Archive for August, 2007

In high school, I numbered the days left until graduation in my planner on the first day of school.  I would announce every day how many days we had left, ticking away every moment.  This practice drew the ire of many, but I took particular pleasure in the anger it incited in one girl.  She was a blonde cheerleader; dull, thin, humorless, and pretty in the way the prettiest girl in your high school looks.  She had a look in her eye that said she knew she had peaked at 18 and my countdown was a constant reminder of this. It was cruel of me, but ticking away the days made me feel powerful. I hated high school because of girls like her. Reminding her every day that the days were slipping away was an act of rebellion.

College was a much better time for me-I grew into myself and my looks and discovered a little place for myself in this world.  I found some of the best friends a girl could ever have and made my fair share of reckless decisions.  In all this change and chaos,  I was happy for the first time-maybe ever.  I learned the girls like the aforementioned blonde cheerleader were probably just as insecure as me and let go of all the bullshit from high school (mostly).  There was no countdown to graduation day in college.  It had ended too quickly and the prospect of the real world (and my staggering student loan payments) was not enticing. 

Still, it came and I jumped head first into the worst job–and year–of my life.  Once again, the countdown began. I desperately needed to get the hell out of there. I cried every day and my unhappiness was reflected in my ever expanding waistline.  It was every woman for herself and I had no choice but to gnaw the trap of that job off my leg.

After the Dark Year, I finally found a great job.  I had great bosses, smart and welcoming co-workers and I was challenged every day.  Then, the job got easy.  I still loved my co-workers and my position, but I was on autopilot.  This is when I really started to get into cooking.  I had time to focus on something for myself, harness my creativity, and devote hours to chopping, dicing and stirring.  I focused on my health and whittled my pants size down to a respectable number.  I finally had learned a smidge of patience and was able to focus fully on something without wishing it away. Everything had finally fallen in to place. (And before anyone points this out to me, I am in no way claiming I am a patient person.  I am merely saying it has gotten much better. On a scale of 1 to 10, I am now a 15 instead of a 50.)

In my go, go, go life of yesteryear, I never would have considered making this bread.  Though it seems counterintuitive given my extreme love of planning, I could not conceive of letting a bread rise on a counter for a whole day.  It just seemed like way too much work and waiting for the bread to bubble would have been damn near torture. I plan because I want things to happen-and NOW.  It is a constant struggle to not drive people absolutely insane with my penchant for planning. I kid you not; cooking (and some maturity) really has made me slow down and see that sometimes the wait is worth it. I’ve finally found something I have a knack for and enjoy.

My new found pseudo-patience has given me this bread. I was a tad nervous when preparing the dough as it was wetter than I expected.  Even though the recipe says not to freak when it is wet and sticky, I was freaking. It was goopy and almost impossible to form into a ball.  Thankfully, all worked out well and it was perfection.  Seeing as I have a job and only so much patience, I could not spend all day kneading, so I made a no knead recipe I have been eying for months. My friend Tinkabelle came over and we enjoyed this with an out of this world spinach salad she whipped up. This bread has made the rounds in the blogosphere and I was pleased I was not the first one to screw it up somehow. The crust was thick, but not tough, and the inside was chewy and dense without being overly heavy.  I used two cups of white flour and one cup of whole wheat flour; if I do say so, this was a fantastic call. The whole wheat flour gave the loaf a light nuttiness that went well with the butter slathered on top.

Thank you sweet patience for the gift of this bread.  Heaven knows I would not have even attempted this a few years ago.


No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (or 1/3 tsp active dry yeast)
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

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It is almost humanly impossible for two people to be more different than my friend and former roommate, Kickball, and me.  She is a vegetarian. I am an avid carnivore.  She is a devout anti-consumerist who carried all her possessions in to the room in one trip when we moved in together. I feel I deserve to be kept in a certain lifestyle and this lifestyle involves many, many pairs of shoes.  She rarely drinks and rises at the crack of dawn. I drink copiously and hit the snooze button for 40 minutes every morning.  She plays rugby. I hit the gym. She has respect when it comes to noise. I slam things, swear uncontrollably and loudly, and cannot hear my music if it is not making my eardrums bleed.

