Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

In the process of working on goal #10 on my 30 before 30 list– cook at least 30 new recipes- I ended up combining elements of a few different risotto recipes with some tweaks and additions of my own. The result was delish and I definitely want to get this recipe in writing for future reference, so here it is!

To give credit where credit is due, I drew some inspiration from this recipe by Cookie and Kate and this one from NYT Cooking.


1 lb cubed butternut squash

1 tsp rosemary

2-3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp minced ginger

10 sage leaves

1 cup rice

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

2 tbsp cream cheese


Toss the butternut squash with the rosemary, salt, pepper, and just enough olive oil to lightly coat it (1-1.5 tbsp). Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 375 for about 50 minutes.

Start the risotto when the squash is about halfway through roasting. Finely chop 4 of the sage leaves. Melt the butter in a dutch oven. Add the chopped sage and cook for about a minute. Add the onion and cook for two minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stir, and cook for another two to three minutes. Add the wine and cook for two minutes. Add the rice and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low heat until the rice is cooked, about twenty minutes. If it starts looking too dry and the rice isn’t quite done, throw in an extra half a cup of water.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and fry the remaining sage leaves until they turn a darker shade of green but not brown, just about a minute or two. Stir the cream cheese and parmesan into the rice when it’s done. Keep the heat on low and stir until the cheese has melted into the rice. Stir in the roasted butternut squash. Garnish with the fried sage leaves.

I served this along with a spinach salad and mussels cooked in a garlic butter white wine sauce. Yum!

Another awesome Swahili resource

It’s been a while since I posted about language learning! Because I love languages and learning and Kenya, and because learning to speak Swahili is on my 30 before 30 list, here I am sitting down with a glass of white wine and my little green notebook and an awesome online Swahili curriculum my husband shared with me. It was created by a friend of his as part of a pre-departure orientation for a nonprofit organization in Tanzania, but it is very generously available to anyone interested. The curriculum includes both written and audio explanations of Swahili grammar, along with listening comprehension exercises and worksheets. I posted a while ago about some helpful youtube channels for learning Swahili, but this resource is more comprehensive. Check it out, my fellow language nerds!

30 before 30 update: gratitude jar


I’ve never been good at routines. And the next 3o before 30 goal I’m tackling depends very much on following a routine. This one’s going to be a challenge! So I “voluntold” my husband to join me in this endeavor. He’s good at the routine thing. I’m the spontaneous one. We both definitely need each other!

Goal #29 on my 30 before 30 list: Keep a gratitude jar for a year.

I thought Thanksgiving would be a good time to get a start on this one. I prettied up a mason jar with some festive ribbon, and each day, the hubby and I each write one thing we’re grateful for on a small slip of paper, fold it up, and drop it in the jar! Sometimes I write about something specific to that day; other times I write about something I’m grateful for in my life more generally. God is good, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I don’t always take the time to recognize it and when I do I’m just like… wow. Wow.

Here’s to keeping this up till Thanksgiving 2017, which will probably mean upgrading to bigger jars along the way!

30 before 30 update: cooking and booking

Since I first wrote up my 30 before 30 list and hung it on my fridge back in June, I have made it a third of the way toward accomplishing goals #9 and #10: Cook 30 new recipes and read 30 new books before my 30th birthday. Here are those recipes and books, for the record, and in case anyone’s interested in checking them out!

