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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Though the days are growing longer, the deep cold of winter persists here in Ohio. I’m usually over winter by about January 2nd every year (not a useful attribute for a resident of this region, I realize) and am ready for warm weather to return shortly thereafter. But even more than warmth, I long for color. Ohio winters are just so dang gray, and for all the brilliance that deciduous trees provide in spring and autumn, the scraggly brown trees against a flat gray sky and the steal and concrete of the city don’t make sure a very vibrant locale.
It’s lovely, then, to find something to make for dinner that add bright color and spicy, smoky flavor to the room. This soup is just the ticket?
This recipe is adapted from one I learned at a cooking class in North Carolina. The base of the soup is composed of two fall market items that store quite well, so it’s just as easy to make in the winter as in late autumn.
Sweet potatoes and apples: such good friends these can be in dishes both sweet and savory! The sweet potatoes don’t need any special treatment before heading into the oven, and meanwhile, you can prepare your apples and other ingredients.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.