Archive for the ‘fine lunches’ Category

When last we checked in, dear food blog, it was the beginning of Lent and I was all aglow in paczki memories. I must admit to you, however, that last Friday, I knowing committed the Catholic faux pas of eating meat. (NOTE: Mom thinks this is a bullshit rule, and so do I. Mama Woho’s take: “God doesn’t judge us for eating meat.  That is a man-made rule….it is not a commandment or beatitude….and come to think of it, they may be man-made too.” She is so wise!)

I figured God wouldn’t mind, regardless, because I was going to be having real Texas barbecue.

A few months ago, my dear friend Alesa and I were talking about places we had never been. We both mentioned Austin, and she said, “But what if we just went? NO SERIOUSLY. What if we went?” And that’s how our trip to SXSW happened. Couple this with an interview I did with a really cool guy named Boyd Bush, who mentioned at the end of our conversation, “If you’re ever near Austin, my family and I will take you for a great barbecue.” Do not idly offer me food, sources! I will take you up on it, every time!

So on Thursday, Alesa and I scooted on down to San Antonio, stopping at the Alamo and Riverwalk for the afternoon. Then we drove on up to Austin, where her friend graciously put us up. We went downtown for all the hot sxsw action. I was food-truck focused: I wanted to find the truck Paul from Top Chef owns. Alas, it was not meant to be, but I did enjoy fried chicken, wrapped in a waffle, taco-style, from a Lucky J’s trailer. The chicken had a kick and the waffle was just the right amount of malty. Plus, the girl working the window had an amazing skull-and-crossbones tattoo on her leg. The crossbones were bacon. Bless.

Friday morning, I met with Boyd and his family at the Salt Lick in Round Rock. If you didn’t watch this season of Top Chef, a) I don’t know what’s wrong with you, and b) you missed out on the Salt Lick episode, where the contestants cooked on the restaurant’s all-night outdoor barbecue pit. I was super-stoked for the MEATS, of course, but the real reason for the trip out to Round Rock was to give Boyd his copy of the magazine: He’s on the cover in April! And he’s my first cover story! (I’ll link to the story when it’s published online in a few weeks.) I don’t post too much about my work, but this was an exceptional occasion, and Boyd and his family were just so warm and genuine. He seemed pretty tickled with the story and photos, too.

Boyd and me, with our cover story. His lovely wife took this photo! Please excuse my rumpled appearance; I was about to rock out later that day.

The Bush family advised me on ordering, and let me tell you, they did not lead me astray. I had brisket so tender you could weep, pulled pork that could never be created in a crock pot, and a rib that made me want to gnaw on the bone for days. DAYS, I tell you! Plus, the sides were pretty good, too (coleslaw had no mayo; potato salad was almost cold mashed potatoes). But nothing beats eating food outside in great company, so that may have clouded my judgement somewhat. Bush family, thank you for taking the time to introduce me to Texas BBQ!

Other big food hits for the weekend:

  • The pad thai taco from The Peached Tortilla. Delightful!
  • Butter pecan pancakes from The Old Pecan Street Cafe. The maple syrup was so real it hurt Log Cabin’s feelings.
  • Homemade warm chocolate-cinnamon-ginger cookies with ice cream at The Snack Bar, which is just too cute. South Austin, I could move to you.

Sorry I didn’t take pictures of, you know, FOOD. But I was really in Austin to meet good people, and rock the hell out. And to that, I’d say: Mission accomplished.

Bonus Ben Kweller picture. He is wasted and ready.



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Last month, Mama Woho came to town:

That’s her, eating a sandwich. Isn’t she the cutest?

Mom is my favorite food guest, because my sister eats vegan exclusively, and my dad has trouble with spicy, but also tries to eat healthy because he trains for century rides on his bike. Mom and I have what I like to call “the most normal” eating habits, so when she visits alone, I miss the other two, but we have a lot of food freedom. Here’s what we ate when she was here:

Friday: Tacos at Taqueria Distrito Federal

Mom had one each of chicken, pork and steak. I had two lengua (tongue) and one al pastor and got mad at myself for not getting two lengua. It’s the best! But I couldn’t convince Mom to have a bite.

