Happy Halloweenie and the Ultimate Meatloaf Sammie

Happy Halloweenie!! I hope everyone's having a fun and festive night and filling your bellies with lots of sweet treats! I've been on a HUGE sweet tooth binge lately so no sweets for me today - shoveling Resse's Peanut Butter cups in your mouth waiting for trick-or-treaters doesn't count right?!

Anyway, I celebrated America's spookiest holiday with the ultimate American dish - meatloaf sammie. This was a wonderful savory treat to celebrate and one you should file under your "must make" file.

Hmmm...how can I best describe the essence of this dish? Just imagine a melt in your mouth tender juicy meatloaf, topped with sweet tangy slow roasted tomatoes, layered between ooey-gooey melted Fontina and Gruyere cheese. Yes...yes...yes!!!! Is your mouth watering yet? I can't specifically name what made this sammie outstanding, but perhaps it was the combination of the sharp nuttiness from the cheeses, or the sweet tangyness from the slow roasted tomatoes caramelized in the oven for hours on end, or maybe it was the crunchy bread against the soft meatloaf - but it was just the perfect combo of flavor, texture, and yummyness all in one bite. My only issue with the sandwich is I wish I had made more of it. It's a good thing no one was around 'cuz I was not about to share! In this case, sharing did not equal caring. Every man for themselves!! Too bad I had to save the leftovers for Lobster, sigh, the sacrifices I make as a wife.

If this sammie sounds appealing to you, give these a try:
Italian Meatball sub with Spicy Sausage and Mozzarella
Brie, Fig, and Arugula Turkey Burger a.k.a $50,000 Burger
Gruyere, Blue Cheese and Ham Sammie on a Cheddar, Chive, and Bacon Biscuit

The Ultimate Meatloaf Sammie
A NuM NuM original recipe
1 serving

1 Arnold Select Sandwich Thins Multi-Grain
Thick slice of Feta and Sun-dried tomato meatloaf, about 1-1/2"
A few slices of 1/8" thick Gruyere and Fontina cheese*
3-4 Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Pre-heat convection oven on roast at 375F. If you do not have a convection oven then just bake them in 375F oven.

Slice meatloaf in half horizontally. Layer slices of Fontina cheese on bottom half of bread. Place meatloaf on top. Top with enough slow roasted tomatoes to cover the entire meatloaf. (You can also add extra tomatoes on top of the Fontina cheese to give the sammie more of a sweet-tang - I may try that next time) Top meatloaf with Gruyere cheese and place top half on sandwich. Place sammie on a sheet pan and roast in oven for 15 minutes until cheese is melted, meatloaf is warmed through and bread is crunchy. ENJOY!

*I used Cave Aged Gruyere and Val D' Aosta Cow's Milk Fontina cheese

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

For some reason meatloaf seems to have a bad rap when it comes to dinner. I never had meatloaf growing up so I've never really had these so called "hockey puck" pieces of meat people refer to them as. I told Lobster what we were having for dinner and he was less than pleased. In fact, he even went as far as to say, "ew, meatloaf?" Whatever! I knew it was going to be good - and that it was! Suddenly, "ew, meatloaf" turned into "mmm, meatloaf." So try this for the meatloaf hater in your life and they too will be a convert.

Turkey meatloaf with sun dried tomato and feta

Adapted from Giada at Home
4 servings
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped garlic and herb-marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced**
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese (can substitute feta)
  • 1 - 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt*
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 20 oz pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat, 93/7% fat

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, eggs, milk, feta, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.
Carefully shape the meat into the shape of a meat loaf and place on top of an oiled cooling rack placed inside a baking sheet. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Bake until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Temp will continue to rise to 165F. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Put on a serving platter and serve. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

** I used one regular clove and one from the sun dried tomato jar

Diane's Caesar Salad

*I've written about this Caesar salad in the past, but I thought I'd give it the justice it deserves and post a photo with it. This salad is my mother-in-law's recipe and one that has been passed down to me - this was the first inclination that I was officially accepted into the family :) The recipe is so good that it's actually making its way around our family since this is my sister-in-law's "go-to" recipe as well. It's the perfect balance of salty, tangy, sharp and yummy - best of all, no egg yolks required. So if you're looking for a simple and tasty Caesar salad - look no further.

