Category Archives: Food I Didn’t Cook

Coming Soon… The Return of Anything but Academia!

Well, I knew that this semester was going to be a busy one, and that my blog writing time would likely suffer, but I did not think it would be several months without a single entry. Wearing the Student, Teacher, and Researcher hats all at the same time (not to mention trying to keep the Wife, Friend, Sister, and Daughter hats on as well) has been really tough. And then there’s that whole “taking care of yourself” thing.  Actually, I’ve managed fairly well on that end. But yeah… there were a lot of days in February and March that I would be driving home and the only word I could find to describe how I was feeling was defeated.

Fortunately the last month or so has been a lot better, and now all that stands between me and summer is one paper, one take-home exam, and two final exams to administer and grade (after I finishing writing the exam, that is).

You can rest assured that even while I have not been actively posting, I’ve been accumulating ideas to write about and blowing up my Pinterest account with about 500 recipes I want to try. Oh, I also finally discovered The Kitchn. And yes, I’ve already been informed that I’m a little late to the party on that one.

I’m starting to think about my summer to-do list. My list for school-related goals is already made. For my personal list, I’m thinking this might be the summer of quality, not quantity.  Maybe I’ll just pick a handful of things I want to do, and get totally immersed in them, rather than having a lengthy checklist. We’ll see.

One thing you can be sure of: there will be lots of tomatoes.  I can’t wait for tomatoes.

Before I return to paper writing and tackle the 16-page take-home multilevel modeling exam, let me take a moment to catch you up on the last few months of my life, told through Instagrams.

The cats are doing just fine.

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During a mostly work-oriented Spring Break, Nick and I managed to sneak away for lunch on the Eastern Shore one day:

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I learned that a Bloody Mary is even more delicious when there is avocado blended into it:

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I went to Seattle for a conference. In addition to the conferencing, we managed to see some sunshine, check out the Chihuly Gallery, and eat a lot of good food, although the only time I thought to document the food was the last night in a fairly dark but delicious pizza and microbrew place.

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And on a few occasions, I’ve managed to cook a decent meal.

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Random Moments of Happiness: Day 6

Well, first there’s the fact that Question 6 passed in Maryland. Part of me is disturbed by the fact that it wasn’t supported by a larger majority, and the fact that it’s something that is up for debate at all. But it’s done, and I’m proud to be a Marylander today.

On a more self-centered note, I felt worse yesterday than I did on Monday. My throat and sinuses were clearly conspiring against me. Somehow I managed to teach (fortunately the students were unusually talkative) and then I came home to rest.

You know what helps you feel a little better? Coming home to an apartment that is way cleaner than when you left it because your husband spent part of his day off to make it that way. Also good- enjoying a hybrid mix of soups that you picked up from a Chinese restaurant on your way home to a clean apartment. Oh, and I can’t forget those little crispy noodle things that I am sure are basically deep-fried fat and clearly are essential in the restorative process. Isn’t that the saying? “Starve a fever, deep-fry a cold…?”

Half hot-and-sour, half wonton, 100% delicious.

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Random Moments of Happiness: Day 2

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to take advantage of the last day for early voting.  Just in case Tuesday gets busy and I’m forced to choose between voting and going to Pilates class.

What didn’t occur to me was that the rest of the district would have the same idea.  It took 90 minutes. Fifteen minutes more if you include one failed attempt to find a parking spot, a visit to Atwater’s while I contemplated whether to stick it out (hence the cupcake in the photo above), and another (successful) attempt to find a parking spot.

In the end, I’m glad I went back a second time to try to find parking. Sure, somebody near me in line had some gas problems and I got some funny looks for entertaining myself by reading a textbook. The moment I heard someone say, “I’m starving,” my stomach started growling. And for about ten minutes I wondered if it was all worth it while a woman ran off with my driver’s license to confirm that I could still vote even though my registration mysteriously came up as “inactive”.

But then I got to vote. And that felt pretty darn good.

 

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Random Moments of Happiness: Day 0

Last November I took part in National Blog Posting Month (aka NaBloPoMo), where the challenge was to post an entry every day for a month. And I actually followed through with the whole thing.  I haven’t heard much about NaBloPoMo this year, but I like the idea of recommitting myself to blogging more regularly. At the same time, I have two major writing projects that I am aiming to complete by the end of the semester (which is a frighteningly close six or so weeks away) so I am hesitant to add something else onto my plate that might take away from time put towards more important writing. (By important, I mean that this blog sadly is not going to get me any closer to getting my PhD.)  And considering the existing levels of distractibility and procrastination I’m dealing with, I don’t think my advisor is going to consider, “But I had to work on my daily post for my blog last night,” as an acceptable excuse.

