Tuesday, July 30, 2013

welcome to nc!

A sleepy, tree-lined, generously sidewalked neighborhood.


Many a garden, staked up with eco-friendly and beautiful bamboo.


The suspicious feeling one has entered a time warp to 1969.

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(with a few modern issues)

Agave and soy milk for your iced coffee, simply placed on the counter like normal people add them?!


Ubiquitous adorable bikes.


And my dream school. I hope. Someday.


The following is a compilation post from two separate trips to my new state (!) of North Carolina. The first time I ever went I already catalogued in the blog (it’s worth a read because there are LEMURS!!). Then I took another trip this past May which I just lacked the organization to post about til now.

My missions were to:

- Get the lay of the land (check)
- Get stoked to live there (check)
- Reconnect with a wonderful friend with whom I attended summer camp (check!)
- Find myself a roommate (not check, but it’s for the best since the place and person with whom I ended up are both infinitely more awesome than the respective places and roommates I encountered on the first trip)

So the above pictures were captured during various meanders along the streets of Carrboro (my future town!)and on the UNC Campus (my future school?! PLEASE?!). Does anyone else wander neighborhoods taking pictures of eating establishments? ACTUALLY, I ended up randomly running into another camp friend at a bar on my last trip (so random and awesome!) and she said she was moving to France in October to teach English (awesome) and had opened up Google Earth to explore her hometown and make sure there were pastry shops (super awesome! And there are 4!)

This combined a pun and wings, which made me think Steve would be all over it, but apparently he’s a vegetarian now… so it’s posted solely for your amusement.


Yes please.


Yes please.


The most exciting dining establishment I encountered on my May trip was Panzanella. Its lovely courtyard:


And its exciting and admirable mission:


Meant it was obviously going to be my destination for a wonderful single lady’s lunch. So exciting to read a menu and actually know it’s of ethical origins and I can eat it! Went for the spicy spring chicken wrap:


Aaggggggggggh it was so delicious!


That afternoon I met with someone about an apartment who was totally wrong for me and I’m totally better off without her and I didn’t even like the walk in closet (shh… yes I did). Roommate rejections. Very dramatic. It’s like dating: you meet someone on Craigslist, you send some tentative emails, then they want to Skype. You talk, you laugh, you feel a connection and then… poof. Sorry. It’s not you. I need to live with another college student.

Anyway, I ended up with someone way better- you’ll see in the next post!

That place I looked at that day was within walking distance of Whole Foods, which at the time thrilled me but retrospectively I can now say would have been dangerous for my wallet. With Exhibit A of why being my exciting purchases for the road trip home.


BUT, you say, this is all ANCIENT HISTORY!

How true.

I returned to the Triangle this past weekend to help move someone in. Someone named my boyfriend, who’s joining me in the NC adventure!

We were thrilled to be reunited and in our new town, so we hit up a bar! Slash restaurant. We’d both admired Southern Rail’s charm on respective past trips to Carrboro, so we made our way there to spend a beautiful evening eating and drinking al fresco.

Waited on a table, and began by people watching at the bar area.


I saw the bartender making someone something beautiful with strawberries, so I requested one of the same “but not too sweet”. Got fizzy water instead of Sprite, which is good cause otherwise it woulda been too much sugar. What I got was kind of a variation on a mojito. Yum! Steve got a fat tire.


This is ONE drink in DC:


(Note: I tipped! It wasn’t filled in yet!)

We ate outside in what basically felt like an enchanted forest.


Steve got something beautiful with cucumbers and cilantro and basil and gin. Next time, Southern Rail. This is mine.


Southern Rail immediately earned my undying loyalty by having tater tots in the menu. One of the appetizer options was basically tater tot nachos: topped with mushrooms, onions, chili, and cheese. Mind boggling. This picture fails to convey how ENORMOUS this was. We took leftovers in a box and then fed them to my friend we ran into at the bar :) (She’d been drinking on an empty stomach. Whoo!)


I got the black bean burger, which was delicious but I was basically already full from the appetizer, so I ate like two bites :) But the patty was clearly homemade and spicy, and the avocado spread was delightful. I ate my side salad out of duty, as I hadn’t yet had any vegetables (well unless you count the tater tots and ketchup… which I cannot do in good conscience). Steve got a fab, garlicky pasta and veggie dish.


