Banh Mi Hot Dog

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! And that means it’s time to slather on the sunscreen and fire up those grills!

Burgers and dogs are the classics for a barbecue, but how about sprucing up the condiment station and giving guests something more than the ketchup, mustard and relish they’ve grown accustomed to?

How about some sriracha yogurt sauce, some cucumbers, cabbage and bean sprouts?

That’s right.

I’m talking about making a banh mi hot dog.

A banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made with pork and traditional Vietnamese ingredients like cilantro and pickled carrots.

For our version, we set out a plate with sliced cucumbers, scallions, bean sprouts and shredded cabbage. And mixed up a sauce of Greek yogurt and a few dashes of sriracha.


So this Memorial Day, turn your plain old hot dog


Into a spicy, Vietnamese-style banh mi dog


For additional crunch, we topped ours with some chopped peanuts.


That Thai iced tea we made yesterday went great with the dogs. Really cools down the srirachi sauce!

Taco Taco Taco

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer.

It’s also the official start of grilling season.

Dads start rolling out the grills from the garage. People gather for backyard barbecues. Food Network has Grilling Week, a whole week dedicated to specials and shows and recipes centered around the grill.

There’s nothing better than a juicy burger, hot off the grill and tasting of open flames.

Except, if you have an itty bitty city kitchen, there’s nary a grill in sight.

Yes, I know, there are grill pans for indoor use. But I don’t know if it’s just us or if any of you had the same problem, we totally smoked our kitchen out using one. We have to go college-smoking-in-the-dorm style and bag our smoke detector to grill chicken or a burger.

Then the whole apartment smells like smoke.

Seriously. I showered the next day and when I dried off with my towel, I was basically rubbing smoke all over my newly cleaned self.

So for us, the grill pan is out. And anyway, the grill pan doesn’t mimic the char that you get on your burger when you cook over an open flame. And if I can’t have it the right way, then I’d rather not have.

So instead of trying to concoct ways to participate in the ultimate day for grilling, we went a different route.

Beef wasn’t optional.

But the bun was.

Who says you can’t celebrate Memorial Day with taco night?

I will admit that taco night is one of the more challenging nights in the life of an itty bitty city kitchen, but if you’re prepared and organized, it’s totally doable.

I’ll share with you our ingredients, but feel free to add and subtract toppings to suit your tastes.

  • romaine lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • black olives
  • shredded cabbage
  • taco cheese
  • salsa
  • Greek yogurt with a squeeze of lime (in place of sour cream)
  • flour tortillas

So here’s what I mean by being organized. We’re going to set up a make your own taco bar, which means each topping will be chopped up, put in its own bowl and lined up on the counter. It could easily overwhelm a little kitchen. But we’re going to be methodical.

First, pull out enough bowls for each topping and stack them up on the counter.

Get the cutting board and a knife.

Okay, here’s the key. Start with your least messy ingredient and then work your way to the messiest.

Think about it. You cut the tomato first and then move onto the romaine and you either have to rinse the cutting board and knife first or you wind up with tomato juice all over your romaine.

So, start with your romaine. Chop, place in bowl and then move the bowl out of the way, either off to the side or into the fridge to keep cold. I did the olives next, followed by the tomato. Then the cutting board went into the sink.

Spoon out a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt into a bowl and spritz lime juice  over.


When everything is assembled, it’s on to the meat.

For the meat, I used ground beef, chorizo and half a yellow onion. But you can use just ground beef, chicken breast, steak, whatever you like. Taco night is all about taste and tailoring it to your tastes and cravings.

Drizzle olive oil in a pan and add in the chopped yellow onion and some chorizo, diced. I’m using the chorizo in place of taco seasoning here, mostly because it’s on hand and because the flavor is so much more complex than what you get from a seasoning packet.


Cook the onions and chorizo over medium until the onions are translucent and the chorizo starts to brown.


Add in the ground beef and brown.

Pour the meat into a bowl and add this to the taco assembly line.

Grab a plate, grab a tortilla and build your taco.


It’s not the traditional Memorial Day celebration, but it works for us.

We’ll start a new tradition.



