Sticky Steamy Summer Sad Face

As you may have deduced from my blog’s name, I live on Long Island. I used to believe that Long Island had an appealing climate. Wintery winters, springy springs, summery summers, you get the picture. After this summer, I’ve changed my mind. Heat wave after heat wave – and the humidity! Ugh. It’s like this evil weather-killer. I take a peek at the week’s temperatures and see low and mid-80s and think, Ok, that’s not so bad. And then I step outside and it easily feels ten degrees hotter and so much stickier.

Remember when summers had cool nights and breezy mornings? When you needed a cardigan or denim jacket if you were headed out to dinner? Not this year. Here are some ways to keep cool.

1. Go to the mall – Not only will you cool off, but you will also forget that it’s even summer. Stores are pumping up the A/C to encourage you to buy fall clothes. We stopped at Roosevelt Field the other day and the stores were easily 60 degrees, with the employees warmly bundled in the latest collections.

PS I want this:

And these:

I also wouldn’t say no these:

Ok, so maybe spending too much time at the mall would be a bad thing.

2. Go to the beach – If you are fortunate enough to have a child who doesn’t enjoy eating sand, the beach is always an option. Nolan enjoys eating sand by the handful. He maintains direct eye contact while he does this because he knows he isn’t supposed to. If you try to give him real food to eat, he will cover it with his favorite condiment, sand.

3. Drink cold drinks – Like these

Or my favorite tasty drink that I wrote about here

Just say yes to a vodka gimlet. If you’re feeling adventurous, try these basil infused ones.

Stay cool, people!

Tex-Mex Snacks

My friend June and her sweet babbly baby Devin came over for “brunch” this week. I say “brunch” because there was nothing brunch-y about the meal, but it occurred before noon. I made an easy black bean salad, guacamole and kick-your-ass margaritas. Although wholly inappropriate for 11am, this little menu is perfect for happy hour or pre-dinner snacking.

Margaritas – Barefoot Contessa’s recipe is my favorite (no surprise there). They are not too sweet, frosty cold, and very refreshing. Combine three cups of ice (about one tray’s worth) with 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1 cup of triple sec in a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of white tequila and blend for another few seconds. Serve over ice and enjoy. Don’t go crazy with a super expensive tequila but don’t totally cheap out. I use Jose Cuervo Silver for these.

Black Bean Salad – I found this recipe doing a quick search on Food Network’s site. Heads up: contrary to what the website says, it takes longer than 10 minutes to prep. It’s probably closer to 30 minutes to do all the chopping.  Because I wasn’t in the mood for a ton of spice, I used a half of one jalapeno without the ribs and seeds. I used champagne vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, and I also omitted the pinch of cumin because I wasn’t feeling taco-ish.

Guacamole – If you’ve ever eaten at Besito, you’ve probably had their tableside guacamole. Besito generously shared the recipe on its Facebook page a while back and it’s very easy to make. I don’t have a molecajete so I use the back of a wooden spoon to grind the ingredients together. If you’re making this for more than one or two people, you’ll want to double (triple?) this recipe.

Enough about food, here are the kiddies.

They’re on the move! And yeah, I know my kid is dressed like an old man. We didn’t leave the house that day.

What’s Been Cookin’ in our Kitchen

As I wrote recently, I’ve been getting a ton of recipes from Pinterest. Most come from people’s blogs, so before I give one a try I always look through the comments carefully. You usually have to skip the first bunch because they are always, “This looks great!” “Mmmmm! Can’t wait to make it!” Instead, keep scrolling and look for ones that say it was good or indicate what tweaks were necessary to make it better.

Here are a few I’ve been happy with recently (with my adjustments, of course):

Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Parmesan Spaghetti – I’ve made this twice and I love that it can be put together in under a half hour. My suggestions: I like crisper prosciutto and I HATE cutting it raw (slimy, clingy, yuck). Lay out the pieces on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes (depending on the meat’s thickness), then you can just break it up when it’s nice and crispy over the finished dish. I also found that the cream sauce thickened much faster than the recipe indicated so watch for that. If it gets too thick it’s very difficult to mix with the pasta. Last one, I omitted the mushrooms because we’re not big fans over here.