Despite these differences, we somehow managed to co-exist for a year in our little quad during college.  I was amused by her rants and oddly drawn, yet repelled, to her practice of eating raw tofu slathered in yellow mustard. She managed to deal with my late sleeping ways by stomping loudly around the kitchen, slamming cupboards and clanking pans, in an effort to wake me up. The girl can keep a secret, whether it be the scandalous and illicit dalliances of another roommate or my secret affair with a mutual friend. (I specifically remember her offering him a warm muffin on one occasion. That’s service!!) We ambitiously hosted cookie and coloring parties and she taught me a thing or two about Jeopardy. That crazy woman let me cut her hair with a pair of kitchen shears.

When Kickball decided to join the Peace Corps, I was not surprised.  She is a free spirit, always up for the next adventure and truly giving of herself.  I wasn’t even that shocked when she met a fellow Peace Corp member, fell in love and married him within five months.  She does what she wants and what feels right.  It sometimes may seem a little crazy, but I could never fault her for living on her own terms and taking her own path.  Though we live in different cities and lead very different lives, I think of her often and she will always be part of my life.

Have I mentioned she is thoughtful?  I couldn’t have been happier when these Fudgey Oatmeal Bars appeared at my doorstep.  The oats are salty and chewey and the fudgey filling is thick and sweet.  My roommate Annie Birdie and I (but mainly me) have worked this pan of treats over like a dirty hooker.  God, they taste so good.  Though I didn’t make these, the recipe had to be shared and she was thoughtful enough to send it my way. The recipe comes from a Peace Corps cookbook, which could not be more perfect. It is so Kickball to have a recipe from a bunch of hippies. It is so me that I was genuinely shocked that those dirty hippies left the carob and soy out of this. I am sure she would tell you this is not the first time I have been wrong on these matters. You’ll never catch me admitting I was wrong, though, not even for Kickball.


Fudgey Oatmeal Squares

Source: Kickball
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 chocolate chips (1 bag)
2 eggs
1 t baking soda
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups oatmeal
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla (divided)
1 cup butter
2 T butter
1 cup chopped nuts (optional-Kickball leaves them out)

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix sugar, 1 cup butter, 1 t vanilla, and eggs.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in oats-feel free to use your hands on this part. Press 2/3 of this mixture into a greased baking pan.  Reserve 1/3 of the Oat mixture for later. Heat 2 T butter, condensed milk, and chocolate chips over low heat till completely melted, stirring constantly. (This takes a couple of minutes) Remove from heat and stir in 1 t vanilla and nuts (optional). Pour this gooey mixture over oat mix in cake pan. Drop reserved oat mix by rounded teaspoons into chocolate mix (or use your hands). Bake 25-30 minutes. Makes 24 bars or just attack the whole thing with forks and your friends!

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Things have been a little “meh” as of late. A few events have left me feeling unsure about myself and things I hold to be true. I seem to be in a constant state of introspection and worry, thinking about my next steps and reading way too much in to everything and everyone. I find myself insufferable like this, but these cycles of intense self reflection and analysis have occurred throughout my life. I don’t think I would recognize myself without these periods and ultimately, I am thankful for them. They are brutal, but have led me to some moments of true clarity and forced me to make some necessary changes in my life.

This is why this weekend could not have come at a better time. In the eye of the storm, I was reminded of all the great people in my life. On Thursday night, Irish Lebowski stopped by, cheerful and with a lasagna in hand. Her lasagna is perfection, a divine mix of multiple recipes, the most perfect element of every recipe in one casserole dish full of bliss. I will hopefully dig in to her surprise at some point this week.

