Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Stuff It

I have the most beautiful and talented stove. I was highly agitated when I found out how much The Carnivore spent on it, but now I don't see how I could ever live without it. It is a downdraft stove, which was crucial since it resides in the island in the middle of the kitchen (and an overhead vent would have been impossible since the ceiling is about 25 feet tall over the island). The stove is a Jenn-Air hybrid, with an electric convection oven and a gas cooktop. One side of the cooktop can be removed so that we can use the grill attachment when necessary.

I recently read the owner's manual and the cooking suggestions that came with the stove, and I found a recipe for stuffed pizzas, which are sort of like calzones except that they are cooked on the grill cooktop rather than baked in the oven. I have, of course, adapted the recipe quite a bit, and here is how I made it last night:


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (I used fresh garlic cloves from my mother-in-law's garden and now I'm afraid I will never want to use store-bought cloves again)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 package (10 oz) prepared pizza dough (must start making the dough from scratch)
  • 4 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 6 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cu marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs mix of chopped fresh basil & parsley
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  1. In a small bowl, combine garlic and olive oil.
  2. In a separate bowl, season spinach with salt & pepper.
  3. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness, forming a 12x16 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, forming two 12x8 inch rectangles.
  4. Brush dough with garlic oil, leaving a 1/4 inch border all around.
  5. Divide spinach, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, basil & parsley, and red pepper, and sprinkle on half of each rectangle.
  6. Stretch the uncovered portions of dough over fillings and press to close, pressing out excess air. Crimp edges with a fork to seal.
  7. Turn the pizzas, crimp again, and brush the tops (both sides) with garlic oil.
  8. Season grill grates and preheat on high for 5 minutes.
  9. Place pizzas on grill and cook for 10-15 minutes on low, turning and rotating.

I served these with a small amount of marinara sauce for dipping.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I have long been a fan of coffee drinks. Not just coffee, mind you, but every variation in between as well. Of all of the drinks I've tried, the two that have been the hardest for me to duplicate at home have been Frappaccinos and Cafe Cubano.

I got hooked on Cuban coffee during the weeks I spent in South Beach back when I had to travel to Miami every month for work. The company had an apartment about six blocks from the ocean, and around the corner from a Cuban grocery store that had a coffee bar in it. Not the kind of coffee bar you might picture if you're used to hanging out in chain coffee shops, but a coffee bar nonetheless. Even the Miami International Airport had coffee carts that served better Cuban coffee than you get where I'm from. I would barely make it off the airplane before I would head straight to a cart to get my fix. My boss would be driving round-and-round the airport to pick me up, leaving message after message on my cellphone, while I dawdled in line to get coffee.

I can't remember the first time I tried Starbucks, but I was on the road when it happened, traveling to who-knows-where. I can remember the boyfriend I had, so I can only assume we were somewhere in Atlanta, and it must have been almost ten years ago now. I don't remember being all that impressed by the over-priced cups of coffee, but their specialty drinks, like the Frappaccino, were to die for. We didn't have a Starbucks in my town for years after that, but I tried all the local coffee shops we had and finally found a very similar drink at Blue Sky, a now-defunct coffee shop from downtown Athens. Incidentally, a Starbucks opened right next to Blue Sky years after I had tried my first Frappaccino, but since Blue Sky made a comparable product, I chose to buy local and to this day have not stepped foot in the local Starbucks.

I'm not one of those People Who Hate Big Business. I went to business school, after all, and I have a hard time understanding why anyone would hate a company just because they were profitable. That is, after all, the point of a business. I hold nothing against Starbucks. Sure, their product is only average, and sure, they charge too much, but I don't think that is any reason to hate them or to protest their existence.

On the other hand, I do like to support local businesses. When I find products that are comparable in both price and quality, I will buy local rather than shopping at the chain. However, since I am cost-conscious, if quality is the only comparable trait, then I shop at the cheaper place, which sadly is usually the Big Chain Place.

All that aside, I haven't had a frozen coffee slushie drink in a loooonnnggg time. The Carnivore and I now have a mortgage and a car payment. And a Fat Baby. We also no longer have two disposable incomes, thus it would be a rare day indeed for me to go hang out at the coffee shop and blow perfectly good money on a drink.

I have settled for mediocrity in my coffee of late, but I found my saving grace in the AJC Food Section last week (or the week before - who can remember?). John Kessler, food writer and former dining critic, but still the person I want to be when I grow up, wrote an article about coffee smoothies and the search for the right instant coffee with which to make said smoothie. As always, I was fascinated by his writing, but this time I got answers as well. In his recipe, he mentioned Cafe Bustelo instant espresso, which was not something I had ever heard of, but for years (until we moved out to the country), I used Cafe Bustelo regular espresso coffee in my drip coffeemaker. It was cheap but wonderful, and was always my coffee of choice in those days. Sadly, the Big Box Store I shop at now doesn't carry Bustelo, so I have moved on to Eight O'Clock Bean French Roast for my drip coffee.

Today though, in a fit to try this recipe, I went to Publix and found Cafe Bustelo instant espresso right there on the coffee aisle. I'm pretty sure I drove too fast on my way home so that I could try out the recipe.

  1. Add hot water to 2 Tbs instant Bustelo to make 1/2 a cup. Stir.
  2. Add enough sweetened condensed milk to make one cup total. Stir vigorously.
  3. In a blender, mix concoction with 2 cups ice cubes.
  4. Stir 1 tsp more of the instant granules into the slush (these mostly dissolve, but, as Kessler says, "leave the occasional coffee bomb."

This recipe rocks. I was so excited I went straight to my mother's house, still sipping my coffee drink. Mom had just told me this morning that Pam, the funny and sweet social worker from Texas who inexplicably shares my love for my loud but oh-so-charming brother Joey, tried my other iced coffee recipe and loved it. I ran into mom's house this afternoon, triumphant, waving my cup and shouting "Call Pam. Tell her I've built a better mousetrap!"

I've beaten Starbucks. Now I just have to find a way to beat that Cuban supermarket in South Beach. Give me time...

