Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

World Peace Cookies-1Does anyone else feel like we need a little dose of world peace? Or maybe just some peace between the two parties of our own government? I surely do. And while milk and cookies may seem like a childish answer to this whole debacle, I happen to think cookies - and sitting around a table all together - could be a big step in the right direction.

Fortunately, the super talented and even more lovely Dorie Greenspan has just the cure: her delectable and famous World Peace Cookies. Through my job in New York City, I was lucky enough to cross paths with Dorie at numerous events and I was always a better person for being in her company. If we could all learn from Dorie's sweet and caring nature and combine it with handfuls of these cookies, I'm certain the world would be a much more peaceful and delicious place.

Note: If you are short on time (or are in need of a great gift idea), you can order these cookies (and many more flavors) by the sleeve from Dorie's gourmet cookie shop: Beurre & Sel.  

Yield: 36 cookies
Barely adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Besides being a delicious cookie, I also love that you can freeze the dough for up to two months. When Mike and I moved to Durham this summer, I kept several logs of this dough in the freezer for last minute parties and guests. If you've frozen the dough, you don't have to defrost it before baking - just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies one minute longer.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (such as Maldon)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla extract; beat for two minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Add dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. If there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a few more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough. For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate chunks and mix just until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a work surface, gather it together, and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to two months.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Using a sharp, thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2-inch thick. The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them - don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie. Arrange the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time (keep the other baking sheet in the refrigerator until ready to bake) for 12 minutes - they won't look done and will not be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are just warm.

Friday, July 12, 2013


As Mike and I were recently packing up our tiny Manhattan apartment for the new life awaiting us in Durham, North Carolina we stumbled across a small, rouge bottle of white rum in our bar. Usually people to opt for gin or bourbon based cocktails, I was a bit unsure what we could create with this new found option. But Mike was soon rummaging around in our refrigerator, successfully locating some mint and simple syrup kept on hand for Mint Juleps. He grabbed two limes leftover from a recent taco night and asked me to bring him the muddler.

He soon handed me a concoction that tasted so refreshing on that hot city day, I forgot momentarily we still had days of packing in front of us. In five years of living together, Mike had never whipped up such a drink and when I asked where he acquired such a skill, he shrugged and said, "I read it on a blog somewhere." With just a bit of tweaking - a little lighter on the syrup, a little heavier on the rum - Mike had created a new favorite drink.

This drink has been the staple of Summer 2013 so far. Not just for me, but when we stayed with my parents for a few days between leaving New York and moving to North Carolina, he whipped up a batch for my family. Then this Instagram photo was seen by the neighborhood and Mike soon found himself giving lessons on creating the perfect Mojito.

Today I am happy to not only give you Mike's recipe for Mojitos, but I am also thrilled to share a new feature - recipe cards! Just download the PDF below, follow the simple instructions, and you will have a beautiful 4x6 recipe card to add to your collection. I hope you enjoy them as much as I am enjoying designing them! Cheers!

Makes 1 Drink

Small handful fresh mint
1 ounce simple syrup (recipe here)
1 lime, cut in half
2 ounces white rum
Crushed ice
Seltzer water

In a highball glass, combine mint, simple syrup, and the juice from half a lime (about 1 ounce). Muddle vigorously. Add rum and squeezed lime half to the glass.

Cut remaining lime half into thirds. To taste, add 1-3 thirds of lime. Add a bit of crushed ice. Top with a splash of seltzer water. Circulate drink without disturbing the bubbles. Serve with a straw.

Get the recipe card here or download recipe below.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mint Juleps

You didn’t think I would leave you hanging before Derby Day, did you?! While I do have to say I am shocked I have never shared my recipe for Mint Juleps, I do promise you it was worth the wait. This is my favorite warm-weather drink, perfect for cheering on horses or just enjoying the summer sunshine.

This is one of those drinks that can easily be ruined when the proportions are off, even just slightly. It has taken a little bit of tweaking, but I knew I had a winner when our friends in Kentucky - who previously claimed to not like Mint Juleps for being too sweet - happily indulged in this recipe. So get your winning bets and big hats ready and be sure to whip up a few of these drinks to celebrate the day!


