Monday, March 30, 2009

Brownies Cockaigne

When Joe finished taking Step 3, the last test for his state medical license, on Thursday, I wanted to make a little Congratulations dessert for him. His tradition for all of the different Step exams has been to go out for Mexican and margaritas afterward, so we did that with my parents as well. I love making brownies because I usually have the ingredients on hand, and brownie recipes can vary so much. I decided to try the Joy of Cooking recipe since that's always a good place to start.

The brownies came out wonderfully, perfectly fudgey in the middle but with a crisp top. My mom said these were the best brownies she'd ever had! I added in about a cup of chopped walnuts much to the delight of Joe and my dad. Sometimes I have trouble remembering who likes add-ins and who doesn't, so I was glad they went over so well!

Brownies Cockaigne
source: Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition

1/2 cup butter
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler and then cool mixture *If you don't cool the mixture, your brownies will be heavy and dry.

Beat eggs and salt until light in color and foamy in texture and gradually add sugar and vanilla. Contine beating until well-creamed.

With a few swift strokes, combine the cooled chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar. *Even if you normally use an electric mixer, do this manually. Before the mixture becomes uniformly colored, fold in the flour, again by hand. Before the flour is uniformly colored, stir the nuts in gently. Bake in a greased 9x13 pan for about 25 minutes. Cut when cool.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

As I thought about it, I realized that I couldn't remember ever having leeks, let alone preparing them, but a string of posts on The Kitchn had me craving something that I'd never even had! I also have neglected my favorite source of meatless protein: eggs. It was definitely time for a quiche or savory omelette or something. I jokingly called this my French bistro dinner: a salad of mixed greens with black cherry vinaigrette, a slice of the frittata, and a glass of wine. All that was missing was a hunk of bread with some butter. (Side note: why is the butter in France so much better? I thought I had died and gone to heaven the first time I tasted real butter in France.) It also makes a very quick meal, which is always advantageous.

I've been on a bit of a lemon + dairy kick lately (see: lemon gnocchi). It seems like an odd combination, but it adds so much lightness and flavor. The leeks were delicious, and the goat cheese contributed creaminess and tang. I was originally going to only eat a quarter of the frittata but ended up going back for another quarter. It was also good for breakfast this morning.

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese
source: The Kitchn

makes 1 10-inch frittata, about 4 main servings


7 eggs
1 Meyer lemon, zested (I used a normal lemon.)
3 ounces goat cheese
Olive oil
2 large leeks, cut lengthwise and rinsed
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pre-heat the broiler. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until slightly bubbly and well-mixed, then stir in the lemon zest. Crumble in the goat cheese.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. It can be cast iron or another metal; just make sure it can go in the oven. Trim the leeks of any dry or browned edges on the green tops, then slice the remaining stalk into half moons. Toss everything into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes or until the leeks are softened.

Stir in the parsley and cook just until wilted. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for just a minute or two, then pour the cooked leeks into the bowl with the eggs and stir.

Put the skillet back on the heat and film lightly with just a bit more olive oil. Pour the egg and leek mixture in and cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the frittata has mostly set. Use a spatula to lift up the edges and make sure it's cooking evenly, letting the uncooked eggs run down into the bottom of the pan.

When the frittata has set, put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and slightly puffy. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Flip out onto a platter and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information
4 servings, each serving contains:
266.5 calories, 18.7 g fat, 8.2 g carbohydrates, 16.3 g protein

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Butter Curry

I seriously love Indian food, and fortunately Joe is right there with me. Even though I can't seem to make dishes quite like our favorite restaurants, I'm always pleased with my efforts to make Indian foods at home. This had just the right amount of heat and really great flavor. There are a bunch of vegetables in it as well, so if you're having trouble getting your 5 to 9 servings a day, try making this!

I did think it was a little odd that the recipe called for condensed tomato soup. I wonder if using tomato sauce would have a similar result. But the sauce had the perfect texture: not too thick and not too thin. Plus, once everything is chopped, this comes together rather quickly and makes your kitchen smell amazing. I served this over brown rice.

