Party Food

Baked Tortilla Chips

Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips

If heaven is real, then I really don’t think it’s made of puffy clouds and golden harps. I rather imagine it must be filled with endless tables, buckling under the weight of all the chips, dips, cheeses and crackers (all calorie-free, OBVIOUSLY) that a person could possibly want. Really, is there a better way to eat than scooping up succulent dips and salsas with crisp, salty shards of simple carbohydrates?

My obsession with chips is pretty severe. I’m hopeless at Mexican restaurants. Those continuously re-filling bowls of free chips and salsa at the start of the meal virtually guarantee that I’ll be in a food coma before my main course even arrives. I’m pretty shameless about them at potlucks and dinner parties, too. But unless I am hosting a party of my own, I actually avoid buying them: if I have chips in the house, there’s like a 70% chance that I’ll skip cooking dinner and simply dine on chips and salsa instead, strangely able to justify it by pretending they are vegetables. Sad, I know.

But I’ve found a little loophole. As long as I have corn tortillas in my fridge (which is pretty regular) I can make teeny batches of chips whenever I like! Satisfy my cravings without overdosing! Plus they are baked, which in the chip world, is code for healthy! (Right?)

Corn tortillas

It’s shockingly simple. Cut tortillas. Spray with cooking spray and salt. Flip over and repeat. Bake. Eat.


Smoky Adobo Salsa

Adobo Cilantro Salsa

Over the last few years, I’ve grown out of my delusions of I’m-young-and-can-eat-whatever-I-want and now do boring things like pack salads for lunch and box up half of my pasta when we go out for Italian. Le sigh. But there continues to be one thing that, when placed in front of me, I have absolutely no control or willpower to stop myself from eating.

Chips and salsa.

Whenever I dine at a Mexican restaurant, it’s a sure bet that I’ll eat my weight in free chips and salsa before my meal arrives. I know that I’m gonna feel like I’m dying within a few hours, but I just can’t help it. Too spicy? Doesn’t matter, I’ll cry through the pain. Not hungry? That’s literally not a thing.

Typically, when I make salsa at home, they are collections of diced vegetables and herbs. But sometimes I just want a nice, runny, completely blended, restaurant-style salsa.

The ingredients gather

This particular recipe includes a crap-ton of cilantro and a couple of chipotles en adobo. The combination of bright, herb-y flavor from the cilantro and the deep, smoky spice of the chiles creates a unique spin on the classic restaurant salsa.

Perhaps the best part of this salsa is that it’s SO FAST to put together. Once the onion and cilantro are chopped, everything else gets tossed in a food processor and whirled into salsa in just a few seconds flat.


Icebox Sheet Cake

Ice Box Sheet Cake

Last summer, while in the midst of packing up my Ohio life for our pending move to Colorado, I was also menu planning a dinner for almost 20 people at a remote, 9700′ mountain lodge with gas refrigerators, gas ovens, and limited electricity. For dessert, I wanted something that was easy but impressive, required neither baking nor freezing, was cheap to make but wasn’t boring, could feed a crowd, and overall, was heartbreakingly delicious.

A unicorn, I thought.

BUT THEN. Icebox cake. To the freakin’ rescue.

Ice Box Cake

Why, in the name of all that is good and delicious in this world, did I only start making this last summer? I mean, who knew such a perfect summer dessert could exist?

Did you guys know?

WELL. If you, like me, were in the shadows, let me show you the light.  (more…)

Maple Praline Bacon

Maple Praline Bacon

Okay you guys.

I’ve done something. Changed something. Opened some sort of magic box, some secret portal to a new world. And now that I’ve glimpsed the other side, I rather doubt I’ll be the same again.

It all started with an innocent breakfast suggestion. On my recent winter escape to Oregon, all we wanted was a place to eat one misty Wednesday morning in Portland. Instead, we ordered a plate of food that, rather than fading from my memory as most meals do, has haunted my daydreams ever since.

It was praline bacon. And within moments of eating it, I knew that I wanted to, nay, that I must!  try to recreate it at home. This weekend I finally had the time, the health, and the daylight. It took four failed attempts, but I finally found the balance I was looking for. And the best part? It’s so absurdly, ridiculously easy.

Bacon and friends

Obviously, we start with bacon. Then we have pecans, maple syrup, brown sugar, a little salt, and some cayenne pepper.


Ready to bake!

Instead of pan-frying the bacon, I baked mine. It helps the bacon stay flat (necessary for topping with sugary pecans later) and the excess fat drains into the pan below. I may actually start making all of my bacon this way.

While the bacon cooks, chop up some pecans. I’ve seen some versions where the pecans are food-processed into oblivion, but I prefer a larger cut. Smaller than a rough chop but bigger than a fine chop, does that make sense? About the size of a tooth? (Is that gross?)


Blood Orange Bars

Blood Orange Dessert Bars

Are we far enough into January that I can talk about dessert?

I’d really like to. I know, a lot of you who are still in that “never eating dessert again” phase of January. I can tell we’re still in the window of active New Years resolutions: the gym is still full of people (I just need one elliptical, folks) and social media is crowded with photos of green smoothies and raw vegetables.

Blood Orange Bars

But when you’re ready to return to the light, I urge you to make these little bars.

