PSA: Go Eat Cheese from 320 Market + Updates


Vampire Slayer

I interrupt your Saturday night internet browsing to tell you to go eat cheese from 320 Market Cafe. This is an unlikely endorsement considering I’m allergic to milk, but about once a month I indulge in some cheese. I am not really good at selecting cheeses. A lot of friends of mine are good at cheese selection, which is how I found this one. I may have mentioned it in a previous blog, but this bears repeating. It’s called Vampire Slayer and it’s made my Calkins Creamery. According to their cyber farm, it’s made with a stirred-curd cheddar base and then garlic, ginger, onion, and paprika are mixed in by hand. Then it’s encased in black cheesewax and aged for no less than 60 days. I bought some of this at 320 Market Cafe on Friday and, um, it’s gone now. I just finished the last of it in a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon. It was delicious.

I may not know much about cheese, but Jack does. He runs 320 Market Cafe in Media and he’s really, really into cheese. Here’s an interview I did with him when 320 Market first opened in Media. Stop in and see Jack or Brian or one of the other super helpful folks at 320 Market and ask about their cheese. They’ll help you select the best cheese for your next gathering or your next grilled cheese sandwich.

As for me, I am in the midst of a LOT of changes including moving out of my beloved apartment in Media. Fret not, I am moving to a place that has a very large kitchen and I will be doing a great deal of cooking and baking in the months to come. A friend of mine is going to teach me how to make pie. Another friend said she’d teach me how to make bread. And at some point, I’m going to fly to California and visit with my favorite Rock Star Pastry Chef Chantal Carter. Good things are on the horizon. I’ll keep you posted.

xo Nina

Sloppy Joes featuring Vesper Bros. Signature Tomato Sauce


This recipe is also published on Fig West Chester.

A few months ago, some friends and I were sitting around lamenting about food and cooking. My one friend said she loves to cook, but cooking big meals for just her and her daughter seemed silly. I chimed in that I love to cook, but as a single gal, cooking for one person can be a little sad. The third friend said she loved to eat and the mentioned she had room to host and suggested we all get together and cook and eat.  The woman is brilliant. We spent a few weeks exchanging group Facebook messages and settled on a date. This past weekend, we had our second Saturday Night Eat All the Things (E.A.T.) dinner party and it was delightful. I made Maple Bacon Cupcakes and Sloppy Joes. I’d say both of them were a hit.

Besides the fact that I made this for a group of friends, another thing that makes this recipe special is the addition of the Vesper Bros. Signature Tomato Sauce. Vesper Bros. Foods is a locally owned and operated specialty-foods company based out of Delaware County. Twins Bill and Johnny Vesper started the company in 2010 because they wanted to carry on their family’s heritage and love of food.

They use only whole, fresh ingredients to create their specialty foods. Their website boasts, “all our products are 100% All Natural, no preservatives, no citric acid, no added sugars or sweeteners.” Their love of food and cooking dates back to their great-grandparents who came to the United States from Italy. They brought their recipes with them and the Vesper Brothers are now offering the tastes and flavors of handed-down recipes to their customers. Their items are sold in a variety of markets in the area.

I don’t know if Bill and Johnny’s great-grandparents would approve of their sauce being used to make Sloppy Joes, but I do know that they’d be proud of them for producing such a quality product that can be used to serve good food to your loved ones.


1 Tbsp EVOO

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 cloves garlic

Sea Salt

1 1/4 lb ground beef

1/2 cup No HFCS-added ketchup

2 cups Vesper Bros. Signature Tomato Sauce

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp red cooking wine

2 Tbsp packed brown sugar

Pinch ground cloves (1/8 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1.  Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the onions and celery and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 more seconds. Remove from heat. Remove vegetables from the pan to a bowl and set aside.

2. Using the same pan, generously salt the bottom of the pan. Heat the pan on medium to high heat. Crumble the ground beef into the pan. Do this in two batches to avoid over-crowding the pan. Do not stir the ground beef. Allow it to brown on one side and then flip the pieces over and brown on the other side. Use a spoon to remove the ground beef from the pan. Place meat in the bowl with the sautéed vegetables. Repeat process for second batch of ground beef.  Just a warning: the higher the fat content in the meat, the more the oil is going to pop when it starts to cook.  You will also end up with some fat on the bottom of your pan when your meat is finished browning. You can pour this off or just leave it. Fat = flavor, my friends.

