Gourmet Veggie Mama

I’m back! (with some amazing French cheeses)

Oh, hi there! I do still exist, after all.

I’ve been digging out from under a pile of unfinished projects around the house and resume re-tooling/networking/hustling, but here I am. And my creative juices are flowing again!

Long story short, I’ve left my job (all good feelings, but it was time) and am looking for something new, this time back in the legal world. I know! So crazy.

But, I know why we’re all here: Let’s talk food. And, more specifically, cheese. A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation, as I sometimes do, for a cheese tasting. A French cheese tasting. With four different producers, all eager to share their wares with me and talk about how they produce the best cheeses in the world. I thought, why on earth not? It’s time to jump back in, and there’s nothing like some amazing cheese and the people who love it to inspire me. So, I said yes. And thus began the great renaissance of my cooking and blogging mojo (or so I hope!).

I walked in at 11:30, and was promptly offered a glass of red wine. Now, I don’t normally drink that early in the morning, but who am I to reject such hospitality? I mean, when in France (or at least, when among French cheese producers)…


So, I had some wine, and I sampled some amazing cheeses, and I met a group of the nicest European foodies you could ever hope to meet, one of whom was considering a move to Austin (I gave him some good restaurant tips). And then I came away with literally pounds of amazingly good French cheese and butter to experiment with. Nothing like that for inspiration! Everyone was so excited about my haul — the kids dug into the Mimolette Vieille from Isigny Ste Mère first, eating it by the chunk. Likely they were attracted by the cheese’s bright orange color (imparted with annatto, I’m told), but they loved the nutty flavor and kept coming back for more. They know good cheese, my girls! IMG_8371

I had more brie than anything else, so that’s where I started. I made an impromptu brie omelette for the kiddos that very evening, using farm-fresh eggs, a little cream, a pinch of salt, a hearty dollop of unsalted butter from Isigny Ste Mère for the pan, and a few generous slices of Brie L’Indulgent (a triple-cream brie) from President.

Simple is best, especially when you’re working with quality ingredients. I did sneak* a couple of small bites and the omelette was melt-in-your mouth amazing. Turns out I have some retained skills with a spatula!

FullSizeRender (2)

*Okay, I straight-up stole them. Je ne regrette rein. 

The next night, I had a little more time to plan, but I still needed something that would come together quickly, since Amelia has swim class on Wednesday evening, and we would need to eat directly after that. Pasta with Brie and Tomatoes did the trick, and it was a hit all around.

FullSizeRender (1)

It’s a bit rich to call this a recipe, as it really is just some stuff I threw together to make a quick meal, but it was so good that I will definitely make it again! Plus, it includes my new favorite secret weapon for spicing up a meal without much effort: dried shallots.** Think of it as a template.

**So versatile! Add them to salad dressings, sauces, etc. for a pop of flavor. I get mine from Penzeys, and make sure to always have them on hand.

Pasta with Brie and Tomatoes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6 servings
  • 8 oz pasta (preferably short pasta with texture to grab the sauce; I used casarecce)
  • 4 oz Brie, rind removed, cut into slices bite-size chunks
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
  • 1 tsp dried shallots
  • pinch salt
  1. Cook the pasta in generously salted water, according to package directions, until al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  2. Pour the hot pasta directly into a heavy, heat-proof bowl, and add the Brie, tomatoes, shallots and salt. Add a splash of pasta water and cover the bowl with a plate or lid to retain the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes nice and melty.
  3. Remove the plate or lid and give the pasta a good stir, so that the melted Brie thoroughly coats the pasta and the tomatoes are divided evenly, adding another splash of pasta water if needed. Adjust seasoning and add a nice crank of pepper (that is, if your kids don't object to such things as strenuously as my oldest does these days.
  4. Serve immediately with a nice salad. Voila le dîner!

Stay tuned for more cheesy deliciousness, as I work my way through all these goodies!

Remember that time…

… I had a blog?


What happened? I went back to work, and part-time quickly turned into full-time, and full-time turned into all-consuming. I am experienced enough to know that with a start-up, it often does, and as the parent — and until very recently, the stay-at-home parent — of two very young children, I confess that I’m pretty conflicted about it. But, I love the work, and I love the company. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Except. In the midst of getting into my groove as a working mom, I seem to have lost my way as to pretty much everything else other than working and being a mom.