Fresh mint, stems removed
1 ounce simple syrup (recipe here)
2 ounces bourbon
Crushed ice
Seltzer water

In the bottom of a mint julep cup, muddle a small handful of mint with the simple syrup. Add the bourbon and stir to combine. Add crushed ice over the mixture, then top with a splash of seltzer. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

*Mint Julep cups are from Danforth Pewter (previously Shirley Pewter) in Williamsburg, Virginia

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Welsh Rarebit

I'm starting to notice a theme emerging in the food I have been shooting and sharing with you recently: breakfast, better yet weekend breakfast recipes. Perhaps that should come as no surprise – I know very few people in the world who do not enjoy a leisurely breakfast on a weekend morning. But even more than usual, I have found myself yearning for these dishes on the weekend. All week I crave the simplicity, the slower pace, even if just for one meal.

Welsh Rarebit is a fairly new recipe in my repertoire, but with crusty bread, cheese, eggs, and beer, I am sure it is one that is here to stay. This is a hearty meal that will keep your hunger at bay for most of the remainder of your day and I bet, like me, you will find yourself daydreaming of the dish – and the weekend – soon after the next workday begins.

Serves 2 to 4
Adapted from Talking With My Mouth Full by Gail Simmons

This is a hearty breakfast, perfect for a lazy weekend morning. Use a hearty bread that will stand up to, but not overpower the dish: rye, pumpernickel, or country are all good options. I also make this dish when I have leftover Homemade Everything Bagels, which adds a delicious crunch.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup Guinness (I like to use the Foreign Stout)
1 tablespoon Worcetershire sauce
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
4 pieces toasted bread, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
4 large eggs
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pickles, for serving

Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat broiler.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then stir in flour with a rubber spatula. Cook, stirring often to ensure no lumps form, until mixture is golden brown and very fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in mustard powder and cayenne, followed by beer and Worcestershire sauce.

When mixture is well combined, turn heat to low and whisk in cheese until very smooth. Spread a thick layer of the mixture on toasted bread slices. Place on a sheet tray under the broiler, until cheese is bubbly and edges of toast are crisp and golden, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. When butter begins to foam, reduce heat to medium-low, crack eggs into butter, and fry until whites are set and yolks are still runny.

Place one egg on top of each slice of bread and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with pickles. Leftover cheese mixture may be refrigerated up to 1 day.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Graham Cracker Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Frosting

A few days ago I celebrated my birthday, ringing in the beginning of year 27. It promises to be a year full of exciting, big changes.

Each year when the 10th of March rolls around, I always debate what to do about my birthday dessert. Should I enjoy it in a fancy restaurant or bakery? Should I make myself a whole cake? Do I even want something sweet? But each year I wind up craving the exact same flavors of a cake my mom always made on my special day: graham crackers, vanilla pudding, chocolate frosting. I have her recipe for the cake, but it makes far too much for just two people and the cake pan would take up a fourth of our refrigerator space. So instead, each year I daydream of a new way to make the flavors into a new dessert.

This year I settled on creating ice cream cakes, each the perfect size to share with a special someone. These are quick to create, especially, if you like me are short on time, and substitute a really great quality vanilla ice cream for homemade.

Makes 2 cakes

Because my freezer space is so limited, I decided to make these ice cream cakes in individual springform pans. The size is perfect for sharing with your special someone, just be sure to have your fork ready, as this dessert has a way of disappearing right before your eyes!

10 graham crackers, ground into crumbs in a food processor, divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pint vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Reserve 1/4 cup of the graham cracker crumbs. In a small bowl, combine the remaining graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until all the evenly coated. Divide the mixture evenly between two 4 1/2-inch individual springform pans. Using your fingers, press the mixture into a crust over the bottom and about halfway up the sides of each pan. Freeze the crusts for about 10 minutes.

When crusts are set, place two scoops of vanilla ice cream in each pan and smooth with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the reserved graham cracker crumbs over the top of each. Freeze for about 15 minutes. Place two additional scoops of vanilla ice cream in each pan, smoothing again with a small offset spatula. Divide the remaining graham cracker crumbs evenly over the top of each. Wrap each pan in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve.

To make the chocolate frosting, sift together the confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Using a hand mixer, combine the ingredients until the frosting is light and fluffy.

