post off: how do you eat your hot dogs?

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Memorial weekend marks the official start of grilling season, and for me, that means one thing: HOT DOGS. There’s just something about them — I couldn’t rightly enjoy summer without one. Veggie, turkey, polish, or kosher beef, one thing’s certain — everyone likes them a particular way. Often, that varies by region, like my current crush the Seattle dog (with cream cheese, grilled onions & cabbage, and a dash of Sriracha), or the famous Chicago-style dog (pictured above). Hot dog lovers represent! Do you dare to put ketchup on a dog, or are you strictly mustard? Will you be grilling up a batch for your holiday BBQ? — Megan B.

Chicago dog photo courtesy of Flickr user midiman.

real life test kitchen: birchermüesli

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Leave it to the Swiss to come up with a summer staple you can easily whip up for backyard brunches, showers and picnics. When hunting for menu ideas for a mid-morning baby shower I threw a few weeks ago, my half-Swiss co-host thought her birchermüesli (pronounced beer-ker-mew-slee) would be a nice addition to all the croissants, tarts and quiches we planned to buy at a local bakery. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what it was, but the word alone sure sounded yummy. (Anything with an umlaut automatically tastes good, doesn’t it?) In plain English, it’s simply fresh fruit mixed with soaked oatmeal, which gives it a bit of substance and makes it more of a meal. — Ginny F.
Click for the oh-so-simple recipe after the jump! (more…)

help me throw a couples’ baby shower!

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My very good friends are having their first baby this fall, and I’m throwing them a couples-shower next month. We know that their little one will be a girl, but I do not want to throw an overly-girly shower since I plan on inviting both ladies and gents to our event. Right now the plan is to have a garden party with small drinks and eats (but not open presents which, in my experience, can drag on too long). I would also like to do maybe a funny game with the couple, like test the new dad’s diaper-changing skills, and the new mom’s ability to work the baby monitor. Other than that, I’m a little at a loss for fun ideas that aren’t too girly (or silly). Anyone have any couples’ shower ideas to share with me? – Rebecca F.

real life test kitchen: the best oatmeal cookies

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A few months ago, I became kinda obsessed with finding the perfect oatmeal cookie recipe. I tried Martha’s (too dry), Rachael’s (too cinnamony) before I finally asked someone I should have checked with in the first place: Another mom. One playdate, Elizabeth (mom of Sophie) brought the most yummy oatmeal cookies over to our house, and luckily she was willing to share her secret recipe. Like many things (such as banana bread) it tastes especially good thanks to the addition of — what else — chocolate chips. Click through to the next page for the recipe. I make these whenever I need to bring dessert for a crowd! — Angela M.


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 – place rack in upper third of oven

Whisk together:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat on medium until well blended:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 2/1 teaspoons vanilla

Stir flour mixture into butter until it is well-blended and smooth.
Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets (or parchment lined), spacing about 3 inches apart.

Bake 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are lightly browned and almost firm when lightly pressed in the center of the top — about 6-9 minutes. (Depends on oven.)

Rotate sheet halfway through for even browning.

Remove sheet to rack for 2 minutes before transferring cookies to racks to cool.

steal this idea: fun tea sandwiches

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When I decided to throw a good out-of-town friend a baby shower, I did what any newbie shower-thrower would do. I went to Martha! She had some great shower recipe ideas, including one for mini sandwiches. I loved the idea, but wanted to find better filling options and cookie-cutter shapes. That called for a trip to Sur La Table, where I saw everything from baby chicks to bunnies to baby bottles. But it was the triceratops and unicorn that caught my eye and gave me the idea for a boy-versus-girl theme (since my friend doesn’t know the sex of the baby). The tray of sandwiches garnered giggles as well as many seconds. I used thin slices of dense bread for both — potato for the dinosaur and pumpernickel for the unicorn. You can use any combination of fillings that sound yummy but make sure you smear something like butter or cream cheese on both slices of bread to hold it all together. My combos were cucumber, butter and mint on potato bread; and smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives on the pumpernickel. With so many cookie-cutter and filling options, this simple and fun recipe idea could work for almost any gathering! –Ginny F.