Monday, September 23, 2013

Lobster Rolls from a Naked Lobster



Earlier readers may remember my Quest for the Best Lobster Roll in Maine a couple years ago.  Since then, I’ve been meaning to recreate my own lobster roll at home.  But the idea of buying and cooking a live lobster still freaks me out.  Then J. sent me this article about a company that has special equipment that can shell lobsters, while keeping the body of the lobster intact! They call it the “naked” lobster.  (The article has a picture of the naked lobster – it’s a little disturbing and intriguing at the same time).  The company uses steam pressure to extract the meat without breaking the meat.  This makes it so it is cheaper to freeze and transport Maine lobster.

Coincidentally, the day after J. sent me the article, we went shopping at BJ’s, and found this intriguing product.


It cost about $20 at BJ’s and since we were intrigued to try it out, we bought a box to try to recreate Maine lobster rolls.

Inside the box, there were two plastic packages of lobster meat.  These were cut up into pieces and not whole as described in the article. (They do sell the “naked” lobster, though).


But you can see that there are two claws, legs and knuckles

To make the lobster rolls, I made sure to keep it simple – I chopped up the meat into bite size pieces, mixed it up with some mayo and a squeeze of lemon juice in a bowl.


I toasted hot dog buns and slathered the mixture into the buns.  I served them here with a salad.


The lobster meat still isn’t quite the same as a fresh lobster.  It was a bit fishier and not quite as firm as a freshly cooked lobster.  But I really liked the convenience of not having to cook the lobster myself.  Yes, I know you can ask your seafood department at many supermarkets to steam cook the lobster for you, but I liked being able to just pull these out of the freezer, defrost, and eat. And by my estimation, one $20 box of lobster makes about 4 lobster rolls, plus hot dog buns, and mayo = about $5.25 for a lobster roll! Not a bad price. 

Incidentally, J. and I will be going to Maine in about two weeks, so we’ll be able to have some fresh lobster rolls soon!

Note: I was not compensated for this review.  I just really like lobster.

Maine Lobster Rolls

Serves 2


  • 1 package Shucks Maine Lobster meat (or about 3.5 ounces of cooked lobster), defrosted and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 hot dog buns


Mix mayonnaise, lobster meat, and lemon juice in a bowl.  Lightly toast hot dog buns in a toaster oven.  Spoon lobster mixture into buns. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

So Long, Summer: Almond Butter Ice Cream Bread


Do you have leftover ice cream in your freezer that you don’t know what to do with now that summer is ending? Do you have five gallons of custom-made almond butter ice cream that your significant other gifted you?  Well, have I got the recipe for you. 


You can make bread out of ice cream!

I first learned about this from Rasa Malaysia’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bread.  The recipe calls for two ingredients: ice cream and self-raising flour, so I was a little skeptical at first.  Wouldn’t it just out to just become a puddle of warm melted ice cream? How would this work?  But since I had tons of almond butter ice cream left, I didn’t have much to lose.  I didn’t have self-rising flour, so I followed the tips from the recipe and used a mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. 

Turns out ice cream makes great bread!  This bread was so moist and rich, you could never tell that it was made out of ice cream. I sliced up the bread and brought it to book club, where it was a hit.  (Here’s a tip, when bringing a loaf of bread or cake, or other dessert that involves slicing, to a party, slice it up at home and arrange it aesthetically on a plate, preferably a disposable one, cover it in foil, and bring it to the party.  This way, no one will notice that the slice you ate to “test” it, is gone!) Next time, I’m going to make these into muffins – who says you can’t have ice cream for breakfast?

Almond Butter Ice Cream Bread

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia


  • 2 to 3 cups almond butter ice cream (or any flavor), softened* See note
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix softened ice cream and flour mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour batter into an 8” x 4” loaf pan.  Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.


I did not wait long enough to soften the ice cream.  (What can I say, I’m impatient.)  So when I mixed the 2 cups of ice cream  the recipe called for, I found the batter was dry and crumbly.  So I kept adding more and more ice cream.  Then the ice cream melted a little, and the batter was probably too wet, which might be why it took so long to bake.  So I recommend starting with two cups of softened ice cream, and adding more bit by bit until you get the sticky bread batter consistency. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

So Long, Summer: Roasted Summer Vegetables “Ratatouille” style



I’ve mentioned how much adored Ratatouille (the movie, not the dish) – I mean, it’s a movie that appeals to my love of adorable cartoon animals and cooking.  I had been meaning to re-create the beautiful layered ratatouille dish (spoiler alert!) that won over the die hard food critic’s heart since the movie came out in 2007, and since I found this interpretation of it on smitten kitchen. But life, laziness, and lack of all the ingredients kept me from doing so. 

Until tonight. Tonight, I came home and found the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash that J. brought home from the farmer’s market.  Tonight, no lack of ingredient, overripe tomatoes, or shortage of time was going to stop me. I didn’t bother to consult Deb’s recipe, for fear that I would find I was missing something and would be discouraged.  Instead, I turned up the oven, sliced the vegetables, and got to work.

