Monday, December 21, 2009

Fresh pasta is pregnant woman's best friend...

...particularly when it's someone else making it for you!

Anyhoo, I've been keeping up with Nicole's progress since she's just a few weeks ahead of me. Baby Warren decided to hang in there for the full term, but finally arrived last week. What a precious baby! Congratulations!

I'm now at 33 weeks and at 32 weeks, I got hit with the double whammy of edema and major acid reflux. I've been cruising along for so long with only hip pain and vanity issues. But now I have to dramatically change what I eat--cut back on salt and cut out citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, and more. But those are the most important. The tomato is the staple of my diet.

I discovered my new issues after visiting my favorite Indian restaurant, Woodlands last week for what will probably be the last time for several months. Onions and tomatoes--not the best friends of a third trimester pregnant woman. Dinner was delicious, though. And by Thursday evening? I'd taken off my shoes and noted my socks looked funny. But then I took off my socks to reveal ankles that looked as if they had tumors. They'd swollen around the opening of my shoe. Fantastic.

So on Thursday, I was trying to figure out what was going to get me through the next 6-8 weeks. And it occurred to me: pasta. But not just any ol' pasta. I was finally going to get some Lazzaroli's pasta. Others have raved about it, so I was finally going to make my way to Germantown and get some for myself.

Lazzaroli's is a little market that's actually not far from the Farmer's Market. And for so long, I thought it was hard to get to! Not so. But you don't let size fool you. Tom's got a lot of stuff in there. It was great to chat with him, but I kept getting distracted by all of the great items he sells aside from the pasta. June Taylor jams, the full line of Olive and Sinclair chocolate bars, Silke's breads, and a large collection of fine oils and other kitchen essentials.

Though I picked up some marmalade and chocolate, I was there for the pasta. I got a pound of fresh fettucine and a pound of frozen shiitake mushroom and fontina ravioli (there are two cases--one fresh, one frozen). I also picked up some of Lazzaroli's roasted pepper cream sauce as it sounded like something my poor little body could handle.

So I got home with my bag of goodies and cooked up a batch of fettucine. I wasn't ready yet to take any chances, so I just poured on some good olive oil and a touch of truffle oil and shaved parmigiano (and, okay, a pinch of fleur de sel) and sat down for dinner. Delicious. There is nothing like a really good, fresh egg pasta. Mother and baby both enjoyed dinner immensely (as we were both able to sleep).

So, Friday, I took some leftover noodles with the roasted pepper sauce on them for lunch. It's not the best way to enjoy fresh pasta, but they held up remarkably well to the abuse. And that sauce has a great flavor. And didn't hurt my stomach.

Anyway, I have a feeling that Tom's going to be seeing a lot more of me, particularly until I can get around to making my own pasta again. And I've spread the word to some of my Yankee Italian co-workers, too. They're very happy to know that they can have pasta here after all!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Wild Cow--now almost, kinda open

I just saw on Twitter that though they're still working on the final paperwork and other little things to get going, The Wild Cow will be open starting tonight to sell gluten-free cookies and muffins!

Their Grand Opening is Saturday night, December 12. Ten dollars gets you into the party for all you can eat samples from the menu and a nice libation; 75% of the money will go to the East Nashville Community Action Network. Sadly, I'll miss the festivities (baby shower in Memphis!), but I'm sure there will be a great turnout. I know a lot of people have eagerly anticipated their opening.

Anyhoo, they're at 1896 Eastland Avenue right across from Rosepepper. I hope to visit soon.

Note: Technically, the wild cow does not exist due to hundreds of years of domestication for food and labor. Bison are technically bovines and do somewhat exist in the wild, but for the most part, "the wild cow" is a now-extinct creature.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Top Chef

The other night, we were watching the first part of the finale of Top Chef with Pregnant Padma trying to figure out if that poor woman had to host the show in her first trimester, I discovered that she's due either one month or two--depending on the report--after I'm due. I'm gonna say two. Though as I was gloating about how much bigger she was, I got to the news that she has endometriosis. Ooh, yikes. I definitely felt like a jerk then. Karma got me, though. My rear is now too large to fit in my pajamas. Unlike Padma, I'm not gaining weight all over; just in my mid-section. So I still have a thin face and stick arms and legs except for my thighs, hips and belly. I must look like something out of a cartoon. Nine (or less!) weeks to go!

Anyhoo, in order to celebrate the last few weeks of freedom, the Husband and I decided to take a short trip down to Atlanta to eat at a few Top Chef restaurants. Our number one goal was to visit Kevin Gillespie's Woodfire Grill. Sadly, we didn't plan this, oh, three months ago when we could have maybe gotten a Saturday night reservation. Our friends, however did get to go Friday night (at 10:30!) and had the tasting menu and reported back that it was just as good as one would expect. The husband is still disappointed we couldn't go. Interesting story, our server for dinner at Craft (see below) got a spot for 7pm Friday night when he called the restaurant on Thursday. So if you want to go and are flexible, keep trying and even call; I assume that a cancelled reservation came open.

Though we didn't get into Kevin's restaurant, we did go to Richard Blais's Flip Burger Boutique for lunch on Saturday. The most "Richard" thing about the restaurant is that the milkshakes are frozen with liquid nitrogen. The menu is impressive, though (for a burger joint). Hand cut french fries (delicious), homemade fried bread and butter pickles (a nice twist on a standard and incredibly tasty), a very savory and yummy mushroom patty burger and of course...milkshakes. The husband had the Krispy Kreme milkshake (very sweet and very good) and I had the pumpkin pie milkshake (so rich that even with help from the rest of the table, it didn't get finished).

Flip Interior

Krispy Kreme milkshake with the gases still burning off

Mushroom burger (ground mushrooms in a patty under a thin layer of swiss cheese; not a mushroom cap, thankfully)

A couple of things to note about Flip: it's popular at lunchtime. We got lucky and arrived just before noon and got a parking spot in the actual lot and got a table right away. But within 15 minutes, there was a line for a table despite the fact that a few warm-natured folks were dining outside (there is a nice patio). And if you think you'll be clever and send someone in ahead, Flip is one of those places that does not seat you until your entire group has arrived. The host was very pleasant about this; some aren't. Regardless, it would have been worth the wait. Those pickles! Two vegetarian burgers to choose from!

To continue our theme for dinner, we ate at Tom Colicchio's Craft Atlanta. My friend and I had been to Craft Bar in New York for brunch a couple of years ago, but this was our first experience for dinner.

My friends are all omnivores, but I knew that a restaurant like this would have something I could eat; something really good. But I'll get to the food in a moment. First things first is the's in the busiest part of Buckhead, right around the corner from the malls and is connected to a hotel. From the outside, it doesn't look like much, but once you step inside, you're greeted with the fire for the grill. The decor is heavy and dim (like a steakhouse) but modern. We were led upstairs, seated and greeted by about three different people. Frankly, I was confused as to who our server was for the first 15 minutes.

Our server was friendly and helpful, but mistaken in his assertion that side dishes and appetizers were "individually portioned." By the time we'd received all our food, our table was very crowded. So take note: any salad you get will easily feed four people as a first course and appetizers, two-three people. And most side dishes are enough for two people. And the entrees are huge, too. I think the Husband and my friend could have shared their braised shortrib...and maybe it wouldn't have gone cold by the time they finished (there was that much food!).

