Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Linzer Cookies

It's almost the new year which means so many of us are going to have food-related resolutions stifle our diets for at least the next few days so I'm ending the year with something buttery and sugary: linzer cookies. I love linzer cookies. I don't know what it is about them, but I've always loved them. Maybe it's because they're so pretty? I used to get them at university all the time as a little pick-me-up between classes. I haven't had one since I left Ithaca, which is sad, right? So, to fix that problem, I made a batch.
Ingredients [makes about a dozen cookies]:
1 cup flour
½ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
raspberry jam (or jam of your choice)
powdered sugar

Monday, December 30, 2013

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

I won't lie and say that I don't enjoy canned soup. I quite love Campbell's Cream of Tomato; it's delicious. But, making a homemade version just feels really appropriate for a chilly and snowy winter Saturday, which is what the weather was like when I made this a few weekends ago.
3½ lbs ripe tomatoes
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
¾ cup tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
½ cup cream
salt and pepper
olive oil

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sparkling Moscato Cocktails

With New Year's Eve quickly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few cocktails. I used to be a big drinker in college (who wasn't?) and I was a party maniac for a while but lately, I v. rarely drink. I don't know if it's because I'm lame or just not into it anymore. However, that's not to say I don't enjoy the occasional sweet libation.

My favorite wine, and possibly my favorite alcoholic drink, is Moscato D'Asti. It's a really sweet white dessert wine and sometimes it's effervescent. Because it's my favorite, I'm sharing three easy cocktail ideas based around this one type of wine. If you're making a party, it would be easy enough to just set out some chilled bottles of wine and the flavor additions as a drink station and people could mix their own drinks as needed. The perfect low-maintenance strategy for the low-key host(ess).
I wasn't 100% sure how to share the proportions of these drinks so I just did them relative to the size of one bottle of wine, but honestly, how sweet you make your cocktails is up to you.

Ginger Cinnamon Pear Syrup

Flavored syrups are an amazing way to add a little something to a cocktail or mocktail. I'll be sharing cocktail recipes a little later today and one of the components of one of the drinks I'm mixing up is a pear syrup. It's really delicious but simple to assemble.
Ingredients [yields about ½ cup of syrup]:
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
knob of ginger
1 bartlett pear

How To: Seed a Pomegranate

While I was in college, I fell in love with Pom iced teas. They were bottled in glass cups which could be reused and they were delicious. I loved the peach one, especially. Ironically, I'd never seen a pomegranate in real life until just a few years ago. I'd only had the juice. I don't know why either, because fresh pomegranates are delicious. They have this weird reputation of being annoying to "dissect," which confuses me because I think they're easy to take apart. Let me show you!
Here's what a pomegranate looks like. It's like a humongous Christmas ornament. You'll want to start by trimming off the bottom, carefully scooping out the stem, and then scoring the fruit longitudinally. I score along the raised ridges. The ridges are rather subtle, but once you look for them, they start to look pretty obvious.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

Did everyone enjoy their holidays? I hope so. I'm just sharing a few photos of our day and our delicious lunch/dinner (we ate at 3). It wasn't as big as Thanksgiving since it was just three of us, excuse me, four including George Michael, but it was still amazing.
{my handmade card}

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Café Au Lait

Happy Christmas! Is everyone having a lovely holiday? I am. Christmas morning is always really hectic but the afternoon is for winding down. You know, the time where you all sit around, watch a ton of random television, and cozy up with a mug of something warm.
coffee beans + grinder
french press
steamed milk + frother

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

Happy Christmas Eve! Besides being Christmas Eve, today is sort of special because this is my 500th post! That's kind of crazy for me to think about, but I guess since I've been blogging for a few years now, that totally makes sense. I love the progress I've made and I hope a year from now, I look at today's blog post and think, "Whoa, that post is so ugly. I've improved so much." Growth is fun to observe.

Anyway, today, I'm sharing a cozy soup recipe, which I thought was nice and seasonal and kind of holiday appropriate. I made this a couple weeks ago on a lazy, snowy Sunday afternoon. It was the first real snow of the season (re: I actually had to clean off my car) and I was just bumming around, knitting in front of the television, when I suddenly remembered that there was a butternut squash sitting in the pantry. This particular squash had been bought when we went apple picking way back in October, which may sound gross but (uncut) winter squash has a nice long shelf life - 2 months at room temperature, 3 months in the fridge. I mean, that's why it's called winter squash; it's harvested in the autumn after the skin has gone tough so that it can be consumed in the winter. It probably could've lasted a few more weeks in the cupboard but I figured I should hurry up and use it anyway.

All of the versions of butternut squash I've ever eaten, either in restaurants or from store-bought cans, have been really sweet and creamy, which makes sense since squash is sweet and creamy. But, I decided my version should be a little different and have a bit of a kick so I added some cayenne pepper, a bit of fresh ginger, and crushed red pepper, among other seasonings. Obviously, I used butternut squash but you could use acorn squash, pumpkin, banana squash, pretty much any hearty winter squash will do. Neither my recipe nor I are vegetarian or vegan but if you are, you could substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock and almond milk for the cream.

