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Veni Vidi Veggie

I came, I saw, I veggied. That’s how Latin works, right?

I am going to preface this whole thing by reassuring you all that I’m not going full on vegetarian. I could do that, but I could also walk into the path of an oncoming city bus. I might survive it, but the rest of my life wouldn’t be much fun afterwards, right? Same same.

However, sometimes I just don’t feel like standing in a hot kitchen and filling it with the smells of cooking meat. I mean, it’s sort of a commitment, you know? You’re deciding that this is what you want your apartment to smell like for the next three hours or more.

So, I decided to keep dinner last night really simple. It was kind of an experiment… a tiny seedling of a thought that sprouted into sustenance. But, it turned out pretty delicious so I thought I’d share.  This recipe would serve 4 people as a side dish, or two people as a main dish.

Equipment:
Saute pan
Pot to cook the rice
Spoon, spatula, whatever you have handy for stirring and whatnot
Measuring cup and spoons
Knife and cutting board

Ingredients:
1 poblano pepper, deseeded, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into slices
2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned of dirt and stems removed, sliced
1 T vegetable oil (canola or whatever you have is fine)
2 C cooked rice (I used brown rice. Brown rice takes forever to cook. If you want to use the boil in bag kind or the microwave kind, I will not judge. This is supposed to be easy, yeah?)
1/2 C of your favorite salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde)
1/3 C plain, non-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp some sort of Latin or Spanish spice blend. I used the paella spice blend I got in my June Hatchery box
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the salsa into the cooked rice. Set aside.

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Mix the spice blend into the yogurt, and season with S & P to taste. Set aside.

Saute your mushrooms and peppers together until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and both ingredients have taken on some color. Season to taste with S & P.

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Mound some of the salsa rice into the center of the plate. Arrange some mushrooms and peppers on top. Drizzle the whole thing with your yogurt sauce.

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It really doesn’t get much easier than that unless you’re cooking from a box or something, yeah? The salsa really adds a ton of flavor to the rice without much effort at all, and that yogurt sauce gives it a nice, tangy finish.

You could jazz this up even further with some fresh corn, red peppers, maybe some jalapeno if you like it spicier. Much like life in general, it really all depends on how much effort you want to put into it.

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Food, Food, Food, Food, Food

I literally could not think of a better title for this blog post. It might be a long one, because I have tons to tell you about.

I hope all of you had an amazing 4th of July weekend! Mine was pretty incredible. I had some amazing company, great food, and an incredible opportunity to work alongside a Denver area chef I really admire. As holiday weekends go, this one is going to be hard to beat. This was pretty much me, all weekend.

Let’s start off with Thursday night. A new place opened near my ‘hood about a month ago– Argyll Whiskey Beer. I’ve been wanting to go check it out, but I really prefer to wait a few weeks after a new restaurant opens to let them get their sea legs, so to speak. I’ve been hearing good things right from opening day, so my expectations for our dinner were pretty high. We were not disappointed.

Our evening started with a delicious gin based drink called The Stuff for me, and a glass of some fancy Scotch I didn’t catch the name of for my dinner companion. It’s been awhile since I’ve had gin due to a weird reaction I had the last time I drank it, but this beverage sounded so yummy I couldn’t resist.  It’s made with Bombay Dry Gin, pimms, lavender, lemon, and saison. Deeelishuzz.

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I’ve been kind of… not homesick exactly.  (I dunno, what do you call it when you’re really missing a place that isn’t your home? Vacation-sick? That doesn’t sound right.) I’ve just really been missing Scotland, and Glasgow in particular. The rest of the meal reminded me so much of some of the dinners I had while on vacation last year that I almost felt like I was back there for a minute or two.

There was the Scotch egg… with a decadently runny yolk that we absolutely loved, a complimentary basket of house made potato chips, silky smooth duck liver mousse and a slice of brawn (headcheese) that were perfectly complemented by little pots of yummy condiments and fresh bread, and a perfect portion of fish and chips with a cute little quenelle of  minted mushy peas.