It turns out that my version is actually not too far off from Deb’s recipe. I roasted the vegetables at a higher temperature in the hope that they would cook faster, which they did. I completely forgot about the tomato puree, which made this dish more simply roasted vegetables rather than ratatouille.  It came out a bit dry, but I didn’t mind.  The tomatoes provided the extra juice that it needed for me.  I also used fresh oregano and basil, which are decidedly more Italian than French.  But I still enjoyed the chance to cook with summer vegetables while they were still in their peak season.

Roasted Vegetables “Ratatouille-style”

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 as a side


  • 1 large eggplant, cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 Italian pepper, sliced (can substitute with bell pepper)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbs olive oil, divided in half
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped oregano, divided
  • 1 Tbs fresh basil, torn
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice vegetables into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Drizzle half the olive on the bottom of a roasting pan.  Layer vegetables in the pan.  Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, and sprinkle 1 Tbs oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Sprinkle tomato and remaining herbs.  Drizzle a little extra olive oil and adjust seasonings, if desired. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

So Long Summer: Watermelon and Feta Salad




From now until the end of the summer, I have started a “So Long Summer” series, in which I will be highlighting my favorite summer fruits and vegetables, so we can all enjoy them one last time (or three or four more times, as the case may be), before they’re gone for the season.  First up, Watermelon and Feta salad!

I first learned this salad from reading Peanut Butter Fingers, one of my favorite healthy living blogs.  At first, I will admit it seemed kind of weird, but intriguing to me.  At the time I read about it, I happen to have half a watermelon and feta cheese in the fridge,  so I decided to give it a whirl.  Turns out, watermelon and feta are a winning combination! Something about the tangy salty creaminess of the feta makes it the perfect contrast to the cold and sweet of the watermelon.  J. and I have made it several times since then, and even brought to a party where it was a big hit. 

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Adapted from Peanut Butter Fingers


Note: The measurements are very fluid and you can use as much or as little as you want – I just eyeballed these measurements

  • 2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups arugula or any mixed salad greens you have (the peppery arugula goes great with the watermelon, but really any mix of greens will do)
  • Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A drizzle of olive (probably about 2-3 tsp)


Place a layer of salad greens into a bowl.  Layer the watermelon and feta on top.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.  Just before serving, drizzle olive oil on top.  Serves 2.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fuji Apple and Gorgonzola Salad



A few weeks ago, I had a lovely lunch with the even lovelier book club ladies, at the Iron Monkey, a cool bar/restaurant in Jersey City.  Since I wanted to keep the meal nice and light, I ordered the Fuji Apple and Endive Salad.  This salad is so simple, yet oh so tasty – the crisp sweetness of the apple was complemented nicely by the sweet and salty candied pecans and the creamy tang of the gorgonzola.  I enjoyed this salad so much I knew I had to try to recreate at home.  I made a few variations with what I had on hand at home – I may be biased, I actually think my version is better.

Fuji  Apple and Gorgonzola Salad


For the salad:

  • 2-3 cups Mixed salad greens
  • 1 Fuji apple, sliced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 mixed nuts chopped

For for the apple cider vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Layer salad ingredients into a bowl.  In a separate bowl whisk together dressing ingredients.  Drizzle dressing lightly over salad. Serves 2.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Is soy bad for you?


Last week, I was having lunch with a female associate, and two male partners at my firm.  The associate announced that she recently became a vegan.  One of the partners asked her, "So what do you eat then, soy?” Her curt response was, “Soy is bad for you.”

This statement got my attention, because the culture I was raised on is pretty much based on soy (and rice, of course).  This statement also got the male partner riled up because apparently, edamame is the only “vegetable” he and his wife could get their 10 year old son to eat.  But the associate was adamant, “Google it.  There are articles about how bad it is for you. It messes with your hormones.  Eating a soybean is the equivalent of eating four birth control pills. And soy is in everything.”

So I did exactly that.  In my highly precise and in depth investigation (i.e. googling “is soy bad for you?”) And here are my takeaways from the sampling of articles I read:

  • Yes, soy consumed in large quantities can affect your hormones because soy plants contain an estrogen-like hormone.  This is why many postmenopausal women take soy to relieve their symptoms. But it is not the equivalent of eating four birth control pills.
  • Edamame is soy in its purest form, and carries the most health benefits.  It is when soy is processed that it loses its nutritional value.  Edamame is actually a great source of a lean protein.  (So the partner’s kid can keep eating edamame without growing man-boobs).
  • Soy is added into a lot of processed foods such as cereal and protein bars because it is cheap.  Soy in its processed form may have detrimental effects.  So considering that processed soy is not as good for you as unprocessed, the benefits may not outweigh  the negative effects.
  • Exceptions to this rule are fresh tofu and fermented soy, such as tempeh and miso – all products that I grew up with and ate in significant quantities as a kid.  So I can rest assured.
  • As I have always believed when it comes to eating - “all things in moderation” – so as long as you consume soy, (and anything else really) in moderation, you will probably be fine. 