Ingredients [serves 6 to 8]:
2 lbs. butternut squash (or another winter squash of your choice)
3 tablespoons olive oil or butter (or a combination of both)
½ onion, diced (about ½ cup)
1 carrot, diced (about ½ cup)
1 celery stalk, diced (about ½ cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary, stripped
pinch of nutmeg
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
¼ cup cream (or almond milk)
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, December 23, 2013

Diced Apple Cake

It's almost Christmas! Eek! Have you done all of your Christmas shopping yet? My family isn't huge on presents in general so it's not a big deal and none of it stresses us out. If we can think of something fun or if someone specifically requests something (usually out of necessity) then we'll make a baby-sized production of it. The funnest Christmas gift I bought this year was a toy for George Michael (my dog). I got him this stuffing-less beaver toy whose head squeaks and whose giant tail is filled with crunchy-sounding plastic. I know GM is going to love it.

Honestly, for me, Christmas is more about the food (my gosh, prime rib, I'm drooling) than the presents so the best part is planning, cooking, and consuming Christmas dinner. Oh, and duh, Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, duh, but that's a touchy subject for a lot of people so I won't get into it. I do enjoy all of the holiday cheer in the air though. It's nice.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, my coworker, who originally hails from Illinois and has an apple tree in the backyard of his Illinois home, brought me a huge bag of apples from said tree. How lucky is he that there's an apple tree in his backyard? He warned me that they were a bit on the soft side so they were probably better for baking than for eating fresh. I wasn't in the mood to make pie or applesauce or any of the "usual" stuff so I decided to make a cake using a LOT of apple and I came up with the following:
6 medium-sized apples
3 eggs
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup powdered sugar
+ whipped cream (optional)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lasagne Bolognese

So the reason I made the bolognese from yesterday was because I wanted to use it to make lasagne because I was craving lasagne. I daydream about food and then I get obsessed and nothing else tastes good so I have to find a way to satisfy my craving. I'm such a fatso, right?

I shared a white lasagne on my blog last year but I haven't shared a red lasagne yet. And since I have a pasta maker now, I made it with fresh pasta. It was so simple but really delicious; I surprised myself. I definitely recommend making this for guests. Anyone you feed this to will be really impressed (except for maybe vegans and vegetarians). And you can brag and be all, "I made this from scratch with fresh pasta. I'm awesome." And your friends will be like, "Get over yourself," until they take a bite and then they'll be like, "HOLY SH*T. You really are amazing!"
Ingredients [makes a 9"x13" pan]
¾ lb. pasta dough [if you use the recipe I shared previously, just cut the quantities in half]
2 cups bechamel
3 cups bolognese
2 cups shredded cheese (mild, melting cheese like mozzarella, havarti, fontina, gruyere)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
butter or olive oil for greasing.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Okay, so after a jillion dessert recipes, I'm finally sharing something savory again.

Bolognese is a meat-based sauce that's simmered with lots of love and there are countless variations. Some use strictly beef, some use pancetta, some recipes contain milk, and there are some hardcore advocates that say, "It's not a bolognese unless you _____!" Honestly, unless you personally invented the recipe, I don't think you have any right to say what's right and what's wrong. I think if it has the same spirit, follows the general guidelines, and most important of all, if it tastes good, then you're probably on the right track.

Obviously I'm not Italian so this recipe isn't a super authentic, passed down for generations, given to me by my Strega Nona, blah blah blah, holy grail recipe. It's something I just came up with based on what I've watched Food Network chefs doing and what I personally like about bolognese.
Ingredients [makes 4 to 6 cups of sauce]:
1½ lbs ground beef (I used a 90-10 mix; you could use any ground meat of your choice, really, even sausage)
1 medium onion, diced (about 1.5 cups)
2 to 3 carrots, grated (about 1.5 cups)
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 bay leaves
2 x 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups water (or wine)
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon of each)
olive oil

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is my most favorite dessert in the world. The best creme brulee I've ever had was in Paris, of course. My sister and I had just arrived on a flight from London. It was pretty late and we were starving. We found a restaurant close to our hotel, wobbled in (our legs were wobbly with hunger), and ate a delicious meal. I then used my impeccable (re: pathetic) French skills to order a dessert to share. I think I said something like, "Oi, garçon, nous mangerons un dessert, ensemble, sil-te-plaît? Deux cuillères, une crème brûlée." the translation of what I said was, "Oi, sir, we will eat one dish, together, please? Two spoons, one crème brûlée." He was so impressed he gave it to us for free. Just kidding. He charged us extra for my terrible accent. Just kidding again, we paid the regular amount.

