Figs & Plums

In the CSA box we received last week, we received a wonderful pint of black mission figs and a plethora of red plum beauties. As the week progressed, the figs began to turn quickly so I knew action must be taken immediately. So I decided that I would make a jam of sorts. Since all of the recipes that I found required 2+ lbs of figs (an amount that I most definitely did not have in my possession), I decided to throw in some of the plums that weren’t quite ripe yet, but would add some bulk and a bit of tartness to the jam.

To make, I followed a delicious-looking recipe for Fig Jam by Kiss My Spatula with a few changes. I added 3 plums, which I chopped up to about the same size as the figs and rather than add Grand Marnier (which I didn’t have on hand) I added a squeeze of fresh orange juice. Once everything was chopped and measured, I mixed it all together in a pot and let it sit for 30 minutes before heating it up. The process went beautifully, the fruits mixed together creating a rich burgundy color. I’ve made jam once before, but I think I overcooked it because it turned out really hard and basically inedible, but this one turned out great and I received high praises from the bf, who is somewhat of a jam connoisseur.

figs + plums + sugar + lemon zest + lemon Juice + orange juice

first phase

second phase (breakdown begins)

pour into canning jars to cool completely

my favorite part about homemade jam…the jars



About a month ago, or longer, I accepted a part-time job at FontShop here in San Francisco as a Creative Assistant. While working here, I have had the pleasure of being introduced to yet another glorious Farmer’s Market that takes place on Wednesdays and Friday’s down by Civic Center. It’s a great market if you’ve never been. However, one day after work, I stopped by to find $1 bags (!!!!) of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, dried beans…and the list goes on and on. It turns out that at the end of the day, vendors just want to get rid of stuff. (You can only begin to imagine my excitement when I discovered this!) I mean, the produce is incredible. The TOMATOES? Get out! Anyways, so for the past several weeks, I’ve been coming home with bags of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers every Wednesday evening.

This past week, I came home with an entire bag of cucumbers, which I decided I was going to make homemade pickles with, something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now. I looooove me some pickles and we have pickling spice just waiting to be used. So last Friday, I went to work. I used a recipe for Refrigerator Pickles from A Tasteful Garden with some slight modifications. I didn’t have any dill seed so I didn’t add that or the garlic cloves. I also heated up the vinegar and sugar mixture to help the sugar dissolve completely, let it cool and then poured it over the sliced cucumber, red pepper and onion mixture. The liquid mixture didn’t make enough to cover all of the vegetables at first, however, to my surprise, within several hours, the vegetables had broken down so much as they absorbed the liquid that this was no longer the case. Now we have a ton of pickle brine that we can continue to throw fresh cucumbers in. Win win.

Sliced vegetables, topped with salt to absorb the liquid

Sliced vegetables in large jar with pickle brine

Sideview, vegetables immersed in brine.


Fresh basil makes everything better…

Or just about everything. We currently have in our possession, two containers of fresh basil from Trader Joe’s that we have been able to put in just about everything from our breakfast dishes to our happy hour beverages. It is quickly becoming a favorite herb to have on hand, maybe all of the time? The smell of fresh basil is like no other. It makes me wish I had fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes on hand at all times.

Roasted Ratatouille

Last night, I cooked up some Ratatouille with several of the fresh vegetables that we received in our CSA box this week including tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash. I used a new recipe for Roasted Ratatouille that turned out just as delicious as the last. I followed the recipe as is, except I didn’t add the fennel bulb (simply because I don’t have any) and I added yellow cherry tomatoes (recommended in the comments section due to their sweeter flavor). I also cooked the vegetables for much longer than 45 minutes to allow the vegetables to almost caramelize, another recommendation from the comments section (I find it almost vital to read the comment section of any recipe to learn what other’s have learned or changed to make the recipe even better). Once everything was cooked, I topped it with the olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and fresh basil mixture and served it on israeli couscous with some simply baked chicken breast.

Egg & Tomato Breakfast Sandwich

Then this morning, I created a breakfast recipe from miss Martha Stewart’s collection to use up some more of the delicious summer vegetables we received in our CSA. I wanted something simple that would really let the heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil shine without a lot of extra ingredients. I chose to make her Egg & Tomato Breakfast Sandwich that is super simple and quick to make. We had half of a french bread loaf in the freezer, so I stuck that in the oven on low to let it thaw out. While that was thawing, I sliced a few thin slices of cheese from our white cheddar block, sliced up a tomato and some fresh basil. We also received a cantaloupe in our CSA which I also cut up this morning. I read an article last night that recommends scrubbing the outside of the cantaloupe before cutting it because the outer shell is prone to carrying harmful bacteria. Just a little FYI.Once the french bread was thawed, I sliced it in half and then in two, which I then let sit in the oven a little bit longer to get toasty. Then I added the sliced cheese to both halves (I decided t0 make this open-faced since the bread was pretty crunchy already). I let the cheese melt while I fried up some eggs. Once the eggs were done, I layered them in the cheesy french bread and topped them with fresh basil and sliced tomatoes with a little salt and pepper to finish it off. I served this along with some fresh cantaloups and sliced peaches (from TJ’s and are actually really good).

Lastly, I wanted to share a new drink that the bf and I are in love with. It is called a Gin Basil Smash and includes gin, simple syrup, lemon and fresh basil. IT IS SO GOOD and everything I’ve ever wanted in a summer beverage. I highly recommend and can guarantee you will not be disappointed (as long as you love all of the listed ingredients). Gin and citrus are definitely a match made in heaven, and then throw in some fresh basil? Get out. Don’t really. Just make one already.

Fresh Cantaloupe


Speaking of cheese…

I came across this great article from 100 Days of Real Food that was written in response to the question “If you avoid processed foods how is it that you’re still eating cheese (or cream cheese or sour cream or [insert dairy product here])? Isn’t cheese processed?”

