Kind of Learning to Bake


Today’s post is kind of the complete opposite of yesterday. Today, we took a free cooking class at our local William Sonoma and ate lots of dessert. That’s right, every single William Sonoma offers free cooking classes. Well, technically they offer free technique classes and free junior chef classes. The actual cooking classes cost money. We have taken a couple of the technique classes before (always by accident) and learned a lot, but we always forget to come back for more. I happened to see the sign up sheet while shopping for nothing on Friday and decided to sign us up.

I am just now learning to cook and I NEVER bake…unless you count boxed cakes, which I only make for very special occasions. Learning about baking seemed like a good idea, but if I’m being completely honest here, I was in it for the free food. We were learning to make a layered coconut cake and a strawberry tart, who can resist?

coconut cake tart

The woman teaching us seamlessly whipped together both desserts while explaining each step and tool with great detail. She was good enough to convince me to try and convince Husband to buy me the cake pans that I will probably never use. (He did not cave…yet.) While drooling over each ingredient I did pick up a few tips… like have you heard of pie weights? Apparently you are supposed to use them (or beans) to hold down the middle of the crust and keep it from rising when it’s baked.


All in all, it was a great Sunday afternoon of sipping espresso and eating as much homemade desserts as we possibly could. My Mom-in-law even went and walked Luna around the mall while we learned a little. I might even attempt one of these recipes for Easter. Hopefully we’ll remember this in the future in take some more classes. It’s a very inexpensive and fun way to spend some time together.



Belated Turkey Day


Our first Thanksgiving in Nashville in 5 years was about as perfect as a Thanksgiving could be. First of all,  I cooked two dishes and BOTH turned out edible. In fact, one turned out to be freakin’ awesome. I cannot tell you how many times I read the recipes while cooking. I quadruple checked each step because for once I wanted to not screw up a dish. I still burnt the heck out of the top of the sweet potato casserole, but who really likes the marshmallows and pecans anyways?

I got both recipes from the Chew (spectacular mashed potatoes and candied sweet potatoes) because it’s the only cooking show I’ve ever actually watched…and if Clinton Kelly can make mashed potatoes then by golly, so can I!

We ran (walked) 5 miles in the Boulevard Bolt Thanksgiving morning (more to come on that later). Then, came home with enough time to watch the last 2 hours of the Macy’s Day parade, which is my all time favorite thing to do on Thanksgiving. Seriously, I don’ t even care for most Thanksgiving foods, but the parade is always so magical.

We had Thanksgiving lunch at our Aunt’s house with about 14 people and about 24 dishes. I ate enough for me and three babies and made sure to ask each person if my now famous mashed potatoes were the best mashed potatoes they ever had….they were, and I’m sure no one was just humoring me, right guys?

baby or a soccer ball?


I was so tired from all the staying up late, cooking, running/walking 5 miles, being pregnant, eating and forgetting the $65 worth of ice cream for everyone (woops!) that I passed out on the couch while everyone chatted around me.


There were sooo many deer having their own feast right outside the window!
There were sooo many deer having their own feast right outside the window!

AND because no Thanksgiving is complete without multiple dinners we had supper at our friend’s house with another amazing prepared feast and about 20 more people. This Thanksgiving dinner is more friends than family and more food then 100 people could eat. After stuffing our faces one more time, we retired to the game room for a night of “Just Dance” on the Xbox…another honored Thanksgiving tradition.

just dance me the boys

We danced until midnight, and I have to say that watching Husband and his friends dance to synchronized choreography together while competing for the highest score is one of the most hilarious and enjoyable things we EVER ever do. I think these pictures speak for themselves.

woops, who is supposed to be hugging who here?
woops, who is supposed to be hugging who here?

pandd dance line

Now that Thanksgiving is officially over I am overwhelmed as I lie in bed and think about how so so lucky we are… If I’m being completely honest, the day was not perfect…I was more tired than I’ve been since my first trimester, I burnt things, forgot things, became highly annoyed with Husband for stupid reasons, felt guilty for being so irritable this time of year, missed my family in Texas and accidentally locked my cat out all night in the freezing weather. (Yes, I cried and I feel AWFUL.) However, now that the day is over and I realize how trivial my worries are I can fully appreciate that the good far outweighs the bad in my life… and I have more to be thankful for than I could ever imagine. Oh, and before I forget it’s also the start of Hanukkah! Yay for more celebrations!


