Archive | February, 2014

#BetterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars

20 Feb #BetterGoodThings- Colorful Veggie Bars

This month for Better Good Things (on the Third Thursday… because Evin loves alliteration!) Evin, the mama in charge at Food Good Laundry Bad, and I decided to tackle a recipe that makes its rounds pretty frequently on Pinterest and holds a place near and dear to my heart.  Sometimes it’s called “veggie pizza”… sometimes “veggie bars”… but it always shares some commonalities- ranch dressing, mayo, and icky supermarket crescent rolls.

When I was little, my mom used to make this as one of her go-to potluck appetizer recipes.  It was oh-so yummy and stands as a fabulous nostalgia food for me but- despite the veggie variety on top (my mama used to do stripes of diced carrot, cauliflower, on broccoli)- it’s been a no-no in our house given the traditionally super-processed base ingredients.  Which means this one was destined for a makeover…

At first glance, it probably seems like the first thing to go should be the canister of crescent roll dough- I know that is the first thing Evin axed on her end- and that was my plan as well (because homemade crescent roll dough does sound like a fun baking adventure) until I happened on a serendipitous discovery… my favorite “cheat” brand of ready to bake goods –Immaculate Baking– makes crescent roll dough.  The best part is that a roll of Immaculate crescent roll dough is only $4.95 at Whole Foods making it $0.05 less than the $5 cap for specialty ingredients that Evin and I set for Better Good Things.  The grocery gods are smiling upon me!

#BEtterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at

For the most part, the rolls of crescent roll dough you purchase at the supermarket contain soy (tons and TONS of soy), red 40 (which has suspected links to cancer, ADHD, and allergies/irritants), and tertiary butylhydroquinone- a form of butane used as a preservative with links to tinnitus, asthma, ADHD, nausea, stomach cancers, and interruption to estrogen levels in women.  No biggie, right?  My lovely friends at Immaculate Baking leave out all of those nasties!  And just to be clear, they’re not really my friends… they just make a great product that is a better choice for my family.  Which makes them feel like family!  Full disclosure… this product does contain canola oil which is not my favorite choice, but here and there I excuse it in the name of brief and infrequent convenience.  And because I had a stomach virus last week which morphed into a cold this week and I just can’t imagine having to work through the rise and rest periods for yeast dough at this moment!

But if you’re standing firm on no canola oil (because you probably should), check out Evin’s Real Food Veggie Pizza that totally boycotts dough-in-can…

#BetterGoodThings- Real Food Veggie Pizza

Regardless of your crust choice, jump on board with me for my ranch dressing better choice-  In place of the usual ranch dressing topping (soybean oil, phosphoric acid- lowers bone density, calcium disodium EDTA- can cause kidney damage…) I opted for a kale pesto-esque spread made with cream cheese.  Want to keep it vegan?  Forgo the cheese; up the kale content; and add some olive oil, nuts, nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt!

#BEtterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at

(Note: This images show a half portion of the recipe I below)

Instead of doing my mama’s standard veggie stripes so beloved from my childhood, I tossed the veggies together so that no one has to miss out on any goodness.  The purple cauliflower?  A total essential in our house!  Not only does it look simply gorgeous, but it is also a surefire way to get my little girly girl to down veggies on even the pickiest toddler days!  (Need a go to girly snack? Pink hummus dyed with beet juice served with purple cauliflower for the win!)

#BEtterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at

If you’re like me and have a fridge stuffed with veggie leftovers that constantly need using, having a roll of family friendly crescent roll dough on hand could help you create and easy meal out of those leftovers by customizing the toppings.  Even better- it’s one of those meals that feels like an art project for little hands which can be a huge lifesaver on fridge cleanup day.

Sometimes playing with your food is such a good decision!

#BetterGoodThings- Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at

Colorful Veggie Bars

(In the pictures above, I reduced my recipe by half to make a manageable size for just us three… the recipe I’ve included here will make an entire jelly roll pan worth which is perfect for take along snacks for your next playdate or extended family game night… or just a bigger family in general!)


  • 2 rolls of Immaculate Baking crescent rolls
  • 8 oz organic cream cheese
  • 6 oz parmesan cheese
  • about a half a bunch of kale, ribs removed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 tbs plain kefir
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup purple cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/2 cup broccoli slaw
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Roll the crescent roll dough out to cover the pan and press seams together.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven to cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the kale and garlic together they form a paste.   Add cream cheese, parmesan, and kefir and pulse to an even, spreadable consistency.  Spread kale mixture on the cooled crescent roll base.

