Monday, January 23, 2012

Lentil Fritters with Cucumber Sauce

Often times I'll decide to make something from a magazine or a cookbook but months later, I'm wondering why I have these ingredients in my cupboard.  It usually happens with new oils or vinegars and then I have to page through all of my food sources to find what it is I meant to cook.  I try really hard to menu plan, but I'm easily swayed by my food moods and all plans fly out the window.  After taking inventory of my cupboards and finding two cans of lentils, I decided that it was time to make the lentil fritters I read about months ago.  I made a few changes to the original Food Network recipe and instead of serving the fritters in pita pockets with a cabbage slaw, I paired them with a delightfully flavorful and simple cucumber yogurt sauce.  This was an easy and satisfying dish, perfect for lunch or dinner.  Or both in the same day! 

Lentil Fritters with Cucumber Sauce
adapted from Food Network Magazine
serves 4

for fritters
2 15-ounce cans cooked lentils
1/2 tsp cumin
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
olive oil for cooking

for sauce
1 8-ounce container (personal size) plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2-1 cup chopped cilantro
juice from half of a lemon
1/4 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine one can of lentils, the garlic clove, and cumin.  Place the mixture in a bowl and add the other can of lentils, bread crumbs, cilantro, and salt & pepper.  Stir to combine. 

In a large skillet, drizzle some olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Form small patties with the lentil mixture.  When the oil has heated, place 4-5 lentil fritters into the pan and cook until a deep brown.  Flip and cook the other sides.  Continue until you've made as many fritters as you like (think 4 small fritters per person per serving).

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the yogurt sauce.  Taste to adjust seasonings.  Serve the lentil fritters with the cucumber yogurt sauce on the side. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Friends on Food

I love garlic.  I feel as though I use garlic in everything, even when the recipe doesn't call for it.  I usually double the amount of garlic called for in a recipe, and 98% of the time, my hands smell like garlic.  I'm like walking vampire repellent.  But instead of cooking with garlic today, I'm going to indulge my love for garlic with a Friends on Food.  Love it!

Also, I'd totally try a garlic martini.  Could be delicious. 

Season 9 - The One with Rachel's Dream

Phoebe: Well at least all my songs don't taste like garlic. Yeah, there are other ingredients Monica.
Monica: Okay, so that's what we're doing. You know, when I'm in the coffee house bopping along to one of your songs, I'm wearing ear plugs.
Phoebe: Ear plugs, or cloves of garlic?!
Monica: You know what? I take back what I said before. You keep playing at the restaurant, because with your music driving people inside, my bar sales are going up like crazy.
Phoebe: What are people having, the garlic Martini?!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sweet & Sour Vegetables

It seems like winter has finally caught up with us Minnesotans.  By late January, we're usually accustomed to bundling up, wearing arctic-approved boots and mittens, and having our eyelashes freeze during the brief walk from car to work.  But we've been spoiled this year, lured into a false sense of prolonged mild weather.  Then BAM!  Sub-zero temperatures and blistering windchills snap everyone back into reality.  I know it's truly winter when my car is reluctant to start in the mornings. 

Brrrr...that's chilly.  When it's this cold, I like to eat heavier, saucier, meatier (mushrooms!) dishes that will stick to my bones and keep me and my kitchen warm.  But after a few days of indulgence, I begin to crave healthier versions of these decadent meals.  I turned to a favorite cookbook of mine for some inspiration: Global Vegetarian Cooking. 

The cover doesn't lie -- this book is filled with recipes that are both quick and easy.  And as I learned this week, the recipes also lead to excellent food.  It features appetizers, salads, soups, main courses, and desserts from around the world.  I bought my copy at Ten Thousand Villages in St. Paul.  A sound investment on my part.

I decided to cook up some sweet-and-sour vegetables.  I wanted the fresh, healthy snap of veggies, but the soothing comfort of sweet-and-sour sauce.  I used the recipe in the cookbook as a jumping off point, and added a multitude of fresh, colorful vegetables that I found at Whole Foods.  The carrots added a crunch, the cucumbers added a surprising sweetness, and the kale wilted perfectly to round off the dish with some vitamin-packed greenery.  Look at all of those beautiful colors!  You can add any combination of fresh or frozen vegetables you have on hand to create this dish.