Regardless of those very slightly negative points, this dinner was amazingly good. I informed the server of a few preferences (the entree I'd seen on the website was not available) and I got one of the best pasta dishes ever...a fresh linguine (as in, they got the order and rolled out some pasta for me) in a mild butternut squash sauce topped with assorted roasted mushrooms (including my favorites--oyster and hen of the woods). I can still taste how good that pasta was. Spectacular. The omnivores agreed.

Along with the pasta, I had a nice arugula and pine nut salad and side dishes of yukon gold creamed potatoes, roasted sunchokes and a few bites of my friends' gnocchi. That was the first time the Husband and I had ever had sunchokes (the tuber of a certain type of sunflower and also known as Jerusalem artichoke) and I'm sad that we waited so long. They're delicious. I hope I can prepare them at home just as well. Also, the gnocchi...the Husband noted a difference in the taste and texture of the gnocchi and I sheepishly responded that it was because he'd never had fresh gnocchi. As in, I think those little guys were part of a whole potato less than a couple of hours before we ate them. Wow. Sadly, I was too full for dessert (and was not tempted by the scuppernong sorbet), but our friends got the dessert accompanied by the quince taste made me wish I had room for it. Delicate and delicious.

The grill

Wild Arugula Salad

Just half of the side dishes...

Probably the best pasta dish I've ever had in my life...

We wrapped up our trip with a fairly uninteresting brunch at a local hippie place (which is probably better for lunch proper--though to be fair, I think we all had food hangovers) and a trip to IKEA. My first trip to IKEA! The main draw was the baby stuff...three hours and $300 later, we emerged exhausted and with a four hour drive ahead of us. But the trip was totally worth it.

And now we have to go back sometime after the kidlet has arrived so the Husband can go to the Woodfire Grill. Not quite sure when that will be...wonder if they have high chairs...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Suzy Wong's House of Yum

A couple of weeks ago, Husband and I finally tried out Arnold Myint's latest restaurant, Suzy Wong's House of Yum. I've decided this man can do no wrong. I love his food. My only complaint is that the steamed bun is only available with barbeque pork with no vegetarian option. But I shall live. I'm currently in posession of an uncorrected proof of Momofuku that includes a recipe for bao, but guess what? The last line of that recipe: TK. [For those not in the biz, that means "to come." D'oh!].

Anyhoo, I have little energy for words and since pictures are worth a thousand, I'll just let them tell the story...some of it.

Vegetable Summer Rolls

Curried Tofu and Potato Pockets
My favorite of the bunch.

Vegetable Gyoza Pot Stickers

Steamed BBQ Pork Bao Bun
Sadly, no vegetarian version. To some, a vegetarian bao is sacrilege, but I think something good could be stuffed in there. I did pinch off a little of the bun. Tasty.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Wontons with caramel sauce
Unbelievably delicious.

Inside, the restaurant is a bit New York-y. Tables are close together and it's pretty "hip"--it has to be; it's in that strip of clubs on Church Street where, um, style matters. Let's just say that. There's also a place outside that I hope you will find me this summer--a great little courtyard and even an area with couches for lounging. Even though it was a bit chilly when we went, a few people were enjoying the outdoor space because it's so nice. Can't wait to try it out! Though I suppose by then there will be no pumpkin cheesecake wontons. *sigh*


Quel surprise, still no post about New York. Perhaps I should just do a photo essay. Each one is worth a thousand words, right?

I had a very orange Thanksgiving. Nary a mac nor a cheese to be found. I suppose I know what I will make next year. But this year, I took this cous cous salad with butternut squash from Erin to dinner. Except, of course, I changed it up (as I did the first time I made it, but I made even more changes this time). I left out the coriander and cut back on the savory spices and subbed in toasted walnuts and added honey (therefore, it was no longer vegan).

And it was...not great. It was okay. Previously, I used crispy fried chickpeas and Israeli cous cous and it was a lot better. And I didn't skimp on the cumin (though it caused some distress in the upper portion of my torso where all my organs are squished in from the enlarged uterus and alien life form in residence). So, try this recipe out, but the only change should be crisping the chickpeas. And maybe using Israeli cous cous.

Anyhoo, "dinner" was rounded out with sweet potato casserole, asparagus casserole (very yummy), and pumpkin pecan pie. I'm surprised I'm not orange. I am, however, pretty round. Ten weeks (or less, please) to go!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Two months later and I still haven't posted about my trip to NYC. I've even been again (just last week). In my defense, there's a lot to write. Some other time.

In the meantime, here's my little project from last week. It was based on this amazing post from Love & Olive Oil, but I lazed out and used box mix (Orange Supreme) and canned frosting (not a good idea at all). Oh, if only.... Though in a couple of years, I can blame my decorating failures on the kid. I've been warned that doesn't last long, though; once they get about four or so, they can rat you out.
I'm now 26 weeks pregnant and have an obvious orb in my torso. I've gone from just looking fat to looking obviously pregnant. So I get a lot of questions from people who know I'm vegetarian. The most common? "Have you craved meat?" The answer? No.

My husband was really hoping I'd crave meat. I told him that even if I did, I wouldn't eat it. Some people do and that's fine for them, but not me. I am disappointed that I've had to take a prenatal vitamin that's in a gelatin capsule. But the vegan alternatives for vitamins and DHA in particular were making me sick. It really only takes one time of having DHA come up through your nose to turn you off it completely. I find it interesting that I can get algae-based DHA in a gelatin capsule. I suppose it's for people who may have fish allergies. Anyhoo.

So what have I craved?

During the first trimester, I had the very common craving for lemons. I've read that it may be due to an increased need for vitamin C and also because it helps with nausea. However, past week 11 or so, I could take or leave anything lemon flavored. And I have quite a stash now. Lemon-lime soda, frozen lemonade, lemon candy, lemon cookies...

During my second trimester, it was french fries. See the previous post on Red Robin and their bottomless fries. A co-worker fed my addiction with more servings of Arby's curly fries than I care to admit as well. My theory on this craving is my body's need to bulk up. I gained just six pounds in the first four months, but gained another six pounds in the fifth month. The fry craving was supplemented with mashed potatoes during my bout with the flu. Both helped me pack on the weight. Which I really didn't want. For a brief time in there (about a week), I wanted my fries dipped in pickle juice, too. But hey, I love those dill flavored chips anyway, so it's not like that's some odd stretch.

Now that I'm entering my third trimester, all I crave is Xanax. No, really. Of course, I won't take any (don't even have any), but I just want to relax. I've had an eye twitch for weeks that's likely a result of fatigue and stress. Just one good night's sleep.... I also had a craving for a cigarette recently. This is even more odd than any food craving since I've never been a smoker and I actually hate cigarettes and their taste and smell. I was that kid who bowed to peer pressure and tried one and then immediately exclaimed, "that tastes like crap!" My tastebuds were always more important to me than looking cool (as evidenced by my chubby phase in late elementary/junior high school).

