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Monday, April 30, 2012

Slow Start

You're going to have to excuse me.  I'm having a little trouble getting back on track.  We returned from Minnesota late last night and I have spent all of today trying to get organized.  We were only gone for a couple of days but for some reason I'm just a hot mess.

I started the day realizing that we had nothing in the house to eat.  Nothing.  Even the milk seemed a little dicey.  Unfortunately, my first stop wasn't the grocery store.  It was to pick up Pebbles at the kennel.  She's happy to be back at home and is enjoying the nice weather, in case you were wondering.

I did finally make it to the grocery store.  I hate when I have to do a mega-shopping trip.  First you have to load all the groceries into the cart.  Then you have to take them out of the cart and put them on the conveyor belt.  Then the bags all go back into the cart.  Then they're loaded into the car, only to be unloaded again once they reach home.  There just has to be a more efficient way.

So, the long and short of it is that Ted and I are going out to dinner.  Kate has her band concert so she had dinner before she left.  Ted and I will meet her there and then after the concert we'll get some dinner.

Tomorrow is another day and at least I have all the groceries unloaded.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gimme S'more

I forgot to post last night.  I have no idea why.  It must be my advanced age and somewhat limited memory.  Oh well.  I'm sure you didn't lose any sleep over this.  If you did, (1) I'm flattered, and (2) I'm sorry.

But I'm baaaack!

So I just got around to making the s'mores cookies I wrote about the other day.  I did this in between doing the laundry and packing everyone's stuff up to go to Minnesota for the weekend.  There was a time in my life when going away for the weekend meant going to a resort.  As far as I know, there isn't a resort at Carleton College.

But I digress.  The cookies, which I am bringing for Charlie, are really cute.  Cute, in a "what could be cuter than a cookie with a piece of a Hershey Bar stuck on top" kind of way.  And they're pretty yummy too.  Again, what could be tastier than a cookie that boasts chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and Hershey Bars as ingredients.

They're pretty easy to make too.  This is especially true if you don't do what I did.  First I went to the market to pick up some graham crackers, mini marshmallows, and Hershey Bars.  I forgot the candy bars and when I got home I realized I already had graham crackers.  I then had to zip out to the CVS to pick up the candy bars.  Of course, I didn't bother figuring out how many candy bars I needed.  This led to some of the cookies having two squares of chocolate on top and some having only one.

I've been suffering from some organization issues of late.

Now the cookies are happily cooling and waiting to packed up for their trip to the midwest.  Yes, I am that mother who arrives with a container to visit her son.  He will, of course, be horrified when I show up with said Tupperware container (disposable, of course).  That is, until he (and all of his friends) try these cookies.  Then I'll be a Tupperware toting rock star.  Natch.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Minnesota Bound

We are going to Minnesota this weekend.  This is a multi-purpose trip.  Kate, who is hot on the college looking trail, will be visiting Carleton.  We'll do the tour and information session and meet the tennis coach.  Charlie, who is a junior at Carleton, will be hosting his sister overnight on Saturday.  Hopefully he'll limit the college experience (drinking), although I am sure there will be red Solo cups involved in whatever he and Kate do.  I'm am trying not to freak out.

Why do college kids only drink out of red Solo cups?  There's even a song about them.  This is one of the great mysteries of the world... the red Solo cup.

I'm looking forward to seeing Charlie.   Seeing him is always nice, especially if he pretends to want to see us too.

How could he not want to see us?  We're so nice and we pay the tuition.

Being the Jewish mother that I am, I have checked with Charlie at least 20 times to see if there's anything he wants me to bring him.  He says he needs shorts.   So, me being me, I jumped on the shorts acquisition project and zipped over to J. Crew post haste.    He also wants his flip flops but he must have taken those with him when he was last home because they're not here.

I also said I'd bring him cookies.  What college kid doesn't love cookies?  And I love to be needed, even if it's just for my baked goods.  So, I've been scanning my recipes for just the right cookies.  Any suggestions?  I'm going for something a little more exciting than your standard chocolate chip even though I'm sure those would be most appreciated.

Since it's almost summer, I'm thinking of giving these s'mores cookies a try.  Who doesn't love s'mores anyway?

If these are as yummy as I think they'll be, off they'll go to Minnesota.  Maybe I'll cave and make some chocolate chip cookies too.  Both will go deliciously with whatever is in those red Solo cups.

Recipe:  S'mores Cookies
(Ice Cream Before Dinner, The Girl Who Ate Everything)


11 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ½ cups flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
3 regular sized Hershey’s bars, broken into pieces
1-2 packages graham crackers, broken into squares


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with white and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixer and combine on low speed.
Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour to overnight (I did one batch right away and another after chilling overnight and found there was no difference.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper. I used one 11x17 pan and one 9x13 pan but you can really use any sized pans you want.
Lay out graham crackers side by side on the pans as close as possible (they should be touching). I used 16 graham cracker squares on one pan and 10 squares on another. You may have to add or remove graham crackers according to how much dough you have. If you want your cookies thicker you will use more dough and less graham crackers.

Place tablespoons of dough on graham crackers about 1 – 1 ½ inches apart. I averaged about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough per graham cracker square as seen in the picture above. Press down slightly with fingertips.

Bake for 5 minutes then remove from oven to press Hershey’s bar pieces on to the top. You can place as many pieces or as little as you want depending how much chocolate flavor you want.

