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Omavore on Instagram

2 Mar

My newest obsession: Instagram. (I realize, everyone is obsessed with it.) Find me at SarahBakerHansen.

Some recent snaps: hot chocolate in my favorite vintage mug, vintage James Beard reading, vodka infusion at Taxi’s Bar and Grille, Lucky Buddha beer at Saigon, Amsterdam Falafel.

Omaha’s Beard Semifinalists

21 Feb

Clayton Chapman and Paul Kulik

We’re getting there, Omaha.
Two of our own — Clayton Champan, of The Grey Plume, and Paul Kulik, of The Boiler Room — are semifinalists for the 2012 James Beard Awards. Read more here.

Meat loaf

17 Feb

Meat loaf is sort of pedestrian. It’s sort of old-school and maybe a touch boring.

But I love it.

When I was growing up, meat loaf was one of my mom’s standard dinners, and also one of my favorites. In my meatless years, I made at least a couple of meat loaves with boca crumblers and seitan.

Last week it was so cold in Omaha, and one night, I just got the craving for a meatloaf, a side of mashed potatoes and a pile of green beans.

I turned to the New York Times, where I found an updated variation on meat loaf thanks to Florence Fabricant, and a Craig Claiborne classic recipe that’s worth a gander for his writing alone.

“There is almost no herb or spice that, used with discretion, would not marry handsomely with a meritorious meat loaf.”

Indeed. I studded mine with sauteed leeks and baby bella mushrooms and flavored it with lots of oregano and Italian seasonings. And next time, I’ll definitely make one of Claiborne’s sauces to accompany my meritorious meat loaf.

On Martha.

10 Feb

As I walked past my mailbox one day this week, I saw the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living was waiting for me. And I was excited. Because I really like Martha. There. I said it.

(That’s Martha from her modeling days. Isn’t she fashionable?)

When I got the new issue, I started thinking about how long I’ve been reading Martha’s magazines and crusing her websites for ideas.

I’ve long been a subscriber to Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine, a tiny little book that taught me how to cook when I didn’t yet know Mark Bittman. More recently, I started to subscribe to Martha Stewart Living and Whole Living. I have two of Martha’s iPad apps: the Cookies app (thanks dad!) and the Whole Living Smoothies app. I want her Cocktails app, too. I made a wreath from her special Holiday 2011 handbook, and I’ve been excited to read her 2012 handbook on organizing. I did a very memorable seven-day detox partially based on one I found in Whole Living.

This post, though, really isn’t about Martha as a person, or about her huge company, or about whether you like her or not. And for the record, it’s not a sponsored post, though the friendly PR girls at the magazine did send me the photos I requested.

It’s about Martha as a measuring stick.My mom subscribed me to Everyday Food, (wayyy back in 2007, I think) and I’d go through each magazine, marking recipes that I wanted to try with yellow post-its. I tried many of them, and some, like this one, made it into my personal arsenal of “never fail” recipes that I now make from memory.

I remember when I used to look at the pages of Martha Stewart Living, it was beyond anything I thought I could ever do. I wouldn’t be cooking dinner for lots of people. I wouldn’t be growing a garden. I had no talent when it came to making wreaths or arranging flowers. The only thing I really knew how to cook was spaghetti.

And now, six years later, here am I writing a food blog, working as a food reporter and restaurant critic, cooking at home, playing host to parties and pot lucks, gardening in my backyard. Doing basically everything I once thought I’d never, ever do (even though I always wished I could.)

I still get Everyday Food in the mail and I still flip through it. But I’m much more interested now in the beautiful recipes in Martha Stewart Living — the ones that were once unattainable. I think it would be so fun to have a beer tasting complete with snacks like smoky parsnip crisps and bacon blue-cheese sandwiches and roasted buffalo shrimp. I’m sure my friends wouldn’t protest. (And I share the shrimp recipe below.)

Martha gives me ideas. And though I may not become an expert at organizing or cleaning or baking, I’ll keep learning and trying new things — that’s what it’s all about, right?

Roasted Buffalo Shrimp
Active/Total Time 15 min.
Makes about 40. Serves 8.
This novel twist on Buffalo wings is a terrific way to kick off a casual party. Serve the shrimp and dip with cucumber spears, celery stalks, and wedges of crunchy fennel.

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (2 tablespoons) plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ teaspoon celery seeds
2½ teaspoons sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste Coarse salt
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup pale-green celery leaves, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Place 2 rimmed baking sheets in oven to heat. Stir together lemon zest, garlic, celery seeds, paprika, cayenne, 2 teaspoons salt, the honey, and oil in a large bowl. Add shrimp, and toss to coat well.
2. Place shrimp in a single layer on hot pans. Roast, without flipping, until browned on bottoms and opaque throughout, about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the dip: Stir together lemon juice, sour cream, celery leaves, and ¼ teaspoon salt.