I was also excited to break out my wok for the first time.  Turns out, cooking in a wok is pretty great!  A wok allows you greater cooking surface at higher temperature, perfect for stir frying vegetables before drenching them in a sweet-and-sour sauce.  Speaking of which, the sauce was delightfully easy to prepare and had a perfect balance of sweet and sour.  I added a touch more soy sauce than the recipe called for originally, mostly because I have a love for all things salty.  All of this served over a serving of hearty brown rice and you have a great cure for these new, winter blues.

Sweet and Sour Vegetables
adapted from Global Vegetarian Cooking
serves 2

for the rice
1 cup long-grain brown rice
2 cups of vegetable stock

for the stir-fry
1 small white onion, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup of English cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced (it's about 1/3 of a medium-sized cucumber)
Large handful of cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, stemmed, and sliced
1 cup kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup frozen green beans
1/3 cup diced pineapple
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
*optional: 1 cup of a protein of choice

for the sweet-and-sour sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
3 tablespoons tomato sauce

In a small pan or rice cooker, cook the rice in the stock according to the package directions.

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the sweet-and-sour sauce.  Use a fork or small whisk to incorporate everything.  Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large sauce pan or wok.  Once hot, add the sliced onions and stir-fry until the onions are soft.  Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.  Then begin to add the vegetables.  Start with the veggies that will take longer to cook, such as carrots or bell peppers.  Once those have begun to soften, add your remaining vegetables and pineapple.  Stir fry for a minute, then add the red pepper flakes.  Continue to cook until the vegetables are softened. 

Pour the sweet-and-sour sauce over the vegetables and saute until the sauce has completely coated the vegetables. 

Spoon a serving of rice onto your plate and top with the saucy veggies.  Breathe in the delicious aroma.  Then dig in. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Restaurant Rumination :: Day by Day Cafe

I had Monday off of work in honor of Martin Luther King day.  I intended to lay low, get some things done around the apartment, and relax.  But I got a call from my parents, asking if I wanted to get some brunch.  I always want to get brunch.  Always.  We tossed around a few ideas and then decided to check out a place that my uncle had suggested a few times: Day by Day Cafe on West 7th Street.  I checked out the menu online and with a "breakfast all day" menu, we were sold. 

I'd never even heard of Day by Day when my dad spoke of my uncle's recommendation.  But the menu looks fairly comprehensive, spanning from a stack of pancakes, to sandwiches and salads, to a sirloin steak special.  Open in the wee hours of the morning through 8pm on weeknights and 3pm on weekends, it seems as though Day by Day can cover all of your food cravings.

Day by Day is your classic cafe, with rooms upon rooms of seating, and tables large and small.  The wall next to our wooden booth was filled with vintage books and magazines.  There were copies of the Reader's Digest that went waaaaay back.  It was a great way to give the space a homey atmosphere.  Across our dining room were huge windows, overlooking some water landscaping and, possibly, patio seating for more favorable weather?  It was cute and quaint.  A great setting for some classic eats.

They were out of cinnamon rolls and caramel rolls by the time we arrived, so my dad ordered a blueberry muffin as his "appetizer."  It was more like a blueberry loaf and it was clearly fresh.  When we cut into this loaf of soft, sweet bread, it started steaming and fresh blueberries spilled out.  Yum.

When I go out for brunch, I always err on the side of breakfast.  I ordered the "#8" which consisted of one egg cooked over easy, on top of a mound of hashbrowns, served with a toasted English muffin, and a side of sliced avocado.  The avocado is what steered me toward this breakfast option, and it added some creamy freshness to an otherwise standard breakfast meal.  The hashbrowns were perfectly cooked, the egg was dripping with liquid gold yolk, and I smashed everything together on top of a muffin half.  De-lish. 