To serve, remove the ice cream cakes from the freezer and unmold. Frost as desired and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chocolate Stout Floats

I will admit that when it comes to St. Patrick's Day, I am quite lazy in preparing a dessert for the holiday. Perhaps it is because I am not Irish or maybe because Mike and I have arrived at the age where we plan to stay in the apartment to actively avoid the bar hoppers. If it is a particularly warm day and the windows happen to be open, we collectively roll our eyes as the cheering and partying starts to turn into yelling and sobbing.

I told you we were old! This year, I decided to at least make an effort and prepare a super easy dessert that still celebrates the main star of the day - stout! With just two ingredients required - plus a cute striped straw - it ensures we will be back to reading our books and shaking our heads at the rowdy youth in no time.

Makes 2 floats

For this easy recipe, you just need two ingredients on hand: your favorite chocolate stout and a delicious vanilla bean ice cream. If you have homemade ice cream on hand, it will be perfect in these floats, but not to worry - a good quality store-bought pint will serve as a great substitute.

12 ounces chocolate stout (I love Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout)
4 scoops vanilla bean ice cream, recipe below (or substitute a good-quality store brand)

Divide the beer evenly between two sundae glasses. Carefully scoop two scoops of ice cream into each glass. Serve immediately.

Makes about 1 quart
Qdapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 cup whole milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Pinch of table salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, and table salt in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and also add the bean pod. When liquid is barely warm to the touch, cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until nappe: when the mixture the thickens, coats the spatula, and holds its shape when a you draw a line with your finger across the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, stir in the vanilla extract, and cool over an ice bath, stirring occasionally.

When mixture cools, place in the refrigerator to ripen overnight. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving it for another use, and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homemade Everything Bagels

I remember the first time I realized you could actually make bagels at home. I was in pastry school, near the beginning of our bread module, and I felt silly that it had never occurred to me that this favorite New York food could be created in a home kitchen.

Even Mike seemed wary one weekend morning when, despite being exhausted from my full-time job and student schedule, I woke up and started preparing the dough. “You are going to boil these bagels, right?” he asked with a slight glare over his coffee cup. Apparently he didn’t trust a Virginia girl to be able to create a bagel worthy of a New Yorker’s approval.

But the empty sheet tray later that morning told me all I needed to know. Over the past years, I have stuck with this recipe, as it is so incredibly easy, and happily made batches upon batches for family and friends. Even living in the heart of the city, where we can walk just a few blocks to purchase bagels, I still far prefer making my own as there is no comparison for smearing a bagel, still warm from the oven, with a pad of butter and digging in. These bagels are smaller than those you might be accustom to, but I promise they are far, far more delicious.

Yields 8

Bagels are deceivingly easy to make and the extra effort is immediately rewarded by a warm-from-the-oven bagel. You can use the dough recipe and method as the base of any type of bagel you might wish to create. It is important to note that this recipe uses instant yeast, not active yeast, which can be found at most grocery stores or online. This type of yeast does not need to be bloomed in warm liquid prior to adding to the dry ingredients; instead, the yeast is mixed in with the dry ingredients and then the warm liquid is added to the entire mixture.

4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons, sugar plus 1 tablespoon for poaching
3 teaspoons table salt
2½ teaspoons SAF Instant Yeast
13 ounces water, warmed to 100-110 degrees

Combination of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, dried minced garlic, and dried minced onion

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Start the mixer on a slow speed and begin to stream in the water. Increase speed to medium-high and knead until dough begins to come together.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand until a smooth, barely tacky dough develops, adding additional flour as needed. Form into a ball, cover with the mixing bowl, and allow to rise for 10 minutes.

While the dough is rising, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add 1 tablespoon sugar.

After 10 minutes, divide the dough into 8 pieces (if you are using a kitchen scale, each piece should be about 4.3 ounces). Roll each piece into a log, about 10-12 inches long. Wrap log around the palm of your hand and lightly moisten one end with a dab of water. Squeeze ends together, roll lightly on counter to secure ends, and release from hand. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Drop bagels into the boiling water, up to three at a time. Carefully run a slotted spoon under bagels to release from bottom, if necessary. When bagels rise to the top of the pot, remove and place on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake until the bagels are well-risen and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Almond Milk Creamed Spinach

I have a case of the winter blues. It's nothing dramatic or of huge concern; I find myself feeling this way most years, in the last weeks of February, before the promise of spring feels within grasp. My mood is sullen and melancholy, mirroring the never-ending grey clouds and fog that seems to be relentlessly enveloping Manhattan. I struggle to remember the last time I felt the sun on my face.