Butter Curry
adapted from Branny Boils Over

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced cauliflower
2 carrots, sliced
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup frozen peas


  1. Saute onion, pepper, and carrot over medium heat in spray canola oil.
  2. Stir in garlic, add cauliflower and chickpeas, and cook until all veggies are soft.
  3. Stir in curry powder, garam masala, ginger, cumin, and salt. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, stirring.
  4. Pour in soup, milk, and frozen peas. Simmer at least 15 minutes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baked Gnocchi

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for creamy dishes. I know they aren't good for me, and I always try to "healthify" it to an extent. I try not to make too many of them, but I'd had this bookmarked since November! Plus, I threw it together Tuesday morning, and Joe put it in the oven when he got home, so dinner was ready when I walked through the door. Perfection!

I halved the original recipe and added some baby bella mushrooms I had lying around. I'm going to put the amounts of things that I used. The goat cheese permeates this dish would great flavor, and I used lots of fresh ground pepper.

Baked Gnocchi
source: Reservations Not Required, originally Giada's Everyday Pasta
Yields 4 servings

1 (17-oz) package potato gnocchi
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
6 oz baby spinach
1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place the gnocchi in a lightly greased 8x8 inch baking dish. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cream, half and half, broth, and flour over medium heat. Continue whisking until the sauce is simmering and thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir to combine. Add the spinach and mushrooms and toss to coat in the cream. Pour the cream and spinach mixture evenly over the gnocchi and gently spread the spinach out to cover.
Crumble the goat cheese over the spinach. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Bake until the top is golden in places, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lentil-Goat Cheese Burgers

When I looked at my plate on Monday night, I realized that I had made everything on it: the burger, the pita bread, the hummus, and the salad dressing for the salad. It was a rare feeling of accomplishment, and I enjoyed it. I had been meaning to make these burgers for quite a while, and I am now regretting the time when they were not in my life.

I thought about eating these as a real sandwich, but I kind of like it without the bun. My mom used to serve us plain hamburger patties when I was a kid, and we would dip them in ketchup. So it's kind of like that but vegetarian. It also reminded me of falafel patties in a salad. I served this with a spring mix salad with black cherry vinaigrette, whole wheat pita, and hummus.

The goat cheese makes these seriously flavorful. Plus I love lentils. So the combination is killer.

Lentil-Goat Cheese Burgers
source: Cara's Cravings

1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 large egg white, lightly beaten


Place first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until tender; drain. Discard bay leaf. Place lentils in a large bowl; partially mash with a fork. Cool slightly.
Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 5 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly. Add onion mixture, cheese, and remaining ingredients to lentils; stir well to combine. Cover and chill 45 minutes.
Divide mixture into 3-4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.
Heat a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Cook patties 5 minutes on each side or until done.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whole-Wheat Pita Bread

When I was planning my meal for this week, I decided a nice accompaniment to one of the meals would be pita bread and hummus, and I had seen some recipes for pita bread floating around the blogosphere (okay, I admittedly have an unexplained hatred for that word and yet am using it anyway). Until now, I have left all of the kneading of my dough products up to my beloved bread machine, but I decided to brave this one by hand. The last time I tried to knead something, it ended up all over the kitchen and myself. I may have even found some sticky dough on the cat.

My new secret to making dough is patience. If I go into it with a very peaceful attitude, willing to forgive myself for any errors, the dough knows and behaves well. If I'm tense and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the dough will sense this and revolt in my very own hands. Hence, why I am only allowed to work with dough on the weekend.

This may not be the most amazing pita bread recipe ever, but it's easy, quick, and good. Oh yeah, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper than buying pita bread at the store.

Whole-Wheat Pita Bread
source: Apple A Day

2 c. whole-wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) quick-rising yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4- 1 1/2 c. hot--not boiling--water
1-1 1/2 c. flour

1. Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl. Beat well about 1 minute.