It’s nearly impossible to fit in exercise (although, YES, I certainly could make it work by sleeping less, but that is an unappealing proposition at the moment.

A back injury has made running complicated since last summer, and with work (and wanting to spend every free moment with my family), it has fallen by the wayside. I’ve gone for 2- or 3-mile jaunts here and there on the weekends with the family,* but nothing more serious. When I attempted to go on the 10-mile Moontower Run a couple of Fridays ago, I paid dearly for it — I could hardly walk for a few days after due to aggravating my back injury. I’m now in intensive physical therapy trying to get the injury repaired once and for all — this is for the birds!

*Now that Nora rides her bike, there no real need for the double stroller!

To complicate matters, eating healthily is a struggle, too. Due to my working hours and commute, I’m able to spend the mornings with the kiddos, but I’m rarely able to make it home by dinnertime, especially since Amelia vocally prefers to eat around 5:30. As a consequence, dinner has largely become a Daddy Project.** I basically haven’t cooked anything much more complicated than pancakes for months.*** Sometimes I skip dinner. Sometimes dinner is something from the microwave. It’s rarely up to the standards I had just a few months ago. Hell, I hardly ever have the inspiration to make a cocktail after a long day.

**Or one for the nanny, since he has been out of town a lot recently. Cue Extreme Mom Guilt.

***Actually, that’s not quite true; I did manage to produce a lovely vegetarian cassoulet a couple weeks ago, but it was over two days or so, and it was a pretty light time at work.

I need to do better. I have to get over the end-of-week exhaustion and start planning and prepping meals for the week. I need to drag out the crock pot again and dust off old recipes. I need to rely on others, but not entirely. I need to be involved in my family’s nutrition. I need to because it’s a part of who I am — and who I became in creating this blog.

So, this is my vow — I will get healthy again. I have obstacles to overcome, and things won’t always be ideal, but need to make a change. I’ll write about it here when I can, if you’re interested. Perhaps some new, make-ahead, crock pot or super-quick recipes will be in the works? Or chronicles on how we make it all work through (hopefull diligent) planning and prep work? Both, I hope. And I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

tl;dr: Being a working mom is hard. But, I need to stop just making it through the day and start carving out time for ME. Not just to relax, but to exercise and eat well. I have to do this for myself, and for my family. I’ll be writing about it here when I can.

Big Night Out: Uchiko and Blacklane Limousines

Pardon me while I take a small step outside my comfort zone and share a restaurant review…


Uchiko is one of my favorite places to go out to dinner in Austin. I’d be hard-pressed to pick one favorite, but let’s just say this might be it. So, when several of our neighbors hatched plans for an adults-night-out to celebrate October birthdays (or which we have several among us), the hubby and I pushed for a group outing to Uchiko. We were able to snag their private dining room and collaborate with them on creating a menu that catered to carnivores, vegetarians, in-betweens… and one picky eater who declined to try anything but their famous “fried chicken.”


Each time a meat dish was served, we ensured that they brought a complementary vegetarian dish for me. I never even considered feeling deprived!

uchiko food

In the midst of this, Blacklane Limousines contacted me to see if I would be interested in a free ride in one of their cars for my next night out on the town. How serendipitous! I mean, how often do I really get to go out “on the town” these days? Not that often, is the answer — between work and family obligations and babysitter scarcity, we only manage to get out for a date night once a month, if that — and usually it involves someplace a little lower-key and/or closer to home. In addition to amazing food, Uchiko also offers a wonderful selection of wine and sake,* as well as sake-basked cocktails, so a sober ride was in order!


* I mostly stuck to the Otokoyama, which, in addition to being crisp and lovely, is also super-fun to say. (For real — try it.) 

The folks at Blacklane offered impeccable service, allowing me to book a car online less than a day in advance and get my reservation confirmed instantly. The driver was friendly but reserved, allowing us privacy for our backseat conversations but happily answering questions and making arrangements to pick us up a little later than originally scheduled. In fact, he was flexible enough to give us his cell phone number to text when we were ready to leave — awesome for two tired parents who didn’t much fancy being out well past bedtime just waiting on a ride to arrive.


