spicy tortellini with eggplant and peppers.

spicy tortellini with eggplant and peppers.

I used to think my vegetarian friends’ lives were seriously lacking. Meat is so tasty, why go without it? Other times, I’d think, Man, they’re brave, knowing that I wouldn’t last a week. Sometimes, this led to resentful, defensive dialogues (with my own thoughts, mind you) about how they just couldn’t appreciate food as much as I could, what with my extremely developed taste buds, and were simply incapable of understanding how to enjoy a cut of savory, succulent meat like I could. In a whirlwind, I would suddenly pity them, their mediocre palates and inevitably malnourished bodies (ya know, since there’s no way to get sufficient nutrients without consuming tender slabs of cooked animal flesh).

Well. After sitting down with a few good nutritional reads (including Clean Plates NYC and Food Matters), watching Food, Inc., familiarizing myself more with the misinformation distributed by our government (and you trusted the Food Pyramid all these years) and doing some general boning up on the subject of food nutrition, I’ve learned a thing or two.

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weekend breakfast scramble.

weekend breakfast scramble.

When I was a kid, I hated breakfast. Clearly, I had issues.

I liked some cereals but without milk. And by some cereals, I mean those of the sugary toxic persuasion, mainly the attempts of candy companies to clamber onto the kiddie-level shelves of the cereal aisle. If milk made it into my bowl, with say, Cheerios, they were accompanied by an equal pairing of sugar, which I meticulously scraped from the bottom of the bowl with every spoonful. My irrational father commanded that we not let perfectly good milk go to waste and thus enforced a strict protocol of slurping down the remaining cereal milk, with its sickly color and floating particles of soggy Froot Loops. (Thus, the dry cereal.) Yogurt was weird. (But chocolate pudding was a go.) Pop Tarts made the list, but only if they weren’t toasted and I was permitted to leave the crusts.

And while most of the population perked at the special-occasion offering of homemade pancakes or French toast, I replied with a grimace, much to my poor mother’s dismay. Years later, I am much wiser and realize that this is ridiculous.

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garlicky sautéed shrimp, arugula and tomatoes.

garlicky sautéed shrimp, arugula and tomatoes.

I love shrimp. They’re heart-healthy, quick to defrost and great with endless flavor combos, so I always keep a bag of them in the freezer.

This fall, I also fell in love with arugula and its peppery taste and crisp, yet tender bite. I pick it up in bulk, rather than pre-bagged and keep it in a sealed Ziplock with a paper towel, which helps it stay fresh longer. It’s great for salads and on sandwiches, but as I’ve noted the abundance of recipes incorporating it into warm dishes, I recently tried one out to great satisfaction.

I actually found this recipe in the pages of Everyday Food’s June issue, as I had recalled a feature on arugula, but it was a light and tasty dish for a weeknight and literally took 15 minutes to make, as promised. Plus, arugula and tomato are both sources of Vitamin C to help stave off seasonal colds.

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not your ma’s brussels sprouts.

not your ma’s brussels sprouts.

When I was about ten, my younger brother and I sat at the dinner table alongside my dad with grimaces on our faces as we peered at the foul-smelling, mushy green spheres taking up real estate on our plates. As smelly steam rudely crept into our nostrils, my mother grabbed her purse, kissed us on the heads and scooted off to her monthly neighborhood Bunko night.  Before the door closed, she promised over her shoulder, “Just eat ’em, they taste like lettuce.”

A bigger lie has never been uttered.

Brussels sprouts, unarguably, have a bad rap. Especially among clans of playground-dwellers. Before I’d ever laid eyes on one, I knew the ominous veggie was no good and that I should do everything in my power to steer clear. They were the butt of jokes and the focus of books in which kids were forced to sit at the table until they choked them down. (Those books also tried to convince you how tasty and nutritious Brussels sprouts are for you, but we knew better.) I considered myself immensely lucky for never having personally experienced such a torment.

Lucky, that is, until that fateful dinner.

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hearty eggs in marinara.

hearty eggs in marinara.

I’m sure I’ll start whining about the cold soon, but for the moment, I’m loving how the days have been bright and breezy and the nights have cooled enough for jeans and a cardy. Cooler temps also mean it’s finally appropriate for me to post one of my favorite comfort food recipes: hearty eggs in marinara. Put an emphasis on hearty, folks, because this is not a breakfast dish but rather a great excuse for eggs in the evening.

As an equal opportunity omnivore, I am generally open to eating anything, anytime of day. During debauchery-filled college weekends, my roommates and I would arise in the p.m. hours, groggy and in need of sustenance, and while Rachael habitually required classic breakfast fare for her first meal of the day, I was content nuking leftover pizza.

This is probably why, when I spent a semester of undergrad in Alicante, Spain, I was completely at home with their custom of serving eggs with everything at any time but breakfast. Hamburguesa especial, a burger piled high with the standard fixin’s and topped with a slice of jamón (the Spanish love their ham) and a fried egg, was a particular artery-clogging fave.

Susana, the sweet Argentine woman who played the part of my madre while I shared her brightly furnished apartment, also loved topping fried pork cutlet with marinara, melted provolone and, of course, a fried egg. (This delicious culprit was a contributing factor to why, despite my pedestrian lifestyle and the five flights of stairs I regularly climbed up to our brightly painted piso, I did not, in fact, lose weight during my six months on the Mediterranean coast.)

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scallion-ginger broth with shrimp.

scallion-ginger broth with shrimp.

Alas, this post I found in a dusty back corner of my blog’s draft storage room, piled beneath several other incomplete ideas. I thought of it because a lovely fellow blogger requested recipes with fresh ginger, but upon digging into storage to get her a link to this recipe, I discovered I had completed all but the last sentence or two. Ugh.

Nevertheless, I tell myself, as this was a savory treat made early this summer, it’s likely to be a more appealing experience now that the season is tempering and giving way to cooler, breezy nights (at least in New York, anyway).

Note: I’ve left the rest of the post intact to maintain its original integrity… and because I’m lazy.

Despite the steamy weather, I’ve been on a soup kick. My subscription to Everyday Food Magazine was one of the best $10 investments I’ve made in a while. Each issue is chock full of useful tips and practical recipes… and because the issues are pint-sized, you can easily tote one in your purse or back pocket on a grocery run, keep it handy without taking up valuable counter space as you cook and stash it with your cookbooks for future referencing.

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chipotle chicken-and-rice bake.

chipotle chicken-and-rice bake.

When you’re borderline OCD about scouring food mags and cooking sites, ravenously seeking inspiration before locking in on a tempting meal quest, you can’t help but pick up a few gems along the way. Gradually, I’ve developed some sense of what flavors mingle together best, as well as which shortcuts are handy and which are epic fails (despite anything you read online about rice noodles, you will actually need to soak them for an entire day).

Eventually, with a fair share of satisfying wins to balance those devastating fails, you’ll manage to throw something together with confidence that it will likely result in an enjoyable dining experience. The following foolproof recipe was lovingly concocted by yours truly and based on a couple recently acquired gems that fall under the category of handy shortcuts:

 

  1. Canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce make a fantastic, no-fuss marinade.
  2. Lipton, the quintessential iced tea producers, also offer surprisingly tasty boxed rice mixes.

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