Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sophisticated Chili

Chili is often considered a basic meat dish.  Any southerner will tell you real chili doesn't have beans in it and is more or less just meat simmered forever in tomato sauce with lots of spices.  Now I think that just sounds boring.  Why limit yourself so much??  Vegetarian chili is meat chili's more sophisticated, more open-minded older sister (oh gosh, and now she is referring to chili as a female?!).  For whatever reason, I decided last night that I wanted chili and cornbread.  And I am not exactly known for denying myself things that I crave.  So into my cupboards I went to see what I could rustle up.  Lucky for me, I had all the fixings for a delicious chili and cornbread dinner.  And you know what the means?  You probably do too!  That makes this a hearty, cheap, and delicious go-to weeknight dinner.  Feel free to play around with the ingredients to accommodate what you have on hand.  Another perk to the meal is that most of the time is spent with the chili simmering, so you can feel free to go do something else.  Like watch Celebrity Wife Swap.  
View from my living room while I was making this chili.
Vegan Cornbread
Adapted from

This cornbread is so moist and has a great corn presence to it.  I can't wait to play around with this recipe by making more sweet and more savory versions!  I think next time I will add some whole corn kernels (corn makes everything better) and some spice.  Best part is that it is vegan!  And no carnivorous person would ever be the wiser :-).

  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed 
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9 inch round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Bring the water to a boil in small sauce pan.
  4. Add the flax seed.
    • Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mix has thickened, about 2 minutes.
    • Set aside.
  5. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  6. Add the flax mixture, soy milk, and canola oil to the flour mixture and mix to combine. 
    • Do not over mix!  That would lead to tough cornbread.
  7. Pour batter into prepared cake pan.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan.
  10. Enjoy!
Vegetarian Chili
Based loosely on

Spice shot.
  • Olive oil
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped (dark green portion removed)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup picked jalapeno, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can whole corn kernels, drained

  1. Heat the olive oil in in large pot over medium high heat.
  2. Add the leeks and cumin, oregano, and salt.
  3. Saute until the leeks begin to melt.
  4. Add the red bell pepper, jalapenos, and garlic.
  5. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, chili, and pepper.
  7. Stir in the black beans.
  8. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes. 
  9. Stir in the corn, and simmer for additional 5 minutes.
  10. Enjoy with some cornbread and trashy TV (at least that is how I did it)!

Tonight was vegan done easy and delicious.  Please give this a try!  No carnivorous friend will walk away from the meal unsatisfied. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rebounding From Raw Food

As much as I wish this was a post about how good I felt after a day of raw food, it just isn't.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  It was a terrible day.  I was tired and hungry the whole day.  I couldn't even have coffee?!  What kind of life is that?!  I have so much respect for people who adhere to a raw diet, it is hard.  Granted, I don't think we really did it properly.  We basically just ate fruits and vegetables all day, which I am all for... but I had trouble incorporating any grains and protein into my diet that day.  By dinner time we were starving and weak (mentally).  We tried to tackle these marinated veggie wraps with kale as the wrap, but couldn't bring ourselves to finish making it and left the house in a tizzy to go out to dinner at this raw place in Berkeley (Cafe Gratitude).  Now, this restaurant is a vegan restaurant that also has some raw selections... sounds right up my alley, right?  Unfortunately, I now have a negative associate with it.  To sum up the dinner, this is a quote from my dear roommate post eating our entrees:

"I'm not going to punish myself with dessert!" 

'Nuff said.

And the worst thing about the whole day?  Our other roommates (including the one that bet we wouldn't be successful) went to our favorite restaurant for dinner that same night!  The horrors.  They got some very angry text messages from me during dinner, including some harsh emoticons.  