Friday night, an old friend from high school arrived. I hadn’t seen him in years. He is a true tether in my life; reminding me of who I am, who I once was and always fully accepting of both versions of me. Seeing him was wonderful; he is as hysterical, sharp and warm as ever. I was acutely aware of how far we have come, but how lucky we were to have known each other when we were working our way through the awkward years. Seeing him was only made better by a great night out with friends Saturday–having some of the most special people to me in DC with someone so special from the past made me realize how great my life also is in the present.

The icing on the cake arrived in the mail Sunday. Kickball, a college roommate and one of my most wonderfully zany friends, sent me some delicious fudgey oatmeal squares in the mail. All this just because she is Kickball and was thinking of me. They are sinful and I hope to get the recipe to share. More importantly, this simple act really meant so much to me.

This was a weekend of getting back to basics. I was blissfully aware of how lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. A perfect weekend of such comfort is hard to wrap up, but these meatballs were a great way to cap it all off. Flavorful and moist, they come from the Queen of Simple, Rachel Ray. Now, Miss Ray drives me insane; her joker smile and maniacal hand gestures are just too much. The fact that she shills for Dunkin’ Donuts makes me die a thousand tiny deaths; it pains me that she is sullying everything that is good, pure, and right with the world. Stay away from my iced French Vanilla coffee, Rachel. Every once in a while she pulls through, though, and this is one of those times. These are really phenomenal, lower fat meatballs. Of course, Rachel Ray being Rachel Ray, her original recipe calls for a horrific looking cheese sauce; it looks and sounds utterly revolting. I highly recommend staying far, far away from it.

In a divine end to a divine weekend, I made a meatball sub with a salad and enjoyed my wine in happiness.


Jumbo Turkey Meatballs

Adapted from 30 Minute Meals

1 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed

2 ½ lbs ground turkey (I used a mix of lean and ultra lean meat)

½ medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 egg

¼ cup milk

¾ cup seasoned (Italian) breadcrumbs

2 tsp dry basil

½ cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I just grate a bunch in the bowl)

Salt and pepper to taste (light on salt as the cheese is salty)

3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 400°. Wring the spinach dry in a clean kitchen towel or squeeze dry with hands. Place the ground turkey in a large bowl and make a well in the middle of the turkey. Add the spinach, onion, garlic, egg, milk, bread crumbs, basil and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and season with salt and pepper. Mix until combined, then form the turkey mixture into 12 large balls, arrange on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 25 minutes. Serves 6 (two per person).

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Older and Wiser

Growing up, I thought peas grew in cans on vines in the ultimate act of convenience.  Salads consisted of iceberg lettuce and shaved carrots and most potatoes adorning our plates came in tot form.   

MamaBear, an admitted picky eater and freaked out by most textures, is not a bad cook, she just isn’t very adventurous. Comfort foods were her forte; a fantastic monkey bread, to-die-for beef stew and a mac and cheese good enough to solve the conflict in the Middle East (if the diners didn’t first drop dead of a heart attack after consuming a lead brick of cheese, milk and butter). She also had much bigger things to worry about than slaving over a stove for hours every night.  The weekly dinners of Hamburger Helper probably explains my sodium lust and aversion to very large white gloves that talk.

Given these examples of fine dining, it is understandable that I thought sweet potatoes were exclusively a tuber served at Thanksgiving, mashed with pineapple and smothered in marshmallows.  There isn’t one thing wrong with this-it is like vegetables that are also candy-but it’s like I thought sweet potatoes ceased to exist outside of the fourth Thursday of November.

I had some qualms about even posting this “recipe”, but I cannot be the only person always looking for something more exciting than frozen broccoli to accompany my veggie burgers.  It’s basic, but a nice change of pace. They are perfect little starchy treats that are nutritious and incredibly flavorful.  In more hedonistic times, I would have dipped these in sour cream, so people with better metabolisms than me, please let it rip.  I dipped a few in plain low fat yogurt for a bit of tang, but I ate the majority plain and unadorned.  There is not one thing plain about these, though.


