Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Eve

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...well, in the midwest. No snow here in NYC but the decorations around midtown are pretty impressive. And even though it is Christmas Eve Eve, there is still time to bake more cookies! I think I might need to make an extra batch to take to the movies to eat instead of popcorn...

Last week there was a cookie baking fundraiser at work. For every cookie brought in, the Glad company would donate $1 for each to Cookies for Kids' Cancer. (There is a lack of funding for pediatric cancer research and improving therapies. Take a look at the website!) My office mates and I baked 742 cookies and collected cash donations as well. In one afternoon we raised over $1000! (Makes me feel better about all of the cookies that I ate after the count.) I made these two variations of shortbread which I am wishing I had now. Would be good for Christmas Eve breakfast and I have a free afternoon...

Espresso Shortbread
Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners' or granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Sift together the flour and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), cream the butter until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. 

2. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 teaspoon of hot water and add to the butter along with the vanilla and sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes more. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low, scraping the bowl if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed.

3.  Form the dough into a disk; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight). Roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds. Score a line down the middle of each with the back of a knife and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4. Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes then transfer the cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Cookies will keep, in an airtight container, at room temperature 3 weeks.

Note: This dough can be prepared and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to three months, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Thaw the frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. The baking time for the shortbread will vary depending on the kind of pan and cutters used.

Pecan Sandies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup pecans, finely ground
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350˚F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

2. Mix the ground pecans with the flour and salt, and add to butter mixture. Beat, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium, until combined, about 1 minute.

3. Lightly flour your palms, if necessary, and roll the dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake until just brown on edges, about 20 minutes. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet while still warm; sift confectioners' sugar over tops.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Half Baked

So even though I continue to not cook, I have baked (though not in the Colorado sense) despite being sick the week before and after Thanksgiving. This tasty little cookie is not overly sweet and has a familiar rosemary scented holiday aroma, surprising in a cookie I will admit. I know that I have made shortbread in the past: mocha as well as both chocolate and lemon sables, but these are extra cool because you could serve them with a cheese plate or with other sweets. And you might as well check out these other cookie recipes (coconut macaroons, snowball cookies, and janhagels) for holiday inspiration, because who knows when I'll have another chance to bake!

Rosemary Shortbread
Adapted from Family Circle

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Sea salt, to taste

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, rosemary and salt. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the flour mixture. Mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gather the dough into two balls. Wrap both tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Remove one dough ball and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness on parchment paper. Punch out cookies using a 3 1/2-inch round (or tree-shaped) cookie cutter. Transfer the cutouts to a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart, sprinkle with sea salt if desired, then refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat with the second dough ball. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. (Do not allow the cookies to brown). Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Makes about 24 cookies.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Discovering Fall

It's been a crazy month and I'm personally looking forward to it's end. I'm exhausted. And I can't believe that Thanksgiving is only a few days away! I haven't been cooking at all, unless you count defrosting some of the contents of my freezer in anticipation of losing power (which I did not, thankfully!). I am totes looking forward to trying out some new fall side dishes and baking some pies. 

Somewhere along the way, and for some unknown reason, I made a carrot cake, a potential alternative to pumpkin pie or a nice fall birthday cake. (I probably bought carrots for another use and forgot why.) Speaking of birthdays, I recently had one of my own and on that oh-so-special day, managed to get a reservation to see Discovering Columbus, the installation by the artist, Tatzu Nishi. The exhibition has been extended because of The Hurricane, so you now have until December 2 to get your own reservation. (It's free, but you need an advanced reservation to see it.) I highly recommend it. When else are you going to be able to see a statue in person that is otherwise situated out of reach at 75 feet in the air? And then you should go home and make some carrot cake. Because there's...Cream. Cheese. Frosting.

The structure

Entering The Room


Nishi's Wallpaper Design

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
From The Ski House Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups canola oil
3 cups shredded carrots (about 6 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 (16-ounce) box confectioner’s sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter one 9 x 13 pan or two 9-inch round cake pans.

2. To make the cake, in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly to combine, then whisk in the oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in the carrots and nuts. 

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan or divide the batter evenly between the two round pans. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool. For the round pans, cool for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool completely. 

