Peanut Butter and Jelly

By: Sarah Ashley

Having spent the better part of the past year shrouded in worn wool sweaters and socks meant only for trips to powdery slopes, the coy arrival of Spring has bewitched me. Light solar kisses on my cheeks and a flirtatious breeze caressing my neck, delicately lifting my hair, evoke a sensation not unlike puppy love. I become childish in my giddy anticipation of lunch outside on a porch, holding Spring’s hand, happily giving in to my infatuation with her scent and charisma.

What better way to celebrate this tantalizing new romance than with a dish familiar to childhood whimsy? Indulge your inner adolescent today with a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.



They, or perhaps we, say that opposites attract. The wild child finds a steady hand in the control freak; Pig-Pen elopes with a cleaning lady. We tell ourselves that these matches click like an airplane seatbelt because we find beauty in the absurdity of it all. Or, perhaps it is because peanut butter complements jelly so marvelously.



One symptom of surviving childhood and graduating to adulthood is certainly a matured collection of refrigerator tenants  and pantry squatters. You’ll notice the “low sodium” exclamation hovering above the guilt-free “natural” banner smeared across the JIF jar. You’ll scoff at the pretentious use of the phrase “Product of France” displayed upon the face of Bonne Maman’s blackberry preserves. Ingredients for a woman more familiar with child’s pose than child’s play. Forgive me this transgression and feel liberated to use more classic versions of the lovers you see pictured above.


2 slices bread

2 tbs. peanut butter

2 tbs. jelly

The amounts listed above are approximations; I’ve experimented with increasing the ratio from 50/50 to 40/60 in favor of peanut butter from time to time. Taste as you cook to build the sandwich to your liking.

Begin by slathering the peanut butter across the top side of one slice of bread.



Repeat on the other slice of bread, though with jelly this time.



Now bask under the sunny situation in which you find yourself. Life passes us by so quickly, like a jackal on a Serengeti hunt: a rush of an adventure that inevitably ends in death. Enjoy this small moment of potential. Examine your ratios. Appreciate the perfect opposites.


Join the two slices in holy matrimony by placing one slice – peanut butter or jelly side down – on top of the other slice.


A match made in heaven, to enjoy on a day that feels to me like what I imagine heaven should feel like. If you’re inspired by your newfound love, split it in two and share it with your sweetheart.




Bite into the soft bread, close your eyes and bask in the juxtaposition of that sticky, salty peanut butter pressed into the smooth, sweet jelly. Chew in three four time because those flavors will be waltzing along your tongue. Share the dance with your honey bunny.



On this early January morning, the coldest air to bluster through Chicago in decades seeps through the cracks of my windows, coating the sills with a thin layer of crusty frost. Today was supposed to be the first day of the rest of my year – back to reality after a sugary holiday haze. Alas, the sugar-plum fairies are still a-dancing. Windchill is -50 and I’ve decided to spend this chilly Monday inside my freezer.


A new year is the most popular time to attempt healthy changes and aim for the reset button. Even if you’re just being trendy, at the very least you’ll end up cleaning out your fridge and finding freezer-burned foods from last July. A true Foody Head knows that you can always make a new dish out of old food!


Shopper’s Value Red, White, & Blue Pops are exuberant, all-Americana treats of perfection. Often called a ‘Bomb Pop’, this icy food looks a lot like the French national flag. However, the red, white & blue pop is an exclusively American phallic dessert that can be enjoyed any time of year – even when your city is literally colder than the North Pole.


1 popsicle

The popsicle will be wrapped in white, waxy paper. Now, if you purchase a box of pops containing multiple flavors (less patriotic pop boxes contain orange, grape and cherry flavored pops), you’ll be able to distinguish between flavors based on the color seen through the wax paper. This can help you actively avoid choosing purple (grape), which is disgusting.

The true beauty of the Red, White, & Blue Pop is the trifecta of flavor exploding on your tastebuds from each popsicle. Beginning with a burst of cherry (red), you wind your way down through a blizzard of lemon (white), and conclude smoothly with an onslaught of cool raspberry (blue). Matisse couldn’t have painted a more dreamlike combination (though Warhol probably could).


Hold the top of the wrapper between the forefinger and thumb of each hand. Move your hands in opposite directions, pulling the hand coming towards you in a downward motion. The casing should tear easily. If it does not, just use scissors and save yourself additional frustration.


If your pop has been living in your freezer for several months, as mine had, it will have a uniquely beautiful, wintery 3-D crystal design growing on the exterior. To remedy this – though you might want to snap a one-of-a-kind picture first – simply run your popsicle under cool water.




