The laws of cooking

Peruvian Lomo Saltado Stir-fry with Potatoes and Mexican Hot Chocolate Pudding

Editorial Note

As sung in my favorite movie “The Sound of Music,” I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye, the time has come for me to say goodbye. I’ve been writing this column now for two years and I love it and hate it at the same time. I love expressing myself through the written word and sharing my love of cooking with all of you, but at the same time I feel so much pressure to outdo the column before and to write or make the perfect recipes that will be loved by all of our readers. I know this is an impossible feat, and yet, every single month, I do the same thing. It is literally insanity. Well, I’m getting off the crazy train, graduating with my B.A. in Jurisprudence, and if all goes as planned, heading to law school in the fall—destination unknown. But, that means that if someone out there has a flair for writing and loves to cook, and is a student at UB, of course, I will gladly bequeath my column in your capable hands.

Okay, let’s get into the reason that you’re actually reading my column in the first place—the food! This month, as promised last month, I am reviewing Plated. Plated is a meal box subscription that sends weekly meals, you can skip whatever weeks you want for any reason in your personal dashboard. Ordering is easy—simply review the menu for the upcoming weeks (usually they have four weeks available) and make your selections. Once added to your cart, you check out and pay, and just wait for your box to arrive. Two of the best things about Plated is their fantastic customer service and the fact that they offer desserts.

The few times I have had to contact customer service, they have been expeditious, helpful, and have more than made up for any issue that I might have had. I walked away with the unfortunately rare nowadays positive customer service experience feeling like, “yeah, I am the customer and I’m always right,” but without the arrogance and entitlement that often goes along with it.

When checking out, you must spend $50.00 in order to get free shipping (shipping is $6.00 otherwise). That’s not a hard task. They have fantastic menu items and lots of choices. Each menu item has to be ordered for a minimum of two plates and cost $12.00 per plate (yeah, they’re a little pricier than some of the others). They also offer two specialty meals that are usually between $18.00 and $30.00 per plate and include items like scallops or lamb chops. So, if you order two regular menu items ($12.00 each) x two people, you end up at $48.00, press checkout and BAM, you’re taken to the checkout screen which offers…desserts! Desserts run $4.00 per plate with a minimum of two plates per item. There’s your free shipping.

This month, I figured since UB Denit Honors students went to Nicaragua, we would have a Latin American flair in our menu. We are making Lomo Saltado, a Peruvian steak stir-fry dish and Mexican Hot Chocolate Pudding.

*Note: It’s important to mention that Plated reached out to its customers this week to notify us that the soy sauce which was included in our box was intended to be gluten free, but in fact, the wrong soy sauce was included and it is not gluten free. For those of you like me who do not have Celiac’s Disease, or not gluten intolerant, or simply not “off” gluten, this is not an issue.

Bon Appétit!

Peruvian Lomo Saltado Stir-fry with Potatoes

Makes 2 servings
Roughly 530 calories per serving

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8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes

10 ounces inside round steak

1 packet spice mix

11⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander

11⁄2 teaspoons ají amarillo

1 red onion

1 green bell pepper

2 plum tomatoes

1/6 bunch cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1⁄4 cup red wine
1 packet soy sauce (gluten-free)

*See note above
3 tablespoons canola oil Kosher salt
Black pepper


Boil Potatoes:

Cut potatoes into 1⁄2-inch pieces. Place in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until mostly tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Marinate Steak:

While potatoes boil, rinse steak and pat dry with paper towel. Cut against the grain into 1⁄4-inch slices. Season with spice mix and ají amarillo and set aside to marinate at room temperature for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour.

Prepare Ingredients:

While steak marinates, peel onion, halve, and thinly slice. Rinse bell pepper, halve lengthwise, and discard seeds. Cut into 1⁄4-inch slices. Rinse tomatoes and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces. Pick cilantro leaves, discarding stems. Smash garlic using the flat side of a knife.

Cook steak:

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large pan over medium-heat. Season steak on both sides with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering, add steak in a single layer and cook until browned, about 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Sauté Vegetables:

Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to pan from steak over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add potato, onion, bell pepper, and garlic.

Sauté until bell pepper and onion are softening and potato is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomato and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes more. Return steak to pan and stir to combine.

Plate Stir-Fry:

Add red wine and soy sauce to pan with steak, scraping up any browned bits from bottom. Simmer until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Divide stir-fry evenly between 2 plates, garnish with cilantro, and serve.

Lomo saltado, ready to eat.
Lomo saltado, ready to eat.

 Mexican Hot Chocolate Pudding

Makes 2 Servings (actually made a lot more for me)
About 240 calories per serving


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1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract ( I used my own that I picked up in Mexico in January of this year)

2 tablespoons flour
1 packet spice mix
1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate

1 egg yolk


Make Pudding Base:

Add milk and 1 egg yolk to a small pot over medium heat. Whisk continuously until milk begins to thicken, 2-3 minutes.

Cook Pudding:

Add granulated sugar, vanilla extract, flour, spice mix, and a pinch of salt to pot with milk and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until pudding is bubbling, about 5 minutes more.