After our raw day, we felt the need to swing in the other direction and found ourselves succumbing to gluttony the rest of the weekend.  For a dinner party on Saturday night, it was requested that I make Bananas Foster for dessert.  Normally, I would have been delighted.  But not this time, I complained that it wasn't fattening enough and I wasn't going to punish my roommate again with dessert.  The last thing I wanted was another meal that consisted primarily of a fruit or vegetable.  Anyone who knows me well that is reading this is going to think I have gone crazy (my boyfriend has been quoted as saying, "Why do you have to put vegetables in everything?!" in reference to my culinary decisions).  I decided that the bananas foster would only be allowed if it were mixed in with brioche and cream and served with ice cream.  I didn't have to twist too many arms :-).

I bring to you:
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 loaf brioche bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 5 bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch disks 
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Grease a 9' by 12' baking dish and set aside
  3. Whisk together the eggs, cream, 1/2 cup brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl.
  4. Add in the brioche cubes and mix around until the bread is completely coated.
    • I recommend getting in there with your hands here.
  5. Set aside the cream and brioche mixture and allow the bread to absorb all the liquid, about 10 minutes.
  6. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.
  7. Add 3/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon and cook until the sugar has dissolved. 
  8. Add the bananas and cook about 3 minutes until the bananas are nice and soft.
    • Flip the bananas halfway so they are cooked evenly.
  9. Add the rum, give it a stir, and carefully light on fire.
We had a little flambe' incident... oops!
  1. Shake the pan back and forth until the flame dies. 
  2. Remove from heat and let cool. 
  3. Add the cooled banana mixture to the bread and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour into the baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.
Unfortunately, this went so fast that I didn't get any good pictures.  So you are going to have to trust me on how absolutely delicious this was.  I'm talking crunchy on the outside, warm banana gooey interior surrounded by pillows of brioche.  The best part?  It was really quite easy!  It is a great bang for your buck (where the buck is actually your effort) type of dessert that will impress everyone, especially your taste buds.  And now I will leave you with the one picture my roommate got via iPhone.
Bananas cooking in sugar and butter.  Yum.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Raw food

It's the new year and everyone is filled with resolutions.  Luckily, I am awesome pretty much year round, so I don't have to worry about new years resolutions (oh, that's rich!).  That being said, my roommate and I are trying a new food system this year.  We are trying to save a little money by sharing groceries and also cooking more meals together to promote healthy eating (and socializing, of course).  Part of our healthful eating is going to incorporate eating raw two days a week.  Our other roommates have some bets going as to how long we will last (one bet us $20 each that we won't make it until the end of January... the others agreed that that was a pretty horrible bet on his part).

Last night was a practice raw dinner.  We didn't to the whole day raw, but the dinner was.  And it was delicious!  My mom makes a killer gazpacho, so I did a variation on her recipe.  A typical gazpacho recipe will call for canned tomatoes, which we didn't have.  So to get the soup part of the soup down, we blended a portion of the veggies.  The soup has a bit of a kick to it with the raw garlic and onion but is just packed with veggie flavor and health, and the balsamic vinegar adds an awesome undertone of acidity.


  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 red onion*
  • 4 juicy tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic*
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

  1. Finely dice the cucumber, red bell pepper, and red onion.
  2. Chop of the tomatoes, keeping all the juices from it.
  3. Crush the garlic.
  4. Mix all of the vegetables together and add the balsamic vinegar.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Transfer about half of the mixture to a blender, and blend until it is mostly liquid, but with some chunks left.
  7. Pour the liquid part back into the other vegetables.
    • Now you have a soup, as opposed to a bowl of chopped vegetables.
  8. Enjoy either now or later, keep in mind this soup only gets better with a little of age as the flavors have time to develop and marry.
*You may want to keep some gum handy, with all the raw garlic and onion eating.

Now I know eating salad for raw food night is maybe a bit of a cop out, and as a vegetarian, I hate it when people assume all I eat is salad.  Maybe instead this should be called "Kale jubilee with an avocado emulsion." Mmmmm, emulsions.  Anyways, labels are for jars, not people salads.  All that you need to know, is that this salad was amazing.  The hearty kale, the sweet explosion from the strawberries, and the crunch of the walnuts all work together so nicely.  Not the mention the super creamy and flavorful dressing that coats every single morsel.  The hint of coconut in the dressing pairs well with the strawberries and the avocado matches the earthiness of the rest of the dish.  It is so incredibly flavor packed, you are going to want to sit down for this one.