But as far as food goes, I don't have an interest in much. Nor do I have the energy to cook much. So we've been using the excuse of the pending baby to go out to eat a lot.
While at a party this weekend, I talked to Chef Andy Hunter of The Acorn. He's working on his fall/winter menu and I'm eager to see what he does with some of the winter squashes. I love them, but rarely cook them because they can be kind of a pain in the ass. I love having chopped acorn squash in a dish, but I'm not a huge fan of skinning and chopping it myself. Andy also showed us some of the pumpkins he carved for Halloween. Holy cow. He said it takes him about an hour to do most (everything from celebrity faces to Muppets of all sorts), but it took him about three hours to carve The Brady Bunch. The

At the same party, I introduced myself to John Cochran, who's opening The Wild Cow soon. There's been a lot of buzz about this place among local vegetarians and we're really hoping it takes off. He said they've had to delay opening, not least because of all the paperwork required to get a restaurant open, but are aiming for December 1 with a grand opening that will benefit a local animal charity. I can't remember which one right now, but I'm going to keep my eye on these guys. We chatted a little about food and he said they're still trying to decide on the purchase of a deep fryer. I hope they make that plunge because "chicken-fried" tofu nuggets would convert a lot of otherwise tofu-averse people over to the soy side. I think their location is good, too; they're at 1896 Eastland, right across from a popular restaurant, Rosepepper, which is often very crowded. It's in a part of East Nashville that's a tad bit more residential and less restaurant-y than parts west of there. I bet they could do a heckuva a takeaway business. I'm hoping that not being quite so far into the neighborhood (as The Veggie Cafe was) will help it, too.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Restaurant Round-Up: Birthday Week

I still need to write some wonderful things about New York, don't I? I will probably visit New York yet again before I get around to finishing up that project. Anyhoo.

My birthday (and the birthdays of many of my friends) is at the end of September, so the husband and I spent a whole lotta time dining out between September 26th and October 3rd. We went to a couple of old favorites and tried some new places, too.

First up, we went to ChaChah. We'd intended to go to PM instead, but it was crowded and ChaChah offered up the opportunity for immediate seating on the patio. Win.

I love the food at ChaChah. Arnold Myint, the chef is very creative and seems to combine some of my favorite things with new flavors to create wonderful dishes. The delicious tagine was gone from the menu, but replaced by a "menestra" of seasonal vegetables flavored with a hint of Meyer lemon preserve. Though, because the chef strives to keep the menu "fresh," the menestra is now gone, too--replaced by another vegetarian dish that I'm sure I'd love. Though I could survive on pinchos and salad and dips (which I don't see on the menu right now--Arnold, you rascal). And dessert...that night, we had a coconut milk-based flan flavored with cardamom. Spectacular. In addition to the food, ChaChah (and PM) have fantastic cocktails. I can't wait to go back postpartum when I can actually enjoy one with liquor.

Incidentally, the tagine wasn't the only thing I noticed missing from the menu since our only previous visit back in March for Husband's birthday...gone also were the high prices on the large plates. Replaced by very, very reasonable prices. How refreshing.

Next up was brunch at Allium. We'd never been before and hadn't thought much about it (we don't make it to East Nashville often) but that's where a friend was having a birthday brunch. There are several vegetarian options, but I'm not a fan of eggs so I had Raspberry brioche French toast. What I really wanted were popovers (!), but the popover o' the day had bacon in it.

The food was very good (Husband thoroughly enjoyed his Shrimp Benedict or something like that), the place is really remarkable for two other things: the view and the service. The view (see photo) speaks for itself. When it's patio time again, be sure to visit. The When one friend couldn't decide between two side dishes, the server offered to bring a half serving of each. I've never heard a server offer that. I was impressed (and so was my friend). And when I asked about the popovers, I gave a back up choice of the French toast, but neglected to mention that I'd want hash browns on the side instead of bacon. No worries, he picked up on that on his own and even said that if he'd gotten that wrong, he'd bring out another side. I think I fell in love right then.

Our next stop, mid-week, was for my actual birthday. I chose Zola because it'd been quite some time since I'd eaten there and because I'd heard of a special vegetarian menu. The chef, Deb Paquette, has always had a vegetarian option and been able to accommodate special requests (I have never forgotten that phyllo burrito stuffed with roasted vegetables and Israeli couscous), so I was very curious about the menu.

The verdict? Eh. No phyllo burrito, sadly. I did have a very tasty empanadilla, but the other options were a bit disappointing to me, but that's because (at the time), they were heavy on eggplant. I don't care for eggplant. I won't bother to tell you why, but I don't. No fault of the chef's, of course. Ya can't please everyone and she's not a psychic. What vegetarian doesn't like eggplant? Anyhoo. I'd actually filled up on a really delicious brie bruschetta with these wonderful little candied hazelnuts.

But the thing that Husband and I discussed the most was the service (seeing a theme?). The service there is really great...the servers know the menu inside and out and make great recommendations. But something on this night just wasn't right. We just didn't see this guy very much. We waited for a long time to order, to get drinks, to get bread, to get our food. We were there for over two hours and we didn't even have dessert. Halfway through, we figured out the reason, though--the table next to us. Every time the server came by, he had to spend at least ten minutes with these people. I think he just eventually started avoiding them--and us, since we were so close. We were just unlucky. It was annoying, but I can't blame him too much. Whoever wrote this must've been in the dining room that night. On the upside, we weren't tempted with dessert and that's a good thing because there was an Italian wedding cake from The Fresh Market waiting for me at home. My favorite.

We finished up the week with a Saturday night dinner at City House. Many of my friends and online foodie friends have raved about City House, so a big group of us met up for dinner.

What I hadn't thought about before was that all the fans of City House are omnivores. The real draws at this restaurant are cured meats and the specials. We, however dined from the menu and I chose from the few vegetarian options.

I started out sharing a "margherita" pizza with the husband. I use quotes because there was no sign of the (what I feel is) the required fresh basil. The pizza did have a good flavor and though I love thin crust, this crust didn't hold up well to the watery sauce. It tasted great, but was a thin, soggy mess. A little thicker crust and a lot less runny sauce (plus a few leaves of basil) and this pizza would be perfect.

Next, I had "Conchiglie, Shittake, Potatoes, Garlic, Oregano, Grana Padano." An adult's version of shells and cheese, right? It's hard to go wrong with a pasta dish, but this one just didn't come together right. I've heard that City House gets their pasta fresh from a local pasta maker, but the shells didn't seem fresh. And I thought it was maybe the heavy hand with the cheese, but others have said that the pasta dishes there were too salty. It was too something. This could have easily been a good, simple and light dish that's satisfying, but it was just not great. Just okay (but too salty). Roasted mushrooms over a really good egg fettucine with olive oil and a bit of cheese would be great. I think this thing got overthought. Try saying that three times fast.

While the food was okay, the service was not. There was a steady decline in the quality of service we received over the week and this guy really punctuated that. First, he took drink orders for just half the table and then disappeared (we had a party of seven). Then, he seemed annoyed at having to explain many of the words on the menu (if a sugo is a sauce, just say so, mmkay?). But the worst was that he didn't really seem to understand the food very well and wasn't able to explain the menu at all. When my friend asked if the butter beans could be substituted on the catfish plate, he started with a very blunt "no." It was startling, actually. And he never did explain that the reason was that it was not a side dish, but part of a sauce that was made for the fish. There was not a big ol' pile of butter beans on her plate, which is what one tends to imagine when ordering catfish.

There were highlights, though. The drink menu there is great--the menfolk really enjoyed their artisan beers and manly cocktails (my husband's new favorite drink is a Dark and Stormy). But my favorite part of the night was dessert. I'm told Rebekah Turshen does the desserts and I'd met her at a Slow Food Nashville event and had some of her linzer cookies--yum). The husband had a chocolate terrina (so chocolatey, so smooooooth) and I had one scoop each of salted caramel gelato (not quiiiiiite salted caramelly enough, but very good) and chocolate orange gelato (superb). An apple dessert was topped with a mascarpone gelato that was also amazingly delicious.

