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Monday, March 26, 2012

Was It Worth It?

Here's my question. Is there any pancake worth waiting an hour and ten minutes for? The answer is yes. Believe it or not, there actually is a pancake so delicious that it would be worth waiting two hours. Or three.

Over the weekend, we started our college road trip in New York. On Sunday morning we had breakfast at the Clinton Street Bakery and Cafe. I had wanted to try it ever since I bought the cookbook last year. The recipes are easy to follow and the results have been outstanding. But my question was: Is the "real thing" as good as advertised. Do the pancakes look and taste as good in person.

Yes, yes, yes. I'm not kidding you when I say that these were the best pancakes I have ever tasted. They were light and delicious and had this wonderfully buttery, vanilla-y richness that you rarely find in a pancake.

And in case you were wondering, it wasn't just the pancakes that were divine. Everything was so yummy that I felt the need to "taste around" the table. The biscuits were light as air, and the eggs were rich and creamy. Need I say more... Because I can.

But instead, I am going to urge you to give the Clinton Street Bakery and Cafe a try when you are next in New York City.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I'm Taking My Act On the Road

It's spring break and for high school juniors everywhere this means it's time for the college road trip.  So, we're packing up the SUV and hitting the road bound for some of American's finest institutions of higher education.

Yes, Ted, Kate, and I are going to spend a week in the car.  Together.  Visiting colleges.  This could go one of two ways.  It could be great.  Or it could be... not great.  It all depends.  We are, after all, traveling with a 17 year old girl, which is dicey at best.

The odyssey will begin with a stop in Allentown, PA for a tennis tournament.  This is a big one, so I hope that (1) Kate gets a good draw, and (2) that there's a Starbuck's near the venue.  Starbuck's is key to my ability to soldier my way through these tennis tournaments.

Then it's on to New York and Connecticut and six colleges in six days.  Can we do it?  Will Kate find her dream college?  Will we emerge still talking to one another?  All questions I know you are aching to have answered.

And for the first time ever, I am going to attempt to go mobile with the blog.  Don't get too excited because I have no idea how this will go.  I'll update about the trip, where we eat (Ted is already doing research), and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Check back if you're not an email subscriber, to see how the trip is going.  Which reminds me... why are you all not email subscribers?   Just click on the subscribe button and you can have You Little Tarte waiting for you in your email every day.

Catch you on the other side.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cupcake Update

Kate (right) and a friend enjoying the cupcakes
I've been meaning to update you on Kate's birthday cupcake extravaganza.  It was huge.  A total success.  Everybody loved them.  The junior class at school loved the Oreo cookie cupcakes, and the tennis friends loved the cookie dough cupcakes.  As I said, my handiwork proved to be very successful.

Kate took some pictures of a couple of her friends at school enjoying her birthday celebration.  So without further ado (and with their permission) here are some pictures:

Everyone loves a cupcake!
Kate didn't take any pictures at tennis but believe me when I tell you, there was a very favorable response as well.   So favorable, in fact, that I'm already scoping out recipes for the next big celebration.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The San Francisco Treat

Rice is not all that exciting.  But lets face it.   Whole civilizations have been built on it so it's nothing to laugh at.  But it is, after all, just rice.

I have to admit that I as an adult I have never been a huge fan of rice.  White rice is so white and to me, brown rice is too earthy.  It's not since Rice-A-Roni that I looked forward to rice as a side dish.

Oh well.

When I was growing up, Rice-A-Roni was my mother's go-to side dish and we all loved it.  The commercials made it seem so special, with the San Francisco cable car clanking it's way up a steep hill.  Rice-A-Roni was, like the commercials said,  the San Francisco treat.

I have no idea if Rice-A-Roni really came from San Francisco.  It doesn't matter because it was a catchy slogan and we all know it's all about what's catchy.  I still remember the slogan, and the commercials for that matter, so I'd say it was a successful ad campaign.

But here's the thing.  All Rice-A-Roni was was a flavored rice pilaf.  It wasn't anything particularly fancy or special.  Yes, it was convenient.  But was it the best rice pilaf around?  Probably not.