Sweet Potato Fries

2 large sweet potatoes 1 ½ tbs olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Salt (I am liberal-see effect of years of Hamburger Helper above)

Preheat oven to 425°. Julienne sweet potatoes in to ½” thick matchsticks.  Toss with olive oil, cumin and salt.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing once half way through.  Fries should be crispy.  Serves 4.

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About a month ago, I had the horror of going on a Very Bad Date. It has been pointed out to me that maybe meeting a guy at a bar and accepting his invite for a nice evening on the town may not be the best way to acquire a new special friend, but hey, I know plenty of people who have met that way. So, you can all suck it.

It was not a good scene. He seemed incapable of making eye contact, talked openly about his financial irresponsibility, pointed out that I used “big words”, and every story he told seemed to highlight that he was barely keeping it together. Hey, I understand, buddy. We are all kind of a mess deep down inside, dealing with our personal pain, but please try to be normal and trick me into liking you. Dating is NOT a time for honesty and self-awareness.

He didn’t seem to fully grasp that I was uninterested and asked me out on a second date. I just kind of flinched and said he could call me if he wanted to see me again–I thought that would do the trick. As if he is trying to tell me just how weak and spineless he is, he has since texted me twice, both times after 1 am on the weekend, asking me when we are going to “hang out again”. I guess “hang out” is code for: “You may be wholly unattracted to me, but can we still knock boots? I have no self respect.” Look, I love a late night text as much as the next person, but please. I actually am that kind of girl, but he didn’t even know that.

When I think back to that night and every time I rehash it with my friends, the one thing that makes people point out I may be a little harsh when it comes to dating is this: the final nail in the coffin was when he ordered the turkey club. A turkey club is just flat out milquetoast-unadventurous and lacking in personality. Don’t get me started on the fact that he also drank a Rolling Rock…

Now, maybe this assessment is harsh. I know and love plenty of picky eaters, so I know I can see past it, but God Damn.  This was just too much after everything else. Also, before anyone calls me snobby, might I also say: if I liked him I would have been able to overlook this. But I didn’t like him. God knows if I am attracted, I can ignore almost anything. My blinders are ten miles wide.

So, yes, I am the girl who will discount a man for a turkey club. Take your white bread and processed meat and go talk to someone else. Maybe all the debt collectors after your ass are suitable potential mates.

Below, is MY kind of a turkey sandwich. The name of the recipe, Bombay Sliders, sounds like something shady that takes place in an ally in India; I wish they were called something different. But, I know a diamond in the rough when I see it and these burgers were moist and bursting with flavor. I (once again) made an exception and used fat free mayo; with all the curry it really doesn’t make a difference and it saved an obscene amount of calories. I prepared them mini-sized, as recommended, but I think it would be easier to just make a normal size burger. After slapping them on the Foreman (I live in an apartment-oh, how I would kill for a grill), the place smelled amazing.

These burgers couldn’t have saved this guy, but they are damn better than a turkey club.


Bombay Sliders with Garlic Curry Mayo
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup (fat free) mayonnaise, divided
6 1/4 teaspoons curry powder, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons (low fat) plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
1 garlic clove, minced

2 pounds ground turkey (one lb breast meat/ one lb regular)
6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup minced green onions
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon hot chili powder or Hungarian hot paprika
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil
12 small dinner rolls, cut horizontally in half, lightly toasted

Mix 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 1/4 teaspoons curry powder, and next 3 ingredients in small bowl for sauce. Let stand at room temperature while preparing sliders.

Place turkey, next 6 ingredients, remaining 1/4 cup mayonnaise, and 4 teaspoons curry powder in large bowl. Mix with fork or hands just until blended (do not overmix). Divide mixture into 12 equal portions. Using wet hands, form each portion into patty about 1/2 inch thick.

