Crockpot Comfort Food for Fall

One of my favorite crockpot dishes for fall offers an Indian twist on a fall favorite – sweet potatoes. Adding green or red lentils and cooking in coconut oil amp up the healthiness of this hearty dish.

Curries come from India, where chefs prepare flavorful blends of spices, herbs and chiles to cook with vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and lentils. Various proteins are made into curries as well, like chicken, lamb and goat. Commercial curry powders began to be produced in the 18th century, as British colonial government and military members desired a quick spice blend to cook the dishes they’d enjoyed in India. Curries are often wet, meaning the vegetables and meats are cooked in a thick sauce. Rice or naan bread is served to sop up the sauce.

Start by sauteeing your onion and ginger over medium heat.

Once that gets soft and flavorful, you can take it off the heat and add it to your crockpot. Next, add in your peeled, diced sweet potato, carrots and peas (if you like) and your spices.  Cover the mixture with vegetable broth and let it cook on high for two hours or on low for six hours.

Once the mixture has cooked down, I like to mash it with a potato masher until it gets to a smoother, stew-like consistency.  I have it with basmati rice, and I usually freeze some for later.  This dish is delicious and filling, a great work lunch for fall to pull out and heat up quickly.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

1 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup dried green or red lentils
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small bag frozen peas and carrots
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder or 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth



Sunday Meal Prep – Pumpkin Oats & Salads in Jars

Sundays in our house mean waking up early to go for a run, watching football, going grocery shopping and prepping breakfasts and lunches for the week. I’m trying to detox from meat and eat clean, so I decided to make a couple of different kinds of oats and some chopped salads in jars.

There’s hardly anything simpler than throwing some oats in a container, adding some kind of fruit, some nuts, honey and spices. These quick-prep breakfasts are delicious and nutritious, and make busy mornings getting three kids out of the house to school easier on me.


I get tired of eating the same thing every day, so I made two different variations. For the first, I put 1/4 cup of organic, quick-cooking oats in a container. I added about three tablespoons of canned pumpkin, a tablespoon of local honey and a handful of pecans and pistachios. A sprinkle of cinnamon and pumpkin spice fills these breakfast bowls with fall flavors. For the other two bowls, I tossed in about 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries, a teaspoon of lemon zest, some pecans, local honey and about 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

For lunches, I made an Israeli chopped salad, with diced tomato, cucumber, red onion and green pepper.  I topped them with some feta cheese, oregano, olive oil and salt and pepper. What is today referred to as “Israeli” chopped salad originated in the Palestinian territory, and was adapted by the various kibbutz communities in Israel. The vegetable mix can vary based on what is fresh and in season, but typically includes tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers along with herbs and lemon juice. For my other two salads, I tossed in some baby spinach, diced red onion, tomato, arugula, bleu cheese and diced strawberries.  Then I drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.


I’ll probably add a banana as a snack and have a cup of yogurt with my salads at lunch. Prepping everything on Sunday afternoon means I have a week’s worth of fresh, delicious meals that were inexpensive to make and easy to prepare.

Do you prep your meals for the work week on Sundays? What are your go-to meals?

Corn Chowder and Old Bay Potato Chips

It’s fall! My favorite season of the year means it’s time for hearty soups and big flavors.

Chowders are the type of thick, rich stews that have long been important in American cooking. Most settlers, whether they were in the northern Massachusetts or southern Virginia colony, had easy access to the main ingredients for a good chowder:  potatoes, milk, vegetables (like corn), chicken or clams. While the north is known more for seafood chowders, owing to its abundance of clams and fish, the south had plenty of corn, shared with the English by the native Americans, and peppers, brought from Africa by enslaved Africans. Colonial Williamsburg even has a corn chowder recipe in their cookbook.

I sauteed onions and bacon in a little bit of canola oil, then added the diced peppers (You can add red peppers too, if you like. I stuck with green) and corn. Chicken stock, heavy cream and some cheddar cheese rounded out this delicious and hearty chowder. I ate some for dinner on Sunday, then packed the rest for lunches for the work week.

I didn’t use potatoes in my chowder because I knew I wanted to try chef and Vice contributor Matty Matheson‘s Old Bay potato chips.  They’re super easy to make. Peel some potatoes (or don’t, if you don’t want to), slice them very thin (I used a mandolin slicer), fry them in vegetable oil until they just start to brown, drain them on some paper towels and toss them in Old Bay seasoning. They were easily the most delicious potato chips I’ve ever eaten.



