All posts by Brian Gray

Nigella’s Cozy Kitchen

In what I’m sure is a promotional move for her latest cookbook, Nigella Lawson has penned a short article for the Wall Street Journal on her essential cozy kitchen.

‘Kitchen’ is probably one of the most evocative words in the English language. Yes, it is a noun denoting a room and its purpose, but more than that, it is a word resonant with symbolism. It conjures up warmth and welcome, safety and security, in short, the very notion of home.

If a kitchen is not comfortable nor will you be. So make it suit you, and not the universal customer. Make it an extension of your personality. Above all give yourself, and it, over to the chaotic coziness that in a cold universe is the kitchen’s soul-saving grace.

She goes on to mention some of her kitchen essentials, a knife magnet block and her favorite tool, the mezzaluna–which she actually uses regularly on her televised segments. Unfortunately for many cooks and food lovers I know, she also mentions customizing a kitchen which is not an option available to that many people though we’d love it!

And even though Nigella doesn’t believe in a kitchen full of the latest gadgets, I admit to buying up more than a few and then throwing out the ones I barely use. Ok… trying to throw them out. Thank goodness for my recent move encouraging me to lighten the load of kitchen equipment. But one gadget-laden thing I have bought recently is this poster from Pop Chart Lab which reads like an intervention for Kitchen Gadgets Anonymous.

I’m not going to admit to how many items on that list I already own or have owned at one point. But I will say that I’ve never owned a melon baller or pie weights. No comment on the rest of them, but at least I’ll have a guide gracing my kitchen to keep score–I mean track. And if I have any food neophytes over for a visit, they’ll have this handy chart providing a visual reference when I ask them to hand me something instead of staring blankly and handing me a pairing knife when I demanded for a shrimp deveiner.

Ice Sculpting… not just for weddings anymore!

I admit that I have pretty much given up on Food Network. In terms of programming, I will watch Barefoot Contessa, Good Eats and perhaps any rerun of a Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver show–both of which are now found more on The Cooking Channel. Nothing else interests me because they’ve just about gotten rid of every show that might remotely show you how to cook in a manner that makes it seem accessible. Any knowledgeable host was given the boot and replaced with a “celebrity chef” that’s more about food as a lifestyle. To a point, I was willing to accept this as simply part of changing trends. Food is something that a lot more people are paying attention to these days, whether for health reasons, political reasons or because they’re becoming foodies. Still, watching the step-by-step/recipe shows give way to travel shows, I Love the [decade] style shows about where their hosts have eaten, restaurant rehab programs and a show that examined/busted food myths–busting myths… where have I heard something like that before?–signified that it was no longer about the food. But at the least each new non-cooking show had at least the tiniest root in food & dining… until now.

Ice Brigade is a new show airing in March on Food Network. When I first heard the title, I thought it would be a new show on either History or Discovery Channel, but no, it’s a “food” show:

Ice Brigade follows Michigan-based chef Randy Finch and his team of renegade ice artists as they blow the lid off ice sculpting by developing original designs that defy the imagination. To these frozen outlaws, the standard wedding swans are simply huge ice cubes. The real thrill of their bone-chilling craft is to make life-sized and interactive creations like pool tables, bowling lanes, grand pianos, carousels and putt-putt courses. Armed with chain saws, chisels and sledge hammers, each episode features Randy and crew sculpting rock-solid ice blocks into out-of-this world art and delivering them to awestruck clients. No matter the job or locale, the mission remains the same: get the job done, before it all melts away.

I dunno about you, but that picture of a guy with snappy headwear, a chainsaw and a sledgehammer just screams “I have a new show on Food Network”… right? And I don’t discount the attractive inexpensive quality of a “documentary/reality show” but watching an ice sculpture company’s trials, tribulations and triumphs doesn’t exactly shout “food television” to me. Yes, ice sculpting is considered a culinary art, but I fear the direction things are going when a programming executive says, “Hey, you know ‘Ace of Cakes’? Why don’t we just make a bunch more shows like that?” picking the businesses to follow at random just like Bewitched‘s writers would choose what Endora would turn Darrin into on that week’s episode.