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Friday, the fourth, we took it very easy for a large portion of the day. However, I’d gotten a cute little jar of white truffle mayonnaise from Empire Mayonnaise in my June Hatchery box, and a grilled burger with that mayo on it was literally all I could think about all week. The burger was seasoned with another Hatchery box goodie, beef spice rub from Stuart & Co., and topped off with a fried egg (i managed to kick out some perfectly runny egg yolks, which seemed to be a theme through the whole weekend). We also made some baked sweet potato fries seasoned with, you guessed it, another Hatchery box find– Paella spice mix from Whole Spice. It kinda feels like I go a couple months brainstorming what to do with the stuff in my Hatchery box, only to have a bunch of them come together for one meal.  If you haven’t tried out Hatchery yet, I really do recommend it. It’s $20 a month, free shipping, and you get five little presents to open every month, plus culinary inspiration for days. Totally worth it!

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Fast forward to Sunday, the last day of a local arts festival in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. I’ve volunteered at this event for the past two years, working at the culinary demo stage, and I was definitely excited to do it again. Not only do I get to spend the whole day geeking out while some of the area’s best chefs demo some of their best dishes, but I also get to try all of them, and learn a ton in the process.

This year, Chef Jensen Cummings, a local chef and restaurateur, was running the show. Not only is he really well respected around Denver for his food, but he’s also doing something I truly admire– focusing his passion to helping others. He’s started an organization called Heroes Like Us, which he describes as, “a nonprofit culinary coalition that works with health- and hunger-based organizations to put on charity events.”  Right up my alley.

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He actually let me help plate food for most of the day, which was really an amazing opportunity to just get in there with people who have a TON more experience than me and work our butts off. SO much fun. I’m hoping I’ll get to help out with a few more events, including two in August.

The morning started off with a demo from Jonathan Mendoza from Bad Apple, a pop up restaurant in the area. He made a hay smoked egg yolk with sherry cream and bourbon maple syrup. You guys… no kidding, this was the highlight of the day for me. The presentation was gorgeous. The yolk was smoked with hay and then cooked sous vide until it reached this luscious custard-like texture. Topped with the sherry cream and just a hint of sweet from the maple syrup, it was probably the most luxurious breakfast I’ve ever had.

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Next up, just in time for lunch, was Kyle Marley from Earl’s Kitchen + Bar. White Cheddar Chipotle Nachos. They were topped with fresh tomatoes, cilantro and avocado, and I will definitely be making these at home. I mean, really. Look at these!

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After lunch, one of the chefs from my school, The Art Institute of Colorado (a long time supporter of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival), stopped by to make Somen. Chef Scott Maxwell was my instructor for American Regional Cuisine last quarter. It was fun to be able to help him out without my grade being on the line!  Somen is a cold noodle dish with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, bonito flakes, kombu (seaweed), and mirin. I’m so glad all the chefs who cooked on Sunday kept it pretty light, because it was stupid hot outside. This noodle bowl is surprisingly easy and quick to put together, and you can customize it with any variety of condiments and fresh veggies.

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The last chef to present was Robin Baron from Silvi’s Kitchen (right down the street from my apartment, aren’t I lucky?) and Etai’s. She made a light, flavorful gazpacho with an  heirloom tomato salad. The Baron Group is known for its artisanal breads, and she brought a giant loaf of Rustico with her to cook with and to share.

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Her secret for adding a little extra flavor to your gazpacho? Toast the bread before you add it to the soup. It not only adds flavor, but the extra body the soup needs to go from side dish or starter to the main course.

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Yum, right? Of course, the whole point of demoing recipes at an event like this is to show how easily they can be adapted to a home kitchen. If you’re interested in trying out any of these dishes, you can find these recipes, plus all the others from every demo last weekend, right here.