Here are the articles I read to draw these conclusions.  (Once again, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather my 10 second Google search).

What do you think?  Soy – yay or nay?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Au Pied de Cochon

Switching up my weekly healthy living post for what is most likely the antithesis of healthy eating, but I felt that I had waited long enough to share with you this incredibly rich meal we enjoyed in our last night in Montreal!

Before we left for our trip to Montreal, I asked around for recommendations on what to eat in the city.  One of the suggestions was Au Pied de Cochon, but with the caveat that it is “not for the faint of heart.”  I later found out that Anthony Bourdain featured the restaurant on No Reservations, in which he referred to it as his “Waterloo of Gluttony" – and I have to admit that it lived up to his assessment.  

But we almost didn’t get to find out for ourselves.  With only two days left in our trip, it finally occurred to me that given that the restaurant was wildly popular and featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show, I should probably make a reservation.  Unfortunately, I discovered this on Monday night, and the restaurant was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and did not open until 5PM on Wednesday, our last night in Montreal.  So J. and I resolved to eat lightly during the day, and show up at the doors at 5PM to see if we could get a table. 

When we walked in, we were greeted by an austere hostess, “Do you have a reservation?” she challenged.  Which, of course, we didn’t.  J. asked if there were any openings.  “Let me check,” the hostess answered brusquely as she went back to her station.  There were only maybe two other parties in the restaurant.  “We have an opening.  But you have two hours.”

Elated that we were able to get a table, and not discouraged by this harsh greeting (we’re from the NYC area, so I’m pretty used to it by now).  We started the meal with some light and refreshing oysters.


The couple sitting next to us looked at us enviously when our oysters arrived at the table.  “I didn’t know they had oysters” I overheard the girl say.  Oddly, the oysters are not listed on the menu, but it was clear they served them from the big display in their seafood case.  So I made sure to slurp them extra loudly for the girl to hear. 

I ordered the restaurants namesake dish, Pied de Cochon (pig’s foot).  I was split between the pork chop and the pied de cochon, but ultimately went with the pied de cochon because I figured if they named the restaurant after it, it had to be good, right?


And it was excellent. I loved how tender the meat was that it was falling off the bone.  Not at all how I imagined it would be like to eat a pig’s foot!

But the really fun dish was what J. got – the mysterious duck in a can. Weeks before our trip, I looked up the menu online and saw “duck in a can,”  but with no explanation of it in the menu.  So I was expecting something akin to Spam.  But what we got was not Spam at all.

First, they literally serve it to you in the can.  The server comes out with the can on a dish.


Here’s a look at the ingredients in French. 


As you can see, foie gras is a major component. 

The server then whips out  a can opener and opens the can in front of you.  And pours out this….


Amazing right?  I could not imagine something this beautiful would come out of a can.

So now the duck in a can mystery is solved.  And what a tasty mystery it was. And it was well worth eating at 5PM to make it here. (Though I strongly recommend making a reservation well in advance.  Our friends who tried our strategy of showing up early were not so lucky). 

Of Possible Interest:

  • Check out  the video of Anthony Bourdain’s feature on Au Pied de Cochon on No Reservations.  Warning – this video definitely NOT for the faint of heart.  If you are squeamish or an animal rights activist, I suggest that you fast forward to about 4:00 to see the food.  Or not watch at all and eat a carrot.
  • Don’t believe me about the duck in a can?  Watch this video someone posted on Youtube.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A “Chopped” Style dinner


I hope you enjoyed my recap on poutine last week.  I have at least one more recap on Montreal coming up, which I hope to share with you all later this week.  But first, dinner!


Tonight’s dinner looks atrocious, but I promise you it was tasty! And good for you too!

I came home tonight and threw together what J. calls a “Chopped”-style dinner.  “Chopped” is easily my favorite cooking reality TV show – it’s so addictive to watch! For those of you haven’t seen the show (where have you been?!), the show begins with four contestants and one is eliminated from each round by a panel of judges.  Each round is a course (appetizer, entrée, and dessert), and each course the contestants are given a “mystery basket” to prepare the course.  The mystery basket always has some hodgepodge of ingredients that don’t seem to go together, like easy cheese, “duck white kidneys,” brown bread in a can, or one episode, an emu egg.  (By the way, if you don’t know what duck white kidneys are… Google it, you’ll be surprised!)

Anyway, so I came home and found a hodgepodge of ingredients in the fridge that had to be used – half a bunch of wilting kale, a quarter of a browning avocado, and pork tenderloin.  So I threw them all together in a pan, along with garlic, some salsa and came together with this Mexican inspired “stir-fry.” It’s not the prettiest dish -- I would definitely get “chopped” for presentation, but it came out to be spicy and flavorful. 

