Fast Fridays

Fast Fridays: Roasting & Steaming Vegetables Ahead of Time

One thing I’ve always been a proponent of is to prepare a certain amount of food ahead of time for the week. Back when I was cooking meat at home, that meant things like roasting a whole chicken or poaching chicken breasts that could be used in things like salads, stir fries, pastas, etc. I’ve also mentioned this idea with beets.

Lately, with my more veg-centric diet, I’ve been doing the same with squash (I bought up a few buttercup squash–most likely the last of the season–at the farmer’s market two weekends ago, and I’ve simply steamed them whole and cut them up) and things like sweet potatoes.


These are some Japanese white sweet potatoes that I’ve cut up, rubbed with oil, and roasted in foil until they can be pierced easily with a knife. I can then serve them as a side plain, smash them with some herbs or greens for a variation on mashed potatoes, or even cook them with farro or brown rice and vegetable stock for a faux risotto.

I really love cooking vegetables like these ahead of time because it makes them so much more accessible in your daily routine. I’m all for convenience and I think that the easier healthy foods are to prepare, the more likely you are to eat them, so I hope this shortcut helps you enjoy some vegetables more easily.


Fast Fridays: Roast Sweet Potato, Kale, and Apple

In the winter, I’m a huge fan of roasting vegetables in the oven for a fast dish. I like to simply combine them and let them do their thing. One of the dishes I’ve made recently is simply diced sweet potatoes (skin on, 3/4-1 inch pieces), diced apples (same size), and kale (torn into approximately 1 inch square pieces). Combine in a baking pan. Drizzle good olive oil on everything. Sprinkle garam masala on it, and toss everything together.

Roast Sweet Potato, Kale, and Apple

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes (or until the sweet potato gets soft), checking every 10 minutes to see if the kale’s getting too crispy. If it is, add some water to the pan and re-toss everything.

What I like about this dish is that there’s a nice, natural contrast of textures and flavors. It’s sweet, but with the slight bitterness of the kale. The kale is crunchy and the apples are very soft.

If you prefer less crispy kale and crunchier apples, flavor them separately from the sweet potato and add them after about 25 minutes (letting the sweet potatoes pre-cook on their own first).

Fast Fridays: Get Your Favorite Clothing Tailored & How to Find a Good Tailor

Catherine Malandrino skirtIn the last year, my body has changed quite a bit. I don’t like to say that I’ve “lost weight”, because it’s not really true. Through weight training, I actually haven’t lost much weight at all (maybe a pound or two), but I have slimmed down a size or two. This is definitely a good thing, I think: I feel fitter; I eat better; I’m stronger. But it does create a little bit of a dilemma when it comes to my clothing collection. I love clothes, and there are some pieces in my collection that don’t simply have sentimental value, but are in fact, beautiful works of art, in and of themselves. To me, it’s important that you get your clothing tailored if they no longer fit correctly, because ill-fitting clothing makes you look messy and less physically fit.

Once you’v accepted that the only way to keep your favorite duds is to have them tailored to your new body, the next thing is to find a tailor. How does one do it?

Ten years before my grandmother passed away, I would have simply asked her to adjust them for me. As a professional seamstress, she had an incredible way with clothing, making things fit like magic, with a kind of art that made it difficult to tell if she had done anything at all. Without her, I have to rely on the magic of tailors who have skills like hers. In New York, there is no shortage of tailors, but it can be difficult to find one whose work you can trust.

Back in college, I relied on New York Magazine’s recommended list of tailors, but if you’re nowhere near one of these guys, here are some tips for finding a good tailor: ask your local boutiques or suit stores (they will often have relationships with tailors in the area–if they don’t have their own–who they can recommend); at the tailor’s, explain what it is you want done and then wait for questions (a good tailor will want to make sure to ask you specifics like what height heels you wear with your pants or whether you want a cuff); if you’re not sure what you want, make sure to ask for advice at the tailor’s (a good tailor will have opinions based on the cut of the garment and your body; he or she will have some specific advice); be sure that you have to put on the clothing item for the tailor to look at and mark while it’s on your body (if they don’t make you put it on…it’s a bad sign).