Squashed Like a Tart

If you’re as big a fan of impromptu get togethers as I am, you probably already have a stable of “go to” recipes for party food at your disposal. You might even be more prepared than I will ever be and have stuff in your freezer that can be  popped into the oven when company drops by without much notice. Knowing this about you, I also suspect you’re always on the lookout for new recipes to add to your repertoire. So… here ya go!

This squash tart is super easy, totally customizeable, and can definitely be made with stuff you might even keep on hand. In fact, there’s no rule that says you have to use squash. I got my inspiration from this recipe on the BBC Good Food website. It’s basically some sort of crust, with some sort of creamy cheese that’s been flavored with whatever you like, and then topped with… something. Once I give you the original recipe, I’ll also give some suggestions on variations.

Equipment:
sheet pan
knife and cutting board
spoon
mixing bowl
parchment paper
saute pan & spatula of some sort plate or bowl to hold the cooked squash for assembly

Ingredients:
1 sheet of puff pastry, chilled (not frozen)
1/2 C Ricotta
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 yellow squash and 1 zucchini
2 tsp vegetable oil salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the sheet of pastry in half. Fold the edges of each half in to form an edge about 1/2 an inch wide and lay on the parchment lined sheet pan. Put the pastry in the fridge to stay cool while you make the filling.

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Thinly slice both squashes. Don’t stress yourself over trying to get them paper thin. Just try to keep them to about 1/4 inch or thinner. Add 1 tsp of the oil to the saute pan over medium low heat. Add 1/2 the sliced squash and season with salt and pepper. You want the squash to basically just cook through, but not brown. Remove the first batch of squash to a plate or bowl and cook the 2nd batch the same way. Set aside.

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Mix the lemon zest, juice and dried thyme into the ricotta, along with salt and pepper to taste.

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Get your pastry out of the fridge. Spread 1/4 C of the ricotta mixture onto each tart, then layer the squash over it. You might have extra squash left over. I did, but I just added it to some leftover brown rice with some other random leftover veggies later in the week and it made a really yummy lunch. Pop the tarts into the oven for about 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes and cut into slices when you’re ready to serve.

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This one is delicious. I love recipes that follow a formula rather than demanding that you use specific ingredients, and this is definitely one of those recipes. You could keep everything the same and just change how you season the ricotta and get a whole new flavor profile. Maybe use some whipped goat cheese instead of ricotta. Or keep the filling the same and use tomatoes, roasted asparagus, or sauteed wild mushrooms, or even throw some pepperoni or Serrano ham on there, with or without a veggie.  You could embellish with a little crunch from pine nuts, like in the original recipe, or any other kind of lightly toasted nut, or even some grated Parmesan or Manchego. And those are just the savory options! Imagine mixing some maple syrup or brown sugar and a little orange zest into the ricotta, and topping the whole thing with roasted strawberries or peaches.

See where I’m going with this? Get the basic method down, and the only limit to the possible flavor combinations is your imagination. That’s also nice because instead of having that one thing you whip up or bring to every party, you can make it something totally different from the last time, but without all the stress of learning a whole new recipe. Neat, yes?

If you’re looking for other party food ideas, give these two a try. I tested them out at a little shindig the roomie and I threw at my place a couple weekends ago, and they were a big hit.

Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips: I know it sounds a little weird, but trust me, these are kind of life changing.  Just melt some semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave, then dip the chips and let them set in the fridge. I like Wavy Lays vs. Ruffles.

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Mini Polenta Pizzas: Inspired by this recipe over at A House in the Hills. Again, this is one that could be topped with all sorts of things, although the ones in her recipe are pretty darn tasty!

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Go forth and party, my lovelies! We have all summer.

H Mart Candy Haul Contest Winner!

 

First of all, thanks to all of you who entered. I picked the winner by entering all names into http://www.miniwebtool.com/random-name-picker/.

The winner is…

Felicia at Thoughtful Minds United!

Congratulations to you! Please send your mailing address to gonnacookthat@gmail.com. I’ll get everything packed up and ship it out no later than July 1st.

