but this cake is probably the second sweetest.
Alissa and I put together this sweet chocolate cake using ingredients from Betty Crocker, Sunbutter and Goodie Girl Cookies.
On a recent trip to Starbucks, the Kissing Cooks came across Goodie Girl Cookies and thoroughly enjoyed them.
The fine ladies at Goodie Girl Cookies were kind enough to send us a care package of gluten free goodies and like Jenna in Waitress the Musical you might be singing “what’s inside.” Watch the video below to find out.
Make sure look for Goodie Girl Cookies at Starbucks as well as at your local grocery store. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry them, make a request, you might be able to help get them on the shelf.
Thanks Goodie Girl Cookies for the sweet sweet swag.
I love getting together with friends when everyone literally brings something to the table. That kind of pot luck teamwork really makes any gathering more special and interesting because everyone brings something different. I’ve had birthday parties where five or so guests all bring a bag of the same kind of corn chips—and I love me a corn chip, but where’s the creativity? The personal touch? However, I’ve since learned that assigning food and drinks really is the best way to go so it’s clear that there won’t be any food overlap. Also, anyone with allergies or dietary restrictions can make sure that there’s something at the party for them to eat and enjoy too.
In the past, I’ve always been the first to volunteer a killer cheese plate with crackers, hummus-pita-veggie combos, mixing up sweets, and designing a spread for holiday parties, girls’ nights at my apartment, and end of the semester celebrations at work where everyone can relax and munch on plenty of good eats. Around the food is where most of any good party happens anyway, so it’s important to make that food great. With all of these experiences, I’ve amassed an impressive amount of pretty serving platters, trays, and travel-ready containers, which only excites me more to show up with something I’ve prepared.
Just this weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my good friend’s bachelorette party. Although I was unable to join in most of the daytime festivities (work, work, work), the evening portion included a bunch of girlfriends hanging out in another friend’s backyard under a brilliant August night sky. We laughed and cackled the night away, catching up on how our summers were going, and getting the details on the bride’s exciting and creative wedding preparations. My role for this part of the night was to not only provide all the paper and plastic wares for our snackfest, but I volunteered to bring some sort of fruit to accompany the other dessert treats. It is summer, after all, and fruit always makes for a refreshing bite.
Since I’m writing about a bachelorette party that I attended this weekend, you might wonder what this has to do with Kissing Cooks, but Chris certainly had plenty of helpful input that inspired my final fruit product. For the last few weeks, he’d been hearing me debate about what fruit to bring, especially since my spending habits have been seriously budgeted and I knew that some of my fellow partygoers had allergies or dietary preferences. I didn’t want to just bring a bowl of watermelon. Not that there’s anything wrong with watermelon. I wanted something fancy (hence my affinity for pretty napkins from Sur La Table) and something very specific to me. I’m almost always looking for some whimsical or glamorous option that best represents who I am as a party participant and friend.
Since I was working most of the day and only had about two hours to prepare a fruit option, I didn’t want to rush cutting into a melon, not knowing until the last minute if the fruit was ripe enough (because that happened recently for a breakfast that Chris and I shared). I’m also not very handy when it comes to cutting on the large-scale. Give me an eggplant, cucumber, or apple, and I’ll happily chop away, but for some reason, the idea of anything the size of a football or larger gives me nightmares of a knife falling out of my hand and chopping off my toes. Yes, that was a real dream. I like my toes, so I wasn’t about to set up a situation where that could come true.
Anyway… Chris suggested chocolate covered strawberries because who doesn’t love chocolate covered strawberries? He’s knows my penchant for the more decadent things in life, so this was a great idea. Also, strawberries are relatively inexpensive if you catch the right sale because they’re very much in season right now. I was trying to build from Chris’ idea, but I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go from there.
After work that Sunday, I hurried to the local Dollar Tree for my paper and plastic supplies, which was perfect for a party of about eight guests, so I didn’t need to buy much in bulk. With the bride’s gothic / punk wedding theme in mind, I grabbed cups, plates, flatware, and napkins in purple and red to create a luxurious and appropriate color scheme to celebrate my friend’s exciting journey to the altar. I grabbed four Hershey’s milk chocolate bars, which I knew were perfectly sized for melting in a double boiler since the bars can be broken into smaller pieces, thus melting faster. Then, among the clear plastic serving items, I found small square mini dishes, perfect for portioning out a variety of fruit to each party guest. A 12-pack was only $1, but just in case, I put two packages in my basket and headed to the register.