Despite loving this crunchy sugar-topped custard, I've never made it myself because I didn't own a kitchen torch. But I recently bought one, soley with the intention of making crème brûlée (though it's come in handy elsewhere).
3 cups cream (I used light cream but heavy whipping cream would work too)
1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
pinch of salt
+sugar for brûlée-ing

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


The graham crackers I shared yesterday make awesome s'mores.
All you need are graham crackersmarshmallows, and chocolate. If you don't have a torch, just brown the marshmallow in your broiler.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Homemade Graham Crackers

As you know, I made myself a batch of homemade marshmallows with the intent of throwing them into mugs of hot chocolate. But, everyone knows, the main purpose of marshmallows (besides being the glue in rice krispies treats) is to make s'mores, right? I was digging through my pantry but we didn't have any graham crackers in the house and instead of running out to the store to get some (which would have taken all of 10 minutes) I decided to make them from scratch (which took several hours). Am I crazy? Maybe.
So I still remember learning about graham crackers in history class (I think it was sophomore year of high school) when we were discussing the Popular Health Movement and Andrew Jackson or something. We learned that some creepy minister invented graham crackers as a way to suppress the sexual appetites of his congregation. He believed that bland food would quell one's carnal urges. (FYI, Kellogg's corn flakes were created with a similar motive; if you ever wondered why they're so terribly bland). What a weirdo, huh? Anyway, graham crackers have evolved quite a bit since the 1700s; now they're sweet and more of a cookie than a cracker and they actually taste good. I think they might actually have the opposite effect than Graham intended, at least for me. TMI? Okay, then, let's move on.

Ingredients [makes 2 dozen crackers, depends on the size]:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
¼ cup cold butter (1/2 a stick)
3 tablespoons honey
1½ tablespoons molasses
¼ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
+ 1 tablespoon raw sugar
+ 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
+ ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Friday, December 13, 2013

Hot Chocolate

I'm sharing a homemade hot chocolate recipe today. So today's post was extra fun for me because I got to use yesterday's marshmallows.
Ingredients [1 serving]:
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (60% cacao) - more or less depending on how chocolatey you want it
pinch of salt
+ optional seasonings: drizzle of honey, pinch of cinnamon, chili powder, nutmeg, hazelnut extract, whatever you like!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Homemade Marshmallows

Wow, so far, all of my December posts, except for two, have been sweets. Well, 'tis the season or something.
Today, I'm sharing something fun: homemade marshmallows! I mean, duh, you already knew that because of the title, right? I was inspired by (re)watching The Lorax recently. There's that scene where the Once-ler rips open a bag of marshmallows and they go flying into the air, remember?

There really is no reason to make marshmallows yourself except it's just a fun thing to do. Sure, you could run out to the market and buy a bag; it's more practical and it's probably cheaper. But this is cooler and you can brag to your friends about it. You can really shove it in their faces how awesome you are, you big show off.
3 packets of powdered gelatin (approximately 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
½ cup + ½ cup water
12 oz. granulated sugar (approximately 1½ cups)
½ cup light corn syrup (the clear kind)
2 egg whites (optional)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or extract of your choice (suggestions: peppermint, coconut, maple, cinnamon, or hazelnut)
oil for greasing
powdered sugar for dusting (about ½ cup)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Ice cream may not seem like a winter-appropriate dessert but I made this ice cream for Thanksgiving to accompany a vanilla bean bread pudding, and when it's an accompaniment to a warm dish, I think ice cream is v. appropriate. I actually made the bread pudding with challah bread instead of sourdough and it was good; like, good enough to the point where I want to make all future bread puddings exclusively with challah. To elevate the dessert a little more special for the holiday, I thought I'd impress my guests with some homemade ice cream. I mean, crème anglaise (the type of ice cream base I use) is an amazing sauce on bread pudding already, so if you serve cold ice cream over hot bread pudding and some of it melts, it's just like you spooned a bit of sauce over the top. Parfait.
2 cups half & half
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup + ½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I Ate: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sister will tell you that I have been obsessing over what I call "school cafeteria chocolate chip cookies" forever (or since I've last had access to them, which was back in high school). She will attest to how annoying I've been. I've tried countless chocolate chip cookie recipes and none of them have passed the test. Even Phoebe Buffay's grandmother's recipe (a.k.a. Nestle Tollhouse cookies) don't cut it for me. I wanted cookies that were somewhat thin with a good crunch around the outside, a chewy center, mini chocolate chips, and a crackled texture. Do you know the type of cookie I'm describing? Yes? No? I mean, doesn't every public school in America serve the exact same chocolate chip cookies?

