Archive for November, 2008

So Pat’s mom asked us to bring a salad. She mentioned she liked baby spinach so I hurriedly grabbed a few cookbooks and looked for something good to bring. I know I could have just grabbed a bag of salad at the grocery store but I wanted to bring something nice. I also think salads get so much better with a little effort.

I found a wilted spinach salad in my The Food You Crave and I decided to make something similiar. Since I would make the salad at home and then bring it down to his parents I didn’t want to sautee the mushrooms and onions.



I simply cooked the bacon, and removed it paper towel lined plate when it was crispy. I drained the fat from the skillet and then deglazed the pan with apple cider and apple vinedar.

Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing

Adapted from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

5 oz baby spinach

3 slices bacon

1/2 red onion sliced thinly

8 oz coarsely chopped mushrooms

1 cup apple cider

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy and remove it to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Drain fat from skillet. Add cider and vinegar to skillet and deglaze pan. Reduce to half. Whisk in mustard.

Place spinach in a large bowel. Add mushrooms, onions, and bacon. Toss well. Serve with dressing.




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Dreamy ice cream

I love ice cream and because of this, I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer Ice Cream Maker Attachement. In the instruction booklet, there is a recommendation to keep the bowl in the freezer so you can make ice cream spontaneously.

It seems like one of those things that Martha Stewart would do but the rest of us humans would not. I actually do keep mine in the freezer and actually do make ice cream (or frozen yogurt) spontaneously. Some weeks I buy a tub of Greek Yogurt just to have the option of making the frozen yogurt from The Perfect Scoop. I first saw that recipe on 101cookbooks.com. I tried it and loved it! Frozen yogurt always seemed like a poor substitute for ice cream but not this version. It was its own great thing.

I asked for and got the book for my birthday. I haven’t made as many of the recipes as I should have, not because I don’t make ice cream often enough, but because when I try a recipe I fall in love with it and keep making it.

Dreamsicle Ice Cream

Orange Popsicle Ice Cream

One of those recipes is Orange Popsicle Ice Cream. It tastes like a dreamsicle, one of my favorite popsicles growing up. I bought orange liquer just for this.

Only used for this ice cream since this summer...

Only used for this ice cream since this summer...

Just to warn you if you try it, you will barely be able to make any other flavors and you may eat the whole quart in a weekend.

Orange Popsicle Ice Cream

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2/3 cup sugar

grated orange zest from 3 oranges

1 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (I juice mine over a strainer to get ride of pulp)

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup half’n’half

1 tbsp Grand Marnier (I changed it from 2 tsp)

Blend orange zest and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and blend. Chill for a few hours or overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

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Artichoke hearts…weird?

In addition to hopefully perfect mashed potatoes, I volunteered to bring artichoke heart casserole to Thanksgiving dinner. Generally, one of my aunts makes several different kinds of steamed vegetables. I decided I wanted to branch out and saw this recipe in Martha Stewart Living. It was actually part of the article I got the mashed potatoes from. I love family recipes, my family’s or someone else’s.

It sounded good but I wanted to try it out before the big day. I decided to make 2 individual servings in my creme brulee dishes. (I haven’t made creme brulee in forever and I should make it again.) I think Pat was a little skeptical at first but we both loved when we tried it. I think I’ll make this regularly and not save it just for national Holidays. Plus the tiny casseroles were adorable.

The only problem is that my family doesn’t like anything “weird.” Anything other than corn, green beans (in casserole form), broccoli, peas, cauliflower, and lima beans (and the lima beans are pushing it) is considered “weird.” So despite this dish being covered in cheese, it may not go over to well.

Artichoke Heart Casserole

Artichoke Heart Casserole

Indvidual Artichoke Casseroles

adapted from Martha Stewart Lvining

9 oz of thawed artichoke hearts

1 piece toasted bread, torn into pieces

~1 oz parmesean cheese in small cubes

1 tbsp Italian Seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Divide the artichoke hearts between 2 4 oz dishes.

Process the bread and cheese in the food processor. Remove into bowl and add Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Divide among the 2 dishes, pressing onto the artichoke hearts.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. Drizzle on top of the 2 dishes.

Cover and bake for 15 min. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

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When the word perfect comes to mind, who do you think of? I think of Martha Stewart. I love her recipes and liked her since I saw her Biography on A & E in college (before the whole jail thing). I admire anyone who has that kind of drive.

Since I am looking for perfect mashed potatoes, I of course checked out the Thanksgiving issue of Martha Stewart Living. The magazine actually has two mashed potato recipes. I decided to try Big Martha’s recipe. Second or third generation recipes are pretty good; if they weren’t people would have stopped making them.

I also liked the description for them, where Martha noted that her mother always used cream cheese (a favorite of mine) but would use cream or butter depending on what is in the fridge. I like a casual approach to recipes when possible.