Finely dice the cauliflower, tomatoes, and bell pepper.  Toss with the broccoli slaw and sprinkle evenly across the kale spread, pressing lightly into the spread to keep in place.

Slice with a pizza slicer and serve immediately. Or store in refrigerator in layers separated by parchment.

#FirstontheFirst: Steamed Pork Buns

1 Feb #firstonthefirst Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

Unbelievably, it’s First on the First time yet again!  This month I was super-dee-duper excited about our cooking task because it allowed me to indulge in a little chefcentric excitement.  There are a few people’s cuisine that I get really excited about.  If you know me personally you might say this is an overwhelming understatement.  There are a few people’s cuisine that I get totally jazzed about and can carry on about for hours.  Literally hours.

At least it’s a short list.  And a respectable one at that:

  1. Rick Bayless- Given his theory on food and sustainability, this one should come as no surprise.  Full disclosure- I have a foodie crush on him.  Further important detail, I once stayed up super late making custom “Bayless Babies” onesies for Baby Bird and her infant friends complete with labels like “sustainable eater” and “locally grown” so we could dress our nuggets full on baby groupie style to watch his demo at the Green Market.  And RICK BAYLESS TWEETED A PICTURE OF THEM!  That’s right, Rick Bayless tweeted a photo a Baby Bird.  (Okay, when I read that it seems like a weird thing to be excited about.  That’s that strangest one, I promise!)

    Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

    But seriously, what celebrity chef WOULDN’T tweet this photo!?!

  2. Gordon Ramsey- The American television persona has no effect on me.  I don’t watch TV anyway.  Ramsey is responsible for the single best dining experience of my life at Maze in Prague.  We were fortunate enough to do the tasting menu.  I was unfortunate enough to do the wine pairings.  I cannot recall the very minutia of this meal, which irks me because I can normally remember every nuance of the meals I consider the best I’ve ever had.  Even with that, it was still undeniably the best meal I’ve ever eaten.  There was some sort of corn bisque… and a tiny muffin… and savory jam… and then it fades into foie gras course… Ommmmmm.  Nirvana.  I’m satisfied with this one remaining a blissfully euphoric haze and great wine and stellar food.

    Steamed Buns- Go Running, Mama!

    On our rooftop in Prague before heading out to dinner at Maze. And before the wine pairings.

  3. Eric Ripert- Ripert uses a holistic approach to food and cooking and truly believes it is a spiritual experience.  Like Bayless, he shares anecdotes and and expiences that prove food connects us.  How can you not be drawn to that.  Especially with that accent… and those eyes… (Okay, this one is getting weird too).  Plus, he provides the perfect counter balance to all the things I love about the dredge that is Anthony Bourdain.
  4. David Chang- And we’ve reached the enigma.  Chang majored in religion, taught English in Japan, and made a major career shift based on his love for the humble ramen noodle.  He is fully invested in food cultures and puts out a pretty sweet publication- Lucky Peach- with is my go-to in-flight reading (which is basically the only time I manage periodical reading).  And he does irreverent things with food sometimes.  And it’s awesome.

With that said, this post could have simply started with me highlighting my my interest in David Chang’s food but then I would have had no reason to share a pic of Baby Bird with Rick Bayless or The Hubs dressed like Heisenberg.

Back to those steamed buns…

When The Hubs and I were in NYC on a little business trip several months ago, we of course spent our first meal at the temple of Chang.  For steamed buns!  And after our meal we of course ran back to the apartment we were renting because The Hubs was on a streak… and our flight had gotten in late… and if we didn’t run back- with me in a dress- he wouldn’t have gotten his run in for the day and the streak would be over (Runners…shesh!).  While I do not recommend going for a run afterwards, I do wholeheartedly recommend experiencing David Chang’s steamed bun with pork belly.

So this, of course, is what I knew I just had to attempt to make for this challenge.

Luckily for me, Chang did a video tutorial with Martha Stewart on his humble, iconic pork bun!  Ummm, hello!? Martha and Chang in the same frame?  Someone come revive me, please!

Normally when we do these challenges, I get creative and push things.  I strike out with my own recipe.  I did not do that here.  I’m not going to make David Chang’s signature dish better in some way, so I’m not even going to pretend.  I basically used the recipe Chang provided for Martha Stewart.

I did make a few changes to adjust for portion, ease of preparation in a house governed by a toddler schedule (not really… but sort of), and because I made a measuring error.

