Imagine walking into a dimly lit studio-like space with live music, a young crowd, floor to ceiling exposed brick, modern artwork on the walls, neon lights on the shelves illuminating the bottles on display, and aesthetically appealing entrées and appetizers covering all table tops. If you are picturing this setting in New York City or Los Angeles, the scene doesn’t seem so far fetched. There are probably hundreds of bars and restaurants that fit this description within major cities, but here in Harrisonburg, Clementine is the only one. Despite the misleading décor and atmosphere of this self proclaimed food, music, and art café, it only takes one glance at the menu or a quick chat with the chef to realize that this place is far from pretentious.
Fortunately, I had the chance to have such a chat with the head chef, Jeff Minnich, After just a few short words, it became clear that the unique and untraditional path he took to get where he is today has had a tremendous impact on shaping Clementine’s entire culture.
“I’ve been a chef for 25 years. I didn’t go to school for it,” he begins as he prepares another slice of chicken breast. This process requires him to cover each piece with bread crumbs, dip it in a milky salmon-colored sauce, and cover both sides thoroughly again with the flour before neatly laying each slab one by one on the pan. As I stand across the stainless steel counter top watching him methodically preparing each piece of chicken, I cannot help but feel surprised that my entire interview was taking place in this kitchen instead of in the main office or an open table within the restaurant. However, as Jeff continues to fill in the details of his journey to become the head chef at Clementine, the venue for this interview soon makes perfect sense.
“I took my first chef job at a Holiday Inn…working as a waiter and sauté cook. After six months of that I decided to try my hand at working at a real restaurant and felt like I shouldn’t limit myself. So I did that, I went and took jobs that I was unqualified for and just got fired a whole bunch of times.” Aside from how candidly he spoke of being previously unqualified and the temporary nature of his past jobs, I was most shocked with Jeff’s cooking background. The fact is that he learned by experience, not by attending a prestigious culinary institute. He tried his hand at a new job, got fired, but not without learning a thing or two. He would find another job, get fired, and pick up a few more valuable tips. This went on for some time until as he so casually put it, “he would stop getting fired so often.”
As I mentioned before, the atmosphere of Clementine wouldn’t be a rarity to come across in a popular city because it exudes a modern hip-urban feel while serving flavorful food that compliments the color-splashed walls. So it was no surprise that Jeff had spent a great portion of his career working in Washington D.C. (15 years) learning how to cook with people who had considerably more culinary experience; his time as a chef in D.C. easily translates in the creativity and spunk he puts into his dishes.
“I could never afford to go to culinary school. It took me a bit longer to learn than those that took schooling, but I think I learned it really well. I picked up my own tricks of the trade.”
After learning more and more about his past in the cooking world, I realized that it is not crazy to call Clementine one of the most unpretentious restaurants in town. The combination of affordable prices for exquisitely appetizing dishes and the down-to-earth nature of the man behind the magic allow for a natural dining experience that does not pretend to be too upscale for Harrisonburg’s young adult constituency. Even the artwork on the walls, which would seem right at home in any chic art gallery, is the product of young, local talent looking for exposure; some of the paintings are even the work of a JMU professor who likes to paint in his spare time. Perhaps, the greatest contributing factor to this atmosphere is Jeff’s pure enthusiasm for the craft he so dearly admires and loves, and it becomes increasingly tangible with each chicken breast he breads.
My meeting with Jeff lasted no more than ten minutes, partially because I didn’t want to disturb his preparation process and partially because his explanations and insight were so elaborate that it didn’t take too long to get a detailed description out of him. He made it clear that at virtually any given moment from when he arrives at the restaurant, you will find him prepping in the kitchen above all other tasks. For him that includes, coming in and talking to the cooks to get them up to speed, unloading the trucks each morning, creating a prep list for himself, washing pans and dishes, and finishing his day by going into the walk-in fridge to make a list of ingredients he may need for the next day. Of course, this itinerary would not be complete if it did not include his daily ride back home on the motorcycle that you can be sure to find on any sunny day behind the establishment.
