Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.


Posted: June 18, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

You should all know by now that I love a challenge, especially in the kitchen.  My sister sent me a text the other day presenting me with such a challenge and immediately the wheels started turning.  She sent me a picture of a cookie one of her coworkers had made.  It was an Oreo cookie, INSIDE a chocolate chip cookie.  Now of course I couldn’t just recreate this and be on my way, because I’m an obnoxious pain in the ass.  I had to figure out how to make it better.  By a show of hands, who knows what ingredient will make ANY recipe better?  Anyone?  Thats right…


Some of you may be rolling your eyes, some of you may (sadly) be gagging, and some (hopefully most!) are throwing up your arms in joy.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you…

Oreo Stuffed Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Start with a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe a package of Oreos and 5 slices of thick cut bacon.  End with a mouthgasm.

While you are putting the cookie dough together, cook the bacon in the microwave until very crispy.  Crumble/dice the bacon when its done and cooled and add it to the dough with the chocolate chips. 

I had some trouble trying to figure out the best way to “stuff” the Oreo inside.  First I tried to sandwich the Oreo between mounds of cookie dough, and that worked out pretty well, but I wanted to try some other methods.  So then I greased up my hands and totally engulfed the Oreo into a ball of dough.  Again, pretty good, but I tried one more method just because I could.  The third time around I stared with an Oreo on the cookie sheet then just mounded the dough on top.  All three methods are acceptable and effective, it just depends on which one you feel like. 

Just like regular cookies, bake them at 375, for about 7 minutes. 

Let it be…

Posted: June 5, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | 2 Comments »

As cooks I think we have the tendency to over complicate.  Normally this is a good thing, trying to increase the complexity of a dish by layering flavors and balancing all the components to acheive that perfect bite.  However I think that sometimes these goals give us tunnel vision, and make it easy to lose sight of the fact that sometimes some things should just be left alone. 

Today I was in the grocery store and  they had the most beautiful strawberries I’ve ever seen.  Immediately my mind started racing with ideas of things I could do with them.  Strawberry-basil filled chocolate cake, strawberry balsamic sauce over porkchops, strawberry rhubarb crumble, strawberry margaritas, the list goes on….So obviously I had to buy them. 

Of course, with all those things in my head I just couldn’t decide so I just started eating them.  They were so delicious!  In my efforts to be creative and expand my cooking horizons it hadn’t even occured to me to just eat them as they were.  Those of you rolling your eyes right now, its cool, I know I’m an idiot.   

When I was little my mom always used to cut up strawberries and mix them with sugar or whipped cream as a treat, and when I was in Denmark, dessert was almost always fresh berries with whole milk poured over them.  Its been so long since I just ate a strawberry without anything else I had forgotten how much I really like them.

  I feel like this has sort of been a theme in my life recently.  I spend so much time worrying about all the crazy things that complicate life, I tend to forget the simple things that help me relax and keep me focused,  like cooking, listening to music and reading.  Its easy to say this now, with summer break just a week away, but I really want to try and focus on keeping things simple, both in my food and in my life. 

Lets see if I can…

Not so good

Posted: May 20, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | 1 Comment »

Spring is finally here!!  Of course, this week its disgusting and rainy, but last week was beautiful and I was finally willing to go outside for more than just a few minutes.  So when a friend invited me over to grill out for the first time this year, I was SUPER pumped.  She offered to provide the salad, tequila and grill and I provided the meat.  Grilled steak and ceasar salad, the perfect summer meal (yes, I know its only spring but don’t hate on my hopefulness). 

When I got to her place, I realized we might have a problem…neither of us really knew how to keep a charcoal grill going.  We kept setting it on fire, but it didn’t really take.  Finally out of seer perseverance and statistics we got some of the charcoal going.  So we put the lid on and let it heat up for a bit, then we put the steak on.  Barely a sizzle.  Damn. 

I think that we weren’t getting enough air to the coals because after five minutes on a side, we discovered that we hadn’t so much “grilled” it, so much as smoked the shit out of it.  Oddly enough at that point the grill had gotten enough to cook the other side, so the steak had sort of a Joker thing going on.  It was delicious, but the experience made painfully obvious the fact that as competent as I am in the kitchen, I am completely challenged in the realm of grilling.  As summer rolls around, I plan to spend a lot of time outside with friends, drinks and food, so hopefully I will gain some MUCH needed experience. 

