Indian Chai Lattes

Indian Chai Lattes

Indian Chai Lattes

There’s an Indian restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona called Jewel of the Crown. I grew up a few miles away from it, but it was slightly too fancy to go there on a regular basis. Mostly, we would go when family was visiting from out of town – it was a special occasion. And for the kid version of me, it was a very special occasion. I took to it immediately, even when I was young: the chicken was perfectly cooked, the naan bread was devoured in minutes.

But my favorite thing came piping hot from a tap: chai lattes. Milky, subtle but present spices, and delicious black tea. It took everything in me not to finish it in one sip. I coveted these chai lattes and thought about them months after eating at the restaurant. I’d try chai lattes elsewhere, but they weren’t the same – they tasted pretty much like watery syrup with some milk mixed in.

I haven’t been to the restaurant in at least 10 years and here I am, still thinking about those perfect chais.

But here I am with a chai latte recipe that tastes just like those perfect ones. I am so glad I finally tried it. If you’ve only ever had chai lattes from The Great Big Coffee Chain That Shall Not Be Named, you really, really should try making these. And it’s not even too hard to make in the comfort of your own saucepan: if you can get your hands on green cardamom pods (I found them easily at Penzey’s) and some star anise (in most grocery stores), everything else comes together in minutes.

Indian Chai Lattes

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Butter and Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

butter & roasted tomato pasta sauce on inthiskitchen.com

butter & roasted tomato pasta sauce on inthiskitchen.com

I took a vacation about a month ago, and it seemed to extend until around now. Summer vacation has a tendency to do that, it seems – and in the office where I work, it’s only reinforced, because at any given time there are 20% of my coworkers on vacation between the months of May and September. So the overall feeling of vacation hangs around, even long after my own is over. I’m definitely not complaining – I’d extend summer throughout the whole year if I could.

I finally feel like I’m getting back to a sort of normal routine, though, and with that I am able to cook more regularly again. I’d had this recipe bookmarked for a couple weeks and finally got around to making it yesterday. It’s as simple as can be, and was easy enough for a weeknight where I was sleep-deprived and couldn’t bother with anything complex. You just toss some (good quality) canned tomatoes into a large baking dish, and throw in a handful garlic cloves, a teeny bit of anchovy, and butter to help it along. It roasts for just 35-40 minutes, bubbling away and reducing to a luscious sauce that you can pour over any pasta you’d like. With minimal chopping required, it’s almost as easy as just opening a jar of sauce, and it certainly tastes a whole lot more unique.

butter & roasted tomato pasta sauce on inthiskitchen.com

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Corn & Quinoa Salad with Lemon & Mint

Lemony Corn and Quinoa Salad with Mint Recipe

Lemony Corn and Quinoa Salad with Mint Recipe

I write to you from Tucson, Arizona, where it is now “only” 99 degrees Fahrenheit outside, cooling down from what was likely a balmy high of 104. I’m here visiting family and taking in the general gestalt of the desert, where I lived for 18 years as a kid, but somehow appreciate so much more now. You don’t get sunsets and golden light like here anywhere else. And after marathoning Breaking Bad for the last few weeks (I know I’m late to the party, but yeah, it’s good), the desert seems even more cinematic, driving down the highway at 80 miles an hour with nothing but mountains, dust, and cacti on either side.

In any case, summer is felt loud and clear around these parts, and in summer I love these kinds of salads that can be a light dinner, a whole dinner, a lunch, an appetizer… and be as delicious cold as it is warm. This particular quinoa salad has a fantastic flavor, probably owing a lot to the fresh flavors of the corn, lemon and mint that play perfectly off the deep background flavor of butter and a hint of honey. And the fresh mint leaves throughout make the whole thing come together and sing. I devoured this warm for dinner, then ate it the next two days for work lunches, just cold out of the fridge. I probably don’t have to tell you that it would be a great potluck meal or side dish to bring too, and very easy to make a day ahead.

I hope everyone out there (at least those of you in the Northern hemisphere) are having a lovely summer so far, full of fresh foods and longer relaxing days. Do you have an all-time favorite summer salad?