The driver did take a slight (unintentional) detour on the way to the restaurant, but it was quickly corrected and only resulted in a couple of extra minutes in the car — which, frankly, was just fine by me, since it was a quiet place to talk, just the two of us. Plus, we ended up being the last of our party to arrive, and we were seated immediately — can’t beat that for an entrance!

As for Uchiko, I wish I could give our private dining experience the rave review I was expecting to, but it just didn’t live up to the restaurant’s reputation (and what they are actually able to deliver in their main dining room). Don’t get me wrong — the food was spectacular, and each of us (well, except the picky eater!) savored every morsel, even when the combination sounded odd or even downright wrong.

The problem was the service. We weren’t asked for drink orders when we arrived, and technically we were never asked for drink orders — we had to snag a waiter and pin him down to get our orders, and that was 15 minutes into the meal! We also had to request a drink menu/wine list — one wasn’t automatically brought to us.

To all of this, I say, What?! Number 1, being denied a beverage at the beginning of a meal at a tony restaurant, for which we were spending plenty of bucks, was just annoying and set the whole evening off on the wrong foot. Number 2, don’t restaurants make most of their profit on drinks? Shouldn’t they want to push the booze? Bottom line: One should not have to beg for alcohol. Get it together, folks!

Secondly, the pace of the meal was all wrong. The times I’ve eaten in the main dining room or even at the sushi bar at Uchiko, the timing of service has always been impeccable. This is important, since dinner there is a series of many, many different small plates. In the private room, dishes came out as fast as the kitchen could prepare them, crowding our table and forcing us to find a waiter and ask him to slow the pace down. At times we had 3 or 4 different dishes on the table, and we were not eating slowly… and none of us had a movie to catch. What we wanted was a relaxed evening, but we would have been out of there in an hour if we hadn’t asked them to put the brakes on and let us catch up.

So, while I heartily recommend Blacklane Limousines for your night-on-the-town needs, and I continue to highly recommend Uchiko as a dining experience for smaller parties, I’m sad to say cannot recommend their private dining room. We still had a wonderful evening, but I was disappointed and would not book there again for a larger party.

The moral of this story is: Bring me a wine list and take my drink order before you bring any food, or I will be cranky. It’s really not that hard. Also, a night out with a guaranteed sober driver, there when you need him to carry you safely home? Priceless.

Note: Blacklane Limousines provided me with a round-trip ride free of charge, but I was not otherwise compensated for this write-up, and my opinions are my own.

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Tart (and a Personal Note)

The thing about Texas in October… well, it’s still hot. Cooler, yes (if one can truly call highs in the upper 80s cooler), perhaps with intermittent bursts of actual autumnal weather (like this weekend(, but it certainly doesn’t feel like fall most of the time.

The other thing, though, is that we get a second crop of tomatoes in Texas, in October. For real. And when the cherry tomatoes started rolling in from our CSA, I was ready, with this amazing roasted tomato and garlic tart recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen.

tomato and roasted garlic tart

I simplified it greatly, and it turned out amazing — even, dare I say, better than my old standby tomato tart recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

So, if you are as lucky as we are to have fall tomatoes at your disposal, give this one a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed. The rest of you — well, enjoy your cozy sweaters and infinity scarves and such (not that I’m at all jealous), and you can try it next summer.

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Tart
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
  • one head garlic
  • 1 tsp + 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (one package), thawed overnight in the fridge
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 lbs cherry tomatoes (2 pints)
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbs chopped parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the head of garlic in half crosswise, drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and wrap each half in foil. Roast directly on the oven rack for 45 minutes, or until soft and golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. On a baking sheet, overlap the two puff pastry sheets by about an inch, and press together with your fingers to seal. Fold each edge over on itself by about one inch, and press to seal. Poke holes in the bottom of the tart all over with a fork, and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges begin to turn golden. Remove from oven and cool slightly. If the bottom of the tart has inflated in places, poke with a sharp knife point to deflate.
  3. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out into a bowl and mash with a fork. Spread like butter over the bottom of the tart crust. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the tart is golden brown. Set aside on a rack to cool.
  4. Next, prepare the tomatoes. Preheat the broiler and toss the tomatoes with the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread the prepared tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet or in a large metal baking pan and broil for 10-12 minutes, tossing once or twice to ensure even cooking, until blistered and beginning to release their juices.
  5. Remove the tomatoes and increase the oven temperature to 425. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the bottom of the tart crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle over the mozzerella and the parsley. Bake until the cheese is melted and the tart is hot, 10-15 minutes.
  6. Cool slightly before cutting into the tart. Serve warm or closer to room temperature.