At the same time, my body has been exhausted this week with valiantly defending against nasty cold germs that keep trying to do their worst. I have moments of feeling okay and moments of not being able to put a sentence together, my words getting lost in the fuzziness that is my brain.

Consequently, I have needed a strange, or rather uncommon, combination of foods that are both healthy and nurturing to help defend against this cold as well as homey and comforting to help soothe my soul. Much to my surprise, this dish effortlessly fit that exact description. The spinach added the power of greens to my body, but at the same time, each cheesy, flavorful forkful made me feel as though things would soon be better, the sun would eventually have to peek through the clouds long enough to kiss my cheek.

Serves 6

This is such a homey, comforting dish you might forget you are actually consuming vegetables with each bite. I was able to easily quarter the recipe to make an individual portion in my favorite Lodge cast iron dishes.

Four 5-ounce bags baby spinach
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan, heat 1 inch of water. Add the spinach by the handful; allow each handful to wilt before adding more. When the spinach is wilted, drain it, pressing out as much water as possible. Wipe out the pot.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pot. Add the shallots; cook over moderate heat until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the almond milk and simmer until very thick, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into a baking dish.

In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the panko and almonds and sprinkle over the creamed spinach. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Serve.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Breakfast Pizza

Growing up, I loved enjoying a sweet breakfast - pancakes or waffles with syrup, chocolate chip pancakes or muffins, cinnamon buns - dishes only made better by salty bacon on the side. But as I have grown up, my tastes have evolved and I crave a certain combination of savory items for my weekend breakfast.

This pizza has all of those flavors, which is why I consider it to be the most perfect breakfast food. Eggs, salty bacon, melty cheese, shallots, chives, scallions - all on top of a deliciously flavored, crispy thin pizza crust. Good salt and pepper brighten the whole dish and make the flavors jump in your mouth. And I'm not the only one who finds this flavor combination is divine - Mike could hardly wait for me finish photographing the pizza this weekend so we could dive right in.

Adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook
Makes 2 pizzas, serves 4 to 6 people

This pizza contains all of my favorite flavors of breakfast. Be sure to allow the pizza dough to rise in the refrigerator for two nights, the resulting flavor is incredible and worth the wait. If you have a pizza stone, be sure to use it as it will create a very crisp crust. But not to worry if you don't have a pizza stone; my oven is too small to hold one and the crust still crisps up very nicely.

Pizza Dough
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Breakfast Pizza
Cornmeal, for dusting
Bread flour, for dusting
6 bacon strips
Pizza dough (recipe above)
Olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
Fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
6 large eggs
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Chives, minced
Scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Make the pizza dough: Place 3/4 cup lukewarm water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Rain in the yeast, stir, and set it aside to activate for 5 minutes.

Add the flour to the beast mixture and sprinkle the salt on top. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment, and combine on slow speed for 1 minute, until all the ingredients start to come together. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Then increase the speed to high and mix for 2 more minutes.

Immediately turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll each half into a tight round. Place the balls on a floured baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in a large plastic bag and tie the bag loosely. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 nights.

Make the pizza: The next day, about 1 hour before baking the pizzas, pull the baking sheet out of the refrigerator and leave it in a warm area until you are ready to use the dough. You do not want the dough to become too warm, as it will be difficult to shape.

Meanwhile, if you have a pizza stone, place it on the oven rack to warm. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously dust the surface of a pizza peel (or baking sheet if you do not have one) with cornmeal.

Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon strips, and pan-fry until crisp. Put the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels, let it cool, and then crumble into bite-size pieces.

Lightly dust a work surface with bread flour. Working with one ball of pizza dough, dip your hands and your dough in the bread flour to make them less sticky, and pat the dough down into a disk shape with your fingers. Once the disk is large enough, drape the dough over your fists and carefully start stretching and expanding the dough from underneath to form a round that is 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Place the dough on the prepared peel or baking tray. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the dough and, using your fingers, brush the dough evenly with the oil. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over the dough, followed by a few slices of mozzarella. Crack 3 eggs over the top and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake the pizza for 10 to 16 minutes, checking on it after 5 minutes and rotating it if necessary to ensure that it is baking evenly. When the crust is golden, the cheese is melted, and the egg yolks are cooked to medium. Carefully transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Let it cool for 2 minutes and sprinkle with half of the shallot and chives and scallions. Slice and serve immediately. Prepare your second pizza the same way.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chicken Pozole

I realize that today is Valentine's Day and soup might not exactly rank very highly on the list of most romantic foods in the world.  But the rough winter months of New York have taught me that sometimes even the most ordinary of dishes can be romantic, just as long as those dishes are hearty and filling enough to melt away cold cheeks and fingers and noses from the commute home.

