Mojitos are my absolute favorite cocktail. I love them and could probably drink a whole bottle of rum’s worth if you’d let me (not, of course, that such a thing would be a very good idea the next morning). They’re refreshing and light, a little sweet, a little sour, and perfect on a hot day. So, of course, on one of the very first hot days of the summer, I asked Sara if she’d so kindly make us mojitos and provided I’d supply the meal. I came up with this South Floridian–Cuban-inspired menu, cobbled together from several sources, which turned out fantastically. Like, so fantastically that I’m going to have to fight not to make this once a week all the way until August. So I don’t have to, make it yourself tonight.

(I also recommend making mojitos but that’s optional.)

Blackened Pork Tenderloin

makes enough blackening spice for a 1-pound pork tenderloin and serves 2–3; this same jerk seasoning could be used on shrimp or chicken as well if you prefer!


  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425℉. In a small bowl, together the remaining olive oil and all spices to make a paste.
  2. Heat a medium, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Trim any excess fat from pork tenderloin. Coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Sear the pork until brown on all sides.
  3. Using a silicone brush, spread the spice paste liberally over the surface of the pork.
  4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the juice run clear and the meat is no longer pink, 15–20 minutes. Do not over cook.
  5. Rest the meat for 5–10 minutes. Carve into 1/2-inch slices.


Black Bean & Mango Quinoa

serves 2


  • 1 ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons light coconut milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • ¼ cup onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup carrots, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 12 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
  • juice from one lime
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ mango, peeled and diced


  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. While waiting, heat half of the coconut milk and olive oil in a large saute pan and add uncooked quinoa, onions, and garlic, stirring as needed until onions are translucent. When broth reaches a boil, add quinoa mixture. Cook quinoa mixture according to the directions on the package.
  3. While quinoa is cooking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of coconut milk in a large sauté pan. Add carrots, red bell peppers, and black beans and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until black beans are soft. Mix lime juice, honey, ginger, cumin, parsley, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and then pour into black bean mixture. Add diced mango and heat through.
  4. Serve vegetable mixture over—or mixed into—the cooked quinoa.


Pineapple-Coconut-Lime Ice Cream

serves 6


  • 1 (20 oz.) can of crushed pineapple in pineapple juice, undrained
  • 1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • juice of 1 lime
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons coconut milk


  1. Blend together all ingredients and freeze in an ice cream maker according to machine directions.

A note: this ice cream is smooth and creamy but has lots of bits of the crushed fruit too. It might be nice to add some toasted coconut flakes if you want to amp the coconut flavor or some crumbled graham crackers for a little crust-like texture.

Since we moved in together, Sara and I have really made an effort to cook most of our meals at home. The thing is, we both love spicy, flavorful, and complex food but we don’t want to spent an exorbitant amount of time or money on dinner every night. Inspired by a recipe we saw on Pinterest, last night’s main dish was barbecue pulled pork over sweet potatoes and of the meals we’ve made so far, this very well may be my favorite. It’s definitely a hurry-up-and-wait dish, but with no more than ten minutes of active prep time, I’m more than happy to toss the meat into the slow cooker, the potatoes in the oven and go on with my evening until it’s time to eat.

I’ve reprinted the recipe below including the tweaks we made and the smaller portion sizes. Neither Sara or I eat much, so we make adjustments of large recipes that make lots of servings to fit our little family.

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

serves 2


  • 1/2 lb pork loin
    We found that 1/4 pound of pork per person works for us, so we just chose the smallest pork loin we could find at the grocery store and cut it in half. You can easily adjust this to fit your appetite.
  • chipotle chile powder
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 4 mini cans Coca-Cola®, or enough to cover pork
  • 3/4 to 1 cup Jack Daniel’s® Spicy Original Recipe barbecue sauce
  • 2 large sweet potatoes


  1. Season entire pork loin with garlic powder, salt, and chipotle chile powder.  Feel free to use what you have in the cupboard—cayenne, red pepper flakes, black pepper, whatever. Let the rub rest on the meat for a half hour or so in the fridge. We found that putting it directly in the slow cooker yielded a final product that wasn’t spicy nor salty enough.
  2. Pour a little Coca-Cola™ in the bottom of the slow cooker and add the pork. Add enough Coca-Cola™ just to cover. Cook on low for 3.5–4 hours.
  3. Toward the end of the pork cook time, bake your sweet potatoes:
  4. Preheat oven to 400°. Scrub potatoes. Coat each in a little olive oil and salt, wrap in foil. Bake in oven for about 1 hour. Remove from oven and set aside.
  5. Remove pork from slow cooker and use two large forks to shred the meat. Add barbecue sauce to taste and combine. Leave slow cooker on low, or warm, to keep things hot until you are ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, cut a a slit in the sweet potato, lengthwise. Fill each sweet potato with a generous helping of pulled pork and top with an extra drizzle of barbecue sauce. Serve immediately.

