April 2011


Remember when I used to photograph all my food, every single day? Well, if not, here’s a trip down memory lane. Yesterday I snapped shots of everything I ate…and it’s not all that exciting. Every single day of the work week I eat oats (the whole grain but quick cook kind) + hot chocolate mix+ banana. Maybe one day I’ll branch out and try making this bowl with real cocoa powder, but for now, I’ll keep the cashiers at Target guessing why I buy 10 boxes of Swiss Miss at once.

I usually eat between 8:30 – 9:15, after checking my work emails and getting settled. Then it’s work, work and more work until noon. Yes, noon on the dot because I can’t seem to eat lunch any later than then. On the weekends, meal times have no real significance, but at work, if I’m not eating by 12:30, my body and brain are freaking out. Lunch yesterday was leftover pasta, minus the goat cheese but plus half a chicken sausage. I usually eat straight out of the Tupperware but since I brought arugula to go along, my meal got plated.

Is it just me, or is lunch the hardest meal to plan? Ever since I started making enough food at dinner to have leftovers, I’ve been eating much better at lunchtime. I’ve cut out Lean Cuisines completely, which used to be a staple, and I only eat peanut butter sandwiches on the rare days I’m not prepared with some kind of extra food in my fridge.

I took a break afterwards for a little fresh air. I rarely go out to lunch because of the cost and the calories. I’d much rather save my meals “out” for times when I’m not sitting at a computer. But, if I don’t get out of the office at all, I start to go stir crazy around 3 or 4PM. So I’m trying very hard to take at least a quick trip outside, even if just for 15 minutes. After I got back, I had a coffee-flavored ginger chew while browsing some magazines for work. I am not a fan of the coffee ones but I love, love the original ginger chews!

All my work eats are shared with two lovely ladies: Julia and Fergie. What, does your office not have framed magazine covers hanging every three feet?

Yesterday was a weirdly dramatic day. Not to get into too many details, but two girls in my office had a big disagreement, which ended in some very unprofessional yelling. Then I had to go into a meeting with my boss to discuss it, and everyone was walking on eggshells all day. Our office is super small, and you can literally hear every single person’s conversation, which makes any type of drama very awkward.

I was stuck at work until 7PM but luckily had some salted cucumbers to tide me over. I saved these from lunch, thank goodness.

When I finally peaced out for the night, I went home to feed my cat and do a few things around the apartment. Then I headed to Malibu and made myself a really simple wok of food: tofu, snap peas, onions, rice noodles and a ton of Szechuan sauce. Too much sauce actually, because the bowl was so spicy it left my mouth and lips burning.

After dinner, the boy and I watched Steve Carell’s last episode of The Office. I can’t imagine the show without him on it! Hopefully they’ll be able to find someone great to keep the show’s awkwardly funny moments going. I had my favorite chocolate/chocolate chip gelato to “celebrate.”

I say “celebrate” in quotes because I’d eat this whether I was cheering on Michael Scott or not. It’s honestly a bit addictive.

There you have it! I’ll basically be repeating yesterday today, hopefully with less drama and more gelatto. Happy Friday!

If you want a foolproof Italian meal, Bay Cities Deli & Bakery is the place to go. It’s only open until 7PM Tuesday through Sunday, so I had to race from work to get there before closing time. As always, the place was packed, and I had to circle the block before getting a spot in the lot. Inside, you can find just about everything from fully cooked meals, fresh pasta and frozen foods to sauces, meats, wine, and even funky kitchen gear. It’s the perfect place to get your groceries if you were hosting a quasi-gourmet dinner party and wanted to pair squid ink pasta with aged olive oil and freshly shaved cheese, for example. Not that I’ve ever done that before, but it’s just the kind of place that lends itself to an effortlessly delicious menu that LOOKS much fancier than it actually is. Case in point.

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My ingredient list for dinner was simple. Whole canned tomatoes. I’ve gotten a lot of recommendations for this San Marzano brand, and I thought the taste was great. I especially liked that the tomatoes looked very natural and really popped, with all the seeds spilling out, as I was crushing them for the sauce. I sometimes have a bias toward canned foods and thinking they aren’t “real” enough, but these passed my test.

