Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Baby Sweater

I have a very dear friend who just became a Grandmom for the third time…a precious and beautiful little baby girl named Eva. 

In September, I attended her daughter’s baby shower held at the Rittenhouse Tavern on South 18th Street in Philadelphia.  The restaurant is located in the historic Wetherill Mansion, one of the last surviving grand private mansions built on Rittenhouse Square, now home to the Art Alliance of Philadelphia.  It is a lovely venue with the most magnificant stained glass window at the top of a grand staircase.

The room was decorated in a very sweet yellow duck theme...

...and the cake was not only completely adorable (polka dots and bows...what could be better!?), but also completely delicious. 

The menu was extraordinary. Among other things, we enjoyed…

…Roasted Baby Beets with Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Vinegar

…Pancetta Wrapped Figs with Caramelized Honey and Blue Cheese

…Roasted Scallop Salad with Fennel, Arugula and Grapefruit

…Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Grainy Mustard Sauce

We did the typical showery things and presented the mother-to-be with gifts one of which was the gorgeous handmade baby sweater (shown above) that an aunt made from a pattern handed down from the family’s matriarch. 

The pattern is quite worn and for good reason….it has served as the guide for  many other sweaters made for other lucky babies!

Here is a more readable version on line.

Congratulations to all...she is one gorgeous baby!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Cupcakes

So, I’m visiting my mother one day in late October and I see a magazine with a fabulous idea for a Thanksgiving dessert on the cover.  So I ask if I could “borrow” the magazine.

The spirited controversy that followed will be become, no doubt, an embellished and often told family legend.

That’s what we do in our family….we embellish snippets of harmless stories; it’s more fun and memorable that way.

Case in point, I offer an old, but unforgettable, exaggeration:  “Aunt Mary won $100 in Atlantic City.” That statement is what really happened. The next month…“Did you hear about Aunt Mary winning $1000 in Atlantic City?”  By Thanksgiving…“How about Aunt Mary winning $10,000 in Vegas!”

What the hell was Aunt Mary doing in Vegas??!!

Anyway, some might be uncomfortable with the ruckus that often takes place in our family, especially when we are all together; we call it motivational speaking.

I did manage to secure the magazine (that I will dutifully return) so that I could make these little jewels:

How adorable are they?

I used a Duncan Hines Spice Cake mix and filled the mini Bundt cake pans ½ way and baked for 17 minutes. 
Once the cupcakes are baked, let them cool on a rack.

Cut the tops off of each cupcake.

Ice the cut side of one cupcake and top it with another cupcake, cut side down to form a sphere.  

Decorate as desired.  I tinted cream cheese icing orange, placed a broken pretzel stick in the center for a stem and piped on some green vines on each "pumpkin."  The magazine included directions to drizzle icing or to roll each cupcake in orange sprinkles. My versions of these treats aren't quite as perfect as those pictured on the magazine cover, but they sure are tasty!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe


 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
 8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
 2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.  Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness. Either spread on with a blunt knife or spatula, or spoon into a piping bag to decorate your cake or cupcake.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Latte Brownies

I love coffee…it’s one of my vices, the others are wine, nice clothing and saying naughty words – a habit inherited from my feisty father that I'm trying to break.  Coffee and wine will remain on the list…a girl needs some indulgences. 

And I need to be properly attired, right?
I tell you this because it was my turn to make dessert for our little rendezvous last week and as I was trying to decide on a tasty treat, I see a recipe from for these little morsels: 

Latte brownies.....perfect! It doesn’t get much better than chocolate, coffee, butter and almonds.

I'm delighted that my photo (above left) looks just as inviting as the Kraft photo.  I gussied mine up with coffee beans.  Their version looks a little cakier than mine though...I'll investigare why.

Seattle Latte Brownies

6 squares  BAKER'S Unsweetened Chocolate
¾ cup  (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp. instant coffee
1cup granulated sugar
1cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/4 cups flour
½ cup finely chopped PLANTERS Slivered Almonds
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp.  salt
1Tbsp. powdered sugar

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Line 9-inch square baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Grease foil; set aside. Note:  I didn't do this...I just sprayed the pan with PAM.

MICROWAVE chocolate, butter, water and coffee granules in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Beat in granulated and brown sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 2 min. Add flour, almonds, cinnamon and salt; beat until well blended. Spread into prepared pan.

BAKE 35 to 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Lift brownies from pan onto cutting board, using foil handles. Again, I just cut the brownies right in the pan.  Cut into 20 brownies to serve.

