Category Archives: Food & Wine

Happiness & joy from me to you

In no particular order:

That photo to the right? That’s a magnet on my fridge and it rocks. I got it in Maui and no, I don’t know where you can find it in any other locale. But search for it online if it tickles your fancy.

My amazing former-ballerina Pilates instructor in NYC, who kicked my ass into the best shape it’s ever been, has a YouTube channel! People, this woman gave me the long, lean muscles that cause massage therapists to ask, “Are you a dancer?” Oh yeah, that shit’s real, though we won’t talk about the flab layer over said muscles that proves I enjoy eating. I’ve missed Gina’s workouts like they’ve gone off to war or something – and BTW, if you don’t feel breathless and in pain after you do these, you’re fucking them up. Form’s key, y’all. “Scoop” your abs (as Gina says – i.e., pull your belly button away from your shirt) and squeeze the muscles you’re working on as you do these exercises. You’ll die for sure, but you’ll have an ass that can grate Parmesan.

This candle in my living room smells like a pumpkin shit 40 homemade pies and I think everything about that is completely delicious.

Kale and delicata. It’s what’s for dinner.

There’s nothing like a very hipster holiday. I’ve been listening to this like a lunatic. Also, a bit o’ trivia: every time I close my eyes while listening to Zooey Deschanel speak, I hear the identical voice of my NYC biz partner, Demetra. I miss her crazily, but it makes me happy.

My clients are getting these this year. Yes, each and every individual person I work with gets their own box of loot. Aren’t they lucky ducks?! I ordered them all today because I have OCD and problems with anal retentiveness.

I’m totally bewildered by the holiday spirit I’m bursting with this year. It’s been many years since I gave a rat’s nut about the holly-days. I don’t know what the fuck is up, but seize the day and whatnot. I might even buy this because you know I can’t even decorate like a “normal” (*retch* traditional *retch*) person – shock! awe! madness!

Ari’s update from the road in the great southwest made me piss and snort: “In Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Thinking about karma and chimichangas.”

Here’s wishing all of you good karma this Chrismukkahwanzaa season!

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“Eat your veggies or you’ll get scabs behind your ears!”

That’s always been my grandma’s prophecy anyway. So far, I’m in the clear. I guess my mother raised me well when it comes to a balanced diet – even though, as a wee one, I was caught more than once drinking a glass of milk that turned pink as I simultaneously spit my beets into it. These days, beets, spinach, a little goat cheese, and a sprinkling of walnuts might be one of my favorite things to nosh on.

Some things do change, it seems.

Enter the Soupstravaganza of this past winter, which is begging for a warm weather encore. To be honest, raw vegetables really aren’t my thing (blame my Vata dosha – read: raw vegetables should be minimized. Oh, and *gas* is a problem. DUH.). I’m much more in love with them when I can roast them or cook ’em up in a soup or stew. Which means summer can be a bit challenging for me, though there are certainly toasty warm days when I crave a big bowl of greens with all the trimmings. But generally, I need to mix my lettuce and whatnot with warmer, richer foods. Frankly, this is also a great way to turn what’s usually regarded as a light, healthy meal into a heartier, still-healthy meal that doesn’t boast the Chinese food “oh-shit-I’m-hungry-again” effect after an hour. Just keep in mind that *greens* should comprise the bulk of the meal here. Also, jazzing up said greens by adding flavor in this way nixes the need for dressing. So you bulk up your nutrients while cutting out the fat. Sweet deliciousness.

And with that, I bestow upon you the “recipe” for this evening’s dinner. Note that this serves one as the main dish; two as a side, if you insist upon serving it as such. The best part of this may be that it takes about ten minutes to go from fridge to table. Tweak as you see fit, eat as you will. Forks up!

Hearty Spicy Salad

2 cups mixed greens (I use half spinach, half baby greens/arugula)

6 cherry tomatoes, halved

Half an avocado, cubed

3 Tbsp. sweet white corn – frozen or fresh, if you’ve got the latter on hand

1/4 cup Whole Foods organic spicy black beans, drained – don’t rinse!

