Saturday, January 5, 2013

Five Days a Week

It shouldn't be cause for fanfare that we ate dinner at home for a full week. That we actually managed to come home from work and cook. But as we sat eating leftovers for lunch on Saturday, we both felt a small bit of satisfaction. How very first world, city lazy of us.

As someone who loves to cook, most weeks there's some recipe or another that I gather the ingredients for and then meticulously follow it, we enjoy it for one meal and then by the third day of leftovers we can't wait to throw it out. Or the leftovers are totally forgotten because we come home and want tex mex or thai or pizza.

This is not for lack of meal planning or most weeks even having time to shop. We've just pretended it is easier to go out or order in than actually use our kitchen daily. 

This past week I borrowed a note from my sister's book and built a menu plan based on recipes from These are not extraordinary gourmet recipes, but they are reasonably diverse and you can scale the recipe for as few as two or as many as eight.  The seasoning in most of the recipes needs to be dialed up a bit, but easily adjusted as you go.

Start to finish we had dinner within 30-60 minutes of being home most nights. How very Rachel Ray (shudder).

My first swing at sorting through the recipes proved a bit too pasta heavy, so for week two I've tried to balance it out with greater diversity. We'll see a little tex mex, a little korean bbq, a little ode to the south.

I can't see keeping up sourcing all of my recipes from this one site, and I haven't found any that I thought yes, we must make this again soon. However, it's a good way to get back into the swing of actually planning reasonable meals that can be quickly made during the week. Oh, and easily stayed within our food budget.

And the grocery store shopping list app is pretty handy.

The one thing I have made recently that's absolutely worth making again-Immediately- are the Barefoot Contessa Salted Caramel Brownies. Seriously, go make them right now. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Little Clouds of Potato Happiness

The trouble with eating your first gnocchi, or more specifically gnocchi ala Romana in Italy, is that everything you try when you come back to the States largely pales in comparison. It has been more than a decade since I devoured this treat in Trastevere on a regular basis, but it is a taste that lingers. I occasionally find myself duped into picking up an allegedly primo brand of dried gnocchi at a specialty store or event splurging at the pasta counter at Whole Foods. However, they all disappoint. Whether dressed in a vodka sauce, bolognese, or simple tomato sauce they never live up to the food memory.

Emboldened for no good reason other than time, when I came across Cook's Illustrated (tired of me mentioning their recipes yet?) for potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage, I thought why not. This did require me to go out and purchase a potato ricer (takes up less space than the other alternative: a food mill).

The headline? Wow that's a very handy kitchen tool. I have no idea what else I will use it for, but for this recipe it was an imperative. The result was awesome. Full unadulterated food awesomeness. The recipe is shockingly simple and straight forward. The most time intensive piece was rolling out and cutting the pieces, which really wasn't all that long. And their trick for creating the ridges? So simple.

And while this is certainly not a true ala Romana take, it is absolutely fancy dinner party, holiday deliciousness, anytime you need a fix worthy.

Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

For the most accurate measurements, weigh the potatoes and flour. After processing, you may have slightly more than the 3 cups (16 ounces) of potatoes recquired for this recipe. Discard any extra or set aside for another use.


