Monday, November 30, 2009

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Not to go all 50's housewife here but every woman should have a few staple recipes that she can make quickly and are guaranteed crowd pleasers. Oddly, the recipes that I personally have that fit that description have not made it onto this blog. Note to self, make and post staple recipes that never let me down. That said, this apple cake is mind-numbingly simple and would appeal to a broad audience which fits the above-mentioned criteria. It is not very sweet but fresh and simple which has broad appeal. To make it something that would appeal to the masses, I would recommend adding vanilla ice cream and putting some warm caramel sauce on the table as an option in case someone wants something a little sweeter. Another note to self, post killer caramel sauce recipe soon! Until the caramel post comes along, go ahead and get the store bought stuff in the jar while I get off my derrière and get moving on that. Enjoy!

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September and October 2009


4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces plus extra for the pan
2 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji apples peeled and sliced thin lengthwise
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
Pinch salt


1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter melted and cooled
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spray baking PAM onto bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan or skillet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add half of the apples and cook stirring occasionally until apples start to caramelize. Add remaining apples, brown sugar and lemon juice and salt and cook about 1 minute longer until sugar dissolves. Transfer apples into prepared pan and press into the bottom or keep the apples in the skillet and set aside while preparing cake.


Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and stir together with a fork. Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar and eggs in a bowl until thick, about 45 seconds. Add in sour cream or crème fraiche, lemon zest and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir until combined. Pour batter into pan or skillet over apples and spread evenly. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

Cool on wire rack 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around perimeter of cake and invert onto a large plate and lift pan off of the cake. Place any loose apples on top of the cake and allow to cool another 20 minutes. Slice and serve.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Apple Cider Doughnut Holes

I have a confession, I eat my way through cooking. I am not talking about just grabbing a little taste here and there, no, no, I take so many little tastes of everything that it is amazing anything even makes it into the oven. I lick the beaters when I know I could scrape a whole lot more off. I will eat many spoons of cookie dough, cake or muffin batter, chunks of uncooked pie dough and fruit filling that is ready to hit the oven. I am so bad and these doughnuts were no exception. I took a little taste of the dough and I was out of control. Then, once the doughnuts were cooked, I could not stop eating! Think the Cookie Monster when he would eat and crumbs and chunks of cookie would go flying all over the place. That was me, and yes, these doughnuts were that good.

So, now that everyone is totally disgusted and now understand why I spend hours upon hours at the gym, let me talk about the recipe. I admit that when I tried this the first time around, it wasn’t pretty (see second picture) and it took a heck of a long time. I also have to say that although these doughnuts are unbelievably good, you will probably find my tail at Dunkin Donuts because there is some hard labor involved. So, with that said, below are the two important tips that will make the difference between good doughnuts or a big mess.

Tip 1: Flour is your friend and I would recommend using it generously, often and without hesitation. Dough that is going to be fried is sticky, very, very sticky and your only weapon is flour. By the time all was said and done, my kitchen looked like a snowstorm had hit it but the doughnuts lifted from the surface and that is what we are aiming for.

Tip 2: use a good candy thermometer. The first time I did this, I put the dough into the oil when it looked hot and of course, they went crisp on the outside in seconds and it was a big pile of gooey dough on the inside (again, observe the second photo). I am a huge fan of gooey but not in this case. These are cake doughnuts and they should be cakey inside.


Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from Lauren Dawson at Hearth Restaurant.


1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus much more for work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour cream
Vegetable oil or shortening for frying

Toppings (Optional)
Glaze (1 cup confectioners sugar + 2 Tablespoons apple cider)
Cinnamon Sugar (1 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon)


In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk or sour cream, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Pull the dough out of the freezer. Break off pieces of the dough and roll them into doughnut holes that are about the size of a golf ball. Place the doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add enough oil or shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F. Have ready a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels.

Make your toppings (if using): While the doughnuts are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners’ sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth; make the cinnamon sugar by mixing the two together. Set aside.