1/4 cup brown rice pilaf (I use this brand, which you can get in the frozen aisle at Whole Foods. All you do is warm it in the microwave for three minutes. You could also use plain brown rice – I buy this brand’s version of that as well, available at both Whole Foods and Costco. But I like the spices in the pilaf, not to mention the dash of extra veggies.)

1 *small* handful rice & bean chips, crushed (I crumble these suckers right here on top of any and every salad I make – it’s the best way to add crunch and an extra kick of flavor without going the crouton route. My friend Laurel got me hooked on these – I buy them at Whole Foods or QFC, but they’re also sold at Costco and I’m gonna to need to go that route soon because they’re like CRACK.)

Bonus for those who give a rat’s ass – this is both vegan and gluten-free. Veg on!

(P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure – because I, like George Washington, cannot tell a lie – that photo above is *not* the salad I made. It’s actually not a salad I ever made. I just had no idea when I whipped this thing up tonight that it would be as good as it was and, thus, photoworthy. Not that any photo I’d take would be remotely as well-styled as what’s going on here. So just play along nicely and trust that it was pretty…sans the dressing. And the chickpeas. Booyah.)

A soup story

I am obsessed with soup.

OBSESSED.

It started with my totally white-trash affinity for ramen – back in third grade, when ramen was primarily available as a freeze-dried brick of lard you boiled in a pan of water and then doused with a packet of salty chemicals. Imagine my delight when ramen went all ironic and gourmet, courtesy of David Chang’s Momofuku.

Thankfully (that’s my heart – and colon – showing gratitude), my taste for soup has evolved as much as ramen, venturing into the far healthier, much heartier, and vegetable-laden. This has especially been the case over this brrrr-cold winter, when a giant pot of simmering veggies and spices is really all you need to keep the chill, much less that M.D., away.

And so my soup pot has quickly become the teacher’s pet of my pot & pan collection. It started last October, when I whipped up the potato soup I mastered in college, when I was first dabbling in vegetarianism. These days, I consider myself “mostly veg” as – sans a quart of organic half-and-half in my fridge for the customary a.m. cup o’ java – my house is meat- and dairy-free. (Outside the casa however, particularly when a wicked case of PMS strikes, if I want a burger, I am GETTING a burger – or a big plate of lamb and rice from the Mediterranean joint down the street – and Midol and my arteries can just suck it).

I’ve found that stirring up a big pot of soup/stew is the best way to get loads of veggies into my bod, while satisfying my hunger, and ensuring (thanks to frozen leftovers) that I have healthy, hearty meals in a jiff. Truth be told, there’s also an enormous sense of pioneer/Laura Ingalls-like pride and accomplishment that comes from making your own soup. And if you’re pissed off, chopping vegetables is a great outlet. I don’t need to elaborate.

And with that, I turn over my four favorites to you. With the exception of the lentil soup – which calls for chicken broth – all of them are not just vegetarian, but vegan. Just in time for Lent, for those of you giving up a vice starting this Wednesday (like my Greek friends who are about to forgo meat for 40 days). And P.S. I highly recommend these awesome frozen whole grain rolls from Alexia as the ideal accompaniment. Pair with a glass (ahem, a GLASS) of your favorite vino and your winter soup supper is served.

Potage a la Bonne Femme (aka Not Your Ordinary Potato Soup)

Lentil & Root Vegetable Soup (from one of my *fave* food bloggers, Aran Goyoaga. A few personal adaptations: I use yams instead of sweet potatoes, and two rather than one because I can’t for the life of me find kuri squash. I also add an extra stalk or two of celery. And I leave out the chorizo. Obvs.)