And this soup is anything but boring!  It's spicy and warm and, with the addition of a little fresh lime juice, is bright with the flavors of a warmer climate.  Crushed tortilla chips add an unexpected crunch and extra bit of saltiness.  Mix up a batch of margaritas, play a little footsy under the table with your slipper-clad sweetheart, and you have the makings of a delicious, romantic evening!


Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 8 servings

This is one of our favorite soups to make in the winter months, as it is hearty and filling without requiring a lot of work to create.  We love adding diced avocado, some freshly squeezed lime juice, and some crushed tortillas just before we sink our spoons into the bowl.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 cans (15 ounces each) white hominy, drained
6 3/4 cups shredded cooked chicken (2 pounds)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Assorted garnishes, such as diced avocado, thinly sliced radishes, and crumbled tortilla chips, for serving

Heat oil in a 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, and oregano; cook, stirring constantly, until evenly distributed. Add 4 cups water, broth, and hominy. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until fragrant, about 30 minutes.

Stir in chicken; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until heated through. To serve, divide among bowls, and garnish as desired.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Roasted Beets with Yogurt, Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar

To celebrate seven years together, a few weekends ago Mike and I had an anniversary lunch at ABC Kitchen.  We went armed with a gift card, a thoughtful engagement gift from my boss, meaning we were at liberty to order dishes and drinks that we might otherwise skimmed over in the name of keeping the bill reasonably priced for a mid-day meal.  One of the dishes we ordered was the Roasted Beets with Organic Yogurt.  Mike, not being a lover of yogurt, was a bit skeptical, but figured he could just enjoy the beets.

When the dish arrived, the beautiful colors of the roasted beets just begged for us to try that dish first, before any of the others on the table.  It was so unbelievably delicious!  Mike even enjoyed the yogurt, with the juices from the beets, the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and crunch of sea salt combining to make a bright, irresistible mixture.

What I love so much about Dan Kluger's menu is that the basic concept of so many of his dishes is usually quite simple - a few ingredients, fresh from the farmer's market, combined in a unique way.  I knew I could attempt to replicate the dish at home and achieve something quite similar, without needing to spend a fortune on ingredients I didn't already have.

So last Sunday morning I roasted lots of beets, then Mike and I worked to rub all of the skins off so we could make it to the gym on time.  The beets cooled and then for lunch, I quickly assembled the dish for a healthy, scrumptious lunch. 

Roasted Beets with Yogurt, Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar
Inspired by Dan Kluger

You can use whatever combination of beets you like for this dish, just be sure to roast each variety separately, as their cooking times may vary.  For the purposes of the photos, in order to really bring out the beautiful colors of the beets, I only plated a few beets, but be sure to really pile on the beets when you sit down to enjoy your dish!

For the Beets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound beets (I used a mix of baby red, white, and chioggia beets) – washed, scrubbed and separated by color

For the Plated Dish
2 cups Greek yogurt
Roasted beets, cooled, trimmed, and cut into quarters
1/4 cups balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Tarragon, coarsely minced
Maine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the beets: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, and salt.  Toss each beet type with in the mixture and wrap in a tight foil pouch (Note: each type of beet should be cooked separately). Place foil pouches on a baking tray and roast for about 1 hour (Note: if you are using larger beets, increase cooking time to about 1 1/2 hours).  Check the beets using a small paring knife to see if they are tender. Once done, rub off skins with a clean towel.

Assemble the Dish: In two bowls, spoon yogurt to cover bottom. Place beets in an even layer on top. Drizzle with vinegar and olive oil. Garnish with tarragon and sprinkle with salt and pepper to finish. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hot Chocolate & Homemade Marshmallows

Last week was absolutely frigid here in New York City.  I know, I know, it's January - it's supposed to be cold!  Mike LOVES the winter, embraces it like the true New Yorker he his.  I, on the other hand, happily hailing from below the Mason-Dixon, see nothing enjoyable about weather that freezes your face on the walk to work, so you arrive in a busy lobby not realizing your nose has been running for two blocks, balancing bags, gloves, hats while trying to find your building IDs, all while in a winter jacket that restricts full range of motion.

