On the road without eating out

Pesto Pasta

I didn’t know if I could do it.  I didn’t know if I could go into a beautiful community co-op and buy just enough food (not too much, not to little) to eat for a 4 day trip.  But frugality is of the essence right now.  I’m not getting paid much for this visit to Lexington, KY, and I want to save any extra food allowance money possible.

I wanted to get the perfect amount of food to not crave eating out, and thus, not miss exploring Lexington’s food offerings (which just happens to be one of my favorite activities).

So, The 4-day Grocery List: 

1 box Pacific curried lentil soup (Pacific always tastes good.)

1 half loaf of crusty bread

a good hunk of cheddar cheese

1 bag of baby carrots, 2 apples, 1 peach

1 container of hummus

4 Wallaby yogurt cups

1 small (two serving) thing of fresh pasta

1 small container fresh, pre-made pesto (the glue of everything else on this list)

1 bar dark chocolate

1 mint soy dream ice cream sandwich (splurge!  It’s hot here!)

(so hot in fact, that I returned to the store for 2 bottles of beer: Left Hand’s Good Juju, and Abita’s Purple Haze)

Total: Approx $35

-Sure, I might’ve spent less on similar items at a regular grocery store, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it enough to justify not eating out, and at the co-op, I know exactly what I need and what I can do with it.

-Ok, so I ate breakfast out twice (Alfalfa’s and Doodle).  It’s breakfast! What do you want from me!?  But otherwise I ate lots of carrots and hummus, soup, yogurt, and cheese sandwiches.  Luckily they had a few spices where I’m staying, so I could flavor the pasta with garlic and the cheese sandwich with cayenne.  And tonight, feast of all feasts, I rustled up some polenta.  I cooked it in the curried lentil soup, and added some cheese and lots of salt and pepper.  It was delicious with a cold beer and finished with half an ice cream sandwich.  All in all, I feel like I’ve learned a little something about eating simply on the road.

New Theme, New Era

Hi, there.  You may have noticed things look different around here.  This blog is ushering in a new era.  I’m not really ready to define this new era yet, but it will hopefully be better than it was.  I won’t necessarily be writing more regularly here, but I’ll be thinking about things a lot more.  I admit to being a tiny bit tired of eating out and of endlessly traveling around, although, I’m still a fiend for a great roadside diner.   I do love good home cooking, but my skills are limited and not worthy of an entire blog.  I’m still very interested in seeking out interesting food finds, and hearing about what other regular folks are making and eating and doing.  I love people, places, and food.  So welcome to a period of delicious questioning and transition.  I’m embracing the questions.  It’s an evolution.  This period begins with a trip from my current home base in Chicago to my heart home of New England.  More on that later.

So for now, I’m not saying I will not be blogging about road food and breakfast gems, but hopefully I push myself farther. Thanks.


Australian Hedgehog

Hiya.  Sometimes you make and eat new things.  Sometimes you indulge in a little saccharine nostalgia.  This delectable treat is called a hedgehog slice.  Say it.  Now in an Australian accent (really go crazy with the “sloyyyeece”).  You got it.

These chocolate goodies are the reason I put on fifteen pounds the year I spent in Australia in high school.  (Ok, they also didn’t really do after school sports, which made me happy and my cross country coach back home very unhappy).  I ate one nearly everyday for recess, which occurred a couple hours before lunch.  Recess in Australia was a very civilized fifteen minute tea break at 11am.  In which I consumed a hedgehog slice.  (Or a vanilla slice for non-chocolatey days.)  These bloggers indulged my request for Aussie sweets on their fantastic foreign food blog.  I’m returning the favor with the best aussie treat I know.   Now, I have found many different variations on this roaming around the internet.  This recipe (via) turned out the most authentic to a small high school in Victoria, Australia-style hedgehog slice.

The Hedgehog Slice

180g butter
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract
500g of morning coffee biscuits (This is very important.  Biscuits here means cookies.  But dry, flavorless, packaged cookies that are only good dipped in tea.  I bought “tea cookies” in the Polish section of my small grocery.  Maybe try maria cookies?  I also kind of eyeballed the amount.  I ended up with about 450g.  It will look like there is far too little chocolate with far too many cookies.  This is good.  The chocolate is really there to coat the cookies and hold them together.)
shredded coconut for topping

1) Grease or line with parchment paper a 9×9 baking pan.
2) Combine the butter, milk, sugar, cocoa and vanilla in a saucepan. Stir over a low heat until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil and remove from heat.
3) Place biscuits in a large plastic bag and very roughly crush with a rolling pin (you want some big pieces and some little pieces).
4) Tip the crushed biscuits into a large bowl, add the melted butter mixture and mix well.
5) Press mixture firmly into prepared pan and sprinkle with coconut.
6) Refrigerate until firm. Cut into small pieces to serve.

Makes about 30 pieces. The slices will keep for several days in an airtight container in the fridge.

note:  I added in a few peanuts for fun.  Cherries would be awesome.  Go wild.


I tasted my first yucca in a forest in Ecuador, prepared for me by my neighbor.  She and I were similar ages, but had completely different sets of knowledge.  She didn’t know how to use a computer, and I didn’t know how to wash my clothes by hand.   She thought I was silly, but she looked out for me.  I watched her effortlessly build a raging fire in five minutes with her bare hands and a baby on her hip.  She roasted the yucca until the skin was black and the flesh was steaming, and we ate it with butter and salt.

The New Year and Perfect Cake

real Amy’s Bread cake from wonggawei on flickr

My birthday project this year was to make the perfect cake.  When I lived in New York I often celebrated special occasions (and some random grey days) with a slice of yellow cake with pink buttercream frosting from Amy’s Bread in the Village.  It’s important to mention that I used to hate cake.  Too often it is dry with overly sweet frosting.  Why eat cake when I could be eating pie?  This simple yellow cake with pink buttercream frosting is the cake that made me like cake.  It is a perfect cake.  Luckily, James Beard has the recipe online, and I attempted to make it for my birthday.

The frosting calls for fondant, and I had intentions of buying some from a friendly neighborhood bakery.  However, I found that bakeries like to take their Christmas holidays with everyone else, so instead I forgot the fondant and altered the ingredient amounts as suggested.  I woke up and made the frosting before heading to a morning birthday yoga class, and with just one drop of red food coloring it turned out rosy, sweet, and perfect.

Since I spent the day being outside in the beautiful winter sun and doing indulgent birthday things, the cake preparation was put off until late afternoon.  And since I had only one 9” cake pan, I had to bake one layer, remove it, bake another layer, remove it.  (Carey recommended this trick for creating perfectly sized parchment paper rounds.)  This means I was rushing around getting dressed and frosting the cake five minutes before I was expected at an Indian restaurant ready to ring in the new year.   The cake looked divine, and my fabulous roommate helped me rig a genius transportation container involving a metal mixing bowl and plastic wrap.  When I opened the cake just before the midnight countdown, well, let’s just say, the cake could’ve cooled longer.  I had expected rosy, beautiful cake perfection, but the second layer had slid off the first revealing a lopsided mess.

my lopsided cake

NONETHELESS, the cake was delicious, and people ate it.  Plus, by that time I was full of enough wine to not care.  It wasn’t until the next day that I lamented even bothering with so much butter and sugar and time.   And then I heard this obit of Eva Zeisel on All things Considered:

Happy 2012, people!