pretzel bites.

pretzel bites.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


when jake and joey and i were young my dad used to tell us stories before bedtime. sometimes the stories were about the amazing adventures of three daring, heroic children named jake, nani, and joey, who went around saving lives and stopping crime. other times he told us what came to be known as "true new funnies" which were stories from his own childhood, more often than not about embarrassing and ridiculous things his own aunts and uncles had done, that left us rolling on the floor in hysterics. once, he told us a true new funny about the time he ordered a pretzel on a new york city street corner when he was a child. he watched, mouth agape, as the pretzel vendor took my dad's order--a single, deliciously chewy and salty pretzel--then paused to sneeze gigantically, colossaly into his own bare hand before reaching for my father's treat, hanging innocently behind the protective glass with the very same hand. i'll spare you the details of the rest of the story, which i'm sure were hilarious enough to have us all in tears, but not damaging enough to prevent me from buying food from street carts. some things are just too delicious. pretzels and street cart nuts are two of those things.

one of the wonderful things about new york city during the period when fall turns to winter is the nuts. just the smell of them makes me nostalgic for christmas. the lights, the carols, the wrapping paper, the cheer. and i'm jewish. and not even hanukkah bush jewish. married to a rabbinical student jewish. but there's something magical about new york in the holiday season, by which i mean thanksgiving through new years, and i only hope that the tourists who come pouring in to the city during this time period go home with a sense memory of the smell of those steamy, sweet, soul-warming street-corner nuts. because then they'll be fond of new york forever.

this recipe is good inspiration, though i think there's a lot of room for improvisation. and improvisation is the best.

2 egg whites
4 cups whole raw cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds*
1 cup white sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt**
*or any nuts you like!
*throw in some pumpkin pie spice or allspice if you have it!

to make the nuts:
1. preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. whisk the egg whites until they break up and start getting foamy.
3. dump all the nuts in the bowl and use your (clean!) hands to mix them into the egg whites, making sure they're all covered. add the sugar and spices and mix them again to coat.
4. spread the nuts on two baking sheets covered with parchment and bake for 30-40 minutes until the nuts aren't sticky anymore. your house will smell like happiness. break them apart and eat them!

i tripled the recipe and put the nuts in jars to give out as thanksgiving gifts, which made people happy. the essence of fall in a jar. how could it not?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

the sweetest thing(s).

josh and i hosted a shabbat dinner on friday night. there's something divinely comforting about ending the dizzying work week with a large, warm, spirited gathering of loved ones. especially when i get to feed them. shabbat is supposed to be a blessing. a sacred day we separate from all the other days of the week for rest. and though cooking dinner for 11 people in a kitchen with one foot of counter space and no dishwasher probably doesn't quite qualify as rest, it certainly rounds out my week with a kind of harmonious sweetness i haven't yet found sitting under florescent lighting in the not-quite-comfortable-enough spinning chair at my office. so shabbat sweetens my week and reminds me to pause and be grateful for all my blessings. like these trees, which are the last holdouts of vibrant color on my newly pathetically bare tre-lined street.

so in honor of gratitude for sweet things, i'm going to write about the dessert recipes from friday night...

i went to visit my grandparents for dinner on monday evening. i'll write more about them another time, but suffice it to say they are two of the most brilliant, fascinating, loving, and admirable people this world has known. my grandfather and i got into a meaningful conversation about the merits of pie, a subject about which we are both quite passionate. in fact, it was at their summer home that i discovered my glorious, important relationship with pie as we spent evenings in their kitchen over open boxes of the farm stand's daily bounty of peach, cherry, strawberry rhubarb, apple crumb, with nothing but forks, bronzed skin, and summer appetites. the question at hand on monday was whether apples should be sliced thinly and stacked together in fantastic little piles of sweet cinnamony tartness inside the pie, or cut into large, soft, juicy, dissolve-on-your-tongue pieces that seem to float around in the pie. i am a supporter of the former. i believe my grandfather is yet undecided. so i had pie on my mind all week, and by wednesday i was thinking about nestle tollhouse pie, which was certainly one of the top three desserts served at the two dining halls at my college and possibly one of the top five most indulgent pies in existence. it is impossible to pretend that it's even remotely healthy (and yes, i do like to think of pie as remotely healthy. it's frequently made with fruit, is it not?) because inside the soft, buttery enclosure of crust is a luscious, gooey filling of... chocolate chips!!! the dining hall frequently ruined the pie with horrible walnuts, which i had to pick out with a fork in order to enjoy my fill, and i would make no such mistake with my pie. it's all butter and chocolate for me.