Keep an eye out, folks! There’s a whole summer left, and I can promise at least two more giveaways before September 1st!

P.S. I think Nikki might win a side prize for the weirdest weird thing my readers have ever eaten. Lamb brains? Kudos to you for being adventurous to go there.

So, I might be a little obsessed.

For our last week of Purchasing class, we all went on a little field trip to H Mart. I have been to Asian markets before, but never one that big. Holy cow. I could have stayed for hours. I’m not gonna lie, I came home with some odd things, simply because my curiosity got the best of me.
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While I was there, I decided that I wanted to share my haul with one lucky reader, as a way to celebrate the end of classes and my impending summer break.

That’s right, it’s giveaway time!

I grabbed some goodies from the candy aisle, just for you. Check it out:
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I’m not entirely sure what all of that is, but I’m told those panda cookies are delicious. I can personally vouch for the green tea KitKat and the strawberry Pocky. The rest, well, you’ll just have to join the adventure, won’t you?

All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment here on this post telling me about the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten.

You can get additional entries by doing any of the following:

  • Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment on this blog post letting me know your Twitter handle.
  • Tweet the following status: “I just entered the @GonnaCookThat H Mart Candy Haul #giveaway! http://wp.me/p4kgZ8-9X”
  • Follow me on Instagram and leave a comment on this blog post letting me know your IG username.

Easy, yeah?

I’ll draw the winning entry on Tuesday, June 24th.

Good luck!

And we all float on…

I love summer. Well, let me back up, I know it’s not officially summer yet, but it feels like summer (June 21st, if you want to mark your calendar) so I’m going to clarify that I am  loving this summer. I’ve had so much fun already this month, so I’m absolutely giddy that there’s still really a whole summer left. My last week of classes is this week–one more written final and a kitchen practical–and then I have three glorious weeks off to really revel in this wonderful sense of freedom that comes with warmer weather and sitting on porches and balconies and decks and patios just whiling the time away with a cold beer and some delicious snacks. Oh, and the parties!

I was lucky enough to kick off my summer party season with an invite to the Great Divide Brewing Company’s 20th anniversary party.

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I had a blast! So much great beer… It was impossible to try them all, but as evidenced by all the slightly blurry photos, I sure did give it my best effort! It’s BeerGoggle-vision!

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But it didn’t stop with the beer. Oh, no! There were food trucks as far as the eye could see, all serving up some really yummy munchables. Each ticket came with the opportunity to sample from one of the trucks, and on my friend Dan’s recommendation I made a beeline for the Burger Radio truck for one of their EBS burgers. That stands for Emergency Bacon System, if you were curious.

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Let’s not forget some great music (bands outside and a DJ spinning some seriously fun Motown inside), and cute babies!

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Even when the weather went all wonky on us… no one seemed to really mind.

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Breweries really do throw some kick ass parties! The folks at Great Divide did such a wonderful job with this one. It was held at the site of what will be their 2nd location, in a growing part of Denver called River North. If you’re a Denver person, you probably already know what’s going on up there, but if you’re ever in town from somewhere else, definitely look up what’s happening in the RiNo area. It’s kind of becoming food/beer heaven up there. Speaking of food heaven, let me show you something that I believe should be on everyone’s summertime menu at some point this year– beer floats!

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Stop making that “yuck!” face!!! If you’ve never experienced this treat, I know it might sound a little weird. But, when I say beer float, I’m not talking about throwing some store brand, fake vanilla wanna-be ice cream into your Bud Light. Don’t you dare! For this dessert, it’s only the good stuff. If you’re not going to make your own vanilla (or chocolate) ice cream, get some really good quality product. If you have a local ice cream shop that makes their own, that will work. If not, just make sure you’re getting something that is made from real ingredients. No fakers here!