Lisa Leake provides her personal ‘checklist’ of things she looks for when it comes to purchasing cheese, sour cream and yogurt. This list is a great guideline to keep in mind when purchasing your dairy. I, for one, have been buying the blocks of cheese mainly because it’s cheaper than shredded cheese, but now knowing that shredded cheese has an extra additive to keep it from sticking together (a not-awesome piece of knowledge that is new and disturbing to me) is definitely another great reason to stick to the block.

While organic may not always be available, Lisa’s list is a pretty great guideline to use when purchasing your dairy items or any food items for that matter. I particularly like her philosophy of choosing foods with the least amount of ingredients. “No matter what type of food you are buying I highly recommend to ALWAYS read the ingredients before making a purchase. Most of the time least processed = least number of ingredients (as long as those ingredients are whole of course).” —Lisa Leake

Screen shot 2012-07-30 at 12.38.59 PM

Fat or Fiction Infotographic

Awhile back I came across this infotographic that showcases the nutritional information of some of our favorite beverages and snacks in one of the most attractive layouts I’ve seen yet. As a lover of cheese, I thoroughly enjoy looking at the variety of beautiful cheese wedges as the nutritional information flashes up to the left in the least obtrusive way possible. A vast improvement on the standard nutrition label.

Click here for a great article by Mark Wilson from Fast Co.Design on this unique infotographic.



The Incredible Edible Egg

The other day, I came across a great article all about the egg. The Healthiest Food in the World, by Adam Bornstein, is a fantastic article that dissects all of the myths and misconceptions that revolve around the egg. Considered a superfood, Bornstein is hesitant to use this over-used phrase to describe the egg, but that’s exactly what it is. Over the years, people have had a love/hate relationship with the egg because of all of the health claims associated with it, both good and bad. Presently, it is advised to limit the amount of yolks that a person consumes because the yolk contains high amounts of cholesterol as well as fat. However, in this article, Bornstein does a great job explaining the truth behind this as well as why the yolk is so beneficial and why we should stop boycotting it in our morning breakfast. Below are some excerpts from his article that really struck a cord with me when it comes to how we feed our bodies.

“You see, one of the biggest problems in the health industry is that we over-complicate diets. Food becomes stressful, problematic, and negative. That’s the reason so many diets fail: We are victims of extreme measures and manipulated science. We try to boil down solutions into strategic, limited plans that are confusing, difficult to understand, and hard to follow. It’s no wonder so many people struggle with eating.” –Bornstein

“Your real goal? Live the healthiest life you can enjoy, not the healthiest life you can tolerate. Yes, if you have weight to lose, you’ll have to make changes. But if you change so far from who you are and what you enjoy, odds are that it’s not a sustainable plan. Don’t aim for your so-called “ideal” weight; instead aim for what I refer to as your “best” weight, which is the weight you reach when living the healthiest life you can actually enjoy.” –Dr. Yoni Freedhoff

Not only does Bornstein give you lots of really interesting and useful information with regard to the incredible edible egg, he also provides a list of the 20 Best Ways to Use Eggs. Personally, I found it super helpful and inspiring when it comes to adding variety to your mealtime eats. Tonight, I put his list to work. When it came time to decide what “fun” meal to do for a Saturday night dinner, I decided to try out his egg on a pizza. I found a wonderful recipe from Smitten Kitchen (always my go-to for recipes especially when trying out new foods). She has a wonderful recipe for Breakfast Pizza which I ended up customizing a bit due to what I had on hand. Rather than add shallots, I sauteed sweet onions along with the ham (which I used instead of bacon). I left off the chives and the parsley because I simply didn’t have them. After reading a variety of other recipes, I decided to add the eggs halfway through the cooking process to prevent over-cooking the egg. Eggs are so tricky though, next time I think I’ll omit the ham and let the eggs cook for maybe a minute less. It turned out wonderfully and the bf was definitely impressed.

Egg Stuffed Red Pepper

Another egg recipe that we’ve recently tried out, that I would highly highly recommend is one that the bf found. It was incredible. He actually found it on for Green Pepper Stuffed with Egg + Onion + Cheddar. The recipe is super simple, it just takes awhile for it to cook, so if you’re already starving, this may not be the best option, but it sure is worth the wait. To make, he used a red pepper which he cut the top off of. After whisking together the eggs + milk + salt + pepper, he added the onion + cheddar + cilantro and poured the mixture into the pepper. We don’t own ramekins, so he ended up using a coffee mug to bake the pepper in, which worked like a charm. Be sure to place on a baking sheet to catch any possible drips. Bake at 350 for about 40-45 minutes. Let it cool for a bit, cut in half and enjoy. We actually split one which was plenty for the two of us.

Breakfast Pizza

So there you have it, a list of 20 ways to use eggs plus a few recipes to help you incorporate more eggs into your diet. As with anything, it’s all about balance. If you eat too many/much of anything, it’s never a good thing. But eggs don’t deserve the bad reputation that they’ve gained over the past several years. Enjoy!


My love for cilantro.

This morning I decided to start the day off right and make a delicious and nutritious breakfast. I was inspired after reading today’s post by the nice people over at Turntable Kitchen who offer up a wonderful variety of weekly recipes. Today’s recipe was for Avocado Toast with a Poached Egg, and since you already know my love for avocado, clearly this was a go. Also, I’ve been wanting to work on my egg poaching skills and the fact that it’s a bit healthier is always a plus. I altered the recipe just a tad by smashing up the avocado and adding lime + s + p + chopped tomatoes. I also finished it off with a shake of cayenne pepper to add a little kick.

Avocado Toast + Cilantro + Poached Egg

As I began to prep, taking out the eggs, the bread, the avocados and the cilantro…I began to think about just how much I adore cilantro these days. I actually used to despise it. Back in the day (before my love of cilantro), my best friend’s mother would make me my own small batch of homemade salsa sans cilantro because she (a) is the sweetest ever and (b) knew that I was not a fan of it. I specifically remember my sister telling me that I was missing out on pure goodness because I didn’t like cilantro! Boy was she was right. Nowadays, I find myself thinking about just how much I love it whenever I cook with it, which is exactly what happened today. So naturally, I decided I would write a post about it and explain all of the wonderful benefits of eating cilantro as well as a little additional inspiration for what to use it in. (I want everyone to love it as much as I do, clearly.)

