Detox recipe: Roasted squash soup

(Here’s a post from my Examiner.com site. Happy eating!)

I started to hear the regrets even before the holiday dinners began:

“I’m going to eat so much at my in-laws!”

“My healthy streak is on hold.”

“Why is everyone sending me cookies?!”

Now that the eating frenzy has dissipated, you’re probably ready to clamor back on the wagon. In fact, your new year’s resolutions may even mandate it. So here is the first of a few recipes to get you back to eating fruits and vegetables, buying local, and feeling good overall about what you put on the table.

Roasted squash soup with toasted pepitas

This is really more of a flexible formula than a recipe. Use any squash and root vegetables you like, and add or change ingredients as you see fit. Pepitas are simply squash seeds (usually from pumpkins). Here, I explain how to use this part of the squash that you might otherwise toss out to make a crunchy soup garnish. Continue reading

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Last day for a free mocha

Today, August 3, is your last chance to get a free mocha at McDonald’s. But you didn’t hear it from me. No, not from your favorite advocate of healthy, sustainable, and local foods! Not from the farmers market enthusiast!

Okay, can I help it if I was a little curious about this whole McCafe menu since it first started? Am I to blame if a McDonald’s jumped in my way as I headed back from my dentist’s appointment this morning? I didn’t think so.

The mocha wasn’t bad, I have to say. It had the sharp flavor, smooth texture, and silty sediment of a real espresso drink. Not too shabby, Mickey D’s. Now let’s just talk about that factory farming…

Feel, sniff, bite

Having traipsed through the tome The True History of Chocolate (Thames & Hudson), you’d think I would understand that chocolate is a complex subject. But all I smelled when I read the book was its plastic-coated cover, and all I heard was turning pages. It took a chocolate tasting class at ACKC to fill in the aromas, textures, sounds, sites, and of course tastes that really bring home the story.

ACKC stands for Artfully Chocolate|Kingsbury Confections, and the establishment has homes at 1529C 14th Street NW, AKA 14th and Q-ish, and on Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria. Their main gig is not to let me taste their chocolates, but to serve as a coffee shop/art gallery/edible gift shop that sells a variety of confections, hot drinks (specializing in hot chocolates named after Hollywood divas), and some baked goods. They also give chocolate-making classes.

Here’s a quick pictorial overview of my adventures in a chocolate tasting at the D.C. location (courtesy of my BlackBerry, so not the best quality… sorry):

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Our guiding chocolatier, historian, and scholar was Rob Kingsbury. He’s the KC to artist Eric Nelson’s AC. You’ll see a glimpse of one of Nelson’s handmade tables a few photos from now. Continue reading

Adventures in garden hardware

In the past week, Operation High Nutrient Density Garden (OHNDG for short, I guess) went into the hardware collection phase.

Last Tuesday, one of my co-gardeners and I headed to an alley in Van Ness to collect about 100 free bricks. This was a Freecycle find, and therefore a you-haul kind of deal. She and I each stacked about half of the bricks in the trunks of our respective cars, which proceeded to lug them across town like babies with loaded diapers scooting along the living room floor. Continue reading

Obama and food–in blog form

Oh, mama. It’s Obamafoodorama.com(ma!). A blog about Obama and food seems inevitable, but that its stories unfurl with solid reporting and pleasant humor is a sweet dollop on the cake.

Recently, they’ve covered the color of the first lady’s inauguration outfit (the designer calls it “lemongrass”) and the first couple’s resemblance to a wedding cake topper at the inaugural balls. Also, what food bloggers eat while covering food away from home (sadly, apparently not much).

Continue reading

Butter, sugar, spices, rum

Turns out what you see in the title is all there is to it when it comes to making hot buttered rum, a popular drink this time of year. Plus a little hot water or apple cider. I haven’t tried it yet, and admit I’m a little resistant (A sort of butter tea? Oil and water? It seems unnatural) but I hope to soon. You should, too!

Emeril has a good recipe that cooks saturated with positive reviews. My favorite:

“Whoa, mamma!! This was better than the flu shot. I got the flu anyway but after sipping on this, I didn’t care…”

-Marilyn, Jacksonville, FL

Here’s one that uses ice cream. Nummers!

What do you think of buttered rum?

Image from Diana’s Desserts.