Warning Will Robinson:  These brownies are amazing…so rich and moist with a hint of coffee in each bite.  I served each with scoop of mocha gelato….not that we needed more calories.  I like Kraft recipes because they include the nutrition content with each and they report that a 1x2” latte brownie is about 240 calories with 13g of fat.  But, no worries, dark chocolate and almonds are both good fats!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


It was Architect’s turn to cook and she made Puttanesca.   Loosely translated, Puttanesca means “in the style of a prostitute.” While eating it I recalled the Laverne & Shirley episode in which they played hooky from work and two plain clothes policemen mistake the duo for being “Loosey Gooseys for money.”  I laughed until I cried and I still use that phrase.

Although not to describe myself.

Putting my reminiscence aside, a few different myths explain why ladies of the evening would be associated with this recipe that has its origins in Naples…the smell would waft into the streets and lure clientele…or it is easily prepared using items commonly found in the Italian pantry…..or, perhaps the most believable story is that this is a quick and satisfying dish for those ladies who simply wanted to move on to other things.

Whatever those “things” may be.

This is a tangy recipe with plump, delicious tomatoes that are complimented by the saltiness of the olives, capers and anchovies, the spiciness of pepper and the always pleasing and oh-so-satisfying aroma of garlic. It’s traditionally served with any long pasta but Architect chose to serve it over a heartier pasta, rigatoni.  Because it takes only minutes to prepare, start the sauce while the pasta is boiling.

We felt sultry just eating it.  Settle down, boys.

From:  The Ultimate Italian Cookbook

4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Small dried chili pepper, crumbled OR 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 two oz can of anchovy filets, chopped
12 oz of tomatoes, canned or fresh, chopped
2/3 cup of pitted black olives
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 Tablespoon of tomato paste
1 lb of pasta
2 Tablespoons of chopped parsley for garnish

Add pasta to salted boiling water and cook until al dente.  Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the garlic and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until garlic is golden.  Add the anchovies and mash them into the garlic with a fork.  Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, and tomato paste.  Stir well and cook over moderate heat until the pasta is done, about 8 minutes.  Turn the pasta into the sauce and cook for another minute or two, turning the pasta constantly.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.  

Architect also made homemade bread out of pizza dough that was so good!
Foodie was off to San Francisco so we missed her. Singer brought a tasty salad made with pomegranate seeds and butter lettuce but it was not in the lovely traveling salad bowl because that was at Foodie’s house.  It was my turn to bring dessert…more on that later.  And, of course, there was wine.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roasted Root Vegetables and Herbed Quinoa Stuffing

One reason I love Fall is because it’s root vegetable time.  Not only are the autumnal lovlies delicious, they look so vibrant and lively when served, especially when mixed together on a plate.  You can almost hear them screaming “we are so good, really, we are, pick us!”

And pick them we did at Foodie’s house this past week.  She made Roasted Root Vegetables and Herbed Quinoa and Red Rice Stuffing.  The quinoa recipe is from Williams Sonoma and, while their recipes are usually very good, they typically require you use something available for purchase at their store.  Foodie, of course improvised.

But before I share the quinoa recipe, a word about the roasted root vegetables.  Foodie’s version included butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, and for a bright note, she threw in dried cranberries.  She drizzled them with olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper and baked them in a 375° oven for 30-40 minutes.  She quickly pan-fried the Brussels spouts first.  Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of root vegetables…don’t crowd them when roasting…they like their space.

Looks like a inviting dish of candy, doesn’t it?

This quinoa recipe is a delicious, gluten-free alternative to a traditional bread stuffing for your Thanksgiving feast.

Herbed Quinoa and Red Rice Stuffing with Kale and Pine Nuts
From: Williams Sonoma

3 cups of quinoa, prepared
3 cups of red rice, cooked , prepared
Unsalted butter for baking dish, plus 3 Tbs.
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bunch Tuscan kale, about 8 oz., stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
Various spices (Foodie used Herbs de Provence)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup chicken stock, warmed
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving (optional)

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the 3 Tbs. butter. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes, adding the kale during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Add the oregano and spices and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the quinoa and red rice, cranberries, pine nuts, lemon zest and stock and stir until well combined.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes, then garnish with cheese and serve

Somehow after dinner and during the always enjoyable conversation phase of the evening, the bowl of quinoa found its way right next to me….I kept taking little spoonfuls of this savory little dish until finally the table was cleared.  It’s a good thing because I may have eaten the whole damn bowl!

After dinner, we had a tea from Celestial Seasonings called Roastaroma, a delightful little brew with hints of roasted chicory and barley, chocolate from roasted carob, and a touch of cinnamon and allspice.  A perfect caffeine-free alternative to coffee! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Fastest Cinnamon Rolls

So I’m raking leaves on Sunday morning and right-side neighbor says to me:

Neighbor:  “Hey, I’m making cinnamon rolls.  Would you like one when they’re done?”