i began with this recipe, though i didn't read it carefully enough before i bought a prepared pie crust that was certainly not unbaked. i didn't add the italics for emphasis. it was right there in recipe i didn't consult before my trip to the grocery store where i bought nilla wafer crust cause i couldn't find graham cracker. but i googled "can you bake a nilla wafer prepared pie crust?" and i got the answer i was looking for. phew.

ingredients for the pie:

prepared pie crust. baked or unbaked.
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter*
2 cups chocolate chips**
*i actually softened it this time! the top of my oven gets alarmingly hot when the oven is on, which it was pretty much all of friday afternoon, and i sat the butter on top and it softened right up.
**i used 1 cup ghirardelli milk chocolate chips and 1 cup ghirardelli dark chocolate chips. a very good combination. the truth is that you can use any kind of chips, including peanut butter, butterscotch, etc.

to make the pie:

1. preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. beat the eggs until they start to foam and then add in the flour and both the sugars and the butter. and then stir in the chocolate chips. and then scrape it all into the pie shell. that's it.
3. bake it for 55 to 60 minutes and then take it out of the oven and start smiling because you've just make a chocolate chip pie!
i had already decided i had to make ice cream to go with the pie. though i consider myself impressively capable of eating excessively rich and decadent desserts, i thought better of serving caramel or chocolate or peanut butter ice cream with this pie. some people just can't handle sweets the way i can. so i made a classic. vanilla. i used this recipe but decided to make a custard.

ingredients for the ice cream:

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

to make the ice cream:

1. combine the cream, milk, and sugar in a pot over medium heat. stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves. don't let it boil. it should thicken enough to coat a spoon in just a few minutes.
2. whisk the eggs together in a bowl.
3. slowly pour about a cup of the heated cream, milk, and sugar mixture into the eggs and stir to combine. you're doing this so the eggs won't scramble. because scrambled egg ice cream sounds disgusting.
4. pour the cream, milk, sugar, and egg mixture back into the pot and reduce the heat to low. whisk it together until it's combined and then remove it from the heat and let it cool. it has to cool off considerably before i can put it in the ice cream maker, so i put it in a bowl in the freezer to expedite things.
5. when it's cool, pour it right into your ice cream maker and let the magic happen. then transfer it to a container and let it harden in the freezer.

chocolate chip cookie pie. check. vanilla ice cream. check. perfectly balanced dessert. check.

somehow, it didn't seem like enough.

i always worry i'm not making enough.

we always have leftovers.

i stood frozen in my kitchen for a few minutes, wondering if it would be completely insane to make another dessert. i decided that it would only be mildly wacky, and since i already had chocolate chips left over from the pie, i went for it. chocolate chocolate chocolate cookies. my favorite thing to whip up when i'm worried i don't have enough dessert. i make them a lot. i always use this recipe, though on friday i scaled it back from 48 to 18 cookies, because like i said, i'm not completely insane. and i tweaked it. surprise, surprise. the metrics came out a little funky, which can happen on when you change the serving size, so bear with me.

ingredients for the cookies:

6 tbsp softened butter (microwaved this time)
1/2 cup and 1 tbsp sugar
1 egg (or 3/4 of an egg if you can manage that)
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp instant coffee
1 cup chocolate chips

to make the cookies:

1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. beat the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until they look fluffy.
3. stir the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and instant coffee in a separate bowl and then add this mixture to the butter mixture until it's all combined and stir in the chocolate chips. i used the same milk and dark chocolate chips i used for the pie, and just like in the pie you can use whatever kind of chips you fancy.
4. place tablespoon sized gobs of batter onto ungreased cookie sheets with at least 1 inch in between each gob.
5. bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until they don't look wet anymore.

and there you have perfectly chocolaty, moist, decadent little cookie chunks that never fail to please.
and chocolate chip cookie pie.
and vanilla ice cream.