Vintage photo via Beer tasting photo by Johnny Miller. Copyright 2012. Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living. Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart Living.

Brioche Toad in the Hole

6 Feb

My friend and fellow food blogger Sara of Stalk my Kitchen baked my husband a loaf of brioche this weekend. We brought it home after drinks on Saturday night and literally, my husband could not wait to cut into it Sunday morning. He recently discovered the wonder of brioche when we brought a loaf home from La Buvette a few months ago; now he’s addicted.

Sara’s loaf is beautiful: perfectly formed and golden brown. It’s also buttery and delicious. (Read her blog post about brioche baking here.)

Sara and her fiancée Scott told us they used the bread to make toad in the hole eggs, and that seemed a good enough idea to us.

I am enough of a baking novice that I have a very slim selection of cookie cutters, and none shaped like a circle.  On the first piece, Matthew carved out a hole with the bread knife. On the second one, I used a shot glass to cut the hole and that worked great.

My process photos didn’t turn out so well, and it took some concentration for me to decide just when to flip the bread without breaking the egg, so I didn’t take any photos. Matthew’s piece turned out perfect, and mine broke. But it tasted good anyway.

Snow Day

4 Feb







Top to bottom: morning snow, crock pot of chili simmering for dinner, hot chocolate thanks to Ben and Stephanie, new vintage mug, today’s footwear of choice. Snow days aren’t too bad every once in a while. Stay warm!

World-Herald Pie Day

31 Jan

Today is “World-Herald Pie Day.”

No it’s not related to 3.14. No, it’s not related to any national holiday.

It’s pretty simple: the newsroom likes pies. So we eat them.

See my co-workers down at the end there? That’s the end of the nearly never-ending row of pies. (That’s 33 pies, in case anyone’s counting.)

Pie is one of those things that really scares me. I’ve never made one. But what better occasion to give it a go than W-HPD? So I searched out a recipe via Mark Bittman, because I figured he’d never do me wrong, even on something as tricky-seeming as a pie. I went with his recipe for Coconut Sweet Potato pie, which had a yummy sounding spiced filling and a coconut graham cracker crust.

My pie in its natural office habitat.

Here’s how I made it. I fired up my trusty food processor to whiz together the crust.

My never-used red Fiestaware pie plate.

The crust after seven minutes of baking.

Sweet potatoes for filling.

I forgot to take a picture of the pie before I put it (and two small ramekins of extra filling for sampling) in the oven and my sister, who came over to give me moral support during baking, forbade me to open the oven before the timer went off. So here’s an in-the-oven shot.

And the final pie. We sampled the filling last night, and it was great: light, eggy and sweet. Sort of like a spiced flan. It was a hit at Pie Day 2012.

Search hash tag #pieday and #pieday2012 on Twitter to see the newsroom’s anticipatory and excited tweets from the day.

Vegetarian Runzas

26 Jan

I’d never made Runzas before, but I’d always wanted to try. When I wasn’t eating meat, I often had a craving for the sandwich, and when I started eating meat again, one of the first things I had was a Runza. I made the mistake, though, of ordering my first Runza at Memorial Stadium during a Nebraska game. It was smooshed. And lukewarm. And not that great. (For those who are saying “what’s a Runza? Try one when you’re in Nebraska. But in the meantime, click here.)

So when my friend Quentin asked me to try making a meatless Runza for our most recent pot luck, I really wanted to give it a go. I’d seen a recipe for vegan Runzas on the Post Punk Kitchen and decided to use it. Technically, my version of the sandwich wasn’t vegan, as I couldn’t find soy yogurt. I used regular yogurt and regular milk.

The Runzas turned out great. I did bake them for an extra five minutes, so they’d be golden brown. I was nervous to cut one open at the party, but when I did, they looked just like the picture on Isa’s blog. The bread tasted very similar to an actual Runza, and the filling had lots of flavor and a nice bite.

They were a huge hit at the party, and something that I’ll definitely make again.

I hadn’t kneaded dough in years — in fact, since I worked at a bakery when I was 17 — but I remembered how to do it just fine. (Though I will say my wrists and hands were super sore the next day.) The dough didn’t rise all that much in the bowl, and I was a bit concerned, but the Runzas rose fine in the oven and turned a lovely shade of gold.

My Seven Day Detox Diet

18 Jan

As promised, here’s my story about my seven-day detox.

It was hard.

I lost some weight on the detox, but I haven’t weighed myself since I ended it. I think I’ve gained some of that weight back. My favorite jeans don’t feel as tight as they did after the holidays, but they are tighter than they were the day after the detox ended. I’m fine with ending up somewhere between where I was before the cleanse and right after it ended.