On a more personal note, I am officially going back to work tomorrow — in a real, non-freelance-style job. It’s for a client I’ve been working for over the past few months — very happily, I might add — and I am thrilled about the opportunity. It will not mean drastic change for my family, since I will be still be working from home (though I will be out and about for meetings more often), but Amelia will have a full-time nanny (who, thankfully, is her current part-time nanny), and Nora will spend a bit more time at farm school most days.

I am nothing less than completely psyched — but I can’t help but feel wistful that my time as a primarily stay-at-home mom is coming to a close. Don’t get me wrong — there are things I certainly won’t miss about it, and I am very much looking forward to consorting with actual grown-ups and working on things that don’t involve play-dough more often — but I will miss the sweet time with my babies. Giggly baby on the changing table, sweet reading time snuggled up with my kiddo… we will still have those moments, but the pace of life will be faster, and we will have just as much to cram into fewer hours together.

So, that will mean a change in my cooking habits, too. I’m not sure exactly how things will change yet, but I know they will, at least a bit. I look forward to sharing the journey with you, toward fresh, healthy weeknight meals for a modern family pressed for time. Oh, and cocktails. Of course.

It’s Indian Summer — Have a Daiquiri

I know it’s fall. Or, at least that’s what my calendar says. I still haven’t gotten used to fall in Texas, since moving back. In most parts of the country, fall is that lovely season in which summer lazily drifts into winter, slowly turning the leaves blazing colors as the weather turns cool and crisp. Fall was my favorite season in Northern California. It still is my favorite season, in theory… just not in Texas. In Texas, fall just doubles as extended summer, in which the temperatures still reach into the 90s regularly, but in a much more annoying fashion, since everyone is ready for sweaters and infinity scarves and pumpkin-spice everything after seemingly endless .

Anyhow, we are supposed to get an honest-to-goodness cold front overnight tonight that should drop temperatures into a fall-ish range… but for now, it still sure feels like summer here. So, why not live it up while we can, and have a daiquiri — that cocktail that puts most people in the mind of beaches and steamy weather?


Now, if you’re thinking of a fruity, bright-red frozen thing with an umbrella in it… that’s not this drink. What I’m talking about is a classic daiquiri, one that Hemingway would have downed many of on his trips to Cuba. I can’t make it to Cuba right now,* but I can easily mix up a daiquiri with fresh limes, grapefruit and some great light rum.

*Though it is absolutely on my short list for travel… someday.

if that doesn’t say Indian Summer, I don’t know what does. So, here’s to a light summer-ish refreshment, while we still can… and cheers to the bourbon and mulled wine and hot buttered rum to come!

Hemingway's Daiquiri
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 4 oz good-quality light rum (I used Flor de Cana Extra Dry 4-Year)
  • juice of one lime (about 1½ oz)
  • 1 oz grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed if possible; use Rio Red if available)
  • 1 oz maraschino liqueur
  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake until very cold and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime slice or wedge, if desired.


Pasta with Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

So. I have to tell you. This blogging thing — if you don’t make a schedule and stick to it, you tend to go a month in between posts without even noticing it.

Mea culpa. If you want excuses, I’ve got ’em. Work. Kids. The baby crawls and pulls up and cruises and is into everything now! A child-who-shall-not-be-named has done something with my camera’s memory card and I cannot for the life of me find it.* But, for the most part, it’s just that I only have 8 hours a week of nanny time, which means I work during every other free moment, including my former blogging time. Sigh.

* I suspect there is a black hole in our house somewhere. Don’t worry, I sucked it up and bought a new one, but I’m still holding out hope!

sundried tomato and mushroom pasta

But I miss writing, and I miss you guys, and I find myself composing posts in my head that I never actually commit to paper (screen?). So here I am. And I’m going to try to do better — with a schedule and everything. In fact, it was around this time three years ago** that I really launched my blog by doing a 30-day post challenge. I am contemplating doing the same thing again to throw myself back into it, and get back into the habit of coming here and giving this blog the attention it deserves — especially now that we’ve joined a new CSA and I’m cooking regularly again.