Voila!, as the French would say. A delicious moment of cool zen amidst the absurdly frigid whipping wind swirling inches outside my frozen windows.



Stay warm, but also stay cool.

Sour Patch Kids

By: Sarah Ashley

It is hard to believe August starts tomorrow. These past few months have been an awakening for me – a whirlwind of self-discovery and catharsis. You, dear reader, may have noticed that it has been months since my last post. Fear not, dread none – I have not been ill nor wary of life nor bored with food. Quite the contrary! I have been riveted by the bright summer hues of farmer’s markets and gardens lining the bountiful streets of my neighborhoods! I have been busy meditating on what it is that draws me to flavor – to scent – to texture. I sampled organic, earthy vegetables and sumptuously ripe produce. Everything and anything edible, I tried this summer.

It is as though I took on many lovers between my last post and now, unabashedly giving in to the many tastes that this world of ours has to offer. When all was said and done, there existed only one food worthy of the first post of the rest of my life.


Sour Patch Kids.

The truest beauty of this delicacy lies in its complex simplicity – from the moment you hold the package in your hands, you know what you are going to get: a radical combination of extreme flavors. You are promised four incredibly distinct, sweet flavors coated in a wild, sour film – and these kiddies do not disappoint.

Honesty should never be overlooked when choosing food and ingredients. Plus, Sour Patch Kids are devilishly easy to prepare!

Perfect for any view.

Perfect for any view.


1 bag Sour Patch Kids

Open your bag gently. As with any delicious meal, patience is the key ingredient. Trust me, this will be worth your wait – in gold! I find that instead of opening the Sour Patch Kids bag like you would a bag of chips (by pulling the top seal apart horizontally), tearing a small opening vertically does the trick and gives me premium access to the goodness inside.




Ease the neon green and yellow bag open until you can comfortably reach your entire hand into it.



Avoid the urge to grab a handful and dig in right away. Traditionally, Sour Patch Kids are served in crystal bowls. Pour entire bag of Sour Patch Kids into a crystal bowl.



If and when you begin to feel adventurous – which I do not doubt you will, as Sour Patch Kids are known to bring out one’s wild side – try combining different flavors to create your own unique experience. Though pure Red is my true love, I’ve not turned my back on an Orange-Yellow combination tryst yet! You never know with whom you will fall in love… or lust.


If you are enjoying Sour Patch Kids in the darkness at a major motion picture screening, I find that guessing which flavor you have in your mouth is a fun game to play with yourself. Not only will you discover that food is more than meets the eye, you will most certainly discover a little something about yourself.


Now isn’t that what food is all about?


Popcorn Shrimp

By: Sarah Ashley

I close my eyes and picture sparkling, turquoise waters lackadaisically lapping against a white, sandy beach. Bright blue sky extends for miles and the hot sun envelops me. Imagining I’m sitting in a simple, fold-out beach chair, I dig my toes into the sand and take a sip from a cool Pina Colada. I create a giant beach feast in my fantasy – vibrant fruits! Exotic spices! Fresh seafood! Ah yes, of course. It is not a tropical island vacation without tons of delicious, freshly caught sea critters.

Then I open my eyes to a bleak and bare Chicago afternoon. In February. I become depressed.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to beat the wintertime blues! If you can’t take a spring break vacation, you can certainly create the beach feast of your dreams! How?


Popcorn Shrimp.

I’ve chosen SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Co., but there are numerous brands on the market that make a terrific popcorn shrimp. No matter the brand, there is something profound about the way the crisp, breaded exterior compliments the buttery, briny shrimp. It reminds me of oceanside cookouts and orange sunsets.


1 box Popcorn Shrimp

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Open the box with care. There is usually a perforated side that makes it easy – because who wants to work on a vacation?!


You’ll need a cooking tray. A trick I learned from my father, a master chef when it comes to seafood, is to place Aluminum Foil on the tray. You’ll save time on clean-up and the popcorn shrimp won’t stick. Smart as a dolphin!


Place as many popcorn shrimp on the tray as you please. Truth be told, I got so wrapped up in my deserted island dreamland that I ended up making a second batch, right after the first! So take note of your mental state and ask yourself: How many popcorn shrimp do I really need to convince myself that I am in Fiji?



Pop (!) the tray into the oven for 10-11 minutes. I prefer the full 11 minutes because, as I said, that crispy exterior really punches up the flavor of the smooth shrimp inside. But, this is your spring break. Go wild!


When you hop out of the salty ocean, if the sun is hot enough it completely dries your body by the time you have pranced to your beach chair. So it goes with popcorn shrimp. Let them cool momentarily, but be quick dishing them up.