Hope each of you had a day to be thankful for and many more to come.


I Cooked: Part 2

I have had a busy and exciting week, which means I have SO much to write about and share, but for some reason I have not been able to write this weekend. It’s been a cross between recovering from the busy-ness and a lack of motivation. Anyhow, instead of writing about Blue Men, Shakespeare’s ladies, picnics and rock climbing, I will write about cookies…because who doesn’t like cookies?

I do not have much of a sweet tooth, but every once in a while I get a hankering for a specific dessert, which typically includes chocolate. Last night, I HAD to have no-bake chocolate peanut-butter cookies. I tried to forget the craving by taking a 3 hour nap (I had a migraine), but I woke up feeling headache free and ravenous for cookies. The craving was so strong that I walked to the grocery store to get the needed ingredients

-2 cups sugar
-4 tablespoons cocoa
-1 stick butter
-1/2 cup milk
-1 cup peanut butter
-1 tablespoon vanilla
-3 cups oatmeal
-Waxed paper

I was pretty confident in making these cookies because I have made them numerous times with my Mother. It’s a favorite treat of ours. The directions are simple…

1. Boil sugar, cocoa, butter and milk for a minute.

2. Add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal (I also add a handful of chocolate chips because, why not?)

3. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto wax paper to cool and harden.

The only part that is a little nerve-racking, for me, is the boiling. I have made the mistake of letting the mixture burn to the bottom so I made sure to constantly stir this time. I asked Husband to measure out the rest of the ingredients for me and slowly add them so I could keep stirring. (Cooking is a team effort in our house, or until I become trustworthy in the kitchen). Husband was rightfully worried I was screwing up the recipe so he repeatedly asked me things like “Really, 1 tablespoon of vanilla? Are you sure?”

I was a little annoyed at how little he trusted me. I mean, come on, I can READ the recipe. After saying to him, ” Would you like to read the recipe yourself?” I immediately recognized a little mistake… I accidentally doubled the amount of milk I was supposed to use.


I tried to boil the first ingredients for an extra 4 minutes to evaporate some of the milk, but nothing worked. I went ahead with the rest of the recipe, and everything seemed to turn out right. Only now, 12 hours later, the cookies are still extremely gooey, delicious, but very gooey.



Oh well, at least no one will ask me to host Thanksgiving dinner!


I Cooked

When Husband first left for Nashville a couple of weeks ago I promised myself to learn to cook at least one meal while he was gone.  I had been craving Spanish rice and beans for days and began searching recipes on Pinterest*. I came across one that used a crockpot, was very simple and sounded delicious. Perfect.

The only thing it needs is rice, dried kidney beans, celery, onion, bell pepper, scallions, seasoning, and garlic. The directions basically said to add these all to the crockpot, cook for four hours, and poof! Rice and beans at your service.

riceandbeans ingredients greenonions

I did exactly what the recipe said with one exception; I used canned beans instead of dried because I already had them. Four hours later, I opened the crockpot to give it a taste and discovered that the rice had yet to cook and it all tasted very bland. I add more salt and seasonings and continued to let it cook, checking on it every half hour.

Six hours later, it was all cooked, but tasted absolutely disgusting. I tried to bear it. I added hot sauce and more seasoning, but then it just tasted like a spicy bite of disgustingness. I kept it around for another day, wishing that it would improve with time like wine or soup, but it did not. It all ended with me pouring it all in the garbage and ordering a large order of rice and beans from a nearby Mexican restaurant.

Actually, I accidentally ordered two large orders of rice and beans and was able to eat of them for 3 days. I also ordered vegetable fajitas and I managed to use all of this to create my own nachos every night. I just tossed in the chopped veggies, the rice and the beans into a skillet with a little olive oil. After, it sautéed for a about 5-10 minutes I poured it over a plate of tortilla chips, added fresh tomato and avocado and had my version of “homemade” nachos.