All of a sudden, my mind raced with inspiration (thank you, Chris) and I knew what I wanted to make. I headed to Stop & Shop, where strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries were all on sale, and as per my usual groceries, I also picked up some mandarin oranges and bananas. I pictured it perfectly in my head that I’d put a little of each fruit on each of the serving dishes, drizzle half of them with chocolate (since I was using milk chocolate, I still wanted my vegan friends to enjoy the fruit too). This would create a special little sample of everything for everyone to indulge in among the other homemade dessert varieties others were providing.
When I arrived home, I washed and divided all the berries into plastic containers, setting up an assembly line of ingredients. Following that, I cut two bananas in long diagonal slices and peeled two oranges, which I then segmented as well. I lined a long shallow rectangular container (perfect for serving and traveling) with damask print black and white napkins and set up each of the mini plates inside. Then, as my double boiler was warming and the chocolate was melting, I distributed a slice of banana on each of the mini plates, followed by a segment of orange, one whole strawberry (with the leaf still attached because I thought the green added a beautiful pop of color among the other bright fruit hues), about four or five blueberries, and a raspberry on top. Each plate looked like a lavish bite of summer. My plastic container held 15 of the plates, so I decided to make just a little more than half of each serving with the drizzled chocolate. I had a lot more cut fruit leftover, which I set up in a smaller container to give some to my parents (who always love and encourage my colorful and pretty food creations) and also for Chris to enjoy when he came over to my apartment the next night.
Once the chocolate was drizzled, I stored everything away in the fridge to give the chocolate time to harden. I only had about 20 minutes before my half hour drive to the party, so I wanted to make sure all was complete and ready for eating. I’m so pleased with how these mini plates came out. I love chocolate with fruit, especially oranges, which I thought really brought all the flavors together nicely.
Perhaps next time, I can drizzle dark or white chocolate, or even add some sugar crystal sprinkles or shredded coconut for additional texture and sweetness. Also, if I was looking to keep the calories down, I could avoid the chocolate all together and then the dessert wouldn’t require any cooking at all, which is perfect when on a time crunch before a party. Creating these mini fruit plates was not difficult at all, but it did take some time to set everything up just as symmetrically and picturesque as I wanted. My friend, the bride, deserved all the attention and care that preparing this dessert required.
Luckily, I ended up with some extra mini plates at the end of the night because there were just so many yummy food options during the party—we all left feeling so full and satisfied. Also, I had plenty of extra strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries to enjoy for breakfast the next morning, creating a healthy and refreshing parfait of fruit flavors atop my vanilla yogurt.
Thank you so much to Chris who always offers quick-fix tips any time I’m stuck trying to figure something out. I don’t mean that for just fruit either. It’s a wonderful thing when your partner can not only help you when you’re in need, but inspire you to be creative, especially when it’s for such an important occasion as my good friend’s bachelorette party. Chris gets one big smooch for this!
As always… stay kissing and stay cooking!
After going to the Nashville concert tour (as in CMT’s Nashville) at the Ford Amphitheatre at Coney Island, the Kissing Cooks took a walk down the boardwalk. If you’ve never walked down the Coney Island Boardwalk at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, it is quite the experience.
As we walked toward Luna Park, to our right was the beach, and on the edge of the boardwalk were people playing music and dancing. They brought such life to the boardwalk.
On the other side was the amusement park, roller coasters and other rides clicked and clacked well into the night, accompanied by the howls and screams of riders.
Our goal was simple as we strolled down this boardwalk under the moon’s light: to enjoy ourselves and hopefully grab a Nathan’s Famous hot dog. Wherever you are, you hopefully know about Nathan’s. You’ve probably seen them at the grocery store, or stands at the airport or your local mall, or maybe you are lucky enough to have a Nathan’s restaurant near you.
Growing up in New York comes with many advantages, and having family in Brooklyn comes with some legends and lore. There is no greater legend is than that of the Nathan’s hot dog.
Without giving too extensive of a history lesson, Nathan’s was started by Nathan Handwerker in 1916 on Surf Avenue, only a block away from the boardwalk at Coney Island. What you might not know is that Nathan was a Polish immigrant who started this hot dog empire with a mere $400.
