Musings Archives

I Judged a Cooking Contest!

Extended Stay America Cooking Contest Winner

One of the things I love about being a devoted (ok, obsessive) home cook is that I never have to eat bad food. I don’t mean this in an “all my food is perfect” kind of way, it’s just that with a stocked pantry and a strong will to cook, I’m almost always able to prepare, then eat, what I want. If I don’t know what I want, I stick a grilled cheese in the frying pan and a meal is made.

Not so when I’m on the road. Over the summer, I showed you the minimalist polenta dishes I’d make if I were staying in a hotel with an actual kitchen, and last week I got the chance to taste and rate four home cook’s versions of their own best home-away-from-home meals.

The Healthiest “Food Porn” on the Internet

Beautiful Brussels

When I meet someone who’s just poked through Big Girls, Small Kitchen for the first time, especially if we meet around 11am or maybe 4:30pm, he or she often says to me, “I’m so hungry now!” and then I say, “that’s my intention.”

It’s cute enough repartee, but in fact the conversation masks something I’m not entirely comfortable with: tempting you. The best way I’ve found to stay healthy in a world full of temptations is to eat three meals a day that are relatively straightforward, meaning tasty but not indulgent (you know, lots of vegetables, whole grains and good bread, some meat and fish, some cheese, enough fat to make it all delicious: more or less what mom would tell you to eat). That means I try to keep treats (sugary things, gooey things, fried things, and expensive things) in my life, but as treats. Still, I recognize that it doesn’t always seem that way if I’ve just posted about mango sorbet, followed by rainbow cake, followed by filet mignon.

That tendency to prioritize our treats in our Internet food photos has created something of an imbalance, according to Bolthouse Farms, whose whimsical, yet serious Food Porn Index tracks how healthy the internet is by comparing the number of healthy food images shared against unhealthy ones. Go play around.

So to round out that sorbet, cake, and steak, I hope you’ll give these Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and turnips their due. I also put together a pinboard called “The Healthiest Food Porn on the Internet” in order to feature food images, including many recipes from Big Girls, Small Kitchen, that are gorgeous and also truly nourishing. See below, and please repin your heart out over on pinterest.

Follow Cara / Big Girls, Small Kitchen’s board The Healthiest “Food Porn” on the Internet on Pinterest.

And so, yes, now you’ve gazed at a lot of food, and yes, if you read this at 11am you might be feeling hungrier than you did before. But maybe that means you’ll go eat a hummus-and-avocado wrap for lunch instead of a burger and fries, or better yet, go home and make a really good dinner for yourself, perhaps inspired by something on the healthy pinterest board. Balance, which basically requires that you cook well at home, really is the way to go.

This post is sponsored by Bolthouse Farms, who also created the Food Porn Index in an effort to correct the healthy-to-unhealthy ratio in food images on the ‘net. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep BGSK delicious!

Our Hudson Valley Distillery Date

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On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, while the rest of you were rolling out of bed and eating pie for breakfast for the second consecutive day, Alex and I hopped in the car and headed north, up the Hudson. Our destination? Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, where HowAboutWe for Couples had set us up with a whiskey tour, a signed bottle of booze, and an early dinner at the Tuthilltown House, the restaurant next door.

In the last couple of years, Alex and I have gotten into whisky, rye, and bourbon. There’s always a bottle on our shelf for sipping on these dark winter nights (in a very healthy, one-finger-pour sense of sipping), and so I was really excited when I saw a tour of Tuthilltown listed among the HowAboutWe dates for the fall. Even better, we decided to stay the night in one of the small towns on the west side of the Hudson, making a whole weekend out of the special afternoon. We kept talking about getting out of Brooklyn for a few days, and this was just the push we needed.

On our drive up, we stopped at Sam’s Point Preserve, just south of Minnewaska State Park. We’d heard great things about hiking in both places, but since it was really freezing (we saw our first snow of the season!) we took a short jaunt through a gorgeous trail at Sam’s, known for its high-elevation forest.