Preheat broiler or heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. If broiling patties, brush rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil and arrange patties on sheet. Broil (or cover patties in skillet and cook in batches) until cooked through, pressing patties down lightly with spatula before turning over, about 3 minutes per side (or 4 minutes per side if cooking in skillet).

Place patties on bottom halves of rolls. Top each patty with sauce. Cover with roll tops. Place 3 sliders on each of 4 plates and serve.  Makes 4 servings.

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Truth be told, I have always enjoyed cooking more than baking. There is something much more enjoyable to me about being able to make a meal while flying by the seat of your pants; a shake of this, a pinch of that and it all seems to come together. Most of my recipes have evolved so much, that my “directions” to friends can become maddening. My friend, Irish Lebowski, has called me on more than one occasion to inquire the exact measurement of a glug of olive oil or a “good amount” of oregano. Baking had always seemed too constrictive to me. A recipe must be followed to the tee or the cookies don’t rise or you end up with a dry cake. Rules are meant to be broken! I loathe that I cannot do it with a batch of brownies. It’s like the batter is oppressing me. Damn the man and damn the chemistry of baking.

In the past year or so, I have really come around on baking, though. This change of events occurred for one simple reason: I am, underneath it all, a people pleaser. Sweet treats just illicit a different response from people; they may like my chicken, but they love my desserts. Deep down inside, we are all kids, scheming to steal that next cookie out of the jar and work ourselves into a sugar coma. I cook for people for a bunch of reasons-to cheer them up, to show them I love them, to maybe impress them if they are cute-but I get a certain thrill out of the way people’s eyes light up if I have managed to pull off something special. Of course, when things don’t go so well, it is rough going but only Ryan Reynolds is perfect.

And, oh boy, did this triple chocolate cheesecake succeed in lighting some eyes. It was transcendent; chocolately without being too much, creamy, rich and smooth. I saw the lovely Nigella Lawson make this recently on her show and I knew I absolutely had to make it. I think she may be doing some Jedi mind tricks on me with her mellow voice and sensual handling of the food, but I don’t care. Her food delivers. Don’t be deterred by the length of the recipe; it has a lot of steps, but none of them are hard. I made this for a girl’s night this weekend and it was a hit and a half. You have not seen bliss until you have seen five women in a room, full of pizza and cheesecake.

A water bath is essential for this, but in an absolute pinch, a large pan full of hot water can probably be placed in the oven near the cake tin. The cake needs the humid air to prevent cracking. Even with the bath, my cake cracked due to being shifted somehow in the fridge while it set. This is why the ganache swirls on top are perfect; I just made one of the swirls go right over the crack and no one could tell. It’s like make up for your cake, hiding the flaws while making it look pretty. The graham cracker crust is really helped by the added cocoa, though the next time I make this (and you bet there will be a next time) I may use chocolate graham crackers. For the melted chocolate in the cake, I used 5 ounces semi sweet chips and one oz of bittersweet. It was perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

Have I mentioned this desert is perfect? Perfect enough to make me follow the rules.


Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Source: Nigella Lawson

Cheesecake base:
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon cocoa

Cheesecake filling:
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped small
2 1/2 cups cream cheese
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 tablespoon custard powder (or one tsp. cornstarch and one tsp sugar)
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cocoa, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark corn syrup (ligh can be substituted)

Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the base, process the graham crackers to make rough crumbs and then add the butter and cocoa. Process again until it makes damp, clumping crumbs and then tip them into the pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan to make an even base and put into the freezer while you make the filling.

Put a kettle on to boil.

Melt the chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the cream cheese to soften it, then add the sugar and custard power, beating again to combine. Beat in the whole eggs and then the yolks, and the sour cream. Finally add the cocoa dissolved in hot water and melted chocolate and mix to a smooth batter.
Take the springform tin out of the freezer and line the outside of the tin with a good layer of cling wrap, and then another layer of strong foil over that. This will protect it from the water bath.