Cauliflower & Chickpea Stew (fabulous with or without couscous)

Spinach Vichyssoise

Photo above – a close relative of Potage a la Bonne Femme, adapted ever-so-slightly from Lisa Tracy’s The Gradual Vegetarian (I know, the cover design looks like something you’d find in an 80’s roller skating rink, but it really is a wonderful – if ancient – book). You could probably substitute chicken broth for the water for even more flavor; if you do, consider cutting back on the salt. Of course, you’ll also lose the whole vegan label, but you might not give a shit.

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 medium potatoes, scrubbed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 tablespoon Maldon salt (seriously, you shouldn’t be using anything else – throw that Morton shit out the window or use it to de-ice your driveway or something)

6 peppercorns (Tellicherry’s my fave. And yes, that’s *six* peppercorns. I like it spicy. Meow.)

Few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 bag or clamshell pack fresh spinach (pony up a few extra cents for the already-washed variety and save yourself some time)

Heat olive oil in a heavy kettle and add potatoes, onion, carrot, and celery. Saute for a minute, then add 2 quarts (i.e., 64 ounces/8 cups) of water. Bring to a boil, add salt, pepper, and thyme and cook until vegetables are tender – about a half-hour. Add spinach and cook a minute or two, until wilted. Whir through the mixture with an immersion blender (or pour into a food processor if you’re coordinated enough – I’m not). The consistency should be chunky, not quite smooth. Don’t use the photo of my soup as a guideline because I got carried away with an Immersion Blender Super Powers fantasy and pureed the shit out of it. It was still good, but restraint – or for that matter, reality – is clearly not my strong point.

Feel free to thin the soup with water if it’s a bit thick for your taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit. Also weed out any thyme stems that survived the blender so your guests don’t think you made soup out of your compost pile.

Just like the Alton Brown show, that, my friends, is some good eats.

Goodness…

gracious. Bellissimo *e* delicioso.

T-giving dessert dilemma

Oh boy. As if I needed to unearth another food/design blog. But it really is the best kind of lady porn.

It appears that La Tartine Gourmande has been in biz for at least five years and I’ve apparently been stone-cold passed out under the Fremont Troll. It reminds me of my all-time favorite food blog, Canelle et Vanille. But hey, there’s always room for a third. Menage a food trois.

However, LTG blogger Beatrice has introduced a question mark in my Thanksgiving preparations. That spiced apple and kasha crumble is just screaming for a starring role in the culinary line-up. I was planning to whip up Jen Worick’s lux-a-droolworthy sweet potato cheesecake, but something tells me my father’s arteries – and my ass – would favor fruity goodness.

Such a delicious decision.

A very Theo holiday

What can I say – I love food. I love to cook, I love to bake, I love to eat. I once commented on a photo of myself taken when I was around 18 months old – rolls of baby fat spilling out the legs of my little red shorts and a mini muffin top popping up over my waistband. My mother just shrugged and said, “You were a good eater.”

Some things never change.

So imagine my sheer delight when I spotted the new Theo holiday bars at Whole Foods tonight!!!!!! Yes, they’re here in all their delicious minty, spicy, and buttery splendor: Peppermint Stick, Gingerbread Spice, and Milk & Cookies. There’s also Nutcracker Toffee, but I made myself stop at three bars.

And now – the taste test awaits. Hell, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear it was the day before my period. Wait…IT IS.

Oh, who gives a shit. Cheers!!

When the going gets tough, the tough…make soup

It’s been a bit of a rough weekend. For no particular reason other than – well, OK, the encroaching birthday. Brought to you by the numbers “3” and “8.” In all honesty, it’s not sitting well with me this year. There’s been a lot of introspective, reflective beeswax going on in this house and it ain’t good. Although, as always, I’m determined to find solutions – however offbeat, unconventional, and sometimes totally unorthodox they may be. No one ever gets anywhere by following the herd or being anyone other than themselves. Every time I’ve abided by that philosophy, I’ve exceeded even my own expectations. And so, as I stare down my late thirties and wonder if there’s a chance in hell those loonies who think the world will end in two years might actually be right…well, let’s just say these next 24 months need to catapult me – personally and professionally – to the next level. Maybe two. Or three. Or eight. With all of the death and tragedy I’ve seen in the past five years – and particularly the past few months – I’m no stranger to the fact that our time in this world is not infinite. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in this life of mine, especially during these last five years. But there’s still more to do, more to be.