Kale Salad with Avocado Dressing

For the salad
  • 1 bunch of kale, washed, and torn into bite size pieces
  • 2 cups chopped strawberries
  • 2 cups roughly chopped walnuts
  • edible flowers
For the dressing
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing
  1. Chop the avocado enough that it can fit in a food processor.
  2. Add the avocado and coconut milk to a food processor and process until creamy, and then stream in the olive oil until nice and smooth.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste
Note: Avoid just eating all of the dressing with a spoon at this point in time, lest you have nothing to dress your salad with!  
For the salad
  1. Toss the kale, strawberries, and walnuts with the dressing*.
  2. Top with a couple of edible flowers.
  3. Enjoy!
*If you don't think you are going to eat it all in one sitting, store the kale, strawberries, and walnuts separately from the dressing.

Spicy Marg

So I know I told you that I like eating, but have I also told you that I like drinking? (insert boyfriend saying, in high pitched voice, "no you don't!!!"). Ok, it's true, I actually don't like drinking.  That being said, I still make a killer margarita.  I took this last summer off, and my boyfriend was also able to sneak away from work for a good portion of that time, so we spent most of our days either in Maine on the boat or at the beach on the Jersey Shore.  Location notwithstanding, imbibing many margs was always on the to-do list.
Dinner in Maine, ok, so we also like Champagne... but I can't very well post a recipe for that.
To back up a few months, this obsession started while at this adorable little Mexican restaurant in Newport, RI.  It was a chilly and drizzly night, and we had just motorcycled down from Boston, and this place was just what our chilled bones needed.  Enter stage left, a cucumber jalapeño margarita.  The spice of the tequila was enhanced by the spice of the jalapeño and the cucumber was there to chill it all down.  Such a delight!  Speaking of delights, the party next to us consisted of two older ladies who had a conservation that went a little something like this:

Lady 1: I'm going to have the duck salad. To make a duck salad, first you have to cook it. You know, I cooked a goose once. Finding a goose is not that easy.
Lady 1: Oh my God, if I even open a can of green beans, I will be sick!  And the broccoli, I mean, brussel sprouts, now those are like a piece of wet toilet paper.
Lady 1: Do people even eat succotash anymore?

Note the silence of lady 2.
It was the beginning of what proved to be a fantastic summer. 

After experimenting a bit with the best way to approach this drink, here was what I we came up with:

Cucumber Habanero Margarita 
(or a spicy Margaret, as my iPhone likes to say)

Materials for 1 delectable libation (scale as needed):

  • 1/2 cucumber, cut into about 1 inch square chunks
  • 1/4 habanero**, sliced, but adjust this depending on your spice tolerance (for example, the boy usually takes a whole habanero... Ya, he's crazy.)
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1.5 oz good tequila (I recommend Milagro of Jose Cuervo tradicional silver)
  • seltzer water

  1. Muddle the cucumber chunks, habanero, and agave together in the bottom of a shaker.
    • If you don't have a muddler, I find that a glass and the handle of something works well
    • Muddle it really well until the cucumber is broken down and you can see the cucumber juices mixing around
  2. Add the lime juice and tequila.
  3. Add a bunch of ice, put on the top of the shaker and shake shake shake shake.
  4. Fill your drinking glass with ice and strain the cucumber/habanero/tequila into the glass
  5. Top with seltzer
  6. Enjoy!
**Note: avoid touching pretty much anything on your body while working with the habanero.  It will make for a very uncomfortable hour or so.  

Now, picture yourself in this situation:  You get back from a day at the beach and go to make the above signature drink, only to find you are out of cucumbers AND peppers!  What is a girl to do?  Luckily, on hand there were strawberries, mint, and one creative lady, thus strawberry mint margaritas were born!

