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Mary Helen
Austin, TX
I can Haas Avocado?
Interests: Comfort food, healthy cooking, and ethnic cuisines are my obsessions. As a cook, writer, and culinary instructor these worlds collide in my kitchen on a daily basis.
Recent Activity
Baby Boy got his first round of shots yesterday. It proved to be a harrowing experience for everone involved. One thing about having a baby that doesn't cry all that much - when they do let it rip it can really pull on your heart strings. He went beyond his... Continue reading
Posted 13 hours ago at Mary Makes Babies
I've got some good news for you, and some bad. The good news is that I'm sharing a formula today for the greatest banana flavored ice cream on God's green earth. The bad news is that this recipe involves a process that takes about three days to complete. So while you now have the power to create mind-bendingly good banana ice cream, you'll have to wait three days to eat it. <insert sad trombone sounds. waah waaaaaah.> The key to giving this ice cream the most intense banana flavor possible is freezing and thawing overly ripe bananas. When you freeze a ripe banana it almost ferments, transforming into a caramelized goopy banana slop - chuck full of concentrated banana goodness. I learned this little nugget of genius from Christina Tosi of Momokuku Milk Bar during an episode of PBS's The Mind of a Chef. In the episode titled "Rotten", Tosi uses frozen overripe bananas to make an epic cream pie. Starting a batch of ice cream two days in advance might seem a little extreme, but trust me on this one. If you are thinking of skipping the rotten banana bit, don't even try it. (I'm watching you.) This recipe... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Mary Makes Dinner
They say that change is good, and in this case, I certainly hope that they are right. I grew up as an ovo-lacto vegetarian/pescatarian, and with the exception of a few experimental years, I've spent most of my adult life that way too. This blog has focused on vegan and vegetarian food for about two years now, and I can honestly say that I enjoy, and usually prefer, eating that way. Another thing "they" say is that having kids changes you. I've found this to be very true, but not often in the ways I had expected. While I was pregnant, my midwife put me on a high protein and moderated carb diet with strictly no white starch or added sugar. This was in an effort to keep me from gaining any excess weight. I didn't have a lot of faith in this plan at first - simply because, historically, I don't lose weight. Even when I diet. Even when I exercise regularly. Even when I went on a 15-Day juice cleanse! My body just doesn't want to give it up. So as you can imagine, I wasn't too excited about the diet, especially when I figured out how many... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Mary Makes Dinner
I'm almost half-way through my thirties, and for the past ten or fifteen years I've been wondering when I might start feeling like an adult. I had recently come to the conclusion that the feeling was a myth - a sort of brass ring that you were always reaching for,... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Mary Makes Babies
Of course, two days after I post about all the wonderful progress we are making with Charlie's sleep, he decides to go on a slumber strike. He hasn't slept for more than two hours at a time (and mostly even less) for over twenty four hours. I'm swaying on my... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Mary Makes Babies
You totally have to make this. If you want it to be extra great (and don't care about the healthiness) go all white flour. It's extra tender that way and so flippin' good. If you're like me, you'll make this and then like six more with other things (and cheese) stuffed inside.
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2014 on Broccoli and Cheese Stromboli at Mary Makes Dinner
We're working on sleep lately. Charlie is known to grunt, groan, holler, and squwak in his sleep. He flails and kicks, and causes enough commotion to wake himself (not to mention his mama) from what should be a pretty peaceful sleep. The first thing he and I had to learn... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies
Thanks, Cybele! They are utterly squeezable.