Fresh Cilantro


: Native to the Mediterranean, this herb has become a staple in a variety of cultures around the world. It is widely used in Mexico, Caribbean and Asian cooking.
: A member of the Parsley family, cilantro is edible from root to flower.
: Though many confuse cilantro and coriander, the leaf is actually cilantro (the herb) and the round tan seed is coriander (the spice).
: When purchasing, look for vibrant, fresh-looking leaves that have not begun to wilt or fade in color.
: There is an ‘anti-cilantro’ website for cilantro haters
: When steeped in tea, cilantro is said to have stomach soothing properties.
: In large quantities, cilantro provides Vitamin A and C.
: Acts to increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
: A source of iron, magnesium, and is helpful in fighting anemia. Can ease cramps, stomach aches and mood swings.
: Contains immune-boosting properties
(For more information, go to Global Healing Center)

Recommended uses
: Goes well with avocado, chicken, fish, lamb, lentils, peppers, pork, rice, quinoa, salads, fresh salsa, shellfish, tomatoes and greek yogurt
: Fresh salsa // tomatoes + onion + garlic clove + lemon juice + s + p + lots of cilantro + jalapenos + splash of olive oil
: Fish/Chicken/Carnita/Sweet Potato/fill-in-the-blank Tacos
: Make-your-own Chipotle rice // brown rice + lime + salt + cilantro
: Cilantro Pesto
: Quinoa salad // quinoa + black beans + avocado + corn + lime + s + p + cilantro + olive oil + ground cumin + feta (optional)

: The best method for storing is to immediately place cilantro (stems down) in a glass of water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and store in refrigerator.
: Do not wash herb until ready for use.
: Cilantro will last up to 1 week if stored properly.
: To save for a later day, freeze cilantro in a single layer within a zip-lock bag. Will last up to 6 months. No need to thaw before use.


The thesis project has a name: U Chews

After weeks (and weeks) of skimming books, sketching logos, making lists and lists of names and then lists and lists from those names and more logo sketches, I’ve finally figured out the name of this thesis project. I give you U Chews. I am currently working on the logo as well as certain aspects of my deliverables which I am super excited about.

The name was derived from the true core of what this project is all about : motivating college students to develop better eating habits, habits that their body will thank them for later. Both parts of the title hold double meanings, there’s U : University as well as you : the hungry college student and then chews : grub and choose : the food that you want to go into your body.

I’ve started the first phase of deliverable production in both my thesis directed study class as well as my packaging class that I am currently taking (and love) and will post progress soon.

Stay tuned.


Food for Thought

Over the past year, I’ve been trying to cut back on the amount of meat that I am consuming, reasons being financial, moral and just health in general. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a delicious steak every every now and then, but for the most part, I like to try to keep it to a minimum.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been noticing more when I manage to have completely meatless days, which, I’m not going to lie, is kind of exciting. It almost feels like an accomplishment. Not that I’m becoming a vegetarian tomorrow, it is just kind of awesome to discover foods and new recipes that are delicious and completely satisfying. Today for instance, we started off with breakfasts/brunch quesadillas (the bf is a quesadilla master). The quesadilla included scrambled eggs, sauteed onions & peppers, cilantro, black beans and freshly shredded cheese. Delicious! But breakfast is usually pretty easy when it comes to meatless options.

For dinner tonight, I wanted to make something on the lighter side especially since we have so many fresh veggies right now. Every now and then we like to make a ‘big salad’ for dinner. It’s both light and very satisfying. We had a lot of leftover ingredients from previous meals which made the ‘big salad’ even better. We also had a very ripe avocado which was just begging to be used. Rather than cut it up and add it to the salad, I decided to utilize a recipe from Eat, Live, Run for Hummus & Avocado Toast (!!!) If you’re not already following Eat, Live, Run then you should be. I’ve been a loyal follower for years, Jenna has some of the best recipes for the adventurous health-conscious eater. They’re all good. Hummus & Avocado Toast is super easy. I actually ruined the roasted tomatoes, so I just used fresh tomatoes splashed with a little bit of balsamic vinegar and sea salt. The end result was incredible. This went perfectly with our salad of spinach, red onion, chickpeas, a little bit of leftover quinoa, mushrooms and a hard-boiled egg lightly coated with a homemade vinaigrette of dijon mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, s + p and olive oil (a recipe I’ve used for years thanks to my sister).

Another thing that I would like to share with you, what really inspired this post was something that I read today thanks to my stack of research that I’m currently going through. Since I’m focusing greatly on college students, I’ve been reading a lot of great articles on not only what college students are currently eating, but also what they should be eating and why. One of the articles discusses the affect that food has on your brain and why you should always chose the healthier option over the convenient option during intense study sessions. This article, “During Exams, Eat Healthy For Your Brain,” tells us that we should choose items such as fresh berries, leafy greens, fish, walnuts, soybeans, avocados and natural peanut butter when we are in need of extreme concentration. These foods actually help us to concentrate more as opposed to greasy grub offered at your nearby fast food joint.

“Students should avoid eating any kind of processed foods or anything with hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup, as these things can slow a person down and cause memory loss later in life.”

“Hydrogenated oils actually can make the arteries to your brain rigid over time,” she said. “Giving them up is good for anything. If you want to study and keep your brain healthy then you should avoid this stuff.” -dietitian Laura Hartung

While fast food is cheap and convenient, the next time you’re in need of a quick bite to eat, chose something that will satisfy you for longer and you’re body will thank you for later.

• Peanut Butter + Whole-Grain Crackers
• Mashed up Avocado + Hummus, S + P, Toasted Whole Wheat Bread
• Handful of Walnuts
• Spinach salad + Chickpeas +  Vegetables + Homemade dressing (don’t buy the bottled stuff, too many unknown ingredients + $$)

Back to the books for me. Happy eating.


