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Easy Cooked Carrot Recipes

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When a student told me that my tupperware container of balsamic roasted baby carrots looked like dead fingers, it was exactly what I needed to stop forcing forkfuls of the overwhelmingly sour, otherwise flavorless “fingers” down my gob.

We wasted a few more minutes of my plan time and his brief break from in-school-suspension talking about why he didn’t eat cooked vegetables, and then I made a trip to the vending machine. I think I ended up with a Kit Kat. 

I’m a big fan of Cristina Ferrare’s cookbook, Big Bowl of Love, but I’m not crazy about her penchant for drizzling roasted vegetables with reduced balsamic vinegar. Maybe I’m doing it wrong? You tell me. Not reducing the vinegar enough to sweeten it? Dumping instead of drizzling? Seriously, I want to be classy and drizzle a balsamic vinegar reduction over my vegetables… But the dead carrot finger experiment was off putting. 

Anyway, I can go through cooked vegetables like candy because they taste so sweet and buttery after cooking. Here is Ferrare’s cooking method, minus the balsamic glaze: 

Blistered Baby Carrots

  • Heat a LARGE frying pan over medium high heat. 
  • Scoop out a sizable chunk of ghee (clarified butter — it doesn’t burn at higher temperatures) and swirl to coat the pan. 
  • Shake in the whole bag of baby carrots and season generously with salt and pepper. Make sure all the carrots are lightly coated in butter. Add more butter if necessary 🙂 
  • Cook until the carrots get a little char on them, and feel crisp-tender. 
  • Chop some fresh dill and sprinkle on top. 

Bonus: this recipe is Whole30 compliant! 

Speaking of kid-friendlier toppings for roasted vegetables that I can fully endorse, my new “jam” (a parent kept using that word during conferences about her daughter’s interests, it’s on my mind :)) is a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

These Parmesan roasted carrots are as lip-smacking to me as French fries. (I recommend halving the bigger carrots.) Roasting a large bag of large carrots whole feels refreshingly resourceful to me — bags of large carrots often linger in my vegetable drawer, and the good thing about roasting vegetables, ahem, is that you can work with the slightly shriveled, spotted stuff. The Parmesan precludes these from Whole30 compliance, but it’s a wholesome cheat… Just a sprinkle 🙂 

Next I want to try Parmesan on zucchini wedges. 

Meanwhile, I’m on the hunt for a low calorie veggie dip that isn’t mustard and isn’t guacamole… Any tips??

Letting Go of Summer with a Sweet Tart

photo My husband tells me that I am a risk taker. I’ve never thought of myself as one, but being in my late twenties with a few big decisions under my belt, I realize that I have a rather high threshold for taking things on and learning as I go. I think my relatively high threshold for risk-taking is buttressed by a strong amount of dogged persistence, which tends to carry me through. In fours of being a teacher, I’ve taught four different curriculums and consulted on a few more, I’ve worked retail, taught ACT classes, group fitness classes, and a little freelance writing… Hmm… what does this say about me? Sometimes I take pride in being able to juggle different things and sometimes I bemoan my lack of a single focus 🙂

The other day I happened upon Live to Write — Write to Live’s post on The Genius of Curiosity, and I thought, yeah, that’s me. I can’t seem to commit to a singular passion in life, so maybe, just maybe, I possess the genius of curiosity? 🙂 In chapter four of The Ten Things, called “Letting Go,” Kingma reminds us that

“As human beings, we are evolutionary animals. There is a push, a draw in us to move toward and become that which we haven’t become yet — more, better, wiser, more deeply loved, more deeply loving.”

The notion of personal evolution does seem to hint at what’s “genius” about living in a state of unfolding curiosity. It’s certainly hard to feel satisfied with yourself, much less stuck in a state of complacency, when you have multiple interests, or feel pulled to spend your time in different ways. And that’s a good thing, right? Writer Suddenly Jamie, in her post on The Genius of Curosity articulates it this way:

“Curiosity is more valuable than passion. Passion is blinding and consuming. It is biased and stubborn. Passion is exclusionary. Curiosity, on the other hand, is playful and open. Curiosity can learn through discovery. Curiosity expands your world; passion diminishes it, closing in around you like tunnel vision.”

