Tag Archives: Friends

Western Iowa (Knows How to Party)

Hey there, ladies and gents. Happy Labor Day to you and yours! I’ve been having a lovely weekend. September is my favorite month (largely because it marks the beginning of cardigan season), and so far September 2011 has been marvelous. Several reasons why:

1. That new Beyonce song, “Love on Top.” It makes me want to put in a side ponytail and go rollerskating. And–did you see her performance at the VMAs? I need to know where I can get one of those sequined business suits for my eventual debut in the workplace.

2. On Friday, I went on a little getaway with two college friends to Denison, Iowa (home to the world’s largest collection of Donna Reed memorabilia, in case you were wondering). I met up with my friend Leslie in Jefferson, my hometown, and we cruised the rest of the way through the cornfields together.



Our friend Heather met up with us in Denison, and we headed to our home for the weekend–an adorable little B&B with a really pretty view.



If you happen to find yourself in need of lodging in Denison, be sure to check out this rural gem. It was a great deal and we had a wonderful time chatting with the owner, Clarice, and the other guests, two European fellows in town on some sort of farm-y business. Clarice told us all kinds of her cooking secrets, many of which involved adding mayonnaise to things, and we discussed our mutual love of cookbooks published by churches and small town women’s organizations.

3. While in Denison, I sang for my old roommate LeAnn’s wedding, and Leslie and Heather were the personal attendants. It was a beautiful ceremony and the reception was a grand time!



4. On the way back from the wedding, Leslie and I stopped in Jefferson and I gave her a brief tour of the most important sites from my formative years. The tour included lunch at the ever-popular Uptown Cafe (where, for future reference, “veggie burger” = beef patty topped with pickle slices), and meeting many of my magnificent relatives.

5. I made cookie dough balls from the new Peas and Thank You cookbook to take along on our girls’ weekend (you know, for late nights talking about boys and braiding each other’s hair).


If you have never made these, you should do so very soon. Each day that you don’t, you are doing a disservice to yourself and every cookie-loving individual in your inner circle. Here’s the recipe, now get to work!

A word about upcoming events before I sign off: We’re supposed to get the results of the bar exam sometime next week. My mom inquired today as to whether I want “the pink Andre or the regular champagne-flavored Andre” for purposes of celebrating what she clearly assumes will be good news. (She is such a champion.) So–if I do pass, you can look forward to a recipe featuring my favorite sparkling beverage. If I do not pass, I will probably take a short blogging vacation to, ummm, reflect on my life choices (i.e. cry and eat multiple sleeves of Thin Mints). Only time will tell. Until next time, folks–have a great week!


Rice paper wrappers full of (r)awesome

Just a very quick installment today…

My friend Katie (she also happens to be my sister-in-law’s brother’s wife, but “friend” is simpler) has a holistic health coaching business and sends out a newsletter full of info about happy, healthy food and tasty recipes.  The business is called Rooted Wellbeing and you should really check out the website, mmmkay? It will inspire you when you feel like eating Doritos for dinner.

I tried her recipe for a raw Thai “peanut” sauce yesterday and I can already tell it is destined to become a staple in my fridge.  It would be great on a pasta salad, as a dip, in a wrap, etc.  Tonight I used it as a dipping sauce for some spring rolls.

Spring roll components: broiled tofu (using this recipe from Peas and Thank You), cooked rice noodles with a bit of the peanut sauce stirred in, veggies, and the rice paper wrappers.

These are very fun to make.  You need to soak the rice paper in a shallow dish of warm-ish water for about 20 seconds to make it pliable.  This reminded me of the scene in Grease when Sandy sings “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and wistfully floats a sheet of stationery in the pool in Frenchie’s backyard.  Anybody?  No?  OK, never mind.

Then you can fill them with whatever suits your fancy and you have a pretty little appetizer or light supper.  I didn’t follow any particular recipe for these rolls, but here’s one that looks good if you want a little food for thought.  My finished product:

These were pretty decent, but the star of the meal was definitely the dipping sauce—here’s the link with the recipe.  Make it, love it…..try to resist the temptation to just eat it straight with a spoon.

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend!  (I’ll be back with another post soon, because I bought tartlet pans today.  TARTLET PANS!  I can barely contain my excitement….)

(Wo)Man vs. Food

About a week ago, I went with a group of friends to a steakhouse where, if you have some sort of death wish, you can attempt to eat a 54 oz. steak to win a t-shirt and get your picture on the wall.  One of the gentlemen in our group accomplished this feat in under 20 minutes, which was nothing short of astonishing.  The next day I had a conversation with my friend Lisa that went something like this:

  • Lisa: What did you eat at a steakhouse?
  • Me: Mushrooms.
  • Lisa (with a devilish gleam in her eye): Do you think you could eat 54 ounces of portabella mushroom?
  • Me (foolishly, not noticing said devilish gleam): Oh, definitely.

