Author Archives: Lauren

Thai Thai, Kerrytown and Cake Nouveau: Weekend Adventures in Local Food

This is a tale of three adventures.  Capers, really.  Even shenanigans.  Foodie shenanigans.  No, that makes it sound more cheeky than it really was.  Capers.  Definitely a caper.  This is a tale of three gastronomical capers.

Caper 1
On Friday, group of friends and I traversed across the vast swaths of town to the far east, to a small place of our acquaintance, a mystical, ethereal place known only as Thai Thai. We were a world-weary band of travelers, three young ones and seven others who just act young.  We descended on the tiny, tiny island of taste and took over about half the place.  We were treated with kindness and brought several succulent dishes of varying heat.  Josh and I partook of the spring rolls, being ravenous as we were, and considering that we had traveled to such lands before, consider ourselves connoisseurs  of that delicacy.  Then Josh sated his rumbly tumbly with a spicy dish called “Moo Pad Prig Khee Noo,” made of pork and fresh chili peppers and garlic.  Continue reading

Homegrown Festival!

We had a lovely time wandering the second annual Homegrown Festival…and apparently, so did a lot of people, because it was packed! We didn’t sample much, mostly because of long lines and..well, many many people, but we did try out Project Grow’s tomato tasting booth, and shared a delicious oreo cheesecake from my favorite local cheesecake place, Old World Bakery, which is located in downtown Ypsilanti.  We spent most of our time wandering around, looking, reading and enjoying the fabulous weather.  Excellent festival indeed.  Click the link below for a few pics:

Homegrown Festival

Me Want Cookie or How I learned to stop worrying and love the (banana chocolate chip) bar

So this post is a shout out to Jill, of U-M’s Family Medicine Dept., who very sweetly gave me a book on cookies.  No, no, the book on cookies.  Better Homes and Gardens’ Ultimate Cookie book to be precise.  500 cookie recipes.  Five. Hundred.  Cookie.  Recipes.  Right now at this very moment, Cookie Monster himself is attempting to break down my front door.  (“Cookies are a sometimes food” my butt).

So as a thank-you to Jill, I decided to (have Josh) pick a good looking recipe out of the book and make it, so that Josh could bring it in and Jill et. al could enjoy the deliciousness of the gift.  And because thank-you notes are better dipped in chocolate and banana. Continue reading

Massive Brownie, courtesy of Afternoon Delight

This brownie must be shared with the world.

To look at, I mean, not to eat.  No, this sucker is mine.  It may take a few days, but I’m gonna get it all in my belly one way or another.  I am a tigress and it is my wounded antelope.

But no, I just wanted to share this.

This brownie came from Afternoon Delight, my current favorite brunch place in Ann Arbor.  Why are they my favorite?  Two words: frozen yogurt.  Two more words: For breakfast.  Two more words: That’s right.

Today is the first day of the fall semester at the university at which I work, and for my department, as well as most others, it’s…well, a crazy day.  To top it all off, the heavens are having a serious plumbing problem and it has been raining pretty consistently all day.  So already we’re off to a bad start.

And then my friend Brian walks in with three of these things, for me and two of my coworkers.  And the skies opened, the angels sang.  The peasants rejoiced.

I don’t know if, in that picture up there, you really get the full measure of just how massive this brownie is.  So to give you a sense of it, here’s the brownie standing next to a goomba:

Anyway, just thought I’d share, and now that you’re all nice and drooly, I’m gonna take my brownie over in the corner and nibble. Hope your day is good, and filled with chocolates.

Detroit Restaurant Week

Josh and I, fresh from our latest adventure at Eastern Market, were ruminating (I like that word) this afternoon on how we really need to spend more time in Detroit, because there’s so much there that we like and want to do, but we don’t often make the drive over there.

For any of you southeastern MI folk who feel the same, or for you out of towners who’d like to experience the city or for you Detroiters who want to try something new, Motown brings you a great new opportunity to experience some of D-Town’s best restaurants:

Detroit Restaurant Week!

Join us this fall for the inaugural Detroit Restaurant Week – a 10-evening showcase of downtown Detroit’s most outstanding chefs and cuisine. The city’s top dining establishments will offer a minimum three-course dinner for a fixed price of $27 (exclusive of beverage, tax and gratuity). Many restaurants are also offering specially-priced wine and beverage pairings to accompany the meal.

