Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let's talk menus!

This is how I'll make my favorite cranberry sauce tomorrow!

This year I'm home for Thanksgiving and doing all the cooking (with some help from Mike, of course). I spent tons of time going through magazines and cookbooks before finalizing my menu. I wanted to do this blog post this morning, but I had to get some work done, and then I spent 2 hours cooking! I'm proud to say I've made turkey stock for the gravy and stuffing and put together the dough for my pecan tart.

So if anyone else is taking a break from prepping for tomorrow, let's dish! What's on your menu? Have you gotten a jump on things, or will you rise early and cook up a storm? Are you trying some new recipes or sticking to old favorites...share!

Here is my menu, along with some links to recipes where available:

Brined Roast Turkey with Giblet Gravy

Oyster Stuffing with Turkey Stock

Cranberry Sauce with Pears, Ginger & Garam Masala

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Pecan Tart

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bloggers Celebrate Gourmet Magazine

Here it is--your round up of blog posts celebrating Gourmet magazine (more about the event here)! Thank you to everyone who wrote about a recipe from the magazine and sent me your links and photos. It's cool to see the wide range of recipe choices--from a healthy bean dish to a comforting stew to (several!) decadent cheesecakes. It was a total pleasure putting this together. Gourmet may be gone (I can't bring myself to open the final issue yet; have you?), but I for one plan to cook the magazine's excellent recipes for years to come.

Cheryl of 5 Second Rule made this very pretty White Beans Puttanesca.

Lisa of Visual Traveler made luscious Pumpkin Cheesecake Supreme--a recipe that's been one of her mainstays since 1983!

Slashfood showed us how to make spooky Halloween treats with Gourmet's Chocolate Brownie recipe.

Another perfectly seasonal selection comes from Emily of The Culinary Couple: Spiced Apple Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Adrienne of Hungry Bruno used an assortment of fresh 'shrooms for this Wild Mushroom Pasta.

Meg of Delicious Dishings has a long line up of recipes she's cooked from Gourmet. Click over to her blog to read about such tasties as Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Pie (!) and Fried Mozzarella Balls.

When Amy of Playing House makes Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, she means really slow--6 to 8 hours! I can attest that this technique is worth it!

Ginny of Just Get Floury baked a loaf of Pumpkin-Raisin Bread.

And don't forget Tom's Pear Butterscotch Pie (which he kindly let me post on this blog) and my own contribution to the event: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Kristin of Picky Cook tempts us with Minted Berry Cheesecake. She also treats us to her own round up of recipes she's cooked and blogged about from Gourmet (including scones and thumbprint cookies--my kind of girl!).

Maggie of The Freckled Citizen shares a weeknight favorite, Garlicky Black Pepper Shrimp & Black Eyed Peas.

Snow of Little Miss Sunshine made a lovely, healthy dinner for one that I'd eat any night of the week: Miso Glazed Sea Bass with Asparagus.

Katie of Lil Veggie Patch did her 'lil bit healthier version of Caramelized Banana Splits with Chocolate Sauce.

That gorgeous Chocolate Cream Pie at the top of the post is from Stephanie of Desserts for Breakfast. She also made Green Beans with Poached Egg and Parmesan from the magazine.

Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet couldn't decide on a Gourmet favorite. So, she posted her thoughts about the magazine and links to some of her top contenders, like Coconut Cake with Lime Curd and Chicken Cashew Chili.

Feast your eyes (and your stomach) on Flavorista's fall showstopper, Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue. Hello, Gruyere!

Beth of Miss Mango Hands offers another take on pumpkin cheesecake: a pie version with gingersnap crust and crystallized ginger topping.

Breadchick Mary from The Sour Dough made the Gourmet version of two of her favorite foods: Meatballs and Rice Pudding.

Eric of Culinary Agoge whipped up this Brown Butter Pound Cake with a beautifully burnished crust.

Kate of Savour Fare sends us these artistically plated Crab Cakes with Spicy Avocado Sauce.

It's a fungi fest (ha!) on Chocolate & Croissants with this Wild Mushroom Soup.

Johanna of Pretty Girls Use Knives cooked up Chicken in Riesling. I'm thinking cozy dinner party dish.

Alyssa (also of Pretty Girls Use Knives) fell for creamy (but cream-free!) Cheddar Potato Soup with Bacon.

