July 31, 2012

Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins

Photo from SeriousEats.com

Please excuse my extreme laziness and enjoy the pretty photo that I did not take!

I had been craving a chocolate muffin for whatever reason, so instead of buying one, I decided to make a batch to satisfy my craving and provide a treat for my co-workers. 

I found this recipe on Serious Eats and am mostly happy with the results. The top of the muffin has more flavor and a better texture than the bottom, which is a little dry. I left them in the oven for 17 minutes, as the recipe suggests, but should have pulled them at 15 or 16 minutes. I am still getting used to my new oven which holds heat like a champ. I didn't fill my muffin tins as full as the recipe's author did, so my yield was 18 muffins instead of 12. 

June 19, 2012

Penne with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Arugula

Yet another reason to lament the folding of Gourmet magazine (for other reasons see here, here and here).

This particular recipe is from the May 2009 issue in the section on quick weeknight dinners. And as promised, it came together quickly, was satisfying and surprisingly delicious. I followed the recipe as written, except I never make a pound of pasta when a recipe calls for it; a pound can easily feed six people and that is just too many leftovers for MM and me. I used about 1/2 to 2/3 of a pound of penne and it still made four servings.

One last thing, I know I have mentioned this before, but I am always pleasantly surprised/reminded how perfectly De Cecco pasta cooks. Its al dente is textbook tender. And a bonus for leftovers, it reheats well too. It doesn't fall apart like some other brands.

June 18, 2012

Lemon Cake

Two pounds of lemons

Address the elephant in the (virtual) room or not? I suppose I will.

Quite honestly, moving into a new home that happened to be an older home with lots of needs and quirks has the amazing ability to consume extra time and energy. Even after our new, gorgeous, highly functional kitchen was finished (I KNOW, you need to see pictures!), I didn't feel like cooking, or when I did, I made basic, boring, run of the mill dishes that didn't need to be shared. So I am sorry to have been absent for so long and if anyone is still reading, I have a couple seriously delicious recipes to share this week.

Let's start with dessert! MM's sister and brother-in-law came over this weekend to see our new house and while I couldn't bring myself to actually make lunch, I did make a delectable dessert. Although I love lemons, lemonade, lemon squares, lemon curd, etc., a lemon cake isn't the first thing I would be drawn to when deciding on a dessert. However, I had some inside knowledge that MM's brother-in-law loves lemon cake, so I thought I would give it a try.

I settled on Ina Garten's recipe from FoodNetwork.com, mainly because it has so many rave reviews. Well, they are for good reason. This cake was perfect: moist, delicate crumb, a slight tartness, but just the right amount of sweetness. As you can see, I made it in a bundt pan because I thought it would be prettier. I was impressed that it came out of the pan so perfectly, but I obsessively greased and floured every nook and cranny. I pulled the cake at exactly 45 minutes and it was perfect (in fact, it probably could have come out a couple minutes earlier). If you are looking for something a little different, or happen to have a surplus of lemons lying around, give this recipe a try!

May 8, 2012

Sausage, Mozzarella and Broccolini Baked Pasta

Photo from MarthaStewart.com

I have been so lazy about taking photos lately that we will just have to enjoy this very well composed photo from Martha Stewart. 

After taking over a month off from cooking, it has been a little difficult to get back into the swing of things. It doesn't help that we are still doing work in the kitchen, so utensils and produce are scattered around the house. 

I love baked pastas because they are comforting and usually reheat well for lunch the next day. This recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine was great. The original recipe calls for broccoli rabe, but neither MM nor I like its bitter flavor. I substituted broccolini because it is the same shape and it worked perfectly. I baked the pasta in two 8-inch ceramic bakers for about 20 minutes.

May 3, 2012

Salted Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

The photographer was a slacker and took this photo with her Blackberry, which accounts for its terrible condition.

Our new range is installed and I have been able to start cooking and baking again! Marshal Mike's first request was salted oatmeal cookies. While I was making the batter, a bag of peanut butter chips serendipitous fell out of the cupboard and I thought, adding peanut butter chips to salted oatmeal cookies sounds delicious! Luckily, I was right.

The first thing I learned about baking with our new range is that there is going to be a learning curve. The ovens get to temperature quickly and hold the temperature. I practically burned the first sheet of these cookies because the recipe says 15 minutes, and my old oven used to take 16, 17, 18 minutes depending on its attitude that day, and these were easily done in 13 or 14 minutes. A-maz-ing.

Photos of our new kitchen will be coming soon!

