Category Archives: Cooking

The Green Wonder

Sometimes I have mundane things for dinner, and I think, is this worth posting? But if this grabs you:

… then maybe you might be interested in my hum-drum dinner. I am currently obsessed with everything to do with this green fruit, and I find myself ordering anything on a menu that has avocado in it. They have the good kind of fat (I know, right? Good fat?! Yes, please!), they add gorgeous color to any dish (okay, not ANY dish), and they have such a brilliant, smooth, creamy texture that I could just bathe in them.

But I won’t.

That would be weird.

Anyway… tonight for dinner I created a burger-less version of my favorite burger: swiss cheese, bacon, and avocado. This is amazing on a ground beef patty, but I used sliced smoked turkey (on sale at my local grocery) and it was divine. Way better than the spoiled potato salad I had for lunch…

…I don’t want to talk about it.

Are you an avocado lover? Here are a few more ideas of what to do with this peerless pitted pod of perfection.

… Sliced up and wedged between scrambled eggs and mozzarella in a tortilla for breakfast

… In the standard guacamole with salty chips and margaritas (avocado, chopped red onion, lime juice, and cilantro – easy as pie!)

… Blended with powdered sugar and lemon juice as frosting for a yellow or white cake (seriously!)

… Sliced up on toast with a sprinkle of lemon juice and coarse kosher salt

… Cut into chunks, add chunks of honey dew, sprinkle with lime juice, and use as a salsa for white fish or sauteed scallops

… Sliced up on crusty french bread underneath a layer of watermelon (I know, this is a weird one, but it is SO GOOD… I’m a texture girl myself)

A few tips when using avocados:

In any type of recipe, once you remove the meat from the skin and the pit, it will turn brown unless you add lime or lemon juice (notice all the above suggestions that are not immediately melted on a sandwich have lime/lemon juice in them)

A ripe avocado can be cut in half, around the pit, and twisted apart. Stick a sharp knife in the pit, twist, and it should pull right out.

To remove the meat from the skin: scoop with a spoon starting at the narrow end of the half, or for a VERY ripe fruit, peel away the skin (this is my favorite way because it preserves that smooth rounded appearance)

If you’re only using half an avocado at a time, you can leave the pit in the leftover half and it’ll help it keep longer in the fridge.

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America’s Favorite

I don’t have any solid research to back this claim up, but I’m pretty sure chocolate chip cookies are, across the board, America’s favorite. Everyone has their own preference, but being a cake girl myself I like a big, soft cookie with a crispy edge and without nuts. I do enjoy the recipe on the Nestle chocolate chip bag, but they’re just a little too flat and crispy for my taste.

Truth be told, I’ve tried at least a dozen chocolate chip cookie recipes, hoping to be able to post one to the blog. This is the first one I’ve fallen in love with enough to post. So enjoy! My blood, sweat, and tears went into this one. But not really. That would be gross.

On the menu:
Chocolate chip cookies
Makes 24 cookies
Recipe adapted from
this recipe on Allrecipes.com

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter with white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract. Dissolve baking soda in the hot water and add along with the salt and cream of tartar to the butter/sugar batter. Mix well. Add flour and chocolate chips, mix well by hand. Drop dough onto cookie sheets in 2 Tbsp size drops and bake for 12 minutes.

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Sun(ny)day Sun(ny)day Sun(ny)day!

Thank god the season of cheesy pasta is over. Seriously, my waistline couldn’t handle it anymore. Now that the sun is shining and the temperatures have warmed up, I feel like eating lighter. And nothing says summer to me like potato salad.

This very basic potato salad is easy to make, and even easier to eat a pound of. It’s light with a little kick from the celery seed. My friend Joe talks about this potato salad to this day, and he hasn’t eaten it since my mom made it for him in 2001. “My mom sends kisses!” I told him once. His reply: “Screw the kisses! Send the potato salad!”

On the menu:
Potato salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

4 medium sized potatoes (I used red potatoes, but you can use Idaho if you prefer)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp salt

Boil the potatoes whole for around 25 minutes, until you can stick a fork in them and it pulls out easily. Let the potatoes cool for around 15 minutes. Slice into chunks and mix in a bowl with mayo and ranch dressing. Add the celery seed and salt, and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

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Why go out for a hamburger when you’ve got steak at home?

This past weekend, I found myself completely caught up in the summer heat with an intense craving for some red meat. I wanted a freshly grilled burger or a sizzling steak or even a Zweigle’s hot dog with that delicious crispy skin you can only get from a charcoal grill. Nothing says summer to me like the smell of grilled meat. Well… maybe grilled meat followed by some ice cream.

On the menu:
Ribeye steak
Steamed broccoli with goat cheese and walnuts
Baked potato

While there is nothing very complicated about this meal, it’s a classic, it’s sure to please any meat eater, and it can be created in a quick thirty minutes.