2. Mix in the remaining flour, using just enough to make a soft, sticky dough.

3. Turn out on floured board and continue to knead for 5 minutes.

4. Divide into eight balls.

5. Roll out each one to about 1/4 inch thick and 6 inches in diameter. Place on very lightly greased cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise in warm place for 25-35 minutes .

6. Bake at 450 degrees for 4-5 min. per side, or until lightly browned.

7. Wrap immediately in a dishtowel for 3 or 4 minutes.

Chili Cheese Shrimp Etouffee

Nearly everyone I know is trying to save money and watch their spending, so it's not that unusual for our Friday night out to become a Friday night in. I try to make something a little out of the ordinary, and we splurge a little calorically. Before Lent started, I stocked up on frozen shrimp at Trader Joe's and then Kroger when it was on sale, so I'm trying to work through my stash. I wish I could find frozen crawfish tails somewhere, but so far I haven't had much luck.

When I was in Bloomington visiting my best friend Abby, her and her boyfriend took me to this great little Cajun/Creole place called Dat's. They both got the chili cheese etouffee, and I got something else that was also delicious. Even though they mocked me for requiring the use of the many hot sauces they had available to get the heat to my preferred level, I got to steal bites of their food as well. And this dish is a dead ringer for that.

Honestly, this might be one of the better dishes I've ever made. Many times, my dishes have one distinct flavor that's complemented by the other ingredients, but this is just an amalgamation of flavors without one sticking out from the others. For those of you afraid of spicy food, the cheese and cream will soothe your tongue, and you can also modify the amount of cayenne pepper and Tabasco. This also makes a large amount, so have a crowd over or be prepared for the leftovers!

Chili Cheese Shrimp Etouffee
adapted from: Is Life a Conundrum


1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped green onions, plus more to garnish
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell peppers
1 cup diced onions
2 tsp. minced onion
1 cup Rotel Original diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups shredded aged cheddar
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1 tsp. chili powder
Pinch ground coriander
Pinch groun cumin
Pinch ground cloves
Dash Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco sauce
1 pound cooked shrimp (or crawfish, chicken, or some combination of the three)
Cooked white rice, to serve
Dry sherry, to garnish


1. Make a roux by melting the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and then blending in the flour, consistently stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the roux is a golden color.
2. Add the green onions, celery, bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes and cook until the onions have browned.
3. Add the thyme, tomato paste, basil and peppers (black, white, cayenne).
4. Add the stock, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the mixture becomes thick.
5. Add the cheese, half-and-half, chili powder, coriander, cumin, cloves, Worcestershire, and Tabasco and stir until the cheese and half-and-half are blended in well.
6. Gently stir in the crawfish, shrimp, and/or chicken and serve over fluffy white rice. Garnish with chopped green onions and drizzle with dry sherry.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Easy Three-Cheese Broccoli Calzones

Without fail, whenever I eat a calzone, I end up burning the roof of my mouth on the blazing hot cheese. Oh well, I suppose a little bit of pain is worth the gooey cheesy goodness of dough stuffed with cheese. These calzones are no exception. This was actually my first time making calzones, and as you can see I overstuffed them a little and had trouble with them sealing shut. I should probably try to err on the side of less stuffing, even though I like it so much.

The onions in these really contribute to the savory flavor. The broccoli makes it substantial while still keeping it vegetarian, and the three cheeses seem delightfully indulgent. I served this with a side of marinara sauce for dipping and a side salad.

The next day I brought in one of the two leftover calzones to work for lunch, and while I was eating it, the two other girls working with me asked incredulously, "Did you make that?" When I said yes, they were astonished. So that made me feel pretty good, even if they didn't quite seal correctly.

Easy Three Cheese Broccoli Calzones
adapted from Baking and Books


1 lb whole wheat pizza dough
1 10 oz package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and warmed
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 15-oz carton low-fat ricotta cheese
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste


Allow pizza dough to come to room temperature if removing it from the refrigerator.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Cook the broccoli according to package instructions, omitting salt and fat. I generally just microwave the broccoli for 4 minutes, then drain it on a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the cooked onion, broccoli, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and oregano. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide dough into 4 portions, shaping each portion into a ball.

Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, roll it out into a rough 8-inch circle. Spoon a quarter of the broccoli filling onto half of the circle, leaving at least 1 1/2 inch border around the edge. Gently pull the other side of the circle over the filling, lining it up with the other edge to form a half-moon shape. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork or fold over dough to seal.

Transfer calzones to the parchment paper lined baking sheet. With a sharp knife cut 3 slits on top of the calzone to allow steam to escape during baking.

Bake at 475 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, or until the calzones are golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, with marinara sauce if you like.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Indonesian Curried Bean Stew

Look, I warned you about the ugly pictures. This meal looks so...brown, but I promise that's just from the peanut butter and curry powder. It was actually really good. I was afraid it would be slightly lacking in flavor, but it was truly delicious. The peanut butter makes it so creamy while the curry powder and cumin make it smoky and complicated.

The other nice thing about this recipe is it makes for great leftovers. I think I could've eaten it for another few days and still not gotten sick of it. As for whether it's truly "Indonesian" or not, I have no idea, but it sure makes for a good title, right?

Just a slight warning however. Remember the song we used to sing in grade school? "Beans, beans, they're good for your heart. The more you eat, the more you fart." I'm just saying, you might only want to eat this around the ones you love.

Indonesian Curried Bean Stew
source: Cheap Healthy Good

1-1/2 cups brown rice, uncooked
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion (for about 1 cup chopped)
1 large bell pepper (for about 1 ½ c. chopped)
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 15-oz. can light red kidney beans
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz.can chickpeas, drained
3 Tbs. peanut butter
1 tbsp curry powder
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger root (or 1 tsp. bottled fresh) (I got lazy and used powdered.)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Begin cooking the rice according to the package directions.
2) While the rice cooks, heat oil over medium heat in an extra-deep, 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add onion, and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add pepper, and sauté for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
3) Add the tomatoes and kidney beans with their juices to the skillet, breaking up any large tomato pieces with a spoon. Stir well.
4) Add drained chickpeas, drained black beans, peanut butter, curry powder, cumin, and ginger to the skillet. Stir thoroughly (but gently so as not to break up the beans), making sure the peanut butter is well blended. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, at least 10 more minutes or until rice is done. Just before serving, remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve stew over rice.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
4 SERVINGS: 637 calories, 13.7 g fat, 18.7 g fiber
6 SERVINGS: 425 calories, 9.1 g fat, 12.4 g fiber

Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajmah)

I'm going to have to apologize for the unappetizing pictures during Lent. I imagine I'm going to be eating a lot of beans and curries and stews, which don't exactly photograph well.

Like Deb says on Smitten Kitchen, this curry is the Indian cousin of an American chili. I only had light red kidney beans, but I'm sure the dark red would've stood out more and made it more colorful, so if you're really into aesthetics, go for the dark red kidney beans. This was nice and spicy because I doubled the cayenne pepper and used a serrano pepper. Some plain yogurt on top cooled it down slightly. If you don't like the flavor of fresh ginger, go ahead and reduce the ginger a bit; it definitely had a strong taste of ginger.

I wasn't the biggest fan of this. It was all right, but something was a little off about the flavors. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it that night. It certainly made my kitchen smell like an Indian restaurant though!

Red Kidney Bean Curry [Rajmah]
adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 plum tomato, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large green chili, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
8 ounce can of tomato sauce or 8 ounces of one of your choice
3 cups boiled red kidney beans or 30 ounces canned red kidney beans, undrained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a deep sauce pan over medium heat for one minute.
Add ginger, garlic, onion, green chili, and let sizzle for one minute.
Add the tomato sauce, salt and remaining spices and cook for an additional five minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the kidney beans with water or canned red kidney beans (undrained) plus one additional cup of water, and tomatoes.
Bring it to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and let cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Garnish with cilantro.
Serve over rice or with naan.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Atlanta, GA

In order to break up the drive between Savannah and Nashville, Joe and I decided to plan a few days in Atlanta. I had never been, and Joe wanted to show me the city. Although we love Nashville and plan to stay for several years, it probably isn't the best place for me career-wise in the long-term (though who knows?!), so we're always interested in visiting other cities and trying to discern if we could see ourselves living there.

