I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cherry Mash, and Holiday Traditions

I set out the appetizers: labnah and pita, cucumbers with creme fraiche, chili spiked mango slices, and popped the champagne. A large French press full of coffee stood at the ready. As the doorbell rang I fired up the Christmas station on Pandora.

It was time for the third annual Christmas candy making party with my girlfriends. Each year we gather together, each one bringing the recipe and ingredients for two holiday treats. We spend the day catching up, testing our sugar cooking skills, and snacking, all the while turning out rounds of sweets. By the end of the day, when we think we just can't dip another thing in chocolate, we divvy up the bounty to bring joy to countless circles of friends and hope desperately that we will be able to fall asleep that night through the sugar high.
Though the tradition is a fairly new one, it brings me joy and a sense of home each time we come together and I cross my fingers that it will be something we continue for many years to come.


Through most of the year I ache to try new things. Yet around the holidays my desire turns towards the familiar. I'm sure it stems from years of repetition centered around Christmas. My parents actually "ooing" and "awing" as we first lit up the lights on our decorated tree. Christmas Eve snacks shared with customers at my uncle's country/feed store. Then getting dressed up for candlelight service at the Lutheran Church and more snacks afterwards at my grandmother's house. Home before Santa arrives, with the chance to open JUST ONE gift before bed. My little brother and sister tiptoeing into my room sometime around 5am whispering, "Santa's been here!" to wake me up before shaking my poor parents out of bed (who probably fell asleep around 3am after a late-night wrapping frenzy). Presents unwrapped, the cousins calling to find out why we weren't at grandma's yet. A big, giant breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, biscuits and gravy, piles of bacon, all to be consumed downstairs, hiding from the parents (which we still do as adults, even though some have kids of their own). Presents, naps by the fire, running to play outside. The same thing, comforting and consistent, every year.

It's been a few years since I've made it back for these holiday traditions, so the husband and I have created our own. We nibble on fondue every year as we deck out our tree, eat cinnamon rolls and Baileys spiked coffee as we peak into our stockings Christmas morning. Often we will see a movie in the afternoon, followed by a fancy dinner prepared at home (with lots of wine and cocktails along the way). These little actions, repeated each year, help it feel like we aren't quite as far away from family and friends. It's all part of what makes us feel at home here in the big city.

What are the traditions that you had in your childhood? Any that you carry through with today? What are the new traditions you've started with your family now that you are an adult? Whatever your plans, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.


Cherry Mash
This is another recipe from my grandmother. She always serves this up at my uncle's store for the Christmas Eve celebration for customers plus she saves some back for us to indulge in at her home on Christmas Day. They are a version of the old-fashioned candy bar and the recipe is adapted from a newspaper article my grandmother clipped back in the '70s. My girlfriends and I whipped up a batch at our candy making party this year and I can't help but feel at home every time I bite into one. This recipe makes quite a large batch of the candy.

16 oz. jar maraschino cherries
2 lbs. powdered sugar
2 cans cherry frosting (strawberry frosting will also work in a pinch)
1 stick melted margarine
2 t. vanilla extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 lbs. salted peanuts
3 (12 oz.) bags chocolate chips

Drain the cherries very well and dice. Mix cherries, sugar, frosting, butter, vanilla and milk well. Chill for 1 hour (it may help to freeze the mixture for a bit of time to help it really set up).

Shape into small balls (about 1-1 1/2" in diameter) and chill again for another hour (again, depending on consistency of mixture, it may be best to freeze the filling before dipping).

Finely chop the peanuts. Melt chocolate chips and mix in the nuts. Dip the cherry filling into the chocolate to completely coat, then place on a wax paper lined sheet pan. Refrigerate to cool.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Chamomile and Lavender Ice Cream

Happy Fourth of July! Hope you are all out enjoying the day with your friends and family.

With the hot and steamy summer days upon us I wanted to bring you a cool and refreshing treat. This ice cream is light and just barely floral. It's not weighed down with heavy flavors, keeping it perfect for those days you are dripping with sweat.