Spicy Pork and Kale Stir Fry

Serves 2-3


  • 6 oz. lean pork tenderloin, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 bunch of kale (about 17 stems), stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini
  • 3/4 cup prepared salsa
  • 1-2 Tbs olive oil

Seasonings to taste:

  • Cumin
  • onion powder
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • a few dashes of hot sauce

Accompaniments :

  • Avocado
  • Plain yogurt or sour cream
  • Corn tortillas


Heat about 1 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.  Season pork with a little salt, pepper and cumin.  Add pork and cook until browned on all sides (about 1 minute on each side).  Remove heat from pan and set pork aside on a dish.

Add another Tbs of olive to the pan and bring it back to medium heat.  Add zucchini and cook for about 1 minute.  Add garlic (see note on cooking garlic*), and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Push zucchini and garlic to the sides of the pan, forming a well.  Cook kale in the well, until wilted. Add seasonings to taste. Stir in cooked pork and salsa.  Cook for about another minute until heated through.  Serve with optional toppings or just eat it as is!


To avoid burning the garlic, I learned this method from Cooks Illustrated, which I have described here on the blog, but I finally took a picture.  Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan, forming an empty space in the middle of the pan.  Add 1/2 tsp of olive oil in the middle of the pan, and then add the garlic to the oil.  What you have will look like this:


Once the garlic has been cooking for about 30 seconds, stir to combine it with the vegetables. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Favorite Poutine in Montreal

(Or at least of the three that we had)

As promised, I am sharing with you all the three places where we had poutine in Montreal.  As some of you may know, poutine is the signature dish of Montreal. When I asked for suggestions of what to eat in Montreal, I was told by many people that poutine was THE food I had to try.  The basic version is french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.  Sort of the wacky Canadian cousin to New Jersey’s discos fries.  But all over Montreal, you can find shops that sell poutine with all kinds of toppings ranging from sliced hot dogs to foie gras.  Here the ones that we tried (click on the names of the restaurants for their websites:

Planete Poutine


Poutine with Duck Confit                           the Classic Poutine

This was by far the most underwhelming of the poutines that we had.  We stumbled upon the place one day while we were walking to get to the Jean-Talon Market.  With a name like “Planet Poutine” we thought it would be promising and made a point to come back to it. The menu looked promising too, with fancy toppings such as duck confit.  But honestly, I found this poutine to lack character and felt mass-produced.  As I was leaving the restaurant, I found out that it was actually a franchise, which explains the mass-produced feeling.  On a positive note though, the portions were huge, what you see above is the “mini” size.

La Banquisse

I received recommendations from both locals, travelers, and reviews to go to this place.  And it’s definitely worth the trip, as they have some of the most interesting selection of toppings that I had seen in Montreal.  Here’s a look at their menu:


Pretty impressive, huh?  You can also view it here on their website, if you can’t read the small print.

J. ordered “La Savoyarde,” which he thoroughly enjoyed. 


The toppings were sour cream, onions, and swiss cheese  - so it was basically a baked potato, but only with french fries instead of a potato. 

I ordered “La Mart” which was “hot-dog sausages,” bacon and mushrooms, which I really liked.


It still cracks me up that the Montrealers call hot dogs “sausages.”

Another cool thing about La Banquisse is that it is open 24 hours.  While we went in the middle of the day, I could imagine that if I were out at 2AM in Montreal, I would definitely be craving some of this!

A.A. Restaurant – this place is such a hole in the wall, they don’t have a website.  But it had my favorite of all the poutines!

When you first walk into A.A. Restaurant, it doesn’t look like much… the décor is shabby, tabletops and chairs are chipped and cracked.  It looks like it hasn’t been changed since the 70s.  But it had my favorite of all the poutines I tried.  Our friends, who are native Montrealers, brought us to this place, which was a good thing because we otherwise would have never known about it. 

Their selection of poutine is limited – only four choices, but what really makes it is the gravy. 


As you can see the poutine is is smothered in gravy.  And the gravy had a different consistency than the other places.  At borh Planet Poutine and La Banquisse, the gravy was thin and glossy, while this poutine had gravy with substance (but in a good way).  It was a close call between La Banquisse and A.A for my favorite poutine. If I lived in Montreal, I would take out-of-town guests to La Banquisse because of the “neat” factor of all the different toppings.  But A.A. would be the one I would go to again and again. (A note to any of you traveling to Montreal and want to check it out – it is located in a developing neighborhood in the city, so be careful when traveling there!)

Stay tuned for when we try duck in a can and other adventures in Montreal!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cleaning out the Fridge before a Vacation


June has been a busy month of travel! I promise I have some travel recaps ready for you all, but first here’s what I made BEFORE I went away.

For those of you who have been following my Facebook page, you may remember when I posted this picture:


The caption read: What do you do when you have a ton of vegetables left in your fridge before you go on vacation? 

So this is what I came up with:


Veggie Tacos!

We eat a lot of tacos in our household because they are quick, easy, and relatively healthy.  Usually we just make bean tacos or add some grilled chicken to the mix.  But since I had a ton of vegetables that would spoil while we were away, why not make veggie tacos?