** Damn, time flies, doesn’t it? Also, do you like how I used three big writing no-nos all in a row there — starting sentences consecutively with “but,” “so” and “and.” Win!

To the matter at hand, though — pasta! My kids love pasta. Love.

pasta kids

I have never seen a baby nosh as pleasurably (or as heartily!) as Amelia did the other night on spaghetti at an Italian restaurant. That was the stuff. Even my picky 3-year-old*** hardly every turns her nose up at pasta… though she may pick out any “green stuff” I put in it.

*** Remember how she used to eat everything I put in front of her? Me too. 

I ran across a recipe somewhere for pasta with sun-dried tomato cream sauce a while back. I apparently didn’t save it anywhere, since I still haven’t been able to find it again, but I did remember that it called for non-oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes of good quality, and some happened to jump out of the shelf at me while I was at Whole Foods the very next day.

Those tomatoes languished in my pantry, since I hadn’t saved the recipe, and then we got a brown paper bag of locally cultivated mushrooms in our weekly Farmhouse Delivery box. In brainstorming ideas for the mushrooms, my mind wandered back to that sun-dried tomato pasta — and this delicious, umami-rich dinner was born.

sundried tomato and mushroom pasta

I mean — sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, cream sauce, pasta — how can you go wrong? Even my mushroom-hating hubby loved it. Plus, it’s super-easy to prepare, and ready in minutes. Now that’s my idea of a great weeknight meal! Add a salad (which certain members of your family may or may not eat) and call it dinner.

Pasta with Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 8 oz casarecce or other short pasta (like rotini or shells)
  • 4 oz sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
  • 6 oz mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil, and cook the pasta until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the sun-dried tomatoes roughly and put them in a small bowl with water to soak. Chop the mushrooms, slicing ¼ of them, and chopping the rest roughly.
  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and saute them with the mushrooms until the mushrooms release their juices and begin to brown slightly.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over and stir to coat. Add the vegetable stock and cream and lower the heat to medium. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce thickens slightly (enough to coat the back of a spoon).
  5. Drain the pasta when done, and add it to the skillet with the sauce, stirring to coat.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the parmesan, stirring until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with additional parmesan, if desired.


The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Yep. That title says it all.

best chocolate chip cookies ever

They are the best. The. Best.

My love affair with chocolate chip cookies is well-documented. I have tried out more than my fair share of recipes, and I have a few old standbys… but this one takes the cake. When Nora wanted to bake cookies* last week, I decided to give a Pinterest find a try, just for kicks. And, man oh man, was I lucky.

* A favorite pastime of hers… though “helping” mostly involves licking the beater and taking “samples” of ingredients like sugar.

I was wary of trying a recipe that included shortening, since I am a butter believer, but it was worth it. So worth it. Plus, you can get shortening without all the nasty stuff (no hydrogenated oils and such) from Spectrum Organic (sold at Whole Foods), so it’s not as bad as it sounds. And the results are indisputable. These cookies were thicker and richer than any I’ve ever been able to achieve with butter alone.

The cookies came hot and fresh out of the oven and cooled on a rack until just warm enough to stick in a tupperware to take with us to a dear friend’s house for a play date with her kiddos. The reviews were rave, and not a crumb was left. The 9-year-old was effusive — he kept telling me how rich and melting and delicious they were. I was duly flattered, since this is not a child from whose lips fall idle praise.

Try them. You won’t be disappointed.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: makes 3 dozen cookies
  • 14½ oz (2¾ cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line two baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, cream the butter and shortening together at high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the brown and white sugars and beat on high for an additional 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the chocolate chips. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
  5. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough and round them out with your hands, placing about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and cool until set, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool until ready to eat. Enjoy warm with a nice, tall glass of milk!


French 75

It somehow feels indulgent to open a bottle of bubbly just to make cocktails. But, it’s summer, and prosecco is the name of the game — and a good-for-mixing bottle can be had for under $20. So why not?

What really convinced me to try out a French 75,* though, was MetropoChris’s write-up, which told me that not having simple syrup on hand was no excuse. All I had to do was put a 1/4 cup of water and a 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds. Okay, done.

* Which I had never had, despite trying a sister cocktail, the Soixante-Neuf, a while back.

french 75

And it was good.