Sit the springform tin in a roasting pan and pour in the cheesecake filling. Fill the roasting pan with just boiled water to come about half way up the cake tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the cheesecake should be set, but the underneath should still have a wobble to it.

Peel away the foil and cling film wrapping and sit the cheesecake in its tin on a rack to cool. Put in the refrigerator once it is no longer hot, and leave to set, covered with plastic overnight. Let it lose its chill before unspringing the cheesecake to serve.

To make the chocolate sauce: very gently melt the chopped chocolate, cream and syrup. When the chocolate has nearly melted, take off the heat and whisk it to a smooth sauce. Let it cool a little, and pour it over the chocolate cheesecake on its serving plate.

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Now Look What You Did

As I stated a week back or so, I know the photos suck. Some of you have been happy to keep telling me over and over again how bad they are.  When you cut me I bleed. Didn’t your mother’s teach you any manners?

This has a great deal to do with my camera. It is two years old with a weird lens issue and the delay between the flash and the photo is painfully long. I aim to get it replaced within the next month or so, but I am doing my research and don’t want to make a hasty purchase.  I reserve my impulses for things like tattoos.

This cannot all be blamed on the camera, though. 

It’s mostly me, ok? Does that make you happy? Annie Birdie had the misfortune of walking into the apartment one day while I was on the phone with our internet provider.  The poor person on the other end of the line had done nothing wrong except have the bad luck of receiving me as a caller. I incredulously and maniacally pleaded: “I have blue wire in my left hand and a grey one in the right hand.  TELL. ME. WHAT. TO. DO.” I had unwraveled. 

I am the definition of a luddite; I still haven’t really figured out blog feeders (is that what they are called?), I only use the most basic of functions on my home computer and my shiny Apple at the office and, in all honesty, I doubt I could even figure out how to use an iPhone. I know; it’s shameful. I have lots of other good qualities, so please don’t hold this against me.

In an attempt to win your love, I tried to figure out my camera on Wednesday and erased all my photos. This was not the intent.  Poof!  They are gone, off to the land where single socks go to die, never to be found again.

So, I had to recreate the photos I had stored on the camera for the following recipes.  Admittedly, it was not really a hardship; I could drink a mojito every day and there were some left over strawberries in my fridge. These photos are even worse than the originals because they were taken in a rage and in a rush; you have no one to blame for the quality of these images but yourselves.

I had to share these two perfect little concoctions, so the reshoot was worth it.  These recipes prove that sometimes less is more; you only need a handful of really great ingredients to make something incredibly delicious. These short, simple recipes also serve as a warm-up to an upcoming post; prepare yourself for a fairly intensive, but totally worth it, recipe this weekend.

I digress. I served the balsamic strawberries (a simple recipe I put together based off numerous I perused) over frozen yogurt, which I had already devoured by the time the second photo session was resumed.  The berries were delicious on there own.  Please don’t be afraid of the pairing-I assure you the final product does not taste like vinegar.  As far as the mojito goes, I know I may be stretching it putting up a recipe for a cocktail, but I think powered sugar is a little secret that really makes the drink soar.

And Allah knows after the camera debacle, I was owed a drink…


Strawberries in Balsamic Reduction

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons chopped mint

1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered

In a small sauce pan, heat vinegar and sugar over medium high heat (it will bubble) until it has reduced by half.  The mixture should coat the spoon.  Allow balsamic syrup to cool and add strawberries and mint.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving.  Great over frozen yogurt, with creme fraiche or on their own. Serves 3-4.


 Mojitos from Heaven

4 oz lemon rum

1/2 lime, cut in 4 pieces

5 mint leaves

1 tablespoon powered sugar

6 oz. club soda

In bottom of glass, put in torn mint leaves, powered sugar and the lime sections (give the lime sections a good squeeze in the glass before throwing them in). Add a splash of the club soda and muddle the mixture at the bottom of the glass aggressively with a wooden spoon.  It should be beaten to a pulp.  Fill glass with a generous amount of ice and add club soda.  Mix well and enjoy.  Repeat.