Back then, I didn't actually know what rice pilaf was and I certainly didn't know that that's what Rice-A-Roni was.  I'm not sure my mother did either.

But now that I'm a self-appointed food professional, I know a lot more about things like rice pilaf and I'm here to tell you that making your own produces a far tastier pilaf than anything you'll ever find in a box.  And making your own is just as easy.  It's really just a couple of ingredients and you'll have your own San Francisco treat.

And for those brown rice lovers among us, if you were so inspired, you could make a brown rice pilaf. Just increase the cooking time to accommodate for the differences in the rice.

Recipe:  Herbed Rice Pilaf


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cups long grain white rice
1 cup dried angel hair pasta, broken into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons assorted fresh herbs (flat leaf parsley, dill, etc.)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the onion until it is softened, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the rice and the pasta and saute, stirring frequently, until golden, about 3 minutes.

Add the salt, pepper, and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Fluff rice with a fork, and stir in the herbs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Keep Your Composure

I love the whole idea of composed salads.  It's fun to have a whole platter of pieces from which to put together the perfect bite.

The perfect bite is something that I'm always striving for, both as a cook and as a diner.  There's just something so appealing about popping the perfect balance of tastes and textures into my mouth.  It's so satisfying, and so often very difficult to achieve.

That's what's so great about this composed Greek salad.  There's a platter with all the parts -- the feta, the cucumbers, Kalamata olives, red onion,  and the tomatoes.  The whole thing is drizzled with a fruity olive oil.  The rest is up to you.

Forget about fancy centerpieces when you serve this salad.  It's so beautiful that it'll stand in for even the most elaborate flower arrangement.

Recipe:  Composed Greek Salad
(Martha Stewart Living, April, 2012)


2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
4 small Persian or Kirby cucumbers, but into spears
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1 red onion thinly sliced
1 pound Greek feta cheese, sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish:  fresh oregano sprigs


Arrange tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, onion, and cheese on a platter.

Drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with oregano sprigs.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slow Cooked Lamb: Update

The star of the show:  Slow Cooked Lamb with Lemon and Oregano
Well, no one said it would be easy.  And it certainly wasn't quick either, but Friday's slow cooked lamb was well worth the time and the effort.

24 hours of marinating time and 4 1/2 hours in the oven later, I served my delicious slow cooked lamb dish to rave reviews.  It was tender and juicy, and the potatoes were lemony and delicious.  I had enough for an army and was just sorry that I hadn't invited everyone I have ever met over for dinner.  It was that good.

But here's the thing.  This dish is an event and probably worth saving for guests.  You might as well make a big leg of lamb if you're going to go to the trouble.  And then invite everyone you know over for dinner and have a party.  It's as good a reason as any to get everyone together.

So, just make sure to read the directions in advance, set aside the time, and then just go for it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Lesson Learned... Again

Charlie is home for spring break and I have gone into Jewish mother overload.  He has been home for all of an hour and I have asked at least 10,000 questions and have gotten about 2 responses that we not "yes" or "I don't know".

I just like to know what's going on.  I'm not being nosy.  Well, maybe a little bit, but I'm a mother.  That's how we're built.

So besides asking too many questions, I am cooking.  Charlie has always been a big fan of Mom's Home Cooking, so if I can't win him over with my sparkling conversation, I can certainly give it my best shot at the dinner table.

There's only one problem with this plan.  I didn't read the instructions.  I had planned a veritable Greek feast -- slow cooked lamb with lemon and oregano, potatoes roasted with the lamb, a composed Greek salad, and baklava -- but I neglected to actually read the recipe.  All the way through.  And pay attention to what I read.

The long and short of it is as follows:

1.  This morning when I went to marinate the lamb, I found that the recipe called for 24 hours marinating time, not the paltry eight I had alloted.

2.  Having cut myself short on the time, I was willing to forgo the 24 hours and fudge it with just eight.

3.  At about 4:00 this afternoon, I preheated the oven to 350 in anticipation of 3 hours roasting time.  What I did not realize was that three hours was not quite enough.  As I finally read all the way through the recipe, I found that the lamb had to cook at various temperatures for over four hours.  Yes, it had to cook for more than four hours.  Pardon my French, but shit.  Houston we have a problem.