So I don't know that we'll ever go back to City House, but I will say that it's got a fun atmosphere and a great bar area. Just limit your group size and come ready to dine on some swine.

Shew. I'm still kind of de-toxing from all that restaurant food. Though we only have about four more months of freedom until we're tethered with a newborn, so I expect we'll be dining out a lot this winter!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ginger Peach Ice Cream

Really, I should be writing about all the great food I ate in New York. Not just because I want to re-live it or brag but mostly because I don't want to forget. And as we all know, once something's on the internet, it's there forever.

But before summer ends (oops!), I wanted to share this recipe. Because it's mine, all mine! As in, I tried to search for a good ginger peach ice cream and came up with nothing. So here ya go.

Ginger Peach Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart or about 8 servings

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 large or 3 medium eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated ginger root
4 or 5 fresh or frozen peaches (skinless), pureed
Peach preserves (optional)

Beat milk and eggs together in a large saucepan. Add sugar, ginger and
vanilla extract, and cook over medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly thickened and registering 170F on a thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, just cook it long enough so that it thickens like a custard but does not boil.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in cream and pureed peaches. Mix with a stick blender (this is what I do--I don't pour it through a sieve and have never had an issue with my custards). Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and then pour the mix into your ice cream maker according to the directions. Afterward, the ice cream will still be soft, so stir in some peach preserves for a ribbon of peach and store in the freezer.

I really like ginger, so I added more. Eh, I don't really recommend this. The colder the ice cream got, the more gingery it tasted. And some other add-ins might have been nice. Maybe some cookies or something to resemble a pie crust? Mmm...

So why ginger peach? Well, back during peach season, my eyes were bigger than my body's ability to eat peaches in a timely manner. Peaches are wily little fruits. One day, they're too firm, the next day--poof!--mushy and moldy. The fact that I keep my house at 80 degrees (even hotter on the kitchen side of the house) doesn't help. Anyhoo. Once any peach started looking questionable, I just tossed it in the freezer. Even after two months, they were fine even without being wrapped up. I let them thaw, skinned them and they were ready to go. Also? I love peaches, but I'm not a huge fan of peach flavor. But one day, I just thought, hey, ginger would be a great compliment to peaches in ice cream! And I was right. I really like this recipe a lot.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No skins and no garlic? What?

I'm sorry to spoil the drama of such a well-written post, but no skins and no garlic? I just don't know. I have long known that leaving my skins on was bad form, but no garlic? At times, I've forgotten to add it and have felt something lacking. So, I just don't know. But cook eat FRET speaketh the truth...

It's really time for me to get out my pasta rollers again. I spend my weekends cleaning my house instead of engaging in more satisfying domestic activities. I must remedy that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A preview of NYC and Asian noodles

Husband and I spent the week before Labor Day in New York City. There is so much to see and eat (oops! I mean "do") there, that I actually created a spreadsheet in order to get as much of it done as possible. So when I get the energy, I'll tell you all about the wonderful food we had. I think I will divide the posts into these categories:
1. Sweet stuff & bagels
2. Pizza
3. Fine dining
4. All the rest

But in the meantime, I'm recovering from the flu and from taking Tamiflu. The Tamiflu was worse--dry mouth does not even begin to describe this feeling. I feel like I swallowed a hive of Africanized bees. Also, awful headaches, hallucinations/nightmares and awful stomach pains. Really, the flu was much more pleasant.

I don't think I picked it up in NYC; it's much more widespread here in the south and my symptoms didn't show up until about 36 hours after getting off the plane. I think it happened somewhere en route. Anyway, so after a week of indulgence, we come back here and eat takeout for nearly another week.

But I finally found the energy to make it to work on Friday. I'm still tired and can barely speak, but I needed to catch up. I did leave a few minutes early to beat traffic. No dice. Five mile back-up on the way home (I am hating the "stimulus package" and the ensuing construction that now f's up my commute), so I made a detour and drove past a local market, The Produce Place in hopes of being inspired to actually make something for dinner.

Oh, worth mentioning here is that a couple of weeks ago, I watched an episode of "Hoarders" and completely cleaned out the refrigerator and pantry, so not only do I know everything I have, it ain't much.

I did recall finding Lo Mein noodles I'd forgotten about (still good!) and some teriyaki flavored baked tofu (good, too!).* So I wandered the aisles with those in mind and picked up some fresh shiitake mushrooms and some carrots and headed home.

Then, I just started cooking. Husband got home and I put him to work on the carrots. Sliced up and sauteed the mushrooms in sesame oil. Boiled and cooled the noodles. Then had him grate some ginger from the freezer (still good!) and cut up the tofu. Then, in the saute pan, I poured in more sesame oil (after removing the mushrooms), a little garlic, about a tablespoon of grated ginger, some sugar, a little sriracha, soy sauce and rice vinegar. When the sugar and ginger were dissolved, Husband dumped in the noodles, mushrooms and tofu into the pan. After everything was nice and warm, it all went into a bowl with the shredded carrots and some gomasio (still good! and because I have yet to make it to the international grocery for more sesame seeds).

And it was good. But I can't really tell you how to replicate it exactly, but it's not hard. The most important thing to remember is to heat the oil/sugar/ginger/garlic/soy sauce/vinegar mixture on LOW heat so that the ginger and garlic infuse the mixture and do not burn. Very, very important.

I was really proud of myself for throwing this together. And proud of the husband for helping out so much.

*If you've seen the show "Hoarders," you'll understand all these "it's still good!" references.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

You want fries with that?

I have a bit of a reputation for hating chain restaurants. It's not so much chain restaurants as overprice mediocrity that bothers me. There are chain restaurants I love--Cracker Barrel, Sonic, Baja Fresh... and those that I hate--O'Charley's, Applebees, J. Alexander's, Chili's... Okay, the list is too long for me to write here, but what most of the restaurants I don't like have in common is that there's this level of falseness that's presented as genuine. Oh, nevermind--that's too technical and can apply to Cracker Barrel. My problem is that the food is often overpriced and under-good. Why go to O'Charley's for potato soup when it's nothing like what potato soup should be? And do people really pay multiple dollars for 1/4 of a head of lettuce with dressing? Also, they all seem to be essentially the same restaurant. And then there's this place that's popped up around this area called Cheddar's. Cheddar's? It's like the Mike Judge really wanted to bring Chotchkie's to life but didn't want to be that cheeky about it.

And then there's Red Robin. I'd read on Nashville Scene's Bites blog that it was beloved by several. Something about milkshakes, maybe. Why go to Red Robin when just down the street there is a locally-owned, long-standing treasure called Bobbie's Dairy Dip? Excellent food and excellent frozen treats.

And then the other day, a coworker mentioned he'd gone to Red Robin for lunch. "Eh," I muttered and sort of shuffled away. As I was doing so, I heard the words "bottomless basket of fries." I turned on my heels. "What did you say? Bottomless basket of fries?"

"Yes, steak fries, too! All you can eat! And they have veggie burgers, you know."
"No, I did NOT know. EITHER of those things." Y'see, I've been on a bit of a fry kick lately, even going so far as to pay a co-worker to go to Arby's for me. Bottomless basket of steak fries is good, but a bottomless basket of curly fries would be deadly to me, I'm certain (coming close is the standard side order of fries at Beyond the Edge--oh, how I love them).

