I have, admittedly, been a fair-weather blogger lately.  I am ashamed.  Working full-time and taking classes has been tricky, and to top it all off now I have a cold.  Boo.  Needless to say, I have not made anything worthy of a blog post lately, so this week I'm going to blog about an amazing restaurant I've been meaning to write about since I ate there in August. 

Belly Restaurant describes its food as "rustic, European, farmhouse, soul food".  I couldn't agree more!  Located in the bustling college town of Eugene, Oregon, Belly is my kind of place.  It is a small, 10-table restaurant with one or two servers and a exquisite menu that rotates with seasonal foods.  Locals boast that it is a market-to-table kind of place that cuts out the middle man.  The items are unique, and honestly, not for the faint of stomach.  It was the perfect place to enjoy a special occasion with my closest friends, who also happen to be the foodiest people I know.  

The evening began with a few bottles of nice wine from local vineyards.  I was previously unaware, but the area to the east of Eugene is Napa-like rolling hills covered in vineyards with quaint wineries dotting its patchwork frame.  We had an amazing Riesling at Sweet Cheeks Winery.  If you ever have a chance to taste it, please do.

Wine accompanied a variety of appetizers that we passed around so everyone could have a taste.  Delicate gougeres, savory bacon-wrapped fresh figs with apple cider gastrique and hazelnuts, and potted rabbit passed round and round.  What is potted rabbit?  Delicious flaky rabbit prepared in a small clay pot, served with bread, coarse salt, and pickled onion.  It was possibly my favorite part of the meal and I have cravings for it to this day.

Entrees were just as impressive.  I chose chicken and dumplings with wild mushrooms and truffle oil.  It was served in a huge clay bowl, and I ate every last bite.  Others in our party enjoyed everything from pork shoulder confit, to cumin and coriander rubbed skirt steak, to pan roasted salmon.  The meal was savory, fresh, unique and overall amazing.

We finished with a birthday cake from a local bakery and champagne.  Now that is a meal!  


Super Simple Artichokes

Do I love artichokes?  Why, yes, yes I do!

They can be so simple, and really rather filling.  They may be a little intimidating if you've never prepared one, so I thought I share my preferred method of preparation. 

Begin by slicing off the top of the artichoke where the prickly side is.  Just take off enough to remove most of the thorns.  When you're done you should have a flat surface.  Next, rinse the artichoke thoroughly, gently pulling the top open as you go to get at any dirt trapped inside.  Place the artichoke upside down to drain while you prepare the water.

Fill a pot with enough water to just cover the artichoke while it's upside down in the pot.  Add the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon and a good pinch of salt.  Place the artichoke in the pot, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil.  Ideally the pot will be about as deep as the artichoke is tall (you can slice some of the stem to make a better fit), this will help to keep the vegetable upside down while it cooks.  Cooking in this method is good for two reasons.  One, any remaining dirt will be released.  Two, the steam will help to cook the thicker bottom part of the artichoke where the delicate "heart" is found.  The heart is most people's favorite part, and after nibbling though smidgens of meat, one leaf at a time, the heart seems like a bounty and a real treat.

You know the artichoke is cooked through when you insert a fork into the stem and can push it easily into the bottom of the vegetable.

Remove from the pot and let drain upside down again for a moment or two.  Serve with melted butter, mayo, or olive oil,  and an extra bowl for your discarded leaves.


Baked Zucchini Sticks

I am all about fried food.  Seriously, on the right occasion, fried food kicks butt.  It is crucial that it be the right occasion, like at a bar with your friends as you begrudgingly watch sports and drink cheep, light beer.  That is the right time for fried food.  For all other times, I try and keep it a bit lighter, on the oil anyway.  Somehow butter and cheese always make it on the menu.

This much lighter version of your traditional fried zucchini sticks is just as tasty, but also much more heart healthy.  Baked items tend to be a bit drier then fried foods, so to even things out I created two savory sauces sure to make your mouth water.  These particular zucchini sticks were extra special because I pulled the zucchini right out of my own garden.  I added a little extra love to the breading with grated fennel and severed them along with my sauteed spinach and cheese stuffed portabella mushrooms for last weeks pizza party

Baked Zucchini Sticks
Makes enough for 8 guests


1 large zucchini (maybe two or three regular sized zucchini)
1 small sized fennel root
1/2 cup of flour
1-2 eggs
1 cup of breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Start by slicing the zucchini into 2 in long slices, maybe a 1/2 inch to 1 inch thick, and place in a bowl.  I like to start by setting up my assembly line of items for breading.  I place the flour, lightly beaten eggs, and bread crumbs each in their own bowl.  Once my hands get dirty, I don't want to have to touch anything else, so setting up ahead of time is a good way to avoid a big mess.  I also get out a large baking sheet and set it next to the breading materials.

Grate the entire fennel root into the breadcrumbs, add the salt and pepper, and give it a good toss.

Next comes the fun part.  Begin by dredging each zucchini stick in the flower, coat it in egg, and finally roll it in the breadcrumbs.  Neatly place the zucchini on the baking sheet with space between them for even baking.  Working with a handful of zucchini pieces at a time will make the job much quicker.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Fancy-Pants Cheese Dip
Makes about 1 1/2 cups


2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 of small yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of milk
2-3 tablespoons of flour
3/4 cup of shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


Begin by warming the butter over medium heat.  Add the finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt.  Saute the onion until it becomes tender.  Add the minced garlic, more salt and the pepper, and cook for another minute.  Vigorously stir in the milk and flour, and bring to a light boil.  The mixture will begin to thicken.  Stir frequently so that the bottom does not stick and burn.  

When the mixture reaches the desired consistency, remove from the heat and set aside for a good 10 minutes so it can cool a bit.  When the mixture has sufficiently cooled, add the shredded cheese of your choice and gently mix.  Transfer to a serving bowl.   


In my case I used a blend of white aged cheeses and mozzarella. The ages cheeses contributed a savory flavor, while the mozzarella added depth.

If you add the cheese too soon, the heat will cause the cheese to melt too quickly and the mixture will become stringy.

Quick Marinara Dipping Sauce
Makes 1 1/2 cups


2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 small yellow onion
2 carrots
1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce from a jar (it's not cheating, it's enhancing.)
Salt and pepper to taste


Begin by heating the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, finely chopped, and cook until tender.  Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.  Grate the carrot (a trick I learned from an Italian girl I met in Spain) and add to the pot.  Add salt and pepper between each layer to release the juices and get the flavor out in full effect.  After the carrots begin to look tender, add the marinara sauce.  Stir everything together and bring to a simmer.  The longer it cooks, the better the flavor.  It all depends on how much time you have.  I try and give it at least 10 minutes.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

So there you have it.  Fancy bar food.  Enjoy!