Study: Convenience, Not Price, Limits Veggie Consumption

This morning, I came across an article by Fooducate that highlights a recent study published in Public Health Nutrition on the major factors that play a roll in people’s food purchases.

A research paper published in Public Health Nutrition posits that price is less of a factor in deciding to buy vegetables and fruits. Rather, it’s the convenient access to quality produce that increased purchases. —

Although this study focused greatly on low-income, primarily minority neighborhoods, I believe that access and convenience are major factors for people in general, no matter what the demographic is. When I read this article, my first thought was of how this study related to the demographic that I am focusing on for my thesis project : college students. While there are still those that are not interested in healthy eating, etc, there are, more than ever, more and more people who WANT to eat better. Even at the college level. There is definitely an increase in the number of college students interested in having more (better quality) healthy options available on-campus. Colleges are starting to take notice of this and some are even doing something about it, but there still many that are not (iceberg lettuce and soggy broccoli in the dining hall doesn’t count).

Also, while having access to quality produce is one factor, another factor is what to do with said produce. In this article by the Washington Post, they make the following statement:

This study fits well with Mark Bittman’s recent article that Americans aren’t skipping healthy food because of its high cost, but rather because cooking with fresh produce takes significantly more work.

It’s understandable that people feel this way, however, by understanding the simplest methods of food preparation, I feel that people could really get on board with eating more fresh produce. Through my thesis, I am going to incorporate an educational aspect that teaches college kids the simplest methods to prepare wholesome foods, methods that they can utilize with a variety of foods.

Two reader’s responses to Fooducate’s article said it best:

“What we’ve heard and seen (qualitatively) is that many people don’t purchase vegetable because they don’t quite know what to do with them.”
I’m in that boat.  In an attempt to help overcome it, I’ve signed up as a CSA member for this upcoming growing season.  Starting in a few weeks, I’ll get a box of produce weekly and will either have to figure out what to do with them or throw them out.  Hopefully this will motivate me expand the number of vegetables in my “comfort zone” as well as expose my daughter to different foods. —Jason

I can’t agree more! Teaching our kids how to cook and feed themselves is just as important as teaching them to read and write.  Maybe they’ll help show their parents what to do with those veggies!  —Janet



So. I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from my blog over the past month…or three, to figure out what direction this thesis thing is taking. A direction that I am happy to say I have finally figured out.

Last semester, I was fortunate to be under the guidance of a great thesis advisor who really (REALLY) pushed me to figure out what it was that I wanted this thesis to accomplish. After interviewing and surveying a slew of victims, there was finally one that really, truly opened my eyes to an audience that I had not thought about. While I was home over Thanksgiving, I was introduced to a wonderful lady that my mother put me in contact with, we’ll name her Cindy for privacy purposes. Cindy, who majored in engineering in college, is a certified nutritionist who works with a variety of people to help them not only eat better but to lead healthier, happier lives in general. She is also a pilates instructor. When I met with Cindy, she informed me of her own experiences in helping people to eat better, which focused greatly on buying and eating wholesome foods. It was then that we discussed the idea of focusing on college-aged students as opposed to recent graduates new to the work force for reasons that I have included below in the summary.

While my thesis has taken on many faces, at its core, my mission still focuses on getting people to eat better, whether its by creating a smartphone application on simple food prep or an on-campus mobile market, I want to initialize the conversation on the importance of eating good, healthy food and that’s what I plan to do. As my thesis stands now, my mission is to make fresh food easily accessible for college students in order to provide healthier alternatives to junk food.

On today’s college campuses, students are faced with a wide variety of choices from the friends they make to the food they eat. Going away for college is the first significant life changer that a person endures, a time when they are most impressionable to new influences, including where and how to eat.

College is also a time when people establish certain habits, from time management to eating habits to sleeping schedules. How these habits are formed is crucial to a person’s success in both college as well as into adulthood. This is a time when guidance and support need to be present. The goal of Project X* is to provide this guidance and support with regard to student’s eating habits by providing convenient access to nutritious, wholesome food. On most college campuses, little exists outside of the dining hall that offers healthy, nutritious food for students. Rather than trekking back to the campus dining hall between classes, students resort to nearby fast food or convenient stores, which offer cheap foods at high volume, but ultimately provide little nutrition or long-term health benefits. Researchers at Oregon State University surveyed nearly 600 college students, mostly freshmen, about their eating habits and found that most weren’t even eating one serving of fruits or vegetables a day. The survey found that male students consumed more calories from fat and ate less healthy foods overall than did female students. Males averaged about five servings of fruits and vegetables a week, while the females reported only eating four servings a week. Female students also had low fiber intake, while males tended to consume high amounts of fat. Below is an excerpt from the online article about this study:

Cardinal, who is an expert in the psychological and social aspects of health and exercise, said the larger take-away message is that proper eating and nutrition is not integrated enough into our society. He said the surveyed students came from OSU, where healthy options are available in dining halls.“We are not teaching youth how to be self-sustaining,” Cardinal said. “Home economics and nutrition classes have all but disappeared from our schools in the K-12 system. There is a fundamental lack of understanding on how to eat well in a very broad sense.”  

This research highlights an opportunity to get onto college campuses and provide students with proper nutrition and nutritional guidance. There appears to be a definite lack of guidance and support when it comes to the eating habits of college students outside of the campus dining hall. The ultimate goal of Project X is to combat the high rate of health issues that current college students are at risk for as well as their future selves. By making healthy and nutritious food more accessible as well as exposing college students to a wider variety of foods, we can help them to make better decisions for themselves inside and outside the college experience.

While the name of my project as well as the aesthetic are still big unknowns, I am excited about this new direction. I had my first class of the semester with my new advisor this afternoon and am excited to start figuring out the front end of this project. Last semester I focused greatly on the backend of the project, including the business plan, competitive analysis, personas, pitches, personas, etc. 