For Christmas, my aunt and uncle gave me an ice cream maker. Now, I definitely enjoy cooking but I hesitate to collect tools for cooking and baking projects I’m just not going to undertake that often and I honestly considered taking it back to the store and exchanging it for something more practical. I am so glad I didn’t. So far, I’ve made six batches of delicious, homemade ice cream and now that it’s getting to the warmer months, I’m sure that there will be more on the way.

The beauty of the whole thing is that as long as you have space to store the ice cream maker’s bowl in the freezer until you need it, the process takes no more than five ingredients and 20 minutes from quart of half-and-half to soft serve. It’s a great project for kids, an impressive treat for adults, and so customizable.

I’ve made mint chocolate chip, lemon custard with a raspberry swirl, chocolate, Oreo, and red raspberry sorbet but, believe it or not, the best batch I’ve made was this vanilla recipe which came from the personal, 1780s journal of Thomas Jefferson and was published on The Kitchn. It’s absolutely fantastic.

Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Custard

makes about 1 quart


3 yolks of eggs
1/4 lb sugar (5/8 cups)
2 pints cream or half-and-half
1 vanilla bean


  1. Mix the yolks and sugar together.
  2. Put the cream or half-and-half in a heavy pan over medium heat.
  3. Cut open the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and put the seeds and the pod into the cream.
  4. Heat until nearly boiling. Take it off and pour it gently into the mixture of eggs and sugar. Stir well.
  5. Put the mixture back over medium heat and bring just to a boil.
  6. Pour into a bowl and cover the custard with plastic wrap so that it doesn’t form a skin. Chill overnight.
  7. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

If you’d like to add any mix-ins, toss them in right at the end of the churn. It’s absolutely delicious in the soft serve stage but you can also pack it into a container and freeze for up to a week.

I bought my father a wine tasting experience from the American Wine School for Christmas and we finally redeemed it this week. The tasting was held at Lago, one of my dad’s favorite restaurants in Tremont, a neighborhood in Cleveland.

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We enjoyed six Spanish wines and were instructed on the differences between various regions and types. Now, I’m not any kind of wine snob—I’m definitely a $15 per bottle and under kind of girl—but it was extremely helpful to walk through the various Spanish classifications for wine so that I’m better prepared when I stop into a wine shop next time. I may still choose the under $15 bottle, but at least I’ll know what I’m getting.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Spanish wine, here’s a crash course: like French wine, Spanish wines aren’t labelled with the type of grape in the bottle but rather 1) the region where the wine was made and 2) how long it was aged.

The regions you want to pay special attention to are the  Denominación de Origen (DO) and the Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa). Anything else and you’re getting a smaller region, most likely lower-quality wine. As far as the aging goes, which one you’ll want to choose is all up to personal preference, but the three main words you’ll be looking for are CrianzaReserva, and Gran Reserva which are aged for two, three, and five years for reds and one, two, and four years for whites respectively.

I probably won’t shell out the full price for additional wine courses—I was lucky to get this one through Groupon—but I am definitely going to do a little bit of reading on French, Italian, and American wines to see whether those countries also have similar indicators I can be looking for to make better-educated wine purchases in the future.

Josh Ozersky, who writes the Taste of America column over at, recently wrote a post entitled “Why The Martha Stewart Show Had to Go,” regarding the Hallmark Channel’s decision to cancel Stewart’s show after seven years on the air.

But as America gets poorer, and even the cramped kitchens and half-full refrigerators begin to look like less of a guarantee, maybe the Martha Stewart lifestyle seems less like an aspiration and more like a cruel mockery.

I, quite frankly, think we need that kind of aspiration. I can’t afford a Stewart kitchen, decked out and impeccably designed, but I can certainly acquire tools that will make my cooking projects a little bit easier, and I can aspire to be an expert in my field, even if that’s cooking at home with low-cost ingredients.

Ozersky goes on to say that if forced to choose chef role model between Martha and Rachael Ray, he’d choose the latter.

I aspire personally to cook like Ray — fast and intuitively with stuff I actually have in the house; but I wish I could do the grand old recipes, the poached halibut and foie gras terrine, as well as Stewart does. In fact, I couldn’t see myself doing it at all. Her baking seemed especially terrifying to me. I live in an apartment; my table is filled with unpaid bills, take-out menus and cigarette papers. Where am I going to start putting mixing bowls?

This characterization is unfair. In addition to foie grass terrine and poached halibut, Martha Stewart’s magazine and website feature recipes for meatloaf, red velvet cake, and sloppy joes. I’m pretty sure that none of those things are the fancy-schmancy, time-intensive recipes Ozersky insinuates make up the bulk of Stewart’s offerings, and which is not to mention either that Ozersky’s unpaid bills, take-out menus, and cigarette papers have less to do with Martha Stewart’s relevancy and more with his unkempt house.

The assertion that Stewart is only relevant to older women, rich women, or skilled chefs is patently untrue. I’m 26 and find Martha’s recipes far more useful than most television cooks’ as I begin to learn the difference between a roux and a roulade, saffron from sage. I guarantee you that Rachael Ray isn’t going to teach you that and she’ll annoy you with the repetition of juvenile words like “yumm-o” and “EVOO” in the process.