Even though my original plan failed miserably, I attempted one more simple recipe. I decided to make fruit infused iced tea. This was SO easy, and actually came out great!

First I made pomegranate tea.

herbteas tea

Once it cooled, I added chopped strawberries, oranges and blackberries. To finish it off I stirred in a little honey and fresh lemon juice.


That’s it, and the tea was delicious, fruity and not too sweet.


I’m not going to give up yet, I am determined to learn to cook, and hopefully enjoy it.


*I searched for the recipe again on Pinterest so I could share the link, and give the original author credit, but I couldn’t find it. Also, she may not want to be connected to the outcome in this post, but I’m sure her’s came out much better than mine.

Do Not Cook Your Socks Above 350 Degrees Fahrenheit

When I was a little girl we lived in a house on piers. I loved our little cozy yellow house with it’s screened in back porch, but living in a house on piers is not always ideal. During the winter the floors were very cold, and we lived in Texas! My wonderful Mom would often put our socks in the oven before waking us for school. (She would put our entire outfit if it was an extremely cold day.) The feeling of freshly baked socks on your feet on a cold winter morning is definitely one of the best feelings ever.

I have carried on this habit, and often bake my own socks when my feet our feeling chilled. Tonight was one of those times. Because Mother Nature is apparently angry with NYC we were hit by a snowstorm today. (I believe the newscaster is calling it a New Easter storm, but I’m not paying very close attention.) Anyhow, it’s winter. There’s no other way to explain it. Last week, we had a summer hurricane, this week a blizzard*.

*I tend to exaggerate cold weather….also the size of bugs.

I did not dress weather appropriate this morning because like the rest of Manhattan, I didn’t think I’d walk to work in the sunshine and leave in a White Wonderland. By the time I got home my little tootsies were wet and frozen. I immediately put a clean pair of socks in the oven and set the temperature to 350. (That’s my standard sock baking temperature.) Then, I began making the world’s largest pot of vegetable soup and a hot cup of tea.

Fast forward 2 and a half hours later: I’ve had two bowls of soup, 2 cups of tea, aanndddddddd “Oh shit!”

I ran into the kitchen and flung the oven door open to find my stiff socks smoking and discolored. First, I was relieved they hadn’t caught fire. Seconds later, I was panicked when Husband came in wondering what the rush was all about. As quick as lightening I took the hot socks out of the oven and threw them in the shower to hide the evidence. I just could not stand one more lecture from Husband about my lack of attention, patience, and carefulness.

These were blue and white originally.

This is why I should never cook!

Eventually, he discovered the socks and solved the mystery. Luckily, he was too busy laughing at me to give me a lecture. Whew!

Now, I’m wondering if this little incident will persuade him to bake my socks for me….

Happy baking and stay warm!!!


What to Do When You are Stuck Inside during a National Disaster

Hurricane Sandy has given a me a few much needed days off work to relax and check a few things off my to-do list. Normally, I’d get out and do something fun and adventurous during a 5-day weekend, but this national disaster has put us all under house arrest. After writing some blogs and lesson plans, cleaning the entire apartment, painting my nails, and working out I had to get a little creative.

Here’s “Hilarie’s list of what to do to keep from getting bored and wishing you could go to work”.

1. Cook something. I made two giant pots of butternut squash and vegetable soup, which was really delicious. (Husband says it’s not okay to compliment my own food, but how else will you know that I managed to successfully make a yummy dinner!?!?)

2. Annoy your dog. I took pictures of Belle and teased her for looking nervous when it hadn’t even started storming yet.

3. Because soup isn’t enough…make cookies!

Halloween funfetti mix with chocolate chips, my own special combo

4. Annoy your dog some more. I took some more pics of Belle being cute and sleeping between our laptops.

5. Leave your house and visit a friend with a better view. When, we got really bored we left and went to a friend’s house to enjoy their rooftop view.

The wind gusts are A LOT stronger from 45 floors up!

