S’mores Cinnamon Rolls

with graham cracker dough

I’m going to be inundating you with graham cracker recipes over the next few weeks. Prepare thyselves. You’re going to be drooling. Graham crackers are one of my all time favorite things. They’re a sweet, but not too sweet, and they pair perfectly with classic dessert ingredients: chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallow, vanilla, cinnamon, etc. It’s impossible to bake with them without snagging one or two to snack on as you go. Thankfully they aren’t so unhealthy that you feel awful about it later. Although I guess you might feel a little guilty if you, like me, stand in the kitchen tasting every element of every baked good you make, then building a graham cracker-marshmallow-peanut butter-chocolate sandwich. Whatever, that’s what the gym is for. That’s tomorrow-Sydney’s problem. Today-Sydney is going to enjoy her sandwich. Weekends don’t count, right? That’s how I like to live my life. One weekend to the next.

Smores Cinnamon RollsBeers, beach, doughnuts and drinking games in North Carolina.

Yeah, so, anyway – there’s going to be lots of graham cracker goodies ’round these parts. I figured the best place to start was with these s’mores cinnamon rolls. The idea came to me almost instantly. Sweet graham cracker dough rolled up with my homemade marshmallow fluff and chocolate filling sounded like heaven, and believe me, it was. I’m blissfully proud of these babies. I want everyone to try them. They taste exactly like a campfire s’more. It’s incredible. I brought the whole pan over to my friend’s house because Kramer and I would have gotten into them at midnight one evening and not stopped until they were all gone. The dough is pillowy and soft, and the marshmallow filling is addictive. You can certainly use a jar of Fluff if you don’t feel like making your own, but I would recommend just trying to make it because 1. When it comes together, it seems like magic and 2. It’s cheaper than buying it on your own, plus you’ll have enough left over to spread on top of the rolls like a a beautiful genius. Bake these off for your next brunch or summer party. People will love you forever.

Smores Cinnamon Rolls

This weekend, Kramer and I were really looking forward to going to a Battle of Brooklyn reenactment at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which sounded so nerdy and awesome, but we found out yesterday that it was canceled! I am so bummed out. I love reenactments. We went to a Civil War one on Governors Island last year, and I’ve even been to Tombstone, Arizona to see the O.K. Corral reenactment. Thanks a lot, Brooklyn – you’ve really let me down. I think in light of my disappointment, we’ll end up going to The Zombie Hut for a round of conciliatory tiki drinks. Hopefully followed by a meal of conciliatory Thai food at Pok Pok. I can be very convincing after a round of said tiki drinks. Tonight, though, is all about The Simpsons. I’m excited to finally have someone else pick episodes for me. We’re going to go to our friend’s house to watch, laugh and maybe sneak in a game of Pandemic or Settlers of Catan. We get pretty crazy, I know.

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Kale, Cherry & Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

with creamy lime vinaigrette

Our second day in DC was even more fun than the first. My brother Dane lives in Baltimore, so he took the train down to meet us and wander around the city. We hadn’t seen him in a while, so it was good to get together. We started out with breakfast at Founding Farmers in DC, where we immediately hopped onto the fatty-fat train by ordering a huge plate of freshly fried beignets. They were worth every bite. After breakfast, we took a much needed walk down to the White House lawn, where we saw Marine One taking off. Honestly, it was pretty cool to see that giant chopper flying over our heads. After hamming it up for a bit in front of the camera (totally necessary on any vacation), we walked over to the National Museum of American History, putzed around there for a while, then made our way to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and whatnot. The best part of this portion of the trip, I have to say, was the guest book in the archives. It was basically the comments section of a museum, with most comments saying something along the lines of, “Your guards are rude!” and “The lines here are too long!” I flipped through every page of that, believe me. We were pretty museumed-out after all of that, so we found a bar that had cold beer and lots of board games. Of course, we played Settlers of Catan and ate pretzels with queso. After Kramer beat Dane and me, we hopped in a cab and met up with some old Arizona friends in Adams Morgan, which reminded me of Williamsburg so I felt right at home. After dinner and some more drinks at Madam’s Organ, we headed back to our hotel, but not before having a piece of pie and one last cocktail at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. Next up: North Carolina!

Kale Cherry Sweet Potato SaladKramer and me on the White House lawn.

