Skip to content

Peanut Butter Pie

July 4, 2011


It’s that time of year again. Our flag waving, firework watching, parade going, time of year. We sport our red, white, and blue, maybe even get a stroke of inspiration to visit a battlefield or two. But no matter what, on the 4th of July we picnic and barbeque in a way that only Americans know how. But I’m not exactly saying that like it’s always a good thing.
It seems that although we have so much fresh produce in the summer and opportunities for innovative and delicious meals, the Independence Day cookout ignores any potential for groundbreaking feasting. It’s your average hot dog on a potato bun, overly mayonnaised elbow noodle salad, a reheated can on Bush’s Best Baked Beans, and don’t forget those festive sugar cookies with the fluorescent blue icing and little star-shaped sprinkles on top.
That’s not to say that all barbeques are bad. In fact just the other day I went to a picnic and had some of the best ribs of my life and fresh sweet corn on the cob. It was wonderful! But it is a little sad that on this holiday above all others, when we get the day off and have the time to cook, we just like to take the easy route. I suppose our efforts to reduce oven usage to a bare minimum as well as any other heat-inducing physical exertion lead to supersize packs of Costco potato salad.
But if you want to be the star of the picnic this 4th of July, to be the one that ignites the fireworks in everyone’s mouth, and to be the banisher of neon red cherry pie filling, then I have a recipe for you. In fact, I have my number one, signature, never-fail recipe for you. This is my ultimate peanut butter pie and although it absolutely screams Happy Independence Day, you’ll be coming up with excuses to make this for almost any, even the most insignificant, holiday.This pie is creamy, crunchy, sweet, and salty, and though it is sinfully rich and indulgent it still manages to be a refined and elegant dessert. And after four years of trial and error, I finally perfected it. Its peanut butter:chocolate:crust ratio has reached a level of magic so strong that you’ll swear this dessert performs some sort of disappearing act.
Happy 4th of July!
Peanut Butter Pie
This is the one time that I would suggest not buying all-natural peanut butter. Instead go for your favorite commercial brand like Jif or Skippy for a filling that is very creamy and won’t separate. And although this pie dirties up quite a few dishes and it takes a while for the separate layers to cool, there is very little oven usage and it’s a cinch to put together. Once it is completely assembled, it is best to let it set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving so that the filling is firm and it cuts cleanly.
Graham Cracker Crust
1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs (make the crumbs either in a food processor or by placing the crackers in a plastic back and bashing them. Takes about 10 whole crackers)
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
Chocolate Ganache
½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 oz chopped dark chocolate
coarse sea salt
Peanut Butter Filling
4 oz room temperature cream cheese
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
¾ tsp salt
1½ cups cold heavy whipping cream
½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the piecrust. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, brown sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir until the butter is evenly distributed. Pour into a 9-inch pie dish and firmly press the mixture down on the bottom and up the sides. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to help evenly press the crumbs. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes and then set aside to cool.
Once the crust is cool enough to touch, prepare the ganache layer for the inside of the pie. In a double boiler (or in just a metal bowl set over a pan of shallow, simmering water) heat the chocolate, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula until fully melted. Then add the cream and continue stirring until the ingredients are well combined and the mixture is glossy, smooth, and quite runny. Set aside about 1 Tbs of ganache in a bowl for decorating later. Pour the rest of the ganache into the baked crust and spread it evenly over the surface, pushing it halfway up the sides of the crust. Sprinkle a little bit (about ¼ tsp) of coarse sea salt over the chocolate and put the pie dish into the refrigerator until the chocolate is set, about an hour.
While the ganache cools, make the peanut butter filling. Using a handheld mixer beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined, first on low and then on medium speed. Add the peanut butter and salt and continue beating until smooth. Wash your mixer’s beaters and then, in a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream on high speed until you have stiff peaks. Mix 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture then gently fold in the rest, reserving ½ to 1 cup of the whipped cream for decorating. Fold in the peanuts. Place the mixture in the refrigerator until the chocolate on the pie is firm.
Once the chocolate is firm, evenly spread the peanut butter mixture into the piecrust and smooth it out on top. To decorate, reheat the reserved chocolate and drizzle it over the pie. I put it into a plastic bag with one corner snipped off to do this. Then pipe the remaining whipped cream around the edge and sprinkle some chopped peanuts on top. For best results, let the pie cool in the refrigerator for about 4 hours before serving.

