Friday, December 20, 2013

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Breadcrumbs

If you're like my mother, at this point you've started the process of going to the grocery store to get what you need to host family for the holidays. The cheeses, the cookies, the ingredients for several group dinners. I'll be helping with some of these efforts when I'm home, of which I will blog about next week.

But for those of you who are trying to figure out side dishes that are traditional, but maybe with a twist, here is a great green bean side dish I made for Thanksgiving. The walnut breadcrumb topping is the best part of this dish, and it's a pleaser for picky eaters.

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Breadcrumbs (serves 8)


  • 1 cup sliced shallots
  • 2 lbs green beans, trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 (1-ounce) slices French bread baguette
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 TB chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind

  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 425°.

    Place shallots and beans in a small roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; toss. Sprinkle mixture evenly with salt and sugar; toss to combine. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl.

    Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 1/2 cups. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs to pan; cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.

    Remove from heat; stir in the cheese and remaining ingredients. Add breadcrumb mixture to beans; toss to combine.

    Monday, December 16, 2013


    This weekend was the weekend of holiday parties and indulgence. I managed to make it to 4 of the 5 holiday parties I was invited to on Saturday, and lived to tell the tale. However, I was definitely feeling the effects of too much drink on Sunday morning, when I journeyed to Giant at 9 a.m. to pick up 2 lbs of pork shoulder. What I ended up with was a surprisingly heavy 2 lb piece of meat (READ: a 9 1/2 lb. piece of meat for $2/lb...yes I transposed the numbers when purchasing this, and didn't realize it until I got home.)

    In any case, I made a great posole with it (and froze the rest of the meat...I see carnitas in my immediate future). This was awesome hangover food for a crowd, and will be what I'm eating all week. It is time intensive since you slow cook the meat for many hours, but prep work is pretty minimum once the meat is cooked. Totally worth the time.

    Posole (serves 8-10)

    • 1 TB ground cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1 2-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 red onion, sliced
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil     
    • 1/2 red onion, chopped    
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced    
    • 2 plum tomatoes, diced    
    • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth    
    • 1 28-ounce can undrained pinto beans    
    • 1 28-ounce can white hominy, drained    
    • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices, puréed in blender until smooth    
    • 1 TB oregano   
    • 2 tsp ground cumin    
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper    
    • Shredded mild cheddar     
    • Chopped fresh cilantro     
    • Lime wedges    
    • Flour tortillas

    Preheat oven to 275°. Line a small roasting pan with foil. Mix cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Rub spice mix all over pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork in pan and cover with sliced onion. Pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of pan. Cover pan tightly with foil and roast until meat is very tender, 5–6 hours. Let pork rest until cool enough to handle.

    Using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-size pieces. Skim fat from juices in roasting pan; reserve meat. This can be done a day ahead if needed.

    Heat oil in a large pot over medium- low heat. Add onion and sauté until trans- lucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the diced fresh tomatoes and stir until softened, about 2 minutes longer. Stir in broth and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
    Add reserved pork to posole. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes longer for flavors to meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding reserved juices from roast pork, if desired. Divide among bowls, garnish with shredded cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges, and serve with flour tortillas.

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

    The Kindle Challenge

    Two or three years ago, my brother got me a Kindle as a present. It was the basic e-reader, probably one of the first generations of the product. I read a decent amount, and I found that it was a great present. I could download several books at a time, and it was pretty small to take with me for the inevitable commuting delays I sometimes face.

    But in the time I've had the Kindle, I've come to realize that I miss having certain types of books. For instance, books that have a lot of footnotes and/or photos are much better read in the physical form. Granted, I'm sure some of the latest innovations in e-readers have made it easier to bounce around a virtual book, but I've found that my current version is good for reading simple novels, but not other items.

    Case in point? I recently finished "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten. I knew going into it the book was about food and the author had been the Vogue food critic for a long time. What I hadn't anticipated was a slew of recipes buried in the "pages." And with my basic Kindle, it was not a good delivery method. Without being able to bookmark (and this is a LONG read), I doubt I'll ever be able to find these again.

    So if I can give you one piece of advice this holiday gift season, if you're buying for a cook, stick to the regular cookbooks. Happy shopping!

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Delicata Squash and Kale

    As I mentioned last week, I joined a CSA. I purchased some familiar items, like Bosc Pears and Apple Butter, but I also opted to order a delicate squash. Mainly because it looked pretty. And I'm pretty sure I had tried one recently at the Columbia Heights Farmers Market and enjoyed the flavor. So I went on the hunt for a recipe that included this, and baby kale, which I had also picked up. There were a surprising number of these combinations out there, but I settled on a very simple side dish. It was a nice departure from green beans, which I've been cooking a lot of lately. I imagine any type of acorn squash would work for this dish. I served this alongside broiled salmon.

    Delicata Squash and Kale (serves 2 as a side dish)


  • 1 medium Delicata squashes (about 1 lb) halved lengthwise & seeded
  • 1/2 TB plus 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TB honey
  • 3 oz. kale, large stems removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 TB red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into 1/2 inch thick semicircles. Toss with 1/2 tsp olive oil and spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until just tender, about 15-18 minutes. 