Bake for 5 – 7 more minutes or until dough is beginning to turn golden brown at the edges. Remove to a wire rack to cool. For clean cutting make sure cookies are completely cool and cut with a sharp knife.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trashy TV

Just look at this dress.  
Okay, so here it is.  I am addicted to Revenge.  Not revenge as in "I'm going to get back at you."  I'm referring to Revenge (with a big R) on ABC Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m.

I started watching last season but since it's on at 10:00 p.m. it's been a bit of a problem for me.  I start out strong but long about 10:20 I can feel myself starting to fade.  I fight it, but usually fall asleep on the couch for the second half of the show.

This is bad for a number of reasons.  First of all, what am I -- 100 years old?  What's with all the dozing off on the couch?  I am officially becoming not my mother, but my grandmother.  She was a dozer.  Second of all, Revenge has so many delicious twists and turns that missing half the show every week makes it tough to keep up with all the nastiness.

But I'm not one to miss out.  Not only do I want to keep up with the story line, I also want to keep up with the fabulous wardrobe.  (Did I mention that the main character Emily Thorne was wearing a dress that I own?  Yes, it's a Lela Rose dress and we both have it.  Just sayin'.)

The clothes are fabulous.  So is Grayson Manor.  But really it's the clothes that I love.  Everyone looks so polished and, as my mother would have said,  ferputzic. Emily and Victoria are always dressed to the nines.  Who wears a bondage dress on a random Tuesday afternoon?  Apparently Victoria does.
You've just got to love a bondage dress as daytime wear.
But I digress.  The new season just started and I had to be ready.  Having missed half of each episode, I decided to rewatch the whole season on Ted's old iPad.  (He got a new one so he "handed down" his old one to me.  Ted also "handed down" his old Kindle so I have one of those too.  I'm one generation behind on all technology.)  The iPad download idea was courtesy of Deborah who is also a Revenge fan.  What a great idea!  I downloaded the season and then watched episodes when I was in the kitchen or working at my desk.  Now that's technology being used for good and not evil.

So I was ready when the new season started last week.  Revenge was just as dishy as it was last season and I was completely caught up.  I even managed to stay awake through the whole episode.

Here's a really tasty (and very low calorie) soup/drink that I whipped up as I caught up on Revenge.  It's refreshing and guarantees that I'll be able to fit into all of my Revenge worthy clothes.

Recipe:  Cucumber Yogurt Soup
(Padma Lakshmi)


1 cup of nonfat plain Greek style yogurt
1/2 cup of freshly chopped mint
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 jalapeno (remove seeds if you don't want the heat)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Chill at least one hour and serve cold.

Monday, April 23, 2012


This is all wrong.  There's snow in the forecast and it's April.  Did you hear me?  It's April.  And there's snow on the way.  I don't like this one bit.

My tulips have bloomed beautifully and now it's snowing.  There's just something so depressing about perky tulips peeking out of the snow.  Tulips are meant for the sunshine.  Not for snow.

There's only one good thing that has come out of this sudden burst of winter.  I had some stew meat lurking in my freezer.  I guess with the warmish winter I never got around to using it.  Well, today is apparently going to be the day.

A few months back I saw Eric Gabrynowicz demonstrate this recipe on the Today Show.  At the time I figured that this was a recipe to be tucked away in my very elaborate filing system for next winter.  This is where my "chronological" filing approach came in handy.  I remembered the recipe so I dug through one of the files/piles (and then another) until I found the recipe exactly where it should have been.

So this is a nice little braise which is lightened up substantially with the addition of arugula.  I think everything tastes better with arugula, but baby spinach would work just as well if you're not into the whole arugula thing.  I liked the idea of the rigatoni as well.  It made this dish feel more like a ragu and less like a stew.
Add caption
And it's April.  Ragu is more seasonal than stew.  Don't you think?

Recipe:  Braised Beef with Rigatoni
(Eric Gabyrynowicz)


For the braise:

1 pound beef cubes - try to utilize the less expensive cuts suitable for braising, such as short ribs, shanks, cheeks, brisket
8-10 cloves garlic
3 sprigs sage (or from your spice jar if you don’t have fresh)
1/4 cup tomato paste - homemade is best
2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons canola oil

For the pasta:

1 pound of rigatoni or your favorite pasta.
1 bunch arugula
Cheese for grating, such as parmigiano reggiano
Extra virgin olive oil
Chili flakes to taste


After setting the oven for 300 degrees, sear the meat it in a heavy-bottom saute pan over medium high heat.  Remove the meat, and saute the garlic and sage.  Add the meat back in. Add tomato paste and wine. Bring to a simmer. Cover and braise for 4 to 5 hours at 300 degrees or until tender.

Cook rigatoni until al dente.

Immediately add the pasta to the braise in the saute pan.  Fold in arugula, extra virgin olive oil and chili flakes, and toss until completely coated.

Plate and shave cheese on top.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why I Love Cookbooks

All the time people are saying to me "you are such a good cook".  Now, while I love the kudos for my kitchen prowess, the truth is that I am really just really good at following directions.  Yes, it's true.  I can read a recipe.

As far as any real cooking skill, well that's up for debate.  I am completely self taught.  If you saw my knife skills the self taught part of this would come as no surprise.

