Monday, December 14, 2009

This Weekend We Made (and ate)...

Crispy Latkes with homemade applesauce...

Delicious (and decorative!) Christmas Cookies at Kate's...

Apple Cinnamon pancakes with walnuts...

And homemade pasta with bolognese sauce.

Needless to say, I had a salad for lunch.

Note: latke picture not our latkes, we were too hungry to photograph, as usual.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tyler Florence's Chicken

When I first became interested in cooking, I painstakingly relied on recipes - following them exactly and panicking if I did something wrong. I gradually stepped off that train and began to experiment, using various recipes as foundations for my own cooking. I wasn't whipping up anything particularly special on my own, but generally I could make a meal out of whatever I had in the refrigerator and it would taste all right. It felt like an accomplishment.

I like this confidence of being able to do things without recipes, but recently I've started to miss them. Often I'll look up a recipe that sounds delicious, but start substituting ingredients so quickly and ferociously that the dish turns out nothing like what I'd originally found compelling about the recipe. Also, there's the flavor issue. I've gotten the hang of a handful of different flavor combinations, which is great, but pretty quickly all of my food kind of tastes the same. I mean, it tastes good, but I'm not exactly challenging myself.

Alas, I'm trying to turn back to recipes, try out some techniques that I haven't tried before, break out some spices I haven't used before, and keep learning. I think this ebb and flow of recipe use and non recipe use is important. Doing things on your own gives you confidence and helps you nourish the things you've learned so that they become second nature. But challenging yourself with recipes brings in new ideas, flavors, and techniques that you otherwise might not step out of the box to try.

I didn't particularly challenge myself by deciding to make Tyler Florence's [quite simple] Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Shallots, but following his recipe reminded me why it is important to follow recipes. I looked through his cookbook and was drawn to this page, both because the picture looked delicious and because I already had mushrooms. Now, I could have closed the book, picked up some shallots, and done it my way, just using his basic flavor principle. But I kept the book open and followed along, and I'm glad I did, because there are about three steps I would have added in there had I been doing this on my own. I also would have used a lot more olive oil, which definitely would not have been necessary. So thank you, Tyler, for reminding me to follow along and trust you, rather than falling back on dishes I've made before.

Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Shallots
Adapted from Tyler Florence

1/2 chicken, in parts (I cut it up myself, you could also just use two bone-in breasts)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
3 shallots
Handful of mushrooms (I used button)
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat up a pan on medium-high and add oil once hot. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken pieces, then add them to the pan, skin side down. Do not touch them, just let them brown for about 5 minutes. They will sizzle loudly, if all is going well.
3. Slice mushrooms. Prep shallots by cutting in half vertically (you can then cut into quarters if using large ones).
4. Once chicken has browned, place it into a roasting dish (or, if you are using an oven proof pan, just flip it over in the pan and use that). Add your vegetables and the rosemary. I tore up one spring and spread it around, then just placed the others on top. Add a little pepper on top of the whole pan.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through and the vegetables are soft and roasted.
6. Remove everything from the pan, and make a quick sauce by heating it on the stovetop and adding the juice of one lemon and the white wine. Stir with a wooden spoon to get all of the caramelized bits off as you bring it to a boil and then to a simmer. Let it reduce until thick, or until you are so hungry you can't take it anymore. Let me tell you, this dish will make your apartment smell amazing!

By the way, the picture is from before the dish went into the oven. I was too hungry to snap photographs after.

Monday, December 07, 2009

One Year Ago

A lot of blogs that have been around for awhile do fun little "One Year Ago..", "Two Years Ago..." etc. posts, which I love to click on. Every once in awhile I want to do something similar on my blog, but I haven't been writing nearly long enough or often enough to make it a regular thing. It's rarely even possible that dates line up to do it! Today, however, is an exception.

One year ago today, I wrote this post from my apartment in Charlottesville, VA. Re-reading it, it's almost hard for me to imagine the place I was in at that point, as it is so different from where I am right now. I'd just finished up a semester of teaching second grade in Virginia and was headed home for the holidays to find a job and move into the city as soon as possible. While I accomplished the former fairly quickly, the latter didn't happen for another six months. But now, six months after moving into my apartment, I feel extremely settled - very different from the scatterbrained post I wrote a year ago.