Man-Pleasing Chicken – I’m a little put off by the title but this took about 60 seconds to assemble. Although the sauce the chicken cooks in is primarily Dijon mustard, it actually doesn’t taste like mustard when it’s done. Seriously, I don’t even like mustard. My suggestions: Don’t worry if you don’t have rice wine vinegar. Most other types are fine (maybe not balsamic!). I used Champagne vinegar.

Caesar Salad – Ok, this one isn’t from Pinterest, it’s Barefoot Contessa, but I served it with the Man-Pleasing Chicken so I figured I would include it. While this recipe isn’t difficult, it is a bit involved. Thankfully, everything can be done ahead of time. My suggestion: I halved the dressing recipe and it still made plenty. I considered halving it again but it’s difficult to do things in small batches in a food processor. Again, I wouldn’t bother with the tedious chopping of the pancetta. I would buy it in slices and roast it for a few minutes until it’s crispy, then break it up over the salad. Finally, don’t even think about omitting the anchovies. I know they look gross (I gagged a little), but they are what make Caesar dressing taste the way it does.

Green Monster Smoothie – This smoothie is healthy and filling and although it looks weird (it’s green and filled with raw spinach), it tastes like delicious peanut butter, banana, tangy goodness.

What’s New

Hey, world! Here are a few things that have kept me busy and piqued my interest lately:

Pinterest – holy mother of all time suckers. I have a whole post on Pinterest in the works, but if you haven’t pinned, get busy.

Bronx Zoo – we went here yesterday for a birthday party and it was so fun. I go every few years and each time I think, Wow! I need to get here more often. It’s lovely and so nicely cared for.

Cooking Food Stuffs – the aforementioned Pinterest has kept my kitchen BUSY. This BLT Quinoa Salad is delicious, these Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps taste like they could be from a restaurant, and if Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars sound like something you might enjoy, then you have to make these. If they don’t sound like something you would like, please leave. Or see a mental health professional STAT.

Reading – being back at work and reading the literary gems of high school students keeps me pretty busy so I haven’t been reading much fiction lately. I started the memoir Bringing Up Bebe and really enjoyed it but had to return it to my library since it was a 7-day loan.  English teacher + mother of baby = not finishing a book a week. I’ll probably buy it from Amazon next time I’m on there. So in about five minutes. I think I’m the last woman on Earth to read 50 Shades of Grey. It’s on my to-do list for the summer.

ABC Kitchen – Matt and I went here for lunch over the April vacation and had a pretty amazing meal. I will say this, the place tries really hard. A little too hard if you ask me. It’s a bit over curated for my taste and just felt kind of forced. Everyone was friendly, the food was original and delicious but the space and the “uniforms” were a bit of an eye roll. Is it weird that I’m being a snob about a restaurant’s snobbery?

This Guy – he’s been keeping me busy and happy 🙂  Here he is doing some work on Matt’s computer.

And enjoying some Starbucks:

What about you, friends? Read anything great lately or have something worth sharing?

New Year’s Eve Menu

We’re staying in this New Year’s Eve and celebrating with a cozy, tasty steakhouse dinner. Last year we went to Bryant & Cooper and I have to say, I was unimpressed. It was fun getting out but my filet was not so great. Ruth’s Chris never disappoints so if you’re craving steak and don’t feel like cooking, head there.

I don’t know why cooking a steak always intimidated me but when I watched Ina Garten make filet mignon I saw how quick and easy it really is. Go to the butcher for your meat and you’ll see that it’s just as good as what you order at a steakhouse (and a lot less expensive). An 8oz filet in a restaurant can easily cost $30 and up. Our two steaks from my favorite butcher cost about $25.