On to recipe three of my tart cherry journey. If you’re unaware, I’ve partnered with the Cherry Marketing Institute to bring four lip-smacking tart cherry recipes to you this summer. And I’m certainly not mad about it! Plus, this post features an even more exciting element: a giveaway! Choose Cherries is giving you the opportunity to not only win some tart cherry juice and dried tart cherries like the ones used in this recipe, but they’re also giving away a Le Creuset stoneware set, Le Creuset cooking tools and an Anthropologie apron! Those are some seriously awesome prizes if you ask me – any cook covets stoneware from Le Creuset, and I love anything from Anthro. To win, just Tweet about the contest here or leave a comment on this post, making sure to add your email address. The contest will run through Friday, August 29th, so be sure to enter! Anyway – on to the recipe.

Kale Cherry Sweet Potato Salad

Who doesn’t love tart cherries? They’re much more nutritious than sweet cherries and add a more interesting flavor to your usual dishes. For example, this kale salad. A simple sprinkling of dried tart cherries packed a ton of deliciousness into my typical lunch, and added a great texture. Each bite of dried tart cherry was like a little treat – I’m sure you’ve all been there. You have a favorite part of your salad, and you try to savor the best parts so that the last bite is a combination of regular lettuce plus whatever the star of the show is that day. You know that my last forkful of this salad was a perfectly composed bite of kale, sweet potato, almond and dried tart cherry. Kramer is not a huge fan of kale, so I had to be creative with this salad. I’ve found that the best way to handle kale is to make a hearty dressing, first and foremost. Kale is a hearty green and needs a dressing that can hang in the game. I’m a sucker for anything with grainy mustard, so I did a simple dressing of mustard, a little mayonnaise and lime juice. Cherries and limes are a natural combination, so why not? The next, and most important factor in making the best kale salad you can, is to really man-handle those leaves. I poured my dressing onto the kale, added my ricotta salata (which is a salted ricotta and absolutely fantastic), and squeezed. You want to get the dressing into each and every crevice of the kale, so that the acid in the lime breaks down the greens a little bit and the cheese blends with the dressing for a creamier result. Don’t be afraid to get aggressive with it! Once you’ve sufficiently scrunched and squeezed, toss the kale with roasted sweet potatoes, a sprinkle of slivered almonds and, of course, your dried tart cherries. This is a vibrant salad, alive with both flavor and texture, that even the wariest of kale will enjoy. Perhaps the best part of this salad is that it holds up really well. I’d even go as far as to say that I liked it better the second day, making it the perfect plan-ahead weekday lunch.

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Cherry-Almond Overnight Oats

with chia seeds

So – our trip to DC. We took the train down on a Friday morning and got to our hotel by the early afternoon. We ditched our bags and headed out to be tourists. First, though, we required sustenance. We ate at DGS Delicatessen, where we split latkes, cabbage rolls with orzo, and a big pastrami sandwich with sauerkraut. It really hit the spot. Full, we began our tour. We saw the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the World War ll Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. We took a break in between to sit in the shade by the reflecting pool. It was a super hot and humid day, but it was a nice walk. We were a bit tired from waking up early, though, so we headed back to our hotel for some pool time. We both fell asleep on our pool chairs, ha. We had a glass of wine, did some reading, then headed out to start the evening. We had dinner and drinks at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, which was excellent. We ordered crab and shrimp ceviche, wood grilled oysters with chile oil, mussels in a buttery broth, and rock fish with mushrooms. We were completely stuffed, and walked it off a bit before stopping into 2 Birds 1 Stone for a couple of cocktails. I loved this little bar, especially because of its clean, all white decor and the fact that you had to enter through a somewhat hidden underground entrance. We were back at the hotel by 11 or so, where we immediately fell asleep. We needed our beauty rest for day two!

Cherry Almond Overnight Oats

As previously discussed, I’m working with the Cherry Marketing Institute to bring you four delicious tart cherry recipes for the summer. I started with breakfast, sharing my recipe for a Green Chocolate Cherry Smoothie, so let’s continue with that trend. If you’re not the kind of person who can handle a big helping of kale right when you wake up, then get in line for these Cherry Overnight Oats. I’m sure you’ve heard of overnight oats before, but if you haven’t, listen up. The process is amazing and it’s a welcome change from your usual bowl of oatmeal. The ratio will remain the same for any combination you try: 1 cup of oats to 1 cup of liquid. Easy, right? Not that mixing together a packet of oatmeal in the morning is tough, but this way, you can control exactly what you put into your food and into your body, as well as avoid fake sugars and weird chemicals that you usually find in packaged oatmeal.

