cacio e pepe, italian comfort food

Day 5. No School. All family members are safe, but not very sound. The walls of our three-room apartment feel like they’re closing in, but that is really just our sanity slipping away. That is what my journal entry would like, were I keeping a blizzard journal. Suburban life has been an adjustment, and one that doesn’t always feel like the right fit. Weathering suburban life after a blizzard is enough to make me scrawl redrum on the walls.

Montgomery County encompasses a large area (more than 500 square miles), so while things seem relatively okay on the main roads where we live, parts further west and north, are still dealing with snow removal issues (we had 27 inches here in North Bethesda). And then there’s the schools—as of Tuesday afternoon they only them 60% cleared. I’ve almost lost hope on there being any school this week, but we shall see what tomorrow brings. Continue reading »

Baked Potato Bar

Remember those Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes I shared with you yesterday? Well, this was my grand plan all along: a Baked Potato Bar for dinner. I’m vegetarian leaning in my eating habits, and while I love a perfectly cooked steak, I could also be quite happy never eating meat again (okay, maybe mostly happy). This is not the case for my carnivorous kids. Factor in that one of them doesn’t like soup, vegetables, and most beans, except for the ones I make on taco night and use in chili, and well, some nights dinner feels like the BIGGEST chore, ever.

DIY Baked Potato Bar, a quick & easy weeknight dinner. | get the recipe at Continue reading »

slow cooker baked potatoes

Hello, hello! I’m popping in for a quick tease to tomorrow’s recipe. So, let’s say today is a cliff hanger of sorts. You’ve probably already been putting your slow cooker to good use this winter, but in case you haven’t, now is the time to pull it out from whatever closet you’ve tucked it away in (mine lives on the top shelf of the coat closet due to a severe lack of storage space). Continue reading »

maple orange butter

I like to say I’m opinionated, and not just judgey, but who are we kidding? I’m a New Yorker. Perhaps even worse (or is it best); I’m a Brooklyn gal, through and through. We judge, regardless of what we say, and sometimes without any sensibility to our conclusions. And so that is why my visit to Teaism in D.C. about a month ago was such a pleasant surprise. I grubbed a ride into the city with my guy, and was delivered door to door from suburbia to Dupont Circle. When he first suggested it as a good place to settle in with free WiFi to escape the noise of construction currently going on at our building, I shrugged my nose. You know that kind of shrug where it pushes your eyeglasses way above your eyebrows.

I’d come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t like the place just based on the name. It didn’t sound appealing, even though I understood the play on words going on with it. Well, later that morning I enjoyed my size seven shoe with a side of some pretty awesome French Toast & Orange Butter. It sounds basic, I know. And for all intents and purposes, it was, but it was prepared so perfectly. Nice, crisp edges, golden brown, and that butter elevated the whole thing to spectacular. Now, if you’re an experienced cook, you already know making compound butters is incredibly easy. And if you’re new to this whole notion of mixing flavors into softened butter, then listen up—this is a trick you want to use for every brunch or breakfast you host. The wow factor tops the charts, and will ensure your place as a domestic diva.

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peppermint cake truffles {video}

Isabella went on a cooking spree a few weeks ago. I’m not sure what inspired it exactly, but she pulled my cookbook off the shelf, and asked “mom, is it okay if I make cupcakes?” I mean, who says no to cupcakes, especially cupcakes baked by their kiddo? She proceeded to make a dozen cupcakes, a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting, my homemade chocolate syrup, and chocolate egg creams for all of us. Continue reading »

Easy DIY Candy Cane Sprinkles {video}

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, thinking about where I was both mentally and emotionally this time last year. A calm had washed over me mid-November of 2014. I began to settle in comfortably with the idea that I could be happy alone. I would throw myself into motherhood, and once the girls went on to begin their next chapters, I’d retire in a flat somewhere in NYC or Paris; maybe even divide my time between both places. And here I am now, one year later, so much for which to be thankful.