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Fresh pasta. I’ve never made my own pasta before but I’ll gladly buy something that doesn’t sit on a shelf for months, especially if it costs just over three bucks for a nice big container.

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Garlic & Herb goat cheese. I did get the cheese from the Farmer’s Market though. Bay Cities has a great selection but I went a wee bit overboard on the amount of goat cheese I bought this weekend, so I had to reign myself in tonight. Side note, I also bought Lemon & Lavender goat cheese from the same vendor and IT. IS. AMAZING.

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Chewy, blistered bread. The crust on this loaf reminds me of New Jersey bagels, where the outside gets all golden and bubbly. I definitely tore off a hunk to eat in the car before sticking my bags in the trunk. Having the bags next to me would likely lead to not enough bread for dinner. I’ll admit I could eat the entire loaf!

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To put everything together, all I did was smash the tomatoes, add some spices, and let them simmer on the stovetop for a bit. The pasta cooked for 4 minutes in salted water, and the bread popped into the oven for 10, with one big piece lightly buttered and sprinkled with garlic salt for the boy. I personally like my carbs Plain Jane style. Divvied up and topped with chicken sausage for him, goat cheese for her.

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The taste? Well, neither of us were 100% sold on the fresh pasta. I’ve had homemade pasta before and something about this batch just wasn’t clicking. I think I’d like to recreate this entire meal with some of their imported, boxed pasta…a big, fat noodle to catch the sauce and goat cheese. See? I’m always thinking about the important stuff…like pasta size.

Happy Easter! Don’t you just love holidays? This morning I woke up at 7:30 to get started on the Ukrainian Easter bread, paska. The bread needs to rise not one, not two, but three times, for a total of 4.5 hours, so the process is pretty lengthy. The timing was perfect though, and Rachel and I went to church and the Farmer’s Market on one of the rise breaks.

Here’s the bread with it’s egg wash…

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…and piping hot from the oven!

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The rest of the menu included hard boiled eggs,

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two kinds of chicken sausage,

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and Farmer’s Market asparagus. All together now! Plus a lot more bread. I’m crazy for this stuff. The texture was a little doughy, but the taste was spot on.

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Oh! And the boy made mimosas for everyone too.

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For dessert, I turned to the Barefoot Contessa. Ina is my go-to for elegantly simple food. I was inspired by her summer crostata recipe after looking at pages of juicy, ripe fruit.

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The recipe calls for peaches, plums and blueberries but the market in Malibu doesn’t have a ton of fruit options in season right now, so I went with frozen rhubarb and fresh strawberries instead, with an orange juiced and zested.

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My piece, with a little scoop of ice cream!

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The rest of the day included fresh pink roses, 10 episodes of Parks & Recreation (Amy Poehler is so darn funny!) and Easter chocolates.

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Even though I’m 27, my mom still sends me an Easter “basket” full of chocolate eggs, Reeses candy, Russel Stover chocolate bunnies, Cadberry cream eggs, and jelly beans. When I say “basket,” I mean a gallon-sized Ziplock bag full of all my favorites.

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I secretly hope I’m never too old for this tradition to end. Something about holidays always makes me feel like a kid again :)

Thank you, President Obama, for getting me out of work early! When in Los Angeles, the President always stays at the hotel right near my office, which means our entire block (and building exit!) shuts down. To make sure we didn’t get trapped for the night, my boss let us leave around 3:30. I love early dismissal! I made it home fairly quickly despite the extra traffic and polished off Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.

I actually liked this book! It was a fast and easy read. There were some parts that seemed ridiculously absurd to me, like when Chua is deciding what instruments her daughters should play and rules out drums, because they lead to drugs. Really? I know the author has been getting a lot of flak in the media for her parenting style, and while I personally would raise my kids differently (I really don’t believe that you have to go to an Ivy League college, get perfect grades, and be a child prodigy to be a success), her daughters seem relatively happy and confident, which made her parenting style much easier for me to bear.

I made it to Malibu in time for the early-bird dinner hour. Across the street, they were filming an episode of “The Great Food Truck Race,” and we were secretly hoping the food trucks would be up and running, but no such luck.

