I'm Just Here To Cook…and Eat!


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Words Speak Volumes

Words speak volumes, so use them. It’s been a month since my grandma passed and memories are what we have left. Memories which will always be treasured. Memories spoken about or triggered by something. I went to my grandmother’s house last week and the smell of her home triggered me. Specific foods can trigger so many memories as well. Here’s a throwback to one recipe which triggers many different amazing memories for me. 
https://imjustheretocook.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/greek-style-roasted-lemon-chicken-and-potatoes/ 

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries gone holiday themed

Working in corporate retail has its perks, but during holiday season and even more especially during Thanksgiving Week and Cyber Week, the exhaustion which settles in is insane! So when my cousin Jessica said to me “I really want to make a fun dessert, do you want to help?”, while I knew I wouldn’t have the time for the break, I welcomed it. So in between checking my laptop and approving creative and placements and ensuring we’re “holiday ready” in everything I manage, I made beautiful chocolate covered strawberries with Jess. With milk chocolate, orange chocolate and sprinkles we had tons of fun. 

For the milk chocolate we melted this in a double boiler, and for the orange we used the microwave method. For the double boiler, add about an inch of water to the pot, place the double boiler on top ensuring it doesn’t touch the water, add the chocolate and melt on a low flame. 


Wash and dry the strawberries well, keep the stems intact. 


Start dipping and decorating, and just enjoy yourself! 


Cheers to a Happy Thanksgiving! And while you’re Black Friday shopping, be kind to your retail friends 🙂 


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In Memory of my Grandma

Sometimes writing helps people through an emotional time, sometimes remembering happy memories… so here I am trying both. My grandma passed away last week. She was an amazing person. Beautiful, smart, and full of love. Days last week were spent looking through photos, and laugh-crying sharing memories with loved ones. Sadly her life was stripped away before last week with the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s. While she wasn’t the same person the last decade, the hope was always there that when you went to visit her, and she looked at you, that she was remembering all these memories herself. At her wake, we were asked to write out one memory we had with my grandmother on a memory wall. How do you pick just one when some of your favorite childhood memories were spent at your grandparents houses (their house up north as well as in Florida). Holidays were spent in their NY house around an extended dining room table, playing with old school toys or down in the basement making up games or playing house. Random sleepovers, dinners at the Italian restaurant/pizza place down the block, and shopping on Steinway Street. My sister, cousins and I spent our entire summers in Florida when we were kids – flying down with my grandparents when school ended then flying back up before school started. We’d spend mornings in the pool, afternoons shopping, and nights watching Block Party Summer on Nick at Night eating Publix ice cream. We learned how to play solitaire, we did crossword puzzles, we played mermaids in the pool and store in the carpeted garage turned play room (where we made my grandma buy all her belongings back), and we hid in her walk in closet during those Florida summer thunderstorms. We ate out at different restaurants all the time, “forced” her to eat McDonald’s, and baked her a cake “on our own” every year for her birthday. So when this doesn’t even tip the iceberg for the number of amazing memories you have with this incredible woman, how do you pick one? So I picked two. One from Florida and one from NY. When I was younger, I collected stickers. It was actually a big thing… I had hundred of stickers and tons of books. All my friends did. And we’d trade them. Well, one day I was at my grandparents house and my grandma walked me up and down Steinway Street on a mission together to find the very best stickers to trade with my friends Monday at recess. We found some great ones that day, and created a memory I’ll never forget. In Florida, Publix ice cream will always remind me of my grandparents. My grandma always got her coffee flavor while my grandpa and I would get cherry nut. But it was her pitcher of White Zinfandel (her wine of choice) one night at dinner which I’ll never forget. Grandma got a little tipsy that night. Not very, but a little. And she took home all the leftover bread in her purse! I think it was really probably only a half a carafe… but as a kid it looked like a big pitcher haha 

But I think the greatest memories of all are the food and recipes she passed down and the memories which go along with those recipes. These recipes allow for her spirit to live on through every gathering and every time they are made. I’ve shared many of these with you already, so please allow me to share them again. My favorites from what she’s passed down. Apple Pie – a thanksgiving tradition and one which will be extra special this year. Pumpkin bread – seeing these little bundles of joy in my freezer as a kid was so special. And meatballs – a tradition I’ll remember every New Year’s Day to come. 

I’m not sure if this helped at all or not. I’ve shed a few more tears. But thank you for allowing me to share these memories and recipes in memory of my grandma. 


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A DIY Paint and Sip Party

Paint and Sip joints are all the rage now, but it’s super easy and fun to have your own at home. And it’s the perfect way to spend a night in with family or friends- guys and girls alike! And exactly how we celebrated my cousins upcoming milestone birthday! Just head to your local craft store (don’t forget the coupons) to get your supplies. You’ll need a canvas, paint brushes and paint. There are easy paint tutorials online you can use as a guide. Either find one before your party and purchase the paint colors they tell you, or do what my cousins and I did and just buy one of each paint color to mix and match! 


