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April 22, 2010

10 Easy Ways To Eat Green on Earth Day


Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to appreciate our planet. One way to do that is through food.  Believe it or not, your everyday food choices can make a big impact. Here are ten ways you can eat green today:

  1. Don't purchase any food at the grocery store that isn't natural. Read the labels. If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't eat it.
  2. Don't purchase food in packaging that cannot be recycled. If it can be- recycle it.
  3. Buy organic. Whether you're grocery shopping or looking for lunch, there are many places that you can buy organic. You can go to Whole Foods, Yes! Markets and now most regular supermarkets have an organic aisle. Don't forget to bring reusable bags. You are sort of canceling your good deeds out when you walk away with those plastic bags.
  4. Eat at a restaurant offering an organic/sustainable menu. Click here for a list of some DC restaurants offering Earth Day specials from organic menus to green hours.
  5. Drink green. Don't use water bottles. Drink from the tap. I guarantee it's good drinking water, and it's quite possibly more purified than the one Coca-Cola sells. 
  6. Buy food that's in season and, if possible local. You may not think about this when you go to the grocery store, but if that organic avocado had to be shipped or flown here from California, you are contributing to the problem via global emissions. The Natural Resources Defense Council can tell you what is in season and local to you. If you're from around DC, just look to the left of this post.
  7. Only buy what you will eat. No one likes throwing out leftovers that stink up your fridge. Learn to shop for what you will consume, not for what your stomach tells you.
  8. Reduce your red meat intake. Cows produce methane (eew) which is a global warming gas.
  9. Plant your own herbs or produce. Not only are you helping out the planet, you will appreciate it a lot more.
  10. Cook for yourself. By cooking your own meal, you know exactly what you're getting. You can avoid those preservatives and ingredients you can't pronounce.

April 18, 2010

Steamed Artichokes

When I walked into Whole Foods yesterday as soon as the sliding doors opened I was presented with a giant, overflowing pile of green artichokes. They are such a beautiful thistle. Yes, that's right- not a fruit, not a vegetable, not a flower, but a thistle. (I know this thanks to fellow blogger Phytophactor who is an academic botanist.)

Artichokes can be intimidating to someone who's never cooked them. They are prickly, rough and if you don't cut out the "choke" you will, well, choke. Thanks to my mother in-law, I have learned an easy and delicious way to prepare them.

2 whole artichokes
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1Tablespoon salt
1Tablespoon olive oil

Special Equipment: steamer pot

Fill the steamer pot so the water just touches the bottom of the steamer basket. Salt the water and bring to a boil.

Cut the stem off the artichokes so they will sit flat. Gently spread open the petals. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Drizzle the tops of the artichokes with a little olive oil, be sure a little gets down in between the petals. Carefully sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture in between each petal, getting it down towards the bottom. Be CAREFUL, the tips of the petals are prickly! (you can also pre-trim all of the petal tips if you prefer to play it safe.) Place the artichokes in the steamer pot and steam for about 45 minutes, until soft. Remove and serve.

Not know how to actually eat these? Here are step-by-step instructions. Enjoy!

April 17, 2010

Some of My Favorite Cookbooks

I don't often follow recipes strictly, and many times don't use them at all. I prefer developing my own and occasionally using a recipe as a guide. I like the experimentation and the process, be it resulting in failure or success. However, I still love cookbooks. They are my shoes, my baseball cards, my rare coins. They are my source of inspiration and, quite frankly, my personal porn. I have 47 cookbooks in my kitchen and I'm quite positive I have more scattered throughout the house. This is only because I did some spring cleaning and donated several that I felt comfortable parting with.

As much as I love all of them as you would your children, I admit to having some favorites. Perhaps it's the nostalgia of one, the photography in another. Each have their own personality and purpose. Maybe that's why I have so many of them and can't resist buying more every time I enter a bookstore. Here are three that I highly recommend splattering your red wine reduction on:

  • The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, Hearst Books, 1989 Edition. I hold a special place in my heart for this book. Out of the three, it's the only one I've actually cooked from and it's also the book I've cooked from the most out of all my cookbooks. I grew up with this book. It was always in the drawer to the left of the stove at my father's house. It was, and still is, his main culinary guide. It was also the book I cooked my first dinner out of for my family- Chicken Oporto (Chicken with mushrooms in a port wine cream sauce). When I left for college, my dad bought me my own copy. I was probably the only college student making ravioli from scratch and baking loaves of bread at 2 am. Coincidentally, it was my textbook in my Food Science course. I love this book because it's easy to follow and has all of the recipes you should cook at least once in your lifetime. 
  • The French Laundry Cookbook, Artisan, 1999. If there is a cookbook that could actually move you, this is it. I don't even want to call it a cookbook because it's so much more. The French Laundry delves into the lives of everyone who contributes to the nation's finest restaurant as well as Thomas Keller, who's considered by many to be the most prestigious and inspired chef out there. You learn about the author-turned-fishmonger who provides The French Laundry with the finest quality seafood and a commercial pilot who grows hearts of palm. These people have the utmost respect for their ingredients and a passion for what they do. This book goes beyond instructing you on a Beurre Monte or infused oils. To a chef or foodie, it is an inspiring work of art.
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Knopf, 1966 Edition. If you haven't heard of this book I don't know what rock you've been hiding under. This is the masterpiece that launched the career of Julia Child, and is the subject of the book and movie Julie & Julia. Many of these recipes are dated and complicated, but they are a piece of history. I love the way the old book smells and the pictures were hand-drawn illustrations. It is nostalgic to see a print other than helvetica. Opening this book is like putting on comfy slippers and sitting by a fire. I feel like it's an honor to read her words. She was quite a lady- a real firecracker! I have nothing but admiration for a woman who always cooked with a drink by her side and was completely fearless in the kitchen. No one can touch her.

Cooking Show Quotes That Sound Inappropriate- Rachel Ray

                 "Careful what you're gonna do after you eat this chili, if you know what I mean."
                                                 - Rachel Ray, 30 Minute Meals

April 16, 2010

Eat Local With Help From Your iPhone

Spring in DC to a foodie means farmers markets! They are a cook's paradise. I love wandering around and getting inspiration from the colorful fruits and vegetables. There are often local bakers, cheese artisans and livestock farms there as well. I've gotten some great bison burgers and just last weekend bought an amazing smoked mozzarella. The best part is knowing that they are local. You can shop green and help the local economy.

What if you don't know where the markets are? You can look online, although that information isn't always updated and sometimes isn't there at all. What if you're on a trip or in a new area? Well, hopefully you have an iPhone. There is a fantastic App called Locavore (download here) that can help you find area markets by using your phone's GPS. For $2.99, it also tells you what's in season and gives you recipes you can try with those ingredients. I love this App! I've downloaded dozens of Apps I thought would be cool and haven't opened them since, but this is actually useful. The latest version even connects to Facebook so you can share your local eats with your friends. Speaking of Facebook, you can get an App for that here too. Maybe these can help you to eat green and give you inspiration for Earth Day next week.

April 14, 2010

State of the Maryland Crab Announcement Today

Calling all Maryland Crab lovers- Gov. Martin O'Malley is planning to make a major announcement on the future of the blue crab industry today. While there are no updates on exactly what he'll announce, we can only guess it's tied to the Chesapeake Bay Program's report issued last week.

As many of you know, the blue crab in the Chesapeake is not exactly a plentiful resource. Anyone wanting to practice sustainable eating should eat blue crab responsibly and not over-indulge in a year the crab numbers are low. According the the Post's News Blog, the Chesapeake Bay Program rated the bay's health at 45 out of 100.  While that is up 6% from last year, that doesn't mean that it's "good".  Weather and pollution are major factors in bay health which means they're major factors in blue crab population.

What can you do to save the crab population? Quit polluting the bay for starters. I found another interesting suggestion on It appears Chesapeake Rays devastate the clams and oyster beds in the bay. Fisheries are trying to find a use for all of the rays, such as selling them to restaurants to put on their menus. I've never had it, but I admit I'm fascinated. I'm game for trying just about anything, especially if it's sustainable and actually helps another population.

More to come on the State of the Crab as word comes in from Gov. O'Malley's announcement.

UPDATE 4/14/10 2:49PM:
It's been announced that the crab are thriving! The crab population rose 60% according to a winter dredge survey. This has been credited to harvest restrictions. Get the full story from Forbes here.

Enjoy your summer filled with crabcakes and Old Bay!

April 12, 2010

Brunch at Logan Tavern

Photo from Logan Tavern

Yesterday was the annual Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler race in downtown DC. I ran it with a friend and was surprised to find I actually felt pretty great. I had no injuries or major cramps and I didn't even feel the need to pass out at the end. What I did need to do afterwards was eat. Having been twice before, I knew Logan Tavern would be the right place to refuel.