Oh yes, and please do join me in laughing at my final "plenty of amusement ahead" comment, because maybe you'll notice that I didn't write another post until April. Sorry about that...

The Birthday Party

This weekend we hosted a party for Wright's birthday at his apartment. Wright, his roommates, and I were all very excited about the party, but with holiday parties, business trips, concerts and the like all week, it ended up being a little bit more last minute than we'd (okay, I'd) expected.

The email I sent out was purposefully casual, as I knew Wright would be quick to call me out on turning a small party into an intense affair. I even decided not to ask for RSVP's (yes, that took a lot of restraint, but when it's a boy's party at a boy's apartment, they just don't do RSVP's apparently). I said we'd have drinks and some snacks, but left it purposefully vague. It was to start at 9pm, which I figured would encourage people to go out to dinner beforehand and not expect a full meal, though the party would go late enough that people would end up wanting some snacks or dessert throughout. If I do say so myself, that assessment was right on the money.

Figuring out what to serve was a little bit difficult. Though I'd left myself the day to prepare, it wasn't until 3pm that I got motivated to even make a list, let alone go to the grocery store. (These holiday parties, I tell you, they are exhausting!) Wright came down with a bout of food poisoning that morning from a bad egg sandwich, so he was similarly couch-laden and unable to think about food for the party. After a fair amount of discussion, we decided on the following, for the following reasons:

1. Hummus and pita: I was initially nervous it would be too girly, but Wright loves hummus and I had all the ingredients at my apartment already. Done and done.

2. Brie drizzled with honey and cracked pepper: A full cheese plate, though delicious, would get expensive and extensive. This is an easy way to dress up an everyday cheese that everyone loves.

3. Cheese straws/twists: I decided I had to really make something, so this was it. It became more complicated than I was expecting, so I ended up only making about 25 and cutting them into bites to put in a bowl by the bar. They were received well, but I don't think I'll be making them again until I find a better recipe/ingredients.

4. Spiced nuts: these were unbelievably wonderful and easy to make - my major moment of pride! They were perfect for a party to put around in small bowls for people to nibble on. Instant classic, if I do say so myself, so be prepared to see them at every party I host from now on.

5. Chocolate chip cookies: though others had offered to bring dessert (and boy did they bring delicious desserts!), I made a quick batch to keep in the kitchen for late night snacking. Not a bad idea, but not completely necessary.

As you can see, the party didn't have any specific theme, there were no specialized decorations or drinks, just a small get together with somewhat typical snacks. I may have imagine something more extravagant or better planned, but to be honest, I'm really glad we held back and kept it casual. Despite lack of RSVPs, people did actually show up and we had an absolute blast - so much fun, in fact, that we forgot to document any of the fun, hence the complete lack of photos in this post... oh well!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Suzy Greenberg

I'm a big fan of concerts and always have been. Growing up outside of the city, we had access to amazing shows and if I do say so myself, I took great advantage of this. I've written more extensively about my appreciation for concerts before, but I felt I had to write about the outstanding Phish show I went to last night at MSG.

Phish was by far my favorite band throughout high school and into college, and I was lucky enough to get to see them a handful of times before their most recent breakup (which extended throughout my entire college career). There's something so wonderful about bands like Phish, where it's really all about seeing them live. Sure the albums are great, but most fans even prefer to listen to recordings of them live. And being at the shows? Indescribable. The energy is amazing, and last night was far from an exception.

One of my favorite things about Phish's recent reunion tour is watching my younger brother get involved. At 17, he was too young to have seen Phish before their breakup, so he's been so excited about these recent shows. Even though they've only been back together for 6 months, he's already pulled ahead of me in number of shows attended! Seeing his enthusiasm brings back my enthusiasm for the band when I was his age. Of course, I'm pretty sure he was beyond embarrassed when Wright and I coincidentally sat down four rows behind him and his friends at the show last night. He did a quick wave but we were otherwise ignored. Oh well!

Back to last night. It was SO good. I'm sure I'm speaking to a small portion of my readership, but I can't even describe how great the second half of the second set was - Harry Hood (I die!) into Wading in the Velvet Sea, then Suzy Greenberg (!!) into Run Like an Antelope (overwhelmingly amazing!). The crowd was going nuts! And for the encore, they did a fantastic rendition of the Beatles' Day in the Life and the Tweezer Reprise (yes, they played Tweezer earlier... Picture of Nectar, my personal favorite album, was very well represented last night).