We left Savannah around 11 and got to our hotel (Microtel-Buckhead) at about 3:30. The hotel seemed to be quite a step down from our accommodations in Savannah, but it was cheap, clean, and close to the things we wanted to do. We quickly planned a few things to do that evening and left the hotel.

Atlanta has better shopping than Nashville, and the two places I definitely wanted to hit were Crate and Barrel and Ikea. The Crate and Barrel in Atlanta (3393 Peachtree Rd. NE) has an awesome showroom with a lot of their furniture and settings. It was inspiring just to look at all of the gorgeous things. We did a little clothes shopping at Anthropologie for me and Macy's for Joe. The sales tax is also slightly lower in Atlanta, so we didn't feel too guilty.

For dinner, we headed to Emory Village for some dinner. I had chosen Doc Chey's Noodle House (1556 N Decatur Rd.), an Asian-themed menu that looked like it would hit the spot. This location was bustling with students, parents with children, and young professional couples looking to grab a quick bite. We were seated at long communal tables, though the hostess thoughtfully had left at least a seat between different parties so we weren't all jammed together. We split the fresh Vietnamese basil rolls and a pot of white peach tea. The basil flavor was a little faint, but the shrimp were firm and juicy. For dinner, I ordered the Spicy Thai Basil noodles with fried tofu, and Joe picked Chinese Black Bean noodles. They came out blazing hot, and we had to wait a few minutes to be able to eat it. The noodles were so delicious that we kept eating even after we were full and our noses were running from the spiciness. I noticed on the door that the restaurant was Zagat rated and wasn't surprised. Everything was fresh, colorful, and the flavors were balanced beautifully. When the bill came, it was accompanied by both fresh orange slices and fortune cookies.

We quickly headed over to Ikea to do some shopping before they closed, but we only had an hour and got stuck trying to pick out a duvet cover. We bought a few things but decided to go back Saturday morning before we left. After returning to the hotel, we made our plans for the next day and got a good night's sleep before our big tourist day in Atlanta.

Our first stop Friday morning was Dunkin' Donuts because the hotel's continental breakfast had been taken over by the Mizzou debate team. With our goals and GPS in hand, we ventured out to our first top: The World of Coca-Cola Museum.

At $15 for an adult ticket, this isn't necessarily a cheap attraction, but it sure was fun and entertaining. We got to meet the Coca-Cola Polar Bear, see the bottling process, and tour rooms of Coke memorabilia. The museum itself is very interactive and would be good for older kids. I was hoping for a little more of the history of Coke, and Joe mentioned that the old museum had a bit more of that. I felt that there was a little too much Coke propaganda (High-fructose corn syrup isn't bad for you!), but I enjoyed it nonetheless. One of my favorite parts was watching Coca-Cola product commercials from all over the world and noting some of the cultural differences. The final stop is the tasting room where you can taste Coca-Cola products from all over the world. Our favorite station was the Latin America station which included a apple-tasting soda. One of the sodas from Italy was incredibly bitter, and I found all the ones from Africa way too sweet. Again, it was neat to see things like black currant used in a common soda.

Centennial Olympic Park Plaza

We were full from all of the carbonation and sweet beverages, so we went on a little walk across the way to the Centennial Olympic Plaza. Having watched the 1996 games with some ferocity, it was thrilling to see it. The park offers a great open space, and because it was a nice day, there were many kids outside and people playing frisbee with dogs. Then we took a stroll up to CNN Center and visited the building that houses CNN. We're saving the tour for another time, but it was amazing to see all of the headlines scrolling around the perimeter of the lobby/food court.