So I spent the afternoon thinking about unlimited fries and when I got home, I asked the husband what he was going to cook me for dinner (ha!). He said, "What do you want?" and I said, "Well, I was thinking about Red Robin."

Naturally, he thought it was a joke. When I told him it was not, he practically gave himself whiplash getting out of the recliner to get his shoes on. He did not want to give me the opportunity to change my mind.

So we went. Observations:
1. The vast majority of the patrons at Red Robin had small children with them. I guess because it's a kid-friendly place that actually serves alcohol. We were one of only three parties in the whole place without a minor. I don't usually go to such places. Actually, I can't think of such a place.
2. The service is amazing. No trouble getting that second basket of fries.
3. Second basket of fries was the priority, so I did not have a milkshake and ate only three or four bites of my Gardenburger. I took it home and ate it later. Though fries don't re-heat well, so the last remaining fry that I simply could not fit in my stomach stayed in the basket.
4. Dang, steak fries, unlike their skinny counterparts are like those expanding sponges inside your stomach. I was miserable after what seemed like just two reasonable sized portions of fries.
5. The husband, seizing the opportunity to eat red meat whenever possible, got something called a Banzi burger. All I could see was cheese. Though could I really say anything as I was scarfing down hand over fist of empty calories? No. My Gardenburger on wheat with shredded lettuce and tomato was very nice (and healthy), however. Bocas are an option, too (but I prefer Gardenburgers--I just like the taste more).

So yeah, I did it. I was lured in by the call of the fat and I participated in what I can only deem a spud bacchanalia. But I probably won't go back soon. There is a Sonic nearby, after all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chocolate ice cream done the wrong way

So, after making heart attack-inducing salted caramel ice cream, I decided to change things up a bit and make some chocolate ice cream using what I'd learned to make it less rich.

Problem? What I'd learned was not the right thing to learn.

I started out with this chocolate ice cream recipe from Gourmet. Kinda. Because I don't have a vanilla bean (just my vanilla extract from Mexico) and I was too lazy to find the right chocolate. I bought a bar of baking chocolate and added sugar.

BIG mistake #1: using a bar of unsweetened baking chocolate and just adding sugar.

Then, of course, I used up the last cup of heavy (read: butter-makin') cream, 2 cups of whole milk and 3/4 of a cup of water. And one egg.

BIG mistake #2: using just one egg. The egg doesn't make it rich; the egg keeps the ice cream from turning into a boulder in your freezer. Noted.

Blah-biddy-blah, I whipped it up essentially using the instructions from the salted caramel ice cream, added some semi-sweet chocolate chips and ended up with a dark chocolate goo that tasted and felt like a really thick, chocolatey pudding. A quick check on the innertubes confirmed that, minus the cornstarch I had, indeed made a pudding. Regardless, it tasted pretty good, so I set up the ice cream maker and started to pour the mess in. But then I stopped it briefly because of the mess it made and, well I think you know what happened next...I couldn't continue churning.

BIG mistake #3: turning off the ice cream maker's churn for even half a second. This is the SECOND time I have done this. I hope there is never a third.

By this time, I was tired and feeling pretty defeated. So I let the mess thaw and just poured it back into a bowl. And then set it in the freezer.

BIG mistake #4: just freezing that ice cream mix that was really a pudding means the yield was just a big frozen pudding. And with just one medium egg, it was hard as a rock.

Not only that, but it ceased to taste good. I don't know if by that time, I hated the shit so much that I just imagined it tasted bad or that something had actually happened to it. But even the husband didn't care for it. So I thawed out the boulder of "ice cream" and poured (scooped) it down the drain (24 hours later).

But I shall not be defeated. I have more milk and more heavy (whipping) cream at home and will, at some point find some decent chocolate.

Or I will just make vanilla ice cream and add those peaches I put in the freezer a month ago.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

It all started last year when Husband and I went to Seattle. My friend, Christy introduced us to the wonder of salted caramel ice cream from Molly Moon's.


Then, last week, I was reading Bites and noticed a comment from another reader who'd made salted caramel ice cream at home. At home! But then I looked at the recipe and was a bit daunted.

However, Saturday morning, during our usual early-morning trip to the farmers' market, we discovered a farmer there selling milk and cream. From his very own farm (Rebekah Grace Farm)! So I got a big bottle of heavy cream and I was on my way.

I've never made caramel before and it was actually the scariest part for me. I was terrified both of undercooking and burning it. Somehow, though, I came out perfect. Again, the recipe from Gourmet magazine is here but I made a few adjustments:

1. I added another half cup of milk and about a palmful of sugar
2. I used fleur de sel
3. I did not pour the mix through a sieve--I put it in a bowl and mixed it with my stick blender until smooth and creamy. Worked like a charm.

But when I make it again, I will make the following changes:
1. Cut it down to just one egg [ETA: don't do this]
2. Use 2 cups of whole milk and just 1 and 1/4 cups of heavy cream [the recipe can stay the same, just use the cream that's NOT mean to use to churn butter, and you'll be fine! ha!]

...because holy shiz, that stuff is RICH. Too rich. I mean, you can hear the sound of your arteries clogging. It is one of the most delicious things I have ever made in my whole life, but I can take just one bite. The husband, of course can eat a regular serving. Stomach of steel, I guess. The stuff is so rich that even the cat can't handle it. He loves the heck out of it, but it wreaked havoc on his little tummy (and our carpet). No more ice cream for Eddie.

Next up? Chocolate.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The fruits of my labor

I could tell you about some wonderful things I've cooked lately. Maybe share some sorbet or frozen yogurt recipes, but I'd rather complain about my garden again.

This tiny little guy--about the size of a mini Roma--is the only thing I've grown to fruition. The only thing that has avoided being devoured by critters. It's a "Sugary" variety of tomato. It looks and tastes a bit like a Bradley. It was good. I wish I had about fifty more.

And this? This is one of the pumpkin patches growing in the discarded mulch behind my office building. It gets no proper attention and has no protection from critters, yet it thrives. The pumpkins are already jack-o-lantern size. I also discovered today that the watermelon vine now has tiny baby watermelons on it. The are so very cute.

Meanwhile, back in my garden, the only gourd that ever progressed is a cucumber. Most of its fruit ended in a stage that looks like a small yellow caterpillar. Very sad. Though last I checked, there was one that had survived into the fetal stage. We'll see how long before something eats it.

Also, the husband reports some sort of gourd growin in our compost pile. Make that "compost" pile. It's really just a pile of food scraps at the back of my property that I've done nothing with to make it into compost. And by mistake, it contains cat poop, so nothing growing there is fit for human consumption. Story of my life. Anyhoo, I don't know what it is because, well, I have a husband now so I don't have to go back there. I like that quite a lot.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why he's a vegetarian

Excellent post. Just excellent.

In a way, I respect people who hunt and fish, who know what goes into the production of their food. Because so many people don't want to think about it. They just want their meat nicely cut and cleaned and in a handy container. Though I am disturbed that people can take the life of an animal for fun, for sport. I simply just don't believe it's right or necessary.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A food memory

Out of nowhere the other day, I thought about Carnation Breakfast Squares. And for several days now, I have been craving them.