Cherry Almond Overnight Oats

I drink almond milk every morning, so I used almond milk and tart cherry juice in my oats – the juice added a nice sweetness to the oats, while the almond milk provided enough liquid for the oats to soak up. I also included chia seeds, for extra fiber, and slivered almonds, for texture. I had to throw in some dried tart cherries, of course. After you’ve mixed everything up, just place your oats in the fridge and get ready to enjoy them the next morning. The cherries soaked up some of the tart cherry juice and almond milk, too, which was a nice surprise and made them plump and juicy. I added some extra slivered almonds and a drizzle of honey to the top of my oats because I’m starving in the mornings and I reach for anything that’s close to me. This is the kind of thing that will definitely fill you up and get you through to lunch, which is generally the biggest problem I have when I’m at work – it’s hard not to snack around 11! But this is the kind of thing that will keep you going until 12. I loved that this wasn’t your average sweetened oatmeal, like maple brown sugar or whatever your go-to is. Instead, the tart cherries gave the oatmeal a more complex flavor and woke up my taste buds, which in turn, helped wake me up and get moving!

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Green Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

with yogurt

Kramer and I had a wonderful vacation. Now, sadly, it’s back to reality, although we were smart enough to plan things out so that we can ease into said reality. We only have work on Friday this week, so it’s a good way to slowly transition back to normalcy. I can still feel the sand between my toes. Not to worry – that feeling will replaced with the smell of New York City’s famous summer hot garbage aroma soon enough. Ah, yes. It’s good to be home. It’s not that I don’t miss New York or think it’s the greatest place to live, but when you’re away from the subway for a while, you start to think that maybe you should leave your apartment and daily schlep behind in favor of something a little slower. Then you get behind a guy at the local supermarket who feels like telling his life story to the cashier when all you want it your gallon of cinnamon ice cream and bottle of rose. Those are the times when I can’t wait to get back to NYC. I’ll have to set aside some time to go through my many photos from the trip at some point this weekend, but for the time being, please enjoy this sickeningly sweet photo of Kramer and myself below from a party a few weeks ago. Look at us. So young. So naive. So full of beer. Those were the days, indeed. Little did we know we’d be longing for just one more day of vacation paradise while we try to squeeze a degree or two more out of our A/C unit in Brooklyn.

Green Chocolate Cherry SmoothieHey, look at us!

Okay – enough about how much I miss vacation. Let’s talk cherries. I love cherries and I crave them all year long, not just in the summer. I love sour cherries, especially. Their bright red color and sweet-and-tart flavor call to me. Thankfully, you don’t have to eat your way through carton after carton of sour cherries all at once to get your fill. Tart cherries can be frozen, dried or made into a juice concentrate, which allows you to enjoy them all year round. What a novel idea. I had tried frozen and dried tart cherries before, but never the cherry concentrate. It’s tart, sure, but there are still some trace amounts of natural sugars in there, so it’s been a great way to sweeten things without feeling guilty. I’ve also been mixing some of the tart cherry juice into a cocktail here or there…but that’s for another post. I’ve been having a great time coming up with recipes and snacking on a variety of tart cherries for the past week or so and I hope you’ll join me in trying some tart cherries, too.

Green Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

In the spirit of sharing my adoration of tart cherries with you, I’ve partnered with the Cherry Marketing Institute to create some recipes using a variety of differently preserved tart cherries. I’m basically in cherry heaven right now. I’ve got a huge bag of frozen ones in my freezer, a king’s ransom of dried tart cherries in my cupboard, and a big jug of tart cherry concentrate in my refrigerator. I had to start working on these recipes fast, because it was really hard to not just eat away at my ingredients! I figured that I’d start with a green smoothie. If you’re like me, you try to get your greens in but need a little motivation. The first thing I thought of was chocolate covered cherries. Tart cherries pair perfectly with chocolate, but I wanted to do something healthy. How about a green chocolate cherry smoothie for breakfast? A little unsweetened cocoa powder is a great pick-me-up in the morning, and the tart cherries contain plenty of Vitamin C, so you can swap out this smoothie for your AM orange juice. This is the perfect smoothie to down before a workout, too – it’ll make you feel full without weighing you down and the tart cherry juice can help with muscle recovery. You’re welcome!

