Culinary Cousins: Mushroom Bolognese

I’ve just posted a new recipe over at Culinary Cousins.

I’m happy to report that I’m still living the vegetable-centric life, and it’s going pretty well. Recipes like this mushroom bolognese make it especially easy. It’s rib-sticking enough to satisfy but also pretty healthy. Plus, when I make it from scratch, I know exactly what I put into it. 

Read all about it: Mushroom Bolognese

A new venture.

Today is an important day. The birth of a new venture.

My cousins are as obsessed with food and cooking as I am. Maybe it’s in the genes, or maybe it’s because we were raised at the same hearth of good, southern food. And we’ve traveled the world to taste everything else that’s out there.

I’m pleased to tell you that we’re combining our interests and talents to launch a new food blog, called Culinary Cousins. The most interesting part, I think, is not in our shared interests but in our differences. We are in our 20s and 30s. We’re newly out of school, we’re married, we’re single, we have kids, we spoil our dogs. Some of us eat healthy, some of us (ahem) are addicted to chocolate, and some of us have to obey dietary restrictions. I think that runs the gamut, and I’m excited to see what we have to say and share.

You’ll find us all over at www.culinarycousins.com, so come. Check us out. We’re a work in progress, but growing slowly.

My first post is up today: the best. ever. macaroni and cheese. Promise.

Cooking Spree: Mini Oreo cheesecakes

Every morning I get an email from Foodimentary that informs me of the national food of the day and regales me with key moments in food history. By pure coincidence, today is National Oreo Day — the very day I planned to tell you about my latest cooking spree using, what else, Oreos.

Only I cheated.

The real Oreos weird me out a bit. What is in that creamy vanilla center, exactly? Besides harsh chemicals and toxic substances. I mean, probably.

But let me not get ahead of myself. To the beginning.

I hate to waste food. I’ve likely told you about this before. It just pains me to leave a box or pint or bunch or basket of anything unused, or worse, to throw it away. A few months ago, I was at Trader Joe’s, and I spied a box of the elusive Joe-Joe’s. That’s the TJ answer to Oreos. To me, they were only a figment — the top item everyone raves about, but the most impossible one to find. At my stores, they’re almost always sold out. So, in the interest of belonging and being part of the in crowd, I bought a box. I liked them — the cookie is chocolate-y and the creamy center is ultra vanilla-y. They’re very good — but I just couldn’t finish a whole box.

What to do. What to do. Continue reading

The analysis paralysis of eating.

The Internet is good for so many things. News. Information. Connection. But some days, the Internet is evil. Access to so much information can give you just … too much information, you know? At least that’s where I am this week. I’ve read no fewer than five articles lamenting the health or safety of more than 18 foods I eat. So now what do I do?

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

Now, you may scoff at any of these statements, and the articles I’ve sourced, and totally dismiss them as fear-mongering  But I’m concerned. It scares me that it’s cheaper to eat a fast-food hamburger meal with a large soda or a microwave frozen pizza than it is to buy a pint of fresh blueberries. Clearly our food system is broken, and we’re making ourselves sick with the food we choose. But I’m busy like the rest of us and can’t live beyond my means, so I fall down on the job and eat something cheap, plastic and disgusting when I’m in a pinch. It’s easier. I certainly notice that I feel better when I eat better, though. 

veggies

The only thing I can think to do is follow Michael Pollan’s mantra. I haven’t read any of his books, but I really want to — well, I need to. He says:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That sounds like a decent start.

So, this week, ladies and gentlemen, I’m a vegetarian. Well, most of the time.

Also this week, I discovered Lisa Leake’s blog, “100 Days of Real Food.” I don’t know where I’ve been, since she’s really popular and right here in my own hometown. But I’m encouraged by her philosophy and dedication — and her family is following the same path.

I think it’s going to be okay, since I actually really like vegetables, and I’m already on the organic, locally-sourced bandwagon.

We’ll see, kids.

A culinary tour of NYC, Part III.