Get some fun napkins and party decorations, purchase your favorite wine and of course…. as any good gathering will have… plan your menu. 


One of my favorite party appetizers are Greek meatballs. It’s easy to make and also easy to eat! Just mix together 1 lb turkey chop meat with 1/2 breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup water, 1 egg, 1 tsp oil, 1 tbs garlic powder, 1/2 tbs onion powder, 1 tsp oregano, salt and pepper. Form your balls and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Done. Pop them in your mouth with a toothpick as your hands maaaay just be filled with paint!

With the wind howling and the rain pounding down as a nasty storm moved through the northeast last night, this was the perfect way to spend an evening in celebrating. Especially as the painting of choice was a beautiful ocean sunset. Have fun developing your DIY paint party and the food to go along with it!


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World Pasta Day Vodka Sauce

Pasta is just so comforting, and that was exactly what I needed today. And how perfect on World Pasta Day! One of my favorite sauces is Vodka Sauce. And it’s super easy to make and can be pretty forgiving once you have the base down. There are also some pretty good jar version out there on the market if you don’t have the time to let this sauce simmer on your stove for a while. Today, I’ll share with you my vodka sauce recipe. I was once told that it doesn’t matter what kind of pasta you make with what kind of sauce… But I’ll respectively disagree with this statement and say please make this with rigatoni. 🙂 It’s truly the best! 

Ingredients 

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 basil leaf
Salt and pepper
2 oz vodka
1-1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions 

Sautée the garlic in the oil until just fragrant. Do not burn. Add the crushed tomatoes, red pepper, sugar, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Let this simmer for 2 hours. In the last 10 minutes, add the vodka, the heavy cream and the cheese. I provided guidelines, but the forgiving part of this sauce is adding as much cream as you’d like the sauce to me light and as much cheese to taste. Have fun with this! 

Enjoy with a Caprese salad and beautiful glass of wine. With a friend, for a party, or on your couch under your favorite blanket binge watching tv. Comforting and delicious. 


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Chicken filled Empanades

“Make some emapandes for our football gathering”…. challenge accepted, of course. I love these challenges when I have never made the dish before! I recently purchased a big screen tv so I’ve been excited to host a Sunday Funday around football, which really means around food but no one will complain about the size of my tv! I’ve shared some of my game day favorites in the past, but I had fun theming this one, and then of course challenging myself with the empanadas. Today I brought a little Oktoberfest into the menu by making bratwursts in a blanket with a sauerkraut stone ground mustard dipping sauce, I made my pumpkin chili for some feelings of fall, nachos dip football of course, and then a few other odds and ends. Food is the second most important thing at any gathering, only being beat out by the company of course, so make it good! Now on to the empanadas. 

You can either purchase pre-made pie crust dough at the supermarket or you can make your own. Making your own dough is actually pretty easy. But given the timing and the other items on my menu I opted to go pre-made today. 

For the filling, I looked at a few recipes then went with my own inspiration. Again taking some help from the store, I bought one of those pre-made roasted chickens as my base.  Here’s what I did. 

Ingredients

1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped green olives
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 poblano pepper, chopped
1/4 cup wine
7 oz can diced tomatoes with the juice
1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbs chili pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Directions 

Mix all ingredients together. Roll out each of the pie crusts. Roll slightly thinner and cut circles with a 3 inch biscuit cutter or a round cookie cutter. (You can also make them larger if you are making them as a meal). 

Once the circles are cut, roll them out slightly again. Fill the circles with a 1 tsp – 1 1/2 tsp of filling.  


With a little water, wet the edges of the dough. Fold the dough over to close the empanadas and press together with a fork to seal the edge.  Brush the top with an egg wash. 

Fry in vegetable oil until browned on both sides. Serve with salsa or chimichurri sauce. 


It’s a shame the Jets lost, but these empanadas and the rest of the menu were a touchdown (haha)! Make your Sundays fun with food. 



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Girls night sake

Needing a girls night badly this week, this is exactly on the docket for tonight. I’ve got everything needed for a perfect girls night – my cousin, my godmother, my Thursday night ladies (Greys, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder – thank you ABC), yummy food and alcohol. (Always concentrated around food, see!) Girls night alcohol usually consists of a fruity, sparkling wine, but tonight I have this amazing sake. Yes, it’s really good! I’m not a sake drinker at all. Can’t get into it. But a recent trip upstate introduced me and my cousin to this sparkling sweet sake and liked it. And we actually found it in a local store. So tonight, with sushi as our food of choice this girly sake is perfect. I’m even “channeling” my mom into my girls night using a shot glass she brought me back from Aruba bc who has sake glasses laying around at home? Now, onto Grey’s Anatomy, which I know the songs tonight will make me shed a tear… Cheers to girls night and sake!