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I’m pretty good at sticking to a “budget.” And by that I mean I spend less than I make and I’m building a decent pile of savings. But do I have any idea how I am actually allotting my funds? Nope. I know I spend around $40 a week on groceries…or $70. And about $30 at the drugstore a month…or $100. Household expenses? Well, including utilities that’s maybe $150 a month…but quite possibly more or less.

I’m thinking of putting myself on some sort of a plan (or — eek — keeping a pen-and-paper list), but for the moment I’m not too concerned. Like I said, I spend significantly less than I make, but there is always room for improvement.

But one thing I KNOW I spend a lot  on is going out to eat. Delicious, succulent three course meals with a bottle of wine, or a couple pizzas and salad at the neighborhood’s best sit-down place, or the newest trattoria that just put up its signage (which happens a lot in my neck of Brooklyn) or just some fresh toasty bagels and coffees in the morning.

It is my biggest spending vice…but I have no plans on curtailing it anytime soon. I’ve fallen in love with good food — cooking it myself, but also being treated to wonderful new dishes I never would have thought of.  The meals become conversation fodder, even inspiration to recreate them or riff on them in our own kitchens.

I don’t spend much money on clothes (except for last weekend when I had to fill some very gaping holes in my wardrobe…), my apartment is the best deal I could find while still being safe and warm (we negotiated the price down a full $50/month this year!) and I brown-bag my lunch to work everyday. I choose instead to spend on experiential activities and taking advantage of the vibrant, varied cuisine hotbed that is Brooklyn. I won’t always live here, and I’m expecting that in the not-so-distant future I won’t have as much disposable income.

But while I’m young, single, passionate about food and cooking, living in a culinary epicenter and more excited by the prospect of a fancy dinner than a night out drinking, I choose to avail myself of some of the country’s best meals and freshest ingredients, right in my own neighborhood.



I love one dish meals — tossing the carbs, the veggies and the protein all together and tumbling them up. Good for a quick dinner and cleanup, and even better for filling a row of tupperware containers for lunches to bring to work.

When I make my one-pot/pan meals, I go BIG. I’m a little chop happy and by the time I get through what I consider to be an average portion of whole veggies, I find I actually have enough for about five meals. My eyes may be bigger than my stomach when it comes to vegetables 🙂 Leftovers!

This week’s idea came courtesy of the bf, who may be the best cook I know (and the only one who makes me dinner). I put a few little touches on it and ended up with a delicious pan of fried rice with shrimp.


1 cup dry brown rice
1/2 medium onion
1 large garlic clove
1 tbsp ginger
1 cup snow peas
1 large red pepper
~8 large UNCOOKED shrimp, thawed
1 egg
Peanut Oil (I probably used a few tbsp)


1. Boil water and simmer the rice (about 2 cups water to 1 cup rice)

2. Roughly chop all ingredients (including the shrimp)

3. Heat oil in large pan and add onions, garlic and ginger; cook for a couple min, until onions begin to turn translucent

4. Add peas and red pepper; saute for a few more min then add the shrimp (these cook very quickly — about 2-3 min)

5. Add the cooked rice, season with salt and pepper and mix everything together

6. Lightly scramble the egg (I cleared a corner of the pan) then mix it in

7. Give the flavors a few moments to come together and voila, done!

It’s been a cozy lunch for the chilly rain we’ve had this week. But I’m not complaining! I get to give the A/C a few nights off.

Onions perplex me.  Do they count as a serving of vegetables? What nutrients do they have? And how do I stop crying?


Once I figured out the answer to the last question — stick them in the fridge before cutting and no more tears! — I decided to tackle the others.

Turns out onions are high in:

  • Vitamin C
  • Chromium (to help your body deal with insulin and control blood sugar)
  • Fructans (prebiotics that encourage growth of beneficial bacteria)
  • Flavonoids (an antioxident to prevent free radical damage) and
  • Organosulfur (to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol)

They also contain some B6, calcium, iron and potassium, plus a smidgen of zinc and selenium.

[As I learn more and more about foods, though, I’m shocked to see how much naturally occurring sugar a lot of unusual suspects contain — a medium onion can have about 9g! Never would have guessed…]

And YES, a half cup of onion counts as a vegetable serving.