The Chef's Assistant

It is not easy to cook when I have to step over all of my utensils. Fat Baby often empties every drawer and throws all of the dishtowels, measuring spoons and teabags directly into my path. He usually pulls out each individual item, inspects it carefully and then hurls it disdainfully to the floor as if he hasn't quite found what he is looking for yet. Here he is trying to pull the blender out of the appliance garage. His grunts as he tried to lift it off the shelf without having to let go of the drawer he was holding on to turned to wails of frustration when he fell onto his bottom without succeeding in dragging the blender down with him.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Garden Soup

I've been on a soup kick for the past year now, and have tried numerous recipes. My favorite winter soup last year was Cheesy Poblano Rice Soup, a dish that ensures you will need a new sponge after scrubbing the cheese-rice-glue combo off the bottom of the pan. Thus far this summer though, soups haven't really been something I crave. The heat just isn't conducive to a nice hearty stew. Obviously, gazpacho would be an option, and I intend to try it soon...

I recently cut out a recipe from Cooking Light magazine (June 2005 issue) for Vegetable Soup with Pistou. I didn't have enough basil to make the pistou, which meant I was afraid the soup wouldn't quite be flavorful enough, so I adapted the original recipe to suit my own tastes. Fat Baby and I thoroughly enjoyed the soup for dinner last night, but The Carnivore decided it wasn't rich enough without meat (even though it then wouldn't even BE vegetable soup anymore). He did, however, agree that it was very tasty, albeit more of a side dish than a main dish in his opinion. My biggest source of happiness in this dish was that it had a clear broth base rather than the usual thick tomato base that most vegetable soups are made of.

  • 1 can navy beans, not drained
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped leeks
  • 1 cup chopped mixed red and white onions
  • 1 cup finely chopped baby carrots
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled tomato (see below)
  • 3/4 cup diced potato
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste (my taste called for about 2 Tbs)
  • 8 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of thyme leaves
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups diced zucchini
  • 3/4 cup uncooked elbow macaroni (I used a macaroni made from brown rice pasta and it turned out great)
  • 1/4 lb green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped finely
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  1. In a large dutch oven, combine first 11 ingredients (through 10 cups water) and stir to combine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in zucchini, macaroni, and green beans. Cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add wine, basil, garlic and oil, and cook for another 5 minutes.

I originally planned to skip the tomato, due to mine and The Carnivore's usual distaste of large tomato hunks, but I had a new trick I wanted to try and it was perfect! We were at a dinner party a few months ago and I spent much of the time in the kitchen, watching an old friend of mine put together the most beautiful meal. He is a chef at some resort in Montana now, and I was truly amazed at his prowess in the kitchen. Anyhow, he needed diced tomatoes for something, and I watched him cut the tomato in half and scoop out all the seeds and pulp, leaving about 1/2-inch of thick tomato meat around the outside, which he then chopped up for the dish. Amazingly, this worked for both me and The Carnivore's tastes, as it eliminated the part of the tomato that we don't like: the odd mealy, slimy, spongy texture of the seeds. I am SO glad to know this trick now so that I can include chopped tomato in more dishes. We both love tomato sauces and salsa to begin with, so we were already on the right track.

The one irritation I had was with peeling the tomato (not much fun at all), but I read a snippet in the July issue of Cooking Light that not only reinforced my buddy's way of scooping out the inside of the tomato, but also included tips on peeling the tomato (though I am generally loathe to peel anything, as I am afraid I am losing vital nutrients when I do that). According to the article I read: make two crossed slits in the bottom of a tomato (an "x"); put the tomato in boiling water for 30 seconds and then plunge it into ice water for another 30 seconds; peel and scoop.

I served the soup with garlic bread made from whole-wheat English muffins, though I would have preferred serving it with an Everything Bagel. Alas, a trip to the bakery in town wasn't in the cards yesterday. Sundays are for resting and cooking. And eating, of course. Not for shopping.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

How to Win Friends and Influence People

When I was in high school, my mother, the most creative parent I know, began to come up with new and innovative ways to discipline me. When I got busted for skipping school (with a boy), she didn't let me off restrictions until I read the book Why Wait, a very loooooonnnnggg discussion on why teenagers should wait until marriage to have sex. When she caught me being snotty to another kid in the church youth group, I was put on restrictions until I read the book How To Win Friends and Influence People. She is really good at what she does.

Naturally, though, creative parenting can lead to creative teenagers. There were a few times I bought my way off restrictions early by sharing my fresh-picked blueberries, for instance; or the time I made Creme De Menthe Brownies for her birthday to butter her up. Since then, I have learned that these chocolate mint brownies really can, in fact, win the chef many friends. I have brought these to countless potlucks; even one memorable one in which I received a marriage proposal.

Our family got this recipe from my Grandmother's friend Doris. I can't remember exactly the first time we had these, but I'm pretty sure it was one June when we were at the beach house in Nag's Head, North Carolina. I may have been in middle school at the time, or early high school. What I do remember is how we devoured these brownies and how Mom and I fought over the last ones. They are a three-layer concoction of pure sweetness and delight. At some point, Mom procured the recipe so that I could make them for her, and over the years I have made them many times over, once even for the wedding reception of one of my sisters. Usually, Mom and Grandma and I argue over who has the recipe, and there have been times when Grandma has had to call Doris and get us a new copy, but I have now put a copy in my personal recipe binder for safekeeping. I will publish it here for posterity, because it would be a sad day indeed if we ever lost the recipe for good.


  • 1 cup butter (yeah, that is a lot)
  • 2 cups sugar (call the dentist)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs (and a cardiac surgeon)
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 4 Tbs green Creme de Menthe (you will have to go to the liquor store for this, which I did even when I was pregnant - pretty embarrasing)
  • 6 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbs butter
  1. Cream margarine, sugar and vanilla.
  2. Beat in eggs.
  3. Blend in chocolate and stir in flour.
  4. Bake in greased cake pan for 30-40 minutes at 325 degrees (convection ovens work best).
  5. Cool brownies completely.
  6. Mix confectioners sugar, 1 stick butter and creme de menthe until smooth.
  7. Spread on cooled brownies and refrigerate until set.
  8. Melt chips and remaining butter and stir until smooth.
  9. Spread on top of brownies and refrigerate until set.

Yesterday was Mom's birthday, and for probably the fifth time, this is what she requested. I was happy to oblige. The Carnivore was thrilled to see what I was making, and Fat Baby helped lick all the mixing bowls, spoons, and even the mixer. He ate so much that I am actually starting to worry about the amount of liquer in the Creme de Menthe.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


My absolutely favorite time of day is dinnertime. Our days are fairly hectic around here, and since even our weekend days are full of projects and very little downtime, our little family of three doesn't get to spend very much time together, in a relaxed setting, on a daily basis. Fat Baby and I spend pretty much all of our time together, and The Carnivore and I usually squeeze in a few minutes together in the morning and then an hour or so in the evening, but overall, its hard to catch the three of us awake at the same time, together in the same room, doing the same activity.

