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‘Twas the Week Before Christmas…

December 21, 2015

…and my daily routine hasn’t changed all that much. I get the distinct feeling that I’m in the minority here. Since I don’t have kids, I don’t have to attend concerts, pageants, photo sessions with Santa, or any of that other garbage traditional holiday fun.

So, I just get to do more of mostly the same crap I do every other week of the year. Yes, I had to do some Christmas shopping because I’m not a complete and total loser with no one who loves me, but most of my Christmas consumption was of the online variety or at stores I was shopping at anyway. The biggest hassle I had was having to go to the post office twice last Friday to get everything in the mail on time.

So, what have I been up to?

  • Eating at Chipotle. I was more than pleasantly surprised at sofritas on the menu. Damn, that was a tasty burrito bowl. While it is certainly getting easier for vegetarians, sometimes it’s still difficult to find decent fast- and fast-casual food that does not contain meat products. Restaurants are definitely getting hipper to weirdos like me, but catching a quick snack while “on the run” (I freaking HATE that phrase, so I’m using it ironically here) is still almost impossible (are those words supposed to be capitalized?). One can only eat so many Veggie Delite subs at Subway before going insane. I’m hoping McDonald’s really stopped cooking their French Fries in beef tallow because I caved and got some last weekend while I was out shopping. And if you’re wondering about Chipotle, I’m feeling fine. Y’all can go back and get your carnitas again.
  •  Christmas baking. I dragged out a couple old recipes (here and here) and made them for my friends at work. It was so nice to watch them enjoying the fruits of my labor. Baking is my favorite thing to do, and I just don’t do it as much as I’d like. Mostly because I’d eat too much of the finished product. I’ve recently realized that most baked goods are vegetarian, so…that’s dangerous.
  • Cooking onions in a slow cooker. This is probably my greatest discovery in years. All you need is about 4 pounds of onions, a tablespoon of oil, a slow cooker, and ten hours. Basically: slice the onions into halfmoons, dump into slow cooker, pour in oil and toss to coat, and turn cooker on low for 10 hours. BOOM. Caramelized onions with no stirring. I almost fell over when I woke up Sunday morning to a giant pile of caramelized onions. I am going to put them in literally everything this week, and then put the remainder in the freezer for later. SERIOUSLY. DO IT. Here’s a good guide if you need more instruction.
  • Christmas shopping for my husband. The annual ritual of what to buy the man who wants nothing (including Christmas). I think I got something good this time, but we’ll see.

crochet-body-suit

  • Finally getting a real professional headshot done. Thanks, Kim! You took a really nice photo of me. If you live in Northeast Ohio and need a good (and fun) photographer, give my friend Kim a call. She’s great! I’ll share the photo once it’s all touched up and stuff.
  • Shaking my damn head at ridiculous entitled college students. Some students at Oberlin College in Ohio are complaining that their dining hall is serving “culturally appropriative” and “insensitive” food. Because the bánh mi sandwich was served on ciabatta instead of French baguette. And because the sushi rice was undercooked. SUSHI RICE? When I was in college, we LIVED for the nights they served chicken patties. Seriously, STFU you brats.Go volunteer at a soup kitchen and see if those people complain about authenticity.

Ok, enough complaining! It’s Christmas week, for crying out loud. Go enjoy your family, eat too many cookies, and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas and a Happy New Year.

-Wendy

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What I’m Consuming This Week

December 14, 2015

This blog needs a refresh. I’ve even bored myself. So much so, that I don’t even feel inspired to write much anymore. But, if I really want to fulfill my dream of creating a media empire, I’m gonna need to create some content.

So, I think I’m going to take a bit of left turn (actually, more like a slight left) and not focus exclusively on food. Eight years of that is plenty. I’ve decided to try writing about consuming. Which, really, can mean just about anything. I’m now free to just talk about what’s interesting to me at the moment. You know, what I’m consuming. Just a snapshot, not a deep dive.

Here’s my first installment. I’d love your input on what I should be consuming next. Just don’t say salted caramel bacon, because that shit ain’t happening.