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Summer Squid Salad

with avocado and lime

I’m counting down the days until our vacation! We haven’t gone on a long vacation in a while, and I’m not sure if this is even considered a long vacation, but it’s almost a full week! It’s always weird to be gone more than a couple of days. First, Kramer and I are taking the train down to Washington D.C. to spend two days. I’ve never been there before, and I even found a hotel with a pool, so I’m excited. My first stop is definitely going to be the National Museum of American History – that’s the museum with all of the old movie props and whatnot. Clearly that is a priority. I suppose we’ll hit up the Air and Space Museum, too, but other than that, I just want to chill out by the pool, walk around and have some good food. My brother Dane is meeting Kramer and me out there, too. He’s in Baltimore studying at the University of Maryland, so it’ll be good to see him. Dane isn’t meeting us until Saturday, though, so Kramer and I are trying to decide what fancy restaurant we should go to on Friday night. Does anyone have any suggestions? After DC, on Sunday, the three of us are driving from to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to stay at a beach house with Kramer’s dad and the rest of his family. I can’t wait to go to the beach, sit down and not move for hours. There’s a pool at the house, too, so we will be enjoying the best of both worlds. I’ve mapped out a few BBQ pit-stops along the way, but again, I am open to any and all suggestions.

Summer Squid SaladMy awesome Nirvana/Hansen shirt, chowing down at Dickson’s Farmstand, watching the experts do a little butchering, and walking around downtown Williamsburg.

Some of the photos I’m sharing today come from the class that Kramer and I took last week at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats. I saw an article about the class on First We Feast a month or two ago and was completely sold on the class. I’m a married, privileged, middle-class woman, so of course I enjoy taking cooking classes. We’ve taken a few at The Brooklyn Kitchen, so it was strange going somewhere else, but we really had the best time. We got to watch the pros break down and butcher a whole big, learned about the charcuterie making process, watched their head butcher break down pork chops like she was slicing through butter, and made our own sausages. We also ate our weight in sausage, pastrami, house made bologna, pork chops and more. I was honestly stuffed by the time we left. We also drank plenty of rose and beer. The class was $70 and I felt like I had a gourmet meal and a show all rolled into one. If you’re in New York or the surrounding area, I promise that they didn’t pay me to say this – you should really go. It was a fantastic time, plus, the butchering area is freezing cold so it’s a great thing to do in the dead of summer.

Summer Squid Salad

Speaking of keeping cool, as you may have guessed, there’s nothing I adore more in the summer than an icy cold glass of white wine. I love seeing the condensation collect on the glass, picking it up and taking a refreshing sip of a crisp, juicy white. Kramer used to eschew white wine when we would go out, but after seeing how delicious a big, cold glass looks, he’s started ordering it for himself. So, when Bridlewood contacted me and asked if I’d create a recipe for their Chardonnay, I said, “Yes, please!” I promise that I wasn’t mad that I had to do a little wine tasting to come up with my recipe. While sampling the California wines, I was happy and relaxed, so I wanted to cook something that wouldn’t eat up (haw haw haw) too much of my time. I landed on a simple, summery squid salad. The process is simple: quickly cook your squid in boiling water for 60 seconds, dunk in ice water to stop the cooking process and be sure that your squid stays tender, then toss with a little olive oil, jalapeño, lime juice and avocado. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes so that the flavors develop, add a little salt and pepper to taste, and that’s it. I threw this together one night after work, then poured Kramer and myself big glasses of Chardonnay – the citrusy notes in the wine complimented the salad perfectly, so we may or may not have finished the whole bottle on a Thursday night. They do call it Thirsty Thursday, right? I know we’re not in college anymore, but sometimes when it’s humid and hot outside, my brain starts to fog over and the only sure is a refreshing summer meal and a chilled glass of white wine!