April 29, 2012

Peony Update

My peonies are behaving the same way they did last year: strong start, but then their growth levels off and only one plant produces a viable bud. Now that we have a house with a yard, I plan to transfer them from their large deck pots to the ground where they will hopefully thrive!

(Last year's posts are here, here, here, here and here.)

Here are the cuties on March 29:

And here they are now:

Let's hope the single bud blooms!

April 13, 2012

Kitchen Teaser

After weeks of take out, frozen meals and the occasional gifts from generous friends, we have a start date for the installation of our new kitchen cabinets: April 16! This means that one week from today we will have new cabinets, a new counter top and be in the home stretch of our kitchen remodel. I don't want to post the before pictures until I have the after as well, so here is a little "kitchen-in-progress" teaser:

During the process of measuring for our new floor, we had the pleasure of discovering that one or two layers of the kitchen floor was asbestos tile (there were four layers of flooring on top of the concrete slab). This is not uncommon in a house built in 1960 in Northern Virginia and since we want to put in new flooring, the asbestos had to go.  An abatement company came in yesterday to pull it all up and dispose of it properly (i.e. dig a hole and bury it).

For your viewing pleasure, here are pictures of our kitchen as it looks now:

If you look closely, you can see the gas hook up to the right of that cabinet. My gorgeous new double oven range is looking forward to moving into its new home!

A sad empty square that will soon be a beautiful kitchen!

March 21, 2012


My dearest readers, I know I have been delinquent with my postings this month, but truthfully, I haven't been cooking very much. One of the reasons is that MM and I became first-time homeowners earlier this month! As if having a new home (and all the little surprises that come along with it) and packing up our current rental wasn't enough, we decided to be totally crazy and remodel the kitchen! I am excited to share the before and after photos with you and will do so as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I suggest trying this great Roasted Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad from GOOP (scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page).  It is truly phenomenal: hearty, earthy, satisfying, and delicious. I omitted the red chili flakes, the thyme, and the parsley because I didn't have any and I only used 1 cup of lentils and 2 cups of vegetable broth (instead of water). The best part is that this dish reheats beautifully.

March 9, 2012

Curried Ground Turkey with Potatoes

This is my second attempt at this recipe from Simply Recipes. The first time around I was underwhelmed, but this time it was much better.

I think part of the reason it had more flavor is that I bought 85% lean turkey instead of whatever I bought last time, which I am sure was 95% or 99%. I also consciously seasoned the ingredients at each stage instead of just at the end. I used a 15oz can of diced tomatoes with their juice instead of fresh tomatoes and they worked great. I also added a 15oz can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, per my own suggestion last time, and honestly, they didn't add much and I found myself eating around them.

Ultimately, this is a filling, satisfying dinner that tastes even better the next day.

February 29, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower and Barley Salad

As I mentioned yesterday, I am trying to use up pantry, fridge and freezer items and a bag of pearled barley was next up to the plate. I had purchased a head of cauliflower (on sale!) and knew I had to use it before Marshal Mike got home from his Army-mandated trip to Georgia because he insists that he doesn't like cauliflower. (I still try to make him eat it every now and then.)

I found this gem of a recipe on Food52. I didn't make the basil croutons because I didn't have any basil on hand, so I just toasted some breadcrumbs from the freezer. Also, I found my barley didn't take 45 minutes to get tender - more like 30-35 minutes and my cauliflower took 25-30 minutes to get brown and tender. I also used parsley instead of celery leaves and forgot the pine nuts. This dish keeps well and tasted even better two days later for lunch.

February 28, 2012

Creamy Orecchiette with Bacon and Peas

This dish was inspired by the traditional Italian pasta dish Farfalle with Prosciutto and Peas, which has always been one of my favorites. I was consciously trying to use up items in the fridge, freezer and pantry, and was pleasantly surprised by the results. I love recipes that are adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand, but that still retain elements of the original that made it great in the first place. This dish is a perfect marriage of salty crisp bacon, chewy pasta, and delightful green peas that pop when you bite into them, all held together in a creamy sauce.

Creamy Orecchiette with Bacon and Peas
Serves 3

6 slices center cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb orecchiette
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz mascarpone
4 oz heavy cream
handful flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp; transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

3. Return the skillet with bacon grease to medium heat. Cook the onions until soft and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas; heat for 1 minute and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mascarpone and heavy cream and heat until the mascarpone melts. Add the pasta. (I felt like the sauce was a little thick at this point, so I added a little of the pasta water.)

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon and parsley. Taste for seasoning and serve.

