Big Impact with Little Effort

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I used to greet every dinner party as a challenge. Nothing readymade, only homemade food — and plenty of it. Four appetizers are too few! Crudité is so ordinary — we need empanadas! Let’s add a soup course! How about two dessert options!?

Can I just tell you, I evolved. I learned that there is no need to serve a meal’s worth of appetizers before guests settle down to dinner. I found an extremely good packaged hummus that opened the door for me to incorporate other readymades. Courses are optional, right?

And most important, I discovered that even the simplest…


Easier than I’d thought to make; better than I’d hoped to eat

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In the spirit of doing one thing every day that scares me I made a cheesecake.

Cheesecake was my brother-in-law’s stepmom’s specialty. Rosie baked several cheesecakes most weeks of her long working life for the local diner where she was also a waitress. Take a minute and google “New Jersey Diner Cheesecake.” We’re talking serious dessert here. She continued to make her cheesecakes for family gatherings until she was well into her nineties. That’s a tough springform pan to fill.

I was under the impression that it’s difficult…


Paired with Cheddar Biscuits

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That stew meat I had squirreled away in the freezer beckoned.

Inspired by a vegan meal I’d made for a friend, I had been following a more or less plant-based diet for the past two weeks. I might include milk, cheese, or eggs with breakfast, but lunches and dinners were meatless. …


Show Some Love

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Come early November I start cleaning out my freezer. No more cooking big batches of chili and freezing the leftovers. No more buying pork tenderloins on sale and stashing them for later or roasting a chicken then making and freezing the stock. I plan menus around what I already have frozen.

It’s not about a clean slate for a new year. It’s about making room for my holiday bake-fest.

Come December each year I bake scores of batches of cookies and holiday cakes to bring to parties and give as gifts; if I don’t bake ahead and…


In Praise of a Classic

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

The sight of a deviled egg transports me to the backyard barbecues of my childhood. This could be any barbecue on any occasion in any year, because whenever my dad put match to charcoal it meant just one thing: hamburgers and hot dogs, accompanied by baked beans and macaroni salad. Potato chips and deviled eggs were our appetizers.

It took me a while to try my mom’s deviled eggs because they had mayonnaise in them, and if you know anything about my history with food, you know…


Ghee 101: The Basics

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I just made my first batch of ghee.

To those who aren’t quite sure what ghee is, which would have included me not too long ago, it’s butter without milk solids (whey). When you remove the whey you also remove water, so ghee has a higher smoke point than butter and most oils. Removing the whey also makes it lactose-free. You can spread it like butter and use it like you use oil.

You make ghee by heating unsalted butter for about twenty minutes or thereabouts. Some of the whey will foam on the surface, and you skim it off; some will eventually sink…


AN ANCIENT GRAIN THAT’S GOOD FOR YOU, GOOD FOR THE EARTH

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To eat breakfast or not to eat breakfast.

Sure you’ll grab a bite at some point in the day, but what’s best: breaking your fast with a hearty meal or maybe a piece of avocado toast or a banana? And when should you eat it: soon after rising, or later in the day so you can restrict your calorie consumption to, say, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.? Should you eat three meals a day or just two? Or maybe five small ones?

These kinds of questions make my head hurt.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to some decisions…


Feed Yourself, Body and Soul

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Don’t you find that there are nights when you don’t feel like cooking? When you just don’t want to make the time--even when you are home for days on end in the midst of a pandemic? Sometimes cooking is a chore for everyone, including those who usually enjoy it.

That goes double for many city dwellers, whose kitchens are so often small and utilitarian. Your average New York City kitchen isn’t necessarily very relaxing; most feel more like workstations. …


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I’m not what you would call a vegetable lover.

It’s not that I don’t like veggies. I do. But build my entire diet around them? That’s a stretch. Protein is a centerpiece of so many of my meals, starting with eggs for breakfast. Even when I reduce the size of the meat portion to just a fraction of the full dish, it still gets top billing. Protein is the star of the show.

On the other hand, I am persuaded by the ethics of vegetarianism and veganism, and I find the endless variety a vegan diet can offer truly inspiring…


America’s Sweetheart

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

Just when I thought there was not one single thing most Americans could agree on I stumbled onto something.

It started when I told a friend I was trying out this new cake recipe, and she said, “When are you inviting me over?” Then I offered some of that said cake (made with butter and eggs) to a (mostly) vegan friend, and she ate a large piece with gusto. Next I brought half of the cake to a small pandemic-pod dinner party, and the next day my hosts texted me…

Dara O'Brien

Dara O’Brien is the Creative Director of Lake Isle Press. When she isn’t cooking or writing about cookbooks, she writes plays and sometimes acts in them.

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