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Posted on Jul 26, 2012 in Food | 14 comments

Greek (Chinese) Mama

Last night was one of the (many) occasions where I wanted to kick myself for leaving my camera at home. I went over to my parents’ for dinner, as they just returned from an amazing and jealousy-inducing Mediterranean cruise vacation on Tuesday. Their cruise departed from Istanbul (not Constantinople) and eventually arrived in Athens, but stopped in Ephesus, Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, Phillipi, Rhodes, and I’m sure I’m forgetting another one. But basically any important historical place in Greece, they went to.

Apparently, my mom didn’t get enough Greek food while there, because when my brother and I went over last night, she was whipping up more Mediterranean cuisine! The spread was so pretty that I was super mad at myself for not bothering to bring my camera. Oh well, I guess it was good preparation for my Healthy Living Summit presentation on photography, eh? Do as I say, not as I do, friends. πŸ˜‰


First up was greek salad (which I chopped up) that included cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, and was dressed with EVOO and salt & pepper.


There was also olive oil & balsamic to dip some delicious crusty bread in.

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Then grilled chicken with a spice rub and a Turkish stuffed bell pepper recipe my mom was trying out. They were stuffed with seasoned rice, pine nuts, olives, and spices! Behold, my plate:


Although I was too full to finish my stuffed pepper. I should always know better than to snack before one of my mom’s home-cooked dinners. Tsk, tsk, Gretchen!

Photo from my mom’s birthday dinner back in February

I definitely inherited my love of cooking from my mom. Somewhat hilariously, she actually didn’t know how to cook until she met my dad, at which point she started feverishly studying my Po-Po (Chinese term for maternal grandmother) so that she could learn! Her specialty is delicious, authentic Chinese food (duh!), but she loves to experiment with all kinds of cuisines. The biggest way in which we differ in our cooking styles is that my mom is very recipe-oriented. She likes to print out recipes when she’s looking for something new, whereas I like to look up recipes more for inspiration. I like to READ cookbooks, not COOK from them (which I know is very counter-intuitive but hey, I’m a rebel.) I’ve tried to learn some of my mom’s recipes, but it really is one of those things where it always tastes better when it comes from her!

My mom’s proclivity for following others’ recipes has always been funny to me, since she doesn’t have any of her OWN recipes written down! They’re locked in her mind like a steel trap, since she’s been making them for so long. So watching her make her amazing sweet & sour pork recipe for the first time went something like this:

“Okay, then you make the sauce. Put in two spoonfuls of this, then pour in some of that, then — oh wait! — whisk in a spoon of that first…”

My poor brain couldn’t quite keep up, and I *still* don’t know how to make it. Ah well, at least next time I know to bring a notepad and pen with me. πŸ™‚

What’s that one dish that mom (or dad) still, to this day, makes best?

PS: Head on over to Healthy Living Blogs today to check out my guest post on why having a “Top Posts” page rocks!

PPS: It’s my sister’s 30th birthday today!!! Also, to a lesser degree of excitement, it’s Sean’s and my 6-month. Kekeke.

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Posted on Feb 7, 2012 in Dear Diary, Food | 20 comments


Last night my family (sans my sister and her husband who are in Australia right now — the punks) went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday!


My dad made a reservation at 2941, which is a fancy-schmancy restaurant that I’ve heard scores about but had never been to. The restaurant recently finished a big renovation and redesign, and it looked great.


As I understand it, 2941 used to be traditional French cuisine (not 100% sure about this?) but it now has a more modernist neauvou-French vibe to it. The restaurant is in Fairview Park, which is just slightly off the beaten path in the greater Falls Church area, but I can see why it’s tucked away back there. It’s on a lake, with fountains and waterfalls and a freakin’ koi pond out front. Our reservation was pretty late (8:00) so it was really dark, but I can definitely see myself wanting to go back when it’s still light enough to be able to take in the scenery a little bit more.