Summer Goal:  Stop being a crappy griller…

Busy Bee

Posted: May 15, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

These last couple of weeks have been a bit of an adventure.  Tons of stuff at work, family stuff, friend stuff and just general life stuff have all converged this month, like that giant Power Ranger from when I was a kid (although not as young as I probably should have been to be watching Power Rangers).  Somewhere in the craziness I got suckered into volunteering some baked goods for the annual parent auction that the school puts on to help fund scholarships.  When you put  something in the context of helping students apparently I just start volunteering things.  The family that won my “prize” is the family of one of my students so when his mom called me to ask if I would do the desserts for his confirmation this weekend, I was more than happy (and obligated) to do it. 

I have also recently found out that when I put my head phones in and rock out while making dinner, my neighbors who are also colleagues can totally hear me.  Awesome…

These two previously mentioned facts led to my awesome day of baking today.  I figured it was way too late to save face now since I’ve lived here for about 8 months now, so I hurled caution and embarassment to the wind and put together an epic baking play list and jam while I baked for the confirmation dinner.  I started at around noonish and finished up at just about 6 when I had to leave to bring them to the event.  I made meringue sandwiches with chocolate ganache and lemon curd filling, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and truffles. 

I started with the meringues since those had to bake the longest.  For this one I left out the chocolate chips since I was sandwiching and filling.  I whipped up the egg whites and sugar until the meringue was really tight and then piped it in even rounds about an inch across.  I smushed down the peaks to make them as even and flat as possible.  If you want to smooth out your meringue just dip your finger in a little water and gently poke them down.  I put them in the oven and then got started on the chocolate ganache and then the lemon curd.  Chocolate ganache at this point is one of those things that I’ve done enough so its like second nature, so that went pretty quickly, but the lemon curd I had never made before, so it was a bit more time consuming/confusing/challenging.  First you have to wisk together the sugar and egg yolks, then add the lemon zest and juice and wisk it over boiling water until it thickens, which mine did not do easily.  Finally you remove it from the heat and stir in the butter one pat at a time.  the end result is delicious, but I’m definitely going to have to make it a few more times before I get the swing of it. 

When I was done with the ganache and curd, I still had like 30 minutes for the meringues so I put together my brownie batter  and cookie dough.  At this point, chocolate chip cookies are about as natural to me as breathing, so I pretty much just turn on my stand mixer and go down the list of ingredients. 

I took the meringues out and put the brownies in, then set up my sammich station.  meringue, dollop of ganache or curd, meringue, done.  I meant to get pictures of all the finished products, but that went by the wayside, as a lot of things often do. 

Once the brownies were done, I started in on baking the cookies which is easy but requires more attention since each batch only cooks for 5-7 minutes.  In between, I used the left over chocolate ganache to make truffles. half coated in dutch processed cocoa, the other half coated in sprinkles.  Who doesn’t love sprinkles? 

The truffles are super easy.  Take chilled ganache, spoon out desired amount, roll into a ball and then coat in whatever.  the major challenge here is being willing to get your hands dirty.  I tend to use cocoa powder to keep enough friction on my hands so that the truffle doesn’t just melt into the shape of your palm.  Use the cocoa like you would flour on your hands while kneading dough. 


You are going to get dirty while doing this.  Suck it up, try to remember not to rub your face and wash your hands before and after.  I tend to be of the mind that if you aren’t willing to get your hands dirty, then you should be willing to get the hell out of my kitchen. 

Chocolate Ganache:

22 oz bittersweet chocolate

2 cups heavy cream

Chop chocolate, or use chocolate chips and put in a large bowl.  Bring cream to a summer then pour over the chocolate wisking contantly.  If you just pour the cream over the chocolate and don’t stir it, the chocolate might separate and your ganache will be really liquidy.  If that happens, add some COLD cream and wisk until it is the desired thickness.

Lemon Curd:

5 Egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup lemon juice

zest of 4 lemons

1 stick unsalted butter sliced into pats and chilled.

Wisk together eggs and sugar, then add lemon zest and juice.  Place over a saucepan of simmering water (not touching water) and wisk until it thickens.  Remove from heat and add butter one pat at a time, wisking along the way.  TaDa!  Lemond curd.

 Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1 cup shortening OR butter

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1-1/2 tsp salt

2 cups flour

Start with shortening and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Keep the mixer on medium speed and add each ingredient, allow each one to be incorporated before you add the next.  Once everything is mixed in, turn the mixer off and fold in 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips by hand.  Spoon onto cookie sheets and bake for 5-7 minutes each, until the edges start to brown but you are still a little nervous that they are under cooked.  They will keep cooking, I promise.  Pull them out and let them cook on the sheet.  If you keep letting them cook in the oven, they will be over cooked and then you will be frustrated and asking yourself why you didn’t listen to me in the first place. 