6. Find an open restaurant. Hurricanes make me hungry.

You are looking at a fried ravioli stuffed with chocolate and bananas, smothered in berry and grand marnier sauce, and topped off with pumpkin ice cream. Yes, it’s a good as it sounds.

7. Carve a pumpkin! Hello! It’s Halloween!

Draw your pattern.
Rip out it’s guts….
Carve carefully, and tada!!! (That’s a cat and a dog in case you weren’t sure.)

8. Annoy your dog one more time. She could at least pretend to be excited that I just carefully carved her portrait into a pumpkin.

Poor sleepy puppy

9. Play cards. I taught Dad-in-law and Zoey to play Rook (a favorite in my family)

If you play Rook, you know this is a TERRIBLE hand.

10. (Husband’s tip) Play with your camera. Husband’s subjects of choice were my wedding rings.

He’s getting pretty good with that camera.
Highlighting the hidden Mickey

If all of these steps fail then watch a Sex and the City marathon, read a book, drink a few bottles of wine, do some yoga, or take a nap! Work will start again before you know it!

Stay safe NYC, cheers!

Big and Little Italy

While living in Albania, Husband and I were fortunate enough to visit Italy twice! We went to Rome and Venice twice; and Florence, Pompeii, and Naples once. I LOVE so many things about Italian culture: the language, the food, the espresso, the style, the history, the architecture, the young guys in tight pants and leather jackets, and the pretty girls in stilettos and designer duds. I could do without the high prices and the excessive smoking, but every destination has its shortcomings.

One of our most favorite restaurants in the whole entire world is a tiny teahouse hidden on a little side street in the middle of the waterways of Venice. An adorable sweet elderly couple runs the place and serves fresh homemade dishes all day with a wide assortment of teas. They have their regular customers that occupy 4 out of the 5 tables, and have managed to make the most cozy and loving environment.

My first time at the tea house.
Second time I took my Mom and cousin. Look at all that food!


One of my favorite locations out of all our traveling is the Spanish Steps. I had gelato when I first visited the Spanish Steps because I wanted to sit on the steps, eat gelato, and people watch just like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. The steps are so beautiful and always full of Italians and tourists. I had such a good time that I even bought one of the touristy watercolor paintings from a artist at the top of the steps to commemorate the memory.

View from the bottom

One of our most favorite experiences on a vacation is taking cooking classes with Chef Fabio. Fabio took us all through the Jewish Ghetto of Rome at the crack of dawn to purchase fresh ingredients. Then, he took us to his gorgeous home to learn how to make homemade pasta and ravioli in his actual kitchen! His wife wasn’t home so he told us to make ourselves comfortable and check out every room of the house, even his bedroom, which had a beautiful view of the Spanish Steps!

Checking out his beautiful view
Look at me, all grown up, and learning to make ravioli!

Now, you have to know that after having all of these great memories, plus many more, that I often miss living so close to Italy. So, when I learned that Little Italy, right here in Manhattan, was having their annual Feast of San Gennaro (New York’s oldest and biggest religious street festival) I made immediate plans to check it out.

Little Italy is like a tiny sample bite of Italian culture. There are tiny crowded streets with authentic Italian food, old men drinking espresso and smoking, and lots of restaurant owners standing outside their doors beckoning every pedestrian to take a seat and try their fresh pasta. That’s about as deep as the culture goes.

The Feast of San Gennaro lined every inch of every street in Little Italy. Some of the booths had fresh brick-oven pizza, Italian wines, gelato, or even fresh pasta. These booths were fun (and delicious), but half of the them had tacky carnival games, cheap souvenirs, and lots and lots of fried everything (also delicious).

I think this police officer was posing for me.

Potato Swirls!!!

Very, very, very good fried pickles…mmmmmm
We ended our tour with a healthy batch of fresh fried Oreo’s.

Getting bits and pieces of numerous cultures and traditions is another reason why I love living in the city! Is anyone else attending a cultural festival soon? I know my hometown is celebrating their annual Pecan Festival! I would love to fly home for some greasy food and fresh lemonade…not sure I can find boudain balls or pecan pies at any street fairs in NYC! There’s always next year…

Cheers and Cin Cin!

