Latkes

Latkes

IMG_3319

IMG_3298

When I was in college, my friends and I would gather at each other’s apartments for family dinners. I consider these semi-weekly events integral to my college experience. I’ve said this a thousand times, but making food for someone else, is giving part of yourself to them. Whether you use a family recipe that’s been handed down for five generations or something you found on the Internet, it’s time and love and work that you spent and gave and did to meet one of the most basic needs of another human.

My friends Lindsay and Anna lived together for a time, and one night one or both of them hosted latke night. Latkes are potato pancakes traditionally served during Hanukkah. The oil that the pancake fries in represents the tiny bit of oil that miraculously burned for eight days and eight nights. I bet I used more oil in making these than the oil that burned at the Second Temple of Ancient Israel. Lindsay describes it as an “ungodly amount of oil,” which is funny, given the circumstances.

I found the night Lindsay stood in the kitchen making latkes for us especially special, because latkes, like regular flour-filled pancakes, have to be made a couple at a time. She was feeding, like, 25 people and essentially had to stand over the stove all night flipping latkes and bringing them out for us to swarm.

I’ve been trying to master this recipe for a year now. Lindsay sent me the recipe when she read latkes as one of my goals from 2012. The secret really truly is squeezing as much water as physically possible from the shredded potatoes. It took me half a dozen separate attempts before I finally made a batch where I squeezed enough water out. (If there’s too much water, the pancakes fall apart and you get a big pile of hashbrowns, which are also delicious but not pancakes.)

I started my chopping one whole onion in my food process and dumping that into my mixing bowl. [Read more...]

Nontraditional Caprese salad

Nontraditional Caprese salad

pin

Our windows are open, and the sun is shining, and I’m super excited about it!

Summer visions of picnicking in the woods, star-gazing on the hills and reading in the sunlight dance through my head.

To celebrate, I made an nontraditional caprese salad for lunch today. Traditional caprese salads are slices of tomato and mozzarella, leaves of fresh basil and olive oil. I used raspberry balsamic vinaigrette instead of olive oil on mine.

It’s not quite summer yet, and I needed the earthy undertones of balsamic vinegar to keep me grounded.

This is a super easy, fun lunch to make.

I started with a slice of tomato. I seasoned it with s&p. [Read more...]

No time for breakfast? Egg (rolls) for dinner.

No time for breakfast? Egg (rolls) for dinner.

When I was younger, my mom used to stand at the bottom of our stairs and yell my name in an attempt to get me out of bed for school. This happened every day. Probably because she got tired of walking up the stairs no fewer than 1,000 times to remind me how many dwindling minutes I had to get ready.

I’ve always been a terrible waker-upper. It’s the worst part of my morning every single morning, but I know it’s better than not waking up.

Now, I’m sort of an adult, and I still have a terrible time waking up. Sometimes I’ll stay up all night, just to avoid waking up the next day because I know it will be a struggle or that I’ll simply sleep through alarms.

While we were eating egg rolls for dinner tonight, I told A.J. I wanted to be at work no later than 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. He laughed and then I laughed because we know there’s little chance of that happening if my head touches the pillow before then.

He tries valiantly to wake me up gently every morning, but I usually stir and groan and grunt and then go right back to sleep like nothing ever happens. Or yell at him.

“I’m getting up at 5, so I’ll poke and prod you until you wake up,” he said.

“OK!”

“But you’ll hate me.”

“Only temporarily,” I replied.

“It will be a short and intense hatred.”

I would love to be the kind of adult that wakes up early, bounds out of bed before a single alarm bell and be ready a long eight to 10 hours of work after an hour of fitness and a healthy, homemade, well-rounded breakfast.

Instead I’m the type of person that bolts out of bed 20 minutes before she has to be at work, throws on a wrinkled pair of slacks and does her makeup at red lights on the way to work.

The one redeeming quality about the wrinkled-slacks-wearing person is that she’s also the type of person that thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to cook 10 egg rolls for dinner in an effort to make some headway on a list she made nearly a year ago.

And the egg rolls were pretty darn good. I adapted Taste for Adventure‘s Pad Thai Egg Rolls recipe.

Michou and I also made these during our cooking lessons on Sunday, so this post is has pictures of both and includes a very cute graphic on how to fold egg rolls!