Now, as for the beer– there are two ways to go here. The first, and most popular, would be a dark beer like a stout or a porter. Guinness would work quite well, but if you want to expand your horizons, there are lots of other ones to choose from. At the Great Divide party, they made theirs with Yeti Classic Imperial Stout and White Whale vanilla bean ice cream. There’s also a Yeti Chocolate that would work well with this. A couple of other good options from Left Hand Brewing would be the Lugene’s Chocolate Milk Stout, or the regular Milk Stout. Kona Brewing makes a Pipeline Porter brewed with Kona coffee that would be absolutely delightful in a float. Anyway, you get the idea. Something dark, with chocolate, vanilla, or coffee flavors combined with a rich, good quality chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

A second, and equally wonderful option would be to float your vanilla ice cream in something fruity. The best one I’ve tried so far was made with vanilla bean ice cream and Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic. Lots of lush, ripe, raspberry flavour that could be punched up even more by adding some fresh raspberries on top. Twisted Pine’s Raspberry Wheat Ale, or a Cuvée René Gueuze Lambic would also pair well.

Seriously, do this. You won’t regret it. In fact, I suspect it will become one of your favorite grown-up summertime treats.

Happy Summer, ya’ll!

Avocadon’t blame me if you eat the whole thing

I am an avocado whore. I’m not even lying when I say that there are very few things in this world I wouldn’t do for something avocado related. A couple of guys in my class made avocado ice cream the other night and it took everything I had not to eat it right out of the ice cream machine. I love avocados with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Conversely, I really don’t enjoy having to stand over a hot stove for too long during the summer. The idea of having more than one burner going at a time for longer than 15 minutes makes me a little stabby. That’s why this recipe for avocado-cucumber soup is so perfect. It’s chock full of cool, creamy avocadoey goodness, and there is no heat required at all. It’s super easy, and uses a minimum of kitchen equipment so clean-up is easy so you can get back to standing directly in front of the air conditioner.

Equipment:
Blender or food processor
Knife and a cutting board
Measuring cups/spoons (or a scale that weighs ounces)
Some sort of stainless steel container (a 9×11 cake pan would work great)
Spoon or ladle

Ingredients: blog_meez
1/2 C (4 oz) heavy cream
1 1/4 C (8 oz) Avocado, scooped out and cut into rough chunks
1 C (6 oz) Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into rough chunks
1 T lime juice
1 C (8 oz) plain yogurt
1 garlic clove, rough chop
1/2 C (4 oz) sour cream
1 T dill, rough chopped
1 T parsley, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C (8 oz) milk

Garnish (anything you want to put on there will work, but these are just some suggestions you can play with):
Sour cream
Thinly sliced green onions
Diced avocado
Diced cucumber
Wedge of lime |
Sprig of parsley or dill

Put everything except the milk in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

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Add the milk a little at a time and blend until the desired consistency of soup is attained.

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Pour the soup into a stainless-steel container. Place a wet paper towel or two over the surface of the soup, and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap  to prevent discoloration. Chill the soup in the fridge until it’s cold. blog_chill
While you wait, maybe clean out the blender and make yourself a blender drink. A margarita would be nice right about now, yeah? When it’s all chilly, ladle it into some bowls and garnish it however you like.

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And there you go! The soup is done. By the way, this would be a wonderful soup to serve as a shooter at your next party. Add a little extra lime juice to help prevent quick oxidation so you don’t have to serve it all right away, and serve it up in those little shot glasses you can get at the dollar store or something. Enjoy!

Let’s #SaveSummer

You guys, I REALLY want to get back to a regular posting schedule this summer. I’m working on it, and I’m a little frustrated that I haven’t been able to post consistently, but Life is Life, and we just do our best, right?