Songs that my neighbors heard my belting out all afternoon (I know, its ecclectic, and I have some seriously contradictory taste in music, don’t judge)

Adele- One and Only

Adele- Someone Like you

Adele – Rolling in the Deep

Adele- Rumour Has It

Alkaline trio – Love, Love, Kiss, Kiss

Amanda Seyfried- Thank You for the Music

Avenue Q- What do you do with a B.A. in English

Avenue Q -Mix Tape

The Beatles- Let It Be

Ben Folds – Annie Waits

Ben Folds- Zac and Sara

Doug Stone- Why Didn’t I Think of That

The Fray- You Found Me

Garth Brooks- She’s Every Woman


Glee-Dont Stand So Close To Me

Glee- Loser Like Me


Glee-Somebody to Love

Glee-Never Going Back Again

Ingrid Michaelson- Be Ok

Miranda Lambert- More Like Her

Mumford and Sons-Roll Away Your Stone

Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

Natasha Beddingfield- Never Had A Love Like This

Nora Jones- Come Away With Me

Van Halen- Why Can’t This Be Love

Pain in the Ass

Posted: April 25, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | 2 Comments »

Have you ever had one of those recipes that sounds simple and delicious, andthen about half way through you realize its actually a giant pain in the ass, and it damn well better be worth it?  I found this recipe for chicken with mushrooms and tomatoes, which sounded super good and at first glance is pretty simple.  Look again my friends, because some of that stuff doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Like the part where it says you might need to brown the chicken in batches, and then it tells you to put it all back in the skillet with all the other stuff you’ve put in there.  Now I’m nowhere near a professional chef, and my spacial skills are pretty suspect, but if I can’t fit all the chicken in the pan by itself, how the hell am I going to fit it in with all the vegetables and sauce?!  So as usual, I have taken the basic recipe and changed it to fit my lifestyle choices. 

Start by putting about 1 tbsp olive oil into a large pan over medium high heat.  Sautee 1 oz pancetta until its brown and crispy (as bacon should be).  Remove it from the pan and set it aside.  Season 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown on both sides.  I did this in three batches because thats what my pan would fit.  I also like to spread out my chicken thighs so they cook faster.  yes I know that sounds super dirty, but get your damn heads out of the gutter…

Set aside the chicken and add another Tbsp olive oil to the pan.  Quarter about 10 oz ( one container) of mushrooms and add them to the pan.  I used white mushrooms because thats what I had, but I feel like any sturdy mushrooms would do it.  When I threw in the mushrooms, they absorbed the liquid so fast I couldn’t believe it, so I ended up throwing in about a Tbsp of unsalted butter as well.  Brown the mushrooms until they are done then add 1 medium diced onion and three diced garlic cloves.  At this point I also threw in two sliced leeks because I had them and felt like putting them in, wanna fight about it?  Once everything is pretty well cooked, open a small can of whole plum tomatoes and crush each tomato with your hands and put them in the pan.  BE CAREFUL  I almost took a freaking eye out with one of those bad boys, you might want to pierce it before you squeeze because the pirate look is not really in this season.  I also like to leave out the tough top part of the tomato, but thats just my own weird hand up.  So once the tomatoes are added cook them for a few minutes.  The recipe says cook them until they are brick red, but that seems like a weird indicator to me, so I just cooked them for about 5 minutes.  Then add the liquid from the tomatoes, throw the pancetta back in and bring it to a simmer.  This is where the recipe stopped making sense to me so I went rogue.  Pour and juice from the chicken into the sauce and put the chicken into a casserole dish (roasting pan, whatever you have).  Simmer the sauce for a few minutes and then pour it over the chicken.  Bake it at 400 for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Take it out of the oven and remove the chicken.  Add some shredded parmesan and mix the sauce until the cheese is melted.  The pan I used was metal so I just threw it on a burner for a minute until the cheese was fully incorporated.  Plate the chicken and top it with the sauce.  Luckily, for all the pain in the ass-ness, this was super yummy and comfort foody.  I just ate it as it tonight, but I think tomorrow I’m going to have it over parmesan and pepper spaghetti squash. 

I am not posting a picture of this one because it looked like a giant mess, but once again I assure you it was very delicious.