By this time, we had burned off some of the carbonation and decided it was time for lunch at The Varsity (61 North Ave.). The Varsity is an Atlanta institution and is located right across the highway from the Georgia Tech stadium. It's also the world's largest drive-in and was originally established in 1928. It's a pretty standard fast-food menu, and I had to forego my Lenten pescatarianism for a hamburger and onion rings with a chocolate shake. The portions are relatively small, so I didn't feel overwhelmed by the amount of food, which is nice. Joe got two slaw dogs (hot dogs with coleslaw on top), onion rings, and a Frosted Orange, a kind of creamy slushee that tastes like a Dreamsicle.

After relaxing for a bit, it was off to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, a park run by the National Park Service that contains MLK's birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church where he pastored, and his grave, as well as a small museum. Not only is this a great and interesting place to visit, but it's free (donations accepted)! We watched a 30-minute video on the life of Dr. King and toured the museum, which included many photos of the Civil Rights movement. There was also a children's portion and a spot where you could write your response to the museum and to Dr. King's life. With a map in hand, we ventured outside a few blocks away to see Dr. King's birthplace.

Birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

To get to Dr. King's birthplace, we also passed Atlanta's oldest fire station, which as a museum that we didn't see. The street also features several row houses in the style of 1920s workers' housing. The house, as you can see from the picture, is quite nice. I would love to have a house like that for my rectory! We saw a park ranger leading a tour group in but didn't join them. We turned back towards the museum to visit Dr. King's grave, which is centered in the middle of a long reflecting pond with fountains at one end. There is also a chapel for all faiths located close by and an eternal flame in front of Dr. King's grave. It was very powerful to visit.

Likewise, standing in front of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King pastored was an incredible experience. Unfortunately for us, they're currently renovating the inside so that it looks like it did when Dr. King served there so we didn't get to see inside.

From there, you can walk the 1.5 mile trail to the Carter center and look at the monuments along the way, or you can get back in the car and drive there if you're a little short on time and physical energy. My friends who know me know that I am a history geek at heart and have a soft spot for Southern, American, and Caribbean history. Even though Jimmy Carter was not president during my lifetime, I was interested in seeing the museum, and I am very impressed by all the philanthropic work he has done since his presidency, particularly with Habitat for Humanity.

The reproduction of Carter's Oval Office

We only had an hour to tour the museum since they close at 4:45, so we didn't get to see anything. With our student IDs, admission was $6 per person. They are closing the museum in April in order to renovate and update it for Carter's birthday in October, and it sounds like they have a lot of neat things planned. I would like to go back and see it after the renovations. As it is, the museum pays homage to the multiple aspects of Carter's presidency: his election race, relationship with China, Iran hostage crisis, Camp David peace talks, and the energy crisis. There are fun videos of former-President Carter speaking retrospectively about his presidency, which was really neat. Even though Joe wasn't initially excited about this, he enjoyed himself. After the museum closed, we walked around the Japanese gardens behind the Carter center, which are quite lovely.

For dinner, I wanted to take advantage of the cheap ethnic food that I have missed since leaving Houston and selected an Ethiopian restaurant in the Druid Hills/Emory neighborhood using one of my favorite restaurant sites, UrbanSpoon: Desta (3086 Briarcliff Rd NE). All of the reviews were extremely favorable, and we were a little surprised to pass at least 5 other Ethiopian places that we saw in a few blocks! The dining room was cozy and lowly lit. We sampled a few Ethiopian beers, and ordered the Shiro Fit Fit for an appetizer (chickpeas mixed with sauce and injera). The injera arrived beautifully wrapped like napkins on a rectangular platter. I ordered the vegetarian combo because I never can select just one thing. Joe ordered the Fish Tibs (marinated and cubed tilapia which was sauteed with other vegetables). Joe was very stingy with the bite he gave me because he knew I would want more: it was absolutely delicious and so well-flavored. I loved mine as well and nearly licked the plate clean. Our check came with two orange slices.

Joe drove me through Buckhead, and we were looking for a place to grab a drink, when I spied Trader Joe's. One of our missions was to get wine at Trader Joe's since Tennessee grocery stores can't sell wine or liquor. Instead of going out for a drink, we ended up buying 21 bottles of wine at Trader Joe's, all but one for less than $5. Because the alcohol taxes in Tennessee are so high, we can rarely find a drinkable bottle for less than $7. After our tiring tourist day, we skipped the drink out and watched a movie in our hotel room instead.

