worthwhile investment

I never thought i could love a machine quite so much. And worth every bit of that $450 price tag it is!  I make smoothies every morning for breakfast — have for years. But after going through a slew of bar blenders in just the past year, it was time to upgrade. And now I get up every morning excited to take my Rolls Royce of blenders for a spin. Fast, easy, efficient and self-cleaning. That is my favorite part — just fill half way with warm water, add a couple drops of soap and blend for 30 seconds. Done and ready for the next morning when I might indulge in one of my favorite smoothie recipes:

1 cup unsweetened chocolate  almond milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 small avocado
1T almond butter
1-2T ground chia seeds
agave syrup to taste
Ice

Place ingredients in blender jar in the order listed. Turn blender on low and slowly ramp up speed to high. Blend for 30 seconds on high. Pour and enjoy!

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fastest meal in the west

ZoodlesZoodles + Pasta Sauce + Parmesan Cheese = my new favorite and faster than fast dinner. Ready in 5 minutes flat if you’re using ready components. I even buy my zoodles pre-zoodled because I have yet to purchase a zoodler. Thank you Whole Foods. This Scarpetta pasta sauce is among my favorites but you could use any brand you are partial to. Just stir them together in a pot to heat through. Transfer to a bowl, top with real grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy. Eats just like pasta yet oh so healthy and yummy!

Note:  Zucchini will release a lot of liquid making your sauce rather soupy. If you have an extra 30 minutes you could salt your zoodles and squeeze out the extra moisture in a towel before cooking. (But I don’t bother.)

 

i love summer

summer lunch

Tomato Season is here! Nothing beats a really good, ripe heirloom tomato. Here’s a quick five minute lunch that never disappoints:

Summer Salad

1 Heirloom Tomato
1 Ball Fresh Burrata
3-4 Leaves Fresh Basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Slice tomato and Burrata. Arrange on plate. Sprinkle with chiffonade of basil. Add salt & pepper to taste. Drizzle with good olive oil. Perfecto!

Oval dish by Muji

cold buster

M_Id_318331_ginger_teaCold season is here. I’m already one in. The best remedy I know of to clear the sinuses and sooth a prickly throat is spicy ginger tea drunk hot and often.

Mrs. Roper’s Ginger Tea

Several fingers fresh ginger, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
8 -12 oz water
1 T Honey (Manuka 12+ preferred but any type will work)
Covered sauce pan

Heat the ginger chunks in water until it reaches a rapid boil. Pour into a teacup over honey. Drink while piping hot using small sips. Refill the pot with water, cover and let sit until you are ready for your next cup. The longer the ginger soaks, the stronger the tea becomes.

Keep a pot going for several days, adding fresh water after each use. Boil before drinking.

 

worlds best sandwich

turkey sand ingredientsThere is one place and only one place where I advocate using canned asparagus and that is in my favorite sandwich of all time — The turkey, cream cheese, cranberry sauce and asparagus Mrs. Roper special. This sandwich just needs the mush factor of those canned beauties. But otherwise, it’s fresh ingredients all the way. And although the holiday is upon us, it doesn’t need to be Thanksgiving to make it. I have served this sandwich at parties for as far back as I can remember and it disappears faster than anything else, every time. So pick up a can (or two) of asparagus this week and give ‘er a whirl.

Mrs. Roper’s Turkey Sandwich:
1           Loaf fresh Ciabatta bread, sliced open like a roll
10 oz    Cream cheese, softened (use the brick kind)
3/4 c     Whole cranberry sauce
1 lb       Thinly sliced fresh turkey
1 can    Asparagus, drained

Spread top half of Ciabatta with an even layer of cream cheese. Top with cranberry sauce, pressing berries into the cream cheese. Arrange sliced turkey on bottom half of bread and top with a layer of asparagus lenghwise. Bring two halves together and cut into 3 inch sections.

