Category Archives: Recipes

Q: What’s the Best Way to Make Phillies Fans Sit Down and Be Quiet?

A:  Easy.  Hit a home run to tie the game in the 9th inning with 2 outs and 2 strikes on the board.  Then, go on to win the game in the 10th inning by a walk-off run, with bases loaded. 

The silence was deafening when this happened and it was glorious.

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I experienced a lot of firsts today!  First major league baseball game other than my home team, first time seeing National League teams play, first time experiencing a rain delay, and the first time experiencing a Philadelphia team in person.

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Nationals Park attendees were  90% Phillies fans and 10% Nationals fans today.  How this is possible, I have no idea.  I guess a lot of fans drive down from Pennsylvania for weekend games, and DC surely has a strong Philadelphia community, but I was still pretty shocked by how few Nationals fans attended.  Even though the team isn’t the best this year, the stadium is beautiful and has fantastic burgers at a concession stand called Shake Shack.  Those two facts alone should bring more people out, in my opinion.

More times than necessary, a roaring chant of “Let’s Go, Phillies!” erupted in the stadium which led me to pinch myself and make sure that I was still in the nation’s capital.  I think the City of Absurdly Fanatical Love is a more apt nickname for Philadelphia.

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It’s fun to have a new home team to root for.  I’ve got the Rays, Durham Bulls (for minor league), and now the Nats on my list to cheer on.

Some things that made me like the Nationals right away:

– They don’t have rude fans.

– There is a President’s Race during the game when past presidents are resurrected with humongous heads and race around the bases (see above picture).  It’s hysterical.

– An awesome saxophonist played the national anthem and “God Bless America” today — such a great musician and more unique than a singer!

– There are some darn good ball players on the team:  Morse, Zimmerman, Desmond, and Espinosa were my favorites.

– They won!  Maybe I was a good luck charm?

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Q:  What’s sweeter in life than beating the Phillies?

A:  Not much.

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So It’s Been Awhile…

 

I’ve gone yet another absurdly long time without updating.  Here’s a brief look into what’s happened the past two months.  I…

  • moved to a new city
  • found a new place to live
  • went from having zero roommates to having four
  • started a new job in a new industry
  • started having a social life again

It’s hard to believe that it is mid-August already!  The summer is flying by, and I really think that this is the first summer that I have completely enjoyed.  Yes, it’s been ungodly hot at times and my legs look like I have the chickenpox (they must smell like buttah to mosquitoes), but in all, I’ve absolutely loved it.  I think being in a new place and having much more of a life-work balance has really helped. 

To help extend the summer in your mind and belly, I want to share a little recipe that I’ve enjoyed 4 or 5 times so far this season.  Amazingly, I’m not sick of it.  But it’s hard to grow tired of this Raw Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad when it showcases two of the best foods of summer.

It’s delicious on it’s own as a side, or put it on top of leafy greens (such as arugula) for a light lunch.

The key to this simple dish is to use very fresh ingredients, and I really recommend buying locally if possible (such as at a farmer’s market).  If you use any old regular store-bought tomatoes or corn, you will be missing out on the flavor.  Trust me.  Enjoy this season’s bounty!

 

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Raw Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad
Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish

6 ears of sweet corn

2 large heirloom tomatoes

4oz. feta cheese

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

6 basil leaves

salt and pepper to taste

fresh squeeze of lemon juice

 

1. Set up a garbage bowl or bag in the sink.  Yes, just like Rachael Ray does every time she cooks.  (Side note, but you can actually buy a “Garbage Bowl” from the Rachael Ray collection…ridiculous.)

Anyway, you will want this nearby for the next step…

2. Shuck the ears of corn and remove as many of the annoying silk strings as possible.  If you bought your corn locally as I did, you may have some “ugly duckling” kernels, as I like to call them.  Carefully remove with a knife, and rinse all ears. 

3. Place one ear of corn in a large bowl, and slowly shave off all the kernels down one side.  Rotate the ear, and repeat until all kernels are removed.  Repeat the process for remaining ears of corn.  Your trash bowl or bag should now look like this:

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Thank you, Rachael.

3. Prepare the rest of the ingredients:  Chop the tomatoes, chiffonade the basil leaves, and crumble the feta into small-to-medium sized pieces.  Add and gently combine everything into the bowl with the corn.

4.  Drizzle the olive oil on top and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Lastly, spritz the juice of half a lemon over the dish.  Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge until ready to eat.  Enjoy!

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Celebration Scampi

This past weekend, I watched many friends celebrate their graduation from business school.  It was really nice to be a part of their happiness because I’ve seen them progress throughout their program for the past 18 months, and I know how excited they are to move on from school. 