For New Year's we also enjoyed a Caesar salad with our meal. I have never made Caesar salad dressing at home and this recipe was fantastic. I prefer this type of dressing over the creamy white kind.

For my bridal shower, my bridesmaids gave me a cookbook as a gift. They compiled recipes from my friends who came to the shower and made me my own personalized cookbook. It was so sweet and this is the first recipe I've made from it. The following recipe is my mother in law's version of Caesar salad dressing and it is dee-lish. I'll be using this as my default recipe from now on.

For my New Year's resolution, I have decided to cook and eat healthier. (We'll see how long this lasts) I have made my claim to make some sort of salad with our meals at least three times a week and eat fish at least once a week. Eeek, I hope I can do it.

Caesar Salad
This is an adapted version for my taste buds
Makes about 1/4 cup of dressing

S&P to taste
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1.5 tbs lemon juice or white wine vinegar
3.5 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches romaine lettuce (torn or cut into bite size pieces)
2 tbs grated parmesan or more if you desire
3 anchovies from a can of anchovies packed in oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly cracked pepper

Cut greens into bite size pieces and put in bowl. In a separate bowl finely grate garlic with a microplane grater or make garlic into a fine paste. Remove three anchovies from oil, finely chop and put into bowl with garlic cloves. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and mix vigorously until salt dissolves. Pour salad dressing over greens and toss to coat. Add parmesan cheese, toss, add more salt if needed and enjoy!

Balsamic Glazed Sweet and Sour Cipolinni

Tonight I made my old ye faithful chicken cordon bleu, along with these sweet and sour cipolinni onions. If you've never been a fan of onions, this could be the recipe that changes your mind forever. Cipolinni onions are very different from your "regular" strong and pungent flavored onion. These seem more like a distant cousin since they are mild in flavor and sweet. Take that and drown it in a bath of butter, sugar and balsamic vinegar - the flavors harmoniously blend and taste nothing reminiscent as a member of the dreaded onion family. They were the perfect pairing with the chicken since the chicken was a bit salty from the cheese and prosciutto and the onions had a nice vinegary sweetness from the balsamic glaze. Serve this to company and they'll be in for a treat!

Balsamic Glazed Sweet and Sour Cipolinni
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, original recipe from Mario Batali

4 servings

2 pounds cipollini or small (1 1/2-inch) onions
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup tomato sauce of your choice (I cheated and used canned. Don’t tell!)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Blanche the onions in boiling water for one minute and let them cool so that they can easily be peeled. Peel the onions, leaving and washing any root strand you may find.

In a 12 to14-inch saute pan over a medium high flame, heat virgin olive oil until just smoking. Add butter and cook until foam subsides. Add onions and saute until light golden brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. [Batali doesn't mention this but listen to me and my messily-splattered walls, floor, ceiling and arms that still hurt at the thought of it: this will splatter a lot. You either want to use a splatter screen, should you be savvy enough to have one, or a lid. Consider yourself warned.]

Add sugar, vinegar, tomato sauce, water and rosemary and bring to a boil. Cook onions uncovered covered (again, the splatter effect is such that a lid is worth using) until just al dente, about 10 minutes. If liquid dissipates too quickly, add more water, a 1/4 cup at a time, realizing that it is essential not to overcook the onions. The sauce should just adhere to the onions. Remove from saute pan to an earthenware dish and hold in a warm place, or allow to cool if you are serving them later or as an antipasto.

