The Forgotten Basic Essentials

One of my favorite birthday gifts I received last month was the Kitchn’s official cookbook. In addition to recipes every cook should have in their back pocket, it includes chapters covering kitchen organization, key cooking tips, and entertaining advice – all important details that are usually absent and forgotten from traditional cookbooks.

I recently lent this to my dad and I’ve regretted it ever since

Okay, so this got me thinking – how often do I forget the basics? I’m not just talking about the proper way to chop garlic; I’m talking about the food we love – the kind that’s so simple, we often take it for granted. I’ve compiled a small list of favorites as a reminder to us all:

1. Scrambled Eggs

My sister and her now-husband lived with my family before they bought their first place as a married couple. One of the perks of living with them? I’d wake up every Sunday morning to the smell of them cooking breakfast for us. I was so spoiled and never had to cook my own… so by the time I was in college, I attempted to cook scrambled eggs for my roommates and I burnt them.

How stupid do you have to be to mess up scrambled eggs? Well, after a few more practice rounds, I got the hang of it. Now that I’m older and more sophisticated (lol), I’ve learned how to make some AMAZING scrambled eggs *pats self on back*. Friends don’t let other friends burn scrambled eggs. You’re welcome.

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Crack all of your eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk. You can use a regular whisk or a fork. The trick is to use your wrist when whisking. Make sure it all turns completely yellow and that there aren’t any lumps.
  2. Add a splash of milk. Don’t add too much, don’t add too little. Pretty straightforward, right? Sorry. Use a splash for every five eggs. You want them to be fluffy, not liquid-y.
  3. Add salt and pepper. I’d say about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Whisk the mixture.
  4. Meanwhile, add a half of a tablespoon of butter to a skillet and turn it on medium heat.
  5. While your butter is heating up, add cheese to the whisked, egg mixture. If you are using slices, I’d use two slices and rip them up into 1-inch pieces. If you’re using shredded, add 1/3 of a cup (you can always add more later as the eggs are cooking). Stir. NOTE: Try using softer cheese. It’ll melt better and have a gooey texture. If you use harder cheeses, you’re more likely to get a plastic texture.
  6. Once your cheese is added into the mixture, check your butter in the skillet. Lift the skillet and tilt it in each direction to spread the melted butter around. Set it back down, wet your fingers with water and flick it on the skillet. If it bubbles and you hear sizzling, it’s ready.
  7. Slowly pour your egg mixture into the skillet. Let it sit for a few seconds and then stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula. The trick is to keep it moving – don’t let it sit for too long or else it might burn or get rubbery. Keep stirring it every few seconds.
  8. When they’re getting close to being done, feel free to add more cheese.
  9. Once the liquid is absorbed and the eggs look fluffy, serve immediately. Add more salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Mashed Potatoes

I can’t take full credit for making these perfect mashed potatoes; Catie gave me an awesome recipe recently – so I’ve combined our efforts into the recipe below. Mashed potatoes can be so simple, you don’t even need a hand mixer to make them, but you MUST follow these steps.

Ingredients:

  • 5 russet or red-skinned potatoes
  • Salt
  • Minced garlic
  • Shredded cheese
  • Butter
  • Potato peeler
  • Whisk or hand mixer

Directions:

  1. Peel all of your potatoes. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just do the best you can.
  2. After the potatoes are peeled, cut each potato into fourths. This helps the potatoes cook faster and evenly.
  3. Throw (but not really; be gentle…) the potatoes into a larger pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt and put a lid on the pot. NOTE: Adding salt and keeping the lid on the pot helps speed up the process.
  4. Put the pot on the stove and set to high heat. Wait for the water to boil and then turn down the heat so it’s at a rolling boil. Set your timer for 15-20 minutes. This is usually how long is takes to cook potatoes all the way through.
  5. To test if your potatoes are cooked, stick a fork in each. If the fork slides in very easily, they’re ready.
  6. Once your potatoes are ready, strain the water out. Add the potatoes to a mixing bowl and using your whisk or your hand mixer, mix potatoes a little so they mash.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of milk, a tablespoon of salt, a cup of shredded cheese, and a tablespoon of butter. Continue to mix.
  8. Keep adding more milk little by little until potatoes have a fluffy texture. Feel free to add more butter, too. Again, it’s about adding a little bit as you go. You don’t want them too clumpy or too liquid-y, so you’ll have to taste-test as you go.
  9. Add your minced garlic at the end. The amount is entirely up to you. I usually add about two tablespoons. Feel free to add more salt here, too. These puppies don’t even need gravy.