>Fish Tacos

July 1, 2011


It’s constantly fascinating to me how a simple change in the weather can elicit such an extraordinary change in appetite. A mere two months ago I was still seeking out heavy warming soups. Now, as I sit under blueberry skies and the undulating warmth of sunshine, the mere thought of those soups past makes me sweat, though that could very well be this 90-degree weather.
My new cravings arrive as soon as June hits but the funny thing is, I have no idea where they come from. All I know is that I wake up one day and the only thing my taste buds desire is heat, spiciness, saltiness, and loads of flavor, which then progresses into burning urges to eat seafood and Mexican food. Usually I could care less about these things. In fact, they rarely find their way into our house. But suddenly I become the freak who hovers over the chips and salsa at parties nearly growling at those trying to take my Tostitos.
So couple nights ago my mom asked me what I wanted to make for dinner. “Fish tacos!”
It came out without a split second’s thought. Well of course I wanted fish tacos. I had only been craving them every day for the past two months! Ever since I ordered them at La Sandia restaurant in Tyson’s Corner, they’ve been on my mind. Grilled fish with spicy slaw, chipotle corn, and creamy avocado, paired with a cool glass of watermelon juice. It was heaven. I wanted it back. Well, turns out my mom had been thinking about those fish tacos too, though not with fond memories but resentment toward herself that she didn’t order them too. Undeniably, fish tacos it was.
Turns out, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be to find a recipe that recreated La Sandia’s tacos. There were so many varieties. Beer-battered kinds, those topped with mango salsa, and almost all were swimming it the horrendousness that is cilantro. But eventually with a recipe and a bit of, “I’ll just wing it,” we came out with something spectacular.
Fish Tacos with Chipotle Slaw and Roasted Corn
adapted from Ellie Krieger
makes 6-8 tacos
The key to these is good ingredients. i.e. try to splurge on some good quality fresh fish. We got a nice piece of barramundi and there was a moment in our kitchen after my mom unwrapped the fish where she flung it toward my nose going, “smell this, smell this!” “I don’t smell anything,” I said. Exactly.
We also used quality organic corn tortillas that we steamed and quickly crisped on an open flame. It made all the difference. We served this “taco bar/d.i.y” style with glasses of cold Vidal Blanc and I’m pleased to say it satisfied my summer cravings…for now at least.
Fish and Marinade
1 lb filet of firm white fish like barramundi or red snapper
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ tsp. salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Chipotle Slaw
7 oz shredded cabbage (aka half a bag of coleslaw mix)
½ cup plain nonfat greek yogurt (1 container of Chobani is ½ cup)
2 Tbs. Mayonnaise
1 whole chipotle pepper plus 2 tsp. adobo sauce
¼ tsp. cumin
zest of 1 lime plus juice of half lime
salt and pepper
Roasted Corn
½ cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
a splash of olive oil
salt and pepper
Additional Ingredients
6-8 corn tortillas
Sliced avocado
cilantro (if you really must)
lime wedges
Mix the oil, lime, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place the fish in a large resealable plastic bag and pour over the marinade. Coat the fish evenly and let it marinate for twenty minutes.Meanwhile, prepare the slaw and corn.
For the slaw, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, chipotle pepper and adobo, lime zest and juice, cumin, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the chipotle is completely dispersed throughout the mixture. Taste and adjust any seasoning. Pour about ¾ of the mixture over the cabbage and toss to combine. Add any additional sauce if the cabbage still looks dry and reserve the rest of the sauce for drizzling on the tacos. Set the slaw and sauce aside.
For the corn, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and mix the corn with the oil, salt and pepper. Lay the corn out evenly on a sheet pan and place it in the oven. Roast for about 10-15 minute until the kernels just start to turn brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. If you’d like, feel free to roast some corncobs on the grill instead, and simply cut the kernels off the cob when it is cooked.
Meanwhile heat up the grill or prepare and nonstick grill pan. Grill the fish until it is opaque throughout and easily flakes with a fork. It will take around 4 minutes per side. Once cooked, transfer to a plate to rest for 5 minutes. At this point you can grill the tortillas and prepare any additional ingredients.
To assemble, grab a tortilla and plop and nice chunk of the fish into the center. Top with a scoop of the slaw, the corn, avocado slices, and a drizzle of extra chipotle sauce. Squeeze a lime wedge overtop along with some fresh cracked pepper and enjoy.

Beer Can Chicken

June 22, 2011

Hello again summertime. It’s certainly been a while hasn’t it? But I welcome you back happily and hungrily but with a touch of bitterness.

I adore you for the long days spent reading outside in my grubby pajamas. I love the rare moments when all of my friends and I suddenly seem to have a simultaneous free time and a long night spent stargazing and inhaling ice cream follows. I love the meals: luscious grilled everything, simple antipasti platters of bread, pesto, cheese, and cold wine, and simple cold salads that keep for days and are perfect from the fridge, requiring no need of an oven.

But summer is also when I stress over the fact that no one wants to hire summer employees. I sit bored, feeling pointless and worthless. And unlike last year, where I spent every moment counting down the days until my trip to London, the anticipation factor is lacking. I ache for opportunity whether it be an internship, design assignment, paid cooking extravaganza, whatever…will it ever come?

So as a self-deemed personal chef for the family, I spend my time cooking, for isn’t that one of those few things that eases the mind; as long as there is cooking it will be better, right? So with an ever-growing list of successful and share-worthy recipes, I’ll begin from the beginning.