    Mix together the balsamic vinegar & honey in a small bowl.  Brush some of the mixture onto the squash slices; reserve remaining mixture.  Bake an additional 5 minutes. 

    Meanwhile, place kale in a large bowl. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallot (or red onion) and garlic, and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.

    Add red-wine vinegar and remaining vinegar-honey mixture to saucepan, and bring to a boil.

    Immediately pour the hot dressing over kale, and sprinkle with salt & season with pepper.  Add squash. 

    Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 5 minutes.  Toss until kale wilts slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Friday, December 6, 2013

    A Unique CSA Opportunity

    During the summer, I was reading an article on one of my neighborhood blogs about local CSAs. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, CSAs come in all shapes and sizes, but essentially its a crop share, where individuals can buy in to a farm or group of farms' harvest, paying a seasonal fee, and in return, receiving produce from that particular farm for a set amount of time. I have often wanted to try one of these out, but there have been so major roadblocks for me.

    1) Cost-So many CSAs can be $600-$800 for a crop season (for instance spring/summer, or fall/winter)
    2) Quantity-It's just me, so the idea of getting a crate of produce each week for several months seemed a bit overwhelming
    3) Variety-Many CSAs don't give you a choice on what you get. So one week you might get a crate full of radishes and greens, another week all potatoes and carrots.

    While reading this article, I did notice that one CSA stood out for its unique process. Star Hollow Farms offers its CSA for $300 and you essentially online shop, debiting from your $300. So you get to pick what you order, and the buy-in can last for a long long as you place an order within a year, the balance continues to carry over. As would be expected, this CSA had a waiting list.

    Fast forward a few months and I received an e-mail about joining this group. There was no hesitation on my part, and now I'm part of the Star Hollow family. The pick-up location is conveniently located in Adams Morgan and I was happy with my first haul. This included honey, apple butter, baby arugula, baby kale, Bosc pears and delicata squash. I made a great side dish with some of these items last week and I'll post that recipe next week.

    Learn more about Star Hollow Farm.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Pomegranate and Spinach Salad

    A few weeks back, I was planning a dinner party for two, and since most of the meal was on the heavy side, I wanted a light starter salad. I tapped my go-to "what should I make" resource for when I stopped, Nick of, and he told me to make this salad. I had never worked with pomegranates before, but the instructions in the recipe assured me that it wasn't that tricky to work with. Where I think I struggled most was in deseeding the fruit. I submerged it in a bowl of water, but I think I opted for too shallow of a bowl. This lead to an unflattering splatter of pomegranate juice, staining parts of my kitchen and ironically landing on my knife skills book. I assured my dinner guest that this wasn't in fact the scene of a crime, just my first attempt with pomegranate.
    The salad was a big hit and I suggest you giving it a shot while pomegranates are still in season.

    Pomegranate and Spinach Salad (serves 4-6)

    • 5-6 ounces baby spinach
    • 1 pomegranate, seeded
    • 6 oz. goat cheese
    • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
    For the Dressing:
    • 1  cup raspberries
    • 3 TB balsamic vinegar
    • 2 TB honey
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • Pinch of salt 

    Add raspberries to a small food processor and pulse a few times. Then add other dressing ingredients and process until mostly smooth.

    Seed pomegranate by cutting it into quarters and breaking it apart under cold water. The seeds will sink and the pith will float. This might take some manuevering of the pith and the seeds, but overall it was pretty easy. Just watch for splatter!

    Toss greens with a few tablespoons of dressing and coat well. Divide greens between a few plates.

    Crumble goat cheese on greens and top with pom seeds and toasted walnuts.


    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Revisiting a Cold Weather Favorite...Senegalese Peanut Butter Stew

    For today's post, I'm revisiting a favorite from last winter...Senegalese Peanut Butter Stew. But first, I feel it is only fitting to recap on a great Thanksgiving.

    We were 13 people deep, with homemade turkey sausage on top of a turkey, green beans-3 ways, potatoes that rivaled all other mashed potatoes I've eaten before (sorry, Mom) and three awesome pies. At the beginning, I kind of felt like our smallest Thanksgiving guest, in awe of this pumpkin chiffon pie. By the end I was pleasantly plumptified (I am now coining that as a new word), but so happy to celebrate another DC Thanksgiving with friends.

    Today, I enjoyed a bit more of the stuffing (thanks Ian!) and tried to hammer through a workday, making the most of the quiet. I'll no doubt be detoxing on food for the next few days and I imagine many of you all are in the same boat. 

    But if you're feeling like you want to cook, and perhaps make a little something out of the ordinary, consider making this Senegalese peanut butter stew. It tastes rich and comforting, but it's surprisingly healthy. The only true fat comes from the peanut butter, and the combination with sweet potatoes and other vegetables make this a satisfying detox meal.  Enjoy!

