When I was a kid, I’d whine to my dad that I was bored and he would jokingly tell me to go jump in a snow pile. That’s about to happen because there’s about 3 or 4 feet of snow on the ground. FEET OF SNOW. It’s becoming comical. There’s hardly anywhere left to put it.
With the 72 inches of snow Boston has seen over a two week span, most people I know are in hibernation mode. Hibernation mode calls for hot meals made from whatever is already in the kitchen, and we’ve been hooked on soups and stews.
Oh, there’s chicken and frozen veggies in the freezer? And some fresh vegetables that need to be used up? Hello, chicken pot pie (sort of)!
This recipe is inspired from a take-out soup business that used to be downtown. My favorite soup was their chicken pot pie soup. The restaurant closed a few years ago, but I’ve missed the soup which was simply a chicken pot pie filling. I made this meal dairy-free by substituting a can of coconut milk for cream or regular milk, and used a gluten-free all purpose flour mix to thicken up the broth.
The result? This is as close to a regular chicken pot pie filling you’re ever going to get. I couldn’t believe how well the flavors melded together! You wouldn’t know coconut milk was used. The recipe below calls for 3 tablespoons of gluten-free flour, but I think you could probably throw in another teaspoon or tablespoon to thicken up the broth even more. If you’re really motivated, you could make a gluten-free pie crust topping, and crumble it on top. After shoveling several feet of snow, I’m fine with this soup the way it is!
Oh man, it snowed a lot yesterday. There’s almost three feet of the white stuff out there! It only took two hours to shovel out, and that was with help from a neighbor who came over with snowblower. He took care of a portion of our sidewalk that was…well…the manmade snowdrift between property lines was almost as tall as me! (Thank you for saving us from another hour of shoveling, Ed!!!!!) We returned the favor by helping our other neighbors shovel, and digging and pushing out a town services pickup truck that got stuck in the street.
This storm was also the first one in 13 years I got to be home for. Working in local TV news, I always stayed overnight during storms and pulled long shifts with everyone else. While it was fun to help tell the story of the storm, hang out with coworkers at the fancy hotel in-between shifts, and earn some overtime pay, being home was really nice as well! A hot, homemade breakfast on a snowy day does not suck. We had a box of King Arthur Flour’s gluten-free pancake mix in the pantry, which was perfect.
One part of working during snow storms I always enjoyed was the walk between the hotel and the station. No matter how horrible the winds and snow were, I always had fun tromping through unplowed streets and sidewalks. So I went snowshoeing yesterday morning during the storm!
(I can’t stand selfies. I felt really stupid taking this one.)
The walk was beautiful. A few people were out shoveling and walking around, but otherwise the neighborhood was really quiet and peaceful. I went to a park and took a few photos before the winds picked back up and it was time to get back inside.
One of my favorite poems is “Desiderata” by Max Hermann. A childhood friend shared it with me during a particularly tumultuous period during our teenage years. There was a time when most of it was committed to memory, but this little bit always pops into my head:
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
The universe is unfolding as it should. Fate. Things happening as they should. 2014 ended up with two major life changes, acting as bookends for the year. January brought a sudden move out the dark, miserable apartment I had spent six years living in, thanks to a carbon monoxide leak. The move to Jeff’s place happened quickly, swiftly, and months earlier than planned. Things (or fate) happen. I hadn’t planned on staying in that apartment for as long as I did, but I got stuck in that space. The move was like ripping a bandaid off. Little did I know that another very significant life change was coming.
When I reread “Desiderata” today to find the quote about the universe unfolding as it should, this relevant verse popped out at me:
“Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”
It was a good, but slower year for photography than 2013. Clients’ lives and businesses drastically changed, and I’m incredibly grateful for the work I did for Kerri Nelson Photography, OXO, City Year Boston, DRINKMaple, and Foodie Asylum. I’m really looking forward to what 2015 brings! I’ll be looking to book more food photography related jobs, events, and a few weddings either as a main or second shooter.
I’m also incredibly grateful for my career at 7News. My colleagues are a hilarious group of people who made me laugh every single day, which I’m so incredibly thankful for. We work together through holidays, elections, snow storms, sports victory parades, and the saddest, most heartbreaking stories imaginable. It’s an emotional struggle to do a job I love when those stories happen… I also never worried about losing my job to a computer system which consolidates jobs in the control room. (For non-TV industry folks, that computer technology resulted in massive layoffs over the past decade.)
2014 brought more opportunities to direct newscasts, which lead to a big promotion from an Associate Director to Newscast Director. It’s what I aimed for since college, and it came with a significant pay raise.
A little over a month after I was officially promoted, and just shy of my 13th work anniversary, I gave my two week notice.