Lately, the best accompaniment to my feverishly strategizing brain – besides writing – has been food. Or, more specifically, the preparation of food. I’ve found complete zen in kneading dough, chopping vegetables, pureeing berries, zesting lemons. It’s when my brain simultaneously goes into overdrive and autopilot. And it’s AMAZING. So on this lazy Sunday, as the sky wept outside and I wept inside, it seemed only fitting to figure out what would best nourish my body, mind, soul.

Ah-ha! I’ll take homemade soup for the win.

I came across this recipe in college, when I first started dabbling in vegetarianism. The first person I made it for was my grandma – and she LOVED it. She ate two bowls in one sitting. You know you’re really onto something if your grandmother is bowled over by your cooking. And so I’ve made it over and over and over through the years – but for whatever reason, I had yet to tackle it in my new Ballard abode. How have I been back here for 18 months without stirring this pot?!

But all of that changed today. And on a perfect day for this luscious bowl of healthy comfort, I might add – thanks to the gray and the drizzle (and as of right this moment, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING! EEEEEKKK!!!). It should not go without saying that this soup is incredibly easy to prepare – it takes about 15 minutes to chop everything and less than an hour on the stove. You can even adjust the ingredients – maybe add a bit more carrot or celery or cabbage, if that’s your thing. My own personal adaptation of the recipe (below) includes more water than the original, but you might want to pare back on that if you like a really, really thick soup. I’ve also upped the seasoning in my version. Possibly because I’m now old and have a lame tongue.

But let’s not dwell on the b-day. Let’s get on with the good stuff.

Potage a la Bonne Femme

Adapted from The Gradual Vegetarian by Lisa Tracy

6 cups water

4 medium potatoes (I use Yukon Gold….creamy as hell)

1 carrot, sliced (I prefer thicker slices, but feel free to slice thinly or even dice if you want)

1 cup cabbage, shredded or sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery rib, sliced (include the leaves if it’s got ’em)

1/2 teaspoon each of basil, thyme, and/or rosemary (I use the latter two – you can use fresh or dried, but if it’s dried, make sure it’s not more than a year old or you won’t taste a thing. Even better if you can swing it: buy a small amount in the bulk section.)

1 tablespoon butter

8 peppercorns (what can I say – I like it spicy), preferably Tellicherry, which hails from the Malabar Coast of India and has a deep, rich flavor

1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (the best salt in the WORLD – I’m SERIOUS. In Seattle, you can find it at Pasta & Co. or Watson Kennedy, which is located on 1st & Spring, as well as in the Microsoft Commons)

Fresh parsley or chives (optional – for garnish)

Put water on to boil. Wash and slice the potatoes and the carrot, both with skins still on. Shred or slice the cabbage; chop the onion, celery, and – if fresh – herbs.

To the boiling water, add potatoes, carrot, onion, butter, peppercorns, and salt. Cook half an hour or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Add cabbage, celery, and herbs, and cook an additional 20 minutes. You should now have a very thick, chunky, aromatic, fabulously droolworthy soup that looks something like this:

Now, you can eat it as is OR – you can do as the French do and puree it just a bit. You can use a blender or food mill, but frankly, it’s a hell of a lot easier with a hand mixer or – even better – an immersion blender. Just buzz through it for 30 seconds or until the texture’s pretty groovy for your taste.

Correct seasoning as needed (this is when I sometimes dash in more Maldon because I’d eat a bowl of mud if it had Maldon on it) and, if you’ve opted for it, sprinkle with the parsley or chives.

You are now well-nourished. So feel better. I know I do. Here’s to the continued mind-mapping of all our plans for world domination – or at least, using our unique gifts to make that world a much, MUCH better place.