sometimes leftovers are a very good thing. sometimes they're just what you need for a saturday afternoon snack. like i said, we have no dishwasher. we earned it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

an apple a day. at least.

honey crisps.

bright comfort on this yucky, chilly, rainy day. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

winter. seriously?

it may still technically be fall, but on friday night, coming home from a shabbat dinner in our neighborhood, josh and i were caught off guard in a terrible, blustery, cruel wintry wind. the kind that makes your eyes water. the kind that makes your back tighten in an awkward, painful way. the kind that makes you question why on earth anyone lives in the northeast. the kind that makes you wonder if you'll ever be warm again. the kind that makes you sorry you ever cursed the swampy, heavy, sticky summer days that now seem impossibly far away. the kind that makes you say a brisk hello to the acquaintances you run into on the street cause you're just too cold to linger and chat even though you really like them.

now it's monday. and it's fall again. thank goodness.

but you might still enjoy this wintry salad, even if it's a little premature.

i should mention that i'm pregnant. and craving citrus. and i've been eating an orange or a grapefruit a day. at least. navel oranges are my favorites because they're so hearty and sweet and i eat the whole thing, right down to the pith, which scrape with my teeth. i love the earthy bitterness in contrast to the fresh sweetness of the pulp. my mom does it too. we might be weird. and grapefruits... well... i think i'd be better off just eating those in private. things get messy. but their bright sour juiciness is not to be missed!

not everyone loves fennel. in fact, josh isn't so fond of the unexpected, sweet and savory licorice crunch in each wonderful bite. but i just might have converted him with this salad, and i hope all you fennel haters out there will give it another try if you haven't had it with citrus yet. or olives.

what is there to say about olives except that they make everything better. i love them all, even the kind that come from a can. (those are great for salad nicoise and seven layer dip!) there's a fancy store down the street from my apartment and sometimes i spend a little too much time sampling the olives. especially the giant, meaty cerignola olives. but the greatest olives on earth, unparalleled in their spicy, salty deliciousness, come from a town in israel in between jerusalem and tel aviv. it's called abu gosh. and everyone should go there and eat the green olives. seriously. but don't worry, the beauty of this recipe is the olives can come from the sad salad bar at the grocery store!

1 large navel orange
1 large blood orange*
1 bulb fennel
1/3 cup oily black olives, like kalamata
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper and a pinch of celery salt if you have it
*if you can't find a blood orange don't worry. just use another navel orange, which i happen to think is more delicious, just not as pretty.

1. slice the oranges as thin as you can. i'm terrible at this and my slices always come out lopsided and unmatched, but it doesn't really matter. but if you excel at slicing, this is a good way to show off your gift. spread them out on a plate so they cover the surface.
2. slice the fennel, beginning at the base. if the pieces look too thick just cut them in half or into smaller bits. there's no right or wrong with slicing them. layer the fennel on top of the oranges. save the fuzzy looking green stems that shoot up from the top of the fennel bulb. they're delicious and look pretty chopped up on top of this dish. so do that to them.
3. mash the olives! if you have a mortar and pestle you can use it to do this, or a food processor, or a small knife if you like cutting things into tiny bits. all three work well as long as the olives are broken down and kind of tapenade looking when you're done. use a small spoon to stud the dish with happy little globs of the olives. as much or as little as you'd like.
4. drizzle the olive oil on top and then sprinkle the salt, pepper, and celery salt, too.

voila! a delicious, light, refreshing salad that might just bring you the hope you need to get through the next blustery winter night!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

3 ingredients to happiness.

fresh mint.
greek yogurt.

that's it. and there you have a bowl full of happiness.

remove the seeds from the cucumber, dice it, and chop the mint. one large cucumber should do it. the amount of mint is up to you, though i recommend using lots and lots. toss it all together with some salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and you have a wonderful, creamy, healthy side dish to a spicy curry, a nice topping for fish, a perfect dip for pita chips, or even a lovely little snack.

recreating a dream. or trying, at least.