    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    2013 CFC Chili Cookoff

    This week, I was one of the organizers for our division's second chili cookoff. The tradition started last year and we decided to resurrect the idea again this year, but on a smaller scale. This didn't mean we skimped on chili, just made it more about our division's efforts related to CFC.

    For those unfamiliar with the acronym, CFC stands for the Combined Federal Campaign. The CFC provides federal employees an opportunity to donate pre-tax dollars, right from their paychecks, to charities of their choosing. Through the CFC campaign season, which typically runs from October- December, events are held to raise awareness of the initiative, and also raise a little money for the general fund. This was one of those events.

    I'm happy to report that I came in third place in both the official judging, as well as the people's choice. There were some great offerings this year, from a lamb chili to a Filipino-style chili with black rice. I made my traditional Cincinnati-style chili, but with beef as opposed to my typical chicken, and without the addition of pasta. But this pasta was definitely sugar and spice and everything nice.

    But even more importantly, we raised more than $300 for the CFC.

    Here are some of my previous chili posts in case you are so inspired to make a chili for this chilly weather.

    Cincinnati-style Chicken Chili

    Savory Chicken Chili with Corn and White Beans

    Turkey Chili

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Tomato Jam

    Whenever I hear the phrase tomato jam, I think of two things.

    1) The phrase "tomato jammy jam" which is likely a riff off of an old In Living Colour episode or House Party 2, both gems of the 1990s. Or....
    2) Well, I guess since a tomato is a fruit, it would make a good jam.

    But until a month ago, I had never tried it. I got to sample a homemade tomato jam for the first time at our local farmers' market and I was hooked. And they just so happened to share the recipe. So I made this jam as an appetizer for a dinner I was cooking a few weeks back. It made a decent amount so I brought it to a few other events and it was a big hit. If I had proper canning equipment, this would make a great gift for others. While tomato season is behind us, I'd suggest bookmarking this to try next year. It is totally worth the effort.

    I served the jam on melba toast with chevre cheese.

    Tomato Jam (makes 2 quarts)


    • 3 1/2 lbs of tomatoes, coarsely chopped
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp coriander
    • 1/4 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
    • Juice of 1 lemon

    Put all ingredients in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until thickened to a jam-like consistency, about 3 hours. Be sure to stir on occasion to make sure it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. Transfer to glass jars and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    Sweet Potato Soup

    In the second post in this week's "I make mushy baby foods," I made a creamy sweet potato soup. This recipe appealed to me for several reasons, but mainly because it seemed simple, included bacon, and was prominently featured in all its orange glory on the cover of the holiday cooking issue of Cooking Light.

    I'm going to post the recipe as written, but I'll let you know why this didn't work out so well for me.

    While it was great to do a shortcut by cooking the sweet potatoes in the microwave, I underestimated the power of my microwave so the potatoes became overdone, which made them difficult to peel, and just tough in texture. It's possible that the potatoes weren't the best to begin with as well, but the end result, while tasting fine, had a bizarre consistency. So I encourage you to try this out because the flavors are great, my execution was just poor. See? I'm not the perfect chef. :)

    Sweet Potato Soup (serves 6)


  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 2 large)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 TB flat-leaf parsley leaves 

  • Directions:

    Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11 x 7-inch microwave-safe baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly; discard potato skins.

    Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 1 minute or until translucent. Stir in cumin and red pepper. Add stock to pan; bring to a boil.

    Place half of sweet potato and half of stock mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.

    Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining sweet potato and stock mixture. Stir in salt. Divide soup evenly among 6 bowls; sprinkle cooked bacon and Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Garnish with parsley.

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Pumpkin Hummus

    This is the week where I feature fall cooking attempts that resulted in dishes resembling baby food. But some baby food can be good, right? And a lot of it is orange.

    First up is a pumpkin hummus that I made for a Halloween party. This wasn't an overly sweet hummus, which was a nice balance from other pumpkin dips I've had before. If you're a fan of hummus and pumpkin, you'll probably like this. I found the flavor good, but sadly not everybody was a fan. Yes, I was talking to someone who made a "blech" sound after tasting it, not realizing I had made it. Which I then pointed out. And it got awkward. But I stand by this recipe. Because we all have different taste buds.

    I served this with homemade pita chips.

    Pumpkin Hummus (makes approximately 2-3 cups)


  • 4 (6-inch) pitas, each cut into 8 wedges
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 TB tahini (sesame-seed paste)
  • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 TB pumpkinseed kernels, toasted (optional)

  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 425°.

    Place pita wedges on baking sheets; coat with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until toasted.

    Place tahini, lemon juice, cumin, oil, salt, red pepper, pumpkin, and garlic in a food processor, and process until smooth. Add parsley; pulse until blended. Spoon hummus into a serving bowl; sprinkle with pumpkinseed kernels, if desired. Serve with pita wedges.

    Saturday, November 9, 2013

    Savory Saturday: A Different Kind of Chicken Chili

    It's starting to get cold out. I finally put the blanket on my bed and turned on the heat. This means it is officially time to break out the comfort food recipes. I have made this white chili several times over the last year. Combining corn, fennel and parmesan cheese, this is not your typical chili. It isn't overly spicy, and tastes more like a chowder. But when the weather turns cold, this will keep you warm.