At the same time, I have to maintain things outside of school that keep me happy and fulfilled. Lucky for me, I have an advisor who understands this, too!

My compromise with myself was to come up with some sort of challenge that requires daily postings, but does not demand a lot of time. So each day in November, fitting somewhat with it being the month of Thanksgiving, I am going to post something from that day that made me happy. It might be a photograph or just few sentences. Or maybe I’ll feel like taking the time to go into greater detail. The best part: at the end of the month, I will have at least 30 things to reflect on that make me happy.

To give myself a head start, here is today’s random moment of happiness:

 

Finding a container of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream in the freezer. Not because it’s my favorite ice cream. I certainly won’t turn it down, but it doesn’t have enough chocolate and/or crunchy things to be in the running for my number one choice.

The reason Cherry Garcia makes me smile: it reminds me of the first night Nick cooked dinner for me. He showed up with two bags from Whole Foods to prepare a multi-course meal (with enough food to feed at least four people, if not more). I cannot recall what the main course was, but I remember dinner beginning with amazing bread (and cheese, fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar) and ending with Cherry Garcia.

 

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Filed under Food I Didn't Cook, Life, Love

Summer Fun List Progress Report #3

I should do these updates more often because this could get lengthy with all the catching up I have to do.  It’s been a fairly busy summer, although I’m kind of freaking out that it’s already the middle of July and there is a lot I still want to do before the fall semester starts.  But before I run off to address some other items on my list, I’ll share with you what’s been happening recently.

Go on a bakery adventure with my sister: COMPLETE. If you missed it, you can read all the details here.

Visit Baltimore Farmer’s Market at least once a month: Three months down, one to go. So… technically I haven’t returned to the Farmer’s Market in Baltimore since my May trip.  However I have stopped by the Wednesday Farmer’s Market on campus a couple times and picked up some beautiful raspberries and sour cherries (which went into making this pie), not to mention this past week when I returned home with eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches, basil… I think I’m missing something.  However, since the tomatoes are already gone, I think I might be motivated enough to get up early tomorrow and head downtown  to the Baltimore Farmer’s Market to restock.

Cook a Thai recipe: In progress. As in, I currently have curry paste, fish sauce, and some Thai chiles sitting on my counter for tonight’s dinner.  If it turns out well, you’ll probably hear about it.

See a movie in the theater: COMPLETE. Yes, I saw Magic Mike. 

Do yoga at least 25 times: …?  I haven’t really been keeping count, but I’d say I’ve been averaging 1 or 2 times a week. I did go to an actual yoga class for the first time in two years.  It felt really good and was a nice reminder that doing yoga at home by yourself is a completely different thing- I definitely don’t push myself as much when there is no one else around.  I should try to go to classes more often, even if I don’t have the time or funds to do it regularly.

Read at least two books that have nothing to do with school: COMPLETE. In fact, I’m reading my third non-school-related book right now.

Print and frame some wedding photos: In progress. On our anniversary this past Monday, Nick and I looked through the 500 or so photographs that our amazing photographer Stevie T compiled for us on a DVD.  I started an Excel sheet– this shouldn’t surprise you – noting which ones we’d want to print and frame.  Mostly though, it was a nice way to spend our first anniversary together- remembering where we were a year ago and seeing all the details I’ve already forgotten. And then, we went to dinner…

Eat dinner at Charleston: COMPLETE. Actually, I’d say this was more than a dinner- it was an experience. Every single detail was attended to perfectly: the dots of a lime and saffron sauce circling a mozzarella and tomato salad, the crisp wine that cleansed my palate so that every bite of a cornmeal-crusted soft shell crab was as stunning as the first bite, the silver tray with complimentary sweets (little truffles, macarons, etc.) that accompanied our actual dessert (also complimentary, and mandatory… I’m not kidding).  I really wish I had photographs of every dish to share with you.  But when your server is describing your food to you as it is presented, whipping out a camera phone to document the moment just seems wrong.  Quite possibly the best meal I have ever had, and certainly a wonderful evening with my favorite person.

