Tag: vegetarian

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

Tuttorosso-margherita-pizza
Tuttorosso’s Margherita pizza.

Simple. Fresh. Honest. Humble.  These four words summarize the food that my husband, Ed, and I ate on every leg of our journey through Italy 14 years ago. We hit seven cities in ten days. Our tour gave us so many culinary firsts and “bests”: from the potato focaccia in Cinque Terre; to a foot-long calzone in Rome; to my first aglio y olio pasta in Sorrento; to our grilled, fresh mozzarella in Capri; to the crunchy, cheesy, sweet sfogliatella in Naples; to our daily breakfast of little toasts with jam alongside the best coffee on the planet; and finally, to our multi-daily trips for gelato. These food memories are still fresh on my palate and despite the years that have passed, I can recall all of them vividly. Ed and I are always on a quest to find these items again stateside, just to see if anyone can match what we found in Italy so long ago.

There is one additional item that has had the most lasting impression on the two of us: the pizza we had in Naples. Our first bite of Margherita pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele was like no other I had had before. The crust was so thin and crisp; one person could easily eat an entire twelve-inch pizza. A scant amount of fresh tomato sauce was spread so thinly that you could still see the crust underneath. Fresh mozzarella cheese was sparsely placed and used as a topping as opposed to a covering—the other version offered had no cheese at all and was topped with a few strategically-placed basil leaves. After many years, many mediocre renditions, and a few winners along the way, we finally found a place in our own backyard that is a close second to our Neapolitan favorite; the restaurant is Tuttorosso Pizzeria Napoletana. How have we not found this place sooner?

Making it count Travel

Let’s talk dining out–it’s one of my favorite things to do. But, how many times have you planned a meal out, only to be disappointed by a mediocre experience? To top it off, you find yourself saying, “We paid how much for that food?” Sadly, since I became a vegetarian, I find that this is the case for me more often than not. Not only are the vegetarian offerings at many restaurants a letdown–or at times even non-existent–but also it feels as though the spontaneity of dining out is gone. If I want to ensure a good meal these days, I now have to check a restaurant’s menu before I can even consider it an option. This has rendered me somewhat inflexible and a bit neurotic.

Making it count