aunt diane’s italian cookies



(In case I have any followers that don’t actually know me in real life.)

My sister is engaged!!

engagedIt makes me nostalgic for my pre-GS third wheel posts with Kelly and Aaron. Now they’re getting married!

My cousin, Hannah, is also getting married (in less than a month!) and I volunteered to make all the cookies for the wedding. I live alone and don’t really have friends in Rochester, so I’m perfectly fine spending the week before with my hand mixer pre-making cookie dough. I made a bunch of cookies this weekend so that we could taste test for the wedding at camp, and also so that Aaron would meet his cookie quota as he’s been missing my baking since I left Baltimore.

I made double chocolate, two kinds of oatmeal raisin, and these Italian cookies. My Aunt Diane (my godmother) makes these cookies for all McDermott holidays and they always  vanish.

And last night I made another batch to bring to work today for my birthday, as I’ve developed a personal tradition of making my own birthday dessert. This is the first time it hasn’t included chocolate, so you KNOW these must be good. Or it means I’m turning 25 and can branch out a little bit with my sweet tooth.

Last weekend I made the cookies with buttercream frosting, but I tried out a lemon glaze this time to see which one will be better when I make them for the wedding.

Italian Cookies

5 eggs

5 cups flour

5 tsp baking powder

3 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

2 sticks softened butter

1/2 cup milk

Aunt Di says this makes about 5 dozen cookies. That’s a lot. If you’re in a pickle and only want to make half of the recipe like I did- you can crack 5 eggs into a glass measuring cup, and pour out half. Scramble up the other 2 1/2 for dinner.

Combine the eggs, butter, vanilla, milk, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until a sticky dough forms.

Roll the dough into small balls- about a teaspoon, and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Aunt Di recommends the air baking sheets so that the cookies don’t get too brown on the bottom. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.



Once they cool, frost each with a little buttercream. You can use store bought frosting, or make your own and use food coloring to make it pretty. Lemon glaze is just fresh squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, and powdered sugar. You can add the sugar gradually until you reach a consistency you like.

I’m guessing there’s a more ladylike way to glaze cookies, but I’ve always favored speed and efficiency over being ladylike.


So cute and poppable!


kale salad with cured lemon dressing


Thank goodness I found a blogging buddy, I’ve been on hiatus. Welcome, Tori! Love your avocado mousse.

I went to Baltimore last weekend to visit the GS. Audio book for the trip: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I’d give it a 4 out of 5.

On Saturday we went golfing and I got some special deal that included a cart. I never take a cart when I golf, although I did used to love the golf cart rides my dad would take us on when we were little. One time, Morgan fell off the cart when we were going down a big hill and Kelly jumped off after her as if she were drowning. I stayed put. I’m not sure what this says about sisterly relationship between the three of us.

Anyway, we had a great time in spite of the fact that A) my driver and putter were missing- pretty sure Kevin stole them, B) golf is NOT like riding a bike, and all of my varsity golf “talents” have escaped me, and C) our golf cart died on the 11th hole. I pushed it while the GS steered, which earned us a lot of strange looks from everyone else out on the course. What can I say? We know our strengths.

Saturday night we went to Fork & Wrench which was a.mazing. My previous favorite Baltimore meal was at Liv2Eat, but F&W might be edging ahead. We ordered the kale with cured lemon & torn bread (today’s inspiration), steak tartar, and an arctic char dish that was like a deconstructed fish and chips. Highly recommend.

I attempted to re-create the kale dish we had, and came pretty darn close if my memory serves me after 2 double IPAs.

Kale Salad with Cured Lemon Dressing

to cure the lemons

1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup salt

for the salad

1 lb kale, chopped well

4-5 slices crusty bread

for the dressing

cured lemon slices

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp black pepper

Slice your lemon very thin and take out as many seeds as you can. Mix the salt and sugar together, then toss with the lemon slices. Keep in a sealed container for 3 days, shaking it occasionally. You can definitely cure more lemons as I’m sure there are millions of things to do with them, but I had a one track mind for kale. The salt and sugar amount would be enough for 2-3 lemons.


