As Featured on “Pretty Young Professional”

7 Tips to Relocation Bliss

Relocation.  Most of us have done it a couple of times already: whether it’s going off to college, studying abroad, or moving to the big city for your first job.

Still, it can be scary.  Regardless of how often we do it, moving never gets any easier. However, the more prepared you are, the less stressful it will seem.  Here are some starter tips for a smooth transition to a new city:

1. Finances

Moving isn’t just stressful—it’s expensive.  One of the most important things to do before you go is to get your finances in order.  Make sure you’ve budgeted for a deposit on a new apartment, a couple months of expenses, and an emergency stash as you wait for those first new paychecks to come in.

Also, make sure that you’ve updated your banks, health plan, credit cards, and cell phone provider with your new billing address.  It’s easy for these things to fall through the cracks, and the next thing you know, your phone’s been turned off!
2. Old Friends, New Friends

Ten years ago, saying good-bye to friends when moving was hard.  Now we have Facebook, text message, Skype, and cheap cross-country airfare.  So, as hard as it is to leave your best friend behind, know that they’re just a phone call or email away.

One way to ease the pain is to set up a scheduled call with a close friend.  In a new city, knowing that you can call home every Thursday afternoon at 5:00pm will be a comfort.
3. Packing it up

As obnoxious as packing can be, this is also a great time to go through your belongings to decide what you need and what’s weighing you down.  Donate extra clothes and furniture to friends, or even better, the Salvation Army.  Go through your papers and decide what you need to keep and what to trash.

When you’ve finished sorting through everything, box it up and label—in detail.  You don’t want to show up exhausted to your new place and not know which box your sheets are in!  If you don’t have a permanent place yet in your new city, put things in storage until you do—no need to move twice.

If you have signed a long-term lease on a new place, decide whether you are going to fly or drive and whether you need to hire movers.  For a cross-country move, movers may be necessary but if you’re moving to a city only a couple hours away, consider renting a U-Haul or borrowing a friend’s car.
4. Finding an apartment

This can be tricky, especially if you don’t know the city that well or it’s particularly far away.  But this is also going to be the one place you spend most of your time.

Call around—ask friends who know the area for recommendations and read up on up-and-coming neighborhoods. Most major cities have great local magazines that frequently feature areas of their cities, like New York magazine or LA Weekly.

This is a good time to think about what’s important to you:  Do you like to go out?  If so, aim for a neighborhood with a young demographic, with a lively bar and restaurant scene. Would you rather have a backyard or do you have a car that needs a garage, or at least space on the street?  Consider living in a quieter neighbor closer to the edge of the city, or right outside.

It’s best if you’re able to be in the city while looking for a place.  That way when you do find a great place, you’ll feel confident about your decision, knowing the city just a little bit better.  If you can, find somewhere temporary while you get your bearings.

If you need to find a permanent place right away, make sure you do it in person, or send a trusted friend in your stead.  There’s nothing worse than showing up at your new home and realizing it looked much better in the pictures.

For more tips on getting your bearings, tapping into existing networks and using hobbies to settle in, check out the full article on PYP.


An Homage to Gourmet

Well its been a few weeks, and I think I’m finally adjusting to the fact that Gourmet is gone.  But thankfully, the entire magazine (at least, all of the recipes) has always been archived online, at Epicurious.  And after picking up 8 million leeks at our second-to-last CSA this week, give or take one or two, J and I dug through those archives, with only 3 requirements:

1) That the recipe use as many leeks as humanly possible.
2) That it be served warm.
3) Of course, that it be from Gourmet.

But, it wouldn’t be our style to just cook the recipe… we try, but we never manage not to tweek.  So here is what we came up with, courtesy of Gourmet and whatever ingredients we had lying around the house.

Leek and Roasted Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is the perfect winter food: warm, creamy, healthy (?), comforting… I could go on.  It’s also perfect for making a giant batch and then reheating it throughout the week for lunch.  I think I’ve talked about how to make risotto on this blog about a hundred times, but the construct of the veggies in this one is slightly different.

Make the leeks and the mushrooms first.

For the leeks:

Dice the bulbs of 4 leeks.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the stems off right after the light green part.  Cut the leek crosswise, and then chop.  Depending on how big your leeks are, you might not need 4, but you should have about 2 cups after everything is all cut up.  On the stove, heat about 1 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan.  Add the leeks, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.  The leeks will get soft and infuse the cream with their flavor.  Set aside.

For the mushrooms:

The more the merrier.  Mushrooms get quite small when you cook them, so we used a whole carton of cremini.  Slice them thinly.  Also slice a whole onion.  Place the mushrooms and onions in a casserole dish and toss them with several tablespoons of melted butter and some fresh thyme.  We also used this delicious truffle salt that I brought back from Nice, but it was completely unnecessary.  Roast in the oven (about 350-400) for 30-45 minutes.  Our oven is a bit wacky, so just make sure to keep an eye on them.  You’ll know when they’re done: they’ll be golden and delicious-looking.