Quantities may vary depending on your liking and bread size.

last stop hobart

I may be having a love affair with Melbourne but Tasmania is also near and dear to my heart. So when I couldn’t get a direct miles flight home on the day I wanted and found myself with two extra days in Australia, I headed for Hobart. Just a short one and a quarter hour flight from Melbourne into a small airport 15 minutes from town, it was a no brainer.

Stay

Hotels are plentiful in Hobart and you have your choice from economy to super plush. Since this was an add-on special to my trip I opted to find something nice but affordable and turned again, to AirBnB. My first time renting a room in someones home vs. a self contained unit — although with a separate entrance it acted nearly the same way, I was just invited to eat breakfast in the kitchen, play with the dog and come and go through the front door if I pleased. This experience sealed the deal for me with AirBnB. viewToledo ChairsA gorgeous home with magnificent gardens set high on a hill behind a stone wall just blocks from town. The owner, an architect originally from Sydney, was most interesting and gracious. Walking to the bakery in the morning to get fresh croissants for breakfast, offering great conversation and even wine in the evening, helping with my bags, I was blown away by the experience not to mention the comfortable room.

Hobart room

Room 2My guess is the room was a small studio on the original property tied to the main house through an addition with sitting area, bathroom and a utility room where the makings for tea & a small fridge were made available. I was swayed by the Hans Wegner Wishbone chair in my room, the Toledo chairs surrounding the garden table outside my window, and an impressive library of design books. This place spoke my language.

Eat & Drink

Crumb Street Kitchen,144 Harrington Street, Hobart — American style, slow cooked BBQ served up in pizza boxes in a funky astro turf, sink stand and wire spindle table filled, eclectic environment. But boy is it good! And the guy behind the counter was just about the nicest guy ever. They believe in what they do and do it well. Proof that the best meals are quite often the simplest.

Crumb Street KitchenSingle serve of brisket, coleslaw and a side of smokey beans. I say order a double serve or two different meats, skip the slaw and have a sarsaparilla to wash it down.

Pigeon Hole Cafe, 93 Goulbourn Street, West Hobart (til 4:30 PM Tues- Sat) — Much to the disappointment of my BnB host, I opted to eat breakfast out my first morning in order to experience the Pigeon Hole Cafe, just a few blocks away. When I learned that they were responsible for the bread i declared, “The best ever!” during my last visit to Hobart, I had to see what else they do. What they do, is about 6-8 menu items really well, a slew of baked goods and THAT BREAD. Pigeon HoleIt may look like two breakfasts but I couldn’t leave without doing a bit of the savory and the sweet. For the savory: Baked eggs with preserved lemon and lovage oil, taleggio cheese and their famous toast for dipping. Perfection. For the sweet:  Meyer lemon & olive oil cake and a spot of chamomile tea. A perfect respite from the rainy weather outside.

Want to make the cake yourself? As luck should have it I came across the recipe in a back issue of Gourmet Traveler magazine – interpreted below:

Pigeon Hole Cafe Meyer Lemon Cakes — makes 12 small loaves

  • 300 g (1.5 cups) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 c extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 3 Meyer lemons – if not available substitute any lemons
  • 2 c four
  • 1T baking powder
  • Salt
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Butter & flour 12 mini loaf tins.

Whisk sugar, eggs and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until pale and thick (3-4 minutes). Combine milk, olive oil, juice and zest. Gradually add to egg mixture, mixing until well combined. Fold through flour and baking powder. Divide batter between loaf tins and bake until golden and cooked through (apprx. 12 minutes). Cool loaves then turn out and dust with powdered sugar.

Shop

LUC Design, 418 Macquarie Street, South Hobart — This may be the best little shop I have come across in years. Tiny, tiny but packed full of goodness thanks to the discerning eye of interior designer and owner, Lucy, who has lived all around the world and returned to Hobart for its quality of life. If I hadn’t been so completely water logged from my 30 minute walk there in the rain; or so caught up in conversation about design, Hobart, NYC, food and more; or completely mesmerized by shiny objects; I might have remembered to take photos. Trust me. If you only go to one shop, this is it and leave lots of room in your suitcase.