3. Grilled Cheese

Tom is the grilled cheese master, hands down. The trick here is to make sure the cheese is soft – it’s as straightforward as that. Sometimes I like to think I have a more refined palette, but that goes out the window when I tell everyone that Velveeta is the best cheese for a mouth-watering grilled cheese…

If you hate the thought of using Velveeta, trust me, I understand. Please do yourself a favor, though, and use soft cheese. Qualifiers include American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, cheddar, or fontina. Also, if you have the time, you should read the Kitchn’s 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Grilled Cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese, or 1 slice

Directions:

  1. Place a skillet over medium heat, add butter, and let it melt completely. Just like you did with your eggs, you’ll want to wet your hands, flick it on the butter, and if it sizzles, it’s ready. Spread the butter around with a spatula.
  2. Rub a piece of bread in the melted butter. You only need to rub one side.
  3. Pile your cheese on top of the bread in the skillet. Cover the pan with a lid and let the cheese melt until it’s almost entirely melted, but you can still see some distinct cheese pieces, 2 to 3 minutes. In the meantime, butter your other piece of bread on one side.
  4. Top the sandwich with the other piece of bread (buttered side up). Squish slightly so the top adheres to the melted cheese. Flip the sandwich over.
  5. Cook until toasted golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Feel free to flip over again, if you want the other side more toasted. Serve immediately.

Okay, so that’s your basic grilled cheese. I’ve heard of people adding veggies, such as jalapenos. You should get creative, but learn to master a perfect grilled cheese first.

The moral of the story? Never stop playing with your food, even the most basic recipes. Don’t take these meals for granted! *steps off soapbox*


Caitlin

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A Balancing Act of the Sweet and Savory

Pretzels and M&Ms. Kettle corn. Sweet and Salty Combos

Are you picking up what I’m putting down? I’m talking about all food sweet and savory. And even though I don’t necessarily care for any of the snacks listed above, I’m certainly not writing off its intention! My main gripe about these sweet and salty staples lies in its two extreme flavors melding together in a 1:1 ratio. “Well, that’s the point, you idiot,” one might say. I’m crazy, I know, but hear me out! The secret is a balancing act – a sweet and savory dish doesn’t have to be as simple as 2 + 2 = 4. Rather, it should be an imbalanced equation (without the high school chemistry classes…).

To be honest, I’m more of a chip girl, anyway

Creating a sweet and savory dish with complex flavors doesn’t have to be, well, complex. Take stir-fry, for example. A simple stir-fry usually involves oil, rice, vegetables, meat, and a sauce such as soy or teriyaki. Why not take it a step further by adding honey, coconut oil, or brown sugar? Trust me, it’s a delicious spin on traditional stir-fry without being overpowering; we’re complementing the flavors that already exist in stir-fry.

Meatloaf is another savory, traditional meal. Everyone has a recipe, and it’s almost always good. Bread crumbs, eggs, lean meat, salt, pepper, boom. But let’s turn up the heat a little. Whisk together 1/4 cup of ketchup, two tablespoons of brown sugar, and a dash of mustard in a bowl. Pour it on top of the meatloaf and whoa, hey guys, you’ve added another element to your meatloaf you’ve never dreamed could be real.

You know what? I’m feeling dangerous. Let’s go even further with this. Meat. Loaf. Sandwiches. MEATLOAF SANDWICHES. AHHHH! THEY’RE SO GOOD! Seriously. And what’s better than putting meatloaf on bread? I’ll tell you: it’s putting meatloaf on French Brioche, topped with that crazy ketchup/brown sugar sauce and Monterey Jack cheese. It’s the ultimate comfort food – the hint of sweetness from the brioche complements the tang of the sauce, all the while balancing the savory meatloaf and cheese. The smell of these flavors merging in the toaster oven comes to life, lifts you off your feet, and entices you into the kitchen, leaving a trail of drool behind you.

And while you’re at it, go watch a cartoon while you indulge in these taste sensations…

For all of you kettle corn fans out there, I hope I haven’t offended thee. We cool?