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2014 on Seven Weeks in Babyland at Mary Makes Babies
Stromboli is more or less a big calzone stuffed with savory meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Back home in the North East, the broccoli variety is simple referred to as "Broccoli Bread". That crusty, cheesey, garlic-saturated bundle of deliciousness often haunts my dreams, it being one of those things you just don't see down here in Texas. After we had Charlie, friends and family took turns bringing us dinner. There was a great variety of meals. Over that first two weeks with Charlie we enjoyed everything from veggie chili to takeout pad thai. One of the last contributions to our Meal Train came from my sister's sister-in-law (or is she also just my sister in-law? I never know how all of that works once you go beyond the basics.) brought a homemade stromboli. I thought I might just die from pleasure, stromboli being one of my all-time favorite foods. Betsy's stromboli, which turns out to be a Pagano family tradition, features a crisp crust of buttery, flakey dough. She stuffed it with ham, cheese, sausage, mustard, and salami - an unexpected but tasty combination. She told me that when the Pagano kids were young their Mom would treat them to hot... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2014 at Mary Makes Dinner
Charlie will be two months old next week. People love to tell you how the days are long and the years are short. After almost two months of motherhood I can attest to the accuracy of that statement. Charlie's first month was grueling. I can easily describe those four weeks... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies
My maternity leave is coming to an end. It seems like only yesterday that I was hanging up my keyboard in anticipation of Charlie's arrival. Now I've been a Mom for almost two months. Holy smokes! I couldn't have kept the posts coming on Mary Makes Dinner without the help of my friends. Thank you to everyone who has contributed guest posts! Our last guest post comes today from Kristen of Mad Betty. Kristin and her hubby, Chris of Craft Taste, hail from Jersey, part of the original pizza kingdom, better known as the tri-state area. One of the things that makes Kristin and I such good friends is our shared love and respect of all things pizza. Scott Bobleo and I have gone on many a double-date with Chris and Kristin in search of Austin's best pie. Like all good crusades, our quest for great pizza never ends. Kristin investigated 360 Pizza on South Lamar recently, adding another slice to her collection. - Mary Helen Mary Helen and Scott are two of my best friends. The conversation is easy and we always have lots to talk about, although inevitably our conversation turns to pizza. Our passion for quality pizza... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2014 at Mary Makes Dinner
Thanks, Michelle. I'm glad to have been able to share it. Hooray for blogs.
Toggle Commented Jul 14, 2014 on Charlie's Birth Story at Mary Makes Babies
I catch myself calling Charlie "Fox" now and then, which is my nephew's name. Way to know my own kid's name, right? Of course, when Fox first arrived I accidentally called him "Pooks" all the time, which was my best friend's kid's baby's nickname. When we have a second kid... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies
This week's guest post is from Lisa at Full and Content. Lisa's blog is a something really special - packed with gorgeous photos, killer recipes, and in-depth looks at local restaurants in and around Austin. If you love to cook, or even if you just love to eat, definitely check out Full and Content. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your meatless recipes here on Mary Makes Dinner! The idea of long, lazy summers spent whiling away my time riding bikes or exploring the woods and dry creek beds around my house is still strong in my mind. Summer is about long expanses of time that require creativity and gumption to fill those seemingly endless hours. In theory it is, at least. Things have changed a bit since I was six or eleven. Now my own six- and eleven-year-old kids hold that perspective, but it’s a whole other ballgame for me. The routine of school has been disrupted, and as much as I love the temporary flexibility of summer vacation, it’s no longer the same lazy days of Summer that filled my formative years. And yet I still have that inner urge to fill the time, which I do, a little... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2014 at Mary Makes Dinner
Thanks, Kandy! I hope your next birth is a beautiful one. Babies seem to come however and whenever they please. I think my midwives would tell you not to try and break your own water. I think there is an infection risk with that. Besides, once your water breaks there is a time limit before you'd need to be induced. At least, that's how things worked at our birth center. I imagine after the baby is a week overdue it is pretty tempting to take matters into your own hands though!
Toggle Commented Jul 9, 2014 on Charlie's Birth Story at Mary Makes Babies
Like anyone who finds themselves sleep-deprived and recovering from a major physical trauma, I'm not always 100% with it these days. I forget stuff. I get confused. I even get cranky. My less than perfect state of mind seems to make everything more difficult. From keeping up with my email... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies
It was a dark and stormy night. No really, it was. The night that I labored through for Charlie's birth was a wet one. Rain drenched Austin, flooding roads and creating traffic delays throughout the city. The weather, coupled with my body's penchant for doing things her own way, resulted... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies
H Michelle! Thanks! The birth story is coming soon. Almost done. :)
I'm so glad my post helped. On the bad days it can feel like you've been at it forever. I love my little guy with all my heart, but the lack of sleep really makes it hard to "enjoy every moment". Veteran parents keep telling me that it will get easier though, so I guess we just have to hang in there. God speed fellow mama!