I cut a couple potatoes in chunks, and boiled them gently until they were tender. I drained them, and added a few tablespoons of butter, a few tablespoons of whole milk, and 4 oz of cream cheese. I mashed the indredients together. It was fantastic. Pat and I kept eating them and saying how good they tasted.

I will be making these for Thanksgiving. I will buy buttermilk to give the Zuni mashed potatoes a better shot. The Barefoot Contessa and Ellie Kreiger, both on the Food Network, have great looking recipes but I am running out of time before Thanksgiving.

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I am practicing sides for Thanksgiving. I am trying a few different mashed potato recipes and they all have been good so far. But I am not looking for good. I am looking for amazing!! With at least 2 exclamation points.


These mashed potatoes are inspired from the Zuni Cafe cookbook. I recently visited San Francisco with my fiancee, Pat, where we ate at Zuni Cafe. I didn’t want to sound like a fawning foodie so I just told him it was a nice restaurant. It was amazing!!! (3 exclamation marks) Pat had gnocchi and tuna while I had pork tenderloin. Pat said it was the best meal of his life. It was definitely up there although sometimes when I eat dinner by myself I eat home made ice cream so I have trouble labeling savory food as the best meal ever.


I wanted to make something from the cookbook and decided to make the mashed potatoes when we got back to Chicago. They called for buttermilk which I didn’t have so I made a substitute by adding vinegar to milk. I cut 3 potatoes (leaving the skins since I don’t peel generally, I will for Thanksgiving) into pieces and boiled them until tender. I gently drained them, keeping them in the pan. I heated the pan briefly (maybe 30 seconds) to get rid of extra water. Then I mashed the potatoes with a potato masher and added a tablespoon of faux buttermilk, a few tablespoons of butter, and salt and pepper to taste.

Faux Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Faux Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

They were good but not quite double exclamation marks. Maybe if I had real buttermilk…I was expecting something extra special and they just tasted like something I would throw together on a week night.

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I am on a gnocchi kick lately. I’ve been making different recipes and trying them at restaurants. These are one of my favorites.

I love Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table but most of the recipes are a Sunday, cook all day kind of thing. I love to do that but sometimes I want transcendent gnocchi on Tues night. I took the gnocchi recipe and did a simple brown butter sauce and had dinner on the table pretty quickly instead of the more complicated recipe.

I used my home-made ricotta which is dry compared to store bought (even store bought drained well) so I used less flour and more olive oil than I did the last time. I cut the ricotta into the flour and added the olive oil and the beaten eggs and it formed pretty effortless.

My technique for forming the gnocchi is decidedly kindergarten-ish (I should tell people small children helped me). I just grab a bit of dough, roll it into a ball, then roll it on a pastry board into a long cylinder and cut in pieces. Not pretty.

I gently cooked them in barely boiling water while I browned a few tablespoons of butter. As the gnocchi rose to the surface, I picked them out and tossed them in the browned butter. I added rubbed sage and salt.

They were great. They are so fluffy and melt in your mouth at the same time.

Ricotta Gnocchi

Ricotta Gnocchi

Ricotta Gnocchi

adapted from Sunday Suppers Lucques

1 egg

3/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups ricotta

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Beat egg in a small bowl.

Add flour, ricotta, salt, and pepper to a large bowl. Cut ricotta into dry ingredients. Make a well and add beaten egg. Knead dough just until it comes together, using additional flour if necessary. Shape into a ball and cover with a towel.

Split ball into quarters. Roll smaller balls and form a thick rope. Cut rope into pieces.

Gently boil gnocchi in water. Remove from water when gnocchi come to the surface of the water. Toss with browned butter.

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Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

A few Sundays ago, I went on a happy home maker kick. I made lots of things including chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate frosting. The chocolate cupcakes are good but they won’t become my go to recipe. The frosting is a different matter. I never tasted white chocolate frosting before this but I love frosting that involves cream cheese.

I threw the butter and cream cheese into my stand mixer and beat them while I melted the chocolate in the microwave. I should use a double boiler but I find I don’t burn the chocolate if I use defrost on the microwave for a minute or 2 and there is one bowl for vs 2 pots to clean up. I poured the melted chocolate (which was warm but not hot) into the mixer while it was mixing. I then stirred the frosting to make sure everything was incorporated and homogenous.

My only complaint about my Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer, which I love, is that sometimes the bottom is not mixed well.

I badly frosted the cupcakes. I remember being able to frost cupcakes and cookies growing up…Maybe my standards were lower.

Amazing White Chocolate Icing

adapted from Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook (I accidentally used ½ the amount of cream cheese but it worked out so I posted that version)

For 18 cupcakes

12 oz white chocolate chips

8 oz of softened butter

2 tbsp lemon juice

8 oz softened cream cheese

Melt chocolate and let it come to room temperature. Beat butter for 5 minutes. Add cream cheese and beat for another 5 minutes. Make sure the cream cheese is incorporated into the butter and add the lemon juice. Continue to mix and add melted chocolate. Make sure the frosting is well mixed.

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