Believe it or not, I saved the best for last. Don’t miss Part I and Part II.

Shake Shack — Madison Square Park/Flatiron (multiple locations)

There used to be only one Shake Shack location. I think it was also only open for certain months, and it was so popular that you could easily wait an hour or more in line for its legendary burgers, fries and milkshakes. I attempted that line once or twice, but I just never made it through. Now, there’s a Shake Shake on every corner in NYC. I’ve even heard they’re expanding to locations in London.

At the close of another full day of eating, we ended up at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. The line was short, and there were tables aplenty. Perfect. Except that it was slightly north of freezing — a bit chilly for eating outside. I was quite happy, though, to tuck into a classic cheeseburger with ShackSauce and crinkle-cut french fries doused in this light, creamy cheese sauce. None of that neon-orange, gloopy, chain/stadium-style stuff here. Shake Shack’s selling point is quality — and you can taste it in the freshly ground meat and homemade sauces. My only regret is that it was too cold outside and I didn’t fell well enough to order a milkshake. So, guess I’ll have to go back. Poor me.

After so many years of waiting, I’m glad to report that Shake Shack lived up to the hype. It was dee-licious.

shakeshack

burger

Continue reading

A culinary tour of NYC, Part II.

My culinary tour of NYC continues. Don’t miss Part I.

Sunday Brunch — Harlem

You’d think that since I’m southern, I would know soul food. And I thought I did, until I went to Sylvia’s in Harlem. It was years ago, but it’s still the best fried chicken and red velvet cake I’ve eaten anywhere, including in any southern state. Sorry to betray my roots with truth. So I was excited to get my Sylvia’s fix again this trip. We attempted Sunday brunch … but here’s the rub. Sylvia’s is so good that it’s in demand. (Read: constantly packed and touristy). On this rainy Sunday morning, we could barely squeeze in the front door. And since we were on a bit of a schedule, that wouldn’t do.

Instead, we walked across the street to Corner Social, which was unknown to us but had a great look and an even better-looking menu. I spotted exactly what I wanted before we even sat down — an item that had long evaded me, even earning a spot on my official culinary bucket list: chicken and waffles. Well, in this case, it was chicken and pancakes. (Close enough.) I find crispy, savory fried chicken over fluffy pancakes drowned in maple syrup a genius combo. It’s sweet and salty. Soft and crispy. The perfect marriage of opposite, yet complementary, flavors and textures.

chicken-pancakes

Continue reading

A culinary tour of NYC, Part I.

Last October, I was able to sneak away for a weekend in New York City. It was my first trip there in two and a half years, and I went with grand plans for great adventures. I returned excited to tell you all about it. Then a little storm system called Sandy hit. It was heartbreaking, and I just had trouble reconciling the city I know with the devastation I saw on the news. Suddenly, talking about all the fun I had just seemed wrong.

So, rather than chronicling every spare second as I am wont to do, I instead offer a much condensed version of my trip.

During my tenure as a New Yorker, I reveled in the food scene. My friends and I tried out all the top restaurants as soon as we could get a reservation — brunch at Sarabeth’s or Balthazar, dinner at Butter, Pastis, Spice Market, Eleven Madison Park, Aquavit, the Rainbow Room, Gramercy Tavern. (The “hot spots” circa 2005.) Exciting trends in food are usually born in or come to the U.S. through New York first. Within 20 minutes, I could sample a Magnolia cupcake, a Jacques Torres hot chocolate or a Serendipity3 ice cream sundae.

My worst realization, coming a couple of months into building my new life down south, was that the food scene moved on quite easily without me. As I left, Pinkberry was becoming all the rage, as was Momofuku. I tried but never had time to wait in the mile-long line for Shake Shack, and Eataly opened several years later. As time approached for this trip, I had built up quite a list of things and places to eat … my own culinary tour of the city, you could say.