While managing the various celebration receptions, I recalled a meal that I threw together a few years back when I concluded of a certain facet of undergraduate business school:  financial accounting.  I had two good study buddies in this class, and I still remember our late-night meet-ups to go over practice problems and concepts before any exams.  When we all passed the final and the class, we decided to celebrate with a delicious home-cooked meal.  And by that, I mean that I cooked and my friends (two guys who did not have the best kitchen skills back then) provided the home for it.

Celebration Scampi
Serves 4

8 to 10 oz. whole wheat pasta (linguine and penne both work well)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter*
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
1 Lb. medium, uncooked shrimp (veins removed)
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese, garnish

*For a more traditional scampi, use 2 Tbsp. butter instead of 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, heat olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat.  When melted, add garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly so as not to burn the garlic.

Add wine to pan and stir to combine.  Let cook for 1 to 2 minutes so that the wine begins to reduce.  Then add the shrimp and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until shrimp are bright pink.  In the last minute of cooking, add in salt, pepper, and lemon juice, all to taste.

Pour pasta onto a large serving platter and top with the scampi sauce.  Garnish with parsley and/or freshley grated parmesan.

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A “Happy-Medium” Cookie

Do you ever turn into Cookie Monster?  I know I do.  There are some days when chefs in the kitchen at work recognize a certain intense (or desperate) look on my face and silently point to the freshly baked tray of double chocolate chip goodness cooling on sheet pans.  I think they half-expect me to break into pleading wails of, “ME WANT COOKIES!!,” but I’ve contained myself so far.

Anyway, everybody loves a good cookie now and again.  The chewy texture of the dough and crunch of the chocolate chips is exactly what the soul and body calls for at times.  If you’re like me, though, you may want a healthier cookie option that tastes great and gives you a couple added health benefits that Tollhouse break-and-bake lacks.

Enter my favorite “happy-medium” cookie.  These are absolutely delicious, and don’t have an overt “healthy” flavor to them.  There’s a nuttiness from the whole wheat flavor and oatmeal, but thanks to the essential cookie ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate!) they retain their homemade chocolate chip cookie taste.

How do I know that these are really delicious and healthy cookies?  Because friends that I’ve made these for continuously ask me to make them again.  Sometimes a little too frequently.  And they’re foolproof, so I don’t end up with any bricks

I think Cookie Monster would approve.

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Happy-Medium Cookies (Oatmeal Chocolate Chip)
Adapted from A Dash of Sass

Makes 2 dozen cookies

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. milk

1 cup white whole wheat flour (or regular 100% whole wheat flour)

½ tsp.baking soda

½ tsp.baking powder

½ tsp.salt

½ tsp.cinnamon

1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats

¾ to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the sugars and butter together in a medium bowl.  Add the egg, vanilla, and milk, and cream for another 30 seconds until combined.

In a separate large bowl, combine the next 5 ingredients (whole wheat flour through cinnamon).  Add the wet ingredients to the bowl and mix until just combined.  

By hand, stir in the oats and chocolate until well distributed.  (The recipe at A Dash of Sassincludes walnuts — feel free to add if you wish!).

On a cookie sheet that’s been sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment, drop teaspoons of dough about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 11 to 14 minutes. Cooking time may vary, but I like them right between 11 and 12 minutes, because I like softer and chewier cookies.

Remove from oven and let cool.  Then enjoy on their own or with a glass of milk.

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Better than a Prescription

I must be sick.

It’s been beautiful the past three days and I haven’t stepped outside anymore than I’ve needed to.  There have been no runs in the sun, no walks in Duke Gardens, nothing outdoorsy taking place in my life.  Instead, I’ve felt like I’m going to sneeze every 20 seconds and my nose is starting to resemble Rudolph’s.

Allergies seem to be the culprit.  I think I could star in an Allegra or Claritin commercial right now and I wouldn’t even have to act that I’m sniffling, sneezing, coughing, wheezing.  It’s all real.

Thank goodness for soup.

Chicken Jalapeno Soup to Cure Anything
Makes 5 to 6 large servings

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup onion, diced
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 jalapenos, chopped (remove the seeds for less heat)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1 ½ tsp. oregano
½ tsp. paprika
¾ cup golden hominy
¾ cup great northern beans (drained and rinsed if using the canned variety)
1 ½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken
32 oz. low-sodium chicken broth or stock
¾ to 1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add in onion,carrots, and jalapenos and saute for 3 minutes.  Add all seasonings (garlic through paprika) and stir to combine for about a minute. 

Add in hominy*, beans, and chicken**.  Mix well in the pot and let cook for 2 minutes to allow everything to warm together. 

Pour in chicken stock and water.  You want to make sure that everything is covered with liquid.  Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir occassionally during the cooking process and adjust seasonings before serving.

