the meaning of it all

I was cooking dinner last Friday when my phone beeped with a message from one of my best friends. It simply said “What’s happening to our city?”. I jumped onto Facebook to see what was going on, expecting it to be something related to NYC, only to see the news of the attacks in Paris. I’m still processing it all. The reality of the world in which my girls are growing up makes my heart ache. Four years ago, we retreated to Paris. It’s where I fulfilled a father’s promise, and resolved to keep on living, and dreaming.

As we gathered around the dinner table tonight, offering our thanks and appreciations, my guy said it simply, yet perfectly—he was thankful to be sitting with the people he loved, all of us safe and sound. Now more than ever, in a season where the lines between wants and needs are so easily blurred, let’s remember that kindness, love, and generosity of heart are the best gifts we can share with each other.

I originally wrote this post a few weeks ago, intending to share it then. But posting about Thanksgiving on the heels of Halloween felt amiss. Walking through stores last week, decked out with Christmas decorations, a few even echoing Christmas carols through the aisles, I felt confused. Now that it’s November 16th, my mind is thinking more about next week’s Thanksgiving dinner. I get to meet my guy’s mom, for which I’m very excited, and a bit nervous.  Continue reading »

butternut squash, ricotta & bacon streusel topped muffins

I know what you're thinking.

Three posts in one week? Rest assured I haven't quit my day job. Nor have I won lotto, allowing me time to exclusively maintain this blog, though that'd be a dream gig. Remember last week I mentioned combining butternut squash, ricotta and bacon all in one little muffin?

Yep, it's intense. In a good way, I promise.

I hadn't planned on sharing it so soon. Not that there's there anything wrong with this recipe. It was one of those homeruns out of the oven. As I rubbed the butter and flour mixture between my fingers, I knew something good would be ready to devour in less than 30 minutes.

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pear and ricotta crepes

Anyone who knows me, understands I'm a gal who goes after what she wants. One doesn't get to this point in life, when faced with so many challenges, unless they're brimming with determination, drive and a true passion and belief in something, or someone.

For me, it's a mix of both. I believe in myself. That's not my ego talking, either. It's my inner voice, because lord knows we all need someone whispering "you can do it" in our ears.

Coming off three business trips, two to the west coast, in 16 days, left me at a crossroads.

For the first time, I feel uncertain. I'm not quite sure it's about my path. I'm excited of where I'm heading. Perhaps it was sharing a glimpse into my personal life, beyond that as mother and wife. I must confess it left me feeling a little exposed.

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make your own “eggy”

I love starting the day with a good egg dish—especially now that our local Greenmarket is open and the fridge is stocked with Grazin' Angus Acres eggs. My favorite, quick, healthy prep is to poach them, but that "eggy" you see above has been making a play for the number one spot at our breakfast table. It's basically a spruced up frittata that finishes in the oven instead of a death defying flip in the pan.

I first saw this dish on Martha Stewart, prepared by Darius Salko, chef at Tini in Providence, Rhode Island. It looked lovely as-is but I decided to go in a different direction and jazz it up a bit. My version is a never ending carousel of ingredients since I add whatever leftover sauteed vegetables I have in the fridge. I also changed the spelling because I think "eggy" looks so much nicer than "eggie", don't you?

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star-anise spiced apple cider

Before I tell you how I’ve finally made friends with my slow cooker, I wanted to let you all know about a new project of mine, called The Family Table. Everyone’s welcome, but it’s especially handy for time-pressed parents looking for answers on how to make home-cooked meals a part of their regular routine. I’ll be talking about feeding kids real food, and giving tips for making cooking fun instead of feeling like just another chore. First up is my mushroom bolognese recipe, so if you saw my tweets about it a few weeks back, go on over to The Family Table for a visit and get the recipe.

Pasta left_title right

Now, back to my slow cooker. Honestly, I never understood why people were so hooked on them. They’re not really one-pot meals because you have to sear the meat separately, so there’s extra dishes to wash‚ and I hate washing. Period. Laundry. Dishes. There’s no fun to be had. Then I made a beef stew last week. After searing the meat and sauteeing the carrots and onions, I added them with some stock and seasonings to my slow cooker. The work was all done, and the time I would’ve normally spent prepping dinner after picking the kids up from school, I decided to use to make hand-cut parpadelle to serve it over.

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thanksgiving countdown

Today I found myself strolling through the Union Square Greenmarket after finally meeting Julia. It thrills me to meet twitter friends in real life, and is even more rewarding when they turn out to be as wonderful in person. I’d made note on my pass through the market before we met of a bread stand, Buon Pane. The sourdough baguettes looked beautiful and they were my back up plan if I didn’t feel up to walking to Balthazar to get the very necessary ingredient for my stuffing.

I got home, baguette in hand from Buon Pane (it was too cold and windy to walk to Soho) and diced it into cubes after cleaning up dinner (beef stew over hand-cut pappardelle if you’re interested). This will probably be my last post this week so I have ample time to finish up work and get started on the rest of my Thanksgiving prep work. Curious about the menu? Yeah, I thought so. The main course is turkey…of course (ha, get it, course? Imagine the poor Mr. who has to laugh at my jokes).

