On the Menu: Cleaning out the Freezer & Pantry

I keep apologizing to my roommate for the sad state of our disheveled freezer. It’s filled to the brim with gluten-free bread and buns; chicken breasts; hot dogs and hamburgers; and bags of vegetables. I promised her that this week was “Cleaning Out the Freezer” week, but I added in “& Pantry” at the last minute ūüôā I spent too much on groceries last week, so I’m making up for it by polishing off what I have in my kitchen this week.

Leftover shrimp & grits from Poole’s

Leftover mashed potato vegetable pie

Gluten-free ratatouille pizza based on this recipe

Sausage patties

Kale, cannelli bean, & feta quesadilla

Collard green & kale soup

Jambalaya with New Orleans andouille sausage

Spiced tomato chickpea soup

Greek-style chicken

Hot dogs + Udi’s gluten free buns

Burgers + Udi’s gluten free buns

Mexican pizzas

Navel oranges

Carrot sticks


recap: a taste of georgetown

My friends knew they wouldn’t be able to spend my birthday with me in July, so they planned a birthday surprise for this past weekend. I knew it involved food but I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be until we grabbed iced coffees from Dean and Deluca, turned the corner, and saw Taste of Georgetown, which is an annual festival with food samples, wine and beer tastings, and live jazz. Seriously? An outdoor festival where I get to eat, drink, listen to music, and hang out my friends?! Best present ever.

My friends got a deal for five food tastings and six drink samples! It doesn’t sound like a lot, but we were stuffed- we had to leave, digest, and come back to finish!

By the way, if you follow my blog for gluten-free inspiration, turn away now. I’m about to really disappoint. But I couldn’t say no to all the amazing offerings!

First up- wine at approximately 10:45am. Our first sample was SkinnyGirl wine, because we love Bethenny!

Next up: my friends each got a different crepe from Cafe Bonaparte and I of course stole a bite of each. The caramelized apple one was my favorite by far.
The next sample was our favorite sample of the day: Belmont Charcuterie {handcrafted cured meat}, Pesto Aioli, and Pickles on Grilled Ciabatta and a little cup of gazpacho on the side from Degrees Bistro {located in the Georgetown Ritz Carlton}.
My first ever Lobster Roll from Georgetown Catering! Probably my second favorite item of the day- it ran out really early in the day, so we were happy we went so early.
I was most excited about the dish from Mie N Yu- Hisho Miso Cold Duck Noodles with House Made Duck Pastrami, Buckwheat Soba Noodles, Toasted Sesame, Japanese Greens, Yuzu Kosho, Aromatic Akamiso Duck Broth, Pickled Daikon, and Crispy Garlic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as great as it sounded, so we were a bit disappointed.
Next up, we all sampled Filomena’s Ravioli Alla Matrimonia: Roasted Meatballs on Baked Cheese Ravioli. Soo delicious!
Dessert was not one, but two Georgetown Cupcakes- molten lava and salted caramel! We loved the salted caramel but I could only manage a tiny bite of the molten lava’s cream cheese frosting.

After a few hours of lounging by the waterfront, we went back for more. The longest line we waited in was for paella from Bodega.
We couldn’t waste our tickets! Here we have Paella and Jamon Serrano, both from Bodega Spanish Tapas & Lounge. I loved the jamon but wasn’t blown away by the paella.
Lastly {thank goodness} we had Veggie Pad Thai from Bangkok Joe’s. Good but not amazing {maybe it was because I was so full}.

Crazy amount of food, huh? I felt a bit¬†gluttonous! We had to digest {part two}, so we found a shady spot on the lawn outside a Georgetown church who openend their gates for the festival.¬†¬†I ended up giving my drink tickets to my friends, because I couldn’t bear to put anything else into my stomach! I loved this angle:

Thank you for the amazing present, Lindsay and Karrie!

wrapping up the weekend

I’m a big fan of Sundays- I generally have no obligations, I give myself a “lazy pass,” and it’s a day to recap the weekend and look forward to the week.

Speaking of recapping {though it doesn’t relate to this weekend}- I love the expression “The best part of a Saturday night out is the Sunday morning recap.” I remember so many days in college where we’d have a fun night out and spend hours recounting and dissecting it over Sunday brunch ūüôā

But back to this weekend! As I mentioned, my dad is in town for the weekend, so we wanted to show him our lives in Raleigh. On Friday, he and I went to breakfast at Flying Biscuit, where I ordered my go-to: the Eggs-Ceptional Eggs {“two large farm fresh eggs over medium, on black bean cakes topped with oven-roasted tomatillo salsa, feta cheese & sour cream served with creamy dreamy grits”- soo good!}.