  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. FOR THE GNOCCHI: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Poke each potato 8 times with paring knife over entire surface. Microwave potatoes until slightly softened at ends, about 10 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking. Transfer potatoes directly to oven rack and bake until skewer glides easily through flesh and potatoes yield to gentle pressure, 18 to 20 minutes.
  2. Holding each potato with potholder or kitchen towel, peel with paring knife. Process potatoes through ricer or food mill onto rimmed baking sheet. Gently spread potatoes into even layer and let cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer 3 cups (16 ounces) warm potatoes to bowl. Using fork, gently stir in egg until just combined. Sprinkle flour and 1 teaspoon salt over potato mixture. Using fork, gently combine until no pockets of dry flour remain. Press mixture into rough ball, transfer to lightly floured counter, and gently knead until smooth but slightly sticky, about 1 minute, lightly dusting counter with flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  4. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and dust liberally with flour. Cut dough into 8 pieces. Lightly dust counter with flour. Gently roll piece of dough into ½-inch-thick rope, dusting with flour to prevent sticking. Cut rope into ¾-inch lengths. Holding fork with tines facing down in 1 hand, press each dough piece cut side down against tines with thumb of other hand to create indentation. Roll dough down tines to form ridges on sides. If dough sticks, dust thumb or fork with flour. Transfer formed gnocchi to sheets and repeat with remaining dough.
  5.  FOR THE SAUCE: Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until butter is browned and releases nutty aroma, about 11/2 minutes. Off heat, add shallot and sage, stirring until shallot is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and salt; cover to keep warm.
  6. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Using parchment paper as sling, gently lower gnocchi from 1 sheet into water and cook until firm and just cooked through, about 90 seconds (gnocchi should float to surface after about 1 minute). Using slotted spoon, transfer cooked gnocchi to skillet with sauce. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. Gently toss gnocchi with sauce and serve.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Betty Crocker That's Who

Before the oven. Too busy eating after.
It turns out that when it comes to apple pie, Betty Crocker is a legit source. Of all the various recipes I've tried over the years, I keep coming back to her French Apple Pie recipe every time. It's simple and always comes out just right. I made it with honey crisp apples this time because it was what I picked up at the orchard.

Usually I use a much tarter apple for baking, but this actually came out with just enough bite and sweetness. I also use a lot of apples. It calls for eight cups, I use eight whole apples which usually makes for a tall, but delicious pie.

I also made it in my very fancy new metal pie plate from the Culinary Diplomacy kick off. Perhaps it was the diplomatic mojo in the pie plate that made it turn out so well.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baking Blitz

Grazing through cookbooks on a lazy afternoon is a great way to meal plan and get yourself into trouble. So, as I am currently borrowing the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook from a friend, I am using it as an excuse for both. The index makes my mouth water as I flip through trying to find new ways to use ingredients already in my pantry.  Even with access to their online recipe database, having a physical cookbook opens up a new set of possibilities.

The other afternoon it was the cause for not one, but two baking endeavors. Triple Coconut Macaroons and Classic Brownies. They are both so good they merit title case capitalization.

Most shocking is how easy these both were to make. And I mean easy. I usually expect CI to ask me to do something crazy to one of the ingredients to get the perfect outcome. And I always do whatever crazy thing they ask me to do because they are never wrong. Seriously, their track record is even better than the Barefoot Contessa and that's saying something.

So make these with confidence and knock the socks of people at the next school bake sale.

Classic Brownies
Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it), the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy; if overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces), chopped medium (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups plain cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into six 1-inch pieces
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar (15 3/4 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13- by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
  5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)
Triple Coconut Macaroons from Cooks Illustrated

  • 1 cup cream of coconut
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 cups unsweetened, shredded, desiccated coconut (about 8 ounces)
  • 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut (or flaked), about 8 ounces


  1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray parchment with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together cream of coconut, corn syrup, egg whites, vanilla, and salt in small bowl; set aside. Combine unsweetened and sweetened coconuts in large bowl; toss together, breaking up clumps with fingertips. Pour liquid ingredients into coconut and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Chill dough for 15 minutes.
  3. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Form cookies into loose haystacks with fingertips (see illustration 1, below), moistening hands with water as necessary to prevent sticking. Bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes, turning cookie sheets from front to back and switching from top to bottom racks halfway through baking.
  4. Cool cookies on cookie sheets until slightly set, about 2 minutes; remove to wire rack with metal spatula.    

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tomatoes + Bacon = Nom, Nom, Nom

The herbs in our little balcony garden have taken off and we have rosemary that keeps getting taller and taller. Not wanting it to go to waste (or turn into a small tree), I went in search of a new recipe to use it in. Yes, yes we use it with white fish, but I wanted something else.