Then free concert across the street, whoo! This is where I ran into my camp friend… outside the ladies’ room. Steve said from his seat he just saw me outside the bathroom high fiving someone and was like, “Gosh, she’s really very friendly”. Heh.

On to the next morning.

I’d immediately called my good pal Andrea (who I’ll sometimes call Love Fern, and she me) when I knew I was going down for the weekend, and she requested a meeting for Saturday brunch. She said the best place in town for it was Guglhupf, and since I can’t imagine any place better I’ll just believe her and go here for the rest of my life.



I mean my gosh there is a fountain. There were lots of adorable families with adorable children. One little boy just wandered back and forth on this ledge, staring in wonderment at the water. Precious.


Steve and Andrea both got a scrumptious looking egg somethingorother.


And this was my beautiful plate.


Not picture is a guzzled iced coffee after a not-so-stellar night of sleep. I also got this gazpacho, partly because gazpacho tastes like summer.. and partially because I was suffering from veggie guilt.


And I got the most FANTASTIC bircher muesli! I am obsessed with this stuff, and used to try to make it at home, with very little success. This is the best American incarnation I’ve had. (My ultimate trophy, however, goes to the hotel buffet I got to enjoy in Thailand. Not likely to taste it again for awhile, though my little sister is actually there now!)


This is just part 1 of the North Carolina posts. There will of course be many parts, as it’s my new home (!) but the next installment will introduce you to Steve and my’s dope new places, dope new roommates, and dope new neighborhood.

Monday, July 22, 2013

estrogenfest 2013

My boyfriend has been out of town. I miss him, and yet my life still ought to be fulfilling and enjoyable as he goes off adventuring with friends and family. So I’ve been living it up, girly style. Intensely girly style.

And I now dub it Estrogenfest 2013. To give you just a small window into a current example, as I write this I am staying in with my mom on a Friday night and we are dancing in the kitchen. While the cake bakes in the oven. So there you go.

The principles of Estrogenfest are the following:

-Rekindle the spark in my cat lady heart. Sheila’s gotten very fond of the Foof that has temporarily taken up residence in our basement.


I’ve been a particularly devoted cat parent because Sheila was acting like a bit of a psycho (she became absolutely terrified of my mother when she returned from a business trip) so I took her to the vet and they diagnosed her with a little kitten UTI aw. So we’ve been diligently giving her antibiotics wrapped in little hollow treats.

- Go on lots and lots of girly friend dates.

Obviously, I still spend time with my friends even when my boyfriend is in town (because I hope to God I am not That Girl nor will I ever be) but it’s taken on a particularly meaningful tone when I send texts requesting to hang out because I’m leaving town so soon (details forthcoming.) So I’ve tried to get while the gettin’s good with my local friends. And also eat girly food because my linebacker-appetited boyfriend is out of town.

The dates have included the following:
- Getting girly salads for lunch with my high school friend Lauren and her baby
- Having a dinner with my middle school friend Virginia (and both of our respective families) while getting to know her one year old and chatting with her about the next kiddo she’s currently gestating
- Noshing on girly crepes with another friend, Patricia, in Old Town while discussing her crazy mother, cohabiting boyfriend, and so on. After our crepes, I got to meet her new beagle puppy! Then, when she was giving me a ride back into town, I noticed a bag in her car that she was taking to Goodwill. So I promptly went through it and removed a number of items of clothing.
- Going on a daytime friend date with my girl Emily, a buddy from community college. She’s heading off to grad school so we’re both leaving town. We shopped, and a Bloomingdale’s store credit allowed me to purchase designer jeans for the first time, oh, ever. They make my bum look pretty epic, I have to say. This can’t become a habit. Then, to keep our estrogen stores up and running, we got Pinkberry for lunch and talked about boys. And then we went tea sampling. Yep.

So those included lots of girly food, but to be even more specific:

- Enjoy lots and lots of eggs for dinner

Because eggs for dinner will always connote singlehood to me. Not that I’m single. Not that I want to be single. Not that I’m dissing singlehood. Fact: I think it is a tremendously positive thing to be in a happy relationship and recognize that they are possible, communication is key, etc. etc. Fact: I also think it is a tremendously positive thing to be single. There is great freedom. Freedom to eat eggs, the individually packaged, nutritionally impressive, utterly easy and quick to cook, fabulously delicious food.