    I originally posted this recipe around this time last year, but will admit the photo didn't make it all that appetizing. Perhaps I've done better this time around to entice you to make this no-fail recipe.. For the original recipe and post, click here.

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Soba Noodles with Cumin Spiced Lamb

    Even though I'm back to work, and a steady paycheck, I'm still employing some of my government shutdown practices. This includes keeping my grocery bills low and going through existing proteins in my freezer, and in this case, small amounts of boxed ingredients sitting in my cabinet. This past week, I opted to work with the 8 oz. of ground lamb I had in my freezer, in addition to some soba noodles. This was a good lunch meal...with a healthy dose of vegetables.

    Soba Noodles with Cumin Spiced Lamb (serves 3-4)

  • 7 oz. uncooked soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 TB rice vinegar
  • 4 1/2 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp five-spice powder
  • 8 oz. ground lamb
  • 1 TB dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 9 baby carrots, halved lengthwise

  • Directions:

    Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse; drain well.

    Combine chicken broth, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, garlic, and five-spice powder in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

    Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb; cook 2 1/2 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove lamb from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside.

    Return pan to medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to drippings in pan; swirl to coat. Add cumin and red pepper; cook 30 seconds or until seeds begin to pop, stirring frequently. Add vegetables to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add lamb and broth mixture; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until liquid is slightly reduced. Serve over noodles.

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    Food Porn: San Francisco - Part 2

    This is the third part in a three-part series showing off all the wonderful food I had the opportunity to eat while on vacation.

    As I mentioned earlier this week, I couldn't pack all of the amazing food in San Francisco into just one post. So this post will cover the food I ate in a special San Francisco version of Sunday family dinner. But on a Tuesday. And without all of the usual suspects.

    But first, since it is Halloween and I love a good pun, I present to you my alter ego, Ghoulia Child. Straight from the Castro District. An expert at knife play, but I've been a bit frightened to try too many of her recipes. Beef Bourguignon has been my only attempt...and it wasn't even her recipe. I digress. Happy Halloween to all. Now on to more food porn!

    I've often blogged about my regular Sunday family dinners in DC and one of our core family members, the illustrious Jon Wright, recently moved to San Francisco. We decided to have our own family dinner while I was in town, opting to eat in the Mission District where I was staying. There were so many options, but we elected to try out a place called Grub. They had me at "build your own mac and cheese."

    Most of our regular dinner parties include some sort of kale dish. Fried, baked, mixed with other vegetables, it's become a staple. So when we saw crispy kale with brown sugar on the menu, we had to try it.  Here is Jon partaking of these giant pieces of kale. They definitely held up to the name of "dinosaur kale." By far the T-Rex of kale chips.

    For the main dish, we elected for the make-your-own mac and cheese, with truffle oil, bacon and caramelized onions. This was one of the more tame mix and match options. We could have gone crazy and opted for fennel with chipotle BBQ pork, or grilled corn with Maine lobster. The possibilities were endless.

    We also ordered the braised lamb, which included mint couscous and caramelized root vegetables. I've become a recent fan of well cooked lamb dishes, something that I never really had much of in my formative years. But a well seasoned lamb shank medallion? Sign me up!

    I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm not a big dessert person. But sometimes I'm surprised by my desire for something sweet. This was one of those occasions. And when I saw this description for one particular dessert, I just had to order it. And it was worth it. While I don't remember all of the gory details of what comprised this dish, it had pumpkin cheesecake with caramel, and pretzel brittle and I'm sure fairy dust or something magical because it was awesome. And here it is. A sweet ending to a trio of food porn posts.

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    Food Porn: San Francisco (Part 1)

    This is the second part in a three-part series showing off all the wonderful food I had the opportunity to eat while on vacation.

    As mentioned in my post last week, I had a 9-day vacation scheduled in October, right around the time the government went kaput. I spent the first few days in Arizona, but after, I traveled to San Francisco. I ate so much in San Francisco, and the food is just so good, that this warrants two posts on the food porn of San Francisco. After looking at what I ate over the course of 3 1/2 days, you too may feel much like I did by the end of it...kind of like these sea lions.

    I arrived on a Sunday and proceeded to have a great meal at the hotel I was staying in with my sister-in-law for the first two nights of my stay. I don't have photos of that great meal because my phone died, and it's just as well, really, because this blog just can't handle any more food goodness than I'm already posting.

    On my second day, my first stop was to visit the Mission District, where I would be staying (and let's be real, EATING, for the second half of my visit. This dynamic and colorful neighborhood is full of great food and artwork. I was given one recommendation by several get a pork carnitas taco from La Taqueria. The neighborhood is full of these types of eateries, but this one is listed among the best bargains. I'll
    give them that...this meaty treat was only $3 and kept me full for a few hours until I made the next stop on my food tour de force (after walking several miles): the Ghirardelli chocolate store at Fisherman's Wharf.