It isn’t that I don’t like reality shows–as it happens, I can’t stand them–but when Food Network still owns the rights to show their entire back catalog starring actual chefs and noted food writers it seems silly that, in an effort to maintain a “full” programming slate, they’d seek out new and loosely-food-related shows to put on instead. I suppose this falls under the category of “guy programming” which many networks–who were made popular by their female viewing demographic–are now trying to appeal to for… truck ads? I have no idea. But I suppose it’s a good thing that this show is airing just as Winter is over, otherwise we’d probably be hearing about a bunch of emergency room visits due to chainsaw slippage and sledgehammer bruises!

Bohemian goes Barefoot, Pt. 2: He Cooks

So where was I? Ah yes, I’d gone out to Arlington in the middle of a workday, waited 2 hours in the warm and muggy rain and got shuffled past Ina Garten as she swiftly signed 2 books for me and a friend. Was it worth it? … *eh, I still say it was but I’m working harder and harder each day to say that. But I met her, I have proof and that’s that.

When I got home, I started going through the book looking for something easy to make. I haven’t made a recipe from a cookbook in a long while, choosing to go the internet route far too often. It isn’t that I don’t like cookbooks, but before having some books on my iPad of late, I just don’t have them at the office when I’m thinking of what to grab from the store and cook that night or that weekend. And while a certain Food Network hostess can go on all she likes about a 30-minute meal, I’m sure that’s a lot easier to accomplish when you have a staff that heads out to the store for you, cutting out that 1-2 hour post-work chore. But her recipe for weeknight bolognese seemed like an easy enough shopping trip and I was able to pick up the ingredients while taking a midday break to the store to get ingredients for mulled cider for an office potluck.

weeknight bolognese (serves 4 to 5)

  • 2 tbsp “good olive oil” plus extra to cook the pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground sirloin
  • 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 14 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 14 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 34 lb dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
  • 14 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 14 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 14 cup heavy cream
  • 12 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Easy enough, right? So simple that I figured it would be easy to grab everything at the store, drop it off at home and get back to the office in no time. I wrote a quick list of ingredients, even took a picture of the page in the book with my iPhone. I even found the oreccheitte pasta at the store, which I took great pleasure in over-pronouncing as if I were yet another Food Network hostess fond of deep v-neck shirts. I strode through the store with the confidence of someone that’s got his act together. I had my list, my cart full of groceries and I was all set.

Fast forward to the next evening and everything was proceeding apace. I didn’t do a mise en place due to the low number of ingredients and my carried-over confidence. I had the meat browning in the pan, added the spices and when it came time to add the tomatoes, I tossed in the can of tomatoes, looked at the recipe and reached for the tomato paste… which I had completely neglected to buy.

Um… oops?

Not one to panic, I turned down the heat and went to the internet for that Google search that almost every home cook has had to use at one time or another: Substitutions. Tomato paste isn’t one of those things that’s easy to substitute, but after reading all the suggestions I settled on reducing/thickening a bit of ketchup in a small saucepan. A small setback with a rather elaborate–some might say unnecessary–fix, but I pressed on.

Crisis averted, the rest of the recipe was simple. It’s just heat, add and stir. Compared to a usual bolognese ragu that includes at least beef, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste and broth this was nothing major and very easy to turn out in under an hour. As Ina would say, “How easy is that?” And I was clearly so into the relaxed and easy vibe of this recipe that I wasn’t paying attention when I opened the box of pasta. There was something on TV and I was talking and before I knew it, all of my “little ears” were flying all over the kitchen and onto the floor.

Cue the kitchen freakout.

No, seriously, hysterical laughter, screams of “You have GOT to be kidding me”, frantic searches of the cabinets for a suitable replacement pasta… all to no result. While my friend was able to clean up the floor for me, I headed out to CVS thinking that I’d just have to settle for spaghetti and cope. It happened to be an unseasonably warm day for late October so I could walk outside and across the street in my Ina-inspired black button down shirt, some shorts and my chucks. I wasn’t hopeful, but I spied some familiar blue boxes–no, not Kraft–above the words “New Item” and managed to snag some Barilla penne pasta!

Crisis averted once more, peace of mind regained, pasta tossed with sauce and then cheese and a glass of red wine thrown for good measure. And then another glass just because.

