Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple Pomegranate Slaw in Endive

The promise of fall... crisp, sweet apples. A September shower had to include this seasonal sensation. Pomegranate seeds give crunch and tartness. Endive lends bitterness and a sophisticated serving vessel. A balanced fresh salad to counter the saccharin, creamy treats on the dessert table.

Can we note my mother's 80's style Cuisinart? This thing functioned longer than my parent's marriage. Ah... the sarcasm of a child of a divorce. Biting as ever.
Obligatory shout out to Mom and Dad... love you!

This appliance is a lifesaver for a big parties. Two-minute zing in the processor vs. 20 minutes of hand shredding apples.

Toss with pomegranate seeds, vinaigrette, green onions and walnuts. The green onions and pomegranate seeds really make the color pop!

 Spoon into endive leaves and arrange in the prettiest way you can figure out.

Apple Pomegranate Slaw
For Salad
2 honeycrisp or fuji apples, shredded
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup walnuts chopped
3 heads endive, ends removed

For Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Combine apples, green onions, pomegranate seed and walnuts in a large bowl. Whisk together vinaigrette and toss with salad. Lightly spoon apple salad into endive leaves. Serve immediately (this will brown if you prepare too far in advance).

Photographed recipe is a double batch. Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pink Ombre Cake with Buttercream

You've seen it on Pinterest (by the way, do you follow my boards?)... the adorable pink layer cake. I don't usually fall for the Pinterest fads -- I don't have any wood palette art in my house and I don't knit these -- but this cake was too cute to skip for an It's a Girl Baby Shower.

I didn't have a good white cake recipe up my sleeve, so I checked-in with my baking goddess friends and was recommended the Magnolia Bakery recipe. They've made millions on cupcakes, so I figured they know what they're doing. It took some serious self-control not to improvise, but that's not what baking is about. Focus Carey!

Fresh flour purchased to ensure everything would rise properly. And yes... there is a difference between self-rising flour and cake flour... I googled it.

Okay, I know I talk about my lack of baking ability, but my first real job in high school was at a cookie shop. If I learned one thing, it's that you REALLY need to cream butter in baked goods to get that fluffy texture. Start creaming room-temperature butter and beat until it looks like marshmallow fluff, then you're ready to add eggs and sugar. No eggs until you see the fluff!

Once the batter is prepared, split evenly into four parts. These will soon become the various layers of pink.

Start with the lightest-colored layer. Remember you can always add more, but you can't take it away. I started with one drop in the first bowl, two in the second and so on. I ended up tweaking a bit with two drops in the lightest layer and five in the darkest, but every food coloring is different.

Lovely shades of pink ready to bake.

This batter is a dense and sticky, so you MUST butter and flour your pans. Take care when handling too. Once the cake is fully cooled, prepare the gooey buttercream, following the instructions to reach the perfect texture.

Start with the crumb coat... a thin layer to encapsulate the inevitable errors in your cake.

I like to finish my cakes with a rough coat of frosting. It makes it look homemade and like you can bite right in. When things are too smooth, no one wants to ruin the finish at a party. This puppy looked delectable! And my lovely co-host fashioned the adorable pennant decorations.

Pink Ombre Cake with Buttercream

For cake
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 stick butter (unsalted), softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Red food coloring

For buttercream frosting
3 sticks butter (unsalted), softened
10 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup milk
3 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour four 9-inch cake pans. Start by combining flours. In a separate bowl cream butter on high speed, using an electric mixer, and gradually add sugar until fluffy. About 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating in each completely. Gradually add dry ingredients, alternating with milk and vanilla. Do not overbeat once the dry ingredients have been added.

Divide batter into four bowls. Start by adding one drop of food coloring into the first bowl, two drops into the second, three into the third and four into the fourth. Lightly mix batters until color is combined. Add more food coloring, if needed, until desired color is reached.

Bake cakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Using an electric mixer combine butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Start slowly, the sugar will get everywhere. Beat until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Add remaining sugar two cups at a time, beating well in between (about 2 minutes).

Place darkest layer of cake on cake stand and add an ample layer of frosting. Continue layering cake and place a thin layer of frosting on top and sides to contain crumbs. Then apply frosting in a thick layer to finish.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Party Time -- It's a Girl Finger Foods

When there are extra special people in your life, you want to share extra special celebrations with them. My dear friend Katie can be credited with introducing me to the Husband, so you can bet I wanted to throw her a heck of a party when I learned she was expecting a baby girl.