Cook’s Notes:

*Hominy — a variety of corn (I affectionately call it “corn on steroids” because the kernels are huge) can be found in most grocery stores in the Mexican or Hispanic food section (it comes in a can).

**Rotisserie chicken — I simply bought a whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, let it cool, and then shredded the meat to use for this soup.  I removed the skin, but you can leave some on if you like the flavor. 

This soup is FILLING.  And it’s incredibly healthy — lots of vitamins and minerals from the vegetables, plus some healthy fats from the olive oil.  It’s a perfect dinner on it’s own and gets better and better the longer it sits, so this is a time when you can look forward to leftovers!  Plus, if you’re stuffed up like me, the spice from the peppers and seasonings will help decongest you. 

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Stumbling Blocks in Baking

“The only stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘What the hell’ attitude.”
— Julia Child

Not everything  I make turns out as I intend.  Usually, my kitchen failures involve baking.  Just ask my sister.

Last winter, between Halloween and the week before Christmas, it seemed as if I had lost all my abilities to bake.  I would send her photos of my botched cookies, breads, and cakes and then sit miserably, trying to determine where I had gone wrong. 

I wasn't kidding.

 

This was supposed to be a chocolate chip pumpkin loaf. And edible.

My baking experiment failures went on for a solid two months.  I think my problem was that I kept trying to adapt recipes I had never tried before.  Baking is extremely precise, so even my “extra dash of fill-in-the-blank spice” may have affected the recipe.  I truly did want to just throw in the towel and never attempt to bake another cookie in my life.  But, I knew that life would be very sad with no homemade cookies.

 

I somehow found my way back into baking around the Christmas holidays.  I’d like to thank a batch of perfect pumpkin muffins (yes, they were out of a box from Pelican Bay) to restoring hope in my personal abilities.  They were delicious on a snowed-in morning in the mountains of North Carolina.

 

Since then, I’ve gone on to bake many things and have shared many:  beer bread, cupcakes, donuts.  In my opinion, I’ve been doing pretty well.

 

And then today happened.  I woke up wanting to challenge myself.  I thought of all my past baking failures, channeled my inner Julia and give cooking a “What the hell” midset, and decided to make pizza dough from scratch. 

 

I really don’t know why I’ve been so nervous about this since millions of people make their own pizza dough, but I was honestly scared when I started activating the yeast today.  And of course I couldn’t just make your basic pizza dough.  Instead, I went with a recipe that calls for white wine, and then made a couple adaptations.  Go big or go home, that’s my motto.

 

Amazingly, it all turned out. 
 
 
White Wine Pizza Dough Crust
Makes 1 large or 2 smaller thin crust pizzas
1 packet of active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
¼ cup pinot grigio
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, and wine.  Stir well to combine.  Then add in the salt and nutmeg, and stir again.

Add in 1 cup of all purpose flour and mix to create a paste.  Then add in the remaining flour and start to knead dough.

On a flour-dusted surface, knead dough for 6 to 8 minutes.  Then place dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel. 

Let rise for 45 minutes.  (And if your kitchen is too cold like mine, warm your oven for a minute, turn it off, and then place the bowl inside.

After dough has risen, separate it into two equal parts if you’d like to make two pizzas.  Or roll out onto a ¼” thickness on a floured surface and make one giant pizza.  Top with whatever you desire, and bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.



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How To: Personalize Your Hummus

Remember how I taught you how to make your own hummus, and therefore save lots of money by not buying the pre-made kind?

Well, now here are some of my favorite ways to add flavor to your hummus.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the classic version.  It’s just nice to switch things up now and again…

Pesto and Sundried Tomato Hummus:  To the original version, add 1 Tbsp. of store-bought pesto and 2 chopped sundried tomatoes to the blender, and mix to combine.

Lemon Pepper Hummus:  Add in 1 to 2 tsp. of lemon pepper seasoning, and an extra squirt of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavors.

Chipotle Hummus:  Add 2 tsp. of chipotle powder and 1 tsp. of paprika.  If you like more spiciness add in ½ tsp. of cayenne red pepper. 

 

I have more combinations up my sleeve, but those are a few good ways to get you started.  Have a great Friday!

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A Fierce Sandwich for Fierce Weather

You know how I wrote about gorgeous 80+ degree weather and sunny skies just yesterday?  Well last night at about 3am, I was woken up by the sounds of howling wind and rain and felt like I was going to be the star in the sequel to Twister.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  But that type of fast change sure is confusing.  And I thought the saying was that “March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb?”  So far, April is roaring fiercer than the past month.

Now that I have grey skies and wet feet, I’m craving some comfort food.  I’ve realized that my appetite is easily swayed by the weather.  What’s more comforting than some doughy bread, butter, and cheese?  Not much, in my opinion. 