Jeff’s true creative colors came out when I asked him what his least favorite dish is to make: hamburgers. “I’ve made about 8 million hamburgers. We serve so many, I wish we could focus more on cooler foods and be able to explore a bit more,” he jokingly comments as his eyes lift up to meet mine for a quick glance before submerging the next piece of chicken breast in the bread bowl. He would much rather spend his time on dishes that he calls delicious and exciting, like his salmon on mung bean succotash or smoked pork lo mien, “Not many people do that,” he explains.
Jackie Feldstein, a server and hostess at Clementine describes Jeff as being fully capable of constantly creating new, interesting dishes with inventive flavor combinations, “but at times may have the pressure to keep food costs low and to make menu items that appeal to a large audience who at times are grossed out by exotic foods such as wasabi mousse, micro greens, and steak Carpaccio.”
She also goes on to describe Jeff as being an awesome personal overall. “He gets stressed at work like everyone else, but is always cracking jokes and filling the kitchen with his contagious laughter. His passion for what he does shows through every dinner special and new menu item he creates.”
Being a huge hamburger lover myself, I found it interesting to hear a chef’s perspective on preparing a dish that I as a customer, am more than happy to eat during most nights out. After speaking with Jeff and Jackie, I ventured off to a table where a young couple was enjoying a quick lunch upstairs by the bar and asked them what their favorite dishes were.
Matthew Salvatore responds, “This may seem a bit basic, but the fried chicken breast here is to die for.” I couldn’t help but grin, as I realized that the man behind the fried chicken breast was breading the chicken as we spoke.
post by Julie Himmel
For my last post of the semester, I thought I’d talk about a book that indirectly changed my life. It’s not your typical diet book that prohibits carbs, fats, sugars, and just about everything else we love to indulge in, but rather a “no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!”- Skinny Bitch.
The main gist of the advice is a sentiment I completely understand and support: eat natural, whole plant-based foods, while giving up chemical-laden processed and refined foods. East food that looks like food, not something that looks like it came from a plastic factory, and always read labels.
The advice within focuses on healthy vegan eating and smart decisions rather than actual weight loss… and this is what turned on my attention. This might come as a major disappointment to someone who picks up the book hoping to learn the weight-less secrets of models, but it makes the book more appealing to every-day people like you and me!
I heard about this book a couple years back from a couple friends who swore they lived by it, but from the title alone, it seemed a bit overbearing and pretentious (and as you know, we’re not all about that). I had forgotten about Skinny Bitch up until this last summer when I was browsing my local library at home for an interesting summer read, and it caught my eye!
This book is written by Rory Freedman, a former agent for Ford Models, and Kim Barnouin, a former model who holds a Masters of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition. They both have successfully counseled models, actors, athletes, and other professionals using the Skinny Bitch method.
I am not one to cut out all things enjoyable in my life, no matter how great the caloric intake. However, I have always believed that the saying, “you are what you eat” holds true, as silly as it may sound. As an American, I am aware that a large part of our society’s mentality revolves around being fast, being the best, eating a lot, and lets face it, as a result we have one of the highest obesity rates in the world! I believe, if people started caring about what went into their body a bit more, without the expense of a pretentious diet, obesity wouldn’t anywhere close to where it is today.
I’ve always taken an interest in what I chose to put in my body, and make conscience decisions when it comes to skin care products I’m using on my skin and hair, liquids I consume that my body is not only digesting, but being absorbed into my pours, and the nutrients my body receives.
I’ve tried the South Beach diet, I’ve tried to cut out carbs completely, and at one point, I even tried going to the other side, the no meat side-vegetarianism (which only lasted two weeks before I broke my meat fast aboard the Carnival Cruise with a hot dog. Oh well, I tried.) But here, authors Rory and Kim use their sense of light humor, and prior knowledge to make the reader stop and really think about what they are putting into their bodies with every meal they consume.