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this recipe through the Savory Sweet Life blog (by googling, "best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever"). I read through the directions, looked at the photos and thought to myself, Hm, these could be the ones. So, I made a batch and guess what? This cookie was exactly what I'd been looking for, hooray! Just to reiterate, I take absolutely no credit for this recipe (though I wish I could). I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Savory Sweet Life. Thanks, Alice!
2 sticks of butter (room temperature)
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 oz. all purpose flour (approximately 3 cups)*
¾ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2¼ cups chocolate chips (or as many as you'd like)**

*12 oz. by weight! I didn't think I had to clarify this, but I had someone comment (you can see the comment below) that 12 oz. is only 1-1/2 cups. This is true when you're measuring water but not when you are measuring flour. When dry ingredients are quantified in ounces, it's by weight. When wet ingredients are quantified in ounces, it's by volume. Didn't think I had to clear that up, but apparently I do!

**I use mini chocolate chips because that's just what I prefer in my cookies. I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate. I also used a bit less than the recipe called for (about 2/3 of the bag) because I wanted a more even ratio of chips to cookie in every bite and my sweet tooth is on the smaller side (despite how it may seem based on the number of desserts I share on this blog) so I didn't want the cookies to be overly chocolatey. If you're a big chocolate fan, might I suggest chocolate chunks?

Friday, December 6, 2013

What I Ate: Dolsot Bibimbap

Bibimbap is one of my favorite Korean dishes but bibimbap made in a hot stone pot? That is the ultimate.
{heating the pot | oiling the pot | adding in the rice | adding in the vegetables} 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Literally Coffee Cake

I call this "literally" coffee cake because there's actually coffee in the recipe. It's not just a cake you make to accompany your cup of coffee. It's also rather convenient because I used boxed cake mix instead of measuring out a bunch of flour and baking powder and sugar and blahblahblah.
This cake is kind of, sort of a weird play on tiramisu. Actually, it's nothing like tiramisu but it was inspired by tiramisu's feature ingredients: coffee, chocolate, and mascarpone.

Cake Ingredients:
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 cup strong coffee
¼ cup melted butter
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)

Ganache Ingredients:
¾ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup cream
¼ cup strong coffee

Mascarpone Whipped Cream:
1 cup mascarpone cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What I Ate: Magic Custard Cake

So, what is magic custard cake? I found this recipe through the White On Rice Couple. I happened upon it a few weeks ago, I think through Smitten Kitchen, and I kept going back to look at the post because I was so intrigued by this "magic" cake and finally decided that I should just make it.
This cake really is magical. I brought it to a family party and everyone kept asking, "How did you make this? Did you layer a bunch of different batters?" It's a relatively simple recipe, though it took quite a few mixing bowls, but the outcome is quite rewarding.

I made the recipe just as written except instead of vinegar to stabilize the egg whites, I used cream of tartar.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quick Cabbage Kimchi

Recently, my local grocery store started stocking Napa cabbage. Napa cabbage is also known as Chinese cabbage and it's the main ingredient in the most commonly made baechu kimchi (baechu is Korean for cabbage). Unfortunately, the day I decided to buy some Napa cabbage and make kimchi, my market did not have any daikon (white radish) so I ended up making the lazy person's kimchi.

This kimchi recipe is relatively quick and simple and doesn't require as much effort as traditional baechu kimchi but it's still yummy.
3 lbs Napa cabbage
½ cup coarse sea salt
1 bulb garlic, minced (yes, a whole bulb!)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
¼ cup hot pepper flakes (gochugaru; to taste)
4 to 5 scallions, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon sugar

Monday, December 2, 2013

What I Ate: DIY Pancake Mix

I used my buttermilk pancake recipe to make my own DIY pancake mix because I despise boxed mix and I've had a bit of a pancake obsession lately so it's just been easier to make them this way. I just added all of the dry ingredients to a jar and made a pretty little tag for it. Admittedly, the proportions are going to be EVER SO SLIGHTLY off because in the original recipe, you're starting with 1 cup of flour and then adding a bunch of stuff to it so really, it should be something like, 1 cup + 3 tablespoons of dry mix, but seriously, it's not a big deal. To make up for that, I just omitted the milk from the recipe directions.
Anyway, here are the results of this awesome product. The griddle pan is from World Market (one of my new favorite places to buy kitchen stuff). It's double sided and the flat side is perfect for making pancakes.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Happy Black Friday! Instead of going shopping, today I'm going to 'Color Me Mine,' which is a pottery painting place.

Anyway, Thanksgiving in our house was quite successful. We had more people over than I'm used to cooking for but it was delicious and everyone had a great time and we were all stuffed and happy when the meal was finished.
Here's what was on the menu:

Monday, November 25, 2013

What I Ate: Smashed Potatoes & Bacon Sprouts

All right, so Thanksgiving is just a few days away and I shared a bunch of recipe cards last year and more recently, I shared a mashed potatoes recipe, a mac and cheese recipe, a cornbread recipe, and a caramel apple dessert. But, I had two more suggestions to throw out there: smashed potatoes and bacon brussels sprouts. I made these a little while ago and thought they would make great additions to any Thanksgiving feast. The reason I'm not making this a recipe post is because these aren't v. technical or labor intensive (and I'm lazy and I didn't think to take more photos while I was making this stuff).

