Friday, December 30, 2011

Roasted Eggplant Dip

I need to share a quick and zippy recipe for New Years Eve or anytime you want to serve something delicious. If you guessed this is a Martha recipe you'd be wrong but close, Barefoot Contessa. The first time I had this I thought I would die and quickly became obsessed with eggplants but that's another story. Anyway the moral is this is universally loved and adored so make it today and serve it to your friends to show them how much you love and adore them.

Start with these bad boys.

Oh and be sure to add some garlic which I did at the last minute. Oops.

Roast 'em up.

Until they look like this.

Zip 'em through the food processor with two heaping tablespoons of tomato paste.

I told you this was easy. I enjoy it with a whole wheat pita that is soft not in chip form. A girlfriend of mine has tossed this with warm pasta and I imagine that is unbelievably good. 

Roasted Eggplant Dip
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa 

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, chop eggplants, peppers, onion, and garlic. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper in a 9 x 13 pan. Roast for 45 minutes stirring once. 

Cool for 10-15 minutes then pulse in food processor with tomato paste until desired chunkiness.

Serve with chips or pitas. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies & Fabric Update

I love any excuse to bake and luckily the holidays provide me with the perfect excuse. Recently I baked up some delicious Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. These things are killer and taste like brownies only better. Seriously. I've never given someone a chocolate crinkle cookie and not had them fall over and die in front of me because they loved them so much.

These require no butter and instead call for oil which is a little easier for me since that means I don't need to remember to take the butter out of the fridge and bring to room temperature. Does anyone else have that problem? Every. single. time. I have this problem. Anywho basically no planning for room temperature butter necessary. You do need to plan time for the batter to cool in the fridge before rolling out so some planning is necessary. Ugh!

Scroll to the bottom for the recipe.

Thanks everyone on your input for the chair. Great news, we've decided which fabric! So initially, both J and I leaned toward Option A, the damask print, because it was neutral and still fun. But upon further inspection I decided that this would be more difficult for a few reasons. One, the white is slightly see-through and I feared I'd need to put white muslin or some craziness under the fabric. Since I am an expert reupholster have never done this before I thought that added difficulty seemed stupid. Also, I have dreams of buffalo check in my life and I feared the damask would clash with this.

Look at how dreamy these prints I stole from are...

I love the idea of curtains from buffalo check. Maybe when I don't have a wall of windows to wrestle with in my life I'll sew me up some. 

This throw blanket is perfect in a large buffalo print. 

These chairs kill me. If I was reupholstering this shaped chair for sure I would use that fabric.

So in the meantime I would settle for a red buffalo check pillow for Christmas on the chair. For that reason I decided against the damask.

We have plans of buying a new couch soon-ish. My plan is to buy a white or tan couch - crazy I know - but I will make sure the fabrics are washable. Since I plan to stay so neutral with the couch we landed on Option B.

I'm a little delusional and hope this pattern will be a bit more forgiving during the reupholster. Since, I'm generally underestimate the effort necessary for most projects that's probably a bit naive but that's where I like to live. bwhaahaha. Added bonus! JoAnn Fabrics is selling this at 40% off the regular price and I just got a coupon for 20% my purchase including sale items - SCORE! So hopefully I can land this fabric for a steal.

As promised the recipe. I end up just googling this

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Adapted from All Recipes

·       1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
·       2 cups white sugar
·       1/2 cup vegetable oil
·       4 eggs
·       2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·       2 cups all-purpose flour
·       2 teaspoons baking powder
·       1/2 teaspoon salt
·       1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

     Mix together cocoa powder, white sugar, and oil in medium bowl until combined. Beat eggs in one at a time and then add the vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt then slowly mix into cocoa mixture. 

    Cover dough and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or better yet over night. When the dough is cooled form into small balls and roll in confectioners' sugar. Be sure to be generous with the powdered sugar, more is more people. 
     Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. I like mine just cooked so they melt in your mouth but feel free to bake for 12 minutes. Let cookies rest of pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rake otherwise they are too soft and will break. 


Monday, December 19, 2011

Italian Oil Cookies

First, thanks everyone for weighing in on the fabric choices yesterday. Keep your opinions coming. I'm am stalling because A. upholstery fabric is not cheap and B. I've never reupholstered anything so I'm not sure how difficult a swap would be. Anyway, more on the chair later. Today is all about cookies!

Have you ever heard of Italian Oil Cookies? If you are from central New York then the answer is most certainly yes. If not, then it's less likely so but you should because these are delicious! These cookies have always been a Christmas treat in my family.  I remember helping my Italian grandmother and other times my mother to make these treats. My mother prefers to cut out various shapes a la sugar cookies and I prefer not to spend all day baking these and roll them into balls.