The next morning we ate breakfast at Ikea (<$4 for the two of us!) and finished our shopping there and head back home. I really enjoyed Atlanta and could see myself living there some day. For now, I'm already planning our next visit. Joe and I both loved Robert Spano, the conductor/music director at the Atlanta Symphony, when we saw him conduct in Houston, and would like to see him conduct again. Atlanta has a lot of the amenities of a big city that I miss from Houston but seems to be prettier, have less pollution, and be better planned. I look forward to visiting Atlanta again, especially since it isn't very far away!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Savannah, Georgia

I know this is a food blog and not a travel blog, but usually a large part of my traveling is food-related. Plus I just like sharing things that are interesting. I'm also still shy about taking pictures of food in public, so I don't have any. Please forgive me!

Joe and I traveled to Savannah and spent four nights there. Somewhat unfortunately, we left the morning after it had snowed in Nashville, and we were looking forward to warm weather. It snowed all the way through Atlanta, which was a little unnerving for two people who are not used to driving in snow. But we arrived in the flat we rented through VRBO and were nicely surprised. The owners had left us a bottle of wine and some Boursin cheese and crackers. That night we recuperated from traveling and just relaxed at our flat and did a little grocery shopping.

The kitchen in our little apartment

The next morning, we had a tour scheduled with Bobby Davis of Explore Savannah. For us, this was the ideal tour experience: on-foot, just the two of us and Bobby. We could go at our own pace (probably much faster than many of the other tourists we saw) and see fun little things like private gardens that Bobby would point out to us. He even took pictures of the two of us and sent them to us that evening. Bobby was highly entertaining and offered many suggestions of what to do and where to eat. If you go to Savannah, definitely tour with Bobby!

Photo by Bobby, Joe and I in front of St. John the Baptist Cathedral

For lunch that day, Bobby recommended the Gryphon Tea Room (337 Bull St., Savannah, GA) and ensured Joe that they had "man food" as well as lighter fare. We split a pot of delicately flavored orange and cinnamon tea and a bowl of the corn and crab chowder. I ordered a portobello mushroom sandwich with roasted red peppers and herb aioli, which was phenomenal, and Joe had the chicken salad sandwich. Our bill was around $30.

Once fortified, we did some shopping at Shop SCAD (340 Bull St.), the store that sells works by students and alumni of Savannah College of Art and Design. I picked up some funky square melamine salad plates for $8 each, though much of their wares are considerably more expensive. I'm all for supporting local artists though, and there was some great stuff! We then went to E. Shaver, Bookseller (326 Bull St.), a great local bookseller that offered many books on Savannah as well as autographed copies of other books. I ended up getting a cookbook of desserts from Savannah restaurants that also included some lovely photos of Savannah. Then, we walked up to River St. and split some pralines and caramel clusters but found the area rather busy and touristy. We decided to try out a bar we had passed called McDonough's (21 E. McDonough St.) since they had some happy hour deals. For some reason, after one beer, the bartenders ignored us, so we just left. That night we drank wine and I pan-seared some swordfish steaks and steamed some broccoli for dinner.

Tuesday morning we ventured out for breakfast to Express Cafe & Bakery (39 Barnard St.), an adorable little European-style cafe with French posters on the walls. Joe and I split an almond croissant and a chocolate croissant, and I had egg and cheese on a bagel. The croissants were delicious! We shopped up and down Broughton St., home to many furniture and home design stores, as well as clothing boutiques. On the advice of Bobby, we headed out in the car to Bonaventure Cemetary, the burial place of many famous Savannahians including Johnny Mercer. It's also a beautiful place to visit with all of the live oaks and Spanish moss hanging down. If it hadn't been such a sunny day, it would've been a little creepy.