I follow this recipe for preparing the steaks with a few adjustments. The recipe calls for fleur de sel (a type of salt) but I just use kosher salt. I also use about half the salt and pepper it calls for because otherwise it is WAY too overpowering. I don’t have a seasoned cast iron skillet so I use a Le Creuset enameled cast iron pan instead.

To go with our steaks I’m making twice baked potatoes and creamed spinach. For dessert, I’m following the recommendation of A Cup of Jo and I picked up Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes. If they’re as good as they are fattening, we’re in for a delicious evening.

Happy New Year, friends and family!

Be a Good Holiday Guest

If you’re lucky enough to not be the host for the upcoming holidays, do your host a favor and bring a thoughtful gift!

If you can bake, try Martha Stewart’s lime meltaways. I blogged about them here.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake is really impressive and not too challenging. Food Network has the mini-cakes version that appeared on her show, but the whole cake, which is made in a bundt pan, is found in Barefoot Contessa Parties.

If you’re not really a baker but you can turn on an oven and you own a spoon and an 8×8 pan, you can make some jazzed up brownies. Start with a box of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownies and get cracking.  Peppermint Brownies are perfect for the holidays and a cinch to make. Pour half the prepared batter in the pan, layer six large peppermint patties across the pan (or a bunch of smaller ones) and cover with the remaining batter.

Nothing goes better with brownies than peanut butter so microwave a few tablespoons of peanut butter for 15-30 seconds to soften it, pour three stripes across the batter and run a knife perpendicular to the peanut butter to swirl it through. Wowee zowee.

If you know your hosts are wine drinkers, choose a bottle for them to enjoy when they’re not crazed with guests. And please, step away from the white zinfandel! If you’re a wine novice, ask the salesperson for a suggestion and don’t be afraid to communicate your budget (even if it’s $10), there are a lot of good choices at every price.

Of course there are many great websites with beautiful gifts. Check out Terrain, Wisteria, Beekman 1802, and for gorgeous personalized photo gifts that are surprisingly well-priced, you can’t beat Pinhole Press. I bought a ton of gifts there this year.

Happy Holidays!!

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Need some last-minute inspiration for Thanksgiving menu ideas? Here is what I’m making:

Roast Turkey – Barefoot Contessa’s hands-off approach to turkey hasn’t failed  me yet. No brining. No basting. Moist and delicious. Her recipe is for a 12 lb. turkey; I adjust accordingly for my 20 lb. bird. I make this gravy (minus the business with the giblets) and it’s easy breezy.

Mashed Potatoes – Again, love Barefoot Contessa’s. I don’t bother with putting them through a food mill, however. I gently mash them by hand and then use a stand mixer. The thing with mashed potatoes is that they have to be made last-minute. Last year I attempted a baked version from The Pioneer Woman and I have to say, it just wasn’t the same. To give yourself a little extra time, you can keep mashed potatoes warm for a while in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Carrots – I’m trying these for the first time this year because they look easy and I’m interested to see how the chili powder and the pumpkin pie spice come together.

Cranberry Sauce – Pioneer Woman’s is sweet and a touch tart. I’ve tried other ones that are too citrusy or too lumpy but this is just right. I like mine a little smoother so I put half the cooked batch in the food processor and pulse two or three times to break up the cranberries.

String Beans – I don’t really know what I’m doing here. Probably blanching them, and then sauteeing with butter and shallots.

Sweet Potato Casserole – I’ve made a half-dozen different versions and loved and them all but I think I’m sticking with the copycat recipe for the Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserole. It’s dessert on the dinner table.

For appetizers I’m doing the basics, cheese and crackers, hummus and veggies, and spinach dip in a bread bowl.

I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that everyone celebrates. It’s food and it’s family and it’s the intro to Christmas and the holiday season. What I DON’T love is that tons of stores are opening on Thanksgiving. I have plenty to say about the hypocrisy of people cutting time short with their families to go buy gifts for…their families. And what about all the poor people who have to work these stores?? Ugh, that’s a post for another day.