Chamomile and Lavender Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
1 1/2 c. half and half
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. sugar
1 bunch fresh chamomile (cleaned and the tough ends trimmed)
1/4 c. dried lavender
1 t. vanilla extract
1 TB rum

Mix the half and half, cream, honey, and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the temperature of the mixture reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in the chamomile, lavender, vanilla extract, and rum. Allow to steep and cool for about 30 minutes, then strain and refrigerate for 5-8 hours.
Mix the cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bourbon Milkshakes

The temperatures are rising and the sun is beating down. Time to think about all the ways to keep cool this summer. My new favorite way is with a boozy milkshake in hand. This decadent treat is so simple to throw together and goes down almost too easily. You'll want to enjoy one after another, but try to show some restraint...it is swimsuit season after all.

Bourbon Milkshakes

adapted from Imbibe Magazine
makes 2 "grown-up sized" milkshakes
3 c. vanilla ice cream
1/4 c. vanilla soy milk (or whole milk)
1 t. vanilla extract
5 TB bourbon

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and mix until combined yet the mixture is still thick and creamy. Pour into 2 pint glasses to serve.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blueberry Pancake Ice Cream

Despite the hot summer that we've been having, I had yet to pull out the old ice cream maker. I decided this week it was high time to take advantage of this handy little tool and whip up a batch. The blueberries at the greenmarket last weekend were so gorgeous I couldn't resist, so decided to try to come up with a way to utilize them in my recipe.

Obviously one of the main things we do with fresh blueberries around here is turn them into pancakes. I figured why not turn this breakfast favorite into a creamy dessert? Using maple syrup and turbinado sugar plus a little vanilla extract does just the trick! The bourbon adds just enough rich depth to finish it off. This ice cream actually tastes just like a big stack of syrup covered pancakes. I've had to resist the temptation to pull it out for my breakfast all this week...

Blueberry Pancake Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart


1 c. half and half
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. turbinado sugar
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
1 TB bourbon

2 c. blueberries
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 t. lemon juice

Mix together the half and half, heavy cream, turbinado sugar and maple syrup in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the mixture reaches 170 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and bourbon. Allow the mixture to cool for a bit and then cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours or so.

Mix together the blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly for about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and use a fork to smash the blueberries to a chunky consistency. Stir in the lemon juice and refrigerate until ready to use (the mixture will probably turn into a solid, jelly-like consistency in the fridge, but just give it a good stir before stirring into the ice cream mixture).


Add the cream mixture to the ice cream maker and churn as the directions call for with your machine. With about 5-10 minutes left in the churning, mix in the blueberry sauce. Then freeze the ice cream for a few hours before serving.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Cherry Treats

What a lovely summer it has been so far. The beer garden with new friends, Big Apple BBQ with old friends. Dinner with the husband on the rooftop at The Nomad. A truly inspiring dance performance from Cedar Lake Dance Company. And last week, my new baby nephew was born. I feel full of love and joy.

Plus, the greenmarkets have been full of delicious produce--with especially gorgeous cherries lately. I took home way too many (if there can be such a thing) and had to come up with a few ways to use them up before they went bad.

First up I made a mini cherry pie. I used my small cast iron pan instead of a pie pan, since Joe and I have a hard time eating a whole pie before it goes bad. This was a perfect little size. I halved the recipe from over at Smitten Kitchen and used half of the flaky butter crust recipe. I liked the idea of using a star cookie cutter to cut out shapes for the top instead of having to weave a lattice crust--easy and fast.

Next up, I used some more cherries to create a bourbon soaked batch to use for cocktails. This is the third year in a row I have been doing this and usually end up with just enough to make it through the year of manhattans and old fashioneds that we whip up. I like to throw in a bit of the spiced bourbon from the cherries into the cocktails before I shake them or drizzle it over of ice cream for a boozy dessert.

Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries


1/4 c. turbinado sugar
1/4 c. water
1/2 cinnamon stick
3/4 c. bourbon
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 t. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 c. pitted cherries
1 quart jar, sterilized

Place the sugar, water and cinnamon stick into a small saucepan. Heat over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and then stir in the bourbon, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature.
Place the cherries into the quart jar *. Remove the cinnamon stick from the bourbon mixture and pour into the quart jar over the cherries. Place the lid on the jar and place in the fridge. Allow to sit for at least two weeks before using.

*I have read on a few sites that leaving the cherry pits in adds depth of flavor to the cherries. I would rather have pitted cherries in my drinks, so I toss a few of the pits into the jar with the pitted cherries to add flavor without having to deal with the pits in my cocktail cherries later on.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mini Ice Cream Cakes

The husband's birthday was this week. As is tradition, we had a pork-centric dinner (pork shank ravioli, roasted baby leeks, sauteed ramps, good wine). Since Joe and I both love ice cream cake, I decided to try my hand at making them on my own. I was a little spent from making homemade ravioli, braising the meat, pickling ramps, cleaning and blanching the leeks, and cleaning up the apartment to make homemade ice cream and frosting, so will admit I went with store-bought this time around, but feel more than free to insert your own recipes for these if you have the time and patience. The best part about this recipe is that these are so simple to put together and there are countless flavor variations by just switching up ice cream or frosting used. In my version I went with straight chocolate across the board.

So Happy Birthday, Joe. So happy I get to celebrate another year with you. I look forward to every moment!

Mini Ice Cream Cakes
4 servings

8 Oreos
3 TB butter, melted
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1/2 c. dark chocolate frosting

Bring the ice cream out of the freezer and allow to soften slightly.
Put the Oreos into a food processor and blend until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse a few times until the mixture comes together.
Divide the Oreo crumb mixture into 4 small (3/4c.) ramekins. Press the mixture into the bottom of the dishes to form the crust. Place the ramekins into the freezer to set up for about 5 minutes.
Divide the ice cream among the 4 ramekins and smooth the top. Place in the freezer again and allow the ice cream to set up and harden, about an hour.
Divide and spread the frosting on top of the ice cream in each ramekin. Freeze again until ready to serve. I like to pull the ice cream cakes out for about 5 minutes or so before serving to allow them to soften up just a bit.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What I've Been Up To

Been a bit of a drought here in posts lately. Feeling a little bogged down with the craziness of life (work, sister's upcoming wedding, friends in town), but have still been cooking! Lots of posts on the back-burner, but you can find a little of what I've been up to in a couple of other places.

The past couple of Pine Tar Press posts:
Cake Batter Crispy Treats

Tailgating Party Prep Tips
and Grilled Camembert Cheese


I also guest blogged for Everyday Desserts, featuring an open-faced sandwich of tomato bread with avocados and smoked paprika:


I also hosted Easter once again this year. Since I almost forgot about it and it creeped up on me pretty quickly we made it a pot-luck. I prepared a boneless lamb leg roast (with rosemary, garlic and orange zest), a vegan quinoa and beet salad (from one of my favorite blogs, Sprouted Kitchen), a couple of side salads, and a few appetizers (including David Lebovitz's Fig and Olive Tapenade). Friends brought an amazing array of cheeses, meats, homemade bread and beer, potatoes, vegetables, wines. It was a spread to be proud of.
Lots of laughs to be had.

 Will soon be back with new recipes, stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Naan, Limoncello, and Oscar Goodies

February can be cruel to those who have made New Year's resolutions. After starting off strong in January, if you slack off at all on your goals February will make you pay for it by being a short month with fewer days to get in your efforts. This year I forced myself to stay focused to make sure I came out on top and didn't let this month win.

I actually got in two new things in the kitchen during February: homemade naan and homemade limoncello. Both are items that I have been telling myself I will make over and over again and never quite got around to them. Now that I have I'm not sure why I've put them off so long--they are both so simple and so delicious. The naan especially will wind up in my regular dinner rotation.