I started off by rendering the fat off of some bacon and getting the bacon itself nice and crispy.
Meanwhile, to prepare the potatoes, I boiled up about 2 or 3 lbs of fingerling yukon gold potatoes. I cut the bigger pieces in half so that all of the pieces would cook in the same amount of time. Then, I drained the potatoes and placed them on a foil-lined sheet pan. I used my potato masher to just smash the potatoes into a flat mess and drizzled them all with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cinnamon & Cardamom (Chai Spice) Macarons

Here's another seasonally appropriate dessert suggestion for Thanksgiving: cinnamon and cardamom macarons with chai spiced ganache. For a more thorough explanation of the technique for making macarons, you can visit my vanilla bean and dulce de leche macarons post from last year. I'll be much less technical in this post.
100 g egg whites
50 g granulated sugar
110 g almond flour
200 g powdered sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate (I used 60% cacao)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chai spice tea
¼ teaspoon salt

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, is just a week away and I thought that I'd share my menu and strategy for making the meal. I feel like I won't really have anything new to say, but being a home cook, I feel like the way I give my advice might be a bit more relatable than say, a Food Network Star might give his or her advice. Eh, I don't know. Whatever! I'm sharing so if you want to read on, you can. It's a free country, you know.
So when I plan a big meal like this ("this" meaning it's quite literally a feast where I use up all of my large platters for dozens of dishes, we all stuff ourselves until the buttons pop off our pants, and I anticipate enjoying the leftovers for a week afterwards) I like to have a game plan. I like to write down all of my ideas for dishes, making sure I include a few different carb dishes, a variety of vegetables, and one or two desserts. I probably go through two or three iterations, cutting dishes that seem redundant, scrapping ideas that seem too ambitious, etc.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mushroom Ravioli

I love mushroom ravioli and often, I'll grab a pack from the market when a craving hits. It's a yummy treat but store bought ravioli is usually too salty for me. So, I made my own and they were pretty delicious. And, you could certainly serve these at Thanksgiving; they're rustic and delicious and you can brag that you made them from scratch.
Ingredients [makes 5 to 6 dozen ravioli]
¾ lb pasta dough (½ of the recipe I normally use)
3 portobello mushrooms
6 cloves garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
olive oil
salt & pepper

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I Ate: Salted Caramel Apple Galette

So I've shared a few savory Thanksgiving dishes, and that's all well and good but dessert is really important too so I thought it would be prudent to share a couple of sweet recipes too. This first idea isn't a recipe post, as you can tell by the title, but a 'What I Ate' post. I formatted it this way because 1) I recently made galettes so it felt like overkill to do it again and 2) it's a really easy dessert that doesn't require too much instruction. You can definitely make ahead of time, which is perfect for big meals that take a lot of preparation (re: Thanksgiving).
I started by making a batch of pie dough. Here it is in its crumbly stage before it was pressed together. It looks like grated cheese, huh? By the way, do you like my new marble pastry board? It's from Sur La Table. It's super affordable and amazing quality. Sur La Table is my new favorite store for kitchen supplies. World Market is a close runner up, though. Actually, I can't say which I like better. They're both great.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Kitchen Supplemental Post Part 3: Budgeting Tips

This is probably the last entry I'll be posting in my 'new kitchen' series, I'm 99% sure.
I wanted to share some of my budgeting tips because with every week that passed during this renovation, I had a little less money in the bank and it was sad, but I didn't go broke so I do have some tricks up my sleeve. Now that my kitchen is finally complete, including all the little chores we had to finish up here and there, I'm ready to share some money management suggestions.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What I Ate: Scarpetta's Tomato Basil Spaghetti

If you are curious about what I did with my fresh pasta, you are in luck because that is what I'm sharing today. Back in the summer, I went to Scarpetta for the first time (and I actually went there again just a few weeks ago). It was the best pasta I'd ever eaten, outside of Italy. Scott Conant became my pasta hero so I decided that the first thing I wanted to make with my first batch of fresh pasta was Scott Conant's tomato and basil spaghetti. I haven't actually tried it so I can't compare mine to his, but both times I was dining at Scarpetta, neighboring diners ordered it and it looked amazing. I'm sure his is better but mine was still pretty delicious.

I followed along with the recipe and steps from Serious Eats and the result was fantastic. This 'What I Ate' is quite a bit more detailed than I usually am, because the Serious Eats post didn't do a step-by-step photo diary. I didn't want to just call it a normal recipe post though because it's not my original recipe and I don't want to steal credit.
First, let's start with the sauce.

