Foodie on the Half Shell: Nutty for peanut noodles

I believe that peanut noodles should be a part of everyone’s diet. They are sweet and salty and sometimes spicy. You can do them in all different ways. You can add whatever kind of toppings you want to them such as bacon, radishes, or maybe some grilled fruit.

I make these noodles pretty often because they are cheap, very quick to make, and easy. If I am having a busy night, peanut noodles are always a reliable dish to make. The most fun thing about making them for other people is that they assume they are difficult to make because they sounds foreign and interesting. Actually it’s really easy to be good at making them.

Seriously, though, if you add peanut butter to anything it automatically becomes delicious. If you add it to something that is typically savory, then you are deemed inventive. Such as a peanut butter, pickle, and bacon sandwich (if you haven’t tried it, then change that). What does it say about someone if they eat that type of sandwich? Ah, yes they are creative and quirky.

It makes even some of the worst foods taste great, too. Like celery. If you are into cooking you know that celery is a part of the kitchen’s “holy trinity” (celery, onion, and carrots), but celery is the worst tasting vegetable out there. Its taste is comparable to licking the outside of a prenatal vitamin. I have no clue why we actually choose to eat it. It’s just an excuse to dump a quarter of a cup of ranch dressing into our mouths.

The key to this dish is the sauce. The sauce can be used for other types of things, though, not just noodles. I remember my first introduction to peanut sauce was dipping Morning Star vegetarian chicken nuggets in it as a kid. I still think that sounds delicious and all types of nostalgic. This recipe for the peanut sauce is my favorite that I have made, yet. It would be delicious in a chicken wrap with some cabbage and red onion or dipping any type of vessel into it, such a veggies or chicken (or Chik’n) nuggets. Feel free to play around with the proportions of the ingredients in the sauce to your own liking.

What you will need for two entrée sized portions:

½ lb of soba noodles

¼ cup of peanut butter

¼ cup of soy sauce

1 Tbs of honey

1 Tbs of garlic powder

1 tsp of ground ginger

2 tsps of cayenne pepper

¼ cup of water

Whatever you want to top the noodles with: crushed peanuts, bacon, fried scallions, radishes, etc.

Cook the soba noodles to al dente. Combine the rest of the ingredients till the sauce is smooth and not too thick. You don’t want it to be too watery either. Add the water slowly to make sure the consistency is correct. Stir the sauce into the noodles making sure they are consistently covered. I enjoy my peanut noodles cold with green peppers, radish, peanuts, and extra cayenne pepper.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Scrumptious seafood

Seafood is a group of food that I love for many reasons. Not only is it low in fat and high in protein, but it is also very accessible. I think seafood has this connotation that it is either really expensive and good, or it is cheap and you are sitting at the Golden Corral. Seafood can be expensive, but there are some tricks to sneak it into your diet on a budget in Pittsburgh.

First, be smart about where you are buying your seafood. Whole Foods has very high prices, but the fish isn’t any better than the fish at Wholey’s Seafood Market down in the Strip District. The Market District also has some amazing sales on things like crab legs. On Valentines Day, I got a couple pounds of King Crab Legs for less than $20. By going to an actual seafood market or a grocery store where they have a seafood counter, you are able to pick exactly how much fish you want, which saves you money. I almost always buy my shrimp frozen. I think that the quality stays the same, and it is cheaper than fresh shrimp. You can buy frozen shrimp almost anywhere, including Aldi’s and Trader Joe’s.

The un-fun thing about eating animal product is the sustainability factor. A great way to know what and what not to eat is to check out The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. You will be able to look up every type of seafood in the world and see what kind is okay to buy. The recipe I am sharing today is based on shrimp. Shrimp is versatile and a lot of people love it, even if it is dipped in ketchup and fried…which is delicious. The best type of shrimp to buy is wild from Alaska or Canada.

This recipe is so easy that literally anyone with working hands can make it. It takes no skill at all! Baked shrimp may not sound typical, but it is probably my favorite way to eat them when the grill is put away for the winter. Impress anyone with your seafood “talents,” and serve this with some white wine and crusty bread.

What you will need for about a dozen shrimp:

12 shrimp, deveined and thawed if frozen

½ of a white onion, sliced into thin rings

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 lemons, sliced thin.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of minced rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Place the slices of lemons, onion, and crushed garlic all over a cookie sheet creating a layer of those ingredients. Place your shrimp on top of this layer. Drizzle shrimp with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook for 15 minutes.

