Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter Wheat Berry Salad

This is the kind of dish that will make your meat-loving relatives go back for seconds. It's filled with chewy, hearty wheat berries that somehow feel light when topped with a subtle citrus dressing. Notes of orange and lemon weave through the dish. The addition of spinach, pine nuts and feta cheese give you something interesting to look forward to in every bite.

It's a variation on a Heidi Swanson recipe. I used the same flavor base, but I made it a bit healthier (Yes, I know. It's hard to believe you could actually make a Heidi Swanson recipe healthier  but indeed I tried) by halving the olive oil and increasing the amount of spinach.

This dish would be delicious as a vegetarian main course or a hearty side salad. The citrus makes it a delightful winter dish, and it's make-ahead quality makes it perfect for entertaining.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

One year, 80 blog posts, and countless delicious meals later, 2012 is speeding to a close.

Here are my top five posts from 2012. Although these were certainly some of my favorite dishes, I selected them because they were your favorites. They were the recipes that were most visited, were pinned the most times, and the recipes where viewers to the site lingered the longest.

This bread couldn't be easier to make. There's no kneading and very little mixing required. It's a breeze to make a few loaves, and I always tuck one away in the freezer to have later. Bonus: It's delicious. Each slice is like a hearty English muffin. 

This cake is light despite its layers, and the homemade lemon curd really stands out as a tart contrast in between the cake layers and lightly sweetened frosting. It's a great special occasion cake. I originally made it for a baby shower, and looking back it's hard to believe that little baby is now crawling all around!

Blue Sky Bakery is, by far, my favorite place to get muffins in Brooklyn, and this muffin was a delicious tribute to them. Served warm, the cream cheese and chocolate chunks are just a little melty, and they keep each bite of muffin interesting because you just don't know what you're going to get next.

Chocolate, peanuts, and a salty, crunchy crust? Perfection in a slice. Drizzle a little hot fudge sauce over the top, and you've got a fancy dessert that's sure to impress.

Have I mentioned how much I love chocolate and peanut butter? Apparently my roommates did too, because all of my chocolate peanut butter oatmeal bars disappeared from the fridge before I was able to take a decent picture of them. Regardless, they were certainly a hit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hot Fudge Sauce

One jar of hot fudge sauce.

Oh, so many uses.

1. Heat it up just a bit, and spoon it over a bowl of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream after Christmas dinner because you really haven't had enough to eat yet.

2. Eat it straight from the fridge, straight from the jar, with a spoon. It's the most delightful cross between a warm hot fudge and a rich, dense square of fudge. Repeat regularly, each time you walk into your kitchen, until the jar is empty.

3. Add it to the top of your favorite, already rich dessert that could benefit from just a little bit more chocolate: cupcakes, cookies, pie or cheesecake!

4. Drizzle a little over your pancakes for breakfast. Divine.

5. Stir a little into warmed milk or hot coffee to make a delicious chocolatey drink.

6. Add it into your next batch of brownies after you've poured the batter into the pan, pouring a little in and then swirling it with a knife. Bake as usual.

7. Unroll a croissant, spread a little warmed hot fudge sauce in the middle, and re-seal. Eat, and smile.

8. Spread on the bottom of a graham cracker, top with a toasted marshmallow and enjoy a decadent s'more.

9. Thin it a little with half-and-half, and while still warm, use it as fondu. Dip sweet bread, fruits, marshmallows and nuts in it.

10. Spread a generous amount between two sandwich cookies: delicious homemade chocolate Oreos.

I'm sure the list goes on, but I have to stop. I just realized, sadly, that the single jar of hot fudge sauce I made will be nowhere near enough to bring all my hot fudge dreams to life.

It's back into the kitchen for me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I haven't blogged about a peanut butter and chocolate dessert since June 27.

I know. I'm sorry for making you wait so long. It was unintentional, really.

Knowing that I'd be biting into this mousse cake later in the day, I decided to make the whole experience into a bit of a workout. I beat the cream by hand for several long minutes, and I creamed the remaining ingredients together as well.

My arm ached a little as I cut slices from the dessert for a friend's dinner party potluck.

It was worth it.

Similar to the chocolate peanut butter brownie cheesecake from the spring, here's a ridiculously decadent dessert that you'll only need a tiny slice of. The Oreo cookie crust on the bottom provides a textural contrast next to the creamy peanut butter mousse. The mousse is studded with mini chocolate chips and chopped, salted peanuts. A layer of bittersweet chocolate and an additional sprinkle of peanuts top the dessert off perfectly.