I think our society collectively denies so many things that are interesting and valuable about a life that travels in a zig zag pattern, rather than a straight arrow. For example, we often deny that curious people, people that try different things and fail, who go through “phases,” well into adulthood, can lead some of the most passionate lives, despite how things look, in the sense that their lives are always in a phase of growth and expansion. On the other hand, there’s a palpable feeling of freedom that comes from placing limitations on our expectations of ourselves, picking a role or a goal or a direction and pursuing it narrowly, deeply, with passion. Oy.

photo-2You know what I’m feeling curious about these days? Tarts, sweet and savory. Somehow I have a hunch that in putting my perfectly symmetrical, perfectly fluted metal tart pan to good use, I’ll be refreshed, ready to gain insight about “next steps,” and all the necessary soul-searching involved. Today I find myself celebrating the end of a difficult summer, during which I spent considerable time indoors, by making a tomato tart filled with summer’s quintessential ingredient, a product of the SUN.

It started with being handed a heavy, generous bag of tomatoes by my father-in-law, and wanting to find a tart recipe that didn’t smother the tomatoes in cheese — though this tomato crostata still catches my eye — but showcased their fresh, juicy flavor in the form of pretty, roasted slices. I found what I was looking for in The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, simply, “Tomato Tart” on page 268. Speaking of curiosity, this book is an endless source — going through its recipes, cover to cover, could easily be my vocation for a while (oh, lookee here) It’s been my baking bible since college, the source of what I consider to be, hands down, the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, and true to Nigella Lawson’s conception of the “domestic goddess” baker “trailing nutmeggy fumes…” which I cited in my most recent post.

Matter of fact, I think I was gifted the book at some point during college, another time rich with curiosity and uncertainty and anxiety about where I was headed next, which proves Nigella Lawson’s other claim about baking, and cooking: It’s “a way of reclaiming our lost Eden… Cooking, as we know, of cutting through things, and to things, which has nothing to do with the kitchen.”  ‘Nuff said — the process begins with the making of pâte brisée, which literally translates into “broken pastry,” used for savory pies and tarts:

Tools

Oven thermometer
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Tart Pan
Timer
Tupperware
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Food processor
Liquid measuring cup
Sheet pan
Aluminum foil
Large mixing bowl (optional)
Pastry cutter (optional)
Plastic wrap
Rolling pin
Small mixing bowl
Spatula

Ingredients

Pâte Brisée
(Makes 2 13-inch rounds)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water (4 tablespoons), plus more if needed

Filling

Head of garlic
Olive oil, 3 tablespoons
1/2 recipe Pâte Brisée
3/4 cup Fontina cheese
3-4 ripe but Roma tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme

  • Dice the butter into small pieces and place it in a small tupperware container with the butter wrapping over the top. Place the tupperware in the freezer to get the butter really cold (it warms up as you’re dicing it). Put ice water in a liquid measuring cup and place it in the refrigerator.
  • Measure the flour and salt into a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Grease the tart pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a whole head of garlic on a small sheet pan covered with a medium sized piece of aluminum foil. Cover the head of garlic in one tablespoon olive oil. Loosely wrap the oily garlic in the foil.
  • Take the diced butter out of the freezer and add all of it to the flour/salt mixture. Pulse to combine, about 10 seconds, or “until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining.” If, like me, you have a small food processor that “mists flour” when it’s full, use a pastry cutter (or two hands) to mix the dough by hand. Add 4 tablespoons of ice cold water in two batches, “just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky.” If the dough is still too crumby, add water by the tablespoon, until the dough holds when you squeeze it together.
  • Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter and turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap, shaping it into a disk with your hands. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top, and wrap the dough in plastic, refrigerating at least 1 hour or overnight. (You can freeze this dough for up to 1 month — before using it, thaw overnight in the refrigerator).
  • Place the garlic in the oven and roast for 45-60 minutes while the dough sits in the refrigerator. Check the garlic after 45 minutes; it’s done when you can easily insert a paring knife into the side. (It took 60 minutes for me). Unwrap the garlic and allow it to cool. Set the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
  • Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll out the dough into a large, 13-inch round, about 1/8 inches thick. Roll from the center out for even thickness.  If like me, the consistency of your dough was less than perfect, cracking as you rolled it and yielding a lopsided circle, you can always cut off the longer parts and press pieces of the dough into the tart pan. If needed, you can grab a pinch of dough from the second pâte brisée, since the recipe makes two. I am still trying to perfect the art of not over mixing dough but getting it pliable and solid enough to roll out evenly… I like to err on the side of under mixed dough that requires some cutting and pressing into the pan (you can’t tell once it’s baked)…
  • After pressing the dough into the tart pan, refrigerate the dough in the pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, once the garlic is cool enough to handle, press it with the side of a chef’s knife to loosen the cloves. Slice each clove at the top and squeeze the pasty, roasted garlic into a small mixing bowl. Mash it all into one paste with a fork. Slice a few roma tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices. Grate and measure the cheese.
  • Time to assemble the tart. Remove the chilled dough and using a small spatula, spread the roasted garlic paste all over the chilled pastry. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over the garlic paste. Then lay the sliced tomatoes in a circular pattern and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Drizzle the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with fresh thyme (gently pull thyme leaves off the stem by pinching two fingers and running them down the stem).
  • Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Ta da.

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Growing Up Is Hard To Do

“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.” ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 1.58.18 PMIn the case of Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett, this “great stage of fools” involves frequent crying, flamboyant crying, on park benches, while mumbling to strangers, in vodka-gulping gasps, punctuated by dripping mascara
Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 2.05.03 PMand sweat-soaked armpits, in melodramatic fashion, or behind mammoth sunglasses, clutching a bulging Louis Vuitton bag to tragic effect.
Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 2.04.08 PMThis is a movie that honors the deep vein of folly, ineptness, coming-up-shortness that runs through life. In being so over-the-top, Jasmine’s blues are not a bore, in fact, just the opposite — Cate Blanchett’s acting chops breathe eloquent life into a well-documented universal truth, from Shakespeare to the Bible, how foolish  mere mortals are…

Oh-so-blue Jasmine is a former Manhattan socialite who moves to San Francisco to live with her sister in the wake of her investment banker husband’s downfall. She is hanging by a thread, and we hang right alongside her. I was content to watch the antics of one, martini-guzzling, zanex-popping title character and her open-hearted, scattered brained sister with the name “Ginger” to match (as someone actually named Ginger, I invite you to notice my eyes rolling). What is so engrossing about Jasmine’s pathetic plight?

It’s a vicious cycle of sympathy, ridicule, lack of redemption, and more sympathy. You can see the character, “Ginger” (played by actress Sally Hawkins) riding the same waves of disgust and compassion for her sister. The more we sympathize with Jasmine’s determination to carry on, the more we recognize her accountability, the more we see her self-deprecating awareness of past mistakes, and her tragic, stubborn inability to change course.

