Not Here

Don't worry, we haven't taken up TV dinners -- Alex and I have been out of town this week, and we will be gone next week as well. Keep checking back though, as we will post sporadically, and gear up for an intense cooking season this fall semester. Woot!



This recipe is a culinary magic trick. The finished product appears to be extremely impressive, but the process is simple beyond belief. If we were real magicians, we wouldn't reveal our secrets, but I only know one card trick and the only magic Alex knows is from playing Magic the Gathering, so I think we are not so bound by rules of the trade. Anyway, if we can do this, you can do it.

12 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cans evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Wisk eggs together with milks and vanilla. In a saucepan, heat the sugar until it melts into a liquid. Divide the liquid evenly between two rectangular loaf pans (3 in. x 9 in., or something in that vicinity). Pour mixture evenly over the sugar in the two pans. Cover pans with in foil, and place them in a larger baking plan or pyrex, and add about a 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of the dish. Bake for 1 hour.


Drink of the Wednesday: Caipirinhas

First guest blogger! Whooo!

Sorry, had to be done. This is Danny, the Als' roommate for the summer, and I've been granted a rare opportunity to appear on Two Fat Als due to my position as our de facto bartender. In what may or may not become a regular feature, we decided Wednesday should be celebrated with an appropriately named Drink of the Wednesday. When I say we, I really mean Alanna, but whatever: tonight's drink, courtesy of my being part Brazilian, is a caipirinha. It's a drink that's become fairly popular in the U.S., but once you see how easy it is to make, you may never pay eight bucks for one in a bar again. And remember: if you're under 21, you didn't learn this here.

1 lime (or 2 key limes)
2 tbsp sugar
Crushed ice
2 shots cachaça

Cachaça is an un-aged Brazilian sugar cane liquor that's pretty similar to rum, and is fairly easy to find in most liquor stores. If you can't get your hands on it, or you're feeling lazy, you can use rum or vodka. Just know that you won't be making a caipirinha--rum makes it a caipirão, and using vodka turns it into a caipiroska. Go figure.

Whatever liquor you're using, the instructions are the same. Start by cutting off the ends of the lime; because the peel contains the bitter lime oil that, although it gives the drink its punch, can be overpowering if you include all of the peel. Then, quarter the lime and put the pieces into an old-fashioned glass (one of those short cocktail glasses, like you'd get a whiskey sour in). Add the sugar, and muddle it into the limes (muddling is a fancy word for mushing, ideally done with a pestle though I've used the handle of a ladle in a pinch). Then just add ice to about half an inch below the glass's rim, pour in the
cachaça, stir, and enjoy. A word to the wise, though: remember that, although you may not taste it, you just tossed in two shots of 80-proof liquor. Caipirinhas are one of the most refreshing drinks I know, but they pack quite a punch, and you may want to keep that in mind.

Dear Two Fat Als: Lobster Dilemma

Dear Two Fat Als:

We're planning to have dinner this friday with friends who are currently vacationing in Maine. The good news is that they are bringing live lobsters for dinner which we are planning to grill. The bad news is that one of their daughters is a vegetarian, and won't eat lobster. Here's the question: what preferably grillable vegetarian entree goes well with lobster (besides,of course, cole slaw and corn on the cob)? We look forward to your prompt reply, as we only have 2 days to plan. Thanks, and by the way, I love your blog.

Stumped in CT

Dear Stumped,

Vegetarian grill options can be difficult to come up with, as most grilled vegetable make better side dishes than main plates. Yet we think we have the perfect recipe for you! Cooks Illustrated has a truly UNBELIEVABLE recipe for homemade veggie burgers. It takes a bit of time, but they turn out smoky and light and delicious. Additionally, we believe that veggie burgers will accompany any other side dishes that you decide to conjure, and the fact that you made them from scratch will compensate for the fact that veggie burgers may not stereotypically be as classy as lobster. Don't be scared, this recipe is beyond good. Click here to view it!

Two Fat Als


This afternoon we endured 100 degree heat to visit the Oakmont Farmer's Market in Haverford, which is run by one of Alex's professors. Thanks, Janet, for your warm welcome and amazing produce! Not only did we score free samples of Great Harvest S'mores bread, but we found some beautiful tomatoes and a cucumber for the Gazpacho soup we've been intending to make all summer.