i have always loved baked banana anything. in elementary school my mom always made banana cake for our classroom celebrations. the very smell of banana and sugar in the oven, or even on the stove, comforts and delights me and reminds me of my mom, who is one of The Great People. so it's no surprise that when, a few years ago, we discovered butter lane, a cupcake place in the east village that had perfected the cupcake-to-frosting ratio in what can only be described as heavenly balance, and when i further discovered that they carry three kinds of cupcake bases: chocolate, vanilla, and BANANA, i was ecstatic. well, my life just keeps getting better because a few months ago butter lane opened in park slope, a mere 7 blocks away from me!!!! and it's not just the wonderfully moist, light, fluffy base that makes these cupcakes so perfect. the frosting has a lot to do with it, too. and i'm a big frosting lover. in fact, i believe that cake is often times merely conduit to the frosting. at butter lane you can choose from a variety of about 20 different frostings, ranging from salted chocolate to blueberry to peanut butter to cream cheese, and so on. oh, and the people who work there are extremely kind. josh and i once took a visiting friend there right before closing time and they gave us a bunch of free cupcakes. there is nothing better than a free cupcake! and so, when i was asked to bring something sweet and baked to the book club group i just joined, i immediately decided on cupcakes. banana cupcakes. with chocolate frosting. and a caramel peanut butter glaze. deciding took no time. patching up some silly mistakes took a little bit more time and energy than i'd planned.

i used this fairly simple recipe for the banana cupcakes, but of course i made some changes.

cupcake ingredients:
1/2 cup greek yogurt (i used 0%)
1 tsp baking soda
1 stick salted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 small)

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1. stir the yogurt and baking soda in a small bowl and set it aside. weird things will happen. but it's okay.
2. if you forgot to set the butter out to make it room temperature, soften it in the microwave and then mix it with the sugar until it's creamy.
3. beat in the eggs and the vanilla.
4. mash the bananas and stir them into the weird yogurt.
5. stir the flour, baking powder, and salt.
6. alternate between mixing the dry flour mixture and the wet banana mixture with the butter and sugar mixture. flour. mix. banana. mix. flour. mix. banana. mix. flour. mix. banana. mix. phew. i used to ignore instructions like this and just mix everything all in at once. i'm still not convinced it makes a difference, though i'm sure i'd get in trouble for saying that.
7. fill cupcake liners a little more than 3/4 of the way with the batter. they rise a lot so this batter will make 18 nice, big cupcakes. bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and your home smells like heaven.


the salted chocolate frosting on the banana cupcake is my favorite, so i decided to kind of try to improvise a salted chocolate frosting using this recipe.

frosting ingredients:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 stick salted butter
1/8 cup confectioners' sugar

at least... that's what i started with.

1. melt the chocolate over low heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes.
2. combine the butter with the chocolate. step two. a very important step. the one i sort of kind of ignored. let the butter sit out until it softens. i skipped this step. sort of. the butter wasn't softened and i didn't want to wait for it to, so i shoved it in the microwave. the bane of my existence. not only is it way out of my reach and not only do i have to climb on a chair and the counter to use it (as i mentioned in a previous post), it's also temperamental. as in, it often just doesn't work. so i open and close the door and check the plate and unplug it and plug it back in and check the plate again and reset the time. it's frustrating beyond description and recently i've taken to banging on it. a couple bangs on each side, and maybe one on the top for good measure. and then it works. the point is i melted the butter completely instead of just softening it, which was probably a mistake.
3. sift the cocoa powder and the confectioner's sugar and stir them into the chocolate butter mixture. and that should be all. but that wasn't all for me because my frosting was liquid. so i sighed and stuck it into the fridge. for a little too long. and it turned to fudge, which looked delicious, but not all that frosting-like. so then i melted it in the stupid microwave and it turned back to liquid. so i froze it for about 10 minutes and then it was nearly perfect, but threatening to become hard again. so i improvised.

improvised additional frosting ingredients:
1/3 cup greek yogurt (0% again.)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

1. combine all three ingredients in a bowl.
2. combine the combined ingredients with the threatening-to-become-hard-again frosting.
3. breathe a sigh of relief because the frosting now looks like frosting.