I’ve rated the recipes on a scale of one to five stars:

* = yuck, ** = meh, *** = okay but nothing special, **** = pretty good, will probably make again, ***** = yum, yum, delish, will definitely make again

  1. Greek chicken stew with cauliflower and olives from NYT Cooking ****
  2. One Pot Red Lentil Chili from Minimalist Baker *****
  3. Poulet a la creme from Sur La Table ***
  4. Asian lettuce wraps from allrecipes.com*****
  5. Pork tenderloin steaks with wilted cabbage and apples from the Food Network ***
  6. Blueberry Baked Oatmeal from Cookie and Kate ****
  7. Creamy tomato basil tortellini from TipHero *****
  8. Cajun Chicken Pasta from allrecipes.com *****
  9. Shakshuka from Tori Avey *****
  10. Salmon Alfredo Pasta from RecipeTin Eats *****


Books I’ve read since making my 30 before 30 list:

  1. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad. Read this if… you read The Great Gatsby in high school and found yourself thinking, “Every character in this book is a dysfunctional hot mess but I can’t look away and I don’t even know why I like this book but I kind of do.” (I should point out that you will find more punkrockers than roaring twenties speakeasiers in Goon Squad.)
  2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah. Read this if… you want to dive into complicated questions about race, culture, and identity while reading the work of an author who writes so beautifully that you’ll almost feel disappointed when you get to the last page.
  3. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink. Read this if… You like learning more about what drives human behavior and this fascinatingly weird world.
  4. Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican. Read this if… you love beautiful memoirs that read almost like fiction.
  5. Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake. Read this if… you’re wrestling with questions about identity, or you’re interested in stories about immigration, coming of age, navigating multiple cultures, and finding oneself.
  6. Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men. Read this if… you’re into fantasy, fairy tales for grown-ups, and/or funny phrases in Scottish accents.
  7. Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown. Read this if… you liked The Wee Free Men and want to find out what happens next. (It’s not quite as good, though.)
  8. Lois Lowry, The Giver. Read this if… you like dystopian novels that make you think. This book is basically Brave New World for kids.
  9. Jean Kwok, Girl in Translation. Read this if… you like stories about immigration, coming of age, and overcoming challenges. The last couple of chapters will have you cheering out loud, then holding your breath, and then feeling all the feels.
  10. Ngugi wa Thiongo, A Grain of Wheat. Read this if… you want to know more about African history and literature because it was woefully neglected in your high school curriculum.

Blooming Where Planted

“Kayakstination”: Noun. (1) To procrastinate by plugging random airports on faraway continents into Kayak and searching for inexpensive flights to Bangkok, Istanbul, Tehran, Dakar, anywhere. (2) My favorite method of procrastination.

Today, I caught myself checking ticket prices to Lima next summer. Yes, we’re thinking of going to Peru! Kenya’s also on our travel menu for next year, as always, and I’m hoping we’ll have a chance to swing by Ethiopia while we’re over there. I love planning trips, even when I know they’re trips that might or might not happen. I love dreaming about visas being stamped into passports and foreign languages in my ears like music and that thrill you get when you step off the plane into a place you’ve never been before in your life and you don’t know what to expect but you know you’ll remember it forever. I want to hug the whole world in my arms. I want to go everywhere.

But sometimes I wonder if my mind is searching for elsewhere a little too much. If I’m not living in the moment enough. If I’m not appreciating the here and the now.

Earlier this year,  a friend and I were wandering my urban neighborhood, savoring the precious short New England summer, when we discovered this gem. A tiny rose garden tucked away in one of the busiest parts of Boston. I found my way back to the rose garden last weekend. Those warm summer days were long gone, but to my surprise, the roses were still blooming, and a little bird was singing cheerfully in a fountain. An oasis of green and fuschia peace.

A few years ago, at twenty-three and in the midst of a full blown quarter life crisis, I was talking to my grandmother one day, and she told me, “Bloom where you’re planted.” She told me to treasure every moment of those uncertain, beautifully struggling years of early-twenties-hood, because I’d always look back on them and be thankful for them. She was right then and she’s right now.

I don’t want to miss any more rose gardens, whether physical “happy places” or intangible moments. This is my reality. This is my life, and though I’m here and not on a plane to somewhere far away, this life here- yes, here and now- has depth and beauty and adventure and there is always something to discover right around the corner if I’m present enough to look for it.

Travel is awesome, but adventure isn’t always a plane flight away.

Here’s to blooming where planted.