Friday, December 5, 2014


What a joy it was to be back in my own kitchen! To have counter space and a double oven and a gas stove and Le Creuset to cook with and my trusty Silpat to bake on! It was a foodie's dream to be home in kitchen I know and love. (Seeing my family was nice, too, I suppose.)

To me, Thanksgiving is about family and the love that we share. Nothing represents that like food for us. It is such an important aspect in my family's life. I think I speak for all of us when I say that eating  and enjoying good food is a priority. We eat to live, so why not live to eat?

There was the turkey, of course, cooked to a golden perfection:

There was a slight mishap with the turkey, however. It was quite heavier than turkeys we've had in the past, as this one was a whopping twenty pounds. When my father brought it out of the oven, the aluminum pan bent under the weight. Cooking juices went everywhere and we almost lost the turkey. Thankfully, though, both father and turkey survived, and we still had enough cooking juice to make the gravy. Our golden retriever, Jeeves, helped clean up the mess:

I made the rolls, as I do every year. I used this recipe for potato rolls. (I also have the cookbook these came from, and it is fabulous!) The potatoes and the water the potatoes were cooked in make the rolls perfectly light and chewy and the perfect way to sop up extra gravy. With the extra dough, I made a challah-like braided loaf.

All of the food was delicious, from the turkey to the mashed potatoes (completely homemade, of course) to the pumpkin pie at the end. It was hard going back to my two-butt kitchen, but at least there's only one more week until Christmas break.

Tomayto, tomahto

Hors d'oeuvres are one of the more under-appreciated food groups. They aren't as substantial or necessary as entrees and they aren't as flashy as desserts.

But they can be delicious. Think tomato bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKET-ta, NOT bru-shet-ta) or prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe or even the simple beauty of cheese and crackers.

For something a little more showy, I love stuffed tomatoes. Quick, always a crowd pleaser, and tasty. These look gourmet and foodie, but are super easy to make.

Small tomatoes, about 2 inches in diameter (you could use cherry tomatoes, but those might be too small)
4 tablespoons of cream cheese, slightly softened
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
2 teaspoons of an herb of your choice (I used a premixed blend of oregano, basil, thyme, tarragon, and lavender from Sprouts)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Mix the cream cheese, Parmesan, and herbs in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Wash and dry the tomatoes. Use a serrated paring knife and cute the tops off of the tomatoes. Cut carefully around the inside and remove the inner part and seeds. Don't discard the tops.

4. Put a small amount of the cream cheese mixture into each of the tomatoes.

5. Sprinkle each tomato with a small amount of grated Parmesan. Replace the tops on each of the tomatoes. Place into a baking dish.

6. Bake for 6-7 minutes, or until the cream cheese and tomatoes have warmed and softened.

7. Serve and enjoy!


Though oatmeal is the best healthy way to start the day, nothing can beat French toast when it comes to sweet breakfast foods. I would argue that they're even better than pancakes and waffles, when done right.

The best French bread is made with challah, a traditional Jewish braided bread.

But normal bread is a good substitute, especially whole wheat, which has a better and richer flavor than white bread.

French toast is an easy breakfast that takes little time to prepare but starts your morning off on a delicious note.

Ingredients: (1-2 servings)
2 pieces of bread, halved widthwise
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Maple syrup

1. Over medium-low heat, melt a tablespoon of butter. While the butter is melting, combine eggs, milk, and cinnamon in a small bowl.

2. Dip the bread into the egg mixture and let soak for a few seconds on each side. Place in the pan. Repeat for each piece of bread.

3. Let each piece cook for a couple minutes until golden brown on the underside. Flip and cook on the other side.

4. If there is an excess of the egg mixture of the piece of bread, you may notice that the egg mixture starts to cook and resemble an omelette or scrambled eggs. You can remove this with a spatula.

5. Once each piece has cooked, serve, top with maple syrup, and enjoy.

(Powdered sugar is also good, but maple syrup is more traditional.)

Image credit: 1

3 ways to cook better cheaper

When you're in college, your food budget may not allow for much more than Ramen noodles and mac and cheese. I understand that, but I also firmly believe in good tasting food. Here are some ways to get the most bang for your buck so you don't have to suffer instant noodles another night longer:

1. Check for grocery stores that allow you to scoop your own spices and other bulk items.

I know Sprouts and Whole Foods do this, and while much of the other food there is on the expensive side, self service scoops can help you control the amount you get and how much you pay for it. For expensive items like spices, odds are you aren't going to need an entire jar, which can run pretty costly. If you can find a place to scoop your own spices into small bags, you can get as much as you'll need for a given recipe and probably only pay a very little amount.

2. Buy local.

Farmers markets and stores that bring in produce locally are often a lot cheaper. Though big box stores like Walmart like to brag about their low prices, I have compared prices and talked with customers about produce prices, and stores with local produce are often cheaper; even if they aren't, the price difference is very small and you are getting much better quality of food. Because local food doesn't need to travel as far, the price of gas to transport is much less, which is reflected in the price. And if you buy local, you're also supporting your local community.