We managed to get in early and get a table which is rare- they fill up quickly. I immediately looked at the brunch drink menu which has an impressive variety of Bloody Mary's and mimosas. I usually order a Bloody Mary, even though I don't like them. I just WANT to like them. This time I decided to go straight for a drink I knew I would finish- champagne with pear nectar. It was crisp with fresh pear flavor and effervescent little bubbles. Perfect for those sore muscles!

For sustenance of the non-liquid variety, I went for an omelet filled with asparagus, red pepper and cheddar as well as a side of turkey sausage. The omelet looked dauntingly huge sitting next to a pile of hash browns and completely covering the plate. It was no match for me, however. I nearly licked the plate clean. Second victory of the day!

Logan Tavern has great food, friendly service (thank you for carding me, Mr. Waiter), and a casual and comforting atmosphere. I look forward to my next visit...perhaps next Sunday.

Logan Tavern
1423 P Street, NW
Washington, DC

April 8, 2010

Pan Fried Halibut with Succotash and Bacon

I love seafood and one of my favorite types of fish would have to be halibut. It's mild, light and easy to please guests with- even if they aren't adventurous with food. Many people are afraid of making fish, but it's one of the easiest things to cook as long as you pay attention to it. This is a great recipe for a date night at home and is sure to make you seem like a gourmet chef in the kitchen. 

2 6oz. halibut fillets, bones removed
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup of frozen corn
1/2 cup of baby lima beans
1/4 cup organic, low sodium chicken broth
Juice of 1 lemon
3 slices of aged, smoked thick-cut bacon (almost 1/4" thick)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat a saute pan in medium-high heat and cook the bacon slices. In a separate saute pan at medium-high heat, drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add diced onions, garlic and red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes and add lemon juice, chicken stock, corn and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 8 minutes until vegetables and lima beans are tender, but not mushy.

When the bacon is done, take it out and set aside on a paper towel. Dice the bacon and add to the succotash. In the same pan, add a tablespoon of butter and a drizzle of olive oil to the bacon fat. Season the halibut fillets with salt and pepper. Place the halibut in the pan, skin side down. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of the fillet. You can tell when it's done because the fish will flake with a fork.

Add the parsley, salt and pepper to the succotash. Scoop into a bowl and place the halibut on top to serve.

April 6, 2010

It's Mojito Season!

It's going to be hot today. 88 degrees! I love this weather! I say there is no better way to cool off than with a refreshing, ice cold, minty mojito. (I know theBeerB1tch will agree!) Walk around, get some sun taking pictures of the cherry blossoms, then find a patio seat at a restaurant and soak it in. Here are some places in the area you can quench your thirst.

Cafe Atlantico
405 8th Street, NW
Washington, DC

701 14th Street, NW
Washington DC

Rumba Cafe 
2443 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC

Zola (great blueberry mojito)
800 F Street, NW
Washington, DC

1342 Connecticut Ave, NW
Washington, DC

1201 Fidler Lane
Silver Spring, MD

Caribbean Breeze
4100 N. Fairfax Dr.
Arlington, VA

Feel free to leave any more suggestions in the comments!

April 1, 2010

Gnocchi With Chicken, Tomatoes & Mozzarella

Gnocchi is probably my favorite pasta. They are like little plump potato pillows. I have tried twice to make my own from scratch and they were, admittedly, a complete failure. I've decided to stick with the pre-made gnocchi in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods to save my sanity, although I'm sure I will try it again sometime. Here is a gnocchi recipe I made tonight. It is amazingly simple, healthy and fresh.

Ingredients, serves 2
1 package potato gnocchi (9 oz.)
1/2 package grape tomatoes (about 12)
2 chicken breasts
1/2 container of fresh mozzarella balls, in water
Basil leaves, about 8, cut into strips
3 cloves of garlic
Freshly shredded Parmesan, for topping
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Drizzle some olive oil on the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. Grill on medium heat for about 5-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the breasts. Remove from heat and let rest.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water. In the meantime, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Mince the garlic and chop the grape tomatoes into small pieces. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the oil and cook, stirring frequently. Don't allow the garlic to burn. When the water is boiling, add the gnocchi. Cook until they float to the top and are soft, about 8 minutes. Strain. Cut the mozzarella balls into small pieces then add along with the basil to the tomatoes. Cut the chicken into cubes. Add the chicken and the gnocchi to the sauce in the saute pan and toss to coat. Top with some shredded Parmesan and serve.