So I chopped up zucchini, yellow squash, onion, bell peppers (one red and one green), grape tomatoes, and garlic, as you see in the lead photo (sans the garlic and onions – I chopped those after I took the photo).  I lightly sauteed all the vegetables (except for the grape tomatoes) in about 1 Tbs of olive over medium heat:



Once the vegetables were soft (about seven minutes), I added the grape tomatoes, a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), and about 1/3 of jar of salsa that I had left over (probably about a half cup)


And then I seasoned the mixture with cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  I let the mixture cook for a few more minutes

While the vegetables were cooking, I heated up corn tortillas, and prepared the toppings – shredded cheddar cheese and sliced avocado!

Here’s the whole spread:


Then to make the tacos, we scooped a spoonful of the veggie mixture into each tortilla and layered on the avocados and cheese, and a dash of hot sauce.  This works well since we get to personalize how spicy we each want it to be. J. really likes his to be hot and spicy, while I like a medium level of spice.

So next time you have a ton of vegetables in your fridge to use up before going on vacation, consider making these veggie tacos!

Veggie Tacos

Note:  Consider this a “guide” rather than a strict recipe, as you can use whatever vegetables you want to get rid of!


  • Yellow squash, sliced
  • Zucchini, sliced
  • bell peppers, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 5-6 corn tortillas

The following seasonings to taste:

  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper


  • Sliced avocados
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream (optional)


Heat olive oil in a large sautee pan over medium heat.  Add vegetables (except for grape tomatoes) and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add grape tomatoes, beans, and salsa, and mix.  Add seasonings to taste, and cook for another 2-3 more minutes for the flavors to develop.

Meanwhile heat tortillas according to package (I heat mine over the stove for about 1 minute on each side, or until they get soft). 

Assemble the tacos by spooning about 2 Tablespoons of the veggie mixture and topping it with cheese and avocados. 

Note: When we made these, J. and I had five tacos between the two of us, and there was a lot of veggie mixture, probably to make another 3-4 tacos.  So I would say this makes about 7-8 tacos, but it really depends on the volume of vegetables you have.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Guest Post: Pomegranate Beet Salad


Hello friends! I just got back from a conference in San Francisco and I am working on some great recaps on my travels, including some more posts on my vacation in Montreal! In the meantime, here is a light and healthy recipe from my friend Rose from Just Prepare It Deliciously! – Cheryl

Hello everyone!! I’m Rose, author of the blog Just Prepare It Deliciously, where I focus on simpler, healthier meals (but with occasional treats too). Cheryl is one of my closest friends and all-time favorite bloggers. She even wrote a guest post for my blog last year so today I’m only too glad to return the favor.

I am especially excited to be writing for Cheryl’s Healthy Living series, which has become my favorite part of Food Judicata. Reading her blog on Mondays always helps motivate me to make a healthy plan for my week.

Regarding this recipe, I love eating salads. There’s just something about the way that your body feels when something so good for you that makes me happy. Not to mention with swimsuit season underway, for me eating healthier is a must.

Like Cheryl, I like to use fruits and vegetables that are in season. When I read that beet season peaks in June, I decided that would be one of my ingredients. Since I had never made any dishes with fresh beets before so this was a new experience for me, I read up on beets on Real Simple. As suggested, I separated the beets from the greens (which you will see photographed below).

Now while I’ve read that many recipes call for beets totally raw, I microwaved my beet for 4-5 minutes in advance of using in this recipe, then peeled and cut it up, which is how my mom preps her beets whenever she makes a beet recipe.

So without further ado…the salad.

Pomegranate Beet Salad

Beet Salad 3


  • ½ a Pre-packaged Spinach Mix
  • One large Beet, raw or cooked, cut into pieces
  • 3 Tbsp Goat Cheese Crumbles
  • 2 Tbs sliced almonds
  • 3 slices of turkey, torn
  • 3-4 Tbsp Pomegranate Seeds
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (I used Annie’s Naturals)


  1. Pour salad mix into a bowl.
  2. Add beets, goat cheese, almonds, turkey, pomegranate seeds, and sliced cucumber.

Beets 1

    3.   Divide and serve.

Yield: 2 servings

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Really Happened on our Vacation


Last week, J. and I went on a lovely vacation to Montreal. Montreal truly is a beautiful city.  It is also great city to eat very well!  As some of you may know, Montreal’s signature dish is poutine, which is traditionally French fries served with gravy and cheese curds on top.   For my fellow New Jerseyans, I would call it the wackier cousin of disco fries.  And at most restaurants that serve it, you have your pick of toppings which would be as low-brow as sliced hot dogs to as fancy as foie gras.  But no matter how fancy or plain you choose to have it, it’s fantastic.  So of course, we had it no less than three times.