At dinnertime every day though, the three of us sit down together and have a good meal. Granted, The Carnivore brings a few sections of the newspaper to the table with him, and I usually try and read the front page while picking up food that Fat Baby throws to the floor, but it is time that I still find to be beautifully redeeming. I positively adore sitting at the table with my son and my husband. The Carnivore built us a fabulous breakfast nook in our kitchen with 5-foot tall bay windows, and this is where our 1950's dinette table is situated. From where we sit, we can see our little pond, our birdfeeders, and a lot of natural vegetation.

On Wednesday night, I made Fettucine Alfredo, a tossed salad, and garlic bread for dinner. Lately, now that I have become a more confident cook and can turn my obsessive-compulsive-attention-to-detail sensibilities elsewhere, I have started to focus on plating the food (a term I learned from Emeril) and setting the table. After I served up Wednesday's fettucine, I carefully wiped the sauce splatters from the rim of the dish, and then I meticulously cut fresh sprigs of parsley which I then arranged JUST SO in the center of the serving. I found this to be ridiculously satisfying.

The dishes MUST match now, and I've even been tempted to bring out the wedding china (which, I should add, still has never been unpacked after nearly five years). The Carnivore was in his thirties and I was in my mid-twenties when we married, so between the two of us, we had already accumulated quite a lot of stuff before we began our life together. Then, of course, we both enjoy going to flea markets and antique shops. So, all in all, we probably have four or five different sets of dishes. Thus, I have now started trying to match the motif of the dishes to the style of dinner. For tonight's Stir-Fry (a recipe I have finally perfected), I dug around in the cabinet until I found the Japanese-inspired ivory plates with which to serve our dinner. If I had any idea where the chopsticks were, and if I weren't positive that Fat Baby would use them as catapults for the rice, I would have used them as well.

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1/4 head napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 can whole baby corn
  • 1 pack mung bean sprouts
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced in thin strips
  • 10 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dark soy sauce
  • kosher salt, to taste
  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat wok over low-medium heat.
  3. Pour in oil.
  4. Stir in vegetables and fry for 3 minutes.
  5. Toss garlic cloves with vegetables and fry for 2 minutes more.
  6. Turn off heat and toss soy sauce and salt with vegetables.
  7. Serve over rice.

Most of this extra effort is for naught of course, because The Carnivore rarely looks up from his newspaper while he eats, and Fat Baby smears much of his food in his hair, throwing unsatisfactory bite-size pieces to the floor. But I enjoy it all immensely. My world has shrunk mightily since I had a baby, and there is very little that I find as important as dinnertime with my family. As you can see from the picture above, I am the only one who feels this way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Leek Tart

I finally had time Monday afternoon to make the Leek Tart recipe that I've been trying to get around to now for a month or so. Yesterday was an incredibly busy day, but I've found that the busier I am, the more efficient I become. My efficiency levels were at such a high yesterday that I was actually home from the grocery store, with a carload of groceries, before 9:00 am.

Even after all this time of reading this recipe and hoping to get a chance to make it, I still didn't have the exact ingredients. This recipe came from my America's Bounty cookbook (credit given again to my lovely mother, who found this for me at a yard sale), which I now swear must have been written by a European, so odd are the proportions of ingredients. I keep thinking that maybe the ingredient list was converted from the metric system. For instance, it called for a 13-oz can of evaporated skim milk, something that wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that I could only find 12-oz cans. And it would have killed my efficiency theory to have opened up another can just for the additional missing ounce. In addition, the recipe called for a 6-oz pack of cream cheese. In Georgia, cream cheese is sold in 8-oz packages. Even after making some changes, in the interest of efficiency of course, the tart came out wonderfully. The Carnivore really enjoyed it, claiming it was far better than my spinach tart and my quiche (hmph).


  • 6 leeks, white part only, well washed and cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz cream cheese (I used 8 oz)
  • 13 oz evaporated skim milk (I used 12 oz)
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk (I used plain light soymilk)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • Deep dish, 9-inch, unbaked, pie crust
  1. Put the water and salt in a saucepan and heat to boiling.
  2. Place leeks in the boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain leeks and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan over low heat, stir & mash together the cream cheese, evaporated milk, and milk until warm and creamy.
  5. Beat a small amount of the milk mixture into the eggs, then pour the eggs into the pan.
  6. Stir in leeks and nutmeg.
  7. Pour into crust and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

This was the first time I had used leeks. I used to get extremely confused by the difference in green onions, scallions, leeks, and shallots; and would often use green onions in place of any of these ingredients in recipes. I only recently learned (when having a discussion with a chef friend of mine) that green onions and scallions are the same thing. Leeks are larger versions of green onions/scallions. Shallots look like cloves of garlic. So glad to finally have that cleared up.

I served the tart with Black-Eyed Pea Salad, a variation on the usual marinated three-bean salads everyone grew up with. I pulled this recipe from the AJC Food Section months ago, and have, of course, tweaked the original recipe to better suit my own tastes. I've made this salad a few times now and we always seem to fight over the last serving. The tang of the vinegar in the salad contrasted perfectly with the creaminess of the tart.


  • 3 cups black-eyed peas
  • 1.5 cups chopped peppers (I use a mixture of red and green bell peppers, and poblanos)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbs cider vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper, to taste (I use a crapload, but I'm not sure how to convert that into normal-people-measurement system)
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  1. Combine beans, peppers, celery and onions.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, vinegar, garlic, salt, black pepper and hot sauce.
  3. Pour dressing over beans and toss together.
  4. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator for flavors to meld.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

25 Years in the Life of a Vegetarian

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of my conscious decision to become a vegetarian. Essentially I have been a vegetarian from birth, but it wasn't until the summer I was 6 years old that I said "Mom, I'm going to be a vegetarian from now on."

I did not know how unusual vegetarianism was thought to be until I was 8 or 9 years old, when I started going to public school in a rural area. Before that time, I had attended school at a Montessori and Free School (a European concept that is more liberal than an Ivy League college), where vegetarianism was quite common. I had also gone to a private school and a public school in a Southern University town, and public school in New Orleans.