Saturday: Sandwich and sides at the Smithsonian Museum of American History

This was surprisingly good. We split a roast turkey sandwich on cranberry-pecan bread, then got a side of mac and cheese and steamed veggies. The mac was really good, with the baked stuff on top, you know what I mean? The veggies were still crisp and flavorful. The sandwich was totally filling and delish. The Museum of the American Indian has a really good food court too, but this one was surprising in the best ways.

Also Saturday: Hotdogs and beer at the Washington Capitals-Detroit Red Wings game

If you don’t like hotdogs at sporting events, you can just FADE. Also, if you don’t like hockey, we probably can’t vibe. Here’s a sampling of the pregame skate (mom’s favorite part. Mine too).

Jimmy Howard, I like you.

 Sunday: Sandwich and fancy chips at Dean and Deluca

Where I come from, we don’t have D&D. When my old friend moved out to “the city” and I was still living Up North, she sent me a gift package from Dean and Deluca and I imagined the fanciest food store ever. And as far as grocery stores go, D&D is pretty fancy. I like to call it “rich people groceries,” and don’t usually visit much since there’s a Trader Joe’s a few blocks away. However, when it’s time for lunch in Georgetown, D&D’s sandwiches are all I want to eat. Mom and I split the turkey sandwich with basil mayo and avocado, and each got our own bag of Route 11 chips, which are a local delicacy that I would dare say are better than Better Made, but just barely.

Also Sunday: Delivery from Thaitanic

When the whole family is in DC, the one restaurant we can agree on is Thaitanic, the Thai place up the street from my house. Vegan stuff for my sister, seafood for Dad, all kinds of stuff for me and Mom. By the end of our whirlwind weekend, Mom and I just wanted to loaf and watch Food Network in our sweatpants. So we did, with the cashew chicken and veggies and spring rolls (top five favorite foods!) from Thaitanic.

Now it’s a countdown to Christmas. Until then, I’ll be dreaming sweet tasty dreams of family dinners.


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Last time I posted I was about to embark on a week-long health kick. If I liked it, I was going to live it out for the rest of the month, evaluate, and maybe continue. If it was ridiculous and I was too cranky-hungry (“hangry,” we call it), it would be kaput after the first week. The rules, if you’ll recall: Two small breakfasts every day; gym in the morning before work, come home and cook every night.

The results are in. I did pretty well, and I am DEFINITELY continuing the pattern through at least the end of the month (minibreak for my mom’s visit next weekend)! My predictions of grumpy and hungry were pretty much wrong. I was never ravenous. I only made one run to the vending machines, and the Famous Amos cookies I picked up were less than satisfying. I did run the dishwasher two times, and it’s ready to go a third time now (I’m usually a three times over two weeks kind of girl) but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. I made it to the gym every morning, Sunday through Thursday. Friday was my rest day, then I picked right back up. I had a bagel on Friday – not a really solid breakfast, I’m afraid. And on Tuesday I had a late meeting, so I ate a bowl of tomato soup there, but still came home and made enough chicken for lunch the next day.

And, the only gut freak-out I had was one morning when I ate two of these bad boys in a 30-minutes period.

Sorry for the fuzzy phone pic.

Yeah, that was 18 grams of fiber in half an hour. My body felt like it was dying. I’ll never do that again.

But other than that little hiccup, I think the meal planning went really well, and I was doing OK at the gym, too (I’m back up to a mile on the treadmill and I can already feel the shin splints returning). Plus, when you know what’s fresh in your fridge and cupboard, it’s easy to put together impromptu dinners. For instance, my lovely friend Maya stopped by last night, and I made a marinated Asian steak salad. Simple, tasty, perfect.

