childhood… with sprinkles!

Rice krispies treats are my childhood. And if they weren’t a part of yours, then I am sorry. Not a snarky kind of sorry but a truly, deeply, hold-you-close-to-my-bosom-as-you-weep sorry because that, my friends, is a travesty. I hope these make up for your lack of a childhood. I really hope they do… (ok that was a little snarky)

As a little girl, I loved helping my mom make rice krispies– hovering over the stove to stir the marshmallows and hoping she wouldn’t scrape all the leftover bits from the pot. If it’s physically possible, I think my love for them has only grown with age. And now that I am one year older and wiser I thought I would make this sophisticated version of my favorite childhood treat.

{ooey gooey goodness}

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What makes these ‘grown up’ is the addition of browned butter and a sprinkling of sea salt, but I still wanted to inject my inner child hence the healthy dose of sprinkles and heart shape cutout (use any fun shape you please).

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats
adapted from smittenkitchen

  • 4 ounces (¼ pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
  • 1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
  • Heaping ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)
  • sprinkles of your choice

(1) Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) a 13 x 9-inch pan.
(2) In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.
(3) As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat on low and stir in the marshmallows. Melt until the marshmallows are smooth.
(4) Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I like to non-stick spray my (very clean) hands and press firmly and evenly into the edges and corners, although a silicon spatula works almost as well.
(5) Decorate with sprinkles and a pinch or two more of sea salt on top. Let cool, cut into squares or shapes and get ready to make new friends.
 

Makes 16 2-inch squares or 32 1- x 2-inch small bars

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Anyone CAN cook…

So admit it… you had no idea what ratatouille was until Pixar introduced us to that adorable movie about it. At least, I didn’t. I have a particular soft spot for the film as I first saw it with my little brother Ben on one of our ritual sibling date nights (back when he still thought I was cool). Afterwards, we went to Red Robin (his pick) and I paid… hmph, now that he’s taller than I am, it’s time for payback.

After the movie though, I started seeing ratatouille everywhere! A classic Mediterranean dish, ratatouille is not only flavorful but really healthy (vegan) and easy to make. I love all the vegetables that go into it: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. A simple dish like this does indeed prove that it’s true, ‘Anyone CAN cook!’ (baking, however, is still strictly for the pros).

{veggie bellybuttons}

a

{bell pepper confetti}

This dish also tastes great both hot and at room temperature (even cold) which makes for nice leftovers or packed lunch. My version is the traditional rustic dish, but to see the ‘movie’ version look at this cute take on Smitten Kitchen. I may have to make it with my brother next time I’m home.

Ratatouille

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium eggplant, medium diced with skin on
  • ½ teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fresh or dried rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 zucchini squash, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

(1)  Set a large 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.
(2)  Add the eggplant, thyme, and rosemary to the pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes.
(3)  Add the diced bell pepper, zucchini, squash and garlic. Drizzle over another tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
(4)  Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper, to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper for me), and cook for a final 5 minutes.
(5) Stir well to blend and serve over a bed of cooked couscous or quinoa, either hot or at room temperature.
 

Note: Make sure your pan is large enough. I may or may not have had to divide my ratatouille halfway through cooking because my pan was overcrowded (ok, I definitely did). You want the vegetables to lightly sauté, not steam.

Makes 6 servings

key lime pie

While I consider myself a Nashville girl, deep deep down inside I’m actually from Miami. Yep, that was the first place my parents lived when they moved to the States and where I was born and raised until I was two. Palm trees, Cuban music, art deco… and I remember none of it. One of the few things that I like to think does link me to Miami however is my love of key lime pie.

Tart, creamy, with a graham cracker crust– it’s the perfect summer treat. Oddly enough I have never made key lime pie myself which is inexcusable as it’s surprisingly easy to make. Don’t take any shortcuts though. Make your own crust, squeeze fresh limes, whip the sweetened cream. You’ll thank me. As did my coworkers.