I rarely make up my own recipes, try as I might.  Every once in a while I improvise and what results is edible.  I guess that in the grand scheme of things, that counts for "writing" my own recipes,
although I cannot recall ever actually writing anything down.

But here's the thing.  Cookbooks are wonderful things.  They make it possible for people like me, who have a little time and a great interest in eating well, to turn out really delicious and spectacular meals.  I love cookbooks.  To me, they're like buried treasure.  Inside each book are dozens of recipes just waiting to be tried.

I'm always buying new cookbooks.  In fact, I'll bet you can always tell when I've gotten a new one because for weeks every post contains a recipe from "my new favorite cookbook".  But every once in a while I go back to longtime favorites, like Ina Garten's Family Style.  Ina hasn't come out with a new cookbook since How Easy Is That so lately I've been going back through her previous cookbooks and making some of my favorites from a couple of years ago.

This recipe for turkey sausage lasagna is one of my all time favorites.  It's a little lighter than traditional beef lasagna and uses no boil noodles which really cuts the prep time way down.  It's also a guaranteed crowd pleaser and one that will really impress your guests.  Serve this and they'll all praise you on your wonderful cooking skills.  And, if you're anything like me, you'll know that the only skill required to turn out such a delicious lasagna was the ability to read a recipe.

Ina's Turkey Lasagna
Recipe:  Lasagna with Turkey Sausage

(Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, 2002)


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lasagna noodles
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one third of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Let's Have a Club

Though my friend Deborah and I are separated by 3,000 miles, we still keep in touch as though we are sitting together at her kitchen table drinking coffee.  It's been that way from the day I met her 17 years ago.  We are twin sisters from another mother.

Deborah and I agree on all the important things: the earliest possible date at while wearing white pants is appropriate (in May a week or two before Labor Day, if it's sunny), when it is advisable to wear sheer panty hose (rarely), and whether it's really cost effective to buy a 12-pack of mangoes at Costco even though there's always the risk of throwing half of them away.  All the really big things.

We also agree on the all of the big child raising issues.  We have had many a cell phone call discussing the pros and cons of homework, college preparedness, and teaching children the importance of funeral etiquette.  (You can laugh, but knowing how to behave at a funeral is a learned skill.)

But I digress.

If we lived in the same city, and if we had oodles of free time, we might actually put together a book club.  It's not anything we've ever really pondered, but it seems like something we might do.  So, when the other day, Deborah suggested that we read a couple of books together, I was game.

We ordered from Amazon and our books have arrived.  Yay!

We're starting out with The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan.  This is just the kind of book I love and I can't wait to dig in.

This recipe for Pink Grapefruit and Radicchio Salad With Dates and Pistachios is just the sort of thing I might make if Deborah and I were sitting at my kitchen table talking about The Red Book and pondering life.  And white pants.  And funeral etiquette.

Recipe:  Pink Grapefruit and Radicchio Salad With Dates and Pistachios
(Melissa Clark, New York Times, April 6, 2012


2 pink or red grapefruits
2 medjool dates, pitted and thinly sliced
1/2 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 small head radicchio, halved and cored
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
Freshly ground black pepper.


Slice the top and bottom off one of the grapefruits. Stand it up on a cut side and, using a small sharp knife, slice off the peel and pith, following the curve of the fruit. Save the peels (there should be some red fruit clinging to the pith). Repeat with the other grapefruit. Slice both grapefruits into quarter-inch-thick rounds and arrange on a platter. Evenly sprinkle the dates on top.

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit peel into a small bowl. You should have about a tablespoon. If there is less, squeeze some from one of the grapefruit slices. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt; let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the radicchio and add to a bowl. Add the shallot and grapefruit juice and toss to combine. Toss in 3 tablespoons of the oil.

4. Sprinkle grapefruit slices with salt and drizzle with the remaining oil. Place a mound of the radicchio in the middle of the grapefruit, leaving a border of the fruit exposed. Sprinkle with pistachios and black pepper and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Fine Line Between Love and Hate

For most of my life, I ordered hamburgers without tomatoes.  I didn't think I liked them.

But after years of a tomato-less existence, I discovered that I actually did like tomatoes, good tomatoes.  Ted and I were on a vacation in France and we picked up some goodies for a picnic from a farmer's market.  And it was there that I tasted what a tomato was really supposed to taste like.

And I loved it.

Since then I've had a sort of love/hate relationship with tomatoes.  The ones that we get in the grocery stores here in Pittsburgh are the same tasteless tomatoes I remember from my "no tomatoes, please" phase.  But on those rare occasions that I can pick up some homegrown tomatoes at the farmer's market well, those I love.

Ted is preparing to grow tomatoes again this summer.  Last summer we had so many I didn't know what to do with them.  Needless to say, we ate a lot of caprese salad.  This summer I'm going to be ready with more recipes, including this one from Giada De Laurentiis.  I got lucky at the farm stand the other day and picked up some of those tomatoes that I love to love.

Recipe:  Red Potato and Tomato Salad
(Giada De Laurentiis, Weeknights with Giada, 2012)

1 pound baby red potatoes, halved
1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pitted black olives, halved
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Add the potatoes to a medium saucepan with enough cold water to cover by at least 2 inches. Set the saucepan over medium heat. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow them to dry for 5 minutes.