I used the recipe found over on Rasa Malaysia. The ingredients are simply mixed together, allowed to rest for a couple of hours, rolled out, and then cooked in a hot cast iron skillet. By covering the dough with a lid as soon as you place it in the pan you are rewarded with many airy bubbles on top, which you then toast quickly by flipping the pan over and holding it upside down over the flame on your gas stove top (the dough sticks to the cast iron with a quick brush of water before placing it there). Then you brush it with butter (I brushed mine with melted butter mixed with plenty of garlic) to finish and serve immediately. One of the easiest "breads" I've ever attempted. (and very tasty served alongside my curried chickpea salad)
Rolling out the dough
Covering the cast iron to help facilitate the air bubbles
Before the naan gets brushed with buttery goodness
As for the limoncello, the only problem with preparing it is having the patience to wait the couple of weeks before it is ready to go (and the patience needed while it is dripping slowly, so very slowly, through the filters to clarify it). I like the Serious Eats recipe for this refreshing Italian drink because I don't have a lemon peeler and it was so simple to just zest all of the lemons (the leftover lemon juice has been used in sauces, pastas, lemonade). This particular recipe is slightly too sweet for my tastes, but part of me believes this wouldn't be the case if I had actually been able to find Everclear instead of just using vodka (the extra sugar is probably a good balance for the high alcohol content/burn factor in the grain alcohol). I can't wait to try this recipe out with different varieties of citrus. And maybe gin instead of vodka?? (lim/gin-cello?? Sounds like a winner to me)

On a final note, I wanted to share the menu for my Oscar Party spread this year, as it turned out to be a hit (despite the party being a small one this time around):
Wild Mushroom Hummus
Baked Camembert (with Rosemary, Honey and Black Pepper)
Olive Sables
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
BBQ Popcorn


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coconut Mojito Fruit Dip

My second post is up over on Pine Tar Press featuring Coconut Mojito Fruit Dip. It is a rich and creamy dip inspired by a lovely coconut mojito I enjoyed one afternoon at a Cuban restaurant on the Upper West Side. A great way to get in some fruit to your tailgating party.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Olive Sables

Monday night I hosted a cheese making party for some friends. We gathered together with lots of wine, loads of milk and cream, and some old-fashioned entertainment.

We made butter, mozzarella, and ricotta and made them into a three-course meal. The butter we paired with radishes and sea salt as a simple appetizer. Then the mozzarella was made into a caprese style pasta tossed with cherry tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan. Finally we used the ricotta to create dessert by serving it on top of toasted bread topped off with a pear and honey compote.

To have something to start the evening off and nibble on while we made the butter and cheese I decided to make cocktail cookies. I had read about Dorie Greenspan's versions and had them pinned to my Pinterest to try out for my next party. They sounded perfect: barely sweet with a lingering salty flavor on the end. The ideal pairing to nibble along with wine and cocktails. The version I used is from Pierre Herme, posted on the lovely Fresh From Eva's Kitchen blog. Find the recipe here.

To make your own butter check out Saveur's directions here.

For homemade ricotta find a recipe at Smitten Kitchen here.

To make mozzarella get Ricky's 30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Italian Feast: Mushroom Bruschetta, Orecchiette, Sardines, Panna Cotta

Sometimes I desperately wish that I had that woman in my life who taught me how to make gorgeous bread or pasta from scratch as a very young child. Don't get me wrong--my mom made so many things homemade--egg noodles for chicken soup, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and always let me help and learn, but she isn't descended from a long line of Italians who passed down the tradition of beautiful ravioli or thin tagliatelle that is made without even having to measure out the ingredients onto the counter top. And I never moved to Italy and found an "adopted grandmother" who would show me her trade, patiently guiding my clumsy hands through the work over and over again until they finally found the pasta rhythm.

Therefore my homemade pasta tends to turn out thick and oh-so-indelicate. You can't see the filling through the ravioli because I haven't had the patience to let it rest so it actually rolls out thinly (instead of just shrinking back to its thicker self as I roll it out too soon). My hot hands make the orecchiette stick to my fingers instead of rolling smoothly off, making every shape in the world besides the ear shape they should be.