 

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kale chips

Is there any better chip than a kale chip…

Besides a potato chip. Or a tortilla chip. Pita chip, poker chip… oh, chocolate chip! So well yah maybe kale chips don’t exactly scream mm YUM, yes please! but they’re actually quite tasty, crispy snacks. If you like roasted nori sheets (which I love) then you’ll probably like these. They really are a nice go-to fix when you’re in the mood for a salty snack. In fact, not to brag, but they were quite the success at the Fourth of July party I went to last night… just spreading the gospel of kale chips everywhere I go. Like a vegan Jesus. Again, not bragging.

Not to mention they’re so much healthier than most other snacks that go crunch (I’m lookin’ at YOU, salt & pepper kettle chips!). Packed with beta carotene, vitamin C and K, calcium, and definitely the trendiest green right now.

So indulgence wise, there really is no better chip than a kale chip.

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A West Side story… featuring Miso

This post is bittersweet as it will most likely be the last one coming from this kitchen. Let me explain.

About two months ago, my roommates and I got a letter from our landlord informing us that our rent would be going up $300. PER PERSON. And I’ve got two roommates. Those of you with even sub par math skills will realize that’s a $900 per month increase! Insane, right?! We were all outraged!! OUTRAGED. Yet completely helpless… soooo long story short, we’re all going our separate ways. Beth has moved out of NY to pursue her career as a stylist on film sets (she will soon forget us and the French girls who blast techno upstairs) while Jess is moving in with a friend downtown (too trendy for me). As for me, where am I going?…. oh, reader, wherever shall I go? *dramatic pause*

Apartment hunting in Manhattan is NO FUN. I saw ads for semi-nudist roommates and friends-with-benefits roommates and then there were the weirdos… And during my apartment drama, I was missing my mom so much and her cooking. So after talking to her, I decided to make something warm and comforting, like her miso soup which I know is super easy to make. But when I got to Whole Foods and saw that they have, I kid you not, 6 different types of miso paste… I couldn’t take it anymore… red miso, barley miso, sweet white miso, mellow white miso… how am I to know?? I’ve never bought miso before! I CAN’T EVEN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. It was too much. I was like ‘Are you f*cking kidding ME?? Seriously. All I wanted was a simple f*cking bowl of miso soup to have before I have to resort to living on the streets.’ All of this I of course said in my head because I internalize all my miso-issues, like a normal person.

I called my mom on the spot and told her my sob story as I picked up and examined each container of miso (can the company that makes miso paste please make transparent containers?). You guys probably think I’m mental, as does my mom. She was just as confused about the whole miso situation as I was, but told me to get the mellow white miso. And you know what, she was right… she’s always right. So I got home after my miso meltdown and made myself some soup. And it was good. Oh, and then I got an apartment… on the UPPER WEST SIDE.

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Happy Blog-iversary!

It’s the One Year Anniversary of my blog country mouse. city life.!

Life is definitely much different now than it was a year ago. I live in a different city, I got my first real job, and I still love Beyoncé.

So I thought it’d be the perfect cause for celebration to introduce my favorite smoothie recipe! Even more so now that the weather has warmed up. I call this my ‘Superfood Smoothie’ cause it’s full of antioxidant-fighting ingredients like blueberries, chia seeds, and spinach. It sounds really gross, putting spinach in a smoothie, but I’ve been doing it for years. Spinach is so mild, you can’t taste it once it’s all blended up but you really wanna make sure it’s completely blended (bits of spinach in your smoothie is not appetizing). I’ve been drinking this almost every day and love it!

It’s also super easy to make, in fact, there’s no real recipe required and experimentation is suggested. Here’s my general recipe:

Thanks to all my friends and followers for making this blog such a wonderful, fulfilling experience this past year.

Cheers to many more blog posts to come!

Happy Tax Day!