Potato Puffs

Remember when you were a little kid and your mom would yell at you because you were playing with your food? Well in this case: playing with your food is allowed and warranted. These cute little guys transform your ordinary mashed potatoes into a whimsical ball of crunch! This recipe is more of a method then an actual recipe and I suggest adapting it to your own preference. Since I've been told I make my mashed potatoes taste "healthy," I would use your favorite recipe when making this. If you like your puffs extra crunchy, double dunking is highly suggested. To achieve this, you roll the puffs back into the egg wash and then into the panko crumbs again after the first dredge. The outside gets really crunchy and the inside stays nice and soft. I actually enjoyed the double dipping method as well. So if you're a fan of mash da-paytoes, make this and have fun playing with your food :)

Potato Puffs
Adapted from Stonewall Kitchen Favorites via Mel’s Kitchen
Makes about 1 dozen potato puffs

*Note: the puffs need to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour before baking but they can be made up to 8 hours ahead of time.

3/4 pounds russet baking potatoes (about 2-3 large), peeled and quartered
1 tablespoons butter
2 tbs milk
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 large eggs
1 cups panko bread crumbs (found in the Asian-foods aisle)
Garlic salt and onion powder, optional

Boil the potatoes for 10-12 minutes, until they are tender but not overcooked. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Mash them with a potato masher until they are smooth. Over very low heat, add the butter and milk and mash until the potatoes are light and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cheese, salt and pepper. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. You should have a smooth, soft mixture. If it seems a bit too stiff and not creamy enough, add an additional 1-2 tablespoons milk to adjust the consistency. Keep in mind, you’ll be rolling this mixture into balls so you don’t want it so soft it will fall apart while rolling.
Let the mixture cool slightly. In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk the eggs add in a tsp bread flour until blended and season them lightly with salt and pepper and garlic and onion powder. Place the panko on a large plate or pie dish.
Using cookie dough scooper form a heaping 2 tablespoons of the mashed potato mixture into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Repeat this process until all of the potato mixture is rolled. You should have 11-14 potato puffs, depending on how big or small you rolled them.
Dip a potato puff into the egg mixture, coating it lightly on all sides then dip it in the panko until it is coated. Place on an oiled cooling rack inside of a cookie sheet and repeat with remaining puffs. Cover the puffs loosely and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours before baking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Bake the potato puffs for about 10 minutes then turn up heat to 425 for an extra 5 minutes, until golden brown and heated through. They will not get that brown but will still be crunchy

S'mores Bars: no campfire required

Leaning Tower of S'mores

What kid or grown up doesn't love s'mores?! They must be America's all-time favorite dessert! These are especially wonderful since they don't require being outdoors to eat 'em. I've never been a fan of sleeping outside, pitching a tent, and being away from civilization. Now, you can have the pleasure of this campfire treat in the comfort of your own home. With these babies you can sit on the couch, relax, and curl up in your snuggy with a big 'ol glass of milk. Hell, if you really feel the need to be outdoors, light your fireplace :) While these are fantastically delicious, I must warn you though, they can get reeeeaaally messy! Especially when the marshmallows and chocolate are nice and melted and everything gets ooey and gooey and nummy and yummy. Inevitably you'll wind up with melted marshmallow and chocolate goo all over your fingers and you'll grab a napkin for assistance - then your fingers get stuck to the napkin so you might as well lick off all that yummyness and save a couple trees while you're at it by forgoing the napkins all together - it's so much more fun that way anyway! The following recipe is more of a method then an actual recipe. Add as much chocolate or marshmallows as your heart desires. The most important thing is that you have fun and get messy! Eat, be fat an merry, and enjoy every bite of it :D


Adapted from Savory Sweet Life

1 box of Honey-Maid Graham Crackers
1 Hershey's Symphony Almonds and Toffee Chocolate Bar*
1 bag of large marshmallows

Pre-heat oven on Broil (High heat) with baking rack 2 notches down from the top. Line a cookie sheet with as many graham crackers as you'd like. (These will be the bottom of your s'mores) Place graham crackers side by side in rows without any gaps. Next, spread 2 pieces of chocolate on top of graham crackers and top with a marshmallow.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven with the door slightly cracked. Broil for approximately 5-10 minutes carefully watching them so they don’t burn. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven when the marshmallows are golden brown and the chocolate has melted. Remove from oven and top with graham crackers and line them exactly with the bottom crackers and press each one down gently. Eat and enjoy.

