Tag: my veg table

caprese-sandwich-myvegtable
Simplicity at its best…

As promised in my You Say Tomato post, a word–or several hundred–on Caprese sandwiches.

My first Caprese sandwich did not come easily. Our first two hours in Rome consisted of the following: getting our backpack stuck in the overly crowded subway doors; arriving too early to check-in to our hotel; Ed being bitten by a horse; and receiving a scolding from an Italian policeman–not the best way to start out a ten-day stay of my first trip abroad. Once we found out our hotel room wasn’t ready, we dragged our luggage to the first cafe we could find and grabbed a “Caprese” sandwich to-go. I wasn’t exactly sure what was on that sandwich; after the long flight and crazy subway ride from the airport, all we wanted to do was sit down and eat it. Apparently the horse we walked by thought Ed was offering it up and decided to go for a bite…he took a bite of Ed’s arm instead. Yep, that actually happened–fortunately, it did not break the skin, just bruised him pretty badly. After that we headed to the Spanish Steps, sat down and happily began to unwrap our sandwich–and then a policeman began yelling at us. Apparently, you are not allowed to eat on the Spanish Steps. O-kay… Starving, grumpy and a little disenchanted, we found a spot to sit and–legally-eat our food. We opened our sandwich to see what was inside. The sandwich was simple with only a few ingredients: mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, and fresh basil on crusty bread. Finally getting to taste that sandwich negated all of the crazy things that had happened in the two hours prior. I thought that if the rest of the food on this trip was this good, our visit was going to be unforgettable–and it was.

Tidbits Travel

avocado-myvegtable

Avocados are one of the new superfoods. That’s all fine and good, but about this time five years ago, you could have told me that eating an avocado magically turns you into a supermodel and I still wouldn’t have touched one. I never saw an avocado enter the house when I was growing up: it just wasn’t something we ate. So, it wasn’t until college that I had my first formal introduction courtesy of my best friend who loved guacamole. She smeared it on all things Mexican–and back then, we ate a lot of Mexican food–it grossed me out every time. I refused to even try it.  I eventually did try it, but I stuck to my guns–yuck! As adventurous as I was with food back then, I just couldn’t get on board the avocado train and I had no rational reason why. In retrospect, it’s funny: I would eat octopus, but avocados were a no-no.

As I started to come around–which was only a few years ago–I would eat them as long as they were buried in whatever it was I was eating: tacos and sushi were the best for hiding. Now that I don’t have to resort to concealment, my favorite way of eating avocados is ordering guacamole from a restaurant that prepares it fresh tableside. I love seeing all of the fresh ingredients coming together in a giant molcajete–you know, that bowl that looks like a pestle made of lava rock–and piling that stuff onto fresh tortilla chips. It could easily be a meal for me. How’s that for an avocado 180?

Tidbits

cherries-myvegtable

Breakfast is my favorite meal. I love it so much, I make it for dinner–often. French toast, veggie-potato hash, waffles, fried egg sandwiches and pancakes of all sorts make the cut for our evening meal. Paired up with some fruit and sausage or bacon for my guys–and some sausage or bacon-like substitute for me–it is my favorite kind of meal.

As I was strolling through the produce section the other day I saw that cherries are in season; I grabbed the biggest bag I could find. The first thing I thought of making with them is a recipe that has been on my “culinary bucket list” for years–clafoutis. A clafoutis (clah-foo-TEE) is a French dessert that bakes fruit into a custard batter. Don’t be intimidated, it sounds fancier than it really is. The ingredients and technique are as simple as can be: whirl up a pancake-like batter in the blender, pour over fruit and bake until slightly crispy on the outside and warm and custardy in the center. While I’m sure it makes a lovely dessert, it sounds more like breakfast to me–it was finally time to cross this dish off my list!

Inspiration

chili-cornbread-myvegtable
There’s no such thing as too much honey butter on cornbread. It’s the perfect accompaniment to my chili.

Aside from desserts, one of the first things I remember cooking for other people is chili. I learned how to make my Mom’s “dump and stir” version–there wasn’t much to it. The recipe was exactly this: one pound of browned ground beef; one can Hunt’s “chili-ready” tomatoes; one can tomato sauce; and one can kidney beans. I made it often and people loved it–until one night I had friends over to my dorm room for dinner and I got busted by the RA. “No plug-in electrical skillets!” she scolded. Well, that was the end of my first dinner party era.

Tidbits

july4th-myvegtable
Happy 4th of July!

I moved to Florida when I was ten; my lazy summer days were spent in the pool and around the neighborhood with my friends. We would swim most of the day and occasionally come inside for a meal; our days were full, yet relaxing. I don’t remember how I spent my summer days when I was six years old, but I can’t imagine they were as busy as my son likes his days to be. Everett is ready to go the second he opens his eyes in the morning; he doesn’t stop until his head hits the pillow at night. As usual, he is ready to fill the day with activities–with no “lazy” time in sight. When trying to make the most of our busy summer days, fitting in time to cook is challenging. Lately, we have been dining out more often than we would like–convenience rules when you are on the go.