On Friday evening, we met up for dinner at David’s Dumpling, where Sara and I split an order of soft shell crab with seaweed salad and I ordered the Vietnamese pho as my main course! I love how David {the owner} is always there to check in on customers. And they always bring a different seasonal soup sample to the table- this time it was chilled cucumber soup. Delicious but not quite as killer as last fall’s carrot ginger soup.



Can you see how our family revolves around food? All of our family vacations sound like this: “Let’s get breakfast then hang out. Then we’ll eat lunch here and then just chill or nap. Then where should we go to dinner?” Haha!

I was going to check out the Museum of Natural Sciences’ special 24 hour grand re-opening after dinner, but I opted to climb into bed with a good novel instead. I’ve been uncharacteristically exhausted all week, so I wanted to get some extra rest.

On Saturday we headed out to Pittsboro to volunteer with Carolina Tiger Rescue for Change the Triangle’s April event. The experience was SO neat- it deserves its own post {with photos!}. But here’s a fun fact: apparently tiger spray smells like buttered movie theatre popcorn. Strange, right?!

After the volunteer event, we tried to attend Cuegrass, Raleigh’s annual BBQ + bluegrass festival, but decided to choose an indoor activity once the rain started pouring. Speaking of¬†movie theatre popcorn…we headed off to see 21 Jump St {where we befriended the manager and got free movie tickets haha!}. Hilarious movie- see it if you haven’t! The rest of Saturday was pretty uneventful and may or may not have ended up with another early night in bed- lame I know ūüôā

Sunday’s agenda: farmers’ market and brunch, picking out herbs, and seeing where the day takes us…

creative foods

If you’re like me, you love dishes and recipes that incorporate interesting ingredients {like sunchokes} or creative displays {do you see that cupcake baked in an empty eggshell in the picture below?!}

{Click on the image below to be taken to my “Creative Foods” board on Pinterest}

What’s the coolest, most creative food arrangement you’ve seen?!


This Day Last Year: Divine Secrets of The Roman/Prater Sisterhood

review: gluten-free garden lites roasted vegetable souffle

Anyone out there ever tried Garden Lites? They are gluten-free vegetarian souffles, and I happened across them in the frozen food section of Harris Teeter. I picked out the Roasted Vegetable Souffle because it was the most colorful.

I took it to the office for lunch, popped in into the microwave, took my first bite…and tried to like it. I really did. I love the idea of healthy gluten-free freezer options.

But at almost $4 a pop, they definitely aren’t big enough to constitute a whole meal, and all I could think what I could make at home for $4 a (filling) serving. In addition, it was pretty bland and watery. I didn’t finish it.

I would be open to trying the other souffle options- want to help me out, Garden Lites? ūüôā

Photo credit

on the menu for the week

  • Kale, Chorizo, Potato Soup {I used my 400 Soups cookbook but this recipe will suffice}
  • Tofu Stir Fry with Leeks, Potatoes, and Kale {no recipe needed! I added a bit of balsamic vinegar for an extra pop of flavor}
  • Chorizo Stuffed Pepper {based on this recipe; had to figure out a way to use up the rest of the chorizo that I bought for the soup!}
  • Marinated Butternut Squash {based on this recipe, but I baked the squash with the marinade poured into the hollowed out middle}
  • Dill Salad {based on this recipe…summer salad is okay in this weather, right?!}
Upon request from Callie¬†{my new blog friend}, here’s the recipe(ish) for the tofu stir fry!

In a skillet, I sauteed diced potatoes in butter over medium until just about soft. Then I added in sliced leeks, chopped kale, and cubed extra-firm tofu and sauteed until the tofu was slightly browned.