Crazy things happening in life right now, so I will be relying heavily on my kitchen therapy for the next couple weeks.  Get ready for some interesting kitchen shenanigans.

A Little Creativity

Posted: April 17, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | 2 Comments »

This year when I moved into my new apartment, I was excited to see that it had a dining room.  Unfortunately I quickly realized that I have no furniture for  a dining room, so I really had no reason to be excited.  In fact, it even has these great built in glass front cabinets for china…that I use as bookshelves.  So finally, FINALLY, a couple weeks ago while I was at IKEA I decided to bite the bullet and buy a table.  But now, I have no chairs.  Eventually I’m sure I will get my dining room (and life) together, and at that point I will be extremely excited to be able to have people over for a legitimate dinner rather than pizza on my coffee table in front of the Pats game ( don’t worry I’ll turn the TV so we can still watch the game, what kind of fan do you think I am?).   Because I haven’t been able to have people over and put together a meal for more than just me, I have all these creative ideas backing up in my head.  Sometimes I have to let one or two out so that I my head doesn’t explode like a water balloon that you leave on the faucet for too long.  Tonight was one of those nights.  I’ve had this idea for a while, and tonight I decided to put it into action, or at least see how big a failure it would be.  So this evening I made my first ever parmesan bowl. 

All I did was grate about a cup of parmesan and put it in a really good non-stick pan over medium heat.  I sprayed the pan, just in case, but it probably wasn’t necessary.  Spread the cheese in a even layer on the bottom of the pan and let it sit until it all melts and forms a disk.  Once it starts to get a little brown turn the heat off and let it cool in the pan for a couple minutes until it is cool enough to handle but still pliable.  Put it in whatever size/shape bowl you want and let it cool fully and harden.  Then you can do anything you want with it, just be careful.  The shell is pretty resilient, but still breakable.  I used mine as a salad bowl tonight, but that was just beacuse thats what I had for dinner.  I’m really liking this idea, I think I’m going to test it out with different cheeses and shapes…perhaps I’ll starts a whole new trend of cheese sculpting (probably not, that sounds gross).  Hopefully boyfriend won’t get too excited about this next statement but I think this would make a pretty good taco shell too (he really likes tacos).   Leave some of your creative ideas on what you might do with this.  I know you have them…

PS.  I figure this could go unsaid, but its also super delicious.  It kind of filled in where croutons should have been in my salad.  Yum!

Challenge Round Two: Scallops

Posted: April 13, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

This week seems to have exploded on me.  Yesterday work went crazy and my whole schedule got all bajiggidy (I swear its a word, but don’t look it up) so I couldn’t attempt my scallops until tonight.  All day I’ve been thinking about making dinner, which probably doesn’t instill much confidence in the fact that I was supposed to be working, but I promise I was attentive to my students today.  I decided to adapt a recipe that I had seen from the Blue Jean Gourmet who has an incredible blog, by the way.  Most of my modifications were out of necessity, but others were just a matter of preference.  Those of you that have read me before should know that I literally can not look at a recipe without changing it somehow, apparently I’m a food diva…who knew?  Here’s how this one rolled out, once again please forgive me for not having exact measurements (my sister hates when I do this).

I started with about a half pound of bay scallops, because they were on sale, which worked out to be about 10ish scallops.  I seared them in a pan with a couple Tbsp of butter.  I used a nonstick pan, so I didn’t get as good a crust as I could have, but I worked out my chest, back and arms yesterday so the prospect of cleaning (or moving) my cast iron was really upsetting.  Im pretty sure that by the time I had finished cleaning it I would have been so tired I would have settled for a string cheese and croutons for dinner and these damn scallops would have never gotten cooked.  I think I made the right decision.  Anyway…

I seared the scallops for about 3-4 minutes on each side, then took them out of the pan and set them aside.  I added about another 1-1/2 Tbsp of butter along with a mixture of chopped leek and white onion.  Those were the only kind of onions I had so I just threw them in.  I also added diced garlic and about 2 tsp of the same garlic-chili paste I used for the shrimp in my last post.  That cooked until the onion and leeks were soft, then I added white wine.  I didn’t measure it, I mostly just pour until I want to take a drink of the wine and have to stop.  Maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup.  Let that simmer until its thickened a bit, then I added about 2 Tbsp of cream and simmer again to thicken it.  Throw the scallops and some fresh basil back into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes.  I served it over couscous because thats the only starch-ish thing I had, but it actually worked really well and was super delicious.  I still think I can do better cooking the scallops, but for the first time cooking them, I would call it a success. 