Podcasts

  • Too Beautiful to Live. I consume this one five days a week, but it’s my fave, so I wanted to share it all with you. Never heard of it? Well, you better set aside some time, because there’s a backlog of about 2010 episodes you need to hear to get caught up. I’m not kidding.
  • Limetown. Can’t decide if I like it or hate it, but I have listened to all 7+ episodes (final ep just dropped today, 12/14). The story is kinda interesting, I like that there’s a mystery lurking in there, but I get very turned off by the lousy voice acting. Especially the lead who plays Lia. She’s just so….act-y. Full disclosure: I am usually not a fan of female voices on radio and podcasts these days. I am a trained and experienced broadcaster, and I  was taught how to have a pleasing voice. I get so cranky when I hear all that vocal fry. Just call me Bob Garfield.
  • I listen to approximately 27 other podcasts, but if I listed them all here, you’d be bored.
  • Oh, one more: Awesome Etiquette. From the folks at the Emily Post Institute. All your manner needs in one convenient place. Helps you stop being rude, you inconsiderate a**hole.

Books

  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. If you follow social media AT ALL, you should definitely check this one out. Ronson follows up on such famous socially shamed names as Justine Sacco, Lindsay Stone, and Jonah Lehrer. He also gets into the psychology on both ends of the social shaming equation. Fascinating stuff. And a very quick read!
  • Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella. I’m not sure why I publicly admitted that. I’m sorry.

Television

  • Yes, I watch The Big Bang Theory. And yes, I love it. I don’t care what you think.
  • I’ve been re-watching the entire series of Arrested Development. I am still mad at America for being too stupid to recognize its brilliance and allowing it to get canceled after only 3 seasons. I remember exactly where I was when I watched the very first episode and fell in love with its clever writing and rapid-fire pile-on of jokes. And I’ve been in love with Jason Bateman since his star turn in that 80’s classic It’s Your Move (let’s be honest: he was underutilized in Silver Spoons). He still makes me swoon, though Michael Bluth was not my favorite AD character: sit back and enjoy some Buster Bluth, you old horny slut:

Food

Well, I’m firmly on the vegetarian wagon (about 4 months now I think), and I’ve also been dabbling in some occasional veganism. I can’t commit to veganism completely, though, because of one thing: pizza. Sorry vegans. But, at least no animals are being killed so that I can eat. Milked, yes. Killed, no.

Here are a couple of the tasty things I’ve been making and eating lately:

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<heart just stopped>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch at L’Albatros in University Circle

August 21, 2015

One of the many perks of my job is frequent opportunities to enjoy working lunches around town. This afternoon, I had the pleasure of dining at L’Albatros in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood.

L’Albatros is a French brasserie, part of Zack Bruell’s Cleveland empire (for my 518 friends – he’s Cleveland’s version of Angelo Mazzone). He has a tremendous reputation around here, and this was my second trip to a Bruell establishment; my first was Table 45, inside the InterContinental Hotel a few months back. The experience was great, and lived up to the rave reviews I’d heard from several folks.

You’re greeted by an open kitchen as you walk through the door, and can view busy cooks loading plates up on the pass (I love the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen, though I know I’d never want to work in such a grueling atmosphere). The inside is small and intimate, with a tiny bar, brick walls, stone floors and tables tucked in cozy alcoves. L’Albatros has a lovely patio with its own bar, but we visited on a rainy day and had to settle for a table inside next to the (unlit) fireplace.

The waitstaff is knowledgeable and attentive, and the service was quick and efficient without feeling rushed. All in all, a pleasant experience that I’d love to repeat very soon!

Oh, wait – you want to know what the food was like?

Their menu features staples of French cuisine: confits, terrines, pâtés, cassoulets, escargot, etc., as well as a selection of salads and several vegetarian features, which was nice to see. They also offer daily soup and pasta features, using whatever’s fresh. It was my lucky day.

To start: Chilled Beet and Watermelon soup – topped with toasted almonds and chives. Cool and refreshing. Perfect.

Beet Soup

Oops! Bowl looks messy because I ate some before I remembered to take a photo. Look at the color!

Vegetarian Pasta – today’s selection was house-made fettuccine with olive oil and herbs, topped with heirloom tomatoes, kale, roasted corn, and shaved Parmesan cheese

LAlbatros Veg Pasta

The cheese and pasta turned the vegetable broth into a creamy sauce. The tomatoes and corn were at the peak of their summer goodness

Root Vegetable Cassoulet. Not my lunch, so no review from me. Francesca said it was delicious! Looks wonderful.