We looked up a recipe on Cooks Illustrated, but added a few extra ingredients recommended by the various Gazpacho experts in our lives. No actual cooking required, and the speed of the recipe depends on the preciseness with which you care to chop. I am obsessive, it took about 30 minutes. We also made delicious garlic croûtons with our leftover Bittman bread by simply brushing them with olive oil and garlic, and toasting them in the oven. This soup was so easy to make, and made for a great, cool meal on an unbearably hot evening.

3 large tomatoes
1 large bell pepper
1 cucumber
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
4-5 cups V8 juice
2 cups cilantro

Chop the tomato, pepper, cucumber, chopped cilantro and onion into very small pieces, and combine in a bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Add V8 juice and stir. Add a few ice cubes and refrigerate until cool.


Strawberry Salad -- VIDEO!

Oh my god! We made a video!

Dear Two Fat Als: Grocery Conundrum

Yay for this feature! We (mostly, me) are so obsessed! Slight feeling this may be a reader from the room on the other side of the wall... meet us for snack at 11? An excellent question in any case, and one about which Two Fat Als have definitely given a lot of thought. Please keep submitting, everyone! Email alannak@sas.upenn.edu.

Dear Two Fat Al's,

I am new to the Philadelphia/Penn area, and have been following your great blog. Everything you make looks delicious, but I am worried about obtaining all of the ingredients you use in your recipes. Do you have any advice for someone on a tight budget on how to get the freshest and tastiest ingredients for the best prices? Where are the best stores to buy from in the area? When and where are the local markets? Where can I get hard to find ingredients? Please help.

Poor and puzzled at Penn

Dear P Squared,

When overwhelmed with questions, categorize:

The best places to buy produce are definitely the farmers markets. Fruits and vegetables cost the same as at the local food stores, and the quality is supremely better. Find links to all of the local markets here, and visit specific web sites for their schedules.
Meat and Fish: Sadly, we have found that good meat and fish meat can be hard to come by near Penn's campus. For decent prices and great goods, one might travel to the Italian market (9th and Catherine). A closer but overpriced option would be Reading Terminal Market (13th and Market). We'll buy chicken, sometimes red meat, and the occasional tilapia fillet at the Fresh Grocer (40th and Walnut), which is awesome at being close to our apartments-- not so much at selling good food. Ofen, it is best to buy frozen from Trader Joe's (22nd and Market).
Hard-to-find Ingredients: West Philadelphia has amazing ethnic and specialty stores. Supreme Supermarket (43rd and Walnut) has a huge Asian foods section (you can also head to the stores in Chinatown for this, but that requires public transport) and also a decent selection of South American ingredients. Check out Mecca Market (42nd and Walnut) for middle eastern goodies, including the best baklava ever, as well as the Indian spice shop down the block.

Two Fat Als

Mocha Icies

Knowing that we'd be working on various graduate school applications and this blog late into tonight, we decided give dessert a little kick. No, not alcohol (it's not that bad ... yet), but sweet sweet caffeine. This is a low-cal version of the frappachino, and I think ours would have tasted the same, except we perhaps did not blend sufficiently and kept swallowing ice chunks. Still loves it. You can make it as sickly sweet as you like by adjusting the sugar content, and the whip makes it extra yummy.

soy milk (or really any milk)
chocolate syrup
whip cream

Add about 3 cups of ice to blender. Pour coffee 3/4 up the ice. Pour milk until it is level with the ice. Add as much sugar/sweetener as you want (probably like 3 tbsp) and about 3 tbsp of chocolate syrup. Blend, and top with whip!


Jamaican Roasted Chicken

Tonight I cooked without Alex's help! Well, okay, he arrived in time to determine whether the chicken was actually done because I was completely clueless, but still: baby steps. The stakes were high. I wanted to show off my newly-acquired skills, but also to create something yummy and simple. I called my mom.

Me: What should I cook for Alex?
Mom: Jamaican chicken.
Me: I don't know how.
Mom: I'm cooking it tonight.
Me: I don't know how.
Mom: Let me call you back in three seconds, I have to put it in the oven.
(10 minutes later)
Me: So what should I cook?
Mom: Jamaican chicken. Terriaki sauce, soy sauce, curry and brown sugar. The curry makes it taste good.
Me: But I don't know how much of each.
Mom: Geez Alanna! Want me to make something up? Just mix it together until it tastes good!
Me: Okay.
Mom: And cayenne pepper.