Last, but far from least: Veggie Girl adapted this Applesauce Pecan Cake to suit her dietary needs. You sure can't tell the difference by looking, so you'll love her smart recipe fixes!

If anyone out there missed participating in this event, please share your thoughts in the comments! Do you have a favorite recipe from Gourmet that you make all the time? Or maybe there's a memorable dish you cooked for a special occasion years ago. I want to hear about it! And links are always welcome, so I can try out your recommendations. Gourmet is gone, but I'm more resolved than ever to learn from--and enjoy--their nearly 70 years worth of culinary knowledge.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Blog Event: Let's Celebrate Gourmet!

If you haven't heard the sad news yet, Gourmet magazine has been shut down by its parent company due to these difficult economic times. Since you can read plenty about it on countless blogs and news sites, I won't rehash the details. It's too sad.

So, in the interest of staying positive, I'm hosting a blogging event. To celebrate the nation's oldest food magazine (published since 1940!), let's cook, photograph and post about our favorite recipe from Gourmet's pages. If you tend to clear out most of your back issues, just go to where you'll find recipes categorized by decades (the website is a wonderful place to explore the magzine's history, which is really American food history!), themes and holidays; or just search for anything you want.

Maybe you remember a perfect cake you made years ago, or a simple chicken dish you threw together last week. Whatever it is, find it and write about it. And if you want to pick a new favorite, that's great too. I'm betting it's going to be tough to choose just one incredible Gourmet recipe.

To participate in this event, here's what to do:

1) Cook a favorite recipe from Gourmet magazine and publish a blog post* about it anytime from now till October 16. Include a link to THIS POST in your blog post so readers will be able to find out more!

*No blog? I still want you to participate! Just email me your story/recipe or photo, and I will post it here on Include first name and where you're from. Don't be shy!

2) Email a link to your post, the name of your blog and, if you want, an image of the dish in jpeg form to aminglingoftastes AT gmail DOT com by October 16. No late entries please!

3) Publicize this event! Tell your followers on Twitter, tip off your facebook friends and mention it on your blog. Let's get as many recipes and stories gathered together as we can!

4) Check back here around October 19-20 for a round-up of all the posts.

Easy, right! I know I'm not giving you much time, but I think it's important to get some positive energy going. The more I think about life without Gourmet, the more bummed out I feel. Since yesterday, I've read some great tributes and opinions about this sad situation, and I want to include some links here:

Goodbye Gourmet, I'll Miss You, by Steph of Wasabimon.

Goodbye, Gourmet, by Kelly of Nommynom.

RIP Gourmet by Paige of Hey, Little Sister.

Say Goodbye to Gourmet by Jeff of Wine Curmudgeon.

What Ruth Reichl is doing next by Kim Severson of the New York Times' Diner's Journal blog.

Gourmet Was For the Young and Scrappy, Too by Alex Van Buren of Salon.

Late Stage Empire: How Condé Nast could’ve saved Gourmet magazine, and why it chose not to
by Paul Smalera on True/Slant.

How Condé Nast Is Like General Motors by Jack Shafer on Slate.

My own take on the news here at Magazine Know-It-All.

The news story as reported by the New York Times.

And finally, a new Twitter feed has sprung up called Save Gourmet.

Now talk to me! Are you as shocked and saddened as I am? Are you going to participate in this blog event (please say yes!). Do you know exactly what you'll cook, or is it going to be a hard decision? Sound off in the comments!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things I learned at the Chicago Gourmet fest

Two wild n' crazy boxes o'wine.

This Saturday, I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer at the Chicago Gourmet festival (representing the wonderful Green City Market). This was a rather high-end (read "pricey") event with lots of top-notch Chicago restaurants dishing out fabulous bites. And of course, every alcohol distributor under the sun was represented, so attendees could sample wine, liquor, cocktails, sake, Champagne and beer in one lap around Millenium Park. There were also culinary demos and seminars with some well-known chefs, so there was a lot of action to take in.

In the middle of Chicago Gourmet this weekend at Millenium Park.

Here's what I learned:

1) Millenium Park gets more beautiful every time I go.

2) Roast suckling pig is not overrated (and neither is the restaurant that served it, Mercat a la Planxa, one of my faves!).

