Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ratatouille & A Corn Revelation

If you caught my post from yesterday (Local Loot), you know that I spent some time at the farmer's market this weekend. I got a plethora of fresh veggies and when I laid them all out, I knew I had to craft a ratatouille. Traditionally, ratatouille is a combination of stewed zucchini, eggplant, tomato and garlic. It is sometimes fried and then stewed "low and slow" to give the veggies a melt-in-your-mouth effect. Earlier today, I picked some fresh green and red peppers from my own backyard but unfortunately did not have any eggplant ready to pick. I also had a carton of shiitake mushrooms in my fridge so I threw all of these things together and called it a local harvest ratatouille. This recipe is extremely simple to make; it is a one-pot dish and we all know, you can't get any easier than that!

Please see the end of this ratatouille recipe for a revelation in corn on the cob preparation. Prepare to be amazed!

Local Harvest Ratatouille


4 small zucchini
2 small peppers (any color)
1 handful of grape tomatoes
1/4 of a large sweet onion
1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic (adjust to your garlic preference)
1 carton of mushrooms 
1 teaspoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon of garlic salt
Black pepper to taste
Your favorite jarred tomato sauce as an optional topping


 1.) Wash all veggies except for mushrooms. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a paper towel. 
 2.) Coarsely chop onions and peppers. 
 3.) In a large skillet, add olive oil and garlic. Saute over medium heat. Add onions and peppers. Saute this mixture until the vegetables begin to soften.
 4.) Slice grape tomatoes in halves and slice zucchini. If you are using whole mushrooms, slice them as well. 
 5.) Once the peppers and onion mix has started to cook down, add tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms. 
 6.) Add a few tablespoons of water anytime the veggies begin to stick. If this occurs, just turn the heat down a bit. 
 7.) Simmer the mixture for approximately 15-20 minutes until the veggies are completely tender. 
 8.) Serve warm with a crusty bread. Top with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese if desired. 

The "low and slow" cooking technique here allows this dish to develop a robust flavor alongside the perfect tender texture. It is a fantastic way to incorporate your summer produce all in one dish. 
Finished Product 
Finished Product with Sauce and Cheese!

A Corny Revelation

Corn on the cob is the taste of summer. Hot kernels, slathered in butter, sprinkled with Old Bay and bursting with a sweet milk upon each bite; that is precisely what summer taste like to me. The not so glamourous side to eating this lovely summertime delight is the preparation. Sitting on the back porch, ripping through layers and layers of husk while showers of silks fall to the ground; this is what corn shucking looks like. I had a lazy Sunday and the last thing I wanted to do was shuck corn. In an effort to avoid the labor involved with indulging in my favorite summertime food, I turned to the answer for all our burning questions: google. I googled "cooking corn in the husk" and was dumbfounded when I realized that I could bake my corn in the oven. I have grilled corn the husk but I never thought to bake it. 


Let me share that this came out so incredibly perfect, I am vowing to never shuck and boil corn again. 

All you have to do is turn on the oven, set it at 350 degrees, place the corn on the oven racks, cook it for 30 minutes and bam!, perfect corn in a matter of minutes. I did pull off the brown ends of the silks as a fire precaution. I am not sure if they would actually catch fire but really, who wants to take that kind of chance

After the corn cools a bit, you just chop off the end and basically slide or roll the corn out of husk. The best part about this style of prep was that the silks, when they encounter the steam in the husk, all band together and come off in one easy sweep. There is no picking of each and every thread like when you shuck the corn dry. 

I would argue that this corn has a better flavor than boiled corn because it is roasted in its own husk. The kernels were perfectly steamed and not at all tough like boiled corn can sometimes be.

I would highly recommend giving this method a try!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Local Loot

With our warm weather slowly slipping away, the bloom of summer produce continues to fill the sights along the roadsides of Southern Maryland. Rows of field corn near their harvest and open fields of soy beans begin producing perfect pods as summertime begins to fade. Tomato plants and zucchini vines flood with produce as they offer their last hoo-ray of warm weather offerings. Toward the end of August, a golden brown dryness begins to creep up all the stalks and vines as the summer heat beats down on the fields. Soon enough, the cool fall air will bring another harvest of the more hardy produce and in the blink of an eye, little orange pumpkins will begin to pop-up in all the same roadside fields.