4. To make the frosting, in a large bowl beat together the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, butter, and vanilla. Spread the frosting evenly over the top. For a layered cake, spread the frosting between the layers and over the sides and top. Store covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerated for up to 5 days. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stormy Sandy's Sunday Sauce

So, just like Irene, we are in for a doozy of a storm. Fortunately this time I already have my flashlights, thanks to buying up the last two from my local hardware store over a year ago. I just picked up some granola bars, filled pitchers with water, and have my iPad juiced up in the event that I lose power.

It cracks me up to see people stocking up on booze like white wine and beer when, unless you have a cooler when you lose power, there will be no way to chill it! I also love how people stock up on toilet paper but forget about some other essentials. Ummm...if you don't have power or water, how are you going to flush? These are the things that concern me. When it comes to choosing between showering or flushing, I am going to pour that spare bucket of water into my toilet tank. Trust. (TMI?) And now I am fattening up for the impending doom by making and eating a vat of buttery tomato sauce drenched pasta because honestly, granola bars are going to get old fast.

Stay safe out there!

Buttery Tomato Sauce
(The Ski House Cookbook)

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cooked pasta of choice

1. Add the tomatoes, garlic, butter, onion and a large pinch of salt to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook uncovered at a low, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes have reduced.

2. Discard the onion and taste for seasoning. Toss the tomato sauce with 1 pound of cooked pasta such as spaghetti or penne and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes about 3 cups sauce.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Living in a tiny NYC apartment comes with many challenges. Like having to jump over your couch to get to the kitchen. Or not having couch. Or a kitchen. Since I actually do have a small slice of a kitchen that is far too close to my bed, I find that I avoid cooking anything that generates (week long) lingering smells like bacon (ahhh...), or fish, or any meat cooked in a pan on the stove top. So it goes without say that because I also don't have an outdoor space to call my own, grilling is totally out of the question. 

Fortunately I have come to the conclusion that many recipes that suggest grilling as a cooking method, can be adapted for the kitchen-bound home cook. I was recently given an awesome cookbook called Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book which is very exciting because I am a huge fan of all things BBQ. I must admit that I was initially a little sad to think that I wouldn't be able to make any of the recipes at home. Au contraire mon frere!  There are a ton of things that I can make at home and simply pretend that I am outside enjoying the summer breeze with a glass of sweet tea. The pork roast recipe below is meant to be cooked over charcoal, but I made it in the oven with absolute success. Cooking with the combination of a dry rub and barbecue sauce immediately made it taste like I was having the real thing. I can't wait to try some more!

Roasted Pork Loin with Apple Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
Adapted for the oven

1 (2 - 3 pound) boneless pork top loin roast
1 teaspoon olive oil

Dry Rub
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons onion salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Place the pork on a work surface and brush all over with the oil. In a small bowl, stir together the dry rub ingredients. Apply the dry rub to the pork evenly, patting so that the rub adheres.

2. Transfer the pork loin to a  roasting pan or baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° F and continue cooking for an additional 45 - 50 minutes, or until the pork's internal temperature reaches 145 ° F. Baste with some of the sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Let the pork rest under tented foil for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves about 6.

Barbecue Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup diced onion
3/4 cup coarsely grated peeled apple
3 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup cola
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes. Add the apple, bourbon, salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and cumin and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove form the heat and set aside.

2. In a large nonreactive saucepan, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the apple mixture and stir well. Simmer for 2 minutes and then remove form the heat. After cooling, transfer to an air tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 3 cups.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fall Back

It's my favorite time of the year. There is a chill in the air, the leaves are turning and there are pumpkins everywhere. Don't forget to save the seeds when you are carving your jack-o-lantern. Roasted pumpkins seeds are a simple and super tasty treat!

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds, from 1 - 2 large pumpkins
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste

1. Rinse the pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (This is easiest just after you've removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.) Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Place the pumpkin seeds in a medium bowl and add the olive oil and salt. Stir to coat.

3. Add the seeds to a baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Bake at 325° F until toasted, about 45 minutes,  stirring every 15 minutes.