While Alissa and I found Nathan’s on the boardwalk, we knew that first Nathan’s has stood proud for over 100 years now. Once arriving to this bustling establishment at 11:00 p.m., we ordered two hot dogs, an order of fries, and a Sprite. It’s convenient that Alissa and I both like Sprite. Splitting a soda on the boardwalk at Coney Island is pretty romantic in itself. Anyway, I inquired about gluten free buns to which I was told, “Sorry, but no.” Then I asked about the gluten status of the fries. The manager told me that “they cut their fries from fresh potatoes. There’s no wheat in them, only potatoes.” That was great to hear.
Upon receiving our food, we then had to find somewhere to sit and eat. Like I have already mentioned, this boardwalk was pretty busy. We found a bench and started to chow down on our hot dogs and fries. We passed the Sprite back and forth, and dug our little red forks into the salty, crinkle cut fries.
Once we finished, we made our way back to the car, which was parked conveniently close to the boardwalk. Upon pulling out, we saw Charles Esten (who plays the brooding crooner Deacon Claybourne on Nashville) signing autographs and taking pictures with loyal fans.
When we started on our way to head back home, we turned onto Surf Avenue, passing the real Nathan’s, the very first Nathan’s restaurant where it all started. It was quite a sight, like the Las Vegas strip with bright lights and sparkling signs. It was more impressive than Vegas though because this, this was history. And not just any history, New York history!
As always… stay kissing and stay cooking!
It’s been a while since Kissing Cooks last posted, but if you’ve been following us on Instagram (@kissingcooks) or Facebook, then you know that it’s not for lack of kissing or cooking (or eating or smiling or movie watching or having a ton of fun). It’s summer! Chris and I have been having quite the culinary and romantic adventure with plenty of good eats and even better smooches. Let’s play some ketchup (…or catch up)!
Since last we posted, we’ve enjoyed plenty of delicious brunches (at Toast Coffeehouse and Main Street Bistro), home cooked dinners (of chicken tacos, eggplant parmesan, cheeseburgers, and steak wraps), fabulous date nights out (including Café Formaggio, Butera’s, Wahlburgers, Crazy Crepe Café, The Gilded Otter, Arooga’s, The Cheesecake Factory (which serves gluten-free cheesecake!), and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices, to name a few), as well as one delightful campfire meal (that Chris obviously made!) and a fireside s’mores party of two (with Pamela’s gluten-free graham crackers) during our mini vacation to the New Paltz-Newburgh area in early June. Not only did we share an amazing weekend together staying on the KOA Campgrounds (yes, I camped—in a cabin!), we took in the beautiful countryside, visited the Yankee Folly Cidery (that we discovered at The Chocolate Expo), checked out some antique shops and the Woodbury Commons, experienced our first drive-in movie (we saw Tom Cruise in The Mummy in Hyde Park), had a meat and cheese picnic at Bear Mountain, and most importantly, we ate all the best of everything that the area had to offer (with plenty of gluten free options too), including crepes and gelato (both at Sweet Bunny)!
Not to mention, it’s festival season too, which means that we’ll be hitting up as many local events on Long Island as we can possibly stand. We recently made an impromptu and quick stop at the St. Philip & St. James Church carnival, where we shared our very first authentic amusement park ride (Nunley’s Carousel aside). I’ll never forget Pharaoh’s Fury and the ginger ale I tearfully demanded afterward, especially since Chris took such good care of me (since I’m a frequent victim of motion sickness). We’re having the summer of our lives so far, adding new memories and building a stronger bond in our relationship. Taking risks (like a super fast and nauseating ride at a carnival) and trying new things is what makes every day so exciting to share with each other.
In May, we had the most jam-packed and perhaps busiest day of our lives by attending a taping of The Chew, walking through Central Park, visiting Hunter College (Chris is a former student), exploring some exciting fashion by Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ate dinner at Carmine’s, and saw the phenomenal Sara Bareilles in Waitress on Broadway. Weeks later, we’re still listening to and singing along with the unforgettable songs from the sweet, sweet play. Sugar… butter… flour…
The whirlwind epic that is our first summer together doesn’t stop there either! We’ve walked on Short Beach on a hand-holding sort of rainy evening, explored Port Jefferson and Stony Brook village (stopping in Robinson’s Tea Room), had a late night chips-hummus-orange-Italian-ice picnic during a Fourth of July fireworks show, participated in a game of trivia with TriviaNYC at Hinterlands in Brooklyn, and attended Saint James Summer Nights where we had a food truck dinner from Eat Me Drink Me, the mobile epicurean, followed by some fair favorites, churros and Mister Softee, for dessert.