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One Afternoon, Two Sisters, and Three Bakeries

A few months back, my sister sent me an email mentioning not one, but two bakeries in Georgetown that she wanted to visit.  I had hoped to have a pre-wedding sisters’ excursion in the spring, but our schedules didn’t allow that to happen.  That turned out to be okay though, because a couple weeks ago I received a second email from Em about a macaron shop that had just opened up: “ANOTHER bakery in Georgetown? Wtf?  It will be a busy day.”

And so the First Sister Bakery Crawl was born.  Whether there will be a second is not yet determined.

We came prepared: sensible walking shoes, loose-fitting pants, and a map outlining our route.  We also paced ourselves.  The nice thing about Georgetown is that there are a lot of shops to wander around in while giving your digestive system a break before the next round.  The nicer thing about Georgetown is that the shops are above the affordability range for a graduate student, so it’s a fun browsing experience without the temptation to purchase anything.

Stop #1: Baked and Wired.

So. Many. Cupcakes.  Not to mention cookies, bars, and pies that also looked amazing.  But the array of cupcakes lined up along the entire length of the counter was too hard to resist.  After eying flavors like Chai Tea Latte and Flapjack (maple with candied bacon), I settled on the “Pretty Bitchin” (chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting).  I do not regret my decision.  Em got the Elvis Impersonator (banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting) which was also delicious.

Baked and Wired also offers a wide range of coffee drinks and a sense of humor that clicks quite well with mine, as exemplified by their bathroom art:

We determined that we’d swing back in on the way home to buy some cookies for the husbands. (Okay, and maybe for ourselves.)

Stop #2: Pie Sisters.

We decided to seize the opportunity to take a break from sugary things and share a couple small savory pies: a Country Tomato and a Chicken Potpie.  The tomato pie was filled with chopped tomatoes and topped with just enough cheese, all encased in a flaky, tender crust. Yum. Halfway through, we swapped plates.  After a couple bites of wonderfully-fresh vegetables and chicken I realized there was no way I was going to get through the whole thing, especially since this was not our last stop.  As much as I hate to waste food, I put my fork down and prepared for the next round.

Stop #3: Macaron Bee.

This was a bit of an (uphill) walk from the other places, but that probably wasn’t a bad thing as it gave my stomach some time to process all the amazingness it had just received.  Still, as we walked up Wisconsin Avenue, I questioned whether I was going to be ready to eat anything else.  As soon as I saw all the colorful rows of petite macarons, I told myself I could do this.  I’m glad I did. The milk chocolate and passion fruit macaron was interesting, though not my favorite.  The pistachio, on the other hand, was so good.  I think I’d be happy with just a bowl of the filling and a spoon.

After that second macaron, I’m pretty sure my stomach turned its sign over to “Closed.”  I was done. So done, in fact, that by the time we circled back around to Baked and Wired, I couldn’t bring myself to go back in, even if it was just to buy cookies for someone else.  Sorry, husbands.  Next time.

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Filed under Family, Food I Didn't Cook, Guilty Pleasures

Two (or Three) Ingredients Are Better Than One: Five Awesome Flavor Combinations

I don’t know if I would say that I have mastered basic cooking.  I mean, don’t you have to be able to successfully cook a pot of beans before you can say that?  But I think I have enough experience that I can focus on things that are a little more advanced, or “taking it to the next level” as my husband would say.  For me, this means feeling comfortable playing around with recipes and making them your own.  And a big part of that is understanding how different ingredients work together.  (And just as importantly, which ones don’t work together!)

I am developing my own intuition about these things, but when I need some ideas or reassurance that what I am about to throw into the pot won’t ruin my dinner, I love to consult The Flavor Bible.  I highly recommend that you check it out and add it to your culinary library  In the mean time, here are some of my favorite combinations.  While none of this is particularly groundbreaking, I hope it will inspire you to experiment a bit with new ingredients or to think of new ways to use some of your old favorites.

Also… I decided to stick with my own photos for this, and came to the realization that even though these are some of my favorite ingredients, I don’t have many photos of them.  This means I have not cooked with them enough since I started this blog.  So, expect to see more recipes with these ingredients soon!

1. Tomato + Basil + Mozzarella

The best thing about this threesome?  They require pretty much zero effort to play nicely together, and rarely result in relationship troubles.  Layer slices of tomato, mozzarella, and basil leaves, drizzle with a little olive oil (and balsamic vinegar if you want), season with salt and pepper.  That’s it.  No heat required.

If you have a little more time, throw tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil in between two slices of bread or on pizza dough.  Or roast cherry tomatoes and add them to pasta with little balls of mozzarella and sliced basil.

Have I mentioned that I miss summer?