In the rural public school system in the eighties, I stood out. At that time, around here at least, it wasn't considered cool or unique or socially-conscious to not eat meat. It was just plain weird. With every friend I made, I would have the same conversation:

THEM: You don't eat meat?
ME: No.
THEM: Not even hamburgers?
ME: No.
THEM: What about chicken?
ME: No.
THEM: Not even hot dogs?
ME: No.
THEM: Is it against your religion?
ME: No.
THEM: Is it because you love the animals and you don't want to hurt them?
ME: No.
THEM: Then why?
ME: Because I want to be just like my mom.

Its true. That really was the reason I made the conscious decision to not eat meat. My mother did not force me to not eat meat. She just never served it. I spent summers in Virginia as a child though, and I'm sure there were times I ate meat when I visited my father and his family (they REALLY thought vegetarians were weird). I can't be positive that I actually ate meat though, because I can't recall what it tastes like and I don't have any real memories of eating it.

During the summer I was 6 years old, mom and I drove to California, ostensibly to live there, though we only lasted there a month or so before we went to Louisiana. On the drive back East, we stopped at a grocery store to stock up on cheese & crackers, our favorite on-the-road-meal. I remember watching mom go into the store (it was the seventies and it was still okay to leave your child in the car for 2 minutes while you went into a store) and thinking that I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. When she got back to the car, I told her. I don't remember what she said. As a matter of fact, the whole memory could be faulty. I was, after all, only 6 years old, and it was 25 years ago, but I like the way I remember it.

I was never sorry that I was a vegetarian, and the way others reacted never made me feel like a pariah; it more of an annoyance at others' stupidity and close-mindedness that bothered me. There were always moments though, especially in middle school when I would try real hard to not advertise that I didn't eat meat. The toughest times were when I would spend the night at my friends' houses and their parents would get so stressed out about figuring out what to feed me. No one ever understood that side dishes were my main dishes. At a normal dinner table with a meat dish and two vegetable side dishes, I would just serve myself extra helpings of the vegetables. The parents were often horrified and would end up ordering cheese pizzas for me. I hated putting people out like that. Mom understood my discomfort, and she also trusted me to make sure I got balanced meals (I was extremely conscious about getting enough protein, which is really the only nutrient that you have to careful to get when you stop eating meat). When I would go on week-long trips with my church youth group, mom would take me to the health food store to buy me a case of protein-rich Tiger's Milk bars to pack in my suitcase. Meal-replacement bars weren't a big grocery-store item back in the late-eighties, and the way I remember it, Tiger's Milk bars were the original to that fad.

By the time high school was coming to a close, my friends came to think it was cool that I didn't eat meat, and I had frankly given up on caring what other people thought about it. Oddly enough, it wasn't until I was in college that I met other vegetarians in my peer group. Throughout my entire 9 years in a rural public school, I don't remember meeting a single other vegetarian.

During my first quarter at UGA, I took a Greek mythology and a drama class, and I worked at a copy shop. I met a whole new group of people and for the first time since we lived in New Orleans, I wasn't the odd duck. Imagine my supreme delight when my friends threw a potluck Thanksgiving dinner a few years later and the main course was a Tofurkey. Every side dish was meat-free, and none of the vegetables were simmered in chicken broth or cooked with a ham hock thrown in for flavor.

Strangely, I realized recently that with the exception of one guy, I always dated meat-eaters. I actually had to do some serious thinking back to even remember if there was one vegetarian that I had dated.

Vegetarian Boyfriend didn't last long though. I remember him as good-looking, lots of fun to be around, extremely interesting to talk to, but flaky. The last time I saw him was at an airport in Venezuela. We had spent two weeks there on a fairly spur-of-the-moment-vacation with another friend of ours, and Vegetarian Boyfriend decided while we were waiting to board the airplane for our return flight that he didn't want to go back to the states yet. He tried to talk me into staying in South America for a few more months with him. It was at that moment that I realized how flaky he was, as I tried to explain to him, slowly and without using big words, that I had to go home. I had responsibilities. Like a job.

It kind of figures. After spending my entire childhood trying to overcome people's preconceived notions that vegetarians are weird hippie flakes, I ended up dating a vegetarian who turned out to be a weird hippie flake.

Friday, July 15, 2005

When Life Gives You Lemons (or takes away the cream cheese)

I usually make a few new recipes each week, along with a few tried-and-true ones. This week, I had picked out two recipes that I'd been wanting to try for a few weeks now, a Leek Tart and a Minnesota Wild Rice Soup. I'm fond of quiches and I love making soups, so I was looking forward to both of these.

I was going to make the Leek Tart on Tuesday evening. I had read the recipe again the day before, so I knew what was involved, and I knew how much time to budget. I sat Fat Baby in front of cartoons and gave him a supply of goldfish, I rolled up my sleeves, got out the recipe and started pulling all the ingredients I would need. But then I couldn't find the cream cheese. I was sure I had enough though, because I remembered there being one in the refrigerator to begin with (which I used for Monday's Peanut Butter Pie), and another one that I picked up at the store on Monday. Frustrated, running low on time, but to the utter delight of Fat Baby, I emptied the entire fridge in my quest. Alas, there was no cream cheese to be found. I vaguely recalled making Cream Cheese Brownies recently, in an attempt to mollify The Carnivore, and I swallowed my curses while I reloaded the fridge, to the utter dismay of Fat Baby.

At the last minute, and out of options I might add, I dug around in the pantry until I came across a box of Fantastic Foods Falafel mix that I had picked up on a lark from the supermarket months ago. Eureka!

I'd never made falafels, but I've long been a fan, though I haven't had a falafel pita in years now. Out of a box, it was easy as pie. Soak the mix in cold water, wait a few minutes, form small balls, and fry them in a 1/2-inch of vegetable oil in a skillet. I served them in whole-wheat pita pockets lined with fresh cucumbers, and drizzled them with tahini dressing that I whipped up from the recipe printed right on the side of the box (a lucky break since I still had sesame tahini left over from the hummus attempt).

  • 1 cup sesame tahini (not the easiest thing to find - on our third or fourth attempt, we found it at Earth Fare, a specialty grocery store similar to, though smaller than, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used kosher salt - is there a Mid-Eastern version of kosher salt? - I've never met a Jewish Muslim, but I suppose its possible...)
  1. Mix and serve.

It ended up being a great dinner; a nice change from the usual soups and pastas that I fix. The Carnivore was delighted. Fat Baby ate part of a tahini-dipped falafel ball, but then kept handing the falafel back to me for another dipping of sauce until I figured out that he just wanted to be fed spoonfuls of the dressing and to just skip over the falafel & pita bread part.