Fry and roll the doughnuts: Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, turning in the pan so all sides are browned, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels for a minute after the doughnuts are fried. Roll the warm doughnuts into the glaze or cinnamon sugar mixture (if using) and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kiddie Train Cake

So this was my first serious attempt at decorating a cake in some other manner than just doing the two layers with frosting on the sides and in the middle. I have one word for anyone who wants to do cake decorating, practice. I look at the very talented crew on Ace of Cakes and the difference between them and me is that they do that all day everyday. Granted there is some serious artistry and talent that goes into their cakes but practice is what separates the men from the boys when it comes to most cake decorating.

One of my pet peeves with elaborately decorated cakes is taste. I hate it when I see a beautiful cake, take a bite and want to gag. Dry cake with no pop in the taste is so not cool. Of course the recipe for this cake came from the folks at Cook's Illustrated because you know I will always do what they say. I did modify their recipe a bit because I was facing somewhat of a sugar shortage and I love the taste of sour cream in a cake and I had to add it. Let me say that the cake itself was amazing but extra special mention definitely goes to the buttercream icing that gave new meaning to icing on the cake. This recipe, which I was skeptical of because it contains four eggs, is truly the apex of buttercream frosting; buttery, rich and not overly sweet as you will find in the supermarket pre-made tubs.

One final note, yes, my son flipped when I presented the cake to him for his 4th birthday and I would definitely recommend this for little tikes everywhere on their birthday. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from "The Next Best Recipe", from the Editors of Cook's Illustrated:

Yellow Layer Cake (Makes enough for one train mold or two layers)

1 3/4 cup plain cake flour, sifted
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 recipe vanilla buttercream frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray train cake mold or two 9-inch cake pans with Baking PAM.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs in one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each egg and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the milk, sour cream and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix together until just combined. Mix the batter with a rubber spatula until fully combined.

Divide the batter equally into the two cake pans or pour all into the train mold. If using the cake pans, bake for 20-25 minutes. If using the train mold, bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is light brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from the pan. Invert the cake onto a large cutting board for frosting if using the train mold.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) salted butter at room temperature

Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a double boiler over simmering water. Whisk mixture gently and constantly until it is thin and foamy and about 160 degrees.

Beat the egg mixture with a paddle attachment at medium-high speed until light, airy and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter one stick at a time until fully incorporated. Beat at high speed until all lumps have been eliminated and mixture is light and fluffy. Buttercream can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Carnegie Deli Cheesecake

Helloooo Lover - a cheesecake is so a woman's best friend. There is a reason that the Golden Girls basically created entire story lines around this amazing dessert.

So, I must tell how I came across this fabulous concoction. A number of years ago, I was in New York City with my then husband and we went to the Carnegie Deli since we were staying in Times Square. Now, I had plenty of corned beef sandwiches growing up and I had visited New York several times since my Dad is from Long Island. However, I had never had a meal like this. To this day, it stands out as some of the best food I have ever had in my life and it will forever remain that way in my mind. We had the Matzoh Ball soup, followed by "the Woody Allen" which contained more corned beef and pastrami than you can possibly imagine and which we had to split. We topped those two amazing starters with their famous cheesecake that had strawberries with a glaze on top. I walked away full, happy, satisfied and in an utter state of food euphoria.

Ever since that trip, I have been trying to find my way back to Times Square to have another round of that fabulous meal but somehow life has taken up all of my time and I have not been able to make it back. So, when a girl can't make it to a party, she just has to make her own. I printed off the cheesecake recipe from the Carnegie Deli website and modified it a little bit. They were a little vague with some of their directions but I was able to piece it together based on other cheesecake recipes I have made.

I also succeeded in not cracking this cheesecake which was a first for me. The secret is in the bake time. This tip did come from the website; they said the cake is like a custard, bake too long and it cracks, too little and it will be too loose on the inside. So I watched the cake like a hawk and when it seemed like it was about to crack, I dove for the oven door and took it out. After it sat at room temperature for a few hours, it was perfect, no cracks.

Recipe adapted from the Carnegie Deli website.