10 ripe plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons + ¼ cup olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 stems of basil with leaves

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Homemade Pasta

I created a substantial wishlist of kitchen gadgets I wanted for our new kitchen. One of the items on this wishlist was a pasta maker. I am a carb-loving girl and I will never go on the Atkins diet or any other restrictive regimen that prevents me from eating bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, basically all the best stuff. I knew that if I got a pasta maker, I would put it to good use, so I bought one and I did.
Today's post is slightly different from my usual recipe entries because I don't have a step-by-step photo diary. Instead, once you scroll down a bit, you will see a video. I did my best to document my morning of pasta making and hopefully you enjoy it. And just a little tidbit of information, this was my first time making pasta from scratch and it was quite a successful venture so I'd like to say to anyone who feels intimidated: don't! It's pretty easy and the reward is delicious.

Ingredients [adapted from Scott Conant's recipe, yields 1½ lbs of dough]:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
4 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Kitchen Supplemental Post Part 2: Meal Ideas

Renovating a kitchen is hard work and it takes a lot out of you. The demolition is strenuous, the painting is tedious, the assembly is tiring, the final touches are burdensome. But not having a place to cook for months: that was pretty terrible. Thankfully, we timed our renovation to take place during summer (into autumn) so despite not having a stove, we could still fire up the grill and cook in a baseball cap and flip flops.
As promised, I'm finally sharing a 'what to eat and how to cook when you don't have a kitchen' post.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sweet Cornbread

So, before our kitchen was renovated, I had difficulty with food styling and photographing because I was so limited. At first, it was just a matter of experience; I needed practice and to develop an 'eye' for it. But once I got the hang of it, I was still being held back because we didn't have any surfaces that were worthy of photographing, I didn't want to include any of our kitchen in the background because it was so ugly, and the lighting was subpar. But now, all of that has changed and I feel so free! Hopefully, you've noticed positive changes in my photography too. I feel like I'm learning so much and so quickly. It's a lot of fun.

Anyway, enough rambling. Today's entry is a continuation of last week's posts about Thanksgiving side dishes. Cornbread is one of the most comforting, warm side dishes. It's so fluffy, the color is a lovely yellow, and you get to smother it in honey and butter. What could be bad about that? I'm channeling Ina Garten big time with that last sentence.
I previously posted a more savory cornbread recipe which I like to use when I'm making cornbread stuffing. But, the cornbread that gets tossed in a basket next to the butter dish? I want that cornbread to be sweeter. I'm just a fan of sweet cornbread and if you are too, this is a great recipe.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ stick + 1 teaspoon butter
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup corn (optional, fresh or frozen)

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Kitchen Supplemental Post Part 1: Why Ikea?

Before I start this post, I'd like to say thanks to all veterans and current soldiers for their service. Without their fight to maintain our freedom, I wouldn't be here typing on this blog, right? Thank you.

So I thought I'd do a few more posts about the new kitchen, just extra stuff that I thought would be useful to share that would have otherwise bogged down my normal posts. In this first post, I'm discussing the benefits and disadvantages of using Ikea.
I've been thinking a lot about the quality of Ikea's cabinets lately because for some reason, Ikea has a reputation for being cheap, in the bad kind of way, and there are people who have an embarrassed attitude about admitting they own Ikea furniture. I personally love it. If you shop and style carefully, Ikea furniture can look awesome.
{my simple Ikea glasstop desk}
Instead of "cheap," a better way to describe Ikea is "affordable, efficient, and practical." Why do so many people think that things that cost less are automatically poorer in quality? I feel like it's an American attitude to think that more is always more; disclaimer: I'm American so I'm allowed to generalize us. I have a few friends who work long hours at their jobs and they think that means they are hard workers. Honestly, if I were a boss, I'd prefer to hire an employee who is able to execute all of his/her work properly in a shorter amount of time over an employee who takes 10 hours to finish a simple task; I'd prefer someone efficient and smart. Let me clarify here that of course there are exceptions to this. I know that many times, cheaper is cheaper and you get what you pay for. But in the case of Ikea kitchens, they are just the hard workers in the scenario.
{Ikea kitchen display}

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cheddar Mac & Cheese

As I promised on Tuesday, I'm sharing a cheddar mac and cheese recipe, which would make an awesome side dish for Thanksgiving, so I'm filing it in that category. There are hundreds of different recipes for mac & cheese out there, both in cyber space and regular world space, and I'm just adding mine to the pile. I also have a recipe for lobster mac & cheese on my blog if you're feeling fancy but this is just the bare bones version of mac & cheese that I make all the time.
If you're not into cheddar, you can certainly use a different cheese, like american or swiss or gruyere. Whatever you're into is fine by me. You could also use a combination of cheeses, if you like. But, I do suggest you choose a good melting cheese and not, for example, grated parmesan cheese from that green can or orange foam spray cheese. I decided to choose cheddar for this particular batch because that's what I was craving. Plus, I knew the pretty orange color would lend itself nicely to photographs.