As this was yet another special occasion (aren’t they all?), I’ll tell you right off the bat that this wasn’t the healthiest meal ever. But all things considered, I think I did pretty well! We started off with a bottle of pinot noir that my dad ordered for us all, which was actually very delicious (I’m still pretty scared of red wines, haha).


Before ordering a couple of items off of the “Nosh” part of the menu (essentially small plates/tapas). We went for the black truffle mac & cheese croquettes (!) and the calamari with a romesco dipping sauce. Be proud, I limited myself to just one croquette (though I could have easily inhaled all six) and a few pieces of calamari.


Since 2941 does small, appetizer-sizes of all their pasta dishes and I really wanted to try one, I got a starter salad as well as a small pasta for my entree.


The salad was a pear and endive salad with a walnut vinaigrette and — I kid you not — blue cheese marshmallows. I know. I KNOW. They were amazing. The waiter said they make them in house and they were SO amazing. Blue-cheesy, salty, and a little bit sweet, they melted in my mouth and… augh. So good.


The pasta dish I chose was a fresh buckwheat pasta with pancetta and mushrooms. I had absolutely NO idea that it would come out with a butter sauce on it as well, but oh how it did. Literally, the “sauce” was just melted butter. And it was drenched in it, as you can see. Don’t get me wrong, it was frackin’ amazing but also probably the least healthy thing on the table, haha. Oops, a happy accident! I also got to try my dad’s lamb loin and it was really fantastic. I would probably get that next time.


After our dinner plates were cleared, my mom opened up her presents and we perused the “Naughty” menu for our dessert options! As with all gourmet restaurants, the portion sizes here were basically perfect and I wasn’t stuffed to the brim, so I could actually fathom the idea of dessert.


I opted for a single scoop of pistachio ice cream (my favorite!), which came with a little sliver of biscotti (a nice touch). I did, of course, get to sample some of the other options too though…


Of which my mom’s caramel-pineapple eclair was my favorite. The vanilla bean ice cream it was served with? To die for.


They also brought out a little tangerine sorbet, uh, thing as an extra birthday treat for her! I thought it was a little bit bitter, but it had great presentation and was a nice surprise.


And finally, if ALL of that weren’t enough, at the very end of the meal they supplied us with fresh glazed beignets. They were soft, pillowy, and still warm. Drool.


So there you have it! Yet another decadent family celebration that, paired with Sunday’s Super Bowl snackage, is sure to inform quite the disappointing weigh-in tomorrow, ahahaha. Not that I’m complaining, per se, just preparing myself, hehe. FYI: 2941 is still in “soft re-opening” mode, so from now until February 9th they’re taking 12% off of the food portion of your check if you’re interested in checking it out over the next couple of days!

How do you prefer to celebrate your birthday? Dinner at home? New restaurant? Old favorite? I am ALL about trying new restaurants for my birthday — ones I probably wouldn’t go to just for any random occasion. Birthdays of the past introduced me to amazing places like Volt and Zaytinya… as well as a less amazing experience at Founding Farmers. Who knows where I’ll end up this year come April — I’m happy to take suggestions!

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Posted on Feb 6, 2012 in Dear Diary, Food | 30 comments

Book Club

Good morning friends! I hope you had a splendiferous weekend and are happy with the outcome of the Super Bowl. Frankly, I’m just impressed with myself for actually watching most of the game. See? Miracles can happen, folks. πŸ˜‰ Before I jump into the weekend update (and my very first book club experience!), I need to first and foremost wish a big happy birthday to my Mama!


Thanks for being born so that you could subsequently give birth to me. Also, you know, ’cause you’re awesome.


So! Where to begin with this weekend. It was a-hustlin’ and a-bustlin’ with activity, that’s for sure! Friday night things got kicked off with the first ever DC Blogger Book Club. Claire had the marvelous idea to start up a book club so that we ladies could be fancy and intellectual and have yet another excuse to eat food, and I hosted the first one!