In a serving bowl, add the potatoes, tomatoes, scallions, olives, parsley, capers, thyme, olive oil, and lemon zest. Toss gently until all the ingredients are coated and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour and gently toss again before serving.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Sophisticated Filing System

One of my "to be filed" shelves.
My recipe filing system is a work of art.  In fact, it would make Martha Stewart weep -- but for all the wrong reasons.

The simple truth is that I have no filing system.  I have piles.  And piles.  And more piles of recipes.  Occasionally I move some of those piles into a drawer or a cabinet so I don't have to look at them.  But mostly I have piles and no order.

Oh well.

Ted has tried to help me automate and put all this stuff on my computer but that's never really panned out for me.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's because having all those piles makes me feel comfortable,

Mostly empty file folders.
As you can see, I do have file folders for all those recipes I've spent a lifetime collecting.  And, as you can also see, most of those file folders are empty.

This really is not good.

I need to organize.  I need to be able to find things without sifting through four feet of clippings.  I probably should take Ted up on his multiple offers to help me get it together.

But it all seems like so much trouble.  The good news is that every time I go hunting for a recipe I uncover another one that I've forgotten about.  So my lack of organization is really a good thing.

I can justify anything.

Here's a recipe I found about a foot down into one piles.  I made these salmon cakes a year or two ago and they were delicious.  I always meant to make them again and I would have completely forgotten about them had I not been on the hunt for something else.

As I said.  I can justify anything.

Recipe:  Salmon Cakes
(Ina Garten, 2008)


1/2 pound fresh salmon
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 1/2 cups small-diced celery (4 stalks)
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/2 cup small-diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
3 slices stale bread, crusts removed
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the salmon on a sheet pan, skin side down. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until just cooked. Remove from the oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and refrigerate until cold.

Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons of the butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Break the bread slices in pieces and process the bread in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. You should have about 1 cup of bread crumbs. Place the bread crumbs on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 5 minutes until lightly browned, tossing occasionally.

Flake the chilled salmon into a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the vegetable mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into 10 (2 1/2 to 3-ounce) cakes.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a preheated 250 degree F oven and serve hot.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Let's Talk Dirty

Ted's right.  I am a good folder.
Like most everyone, I live in an endless cycle of washing, drying, and putting away.  No matter how many loads of laundry I do, there's always more waiting for me in the laundry basket (and on the floor).  There's no end to the amount of dirty clothing my family can produce.

I like to think of laundry as a work in progress because around here there's always laundry in progress.  In fact, if the washing machine isn't doing its thing, the silence in the kitchen is disconcerting.  When I'm going to do a couple of loads, I have to first try to remember if I have a load sitting in the dryer waiting to be folded.  I hate when that happens.  It really messes up the process.

I really don't enjoy folding, despite the fact that Ted says I'm the best folder he's ever known.  (Flattery will get him everywhere.  Or at least it will get him folded clothes.)  I'm such a good folder that I could get a job at The Gap.  They have people there who just fold.

I'm also not crazy about the putting away.  Yes, it's true.  I could just leave the clean clothes neatly piled on everyone's bed and have them do the putting away.  Unfortunately, that's not how it would work in my house.  The pile would remain on the bed until bedtime, at which time it would be moved to the top of the dresser.  There it would remain until either all the clean clothes were worn or the pile fell on the floor.  The clothes would remain in a heap on the floor until they were all worn or stepped on and reintroduced into the laundry cycle.

I have done a scientific study (not really) and basically it cuts down my work if I just put the clothes away instead of waiting for everyone else to do it themselves.  I call this Defensive Laundry Strategy.

Gone are the days when I marveled at the adorableness of Charlie and Kate's little baby clothes.  I used to wash those little onesies in Dreft and then lovingly fold each little outfit. I could wash two years worth of clothes in one load because they were so small.

Well, those days are over.  The clothes are big and those damn sweatshirts are so bulky.

Speaking of which I better go and check the dryer before I start on today's laundry cycle.

This recipe has absolutely nothing to do with laundry but I did get some lovely ramps from the Penn Farmer's Alliance.  If you're not into mussels, ramps are traditionally served with eggs.  I have enough ramps to try an egg dish as well and I'll pass along that recipe when I do that.

Recipe:  Garlicky Mussels with White Wine And Ramps
(Melissa Clark, Cook This Now, 2011)

Serves 2


1 bunch ramps (about 4 ounces), bottoms trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small head green garlic or 2 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs thyme
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds mussels, rinsed
2 tablespoons butter

Crusty bread for serving


Remove the leaves from the ramps and finely chop them; thinly slice the white bulbs.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the sliced ramp bulbs, garlic, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.   Pour in the wine and bring it to a boil. Let simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes, then add the mussels and cover the pot. Let the mussels steam, stirring once or twice, until they open, 5 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer mussels to bowls. Discard any that have not opened.

Add butter and ramp greens to the pan juices and bring to a boil. Whisk until butter melts, then taste and correct seasonings. Pour over mussels and serve with bread for sopping up juices.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In Full Bloom

My tulips have hit their absolute peak.  This morning when I went outside for the Sunday paper there they were.  Perfect.  Is there any better way to start the day?

It's all downhill from here, so I need to enjoy them while they last.