I started by making the filling. I browned some ground chicken, chopped green onions and minced garlic. [Read more...]

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms

Today is Father’s Day, so I want to talk about my dad.

My dad is the quintessential family man: everything he does is for his family.

My childhood — and, now, my adulthood — has been an endless stream of support from my parents. My dad, especially, has always told me to “follow my gut” in the pursuit of happiness.

The only thing he has ever expected of me is to put myself in the best position possible to be happy. That’s all he’s ever wanted for me, and it’s all he’s ever asked me to do: do what’s necessary to pursue happiness.

Dad is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. His time at work is spent fiercely concentrating on whatever task on which he is working. Conversely, his time at home is spent fiercely concentrating on his family.

As a child, Dad was always right next to me helping me reach my goals. Whether I was playing soccer — Dad never missed a practice — or practicing the flute — he would sit with me for hours to nail down a string of notes for an upcoming solo.

And then he would be right there celebrating with me when I scored the goal or performed the solo — usually with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks.

As my goals changed, his goals changed. He never questioned my decision to move 2,000 miles away to pursue journalism. Or move an additional 1,000 miles east for my full-time reporting job.

It seems like such logical, simple advice, and I guess it is, but what Dad doesn’t know is that he helped shape my gut.

Every day we are all faced with a variety of decisions — some simple and some not so simple. And he gives me the same advice each time and I always do what he suggests — go with what I feel is right. But when I’m trying to figure out exactly what I feel, I think about Dad.

I think about how hard he’s worked during his lifetime. I think about how he always puts in the maximum amount of effort so things are done correctly. I think about how much he researches everything from vacation plans to new cars to dishwasher models so he can arm himself with as much information when making a decision. And I think about what will make him proud. And what’s really great is what will make him proud is doing what will make me happy.

Unfortunately I can’t be with my dad on his special day, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Father’s Day Daddy!

I also wanted to thank A.J.’s dad for his hand in raising A.J., who turned out to be a pretty OK guy. So we brought these stuffed mushrooms to A.J.’s parent’s house yesterday to celebrate Father’s Day with them.

Stuffed with sausage and sage and smothered in mozzarella, I can’t think of a better way to thank a man for raising the love of my life. He really liked them.

I started by browning some breakfast sausage in skillet with some seasoned salt, sage, garlic and pepper. I broke the sausage up with my spatula as it cooked. [Read more...]

Avocado fries

Avocado fries

Whenever anyone asks me about The Move from California to Pennsylvania (with a jaunt in Missouri in between), they usually express shock to hear that I love the keystone state more than the golden coast.

It’s true that I spent my whole life lusting for The Big City that I thought offered more than my 100,000-person Californian town nestled in the desert between the Santa Ana and San Bernardino mountain ranges.

I never expected to find myself living and working in a town that boasts fewer people than my high school’s graduating class.

But I love it. I love that when I go to my gym they say hi to me by name, I love that I order my “usual” at our local coffee shop and I love that I can’t go to the market without chatting with someone who I know and would probably call a friend.

One thing I emphatically don’t love, which I tell anyone who asks, is that in this state, tiny, little, dinky, not ripe avocados cost $1.99 each. (I still buy them, I can’t go without, I just moan about it.)

I love avocado. I think they just might be the best fruit in the whole world. They are creamy and have this wonderful unexpected bite to them (not spicy-bite, maybe tangy-bite?) that surprises me every time I take a spoonful. To me avocados represent the epitome of satisfying.

And that’s without flavorings or a special way of preparation. They’re just good all by themselves.

That’s why I was sort of suspicious when I read on the  Circle B Kitchen blog about this recipe for avocado fries.

Why ruin a good thing?

But turns out avocado is just as good rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. It’s like adding this wonderful crispy texture to the fruit that we already know and love.

To make them I cut up some not-too-ripe avocados into wedges (here’s a link to how to pick out ripe avocados from the store). The best way to do this is to cut each avocado in half, remove the pit and slice them into wedges with the peel on. Then peel each slice. [Read more...]

Cinna-minis

Cinna-minis

I think I was most excited about bring these to the gallery opening last Friday. Who doesn’t like miniature-sized food? The answer is no one.

And these are the perfect size for a party. No knife and fork needed. Two bites and the taste of cinnamon, sugar and dough. Oh, and bacon. Because I used bacon fat instead of butter in the glaze.