This week’s menu looks pretty good, too:

SUNDAY: Baked chicken, marinated green beans (from last week), rice. NDL: Asian steak salad with broccoli slaw

MONDAY: Chinese pork and broccoli, rice, broccoli slaw. NDL: Baked chicken, rice, broccoli slaw

TUESDAY: Steak, brussels sprouts, noodles. NDL: Steak salad with cold noodles and brussels sprouts.

WEDNESDAY: Falafel, tzatziki, naan, red bell pepper strips. NDL: Falafel salad with rice.

THURSDAY: Baked ahi tuna, marinated kale. NDL: Tuna, rice, kale chips.

Stay tuned: Broccoli slaw recipe is coming your way tonight!


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It’s not much, but I know I love bread, and I need to wean myself off of it.

Because besides the pies, this is what my diet looks like:

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Hi team,

Jessica’s done an amazing job holding down the fort and completely transforming her diet over the last few months. I’m totally impressed with her switcheroo, and her dedication to healthy eating. I’m also inspired.

You see, dear readers, I have not been as dedicated as my co-captain on this train to Delicious Station. I was training for the second DC State Fair pie contest. I placed in top three crusts, but did not bring home any glory this year with my rustic pear-ginger pie (recipe forthcoming), but I was still proud. After all, I am mostly a baker, not a real cook, and there is a science to baking I really find satisfying. I love to bake and share.

Training, however, leads to what I like to call “pie weight,” as I’m basically baking at least one, but usually several, pies per week. And while I try to give them away as quickly as possible… I have to taste them, you know?

That, coupled with my “nighttime gym routine” (read: I SAY I’m going to the gym in the evening, but then it’s bar trivia night, or the 9:30 Club has a string of really good concerts I must attend, or Thursday night TV gets really good again), led to an embarrassing trip to the scale at my annual checkup. Luckily, my doctor was really cool and approved of my New Get Healthy Plan, as opposed to the previous visit, in which the phrase “well I didn’t think you were THAT big” flew out of a nurse’s mouth. Thanks, lady.

So here’s the new plan, which I will road-test this week: I cook a real dinner every night. Not Chipotle take-out, not a TV dinner or nachoes, not a slice of pie. Real dinner, in two portions – the second one will be my lunch the next day. I will go to the gym before I go to work, and I’ll have two mini-breakfasts: one before the gym and one when I get to my desk.

  • I have a few predictions about this week:
  • I will do a lot of dishes, many more than usual. Dishes are my least favorite household chore.
  • I will be hungry the first few days, which means I’ll be grouchy. Then it’ll get better.
  • Thanks to my IBS, my guts will freak out at least one time, probably when I need to do an interview for work.
  • I will do at least one secret vending machine and/or fast food run at work.

I hope I’m wrong about my predictions. I know I am not about the dishes. But I think this will be kinder to my wallet, my waistline and my insides. I’ve given myself a few rules for shopping this week (sort of inspired by the Fed Up With Lunch blog):

  • Buy what’s fresh, looks good and is relatively cheap.
  • Don’t go crazy. Stick with stuff I like, and maybe branch out once or twice.
  • Keep it simple.

With all that in mind, I swooped into the farmer’s market and then Trader Joe’s with my good pal Kate to see what was up. With the loot I brought back from the store, plus what’s in my pantry, I devised a meal plan:

SUNDAY: Rib eye steak, rice, roasted brussels sprouts (Next Day’s Lunch: steak salad with a side of rice)

MONDAY: Sauted chicken with pasta and steamed broccoli, maybe topped with some cheese (NDL: a couple of baked redskin potatoes with broccoli and cheddar)

TUESDAY: Baked chicken with brussels sprouts and a baked potato (NDL: leftover chicken as a soup with either pasta or rice, whatever’s left)

WEDNESDAY: Falafel and tzaziki sauce with rice and marinated green beans (NDL: falafel salad with tzaziki sauce)

THURSDAY: Pan-fried turbot with salad and green beans (NDL: turbot on a salad, leftover beans)