Melt Chocolate:

Remove pot from heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until melted.

Plate Pudding:

Divide pudding evenly between 2 bowls or glasses and serve warm.

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All photos courtesy of Jessica Greenstein.

The Laws of Cooking

Since Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks (go figure) and the December holidays are all about giving, this month I’m “giving” you a favorite “Thanks”giving dish of mine. If you don’t want to stray from your family traditions on Nov. 27, I completely understand, but since this is the season of parties and potlucks, feel free to bring it to impress your friends and coworkers. This recipe is sans marshmallows which is surprising to my family and maybe you too after last month’s column.

My soup recipe this month is a feel good spin on the traditional potato and leek soup. I have perfected this over the years, originally starting with the basic recipe and adding bacon lardons (bacon from a whole slab that is diced, blanched, and fried), then adding the spinach, followedbythecurry,andfinallythe apple. I think it’s just about complete at this point and while there are a lot of different things going on in it, it’s the perfect heart and f lavorful winter soup. Make a batch of it, freeze it in individual servings, and take it for lunch; it’ll maintain its integrity for at least a month in the freezer.

Sweet Potatoes with Maple Sugar Streusel (refined from an original Bon Appetit recipe)

Sweet potato streusel is always a favorite at my house for Thanksgiving.
Sweet potato streusel is always a favorite at my house for Thanksgiving.



3 1/2 pounds slender yams (red- skinned sweet potatoes; about 2 1/2 inches in diameter)

1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I prefer a more natural one like Trader Joe’s)

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper Streusel:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup maple sugar (3 ounces)
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted


For yams:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter or grease 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Peel yams; cut 1 inch off ends. Coarsely grate enough of yam ends to measure 1/2 cup; set aside for streusel. Discard remaining ends. Cut remaining whole yams into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Arrange yam rounds tightly in 4 overlapping lengthwise rows in baking dish.

Bring 1/2 cup water, maple syrup, butter, and cider vinegar to boil in small saucepan. Stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour maple syrup mixture over yams. Cover baking dish tightly with foil.

Bake yams covered until almost tender, about 40 minutes.

For streusel:

While yams are baking, mix first four ingredients in small bowl. Add melted butter and rub in with fingertips until moist clumps form. Mix in reserved 1/2 cup grated yams.

Once yams are tender, increase oven temperature to 400°F. Sprinkle streusel over and bake uncovered until yams are very tender and streusel is golden and slightly crisp, about 35 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Curried Potato, Apple, and Leek Soup with Spinach

Curried potato, apple, and leek soup with spinach is one of the greatest cures to the winter cold blues; heat up a bowl, sit by the fire, and watch the snow fall for the perfect winter evening.
Curried potato, apple, and leek soup with spinach is one of the greatest cures to the winter cold blues; heat up a bowl, sit by the fire, and watch the snow fall for the perfect winter evening.


1⁄2 pound of bacon lardons

4 medium leeks, washed and chopped (white and pale green parts only)

2 medium boiling potatoes, diced (recommend Yukon Gold)

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups chicken or turkey broth; you can use vegetable broth, but you’ll need to add salt

2 cup packed spinach leaves 1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste


Fry the bacon lardons until cooked throughout, set aside on a paper towel to remove excess grease.

Halve leeks lengthwise and cut enough crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces (leeks are grown in the ground so there is usually A LOT of dirt in between the layers so be very careful and thorough when washing them; you may want to wash them once or twice after you chop them). Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch pieces. In a 1 large saucepan or stockpot, cook leeks, potatoes, and apples in butter with curry powder over medium heat, and stir consistently for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. While soup is cooking, chop spinach thinly.

In a blender purée soup briefly, leaving it somewhat chunky (Be cautious blending hot liquids!) and return to pan. Add heavy cream and salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Remove pan from heat and stir in spinach.

Bon appetit!

Laws of Cooking: Cinnamon Toast Cookies and Eggplant Tacos

Oh how I love Fall! While I love the weather, secretly, I love the food. It’s getting heartier, more rustic, and its soup time! I don’t have a soup recipe for you, at least not this month, but I do have some more of my fall favorites. As the weather changes, one of the things I enjoy doing is baking cookies, so this month, I’ll bring you my absolutely favorite cookie: Cinnamon Toast Cookies. When I was sick as a kid, my mom would make me toast with butter and cinnamon sugar; this is my adult version of one of my childhood favorites.

While at a farmers market this week, I found the most beautiful looking baby eggplants. Because they are perfect for this time of year, I decided to make a meal that is affordable, quick, and easy—my Eggplant Tacos. Feel free to use any soft cheese that you like with this, although I would recommend shying away from the moldy varieties like bleu cheese or gorgonzola; brie, goat, and camembert are all good options.

Eggplant Tacos

Easy to make, eggplant tacos are the perfect 30-minute from prep-to-eat meal.