Summer on a plate strawberry pie

So it’s still not particularly warm out.

But when I stand in my kitchen, the sunlight streaming through the window, it at least looks like summer today.

And if you make this pie, your kitchen will smell like summer.

Look. Smell. We’re two senses of the way there!

Seriously, this pie will make your kitchen smell like strawberry fields.

I know we made cookies yesterday. And yes, we still have cookies left. But it’s a holiday weekend. So let there be gluttony!

Though, this pie is loaded with fruit, so it’s really good for you.

Before I get into the strawberry, summery goodness of this pie, I need to talk to you about the crust.

I know.

There are so many pre-made crust options at the store.

And I know, who has time to make pie crust?

1. It’s a holiday weekend, so you have the time.

2. This crust is faster than you think.

3. You will make this and you will understand. There is no store bought crust that compares.

This is my Grandma Helen’s pie crust.

I first learned to make this when I was trying to recreate her famous banana cream pie.

That’s right. Famous.

You never heard of Grandma Helen’s banana cream pie?

Go to Delaware. Ask anyone from my dad’s neighborhood. Ask anyone from our family. Ask any kid who grew up with any one of my Grandma Helen’s 6 kids.

That’s right. 6 kids.

My dad is the oldest boy and the second oldest kid of 6.

My grandmother had 6 children. And no dishwasher.

God bless her.

Her banana cream pie is probably her most-loved recipe. With her cinnamon rolls the probable second. I’ve never tackled those though. I read the recipe once and realized that it’d make like 4 dozen. Makes sense, considering her family of 8 often brought friends over. But I don’t think my itty bitty city kitchen can handle 48 cinnamon rolls. So until I have the whole family coming over for brunch, or until I figure out how to cut down the recipe, I will leave those to my aunt.

The reason the pie is so good (besides the butter, egg and vanilla filled homemade pudding) is very simple.

The crust.

A good pie crust is hard to come by. You may think you had a slice of pie with a good crust at a diner, but most of the time it’s a little too underdone, or a little too dry or a little to bland.

This is good pie crust.

I actually have the recipe for it hanging on the wall.


For the crust you will need

  • 1 stick butter, cold and cubes
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • .5 tsp. salt
  • 4-6 tablespoons ice cold water

The key to the crust is cold butter and cold water.

Now, a note on the water.

The women in my family, on all sides of my family, are bossy and stubborn.

My grandmother is no exception. The recipe reads, and I quote “4-6 tablespoons cold water (always use 4)”


I laugh every time I read it.

4-6 but always use 4. Also known as, grandma knows best, or do it my way or else.

(My grandmother passed away 3 years ago. And every time I make this recipe I pray she isn’t looking. I have to use 6 tablespoons. It must be drier in the city than it is in Delaware.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine the flour, butter and salt. You can use a pastry cutter or your hands. Or you can use yia-yia’s ancient cuisinart. I went with this option so I could have a grandma from each side in the kitchen with me. There’s no way this pie could be bad with two grandmas helping. (There’s also no way anything that starts with a stick of butter could be bad.)


Pulse or combine until butter forms pea-sized clumps.


Add the cold water (start with 4 tablespoons, stir then add more if necessary) and combine until the dough forms a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured counter. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a ball.

This recipe will give you two 9 inch pie crusts, so enough for 2 open-faced pies or one pie with a top. The beauty of this crust is its versatility, Pies and tarts of course. But since there’s no sugar, it easily goes savory for quiche.


You can wrap one ball in plastic and refrigerate for 2 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Roll out one of the dough balls.


Be patient with the dough. Don’t fight it. Just take your time and don’t be too concerned with making a perfect circle. Homemade pies never look perfect. They look rustic, and homemade and delicious.

Now. You may be thinking, patient? I thought you don’t have patience?

I don’t.

But my boyfriend does.

So he rolled out the dough and put it into the pie pan.


Bake for 10-12 minutes. Grandma says 10-12. She doesn’t give an exact time on this one.

While the crust bakes, it’s time to get started on the filling. I promise I will share the banana cream pie secret filling recipe to you, but not right now. Right now, it’s all about the strawberries.