I wanted to pop into today and share a show and tell sort of post. It’s a silly, quick, and maybe obvious tip, but I think it’s useful enough to share with you all. I was making cake truffles last week (more on those later in the week!), and had one of those lightbulb moments. I went to the store in search of candy canes to crush and use as a garnish. My eyes caught sight of the minis, and they felt like the perfect size for what I needed. It was only when I got home that I realized they’re perfect for two reasons: you can crush them right in the wrapper, keeping the mess self-contained, and that same little package makes portion control a no brainer. Plus, they’re portable. Pack one in your purse, and you’re one step closer to enjoying a minty hot cocoa on the go. I’ll be using these candy cane sprinkles a lot this month!

my best pumpkin pie {video}

Last week my house was heavy with the scent of warm pumpkin pie. I know, I know. Who makes pumpkin pie a week before Thanksgiving? Me, that’s who. When my pie craving hit, I scoured the cupboards, convinced I had evaporated milk, but alas, there was none. I was going out to the store to get eggs and butter, and could’ve picked some up, but decided a pumpkin pie recipe sans the canned stuff might be more useful to all of you (spoiler alert: it was the best pumpkin pie, ever). We’ve all been there, at some point, a craving that seemingly can’t be fulfilled because of one missing ingredient, right? One day I might try making my own evaporated milk…(I can see Mikey doing an eye roll from above). For now, I decided to give it a try with heavy cream. I scaled back the amount of liquid, since my research told me it would be way too much cream if I just subbed in an equal amount for the missing evaporated milk. Continue reading »

no-roll pie crust {video}

Every morning I wake up, and promise myself I’ll get to bed early that night. And yet, here I am, almost midnight, talking about pie crusts. It’s a pressing subject this time of year. Literally. I know, the kids today use that word all wrong, but this is no joke. Tuck the rolling pin away, and let your fingertips do all the work to press the crust into the pan.

I’ve been hesitant to try this method for years now. I love rolling pie dough. Of course that only blossomed into deep affection once I developed a crust that didn’t result in tears. After years of working on creating a foolproof crust, would I have to abandon my tried and true recipe to use a new technique? The answer is no, thankfully.

The only tweak I made to my Foolproof Pie Crust is that I swapped in granulated maple sugar. It’s such a small amount, so don’t worry. Use what you have on hand. Here’s a quick video to show you how easy it is to use this no-roll pie crust method. So, I say put the kids on pie duty while you tackle the more challenging work to get the Thanksgiving meal on the table.

I’ll be back some time today, or first thing Wednesday with my new pumpkin pie recipe. If you’re not a fan of evaporated milk, or forget to buy it (as I often do!), you’ll want this recipe in your repertoire. The recipe also uses maple sugar, so it’s refined sugar-free. A nice option for a lighter dessert choice after enjoying the big feast.

Okay, time for some shuteye, folks. See you on the flip side.

Get my recipe for Foolproof Pie Crust here.

{how to} perfect mashed potatoes, every time

We grew up mostly eating mashed potatoes from a box. I once told that to my friend Carol, and she couldn’t believe such a thing even existed. The only time I really remember my mom making them from scratch was on Thanksgiving. Jokes about hanging wallpaper were inevitable. Mashed potatoes are the simplest thing to make, and yet, the easiest to mess up.

Many people reach for the hand or stand mixer to make them. Unless you’re careful, that’s a sure fire way to over work them, and make gluey, gummy potatoes. I’ve found four ingredients key in making the best mashed potatoes, ever: properly cooked taters, butter (and lots of it!), salt, and hot milk. And of course, the technique is crucial, too—ditch the electricity, and grab a hand masher. In fact, if your potatoes are cooked just right, a fork will even work for smaller, weeknight batches.

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{DIY} how to make brown sugar

It’s bound to happen, even if you’re a planner. You reach for the brown sugar, and boom—all out. No sweat; I’ve got you covered on this one. It’s so easy to make your own brown sugar at home that I rarely even buy it anymore. All you need is molasses and cane sugar to make it yourself. Of course, this means you need to have molasses on hand. Once you fall in love with molasses, the way I did a few years ago, that won’t be a problem. Here’s a quick video I made to show you just how easy it is to make brown sugar in the comfort of your own kitchen. And in case you need some inspiration to use up the rest of that molasses, I’m sharing links to a few of my favorite recipes. Continue reading »