4. Let cool and store in an air-tight container or enjoy immediately!

Friday, September 28, 2012


While a lot of peeps are bemoaning the end of summer, I am looking forward to the upcoming crisp fall afternoons and football Saturdays. (Go Blue!) So far September has been a pretty great month with plenty of sunny skies and 70 degree days. But truth be told I’m still looking forward to those cooler 50 and 60 degree days. Maybe in October?

The one thing that I regretted about this past summer was not baking a blueberry pie. It’s totally my fave and I totally slept on it. I went out looking for berries last week and was only able to find blueberries from Canada. To be honest, I don’t even recall seeing many local berries all summer. Did I just miss the entire season? Did they not do well this year? New Jersey peaches, however, were still available in my farmers’ market last weekend, along with some killer tomatoes. And I don’t mean Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. That’s something else all together. (And highly recommended!) May I present, a very late summer, classic peach pie!

Classic Peach Pie

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup ice water, plus more if needed

6 - 8 large, ripe but firm peaches (about 3 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste), plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse briefly, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (To mix by hand combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl then cut in the butter with a pastry blender.) Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and sprinkle the ice water on top. Stir with a fork until a crumbly dough forms. (Add more water one tablespoon at a time if needed.) Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until the dough comes together. Cut the dough in half and form into 2 disks; wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disk of dough to a 12-inch round. Ease one of the rounds into a 9-inch glass pie plate and transfer the other round to a baking sheet. Refrigerate.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Using a sharp knife, mark a shallow X in the bottom of each peach. Blanch the peaches in the boiling water for about 1 minute, until the skins begin to loosen. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to the ice water to cool. Drain and peel the peaches and cut them into 1/2-inch wedges. Transfer the peach wedges to a large bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice and flour, toss well and let stand for 5 minutes.

4. Pour the peaches and their juices into the chilled pie shell and scatter the butter slices on top. Brush the edge of the pie shell with the egg wash and lay the round of dough from the baking sheet on top. Press the edges of the pie shell together to seal and trim the overhang to a 1/2 inch. Fold the edge of the pie dough under itself and crimp. Brush the remaining egg wash on the top crust and cut a few slits for venting steam. Sprinkle with sugar.

5. Place the pie on a parchment lined baking sheet and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°, cover the edge of the pie with foil, and bake for about 45 minutes longer, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is deeply golden. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool completely. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Talking Turkey

I've finally organized (some) of my photos from my recent trip to Turkey! I divided my time between Istanbul and Bodrum, with a dash of Greece, and got a full dose of both the city and the sea. I'm not going to go into a full explanation of each photo (it would take me days to write and likely be painful to read!) so feel free to ask me questions in my comments section. It was an outstanding trip. I highly recommend a visit. I'm ready to go back!

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Street in Beyoglu 

Haghia Sophia

Haghia Sophia Mosaic Detail

Haghia Sophia

Istiklal Caddesi (pedestrian street)

Afternoon snack (Yes, those are French Fries wrapped up with the lamb!)

Istiklal Caddesi Nostalgic Tram

Suleymaniye Mosque beyond the Galata Bridge

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar

Topkapi Palace Harem

Topkapi Palace Harem

Topkapi Palace Harem

Topkapi Palace Harem

Topkapi Palace Harem

Topkapi Palace Harem Tile Detail

Topkapi Palace Harem Walkway

Aegean Sea

View from the Asklepieion Archeaelogical Site (Kos Island, Greece)

Columns at the Asklepieion

Roman Odeon (Kos Island)

Acropolis (Kos Island)

My Greek lunch menu with an amusing English translation

Greek Kebab Lunch

Grand Yazici Hotel Pool (Bodrum)

View of Bodrum from Pool

My Pool View

Bodrum Gulets (traditional wooden sail boats)

Bodrum Marina

School of Fish in the Aegean Sea

Bodrum Blue Sky

Bosphorus Bridge

Lunch at Ciya (restaurant on the Asian side of Istanbul)

Ciya's special kebab that I like to call a Turkish cheeseburger

Dolmabahce Palace


Fortress of Europe

The Pera Palas Hotel has, since 1892, hosted travellers from the Orient Express. And me for cocktails!

Galata Tower

View of the Golden Horn from the Galata Tower

Galata Bridge

Galata Tower from the Golden Horn