So we stuck to the original plan and went for a 6PM dinner at the newly opened Malibu Inn (Top Chef contestant Angelo Sosa is behind the menu). I wasn’t too hungry after eating a bunch of Easter candy while reading, so the popcorn and beer went to the boy…

But, I did order the smoked short rib appetizer, based on the cocoa-rubbed, mole BBQ description. I normally take forever to order off a new-to-me menu, but I love meat infused with chocolate flavor, so the choice was easy.

The whole bottom layer was pure fat, which I left untouched, but it made the meat on top really tender and flavorful. I didn’t even need a knife for this dish!

The boy ordered the Highway to Hell burger, which came with chipotle mayo, jalapeños, pickle, smoked tomato.  He added bacon and cheddar cheese; when you already have a buttered brioche bun in the mix, cheese and bacon just make sense, right?

The burger came with kettle chips. I had one and it tasted just like a Cape Cod chip!

We also got a side of fries, cooked with black truffle oil and parmesan. I personally love my fries with tons of salt and nothing else, but the boy thought they were awesome and the presentation earned two thumbs up from me.

The restaurant has a great outdoor patio too, where I’m sure we’ll spend quite a few post-beach, sunset happy hours! Just the thought of warmer weather makes me excited :)

Last night, I went to see Tiny Fey and Steve Martin at the Nokia Theater downtown. The two candidly chatted about her new book, Bossypants, along with very important and relevant topics like trolls, Tina’s new “pregnancy” chest, SNL skits [Did you know she penned "Mom Jeans"?! Genius.] and their favorite 30 Rock episodes. The two of them are just so naturally entertaining. But what had me in tears was an excerpt Steve Martin read from her book. So freaking funny. If the goal was to get audience members to buy, buy, buy…I’m totally sold.

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I think everyone has a few favorite meals that have earned their position because of childhood tastes and nostalgia. Mine include flank steak with mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs, and garlic chicken. For Rachel’s birthday, we decided to keep the actual day low key and cook at home, since other her birthday celebrations included a weekend trip to Vegas and a huge group barhopping on Main Street in Santa Monica. Up on the menu were two of our favorites — garlic chicken and mashed potatoes. The recipes were old classics, but the “cookbook” was new. I love technology in the kitchen!

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I made all three pounds at once, even though we didn’t finish them in one go. I love Trader Joe’s and the store’s “Rico Suave” potatoes. I too enjoy holidays, ketchup, and hanging out in gardens. Potatoes and I are a match made in heaven!

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My method for mashed potatoes is really simple. Peel and dice potatoes, add to boiling water and cook until fork-tender. Add butter, milk and salt to taste and beat until smooth. Unfortunately I sent some of the potato skin peels down the sink and the garbage disposal got massively clogged. Luckily our apartment has really great maintenance people who fixed it the next day and even wiped down the sink. Thank goodness, because potato peels yield the worst looking grey sludge, yuck.

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The chicken was fairly simple too. My dad knew the recipe off the top of his head, which goes to show you how easy it is to make and how often we requested this meal growing up!

Nostalgic Garlic Chicken

4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
4 to 6 Garlic Cloves – crushed (pressed work best)
1 Stick Butter
1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat over to 425.
Mix Bread Crumbs & parmesan cheese together in a bowl.
Melt butter in saucepan and add garlic; cook long enough to infuse flavor, maybe 1 minute.
Remove from heat.
Take Chicken and roll both sides in melted butter/garlic then dip in bread crumb/cheese mixture.
Put chicken on baking pan or glass casserole dish and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Yum!

I made two enormous chicken breasts and cut each into half. I didn’t have a garlic press on hand so I ended up scraping off some of the excess garlic before cooking. Next time, I’ll be sure to press the garlic for a more even coat. All together, plus peas — so delicious!

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Served with a bit of wine.

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Another childhood tradition is ice cream cake to celebrate birthdays. Growing up, it was always Haagen Dazs, then Dairy Queen. In Los Angeles, I’ve had to resort to Carvel cakes from the grocery store, but this year, I discovered Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cakes. The mini icing-filled cones on top are enough to win me over.

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You can pick any two flavors of ice cream, with either cookies or brownies in the middle. I went with Phish Food (chocolate ice cream with marshmallow and caramel swirls, and fudge fish pieces) and Clusterfluff (peanut butter ice cream with marshmallow and peanut butter swirls, and caramel pieces)…plus brownies in the middle.