Cookie Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch bits

Cheese Filling
1 1/4 pounds softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Raspberry Topping (Optional)
2 pints fresh raspberries
1 cup raspberry jelly

1.) Place the flour, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolk, and butter in a large mixing bowl. With your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until they are well mixed and can be gathered into a ball. Dust with a little flour, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) Butter and flour the bottom of a 9x9 inch spring-form pan, roll out a piece of dough to cover the bottom. Press the dough into the pan with your fingertips and until the bottom of the pan is covered along with a little bit of the sides. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until it is a very light brown color. Cool the pan and the bottom and press the remaining dough onto the sides of the pan until the dough is half way up on the rim. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 490 degrees.

Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl with a paddle attachment and beat on high speed for about 5 minutes or until creamy and smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the sugar scraping down the sides periodically. Then add in the heavy cream and eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Add in the vanilla and lemon and beat for about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour with a rubber spatula. Make sure there are no lumps.

Pour the filling into the cookie dough lined pan and bake in the center of the oven until a dark brown color appears, about 10 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and cool for 30 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. After 30 minutes, return the cake to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes but please keep an eye on it. If there are any signs of cracking, take the cake out immediately, it is done.

Cool the cheesecake for at least two hours. When it has cooled, wrap it and refrigerate it overnight.

Raspberry Sauce
Melt the jelly over medium heat in a saucepan until completely melted. Cool slightly and carefully add in the raspberries and mix being careful not to break up the berries. Cool completely before pouring over the cheesecake.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adult Oreos

Clearly, I have a problem. When you start making jumbo sized portions of the snack food aisle, get your head checked. I can't help myself though! These looked so incredibly good when I saw them on the Smitten Kitchen website that I almost went out and bought some Oreos just to satisfy the instant craving.

Making these is just about as much fun as eating the finished product because I had an entire mixing bowl full of that fantastic white Oreo filling and of course, I had to test it...many,many times. I don't want to see any noses in the air on that one, you know you all do it. Anyway, so this recipe is very sweet and the cookies have a soft center, which I loved and the filling is even better than the regular Oreos. I believe I have mentioned my work colleague "J" in previous posts and this is fair warning that he wasn't thrilled with them because he said they were too sweet. I wholeheartedly disagree because I devoured about ten of them but some people don't have the insatiable sweet tooth that I do. So, if you love sweets, eat up, if not, either hold back on the sugar measurements or make these for someone who does have a sweet tooth. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted her version from Retro Desserts, Wayne Brachman


Chocolate Wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, place teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ina's Cheddar Corn Chowder

Let's all join together to sing the praises of bacon, cheddar, corn, potatoes and cream coming together to create an amazing soup. You cannot really go wrong with these ingredients. A few warnings on this recipe; it is big, very, very big. You will definitely have to use a stockpot which, of course, I missed when I was reading the directions. You can also cut the recipe in half which might be a good idea unless you are feeding the Bears defensive line. The other note here is that sour cream with chives is awesome on top of this and I highly recommend putting a big dollop of that on the hot soup just prior to serving. Enjoy!

Recipe from "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten.


8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon and sour cream.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread with Wheat Germ and Rye

What is it about baking bread? For me, it is part nostalgia, part therapy, part loving the smell of bread baking in my kitchen and part just liking the idea of eating homemade bread.

For the nostalgia part, I remember coming home from church when I was growing up and having my Mom’s bread baking in the oven. The smell was intoxicating as we entered the kitchen through the garage door. I could not wait to change out of my “church clothes” which usually consisted of some combination of pink, lace and ruffles with tights, always with the white tights and shiny white patent shoes. I have no memory of what we feasted on at those Sunday suppers; all I remember is that bread. My Mom would ritualistically take the bread out of the oven and place it in the center of the table on a cutting board. She would slice into it and I would hear the crunch of the outer loaf and watch the knife slice through the floured top and into the warm doughy middle. The steam from the insides would billow out of the center of the bread like a geyser. She would cut me a generous slice and top it with a pat of butter that would melt from the middle of the slice and down the sides. I would take that first bite and feel the butter and bread come together and melt in my mouth. After polishing off the slice, I would lick all of my fingers clean that were, at that point, completely slathered in butter.

Now that I am all grown up (in theory anyway), I also get to make the bread which can double as therapy. Not the same sort of therapy that comes from pounding meat until it is completely flattened but that’s an entirely different blog post. Sometimes kneading bread soothes the soul more than my workouts or a glass of wine after a tough day. Once you make your own bread, you will never get it from the grocery store again.