Here are a couple memorable quotes I pulled from SB:
So, if you are on a budget and want to still make healthy decisions, a good start would be to pick up a copy of Skinny Bitch. They provide us with a handy list of the natural and organic products that don’t use preservatives!
Post by: Julie Himmel
For my last post, I had to be true to my heart and write about my most sincere love: pizza. I’ll eat it on a train, I’ll eat it on a plane! Don’t care where or what time, as long as it’s round with cheese!
Me and my friend Kacy in Caserta, Italy summer 2011
The modern pizza was born in Naples and the classic margherita pizza was made in 1889 for Queen Margherita, the red tomatoes, white cheese and green basil an homage to the Italian flag. Even though pizza began as cuisine for the royals, today it serves itself up to all people, especially to college students at 2 a.m.
I’ve always had a taste for those savory pies. I can remember when I was about 5, I’d visit my father and we would always make homemade pizza.
Even though I have a fondness for the classic, I’m not just a strictly tomato and cheese kind of woman. Food should be fun! Be courageous and take your taste buds on an adventure. My mother has terrible food allergies, and regretfully she is allergic to tomatoes, one of the staple ingredients of the perfect pie.
But who said pizza must be sauced with tomatoes?
Her allergies turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we are always trying new pizzas, white pizza, pesto pizza, you name it! One of our favorite restaurants to go to in Leesburg is Fireworks, the best wood-fired pizza I’ve ever had. What’s unique about the wood-fire is the crust’s distinct taste. The wood-oven creates a crisp, smokey flavor, that provides the perfect arena for the pizza’s ingredients to shine. I don’t think I could choose a favorite pizza though (I’ve had them all and they are all delicious) but my top two favorites are the Sicilian and the French Connection.
When I studied abroad in Italy this summer, I pretty much lived off of pizza and pasta (but I’m not complaining!). My favorite spot was Spaccanapoli. It was one of our regular spots, and I can remember the last night 20 something of us piling into the pizza parlor for one last pie. In Italy pizza is not by the slice though, everyone gets a pie all to themselves (yes, there is a God). Also, the crust is much thinner than American pizza, making fork and knives handy for the messy masterpiece.
In Harrisonburg, my palette is a bit less refined and I will basically inhale any pizza put in front of my face. But my favorite pie shop has to be Chanellos in downtown Harrisonburg. It’s my top pick for a late night pie. I actually enjoyed one last night with one other friend, and we finished the whole thing with ease
Slices of heaven I tell you. He had to tell me to wait until we got back home to devour a slice.
I had a little self control (I only had two bites then closed the box back up) and we finally feasted upon our arrival home. I love Chanellos pizza best right out the oven. The cheese melts in your mouth, and the fluffy crust is best dipped in Chanellos magic sauce (I don’t know what they put in it but it’s addictive).
I do not discriminate towards warm pizza though, I am a big proponent of cold pizza for breakfast.
I also have my own spin-on-pizza recipe. I love to make pizza bagels! My best friend’s Tara and Ashley and I have perfected the art of the pizza bagel. All you need is:
The name of the recipe is pretty self explanatory. Top your bagel with your marinara and sprinkle on as little or as much cheese as you’d like. I go heavy on the mozzarella and light on the Parmesan. A sprinkle of oregano on top, place your creation in a 400 degree oven and cook for about 10-12 minutes.
I haven’t come across a person yet that doesn’t like pizza. I think they like pizza as much as I do too.
Power to the pizza!
Collin in the kitchen! (Photo NOT taken by me).
I’ve known Collin Wagner for years, as we attended middle and high school together. Instead of going off to college like most of his peers, he decided to do something a bit different: become a full fledged professional cook. Cooking has taken 21-year-old Wagner from Richmond to Spain to New York to Denmark to France. (Yeah, you should reread that sentence.) Did I mention he’s twenty-one?
Collin’s currently living in Blacksburg and working at a wine shop, so I e-mailed him some questions about his ridiculously awesome/hectic life. Here’s what he had to say:
The Unpretentious Foodie: Okay, so most people don’t decide to become professional chefs after high school. What made you choose this route?
