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Some nights- you know, those ones at the end of a long week when it’s cold out and you just want to hole up until morning watching a movie under a blanket until it’s time for bed- there is nothing better than looking in your cupboards and fridge and finding everything you’d need to put together a really satisfying dinner. Especially when it turns out to be unexpectedly delicious.

Well, hello there. How lovely it is to be here again. After more than a year, many meals homemade and otherwise, days lamenting the lack of energy necessary to post about the good stuff, and finally, eight weeks on crutches, I am back. I think it was the 10th Trader Joe’s frozen pizza in a month that really gave me that final push, but here we are again with a meal that didn’t photograph as well as I would have hoped but will certainly serve as an impressive and ‘heart’-y offering to whomever you would like to feed, tomorrow night or any other.

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Can you think of any ingredient that you haven’t seen slapped on a  pizza at one point or another? Pizzas come in thin crust, deep dish, vegan, cheese-stuffed, dessert varietals, even as deconstructed versions of other well known meals (cheeseburger pizzas anyone?). So it just seemed like a really good idea to me to order a pizza with my beloved butternut squash and goat cheese last year at a favorite Boston haunt. And it was. Being 3,000 miles away now it’s a little harder to indulge in my regular cravings for this pie, but I was inspired the other day by, you guessed it, some leftover ingredients and a bag o’ dough from Trader Joe’s. I know that I may be revealing myself to some of you as a home cooking poser by buying pre-made dough, but honestly, I don’t like to bake and I don’t like following recipes so a prêt à porter canvas to experiment on with freestyle ingredients really appeals to me.

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I know that some of you were probably worrying these past few days over what I was going to do with all of those leftover vegetables I roasted for the monster salad I made last week. All that food potentially going to waste, it would be such a travesty. Truth be told, I’m not always efficient at using the leftovers I have in my fridge and may often find a forgotten tupperware from dinners past in the fridge weeks later that I have to send straight to the composting. But not this time, no sir, roasted fennel and beets must be used to their maximum capacity and here I had to get a little creative.

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Winter Salad

January and salad isn’t usually a quick association I make in my mind, but January and heavy food detox is. I was assigned to make a ‘mystery salad’ to bring for a dinner last weekend and I was a little intimidated. Salad offerings don’t come very easily to me as I tend to have a hard time with dressings and sometimes get bored with my go-to favorites but still I wanted to give it my best shot.  It didn’t seem right to throw in a bunch of tomatoes, corn, or other out-of-season choices so here I went with some hearty winter vegetables and strong leafy greens to have a salad that was rich and could stand up at the dinner table with other winter dishes.

Incidentally, roasted fennel is quite possibly my new favorite thing in the world.

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Chicken Adobo Soup

I know, I know, another soup. It’s just that time of the year and I love me some leftovers.

Now here is a problem I didn’t anticipate.  I thought that moving to San Francisco would be a wondrous treat perfect for indulging my cooking needs; that I would be furiously sauteeing and braising and roasting my little heart out, barely stopping to breathe before darting out to pick up some more delicious fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market in anticipation of the next great thing to come out of my kitchen. I thought I would be overwhelmed by inspiration and spend my days happily experimenting with new flavors and ingredients. That is, until I started walking around this awesome city where it is unbelievably hard to ignore the riches of good food being offered at restaurants and on street corners alike. And then I found the 7×7 100 Things to Eat in San Francisco Before You Die list, and then the holidays came and all of my relatives were forcing food upon me, and then…well and then it was January 11th and my mom was wondering why I hadn’t posted in over a month. You know how it goes, when you’re out dragging your brother to the local empanada food truck or trying to catch up with the Twittering Crème Brûlée cart in the Mission (yes, such fabulous things do exist) your pots and pans get neglected.

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At first glance this soup might look suspiciously similar to the one posted before it. Pureed, a bit orangey, some green stuff on top. The taste, on the other hand, is very different. The soup represents my first attempt at putting myself out there and making friends with cauliflower. Just like brussel sprouts before him, the cauliflower is one of those vegetables I intuitively stayed clear of for most of my life. Oh cauliflower, how could I have been so wrong about you? So much for listening to your gut.

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