This week, with my best laid plans gone awry, has not been the best for following menus.

I did however find new ways to use up some leftover produce and so on. Knowing what’s on my menu for the week has very much helped me find ways to move my vegetables around into different meals.


Monday: Dinner with my parents. Making bruschetta to take with me.

Tuesday: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with turkey bacon and fresh tomatoes.

Wednesday: I’m out for dinner with friends. L. fends for himself.

Thursday: Chicken Curry with Brown Basmati Rice.

Friday: Black Bean Cakes with Basil-Orange Salsa.

Saturday: Grilled Balsamic Steak with fresh squash.

Sunday: Roasted chicken breast with beet gnocchi.


This is one of the recipes that I said I would post the other day. Originally, the recipe calls for a soup, however I adapted it using some of the farmer’s market veg we had in the fridge.

It turned out seriously delicious. I feel like I’m seriously learning how to work with tofu and really give it flavor. L. gobbled it up and said the leftovers were excellent as well.

Tofu with Noodles and Vegetables
Adapted from Soupy Noodles with Silken Tofu and Bok Choy

For Marinade:
1 tbsp dark sesame oil, divided
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
Sirracha, to taste (About 1 tbsp)

1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 medium squashes, quartered
1 medium onion, cut into slices
1 hot pepper, sliced
1 pepper, sliced
1 package Chinese-style noodles (12 oz)

Mix together items for marinade in a large tupperware or bowl. Put the tofu slices in the marinade and toss gently to coat. Put the tofu in the fridge for about an hour.

Heat 3 quarts of water in a large pot and begin heating it.

Remove tofu from marinade, reserving marinade. Place about 1 tsp of sesame oil in a pan. Brown tofu on both sides. Remove tofu from pan and set aside.

If needed, add more oil to the pan and stir-fry vegetables until just tender. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.

Put the marinade into the saucepan and let it reduce until it begins to become a thick sauce.

Place noodles in boiling water and cook for about five minutes.

Return the vegetables and tofu to sauce and mix together to combine.

Drain noodles and portion out about 1 cup each, for four servings. Divide the tofu and vegetables into 4 servings and serve over pasta.

Last night my friend Lori and I went out to Eisenhower Park on Long Island to see some former American Idols at a free concert hosted by Fresh 102.7. The performers included Brooke White (one of my faves) and Michael Johns from Season 7 and Elliot Yamin from Season 5. The venue itself is gorgeous – a big grassy hill, looking out over a lake. A great place to spend a sunny day on a blanket, wearing shades.

Considering we were going to be sitting in a park for a few hours, we packed a picnic. I made bruschetta, balsamic chicken sandwiches and cous cous with lemon escarole. It was delicious. I’ll post those recipes in a little bit, along with the recipe for this insanely yummy tofu noodle dish I made on Friday night.

Now, I have to say I’m sure a few of you rolled your eyes upon hearing that I went to an American Idol concert. It’s funny really, reality TV does get a bad wrap because of the way it attracts crazies. I have to say, though American Idol has had a few of its own crazies, I don’t think that that needs to discount what fantastic performers many of them really are.

One of the real highlights of last night was a performance that showcased the musicality of Michael Johns. He, along with a guitarist partner, covered Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Covering it isn’t even really appropriate; interpreted is really a better word. Their reimagining of the song was put through a bluesy filter a la Otis Redding. It was not only a funny experience, but the song really took on a different aspect that made it even more enjoyable.

All in all, it was a wonderful night.


There is a scene in Julie & Julia where they spend hours and hours trying to properly poach eggs.

For a long time, I had a deep fear of poached eggs. Having never encountered them, I always thought they would be runny and gushy. However, the first time I had a poached egg, during brunch at Alice’s Tea Cup, I was quite pleased to find that that was not at all true. The egg whites are cooked, but soft and almost fluffy. The yolk is warmed and runny, tasting totally rich and delicious.

Since then, I have had the pleasure of poaching many an egg.
Maybe it’s just me, but I really do not understand why it’s so difficult to poach an egg. These are ones I made for breakfast this morning and I have to say other than a broken yolk, these were quite lovely. I enjoyed them with Canadian Bacon.

I’m not sure there’s a secret to how I make a poached egg. When I first wanted to make poached eggs, I used this tutorial from WikiHow. I’ve adapted that to make it easier and more fool-proof for myself.

Here’s my process to make a poached egg.

  • Fill a medium saucepan with water and a splash of vinegar.
  • Heat the water until it reaches shivering point – right before boiling.
  • Crack an egg into a ladle.
  • Place the ladle into the water, letting some of the water in to temper the egg white.
  • Pour the egg out of the ladle and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Use a slotted spoon or a spider to remove the eggs from the water. Let any water drain.
  • Serve the eggs on toasted, buttered English muffins.
  • One thing I’m trying to get better at, both professionally and personally, is learning to deal when plans go awry. This week has been an exercise in learning to deal.

