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Special Delivery

December 20, 2016

Last week, Bob and I received a giant box on our porch, containing what *I* consider to be an incredible holiday gift from his CEO – a delivery of farm-fresh local produce. I practically screamed with delight at this box of possibilities. Bob was not as enthused as I, vegetable-eschewer that he is. He was amused, however, at my giddiness over this unexpected bounty. I might have squealed once or twice, maybe.

The produce came from The Chef’s Garden in Huron, OH. Located on Lake Erie, The Chef’s Garden is a 300-acre family farm that practices sustainable farming techniques – including letting a portion of their land go fallow, planting it with cover crops to replenish the soil and naturally repel insects and weeds. I thought that was an interesting – and relatively rare today – technique that allows them to not use pesticides and herbicides. They’re not organic, but I don’t think organic is the end-all, be-all anyway. The Chef’s Garden sells mostly to chefs and restaurants, but mere mortals like myself can place an order (minimums apply).

Anyway, take a look at this colorful spectacle of nutrients:

produce-all

  • Sweet potatoes, and a purple sweet potato
  • Black radishes – I think! Maybe a turnip? I will have to cut one and taste it to be sure.**
  • Beets – golden and red
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Kohlrabi (and some other unidentified purple things)
  • Baby purple and gold cauliflower
  • Scallions
  • Turnips
  • Rainbow carrots
  • Greens – baby red leaf lettuce, other mixed lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Cucumbers

Wow! My head is spinning with ideas – how will I ever use all of this produce before it goes bad?

Here’s what I’ve got planned so far:

    • Saffron risotto with chard and roasted vegetables (check – see photo below). I’ll share my recipe in an upcoming post!
    • Mixed greens with roasted beets, feta, oranges, red onion and orange-mustard vinaigrette (check – see photo below)
    • Pickled beets & onion
    • Mashed turnips (side dish for Christmas?)
    • Hot and Sour Soup (to use some of the scallions)
    • Roasted rainbow cauliflower

Other suggestions from my faithful readers?

risotto-with-chard-and-roasted-vegetables

Saffron risotto with chard and roasted vegetables

beet-orange-salad

Mixed greens with roasted beets, feta, oranges, red onion, and orange-mustard vinaigrette

**Seriously, anyone know what these black things are??

unidentified-black-things

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Blessed Solstice – whatever you celebrate, I wish you and your family delicious food and the most wonderful and memorable celebrations!

 

 

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December 2016: Totally Vegetarian

December 18, 2016

[insert text here feigning horror at length of time since last post, vague promises to post more often, new year resolutions, etc.]

A past post of mine popped up recently, and it described me contemplating dipping my toe into the pool of vegetarianism, and my internal struggle with its implications. Well, that was seven years ago, and much has changed since then. About a year and a half ago (I’m fuzzy on the exact time because it wasn’t really an on/off decision, but it was definitely sometime in early 2015), I fully committed myself to vegetarianism. I have not eaten meat since then, except a lone greasy hot dog at Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona during a Cleveland Indians Spring Training game in March 2016. Let’s just say it didn’t go well.

The Positive Results:

  • My cholesterol has dropped a startling 40 points. My doctors are impressed.
  • I have lost 43 pounds (and counting) in the last 24 months – this weight loss is also a consequence of being a loyal Weight Watchers member, but there’s no disputing the results: I look better, I feel better, and I’m finally able to purchase clothes in NORMAL sizes at any store.
  • My husband actually posted on Facebook recently that his wife looked “smoking hot”. A first, my friends. A lifetime first.
  • My healthier food lifestyle has prompted me to make other positive changes, such as taking up running. I KNOW. More on that in an upcoming post.
  • Expanding my recipe repertoire has been fun! I’m trying lots of new recipes (many are vegan – there’s a HUGE vegan community out there), and most of them have been added to the regular rotation. I plan to share these, as well as some of my own creations, on a regular basis.

The Struggles:

  • I still crave cheeseburgers and corned beef sandwiches (which is especially hard living in Cleveland, knowing that nearby are the greatest corned beef sandwiches in the world at Slyman’s. I still have not been there, because I know I could never resist the temptation).
  • Getting Enough Protein, Part I: Weight Watchers revamped their program at the beginning of 2016, and adjusted their point-calculation formula so that high-protein foods are encouraged, and sugars/carbs/saturated fats are…penalized. Not a bad thing overall for health, but it makes it somewhat difficult for vegetarians. For example, beans – otherwise a powerhouse food – don’t fare super well with WW since they have a relatively high carbohydrate content. So, I have to limit my bean intake to conserve SmartPoints, and find other protein sources. Honestly, though – one can only eat so much tofu before one goes mad.
  • Getting Enough Protein, Part II: I am irrationally (?) opposed to incorporating protein shakes and powders into my diet. They just seem so FAKE. Plus, they’re always sweetened with artificial sweeteners (blech) or Stevia (nasty). Does anyone REALLY need that much protein? I don’t think I really want to add them into the regular rotation.
  • Eating too many carbs, especially while snacking. It’s so hard to not eat crackers/chips/popcorn/pretzels/chocolate as snacks. I’m still not emotionally mature enough to regard an apple as snack.
  • Eating out. Vegetarian options on most menus are either a black bean burger or a -yuck- salad. I still don’t like salad. Sometimes I can get an omelette. Yay.
  • I’d like to go vegan, but I’ve realized that I love cheese too much, and that vegan “cheese” is pretty universally horrendous. Shout out to vegan cheesemakers: if you think you can change my mind, I am all ears (and mouth). Come at me – I’m not above accepting samples.
  • People constantly asking me why I’m a vegetarian, asking me where I get protein, or not-so-silently judging my personal (read: does not affect YOU) decision. I don’t ask you why you eat rotting animal carcasses, do I? Or judge you as you eat bacon in front of me? No, I don’t, because it’s none of my business.
  • Trying to find a decent non-dairy creamer for my coffee. I have tried every imaginable milk-free alternative, and none of them have what I am looking for:
    • Unsweetened
    • Creamy
    • Neutral taste
    • Does not contain any goddamned coconut

I will be sticking to whole milk until someone finally creates something that meets these criteria. Again, if you’re a maker of something you think might appeal to me, send me some samples.

  • Having to make two dinners most nights. I am not maligning my husband, believe me, but sometimes it’s tiring to have to make two separate dinners. It’s not his fault – I know he supports my eating choices. In fact, he often tries to make things easier for me by ordering out. Pizza is vegetarian, thank God.
  • I still frequently forget to order myself a vegetarian meal at luncheons and events. I know it’s a giant pain for event planners when people forget to request these things ahead of time, because it happens at every event I plan. I’m sorry, and I’ll try to be better.
  • Also, at events, the vegetarian option is usually garbage – overcooked frozen vegetables dumped on a pile of plain spaghetti, or maybe some lukewarm ravioli with a scant half cup of plain tomato sauce (these are seriously the last two meals I consumed at events). Most banquet facilities are sadly unwelcoming, bordering on disdainful, to those of us who choose not to eat meat. Thankfully, I am in a position (as a person who manages events) to put these places on blast, and get them to serve decent vegetarian food. Money talks, my friends. Money talks.
  • I apparently have disappointed my father again with this. He was at least happy to know that I still consume dairy products, but he’s nonplussed about the daughter of a farmer not eating meat.

Well, as usual, I cram a lot of complaining into these posts. Guess I haven’t really changed since the last time you heard from me. Well, except physically.

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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:

jason-bateman1

<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?