All the makings

Starting the crust

Sticky dough

Ready for baking

Rather like lemon bars in their consistency, these bars feature a crisp shortbread crust topped with a luscious, citrus-y custard. But instead of lemon juice, these bars are brought to life by the vibrant, impossibly pink juice of blood oranges. 


Strawberry Anytime Cake

Strawberry Cake
The arrival of summer, in Ohio, means that trips to the farmers market finally yield treasures beyond eggs, meat, and cheese. I grew rather spoiled in North Carolina where there really is a selection of fresh produce all year long. Sure, January is primarily sweet potatoes and greens, but even the flashy summer-show-offs like asparagus and strawberries begin to appear in early March.

But here, I stalk the market every Saturday in May hoping that this is the week when those photogenic strawberries will finally make their annual debut.

Berries front and center

The trouble is, I have very little self-control when I secure, at last, these scarlet gems. The bulk discounts for buying more than one quart literally always get me, and I arrive at home suddenly doubting that I’ll be able to use up multiple quarts of berries before they wither and rot in my fridge.

This time, I was ready.

Pretty pretty berries (more…)

Basic, Perfect Lemonade + Lemonade Popsicles

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.



Summer Potluck Favorites

Watermelon small
Despite the seasonally cold and rainy weather that has swept across the majority of the US over the last few days, the beginning of summer is approaching in all its three-day-weekend glory. I love the bookends that Memorial Day and Labor Day offer to summer: for many, they mark the first and last travel weekends, family weekends and most significantly, cookout and potluck weekends of this productive season.

I always look forward to summer potlucks. As someone who hates to eat just one thing for dinner, the wide array of casserole dishes, salad bowls, and serving platters squashed together on an eight-foot table is a favorite sight of mine. I also relish the chance to pull out a few of my favorite recipes that are either too large or too high-calorie to cook for our two-person household. I imagine you have a few of these recipes of your own.

But if you don’t, or if you’re looking for something new to bring to any festivities you may have planned for the weekend, I dug through the archives for my favorite summer dishes that make for good sharing.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

Side salad
While I first learned to make this salad as a light, fresh foil to rich and heavy holiday menus, I find it really shines at summer cookouts and potlucks. It does take some time to prep as all the ingredients must be chopped and layered, but this can be done a day in advance. By adding the dressing immediately before serving, the result is a textured, satisfyingly crunchy salad that you cohorts will love. It’s almost a sure bet that your salad bowl will come home with you completely empty.

Caramelized Onion Dip

Dippity dip dip
This dip is easily one of my favorite culinary discoveries. Piles of onions are caramelized down to the soft, sugary, sultry versions of themselves. Then, mixed into Greek yogurt and mayonnaise, a delectable ambrosia emerges. I make this exclusively parties and potlucks: it’s not particularly high-calorie on its own, the thick-cut potato chips are a different story. Spread the calorie love!

Strawberry Rhubarb & Goat Cheese Toasts

Fancy breakfast
‘Tis the season for strawberries and rhubarb! And it’s ALWAYS the season for goat cheese and toasty bread. Give your party-goers a little DIY fun with these easy toasts.


Pepperoni Pizza Rolls

Homemade Pizza Rolls
Hey guys! Sorry it’s been like, months since I’ve been here. After a brief website shut down (not a big deal, I fixed it), an October full of autumn festivities and adventures, a November featuring major events at my job, a contract birthday cake, and two Thanksgivings, a December just being its normal insane self, and a January long hours, cold-weather-crankiness, and holiday recuperation, it’s finally time: climbing around my kitchen with a camera and sharing tasty treats with you is finally back at the top of my list. No hard feelings, k? Or if you have them, can I fix them with pizza rolls?

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
The answer should be YES. I felt for years that pizza rolls were just one of those things that could only be purchased in the freezer section, compliments of food scientists and packaging specialists. But no! You can make your own, and I daresay they are even better than their freezer-burned counterparts. For one thing, you can know exactly what’s inside and make that choice yourself.

Simple pizza ingredients
For this, my first foray into homemade pizza roll-dom, I stuck with the basics: pepperoni, zesty red pizza sauce, and the three cheeses I put on all my pizzas all the time always: mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago.


Sweet Corn Croquettes

Sweet Corn Croquette

We took a spectacular trip to Oregon the first couple weeks of July. We did the normal vacation things: saw beautiful sites, had outdoor adventures, met new people, and engorged ourselves on all the best food the state had to offer. One delicious meal after another, Oregon pulled out all the stops and left our bellies almost constantly full. On our last night in Portland, we ended up at Montage, a cozy little southern restaurant famous for its mac and cheese and the elaborate aluminum foil animals that enclosed their leftovers.

Their mac and cheese was really good. And the foil animals were amusing. But it was the appetizer that stuck with me: deep-fried gems of creamy corn that we ordered on a whim. I knew immediately I had to re-create them.

Sweet Corn Croquettes
To be honest, I was a little unclear about what a croquette actually was. My experience at Montage, and a previous one at a restaurant in Durham, seemed to suggest that croquettes were deep-fried balls of, well, whatever one might want. Searches for recipes for “corn croquettes” led to surprisingly few results, but I eventually found a recipe with photos that somewhat resembled the ones we’d had in Oregon.