    This beauty on the right is a sea salt caramel ice cream sundae. The name pretty much says it all, but to top it off, there was actual caramel grain sea salt on top of the whipped cream, which while over the top, was ridiculously wonderful. I definitely ate the whole thing. And I enjoyed every single bite of it.

    During much of my trip, I tried to try as many places to eat as possible, opting for small appetizers and snacks in many cases. I received so many recommendations from so many people both before the trip, and during my excursions from people I met along the way. I was rarely steered wrong.

    Two recommendations that were particularly awesome were these chile lime wings at an upscale Korean food place in the Mission District and the illustrious desserts at "Hot Cookie" a Castro neighborhood sweet spot where you can get all sorts of sexy shaped cookies, or if you're not feeling as adventurous, a basic toffee chocolate chip cookie, which was my poison for that night.

    While I was in San Francisco, I also had the opportunity to meet up with one of my Sunday family dinner companions who recently left DC to move to San Francisco...but that's a post for later this week.


    Until then...have your hot cookie and eat it too.

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    Food Porn: Arizona

    This will be the first in a three-part series showing off all the wonderful food I had the opportunity to eat while on vacation.

    About a week into the furlough, I headed out west for a previously scheduled vacation. My first stop was to Arizona where I had grand plans of seeing the Grand Canyon before heading to Scottsdale for the wedding of an old friend from high school. Due to the powers that be in the government, the Grand Canyon portion was not possible, but I did get to spend some more time in Sedona, which was absolutely gorgeous. It was great to get away from the madness of DC, though the conversation often found its way back to what was happening back home, be it from chance encounters with tourists who had recently come back from DC or for the countless numbers of people invading Sedona during the week, since their dreams of a Grand Canyon experience had also been cut short.

    While in Sedona, I ate a lot of Southwestern food. And by that, I mean a ton of tacos. This trend continued in San Francisco, but the best were in Sedona. My first night there, I managed to squeeze into a spot at the bar of Elote, a very popular restaurant slightly set apart from the tourist traps of the main drag. It had a pretty solid reputation on TripAdvisor, so I decided to give it a go. I started off with the signature elote, a Mexican corn and cheese dish, which they served as a dip here. I've made something similar to this before on the blog, and have had it at Estadio, but this was by far the best. I of course washed it down with a margarita.

    Next up was the pork carnitas. This dish was slow-roasted pork shoulder with a tomato sauce and served with guacamole and rice with beans. While it sounds simple, the flavor was just amazing. The meat was so tender, it just fell through the prongs of the fork. The picture really doesn't do it justice. Looking back, I'm kicking myself for not buying the cookbook from this restaurant...I'm sure it's amazing.

    The next day I continued to eat more tacos, but not without lunchtime beer samples from the Oak Creek Brewery. Now that's what I call a power lunch.

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Steamed Green Beans with Lemon-Mint Dressing

    I've been MIA for awhile. This is mainly due to my Western vacation, where I ate my way through Arizona and San Francisco. I'll be blogging about all those wonderful foods later this week, but here's something to tide you over in the meantime. This simple side dish I made a few weeks before I left and has a great flavor, without the mint overpowering anything.

    But happy am I to receive my newest issue of Cooking Light? Pretty damn happy. I don't always mention it on here, but most of what I cook is straight from this magazine, with the occasional modification. I'm a big fan of the holiday double issue and you damn well better believe I'm going to be making that sweet potato and bacon soup on the cover...



    Steamed Green Beans with Lemon-Mint Dressing (serves 4 as a side dish)

    • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
    • 2 TB finely chopped fresh mint leaves
    • 1 TB minced shallots
    • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
    • 1 1/2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

    Steam green beans 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.

    Combine mint and remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add green beans to bowl, and toss to coat.

    I found these to be best warm, but I think they could be good chilled.

    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    Chicken Cordon Bleu

    In my continuing efforts to use food in my refrigerator, I found that I had all the necessary ingredients to make my very simple chicken cordon bleu. This is something I've been making for over 10 years and probably the most complex part of the recipe is rolling everything together in a way that it sticks together, rolled, in a toothpick in order to bake.

    This process has become easier in recent years since Perdue started to sell very thin chicken breasts, I think usually used for scappoline or some other similar dish, but they work really well when you roll anything into chicken. Unfortunately, this type wasn't available and since I was working my way through the fridge, I thought this was a good a time as any to take out some of my frustration over the government shutdown by taking a mallet to the chicken to flatten it out.

    Chicken Cordon Bleu (serves 4)

    • 1 lb chicken breasts, pounded thin and flat.
    • Deli ham, thinly sliced
    • Deli swiss cheese, thinly slice
    • Dijon mustard
    • Italian breadcrumbs
    • Toothpicks

    ****You'll notice that I didn't give very specific amounts to the above ingredients, because this is really easy to just eyeball. But as a rule of thumb, you'll use one slice of ham and one slice of cheese for each flat breast. I used very small breasts, so the cheese and ham kind of spill out into the pan and get crispy. But that's how I like it!

