Let’s Talk Turkey Tacos!

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).

Alissa & Chris at the New Amsterdam Theater in NYC in January 2017, seeing Aladdin on Broadway. No human brains are actually harmed over the course of our relationship.

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.

Zuppa di Amore

Indulgent.

Comforting.

Soothing.

Satisfying.

Healthy.

Delicious.

Joyful.

These are just some of the words that describe all the feels of food. Wouldn’t you know… the same adjectives apply to love too! Yeah, the love stuff is still on the brain—we are the Kissing Cooks, after all—so, it’s pretty important (and totes obvs) for us to share that every kitchen encounter (whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, or dessert) derives from a place of love. That’s perhaps the most precious ingredient that makes the process and finale all the more valuable with loved ones.

After last week’s adventure in gluten free lasagna, Chris and I decided to kick off our romantic Valentine’s weekend with what’s definitely the ultimate winter go-to meal: soup. Even though the weather here on Long Island has been more like spring in February than actual winter in February, after a long week of work and life, some soup making was definitely in order. Not only did we simmer up a creamy chicken and vegetable soup, but we paired the creation with soup’s best partner in culinary crime: grilled cheese.

However, when I write “Chris and I” regarding the let’s-make-soup idea, I should clarify that it was my stubborn determination that decided the fate of his leftover rotisserie lunch chicken that was stowed away in my fridge for a few days. When I get an idea in my head, especially when it comes to food, I must see it through. The same applies for an outfit combination too, but that belongs in a totally different blog (like Style Darling Daily).

I previously bought a bag of carrots, which came in very useful for a variety of past dinners, including side salads that Chris and I shared prior to the birth of Kissing Cooks. I was beginning to suspect that the fresh carrots were approaching their expiration, so I knew they’d be essential, and we’d be oh-so responsible grocery shopping adults, for this particular dish. It was a most exciting prospect at effective decision making (for me at least).

Alissa & Chris at Ragazzi in Lake Grove, NY in February 2017.

When all of our delicious ingredients were finally on hand (and the “hello” and “I’m so happy to see you” kisses were emphatically exchanged), the cooking began. Chris and I referenced this recipe, reducing our serving size in half, although we also omitted peas (Chris doesn’t like them—sad face) and noodles since our dish was accompanied by grilled cheese (Did you know that angels sing every time a grilled cheese is made?). This included our favorite whole grain gluten free bread (Udi’s) with thin-sliced Swiss cheese (Sargento) and turkey bacon (Oscar Mayer). For the bolder grilled cheese lovers, it should be noted that my sandwich included a slice of tomato and a dash of oregano because that’s how grilled cheese consumption was taught to me when I was growing up (it must be a north shore thing). For the soup, we used the entire container of mirepoix (that’s a fancy way of referring to carrots, onions, and celery) with plenty more carrots since I had the aforementioned extras available. Chris handled shredding the chicken, separating every last flavorful strip of protein to our already simmering, aromatic mixture of low-sodium chicken broth (College Inn), vegetables, freshly minced garlic (I even watched a YouTube video on how to do this because it was my first time not using the jar stuff), gluten free flour (Pillsbury), 1% milk, unsalted butter, and spices.

The warm soupy goodness thickened beautifully, especially as we giggled between more kisses and gasped at the sight of the melting Swiss cheese (and blackened-ish bread—sorry honey, I had to be truthful). Making the soup alone was a pretty efficient task though, only using a few handy pots and pans—that is, until the grilled cheese part happened and the cleanup seemed almost never ending (to no one’s fault, really). I’m certainly not going to crank on about doing the dishes (because nobody likes a whiner—though everybody likes a wino—wink wink) when a delightfully nourishing meal was the cause. Oh hello there segue… I should add that no meal is complete without a companion beverage, and this night was made all the more decadent and tasty with a bottle of crisp, sweet Riesling (Relax), a brand name true to its end-of-the-night-yielding state of mind.

One of my favorite parts of the night (as usual), and most cooking nights with Chris, is the charmingly pleasant conversation that we shared, dually feeding our hearts and minds. We discussed our brunch and shopping plans for the next two days, as well as times to see Lion (so many tears and sniffles, but worth the mascara streams down my face) and reservations for our fancy post-Valentine’s Day dinner out (at Ragazzi in Lake Grove [an Italian kitchen and bar], where there’s an abundance of gluten free menu items served daily).

Following our washing-drying duet at the sink, we contained the two generous leftover servings of soup for further consumption later in the week and finished off the rest of the wine, all before cuddling up on the couch and calling it a night of soup success. We definitely learned a lot about the balancing act that is cooking, relishing in every moment of its gluten free ecstasy.

As for next time, we have big turkey burger plans that’ll certainly make the cut of posts on Kissing Cooks. Thank you so much for taking the time to support our latest installment.

As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.

A Night of Firsts

It was a night of firsts. 

I have to start this post out with that absolute and ominous line because it sounds very Dickensian. When fashion and food aren’t on my mind, it’s all about the books. After all, Charlie is my literary boss hero, and I’m in the middle of reading (or rather, lavishing in) David Copperfield. That’s just a little bit about me as we get to know each other! However, I digress… I don’t want readers to be mistaken that this is a nerdy literary blog, especially when our name is Kissing Cooks. This is a nerdy cooking blog, we promise. Keep reading for some food dish. (Warning #1: Puns exist here.)

So, it was a night of firsts. Tuesday, February 14, 2017 was the first night that Chris and I made lasagna together and ever; individually, it just never happened for either of us, though we can easily lose count at the number of homemade lasagna dinners that we’ve had with family and other fine dining companions over the course of our thirty plus years on Long Island, where the notions of making and having lasagna are as present as our accents. 

