Happy December, friends! It's the perfect time of year to warm up with a toasty mug of hot chocolate! If you're looking to treat yourself and upgrade the ho (ho ho)-hum packet of cocoa, I suggest a pipping hot naughty or nice (virgin) holiday hot chocolate from The Ritz Carlton.
Prompted by the Anthony Bourdain quote, "The table is the best reflection of a nation and the fasted way into that culture," I couldn't help but nod in fervent agreement.
Food, the way we eat, what we eat, when we eat how we eat, and with whom we eat reveals a lot about a person. It can tell you about a person's family heritage, culture, geographic location, food allergies, and access to food. What we consume can reveal part of who we are.
It can speak to our religious or spiritual beliefs, and our relationship to the Earth. Whether we are farmers who live off of the land or 'freegans' who dumpster dive to recover wasted food, every morsel we put into our mouths defines us.
Food bonds us with one another. It can be a shared love of green tea or a family tradition of fishing, one thing is constant: food unites us. It is the focus of first dates and midnight pantry raids at sleepovers.
Travel taught me the important role that food plays in distinguishing each culture. My culinary adventures specifically during my semester abroad in Granada, Spain, revealed how closely food and culture interlace.
I was able to see first hand what true appreciation for food looks like. The slower pace of Spanish restaurants revealed the importance of enjoying each moment of a meal. Wait staff never ask if you are ready for your check and won't try to rush you out the door at closing time. Coffee isn't served in a styrofoam cup. It's not a food to take 'on-the-go'. It is meant to be sipped and savored accompanied by warm conversation with companions. Every experience is designed to be enjoyed at a relaxing pace as a celebration. Even getting a haircut lends itself to a crisp and refreshing 'cerveza' or beer.
Our tables, the food the hold, the people we share meals with, and cook with are one piece of the mosaic that is our culture and identity.
I have always been intrigued by artichokes. I've eaten them in salads at restaurants and tried artichoke dip. I knew I liked their roasted, vegetal creaminess but was always too intimidated to make them. Today I'm setting out to show that artichokes can be made simply by a college student with limited time to spare.
- 2 large artichokes (whole)
- 1 lime, halved
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Get a rimmed baking sheet and two large pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil ready for roasting.
- Cut off the stem of the artichoke (at its base) with a serrated knife. Also cut off one inch off the top of the artichoke, exposing the center a bit.
- Rub each down with half of the lime. Squeeze the remaining juice over them.
- Place each artichoke on a piece of foil -- standing on its base.
- Push a clove of garlic into the center pocket and keep pushing until it is inside (half an inch or so).
- Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Squeeze the other half of the lime juice over the top.
- Grab the corners of the aluminum foil and press together on top to tightly seal the artichoke. You don't want any gaps or openings. Use another piece of foil if necessary.
- Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Let rest in foil for another 15 minutes before serving (in a bowl -- we'd recommend).
-Be cautious eating the outer leaves. Some are tough and swallowing them can painful and they aren't easily digested.
-They don't call it the heart of the artichoke for nothing! The center leaves are softest and most flavorful.
- 1 1/2 cups chickpeas or white beans (1 can, drained)
- heaping 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup nut butter of choice
- 1 and 1/4 cups pitted dates
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp oats (You can omit if desired.)
- almond milk of choice as needed (depending on the consistency you want. I used a few tbsp.)
1. In a bowl, cover the dates with 1/4 cup water.
2. Then add all ingredients (including the dates’ soaking liquid), except chocolate chips, to a food processor (for best results, not a blender) and process until very smooth.
This can be served as a dessert dip, as a spread (maybe in between apple slices or crackers?), eaten with a spoon, mixed into oatmeal, stuffed into cupcakes, or even used to top pancakes!
Recipe adapted from: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/09/27/new-recipe-sugar-free-cookie-dough-dip/
Vegetarian recipes are, in their most basic form, the combination of vegetables, legumes, oil, and spices. The beauty of this is that it does not matter what selection of the aforementioned categories you have in your pantry.
As a college student constantly on the move I live for meals made with things I have on hand. It doesn't have to be fancy or elaborate. Sometimes it is the simplest dish that can bring the greatest joy.
Today I scoured the depths of my refrigerator that I share with my five wonderful roommates and located the remains of my last trip to the grocery store. Our fridge is so jammed with food that there is a 100% chance that anytime you open the door an average of 3 and 1/12 items will fly out and your feet.
Today I was hit with some bell peppers, onion, and brussels sprouts. A quick spin of the can opener, slice of veggies, and drizzle of olive oil created my serendipitous approach to cooking.