While the veggies are roasting and simmering, you can start on the risotto part of the dish.

Dice an onion and cook it in several tablespoons of butter on your stovetop.  On another burner, have several cups of chicken broth simmering.
When the onions are translucent, add about 2 cups of aborio rice (you’ll need a big saute pan for all of this–the rice is going to get huge).   Saute for about 2 more minutes, until the rice is coated, slightly translucent, and warm.  Pour in a cup or a cup and a half of white wine and let it cook off.  Remember, the most important part of risotto is constant stirring.  Keep the rice moving.  Now start adding the warm chicken broth, about half a cup at a time. Stir, stir, stir.  Add more chicken broth as needed.  This part of the process should take about 20-30 minutes.  I usually stop adding broth at about 20 minutes in and then let the rest cook off.

Now to finish.

Add to the risotto 2 tablespoons butter, grated Parmesan cheese, the cream and leeks, and the mushrooms and onions.  Stir to combine, and try not to eat all in one sitting (its hard, I know).


The Making of Pasta

Yesterday the weather was absolutely disgusting, and so while I was out shopping with M, we ducked into Broadway Panhandler.  For those of you that don’t know, the Panhandler is the poor man’s Sur La Table.  Anyways, we spent the better part of the hour browsing for kitchen appliances that we didn’t need, and then I spent the latter part of the hour calculating how much money was in my bank account, and how much of the unnecessary things I could actually afford to purchase.  I ended up putting back the potato ricer (more on my brilliant ideas for that tool later) and the latex egg shells (for the perfect poach) and settled on the pasta maker.  Now this I had been eying for a long time.  A gorgeous, old-fashioned looking wooden handled metal box that makes fresh pasta.  What more could one ask for?

I took it home immediately and got to work, after M assured me that making pasta is extremely easy (um, thanks for that tip).

First I just set up the little machine on my chop block and stared at it, cranking the handle, fitting on the fettuccine attachment, clamping it to the counter.  (NOTE: I am not Italian and I will never spell any Italian pastas correctly.  My apologies in advance, I know its horrendous).  Then I got to work with the pasta.  I ended up calling in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on this one, because that method has pictures, and the little booklet that came with my pasta machine was all in Italian, except for one page in English that looked like it had been put through Babelfish and was nearly as unreadable as the rest of the instructions.  So here we go:

Fresh Pasta

Start by lightly combining 3 eggs with a fork in a small bowl.  Then, on your counter, dump two cups of all purpose flour (or Italian 00 if you have it).  Form the flour into a mound, and then make a little well in the middle.  Into the well, pour the eggs.  Now, not being an engineer, my well was slightly structurally unsound and much of my egg escaped out an unknown crack.  So pour the egg in slowly and make sure your mound of flour is solid.  I spent a good five minutes chasing egg back into the well and trying to unsuccessfully repair the crack.  What a mess.

When the egg is safely in the well, start to stir it into the flour with a fork.  When it gets too thick, use your hands until the flour and egg has formed into a dough.  Then begin to knead the dough, just as you would bread or pie crust.  Do this for about 10 minutes. According to Martha, this “develops the glutens in the flour.”  When your hands are tired, form into a ball and wrap with seran wrap.  Then let the dough ball sit on the counter for about an hour and a half (this helps the glutens “relax”).

Now the fun part!!  When you’ve managed to distract yourself for an hour and a half (me and J were making ravioli, so we roasted the butternut squash and made the filling during this time), unwrap the dough ball and using a pasta cutter (or in our case, pizza cutter) to cut the dough ball into 8 sections.  This makes it easier to feed into the pasta maker.

Start with the pasta maker on the lowest setting, so the rollers are as far apart as they go.  Feed the dough into the pasta machine.  When it comes out, you can reshape the dough and feed it through several more times.  Reshaping the dough a little helps to make sure the pasta is even.  Now tighten the settings and feed it through the machine 2 or 3 times on each setting.  We went down to the lowest setting since we were making ravioli and wanted it really thin, but you can stop at whatever thickness you prefer.  If you are making fettuccine, feed it through the attachment directly after pressing it through the pasta maker.

And voila!  Fresh pasta!  Now (if you’re not filling it), you just boil, sauce, and eat.  If you want to dry it, take 8-10 strands of fettuccine and form them into loose nests.  Then leave them out to dry for 24 hours before wrapping them or putting them in tupperware.  The nest shape is so they don’t break when you store them, the 24 hour rule so that they are completely dry before you store them, or the moisture in them will mold.  You can keep dried fresh pasta for two weeks.

More on the ravioli later – we’re off to the Promenade to watch a dog halloween parade.  And no, I’m not joking.


Today is the day!

And yes, that is the reason why I am still up at 1:00 AM… because there were so many things that I forgot to do.  Authors in the Kitchen (the website) is launching as we speak (slowly but surely) and then hopefully if I ever get to sleep, by the time I wake up, the series will be available for download on DailyLit!

At least, thats the plan.

