I was recently inspired by Chris Queen’s articles of Southern recipes to list some of the recipes for food featured in my book, Finding Mr. Righteous. The book is about all the things you’re not supposed to talk about on a first date – sex, politics and exes. But in between dating horror stories and flirting at CPAC, there was some excellent cooking.
1. Chris the Atheist’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chris loved the chocolate chip cookies I made. It’s adapted from the original Nestle Toll House recipe. I must have made dozens of batches during the time I was with him. On the weekends we spent together, I frequently brought a batch. I never wanted to show up empty-handed. My insecurities led me to believe that I wasn’t enough. I had to sweeten the deal.
2 1/4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 stick or 1 cup of butter-flavored Crisco
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup of egg substitute (not Egg Beaters, which have garlic and onion powder)
10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
10 ounces of milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl and with electric mixer, cream Crisco, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla. Once combined, add egg substitute 1/4 cup at a time until thoroughly mixed. Add flour mixture 1 cup at a time until incorporated. Stir in both kinds of chocolate chips.
Use cookie scoop or shape into 1.5 inch balls on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until desired doneness. Cool on wire rack. In between baking, store unused dough in refrigerator.
2. Rosemary and Gorgonzola Pizza for Joe the Catholic
Any time I asked Joe what I should make us for dinner he said, “Pizza and salad.” Sometimes the simple ingredients make the best meals. When I think about one of my favorite memories of Joe, it is a Sunday morning eating bagels and reading the Sunday paper in bed. Happiness can be found in the simple things.
This is an easy pizza you can make with ready-made dough or pre-baked dough like Boboli. I prefer thin crust.
Crust/Dough of Your Choice
2 medium sweet/Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
4 ounces of gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
In large skillet, combine oil, sliced onions and rosemary. Sauté until onions are caramelized and medium brown.
Spread onion mixture on crust. Sprinkle layer of gorgonzola cheese on top. Bake pizza according to dough instructions. Serve with a salad, of course.
3. Baileys, White Chocolate and Pistachio Fudge for John the Evangelical
It’s fitting that one of the recipes I made for John was around Christmas. Every year I try to focus on one or two recipes for treats I send family and friends. In 2012, I sent this one. I was giddy waiting for John to text that he received it. His enthusiasm never disappointed. It was exactly what every cook wants to hear about her food.
1-14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream
36 oz white chocolate chips
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped (Note: Trader Joe’s sells shelled pistachios!)
For Christmas, I also add 1/2 cup Craisins
Line a 9×9 baking dish with nonstick foil. Or, if you don’t have nonstick foil, lightly grease.
In a saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate, condensed milk and Bailey’s. Stir constantly until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the pistachios and Craisins.
Pour into the pan and let cool in refrigerator until set. Once set, peel off the foil and cut into one inch squares.
4. Preston the Quaker’s Raspberry Walnut Bars
Nothing will top our first meal at a seafood place in National Harbor, MD that I wanted to try. It was a few days before New Year’s Eve and a much-needed vacation before the craziness of CPAC planning began. I had butternut squash soup, scallops and crème brulee. I made these Raspberry Walnut Bars for Preston because they were different from the decadent chocolate treats I had made for Chris and Preston. My friendship with Preston was also different. Presumably healthy, but not so upon further examination.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup raspberry preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×9 pan with foil. Grease with butter or cooking spray. In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, walnuts, butter and egg. Beat with mixer on low until mixture is crumbly. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the pan to form the crust.
Spread raspberry preserves on crust to 1/2 inch of edges.
Crumble remaining 1/3 of topping over the raspberry layer. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until top is golden brown. Cool. Cut into bars.
5. Salted Caramel Sauce in Memory of Ryan the Preacher
I never cooked for Ryan. For the most part our interaction was only on the phone. I wanted more, but made do with what he gave me. I picked this recipe to represent the section on Ryan because it’s decadent and delicious, but just not enough on its own.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Stir medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully add whipping cream (you may want to stand back — mixture will bubble vigorously). Add butter, sea salt, and vanilla. Stir with small whisk over low heat until all caramel bits are incorporated and sauce is smooth.
6. Mini Key Lime Pie with Adam the Jew
Nearly every summer for the last 6 or 7 years I’ve spent a few weeks in Palm Beach, Florida. Bringing Nellie and Joe’s lime juice home was always on my agenda. Luckily, they sell it at the Palm Beach airport. The first time Adam and I spent time together was after I got back from Florida. Before he left I gave him two mini key lime pies I had made. Once again, I was reluctant to let a man leave empty-handed.
9” graham cracker pie shell (or homemade)
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks (whites not used)
1/2 Nellie and Joe’s Key West lime juice
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Combine milk, egg yolks and key lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes before refrigerating. Just before serving, top with whipped cream.
7. Brandon the Non-Denominational Believer’s Lasagna
Brandon and I only dated a few months, but he was unlike anyone I had ever dated. For one thing, he eagerly accepted my gifts of food with no hesitation. One of the first meals I made for him was lasagna. I am the rare Italian that doesn’t eat bread or pasta, so it was important that I made something he would enjoy and take home. Brandon was born blind, so lasagna was an easy dish for him to portion and heat up.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 large cans of Roma tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste with basil
¼ cup dried oregano
¼ cup dried basil
¼ cup dried parsley
½ cup grated parmigiano
In large pot over low heat, add olive oil and chopped garlic. Add sausage and brown. Before adding tomatoes, squash with hands or scissors so they’re broken up. Add tomatoes to pot. Once heated, add tomato paste, oregano, basil, parsley and parmesan. Cook on low for at least three hours, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon.
1 box oven-ready lasagna
1 lb. ricotta
½ cup parmigiano cheese grated
2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
Sauce (there will be leftover)
In a 13×9 lasagna pan, ladle one cup of sauce on bottom of pan. Top with one layer of pasta. Top with more sauce and ¼ of the ricotta. Repeat for 3-4 layers. For the final layer add sauce and top with mozzarella and sprinkle with parmigiano cheese.
Bake lasagna at 375F for 20 minutes or until bubbling and slightly brown in the corners.
I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes as much as I did. Finding Mr. Righteous is about my journey through life and love. Sharing food with family and friends is a big part of it.
I’d love to hear some of your recipes for impressing friends, family and lovers! I, for one, can’t wait to try some of the recipes from Chris Queen’s series on southern food.