Any additional advice? Share your thoughts. 

Fast Fridays: Roasted Veggie Bruschetta, Two Ways


A few weeks ago, my friend Michelle and I went to Eataly and ate at Le Verdure, their veg-centric restaurant. For an appetizer, we had their bruschetta of the day. That particular Tuesday, it was lovely asparagus–roasted and dressed with shallot vinaigrette–on top of ricotta cheese, spread on toasted baguette. It was heavenly.

A few days later, finding that I still had half a whole wheat baguette from Bread Alone, as well as some scallions and asparagus left from hosting a cookout luncheon, I decided to create my own version with my various leftovers.

First, I heated a little oil in a frying pan and cooked the asparagus and scallions, simply with a little freshly ground salt and pepper. I wanted them to get a little brown (to caramelize and bring out that nice, sweet flavor), but I didn’t want to overcook them. Once finished, I put them aside on a paper towel to drain excess oil

Next, I “refreshed” the bread. I sliced up the semi-stale baguette into 3/4″ pieces. Then I spritzed the pieces  with water on both sides, put them into a tray with a little more water drizzled in, and covered with foil (basically so they would steam). I put them in a 350 degree oven for 5-6 minutes. Then I removed the foil, drizzled olive oil, salt, and pepper, on both sides, and returned them to the oven to toast. I checked them periodically, and flipped them when the first side got brown.

At the same time as the bread, I took a little Laughing Cow roasted tomato cheese spread (which I had lying around the fridge) and combined it with a little Greek yogurt for a smoother, spreadable texture. (You could easily go with ricotta cheese or goat cheese spread.)

Once the bread was toasted, I assembled my little bruschetta and enjoyed them. Improvised, but still heavenly.


Fast Fridays: Croutons–A Great Way to Use Up Leftover Bread

CroutonsIt seems counter-intuitive that bread would be further improved by more baking, but croutons demonstrate that extra baking does indeed create a wonderful texture that puts stale bread back to work. I like to take by stale bread (any kind really–French, Italian, rolls, etc), break it up into chunks (about 1 inch pieces), toss it with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper, and then toast in a 375 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to leave it for more or less time.

Be sure to look for that golden brown color (and don’t leave it to the point where the bread starts becoming evenly brown…that’s a bit burnt). Save the croutons in an airtight container and serve over salads, with tomato soup, with hummus…so many things to do.

Fast Fridays: What to Do When Your Matte Is the Wrong Size


Awhile ago, I purchased a photo by artist Jen Zahigian as a gift. Now generally, I believe that a gift should come in usable form, without putting extra burden on the recipient. In Tuesday’s post, I told you to add a cord to a pendant; today, I’m telling you to frame your art. Yes, if your recipient is picky, you can forgo this step, but for most people, it’s a welcomed addition, and you can find well-priced options at craft stores and even places like Ikea.

So, I bought the photo, the frame, and a matte. I took them home, tried them out and realized the opening in  the matte was about 1.25 inches wider than the photo. Now, I have a matte cutter, so I could have gone out, purchased some matte board and custom-cut it, but I am resourceful (read as: too lazy to go shop again), so I figured I could come up with a crafty way to solve the problem. I took some half-inch ribbon I had lying around the house and affixed it to the backside of the matte to create a border all the way around, and then slipped the photo in place and closed up the frame. Problem solved! Best part: no one’s the wiser.

Wrap it, gift it, and you’ve got a happy gift-recipient with a lovely piece of art for their home (or office, or wherever)!

Fast Fridays: Tips for Making Mayonnaise

MayoAs a kid, I never liked mayonnaise on my sandwiches. I didn’t like the weird creamy texture of the stuff from the glass jars. Because of that, I never keep mayo in the house, even though as an adult, I find that there are lots of good uses for mayo.