Crêpes! And other goodies from Detroit's Eastern Market

Once again, we found ourselves heading to Detroit’s Eastern Market this morning, sort of on a last minute whim, and a bit later than we normally go.  It was a beautiful morning and just what I needed to start the weekend off right.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the market here in Ann Arbor, but I have a special place in my heart for Eastern Market.  I think it’s the energy of the whole place.  You know, you pull up, you find a place to park…somewhere….reasonably within a walking distance and head on it.  There’s huge bins of watermelons on the side and beautiful ceramic planters for sale.  And once you start getting towards the center, there’s the fish fry place (“You buy, we fry”) and the vendors setting up their barbecue grills.  During the day when that barbecue has gotten started, Eastern Market smells like heaven.  And then, of course, the karaoke.  This morning when we walked in, about 9am, we were greeted by one lone but enthusiastic man singing Van Morrison’s “Moondance” to an audience of about three. Classic and fantastic.

Continue reading

Play with your food: natural skin care

All right, I’ll be honest.  I’m a girl.  And I like some girly things.  But I what I don’t like is strange people touching me.  One of my good friends took me out for a spa facial for the first time last year.  It was the weirdest thing ever.  I’m all about skin care, don’t get me wrong.  In fact, I’m probably more obsessed about my skin than one would assume.  I drink 9-10 glasses of water a day.  I eat a diet full of vitamins A, C and E.  I wear sunscreen although not nearly as often as I probably should.  I shower in lukewarm water, moisturize daily and exfoliate often.  I inspect myself regularly for spots and bumps.  I take care of my feet.  I’m all about soft, healthy on every part of the body.

I know you’re wondering, “Yeah, it’s great that you’re a skin freak.  Why are you telling me this?  Where are the pictures of the food?”  There is a point.  I promise.

So what does a girl do when she wants a skin treatment but is iffy about having random people touching her face, feet and hands?  And “in this economy” (I think it’s a mandatory rule that every person in America use that phrase at least once this year), spa treatments and skin care products can be expensive luxuries.  So how do you treat your skin nice without breaking the bank or subjecting yourself to the prods of strangers?

Well, food obviously.

In the words of Home Simpson, it is the cause of and answer to all of life’s problems.

I am a big fan of do-it-yourself facials and pedicures, and because I’ve developed a dislike of adding chemicals to my body over the past few years (or should I say, my body has developed a dislike of me adding chemicals to it over the past few years), I’ve found a few good natural ways of softening and smoothing skin.  And cheaper too. Continue reading

Lemon Bars, or How Many Lemon Jokes Have You Got?

So this lemon walks into a bar.
Bartender looks him over, thinks about it, says,
“You know, I like you.  You got a lot of a peel.”

What do you call a benefit concert for sick lemons?
Lemon aid.

The local bar was so sure that its bartender was the strongest man around that they offered a standing $1000 bet: The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and hand the lemon to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice out would win the money.  Many people had tried over time (professional wrestlers, longshoremen, etc.), but nobody could do it.  One day this scrawny little man came in, wearing thick glasses and a polyester suit, and said in a tiny, squeaky voice, “I’d like to try the bet.”  After the laughter had died down, the bartender agreed, grabbed a lemon, and squeezed away. Then he handed the dried, wrinkled remains of the rind to the little man.  But the crowd’s laughter turned to total silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and SIX drops fell into the glass.  As the crowd cheered, the bartender paid the $1000, and asked the little man, “What do you do for a living? Are you a lumberjack, a weight lifter, or what?”  The man replied, “I work for the IRS.”

Continue reading

Chili and Cornbread are the new Hall and Oates

Dear Chili,

hey.  how ya doin?  It’s been a long time.  In fact, I think the last time we saw each other was the Chili Cookoff at work in March.  That was a great time, wasn’t it?  Remember I had you slowcooking in a crockpot in a corner of the office all morning, filing the room and hall with your gorgeous and spicy aroma, eventually making me so hungry that I almost killed a bear?  Ahh, memories.

It’s good to see you.  We had a good time tonight, you and I and Cornbread.  Cornbread is such a funny, reliable guy.  The two of you together are like a perfect pair and the three of us, well three’s company.  It was great when I diced a small medium onion and sweated it out in a couple good tablespoons of olive oil in my cast iron Dutch oven.  That’s the perfect pan for evenings like this.  You love how nice and hot that pan keeps you.  I know.  And on a rainy day like today, it’s especially excellent.  And then I chopped up three cloves of garlic and a poblano and green bell pepper and added them in with some salt and pepper, finishing out our little magic trinity.  Just that bit made the entire kitchen smell intoxicating. Continue reading

The Local Table

For those of you in the Ann Arbor-ish area, I found this delightful bit of information on the People’s Food Co-op Facebook Feed: a great new program called the Local Table, brought to you by the Matthei Botanical Gardens