For the butter-wine sauce:

4 tablespoons of butter

Juice of half a lemon

¼ cup of white wine

Melt the butter and mix the other ingredients into it. Drizzle on top of the shrimp.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Fight the winter blues with warm food

I try not to complain about the weather, because I feel like it is a waste of energy and time for us all. In these frigid last couple months of winter, though, I’ve begun to understand the winter blues.

A great way to beat the blues is to cook and eat warm food. Cooking by the stove and oven keeps you nice and toasty, and so will moving around the kitchen. Being sedentary with a big box of Cheez-Its sounds great until the last episode of your favorite show is over on Netflix and you are still cold…and hungry.

This recipe will keep you warm and full for a while. It is inspired by a dish at Girasole in Shadyside. It consists of cannellini beans cooked in a well seasoned tomato sauce over pasta with garlic kale on top. It is quite hearty, but full of protein and carbs to give you a lot of energy and to keep you strong during these treacherous sub zero days.

I take a lot of short cuts in this recipe, such as canned beans instead of dried beans and store bought tomato sauce instead of homemade. To my defense, though, my tomatoes did not turn out well this year and I am still trying to figure out how to soak and cook dried beans properly.

If anyone has good advice, please let me know. I am really trying to switch over and avoid the toxic BPA in the cans! But alas, cans are so very handy. Especially for people with jobs, children, or school-work–which means the majority of us.

Enjoy this recipe with a good glass of red wine, a mood candle, and someone you love. This recipe is for big portions because you will want a lot of this stuff!

What you will need for 2-4 people (depending)

1 large bunch of kale roughly chopped

2 cloves of minced garlic

8 ounces of al dente pasta

1 can of cannellini beans

½ of a medium onion chopped finely

2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce

1 Tbs of hot chili flakes (less if you don’t like a lot of spice)

1 Tbs of fresh basil

A lot of Parmesan to grate on top

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for cooking

For the kale, start the process by heating some garlic with some olive oil on low heat. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add in the kale in stages on medium heat. For each handful of kale, stir around and sprinkle a little salt so it will wilt. When all of the kale is added, be sure to stir it around the olive oil until it is all well coated. Add more olive oil, if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the beans and tomato sauce, start by heating up olive oil and tossing in the onion and garlic. When that is fragrant and the onions are translucent, add in your tomato sauce, basil, and pepper flakes. Let the sauce come to a boil and then turn down the heat. Add the cannellini beans and salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture simmer for about 15-20 minutes so the flavors can marry.

To put the dish together, top the bean and tomato sauce mixture on some of the pasta, and then layer the kale on top of the beans. Finish with good parmesan grated on top of everything.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Have an eclectic meal at Zenith’s Cafe

A hidden gem is amidst us, everyone. As a self proclaimed trendy foodie, I was disappointed in myself for not knowing about Zenith’s Vegetarian Café sooner.

Experience this with me…you are going to brunch on a Sunday morning with friends, expecting a little hole-in-the-wall of a café. Instead, you walk into what appears to be a huge antique store filled with only the best vintage clothes, decorations, paintings, statues, jewelry, light bulbs, and, of course, about 100 different Virgin Mary statuettes. It is a good thing that there is a large antique store chock full of goodies to look at because the wait for their café can be around an hour long. Don’t worry though, there is coffee available to tide you over and a funky sitting area to rest your legs after climbing through the mountains of antique glory.

The dining room is just as funkadelic, and it even had remainders of Christmas décor when I was there a couple of weeks ago. You sit down at your own unique table with interesting table cloths and pitchers of water that look like they belong in your great-aunt Gertrude’s house. You could be sitting with other people in a communal style (as you know I hate), but if you have a large enough group you won’t have to worry about that.

The brunch menu is small and mainly vegan unless you add the option of cheese on some dishes. You can order the usual brunch options such eggs and French toast or go for something a little more unique, like a tofu sandwich with Gouda cheese, Russian dressing, and cucumbers or a curry stew. Either way, for only $11.50 you can get an entrée of your choice, a tea or a coffee, and unlimited access to their buffet.

The buffet is very casual and made up of about a dozen different cold dishes such as spicy green beans, pasta in pesto, a green salad, hummus, dolma, and different types of bread. There is something for everyone there—even my sister who is a picky eater was totally happy with her eating experience. Another table full of delicious looking vegan desserts. My favorite item at the buffet was the spicy green beans that seemed to have an Asian-inspired flavor.