Takahachi — East Village

First stop was this little sushi joint (really, it’s tiny) in the East Village. Takahachi was the first place I ever ate sushi, back in 2000. We just stumbled on it one Sunday afternoon after wandering most of lower Manhattan. That meal was spectacular, and I was hooked (har har.) I ate there again several times, and it never disappointed. Until now. Continue reading

Summertime Happy Hour: Fresh Tomato and Feta Bruschetta

Every time we go to the beach, I’m in charge of happy hour. It’s become such a tradition that my family doesn’t do it if I’m not there. It’s nice to have a purpose, I guess.

I enjoy a happy hour on a normal day, but it’s especially significant on the porch, at the beach, during vacation. You can sip a cool, refreshing cocktail, nibble on something savory and soak up the atmosphere — whether it’s watching the ant-farm family across the street or just enjoying a nice breeze blowing in from the ocean. Continue reading

Obsessions: Pinning!

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a true obsession. But it’s back. The grip has once again taken hold.

I. can’t. stop. pinning.

On Pinterest, that is.

I remember the exact moment I learned of this thing called Pinterest. I was at a holiday party, and one of the girls was trying to describe to us how to tie a winter scarf in some innovative way she’d seen online.

“Wait,” she said, and sat down at the computer to pull up the photo entitled “50 ways to tie a scarf.”

We oohed and aahhed and gazed at the screen in amazement.

“It’s on Pinterest,” she explained.

And so began my downfall.

After waiting a couple of weeks to “be invited” after requesting access to the site, I signed on. And once I got the iPhone it was all over — I can pin from anywhere. In line at the grocery store. While watching television. Before going to bed. At my desk. At a stoplight. During dinner. In the middle of a conversation. (No, I really was looking up that website while I was talking to you. I promise. Sort of. Ok, not really.)

What is this whole Pinterest thing, you may be asking yourself?

Such goodness awaits you! And you don’t even know!

Pinterest is an online bulletin board of sorts — where you can electronically “pin” your “interests” from websites and from other users. Like Facebook and Twitter, you “follow” people, so you can review pins from your friends or others you’ve decided to follow. Or you can break off on your own like a rebel and “explore” what other Pinterest users may have found. Or you can even be a trailblazer and pin your own items from websites you visit — if the site doesn’t already have a built-in Pinterest button to make that easy, you can download a “Pin it!” item that goes into your browser menu. Makes it a snap.

Well, you won’t believe the cool stuff I’ve found. Great photographs of places I want to travel, neat ideas for craft and DIY projects, all kinds of inspiration in home decor, and food. THE FOOD! Seriously beautiful food porn photos of delectable sweets, creative appetizers, refreshing drinks, luscious entrees and inventive casserole and crock pot creations.

Here are a few of my recent Pinterest favorites:

  1. Cupcake liners as drink covers: punch a hole in a cupcake liner, turn upside down, stick a straw through and, voila!, you protect your drinks from bugs during outside, summer parties. Well, duh. Sometimes Pinterest can make me feel so stupid.
  2. Mexican casserole: Mix together some cream cheese, salsa verde, rice, canned beans and chicken, roll up in tortillas, cover in more salsa verde and cheese, then bake. Crazy delicious.
  3. Organize your drawers: double fold t-shirts and pants, and stack them vertically to save space and allow you to see what you own. Again, duh. I actually did this in my drawers, and my life will never be the same. No more rifling through a 10-layer deep pile of t-shirts to find the one I sort of remember wearing last summer.
  4. Fantastically breathtaking photos, of my favorite places, or places I want to see.
  5. And, the best for last. Mongolian Beef: in the style of P.F. Chang’s, this dish has only a few ingredients, was a cinch to make and is literally one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. It’s ridiculous. I froze then slightly thawed my meat so I could shave off the thinnest pieces. Try it, you won’t be sorry.

Then there’s so much else that awaits. Like red velvet cheesecake brownies, nutella hot chocolate, salted caramel cheesecake and this incredible chocolate cake concoction.

Bestill my heart.

**Beware of spam, it’s on Pinterest too. If you click through to a website and it looks funny, it was probably a dummy photo to lure you to some spammish website. Quickly close.