Also, we’re getting super inspired to make better eating, cooking, and food shopping decisions through lengthy jaunts to Whole Foods, Uncle Giuseppe’s, Trader Joe’s, as well as Sur La Table, IKEA, and The Container Store (holy storage space ideas!). Oh and we binged the entire six seasons of Downton Abbey! That’s the real cherry on the cake that is Summer 2017 (so far).
Just last Friday, we decided to use our grocery resources wisely by defrosting some drumsticks, preparing frozen sweet potato fries (Alexia), and roasting some cauliflower for a filling and savory summer dinner before doing some mall shopping. I was given a full, ready-to-eat head of cauliflower by my parents (who recently went on vacation, fearing the cauliflower would meet a moldy fate). Without ever really preparing a cauliflower side before, I did a little Pinterest reading and set forth by chopping it all up.
I love me some cauliflower. Taking cheese out of the equation (I know it seems cruel), vegetables make me so happy. I’m a girl whose eyes widen at the mere mention of eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, and artichokes. Some of these veggies haven’t been high on Chris’ must-eat list, but I’ve been plotting to change his mind with flavorful methods of veggie preparation that will make his palate sing. He’ll be the first one to tell you how sweet potatoes have changed the way he meal preps. I did that!
Anyway, when Chris arrived at my apartment, our kitchen waltz was soon underway. Chris deskinned the drumsticks, seasoning them with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. While cleaning up between tasks, we both prepared the cauliflower similar to the chicken, also coating the florets with gluten free Italian breadcrumbs (Aleia’s) for a little extra kick and crunch.
Alissa of years’ past was not such a hands-on eater. That is to say that I hated (loathed, abhorred, was repulsed by, you get it) ever eating with my hands. What’s ironic is that two of my all-time favorite snacks / lunches are hand-eating foods: grilled cheese and quesadillas. This might have also been because I worked at a bank for so many years, handling cash and coins on a daily basis. Wet wipes were just as present as dollar signs filled the day because a major pet peeve of mine is having sticky or dirty hands. I’ve become less uptight about how my food gets into my mouth because I know that there are always napkins around that will do the job of cleaning my hands and face after a hearty meal, especially pretty ones with designs and phrases (in my apartment, at least). Although I confess, I still use a knife and fork with my pizza.
However, this past middle school-aged Alissa also detested the “barbaric” experience of eating some sort of chicken-on-the-bone part during a family trip to Medieval Times in Florida. For our dinner, with a jousting tournament as entertainment, large portions of chicken were distributed and ne’ery a fork and knife were in sight. Perhaps it was my immaturity that also hindered the overall experience of escape ad fantasy, but now, I’m a big fan of drumsticks. I’m much more informed and excited about food, which is why having a drumsticks dinner (after buying the package with a BOGO Free sale) was such a feasible and welcomed idea.
Now we’re all caught up and you see that Chris and I really are still cooking at home. Promise! Since we are the Kissing Cooks, it will always be the hallmark of our relationship because we love to eat! Cooking is perhaps when we learn most about each other and work best as a team (except for when we’re quizzing each other on movie trivia during long drives all over Long Island). We already have plenty more upcoming events on our calendars, including Alive by the Bay in Bay Shore this week, Alive After Five in Patchogue next week, and the Food Truck Fest in Deer Park next weekend. In addition, Chris and I will be attending the Secaucus Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo in October, an event that I learned about on my very important and useful Find Me Gluten Free app.
You know what we’ve been up to so far. What about you? Where are you having the best food experiences of the summer? Where do you recommend the Kissing Cooks to eat? What are some of your favorite summer foods?
As always… stays kissing and stay cooking.
Once or twice a year, Nassau County’s Cradle of Aviation is home to The Chocolate Expo. The name “The Chocolate Expo” is rather misleading, as many of the treats Alissa and I encountered were far from chocolate. While there were many chocolatiers on site, there were many other specialties, including beef jerky, hot sauce, peanut butter, peanut brittle, wine, moonshine, hard cider, cheese, and baked goods.