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I ate three slices and they were awesome.

Happy Birthday Rachel! Today my sister turns 24. Yowzers. I still remember when we were pint-sized, and it really doesn’t feel like that long ago. We’ve always been “good” sisters; although growing up, three years is a big enough age gap to have different friends and hobbies. I was the dramatic, bossy sister (with a heart of gold, I swear), while Rachel was the baby-cute, gymnast. Adorably quirky too — her biggest obsessions included the number 7, anything octopus-themed, and bears.

I’m likely enthusiastically lecturing about something, as Rachel leans over to join in.

Still, no matter our differences in personality, the Tatem sisters have always been thick as thieves.

The requisite back-to-school photo…

I am so lucky that Rachel and I are now more than just sisters but also friends. She’s consoled me through breakups, given me advice in new relationships and taken care of my cat countless times. We’ve shared an apartment, kitchen duties (she does garbage, I do dishes), clothes and a million stories. We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in LA across the country from all our family (twice!), we’ve discovered a favorite neighborhood bar, and we’ve gone dancing in Vegas.

Tonight I’m making a childhood favorite: garlic chicken and mashed potatoes. My dad provided the recipe and the secret is butter. A lot of butter. Also, there will be the traditional ice cream cake. I can’t say what kind because I don’t want to ruin the surprise but it’s pretty epic.

Happy Birthday Rachie!

We celebrated a birthday at work on Friday with Sprinkles cupcakes. I picked up a half dozen red velvet for the office and a chocolate/chocolate one for me. I couldn’t resist adding the wine later…double the cupcake!

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I honestly don’t know what they put in these things, but it’s almost addictive. I ate one around 3PM and was full for the next 6 hours.

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I often skip the cake part and just eat the icing, but these are good from start to finish. They must use a ton of butter and cocoa because the cupcakes are so incredibly rich. I also love the little wooden forks. Everyone else in my office switched theirs out for plastic because they thought the wood tasted a bit dry and strange. It reminds me of being a kid though, and eating ice cream dixie cups at parties with those little wooden sticks. Sprinkles’ forks are the grownup version!

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Today was a day of driving and shopping. The boy and I hit up the Rose Bowl flea market, which was sadly a bust. I did see a lot of cute knickknacks, but we were on the prowl for bigger furniture — bookcase, desk, lots of kitchen and bedroom storage. While the prices were right, the styles weren’t, so we also went to Restoration Hardware and Crate & Barrel. The woman at Restoration Hardware mentioned an outlet about an hour away, so we decided to take a quick road trip. Apparently the outlet only gets shipments once a week and the furniture gets snapped up in a second, so everything good was already sold!

But the trip wasn’t for naught. The drive home took us along the ocean and past a fruit stand. Strawberries, blueberries…

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…and mangos as big as the boy’s palm.

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I also went to Great Harvest for the first time! We got a loaf of honey wheat to-go and this bread couldn’t be more doughy.

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Tonight I ate a poached egg on toast for dinner, and I’m planning an almond butter sandwich for lunch tomorrow. There’s nothing like fresh bakery bread! I’m guessing this loaf won’t last long.

My lunches during the week can get kind of boring. I try to eat leftovers so I don’t have to resort to almond butter/jelly sandwiches — the only meal I have enough time to make and pack in the morning when running out the door. On the weekend though, it’s a whole different story. I can actually get into the kitchen and cook!

Portobello sandwiches have been making a reappearance in my dinner rotation lately, but unfortunately, they don’t work so well as leftovers. I’d make extra to eat the next day, but with no oven to toast the bread and no stovetop to reduce the balsamic, this meal really only works for dinner. And weekends!

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Toasted rustic roll, topped with portobello mushroom, roasted red pepper, and balsamic reduction…

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…topped with fridge-cold goat cheese and more sweet balsamic.

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Not only does this sandwich taste fantastic, it’s really filling. My mom made a version of these when we were younger, with mozzarella instead. She always kicks it up a notch by cooking hers on the grill and marinading the mushrooms. I take the easier route and just make a balsamic reduction for added flavor. These cook up so quickly!