Steak

Heat an oven-proof skillet to high heat with 1 Tbsp of canola oil
Season the ribeye with salt and pepper, and sear the meat for around 2 minutes on each side
Put the entire skillet in a 450 degree oven for around 6 minutes (if you’re making a thinner piece of meat, take the steak out after 4 or 5 minutes)
Let the meat rest for fifteen minutes after it comes out of the oven

*A few notes on steak:

  • In order for the steak to really hold in all the juices, the outside layer needs to sear. When you place your steak in the skillet, don’t move it around at all aside from the single flip.
  • Never cut your steak open immediately after it’s removed from the heat (or taken out of the oven). Meat contracts when it’s heated and all the juices run to the center. It needs at least 15 minutes after it’s been removed from heat (longer if it’s a big honking piece of meat) to relax and release and let the juices redistribute. If you cut a piece of steak straight off the heat, all the juices will run out onto your plate. And that ain’t cool.

Broccoli

Trim stalks off of the broccoli and cut into bite-sized pieces. Throw the pieces into a pan with an inch of water at the bottom. Turn the heat to medium and let the broccoli cook until the water is 99% gone. Plate broccoli and break up goat cheese over the top while it’s still hot enough to slightly melt the cheese. Sprinkle walnuts over the top.

And for dessert? Ice cream. And when your local grocer, has a sale on Ben & Jerry’s… well, it’s like fate made that decision for you, now didn’t it?

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Summer’s So Close I Can Taste It

I’m obviously a girl who loves her sweets. But there is a sweets subcategory that always gets me: fruit. I love a good peach pie, or a lemon raspberry cake, or even an apple baked with sugar and cinnamon. Now that summer is waving at me from just a few short months away, I’m thinking lemons. And since I’m always thinking dessert and I’m always thinking cheese, what came out of my brain were these deliciously light, crispy lemon cookies with a smooth, creamy center to round it all out.

On the menu:
Crispy lemon cookie sandwiches

Cookies:
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Lemon Poppyseed Cookies)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter (make sure 1 is at room temperature)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat; cook until reduced by half. Add 1 stick butter; stir until melted. Cream remaining stick of butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed. Mix in egg and lemon butter. Mix until pale, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla and zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients and mix completely. Refrigerate dough for 30 – 45 minutes.

Pour remaining 1/2 cup of sugar on a plate. Roll spoonfuls of chilled dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll them in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Press each with the flat end of a glass dipped in sugar mixture until 1/4 inch thick. Bake until just browned around bottom edges, 8 to 9 minutes.

Filling:

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 Tbsp milk (only if your filling is particularly dry or sticky)

Cream together both cheeses, butter, and powdered sugar, adding milk if necessary. Add lemon zest and vanilla. Mix well. Spread 1 Tbsp of filling between two completely cooled cookies. Refrigerate sandwiches until ready to serve.

Note: if you’re serving these for guests, make sure you refrigerate at least one hour before serving so the filling firms up completely.

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Some people eat to live… we are not those people

My family has many traditions, most of them based on food. I’m pretty sure that when asked “What would you grab from the house in the event of a fire?” my parents would answer the same: the dog and the Adirondack Country Cookbook. I could be blindfolded with my nose plugged and still recognize the taste of the pancakes and the cinnamon swirl raisin bread. Since this cookbook is no longer around (or if it is, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! Seriously… we’ve been searching) I pdf’ed the infamous raisin bread recipe, sent it to one of my favorite childhood neighbors, and saved it on my hard drive in case our decrepit old family copy of the cookbook bites the dust.

It’s all about preserving the recipes, people. I mean… the memories. It’s all about preserving the MEMORIES.

On the menu:
Spiral Cinnamon Raisin Bread

If you are Carol Knapp… or you know Carol Knapp… let me know. This bread deserves many kudos. Thanks, Carol!

This bread can be served as is, but I like mine toasted with butter. But you probably already knew that I liked mine with a little more butter, now didn’t you?

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The Cheesiest Mac of them All

I cook because I love food, but I also cook because I love making other people happy via food. One time my friend Meagan came over around dinner time when I had made mac and cheese, and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. I couldn’t have been happier. There is no higher compliment to a cook than guests going back for seconds.

On the menu:
Mac and cheese with pancetta (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 6 as a meal, 10 as a side

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups (or less) whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound macaroni (any medium-sized pasta will do: penne, orecchiette, gemelli, etc. – I used penne and gemelli here because it’s all I had in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. [Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta – cook until al dente] Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in all cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add warm cheese sauce to drained al dente pasta; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I added a little more cheddar to the top of mine, because I really, really like cheese… but if you’re trying to avoid a heart attack, maybe leave off the extra]

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