3) Trekking to Urban Belly for their fresh, flavorful wonton soup would be totally worth it.

4) Chicago should really get on the sake train.

5) To make a mint-infused martini, put a few sprigs in the shaker along with ice and other ingredients (try gin, simple syrup and lemon juice); shake with a gentle, rolling motion; strain and serve.

5) Eden Valley, Australia is the place for bone-dry Riesling.

6) Duck confit grilled cheese on baguette—try it, you’ll like it.

7) There is always waaaaay more alcohol than food at these types of events, so pace yourself!

Sake: A whole new world of booze to explore.

Any Chicagoans reading this who attended the event? What did you think? Do you have anything to add to my pearls of wisdom above? More importantly, would you go again next year?


Monday, August 17, 2009

The New Kitchen

I wanted to give you guys a little peek at my new kitchen. The pros: it is wide open onto the dining/living area, has loads of counter space, and has a view of the Sears Tower from that window over the sink. Cons: there is less cupboard space than one might guess at first glance.

I guess we have only one con, so that's not too bad! My last kitchen, although often tight for two people to cook in at once, had a huge pantry cupboard. It was the perfect catch-all for dry goods, spices, small appliances, linen, snacks and baking supplies. This kitchen features a lazy Susan in the corner, but it is surprisingly less spacious than I hoped.

That's my critical analysis of the kitchen situation. The important thing is that I love our new condo---especially the fab location! The kitchen was actually the first room we unpacked and got up and running. The rest of the place is still full of boxes. I'm in California visiting family now (and before that, we participated a seriously rugged camping adventure), so once I actually spend some time in Chicago, I think I'll finally get it all together!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cupboards Are Bare

I made it to Chicago without much hassle, but for all our stuff, it was a different story. Thanks to the worst seemingly reputable moving company in America, our belongings were delivered nearly two weeks later than the promised date. If you're looking for a company that offers decent customer service and won't lie to you, DO NOT call Neighbors Moving & Storage. On the other hand, if you enjoy getting the run around from the company you're paying to do a job, then I wholeheartedly recommend them.

The apartment we're staying in right now is temporary--July only. The condo in Bucktown that we fell in love with wasn't available till August 1. Since all our worldly possessions just arrived--including the whole batterie de cuisine--we're kind of trying to unpack as little as possible. So even though I have a tiny kitchen, I'm not doing much cooking. For the first two weeks, I felt like Survivorman (except with less crying). My only cooking tools were a skillet and saucepan we borrowed (along with an air mattress!) from friends.

The result is that we've spent a staggering amount of time and money at the prepared foods section of Whole Foods market. In a lot of cases, this may have gotten really depressing really quickly, but not here. Just weeks before we arrived, the huge, gorgeous Lincoln Park location of Whole Foods opened, and the place is better than Disneyworld. We really could eat every meal there for a week (probably longer) with no repeats. Tasty, tasty things. Quick tip: I got 1-pint cartons of fresh Mission and green figs there this week; it's a great price, so get over there fast!

Since we've more or less disposed with cooking for the month, my cupboards are indeed bare. I did open the box with the toaster and coffeemaker (It's not like we've suddenly gone feral), so I can make sunny side-up eggs with toast for breakfast. When I'm not relying on my stock of yogurt, eggs, sandwich fixings and candy in the refrigerator, I've been returning to the Whole Foods mothership with disturbing frequency. Anyway, here's the kitchen cupboard rundown:

Instant oatmeal: This is not a compromise; I love this stuff.
Peppermint tea: Favorite non-alcoholic nightcap.
Quick grits: We did one homecooked meal! This delicious shrimp n' grits recipe. Instead of Boursin, we crumbled Feta on top and seasoned the shrimp with Mexican hot sauce.
Raisins: I like them in my instant oatmeal.
Crystal Light individual lemonade drink mix: Plain water is no longer an option.
Canned food: Specifically, black beans and tuna. I have no idea where the can opener is. Fail.
Jif: Two kinds of peanut butter, smooth for Mike, extra crunchy for me.
Vitamins: Moving is no excuse for calcium deficiency.
Fruit: Mmmm, summer fruit.
Pam: For lovely runny eggs.
Assorted serving ware and paper goods

How would you deal with this bizarro apartment survival challenge? Have you ever stopped to think about the importance of condiments (we've got hot sauce, mustard, salt and pepper...wait, maybe those last two count as spices)? Do you love your Whole Foods market as much as I do (I really don't think this is possible)?