Thanksgiving 2009

Holiday Cooking Part 1 – S’mores-to-Go

Oh, hello there. I didn’t see you. I was busy gazing at these babies.


These are the perfect holiday party treat. They are easy to make and even easier to eat. My friends Matt and Shara (holla!) brought these to our 3rd Annual Fakesgiving and they were the hit of the party. I made them for a party last week and it took every ounce of will power in me to only eat one before heading out.

The recipe comes from The Pampered Chef and can be found here, but here is a screen shot:

I opted to cut off the screen shot before the nutrition facts because really, who needs nutrition facts on a dessert?

I don’t have too much to add (for once). The only change I made was that I bought Ghirardelli chocolate bars instead of the Hershey-type bar I was supposed to buy. As a result, I had to cut each Ghirardelli square into quarters which took all of thirty seconds.

I find it pretty funny how far The Pampered Chef will go to try to sell you stuff. For instance, the recipe tells you to use their Professional Shears dipped in cold water to cut the marshmallows. Ok… or you could use a knife? Maybe?

I don’t have a Mini Tart Shaper (the shame!) so I used the end of a citrus reamer to press down the bottoms. You could also use a thumb.

Make sure you really spray/grease the heck out of the muffin pan or these suckers aren’t coming out. Mmmm – don’t they look great? How could they possibly get better?

Oh right, by dipping the tops in chocolate.

The recipe makes 24 but they go fast so you may want to play it safe and double it!

Tasty Fall Breakfast

I posted a link to this recipe on Pinterest the other day. (I still haven’t figured out exactly how I want to use Pinterest, but I know I like it.)

Family Feedbag is a beautiful food blog that I spent way too much time reading yesterday. I followed Amy’s recipe exactly except that I added a pinch of salt to the mixture while it was cooking. Salt + oatmeal probably seems a little weird but trust me, it helps. I also added the brown sugar and splash of cold milk, as instructed, and it was delicious.

So go there! And make it! I just made it and it was divine with my morning joe.

Quick and Easy Chili

Hey, it’s fall! Football is on! Hockey is on! Playoff baseball is on! Men are glued to the television and that means if you make chili you can eat it all yourself!

I’ve been making this Martha Stewart Everyday Food chili for several years because I think it has tasty, interesting flavors and is pretty quick. It bills itself as 30-minute chili but that’s not realistic. As is the case with many Everyday Food recipes, the cooking time and directions for certain steps are way off. But no fear, cooks! It can easily be tweaked for your personal preferences.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 2 – 2.5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (found in the Spanish or Mexican food section)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1.5 lbs ground turkey (dark meat is tastier)
  • 3 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 bottle/can (12 ounces) mild lager beer
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) kidney and/or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Toppings! Cheddar, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, etc.
I made this in a 5-quart Dutch oven (because that’s what the recipe told me to do) and it JUST fit. Let’s just say there was a lot of sloshing and my stove was a mess after. (Don’t worry, Mom, I cleaned it up.)
Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and not so onion-y, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir around for another minute.
COOK’S TIP! Very often recipes will tell you to cook garlic and onion (or other veggies) together from the start. This is a big mistake. Garlic cooks in about a minute and if it’s being sauteed, burns pretty soon after. Always add it at the end of sauteeing and cook for just a minute.
Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cinnamon, and chipotle chiles. It’s really important that you get the right chiles because the adobo sauce is the main flavor in the chili. If you want to cut out some of the heat, scrape out the seeds from the chiles before you chop them. Stir it up and cook this big sticky mess for 2-3 minutes.
Add the beef and turkey and stir with the mixture for 5-10 minutes until the meat is cooked. It’s kind of a pain to cook all that meat with the onions and seasoning so in the future I might try cooking the meat in another pan first. Just a thought.
Add the diced tomatoes, beans (rinsed and drained), and beer. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for ten minutes. Enjoy!