DIY

spring fever

The calendar rolling to March 1st feels so powerful. It means we’ve weathered another winter. The tulip leaves creeping up through the soil signal spring is on its way. Hope seems to replenish the nearly empty well deep within in my heart.

Days get longer, and the air gets warmer. Of course, just when it feels safe to to cloak myself in a lighter coat, Mother Nature reminds me who is really in control. Still, March brings the power of a Phoenix rising from the ashes buried beneath a heavy snowfall. This particular March also brings a lot of good news. The book—my cookbook, comes out in 24 days. Soon it will no longer be just mine. It will belong to all of you who let it grace your home. Continue reading »

5-minute pizza dough

A few days ago I was in a meeting and mentioned that Fridays are always pizza and a movie night with the girls. In saying that, I also casually said I make my own dough. One woman at the meeting commented, “I love how your pizza night is with homemade dough and mine is takeout”. She told me she wished she had the time to make it from scratch.

homemade pizza

I told the woman at my meeting that homemade pizza dough is no big deal, and much easier than most people think. Still, it got me thinking about how to really get this message across. The essence of Homemade with Love is not about the recipes per se; it’s about spreading my monumental love of being in the kitchen and cooking. My hope is that a little of bit of that love becomes contagious, and people begin to look at cooking as another way to express their own love for the people around them. I woke up with this lingering idea in my mind of how I could convincingly get my point across that homemade pizza dough is indeed easy. Continue reading »

holidazed {homemade eggnog}

I blinked, and somewhere in the process November became December. Days seem to blend into one another lately, and the last week has especially left me pondering my life now compared to just one year ago. There are a million words swirling in my head, yet they float not quite capable of connecting themselves to one another to form a proper thought. The words being emotions and feelings really, much of which leave me even more confused when I try to piece them together.

So, my approach these last few weeks has been to really take my own advice. I’ve been consumed with just trying to be present and fully aware of every moment. We spend so much of our lives being connected to something, instead of someone. And so my silence here, there and everywhere these last few weeks has been because I’ve been absorbed with experiencing life rather than simply documenting it.

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blackberry conserves

I’ve been intrigued by Lillet ever since Heidi posted this recipe. I’ve yet to try those buttermilk milkshakes, but did finally buy a bottle of Lillet a few months ago. I tried it both straight up, well-chilled of course, and as a spritzer with a twist of lime and seltzer—my lasting impression being that Lillet was not my thing. That changed last night, along with my mood, which heaven knows needed some tinkering with these last few days. I’ve been feeling “off” lately, like a balloon floating across an open sky, bouncing wherever the wind fancies. Try as I might, nothing seems to shake this constant sadness that tugs at my heart. Actually it wavers between sadness and anxiousness, the kind with which you wait for it all to go wrong, for your inner happiness to disappear at a moment’s notice.

Grief bore down on my heart like a vice grip yesterday, and it ended with me in tears as my eyes scanned the empty dishes at the dinner table. They previously held homemade tortillas, beans cooked from scratch, and guacamole Virginia and I made together. But at that moment, while the girls were upstairs and I sat at the table staring at the extra chair that has sat empty for 13 months, all I could think was “why do I do this”. The “this” being all the food I had just an hour before lovingly prepared.  Or was it really out of necessity and survival? I don’t know— at that moment, all day long in fact, the idea that I’ve used cooking as an escape had been lingering in my mind.

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a kiss to build a dream on

Navigating life without my sidekick is lonely. There’s no one who gets my Seinfeld references. I often feel alone in a crowded room. It’s easy to let this get me down, but I work minute-by-minute to temper my sad feelings with the memories of all the good ones.

Making pasta is one of those good memories. I’d never made it until I met Mikey. For a single guy, he had a relatively good collection of kitchen equipment. A blender, an assortment of pots and pans, a demitasse coffee maker, and an Atlas pasta maker. I don’t remember if he had ever attempted making it before we met. In fact, I don’t remember the first time I even made it. I do remember shedding many tears over the years of failed attempts though, mostly from not enough liquid in the dough.

