Banh Mi Sliders

Finished tray of banh mi

Two years ago, I had never tasted Vietnamese food. And today I would “Hey, Kool Aid” through a brick wall if I thought there was a banh mi on the other side of it.

Open Banh Mi

What can I say? People change. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m scary allergic to bell peppers, ginger, coffee, curry, and wasabi. But (in recent months) that hasn’t stopped me from experimenting with Asian flavors I’ve never before tasted in entirely inauthentic ways!

Close up banh mi

This delightfully tiny, non-lethal slider version of the classic banh mi features sweet and savory pork, quick pickled vegetables, sriracha mayo, salty peanuts, and fresh cilantro on sweet Hawaiian rolls.

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Refried Bean Crostini

My blog is having a mid-life crisis. I’m a little concerned that my blog may get a flashy, new template, buy a convertible, and start dating a much younger blog.

See, when I first began sharing recipes from my tiny galley kitchen, I imagined my recipes would feature ingredients like fiddlehead ferns, duck confit, persimmon, and dry vermouth (Vermouth?! You can’t HANdle vermouth!).

Beans on Toast

And here I am, two and a half years later, blogging about refried beans on toast and wondering, what happened? Well, the truth is, a tasty, satisfying lunch that never fails to remind me of my most memorable summer happened.

Beans on Toasts

The summer before my junior year of high school I went on a service trip to a tiny village outside of Mexico City. Each morning we traveled in the back of a pick-up truck along the side of a mountain to our work site. After a few hours of labor, that same pick-up returned with our lunch – a tray full of crusty rolls smeared with refried beans, topped with a slice of American cheese. And it might’ve been the heat, or the hard-earned hunger, or perhaps it’s my fuzzy memory, but I’m pretty sure those simple sandwiches were better than all the fiddlehead ferns and duck confit in the world.

And so, in a fit of gooey nostalgia, I recreated my favorite culinary memory. I toasted split club rolls and topped them with a generous dollop of refried beans dressed up with prepared salsa and cumin. A thin slice of pepper jack cheese melted over top sealed the deal.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

Sun Dried Tomato Dip

It’s official! My dear imaginary friends, this summer I’ll be singing again. My little theater group won a spot in the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and we will present a brand, new show this August. Details will be forthcoming; keep your eye out for Blue Umbrella Productions’ premiere of Are You There, God? It’s a New Musical Revue!

Sun Dried Tomato Dip 2
To kick off our first production meeting of the season, I prepared for my collaborators, Tall Paul and Hurricane Windy, a wreath of fresh vegetables and crackers surrounding a bowl of creamy, flavor-packed sun-dried tomato dip. The silky, tangy spread was equally charming atop celery sticks, pita chips, and the next day’s turkey bagel sandwich for lunch.

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Top Ten Recipes of 2012

Happy Holidays, imaginary internet friends! And congratulations on surviving the end of the world. Now I’m off to Barnes and Noble to demand a refund for my Mayan wall calendar. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, I hope you’ll take another look at the 10 most popular recipes I shared this year.

S’mores Fried Ice Cream with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce

 

Asparagus Lasagna Slice

Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon

 

Baked Churros with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche

 

Loaded Baked Potato Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 

Cinnamon Roll Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies

 

Cookies and Milk

Toffee Cashew Cookies

 

pie crust crackers

Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Pie Crust Crackers

 

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

And the most popular recipe of 2012:

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Here’s to a delicious (and gooey) new year!

Pear Napoleons with Bourbon Caramel

It’s embarrassing how much time I spend thinking about recipes I want to try. I’ll start with the germ of an idea (say, a pear dessert for Mom’s birthday dinner). Then I’ll spend weeks – maybe months – considering the options: pear tart, pear cobbler, pear cake, pear sorbet… And when I finally decide on the perfect recipe, I abandon the idea entirely because I’m terrified of making a mistake. (Yeah, I never said my process was a healthy one.)

In this case, the paralyzing fear was invoked by the menace of homemade caramel sauce—it’s the easiest thing in the world to ruin. I think if I ever get around to recording another CD, it’ll be called Ways to Ruin Caramel, with forlorn country ballads like “Too Runny,” “Too Hard,” “Bitter and Scorched,” and “Grains of Sand.”

It took no less than three glasses of cheap wine for me to face my caramelized fear, and I’m so drunk—I mean, I’m so happy that I did! This caramel sauce is the perfect texture (creamy but not too thick), with the subtlest bite of sea salt and just enough booze. *hiccup*

The other components of the recipe – poached pears, sweetened mascarpone, flaky puff pastry, and toasted pistachios—are a cinch to prepare, yet every bit as delicious as the bourbon caramel.

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Lamb Burgers with Capicola and Cucumber-Goat Cheese Spread

I think I may be in danger.

For the past four days, I’ve been shooting my mouth off about how much I despise the Minnesota State Fair, and I fear the devoted fair-goers may turn up at my door with pronto pup-topped pitchforks and propane torches.

But I just can’t seem to help myself. Sweet cracker sandwiches, how I hate the fair. I hate the hokey state fair news coverage, and the ubiquitous on-a-stick jokes, and the questionable odors perfuming the air near the farm building, and the huge lines for rickety rides, and most of all, the mobs of people who invade my neighborhood for 10 days each August, taking every last parking space, along with the very last deep fried morsel of my patience and good will.

I’ve become the summertime Grinch.

While my fellow Minnesotans are enjoying the Great Minnesota Sweat Together, I grumpily hibernate in my apartment, leaving only to fight my way to work and back through streets filled with meandering jaywalkers, pushing strollers and dragging over-sized stuffed animals.

And forget about having company! I wouldn’t dream of asking my guests to brave the crowds and fight for parking during the fair. So it’s a good thing I hosted my summer picnic, starring Greek-inspired lamb burgers well before the vendor trucks and fair-goers descended upon my street.

The burgers were encrusted in garlic, oregano, kosher salt and red pepper flakes before I seared them to a juicy medium rare. Then I topped the burgers with spicy capicola and nestled them in chewy, soft ciabatta rolls dressed in a tzatziki-inspired goat cheese and cucumber spread.

I’m fairly certain my heart grew three sizes that day.

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Caramelized Onion Dip

INT. BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY and HANDSOME GREG sit cross-legged on a red checkered table cloth on the living room floor, sharing potato chips and onion dip. The phone rings. SUZY answers the phone.

BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY

Hello? Oh, hi.

HANDSOME GREG

Who’s on the phone?

BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY

It’s the sixties. They want their onion dip made from Lipton soup mix and sour cream back.

Fin.

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