*You can also use chocolate chips instead of the chocolate bars if you wish

Daring Cooks Challenge: Cabbage Rolls

Tonight's dinner was an interesting one for me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have made something that involved stuffing cabbage leaves, but I've joined an Internet cooking club - I'll pause now and wait for you stop laughing - and each month entails a new challenge. This was the first one I participated in and although I wasn't a huge fan of this dish, it was fun to make something new and different. Too bad Lobster had to come along for the ride. Anyway, I'm super excited about the cooking challenges since it will really "challenge" me to make something I would have never tried in the past - hence these cabbage rolls.

If you've never had cabbage rolls in the past, it's basically a meatloaf rolled inside of a cabbage leaf braised in a tomato sauce. While the taste was okay, it reminded me of something I imagine lobster and I eating in a nursing home fifty years from now. Doesn't that make you want it!! The texture wasn't really doin' it for me and I couldn't get over the boiled mush taste. Although it was edible, I don't anticipate making it again. Well, at least it was healthy. I'm sure my arteries are thanking me today since I pretty much had cake and ice cream for dinner last night. I thought I'd give my thighs the night off tonight :D

Daring Cooks Challenge:
Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Since we were given the option to stuff anything we wanted, I decided to stuff cabbage leaves.

Cabbage Rolls

Adapted from Emeril

Makes 6 rolls


  • 1 head cabbage, cored and scalded in hot water until soft and easy to separate
  • 1 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup cooked white rice
  • 1 teaspoons + 1/8 tsp Essence, recipe follows
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 egg

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):

  • 1 1/4 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Yield: about 1/3 cup

Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.

Tomato Sauce

1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes, pureed

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

S&P to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a paring knife, remove center core of cabbage. In a large nonreactive stockpot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add cabbage and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until outer leaves are bright green and tender. Lift cabbage from water, and remove outer leaves. Return cabbage to boiling water, and repeat brief cooking and removal of leaves until all leaves are cooked. Trim thick center vein from bottom of each leaf. Reserve two large outer leaves to line bottom of pan.

Mix all ingredients for tomato sauce together and set aside.

To make the stuffing, in a medium skillet melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until very wilted and starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Lay the cabbage leaves, rib side down, on a flat work surface. In a large bowl, combine the meat, rice, Essence, salt, pepper, egg, and cooked onions. Mix well with a heavy wooden spoon or your hands. Season to taste with more S&P after making a tester patty.

One at a time, spoon the filling into the center of the cabbage leaves, about 1/4 cup in each, depending upon the size of the leaves. Fold sides of cabbage over filling, and, starting with the stem end, roll the cabbage up.

Place reserved two large cabbage leaves on bottom of a heavy pot. Place cabbage rolls in one layer on top of cabbage leaves. Make sure they are tight and snug in one layer. Pour the tomato sauce over the rolls and make sure sauce is covering the top of rolls, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the meat is cooked through and the rolls are tender about one hour and fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and serve the rolls with the sauce spooned over the top.

Popcorn Ice Cream & Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

For Lobster's birthday I served this ice cream along with a Chocolate Almond Meringue Cake. Little did I know this combo would be a match made in heaven and one of the tastiest desserts of ALL TIME! The ice cream by itself is yummmmay, but with the addition of the sweet and salty caramel sauce and popcorn, time stands still for a moment and you're in utter bliss. Okay, maybe I'm being the tiniest bit dramatic - but seriously this ice cream is LEGIT and one you should run or roll and make. Get your happy dance on!

