Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, friends!  I hope you all enjoyed a filling and festive meal with your families and friends. If you’re in my family, you make sure to grab the mashed sweet potatoes with sliced apples lest you miss your chance at the apples! You then proceed to talk loudly, laugh a whole bunch, and take in the family time you so desperately needed.


You clean your plate too… but not before snapping a picture.

I’ve already received cookbooks galore this Christmas, so prepare for fun foods in 2012. Enjoy the rest of 2011 everyone. Cheers!

Say Cheese

I’m a bit of a mouse.  When I was a child, one of my favorite snacks was American cheese slices, which as a grew older matured to heavy hitters like gorgonzola, taleggio, and cashel.  There’s something magical about the taste and the way cheese can coat your mouth like velvet.  Now as an adult constantly trying to shed the extra five to ten pounds, I eat cheese in moderation, which makes cheese all the more appealing.

I considered myself fairly knowledgeable in the cheese department, so I was somewhat ashamed that it took me 25 years to place a creamy, dreamy piece of burrata (“buttered” in Italian) in my mouth.  Years ago, growing up on Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia’s Italy I spied this little treat.  She was in the Puglia region of Italy, cutting into a piece of solid mozzarella with overflowing ribbons of fresh curd and cream.  Cue your salivary glands.

A few weeks ago, the boy (aka Mr. Mouse) made his version of the first burrata caprese salad I’d tried at Alma Nove.  Something about making this treat at home made it taste better than any fancy restaurant’s version.  His version also tasted way better than the version I made a few nights ago.  Then again, when doesn’t food taste better when someone else makes it for you?

Tomato, Burrata Cheese, and Pistachio Salad

2 large plum tomatoes
fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
handful of torn fresh basil leaves for garnish
unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped
2 Tbsp of balsamic glaze
1 large round of burrata cheese

Cut tomatoes into slices and place on a large platter. Add the torn basil leaves and pistachios. Take the large burrata cheese round and cut into quarters. Place cheese in the center of the plate. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper. Drizzle balsamic glaze over the salad. Garnish with additional basil leaves and serve.

Stuff your face and savor each and every calorie.  And remember kids, you’re doing it in the name of calcium!

Thanksgiving Eats


Turkey Time

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and adjusted back to life in the grind today. I had all of week plus today off and was pretty happy with the food I consumed over the break. I got home last Monday, and my dad suggested we go to McDonald’s to get some McRibs. Knowing my parents, such a request was pretty shocking. I declined, and he suggested driving up to Edison so I could try some new Chinese restaurants. The first two we tried were closed so we found ourselves in heaven H Mart. Spacious, clean, reasonably priced and delicious food court options. We got a seafood pancake, a bowl of noodle soup, and some Korean fried chicken. Then, we shopped for lobsters and abalone for a late dinner.

On Tuesday my dad got KFC for lunch. My reality is seriously taking a U-turn. Maybe it was a little Thanksgiving warm up? The mashed potatoes and chicken were as I remembered, but the biscuits weren’t as big or fluffy. Recipe change? Sad face.

On Wednesday, the cooking began after some take out Chinese for lunch. I got started on baking treats for in house snacking, friends and neighbors. First up were Chocolate Chunk Cookies based off Tollhouse Cookies without the walnuts and chunks instead of chips. Next were the office favorite, Cookies n Cream Cupcakes, which friends also enjoyed However, they didn’t get them until 2-3 days after so they dried out a bit in the fridge. Finally, Thanksgiving desserts included Pumpkin Cheesecake and Apple Pie.


Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Cookies N Cream Cupcakes


Pumpkin Cheesecake


Apple Pie

The big day included waffles for brunch with a blackberry topping and fresh blackberries and bananas.


Thanksgiving Brunch

For the big meal, we had a 12 lbs. turkey brined and rubbed with sage, kosher salt and a little rosemary along with a half lemon and cinnamon stick in the cavity. Gravy was made using a roux, chicken stock and soy sauce. This was the most successful gravy I’ve made to date in terms of universal appeal, color, texture and taste. I did feel guilty about cutting out the pan drippings, since I had so much to do. Green bean casserole, dressing, sage and rosemary biscuits, sweet potato mash and spaghetti squash with cranberries rounded out the meal. The green bean casserole was the first time I made it completely from scratch, and while it looked sexy, the fried onions still didn’t measure up to French’s. The dressing was still inferior to Stove Top, but I’m still confident that someday I will have a recipe that will be better. The spaghetti squash was a new addition this year and was inspired by a meal at Oceanarie the week before Thanksgiving. The strands from the squash are pretty cool. When my dad asked if I cut the squash into the strands, I was pretty tempted to say yes. Overall, my dad said it was the best Thanksgiving meal to date that I’ve made, so my constant need for approval was satisfied for the time being.


Sage and Rosemary Biscuits


Spaghetti Squash with Cranberries


Green Bean Casserole


The Spread


Coma on a Plate

On Friday night, I met up with a few friends for burgers at 25 Burgers and had a Bull’s Eye Burger with sweet potato fries. The burger itself was pretty messy and greasy, but it’s the best burger within a 15 minute drive from my house. The onion strings and patty were the highlights, while the bun was lacking. The fries were decent, but the portion was rather small. Overall the burger, fries, and drink were a little over $12.