Ponder those questions and stay tuned...


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cookbook Winners

At long last, I'm announcing the winners of the last 2 cookbook giveaways!

Reader, Amy, won the random drawing for Ready, Steady, Spaghetti. Drop me an email (aminglingoftastes AT gmail DOT com), and I will get the book to you asap.

Reader, "Andrew's Mom," from Long Island is the winner of Modern Spice. Check your email!

If you missed the last giveaway for Modern Spice, I posted a super-simple recipe for seared trout with mint-cilantro chutney from the book. It's perfect for a weeknight. You can also see what other bloggers cooked from the book right here on author Monica Bhide's own blog.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Giveaway: Ready, Steady, Spaghetti

Thanks to everyone who has entered the last two cookbook giveaways! I've enjoyed all the comments. Unfortunately, I still haven't tracked down, "4fish", the winner of Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken. So, Ms. or Mr. 4fish, please email me by Wednesday, or I'll have to pick an alternate! The winner of last week's book, Memorable Recipes is Kathy from Mission, Texas. You should have an email from me in your inbox...congrats!

Up next, I have a copy of Ready, Steady, Spaghetti by Lucy Broadhurst. This big, user-friendly paperback cookbook full of color photos is all about food with major kid-appeal. While there are plenty of fun gimmicks like Fairy Wands, there are also plenty of options that will satisfy adults and older kids, like Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs. Whether your little one is in the kitchen cooking along or just needs some dishes tailored to his or her developing palate, this looks like a winning book.

To enter the giveaway, follow the same drill as last time: leave a comment to this post, perhaps about your favorite meal as a kid (or your own kid's "unique" food preferences). Comment by Sunday, June 21 when I'll pick a winner at random and contact you. If you don't have a website, or don't want to leave your email address, just leave your first name and I'll announce it in an upcoming post (of course you'll have to check back and email me to get your prize, but I want to make sure everyone can maintain as much privacy as they want to). Good luck!


Monday, June 08, 2009

Giveaway: Memorable Recipes

This week's cookbook giveaway is Memorable Recipes to Share with Family & Friends by Renee Behnke with Cynthia Nims. There's a lot of eye candy here thanks to full-color photos, but this cookbook is also a primer on simple, elegant entertaining.

Recipes range from comforting classics like corn chowder and rack of lamb with rosemary and garlic to international favorites like chiles rellenos and gazpacho. There is also a chapter of menu ideas complete with cocktail recipes and wine notes. As the president of the Sur La Table, I'm guessing author Renee Behnke had plenty of experience to pour into this book.

To enter to win, all you have to do is leave a comment to this post. Lost for words? Tell me what your favorite dish or menu for entertaining is by Sunday, June 14 when I'll pick a winner at random and contact you. If you don't have a website, or don't want to leave your email address, just leave your first name and I'll announce it in an upcoming post (of course you'll have to check back and email me to get your prize, but I want to make sure everyone can maintain as much privacy as they want to.) Good luck!


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Giveaway: Lost Ravioli

As promised, here is this week's book giveaway: The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food & Family by Laura Schenone. Here's what Anne Mendelson of Saveur has to say about it:
"[A] solidly researched, lovingly written memoir--and a splendid detective story...This wonderfully intricate, rumpled, generous narrative would be a joy even without the final lagniappe of about two dozen hard-won recipes."
To enter to win this book, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. What to say? If you've ever made homemade pasta (I have with delicious, though rustic, results), tell us how the experience was. Or tell us your absolute favorite pasta dish. Comment before Sunday June 7 at noon eastern, after which the random integer generator will do its work. Be sure to leave some way for me to contact you (email address, link to blogger profile page, link to website, facebook or twitter page) if you win. Sorry international, Hawaiian and Alaskan friends, but this contest is limited to readers in the continental USA only.

Good luck! (Now aren't you dying to go look up lagniappe?!)


Monday, June 01, 2009

June Cookbook Giveaways!

Photo Credit: Brian Teutsch (creative commons license)

Top 10 reasons to move to Chicago:

1) To shop at the many farmer's markets.