4.  Abort planned Greek feast.  Reschedule for tomorrow.

5.  A quick trip to Mark at the Shadyside Market produced four chicken breasts.  I quickly whipped up Ina's lemon chicken, couscous with toasted pine nuts, green beans, and to top it all off, an apple cranberry cake.   I realize that it's not cranberry season but beggars can't be choosers.

So, I'm going to do something I never do.  I am going to give you the recipe for the roasted lemon leg of lamb even though I haven't made it yet.  It sounds really good and you'll need some lead time to get this on the table.

I know this because I didn't read the instructions until it was too late.

Recipe:  Slow Cooked Lamb with Lemon and Oregano
(Martha Stewart Living and Mad Hungry, April, 2012)


1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups water
1 leg of lamb (about 4 pounds)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks


Combine lemon juice, oil, oregano, and water in a large nonreactive baking dish.  Rub lamb all over with salt and pepper, and place in marinade, turning to coat well.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning once or twice.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Transfer lamb and marinade to a roasting pan.  Cover lamb with parchment, and cover tightly with foil.  Roast 1 hour, then flip lamb.  Cover again, and reduce the heat to 300.  Roast lamb 2 hours.

Flip lamb gently, since it will be very tender.  Add potatoes to pan, and sprinkle with a little salt.  Cover and roast 1 hour.  Raise heat to 400.  Uncover, and roast until potatoes are golden around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That Ship Has Sailed

Today is a sad day for me.  And it's a sad day for anyone who ever used the Encyclopedia Britannica to write a term paper.  Or to look up general information about bugs.  Or the solar system.  Or food groups.

After 214 years, the Encyclopedia Britannia is moving entirely into the digital age.  Yes, it's true.  Starting today, an online subscription can be had for just $70 annually.  Updates will automatic.

I have to tell you that I think this is sad.  And not because it doesn't make sense, because it does.  But rather, it makes me sad because there was something special about having those volumes lining the shelf in our family room.  Just holding one of those books made me feel as though all the knowledge I would ever need was right there in my hands.  The encyclopedia made everything accessible.

In my family, we had not only Encyclopedia Britannica, purchased from a door to door salesman, but also a set of World Book Encyclopedias, a gift to my sisters and I from Grandma Mary and Grandpa Mike.  Both sets held positions of prominence in our family room.

Ted remembers his set of encyclopedias as well.  In fact, in his family there were two sets of Encyclopedia Britannica; a deluxe set in white leather downstairs in the family room, and a red leather-look student edition up in his bedroom.  Ted had knowledge, quite literally, at his finger tips.

Of course, these days there's far more information available with one push of a button than there could ever be in any one printed volume.  I know that.  But the way I see it, the end of the printed Encyclopedia Britannia is the end of an era.  The leather bound volumes harken back to a time when we were all a just little more innocent.  Those books, with the fancy gilt edging, held the answers to all of life's greatest questions.  Everything I ever needed to know could be found on the shelf in the family where the Encyclopedia Britannica was proudly on display.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Spring in My Step

I am so happy.  We have "sprung" forward and spring is on the air.  Yesterday my impossibly expensive gardening service arrived to do a spring clean up.  We are now raked, mulched and ready for the arrival of daffodils.  It's amazing how a little hint of lovely weather can completely change my outlook on just about everything.

But first a word about my gardening service.  I am from Los Angeles, land of gardeners.  There are zillions of them and they are all reasonably priced.  They take pride in doing a good job.  When I was growing up, Kenny took care of our house.  When I became a grown up, we hired a gardener to take care of our house and he would still be our gardener if we hadn't moved to the land of gardening services.  In Los Angeles, I had a relationship with my gardener.  That's just how it was.