It's like a giant peanut butter cup, but better.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I'm not quite ready for fall to be over.

It seems like the fall season had just flown by, complete with a tropical hurricane and then a dreadful winter storm where snow ACTUALLY stuck to the ground for more than a few minutes and leaves were ripped from trees. Store windows are already filling with Christmas decorations, and yes, we did play Christmas songs on Friday night.

What I want are the days like Sunday. Days where it's in the 60s and sunny. Days where you leave in the morning thinking you'll need your jacket but take it off while you're at the playground with adorable kids or going on a long stroll with a good friend.  Days where the farmers' market is still overflowing with fresh produce.

These carmelitas combine everything I love into one perfect fall dessert bar. There's a buttery, oat-filled crust that's not too hard. There's an gooey layer of caramel that's still soft in the middle of the bar. Each bite is filled with bittersweet chocolate.

I cut these small because it's hard to have just one. And I'll savor these for awhile because they help me extend that fall feeling a little longer.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Vegetable Pot Pie and a Changed City

It's been crazy living in New York City for the past week since Hurricane Sandy hit.

Our sense of normalcy has been upended.

I weathered the storm at a friend's house, with full power, incredible food, and lots of crafting. I took a cab home from their house on Tuesday afternoon, and we drove by downed trees, crushed cars and signs warning us to keep out of the parks.

I returned home to a neighborhood that was relatively untouched, other than branches and leaves littering the streets. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops were all open and flooded with people who were unable to get to their jobs in Manhattan.

We ate, laughed, went for long walks and cooked. It felt almost normal at first, almost like a vacation.

But then we turned on the news and saw such wide-spread devastation that didn't fit at all with the reality we were living. We received emails about coworkers who had lost their homes overnight. We volunteered at local high schools housing hundreds of displaced citizens, some of us serving breakfast or working overnight shifts and others providing entertainment to people who so badly needed a break from reality. We saw low-wage workers desperately in need of their paychecks walk across the boroughs to their early morning jobs.

It's days like these when all I want is comfort food.

Like this pot pie. We made a huge batch of pot pie filling and pie crusts on our fourth day off of work because of Hurricane Sandy. We cooked with the TV off, with our phones that had been constantly feeding us updates on the state of our city tucked far away. 

These pot pies are loaded with potatoes, carrots, peas, lima beans, corn and onions, smothered in a homemade gravy, and topped with a savory pie crust. We made eight, baked them until they were almost done in the oven, and then froze them.

The recovery from Hurricane Sandy will not be quick. I worry that when most of us have our lives back to normal, when gas stations once again have gas and subway lines connect us through the boroughs, our efforts to help those who will remain in need for a long time will decrease.

As a school, as a community, as a city, we must keep asking, "How can we help?" 

If you're interested in donating to a local organization doing fantastic work supporting rebuilding  Red Hook, Brooklyn, consider the Red Hook Initiative:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apple Cider Donut Bread Pudding

Yes, you read that right.

It's every bit as sinfully delicious as you're imagining.

By some fantastic turn of events, I ended up with two extra bags of homemade apple cider donuts after taking my class on a field trip to the apple orchard last week. It was a gorgeous day, and the donuts were still warm when we bit into them. They just screamed fall.

I could have eaten several of them. But I knew that really, rationally, I couldn't (shouldn't) eat all the donuts by myself.

I baked this bread pudding with a three-year-old with incredible self restraint. Her job was to help me crumble the donuts into pieces and spread them out on a pan.

She asked if she could try one right at the beginning, and I said, "Of course! Dig in."

Trouble was, I expected her to continue crumbling donuts and spreading them out without any additional snacking.

And boy, was she persistent.

After every few donut pieces made their way into the pan, I'd hear her little voice.

"Katie, can I try one?"

"Just one little bite?"

"Just a tiny little piece?"

"Now can I try one?"


Remarkably, all the rest of the donut pieces made their way into the pan, which we appreciated because this bread pudding was a real treat. It's got just the right amount of sweetness, and the apple flavor permeates the entire dish. With just a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream, we ate ourselves silly.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds

Last weekend I walked through the farmers' market with my friend Marie. The farmers' market had the last remnants of summer produce, and all the fall produce was already in. We meandered slowly through the stalls, taking it all in.

The apples kept catching my eye. We debated whether to buy them. They'll be there at the market all winter, holding on long after the grapes and leafy greens and heirloom tomatoes are gone. By February, I know I'll be sick of them.

