Monday, August 31, 2009


I had a very busy weekend, involving some very good food, of course. After shopping for wedding bands, visiting my grandmother, and getting my teeth cleaned (advantages of having a dentist for a mother), my mom and I went to see Julie & Julia. It was totally adorable! Meryl Streep was great as Julia Child. And all the food just looked amazing! We were very inspired to cook when I got back to my parent's house.

My mother started with a little appetizer of figs baked with brie and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

And we were trying to decide what to cook with corn and zucchini, so I made yet another batch of fritters.

My dad grilled some swordfish, and I topped it with a little salsa of chopped tomatoes, olives, basil, balsamic, and EVOO.

Dessert was chocolate. My parents recently spent a week at LA Burdick's chocolate camp and came home with all kinds of amazing creations that they made themselves. The mice are the cutest! But it all tastes delicious. They learned so much about tempering, cooling, and molding chocolate. We need to start a family chocolate business now.

Sunday morning I woke up and went for a run with my mother. I ran 5 miles with her, and added another 5 on myself for a total of 10 miles. My first time in the double digits! I was getting a little nervous for the half marathon I'm running in October, but after finishing a strong 10 miles I feel much better about it. After the run I came home and my boy was back! He was weary of road food, so I made him a dinner with lots of fresh vegetables. I started by using up some of the potatoes we've collected from the CSA, and made a batch of potato gnocchi. These are so easy and fun to make.

You start by boiling potatoes and mashing them. I used a potato ricer to get a really fine mash. Then you stir in flour and mix and knead until it comes together and forms a sticky dough. Then you roll handfuls of dough into ropes about 1/2" in diameter.

Then slice the dough into 1" pieces.

And roll the pieces of dough under the tines of a floured fork.

To cook these, you just drop them in salted boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes, until they float. I made a ton of them but they freeze really well and can go straight from the freezer to boiling water. For a sauce, I caramelized thin slices of onion and green pepper, then cooked those with a clove of chopped garlic, 1 chopped tomato, red pepper flakes, slices of roasted eggplant and white wine.

The meal was surprisingly light, for being based around gnocchi. It helped that they were so soft and fluffy!

Friday, August 28, 2009


Cooking for one, you've got to come up with creative ways to use leftovers. So to jazz up my extra fritters, I turned them into eggplant stacks.

I topped 2 fritters with slices of roasted eggplant, fresh mozzarella, and sliced tomatoes in several layers, then roasted them for about 15 minutes at 350º.

Its looking at me! Hope everyone has a great weekend. I have plans to run and see Julie & Julia with my mother. Can't wait!

A little shameless plug here - please click on the Madsen link on the right and check out this awesome line of cargo bikes.  They're a great carbon-free way to transport groceries, kids, and just about anything that will fit in the big bucket.  I'm hoping to win one!   

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I tried to make dinner for 1 last night. I really did. I decided to make a batch of fritters from fresh corn and zucchini. I used 1 ear of corn and 1 medium zucchini, figuring if this was going to be my whole meal that didn't sound like too much of a base. But when all mixed and cooked, it was most definitely a meal for two. Oh well, I'll have leftovers.

I started by shredding the zucchini and mixing it with the corn cut off the cob.

Then I stirred in 1 egg and flour and fried the fritters in a little bit of olive oil.

I made 6 in total. I guess I could have eaten them all if I really wanted to - but I'd rather save them for another day and not stuff myself. I served the green fritters with green soup - the rest of my chilled cucumber soup.

I made a sauce for the fritters of yogurt, creme fresh, lemon juice, and chives.

Yes, this meal is very green. And very local! All the dairy in the soup and sauce is from Vermont, and the cucumbers, corn and zucchini are from our local CSA farm. And the mint and chives came right from my patio!

Zucchini Corn Fritters
serves 2 (or 1 with leftovers)
1 ear of corn, kernels cut from cob
1 medium zucchini
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
  • Shred zucchini on the large holes of a box grater.  Dump shredded zucchini into a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out any excess moisture
  • Mix zucchini with corn in a medium bowl.  Mix in beaten egg, flour, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until just combined
  • Heat about 1 Tbls of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Drop fritters into pan by the heaping tablespoonful.  Cook until golden on bottom, flip and cook until golden on the other side.  Drain on paper towels, and serve warm

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Single Serving

After returning from our work trip in Chicago and Dallas, Derek turned right back around this morning and flew to Michigan, which will be followed by Virginia, Arkansas, and North Dakota. He's traveling more for work in the next month than he has in the past 5 years combined! So, for the next week and a half, I'll be cooking like a single girl. Cooking for one if very different than when you're preparing a meal to share with someone. I feel like I can be more relaxed about what I cook. There's no pressure to serve a dinner that's formally composed, and I can just cook whatever I feel like eating.