Never Know What to do With Squash

I must be sick. Over the last month I have been cooking. Not like, toast and microwavable nuggets cooking, like real chop-up-the-veggies and use the oven cooking.  I don’t know what’s come over me, but I’ve come home from work a few times in one week and started slaving away in the kitchen like I’m Donna Reed.

I made a huge Mexican feast one night and I did not even use canned beans or instant Spanish rice! Do you know how long it takes to cook dried beans and real Spanish rice??? A long-ass time! It was delicious though, so I guess it was worth the time it consumed; I felt incredibly accomplished when I finished eating and Husband did the dishes.

We order most of our groceries online from Fresh Direct, and have them delivered to our door because we are real New Yorkers, and real New Yorkers get everything delivered. (Also, it’s actually a little cheaper to get them online, and it’s worth having someone else carry all your groceries up four flights of stairs!). The one problem with online grocery shopping is not being able to see the immense pile of groceries flowing over your virtual shopping cart.

It is too easy to just “click, click, click” away, and end up with items you will never actually eat. I try to avoid over shopping by keeping a list on the fridge that I update anytime I notice we are out of something, or need something specific. That way, when it’s time to order more, I have an exact list to follow. Although, somehow, those sneaky little “On Sale Summer Clearance Fresh Super Cheap Items” advertisements always overpower my list and I still end up with 36 bottles of seltzer water at my door the next day.

The most recent order I made, I “accidently” bought 2 pounds of squash. I like squash, but really, what the hell was I thinking buying 2 pounds of squash and nothing else to compliment it? It wasn’t like I had a squash recipe idea in mind.

Eventually, the dreaded end-of-edible-groceries-in-the-fridge-time came, and all that was left was the squash and a few random ingredients. I decided to google a recipe for squash casserole….hoping we’d have enough to make something work.

I ended up combining about 3 different recipes, picking and choosing the ingredients we had, and invented my own casserole recipe. Because casseroles (like soup, sandwiches, and salads) are the kind of dishes you can just add random ingredients too, and they will still turn out decent. I half followed each casserole recipe, threw in a few of my own ideas, and came up with a pretty yummy dish.

First, I sliced the all the squash and boiled the slices until they were tender.


Next, I drained the water and mashed all the squash slices with my potato masher.


Third, I added about a cup of milk, about a cup of vegetable broth, and a couple handfuls of shredded parmesan to the mashed squash.


After this, I beat one egg, and added it with some of my favorite seasonings to the mixture.


Then, I coated a casserole dish with olive oil and put the casserole mixture in the dish.

I’m such an olive oil snob, and this is amazing olive oil!!!!! You MUST try it.


I topped off the casserole with 3 different toppings because I couldn’t decide which would taste butter. On one third I used crushed croutons, another third I used crushed tortilla chips, and on the last third I used some left over crumbled cornbread.

I cooked the casserole on 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, and tada!


Just call me Hilarie Crocker.

I don’t know what’s come over me, but I hope this cooking phase doesn’t last too long…I’d hate for Husband to lose his touch.


Best Sandwich Ever

For about two days I did not eat out,  buy Starbucks, online shop, or anything else at all. I was still feeling guilty about my shopping spree that I did nothing to earn, so I thought I’d save some money by making myself meals and coffee for a couple days.

Venturing into the kitchen can be an extremely messy and frightening experience for me.

Every morning, I blindly stumble into the kitchen, and manage to start a pot of coffee with just the mere memory of where everything is placed in my kitchen. I then shower*, and it’s around the time that I dry my face off that I feel like my eyes are open and the smell of coffee reminds me that I made coffee and that I do have a reason to get up at such a painful hour.

After drinking a pot of coffee, and finally waking up, I look around the kitchen….horrified…then turn to Belle (who is whining for breakfast) and say, “WHO made this mess Belle?!?!”

The kitchen looks as if a mad person sprinkled coffee grinds on every inch of counter space, dripped water on the floor, the rugs, and down the side of the coffee maker, and took out 3 different coffee mugs.

