Archive for the ‘Easy!’ Category

Simple Perfect Lemonade
The impact that holidays have on my mood is real. I don’t even have Memorial Day off, but a feeling I can only describe as three-day-weekend anticipation built on Friday afternoon anyway, as I watched the clock tick toward 5pm. The lack of social commitments and spectacular weather of these two days feel like a luxurious break on their own.

There aren’t many things that can break me out of my water-all-time-time beverage habit, but the arrival of summer weather is one of them. And lemonade is usually first in line for my liquid-y cravings. Amazingly, though, I’d never made it from scratch until earlier this spring during the citrus extravaganza following my trip to California.

I can’t believe I waited so long.

Just lemons and sugar

Woe to the time I’ve wasted buying lemonade from the grocery. Woe to the powdery mix that’s walking around emulating this precious elixir. Using only a few lemons, you can make the most perfect, delightful lemonade with hardly any effort at all. Please do so as soon as possible.

Zesting

Read on »

How to Bake a Potato
I write this post on behalf of the baked potato. Of that simple, humble item that too often only finds itself offered as a side dish on restaurant menus, sandwiched on the side-dish-health-o-meter between the french fries and the steamed broccoli. And most of us just take the plunge and go with the fries – or is that just me?

A fleet of baked potatoes
A couple months ago, while trying to develop some easy, fairly-healthy meal options that also allowed me to keep the oven on for an hour in an effort to ward off Midwestern winter, I made baked potatoes for dinner one night. Not as a side, but as the whole damn meal. And you know what? It was AMAZING. Why was this not part of my regular meal routine? It is now, by the way: I’ve repeated this tasty dinner several times since the inaugural attempt, and I’ve learned a lot about baking a delightful potato in the meantime.

Here’s how it’s done:

Read on »

Blood Orange Salad
I’m not sure if it’s due to years of academic schedules featuring a week-long break in March, or if it’s exhaustion from darkness and grayness and coldness of mid-west winter, but I always catch a travel bug sometime this time of year. Every year. And most of the time, I just bundle up and wait out the long weeks until warm weather returns. But not this year! In a truly fortunate turn of events, Brad’s presence was requested at a conference in Malibu, California, and I tagged along for the price of a plane ticket and half of a rental car.

The timing could not have been better. Three and a half days of sunshine, ocean breeze, and t-shirt weather was a welcome break from the chilly winter in Ohio.

California Montage
When I travel, I love visiting local farmers markets, especially if my destination boasts a lengthy growing season. Because I limit my “exotic” produce purchases in Ohio to very special occasions, I jump at the chance to buy them when they’re grown just a few miles away. In southern California, I was after two things: citrus and avocados. And I came back with plenty of both! Definitely worth packing lightly so I could stuff my carry-on with produce on the flight home.

But how to use my precious cargo? I kicked it off when a bright, fresh, totally California salad.

Precious ingredients

Read on »

Dark Chocolate Amaretto Pie
I don’t make a lot of pie. I grew up in a cake house, you see. My mom always preferred baking cakes and cookies to pies, and my sister and I expanded on this behavior as 4-H cake decorating students for several years each. Pie, which has taken on a role of symbolic role of domestic culinary prowess in our culture, was simply not something I learned to make as a kid.

The pies my mom did make were never, ever, double-crusted fruit pies. If we did have a pie for dessert, it was typically composed of a pre-made graham cracker crust, a box of pudding mix, and a mound of Cool Whip.

And you know what? I freakin’ loved it.

A motley crew
To this day, while I will certainly eat a slice of apple, cherry, or other fruity pie if it’s presented to me with a sizable scoop of vanilla ice cream, the pies that I dream of are the cold, creamy, pudding-ish pies that I grew up on.

This pie follows in that tradition, though with some notable modifications. First, I love making my own graham cracker crusts. I like a heavier crumb with more crunch, and I like that I can control the level of sweetness and stickiness by adding as much or as little sugar and butter as I like when whirling it together myself.

Graham crackers Read on »

Easy Breakfast Burritos
When I moved to Columbus last January, Brad and I encountered a major first: we began working on the same schedule. With my former life in theatre and Brad’s many years of graduate and then law school, we always operated on schedules that left us with very few hours that we were both at home. But now, both working very regularly-scheduled jobs close enough that we actually carpool, we suddenly found ourselves facing a dilemma: who has to get up first?

Simple ingredients
For lots of reasons, I was the lucky winner to set my clock earlier and use the shower first. I like to pack my lunch in the morning, I blow-dry my hair, I could daudle around a bit. And one day, for a treat, I made us a hot, freshly-cooked breakfast. It wasn’t a major affair: there were no biscuits, no gravy, no French toast or quiches. But it was hot, it was savory, and it was DELICIOUS.

It was this breakfast burrito. Don’t be afraid! These take about 10 minutes to make, start to finish, and they take fairly basic ingredients. Sure, you can gussy up a breakfast burrito with sausage, bacon, peppers and onions, all kinds of things: but the basics are utterly delightful and allow for quick, weekday breakfasting.

Eggs and cheese in butter Read on »

Weeknight Roasted Chicken

Like many of you, I assume, I grew up eating chicken at home primarily in the form of boneless-skinless chicken breast. Legs and thighs were treats found mostly on coveted fried chicken platters that showed up at potlucks, or in occasional bucket o’ chicken. And whole chickens? Even more rare!