In Pittsburgh, there are gardening services.  They garden in the summer months and then hope for lots of snow in the winter so they can switch into snow removal mode for the winter.  It's not that I don't have a relationship with the owner of the service, because I do.  And it's not that they don't do a spectacular job with the gardening, because they do.  My house is beautiful, thanks in large part to their efforts.   (When the tulips come up along the walkway I'll post a picture.  People knock on my door to tell me how beautiful they are.)  But they charge a bloody fortune for the privilege.  I hate to think what yesterday's clean up and mulch cost me.  I hope not to be home when the bill arrives in the mail and Ted opens it.

Yes, we could do it all ourselves.  But here's the thing.  We do not have green thumbs in this house.  Getting a houseplant to thrive is an accomplishment.  We are also just not that organized.  I'm afraid that we would have to hack our way through the overgrown grass and weeds with a machete before Ted would get around to mowing the lawn.  I'm not being mean.  It's just a fact.

I suspect that as Ted is reading this he is wishing I would refrain from mentioning him in my posts.  Hey, I write this blog everyday.  I need material.

Now where was I?  Spring.  That's right.

So, now that it's getting a little warmer, it's time to break out some lighter recipes.  Maybe use some different veggies instead of the winter staples like carrots and potatoes.

This salmon dish showcases the delicious spring onions that are just showing up in grocery stores.  They're sweet and just scream spring.  The addition of the yellow tomatoes, which were surprisingly easy to find too, adds a nice brightness to this dish.

It's too bad it's not quite warm enough to have dinner in my newly mulched backyard.  If I'm going to pay through the nose for mulch, we might as well enjoy it.

Recipe:  Pan-Roasted Salmon with Fresh Onion and Fennel Salad
(Martha Stewart Living,  March 2012)


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 skinless salmon fillets
1 cup very thinly shaves fennel (from one bulb)
1 cup pea shoots or mache
1 fresh white onion, very thinly shaved to 1/2-1/3 cup)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, plus cilantro sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, or white wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar
Coarse salt
2 medium golden tomatoes


Preheat the oven to 350.  Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil, and swirl to coat pan.  Add salmon, skinned side up, and sear until [golden, about 3 minutes.  Flip salmon, and transfer to the oven.  Roast 5 minutes (for medium).

Toss together fennel, pea shoots, onion, cilantro leaves, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt.

Slice tomatoes, and arrange on 4 plates.  Season with salt, and top with salmon.  To serve, top with salad, and drizzle with oil.  Season with salt and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Errand Day

Fine Cooking Magazine, 2012
I always make my grocery list on Sundays.  It doesn't necessarily mean that I will go to the grocery store on Sunday, but I like the idea of having a list to start out the week.  Some might call that obsessive.  I call it organized -- and obsessive.

Nonetheless, yesterday was, for some unknown reason, a productive Sunday.  Maybe it was because no one was home, which always helps with the productivity.  Ted went to run some "errands", which is somewhat remarkable because usually his idea of running an errand is walking from the room he's in to the room I'm in and asking me to do something.  So anyway, Ted was out.

Kate, who has had a driver's license since October (and she was counting the minutes until she got it), but hardly ever drives, transported herself to tennis.  You may ask why she never drives.  Is it because she doesn't have a car?  No!  Kate rarely drives because the extra sleep she can get by not driving herself to school is well worth giving up the independence.  I get that because, as we all know, extra sleep for a teenager is worth more than anything else.  Even catching a ride from mom.

So here I was, all alone in the house.  I could have read the paper.  I could have watched TV.  I could have done anything I wanted to do.  But what did I do?  I cleaned out the refrigerator and realized that I really needed to do a major shopping trip.  You know things are bad when the milk can be measured in half inches.

Having cleaned out the refrigerator, and being on my way to a major shopping trip, I decided to pull out a couple of recipes I've been wanting to try.  Why not add a couple more ingredients to my already burgeoning shopping list?

But here's the really remarkable thing about Sunday.  I actually took that grocery list and went to the market.  On a Sunday.  With about ten zillion other people.  Even though it was a beautiful day.  I actually went to the grocery store.  With a list.  Be impressed.