I did want to take some time today to talk about something pretty important for those hundreds of thousands of kids who are starting to get out of school for the summer. For lots of kids, getting out of school means freedom, running around the neighborhood with friends, trips to the pool,  vacations, and cook-outs with family, friends, and neighbors. But, for many of the 21 million children in this country who rely on free breakfast and/or lunch at school as maybe their only meal of the day, summer might be something a little scary. They could spend their summer months without enough to eat, and that just seriously breaks my heart.

large-f398cb9d6bc79ae5 Thankfully, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is stepping up. Families in your area, and all over the country, can text FOOD to 877-877 to get information on free summer meals being served in their area. The simplest thing you can do to help this effort is to post the info to your social media accounts:

“This summer, families can find free #SummerMeals for kids in their community by texting FOOD to 877-877 #NoKidHungry http://thndr.it/1qeGQT2

However, there are lots of other ways to help, from donating funds, to reaching out to your Congressman to request their help in funding summer food programs. The folks at No Kid Hungry have made it so easy to find the way to help that works best for you. Just click the link to get started.

http://www.nokidhungry.org/summer/

This is such an easy way to help save summer for millions of kids. I hope you’ll all take some time to help spread the word!

I’m about to get jalapeno business!

So, I was going to just do a post later this weekend, but I had the best week in the kitchen at school (it was Tex-Mex week and despite my initial misgivings, it was SO MUCH FUN!) and I had to share this with you all because it was so easy and delicious and you just have to try it. Did you hear me? HAVE. TO.

I only have one picture, but here it is. It’s not the chili you need to be looking at, it’s that lovely jalapeno shaped thing on the side.

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That’s not just your typical jalapeno popper. It’s a jalapeno full of cornbread. Yes, the cornbread goes INSIDE the jalapeno, and then you cover it with cheese and you bake it for 20 minutes and it’s just really effing delicious. I won’t blame you at all if you skip the pretense of garnishing a bowl of chili or soup or something, and just make yourself a tray of these and binge watch The West Wing on Netflix tonight. Maybe treat yourself to some really good beer, too. You deserve it.

I wish I could claim all the credit for this genius invention, but I actually got the idea from Oh Bite It! They provide you a perfectly good cornbread recipe over there, but I’ll also give you the one we used in class.

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Customize it however you like. Or instead of stuffing jalapenos, go big and stuff the poblanos, instead. Use a different cheese.  No matter how you do it, you are not going to be disappointed. Bring a buncha these to one of those Memorial Day cook-out things that social people with lives like to attend. If people aren’t bringing you beers and just generally being extra nice to you after trying one of these, you need to get new friends because those people are dumb-dumbs.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, ya’ll!

You don’t know whatchoo got ’til it’s gone

Hi folks. I have been away for a little more than a week but it feels like forever. I just wanted to give you a quick update.

I lost/dropped/wasn’t paying attention to my phone at the bus stop and it disappeared. I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just know that one minute I was putting it in my pocket to run for the bus and the next thing I knew, it wasn’t there. I’m a clumsy mofo, and I’m sure I probably just missed my pocket.

Anyhoots, I spent a week on a crappy older phone without the ability to post or take  pictures or anything. I also spent the week mourning the loss of the hundreds of food pics, including some intended for future posts, that were lost. On top of that, I was trying to pack and move in the middle of night classes and homework and the day job and….. phew!

With the help of a friend, I got a new version of the phone that was lost this week. I officially finished the move last night, and that means hopefully I’ll be back up and blogging by the weekend.  I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude over the past week, because a really stressful and difficult week was made much, much easier to bear thanks to some incredibly lovely people I’m very grateful to call Friend, my new room mate, and some new neighbors who were kind enough to help make my move just a little less frustrating. So, my next post will be about gratitude, and ways to say thank you with food.

And thanks to those of you who always stick with me when I experience these little hiccups. :)

You might have also noticed the orange icon over there in the right hand corner.

It means I’m now part of the No Kid Hungry blogging team, and I’m super excited to figure out how to make the No Kid Hungry campaign a regular part of things here. If any of you are planning to participate in or attend any No Kid Hungry events in your area, or on your blog, please reach out in the comments section and let me know how you think we can work together to increase awareness.