Thursday, January 26, 2012

Culinary Adventures

Today, I begin with four heartfelt words – f*** you, Whole Foods.

To be fair, I mean that less towards the establishment itself and more towards the inevitable end result of my trips there.

Every time – every DAMN time – I walk into Whole Foods simply intending to buy, oh I don’t know… some apples and a carton of milk… I walk out many tens of dollars poorer, but with many pounds of organic-y goodness in tow. 

Today, for example, on my way back from the gym (took my first “cardio kickbox” class this morning, and consequently hate life very much), I strolled (hobbled) into Whole Foods with the aforementioned apples-and-milk grocery list in mind.

Aaaaand this is what I walked out with:

That big yellow thing on the right?  Spaghetti squash.
Stoked to try it.
Don’t look at me like that, it’s all health-tastic and I felt a range of good ingredients would help me refine my budding cooking abilities in this restaurant-free challenge.  

(I also bought an organic kitty, but he wouldn't pose
with the rest of the groceries.)
Incidentally, the restaurant-free challenge is four days in and going strong (much to my own surprise).  I mean, I haven’t done MUCH cooking yet other than my daily breakfast…

Scrambled eggs, baby spinach, grape tomatoes, avocado.
Occasionally wrapped in a tortilla if I'm feelin' carb-y.
I did, however, also made a contribution to my friends’ nascent club, currently identified as “Food Group,” in which each participating chef is given the monthly “mystery ingredient” – yeah, we’re all Iron Chef and s*** – and assigned a course in which they must utilize said ingredient.  This month’s ingredient of choice was vinegar.  I was assigned the hors d’oeuvres.  And while the rest of my very organized friends had their recipes planned out several days in advance, I, the eternal procrastinator, decided on my plan of action the morning of the dinner – spring rolls, with a rice vinegar-based sauce.  Minimal cooking.  Loves it.

The spring rolls were easy enough, other than those little douche spring roll wrappers being occasionally feisty.  The sauce looked simple enough as well, so off I went, boiling peppercorns in vinegar until it reduced and then adding some ketchup, just like the recipe told me.  I let it simmer.  I tasted it.  And my reaction was essentially this:


And so Noah, my lovely chef of a roommate, swooped in like a curly-haired Superman and saved the day with ginger and garlic.  Et voilá – delicious sauce. 

And then there was today’s dinner, which was actually rather miraculous.  Miracle number one was that I turned down going out to a restaurant. 

Actually, that’s a lie.  What happened was this:  boyfriend wanted to get dinner, to which I gave a shaky response of, “Ehhh wellll I kiiinda want to stick to this no restaurant thing, buuutt I also don’t want you to go hungry… so, we can go out.”

Why yes, that IS a blurry picture of me cooking.

Thankfully, he decided to brave my cooking.  What a nice guy.  Didn’t stop him from giving me nonstop crap during the process, of course.

Stew portion
So what I decided to attempt was a healthier version of a childhood favorite of mine – chicken and dumplings.  It used to be my #1 request for my gourmet chef of a father, up until just a few years ago.  It was… just… awesome.  Stew-y and gooey and delish.  Such fond memories of helping him make it.  And of course, of eating it.

Enter: dumplings.

Today's culinary adventure began, unsurprisingly, with half an hour of badgering Noah with yet more cooking questions.  But while he talked me through the beginning stages, I actually did the rest of it on my own – and I am delighted to say it did NOT crash and burn!  In fact, it was pretty solid.  I cooked it a little long so there wasn’t much actual stew left, and the dumplings were just a tad dry, but taste-wise it was pretty on point and overall I think it was a damn good first shot.  And it was Noah and Devin-approved, so… that’s a success in my book.

A little brown on the bottom,
but a lot delicious everywhere else.

Thanks for the inspiration, Dad.  I think you woulda liked this one.


  1. Can so relate. My father's specialty was chicken and dumplings, too, with emphasis on the dumplings. Destined to turn us all into big, fat dumplings. So were you able to make this a more healthy but delicious dish?

    1. I was! The version I used was essentially a recipe from Rocco DiSpirito's cookbook "Now Eat This," which takes quintessential comfort foods and makes them less horrifically caloric. So his version of chicken and dumplings has 270 calories per serving, as opposed to the usual 850.

      Of course, I added a potato and some carrots... and maaayyy have doubled up on the dumpling part... but whatever. Still good.