Collin Wagner: It was the realization that I wouldn’t be happy or content [unless] I were doing a career that pushed [me] and made me excited. Cooking, food, and the act of making people happy through food is my passion.
UF: How did you learn to cook?
CW: Repetition in the kitchen. I got my first job in a restaurant mere weeks after receiving my driver’s license, at the Can Can Brasserie in [Richmond]. Junior and senior years I was taking Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts at the Chesterfield Technical Center.
UF: What did you have to do to get where you are right now?
CW: Hard work and persistence with going and doing the things I wanted to do, I think, got me into many of the positions that I found.
UF: What kind of cuisine do you cook? Why?
CW: I cook hyper seasonally and with the best ingredients that I can get my hands on. I cook with a lot of different influences… I am so often inspired by the weather and place that I am; i.e., I’m not going to cook southern food in south of France… I like incorporating whimsy, traditions, and cultures often into my food, also. It’s more than just flavor pairings.
UF: Where have you worked?
CW: Started at the Can Can Brasserie in Carytown for a year’s time, then moved onto Acacia where I worked for a bit over a year. Then traveled to Mallorca, Spain, where I cooked for a bit over two months… Then I began working at Secco Wine Bar in Carytown, and a bit after two months was promoted to Sous Chef. [I then went to] Copenhagen [and worked] at Noma, the restaurant ranked number one in the world, where I was a stagiair (intern) for 2 and a half months. Then I traveled to NYC with a friend who I met in Copenhagen, where I cooked for 3 weeks at a pop-up restaurant. Shortly after, I traveled to Southern France in Provence where I cooked for three months at a restaurant called L’Auberge du Vieux Chateau. I worked a harvest at a small family sustainable vineyard after finishing there. I returned home in October with a few euros to my name and moved to Blacksburg where I am currently working at a wine shop. In February Tim Bereika from Secco and I did a pop-up restaurant called “Meddle”, that was at The Roosevelt in Churchill [in Richmond]. We served 45 guests per night for two nights, and it sold out. Then in late March I cooked in DC with said friend from Copenhagen again, this time at his own venture pop-up called Suna for one week’s time. Now I am here.
UF: What are your goals for the future?
CW: I really, really want to cook in the White House. Other than that, travel and cook in East Asia. Enjoy my work. Feed people who are worrying over what they have to eat next.
UF: What’s your favorite part about cooking?
CW: I love the food. I love the work it takes to put a good meal on a table. I love the smile that good food brings to a person’s face. The emotion of wonder, [the] pure joy of content.
UF: What’s your favorite ingredient to work with right now? Why?
CW: Right now… perhaps pine/spruce… It’s one that most people don’t think about. But it is so abundant, [and it] provides this fresh, aromatic, citrus, clean taste and smell. Quite lovely.
UF: If you could go to one place in the world, just for the food, where would it be and why?
CW: Likely Vietnam or Brittany, France. Vietnamese is a cuisine that is so layered with flavors, all of them, acidity, freshness, umami, sweet, sour, hot. A bowl of Pho cannot be beaten in this world… And Brittany… The stories of seafood that I have gotten word [of] from there make my mouth water. One day!
Post By: Emilie von Unwerth
What could be more unpretentious than walking through the food court at the mall purposely trying to find that one asian man with the free free teriyaki chicken samples on a stick? Going to a restaurant specifically for the free PRE-meal appetizers.
This Thursday, I found myself wanting to go out and get something to eat. But, I just wasn’t quite hungry enough to sit down and commit to a full meal (and pay). Luckily for me, there are more options here in town than just the one option (teriyaki chicken on a stick) in the mall for a pre-meal delight. On this particular Thursday, a couple friends and I decided to try out the new restaurant downtown on Water Street, called The Corner. As we walk in, the appearance is completely underwhelming, limited seating, a condensed lay out and had the feeling of a sports bar meets a by-the-slice pizza parlor.