I decided a few years ago that I wanted to try to buy as much of meat from local producers as I could, which is admittedly more expensive than trays of shrink-wrapped meat from the grocery store. For some cuts, it was oppressively expensive: boneless-skinless chicken breast ran anywhere from nine to fifteen dollars a pound (gulp). As a result I began to explore other cuts of meat, and one of my favorites was the whole chicken. Not only does a whole chicken yield a variety of cuts and flavors, but I can split a whole chicken into at least three meals for Brad and I. And I can use the spare parts for stock. Definitely the biggest bang for my buck. Sometimes I choose to break the chicken down for parts while it’s still fresh (using an excellent how-to video that I swear by) and sometimes I choose to cook it whole.  And, for a number of reasons, this is my favorite way to do the latter.

All the ingredients you need
Reason #1: It’s fast. Seriously, from start to finish, this chicken can be ready to eat in an hour. There’s very little prep – no stuffing, to tying of feet, no oiling, and no slow-roasting. This bird cooks HOT for 45-50 minutes. And though the original recipe recommends seasoning at least two days in advance, I’ve never been disappointed in my method of seasoning immediately before cooking.

Read on »

Fresh Bruschetta Mozzarella

I wish I could say that I’ve been harboring this recipe for years, that I’m embarrassed to be posting it only now after summers and summers of enjoyment. I wish I could say that I’ve been adding it to my menu every week of every tomato season for as long as I can remember. I wish that the glut of tomatoes that I harvested this year, the glut that caused me to try this experiment, had happened years ago.

Bruschetta Mozzarella Toasts
Well. I can say none of those things. The truth is I’ve never been a big fan of fresh tomatoes, and as such, I’ve spent my life picking them off of salads, sandwiches, and pastas. But I’ve vigilantly planted at least a couple of varieties each of the last few years in an effort to force myself into using them, and this year, the strategy paid off handsomely. It seemed wrong to take such ripe, beautiful fruits at their peak and cook them down into sauce, and the internet seemed to agree that bruschetta is a great way to feature them raw.

Read on »

Chip and Cheddar Hot Dogs

The benefits of apartment dwelling are many. We’ve managed to get our leasing office to fix everything from bathroom light bulbs to water filters in the freezer to warped baseboard in our storage room. We have the freedom to move when and where we choose (within the limits of an annual lease, of course) and there is not much gossip over fences about whose lawn is the most unsightly (though I expect when the time comes, mine may take that prize).

There are, however, many downsides as well. And on a week like this, leading up to the ceremonial end of summer, the fact I begrudge the most is that I am forbidden from using a grill on our little balcony. I get it, I do, we can’t have apartment buildings combusting every time a three-day summer weekend rolls around. Still, I’m cranky about it all the same.

But there are times when, despite the glaring lack of grill, I just want a damn good hot dog.

Chips and Cheddar Hot Dogs
Now I typically don’t like much fuss for my hot dogs. A bun, a dog, and some ketchup will serve me just fine. But this fancy-pants one became my new favorite after a friend of mine in North Carolina practically forced it upon me when I confessed I’d never stopped by the hot dog cart outside our building. Though the cart is no longer a staple on Duke’s campus, the legacy lives on, and I pity the Duke students going forward who won’t benefit from the culinary stylings of Pauly Dogs.

Preparing for hot dogs
Christened on the menu as the “Chips Plus”, this hot dog features smoky flavor from barbecue sauce and Old Bay seasoning, some cheese for good measure, and a delightfully salty crunch from some cheap potato chips. It’s a perfectly blended solution of delicious and ridiculous. And most importantly, you really don’t need a grill to make them awesome.

Read on »

Pico de Gallo

I have a little garden plot in a rooftop garden at my job in Columbus. It’s a challenging thing, really, to grow food on a cement slab 30 feet above the ground, but for one reason or another, my tomato plants are thriving. In an effort to keep up with the continuous supply of plump, crimson tomatoes I’ve enjoyed for the last few weeks, I’m trying to expand my repertoire of fresh tomato recipes. With the first breaths of autumn already trying to make their way into Ohio, I just can’t quite stand the idea of peeling these tomatoes and cooking them into a slurry of marinara or bolognese. I started with this, a common salsa where fresh tomatoes are the stars of the show.

Simple ingredients Read on »

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friends, I have a confession.

A lot of the recipes I post on this blog are ones that I cook quite often. Lots of dinners, side dishes, breakfasts, and even desserts that you’ve seen in the last three years make regular appearances in my kitchen or in the kitchen’s of friends and family when I’m visiting. It’s actually pretty convenient to have my very own personal recipe book at my fingertips in any kitchen, grocery store, or farmers market that has data or free wifi.

But I’ve been holding out on you. I haven’t shared with you one of the treats I cook most often, a recipe that I know so well I haven’t looked at the recipe card in years, a recipe that continues to be Brad’s most-requested dessert.

My mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies
My mom has been baking these cookies since long before I was born, and truth be told, they’ve gained rather a lot of fame at the staff meetings, potlucks, and holiday gatherings in her little corner of Southwest Colorado. This is also one of my mom’s memorized recipes, complete with a snappy little mnemonic jingle that I learned growing up and use to this day to remember the order of ingredients.

So why wasn’t this recipe at the top of my list to share when I started this blog? I’ve shared numerous other treasured recipes from my childhood: Almond Toffee, Lasagne, Favorite Party Mix, to name a few.

Here’s the truth. Most of my life, my mom used butter-flavored Crisco for her magical chocolate chip cookies. And while I had tried using butter and liked the results, it just felt odd to make such a vast departure from her recipe and then post it as “hers”. Irrational? Probably. But it held me back. I was writing a blog about eating less-processed, locally sourced ingredients. Butter-flavored Crisco is none of those things.

But then, a few months ago, my mom informed me that she had switched to butter for her cookies. Liberation! Now I could honor this, my “Mom’s recipe”, without the mysterious yellow shortening. I’m so excited to finally share these with you. Read on »