In between interviewing for the promotion and it being offered, I was contacted by Emerson College about an opportunity to manage their journalism production center. I love directing television, so accepting the offer was a somewhat difficult decision to make. The studios at Emerson use completely different technology from 7News, so there’s a lot to learn. After working at the same place for 13 years, a fresh new challenge is exciting. I can go back to school and earn my master’s degree without going massively into debt. TV news is a 24/7 type of industry, so normal hours and having weekends and holidays off was a lure. I believe today is the first New Years Day I’ve had off, and I never got home for more than a day or two around Christmas. Thanksgiving? Forget about it. I spent the past 12 Thanksgivings with my 7News family.
Honestly, I had been contemplating what would be next in my career for quite some time, but nothing other than directing TV felt right. But the gut feeling I had while interviewing at Emerson was too strong to ignore. With a more predictable schedule, I can build up my photography business a bit more and hope to freelance in the TV business around town. I’m not putting my headset down for good!
As a second shooter at a wedding, I rarely know what to expect when I show up at a ceremony or reception. This shot is from a particularly memorable reception I helped photograph this fall. It was so much fun! A blog post with more photos from the day will come soon, but here’s another one of my favorite shots.
Moving happens. Sometimes moving to a new home – especially in instances when it’s unexpected – gets really chaotic. And when that involves moving in with someone who has been in the space for five years, items get shoved into whatever nook and cranny available. Closet doors get shut and you become okay with the clutter because doing something other than organizing – ANYTHING ELSE – on a sunny weekend afternoon is always the more appealing option. It’s suddenly 10 months later, and the closet we turned into a pantry still looks like this:
I know, Ritz… It’s a mess. Don’t judge.
Tennis rackets, lunch totes, cat food, packing tape, leftover plastic utensils from a cookout…yikes. The good people at OXO and The Container Store must have crazy good senses about poorly organized pantries because I was asked to participate in their #POPtober giveaway. Have you ever been to The Container Store? I went right after I moved in hope of finding storage solutions for my clothes closet. That place has everything you could ever need to organize a closet, pantry, laundry room, or kitchen. Everything sold there is designed to save space and cut down on the precious time you spend looking for things around your house.
They provided me with this awesome 10 piece OXO POP container set, and 3 OXO cereal containers to help with the sad situation organize our pantry.
And Ritz was extremely interested in overseeing this project…or investigating the box.
Anyway, the thought of being able to eliminate the amount of cereal boxes and bags of dried hot peppers on top of the refrigerator…
This is embarrassing!!!
We already had a few OXO POP containers already lying around the apartment, filled with dried beans and gluten-free pasta. The old and new containers have flat lids and stack nicely together so we can see exactly what we have, and everything will be easily accessible rather than being hidden behind other boxes and jars. The lids are also designed with pop-up buttons for easy opening and closing of the containers.
One of the challenges with organizing our pantry was making sure we kept track of cooking directions found on the side of packages. Each brand of gluten-free pasta has different cooking directions, which I know we’d forget. So cutting out the directions or writing them down on a sticky note and taping it to the side of the container is a convenient way of knowing what is what. I keep these labels turned to the side or the back so they’re not visible in my pantry.
Directions for gluten-free lasagna noodles taped to the side of an OXO POP container.
Since I’m not sure if there’s any rhyme or reason with Jeff’s ziplock bags of hot peppers, I carefully laid them inside of one of the square containers. Poof! Done!
What a difference:
Before and After!
I know you’re totally inspired to organize your kitchen or pantry now, right? The good news is that POP containers are available at The Container Store locations nationwide, as well as on their website. OXO has a bunch of storage and organization items at The Container Store, some of which you can see here on my OXO Home Storage and Organization Pinterest board:
Guess what? There’s more good news – OXO and The Container Store have teamed up for a fantastic giveaway! Between Monday, October 13th – Friday, October 31st, you can enter to win a prize worth $500 – your choice of OXO Storage and Organization tools (up to $250), as well as a $250 elfa gift card. You can enter the giveaway here. Good luck!
Disclosure: OXO provided me with a 10-piece POP Container set and 3 cereal containers. No additional compensation was provided. Opinions expressed here are my own.
You know what can bring happiness? A freshly baked cookie. A sugary, delicious treat can put a smile on almost anyone’s face. It’s also one of the ultimate comfort foods someone can make for a friend or family member who is going through a difficult time. It’s also good to do something for a great cause, which is why I’m participating in OXO’s blog campaign for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.
If you haven’t heard of Cookies For Kids’ Cancer, it was created in 2007 by two OXO employees whose 2-year-old son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. At the time, there were few effective treatments available due to a lack of funding. Liam’s mom, Gretchen, organized a team of volunteers who baked and sold 96,000 cookies, and raised more than $400,000 for research. Amazing, right?