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Pull-Apart Hawaiian Rolls

with crushed pineapple

Part of me feels like I shouldn’t re-hash this kind of thing all over again on my blog. I already explained my most recent uncomfortable interaction with the men of New York a few weeks ago, but lo and behold, it happened again. Part of me thinks, look – most women in the city deal with this kind of thing every single day. It’s nothing new and sadly, it seems to be an integral part of the New York experience. The other, angrier part of me feels like I, and others, should share our stories early and often. The only way to empower other women, to make other women feel not as alone, and maybe even enlighten men to how their actions are interpreted by the women around them, is to shout each and every detail from the mountaintops. You’d think this isn’t necessary. You’d think that we’re, as George Costanza so elegantly put it, supposed to be living in a society, but each passing day leads me to believe that so much of that just isn’t true. I feel like I’m a strong person. I can stand up for myself. I (generally) don’t let people push me around or make me feel like I’m less than. But there are occasions in which I’m scared or when I don’t quite know what to do. Sometimes I feel stuck. And I can only imagine that there are women out there who haven’t broken through their insecurities or gotten over the horrible things that have already happened to them, so when situations arise where they are made to feel uncomfortable or even threatened, they become paralyzed. My friend Melia at Business Insider wrote a great article on what to do when you’re being harassed on the street, and it’s important reading for any women, but still, you can only prepare yourself so much. When you’re actually being harassed or threatened, it’s hard to be brave. What happened to me last Saturday night wasn’t a particularly brave act, but I was scared and I stood my ground as best as I could. I escaped unscathed, but I’m lucky and who knows what any deviation in this scenario would have meant for me or whatever other women could have been in my place.

Pull Apart Hawaiian RollsHeirloom tomatoes, insane cocktails, my friend Val looking amazing at her baby shower and last night’s heirloom tomato quiche.

On Saturday night, around 10pm, Kramer and I were watching a movie, so I decided I’d run to the bodega about a block away to get some ice cream fixings. I grabbed the ever necessary can of Redi-Whip and took my place in line. A man in front of me turned around and asked if I was buying “boob cream”. My response was a shocked, “Are you kidding me?” He repeated his question, and I could tell he was way too drunk for 10 at night. I told him to back off, but he kept staring at me and asking me if I liked the way that he looked. I let him know that I would defend myself if I needed to, and his friend turned around to let me know that he was “just kidding”. “Yeah, that makes it so much better,” I replied, looking around the bodega to see if anyone else was as offended as I was. The bodega owner asked them to leave, but the man in front of me started aggressively insisting that I purchase my items before him. “If you think that I’m going to buy my stuff first and walk out of this store with you behind me, you’re crazy,” I told him. He kept pushing me to buy my things first, which is when I nearly snapped and started yelling at him to get away from me. The owner told him to get out, so he started to leave, but kept staring at me. He turned around and shouted, “I’m leaving now. Go ahead and buy your stuff. You know, people in Brooklyn are weird. People where I’m from, in the Village, they’re cool,” and after bumping into a rack of chips, turning around and giving me one last glare, he left. I was really shaken up, but even more upset that his friend let it happen and made excuses for this man’s unacceptable behavior. I bought my things and stood at the entrance of the bodega, afraid that he was outside waiting for me. I rifled through my purse to call Kramer, but realized that I had left my phone in our apartment. I cautiously stepped outside, looked around, and sprinted home. Maybe I was being paranoid, but I think it’s always better to be safe than sorry. As soon as I got inside my building, I started crying. I was scared. I was safe – I wasn’t hurt. But I was still upset and scared and so, so angry that men feel like they can just harass women like that whenever they want. Kramer was, of course, equally upset. He wanted to go outside and find this guy. We just sat on the couch together, had a stiff drink, watched our movie, and got some sleep. Part of me is afraid I’ll see this guy in the neighborhood again, but another part of me thinks that even if I did, he was probably too drunk to remember me. Hopefully.

