Baked spinach.

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My family was sitting around the dinner table one night in the mid ’90s. I was about eight or nine, still young enough to play with my dollhouse, but old enough to start stressing out about things like our house getting burglarized or burning to the ground. (I was a weird kid.) My sister must have been about six, probably missing a couple of her front teeth and generally being adorable.

Our mom had made zucchini for dinner, and neither of us really enjoyed it. I could handle it, but Katie – ever the typical showman youngest child – could. not. even. We were not rude, spoiled monsters, so we obviously did our best to eat stuff we didn’t like, but at that point in time, neither of us had much success conjuring up any enthusiasm. (Currently, we both dig it. THIS IS GROWING UP, KIDDOS.)

My mom asked us – probably in a sarcastic way that was meant to convey one or both of us was being ridiculous about something – what we thought the worst thing god could ever make us do was. I said something probably apropos of my weird, macabre, overly anxious childhood self, like, “Make you kill the people you love.”

Katie, however, was more…well, Katie about it.

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Tanya’s peach cobbler.

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As much as I love fall, I’m not one of those people who starts heralding its coming in late August. I cling to the last few fleeting days of summer like they’re keeping me from drowning. Summer is my favorite, hands down, and here in Jersey, it’s far too short. I don’t need it to be cut any shorter by early arriving pumpkin beer (who wants to drink pumpkin ANYTHING when it’s still 86 degrees, guys?) and people trumpeting all over social media about how “FALL IS HERE!!!!” Because you know what comes next? Winter. And winter is lame. You all remember last winter, right? With its dirty mounds of snow sitting in parking lots until April, and how it was a miracle if the temperature broke like, 25?

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Pound cake with chocolate glaze

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Once upon a time, probably in 2009 or something, I bought a box of pound cake mix. I probably had plans for it, an idea that slipped away and has long since been forgotten. It sat in the pantry in not one, but two kitchens, as different boxes and bottles of ingredients around it were routinely used, finished off and replaced. Last night, it was finally pulled off of its shelf.

In all honesty, it almost ended up in the garbage, because … guys, I’m a little embarrassed about this … its “best by” date was almost three years ago.

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Pretzel rolls with beer cheese dipping sauce

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Now look, I know the Superbowl (more like Stuporbowl, am I right? Too soon?) was yesterday, and I know that last week was the prime time for posting all the greatest game day recipes. Who’s really going to be posting a delicious recipe for football food the day after the Superbowl?

beer shredded cheese  cheese sauce 2

flour bagunbaked salted

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Pumpkin cupcakes

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So it’s been nearly a month since my last update. I wish I could tell you I had a good reason for it – like rescuing pooches from dog fighting rings – but my excuses are pretty lame, and basically boil down to “not having a cable for the camera” and “I decided to watch The Hobbit for the billionth time instead,” so let’s just pretend my excuses are good ones.

I’m about to make up for the slacking, though. With cupcakes.

Pumpkin ones.

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With maple cream cheese frosting.

I hope you’re not pumpkin’ed out – I mean, come on; we’ve still got another week till Halloween, the most pumpkin-tastic holiday of them all, and then we’ve got November, which is pretty gourd-errific. Fall is in full swing, and I’m enjoying it, save for crying a little inside when I had to put a jacket on yesterday morning. But, cardigans and scarves and pumpkin spice coffee, oh my! It’s pretty great, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the leaves are taking their sweet time changing colors. As long as we don’t get bombarded with another October superstorm, or snowstorm, I’ll put Fall 2013 in the ‘win’ column. (Too bad the Giants can’t do the same.)

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Raspberry cheesecake bars

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While I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (I’ll take a bag of chips over a pint of ice cream just about any day), there are a few desserts that I absolutely love. Chocolate is one of them. Cheesecake is another. And on the rare occasion that I get a craving for something sweet … that craving just won’t quit ’til I stuff some sugary goodness right in my gob.

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Pizza pizza.

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Last weekend was Colin’s birthday, and much to my delight, he told me he wanted me to make him something awesome (“how is this different than any other night I make dinner?” I asked, probably more menacingly than I had intended), which is way better than agonizing over the perfect gift. Although, not to toot my own horn, I’ve picked out some pretty clutch gifts over the years. He’s easy to shop for, which is why I keep him around rules.