This non-premeditated method of cooking is where I feel most comfortable. Toss some spices like red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic powder, and pepper into the pot and you're set to go!
Next time you're feeling inspired by the contents of your pantry, give it a try! The hodgepodge of ingredients in your fridge could end up becoming your favorite meal.
In thinking about my semester abroad (Spring of 2013) I am reminded of friends, my host family, fiestas, and food. My european adventures were the ideal avenue for trying new foods and indulging in the flavors of each culture I encountered.
The pizza guy doesn’t care if I hoover vacuum an entire pizza into my pie-hole. As long as I fork over the $13.45, I’m good. The summer after junior year I quit field hockey and rolled up to the corner pizza shop. It was a small dive place with a no-frills attitude. Upon entering there was a counter and direct view of the ovens without a single chair for customers.
Driving was a novelty then. With that fresh-car-smell came the power to buy and consume food anonymously. “One large to go,” I cooed to the scruffy beard across the counter.
Pizza, an old friend. As a child, I remember roller skating birthday parties ending with sizzling slices of tri-cheese topped pizza. Pizza is a cure-all. From the pain in your stomach after too many loops around the skating rink, to the pain of a relationship gone sour, and the inevitable meltdowns during midterms, Pizza is there.
Pulling into my driveway the excitement and torture of anticipation was palpable. My car filling with nuances of basil, fresh tomato sauce, and warm dough.
With one artful place of my index finger at the center of the triangle base, it gives way and fold into itself. Creamy webs of cheese provide an escape route for the river of grease pooling at the spine of the slice. As each grease laden tear drop falls I imagine the calories I am evading. This is my small consolation.
Like the aftermath of a storm, snow-like flour finds its way to my lap. Its chalky dust settles onto my pant legs in between the kneecap and the thigh. It is my white flag of surrender to the next jean size up. Eight mangled crusts sit piled like a fortress on my plate. They are equal parts gold medal and scarlet letter.
Pizza has this effect on me. I start by telling myself that I deserve every last bite. After all, why should I deprive myself of eating something that brings me so much pleasure? As a human with needs and desires, I have a right to pizza. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my pizza yen and will eat to my heart’s content.
My mercurial mind vacillates to the dark side. A picture of a pie chart enters my mind. Suddenly, I’ve become a statistic. If Shannon eats 100% of the pizza, then... Then what? I’m human? Then what? I have no control? What?! I’m going to get fat? Well, fine. Was eating the whole pizza necessary? Probably not. But, boy did it taste good.
We were in the no-mans-land time-zone between lunch and dinner that falls precisely between 3:00-5:00, commonly referred to as "linner". A quick call to Talula’s Daily assured us they were open and ready to welcome us for a meal immediately.
It was the first day in weeks without snow covering the streets or rain clouds threatening. The city had an extra pep in its step and with the prospect of a satisfying meal, I did too. My dining companion and I strolled the streets at a leisurely pace welcoming the warm air and friendly faces of the Philadelphia. Just a few blocks from the city’s center we found ourselves at Talula’s door.
The long, undulating coffee bar was first to meet my eye. The wave of wooden panels collaged and complimented by soft white lights under the lip of the counter drew us closer to ogle at the myriad of pastries, coffees, and juices. The pastries made in-house, fresh juice squeezed on-site, and renowned coffee from roasting company, La Colombe, beckoned us to try a taste. We stepped further into the building and glided up a few stairs to the main dinning room where a second counter awaited us.
This menu flaunted soups, sandwiches, wine, beer, breads, to-go salads and sandwiches, jams and nut butters. The architecture of the counter ordering system allows customers to ask questions about the pre-made, a la carte items in the the glass case of a la carte items and distinguish how much of each item they desire in coordination with the fashionable dishes from Anthropologie. The range of patterns and dish size aid in personalizing the amount of desired food from large portion to nibble. The eclectic combination complimentary colors and bold patterns creates a homey and relaxed vibe.
The long, wood community tables are perfect for large parties and opportunities to make new friends. The unique set up makes you feel like you are at home with friends rather than in a restaurant full of strangers. Red, ladder-back chairs and inviting yellow walls gives Talula’s a farm house feel. The peaceful presence of the space can be summed up by the two-pane-wide peace sign laced with a string of pink lights that hangs in the window overlooking the park.
The understated and warm decor mirrors their customer service. They are both caring and attentive in their dedication to creating a positive experience for diners. The values of the company shine through their willing to take the extra steps to make you feel welcomed and comfortable. At Talula’s it doesn’t feel like you are eating out to dinner. Rather, it is like being served in a close friend or family member’s home. I most strongly felt this kinship when I inquired about their “Secret Supper”.