It’s springtime! The weather’s warmed up, the flowers have bloomed, and swimsuit season is in sight *screeching of brakes* *hitting of panic button*. No, no it’s okay, you’ve still got a solid two months, maybe three until then, so I tell myself. As we wait around for that annual two-piece terror season to begin, why not go ahead and celebrate your last indulges with a couple of these cute coconut macaroons! They’re just wee little things that say ‘what harm could I do? Please eat me, especially now that all your Girl Scout cookies are gone.’

My coconut macaroon obsession is really my mother’s fault. On my 21st birthday, she bought me a box of chocolate dipped coconut macaroons from Godiva that I still lust after today. Also for Easter this year, she sent me two huge bags of my current obsession: Pretzel M&M’s. She reeks of swimsuit sabotage. Anyways, this recipe is just as good as my precious Godiva macaroons. They’re dense and chewy and just the perfect sweetness. So go ahead, indulge away whether you’re celebrating the fact that you just finished your taxes or accomplished some major spring cleaning. As my mom would tell you, ‘You deserve it!’

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Italian tragedy… NYC comedy

Once upon a time, there lived a lovely maiden with raven hair and rosy cheeks (I’m talking about me here). This maiden liked to eat and cook or better yet, eat while cooking. One glorious semester her dreams came true when she found herself in the land of milk and honey and arancini a.k.a. SICILY. There she devoured such morsels as this…

and kissed every toad/blood orange in sight…

All was wonderful in the kingdom of Sicily until one dark and stormy night. That evening, the maiden and her fellow cooker-eaters embarked upon a Sicilian cooking class. All seemed well. The students were adorned in matching aprons as they prepared the menu rich with authentic Sicilian specialties such as Pasta alla Norma and sweet cannolis.

But all was not well. Soon the students realized that their matching aprons were actually uniforms for labor, as their cooking class turned into a Sicilian sweatshop. Put to work, their hands burned from squeezing salty eggplant and brows sweat with the piping of every pastry shells (Disclaimer: Any similarity to actual personsliving or dead, is purely coincidental).

At the end of the 3 hour “cooking class” (slave drive), the exhausted maiden sat down to a much deserved dinner only to find… there was not enough food for everyone. The evil slave-drivers had not prepared for there to be enough food for all the hardworking sweaty servants. Suddenly… the demure maiden became very impatient and hangry (hungry + angry) with rage. For everyone knows you don’t stand between an American maiden and her pasta. From that day on, she cursed the day she ever made PASTA ALLA NORMA.

Almost 3 years later, the maiden found herself in yet another amazing yet strange land where the people walk very fast and like to nosh on round bread with a hole in the middle. Yet the curse of Norma still haunted her. Until one fine day, she decided to once again test fate and purchased an eggplant…

40 minutes later, with not a single Sicilian in sight, she had done it. She had made Pasta alla Norma… and it was as Norma had always intended it to be: truly delizioso. The curse had finally been broken. The townspeople of Apt #5 rejoiced as all was right in the land and in their bellies. From that day on, the dish was renamed Pasta alla Margaret after the perseverant maiden who never lost hope when it mattered the most.

Pasta alla Norma

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • kosher or sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups basic tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ pound penne pasta
  • about ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese (traditionally: ricotta salata)
  • freshly cracked black pepper

(1)  Slice the eggplant into ½-inch slices and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Allow to drain in a colander for 15 minutes.
(2)  Rinse the eggplant slices in cold water and pat completely dry on paper towels. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
(3)  Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the eggplant. Sauté the eggplant, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes.  Cover the eggplant for 5-7 minutes to cook all the way.
(4)  Once the eggplant is tender and golden brown, add the tomato sauce, chopped garlic and crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer.
(5)  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta according to directions for al dente and drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water.
(6)  Add the pasta to the sauce and toss together. If a bit dry, add the reserved pasta water. 
(7)  Serve on a plate or pasta bowl with a (big) dollop of fresh ricotta (or grated ricotta salata) with freshly cracked black pepper.

Makes 4 servings

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.