Strawberry Mint Margarita

Materials for 1 delectable libation:
  • 3 strawberries, chopped a bit
  • About 5 mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1.5 oz good tequila (I recommend Milagro of Jose Cuervo tradicional silver)
  • seltzer water

  1. Muddle the strawberry chunks, mint, and agave together in the bottom of a shaker.
    • Muddle it really well until you have a red liquid with dark green broken down mint pieces
  2. Add the lime juice and tequila.
  3. Add a bunch of ice, put on the top of the shaker and shake shake shake shake.
  4. Fill your drinking glass with ice and strain the strawberry/mint/tequila into the glass.
  5. Top with seltzer
  6. Enjoy!
Jambox and margs sums up my summer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

As american as apple pie

Expressions abound about apple pie, so I will save the space and go ahead and let you insert your favorite.  Being a New England native, apple pie is a key player in my falls (as in autumn, not apple pie causing me to take a tumble... unless it was rum apple pie or something... hmmm).  And lucky for me, my mom happens to be the best apple pie maker around.  Delicious to the point where my dad and I legit fight over the pie.  In order to keep any level of sanity, each person is given an apple pie allotment, bestowed upon them by the great apple pie magistrate (read: my dad), and said magistrate always keeps very careful watch as we claim our slices.  One apple pie cut into six generous pieces means we each get two glorious slices that will rocket you directly into pie nirvana.  Sometimes my mom cuts one of her pieces into two, which means she gets to sit down to apple pie three times... What a sneaky mom!  We are always jealous of whoever has the last piece.  That person will always gloat that they still get to eat apple pie that day, and the others look on longingly at that lone, untouchable, suran wrapped piece of pie on the kitchen counter. What willpower to not eat both of your slices on the first day!  

I didn't learn this recipe until a little later in life, because I figured I could never make it as good as my mom and I was always perfectly happy just having her bake pies for me and my inner fat person (this is the same reason I never learned how to make my Nana's legendary ravioli, which is something I regret regularly).  Anyways, she taught, I learned... And turns out I am pretty ok at it!  This is a quality about me that my current roommates (and previous coworkers) greatly appreciate.

My Mom's Apple Pie

  • 6-8 large tarty apples (cortland or granny smith work nicely)
  • lemon juice
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon peel (hint: this is the first secret to this amazing pie)
  • 3/4 cup butter, cut up into little pieces + 1/4 cup butter in slices
  • ⅔ cup sugar + ¼ cup
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat the convection oven to 400 degrees.
    • If using a regular oven, preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apple.
  3. Put a little lemon juice on the apple slices, mix around, and set aside.
  4. Mix the flour, salt, dried lemon peel and butter pieces together until well mixed.
    • Use your hands here!
  5. Transfer ⅔ of the mixture in a 10” pie plate.
  6. Pat out the bottom crust with your hands all along the bottom of the pie plate and up the sides.
  7. Place sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon into a cup and mix well.
  8. Place a layer of apples on the bottom of the crust.
  9. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the layer of apples.
  10. Continue alternating between layer of apple and layer of sugar.
  11. After the final layer of apple, finish sprinkling with sugar, and then place thin slices of butter around the top.
  12. Add sugar and a dash of cinnamon to the remaining crust.
  13. Cover the pie with this crumb topping. (Hint: this is the second secret to this amazing pie!)
  14. Bake in the convection oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
    • If using regular oven, bake for 1 hour.
    • The apples should be nice and soft and you should see yumminess bubbling up around the edges.
Now, at this point you have one of two options. Option one, eat the entire pie immediately so that you don't have to share.  Option 2, measure out the slices in such a way that everyone gets a fare share.  Without some sort of pie allowance, I promise that things will get messy and feelings will be hurt (hey, a girl will say anything to sneak some extra of this amazing apple pie!). Either way, head directly to your kitchen now!  Your taste buds, friends, family, etc will thank you :-).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sweet, sweet risotto

I know risotto is a word that strikes fear into many chefs, both home chefs and professional.  I mean, if you make risotto on Top Chef, you are almost certainly going to go home.  I think people envision this laborious process that involves standing in front of the stove for hours constantly stirring this God. Forsaken. Rice.  But I am here to tell you that simply isn't the case!  Over the years, risotto has become a cornerstone meal in my repertoire, so I thought it would be the ideal first recipe post.  It takes a little bit of love, but it is the good kind of love that I am looking to share.  It is a dish that lends great variety and is the perfect stage for whatever vegetable may be in your crisper (but fingers crossed that vegetable is asparagus!  Because that is my favorite kind of risotto... but not the one we are making today). 