Over my 16 years of making fresh pasta, I’ve learned three key things. First, room temperature eggs make a difference. They blend more easily with the flour. Pasta dough needs to nap, so once it’s kneaded, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter, at room temperature, for at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour if you have the time. My last trick is using some semolina flour. It helps add elasticity to the dough, making it easier to roll out.

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marinated olives

Mikey and I had a standing date night on Thursdays. The last few weeks he was alive, work was pretty busy for him and we had to miss those dates. I try to not feel cheated about it, but I’m human, and I miss him. I wish we had that time back now, more than ever.

After he died, I decided to keep Thursdays for myself. Much as I cherish dinnertime with the girls, the reality of dining regularly with a 3 and 8 year old is sometimes…interesting. It’s hard not to laugh when Virginia sticks her big toe in Isabella’s face and begs “smell my feet”. I’m often tempted to put a drop of crazy glue on Isabella’s seat since she wiggles in it more than a worm burrowing its way through an apple. Thursday is my night to savor a hot meal, and let someone else worry about the clean up.

I sometimes choose to go out alone, and bring my journal to write in as I watch the scenes playout of diners around me. There is so much to be learned about the human condition from eavesdropping on people’s dinner conversations. Some weeks I meet a friend, and my latest haunt has been a lovely little wine bar in the East Village, called In Vino. Mikey’s best friend lives close by, and he introduced me to the place.

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preserving cherries {part two}

I lost my maraschino virginity about seven years ago.

I remember the day, as any girl would one that changes her life forever. I'd been browsing through Barnes & Noble when I saw a new cocktail book, and immediately recognized the name. It was by Nick Mautone, the guy who gave me my break in the New York City restaurant scene. I saw an ad in the New York Times back in 1999 for a hostess and reservationist opening at Gramercy Tavern. I'd been personal cheffing for a year, and decided it would be a good idea to learn some front of house skills to roundout my knowledge of what it takes to feed people.

Restaurant experiences are about so much more than the meal. I appreciate this now even more when a sitter is on the hook for $15 an hour.

But I digress.

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preserving cherries {part one}

This blasted heatwave has me worried, and not for the reasons any sane individual would think. Frankly, it's cramping by canning schedule. Who wants to boil pots of water to properly seal jars?

Not me.

Next week we'll talk about making maraschino cherries and an irresistable cherry conserve, which is the base for making homemade cherry slushies. Today calls for something that doesn't require adding more heat to fan the flames of the sun's rays.

Thankfully there's more than one way to preserve a cherry (and strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, really the list goes on and on). When I remodeled the kitchen a few years back, I purposely sought out a fridge and freezer that could hold my half sheet pans. I'm really glad I thought ahead, because right now chances are you'll find a tray in my freezer, similar to the one you see above, at any given moment.

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homemade mayonnaise {with a lowfat version too!}

I know I say this often, but heavens to Betsy, my body can't keep up with my thoughts and ideas lately. Perhaps my brain operates at 27 hours a day, while my body is bound to the mere 24 hours we're allotted.

And then, there is the occassional sleep we need to keep forging ahead. I didn't get much of that this past weekend, sharing a bed with the girls at my uncle's summer house in Long Island.

I can sense this will be a busy week, not just for my personal schedule. I have so many recipes I've been wanting to share, so I'm going to keep this post short and sweet. Besides, do you really care what I have to say once you hear I'm sharing a recipe for homemade lowfat mayonnaise? You may have skipped to the recipe already anyway.

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homemade nut-free nutella

I owe you all an apology. I promised to share my easy homemade mayo recipe, but I came upon a lovely surprise in the test kitchen recently and decided to put those plans on hold for the next post.

Actually, I put it to a vote, and asked what I should post next. Needless to say, the outcry for a homemade nut-free nutella kicked mayo's butt.

Before sharing, I should preface there's a few more things I'd like to try with this recipe. What you're about to see is a work in progress, but it is one that I promise won't disappoint you. As-is, I'm quite smitten with this devilishly delicious spread.

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