Salami and Cheese Baguette


When you eat something glorious, like the #3 sandwich at Larchmont Village Wine, but 3,000 miles of distance prevents you from eating it regularly, you've got to get creative and MAKE IT AT HOME.  Sorry for shouting, but I guess I'm yelling at you to MAKE THIS AT YOUR HOME because it is just such a divine sandwich.  Soppressata salami, manchego cheese, mixed greens, a sundried tomato spread and oil and vinegar all live between a sliced crusty baguette.  You can add things, like avocado (which I did obviously) but it truly is magnificent on its own.  

To make the sandwich at home, first make your sundried tomato spread.  I found a delicious store-bought paste that I combined with mayo, but if you can't find that you can finely chop (or process) jarred sundried tomatoes instead.  The ratio of mayo to s.d.t. is really up to you, but I did about 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons.  I made two sandwiches and had some extra spread, which I will happily use up another day in a wrap or on breakfast toast.    

The most important part of this sandwich is the bread.  Go out of your way to find GOOD stuff, because that's what Ina would do.  No but really, it makes a difference.  No one wants a challenge when eating a sandwich, so try to find a crisp, crusty exterior that's soft inside and easy to pull apart (with your mouth).  I went with a standard baguette, but ciabatta would be yummy too.  

Slice your bread, and slather one side with your spread and the other side with mashed avocado (if using).  I always salt my mashed avocado, FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

Build up your sandwich with salami, sliced manchego and mixed greens (in this case I used arugula). Drizzle with just a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  

Enjoy immediately with your favorite chip and flavored seltzer (or red wine if you're my mother and you're not pregnant).  This sandwich is a delight and you won't regret it!  Until I'm back in California and can get the real deal, I will be making these often.  

Meatless Meatballs


I am not solely a plant-eater, but these meatless meatballs are the best I've ever had!  Not only are they packed with delicious flavor, but the texture rivals the real deal.  Perhaps the best part?  The recipe requires 5 ingredients: cheese, breadcrumbs, onion soup mix, eggs and nuts.  Voila!

However, as always, feel free to play around with this.  I like to do half cheddar, half Parmesan... and I'm sure mozzarella would also be yummy.  The original recipe calls for walnuts, but I like pine nuts, SO THERE.  Nut allergy?  I bet finely chopped mushrooms would offer a delicious "meaty" quality.  And while we're talking vegetables, chopped spinach, carrots or zucchini would be ideal to sneak in for some added nutrition.  The possibilities are endless!  

My friend sent me the recipe, and she swears the longer you let them simmer in the marinara, the "meatier" they become.  But you could also let them simmer in a broth for a soup, or a cream sauce or, or... I don't know.  You tell me.  Food is exciting!!  I hope you enjoy.     

Meatless Meatballs
Yields: 15 meatballs

4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 envelope Onion Soup Mix
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Cheddar
3/4 cups pine nuts, toasted
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

After toasting the pine nuts, place in a food processor and grind until nuts become fine and powdery.  Remove to a large bowl, and mix in all the other ingredients.  Combine and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, allowing mixture to set.  Preheat oven to 375, lightly grease a baking sheet, and roll into balls (roughly golf ball-sized).  Bake for 20 minutes.  If desired, you may then simmer meatballs into a sauce (the longer they simmer, the "meatier" the texture).  Enjoy!


Eric's Protein Pancakes


Hi Blog.  It's me, Siri, your Maker.  I used to be very involved with you... we were practically in a relationship.  We would go out on a date almost 5 times a week.  It was a magical time full of exactly that: TIME.  I don't know why I have less of that valuable commodity now?  As a parent, you're always thinking things will get easier as your kids get older but that's not exactly the case.  Sure, you don't have to wipe their butts (as much) or buckle their seat belts, but other needs emerge that feel just as - if not more - demanding.  LIKE SCHEDULING THEIR CARPOOLS.  That could be a full-time job, I swear.  Any given week I have 10 different text chains with 10 different sets of moms for 10 different sets of activities.  It's exhausting.  Of course, carpools aren't solely to blame for my lack of dating you, Blog.  In truth, it's a combination of things: picky eaters, priorities and ever-growing social media platforms to name a few.  I'm just one person and I can't do it all!  

So it's not you, Blog, it's me.  I still love you, and I still want to talk about pancakes. 

So let's talk about pancakes!  (You're like, thank god, enough of this rambling nonsense.)  I grew up as a pancake kid.  My mom and dad both made excellent ones and they were always a go-to on the weekends.  I could eat 10 in one sitting, no joke.  (Sigh... I long for a time when eating that many pancakes would never cross my mind as excessive... but I digress.)  Nowadays I'm much more of a savory breakfast person, but I think that's why I love these pancakes so much.  They're full of protein with a touch of sweet, and you can control how sugary you want them to taste with your toppings (peanut butter and maple syrup being my favorite).   