Caitlin

Dough Mama

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Tom and I discovered Dough Mama about a month ago while eating at Cornerstone Cafe. It seemed to pop up in a day’s time… either that, or we’re totally oblivious of what happens in Clintonville. In any case, we vowed to ditch DK Diner the next weekend and give Dough Mama’s breakfast a try. We weren’t disappointed.

This tiny bakery with its yellow exterior has a great atmosphere. It’s cozy, simple, and refreshing. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to eat anything off of their menu since I have a gluten allergy, but they were very accommodating. The oatmeal didn’t make my stomach sound like an old man grumbling and it tasted great (I don’t usually have a problem with oatmeal, but some Celiacs advise against it). Tom really enjoyed his meatloaf sandwich, too. I suppose our only disappointment involved the side dishes. They serve their breakfast with salad, which is great if you’re healthy and cool, but Tom and I are lame and want potatoes dipped in grease… or, you know, any kind of potato dish will do.

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This lamp took me places I’ve never been… if you know where I can find it, lemme know

Their coffee is top-notch. Have you ever heard of Thunderkiss? It’s based in Columbus and it’s the best coffee I’ve ever had. Well, Dough Mama has it. So thank you, Dough Mama, for contributing to my coffee addiction.

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A well-groomed man, Tom waits as the caffeine courses through his veins and those children behind him become real

Tom decided against buying a pastry since we were full from breakfast, but I’d love to go back and see what they’re all about. Unfortunately, they don’t have any gluten-free baked goods on the menu, so in the meantime, I’ll just have to sit and watch Tom enjoy them *cue the sad violins*.

Dough Mama is located right on High Street, about a block away from North Broadway, so the location is great. You’ll have to park on the street, I believe, but parking is free.

Prices are a little high, but it’s worth it. The food is fresh, the coffee is outrageous, and the atmosphere is relaxed… we’ll definitely be back.

  • Food = 4/5 Stars
  • Price = $$
  • Service = 4/5 Stars
  • Location = 4/5 Stars
  • Atmosphere = 5/5 Stars
  • Website

Caitlin

Review: German Village Coffee Shop

It’s no secret that Caitlin and I LOVE breakfast. A lot of the reviews and recipes we post revolve around the most important meal of the day. What’s not to love about a “balanced” meal complete with eggs, bacon or sausage and some sort of carb? Extra points for grease! Lucky for us, Columbus is a breakfast Mecca. Recently I ventured over to German Village to try the highly-rated German Village Coffee shop.

This tiny diner has a DK-Diner or Nancy’s feel, complete with a crowded counter, the greasy aroma of meat and potatoes frying and line cooks preparing your food on over-sized griddles right in front of you. After a night of drinking, this is the perfect place to cure your hangover and enjoy a classic breakfast.

The atmosphere is casual and full of regulars and German Village young professionals. It’s safe to show up in your sweatpants, or your cloths from the night before. I’d recommend arriving at noon or before because the space is very small and tends to fill up quickly. Parking is street only and can be tricky. There were luckily two spots at the counter available for Brian and I when we got there at noon.

The menu is very basic and does not feature many items. The traditional breakfast favorites such as eggs, bacon, sausage, western omelets, hash browns and French toast are available, along with a few lunch sandwiches and burgers. Typically they feature a special written on a small chalkboard above the cashier. When we went, they were serving a bourbon French toast.

I opted for a classic scrambled egg breakfast with bacon, toast and cheesy hash browns. While simple and not difficult to prepare, this breakfast was downright delicious. The hash browns had the perfect amount of crisp and gooey cheese while the eggs were scrambled to perfection. In my opinion, the bacon was crispy and delicious but to some it could be a tad on the salty side. Brian’s western omelet was just as amazing and packed to the brim with green peppers, onions cheese and ham.

The service was average but what I would expect for a casual, short-staffed diner. While it took a while for our waiter to spot us and walk over, he made up for it in friendliness. We only waited about 15 minutes to get our food which wasn’t bad for the crowd.

Pricing were very reasonable and inexpensive and I left feeling full and ready for a nap. Bottom line: If you’re looking for a cheap, casual, greasy place to enjoy a hungover breakfast, The German Village Coffee Shop is one of your best options.

Pictures to come later!