3. When the second round of beef has browned and it’s all in the bowl with the veggies, use your spoon to stab the chunks of meat. I did this to break the meat down into smaller morsels. The stabbing also helped me release some stress. I burnt the first batch of veggies. Do you believe that?

4. Return the cooked ground beef and vegetables to the pan. Add the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, red wine, and brown sugar to the pan. Stir to mix well. Replace on the burner over medium heat. Add ground cloves, thyme. Lower the heat to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

I served these with store-bought mini-Kaiser rolls. (They weren’t that mini. They were the size of regular hamburger buns.) I had 12 buns and at the end of the night, there was one bun left and plenty of leftovers. We had eleven people at E.A.T. I’d say this recipe feeds at least 8.

Variations: I wanted to make this recipe with bison and bone marrow like I saw on some cooking show with Roger Mooking, but I figured it might be a bit much for a pot luck. I am, however, planning on going to Whole Foods to procure some bison and make burgers with it and this Calkins Creamery Vampire Slayer Cheese that they sell at 320 Market Cafe in Media & Swarthmore. 

Maple Bacon Cupcakes


Adapted from Maple Cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

The concept of the Maple Bacon Cupcake is not original. I didn’t know this until I sat down to write this blog post. A lot of people have made this cupcake, but they seem to just put bacon bits into the batter or they stick some bacon on top. I was more subtle with my approach and used rendered bacon fat as a substitute for the oil in this adapted recipe. I can’t take credit for this. The lovely Chef Chantal Carter suggested it. She’s a sweet genius. She also referred me to this website for more ways to use bacon fat in cooking.
For the frosting, I attempted to do a buttercream. I am not thrilled with the way it turned out, so I am not going to post the recipe here. I will tell you that I used crushed up Trader Joe’s Maple Cookies on top of the frosting because I thought it would be a nice touch.
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup of 100% Pure Maple syrup
1/3 cup rendered bacon fat (I used the fat from Trader Joe’s Applewood Smoked Bacon)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with baking cups. Combine milk and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk together and let it sit for a few minutes.



2. While you wait, sift together the flour and all the rest of the dry ingredients except the brown sugar.


3. Add the brown sugar and the rest of the wet ingredients to the milk mixture.


4. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix on low until all ingredients are combined.


5. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them with the icing of your choice.








Vitamix Refreshing Mint Lemonade


This week, one of my culinary dreams came true. I recently got a full-time job and I did some serious budgeting to be able to buy myself a Vitamix. I have had many battles with my blender in the past, so this Vitamix is truly a dream come true. I have a rare morning off and it’s blazing hot out, so I decided to make some lemonade.

I have used my Vitamix to make quite a few green smoothies so far and I am going to be making another one later, but I decided to make fresh lemonade first. One of my favorite things about summer is the fact that Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade is .99 cents at Whole Foods. If you haven’t tried it, rest assured that it tastes like summer. This lemonade is my version of summer. I added a few fresh mint leaves to kick up the refreshing element of fresh lemonade.
3 lemons, peels removed and cut in half
5 mint leaves
1/2 cup of turbinado sugar
1 cup of water
2 cups of ice
You will need a Vitamix for this lemonade. Regular blenders will not process whole lemons.
1. Fill bottom of the container with water. Add sugar.
2. Layer in lemons, mint, and ice. In this order.
3. Set machine to Variable Low and Dial 1. Turn on machine. Slowly increase to level 10. If nothing moves, use tamper to move things around.
4. If you used the tamper, replace it and then flip the switch to Variable High. Blend for 40-60 seconds on high.
5. Taste mixture. Add more water or ice if you don’t like it as tart. Add more sugar if you want it more sweet.
6. Serve chilled.

Homage to Sunnyside Farms – Banana Ice Cream


When I was a little girl, my family and I would take trips to a place called Sunnyside Farms. It was a farm that had acres of land and stinky cows. Though they did smell, I remember their smell fondly. You couldn’t smell it until you got on that stretch of road that led out-of-town away from the chaos and the confusion that comes with urbanized suburban living. We’d go on summer nights when the sun gave up for the day and allowed us some time to recoup before it rose the next day and tried to beat us down with its merciless rays. It was the perfect mini-retreat.

Just beyond the corn field and the small landing strip for planes, there stood the farm and the little store in front of where the cows slept. Inside the store, you could buy locally grown produce, bread, and milk they got from the stinky cows. The highlight of our trip to the farm was the ice cream they had in the back. It was the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had. I have always been an adventurous eater, but at Sunnyside Farms I always got the banana ice cream.  It was so delightful. I was (and still am) reluctant to share my ice cream, but when one of the cousins would ask, I would reluctantly comply and watch with a look of suppressed rage on my face as they took a lick of my ice cream cone.