For those who don't know, they were a food of the 70s. Nutritionally, they were maybe a step up from Little Debbie Snack Cakes, perhaps because of marketing magic and a little boost of vitamins. Regardless, they were always stocked at my grandmother's house and I can still sense the taste of a vanilla Breakfast Square on the tongue of my memory. They were small and came two to a pack. I recall being allowed to eat just one for breakfast (though I ate two during visits when my mom dropped me off in Paris for a week or two--gotta love grandmothers). I didn't like the chocolate; just the vanilla. And they were actually a bit dry, but there was a coating of vanilla frosting and a thin smear of vanilla creme in between two layers of cake. I don't recall them actually tasting like vanilla. Or looking much like vanilla, either--the color of the squares was sort of gray.

Breakfast Squares moved along to the big pantry in the sky well before my grandmother did (so long ago that an image can't even be found by the Google). I remember the first time there weren't any Breakfast Squares at my grandmother's house. I was confused and disappointed. I think neither my mother nor my grandmother understood my attachment to those squares. They were genuine comfort food; they tasted like happiness.

I would love to have one now, though I suspect even if they were still around, they would not be as good as I remember. I think they'd only taste that good if I were eating them in my grandmother's kitchen. And thirty years ago.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I will never be able to survive based on my ability to grow food

Another year and another summer of disappointment out in the yard. At one time, I had quite an impressive yard. Neighbors would stop and comment. I could spend hours admiring my own handiwork. And then I had to leave my lovely yard in Memphis and move to a hill in Nashville. Where almost nothing grows and what little does is hastily devoured by the myriad creatures that inhabit my neighborhood. The raspberries? Stripped bare just before they were ready to harvest. The lavender? Dead (and I have no idea why). The tomatoes' growth has been stunted for weeks as have all but one of the gourds. One lone cucumber is moving right along while the squash and zucchini are not dead but just sit there and do nothing after weeks of fruitless blooms.

Meanwhile, remember the gourd behind the office building? The one planted in mulch that is mixed with sewage to give it a horrid smell and a coal-black color? It's a pumpkin! And the pumpkins are thriving. Actually, that patch of mulch has exploded in growth in the last six weeks. I've also discovered a hosta, petunias, marigolds, acorn squash, cucumber, possibly wantermelon, and some romaine lettuce. All of it thriving. Beautiful. Tantalizing. And toxic.

Have a look:

It's grown quite a bit!

And this guy's already about six inches in diameter. The others are a bit smaller. Even the blossoms are huge--about five or six inches long.

I'm already on my second set of Wave petunias because I missed ONE day of watering and they scorched on my front porch. Meanwhile? These things fluorish in black mulch next to asphalt.

Life is not fair. Thank goodness for McNeil's Produce Stand and Delvin Farms at the farmer's market.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A tale of two enchilada dinners

When I started this blog, it was really just a way to answer the inevitable question, "what do you eat???" I can just tell people to look it up. I'm amazed that so many people think that being a vegetarian has to be so limiting.

I'm not a great cook, I'm not a great writer, and I'm certainly not a great reviewer, but I do like to share my experiences here. A lot of times, I have fairly negative experiences--inside and outside the house. Sometimes I tell you about them, sometimes I don't.

All that to lead up to tell you that I went to a new place here in Nashville that's not far from my home, The Local Taco. I had high hopes--vegetarian selections! Locally-sourced ingredients! A patio! But I left pretty disappointed. As did the husband and my friends. We went across the street to another restaurant to supplement our dinners.

Tangent: When I first moved to Nashville ten years ago, a friend of mine who'd gone to Vanderbilt said, "You gotta go to SATCO!" (San Antonio Taco Company), so I did. It was terrible--long line to get food, everything was a la carte, so it added up quickly and then it was difficult to get a table. And the food...was just not very good. So I emailed my friend and said, "What the hell were you thinking? SATCO was shit! The food was terrible!" He wrote back, "Oh, you ATE there? No one eats there. You just get beers and sit out on the patio." Oh. Duly noted.

Exhibit A: two enchiladas at The Local Taco

So that's how I feel about The Local Taco. Go there, wait in line to order your beers and have another member of your group vulture around the patio for a table. Maybe get some guacamole, because it's pretty good and comes with a generous portion of chips. But if you're planning to go for dinner? Be prepared to be hungry or broke from it. Two vegetarian enchiladas (tiny and unfulfilling, but reasonably tasty) and one vegetarian taco (major difference? less cheese) plus the husband's meaty 3 tacos, an order of guac and a pitcher of "margaritas" (if there was tequila in that small pitcher, I didn't know it--it tasted like it was nothing but mix) was $44. $44!

Exhibit B: three enchiladas plus at Los Rosales

In contrast, three enchiladas verdes served with rice and steamed vegetables plus complimentary chips, salsa, pico and refried beans, plus the husband's chicken something or other with bacon, two bowls of complimentary cactus soup (I thought I didn't like nopales--no, I just don't like overcooked cactus; I like well-prepared cactus) AND two big ol' glasses of sangria at Los Rosales was just $39. And we were both satisfied and stuffed. And I love the enchiladas verdes. The spinach is not overcooked, so it doesn't make me gag. And the avocado sauce is divine. And I really can't say enough good about that cactus soup. I liked it so much that I'm considering veering from my favorite in order to try one of the cactus salads next time.

Bonus: cactus soup (yum!) at Los Rosales

Oh, cruel world, why can't Los Rosales be in The Local Taco's location? I could ride my bike there and sip sangria on the patio. Though in all fairness, The Local Taco is new. Mayhaps they just have some bugs to work out. But I'd love for them to know that Soysage and various gourds aren't the only ingredients one can use to make vegetarian enchiladas. Vegetarian food does not have to be limiting. Sweet potatoes and black beans make excellent and hearty enchilada fillers, for example. It'd also be nice if they were a little bigger for the price. It hardly seems fair to pay the same price for a vegetarian version of a taco or enchilada that's significantly smaller and less filling than a non-veg version.

In the meantime, I've learned my lesson and won't soon cheat on Los Rosales again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

this 'n' that & omg pasta

Because my mind is going numb from some office work, I decided to pop over here and look at referrals. And lo, I discovered another local food blog, omg Pasta. Funny because I have gained a renewed interest in pasta since getting the pasta roller attachments for the mixer. And because last night, Claudia of cook eat FRET was telling me about a recent article she read comparing major brands of dried pasta. Don't mean to spoil it for you, but the winner was Trader Joe's. Like, over those fancy-pants brands. But the were comparing spaghetti, and frankly, I can't remember the last time I had plain ol' spaghetti. I usually opt for whole wheat or Jerusalem artichoke flour spaghetti because I want my pasta to fight with me as I eat it (it gives me the primal satisfaction that omnivores must derive from eating critters). Anyhoo.

So this weekend, I'm going to try some more pasta. The last attempt (with all whole wheat flour) has yielded a dough that I will reserve for lasagna noodles. I am now armed with King Arthur all-purpose flour and plan to get wild with it. We're talking flavored linguines and some mezzalunas filled with whatever I can find that's interesting.

While I was going through my referrals, I noticed one from the Whole Foods blog. Turns out, they're having a contest for Bonnaroo tickets among those who comment with their favorite festival foods. And Chris Houchens, marketing expert, marketing blogger and all-around nice guy gave me a shout-out for my review of festival food last year. I said I wasn't going to go back to Bonnaroo this year unless the dead Beatles were resurrected and re-formed to perform only Paul McCartney and Wings songs, but the second best thing, The Beastie Boys will be there and so will I. From the looks of the Whole Foods blog, there will be even more vegetarian/healthy eating options, so that makes me happy. Will I still have five or more arepas? You betcha. Despite the fact that the boss gave me special cornmeal needed to make arepas. It sits, well-preserved and unopen at the back of the fridge. Because apparently, preparation requires special instructions. Perhaps I need to search the YouTube for that.