  • Food = 4/5 Stars
  • Price= $
  • Service = 3/5 Stars
  • Location= 3/5 Stars
  • Menu
  • Website

CATIE

Breakfast Skillet Scramble

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Every so often, Tom and I reluctantly hit our breaking point when it comes to neglecting our health on the weekends. The conversation normally goes like this:

*sniff sniff* “What’s that smell?”
“That’s us.”
“Oh… what is it?”
“It’s fried food, Caitlin. We smell like fried food.”
“Oh… maybe we should do something about that.”
“You mean, like, shower?”
“No, of course not. I mean, ya know, we should try cooking our breakfast next weekend instead of going to a greasy diner.”

Thus, the breakfast skillet scramble was born (this weekend we’ll be doing ONE ab exercise… we’re making some real strides). A skillet scramble was an obvious choice for us since we combine all of our breakfast food, anyway (like the disgusting creatures we are).

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We prefer our breakfast foods to be in proper sandwich form.

The scramble turned out great. We made it the next morning, too. It’s a shame our health-kick didn’t last long, because we’ve been to DK Diner five times since making this.

Serving Size: 2, Gluten-Free

Ingredients:

  • 8 small yellow potatoes, diced
  • 1 lb chorizo
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green and red bell peppers
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Optional: a dash of milk for the eggs

Directions:

  1. Place a small pot filled halfway with water over a medium flame – bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in diced potatoes and a pinch of salt and let boil for 10 minutes. Remove from flame and drain. Set to the side.
  2. In a large frying pan over a medium flame add olive oil and allow to heat.
  3. Add in boiled potatoes, garlic powder, pepper, and salt. Fry on each side for 5 minutes or until crisp.
  4. Add in chopped onion and peppers, and mix well. Continue frying for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Add in your chorizo.
  6. With your spatula stab the chorizo to break it up. As it continues to cook it will become easier to break up. Cook for an additional  5 to 10 minutes or until crisp.
  7. Next, crack your eggs in a bowl (optional: add a splash of milk and salt) and scramble with a fork, then pour into your skillet mixture.
  8. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, mixing and combining all ingredients the entire time. You want to make sure the eggs are well done.
  9. Sprinkle with cheese and any other seasonings you like!

Pretty easy? Okay, cool. Feel free to add or remove ingredients.


Caitlin

Irish Stew: A Childhood Recipe

St. Patrick’s Day was a beloved, celebrated holiday in the McGillicuddy household when I was growing up. I can remember my parents drinking booze as my siblings and I would mock the Irish Stepdancers that came to our school that day.

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We later retracted our judgments after coming across this family Christmas photo.

Nevertheless, I have fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day, mostly due to the traditional Irish Stew that was served for dinner. Recently, my mother (an exceptional cook) passed on the recipe. And although I’m a few months off, I’ve decided to tackle mom’s Irish Stew because it’s getting cold outside and I need comfort food.

As my boyfriend and I walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store, gathering each ingredient necessary for a perfect Irish Stew, he turned to me and asked, “So it’s Shepherd’s Pie?” to which I responded, “Uh… uh… yes?”

But alas, I was wrong. There is a difference… I think (I’m still trying to wrap my head around it). I suppose the crucial difference between the two is one is a “pie” and one is a “stew” (duh). I guess one is soupier than the other. I also think Shepherd’s Pie is cooked in the oven with mashed potatoes on top.

I don’t know, here are the Wikipedia pages for each:

Regardless, my mom used to cook Holiday Potatoes to spoon on top of the stew after it was done cooking. Holiday Potatoes are basically cream cheese, sour cream, butter, and mashed potatoes all mixed together and thrown into the oven to get kinda crusty. Since I don’t feel like clogging my arteries today, I decided to use regular mashed potatoes to spoon on top.

You can either use a sauce pan or a Crock Pot to make the stew. I chose the Crock Pot route because there’s no flame involved and I could keep this simmering for hours without a worry in the world (keep in mind, the longer the flavors meld, the better). Just make sure to brown the stew meat in a skillet before combining everything together.

Another note to keep in mind is that you can choose to thicken the stew by slowly adding a cornstarch-water mixture (but that might cross into the realm of Shepherd’s Pie, and then you’d be a traitor).