But these were the fresh-picked apples. It had been 10 months since there were crisp, new apples available. They're fantastically different, almost unrecognizable from their counterparts that had graced farmers' market stands all summer.

I bought them (if you hadn't already guessed I was leaning that way). And they were fantastic.

Those apples and a beautiful bundle of kale inspired this salad. I wanted something that would showcase both ingredients. It comes together in minutes, and the individual flavors elevate when combined.

The salad keeps beautifully over night, so it's perfect to make ahead to bring to a early morning brunch (or mid-afternoon book club meeting). 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Polenta Rounds with Spinach Pesto and Garlic Shrimp

If you watched me while I was throwing a dinner party, you might get confused. You'd see me in the kitchen, back facing away from the crowd, while everyone else sat, drank and socialized.

You'd see me hold conversations that started these ways.

Can you dice up those onions?

Can you squeeze those last 10 lemons I didn't have time to squeeze for lemonade?

Can you slice that baguette, brush it with a bit of olive oil, run a clove of garlic across the top of each slice and then bake it for 5 or 6 minutes? Then can you take the bread off the baking sheet and put it on that cute white dish over there? Thanks.

You might get confused by my inability to hold an in-depth conversation, distracted by timers going off and pots boiling over on the stove. You'd wonder why I invited people over in the first place.

It's not that I want to be anti-social at my dinner parties. It's just that I need to have more realistic dinner party expectations. I can't, realistically, set out to make a homemade appetizer, entree, side dish and overly elaborate dessert on a weeknight.

I can't.

Please remind me of that the next time I try.

This appetizer is nowhere near as simple as the chickpea spread I gave you earlier this week. That was a less-than-five-minute, make way ahead dish.

These polenta rounds requires a bit more work, depending on how you do them. There's the much faster way to prepare them with store-bought pesto and store-bought tubed polenta.

Then there's the way I did it, which requires you to have some time the day before to make your own pesto, cook your own polenta and cut your own polenta rounds. Or if you just HAVE to make them the day of, adjust the rest of your menu accordingly.

You'll be happy whatever way you do it.

These little polenta rounds just look beautiful on the plate, and they're hard to resist. A seared polenta round forms the base. It's topped with a generous spread of spinach pesto, a single garlic shrimp, and some cherry tomato rounds.

It's a two or three bite appetizer, which is good because these fly off the plate.

PS. Blogger wants me to correct the spelling on polenta to tadpole. Really?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chickpea Spread

My doctor told me I should wear heels.

Or wedges, he quickly said, perhaps trying to wipe the frightened look of my face. It was the first time he had met me.

Heels? Really?

I own one pair of wedges that I've worn to nearly every wedding I've gone to. I wore them to work for half a day. It was all I could handle.

Heels are not exactly conducive to my lifestyle. I've got a mile walk to work every day, dozens of trips up to my third floor classroom, and I spend a good part of my day kneeling and squatting on the floor next to my students.

But unfortunately, I recently dropped a table on my ankle. Yes, it's a little hard to imagine, but I had disassembled my table to tighten the screws, and I decided to mop at the same time. The table smacked down on my ankle hard, and I sat on the floor in tears, gripping my ankle and putting a call through to a dear friend who advised I ice my ankle for as long as I could take it.

So I propped my foot up on my bed, covered it with ice, and leaned back in my chair to relax and watch an episode of Master Chef.

Little did I know, but I had unfortunately chosen the one broken chair in my apartment. Moments later, I was on the floor.

Needless to say, it was not my night, though the doctor did reassure me I was lucky that my ACL hadn't been split right in half. I walked away with a tiny tear in the outer edges of my tendon.

Three weeks later, my ankle still hurts, but I still see no room in my life for heels. I'm making a concession and wearing sneakers around the apartment (they have some lift in them, right?).

Luckily, there is a place in my life for appetizers so easy you can't make a mistake.

To make this chickpea spread throw some ingredients in a bowl, mash and serve. If you want to get fancy (and create too much work for yourself), you can make your own crackers. It's much healthier than my go-to favorite appetizer: smoked salmon dip. It's easily made vegan (just use your favorite mayonnaise substitute).

It's the kind of spread you enjoy while wearing your Birkenstocks. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Zucchini "Meatballs" with a Tomato Ragu over Creamy Polenta

I think it's safe to say I am obsessed with Joanne's blog Eats Well With Others. Her main dishes are hearty and healthy. She cooks with whole grains and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Many of her recipes are vegan (always a bonus). Best of all, her recipes are the kind that are healthy enough to eat for dinner one day and then for several lunches and dinners after that.