For the filling you will need:

  • 1 pint + 1 handful of strawberries washed and hulled
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Slice the strawberries. The pint will go into the pie sliced. The handful will be used to make a strawberry jam-like sauce. Most recipes call for strawberry jello or a packet of gelatin, but I wanted a more natural alternative.

Set aside the sliced strawberries until the crust is cooled.


Take the remaining handful of strawberries and toss in a blender or food processor and blend.


Pour this vibrant strawberry sauce into a small pot along with the water, sugar and cornstarch.

Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce bubbles and thickens.

This is where your kitchen will smell like a strawberry field.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Toss the strawberry slices into the cooled crust.


Then pour the sauce over, shaking the pan to get the sauce into all the nooks and crannies.


Pop the pie in the fridge. You’re going to want to refrigerate this pie for a good 4-5 hours before serving. Trust me. This is one of those pies you want to be icy cold.

You can stop here. But who would want to?

This pie is begging for whipped cream.

Pour some powdered sugar and some heavy cream in a bowl.

Tip: stick the bowl and the whisk or beaters in the freezer for a couple minutes.

I know I just said pour some sugar and some cream in a bowl. I didn’t give you measurements.

Whipped cream is a matter of personal taste. We like it more on the cream side with just a hint of sweetness. You may want it really sweet. You might just have to pour and whip and taste and repeat to get the ratio you want.

Whip the mixture into stiff peaks.


Spread the whipped cream over the pie. Make sure the pie is cooled down before you add the whipped cream, otherwise it will all just melt together.

Add a few sliced strawberries on top so everyone knows what’s inside.





Summer on a plate.

Rainy Day Cookies

Memorial Day Weekend!

A three-day break from work.

The unofficial start of summer.

Time for barbecues and picnics and ripe peaches and watermelon and strawberry pie.


Here in New York, it’s 53 degrees and cloudy and windy.

So my plans for a hefty slice of cold strawberry pie after a burger and coleslaw had been thwarted. (I promise to tell you how to make the strawberry pie though once the temperatures rise).

All we can think about are movies on the couch and a big bowl of popcorn.

And cookies.

Gray and cold days scream for cookies.

Trouble was, I had planned on making pie. The strawberries were washed and sitting in the fridge, ready to be baked into a slice of summer. The butter was cubed for the pie crust.

So, we improvise.

Remember my pantry staples? Yup this is why you have them.

If you have cake mix, vegetable oil and eggs, you can make cookies.


All you need are

  • 1 box cake mix (I used dark chocolate)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

This gives you a basic cookie dough. Then you can mix in whatever you want.

For super decadent chocolate gooeyness, add chocolate chips to chocolate cake mix, or peanut butter chips for a play on Reese’s cups. Vanilla cake mix plays well with chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. Or coconut if you want a real taste of summer.

I think that one of the most perfect combinations, besides peanut butter and chocolate, is chocolate and hazelnuts. Nutella? One of the world’s most perfect foods.

To make the cookies, preheat oven to 350.

Combine the cake mix, eggs and vegetable oil. The mix will be really thick. It will almost resemble the Oreo crumble on dirt cups. If you never made dirt cups as a kid go talk to your mom right now about why she deprived you of such an iconic childhood treat.


When the ingredients are combined, stir in the mix in of your choice. I used about a half cup of hazelnuts, I think. I don’t really measure. I just kind of throw them in and stir and add more if I need to. I just go for no cookie being left without nuts.

Spoon out the batter onto a greased cookie sheet. You can make the cookies any size you want. A little smaller than a ping pong ball gives you two dozen cookies.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.


Your kitchen smells like chocolate. Melted, warm chocolate.

Brew a pot of coffee or some tea.

And settle into the couch for a 3 O’clock coffee break.

(My dad has coffee and a cookie at 3 everyday. He passed the habit to me. My body knows when it’s 3 O’clock)

These cookies are like a mix between a cookie and a brownie. Cakey and fudgey, but chewy and crunchy.

The gray skies don’t seem like such a damper on the weekend anymore.