One of the most special parts about this Chocolate Expo is that it takes place in an aviation museum. The Cradle of Aviation is home to over 75 different air and space crafts, showcasing the history of flight. While Alissa and I didn’t pay too much attention to the exhibits in the museum, it was hard to avoid them as the event took place in the museum itself. You could be enjoying a bite of chocolate, turn around, and then see a lunar module.
Something else that made this event even more special was the fact that there were many vendors with gluten free options, some being exclusively gluten free. Shortly after arriving at the event, Alissa and I came upon a table of gourmet nut butters from the company The Peanut Principle. I really wanted to try one of their nut butters, especially the Honey, I Roasted the Peanuts flavor, but I was afraid that I couldn’t eat the pretzels that they were using to sample the nut butters. I went out on a limb and asked if they served gluten free pretzels to use in order to sample their peanut butter. Not only did they have gluten free pretzels, but they shared with us that they exclusively use gluten free pretzels and that all their nut butters were gluten free! While peanut butter is generally gluten free, they had many flavors that you’d imagine would have wheat, like I Want S’more, a s’more flavored peanut butter, or Dashing Thru the Dough, a cookie dough flavored peanut butter. They found creative and tasty ways to get around using wheat in their peanut butters and were one of my favorite booths.
Another booth we visited was Yankee Folly Cidery, a hard cider company located in New Paltz, New York. When one thinks of hard cider, they might think of brands like Angry Orchard or Redd’s Apple Ale. Yankee Folly is a different kind of hard cider, and instead of being bottled in the style of beer, it’s more of a wine. In fact, I’d say it was closer to a Riesling than to a hard cider. The apple flavor was there, as well as the buzz, but it didn’t have the heaviness of most hard ciders. One of the interesting parts about Yankee Folly Cidery is that I’ve driven past the eponymous road over a dozen times from which they derived their name. Yankee Folly Cidery is located on Yankee Folly Road, which is in between the small town of New Paltz and the Shawangunk Mountains. Many summer days were spent walking through those mountains after a few hours’ drive from Long Island. If you find yourself in New Paltz, either for the rock climbing, hiking, or small town charm, I highly recommend a trip to Yankee Folly Cidery for their fine fares.
If you know Alissa, you know that she is very fond of tea. While I would come to know just how fond of tea Alissa was later on in our relationship, it was on our first date that Alissa and I first drank tea together, sitting on opposite sides of a table at the bowling alley in between frames. It was Lipton’s black tea, and while it was good, it paled in comparison to the company. So, why do I bring this up, besides sharing a moment I look back on fondly? Not only does Alissa like tea, but she really enjoys it with honey. She truly enjoyed when we met Sandy Abrams and got the chance to taste her product, Magnolia House Honey. Her booth was filled with so many different flavors of honey to try and buy, ranging from raspberry, blossom (orange), and even mesquite. My favorite part about this booth was the way their display melded with the museum exhibit. It was fitting that the table displaying their product was housed under a U.S. Air Mail tent. It really enhanced the “Magnolia House” feeling.
I’m going to try to convey this next thought as kindly as possible. Everyone at the event had a gimmick. They had a characteristic about them to attract patrons. In a food event, one of the biggest attractions and gimmicks is bacon. I thought that the world lost its fascination with bacon back in 2014. I was wrong, so wrong. I kid you not, the line for Bacon Bites, chocolate covered bacon, was so long that it made me retract my previous notion. Bacon is still a gimmick that gets people’s attention.
Another gimmick is bro-chef, aka DJ Chef, the “Only Entertainer Who Simultaneously Cooks & DJ’s For Special Events World Wide.” DJ Chef had a team with him to promote his brand, and even though we caught him during his down time eating, he took the time to talk to Alissa and me. He shared with us that he had been on the first season of Cutthroat Kitchen and that he has been DJing just as long as he’s been cooking. It was very cool to meet him and chat for a bit.
The Bearded Baker not only specializes in French macarons, but also proves that you don’t have to start shaving come December. His gimmick is not only that he is a bearded man, but also that since studying chemistry, he has an advantage in bringing the best tasting French macarons to market. Scott, the bearded baker himself, was very cool and joyfully shared his wares. I must admit, there may be a bit of beard envy.
The next booth brought a tear to my eye, and it’s not only because it was for Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Gourmet Sauces. Back in 2012, my life changed when Hurricane Sandy came through town and washed away most of my apartment’s contents. I came home the day after the hurricane to see everything in my apartment in complete disarray, including the fridge that had fallen over. Inside that fridge, I had a bottle of Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Chipotle Hot Sauce that I had purchased at a street fair in Bethpage. I lost a lot that day back in 2012, but seeing a glimpse of my past at this event had me welling up. I made sure to bring home a bottle of that chipotle hot sauce, and I hope that I get to finish it this time.