I concocted this little sandwich and will be wrapping it up to take with me for lunch today.  Just like this weather, it seems a bit confusing.  It seems that it wants to be your typical grilled cheese, but then it gets a little bit of French influence from adding jam and not-your-typical cheeses.  Even though it’s odd, it’s good, and will make this rainy day a little bit brighter.

Grilled Blue Cheese & Jam Sandwich
Serves 1

2 slices whole wheat bread
1 Tbsp. butter
1 oz. blue cheese crumbles
1 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. strawberry preserves or jam

Heat a small pan over medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  While pan heats, spread butter onto each slice of bread to coat evenly.  Flip over one of the bread slices, and spread jam onto the opposing side.

Place the non-jammed slice of bread with the butter side facing down into the pan.  Top with the mixture of cheeses and then the other slice of bread, leaving the buttered side up top.  Let cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until bread is golden brown.

Flip over carefully with a spatula, and cook the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes until it is just as golden.  Remove from heat, slice, and enjoy.

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Gewurztraminer Mango Dessert Topping

I can barely pronounce, let alone spell, “gewurztraminer.”  But one thing I can do with it?  Make a delicious dessert!

Today’s wine of the week comes with a twist.  I received this lovely bottle of Washington Hills 2008 “Paradise Peak” Gewurztraminer for my birthday and it has been chilling in my refrigerator waiting to be used for the past couple months.  Surprised that I waited?  Hah, me too.

But to be honest…I’m not much of a gewurztraminer fan.  It’s wine, so obviously I like it, but it’s usually too sweet for me.  This bottle provided a better balance between sweet, tart, and crisp flavors from the fruity notes, but it reminded me of Welch’s Grape Juice.  There was no “wine” bite to it that led me to slowly sipping.  Rather, I could have easily downed the bottle in one go. 

I did not, for the record. 

Still, I wanted to use it up somehow and so I concocted this recipe.  I’m a big fan of cooking fruit in wine and then serving it with ice cream or yogurt for dessert.  It’s something that looks fancy when presented in a nice wine or martini glass, but is so so simple.

Gewurztraminer Mango Dessert Topping
Makes enough for two

1 ripe mango, diced
2 strawberries (fresh or frozen), sliced
1 cup Washington Hills 2008 “Paradise Peak” Gewurztraminer
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. water
dash of black pepper (secret ingredient!)

In a small saucepot, heat mango, strawberries, and wine over medium heat for a minute.  Add in sugar and water, stirring until it dissolves.  Reduce heat to medium-low and let wine cook off and reduce for 15 to 20 minutes.  About half-way through cooking, add the dash of black pepper.  It really livens up this dish!  Then keep an eye on the sauce so that the wine doesn’t cook off completely and start to burn the fruit.

When liquid has cooked down substantially and the mixture is mostly fruit, it’s ready!  Remove from heat and let stand for a couple minutes.

Spoon a small amount of yogurt (or ice cream) into a wine glass.  Top with half of the mango mixture and eat immediately.  The glass gets a little steamy from the heat of the dessert topping, which just adds to the fun. 

 

The mango and gewurztraminer definitely made this a tart topping, but it balances really well with the creamy yogurt.  Now I need to find a wine to fill in the void in my fridge left by my used-up birthday bottle.  🙂

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How To: Make Your Own Hummus

Have you noticed the rising food prices in grocery stores?  How could you not, right?  Lots of foods are getting more and more expensive each day, especially foods that are pre-made.  One such item:  hummus.

I love hummus!  Love love love.  In the traditional recipe, it’s made with garbanzo beans, olive oil, garlic, lemon, and tahini which is simply sesame paste.  Tahini is not difficult to find in stores nowadays, so just ask a clerk if you’re not sure which aisle to find it in.  It may seem expensive (usually around $5 – $7 for a 16oz. container), but that amount will last you a very long time.

In my local grocery stores, I’ve noticed Sabra and Athenos brands of hummus selling anywhere from $3.99 to $5.99 for a 10 oz. container.  That’s preposterous.  Because for roughly half the amount of money, you can make twice as much hummus, and it’s just as delicious.

In this version, I subbed out the garbanzo beans for navy beans simply because that’s what I had on hand.  If you’re looking for the traditional hummus, then use garbanzos.  Enjoy with fresh vegetables or as a spread on sandwiches.

 

Navy Bean Hummus

1 – 14.5oz can of navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic
squirt of lemon juice
1 Tbsp. tahini
2 or 3 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. cumin (optional)

In a blender, combine beans, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and water.  Blend on low for about a minute until spread is smooth.  You may need to add a little more water to get it to loosen up.

Add in salt, cumin, and oil.  Blend for another 30 seconds and adjust seasonings to taste.  Store in a tightly sealed container.

The best thing about hummus?  It’s extremely versatile.  Next week I’ll share some of my favorite hummus adaptations, so stay tuned!

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