There was a method to my madness.  I knew that Ted would be home by the time I got back from the market.  He could carry in the bags.  I hate carrying in the bags.  Look at that.  Ted could do an errand for me.

Recipe:  Chicken Braised with Red Wine Vinegar and Tomatoes
(Nadia Arumugam, Fine Cooking Magazine, March, 2012)

*  Note:  This is a real quick recipe to put together.  Great for a weeknight dinner.  Feel free to use breasts instead of thighs.  That's what I'm going to do next time.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into 4 even pieces
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 dried bay leaf
1/3 cup good-quality red wine vinegar
1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Put the flour, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag. Close and shake to combine. Add the chicken to the bag, zip it closed, and shake vigorously to coat with flour.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet(preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more. Stir in the tomatoes and bay leaf, raise the heat to high, and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and boil vigorously until almost evaporated, about 30 seconds. Return the chicken and any accumulated juice to the pan, along with the chicken broth, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper, stirring well to combine. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley, cover, and cook for 1 minute more.

Season to taste with salt. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Out of the Closet

This is not my closet.  This is what my closet wishes it looked like.
I am the first to admit that I have made some mistakes when it comes to giving things away.  Ask Kate.  I was sure she had outgrown a Stella McCartney tennis dress so I gave it to my friend for her younger daughter.  A few weeks later, Kate went looking for it and it was gone.  Apparently it still fit.  Oh well.  We all make mistakes.

I have gotten rid of all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons.  I've given away clothes that were too small, for the moment, or too big, also for the moment.  I've given away clothing that I was sure was completely out of style, only to see it come around again.

You've got the idea.

So, as you can imagine, cleaning out my closet is fraught with issues.  Too keep or to give away, that is the question.  Suffice it to say that I rarely answer that question correctly.

But things were getting a little, shall we say, crowded in my closet so I decided to just bite the bullet and try to wade through some of what's clogging things up in there.

I have to come clean here.  I have a massive closet so if things are cluttered, that's a bad thing.  It should never be cluttered in there because there's plenty of room.  My closet is actually a room on the third floor of my house that I've had built in with drawers, hanging, and shelves.  It's a masterpiece, thanks to California Closets.  (This is what you get to do when you have a third floor that no one lives on and no walk-in closets anywhere else in the house.)

But, back to the project at hand.  Cleaning out.

Boy, do I have a lot of stuff.  And boy, did I approach this project in the wrong way.  Learn from me.

Lesson One:  Do not pull out every sweater and dump them all on the floor.  It's just too overwhelming and they just stay on the floor for days.  And days.  I know this to be true because the sweaters are all still on the floor of my closet.

Lesson Two:  Do not try and tackle the whole closet at one time.  Too much stuff, too many decisions.  Start small, maybe with just the shoes or just the sweaters.  I know this because I started with everything.

Lesson Three:  Do not run from the problem once you have created one.  See lessons one and two above.

Disclaimer:  This is not my closet.  I just wanted to give you an idea of what it would look like if California Closets hadn't worked their magic and built me all kinds of shelves and hanging rods.

I am going to conquer my closet.  I know I can do it.  Tomorrow.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Call Me Count Stroganoff

Fine Cooking Magazine
Back when I was a kid, beef Stroganoff was something that was only served to guests.  In the dining room.  Without my sisters and I in attendance.  It was grown up food.

Now that I am a grown up, I can have beef Stroganoff any time I want it.  The funny thing is that I never even think about Beef Stroganoff, let alone make it or order it in a restaurant.

But a couple of months ago I saw a recipe for Classic Beef Stroganoff in Fine Cooking Magazine.  That was about the same time that I made Ted's Aunt Ann's (famous in our family) Beef Balls Stroganoff.  What's with all the beef Stroganoff?  Absent for 30 years and now all of a sudden, it's everywhere.

Well, I'm not one to miss out on a trend, if you can call beef Stroganoff a trend, so I decided to give the classic rendition of this recipe a try.  How hard could it be?