The entrees are just as yummy. Don’t expect anything fancy—it is all just simple home cooking. I had the red bean tacos which were simply docked up with some lettuce and pico del gallo. Every entrée came with some mushy curry rice thing that went perfectly with my tacos. The other entrees that I saw were the blueberry pancakes, the malkin melt, and the seitan burgundy, all of which were also served with the curry rice. All of the entrées are generous portions and seriously worth your buck.

The brunch is great option, but they are also open Thursday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Stop in for shopping, brunch, lunch, or dinner. All types of people show up at this joint including children, baby boomers, and, of course, a lot of hipsters. The prices are low, the food is plentiful and the ambiance is superior to any other trendy vintage café around here. Drag your grungy combat boots and worn out TOMS into this place and live your unique and oh-so-edgy dream in this eclectic yet quaint café. Go. Just go​.


Foodie on the Half Shell: Go easy on the Salt

I don’t usually head over to the Garfield area in Pittsburgh unless I’m going to visit friends. It has all the potential in the world to be “with it,” with Spak Brothers and Verde as its food destinations that offer interesting foods with vegan options. Let’s get real though…most of the buildings are boarded up as if the big freeze is coming, and even Bottom Dollar is closing over there. Oh no! What will we do without a Bottom Dollar? No, seriously though…what will we do?

Well, instead of spending $50 dollars on food that will last you a week at Bottom Dollar, try going down the street a bit and spend $50 on a meal that will last you one night at Salt of the Earth. Well, that doesn’t sound exactly economical, but it’s fun!

Step into an open floor plan with long communal tables, where you can see your food being cooked up against one wall and your drinks being made up against the other. The building is small, but the design opens up the restaurant to feel larger.

I personally hate communal sitting. I know it’s the new thing, but I enjoy a sense of privacy, and I think it’s just an excuse for the wait staff to be lazy. I got lucky, and I came with a large party of ten and we took up an entire table. I was comfortable sitting with my family and friends, and I didn’t have to worry about awkward elbow- room or someone asking me to pass the salt. Like no, I will not pass you anything—I’d actually prefer pretending you are not sitting right next to me.

Aside from the seating design, Salt has a lot going for them, but a few things holding them back.

Their menu is impressive looking and everything sounds trendy and delicious, like fish with grapes and foie gras. After reading that most of the chefs that I respect around Pittsburgh enjoy Salt, I was prepared for a “wow” reaction. The fireworks did go off for the sashimi starter that was made of unidentified fish. It was small—made for just one person, but the flavor was impressively large. With curried florets of al dente cauliflower and tart grapes, a lullaby of soft and crunchy and sweet and spicy all came together nicely.

Skip the romaine starter–it is just a boring Caesar salad.  Instead, try the fried Brussels sprouts if you are in the mood. They are nothing fancy, just delicious and greasy.

As for the “mids,” I was not impressed. I could have been trying the wrong dishes, though. I had the risotto as my entrée, which sounded promising. I imagined layers of flavors with the sweet potatoes, the lemon, and the roasted garlic. Unfortunately, it was a one-ton bowl of mush.

Don’t even bother with the mussels—you can make them better at home. When it comes to their entrees, stay safe and try their cheeseburger. It is simple yet divine, with handmade American cheese and tons of pickles all on a brioche bun. Simple is best.

What are really important, though, are their desserts. Salt redeems themselves with their sweets. They worked with different layers of flavors and textures. I had their brownie dessert, which came with ice cream that tasted like you picked a banana off of the tree itself, and peanut brittle. The concoction worked and I am happy I had it…although I am nervous that the dessert tasted amazing just because I was so bummed out by the other courses.

I think the take home about Salt is that they are truly a comfort food restaurant trying to be a contemporary American restaurant. Their hamburgers and fried Brussels sprouts are fantastic. What they should also be serving is rustic mac and cheese and modern meatloaf. I bet they would knock that stuff out of the park. Even though I feel strongly, my family would disagree…mainly because they all ordered the burger, I think.

A perfect dinner there would be a medium rare cheeseburger with a side of fried Brussels sprouts, ended with a brownie dessert. Stick to the simple stuff at Salt. They are still figuring it out.

Foodie on the Half Shell: New Years resolutions for a foodie

My New Years resolution for 2015 was all about food–as is everything else in my life. I wanted to get healthier, maybe lose the 20 pounds I gained in the last two years, and limit my eating habits to a more vegan-friendly diet. I knew I had to write down concrete resolutions, though, if I ever wanted to see them put into action.