Recipe from “The Next Best Recipe” from Cook’s Illustrated.


2 1/3 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface

In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey, butter, and salt with a rubber spatula. Mix in the rye flour, wheat germ, and 1 cup each of the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours.

Add the remaining whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, attach the dough hook, and knead at low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead about 30 seconds.

Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently press down the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Gently press each piece into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side of the dough facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing down to make the dough stick to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place each cylinder of dough seam-side down in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan and gently press the dough so it touches all sides of the pan. Cover the shaped dough with a towel and let rise until almost doubled in volume, 20 to 30 minutes.

Bake 35-45 minutes. Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to wire racks, cool to room temperature.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Boozy Banana's Foster Bread

Let’s see. I am, ahem, in my early 30’s and I have been baking banana bread since I was in diapers. So, that would make the number of flops that have transpired in order to achieve this glorious loaf, way too high to count. Maybe that’s a little harsh. The other banana breads I have made were not necessarily bad, they just never popped, made me weak in the knees, gave me the stomach flip, made me want to shove aside all reason and just stuff the whole thing in my mouth. Well my darlings, this bread does all of the above and then some.

I almost signed banana bread off as a lost cause. Almost; but then a work colleague brought in banana bread that was given to him by a friend. He let me have a slice and it had a wonderful crunchy brown sugar cinnamon topping that was different from anything I had ever tasted on top of banana bread and it was fantastic. So, I researched some crunchy toppings that are usually used for pies and I came up with the concoction below. I could eat that topping alone and be a happy camper.

For the bread itself, I always thought that some sort of buttermilk or sour cream or other creamy and sour ingredient would be standard in good banana bread. I was wrong. I also have a weird obsession with putting nuts in everything and I actually held myself back from doing so with this bread. Apparently withholding the nuts and cream were both good things because the bread on its own, without the crunchy topping, was better than all of the banana breads I have ever made. I made some alterations but the basic recipe comes from a combination of the fantastic blog Simply Recipes and my most favorite blog, Smitten Kitchen, who appropriately named her adaptation, “Jacked Up Banana Bread”.

One more note, another work colleague who shall be known on this blog as “J”, came up with the “Bananas Foster Bread” name and I feel like I should give him credit for the title. So thanks to J for naming this and while we are at it, thank you for being the sounding board on this and so many other recipes.

Adapted from Simply Recipes and Smitten Kitchen

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour

Brown Sugar Topping:

5 tablespoons salted butter cold and diced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose white flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and rum, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for one hour to one hour and ten minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Atlanta Farmer's Market

Oh how I love a farmer's market. It was a sunny and just warm enough day in Midtown Atlanta and everyone was soaking up the sunshine with their kids and dogs. A quick note here; folks in Atlanta love their dogs, I think I counted three dogs per person.

I think the pictures speak for themselves but I would like to point out the beautiful orange tomato looking fruit in the second photo which are called persimmons. According to Wikipedia, a persimmon was known to the ancient Greeks as "fruit of the Gods." I had never tasted a persimmon before and it was surprisingly sweet and crisp but also disconcerting because it looked like I was biting into a tomato. We brought a few back to my brother's place and made a sweet and salty salad with mixed greens, goat cheese, pine nuts, pomegranates with a balsamic vinaigrette. This is a wonderful fruit if you can find it and I am will be seeking these out in Chicago when I get back.

One final note; the last picture is of my brother, Matt and his wife, Molly holding her farmer's market flowers. Could these two be any cuter? Their names are even cute together. Yes, they are as in love with each other as they look and have been for the past ten years. Aw, sigh.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chi Town Cook in Atlanta

I am in Atlanta visiting my "little" brother and his lovely wife this weekend. They took the shorty and me to the Mellow Mushroom for pizza and apparently the "mellow mushroom" name has nothing to do with the edible mushrooms that were on our pizza. Frankly, when pizza tastes that amazing, I really don't care what they do with their free time. This pizza had a Parmesan crust that was buttery and salty with a hint of garlic. The pie had an oil and garlic base topped off with artichokes, portobello mushrooms, feta and provolone cheeses and steak. Wow, many pleasurable groans around the table.