2 Baby eggplants (about six inches long and an inch and a half wide)

3 Baby portabella mushrooms

Salt, to taste

Olive Oil

Soft Cheese (I used goat cheese; room temperature)

Fresh basil or cilantro (rough chopped)

Small soft tacos

Eggplant tacos are ridiculously simple. You don’t have to use truffle oil; regular olive oil will suffice, but if you have some, it will definitely add to the flavor palette.
Eggplant tacos are ridiculously simple. You don’t have to use truffle oil; regular olive oil will suffice, but if you have some, it will definitely add to the flavor palette.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice eggplant and mushrooms into ¼ inch slices and lay flat on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt. Roast vegetables for approximately eight minutes on each side. When done, place the mushroom and eggplant slices on warmed tortilla shells. Spread with the soft cheese and sprinkle with basil or cilantro.


Cinnamon Toast Cookies

Make sure you get your mise en place together before you start baking. It will make it a lot easier once you begin.
Make sure you get your mise en place together before you start baking. It will make it a lot easier once you begin.


½ cup salted butter

¼ salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 large egg

1 ½ cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon sugar, to taste (for rolling)


Cream together sugar and butter with an electric mixer.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Slowly mix into the butter mixture until well blended.

Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll dough into ¾ inch diameter rounds. Roll in cinnamon sugar until fully coated.

On a lightly greased cookie sheet, place cookies one inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges.

Cool on the pan until cookies harden enough to be moved without breaking.

Far better than a snickerdoodle, these cookies just melt in your mouth.
Far better than a snickerdoodle, these cookies just melt in your mouth.

The laws of cooking: Lavender Pound Cake and Hash Brown Quiche

By Jessica Greenstein

Although the lazy days of summer are almost technically behind us and they feel even further away with the start of fall classes, I wanted to give you guys one last easy and delicious summer recipe. Lavender Pound Cake is one of my absolute favorite recipes and something I make every year; it’s the perfect dish to bring to a potluck summer barbeque or to enjoy at home. I originally found this recipe on and like every recipe I use, I made some tweaks to make it my own. Fortunately, my Aunt Sheryl has a lively lavender bush and supplies me with a fresh stash whenever I need it, but for those of you not so fortunate, you can get dried lavender (works just as well) from, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and some farmer’s markets.

Over the past year you’ve gotten to know me pretty well (at least I hope so) and so I feel it necessary to disclose that as I prepared for this month’s column I was in the middle of moving with absolutely no access to my plethora of cookbooks or the comfort of my normal arsenal of culinary supplies. As I wracked my brain trying to figure out a second recipe, I started to daydream about how I wished there was more hours in a day, like 40 maybe. Okay, I won’t be greedy, I’ll settle for 30. Always looking to be more efficient with my time, I came upon Paula Deen’s recipe for Hash Brown Quiche. Never having time for breakfast myself, I thought this was the perfect idea; I could make this quiche—which takes all of five minutes to prep—while doing laundry on a Sunday afternoon and then pop a slice in the microwave for 45 seconds an I’d have breakfast for days! I tested it out and while Ms. Deen may have some ongoing legal and PR issues, her recipe did not disappoint. The original recipe called for ham, but I substituted it with my favorite food group, bacon. I think the recipe would also taste divine with prosciutto or any other cured pork product. With that being said, I present you with this month’s must try recipes!

Bon Appetite!


Lavender Pound Cake

Based on a recipe originally found on




2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean (seeds only scraped from bean)

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature


3/4 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

5 teaspoons dried edible lavender flowers or 3 tablespoons fresh edible lavender flowers

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 pint of blueberries

Special equipment: a 9- by 5- by 3-inch metal loaf pan


Make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F with oven rack in center of oven. Generously butter and flour loaf pan. Remove any excess flour.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 5 with a handheld). Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in zest, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches (beginning and ending with flour) and mixing until just incorporated.

Spoon batter into loaf pan and bake until golden (approximately one to 1 to 1 1⁄4 hours). Test doneness by inserting a toothpick or skewer in center; if it comes out with crumbs adhering, it’s done Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes, then invert onto rack and cool completely.

Prepare syrup:

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in lavender; steep for 30 minutes for dried lavender or 40 minutes for fresh. Pour syrup through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a bowl and discard lavender. Stir in lemon juice and blueberries.

Spoon berries and syrup over slices of cake just before serving.


Hash Brown Quiche

Based on a recipe originally found on



3 cups, shredded frozen hash browns, thawed and drained

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

3 large eggs, beaten

1 cup half-and-half

3/4 cup diced cooked thick-cut bacon

1/2 cup diced green onions

1 cup shredded Cheddar

Salt and white pepper (be conservative with white pepper; it’s much stronger than its black

alter ego)


Preheat oven to 450°F.

Press the hash browns between paper towels to eliminate as much liquid as possible. In a 9-inch pie pan, toss the hash browns with the melted butter into the pan. Press them into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and starting to crisp.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. When the hash brown crust is ready pour the egg mixture over it and return to the oven.

Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for about 30 minutes until the quiche is light golden brown on top and puffed.

All photos courtesy of Jessica Greenstein