But these downfalls don't keep me from trying. I figure eventually practice will have to win out and someday I won't feel ashamed to host a dinner party featuring a pile of my own handmade pasta as the centerpiece. Someday.

Unfortunately that day is not today. After reading Gabrielle Hamilton's raw, honest Blood, Bones and Butter I wanted nothing more than to prepare an Italian feast--complete with homemade pasta. Since we had no dinner parties to speak of coming up, it was a special weeknight dinner prepared for just two.

The farmer's market gave me the initial inspiration with all of the flavorful sausages available at this time of year and the mounds of kale. Traditional orrechiette it was. The mushroom stall also called my name and I couldn't resist the oyster and maitakes, which would become a simple bruschetta appetizer. In my search for lobster the other week, I noticed Whole Foods had some really nice looking fresh sardines, so they went onto the list as well, with my plans to top them with the pesto I had made and frozen this summer. The whole meal was finished off by a simple and clean panna cotta topped with a freezer strawberry jam I also packed away during the warmer months.

The orrechiette making ended up being a bit of a disaster. I used an all-purpose flour from the farmer's market, which I thought would be nice, but it has more whole wheat which actually made the pasta dough too thick and not as smooth. As I said before, my hot hands also make shaping the little ears very difficult. I ended up with a lot of very thick, just barely concave disks but went through with the pasta course anyways. Despite it not being quite right and too chewy, the dish still tasted incredible--spicy from the sausage and just enough crispy bite from the kale.

The rest of the meal though was just right. Not too much (I actually somehow made small enough quantities that we had very few leftovers) and the flavors were harmonious in their simplicicty. The sardines were even delicious--we don't eat a lot of oily, fishy fish and I am trying to break us in. Topped off with this spiced pesto is the way to go if you are trying sardines for the first time! And panna cotta is always a wonderful way to end a big meal as it is light and never too filling.

It was a meal I feel my imaginary Italian nonna would be proud of. And one day, I know my orecchiette will roll off my fingers as easily as they do hers.

Mushroom Ricotta Bruschetta

French bread
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

1/2 lb mushrooms (mixture of oyster and maitake), chopped
4 TB butter
1 clove garlic
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped

Slice the French bread into slices about 1/2-3/4" thick and lightly toast. Set aside.
In a small bowl mix together the ricotta, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chopped mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionally until they are nicely browned. Then add the butter and garlic to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant. Then add the salt, pepper and rosemary to the pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Spread the toasted French bread with a bit of  the ricotta mixture and top off with a good heap of the sauteed mushrooms and serve.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

Homemade Orecchiette Recipe Here
Here's a video of a woman making beautiful orecchiette
(I doubled the Orecchiette recipe above to make enough for leftovers)
4 hot Italian sausage links, meat removed from casing
4 c. chopped kale
1 clove garlic
1/2 stick of butter
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Boil the orecchiette according to directions.
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and saute until cooked through, breaking the meat up into small pieces as it cooks.
Add the chopped kale to the pan and cook until slightly crispy, about 4 minutes (before adding the kale you may need to add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the pan if the sausage did not release a lot of its own fat).
Add the garlic and butter to the pan and cook until the butter melts and the garlic is fragrant. Then toss the whole mess with the cooked orecchiette. Top off with a bit of Parmesan cheese if desired and serve.

Fresh Sardines in a Spicy Pesto
serves 2

4 fresh sardines, cleaned
salt and pepper
1/4 c. pesto
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 t. paprika
1/4 t. red chili flakes
1 TB fresh lemon juice

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
Pat the sardines dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside while making the sauce and allowing the skillet to heat up.
In a small bowl mix together the pesto, extra virgin olive oil, paprika, chili flakes and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Once the skillet is hot, add the sardines in a single layer. Sear and cook for about 3 minutes or so per side, until the skin is charred and the flesh is just cooked through. Then carefully remove the sardines to a platter and top off with the pesto sauce to serve.

Panna Cotta
For easy, fast, simply delicious panna cotta use David Lebovitz's recipe Here