In the future, I would marinate the tofu overnight with olive oil, garlic, rice vinegar, and soy sauce {my favorite tofu marinade!}, but this time, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of feta on top worked wonders ūüôā

If this combination seems random, it’s because it is. I picked leftover ingredients from my fridge and put together a dish. These are all versatile, easy-to-use ingredients, so I didn’t have any problem making them mesh well!

homemade bibimbap

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Source: unknown

“Bibim-what?” You may be asking. My friend Lindsay introduced me to bibimbap, a Korean dish that means “mixed with rice,” at Mandu¬†in DC. Another friend and I ended up finding Rice Bar, which, in the words of one Yelp reviewer, is like “Chipotle or Subway, except with bibimbap.” For a decent price (a base price of $6.49 but it quickly adds up), you get a Design Your Own Bibimbap Bowl. I went to town- wild rice, seaweed, kimchi, the works…

Since bibimbap is apparently a very easily adaptable dish, I decided to try it at home- just like my other rice and quinoa bowls. And it’s naturally gluten-free and easily vegetarian or vegan too!

Below is what I put in my bowl but use these sites for inspiration: Serious Eats. I Really Like Food. Globetrotter Diaries. For a whole array of amazing pictures, visit TasteSpotting.

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Source: unknown

My ingredients:

  • Bite-sized kale pieces, sauteed with olive oil and a dash of sesame oil
  • Pre-cooked sliced steak, drizzled with soy sauce and Annie Chun’s Korean Barbecue Sauce
  • Thinly sliced cucumber marinated in rice vinegar with a dash of dried red pepper
  • Bean sprouts leftover from my Vietnamese¬†excursion to Pho Cali over the weekend
  • Minute Rice (I know, I know, definitely not the same as sticky rice!)
  • Kimchi
  • A drizzling of sesame oil, soy sauce, and Sriracha (the closest I could get to the hot pepper paste normally used, called gochujang)
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This was an easily packable lunch for work: I combined the cucumber, kale, bean sprouts, and kimchee in one Tupperware; the steak in another small one; and the dressing in a third. At 12pm (I’m always famished by then!), I heated the Minute Rice and combined it with the other ingredients. The heat from the rice heated everything else! I realized after I finished that I had forgotten an egg though ūüė¶

This meal is probably easier for me than most people because my fridge is fully stocked with a bunch of Asian sauces and oils- I have peanut oil, Korean barbecue sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, etc. For the recipes I make, they’re all good investments! The other problem is that MSG is hiding in one of them, so I got an odd headache-y feeling after eating the bibimbap today.

Recap: Change the Triangle July event

Yesterday I decided to go to my second (well, first official!) Change the Triangle event. If you’re not familiar, CTT is the Triangle’s young adult volunteer group, which combines a monthly service project with a social event. And it was started by the sister of yours truly!

July’s event took place at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. For three hours, we sorted through donations from local grocery stores. Unfortunately, some of the donations had to be tossed (AKA put gently into a bin, per the words of our supervisor!), because they were torn open, re-taped, or¬†unsalvageable¬†because of dents. But at the end of our shift, we- some 30 young adults- had sorted through 12,000 lbs of food and non-food products!

We were all sweaty, gross, and wearing work out attire, so naturally…it was time to hit the Ale House! Some of us ordered food to ease our hunger pains. In retrospect, it was symbolic- we were hungry from volunteering in the heat for 3 hours, but what about the families who are forced to receive food from partner agencies of the Food Bank ¬†because they can’t afford it otherwise? How must they feel every day?

And that’s what CTT does. It encourages you to think beyond your one monthly service project. It encourages you to recognize that those three hours are incredibly valuable (did you read the 12,000 lbs part?!) but also acknowledge that it’s about something bigger than putting in your dues and walking away.

And, may I say, you can do all of the above while having a whole heck of a lot of fun! We joked, we laughed, we teased, we made friend dates (local brewery, here we come!). What an amazing thing when a group of cool, fun young adults will give up part of their Saturday to come out and make a positive contribution to their community. I look forward to many more Saturdays with this group.

stumbled upon: links to good, fascinating, and just plain odd content





Everyday Living

Incredibly Random

the fifth taste: umami

During a recent cookout with friends, we randomly stumbled onto the topic of taste buds. Apparently there is a less well-known fifth taste- along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty- called umami.

The Japanese word for delicious, umami has been described as a “meaty mouth-feel” and refers to the taste that monosodium glutamate (MSG), an amino acid, produces.

So where can you find this magical taste? Seaweed soup, tomatoes, aged cheese, mushrooms, veal stock, pepperoni pizza, fish sauce, and anchovies, to name a few.

There still appears to be confusion over the potential negative health consequences of MSG, but rest assured that glutamate is naturally occurring in many foods.

Anyone other there with more insight on this issue?