Snickerdoodle Biscotti

As my husband and I were about to embark on our 2-week trip to London and Paris, I got a sudden urge to make biscotti. So on the morning we were supposed to fly out, I hastily pulled together a batch of cookies, justifying this to myself by saying that biscotti are the perfect travel cookie, because they are sturdy and can’t really go stale, and they will dramatically improve the quality of airplane coffee.

I once had a friend tell me that he never realized people could actually make biscotti, he thought they just magically *poofed* into existence, individually wrapped, and appeared at the counter in Starbucks. If your only experience with biscotti is the flavorless rocks at the coffee counter, I really recommend you try these!

Biscotti are much easier to make than you’d think. Plus, they are a great cookie to keep on hand–if you don’t think you want 20 cookies staring you in the face during your morning coffee, you can always store them in an airtight container or freeze them, and when you have guests over, you can effortlessly surprise them with homemade biscotti.

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Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Sandwiches

I have a sandwich obsession. There’s just something so enticing about vegetables piled high and spread with a creamy sauce, stuffed between two pieces of thick bread…

It brings me back to my childhood. Most little kids had moms who regularly made them sandwiches for lunch. I mean, I didn’t even know it was possible to eat something besides sandwiches for lunch until I was in middle school and discovered leftover pizza (I was really a picture of health, haha). But for some reason this one image sticks out in my head, of my mom leaning into the back of our old brown Caravan, wide brimmed hat protecting her from the harsh beach sun, wrapping up sandwiches in paper towels to protect from from the sand. I don’t think the paper towels helped much, but that special mom touch made the sandwiches seem so wholesome, like a gourmet meal, even though they were nothing more than slices of meat and cheese with a little bit of mayo.

For Christmas this past year, my husband got me a vegetarian sandwich book. I’m pretty sure his excitement over the possibilities in the book came from a sandwich I had already made him: grilled eggplant and tomato with a peppery mayo sauce on focaccia.

Now that it’s summer again, it’s time to indulge in ripe tomatoes and deep purple eggplants and enjoy this sandwich at its best!

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Herb Mustard Salmon

Confession: I am worn out. Teaching plus doing a large chunk of administrative work at my school have taken their toll on me, so I am taking the summer off! And my first stop after I finally disentangled myself was a much-needed visit to see my family. Visiting my family is always an awesome time. My mom and I shopped til we dropped and watched several chick flicks while downing large containers of fro-yo. I jammed with my brother, who is a significantly better guitar player than I am, and shared a midnight chat (er…snack) with my dad. Sometimes I don’t realize how much I miss them until I come back home.

But there is one tricky aspect to visiting home, and that’s eating. Between my mother, who is seriously lactose intolerant and allergic to wheat, my grandfather, who is diabetic and a triple-bypass survivor, and me, a picky pescetarian, it can be challenging to find good foods that meet all of our dietary needs. Salmon and salads are great meetings point for us, as they are low-carb, contain heart-healthy fats, and are as dairy-free as you want them to be. So when my mom asked me what I thought we should make for dinner with Papa, I immediately thought of one of my favorite salmon recipes: herb mustard salmon.

This salmon only takes about 15 minutes to make. It’s tangy and delicious, down to the last bite!

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Triple Chocolate Coffee Brownies

A few weeks ago, I went to a cookout for my friend Brittany’s birthday. When I asked her what I could bring, she said, “A batch of your favorite brownies would be great!” I racked my brains, trying to remember if I had ever made her brownies in the past and referred to them as my favorite, but I honestly doubted I would ever do such a thing. There are so many good brownies in the world, how could I possibly decide on one favorite without changing my mind the next week?

Still, my mother used to make these absolutely decadent brownies when I was in high school, full of Kahlua and hundreds upon thousands of chocolate chips, and they sure do stick out as contenders for the brownie gold medal in my head. Unlike so many of the brownies I enjoy making, these rich little chocolate bombs aren’t fussy and don’t have a creamy layer that would melt in the ridiculous heat. They made a perfect finish to a cookout.

Honestly, I have no idea where this recipe came from, originally, but I certainly can’t take credit for it myself. However, the version my mom used to make was a bit simpler, as it called for regular brownie mix as the base. I decided to kick these babies up a notch by using the Baker’s One Bowl Brownie recipe in place of the Pillsbury mix, and wow, did these turn out great!

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Spinach Frittata

Well the past two weeks have been incredibly hectic for me as I finished out the teaching quarter. Unfortunately, I’ve had very little time to bake or cook much of anything. Instead, I spent all of my free time grading papers and quizzes and writing an English proficiency test for the school.

But happily, I am now (more or less) free for the summer! And I had the privilege to kick off my summer with brunch with my sisters in law! I decided to make a frittata, which also allowed me to reward myself with a new skillet!

This dish was such a winner. It’s healthy and delicious, full of my favorite vegetables. It’s quick to make, and actually a great way to do eggs for brunch—more exciting than scrambled eggs, and even if you have to travel with it, the skillet keeps the eggs warm. Plus, it serves about 8 people for brunch (depending on how much other food you have, it could serve more!).

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Ricotta Gnocchi

I guess I’ve been kind of on a ricotta kick lately…and there’s no end in sight, because the second I tasted this gnocchi, I immediately declared that I would make it again before the week was up. It’s just that good.

And what’s not to love? Cheese, butter, the kick of red pepper…

Most of us have had gnocchi before. Those little Italian pasta pillows…sometimes more like lumps than pillows. I once made the mistake of buying prepared gnocchi, because I’d heard you have to have special tools to make proper potato gnocchi. The store-bought version tasted like rocks and sat about as well in my stomach.

But these babies are heavenly. Light on the inside and crispy on the outsides, they were so flavorful that I ate my entire meal in about 5 minutes, because I just couldn’t wait to take another bite.

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Camp Hanover Fudgies

When I was younger, I went to summer camp. I was a summer camp expert: I climbed the ranks of the YMCA swimming tier (though..not very far, I must admit…), I slid down mudslides and went tubing on lakes, I grew into a four-square master, I learned how to gently de-hook fish, I became a seasoned canooer and archer, and I could write a mean group skit.

I also began a love affair with peanut butter at summer camp. For obvious reasons, I was never a peanut butter and jelly kind of girl, but one summer at Camp Hanover, which is probably the best sleepaway camp in the world, I learned about the real best friend of peanut butter: chocolate. And it is about time I shared with you my favorite cookout treat, since this is grilling season.

I will always associate these cookies with my childhood camp experiences. Every week, my group would gather next to the tether ball poles and anxiously discuss cookout plans: hoagies or hamburgers? Red bug juice (er…Kool-Aid) or orange? S’mores or FUDGIES!? The kitchen would send us a box full of supplies and we would hurry to our campsite and unload our goodies. You have no idea how delighted we were if we discovered our request for fudgies had been granted. And after our main meal, after cleaning our plates off with dirt (ah, those were the days) we’d get to enjoy our dessert. Let me tell you, those things disappeared quickly.

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