Monthly Archives: February 2014


These oughtta be illegal

So in my kitchen adventures, I frequently have some leftover odd item that I have to figure out how to use. Which starts another adventure, right? Or ends up in the freezer in one of those mysterious ziploc bags my husband is always dropping on his foot.

So in my Meyer lemon adventure, I made lemon curd with four egg yolks, leaving me with four egg whites. Egg WHITES? As you can tell from my pic, I don’t generally eat egg white omelettes for breakfast. Pie with meringue just isn’t practical for a household of 2. Puffy meringue cookies were just too precious. And tedious. So I did a little googling (side note: per Wiki, Google would prefer I didn’t use this word as a synonym for general web searching) and saw several variations on macaroons. Ding Ding Ding! I’ve never made them before, and I don’t know if I’ve ever had a GOOD macaroon. I’ve had some really lame storebought ones (comes in a canister once a year not naming brands). I’ve had some from bakeries that were awfully pretty to look at, but heavy and dense and light  on flavor. But the idea of a macaroon grew on me — and I felt myself rising to this self-perpetuated challenge.

Think about Mounds. And Almond Joys. Coconut is the dominant flavor. Truly moist interiors, but not gooey. Firm but not dense. So in my mind, a macaroon should be a cookie version of those. As I compared and contrasted the recipes and techniques and photos (sorry, it’s the analyst in me), it became clearer that the fewer ingredients the better, oven temperature was uber important, and the ingredients needed to be handled very gently (forget about whipping anything to peaks).

SAMSUNGThe step-step version pictured used classic semi-sweet chocolate chips, roasted/salted pistachios, and a little Key Lime zest (’cause I had some leftover from here). I’ve also made a version with toasted hazelnuts and DARK chocolate chips (see left) that made me swoon. Literally. I gave a dozen of them to a dear friend (because I wouldn’t be able to control myself if they were in my house), and she swears she ate all of them herself. That good.

So this might be my new favorite cookie. It’s definitely a coconut cookie. Moist and not too sweet on the inside, and that amazing toasted coconut on the outside. Just enough chocolate and nuttiness to make it interesting. The lime zest is subtle — and intriguing.

Michelle’s Mahvelous Macaroons
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Yield: About 30 cookies

SAMSUNG4 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt [optional]
A bag of sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup chopped nuts
~ 1 teaspoon lime zest [optional]

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a sheet pan with a silicon baking sheet (“silpat”). I did NOT test with parchment, but I bet that would work. You’d probably need a fresh sheet for each batch, since these are REALLY sticky. I would NOT recommend baking spray or butter/shortening on the bare cookie sheet.

SAMSUNGIn a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whisk the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt [skip the salt if your nuts are already salted] until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy, about 2 or 3 minutes. Start on low and then crank it up a bit! Mix in the coconut by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula, ensuring every coconut strand is evently coated with the eggy liquid. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop onto the silpat with a medium-sized cookie scoop — eight scoops per pan. You’ll note that I have two pans — but only ONE goes in the oven at a time! In my 40 years of baking, I have never been happy when I baked two pans of cookies at a time, even if I rotated and flipped racks halfway through. For cookie perfection, ONE pan at a time!


Bake a single pan at 325F for 10 minutes. Rotate. Cook another 10 minutes. Remove to the counter and allow to cool about 5 minutes before removing with a spatula to waxed paper or cooling racks to fully cool. Makes about 30 cookies.




  • Don’t scoop until JUST before you are putting a pan in the oven — otherwise they slump :(.
  • You will want to stir the batter once or twice while pans are cooking so the last couple of cookies, from the very bottom of the mixing bowl, aren’t too wet and eggy.
  • I use dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips, but feel free to use milk chocolate if that’s what you prefer.
  • If using hazelnuts, you’ll want to toast the raw hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Remove from hot pan and set aside to cool. Most nuts benefit from this treatment.

Wine Find – VINTJS Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

SAMSUNGSo sometime over the winter I was in a Trader Joe’s [*] and saw their VINTJS Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, priced around $7.99. So I grabbed a couple of bottles, just on a whim. I don’t remember if this was before or after the Big Bronchitis, but we didn’t open a bottle until sometime in February. Oh my goodness — what a lovely wine! Lush, medium-bodied, and reminiscent of fruit — blackberry came to mind. Just a really lovely wine. I drank it with this down-home casserole — this is not a pretentious wine.