Thanks to the Blue Jean Gourmet for the great inspiration, it was delish!  Now hopefully the rest of my week will settled down because my weekend is going to be BANANAS.

A New Challenge

Posted: April 10, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

There are some foods that intimidate me.  Some of them just seem like a hassle, while others I just don’t know what to do with.  Seafood is basically a whole category of intimidation for me.  Probably because I don’t really eat a whole lot of it, so it isn’t part of my regular repertoire.  Recently I’ve been working on challenging myself more, so this weekend I decided to challenge myself in the kitchen.  At the grocery store I bought shrimp and scallops.  I’ve never cooked either of these, so I wasn’t really sure what I would do with them, but I figured it was worth a shot just to see if I could successfully use these ingredients.  When I got home, I decided that it was probably best to divide and conquer.  So tonight I tackled the shrimp, and I will get to the scallops later this week. 

Today was first truly beautiful spring day so I wanted something a little lighter, but still filling.  So I decided to go balls to the wall make a shrimp noodle bowl.  For those of you that like to have exact measurements, you are going to hate this recipe.  I sort of just made things up as I went, so I didn’t measure anything.  As you are making the sauce just keep sticking your finger in and try it, add whatever you think it needs, and then try it again.  I will try to give you general amounts, but that the best I can do. 

You are going to need

1 egg and one egg white

1/2 (ish) cup soy sauce

1-2 tbsp of olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

small scoop (1/2 tsp?) asian chili-garlic sauce

dash of ginger

juice from 1/2 a lime

1-2 tsp minced garlic

2ish tsp brown sugar

8oz shitake mushrooms

3 green onions

1/2 lb peeled deveined shrimp

1/3 pkg thin rice noodles

First whisk together the eggs and sautee briefly  in olive oil until the eggs are cooked through.  break it into pieces while its finishing up cooking.  They should resemble the pieces of egg you might find in fried rice.  Remove the egg from the pan and let sit.  Whisk together the soy sauce, chilli, ginger, oil, garlic, lime, wine and brown sugar.  Adjust ingredients until it tastes like you want it to.  Take about 2-3 Tbsp of the sauce and put it in a plastic bag with the shrimp to coat it with the sauce. 

While the shrimp is hanging out in the sauce, set the noodles up to cook according to the package.  I usually just put them in hot water for like 10 minutes and they’re good.  In a skillet heat like 2ish tbsp olive oil and throw the shrimp in to cook.  Toss in the oil and keep tossing them while they cook so that they all cook evenly.  Now, this being my first time cooking shrimp I wasn’t really sure when they were done, so I just ate them to see.  If any of you have a better way to tell if shrimp are cooked PLEASE leave it in the comments because the first one I tried was not cooked, and I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten an undercooked shrimp, but its gross.  Really gross. 

Once the shrimp is cooked, set it aside with the egg and toss in the green onion,  mushrooms and the rest of the sauce.  Cook the vegetables for a minute or two until the mushrooms are soft.  Then throw the egg, shrimp and noodles back in with the veggies and toss everything together so it all gets coated in sauce.  Cook for another minute, then serve. 

You can totally adjust this recipe to your taste (because I made it up)  add different vegetables, use a different protein, whatever…

Challenge Shrimp: success

Stay tuned for Challenge Scallop…its gonna be a good one.

New Toys

Posted: April 6, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I get new stuff I can not wait to go home and try it.  Clothes, shoes, electronics, kitchen stuff, I have a compulsion to find a way to use it.  Many times I will create a situation in which I get to try out my new kitchen toys.  For example:  when I got my immersion blender, I also went out and bought all the ingredients for garlic soup simply because it was the first recipe I could find that required an immersion blender.  Also, I mean, garlic soup, who is going to fight against eating that? Its creamy, garlicky and cheese.  If that doesn’t sound good to you, I’m seriously concerned about you. 

So recently I got some new pastry tips, but I’m hesitant to make a whole cake or batch of cupcakes mostly due to the fact that after baking and decorating, I would then proceed to eat, and eat, and eat and eat.  Now its one thing to eat a whole batch of risotto or rice-a-roni (a secret passion of mine, shut up), however to eat an entire cake is a bit extreme.  Luckily, Tuesday was one of my student’s 16th birthday so it was the perfect excuse to make cupcakes!  Hooray!!  Pink is her absolute favorite color, so I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with pink icing. 