Enter Cook's Illustrated Fresh Tomato Sauce with Rosemary and Bacon. As it turns out, it uses very little fresh rosemary, but once I read the bacon part there was no turning back. This recipe is worth altering your meal plan to make, it was that tasty.

Makes enough for 4-6 servings depending on how much sauce you want/how hungry you are.
  • 6 ounces bacon (6 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 pounds ripe round tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 3/4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Granulated sugar (I only need about a teaspoon)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved thin with vegetable peeler (about 3/4 cup) 
I think you could easily use canned tomatoes in a pinch, but since there are still local ones to be had at the market, I used romas I had on hand and did the old boiling water/water bath trick to get the skins off (I cored mine before dropping in the water). Ah kitchen tricks.

Cook bacon in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off bacon fat from pan and discard.

Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil, swirl to coat pan, and add garlic, rosemary, and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and cook until tomato pieces lose their shape to form chunky sauce, about 10 minutes (I used a potato masher at the end of the time to really break them down a bit more). Stir in parsley, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Toss sauce with pasta and serve, sprinkling Parmesan and reserved bacon over individual bowls.

They recommend a tubular pasta, e.g. penne, but we had it with linguine and it was delicious. Oh, and the big shaved pieces of parm on top + bacon = awesomeness.  The little kick it has because of the red pepper flakes is what puts it over the top.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Because Amazing Is Something We Need in Our Lives

This post is about super heroes and food, art and travel.

The last two weekends were filled with quick trips to visit friends in New England and the Midwest. Both trips were extra heart warming for me because they were to see dear friends that I used to see every day, but life has put miles and often busy schedules between us.

To have four full days to talk about everything big and small with those who know you in and out,  is the best way to recharge. Also, to be able to hang out with four fantastic kids and two dogs (who we loved long before Mason) makes for a fun, always shifting time. Follow it up with a dynamic twin duo, one awesome pug and more good friends and August is full of splendor in my book.

I am in complete awe of how my dear friends balance their lives as mother, wife, friend, and colleague. (I can hear them scoffing at the word "balance" right now.) These women are extraordinary individuals who will feign politely when you say to them "you're amazing." But really, truly these women and so many others I know can say to Ann-Marie Slaughter with a voice full of experience "Of course we can't have it all by someone else's definition. The liberating reality is we can have it all when we chose to define our lives and our happiness for ourselves."

This is not a one day, one year actualizing reality. It's a life's work.

Yet, the grace, calm, and humor my friends bring to their lives and the multiple roles they hold is something remarkable. There is no time out when you're raising children and sure ends get frayed from time-to-time for everyone, but each time I'm able to spend time with my friends who are mothers, I leave buoyed and humbled by the sheer range and volume of tasks and cares they handle in a day.

You are modern day super heroes in my book and my life in enriched for having you in it.

Oh, and the World's Fair exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins was tremendous. It is a testament to what can be accomplished when a museum harnesses the power and creativity of cross-functional teams to create a better, richer visitor experience. Well done friends.

And the food? Well, nothing beats Oklahoma Joe's and trying out a few new places too. 

We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, 
we take a little of each other everywhere.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blueberries on the Brain

It started with a crumble recipe. Which I have yet to make. The  backlog of blueberries in my fridge were scarified for other goods. But when DH came home and asked for baked goods for work, I knew I had to make blueberry muffins. Short on time, I went in search of a quick and easy recipe that would have simple ingredients and big flavor. This one is a keeper. I made a few tweaks based on the notes and also I always think a little fresh zest brings out fruit flavor in baking.

The crumble topping melted a bit. Use colder butter.
Blueberry Muffins 
Modified from
Makes 1 dozen regular size or 8 large.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1-3 tablespoons of orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. (optional)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Add zest and vanilla extract. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
  3. To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.