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

    Take flat piece of chicken and spread dijon mustard on top of it, just enough to lightly coat the chicken. Then, place one piece of cheese and one piece of ham on top of the chicken. Gently roll the chicken lengthwise until it becomes ball and stick with a toothpick to secure. Lightly dust with breadcrumbs.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I like to serve with brown rice and green beans.

    Friday, October 4, 2013

    That's the (Turkish) rub...

    Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that I'm on furlough. I've been trying to make the most of my time by going through closets, donating clothes, getting organized, amongst other trivial cost-free activities to bide my time until I either go back to work or go on vacation next week. I have a funny feeling that the vacation will happen before a resolution is reached.

    My productivity has also translated into the cooking arena. I went through some old magazines for recipes, tearing out select recipes and placing them in a binder. I hope to try some of them out this winter and as always, I'll post the recipes here.

    But a girl's gotta eat. So this week I've been going through the stockpile of meat in my freezer from recent farmers' market trips and coming up with simple meals to cook that don't require me to go to the grocery store. Earlier this week, I took some pork chops and tried out some of these great meat rubs that my friend Sam gifted me when he moved to London. He had picked up the spices on a trip to Turkey. I've already used the fish rub several times, but the meat rubs would be a new endeavor. To be honest, I think one is not meant for meat, but they weren't yeah, one is an odd purple color. But they both tasted great.

    I always underestimate a simple spice rub for meats. I have so many spices that I should do these more often. What are your favorite spice rub combos?

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese

    I should never make mac and cheese. Ever. Because I'll eat all of it. ALL OF IT. In two meals, at best. Even this light recipe falls into that category. It's very creamy and you almost forget that it doesn't contain heavy cream or full-fat cheese. So it's still dangerous, but not in a heart-attack inducing way.

    Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese (serves me...just kidding, should serve 4-6 people)

    • 10 oz. large elbow macaroni
    • 2 TB canola oil
    • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
    • 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
    • 8 tsp all-purpose flour
    • 4 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
    • Cooking spray
    • 3 oz.extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
    • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

    Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Set aside.

    Preheat broiler to high.

    Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.

    Add garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently (do not brown).

    Stir in 1 cup stock; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute.

    Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups stock, milk, and flour; stir with a whisk until flour dissolves. Add milk mixture to garlic mixture, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken.

    Remove milk mixture from heat; add cream cheese, stirring until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta to milk mixture, tossing to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.

    Pour pasta mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cheddar and breadcrumbs evenly over pasta mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let stand 5 minutes.

    Wednesday, September 25, 2013

    Redux of Costa Rican-Style Tilapia

    I've never been to Costa Rica. In fact, I've never been south of Key West, but I hope to rectify that in the near future. So the only thing I have to go on that this dish is in the style of Costa Rican food is that the recipe said so. Regardless of its authenticity, it is a dish that I like to regularly make, especially for a crowd. It's relatively economical, and universally liked. The rice/pineapple/black bean combo is the star of this production, though the fish gives it a bit more substance. Here's the link to the original post/recipe.

    And can we just say that my hair has grown crazy long (for me) since that time?

    Exhibit A: February 2012, shortly after
     I started my little blogging adventure.

    Exhibit B: September 2013, with Jon Wright,
    one of my favorite taste testers.

    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    Tabbouleh with Chicken and Red Pepper

    In my continuing effort to pack healthier lunches more often, and my propensity when I'm busy to buy pre-cooked rotisserie chickens and find ways to repurpose the meat, I tried this out a few weeks back. Flavor wise, it's pretty tame...probably could use more pepper, or perhaps even some red pepper flakes. But as far as healthy goes, it hits the mark. I've never cooked with bulgur before, but because you can't ever seem to buy a small amount of anything at my grocery store, I have plenty to cook with again at some other point. How do you like to cook with bulgur?

    Tabbouleh with Chicken and Red Pepper (makes 3 lunch-sized portions)

    • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
    • 1/2 cup boiling water
    • 1 1/2 cups diced plum tomato
    • 3/4 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
    • 3/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
    • 1/2 cup diced English cucumber
    • 1/4 cup minced fresh mint
    • 1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice
    • 1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Combine bulgur and 1/2 cup boiling water in a large bowl. Cover and let stand 15 minutes or until the bulgur is tender. Drain well; return bulgur to bowl. Cool.

    Add tomato and remaining ingredients; toss well.

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Food Porn: Abbey Burger Bistro

    I could have called this Food Porn: Baltimore. In fact, that was the whole point of the hit up various Baltimore eateries to do a "taste of the town" for a few hours with my friend Mike. But we made one critical error in our planning. We started off too big. Copious amounts of meat on a bun, kind of big. We went on from there to try some macaroons and eat some sushi at Ra Sushi, but those aren't even worth discussing because all I seemed to taste for the rest of the day was sweet meat.

    Our first stop where we peaked too early is called Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill. This came at the recommendation of a bunch of friends who have visited Baltimore. Essentially it's a build your own burger kind of bar, with a crazy number of options. Just look at this list!