Happy Fall

The past several weeks I have thoroughly been enjoying the wonderful fall weather (or as close to fall weather as we can get here in San Francisco). I’ve decided that I just love everything about fall, the leaves changing, the crispness of the air, PUMPKINS, pumpkin SEEDS, gourds, root vegetables, HALLOWEEN (I dressed up as Carmen Sandiego this year which was fun), stews, roasted vegetables and cheesy Halloween movies (aka Hocus Pocus). 

Some friends and I took a trip to Half Moon Bay a few weeks ago to celebrate the Pumpkin Festival as well as buy ourselves some wonderful pumpkins and gourds. My boyfriend and I purchased both a large pumpkin, a teeny tiny lil’ one and a turban squash. One of the guys that we were with brought up the idea of roasting a turban squash which naturally piqued my curiosity. Something new to roast?? I’m on it!

So last weekend, I looked up a bunch of different recipes and took to roasting anything and everything fall-like present in my kitchen. This included pumpkin seeds, turban squash seeds, radishes, brussel sprouts, and a delicata squash that I received from Farm Fresh to You. (I didn’t roast all of these in the same night, but over the course of the weekend.)


So beautiful and colorful.

Using Alison Sherwood’s advice, my boyfriend hacked away at this stubborn gourd which proved both dangerous and a bit scary, but successful. If you ever need to cut into a turban squash, it is best to use a large chef’s knife rather than a serrated one. I thought I could saw through initially with a serrated knife, but quickly learned it was not going to happen.

Cut up Turban Squash.

Once it was chopped into medium sized pieces, I followed the rest of Alison’s recipe. I placed the pieces on a foil-lined pan and coated the pieces in melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. I roasted these for about 40 minutes, long enough for the sugar to crystalize and knife to pierce the flesh with ease.

Cooked Turban Squash.

While it’s always fun to try new things, I think this might be a one and only time that I make this guy. In the end it tasted like a lightly sweetened pumpkin potato, if that makes any sense. If I were to make it again, I might make it into turban squash “fries” or make a puree out of it. Either way it was fun to make.


Along with the squash, I also roasted its seeds plus the seeds of my mini pumpkin in some olive oil, salt and pepper. The seeds from the turban squash are much bigger than pumpkin seeds but were still delicious.

Roasted Seeds.

Then, there’s this guy… the delicata squash.

Delicata Squash

I used this from Eating Well to prepare this delicata squash. The recipe was simple and super easy to follow. It’s a matter of slicing up the squash into 1/2″ slices, slicing up red onion and mixing them with olive oil and a little bit of salt. Throw them on a pan and roast them for about 30-45 minutes at 475, be sure to stir once or twice to prevent burning.

Roasted Delicata Squash + Red Onion

Once squash and onion are roasted, take out of the oven and allow them to cool for a bit. Here is where I wish I had made it differently. The recipe calls for you to create a mixture of rosemary, olive oil, dijon mustard and maple syrup to then pour onto the squash and onion. While the results were okay, I feel like the rosemary was definitely a little odd, but I think the next time I make it, I’ll leave off this extra step all together. The squash and onion were already delicious just using the olive oil and salt, no need to add anything. But, again, it’s always fun to try new things.


Last but not least…RADISHES! I received some radishes in my Farm Fresh To You box this week and was completely unsure of what on earth to do with them. I had a few brussel sprouts left from earlier in the week, so I wondered to myself, can I roast radishes???

But of course! So I did. SO easy, just as easy as roasting brussel sprouts, especially since you can roast them together, or I did and they turned out delicious. For the radishes, all you do is rinse them well and trim off the stems. Quarter each one and throw on a pan with brussel sprouts (if you prefer). Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and stick in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or more, until they’re tender and delicious. HIGHLY recommend if you’ve never prepared radishes before.

Roasted Radishes and Brussel Sprouts

Up close shot.

Happy roasting!


CSA Delivery : Week 1

Over the past several weeks, I have had the pleasure of receiving CSA boxes of delicious fresh produce from Farm Fresh To You. I have been slacking on posting what I have received thus far, which is evident in the out of season produce that I am posting in this one (this box is from the end of September, and I receive a new box every two weeks). However, I have been taking pictures, so I will be posting more in the coming week to get up to date on the wonderful foods I have been enjoying thanks to the wonderful people at Farm Fresh To You.

I want to post the produce that I receive as a way to share how to prepare these wholesome foods in the simplest of ways. Rather than having to dig through cookbooks, I would love for people to utilize the information that I have included on each item as a simple go-to for simple food combinations when they want to try something new but not have to buy a plethora of extra ingredients. Any and all simple preparation ideas are most certainly welcome.

Mission Figs at their best.


: Figs were brought to North America by the Spanish Franciscan missionaries who came to set up Catholic missions in southern California . . . hence the now-popular Mission  fig. There are hundreds of varieties of figs, all having in common a soft flesh with a plenitude of tiny edible seeds. They range in color from purple-black to almost white and in shape from round to oval.
: Fresh figs are available from June through October.
: The Mission fig is a high quality fig variety.
: Blackish-purple skin and pink colored flesh
: Figs are lusciously sweet and feature a complex texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds.

Recommended uses
: Add to oatmeal or any other whole grain breakfast porridge
: Poach figs in juice or red wine and serve with yogurt or frozen desserts
: Add quartered figs to a salad of fennel, arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese
: Fresh figs stuffed with goat cheese and chopped almonds can be served as hors d’oeuvres or desserts

: They’re extremely perishable and should be used soon after they’re purchased
: Figs may be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days

Green Onion


: Green onions are young shoots of bulb onions
: They have a small, not fully developed white bulb end with long green stalks.
: Scallions are considered younger than a green onion because they should not have a bulb, while green onions should have a miniature bulb.

Recommended uses
: Both the white base and the green onion are edible
: Chop up, toss with olive oil and sliced garlic. Slow roast at 325 degrees.
: Add to salads, stir-fries, soups and omelets
: Add to sour cream & onion dip, on top of baked potatoes
: Char on the grill

: Raw spring onion, leeks, shallots or chives

: Remove any rubber bands used to keep them together
: Wrap in a plastic bag and store in crisper for up to 5 days
: Keep distance from such foods as corn and mushrooms to prevent them from absorbing odor of onions.