How Easy Is That? is a good cookbook with emphasis on the easy. Not every recipe will feel simple to the average cook, but there’s nothing in here that anyone wouldn’t be able to make with a bit of preparation and a little bit of patience… hopefully at least a bit more than I had last week.

In Praise of Nigella

Even though it’s unlikely, I have said that if Nigella Lawson were to do a book signing stop in DC this year, it would make 2010–cancer aside–the best year ever. Since Sara Moulton was dumped from Food Network and they’ve gone in new directions, the only shows that are my mainstays are Barefoot Contessa and whichever Nigella series they carry at the time. The other shows are background noise and none of the food personalities really seem to enjoy cooking as much as Sara, Ina or Nigella do.

The feminist cooking blog To Serve Woman has a guest post today extolling the virtues of Nigella and I absolutely agree:

Nigella stands out from these for the following reasons:

  1. She’s beautiful.
  2. She’s not as skinny as a twig.
  3. She takes an almost orgasmic pleasure in food.
  4. She uses stock cubes.
  5. She advocates the use of frozen peas.
  6. She doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a supermarket chain.
  7. She makes cooking risotto look almost worthwhile (why anyone should want to stand around stirring a pot continuously for about half an hour to produce a generally tasteless yet savoury version of a rice pudding, has always been beyond me).
  8. She comes down to the kitchen at midnight and wolfs down huge slices of chocolate cake.
  9. She has a body that looks as though she comes down to the kitchen at midnight and wolfs down huge slices of chocolate cake (although not on a daily basis).

Those last two points are what won me over. Not that it ever speaks to excess, but there’s nothing wrong with a midnight snack! If you’re a Nigella lover, check out the full article and the rest of their blog.

Bohemian goes Barefoot, Pt. 1: They Meet

I’m sure you’ve been in suspense this entire time about whether I met Ina Garten and if she made me one of her fabulous friends up in the Hamptons. Have I left my life in DC behind to go from dazzling urbanite to scintillating suburbanite? Well the short answer is no and the long answer is noooooo.

I did get to “meet” her, more or less, but getting to that point is a tale in the telling. I haven’t been to too many book signing events in my time, but between the atmosphere and the signing itself, this could easily turn one off of them. Not that I wasn’t elated to meet her, but after standing around for 2 hours in the rain, one could have hoped for a bit more.

With the signing on a weekday afternoon, none of my friends were able to take time off and make it but I was able to talk a co-worker into going with me and she drove us, so no negotiating metro to get there. What I didn’t realize was just how popular the signing would be, even though I barely heard about it myself only finding out through a friend that heard it on the radio. It “started” at noon, and we got there around 12:30p. By that time, the store was full of people waiting and the line stretched outside the store, around Pentagon Row and nearly “ended” back at the store! On the advice of others waiting in line, we went into the store to buy our books and then got in line. When we made our purchases, there was a very short stack of cookbooks that the employee said “That’s the last batch and when they’re gone, they’re gone!”

Now, when we left the office, it was just a cloudy day, rain was forecast for the evening, but nothing else. When we got out of the store, the bottom dropped out. We quickly walked around the shopping center to get in line and my co-worker went back to the car to get our umbrellas. And then came the waiting… We struck up conversations with others in line, I shared my umbrella with a very nice guy and as the line moved, we inched forward… and kept checking the time. I know that she’s popular, but I don’t think any of us expect to stand in line for nearly 2 hours, outside, in the rain, without much organization or information. Eventually Sur La Table employees brought us out plastic bags in which to hold our books and tried to give us a heads-up as best they could. It started to feel like an amusement park, “From this point there will be a 45 minute wait,” except there were no Fastpasses! I did my best to maintain a positive attitude, tweeting and sending photos, but at some point the phrase “I survived cancer for this?!” did go through my head.

