Category Archives: Cheese

And just like that

We did it! We moved to DC. It happened like so:

Friday night, over drinks – hear about cool apartment that has been on Craigslist for a week, which means something is definitely wrong with it.
Saturday morning – wake up to an email from a realtor that the aforementioned apartment has just been listed.
Sunday morning – go see apartment, discover it’s actually pretty nice.
Sunday night – hand in application
Wednesday – application approved, go sign lease (this also happened to be November 30th, aka the last day of our lease in Gettysburg)
Thursday – boom, move to DC.

We now live in a cute little basement apartment that is (dare I say) so trendy with an exposed brick wall. Like, hipsters-will-be-très-jaloux brick wall.

 More importantly, the kitchen is fairly adorable. It’s a little cramped, the two narrow drawers run into each other when you open one, but who cares because it’s in DC and it lets me make food – like this little gem of a lunch, adapted from Heidi Swanson’s quesadilla recipe.

This takes five minutes to make, and you can adapt to make it from anything you have on hand.


  • 1 corn tortilla
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • additions: cheese, sour cream, lemon or lime zest, herbs, beans, leftover meat in bite-size pieces, salsa, barbecue sauce, etc.

Warm a little oil in a small skillet (just big enough to fit the tortilla). Add the egg and rotate to cover skillet’s surface; let set for just 10 – 15 seconds, then place the tortilla on the egg. After the egg sets enough to flip (about a minute), flip everything and place a little cheese and other light additions (herbs or spices) on the egg. Cook until the tortilla is nicely browned. Top with heavier additions (sauces, beans, meat).

I like to add some shredded cheddar on the egg, then top with a dollop of sour cream with a little lime zest and cumin mixed in. This would be a great place for some leftover frijoles. Feeling more like barbecue? Top with some grilled chicken and barbecue sauce. Greek? Put some feta and dill on the egg, then top with a little Greek yogurt (or better yet, this) and some tomato and cucumber slices. You can go anywhere with this.


Now, though, I am home, with my parents, in Germany, a little jet-lagged, and abusing commas. Yesterday I fell asleep in my corner of the couch to the sounds of Val Kilmer’s The Saint (because tell me, who doesn’t love a good Val Kilmer movie?) and my dad’s light (hah, sarcasm) snoring from his nearby chair. Later we went to a tiny Weihnachtsmarkt in a nearby village and ate Bratapfel mit Nußmantel in Vanillesoße while drinking Glühwein.  Mom made tacos, which I topped with barbecue sauce. All was right in the world.

I found these cookies on the kitchen table this morning.

I got to play the piano for the first time in months.

And I’m going to go take a walk now, because it looks like this outside.

I’ll be here for a few weeks, and you can be sure to expect a few mother-daughter recipes to come your way. They may or may not be done in Bobby Flay’s Throwdown method. We shall see.


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Sweet Dates – in a Quesadilla

It’s holiday baking time, so I made some cookies and candy over the weekend and I’m happy to say a couple of the recipes are worth publishing (as soon as I make them again and take a few pictures).  One experiment didn’t quite reach my expectation, but all was not lost – the flop included a date filling, and since I had some of the filling left after giving up on the cookies, I turned it into one of my favorite kinds of quesadillas.

This quesadilla is good with breakfast, as an appetizer, or even for dessert – it is sweet, but not too sweet.  Not only that, it is a really delicious flavor combination and very easy to make.

Date Quesadillas

  • 2 flour tortillas per quesadilla
  • chopped dates (about 1/4 cup per quesadilla)
  • water (2-3 tablespoons per quesadilla)
  • ricotta cheese (2-3 tablespoons per quesadilla)
  • shredded mozarella (2-3 tablespoons per quesadilla)
  • butter for browning the quesadillas

Cook the dates in water until they are soft and have a thin paste consistency – about 10 minutes.  Spread one tortilla with a thin layer of the date paste and spread the other one with ricotta.  Sprinkle the ricotta side lightly with mozarella (just enough to fuse the two tortillas together when the cheese melts) and top with the date tortilla.


Heat a nonstick skillet.  Lightly butter the top side of the quesadilla and place butter-side down in the pan.  Cook until light brown and then turn to cook the other side (there will probably be enough butter in the pan, but add a little more if needed).  Cut into wedges and serve.


This date quesadilla is a variation of one I’ve eaten in Mexico, which was made with guava paste thinned with a little water and requesón in place of the ricotta.  I wanted to make the original quesadillas once for a breakfast at work, but I couldn’t find guava paste at the time.  Dates were the best substitute I could think of, and I actually like the date quesadillas better so that’s how I always make them now.

The quesadillas are another great party food – guests always come in and ask how they can help, so set up an assembly line with one person spreading dates, another spreading ricotta, sprinkling mozarella, and assemblying, and a third person frying the quesadillas in a big frying pan.  The quesadillas are so good (and easy), your guests will be glad to know how to make them!


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How to make yogurt better

This will be a short post, but I have something I need to share. It’s so simple, and so good, and it makes yogurt taste, like, 10 million times better.

Disclosure: I’m not a picky person, and I’ll try almost any food you put in front of me, but I’m more than a little picky about textures. Cookie dough? Great. Cake batter? Slimy, ew, no. Pudding? Meh…acceptable, on occasion. Overcooked spinach: akin to slimy lettuce, aka no. And don’t get me started about jello, unless it’s, shall we say, a little edgier than the jello given to children. Or unless I’m sick – but only then. You might be able to see where this is going: yogurt. I don’t like yogurt. It’s slimy. Bleh. I’ve always wanted to like yogurt, but the only way I can manage it is if it’s covered in a lot of granola, covering up the slimy texture.

Until now. I’m still cheating and removing the slimy texture of yogurt, but the result is so good and you need to make it now. This can hardly even be called a recipe.

I make a delicious, fresh, tangy cheese by straining yogurt in cheesecloth. All you do is line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth, place a few gobs of plain yogurt (good quality, whole-milk is best, but I made it with a cheapo nonfat yogurt once, and it was still good) on the cheesecloth, cover with plastic wrap, and place the strainer over a container tall enough to catch the whey without touching the strainer. Let it sit in the fridge for 8 – 24 hours, until the gob of yogurt has turned into a creamy, soft cheese. Put into an airtight container, and store for up to a week or so. That’s it! Oh, and if you by chance ran out of cheesecloth and the only store that sells it in your tiny town is only driving distance and you don’t own a car, you can also use coffee filters. Just so you know.

Of course, I am not the first to make this strained yogurt cheese. Many different countries make this. In America it’s known as Greek yogurt, although the version I make is much thicker than the Greek yogurt available from grocery stores.

My favorite way to eat this cheese is spread on toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly cracked pepper. Or spread over toast and drizzled with honey and a touch of flaky salt. It also serves as a beautiful base for tzatziki, resulting in a thicker, more meaty dip than with normal yogurt. You could make a deconstructed dip by placing a mound of the cheese in a pool of olive oil, cracking pepper or salt on top, and serving with flat breads. Maybe add a bit of ground cumin or cayenne, to add some spice. I imagine it would also be good spread on a sandwich with a spicy jam and ham. The possibilities are endless.

Coming up: a post about apples, and a soup I made from different winter squashes and black beans. This is also really good, and you will probably want to make this as well. I wouldn’t hold it against you.


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