Yellow Onion


: the all-purpose onion, used more than any other type of onion
: mature version of scallions
: to avoid teary eyes, peel onion under cold water
: Good quality yellow onions will be firm, free of blemishes or mold spots

Recommended uses
: Barbecue on the grill/george foreman in shish kebabs
: Saute with peppers + s + p + cumin for fajita night
: Add to stews, salads, sandwiches, and meat entrees
: Roast with other vegetables such as fingerling potatoes + s + p + garlic until tender

: 1 tbsp dried minced onion = 1 medium chopped onion // 1 teaspoon onion powder = 1 medium chopped

: Stored in a cool, dry location with good ventilation NOT in a plastic bag nor the refrigerator

Rosa Bianca Eggplant


: Mostly popular in Italy, where it grows
: A mild and tender specie of eggplants
: Flesh is creamy and delicate without sweetness or sourness

Recommended uses
: Stuff with garlic or italian sausage with parmesan cheese
: Marinate in balsamic vinegar + grill with tomatoes and serve with mozzarella cheese
: Drizzle with olive oil + s + grill, add to sandwich of caramelized onion + provolone + ciabatta bread
: Sauteed with olive oil + s + p + garlic for a side dish
: Use in Ratatouille :) or just roast with whatever vegetables you have on hand

: Eggplants do not store well as a whole
: Recommend slicing up and storing in closed container

Green Leaf Lettuce


: Had its start as a Mediterranean weed. Served on the tables of Persian Kings in 55 B.C.
: Available year round from California and Arizona

Recommended uses
: Add to sandwiches
: Use for lettuce wraps—nuts, sauteed vegetables, chicken, peanut sauce, black beans, get creative
: Turkey wraps—Deli Turkey + Sliced of Swiss Cheese + Mustard

: Should be washed and dried before storage
: Should be stored in either a plastic bag or wrapped in a damp cloth and stored in the crisper
: Store in crisper for 3-5 days.

Green Grapes


: Should have a slight pale yellow hue
: Best eaten at room temp
: One serving = 15-20 grapes = great way to get your daily fruit servings
: Very high nutritional composition
: Seedless grapes are not the result of genetic modification, as many believe them to be
: Some experts believe eating grapes on a regular basis could act as a natural antihistamine  for those that suffer year round and seasonal allergies.

Recommended uses
: Cut in half and add to salads of arugula + gorgonzola cheese + olive oil + lemon juice + s + p
: Add to curry dishes
: Serve with goat or gorgonzola cheese + crackers
: Mix with freshly scooped melon balls + watermelon balls + mint leaves + lemon juice
: Freeze for a delicious refreshing snack, or an ice replacement for warm white wine

: Unwashed grapes can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week

Beautiful Heirlooms


: My favorite produce in the entire world (side note)
: an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomato = can be found in a variety of colors, flavors, shapes and sizes
: Most flavorful in summer
: Locally grown usually possess best flavor
: Look for ones that yield slightly to pressure + are fragrant + heavy for their size
: Skin should be smooth + brightly colored + free from blemishes

Recommended uses
: Slice tomato + sliced avocado + olive oil + s + p
: Dice tomato + chopped white onion + garlic + jalapeno pepper + cilantro + s + p + hot sauce = salsa
: Slice tomato + s + p
: Whole wheat bread + sprouts + tomatoes + avocado + any other veggies you would like to add
: Marinate in olive oil + layer over fresh pizza dough + pecorino cheese + dried oregano
: Chop tomato + minced garlic + olive oil + basil + s + p + toasted sliced french baguette

: Keep at room temperature until ripe >> use with a day or two
: DO NOT REFRIGERATE >> affects the flavor


It’s Time To Get Real About Food

“Food Day’s goal is nothing less than to transform the American diet”

Why Eat Real?

Real food tastes great. Meals built around vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are delicious and satisfying. But far too many Americans are eating diets composed of salty, overly processed packaged foods clad in cardboard and plastic; high-calorie sugary drinks that pack on pounds and rot teeth, but have no nutritional benefit; and fast-food meals made of white bread, fatty grain-fed factory-farmed meat, French fries, and more soda still. What we eat should be bolstering our health, but it’s actually contributing to several hundred thousand premature deaths from heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer each year. What’s more, the way our food is produced all too often harmful to farm workers, the environment, and farm animals.

Food Day’s goal is nothing less than to transform the American diet—to inspire a broad movement involving people from every corner of our land who want healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. In other words, we want America to eat real. We want to get Americans cooking real food for their families again. We want fewer people at drive-throughs and bigger crowds at farmers markets. We want to celebrate fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains—and to support the local farms and farmers that produce them. We want all Americans—regardless of their age or income or geographic location—to be able to select healthy diets and avoid obesity, heart disease, and other diet-related conditions.

Food Day 2011 is on Monday, October 24, 2011. This is a nationwide event that is taking place to spotlight the current food issues taking place in our country today.

Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  •   Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
  •   Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

To find out what events are happening in your city, click here and enter your city, state or zip code. There are tons of events taking place including webinars that you can be a part of from the comforts of your own home.

Inspired to get in the kitchen? Food Day has provided a free recipe guide to wonderful dishes that you can create with your family and friends. So get in there are start cooking.

Food Day is an event that everyone can get involved in and everyone should get involved in, why? Because everyone eats, and (hopefully) everyone cares about being able to continue to eat in the future. Simple as that. Eating good wholesome food is a right, not a privilege.

Box with a Hamburger and French Fries

“If you can drive to McDonald’s then you can drive to Safeway…”

Recently, I came across a really interesting article titled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” by Mark Bittman that was posted in the New York Times. I would highly recommend reading this when you have a moment. He makes a lot of great points about the reality of how we eat and what we eat. After taking the $5 challenge last weekend, Taking Back the Value Meal, sponsored by Slow Food USA, this article definitely speaks to the same idea that real food can be just as cheap or cheaper than fast, over processed food we can get through the drive-thru.