February 23, 2012

Johnny Marzetti

I find non-descriptive recipe titles to be unhelpful at best. Take this recipe, for example. It is called "Johnny Marzetti" and when I told MM that is what we are having for dinner, he stared at me with a blank expression. So I said we are having a cheesy beef and noodle casserole, and he said, that sounds great! Now, I am sure if either of us were from Ohio or Columbus, specifically, we would have known immediately what this dish was. Apparently there was an old (now closed) restaurant in Columbus, Ohio called Marzetti's and Johnny was the owner's brother and this dish was named after him. I happened to find the recipe in the December 2011 issue of Saveur.

Furthermore, while doing some internet research on this dish, I found that people in New England refer to this dish as chop suey and thinking back to the chop suey my mom used to make, this is similar.

Overall, this dish was delicious and reheats beautifully. I followed the recipe as written, but you certainly don't need as much olive oil as the recipe suggests, especially if you are using a non-stick pan. I used cremini mushrooms instead of white button mushrooms, because something about white button mushrooms really eeks me out. I also put the pan under the broiler for the last couple minutes so the top would brown. Lastly, this recipe serves way more than 6 people - at least 8.

February 21, 2012

Farro with Artichokes and Herb Salad

I really love farro and am always happy when I stumble upon a recipe using it. This recipe for Farro with Artichokes and Herb Salad is from the February 2011 issue of Food and Wine. It is similar to the Farro Salad with Winter Fruit, Pistachios and Ginger (also from Food and Wine) that I made last month. The best thing about this recipe is that everything is cooked in the same pot.

I followed the recipe as written, except I couldn't find any celery root, so I used two small kohlrabi in its place; I thought one carrot was paltry, so I used three; and I couldn't find Grana Padano cheese, so I used Parmigiano-Reggiano. The bright acidity of the white wine vinegar and the freshness of herb salad complement the farro and vegetables perfectly; without it, the dish would be one-note and disappointing. The farro and vegetables easily made five servings, but the herb salad barely made three servings, so I would recommend doubling the herb salad. I boxed the farro and the herb salad separately for leftovers and both held up well after a night in the fridge.

February 16, 2012


I made a couple good repeat dishes this week and I thought I would remind you about them in case you are searching for something to make for dinner!

Forbidden Rice with Roasted Vegetables: This time around I used 2 medium sweet potatoes, 2 large parsnips and 1 carrot, which was about 5 cups of vegetables. There didn't seem to be quite enough dressing for that amount of vegetables, so it was a little drier than last time.

Farfalle with Kale and Lentils: This recipe never disappoints. I followed my own advice and added diced carrots to the lentils and simmered both in broth instead of water (I used the leftover beef broth from the Guinness Braised Beef, but vegetable or chicken broth would work just as well).

Cashew Chicken: I was convinced that I had written about this dish before, so I didn't take a picture, but alas, I haven't. It is a pity because it really is delicious. I found the recipe on the Bitten Word blog, but it is from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. This dish comes together really quickly; the most time consuming part is marinating the chicken for 30 minutes. I served the chicken with brown rice and it doesn't mention this in the recipe, but after toasting the cashews, I roughly chopped them.


February 14, 2012

Guinness Braised Beef with Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes

We had a brief window of winter weather in DC this past weekend - it was cold, windy, dry and generally inhospitable. I decided a hearty beef stew (of sorts) was in order.

I found this recipe for Guinness Braised Beef on Chow. You could certainly treat this like a stew, but as you can see, I made a massive amount of roasted broccoli and potatoes to go with it, so I wanted to put it all on the same plate. I followed the recipe as written and we generally liked the result. I couldn't taste the bacon at all and feel like it could easily be omitted. This does taste even better the next day and would recommend having some crusty bread on hand to sop up the yummy broth.

February 13, 2012

Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Feta

Our second quinoa dish was an even bigger success than the first one! I found this recipe on the popular food blog, Amateur Gourmet, and it is rightly named "The Quinoa Converter." You can't not like quinoa after trying this recipe. Similar to the rice dish I made two weeks ago, this is basically a salad with vegetables. My variation on the Amateur Gourmet's recipe is below:

Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Feta
Adapted from the Amateur Gourmet
Serves 3

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted and then chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 handful parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes in a tablespoon or two of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned and soft. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil; salt generously. Add the quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey and vinegar. Continue whisking and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Pour half of the dressing over the still warm quinoa and mix with a rubber spatula. Add the sweet potatoes, walnuts, feta and herbs. Stir and add more dressing to taste. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. When packaging up my leftovers, I added a bit more dressing to the tupperware, so it wouldn't dry out and I still had about 1/2 cup dressing left over.

