Raw Kale Salad

Are you tired of hearing about the “raw food” trend? Maybe you’ve never heard of it, and you’re thinking, “raw…kale…salad?! that can’t be right…”. No doubt about it, I’d say the South is probably the last region in the USA to embrace health food trends.

Who can blame us, though? Especially when it comes to a green that’s typically cooked with a ham hock for 3 hours (a la collard greens) ? The thought of eating it…raw…seems so very foreign. Truth is, once you take the leaves away from the tough stem, they are actually very flavorful all on their own. Baby kale is becoming as widely used in salad greens as baby spinach. Bottom line: kale rocks. I have it growing in my yard, and I use it in almost everything! (Kale chips are fab…another post for another day…)

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Vegetarian Moussaka

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My quest to fill my life with more vegetables continues. I’ve been doing fairly well. I’m a “pescetarian” (veggies and seafood) at home but outside of that anything goes. Hence the trip to a Brazilian steakhouse last week … and the braised short ribs I ate on vacation. (Oops.)

At home, I like that this way of eating is forcing me out of my comfort zone. I’ve had to experiment more with dishes that are hearty enough not to leave me hungry two hours later and satisfy that need for comfort food at dinner. I never realized that part before — a couple of nights ago my friends were talking about what we eat for dinner. Some just have yogurt or a sandwich or crackers. Others of us (like me) feel the need to make a full meal. That’s because, someone noted, dinner is such a comfort meal. So true.

Anyway, I lived for a couple of years in a Greek neighborhood in NYC. Those traditional dishes quickly became my favorite cuisine, and I dream sometimes about the authentic food I could get stumbling right out my front door: creamy hummus and baba ghanoush, Greek olives, lemon potatoes, pastistio and warm, fresh pita. I could go on and on.

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Mushroom Bolognese

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A few weeks ago I hit my breaking point. Everywhere I turned, I was reading something more and more frightening about the food we eat. I’ve always tried to cut out processed food, buy organic and walk the outer aisles of the grocery like they say is best, but bad stuff still seems to be everywhere.

The last straw was when I read about the dangers of eating cooked meat. I realized then that I ate meat in some form for every meal, at least twice a day. Chicken on my salad, turkey on my sandwich, a piece of pork/chicken/steak with vegetables and a starch for dinner. So, I decided then and there to stop. I don’t think I’d call myself so much a “vegetarian” now as a “pescetarian” or “flexitarian.” But I’m on a journey to cut the meat and up the vegetables … A girl’s still got to throw down a steak every once in awhile, though.

The challenge is finding hearty, filling — and meatless — meals. When I started, we were still in the throes of winter, and the last thing I wanted to eat was a chilly salad or one more bowl of soup. Those are the likeliest vessels for going all veggie, I’d found. Continue reading

Spring has Sprung!

Hi there — happy weekend!

I don’t know about you, but I am so happy to see the gorgeous signs of spring here in Charleston- flowers popping up, azaleas blooming, lots of green things re-appearing. Best of all, it’s 73 today!  (Being the Southerner that I am, 73 is still cold, cold , cold. Not quite time to bring out the sundresses and shorts, yet)!

Since it’s St. Patty’s Day weekend, I had to post about something GREEN. Nothing looked more beautiful at the grocery store than asparagus. I love the slender, skinny stalks of asparagus because they get nice and crispy when they roast…especially the tips, yum!

I wanted to make an asparagus cheese tart –– and realized I had everything on hand except puff pastry!!! Ahh — that’s a major problem. I had butter and flour,  so I decided to try my hand at homemade puff pastry –– what. was. I. thinking??  I mean, it was a fun experiment, but I’ll let Whole Foods handle that from now on 😉

Result: It turned out great, and I think you should try it at least once — it’s cool to watch it come together. Similar to making pie crust, but with much more time and attention to detail required. The taste was so fresh — the combo of cheeses adds a lot more flavor.

Lovely Green!

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Best Ever Mac and Cheese

Best Ever Mac & Cheese! | Culinary Cousins

Macaroni and cheese just may be my favorite food. And I’m not alone. Mac and cheese consistently ranks as America’s top go-to comfort food, hands down, and we make it in countless iterations, with all manner of pasta shapes, types of cheeses, mix-ins and toppings.

I’m a traditionalist, though. I don’t like it fancy. And I especially don’t want bacon anywhere near it — not in it, not on it, no how.

No bacon, you say? I know. I’m a shame to my people, a traitor to my southern roots. But I just don’t love bacon. (Please don’t hurt me.) And when it’s added to mac and cheese, the flavor just takes over and permeates everything. Some of you are wondering what’s wrong with that.

On mac and cheese, I’ve found that there are two schools of thought. One submerges macaroni (or any manner of small pasta) in a creamy, cheesy white sauce with roots in a butter-flour roux. Then there’s the southern way — layering pasta with cheese and pouring over an egg and milk custard. I grew up eating this version, where the mac and cheese bakes into a solidified, though delicious, mass that you can cut and serve in a perfect square. To me, that was always true and traditional. Continue reading