Sunday, July 3, 2011


Scalawag: (noun) a scamp; rascal

I realize I just posted a picture of a half-eaten basket of fish sandwich and french fries, but I forgot to take a picture before I started eating.

Okay. Fine. I just couldn't wait to take a picture before digging in.

I've been going to Scalawag's for as long as I can remember. Primarily the Mackinaw City location, but when there used to be locations in Cheboygan, Petoskey, and Okemos, I went to those, too. My family used to take boat trips to Mackinaw City, at least once a summer, and we could always count on a trip to Scalawag's and a big ice cream cone to follow. Yes, there have always been tasty treats in Mackinaw.

So here's the low-down on Scalawag's. It's tucked back in a little corner of Mackinaw City. They serve fish. Good fish. They also serve chicken fingers, but don't bother. The FISH is where it's at. I always always always get the fish sandwich basket. So does my dad. It's deliciously deep-fried whitefish on a smooshy white sesame bun with tartar sauce and lettuce. Squeeze a bit of lemon on top (or a lot of lemon) and you have yourself the perfect Great Lakes meal. Granted, Scalawag's is not located on the water, but you could quite simply get it to-go and head on down to the water front.

And oh my god, the FRIES. They're crispy. And hot. And salty. And the perfect accompaniment to the fish. I mean, fish and chips- Classic combo. And here, they do it right. The trick is finding it, though...

1) Look for Kilwin's. (Convenient, because you have to pass it when you leave Scalawag's. May as well grab an ice cream cone)

2) Follow down the corridor next to Kilwin's. See it down there?

3) Jump for joy because you're about to have some seriously tasty whitefish!

S'more, Please!


I have been CRAVING s'mores lately. These cravings have been so intense that I almost resorted to cooking them over the grill. I'm sure this would have been fine, but it's not the same. Making s'mores is about so much more than just graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow. It's about sitting around a bonfire with special people, searching for the perfect s'more stick, getting sticky and gooey marshmallow all over your hands and face, perfecting your roasting technique. It's about enjoying everything summer has to offer.

I was going to write this post all about how s'mores are simple and perfect and should not be tampered with. However, I'm actually a bit of a stickler when it comes to my ingredients. I'm convinced that you must use Jet-Puffed Marshmallows. The off-brands never seem to puff up quite right over the fire. With graham crackers, I'm a little more lenient. You can get by with an off-brand in a pinch, but I will stand by Honey-Maid until my budget doesn't allow it. As for chocolate, you could probably use any kind of chocolate. But I've never seen a 6-pack of chocolate bars made by anybody but Hershey's.

Going back to my proposal that s'mores are simple and perfect, though: they are. A friend of mine suggested spreading peanut butter on the graham, which was good, but I still prefer the simplicity of the classic s'more.

As for technique... Well, everyone has their own s'more technique. Mine has been perfected over 23 years (minus the years when I wasn't allowed to play near fire). And this past weekend, I finally discovered the perfect ratio. 1 graham cracker sheet (split in half to create the top and the bottom), 3 pieces of chocolate (broken into smaller pieces for maximum meltability), and 2 marshmallows (roasted quickly, browning the outside, and left to hover over the flames, slowly warming the mallow throughout). Yes, it is truly a divine combination.

Whew! Who knew I had so much to say about s'mores!

Let's take a trip to the strawberry patch...

Have you ever bought strawberries at the grocery store? Sometimes they smell pretty good and they look pretty red. Fresh picked strawberries are nothing like those pretty good smelling, red looking strawberries.

Fresh picked strawberries are delicate little morsels. Red, plump, and juicy. They are so juicy. When you have one between your fingers, you can just tell that it's different. The weight of it feels different in your hand. And when you bite into it, it's surprisingly soft. If you've been eating supermarket strawberries, you've probably been experiencing quite a bit of crunch in your strawberries. They're usually firm, almost tough. Fresh picked strawberries practically melt in your mouth. You can smoosh it between the roof of your mouth and your tongue and it releases its sweet juices to run down your throat.

Mom and I started a tradition a couple of summers ago to pick strawberries at a local farm, take the loot home, and make enough jam to last us an eternity. Well, at least enough to last until the next summer. We usually end up with so many strawberries we end up freezing most of them to use later. We just use the recipe in the SureJell box, which uses about 4 cups of sugar per batch. That's a lot of sugar! We ran out of SureJell this time around, but we happened to have a package of a different brand of pectin with a different recipe for jam that used half the sugar. HALF! Well, we gave it a shot, and turns out we might have a new recipe for jam. The new recipe isn't as sweet and tastes more like strawberries. I'm a fan.

Rhubarb is often paired with strawberries, but in my almost 23 years I had not once tried it! Can you believe that? I can't. That's why we made strawberry-rhubarb pie. Like my best friend, Valerie, put it, strawberry-rhubarb pie is the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Considering I've never been a great baker, I'd say it came out pretty darn good!

Friday, July 1, 2011

This is what Heaven looks like

(from Ina Garten)

Ever been to Heaven? If so, this may have been what you saw. I myself have never been to Heaven, but my fingers are crossed that this is what it will look like. Imagine a pint-sized me wandering between the towers of cookies in heavenly bliss. Can you see it?

I decided to bake cookies for the kind young man from my Spanish group for class. He did a bunch of extra work for our group, editing all 4 of our podcasts throughout the course, without a single complaint. What a trooper! I think that deserves some serious cookie action. I had made these cookies from Ina once before and loooooved them so. Anybody can do a chocolate chip cookie. But these backward chocolate chippers (chocolate cookie, white chocolate chips) are such a treat. The cookie part is nice and chocolatey and rich, and the chips are a nice creamy surprise.

Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk (or chip) Cookies

1) Preheat oven to 350℉.

2) Cream 1/2 lb. unsalted butter, 1 c light brown sugar (packed), and 1 c granulated sugar with an electric mixer. Add 2 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 large eggs at room temperature (adding one at a time and mixing well after each addition).

3) Add 2/3 c good cocoa powder and slooowwwllly turn the mixer back on (though I'm pretty sure cocoa powder will get everywhere regardless). Add 2 c flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chunks/chips, as much as your heart desires.

4) Drop rounded spoonfulls onto a cookie sheet. Dampen your hands and slightly flatten each cookie.

5) Ina says to bake exactly 15 minutes. I say go a bit shy of 15 because every oven is different. Take the cookies out when they SEEM like they need another minute or two. If you wait til them seem done, you'll be sorry.

6) Stack the cookies up in very tall towers and imagine what it would be like to live in a land with towers of cookies.