Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vegetable Garden

Though he'll be the first to proudly proclaim his New Yorker status to anyone who so much as mentions the East coast, for as long as I can remember my father has had a rural vegetable garden in our back yard. Once in a while I'll break out my status as a native New Yorker as well, but in actuality, as much as my parents don't want to admit it, I'm more used to Midwestern soil, as my parents had to relocate our small family to Ohio when I was just a baby. If I recall the story correctly, however, my father has always had a green thumb. His first attempt was an avocado plant started from a simple avocado pit in a glass of water, held up by toothpicks. This plant relocated with our family, not just from New York when I was a baby, but to Indiana when we had to move again when I was thirteen.

Every summer I see the garden go from a small patch of fenced-in dirt to a thriving jungle of home grown goodies, overflowing with endless tomatoes, green peppers, banana peppers, scallions and zucchini the size of baseball bats. Though I really can't stand raw tomatoes, I would still help dad pick the reddest ones, willingly getting my fingers dirty, yet dodging any visible earthworms.

Late August and September rolls around and the summer comes to a close. Now is the time to harvest the hidden gems of the garden: the potatoes. Buried underground beneath their green leafy plants, Dad anxiously digs up the earth to see if the potato crop is "good" this year. (This year, not so "good"... about 30 pounds as opposed to the usual 70+.)

One more crop thrives this time of year, bright yellow spaghetti squash. The vines of this plant are out of control, vibrantly growing well beyond the garden's fence, nearly into the neighbor's yard. This hefty squash isn't exactly a power house of nutrients, rather a quiet amount of Vitamins A and C and folic acid. Anyway, it's just plain fun to prepare. And so I'm brought to the original reason for my posting: to share my recent spaghetti squash recipe with my father who asked me for it on Facebook 15 minutes ago.

I regret not taking more pictures while cooking this bold yellow squash. But it's so easy, you won't even need pictures for guidance.

-Preheat your oven to 350
-Cut the squash in half, length-wise
-Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking dish.
-Fill the baking dish with about a half inch of water.
-Bake the squash for about 40 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork

Now is the fun part. If you have kids, they should really love this. Let it cool a bit, and use oven mits or tongs. Take the squash out of the baking dish or flip it over. Now just simply take a fork and scrape all the insides out. It should easily come out in strings that resemble angel hair pasta.

Now what? The squash has a mild flavor, so you can get inventive here. Spaghetti squash, like most winter squashes, can go either savory or sweet. So for the last four or so days, I've been eating this stuff for breakfast. (Also, the seeds roast up quite nicely!)

If you're tired of oatmeal, replace your oatmeal with spaghetti squash! Here's how to dress it up:

Add a bit of butter or margarine, a dash of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Throw in some raisins and chopped apples. Now just microwave it for about a minute, then stir it all up.

You can also use spaghetti squash as a substitute for... you guessed it, spaghetti! Try adding some marinara and basil and garlic for an interesting twist on a classic dish.

If you're not feeling so inventive, this squash works well as a side dish, simply with a little butter and salt.

Though my potted plants and roof top basil can't compare to the lush garden my father grows every year, it still comforts me to have a little bit of home here in the city. If you have any recipes for spaghetti squash, share them with me! If they're on a blog I can link to them for you. Just leave a comment with all the info.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Easy Pasta Salad

I once bought a box of pasta salad. Pasta, seasoning packet, three easy steps explained on the back. I ended up adding so many of my own ingredients I wondered why I ever thought to buy a box of pasta salad in the first place. What's so hard? Pasta. Easy! Other stuff. Easy! And fun. Today I tried it out on my own, as you can see in the photo above. Here's all you need:

Pasta (Rotini is my favorite for pasta salad. Any variety will work!)
Olive oil
Vinegar (Balsamic, flavored balsamic, apple cider, whatever you like.)
If you don't have/don't like olive oil and vinegar, just use bottled Italian dressing
Seasoning (think of stuff like garlic powder, black pepper, crushed red pepper, parsley flakes, etc.)
Veggies (Anything you can think of! Broccoli, carrots, radish, snap peas, red pepper, tomatoes, onion, cauliflower, chickpeas...)

Cook and drain the pasta. I used about one and a half to two cups uncooked. Add two or three tablespoons of dressing or olive oil/vinegar mix. This is all to your taste, so more or less. Add in your spices. I used ground black pepper, garlic powder and McCormick's Perfect Pinch seasoning in roasted garlic and bell pepper. Add your veggies. I used snap peas, radish and onion. (To tone down the onion flavor, I quickly sauteed them for a few minutes until slightly soft.) Just add it all together in a bowl and stir it up! Put it in the fridge for a few hours until it gets cold. try adding chunks of feta or mozzarella cheese before serving for an added flavor. There you have it, the perfect summer pasta salad!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

B.R.A.T diet

We've all had those days when our stomach gets upset. Here's a remedy for turbulent tummies my mom taught me.
Just remember B.R.A.T:

Very simple foods. Depending on what kind of bread you use for toast, its all vegan, too. The toast should be dry. You can add a small touch of salt and/or seasoning to the rice so it's not so boring.