I don’t brine and I’m not into fancy glazes. Frankly, I’ve never had a dry bird by stuffing a heart attack’s load of butter under the skin and roasting on high heat for about 30 minutes, then reducing 75 degrees or so for the rest of the roasting time. I know you want exact temperatures but in all honesty in changes every year. I usually pull my Fannie Farmer cookbook off the shelf to gauge roasting temps and times. The turkey is just one thing I refuse to stress about and maybe that’s why it always comes out looking gorgeous and tasting phenomenal. As for the rest of the menu, there’ll be an antipasto platter, broccoli, smoky creamed kale, apple pie, candied nuts if I have time, and the rest of the edible cast goes something like this:

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golden ricotta pumpkin fritters

Hard to believe Thanksgiving is next week. It seems the period between Labor Day and Halloween drags a bit, settling into school and accepting that summer really is over. Then, with a flip of the switch sort of feeling, it's November. Frankly, I love this month for two reasons. First, it's my birth month, and my mom always made the day special. We couldn't afford extravagant gifts, but what she gave was something you can't put a price tag on. She made me feel unbelievably special, like a princess for the day.

It would begin the night before, as she set my stick-straight hair with pink foam rollers before bedtime (picture the sleepover scene from Grease, except a nerdy-looking girl with coke bottle glasses). Then I'd wake and get to decide my birthday dinner. My sister usually complained at my choice, but it was my day, and perhaps I secretly chose something she didn't like to feel like I hand the upperhand—even if for just one day. My dad often made my birthday cakes, and one year created the most amazing looking Garfield and Odie cakes (I said I was a geek folks), complete with chocolate-covered cherry noses.

The second reason I love this month is because it's the start of a warm, celebratory season. Everyone seems to have a bit more pep to their step and sparkle in their eyes. It's a time of wonder, childhood fantasies and to give thanks. And so, if you're still planning your Thanksgiving menus, I'll be posting some recipes sure to make this year's meal is deliciously easy. First up are ricotta pumpkin fritters below. They're my twist on zeppoles, an addictive Italian fried dough.

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Sunday Best: Homemade Waffles

A few months ago I was at a friend’s house having breakfast. Four adults and three kids had eaten through the lemon blueberry waffles he made with lightening speed, and when the calls came for more, he replied “there’s no more mix left”. Since he’s such an avid cook, I was surprised he’d rely on a box or package to make waffles. Then a few days ago I was watching a video on Good Bite where some top food bloggers made some confessions. Turns out Catherine McCord from weelicious.com is all about Aunt Jemima on weekend mornings (Jaden Hair is a brownie from the box gal and Jeanne Kelley relies on canned stock vs. homemade).

Now, if you’ve been with me a while, you know I’m not the preachy kind in the kitchen—except for getting on my local, sustainable, Grazin’ Angus Acres high horse. Like the tagline says, I’m all about making meals easier, one recipe at a time. I can’t think of anything incredibly easier than making homemade waffles. All you need to keep stocked is flour, baking powder (I haven’t been convinced yeast is worth the overnight prep), salt, eggs, butter, milk and vanilla extract. You could even leave the latter out if you don’t have it on hand. So this weekend, give it a shot. And if you like sleeping in, then mix the dry ingredients the night before. All you need to do in the morning is melt the butter in the microwave and beat it with the eggs, milk and vanilla, and stir it into the flour mixture.

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Eggs in a Nest

I love eggs. They're an inexpensive source of protein compared to meat, even if you buy them at the farmer's market, and filled with lots of natural vitamins and minerals. The yolks are also rich in choline, a nutrient important for brain development, making them a great kid food too. I'm not sure they work on the older, already developed brains, as the Mr. still forgets most of what I tell him. That may be just be a side effect of marriage I suppose.

Eggs are also my back up "I don't have a lot of time to cook ingredient". Saute some vegetables and you've got a frittata. There's also nothing like perfectly fried or sunny side up eggs with salad, well…and maybe some bacon too. A girl cannot live on sweets alone and this week I've been in dessert testing mode. I had eggs from my favorite farmer, Dan at Grazin' Angus Acres, and decided to make birds in a nest for lunch. Instead of phyllo or puff pastry, I lined an individual casserole dish (like the kind you'd use for French onion soup) with multi-grain pita. In went the eggs, topped with a splash of cream, some Parmesan and fresh black pepper. I continued with my writing and less than 20 minutes later, I had a pretty elegant-looking meal and one more egg recipe to add to my files.

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Blueberry Cookie Crumble

Friends always ask how I create my recipes. It’s a combination of good quality ingredients and inspiration. For both, I usually head to the Greenmarket, and there’s lots of inspiration to be found this time of year. Berries are in season and while they’re delicious to eat by the handful, they provide the perfect landscape for quick and easy desserts. This week I got an invitation to a Scharffen Berger event at the French Culinary Institute hosted by none other than renowned chef Jacques Pepin. Pasty over at Family, Friends and Food did a great two-part post about the event and posted some wonderful pics so go check them out. I'm going to focus on what I'm doing with the free chocolate they tucked in our goody bags.


On the menu was more chocolate than you can imagine but there was a particular dessert that caught my attention. It was titled Chocolate Raspberry Gratin. Tiny ceramic ramekins emerged from the oven with a jam-like raspberry filling studded with bits of melted chocolate and crunchy butter cookie crumbs. This was the only recipe not included in the press materials, so it was up to me to recreate it at home. I had tons of blueberries on hand to support my 14-month old’s pint a day addiction, so the star ingredient would have to be recast. At first I thought blueberries and chocolate would be too strong a match for each other. A bit of sugar solved that problem and made them BFFs. There were no butter cookies on hand but I did have some homemade chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge —enough to make a dozen so we could snack while the real dessert was baking.

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