And thus, my fate was sealed.  I tried to back out, but before I could she made a really lovely trophy with styrofoam and gold spray paint……and if there’s one thing I hate to do, it’s let down a friend.

We held the event on Friday night, and I am happy (I guess?) to report that I was successful.  I now announce my unequivocal retirement from competitive/challenge eating, but I will leave you with these tips.

1. Just Say No

Seriously, I don’t recommend that you try to eat 54 ounces of anything.  Be smarter than I am.  I urge you to avoid taking on any challenge of this nature, and I will not be liable for any consequences if you do.  But, if you do…..

2. Preliminary Matters

I would recommend eating breakfast, or perhaps a light lunch, but nothing for at least 6 hours prior to the event.  And, I would recommend two pre-emptive PeptoBismol chewables…..this is also my strategy for law school final exams.  It lets your stomach know that things are about to get real.

3. Ambiance

Use some nice flatware.  A white tablecloth wouldn’t hurt either.  Just because you’re about to do something gross, that doesn’t mean you can’t class it up.

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4. Moral Support

You will need a cheering section full of true friends who believe in your ability to persevere.

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5. It’s All Mental

In the end, you can do this if you THINK you can do this.  Try to avoid looking at the entire pile of mushrooms (or whatever food item you may be facing).  I tried to keep reminding myself that people have done far worse things to to their bodies and survived.  (I know this because I watched a lot of “Behind the Music” as a child and have been to many parties celebrating the end of law school finals.)

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6. Aftermath

Go get some fresh air.  If you can handle it, a glass of champagne may be appropriate.  Finally, don’t plan on eating whatever it is you just ate again for a very long time.

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You’ll have to get your mushroom recipes elsewhere from here on out.

Study buddies

Another week of lawyer school is upon us.  Some of us have just realized that finals aren’t really that far away.

Some of us are legal superstars with important projects due soon.

And some of us are just generally cranky.

None of us will survive without study snacks.

I’ve made granola bars before (and posted the recipe here), but these are better.  They’re easy, infinitely adaptable, and practically guaranteed to make you smarter and/or more organized.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Granola Bars (makes 9-12)

  • 1 2/3 c. oats
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. toffee bits
  • 1/3 c. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 tbsp melted butter or Earth Balance
  • 2 tbsp honey (I think you could probably substitute agave nectar or brown rice syrup.)
  • 1 small, overripe banana, mashed

Preheat your oven to 350, and line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper.  (This made removing the bars a cinch, but if you don’t have parchment just grease the pan.)  In a large bowl, mix the oats, sugar, whole wheat flour, salt, almonds, toffee, and chocolate chips.  In a smaller bowl, combine the vanilla, melted butter, honey, and mashed banana.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir to coat.  Press the mixture firmly into the 8×8 pan, and bake for about 30 minutes.  Let cool completely, and then slice into bars.

Burlington banoffee

I’m back from spring break in Vermont with my gal pal/kindred spirit Kristin—it was marvelous!  We did lots of adventuring and took in some pretty scenery.

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We also made time for important things like sitting on the couch while watching Sister Wives and eating dessert.  Kristin pointed out on 3/14 that it was “Pi Day.”  While I don’t care about pi, I do care about pie, and I’ve been wanting to try the banoffee variety for awhile.  (“Banoffee” = mash-up of “banana” and “toffee”—it’s a British thing, I think.)

We made the banoffee pie for a little gathering to watch the finale of The Bachelor, and thank God we did.  I’ve never watched the show before….but I must say that the “After the Final Rose” special was pretty emotionally taxing.  I mean, if two beautiful people who got engaged after a contrived, videotaped six-week courtship are struggling to make it work, is there hope in love for the rest of us?  This is the kind of thing that’s easier to ponder while eating pie.

Here’s the link to the recipe we used.  It worked like a charm.  Only alterations: store-bought graham cracker crust instead of homemade, and 3 sliced bananas instead of four.  Oh, and I sprinkled mini chocolate chips over the top, because when did that ever make anything worse?

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(I don’t have a picture of the finished product, but I assure you it was very cute.)

Today I set out to create some banoffee-inspired blondies.  They turned out really well, and, because they don’t involve a can of sweetened condensed milk, they won’t violently attack your blood sugar quite like the pie.  Note: I used store-bought toffee bits in these, but you could go to this link and make your own!  That would be a nifty little project, huh?