4. frost the cupcakes.

maybe i would have been better off just following a recipe without insisting on changing it. but the truth is, the frosting was incredibly delicious. and that's not all...

peanut butter caramel glaze ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 heaping tbsp creamy peanut butter

1. melt the sugar on high heat in a non-stick pan, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn.
2. add the heavy cream and turn the heat down to low. the sugar will sort of seize and get all caramely and sticky. just keep stirring it into the cream until it dissolves.
3. add the peanut butter and stir until it's nice and smooth.
4. use a small spoon to drizzle on top of the frosting.

book club was wonderful. i think we spent about five full minutes discussing the book, the marriage plot, and the rest of the time eating and talking about laughing hysterically. i like book club. oh, and the cupcakes weren't anything like butter lane's, nor were they as perfect as my mom's birthday banana cake... but they sure were delicious!

Friday, November 11, 2011

spiced pumpkin donut babies

a couple moths ago a friend and i began sending each other fall recipes we found on various food blogs. back and forth they went. we cyber oohed and aahed over the cinnamon and the pumpkin and the apple, the hot cider and the ginger and the maple. and then one day we came up with a brilliant idea. a fall dessert party. an opportunity for us to make all these recipes we'd been drooling over for weeks without being saddled with the responsibility of eating them all. it was a grand success. she made: mulled wine, chocolate pumpkin bundt cake with a toffee glaze, chocolate drizzled, twix studded popcorn, and a two layer pumpkin cake with cinnamon icecream. the ice cream cake was a dream. it was vegan. and no one knew. i made: hot spiked cider, ricotta toasts with cracked black pepper, arugula, and pear slices, ginger chocolate blondies, sugar and spiced nuts, apple spice caramel cupcakes, and pumpkin spice donut holes. the donut holes were a great culinary achievement for me, thrown together a mere 30 minutes before guests were due because i found the ginger chocolate blondies... well... not all that good. an embarrassment. and while the blondies sat forgotten in the corner, the luscious, spicy little balls of pumpkiny, sugary goodness dripping with cinnamon and sugar were very, very well received. i decided to make them again last night for a work friend about to go on maternity leave. donut holes=small donuts=baby donuts=a good food gift for someone about to have a baby.

something you should know: when i was 16 i got a summer job at a movie theater because the boy i had a crush on also worked there. needless to say, this was a mistake. and though other friends also got jobs at the same theater, and though i could see all the free movies i wanted and eat all the free popcorn and drink all the free soda i wanted, it just wasn't worth it. and the reason it wasn't worth it was because of the oil. every evening during rush enthusiastic moviegoers would gleefully ask for the popcorn that was just then being popped. the hot kernels of salty deliciousness. they had no interest in the perfectly good, albeit hours-old popcorn resting nicely on the side of the machine, easily, safely within my reach. oh, no. they wanted the fresh stuff. and i had no choice but to oblige, daringly placing myself directly next to the heart of the machine as it delivered the popcorn, which i scooped up as quickly as i could while desperately, unsuccessfully trying to avoid the sputtering oil that came flying out along with the popcorn, targeting my soft, delicate arms. it was a hazard of the job. perhaps the most dangerous i've ever had. as you can imagine, i am now terrified of hot, splattering oil. which is why i don't deep fry things. or at least, mostly i don't deep fry things. last hanukkah i deep fried zucchini blossoms because i was feeling too fancy for latkes. they were delicious, as all things are when they are deep fried, but the effort it took to manage the endeavor without reliving my 16-year-old oil splattering horror, coupled with the dingy, oily smell that lingered in my apartment throughout our dinner made me swear to myself that deep frying at home is something worth doing only once a year. therefore, these donuts were baked, not fried.

ingredients for the donuts:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce*
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin**
1/2 cup low-fat milk
*i almost always replace oil with unsweetened apple sauce when baking. it serves the same purpose, which is moisture,without changing the taste. oil=lots of fat and calories. applesauce=not lots of fat and calories.
**canned pumpkin makes everything wonderful and moist. this is an important fact.