A lot of people asked me: would I do it again? I would. But I would try to get my husband to do it with me. And I would probably research better tasting recipes before going in because a lot of the recipes in this detox were absolute flops: a marinade didn’t work out, and turned into a rock as it cooled. I don’t care for avocado, and it was in many of the recipes. And one can only drink so many blueberry smoothies.

In the days after the diet, I continued a few of the habits. I am still starting every day with a big glass of water. I’ve stayed off Diet Coke, save for one or two slips. And I downloaded the Whole Living Smoothie iPad app, which gives me lots of options aside from blueberry. My blender is still on my counter instead of hidden away collecting dust.

I feel like the positive changes that came from the cleanse were (almost) worth the pain.

My Vegetarian Favorites

12 Jan

So yesterday I posted a response to an article in the New York Times about how it was difficult to eat meatless in the Midwest. Today, I figured I’d put my money where my mouth is and post a list of places that I like to eat meatless in Omaha and Lincoln.

Please post your own favorites in the comments or on my Omavore Facebook page.

Lincoln has three completely meat-free restaurants, and I’ve been to two of the three. Yesterday, I learned about Pepe’s Veggie Bistro in Havelock. I haven’t been there, but it gets great reviews on Yelp. I’m going there the next time I’m in the capitol city.

Grateful Bread/Freakbeat Vegetarian: Seriously, this place is so good. No meat in sight. The Moroccan tomato soup is notorious for haunting people’s dreams. My personal favorite is the Santa Fe Chowder. The restaurant also serves delicious cheese scones, bread, muffins, cookies and a daily selection of macaroni and cheese. Don’t expect to be alert after lunch if you down a plate of the mac.

Maggie’s Vegetarian Cafe:  I have a lot of love for the baked tofu wrap at Maggie’s. It’s delish, and also vegan. I remember eating it before I really knew how to cook tofu and it served as inspiration for me to get to work in my own kitchen.

The Blue Orchid: This downtown Thai place isn’t meat-free, but my goodness, the meat-free items on its menu are great. I prefer the panang curry, ordered with extra-large rectangles of tofu that help soak up the ridiculously good, spicy sauce.

Bread & Cup: Delicious hummus, a wonderful peanut and apple butter sandwich and a rotating selection of pizzas and pastas make this cute cafe in the Haymarket district a good veg stop, though the menu does include meat. It has always reminded me of Lincoln’s more contemporary version of La Buvette.

Omaha doesn’t have any completely meat free restaurants at the moment. But there are still many options. I listed a few in my post yesterday. Here are a few more:

Tapas at Espana: Many are meatless, both hot and cold. Plus, the tiny Benson spot has atmosphere to spare and great sangria.

I’ve already gone on in the paper about my love for brunch at Dixie Quicks, particularly about my love for the soyiso scramble, a really great vegetarian dish that’s like none other. Also, pancakes. Apple brie omelets. Sexual chocolate French toast. A new dish called cappuccino eggs that you have to try. Anyway. You get the idea.

Blue Planet Natural Grill is casual, not too pricey and has a great selection of veggie burgers with good toppings. I prefer the black bean burger. I also love the veggie burger at the Upstream, of all places. The  brew pub used to serve the sort of pre-made burgers you can buy at the grocery store, but now it’s a spicy homemade patty that even my meat-eating husband loves. And while on the topic of burgers, the spiced lentil veggie burger at Blanc is pretty darn good, too.

The Shrooms pizza at Pitch. Be still, my beating heart. That pizza and a glass of wine make me a happy woman.

Finally, a note on cooking at home.

When I stopped eating meat, it forced me to learn how to cook. I couldn’t eat fast food burgers any more. I couldn’t buy a pre-packaged dinner from the grocery store.

I cannot stress enough how much Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian changed my view of both cooking (it wasn’t hard) and meatless food (it could be delicious.)

My husband bought it for me just after I stopped eating meat and I didn’t know what to cook or how to cook anything, really. I remember he came home from a trip with it in his bag — at more than 1,000 pages, this is commitment — and told me the woman at the store told him to tell me not to be scared that it didn’t have any pictures. So I’ll tell you: Don’t be scared. It doesn’t have any pictures.

I’ll never stop praising this book, or it’s author. For anyone out there who doesn’t already own it, buy it today and start reading it. My copy is stained. It has bookmarks throughout and folded pages to identify things I always need, or things I want to try or things I already love. The dust cover is worn and torn. And even though I eat meat now, I refer to it again and again and again.

Top two photos courtesy of the Library of Congress. Third photo courtesy of the Office of War Information.


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