Next step: figure out how to make falafels without using a mix. No matter how organic or healthful a mix claims to be, I simply can't reconcile the amount of preservatives that are contained in any packaged food.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pesto Fit

I spent most of Friday night and Saturday morning fretting over how good the pesto was from Farm 255. I knew it would turn into a self-esteem issue if I didn't figure out how to make pesto like they do. The Carnivore promised to ask them for their recipe on Monday, but I couldn't wait that long.

I picked every last leaf of basil out of my garden, down to the point where I'm now afraid the plants won't even bother to produce anymore, and dragged some of my cookbooks out to the front porch. I've never made my own pesto before, but I knew there was no way I'd be able to go back to eating pesto out of a jar after the sauce I tasted at the restaurant Friday night. I had a general idea of the ingredients that go into typical pesto recipes: basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic; and even though I didn't know the secret ingredient that went into Farm's recipe, I remembered detecting a taste of lemon juice.

I tried my Moosewood Restaurant cookbook, but only found odd pesto recipes (garlic scape pesto? - way out of my league right now). I found the jackpot recipe in The Joy of Gardening Cookbook by Janet Ballantyne, one my mother had given me right off of her own bookshelf, after much whining and gnashing of teeth on my end. With a few minor adaptations, I ended up with this:

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (including a pinch of parsley)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 and a half lemons
  1. Combine everything except for 1 Tbs olive oil in a food processor and process to make a thick paste.
  2. Transfer pesto into a container and smooth out the top. Cover with a thin coating of olive oil.

It took a while and a great many taste tests before The Carnivore and I both agreed that not only did we love the pesto, but that it was close to what we had at the restaurant. For dinner Saturday night, I served the pesto over whole-wheat fettucine, along with a baguette and a seasoned olive oil dipping sauce. Interestingly, the flavors in the pesto seemed overwhelming when eaten as a main dish pasta sauce, so I'm now thinking I need to cut down on the lemon (maybe the acidity is what made it so cloying?). Fat Baby loved it the way it was, and The Carnivore ate two helpings, so maybe I'm just obsessing. Again.

Regardless, I became fascinated with the concept of making my own pesto. Who, after all, wouldn't rather make their own than buy it in a jar with preservatives added to give it shelf life? The Joy of Gardening Cookbook, which I am now reading cover-to-cover, is chock-full of information about using the bounty from the garden, and most importantly, living off the land year-round. According to the cookbook, pesto will keep in the freezer for a year. Obviously, the mathmetician in me was doing the calculations all weekend in order to estimate how much basil I will need to plant next year in order to freeze my own pesto to last until the following summer's harvest.

The Carnivore called me from work on Monday morning to say he had procured Farm 255's pesto recipe from me. I preened most of the day, sure that I had duplicated their recipe perfectly.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Now I have to wait another month or so until my basil plants produce again so that I can attempt the restaurant's recipe. It will still be nearly impossible to duplicate it to the letter since, according to chef's own recipe, they mix "basil, cilantro, mint, etc" until they get 6 Tbs of the mixed herbs. It is rare that I get a recipe that actually includes "etc" in the list of ingredients, and I must say I am immensely intimidated by that.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill

On Friday, my mother fed Fat Baby his first blackberry. He gobbled it down and peered into her bowl to see what else was there. Then she gave him his first blueberry and he was hooked, shoving whole handfuls into his mouth.

Saturday morning, The Carnivore and I tossed Fat Baby into his wagon and we took a walk down the long driveway to pick up the newspapers. Along the way, The Carnivore would pick a blackberry every few feet out of the bushes growing in the ditch. He would pop them into Fat Baby's mouth and earn a smile each time. When we got back to the house, I remembered the invitation our next-door property owner had issued two summers back, when we first moved out here, to come pick from his blueberry bushes. With Fat Baby still in his wagon, we hiked through the weeds and came upon 25 or so of the BIGGEST, most fruit-laden, bushes I've seen in years. The Carnivore and I piled handfuls into the wagon with Fat Baby and filled up a large mixing bowl with fruit without even making a dent in the harvest. For a while I contemplated some of the blueberry recipes that I've been sitting on, but I just couldn't bear to alter the fresh berries' natural state.

I have special memories of picking berries when I was a kid, spending time in the woods with my mom, sweltering in the heat. I was born obsessive and I remember watching mom eat off the bushes, not thinking to pick any for later. Even if she did fill a bowl, she would inevitably empty it by the time we were home. I, however, would plan ahead, rationing the berries so they would last as long as possible. Many a time, I bought my way off of restrictions by hoarding my berries until mom's stash was long gone. As long as I held out long enough, I could occasionally bargain my way off of future restrictions. It is memories like that one that make me glad I have a son instead of a manipulative teenage daughter.

Fat Baby and I spent most of the weekend subsisting on the fat, warm berries (the diapers have been doozies!). If the bushes still look this good by next weekend, maybe I'll get up the gumption to try making a blueberry coffee cake.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Farm 255 (or how to eat local)

The Carnivore did, in fact, take Fat Baby and I out to eat on Friday evening. This was quite an event for all of us as it was the first time all three of us have gone together to a restaurant, and Fat Baby and I got dressed up for the occasion. We dined downtown, where The Carnivore and I used to spend all of our Going Out Time, though it was the first time we were there for any social reason in two years. We ended up running into an old friend who was a bit surprised to see us with a baby.

Farm 255 is all its cracked up to be. Picking an appetizer was easy, as was dessert, but settling on an entree proved to be most difficult. It could be months before we eat out again, so I wanted to choose wisely. The menu is simple, with only five or six choices each for appetizers and entrees. The chef serves what is in season at their farm, and the menu changes daily. The ambience is eclectic enough to be definitive Athens. The restaurant is located in the back of an old warehouse, behind Flicker and Clocked, with a view overlooking the courtyard of The Caledonia Lounge. The walls are brick with large, old windows on two sides. The ceilings are high and the ductwork is exposed. The floors are a gorgeous stained concrete. The bar is along one side, a beautiful custom-built wooden structure that goes nicely with the matching tables & chairs. The kitchen is open to the dining area. The food is plated very elegantly, with West Coast sized servings (unlike the usual gut-busting, obesity-inspired serving sizes handed out at chain restaurants).

