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Chipotle avocado spread



I’m coming clean about my most annoying habit, but making it up to you by offering up this spicy chipotle avocado spread. Smear a smidgen on your next sandwich and you’ll have to forgive me for the sins I’m about to own up to.

You know that person who sits next to you on the airplane and insists on having a conversation with you even though you’re clearly wearing headphones and reading a book? You have five hours on this cross-country flight, and you’re planning to spend at least four of them sleeping, but chatty Cathy over here won’t stop asking you questions. You probably hate that person. Well, guys, I’m here to admit that I’m one of those people. I can’t help but to chat up all kinds of people I meet – store clerks, waitresses, the lucky guy who blindly picked seat 26E and instantly put in his ear buds. As soon as I open my mouth, I know exactly what I’ve done.


Summer squash gratin with nutmeg béchamel (gluten free)



When the doorbell rings and you find a 2-foot tall little girl standing there holding an armful of fresh zucchini, you can’t help but smile. She’s shyly grinning while barely hanging on to the three large squash that are about the size of her arms. She hardly says a word, but you can tell how proud she is that these came out of her garden. Her dad grew these – mighty impressive in the eyes of a toddler. Turns out our neighbor’s garden was overflowing with summer squash that nearly doubled in size overnight. I can relate to her awe – it’s the same marvel I felt when I saw the gargantuan zucchini popping up out of the compost pile as a child. And watermelon. Those things can grow anywhere, I tell ya.


Spinach artichoke dip stuffed mushrooms



Despite attending two Pac 10 schools, I have very little interest in March Madness. I feel pretty much the same about it as I do about the Superbowl. If my friends are watching, I’m more than happy to make finger food all day and chat during commercial breaks. Except if there’s a game on my birthday (which usually happens during March Madness). In which case, you mention March Madness and I’ll shake my fist at you. This year, March has been a basketball-free month over here; even if my friends have gotten together for the occasion, I’ve been at home unpacking, sewing wedding banners, and stuffing invitations. Turns out wedding planning is a full-time job. Luckily it’s right up my alley – career shift, perhaps? For all of you with your eyes glued to college ball right now, I bring you the last dish from our anniversary day of cooking, spinach artichoke dip stuffed mushrooms, which just so happen to make a perfect game day party snack.


BBQ tofu bites



As a California native living in The Bay Area, I really should have been much more interested in the Superbowl than I was (or ever have been for that matter). While in Chico making wedding crafts for the past two weeks (Lucas in China, again), my dad turned on the 49ers v. Falcons game. For a brief second, I looked up from my paper punch to chat:


Pretzel bites with four distinct dipping sauces


Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from studying to spend an entire day in the kitchen. Well at least the second half of the day that you didn’t spend sleeping in. A group of Lucas’s college friends (and now my new friends!) threw a potluck on Sunday to toast our engagement, and I seized the opportunity to make my kitchen feel loved and wanted again. It’d been awhile since I coated every surface with flour and I could tell my KitchenAid was feeling neglected. So I threw on an apron first thing in the morning (read: 12:00pm) and got to work making these SUPER ADDICTING pretzel bites.


Potluck potato salad


Turns out that delicious homemade potluck-style potato salad is a bit of an enigma. Everybody’s mom, aunt, grandma, and third cousin brings an award-worthy heaping bowl of it to the family cookout, but no one will divulge their recipe. “I do it by taste,” they say, as if it’s a giant secret. Everyone makes it, but no one knows how. Relatively new to the kitchen, when making a dish everyone’s tasted, I like definitive quantities, thorough steps, a time-tested recipe that’s guaranteed to turn out yummy. Alas, I embarked on a potato salad mission with only a few passed-down pieces of wisdom: 1. Big Sarah shared, “Cutting up whole olives releases more flavors than pre-diced,” and 2. Mama chimed in, “You want the potatoes not too silky when you cut into them, but not falling apart either. And make sure to chill the whole cooked potatoes before chopping them up.”


Arugula and shaved fennel salad with oranges and honey cider vinaigrette


Up until now, I’d only ever eaten raw fennel in salads out at restaurants. I loved it, but I’d just never prepared it myself. I rarely cook fennel either, for that matter. In fact, you might recall the eggplant & fennel gratin I set out to bake a couple of weeks back; I accidentally used a leek instead, and in a true blonde moment, it took me four days after I posted the recipe to notice my blunder. It was fantastic nonetheless, but fennel hasn’t actually made an appearance in my kitchen in quite a awhile.


Lemon and garlic vegetable quinoa (vegan and gluten-free!)


Quinoa has been on my to-do list for a while now, but every time I get ready to make it, I chicken out, worrying that it’ll end up flavorless. I don’t know why I’m such a wuss, it’s not like I’ve never cooked quinoa before…just not without a recipe, I guess. Apparently I don’t yet trust my on-the-fly seasoning skills. My brother, Justin, on the other hand cooks quinoa all the time. He never uses a recipe, but tosses together whatever he finds hiding in his fridge. He has this crazy ability to pick out the spices that will work perfectly with a given set of ingredients; he’s come a long way since his raw top ramen and spoonfuls of Kool-Aid sugar days. About 8 or 9 years ago, Justin transformed from a steak and potatoes lover into a Vegan+seafood eater for health reasons, and with that, his culinary range actually increased tenfold.