Using a fork, pull out the cured lemon slices and place them in the food processor. (Do not add the juice!! Too salty.) Add the mayo, Greek yogurt, garlic, and pepper. Combine until mostly smooth. You’ll have some tiny lemon pieces in there.


Rinse and chop up the kale really well. Toss with the dressing- you want the dressing to barely cover the kale. No Paula Deen style salads here. Toss the bread into tiny pieces (GS quote: “like you would feed to a tiny baby bird!”) and combine. If the pieces are too big- like crouton size- they’ll get soggy.

I ate some immediately because I have no patience. However because kale is so hearty, I recommend dressing it at least a couple of hours before serving it. It will break down the kale a little bit which is fine- it doesn’t get soggy like lettuce. You can also add the bread later if you want it to be bigger pieces.

The curing of the lemon adds some salty flavor to the dressing, and it’s a good mix of mayo and Greek yogurt. I thought the version at F&W had a pretty obvious mayo flavor which was fine with me, but I tried to cut it with the yogurt here for health and for the benefit of Hellman’s haters.


But really, we’re eating a plate of leafy greens. It’s healthy anyway. Bring on the mayo. And cookies.


Introducing Tori – and Avocado Mousse!

Thank you Erin for the warm welcome! Having been a loyal Spill the Beans reader since its inception, it’s a thrill to be a contributor! Here’s a recent not-“hein” photo of Erin and me:

Erin and Tori

As Erin mentioned, I’m an NYC inhabitant and I have the smallest kitchen counter space known to man. But, with a little ingenuity, I came up with some space-saving solutions and still manage to cook and bake more than the average city dweller. I’m also a fitness enthusiast and have come to develop a serious SoulCycle addiction to fill the void of Body Pump. For those who are unfamiliar, SoulCycle is indoor cycling re-invented – a full-body workout with hand weights and choreography. I can’t get enough. Beyond cooking and fitness, I work in the media industry and I try to take advantage of all the cool, exciting things to do in the city.

In the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with Paleo eating. Simply put, Paleo is about eating whole foods that are found in nature. This includes foods like meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. These foods are full of nutrients and are free harmful additives and chemicals. When we remove these inflammatory foods from our diet—foods that were not part of our ancestors’ daily meals, such as wheat flour, gluten, sugar, and even supposedly “healthy” foods like grains, dairy, and soy—we reduce the risk of diseases and best of all, we feel better, our energy levels rise, we digest easily and we sleep better. If you’re interested in learning more about the Paleo lifestyle, I recommend the book Wheatbelly by Dr. William Davis.

So, being on this Paleo kick, I, like Erin, can’t resist the need for dessert. When I first came across this Avocado Mousse recipe, I was a little grossed out. How could this possibly work? Trust me, it’s DELICIOUS and there is no avocado taste. I made it for my family and didn’t tell them what was in it. They were shocked when I revealed the secret ingredient.

Avocado Mousse

2 ripe avocados
¼ cup of cocoa powder
¼ cup of almond or coconut milk
2 tablespoons of almond butter or peanut butter
¼ cup of Truvia® Natural Sweetener
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Get out your food processor. Add your avocados, cocoa powder, milk of choice, nut butter of choice, sweetener and vanilla and blend on high until smooth and no longer green. If the consistency is too thick, add more milk. Spoon into bowls and refrigerate for two hours or eat right out of the food processor (no judgment). I like to garnish with toasted unsweetened coconut or fresh raspberries.

Avocado 1

Avocado 2

Avocado 3

I also made this for my GS and he loved it, but also challenged me about its Paleo integrity – “Do you think ancient man made avocado mousse?” Touche.

barley salad with nectarines and goat cheese

park ave 018

The GS visited Rochester this weekend for the annual arts and crafts festival/day drinking extravaganza. He also brought a German friend (Jan- pronounced like Yan) that he met while studying abroad, and Jan’s friend Max. This was their first time in America and I think they really enjoyed telling people that they flew all the way from Germany just for Park Ave Fest.

photo courtesy: GS

photo courtesy: GS

They had spent the previous week in NYC, doing all the touristy things that I’ve never actually done. Then they took a bus up to Rochester, and I met them and entertained them (or attempted to) for a couple of hours before the GS arrived from Baltimore.