Boy, I'm a downer, aren't I?  I don't mean to be but let's face it.  Tulips are a two week flower.  Next I'll be on to the geraniums, which will last the whole summer.  They look pretty too but just not as strikingly beautiful as the tulips.
Even better than Friday!  Ted took this picture so it's also a better picture than last week.  I may be able to cook, but I'm not a great photographer.
But, having been put into a very happy tulip induced mood, I decided to whip up some oatmeal-maple scones from the Flour Cookbook by Joanne Chang.  Joanne Chang is my kind of gal.  She started out studying applied mathematics at Harvard and ended up owning a wildly successful bakery and cafe in Boston.  There are those who would say that running a bakery is a strange thing to do with a degree in applied mathematics.  Maybe so.  But I say "you go girl".

And let me tell you, the world is a better place for Joanne Chang's change of career plan.  Her baked goods are beyond description.  Years ago I saw her demonstrate how to make her Sticky Sticky Buns and I was sold then and there.  Now she's come out with a cookbook with all of her delectable recipes and, since I don't live near her bakery, this is the next best thing.

And these scones are perfection.  These are not your standard Starbucks hockey puck scones.  They're light and airy and as perfect as my tulips.

Recipe:  Maple Oatmeal Scones
(Flour by Joanne Chang, 2012)

*  These scones will have lovely craggy tops which will have a nice crunch.  The insides are soft and and very light.


1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups old fashioned oatmeal
 (not instant or quick cooking)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8-10 pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg


Preheat oven to 350.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pecans, and raisins on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, until combined.  Scatter the butter over the top and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the better is somewhat broken down and grape-size peaces are still visible.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, maple syrup, and egg until thoroughly mixed.  On low speed, pour the cream mixture into the flour-butter mixture and beat for 20 to 30 seconds, or just until the dough comes together.  It will be fairly wet.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand.  With a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that all of the dry ingredients are mixed into the dough.  Using a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup, drop mounded scoops of the dough onto a baking sheet, forming 8 scones and spacing them 2 to 3 inches apart.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown on top.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.

For the Glaze

1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoon maple syrup
1 to 2 tablespoon water

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioner's sugar, maple syrup, and enough of the water to make a smooth, pourable glaze.  You should have about 1/2 cup.

When the scones have cooled for 30 minutes, brush the tops evenly with the maple glaze.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tip Toe Through the Tulips

You literally have to tiptoe through the tulips to get to my front door.  I like to think we have the best tulips in Squirrel Hill, although I am sure there's someone else who thinks theirs are the best.  They would be wrong.

Up until nine years ago, I lived in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles is not a city known for it's beautiful spring flowers.  Sure, there are lots of flowers around, but nothing like the explosion of colorful bulbs that comes in this part of the country.  It almost makes up for all the cloudy skies.

My house looks particularly lovely in the spring.  My hideously overpriced gardening service makes sure of that.  Every fall, just before it gets cold, they call to ask what color tulips I would like to line the walkway up to my house.  I'm partial to a soft yellow and while combination.  Every year Ted tries to sell me on a multi-color theme, but I'm just not into that Disneyland look.

So, we go with what I know works best, and every spring I'm happy that I did.  For far too short a time, my lovely tulips stand tall and proud along the walkway, welcoming everyone that comes to visit.  The tulips may only last a couple of weeks before I substitute in geraniums, but I enjoy every moment.

Once the tulips bloom, I know spring is officially here.  And once spring is officially here, I know that lighter food is ahead.  Lots of grilling and lots of lighter side dishes.  

This year I'm going to try something new.  I'm going to buy some of my produce directly from the farmers through the Penn Alliance.  There isn't a really nice farmer's market around here, so this seems like it might be the next best thing.

In the meantime, here's a lovely light recipe for sugar snap peas, which are easily available even if you don't have a farmer's market handy.

Recipe:  Fresh Green Peas and Sugar Snap Peas in Sesame Dressing
Bon Appetit, July 2004

*  Note:  I know shelling peas can be a pain so you can take the lazy (my) route.  Trader Joe's often has fresh shelled peas prepackaged in their veggie department.  Quick and easy, these peas are easier than shelling and tastier than frozen.


3 cups fresh shelled peas (from 3 pounds peas in pods)
12 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
1 tablespoon (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cook shelled peas in large saucepan of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add sugar snap peas to same pan and continue boiling 30 seconds. Drain; rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer to large bowl.

Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. (Peas and dressing can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand separately at room temperature.) Pour dressing over peas in large bowl; toss to coat. Season salad to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Could Sell These

Here's the problem with most Passover baked goods:  they're dry and and poor substitutions for the non-Passover versions.  I'm not talking about flourless chocolate cake because that's not really a Passover baked goodie.  Flourless chocolate cake is a rich and delicious dessert that just  happens to qualify.  But as far as I'm concerned, sponge cake barely qualifies as a food, let alone a dessert.  And Passover brownies...  Well, I won't go there.

But the macaroon is a rare exception to my dislike of Passover sweets.  As you know, I swear by Ina Garten's coconut macaroon recipe, which I posted last Friday. Despite its deliciousness, I was thinking of ways to dress the recipe up a bit and make it my own.

Sprinkles.  Why didn't I ever think of that before?

Sprinkles make the macaroons pretty.  They make them a little crunchy.  Sprinkles are like an instant party.  Sprinkles make macaroons special.

Look at these macaroons.

I could sell them.

Maybe I will.

