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labeled skillet cookie

Have you ever had the Pizookie from BJ’s Restaurant? If you haven’t, it’s a large chocolate chip cookie baked in a cast iron skillet. It’s amazing and one of my favorite desserts. I discovered it in college and every time we go to BJ’s, I just have to get one. I know it’s only a chocolate chip cookie in a skillet, but since it’s serve hot, it’s thick and gooey and one of the best chocolate chip cookies out there. (I even sent my husband out to get me one once when I was pregnant.) It’s so good in fact, I’ve recreated it a couple times. It’s that skillet cookie that inspired me to make today’s version.

sliced fruit

There’s no chocolate in this version though, because it’s summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate but it’s so rich, I usually like it during the fall and winter. During the summer I like my desserts filled with fruit. That’s why this time I opted for an oatmeal cookie baked on top of a skillet filled with caramelized fruit. I originally thought I could sandwich the fruit between two cookies, but that would have required either using more than one pan or getting a very soggy cookie on the bottom, and if there’s one thing I will not stand for it’s a soggy cookie. So, since there’s fruit on the bottom of the skillet this cookie is more like a pie. But I have to tell you, it’s the cookie, which is essentially a pie crust may be the best pie crust I’ve ever had. The cookie is rich, buttery and really, really good!

I’ve never been a big oatmeal cookie fan. They always seemed boring to me and those raisins… sure they added some sweetness, but again there just wasn’t anything special about them. Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a better cookie with which to cover the peaches and strawberries. So, I decided to go with the oatmeal. But this wasn’t going to be your basic oatmeal cookie. This was going to be special. I added browned butter, a little cinnamon and some slivered almonds. The browned butter gives the cookie a nice nutty flavor, but the almonds really kick it over the top, making this one of the best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever had. It was so good, I almost veered from my skillet and made plain old cookies. But I’d already chopped all the fruit, so I stuck with the original plan and spooned it over the caramelized fruit.

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Because the cookie dough is dolloped over the fruit and then comes together as it bakes, this cookie becomes a thick, rich crust, and the cookie turns into a kind of pie. A pie that can be served on an ordinary Wednesday night or taken to a picnic in the park (which is exactly what I did). And now that I’ve made this fruit cookie/pie, I’ll definitely make it again. Maybe next time I’ll use just peaches like Tieghan Gerard. But whichever fruit I (or you) choose to go into this skillet cookie, it’s a delicious summer dessert that I just can’t wait to make again.

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Strawberry Peach Browned Butter Oatmeal Skillet Cookie (adapted from Half Baked Harvest)

Ingredients:

  • 11 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 2 pints of strawberries hulled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Melt 8 tablespoons of butter in an 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, swirling the whole time until it turns a golden brown and develops a nutty smell. (Make sure you watch it, otherwise your brown butter will turn to burned butter and we don’t want that.) Transfer the butter and all the browned bits to a mixing bowl and let it cool briefly.
  3. Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the peaches, strawberries, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and cook, stirring occasionally until the fruit releases it’s juices, about 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
  4. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. Add the remaining brown sugar and white sugar to the browned butter in the mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add the egg and remaining vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the oats and almonds.
  6. Spoon dollops of cookie dough over the fruit. It’s okay if there are a few patches where there isn’t any dough as it will spread as it bakes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then serve.

Corn ‘N’ Oil Cocktail

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alternate labeled drink

Last summer I discovered how much I love tiki drinks when I devoted my whole summer to recreating them for the blog. While all the drinks were absolutely delicious, the various citrus juices and mixers made it difficult to taste the rum. Sure, you use all different kinds of rums from white to lightly aged to dark, but all those extra ingredients make it difficult to taste the nuances of each rum. That’s what great about this drink. Since it’s mostly rum with just a dash of bitters and a splash of Falernum, you really taste the lead liquor. In other words, if you’re a rum drinker, this is the drink for you.

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I discovered this cocktail while going through my classics list. I’ve recreated a lot of the well known classics which means now when I want to introduce you to a vintage drink, I need to scour my classic cocktail books and the internet. When I realized how simple it was, I was surprised that I hadn’t made it yet. Then again, rum has never been my go to liquor. I prefer bourbon or vodka. Don’t get me wrong, I do like rum, it just usually needs something else to make me take sip after sip. Spiced rums and dark rums are higher on my drinking list than the lighter variety because they have more complex flavors and taste better on my tongue. I think that’s the reason I like this classic so much. The dark rum isn’t overpowered by too many extra ingredients.