I'm happy that Day by Day is now on my radar.  I'm always looking for new breakfast spots in St. Paul that serve up classic diner eats in refreshing ways.  I will certainly be back for more.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fig & Shallot Pizza

Saturday night I stayed home and enjoyed some popcorn, wine, and my Glee DVDs.  But then I pulled up my blog and decided to change some things.  Then I decided to add a Pinterest button.  Then I decided to join Twitter.  So needless to say, my blog has some revamped social media options now, and I'd love for you to take advantage (see sidebar right).  I'm always looking for ideas, suggestions, or comments from you guys.  I enjoy cooking mostly because I love sharing my cooking with others.  And in this scenario, the "others" is you.  So lets all chat food! 

I was thumbing through some cookbooks in between social media blasts and found a recipe for a shallot fig spread.  It looked like an amazing flavor combination, and I wondered how it would taste as a pizza.  Turns out, it tastes pretty damn good.  I contemplated using a heavy-flavored cheese, but in the end I think my instincts were right.  Creamy ricotta cheese adds fresh flavor but allows the sweet and tangy fig/shallot combination steal the show.  Topped off with some salt and pepper and you have an easy but flavorful pizza.

Fig & Shallot Pizza
serves 2

1 ball of pre-made pizza dough (you can get pizza dough at your local pizzeria or at Whole Foods)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, pasted*
3 large figs, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat.  Add the shallots and saute, keeping the heat low to carmelize the shallots slowly, about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, add the pasted garlic and heat through about 1-2 minutes.  Then add the figs and saute briefly, just to soften them. 

In the meatime, cut the pizza dough in half, and set one piece aside.  Roll or stretch the remaining half into a 10-inch circle, trying to keep the dough in an even thickness.  (I failed.)  Place on a baking sheet or a pizza stone and brush with about a tablespoon of olive oil. 

When the fig mixture is done cooking, spoon the mixture on top of the pizza dough, leaving a bit on the edge for a crust.  Then dot the top of the pizza with small spoonfuls of ricotta cheese, and smooth out.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edge of the pizza is browned.  Optional: put the pizza into the broiler for 1-2 minutes to get a deeper color on some pieces of the shallot and fig.  Cut into pieces and enjoy.

*Pasting garlic is great for recipes when you want the flavor of garlic in the dish but you don't want someone to bite into a rogue piece of garlic.  In order to make your garlic paste, you can use a mortal and pestle to mash the garlic.  Or you can finely mince the garlic, then add a generous pinch of salt to the mound of garlic.  Using the side of your knife, scrape the garlic into the salt to turn it into a paste. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

And the Winner Is....

Happy Friday the 13th everybody!  I find it relatively humorous that my first blog giveaway winner will be announced on what is typically thought to be an unlucky day.  I don't think there is anything unlucky about a free bowl of noodles and some other fun swag (*knock on wood*).  So without further ado, I will announce the WINNER of the Noodles Grown Up Mac Giveaway!

I kicked it old school with the drawing.  Instead of using a website, I printed off all of your comments, put them in a pretty glass jar and asked my coworker, Kelly, to draw the winner.  I had a little bit of an adrenaline rush as she pulled out the name......

Congratulations to ANN BRYANT!  You are the winner of my first blog giveaway!  Ann said, "I love Noodles, I think I could eat there everyday :)  I usually get the Pasta Fresca but the last time I was there I had the Chili Mac...delicious."  Shoot me an email at and I'll send off your prize package!

Thanks to all of you who entered the giveaway.  This was so much fun!  I'm going to have to do this again.  Stay safe on this Friday the 13th everybody. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Restaurant Ruminations :: Vina

It's actually shocking that it's taken me this long to write a review of Vina, a wonderful little restaurant in Richfield.  Growing up, my family ordered take-away from Vina on a regular basis.  And it was always the same thing: an order of the egg rolls and lo mein.  All for me.  I vividly remember driving home from a track meet in high school and stopping off at Vina for some celebratory egg rolls.  And I didn't even do that well in my events!  My mom and I still love going to Vina for dinners, and I'll sometimes call her just to talk about the egg rolls (i.e. try to convince her to bring me some).  So when my dad went out of town for work this week, my mom and I sent up a dinner night at Vina. 