“There’s a British pub, an Irish pub, and a Belgian beer bar really close by. What are you in the mood for?”

I immediately felt really stupid advertising these restaurants by their European themes, given that I was speaking to actual Europeans.

They picked the Irish pub and we got yelled at by the waitress for breaking some sort of rule about moving after ordering food. Jan threw up his hands adorably and said  “So sorry! We are German!” What’s my excuse?

Then I went to my ultimate back-up plan in any situation, and brought them to Wegmans. They were simultaneously overjoyed and overwhelmed by the beer selection, but picked a growler of local beer.

The cashier was mystified by their German IDs, and seemingly even more so by my Maryland one. “Uh, we only accept New York state licenses.”

Okay. That’s just not true.

She let us buy the beer with a warning that this was a “one time thing.”

After the initial hiccup of me being an awkward hostess, it was a good weekend. We taught them to play flip cup, and they got to try a Rochester garbage plate. I also made chicken wing dip and yummy bars, true American delicacies. After all the drinking and eating unhealthy food, I returned to Wegmans on Sunday (stealthily keeping an eye out for narrow-minded cashier girl) and bought some stuff for a healthy dinner that I’ve been eating all week.

Barley Salad with Nectarines and Goat Cheese

1 cup uncooked barley

3 tbs olive oil

juice of one lemon

10-12 basil leaves, chiffonade

1 garlic clove, minced

thinly sliced red onion (about an inch of the onion)

2 nectarines, sliced

3 oz goat cheese, broken up

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the barley according to directions. Mine was 3 cups of water (or you can use chicken or vegetable stock) to 1 cup uncooked barley, brought to a boil then cooked on low for an hour. You can also sub couscous, quinoa, orzo, or farro in this recipe!

Rinse the barley. Add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, onion, salt and pepper. At this point I let it sit overnight because I didn’t want the nectarines to get mushy. I added the fruit and the goat cheese right before I served it.

park ave 018

It shouldn’t be surprising that I loved this so much given it’s many of my favorite things in one bowl with some hearty grains. You could probably impress people by bringing this as a side dish to a picnic this summer.

park ave 019

It won’t be as impressive as showing up from Germany, but pretty close.

**Just a public service announcement: after I posted this I received an email from my mom with the subject “Nectarines are to be avoided.” Apparently they may cause listeria? I’ve eaten 4 this week so I’ll let you know. In the mean time, maybe sub in peaches instead?

chocolate greek yogurt truffles


We have a new look!

There’s a pretty good chance I’ll change the theme 8 more times in the next two weeks.

An even bigger announcement is that after much soul searching I’ve decided I don’t have the self confidence (or the time) to carry a blog on my own. A good friend of mine will be joining me!

Meet Tori!blog

This horrendous photo was the only one I could find of just the two of us. And by “just the two of us,” don’t think I haven’t noticed Ian creeping in the background. She’ll kill me for posting it as I already texted it to her and she described it as “hein,” but oh well.

Tori and I have been friends for over 5 years, sharing a mutual love for obnoxiously orienting new students to Loyola, fine dining and cooking on a budget, and (most importantly) Body Pump.

She lives in NYC and is much more glamorous than me so I think we’ll give you a good mix of personality and different recipes. Because we’re both fitness fanatics, we might be adding some insights on that as well. Gotta burn off the cookies somehow.

And speaking of desserts, which have been few and far between on here lately, this is a quick and easy one to add to your summer repertoire.

Chocolate Greek Yogurt Truffles (makes 10-12 small truffles)

inspired by Honey & Figs

1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

1 container (5.3 oz) vanilla Greek yogurt (plain or coconut would work!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs cocoa powder

crushed nuts, pretzels, cocoa powder, graham cracker crumbs for topping

Melt the chocolate. I’ve been really bad at this lately- it always seizes up on me. But I added the Greek yogurt anyway and kept stirring and it smoothed out just fine. I’ve found that if I add a little bit of milk to seized chocolate you can usually save it- yogurt had the same effect.