The only problem with these babies (literally, because they are miniatures) is they are sort of addictive. But that’s only a problem if you consider eating more than one cinna-mini a problem, which I certainly don’t.

I would love to tell you about how I made the dough for these by hand. But I didn’t. I used Pillsbury crescent roll dough. I won’t tell if you won’t tell.

To make these, I opened the package of dough and gathered it all up in a ball. Then I rolled it thin on a floured surface. This dough is stubborn. It doesn’t like to roll.  You have to force it. Show that dough who is boss. (Also if you let the dough come to room temperature, which I did not, it would help.)

Then I poured some melted butter all over the rolled-out dough. [Read more...]

Bacon-wrapped dates

Bacon-wrapped dates

(Don’t forget about the Oven Lovin’ giveaway!)

I made these bacon-wrapped dates for the Allegory Gallery and Second Chapter Books event in Ligonier last week. They taste just like candy. Bite-sized, a fabulous marriage of sweet and salty and exotic enough to create an air of sophistication.

Too bad it ruins the sophistication when I share this easy, easy recipe with you guys. But first I have to thank Rae Nudson for the suggestion. When I told her I was looking for another savory recipe for the gallery opening two weeks ago, she immediately replied bacon-wrapped dates, which instantly caught my attention. Everyone loves bacon.

These were good warm, but stayed delicious even at room temperature, which makes them perfect for a party.

The first thing I did was pre-heat my oven and start wrapping the dates. I cut the bacon strips into thirds and then wrapped each date in one-third of one strip and clearly these combination is a marriage made in heaven, because one package of bacon wrapped exactly one package of dates.

I placed the dates seam side down on a greased, rimmed baking sheet. I would recommend wrapping the baking sheet in aluminum foil first and then greasing the foil for an even easier cleanup. [Read more...]

Cheddar bacon ranch pull-apart bread

On Pinterest.com, this bread was called “crack bread,” which meant I had to try it.

I mean, who doesn’t love cheesy, bacon-y, ranch-y sourdough bread? No one, right? Right.

It’s super easy and quick and delicious. And I really enjoyed pulling the little bread sections out. It would be a fun party dish if you were hosting something casual with people you love enough to know that they have clean hands.

I adapted this recipe from Plan Chicken.

I, first, cut my store-bought round of sourdough. I cut it almost all the way through (but not all the way!) in both directions to create little squares. [Read more...]

Orange zest wontons! With sweet and sour sauce!

You guys, wontons are so fun to make! I’ve been looking forward to trying them for awhile since I put them on my list of 2012 culinary goals.

I have to be honest, I don’t really know why I considered them a “goal,” other than I saw a recipe in my mom’s Susan Branch cookbook (why, oh why is her entire website written in Comic Sans? I can barely look at it!) and felt like I needed an excuse to try it — it’s sort of hard to make a whole meal out of these, but they make a great snack or appetizer. Also you can add un-fried wontons to soup, although I have to admit I really liked them fried crispy and dipped in sauce.

I was totally surprise how easy they are to make, too. I used Susan Branch’s recipe as a base, but added orange zest and orange juice to the sauce to give the wontons some extra zing.

In this bowl is a couple sliced green onions, minced garlic and the zest of one orange. [Read more...]

Stuffed tomatoes

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your main dish. Sometimes it’s easy to spend so much time concentrating that your protein turns out right, that your sides get a little monotonous. And sometimes my usual starchy sides of rice or pasta or potatoes or risotto don’t cut it.

But these stuffed tomatoes … these stuffed tomatoes did it for me.

They’re incredibly easy and quick to make, and gave our dinner of haddock and steamed broccoli a little extra gourmet punch that we don’t always get when I make the usual starchy sides.

And it made the plates so colorful and pretty.

A mixture of mostly panco bread crumbs and parsley crisp up in the oven very nicely. I added some nutty oil (I used sunflower oil, but I think peanut or sesame could have been excellent too.) A little of sprinkle of Parmesan cheese at the very end added a little bit of bite too.

I’ll show you guys how I made the haddock in the next couple days. It was super easy too, which means these tomatoes and that fish is like the perfect weekday meal.

To make these, I halved two tomatoes and hollowed out the insides, and then I salted and peppered them. [Read more...]