My husband forgot to buy beer for the Super Bowl. Which might not sound like the world’s biggest catastrophe; if you read this post, you’ll know that I hardly pay attention to the game. The issue was that I’d made enough Super Bowl foods to feed a small supper club and was ready to wash them down with a cold frosty. When you’re eating nachos and jalapeno poppers, wine just doesn’t cut it.

In theory wine could work, I’m into highbrow/lowbrow things. Chips and Champagne, salmon mousse on saltines, Momufuku’s Corn Flake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow cookies.

But the thought of poppers and wine sent me running to my medicine cabinet for a preemptive Zantac. 

Fortunately, something tastier came to mind: Rosemary Lime Gin & Tonics.

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I posted a picture of my cocktail on Instagram and for some reason it struck a chord. Yes, you too can make Bemelmans-worthy cocktails at home.

It’s all about the sugar. It’s the secret ingredient in standout cocktails, but it can also be used to make your everyday foods a little more fun.

So put on your white lab coat. We’re going to make some molecular magic happen and you’ll be surprised by how easy it is.

Let me first say that I apologize profusely for the Martha Stewartiness of this shot. I don’t have a habit of labeling my creations with tags and striped twine for the sake of a well-organized fridge. The pack of salami that was wedged between the meyer lemon and kumquat syrups would agree.

The problem is that a few Sundays ago I made one jar of simple syrup, then it was two, then it was three. You might find the process equally addictive.

I first came across simple syrup years ago when I was learning to make lemonade. I feel compelled to remind you that for someone who was brand new to cooking, lemonade from scratch is a major culinary achievement. It required the use of both a stove and an appliance for one measly little drink.

But simple syrup, despite its name, which might lead you to presume otherwise…is deceptively simple.


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I must be a carnivore at heart because this week it was all about meatless meat. And I’m not talking about little veggie crumbles that look like meat. I’m talking about steak-style food. Thick cut, the kind of food that needs a serrated knife. There’s a reason I go by the nickname “the meat chef” in our house.

In early 2012, Bon Appetit magazine published an issue that featured a full-fledged cauliflower steak. Until that point I’d only seen cauliflower cut into dainty florets. But here was a cauliflower, unapologetic in its manliness, chest bulging, mustache intact, ready to ride its Harley into the sunset.

In other words: cut into slabs, seared, roasted, and drizzled with a hearty dressing.

And it was one of those life-changing moments. The kind of moment where you realize that by God, vegetables can be impressive. Cut them like they’re supposed to be cut, not into tiny little pieces, but into great big beautiful slices, and there you have it: a vegetable main that can win over the heartiest of appetites.

The problem is that I’d never actually experimented with prepping my veggies like this. No need, I had steak! And so I continued….trimming and slicing my way through my vegetable prep, primping and glazing them with a touch of soy here, a dash of cumin seed there.

But now that I’m vegan for a whole month, nothing is holding me back. By default, veggies need to be the main event. Veggies, start your engines, it’s road trip time. Here are a few fake steak recipes that scratched my steak itch last week.

1. Cauliflower steak

I dug up the old Bon Appetit cauliflower recipe for some inspiration and got to work. I followed the same basic principle, roasting and searing it  for a crisp exterior and soft but still-toothsome interior. And I updated the dressing, going for a Mediterranean style, with capers, olives, pickled onions, and a combination of olive oil + red wine vinegar.

The surprise result was that cauliflower does masquerade well as steak. It was meaty, rich, filling, but didn’t result in the gut buster feeling that so often accompanies meat.

Steak rating: 3.5 stars

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2. Mushroom sandwich

My step dad is a huge cheesesteak lover, and by proxy, I’ve become a bit of a steak sandwich lover myself. Although I’ve never had his favorite version from Rothman’s in NYC, I’ve smoked out my apartment on more than one occasion charring the perfect strip to wedge between slices of bread.

With the deep freeze temps that have rocked the NorthEast last week, I was in the mood for something hearty. A steak sandwich came to mind but my cursed (excuse me, cleansing) vegan diet was getting in the way.

So I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, splashed some water on my face, and told myself: “self: you can do it, figure this out.”

I headed over to Forager’s market where I bought a mountain of mushrooms, a head of garlic and a fresh baguette. Because if there’s any vegetable that can pass as steak, it’s mushrooms. Which is possibly why they’re such a great combo: you’re basically allowing yourself to eat twice the amount of steak in your sandwich, minus the guilt.

Just cut the mushrooms into big meaty pieces, give them a good sear in plenty of olive oil and you’re on the fast track to steak heaven…So steaky that I almost forgot that I wasn’t eating real steak. 

Steak rating: 4.5 stars

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It’s no secret that I’m a little in awe of the vegan lifestyle. I’m in love with the founding principle: that animals are left unharmed and allowed to live as freely as we do. And of course the numerous health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle are hard to ignore.

I do feel though, that if I gave up meat, dairy and other animal-based products, I’d be taming my passion for cooking and food. Sure, I can get excited about vegetables. As excited as I do about high quality bacon or a well-marbled steak. But vegetables have always been a part of the equation, not the full equation itself.

That being said, I’ve always wanted to give vegan eating a test run, and after a month and a half of gluttinous eating  – the turkey, stuffing, egg nog, fruitcake, ham and bread pudding extravaganza that we call the holidays – January is the month to do it.

After all, don’t we all love a fresh start in January? A cleansing of the system, a New Year’s resolution to eat a healthier diet, with more whole grains and plenty of vegetables?