Since 2008, grant money awarded by Cookies For Kids’ Cancer has resulted in 9 promising new treatments. Boston is fortunate to be the home of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which is one of five partner centers for Cookies For Kids’ Cancer. They receive annual research grants to research and develop new treatments for pediatric cancer. Dana-Farber recently received a $100,000 grant from Cookies For Kids’ Cancer to support the research of Dr. Kimberly Stegmaier, who is working to discover details about genetic underpinnings and potential drug targets in neuroblastoma.
Dr. Stegmaier, the Co-Director of the Pediatric Hematologic Malignacy Program, says, “This generous gift from Cookies For Kids’ Cancer is advancing our ability to understand the drivers of neuroblastoma, which remains one of the most challenging pediatric cancers. This is a critical next step to help uncover novel therapeutic targets and expand treatment options for young patients battling this illness.”
So for this Cookies For Kids’ Cancer blog post, I decided to give a classic sugar cookie recipe a try from the How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. Have you tried any of the recipes yet? Jeff has been baking sandwich bread using their recipe, which is delicious. But the sugar cookie recipe? No, but seriously, how can it possibly be gluten-free?!?! The buttery, sugary deliciousness is spot on.
These baking tools from OXO came in super handy. Baking is chemistry, so exact measurements are pretty important. I love how these measuring cups and spoons come with a scrapper so exact measurements are easy to do. And if you ever baked a gluten-free goodie before, you know how dough can be sticky. The America’s Test Kitchen recipe takes care of this issue! Hooray! But just in case you roll the dough too thin, I found another use for OXO’s frosting spatula – it is awesome to cut excess dough.
OXO is a huge supporter of Cookies For Kids’ Cancer, and every year they make a significant donation through sales of specially marked OXO products. For every stickered item sold, OXO will donate 25 cents in support of pediatric cancer research as part of its $100,000 pledge to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. (Look for specially marked OXO products at participating retailers.) That is a full grant for one of the five partner centers!
How else can you become involved? You can host a bake sale, a cookie swap, a team building activity for your workplace or school… There are a bunch of details and other ideas on the Cookies For Kids’ Cancer website.
So besides being a gluten-free sugar cookie, I put a little twist into the frosting. I made the frosting with coconut milk (had a little leftover that needed to be used), and added pumpkin pie seasoning to taste. The pumpkin pie spice added a little something special to a traditional sugar cookie. And really, who doesn’t like pumpkin flavored sweets?
Sadly, I can’t post a recipe for the cookies here because I didn’t obtain permission from America’s Test Kitchen. BOOOOOO, massive fail on my part! I’m so sorry! But I CAN tell you that the recipe is on pages 234 and 235 – you should get “The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook” out of your library or order it on Amazon.com.
You can find OXO, Cookies For Kids’ Cancer, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on social media:
* In 2014, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through specially marked baking tools, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.
Disclosure: OXO provided me with the products for this blog post. I was not given any additional compensation, and opinions are my own.
I’m not ready to let go of summer… I know it’s nearing the end of September, and the weather today feels more like late October, but I’m still grasping on to the warmth of the sun and whatever summertime recipes I can easily whip up! Maybe you’re feeling the same way, which is why I’m sharing two delicious smoothie recipes from DRINKmaple. Forget coconut water – maple water is where it’s at! (Okay, I’m just partial to maple flavor anything. ) It’s a refreshing bottled water with just a hint of maple – perfect for a hot day.
I spent an afternoon this summer photographing these recipes with DRINKmaple co-founder Kate Weiler. And here’s a link to locations where DRINKmaple is sold. Enjoy!
Watermelon Mint Maple Water Cooler
1 cup of seedless watermelon
1/2 container (1/2 cup) of DRINKmaple pure maple water
1/2 cup ice
6 leaves of fresh mint
optional: to make this an alcoholic drink add a shot of cucumber vodka
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Strawberry Vanilla Maple Water Smoothie
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 medjool dates
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup ice
1 container (1 cup) of DRINKmaple pure maple water
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to have a backyard again… After spending years living in brick apartment buildings, I’ve been soaking up every second I can outside! It feels like a luxury being able to sit under a tree with a book without having to get in my car and drive to a park. Jeff and I have also been learning how to grill! He found a perfectly good Weber grill on Craigslist, cleaned it up, and we’ve been grilling up burgers and veggies over the past few weeks.
Our friends Kelly and Pat came to visit from Toronto this past weekend. Kelly is one of my nearest and dearest friends in the world, and her culinary knowledge and talent never ceases to amaze me! Before I met Kelly, the only green vegetable I ate was iceberg lettuce. So I blame my current, much, MUCH more sophisticated palate on her.