Finally after what seemed like hours–and actually was hours, we made it inside the store. The line still stretched around the interior of the place, but it still felt like progress… and then we saw the signing rules: no personalized autographs and no posing for photos. The guy I’d shared my umbrella with immediately said “Are you kidding me?!” and there was a four-letter word uttered by someone behind us in line. Now if I’d known these rules before paying full price for the book and getting in a 2-hour line…in the rain, I might have reconsidered it all, but that sign wasn’t near the books or the cash register. By the time we saw it, we felt so close that it seemed ok to stick it out, even if we were being shuffled past her as if we were on an assembly line.

A few feet from the door to the room, an employee advised us how to arrange our books for an easier–read faster–signing, and then at the doorway another employee reminded us that she couldn’t pose for photographs, but that we could give our camera to an employee who’d take a picture of us while she signed our books. Still not the best arrangement, but I took a deep breath, worked on my best smile and convinced myself that if I was ever going to become one of her gays, now was the time. As mentioned, that didn’t happen, but she was very nice for all of the 45 or so seconds I got to “talk” to her. Thankfully I had two books for her to sign, so I got a little bit of extra time and I mean a “little bit” and then a security guard shuffled me along, barely giving me time to put my cameras away.

And that was it, really. Aside from a few photos I snapped through the window or while waiting in line, it wasn’t exactly a great “foodie” experience. When compared to meeting Sara Moulton at Hill’s Kitchen, this one pales in comparison. Admittedly, it was a smaller crowd and Sara scheduled a cooking demo and Q&A, and while I didn’t expect all that, I was hoping that I could at least get a “To: _____” in my book, not just her quickly scrawled autograph. Still, I did get to see one of my food idols, even if I couldn’t really say more than a sentence to her, so I suppose that counts for something. Next time, however, I will call ahead to find out if the store or publishing company has any rules or restrictions on the signing. Caveat emptor and all that, right?

As much as the signing felt like a comedy of errors, trying to make a recipe from her book turned into just as much of one, too. But that’s for Part 2!

Barefoot Contessa Book Signing, 10/27

If you’re a fan of Ina Garten, TV’s Barefoot Contessa, then the title of her new book should come as no surprise: How Easy Is That? Even though her “How _____ is that?” catchphrase is easy to snark on, it’s often pretty true and as a devoted Barefoot Contessa fan, I find myself muttering it while in the kitchen every now and then. Especially when using her go-to recipe for Roast Chicken again and again. Not that roast chicken is terribly difficult, but the thought of it can be really daunting until you see how easy it is to make–it’s also easy to mess up, but few things aren’t!

Still, the recipes on her show do range from simple to complex and at times she does suffer from what I call “Martha Stewart Syndrome” where she will say a recipe is “simple” and then call for ingredients or devices that you simply can’t get at your local store or even on a weekend errand run. Not that I mind buying hard-to-get items online, but waiting 2-7 days for something to arrive so I can make a dish isn’t all that fun. She’s also not afraid of cooking with butter or alcohol, though it’s the former that sends most people running… that and her penchant for heavy cream! But most of her dishes are designed to feed at least 4 people and we can always determine our own healthy-sized portions, right?

Of course, if you hit this entry, you don’t need me telling you what you likely already know, so here’s the important news: Ina is currently on a signing tour with the new book and she’ll be at Sur La Table at Pentagon Row in Arlington, VA tomorrow October 27 from noon to 2pm. (If you’re anything like me, you had a little *SQUEE!* moment when you first heard about this.) I’m hoping to arrange a little food-lover group of signing buddies to go, but if you can’t make it, I believe they will let you call ahead–703-414-3580–and purchase a signed book or possibly order one through their website.

I’ll be honest though, I’m mainly going to meet Ina and make this year one where I meet two of my food idols. And I sort of have this fantasy that she’ll sweep me up in her magical button-down oxford shirt to The Hamptons and make me one of her gays… but that can’t happen without eye contact! If you’re into her recipes and not bothered about an autographed copy, some online retailers have her new book for nearly 50% of the list price. But she has signings scheduled through the end of the year, so if you’re not in the DC area, there’s still a chance to see her.

Admittedly, I’m no book reviewer, just a huge fan so if you’re not yet sold on the idea of the cookbook, here are some excerpts & recipes that might help make up your mind:

Chipotle & Rosemary Roasted Nuts (Serves 8 to 10)

Recipe: Chipotle & Rosemary Roasted Nuts

  • vegetable oil
  • 3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews
  • 2 cups whole walnut halves
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 12 cup whole almonds
  • 13 cup pure maple syrup
  • 14 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tsp ground chipotle powder
  • 4 tbsp minced rosemary leaves, divided
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°

Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder on the sheet pan. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of the salt and toss again.

Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more tablespoons of rosemary. Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature.

If you’re planning on going, leave a comment or drop me a note! Because just like with Sara Moulton, I want to get a picture of me with Ina Garten. And let’s face it: The Urban Bohemian and The Barefoot Contessa? How perfect is that?

Buddha-Bar DC new Lunch menu

Last week I was invited to try out Buddha-Bar DC‘s new “wallet-friendly” lunch options along with some other bloggers and journalists. I hadn’t been to Buddha Bar before, but one of the consistent opinions among friends were that the entree prices were a little on the high side, so this is a much-welcomed addition. Buddha-Bar is nestled into the still-growing corridor on Massachusetts Ave NW near Chinatown and the Convention Center but mostly what’s gone in there are apartment buildings and condos save for the CityVista with a supermarket and Busboys and Poets. It’s still developing as a “going out” area, but since a lot of people work in the area, changing up their lunch menu to appeal to a wider audience is a good thing.

Before I knew there were a collection of restaurants, my only exposure to Buddha Bar was the music compilation. The venue definitely suits the music, there’s even a DJ and I’m sure I heard a few chill lounge tracks from the albums. With a giant statue of Buddha overlooking the dining area and Asian touches throughout, they definitely create a mood that seems more suited to lifestyle dining than just heading to a restaurant.

From their recent press release:

Chef Gregg Fortunato’s new appetizers at lunch service include Big Eye Tuna Flatbread for $8 and Miso Black Cod Lettuce Cups priced at $10. New standout entrée salads, priced at $14 each, include an Asian Style Wedge with a Choice of Chicken or Shrimp; Thai Beef Salad or the delectable Green Papaya Salad with a Choice of Duck or Shrimp. Entree choices to beckon lunch-goers are the Kurobuta BLT, a Korean BBQ Sandwich, Kobe Beef Sliders, Japanese Sea Bass Tacos or the Buddha Bar Fish & Chips which range in price from $13 to $16. The new additions will be available for lunch service only Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For the most part the food and service were excellent, though at times it felt like I was in one or two servers’ way, or that I couldn’t finish my water fast enough for them to offer to refill it. The tables and chairs don’t seem terribly well suited for the long-legged or tall diner, so that may have added to my discomfort. For starters they brought out their Buddha Bar (salmon, yellowtail, spicy tuna, snow crab wrapped in a cucumber “paper”) and Mass sushi rolls, then an eel-based roll after a member of our party disclosed a shellfish allergy and some Thai Beef Tataki skewers that were amazing–I found myself slowly sliding the plate away from others’ notice–and the Big Eye Tuna Flatbread which is also offered to lounge patrons as a complimentary treat while they enjoy cocktails.

We got a pretty good range of entrees: the Korean BBQ Sandwich, Kobe Beef Sliders, Japanese Sea Bass Tacos and the Buddha Bar Fish & Chips and there was some sharing, but definitely some standout dishes. Thankfully my friend was willing to trade her BBQ sandwich for one of my sliders and I feel that she made the better choice. Sliders are not always the easiest thing to pull off and for advertising that they were Kobe beef, these turned out surprisingly dry as if the size factor was working against them. My other friend was over the moon about her fish tacos, so I think I’ll be better informed for a future visit.

It’s hard to judge the time factor as there were about 8 of us and at the best of times, a group lunch like that takes well over an hour, but food came relatively quickly with enough time for us to chat and not feel rushed. Depending on starters or cocktails, the meals might have come to at least $20 or so per person, so it won’t be for everyone, but to change it up during the week or for a group outing, Buddha-Bar is a very impressive venue. We were there before the bulk of their lunch crowd, but when it fills up, you might find the noise level a touch above that for intimate conversation. The high ceilings, decor and spacious room would lend the venue to having a dance floor–especially since they have a DJ–however it’s said that patrons are free to dance at their tables–yeah, right. It was a fun time for lunch and I look forward to visiting again for happy hour!