Sorry, I had to do that. I have Suzy Greenberg in my head and I'm just so excited about how well they played last night! Makes me wish I were going tonight and tomorrow night as well (like Bowen...). But, there are other things to get excited about, because today is Wright's birthday, so I'll stop rambling and just say Happy Birthday, Wright!
(Yep, that's the Pineapple Upside Down cake!)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thank You Oatmeal Cookies

My friend Hallie just moved into my building, which has been wonderful in so many ways. While I was on vacation last week, she kindly offered to pick up my mail and newspapers and hold them for me. Going above and beyond the call of duty, she even retrieved her mother's Dining Section for me when my Wednesday paper disappeared!

To thank her, I decided to show off my newly acquired baking skills (not that they are fantastic or anything, but I do think I'm getting the hang of it). Since it was much chillier on my walk home than expected, I skipped the grocery store and decided to use what I had in the pantry to bake. I ended up with Ina Garten's Pecan Oatmean Raisin Cookies, from her book Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics.

Using Ina's own mantra, I decided to "turn up the volume" on her recipe by adding extra spices, almond extract, and replacing the raisins and pecans with chopped dates and walnuts. They turned out very tasty, if I do say so myself, and made the perfect thank you gift.

Walnut Date Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped dates

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Toast the walnuts by placing them in a dry pan over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until you can really smell their flavor. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
4. Slowly beat in the egg and extracts.
5. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and spices, then slowly beat into the butter mixture.
6. Stir in the oats, dates, and walnuts until just combined.
7. Scoop tablespoon sized balls of the dough onto an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack or wax paper.

Happy December!

A new gown was on display next to my gallery this morning!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Print Society

A few months back, I posted a link to Jen Beckman's 20x200 project, a fantastic site for finding great, affordable art. After making numerous purchases there, I started looking around for other sites, and quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of fantastic art that is out there and available. Why would you ever buy another poster when all of these amazing, unique prints are at the ready, and available for comparable prices?

As I said, I was overwhelmed. Until now. The Print Society has just launched as an Etsy for prints. It is an amazing site to get lost on, I can't believe how many prints are available! The editors seemed to have scoured all of those sites out there and gotten the best of the best, it's really a lot of fun to go through some of the works.

I've only surfed for about ten minutes and have already picked out a bunch of things. They also have some neat features - for example, you can get an account and follow certain artists to see when they put up new work. I have immediately jumped on their mailing list and am trying to resist purchasing at least until I get my Christmas shopping done... of course, plenty of these would make great Christmas gifts anyway...

Returning Home

Isn't there something that is so uniform about the evening after you get back from a vacation? I'm always tired, no matter how relaxing the vacation was. My stomach feels a little sensitive from the flight or car trip (yes, I obviously get motion sickness). My arms are weary from dragging my bag around and lifting it in and out of taxis or up and down subway stairs. And when I walk into my apartment, it is eerily still. I put down my things, often just in a pile on the floor, and sit down, letting all of the wonderful memories from the trip overcome the bizarre feeling of returning home. Last night we ordered pizza and ate on the couch, spacing out and watching the end of The Santa Claus on TBS. It seemed fitting as we head into December.

I usually don't unpack right away. That's not a job for a Sunday night, it's part of the Monday routine, wherein you run around like crazy trying to restock your refrigerator, open your mail, do your laundry, and get ready for the week, all the while catching up on your TiVO from the vacation. (Is this all sounding familiar to anyone?)

The Sunday routine is quiet. The Monday routine is not. Especially when you get to work on Monday to find out that your Entourage crashed and all of your email has been deleted. Welcome back to the real world, Calvine!

Wright's birthday is this week, so along with the holiday parties (already??) it seems extremely hectic. Not that hectic really works, since I'm so excited for this week's events. Tomorrow night I'm cooking Wright dinner for his birthday. Believe it or not, he requested Pineapple Upside Down Cake. That is the last thing on earth I expected to hear when I asked him if he had any special requests. Seriously? Pineapple? In December? Anyway, that's what I'll be doing tomorrow night, so wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, is anyone else wondering where in the world November went? Last I checked it was Halloween but all of a sudden it's Thanksgiving. And I've posted a mere six times this month, pathetic! What has been keeping me so busy? I have no idea. Really.