Mmmm…. poutine…

Since I knew that I would be eating lots of delicious, but rich foods during the trip, before we left, I wrote down a few strategies to try to stay fit.  Here’s how it actually went down…

1) Schedule a workout or two during the trip.  This sort of happened.  We drove to Montreal, so on our way to and from the city, we made an overnight stop in Clifton, NY.  The hotel we stayed at in Clifton Park had a gym, so I was able to squeeze in 20 minute run on the treadmill both times.  We didn’t go running in Mont Royale Park as I envisioned, but we did take a long walk through the park.  And to get to the summit of the park, meant climbing a lot of stairs so I’d like to think of that as a workout!

2) Plan activities that involved a lot of walking.  The location of our hotel helped out a lot for this goal! We stayed at the Quality Hotel in downtown Montreal, which while centrally located in the city, to get to most destinations still involved a 20 minute walk.  (We found that the metro in Montreal did not take us directly to a lot of the places that we wanted to go, and still involved a good amount of walking.) As I mentioned before, we explored Mont Royale Park for a few hours, which had stunning panoramic views of the city.


A view from Mont Royale Park

We also went for a walk around La Fontaine Parc, which was also pretty…


I noticed there was a lot of joggers and bikers in both of these parks.  And even a tai chi class going on in Mont Royale Park! People know how to stay active in Montreal.


Those people you see lined up in the middle of the picture are practicing tai chi!

3) Split entrée/appetizer/dessert with J. We did this a lot.  It’s a great way to enjoy a taste of different foods, and is friendl(ier) on the figure and the budget!  Fortunately, in Canada, most of the restaurants we went to did not serve gargantuan portions as they do in the US, so I found that to be quite helpful.  (It also meant that we could actually finish our plates, and not waste food. Even as an adult, I still can hear my grandma’s voice scolding me for wasting food when I don’t clean my plate). 


J. and I enjoyed our first experience with escargot!

4) Pack some healthy snacks. I packed granola, dried apricots, cashews, and banana chips.  The original plan was to mix them together to make a homemade trail mix.  But there just wasn’t time for that, so instead we just snacked on them in the hotel room, straight out of the containers

While we made it to the Jean-Talon Market, we didn’t buy any snacks there, since it was close to lunch time when we got there.  We did bring home maple syrup and maple butter!


5) Relax.  There was a lot of relaxing during the trip! Unlike our Austin trip, where I had a long list of restaurants I wanted to try mapped out on a customized Google map, I only picked a few key places I wanted to try in Montreal.  The result was our trip was a lot more exploratory and improvised. We stumbled on some really great finds that weren’t on the list.  On our first night there, we went to Grumpy’s, which was a bar with a laid-back atmosphere that had live music the night we were there.  J. really liked this bar a lot.  We also stumbled upon a comedy club, Comedyworks, which featured some really funny comedians!

So in retrospect, the trip was not as unhealthy as I thought it was, and we had a fantastic time. Stay tuned for more food highlights in Montreal, including my pick for best poutine!

Monday, June 10, 2013

How I Plan to Stay Healthy While on Vacation


Bonjour! J. and I are exploring the good eats and fun in Montreal this week! Here are some strategies I plan to use to stay healthy even while on vacation.  Next week, I’ll share with you how successful (or not successful) I was able to stick with it!

You may have noticed from my previous posts that my vacations are very food-focused.  In fact, usually before I go on vacation, I have an extensive list of restaurants and food places that I want to check out, that is organized by cuisine. 

And what are most of my vacation pictures of? Food.


The Rancher Plate at the Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX


King Crab legs, mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus from Chandler’s Crabhouse in Seattle

So I have to do something so I don’t gain 500 pounds! Here are some of my goals during my trip to try to reverse the effects of the poutine, Montreal bagels and perhaps the mysterious duck in a can.

1) Schedule a workout or two during the trip.  Back in 2009, when I made a trip to Austin for my friend Molly’s wedding, I learned that our mutual friend, La, who also made the trip to Austin for the occasion, regularly exercises while traveling.  Back then, I thought this was ludicrous.  I mean, it’s a vacation, I want to relax!  But now I’ve learned that working out while on vacation, just like in normal life, makes you feel good and gives you energy for all the fun activities planned for the day. So, La, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I called you crazy and rolled my eyes at you.  Exercise while on vacation can be great!

This trip, I plan on taking a run on Mont Royale Park. On past vacations, I’ve found lots of cities have great parks for running in.  Like in Seattle, we took a run to Gasworks Park by taking the Burke-Gillman Trail. 


View of the Seattle skyline from Gasworks Park

It was actually a beautiful run and a great way to see the city.

2) Plan activities that involve lots of walking. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate because from what I’ve been told is Montreal is a very walkable city! On top of that, on our way to Montreal, we plan on stopping in upstate New York to go for a hike!

maine hiking

A hiking trail from our trip to Maine

In past trips, we gone on hikes and we’ve taken fun walking tours, such as the Wicked Walking Tour in Portland, Maine.  I’ve also done the Underground Tour in Seattle, which is a lot of fun.  If we can find one, we may try to find a fun themed walking tour in Montreal.