Nothing beats a hot, crunchy piece of popcorn shrimp! Except a real vacation on a remote beach, where knit hammocks hang between palm trees and the air smells like coconut.



For now, though, there’s this.


Ice Cream

By: Sarah Ashley

January certainly threw a hissy fit in Chicago this week. Humble midwesterners throughout the city reluctantly thrust their legs into long johns and zipped up an extra layer of fleece as subzero temperatures crept through the cracks of their cotton tees. It’s been brutal. Twelve, nine, then zero degrees and no end in sight. What do freezing cold and frozen nostrils put this Minnesota girl in the mood for?

Ice cream.



Specifically, Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter tracks.

Cold eats, cold treats.

Cold eats, cold treats.

In the dead of winter when darkness greets you in the morning and swallows you on the arctic trek home, having a frozen sweet treat awaiting your return is the closest you’ll get to a panting husky smiling as you walk through the door.


1 quart ice cream

The crisp winter inspired my choice today. Blustering snow flurries insisted I choose a smooth vanilla based ice cream, and that creamy caramel swirl promised a touch of salty warmth. To me, miniature peanut butter cups are like ice fishing holes: tiny pockets of promising nutritious goodness scattered throughout the tundra that was soon to become my dessert.


First and foremost, find a scooper spoon that won’t bend or break against the iced cream.


After letting the frozen vanilla tub thaw for a few minutes, use your strong scoop spoon to move the treat to a sturdy bowl. It often helps to begin at the edges, and work your way to the middle of the tub.


Gently ease the chilly goodness from the scooper into the bowl. Beware of frostbite! If your tender fingers are too chapped from the winter winds, use another spoon to join the ice cream with the rest of the snowdrift inside the bowl.

DSC_0069Seasonal affective disorder is no secret this time of year, when the sun kisses your cheeks but once a week. Lucky me. Vitamin D, found in milk, works with the sugary accoutrements to brighten my chilly soul. What a delicious excuse to keep dishing more Peanut Butter Tracks.

DSC_0073January – don’t run away just yet.

DSC_0080Or you’ll melt my cold, cold heart.



Tomato Soup

By: Sarah Ashley

It is December and the cold has finally settled into the cracks of the estate. Outside, the tumultuous wind rips through the naked trees along the coastline. Waves crash against the shore with icy angst – a final breach before the shallow waters freeze and winter silences the lake. The sky hints at a snowfall, but I have learned to understand its language. Tomorrow, perchance. But no snow today. Just warm, creamy, tomato basil soup.

Tomato soup

In years past, tomato soup was a childhood favorite of mine. I slurped it with the enthusiasm of a starving young girl living on the blustery moors of England, though in reality I was eating lunch in the kitchen after playing with Barbies all morning. In any case, to this day it remains a comforting treat when the world outside seems stark and ominous.

I’ve chosen Progresso Tomato Basil from their Vegetable Classics line.


1 can tomato soup

Using the pull-tab on the top of the can, carefully pull up and peel the top away. It is enormously important not to cut your nimble fingers on the lip – if you cut yourself, you’ll have such trouble knitting a blanket for your family during the cold, dark hours you spend in front of the fire before bedtime.

soup can

Gently pour the tomato soup into a medium-sized pot on the stove. Do not add milk. Some tomato soups require milk to thicken the dish. Unless you’ve got fresh cow’s milk ready at the barn gate, I advise against it.


Light the fire below the pot, ensuring the flame does not get too high. I recommend a medium flame, but often with rustic fire places this is hard to control. Do your best.

Every few moments, perhaps measured loosely by the number of taps a tree branch makes as it is blown against your windowpane by the wind, gently stir the tomato soup.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Stir.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Stir.

Take care to watch the soup closely – if your meal begins to boil, lower the flame. Boiling tomato soup has a tendency to stain the pot. You’ll be cleaning for ages.

boiling soup

Since this whole process is in actuality more of a re-heating than a thorough cooking, anywhere from five to ten minutes should be enough time for the fire to prepare the soup. Remove the pot from the flame and ladle the steamy broth into your favorite bowl.

tomato basil soup

Reader, you have done it. Though the earth will not thaw for many months yet, you have earned a moment of indulgence. Sink into your tomato soup like the hoof of a horse into the muddy side of a mountain.



By: Sarah Ashley

My dear family and friends, winter is upon us.  I take this as wonderful news! The holiday lights lift my spirits and the biting cold turns my cheeks a rosy red. While many folks turn to spicy, warm and hearty dishes for comfort this time of year, I prefer a treat a bit more… tropical.

Oranges, my darlings!

An orange orange.