Not very, as it turns out.  In fact, I think Beef Stroganoff may have been the equivalent of a 1960's 20 Minute Main Course.  Honestly, it took no more than 20 minutes to whip this up.  The beef is quickly sauteed and then set aside.  Then the mushrooms and onions are sauteed, sprinkled with flour, and simmered in beef stock and sour cream.  That's it.  Served over buttered egg noodles, (who am I to mess with tradition) and topped with a sprinkling of chives, it's a company worthy dish.

Beef Stroganoff doesn't seem quite as fancy as it once did, does it?

Recipe:  Classic Beef Stroganoff
(Fine Cooking Magazine, February/March, 2012)

*  Note:  Use reduced-fat sour cream at your own risk; it will likely curdle.


Kosher salt
1-1/2 lb. beef top round or shell steak, sliced 1/4 inch thick, slices cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. canola oil
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
10 oz. white button mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (4 cups)
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (about half a medium onion)
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 cup lower-salt beef broth
1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
1 12-oz. package wide egg noodles
1 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Season the beef with 1 tsp. salt and 3/4 tsp. pepper. Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add half of the beef and cook, stirring often, until the meat is just browned, about 1 minute; do not overcook. Transfer to a plate and repeat with 2 tsp. of the oil and the remaining beef.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the butter and the remaining 2 tsp. oil to the skillet and stir until the butter melts. Put the skillet over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are beginning to soften, about 3 minutes more.

Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with the flour and stir for 15 seconds. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits in the skillet with a wooden spoon. Add the sour cream and whisk until the sauce is smooth. Add the beef and any juices from the plate to the skillet. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce is barely simmering. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the package directions in the boiling water until barely tender. Drain and return to the pot. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 Tbs. butter and stir to melt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the beef Stroganoff over the noodles, sprinkled with the chives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Did You Do Today?

The cupcakes... before icing and assembly.  (Check out my snazzy  2 dozen cup cupcake pans.)
Every night when Ted gets home from work he asks me how my day was.  Every day I tell him that my day was fine.  Sometimes he'll delve deeper and ask me "What did you do today?"  Usually I tell him I did the same old things I do every day.  Roughly translated this means that I did laundry, went to the grocery store, and cleaned up all the stuff everyone has left laying on the floor.

So I didn't cure cancer.  It's a living.

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes
But today I did something special.  It was insane, but it was special.

Kate's birthday is on Saturday and she's turning 17.  Yes, my baby is turning 17 and it's killing me.  When did this happen?  She couldn't possibly be 17 because I'm only 27.  Wishful thinking, I know.

The thing I love best about Kate is that Kate is Kate.  She knows exactly who she is.  On one hand, she's definitely growing up and is a pretty standard issue 17 year old: moody, dramatic, and sometimes difficult.  But she is also still my little girl who loves a snuggle and can't leave a room or hang up the phone without without saying "love ya" to me.

If I can have the love ya's, I'll take the drama any day.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

So anyway, back to Kate's birthday.  Kate doesn't believe that we should ever actually buy anything at a bakery.  She think that I am the bakery.  And it being her birthday and all, she decided that it would be nice to bring cupcakes to tennis to celebrate.  And, since I was already breaking out the mixer, why not bring some cupcakes to school too.  (This is the advantage of going to an all girls school where there are only 43 girls in her grade.)  Of course, why bring simple cupcakes when she could bring elaborate cupcakes?  No box mixes for Kate.  No way, no how.

So today I spent the day making four dozen chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes for tennis and four dozen Oreo cookie cupcakes for school.  And I loved it.  Every minute of it.

The way I see it is that she is going to be gone from home all too soon and bringing birthday cupcakes to school and tennis will be just a memory.  I like the idea that her memory will be of really special cupcakes that I made especially for her birthday.

I'm happy to make Kate cupcakes -- any kind she wants -- if I can have a love ya when she says goodbye.

Originally Posted on You Little Tarte:
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
 Oreo Cookie Cupcakes

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

That's A Meatball

These are giant meatballs!
I've never been much of a meatball maker.  In fact, I've never been much of a meatball orderer in restaurants either.  It's funny, because I like meatballs.  So why the meatball freeze out?