3) Split an entrée/appetizer/dessert with J.  J. and I sometimes eat “family-style” at restaurants, even when we are not on vacation.  We order an appetizer and an entrée and share it between the two of us. (We ask the server the bring the appetizer with the entrée.) And we almost always share dessert.  (Which works out well for me because J. doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth and usually only takes a few bites of the dessert.)  This strategy works really well from a health standpoint, but also from a economical one too. 


Fried chicken, mac and cheese that J. and I shared at Mrs. P’s Electric Cock in Austin, TX

5) Pack some healthy snacks.  Before our trip, I plan on picking up some nonperishables like nuts and dried fruit.  When we were in Seattle, we snacked on fresh cherries at the Pike Place Market.  In Montreal, the plan is stop by the Jean-Talon Market, and pick up some fresh fruit!

6) Relax. Something that I have always have to remind myself. Eating is an experience for me, and I want to experience as much as I can while I’m traveling.  So I may not follow every single one of these tips, but I’ll do the best I can, while still have fun.

Question of the Week:

  • Any other healthy tips while on vacation?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Swiss Chard with Eggs and Bacon


Last Saturday, J. and I finally made it out to the farmers’ market for the first time this season.  With all the various weddings and birthday festivities occupying our weekends, we haven’t had much time to ourselves. Which also means we haven’t had much time to go food shopping, so a lot of meals have been either eating out or cobbling together what I have in the pantry and freezer.  Which has been taking a toll on our wallets and waistlines!  So I was pretty excited to finally get to buy fresh produce from the farmers market.

In an effort to get more vegetables in my diet, I decided I wanted to experiment with a vegetable I had never cooked with before.  J. and I eat a lot of bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and the occasional Brussels sprouts here and here.  But I wanted to try something new.


Enter this Swiss chard from the farmers market. 

I have never cooked with Swiss chard before.  In fact, when I got home I had to google how best to store it. (Wrap it tightly in plastic and store it in the fridge.  Don’t wash it before storing it because it will wilt and get moldy).  So I polled the audience on Facebook on how best to cook it.  My sister’s good friend M. had made a beautiful suggestion, which she got from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver:

“Saute some onions and carrots in a large skillet, add the Chard. When it wilts, make depressions in the Chard, crack eggs in the depressions, cover and cook until the eggs are done. Yummy!”

I was pysched to try it! I had to wait until Sunday to try it though, since we already had dinner plans for a friend’s birthday. I had read that swiss chard, like corn, is best when eaten the same day, so I was a bit bummed that I had to wait.  But it was well worth the wait!

I wanted to add a little something more to M.’s original suggestion.  And since swiss chard was a leafy green like spinach, and spinach goes great with bacon, bacon would be the perfect accent for this dish.

But Cheryl, you ask, isn’t this supposed to be your “healthy” post for the week?

Well, bacon is delicious and makes everything better.  And when used as in moderation as an accent, and most of the fat is drained, it’s really not that bad for you.  I believe it was Mark Bittman who even encouraged the use of moderate amounts of bacon to be used to season or accent food. 

Still not convinced?  Have a religious or dietary restriction on pork products?  Well, I’m sure this is still great without the bacon.  But the bacon adds a richness that makes it “soul-foody” as J. described it.  So unless you have a religious or dietary restriction, then I say go for it, eat the bacon.

Special Thanks to M. for the excellent suggestion!

Swiss Chard with Eggs and Bacon

Adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver


  • 1 bunch swiss chard, thoroughly washed, ribs removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped (I used a handful of baby carrots, and thinly sliced them at an angle)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 eggs (can cook more, but we only had two left in the fridge)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste


In a large skillet, cook bacon to desired doneness.  Remove bacon strips from pan and drain on paper towels.  Set bacon aside.  Drain most of the bacon fat from the pan, leaving about one tablespoon in the pan to cook the vegetables in.   Reserve the bacon fat.  Cook carrots and onions in 1 tablespoon of bacon fat over medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and soft.  Add Swiss chard to the pan.  (You may have to add them in handfuls, allow it to wilt a bit, and then add more, to get it to fit in the pan.)  When the chard has wilted, push it to the sides of the pan, creating a “well.”  Add about 1/2 tsp of bacon fat (or you could use olive oil if you forget to reserve the fat).  Add minced garlic to the fat and cook for about 30 seconds before stirring it into the vegetables.  Make two little “wells” in the chard for the eggs.  Crack the eggs in to the “wells” and cover the pan.  Cook for another 4-5 minutes or until done.  Add seasonings to taste.   Crumble reserved bacon strips and sprinkle on top of the chard.  Serve immediately.

Other accompaniments I would add for next time would be to serve with a slice of good crusty bread, or perhaps with some parmesan or gruyere cheese on top.

Other useful links on Swiss chard:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Culinary Art

Hellooo readers! I took a hiatus from my weekly Healthy Living post this week because of Memorial Day.  But check out this utensil art!

We found these when we were spending the weekend in New Hope for a wedding (for which I made these brownies).  The day after the wedding, J. and I spent some time browsing the shops of New Hope and found these little guys at Topeo Gallery.  Check out this napkin holder made of forks and spoons!