Claire & moi

The book that was chosen for our first sesh was The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It was a very touching story given from the perspective of a dog, so naturally I was all about it.

Sarah, Ericka, and Jess in the book club circle.

I thought it was a great conversation book since there were several polarizing characters, and I just loved the opportunity to think critically about something for once!

Ericka & my roommate Erin
Jess and Carly
Rachel and Amy

And can we talk about the food for a second? I mean, it was bound to be awesome — we are primarily food bloggers, after all. But Cheezy Pete’s, I’m not sure I was quite prepared:


There was cake balls and s’mores cupcakes and cookies and chips and dips and… oy. It was awesome, needless to say.



Nom. Oh yeah, and there was wine too.


I think next time I will focus more on providing more wine since clearly we’ve got the food part in the bag, hehe. We already have our book for next month picked out: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. We’re still ironing out the details, but if you’re in the area and would like to join us for next time, let me know!


The rest of the weekend was, naturally, pretty much centered around last night’s Big Game. As if I hadn’t already eaten enough Friday night, there was a smorgasbord to dive into at the Super Bowl party I was at Sunday! Our contributions ended up being my mango guacamole (natch), and Cassie’s buffalo chicken bites (which were divine, even though I did a step wrong, haha).


Hoooooeeeee! Wednesday’s Weigh-in should be… interesting, given the extreme amounts of snackage that occurred, but maybe by then things will have evened out a little. And if not, oh well. It’s the Super Bowl, son!


Guff, what a post. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a doozy like this to put up! I hope that your weekends were as food- and fun-filled as my own. Are you celebrating a Giants win today, or mourning a Patriot loss?

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Posted on Oct 14, 2010 in Dear Diary | 5 comments


Yesterday, I was so excited to blog today about having gone for a run & walk with my sister and Amanda and knocking out over 3 miles. I was psyched to tell you all about running a mile outside, and then continuing to walk for an additional 2+ miles, including hills. Yesterday, I was amped to tell you about my super sore legs, and how I was considering signing up for a 5k in December, and how my brother has been teaching Daxter to roll over, and how dinner with my family was.

And then yesterday, I found out that my mom has lung cancer.

Nevermind the fact that she has never smoked a single cigarette in her life, or that she has absolutely no family history of cancer of any kind. This is just… how it is now. And all I can do to try and keep my head above water.

I’m an emotional person, I always have been. I’m the one who cries at the movies, gets angry at the television, and takes everything personally. And right now, my emotions are crashing down on me, breaking over my head in waves of incomprehension. I want to be logical about this, because it feels like the only way I can really cope. Do the research. Determine the odds. Fight. But the past 12 hours have been such an intense roller coaster of emotion, I’m still reeling from the news. Trying to absorb it. Trying to see past it.

Logically, I know that this is not the end of things. That they have caught it really early, that my mom isn’t even exhibiting physical symptoms yet. That modern medicine has come a long way and that there are plenty of people out there who have survived this. That have survived worse. That this is just the very beginning and we have good odds. And that even if we didn’t, my mom is strong, fiery and isn’t going to let this beat her down.

Emotionally, I can’t stop thinking in worst-case-scenario terms. I can’t stop imagining my wonderful, kind, amazing mother not being there on my wedding day. Or for my sister’s future kids not being able to know their grandmother. Or for her to pass on her years of experience to me when it comes time for me to become a mother. Because the reality is that even though I know we caught it early and I know that there are lots of options for us right now, we can’t escape the fact that this is Cancer we’re talking about.

I didn’t know if I should even write about this on here. I didn’t want to burden anyone, or broadcast this intensely personal thing for my family. But this is part of my life now, and I needed to get it out. So I can try to at least learn how to cope. So we can hope to move forward, together.

Edit 10/15/10: Sorry if I confused anybody yesterday with the posting, unposting, and now reposting of this post. It’s been an emotional few days.

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