    It was so hot earlier this week, I didn’t even have any desire to cook. On Tuesday all I could do was make hot dogs for dinner. I couldn’t bring myself to make Lemon Olive Chicken with Cous Cous. It’s not that I have a problem with it – it’s quite tasty. It’s just not something I was interested in cooking with the temperature above 85 all day.

    Wednesday L. and I went out for sushi to celebrate my acceptance as a MetLife Fellow in the Teachers Network Leadership Institute. I’m very excited about that and looking forward to getting involved in education policy more.

    Last night L. and I went out to dinner with a good friend who got married at in June. She and her husband are leaving for their honeymoon today. They’re spending three weeks in Australia! I’m very jealous.

    All in all I had to do a lot of menu adjusting to this week. I also need to adjust our budget and meal plans. We go shopping on Saturdays, so it doesn’t make sense for our budgets or meal plans to go Sunday – Saturday. Instead, we’ll work them Saturday – Friday.

    Thai Chicken with Basil.

    Quinoa with Spinach and Feta

    Vegetarian Black Bean Cakes with Orange-Basil Salsa

    Tiramisu Pancakes

    Chickpea Salad

    Last week we did an excellent job of sticking to our menu. Above and beyond, the most successful meal from last week was the tofu lettuce wraps. I also really enjoyed the pot stickers, even if they were a lot of work.

    I also made Easy Greek Chicken, using some ideas that Dara from Chick in the Kitchen gave to me as she had tried the dish earlier in the week. Instead of making it in the crockpot, I made it in a large pan. I browned the chicken, then added in the tomatoes, orzo and olives, letting it all cook together. I think I over-cooked the orzo a little bit because the dish was still quite mushy. As Dara said, the overall flavor of the dish is tomato, so if I were to make it again, I would definitely add other vegetables. That said, L. enjoys the dish a lot and has been taking it for lunch this week.

    My menus for this week draw a lot on my freezer stock. I’m trying to go a little easier on the prep work this week, doing less veggie chopping and so on. Last week there was a lot of it and it took forever to prep some meals.


    Monday: Meatless Monday! Newman’s Own Four Cheese Pizza and salad with farmer’s market beets, daikon radish, peppers and onion.

    Tuesday: Olive and Lemon Chicken with Cous Cous (Repeatedly put off.) Fresh farmer’s market yellow squash.

    Wednesday: Larb aka Thai-Style Ground Beef. This one sprung up with having frozen ground beef and an internet search led me to Chowhound, where they mentioned this recipe. Brown rice.

    Thursday: Slow-Cooker Bean and Sausage Stew using turkey kielbasa.

    Friday: Soupy Noodles with Silken Tofu and Spinach. The original recipe calls for bok choy, but all the bok choys at our supermarket were horrid looking so I am subbing in spinach.

    Saturday: Fresh tomato bruschetta, meat and cheese plate.

    Sunday: Chicken Curry with Brown Basmati Rice.

    A little while back, L. sent me a link to the $50 a week project. The general gist of the project is to keep all the eating you do under $50 per person, per week. It’s not just about eating on the cheap, it’s about eating well on a budget. L. and I have struggled with keeping to a budget for the entire time we’ve been together. For us, trying out this challenge seemed like an easy way to help us get used to being on budget.

    For our family, eating well means eating low-fat and high-fiber. If we’re eating well then we’re also means eating fresh fruits and veg from the farmer’s market whenever possible. It also means eating meatless once a week and having healthy snacks in the house. Lastly, eating well means that we don’t ever feed our dogs generic kibble.

    To that end, our budget for food per week is $110. That includes $100 for L. and I and $10 for the dogs. For us, that only includes food, not other things we might buy at the grocery store or alcohol. If I’m out with friends and can’t eat at home, I take those meals out of my entertainment budget. However, if we were out together with friends, that would come out of our food budget. For the dogs, that includes kibble but not treats. Perhaps in the future we will up the budget to include that.

    This past week, we wound up edging our way over budget.

    Farmer’s Market: $19
    Groceries: $68
    Dog Food: $10
    Bar Snacks: $22
    Saturday Lunch: $9.75

    Total: $127.75

    So, we ended up about $17 over budget for the week. It’s actually a bit less because we bough some supplies that will carry over into this coming week, such as chicken that was buy one, get one free. We definitely need to include Saturday lunches in our budget because that’s the day we go to the Red Hook Farmer’s Market, then come back to Queens and go grocery shopping. It makes for a long morning.