After being seated and scoping out the menu, the waiter greets us with our first basket of complimentary popcorn (lightly buttered). That’s right, not the typical bread and butter, but popcorn. 15 minutes, and three baskets of popcorn later, I had instant regrets of ordering any food thereafter. It was at this moment that it occurred to me all of the times I had similar feelings to this while out and waiting for my dinner at other various restaurants. If this isn’t the most unpretentious post you’ve ever read, I don’t know what is.
Want some popcorn? Maybe some chips? Perhaps some tatter tots. In the mood for some protein-packed peanuts? Well here, I will list where you can get these foods “on the house.”:
Feeling a little crazy? Want to spice things up a little bit? Well you can. Head down to Dona Rosa Bistro on Market St. There, you’ll enjoy some authentic tortilla chips AND dip before even looking at the menu.
Want something a bit more traditional and feeling patriotic? Across the boarder to Texas Roadhouse, you can indulge in some of the best buttered pre dinner bread rolls that your unpretentious lips will ever touch.
Visiting Richmond for the weekend? Spend all of your money on gas driving there? No worries. I have just the place for you. Try Sticky Rice, a sushi restaurant that oddly enough serves great tatter tots as the pre-meal indulgence. Don’t worry Sticky Rice will pick up the tab.
And last, for you health conscious folks, head over to Longhorn for a glass of tap and some peanuts. At that point, you wont even spend a dime!
This is just a pre-dinner appetizer, if you will, of the places you can go. The days of our mothers telling us when we are out for family dinners to make sure not to “fill up on bread before your meal” are over. I encourage you to take advantage of this exercise in frugality and fill up on some of your favorite snacks, with the excitement of a night out, but the price of staying in!
Post by: Julie Himmel
I love coming across everyday people who are passionate about food.
My friend, JMU senior Leslie Vancheri, is a self-proclaimed chef. I am more than willing to support this statement seeing as every culinary creation she feeds me is absolutely delicious without fail.
We instantly bonded when we met this summer in Italy, gushing over all the incredible food that was served to us. From there a beautiful friendship blossomed, full of laughs and warm meals. I spoke with Leslie recently about her humble love of food and learned some juicy bits of information about her cooking past, present, and future.
Leslie and her mother in Paris, France Summer 2011
When did you start seriously cooking? When I was 15. My mother had always made a point to have a home cooked meal on the table almost every night. When she went back to school for her masters in acupuncture, I felt the need to take over her role and make family dinners because she often wouldn’t get home until 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening.
What kind of food do you like to make? Favorite? Literally everything- Italian, American, French, Asian, Mexican. Why? Because they’re all delicious. I would like to get into Indian cooking…
Who in your life has influenced your cooking the most? My parents. For as long as I can remember they have always been major foodies and I have fond memories of both collaborating in the kitchen for Sunday dinners.
What is your favorite ingredient? / seasoning? I don’t think I could ever pick one favorite ingredient but I could not live without lemons, garlic, lamb, artichokes and asparagus. My favorite seasoning is probably pepper- black pepper, white pepper, chili peppers etc.
What is your favorite music to play in the kitchen? Acid rock, Jazz, Reggae, Elvis, Motown- whatever I’m feeling in the mood for.
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat? Canned tuna, yuck.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Harrisonburg? Hmm honestly I’m not really sure. I like a lot of them. Recently I tried the fried calamari from Capital Ale House- DELICIOUS.
Who did you learn from? Did you teach yourself? I’d say I learned the basics from my mom and through simply observing her, but as I got more and more into cooking my skills and knowledge came from reading (magazines, cook books, etc), experimenting and spending hours salivating in front of the TV watching food network or Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation. I also love going to restaurants and trying to recreate my favorite dishes at home.
