Tag Archives: Marisa

Toaster vs. Toaster Oven

For many years my friend Jessica collected toasters. They were fun and often inexpensive to buy, plus toasters seemed to satisfy the curator in her since they were objects where form followed function. I grew up with a toaster, or rather a series of toasters. I even had a toaster when I was first married, but years ago I traded in my two slot chrome classic for a toaster oven.

toaster oven

The thing about toasters is you have to put them somewhere. Certain kitchen appliances can be cleverly stowed. I remember my sixteen-year-old mind being blown the first time my friend Marisa pushed a button in her Mom’s kitchen counter which triggered the mixer to majestically rise up from somewhere below. It was as if Judy Jetson and Marcella Hazan had designed a kitchen together where space age met Italian American. It was beyond cool.

For most of us we have to choose. Food processor up or down? Stand mixer tucked into a corner or sitting on a shelf in the pantry? The decision often follows this equation –

How often you use it + How much the dang thing weighs = Where it lives

My husband and I don’t drink coffee anymore so all our coffee paraphernalia is tucked away. We do not own a microwave (which I’ve been told is somewhat un-American of us but I really don’t feel the need) so that is not a contender for the limited amount of counter real estate. However our toaster oven is a major appliance in our daily lives so we gave it its very own counter.

Honey & toast

I love this toaster oven. In fact it is so great that in conjunction with a two burner hot plate I once made a lovely Easter dinner of asparagus, creamed potatoes, and a tiny glazed ham the year our kitchen was being remodeled. Toaster ovens take up more space than a regular two slot toaster but in my opinion the added functionality more than makes up for their larger size. I can reheat a bit of last night’s lasagna, toast a thin slice of bread as easily as a bagel half, or make my favorite late night snack of toasted bananas and cheese. Not having to worry about possibly electrocuting myself as I extract a burning bagel which wedged itself too tightly in the slot is a bonus. Think of a toaster oven as the Easy Bake Oven for grown-ups.

I was introduced to toasted bananas and cheese when I was living in Scotland. There were many things I loved about Edinburgh – getting mail twice a day, incredible scones, milk delivered in glass bottles to your doorstep, the smokey peat of single malt whiskey, haggis (yes I really do love it), hard cider on tap, plus the proliferation of tiny stores for various edibles. Without a car I almost never went shopping at a big chain supermarket, instead doing my shopping by foot. There was a fruit and veg store a few blocks away, several good bakeries, as well as a fish shop for swimmy things, plus a lovely Italian store on Leith Walk which had a delirious assortment of pastas as well as regular shipments of fresh ricotta and mozzarella. Two things that didn’t seem to exist back then were central heating and large fridges, at least not in any of the apartments/houses I lived in. The lack of central heating meant I drank gallons of tea plus found myself acquiring an extensive selection of jumpers (sweaters). Meals were planned on a daily basis to accommodate the limited amount of fridge space.

Cheesey bananas on toast

On nights when we’d go out to the pub we’d walk back home after last bell and if we were feeling peckish but didn’t have enough money to stop for fish and chips we’d go home and make ourselves something to eat. Between the teeny dorm size fridges and our limited income we often didn’t have much more to work with than part of a loaf of  bread, the end of a chunk of cheese, and some bananas. I just had no idea the three could be combined.

The first time my friends Alan and Sid offered me one of these late night sandwiches I was pretty sure it would be disgusting. Toast topped with banana slices and cheese melted on top? Ick and double ick, but I knew after my first bite I was wrong. It is good, in fact better than good. Put away your prejudices (if you have them) and try it. I truly can’t remember if we made these in an oven with a broiler or not, but they are perfectly suited to a toaster oven. In less than ten minutes you have a crunchy-melty-sweet-savory late night snack. Good before going to bed but you don’t have to save them for when the moon is out, they’re also yummy in the morning.

Bananas and cheese on toast

Toasted Bananas and Cheese doesn’t really need a recipe. You toast a piece or two of bread for each person, then top each piece of toast with slices of half a banana, and slivers of some sort of melty cheese – cheddar works a treat. Once you’ve piled everything together pop it into a toaster oven (on a small tray or piece of aluminum foil) and bake until the cheese starts to melt and drip down the sides. Take it out then wait a few seconds so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth when you gobble it up. I’m pretty sure you’ll want more. You may even decide to get a toaster oven just so you can make these.

Photos – Toast and Honey by Jim Scherer

All others by Cynthia Allen


Filed under 50 Recipes, Favorite Tools

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies

I love making Christmas cookies. To me they signal Christmas is coming as much as lighting each week’s Advent candle, a yard full of snow, listening to Christmas CDs on repeat, or enjoying a glass of eggnog with rum and freshly ground nutmeg.

"Picking out a Christmas Tree"

Many years ago my friend Marisa Gorgoni and I  tried to cash in on this mutual love we both shared for baking Christmas cookies. Our money making scheme was to sell homemade cookies to people who were too busy to bake. Good idea right? Our basic math skills were sharp enough, though we clearly didn’t understand how to estimate in our time (or for that matter the cost of electricity) when we came up with our prices. Here, in Marisa’s very neat handwriting, were the costs of our cookie ingredients:

"Prices of cookie ingredients"

We sold them to a captive audience – our teachers at F-M High School (I’m guessing our parents probably bought some as well, but that is another story). Here is what we charged:

"Cookie prices"

All I can say is our underpaid teachers got a great deal that year, and they all probably knew it.* Especially our math teacher. When all the dishes were done and the cookies distributed I think we each had made about 5 cents/hour. Lesson learned, ever since I have only “sold” cookies when I was getting well paid for my time (either as a pastry chef or as a food stylist). It doesn’t mean that I haven’t made cookies out of love, as a thank-you, or for a get well present. I do it all the time. I just don’t try to make a career out of it.

