COOKIES + CREAM COCOA CRISPY TREATS

There's this vending machine at work that silently tempts me on days when my sweet tooth is especially acting up. No, it's not the M&Ms in two varieties. Nor the pretzels or sad packages of Doritos that gets me going. It's the Rice Krispie Treat in all of the it's luminescent blue packaging that I find myself returning to.

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SWEET PATATAS BRAVAS WITH CRISPY EGG

It should come as a surprise to no one that Ann Arbor's been on my mind lately. Committing four years of your life somewhere will do that to you. But while my time at Michigan was filled with adventure and my first real heartbreak, there was one thing that Ann Arbor never lacked in. And that's food. 

Living in New York, I'm truly spoiled by the over-abundance of world-class restaurants at my disposal. I mean you could essentially close your eyes, spin around and point your finger at anywhere on a map and you're bound to find somewhere wonderful to tickle your palate. But Ann Arbor really brought it's A game. Of course, you have the super-famous Zingerman's deli - everyone's favorite sandwich-spot, but there were quite a few others that popped over over my four years. Mani Osteria had the wood-burning oven pizza down and I still dream about Isalita's steak nachos. But one restaurant I never got around to visiting was Aventura, owned by the same woman who ran Sava's, another Ann Arbor favorite of mine.

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SPICY POMEGRANATE GUACAMOLE

As I sit at my desk on this blustery afternoon, my mind naturally turns to what I'm going to eat for dinner. Do I want to spend a couple hours at the grocery store, stirring and measuring and roasting after a long day?

Fuck no. I want a bowl the size of my head filled with guacamole. With some crunchy things to dip thrown in for balance. A reasonable request, I would say.

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BLACKBERRY QUINOA SALAD WITH LEMON MINT VINAIGRETTE

I know what you're thinking. Another salad. Right? Well, let me tell you, there's no such thing as too many salads. I've mentioned before that salads are traditionally thought of as boring, but what if I told you that this salad was packed with so much flavor it would almost make you forget how healthy for you it is?

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RED SANGRIA

New York is a serendipitous place, isn't it? I'm pretty sure there's some god-awful 90's rom-com about just that, but isn't there always some kind of truth even in the cheesiest of things? 

After nearly two years of living mere blocks apart and never running into each other, an old friend and I have bumped into each other two weeks in a row - same time, same place. Living in New York, the hustle and bustle certainly gets to you and we so rarely take a breath and slow things down. Running into him and stopping to chat was almost like taking a deep breath of fresh air in this overcrowded city. It gave me the chance to stop and think, clear my head and remind myself how sometimes life bumps you in weird directions with, what seems like a bullying attitude, but really is just a friendly nudge.

And that's exactly what sangria does. Slows you down (in more ways than one, might I add.)

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POTATO CHIP MATZAH CRACK

Is there anything redeeming about matzah? It is literally the bread of affliction, for god's sake. It has weird bumpy bits and no taste, and could stop up Niagara Falls, let alone a single, sad tummy. I cannot with matzah pizza, or matzah lasagna, or any matzah version of a normally glorious chametz-filled food.

I learned a while ago that there are people who not only enjoy matzah on Passover, but all year round! Like, they go to the store in October, think "man, I could really go for some matzah right now" and then they BUY IT AND EAT IT AS IF THIS IS NORMAL. Maybe it tastes better if you've never had to survive on it for eight days a year? I don't know. I'm not going to yuck your yum if you're a year-round matzah eater, but please explain yourself in the comments.

Now, all of this being said, there actually is one redeeming thing one can do with matzah, one recipe that would get me to eat matzah every week of the year:

Matzah crack.

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GRAPEFRUIT AVOCADO ENDIVE CUPS

So, Passover is next week. Insane, right? I don't know where January or February went, but now Passover is in a week - maybe 2018 is trying to do us a favor by ending as quickly as possible.

I'm not going to my family for Passover this year, which means I'll be staying home in the city, staring longingly at bagels until I come to my senses.* In helping a friend menu plan her seder, I've been thinking about the foods and traditions my family has for our own. We always have props for the ten plagues on the table - plastic animals and bugs, those plastic monster finger puppet things and, for some reason, tiny plastic cowboys with guns for the death of the first born plague, maybe?

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PASSOVER-FRIENDLY EGGPLANT PARMESAN

Talk about a case of the Mondays! Yesterday was one for the books, let me tell you. It was one of those days where a lot of little things added up to yield a pretty mediocre day. Nothing a hot shower, hearty dinner and episode of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch couldn't fix. Thank you late 90's nostalgia!

All in all, it wasn't a truly awful day, I mean, I've had worse. I just have to give myself a little credit, take a deep breath and stay positive. I mean, Michigan did win Saturday night's game with a mind-blowingly magical buzzer beater. So, there are things to cheer about. I pride myself in my realistic optimism - instead of having my head in the clouds, I turn my face towards the sun while keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground. But sometimes, even the sunniest of personalities require a little brooding. Mondays suck for everyone, so don't beat yourself up. 

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HALLOUMI KALE SALAD WITH AVOCADO DRESSING

I've been binge-reading a column on The Cut called "I Think About This a Lot"and it is brilliant. BRILLIANT. Each article is about a meme or shared cultural experience that the author, well, thinks about a lot. There's one about Baby Jessica, one about Kanye West saying that George Bush doesn't care about black people, and so on. But the article in which I truly see myself is: "I Think About the Gossip Girl Murder Confession a Lot."

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SALTED CARAMEL MACAROONS

I've never been the impulsive type. I like planning, organizing and being a general type-A personality. But I think deep down there's a part of me that loves to be impulsive. Take a spontaneous trip. Drive a car through Tuscany with my little brother. Trust Rina when she suggests we make something suspicious, like vegan nachos. Because even though I'm weary of anything not smothered in cheese, more often than not, these impulsive tendencies lead to something wonderful. 

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GREEK CABBAGE SLAW

I've been told I'm a great salad maker. It's a weird thing to be proud of, but damn am I proud of it. If there's one that gets a bad rap it's salads. I think the American food system has made people associate salads with sad iceberg lettuce, pieces or purple cabbage and mushy tomatoes doused in ranch or Thousand Island dressing. 

Sad, indeed.

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CHALLAH FOR BODY AND SOUL (OR YEAST MEETS WEST, FROM DAD)

Today's post is written by none other than Rina's amazing mama bear, Ruth! Welcome to the blog, Mama Gato.

Rina always stood on the little green stool.  I stood behind her, her crazy curls tickling my nose as she stretched her tiny fingers to reach the kneading bowl. My grown up hands guided her child hands.  Palm down, fold and turn, palm down, fold and turn, again and again. If the dough was too sticky Rina would make monster fingers with the tacky mess, and I would slowly add small pinches of flour to the bowl.  “Does it feel like an earlobe, yet?”  When Rina’s crazy curls bobbed up and down I would announce, “Then it’s done!”

That was how we made challah every Friday after nursery school.  I showed Rina how to check an egg for blood spots, how to wake up the yeast with warm water and feed it with sugar and then proof it— wait patiently (or not so patiently) for it to froth in the bowl.  This, Rina understood, was what it meant to “make Shabbos.”  The Sabbath did not come on it’s own—if we wanted Friday night to become Shabbos, then we had to make it so. We had to invite the guests, shop for groceries, prepare the meal and set the table.  In this way we transformed the mundane into the holy. A key step to turning an ordinary end-of-the-week dinner into a Shabbos feast was to bake the challah.

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