As if the pizza was not enough, we then went back to my brother's place and celebrated my son's 4th birthday with sweet tea and Vodka and cupcakes. There were three delicious cupcake flavors chosen for the occasion that were all very little man friendly; peanut butter and jelly, cookies and cream and coconut. The cupcakes came from a little bakery in this Midtown section of Atlanta where my brother lives called Chocolate Pink. More deep groans.

So now I am going to sign off with a content and very full stomach.

Cheers from Hotlanta y'all!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Spiced Apple Pear Sauce

If apple sauce tasted like this when I was growing up, I would have eaten a lot more of it! I had about a million left over apples and pears from one of my baking extravaganzas and when a girl has a million apples and pears, she makes apple pear sauce. Don’t just feed this to your kids although you will definitely be able to move them along at a faster pace by dangling this in front of their salivating little mouths. Slather it on pork or chicken, mix it in with stuffing, warm it a bit and put it on ice cream. For a quick dessert, take some leftover pie pastry, put the applesauce in with some sliced apples on top, dot with some brown sugar and butter, fold over the sides and poof, crostata to go! I like my applesauce chunky but if you are a pureed type of person, throw it into a blender or mash it with a potato masher when it is done cooking.


4 to 5 lbs of peeled, cored, and quartered apples. (Half Granny Smith apples and half Jonagold apples were used in this recipe)
3 ripe Bosc pears
Juice (about 2 teaspoons) and zest from 1 small lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons Kosher salt

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks.

If you want a more pureed sauce, mash with a potato masher.

Ready to serve, either hot or refrigerated.

Lasts up to one year in the freezer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NY Times Olive Oil Granola

Ok, take every granola recipe you have and throw them all out immediately. I came across this recipe a while ago, ripped it out and have had it sitting in my mile high recipes to try stack since July. Then something interesting started to happen. I started noticing the cooking blogosphere lighting up with, you have to try this recipe! One blog saying it is a fluke, eight different blogs saying it is quite another story. So, finally, this past weekend, I made this blessed concoction of fruit, nuts, oats and olive oil and let me just say that is has solidified my belief that the Times is one great publication.

Warning, this stuff is highly, highly addictive. Make it immediately!

Source: Adapted from the New York Times, A Good Appetite: Granola with a Perk of Olive Oil (July 15, 2009)


3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, hulled
1 cup raw peanuts
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, peanuts, coconut, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and apricots. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted. I would recommend using parchment paper as the syrup sticks horribly to the pan if you do not remove it right away to a bowl.

2. Transfer granola to a large bowl immediately before the syrup sticks to the sheet pan.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Smoked Sausage, Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Soup

It is appropriate that I am watching "When Harry Met Sally" while posting food recipes as Nora Ephron loves to cook and wrote this movie. I love Nora, her movies, her books and if I could have dinner with one person, it would be her. This movie is topping off a fabulous weekend of cooking and socializing and probably the last of the beautiful autumn weekends in Chicago. It was a tough choice of what to post from the delicious dishes that brewed in my kitchen but my parents stepped in and said that this soup was at the top of their list.

Once again, Emeril is my hero. This is his recipe and although it was a lot of labor, it was definitely worth it. I was a little skeptical about the Kielbasa with the butternut squash but it totally works. There is a lot going on with this soup; wild rice, butternut squash, corn, onion and sausage all coming together to create a hearty dish. Set aside some time, cook this up and enjoy! xo - AJ

Source: Emeril Lagasse


2 medium butternut squash, about 3 to 4 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup wild rice
3/4 pound kielbasa cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and lay on a rimmed sheet pan. Rub olive oil on all 4 halves and season all with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Scoop out the squash from the skin and in a blender or food processor, puree the squash with 2 cups of the chicken stock. Set aside.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring 4 cups of the stock and 1/2 cup of the chopped onions to a simmer. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the rice from the pan and cool. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the sausage and brown for 3 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of onion and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the remaining 6 cups of chicken stock and squash puree. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Stir in the rice and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the half-and-half and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and serve.