Now I'm on a roll.  What else can I roll macaroons in?  Nuts?  Finely ground toasted coconut a la those coconut marshmallows that Kate can eat by the bagful?  Drizzle them with white and dark chocolate?  Caramel?

The world is my oyster.  (Pardon the non-Kosher reference.)

I could go into business and make a million dollars.  Or at least I could cover my costs, which would make Ted very happy.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don't Be Bulgar

I have to admit that I've been a little late to the whole grain party.  Sure, I've been eating brown rice for years.  But as far as quinoa, millet, bulgar and the like -- I'm a real newbie.

But all that is changing.  I've discovered that I really like all these good for you grains.  I like them so much that I'm actually seeking out recipes and making them night after night.

This delicious recipe for bulgar is a real keeper.  It's got about 10,000 ingredients, which is a bit of a bummer, but the results are so outstanding that it's well worth the effort.

Recipe:  Bulgar "Pilaf" with Swiss Chard and Dried Apricots
Cook This Now by Melissa Clark, 2011


i cup bulgar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup roughly chopped raw pistachios
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 table spoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, for drizzling


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the bulgar and cinnamon; cook for about 9 minutes.  Stir in the apricots and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until the bulgar is tender (this might vary depending on how coarse the bulgar is).  Drain well and discard the cinnamon.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter.  Add the pistachios, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.  Return it to medium heat and add the oil, garlic, and shallot.  Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the chard, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.  Cook, tossing, until the chard is wilted, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the bulgar mixture and pistachios.  Toss over the heat for 1 minute until warmed through.  Transfer to serving plates and drizzle with lemon juice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Breakfast Can Be a Problem

If you're a cereal eater like I am, breakfast during Passover can be a problem.  Kosher cereals just don't interest me so I find that I just opt for fruit, which is probably a lot healthier anyway.

But I do love to make a big, blow out breakfast from time to time, so that's when I throw all caution (and calories) to the wind and make matzo brei.

Matzo brei is not a low calorie food.  I'm just putting it out there so that you're not distressed when you read this recipe.  For it to be really good, it has to be fried in butter, lots of butter.  So if you eschew things like butter, you might be well advised to stick with the fresh fruit and call it a day.  But for those of you who, like me, love fried matzo, keep reading.

I've made lots of different matzo brei recipes in my day and this one is by far the best.  It's crunchy and rich and probably has no nutritional value whatsoever.  But who cares?  It's Passover and no one ever said matzo was a health food.

Recipe:  Savory Matzo Brei with Black Pepper and Honey
(Cook This Now by Melissa Clark, 2011)


4 matzo squares, broken into large pieces
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
Honey, for drizzling


Place the matzo in a large bowl and cover it with warm water.  Soak until slightly pliable but still firm, 1 to 2 minutes, drain well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Stir in the matzo.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over high heat.  When the foam subsides, stir in the egg-matzo mixture,  Scramble the mixture with a spatula for a minute, and then pat into the bottom the pan and cook, without moving, until golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes.  Flip the matzo brei in chunks (it's okay if it looks a little messy).  Scramble it around, pressing down with the spatula.  Cook until it has a fluffy center and crisp edges, about 1 minute.

Transfer the matzo brei to serving plates.  Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper; drizzle with honey.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hitting It Out of The Ballpark

I have to tell you that  I totally kicked ass on the Passover dinner on Friday night.  It's not every day that I turn out something so delicious that I actually kvell from the wonderfulness of it.  In fact, I'm usually my harshest critic.  But Friday night's Passover season opener was a home run.  (The baseball references are for Ted and Charlie who are strapping in for another season of great disappointment courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates.)

I made Melissa Clark's Pot Roasted Lamb with Meyer Lemons.  This recipe was so easy it barely qualified as cooking.  A little marinating, a little searing, a little zesting and juicing, and an hour or so on the oven and I had a dish worthy of Elijah's visit.

I have to admit that I am generally unmoved by Passover fare.  Sure, the soup is nice and so are the macaroons.  But most everything in between is just that -- in between.  But this lamb dish may well distinguish itself as the MVP of Passover main courses.

For those of you who are not Pesach people, fear not.  This would be a lovely dish to serve for Easter (next year) or for any festive springtime dinner.

Now you can hit your own spring holiday home run.

Recipe:  Pot Roasted Lamb with Meyer Lemons
(Cook This Now, 2011, by Melissa Clark)

*  Note:  I made this the day before I wanted to serve it so that I could completely degrease the sauce.  Once the lamb is cooked, remove it from the sauce and refrigerate separately from the sauce.  Refrigerate the sauce overnight and then skim off the fat before reheating.


5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
1 (3 1/2 - 4- pound) boneless lamb shoulder, untied
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 Meyer lemons
1/3 cup live oil


Mince 2 cloves garlic.  Using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a heavy knife, pound or mash the minced garlic with a pinch of salt until it turns to a paste.

Season the lamb all over with the salt and pepper and rub the garlic paste into the meat.  Place the meat in a large bowl or pan, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.  Let the meat come to room temperature for 1 hour before cooking it.

When you're ready to cook the lamb, preheat the oven to 325.  Finely grate the zest of both lemons and reserve; juice the lemons.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven until almost smoking.  Sear the lamb in the oil until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Pour the lemon juice over the lamb and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the meat (about 2 cups).  Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.

Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook for 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, mince the remaining 3 cloves of garlic.  Turn the meat over in the pot and add the garlic.  Cover and cook 15 minutes longer.  Then stir in the reserved lemon zest and continue to cook, uncovered, 15 minutes longer.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving, with the pan juices spooned over the meat.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So Good I Had To Repeat It

I am approaching this Passover thing in the wrong direction.  The other day I passed along my favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe and today is coconut macaroon day.  I probably should have started with the chicken soup and gradually moved towards dessert, with a brief stop in brisket and kugel.  But, you know as well as I do that the only thing people ever remember is the dessert  anyway so why muddy the waters.

I love coconut macaroons not only at Passover but at any time of the year.  They're chewy and have a little crunch and are, in my estimation, the perfect little cookie.  I think macaroons are always best the day they're made and since they take no time to put together, there's really no excuse to eat them at less than the peak of perfection.

Another nice thing about macaroons is that they only call for a couple of ingredients, including egg whites. If you make yesterday's flourless chocolate cake you'll have plenty of egg whites laying around.  You'll be able to make lots of macaroons.  You can do some plain and some dipped in chocolate.  You'll be the star of your seder with your fancy macaroon spread.  In fact, these macaroons are so good you'll be the star of any party you want.    Imagine that.

Recipe:  Coconut Macaroons


14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Melted chocolate for dipping, optional


Preheat the oven to 325F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milt, and vanilla in a large bowl.  In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites and the salt on high speed until they make medium-firm peaks.  Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Using a small scoop, drop the batter onto a parchment lined baking pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool.

If desired, dip in melted chocolate.

Melt chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler over simmering water.  Dip bottoms of macaroons in the chocolate and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place in refrigerator to harden.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm All About Grains

All of a sudden, I'm intrigued by grains.  I've never been all that excited about them before, but suddenly grains seem, well, interesting.  Go figure.

Maybe it's that I've been cooking a lot from Melissa Clark's Cook This Now and she loves grains.  Or maybe it's because I'm on the hunt for new and different things to make.  Or maybe it's because all of a sudden I want to eat more healthfully.  Whatever the reason, I'll take it.

So, last night I made Melissa Clark's barley and carrots recipe.  I grew up believing that barley had one purpose, and one purpose only.  That purpose was to make an occasional appearance in mushroom barley soup.  Other than that, I have no recollection of ever eating barley simply for the sake of eating barley.

But times, they are a changing and I find myself actually being drawn to barley.  That is if a person can actually be drawn to barley.

This recipe originally calls for grated parmesan cheese.  I played around with this recipe because while the combination of barley, carrots, and scallions sounded really good, quite frankly the inclusion of parmesan just didn't seem right to me.  I also gave the whole thing a nice squirt of lemon juice before I served it just to brighten it up a bit.  I served it warm but I think it would also be delicious, maybe more so in fact, served at room temperature.  It might also be good with cold grilled chicken to create a chicken and barley salad.  In any case, this is quite tasty and so easy to make that there's really no excuse not to give it a whirl, even if you're not especially excited by barley.

I'm surprising myself these days.  Who knows.  Maybe millet will be next on the grain hit parade.

Stay tuned.

Recipe:  Barley with Carrots and Scallions
(Adapted from Melissa Clark, Cook This Now, 2011)


1 cup barley
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the barley, reduce the heat and simmer until almost tender, 50 to 60 minutes.  Stir in the carrots and cook until the carrots are tender and the grains are completely cooked, 5 to 10 minutes.

Drain well and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Serve warm.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Feeling Sunny

I smiled all day today.  Maybe it was because I was happy to be home after our week on the road.  Or more likely, it was because it was an absolutely beautiful day.  I know you know the kind of day I'm talking about: sunny and blue skies.  Just lovely and certainly a good reason to smile.

The daffodils are blooming and my tulips are starting to peek out all along my walkway.  Spring is springing all over and I have to say that, despite a somewhat milder than usual winter, I'm happy it's here.

Spring always inspires me in the kitchen.  There are so many yummy vegetables and herbs that I can't help but crack open those seasonal cookbooks and cook away.

Tonight for dinner I made Kate's favorite, sole meuniere.  It's perfect for this time of year.  To the side I decided to try this recipe for Quinoa with Black Pepper, Brown Butter, and Arugula from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark.  It was the perfect springtime accompaniment to the simple fish.

The weather is supposed to be nice all week and I have to admit, just thinking about it is making me feel great.

Recipe:  Quinoa with Black Pepper, Brown Butter, and Arugula
(Cook This Now by Melissa Clark, 2011)


1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces baby arugula (about 4 cups)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the quinoa and cook until the center is opaque and the husks begin to loosen from the grain, 10 to 12 minutes.  Drain well.

Melt the butter ina medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook until the foam subsides and the butter just begins to turn a nutty brown, about 2 minutes (watch it carefully to see that it doesn't burn).  Stir in the garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Add the arugula, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.  Cook, tossing until the greens are just wilted, about 1 minute.  Stir in the quinoa and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and heat through for 30 seconds; serve.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Cake to Die For

Note:  I've never done this before, but I'm reposting last year's Passover flourless chocolate cake recipe.  I think it's the best of the best.  Why mess with perfection.