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Yes, it’s true, there are a few extra mixers in this cocktail but they don’t overpower or hide the rum like other rum drinks might. Instead the Falernum, bitters and lime juice enhance the spicy sweetness of the dark rum, making it truly shine. It’s actually those ingredients that give the cocktail its name. See, the dark rum, which looks like oil, when combined with the Falernum, which is the color of corn, gets you a Corn ‘N’ Oil. I never would’ve thought to put those ingredients together, but I’m glad someone did because the combination tastes so good, it’s definitely going to be a regular on my summer drink menu.

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Corn ‘N’ Oil

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 1/2 ounce Falernum
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 ounce lime juice

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled.
  2. Pour into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice, add a wedge of lime and serve.

labeled lettuce cups

When I grew up, my family and I had Chinese take out on a regular basis. I always loved the fried rice, dumplings and egg rolls. They were delicious and I always looked forward to those nights when we ordered out. Then in college, I had two Asian roommates. One was Korean and the other was Indonesian, so for four years, I was treated to numerous Asian dishes that were all absolutely delicious. But the best thing about them was that they were all homemade. I got to experience kimchi and Zongzi and every kind of curry known to man.

While I always knew I was never a big fan of spicy foods, it was the Korean dishes that really proved it. Those dishes had so much red chili paste, they’d usually gone from brown or tan to bright red. And even though the different foods were spicier than I liked, I still loved the flavors. They were sweet and tart and absolutely amazing. I loved them so much, after I graduated I went to Korean Barbecue restaurants a lot. But after so many years of eating out I wanted to start making these dishes myself. Luckily Fine Cooking magazine had an article on making Korean Barbecue at home. I was thrilled! So, as my first try, I went with this barbecued chicken.

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This recipe had all the flavors I learned to love at college. It was sweet and tart but had an underlying nuttiness thanks to the sesame oil. There was one thing missing though: it wasn’t spicy. See, since I was making this, I got to choose how much red pepper to use and I chose none. But just because I didn’t use any red pepper doesn’t mean there wasn’t bite to the chicken. Instead of red pepper flakes, I used fresh ginger, shallots and garlic. Those three ingredients gave the chicken just the right amount of spice to make me and my whole family happy. If the ginger and shallots aren’t enough for you though, and you’re still looking for some heat, feel free to add a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes.

In case you’re mouth isn’t watering yet, the best thing about these lettuce cups is that they’re perfect for the summer. Why? Because after sitting in that marinade all day, these sweet thighs are thrown on the grill. So, now not only do you have a sweet, tangy piece of chicken, you have a tender piece of meat that has an amazing smokiness, thanks to just a few minutes over an open flame. Once they’re finished, slice the thighs and serve them on a bed of rice in a lettuce cup.

These little cups are great for a picnic or backyard barbecue. But what’s best about them, is that I get to continue to enjoy Korean meals at home. Sure, I no longer have my roommates guiding or eating with me nightly, but at least I can relive those fun nights in that little apartment experiencing all those delicious foods. And now, thanks to this recipe (and others like it) I can continue to do so for years to come.

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Korean Barbecue Chicken Lettuce Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 18 butter lettuce leaves
  • 3 cups white rice

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, corn syrup, shallots, ginger, garlic, mirin, red pepper (if you’re using it), a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12.
  2. Preheat the grill to 400°F.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Discard the marinade. Grill the chicken, flipping once, until just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes and then slice in thin strips and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish the chicken with scallions and sesame seeds.
  4. Serve the chicken with the lettuce and rice.

Grilled Sausage Salad

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labeled salad

I don’t know about you, but when it’s hot, I’m never very hungry. I’ll nibble here and there, but I never like big, heavy meals because there’s just too much food that usually ends up making me feel really blech. So, when it’s hot, I tend to eat light and that means salad.