For starters, we were served fresh peasant bread with olive oil. We ordered fried green tomatoes for an appetizer and were brought three perfect tomatoes, fried in grits and served over a bed of wilted kale.

The chef brought us a lemon cucumber salad that Fat Baby fought me for. The cucumber was sliced so thinly as to be transparent and tossed with basil and lemon. Where so many restaurants season their dishes to within an inch of their life, to the point where the flavor of the herbs and spices overpowers the taste of the dish itself, at Farm 255, the vegetables are the stars of the show.

The Carnivore ordered a skewered shrimp dish for his entree, but I paid scant attention to it. I waffled between ordering the Vegetables Perfect (what a great name!) and a savory mushroom crepe. I asked the waitress for a recommendation between the two and she leaned toward the vegetables. Her description was enough to convince me, when she beamed and called it a "big, beautiful bowl of vegetables." She was right.

The Vegetables Perfect was, indeed, beautiful. It was a mixture of sauteed and roasted cherry tomatoes, onions, leeks, and green beans; served with smashed potatoes and a shot glass of the freshest pesto I've had to date. The dish was so simple, yet everything was cooked to the perfect consistency and was seasoned just enough to enhance the natural flavors. The tomatoes had the biggest effect on me, since I am normally not at all impressed with the flavor or the texture. They were cut in half, marinated in some sort of nectar from on high, and roasted ever so slightly; just enough that they burst in my mouth with the most exsquisite gush of tartness.

I didn't even bother trying The Carnivore's dish, so enamored was I with my own entree, and I had to threaten him with the mean end of my fork to keep him out of my own plate.

For dessert, we had a blueberry, blackberry, and goat cheese crepe that all three of us polished off in a mere minute. The sweet-tartness of the berries contrasted fabulously with the texture of the cheese, and the freshness of the fruits was more than obvious.

If nothing else, eating at Farm 255 will convince anyone to eat organic, to eat fresh, and to snub the trucked-in, over-fertilized, hybrid fruits and vegetables that are now imported from Chile.

I was hoping Hurricane Dennis would force Fabulous Uncle to evacuate himself from Tallahassee to Athens, because I knew he would LOVE Farm, but alas, he chose to ride out the storm in the panhandle, and here I am wishing I had him to use as my excuse to go back and try the savory mushroom crepe.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Last night, The Carnivore said he would knock off work early on Friday so that we could GO OUT TO EAT. He has been working at Farm 255 for the past few weeks, a new restaurant in Athens being opened by the owners of Full Moon Coop, a local organic farming cooperative. I first read about this restaurant months ago, and I have been positively quivering with anticipation. We rarely go out to eat. As a matter of fact, the last time The Carnivore and I ate out at a restaurant was October 14 (our anniversary). Sad, but true.

If I were completely honest though, I would mention that I rarely want to eat out. Fat Baby goes to bed rather early, so eating out can be a logistical nightmare to begin with, and as a vegetarian, there are usually only one or two dishes on any given menu that appeal to me. Since I have lived in this town almost all of my life, I have, as a general rule, already tried both vegetarian dishes at just about every restaurant in town. But when a new restaurant opens up, I start to get the hankering.

Then, of course, there is the expense of eating out. I find it absurd, as an accountant who does a lot of cost-benefit analyses, to spend exorbitant amounts of money at a restaurant when I can usually cook the same dishes myself for a tiny proportion of the cost. Eating out regularly and often is a pastime for childless people who are either too lazy to cook or are too short-sighted to be planning for retirement. Luckily, I have no problems giving my opinion.

All that aside, since this will be my first time this year eating out (and paying the tab), I refuse to focus on the cost. The real issue is what to order. I want to be able to plan ahead, but I haven't seen Farm 255's menu yet. The Carnivore is working there today though, so I have asked him to call me with a list of menu items so that I can start thinking about what I will have. I heard a rumor that fried green tomatoes are on the menu (love those!).

Now if he would just call...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Parsley Soup & Dental Floss

I bought a pound of asparagus a week and a half ago, fully intending to make a Cheese & Asparagus Souffle, a recipe I have only made once to date. However, every afternoon while planning that night's dinner, I would gaze balefully at the asparagus and dread working on the complicated dish. This afternoon I noticed the asparagus was looking a bit peevish, so it was cook it or toss it. Rather than doing anything complex though, I remembered a recipe I had cut out from the AJC Food Section months ago for Julie's Asparagus. I'm sure the original article explained who Julie is, but I don't recall any details. I usually steam asparagus when I want it as a side dish, so I was interested in a new but still-simple way to get it on the table. I am pleased to announce that Julie knows her asparagus.

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  1. Rinse & drain the asparagus, and snap off the tough ends where they break naturally (This was news to me - until now, I had always arbitrarily picked a place to trim asparagus ends with a knife. I always worried that I was tossing out perfectly good asparagus parts, and I inevitably bit into some pieces and realized I had left the tough part still on. This "breaking" tactic worked smashingly).
  2. Arrange the spears in a glass casserole dish in 1 or 2 layers.
  3. Melt the butter and drizzle over the asparagus.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste (For me, this meant about 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and a very generous downpour of freshly coarse-ground black pepper).
  5. Cover the dish snugly with aluminum foil.
  6. Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.

For our main dish, because The Carnivore cannot live on asparagus alone, I made Yankee Corn Chowder, another great recipe from my America's Bounty cookbook, one of Big Mama's best yard-sale finds yet.


  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I used red onion)
  • 1/2 cup russet potato, peeled and diced (I used new red potatoes and I vehemently disagree with the whole peeling thing - I left the peels on and didn't regret it)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery, with some leaves (whatever! I didn't leave any leaves on, and I'm glad of it - for what will seem to be a very obvious reason when you find out what I did with the parsley)
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped (This is a very important step. I got so hung up on the odd proportions of this dish - after all, the recipe called for half as much parsely as it did onion or potato - that I got completely distracted by the mounting PILE of parsley as I measured it out. Luckily, of course, I had plenty of fresh parsley due to the whole mistaken cilantro debacle from last weekend, but this still seemed ridiculous. Regardless, I ended up omitting the "chopped" instruction and threw the parsley into the stockpot without first doing the obvious. Suffice to say The Carnivore and I both needed dental floss after dinner.)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 15-0z can corn, drained
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  2. Cook onion, potato, celery, and CHOPPED parsley for 15 minutes or until tender.
  3. Add milk and salt and heat just to boiling.
  4. Stir in corn and heat again, stirring.