I got to enjoy a lazy day to myself last week: my husband, Ed, took Everett to work with him. While enjoying the quiet, I realized that it was time to get back to cooking. We can still fill our summer with fun things to do, but I also need to carve out the time to cook proper meals for myself and my family. So, with Pandora playing my French Cafe station, I reclaimed my kitchen as a workspace–rather than a dish collecting space. I raided the fridge, picked up my chef’s knife, started chopping away and ended up with my favorite summery salad–tabbouleh.

Inspiration

ghirardelli-brownie
Crinkly top? Check. Dry edges pulling away from the sides? Check. These are ready to go!

Confession: I don’t make everything from scratch. In our crazy lives, I’m not sure many people do anymore. Like many folks out there, I use frozen foods, canned goods and pre-made items at times. Someday, I will meet Martha and she will tell me that she cheats sometimes, too–she must! And if in fact, she really doesn’t take shortcuts, I will then persuade her to make me her protégé so that I can be privy to all of her secrets.

I take shortcuts in my day-to-day life; however, not when it comes to baking: I make my cookies, cakes, and other sweet treats from scratch. There is nothing more satisfying and relaxing than taking a few basic ingredients and turning them into something incredibly decadent. For today’s Tidbit, I wanted to share with you my top secret recipe for the best brownies in the world and—surprise!—they come from a box! Yes, I just said that I don’t take shortcuts when I bake—I’m a total hypocrite. The truth is I have just two exceptions to that rule: brownies and puff pastry.

Tidbits

vine-ripe-tomatoes

Summer is right around the corner here in Florida: the humidity is getting higher by the day and hurricane season is about ready to begin. When the summer comes, I look forward to stone fruits, melons and sweet corn on the cob–I also can’t wait to get my hands on some in-season tomatoes.

When I was a kid, I would eat tomatoes fresh from my Grandfather’s garden and bite into them as I would an apple–with the added addition of a bit of salt. The smell of a fresh tomato is intoxicating: it smells just like the vine it grew on. If you don’t grow your own tomatoes, the next best thing is the on-the-vine variety from your local supermarket. I have found that these smell just like those back in my Grandfather’s garden and taste almost as good. Compari tomatoes, although small, are my runner-up at the grocery store.

Inspiration

ramen-noodle-bowl

What is it about ramen that is so darn comforting? Maybe it’s just the fact that you can slurp your way through an entire bowl and not be redirected once for being rude. In the world of ramen, slurping is actually considered a necessity; it helps cool the noodles down from your piping hot bowl of broth. There is a technique for properly eating ramen and this requires not only a spoon, but also chopsticks. More on that later…

Mention ramen noodles and most people think of the 5/$1.00 packages from the grocery store: a college student’s mainstay. There is some concern with fact that these packets of soup cost next to nothing; it makes me seriously question their nutritional value, or lack thereof. If you reap no other benefit from this post, know that there is a big world of ramen out there and it has nothing to do with those cheap packages or Styrofoam cups of soup.

Tidbits

Jefferson-at-night
The Jefferson Memorial at night. This was my first time seeing TJ; I just love this picture!

We spent our Spring Break in Washington DC. We arrived at the tail-end of winter with 40-degree highs and in the course of six days we watched the spring usher itself in with blooming daffodils and 70-degree days. Those six full days were spent touring, hoping to see some cherry blossoms bloom, and eating–boy, did we eat! Nowadays, the way we eat when we travel has changed a bit. We aren’t always seeking out the most famous restaurants with the most famous chefs as much; now it is more about finding good, simple food that the locals love. When we travel, we have a rule: no chains–or rather, no chains that we have at home. This rule is not a problem in DC; every corner has something new and exciting.

Travel

kugel-bake

Like many holidays, Easter is celebrated with a feast: a feast full of spring vegetables; a hearty meat as the star of the meal; and a nice, light dessert to finish. While I miss my Grandmother’s ham and raisin sauce as well as the rack of lamb I used to make, I have found a new main course that not only pleases the vegetarian in me, but also is a reminder of family.

My Great Uncle Ray was the only family member we had in Florida when we moved here in 1985. I viewed him as a surrogate Grandfather after my own Grandfather, his brother, passed away. He attended all family gatherings and he loved to eat. I never remember a time hearing him say that there was anything he didn’t like. He always filled his plate with everything offered and always came back for seconds. He finished off every meal with dessert and black coffee. He derived such pleasure from family and food and life. He loved to cook for his friends and family and was always experimenting with new recipes. Looking back, I think that he was the first foodie I ever met. I’m not sure if he was even familiar with that term, but he definitely embodied the definition: he was a great lover of all things food.

Inspiration