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And it looks kind of fancy, don’t you think?

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Even though the temperatures down by the beach dropped back down to the 60s, I really wanted to get frozen yogurt. Well, I guess I’m always in the mood for frozen yogurt but I had a major craving for it after three days of sunshine and sandal weather last week. We tried Grom for the first time, a gelato shop in Malibu that flies its ingredients in from Italy. Luckily, the staffers were cool and let us try a dozen flavors, so it was easier to pick 2: dark chocolate and bacio (hazelnut) for me!

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I love rich flavor of gelato. This small little cup goes a long way. Good thing, at $5 a pop! The boy and I may have checked out a cheaper option and stocked up on $1 ice cream minis today…

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An apple a day…keeps the doctor away. An ice cream a day…makes Kate a very happy girl.

I’m not sure when I first made quinoa. Thanks to some sleuthing and my little blog, I know it was at least two years ago. For a while, I was on a quinoa kick, and then I stopped eating it entirely. Why eat chewy grains when I could make a bowl of twirl-y fettuccine instead? Then, when mom was in town the other week, Rachel ordered the quinoa bowl with scrambled eggs at Huckleberry. I begged to finish her leftovers (race nerves were leaving her with little appetite) and practically licked the bowl clean.

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For whatever reason, my taste buds suddenly decided to LOVE quinoa again and now I just can’t get enough. The thing about quinoa is, it’s impossible really to make an unhealthy dish when preparing it. Whenever I think of how to serve quinoa, or what other ingredients I’ll use, my mind immediately jumps to sweet potatoes, squash, roasted vegetables, leafy greens, toasted nuts and maybe some dried fruit. Basically, an advertisement for clean eating on one plate.

Pink Quinoa Bowl

Some people might not like the thought of eating a dish colored bright pink. But when the shade comes from roasted beets, I say, bring it on!

Farmers’ Market, slow-roasted beets are one of my new favorites. Looks like the beets love me back ♥

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Preheat oven to 350. Dice and roast sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts for 25-35 minutes, turning once.

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Rinse and quarter beets, leaving the skin intact. Spray with PAM or lightly toss with EVOO, then wrap beets together in tinfoil, sealing completely. Cook for 1 hour. When you rinse the cooked beets under water, just push lightly at the skins and they’ll easily slip off. Cut beets into bite-sized pieces.

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Add vegetables to cooked quinoa (I use a rice cooker; just add 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa and you’re good to go!), along with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and viola. Hello, pink.

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Then for dinner last night, I wanted to use two mini squashes (that I might have picked out based on cuteness factor), so of course, incorporating quinoa immediately jumped to mind. I had two themes when making these stuffed squashes: manly meat/heat and dainty vegetable (serves 2).

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Manly Meat & Heat Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Halve the baby butternut squash, scoop out the seeds, and place facedown in a glass baking dish filled with an inch of water. Cook the squash for about an hour at 375 degrees. When the squash is almost done, cook two servings of quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked). After the squash is fork-tender, remove from heat. Turn up the oven to broil, and cook two jalapeño chicken sausages. Scoop out the cooked squash insides, mixing with half the cooked quinoa. Add cayenne pepper and chopped chicken sausages to taste. I added a lot of spice! Divide mixture into each squash shell.

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Dainty Vegetable Quinoa Stuffed Squash

The vegetable-stuffed squash cooks up at the same time as the meat version, so there’s no added cook time. Repeat the same steps with your second squash – I used a baby kabocha one – roasting along with the butternut.  As the quinoa and chicken sausage are cooking, add chopped asparagus to a pot of salted boiling water and cook 3-5 minutes. Mix scooped kabocha with the asparagus, quinoa, a tiny bit of butter, salt and sage. Then stuff!

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Because the squash takes a while in the oven, there’s a lot of downtime and only a flurry of cooking at the end when making the quinoa, chicken sausage, and asparagus all at once. Don’t forget the cayenne and sage though – the spices add a ton of flavor to the other relatively mild-tasting ingredients.

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Not too hard, filling, and super wholesome…let’s just say, if you can think of a way to prepare quinoa that’s not healthy — don’t tell me! I have plenty of good twirl-y fettuccine recipes begging for cream sauces.

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