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Banoffee Blondies (makes 12 bars)

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c. white flour
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c. toffee bits (plus some extra for the top)
  • 1/2 of an overripe banana, mashed with a fork
  • optional chocolate chips to sprinkle on top

Melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat.  Cook and stir for 4-5 minutes (there will be a lot of foam) until it’s golden brown.  (Browning the butter creates the caramel-y flavor that will put the “offee” in your banoffee.)  Take the pan off the stove and allow the butter to cool for a few minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the browned butter and brown sugar.  Then add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the flours, salt, and soda and mix until well-incorporated.  Fold in the mashed banana and toffee bits.  Press the dough into a greased 8×8 pan and sprinkle the top with extra toffee bits and a few chocolate chips if desired.  Bake at 350 for about 17 minutes.

P.S. I do have some Vermont maple syrup—I promise there will be some sort of maple-themed creation within the next few days and I’ll be sure to report.  (Unless it’s gross.)

P.P.S. If you happen to be looking for a beautiful, fascinating novel to read you should definitely check out Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  I finished it on the plane yesterday and cried my eye makeup clean off.  So….maybe save the last 100 pages or so for the privacy of your own home if you don’t like weeping around strangers.

Homemade Milanos and spring break

I’m on vacation for a whole glorious week!  Soon I’ll be flying to Vermont to spend some time with a fabulous lady I’ve been friends with for a long time.  A very long time…

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(Yes, I had a mullet as a child.  We all have things in our past we’re not proud of.)

Until I leave the state, though, I’m hanging around my parents’ house for a couple of days and making a mess of their kitchen.

I recently discovered the Post Punk Kitchen website, home to all kinds of super-exciting vegan recipes from Isa Chandra Moskovitz, co-author of “Veganomicon” and “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World,” which are perhaps the best-named cookbooks ever.  When I surfed my way into a recipe for vegan Milano cookies, I knew it was meant to be.

I have a deep and abiding love for Milano cookies—if you’re not familiar, they’re crunchy, buttery sandwich cookies with chocolate in the middle, brought to you by the good folks at Pepperidge Farm.  They come in dainty little fluted paper cups, so you feel sort of refined when you eat them.  This recipe worked really well (who needs eggs and butter?), so I’ll just throw in a few pictures here for your reference and then mention the revisions I made.

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These are better than the real thing.  They might as well shut down the Pepperidge Farm.  Well…no, then there would be nobody to make the goldfish crackers.  But anyway, check out the link above to the recipe.  Here are the only revisions I made:

  • I didn’t use any orange zest.  I think it would be nice, actually, but I didn’t have an orange.
  • I added about 1/2 tsp vegetable shortening to the chocolate while melting it over a double boiler.  I like to do that when I want extra-shiny melted chocolate.
  • I used almond milk instead of rice milk.
  • I baked them on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.

I’ll be back in a week, perhaps with some Vermont-themed cuisine.  (I’m not quite sure what that would be….but….maple syrup?  Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food?)  Happy weekend!

Chili for Justice

Today was the annual Equal Justice Foundation Chili Cook-off at my home-away-from-home, the Boyd Law Building.  Because I am an ardent supporter of law students doing public interest work, as well as any event that allows me to bring a kitchen appliance to school, I made a batch of chili.

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Alas, it was not the winning entry, but it’s still good, I promise!  See—these ladies thought so:

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There was some excellent competition–check out this line-up:

When looking for a recipe to start from, I went straight to the ultimate online emporium of deliciousness, the Whole Foods website.  I used one of their veggie chili recipes for inspiration, but modified it because it involved eggplant, and I thought eggplant in chili sounded a little sketchy.  I used acorn squash instead—roasted at 400 for about 30 minutes.

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I drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, put a bit of water in the bottom of the pan, and covered with foil before roasting.  Because that’s what my mom does, and that’s a good enough reason for anything, I think.

Saute  the onion, garlic, corn kernels, and jalapeno in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for about 5 minutes, and then add the spices.

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Then add the beans, tomatoes, and veggie stock and simmer until your chili intuition tells you you’re on the home stretch.  (I’d say I let it go for about 20 minutes.)  Add the acorn squash (just scrape it out of the skin and break it up in the chili as you stir) for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.  Finally, add the lime zest and juice just before serving and stir.

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Acorn Chili

  • 1 c. frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds scraped out, and roasted until tender
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced (or one small)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds and ribs included for spice)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can tomatoes (the fire-roasted kind are the best, I think)
  • 2 cups veggie stock/broth (add more towards the end if you’d like thinner chili)
  • zest and juice of one lime

Saute the onion, corn kernels, minced garlic, and jalapeno until softened and fragrant (5 minutes or so).  Add the spices and stir.  Next, add the beans, tomatoes, and veggie stock and simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Scoop the flesh of the roasted acorn squash into the chili and simmer for another 10 minutes, breaking up the squash as you stir.  Add the lime zest and juice just before serving.