From crisp November through sub-zero January, navel oranges are in season! While tangerines and clementines certainly make juicy appearances on soccer fields in June, it is the orange that saves you in the dead of night during a snowstorm. It whisks you away to a salty beach… the sea breeze flirts with your hair… the Vitamin C cures your scurvy…

There are several strategic ways to best enjoy an orange. For optimal fun, I always go with slices.


1 orange

Begin by removing any stickers found on the orange. This is important even though you will not be eating the orange rind. It’s just a good habit to get into.

Be sure to use a cutting board for your orange slicing to prevent counter damage. Cut the orange in half with a large butcher knife, taking care to cut from navel to navel. If you do not cut navel to navel, you will end up with orange slices that look different than mine. It should not affect the taste, however, I wouldn’t risk it.

Watch out for your fingers!

Next, slice one half of the orange into half again. Slice each of those halves into half.

Repeat on the other half. If at any point during the cutting you feel seasonal affective disorder creeping into your psyche, shoo it away by inhaling deeply. The orange zest in the air will energize you to keep cutting! You should now have 8 orange slices.

Row 1: orange, orange, orange, orange. Row 2: orange, orange, orange, orange.

You’ll find that some slices will be larger than others – this is because human error prevents us from cutting the halves into half perfectly. This is normal and does not affect the taste of your fruitily delicious winter treat!


Serve on platters at your winter solstice party or as a side dish to your favorite holiday meal. Replace your napkin with a beach towel… take a sip of salt water… bask in the freshness of the citrus season…

Orange you glad I said ORANGE?


This past week I flew back to my home town, Chicago AKA the land of deep dish and hot dogs! Trust me, I got my fill of Chicago-style food–um, have you met my parents before? And while I ate like royalty, it was all my food favorites I’ve had before and I felt a tang of sadness on the way to the airport realizing I had not ventured outside of my realm at all. I realized quickly I should cheer up. After all, I was heading to international foodie heaven, O’hare International Airport!

My parents dropped me off at the terminal and boy did I make my way through security like nobody’s business–I had business to take care of! I was in terminal 3–totally different from term 1 or 2. I made my way to my gate, found someone who didn’t look like a terrorist and asked them to watch my bag while I did some research!

I had successfully taken off and now I needed a place to land. There were a bunch of awesome little bodegas, but I opted to go to a real restaurant…and then I saw it: a big line of people! If there’s anything I know about food it’s that if there’s a whole bunch of people waiting to eat there, it’s gotta be good. Above the line, a urine-gold halo of arches: McDonald’s.

I really wasn’t familiar with the Scottish influence on Chicago culture besides my astonishment as a child that my friend Mary McCann could have two capital letters in her last name. It just didn’t seem fair. I stared at the menu for a while and when the waitress behind the counter yelled at me to “step up girl,” I did my little Step Up body roll dance move and took a sexy step closer to the counter. The Scottish woman asked: “Lady you gotta order or move” and so I quickly ordered whatever the guy in front of me ordered. The Scottish waitress rolled her eyes which I thought was a cool trick. I paid and then waited for my food!

“187!” a different Scottish person yelled. I ran up to grab my food and headed back to my gate. The person watching my bag must’ve had something really important to do because he was missing. He might’ve been kidnapped by a terrorist. I checked my carry-on for bombs because you should never leave your bags unattended in the airport, and as soon as I realized my hair dryer had not been rewired as an explosive I sat down to eat my food,

To my surpirse, the guy in front of me ordered a lot of food! A big bag of fries, a yummy looking double burger, and some fried marbles or something.

Nuggets of mystery

These nuggets were quite delicious and I knew I was in above my head because I could not figure out what I was eating! Probably something fancy and weird they make on Top Chef. Either way, the rubbery substance was seasoned and fried and why would I complain about that!

Next, the burger.

Big burger bite!

This double cheeseburger was one of the most marvelous concoctions of food I’ve ever had. With my first bite I knew immediately that this was farm to table cooking. The burger was most definitely kobe beef and the bun was the equivalent to to kobe beef but for bread. The use of ketchup was perfect and the cheese was directly imported from Scotland. I may have made that last fact up in my head but I think it’s true because where else would they get that cheese from. All cheese is made in Scotland. I may have made that one up too but I think it’s true. I went to college. Ok, I definitely made that one up.

After devouring that burger, it was time to see if I could stick my head in the bag.

My head was too big to fit in this bag 😦

I sniffed inside the bag for a good while until someone came up to me and asked me if I was “all right.” I replied that I can spot a terrorist from ten yards away, and that if I needed to make a gun I could make one out of my blow dryer. While I still had his attention, I grabbed a fist full of the fries and jammed them into my mouth to prove a point. What was cool was that later I realized he was the guy driving the plane and requested I not board his flight.