Links
Buddha Bar DC: Facebook
OpenTable
Yelp
Urbanspoon
Buddha Bar on Urbanspoon

Bringing Pickles (not back) Back

A few months back there was all kinds of fuss in the cocktail world about the “pickle back”. A shot of pickle juice served after a shot of whiskey, lauded by many as a great combination. Pickle juice cocktails were soon to follow, cute but not terribly long lasting as a drinking fad.

A cosmopolitan with a pickle back that's an actual pickle. I got ALL of that beat. Way way back in the Summer of 2003, the guy I was dating had gotten me to sit down and watch Office Space for the first time ever. Everything I’d heard before had not prepared me for how little I would be impressed by the film. Sure it was funny, but as I’ve said before, my “office” movie is Nine to Five. The things I remember most from Office Space are Gary Cole and “my O face”.

After I called the Superman III scheme a few seconds before a character mentioned it, he realized the viewing was quickly going downhill, so he shook up a batch of cosmos but the only snack he had was a jar of pickles. We weren’t proud, we were short on funds and we weren’t putting on pants, so pickles it was.

Lemme tell ya, the best ideas are born of desperation! And as it so happens that today is another day when I’m not proud and happen to have a pickle handy, I’m takin’ it back to ’03! Unfortunately, supermarket jar dills work much better than the deli variety, it relies more on salty than sour, but if you’re a homemade pickle person you can easily make them to your taste. So don’t bother with pickle juice with your cocktails, think more about a pickle pairing!

Fall is here . . . at Starbucks!

Confession time: I have never cared for Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latté. You may commence pelting me with scones at your leisure. I do, however, love the fervor with which its return is welcomed every year–this being the 7th–by Starbucks fans and even the occasional Starbucks hater. The coming of the Pumpkin Spice Latté seems to be one of the cultural signs of the coming of Fall, even though the first day of Autumn is weeks away. In DC we’re still experiencing temperatures in the mid-90s, so popping in for a hot drink to while away the afternoon isn’t the first activity that springs to mind. Still, it can’t be denied as a portent of cooler days just down the road.

I’m a bit excited about this year’s new offering, the Toffee Mocha Latté. Even though I don’t normally go for their candy-like drinks, something about that chocolaty toffee sauce just sounded so good! So far, it hasn’t disappointed. I ordered one this morning while they set out a sample tray and it’s not quite like a candy bar dunked into a coffee, but has just enough sweetness in the opposite direction from my usual Vanilla Latté to make it a viable option. I hope other customers like it as I wouldn’t mind seeing it stick around even after the colder months. There have been more than a few seasonal drinks at the ‘bucks that I’ve loved, but have never been seen again.

So here I sit, in my air-conditioned office, sipping my espresso drink while the sun’s already ramping up for a hot day out there and yet… life is good. Happy September, everyone, and here’s to cooler days!

Lighter Fettucine Alfredo

Just a little food porn to get your Monday morning off to a good start. A friend and I have started cracking open our cookbooks in an attempt to get back to the fun of cooking and since these happen to be collections of lighter and healthier recipes, it doesn’t hurt the bottom line either. Above is a “Lighter” Fettucine Alfredo from America’s Test Kitchen which cut the usual cals/fat by roughly 40% or so. They use fresh (or store-packaged fresh) pasta, swap out the heavy cream and butter for half & half thickened with cornstarch and reduce the amount of cheese. Unlike many of their lighter recipes, this one wasn’t too involved and didn’t have weird or crazy substitutions, but unlike the more traditional creamier sauce, this doesn’t keep its sauciness very well, so my leftovers will probably need a dash of water or half & half while reheating.

I’m a fan of chicken with the dish, so I sauteed a bone-/skin-less breast to serve atop it. I’m not normally a “one serving” person, but this was plenty satisfying for me and I didn’t have any urge to snack or look for a dessert later. Like other recipes in The Best Light Recipe, it cuts back on the cals, but not if you chow down the whole thing. When living & cooking single, it’s hard to resist going back for another nibble, but I’m looking forward to enjoying this for the next few days and not having to worry about what to make for dinner.