Popcorn Ice Cream

Adapted from Almost Bourdain

1 1/4 cup 2% milk
1 1/4 cup half-an-half

Pinch of salt

1 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup prepared buttered popcorn (kettle corn or Cracker Jack's would be a great substitution)
Salted butter caramel sauce (*recipe follows)


  1. Heat the milk, half-an-half, popcorn, salt and half of the sugar in a saucepan until it's just below the boiling point and starts to bubble. Remove and sit for 30 minutes until the popcorn has thoroughly infused its flavor into in the cream mixture.
  1. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Whisk together the other half of the sugar, vanilla and egg in a bowl to a ribbon stage.
  3. Still whisking, pour the cream mixture into the egg mixture and pour this back into the cleaned-out pan and cook till a velvety custard.
  4. When it's thickened, pour into a bowl and let it cool
  5. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
  6. Serve with salted butter caramel sauce and popcorn.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce Recipe
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes about 1/2 cup


1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbs half-and-half
1/2 tbsp salted butter
pinch fleur de sel or coarse sea salt (or to taste)


  1. Spread the sugar in an even layer in a large metal pan. Set over moderate heat and cook without stirring, until the sugar near the edge just starts to liquefy.
  2. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, begin gently stirring, encouraging the melted sugar around the edges toward the center and delicately stirring up any sugar melting on the bottom as well. The sugar will start to look pebbly as it cooks, but keep going; it will melt completely as it turns amber.
  3. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep brown and starts to smoke. (Don't worry about any large chunks of caramel.) The darker you can cook the sugar without burning it, the better the final sauce will taste. It's ready when it's the colour of a well-worn centime, or penny, and will smell a bit smoky.
  4. Remove from heat and quickly stir in about a quarter of the cream. The mixture will bubble up furiously, so you may wish to wear an oven mitt over your stirring hand. Continued to whisk in the cream, stirring as you go to make sure it's smooth. Stir in the butter and salt. Serve warm. If you like your sauce a bit thinner or less rich, add 1 tbs water.

Storage: The sauce can be made up to one month in advance and kept refrigerated. Rewarm the caramel in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave.

Pork Banh Mi Sammie

I've never been a fan of Vietnamese food since I have always associated it with Pho and I've never been able to get used to the taste or smell of it. But nowadays, it seems like you can't drive down the street without seeing a Pho/Vietnamese restaurant. You know the ones I'm talking about. You probably see them everyday on your way to work. They almost always start with the word "Pho" followed by some numeric number. Such as "Pho 99," or "Pho 2000." I've even seen really creative ones like "Unphoghettable" or "Simply Pho You." Just for kicks I think someone should open a Vietnamese/Italian fusion restaurant called, "Pho-get about it." LOL - sorry, nerdy blogger humor. I on the other hand, didn't want to have anything to do with Vietnamese food unless it was going to be "Pho"-reaking awesome :D okay, I digress. But the other day, lobster took me to a random hole in the wall in Downtown LA and the food was actually pretty good. Perhaps I've developed a palate for salty-sour foods over the years, but some of the dishes were quite good and I actually started to crave them after a while. Hence, what inspired tonight's dinner for Banh Mi sammies.

I found the following recipe on Epicurious and while I didn't make the meatballs, I did make all the accompanying counterparts. For the pork, I used leftovers from the other night when lobster made Mongolian pork chops which had a fantastic marinade. They were perfect for the sammie since they had a similar flavor profile. The sandwich was a blend of complex flavors, starting from the pork, to the pickled carrot and daikon relish, along with the spicy KICK from the jalapeno. All the flavors married together well and hit all your taste buds - sweet, spicy, sour, salty - the whole sha-bang! So next time you're feeling a bit adventurous, give a nudge to the East and try this sammie on for size.

Note: Even though I didn't make the meatballs, the sandwich received great reviews on the website if you want to give it a try.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi Sammie
Recipe from Epicurious
4 servings

Hot Chili Mayo:
* 2/3 cup mayonnaise
* 2 green onions, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*

* 1 pound ground pork
* 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 green onions, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
* 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

* 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
* 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
* 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
* 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
* Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles, desseded
* 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

Hot Chili Mayo:
Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

*Available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at Asian markets.

**Available at some supermarkets and at Asian markets.

Chocolate and Almond Meringue Cake

I made this cake for Lobster's birthday and ohhhh my - this could be the "end all, be all" of all birthday cakes. This, eaten together with the popcorn ice cream I'll be posting about soon could be THE most quintissential dessert ever....EVERRRR!! I knew this was a hit when I took my first bite and a smile instantly gleamed across my face. I looked over at Lobster: he took his first bite, his eyes widened and his expression said it all. He said it's the best thing he ever ate - and he doesn't even really like sweets - well, until he met lil' ol' me...HAPPY BIRFDAY!!! :D I think these two desserts alone may have changed my life and hips forever!

