Jicama, Cucumber, and Orange Salad

I haven’t posted many salads from the galley kitchen yet, because most of the salads I eat are too boring to write about. I mean, no one needs a recipe to “chop iceberg lettuce and toss with bottled blue cheese dressing.”

In its simplicity, this salad is just a step or two beyond the iceberg/bottled dressing that normally accompanies my solo dinners, and honestly, doesn’t really require a recipe at all. But it’s one of my favorites – sweet, cool, and crispy — and it’s the perfect salad next to a big bowl of spicy chili.

I served this not-at-all-boring salad alongside a not-quite-perfect chili to my three fancy guesties — my lovely friends Alison and Aissa, and my Mom (who rules). Aissa is allergic to wheat gluten, so I served popcorn with the chili, instead of the usual cornbread. But don’t worry — I popped the corn in rendered duck fat and tossed it with truffle salt first.

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toblerone sandwich cookies

Hey, you remember that time I entered a cupcake contest?

While my brief foray into competitive baking brought me no awards or accolades, I didn’t leave the competition empty-handed.

Cupcake Hero: Battle Honey left me with 2 1/2 Toblerone bars and a metric ton of buttercream frosting.

Finding new things to do with frosting has been a real trial.

These chocolate cookies are a perfect vehicle for the abundant Toblerone buttercream. They’re rich and chocolatey, sturdy and chewy with crispy edges. Skip the Toblerone in the frosting for a more authentic homemade Oreo.

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Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust and Bacon Streusel

I work in the Publishing department at Search, and our department is arguably the envy of all others. One of the best things about working in the Publishing department is the quality and frequency of potlucks. We have elaborate themed potlucks for every birthday.

For her 35th birthday/presidential campaign launch, my kooky boss, Tenessa, requested an all bacon and cheese potluck. Always up for a challenge, I volunteered to make dessert.

I like to think I’m pretty adventurous with food, but I admit, I was nervous about making an apple, bacon, and cheese pie. For one thing, I’d only made pie crust once before, and from what I’ve heard, pie crust can smell fear. Also? It’s an apple, bacon, and cheddar pie.

I love all those flavors together, but I hadn’t really thought of them in a sweet dessert.

My fears were unfounded. This pie is ridiculously delicious. If it weren’t such a pain in the ass to put together, I think I’d make this same pie once a week. Sweet, salty, smoky. Crispy cheese crust, like the best Cheez-It you’ve ever had. Tender, gooey apples. Candied bacon streusel.

Earlier this week, Tenessa announced her resignation from Search, and the Publishing department has been whining and moping ever since. Just imagine, dear Tenessa, how many ridiculous, over-the-top bacon and cheese dishes I have not yet made for you.

Oh, and congrats on the new job. If you need any help packing up your office, I’ll be here planning recipes and potluck themes, soaking Professor Meowington’s back with my salty tears.

Employees must wash their hands.

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Steak and Mushroom Risotto with Smoked Mozzarella

Last spring, Handsome Greg and I flew to Utah to visit my hilarious sister, Colleen, and her brilliant children, Rolly, Maddie, and Charlie. There was no meal on the plane, and by the time we landed in Salt Lake City, picked up the rental car, drove to Layton, and checked into our hotel, we were famished. So we stopped for lunch/dinner at a restaurant by the hotel before heading to Colleen’s, where I had the most delicious risotto.

The steak risotto I inhaled at Corbin’s Grille was made with rich, salty beef stock that brought out an earthy meatiness in the wild mushrooms. When I recreated the dish at home, I substituted cremini and white button mushrooms for the more expensive wild mushrooms at Corbin’s, and I chopped in some perfectly delicious smoked mozzarella. Then I added a handful of chives for a little bite.

The rest of our trip with Colleen and the kids provided more fantastic culinary adventures: Maddie introduced me to ice cream dots; Charlie made a truly vile mocktail with water, salt, and sugar substitute packets; and when Greg treated the kids to their very first dinner at Olive Garden, future food critic Rolly tried the minestrone and declared, “The soup is excellent.”

I really miss those guys. Also? Being an aunt is the best job ever.

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Apple Crumb Pie

Why do I ever doubt my mom? I should know better by now.

A few years ago, when Mom suggested we change up Thanksgiving dessert, and go with an entirely non-traditional apple pie recipe, I was SCANDALIZED.

I mean, it’s one thing to try out a funky, new pie recipe for an Arbor Day potluck. But Thanksgiving dinner?

Mom topping the pie, wearing my old Strawberry Shortcake t-shirt

I reluctantly agreed to go along with Mom’s evil plan to ruin Thanksgiving, fully assuming that following a dismal failure, we’d have learned our lesson, and we’d vow to return our Thanksgiving allegiance to chocolate mousse pie and blackberry pie and I totally forgot what I was talking about.

Pablo peeling apples

And then we made Martha Stewart’s Apple Crumb Pie. Holy crap balls. This is what apple pie aspires to. The filling is very, um, apple-y. It’s pretty much wall-to-wall apples, with very little goop.

The crust [THE CRUST] is ridiculously delicious. The almond crumb crust is salty, nutty, crispy, and with no pastry to deal with, it comes together as easy as, well, pie.

I will never doubt again.

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glazed carrots with thyme and cayenne

Yeah, I’m still posting Thanksgiving recipes, most of them on loan from my mom, who rules.

I love my Thanksgiving Day routine. Every year at Turkey Lurkey Time, Professor Meowington and I shnuggle on the couch all morning, flipping between parade coverage on CBS and NBC in the hopes of catching lips-synched musical numbers from current Broadway shows.

Then I kiss the cat goodbye, bundle up, and head over to Mom’s to help prepare Thanksgiving dinner. After Handsome Greg finishes a late lunch with his mom, he drives over to my mom’s place to assume his annual position as bartender, potato ricer, table setter, and finally, turkey carver. At that point, Mom and I are completing the last minute tasks – Mom makes the gravy, and I prepare the glazed carrots.

It’s in those last frantic moments of food prep – when all three of us are bustling about Mom’s condo – that I become aware that I’m cooking in someone else’s kitchen. Where are the measuring cups? Wait, the brown sugar is in the fridge? It’s sort of like wearing bowling shoes. It feels unfamiliar, but it generally works fine.

"I love how the lemon cuts through the richness."

And the carrots, along with the rest of the feast, were delicious. The pinch of cayenne could’ve been more generous – I was afraid of overdoing it on the heat, so I used it sparingly. Next time I’ll probably use a shy 1/8 teaspoon. The thyme (from Mom’s hallway herb garden) brought a nice earthiness and tempered the sweetness, and the lemon juice cut through the richness beautifully. This is our permanent Thanksgiving carrot recipe.

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Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Without ever trying brussels sprouts as a kid, I was sure I hated them. From What’s Happening!! to Full House, brussels sprouts were the butt of every dinnertime joke, and at that point, I had no reason not to trust the Olsen twins.

I finally tried brussels sprouts several years ago at a friend’s dinner party, and I was schooled. As it turns out, my animosity towards the much maligned cruciferous veggie was just a big misunderstanding. When properly prepared (i.e. not overcooked), brussels sprouts are delightful. And adorable.

P.S. Even if you don’t like brussels sprouts, um, bacon!

My mom’s cat, Pablo, is the president of the Brussels Sprouts Anti-Defamation League.

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