Can you tell me a little bit about your food journal…when did you start it? Are they all your recipes? Or are they a collection of found and invented? When I moved into my apartment sophomore year I found I was experimenting exponentially- creating my own recipes, and tweaking my mom’s or grandmother’s. At first I wouldn’t write any of them down but then I started to. Now typing up recipes and creating this journal has been a great creative outlet for me. I use magazine clippings if I see recipes I’d like to try, others I write myself and others come from old cookbooks and recipes my mom used to make.
Above is a few of Leslie’s pages from her culinary journal. It’s the perfect way to combine her two loves, art and food, into a feast for the eyes.
How often do you cook? Everyday.
Do you cook just for yourself? Roommates? Friends? Normally it’s just for me, on a day-to-day basis, but I get so much more joy when I cook for my family and friends. I love to watch people eat my food. When I am home at my parent’s house, I’d say I cook 95 percent of the meals.
Have you ever worked in a restaurant? What are your future culinary aspirations? Or is cooking just a hobby? I have never worked in a restaurant but I have thought about it. For now this is definitely an extremely passionate hobby. Sometimes I imagine having my own specialty shop or something along those lines, but who knows what the future holds!
Here is one of Leslie’s favorite recipes to cook:
Muscles with Tomatoes and White Wine
In a pot over medium high heat, add about a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add the tomatoes and mash with a fork until they begin to break down. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and allow the alcohol to cook off, about 2-3 minutes. Add the muscles and put on the lid. Allow muscles to steam open, should take about 5 minutes or so. Once all the muscles are opened, place in a large serving bowl and top with the fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon. Buon Appetito!
If muscles do not open when cooked, throw them out as they have gone bad. Don’t let the broth go to waste! Serve crusty bread on the side to soak up those delicious juices.
Maybe Leslie’s courageous adventures with food will inspire you to bring out the inner chef in you! Or at least find a friend who can cook as well as she can.
Nutella is one of my favorite things. Hazelnuts + chocolate = one happy Emilie. USUALLY, I just buy a baguette and slather it with this heavenly chocolate-hazelnut mixture, but as of late, I’ve had the urge to bake with it. Hence why I decided to scour the Internet in search for the perfect Nutella cookie recipe.
Although my hunt is far from over, my first shot at mixing two of my favorite things proved successful. Yeah, that’s right, I made delicious peanut butter and Nutella cookies. Well, sort of. You make a peanut butter cookie dough and then you press it into a muffin tin. Sooo, I guess I made delicious peanut butter Nutella cookie muffins? I don’t know what to call them, and I don’t care, because they’re scrumptious. And that’s all I care about.
The cookies turned out really well, although they’re a little dry. Luckily, a lake of Nutella dwells inside them, so the dryness isn’t really that big of an issue. Also, they look (and taste) intense. Trust me, one is definitely enough to satisfy your chocolate and peanut butter craving for the day!
Another thing I like about these cookies is that they’re really fun to make! With help from my friends Jaqie and Tess, I conquered the recipe and finally began my search for the perfect Nutella baked good!
One of the best ways to enjoy delicious, simple food is by eating what is in season. It’s refreshing and in it’s prime. I did a little bit of research and found an in-season food that I personally love.
When I think avocado, I think of guacamole (and then I have to wipe the drool off of my chin). Guacamole is a staple of Mexican cuisine, and man, do they do it right; it has to be one of my favorite ethnic foods (right next to Italian of course). My mother thinks I love Mexican food so much because she ate copious amounts during her pregnancy with me.
When you’re shopping for this delectable ingredient, look for darker color (if it’s green it is not ripe enough) but plump, not shriveled. Grab the fruit and lightly press it with your fingertips, if it’s a little squishy then you’ve met your perfect match. Too much squish can be an overripe avocado. If the avocado is firm then it is not ripe enough. Practice really makes perfect with this.
^^^here’s more detail on how to pick out that perfect avocado.
My best friend Tara, another unpretentious foodie like myself, shared this easy guacamole recipe with me about three years ago. You know how they say less is more? This recipe is a top-notch example of the phrase.
This guacamole takes about 10 minutes to make (if that) and only has 5 ingredients!