Bonaventure Cemetary

Bobby had steered us away from Paula Deen's restaurant since she is rarely there anymore, and it's full of tourists, towards another home-cooking restaurant called Geneva's Home Plate (2812 Bee Rd.), not too far from Bonaventure. Our lunch started off with a loaf of fresh cornbread, and the paper lining of the basket was soon damp from the buttery bread. I ordered the crabcakes with a side of red beans and rice and macaroni and cheese. The crabcakes were simply amazing: very moist and flavorful. The macaroni and cheese was nicely baked and also had a great creamy flavor. The red beans and rice were a little bland though. Joe ordered the seafood gumbo, which arrived with half a stone crab sticking out of it. It was also absolutely fabulous. We split the bread pudding for dessert. The service was a little spotty and slow, but Geneva herself came out and asked how our meal was. I would definitely recommend this restaurant for home-cooking if you want to avoid tourist traps.

After a few hours of rest, we decided to ride the bikes our condo had provided for us to happy hour at LuLu's Chocolate Bar (42 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd). With $7 fancy martinis and free cookie bites, this seemed like the perfect way to kick off our evening. Joe ordered the pomegranate white chocolate martini which was bright pink and came with a flower. He always tries to out-girl me with cocktails! I got the raspberry truffle martini which came in a chocolate syrup-lined martini glass. We would've loved to try more of the different cocktails, but they were maybe best saved for after dinner.

We biked up to River St. to see what was going on and maybe get some oysters for me. Huey's (115 E. River St.) had $.50 steamed oysters and buffalo wings until 6:45, as well as some drink deals. I ordered a dozen steamed oysters and enjoyed the fresh briny taste with white wine, while Joe ordered the buffalo wings. After that, we called it a night because we were exhausted and biked home with an incredibly full stomach.

Forsyth Park

Wednesday morning, after a breakfast at our flat, we drove off to Tybee Island, even though it was about 50 degrees. It was even colder and windier on the beach, so we didn't stay long. I had planned on a seafood lunch, though after the oysters the night before, it didn't seem as pressing. We opted for a bike ride and lunch back in Savannah at Firefly Cafe (321 Habersham St.). We split a bowl of the corn chowder "Firefly style" with crab meat, cheese, croutons, and scallions and the Caribbean shrimp baked with habanero pepper butter sauce. The Caribbean shrimp were the perfect degree of spiciness and came out hot from the oven. It was the perfect light meal. Then we rode our bikes through Forsyth Park and around historic Savannah a bit. We stopped into Low Country Gourmet (123 E. Liberty St.) and sampled some olive oils and vinegars. Joe selected a black cherry balsamic vinegar that will make a delicious salad dressing.

I was craving a cupcake and had heard good things about Back in the Day Bakery (2403 Bull St.), which required a quick car trip, but ended up being a delicious little break in our day. Joe and I split a black and white cupcake (chocolate cake with white frosting) and an Old Fashioned (butter cake with buttercream frosting). The cake was moist and very sweet, though we were hoping for a few more options.
Since it was our last night in town, we went out to The Distillery (416 W. Liberty St.) for drinks before dinner. We are definitely beer people, and The Distillery featured many American craft beers on draught. It is Prohibition-themed and had many ads from the 1920s as well as showing old beer ads and Charlie Chaplin movies on the TV screens. The building was initially a distillery, established in 1904, so it was really neat to see the alcohol theme resurrected. I had a Brown Ale brewed in California with 9.9% ABV, so it was an interesting bike ride home! I made pasta with shrimp and an improvised white wine butter sauce and steamed broccoli.

Thursday morning we packed up and headed off to Atlanta, which I will talk about more in my next blog post!


- I would highly recommend doing a vacation rental by owner. We were able to stay in a much nicer place and location than if we had rented a hotel. Plus you can save money (and calories) by making your own food. We made all but one breakfast and two dinners at the condo. Plus, it was beautifully decorated and a great space to come back to and relax.

- I would also recommend staying in the historic district. It's definitely a little pricier, but we only got back in the car a few times once we arrived. Plus we never had to pay for parking.