But I do enjoy an afternoon cup of hot chocolate on days like these.  I enjoy the simple process of steaming the milk on the stove, whisking in the dark chocolate, ladling it into two mugs, and adding a homemade marshmallow that begins to melt just slightly upon contact with the warm liquid.  I enjoy delivering the treat to Mike, watching him smile, sitting down next to him and clutching the mug close for warmth.  That first sip - the sip with the most perfect ratio of hot chocolate to melty marshmallow - is all it takes to begin to warm my bones once again.

Recipe from Molly Wizenberg

I found this recipe just after I graduated college and it yields the most perfect marshmallow every time.  You'll be surprised just how easy it is to make your own marshmallows and how much your hot chocolate or s'mores will improve because of them. Just remember to work quickly, but very carefully as the syrup is very hot!

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup cold water, divided
3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup potato starch (or corn starch)
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240ºF, about 8 minutes.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

Makes 2 servings

You can use whatever type of chocolate you prefer, but I love the combination of a bittersweet chocolate with the sweetness of a homemade marshmallow.  I always keep a box of Guittard 72% on-hand, as it is formed in wafers so I do not have to worry about cutting up the chocolate prior to adding to the warmed milk.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, cut into shavings (if not using wafers)

Over low heat, warm milk in a small saucepan until just beginning to simmer and bubbles form at the edge of the pan. Whisk chocolate into warmed milk until smooth and velvety.  Divide evenly between two mugs.  Serve with a homemade marshmallow.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Baked Huevos Rancheros

"Hue-vos Ranch-eros" Mike slowly enunciates to me, his inflection indicating that I am expected to repeat the phrase back to him. But it rolls off my tongue in some strange combination of Spanish and French, thanks to six years spent learning to converse with Parisians. Mike rolls his eyes, smiling slightly as he grates the cheese and I return to stirring the quick, barely spicy tomato sauce that is the base of this breakfast dish.

Soon it is time to begin assembling and Mike works quickly behind me, arranging the tortilla chips (always blue in our house) in the perfect order after I have placed a bit of the sauce at the bottom of each cast iron gratin dishes.

Despite my inability to pronounce the name of the dish without a French dialect, Mike will soon be scraping the bottom of his dish to ensure he gets every bit of tomato and runny egg yolk scooped onto a crunchy chip.


Adapted from FOOD & WINE
Serves 2

I like baking this dish in individual cast-iron servers so each person has their own little meal. This makes the perfect amount of food for two hungry people at brunch, but it can easily be doubled to serve four. If it's late enough in the morning, Mike and I also like to mix up a little batch of margaritas to get the day started right!

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 small red bell pepper, finely diced
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups tortilla chips
4 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeños, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Spoon the sauce into 2 individual, shallow baking dishes and arrange the tortilla chips around the sides. Crack 2 eggs into each dish and sprinkle with the cheese. Set the dishes on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still runny (or cook longer if you like a harder yolk). Serve right away.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Banoffee Pie

Our Sunday nights have been a little brighter these past two weeks with the return of Downton Abbey. Mike and I were late to the game with this show and last winter we spent our evenings catching-up (binging, would actually be more accurate) on the first two seasons, complete with gin and tonics in hand.  We were both even a little depressed for a few days once we finished season two - such a long wait ahead of us!  The third season has already been so much fun to watch, with plenty of drama, zippy one-liners, and Mary's wedding.  And can we talk about poor Edith?  I couldn't stop crying for her last week! What a nightmare!  

As much fun as the drama is upstairs, I am equally, if not more so, drawn to the personalities of those downstairs, which is probably because I have no traceable line of royalty in my English ancestors (I'll continue to hold out hope for the Scottish side).  Unlike the formal, massive dinner table upstairs, every time they show the servants eating dinner or enjoying a cup of tea, I just want to pull up a chair and sit around their long communal table.  And I imagine Banoffee Pie, an old English dessert layered with gooey toffee, ripe banana slices, and whipped cream, would be something happily shared among the servants on a rainy evening with a big pot of tea.  