First, open the avocados. Their strange turtle-like shells may look intimidating, but looks can be deceiving. They’re really just big ol’ softies.
Take a knife (I normally use a sharper kitchen knife but a regular dinner knife will cut the shell as well) and cut around it vertically, using the pit as your guide.
Helpful trick of the trade: Hit the pit with your knife and turn and the pit will pop out effortlessly.
Spoon out the insides and mush up your avocado. Circling your spoon around the edge of the shell will make removal quick and easy. I use a spatula to do my mashing, but a spoon will suffice as well. I don’t pulverize the avocados into baby food though, I like to leave it pretty chunky because I enjoy those hearty bites, and I give some leeway for mixing in the other ingredients.
Next chop up your red onion. I normally use about half of one, but I play it by ear and see how the balance looks when I throw it in with the avocados. I do a diced chop, or my debauchered attempt at such.
For the cilantro I normally just rip up the leaves, chopping can help if you like your cilantro pieces to be finer. Sprinkle your green friends into the bowl. Add a generous handful.
BE FOREWARNED: this green goddess has punch, a little goes a long way. And remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take away ingredients.
Then for the juicy lime….
Trick of the trade: Rolling out the lime before you cut it will allow you to receive more juice.
Cut the lime in half, stab a half with your fork a couple of times (this also helps release more juice) and squeeze away right into the bowl. A half is normally plenty for me, but you are in control! Juice to your heart’s content.
Last is the trickiest ingredient in my opinion: salt.
Salt is a make-or-break kind of ingredient. It can add so much life to a dish, but add too much and it tastes like you’re licking a salt mine.
I like to test the guac with a chip before I add the salt to gauge how salty my chips are. The best measurement I can give you is “just a pinch” as my grandmother would say. WHICH IS…scrunch up your palm slightly and pour salt in the middle about the size of a penny.
Mix it all up and enjoy! I usually mix a little every time I add an ingredient, but the mix at the end is crucial to make sure everything is distributed properly.
Back to the seasons…food in season specific to Virginia include spinach and asparagus. I’m not so keen on asparagus (I’m slowly warming up to it) but Popeye is a man after my own heart when it comes to spinach.
Spinach is a health super-food! It contains vitamin A and C and is a great source of iron. I use spinach leaves in my salad instead of romaine. Here are some awesome variations on spinach based salads
If you’re not so keen on salads, spinach is a very flexible ingredient, it’s perfect in omlettes. This one has Parmesan in it (and remember, cheese makes everything better).
Not from VA and headed home for summer? Check out this website to see what foods are in season in your specific location. I love this interactive map!
Hey you awesome unpretentious friends! So, this week, I decided to share a personal, home made video tutorial on how to make the perfect caprese salad. This may come off a bit pretentious, but I mean it as unpretentiously as possible…
Being a huge lover of mozzarella cheese and fresh tomatoes, I have yet to come across a restaurant (In America or in Italy) that didn’t have a caprese salad or sandwich (or both) on their menu. So what makes a dish of usually just cheese and tomato (with the occasional basil leaves included) more expensive than the last? Well, it could be the quality of the cheese or tomato, and it could also have something to do with the restaurant they are served in.
Ever since traveling to Italy, the homeland of all things caprese, I have been on a personal mission to try and figure out the answer to this question. It is pretty hard to go wrong when it comes to cutting up some mozzarella and a few slices of fresh tomato and serving it on a plate.
Which brings me to the point of this video! Completing a perfect Italian dish such as this one, can be done in the comfort of your own home. Not only is it extremely yummy, but it takes you no more than 2 minutes (I mean, really all you’re doing is cutting up the cheese and tomato and displaying the slices in an aesthetically pleasing fan around the rim of your plate).
This beautiful dish is also very nutritious! One serving (4 slices of cheese, 4 slices of tomato) comes out to be about 650 calories. The mozzarella is light, yet still filling when complemented with tomatoes, and the mixture of juicy to cheesy is superb.