All of these wonderful natural reminders have compelled me to focus my energy on trying to adopt a more local diet. Each year that passes, I walk down the aisle of the grocery store and watch prices grow higher and higher. As a twenty something on a budget, it becomes increasing difficult to eat well on a commoner's salary, especially while being mindful to our planet. This morning was the absolute perfect morning to wander the farmer's market. Southern Maryland gets this wonderful breeze in late summer that carries the smell of seasons changing. It is impossible to put into words; the sort of thing which only experience can fulfill. Driving down a back road, surrounded only by open fields lined with towering trees, gives an intoxicating freshness to the air. It is almost comparable to the smell of sweet corn after a soaking summer rain. Almost. 

"Buy Local" is something that we hear often; I think I speak for most when I say that we never really stop to think about what that actually means. Well, I have done a bit of marinating (haha) and I believe that I have come up with a brief review of why I think it is important to buy and eat locally.

1.) Economic:

Amish baked goods are the BEST!

  • The less your food has to travel, the less it is going to cost you.
  • Buying local keeps your community feeling "local." For me, this means keepin' it rural. Each year, we see another farm fall vicitm to development. If more and more people buy local, we will increase the demand for the goods that those said farms produce which makes them less of a target for development. Keeping the community feeling "local"also comes with the farmer's market shopping experience. Bumping into people you haven't seen in a while or maybe even meeting someone new. Local produce stands elicit a small town hospitality that you just can't find in a franchised store. 
  • When you invest money in your community, you invest yourself. I like to keep my purchasing as local as possible because I then reap the benefits of a thriving community. By keeping small business alive, we get to experience their growth. This means new products and more variety.

2.) Environmental:

  • Being "green" is dropped on the daily. Shopping local is the epitomy of adopting such a lifestyle. 
  • Did you know that the top three states to produce our fruits and vegtables are California, Florida and Washington? That means that on average, our food has traveled at least 1300 miles to reach our table. If you have ever been on a family roadtrip, you know that getting to and from these states takes time, gas and money. What does this mean in terms of produce? It means the produce is picked prematurely and treated with a pleathora of chemicals to preserve its long haul to your table. When you purchase your produce locally, you can get the exact hour it was picked. 
  • If you build a relationship with a local grower, they will actually grow special food for you. I have some friends who bring seeds from India and have local growers actually plant and grow them. This elminates the drive time (carbon footprint reduction) to specialty stores that carry your favorite unique products. 
  • You will definitely find your food with less preservative chemicals when you buy local. The best example of this is cucumbers. Have you ever bought a cuke from the store and felt the thick layer of wax on its skin? I think its gross! You won't find that a local produce stand because it isn't necessary to preserve the produce in the fashion.
  • I picked up local honey today. It is rumored that consuming local honey from where you live will actually help allievate/prevent allergies. I can't verify that it is true but I still like the idea of eating the product of my very own bees.

3.) Eclectic:

  • The farmers market provides an interesting mix of people, products, smells, sights and sounds. It is an experience. You learn something each time you visit. I can vouch for this. Today I learned that "chow chow" is deliciously paired with kale. I bumped into a lady at the Amish canning stand and we struck up a conversation about what to do with it. She and my Mom talked about how everyone ate it back in the day but it is rare to see people still making and eating it. 
  • Today, I met a man who had a pet raccoon; now, that ain't something you see everyday and even futher, that definitely ain't something you would see in a chain grocery store. 
  • You find varieties of produce you won't see in an average grocery store. Such as these "fairy tale" eggplants and massive yams. I swear, these were as big as my head. 

I hope you have found something in this post that has encouraged you to reach a hand out to your local community by shopping from farm to table. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Two Way Tater Salad

My past post about perfect potluck dishes featured a few recipes I concocted for our first office potluck. One of my co-workers crafted some seriously delicious potato salad which inspired me to take stab at making my own. For me, potato salad has always been a special treat because no one in my family has ever been successful in crafting the perfect p-salad. This post features two styles of this perfect summer side. JB's recipe is the absolute classic and mine takes a little diversion from the basics, adding a few different ingredients to kick it up a notch (as Emeril would say)!

JB's Red Potato Salad

Prep time: 30 mins.
Cook time: 35 mins.


2 lbs. red potatoes - Cubed
1/2 yellow onion - Chopped
1 bunch green onions - Chopped
2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp Old Bay
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
Optional: 1/4 cup BACON (or turkey bacon for reduced sodium) - Cooked, dried, and chopped finely


1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and dump in the potatoes
2. Cook the potatoes for 15 minutes, or until tender, drain well and cool in fridge for 15 mins.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT the green onion
3. Pour the mix over the potatoes, then toss together
4. Sprinkle green onion on top
5. Add fresh ground pepper (and Old Bay) to taste
5. Eat!