I’d like to blame this behavior on the fact that I make coffee while still asleep, but my own Mother and Fiance will be all too happy to tell you that this is always how I behave in the kitchen…no matter what the hour. “If you follow any trail of crumbs it is sure to lead to Hilarie.” ~Mom

Even when I try extra hard to be neat while cooking, someone else will walk in and immediately have a look of shock upon their face. “How did you get avocado in your hair?” ~Fiance

Even though I am an obvious mess, I stuck with my plan to cook for myself. (You should know that Fiance was out of town for the weekend so I was really left to fend for myself.)

My first meal was what I will call “The Best Damn Vegetarian Sandwich You Will EVER Have – made by Hilarie”. That’s right I made it, and it was FANTASTIC. Here’s how I did it.


wheat bread, mayonnaise, cilantro hummus (but any hummus will work), arugula, vegan pepper jack cheese, cherry tomatoes, orange bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, vegetarian chicken nuggets, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some random seasonings


I pretty much treat my sandwiches like my soups…I just throw all my favorite things together and wish for the best.

First, cook four fake chicken nuggets on a skillet. They turn out crunchy this way, the microwave just makes them mushy. I typically still make them in the microwave because I am impatient, but I was trying to be a real chef this day.

Next, toast the bread. Then, spread the mayonnaise and hummus. After these grueling steps, just toss all the veggies on (after you chopped them up of course), put on the hot nuggets, and add the cheese.

The last step is to add the extra flavor. I pretended to be a Subway sandwich maker and top off my sandwich with olive oil and vinegar, and some seasonings that I like…I think I used some Italian seasonings and pepper.


Best sandwich ever

It was so good it was even worth the disaster left in the kitchen. If it wasn’t for my very strong fear of roaches, I would have left the mess until Fiance returned from Pittsburgh.

I hope you enjoyed my super easy vegetarian cooking lesson.


*This is kind of a lie. I do not shower every morning…In fact I only wash my hair every 2 or 3 days, BUT I do wash my face every morning, which can often take as long as a shower.

Dinner Time!

It’s no secret that I am not a very good cook, nor do I enjoy it much. Every once in a while though, I get hungry, and Fiance refuses to cook. Often when this happens we just order delivery. Tonight though, I had inspirateion from Pinterest…Pinspiration as I’d like to call it!

I found a recipe on Pinterest for Taco Soup. I LOVE tacos! And, the one thing I can kind of cook is soup! Soup is so easy, just throw some stuff in a big pot, add a bunch of seasoning, and voila! Soup!

This recipe sounded super simple (right up my ally), and was really easy to turn into a vegetarian dish. (Did I mention I’m a vegetarian?) Anyways, here’s what I used to make my soup.

I would have used garlic, but we were out and neither one of us was willing to leave the apartment and walk the 40 feet to the grocery store on the corner.

First I chopped all the veggies with my new veggie chopper (God bless wedding registries!). As you can see I do not allow cooking to make me miss out on anything. This includes the premier of Fashion Star, so I chopped on the living room rug.

Next, I sautéed the veggies in olive oil until they were squishy and a little brown. When the veggies started to cook a little I went ahead and added my fake ground beef (Morning Star). It’s already cooked, but it’s frozen, so I let it heat up with the chopped veggies.

Then, I rinsed the beans and added them. I added the cans of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, corn and seasonings  at the same time. Lastly, I added about a cup and a half of water.

I stired, put the lid on, and let it cook on low for a while so that all the seasonings would soak in. I tasted it about 20 minutes later. It was good, but needed to cook a little longer. I let it keep cooking as I left to do better things. That’s the great thing about soup.

About an hour later I remembered I was cooking… woops. Soooo the bottom of the soup was a little burnt.

Eh, it’s not mine if it’s not a little burnt! It was still great, and we added some cheese to top it off. (Soy cheese for me.) I ate the next day on top of a plate of kale to make an extra healthy taco salad. Yum!

You know what the best part of the whole endeavor was???

Fiance got to do the dishes, woohoo!