Christmas Eve Eve Dinner Party

A & H ready to party

We had a few folks over for dinner last night (nine people around the table, plus twins in various arms), and, as usual, I was so busy hosting and enjoying that I neglected to snap any photos.  Luckily, I did take a few minutes before the shenanigans got under way to catch the twins (age 6.5 weeks) in their dinner party outfits.

Here are some spiced candied pecans that I put out with the appetizers and then again with dessert.  They are that good.  Recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.

And today is the first time ever that the twins are wearing shoes.

Instant Pot Black Bean and Cauliflower Soup

I gave my husband, D, an Instant Pot Ultra for his birthday last month, and for a short but real time, I was scared of it.  Pressure cookers are dangerous, right?  Steam could just pour out and scald me any time, right?  Wrong.

Now that I’ve actually read some of the documentation and used the thing a little, I know that the gadget that Kevin Roose of the New York Times called “this holiday season’s must-have gift — a Furby for foodies” is perfectly safe and eminently predictable.  Our four-year-old daughter is way more volatile than the Instant Pot.  (Then again, maybe that’s not that high a bar.  Or low a bar?  Not totally sure this expression makes sense in this case, but, you know, just go with me here.)

And now, I am riding the Instant Pot wave to deliciousness.

Today, I tried making black bean soup in the Instant Pot.  I incorporated a bag of “Cauliflower Crumbles” (aka “riced” cauliflower) that I had bought on impulse this week.  Cauliflower is, as the whole trend to “rice” it, implies, relatively neutral in flavor.  D and I have used it before as (1) the base for creamy mash, (2) in potato soup, and (3) roasted in steak or florets form with salt and cumin.  I figured it would take on the strong flavor profile of the black beans well and would add a little bulk to the soup.

I knew the resulting soup would be healthy — or, perhaps more correctly, healthful.  It was also pretty darn tasty.  M, the four-year-old, ate it (although she needed me to spoon it for her, a request that has become more frequent since six weeks ago, when twin siblings A and H were born.  Fair enough, don’t you think?).  After tasting this soup, husband D wondered out loud whether he could bring it in for the lunch he has signed up to provide for 8-10 coworkers next month.  (Answer: sure.  It’ll be easy to bring the Instant Pot along to work if D wants.  Note that he drives there; he has no public transportation to negotiate.  This is key.  My friend H has been given an Instant Pot by her boss, but it’s at work — two subway rides and one commuter rail ride away from her Brooklyn home.  Meanwhile, she was inspired/compelled/possessed to open the box by CUTTING OFF THE PLASTIC CARRYING HANDLE.  That appliance is never going to see Brooklyn.)

Returning to my point: three out of my five family members (including me, naturally.  Is it still cool to say “natch?”  No?  Asking for a friend.) gave this recipe a thumbs up.  The twins did not express an opinion.


Instant Pot Black Bean and Cauliflower Soup | serves 10 | about 1 1/2 cups per serving | WW FSP 1 per serving (according to the in-app recipe builder; I tend to count this as a zero point food)


  • 1 medium onion, chopped (The Chop Wizard can help, as always)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 1 large carrot, chopped small
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 pound dry black beans, rinsed
  • 16 oz. cauliflower crumbles (cauliflower, diced or riced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups chicken broth (for vegan version, substitute vegetable broth)


Add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot and close.  Stir it if you are so moved.  Seriously.  That’s all the prep there is here.

Cook on high pressure for 40 minutes; then use natural pressure release.  With pressure build and release, cooking time ends up being over an hour.  Open the lid and hunt down and remove the bay leaves.  Taste and add salt and/or hot sauce if you like.

Serve with toppings.  Put them all in bowls and pass them around the dinner (or lunch) table.  Possibilities:

  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar
  • chopped cilantro
  • diced avocado
  • tortilla chips or strips
  • lime wedges for squeezing


Hello!  This inaugural post is inspired by the lunches I made today for two-year-old daughter M.  Like many lunch-making parents, I try to put together meals that are relatively healthy, with a balance of food groups and without a bunch of processed stuff.  In general, I try to incorporate at least the following into each lunch: one protein serving, one vegetable serving, one serving of whole grain/carbs, and one serving of dairy.  Once in a while, I throw in fruit, but M tends to get fruit at breakfast and dinner, so I usually lay off it at lunch.

Today was a what’s-in-the-fridge? kind of day.  There was no considering of recipes or shopping for particular ingredients.  I started with the idea of putting some brown rice in the rice cooker.  I had a couple of blocks of extra firm tofu in the fridge.  I had some veggies.  Felt like a stir fry of some kind.

Brown rice went into the rice cooker first.  Then, I did a bunch of other stuff while the rice . . . you know . . . cooked.

I drained the blocks of tofu and blotted them dry-ish with paper towels.  I cooked the tofu in the only way that I’ve ever really had much success with:  I put a tablespoon or two of sesame oil in a nonstick pan with an equal amount of cooking/canola oil.  I turned on the burner pretty high, and when the oil shimmered, I added one block of tofu.  Today, I tried two ways of cutting up the tofu: in cubes and steaks (to cut into cubes after frying).  Both methods were fine, but I think I prefer the control I have over the color of the steaks.  See how they got nice and brown?

IMG_9457 (1)Here is how the tofu looked after all the cooking and cubing:IMG_9458 (1)I guess they’re not so much cubes, are they?  Rectangular prisms?  Did I mention I used to be a Math teacher?

OK, so now I chopped an onion, a green pepper, and some carrot.  I added a little more sesame/canola oil to the pan, turned the heat up high, waited for the oil to shimmer, and added the veggies to the pan.

IMG_9460I sauteed the veggies until they were soft, and added a tablespoon or so of jarred minced garlic and some Chinese five-spice powder.  I sauteed for a minute or so until fragrant, then added three or four cups of the cooked rice.  I cracked two eggs on top of the whole thing and stirred it all up, still over the high heat.  Once the eggs were cooked, I seasoned with a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce.

IMG_9462I portioned the fried rice into five two-cup containers like this one:

IMG_9464Then I added about a heaping half cup of the tofu to each container and stirred it in:

IMG_9468Yes, this has some veggies in it, but I wanted more in M’s lunch.  I had some butternut squash puree leftover from Thanksgiving, so I portioned some into half-cup containers like this:

IMG_9473Of course, there wasn’t enough squash for five portions, so I also prepped a broccoli crown into florets . . .

IMG_9471 . . . and stir fried it in the same sesame/canola oil mix over high heat until bright green with some charred spots.  I put a half cup or so of this into some one-cup containers, like this:

IMG_9478With protein, grain, and veg all set, I added a serving of one of M’s absolute favorites, cottage cheese.  This week, M’s lunch will be one of these two options:

IMG_9481IMG_9480That’s it.  First post complete!