Quick confession, I have developed this recent unexplainable obsession with corn.  It is delicious.  Especially if in the form of soup.  Anyways, there isn't much more to say on the subject.  

But, that allowed me to segue into the type of risotto we have here today (ha, who knew scientists could be so clever with writing!):  

Corn and spinach risotto with a spicy mascarpone sauce

The chili and corn give it a bit of a Mexican kick, while the corn also adds a hint of sweetness.  The spinach acts as a flavor missile that releases juicy spinachy goodness with every bite.  The mascarpone cools down the chili and brings everything together. Yum. 

  • 1 cup arborio rice 
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil 
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, warmed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • as many cloves of garlic as you can handle (ok, 2 or 3 will suffice), crushed
  • 1 cup corn kernels (I used Trader Joe's frozen sweet corn kernels... good stuff)
  • 2 cups spinach, lightly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons mascarpone
  • dash of chili powder 
  • salt 
  • pepper


  1. Pre-rinse the rice under running water.
    • This will remove a bunch of residual starch and help prevent clumping of the risotto.
  2. Add the olive oil to a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat (think 6 on an electric stove).
  3. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic to the onions and sauté just until you can smell the garlic.
    • Take a big whiff.  There is no better smell than onions and garlic cooking :-).
  5. Add the pre-rinsed arborio rice.
  6. Give the rice a good mix in with the onions, garlic, and olive oil until it is well coated and cook, while stirring, until the rice is translucent, about 7 minutes.
  7. Add the wine to the rice and cook until the wine has completely evaporated.
  8. Start adding the stock about 1/3 cup at a time.
    • Continuously stir as the rice absorbs each bolus of stock.
    • Be sure not to add the next bit until the last is completely absorbed!
  9. Add the spinach to the rice about 3/4 of the way through the cooking time.
  10. Add the corn shortly thereafter.
  11. Continue adding stock until the rice is about done and still has a bit of a bite to it... we don't want mushy rice here.
  12. Add the mascarpone cheese and chili powder and stir until creamy.
  13. Enjoy immediately :-)

Blog fail.


I started this food blog and then immediately stopped writing in it.  I haven't stopped cooking... and my computer is filled with pictures of the food I have made (many, unfortunately, of recipes I have since lost)...  the back up is more in the sitting down to write about it.

Here is the excuse I am going to throw out there:

In the last 16 months since starting this, I decided to go back to grad school (yes, I know, that accounts for maybe 5 seconds of the passed time).  But then I had to apply, which was not super fun.  Then I had to get in, which was stressful.  Oh, and then there is that little part where I decided to attend UC Berkeley and moved across the country.  I ended my job in April and took the summer off (even more time to cook and blog about it! Ya... about that... oh well, you should have seen my tan).  I packed up my car at the beginning of August and my boyfriend and I headed out West.  3700 miles and 13 states later I find myself living in San Francisco!
Bonneville Salt Flats
Geothermal Pools in Yellowstone

Anyways, I am now working on a PhD at Berkeley in Molecular and Biochemical Nutrition.

Living out in California has been a foodie feast.  There are so many wonderful restaurants and I have access to the highest quality produce.  The farmers markets are amazing!

Shots from around the Ferry Building Saturday Farmers Market, courtesy of my mom.
ANYWAYS, I have my first semester of grad school under my belt, and now I need to focus on something other than science.  I am going to slowly quickly work through some backlogged food, and then continue with some of my recent stuff!  In between recipes, you may have to put up with some whining about grad school, but you will also hear about the wonderful restaurants I go to to "treat" myself after a hard week in the lab :-).