I didn’t want enough pork belly for 30 servings because in a house of 2.5 full sized humans I knew 30 servings of pork belly would mean pork belly for lunch everyday for the week (which would have scale shattering, artery clogging consequences by week end).  I didn’t want to make the pork early to have the rendered fat on hand to make the buns only to have to bother with reheating the pork to serve for dinner… so I rendered bacon fat for my buns.  Oh, and I added a quarter cup too much flour because… Ooops!… so I had to counter the mistake with a tad more liquid.

But guess what y’all?  These are flipping delicious!

But remember, DO NOT go running right after you eat them.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

#firstonthefirst Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

Steamed Buns with Pork Belly

Steamed Bun Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbs warm water (100-110 degrees F)
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
  • 4 cups bread flour
  •  1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Pork Belly Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 sup coarse kosher salt
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless pork belly

For serving:

  • hoisin sauce (if you want to keep it soy-free, find a soy free sauce)
  • thinly sliced cucumbers
  • green onions

Directions:  To dry brine the pork, mix together the salt and sugar and rub into the pork in a shallow dish.  Cover and refrigerate for about 5 hours.

Cook the bacon slices in a pan to render the fat.  Once cook, remove bacon and reserve for other uses and pour fat through a mesh sieve into a small glass container to use in buns.

In a glass measuring cup, mix together yeast, water, and bacon fat until yeast is dissolved. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together both flours, salt, and sugar until well combined. Add yeast mixture and mix until dough comes together. Once it comes together, knead for 8 minutes.

Coat a large bowl with olive oil; add dough and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

To begin cooking the pork, preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Rinse brined pork to remove salt mixture and pat dry; transfer to a roasting pan on a sheet or parchment. Roast pork until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, cut out 30 square pieces of parchment paper (about 4×4).

Return to the dough and punch down. Roll dough into a log about 30 inches long. Cut dough into 30 golf ball-sized pieces. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; let rise 40 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, press dough flat and, using a rolling pin, roll dough toward you into a 6-by-3-inch oval. Repeat process with remaining dough. Brush each piece of dough lightly with olive oil and fold in half. Place each piece of dough on an individual piece of parchment paper. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise slightly.

Once the pork has cooked for 2 1/2 hours at 300, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Continue roasting pork until fat is golden, about 10 minutes more.   Slice pork across the grain and return to baking dish with its juices.

Set a large bamboo steamer in a large skillet with water about 1/2 inch up the sides of the steamer basket; bring to a boil. Working with 5 buns at a time, place buns on their parchment paper in the steamer basket; cover and steam over high heat until puffed and cooked though, about 10 minutes.

Brush hoisin sauce on the bottom half of each bun. Top with pork, cucumbers, and green onions. Serve immediately.

#firstonthefirst Steamed Buns

Looking for another steamed buns recipe?  Check these out:

Loriana’s Inspiration Miles… And A Call For A Marrow Match!

1 Feb I'll Be Your Strong- Loriana's WIn

My friend Loriana Hernandez began an aggressive dual chemotherapy protocol yesterday that will last 72 solid hours.  Being the warrior that she is, she immediately set a goal to walk the halls of her floor at John Hopkins 26 times each day.  0.04 miles in each lap.  26 laps in a mile.  I know that mile is 100 times more difficult than any distance race I’ve ever run- without question.

Inspiration miles... And A Call For Marrow Donor!

Think running a marathon is tough?  Walking a mile through the hospital ward while toting the machine that is obliterating your immune system is more extreme than any ultra marathon on my bucket list.  Yet Loriana remains dedicated to seeing this goal through, and in the past two days she has fallen only 6 combined laps behind her mile a day goal.

Just .25 miles short.

I think we can make up the deficit for her!

On my running plan this weekend is just six little miles, but I told Loriana that each mile would be filled with positive and intentional thoughts for her victory:

  • Mile One is for HOPE
  • Mile Two is for STRENGTH
  • Mile Three is for RESILIENCE
  • Mile Four is for PATIENCE
  • Mile Five is for TENACITY
  • Mile Six is for ENDURANCE
  • + another .25 miles for good measure

As you strike out on you weekend long run, keep Loriana in mind.  Donate a mile (or six) of your mental miles during your run to intentional throughs for her victory and healing.  Run an extra quarter mile to help her close the goal in her gap.  Or heck, log a PR with her in your heart…. and then take a moment to let her know via social media (see below) that we’ve got her covered.

We have the great privilege of being the running legs for a true warrior right now; don’t take a footfall of your run for granted!

How can you help Loriana’s battle?