So spread the word.  The culmination of months of work (and teaching myself php.  I hate php).  So I am redirecting you to www.authorsinthekitchen.com since in just an hour (cross your fingers!) I will be taking down the placeholder…

And then when this thing is finally launched, I’m going to come right back here and share with you all my new favorite way to eat eggplant (fried, of course) and a bottle or two of cheap champagne, if you live in Brooklyn.


Seriously, still here!

Now, I know it might be hard to trust me again, after my unannounced absence, but it will be worth it, I promise (especially after next Tuesday when all of my hard work becomes public).  But I’m here again this morning, with another recipe and some ideas on weekend post possibilities… I think Megalie might expand into cocktails.  So if you have requests (or recipes to share!), let me know!

Last night A and I cooked up a really simple, but really delicious, Italian dinner.  Its finally fall, so comfort food is back, and in a big way.  No more silly salads for me!  This also means I am back to my regular gym schedule, and for good reason.  Must fight off all of that heavy cream that I simply can’t resist.

This recipe grew out out of Bon Appetit article this month, for a sausage and white kidney bean dish.  We improvised on it a bit (and have some suggestions that might make yours a tiny bit better than ours), but you can find the original recipe (with quantities… Mom) on Epicurious if you want to stick to the letter of the law.

Sweet Italian Sausage and White Beans

White Kidney Beans
Sweet Italian Sausages
Garlic Cloves
Canned Plum tomatoes (peeled)
Olive Oil
(See, told you it was simple)

Mince the garlic, chop the peeled tomatoes, and slice the sausage.  I might recommend removing the casing first and then slicing, although if you do this you have to be very careful when you cook the sausages, so they don’t just fall apart.  Heat up some olive oil and add the garlic to the pot (we used 5 cloves I think?  We love garlic).  Then add the sliced sausages – don’t move them around too much, you just want to brown them on each side.  Then add the tomatoes (WITH the sauce from the can) and kidney beans (which you have drained the liquid from).  At this point, you can also add oregano, basil, and salt and pepper.  Simmer this for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, until the sauce is at the thickness you prefer.  Dig in!

Note: the ratios are all up to you.  We had tons of sausage and tomtoes, and less beans.  Just a matter of preference.


It’s Official: I’m Back!

Sorry about the unannounced hiatus–I just really need a month to recover from a work-and-stress-filled August.  But this time, I promise I won’t disappear again (and randomly resurface for air, igniting false hope).  But I’m here with good news and a fairly easy welcome-to-fall recipe.

First, the good news (and all of you will most likely get this in a mass email later, since I’m pretty sure my readers are A, my mom, and my grandma–hi all!).

We have set a launch date for Authors in the Kitchen–finally!  Next Tuesday, October 6, Authors in the Kitchen will go live on DailyLit!  So spread the word and mark your calendars.  It has been edited, formatted, copyedited, and gone over so many times that I don’t want to see it again.  But you all will love it!  I’ll be reminding everyone I know and their mother next week, but in case for some reason I forget about my own launch, keep an eye out!

Also, there will be a launch party dinner that evening as well–all are invited (for some of you, its mandatory).  There will be cheap champagne.  I just love popping those corks.  Yum.

And the recipe–the reason this blog exists in the first place!  Last night (girls night for Gossip Girl), me, J, N, and C (is this too many letters? yes.) cooked up a delicious soup that we could slurp while crammed on the couch catching up with our virtual television friends who have just started at NYU–our alma mater! How exciting!  And in our CSA, we got a pumpkin.  Instead of carving it, J gutted it (literally, while discussing how pumpkin guts were similar to human innards… we might have been a bit tipsy? almost?) and then N and C picked all of the little pumpkin seeds out for roasting, while J continued to demolish and then nicely cube the pumpkin meat.

The recipe? Easy–once you chop the pumpkin.
[Note: all of the quantities are for my mother, who has complained that I don’t use them.  Which I don’t.  So take these with a grain of salt–I’m guessing.]

1 (sugar) pumpkin
1 large onion (or 1 and 1/2 small ones)
garlic (maybe 4-6 cloves, depending on preference)
1 tsp sage (fresh if you have it)
1 tsp thyme (again, fresh if you have it)
heavy cream (I think I used a pint?)
2 tsps (ish) sugar (I used raw)
chicken broth
*this is tricky: I think we used 2 cans and then whatever was leftover in the fridge… so here is my note on this one: when adding the broth, make sure there is enough so that it covers the chopped pumpkin bits.

To start: chop onions and mince garlic.  Saute them in a good quantity of butter until soft and translucent.  Then add the pumpkin, sage, thyme, and chicken broth.  Bring the broth to a boil, then cover and simmer until the pumpkin is soft (15-20 minutes, depending on how thick your pumpkin chunks are.)

When the pumpkin is soft, transfer to a food processor (we use a blender because our food processor is too tiny) and puree.  Add back to the pot.  Pour in the cream, add the sugar, heat to a nice hot temperature, and enjoy!

See, wasn’t that easy?

[Also, make sure you get a big pumpkin.  We thought our soup could have been a little bit thicker, but the flavor was all there!]