Pull Apart Hawaiian Rolls

I’m sharing another bread recipe after telling this story because, as previously stated, bread is comforting. Bread takes time and patience, which can help calm shot nerves and soothe any anxiety. I feel like I am at my wit’s end sometimes, so that’s when I need to take a break and do a little baking. I love the smell of foaming yeast, of rising dough, and of course, of baking bread. These rolls were made a few weeks ago for the clambake barbecue we did at our friend’s house. I wanted to make biscuits, but buttery, flaky biscuits can sometimes fall apart when trying to soak up broth. I figured I’d do rolls, but I also wanted something sort of summery. Hawaiian rolls it was. These rolls are just a tad bit sweet, with a golden, buttery top and they pull apart like a dream. The insides are so fluffy and moist that you’d think they were store bought. Thankfully, any bread that comes out of my kitchen has what I like to call an “artisan” look, which is code for not symmetrical or slightly lopsided. That just adds to the charm, right? I doubled the recipe, so we had plenty of giant rolls to soak up any deliciousness at the bottom of your plate.

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Blueberry & Blackberry Pie

with an all butter crust

I’m really pleased to be sharing this pie recipe with you. There’s nothing better than pie, as previously stated, and I don’t feel like I get to eat it often enough. I think that now that Crumbs has (finally) gone under, people realize that the era of the cupcake is over. I am not a cupcake fan. They are hard to eat, and the size of the small cakes make for a potentially dry dessert. Don’t get me started on the frosting situation. There’s either an insane amount on top, making the cupcake impossible to eat, or it’s overly sweet. Sure, I have had the occasional delicious cupcake, but I’d probably pick almost any other dessert before going for a cupcake. Pie, on the other hand, is the dessert of the gods. The buttery, flaky crust, the sweet, curd-like fruit filling, and the must-have topping, be it ice cream, whipped cream or marshmallow fluff, is irresistible in every single way. Even when Kramer and I were in Montreal, having stuffed ourselves with foie gras and blood sausage, we still found room for a slice of heavenly lemon meringue pie. I think because pie involves a little bit of kneading, a little bit of waiting, and a little bit of rolling out dough, people make it less – it definitely takes longer to make than a sheet cake or something like that (for me, anyway – I am not a decorator). Maybe I wouldn’t feel so strongly about pie if I saw it as often as I saw a cupcake or a chocolate chip cookie, but we’ll never know because I don’t live in a fantasy world full of different kinds of pie. More specifically, this fantasy world would be filled with berry pies.

Blueberry Blackberry PieCocktails at Extra Fancy, a Monday morning breakfast, Union Square and Pies ‘n’ Thighs.

I adore this blueberry and blackberry pie. It’s filled with my two favorite summer berries. This time of year, they are plump, juicy and perfectly ripe. Just a touch of cinnamon, a little lemon zest and juice, and a bit of flour or cornstarch to hold it all together transforms a bowl of fruit into a seasonal dessert. Remember those pie cookies I shared with you? Luckily, this pie crust recipe makes a ton of dough, so you’ll be able to make this beautiful pie and a big plate of pie crust cookies, making you the surefire dessert king or queen of the day. I brought this pie to a World Cup party a few weekends ago, and only a small sliver remained in the dish by the end, which was of course picked apart by wandering fingers as people passed to and from the kitchen. I brushed the top of the pie with a quick egg wash, and sprinkled a healthy amount of sanding sugar over the top – this makes for the most crunchy, sparkly crust and believe me, nobody will be able to say no to a slice when they see it.

Blueberry Blackberry Pie

So, yes, I loved this pie, and I hope to make it or something like it again soon, but I’m also looking forward to more pies and what is to come this weekend. We are having a happy hour at work tonight, which is going to be a good time. I’ve made chocolate chip cookies with chocolate covered pretzels for the office, as well as some spicy guacamole for our guac station (a key element to any happy hour). After the happy hour, I’m determined to have enough energy to meet up with a friend for drinks at Tradesman, which is near my apartment so I’ll probably feel good just knowing that my bed is close by. On Saturday, I’m planning a picnic on Governors Island. I’m hoping a lot of people come! If you know me and want to stop by and you’re reading this, please let me know! I’ll send details. I’m going to get lots of charcuterie, spread out my picnic blanket, throw on some music and enjoy the sunshine. The weather is supposed to be perfect, so I’m hoping that is still the case by Saturday. On Sunday, one of my good friends is having her baby shower – I can’t believe she’s due in just a couple of months! Time flies. I of course got her something Star Wars related. Babies really can’t have enough Star Wars stuff – they must be indoctrinated early on. My friend will thank me later, I’m sure.

