All posts by Stephanie

Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

Maybe this is blasphemy, but I think turkey is turkey and the sides are the exciting part – especially when your guests are not stodgy and you can play with flavors.

Thanksgiving Sides

Last year we roasted potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts, and made creamed turnips and these two winners:

For cranberry sauce, I like to make a traditional cooked version as well as a fresh version with orange.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving sides?

Coffee Cupping with New Harvest

I love smelling good things. Especially coffee.

This has been a long-time hobby for me – when I was a kid tagging along with my mom at the supermarket, I’d collect beans that had fallen onto the tray underneath the bulk coffee bins, bring them home, label them based on variety, and add them to my coffee collection. I’d delight in going through my collection and sniffing each bean to experience the world of Pumpkin or French Vanilla or Dark Roast.

It was fun until I got a coffee bean stuck up my nose.

Given my coffee-sniffing childhood habit, it’s only predictable that I’d end up at a New Harvest cupping. A coffee cupping is basically a coffee tasting, but unless you’re a coffee professional, it’s probably different than your usual coffee experience.

Coffee Cupping

A cupping is a very precise ritual: First, the grounds are weighed and placed in small bowls. We smelled the grounds dry for an initial impression.  Then, water is heated to the perfect temperature and poured over the grounds using a pourover kettle, after which we waited for a specific amount of time.

Once the coffee had steeped, we were told to drag a spoon through the crust of grounds on the surface while inhaling the aroma. Breaking the crust releases all the fragrant aroma compounds.

After we all put our noses to the grind (sorry), we skimmed the grounds off the top and started tasting. The best way to taste is to slurp the coffee out of a spoon, similar to wine tasting. Slurping aerates the coffee, releasing more flavor.

I loved this experience because I learned more about my own coffee preferences and also got some insight into how New Harvest purchases and roasts the beans. Best of all, I managed to keep the coffee beans out of my nose.

If you’d like to experience a coffee cupping, New Harvest has one almost every Friday at 3pm. For more details, see their public classes page.

New Harvest Coffee Roasters
1005 Main Street #108, Pawtucket, RI
Open 8:00 am – 5:00 pm M-F
Cuppings Friday 3pm


Pumpkin Oatmeal

Like the rest of the northeast, I’m in a pumpkin thrall when fall finally rolls around. Pumpkin lattes are too sweet for me and I’m not a daily pastry eater, so my favorite way to get my pumpkin fix is this oatmeal.

If you’ve never made oatmeal in a large batch, try it! This morning I was wondering how instant oatmeal even exists when one can invest just 5 minutes of prep to make delicious, healthy oats for the whole week.


This recipe makes 4 large servings or 5-7 small servings (perfect for the work week). Vary the salt, sugar, and spices to your taste. I love spices so I am heavy handed.

Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal


  • 1 cup regular (not quick) oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar (you could substitute maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (note – you could substitute all 3 spices with pumpkin pie spice)


  1. Bring water and salt to a boil.
  2. Add the oats and raisins and simmer for 5 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed by the oats.
  3. Stir in the pumpkin puree, sugar, and spices and cook, stirring once or twice, or 5 more minutes or until the consistency is to your liking.
  4. To reheat, if refrigerating: Place one serving in a bowl and break it up with a spoon. Stir in a few tablespoons of half and half, milk, or water. Microwave for 1.5 minutes, pausing once to stir.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4-7


Preserving the Last Life of Summer

It’s the second day of fall and I have a lot to do but instead I have decided to harvest the arugula which I let grow weedy between the bricks in the backyard. I sit in the bright noon sun, plucking leaf after leaf into a large bowl. The arugula is leggy and the honeybees still cling to the yellow flowers even after the stalks are cut and in my hand. The leaves are going to become arugula pesto, made with walnuts and my pungent parmesan smuggled from Europe.

First Harvest
(a much older photo of my wild arugula – 4 years ago)

Our black cherry tomato plant has gone wild, sending branches like tentacles all over the garden. I keep finding bunches of green tomatoes under tables and in other plants. It’s too late, they will never ripen quite like their summer brothers, so I’m pickling them green. Sometime this winter I’ll have a dirty martini or a bloody mary with a pickled tomato garnish and remember the summer.

Charlotte Eats

We were in Charlotte, North Carolina for a few days and I got to try some BBQ, soul food, and other southern specialties.


