Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sit, relax, sip in Hampden

Don't get me wrong, I actually am happy to grab some quick caffeine from Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and even Rool Farms sometimes. Feel free to judge me, coffee snobs. But...when I can, I love to go to the fabulous Spro Coffee on the Avenue in Hampden.

Spro is described as a progressive coffee shop - and it kinda reminds me of the wonderful Blue Bottle in San Francisco's Ferry Building. Think slow, creative coffee. Be prepared to sit and wait. [Feed yer meter, hon.]

Spro owner Jay Caragay via Osmosis-Online: “Six different roasters, offering up to eight different coffees, all brewed by the cup, to order, in one of seven different brew methods. Quite simply, what we’re going to attempt to do is insane. But really, there is no coffee shop in the world that does what we’re attempting, which is what makes it so attractive. It’s about expressing coffee as far as we can take it. No holds barred."

Whether you like to do regular coffee, cappuccino, macchiato, french press [and the list goes on], you know you're in good hands. The warm, friendly, helpful baristas are there to guide you to the right coffee for you. They are the nicest, most UNsnobby people - and for that I'm thankful.

Since I brew French press coffee at home everyday, when I go to Spro I usually try something richer [and higher octane] like macchiato or espresso. On a visit a few weeks ago, I had two espressos and let's just say I got a lot done that day. Whoa. If you're in Charm City, give Spro a try. It costs a little more than Starbucks, but the quality of the beans and brewing comparison. They change their coffee selections often, so you can always try something new.

Thank you, Jay and company!

Soup's on

Soup is the most comforting, satisfying thing to me - especially in winter. My fave in the whole world is Ina Garten's Cheddar Corn Chowder. Cheese, corn, onions,, bacon...what's not to love? I sometimes use a little regular milk in place of the heavy cream and it's plenty rich. I've made this soup about ten times over the last few years. Obsessed? Yep. Make it, you will not be disappointed.

Here are two more great winter soups, both from my favorite food blog, The Kitchn.

First up, Baked potato soup with bacon, onion and cheddar. No, not the healthiest, of course, but quite tasty. 

Recipe note: it calls for two cups of bacon bits. I love me some bacon and the thought of buying bacon bits made me think, um, no. So, instead, I cooked an entire package of sliced bacon and made my own - but I didn't end up with enough. I'd probably use bacon bits next time - Oscar Mayer makes some that seem less scary to me.

This soup is, of course, very filling. Pace yourself.

Here is a healthier soup option: Sweet potato soup with miso and ginger. My local grocery store didn't have the miso paste, so I went to Asia Food on York Road [thanks, Lauren] and while there, I also picked up some buckwheat noodles for a future cooking adventure. This miso paste has such bright flavor and the ginger gives the soup a nice little kick. This would be great with a salad and good crusty bread for dippage. 

Recipe note: I'd use a smidge less ginger than what the recipe suggests.

Highly recommend this soup - I'll definitely make it again! And I've gotta give a shout out to my awesome Cuisinart immersion blender - they come in fabulous colors, too! No more pureeing soups in batches in the food processor. It makes life so much easier!

Winter + soup = comfort and warmth.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011


Last week, people in neighborhoods all over Charm City most likely heard screams of delight coming from my Hampden backyard. Holy s#;@! After six months of loving care, organic veggie scraps and weekend free-ranging, the chickens began to lay eggs. Well, Dottie [Ameraucana – fancy pants Martha hen] laid a gorgeous blue-ish green egg. And now, a week later...three more in varying shades of that blue-green. A few of my friends commented that they were too precious and beautiful to eat. Sorry, people - these are for eating!


I did a test…poached a store-bought white egg, a farmers market brown egg and Dottie’s egg. As you can see, the yolk of my home-produced egg was thicker and very vibrant orange. The farmers market egg was also really good - as they always are. The main difference was the brightness and consistency of the yolk. Dottie's egg was the best!  

So, we've come to the beginning of life with super delicious fresh eggs in my little backyard. Can't wait til I have enough eggs for baking. Yesterday, I found a latte-khaki-ish colored egg. Not 100% sure who laid it...but I'm on the case!
Thanks to everyone who helped me get here - especially Joan Norman, Rob Copeland and Joanne Rawl Appel - you all are the best. 

Check out this article about the nutritional value of eggs - and eat some eggs, hon!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

waverly in winter

I'm a big Waverly Market fan. Since it's a year-round market, I go every week for staples like milk, eggs, bread, lettuce, apples, potatoes, onions and bacon (yes, bacon is a staple in my house.) The selection of fruits and veggies, of course, is a bit more limited in the cold winter months...but I feel good supporting local folks as much as I can - not just in the summer. There's everyone from South Mountain Creamery where I get my milk, butter and cheese, Andy and those great fresh eggs, Cindy for ice cream, bacon and other meats...and the list goes on. Whatever I can't find there, I can get at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Also, whenever my wallet allows, I try to buy one special item not on my list. Things like a bouquet of tulipsgoat cheese  or some ginger hemp granola. Oh, and I'm fueled by Zeke's, too.

This week, my "special" purchase was some porcini  mushrooms from the nice gal at Woodland Mushrooms. I'm hoping to make mushroom risotto and she said the porcini variety are excellent for that. She invited me to take a wiff. They smelled amazing. The way she handled them - putting them oh so carefully in a paper bag and advised me how to use them - it was almost like she was selling me her offspring - it is clear that she's passionate about her 'shrooms.

Even though it just ended, I'm already looking forward to my One Straw Farm CSA share next year (June - November.) If you've been thinking about joining a local CSA, give it a try. You can always split it with a friend, so don't be worried that it's too much food. Not only are you getting fresh veggies (and other stuff depending on the farm) and supporting a local farmer, it also makes you get creative with your cooking. When I first started participating in the five years ago, I wasn't familiar at all with things like swiss chard and kohlrabi and thought, "Holy dirt, what am I gonna do with this?" Joan Norman changed all that. Each week, I'd chat with her about what I'd picked out and she'd give me great ideas for preparing it. I'd never really loved eggplant...but last year, she suggested I try baby eggplant - slice and roast it with thyme, olive oil and salt + pepper. So flipping good! And this is just one of the tons "off the top of her head" recipes Joan that has given me. Also, there is a great feature on one straw's website: Name that Veggie. It's a great way to learn more about the items you see at the farmers market. Check it out!

If you are a meat eater, check out Clementine's meat CSA. You will receive 20lbs of meat (choose from beef, chicken, pork and lamb) per week - locally sourced, humanely raised. If you've ever eaten at Clementine, you know Cristin and Winston know their stuff. Taco Tuesdays are one of my favorite things. ever.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

better than bouillon

i have to agree with the folks at my MOST FAVE food blog, the kitchn.

better than bouillon is the best. when you've run out of your homemade stock...drop a little of this super concentrated flavorful goodness in a pot with boiling water...and you're good to go. comes in many flavors - i've used the beef, chicken and vegetable. don't buy those yucky dry cubes...this is so good.

tell your friends...or save the secret for yourself, hon!