I grew in a house with two excellent cooks, but when I went away to college and moved into an apartment style dorm I had my own (shared) kitchen for the first time and had to prepare meals for myself. My first semester I subsisted mostly on baguettes toasted in a very hot oven with cranberry horseradish jam and brie. Luckily my 18-year-old metabolism prevented all this bread and cheese from turning into the dreaded freshman 15. My junior year I studied in London, and for the first time discovered the joys of cooking with someone. My roommate in London was Deanna - who happened to be visiting me from New York this passed weekend. Despite only having a toaster oven and hot plate to work with in our closet-sized London flat, Deanna and I whipped up fresh stir-fries with tofu and vegetables and bell peppers stuffed with rice and cheese. Both of these meals are still part of my repertoire and I wish Deanna and I could still cook together like we used to.

Post-college I moved in with my best friend, Lucy, and learned about meal planning. Every Sunday Lucy and I would plan our menus for the week, compose our shopping list, and buy all our groceries together. We experimented and tired new creative twists on the classic dishes we grew up with. We loved making fancy pizzas and quesadillas. Once I started living on my own, I discovered that my own cooking and eating style isn't quite so organized. I tend to have cravings or find inspiration for dishes and need to make them right away, and I love being inspired by new ingredients I find. As a single girl, I tended to focus on one simple dish that I would make over and over again until I perfected it. I had a love affair with caesar salads and spent many a lonely night with pimento cheese sandwiches.

It wasn't until I found someone I loved that I really discovered how much I love cooking. I dabbled in it before, but sharing a meal with someone you care about and seeing how much that person enjoys what you've made them really is what turned me into an avid cook. And I'm very lucky that the someone I love is willing to eat just about anything I put in front of him and that he also believes in healthy, conscious eating.

But this week - I'm reliving my single days! I'm expecting to make simple, delicious meals from a fridge full of late August produce. This weekend has been very hot, so tonight I was craving a meal that was light and refreshing. I used these crisp, fresh cucumbers that I got today from the CSA.

I turned these into a light and fresh chilled cucumber soup. It was simple and civilized - and probably something Derek wouldn't like too much.

Chilled Cucumber Soup
serves 2 - or 1 with leftovers
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 cup organic vegetable broth
1 tsp chopped mint
juice of half a lemon
salt to taste
  • Combine cucumbers, yogurt, vegetable broth and mint in blender and blend until combined
  • Add lemon juice slowly, tasting and adding more if you'd like
  • Add salt to taste and blend again
  • Chill at least 30 minutes before serving
On the side, I made a salad of roasted golden beets tossed, wheatberries, sliced mint, and soft cheese tossed with lemon juice and good olive oil.

It was a beautiful and fresh dinner. Exactly what I wanted and just the right size.

Meanwhile, Derek found a restaurant in rural Michigan that reminded him of me - but apparently Shirlene is neither clean nor green.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Its My Kind of Town

Greetings from the windy city!
Derek and I arrived in Chicago early yesterday morning. After checking in to our HUGE hotel, we walked around and explored the city. I've only been here once before, and it was in the dead of winter so I didn't get to do too much exploring outside. This city is pretty cool! We started walking along the water up Lake Shore Drive. It was a very warm day, so everyone was out in their boats.

Its pretty amazing how big the lake is - it really looks like you're on the ocean. During our exploring we came across a Turkish festival, a ferris wheel (which we tried to go on but it was closed due to high winds), and an air show. All day their were huge fighter planes and helicopters flying overhead - it was little disconcerting! For lunch we stumbled upon this amazing gourmet grocery store that also had a cafe - Fox & Obel.

Derek had the same reaction to this place that he did when we visited the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco - its a good thing we don't live in this city, because I would spend all our money here! I was drooling over the amazing seafood and cheese counters.

Well, not literally drooling. They probably wouldn't like that in this store. With our lunch, I ordered a Goose Island India Pal Ale - a local Chicago beer. Derek had a beer from Michigan because he's traveling there for his next job.

To eat I ordered a Thai Noodle Salad - without the chicken. It had cold soba noodles, green onions, sugar snap peas, carrots, napa cabbage and crispy wontons tossed in a spicy peanut dressing.

And on the side we ordered Truffled Frites. The crispy fries came covered in parmesan with a dish of mayonnaise that was packed with little truffle bits.

I seriously would have been satisfied with the dish of mayonnaise and a spoon.
It was out of control good. Before Derek dragged me out of the store kicking and screaming, I bought a few treats from the counter of gourmet candies.

I bought some chunks of lemon blueberry shortbread covered in white chocolate, dark chocolate almonds, and dark chocolate chipotle almonds. We walked around the city a little more and came across these guys.