We reunited in our hometown to celebrate this new life and my mother generously offered her home as a location. There's something personal about an at-home party that you just can't get at a restaurant or club. Welcoming people to your table lets them know you really want them there. I really wanted all of them there, but there wasn't a table for 25 (it's not Downton Abbey after all...jeez). Given this constraint, I developed a menu of delectable finger foods with feminine flair.

It's a Girl Baby Shower Menu
Finger Foods for 25

Cremini, Asparagus, Zucchini

Honey Ricotta Crostini

Served in Endive with Walnut

French Macarons
For the Road

Rosemary Lemonade

Peach Bellinis

Iced Tea

Oh and there was diaper cake... it was delicious.

Monday, September 24, 2012

When I Am Tired

A glass of red, yoga pants and puppy time are pretty much the greatest things in the world.

One heck of a tasty party was thrown this weekend. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Year-Old Cake Makes Me Think

...we interrupt our regularly scheduled food  programming for a moment of thoughtfulness...

The Husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary last week and what a celebration we had! Have I mentioned that I'm completely spoiled by the greatest guy in the world? It's true. In grand tradition, we enjoyed a piece of our cake topper and watched our wedding video (this guy is THE BEST and he loves one of my dearest friends awful). It's so nice to have this video, because I frankly don't remember much of our wedding day... too much emotion to remember things.

Our marriage ceremony was very personal and officiated by my good friend Kevin. One of the things I do remember and was reminded of when we watched the video was Kevin asking this... what do you want to be famous for? 

The question was asked in a roundabout way involving Steak n'Shake references (that's just how Kevin is), but as we closed out our first year together, I found myself meditating on this question. In the context of a wedding ceremony, it meant that we should try to be famous for our love for one another and a great marriage....but this question goes so far beyond a marriage ceremony. 

I'm not sure "famous" is even the right word (you'll never catch me on American Idol), but rather what do you want to be KNOWN for? I'll try not to get too quarter-life-crisis on you here, but I think it's an important question to ask yourself. If my early twenties were supposed to be a time of figuring out who I wanted to be, I now find myself in my late twenties in a stage of becoming who I want to be. And it's increasingly apparent that I was totally off in the figuring out part (maybe it was all those beers and late night shenanigans). 

This becoming thing is a bit terrifying... mostly because I have nothing figured out. The question of what I want to be known for has really helped me to focus my thought and feel less overwhelmed. So while there's a lot I don't know about the future, I know that I want to be known for these things: 

-- My love and loyalty to my husband, family, friends and God.
-- An always open door and full table.
-- A creative spirit.
-- Laughing often. 

So in these overwhelming moments of figuring out and becoming, ground yourself in the end goal. What do you want to be known for?

...and now back to food blogging...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Sometimes you just feel like taking your time in the kitchen. As an infrequent baker, I rarely work with complex doughs or multistep preparations. A few Sundays back the Husband was away and I literally had NO plans. No laundry, no work, the blog was even broken. So naturally I busted out some phyllo dough and NPR (do Republicans ever say that?). The dog took up interest and even hung out under the table.

I'm a spinach freak, so have always loved a good 'ole Greek spanokopita. I decided to put a little twist on tradition by adding artichokes. Frozen artichokes are great for spontaneous times like this.

It all starts with familiar friends. Unassuming freezer ingredients prepare to take centerstage.

You must squeeze the spinach of liquid. Repeat... MUST... even if your hand looks like a weird deformed claw.

Eggs bind everything together.

Since phyllo dough can dry out quickly and be a general high-maintenance bitch, get everything ready to go. And yeah... I just called dough a bitch. A damp paper towel protects the wimpy phyllo from the harsh conditions of my kitchen.

Butter calms the whole situation and generally makes life easier to deal with.

The flag folding skills you learned at sleep-away camp will come in handy.

Bake until golden.

And dig in for god's sake...that was a lot of work!

Makes about 20 pastries

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
20oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove extra liquid
8-10 frozen artichokes, thawed and chopped
4 eggs, beaten
Bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups crumbled feta
3 tablespoons almonds, toasted and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed (mine came with two rolls of 24 sheets)
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil and add chopped yellow onion. When onion becomes translucent, add artichokes and scallions and saute for another 2-3 minutes.

