Kissing Cooks: The Summer Edition

Alissa & Chris in Lake Grove, NY for 4th of July 2017.

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)!

Alissa & Chris at the St. Philip & St. James Church carnival.

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…

Alissa & Chris at Saint James Summer Nights in July 2017.

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.

Alissa & Chris at Bear Mountain State Park.

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.

How Do I Loaf Thee?

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.

Thank you so much for your loyal support, taking the time to read what we’ve prepared, and following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Alissa & Chris on the LIRR in January 2017.

As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.