04/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

So Far, So Good

Today's challenge ended up being not so challenging after all.

Problem: 12:30pm lunch date at DUMBO restaurant Superfine with Slow Food USA's Josh Viertel.

Solution: Turn a lunch into a picnic (at the office).

The Result: Cheaper lunch. Better food. More fun.

Carrying a bag of homemade treats into the cavernous 20 Jay Street (a convenient two blocks down from my shared green offices), I got to see Slow Food up-close-and-personal and was charmed by the friendly staff who communed at a communal table over food from their home fridges.

Josh enjoyed my husband's leftover veggie chili, garnished with slices of radish and scooped from last night's big pot. For "dessert" we had apple slices with yogurt (and some chocolate, of course). ["Tempeh Chili with Black Beans," How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman, pp.678-679]

While Josh was making us espressos--yes, Slow Food has its own mini-Lavazza machine in their office kitchen thanks to Slow Food International's relationship with the company--one of the staff squeezed past him.

"Sorry, just trying to get the compost," she said as she opened the freezer, popped open a Tupperware container, and tossed in the day's food scraps.

Seems Slow Food peeps are really walking their talk.

After we finished our chat, Josh introduced me to some of the staff, most of whom I'd only "met" online and it was lovely to put faces to names.

In the end, Josh and I agreed the conversation was much more fruitful and fun than if we'd dined at Superfine down the street.

Conclusion: Challenge met.

TIP 1: Get Inspired

As we explore the challenges, and joys, of eating in this week, I thought I would share some tips along the way. My first: Get inspired.

Though I love food, I'm no chef nor am I one of those cooks who can walk into a kitchen and whip up a feast from whatever is in the fridge. Nope. I need direction. I need cookbooks. And I love them. I love learning how to put together new and unusual flavors. I love getting to know different cookbook "palettes." Peter Berley is fond of maple syrup. Lorna Sass has a thing for lentils. And so on.
In honor of the week, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite sources of inspiration:

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Bittman has a refreshingly simple way of presenting his recipes and explaining steps. He demystifies techniques and whether you're a seasoned home chef or a total newbie, there's soemthing in here for everyone.

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen: I would keep this cookbook on my shelf for the vegan skillet cornbread alone, but it's also chockful of other great ideas.

The Joy of Cooking: Indispensible for the basics.

Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen: Lorna Sass was green long before it was hip. Most of the eco-minded messages that I highlight in my work, she's been saying for a long time. Lorna's soups are especially divine. Make a pot and have it all week.

The Cheeseboard Cookbook: The scones are devilishly good and the pizzas are creative concoctions: Try the zucchini, feta, lime, and cilantro. Yum.

Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen: Half of my last book includes my take on what we call grub--healthy, local, sustainably raised and fairly made food--why it's important and how we can fight for it. The second half is filled with recipes by my co-author Bryant Terry who created seasonal menus complete with suggested soundtracks to consume will you cook and dine. What's the soundtrack to your food?

Lucid Food: My friend Louisa Shafia has a new cookbook and it's as gorgeous to look at as it is to cook from.

Super Natural Cooking: Heidi Swanson, the goddess behind got a deserved James Beard Award for this cookbook. Dive in. You won't be sorry.

Those are just some of my favs. What are yours?

Off to think about what to make for dinner...