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My instincts are sharp. Unfortunately, these instincts are wasted on me as I generally choose to push those gut feelings, pangs that something may be wrong or ill-advised, deeper down into my gut.

I know that final drink, right before last call, is a bad idea but I still summon the bartender. That second date with the beta male totally lacking in personality and cajones? Sure–why not! What else am I going to do on a Tuesday night? Knowing, in the pit of my stomach, that a friendship is coming to an end– it’s run it’s course, it is dead–but forging ahead anyway because breaking up with a friend is soul wrenching. In hindsight, I always kick myself in the ass because I knew the outcome all along: the bed spins, the boredom and the heartbreak were all inevitable.

In actuality, the only time I feel totally betrayed by my instincts is when I look back at my pictures from high school. I have no idea how I could have thought that platinum blond chunk of hair in the front of my head was acceptable, but I sure did. I loved it and thought I was the bee’s knees. Every fashionista must make a few mistakes; it is just a damn shame mine will live in infamy in my senior yearbook.  Other than this brief lapse in judgment, I am usually spot on.

And this recipe is a perfect example. I had my lovely friend, Cinderella, over for dinner the other night. I was happy to see her and do a post Puerto Rico wrap up, but I spent the whole day agonizing over what to make. I wanted to make my Greek turkey burgers but it seemed a little lame. I thought about making some kind of Mexican dish, but we had Mexican the last time we were together (and she made some spectacular beans for that meal–lots of pressure to live up to). So, despite my better judgement, I landed on salmon with a cucumber salad.

I share this recipe, because like most mistakes, something can be learned from it. The tumeric was a nice compliment to the salmon; I tend to make the same Asian marinade over and over again and it doesn’t hurt to have something else up my sleeve. Also, I have never actually taken the step to strain yogurt through a coffee filter. This is a genius idea; it made fat free yogurt, which can be runny and lackluster, much thicker and creamier. But other than that, this dish was a disappointment. Cinderella said she liked it–maybe she actually did–but I suspect she just has good manners and her senses were dulled by all the wine. The salad was bland and the flavors didn’t mesh well. The salmon plopped on top was just “meh”-it was lacking in texture and all kind of…wet.

So, learn something from my mistakes, but please, trust your instincts and don’t try this at home.


Slow Roasted Salmon with Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad:
1 English (seedless) cucumber (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt (I used fat free)
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh dill, (about 2 fronds), plus more fronds for garnish
Pinch sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pound center cut salmon, skinned
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad: Quarter the cucumber, lengthwise, and remove the seeds, but leave on the skin. Thinly slice the cucumbers and mix with the salt in a colander. Set in the sink for about 1 hour to drain. Meanwhile, place the yogurt in a coffee filter-lined strainer and set over a bowl to drain, about 1 hour. Rinse the cucumbers with cold, running water. Press down on the cucumbers to extract as much liquid as possible and pat dry. Toss the cucumbers with the drained yogurt, dill, sugar, orange zest, cayenne, and season with pepper, to taste.Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Cut the salmon lengthwise and then crosswise to make 4 equal squares of fish. Lightly sprinkle the salmon all over with a pinch of turmeric and rub in slightly to coat evenly. Season salmon with salt and pepper and place on a very lightly oiled oven-proof nonstick pan. Roast the salmon, turning the pieces carefully with a spatula after about 10 minutes, until just cooked through, about 20 minutes in all. (Slow-roasted salmon looks bright orange when done, and will be luscious in the center.) To serve, divide the cucumbers between 4 plates, top with the salmon and garnish with dill fronds. Serves 4.