Lemony Corn and Quinoa Salad with Mint Recipe

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Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits | in this kitchen

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits | in this kitchen

Recipes have failed in my realm lately, guys. Almond butter chocolate chunk cookies that came out too oaty and chewy, despite using an entire jar of (expensive!) almond butter in them. Dark chocolate amaretto cookies that looked so good in the recipe I was using, but came out weirdly acidic and bitter (the magic must have been lost in translation, literally – I was using Google to translate the recipe from Lithuanian). I only have so much time and money to bake with, and it’s just sad when things don’t taste great. My search for Amaretto recipes lives on though, since I’ve got to do something with the bottle of it I bought for my lemon cakes recipe months ago. I will keep you updated with any future successes.

So today I’m turning to this buttermilk biscuit recipe, which I’ve made twice and both times to great, great success. The biscuits are called “Touch of Grace biscuits,” which is the perfect name to describe how airy and light these biscuits are. Don’t get me wrong, they are immensely buttery and creamy, but they crumble perfectly and don’t feel dense at all. Southern self-rising flour is a key ingredient, which I previously hadn’t heard of, but was easy to locate in Whole Foods.

The biscuits are from Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise. I heard about them from Molly Wizenberg, as I do many of my favorite recipes. I was listening to Molly and Matthew Amster-Burton’s terrific podcast Spilled Milk and when Molly described these biscuits, I had to go out, get myself some Southern self-rising flour, and make them that same weekend. We ate them hot right out of the pan, and they still were good hours later at room temperature. They were good enough that I even took a tupperware full of them to my boyfriend’s parents and they loved them, which is always a good way to win brownie-points (biscuit-points?).

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits | in this kitchen

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Lemon Mascarpone Cookies

Lemon Mascarpone Cookies

Lemon Mascarpone Cookies

I’ve been trying to get better at doing things on the weekends, a far cry from my high school and college days when every break from school meant doing nothing at all. Now that I’m older and wiser more anxious, I always feel like 2 days for a weekend is just never enough and how could I possibly maximize the precious time I have, and oh no it’s already Sunday again!? Even though my social life isn’t exactly overflowing, I still manage to feel like there’s not enough time to do all the reading, cooking, going for long walks, watching tv or movies, hanging out with Dan – not to mention chores, grocery shopping, and other stuff shopping. It’s even worse in summer, because there’s so many things you always *could* be doing (like this weekend the DC Pride Parade is down in Dupont and we didn’t go to check it out, womp womp).

In any case, cooking and grocery shopping are two things that are an absolute necessity, and I love to make at least one sweet and one savory thing each weekend. A few weeks ago I came across these lemon mascarpone cookies and I knew I had to procure some mascarpone as soon as I could.

These lemon mascarpone cookies are full of bright lemon zest and creamy, slightly tart mascarpone; they’re soft and a little crumbly, not tough in the slightest. I think they are as refreshing as a cookie can be. You can make them even smaller than I did here so that they’re basically bite-size, or make them a little bigger for a more traditional-sized cookie. Either way, they are the perfect simple dessert for those hot days that are certainly coming soon.

Lemon Mascarpone Cookies

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Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad

Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe

Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe

The first time I had caprese, it was in a salad. Not the traditional caprese salad you may be thinking of – which is just sliced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella laying together in harmony, perfect as they are – but instead a big pile of salad greens with fresh basil leaves throughout, topped with cut tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Needless to say, it was incredibly good, so good that I often ordered in lieu of pizza at that restaurant (gasp). It has since been my go-to whenever I’m asked to bring an appetizer to a potluck – it’s hard to mess up.

And in the warm months, it’s hard to imagine a better thing to eat. Basil and tomatoes are at their freshest and if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you can just go grab handfuls of both right outside. It is a big, bold, underlined item on my Life Goals list to have a garden of my own, and when I do, it will be required to house many bunches of my beloved basil.

Here, we’ve got another slight variation on the tomato, mozz, basil holy trinity: toss ’em with pasta. This caprese pasta salad has a twist, too: the tomatoes are quickly roasted in olive oil and garlic until they blister and soften in the oven, taking away any bitterness and replacing it with earthy sweetness. I had a hard time not plucking them all off of the pan and eating them before assembling the pasta. The roasted tomatoes get tossed with whatever pasta you like, ribbons of basil, and mozzarella in a bright vinaigrette. It’s equally good cold, room temperature, or warm, which makes it a great take-along meal for potlucks, parties, or just your desk at work.

Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe

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Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto and Pickled Shallots

Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto and Pickled Shallots

Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto and Pickled Shallots

Do you like to travel light, in minimalist fashion, and not gather too many possessions to your name? Or do you happily collect and squirrel away your belongings? I always have been in the former camp, never wanting to have too much stuff so that when I inevitably move (as I have ~8 times in the past 10 years), I don’t have too many heavy things to carry. No furniture. Not too many heavy books. I donate big bags of clothes at least three times a year.

My boyfriend is firmly in the latter category, especially when it comes to his books – he has hundreds, and wouldn’t dream of getting rid of a single one. It makes me anxious just looking at them, thinking of how much weight and effort it will be during our next move. But they keep on coming, and we keep getting more bookshelves to accommodate them. We recently maxed out the two bookcases we had, so it was time to go to the Mecca for Twentysomething, Non-Rich Couples: Ikea!

We made the 40-minute trek there yesterday, to get our 3rd bookshelf. We do not have a couch yet, a TV, or any real living room furnishings to speak of, but the books, they have a home. I did make the crucial purchase of a $7 string of lights to drape around our back door, in a side of the room that normally is dark and unwelcoming. I love the glowy little lights and along with the bookshelves, we at least have an interesting living room, if not a furnished one. Baby steps, right? One day we will feel like real live adults with a proper home! (Right?)

One thing we never skimp on is food. I tell myself that I’m allowed to spend a little more money on luxuries like prosciutto or the more expensive brand of olive oil, because I save so much money by never going out to bars and clubs, like most 25-year-olds do. I can especially forgive expensive prosciutto when it’s paired with such simple things as asparagus and pickled shallots here, which come together to make a unique and non-fussy side dish (or dinner, when I accidentally eat a huge lunch earlier in the day).

This simple recipe comes together in no time and is great for late spring. The pickled shallots alone are worth the recipe, but I’m just biased because I love pickled anything.

Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto and Pickled Shallots

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Bacon and Broccoli Pasta

Bacon and Broccoli Pasta | in this kitchen

Bacon and Broccoli Pasta | in this kitchen

Do you have a go-to pasta recipe? One that you think of when you hear the word “pasta?”

For me, and probably a lot of you too, it has always been a simple spaghetti with meat sauce. This was what I had growing up, as much as I possibly could – it was by far one of my favorite foods, and I’d always scoop up the remaining sauce with a nice piece of bread in what I like to call Having Some Carbs with My Carbs. It was delicious; it still is.

But these days I like to branch out just a little more when it comes to my pasta recipes. Ones that don’t necessarily need to contain tomato sauce (gasp!). This bacon and broccoli pasta one is one of our new favorites around here, and it’s got tons of broccoli as well as a good amount of bacon, making it semi-healthy and very flavorful.

Bacon and Broccoli Pasta | in this kitchen

Bacon and Broccoli Pasta | in this kitchen

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Buffalo Chicken Puff Pastry Squares

Buffalo Chicken Puff Pastry Squares | in this kitchen

Buffalo Chicken Puff Pastry Squares | in this kitchen

I don’t know about you, but buffalo chicken pizza, or chicken on pizza in general, has never been my thing. Chicken on puff pastry though – that’s a whole ‘nother ball game, and these buffalo chicken puff pastry squares are so, so good. If you like buffalo chicken at all, you need to make these. I searched the web many times trying to find a buffalo chicken puff pastry recipe but didn’t come up with much, so I decided to try to make one myself, and it was actually pretty easy!

These of course have lots of buffalo chicken, shredded mozzarella cheese that gets nice and brown and bubbly in the oven, a little bit of oregano and garlic powder, and then they get a nice topping of blue cheese and scallions when they’re done. It’s as good as it sounds, and it’s all on top of a super flaky puff pastry crust. I already want another one.

Buffalo Chicken Puff Pastry Squares | in this kitchen

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Miso Ginger Baby Bok Choy

Easy Miso Bok Choy Recipe on www.inthiskitchen.com

Easy Miso Bok Choy Recipe on www.inthiskitchen.com

You know those recipes where you make, say, a sauce, and it is so good that you think “I’m going to put this on everything from now on?” Oh man, this is one of those recipes. I admittedly have quite a few sauces that are in this category, almost all of them Asian – this otsu sauce, this spicy and sweet szechuan chili sauce, this fresh ginger lemon sauce, and this miso sesame sauce just to name a few. But this miso ginger baby bok choy I have today has landed on the list as well, with its mild miso, hint of lime, present but not fiery ginger, and sweet mirin.

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