2) To drive less--call me a masochist, but I love public transportation.

3) To eat elk poutine at The Gage as often as possible (That one's for Mike. Mostly).

4) To soak up the Obama mystique.

5) To wear layers! (You can only make so many style statements with tank tops and shorts)

6) To live near a big airport with direct flights going virtually everywhere.

7) To eat at The Bristol and Mercat a la Planxa at will.

8) To buy truffles at Ethel's Chocolate.

9) To have a Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute whenever I feel like it.

10) To live in an apartment that allows pets (I'm getting a pug!)

Can you guess why I made that (highly subjective) top 10 list? We're moving to Chicago! If you've ever noticed the subtle jabs I take at Fort Lauderdale occasionally, you'll know that I am very, very happy about this. I love living in big cities. We're not exactly in rural Florida down here, but it's just never felt right for me. Chicago, on the other hand, is an incredible food town (see #s 1, 3, 7 and 8 above)...we can't wait!

So what does this have to do with cookbooks? I'm hoping to be in a yet-to-be-found new apartment by the Fourth of July, but until then life will be full of crazy moving fun. That means less time to cook and occasionally a lot less kitchen. But I'll still have time to blog, making it the perfect opportunity to thank all of you by giving away some recently released cookbooks.

A new prize will be up for grabs each week. All you have to do is leave a comment on the post announcing the giveaway. At the end of the week, I'll use the random integer generator to pick a number, which will correspond to a specific comment. I'll email the winner and send your book as soon as possible. I will probably manage to post a recipe or two this month, as well. At least I hope so! Either way, giving away cookbooks keeps me in touch with you guys and lets me show my appreciation to everyone for reading!

I'm going to announce a new prize every Monday, except for this week when I'll post it on Tuesday. So check back tomorrow (or anytime before Sunday) to see what's up for grabs this week and to enter by leaving a comment. If you receive posts by email, simply scroll to the bottom and click on "comments" to get straight to the comment section on

And in the meantime, who lives in Chicago? Any advice? Once we get settled, I'd love to meet up. Perhaps you will give me a tour of your favorite ethnic market/gourmet shop/wine shop/coffee shop (yes, I'm dying to know all your local foodie secrets). Drop me a line at aminglingoftastes AT gmail DOT com.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Easter Menus

I am back from the IACP conference in Denver and slowly recovering from 5 days of talking about food, writing about food, and especially eating food. Really good food. And now Easter is just a few days away. Wanna know what I want for the holiday? Bourbon. I went to a fantastic seminar/tasting at the conference (which I'll post about later), and I've been having happy Bourbon dreams ever since.

Wanna know what I'll actually have for Easter? Turkey. But not just any turkey--full-on Thanksgiving roast turkey with all the trimmings. It's for a magazine assignment, and I'm sort of looking forward to it. It's not unusual for magazines to work 6 or more months ahead, especially when it comes to holiday stories. Luckily, I bought an extra bag of fresh cranberries and stuck them in the freezer, in case of emergency.

I will, however, miss cooking an Easter ham. It's what we always ate when I was growing up, so it just feels like the right thing to have on Easter. For those who celebrate Easter, do you have a specific food tradition?

If you're in search of ideas, I put together a brunch menu and a lunch/dinner menu from my archives. This was fun to do and makes me want to cook this stuff, turkey or no turkey! Oh, well. Maybe I'll try a ham in a week or two after all the turkey leftovers are finished.

A Mingling of Tastes Easter Brunch

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

DAM (Denver Art Museum) & A Food Celeb!

Not surprisingly, I'm having a blast hanging out with food people at the IACP conference in Denver. The opening reception last night was at the Denver Art Museum, which has a beautiful new wing designed by Daniel Libeskind (below).

A lot of you will probably recognize the lady in the picture at the top of the post: Shirley Corriher, food scientist extraordinaire and author of 2 tomes on the hows and whys of cooking, Cookwise and the newly released Bakewise. Near the end of the evening, I spotted her relaxing in one of the museum's comfy seating areas. I told her how much I liked her books, and she was lovely. When I asked for a picture, she was happy to oblige, provided that we do what Julia Child always did for pictures: instead of "cheese!" we had to say, "1, 2, 3, sex!" Why would I argue?!