And look at this guy rocking it out!

J. says this one needs a mini Led Zeppelin t-shirt to complete the look.

We asked the lady working at the shop about these pieces - it turns out they were made by a college student who was making them to make a little extra cash.  It was a great idea because we bought them and they have found a home in our apartment!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kahlua Brownies

Last weekend, I made these Kahlua brownies for a wedding reception.  The reception was a very relaxed and laid-back celebration at the beautifully scenic Washington Crossing State Park.  A couple weeks before the event, the bride asked some of us if we would be interested in contributing a dish for the dessert table.  And since I will jump at any occasion to sample raw brownie batter share baked goodness among friends, I happily agreed.  I chose to make Kahlua brownies, since what's a wedding without a little booze in your dessert?  

I used this recipe from Recipe Girl.  I kept most of the ingredients the same except I used a lot less powdered sugar in the icing (about 1 1/4 cups).  Of course, since I was making these on the Friday night before the wedding, after a few cocktails, so my method went something like this:

1) Preheat oven at 350 degrees. 
2) Spray 9" x 9" pan with cooking spray.  Read instructions again and realized I was supposed to line the pan with foil first.  Oops...
3) In a large bowl, stir flour, baking powder, and salt with a fork (since I don't own a sifter)
4) Set up makeshift double-boiler using one big pot with a couple inches of water in it, with a smaller one balanced rather precariously over it.  Bring water to a low boil, melt butter and chocolate in the smaller pot. When smooth and melted, remove from heat and set aside.  
5) Crack eggs into medium sized bowl. Use expletives when accidentally cracking egg all over the counter.  Wipe up egg from the counter.  Add sugar and Kahlua to the bowl.  Take a shot of Kahlua, because, heck, I deserve it.  Mix contents of the bowl as fast as I can with a fork because I don't own an electric mixer. 
6) Pour buttery chocolate mixture with sugar and egg mixture.  Curse self for not using a bigger bowl. 
7) Read directions again and realize that I supposed to pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Curse self again for not using a bigger bowl for the wet ingredients. 
8) Pour wet ingredients into the dry, and hope for the best.  Mix as fast as I can with a fork.   
9) Pour batter into pan. Lick spatula used to scrape the batter at the bottom of the bowl.  Put pan in the oven.  Have a glass of wine.... and then another.
10) After about 40 minutes, remove pan from oven.  Brush  2 Tbs of Kahlua onto the brownies.  Have another glass of wine.  Contemplate whether the brownie pan is cool enough to go in the fridge.  Take another sip of wine, and think, screw it, I'm putting it in the fridge and going to bed. 

Next morning, prepare the icing:

1) Melt butter in saucepan until brown, watching it like a hawk so it doesn't burn. 
2) Remove from heat and  stir in Kahlua and heavy cream.
3) Whisk in powdered sugar until smooth. 
4) Spread on to cooled brownies. Place back in the fridge to cool. 
5) Go for a run to burn off calories consumed from brownie batter, icing, and copious amounts of alcohol. 
6) Return home, only to find that brownies are rock solid.  Have J. slice brownies with the biggest knife I own. 

J. hacking the brownies with my chef's knife.

7) Carefully lift brownies out of the pan.  Pack brownies in pretty box, ready to be served! (Don't worry the brownies softened once they were brought to room temperature.)

These babies are ready to be eaten!

So now you what really goes on in my kitchen! It's far from perfect, but I get by without what some may consider key appliances (like an electric mixer).  But the brownies were a hit at the reception, so it works!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Not so "overnight" oats

This post is part of a Healthy Living series that appears on Food Judicata on Monday evenings.  For more Healthy Living posts, click here

When I woke up last Thursday morning, I had a craving for cold and creamy overnight oats for breakfast. Only problem was I hadn't prepared any the night before.  Planning ahead fail.  Fortunately, I had read on Peanut Butter Fingers and on Amateur Gourmet (only AG called it "muesli"), that you don't actually have to soak the oats overnight!

I had a hard time believing that the oats and chia seeds would soften up enough, so I had to see it for myself. So I rolled out of bed, put on my gym clothes, and headed for the kitchen.  I poured oats, yogurt, milk, and chia seeds, and vanilla into a bowl...

My picture-taking skills at 6:15 AM at work here...
Then I covered it up, put it in the fridge, and headed for the gym!

One workout and shower later, (about an hour and 15 minutes) it looked like this!

Okay, I know, it doesn't look much different from the picture.  But when you added fruit and stirred it up, it looks how it does in the lead photo.

Topped with some fresh strawberries!
I had actually let the oats soak for a little longer than on PBF or AG, who both only soaked the oats for 30 minutes.  I found the oats were soft and chewy enough, but I noticed that the chia seeds that were on top were still a little crunchy! It added a bit of nuttiness to the oats, similar to poppy seeds.  Overall, I still prefer fully overnight oats, but this is a serviceable alternative for those days when I didn't plan ahead!