Monthly Archives

August 2009

Fresh Pickings

August 31, 2009

I think everyone can agree, there is something about coming home. No matter the age, coming home is so beautifully comforting. The smells, sights, and voices of the familiar put me at ease the moment I step foot inside my house. 

What brought me home this weekend was my cousin, Curtis. Born only two months apart and raised in the same town, we have a relationship that is both cousin and close friend. He spent the summer in Quito, Ecuador, and was only going to be home for a few days before heading off to school in Chicago for the semester. Needless to say, I was dying to see him! 

Perhaps another reason I love to come home has nothing to do with people, but more to do with cooking. Throwing my bags on my bed and heading straight to the kitchen is not unusual behavior for me. This weekend was no different. It wasn’t more than 30 minutes before I had a knife in my hand and a pot of water on the stove. 

My mom is a notoriously honest critic about my food! Others may appease me with kind words; my mom, on the other hand, holds nothing back. I know I’ve gotten something right when she raves about it in the days following. This weekend that magical dish was a bowl of simplicity…. “me” cooking at it’s most basic. 

Trying to use the fresh veggies given to us by our garden-inclined friends, I steamed green beans and lightly seasoned them with salt and pepper. While the beans were cooking, I browned some lean ground beef in a skillet with 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, imparting a tangy sweetness to the meat. When it was browned, I added in a cup of cherry tomatoes and cooked them until the skins just began to pop. The final touch was a cup of sweet basil marinara sauce and a sprinkling of salt and parmesan cheese. Delish! The only thing that would have made it better would have been a chunk of crusty whole wheat bread to soak up the extra juice. 

I wish I could elaborate a bit more, but right now I’m just trying to make it though Monday. Off to class once again.

Happy Monday!

Breakfast Dilemmas

August 28, 2009

Breakfast. In my opinion, one of the most glorious times of the day. I’m a morning person by nature, made even more so by a few cups of strong coffee. My favorite mornings are those when I am able to sit and have a long breakfast, usually stretching over a couple hours, while watching the Today Show and reading the paper.

But beyond coffee, breakfast can also present some challenges, because what is consumed in the morning usually sets the tone for eating patterns the rest of the day. Can anyone relate? I know if I start the day off with something overly sweet, my willpower the rest of the day is at a serious disadvantage. Battling my sweet tooth once it gets going is a losing game.

Some may suggest a fiber-filled bowl of oatmeal, but I find that starting my day off with a heaping bowl of carbohydrates, even if they are the good kind, just isn’t a good fit either. What’s a busy, health-concious, food-loving girl to do? Don’t write me off as crazy when I tell you that my solution is a Berry Tofu Smoothie.

I beg you….give this recipe a try. Packed with protein, calcium, and a serving of fruit, my Berry Tofu Smoothie manages to curb my craving for sweet without loading me down and keeps me full for hours. Try it…. and let me know what you think!

Berry Tofu Smoothie:

1 cup frozen mixed berries of your choice
1/2 cup Silken Tofu (firm or soft, it does not matter)
1/2 – 3/4cup skim milk
1 light yogurt such as Dannon Light and Fit or YoLight (any flavor you like)
2 tsp. Splenda (optional, but I like my smoothie a bit sweeter)

In a blender, process until smooth. The mixture will be thick, which I love. If you want a more drinkable smoothie, just add a bit more milk.


Love + Hate

August 26, 2009

Cookbooks and I have somewhat of a complex relationship. They are both loved and hated simultaneously. In my tiny room, amid limited desk space, the top shelf is lined with everything from Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier to The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I’ve spent hours curled up in front of the TV with cookbooks, enamored as much with the photos as the recipes themselves. In these books I find inspiration for new recipes, but I have a confession……very rarely do I actually swallow my pride and make a recipe from one of these books, a recipe that is (gasp!) not my own.

It’s silly, really, that I have developed this love/hate relationship with cookbooks, because through them I became the cook I am today. My mom, a talented cook herself, was always willing to lend a mouth to taste my newest creation. Her greatest gift to my cooking, however, was to introduce me to cookbooks that would shape and teach me more than any other person, television personality, or book ever had – the Southern Living cookbooks.
She sang the praises of the Southern Living Test Kitchens and the fact that every recipe ever made from one of these books turned out the way they said it would. It wasn’t long before my confidence in cooking had surpassed my talent, probably due to the flawless recipes crafted in these books.

I remember one Saturday night in particular. I was in fourth grade and had discovered the power of cooking for boys in my Sunday school class. I picked out the “Cinderella Fantasy Cake” and enlisted my mom to help with production. The cake itself was simple enough that I had no trouble producing it. But it was my mom who stayed up until the wee hours of the morning making each one of the pastel colored meringues that were stacked on top. A mother’s commitment to fostering their child’s talent is not always easy work.

This, I guess, is a long-winded way of saying that if I were ever to recommend just one cookbook to someone, it would be the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. Simple recipes paired with exquisite presentation, I fall in love all over again every time I open my copy, now stained throughout with batter and butter.


August 24, 2009

Today marks my last “first day” of classes….ever! I can hardly believe that my last semester of college is here. As a way to celebrate the last weekend of summer, I made a trip up to Minnesota to visit my best friend and have a relaxing weekend of good food, shopping, and catching up before classes.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of many of the great things we ate this weekend! I’m still growing accustomed to the idea of taking pictures of my food BEFORE I dig in. Usually I’m so excited about what’s in front of me that photographing my food goes to the bottom of my to-do list.

Every time I am up in Minnesota, I make a point to eat at least one lunch at D’Amico and Sons, since they only have locations in Minnesota and one in Naples, Florida. If you ever have a chance to eat lunch there, I would highly recommend it! I had a salad sampler plate with the “Fresh Vegetable, Mozzarella, and Romesco” and “Salmon and Shirmp” salads. Delish!

Another food highlight was the Hornsby’s Hard Cider. I usually don’t care for beer, but this drink was great! Emily and I had one outside while waiting for the barbecue to finish. It was a great way to beat the heat and tide us over until dinner was ready.

Off to class, once again!

Happy cooking,


Cafe di Scala

August 21, 2009

I had the most delicious dinner tonight at Cafe di Scala, made even better with the company of some amazing ladies at Better Homes and Gardens and Meredith Corporation. The lovely Maggie organized the dinner as a way to celebrate my summer internship, since it ends tomorrow! I can hardly believe the summer has gone so fast and I will be starting school again next week. Thankfully I will be staying on at Better Homes and Gardens this fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so goodbye won’t be for good!

Okay, back to the food! Cafe di Scala is a beautiful little restaurant inside an old Victorian house. With intimate seating areas and a great Italian menu, you can’t go wrong. I ordered an crostini with tomatoes and pesto sauce off the appetizer menu and the spicy onion soup. It was a great combo that didn’t leave me feeling hungry or overly stuffed. We also shared a couple of desserts for the table. I would highly reccomend the flourless chocolate torte with almond brittle crust. The saltiness of the brittle paired with the deep richness of the chocolate was fantastic!

The most wonderful part of the night, however, was spending time with some truly beautiful people who love a good meal and great conversation as much as I do. A successful night indeed.