Stir in the vanilla and cocoa powder. Place in the freezer for an hour to chill, then scoop/roll into truffles. Roll them in extra cocoa powder, crushed nuts or pretzels, or graham cracker crumbs. Stick them back in the freezer to set, and serve cold.

Happy consequence of truffle making. I bet this is exactly how the master chocolatiers at Lindt do it.


And yes, the peanuts and pretzels involved in this post are brought to you by the Southwest Airlines flight I took 2 weeks ago.


These came out even better than I expected. Just as rich as truffles made with heavy cream, but they’re a little bit tart from the yogurt. And they look so fancy!



Now I just need to try not to eat all of them in one sitting.

linguine w/ avocado arugula pesto


First of all, I passed my big test. Hooray! It was quite an ordeal but I got through it, got slightly drunk, and aggressively threw my study guide in the trash. Over it.

I rewarded myself with some serious Kindle time in front of my building on Sunday (latest read- Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau, sequel to The Testing- highly recommend if you’re into the Divergent or Hunger Games series).


Green will be a theme of this post.

When I was at Wegmans last week, avocados were either 2 for 4 dollars, for 4 for 5 dollars. Someone explain this math to me. I bought four, obviously.

What is one average-sized human to do with four, rapidly ripening avocados?

Throw them into recipes with some acid so that they won’t turn brown.

Tonight’s trip to Wegmans entailed a hunt for arugula and whole wheat linguine to complete this recipe. I was helllll bent on making this with whole wheat linguine.

I ended up having to buy the organic kind because that’s all they had. Now that I sort of have a real job I guess I can swing an extra 89 cents here and there.

Next to my organic whole wheat pasta? Two large jars of peanut butter and all the ingredients for chicken wing dip. This is clean eating.

It seems better once we cram a bunch of green stuff in a food processor.


Cooking for one means taste testing with your finger and not feeling bad about it.


Linguine with Avocado Arugula Pesto

1 pound linguine, or pasta of your choice

2 medium avocados

1 garlic clove

10-12 basil leaves

2 cups baby arugula (I used about half a bag)

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4-1/2 cup pasta water

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Combine pesto ingredients in food processor, adding a little pasta water to thin it out. Toss the pasta with the pesto.


I added a few grape tomatoes and some Parmesan cheese to mine because these are a few of my faaaavorite things.


I’m really excited to eat this cold for the next 6 days. I think it will be sublime.

Are you waiting for a picture of Kermit the Frog? Because I kind of am.

avocado chickpea sandwich spread


I have a pretty huge test tomorrow so naturally I’m making dinner, blogging, and watching Parenthood.

It’s the exam that I need to pass to eventually have a license to be an audiologist, which is pretty crucial given the 8 years of school I will have put into it.

My understanding is that it’s 120 multiple choice questions that represent a mix between extremely easy Audiology 101 type questions, questions about things that are so outdated they aren’t even taught in Au.D. programs anymore or obscure laws/formulas/rules, and questions that don’t actually have one correct answer but rather you have to pick “the best” of the bad choices.

I’ve been trying to study a little bit each day at work. Of course my co-workers have all taken and passed it so they seem unfazed. “Oh, no one fails the Praxis. I mean, people fail it I guess. But no one I know.”

I think that was supposed to make me feel better.

Luckily it’s a computer-based test so I’ll know immediately whether I passed and can start day drinking, or whether I failed and will need to spend $115 to take it again and can start day drinking.

Until I’m a real audiologist I will continue to post recipes that cost about $6 total.


Avocado Chickpea Sandwich Spread

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 ripe avocados

2 tbs red onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

8-10 basil leaves, chopped

juice of one lime

salt and pepper, to taste

I decided to make this a chunky spread, but feel free to toss it all in your food processor to make some kind of delicious hummus/guacamole hybrid. I just really hate to clean my food processor.


This would also be great as a vegetarian sandwich/wrap, but I added some turkey and cucumber slices to mine just to make it extravagant on this wild Friday night I’m having.


Wish me luck! Fitting this fat sandwich in my mouth, and passing the test.