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Broiled butterflied lemon-garlic chicken over peas and mushroom gnocchi

You know how sometimes when you’re dreaming, everything makes sense?  Like, you’re flying and it’s so easy?  Or you get this great idea for a novel that you know would be terrifically compelling?  And you’re sometimes even lucid enough to think, I have to remember this when I’m awake, because if I manage to translate this experience, it’s going to be AMAZING?

And then you wake up, and you try to describe it, and you’re like, “There was something about a boat… and yet, also, somehow it worked on land, and come to think of it, I think I was back in third grade and was somehow… uh, speaking in, like, shapes…?”

That’s roast chicken for me.  I’ve had some good roast chicken, but man, the way it exists in my head is transcendent.  Crispy skin, juicy meat, all bursting with herb and savory flavor and basted in luscious chicken fat… I have this vision in my head that epitomizes gloriously simple home cooking.  Someday I’ll get there.

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Rotini Carbonara

Sometimes a girl comes home a little drunk.

Sometimes a girl waits for her friend who’s running an hour late at a bar and spends that hour drinking dry Sapphire martinis with a twist, and then has half of a rather anemic tuna sashimi plate for dinner, and sometimes that’s just not gonna cut it.

Sometimes a girl needs to do a little drunk cookin’.

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Step 1: Before you leave for work, tell your husband, “Man, I’d love meatball subs tonight.”

Step 2: Return home after work; express delight when a plate like the one above is put before you.

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I threw the Indian-themed dinner party in part because one of the guests I expected is a vegetarian and I wanted to have a robust main dish for him to enjoy (hence the vegetable curry).  But he didn’t even end up coming to the party – probably because he was at home reconsidering his inexplicable decision not to eat delicious, delicious meat.

Chicken tikka masala 1

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I grew up in Michigan, but I lived in Texas for many years. While I was there, I learned to love Mexican food. In fact, when I was first visiting the college I ended up attending, a bunch of students took me to the most kick-ass taqueria on the planet and schooled the Midwesterner in the ways of chile con queso (I kept wondering where the chili figured into it) and horchata (still one of God’s great gifts to man in my eyes) and how not to order brains in your taco (don’t ask for sesos). I loved it, and I went back to that taqueria many, many, many times, and to its brethren all over the city in both restaurant and taco-stand form.

But secretly? I still harbored a quiet lust in my heart for Taco Bell.

I know. I know. I was living in a city with some of the greatest authentic Mexican food possible, and I still wanted Taco Bell. It’s like, I don’t know, willfully opting for a McDonald’s “apple pie” over the one your grandma makes with the apples fresh from her backyard. I know this, and yet sometimes? Sometimes, a Taco Bell value meal is the only thing in this cold world you want to grab onto and hold. I’m from Michigan, dammit, and part of me is still six years old and absolutely convinced that a packet of Taco Bell Mild Sauce is the spiciest, most exotic taste on the planet.

So when a bunch of relevant stuff went on sale at Giant, I decided I’d do my best to replicate a Taco Bell taco salad for my lunches at work this week.

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I’m mostly good with the whole gluten-free thing. My health has so improved since I de-glutened my life that I hardly ever cast sad eyes on crusty French baguettes or Canadian Oreos* or puff pastry.


Once upon a time, if my day had been full of printer errors and cranky clients and buck-passing coworkers, I would console myself with an order of Zip’s chicken strips. Crunchy, salty, fried to a dark golden brown – whether my crisis was occupational or hormonal, an order of chicken strips would always make me feel better. 

*Random fact! Canadian Oreos are actually ten poobley times better than American Oreos. Perhaps it is the magic Mountie dust? Or the fact that they use real sugar instead of corn syrup? Either way, hand over your Oreos, Canadians, and no one gets hurt!

ZOMG Fried Chickens

(Recipe after break. For chicken. Recipe for Oreos: Drive to Canada. The End.)

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When I was first learning to cook –really cook, not heat up Steakums like I did in college — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was my bible. It’s just a really good book for beginners. Bittman’s recipes aren’t fussy and his instructions always leave room for improvisation. These days I don’t have much time to try out new recipes, but there a couple of favorites from How to Cook …. that I still turn to regularly. One of my favorites, especially when I have leftover steak (yes, that happens even in our ridiculously carnivorous household) is the Beef Salad with Mint.

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I like to think I am a fairly adventurous eater.  I’ve had frog legs and snails and many, many types of raw seafood.  In fact, one of my earliest memories is happily nomming on tuna maki at age 3.

However, I regarded ground beef in deep, deep suspicion.  Not because I feared mad-cow disease or prions or food-poisioning, because hello, I was six.  I just found it completely disgusting (well, I liked hamburgers, if they came from Burger King.) I insisted on meat-free sauce on pasta nights, and found meatloaf to be completely unnatural — meat should not be in loaf-form! Since  my parents had a two-bites rule, I once sat at the dinner table for two hours after everyone else left, because I refused to touch that loathesome thing.

Anyway, as a grownup, I’ve been slowly conquering my fear of ground meat products.  I eat meaty burgers with gusto and like a good bowl of chili.  But I had yet to brave the mighty meatball.  But yesterday was a cold, wet, nasty day, calling for a big bowl of pasta and a bottle of wine, and for some reason, a plate of spaghetti and meatballs seemed really appealing.  I threw this together based on a couple recipes I found on the internet, and it is surprisingly meatbally delicious.

Not-Scary Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef and 1lb ground pork (making these meatballs verboten to observant Jews, Muslims and Hindus alike)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • a couple big dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs.  (I used equal parts Panko and Italian breadcrumbs, because why not?)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • about 5 minced garlic cloves. (I add extra garlic to everything, just in case I’m ever attacked by vampires.)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Mash everything up in a big bowl.  If you have a food mixer type thing, you can also probably use that.  Scoop into balls about an inch and a half in diameter, then bake at 400F for about 30 minutes or so.  Serve over pasta and marinara, and pop open a bottle of wine.

Freeze the leftovers for the next rainy cold day, or the next time you feel like facing your fears.

Some people don’t eat animals. Some meat-eaters don’t eat red meat. Some red-meat-eaters don’t eat veal. This dish is not for those people.

If, on the other hand, you’re an evil omnivore, you will need:

You will need...

You will need...

  • veal
  • onion
  • red pepper
  • spinach
  • mushrooms
  • baby Brussels sprouts
  • soft goat cheese
  • pepper
  • basil
  • oil

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Cubanos 1

muttonbreath is going to be here any minute to remind me that Che ain’t cool, but hear me out:  A Chicago Irish girl takes the humble Cubano on a whirlwhind tour of Europe in an homage to the emerging global economy… and knocks out some pesky leftovers besides.  Revolutionary indeed!

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