For instance, recently, I realized that I was in the mood for an old fashioned potato salad, which meant that I needed mayo. I pulled out Alton Brown’s basic mayo recipe (I love the classic nature of Alton’s recipes) and went to work. The first time I made mayo, it was a big success–the emulsification was just as they describe in all the mayo recipes. The second time, alas, it did not work as well. They are right that you should only start with a teeny bit of oil at a time, but I will say that “only a few drops at a time” is a little extreme. Beat your egg yolk really really well, drizzle a teeny bit of oil, beat really really well, drizzle a teeny bit of oil, repeat a few times…then you can start drizzling a little more each time. I like adding lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, and a few pinches of salt for a basic mayo. Add spices and even a little chili paste for a great flavored mayo–but now I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll come back to that next week.

Fast Fridays: Blueberries Make Great Compote Too

You may remember awhile ago, I wrote about cooking strawberries with sugar and dried figs to create an easy jammy sauce that’s perfect for eating with yogurt, cake, or ice cream. Well, today, I’m sharing with you my blueberry version. About a cup of blueberries, combined with about 1/3 cup of sugar, and a cup of chopped dried figs will basically do the trick. Simply cook over medium heat until bubbling. Keep it in the fridge for about a week. If you were inspired by a recent New York Times article on a similar idea, add a little cinnamon to your blueberry sauce.

It’s fast and easy enough to make as a last-minute hostess gift, and it’s a good idea for just about any kind of berry that you have too much of. The natural chewiness of the chopped figs add a lot of texture to the sauce, making it feel like it has more substance.

I’m currently on a whole fruit-cooking thing. I’m finding that many different fruits develop more complex flavors when paired with other ingredients and subjected to heat, so expect to hear about more ideas for cooked fruit sauces and desserts in the coming weeks.

Happy cooking!

Fast Fridays: Kale Chips

Kale chipsI’ve previously mentioned kale as an easy-to-grow edible that’s worthwhile to investigate. It’s great for sautées. It’s extremely high in nutrients. It’s widely available (if you’re not going to grow it yourself).

I recently took a large bunch of kale and turned it into a big bag of kale chips (click the link above to see the short-version directions for kale chips). For those of us who like something to nosh on in front of the television, it’s a snack that’s healthier than potato chips, but just as crunchy and easy to pick at. Thin, crispy pieces of baked kale sort of remind me of nori (the dried crunchy seaweed that’s popular as a snack in Asia and also used to wrap sushi).

Try it for yourself!

Fast Fridays: Make Your Own Soy Milk

For my birthday, my mom got me a soy milk machine (specifically the SoyaPower Plus), which might seem like an odd present, but for someone like me who grew up on fresh soy milk–a far cry from even the stuff you find in the cold cases in the grocery store–it was a great idea.

In Chinese cuisine, soy milk can be served warm or cold, savory or sweet. It can be a welcome cooling summer beverage, or a sort of hot broth served with condiments on a chilly morning. Fresh soy milk has a bright grassy flavor that’s unique. It’s always been frustrating to me that for many Americans, soy milk is just a substitute for cow’s milk and therefore the natural flavors are considered undesirable. To me, the natural flavors should be part of the experience, just as fresh orange juice or fresh apple juice present a unique, fresh flavor. If you haven’t had fresh soy milk, I highly suggest you run down to your local Asian food market and look for it in the plastic jugs (a la cow’s milk) in the cold cases; I promise it’s different from stuff like Silk or Eden.

Why, you might be asking, is this our Fast Fridays feature? Well, the machine (which can also crank out almond milk, rice milk, and other beverages) takes less than 20 minutes to cook your pre-soaked soy beans and turn them into soy milk. Once it beeps, you simply strain the liquid, let it cool, and pour it into your container. Lucky for me, the bottle above from Ikea is exactly the size of one batch (about a quart). It’s easy-peasy. In my case, I add a little turbinado sugar to it, but you can definitely go plain. Take that soy milk and use it in your cereal, make tofu, make soy yogurt, drink it in your coffee, or just drink it straight like I do. It’s a good source of lean protein, and again, it’s quite refreshing on a hot summer day.

Update: Because of the website reformat, I’ve lost some of the photos on the site including the ones that used to be above. 

%d bloggers like this: