Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bobalki - a Slovak Xmas Eve Tradition

Growing up my family didn't have too many holiday traditions. Sometimes we had a Christmas tree, and sometimes we didn't. Sometimes we lit a menorah, and sometimes we didn't. But one thing you could count on was the Christmas eve meal: mushroom soup, fish, peas and onions, orange slices, walnuts, and bobalki. All paying homage to my mother's 100% Slovak heritage.

Honestly, bobalki was not something we really loved growing up. But a few years ago my mother realized that she had been skipping a weird step at the end, which ended up making all the difference and now bobalki is something we ask for even when it's not Christmas eve. For those who don't know, bobalki are little dough balls, that are not themselves very sweet, but are covered in honey and poppy seeds. Be forewarned that there are A LOT of poppy seeds, so if you're eating in mixed company, you may want to serve them with a side of floss. :o)

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year's eve and a fulfilling and healthy 2012!

Note: pouring boiling water over the dough balls in point #5 is the weird step often forgotten, but is vital to ensure the balls are not dry and dense.

1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp plus 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1 pkg dry, active yeast
3 cups flour

1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 tbsp milk
1/4 cup honey

1. Boil 1 cup water, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, and salt. Cool until room temperature. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast and 1/2 tbsp of sugar in 1/4 cup warm water.

2. Place flour in a large bowl and add water/sugar mixture and yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly and knead for about 10 minutes. Adding a little more flour to ensure the dough isn't sticking to your fingers. Cover for about an hour, until dough has doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Tear off pieces of dough and form them into 1/2 inch balls.

4. Place balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet, so they are touching each other. Heat oven to 375 F and cover the cookie sheet with a piece of oiled plastic wrap, wait about 30 minutes until balls have almost doubled. Bake 15-20 minutes until balls are light brown.

5. Set sheet on a cooling rack and let balls cool completely; pull balls apart. Place balls in a colander and pour a little boiling water over them—not so much that they become mush.

6. Grind poppy seeds and milk in a food processor. Add poppy seed mixture to honey and pour over the dough balls, stirring to ensure even coverage. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pecan Tassies & Pfeffernussen

It's been over a month since my last post. With good reason, because for the majority of that time I was without a working stove. But now I'm back and while the renovation is not fully completed yet, I have a kitchen that is in complete working order!

So in celebration, and in time for the holidays, here are two delicious cookie recipes that I served at our inaugural cocktail party! Both come from the inimitable Martha Stewart, who certainly comes in handy this time of year. :o) Enjoy!

Pecan Tassies from Martha Sewart
For the dough:
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
1 large egg
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process pecans in a food processor until finely ground; set aside. In an electric mixer, combine mascarpone and butter on medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour, ground pecans, and salt; mix just until dough comes together.

2. Roll dough into sixteen 1-inch balls, and press into bottoms and up sides of cups of mini-muffin tins.

3. Whisk the egg, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, butter, and salt in a small bowl. Stir in pecans. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons filling into each muffin cup.

4. Bake pecan tassies until crust begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely in tins on wire rack before you unmold.

Pfeffernussen from Martha Stewart
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners' sugar in a brown paper bag.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in an electric mixer beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kitchen Renovation

We are well underway with the kitchen renovation. In some ways it seems as though we've been "renovating" this kitchen since July, considering all of the planning required, but in reality the actual work has only been going on for 7 days. In that 7 days though, we have gotten rid of the world's worst fridge, smallest stove, and shallowest sink. We have also gained all new electric and plumbing work and beautiful cabinetry.

It has been very rewarding to watch as this project grew and gained momentum. From a genuine need to make the kitchen utile, to a dream to make it something special. From progress measured at a snail's pace (e.g. we picked the contractor this month) to hourly gains (e.g. base cabinetry built out that wasn't there when I left for class in the morning). Like most things, home ownership seems to be more about the journey than the destination. But we are incredibly excited to see the finished project and to share it will all of you. So until our true "before and after" pics are available, here is a little "before and now."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Owl S'Mores

This isn't so much a "recipe" as it is instructions for an edible craft. I saw these last week and just had to make them. They provided the perfect complement to a Halloween Day session of my Jurisprudence class. And in addition to being the cutest s'mores I've ever seen, they are incredibly tasty!

Owl S'Mores from
makes 20 owls

20 graham cracker halves
20 regular sized marshmallows
40 pieces of yellow candy melt (available at craft/fabric stores)
1/4 bag of chocolate chips
20 pieces of candy corn

1. Assemble your ingredients. Snap the graham crackers into halves and collect nice looking candy corn and candy melts that aren't stuck together.

2. Using a nice sharp pair of scissors, cut marshmallows in half. Place 2 half-marshmallows on a graham cracker where the eyes should be. Microwave for 20 seconds in 5 second increments. Remove and immediately place 1 piece of candy melt in the center of each marshmallow. Place 1 piece of candy corn between the marshmallows.

3. Once you have assembled all 20 owls, melt the chocolate chips and place a small drop on each piece of candy melt for the "pupil."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Old-fashioned Meat Pie

There's something about the brisk days of Fall that make certain cozy things irresistibly attractive. Scarves, riding boots, flannel. And, for me, carbs. A savory pie is a great way to capture all of that desired coziness in a single dinner in a no-fuss way (especially if you use store-bought pastry ... just this once ... it will be our secret, I promise).

This is one of those recipes to which you could really make endless variations. Use different meats, ratchet up the spices, add lots of veggies. But for this particular take I went the classic french route: meat and potatoes in a pie crust. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Another bonus is that a meat pie is one of those coveted meals that actually gets better the longer it sits in your fridge (to a point of course). Though I am willing to bet that leftovers of this won't stick around for too long. Happy Autumn!

Old-fashioned Meat Pie adapted from All Recipes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 cup mashed potatoes
salt and pepper

pie crust pastry for top and bottom
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Heat oil in pan over medium heat; add onions and cook until they turn translucent. Add beef and pork. Liberally salt and pepper and cook until brown (about 7-10 minutes). Stir as necessary.

3. Combine onion/meat mixture and mashed potatoes in a large bowl. Salt and pepper again.

4. Line the bottom of your pie plate with one of your pie crusts. Trim around the edge with a knife. Fill with the meat mixture.

5. Cover with the other pie crust. Trim the edges again and crimp with a fork or your fingers. Brush the top crust with your egg and make 4 slits for steam to escape.

6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

If you're feeling up to it, use a fun cookie-cutter to make shapes out of the extra dough and place on top of your pie. You can also use ramekins to make smaller meat pies (cook for about 25-30 minutes).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pumpkins

If I had to pick my single favorite candy, it would be impossible. But, if I could pick a top 3 without distinguishing among them it would be (in no particular order) peanut m&ms; crunchie bars; and Reese's peanut butter cups. I can't image making the first two at home (though I suppose it would be possible ...), so when I saw this post, I knew I had to give homemade Reese's cups a try. Yum!

I decided to make pumpkins and owls (could they be any cuter?), but you could do any fun shape you have. They are no-bake, so the hardest part is melting the chocolate and dipping the shapes inside. Next time I won't roll the dough out as thin because, even though I froze them, the pumpkins went a little limp when dunked in the melted chocolate and it was admittedly a little frustrating.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pumpkins (adapted, barely, from miss make)

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar

1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp milk or half & half

1. Mix together peanut butter, butter, and confectioner's sugar until fully combined.

2. Roll the dough to between 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness. Cut shapes and re-roll dough as needed.

3. Place shapes in the freezer. In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate and stir in butter and milk. Using a fork, dip the peanut butter shapes until coated and place on parchment paper to harden.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chicken Casserole

There are times when life is really tough. But usually, at some point, it begins to return to normal - to the life you think of yourself as having. And even though you are scared and part of you feels it's only a matter of time until the other shoe drops, you know it isn't great to walk around afraid all the time. So you let your guard down and allow yourself to start feeling normal again. But sometimes, life becomes tough all over again and being taken off guard can make it seem even harder than the first go-round.

Most of you know that my husband has been dealing with some pretty serious health issues over the last year and while he is doing much better, this last week was difficult. Even though we knew with our heads that it was a minor step back, it felt in our hearts like we were back at square one. Which is a really scary place to be.

During these times, we tend to crave things that are familiar. Things that have never let us down. We hug each other, rely on our families, and eat comfort food.

And this recipe is one of those foods for us. It is not terribly healthy or fussy, and is one of Tom's grandmother's recipes. It is best enjoyed surrounded by the ones you love most.

Chicken Casserole
1 full chicken (about 2 cups)
1 lb frozen broccoli
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook the chicken (or you can purchase a rotisserie chicken and make this step a *snap*). Pull apart into bite-sized chunks.

2. Put broccoli into the bottom of casserole dish. Cover broccoli with chicken pieces.

3. In a small bowl mix soup, mayo, lemon juice, curry powder and cheese, until fully combined. Spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle with cornflake crumbs.

4. Cover and bake for 1 hr. 20 minutes. The casserole should be bubbly.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Homemade Granola

Every weekday morning I eat yogurt with almonds sprinkled on top. But after almost 2 years (yes, years), I decided to switch it up a little bit. Instead of going to the store and getting granola, I embarked on an online recipe search to see what making my own granola would entail.

Turns out almost all granola recipes are pretty much the same. Take some rolled oats, and your favorite seeds, nuts, things like that and then some honey and brown sugar. It's so easy to make (2 steps!) and you avoid the struggle of trying to find one at the store that has all of your favorite things (i.e. sunflower seeds) and none of the things you don't particularly care for (i.e. dried cherries). The recipe below is based off of
this recipe from The Kitchen Sink, it's super simple and makes your house smell heavenly!

Homemade Granola
adapted from The Kitchen Sink
3 1/2 cups rolled oats

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon flax seeds

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon real maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Spread the mixture onto a cookie sheet.

2. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to keep the granola from burning. Cool completely and then remove from the pan. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Brown Butter Shortbread

You may have noticed that I haven't posted a baked good in a while, which is pretty unlike me. I could blame the last vestiges of summer, the long summer associate interview process, that hurricane, or the start of the semester, but really the reason is the kitchen in our new apartment. But I took the words of a facebook friend ("gas is gas, temp is temp") to heart and bit the bullet.

The result? Deliciously yummy shortbread that will pair perfectly with my tea this evening and my yogurt tomorrow morning. So while my current stove is nothing like the stainless steel beauty PC Richards is waiting to deliver, it apparently works well enough to make cookies with. Which is pretty fabulous news!

Brown Butter Shortbread
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
I never miss an opportunity to brown butter in baked goods, but reading in the comments where the recipe was originally posted it was noted that browning the butter here leads to a "sandy" texture. I think that's true, but if you are diligent about cooling your dough and then the cookies once baked, it is not a cookie-killer and taste is certainly more complex and delicious. It's your call.

1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted and browned (see note above)

6 tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1. Melt and brown your butter. In a medium bowl, mix butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla until combined. Add flour and stir until just combined.

2. Cover a small baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the mixture until even (your fingers are the perfect tool for this).

3. Let sit for 1 hour on the counter and then transfer for a 2nd hour in the fridge. Before you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 F. Bake for 45 minutes.

4. Remove from oven, leaving your oven on. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Let cool for 10 minutes.

5. Carefully cut the shortbread into long "fingers" and then bake for another 15 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and cool completely before eating. Let them spend some time in the fridge for extra firmness.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Cookies (aka best intentions)

Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against you. I braved 4 different groceries stores in NYC this morning, in spite of the fact that this city is in the throes of bracing for Hurricane Irene. And what that apparently means for most New Yorkers is going to the store and buying lots and lots of bottled water and also canned sardines. Weird, right?

My shopping list was completely different, because my goal was not purely to "survive," but rather to thwart the hurricane entirely by baking Hurricane Cookies, which are notorious for keeping Hurricanes at bay. But alas, even though the grocery lines didn't deter me, our annoying (soon to be removed) little refrigerator ruined everything.

In preparing for probable power outages, I decided to chisel off the LARGE chunks of ice that have accumulated in this fridge since 1970 or so, and in the process the whole thing broke and began spewing freon. Yes.

Please see the note above about the whole world being against you. Apparently freon won't kill you, unless it comes near an open flame. So, long story not so short, no Hurricane Cookies for us. Which likely means, we should work on finding a safe spot away from the windows, because cookies or not, Irene seems imminent. If your situation is not quite so precarious and you're up for making them, I included the recipe for Hurricane Cookies below. Good luck and be safe!

Hurricane Cookies from Good Morning Lowcountry column

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
18 caramels, coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

3. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.

4. Beat in flour. Stir in chocolate, caramels and pecans. Drop onto parchment covered cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake 10-15 minutes, until edges are browned. Cool for a few minutes prior to removing from cookie sheets.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pullman Kitchen: a euphemism

So we moved 2 weeks ago. And along with packing boxes, donating things we haven't worn or used in over a year, and the general craziness that comes with moving, there were a lot of goodbyes. To Magnolia Bakery, to my favorite spot in Central Park, to short walks to Lincoln Center. And maybe most importantly, to my perfect Delonghi stove. It was just last August that the kitchen renovation in our west side apartment was essentially completed.

And now it's a little like being back at square one. Maybe even square negative one, since the west side apartment actually had, you know, a real kitchen. And not just a "Pullman Kitchen" (aka hole in the wall with some appliances thrown in).

But I'm not really complaining, because even though this is the stove I have to work with right now ...

... we have an awesome Fisher-Paykel ordered and waiting to be delivered as soon as we demo the current area.
We also have a pretty great contractor who designed a unit to go around the fridge in the corner opposite the kitchen area. Stay tuned as demolition starts, cabinetry goes in, and the fridge gets super cool panels to match!

ps: I haven't gotten up the nerve to try to bake anything in that silly little white oven, but I hear it is possible. I will be sure to let you know if I'm feeling adventurous.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peach Buckle

This is one of those perfect summer desserts; not too sweet with a focus on the fruit. It is also a "rustic" dessert, similar to nantucket pies, cobblers, etc., which are my favorite to make during the super hot months because they aren't fussy and are very forgiving. When the thermometer hangs steady in the 90s and at times manages to reach over 100 F, my patience wains. But my need for dessert seems to be directly correlated with the heat - peach buckle to the rescue!

I admit that when I had my first slice, I wished it had been peachier. The only bites that had peach flavor were those with actual peach slices. However the next morning (when I can usually be found having another piece of whatever baked good had been made the day before), the flavors melded beautifully and the whole cake had a delightful peach flavor.

Peach Buckle (adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen)
Note: Make sure your pan is deep enough so when the peaches "buckle" into the batter, it does not over flow. After assembling, there should be space between the top layer and the edge of your pan.

Cake & Filling

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted & browned

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt
pinch allspice
1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2/3 cup whole milk

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 lbs peaches, skin removed & sliced into wedges


1/4 cup melted butter (reserved from above)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 tsp cinnamon

pinch salt

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a large glass baking pan with parchment paper and butter the sides.

2. Melt and brown your butter. In a medium bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt and allspice.

3. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup cooled brown butter, sugar, eggs, and milk. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until combined. Spread into your prepared pan.

4. Line the top of the batter with peach wedges. In a separate bowl, combine reserved melted butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon & salt for topping. Sprinkle the topping on top of the peaches.

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes until topping is browned. Let sit for about 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

You may be thinking that making chili during the most ridiculous heat wave in recent memory is an insane person's mission. But hear me out. You brown the turkey and throw it in the slow cooker on low all day. It couldn't be simpler. And in addition to the slow cooker working to meld the flavors of the chili, the process creates no additional heat in your kitchen. None. So when the temp is 115 in the shade, and you live in a fifth floor walk up with brick walls, this should be your go to dinner.

And if that wasn't enough to sell you, it makes 8 hefty servings. And the leftovers, are even tastier than the first go-round! I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, who has made some additions of her own, like adding Rotel for some extra kick. I reproduced the original below, so you can adapt it to your individual taste.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
(adapted from Prevention Magazine)
1 lb ground turkey

1 onion, diced

1 tsp garlic, chopped

1 pkg taco seasoning
1 10 oz can kidney beans

1 10 oz can black beans

1 10 oz can pinto beans

1 20 oz can diced tomatoes

1 2.25 oz can tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1. In a large saute pan over medium heat, add onion and turkey. Once the onion begins to sweat, add the garlic and taco seasoning. Brown the meat (about 7 minutes).

2. To your slow cooker, add all of the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, and red wine. Stir. Add in the turkey mixture.

3. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low all day.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blueberry Galette

This is one of those recipes that you can likely make with stuff you already have in your house. Which is really handy when you're having a low-key dinner and want to throw together a tasty treat to make dessert a little more special. It's also great for when you are in New Jersey and don't have access to a car, but still want to make a dessert (as though there's a time I don't want to make a dessert ...)

I used blueberries, but you could just as easily use peaches, nectarines, plums, or really any fruit that's in season. The fruit is the star of the show though, so you should pick one that is at its best.

There are at least a million galette recipes online, but I just used my favorite pie crust recipe and made the blueberry mixture by feel. If you use a store-bought crust, or have an extra in your freezer from a previous batch, this really is the easiest recipe in the world. To make mine a little extra special, I made whipped cream and sprinkled a little lemon zest on top.

Blueberry Galette
Note: If you want to make my pie crust, the recipe is below. If you are using ready-made, you can start here

2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
scant 1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp cold, unsalted butter in small pieces
1 tsp turbanido sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a medium bowl, mix blueberries, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, and sugar.

2. Transfer the blueberry mixture to the center of your pie crust. Leaving about 1 1/2 inch around the edges. Fold the crust toward the center. Repeat around the entire pie, pleating the crust as you work your way around (see 1st picture for a visual). Sprinkle small pieces of butter of the top of the blueberry center.

3. Brush outside of crust with egg wash and sprinkle with turbanido sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Depending on your oven, you may want to rotate a few times during baking.

Pie Crust
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 sticks, cold unsalted butter
1 cup ice water

1. Put a few ice cubes in your water and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.

2. Cut the butter into cubes and sprinkle over the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter work butter into flour until the dough starts to come together; don't over mix. Once larger clumps start to form, sprinkle a little bit of water over top, 1 tbsp at a time. Err on the dry side, too much water will ruin the dough. Use your hands to bring the dough together.

3. Slice the dough in 1/2 and place each half in plastic wrap. Place the one you want to use in the fridge for 2 hours. The other 1/2 can be frozen for future use.

4. After 2 hours. Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Starting in the center of your dough roll away from you. Flour again and turn the dough a 1/4 turn. Repeat until the dough is a bit bigger than your pie pan. Transfer to your pie plate and return to the fridge.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Magnolia's Famous Banana Pudding

Ok, this is pretty lame, but I won't be able to post pictures until I make this again, because I failed to bring my camera to New Jersey this past weekend. However (and I think this will help you to forgive me), I just couldn't wait to share this incredibly tasty and SUPER easy recipe.

For those of you who don't live a near Magnolia Bakery, I 1) feel bad for you, but 2) feel it necessary to explain the cult-like following of this banana pudding. Any weekend morning you will find a line out the door of people waiting to pick up their pre-ordered banana pudding. Yeah, it's that good.

So imagine my surprise when I bought the More From Magnolia cookbook and right there on page 113 is the recipe. And to make things even better, its a snap to make. So here you go my friends ... enjoy!

Magnolia's Famous Banana Pudding (from More From Magnolia)

1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1 3.4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix (preferably Jell-o)
3 cups heavy cream
1 12-ounce box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (accept no substitutes)
4 cups sliced ripe bananas

1. In a small bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more. Cover and refrigerate over night, or at least for 4 hours.

2. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. (be patient). Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.

3. To assemble: select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5 quart capacity. Arrange 1/3 of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then 1/3 of the bananas, and 1/3 of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers on the top layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Camp Tweedale

(photo from

I have never used this blog as a means of garnering support for a cause. I envisioned it as a place to share recipes and that is best done when the mood is light. But a few days ago I heard devastating news. The Council that runs the Girl Scouts of Eastern PA (formerly FVSGC) has decided to close Camp Tweedale.

This is the only camp that serves girls living in Chester and Delaware counties and is also pretty close to girls in Lancaster and Philadelphia. I spent every childhood summer at this camp, starting at the age of 5, and then worked there in the kitchen as soon as I was old enough.

I realize that girls can make memories anywhere. And that my emotional attachment to Camp Tweedale is personal. But closing this camp is a disservice to the local girls. Chester County is one of the most populous counties in Eastern PA; girls will now have to drive over an hour to access a Camp for weekend troop camping and summer sleep away camp. 78% of Girl Scouts in Eastern PA are Daisies and Brownies (5-7 years old). I think it is unrealistic to think that parents will send these young girls so far away for resident camping. This decision is wrong and we think there is still time to change it! Please take a moment to sign our petition and let GSEPA know that closing Camp Tweedale is a mistake.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Peanut Butter and Fudge Oatmeal Cookies

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't love these cookies. Don't get me wrong. They are great with a glass of milk and the peanut butter, chocolate, oatmeal trio is a winner. But there are a lot of other cookies I would reach for first if given a choice. On the other hand, it is the perfect cookie for Tom. And considering the fact that he can't eat starting at midnight tonight until after his surgery tomorrow afternoon, these cookies were made and an empty glass with a slightly white bottom and a small plate with a few crumbs are sitting between us.

The original recipe doesn't call for any flour. Not a sprinkle of it. And, maybe I'm old-school, but you don't make cookies without flour. It might be tasty. But a cookie, it isn't. So I adjusted that slightly. I also made mine much smaller than initially called for. I'd much rather eat 6 small cookies than 2 big ones. You feel like you get more. And its less daunting when you don't have to use both hands to eat.

So without further ado ... the peanut butter and fudge oatmeal cookie.

Peanut Butter and Fudge Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from the kitchn)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsps vanilla
4 1/2 cups old-fashion oats
2 tbsps all purpose flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl mix together butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir until completely mixed.

2. In a separate bowl mixt flour, baking soda, and salt. Add oats and flour mixture to peanut butter mixture. Place in the fridge to cool.

3. In a small saucepan over low heat stir sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips until all chocolate is melted. Turn flame off.

4. On a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, place teaspoon sized balls of dough. Flatten them with your fingers and place a dollop of chocolate in the middle of each. Bake for 10 minutes, until the edges are light brown. Wait 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

I am lemon-obsessed. I've lost count of the number of times that I have passed off a Magnolia Bakery lemon zest muffin as breakfast and I baked this lemon olive oil cake last week just because I wanted a snack. Also, lemonade has pretty much replaced water and diet coke in my life.

This cake lasted less than a day in our house. Tom and I basically split it down the middle and before 24 hours had passed, we had taken care of our respective shares. (I ate more than 1/2 for those keep score at home).

It was so light, thanks to the gorgeous egg whites. And the crunchy bits of turbinado sugar on top are perfect. AND, there's no butter! This is usually a sin in my kitchen, because it typically means that shortening has been used (yuck), but here, the light olive oil is really a stunning compliment to the lemon. Be sure to use a light bodied olive oil, so the flavor doesn't overpower your lemons.

And to celebrate my birthday (which was yesterday), Tom got me yet another lemon treat from Magnolia. This time, a lemon layer cake with tart lemon cream filling and lemon meringue buttercream icing. Seriously, I may turn into a lemon by the end of the month.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake
(from Epicurious)
1 cup cake flour
zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup light olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

4 egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a round cake pan or spring-form pan. Cover the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper.

2. Mix together flour and lemon zest. Set aside.

3. Beat yolks and sugar on high for about 3 minutes; until very light and fluffy. Reduce speed and slowly add in olive oil and lemon juice. Using a spoon or spatula stir in flour/zest mixture until just combined.

4. Carefully wash and dry your beaters. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and salt until foamy. Slowly add in 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until soft peaks form; about 3 minutes.

5. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Pour into your prepared pan. Tap a few times to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar.

6. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Well, that was fast! 1L is officially over and I'm not sure I could have spent the past few days in a more celebratory way. There has been good eating, some shopping, a day at the spa, and now a great blueberry dessert. I know, I know ... I shouldn't get too carried away!

You may remember my Nantucket blueberry pie, which is the easiest and one of the tastiest desserts, and is always guaranteed to disappear at a party. But these crumb bars are almost as easy to make and just as tasty, so I made them for a memorial day bbq at Tom's cousin's house today. I think after they get a taste of these bars, they won't even miss the fact that I didn't also bring the Nantucket pie.

Let's face it. When you have to take a train, the fewer awkward dessert carriers you have to schlep, the better. So blueberry crumb bars it is! Also, if you're like me just can't seem to get enough lemon and blueberry flavors this time of year, this dessert will help stave off your cravings.

The recipe is verbatim from Smitten Kitchen, so click on the link to check it out. I promise, you won't regret it!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Final Exams

I had my first final exam yesterday (property) and I think it went pretty well. Unlike last semester though, I am feeling a little less like cooking and a little more like sitting in the park and eating fresh fruit. The 30 degree difference in temperature and many more hours of light probably have something to do with this. So I don't have any new recipes to post.

But here is a little law school humor to hold you over until my semester is complete May 25th. Good luck to all those similarly situated in finals-mode!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Cassoulet makes a wonderful dinner and honestly the leftovers are even better. I made this one night last week and it was flavorful, hearty, and all of the different meats are delightful.

As an anniversary gift we were sent this lovely cookbook from Daniel Boulud, so I decided to give his recipe a try. It is reproduced in its entirety below for you to give it a shot. But I made a few modifications. First, Trader Joe's didn't have duck, so sadly I used chicken. But if you can get your hands on a nice one, I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Second, I forewent the topping, which I realize is nothing like me (breadcrumbs and butter ... what's not to love?!), but this meal does take a little while to put together and I am in the throws of finals studying. So the extra 25 minutes required really did make a difference to me. But again, the recipe is reproduced below if you have a little more time than I.

And you should definitely check out the cookbook Daniel's Dish, the photos are beautiful and there is a good mix of aspirational recipes (Saffron-Infused Mussel Veloute) and really approachable ones (Grilled Tuna). Enjoy!

Daniel's Casual Cassoulet
(from Daniel's Dish)
Makes 8 Servings

For the Cassoulet
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 lb Pekin duck, legs and breasts removed and split
1 1/2 lb lamb shoulder, cut into 8 pieces
8 sweet Italian link sausages
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb slab bacon, diced into 8 large cubes
2 large onions, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 large carrots, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 large celery stalks, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 head garlic, separated into cloves, peeled & sliced
Bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, and 3 springs of thyme)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 lb tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/2 in cubes
2 1/2 lbs cannellini beans (about 6 cups), pre-soaked in cold water for 8 to 12 hrs
Sweet paprika and cayenne

For the topping and finishing
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
3 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 tbsp melted unsalted butter

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 F. Melt the butter with the oil in a shallow 12-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

2. Season the duck, lamb, and sausage with salt and pepper. Add to the pot, along with the bacon, and brown the meats evenly on all sides.

3. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and bouquet garni, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes.

4. Add the tomato paste and mix will. Add the tomatoes, beans, and 16 cups of water; slowly bring to a boil. Cover the pot and bake until the beans are tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (Do not overcook the beans or they will split).

5. After 45 minutes check the cassoulet and if needed, add more water. Remove from the oven. Season to taste with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne.

6. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper.

7. Sprinkle half the bread-crumb topping over the cassoulet and drizzle with half the melted butter. Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes and remove from the oven.

8. Using the back of a spoon, push the crust down into the liquid to moisten. Cover with the remaining bread-crumb topping and drizzle on the rest of the butter.

9. Preheat the broiler. Broil the cassoulet, watching it closely, until golden brown. About 5 to 7 minutes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chewy Oatmeal Cookie Bites w/Walnuts

Is there anything more comforting than an intensely chewy oatmeal cookie? I mean, maybe, but I can't think of anything right now. And the key to a chewy cookie is simple (but not necessarily easy) ... be patient enough to chill the dough before baking. That's it. But once that batter comes together, it is admittedly a challenge to delay cookie-eating for an additional 20 minutes.

This cookie is not very sweet at all and if you made larger cookies, you could slice it and pan fry it like a muffin for a decadent breakfast treat. (note to self: do this sooner rather than later.) One could very easily use raisins in lieu of walnuts or use both, but I'm not a huge fan of raisins in cookies, so I just used walnuts to add some texture to each bite.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookie Bites
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and egg. Mix until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat on medium.

3. Turn the mixer down to low. Add the oats and walnuts. Mix until just incorporated.

4. Chill the dough for 20 minutes.

5. On a parchment lined cookie sheet, place scant teaspoon-sized ball of dough about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sour Cream Pecan Coffeecake

When most people hear "spring break" they probably think of warm beachy places and questionable decision making, but my spring break (which started yesterday!) will mainly consist of studying for finals. Since Passover happens so late this year, our break is about 3 weeks before our first final, which means it really should be called something like spring not-so-much break.

But I'm not really complaining, because I've blocked out a good hour each day to just wander around the park, enjoy the warmer weather, take some pictures, (and think about property law).

So in honor of the fact that I don't have to set foot in the law library until April 27th, I baked a coffeecake. A "spring break coffeecake" if you will. There wasn't really anything springy about it. In fact, I accidentally put a dash of nutmeg in it (which I mistook as cinnamon), so if it belonged to any season, it was probably autumn.

But nobody at school complained. And you can always just not accidentally put nutmeg in yours, for a more "season-neutral" version. The cake is a snap to make. And it isn't too sweet, which is why the vein of brown sugar & pecan running through it is so nice.

I baked mine in a bundt pan, because I think the slices seem more like coffeecake that way, but you could also throw it in a loaf pan if you are so inclined.

You could also make more of the "filling" and use 1/2 as a topping ... but I didn't want mine to be overly sweet. For the sole reason that it was easier to justify eating it for breakfast. Which is a pretty silly justification for someone who is perfectly content to eat birthday cake for breakfast. But I digress. Happy spring everyone!

Sour Cream Pecan Coffeecake

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. Add vanilla extract.

2. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

3. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Add half of the sour cream, the rest of the flour mixture, and the rest of the sour cream. Mix until fully combined.

4. In a separate bowl mix the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, and cinnamon. Grease a bundt pan and pour in half of the batter. Sprinkle the filling mixture evenly and top with the rest of the batter.

5. Bake for 25 minutes and check with a cake tester (it may need up to 10 more minutes). The tester should come out clean. Let the cake set for 10 minutes and then flip onto a plate.