French 75
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 2½ oz gin
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 6 oz sparkling wine
  • lemon wheels, for garnish
  1. Mix the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until cold and strain into two goblets.
  2. Top with sparkling wine. Float a lemon wheel on top of each drink, and enjoy!


Veggie BLTs (aka PLATs)


You guys. So good.


I’m super-excited, because, after a long dry spell with very little cooking inspiration, we have just started up with a new CSA. This is how I always used to cook — get the fresh, in-season, local veggies, and go from there. Waste not, want not (especially for dinner inspiration).

Then we had a new baby. And we decided to cancel our CSA for a bit, since we knew we wouldn’t be cooking that much for the early weeks, and well… we’ve been planning dinner in a less organic, more what-can-we-make-happen-in-the-next-few-minutes-before-meltdowns-occur sort of way for a while now. Yeah.

But we’re back in the groove! Last week was out first delivery from Farmhouse Delivery, which is kind of a local aggregate CSA for the Austin area. I love it already. In our first box, we got sweet corn on the cob, avocados, limes, giant slicing tomatoes and a beautiful head of butter lettuce, roots and all.


I also sprung for a weekly staples package, complete with organic, low-temp pasteurized milk from Mill King, fresh-baked multigrain bread and local free range eggs. Yes yes yes. Back.

We made a mixed grill with the corn and some tomatoes and peppers from our garden this weekend for dinner, served alongside a salad with red quinoa, feta, kalamata olives, red onions and some of that avocado, cubed. It was good stuff.

And, well, with such beautiful lettuce and tomatoes, I could think of only one thing: BLTs.

I am, of course, a vegetarian. But I live in a mixed household, and the omnivorous members of the family enjoy bacon. Naturally. Well, I remembered a staple from my childhood that I hadn’t had in a while — fried provolone. Yep, the cheese. If you fry deli slices of provolone on the stovetop, they bubble up, brown and become crispy, just like bacon, and they slide right out of the pan after you cool them slightly, with no need to add oil. Fried provolone is a fabulous substitute for bacon in a sandwich, and it did just the trick here. Plus I couldn’t resist adding some of that delicious avocado, because, let’s face it, just about everything is made better with a few slices of avocado. So, rather than a veggie BLT, perhaps we should call this sandwich a PLAT — provolone, lettuce, avocado and tomato.

I think sandwich recipes are kind of silly, since you basically just throw everything together according to your own taste, but here’s a good starting point for you, because this sandwich is just too delicious not to share!

Veggie BLTs (aka PLATs)
Recipe type: sandwich
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • 2 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 slices sandwich bread (preferably freshly-made sourdough)
  • mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper
  • butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried with paper towels
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
  1. Put a nonstick griddle or frying pan over medium high heat and add the cheese slices in a single layer. Allow to fry, turning the pan to ensure even heating as necessary, until bubbly and golden brown on bottom. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and then tear into strips or large pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the bread and slather one side with mayo. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the bread with lettuce leaves, and layer the tomato slices on top, using as many of each as suits your taste. Top with the provolone, and add avocado slices.
  4. Assemble, cut in half and chow down!


Between the Sheets

I’ve been loving experimenting with rum this summer. It’s just the best spirit for hot weather — besides, arguably, tequila — since it’s so bright, light and refreshing, and it’s fantastic paired with citrus and other fruity flavors. As I browsed my Pinterest cocktail board, though, I realized something: I was out of lemons. This would not do. So, with my shiny new membership card, I went to Costco* and bought a giant bag of limes and a giant bag of lemons. Problem solved.

* It’s practically the law when you have two small children. Plus I can’t even tell you how much Nora digs the samples. It’s like a theme park for her. Free entertainment!

With those lemons and a bottle of Flor de Caña Extra Seco, it was time to try out a Between the Sheets.

between the sheets

Okay, so it sounds a little racy. And for this cocktail’s era (it was around pre-Prohibition) it sure was! But the drink itself is a class act. Combining rum, cognac and citrus for a spin on the classic Sidecar, it’s a sure bet for summer. Cheers!

Between the Sheets
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 1½ oz light rum (such as Flor de Caña Extra Seco)
  • 1½ oz cognac
  • 1½ oz Grand Marnier (or Cointreau)
  • juice of one lemon
  • lemon twists for garnish
  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice and shake vigorously.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.


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