Joanne certainly eats well, and whenever I look at her pictures I wish I was eating with her.

The barley risotto with roasted brussels sprouts that she posted is just what I want on a winter/spring/summer/fall evening. These poached eggs with chickpeas and swiss chard would coax me out of bed any day. She's got this fig and ricotta pizza that's been calling my name for weeks.

And she's even got a collection of layer cakes that will make your mouth water.

Needless to say, I couldn't have been happier when Joanne posted this recipe for zucchini "meatballs" with a curry tomato sauce over a creamy polenta base. I pinned it a few weeks ago (a bit of a new obsession), and every time I visit my Pinterest page, it calls out to me.

Joanne's original recipe was 100 percent vegan, but I went the vegetarian route and added butter and Parmesan cheese to my polenta. I also omitted some spices that I just don't have, and I made some substitutions for things I wasn't quite willing to splurge on (like chickpea flour).

I ended up with a hearty, healthy vegetarian dinner. And I ate well with others--my cousin and his wife joined me for dinner.

I'm linking up with Bookmarked Recipes, a monthly foodie challenge held on Tinned Tomatoes. Visit to see all the recipes bloggers bookmarked a while back and revisited this month!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lemon Pudding (Dairy-Free)

At a dinner party a few months back, I overheard one of my closest friends say, "You know Katie only has us over for dinner because she wants to make a new dessert."

I laughed, but there's definitely truth to that statement.

Dessert usually comes first in my menu planning.

This chocolate peanut butter brownie cheesecake inspired a meal. So did this tuscaloosa tollhouse pie. And this chocolate mousse cake.

To name a few.

For the past few weeks, I've been trying to go dairy-free in all my baking and cooking at home (butter is an exception, of course). I feel happier and healthier than I've been in a long time.

But I've got a MAJOR concern: dessert.

Yes, I can make dairy-free desserts, but they're rarely the desserts I crave (visit my Pinterest board to see the desserts I really want). I like my desserts to be full fat, filled with heavy cream and cream cheese and all the chocolate you can squeeze in.

And I'm concerned that to make desserts dairy-free you have to omit all my favorite things. So I set out on a mission to find some dairy-free desserts that I truly find delicious.

This lemon pudding, adapted from Joy the Baker, is certainly a good start. It's smooth and creamy, and the lemon flavor really shines through, aided by both a generous amount of lemon zest and lemon juice.

Finished off with a sprinkle of homemade granola, coconut, crushed nuts or crushed cookies, each bite of pudding has the perfect combination of crunchy and smooth. I think I could sneak a dish in front of friends who don't read this blog, and they'd never even guess they were mostly eating tofu.

Now I'm off to find similar recipes but with chocolate, because it's really not a dessert if there's no chocolate.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Layered Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant Pie

It's hard not to be inspired by a beautiful garden.

My parents' garden certainly falls into that category. It towers over our backyard. The produce is fed by nutrients from our compost pile. It's overflowing with just about every fruit and veggie you could want. Heirloom tomatoes hang from tall plants. Green beans form a canopy you can walk under. Potatoes, sunchokes and radishes hide underground, just waiting to be dug up. Tomatillos and choke cherries burst out of their wrappers.

Ever-bearing strawberry plants occupy the back portion of the garden, and they're still in fruit this late in the year. In another corner, butternut squash that popped up all on their own (perhaps from rouge seeds from the compost pile) are thriving. Harvested garlic hangs from the rafters in the basement. You'll just need a bit. It's potent stuff. 

For the better part of the summer, my parents were out in the garden every day, and they almost always came back with a bowl of goodies.

You can't get much more local than this, and I had to get my my hands dirty while I was visiting last weekend. With my parents proudly showing off their hard work, I harvested the tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant in the afternoon while my whole wheat pie crust was chilling in the fridge.

Minimal cooking and seasoning really ensures the integrity of the vegetables is preserved. The eggplant and zucchini are salted to remove some of the moisture, and then the vegetables are layered in the pan. The veggies get a sprinkling of minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper before heading into the oven.

Eaten warm, with pan-fried walleye (locally caught by dad) and a raw kale salad from the garden prepared by mom, the pie was just perfect. Each bite exploded with freshness. I went back for seconds. Then I had the leftovers for breakfast. It was that good.

This pie is being submitted to Not Eating Out in New York's Seasonal Pie Contest, where New York City bloggers (and bloggers who can make it to the city) are encouraged to make pies using seasonal ingredients and blog about the pies they make. Check out the post for opportunities to win two tickets to the upcoming Let Us Eat Local fundraiser.