On Memorial Day, unofficial start of summer, we celebrated by using a new toy we happened to acquire: our Steven Raichlen Beer Can Chicken Canister for the ultimate roasted/grilled little bird imaginable. Just fill it half way with beer or liquid of choice (aka coke, ginger ale, wine, cider, etc.), pop it in the cavity of a spice-rubbed chicken, place the stand and chicken upright over indirect heat on the grill, and let it go for an hour until the meat is moist and succulent. The liquid (we used Blue Moon) permeated the chicken with citrusy flavor and extreme moisture and it was so delicious we attacked it like a pack of savage wolves. And the best part was, it was the first roasted chicken I’ve made that did not require greasing up the oven and multiple pans and a routine frantic fanning of the smoke alarm. A perfect recipe in my book!

Beer Can Chicken

The key is maintaining a fairly even cooking temperature throughout. Before adding the chicken, get your grill to a steady 400 degrees and once you add the chicken, avoid opening the grill lid as much as possible. This will ensure the bird is cooked through after the hour is up. If you don’t have a special canister tool that we used, feel free to simply stick a half-full beer can into the cavity instead.


1 large organic or free-range chicken
Half of a beer in a can or special cooking canister filled halfway with liquid of choice

Spice rub: Recipe from Jamie’s America by Jamie Oliver

1 heaping tsp. anise seeds
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 heaping tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. mild chili powder
salt and pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil

Get the grill going ahead of time and get it so it stays at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If it has 3 burners, only light the 2 outside ones. This way, you can place the chicken in the middle and it cooks from indirect heat. This will ensure it is cooked though and not burned on the bottom.

Prepare the chicken by rinsing it, removing the innards, and patting it dry. Separate the skin from the meat so it is easier later when you are putting the rub on the chicken. Fill the liquid canister halfway with liquid of choice or open a beer can and remove half of the contents in any manner you’d like.

To make the rub, combine the anise seeds, cumin, paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a spice grinder and blitz until all mixed-up. Pour into a bowl, add the olive oil, and stir together.

Slather the rub on the outside of the whole chicken, between the skin and the meat, and inside the cavity. Insert the beer can or canister into the chicken’s cavity and stand it upright. Shove some thyme sprigs into the top of the chicken.

Place the chicken in the middle of the grill, close the lid, and let it cook for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Once cooked, carefully remove the chicken from the can and let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving. We ate it with some simple steamed swiss chard.

Hummingbird Cake

June 3, 2011

Oh my!! Has is really been a month since my last post…terribly sorry about that. But you know, school ended, so I took a little break from anything writing or work related. Then summer school started and blogging just got lost in the midst of all those things piling up on the to do list. And plus, when the weather is this nice, who wants so sit at their computer desk while the ever-so-cunning sunshine lures you away. So now, much, much too late, I am embarrassingly yet finally getting around to telling you about the Mother’s Day cake I prepared a couple weeks ago.

Now as much as I love baking anything (cakes, cookies, pies, whatever) the funny thing is, I don’t crave that sort of stuff that much. Especially in the summer. If I want something sweet after my meal, what I really want is just some fresh fruit, or a little scoop of ice cream, or some good dark chocolate. Those other desserts are just a little too much when the weather starts warming up. However, on a beautiful, warm mother’s day at my grandparent’s house, I discovered that cake could actually be quite refreshing.

I prepared gorgeous hummingbird cake (and yes, I received confused faces anytime I told someone what it was) and was left to recite a “it’s a southern spice cake with bananas, pineapple, coconut, and pecans and a cream cheese frosting.” This was usually followed by a, “well how many hummingbirds did you have to kill to make it,” or a, “I didn’t get any hummingbirds in my piece!” Well I promise you that no hummingbirds were harmed in the process. The name actually came about because the cake is sweet like the sugar water that hummingbirds feed on. Cute, right?

The cake turned out incredible. It was super moist yet the crumb was very delicate and I actually cut back on the sugar some so the sweetness was not overwhelming and the natural fruit flavors came out more. I also switched out the classic cream cheese frosting for a less sugary alternative. Now, I believe there are two people in the world: those who like American style frosting, heavily laden with powered sugar so that is gets that funny crust on the outside that makes a slight cracking noise when you bite in, or those that like a lighter and thinner whipped frosting. I am of the latter. So instead, I paired the cake with a lightly sweetened, whipped cream, cream cheese and mascarpone frosting. Overall this made for a cake that you ate and when you were done, you didn’t have that guilty sick feeling that usually follows.  Rather, we all thought it refreshing and perfect ending to a meal.  Though Spring is quickly transitioning into Summer, this southern classic would still make a perfect seasonal treat.

Hummingbird Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake adapted from Martha Stewart
Frosting from

I followed a Martha Stewart recipe for the cake itself.  Funnily enough, this was supposed to be more like a quick bread and made by melting the butter and folding the wet with the dry. But, I guess I fail at following directions and just looked at the ingredients and proceeded as I normally would with cake, merrily creaming the butter with the sugar instead. It turned out great though and actually found the cake to still a tad dense so I’m sure that if made it the quick bread way, it would have been more so, so I suggest creaming the butter and sugar.

Cake Ingredients

3 cups flour1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. coconut extract
1¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups mashed banana
1 8oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1 cup sweetened coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 cake pans (9 inch diameter) by placing a round of parchment on the bottom and buttering and flouring the pans.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, pineapple, coconut, and pecans and set aside as well.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on high for two minutes.  Add the vanilla and coconut extract and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Continue beating on high until the mixture is pale and fluffy (about another 2 minutes). Add the fruit mixture and beat until just combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients while the mixer is running on low and blend well until batter is smooth, but don’t overmix.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes and then invert them onto drying rack to cool completely before frosting.