  1. Vegan before six. (Which pretty much means at dinner I eat cheese, because cheese is everything.)

  2. Work out two to three days a week. This may not sound like a lot but I have realized if I put my expectations too high, I get really sad when I don’t work out a lot and end up not going.

  3. No drinking during the week. It’s just healthy to drink less in general!

  4. Cook seasonally.

For the first two weeks, I am happy to say I have been successful in my endeavors. I have felt amazing eating so much produce rather than cheese and carbs. I hope to fill up the column this semester with all types of vegan and seasonal ideas. The seasonal inspiration is mainly from a cookbook I picked up in New York City over winter break. The book is called “In Season,” by Sarah Raven. Each chapter is devoted to different types of produce that are in season in certain months. It comes with some amazing recipes to get you really excited about what is sustainably growing during the different seasons.

My recipe I would like to share with you today is not entirely in season, but it’s not completely out of season either. I made a butternut squash with goat cheese and thyme, baked with breadcrumbs and parmesan on top. It is best served with a simple pasta or large green salad.

What you will need for a main dish for one person, or a smaller dish for two people:

1 butternut squash

1 Tbs of thyme

2 Tbs of goat cheese

¼ cups of parmesan

¼ cups of breadcrumbs

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Start with setting your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Scrape the seeds and guts out. Rub olive oil and salt and pepper on the two fleshy halves of the squash and place them both face down on a cookie sheet. Put in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the flesh is soft. When finished baking, take the squash out and let it cool until you are able to handle it.

Scrape the meat out of one half of the squash, leaving a layer of flesh remaining. Scrape the other half out completely. Put the scraped out contents into a bowl with the goat cheese and thyme. Check seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stuff the shell with the layer of flesh remaining with the goat cheese and squash mix. Sprinkle with parmesan and bread crumbs, and drizzle it with a little bit of olive oil to finish it off. Pop in the oven with the setting on low broil. Take out when the top is browned.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Finals Week power tacos

With finals coming up, we all have to make sure we are eating energizing foods that are good for our bodies and souls. Around this time we are known to eat foods that are quick and pleasurable… since we deserve it, right? Well no, our bodies don’t deserve those burgers, fries, and fried chicken tenders.

For the next couple of weeks, it is even more important that you are aware of what you are putting into your body. The greasy foods will leave you feeling heavy and low on energy. What you need is super foods!

Think foods that are dense in nutrients and full of healthy fats to give you energy. Beans, yogurt, berries, avocado, and even dark chocolate can help you in those last couple of hours late at night when you are finishing your paper.

This recipe is fun and will be perfect to start your finals week off, or just perfect anytime you want some tasty tacos. These tacos are shallow fried to create a great crisp shell. Stuff spicy potatoes and protein dense vegetarian chili into the shell, top with some cheddar cheese and a great coleslaw recipe I have for you guys.

This recipe is perfect for the cold nights coming up, and it will heat you right up. Get a group of friends together to have a kick off to finals taco party, and make this recipe together.

What you’ll need for 10 tacos:

Crunchy tacos:

10 corn taco shells

¼ cup of canola oil (more if needed)

Heat a large skillet with canola oil. A note to keep while you are frying the taco shells–make sure to add in little bits of the oil throughout the process so nothing burns. Also, don’t dump too much in, because that will cause the shell to become soggy. Fry each side of the taco shells for about ten seconds. On the second side, fold the shell in half. Hold each side away from the other, though, so they still have an opening. Do this on each side. Transfer to a paper towel and sprinkle with a little bit of salt.

Spicy potatoes:

½ white onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

6 red skin potatoes, diced

1 jalapeno, diced finely

1 teaspoon of chipotle powder

1/3 cup of veggie stock

Sauté the onion, jalapeno, and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add the diced potatoes and stock. Cover the pan and let it sit. Keep an eye on the potatoes, though, and make sure to stir every five to ten minutes so they don’t burn. After the potatoes are nice and soft, add the chipotle powder. Smash the potatoes roughly. Don’t smash until they are smooth, you want them to be a little chunky.

Vegetarian chili:

Other half of the onion, diced

1/2 cup of diced peppers (any color)

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 cup of diced mini portabella mushrooms.

1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 tablespoon of chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add the peppers until they are tender but not mushy. Add the cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Next, put in the diced tomatoes. Let the mixture sit for about ten minutes. Add the beans before serving.