But anyway, tomorrow I disembark on a family- and sun-filled Thanksgiving trip. It should be wonderful and relaxing, exactly what I need as we head into the holiday season. Is it embarrassing that I'm already stressing out about my schedule the first week of December? Well, whether it is or isn't, it is definitely a sign that I need to slow down. A beach is necessary.

I do wish I were cooking a big Thanksgiving meal on Thursday. I've been reading so many fun articles about preparations and recipes and planning, jealousy has been creeping in. But I know I'll have many years of Thanksgiving cooking ahead (plus a Christmas dinner in just a few weeks - eek!). For all of you who are cooking for Thanksgiving, or sous-chef-ing for Thanksgiving, I wish you luck!

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving. I promise to hit the blog running when I return next week!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Orange Honey Glazed Drumsticks

After a week of being thankful that I'd started stocking up on frozen foods (time to defrost the eggplant parmesan!), I was really excited to cook dinner on Sunday night. I had some chicken drumsticks and decided to use my growing pantry to the full extent and make a nice glaze to roast the drumsticks in. A lot of glazes I found in my cookbooks and on websites were loaded with soy sauce, but I wanted something a little more sweet, so I just gambled with what I had in my cabinet. I used Rachel Ray's BBQ drumsticks recipe as a basis for the cooking method/timing and if I do say so myself, they actually turned out to be quite tasty!

As long as you have the above ingredients (plus cointreau, I forgot to put the bottle in the picture), this is really easy to make. I think the key lesson I learned, though, is that making flavorful sauces and glazes doesn't have to be some exact science, nor does it have to cost you a ton as you buy full bottles of ingredients and only use a couple of shakes. Just stick with what you have.

Orange Honey Glazed Drumsticks
Adapted from Rachel Ray, sort of.

1 tablespoon of olive oil (or less)
Six drumsticks, leave the skin on
4 tablespoons cointreau
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of one orange
A few shakes of Worcestershire
A few shakes of hot sauce
Salt/pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a sauté pan large enough to fit all of the drumsticks on the stove top. Once hot, add olive oil and let heat on medium.
2. Brown your drumsticks in the olive oil. This is a loud process. Heat each side for 3-4 minutes, or until crispy. Set drumsticks into small, oven-proof dish (I used a 9x9) and cover with foil to keep warm.
3. Pour cointreau into pan to deglaze and let boil/simmer until reduced by half. Use a whisk while reducing to scrape the bottom of the pan and get all of the flavor infused.
4. Add remaining ingredients to the pan, incorporating with the whisk as you add each one. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, until it reaches a glaze consistency. Taste the sauce to see if it is the right amount of orange/sweet/hot for you. Adjust if necessary.
5. Pour the glaze (all of it) over the drumsticks, turning them to make sure they are covered. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, turning the chicken once or twice.
6. Place drumsticks on plates or platter, and spoon some excess glaze over them if desired.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pete and Dexter

One of my new favorite writers is Pete Wells, in particular his series "Cooking with Dexter" that appears in the New York Times Magazine every few weeks. The articles describe, lightheartedly and touchingly, his adventures in cooking with his five year old son, Dexter. Wells does a fantastic job at pinpointing the wonderful things about children in the kitchen, as well as children in general - this week he discussed Dexter's affinity for the two movies The Last Waltz and Ratatouille, each of which he has watched upwards of 100 times. I don't know about you, but I definitely remember latching onto certain movies - often completely random ones - and watching them over and over and over again. And let's be honest, it is pretty cool that Dexter likes The Band!

Anyway, I am always thrilled when the magazine has another one of the series, so I wanted to be sure and point them out. The writing is good and the message is better: cooking with others is fun and important. And children can be pretty funny (see the "Punch Line" article where Dexter learns to bartend)!

For the articles, click here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Taste of Maine

Tucked away in a tiny spot on East 7th street, a new haven for lovers of Maine has arrived. Luke's Lobster is small and simple: it serves fresh lobster, shrimp and crab rolls, straight from Maine. And that's it. There are a few stools and you can get a root beer and a pickle if you'd like, but otherwise the place is really about the lobster, and by that I mean fresh lobster from Maine.