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In high school, I worked at a local restaurant as a hostess. My father was the bartender/manager there and the place toughened me up. People get belligerent when they have to wait for their eggs after church on Sunday. Mother’s Day brunch could make a grown man weep. Valentine’s Day was an absolute nightmare, though I will never understand taking a loved one to a place where the “Gobbler” was one of the best things on the menu.The place did best with pub type fare: club sandwiches, Cobb salads and burgers. The baker did a great with the deserts-amazing bread pudding-and I still contend the Sunday brunch chef made the best hash browns I have ever tasted. Some of my fondness may be attributed to nostalgia, but that’s neither here nor there. It was good stuff.

Being the boss’ daughter had some perks. The cooks, guys named Spider and Burnie (so nicknamed because I am pretty sure he was baked 24/7) were very sweet to me. I think they were amused by my unpredictable mouth, dirty jokes and insane outfits. I never expected to be treated differently and they never tip toed around me (they were cooks), but in hindsight, I am sure they withstood an extra serving of BS from me they normally would not have accepted.

One example of my special brand of BS was the “Lemmonex Special”: a tuna club on wheat, smushed down, with curly fries on a separate plate. NO PICKLES. I probably ordered this about two times a week and everyone there knew how I liked it. It was always perfection. My love for a simple tuna sandwich is well documented and was forever solidified when I named my cat Tunah.

Some things have changed–a salary above minimum wage, co-workers who are not obviously high on the job-and some things have not-my sometimes questionable fashion decisions and my big mouth. My worship for tuna has not wavered either.

The recipe below is a take on a tuna salad I love at Whole Foods. Some tweaks have been made for the home kitchen and to make the ingredient list manageable. The mustard gives it some zest and cuts down on the amount of mayo needed. In something like this, I think fat free mayo is acceptable; I normally blanch at it, but there is so much going on here the full fat version isn’t missed. The artichokes add some texture and the olives add a pop of flavor. This is one thing I can change and still love; just please don’t ask me to tell a clean joke.


Tuscan Tuna Salad

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tbs mayo (I used fat free)

1 tsp oregano, dried

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

¼ green pepper, finely diced

¼ red onion, finely diced

15 kalamatta olives, pitted and quartered (please don’t get canned)

½ can artichoke hearts, chopped

3– 6 oz cans white tuna in water

salt and pepper

Mix together first eight ingredients. Thoroughly drain tuna; it should be dry. Incorporate in to olive/artichoke mixture. Salt and pepper for taste, being careful with the salt as the artichokes are high in sodium from being canned. Serve on a salad or on toasted wheat bread. Makes 6 servings.

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Back on the Mainland

Puerto Rico was an adventure.  There were only two occasions where I thought I may be killed.  The quote of the trip goes to Annie Birdie: “Do you think Natalie Holloway was having this much fun before she was killed?”  Despite these questionable moments, it was generally a low key trip, filled with sun and hours spent by the water.

I have tons of recipes I want to try out and recreate after the trip; I am feeling inspired.  Also, time to get some healthy food into this body.  A girl cannot survive on daiquiris and carbs alone.  How I wish I could.  My favorite jeans are feeling a little snug. While I generally prefer to think of my body as an amusement park rather than a temple, this ride needs a tune up.

A few culinary gems from PR:


This was at the airport on the way to PR.  These are cheese filled tater tots; it’s like some screwed up Frankenstein of junk food.  Even in my incredibly hung-over state the morning of the flight, this did not appeal to me.  Now, that is saying something.


Food at our resort in PR was insanely expensive and we were charged if we even looked into the restaurant. Annie Birdie and I did it up college style and hoofed it to a market and filled our mini-fridge with these culinary delights.  Snack packs and beer; my lifeblood.


 This drink was ALL VODKA with merely a splash of papaya and guava juice.  My eyes grew as the bartender prepared it for me. After one of these, I was inebriated.  I tip my hat to this drink; my liver is a tough dragon to slay.


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