Root Veg Cassoulet

This wasn’t my dish, so I can’t comment on the taste. But it looks pretty incredible. This will definitely be my choice on my next visit

The servers made frequent stops to refill our bread plates with fresh baguette slices, to be dipped in peppery olive oil. I must have eaten at least five slices. Oof.

Bottom line: lovely little restaurant, delicious and simple food, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. No mention of any Ancient Mariners. One of my favorite Cleveland spots so far!

Crumbs: One of my dining companions spotted Zack Bruell in the restaurant as we were walking out, but then we couldn’t find him to say hello and tell him how much we enjoyed his restaurant. Oh, well. Next time. Because there WILL be a next time.

L’Albatros
11401 Bellflower Rd, Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 791-7880
albatrosbrasserie.com

Note: there is a fee for parking in the lot in front of the restaurant.

Spiced Chickpea and Lentil Stew

August 17, 2015

Since really diving into vegetarianism recently (I’m not perfect, but I’m trying), the biggest struggle for me has been finding something interesting and different to make for dinner. I mean, I love sweet potatoes, but there are only so many ways to cook them. Luckily for me, one of the easiest cuisines to adapt to create meatless meals is Indian. Luckily because Indian is my very favorite.

The recipe below may also be sort of Moroccan. I don’t know. Don’t judge me. It was delicious though.

While home for lunch today, I was looking in the freezer for something to defrost for Bob’s dinner and came across a bag of tri-colored carrots that I bought recently. How could I turn them into dinner for myself? Bob is, was, and ever shall be an unapologetic carnivore – he got ham.

Off to the pantry.

Can of lentils, some uncooked yellow lentils, and this handy little bag of magic, available at the regular grocery store:

Masala-Chhole-F

Back to the freezer to grab a few more things, and then on to the slow cooker! Here’s the approximate formula:

  • 1 pkg Jyoti Masala Chhole (chickpeas and spinach with spices)
  • 1 can cooked lentils
  • 1 handful uncooked yellow lentils (optional – I just happened to have some)
  • 2-3 cups frozen vegetables (whatever you like – I used peas, cauliflower, carrots, and chopped spinach)
  • Garam masala spice blend, to your taste (I used about 2 tablespoons  – YEAH, BABY)
  • enough water to thin out
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used a LOT of pepper)
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

I think if you wanted to add a can of drained diced tomatoes that would be pretty nice, too.

Combine everything in a slow cooker, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve over basmati rice or couscous and sprinkle with cilantro. Fall over dead with deliciousness.

Lentil Stew

This photo does not do it justice. Bad lighting in my kitchen.

I’ve also tried a few other Jyoti sauce pouches, which have caused much rejoicing – harissa, tikka masala, channa dal, korma. Winners all. Get some.

I’ve been fiddling around with a lot of other awesome vegan/vegetarian recipes these days, which I promise to share. A sampling:

  • Vegan Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas
  • Vegan Korma (this is my favorite recipe so far)
  • Shredded Broccoli & Brussels Sprouts Salad
  • Spicy Breakfast Burritos
  • Peach-Stuffed Scones
  • Cinnamon-Apple Steel-Cut Oats

There you go. Part One in a collector’s series of my experiments with veganism/vegetarianism. I’m expanding my horizons, and really enjoying the journey thus far. A lot of hits, some horrendous misses (I’m looking at YOU, dairy-free sour cream), and a much healthier me emerging in the process.

Please note: If you ask me where I get my protein, I will smack you. You have been warned.

My Latest Post for Akron Empire – George’s Donuts in Twinsburg, Ohio

April 2, 2015

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I’ve been at it again! Here’s my latest post for Akron Empire, with a review of George’s Donuts here in Twinsburg, OH:

George’s Donuts in Twinsburg

There’s a little hat-tip in there to my Siena College Stage III friends…let me know when you see it, ok?

WWWD – Bob’s Your Uncle “Bob White”

March 30, 2015
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AI thought the name was funny, and the price was right

You know me – I love a bargain. And I’ve been loving finding those “end of bin” signs at Heinen’s, which signal a great deal to be had. With my last few purchases, I’ve been rewarded for my frugality. This time, not so much.