If you are a chocolate lover, then this is the cake for you! The combination of textures and flavors of the cake, along with the sweet and salty ice cream is pure decadence!!! It is phenomenal!! (How many exclamation points can one use to voice their utter excitement?!) The cake is a mixture of a brownie and flourless chocolate cake - chewy on the outside and a bit molten-esque in the middle, topped with a crunchy meringue topping filled with even more chocolate and roasted salted almonds. The ice cream was the perfect pairing since the nuttyness of the popcorn echoed the smokiness of the roasted almonds to form one harmonious blend of luscious flavors. This is a very rich dessert that warranted lots of mmms, nums and yums with each and every morsel!

Allow me to walk you through the progression of photos...

The masterpiece

The crispy crackly top

Close up of the fudgey goodness. Can you see the melty yummy center calling your name?!

The perfect combo = food coma ^_^

If you have a special ocassion coming up, you should definitely make this. It's totally fancy shmancy and truly restaurant quality. Go all out and serve it with popcorn ice cream and your friends will swoon with utter glee - but don't be surprised if you suddenly have an influx of new best friends. Bon appetit!

BTW, I liked the cake best fresh out of the oven. After it had been refrigerated, the texture changed completely and it became very fudgey, dense and SUPER rich. If you want to change it back to its original state, just microwave a piece for 10-15 seconds and VOILA...utter bliss!

Chocolate and Almond Meringue Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake (scale recipe 2/3 for a 7" mini cake - this converter might help - just multiply everything by .667).

Recipe from Martha Stewart


For the cake:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
6 large whole eggs, separated at room temp*
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the meringue:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (1 cup)
1 cup roasted salted almonds (about 4 ounces), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites at room temp*
3/4 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-3-inch springform pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and brown sugar until pale and smooth at medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bottom and sides of your bowl if necessary. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla and salt. Beat until combined. Transfer to a clean bowl and wash your mixing bowl thoroughly. (This part of the recipe can be made ahead of time and left at room temperature for a few hours - I left mine out for about 3 1/2 hours)

In a clean mixer bowl fitted the whisk attachment, beat the 6 egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Fold one-third of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites and pour batter into prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes.

While cake base is baking, prepare the meringue. Combine the chopped chocolate, nuts and cornstarch in a small bowl, and set aside. Place remaining 4 egg whites in a clean mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until frothy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Fold in almond mixture with as little strokes as possible.

After 25 minutes, remove cake from oven. Using a large offset spatula, quickly spread meringue mixture on top of cake using as little strokes as possible not to deflate the meringue, and return to oven. Bake until meringue is lightly browned and crisp, 25 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let stand 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, and release sides of pan. Let cool, about 30 minutes, before slicing and serving. The meringue will deflate as it sits - don't worry it's supposed to do that :)

*I left my eggs out at room temperature for about 9 hours

One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

Kale is a fairly new vegetable to me and one that I do not use very often. The last time I used it, I made kale "chips" and they were delicious, so I was excited to try it out in this dish. The kale tasted very hearty against the millet and the zest and juice of the lemon added a nice zing to the dish. My favorite part about this recipe is that it lends itself well to substitution. Each time you make this, you can swap out the grain, veggies, or cheese with whatever you have on hand. If you're not a fan of kale, swiss chard would be a great substitute and feel free to swap out quinoa for couscous or millet like I did. Add a protein and you have an easy, perfect one pot meal. Best of all, you feel like you're eating a big bowl of healthy goodness!

