Can We Call This the Perfect Party Cocktail?

I love cocktails but I am not usually a big fan of cocktail books. I don't want to buy 3 new liquers and a set of bitters just to make one drink. So I can't tell you how happy I was to see Maggie Hoffman's The One Bottle Cocktail. The entire premise eliminates your fear of cocktails in that it centers on the idea of only one spirit. Every drink is complex, fresh, interesting and only requires purchasing a single bottle of booze. Add onto that that Maggie is delightful - and that she shines through the pages - and you have an essential book on your hands.

I was so glad that on a recent trip to NYC Maggie decided to stop by the test kitchen and make a cocktail. This one is particularly awesome because in making it you also get a side of salsa. It's perfect for brunch, parties or just snacking at home with your very own bottle of vodka. 

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The Secret to Flawless Shortbread

Sometimes life just requires baking. In those moments nothing is better than a cookie. And when you want simplicity to go along with it, a shortbread cookie can be the ultimate satisfying treat.

Jim Lahey, the brilliant mind behind Sullivan Street Bakery grew up on Walker's Shortbread. I became a bit addicted to them myself when I lived in Scotland. But unlike Lahey I didn't spend years honing and perfecting my own version. Luckily he was willing to share his Italian take on the classic

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The Healthiest Sandwich Trick

I love a good hack, and apple sandwiches are kind of my new current favorite. If you use tart apples instead of bread you create a whole new category with texture and a fun factor that is hard to beat.

Recently Siri Daly stopped by to talk about her new book, Siriously Delicious. The wife of famed tv host Carson Daly uses her book and blog to showcase her easy recipes that help her keep her busy family on the go. Siri is one of those people who tries to make life easier and I loved the fun outlook in the book. But these  apple sandwiches with nut butter and granola have made me a convert.

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Get Ready for July Cooking

While I myself am sadly doing nothing of any particular excitement for July 4th (yay for this weird Wednesday holiday, right?!) for most people it is a chance to cook, grill and enjoy the great outdoors.

So I thought I would round up a few recipes to get everyone prepared for what tends to be one of my favorite holidays. After all, it's basically just summer weather, fireworks and nothing to do but grill 

Make use of tomato season starting and try this Cherry Tomato Tart from Bring It!. It was recently featured in my hometown paper, The Post and Courier. Another Bring It! classic, perfect for this time of year is the Watermelon Ribs, that were featured on Food & Wine

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Take Grilled Cheese Up a Notch

Some people just make you feel like everything in going to be ok when you cook. Jenn Segal gives that confidence and her wildly popular blog, Once Upon a Chef, is proof that her recipes work and make lives a little bit easier. 

So with the release of her new book, we thought we would bring Jenn into the kitchen to get a sample of one of her recipes. This grilled cheese is the perfect blend: it is easy enough that anyone can tackle it but with enough difference to make it really feel like something special. I have found myself going back to it over and over since we shot the video.

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The Sweet, Salty, Crunchy Steak

Sometimes one recipe leads to another. In testing out last week's bhel puri recipe I started to imagine another place where that sweet, salty and crunchy combo can balance out: a steak. Why not add a bit of sweetness and tartness with some tamarind? And instead of rice puffs why not just let rice krispies do the trick and add a bit of crunch to the otherwise heaviness of a steak?

This recipe has only four ingredients but they work some serious magic. Tamarind adds the perfect compliment to brighten up everyone's favorite meat and the drizzle of crunch on top makes it irresistible. 

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi Is a Game Changer

I am obsessed with the middle ground of recipes that are easy but look fancy. So when I saw Adrienne Cheatham's sweet potato gnocchi recipe I knew I had to share it.

Gnocchi is one of the only pastas I make at home because it is so easy and yet it seriously impresses people. But the sweet potato twist takes it a step further because with no extra work you are adding an extra comforting flavor and a beautiful color. Combine that with my absolute fave miso paste and you had me at hello.

You might recognize Adrienne from last season's Top Chef (where she was a total boss and made it to the finals) but now you can find her at her pop up dinners, Sunday Best, which showcase her classically trained, Southern-inspired cooking. Mostly now I just want her to come cook with me every day. But in lieu of that we have a video of her awesome technique and a full recipe below. 

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Start Planning Your Sicilian Trip Pronto

Lately it seems everyone I talk to has a mild obsession with Sicily. The Southern Italian island for years was passed over in favor of more glamorous places like Amalfi, Rome and Lake Como. But something interesting happened in the last decade or so: the casual, less polished nature of Sicily has become more interesting to travelers as the world has become more globalized and every city starts to feel like it has the same 30 stores. I was excited this year to finally get a chance to see this unique part of the country.

So like any set of recommendations, this one comes from too-short a time and not possibly having all the information. But I can tell you what I liked from my trip and what are the safe bets that I enjoyed. 

While Palermo and its environs are definitely on my list, for this trip we focused on the Eastern portion of Sicily. You can certainly drive around the entire island but if you only have a week or so I would try and stick to one general area, otherwise you'll be in a car the entire time.  You can rent a house or stay in a hotel - there are great options for both. We did a hotel in Taormina and then we were in a house the rest of the time. 

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