And an update on the gourd outside the office--it's getting a bit rounder and a few of the ladies around here say that mulch in question was relocated from a spot where they believe a pumpkin was discarded after Halloween last year. Hrm. I hope that means we'll have a harvest of jack-o-lanterns instead of toxic zucchinis!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I've got a post about asparagus that's been simmering in the brain for a few weeks, but it will have to wait a bit. Because this is just too funny. Or tragic. I haven't decided yet.

Okay, so after a year of rest, I have decided to plant a garden again. I put out four tomatoes, zucchinis, squash and cucumbers. As with every other year I've planted, I expect to yield nothing thanks to critters and drought or whatever nature will throw at me. But I will try. And spend shit-tons of money doing so. Anyway.

So a couple of weeks ago, I'm walking the perimeter of the office building, trying to soak in a rare moment of dry weather (this is the rainiest May I have ever experienced, I believe). The caretakers of the building had put out some of that fine, dark mulch a while ago at the very back of the warehouse parking lot...why, I'm not sure. I think to stop some erosion. So I'm walking next to it and see some rather attractive volunteer plants growing from it. Attractive and familiar. Um, I think to myself, I think those are gourds of some sort!

So I'm out again today and I'm looking at these plants again. They're gorgeous. Huge leaves, growing like crazy. And big, beautiful yellow blossoms on some of them. On others? The beginnings of what looks like a zucchini on the business end of that spent bloom. Holy cow! All over Tennessee--on farms and in home gardens, plants are rotting from all the rain and suffering from the lack of sun, but here at the back of our warehouse in a neglected strip of land by a pretty nasty creek is a small collection (about seven plants) of gorgeous vegetables--flowering and fruiting early!

I don't get it. Out on another side, there are beautiful wild roses growing. In my yard, my tea rose has been decimated by aphids. There are also tons of wild blackberries blooming right now. And I harvested some delicious wild plums from the other side of the creek last summer (and plan to again). What's going on out here? Why can't I grow anything after pouring blood, sweat, and tears into my yard, but these things grow with reckless abandon? It's not fair. By the way, I am not hyperbolizing on the blood, sweat and tears. I have lost a lot of each in my yard over the years.

Anyway, so here's my question--do I harvest these things? Is office park mulch and the runoff from a warehouse parking lot any more toxic than what gets sprayed on your average supermarket vegetable? I wonder.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The one with all the beverages

I've been meaning to report here for a while now that the wonderful people at, um Pom Wonderful sent me a heaping case of pomegranate juice to enjoy. I'd had some before and liked it a lot, so I jumped at the chance to get some free. They also threw in some information on the juice's antioxidant properties as I requested because the SO-now-husband has blood that collects things in it that are bad for his heart.

As I mentioned, I'd had it before, but only bought it when it was on sale. It's crazy yummy, but a bit expensive in comparison to other juice. But now that I need to be more cognizant of what goes into Husband's body, I need to re-think that a bit. He needs the antioxidants. And ya know what? It's cheaper and easier to get than red wine. And doesn't have any of those pesky liver damage side effects. It's all about context, y'all. [FTR, you can't buy wine in the grocery here in Tennessee. Yeah, I know.]

Next on my list of beverages that are worth the extra money are Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback. I'd heard how good they were and trekked all over hell's half acre until I found them yesterday. Okay, that meant Kroger (where they were sold out) and then Super Target. But still, it was after work and I was tired and pissed that I had to go to a second store. But they're only available for a "limited time," which means I bit on the marketing bait and felt I needed to get them before they were gone. Verdict: worth it. Totally worth it. I started my day with the Pepsi today and the sun shone and coworkers were nicer and traffic was not as congested and I saw a unicorn farting rainbows by the side of the road as I drove to work. As for the Mountain Dew, well I've only had a couple of sips because if I'd consumed a can in it's entirety, I would not have slept last night (when Hubs had his) and I may even be divorced by now. I really can't believe I used to start every day of my college career with a Mountain Dew and a Pop Tart and remain focused. I can't take all that sugar (*cough*HFCS*cough*) and caffeine now. But let me tell you, that drink was good. Better than I remember from college. Probably because of the real sugar. Anyhoo.

And to continue my theme of tasty, sugary drinks, let me tell you about shower punch. I hosted a baby shower for a bunch of yankees (anyone not from the south) recently and none of them had ever had shower punch. You can google that, but you'll find a bunch of slightly more unnecessarily complicated recipes than the one I'm going to share with you. Don't bother with the fancy stuff. You don't need to add fruit or wine or Jell-O (!?!) or whatever. Here goes (pay attention!):

Good Old-Fashioned Southern Shower Punch
for baby showers, wedding showers, and wedding receptions held in Fellowship Hall

1 half gallon sherbet (I like lime the best, but any work except maybe rainbow)
1 two-liter bottle of ginger ale (not refrigerated)

Dislodge the block of sherbet from its container and drop into a punch bowl. Pour the bottle of ginger ale over the sherbet. Stir. Serve when cold.

See? Simple. Delicious. Though it used to be a lot simpler back in the old days when a block of sherbet came in a box that could be peeled apart. Now you gotta get your spatula out, which kind of sucks. Anyhoo, I had nine guests at the shower...plenty of leftover hummus and crackers and sandwiches, but barely a sip of that punch. Even though I served it in those tiny cups that come with punch bowls. They liked it. It's just not a celebratory event in the south without this stuff.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just Married

I've been on a short hiatus here, but for good reason--I got married! It's kind of a big deal, particularly since neither one of us had ever planned on getting married and waited a really, really long time to do so.

There are a few things I've always said I'd reward myself with if I ever got married. A honeymoon in Greece (on hold; we went to Cancun back in February). A Dyson (because men love these things and I hate vacuuming). And a KitchenAid stand mixer.

I got some really good advice from a friend who said I should just go all out and get as big a mixer as possible. So I did. The day after our wedding, I orderd the Pro Line KL26M8XOB. Six quarts. Bowl lift design. Twenty-five pounds of all metal gears and parts. God willing, I expect to have this mixer until I am a very old lady insistent on taking it with me to my nursing home room.

I bought it from the KitchenAid online store, which was conveniently offering free shipping and an offer for a free ice cream maker attachment. It was the ice cream maker that sealed the deal for the Significant Omnivore-now Husband. Though some of the recipes I've seen look a bit scary. Perhaps it will also make sorbet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vegan for Earth Day

I don't proselytize too much, but on this day, Earth Day, it's a good idea to think about how your diet affects our environment. Among environmentalists, some debates can get pretty heated between those who eat meat and consume animal products and those who don't. "You're not a real environmentalist if you're not a vegetarian" is a typical assertion and though I feel that any reduction in meat and animal product consumption is a good step, I do agree with that statement. It would take many years of riding your bike to work to make up for the environmental damage caused by the meat a typical American consumes in just a month. The damage comes from all the water they consume (including the water used to irrigate the crops of the food they eat), energy used to grow their food, emissions and waste from the farms, energy used from transportation and storage...the list is long. And really, it's kind of silly to feed tons (literally) of food to grow less food. The grains fed to farm animals could feed many more people.