I’ve been stuck at the airport in a small room with no windows for I’m not even sure how long now. I missed my flight.  People keep coming into ask me questions and I just keep repeating Abu Nazir’s lines from Homeland because that’s my favorite show. I’m so glad I had such a great meal to hold me over!

You gotta try this place! 5 stars. Ciao

Dunkin’ Donuts

The sound of crisp leaves crunching with each step, the brisk chill air filling my lungs, oh, and did someone say “sweater weather?” Autumn is absolutely my favorite time of year (ask me what my favorite time of the year is come Christmas and my birthday…). I’m a coffee drinker all year-long, but there’s nothing like cozying up with a warm special cup of joe in hand on a 50 degree crisp day.

As an explorer at heart, I do my best to taste test the most interesting coffee shops I pass along on this journey we call life (it helps me to keep from calling it ‘strife’ after my cats gnawed so deeply into my bunion when I fell asleep while watching “While You Were Sleeping,” I had to have reconstructive surgery on a malformed body part). So, it worked out perfectly that moody ole’ me passed a little shop in Harlem called Dunkin’ Donuts.

I’ll be honest, it was not what I expected. I’ve been to a million NYC coffee shops with cool lighting and playing music I’ve never heard while people bury their faces in their laptops, but Dunkin’ Donuts was not like this at all. The lighting was bright, which I appreciated as a food critic. After all, you eat 80% of your meal with your eyes. And I’ll be honest, my eyes were not hurting! There was a wall of donuts. Did you hear me? A wall of donuts! I nearly broke down and ordered them all, but considering I came there for coffee, I held back and ordered a non-fat medium latte. And guess what? The barista gave me a free pumpkin munchkin to boot!

Goes to say, there’s really nothing like great service. I took my latte and munchkin and sat at one of the many empty tables in the place. There were two other people enjoying the wonderful coffee aromas with me and I might go out on a limb here and assume neither had homes. This made me appreciate Dunkin’ Donuts for being charitable.

I let my latte cool down a bit before I received its ecstasy. And ecstasy it was. One sip of that latte and I was overcome by a warmth and arousal I had never been aware of before…then I realized one of Dunkin’s aforementioned patrons was groping my breasts. I quickly moved seats.

Lotta Latte!

For its price, the latte was just what I needed! As for ambiance, I give the place a 9/10 because I think it was true to what it was going for and I would never criticize someone’s taste. I did absolutely love that Ace of Base was playing!

Overall, Dunkin’ Donuts is a slam dunk!

Macaroni and Cheese

By: Sarah Ashley

On this gloomy, rainy October afternoon, with a tempest brewing on the horizon, I decided the best way to celebrate the Halloween season would be preparing a lusciously gooey pot of macaroni and cheese. Literally nothing compares to the luminous bright yellow-orange of this hearty and warm comfort food.

The rain brings out the worms and ghouls.

While some mac n’ cheese enthusiasts will tell you one homemade brand is better than another, you literally cannot go wrong when it comes to tiny noodles and cheese powder. On this particularly wet October day, I’ve chosen to indulge my spirits in Market Pantry Macaroni and Cheese Dinner (since Halloween is near, I’ll have my mac n’ cheese for lunch instead of dinner to make it more spooky).


6 cups purified water

4 tablespoons margarine

¼ cup milk

7 ounces (1 box) elbow macaroni noodles

1 packet powdered cheese sauce mix

Pour the water gently into a pot and place it upon the stove. Bring the water to a bubbling, cauldron boil. Add the elbow macaroni noodles slowly, stirring and chanting as you pour. Cook the macaroni noodles for 7 to 8 minutes, until they are tender as a baby’s finger.

Strain the elbow macaroni over the sink.

Just like straining brains!

This mad scientist recommends not rinsing the elbows before returning them to the cauldron. Allowing the noodles to stay hot and steamy makes for an ooey gooey delectable dish! Add the margarine, milk and powdered cheese mix all at the same time.

Stir firmly with a wooden spoon until the margarine has melted completely. It helps to smother the margarine under the noodles, suffocating it as it melts slowly into the mixture. Keep toiling until the milk and cheese have morphed into a creamy sauce that coats each noodle like a woolen sweater – or a witch’s cape!


Curl up on the sofa with your macaroni and cheese and a creepy novel or horror film, letting the storm clouds roll in. The drizzle turns into sheets and pretty soon all the ghosts in your apartment will want a taste of your delightfully festive Halloween treat!

Happy Halloween!