3. Buy cheaper options of the basic products.

The best olive oil comes from Italy, but you can buy cheap American-made olive oil that's still pretty good, will do what you need it too, and is a lot cheaper. Same goes with pasta, rice, flour, sugar, etc. For basic foodstuffs, you won't notice the difference by buying cheaper options.

The world needs more chocolate

In light of recent news about a potential worldwide chocolate shortage, I have decided that to make the most of the plentitude of chocolate available to me now. What better way to do so than through cookies, one of God and nature's perfect foods?

These were everything I could ever want in a cookie: not too chewy, not to hard, not too moist, not too dry, and deliciously, perfectly chocolaty. 

I mixed elements from this recipe for Lofthouse-style cookies and from this recipe for chocolate sugar cookies, which I have made before with great success.

Apart from being yummy, these cookies are also the easiest and fastest cookies I have made in a while.

3/4 cups of softened unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk (Best separating methods: a special egg yolk separator thingy or carefully cracking the egg and using your fingers, letting the whites run through your fingers while holding the yolk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder

More granulated sugar and cocoa powder for rolling

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix well.

2. Add the dry ingredients. Mix well until all ingredients are fully incorporated. The dough should be slightly sticky but firm.

3. Refrigerate for an hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. In a small bowl, combine equal parts granulated sugar and cocoa powder (you won't need more than a few tablespoons of each). Make small balls (about 1 - 1 1/2 inches in diameter) and roll in the cocoa-sugar mixture.

6. Put cookies on a cookie sheet with an inch or two between each one to allow for the cookies to expand while baking.

7. Bake for 9 minutes or until they look dry. With darker dough, it can be hard to tell when they are done. If in doubt, poke one of the center cookies with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, the cookies are done.

8. Allow to cool on the pan for five minutes. Remove and put on a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9. Enjoy!

(Note: Rolling the cookies is optional. It gives them a slightly crunchy exterior with the granulated sugar, but the coating does get darker, which can look like they have burned.)

A Delicious Experiment

Cooking can get monotonous. I have found myself cooking the same thing over and over again until it stops tasting like anything. One can only eat so many turkey burgers, sautéed zucchini, and bulgur wheat before you only taste the memory of the last time you ate it.

I had to spice things up a little, pun completely intended. I didn't have a lot on hand, but what I did have was: apples, maple syrup, butter, ground cumin, and curry powder.

I was fully expecting this to be a horrible mess, a monstrosity of a dish, a meal gone very wrong.

It was delicious.

I melted butter to sauté the apples in, as butter would go with the sweetness of the apples better than olive oil would. Once the apples started to get soft, I added in about a teaspoon each of cumin and curry powder and stirred to ensure that all of the apples were completely coated in it. Once the apples were completely soft, I added in a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup (organic! no corn syrup!). I cooked that until the apples had absorbed the syrup and caramelized.

I served the apples on top of a bed of leftover couscous and alongside an apple chicken sausage from Trader Joe's (which deserves to be named one of the seven wonders of the world).

At first, the apples were very sweet from the combination of the natural sweetness of a Gala apple and the maple syrup. But then there was an aromatic spiciness in the back of my throat and on my tongue from the spices. This spiciness nicely tempered what would have otherwise been an overwhelming sweetness.

I fully believe that this experiment could have ended very poorly. I'm glad it turned out yummy and the 26 people who liked and commented on the picture I shared on Facebook seemed to agree.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic!

Oatmeal is one of the more under-appreciated breakfast foods. Sure, pancakes are great and bacon is sublime. But what about the unsung, fiber and protein rich hero of the breakfast table? It's healthy and you feel full and ready for the day after eating it.

It is perfect for colder mornings when you want something nice and hot in your stomach. When I woke up one morning few weeks ago, oatmeal was the only thing I wanted to eat.

The only problem was that I had no oats. I did have bulgur wheat, though, and after a little searching online, I found this Martha Stewart recipe for bulgur wheat porridge that I adapted.

I  added a dash of organic maple syrup, some brown sugar, and a diced apple to make a yummy porridge that certainly satisfied my oatmeal cravings.

Ingredients: (makes 1 serving)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 bulgur wheat
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon organic maple syrup (un-organic would work too, but why eat artificial ingredients when you don't have to?)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 of an apple, diced

1. Combine the milk, water, bulgur wheat, salt, and apple in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let mixture simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the bulgur wheat and apple have softened and porridge is desired consistency.

3. Add in maple syrup and brown sugar.

4. Serve and enjoy!

Some additional notes:

1. You could also use cinnamon and nutmeg instead of the maple syrup, which also is very good. Add in 1/2 teaspoon of each in step 3 instead of the maple syrup.

2. If you don't stir frequently, the milk can form a thin filmy skin on top. If this happens, it should go away when you stir again. If not, you can use a whisk to break it apart and reincorporate the milk into the porridge.

3. Martha Stewart recommends putting raisins and strawberries in her recipe. As I don't like them, I tried cranberries one time I made this, and it was super tasty. Add in a handful of dried cranberries in step 1. Because cranberries are tart, you may find that the porridge is also more tart. Adding a little more of either brown sugar or maple syrup can help temper the sourness.