Luke grew up near Portland, ME, and his father owns a seafood business up there. This helped him get the right connections to make his restaurant happen - the shellfish are steamed right away after being unloaded from the dock, and then transported safely to New York and right into the lobster rolls that they serve up at Luke's. A mini roll costs $8 and a big guy $14 - extremely reasonable for fresh Maine lobster rolls in the city.

The rolls stay away from too much mayo or seasoning, and are top-loaded into a buttered and toasted bun. I had my first bite of Luke's Lobster at the New Amsterdam Market a few weeks ago, where we were able to meet the famed Luke. I practically ran to the East Village for more. And let me tell you, do not let the approaching winter deter your lobster craving - the taste of summers in Maine was the perfect antidote to last night's chilly New York air.

For more information, visit Luke's Lobster is located on East 7th Street between 1st avenue and Avenue A.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kandinsky at the Guggenheim

I am so sorry that I have been missing for the past week! A ton of work at the gallery collided with a small fever and all of a sudden I realized that it had been forever since I've posted. Feels like it's been forever since I've had a minute to sit down and relax, as well. I'm looking forward to adjusting back into my normal routine of not working 7 days a week plus evenings, and doing things like cooking, organizing, reading... ah even laundry sounds appealing at this point!

Anyway, I'm dying to tell you about the Kandinsky exhibit at the Guggenheim. In college, Kandinsky was one of my favorite artists, and going to this show reminded me why he still is. The colors, movement, passion, creativity... ah! It is all just so wonderful!

The show is extensive, filling the entire rotunda with his paintings plus a large side gallery in the Tower with works on paper. The show works its way up the rotunda chronologically, which works perfectly for an artist like Kandinsky. It is fascinating to see how his art develops, becoming looser, then tighter, then non-objective, then more objective, colorful, then dark, etc. Plus all of this is going on through two world wars, and the affects they have on his art as he moves around Europe really pulls everything together for the viewer.

I saw the show for a second time with an old friend of Wright's, who pointed out that the truly amazing thing about Kandinsky's work is his ability to bring together so many art forms into an image. The influence of music, history, painting, theater, dance and architecture can all be seen in his paintings. Creativity is projecting from each canvas in such a beautiful way - and in the Guggenheim's curving galleries it was just the perfect storm.

This is truly one of the best shows I've seen in the past few years, for many reasons, and I'd highly recommend you hightail it to the Gugg before it closes in January.

For more information, see All images courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. N.B. The Guggenheim is closed on Thursday.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Cold Season

I woke up on Sunday with a bit of a cold, which seemed very appropriate given that it was November 1st. There was a chill in the air, and after sniffling my way up and down the east side of Manhattan, I buckled down Sunday afternoon to make some chicken noodle soup and lay low. I went a little bit overboard with the soup.

Yep, pretty much made enough soup to last for the next four winters. And this is after I had my bowl that afternoon! I put one big guy and the little guy in the fridge to last me through the week, and the others went right into the freezer. I can only hope they'll be pulled out because I'm being lazy at some point, not because I'm sick again!

I don't know about you, but I like my chicken noodle soup crammed with lots of stuff. Plenty of roasted chicken breast and pasta. I don't like to use actual noodles, because that makes it difficult to eat with a spoon. Instead, I use small pasta, this time I had some mini bowties lying around.

Of course, I also cram veggies in there - carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and even some leftover potato I had lying around. All adds to flavor as well as health benefits!

I can't say I was feeling that much better after making all of this soup, but I do know that it was the perfect lunch today - what a soothing meal to break up an otherwise hectic and sniffly day at the office!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Guest Post: Halloween Soup

Editor's Note: While I was handing out cider and donuts at a children's Halloween parade on Saturday, Wright took over the kitchen and made this Halloween Soup. He even decided to take pictures during the process and write a guest post about it...I guess sometimes boyfriends get jealous of their girlfriends' blogs! -- Calvine

A Halloween inspired soup with seasonal ingredients and extra garlic (it is vampire season after all)

5 large “fatty” carrots – cut into fries
1 celeriac root – cut into fries
1 potato – diced
2 yellow onions – diced
1 bulb of garlic – preferably from keith’s farm
2 cups fresh chicken stock
Crème fraiche – a few dollops for each bowl
1 bunch of lovage (herb)
Olive oil, salt and pepper, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper
Splash of Armagnac (optional)

Roasting tray
Emulsion blender

French baguette – toasted

Start by procuring your ingredients from the Union Square greenmarket. The “fatty” carrots, celeriac root, lovage and garlic are all from Keith’s farm, which has the best garlic on the planet. For a nice touch, use fresh chicken stock versus store bought. Hopefully you have a girlfriend who prepares fresh chicken stock on a regular basis.