One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf
Recipe from Food 52
Serves 2-4

• 2 cups salted water or you can substitute half or all of water with chicken broth
• 1 cup quinoa
• 1 bunch kale (6 oz) washed and chopped into 1" lengths
• 1 meyer lemon, zested and juiced*
• 2 scallions, minced
• 1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil or olive oil
• 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds, chopped
• 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, feta, or cotija
• salt and pepper

1. Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until it is just enough to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then top with the kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, take a large serving bowl and combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, scallions, walnut oil (you can substitute olive oil if you desire), pine nuts, and goat cheese.
3. Check the quinoa and kale when the cooking time has completed -- the water should have absorbed, and the quinoa will be tender but firm, and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam a bit longer (adding more water if needed). When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the quinoa, and tip it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. As the hot quinoa hits the scallions and lemon it should smell lovely. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper, and the remaining lemon juice if needed.

*If using regular lemon use only half the juice and add more to taste

Brown Sugar Spiced Pork Chop

This is a quick weeknight meal you can get on the table fast! The spices are a perfect balance between spicy, sweet and smokey which make for a wonderful combination of flavors. No bland food here! But, the best part of the recipe is the glaze. Ohhhh...the glaze, it is divine! Sweet and savory - mah favorite! I think I need to devote a special label on the NuM NuM just for these types of dishes.

The original recipe called for pork tenderloin seared on the stove top, then finished off in the oven, but I substituted bone-in pork loin chops. I'm sure if I used a tenderloin it would've tasted even better since the glaze would have caramelized and produced a sticky yummy crust. Must try that version next! But if all you have are pork chops, they are an equally delicious substitute. However, next time I think I'd brush the glaze on both sides of the pork since that was the best part and really took these chops over the top. Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Spiced Pork Chop
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
2 servings

Rub Ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 bone in pork loin chop (1 1/4 lb. total), at least half inch thick
1 tablespoons olive oil

Glaze ingredients:
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbs finely chopped garlic (about 4-5 cloves)
1 1/2 tsp tabasco or Cholula sauce - or adjust to taste

1. In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, then coat the pork all over with the spice rub.

2. Mince garlic and turn into a fine paste using the back of your knife. It may help to add a bit of brown sugar to the garlic to help mash it into a paste. Stir together with the brown sugar and Tabasco.

3. Heat the oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until the oil is hot and rippling. Brown the pork on one side, flip the pork and brush glaze over pork. Cook until internal temperature registers 150F.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

These peanut butter and jelly bars will take you back to your childhood when PB&J was an everyday staple. Not in my house though, our staple was kim-chi and rice sandwiches...haha...I kid - only kim chi and rice - no bread involved. Since PB&J reminds me so much of little kids, I wanted to give these to my niece and nephew - until genius here realized her nephew's allergic to peanuts. Poor little guy - oh well, more for auntie :) I always feel badly for people who have food allergies or restrictions to their diet. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't eat what I wanted all day, every day. The world would be such a gloomier place. Anyway, these bars were delicious! They had the perfect amount of peanut butter to jelly and were soft, crunchy and ooey and gooey and nummy and yummy! These are quite addicting and would make a great snack for children and adults of all ages. Just make sure there's a tall glass of milk nearby. Also as an added bonus, since peanut butter is classified as a "good fat" this means they must be good for you, right? ^_^

BTW - these are delicious straight out of the fridge. They get a bit fudgey and taste heavenly.

Other bars, cookies and brownie bites you may enjoy:
Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, and Oatmeal
Lemon Bars

Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Adapted by Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten
Makes 9 large bars or 16 small bars

2 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature + 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt*
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup (9 ounces) creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cups (9 ounces) raspberry jam or other jam**
1/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped***

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 8x8-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, yogurt and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined. (Dough will become one cohesive ball of dough. Leave any remaining flour that has not been mixed in with the dough ball in the bowl (you won't miss it) - This will not be a wet dough but will be spreadable and yummy)

Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if all the jam isn't covered; it will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely for about 2 hours and cut into squares. I would also refrigerate any leftovers since there is yogurt in them.

*Original recipe calls for one stick of butter. To make mine healthier I subbed in butter and yogurt. I've also substituted unsweetened apple sauce for the yogurt.
**I would add more jelly next time since I like a higher jam to PB ratio - probably a total of one cup.
***I also used roasted salted almonds instead of peanuts for the topping