Dragon’s Nest Baked Goods was a fun booth, specializing in gluten free treats. In fact, their motto is “Gluten free. Guilt free.” Their booth featured many baked goods, including cookies, breads, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, and scones. Alissa and I both took home a scone, and the next morning, after a few seconds in the microwave, I dove into a bacon and cheddar scone. The day before the Expo, while in Bay Shore at Local Burger, I had a cheeseburger on a gluten free bun. It is only today as I write this, and after a little research, that I discovered the bun at Local Burger was a freshly baked and delivered Dragon’s Nest product.
I want to take this moment to remind you that while we were walking around this Chocolate Expo, it was in a museum. There was an exhibit that featured three female figures dressed in the garb of the 1940’s. What made this exhibit special is that when I think of women during the 1940’s, Rosie the Riveter and A League of Their Own come to mind. It was this day that I learned a little more about the role of women during World War II. Women were called upon to take up roles as Red Cross Workers, tending to wounded soldiers returning from war, Army Corps Privates, and Air Raid Wardens. It was a prime moment to take a step back and take in a bit of history.
Alissa and I spent several hours at The Chocolate Expo and wished we could go into detail about the many booths we enjoyed. I’d like to thank some of our other favorite companies: Maiden + Liberty, The Cheese Guy, Chocolate Moonshine Co., Raw Chocolate Love, Chez Hedwige, Shrub & Co., and Lake George Distilling Company.
After the expo, Alissa and I took a time machine, back to the 90s. We visited the Nunley’s Carousel, housed adjacent to the museum. It should be noted that Nunley’s wasn’t the first home for this carousel. Having been constructed back in 1912, it first brought joy to world at Canarsie’s Golden City Park in Brooklyn, New York, until 1940 where it found a home at Nunley’s in Baldwin, New York. In 1995, Nunley’s closed their doors and in 2009, the carousel found its home on Museum Row, right next to the Cradle of Aviation.
This was not my first time riding this carousel, having grown up in Nassau County, only a short drive to Baldwin. I have some great memories at Nunley’s. This would be my first time riding it in over 20 years. For $2 apiece, Alissa and I took a ride on that carousel, laughing and enjoying every minute of it.
It was quite the great day, filled with tasty food, plenty of laughs, and we finished with a carousel ride. I would encourage everyone to take a trip to Garden City, New York the next time The Chocolate Expo rides into town. Make sure to check out their website for updates, as well as other locations where the expo appearing. I promise you that you will really make the most of the day if you come to the Cradle of Aviation. Don’t forget to visit the Nunley’s Carousel for some extra history and excitement. That’s all for me this week.
As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.
There are so many exciting and nerve-wracking stages of relationships. Chris and I have been lucky that the early milestones of ours have been nothing short of successful and charming, and some form of food talk appears in almost every conversation we’ve had. With Kissing Cooks, it’s been quite the pleasure to discuss our inspiration and experiences with loved ones as we grow in readership through social media.
When Chris agreed to meet and have dinner with some of my closest gal pals and their families, it was a great night where the laughs were just as abundant as the yummy tacos. He won them over and I couldn’t have been happier since he’d basically won me on our first date months ago! Our hostess of the night, my friend Nichole, prepared ground turkey with a homemade taco seasoning. Chris and I were immediately intrigued by this prospect, especially since we frequently talk about the ideal ways to organize spices and herbs in one’s cabinet (mine, more specifically). Not to mention, this method allowed for us to save some cash on the sometimes sodium-heavy packet varieties on store shelves, so that we may rely on our own flavor preferences to dictate heat levels and what we’re putting into our bodies. Kissing Cooks is not just about the kissing or the cooking; it’s also about building up our repertoires as home cooks, and with that, we hope to do our very best to learn how dishes are made from scratch (in most cases, at least).
A week after our friend fest, Chris and I set out to establish our very own taco tradition by making turkey tacos. It should be said that we both have very different work schedules, and often, I have a little bit of prep time for sides and vegetables (really where my forte thrives) before Chris gets to my apartment. I confess: I usually nosh a bit here and there on a cucumber or cheese during the process just to hold me over.