Adapted from Gail Simmons for My Last Supper
Makes 1 9-inch pie

This recipe calls for making your own toffee, but you can easily substitute a good-quality store bought version to reduce the preparation time.  Better yet, make your own dulce de leche on a lazy afternoon and keep the cans stocked so you can whip this dessert up on even the shortest of notice.

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces chocolate wafer cookies, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 large bananas
1 pint heavy cream

  • Remove the labels from the can of sweetened condensed milk and place on the bottom of a large stockpot.  Fill the pot with water, completely covering the can, then cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and boil for 3 hours, keeping the pot covered.  Be sure to frequently check the water level: the can should be covered by water at all times and the pot should never be allowed to boil dry, otherwise the can may explode.  Remove the can from the water and allow to cool completely at room temperature before opening.

  • In a food processor, pulse the cookies until fine; transfer to a bowl and whisk in the sugar and salt.  Add the melted butter and stir until coated.  Press the crumbs over the bottom of the pie plate and up the sides.  Refrigerate the crust until firm, about 30 minutes.

  • When the crust is chilled, remove from the refrigerator and spread the toffee over the base of the pie crust. Peel and slice the bananas into 1/4-inch thick rounds, then arrange on top of the toffee.

  • In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream until it holds barley stiff peaks.  Spoon the whipped cream evenly over the bananas.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Grammie Lyford's Pancakes

Our train pulled into Penn Station just after 10 PM on New Year's Eve.  Battling the throngs of party-goers had not been anywhere in our original plan for the evening, an evening we had looked forward to spending quietly at home with friends, a thoughtful dinner, and a few bottles of bubbly.  But life had different plans for us that evening and we quietly trudged towards the 6 train, bypassing people not much younger than ourselves in sparkly, barley-there outfits.  We were exhausted and hungry.

By the time we returned to our apartment, any place we could have hoped to pick-up a quick bite was closed for the night.  Our refrigerator was stocked with food, but all for time-consuming meals I had planned to leisurely put together on my days off.  "How about pancakes?" I asked wearily.  Mike nodded his approval as he removed his tie.

Soon the sounds of butter sizzling as it hit the hot griddle filled the tired silence and the smell of pancakes quickly engulfed our apartment.  We sat across from each other with heavy eyes, comforted by the familiar taste of fluffy pancakes, smeared with softened butter and sweet maple syrup.


Makes 8-10 pancakes

This is my great-great grandmother's recipe and, in my very biased opinion, it is the best pancake recipe in the world.  The recipe is a great base for any variations you might wish to try - chocolate chip and blueberry are family favorites - and you just add your additions to the batter right before cooking.  But on most weekend mornings, there is nothing more comforting than a big stack of plain pancakes with pure maple syrup.

2 eggs
1 1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for griddle

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and the milk.  In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until blended.  Stir in melted butter to create a smooth batter.

Warm a griddle over medium heat.  When griddle is hot, melt a bit of butter over the griddle.  Scoop batter into desired size and cook until bubbles begin to form.  Check to ensure the cooked side of the pancake is golden-brown, then flip to finish cooking on the other side.  Serve immediately.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Get Ready to Update Your Bookmarks!

Last week I talked about my goals – both personal and professional – in the new year and, after a very productive weekend in front of my amazing new computer, I am attacking them!  Granted, many of my business goals are overarching and will continue to evolve over time.  But I am starting to get to the point that I think I might need to sit down again in a few months, dream bigger, and list a new set of goals for the year!

That leads me into talking about my first big change of the year; a decision that I have wrestled with making over the past few months.  After seeking the advice of my go-to businessman (my hubby to be!), talking with other bloggers, and talking with other photographers, it all came down to trusting my gut.

I started Dolcetto Confections four years ago to document my nights at pastry school with my target audience being my family.  It has evolved over the years to include recipes and, most recently, has been a place to showcase my photography. I began to realize last year that there were many times I would refer someone to my blog to see my photography, but that referring them to a blog about my kitchen adventures did not really make the most business sense.  And as I began to truly recognize my passion for photography, I was not so faithful in putting up what I was actually cooking and baking.

So starting today, there will be two blogs.  If you are one of those people who keeps checking back here for me to finally post a new recipe, keep your browser pointing right here.  Dolcetto Confections will be returning to the original purpose of being a recipe blog.