2. Cilantro + Lime

Recently my sister-in-law stated that she often cooks by smell, and I realized I tend to do the same thing.  If you ever watch me handling fresh cilantro, there is a 96.3% chance that you will see me holding it up to my nose.  (Don’t worry, I’ll wash it before I do anything else.)  I know there are people who hate the smell (not to mention the taste) of cilantro.  Once, in fact, I almost got in a fight with a dude at the grocery store who was loudly complaining about how the fragrant cilantro was permeating the entire produce section.  (It was, and it was amazing.)  I don’t understand the cilantro haters.

What makes cilantro even better?  Lime.  And I love the smell of lime just as much.  Last week after cooking Black Beans with Apple Salsa, I couldn’t figure out why my hands smelled so good, and then I realized the last thing I did before we ate dinner was squeezing a lime wedge over my food.

Obviously, lime and cilantro are found together in a lot of Mexican dishes.  Some of my favorite recipes where they both really shine are Bon Appetit’s recipe for Coriander Chicken Tostadas with Refried Beans and Grilled Fennel and ceviches like the one I made last summer.   For a veggie option, check out Creamy Cilantro-Lime Slaw. (Greek yogurt can be used in place of the sour cream if you want to lighten it a bit.)  You can find a similar but even lighter slaw as a part of the recipe for Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw (the tacos are awesome, too).

To get a quick cilantro and lime fix, stuff a bunch of fresh cilantro in a margarita, similar to how mint is served in mojitos.  I would say it is way better than a mojito, but that is only because mint is to me what cilantro is to cilantro-haters.

3. Orange + Cardamom + (sometimes) Pistachio

This flavor combination always reminds me of some of my favorite desserts at Indian and Afghan restaurants.  I don’t have much to say about it except that it’s awesome.  This Mascarpone Tart with Honey, Oranges, and Pistachios takes advantage of all three ingredients.  If you’re more of a cake person, try Olive-Oil Cake with Candied Oranges.

Or, if you’re feeling a little lazier, try this: take a bowl of store-bought rice pudding (preferably Kozy Shack) and stir in some grated orange zest, ground cardamom, and chopped pistachios.

4. Butter + Shallots + Thyme

I haven’t necessarily used these guys together that much, but when I was sautéing mushrooms the other night and was hit with the aroma of melting butter, sizzling shallots, and fresh thyme, I realized I need to keep them in mind more often.  Imagine of all the things you could do with these as a starting point: Corn on the Cob with Shallot-Thyme Butter, Salt-Roasted Potatoes with Roast Shallot and Thyme Butter.  For a main course, think about slathering a good steak or chicken breast with this trio.

5. Chocolate + Cinnamon + Cayenne

I’ve gotten to the point that if chocolate does not have a little sea salt or spiciness to it, it just doesn’t taste quite right to me.   And I think it’s funny that people still seem to be weirded out by the idea of putting cayenne in chocolate.  Didn’t Juliette Binoche already sell everyone on the idea more than ten years ago in Chocolat?

Anyway, if you are one of the people who has yet to taste chocolate spiked with chile, please give it a try.  As I’ve mentioned before Dagoba’s Xocolatl drinking chocolate is amazing, and takes just a few minutes to prepare.  For those of you willing to put in a little more effort, try Chocolate Chile Bread Pudding.  Or for one of the most decadent sundaes you’ve ever had, try this combination: brownie + vanilla ice cream + Mexican Chocolate Sauce* + Chipotle-Cherry Whipped Cream.   (Brownie optional.)

*This recipe calls for Mexican chocolate.  If you cannot locate it, try a substitution suggested by a helpful Epicurious reviewer: per 8 ounces of chocolate, stir in 2 tsp cinnamon and 8 drops of almond extract.

Oh, the other cool thing about chocolate and pepper?  They go so well together that they are willing to take turns playing the supporting role and letting the other one shine.  Just like chile enhances chocolate, adding a little chocolate to a savory dish like chili or chicken mole will add depth without making it seem like you melted a Hershey bar over your chicken.  I don’t have any particular recipes to recommend at the moment, but I will almost** guarantee that if you sprinkle a little cocoa powder or chopped bittersweet chocolate into your favorite chili recipe, it will make all the other spices and flavors pop a little more.

**Between my statistical training and the influence of my attorney father, I am hesitant to absolutely guarantee anything without an extensive contract.  I accept no responsibility for failed dinners or disappointed diners.  But if you give this a try based on my suggestion and love it, I will happily take the credit.

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