DC Ramen, Lobster Rolls and Silver Spring Sushi

I was in DC on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week for a work conference, and got the chance to hit up a couple of awesome spots in the District. First up was Haikan, the new-ish ramen joint from the Daikaya team. It’s in Shaw near the Howard University campus, on the bottom floor of the Atlantic Plumbing apartment building in a slick, modern, light-filled space.

I started with the Smoke Show cocktail:  Ryukyu Awamori, a rice-based spirit similar to shoju that hails from Okinawa, mixed with Dolin Blanc vermouth and black peppercorn tincture with a torched cedar chip in the glass.  The aroma of the smoke mingled with the sweet and savory notes of the other ingredients and elevated the drink (plus I’m a sucker for a smoked cocktail).  I got the Smashed Cucumber Salad and the Shoyu ramen with spicebomb, nori and bamboo.  The salad was delicious, in a sweet, soy-sauce based Rayu-Shoyu dressing, but the ramen was the star of the show. The broth was rich, and the spicebomb lived up to its name, adding a ton of heat and flavor. As with everything the Daikaya team does, Haikan hits the sweet spot of Asian flavors that are hot right now, with the authenticity and attention to detail that will please any ramen purist.

The next night, after my work event, my husband headed up to meet me so we could go to a show at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, one of our favorite venues.  We always stay at the Hampton Inn or Homewood Suites (they’re in the same building) the next block over from The Fillmore.  We parked the car, checked into the hotel and headed out to find somewhere to eat dinner.

A block away from the hotel, we found Sushi Jin, a narrow sushi spot sandwiched between a hair salon and a Quizno’s.  They had a bunch of special rolls on the menu.  We got a roll called “Lobster Lasagna” and a bunch of other rolls and some Japanese craft beer – Hitachino White Ale from Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki.

The sushi rolls were all delicious and filling.  The Lobster Lasagna was topped with mounds and mounds of fresh lobster, and the other special roll we ordered was full of Maryland crab.  Sushi Jin was a hit – my new favorite sushi restaurant in Silver Spring.

On the way out of DC the next day, we made a point of stopping at Metro Center where the food trucks line 12th Street at lunch, so that we could grab lunch from the DC outpost of the always-delicious Red Hook Lobster Pound. My husband and I visited the original Red Hook location on our last NYC trip, and when I found out they had a DC food truck, I decided I had to give it a try.

It was pricey, but it is lobster after all (funny considering lobster used to be so plentiful it was considered the food of the poor).  I got the BLT lobster roll and my husband got the Maine Style.  Both were served on a warm, buttered roll with a huge pickle spear.  We got some Cape Cod chips and the truck had Maine Root fountain beverages, so we got a Mexi-Vanilla Cola.

This was a delicious DC trip.  I can’t wait to return to try out more food spots!


Pop’s Market on Grace

Before a show at The National on Friday night, my husband and I stopped for dinner at Pop’s Market on Grace. The casual restaurant and market is located just down the block from the Carpenter Center and is convenient to galleries and entertainment on Broad Street as well. This section of Grace Street has historically been a part of the downtown shopping district, and is even a designated historic district with the National Park Service.

Pop’s Market offers a wide range of quick-service foods, like sandwiches and salads, as well as prepared meals like pastas. I had the Caprese on focaccia and my husband tried the pulled pork hoagie. Both were ENORMOUS – enough that we had a whole meal for Saturday’s lunch.

Pop’s also has refrigerated prepared foods, coffee and breakfast items and other local products. The space is expansive, with high ceilings and a prime corner location, as well as architectural details like exposed brick.

Dinner at Pop’s Market was fairly inexpensive, delicious and filling. They also have local draft beers for $5 each.

Mid-Atlantic Fall Foodie Events

Fall is prime time for foodie events, and there are plenty to choose from in the mid-Atlantic region. These are some of the best:

Fire, Flour and Fork (Richmond, VA) – Nov. 17-20.  Since its inaugural year in 2014, this Richmond food extravaganza has evolved into a premier food showcase. This unique event offers an insider view of the food scene in the Capital City, from themed brunches, lunches and dinners to a full slate of classes, tours of regional food areas like the Rappahannock River with Merroir and culinary history events, like an Edna Lewis Sunday Supper.