Even with the large grass-like clumps of parsley, the soup was still very tasty for something with such simple flavors. I will definately make this again, especially since it is such a quick dish to put together and uses ingredients I keep on hand anyway, but next time I will use more onion, and I will pummel the parsley into submission before tossing it into the pot.

Clean-Out-The-Fridge Pizza

There are times when I dig in the produce bin(s) of my refrigerator and realize that some of the veggies buried at the bottom are nearing their last days. It is at those times that I either make spaghetti sauce or pizza. I recently saw a recipe in an issue of Vegetarian Times for Clean-Out-The-Fridge stew, but I mistakenly took that magazine to the pool where it got drenched and therefore became quite unreadable. I guess I'll never know how to make that stew now, but I have no qualms about commandeering that name for my pizza.

I keep store-bought pizza crusts in the freezer (I prefer Mamma Mary's brand), but I have clipped out a recipe for whole wheat pizza crust, and I intend to use that recipe to get over my fear of making Things That Need To Rise. I'm not there yet though. I do despise the refrigerated pizza crusts in a can that can be bought in the biscuit section of the supermarket. Nasty, awful things.

Last night, I defrosted two pizza crusts, brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with garlic powder, dusted them with Italian seasoning, spread them with tomato sauce and covered them with mozzarella (though I have been known to use monterey jack). Then I cleaned out the fridge and topped them with the following:

  • Green olives
  • Scallions
  • Red onions
  • Fresh parsley (out of my garden)
  • Mushrooms
  • Red bell peppers
  • Green bell peppers
  • Poblanos
  • Marinated artichoke hearts
  • Grated parmesan
  • Grated romano
  • Crumbled feta
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper

Bake on a pizza stone dusted with cornmeal at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. YUMMY!

I'm a big fan of pizza, but will rarely order it from any of the national chains anymore. My favorite pizza joint in Athens is Little Italy, but as the owner was just busted for being the ringleader of meth network, I have fears for the future of the restaurant. A friend of mine and I were jokingly discussing buying the restaurant if it ends up on the block, and now I can't stop thinking about how much I would enjoy running my very own commercial kitchen. Alas, this is only a pipedream for now. Maybe later...

The Carnivore loves my pizza, but Fat Baby had never had any before last night. I cut a slice for him and then cut it up into little-tiny itty-bitty baby pizza slices. Whereas most children pick off the vegetables and will only eat the cheese & crust, Fat Baby carefully picked off the vegetables and ate each one, and then hurled the crusts to the floor with utter disdain. Hmmm, maybe he only likes crusts made from scratch. Figures.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Snobby Grits and Biscuits That Can Fly

We had an Upside-Down Day yesterday and ate breakfast for dinner. A few months ago, in my favorite column from the AJC Food Section, "From The Menu Of...," in which recipes from local restaurants are printed, I found the recipe for Creamy-Dreamy White Cheddar Grits from The Flying Biscuit Cafe. I have, of course, adapted the recipe ever so slightly over the past couple of months, and I absolutely love it.

A few years ago, when I worked for a vintage clothing company, I spent about six months traveling quite a bit. Anytime I had a late night or early morning flight out of Atlanta, I would spend the night at a buddy's house in Little Five Points, only about 15 minutes from the airport. We always used these overnight visits to go eat somewhere, and Little Five has great places to choose from. The Flying Biscuit Cafe was only about two blocks from my buddy's house, and we walked there for brunch a time or two. I never tried the grits (what a shame!), but I ate lots of extremely large biscuits with vast amounts of apple butter, and I remember there being quite a lot of vegetarian selections to choose from. I just recently found out that The Flying Biscuit has put out a cookbook. Gonna HAVE to get me one of those.

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 cup quick grits
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  1. In a saucepan, combine water, half-and-half, salt and white pepper and bring to a boil.
  2. Slowly pour grits into boiling water while whisking the entire time.
  3. Reduce to low heat and continue to whisk often, until thick and completely smooth, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add cheese and stir gently until cheese melts. Whisk again to combine.
  5. Turn heat off and allow grits to rest 5 minutes.
  6. Add butter and stir until completely smooth, silky and shiny.

Last night, on a lark, I decided to use 1/2 extra-sharp cheddar cheese and 1/2 Danish Fontina cheese. It added considerable depth to the taste and I will continue to try different cheeses now, although I would hate for my grits to get above their raising. Fat Baby LOVES these grits; last night he ate them with his fingers and then cleaned his hands off in his hair. Normally, that might not be much of an issue, but we served the waffles with 100% pure maple syrup, and I now know that the following is true:

maple syrup + butter + grits + baby hair = super glue.

Even after a bath after dinner, I was still picking grits out of his hair this morning.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Feeling Very Thaimexinese Today

Saturdays are my favorite kitchen days. I often find the time to make a snack or dessert and I have more time than usual to work on dinner. Thus, the most intimidating or time-consuming recipes are saved for Saturdays.

For a mid-morning boost, I made a batch of Thai Iced Coffee for me and The Carnivore using a recipe I pulled from the June 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine. I'm a big fan of iced coffee (actually of coffee in any form), and this is certainly the most interesting version of it that I've had yet. As a general rule, I just brew an extremely strong pot of coffee, usually using Cafe Bustelo espresso, and then stir in half-and-half and sugar to taste. This new recipe, however, will be my new standard.

  • 1/2 cup hot espresso or very strong brewed coffee
  • 10 tsps fat-free sweetened condensed milk (this stuff was a royal pain to measure out - the stuff is like molasses and it comes out of the measuring spoon about as fast as, well, molasses)
  • 4 Tbs hot water
  • Dash of cardamom (this was the first time I have used this spice - very cool/weird stuff)
  1. Combine all ingredients, stir well and cool completely. Serve over ice.

I finally found The Right Salsa Recipe a few weeks ago, out of a cookbook my lovely mother found for me, America's Bounty. To date, my favorite restaurant salsa has been from Agua Linda, a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Athens, only about 5 blocks from where I used to live in Normaltown. In those days, I would often walk down to Agua Linda with a plastic container to purchase salsa to go. Inevitably, when I walked in and handed over my plastic container and asked that it be filled with salsa, no one ever knew what to charge me for it. This is a locally-owned place, and Plastic To Go Container of Salsa is not exactly a standard menu item. Usually everyone working at that moment at the restaurant would get in a huddle and eye me strangley while they conversed in Spanish about what to charge Weird White Lady Who Brings Her Own Tupperware.