Henk Berg Leather — I stumbled upon these locally designed leather bags at Inside, a gift shop in town and hastily made a purchase of a beautiful green leather purse that was the perfect complement to the green silk scarf I had just bought around the corner at Luxe. An unexpectedly productive morning as I rushed to the farmers market for my scheduled food tour. But know, that Henk Berg has a large booth at the market so you can buy direct. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the prices or even to see if they had my same bag. What was done was done and I love my new purse regardless of the cost (which was completely reasonable).

See & Do

State Cinema, 375 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart — I had planned to make a return trip to MONA (the must see Museum of Old and New Art) on my one free day in Hobart but after a morning attempt to ignore the rain and ending up nothing but wet and wetter, the nice owner of LUC called me a cab and I heard the words, State Cinema rather than Museum Ferry come out of my mouth. This was the perfect place to take in an afternoon double feature (even at $18 a pop) with a cafe and bookshop on site for sustenance and distraction between shows. Not to mention, Elizabeth Street is full of window shopping and restaurants that kept me busy well past the dinner hour and post rain.

Saturdays at Salamanca with Mary of Gourmania Food Tours — One of several tours this recently returned native of Hobart and professional pastry chef offers. Our group met up at Doctor Coffee in Salamanca Place for a hot drink and lesson about coffee beans sourced direct from Africa and roasted on site. It’s quite an investment to ship and store coffee beans by the container that I honestly never considered before. You have to sell a lot of coffee to recoup that investment but luckily the margins are high.saturday marketA quick trip through the market had us visit just 4 vendors as more time was dedicated to local businesses in and around the area. So if you wish to see more of the market go a little early and look around on your own. But be careful not to fill up on market goodies as you’ll want to be hungry for the tour that had us eating everything from scrambled eggs to oysters (my first — not so much a fan), ceviche, 24 hour fermented bread, cheese, sweets and more.

Saturday TourAnd drinking coffee or cocoa, sparkling wine, tea and hard cider. There was truly something for everyone. We saw houses and boats, shops, restaurants and foodie landmarks like the Wursthaus Kitchen and Jackman & McRoss — although after breakfast croissants, tarts and brioche on tour from the latter, I’m thinking the appeal is more its landmark status than authentic quality of its baked goods. My favorite places on the tour were Smolt — definitely worth dining at on your own; Dickens Ciderhouse — a new addition just six weeks old. I’m not a huge fan of cider but the place was comfortable, the owner super entertaining and one or two of the many ciders we tasted were quite good. I may be a convert; and my favorite stop of the day had to be Pollen Tea Room — a postage stamp sized tea and vegan cafe in picturesque Battery Point where we drank Sweet Flower Tea and ate amazing bruschetta made from market fresh ingredients.

Pollan Tea RoomNote: Pollen Tea Room is closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays and is located at 56 Hampden Road, Battery Point.

If you take a tour with Mary which I highly recommend, go hungry as she packs a lot in. And find some time to go back to many of the establishments on your own as your appetite will surely be wet for more.

Odd ‘n Ends

Hobart is a small town with a sophisticated heart. Probably because it came of age during the foodie revolution and internet explosion combined. MONA has assured its place on the tourist map and so I think it only gets better from here. It’s easy enough to walk almost everywhere, weather permitting — although it does get hilly in areas so beware. Or cabs are plentiful if you prefer. If your not afraid to drive on the wrong side of the road (my greatest fear) then renting a car will allow you to go farther afield. I can think of nothing more appealing that a road trip around Tasmania. It’s a beautiful island state that should be seen in its entirety. One day . . .

a night with the barefoot contessa

barefoot contessa

Last week I paid a premium price to go see Ina Garten, otherwise known as the Barefoot Contessa, speak here in Washington, DC. But it was worth it bad seat and all.  She’s every bit as nice as she seems on her show. The format was just she and an interviewer on stage with two chairs and a bunch of flowers. As simple as it gets.