February 10, 2012

Risotto with Roasted Parsnips and Kale

MM and I recently went out to eat at a restaurant that we used to love, but which has gone down hill within the past couple years. It appears to be making a slight rebound as MM loved his steak. I ordered seared bay scallops, which came with lobster risotto, and was looking forward to having two seafood items that I don't make for myself at home. The scallops were great, but the risotto was terrible. The rice was mush and there was no lobster to be seen. Just tiny pieces of tomato and some spinach.When I asked the waiter about it, he said, "Oh, it is made with lobster stock, there isn't supposed to be pieces of lobster in it." Excuse me? If I make risotto with chicken stock I don't call it chicken risotto. Let's call tomato and spinach risotto what it is!

So I decided that I had to make a satisfying risotto at home. I had some parsnips and kale in the fridge that I needed to use and stumbled upon this recipe for Risotto with Parsnips and Greens in the NY Times. The recipe was created by David Tanis who is a chef at Chez Panisse and has two award-winning cookbooks, A Platter of Figs and Heart of the Artichoke. I bought Heart of the Artichoke on Gilt for a really good price and while I haven't made anything from it, the pictures are incredible and Tanis's storytelling is top-notch.

This recipe turned out well and did satisfy my craving for good risotto. I altered it slightly to be more to my liking (I prefer a higher ratio of vegetables to rice) and more streamlined for a home cook. I find that when professional chefs try to create (write) recipes for home cooks, you can still tell they are coming from a professional origin and usually use more pans than necessary and are a little fussy. (Although my adaptation still uses 3 pots and 1 baking sheet. Sorry!)

Risotto with Roasted Parsnips and Kale
Adapted from David Tanis, NY Times
Serves 4 generously

Approximately 3/4 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Approximately 3/4 lb kale, leaves torn from the stems and cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup vialone nano or arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss the parsnips with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until slightly browned, about 20 minutes.

2. While the parsnips are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the kale until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, cool and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a low simmer and maintain the simmer.

4. Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and saute until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice and stir until it is absorbed. Continuing adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, until it is all gone and the rice is al dente. This will take about 20 minutes. I usually start tasting the rice around the 15 minute mark. The rice should have a bite, do not overcook your risotto.

5. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, parsnips, kale and some cheese. Taste for seasoning and serve with more cheese.

February 9, 2012

Orecchiette with Sausage, Beans and Mascarpone

I have made this recipe of Giada's many times and unfortunately, this time around it wasn't as good as I remember. It certainly wasn't bad, but something was a little off. The recipe is in her cookbook, Giada's Kitchen and available on the Food Network. I can never find fresh turkey sausage, so I always buy pork.

February 8, 2012

Farfalle with Beets, Kale and Pine Nuts

Pink pasta!
I am usually a very thoughtful and rational person, but for some reason I have this rather delusional reaction every time MM tells me that he doesn't like some food item (usually a vegetable). I always say, "Oh, well, you'll like it this time. Just try it." And MM will be a trooper and try it, all while making a face, choking down his dinner and strategically planning how he can feed his dinner to Patton without me noticing.

Beets happen to be one of those vegetables that MM does not like and this pasta dish from the January 2009 issue of Bon Appetit happens to be one of those recipes that I ever so gently coaxed him into eating even though I knew he probably wouldn't like it.

As you can see, I couldn't find golden beets, so I used regular old red ones, and I used kale instead of the beet greens because I happen to hate beet greens. For anyone who likes beets, you will like this recipe. If you don't like beets, this recipe won't convert you.

February 7, 2012

Lofthouse Cookies

Marshal Mike loves the supermarket sugar cookies with frosting that changes color depending on the holiday or season and I randomly came across a recipe for those very cookies, which I learned are Lofthouse cookies.

I found the recipe on the blog Two Peas and Their Pod, but a quick search will bring up a bunch of different sites with the same recipe. I found the cookies to be really dry, but MM and all of my reliable tasters at work loved them. The buttercream frosting, however, is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. The frosting does not get very hard though, which makes packaging and transporting the cookies a little messy. And a warning: when I made this recipe, I ended up with 95 cookies. It probably would have been closer to 100, but I didn't roll some of the dough as thinly as I should have. Also, do not attempt this recipe without a heavy duty stand mixer. I have a 5 quart Professional Kitchen Aid mixer and the dough was creeping up the blade and trying to jump out of the bowl. I would also recommend separating the dough into 3 sections (instead of 2) before refrigerating it - it is just easier to deal with later on.