When Chris called me on his way from work, he suggested an appetizer since it usually takes some time after he arrives to finally sit down to eat together and he was hungry. I was at a loss for a light, gluten free starter to have ready for him after his long day at the office (a lovely addition that I will always keep in mind for us to whet our palettes with in the future). Most of our meals at home together have included some sort of a salad that served just this purpose in the time before dinner was served. I’m only recently transforming my kitchen into a full-time gluten free zone, so I suggested to him that, along with a few other necessities, he pick up something festive, which turned out to be corn chip scoops and mild chunky salsa (both Tostitos), a more than appropriate choice for our south-of-the-border-inspired dinner.
Once the cooking was underway, Chris and I put to good use some of the thawed ground turkey I’d bought in bulk (and on sale). I had some extra corn shells (Ortega—of course gluten free), which made it feel like dinner was halfway ready for us that Friday night. When I researched the necessary ingredients for homemade taco seasoning (here), I was pleased to find that I already had most (garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, paprika, and sea salt) on hand, although Chris made the investment in the more potent and bolder flavors (chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and cumin) to keep for himself. These spices haven’t previously found a home in my pantry because, well, spicy + Alissa = no bueno. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a little kick on my tongue—the kick does not enjoy me; therefore, I’ve had to make healthier food choices to avoid a nasty monster that I’ve been facing for years now, better known as, acid reflux. In an effort to meet Chris’ spicy preferences and my own milder health needs, we adjusted portions and added the final product to our ground turkey, which was browning away in the pan within minutes of his arrival.
In addition, our meal included some favorite taco accessories, including light sour cream (Daisy), chopped iceberg lettuce and plum tomato, a finely shredded Mexican blend of four cheeses (Monterey Jack, cheddar, quesadilla, and asadero), salsa, spicy taco sauce (Ortega), as well as brown rice (Uncle Ben’s). Chris had the idea to season the rice with some dried cilantro, though we probably could’ve used a small squeeze of lime juice and zest (everything should have some zest) over it for a little extra authenticity.
I was also pretty happy to use many of my cute and mismatched mini bowls so that assembling our tacos with our favored accoutrements was easy to do and aesthetically pleasing for our carefully set and colorful table. Since I’d been feeling a little under the weather (darn allergies, or something like that), I opted to pair my delicious dinner with a tall glass of cold, filtered water, and Chris followed suit.
As always, there were plenty of leftovers to be saved for one more satisfying dinner. Ingredients like sour cream and the four-cheese blend would not go to waste either since these are essentials to my go-to anytime favorite dinner, cheese quesadillas (the first home-cooked meal I treated Chris to on our fifth date). Cleanup was a cinch, which only made it more obvious that turkey tacos will definitely be happening again for the Kissing Cooks in the future.
For dessert, Chris and I indulged in his homemade gluten free glazed brownies (Duncan Hines) that he very generously brought over to share with me. He knows all too well about my sweetest sweet tooth. We both highly recommend this amazing boxed mix, if you’re seeking gluten free alternatives to quell your baking needs, because it’s possibly the best gluten free brownie option I’ve tasted so far! With it, I enjoyed a hot cup of Throat Coat tea (Traditional Medicinals) with honey, as we watched the latest hilarious episode of New Girl and talked about our busy weekend plans of banana pancakes for Saturday brunch and attending The Chocolate Expo in Garden City on Sunday (which Chris will be writing about next!).
Maybe next time, our taco night will fall on a Tuesday for punny alliterative purposes, but really, aren’t tacos perfect for any night of the week? How do you like to prepare your tacos? What are your favorite taco toppings? We’d love to hear from our readers and fellow foodies about what inspires you to kiss and cook in the kitchen!
As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.
Deciding that the Kissing Cooks should take on a meatloaf recipe isn’t particularly novel, especially in the grand scheme of dinner planning for any American twosome. A home-cooked meatloaf is as standard a meal as hot dogs and apple pie are representative of this melting pot country of ours. Growing up, there was plenty of beefy meatloaf served, but I’ll admit, I didn’t love much of it. There always needed to be a little extra Parmesan cheese on it for me to come to terms that the meaty slice on my plate was to be eaten—no argument. That’s not to say that the meatloaf my parents made was inedible—they still make it to this day and rigorously enjoy second portions. It’s just that my palette has always swayed away from carnivorous, save for fowl, for no reason more than I just don’t often have the taste for it. Give me cheese, pasta, bread, veggies, and other leafy goodies, and I am pretty darn happy. It’s as simple as that. However, in my childhood, most foods leaned Italian in flavor (with cheese galore), which I never complained about, thus creating an enduring memory of meatloaf. Once I had my own kitchen, and cooking was up to me, interpreting my own meatloaf concoction just never occurred to me.