2 cups of cabbage, grated or thinly sliced into their natural ribbons

1 tablespoon of Mayo

1 tablespoon of greek yogurt

1 tablespoon of smoky hot sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together.

Assemble the tacos by putting the potatoes into the taco first, then the chili, and top with cheese and the slaw.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Review of Industry Public House

I have noticed that I have been very focused on reviewing restaurants lately. That is telling of my kitchen life…with the end of the semester creeping up on me, I don’t have a lot of time to make dinner every night. I preach about making time for homemade healthy food on a college schedule, but even I can get worn down.

Last night I was able to unwind a little bit by going out to eat and listen to some live music. For dinner, Ben and I went out to the Industry Public House on Butler Street.

Lawrenceville is such a weird and wonderful place. While I was sipping on my tequila I looked out the window to see a female mannequin riding on a jumbo sized bowling pin in a window above a bowling alley. It must be some bowling alley…

Industry is a large space full of friendly faces drinking impossibly potent drinks. The restaurant has large windows out front to create an open feel to it, and even has two bars.

I was drawn to this restaurant because I heard about their “Smokestack” cocktails ($3 plus whatever liquor you pick). The smokestack is a simple two-step process where you pick out whatever bourbon, whiskey, or scotch you want, and then you pick a flavor to smoke it with.

The flavors include mesquite, maple, pecan, apple, and cherry. I had The Gilded Age ($10) cocktail which was tons of tequila with citrus, ginger, and fall spice bitters. Their cocktails are strong and not watered down with a lot of ice–only with a large ice cube. The tastes are strong and unique.

As for their food, the descriptions on the menu are enticing, but the food itself does not keep up with their cocktail’s sophistication. I had their Lucy Furnace ($10) which was a portabella cap with grilled onions, ricotta salata, tempura zucchini, and watercress.

The elements were great, and it was a decent sandwich, but quite dry and a little bland. What I really wanted was some garlic aioli to smear all over it.

With it, I ordered some french fries with cheddar cheese melted on top. The fries were pretty flimsy, and I wanted way more cheese. When I want refined pub food, I want lots of cheese, seasoning, and the right amount of grease.

Ben had their smokestack sandwich ($12) that had ribeye, cheddar, arugula, and horseradish. It was was not big and luxurious, as most meaty sandwiches are. It was pretty simple. His side dish was probably the star of the night. It was brussels sprouts, with bacon and gorgonzola. The seasoning was nice and strong.

The pub is a pub and has above average pub food. Do not miss out on their drinks for any longer. Go and enjoy a game on one of their dozen televisions and sip on one of their many beers on tap or whiskeys.

Foodie on the Half Shell: 21 and over brunch delights

Turning 21 really lends itself to you when it comes to brunch. Honestly, boozing and brunching are a match made in heaven. I love Bloody Marys so much that I used to drink them virgin style. Also, you can’t forget the Mimosas and Bellinis.

My first brunch as a 21-year-old consisted of both of those classical brunch libations. Bagels and lox go so much better with a spicy Bloody Mary, and the same goes for a sweet and savory french toast with a Bellini.

Last Sunday, my partner Ben and I journeyed to Tamari in Lawrenceville for some brunch. Tamari is a cool pan Asian restaurant that offers my favorite sushi in the city. Their brunch keeps some of their Asian inspired dishes, but you can also get brunch favorites like a make-your-own-omelette.

Tamari is usually very busy, and you have to make a reservation unless you want to sit at the bar–which isn’t so bad either. For their brunch on Sundays, however, they seemed to be pretty slow. This is not a sign of a bad brunch, though. The prices shouldn’t be deterring anyone, either. You can order a “prix fixe” brunch for $23, which consists of a cocktail, a small plate, an entree, and a delicious cinnamon roll. We did not do the prix fixe lunch, but I think it is a great option if you are hungry.

To start, we ordered their small plate of Hamachi Crudo ($11). To drink I had their guava-mango Bellini ($8). The Hamachi Crudo consisted of half-inch thick slices of yellow fin tuna. It was served raw, and it tasted sweet and fresh. It was served with tangy house-made pickles, Tobiko (flying fish roe), and Crème Fraîche. The dish was delicious and had a surprising amount of sweet notes. It all worked together nicely.

I didn’t want a full on sushi dish, but I wanted something along those lines, and this dish was a perfect compromise that fit into our brunch nicely.