I’ve made two kinds of egg pies.

The first was absolutely AMAZING but wretchedly unphotogenic.


The basic idea:
- Tomato sauce, made from fresh or canned tomatoes, slow-cooked onions, olive oil, and lotsa fresh herbs- I used oregano
- Eggs cracked atop
- Cheese atop that. Swiss cause it’s what I had.

Dude, that’s IT! Bake it at 300 til the whites are set.

It isn’t a pizza, but some of its flavors are reminiscent of pizza. And it’s comforting. And you can eat it hot or eat it cold. And you can bake its small pan in the toaster oven, my single serving favorite appliance.

DSC03227    DSC03232

And this guy,


I was all pleased with myself for making a proper quiche crust, but the recipe I used (from Eating Well) was just… not very good. So I’m not going to share it.

But the filling was a simple and delicious mixture of mushrooms, asparagus, milk, and eggs. Topping of cheese.

(Okay, fine, this didn’t actually happen during Estrogenfest. The out-of-season asparagus being an obvious hint, right? But it went with the egg and veggie pie theme. And it was a great deal prettier than the tomato pie. Sue me.)


- Read girly books and watch girly TV

Can we TALK about Orange is the New Black on Netflix?! It’s AMAZING. I just binge-watched the whole first season. Are they making more? Do we know? Love it for its excellent dialogue, strong female characters, and copious laughs.

A confession: I cat-sat for my aunt and uncle the other weekend while they were out of town. It was lots of fun (their house is beautiful and a brief walk from the Mount Vernon trail so I did lots of biking and walking). That being said, I had raging PMS so in a final Estrogenfest confession, I will admit that I ate many servings of nutella while sitting on the couch watching Pitch Perfect with the cat. It was awesome.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

i heart summer vegetables

Title is self-explanatory, though ever so slightly ripped off from another blog!

Let’s do a bit of case study here, shall we? We begin with pristine farmer’s market lima beans. 


I do as many photoshoots as possible on the deck to capture its lovely natural light. This always amuses my cat, who starts nuzzling the camera.


Being in a soup mood, as I am often inclined to be, I decided I wanted something cold, creamy, and herb-y.


This is not a recipe (though get excited, as there are two recipes- real ones!- below, but an approximation. I feel like it’s worth it to share an approximation, if it produces something wonderful with lima beans, as so many people are oddly scared of lima beans. I promise, they are good this way!)

- Cook ‘the beans til they’re tender. In whatever. I used chicken broth cause I had some languishing in the fridge.
- Let them cool a bit and puree them with their liquid.
- Add creaminess, if desired. Pureed beans, especially starchy ones like lima beans, already do a pretty good job of making a creamy soup, but since I had some buttermilk in the fridge I opted to add that too, which made it even creamier and contributed a welcome tang, which leads me to…
- Add flava! I added copious amounts of the wonderful fresh basil growing on my deck, lotsa salt and pepper, and lemon juice

It. was. greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat! 

I enjoyed the soup over a course of a couple of meals but I wanted to highlight a delicious lunch I had, joined by my sister. The soup was a highlight, of course, as was an enormous bowl of guacamole, with homemade tortilla chips dunked in it. My sister, demonstrating the balance in her life, included in her lunch a plate covered of two totally crack-like substances she brought home: both chips. One bag of apple chips. One bag of kettle cooked sun-dried tomato parmesan potato chips. Gahhhh.

Anyway, we both focused on the guacamole. Love us some avocado.


And now, I have not one but TWO recipes highlighting delicious summer vegetables! It is a joy to share them, as well as somewhat of a relief that I have not completely forgotten how to be healthy. I had been inclined to believe, for awhile, that my health related to food was on an upswing, at least to the extent that my emotions connected to my eating habits. Then, blessedly summer returned and I threw myself with gusto into preparing the wonderful produce of the season. Groove=back.

We begin with…


Greek Style Green Beans

1/3 cup olive oil
1 small/medium onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic
1 T tomato paste
1 lb fresh green beans
1 large heirloom tomato (or 2 normal sized tomatoes), chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 cup water

Wash green beans, and with a knife or scissors, trim off the tips at both ends and any coarse strings that many remain.

In a large dish like a Dutch oven, over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until translucent. Stir occasionally. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for an additional minute, stirring often, until they are evenly distributed through the onion. Add green beans and cook for an additional minute, stirring often, until they are evenly coated with the oil.