Who knows?

But I'm all about trying to master new things, so I thought I'd give meatballs a go.  But first I had to find a recipe.

Rao's is famous for their meatballs, so why not start with the king of Meatball Mountain and make theirs.  The recipe is fairly straight forward: meat, bread crumbs, cheese...  A little mixing and I had the meatball mixture.

This is where my friends at Rao's lost me.  The idea of frying up all those meatballs was totally unappealing to me.  First of all, frying schmutzs up my stove and I just wasn't in the mood for the whole degreasing project.  Second of all, frying would make the meatballs a little greasier than I thought I would like.

Well, when in doubt, check with Ina.  Ina bakes her meatballs.  So I baked mine.  Done and done.

Following Ina's lead, I cracked open a couple of jars of Rao's Marinara Sauce and we had delicious spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.  All compliments of Rao's and Ina.

Recipe:  Rao's Meatballs
(Rao's Restaurant, New York City)

*  Note:  Instead of frying, I baked the meatballs for 30 minutes at 350, turning once after 15 minutes.


1 ½ lbs ground beef
½ lb ground veal
½ lb ground pork
4 large garlic cloves (3 minced and 1 reserved for frying)
2 tablespoons parsley
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups water
2 cups pecorino romano cheese , grated
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
2 cups cooking oil or 2 cups olive oil , for frying
Marinara sauce of your choosing (I used Rao's)


In a large bowl, place the meat and rub the minced garlic into it.  Press the meat in the bowl.
Add in this order: Salt, pepper, parsley, 2 eggs and water. Then sprinkle the cheese over the top as if you are going to cover the water. Finally, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the cheese.  Mix from the outside of the bowl to the middle, an inch or two at a time.   Do not overmix!

After the ingredients are mixed, start to roll the meatballs in your hands, about 6 ounces per meatball.

After your meatballs are rolled, take a 10 inch frying pan and add your oil and the reserved whole clove of garlic and heat. When the clove starts to brown, the oil is ready.

Fry the meatballs, cooking and flipping until golden brown, about 4 1/2 to 5 minutes per side.  Remove the meatballs after frying and put on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.  (If you want you can bake the meatballs on a lightly greased tray at 350 degrees-the taste is totally different than frying).

Add the meatballs to your tomato sauce to finish cooking.  Let simmer for at least 45-60 minutes.  Serve with the sauce.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion

This has not been much of a winter.  I'm not complaining, but it's been a pretty wimpy winter.  There haven't been very many really cold days and there hasn't been that much snow.  Compared to what I've endured in the last nine years, this winter has been easy peasy.

Of course, I could finally be adjusting to living in a colder climate.  I remember when I first moved here from Los Angeles, I had to put on a heavy coat, hat, scarf, and gloves to take the garbage out in October.  This year, even on the coldest days, all I've worn is a sweater.  Did you hear me?  A sweater.  Maybe my blood is finally thickening up.  Or maybe, as I said, it's been a wimpy winter.

But here it is, March 5th and it's snowing.  That's just wrong in so many ways.  The bulbs are supposed to be starting to come up and spring should be in the air.  It's March.  Now, I am no expert on March, but the pictures on calendars always indicate the coming of spring so I'm going with that.  What those pretty pictures do not indicate is snow and temperatures in the low 20's.  No way, no how.

Add this to the stew at the very end.
The old timers around here (meaning anyone who has lived here longer than I have), have told me all about the giant snow storms in March and April.  Maybe so, but not on my watch.  It's March and spring should be in the air.

But alas, it is not.  At least not today.  The good news in all of this is that I have two pounds of stew meat in the freezer that I haven't gotten around to using and today seems just perfect.  And there are a couple of recipes that I haven't gotten around to trying so maybe it's meant to be.  One last blast of winter and one last pot of stew.