Whipped Cream Cheese and Mascarpone Frosting Ingredients 

8oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1½ cups cold heavy cream 

With the paddle attachment on the mixer, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone until for about a minute on medium speed. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat on medium until smooth. Switch to the whisk attachment. On low speed, slowly add the heavy cream. Once all of the cream is added, increase the speed to high and whip until the frosting is thick and fluffy 

Assemble the cake in a standard 2-layer fashion by placing about 1/3  to ½  of the frosting between the two layers.  With the rest, use a spatula to first apply a thin coating of the frosting to the top and the sides of the cake and let it chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This is the crumb coating that seals the cake so the final outside frosting layer is smooth, clean, and free of cake crumbs. Apply the rest of the frosting to the outside of the cake and decorate with some toasted coconut and pecans.



The Culinary Perks of a College Town

May 7, 2011

Well folks, my junior year of college is officially done. It’s scary though.  I can’t believe that three years of college are already gone and in one measly little year, that real life thing is going to happen.  I’m not too sure if I’m ready for that to happen…I guess that’s why I’m still banking on 2 years of culinary school to prolong the inevitable, c’mon financial aid.

But along with finishing this semester, I have finished three long years of dorm life as well.  Apartment life with a ginormous kitchen in three months!  It will hopefully provide for some much more frequent and fun recipe sharing and food writing for you too. But at the very least, my on-campus meal plan this past semester and a new-found confidence in dining alone in restaurants (courtesy of my London trip) led me to try and eat off-campus as much as possible.  And in doing so, I discovered some really great eating in my college town and that The Shenandoah Valley is much more health conscious and local/sustainable-loving than I thought.

I really saw it in the small, yet decent farmer’s market where I got my weekly supply of fresh, whole wheat bread for breakfast toast.  Though I had no kitchen to cook anything, I’ve admired the beautiful greens, radishes, and rhubarb that popped up the last few weeks.  I’ll be sure so buy this produce once I’m cooking on my own.  I’ve enjoyed the local sausage, egg, and cheese, sandwiches that send beautiful smells wafting across the pavilion and leave a delicious stream of grease running down my chin.  I’ve also indulged in a homemade glazed yeast doughnut or two.  (sorry that the only pictures I have are of half-eaten items…a little gross, no?)

I also came to love a little place called The Little Grill Collective, a special little hole-in-the-wall where employees, after 6 months of work, become collective owners of the restaurant.  It is a super-hippie place, specializing in mainly vegetarian and vegan fare, but provide some meat options that are all local and free-range.  All other ingredients are of superior quality too; It’s the sort of place where you eat so much but you don’t really feel sick because it was so fresh and healthy.  It is a mix of Mexican and Mediterranean food (the falafel wraps are out of this world…that’s what is pictured) but every Friday night, they do a down-home southern platter complete with baked chicken, homemade mashed potatoes and mushroom “groovy gravy”, collard greens, and cornbread with honey butter.  It’s amazing.  But perhaps they are most famous for their breakfast, which includes their famous “blue monkeys”, 12-inch diameter buttermilk pancakes totally coated with blueberries and bananas.  They cook up to the thickest, fluffiest, tender, and most delicious pancakes ever.  They are real pancakes, oozing with fruitiness, and a stack of two is enough to put you in a fairly severe food coma for a while.  Little grill is truly a vital part of our town’s community and I am proud to support them with every bite.

However, my most recent discovery, as of two weeks ago, was the Local Chop and Grill House and as you can judge by its name, almost everything is local, especially the delicious meat.  It’s a seed-packing warehouse turned restaurant and it is absolute heaven.  They have a formal dining area, which I hope to try someday when I feel like spending the money, but they also have a cozy bar area where you can get some of their cheaper fare, though the quality is not in the least bit sacrificed.

They have some appetizers and a couple fancier meat dishes, but you have to ignore those.  It’s all about the burgers, gorgeous 6 oz patties from a variety of meats, served on house made brioche buns.  My first visit, I had the bison burger, topped with sea salt, smoked Gouda, smoked bacon, and a mango hoisin sauce.  On my second visit (which was just a week later…that’s how good it was) I tried the lamb burger, cooked medium-rare with onions and chopped mint, and topped with crispy onions and a maple-Dijon sauce.  Though very different, both were amazing; they were superior in juiciness and full in flavor which contrasted beautifully with the crispy, grilled bun and cool lettuce and tomato.  Other selections I hope to try are the pulled duck bbq, the salmon-caper burger, and the curried chickpea burger.

But the most unique aspect is their duck-fat fries, made with Yukon gold potatoes. Now I’ve heard about these fries, seen Bobby Flay and Michael Symon rave about them, but I’ve never found them anywhere.  Where were these elusive duck-fat fries that the whole world seemed to rave about?  Well I suddenly had them within reach and when they arrived hot and steaming in a paper cone, sea salt sprinkled on top, I salivated immediately.  They were nowhere near what I expected.  They were 100 times better.  They were not greasy, not at all, but instead incredibly light and the fluffiest fries I’ve ever had.  They of course had a much meatier flavor than oil fries but it made a world of a difference.  They provided the crispiest of crunches and whether I was eating the mouth-burning hot ones or the cold ones at the bottom of the cone that I scraped up at the end, they never had a trace of sogginess.  They were paired with homemade peach ketchup that was good too, but I almost preferred them plain, letting the full duck fat flavor shine.  I’m certain they will probably make any other future fry incredibly lame in comparison, but at least now I know the perfection in which a fry can exist.  This restaurant is amazing and when I’m 21 in a few months, I can’t wait to pair my burger with a beer and spend a wonderful summer evening at this gem.

I’ve discovered many other wonderful eats as well.  Just to mention a few, A Bowl of Good, specializing in ethnic healthy comfort food, is amazing for rainy day takeaway. Cally’s makes wonderful Polyface egg quiches for brunch, Clementine’s has good sandwiches and salads, and of course Cocolicious Cupcakes is the cure to my sweet tooth.  Though I am excited to cook on my own next semester, I will of course still treat myself to the local eats; they’ve captured my stomach completely.

I’m leaving you with a few links.

I want to have a spring picnic…my friends need to come home now

Want. To. Build. One. Of. These. NOW!!!!!

Liberty was one of my favorite stores is London and their custom fabric prints were beautiful.  Unfortunately, they were waaay expensive.  But now Liberty print is available of some awesome Nikes, or J-crew shirts…so beautiful…yet still so expensive.

A nice little read for foodies

This wedding is absolutely amazing.  Love the bridesmaid dresses.  How do people have this much creativity?

I want to make something like this.  Time to flea market shop.

Must give this bread a try…Sarah and Louise always make the most delicious food.

LinkFest Friday

April 22, 2011

Hello Earthlings,

Before we begin let me just wish you a lovely Earth Day.  I hope it was filled with lots of sustainable fun.  I’m currently eating a bowl of organic, local soup and homemade seeded bread to celebrate on this rather chilly day.

I’ve seen quite a few bloggers doing this Friday linking thing lately so I thought I’d join in on the fun.  In procrastination of my many final projects I’ve stumbled upon some great things in the last week so  hope you enjoy them as much as I did.  They really serve well as a means to a break while writing a 15-page media law research paper.

Again, have a wonderful Earth Day and I wish you the happiest of Easters.  I hope these April showers finally let up soon and give us some warm, sunny weather for Sunday.


Please let my future house look like this, PLEASE!

These are absolutely beautiful.  The rose gold feather bracelet just might make me $241 poorer.

I just discovered what ANZAC Day is and seeing that it’s on Monday I would really love to make these.  Now about finding a kitchen…

I plan to go here as soon as finals are over.  I’ve been meaning to visit all semester but you know how that goes.

The video on this is such an inspiration.  I’m working on a small business documentary right now and really hope to bring some of the techniques of this into my piece.  Oh and the chocolate looks divine too!!!  I LOVE the wrappers.

Just got these shoes!  Now I just need a sunny day.

I’m drinking one of these right now and they are amazing.  The vanilla is just the perfect amount of sweetness.

I’m on this big hummus kick right now but I’d really love to start making my own.  I think this recipe may just do the trick.  It looks sooo creamy.

I love yellow and grey together. And they make for beautiful Easter decoration too.

Celebrate Easter and Earth Day at the same time!  Dye eggs the natural way.

Quinoa Cakes on Salad and Jumping on the Bandwagon

April 17, 2011

Well hello there! Yes, I’m still alive.  I’ve just been a little bit busy lately.  Any moment not exhausted carting around a video camera is instead spent researching media law and U.S. Copyright code.  Sweet life.  And now April is all of the sudden half over and I’m sitting here absolutely flabbergasted by time’s uncanny ability to just zip right on by.

The time’s been well spent though.  Two weeks ago my creative food writing class (yes, that’s right…I’m getting college credit for doing what I love) took a day trip to Polyface Farms, about 40 miles away.  For any incomplete person who has yet to read Omnivore’s Dilemma or view Food, Inc., Polyface Farms is, in short, an entirely sustainable farm raising free-range meat for the local market.  The owner, Joel Salatin, is a radical food philosopher and I’m pretty sure he can convince anyone that no meat but honest, local, pasture-raised meat is worth eating.  But I’m not going to even attempt to teach all that he stands for; I’ll trust that you’ll do a little recreational reading to learn that.

But anyway, my parents came down for the day to join us on our trip.  The early April weather provided us with a odd mixture of torrential winds, sleet, hail, and warm sunshine as we trekked over the beautiful, cow-patty laden, rolling hills of southern Virginia.  We met happy, fat piggies, an enormous flock of hens, and pens full of rabbits along the way.  Our final stop was the Polyface store where we stocked up on a plethora of their exceptional meats.  The day ended with an amazing lunch/dinner at Shenandoah Pizza and the Split Banana before I was dumped back at my dorm for the return of stressful college life.

But finally, this weekend I made it home for two nights for a chance to simply get away and to cook.  I had just the recipe in mind.  You see, all college students have their sure-fire method of procrastination.  What do I do?  I pore over other food blogs dreaming of things I want to make and in the past week or so I’ve noticed a very prevalent trend: Heidi Swanson.

I’ve read her blog regularly and literally drool over most recipes and I was certainly aware of her forthcoming book.  I almost preordered it on Amazon but awful decision maker that I am, never got it (Nia did though).  I flipped through the book at Barnes and Noble, loved it, yet still my indecisiveness kept me from purchasing.  And now, I realize that I probably won’t ever have to.  In the last week, I’m pretty sure that anyone who calls themselves a food blogger has published their experience with one of Heidi’s new recipes.  At this point, the contents of the entire book are probably just floating around on the Internet somewhere.  So finally home and able to cook, I jumped on the bandwagon and took a stab at one of these beautiful creations myself, Quinoa Cakes, my version of Seven Spoons’ Quinoa Patties, adapted from Heidi’s original recipe.  Got that?

They are not as easy and “whip-it-up” of a recipe as I had been led to think.  They take some time and make a bit of a mess but they are oh so worth it.  The flavor of the cakes is extremely nutty and with just enough kick on pungency from the garlic and onion.  It gets beautifully crisp on the outside while the egg keeps the inside moist.  Topped with a poached fresh egg and served on a bed of lightly dressed greens and asparagus, it was perfection – the light, healthy and flavorful sort of dish that I long for in my days of dull sandwiches.  On a side note, the next evening, we made Polyface Farms pork tenderloin, marinated in garlic, lemon, and herbs, and roasted in the oven.  Nothing can compare with the juiciness and completely true and awesome pork flavor…ever.

Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs and Salad

Leftover quinoa cakes are delicious the next day, re-crisped in some oil in a hot pan or simple heated in the microwave so cook up a lot and stockpile if you want amazing lunches for the week.  Heidi also suggests adding some chopped vegetables to the patties but I like them best with my veggies on the side so I really get the  full flavor of the quinoa and eggs.  I would recommend that as brunch, lunch, or dinner.


½ large yellow onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ to 3 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
4 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs. finely chopped chives
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 ¼ cups whole wheat bread crumbs
olive oil

Finishing touches:

-Salad, prepared any way you want (I used spring mix, chopped celery, asparagus, sliced tomato, and an apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing).  I can imagine avocado and red bell pepper going nicely with it too.

-1-2 poached eggs per person served

-Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling

-Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the quinoa cakes, heat olive oil over medium in a skillet. Sauté the onion and the garlic for just a minute or two until it begins to turn translucent and soften.  Set aside to cool slightly.  In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt and mix to combine.  Then mix in the chives, onion and garlic mixture, and cheese.  Finally, mix in the breadcrumbs.  It will seem slightly wet but this is essential for a moist cake.  You’ll actually be surprised at how well they end up holding together.

Preheat the oven to the warm setting so you can keep the cooked cakes warm on a plate while the rest are prepared.  Divide the quinoa mixture into 8 parts and form each into a ¾ inch thick patty.  One will probably be substantial for one person but I found myself snacking on the leftovers while doing dishes and I was grateful for the extras the next day.

Heat 1 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook four cakes at once for about 5 minutes on each side.  Press down on them as they cook to really develop a nice crust on the outside and gently ease them over when flipping.  Don’t be worried if they look really brown, this is all delicious toasty flavor.  Place the first batch in the oven to stay warm while you cook the rest.

Meanwhile, grab a friend to help you prepare your salad and poach the eggs.  This will ensure that everything arrives at the table fresh and each component at its proper temperature.  Plate the salad, place a quinoa cake in the center, top it with your egg, and sprinkle extra cheese and salt and pepper to taste on top.  Before eating, pierce the egg with your knife letting the yummy yolk ooze everywhere.

Brioche Burger Buns

March 23, 2011

Hey remember in my last post? Remember how I mentioned something along the lines of brioche burger buns?  Does that sound familiar at all, bringing back a slight drooling sensation you may have experienced earlier?  Well if it does your memory is about to serve you right.  I know this is my third bread-like post in a row but I could not pass up the opportunity of sharing these babies with you.

Over spring break I resisted the urge to so some serious cake/cookie/brownie cooking, especially for my mom’s sake since she’s trying to steer clear of items from the baked goods department.  But I still had to bake at least one thing.  I had to have a day where I spent long luxurious hours with a dough or batter of some sort.  So I chose bread as a middle ground.  But this is not just any bread.  It’s because of bread like this that I never eat my burgers on a bun when all that’s available is the store-bought variety.  I know this better version exists out there and I’m willing to hold off all bun eating til they’re available.  It’s so worth the wait.  So be wary if you make them…afterwards it will be hard to return to mediocrity.

I’ve wanted to make these since last summer’s grilling season but for some reason I never really got around to it.  But last week we had some local grass fed beef in the fridge (the best beef I’ve ever had by the way) for burgers so I finally took advantage of the opportunity to make the rolls. What goes into the oven is a sticky mass of 8 misshapen lumps on a tray but what emerges, after the smell of butter and yeast permeates the air, are the lightest, most pillowy buns I’ve ever had.  The crumb is so fine and they are moist and tender throughout.  And they actually keep for quite a few days too if kept in an airtight container.  They are large so next time I may make 10 smaller buns rather then 8 big ones.

They serve great as burger buns, especially if the meat is of good enough quality to stand up to them, but can be put so many other uses.  The next day, I split the bun in half horizontally and actually very easily toasted it in the toaster.  It made such rich toast too and hardly needed any extra butter.  But to make it better, I made a little one egg and smoked cheddar omelet and stuck it in between.  A breakfast sandwich that beat McDonalds by a mile.  I’d imagine the buns would be good for any sandwich, cold or panini-style too.   And, like I said, it was great as toast and smeared with some butter and jam or a little sunflower butter I had.  It accompanied soup very nicely too.  But soon enough they were gone.  Oh well, it gives me something to look forward to next I’m back in the kitchen.

Brioche Burger Buns

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Comme Ca restaurant

These are super easy to make and you don’t even need a mixer.  It’s all done by hand so nobody has an excuse to pass them up.  Also, I substituted 1/3 of the flour with whole wheat but feel free to make it with all white flour if you want and even lighter and richer bun.  I thought they looked nice with the seeds on top too but this can certainly be omitted if you desire.

1 cup warm water
3 Tbs. warm milk
2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 1/2 Tbs. sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups bread flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
Sesame seeds and poppy seeds (optional)

On a Pyrex cup, combine the warm water, warm milk, yeast and sugar.  Give it a quick stir and let it sit until it is bubbling.  Beat one of the eggs and set aside.

Sift together the flours and salt into a large bowl.  Add in the butter and use the tips of your fingers to rub it into the flour until it is evenly distributed in small granules.  Add in the yeast mixture and the egg and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Pour the mixture onto a floured counter and knead the dough for about ten minutes.  Try no to add too much flour and to leave the dough slightly sticky so the buns are moist.  A dough scraper will help you control the sticky dough better.  Roll the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl.  Cover the bowl and set it in a warm place until the dough has doubled.  Will take about 2 hours.

Place parchment paper onto a baking sheet.  Once the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and cut it into 8 equal pieces.  Roll them into balls and evenly space them on the baking sheet.  Cover them with oiled plastic wrap and let them rise for another hour until they are double in size.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once risen, beat the remaining egg with a splash of water and brush this overtop the dough.  Sprinkle on the seeds if using.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 16-18 minutes, turning halfway through, until puffed and golden brown.  Immediately transfer them to a baking rack to cool and then eat them in any way you desire.

Jamie Does it Again

March 16, 2011

There is simply no denying it, Jamie Oliver is taking over. One cookbook, one cooking show, and one food revolution at a time. I have been a fan for a while, but these days, I especially love him. I can remember my first forays into the Food Network, the early stage of my addiction, watching him on The Naked Chef and enjoying his cheeky British accent. A few years later, I purchased Food Revolution and fell in love with his fairly easy, yet delicious, homey meals. Jamie’s Food Revolution has been through many rounds of supper club and has made its way into many date night dinners- my girlfriends and I swear by many of these recipes and have remade them time and time again. Katie has eaten at his restaurants, cooked in his cooking school and has also experimented with his many glorious recipes. These days, I am really loving his own line of food products sold at Williams and Sonoma (they come in ridiculously cute packages) and his newest cookbook only released in England (thank you, Katie!), 30-Minute Meals. Rather than individual recipes for individual dishes, this cookbook explains how to prepare an entire meal, orchestrating the timing so everything is done at the same time. The pictures are wonderful and you will surprised at how easy these seemingly fancy dishes are. So far, I have made mustard chicken (and its accompanying side dishes) grilled ribeye stir fry, and most recently, his spinach pie for supper club. Not only did it turn out well, it was relatively easy and allowed me to enjoy the time with my friends while cooking a meal. Once revealed from its parchment encasing, it was a real show stopper. It was like a cross between a quiche and spanakopita and would be a great brunch item. The filo gets beautifully brown and crisp and the center is cheesy and rich. I served this with Jamie’s cucumber salad and it was nice acidic bite paired with the cheesy pie.


Spinach Pie
From Jamies’ 30-Minute Meals

100g (3½oz) pinenuts
5 free range or organic eggs
300g (10½oz) feta cheese
50g (1¾oz) Cheddar cheese
Dried oregano
1 lemon
A knob of butter
400g (14oz) prewashed baby spinach
1 x 270g pack of filo pastry
Cayenne pepper
1 whole nutmeg

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Start off by toasting the pine nuts. This can be done in a small frying pan over low heat- be careful not to burn them

2. Meanwhile, mix the eggs and cheeses into a large bowl. Sprinkle in a pinch (according to Jamie) of pepper, salt and cayenne along with a few pinches of the dried oregano. Once the nuts are lightly browned, add them with a nice glug of olive oil. Set aside.

3. In the same skillet you used for the pine nuts, wilt the spinach down in a little butter and olive oil. Once this is done, set aside.

4. Take a pretty big sheet of parchment paper- crumple it up and then uncrumple it (this will allow it to be easily placed in the cooking pan). Rub a few good glugs of olive oil on it. Arrange four sheets of filo dough over the parchment- overlapping them. Spread some olive oil and some pinches of salt and pepper over the layer. Repeat three more times.

5. Add the wilted spinach to the egg mixture. Then, carefully, place the layers of filo on top of the parchment into your skillet (mine was a fairly large, walled skillet). Pour the egg mixture in. Scrunch the filo dough and parchment around the edges. Place on a medium heat on your stove top to crisp the bottom. Then move to your oven for 20-30 minutes- when the whole thing is set and slightly browned on top.


Then there was an egg

March 9, 2011

It’s finally spring break.  I’m finally reading the books that I bought a month ago but never opened.  I’m finally lazing around in my pajamas til noon.  I’m finally able to breathe like a normal person again, for now at least.  It’s been wonderfully relaxing and well-needed.  But sadly, by the end of this week, not only do I have to pack up my fresh clean clothes and head back to the dorm, but I may even have to apologize to the kitchen.  You see, I’ve thoroughly taken advantage of it.

Yes, the kitchen does get a good clean every night but for the most part, I’m the winner in our non-reciprocity relationship.  I get to cook.  I get to eat.  We’ve been having some good times though these last few days.  Last night we produced a very flavorful Italian sausage, chard, and bean soup.  The night before was an awesome improv Asian green bean and orange quinoa salad.  Right now we’re in the process of brioche burger buns to hold some lovely local grass-fed beef my mom and I picked up on our mini road trip last weekend.  Me and the kitchen – we really are close.  So close we’ve even agreed to never again talk about the sweet potato mole and polenta that we attempted on Sunday.

But actually one of our best times together this past week was during dinner as we pondered what to do with a small bit of a bread loaf I brought home from school.  It was a fend-for-yourself sort of night and I wasn’t too hungry, but bread wasn’t enough.  As I scanned the refrigerator contents my eyes fell on the eggs, the amazing fresh ones that my uncle sent over.  I think these particular eggs had emerged from his hens just two days previously. Eggs and toast – there’s a start.  But could I make it better?  I decided yes.  A little light bulb went off in my head, urging me to finally have a go at this trick I saw in a cookbook a while back, a little dish called Egg in the Hole.

All it took was a slice of bread with a hole in the middle, an egg, butter, and seasoning.  Yet I became overwhelmingly excited, especially when it actually turned out right the first time. There on my plate sat a crispy, lightly buttery slab of toast with a perfectly circular egg tucked inside.  The egg was just cooked so that the white sealed the inside, the runny and hot yolk that, once cut into, spread out in a pool underneath for the surrounding bread to soak up.  I know I could have easily just fried an egg and plopped it on toast, but it wouldn’t have been the same.  Egg in the Hole lets the toast pick up the butter in the pan, lets it get crispy in a way that plain ole’ toast in the toaster can’t.  And it stayed contained in such a nice and neat package that I could eat it daintily in little wedges, each forkful including all three essential parts of its goodness.  Yeah it takes a little extra effort but just think of how special you can make someone (or yourself) feel by serving them Egg in the Hole. Breakfast food cooked with care, even if it is for dinner.

A word of note.  I think this would only work with REALLY fresh eggs because they hold together so well and stay really nice and contained in the hole.  An old egg would run all over the place and make a mess.  So if you have old eggs, this dish isn’t worth the trouble.  I’ve you’re lucky enough to get really fresh ones, however, make this.  Now.

Egg in the Hole

1 piece of thick bread, any variety will do
1 very fresh egg
salt and pepper

Place your bread in the toaster and cook it ever so slightly until it just gets a little brown and it is hot enough to melt butter.  Right after you take it out of the toaster, butter both sides.  Then using a narrow glass (I used a mojito glass) or a small circular cookie cutter (about 2.5 inches in diameter) punch out a hole in the middle of the toast.  You can either eat this extra toast now to satiate any pre-meal hunger pangs or, if you can, save it to mop up any extra yolk drippings on your plate.

While this is all happening, heat a pan on medium to medium-low heat and melt a pat of butter.  Once melted, set the toast in the pan for about a minute to let a pool of concentrated heat gather in the circle.  Then crack the egg right in the circle.  Salt and pepper the top.  Let it do its thing for about 2 minutes or until you can see that the bottom half of the egg white is just about cooked.  Then you can slightly nudge the toast and if it moves easily, you are in the clear to go ahead and flip the toast without worrying about breaking the white underneath.  Flip quickly, season the other side, and if you’d like, add a bit more butter to the pan to crisp up the underside more.  Cook at least another minute for a runny yolk, but longer if you like a firmer yolk, whatever your preference. Egg in the Hole isn’t too worried about perfection.

Once done, slide onto a plate and eat immediately, while the egg is piping hot, in whatever fashion you desire.  After you’ve finished, sit back, and smile.  Your kitchen will thank you for putting it to such good use.