Then add remaining ingredients. Increase to high, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the green beans are tender, about 30-40 minutes for thick green beans like the ones shown above. If you want the sauce to be thinner, remove the lid of the pot for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

-The olive oil is present in large quantities. It is what gives the dish the majority of its flavor, and is authentic to the Greek origin of the recipe. If you make it with less olive oil, it will be less good. And olive oil is good for you. And you’re eating green beans, for heaven’s sake, so just add the whole 1/3 cup of olive oil, okay?
- I used the broad green beans available at many a farmer’s market this time of year. I was filled with delight when I saw them because they looked exactly like the green beans I ate with such gusto in Greece. You are, of course, welcome to use regular green beans. They will just cook for slightly less time. I also used a heaping pound of the green beans. In other words, the proportions aren’t set in stone.
- The allspice is present in small quantities because it has a distinctive, strong flavor. I love it in here, but any other herb, fresh or dried, would be great, too. If you are adding fresh herbs, of course add more than 1/4 tsp.
- Add water based on how saucy you want your final beans to be. This is a great dish for soaking up with bread or rice, but if you’d rather have a more basic side dish without a lot of sauce, you can add a lot less water.

This dish tastes like GREECE! Also, summer.


Since certain people’s boyfriends were leaving town, this certain person’s boyfriend left behind an ENORMOUS, almost COMICAL amount of kale in his beloved girlfriend’s kitchen. She rose to the occasion (oh, she rose. Just wait. This post is I Heart Summer Vegetables Part 1, friends), but there was just a TON, man!

Meanwhile, another ingredient I squealed with delight to see at the farmer’s market was fresh fennel.

I got out my scary dangerous trusty mandoline and made some thin slices of the good stuff, knowing they were destined for greatness.


A salad seemed a wise choice, and also a delicious one, combining the wonderful crunchy, licorice-y splendor of fresh fennel with the earthy bitterness of kale. I feel slightly silly writing a recipe for salad, and yet this was wonderful and I wanted it recorded so, if no other reason, I’d have it for the next time I myself wanted to make it.


Crunchy Kale, Fennel and Apple Salad

5 cups shredded kale
1 large green apple, very thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnuts
2 T olive oil
the juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 T honey
2 T apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

Combine kale, apple, fennel, and walnuts in a large salad bowl. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, honey, and apple cider vinegar with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad gently so as not to totally pulverize the apple slices!


Bonus: unlike some kale salads, this was just as good the next day or two. It might’ve been good after that, but we just ate it so quickly…

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

berry season!

Here in Virginia it has been raining like it is going out of style. It’s been a little bit of a drag for summer outings, but it has been GREAT for the wild berries that are suddenly growing absolutely everywhere! Steve, my sister, and I have been picking them like maniacs. We’ve seen neighbors out noshing, and birdies, and no doubt all sorts of nocturnal creatures are indulging in them as we sleep and STILL, there are SO MANY! Nature can be so generous!


Let’s think about how overpriced berries are at the grocery store, huh? High fives all around when we can pick them in the wild! Sure, there’s a lot of sweating… and there are brambles, so you should really wear longer legs and sleeves on your clothes… which is just as well since there’s also a lot of poison ivy around. Still, it’s FREE NINETY NINE!

Here’s the work of, oh, half an hour? (With, yknow, a little of the yield skimmed off the top in the form of snackage in the field)


Shining like beautiful jewels! The raspberries are quite abundant and the blackberries are still coming into season. So. stoked.


Steve and I spent a really adorable afternoon walking in the sunshine picking berries and then getting hilariously soaked when the aforementioned crazy rain appeared once again. Apparently it wetted my camera, which ruined the next few pictures. Blurry though they are, I have to share this fab breakfast.

We begin with:
- Wonderful farmer’s market yogurt
- Whole flaxseeds
-Rolled oats
-Almond butter


Then atop, you guessed it, big handfuls of ripe and delicious raspberries! Note: the berries are delicious but a bit tarter than the ones you’d find at a grocery store. They’re also a little seedier. I think this makes for a wonderful texture in yogurt bowls but I found it unpleasant when I added them to a smoothie. Just FYI.


Hanging out in a bowlful of dry rice restored my camera. Phew!