Not sure what they were doing here. Then the skies opened up and it started to pour, cutting our walking tour a little short. Luckily, we were a few blocks away from a movie theater so we decided to duck in and see District 9. Seemed like everyone else had the same idea, because we ended up having to sit in the 3rd row. The movie shot all on hand-held cameras, so it was not the best film to see that close. But it was a pretty good flick - definitely a very different kind of alien movie. Walking home after the movie we found the Mother Ship.

This a huge outdoor auditorium in Millennium Park. Its pretty cool but totally looks like an alien spaceship. We also found the the mini explorer ship.

And the bean!

This cool reflective bean is one of the many modern installations that are in Millennium Park.

You may have noticed that Derek doesn't like to smile in pictures.

We had reservations to go to The Publican for their Sunday Family Style dinner, but we were still too full from lunch to go out for a big meal. We ended up just going down to the bar in our elaborate hotel lobby.

Where I had a couple basil gimlets and a lobster dog. I always feel bad ordering things like lobster outside New England - knowing that it was probably shipped it from Maine. But I've never had a lobster dog before, and this did not disappoint.

It was basically a lobster cake shaped into hot dog form and fried, then topped with a buttery tarragon sauce, grape tomatoes, and green peppers. It was a pretty darn good dog.

I got up before work this morning and went on a great 5 mile run along the lake.  Very necessary after all the Sunday food. We worked this morning, then had lunch at the famous Potbelly Sandwich Works. I had a "skinny" mushroom melt sandwich, with thinner bread and less cheese, because I had plans to check out the local version of PinkBerry for dessert. Every city seems to have one of these now, so I figured I should continue my National yogurt tour. Chicago's version is Berry Chill, and its tart yogurt is only 20 calories a serving and no fat, and its lactose-free. I don't really know how you get lactose free yogurt, but this tasted pretty close to PinkBerry.

I got my dish of original with thin mints, mangoes, and raspberries.

For dinner, we tried to go back to The Publican, but couldn't get a reservation and the wait was too long when we tried to walk in. We ended up going to a place right down the street - Otom. The place was absolutely empty when we got there, so we were a bit skeptical. But the food was great! It was sort of upscale, complicated comfort food. They brought the table bread with "buttered popcorn" butter that really did taste like popcorn. I started the meal with potato chip gnocchi.

It was in a very rich Gorgonzola sauce with spiced pinenuts and champagne grapes. I didn't really taste how the potato chips were involved, but it was good. A little too rich for a starter, and the gnocchi was a bit mushy, but still an interesting flavor combo.

For my main course, I decided to get the vegetable plate. Usually that's a pretty bland dish, but I figured this restaurant would do something different with it. And I don't get as many veggies when I'm on the road, so I wanted to get my fix. The plate had 6 small preparations - 3 cold and 3 hot.

Going clockwise from the top left, there was a cold quinoa salad with cucumber, green and yellow beans in a yuzu sauce, zucchini risotto, a corn fritters with corn sauce, some other kind of fritter with a tomato and ranch sauce, and marinated roasted eggplant that was unlike any eggplant I've seen before. They were small, red, and round and looked like cherry tomatoes, but had the texture and bitterness of eggplant. All the vegetables were seasonal and grown near by. The corn fritter was the best - it was so sweet! I just love these kinds of meals, where you can have little bites of lots of different flavors rather than one huge dish of the same thing.

I was so stuffed after this meal that I actually turned down dessert! So unlike me. But I guess I have a whole week of eating out to have fancy desserts. I'm going to be on food overload by Friday!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summiting and Cleaning out the Fridge

This weekend Liz and I attended the much anticipated Healthy Living Summit, hosted by 5 "famous" bloggers.

Caitlin, Kath, Heather, Meghann, and Tina all have very popular healthy food and fitness blogs and decided to put on this summit in Boston for like-minded folks. The whole thing was definitely a unique experience. It was a little odd because these girls were sort of like celebrities. Pretty much everyone at the summit reads their blogs every day and knows just about everything about their lives. So it really wasn't all about learning about healthy living - a lot of people were also really interested in meeting these girls in person. They all seemed quite nice - and overall I thought they did a really good job of putting this event together.

Liz and I attended the Friday night cocktail party at Rustic Kitchen and made a new friend shortly after arriving - another Lizzie! Lizzie sat with us at the conference on Saturday.

After a breakfast of Stoneyfield Farm yogurt and Mix My Granola, we started hearing speakers on nutrition, natural beauty products, and fitness. The Zesty Cook was there to give tips on blogging, which I enjoyed. And by far the best speaker was Regina Beilder, an organic dairy farmer from VT. It was so cool to hear how their cows are taken care of, and how much love she has for her animals and farming life.