For the reception, chefs from Denver and Boulder's restaurant community set up stations and turned out fabulous food all night. Honestly, there was so much good stuff, I just wandered around for two hours in a haze of gastronomic nirvana. Very impressive, and I was thrilled to see Jennifer Jasinski, chef at Rioja, plating up spectacular salmon tartar with orange gastrique and arugula ravioli with almond sauce.

Other highlights were the beet mousse with local goat cheese from Root Down and everything, especially duck liver pate and a beautiful vanilla bean panna cotta dessert from the soon to be opened Olivea (chefs from sister restaurant, Duo, were helping out). The dessert was garnished with "candied mangold," and since I had no idea what that is, I asked the pastry chef and learned that it's the pink stem of rainbow Swiss chard! As soon as she told me, I tasted mild chard flavor. She dips thin pieces in simple syrup with a lot of lemon and bakes it in a low oven to make it light and crisp--fantastic!

Other restaurants that represented were Black Cat and Frasca Food and Wine (winner of the Beard award for Best Chef Southwest in 2008), as well as Cure Organic Farm, all in Boulder. I'd love to go have a meal at every one. Even better, all these restaurants are focused on sustainable and local ingredients as much as possible.

The picture above is a whimsical sculpture right outside the museum. You'll notice it snowed in Denver yesterday! Of course today is bright and sunny. Looking forward to more culinary revelations in the next couple days. After last night, I'd recommend Denver to anyone looking for a great foodie destination!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ham Biscuits! (and Denver)

Mmmm, biscuits. Now add ham--and cheese if you want--and you have something even better: a ham biscuit. The idea comes from Southern cuisine, but I used my favorite cornmeal biscuits (click on that link, people; they're so good, ham or no). This would be a nice way to use up leftover Easter ham.

Right now, I'm in Denver for the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. It starts tomorrow, and is filled with 4 days of culinary seminars and networking with folks in all areas of the food industry. I'm so excited! Of all the sessions I signed up for, I think I'm most looking forward to "Bison is Big" and "Bourbon: America's Native Spirit." I have to admit that I'll feel very snazzy once I become a Bourbon expert!

Denver is a lot of fun. I've been here a couple times before on business trips. I made reservations for one of my favorite restaurants, Rioja, over a month ago, and I can almost taste the gnocchi and pork belly. Tonight I had a yummy, light sushi dinner at Sonoda's in LoDo. And my last Denver tip for the day: The free shuttle bus on the 16th Street Mall downtown is genius.

I'll keep you posted about what I'm learning (and eating!) here at the conference. Or you can follow me on twitter @JulieTastes. But in the meantime, you can gaze at that lovely ham biscuit.

Have any of you spent time in Denver? Do you live in Denver? If so, what do you think about the downtown area? I haven't really been very far outside of that downtown mall area and the LoDo district. And if you can recommend a fun brew pub with good food in downtown, I would be thrilled!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Recipes

Guinness Brownies

Time is flying so quickly that I thought Monday was only the 6th. So, between my inability to read the calendar and daylight savings time, I'm all discombobulated. On Sunday, we were wandering through Whole Foods, and I noticed displays of Murphy's Stout, Guinness and Dubliner Stout Cheddar (really tasty, by the way!). It took a minute before I realized all these goodies were front and center because St. Patty's Day is right around the corner.

Irish Potato Chowder and Soda Biscuits in the background.

In order to be ahead of the curve when it comes to holiday food, I'm posting some favorite perfect-for-St. Patty's recipes. I just realized I have enough Irish-themed things to qualify for a pretty decent round up. This year, I'd love to make a batch of Guinness Brownies, but I may also opt for this pistachio cookie recipe I've been holding onto since last year. My wedding anniversary is actually two days after St. Patrick's Day, so that is the big celebratory occasion I look forward to in March. Still, there's no reason why I can't toast three years of marriage with a pint of Guinness and a glass of champagne.

Do you have a favorite recipe for St. Patrick's Day? Is it all about the Guinness and the Bailey's Irish cream, or do you go traditional with cabbage and potatoes? I love how holidays give us a reason to cook or bake something we wouldn't normally do.

Guinness Brownies - Dense and chocolatey with a hint of stout. This is just a great brownie.