Article:  Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

Some of my favorite parts of the articles are as follows:

“In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux. The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.”

The fact is that most people can afford real food. Even the nearly 50 million Americans who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) receive about $5 per person per day, which is far from ideal but enough to survive. So we have to assume that money alone doesn’t guide decisions about what to eat. There are, of course, the so-called food deserts, places where it’s hard to find food: the Department of Agriculture says that more than two million Americans in low-income rural areas live 10 miles or more from a supermarket, and more than five million households without access to cars live more than a half mile from a supermarket.

Taking the long route to putting food on the table may not be easy, but for almost all Americans it remains a choice, and if you can drive to McDonald’s you can drive to Safeway. It’s cooking that’s the real challenge. (The real challenge is not “I’m too busy to cook. In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.)

This article really hit home for me because several of the points brought up are issues that I am currently facing within the development of my thesis. I’ve been trying to figure out what demographic I want to focus on, a demographic that will benefit the most from this project. I don’t want to create just another pretty food project, but one that is effective and reaches those that need it the most in order to contribute to the food crisis we are experiencing and have been experiencing over the past decade or so.

As usual, we as Americans have searched out the opposite extreme as a ‘solution’ to this problem, by advocating the organic and local diet, something I myself am guilty of. However, this is not the solution because these items are not options for low income households or even different areas of the country. The ideal next step is just focusing on what IS available. With the increase of Walmart superstores being built around the country (something you may or may not see eye-to-eye on) the issue of access seems to be ‘lesser’ of a problem. I realize that we still have a ways to go before we can eliminate all food deserts, but for now I want to focus on how to get people to the grocery store versus the fast food restaurants, that definitely have a larger presence than supermarkets (“there are five fast-food restaurants for every supermarket in the United States” Bittman).

So I guess the question now America is:
What would get you to the grocery store versus going through the drive-thru or ordering delivery?
As people who seek convenience, what would entice you to WANT to food shop and prepare your own meals versus picking up the processed stuff?


Ratatouille anyone?

If the first thought you had was the movie with the sweet mouse, then, well, we can be best friends. I loved that movie, and like most, ever since watching it, I have been itching to make this wonderful Ratatouille dish. So this weekend…I finally did it. Ohhhhh boy. This was definitely an undertaking that I am very proud of. When it came time for it’s glamour shot, I was all about it…like a proud parent.

While I don’t want to go into the details of preparing this dish (because it most certainly does not follow the theme of this blog) there were definitely several steps within the preparation of this dish that I want to touch on, as well as highlight certain ingredients that I, myself, have never used prior.

If you have never heard of ratatouille, here is a little background:

: a warm vegetable dish consisting of onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, rosemary, basil, olive oil, garlic and salt
: from the French region of Provence
: vegetables can be cooked together or separately and then combined at the end
: can be served hot, cold or at room temp, either as a side dish or as an appetizer with bread or crackers

The recipe that I followed was actually for roasted ratatouille, there are several versions out there, however, this one seemed the easiest (?). I will tell you that it requires quite a bit of time, not just chopping and peeling, but the roasting time is quite lengthy. However, it is SO worth it. The vegetables, especially the eggplant and garlic, become almost buttery. MMM!

First things first…it called for 15 whole cloves of garlic. 15! Whew. I love me some garlic.

15 garlic cloves!

While the garlic remains whole, everything else needed to be peeled and chopped. One ingredient that required a peel was our very own tomato. Now, if you are an experienced cook, you might already know this secret, but if you are not, then read on. When it comes to peeling, one might automatically think, oh yeah, I have a peeler. However, I am here to make your life easier.

Cut a shallow 'x' into bottom before boiling.

I found this article on how to peel tomatoes without even picking up a peeler, or a knife for that matter. Just cut a shallow ‘x’ into the bottom of each tomato, place into a boiling pot of water for 30 seconds, throw into a large bowl of ice water for 5 minutes (to let them cool completely) and then prepare to be amazed at just how easily the peel comes off.

After peeling and chopping the rest of the ingredients, I threw them all into a bowl and added salt and rosemary. Little pieces of delicious rosemary. I for one, am a huge fan of rosemary. Back in high school (when I dreamed of being a pastry chef) I shadowed a chef at Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant in Louisville, KY for a day (thanks to my wonderful father who held a lot of business meetings there). One of the main things I remember from that day was working with the chef on a pork roast covered in rosemary. I remember the smell was just incredible! From then on I was sold. So I was sure to add in extra rosemary to this dish. On a side note, if you’ve never tried rosemary in your scrambled eggs…well…you should. The flavor is incredible. I never would’ve tried it had my bf not experimented with it. Delicious.



: a woody, perennial fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves. A member of the mint family
: whole sprigs can be used to flavor food, remember to remove the woodier part before serving

: high in iron, calcium and vitamin B

Recommended uses
: beans, chicken, fish, game, grains, lamb, mushrooms, onions, oranges, peas, pork, potatoes, poultry, salmon, spinach, steaks, veal, eggs
: great for roasting, grilling, and barbecuing
: mix with garlic, lemon and seasoning for a delicious marinade
: combines well with bay, chives, garlic, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, savory & thyme

: 1 T fresh = 1 t dried
: sage or thyme

: wrap in paper towel and place into Ziploc bag to keep fresh for several weeks (~15 days) in the crisper: can be frozen for longer storage

Once you get over how much you love rosemary, you divide the mixture between two large baking sheets, covered in foil and topped with parchment paper (allows for super speedy cleanup). Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, then throw the tomatoes in and roast for another 30 minutes or so. Make sure to stir ingredients every so often to prevent burning, the closer together the vegetables are, the less likely they’ll burn. Once you remove it from the oven, toss in about a 1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil. I bought some fresh basil while at the farmers market and I was definitely stoked to use it. It smelled up my entire fridge with it’s delicious aromas.