    Not long ago I posted about wanting to visit a key lime pie shop in Red Hook. Today, after stopping by the Red Hook Community Farm to get our veggies, L. and I went over to partake of the pie. Here’s a photoblog of our adventures.

    Entrance to the park area where the pie store is

    One of the beautiful flowers near the front of the store

    I am sorry, but I am unsure about the location of the pies.

    L. about to dive into the tartlet and Key Limeaid

    Me with our tartlet

    We had company for our meal. This kitty hangs out at the pie shop.

    Pie and a beautiful view!


    About a year ago, I was dining out by myself while L. was attending a late night class. I generally detest eating alone, so I stopped at the Borders in the same complex as the place I was eating. From their clearance shelves, I selected Julie & Julia by Julie Powell.

    The novel was so much better than I expected a $4.99 reminded to the clearance shelves piece of writing to be. What caught me up in Julie Powell’s story is that whole feeling of longing for and searching for something. Her story is full of wanting so badly to take control of something and succeed with it when everything eles in your life feels like a spiraling out of control pile of suck. I got so caught up in that book and the narrative of Julie’s life. With her words, she brings you there into the kitchen with her. You get caught up with her nervousness about having to chop up a live lobster, you feel her frustration over aspics that won’t set up and most of all, you revel in her successes. I remember loving Julie’s story so much, I skipped over the parts of Julia Child’s story.

    I saw the movie Julie & Julia today. I was completely determined to catch it on opening day. I loved the book and I love Amy Adams and Meryl Streep – could it get any better? However, like almost anyone who loves a book that gets turned into a movie, I left disappointed. That disappointment has stuck with me all day, like the proverbial something stuck between my teeth. I’m trying to put my finger on what bothered me about the movie and no matter what I can’t stick to just one thing that bothered me.

    The biggest thing for me was how less interesting and less compelling Julie’s storyline was made to be in this movie. In the movie, it’s almost billed as her starting the blog out of spite. The movie never quite catches up with the books focus on Julie’s motivation. There are points when Amy Adams articulates it, but you rarely get to see it in action. Perhaps the symbolism for it all is the end dish Julie creates, but the momentum never builds behind that moment. I wasn’t rooting for Julie to succeed. I didn’t feel pulled into her story. You don’t get to experience change in the character of Julie within the movie. You feel let down at the end of the story.

    Further to that point – they seriously made the movie Julie on the borderline of crazy. While I can appreciate the idea of having someone idealized in your head, movie Julie’s exclamations of how perfect Julia Childs was and how she loved her and so on? A little creepy. I kind of wanted to get Julia Childs a restraining order there towards the end of the movie.

    That said, I would like to rave about Meryl Streep’s performance as Julia Childs. Not only did she get the look and the accent down perfectly, she brought such humor and tenderness to the role. You couldn’t help but love Julia as played by Meryl Streep. You rooted for her and wanted her to succeed. You felt let down if she didn’t. There are moments when little gestures and turns of the face convey sadness. But where she really succeeds in playing Julia Childs is when Streep makes her outrageous and hilarious. She really seems to embody the almost wacky, yet complete authenticness that Childs brought to life and the kitchen. Streep makes you want to be Julia Childs best friend. Honestly, I spent the entire movie wishing it was just the story of Julia Childs’ life because it was such a compelling narrative. It seems like so much of what I loved about Julie Powell in the book, Julia Childs became in this movie.

    On a final note – for a film largely focused on cooking, very little of it actually got done on screen. I’m not saying I wanted to sit around and watch Amy Adams make mirepoux for two hours, but I missed the way cooking and food is such a huge focus in the novel. Butter is such a huge component in the book, with Julie buying tons and tons of it and her clothes no longer fitting because she’d consumed so much of it. That’s mostly missing from the movie. Some of the moments of genuine triumph come from Julie succeeding at cooking difficult and crazy things. I had said to a friend that I hoped the movie would showcase some of the “nasty” things Julie had had to do, such as using a saw to cut open bones and get out the marrow. Overall, that whole aspect of the film was sanitized. Instead everything gets boiled down (no pun intended) to a sentimental story about relationships.

    Perhaps I will go see the movie again, to appreciate Meryl Streep’s performance, but more importantly I am going to give the book a rereading.


    Cristen, a New York City school teacher who loves to cook, even if she's not always amazing at it. Lives in Queens with her husband and two pit bulls. Total cheese addict. Fan of anything savory and sweet, espescially Thai food. Likes to eat seasonally. Trying to be a locavore. Learning how to explain what she likes in a red wine: dry, medium bodied with hints of fruit. If I could only have one network on my TV, it would be the Food Network. I cannot get enough of competitive cooking shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef. I adore Anthony Bourdain more than I probably should.

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