Is it Worth the Time? The Answer is Yes.

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I had my share of macaroni and cheese growing up, but I am not sure if it was ever homemade. Our family’s mac and cheese of choice was a Banquet frozen dinner. Pop it in the oven and voilà.

Mac and cheese is pretty hard to mess up, so none of us had any complaints. Even a boxed mix will do in a pinch. It’s also fairly easy to do a stovetop version, like or

So is it…


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I didn’t consume mayonnaise or anything that had mayonnaise in it until after college. I didn’t add it to sandwiches until about ten years after that.

Guilty as charged: I was a when I was a kid. To be honest, new tastes and ingredients can still present a challenge, but I like to think that I’ve expanded my culinary horizons enough that I can now be categorized as a recovering picky eater.

You want evidence? I just made and enjoyed an aioli, which might be described as fancy mayo. Progress, my friends.

The aioli in question is egg-free…


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Never underestimate the medicinal properties of chilled melon soup.

Despite what I thought were solid precautions, I have caught a little cold. Not Covid — I got tested just in case. So yeah, I have a cold but I’m sure glad that’s all it is.

Nothing much you can do for a cold with a sore, scratchy throat but take zinc and vitamins and wait it out. But if you can make yourself a soothing melon soup, that would also be a very good thing.

Honeydew has always taken a back seat to cantaloupe with me, but this…

I was never a big fan of coffee cake, but to bring on a visit with friends who are coffee cake aficionados. Witnessing their small ritual of gently warming the cake and serving it as part of a leisurely morning meal was almost as enjoyable as the cake itself. I became a convert.

A few weeks ago, I was invited for a weekend visit with another friend. Once again I baked a coffee cake following a recipe from “Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book” (published by Lake Isle Press). This time I opted for his…

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

My mom used to rhapsodize about what a great cook her mother was. Nana died when I was five years old, so I can’t vouch for that. But I can say that the cooking gene skipped a generation, because my mom didn’t make much of a splash in the kitchen. Marinades? Nah. Fresh veggies or greens? Hardly ever. Cumin, turmeric, ginger, garlic, basil, cilantro, allspice? You’re joking. With the exception of salt, you might say she never met a spice she liked. Mom cooked plain food, plainly.

My aunt, on the other…

A Feels Good/Tastes Good Dessert

By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

Mouthfeel is as important to me as taste when it comes to food. If I’m worried about the way a dish I’ve never tried before is going to feel once I bite into it, I’m kind of scared to try it. Textural trepidation — is that a thing?

So let's talk about pudding, because pudding is right up my alley. It’s smooth and creamy, like ice cream, but it’s not as cold and doesn’t melt and change texture as easily. I am a major fan of pudding…

Panisses (Chickpea Fries)

By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

Leave it to me to be cutting back on alcohol just when I tried my first panisse. They say these creamy batons of fried chickpea flour go hand in glove with a glass of rosé on the streets of Marseille, and for me, a crisp, dry French rosé is pure heaven. I stayed firm to commitment, though, and paired mine with an Arnold Palmer (lemonade/iced tea). Well, hey, that works, too.

Panisses were new to me, but then, that’s not too unusual. Various foods I’ve never tried and what I don’t know…

Warm Feelings for a Cold Meal

I am crossing a line. Into salad country.

It’s not that I don’t like main course salads — especially a good niçoise (without olives, of course), a bean salad of any kind, or a tasty chicken curry salad. I will definitely eat a salad as an entree, but when I have options I’ll seldom choose one over a hot meal. And the salads I like best are those that don’t feature leafy greens as a main ingredient.

I assumed a preference for warm food is a natural urge, but is it? Cue Google. Why, yes, it is. …

Simple, Versatile, and Oh So Good

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I thought I was being very fancy the first time I made rice salad instead of potato salad to bring to a barbecue. I was just out of college, and my palate and knowledge of food were both so limited, I thought this was a real maverick move.

I continue to make rice salad, and to bring it to parties now and then, but I do this because it’s good and versatile, not because I’m trying to be exotic. And just as there are so very many versions of potato salad, riffs on rice salad are endless. …

Spice is Nice

Once I became what we could arguably call a grownup and started cooking for myself, I made chicken breast regularly. Most of the time I would poach it in balsamic vinegar mixed with water. No other ingredients — I don’t think I even seasoned with salt in advance. The result would be fine, but, how do you say, kind of bland.

I can’t remember how I got that recipe, and in hindsight I’m guessing the original included some other ingredients, maybe things that (undoubtedly in error) I judged unimportant or thought I wouldn’t like. That would not be surprising, in…

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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