The restaurant is on an unassuming corner in Richfield, right on 64th and Nicollet.  It's small, never terribly busy, but it hasn't changed in years and the regulars (me!) continue to frequent Vina.  The service is great, the food is flavorful and hot, and that's why I've been coming back to Vina for over ten years.  This time around, things seemed to have changed a little bit, but the basic elements of Vina remained the same. 

My mom and I started with cream cheese wontons, which were served with a sweet side, almost like a duck sauce.  I polished off my three wontons in seconds.  The cream cheese filling seemed heartier than usual -- not just cream cheese but something else that I couldn't quite pinpoint.  Whatever it was, it added an extra bounce of flavor. 

But the pièce de résistance of Vina is the egg roll.  I've turned many people onto these egg rolls and I can say with absolute confidence that they are the best egg rolls I have ever eaten.  The egg roll wrapper is crunchy and the inside is filled with crisp vegetables and other savory ingredients, but not overrun with cabbage (a common problem I've seen in egg rolls).  What really makes these egg rolls supreme is the dipping sauce.  It's aromatic, amazingly flavorful, and has a light sugary and vinegary warmth that also complements any main dish.  If I had just a little less class, I would probably sip it secretly like a tea!  I could eat both large egg rolls easily.  But I try to share when possible!

My entree is always the veggie lo mein.  The veggies are soft but still have a bite, the noodles are springy, and the peanuts on top are delightful.  The nutty flavor pervades the entire dish, adding an extra layer of saltiness and crunch.  I could hardly contain myself -- even after three cream cheese wontons and an egg roll, I nearly polished off this entire large plate of saucy noodles.  I finally resisted so I could bring some for lunch, but all evening I had to resist the temptation to open up my take-out container and dig in.  I'm serious.  Vina is that tasty. 

Food, service, atmosphere, and price all come together for a pretty great experience at Vina.  If you're in the Richfield area, check out their lunch and dinner specials.  There is a Vina in Highland Park in St. Paul as well.  I've been there and the food is just as good, but I'll always prefer my Richfield location.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Southwestern Fried Rice and the Joys of a Well-Stocked Pantry

My recent dinner experience really demonstrated the importance of having a well-stocked pantry at home.  Nearly every single cookbook you buy will have a pantry guide with the author's suggestions on what to have in your pantry at all times.  I think those suggestions are great, and if you buy a cookbook that you plan to cook out of frequently or that really showcases your favored cuisine, then take the author's suggestions to heart. 

But if you're like me, and you never really know what you are going to be cooking on a given day, take the time to build your favorite recipes and cooking styles before you determine your pantry staples.  After a few years of picking recipes out of cookbooks, cooking meals on the fly, and eating the crazy combinations of food that I do, I have a few items that I need at all times in my kitchen.  I thought I'd share them with you all, in case you were looking for some tips on what to put on the ol' grocery list. 

Ruminations on a Stocked Pantry

I'll first start with my dried foods.  I always have the following on hand: long-grain rice, a package of long-noodle pasta, a package of short-noodle pasta, quinoa, and lentils (black and green varieties).  When I'm tired or lazy, I know I can whip together something using one of these dried ingredients as my base.  These items are healthy and versatile -- perfect for your pantry.  I also keep at least one container of quick-cooking oats, old fashioned oats, and steel cut oats for baking and for breakfast.  You never know when a quick breakfast fix can turn into a craving for oatmeal cookies!  Speaking of which, I also make sure I have a package of raisins and a few bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  You know...just in case!

Next, my canned goods.  I keep a few varieties of canned tomatoes (diced, puree, whole, sauce, and paste) at all times.  I also try to keep two cans of garbanzo beans, white beans, and black beans.  I'm out of black beans right now and it's killing me!  During the colder months, I usually have a can of sweet potato puree and a can of pumpkin puree that I'll use for hearty soups and pasta dishes.  There's a ton of other random stuff in this picture, but I assure you, none of it is all that important!