Lunch was a big spread of sandwich and salad fixings.

I made a veggie and cheese sandwich, with grilled veggies and pesto, tomato and mozzarella salad, and a little potato salad.

During the summit, Caitlin had a bake sale to raise money for team in training for the marathon she's running. I contributed a batch of Oatmeal Pecan Chocolate Chunk cookies. They were pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. And I made them with chunks of my absolute favorite chocolate - Taza! Not sure how much they went for in the end, but the last bid I saw was $20.

Oatmeal Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies
makes about 3 dozen
adapted from Katy Sparks with Andrea Strong
8 Tbls unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 cup oats
2 cups chopped pecans
12 oz chopped chocolate (I used Taza 70%)
  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or silpat
  • Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter until fluffy.  Add sugars, salt, and vanilla and beat until well mixed.
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
  • Slowly add flour to wet ingredients and mix until flour just disappears.  Stir oats, pecans, and chocolate in by hand
  • Scoop onto prepared baking sheets by the teaspoon-full, and bake 10 - 12 minutes or until slightly golden
Early tomorrow morning, Derek and I are leaving for Chicago. We're traveling together all next week for work, and we're going to Chicago a day early to explore the city. So since we're going to be gone for a week, I tried to clean out all the veggies in the fridge for tonight's dinner.

I made a batch of guacamole with a very ripe avocado.

Then dug out some potatoes and summer squash.

I boiled the potatoes for about 10 minutes, then sliced them and layered them with sliced squash, sliced shallots, and grated cheddar cheese.

Then I poured milk and cream over the whole thing, and baked at 350º for about 45 minutes until it was bubbly and browned on top.

I served this with a salad of arugula, kale, beets, green peppers, cucumbers, and more avocado.

That's just about all the veggies I could find! Leftover gratin went into the freezer. Because we're off tomorrow! See you in the windy city!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Its Finally TIme!

I have been waiting all summer to receive the first eggplant in our CSA and it finally arrived this week! For months, I have been wanting to try my hand at making ratatouille. I've never made it before, and it has to be one of my favorite French culinary words (my absolute favorite is pamplemousse - which is French for grapefruit). Its basically a stew of fresh vegetables that are all in season in August. So I wanted to hold out on my first ratatouille adventure until I could get all the ingredients fresh and locally. And now is the time!

I used Orangette's recipe as my base. I loved that it started with roasted eggplant - much easier to get eggplant nice and golden in the oven than in a pan on the stove. I also used a big, beautiful yellow summer squash instead of a zucchini.

This was browned in a pan, and then set aside with the eggplant. Then I tossed in the pan onions, chopped red pepper, garlic, and tomatoes. I was planning to use some fresh thyme and basil in the recipe, but didn't have any on hand. So, it seemed to make sense to flavor this provincial stew with herbs de provence.

All of this simmered for a bit to soften the vegetables and meld the flavors.

And to turn it into a little more of a main course, I topped it with a poached egg.

With a runny yolk, of course.

The dish was amazing! So fresh and flavorful. I hear the flavors get even better after a couple days - so I left some for Derek to eat tomorrow night when I'm at the Healthy Living Summit cocktail party!

This dish totally lived up to its name - its a mouthful!

Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille
adapted from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1" rounds
1 large zucchini or summer squash, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2" half moons
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp herbs de provence
salt & pepper
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Brush both sides of eggplant with EVOO, and lay them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet
  • Roast for about 30 minutes, flipping half way through, until soft and golden.  Set aside (can be made up to 2 days ahead)
  • Heat 2 Tbls EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  • Add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until just soft and lightly browned on each side. Remove from pan and set aside
  • Add more oil to pan if its dry, then add onions and reduce heat to medium
  • Saute until onions are softened, about 5 minutes
  • Add red pepper and garlic and cook about 6 more minutes
  • Add tomatoes, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 5 minutes
  • Add eggplant and zucchini. Cover and simmer on low for about 15 - 20 minutes
  • Serve topped with a poached egg and with some crusty bread
Dessert was sort of a Cajun-Mexican-Guatemalan fusion. I had another plantain that had gotten very ripe, so I decided to turn it into sort of a Plantains Foster. I started by browning some butter in a large pan - watching it very closely...

Then added the sliced plantains and some sugar.

And then I poured in some excellent Guatemalan rum that I bought when I visited there a couple years ago. My cousin Carlos claims its the best in the world - probably because he's Guatemalan. I served splashes of it straight as an after dinner drink. Its very strong - it took me an entire episode of True Blood to get through this little drink!

When the plantains had cooked down a bit, I scooped them over vanilla ice cream.

It was a bit less saucy than bananas foster usually is - the plantains were actually a little crispy in places. But it was really nice with the ice cream. Isn't everything, though?