 

Sloppy goodness

Overall, the recipe is very straightforward:

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat (they usually have this in chunks for you)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 can beef broth (13 3/4 oz.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper (I know, I thought it was weird, too… but it exists)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 6 medium carrots, cut in thirds

Directions:

  1. Brown beef in oil.
  2. In a saucepan or Crock Pot, add beef broth, water, parsley and salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 1 hour (or more).
  3. Add onions and carrots; simmer for 30 minutes more or until beef is tender (if using a Crock Pot, you can just do steps 2 and 3 at the same time). You can simmer for longer, if you’d like. The longer these ingredients cook together, the better.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes (Tom and I use pre-made Yoder’s Mashed Potatoes. It sounds sketchy, but it’s awesome).
  5. Spoon mashed potatoes over stew and sprinkle with peas and Parmesan to taste.

‘Twas a glorious meal; one that can be served any time of the year. But you may find yourself eager to make this on St Patrick’s Day, Irish jigging around the house as God frowns upon you. At least your tummy will be full of delight.


Caitlin

Go Yoga: Upper Arlington

Exercising is hard… especially when you’re trying to find the right routine for yourself. Whether you’ve never really exercised before, haven’t exercised in awhile, or you’re just bored with your current exercise routine, exploring new types of workouts can be extremely frustrating.

I dabbled in many forms of exercise during my days in college; heavy lifting my senior year, cycling my junior year, shoveling large amounts of food into my mouth sophomore year (those pictures of me as a fatty have been burned)…

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My best friend Ash and I after a yoga session in Chicago

Yet, despite the versatility in my routine throughout the years, two have remained: walking and yoga. I’m a huge proponent of walking; it’s free, it’s easy on your joints, and you can do it just about anywhere. However, when winter strikes, it becomes difficult to walk outside. So you can either hibernate under the covers in your warm bed, eating gummy bears and pretzels (i.e. me last winter), or you can get creative with your workouts. I’m certainly not a consistent yoga-goer like Catie is (she’s awesome at it, too), but after some searching, I definitely found the right studio for me in the Columbus area. If you’re looking for a studio with a good price, an awesome vibe, and beautiful ambiance, Go Yoga should be your go-to.

Go Yoga has multiple locations in the city, including New Albany, Powell, Upper Arlington, and Worthington. I’ve only been to the Upper Arlington studio, but I haven’t felt any need to venture out to another location. I encourage you to give the other ones a try… but here’s what I love about this particular location:

The Ambiance

Upper Arlington’s Go Yoga is a one-room sanctuary. Whether it’s from the lavender spray, incense, or the warm, fragrant, wet towels they place on your eyes at the end of practice, it always smells like heaven in there. And although the room is clad with bright, white walls and decorations, once the lights are turned off, the room becomes peaceful, leaving enough light to be within one’s self. The numerous, lit candles help with this, too.

The Instructors

I have never had a bad instructor here. Some have a great sense of humor, or a quiet disposition, but their commonality lies within their peaceful, kind nature. Every so often, I get low blood-sugar and am unable to hold certain poses for a long time, but I never feel intimidated by sitting in child’s pose until I’ve regained composer…

Comfort Levels

Speaking of intimidation, Go Yoga offers many different levels of difficulty, meaning you won’t feel uncomfortable jumping into just any yoga class. Their website offers a weekly schedule, complete with brief descriptions of what to expect in certain classes. They pretty much have all levels of yoga available, whether you’re an expert or a beginner. My personal favorite is the Candlelight Flow.

All the Feels

I think the most important aspect of yoga, in general, is how you feel afterwards. I always leave Go Yoga feeling refreshed, never exhausted. Plus, I feel good that I didn’t spend a fortune on a class. I usually pay no more than $10, and I heard they offer $5 classes. You can’t beat that…

I suppose the only negatives I have with this location are the heat and the parking. It gets pretty steamy during the summertime, but you could definitely turn this into a positive if you like to sweat it out. As far as parking is concerned, I’ve never had a problem finding a spot, but I could see spots running out depending on the time of day.

All in all, this place is neat-o:

  • Experience = 4.5/5 Stars
  • Instructors = 5/5 Stars
  • Atmosphere = 5/5 Stars
  • Price = $
  • Location = 5/5 Stars
  • Parking = 4/5 Stars
  • Website
  • Schedule

Caitlin