Yield: 4 healthy side servings. Or 2 meals of red potato salad...

K-Wat's Kicked-Up Tater Salad


3-4 lbs of  small red potatoes
3 stalks of celery
1 small green pepper
1/2 sweet yellow or red onion (yellow is better but I only had red when making this batch!)
1 bunch green onions
1 cup of mayonnaise
2/3 cup of sour cream
1/8 cup of sweet relish
2 tbsp of horseradish
1/2 tsp of celery seed
Salt & Pepper to taste


1. In a large pot, place all potatoes (skin on) in the bottom. Cover completely with water. Boil for approximately 25 minutes. When the potatoes finish cooking, allow them to cool to room temperature before combining with the sauce.
2. Finely chop the celery, onion and green pepper. The finer the better. Also, coarsely chop the green onions and reserve them as a garnish. 
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, relish, horseradish, celery seed, salt and pepper. 
4. Once the potatoes have cooled, dice them and add them to a large serving dish. 
5. Add chopped veggies to the potatoes and pour the creamy sauce over the mix. Stir gently to prevent over-smashing of your taters. Sprinkle reserved green onions over the top for a delicate garnish!
5. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Dream Come True

Thrifted Louboutin

Five years old, I stand in the midst of my mother's bedroom; my clammy little feet swimming in her high heels. I reach to my tip-toes to see my face in her vanity mirror. Catching just the slightest glimpse of the top of my blonde hair, a rush of royalty flows through my veins. I imagine myself as Princess Diana, waving to the crowd of adoring fans as I make my way to a regal ball. 

The Innocence of Childhood & Beginnings of a Thriftanista

In reality, I am standing in my mothers room with ketchup smears dried on my pudgy face. My messy blonde locks are tied in a loose pony tail and my cut-just-a-bit-too-short bangs fall unevenly across my forehead. Naturally, as a 90s baby, my shirt  is tastefully [insert sarcasm] tucked up and under to resemble some sort of sexy bra top.


When a woman puts on a heel, she has a different posture, a different attitude. She really stands up and has a consciousness of her body. 

--Christian Louboutin


I found myself wandering the aisles of the Charlotte Hall Farmer's Market a few weekends ago, hoping to get one of those wonderful local cantaloupes; little did I know, I would (literally) stumble upon the utmost fabulous pair of shoes. I shuffled through the dusty aisles, picking through tables of random goods: old ceramics, knock-off fragrances, faux designer purses, cheap electronics, dingy tupperware and the usual bake goods galore. Just as I was making a bee-line for the produce barns, I tripped over a large rock. Looking around to see if anyone noticed my clumsiness, my eyes met a small table with a mountain of mismatched shoes on top. My shoe-whorish nature sucked me right in; I had to thumb through the pile before making my way to the melon I came for. 

And there, in that mountain of old, floppy, mismatched shoes I found something unspeakably beautiful. From the bottom of the pile, a flash of red caught my eye. It couldn't be. I told myself, "Karen, you are in Southern Maryland. This ain't what you think it might be. No way. No how." Carefully, I plucked the red sole from the bottom of the pile.  A Christian Louboutin espadrille, size 8. Doubtful of its authenticity, I scavenged the mountain of shoes to find it's mate. Even better, the mate still had the Nieman Marcus price label on the sole. Original price read $448.00, knocked down to $298.00 on sale and then $200.00 on clearance. This sealed my authenticity-doubt. I was holding in my hand the creme da la creme of shoes.

Actual view from the acquistion

Momentary freak out.

They. Are. Real.

I rushed to the man sitting on a bucket, who looked to be manning the shoe mountain and asked him, "How much?" He replied with something along the lines of, "You know Rihanna and them movie stars be wearing them type of shoes." My heart sank. I assumed he would suggest I give him full value; he knew what he was selling. 

"$25.00 for you." 


This was a high unlike any other. Ladies and gents, if you know shoes, you get me here. I raced away. Literally, these shoes elicited both a physical and emotional response. My heart raced as I pulled out my phone to call my Mom (fellow shoe lover!) and share this breath-taking find. I felt a sense of energy that lasted for what seemed like hours; even sitting down to write this post brings it back to me today. This was absolutely the BEST find. The condition, the fit, the price: perfection. Any and every woman who has an interest in fashion, knows and desires anything Louboutin. 

I often discredit my area for its lack of designer labels in the second-hand arena. This was a sobering day for me; true gems can be found anywhere, even in my own rural bubble (aka the county).