Additionally, this post marks the first written installment on Kissing Cooks, which is the first joint project Chris and I are sharing in our young, exciting relationship. Also, we’ve celebrated our first Valentine’s Day together this week, which was every bit the romantic and fun experience any couple could hope for. (Warning #2 [specifically to anyone whose appetite for sentimental borders on barely minimal]: We’re a mushy twosome who really dig each other, as evidenced by this inspired social media milestone in our courtship. Please don’t let that deter you from continuing with us on our yummy journey.) 

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this kitchen-centric experience is the fact that we are a gluten-free couple. Though, I’m a part-time anti-gluten glutton in supportive solidarity with Chris’ healthier dietary needs. However, this first for me is anything but limited when my favorite guy is by my side and we’re going at it, and by that, I mean clanging those pots and pans in cabinets and drawers, preparing as a pair for perfect eats on a somewhat regular basis now. If we weren’t already, we’re totally domesticating each other, what with discussions of kitchen utensil trips to IKEA (handy lists in tow) and how we can incorporate other ingredients into future meals we ogled during our first afternoon browse date through the local Whole Foods Market recently.

Chris & Alissa enjoying brunch at Maureen’s Kitchen in Smithtown, NY in January 2017.

Let’s clear a few things up first. We’re not likely to post actual recipes on here. As much as I love writing about food and feasting my eyes on beautifully photographed, glossy-paged cook books by professional celebrity chefs (Hey Giada de Laurentiis, if you’re reading!), Kissing Cooks is more about inspiring others with our takes on the experience of cooking together, and less about exact formulas for how what we’ve created said dishes. As (let’s be honest) beginner-level home cooks, we love to use recipes found on Pinterest as a reference for whatever our latest meal plan includes. It’s important to mention that Chris and I are not cooking rebels or defying what it takes to create a well-intentioned and delicious recipe, nor do we think that we’re experts in anything involving food. We just love to eat. We love to kiss. And we love food memories. So in order to marry those pleasurable activities, a wordy and picture-heavyish log of our cooking concoctions shall thrive here. What happens in the kitchen certainly won’t stay in the kitchen, at least in our case.

In my own gastronomic quests (specifically baking from the box), I intently read the cardboard container from favorites like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and Duncan Hines. Then, after a few trials of chocolate, I’ve tinkered here and there to discover the necessary tweaks for optimal flavor indulgence and well-accessorized presentation, honing my kitchen instincts. Like an outfit a person wears, how one dresses their food and home (like at the kitchen table) help to create more texture and delight for the whole darn memory. Aside from box baking and pantry scavenging, my only other qualifications for just such a project as Kissing Cooks is binging superfluous hours of cooking shows (for example: The Chew, anything Giada does [are you out there, girl?], and more). I’ve studied a wee bit in the world of food (see our About page to get hella jealous of my festive Florentine feats). Most significantly, I have been actually eating food ALL OF MY LIFE (Chris too!)! Not to mention that said lifetime of eating also includes inspiration from my parents whose time in the kitchen while I was growing up has not only taught me the foundations of food preparation and the importance of time spent together at the dinner table, but a lot about how to manage “adulting,” because such a word is a commonplace verb nowadays.

Let’s get back to the lasagna, shall we? As usual, Chris and I co-piloted: he multitasked, managing the foundation to any delectable lasagna dish comprised of pasta (Tinkyada brown rice lasagna noodles), sauce (Prego traditional), and ground turkey (Jennie-O) browning in some extra virgin olive oil. Whereas I prepared a luscious mixture of (the following store brand, budget-friendly ingredients, including) ricotta and mozzarella cheese (both part skim), two large eggs, and all the appropriate seasonings we love like garlic powder, oregano, and parsley (also, this was my first time actually preparing ricotta with a dash of nutmeg—and it was totally worth it, flavor-wise). In between, we maintained with the cleaning-washing-drying dynamic to stay one step ahead when different kitchenware items were no longer needed (a task I take very seriously since my little one-bedroom apartment doesn’t include a dishwasher, aside from my left and right hands). We referenced a helpful recipe from McCormick for bake time and temperature specifics, which worked out perfectly for a hot minute (not literarlly) to clean up a bit more, set the table accordingly, and watch the latest cackle-inducing episode of New Girl, our go-to what-to-do-during-cook-time show.

Once all was baked and rested, we dug into that sucker like pigs searching for truffles… and man, was it good! We didn’t need to prepare any garlic bread or side salad because we just wanted that lasagna—and seconds of that lasagna, to boot! The best part (for me, at least—Chris wasn’t asked his opinion here) is a tie between the actual preparation of the meal and finally getting our butts seated to enjoy it with each other. While he and I could never run out of goofy, thoughtful, or sweet things to say to each other, the precious silence in between each bite and sip of Pinot Grigio (Cupcake Vineyards) meant more to me than any twelve-hundred-plus-word blog could express.

What’s better is that the icing on the cake (or equivalent silver-lining cheesy topping on the dish, again strictly for me) was that there were plenty of leftovers for Chris and me to relive the gorgeousness of flavor and affection for at least two-to-three more meals the following day or so.

We had such a blast. We’re still talking about it, even a day after the fact. We plan on making some version of this meal again for family and friends in the future. I can’t wait to make more lasagna memories with Chris. Also, I’d like to thank our readers (probably close friends and immediate family) for taking the time to share in the development of Kissing Cooks.

As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.