This recipe belongs to my friend's husband, Eric - hence the name - and I was recently treated to them in Minnesota at their lovely home.  They have this method down to a science and mostly eyeball measurements, so I did my best to guess what the specifics were... but after making them myself at home, I think I got pretty close!  The beauty is, you can really make these your own.  Want thicker pancakes?  Cut back on the milk and egg whites.  Not feeling the spinach?  Add mashed bananas instead.  Want something extra?  Fold in nuts, chocolate chips or apples.  So.  Many.  Options. 

When Eric and his wife Meghan make them, they do so in bulk and the recipe yields about 40 pancakes (which they eat all week long).  When I made them at home, I cut the recipe in half so that's the recipe I am going to post.  But again, play with this... you can't go wrong.  

Eric's Protein Pancakes
Yields: about 20 pancakes

5 eggs
1 1/2 (heaping) cups oats
1 (heaping) cup spinach
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz. egg whites
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
Cooking spray
Toppings (optional): maple syrup, butter, whipped cream, peanut butter, nutella, berries, bananas

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Blend until everything is smooth (a couple of minutes).  Heat pancake pan or griddle to medium heat and spray with cooking spray.  Pour out desired-size pancakes onto griddle and cook a few minutes per side, flipping carefully (test to make sure sides are done by gently inserting spatula underneath pancake).  Top with optional toppings and enjoy!           

Happen Bakers: Nicole Barens



I'm sorry, that was unnecessary and embarrassing.  It's just that I'm excited for the next young, ambitious and creative baker to join the Happen Bakers club, and this girl is all of that and more.

Meet Nicole Barens: a 16 year-old self-taught baker from Cleveland, Ohio.  Not only does Nicole whip up stunning desserts for fun (as seen on her Instagram page), but this teenager has a 2 year-old thriving business in her town.  A business!  (When I was her age, I sold beanie babies at a gift shop for money.)  Through word-of-mouth and social media, she works on 4-5 orders a month, and that's on top of being a normal 16 year-old... hanging out with friends, working on calligraphy (her favorite hobby) and attending high school (biology being her favorite subject... talk about well-rounded!).  Relatively new to the craft, she started learning through observation and experimentation.  Once it was apparent that her creations were more than just yummy treats (check out that cake below), the logical next step was to sell her cakes.  As much as she loves the artistic side of baking, the business aspect has always fascinated her... and after learning more about her in the interview below, I'm sure you'll agree that a successfully bakery is in her future :)

When did you start baking?

I started baking when I was about 14.  I grew up watching shows like Cake Boss and Cake Wars, and I was always so intrigued.

How did you learn?

I learned mostly from YouTube tutorials and baker's blogs.  It took a lot of practice and trial and error!

What do you love most about it?

I think I love it so much because I'm so creative and I've also always been interested in business...

What's the most challenging thing you've attempted?

I'd have to say the hardest cake I made was a Cassata cake because it had so many elements and it was one of the first times I had worked with fondant, which was really hard at first, but I've gotten better at it.

What's your dream dessert?

My dream dessert is probably anything with chocolate and peanut butter (that's why I chose to make a Reese's cake for this post, haha).

Name 3 celebrities you'd love to bake with...

If I could bake with 3 famous people they would be Taylor Swift, Emma Chamberlain and Jenna Joseph.

Most epic kitchen fail?

Through my learning process, I've had so many fails, but one of the worst has to be my macaron fail. They did not turn out at ALL, it was so bad.  Now that I've had a lot more experience with baking I think it would come out better.  My family still jokes about it three years later!

Any favorite songs you listen to in the kitchen?

I love to listen to music!  Some of my favorite artists recently have been Billie Eilish, The 1975 and Halsey.

Favorite food site or YouTube channel?

I've been watching a few of Chelsweet's videos on YouTube recently.  I also get a lot of inspiration from people on Instagram, such as @brittanymaycakes, @whiteflowercakeshoppe, and @treatsbytay.

When you're not baking, you are...

When I'm not baking I'm at school.  Most of my free time is taken up by my business!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Hopefully I'll have my own bakery because not only do I love baking as a creative outlet, I also like the business aspect of it.

Nicole would rather not reveal her *top secret* recipe (and I don't blame her!), but she did give us a step-by-step tutorial on how she created this fabulous Reese's Chocolate Cake...