This cycle harks back to A Streetcar Named Named Desire. Both protaganists — Blue Jasmine, Blanche DuBois — muster sympathy and ridicule in an unpredictable, fitful pattern. Actress Cate Blanchett played Blanche Dubois at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and excels at the “woman on the verge” rhythms. Ben Brantley’s praise of Streetcar could easily be applied to Blanchett’s performance as Jasmine.
Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 9.40.25 PMSpeaking of life “as a great stage of fools,” I saw the next installment in the Up Series, 56 Up. Can you imagine having your life edited into a movie every seven years? Beginning in 1964, the Up Series documents the lives of a group of British school children. As the subjects get older and more reflective, the strange, Truman Show effect of the series becomes a major talking point. Many are eager to speak candidly about the burden of the Up Series on their unfolding sense of identity. This is another movie that deals with baggage, not too far from Jasmine and her cumbersome set of designer luggage.Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 10.03.11 PMOne of the sadder stories is that of Neil Hughes. Now a district councillor in rural England, he is depicted at age seven as an exuberant, smiling kid, playfully dodging director Michael Apted’s questions. In his twenties, he is homeless, wandering rural Scotland. He fidgets nervously when Michael answers pointed questions about his mental health. In 56 Up, he says that viewers have treated him with tremendous generosity, but at the same time, people who say “they know exactly what he feels like” are mistaken.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 10.07.45 PMEngineering professor Nick Hitchon puts it less defensively: “It’s not an absolutely accurate picture of me, but it’s a picture of somebody.” It’s a collective picture of human striving, a group of “somebodies” discovering happiness, seeking purpose, and coping with challenges. It depicts the universal drama of life, and the vitality of the project seems to draw back participants, reluctant but curious each go-around.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 10.02.14 PMSuzy, a wife and mother with an upper-middle class upbringing, admits to having a “ridiculous loyalty to the series.” In 21 Up, she states that “she was pressurized into doing it by her parents.” At age 56, Suzy says that she hasn’t had a distinguished career, but she “feels fulfilled.” When asked about the next installment, she smirks, saying “it’s like reading a bad book. I’ll still read it. I’ll still see it through.”
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That’s the spirit. Some solid advice for Jasmine, Blanche, and other femme fatales.

[Photos: taken from Netflix]

Pro Dev, Seriously

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As the school year approaches, those of us in the teaching profession start pondering things like “motivation,” “engagement,” and other intangibles that either invigorate our classrooms with the best kind of energy, or swallow our best efforts.

Hence, August Professional Development!

I was recently required to watch a video on the use of humor in the classroom, including appropriate targets for humor, explicit reasons why humor is important, and suggestions for incorporating humor cues into your planning. This breakdown could easily sound a bit OCD, but I thought it was one of the better professional development topics I’ve encountered.

I remember last year I was reading a teacher’s blog. It made the astute, somewhat taboo assertion that yes, you should care about your students liking you. Obviously, set limits with your students, build a structured classroom environment, set a goal of mutual respect and not personal popularity. Whew. That sounds familiar.

That said, teaching (and learning) are both benefited when students like the teacher. The importance of like-ability is widely accepted when it comes to landing a job or interviewing at a college, so why dance around the issue between teachers and students? What is the best route to like-ability? As demonstrated by Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain, “Make ‘em laugh…”

To me, the really smart aspect of the humor PD was the suggestion of scripting humor into your lessons, alongside transitions and pacing and other planned elements. This seemingly uptight approach to humor is perfect for the teachers who are more to the point, so to speak, who could most benefit from using humor to lighten the mood. Planned humor may be excessive, but it acknowledges the relationship building skills at the heart of teaching, and the fact that everyone can build these relationships in their own way.

It also acknowledges the importance of being yourself in a position of authority. So much of high school teaching boils down to effectively asserting your authority and respecting students’ sense of independence. One of the best pieces of “professional development” anyone gave me was this quote by Nelson Mandela:

“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory within us. It is not just some. It is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine we consciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Humor is one, small way to give students permission to “let their light shine” by consciously doing it yourself. To be fair, certain instances of unbridled “self-expression” are not so enlightened — for example, doing a standing split against the door frame and farting in the middle of class, or sitting out a dance class, eating a tub of icing in the corner. These are horrible examples of “letting your light shine,” but I had to end with them. They make me laugh out loud.

[Photo is from Charlottes Photo Gallery on flickr]

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