she initiated her own coat removal. My second thought was Hmmm. Maybe she is cold? Maybe I shouldn't be letting her walk around without a coat on. 

Followed by: What kind of mother am I??!!!

I looked around and all the other kids had their coats on. So I immediately put P's coat back on her, despite her protests.

And finally, once P was stuffed back into her winter coat and whining about it, my third thought was, Who does this mom think she is?

I immediately felt judged. I felt defensive. Three little words that I assume {I hope} were not intended maliciously or to demean me as a mother. But I couldn't help but feel that I was judged, looked down on, and proceeded to make myself feel terribly about not having a coat on my 21 month old daughter. {these are also problems of an over-thinker and may not be a normal reaction to one simple comment}.

The next part of the party included birthday cake! I knew Penelope would love herself a piece of cake, because who wouldn't? There were actually cupcakes and cake and when she was offered a cupcake, you know I snapped one up for her. And look at this face with her cupcake:

 

Shaun and I proceeded to ooooh and aaaaah at how adorable our child was with her little cupcake. She was so excited to dig into the frosting. I've never seen such joy in a child as Penelope was over this cupcake. As I'm snapping photos and even a video to document her dainty eating of said cupcake, the same coat mother walks passed, looks at Penelope, turns to me and says...You let her have sugar?

It was here that I just about lost it {internally of course}. I responded and said, Well yes, clearly we let her have sugar. Do you not let your child have sugar?

She said, No, we don't let him have sugar. And walked away.

 

Look. I get it. We live in a world where social media and society tell Moms that they are supposed to breastfeed until their kids are in preschool, that if you don't make your own baby food from freshly squeezed organic peas your child will grow up to be a deranged psychopath, that Moms are supposed to be ambitious and work long hours and be bread winners {lean in!}, but also be stay-at-home Moms so that our kids grow up with manners {otherwise they don't stand a chance!}, spend hours and hours DIY'ing Pinterest birthday parties and if you aren't feeding your children only organic food, diapering them in organic diapers {or even better - cloth diapering!}, and bathing them in organic soap, well your kid might as well throw in the towel right now because what kind of person will they grow up to be?

It's ridiculous, isn't it? And believe me, I do participate in some of the above. I buy organic where I can. I considered cloth diapering, I try to lean in (!).

There is pressure everywhere to be a certain kind of mother. I don't know about you, but I'm just trying to do the best I can and hold onto my sanity. My daughter seems happy and healthy. She is certainly loved and cared for in the best way I know how {--->with every fiber of my soul}. Is that enough? As I'm sure many other Moms do, I am always second-guessing myself on the choices I make for Penelope and struggling to have the confidence that I'm doing what's best for our family and for her. Should I be judged for the outcome of those choices?

And so I can't help but wonder what compels Moms to judge other Moms? Why do we think this is ok? Aren't we all struggling to do our best? Are we really all perfect all of the time? I hope you guys aren't, because I'm certainly not. 

{my sugar eating, non-coat wearing penelopesaurus}

 

I'll admit, after the sugar comment, I spent immediate time following judging her right back, and continued to judge myself.

What kind of Mom doesn't let her kid have a cupcake at a birthday party? Does she think her child will grow up to be normal? WHO does she think she IS?!

But...Maybe I shouldn't be letting my child have a cupcake at a birthday party? Then wouldn't that make me such a mean and crazy Mom? But what if she ends up sugar-addicted and refuses to eat any other foods if I let her have cupcakes?! Why can't we all just BE?

At the end of the day, we are talking about coat-wearing and cupcake-eating. Is that really so life-changing? Do we really need that kind of judgement from fellow moms or from ourselves? I've spent the last few days mulling over the exchange with this other mother. Her child is just a couple of months younger than Penelope. She stays home with him and I work. We clearly have different ideologies on raising kids. And isn't that OK? I'm all for healthy discourse in life. If everyone agreed on everything all of the time, there would be no progress in the world, right? Isn't friendly discourse better than sideways glances and judgement? 

The optimist in me continues to think that this mother meant no harm and this isn't a post to tear her down personally. I'm sure we will continue to see each other and I hope it is a nice, friendly relationship. She probably has no idea that I'm still reeling from her comments days later. But maybe she needs to know. Maybe all Moms, caregivers and family members need to know that judgement is not productive. You have no idea how it will affect people. And perhaps instead of judgement, we should work toward acceptance and open-mindedness. 

So I really want to know...Have you ever felt the wrath of Mom Judgement? How did you handle it? 

 

Psst...I hope you'll join in the conversation because I think it's an important conversation to be had. Please note that with that in mind, this is a judgement-free zone, so please come with healthy discourse, but no judgement of me or other commenters. Thank you!