Let me also be a little candid here and say that I never measure when I make mac and cheese. In general, I rarely measure when I'm cooking. It's all a 'feelings' thing. However, I did my best to mark down how much of everything I was using as I was cooking so that I could share it here.

½ box (½ lb) short cut pasta (elbow macaroni is the classic shape and what I chose but you could use shells, cavatelli, cavatappi, penne, gemelli, rotini, rotelle, fiori, ditalini, gomiti, mostaccioli, etc.)
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (or other good melty cheese of your choice)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Garlic & Leek Mashed Potatoes

Did you guys see my new kitchen reveal post yesterday? Well now that that's all good and done, I'm back to posting more recipes. Somehow, I managed to sort of keep up with recipes here and there (prepared a bunch of posts in advance too; prior to our kitchen being kicked down). But I'm sure you noticed that I was sharing more recipes in the past few weeks, ever since our kitchen has been functional.

Now that Halloween is over, we can start thinking about Thanksgiving. For me, November 1 is when I start planning my Thanksgiving menu. So, I thought I would share a few appropriately themed recipes in the coming weeks.

First up is garlic and leek mashed potatoes. What's delicious and "special" about these potatoes is the addition of leeks. The fibrous dark green parts of leeks aren't the most desirable bits but they still have a lot of flavor and it's wasteful to throw them away. I used the whites to make a soup and then had a bunch of tops leftover and thought they would add a lot of yum to a batch of mashed potatoes.
The leeks are just used in the cream and they add a lot of delicious flavor. Leeks look like giant scallions. They're in the onion and garlic family so they have a similar flavor but they are much more subtle.

Ingredients [serves 4 to 6]
1½ lbs yukon gold potatoes (3 to 4 medium sized potatoes)
1 cup heavy cream
6" piece of leek greens
3 or 4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt & pepper

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Kitchen Part 10: Tada!

I didn't really know how many parts this "series" would have, but it somehow worked out that Part 10 is the big reveal post. How perfect. This kitchen renovation has taken almost three months from brainstorming to completion and it was worth every minute. FYI, we had a few delays with the delivery and we were limited in scheduling the countertop templating and installing so maybe we would have been finished if everything had been timed a bit more smartly but it is what it is. I did the math and it took exactly 70 days from finalizing the design to caulking. We still have a few (relatively minor) loose ends to tie up but I'm really pleased with what it looks like right now so I'm sharing anyway. I'm impatient and I just can't wait.
If you are unfamiliar with the journey it took to get to this point, you can take a look through my previous New Kitchen posts. If not, just jump ahead to see what our finished kitchen looks like (though, the title photo kind of spoils the big reveal, right?). Ah! I'm so excited! I must warn you, this is a photo-rich and text-rich post but if you're uninterested in what I have to say, you can just scroll through the photos and just ignore the words. It's a free country!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vegetable Soup (2)

Happy Halloween! Today's recipe isn't spooky. In fact, it's quite the opposite; it's comforting and warm and delicious.

I shared a vegetable soup recipe a year and a half ago and it was delicious so I wanted to make something similar. But every time I decide to make soup, it's a little bit different. The ingredients vary depending on what I might be craving, what ingredients are in season, what ingredients are fresh and available at the super market, what ingredients are affordable, etc. All of these factors led to the soup I'm sharing in today's post and this recipe involves kale, because I wanted it, and eggplant, because it looked delicious, and parmesan cheese rind because it was sitting there in the cheese section of the market, asking to be used, among other ingredients.
I'm sharing all of the ingredients I used but you can definitely customize this recipe. One thing I forgot to add that I had wanted to include is cannelini beans but the end result was still satisfying so no harm, no foul. Turnips, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, sweet corn, butternut squash, basil, green beans, barley, asparagus tips, artichoke hearts, fennel (bulb), broccolini, cilantro, snap peas, sweet peas, baby corn, brussels sprouts - these are just a few suggestions of other ingredients you could add to the soup.

But right now, I'm going to share how I made vegetable soup on this particular day.

8 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
½ cup diced carrots
½ cup diced onions
½ cup diced celery
2 leeks, chopped
5 to 6 cloves minced garlic
1 purple eggplant, chopped
3 portabello mushrooms, chopped
3 or 4 zucchini
2 yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cayenne pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped cabbage
2 cups chopped kale
3 or 4 oz piece of parmesan cheese rind
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
½ cup ditalini pasta (or any other short cut pasta)
olive oil, salt, and pepper
+ rosemary (optional)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Apple Pie

People always refer to apple pie as such an all-American dish. What does that even mean? All-American can mean that something is made from American products but pie crust was invented by Greeks and apples originated in Asia so that can't be it. All-American also describes something that has American ideals like industriousness and tenacity and dream-achieving. Does that really describe apple pie? Whatever; I apologize because I am just rambling.