    We started off with fried alligator bites, which looked a bit like hush puppies. I wasn't too keen on them, but what was coming on the burger more than made up for the less than exciting appetizer.

    Meat options included the typical angus beef, but also duck, red deer, wild boar, name it, they killed it and made it an option on the menu! I opted for an angus burger with Guinness cheddar, caramelized onions, pickles, and Maker's Mark BBQ sauce, all served on a pretzel bun.

    My friend Mike opted for a fried green tomato burger with crab dip, bacon and some other stuff on top. I was too distracted by my meaty creation. As you can see below. So if you make it up to Baltimore, check this place out. I think it was well worth the traffic. Check them out at:

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    Baby Potatoes with Kale

    A few years back, I recall the word "superfood" becoming a regular fixture in healthy eating articles. Some of these superfoods have been a regular fixture in my diet for years...berries, tea, salmon, etc. But the greens was an area that I desperately needed to explore a bit more.

    I can thank some of my regular dinner companions in Columbia Heights for introducing me to kale. Sometimes they'd serve it crispy and baked with chili oil and sesame seeds. Other times it would be mixed into a power salad. For something I never really cooked with before, I was developing a taste for it. This is one of the better kale recipes I've tried in recent months, which makes for a great side dish for a group. And it takes a little less than 20 minutes to cook from start to finish.

    Baby Potatoes with Kale (serves 4 as a side dish)

    • 1 lb sliced baby potatoes
    • 1 1/2 TB canola oil
    • 2 TB sliced garlic
    • 3 cups chopped kale
    • 1 TB water
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper

    Place potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook 8 minutes; drain.

    Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil. Add potatoes and garlic; cook 3 minutes.

    Add kale and water. Cover and cook 3 minutes. Add sesame oil, salt, and pepper; toss and serve.

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    Raspberry Lemon Muffins

    As evidenced by the wide variety of things I make on this blog, I'm not much of a creature of routine when it comes to lunches and dinners throughout the week. I like to mix it up. But when it comes to breakfast, it's rare that I stray too far from the staples, namely Cheerios with the occasional egg-based weekend breakfast.

    Last week I made raspberry lemon muffins for a brunch I was hosting with some friends, and took the rest into my always hungry government office. These simple muffins were not only tasty, but also relatively low-fat. They were a hit with everyone and something I plan to add into my somewhat predictable breakfast routine.

    Raspberry Lemon  Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

    • 1 lemon
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 cup lowfat buttermilk
    • 1/3 cup canola oil
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

    Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 large (1/2-cup) muffin cups with paper liners.

    Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon in long strips. Combine the zest and sugar in a food processor; pulse until the zest is very finely chopped into the sugar. Add buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla and pulse until blended.

    Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture and fold until almost blended. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

    Bake the muffins until the edges and tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Best served warm.:)

    Wednesday, September 4, 2013

    An Oldie but a Goodie-Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad

    A while back I indicated that I was going to employ some strategies to this blog that we use at work. Such as "Throwback Thursdays", or "F-ing Fantastic Food Friday." But in all reality, I'm too busy to keep up with any sort of set schedule like that, I just really try and post twice a week. And I kind of screwed that up last week. But I have been doing a lot of cooking and eating lately, and am building up a stockpile for September as my work schedule gets even nuttier.

    Some of what I've been making lately have been repeats on previously successful dishes. This is one of them.  I made this Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad a few weeks back when I had a ton of peaches and was looking for something light to eat on a Monday after a weekend of excess (which seems to be every weekend as of late!) Here's the recipe in my original post from last year.You won't be disappointed. Trust me.

    Sunday, September 1, 2013

    Lamb Pita Pizza

    I too find it hard to believe I've never cooked with lamb before. My early interactions with the meat had not been good ones. Bless her, but my grandmother didn't really season the meat when we'd have it during the holidays and she would effectively cook it to death. Which is a funny phrase when you think of it, considering when you're cooking meats, they are most often quite dead. But I digress...

    So the first time I ever had lamb and enjoyed it was at a Mediterranean tapas place on the Hill that closed many years ago. It was a spiced, lamb kebab. Cooked to perfection. And I thought, "Wow this is what I've been missing!" Since that day, I've occasionally had a lamb chop or a kebab here and there, but had yet to cook with the meat. That all changed last week when I found this great recipe that was perfect for weekday lunches. It's simple and tasty. Try it out for a different kind of lunch!

    Lamb Pita Pizza (makes 4 pita "pizzas")

    • 6 oz. ground lamb
    • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
    • 1 TB minced fresh garlic
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
    • 3/8 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
    • 1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice
    • 2 (6-inch) pitas
    • 1/2 cup plain hummus
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 TB pine nuts, toasted

    Preheat broiler to high.

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble lamb. Remove lamb from pan.

    Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and cinnamon; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomato; bring to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften. Stir in cooked lamb.

    Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

    Split each pita into 2 rounds. Place pita rounds on a baking sheet. Broil 1 minute on each side or until crisp.