You’re probably expecting this post to feature some of the delightful recipes I whipped up on Sunday, right?

Well … sorry. I was too focused on making everything perfect and in a timely fashion, and didn’t take any pictures. Actually, I took one picture, of my homemade Montreal steak seasoning. But that’s it. Yup, I’m a terrible food blogger. In my defense, two of the recipes have already been featured here (although this time I tried a slightly different tomato soup recipe because hey, it’s fresh tomato season), one course was a cheese/charcuterie plate, and one side was steamed green beans. (Beans + water + heat. Done.) So really, the only thing I could have shared with you that would be worthwhile was… erm, well, the main course. I wish I had photographed it, because Colin said it was one of the better steaks he had ever tasted.

I know, right? Terrible, terrible Lauren. But I have another flank steak in the freezer, so sooner rather than later (hopefully), I’ll make this again, and on that evening, I won’t be spinning around my kitchen like a top that is also somehow on crack. So please don’t be peeved … especially because the recipe I’m about to share with you more than makes up for this oversight. Also, it’s pizza. That also features bacon. So really … you can’t be that mad.

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Cheesecake & procrastination.

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For someone whose life (work life, anyway) is dictated by meeting deadlines, you’d think I wouldn’t be such a procrastinator. My rationale is, I work better under pressure. If I know I have several weeks to get something done, I shrug it off and occupy myself with other things. It’s a terrible habit, but I always get my work done, my bills paid, et cetera.

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On that note, my mother’s birthday was a little over two months ago. I made her a cake, and I am just telling you about this now.

It’s not that it wasn’t delicious (it was), or that I didn’t photograph it (I did), or that I wasn’t proud of it (I am). But there were other recipes in the queue. Freelance assignments to finish. New episodes of Arrested Development to watch. Dear Prudence columns to be read. 

Excuses, am I right? But no matter! Be undaunted by cheesecake no longer, because if I can churn out a delectable, slightly lemony cheesecake, I’m sure you can, too.

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A rant about cliches, and a cliche recipe.

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On my commute to work every morning, I am fortunate enough to be able to listen to a really great public radio station. I think we can all agree that most morning radio shows are the absolute worst – lots of people babbling on about pop culture nonsense, peppering their banter with obnoxious sound effects. For a long time, I wouldn’t even dream of listening to the radio in the morning – but then the adapter for my iPod/phone broke (first world problems), and because my car is, oh, 12 years old (and will continue to keep on kickin’ for a long time, knock on wood), there’s no little port where I can just plug in my iPod and let it stream without having to fiddle with the radio stations, hoping for a signal and clear feedback. Also, my car is new enough to not have a tape deck, which means I can’t hook up my new-fangled gadgets that way, either.

(This is probably entirely too much information, but please stick around – I made cookies and I’m getting to that.)

So I got tired of my (and Colin’s) CDs and decided to suck it up and just listen to the radio.

There was a pretty good college radio station that had good reception on my old commute, but once I started working at my new job, that station would crap out about .2 minutes into my drive. So I did some channel-surfing, and found a really great public radio station that plays an awesome variety of music, pipes in NPR News hourly, and even has A FREAKING TRIVIA GAME in the morning. Where you can win prizes. Ugh, I love trivia so much. And while the two morning hosts occasionally break in with some banter and weird news stories, they’re endearing as opposed to obnoxious. Like, I kind of want to be friends with them, as creepy as that sounds.

But every once in awhile, they sneak in a song that is just downright terrible. I’m not talking Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe-Through-the-Tulips” or Richard Harris “MacArthur’s Park” terrible (sorry, Dad, I know you love it), but just something that is an insult to the musical industry – one that, unfortunately, many people might find pleasant or enjoyable. Usually I’m able to just change the station and forget about it, but it’s been a couple of weeks since I heard this song and I’m still furious about it. It’s called “I Don’t Miss You” by some guy named Sharif, and it is literally the most insipid, infuriating song I’ve ever heard. If this song was a person, I’d want to hit it in the face with a shovel, just after I finish bludgeoning every character in Something Borrowed.

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Workin’ on my night cheese?

Alright, folks, I’m going to be honest with you. This past weekend, I had hot cheese for dinner.
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Yep.
I threw some sauteed mushrooms on a hunk of brie, stuck it in the oven and served it with bread and a side salad. Helloooo, Sunday night.
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