I have to start by saying that I look at Passover, which begins at sundown on April 6th, as a low-carb holiday.  I'm not a matzo eater so I just do without the bread and pasta.  It's a meat and veggie time for me.  The only exception I make to the Adkins/South Beach approach to Passover  is for macaroons, which I love year round, and this really decadent chocolate cake.

This cake has a good story.  Back when I first got married and had absolutely no culinary skills, I decided to take a cooking class.  Never mind learning how to roast a chicken, I took a baking class taught by Donald Wressell.  Donald, who was then the pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, was just at the beginning of his career and is now a HUGE deal in the pastry world.  He's won zillions of awards.   Nothing like over reaching one's skill level.  There were all these professional pastry chefs in the class and me.  Needless to say, I was outclassed in every culinary way possible.

I recognized my situation very quickly, when on the first day of class everyone went around and gave a brief bio of themselves.  "Hi, I'm Joe Pastry Chef and I work at (name your fancy restaurant or hotel)."  I was in real trouble.  When it was my turn, I did what any self respecting Santa Monica newlywed would do.  I went to the bathroom, thus avoiding the "Hi, I'm Nadine and I have no idea what I'm doing here" speech.

The good news in all this was that it was a demonstration class so I never actually had to do anything besides watch and learn.  And I did.  I came out of that class armed with a bunch of fancy schmancy recipes that I have only mastered in more recent years.  Hey, you live and learn.

One of the recipes Donald demonstrated was this one for flourless chocolate cake.  It takes flourless chocolate cake to a whole new level.  Do not be put off by the 18 egg yolks.  Yes, you heard me right.  There are 18 egg yolks in this cake.   The cake is amazing and really spruces up the dessert offerings at a sedar.  I'm not saying the Passover brownies aren't tasty but this cake is better.  Really.  It's worth the calories and the cholesterol.  Have a small piece and you'll avoid the emergency room and an angioplasty.

And, if you're not a Passover person, make the cake anyway.  It's not actually a Passover cake.  I just adopted it as such because it's sans flour.  I'm probably breaking some other kosher rules with it anyway.

Recipe:  Flourless Chocolate Cake
(Donald Wressell)

Note:  You can use the whites of the eggs for your macaroons.  Tomorrow I'll pass along my favorite recipe for those.


1 pound 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
12 ounces unsalted butter
18 egg yolks
4 ounces granulated sugar
3 ounces cocoa powder


Preheat the oven to 325F.  Butter and flour a 10 inch round baking pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate with the butter.  Let cool slightly.

In a stand mixer, whip the egg yolks with the sugar until very light, about 5 minutes.  Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg sugar mixture.  Sift in the cocoa powder.  On medium speed, beat the mixture just to combine.  Mixture will appear fudgy and heavy.

Transfer to prepared pan and bake in a water bath for 25 minutes.

Sift more cocoa powder or confectioner's sugar on top of cake to serve, if desired.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

Vassar College
It really does look that beautiful in person
Clearly my road trip experiment was ill conceived.  I though I would sit down every night and bang out a little something about all the charming little restaurants we sampled in all the charming little college towns we visited.  Clearly this was not the case.

I'm not totally to blame, although I will take the lions share.  I was planning to use Ted's iPad to do my blog but what I didn't count on was Ted's almost constant use of said iPad.  I'm sure he would have gladly handed it over to me for a little while each evening, but to tell you the truth, I didn't ask.  I was just too tired from all the touring to feel all that inspired.

On the upside, the college visiting was great.  Kate loved all the schools we visited and could picture herself at each one.  You know how some kids have a hard time finding schools they like?  Well, that would not be Kate.  I think the real challenge will come later when she has to narrow down the list.

To be fair, I loved them all too.  I loved the schools that fell into the "safety school" category as much as those that would be a little more of a stretch.  This is all good news.  Better for Kate to have too many to choose from than too few.

But now we're home.  I'm doing the laundry.  I've been to the grocery store.  I'm getting back on track.  And this means cooking dinner tonight, which is just fine with me.  (I decided to avoid the scale this morning and give myself a day or two before I take inventory of just how much "unplanned eating" I did in all those charming little restaurants.)

I was feeling inspired so I decided to try this Melissa Clark recipe for lamb chili.  I have never made lamb chili before but this just appealed to me.  And it has beans, which at this point are starting to look like a health food.
New York Times, 2/15/12
I don't usually think of chili as a spring time food, but this was very light and felt just right for a Sunday night.  It's easy and very flavorful.

And I even got around to writing about it.

Recipe:  Lamb-and-White-Bean Chili
(Melissa Clark, New York Times, February 15, 2012)


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced (or 2 small green bell peppers)
1 small bunch cilantro, cleaned
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 small jalapeños, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chile powder, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 1/2 cups cooked white beans (homemade or canned)
Plain yogurt, preferably sheep’s milk, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving


1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and cook, breaking up with a fork, until well browned, 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Transfer meat to a paper towel-lined plate.

2. Add the onion and poblano peppers. Cook until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Finely chop 2 tablespoons of the cilantro stems and add to the pot. Stir in the garlic and jalapeño and cook 2 minutes. Add the chile powder, coriander and cumin, and cook 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until it begins to turn brown.

3. Return the lamb to the pot. Stir in 4 cups water, the beans and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes; add more water if the chili becomes too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Ladle into bowls, and top with a dollop of yogurt and a squeeze of lime. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.