BBQ Burgers Don’t Know How to Disappoint

The next day, I ate at Shanghai Bun and got some sauteed pork and vegetables with Shanghai noodles, and my friend got chicken and mustard green soup. For dinner, I hung out with a few of my sister’s friends and went to the Olive Garden for the first time. The place was pretty empty when we arrived, but was packed by the time we left. I was definitely surprised with the decor and ambiance, since I always though the commercials were so corny. However, the prices were also higher than I imagined. I was thinking most entrees would be $8-15, but the range was more like $12-$20. The seating was interesting, with wheels on all four legs sliding in every direction. The bread sticks were on the salty side, but you can’t go wrong with unlimited warm bread. For my entree, I got braised short ribs. I’m not 100% confident that it didn’t come out of a bag, but the tenderness of the meat was still enjoyable. Overall, the meal was better than I expected, but at $28 with tax and tip, I’d rather spend my dining out money elsewhere.


If Only Plate of Food Grew on Trees


Healthy Can Taste Good


The Most Perfectly Shaped Breadsticks I’ve Ever Seen in my Life


Braised Short Ribs

citrus punch for our 100th post

Happy 100th post!  It’s been a while, but I’m still in the heart of my busy season.  Finding time to cook or even think about cooking has been replaced by excel spreadsheets and memos that are unfortunately not writing themselves.

The fact that Ray and I have been able to carve out pieces of our lives to blog about our shared passion is a success in itself. I’m so happy we’ve made it to 100. Let’s hear it for HUNDREDS more.

What better way to celebrate the big hundo than with my favorite? Citrus and cupcakes! Woot woot.

Key Lime Pie Cupcake Recipe

Makes 24 cupcakes.

1/2 C butter
1 C sugar
3 eggs
1 C milk
1 C flour
9 graham crackers
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp kosher salt
5 egg yolks
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 C key lime juice (I cheated and just used regular limes because I have no patience to juice small limes — it’s like peeling a grape!)

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Mix completely before adding the next egg.

In an open storage bag, crumb your graham crackers with a rolling pin.  If you’re like me and like to release your stress and other other extreme emotion, grab a frying pan and whack the living daylights out of the bag.  Combine with flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and ending with the dry ingredients.   Mix until just combined.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and lime juice. Pour the lime mixture into your batter and stir.  Make sure there is a clear difference between the graham batter and the lime mixture.  If you see graham batter clumps, then you’re good to go.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4s of the way and bake 20 minutes for full sized cupcakes, 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes.  I did a mix of both because I was getting impatient and wanted to cook off all of my cupcakes in one load.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8oz packages of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 1/2 sticks butter (room temperature)
6 C powdered sugar (more or less depending on your sweet tooth level)
1 tsp lime juice

Cream together the cream cheese and butter with a hand mixer or stand mixer.  Add the powdered sugar slowly.  This will ensure a non-chalky frosting.  Add the lime and any food coloring you’d like.  I did one drop of yellow and two drops of green to match the limey color.

Wait for cupcakes to come to room temperature and frost.  Garnish with slices of lime and enjoy.

Thanks again everyone for the wonderful and continued support. Ray, I, and our humble blog truly appreciate it.

bring back fall…with apple pie

This fall has been somewhat disappointing weather wise going from unseasonably warm to cloudy rainy weather to freak October snow storm. The weather has played apart in delaying my pie making, but today, I’m going to bring back fall with an apple pie. My first apple pie in college was a success, followed by a mediocre pie during the holidays. For every pie that succeeded, there was a failed pie and today was another attempt to break the curse. I consulted Smitten Kitchen to try an all butter crust recipe, because the crust is always the biggest player in pie. This also gave me an opportunity to use my pastry blender, which had been collecting dust (cleaned before use? Yes). In recent years, I’ve been making use of a food processor for my pie crust needs. Fast and clean, but more clean up required.


A Call to Arms

Double Pie Crust (because a single layer pie crust would be cutting corners)
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 cup + a few extra tbsp very cold water

Blend flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add cold cubed butter and mix with pastry blender until pieces of butter are smaller than a pea and texture of mixture is crumbly. Add 1/2 cup water and bring dough together with 1 hand. Add additional tbsp cold water until dough comes together. Separate into two portions, flatten into a disc shape between plastic wrap and cover completely with the same plastic wrap. Place dough into fridge for at least 2 hours.

For the filling, I used Food Network Kitchen’s recipe since my best pie post college used this recipe

Apple Pie Filling
1 lemon
3 lbs. peeled baking apple slices (7 to 8 apples, I used Golden Delicious)
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 tbsp butter melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 tbsp AP flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1 egg plus 1 tsp water
sugar to sprinkle

Toss the juice of 1 lemon with apple slices, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large pot, melt 2 tbsp butter and cook apple mixture on medium high heat until sugar mixture starts to bubble, lower temperature to medium low heat and cover pot. Cook until apples are tender (about 15 minutes). remove from heat and add vanilla and flour. Mix and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out dough from the fridge into 2 circular layers 11 to 12 inches in diameter. Place 1 layer into 9 inch pie tin and mold along the edge. Fill with apple mixture and top with cubed butter. Take egg and mix with a little water to make egg wash. Brush egg wash along the edge of the pie. Place second layer of pie dough over the top of the pie. Press edges of the pie until the crust is sealed. Cut off access dough 1 inch from the edge of the pie tin. Fold the 1 inch of access dough under the edge of the pie so the it rests on top of the edge of the pie tin. Flute the edges of the pie. Cut 6 slit above the pie to let steam come out as it’s baking. Brush egg wash over the pie and top with sprinkled sugar. Place pie on foil covered cookie sheet in case of overflowed filling. Bake for 15 minutes and reduce temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake an additional 50 minutes. Let cool and serve warm.

My pie turned out butt ugly so the streak of unfortunate pies shall continue. At least I’m positive that the crust is flaky. Let’s hope it tastes good.


In sales, this is called “Rustic”