1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray cooking spray, a wonderful invention, all over a 24 cup mini muffin tin.
2. in a smallish bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
3. in a different, bigger bowl, whisk together the apple sauce, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin, and milk.
4. dump the dry ingredients from the smallish bowl into the wet ingredients in the bigger bowl and whisk them together until they're just combined.
5. scoop the batter into the muffin tin using a medium sized spoon. if you're lucky like i am, then you have small, medium, and large spoons. fill the muffin cups up about half way.
6. bake them for 10-12 minutes and then let them cool. letting them cool is an important step i didn't have time for the first time i made them, and i was sorry.
i suppose you could stop there and just eat them, but then you'd be missing out on the buttery, cinnamony, sugary goodness that comes next.

ingredients for toppings:
3/4 stick salted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
7. melt the butter.
8. combine the cinnamon and sugar.
9. squish the little muffin shaped donuts in your hands and roll them around until they resemble donut holes instead of mini muffins. it will work. trust me.  after reshaping each one, dip it in the melted butter until it's covered, then roll it in the cinnamon and sugar mixture until it's perfectly coated. repeat with all 24.

then EAT the happy little donut holes and be grateful for fall!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

weekend away leftovers +bag of sweet potatoes = stuffed sweet potato skins for dinner

over the weekend my husband josh and i went to the catskills with friends. to the catskills. i love saying that. it sounds rustic and fancy at the same time. it was heavenly there. perfect burnt golden leaves that smelled the way fall should. it never smells like fall in the city. not really. not even in brooklyn. so this little getaway was a perfect combination of things. reading in front of a wall of windows overlooking the hudson river/hiking around a scenic mountain lake/drinking local hot apple cider/feeling all at once overwhelmed and inspired by antiques stores/and... EATING. lots and lots of eating. and lots and lots of leftovers that we brought home with us precariously wrapped in plastic and foil because it's somehow painful to waste so much perfectly good food. and also our friends have a car. but the problem is it's hard to actually eat leftovers. there are only two of us and though i'm not much help i'm also irrationally offended when josh doesn't finish them. it's tricky. so i had to get creative.

we came home with:
-a greek yogurt container of two day old veggie chili eaten not once over the weekend, but on five separate occasions. (i'll have to post that recipe some time. it really was delicious.)
-greek yogurt.
-shredded "mexican" cheese mix.
-shredded mozzarella.
-the single largest container of ricotta i've ever possessed.
-a bag of small sweet potatoes.
-grape tomatoes.

we had in our fridge:
-tomato sauce. date purchased unknown. mold check successful.
-banana peppers. a staple in our home. i eat them on bagels, for which i know you are now judging me.
-vegetarian bacon bits. about to expire.

all of that = stuffed sweet potato skins!

on mondays i work from about 8 in the morning until about 6 in the evening. and every single day i want to take a nap at 4 in the afternoon. which i don't. most days. by the time i get home i'm usually pretty exhausted, especially in fall/winter when idiotic daylight savings has stolen away my evening sunshine. but occasionally i get home energized enough to cook a proper dinner. and by proper i mean appetizers for dinner. while i was at work i read up on microwaving potatoes and i actually cannot believe i'd never done it before. instead of waiting an hour for the things to bake in the oven (and accidentally filling up on snacks before dinner time because an hour is sometimes just too long to wait), i got home and immediately hoisted myself onto one of my kitchen chairs and then onto the kitchen counter and up to the microwave, which is placed in the most inconvenient spot imaginable, and i nuked the sweet potatoes for 6 minutes on one side and 5 on the other. and that was it! it actually worked! then i cut them in half while they were still too hot because in case you haven't gathered already, i'm not the most patient person, and i scooped out the flesh and stuck them in the oven i'd preheated to 400 degrees. after 7 minutes i flipped them over and then after another 7 i took them out to fill them.

filling step one:
potato skin 1: "mexican" cheese blend
potato skin 2: veggie chili (x2... we have a lot of veggie chili left)
potato skin 3: ricotta, tomato sauce, mozzarella

i stuck them back in the oven for another 13 minutes until the cheese looked nice and melted, then out for toppings.

filling step two:
potato skin 1: "mexican" cheese blend, greek yogurt, vegetarian bacon bits
potato skin 2: veggie chili, greek yogurt, cilantro
potato skin 3: ricotta, tomato sauce, mozzarella, banana pepper

then i sprinkled them all with salt and pepper and they were ready to go. i also threw together a little salad. arugula, tomato, a splash of olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, lots of salt and pepper. a lovely, pepper and sweet salad that made me feel less guilty about eating stuffed potato skins for dinner.

and there it was... a fridge clearing dinner of leftovers on a monday evening... not all that pretty, but definitely yummy!