Guinness Cupcakes - Light, airy crumb and addictive espresso buttercream.

Guinness Beef Stew - Never make a stew with beer? You must taste what you've been missing!

Irish Potato Chowder - Creamy. Hearty. Bacon-y. Yet, all in all it's still a pretty healthy soup.

Whole wheat Irish Soda Bread - Plain, simple and really easy. Spread it with unsalted Irish butter. I love this.

Irish Soda Biscuits - The same simple soda bread done as a drop biscuit.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meyer Lemons

Happy weekend, everyone! Today is the first weekend day in a while that I'm not doing any work. That won't be the case tomorrow, but what are you gonna do... That's not a very good lead into this post about Meyer lemons, but they need no introduction beyond that lovely photo.

It's still the season for this sweet, aromatic lemon hybrid, so if you're lucky enough to find them in your area, take advantage. They are grown mostly in California and Florida and by lucky people who may have a backyard Meyer lemon tree of their own. I wrote about them for National Public Radio last week, so click over to learn more about them and get my recipes for...

  • Meyer lemon compote with dates
  • Roasted root vegetables with Meyer lemons
  • Meyer lemon bars
There's also an audio interview you can listen to of me elaborating on this unique citrus. Next week, I vow to resume a regular posting schedule...I've been in the weeds lately, I know. Thank you for bearing with me and leaving such nice comments!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to Fix Sunken Cupcakes

How cool is food science?! I was developing a cupcake recipe last week, and encountered that horrible, sunken, crater-like effect. What to do?

I had started with a basic cake recipe and worked from there, but I knew something was off when my first batch sunk. I remembered reading somewhere that the leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder) could be a factor. I turned to Cookwise by Shirley Corriher, that classic resource that demystifies the science behind cooking and baking.

It turns out that there are some very important guidelines when it comes to the amount of leavening in recipes. Each cup of flour in a recipe can handle up to 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder OR just 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (Of course other factors may come into play and some recipes may require a combination of the two.). The presumably reliable recipe I used as a blueprint called for 1/2 tsp. baking powder AND 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with just 1 cup of flour.

I can't really comprehend why it would ever call for so much baking soda. But, it was really fun to do some sleuthing and figure out how to fix my recipe. I ended up omitting the baking soda completely, resulting in perfectly level cupcakes, just like I wanted. I should also not that the one on the left is not as tall as the sunken one because I used less dough--not because it failed rise.

This also brings up another hugely important part of cooking that I love to preach about (so indulge me for a sec). Just because "the recipe says so" doesn't mean it's correct. Even recipes published in books and other reliable sources can have problems. It may be a simple mistake, or it may not have been developed/tested/edited with perfect clarity and/or knowledge. There are differences in equipment and ingredients, even the climate can be a factor. These things happen.

So, if something doesn't seem right in a recipe, absolutely question it! Just use your common sense and do what seems right to you, or compare it to a similar recipe from a source you've had good results with in the past. Okay, I'm done! I just had to share my geeky little science moment...maybe it will help you fix a faulty recipe someday!

One more thing: Corriher just did a follow up to Cookwise that focuses totally on baking! It's called Bakewise, and I'm resolved to buy it after my cupcake experience. If food science makes you giddy, check it out!


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Lentils and More Winter Recipes

In the past hour, the weather has gone from mostly clear and sunny to about as dark and stormy as it's likely to get in Florida--and I love it! I know a lot of you would probably kill for some of my typical Florida weather right now, but one of my favorite things to do is cook a warm, comforting meal with the wind and rain rocking away outside.

I'm about to go do just that, but first I wanted to supply you with a slew of recipes perfect for stormy weather. An essay I wrote on the long history of the lentil was published on today, along with three of my original recipes:
  • Wine-Braised Lentils with Mustard-Glazed Salmon
  • Curried Red Lentil Soup with Raita
  • Brown Lentils with Chorizo and Orange Salsa
I hope you'll click over to the story and check them out! Though I cringe when tooting my own horn (I'm literally cringing right now), I also want to invite you to take a look at some recipes stories I have out in a few magazines this month. I wrote about healthy and immune-boosting recipes with citrus in the February issue of Shape (including a dessert that fits into your diet plans for the new year). I developed a handful of Italian recipes for the Jan./Feb. issue of Clean Eating that re-think some favorite dishes in a healthy way. And I came up with creative ways to eat in-season grapefruit for the Jan. issue of Vegetarian Times, as well as grain recipes with just 5 ingredients.