Her visit coincided with an invitation from OXO to participate in their #WhatAGrillWants blogger campaign, which was perfect because Jeff and I invited a bunch of people over for a cookout. OXO sent a bunch of new grilling tools to try out – a bladed meat tenderizer, a little salad dressing shaker, a corn stripper, a silicone basting brush, and 16 inch tongs.
I’m not quite sure what Kelly and Jeff are thumb wrestling over, but it was a fun moment in the kitchen as we prepared everything for the grill! Using a bladed meat tenderizer was interesting… I grew up with my mom and grandmother using a fork to do it, so I wasn’t quite sure how beneficial this tool would be. With 50 blades in the OXO bladed meat tenderizer, we sure saved some time! This tool is used like a stamp, and you have to push down really hard to get the blades through the meat. (With 50 blades in a tool, I’m GLAD it takes some muscle to press it down!)
OXO also sent a super cute and handy little salad dressing shaker, which we used to make a marinade for the pork.
I love this salad dressing shaker! You can’t really see it in the photo, but one side of the cup has measuring lines for cups, and the other has lines for ounces. And the cap has an airtight, leakproof seal, so it’s perfect for shaking up salad dressings or marinades. I wouldn’t hesitate bringing this to other cookouts or picnics!
While the pork marinaded, I decided to throw together a Cajun-style grilled corn salad. I looooove Mexican-style corn on the cob, but don’t really enjoy the mess that comes along with eating it. And I’ve been dying to use this delicious Cajun spice blend I picked up at the New Orleans School of Cooking during a recent vacation.
Onto the grill the corn went. We turned the corn every couple of minutes, and left them on the grill just long enough to get a nice, charred look. The OXO tongs came in really handy here – the tips don’t have sharp edges like a lot of other grill tools, so later on when we grilled other veggies wrapped in foil, Jeff didn’t accidentally poke holes through the foil with the tongs.
Then we got to use my favorite tool out of the whole kit – the corn stripper. This tool is so easy to use! There’s a blade on the bottom, which cuts the kernels off the cob, and they collect inside a little cup attached to it instead of spilling all over the place.
Once all the kernels were shed, I mixed in cheese, a tiny bit of mayonnaise, garlic, the Cajun spice mix, and some fresh green onions from our garden to create the corn salad. You can get the recipe at the bottom of this post! It’s a super easy cookout recipe everyone will love. It can be served warm right off the grill or chilled. I made a little more this week with an ear of leftover corn, and tossed it in with a regular salad. So good!
Anyway, the tongs came in handy again when it was time to put the pork on the grill. The basting brush was pretty cool to use as well – there are gaps in the center bristles that trap liquids, so we were able to spread a lot more marinade on the roasts.
It was so fun cooking outside with wonderful friends we don’t get to see very often. It’s just what we do. Thanks to OXO for making our cookout a little more fun and easy!
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for OXO, and I received the grill tools from them for free. No other compensation was provided, and opinions here are my own.
It’s been so long since my last post… How y’all doing? It’s been a looong winter, and I needed to step away from this space for a little bit. A few folks (including a dear photography client) suddenly and unexpectedly passed away this fall, then the holidays came around, then there was a carbon monoxide leak in my apartment building on a -6 degree evening, ended up suddenly moving to a new place, and was sick for almost a month.
Phew. It was a long winter. There was barely time to cook, never mind photograph, write, or indulge in the things that bring any sense of creative joy.
It’s now the end of March, and I’m just starting to get back into a normal routine. So, hi there! Happy almost spring! Let’s defrost and come out of hibernation, shall we?
Moving created an interesting culinary “problem”. I found a lot of dry and frozen ingredients stuffed in the back of my pantry and freezer that I totally forgot about. So there’s an effort right now to use up everything that’s still good, but has been totally neglected. And I want to make healthy meals that are quick to prepare. (There have been many whole chickens tossed in the crockpot with lemon and herbs over the past two months!)
Since my boyfriend is gluten-free, most of the recipes I make include gluten-free flours or bread products. One of the items stuck in the back of my freezer was a quiche and pie crust from Gillian’s, which happens to be based nearby in Lynn, Massachusetts. We had some leftover fresh red pepper, a few mushrooms, some leftover shredded cheese from a pizza, a carton of eggs, and a bunch of herbs.
Quiche! The perfect dish to use up leftover fresh produce. And I was in the mood for some comfort food that was not in the form of cookies.
No lie – the quiche came out so well, I could eat this whole thing in one sitting. But I will control myself. (Maybe.) I’m not sure if it’s the vegetables, the seasoning (this is what I used), or what, but it’s delicious. The Gillian’s gluten free pie crust tastes exactly like a regular pie crust! It’s so good!
I would have liked to style these photos a little more, but my props are still packed in boxes, buried in the basement. This is the first time I’ve picked up my camera since I moved. And now I have more space to work in, which is such a wonderful thing! It’s so good to be back in this creative space. xoxo