Hungry after a breakfast-less morning flight, we started our first day with an early lunch at Mert’s Heart & Soul, where I had fried whiting (fish) with collards, okra/tomato, and cornbread. I was lucky our hotel (the Marriott Residence Inn – highly recommended!) had a kitchen with full sized fridge because I could already tell that the portions in this city were large. The image above is just my leftovers, which I gladly carried around until check-in time.

Mac's Speed Shop Appetizers Mac's Speed Shop Dinner

The internet seems to think that there’s no good BBQ in Charlotte but I thought the dinner we had on our first night, at Mac’s Speed Shop, was pretty damn good. We didn’t rent a car, so we took the Lynx (light rail) to get there – we probably could have walked, but it was getting late. A bonus was that Thursday night features North Carolina drafts for $3.50, and their beer list is large.

King's Kitchen Appetizers Hot Dog at Green's Lunch

I tried my first ever boiled peanuts (left) at the not-for-profit King’s Kitchen, and I’d also never had pimento cheese before this trip – pictured left at King’s Kitchen and above in a creamy dipping version at Mac’s. I was under the mistaken impression that NC didn’t have regional hot dogs, but I was wrong. This one is from Green’s Lunch, a cute older hot dog spot near our hotel, and has mustard, ketchup, slaw, and chili. I ordered it “all the way” just like we do in Rhode Island.

Grit Bowl

The culinary highlight of our trip was Halcyon Flavors from the Earth. Everything they served was magic. We first visited for some cocktails on Friday night – it was a cool, clear night and perfect for sitting on their large balcony. Their cocktail list is mouth-watering and I especially liked the Some Pig, described as “Smoky Maker’s 46 steeped with Bacon. Orange bitters. Maple syrup. The best of brunch over ice.”

The next day for brunch we couldn’t stop ordering food – luckily there were three of us to share. My grit bowl, above, came with a choice of toppings – I went for maple griddle pork belly, pimento cheese, and roasted cottonmill mushrooms. I wanted to crawl into the bowl instead of going back to the airport. Later, when I did, I had to keep a close eye on the TSA agents to make sure they didn’t make off with our leftover honey-glazed blackberry-buttered cornbread.

What we loved about this restaurant was that despite serving up some of the most amazing food we’ve had, it didn’t take itself too seriously; on the other hand, the whimsy of the menu also wasn’t contrived.

BCycle Charlotte

Charlotte’s new bike sharing program, BCycle, had only been installed a month and a half before our visit. I’ve never tried a bike share and we were car-less in Charlotte, so I decided to explore Charlotte by BCycle for a day.

Charlotte BCycle

For $8, you get a 24-hour pass (longer-term passes are also available). As long as you return each bike within a half hour, you can take unlimited rides without any additional charge. Bikes come with a lock and basket but not a helmet, so I brought my own. The system was hassle-free and easy to use.

I started uptown, rambled down the the Sugar Creek Greenway, followed the almost entirely bike-laned East Boulevard to the Trolley Rail Trail, then took the trail back to uptown, switching bikes at each station along the way (Link to Map).  Though the bike rode smoothly, a heavy 3-speed was totally exhausting for this road bike girl! So on my way, I stopped for a necessary snack at the Common Market. Later in the day I took another bike for a spin down to Elizabeth Creamery for a scoop of praline ice cream. By the end of the day, I had ridden 8 bikes!

at Common Market

I didn’t see a lot of other people riding bikes in Charlotte, and when I did they were riding on the sidewalk, a practice that is illegal (or at least frowned upon) most places but seemingly the norm in Charlotte.  Some of the streets uptown had bike lanes and the drivers were courteous, but if you’re skittish on the roads, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Trolley Rail Trail would be good places to ride.

BCycle Along the River

Freezer and Pantry Inventory

You probably got the hint that I’m a bit of a geek and a planner from my Vacation Planning with Google Maps entry, so maybe you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I keep a freezer / pantry inventory in a Google Spreadsheet.

Does this makes me sound like a hyper-organized superwoman? I’m really not that organized. Really. But if you too have a chest freezer, you’ll know that it has the potential to be a deep dark pit into which all these wonderful edible things disappear indefinitely. And then you end up thinking “I could really go for some chili right now” as you flip open the freezer, but as soon as you see the 3-foot high pile of unidentified food items, your back starts to hurt, you sigh, and you order takeout.

Chest Freezer

Taking a freezer /pantry inventory not only prevents you from buying something you already have, but it’s also a good way to stay inspired by new recipes and combinations. My spreadsheet has a Freezer sheet, a Pantry sheet, and a Meal Ideas sheet. When I can see it all at one glance, I get inspired – like maybe I should make a lamb roast with some of that butternut squash gnocchi and creamed spinach. It’s all in my freezer!