We learned a lot about her, her show, her business ventures, and then some. Here are the top 10 things that I took away from the evening:

10.  Ina started her professional life in Washington DC writing Nuclear Policy. On the side, she bought and renovated houses and entertained regularly. Looks like that side of her won out in the end.

9.  Both her and her husband were private pilots long ago. Not quite as down to earth as you thought she was, huh?

8.  This famous cookbook author and cooking show host, doesn’t cook for herself. The only personal cooking she really does is a roast chicken for her husband every Friday night.

7.  Her and I share the same list of favorite restaurants:  Zuni Café in San Francisco, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, Jean Georges in NYC

6.  The Barefoot Contessa show is filmed over two, one-month periods each year, 10 episodes at a time.

5.  According to Ina, all it takes to stock a working home kitchen is:  good knives (Ina prefers Wustof), professional half-sheet pans and good pots and pans (she uses All Clad and Le Crueset). No she doesn’t get paid by these companies – she does NO endorsements.

4.  Come April, she will be adding oven dinners to her successful line up of frozen meals including favorites like Meatloaf, 40 Garlic chicken, Parmesan Polenta and more . .

3.  Her new cookbook coming out soon is titled, Barefoot Contessa Make Ahead. As a sneak peak treat she posted one of the recipes on her Facebook page in the days following her appearance. Make ahead Zabaglione with Amaretti

2.  Continually letting her husband know that he is most important person in her life, is the key to her successful marriage of 45 years. We could all learn a little lesson from this.

And the number one thing I learned about Ina Garten is that she is a driven woman. Her success is no fluke. She works hard. She demands perfection. And when something gets in her way, she pushes it aside by her own admission. Not something you would expect from this mild mannered woman. But secretly, I love that!

images & recipe courtesy barefootcontessa.com

to your health — update

Fall has hit in a big way.  We went from 92 degrees to 50/60’s overnight, quite literally. And I am doing everything possible not to partake in a large bowl of pasta with rich, warm tomato sauce. OMG that sounds sooooo good.

This is my month of health update . . .
Zoo Closed

Despite the fact the National Zoo is closed (stupid politicians) I am getting my morning walks in on the streets of Washington, DC. I like walking in the dark but there is a surprising amount of activity out there at 6 AM. This morning I took a little detour and found Open City restaurant is actually open at this early hour filled with quite a few patrons enjoying their morning meal – good to know should ever the need arise for an early morning breakfast in the future.

I make myself a healthy salad every day to take to work. I try to mix it up in terms of ingredients but when pinched for time I go to this very basic recipe as it takes about 1.5 minutes to throw together:
salad fixins

  • Baby Arugula
  • Shaved Parmesan Cheese
  • Squeezed fresh lemon juice (I stick ½ a lemon right in my container)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For years now, I have been ordering  take out containers and plastic cups in bulk to accommodate breakfast on the run & easy homemade lunches. I buy larger containers for salads and small 2 oz. cups & lids for dressing. Large plastic cups, lids and straws for smoothies. Simple and disposable. No spillage. No dishes to take home from the office, or forget at the office — a more likely scenario.

ReddoorI ‘m finding a little counter balance is needed to ease sore muscles and just plain relax for an hour or two. So weekends  are holding treats like a mani, pedi, massage or facial. I don’t do this often enough.

pure design

almondmilk

I start nearly every day with an almond milk based smoothie. And I have to admit, design junkie that I am, I’m actually paying about $1 more per container for my almond milk these days just so I can have one of these beautiful Califia Farms bottles in my fridge at all times. I don’t know if the product is superior or not but it sure tastes good and looks even better. I prefer unsweetened almond milk but the blue vanilla bottle is my favorite of the bunch. In person it has a soft velvety matte finish with a much quieter blue tone than in the image above. Listen to me going on about a beautiful bottle. But it really is sexy sitting there on the shelf all curvy and minimal next to a plethora of loud boxy cartons. Extra dollar well spent to bring a little design joy and deliciousness into my mornings.

mrs roper’s basic b-fast smoothie

  • 8 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1 cup frozen berries

Blend all ingredients together at high speed until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy. Sip through a straw for added fun!