As I mentioned in the video, this can also be made into a delicious sandwich. All you need is a french baguette, and some basil leaves to add that extra fresh punch.
All you need to finish of this unpretentiously cheap experience, is a Dean Martin playlist, and before you know it, it’ll feel like you’re sitting in an Italian cafe on the streets of La Roma!
Post By: Julie Himmel
Welcome to The Unpretentious Foodie: Strep Throat Edition!
Numero uno, I would like to say that I haven’t had strep throat since I can remember, and man is it awful. Swallowing hurts, talking hurts, moving sort of hurts. Blah blah blah, like you care about my suffering.
I was going to post a recipe my roommate found for the best chocolate chip cookies ever in the history of the world, but I can’t even go to class, let alone bake cookies. So instead, I’d like to share some foods (along with some killer natural remedies) that’ll help you feel both physically and mentally better when you’re under the weather.
1. Chicken noodle soup. Duh, right? After being diagnosed with the plague this morning, I zoomed over to Martin’s and picked up some of their hot rotisserie chicken noodle soup. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy, plus broth is supposed to be good for you (according to Livestrong, chicken broth contains 14 mg of calcium and 10 mg of potassium).
2. Mashed potatoes. No nutritional value here! But the texture just makes your throat feel about six trillion times better. Also, don’t kill me Julie, but I love boxed mashed potatoes. They’re so thick and flavorful and easy. And cheap! A wonderful mixture for the perfect guilty pleasure. I go with Betty Crocker Sour Cream and Chive Potato Mix (around a buck fifty at Martin’s).
3. I (can’t) scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! I got these bad boys:
Throwback, right!? Well, I love them when I have a sore throat, because one is just the right portion (and a guilt-free 100 calories). Ice cream also serves to soothe your inflamed gorge.
4. Bigelow chamomile mint tea. Ohmygod, it’s soooo good. You can read about all the health benefits of chamomile tea here (hello antibacterial properties!), but we all know how awesome tea is on a sore throat. And the mint in this tea adds that extra chill to help assuage your aching esophagus. I like to add Golden Angels Apiary Wildflower honey to mine. Not only is it locally made, but it’s literally the best honey I’ve ever had (and I do NOT use ‘literally’ lightly). You can pick it up at the Dayton Farmers Market, about 20 minutes down the road from Harrisonburg on 11 (High Street).
5. 100% fruit juice (NOT fruit juice cocktail). I picked up R.W. Knudsen’s Organic Acai Berry juice in the natural/organic section of Martin’s. Yeah, it’s pricey at almost six bucks for 32 oz, but it’s worth it. One glass has about 1/4 of your daily dose of vitamin C, and is packed with anthocyanins and flavonoids (aka powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals). This juice is also sort of thick, causing it to coat your throat. Plus, it tastes amazing.
6. REMEDY: APPLE CIDER VINEGAR GARGLE (!??!). I ran into my buddy Travis today on my way home from the doctor. Upon learning that I had strep throat, he told me to gargle a cocktail of apple cider vinegar and water. Well, I quickly hopped on my Google-machine and searched for the recipe. I found one that’s supposed to work really well. You add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water, and gargle/swallow a tablespoon of the concoction every hour. I’ve only done it twice so far, so I haven’t seen results yet. I’ll let you guys know tomorrow if it works! (Disclaimer: it tastes awful.)
7. SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP SLEEEEEEEEP. I’ve been napping all the live long day. No, it’s not really making my throat feel better, but the way I see it, at least I’m not in excruciating pain while asleep. Also, sleep is just good for you when you’re sick, because it’ll shorten the duration of your illness. And when you’re awake/miserable, I suggest watching documentaries (my personal favorite: National Geographic’s Big Cats documentary series). Yeah, yeah, nerdy, I know. But if you can’t go to class, you might as well gain some knowledge…
I hope y’all benefitted in some way from my illness. Let me know what you do when you’re sick! Happy healing!
Post By: Emilie von Unwerth