It’s what day tomorrow??

stuffed tofu - whole

The last few weeks have been a little frazzled as I moved to another part of town. Getting to a very food-oriented area close to both farmers’ market and food co-op, ironically, has limited my cooking and blog posting. The jumble of cardboard boxes and a trip to see family promises another few days of preoccupation. I just had to surface, though, for Thanksgiving.

As I head into a few glorious days of full-on food prep, let me leave you some ideas…. Just in case you’ve had your own distractions, or if you generally procrastinated when it came to  Thanksgiving menu planning. Not that anyone (least of all moi) would ever do that! Continue reading

WHAT-flavored vodka?

Martini3

 

If you live in D.C., you’ve likely wandered by it dozens of times. It’s the regal stone and brick building perched on the hill overlooking the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues. The red neon sign simply says:

Restaurant

Lounge

From the outside, it’s hard to discern what it’s called or differentiate it from the myriad other Dupont eating and drinking establishments that line Connecticut Ave. Inside, it’s Russia House, and there’s no mistaking that.

The walls of the restaurant and lounge part of the building (the one we care about here) sport beveled-frame mirrors, elegant candle holders, and lots of red. Imagine an atmosphere coming just this side of a parody of a Ruskie dining room, and there you have it. If you head down the spiral staircase, you can catch another fun decor note–the teal-and-brass motif bathroom. Continue reading

Good Stuff

When Cliff Luhn asked how my burger was and I said it was good, he smiled and nodded with approval. He wasn’t just pleased that I was enjoying my Vegetarians are People Too ‘Shroom Burger (two organic portobello mushroom caps oozing with cheese and battered with panko breadcrumbs) as a fellow diner. I could see the satisfaction went deeper.

“A lot of R and D went into that,” Cliff said.

He proceeded to tell me–with some reporter-like prompting on my part–about the process he and Good Stuff Eatery’s chef, Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, went through to arrive at the succulent burgers, tasty fries, and unique mayos of the new hot burger joint in town.

I was pleased they did enough testing to realize hydrolyzed soy burgers are not the way to go for the herbivores. In addition to that, Cliff said, they tried countless kinds of potatoes to choose the specific type of russets for their fries, which are cut in house.

Although Good Stuff specializes in burgers (R-and-Ded to the perfect ratio of sirloin to ground beef), they have lots of touches a vegetarian foodie can appreciate. Spike has fused his way to fries that will satisfy American, Belgian, and English tastes in chip consumption. A condiment station offers five different mayos including mango and Sriracha, and a bottle of malt vinegar nestles next to the requisite ketchup and mustard on each table. And if you’re not into any of those options for your fries or want a change of what to dip, you can try them with the Vidalia onion rings.

The milkshakes, handspun with house-made frozen custard, include creative flavors like Soursop Hop Strawberry and Toasted Marshmallow. The place even offers points of interest to locavorians and the pesticide-averse–they strive to cull all of the ingredients from within 60 to 100 miles, and like I mentioned, the ‘shrooms are organic. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I appreciated Cliff’s openness. Unless you’re a fancy New Yorker writer covering a chef with tongue cancer, you probably have not gotten an in-depth look at the birth of restaurant fare. I know I hadn’t, and I felt special. It was great, and I’m not just saying that because my meal was comped!

Spike’s sister, Micheline–the friend who connected me to this whole free taste test–also gave me a peek into the process. In addition to the big stuff like making sure the word gets out about Good Stuff, she sees to things most people wouldn’t even think of, like Braille menus for blind customers and sushi bar-style check off menus for deaf folks. Micheline not only has the PR skills, but can get behind the counter to make a mean toasted marshmallow shake to boot. Aside from the obvious whole whole marshmallows and custard, though, she won’t reveal what goes into it.

Pick Your Own Way

Skimming recent issues of Elle, you can find plenty of interviews with iconic women doing their own iconoclastic thing. And reading along, you can see one defining experience usually pushed them out to uncharted waters. Mary Kate Olsen was surrounded by kooky show biz people from the age of nine months. After a series of admittedly corny kids’ movies, she now pulls off what some people call “bag-lady chic,” is artsy and smart, and chose to talk to her interviewer at a trapeze lesson.

For Liz Phair, it was Oberlin College, where she saw the social system turned on its ear. She was amazed, she told Elle, to find “lesbians were on the top and the mainstream athletes were on the bottom.” It “knocked my socks off.” From there, the unsocked Phair went on to record tough and clever albums, never catering to Joe or Jane Jock. Continue reading