And no pantry is complete without oils and vinegars.  Find a brand of extra virgin olive oil that you love and always keep a huge bottle of it close at hand.  Also keep a bottle of vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil handy because it doesn't have a ton of flavor but it has a higher burning point than olive oils.  These are perfect for high-temperature frying.  My new obsession is sesame oil, so I'll be keeping that around the kitchen too! 

When it comes to vinegar, I keep one bottle of balsamic vinegar, one bottle of apple cider vinegar, and one bottle of white wine vinegar.  I rely on these varieties frequently, but I've accumulated many others over the course of my cooking.  I always come back to those three for cooking and for salads. 

And finally, some random items that I must always have in my kitchen include at least one pound of butter (preferably three), soy sauce, eggs, two quarts of vegetable stock, all purpose flour, granulated and powdered sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and GARLIC.  So...much...garlic. 

see all the garlic in that red bowl in the background?  yum.
 This probably seems like a crazy list, but the beauty of many of these ingredients is that they will last you for a while and you'll turn to them often enough that it's worth having them around at all times.  But again, work around the kitchen for a while and see what you keep coming back to and replacing time and time again.  Those are your pantry staples.  Mine are just a jumping off point to get you thinking about what should always be on your grocery list! 

To celebrate pantry staples, this is the dinner I made the other night, 99% of which came right out of my cupboards.  And it was so tasty, I ate it three more times in a row, and I anticipate a fourth!

Southwestern Fried Rice
serves 2-3

2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups of cooked rice (preferably cooked in veggie stock in advance and cooled in the fridge)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can of diced tomatoes with chilies, lightly drained
1 can of black beans, drained
2 tsp cumin
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add the garlic and saute for about one minute.  Add the cold rice and saute briefly, then spread the rice into an even layer and allow to fry until lightly golden.  Then saute again, and let brown once more. 

Push the rice off to the sides of the pan to create a space in the middle.  Add the eggs and scramble.  Incorporate the rice and eggs together once the eggs are cooked.  Add the tomatoes, beans, and cumin.  Heat for about 5 minutes.  Take of the heat and garnish with the cilantro.  Taste and adjust seasonings. 

You could serve the rice rolled up in a warm tortilla, sprinkled with crumbled tortilla chips, or just plain.  It would be a great meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  The joys of a well-stocked pantry never cease to amaze me.

**Am I missing anything in my pantry??  Let me know in the comments!**

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

Here's an interesting story.  The summer after my senior year of high school, I was a server at the Red Lobster near my house.  At the time, I also hated seafood, which made the job even more interesting.  I loved working as a server -- it was fun to meet new people and try to upsell them to a lobsterita or the "all you can eat crab" special.  While these days I would never go to Red Lobster for any of the menu items, I'm still completely obsessed with their cheddar bay biscuits!  As a server, we could eat them as often as we wanted during our shifts.  It was the way to keep hunger at a minimum when working a double shift or working through dinner.  Now, it's the only way someone can convince me to go to Red Lobster! 

Paging through an old issue of Food Network magazine I saw a copycat recipe for these delicious biscuits.  I figured I would give it a try and I might get to enjoy these cheesy biscuits whenever I wanted.  While there was still something missing from this version -- it might need more garlic, more salt, and more cheese (three things that will guarantee recipe success!), but these biscuits bake up wonderfully.  Golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside, with a hint of cheese and garlic.  These biscuits are mouthwatering, and would make the perfect pairing for any meal.  Full disclosure: I ate three of them for dinner tonight!

Cheesy Garlic Biscuits
from Food Network Magazine
makes 12 biscuits

for the biscuits
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening at room temperature
4 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk

for the garlic butter
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt to combine.  Add the shortening and pulse to combine.  Add the butter and pulse 4-5 times, or until the butter is in small pieces.  Add the cheese and pulse again to combine.  Pour in the milk and pulse until the mixture comes together into a shaggy dough. 

Pour the dough out onto a floured surface.  Knead it until the dough comes together.  Then drop pieces of the dough onto the baking sheet, about small handfuls worth.  Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.

While baking, heat the remaining butter and garlic in a small sauce pan.  Once melted, cook for one minute.  Then remove from heat.  Brush the garlic butter onto the warm biscuits.  Sprinkle a bit more salt on top of the biscuits (optional).  Serve warm. 