A few bottles of Bob’s Your Uncle “Bob White” wine had been languishing on the shelf for a number of weeks, sporting the “end of bin” sign, indicating that Heinen’s will no longer be carrying that particular bottle, for whatever reason (I really should ask the wine guy why they decide to discontinue wines). I felt bad for poor Bob, caninopomorphising (is that a word?) him into the shelter dog that everyone keeps passing by because he just doesn’t “look right” but deep down he’s a hidden treasure and he will love you forever and be your best friend for all time if you’ll only just adopt him and give him a try please please please! So, I decided to spend the $4.99 and see what ol’ Bob was all about.

I was also amused by the fact that the wine was in a brown glass beer bottle, complete with crimped metal cap.

Yep, that's a bottlecap. On a beer bottle.

Yep, that’s a bottlecap. On a beer bottle.

Well, Bob was very disappointing. I mean the wine, not my husband, so you all just shut up for a minute.

The nose of a decent wine will give you a good indication of what’s to come – fruit, mineral, berries, slate, etc. But Bob just sits there in the glass and smells like nothing. Nothing! Strike 1, Bob.

The first sip of a decent wine should give you a sense of the myriad flavors that may unfold on your palate – citrus, grass, black cherry, etc. But Bob gave me only some faint apple, some pear, some Pine-Sol. Strike 2, Bob.

The finish of a wine should leave a delightful impressions, with lingering pleasant notes. Bob left me quickly, with a taste of rubbing alcohol. Strike 3, Bob. You’re out.

Save your money, even if it’s only $5.

The upside: At least Bob’s website is amusing and self-aware. They embrace that Bob’s Your Uncle wines (they have both red and white) is “500 mL or 2 standard servings of wine in a dumpy brown bottle.”

Lunch at Crop Bistro and Bar

March 24, 2015

Since we were going to be in downtown Cleveland for a meeting around lunchtime, we decided to head around the corner from our meeting location and have lunch at Crop Bistro & Bar. Crop is housed in a former 1920’s bank, and the space has been restored such that our lunch felt like a trip to the museum, but tastier.

Ceiling and Painting Over the Bar

Ceiling and fresco over the bar

It’s a wide-open, ornate room, with a coffered ceiling and giant green marble columns that stand like sentinels around the former bank lobby. Preservation Nation (hi, Sarah) posted an article about the history of the building (with much better photos than I took today. The bank vault is even a private dining room!

Giant windows hang over the dining area

Giant windows hang over the dining area

A better view of the ceiling (and a better representation of the color)

A better view of the ceiling (and a better representation of the color)

The chef's table...where diners can enjoy

The chef’s table…where diners can enjoy watching the cooks create the magic that ends up on the plates. Seats up to 12 lucky people

Not only was the space breathtaking, but the food was outstanding. Chef/Owner Steve Schimoler envisioned the space as a culinary laboratory, featuring fresh seasonal flavors from local and artisan purveyors. The lunch menu is wonderfully varied, and very reasonably priced. I managed to have a fantastic lunch for less than $17, including tip.

Salmon Over a Greens Salad

Salmon Over a Greens Salad – lightly dressed with a sherry vinagrette. Not my lunch, but still looked delicious.

Willie Bird Smoked Turkey Sandwich - Smoked Turkey, Amish Cheddar, Cranberry Chutney, Herb Aioli, Open faced Corn Bread Served with a cold Israeli couscous salad and some lightly dressed greens

Willie Bird Smoked Turkey Sandwich – Smoked Turkey, Amish Cheddar, Cranberry Chutney, Herb Aioli, Open faced Corn Bread. Served with a cold Israeli couscous salad and some lightly dressed greens

My lunch, above, was pretty amazing. Smoky turkey, aged cheese and a tart cranberry sauce, piled high on top of a thick piece of crispy-edged cornbread smeared. So delicious. The side of couscous was perfect – pearls of starchy tri-color Israeli couscous, mixed with a tiny pieces of crisp green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and onions, tossed in a bright vinaigrette. Definitely something I’m going to try to duplicate at home.

Cleveland.com named Crop Bistro to its A-List of the Top 100 Restaurants in 2014.

Crop’s menu reflects chef and co-owner Steve Schimoler’s culinary imagination and joyful sense of experimentation

I concur. Can’t wait to go back.

Related: Cleveland was just ranked 7th in Time.com’s ‘Best Food Cities’ in America survey. I really gotta get busy.

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