Anyway, if you pop over to my travel blog, you can read all about my family's apple picking outing. What did we do with all of those apples? Lately, I've been taking one or two with me to work everyday and eating them for breakfast and as a snack but the v. first thing I did with the apples when I got home was to make a pie.
pie crust (9")
5 to 6 apples (I used empire apples freshly picked that day)
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter cut into cubes
1 tablespoon cream
1 tablespoon raw sugar

Monday, October 28, 2013

New Kitchen Part 9: Finishing Touches

Admittedly, a lot of labor goes into the demolition and painting and cabinet installation when you're remodeling a kitchen. It's really grueling and works your muscles. But I have to admit, it was also a lot of work to get the loose ends tied up because though it didn't cause as much sweating and muscle cramps, it did require a lot of willpower to get it all done.
New cabinetry and refinished floors elevated our kitchen from a cruddy old mess to a more modern and pretty room but what really made the kitchen go from good to great were the finishing touches.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chai Spice Ice Cream

The weather is getting cooler and cooler and I love it. Autumn is my favorite season because I love the weather, the lack of humidity, and the food. Everyone thinks about pumpkin spice this and that but I love chai tea. It's my go-to drink in the cooler months. And it turns out, it makes a fabulous ice cream flavor. And yes, you can still enjoy this frozen treat even when it's cold outside. It's delicious!
This ice cream is perfect for serving up with apple pie (hint: I will be sharing an apple pie recipe v. soon). I'm not going to go super into detail with this post because I shared all of the nitty gritty bits that go into ice cream making in my vanilla bean ice cream post.

2 cups half & half
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup + ½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon chai tea blend (I love McNulty's)
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
4 egg yolks
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

As you can see, the only difference between this recipe and the vanilla bean ice cream recipe is the addition of the chai tea blend, cinnamon stick, and cardamom.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Habanero Hot Sauce

I'm really excited to share today's recipe. Obviously, you can tell by the title what it's going to be, duh. Well, we had a good little supply of habanero peppers growing in our garden and I was sort of at a loss for how to use them because they are so spicy. Doy, make a hot sauce with them, lady!
This hot sauce is actually really delicious and not just a fireball creator. It's got a lot of natural sweetness and the heat from the peppers doesn't hit you right away and once it does, it doesn't last too long on your tongue. It's kind of a ghostly spiciness in that it sort of sneaks up on you and then drifts away just as soon as you realize it's spicy, if that makes sense.

5 to 6 habanero peppers
¼ sweet onion
½ orange bell pepper
½ cup baby carrots
1 tomato
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons cilantro
¼ cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
olive oil, salt, and pepper

Monday, October 21, 2013

New Kitchen Part 8: Tiles

I didn't want a traditional tile backsplash all over the kitchen. There were a multitude of reasons including cost, labor, and upkeep. But the biggest reason was that I found a tile that I fell absolutely in love with and I wanted it to be a special focal point.
I purchased my tile from The Tile Shop. I chose a beautiful green glass tile called New Haven and luckily, there was a subway tile sale going on at the time of purchase so I received 20% off. I had a bit of a mixed experience with The Tile Shop but in the end, I got what I wanted so I would say, yes, I recommend them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Berry Galettes

So today's post features the galettes I made using the dough from yesterday's pie dough post. These were my sister's happy birthday galettes and they came out splendidly.
I'm not being super exact with the quantities for this recipe just because the pie is v. free-form and rustic so you can pretty much "wing it" and make as many or as few pies as you would like. I'm just going to give some basic guidelines.

pie dough
fruit - you can make these galettes using berries like I did or you can use stone fruit (like peaches, nectarines, plums), apples, or pears; I don't suggest using any fruit with too much juice (such as pineapple) because the galette will end up really soggy
1 teaspoon flour for every ½ cup of fruit
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (for every ½ cup of fruit)
1 tablespoon honey (for every ½ cup of fruit)
¼ teaspoon lemon zest (for every ½ cup of fruit)
½ teaspoon lemon juice (for every ½ cup of fruit)
½ teaspoon sugar (for every ½ cup of fruit)
+ heavy cream
+ sugar in the raw (also known as turbinado sugar)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Basic Pie Dough

So at this v. moment, my kitchen is fully functional! We can cook and bake and chop. It's pretty awesome. We are just finishing up with the little punch list items (molding, paint touch ups, organizing, etc.).

I mentioned on Monday that it was my sister's birthday and every year I make something sweet to eat after a yummy dinner. This year, she requested a birthday pie instead of a birthday cake. I decided that I wanted to make berry galettes, which are just free-form pies, because I thought that they would be more festive and celebratory-looking.

Today, I'm sharing just the crust recipe and the actual galette will be shared tomorrow in a second post because this a great basic pie dough so I think it deserves its own entry. I think it's one I will refer to quite often.
2¼ to 2½ cups all purpose flour (depending on the humidity of the day)
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup cold water
+ pinch of cinnamon (optional)
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