Archive for April, 2013

Photograph by Carla Laseter

Photograph by Carla Laseter

Finally. The Cherry Blossoms are almost at peak bloom! My mom, my roommate and I rushed down to the Tidal Basin yesterday evening to get a glimpse and snap a few photos. We brought a picnic dinner with us and enjoyed the view from underneath the outstretching branches of a cherry tree.

Earlier in the day, I had a tough time deciding what to prepare. I wanted to avoid conventional picnic foods such as fried chicken, cole slaw and potato salad. Not to say there is anything wrong with these foods (I’m Southern, so you know I love fried chicken!), but I wanted to try something different.

I scanned Mark Bittman’s excellent piece, 101 20 Minute Dishes for Inspired Picnics, in the New York Times and found the perfect idea. Rice salad. Of course. They’re extremely versatile and pair wonderfully with lighter proteins such as chicken or fish. I crafted my own rice salad based partly on Mark Bittman’s ideas and from a similar recipe on the back of a bag of Lundberg Short Grain Brown Rice.

Right away, I knew I wanted broccoli rabe and Kalamata olives in my rice salad. I love the complex, bitter flavors that broccoli rabe and olives can lend to any dish. In this recipe, they are well-balanced by the sweetness of the bell pepper and acidity of the lemon vinaigrette. With whole grains, nuts and greens, this salad is healthy addition to any picnic (we ate every bit of it!). Feel free to get creative and substitute different ingredients into the recipe as well.

Oh, and for my fellow runners out there: this salad makes a great snack after an intense workout or long run. Enjoy with a glass of chocolate milk, of course.

Photograph by Carla Laseter

Photograph by Carla Laseter

Brown Rice Salad with Broccoli Rabe and Toasted Almonds

Yield: About 6 servings (Note: Not counting the rice, the below measurements are approximations. Feel free to use more or less of any ingredient!)

  • 3 cups cooked short grain brown rice (I used Lundberg)
  • 4 Tbsp. toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 cup cooked broccoli rabe, sliced thin
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
  • Fresh mint, chiffonaded
  • Salt and pepper

Simple Lemon Vinaigrette (Yield: about ½ cups)

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prepare brown rice according to the instructions on the package, making sure to yield 3 cups cooked rice. Set aside and let cool completely.
  2. Lightly coat slivered almonds with olive oil and toast in oven at 350 degrees until light brown. Give the pan a good shake after a few minutes to make sure they toast evenly.
  3. Slice the stems off of the broccoli rabe, reserving the leaves. Take a handful of rabe leaves and roll them up on your cutting board. Slice thin and then rinse the leaves in a colander with water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced rabe (it’s okay if it’s not completely dry) and sauté until the stems are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Place rabe on paper towels to drain excess liquid and let cool completely.
  5. Dice pepper into small cubes (They should not be much larger than the grains of cooked rice).
  6. Slice olives in half if they are small or quarters if they are larger.
  7. Pick mint leaves. Wash and dry with paper towels if necessary (sometimes they are clean).
  8. Lastly, make the vinaigrette by whisking olive oil into fresh lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


  1. Combine cooked rice, toasted almonds, diced pepper, olives and broccoli rabe in a bowl.
  2.  Chiffonade the mint leaves, or roll them up and slice thin. Add enough mint to the rice mixture so that you can taste it.
  3. Add lemon vinaigrette a little at a time and toss until the rice is well coated, but not drenched (You might not need to use all of the vinaigrette). Season the salad with salt and pepper and enjoy cold or at room temperature.

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Consider this scenario: You are in Parkville, Maryland, somewhere on East Joppa Road near the interchange of Loch Raven Road and I-695. You’re only 25 minutes north of Baltimore, but it seems farther. In front of you is an expansive asphalt desert, strewn with dotted lines and speeding cars. The area is industrial, with mostly furniture stores and car dealerships.

You are stuck here for three hours without a car. What on Earth are you going to do?

Don’t worry, there is a story behind all of this randomness. Last week, Paul needed car repairs at a Pep Boys in Parkville and we had to wait four hours until they finished. We made the best of a potentially irritating situation and explored the area. The verdict? There’s not much to look at around here, but you will find some killer good deals and prices. Would I ever come back here? Most likely no. 

So, without further ado, here are my highlights of East Joppa Road in Parkville, Maryland. If you ever find yourself in this area, you’ll be glad you read this.

Bel-Loc Diner64311_4909431538936_1405366172_n

First opened in 1964, this blast-from-the-past diner is a rare find. Is it good? Well, no, not really. But for the authentic, diner experience, it’s worth a trip if you’re nearby. We ordered a Western Omelet, which was gigantic, and a two eggs any-style dish with bacon and breakfast potatoes. Our server was warm and friendly, and encouraged us to stay as long as we wanted while we sipped our coffee.


You know what Goodwills are: a smorgasbord of random items at bargain prices. This is definitely one of the better ones I’ve visited. Similar to Bel-Loc, I felt like I’d stepped back 15 years in time. We found Disney VHS tapes, old records, books and retro gaming consoles. Paul found a cheap DVD he could resell on Amazon for a higher price and I picked up a milk frother for $10. (Now I can make lattes at home!) I looked up the actual retail price, and it was somewhere around $50. On Tuesdays, there is a 10% student discount. Oh, the things you do when you’re bored.

Baynesville Electronics (Warning: this website causes extreme motion sickness!)

I encountered all sorts of complicated-looking computer parts, but I also found odd items such as do-it-yourself potato clock. I wasn’t really sure what was going on here. It was mildly entertaining for about three minutes, and then I really, really wanted to leave. At least Paul, the computer genius, understood what was here. If you are in of need computer parts, then this is your spot.

Lakeshore Learning Store

We had high hopes for this store. We imagined challenging games that required serious brain power. What we found instead was a children’s store with items like Play-Doh and multiplication flashcards. In fact, the entire store kind of smelled like Play-Doh. If you’re a teacher or a small child, then you’ll probably love this place. We spent 30 seconds here and bolted towards the crisp,  fresh air.

Dollar Tree

Once I saw how cheap everything was, I decided to knock out some grocery shopping. I bought three packs of Dentine Ice gum, a big-pack of fun size M&M’s, a pack of Rubbermaid tupperware containers, Palmolive soap, all for $1 each. You can’t even get these deals at Target! Obviously, there were some obscure brands that I might be skeptical to purchase, but overall there was a great selection of everyday stuff.

Beltway Fine Wine and Spirits 

This is definitely one of the best bang for your buck beer, wine and liquor stores in the area. When I went to Hopkins, we used to drive all the way out here to stock up before parties.

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