(For those of us like me who stick to their health nut status while sick, try no-sugar added applesauce, wheat toast, and brown rice.)

Feel better!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Crispy Kale (or Kale Chips)

Hello everyone, after a short hiatus I am back. I have a few easy recipes lined up to share. Quite honestly I just wasn't feeling the blog lately, I felt like the only post that ever got any attention was how to remove your no-chip manicure! (Which is cool, share that with your friends!)

Anyway, here's a YUMMY and easy recipe. Kids even love this, and can help make it.

Some call it crispy kale, some call it kale chips. If you want a new way to eat nutritious greens, give this recipe a try. It's a flavor all in its own.

What you'll need:
olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
large bowl to hold raw kale
sea salt
baking sheet

1) Pre-heat your oven to 375. (My oven gets very hot so I set it lower. It has taken me a while to perfect the temperature for these, I think it all depends on how your oven acts. If you see that after the second round of baking the kale is still soggy, increase the temp a little.)

2) Get a bunch (unit of measurement- bunch!) of kale. Cut out the thick center stem so you're just left with the tender leaves. (It seems like a lot, but keep in mind, kale shrinks as it cooks.)

3) Wash and THOROUGHLY dry the leaves. It's VERY important to make sure the leaves are completely dry, otherwise this will turn out soggy. Try using a salad spinner, then lay the leaves out and pat dry with a towel.

4) Rip the kale into pieces. Use your judgement here, I like to make larger pieces since they shrink. If your pieces are too small they'll just burn up.

5) Place the kale in a large bowl. Take about one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle it over the kale. Now just mix the kale and olive oil, until the kale is nice and lightly coated. It doesn't sound like a lot of oil, but it will spread out evenly if you mix it well enough. I just use my hands!

6) Evenly spread the leaves out on a baking sheet. They probably won't stick since they're coated in olive oil so you shouldn't have to worry about using non-stick spray on your baking sheet. (Don't put the salt on them yet, this will make it soggy!)

7) Put the kale in the oven for about 8 minutes. Take it out, flip and rearrange the leaves, then put it in the oven for about 7 more minutes.

8) Check your leaves again. If they aren't crispy enough, rearrange them again and put them back in for 3 minutes or so. (If you see there's no crispyness happening, this is where you would slightly increase your oven temp.) Keep an eye on them, you don't want them to burn. Continue this step until they've reached the desired amount of crispiness!

9) Now you can add some sea salt. It's a nice addition to the crunch. Serve immediately! Enjoy.

Monday, January 31, 2011


About two months ago I received an email from someone I've never met. She randomly found my portfolio website and was complementing me on my work. I was flattered and wrote a thank-you email.

Last night I received an email from that same person who complemented me. The email shocked me. Turns out, the email was not intended for me, she accidentally typed my address instead of her friend's who is also named Lauren. It shocked me because it contained several photos of a man's head Photoshopped onto a woman's body, along with a message that said something like this: (I didn't want to directly copy and paste the email to protect her privacy, but this is pretty close)

I can't believe your brother is a cross dresser! Print these photos I made and put them in your closet, he'll find them and get the clue that you don't want him borrowing your clothes anymore.

The email was MUCH longer than that. And there were about 20 photos attached.

Again, I have no idea who this person is. But I felt I had to stand up and say something. I felt terrible for this man who was about to be attacked in such an elementary, cowardly approach. Here's a summary of what I wrote:

I know you wrote me an email once complementing me on my portfolio website and I thank you for that.

If all this stuff you're writing about this man is true, you're a very cruel person and need to mind your own business.

Who are you to say how someone can live their life? If this is a joke you're playing on someone, you should probably rethink it. I'm a gay rights advocate and I do not find humor in any of this, whatever it's about.

She wrote back and apologized for the confusion, then went on to tell me how she is trying to "bring out the truth" and by doing this she doesn't want to cause him any unnecessary stress (!!!) Then she wrote, "when he's ready to come out to us he will."


I wrote back to her... when he is ready to come out, he will. Talk to him like a rational human being if you're that concerned. I told her that from an unbiased, outsider stand point, this whole situation sounds so cruel and hurtful and cowardly. I asked her to reconsider her actions. I didn't want to give up, even for this stranger, wherever he is in the world. This poor man.

Then finally I saw what I wanted to see. She asked for my forgiveness for her ignorance and said she is throwing out all the photos and will not go through with this course of action. Perhaps she was lying to shut me up, who knows. But there's still that chance she was being sincere and spared this man embarrassment and hurt from his own friends and family.

As allies of the gay community, we need to do this. We need to stand up for each other as humans. Even if its something as small as this, just one person... it all helps. If you're ever faced with a situation where you have the chance to stand up for someone and help, I hope you take it.