Recipe: Bargemen's Beef Stew
(French Slow Cooker, 2012, Michele Scicolone)


olive oil
4lbs. boneless beef chuck, well trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
3T. all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large onions, thinly sliced
6 anchovy fillets
6 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ C. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2T. Dijon mustard
2T. red wine vinegar


Oil the insert of a large slow cooker. In a large bowl, toss meat with flour and salt and pepper to taste. Scatter half the onions in the slow cooker. Add half the meat. Add remaining onions and top with remaining meat. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until meat is very tender.
In a food processor or blender, chop anchovies, garlic and parsley very fine. Add mustard and vinegar and pulse until just blended.
Skim the fat off the stew. Stir in anchovy mixture. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Up to Here

I'll admit it.  I'm a little cranky today.  I spent the weekend in Quakertown at a tennis tournament with Kate.  That went well, but I just have to tell you that there is nothing going on in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.  It's not that it's not a fine place.  In fact, I'm sure it's a lovely place to live, but it's hardly a scintillating weekend destination.

Here's the thing about youth tennis tournaments.  They are an exercise in hurry up and wait.  The fun starts on Friday night and continues, depending on how your kid does, through Sunday.  The problem is that there's a lot of downtime at these tournaments, but not quite enough to do anything else.  So you spend a lot of time waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting some more.

Kate played Friday at 4:30 p.m.  She did not play again until noon on Saturday and then again at 5:30 p.m. So we had time to kill.  We went to the bookstore.  We had lunch.  We went to the CVS where I spent $61 on adhesive tape, gum, candy, and magazines.  We went to the car wash.  And then we still had time to kill.

But that's not even what made me cranky.  Teenage girls make me cranky.  And then there's the five and a half hour drive to and from Quakertown with said teenage girl.  That's what made me cranky.

Have you ever noticed that there's no right thing to say to a teenage girl?  If I say it's snowing, she will argue until I give in and agree that it's not actually snow coming from the sky.  It's flurries.  Need I say more?

Have you noticed that I've needed to vent a lot lately.  I'm so glad I have the blog because I think Ted is sick of hearing it.  Oh no.  Maybe you are too.

Ted has offered me dinner out tonight and you know what?  I'm going to take him up on his offer and skip the cooking.  I deserve it.  Maybe it will make me less cranky.  That would be nice.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crazy for Coconut

My mother in law does not like coconut.  I've never understood this because I think coconut is one of the great flavors out there in the giant flavor universe.  She likes lots of other things so it's not as though she's a picky eater or anything like that.  But still...  Coconut is so yummy.  How can you not love it?

Make sure to top each muffin with lots of shredded coconut.  I used about 1/2 cup instead of the remaining  1/4 cup called for in the recipe.
I am especially excited by virgin coconut oil.  This is a wonder ingredient.  It adds a subtle coconut flavor and is especially tasty in baked goods.  And, coconut oil is becoming much more popular.  The first time I bought it I had to track it down at Whole Foods, my go-to source for anything "healthy".   Now it's available pretty much everywhere they sell olive oil.

This recipe packs a double coconut punch combining the coconut oil with sweetened shredded coconut.  In fact, these little muffins are so dense with coconut flavor and could almost be served as a dessert, if you're into pound cake-y kinds of desserts.   The sprinkle of toasted coconut on top of each little muffin, which are really more like little cakes, if you ask me,  makes for a really lovely presentation.  And I'm all for lovely presentation.

Double Coconut Muffins
(Smitten Kitchen)

*  Note:  I used 1/2 cup of shredded coconut in the batter and another 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top of each muffin.  I like the little "crunch" the toasted coconuts gives when you bite into the muffin.  Either way, these are delicious.  


1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup full fat Greek-style yogurt, at room temperature is best
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature is best
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, divided (see note above)


Preheat oven to 375°F. Either grease 10 muffin cups with butter or coconut oil, or line them with papers.

In a small saucepan, warm your coconut oil just until it melts. It should still be on the cool side.

In a medium bowl, whisk together your flours, baking powder and salt. Stir 1/2 cup shredded coconut. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, coconut oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups then sprinkle the top with remaining 1/4 cup coconut, about 1 to 2 teaspoons on each.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out batter-free, about 20 minutes. Transfer muffins to a rack and let cool.