My arteries need a rest from my holiday binge. They’re panting at the finish line. Well done friends, you kept me alive for 60 straight days while I shellacked your surface with LDL cholesterol. Now is your time for reward. I give you vegetables, and lots of them.

Starting on Wednesday (Jan 1) I’m going to kick off month of healthy eating. For 31 days I’m going to eat a vegan diet to see whether eating this way feels like a sacrifice or a triumph.

I’m guessing a little of both.

And I’ve been preparing. I’ve been reading through some of my favorite vegetarian and healthy living cookbooks, including the latest from The Moosewood: Restaurant Favorites, classics like Chez Panisse Vegetables, and more recent additions from vegetarian guru Yotam Ottolenghi as well as Sarah and Hugh Forte, the husband and wife team behind The Sprouted Kitchen.

I’ve also been following some great online resources for vegan receipes, including:

And I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the inspiration that I get from one of my favorite people on Instagram, Amber (RawVeganBlonde) who blows me away on a regular basis with what can only be described as fruit and vegetable art.

So despite preparations to give up some of my favorite foods for a month, excitement has been building, I’ve been tagging recipes and making notes.

I’ve also been updating my Pinterest boards to catalog my growing collection of vegan and health-focused recipes, which you can easily follow by clicking on the links below.

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Moosewood cookbook

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about whether to review, or not review. And I made the decision to help support authors, brands, products, and potentially even services that I use, and love.

It seems only fitting to start with a review of The Moosewood Collective’s latest cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.

The Moosewood books hold a special place in my heart. When I first started to cook years ago, I collected as many Moosewood books as I could find. To me, the Moosewood Collective always seemed to embody the principles that I was just starting to embrace: healthy, conscious eating from local, organic farms and purveyors.


Although I’ve never been a pure vegetarian, I try to mix plant-based foods into my diet as much as possible. And lately, I’ve been loving the clean eating mindset even more than usual.

The Moosewood books have always been such a great resource – you’re just as likely to find a homegrown American dish as you are to find something inspired by the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. It’s multi-cultural cuisine at its best, healthy, a little off the beaten track, and always delicious.

When the Moosewood publishers reached out about reviewing their new book, I jumped at the chance. How could I not? This book brings me squarely back to my roots, I fondly remember flipping through soup-stained copies of New Classics, and Cooking for a Crowd, searching for inspiration for a dinner party or quiet meal at home.

And like the books that preceded it, this book doesn’t disappoint.

Let’s talk about optics first: the padded book cover trend. I don’t know who first thought of this – it might have been that other vegetarian genius Yotam Ottolenghi, whose book Plenty swept through home kitchens from coast to coast. But there’s nothing more comforting than crawling under the covers with a giant cookbook with a padded cover. It’s the little things, Moosewood, thanks for taking note.

There’s something for everyone in Restaurant Favorites, their attempt to catalog from thousands of recipes the tried-and-true techniques and must-include dishes from their 30-year history as one of America’s most beloved vegetarian restaurants.

Indonesian rice salad

The result from this process is a book that’s suitable for just about everyone. Novice cooks will appreciate easy recipes like the simple smooth guacamole, classic hummus, and pasta with a raw tomato sauce. Yet more advanced cooks with an appetite for adventure will welcome dishes like Rumbledthumps (it’s Scottish, and on my list of things to cook next) the Indonesian Rice salad (which I topped with spicy Thai Baked Tofu).

Yes, it’s vegetarian. And vegan. And my 6’6” husband ate three bowls in quick succession, requesting that I make a triple batch of it next time.

Even recipes that seem like basics have a slightly new spin. Like these Chocolate-Chocolate chip cookies – chewy on the inside with the addition of cream cheese (who would have thought), but crispy on the outside. They were outstanding. My new go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

And as a cream of mushroom soup lover – and clearly not the red can variety – I just had to try the Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup. More cream cheese (twist my arm why don’t you) and some seemingly incongruent ingredients like soy sauce, dill, and paprika. Yes, Nelly, it worked. Trust me on this one. Rich and hearty, it was so satisfying on a cold Fall evening.

Hungarian mushroom soup

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bruschetta-4I love working from home.

Because now I can sit in bed and Google terms like “S&M” on my laptop and not worry that I’ll be under investigation by my company’s HR manager.  Booted from corporate America for searching pornography with office-provided equipment, a large black “X” next to my name for all eternity.

It’s not that I regularly search terms like “S&M”, but I was a little curious about whether food-related S&M is an actual thing.

There is a back story here. 

As many of you probably know by now, we live in Chelsea in Manhattan.  Which is the epicenter of all things male. I’ll never forget the time I saw a young couple on the street with their two pre-school aged kids.  The kids suddenly took off down the sidewalk, yelling back to their parents “Mom, Dad, can we go to The Nasty Pig?” And the parents yelled back “OK! We’ll meet you there!”

Apparently The Nasty Pig, which still exists on 19th St., had a cute little dog that would come visit the kids at the door.  I’m not sure if the parents ever let them inside.  Hopefully they didn’t.

I’ve actually never been inside The Nasty Pig.  Kind of like my interest in visiting a Talbots – just not high on my priority list. But even if one day I summoned the courage to waltz inside, something about owner’s hulking demeanor and studded high tops suggests that women – particularly casually-dressed Type-A-looking women – would not be welcome.

Based on window dressing alone, I can make some assumptions about the merchandise inside.  A pretty good set of outfits and objects related to horseback riding- chaps, crops, reins, bits, things of that nature.  Not intended for horses, of course.

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