Begin making the soup by decapitating (continuing with the Halloween theme) the carrots. No need to peel the carrots, just make sure you wash off all the dirt. Next, you need to clean the celeriac.
Use a knife to cut off all the unruly roots, and then grab your peeler to shave it down to a smooth orb. Here is the clean-cut version.

Cut both the carrots and celeriac into fries, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put onto a roasting tray. Throw this in the oven for about 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Roasting the veggies will help caramelize the outside and bring a really deep flavor to the soup.

While you’re waiting, you can dice your onions, crush your garlic and begin to heat up some olive oil in the pot. Sweat your onions and garlic for about 5-7 minutes on medium. Make sure not to burn either, or you may as well start over. While they are sweating, peel and dice your potato. The potato won’t add too much flavor, but will help thicken the soup.

When the carrots and celeriac are done, you can let them rest, or add them to the pot if you are ready.

Once you have the onion and garlic sweating (slightly translucent), add the potato, carrots, and celeriac. Let them sauté for about 5-10 minutes before adding the chicken stock. After adding the chicken stock, you want to bring the pot to a simmer (less than a boil, but still bubbling) and let it meld for about 20 minutes. This is when you should add the lovage (herb) and spices – cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper. There’s no correct amount. It all depends on what you like.

Also splash in some Armagnac. This is an apple liquor, but the biggest benefit is having alcohol break up some of the flavors in the caramelized carrots and celeriac.

In the meantime, toast your baguette rounds. These are clutch for a good soup and the only way I feel full from basically a liquid meal.

When your soup is ready, grab your emulsion blender and start blending. By the time it’s nice and smooth it’s ready to be served. Spoon into a bowl, add a couple of dollops of crème fraishe and enjoy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Candy Corn

Happy Halloween Eve! If you're like me, you've been gnawing on candy corn for the past few weeks. There's a bowl in the office that I just can't stop sneaking into, I keep some in my foyer for visitors (ha, or me), and people just keep handing the stuff out!

Do I like candy corn? That's a good question. The answer would probably be no. Do I eat it anyway? Yes. Definitely, yes. Do I know what it is? No, definitely not. Candy corn is so mysterious. Is there anything real in that little colored triangle??

Maybe not in the ones we buy at CVS, but click here to learn how to make your own!

(Nope, didn't try it. Secretly excited to go on an 11 month candy corn diet.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Do you ever get home from work excited to make a nice dinner, but totally starving? And it'll be an hour before your dinner is ready? Plus there are nine other things you have to do before you can even start on dinner? And so you end up lurching for that leftover blondie or giving up on making dinner all together or snacking so heavily that by the time dinner is actually ready, you're not even hungry any more?

This is a chronic problem for me. I get home from work and am always, always hungry. It's an issue because I really love to take the time to cook dinner, and hate to spoil it because I'm hungry an hour too early.

Alas, I've been experimenting with snacks that are satisfying, easy to make/have around, and won't intrude on my dinners. My favorite so far is hummus. I whipped up a big batch earlier this week and have loved having it around. It's surprisingly easy to make, and definitely has a nice fresh taste when made at home. I love getting home from work, pulling out the tub of it and some pita chips, and snacking away as I organize myself and get ready to cook dinner.

Fresh Homemade Hummus
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 14 oz. can of chickpeas
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika*
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/3 cup water
juice of one lemon
5 tablespoons tahini (usually found in the peanut butter section of your grocery)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.
2. In a food processor, mix the chickpeas and spices until almost entirely broken down/smooth. This will take a few minutes and sum pushing down of the sides with a spatula.
3. Combine lemon juice and water. While the processor is running, drizzle in lemon water.
4. Whisk together tahini and olive oil. While the processor is running, drizzle in tahini/oil mixture.
5. Pulse a few times until hummus is at desired consistency, and taste for seasoning. I added an extra squeeze of lemon and some more salt, but that can all be done to taste.