A little basil.

: there are more than 60 varieties of basil, each with its own distinct flavor (which can range from hints of lemon, thyme, jasmin, clove, cinnamon and anise)
: native to India

Recommended uses
: the ultimate complement to tomatoes, pairs well also with onions, garlic and olives
: pairs well with oregano, savory, rosemary and sage

: for most intense flavor, basil should be added at the end of the cooking process 

: when substituting fresh basil for dried, triple the amount (dried basil has less flavor)

: 1 T fresh chopped basil = 1 t dried 

: Fresh basil leaves should be layered in damp paper towels inside a plastic bag and refrigerated up to 4 days.
: fresh basil can be frozen either whole or chopped, added in still frozen to food prep
: dried basil loses potency within 6 months

And there you have it. If you’ve never made ratatouille, I would definitely recommend it for a weekend meal, possibly after venturing to the local farmers market. You can eat it however you like, I decided to throw it over a bed of quinoa because I am kind of obsessed with quinoa. It’s a nice break from rice and adds in the needed protein for this dish of roasted vegetables. If you’ve never had quinoa, then you should go buy some. Now. It’s so simple to make. The kind that I buy is from Trader Joe’s, but I’ve bought several different brands of it, and they’re all prepared the same way.


: an amino acid-rich (protein) seed

: fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture
: slight nutty flavor
: a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and swiss chard as opposed to grains (common misconception)
: great source of manganese, iron, copper and phosphorus
: several varieties including yellow, orange, pink, red, purple and black. 

Recommended uses
: combine cooked with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander

: add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa
: use quinoa noodles in place of pasta noodles
: add to vegetable soups
: use in place of rice for just about any dish
: add chopped avocado, black beans, corn, feta cheese, lime, salt & pepper, olive oil; serve cold 

How to prepare:
: 1 cup quinoa + 2 cups water

: bring to a boil
: reduce heat to simmer, cover
: simmer 12-15 minutes
: remove from stove, fluff with fork 

Roasted Ratatouille


The Brussel Sprout

Oh Brussel Sprout…

As promised initially, I have finally started the hands-on research to get this thesis off the ground. Post by post, I hope to include new foods, some you are familiar with and hopefully some that you may not be. I hope that you will find this blog to be a great resource both before and after your grocery store experience. The foods that this blog will focus on are those that exist on the perimeter of the grocery store. Rather than surpass items that you are unfamiliar with, I hope to entice you to try new foods, new wholesome foods that is.

First things first…the brussel sprout. When I was little, the only way my mother could get us to eat these mini-cabbage wannabes was to smother them with cheese. Mmmmmm…right?! Wrong. Even then they were so gross. They were steamed and squishy and oh-so-unappetizing. Now, I don’t mean to talk bad about my momma’s cooking, because boy can she cook. I count myself lucky to have been raised by two such loving parents that are both very skilled in the kitchen. It’s just that brussel sprouts, well, they just need to be prepared the right way to maximize their flavor, a way that none of us knew about until years later.

I believe it was my oldest sister, Stephanie, who first had them prepared this way while eating at a restaurant possibly in Palo Alto or New York. From then on, our family has changed our views of the little brussel sprout. We now look at them adoringly and speak about them as if they were a beloved member of our family, sort of. (Maybe I’m exaggerating a little.)

So what is this preparation you ask? Well, all you need is a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.

Pepper + Salt + Garlic + Olive Oil = The Perfect Formula

Cut of ends, peel off first layer.

Mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.

The Brussel Sprout:

Oven: 375 degrees

Trim ends off of brussel sprouts.
Peel off outer layer.
Cut in half.

Place on pan.
Add garlic + salt + pepper + olive oil.

Put in oven.
Toss occasionally (~45 minutes total oven time.)
Done when crispy on outside and soft inside (taste testing is key, just let it cool off a bit first).

Serve on a pretty plate. (optional)

•  •  •

Possible Additions (If you want to get real crazy)
• Cooked Bacon (broken into bits)
• Cooked Ham (again, cut up into small pieces)
• Balsamic Vinegar

Roasted Brussel Sprouts (under Tungsten lighting).

Why are there no measurements you might wonder?

I don’t want you to feel that there is a wrong and a right way to do this. If you really like pepper, then add a lot of pepper, if you like a lot of garlic, then add more garlic. I will only be posting pictures of the ingredients I use to give you an idea of how much I used in my preparation of the featured food item. There are just some things we need to learn through experience, and a lot of what is going to happen in this blog will be purely that. There will be great things and there will be terrible things. We just have to be willing to take a chance. Just keep in mind that if you add a lot of liquid (or oil) to something, it will become really soft. If you like that, then great, if not, then just maybe use it sparingly.

There are going to be lots of food items that I have never even bought myself, especially as a household of one, that I have WANTED to buy but haven’t gotten up the courage to buy because I’m afraid I’m going to either a. never use it or b. I’m going to ruin it. So…here’s to whole foods (and no longer putting money into Big Food’s pockets) and our health!


historical image of seed distribution building

“Food. We love it, fear it, and obsess about it.”

In addition to the 7 any other foods you want.

We demand that our Government ensure that our food is safe, cheap, and abundant. In response, Government has been a factor in the production, regulation, research, innovation, and economics of our food supply. It has also attempted, with varying success, to change the eating habits of Americans.

From the farm to the dinner table, explore the records of the National Archives that trace the Government’s effect on what Americans eat.

Check out this link to see some incredibly imagery.

Whats Cooking Uncle Sam?

Some incredible advertisements thanks to Uncle Sam.

UChews Logo

Thesis In A Nutshell

I have officially entered my final semester of grad school (wince). I am currently taking Portfolio and our first assignment was to create a 90-second video defining the premise of our thesis.

(Keep in mind, this is my first time using iMovie, so it’s not the greatest documentary in the world, but I feel like it gets the point across.)

Fall ’12 UChews from Emily Shields on Vimeo.