SAMSUNGA couple of days later we got socked with a pretty decent snowstorm. After some shoveling, I was hankering for something warm and adult. I saw the partial bottle of wine and thought Mulled Wine! So I poured the remaining wine (estimated 3 cups), one cup of cran-rasberry juice (100% juice), and 1/4 cup of sugar into a saucepan. I wrapped two tablespoons of mulling spices in a cheesecloth sachet and dropped that in. Gently simmer 15 or 20 minutes until hot and the spices are well-infused. Serve steaming hot in mugs.

[*] I swear I am not a paid shill for Trader Joe’s. But you just can’t beat them for reasonably-priced everyday wines.


Standard caveat: This is a personal recommendation. The Trader Joe’s folks don’t know I exist and have provided neither product nor compensation for this endorsement. In fact, they’ll probably sue me if this ever gets in a search engine.


Mini-post: Ham and Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Sometimes I make something absolutely DELISH without realizing it’s going to be good enough to blog about (meaning I don’t take pictures along the way). This old-fashioned comfort dish is one of them. I’ve had several requests for the recipe, so let’s go for a mini-post!

Ham and Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Serves 4 – 6

1/2 of a large-ish cooked, seasoned spaghetti squash (about 4 cups) [*]
1 small onion, diced fine
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cubed ham
1 container plain greek yogurt
1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese [**]

Cook the onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until soft and slightly colored. Allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Gently mix the cooled squash, onion, ham, yogurt, and a cup or so of the cheese (reserve some for later) in a large bowl. Pour into a 7″ by 10″ baking dish that you’ve sprayed with baking spray. Bake 30 – 45 minutes until it starts to get all bubbly. Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top and cook another 10 or 15 minutes until it’s brown and crusty.



Serve hot with some crusty bread.

And maybe a glass of wine :).


[*] I roasted off a large spaghetti squash earlier this winter, generously seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. We ate half at the time and I froze the remainder, so this casserole used the frozen portion. Drain well after thawing — it tends to give off some water as it thaws. There’s a great pictorial at theKitchn that describes how to roast a spaghetti squash. Also, it turns out that dogs love spaghetti squash too.

[**] Any melty cheese will work. I think I used a combination of something frozen and unlabelled, cheddar, and “six cheese Italian”, since I had partial bags of all.


Happy Anniversary, Sweetie!

So we had a wedding anniversary over the weekend. Because our anniversary is so near Valentine’s Day, it’s really awkward to try to go out, because you are competing with Valentine’s Day crowds, special Valentine’s Day menus, etc. We didn’t PLAN on getting married around Valentine’s Day, but we got engaged on a Christmas Eve and knew we wanted to get married in Vegas by Elvis (so no need for a long engagement to plan a wedding spectacular), and we just picked a week a little bit out that we could both get off and went to Vegas. Wasn’t even thinking about the juxtaposition to the Hallmark holiday. **shrugs** It is what it is.

I’ve also gotten kinda picky about going out. I mean, I’m a pretty decent cook (**smile**), so if I’m going to pay for it, it better be better than what I would make at home. Or be a cuisine that I don’t cook, like Burmese. Or have some dish that is just so amazingly unique or well-made that I want your version more than mine (like everything here). I’m also value-conscious — I have an amazing source for meat (Nick’s), so it’s hard to want to drop $40 on a steak (or more) in a classic steakhouse when I can get New York strip on special for $2.99/lb. And talk about markups on wine. So, we just don’t go out for Big Occasions very often.

So with our anniversary coming up, I wanted to prepare a meal that was special enough to feel like a celebration. I wanted to rely on the grill so it could be collaborative. And I wanted to try at least one new dish. So the meal evolved into rib roast, lobster tail, asparagus, smoked potato, and key lime pie. And something sparkling of course!

SAMSUNGWe grilled the rib-eye roast similar to that described here. This was a 3.5lb boneless roast, liberally seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Roasted on the BGE @350F to an internal temperature of about 140F and allowed to rest while the accoutrements were prepared (maybe 1.5 hours cooking time). The potatoes went on about halfway through — all I did was wash them, dry them, and prick them with a fork.