The Local Table, a program of classes, workshops, field trips, and events beginning in Fall 2009. The Local Table encourages us to take a new look at where our food comes from. If you’re wondering “Why local?”, there are lots of good reasons. When you buy local you know who grew or raised your food and what production methods they used. Plus, in an increasingly global economy, purchasing food from area producers and growers helps keep them in business-and your dollars stay in the local economy. It’s also a matter of environmental sustainability: buying food from local sources or growing it yourself decreases your energy use and carbon footprint. And thinking locally helps us to better understand our region’s rich food heritage and history.The Local Table has two components: The Local Table passport (your ticket to locavore certification) and the program of classes, workshops, and events. Examples of the program include a field trip to a local winery; a tour of Ann Arbor-area chicken coops, learning how to can and preserve food, stocking the Michigan pantry, the 100-Mile Holiday Dinner, and much more.

I personally am very excited, and already planning on taking the classes on canning, chicken coops, edible garden  planning and the 100 mile holiday dinner.  Check it out!  Even if you aren’t in the area and can’t attend, it might give you some ideas.

The Local Table

Everything you ever didn't know you wanted to know about vinegar

Thanks to the Ann Arbor People’s Co-op Facebook feed, I found this jazzy little article all about vinegar, by professional Chef Kelly Myers

Vinegar quality depends on two things: the vinegar’s source material (what the vinegar is made from) and the length of time, if any, the vinegar is allowed to age and develop flavors.

Vinegar can be made from any sugar, making for a broad spectrum of choices. Besides wine vinegar, there is cane vinegar, malt vinegar, cider vinegar, East Asian black vinegar, purple sweet potato vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and vinegars made from white and red rice.

Read all about the magical wonderland that is vinegar in her article on culinate.com

Helloooo cupcake

I’m just going to come out and say it.

I’m not a baker. I am a cook.  I love to cook things.  I do not like to bake things.  I do, however, love baked things.  And sadly, sometimes the only way to get quality baked things is to bake them yourself.  So I do.  But deep down I rebel against it and would rather be grilling a pizza.

There’s another thing I’m not.  And that’s an artist. My mother, sister and cousin and grandmother are excellent artists.  I did not get that gene.  I got every artistic gene but that one.  So why I thought I could pull this off, I have no idea.

I blame Josh.  For insisting that some day I’m going to be one of those moms who make little artistic culinary renditions for her kids’ birthday parties.  And I blame Bakerella, for making me want to be one of those moms.  And I blame the Ann Arbor library, for carrying the book Hello Cupcake!, which I inadvertently came across last week and which briefly convinced me that I, too, could create irresistible, playful creations.  Damn you, cupcake book.  Damn you. Continue reading

Come to the dark side, we have cookies

I just wanted to post pictures of cookies.

Similar to the ones here, only with dark brown sugar, half cake flour/half regular flour, 1.5 tbsp sugar, 1/2 cup flaked coconut, 1 cup oatmeal and 10oz milk chocolate chips.  The cinnamon is a must; it adds such a great undertone to the oatmeal and chocolate.

ABC and Schako-lattes

For dinner tonight, Josh and I decided we would go where no man has gone befo–no, wait, scratch that, we decided to go to Arbor Brewing Company in downtown Ann Arbor, where many a man has been before.  But not me.  I’ve heard good things about it, but it’s not usually on my radar of places to go.  I thought today would be a good time to check it out.

Having skipped lunch, we were having an early dinner (4:30ish) so we beat the Saturday evening crowd and since it was a lovely 81 degrees Fahrenheit, we decided to eat outside (“we” being “me” and “Josh grudgingly agreeing because he knows how much I love hot weather and how little of it I get in Michigan and besides, there was a breeze and thanks to the bevy of tall buildings on E Washington, we’d be in the shade anyway”).  The weather was lovely, the sidewalk seating was great, the staff was excellent and the menu was modest but delicious, which works out well for me because sometimes too many choices is a terrible thing.  Like the cereal aisle of a grocery store.  How can I possibly make up my mind?  More on that another time. Continue reading

the kid in me

While Josh and I do love our culinary explorations of things like grilled pizza and Moroccan Spice Chicken, sometimes we like to just go back to a couple of our childhood faves:

Sloppy Joes and Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Now, Josh doesn’t let me doctor up the Cheesy Mac too far beyond adding a bit of broccoli or spinach, but I do have a variety of twists on sloppy joes, including adding in sliced garlic and onion, bell peppers, spinach, steak seasoning, sliced chili peppers, etc.  Tonight, though, we kept it simple (and I kept it open faced). Sometimes the oldies are goodies.