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Crispy Oven-Fried Pickles

with Sriracha

Lately I’ve been thinking about how awkward I feel in social situations. Maybe it’s because I went to more than the usual number of social gatherings this weekend, who knows, but the older I get the harder it is for me to feel like I’m not floating aimlessly through space while trying to have conversations with people in a loud bar. Part of me feels like I’ve even developed a little bit of a stutter. I think the issue might be that my brain is running me through all these different levels of anxiety, so all I can manage to vocalize is something like, “Haw haw haw yeah!” or “Did you watch Lost?” or something similar (see: “Do you like Star Wars?”). I was much more confident at parties when I was a teenager, but that’s probably because I was a lot dumber and didn’t worry about spouting off some devoid-of-fact nonsense about some political cause that I happened to be worked up over that week. Now, though, I don’t know what to say. I don’t particularly love talking about myself because to be honest, there’s not much to say. I don’t want to talk about politics or music. I do clearly want to talk about Lost and Star Wars (very, very much) but there are only a select few people that I know who will entertain these subjects for too long. Sometimes I can find a new person who hasn’t heard me say the same thing over and over about these two things, but then the rest of the party they are just my Star Wars and Lost friend and I inevitably get over-excited about that, geek out on them way too hard, and then worry about it later. I don’t know why I do this, but I do. Part of me is a pretty quiet person, and another part of me wants to be noticed and talks too much because I want people to see whatever interesting side of me I think exists. These two sides of my brain are constantly at battle and they really do not like each other.

Crispy Oven-Fried Pickle ChipsMe in my happy place, fish tacos from Rockaway Taco, smoked chicken and potato salad from Breezy’s Barbecue and the egg-selent breakfast Kramer made the day before the beach.

I once heard someone explain the concept of a “human hangover” (does anyone know who/where I heard this?) and it’s the story of my life: You go to a party, you jabber on about whatever, then you go home and go over each conversation in your head, worrying about having talked too much or having been to eager, did you insult them, did you corner them and make them desperate to get the hell away from over-opinionated girl, etc. I feel like every day, while I take a shower or before I fall asleep, all I’m thinking about is this kind of stuff. Which, to be honest, isn’t so bad, and I know for a fact that a lot of other people do this. I know that other people aren’t at home, in the shower or laying in bed, thinking, “Jesus, talking to Sydney was the worst.” They’re probably either normal humans who can talk to other people and then go about their day not stressing out about each word that they said because people talk all the time and it’s no big deal, or they are like me, going over each sentence with a fine-toothed comb, wishing that they had just kept their trap shut all night so that they wouldn’t have to have hairs turn gray over it later. Having said all of that, life is pretty sweet and I’m a happy person. I’m just a happy person plagued by social anxiety. It’s cool. I’ll probably just be thinking about these two paragraphs for the rest of the day.

Crispy Oven-Fried Pickle Chips

That was a pleasant read, right? I hope I didn’t jumpstart any beneath-the-surface anxiety of your own. If I didn’t, congratulations for making it this far. Your reward is a recipe for oven-fried pickle chips! This is my last recipe for Farmer’s Garden by Vlasic for a while, so enjoy it while you can. I am a big fan of fried pickles and will generally always order them at a bar if they are an option. I know, however, that they are definitely not good for me. They sure taste good, though. I love dipping them in aioli or hot sauce, and they pair perfectly with an ice cold beer. Frying at home can be a pain, though, so these oven-fried pickle chips are an excellent compromise. They’re still surprisingly crispy, thanks to the Panko crumbs, and taste absolutely delicious. The batter consists of Worcestershire sauce (one of my favorite secret sauces for marinades and the like) and Sriracha, among other things, so you know there’s tons of flavor hiding under the crispy breading. Just dip, bake and serve piping hot. Kramer and I snacked on these and a bowl of popcorn while watching some relaxing mid-week television because, you know, we like to always have a balanced dinner. You can bake these ahead of time, if you like, then crisp them up in the oven just before serving. Any pickle fan will without a doubt eat all of these up in no time. Since this is my last Vlasic recipe, this is also my last reminder to go enter the Savor Simplicity Sweepstakes for a chance to win a summer entertaining package worth $1,500! That would make for one kick-ass end-of-summer barbecue, don’t you think?

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