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One of the things I find so challenging about cooking healthfully in the fall and winter is that my go-to veggies of tomatoes, cukes, peppers and lettuces (boring, I know) are mealy and out of season.  And the produce that is in season?  I just can’t get into it.  Kale looks like something you should use to make a shelter roof in the jungle, not cook up and eat.  

It turns out that I’m not the only one that is winter produce-challenged, so to help us sad souls, Cameron of Cottage Industrialist has designed a fabulous series of free, printable and completely awesome calendars that list the veggies-of-the-month with coordinating printable recipes using said veggies cooked up by Heather over at Home Ec 101.  How cool is that?

Check out Cameron’s calendars here and Heather’s recipes here.  Thanks, ladies!

Image credit: Cottage Industrialist

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It’s Week 1, Day 2, so let’s start with a bang, shall we?  Monday will probably be a good day for me to try new recipes, since it’s one of the days I’m home with my kiddos and not rushing home from work with two starving beasts.  I had ripped out this recipe from Real Simple long ago (March 2008, to be exact), but had never tried it.  So after a quick run to the grocery store, buying only the essentials (like shrimp, for example), I tried it last night.  It was delicious and ridiculously easy to prepare, with the exception of peeling and deveining 1 pound of shrimp — an activity I abhor.

So here it is, copied straight from my olive oil-stained page:

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (I substituted 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary)

Kosher salt and pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 clove garlic, chopped (I substituted 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic from a jar)

1 19-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (I used a 15-ounce can)

2 bunches of arugula, trimmed (my grocery store was out of arugula, so I substituted with a small head of red leaf lettuce, chopped in ribbons)

HEAT oven to 400 degrees F.

MIX the breadcrumbs, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large bowl.  Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Transfer shrimp and any excess crumbs to a baking sheet.

Bake until the shrimp are cooked through and the bread crumbs are crispy, 10 to 12 minutes.

HEAT the remaining oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add the beans, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the arugula (or red leaf lettuce) and toss to combine.

DIVIDE the beans among individual plates and serve with the shrimp.  Sprinkle any bread crumbs from the pan over the top. (I served the beans/greens combination in one bowl and the shrimp from a platter…we do it family style in my house). 

The verdict? Easy, fast (20 minutes after 45 f-ing minutes dealing with the shrimp process) and delish.  Likely to become a staple in my very limited dinner repertoire.

{I promise to take pictures next time, but it was all gone before I remembered…}

Recipe credit: Real Simple, March 2008

Every year, just as December comes to a close, the weight of the month’s gift-buying and grocery-shopping and last-minute-thing-before-the-party-starts-/family-arrives-/school-ends-acquiring begins to crush me.  My heart palpitates, I breathe faster, I can’t sleep, and I feel totally out of control.  What’s strange about this is that during the other eleven months of the year, I am a complete and total spendthrift.  Ok, maybe not a spendthrift (as I quickly check Wikipedia, I would not define myself as a person who is “extravagant and recklessly wasteful”), but I am an excellent shopper.  I am someone who not only enjoys the act, but is really, really good at it.  I find great deals.  I adorn myself and my husband and our children and our home with beautiful, high-quality goodies that have not cost us an arm and a leg.  But it’s this time each year that I start to feel it’s all too much.  Too much money, too much stuff, too much time.

I think the rest of my family has it right.  Thrifty, parsimonious, penny-pinching — whatever you call it, it runs like blood through my family’s veins. My father, a lifelong academic adminstrator, allowed himself a $10 a week allowance even after he became the headmaster of an independent school in Manhattan.  My mother, who returned to public health nursing after raising three kiddos, never even allowed us to get refills on our soft drinks (back in the days before they were free) during our thrice-yearly outings to the Ground Round (dinner out for birthdays only).  Even my youngest brother, as early as I can remember, socked away his hard-earned (or found) coins in a giant traffic meter bank until one day he had enough money to buy a complete drum set.  No joke.

But somewhere along the way, the art of living an economical life skipped a member of the Moses family (maybe that’s why I found my CPA husband Dave, who serves as my frugal proxy), and I became known as The Shopper in the family, swimming through the flood of teasing that has accompanied that title ever since working my first retail stint at Talbots in the late 80s.

But here’s the thing, although I’ve enjoyed my years of shopping…my expertise as it’s come to be…I think it’s keeping me from the things I’m really supposed to be doing.  I think, beyond the obvious benefits of cutting the shopping cord (saving more money being the primary one), I’m going to discover talents I didn’t even know I had (or that I think I might have, but don’t attend to properly).

So, before that bone-crushing weight I was describing earlier starts to lighten, here’s my plan.  In 2010, I pledge to shift my focus toward creation and away from consumption.  I have piles THISBIG of recipes, craft ideas and books ready to be attacked.  I have a re-found interest in running after training for a 4-mile race this past Thanksgiving.  I have always wanted to make-like-ProjectRunway and sew myself a little shift dress (and I even have the sewing machine at the ready).  I’m writing a memoir (no, not about my shopping self) and need to dedicate more time to finishing my pages. 

To help me with my little project, I’ve set some simple goals for myself that I will report on regularly:

Make More: Create a piece of art or craft at least once a month

Cook More: Try one new recipe a week

Sew More: Complete at least one garment for myself by the end of the year

Read More: Limit screen time (computer included) and read one book a month 

Write More: Spend at least three hours a week writing (and I don’t mean blogging)

Exercise More: Run a 10K by the end of the year

Try More: Learn to ski (yes, this lifelong New Englander has never stepped foot on a pair of skis)

And generally, Buy Less: Buy essentials online (the best way to limit in-store browsing is not to walk in); be creative with what’s already in the kitchen (“Cook More” should help this); think through EVERY purchase and be honest about whether it’s a want-to-buy or a need-to-buy; use time with my boys creatively and if possible, don’t schlep them on errands which always ends up with purchasing unnecessary things just to make the trip fast or pleasant.

(On a side note, some of these goals may seem less than ambitious, but between working as a higher ed administrator three days a week and being a full-time mom the remaining four, this is just about all I think I can handle.)

So this is me, coming clean, blogging along the way for everyone to see and to keep me honest.