While I have no problem eating salads that are full of fresh produce like heirloom tomatoes, lettuce and baby carrots, I love it when a salad has proteins in it, especially if they’re grilled. Absolutely nothing compares to a salad full of grilled chicken or steak to add a little salt and a delicious smokey flavor to a bowl full of leafy greens. So, when I found this Grilled Sausage Salad from Jamie Bissonnette, I knew I had to make it. It was simple, ready in no time and absolutely delicious.

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What makes this salad unlike others I’ve had, is that the vegetables are marinated in the dressing. See, Bissonnette grew up eating salads that were drowning in bottled Italian dressing. So, he decided it would be healthier to not only make his own dressing but marinate the produce in it before hand. By marinating the carrots and cucumbers ahead of time, you get that wonderful tang from the dressing throughout the whole dish without feeling like you’re drowning.

Just like Bissonnette, I also hate salads that are served with waaaay too much dressing, which is why, whenever I order a salad, I always ask for dressing on the side. It’s also why I never, ever dress a salad when I make my own because I know there are those who prefer lighter dressed salads. By serving the dressing on the side everyone gets the kind of salad they want. But by marinating the veggies ahead of time you get a salad that doesn’t even need dressing since the carrots and cucumbers already have the flavor seeping from every pore. Then when you toss the grilled sausage and lettuce in the mix, those marinated veggies get a smokey flavor while the sausage gets the tang from the marinade. It’s the perfect combination: filling, but light enough to be a great summer dinner option.

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Grilled Sausage Salad (adapted from Food & Wine Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 small head of butter lettuce, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill to 350°F.
  2. Whisk together the first six ingredients (through the salt and pepper) in a large bowl. Add the carrots and cucumbers and toss to coat. Set aside and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  3. While the veggies marinate, grill the sausages for 15 – 20 minutes or until charred and cooked all the way through. Transfer the sausages to a cutting board and slice into 1-inch slices.
  4. Transfer the carrots and cucumbers to another bowl. Add the sausage and lettuce and toss until combined. Season with a little more salt and pepper, drizzle with as much of the leftover dressing you like and serve.

Boxcar

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labeled cocktail

When I think of gin drinks that are served in cocktail glasses, the martini is the first to come to mind. But it turns out there are lots of cocktails that use gin and are served up in martini glasses: the vesper, the gibson, the gimlet… you get the picture. They’re all strong classics from a bygone era that are well worth a sip or two. So, whenever I find another, I shake it up and give it a taste. The Boxcar is just such a drink.

While I couldn’t find a lot about the cocktail’s history other than it’s from Prohibition, I can tell you it’s a little sweeter than the Vesper or the Martini thanks to the Cointreau and the sugar rim. Then there’s the Grenadine. Some recipes I found use it and others don’t. It’s all a matter of preference, much like the gin you use. If you do choose to use the grenadine, all you need is a dash or two because that’s all it takes to turn this drink pale pink and make it slightly sweeter. If you’d like it even sweeter though, then go with a sweeter gin like Citadelle. If however, you prefer your gin cocktails on the dryer side, forget the grenadine and use a nice dry London gin like Bombay.

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But it’s not the grenadine or gin that make this cocktail stand out. It’s the egg white. Now, I know there are those who might balk at the idea of using a raw egg in a cocktail, but I can tell you, you have nothing to worry about. As a matter of fact, the American Egg Board estimates that only one in every 20,000 eggs might be infected with the salmonella virus. So, the odds of you getting sick from a raw egg are pretty slim. Those odds are more than enough for me to add that egg. But it’s not just those odds that have me going back for fizzes and flips, it’s the fact that that egg white gives the cocktail a nice creamy texture that feels great on the palate. It makes the whole cocktail richer and better for special occasions.

So, if you find yourself puckering at the thought of sipping on the drier Vesper or Martini, give the Boxcar a try. Not only is it a beautiful cocktail, it’s a great introduction to those stronger Prohibition drinks that are also served up in coupes or cocktail glasses.

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Boxcar

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine (optional)
  • 1 egg white

Directions:

  1. Sugar the rim of a coupe glass by rubbing the rim of the glass with a wedge of a lime and then dip in sugar.
  2. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Add ice and shake again for another 20 seconds.
  3. Strain into the prepared coupe and serve.