This week's guest post is from Nelly at Aneelee. Aneelee is a family-friendly vegetarian food blog where Nelly shares tasty recipes, weekly meal plans, and stories from her family kitchen. Keeping up with Aneelee is a treat for me since Nelly and I share the same CSA. I often check out her blog for inspiration on how to use up my own share of fresh local veggies. This delicious soup is a great example of the kind of healthy, delicious fare you'll find there. Thanks for sharing your recipe, Nelly! The cooler weather and fennel that came alongside our first market tomatoes this weekend created the perfect conditions for our first cozy bowl of tomato soup. Fennel is a tough one around here. It’s flavor is too strong for inclusion in salads and placing it in stock (which is usually a catch-all vegetable-saving trick) monopolizes the flavor enough to strip the homemade staple of its versatility. Boo. Much more trial and error and even more uneaten fennel dishes finally landed me at roasting. The strong licorice flavor dampens significantly with help from the oven and makes the perfect base for what is now our favorite tomato soup. She likes it... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2014 at Mary Makes Dinner
Dear outside world, I am writing this while trapped under a sweet little baby. My attempts to put him down in the crib or rocker have failed. I would put him down on his father, but apparently it is nap time for him as well. I'm pretty sure that my... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies
This week's guest post comes from Kristina of Girl Gone Grits. Kristina is not only the author of a really great food blog, but also a professional food stylist! How's that for a dream job? Kristina teams up with food photographer Melissa Skorpil to create gorgeous pictures of food. You can learn more about Kristina's adventures in food styling by checking out this post from her blog. Thank you, Kristina, for taking the time share a guest post on Mary Makes Dinner! So to be clear before we start - I’m not Vegan! But, I love ALL food, so cooking vegan is not a problem for me, especially when it involves guest posting for my lovely mama friend Mary Helen. Mary Helen has come to my rescue and guest posted for me on more than one occasion, so coming up with a vegan recipe for her, to give her a little break from blogging and some much needed “mama” time, is an honor. One of my favorite desserts when I was a kid was tapioca or rice pudding. I loved puddings of all types and still do today. I love old-fashioned golden custards and creamy crème brulees. A cool and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2014 at Mary Makes Dinner
Grandparents are great for napping on. Insist on sleeping on them exclusively. (Cribs are for suckers.) If you don't have a boobie to nom on, try something new. There are several other parts of Mommy that are great to chew on - her cheeks, her neck, her shoulders... You can... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies
Today's guest post comes from one of my favorite blogging buddies, Hilah of Hilah Cooking! Hilah and her hubby, Chris, film an incredibly funny and educational cooking show on YouTube. Hilah's recipes are tasty, well-constructed, and easy to make. Her writing is also hilarious, which makes reading her blog (and her books!) a real treat. Whenever someone asks me about learning to cook I send them her way. Whether you are just getting started in the kitchen, or if you are a seasoned cook looking for some simple, reliable recipe ideas, check out Hilah's site at It's the bee's knees. This was a recipe given to me by my doctor, in hopes of encouraging me to eat less grilled cheese sandwiches, I think, and more vegetables. It mostly worked. This fresh chopped salad comes together in a cinch and lasts in the fridge a few days for cold, refreshing bites here and there throughout the day, or to be served as a "plop" on top of salad greens dressed lightly with vinaigrette. You can add diced tomatoes, too, or you can even use all fruits in place of the salad vegetables to make a really yummy fruit salad that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2014 at Mary Makes Dinner
It's hard to believe that it's already been three weeks since our Little Guy arrived. It's been three of the most amazing and challenging weeks of my life. As with most life-changing time periods, this one has gone by at a number of varying paces. There are minutes that crawl... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2014 at Mary Makes Babies