I don't think any of these are online yet (update: you can see the story on the "flip through the mag" feature on the Clean Eating site), but maybe you already subscribe to one or all of these mags! I don't usually see my work in so many different places at the same time (freelancing is all about "feast or famine"), so it's kind of fun to share a whole bunch at once. Most of these seasonal recipes were developed months ago in the midst of summer (and I'm currently working on a couple summer projects now!).

Thank you so much for all your kind comments and emails! It's a heck of a lot easier to share my work accomplishments with such an encouraging and friendly bunch of readers!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Gifts for Foodies

I heard that today could be the biggest online shopping day of the season. If you're still looking for gifts for your favorite foodie friends, I have some ideas. Everyone loves books, so I've suggested three of my recent favorites. Plus, there are some cool kitchen goodies and eclectic eats. And if you're thinking this is the year for homemade gifts, you'll find my picks at the very end. Happy gifting!

The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, $32.00. This weighty, impressive book with plenty of full-color photos will delight your favorite baker. It's a well-rounded, comprehensive reference, and it's full of tips revealing "what the pros know." With plenty of sweet and savory recipes, it's a great collection. Get a taste of Mushet's familiar-with-a-twist style with this recipe for Butterscotch Pie on

The Spice Merchant's Daughter by Christina Arokiasamy, $19.77. Quite the opposite of the previous book, this is a small little jewel full of specialized recipes. Arokiasamy's mother ran a spice shop in Kuala Lumpur, and she weaves her stories in with her recipes with are tailored for American home cooks. A great gift for the cook who loves to dive into a particular cuisine and explore it in depth.

Fat by Jennifer Mclagan. $21.45. What a great idea...Mclagan tells us everything we ever wanted to know about fat, including how to exploit all its unique properties for our culinary enjoyment. There are tons of great recipes, from pâté (pork fat) to shortbread (butter). This is a book any cook, short of the truly fat-phobic, can enjoy. To learn more, read this interview with the author by fabulous food writer, Monica Bhide, on

File Folder Chopping Boards, $85.00. These are pricy, but I think the design is so cool!

Cuisinart Handheld Blender, $49.99. The kind of gadget you don't know you need until someone gives it to you as a holiday gift. It is so nice for pureeing soups--no more transferring to your blender in batches. And this model comes with a mini chopper--bonus!

Nigella Lawson Salt Pig, $16.95. I received this from my lovely husband last Christmas. I have no idea why it's called a "pig," but it's so cute, stylish and useful!

Rose Petal Preserves, $6.99. I love rose petal preserves, jams and jellies. They are popular in France, the Middle East, Greece and more, I'm sure. Unfortunately, they're tough to find in the United States. Definitely a fun stocking stuffer for foodies who always want to try new tastes.

Mustapha's Moroccan Harissa, $7.99. For heat lovers! A dollop of this spiced chile sauce can perk up tagines, roasted lamb, flatbread, and plenty of non-Moroccan dishes too.

Koeze Cream Nut Peanut Butter, $8.50. Sold through fab specialty foods retailer, Zingerman's, this natural, artisan peanut butter is described as "velvety" and "intense." I'd wrap it up with some of your favorite chocolate bars for a sort of d.i.y. chocolate-peanut butter experience.

Make it Homemade:

These chocolate capuccino cookies with cinnamon chips are my new favorite easy drop cookie since making them a couple weeks ago. Big shout out to Cookie Madness--these are keepers!

Russian Tea Cakes, Pecan Crescents, Mexican Wedding Cakes...I call my version of these easy, soft, buttery cookies Pecan Balls. They freeze well and are sturdy enough for gifting.

Spiced nuts are such a simple idea, it doesn't seem like they could be so addictively good. Make a few batches and package them in mason jars with pretty ribbons and you'll have a gift that will be well-appreciated.

Spritz cookies! Do you have a cookie press? I just bought one and I'm going to use this recipe. Just think about how much better your homemade butter cookies will be than anything your friends and loved ones can buy. And so cute!

Bacon Brittle. Enough said. That link will take you to the recipe, and I wrote about it here.

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