I was upset because when I was growing up, we didn’t keep ice cream in the house. When we wanted ice cream and if we were on our best behavior, we got to go to Sunnyside. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was to have had the kind of care givers who understood the value of whole foods before it was popular. We got ice cream at Sunnyside Farms a few times during the summer and McDonald’s was a place we went maybe 4 times a year.  I was very lucky, indeed.

Sunnyside Farms is a fond childhood memory for me, and sadly, the memories are all we have left. They have since sold the cows and closed the farm and the little store with the best ice cream in the world is no more. The old farmer has since died and they have even changed the road that runs in front of the farm so that it’s more conducive to the building volume of motorists.

This banana ice cream is not even close to what I used to get at Sunnyside Farms, but the flavor reminds me of sweet times growing up in South Jersey.

Ingredients (I found a recipe and adapted it and halved it for the sake of only wanting a little bit of ice cream)

Original recipe on Serving Ice Cream.
3/8 cup vanilla rice milk
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
pinch of nutmeg
3 ripe bananas
2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix the milk, sugar, and nutmeg together with a whisk until sugar is dissolved. I used the whisk attachment to my immersion blender and that worked pretty well.
If using an immersion blender, add the bananas to the mix and blend until smooth. If not, mash the bananas and then add them to the mixture.
Chill entire mixture for at least an hour.
After an hour, add the heavy cream, vanilla, and coconut oil and blend until smooth.
Freeze in your ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions.
Enjoy! I divided mine up into three 1-1.25 cup containers and froze it because I’m on a write-down-everything-you-put-in-your-mouth plan. More on that later.
Makes about 3.5 cups of ice cream.
I’m not the greatest when it comes to making ice cream, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that it’s not the least bit Nina Friendly. I am better with sorbets, honestly. You know who makes amazing ice cream?? Chantal Carter. I’ll be posting an update on her VERY soon. Here’s a teaser photo to whet your appetite.

Chickpea and Sundried Tomato Basil Salad


AND I’m a liar. No, I’m not a liar. I said I’d be here posting recipes when the mood struck me and it struck, so here I am.

Yesterday I went to this Asian Market in Media that sells flowers and produce and other things you’d find at an Asian market. Someone told me about it a while ago, but then he insulted me after that so I never went. Then my coworker told me about it again yesterday, so I decided to give it a go. Normally, I am loyal to Linvilla Orchards and Wolff’s Apple House, but both are situation in places where I’d be sitting in gridlock traffic after scoring my produce. That would have been a total buzz-kill for me, so this place was the next best thing.

My coworker is a genius! Not only did they have fresh produce, but they also had exciting things like Japanese style Udon noodles, mung bean noodles, and seaweed salad. I adore seaweed salad. The point is, I was able to get a bunch of fresh veggies and I bought some herbs as well.

Like I said before,  I don’t usually cook in the summer months because it’s too hot. I was going to do it anyway and make a sauce out of my sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, and garlic, but this morning on Pinterest I came across a recipe I thought looked yummy. I just made it and it IS yummy. I did some substituting because I didn’t have some of the things it called for, but the result was just as nommy. The original recipe is on Green Lite Bites. Good Lite Bites even gives the approximate nutritional info! Check her out!


1 can of Trader Joe’s Garbanzo (Chickpeas) beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Sundried tomatoes, chopped
25 basil leaves, chopped
3 gloves of garlic, minced (I don’t mince, I just kind of butcher it into small pieces)
1 tbsp balsalmic vinegar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp EVOO
2 tsp honey
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes. Serve chilled as is or with bread. This would make a great filling for a wrap!

Summer Break


Hello, all. Welp, it seems summer has arrived early…again. And due to the nature of my kitchen, I usually take the summers off from posting recipes because once I’m finished cooking I am usually sweating as much as someone who just took a Bikram Yoga class. As a matter of fact, I have seriously considered doing hot yoga in my kitchen during the summer months. Perhaps this is the summer I make that happen.

In the meantime, I will be food blogging for both Fig Media, PA and Fig West Chester. Here are some links to pieces I have recently written:

There are a host of places I will be writing about this summer, and I will pop in to post links or additional musings about the places here. Of course, this doesn’t mean I won’t post recipes at all. That’s nonsense. The summer is the perfect time to whip out the ice cream / sorbet maker and this summer is no exception.

See you soon!