Before I got high-tech with this endeavor, I used to keep a piece of paper on the freezer and I’d cross off items as I removed them. But I like using a Google Doc because I can reference it on my phone in the grocery store or on a hungry bus ride home.

Freezer Inventory

My favorite time to inventory my freezer is on a hot day when it’s a treat to stick my head in a very cold place. I quickly take everything out and put it in a bin, then jot down each item as I return it to the freezer (I type out the list later – I’d rather not risk getting my laptop wet). The other freezer commandment? Remember to label everything!

Do you have a chest freezer? Do you keep track of its contents?

Middle Eastern Feast

I’ve made all of the components of this meal separately, but this weekend I thought I’d put them all together to make a fun, informal meal for guests. This is a low-stress dinner party because almost everything can be made ahead and you can supplement with store-bought extras like pita bread, olives, and a tasty feta (try the Hungarian feta from the deli case at Sonia’s). For dessert, pick up some good dates – or if you are lucky like us, one of your guests will bring a delicious olive oil cake.

Bonus: this makes for great leftovers. I have to admit that the photo below is actually the leftovers, which we ate tonight with a couple of friends!

Middle Eastern Feast

Here are links to the recipes I used (or similar ones, because some of these live in my head):

If you’re in the Providence area, we picked up most of our ingredients at these two stores:

The Urban Greens Buying Club

If you haven’t heard of Urban Greens, it’s a group of people (around 330!) who are working to start a cooperative food market in Providence. Even though the market is not yet open, you can order food through the buying club, which has been active for over ten years.

I have an confession to make – even though I was on the board of Urban Greens for a couple of years, this month was my first time ordering from the buying club! Previously, the buying club had separate membership fees, but now all member-owners of the future co-op (a 1-time payment) can order through the buying club at no additional charge.

What can you order? Items from two catalogs – a catalog of local goods, and the Associated Buyers catalog which has natural, organic, and international products. Individual products can be ordered a la carte, and bulk goods with ordering minimums can be split by co-op members using a convenient feature on the website: you can indicate how much of a bulk order you want (for example, 5 pounds of oatmeal), then other members will see the split and can add their order to it. The catalog includes not only food, but also natural body products, cleaning supplies, vitamins, and more.

How does it work? The order is placed once a month, and pickup is the following week. You can volunteer for only 1 hour a month to get the goods exactly at wholesale catalog prices, but if you choose not to, you pay a 10% surcharge (I’m pretty busy these days, so the 10% is still a good deal).

What I ordered: A very small order to start, and easy to bike home. Both of these were a lot less expensive than they would be at the store.

  • 1 lb of New Harvest Coffee – Steamroller Blend
  • 1 lb of chia seeds (I had them once recently and my curiosity was piqued!)

How can you join? More information about Urban Greens is available at I recommend becoming a member-owner of the co-op instead of just the buying club (haven’t you always wanted to co-own a store?) Joining is a one-time payment of $160, but you can also pay $40 a year for 4 years.

Deep Fried Calzones

If you love food and think about it a lot (as I do), you’ve probably thought back to your early food memories. Those times you tried something different, something that imprinted you because you loved or hated it.

I grew up eating a lot of great food, but for some reason one of my strongest first food memories is a deep fried calzone. I was probably about eight years old, and my parents and I were sitting in New York City at a tiny outdoor table in front of Sal’s Pizza, off the Bowery. I remember how crispy the crust was and how the cheese oozed out as soon as I cut in. I remember how hot it was, and yet how I couldn’t stop eating.

Lucky for me, my husband discovered a delicious source of fried (and non-fried) calzones in Rhode Island – Napolitano’s Brooklyn Pizza. It’s a small but welcoming BYOB pizza place with calzones that definitely rival the ones I had in New York. The calzones are made to order and are totally delicious.

Garlic Knots
Garlic knots – fried knots of dough with plenty of fresh garlic, parsley, and coarse salt. I could imagine coming just for these, they are so good.

Deep Fried Calzone
A classic deep-fried calzone filled with mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, and prosciutto. These are HUGE! You can also get the other calzones fried – I also recommend the spinach calzone, the one we had was stuffed with tons of whole-leaf baby spinach.

Napolitano’s Brooklyn Pizza
100 East Street, Cranston, RI (map)