Friday, January 6, 2012


If you're a new reader to my blog, you must know that I have a thing for pasta.  It could be that it's super simple to make or it could be that when I'm not cooking I'm training for a marathon, so inevitably I eat a lot of pasta!  Nevertheless, I'm always in the market for a satisfying pasta dish.  In my times of brain block, I often head to Noodles & Co to fill up on their amazing pasta dishes the night before a long run.  So when the wonderful people at Noodles & Co offered me the chance to try out their new Grown Up Mac & Cheese selections, I immediately responded with a big "YES"!! 

My co-worker and I headed to the new St. Paul location on University Avenue for lunch one afternoon and I ordered the Truffle Mac.  This cheesy dish starts the same as their traditional mac & cheese, but then its amped up with some white truffle oil, sliced cremini mushrooms, and seasoned breadcrumbs, topped with Parmesan cheese.  Seriously? 

Nope, they aren't joking!  This really is mac & cheese for grown ups.  The truffle oil is perfection, giving this classic dish a huge kick in the face.  It adds a rich depth of flavor and this earthy quality that turns a child's favorite into a dish I'd gladly pair with a nice glass of wine.  The bread crumb topping provides some lovely texture, bonding to the cheese and soaking up the yummy flavors.  Plus, the cremini mushrooms are perfect.  They aren't as overwhelming as portobello slices could have been, and the mushroom slices round out the tastiness of this mac & cheese.  Can you tell I'm swooning?  *Swoon*

As gluttonous as I can be, I exercised some self control and boxed half of the mac & cheese up (it's a big plate!).  But I certainly chowed it down for lunch the next day.  I have a thing for reheated mac & cheese.  And this version was seemed even more cheesy and gooey than the day before.  Win!

But you know what the best part of this blog post is?  I'll tell you.  Not only did Noodles give me the opportunity to try out their Grown Up Mac & Cheese, they want to give YOU the same chance!  I have a gift bag filled with fun swag and a coupon for a free (huge) bowl of any of their delicious pasta offerings.  You can try out the Truffle Mac or their two other featured dishes: Chili Mac or Bacon, Mac & Cheeseburger.  (It's also good for their classic menu items.) 

In order to win this goody bag, just comment below, telling me your favorite Noodles & Co dish OR your favorite mac & cheese dish!  Make sure you leave your name in the comment so I know who you are!!  I'll randomly select the winner next Friday -- so comment away and best of luck to you all!

**Check back on Friday the 13th for the winner -- it could turn out to be your luckiest of unlucky days!!**

Monday, January 2, 2012

Calling in Sick to the Kitchen

The holidays treated me fairly well this year.  I got to see family and friends, I gave some fun gifts, and I received some awesome stuff for my kitchen.  If I weren't cooking in a tiny apartment kitchen, I would feel like part of the Food Network with all of my fancy kitchen gadgets!  But the holidays were also a bummer.  It seemed like I was constantly sick.  Beginning of December -- had to skip a cooking class because I got a cold.  Family Christmas -- had to skip it because I had food poisoning.  New Year's Eve -- came down with an even bigger cold.  And -- hooray, hooray -- I still have the stupid cold.  So instead of beginning my new year using my cool kitchen gadgets and cooking awesome things for my blog, I'm in sweatpants, surrounded by kleenex, and coughing up a lung.  So, my dear readers, I am calling in sick to the kitchen. 

I'm going to relax with some tomato soup from my favorite neighborhood cafe, Cafe Latte. 

I'm hoping that the warm, tomato-y soup will help cure my cold. 

I'm also going to watch one of my favorite movies.  I'm sure it's a total cliche, but I don't even care.  I love the movie Julie & Julia.  LOVE IT!  I love the dual stories, I love the cooking, I love everything about it!  I watch this movie when I want to feel inspired, when I have a bad day, when I have a good day, and now when I'm sick with a cold! 

Oh how I love this movie.  I hope it works a miracle on my cold.  If not, maybe it will inspire me to cook a chocolate cream pie.  Oh joy.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2012!