Not bad, right? The turbot was an impulse buy – I saw it used on Chopped! – but only four bucks for a huge filet. The steak was big enough for two portions, grass-fed and five bucks. The chicken thighs were less than four dollars for three big ol’ portions – I should be set there, too! The falafel dinner is built-in as an easy-peasy heat-and-go dinner because I assume by Wednesday I’ll be grumbly about cooking a whole damn meal every night. I got raspberries, yogurt and oatmeal for breakfasts, and granola bars for a snack at my desk, as well as some dark chocolate (73 percent!) -covered almonds to curb any hormonal chocolate needs. Sorry, sometimes I’m a Cathy cartoon.

So tonight, I cooked up the first meal. It was tasty, though it didn’t quite match the government tasty plate thingie. Take a look:

Kind of tasty-looking, right? I felt pretty confident, despite having not cooked steak in a few years.

And I found that, much like when I’m baking a couple of pies and can just add in a small cake, etc., no problem, dessert came easily too. I chopped up a few apples, threw them in a frying pan with just enough butter to grease the pan (I think you could just use Pam if that was more up your alley), a literal pinch of brown sugar, a whole bunch of cinnamon and all my leftover walnuts. Saute that stuff until the apples start to caramelize a bit. Give it a quick hit of fresh lemon juice to brighten the whole thing.

It’ll look like this:

So that’s in the fridge, too, since I can’t bring myself to just bite into an apple every day. I recognize it’s not as healthy as a plain apple, but let’s not forget that the bulk of my fruit intake recently has had a pastry delivery system. So there’s that.

I’ll let you know how I progress.


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brown baggin’ it

I eat lunch at my desk four days a week.

Brown baggin’ it.

My other options are trucking a half mile to Panera or Chipotle, or the School Cafeteria. One is expensive, fattening, and a pain. One is expensive and kind of disgusting.

I also have a confession to make today:

I am counting calories. I am trying to lose 10 pounds or so before I go home for Christmas so that

A) I can resume fitting comfortably into the clothes I already own


B) I can successfully buy a pair of jeans with my Christmas money without damage to my ego


C) So my parents and relatives won’t ask me any sidelong questions about how much walking and running I get to do in Boston.

For now, I’m sticking to 1600 or 1700 calories a day, which makes my brown bag lunch both essential and difficult. Gone with the cheesy, dressingy salads, gone with the crunchy delicious snacks, gone with the handfuls of delicious trail mix. It’s definitely a departure from my usual eating habits, but not necessarily in a bad way. I’ve been trying to cook more low-cal dinners (less cream of mushroom soup casseroles, more soups and roasted veggies), so leftovers join fruits and cut veggies most days, maybe a wrap with hummus, a Larabar.

Today’s lunch:

Last night’s leftovers: Moroccan Lentil Soup, snagged from Tastespotting

Which actually tastes better today, microwaved, than it did last night!

My tweaks: doubled the potatoes and used two 14 0z. cans of tomatoes, omitted the cumin, cinnamon, and peas because apparently I’m bad at following a recipe. And now I have a bag of frozen peas in my freezer to deal with…

A Pear

Which are really quite good, right now. I’ve been grabbing a few from the grocery every week. I had some bad luck with a couple mealy ones a few weeks ago, but then I had one that was kind of red that was good, so now I’ve convinced myself that the only ones that will be good are the red ones. I am weird.

For later, I have

* Celery with this wicked salad dressing we picked up from Whole Foods

* An apple (Cortland, maybe? After eleven thousand of those little paper apple bags, I finally got sick of Macintosh)

* A mozzarella cheese stick

It will get me through to 7:00 p.m., but I will

most certainly

be hungry for dinner!



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  • Big, green leafy lettuce
  • Farmshare tomatoes
  • Farmshare cucumbers
  • Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar
  • Marzetti’s Classic Ranch dressing
  • Hard-boiled egg

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