Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plum Skillet Cake and My Little Helper


She begins her second year of preschool next week.

She's excited to see her friends again and that she's graduated to the classroom, "up the ramp."

Last year, "up the ramp" was where the "older kids" were and now that she's almost five ...she's one of them.



She's also excited that this year ...she gets to pack a lunch.

We've had multiple discussions revolving around the urgency of picking up a Tinkerbell lunchbox.




While her brother napped, she helped me make this Plum Skillet Cake.

In her exact words after taking one bite, "Mommy, it reminds me of cornbread with sliced plums on top."

She's right.



I adore hanging out with her.

She's my little helper and there are no words on this earth to describe how much I love her.


Here is the recipe for Martha Stewart's Plum Skillet Cake

*I doubled the recipe and used a 12 inch skillet.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Baked Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese ~ Three General Rules


Amongst the debate on Saturday as to whether or not people were overreacting to Irene, was another equally important discussion...Macaroni and Cheese.

Pretty much everyone agreed that as far as comfort food was concerned, Macaroni and Cheese ranks at the top of the list...

What wasn't agreed upon by all was whether people preferred theirs super soft and creamy ...or baked with a bit of a crunch.

These pictures and recipe depict the latter...


And while I'm not into, "lots of rules" in the kitchen... 3 general rules when making Macaroni and Cheese from scratch are as followed...

1.) Pick a good noodle, one that will "hug" and soak in the flavors


2.) Choose quality cheese (or cheeses). When I say "quality" I mean ones that taste good ...there's nothing worse than using a bland, flavorless cheese ~ make those calories count!!!


3.)  Homemade breadcrumbs. If you've gone so far to make Macaroni and Cheese from scratch...you best be using homemade breadcrumbs...I will admit to cheating here in the past but (make no mistake) I was ALWAYS disappointed!


*Oh, and add lots of butter and enjoy with a cold, dark beer!

So I guess that's 5 RULES...WHAT ARE YOUR RULES???


Baked Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz. pasta of choice, cooked al dente drained well but not rinsed
7 T butter 3-3-1
2T four
1/2 c. shallot
8 oz. cheddar
8 oz. Gouda (smoked would be nice)
4 oz. Gruyere
4 oz. goat cheese (optional)
1/2 c half/half or heavy cream
1/2 c milk
2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less according to preference)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
kosher salt to taste


Preheat oven to 375.

In a large pot, melt 3T. butter over medium heat, saute up the shallot until sizzling and fragrant, about 4 minutes.

Add 2T. flour and whisk for about 2-3 minutes to cook the flour. While whisking, slowly add your heavy cream, milk and cayenne pepper and whisk until ingredients are well incorporated and thickening. Add your cheddar, Gouda and Gruyere cheese and mix together until a cheese sauce forms.

Next, add your al dente cooked pasta to your hot cheese sauce and fold together well to coat the noodles. Taste. Add kosher salt if necessary.

In a separate pan (I used a cast iron skillet) melt your other 3T butter over medium heat until bubbling, add your chopped garlic and cook about 1-2 minutes, add your fresh bread crumbs and stir around until fragrant and toasted, about 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a buttered casserole dish or ramekins, add your macaroni and cheese, top with the garlic bread crumbs and goat cheese if you're using and then take your last tablespoon of butter and dab it around the top.

Bake in the oven about 20 minutes or until the cheese in bubbly and the top is lightly browned and crunchy.

Irene's Aftermath...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grilled Mini Sweet Peppers stuffed with Cream Cheese & Goat Cheese ~ East Coast Earthquake 2011


Just returned home from a trip to Ohio and now busy preparing for back to school and a weekend party where I'm responsible for all of the appetizers!  There will be about 30 guests and at least one of the app's will involve some sort of seafood...so stay tuned for posts to come!!! 

In the meantime, here's what I was making during the east coast EARTHQUAKE 2011...Magnitude 5.9!?

Dip them in a Ranch Sauce and they're sure to, "Rock your World!"   (sorry)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crunchy Olive Oil Toasts with Sheep-Milk Ricotta, Peaches & Honey ~ It's an Escape ~


People often ask me, "what keeps you blogging?" 

Those who know me understand...(and I think the same is true for many bloggers out there) blogging is a hobby (albeit slight obsession) that connects me to other food enthusiasts around the world while bringing a sort of "sophistication" into the life...of a thirty something stay at home mom with two children under the age of five.

So at least in my case, with every drizzle of honey...


there are the little ones who have made it their life's goal to never LOOK at the camera lens AT THE SAME TIME....

April 2010...

December 2010...

Today (that's ice cream on their faces...)

And for every bowl of fresh, glistening, ripe, beeeautiful New Jersey peaches.....


I find this....


and this...

and this.

And for every picture that I try to get right...


I find this...


So there you have it folks...

This. Is why. I blog.  And honestly...I wouldn't dream of it any other way :)


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Rainy Sunday Morning Breakfast & the Reason I Cook...


The kids slept in today...it was a nice treat considering the past few weeks.

The pitter pat of rain on the rooftop, along with the dark morning sky, no doubt played a part in the peacefulness...


Most Sundays I wish for sun, a day where the options are limitless...

But today ...the rain felt right.


While my husband and children slept, I grew restless thinking of breakfast...

We had leftover salmon that had been baked in the oven with lemon, chives and dill...half a loaf of country bread, cream cheese...

...and farm fresh eggs from the market.


I know there will come a time when they'll be all grown up and I'll desperately be missing their early morning kisses...

Their predawn pleas for apple juice and waffles...

...the sheer energy and possibility they bring to each and every day.


I want to always remember these days.

The days when rainy, Sunday morning hair is simply perfect...


and when a crayon and piece of paper stretches their imagination...


and leads to creations...worthy of a magnet on the fridge.


Sure, I cook because I love food...but the truth is... I cook because I love my family...without them none of it would matter.

Without them...
....an egg ...would be an egg
....and an herb ...would be an herb

and I'm not sure I'd ever care to put the two together...


but as long as there are rainy days and people who depend on me...

...and as long as there are pictures hanging on our fridge...only giving way to someday framed diplomas....


...as long as they are in my life...

I'll never stop cooking for them.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tuna Club Sandwich ~ My Sandwich Mantra


When I was in high school and college, I would spend my summers down at the beach working in restaurants and delis.

Now I'm not bragging (well maybe a little) but I used to have "regulars" who would frequent my place of employment and specifically request that I make their sandwich...and you know what...I can't say I blamed them....

To this day, I take my sandwich making VERY SERIOUSLY.  

My Sandwich Mantra...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Red Onion, Roasted Red Peppers, Spinach, Provolone & Pesto Mayonnaise


The Portobello Mushroom ~ they've been coined "the steak" of the mushroom world due to their thick, meaty texture and ability to soak up flavors.

Portobello mushrooms are an excellent option for vegetarians or for those cutting back on their red meat consumption - simply substitute half of your steak with some grilled Portobello...the mushrooms will take on the flavor of the meat while leaving you full and satisfied! 

Here I made "melt in your mouth" Portobello Mushroom Burgers.  I began by marinating the Portobello mushroom caps in....

Monday, August 1, 2011

Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chopped Peanuts and Fresh Thai Basil


It's been almost a week since my last post. We were away for a few days with family...enjoying the beach, Scrabble, cocktails and each other's company. (For the record..."BOTOXED" and "QUILTER" are in fact words...high scoring ones at that...just sayin')

Anyway... we returned home to this...