And if you are one of those people who like following my life and photography, I invite you to follow me at  And I will be sure to let you know whenever there is a delicious recipe waiting for you on Dolcetto Confections!

I hope all of this makes sense – though writing it out makes it seem far less complicated than I had imagined.  And, as always, thank you all who keep checking back to this space for updates.  You put a smile on my face every day!  

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Goals & Photos from a Summer Day on the High Line

Just four days into 2013, I already feel a bit behind and a little worn out.  I’m finding that it doesn’t help one bit to sit and think about how rested, accomplished, and in-control I had expected to feel upon returning to work after a full week off.  Sometimes life likes to remind you, in a very big way, that no matter how much you plan or how many to-do lists you make, you are rarely in control.

So, I’m a few days behind, but I wanted to put my goals for 2013, both personal and professional, in writing.  I want to hit the publish button on this post and feel like I am accountable to more than just myself for actively trying to work towards these goals.  One thing these past few days have reinforced in me is that life is far too short to not go after your dreams, not matter how impossible they might seem on the cusp of that first big jump.      

When 2012 began, instead of an actual list of goals, I had one phrase that kept repeating itself over and over in my mind: "Be kind to yourself."  That became my goal for the year ahead, recognizing that I had developed an alarming tendency to be quite harsh on myself.  There were definitely moments when I failed at this, but with each passing month, I started to be easier on and kinder to myself.

Similarly, this year there is a phrase – somewhat an extension of what I worked towards last year - that resonated with me as soon as I read it on Emily Ley's site:  "I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection."  So fitting.  This is a tall order for any perfectionist, but is a much healthier way to approach life.  It’s time to realize that though I might wish and think that I can do it all, I just can’t – and that doesn’t mean I am a terrible wife (to be) or person.  Some days I just need to give myself credit for the things I am already doing, besides being part of a family, I’m also working full-time, planning a wedding, launching a business, and gearing up for a potential move – and those are just the big things!  So maybe it’s time that I stop trying to make everything just perfect, maybe it’s okay if the laundry is a little (okay, a lot) overflowing and the dishes are piling up in the sink.  It will all get done, maybe not as soon as I want, but it will all get done.

On the professional side, I have a long list of goals of where I would like to take my business over the next year:

Make it viable.
Though just in the start-up phase, I aim to make my photography business a viable part-time job by the end of the year.  The other goals are all smaller parts of making this overarching goal actually happen.  In addition, I need to file everything to ensure my business is set-up to protect everyone involved.

Complete branding.
This goal is intentionally a bit vague.  To save money, I will be responsible for all of my initial branding, which I need to complete and be aware enough to update as needed.  Eventually (whether this year or further down the road) I want to invest in a designer to truly perfect my branding.

Update website.
This goal is also a bit vague, because, while I have a few ideas of what I would like to do with my website/blog, the truth is that I am not exactly sure.  I need to talk with other people in the field and then just trust my gut enough to make whatever changes I need.  What I know right this moment is that I am not motivated to update my current website, which is potentially hurting my business.  So I either need to make myself motivated or find a new system that works better.

Blog consistently.
This might seem a little strange given the lateness in this post, but I need to create a consistent schedule for blogging, Monday through Friday.

Invest in my business, smartly.
Mike is definitely the voice in my ear on this goal, as he is the biggest proponent of spending money to make money.  But as an emerging photographer, I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed about all of the investments that seem to be part of taking a business to the next level – top notch equipment, website, blog, packaging, and workshops.  Since I am just at the beginning, I will need to pick-and-chose which investments will help me bring in the most business.

Network with area photographers.
I’m not sure why, but this is one of the scariest goals to me!  It wasn’t even until last month that I would admit to some of our family and closest friends that I was starting my own photography business!  But I’ve realized you can’t just put up a website and a blog and hope that people flock to you to have you capture their day.  It’s time to meet some people who do this successfully for a living, learn from them, and create some meaningful relationships. 

Second shoot a wedding.
This goal completely relies on the previous, because it’s tough to second shoot a wedding if you don’t know any photographers!  I have shot some portions of wedding days, but never from the beginning to end and never under the continuous time constraints of the day.

Staring out at 2013, I feel a mix of emotions - excited, anxious, scared - about everything that lies ahead. It promises to be a year of adventure and new beginnings!

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