SAMSUNGWhen the meat came off for its mandatory rest, we brought the BGE temp up closer to 400F/425F. The potatoes stayed on to finish cooking alongside the asparagus and lobster. As for the asparagus — we just wash them, break off the tough bottom, and throw them on plain. No seasoning, no oil. Grill until charred. I trimmed/notched the top side of the lobster’s shells so that I could pull the meat through the shell for presentation. I sprinkled with exposed meat with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grilled about eight minutes total.

We drank a non-vintage sparkling Riesling out of Germany by Ulrich Langguth. I spent a little more than usual, probably $12 to $14, but it was a surprisingly full-bodied sparkler. It paired beautifully with the lobster and asparagus but still held up to the beef. I need to see if I can find some more!


SAMSUNGFinally, for dessert, I made a key lime pie, because I thought it was my husband’s favorite dessert. I followed the proportions in this recipe by the Pioneer Woman, but I used real key limes. MAN are those guys stingy when it comes to juice! I admit — after juicing a dozen of them, I had to supplement with some of my bottled stuff. I don’t care — I think it was the zest that really made the pie. One criticism of the crust — too much of it. Next time I will ratchet back the grahams.

So we had a lovely meal prepared TOGETHER that rivaled anything we might have had at a restaurant. There was some confusion about the favorite dessert — he claims he never thinks about his favorite dessert — but I see him order key lime pie whenever it’s available. Whatever. He liked it enough to eat some for breakfast the next day :)


I’m Back with some Lemony Gingery Goodness

So I’m finally cooking again. I am still amazed how that bout of flu and bronchitis just took it outta me! I’m still fatigued and still coughing, but both are manageable. My palate is still a bit off, but the CGP and my other adoring fans are just so happy I’m cooking again, no one minds that I’m leaning towards the sweet and undersalting the savory.

So this year, I had a Meyer lemon hand delivered from warmer climes. It was home-grown and harvested in the panhandle of Florida, hand-carried by that homeowner to family festivities in North Carolina, handed over to my friend Sue, and then road-tripped up to the DC-area. I was SOOO excited to get it! I was also committed to using every last tidbit of this baby!

Meyer lemons have a bit of a cult following. They are larger than a true lemon (the kind you see at the grocery store), are a little sweeter, a little more fragrant, and have a thinner skin. Or maybe that’s just the hype? In any case, it’s exciting to come across them because the season seems short and they aren’t as ubiquitous as the true lemon.

I ended up using half of the peel in a lemon curd (blog post to come I promise!) and half of the peel in a simple syrup. What do you do with simple syrup? Make drinks, of course! So here was my quick, simple shooter that really highlights this Meyer lemon infused simple syrup.

SAMSUNGMeyer Lemon Ginger Shooters
Serves 2

2 tablespoons Meyer lemon syrup [*]
1 tablespoon ginger liqueur (I like Domaine de Canton)
4 tablespoons vodka
A splash of lemon or lime juice
Candied Meyer lemon peel [**]

Put the syrup, liqueur, vodka, and citrus juice in a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds until the cocktail shaker is icy. Strain into your shooter glasses. Garnish with a sliver of candied Meyer Lemon peel.


[*] Meyer lemon syrup

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin from the lemon, trying to get as little of the white pith as possible. Put about half of the peel in a small saucepan with 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Reserve the other half for another project, like lemon curd. Bring the peel, water, and sugar to a soft simmer and let percolate until the peel becomes slightly translucent. This will take 15 or 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Pull the peel out. Refrigerate the syrup in an impeccably clean container until ready to use. Ought to keep about two weeks in the fridge. Use to sweeten ice tea. Put a tablespoon or two in a large glass with ice and seltzer water. Use liberally in adult beverages.

[**] Candied Meyer lemon peel

Take the peel from the syrup, shaking the excess syrup into the saucepan, then place on a drying rack or a saucer until just barely tacky. Put in a ziploc bag or small plastic container with a couple of tablespoons of granulated sugar and shake gently until the pieces are fully coated with sugar. Slice the larger pieces into smaller “garnish-sized” strips and shake it all again to fully coat with sugar. Use as garnish. Eat ’em. Use the sugar in hot tea.