To make the Reese's cake, I baked three 6" round layers of chocolate cake.  I then made a peanut butter buttercream and frosted the whole cake.  Before adding the ganache drips, I chilled the cakes in the fridge.  While it was in the fridge, I heated some heavy cream on the stove, turned off the heat, then added some bittersweet chocolate chips.  I then added the ganache drips to the cake and put in back in the fridge to set.  Once the ganache was set, I added the top border with a Wilton 1M tip.  I also added some chopped up Reese's cups around the border, and put some halved Reese's cups in between each swirl.

Thank you Nicole, you're an inspiration to us all!
And let me know when you start shipping across country :)

*All photos shot by Nicole's friend @photogenikate

TODAY tonight: Crunchy Mustard Chicken Bake


It's been a long time since I've done a TODAY: tonight post on my blog.  Heck, it's been a long time since I've blogged!  Is blogging still a thing?  Do people do it?  Am I even a person?  Is existence real?  What are these deranged words I'm writing?  Clearly I'm out of practice.  Let's stick to food.

My "TODAY: tonight" series is made up of the recipes Carson can't stop talking about when he comes home from work.  Even though I haven't been documenting all of them, I've actually made quite a few lately, but this one... this one deserved a post!  There is so much going on in this recipe, I'm not sure what I should discuss first.  Should I start with the flavorful, mustard-based marinade that soaks through the chicken thighs for hours, or should I talk about the bed of roasted vegetables that perfect each bite?  I MUST tell you about the method of draining the solids from the liquids in the marinade and using them both to create this rich, sublime glaze.  And, there's obviously the crunchy, homemade topping that I could write a song about, IF I was the type of person to write songs about food (I am).  My favorite part of the recipe, however?  How adaptable it is.

The first time I made it, I followed it to a T.  It was divine.  The second time?  I used what I had on hand.  It was also divine.  Here's what I did differently... 

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Totally doable.  I didn't have leeks or potatoes for my roasted veggies, so instead I used red onion, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower.  Yum.  I didn't have tarragon so I used fresh parsley... didn't matter.  It was so, so good.  You see, people??  Recipes are just blueprints.  Trust your instincts and your own creativity.  Trust what you have in your fridge and pantry... it rarely steers you wrong.  Mostly, trust your husband when he comes home from work and begs you to make what he just ate.  He knows things.  (Most of the time.)  

Recipe HERE.

Happen Bakers: Jordan Pavia


New year, new Happen Bakers time!  In case you're unfamiliar with this series, check out what I just linked, and you'll see the other young ladies I've featured so far, all of whom share a passion for baking and a desire to use their talents in a positive way.  It's been such a pleasure for me to get to know these girls via their emails, recipes and photos... and the latest Happen Baker is no exception.

Meet Jordan... an almost 24 year-old nursing student living in the DC area.  She grew up in New York and majored in Exercise Science and Nutrition at George Washington University.  Cooking and baking has always been a love of hers, but as soon as she had her own kitchen and space to create, that passion grew and inspired her to start this beautiful Instagram account (follow, follow!).  With a focus on plant-based foods, her dishes are fresh and vibrant, and she strives to make her healthy sweets as delicious as they can be (just wait until you see the recipe below).

What I love most about Jordan is her outlook on baking, and how that translates to a positive frame of mind.  She finds every dessert "worth celebrating" and loves how even the simplest treat can brighten someone's day.  If we all transferred that thought process to kind acts, what a world this would be!  The icing on the cake?  She's pursuing her dream as a Labor and Delivery nurse, and that fact almost makes me want to have another baby (but I'd have to give birth in DC so she could be there).  That profession is a pretty selfless one...and Jordan sure does fit the profile.

Keep reading below to learn more about her, and for her delicious Almond Joy Macaroon recipe!        

When did you start baking?

Ever since I was little, I remember my mom whipping up a batch of ooey, gooey chocolatey brownies for every event we celebrated - holidays, birthday parties, getting our braces off.  Even though they were derived from a box of brownie mix rather than from scratch, she added a special ingredient (marshmallows! plus lots of love, of course) that turned those squares of goodness from simple to scrumptious and memorable for any crowd.  It showed me early on that making something sweet and delicious did not have to be difficult, and I was inspired to make every dessert worth celebrating.  I began baking independently in high school for teachers and friends, then in college and nursing school while experimenting with recipes for my Instagram, @littleveggielady.

How did you learn?

While many of my friends were watching their favorite shows on the Disney Channel, I was tuning into the Food Network!  Since I was young, I have been fascinated by cooking shows and reading cooking blogs to more fully understand how things are made, what flavors work well together, how to make it all look pretty.  If you lose me in a book store, chances are you will find me in the cookbook section!  

What do you love most about it?