Afterwards, we drove to the distillery, where we were thrilled to get a tour of the place from one of its owners, Ralph Erenzo, who was responsible for turning the former mill facility into Tuthilltown. We admired the barrels, learned about distilling not just whiskey but also apple vodka, gin, and bitters, and admired the stout bottles that have become Hudson Whiskey’s signature. I loved the pots, pictured below, that hold the melted wax for sealing each bottle.  Here are a few pictures from our tour:

Our Veggie Supper Club Night: A HowAboutWe Date


Being a home cook can make you a real homebody. Perhaps better described as a grouch. Who wants to eat out at a great restaurant with someone frowning over the food, thinking, “I could make that better at home”?

For fear of just this situation, Alex and I have often skipped dinners out in favor of eating at home, both simple food and not-so-simple food. But where’s the romance in staying home?  Unclear. So when HowAboutWe for Couples contacted me to see if I’d like to try out their date-planning service, I knew we were headed out to eat (despite being oddly attracted to some of the non-food dates, like learning archery together in Queens….). The site is all about helping you plan dates, so whether you’re busy or simply looking for fun, new experiences that don’t cost as much as a weekend out of town, you can go off on cool dates with your significant other without a lot of research or preparation.

As we came down from travel and the general headiness of summer, Alex and I chose our first date and journeyed off into the TriBeCa night. Our destination? SuiteThreeOhSix, an all-vegetarian supper club at a studio space on Franklin Street. We had never been to a supper club, and I loved the idea of having a restaurant-like experience, only not at a restaurant. Maybe I’d be less grouchy.

We ate six courses of some of the most creative vegetarian food I’ve ever had, and we got a chance to chat with some of the other couples at the studio’s one long table, making this a more social date than most. Here are a few pictures from the night. (All photos thanks to Liz Clayman.)

We had a great time trying new foods, watching the chef work her magic, and getting to know some fellow New Yorkers out on the town. Can’t wait for our next HowAboutWe foodie outing! If you’ve never tried HowAboutWe for Couples, you can join as a new member and get $50 off any date in the collection by clicking this link before the end of the year.

I went on this date and wrote this sponsored post in partnership with HowAboutWe.  Thanks for supporting the sponsors that help inspire BGSK’s content! 

6 Fabulous Food Resolutions for 2013


Happy new year!

I quit making big life resolutions a couple seasons ago, but last January, I wrote about my food resolutions for the coming year. They were simple and straightforward and accessible, since they came from the space where I spend the most time–the kitchen.

As I compiled an eating wishlist for 2013, I thought about how I like to cook and how I like to eat – and what I’d like to cook and eat more and less of. Nothing too esoteric, I promise. Scroll down to see my food resolutions for the year.

Are you making any food-related resolutions? I’d love to hear in the comments.

**Food Resolutions to Make in 2013**

1. Host more dinner parties. Dinner parties are dead. Long live the dinner party. Either way, I love dinner parties – hosting them, going to them, watching the progression of the evening from slight awkwardness to complete ease. We have yet to add a dining room table to our small apartment, but guests never seem to mind perching their plates on their knees. Still, I find excuses not to host: people are busy, I don’t know which friends to pair with other friends, I’m tired. No more, not in 2013.


On Mashed Potatoes


In most header notes for mashed potato recipes, the Russet, Yukon, or Peruvian Purple comes off as a vehicle for butter and cream–or bacon, chives, sour cream, mascarpone, and cheddar. The existence of roasted potatoes, baked potatoes, and French fries assure us that potatoes taste pretty good on their own. Yet when we go to mash, we bring on the butter.

Last week, in one of the sweetest and best-written essays about food I’ve read in a while, Tom Junod over at Esquire taught me the Mashed Potato Rule. “There is no such thing as bad mashed potatoes as long as they’re actually potatoes, mashed,” he writes. Junod was comparing real mashed potatoes to horrible out-of-the-box flaked “mashed potatoes.” But the same rule extends to the question of whether mashed potatoes have to be instruments for conveying saturated fat to your tastebuds.