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Heritage Harvest Festival (Charlottesville, VA) – Sept. 9-11. Set at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Heritage Harvest encompasses the world of gardening, farming, homesteading and food history. Beginning with an old-fashioned seed swap, this event offers a tomato, pepper and melon tasting, classes and tours based around Thomas Jefferson’s garden, talks by culinary historians and gardeners and much more. With luminary talent like Michael Twitty, Peter J. Hatch, Libby H. O’Connell and Joel Salatin on tap, this event promises to provide a wide range of voices on our founding father and his food.

Smithsonian Food History Weekend (Washington, DC) – Oct. 27-29. Each year, the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History presents a weekend of culinary history events. This year’s plans include an opening gala, “Dine Out for Smithsonian Food History” featuring Julia Child inspired dishes at local restaurants, a day of roundtable discussions, a food history festival and an evening devoted to the history of brewing in America.

Beast Feast (Beaverdam, VA) – Sept. 25. Put on at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown by Richmond area butchers and food producers, this year’s Beast Feast celebrates Belmont Butchery’s 10th anniversary. This event features various meats cooked over an open fire, as well as local chef-made dishes, beers, wines and cocktails, all from local producers and bars.

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Cocktail Classes at Barmini (Washington, DC) – Bites, drinks and education on how to make some of the creative cocktails at the renowned Minibar by Jose Andres. Wednesdays at 5:30 pm on Sept. 28, Oct. 26, Nov. 23 and Dec. 21.

Uncorked Wine Festival (Washington, DC) – Sept. 24, 5-9 pm. Featuring over 50 regional wineries, local food trucks, live music and more, this new wine festival promises a good time. Held at the DC Armory in partnership with several local wine stores, Uncorked will also have a fun photo booth and wines from many countries around the world.

Underground Kitchen dining events (East Coast) – Throughout the coming months, Underground Kitchen offers a number of private dining events with well-known chefs. Whether you’re in Virginia (Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville or NoVA) or in another state (Raleigh, Asheville, Columbia or Baltimore), you’ll find interesting and engaging culinary events throughout the fall. From an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed meal to The Culinary Mosaic and even a single ingredient meal focused on saffron, there are plenty of fun events to enjoy.

Ironbound Wine and Food Expo (Newark, NJ) – Oct. 7-8. The inaugural Ironbound food expo centers around Spain’s tapas tradition, showcasing food and wine from the region. Carnival dancers, a cigar and porto lounge and a food expo round out the events for this exciting weekend.

I’m planning on hitting up a few of these. What about you?

The Return of Classic Cocktails

The earliest known mention of the word “cocktail” dates from a 1798 issue of London’s The Morning Post and Gazetteer, however it wasn’t until 1862, with the publication of How to Mix Drinks: or The Bon Vivant’s Companion, by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, that recipes for cocktails were first published. The four basic ingredients of any cocktail – spirits, sugar, water and bitters – formed 10 cocktail recipes in Thomas’ book.

The “whiskey cocktail” in the Companion contains 3-4 dashes of gum syrup, an old-fashioned type of simple syrup that adds gum arabic for a smoother texture, 2 do. Bogart’s bitters, 1 wine-glass of whiskey and a piece of lemon peel. Compare this simplest of cocktails with the classic Old Fashioned and you can see the similarity:  whiskey, sugar or syrup, bitters and citrus. Add in a cherry and you have a delicious way to enjoy your favorite whiskey, whether bourbon or rye. My favorite version combines Bulleit Rye, Tippleman’s burnt sugar syrup and Jack Rudy bourbon cherries.


From classic to modern, the Moscow Mule is a 20th-century creation seeing a resurgence in popularity. Created in the 1940’s when bartenders had an overabundance of vodka and ginger beer, this drink is refreshing enough to drink in summer, and warm and spicy enough to drink in winter, making it the perfect all-year cocktail. Smirnoff Vodka, the original brand used in the drink, and Q Ginger Beer combine with fresh lemon juice to create my perfect Moscow Mule.


Another favorite cocktail I love to mix up is a fresh, delicious agave margarita. While the classic Mexican margarita contains orange liqueur, this agave variation nixes the orange liqueur in favor of fresh, crisp lime juice and sweet agave nectar. Use a good quality silver tequila, like El Jimador, and an organic agave nectar like Tres Agaves for a quick and easy, go-to drink.


Whatever your favorite flavor, the world of classic cocktails offers plenty of interesting, delicious and sometimes little-known drinks for your to explore. Whether you check out a bar specializing in classic cocktails and variations, like The Dead Rabbit, or mix up your own drinks at home, these drinks are usually quick and easy to make and taste best if you start with high-quality spirits and other ingredients. Drink up!