Me:  Hell, Heck, yes!” (Ooops, it's Sunday). I had been raking leaves for about an hour and I was thinking a snack was in order anyway.

Neighbor:  “I'm trying a new recipe, The Fastest Cinnamon Rolls, although the process is turning out to be not so fast!”

Me:  “Will you share the recipe with me?”

Neighbor:  “Sure, if they’re good.”

So, I continue raking and clipping branches.  About an hour later, neighbor brings one over..... 

Neighbor:  “They seem to be a little overbaked.”

Me:  "Really, they look delicious to me."

A few minutes later...or however long it took to brew a cup of  coffee in my Keurig and take that photo you see....

Me sitting at my kitchen table, drinking coffee, weary from raking (even though it’s only 9:33 a.m…or is it 10:33…wait, which clock is right?), and taking a bite of the freshly-baked and perfectly cinnamonny-gooey confection: "Damn Shoot. This is good!”

After eating that tasty morsel....

Me (thinking to myself):  
I promptly trotted over to my right-side neighbor to ask for the recipe, that I now share with you.

BTW...neighbor raked later in the day to neutralize her calories too.

The Fastest Cinnamon Rolls
From:  Bread for Breakfast by Beth Hensperger

¾ cup of dried cherries, blueberries, golden raisins or cranberries (or mix them up!)
Enough boiling water to cover fruit.

¾ cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cultured buttermilk
4 tablespoons (½ stick) of butter melted PLUS 2 additional Tablespoons for brushing
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup of firmly packed dark sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Vanilla Icing
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons cold cultured buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º.  Grease a 9-inch square or round baking pan.  Set aside.  Pace the dried fruit in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over.   Cover and set aside.
  2. Place the cottage cheese, sugar, buttermilk, 4 Tablespoons melted butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth.  Add the flour,, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the workbowl and purse until the dough clumps like a biscuit dough, 8-10 pulses.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently, folding the dough over and pushing away from you 4-5 times, until the dough is smooth.  DO NOT OVER WORK THE DOUGH.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to make a 12 by 15 inch rectangle and brush the entire surface with the 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, leaving a ½-inch border all around the edges
  3. To make the filling, combine the sugars, cinnamon, allspice and cloves in a medium bowl and sprinkle over the surface of the dough.  Pat to press the sugar into the surface.  Drain the dried fruit and pat dry with a paper towel.  Distribute the fruit over the sugar mixture.
  4. Starting with a long edge, roll-up like a jelly roll.  Pinch the seams to seal, leaving the ends open.  With a sharp knife, cut into 12 equal pieces and set the rolls, cut side up, in the baking pan.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Run a spatula along the edges and remove the rolls from the pan, one at a time.  Place the rolls on a wire rack.
  6.  Make the glaze by placing the ingredients in a 2-cup measuring cup and whisk until it is a smooth and pourable consistency.  To thin a bit, add a few drops of buttermilk.  Drizzle in a zigzag pattern over each roll and let the rolls stand for 15 minutes before devouring.
  7. You know, these might have to claim the prize for being the FASTEST cinnamon rolls ever, but they're not nearly as yummy!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Food Truckathon

Our local Coop frequently sponsors food-related events.  The events vary and sometimes they take on the essence of the season.  One fall they hosted a canning class, this past summer, they taught folks how to make ice cream and then there’s always the wine and cheese tastings, that are always welcome because this is a dry town.

How did that happen?

Anyway, Architect, Foodie and I decide to attend this past Friday’s event, a Food Truckathon.  

It was a BYOB event because, again, we live in a dry town.
Despite a few rain drops the event was PACKED. The smells were intoxicating, the music was spirited and the crowds were hungry, but very patient and friendly.  We surveyed the selection of trucks and I was more than tempted to pay a visit to the vehicle serving up burgers…then I saw the line.

Ok, so how about, Korean food?  Then I saw the line.

Tamales?  Oh shoot!  The line.  We did manage to get some Hot Apple Pumpkin Cider.

Let me be clear…I’m not complaining.  I am thrilled that the event was a huge success, but we were a little cold and a lot hungry so we decided to go back to Architect’s house and make pizza.

Here are a few photos from the (very fun) Truckathon and a recipe for Apple Cider Pumpkin Bisque.
Look at all those people...even on a brisk night!
Apple Cider Pumpkin Bisque
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups apple cider
nutmeg, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish

Melt the butter in saucepan on low heat, mix in the flour until the mixture is smooth.Slowly stir in the milk andstir constantly over medium heat until thickened. (about 15 minutes or so).Add pumpkin, mix and heat thoroughly.Slowly add the cider and fully incorporate. Sprinkle with some nutmeg and a dollop of sour cream to serve.  
Sounds like a perfect soup for these chilly Fall evenings!