With roughly twelve days to go ’til Christmas I am embarking on my annual cookie baking marathon. B.K. (before kids) I would go nuts. Nowadays I’ve settled into a somewhat predictable and slightly shorter cookie roster which consists of Grammy Caldwell’s snickerdoodles, Arlene Sullivan’s Molasses Snaps, Grammy Thompson’s Scandinavian CookiesSugar Cookies, Butterscotch Icebox Cookies, Gertrude’s, and Snowballs. There are plenty of other cookies that I love, I just stay with these since I associate each one with Christmas, especially those of my childhood.

To get the recipes of the first four cookies mentioned above click on the name of the cookie and it will link you to the original blog where I wrote about it. The others I will post as I bake my way through them.

Happy baking to all my readers! I’d love to know what you’re planning on making this holiday season –

"staring to fill up the cookie tin"

*I may not be being fair to my high school teachers when I say they got a real bargin, since you could buy a whole box of girl scout cookies for a little over a dollar in 1978. With that in mind a dollar for a mere dozen cookies may have seemed expensive to them. Of course today I’ve seen a single cookie (and grant you it’s a large cookie) sell for anywhere from $1-2.50 depending on where you’re buying it. Sheesh, I sound like an old curmudgeon so I’ll stop now.


Filed under 50 Recipes, In between

Popularity that Lasts-Honey Mustard Chicken

Today would have been Julia Child’s 100th  birthday. I remember sitting on my parent’s couch when I was about twelve watching an episode of The French Chef while Julia prepared chicken kiev. I was mesmerized. Then I had to replicate the recipe, I just had to. So I  boned out and pounded several chicken breasts, prepared a compound of herb butter, trussed up the chicken with its flavored butter tucked inside, crumb coated the chicken “packages”, fried till golden, and baked them so they were cooked through. The only thing Julia forgot to mention was that melted butter could squirt quite far when you sliced into your portion of chicken kiev. A butter stained shirt was a small price to pay for the thrill of being able to copy one of her recipes. Once was enough though and I haven’t made chicken kiev since then. There is however another chicken dish I have made dozens of times, which has never squirted at me, not once. Honey Mustard Chicken.

"honey mustard chicken"

When I wrote Two Girls in Brooklyn my friend Marisa reminded me of one of our staple suppers – Honey Mustard Chicken. It was and is a dish we made over and over again. Never going out of culinary fashion, even if it is nowhere near as fashionable today as it was when we first started making it. Grainy Mustard? Curry Powder? Both were exotic kitchen items back in the early 80s. I have not idea where the original recipe idea came from. Julia has a spicy mustard chicken in her book The Way to Cook but I think the original inspiration came from elsewhere. It actually doesn’t matter where it came from, just that Marisa and I make it to this day.

"honey mustard curry mix"

Last month my daughter and I were in Boston for WordCamp (a weekend of geeking out over WordPress stuff) and decided to stay an extra day to visit colleges. Since we were staying a day more than planned we needed a place to stay. Our friend Laura B. offered her guest rooms. Delighted at not having to figure out hotel arrangements I offered to cook dinner. Something for a small gathering which wasn’t a recipe I’d already blogged about, but was a dish I could remember off the top of my head. Honey Mustard Chicken, Carrot Râpées Salad, Bill’s Sangria* and Laura’s Mixed Fruit Crumble with Ginger and Almonds. I’ll give you the sangria and carrot râpées recipes soon. In the mean time here is a recipe you should add to your recipe box NOW. Julia and I say so.

"Honey mustard chicken with green beans, carrot rappes salad and rice pilaf"

Honey Mustard Chicken

Chicken Breasts, bone-in or boneless & skinless, it doesn’t matter

1/3 cup honey

3 Tablespoons dijon mustard (grainy is great, but regular is delicious too)

2 Tablespoons curry powder.

Mix up the honey-mustard-curry. Slather half the mixture over the chicken breasts and cook at 400º F for 20-35 minutes depending on if the bone is in or out. Spoon the other half over the chicken and cook until the coating starts to caramelize and the chicken is done (another 15-30 minutes). Make sure to spoon the honey mustard glaze over the chicken when you serve it.

"Laura B's garden"*I did text my friend Hilary for her step-father’s Sangria recipe. Fortunately she was able to send me a list of ingredients, which I’ll try to post later this week. It’s posted and you can get the recipe here.

"Bill's sangria recipe"


Filed under 50 Recipes

Two Girls in Brooklyn

After graduating from college I backpacked around Europe for a for a few months. As the holidays loomed (and my money started to run out) I cashed in on my open return ticket to come home for Christmas. It was great to be back in the states and speak American english, enjoy the luxury of central heating, and not have to lug my backpack around. After a few weeks I realized that though my hometown had been a great place to grow up in, it wasn’t a good fit for who I’d become. I loved my parents, I loved that they built us a house when they got pregnant with me, I adore the fact that they still live in the very same house, but twenty-two years (minus my time at college) was plenty of time for me to be an upstate New Yorker. So shortly after returning home I left again.



Where does one move to when one doesn’t have a job or an apartment or a plan? Continue reading


Filed under 50 Recipes