The recipe from America's Bounty comes extremely close to the salsa from Agua Linda, and though I have tweaked it slightly, it was a good recipe to begin with. I made it for the first time a few weeks ago and The Carnivore and I devoured the entire batch in a single sitting. I had a hankering for it again today, so I made a double batch of the salsa along with a batch of Black Bean Dip.


  • 1 tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup quartered tomatillos
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 Tbs chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Put all ingredients into food processor (LOVE! those things) and pulse until desired consistency is reached.

For dinner I made my first stir-fry, using the electric wok Big Mama found for me a yard sale last weekend. The recipe that I used, from the June 2004 issue of Vegetarian Times, and adapted from Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Veggie Meals (a cookbook I still don't have, yet want desperately), was an odd one, and it will need a lot of tweaking (if I don't just throw the whole thing out and search for an entirely new recipe). The seasonings are where everything went wrong. The recipe called for soy sauce, garlic, ginger, Chinese 5-spice Powder, the juice of a large navel orange, and apricot preserves. The vegetables were standard stir-fry fare: snow peas, napa cabbage, bell pepper, bean sprouts, scallions.

The Carnivore and I, as we are known to do any time a new recipe is tried, started to deconstruct the recipe as soon as we took our first bite. The dish obviously needed more soy sauce (of which I did not have enough); cashews would have been a nice addition; but the real kicker was that there was something Odd-tasting that we couldn't put our finger on. I was most suspicious of the Chinese 5-Spice Powder, a spice I had bought only yesterday which I had never heard of before. The Carnivore thought the orange juice and the apricot preserves were the most likely suspects of the Oddness. For a short while, I tried to lay the blame on the ginger.

After we were done eating, we decided to read the spice container to see which 5 spices were included. The only guess I had to offer was anise (something I'm not fond of to begin with). I was right, as it turned out, but the anise wasn't the bad egg. The spices contained cloves. Eureka! I knew what was wrong with this recipe. The Chinese 5-Spice Powder, which clearly was spawned from the depths of hell, made my stir-fry taste EXACTLY like a Poetry Slam in a Pretentious Bar smells.

Friday, July 01, 2005

I Married Him For His Cornbread

The Carnivore finally noticed how busy I've been, and he offered to cook dinner tonight while I sat at my desk with a pile of financial statements and pulled my hair out trying to do a... well, I ought not bore anyone with the tedium of the project I've been working on. Suffice to say, it involves restating past profit & loss statements to better reflect operating expenses for developing the valuation of a .... there I go again, thinking anyone else is interested in this.

Tonight, The Carnivore served salmon patties on a bed of jasmine rice (apparently he couldn't find the brown rice and didn't want to disturb me) with hush puppies. I don't fry things, so I've always been appreciative of his abilities to do so. Fat Baby was served his own little tiny plate with specially made itty-bitty salmon patties and teeny-weeny hush puppies. It was all very cute. I believe that was his first fried dinner.

The Carnivore's hush puppy recipe (modified, of course) originally came from the 1982 Southern Living Annual Cookbook. My mother has been collecting these cookbooks for me at yard sales for many years now, and it is my life goal to have a complete set without ever paying full price for any of them. I'm still short a few years, mostly the nineties, but I have faith that people will get tired of dusting them and will throw them outside for a yard sale.

The Carnivore is a great cook, and it used to be his job to get dinner on the table. Its a long-running, yet slightly true, joke that I married The Carnivore for his cornbread. I can't remember what he served with the cornbread back when we first started dating, but I don't suppose it even mattered. To this day, I haven't tasted better cornbread. On special occasions around here (Mother's Day, my birthday), when The Carnivore asks what I want for dinner, cornbread is always my answer.

I've been waffling lately on the seafood issue. I haven't eaten red meat or chicken since I was 6 years old, but I've always eaten seafood. It was a difficult thing to explain when I was a kid, because anytime people heard 'vegetarian,' they automatically assumed I didn't eat anything except tofu & brussels sprouts. When I was pregnant, I limited seafood to no more than one serving per month (even though the guidelines say once a week is okay, my baby's brain development seemed more important than the craving for catfish). As a nursing mother, I followed the same schedule until I realized recently that I had gone months without eating any at all. For a while I've been toying with giving seafood up altogether, but I clearly haven't made the final leap there.


Eating a cheese sandwich at my desk again.
If I had balls, I would give my left nut for a vegetable egg roll.

Woe Is Me

It has been quite a disappointing food week. The highlight so far has been the THREE Krispy Kreme doughnuts I had on Jack's birthday on Wednesday. Pregnant sister was in labor all day Thursday, so I made two trips to fast food joints to pick up food for the members of her support system. On one of the trips, I ordered sausage biscuits and I'm pretty certain that was the first time I've ever ordered meat in the drive-thru. Fat Baby was in his car seat practically moaning at the smell of food, so I went against my better judgement and got a greasy potato product for him. He seemed to understand that the drive-thru was something like the bank drive-thru, in which I hand paper to the person in the window, and they exchange that for food (to this point, he thought only lollipops came out of windows). Woe is me.

Last night there was no time to cook, so I ate a cheese sandwich at my desk while I attempted to get work done. My goal was to get enough work done so that I could take a three-day holiday weekend. Alas, my pile only continued to grow as more work continued to flow in via the fax machine and email. Woe is me.

In desperation on Wednesday night, I picked up new recipes to try next week and made my grocery list for Friday morning shopping. The desperation was borne partly out of the need to at least plan to cook some great dinners and partly out of jealousy. The Carnivore had to go back to town Wednesday night to fix problems with an air conditioning system at AN ORGANIC RESTAURANT HE HAS BEEN WORKING AT! There is clearly no justice in the world when soda-drinking, meat-eating, fast-food-craving, organic-scoffing husbands get to spend their time at new organic restaurants while the vegetarian foodie stays at home and eats cheese sandwiches at her desk. Woe is me.

Today, along with two of my sisters and two of my brothers, I am taking Fat Baby to the fire station in Five Points. The sneaky side of me is in ecstasy since that means I will be but one block away from the fancy hippie grocery store. I plan to stock up on all those items that my usual big-box grocery store doesn't even carry. If my work ever gets done, I'll be cooking to break the bank next week. Mom finally found me a wok at yard sales last week, so I intend to finally try my hand at stir-frys. To say I am excited is a gross understatement.

Things are definately looking up.