Most of my baking has been done while away from home in NY for friends in college or nursing school.  What I love most about baking is the idea that my kitchen is always there - no matter how unfortunate the day might have been, how stressed out I am feeling, or how much I need an activity to take my mind off of something.  And that no matter what went wrong that day or how uncertain I am about something, following the steps of a recipe - mixing flour with sugar and oil - will lead to something delicious.  Some of my best creations have been after my worst days!  

What's the most challenging thing you've attempted?

I have recently chosen to consume more plant-based dairy products in my diet, and a lot of my friends have gluten and lactose sensitivities.  This has inspired me to bake with different flours (almond, coconut, oat) and replacements for milk and eggs in order to make sure the special people in my life could try the recipes.  Taking this into account while also making sure everything I was baking was still delicious for all has been a challenge and something I am continuing to focus on in my kitchen.  

What's your dream dessert?

My favorite dessert has always been a big, fat chocolate chip cookie.  And if it turned into bookends for a creamy scoop of ice cream - even dreamier!  

Name 3 celebrities you'd love to bake with...

I would choose Giada de Laurentiis, Martha Stewart, and Kate Middleton (not sure if Kate bakes, but if she took care of the tea, I would bring the treats!).  

Most epic kitchen fail?

Boy, I have had many burnt cookies and cakes that have fallen flat in my short baking career.  This spring, I was making homemade whipped cream to pair with strawberries for the last hospital clinical day of nursing school.  I was using a Kitchenaid mixer for the first time ever (the most beautiful kitchen gadget, in my opinion), and I think I was so excited I got distracted...the next thing I know my whipped cream had whipped to butter!  Oops!

Any favorite songs you listen to in the kitchen?

Embarrassingly enough, I tend not to listen to music; instead, I talk to myself and pretend I am filming my own cooking show by narrating the steps of each recipe I am experimenting with.  However, I would probably choose songs from my favorite artists (Zac Brown Band, Taylor Swift) to make time spent in my "happy place" a little happier.  

Favorite food site or YouTube channel?

Most of the accounts I follow on social media are food bloggers or food content related, however my favorite is tuning into the Today Show each morning and watching my favorite cooks and bakers (like Siri!) before starting my day.  My dream is to be in that kitchen one day!  

When you're not baking, you are...

Teaching or practicing yoga (to balance out all my baking), exploring the evolving food scene in Washington DC, or living out my dream of delivering babies as a Labor and Delivery nurse.  

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

One of my resolutions for 2019 is to live in the moment and stay present, however I am naturally a dreamer and a planner in every aspect of my life.  If I could see myself in 10 years, I would picture a happy, healthy girl who has spent the decade learning, traveling, and surrounding myself with loving people and good food - the perfect recipe for the best kind of life!  

Almond Joy Macaroons by Jordan Pavia

1 1/2 cups almond or coconut flour
3 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup slivered, unsalted almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt (I like Himalayan pink salt)
3/4 cup maple syrup
4 egg whites (or 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp of liquid egg whites)
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Coating:
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all macaroon ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Using a small ice cream scooper (or your own two hands!), scoop batter and form balls to place onto a cookie sheet.  

Bake about 10-12 minutes or until edges are a crispy, golden brown.  Set aside to cool.

When macaroons are almost fully cooled, prepare the chocolate sauce: melt coconut oil first in the microwave, then place chocolate chips in same bowl.  Temper the chocolate (or melt in the microwave in 30 second increments) until smooth and creamy.  

Once completely cooled, dip bottom of macaroons in chocolate sauce and drizzle remaining sauce over the tops.  Let them set at room temperature for at least 10 minutes or place in the fridge to allow chocolate to harden.  Enjoy!  

Thank you, Jordan, for brightening our day!    

Spiced Chickpea Stew


You may or may not have heard of this recipe that practically broke the internet, most familiarly referred to as "The Stew," but if you haven't...well then LISTEN UP!  Ugh, Siri, you're so bossy.  But really, listen up.  This.  Stew.  Is.  MAGICAL.  I will try to explain why...

It's a warm, comforting dish that leaves you completely satisfied without feeling heavy.  The chickpeas are perfectly seasoned with a spicy kick (I cut the red pepper flakes in half, however, because I'm a wuss).  The fresh ginger is a must, as it brightens up the stew and adds flavor.  And the coconut milk...oh the coconut milk.  Apparently there's a controversy over how many cans to use: 1 or 2.  I followed the recipe and used 2 cans and I wouldn't change a thing.  It smooths out the soup and adds a lovely depth.  Finally, the kale thickens the soup and makes you feel super healthy!  I topped mine with crispy chickpeas and greek yogurt - which I highly recommend.     

Recipe HERE.

Alison Roman, the cookbook author, Bon Appetit contributor and NY Times columnist responsible for the recipe, also went viral with this recipe for her Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies.  Try those as well, you won't be sorry. 


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