*N.B. The recipe called for cumin, a standard in hummus, but not having any, I substituted paprika and nutmeg. Worked out just fine!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes

What is the difference between a cupcake and a muffin? There's probably some technical divider having to do with the process of making them or the moisture or the crumb. In the case of these pumpkin cupcakes, however, I've decided that the only difference is the frosting. So this morning, I had a lovely pumpkin muffin for breakfast.

With Halloween approaching, it is clearly time to dust off the pumpkin recipes. If you read any food blogs, you've no doubt been subjected to many, many mouthwatering pictures of pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin cake, pumpkin whoopie pies, you name it! And hey, no complaints here, I love pumpkins. I jumped on the bandwagon this weekend and made these delicious pumpkin muffins (cupcakes), straight from a real pumpkin.

This was my first time making my own pumpkin puree. Most recipes that use pumpkins call for pumpkin puree, which can either be purchased in a can or made at home with a pumpkin. I thought I'd try the latter, and I am so glad I did! It was really easy and well worth it - I have plenty of puree left over to use in future recipes. The Pioneer Woman (whose cookbook comes out today!) has a great guide to making your own puree, if you're interested. High recommendation.

Don't forget to save the seeds. I toasted them in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and paprika. Yum! Yes, this pumpkin recipe is like a gift that keeps on giving. And we haven't even gotten to the cupcakes yet!

Okay, on to the cupcakes (muffins). I had a little bit of trouble finding a recipe. I was using my mom's kitchen, so I had a lot of ingredients on hand, but I was surprised to find myself short for many of the recipes. Self-rising flour? Nope, sorry, Martha. Buttermilk? Nope, sorry Deb. Guess old-fashioned pumpkin cupcakes (muffins) aren't that common?!

Well, I was determined to come up with something. I finally found a recipe to work with and was very happy with the results. They were delicious frosted as cupcakes, and also un-frosted as muffins. Wright decided to make his even more delicious with a little extra decorating...

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
Adapted from Thoroughly Modern Housewife, on
Makes 18-20 cupcakes

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line muffin pan with paper cups.
2. Sift together flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.
3. Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Stir in the milk and pumpkin puree. Mine didn't look very pretty; it's okay.
4. Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon or spatula until just incorporated.
5. Pour batter into muffin cups and bake about 25 minutes.

For the frosting, I followed the recipe's advice and beat 8 oz. of cream cheese with 1/3 stick of butter, then slowly added 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. First of all, this is WAY too much frosting. Unless you are piping it on Magnolia's style, half that recipe. Also, only frost what you will eat at that time, because, well, you might want to try and pull these off as muffins.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Colors are changing...

As I mentioned earlier, we were up in the suburbs this weekend. Though I hadn't noticed any trees changing colors in the city yet (possibly because, well, trees are hard to come by), Autumn was in full swing just thirty minutes north! It was a beautiful weekend, right at that moment where the leaves are brightly colored but haven't started to fall off. Wishing this would last just a few more weeks, but I know it'll start getting cold soon!

Game Night Dinner

Wright and I were out in Rye this weekend. With a rainy day and a large kitchen on our hands, we decided to make a special Game Night dinner on Saturday, to eat while watching the Yankees game that evening. Ruling out hotdogs, we ended up deciding to make cheese steak sandwiches. (Not Philly cheese steak, as we were not going to be celebrating the team that the Yankees would potentially play in the World Series were they to win on Saturday.)

We learned from the meat man at the grocery that rib eye was the proper steak to use in sandwiches, so we asked him to kindly cut us some thin pieces. To further thin the steak, Wright pounded it before it was cooked.

We used a large yellow onion and sautéed it with peppers from the garden. Instead of the "classic" cheese whiz (apparently this is the classic? News to me!), we decided to just get some sliced provolone to top them.

Being a fan of Maine lobster rolls, I suggested we do a "top-loader" sandwich, rather than "side-loader," which ended up making these a lot easier to eat! We baked sweet potato fries to go along side and picked up some Oktoberfest-ish beer to drink.

Of course, after all of this excitement, the game was postponed until Sunday night, and Game Night quickly became No Game Night! What a disappointment! Still, the steak sandwiches were delicious, and the best part of all, the Yankees ended up with a victory last night.

The only problem is, we now have more game nights coming up with the World Series this week! And, let's be honest, one does not skimp on game night meals during the World Series. Big week ahead!!