Something I’ve done twice now with these beautiful berries is make a beautiful pie!

And, shocker of shockers, I have a RECIPE! A legit RECIPE! For the first time in MONTHS! It’s adapted from Mark Bittman, natch, but I put enough tweaks on it that I can call it my own.


Berry-Buttermilk Pie
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

1 pie crust (I used a packaged one we had leftover, which is why it looks so BUSTED. The traditional pie crust was great, but you can also do a crumble type crust. See below for variation)
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup half and half
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup minus 2 T sugar
pinch of salt
heaping 3/4 cup of your choice of berries (I used a mix of raspberries and blackberries)

Generously poke the bottom of the pie crust with a fork, then bake the empty pie crust at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, until just lightly golden. Let it cool a bit while you prepare the filling.
Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar in a large bowl. [Tip: my pastry chef cousin taught me something important. Don’t dump the sugar on top of the eggs, or it’ll cause the eggs to get all clotty and coagulated. Instead, whisk continuously and gradually add the sugar as you whisk.]
Then, in a saucepan, heat together buttermilk and half and half on low heat until they begin to steam. Remove the pan from the heat. Add a small ladleful of the hot buttermilk mixture into the bowl with the eggs and whisk vigorously until combined. Then pour the egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the buttermilk mixture.
Get your pie crust, and scatter the berries all around the bottom, in an even layer. Then pour the buttermilk filling on top. NOTE: you will have more of the custard mixture than you need for the pie unless you are using a deep dish pie dish. You can put this mixture into ramekins and make custard at the same time as the pie if you wish. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the pie crust, on top of the berries, only until it is about 1/2 an inch under the top of the pie crust. Do not add any more than this or it will be impossible to get the pie in the oven without spilling, plus it’ll rise over the top.
Carefully put the pie in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until the middle is mostly but not quite set (it will cook a little after you remove it from the oven).


Note that when I made this beautiful fresh pie a second time, I used only raspberries (because the particular field I was picking in that day did not yet possess ripe blackberries). For the filling, I was lazy and out of eggs so I used Bird’s custard powder to make the custard. Howeeeeeeeeever, for the crust I kicked it up a notch and made a homemade crust. I’m kicking myself for not measuring, because it was wonnnnnnderful, but it contained approximately:
- 2 handfuls of walnuts
- 1 big tablespoon of cold butter
- 1 tablespoon or so of white sugar, plus another 1 or so of brown
- say 1/3 of a cup of oats?

I prebaked it in the same manner, then filled it, and WOW it was good. It had the texture and richness of those crumbly raspberry bars, but it wasn’t too sweet and it had the creamy custard and… mmm… Just it was good. Just trust me.

The day I made the pie was a crazy day because I saw not one but two of my friends’ babies! And by my friends, I mean my peers! One I’ve known since 7th grade, one since 9th! First I enjoyed salads at Sweetgreen with my friend Lauren, who had a sweet little girl named Aimee about six weeks ago. Then for dinner, I joined my friend Virginia, whose wedding I posted about in this blog, and her family. She has a 15-month-old named Charlotte (who’s walking and chatting and an absolute joy to be around) and is pregnant with her second child (!!!!!!!!!)

This is all a long way of saying that I told her to eat lots of pie because it had walnuts in them and omega-3’s are good for developing babies.

Back to the original pie. Original piecrust. My family thoroughly approved of this goodness.


It was delicious. Due to it being (vaguely) red, white, and blue, I brought it to the fourth of July celebration with my family. We enjoyed it after this fab dinner:


My once-a-year hot dog, corn on the cob, Georgian beans, a giant pickle, and the most exciting thing to the lower right hand of the plate. I’ve had papas huancaina, a heavenly Peruvian spicy potato and egg dish at La Limena, a Peruvian restaurant in Rockville and then made at potluck by my Peruvian friend David. Well, my aunt tried her friend’s version and loved it too, obviously. So she took a stab at it and PEOPLE OF THE WORLD: you have to try papas huancaina. My aunt is proof positive that one can google it and find a scrumptious recipe.

As usual, this blog post is all over the place with its train of thought. Returning to the wild fruit with which it began, I inquire the group: are these wild grapes?


They were growing on the same path as the berries. We aren’t complete lunatics and didn’t eat any, but we did break them open.


Any horticultural experts out there?