In a BIG bowl, combine spinach, eggs, 3 tablespoons bread crumbs, parmesan, allspice, salt and pepper. It is imperative that the spinach be firmly squeezed to remove the liquid BEFORE you combine with other ingredients. Add artichoke and onion mixture and gently fold in feta and almonds.

Gather all of the ingredients to assemble the pastries, since you will need to move quickly. Phyllo can dry out easily, so place sheets on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp paper towel.

Lay first sheet of phyllo dough and brush with butter and lightly sprinkle with bread crumbs (just enough to keep the dough from sticking). Continue to layer, applying the butter and crumbs each time, until you have four sheets of dough placed. Slice lengthwise. Place one heaping tablespoon at the end of the dough and starting with the corner fold into a triangle, continue folding like you would a flag. Place completed pastry seam side down and brush lightly with butter. Sprinkle a bit of salt.

Once all pastries are complete, bake for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned.

For leftovers, freeze unbaked and sealed in a zip top bag. Thaw before following baking instructions above.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Annnnnd We're Back....

Praise the sweet internet Lord... my blog is back! So sorry for the prolonged absence... in a ploy to control the planet Google shut down all kinds of Blogger jazz for the past week without any kind of explanation. So incredibly frustrating!

I've got a few things coming your way in the coming days including a PARTY! So for now...

Note: I didn't create this image, but totally forgot to save down the link to it. Kudos to whoever put this together.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Curry Chicken Salad

Survey says ya'll like chicken salad. Enough that you made my Basil Chicken Salad one of the most read recipes on the blog to date. So when I had leftovers from 5-Spice Beer Can Chicken, I naturally thought of you, dear blog readers. 

Let's take a detour to spicy town, shall we? Curry makes this chicken salad extra special, in a sassy kind of way. And HELLO color!

The sweetness of the golden raisins provides a lovely balance to the punch of curry, while cilantro provides brightness.

Curry Chicken Salad
1lb chicken, chopped
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro, minced
2 heaping tablespoons curry powder
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup golden raisins

Combine yogurt, curry and S&P until mixed. In a separate bowl, toss chicken, almonds, raisins green onion, cilantro and celery. Toss dressing and chicken mixture.

Enjoy as a sandwich or with pita chips and vegetables.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Today is Special

One year ago I married the greatest guy in the world. Thanks for your constant support, neverending appetite and for always doing the dishes.

We celebrated in classic fashion this weekend. Cheers my love.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kofte Kebabs

Beer and travel have a way of bringing people together. In college I went to Istanbul to study Ottoman history and architecture (useful, I know) and drank beer and met great people along the way. One of these dears popped in to remind me this weekend of the Bud Light equivalent beer that we enjoyed so many nights in Istanbul, Efes. While we've both since moved on to greener brewed pastures, the flavors bring back fond memories.

With Istanbul in my heart, I set out to recreate another Constantinople classic -- Kofte. This spiced meat kabob is incredibly flavorful and is just about the best street meat you can find.

But before we get to the meat on the stick. Sigh and reflect with this snapshot goodie of yore. Awww... makes me miss it!

One of the better things I picked up in Istanbul is a mini spice grinder. With just a few cranks you'll unlock incredible spiced flavor.

This is what makes things so tasty... garlic, finely minced onion and a mess of spices. Should you have the chance to visit Istanbul, the Egyptian Spice Market cannot be missed. With aroma hanging heavy in the air and luscious stacks of fresh spices... your senses are overwhelmed. Plus there are samples.

Combine ingredients like you would a meatloaf or meatball, but you'll form these around skewers for grilling.

Okay... maybe not the most glamorous food, but hey, it's street meat! Even if you're not in the mood to reminisce, this is the tastiest meat on a stick this side of the Bosphorus.

Kofte Kebabs
1lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons onion, finely minced
1/4 cup parsley, finely minced
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Soak wooden skewers in water. Combine ingredients and gently combine by hand, taking care not to overmix the meat. Form into 1 inch balls and gently press on to skewer. Allow to rest in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Grill over medium, direct heat for 3-5 minutes per side.

Serve with tzatziki sauce and with tabbouleh or couscous.