I should confess my love affair with onions is a recent one. I don’t remember seeing too many at home while growing up and when I started to cook for myself I figured my meals were fine without them.

But when my onion-and-garlic-aholic bf started making me dinner, that’s when I learned how tasty and flavorful an onion sauteed in olive oil or roasted in the oven can be. Plus, look at those health benefits! I learned my lesson and now always have a few in the fridge. Bonus: they’re so cheap!

Now here’s another question…how do I get the smell off my hands?

When it’s humid out, when it’s been 90+ degrees for 12 consecutive days and counting, when the idea of turning on the stove to cook dinner makes you want to cry and scurry back to the one AC’ed room in your apartment…that’s when you know it’s truly salad season. This summer I’ve been getting creative, turning anything I have into a “salad,” and the results have been simple and satisfying. Here are a few of the faves, all lightly topped with Greek Feta Vinaigrette:

Spinach, snow peas, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, hard boiled egg and crispy prosciutto

Steamed broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini with mini shrimp and a hard boiled egg

Spinach, wax beans, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, scallions, smoked salmon, goat cheese


(After taking all these I found this post on food photography. Great tips that I will be trying out soon.)

Someday, when I have a kitchen counter that fits more than just a dish rack, I will subscribe to Bon Appétit. Its glossy full-page photos of things like Galician pork and vegetable stew, chicken with tarragon and southwest rice and corn salad, and pastry twists with spiced sugar-honey glaze look divine. Its feature articles blend food with poetry and its writers are chosen for things like the Best Food Writing series. The issue I just bought even has a spotlight on new york’s beer scene.

This would be that next step in my recreational cooking career, though I’m quite sure I’m probably not ready yet. Someday, when I have enough cabinets to have shelves of fancy oils and vinegars and a real life spice rack. Until then, I’ll make due with Food Network.

I was inspired by an appetizer at our favorite local Greek restaurant and decided to recreate. I mixed together:

– 1 can rinsed chickpeas
– 1 can diced “fire-roasted” tomatoes
– Sauteed diced onion
– Thinly chopped celery
– Fresh green herb, i.e. thyme
– Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Paired it with some brown rice, and voilà, a few days’ worth of comforting, protein-packed lunch.

Disclaimer: The place may be our favorite restaurant mainly due to its cheap food and BYOB qualities. But this dish is pretty yummy.

In a not-entirely-unexpected brand extension, the Food Network is launching The Cooking Channel. It will reportedly be a bit hipper, a bit dirtier, a bit more indie and I’m SO excited (I haven’t yet looked into whether Cablevision provides this channel, however…and I am guessing the answer is no).

Launching May 31, the channel – “by food people, for food people” – will mix old stars with new and present a bit more realistic picture of cooking. As NYTimes put it, executives “vowed to not shy away from moments more vivid than one might see on the well-scrubbed set of ‘Everyday Italian’ with Giada De Laurentiis” (hearts to Giada!).

Cooking channel will also feature retro programming – i.e. Julia Child –  and is considering producing documentaries on food and health issues. Yep, I’m psyched.

vowed to not shy away from moments more vivid than one might see on the well-scrubbed set of “Everyday Italian” with Giada De Laurentiis

After a weekend traveling it’s great to make dinner…and to be excited all day for that chance to make dinner. Not that traveling food isn’t delicious — just it’s nice to be in control of the taste and the ingredients (and the vegetables!) after being treated for 7 meals in a row. Plus it makes lunch for the week a wholllle lot easier when I cook.

Tonight I went for the classic family recipe of Supper Soup – ground meat, broth, and lots of colorful root veggies – and have my lunch set for the next 5+ days. I also used up some bananas and cranberries with a variation on a whole wheat muffin recipe I found. Shall see tomorrow morning how I fared. But now it is late and my hands are dried out from hours of dishes.

I just finished Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food.” Great book, shifting my outlook on eating and meals and health. More to come. I’m going to let it simmer for a bit more. But let me just say I bought some organic apples tonight…

Books I’m Reading

Wuthering Heights

Mrs. Kimble

Little Bee


My Life with the Saints

Brave Companions

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Help

Lunch in Paris


Reading Lolita in Tehran

Pride and Prejudice

Rethinking Thin

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Friday Night Knitting Club

Best Food Writing 2009

Let the Great World Spin

The Middle Place

Northern Borders

In Defense of Food