The menu showed that each month Talula’s rolls out a seasonally focused, five course meal with optional drink pairings. I frowned at the menu when I saw the dishes were meat centered and mentioned to our server that I was a vegetarian. She was quick to assure me that they could accommodate and alter the meal to be vegetarian. In fact, the chef was known to purchase specialty vegetarian items to make a hearty vegetarian meal instead of lack-luster substitutions.
Mushroom mac and cheese broccoli rabe looked delectible in the glass case and smelled fresh on my plate. The slice of mac and cheese held large ziti noodles that collapsed and trapped creamy cheese and heads of mushrooms between pockets of noodles. The top layer sprinkled with light bread crumbs was lightly charred and gave way to a plush and cheezy center. The broccoli rabe was perfectly oiled and had a garlicky twist to it. It’s slippery corm was contrasted with thin slices of crunchy of almonds.
Talula’s Daily features American farm and garden food that is versatile.They can easily toss the market section food into a dish and warm it up, and you can enjoy it there as if you were in your own home. Or you can take it to go and eat it outside in the Washington square, park hang out on a bench or cozy up to a large tree trunk with a favorite novel. You can even take piece of the restaurant home with you with their nick-knacks such as locally made nut butters, cheeses, chocolate, growlers (take out beer), and coffee to be savored later or gifted to the foodie friend in your life.
Culinary quests keep me excited and interested in what my next meal is going to be. It can be trying the latest pre-packaged snack or funky vegetable that I hadn't heard of. Novelty is what keeps us going in life.
"Whats kimichi?" I chirped to the smile-sharing man behind the counter. "Cabbage, it's usually spicy but the skewers aren't too spicy." The skewers were pockets of savory, vegetal spice that was topped with a sweet chili sauce.
My mouth pooled and puckered with anticipation of the "Drunken" spicy noodles. I thought back to last semester when I borrowed some of my roommate's hot-sauce. Without a second thought I doused my spinach and tomato salad with Joe's Insanity hot-sauce. While the title might have been a tip off to the heat, I knew I liked spice and could handle the heat. It wasn't until I began shoveling large forkfuls of the crimson lava into my mouth that I began to realize the impact of what I had done.
My right hand wiped away a salty stream of tears from my cheek while my left hand raised the bottle eye level to more closely examine its' contents. I only saw the warning label on the back which read: "Use one drop at a time. Keep away from eyes. If you have a heart condition please do not use this product."
While a healthy dose of novelty is crucial to a staying out of food ruts, sometimes treading new waters helps us appreciate what we know and love all the more. The skewers were a great treat to add a pop of excitement and adventure into my diet and day. But, sometimes having a bagel with ripe avocado on top is all you want.
Mixing up the old and the new is the balance we all strive for. How much of what we have now can we hold on to in the future? What items, moments, or people do we need to let go of to make room for the new things in life? Try something new and see what you might be missing out on. Or, maybe, have a bite-sized reminder of what tastes you are fortunate to enjoy. Savor each moment.
I cook because I like having the autonomy to choose what I eat. Cooking allows me to eat according to my mood, be creative, make mistakes, improvise, learn, and cook for and with others. The therapy of chopping of onions, washing lettuce leaves, and mixing batter by hand create a symphony of smells and sound. Even if a meal doesn't turn out the way I plan it is guaranteed to be satisfying because there is power and pleasure in combining dashes of this and that. Cooking fulfills our innate desire to create.
When cramming for finals or unwinding after a tough week, I crave salt, crunch, and spice. This kale chip recipe encompasses all of these guilty pleasures in one funky looking chip.
The fresh and fibrous leaves cook down into waves of green splashed with spice.
- 4 cups chopped kale leaves (I bought mine pre-chopped from TJ's)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (can adjust or omit
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust for how salty you prefer)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Layer the kale leaves in a single layer on the pan.
- Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the top.
- In a small bowl, stir together all of the spices.
- Then sprinkle evenly over the leaves. Use your hands to massage the spices into all of the kale leaves.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp, but still green.
- Spread spices evenly.
- Make sure it is one layer of kale so it has room to cook. Lay out as flat as possible and wait until lightly browned and crispy. if not, it will be wilted or chewy.
- The leaves cook way down, so even if it looks like you are making too much, chances are you aren’t because the size shrinks to about 1/2.
Recipe adapted from http://eat-drink-love.com/2014/04/zesty-baked-kale-chips/