So I did. And it was so good! Perfectly sweet and spicy -- I was so proud.

Ingredients: (These are approximate, just keep adding brown sugar or whatever else until until it tastes good)
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup terriaki sauce
2 tbsp curry

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

1 whole roasting chicken
4 carrots
1 onion


Mix the soy sauce, terriaki sauce, curry, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and brown sugar together. Chop the onion and carrots into large chunks. Place the vegetables around the chicken in a roasting pan. Take the mixture and rub it all over the chicken, especially under the skin. Bake it in the oven at 375, cook times depend on the weight of the chicken (mine took about 1 1/2 hours)

Chickpea Toasts

Cooking for Alex, the appetizer was an easy choice. I LOVE this dish, and he had never tried it. It's perfect for parties, and hard to mess up. Try it out:

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp black olive paste (I stuck some olives in the blender for two seconds)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 tbsp basil
french bread

Toss it all together and spoon onto slices of toasted french bread.


Rice Noodle and Shrimp Salad

I was craving pad thai today, but wanted a healthier, no-fry alternative. We decided to try a recipe that my mom suggested from Epicurious: rice-stick noodle salad with shrimp. It has a lot of the same ingredients as pad thai, however the outcome was definitely lighter, more tangy, and more summery. The nuts are definitely key, and we replaced peanuts with cashews because we had some around. Also, we suggest throwing in maybe a scrambled egg or some tofu to add some additional sweetness. This recipe is easy, and perfect for groups, since each person can add as much of the herbs and veggies as he or she pleases.

Check out the recipe here, and Alex's (as always) wonderful handiwork:

Kneadless Bread

This recipe from Mark Bittman caused a huge stir on the interwebs a few months ago. But we are slow, and kept forgetting to buy yeast, so today marks our first attempt at the baking the famous kneadless bread. The New York Times video is no longer available, but you can check out the clip on YouTube instead. This recipe is AMAZING. Please make it, you will not regret it. It is as easy as it looks, and it tastes like a cloud, and now the apartment smells like a bakery. Yay.

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water

Mix dry ingredients together. Add water, pull the dough into a clump, and don't knead it. Let it sit for 12 hours. Preheat the oven to 500. Fold dough into a loaf over some flour, and put it inside a preheated pot/cast-iron skillet/pyrex container. Bake it for 30 minutes covered, and 15 minutes uncovered. Let it cool, and eat it up.

Grilled Vegetables

We either have no memory or we are really awesome, because every time we cook we think it is best meal we have EVER made. That being said, last night's grilled vegetables were really the best ever. Yesterday morning, we headed to the local farmer's market for some divine inspiration regarding what to cook for dinner, and the food gods were definitely with us. The vegetables were so fresh and beautiful that we clearly had to purchase many varieties and, of course, grill them. It was probably the best $22 we've spent -- ever.

Also, here is what is cool: vegetables in surprising colors, like purple peppers and white eggplants.

Vegetables. We used:
1 white eggplant
1 purple eggplant
1 green pepper
1 purple pepper
1 white onion
1 zucchinni
1 pint mushrooms
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp minced basil
1 minced garlic clove

Wisk the vinegar, oil, garlic, and basil together into a dressing. Slice the vegetables so that there is a lot of surface area on each piece (no strips). Toss the vegetables in the dressing and grill them. The trick to the recipe is good ingredients.

R.I.P. Grillz

We are in mourning. Last night, the grill was stolen. She was cooling off when she was hijacked from the courtyard of Alex's apartment building. We found a pile of hot coals outside the building, where we presume the kidnappers must have loaded her into a car and driven away. She was our first grill, and a true beauty -- an 18-inch charcoal Weber. We will miss her dearly, and though we plan to replace her in the coming weeks, she will never be forgotten. Thanks for the memories, grill.


Berry Smoothies

These smoothies have the potential to be extremely low-calorie, and they taste really, really good. We made them for dessert, but they can work easily for a mid-morning, mid-afternoon, late-night or (and this is Alex's favorite meal of the day) pre-breakfast snack. Making smoothies is more of an art than a science, so don't worry about exact measurements. Just throw the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup ice
1 cup non/low fat vanilla yogurt (we used Dannon's light and fit)
100% fruit juice (we used Dole's berry blend)
2 tbsp honey

Put frozen fruit and ice into the blender, add yogurt. Pour in juice until it is comes about 1/2 way up the fruit/ice/yogurt mixture. Add honey, blend.