Now, I’m so much more aware of the groceries that I buy and how to stretch their value to get my money’s worth, especially since Chris and I are having so much fun in the kitchen. After every meal, Chris and I divide up leftovers so he can bring some to work for lunch and I can relive the previous night’s adventure for another dinner. This was definitely the case when turkey meatloaf became the star of this past Tuesday night.
You might ask, how did turkey meatloaf come to be? Well, something essential to know about Chris is that he’s somewhat of a meatball scientist (completely and unofficially unaccredited by any legitimate academic or culinary institution—I am totally granting him this title!). He’s experimented with different recipe combinations at length, combining breadcrumbs with doughnuts and adding hot sauce or brown sugar just to see what would happen. These experiences have extended to our very enjoyable turkey burger dinner from last week (see what those “Smoochburgers” are all about here). So, it was only natural to progress from meatball to burger to grand meatloaf status. I was tickled at the thought of this because as Chris and I grow as home cooks, so do our ideas.
I searched Pinterest for several different turkey meatloaf recipes, since turkey is the official meat of choice for the Kissing Cooks, and I even consulted my mother about the challenge. I already had a loaf pan for future gluten free bread baking aspirations, so step one was covered. After some clicking around, Chris and I agreed that this recipe would work best for our needs—and also, it seemed the simplest, without having to buy too many extra ingredients.
Before I get to the nitty gritty of meatloaf preparation (if there is such a thing), I wanted to share that when I first sat to write this post, I had a mild case of writer’s block. I usually have a cute, punny idea of how to kick things off. My brain was all “Loaf Birds,” because Chris and I are a couple, playing on the cliché of being love birds, and that our main ingredient is turkey. Then there was the “Birds of a Feather, Loaf Together” angle, but I don’t think I could say that title with a straight face and without Chris rolling his eyes. All was blank… until I remembered that lovely Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem (homaged above) and my writing wheels began to turn. Then, I did what any 21st century writer would do when not knowing how to start writing about the glory and pride that comes with making meatloaf. I typed into Google: “the origins of meatloaf” because I knew there had to have been some sort of beginning to the meatloaf mainstay—I just didn’t know what it was. Here’s what I found:
Wowie! Thanks, Wikipedia (a source I seldom encourage my students to use for their research papers)! Meatloaf is tried and true for more than 16 centuries, so how could Chris and I go wrong? The website goes on to list all the different ways how various parts of the world prepare a meatloaf, spanning continents where I’d never dream of eating meatloaf, such as Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, and Vietnam, to name a few. After all of these interpretations have been logged in the history books of cuisine, the thought of Chris and me embarking on our very own version, á la Long Island, felt all right and warm and fuzzy on the inside.
As usual we used ground turkey (Jennie-O), followed by an egg, half a yellow onion (which Chris valiantly prepared since my sensitive eyes teared up after one measly chop) (and a whole onion seemed much too much), gluten free Italian bread crumbs (Aleia’s), 1% milk, and salt and pepper. I whipped up the topping sauce, including ketchup (Heinz), honey mustard (Boar’s Head) for extra sweetness instead of the suggested standard mustard, and light brown sugar (Domino) because that’s what I had on hand. As instructed, we poured the tangy and sweet glaze over the top of the loaf, leaving some extra on the side for dipping. During bake time, we cleaned up and prepared the sides: steamed broccoli and gluten free macaroni and cheese, keeping in theme, we thought, with a hearty and classic dinner. That’s when the Riesling (RELAX) was poured and place settings were thus placed.
When we finally sat down, all was perfectly tasty and filling. There were certainly more servings (and onions in the loaf itself) than we could consume in one sitting. Chris was so excited at the prospect of meal prepping the same recipe for an upcoming work week’s worth of lunches. We then stored our leftovers in some containers, plopped down on the couch for a New Girl viewing, and enjoyed a mixture of sugar free white chocolate and milk chocolate pudding (an easy solution for when that gallon of milk is about to expire) topped with fat free whipped cream.
As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.