Once the cupcakes were all baked and cooled, I threw together some white icing, mixed in 3 drops of red food dye and viola!  I tried out a bunch of my new piping tips, but I think that I played for a little two long and by the end the frosting had warmed up considerably and was becoming way to soft.  My bad.  Turn out I still have A LOT to learn about piping, but I think some of them turned out pretty cute, and my student really liked them, which was the ultimate point.  Hopefully I get another chance to practice soon…I think there is another birthday coming up next week.  Sweet!


On another note, while I was in the living room writing this, Jasper somehow managed to knock over a batch of biscuits I had made and was plowing through them by the time I got into the kitchen.  Can you see the guilt in his eyes?  Can you see his eyes?

Favorite Things

Posted: April 2, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

I wish I could say that this was going to be like Oprah’s favorite things where you all get a bunch of awesome stuff as you read this, but I think its time for us to face some facts… I’m not Oprah.  I know, I know, in some ways we are just alike.  I mean just like Oprah I am adored by all, have a dedication to education, and have an awesome best friend,  but thats about where the similarities end.  If I were like her in the fact that she has a squillion dollars to with as she pleases, trust me, you guys would all be getting some sweet swag.  Alas, I am broke, so you guys just get to read all about my favorite things and pine. 

I know this is a food blog, but not all of these things are food related, so deal with it.

1.  Free time.  Boyfriend and I just went on our first vacation together, and to be honest it was both of our first vacation with a significant other.  And if that wasn’t a big enough step for you, we also took it as an opportunity for him to meet my family.  It was so much fun, I didn’t want it to end.  For those of you that don’t know, boy and I live about 700 miles apart, so just the fact that we got to spend 5 days together continuously was awesome.  But also, we got to hang out at the beach, watch the waves, and chill at a tiki bar, so…not so terrible right?  Now because this is a food blog, I will in fact give you a run down of two of the places we went that really stand out in my head.  First and foremost, if you are ever in Myrtle Beach or the surrounding area you should definitely check out the Ultimate California Pizza.  I love pizza, but this is probably the best pizza I’ve ever had.  The crust is amazing and I’m super jealous and I want to learn how to make it, and you can put pretty much anything on it.  Delicious.  We went for the sausage, onion and bacon, but I’m sure anything would be great on it.  Boy isn’t really into things like mushrooms or olives (my two favs), so next time I think I’m just going to have to get my own pizza ;) .  Second, is a place that I don’t remember the name of, but its not really the exact place we went to rather the idea behind it.  We tried out a Brazilian steak house for the first time and all I can say is holy crap.  If you like meat, I would seriously consider this option.  All the sides are serve yourself buffet and the meat is served tableside.  Basically guys come around with tons of different kinds of meat and you can try whatever you want.  I honestly thing I had probably about 10 kinds of meat that night.  It was super good, although this is definitely a place where you will eat too much. 

On the last day of our vacation we went down to visit my family, which was really exciting.  I got to hang out with my neice and nephew who are getting so big and are just freaking ADORABLE.  It was good to see everyone and I’m really glad that boyfriend finally got to meet more of my family. 

2. The Kitchenaid Professional 600 series stand mixer.  It is a kitchen rockstar.  I still love my Artisan series, don’t think that I don’t, but if my mixer is Greenday, then the P600 is The Beatles. Like the bands, I love them both, and I grew up loving the Artisan, but its just a different level than the P600. 

3.  Cooking days.  Getting back from vacation was sad, but I still had a few days off so I have had plenty of time to cook and cook and cook.  Wednesday was particularly good, I made two loaves of bread (one of which will become bread pudding), sausage and mushroom risotto, and chicken stock (half of which went on to become chicken soup).  This weekend however, will be more like prep days.  We head back to school on Monday so I am trying to build up a stock of good meals and snacks because I know I’m going to be exhausted for the first week.  Although now that is (kind of) spring I have a lot more fruit and veg choices which is pretty sweet. 

4.  My new Champion fitness tone sneakers.  They don’t look stupid like the origninal “tone up” sneakers, and they were about 1/4 of the price at Payless and if the soreness in my calfs and ass have anything to say about it, they do SOMETHING.  I’m not expecting a total transformation, but every little bt helps right?  Actually, while I’m at it…

5.  Payless Shoe Source.  My sisters have instilled an unhealthy love of shoes in my mind, so going to PSS is like a little kid going to Disney.  Especially during summer when I can get all kind of cute summer sandles.  yay!

So there you go, a little food, a little random, and a lot of favorite…

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.