Dear Two Fat Als

One April Fool's Day, my parents sent me a letter informing me that I had been selected as the next advice columnist for American Girl Magazine. I cried when I found out the truth. It has always been my dream to provide cliched, written counsel to those in need -- and anyone else who will take it.

Why is this relevant? Well, it is with great pleasure that we announce: Dear Two Fat Als -- a food and cooking advice column! The idea is inspired by one of my very best friends, who submitted our first inquiry. Are we qualified? Depends. Are we going to launch it anyway? Most definitely. PLEASE send us questions at alannak@sas.upenn.edu. Please.

Dear Two Fat Als,

I was recently baking a cake with two friends for an upcoming birthday party. We were all particularly excited about using festive funfetti frosting to top it off. In an attempt to make myself useful, I decided to prepare the frosting as I had always thought funfetti frosting should be prepared: by stirring in the sprinkles. But no sooner had the sprinkles hit the frosting than I was greeted by horrified screams from my co-bakers. Apparently they are of the frost-then-sprinkle funfetti persuasian and were convinced I ruined the cake. I have been conducting something of a survey amongst friends and family, and have discovered that this is a surprisingly contentious and divisive issue. I have also done some preliminary internet searches and visited the Pillsbury website but found nothing conclusive. I am hoping that you will be able to put this matter to rest once and for all.

Bewildered in Bethesda

Dear Bewildered,

Two Fat Als are thrilled to see that you are using funfetti, which we love. In fact, it was the first dish that we prepared for Alex's Korean subletter, Eunjoo, to introduce her to the wonders of American cuisine. To respond to your question, we are of the strong opinion that mixing funfetti into the frosting is completely acceptable, and even encouraged. Firstly, this allows the funfetti to soften slightly, making it all the more fun. Secondly, once softened, funfetti will melt slightly into the icing and create a light swirling effect. Happy Birthday to your friend, and we're sure that the funfetti will be a hit!

Two Fat Als

Grilled Chicken and Mango Salad

Tonight was so wonderfully culinary! Not only did we make the BEST salad and awesome smoothies, but we watched the tivo-ed version of yesterday's Top Chef -- yay Tre! (P.S. Why is there no outrage about Gordon Ramsey ripping off Top Chef's quick fire challenge in this week's episode of Hell's Kitchen? Lord.)

We really love dinner salads, and this one was particularly remarkable: tangy yet sweet, light yet substantive, vibrantly colorful. I found the recipe on Epicurious, and we modified it only slightly. Alex tried to get fancy with the grill and cook the chicken breasts on indirect heat, and they were getting a nice smoky aroma until we realized that they weren't really cooking. To his credit, he recovered them to the coals and the ended up cooking them to perfection.

Use the official recipe here, or make our special version of Grilled Chicken Salad with Mango (really, we just added avocado):

2 chicken breasts
some olive oil
2 scallions
2 teaspoons thyme
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 shallot
baby romaine leaves
spring mix
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1 mango, cubed
1 avocado

Mix about a tbsp of oil with the chopped scallions and a tsp of thyme (woot for the garden). Rub it over the chicken breasts and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Grill the chicken if you have a grill, but if not, you could probably cook it in a frying pan as well. Make a bed of lettuce from the romaine, cabbage, and mixed greens. Add cubed mango and avocado, and top it with the chicken. We made a basic balsamic vinaigrette for the dressing and added the minced shallots and the other tsp of thyme (a vinaigrette is about 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil).


Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Chocolate Covered Pretzels are like eggs - tasty and pretty hard to screw up. Also like eggs, you can dress them down (like scrambled eggs) or dress them up with lots of bizz (like a fritatta!).

So, when it came time for Alanna to make dessert for 20 of her friends, we immediately thought to make chocolate covered pretzels. Thanks to some inspiration and instruction from her mom, we were very successful in making a whole array of delicious chocolaty creations.

Here's the basic idea:
1) Melt some dark chocolate (try Trader Joe's "Pound Plus" or just some chocolate chips) in a tall water glass in the microwave. ~45 seconds stirring every 15
2) Dip pretzels in the chocolate.
3) Put stuff on melty chocolate.
4) Put creation on wax paper and refrigerate.

See? Pretty easy, right? Check out the pictures...

Drizzled with white chocolate

Dipped in coconut

Dipped in mini M&Ms