So think about cutting back on your consumption of meat and animal products along with using CFLs and re-usable shopping bags. It's really not that hard. I'm not completely vegan myself, but in honor of Earth Day, I am eating vegan all day. Banana for breakfast, almonds for a snack, a salad of baby romaine with roasted walnut oil and fleur de sel for lunch, grapes for an afternoon snack, and Sesame Ginger Tofu Noodle Salad for dinner. With locally-made FarmSoy tofu! Which, I hope will make me feel less guilty about eating fruit from South America and lettuce from California.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Christmas Lima Beans Three Ways

Though I'm still working through a pile o' beans from the last time I ordered from Rancho Gordo, I ordered more earlier this week. I mean, who can resist an "Indian Yellow Woman Bean"? And I ordered more of a bean I cooked up over the weekend: the Christmas Lima Bean. Because it was that good.

I'm not sure why it's called a Christmas Lima because it doesn't seem to be all that festive-looking. Mayhaps it's because people associate chestnuts with Christmas and this bean is said to have a chestnut flavor. I choose my words carefully because I don't know what a chestnut tastes like. I'm sure I've had one--maybe even one that's been roasted on an open fire, but the taste memory didn't stick with me.

Anyhoo, these beans? They taste good. Mostly. Once in a while, a bean will taste a bit too "earthy" for my preference, but overall, they're yummy. Also, they're HUGE. I didn't realize that when I dumped the whole bag in a bowl to soak and within an hour they'd doubled in size. Oops. That's why the title of this post is "Christmas Lima Beans Three Ways"--three ways in five days for me but just three ways in three days for the SO.

Day #1: The beans spent all day in the crockpot with nothing but water and salt. By dinner time, they were ready for our first meal. I prepared some of the Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend in some vegetable broth, spooned a generous portion of beans on top and served it with some sauteed asparagus. The taste of the beans stands up pretty well on its own, so this was a good meal.

Day #2: I decided to get a little more adventurous. I wasn't ready to puree them into a hummus just yet, though. So I got out some goat cheese, fluffed it up with some hot water, added some herbs de Provence and toasted some small baguette wedges served with some bruschetta topping. The beans worked really well with the Italian-inspired flavors. With some of the toast, we spread the goat cheese and topped it with beans and with others, it was just the bruschetta topping with the beans. Delicious.

Day #3: For reasons no cares about, I'd still not gone to the grocery, so I had to make do with whatever I could find around the house. And, actually, this one was my favorite. I pan fried some polenta, set pieces of it on a bed of arugula, piled on some chunky tomato sauce (with a little more oil and balsamic vinegar so it could serve as a salad dressing) and then topped it all with some sauteed beans. And, okay, a little bit of parmigiano on top and a couple of pinches of fleur de sel. Very tasty!

After three dinners, I STILL had beans. So I had some beans with the leftover harvest grain mix for lunch one day this week and well, I just don't know exactly what I will do with that one last serving of beans in the fridge. They will be eaten somehow, some way, though. They're too good to compost. But next time? I'll just soak and cook a third of the package.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Vegetarians merely tolerate food?

Last night, I tried to make a nice thai ginger stir-fry. Unfortunately, I thought I could do this from memory. All I wanted was the sauce! But, the heat was too high and I ended up with little, sticky ginger balls in my oil. Lesson learned: low heat, not medium heat. The stirfry was still pretty good. Saved by some pre-packaged Thai dumplings from Trader Joe's. Which, I might add, I cooked perfectly...according to the instructions. Anyhoo, no photos of the debacle. Instead, I give you "Do a pig a favour! Ban vegetarianism now!" for you to laugh.
Vegetarians never love food. They merely tolerate it.

Ha! I think we all know that is not true!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Books and books and more books

During the course of my work day, I come across the titles of a lot of books from the past, present and the future. Frankly, most of them don't particularly interest me (curse of working on the internet all day: my attention span is narrow and my desire to read after I leave work is low). But today, I came across news of a book, An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage and was intrigued.

One of my frequents quips about being a vegetarian is that it's no longer the Ice Age, so I don't have to eat what's dumber or slower than I'm curious to read about the history behind so much of what we eat. And I'm curious about how vegetarianism is addressed. Unfortunately, the book won't be released until next month! So my insider advantage is non-existent on this one. SOL. However, I'm thinking about another of the author's books, A History of the World in 6 Glasses. Hmm.

And it just so happens I got an email today about a book, Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen--The New Green Basics Way. Unfortunately (I've had a day of misfortune today), the email included a greeting and a few .jpgs and nothing else. I should probably reply to the sender. With hopes of being sent a review copy. That would be nice. Though they may be preaching to the choir.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mmm...fresh artichoke

I read this post over at the Nashville Scene's Bites blog with quite a bit of interest. Back when the SO and I visited Seattle, we ordered an artichoke appetizer for dinner one night. It was my first ever whole artichoke and I didn't have the faintest idea of what to do with it. I know I ate as much of the leaves as I could, but I don't recall ever making it to the heart. What a tragedy.

So when I saw some fresh artichokes at Trader Joe's (like another reader did), I picked them up and brought them home. After a little research, I settled on this method of cooking and popped two of them in for a simmered bath in water, lemon juice, sea salt and a touch of olive oil. They stayed in for about 40 minutes--to the point where a leaf came off easily with tongs.

The link describes how to eat the artichoke as well as how to cook one, which is extremely helpful. Though my bottom teeth look like a busted piano due to an aversion to wearing my retainers as a teenager, so I had to tear each leaf in half to get all the "meat" off it.

The flavor of lemon and salt (and olive oil) was really good on its own, but I made a couple of dips to accompany the artichoke. The first was a little mayonnaise (note to self: get some Vegenaise) mixed with a bit of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt. The second--which I really, really liked--was a bit of mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice and pesto. I've got some concentrated pesto in a tube and it was perfect for this dip.

The raves for the fresh artichoke are certainly deserved. Delicious! Though next time, I'll just prepare one artichoke for the two of us. One per person is a bit much; not in that too much of a good thing way, but in that up at 3am with intestinal distress way. Though I think I may have consumed a little too much of the woody bits, which would have exaggerated this effect. So if you see some fresh artichokes for sale, don't be intimidated. They're extremely easy to prepare and a lot of fun to eat.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A tale of two fake meats

Last night, the SO and I were catching up on Tuesday night's Colbert Report that included a segment on lab-created meat ("shmeat"--a combination of two unappetizing words created to describe this...substance). The SO asked me if I'd eat shmeat. Er, no. There's still a fair dose of animal cruelty involved and, frankly, it sounds more disgusting than Quorn (which I do eat). Shmeat? Do they really think people will eat this? People do eat some rather objectionable shtuff.

That said, I'm generally not a fan of fake meat. I do eat the occasional Quorn item (since I live with an omnivore and I try to keep him happy), but I generally get by on vegetables and grains and such. But the other day, I picked up some Gardenburger Riblets. Last night, it was time to try them out (this was before we watched the bit on "shmeat"). The package recommends 3:45-4:00 for cooking in the microwave, but 3:45 proved to be a bit too long. Even with slightly dried out ends, the Riblets were really good. The sauce is tasty with just a bit of tang and the ribs themselves had a nice taste. I served them with some tater tots (really, what goes with Riblets?) and some steamed broccoli and it turned out to be a quick, easy and yummy meal. It was also cheap (about $4 worth of food), low calorie (less than 700 calories for a very filling meal) and vegan!