As Ben’s entree, he had the Hanger steak and eggs ($12). I was kind of expecting something heartier to look at, but it ended up being an artfully composed plate of small portions. That’s great if that’s the type of brunch you are going for. I am pretty much always in need of big portions of cheesy, starchy, and spicy foods.

The dish was still tasty and innovative. Hanger steak is lean piece of meat that is best served Pittsburgh-style. The roasted corn succotash was probably the best thing on the plate other than the steak. It also came with a gorgonzola cream and a fried egg. It was keenly done, but I was left unsatisfied–and it wasn’t even my entree.

I had the made-to-order omelette ($10). The cool thing about an omelette is that you can judge a chef by their technique. It is known that sometimes, instead of an interview, a chef will be asked to make an omelette to assess their skills. This omelette was cooked nicely, and I chose to stuff it with aged cheddar, asparagus, kale, and shrimp. It was pretty bland, and was crying out for a little spice or just a pinch of salt. The omelette comes with some toast and some potatoes.

I had their Bloody Mary with my entree, spicy style. You can choose from three different types of Bloody Marys: Traditional, Rye Mary, and Spicy Mary. Mine was good, and the spice level was on point.

This review sounds like I really didn’t enjoy my brunch at Tamari, but a brunch has to be pretty bad for me not to. I have a feeling that it was a pretty slow day, and maybe their A-Game chef was home awaiting their dinnertime rush the next day.

Their dinner is always amazing, and I truly think that their brunch has the potential to be the same. The food was good, but if they are going to be expensive and classy then they need to pump it up to the next level. I think Tamari is great for birthday brunch if you want to splurge a little bit, or go out with your friends for a get together. I will try back again soon–I refuse to give up on you, Tamari!

Foodie on the Half Shell: Cooking for loved ones

Fall is my birthday season, and I turned 21. It is like the missing piece to my being a real food and drink connoisseur has been put into place. Fall rocks for so many different reasons–those mainly having to do with food. On my birthday, my family takes me out to one of my favorite restaurants, and I get to eat (and drink) all of my favorite things.

It is also party season, and all of the goodies come out to play such as warm dips, candy, nachos, baked goods with cute Halloween sprinkles, and hot cider. The goodies are pretty much impossible to ignore, and thus far I have had at least one piece of candy a day since two weeks ago…oops. Candy isn’t even that good, but when Kit Kats are just sitting out, how am I not suppose to snack on them?

For my birthday, my partner made me an amazing dinner as a surprise for me. I had no idea what he was making, but I wasn’t expecting anything too fancy. His specialty is French toast, so I was prepared to eat some breakfast for dinner. That being said, I was still rooting for a serious dinner, so I handed him one of my favorite cookbooks for him to get some great ideas.

The cookbook is actually called “Intercourses,” by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge. Yes, “Intercourses.”

It is a cookbook full of “aphrodisiac” recipes, but that’s not why I love the cookbook so much. The recipes are amazing, aphrodisiac or not. Each recipe comes with it’s own love story that inspired it. I encourage anyone who loves to cook to invest in this book; it is a classic in the cookbook realm.

Photo Credit: Olivia Beals

Photo Credit: Olivia Beals

When I got home, I was so happy and relieved to find a very confident and rather handsome cook in my kitchen. Thick cuts of bright pink salmon were marinating in a honey pepper sauce that ended up being baked; Moroccan couscous had been made already; and there was roasted asparagus.

Before we had even begun to eat dinner, we learned how to shuck oysters, and then we got to enjoy them. Wholey’s Fish Market in the Strip District has great oysters. They look intimidating and a little creepy, but they are fresh and great to eat raw.

The dinner itself was delicious, and the pepper and honey salmon was extremely flavorful. For dessert, Ben went to Priory Bakery in North Side to pick up some delicious cupcakes. The ladies at Priory are awesome and very talented.

Ben isn’t a natural cook, but that’s the cool thing about recipes—you don’t have to be. All cooks start out with a recipe, and that is how they learn what works and what doesn’t.

Ben was daunted by the idea of cooking for me, but following the steps was easy for him. We all like to be cooked for at least once in a while, and if you have a significant other or friend that you want to cook for you, guide them in the right direction by giving them a cookbook or website.

It will be fun for them to decide what to cook, especially if the recipes are intriguing and tasty. They will end up feeling really proud of themselves for what they have accomplished, and your encouraging words and reaction may contribute to them doing it again for you!