    Spread 2 tablespoons hummus on each round. Top each serving with about 1/3 cup lamb mixture. Sprinkle evenly with cilantro and nuts.

    Monday, August 26, 2013

    Fried Big Noodle with Pork

    As I've mentioned before, I took a Thai cooking class while on vacation last year in Chiang Mai. As part of the class, we made several different dishes, but we were also provided with a booklet to take home with us including some additional recipes. A few weeks ago, I elected to make two of these dishes for a Sunday dinner party. The chicken satay dish was simply amazing. You can get the recipe here. The other dish was similar to a drunken noodle dish, dubbed "Fried Big Noodle with Sweet Soy Sauce" in the book. I managed to find fresh, big noodles at H-Mart. Score.  And this was quite tasty.

    The recipe in the book is for two servings, but you can easily multiple for more people, which is what I did. Here's my best multiplication skills to make this for four people.

    Fried Big Noodle with Pork (serves 4)

    • 12 oz. fresh big noodle
    • 8 oz. pork, thinly sliced
    • 4 TB oil
    • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
    • 6 oz. kale, roughly chopped about 2-inches long
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 tsp. soy sauce
    • 2 TB oyster sauce
    Meat marinade:
    • 2 TB fish sauce
    • 2 TB soy sauce
    • 2 TB oyster sauce
    • 4 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp pepper

    Combine marinade ingredients and set sliced pork into dish with marinade. Chill for 30 minutes.

    Cook noodles according to package instructions. Once just cooked, drain and set aside.

    Heat 2 TB oil in wok on medium to low heat until oil is hot. Add garlic, stir for 2 minutes, then add pork. Cook until pork is no longer pink, 3-4 minutes, stirring on occasion. Add kale and stir for a minute until they are soft and start to wilt. Add noodle, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir to combine.

    Move all of the mixture to one side of the wok, add 1 TB oil and beaten eggs, frying for 30 seconds. then combine with rest of noodle mixture.

    Stir well and combine and serve.

    Saturday, August 24, 2013

    I'm a Cheater...When it Comes to Baking

    I've inherited many gifts and attributes from my grandmother. The gift of gab? Check. Short stature with a commanding presence? Check check. My name? Biggest check of them all.

    But there is one very big gift I did not get from my grandmother.When it comes to baking, I cheat. I don't have the patience and skills to make really elaborate desserts. My grandmother always had a cake that she had baked ready for us when we visited. She would take hours to make the perfect cookies at the holidays. When it comes to desserts, I've tried many times and I only succeed in rare instances, usually on basic cookies. But a cake or pie? Forget it.

    I wanted to make cookies in the shape of bocce balls (round, how hard could that be?) for a friend's impending departure. I took many shortcuts to get to the finished produce.

    Refrigerated sugar cookie dough? Check. It already being in a loaf making the cookies close to round? Check. Red dye to make the icing bocce red? Yep, that too.

    However, they turned out a bit pink, and I ran out of decorative black icing 3 cookies in. But they tasted great and I can thank Pillsbury for helping me cheat and whip these cookies together quickly.


    • Sugar Cookie dough
    • Icing
    • Food dye


    Buy these ingredients and follow their instructions.

    Yep, I phoned this one in. :)

    Monday, August 19, 2013

    Tomatillo Peach Salsa and Taco Night!

    Each week, a group of my friends in the neighborhood get together for an HBO viewing party. Several months ago it was Game of Thrones, the last several weeks have been for True Blood. It's a great excuse to watch some pretty ridiculous shows (let's be honest, True Blood is nutty) and eat some ridiculously good food. My neighbors Aniello and Jay always host since they have a ginormous TV, and a kitchen to die for. Due to some travel conflicts with our hosts, I stepped up to be in charge of this week's offerings. I opted for a Sunday fiesta of sorts, with two types of tacos and some homemade salsa. We had traditional beef tacos, but I also made one of my favorite fish taco recipes, which you can get here.

    I have made salsa before, but never like this. My friend Nick at (seriously, I've been turning to his blog on the regular this summer...amazing stuff) posted a great peach salsa recipe last year that I had bookmarked, but peach season passed before I had a chance to make it. But not this time! This was simple and delicious. So go grab some peaches and do it!

    Tomatillo Peach Salsa

    • 1 pound tomatillos
    • 2 large peaches
    • 1 jalapeno pepper
    • 1/3 cup red onion, minced
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 lime, juice only
    • 2-3 TB cilantro, chopped
    • salt and pepper, to taste


    Peel the tomatillos and halve them. Sprinkle with salt and roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.Let tomatillos cool slightly and puree in a food processor.

    Seed jalapeno and chop finely. Also chop red onion and add to tomatillo puree.

    For peaches, cut a small "X" on the end of each peach and dip in boiling water for about a minute. Remove peaches and use a paring knife to peel off skin. Dice peaches and add to salsa.

    Add minced garlic and cilantro to salsa and season with salt and pepper.

    I let it chill int he refrigerator for an hour or so before serving, which I think helped the flavors really meld together. This salsa was hands-down ten times better than the jarred variety we also had. Awesome!