These cookies are sometimes called anise cookies because that is the flavoring most often used but I've used almond flavoring and that proves to be glorious as well. However, I generally stick to anise because that's the traditional flavor. Outside of these cookies I hate black licorice flavoring but this cookie is different and have a perfect hint of anise.

One other note about these beauties. They make a whole lot, I mean a truck-load if you follow my recipe. People, my grandmother was the youngest of 11 children and lots of local families were in the same boat. So if when they wanted to make cookies to share with the other church families a large quantity was needed. These days unless your last name is Duggar you probably are more accustomed to making cookies that yield somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 dozen. There's good news, you can share these with your friends and they will love you forever. Or you can just half the recipe and your friends will be sad.

Italian Oil Cookies
Yield 8-10 dozen

8 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 Tablespoon salt
6 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon anise extract
6 tablespoons baking powder

4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons of milk
6 drops food coloring


Beat the eggs until they are smooth then add oil and milk and beat for 3 more minutes. Add sugar, salt, anise, 1 cup of flour, and 1 tablespoon baking powder and mix. Gradually add remaining flour and baking powder, 1 cup and 1 tablespoon, at a time. After each addition mix until just combined. The dough is very sticky so chill for at least a couple hours or overnight to make it easier to work with.

Roll into small balls or roll and cut into shapes as desired. Bake in 400 degree oven for 8 minutes. The bottoms of the cookies should be just a shade darker than the tops (brown is over cooked).

After the cookies have cooled dip into icing. I eye-balled the amounts but mix powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk until you reach desired consistency add more sugar for thicker or more milk for thinner icing. Feel free to add food coloring for fun. Finally, after you have iced the cookies be sure to sprinkle with nonpareil sprinkles.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wingback Chair - the fabric vote

What a wonderful and lazy Sunday it's been for me. I hope you are all tucked in and enjoying the last full weekend before Christmas. I am not done with my shopping, crafting, or wrapping however, I opted for a low-key day. Let me say, I'm totally energized for the week because of that decision. That and my two day work work so there's that.

The one thing I did manage to accomplish today was pick out some fabric choices with the help of dear girl friends. Actually, earlier in the week other girl friends of mine helped me pick out some choices and then today the new crew helped me round out my choices. People, it takes a village.

I need your help. I've narrowed my choices to three and Jo Ann's Fabric allows you to rent out large samples to see what looks best.  I need your help to figure out which look you like best. Joel and I are both leaning toward one but we can be swayed. (Check out this post for what we're working with). 

Choice A. 

Choice B.

Choice C.

Leave a note in the comment section and let me know what you think. 

Also, this week is going to be a busy one and chocked full of posts so stay tuned. I have at least two cookie recipes to share and a few other meals. Plus the conclusion of my Christmas crafts. Oh my! It's going to be fun. 

Ok back to lounging....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

Have you ever been to a wedding where this soup was served? Oddly enough, I never have been served Italian Wedding Soup at a wedding. Even still I love this soup and most often finding myself cracking open a can of Progressive's version of the soup. It's not bad in a pinch but it really isn't that great either.

Since I am a self-appointed Martha-Stewart-Recipe-Taster it should come as no surprise that I use her Light Italian Wedding Soup Recipe. The biggest change I made was the type of ground turkey used, she recommends 93% fat free ground turkey which of course includes dark meet and I used 99% ground turkey and found it absolutely delicious and very tender. The other change I made was I used kale instead of escarole because I wanted to.

This is a quick and easy soup. I made it on a week night in less than 45 minutes. Here's how I did it.

Roll out the cute little meatballs. This photo doesn't give you a sense of proportion but they are small. I would estimate they are 1/3 the size of a normal meatball. These are really simple just an egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and parmesan.

Next up, dice and saute up onion, celery, and carrots in a little EVOO to soften.

Add in the liquids and meatballs. Then lightly simmer the meat-a-balls.

Finally, the kale. How beautiful is that? I love this stuff. A few minutes and it's nicely wilted into the soup.

Obviously, this is best served with parmesan on top. Really, what isn't? I want to make this all over again immediately I loved this soup!

Italian Wedding Soup
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 6


1 pound ground turkey, 99 percent lean
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup plain dried breadcrumbs, I used whole wheat
¼ cup grated parmesan as well as more for serving
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cans (14 ½ oz. each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cans (14 ½ oz. each) diced tomatoes in juice
3-4 cups chopped kale


Combine ground turkey, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and parmesan in a bowl. Use hands to combine but do not over work the meat. Roll into small meatballs use about a tablespoon of meat per ball. 

In a stock pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until vegetables are soft for about 8 minutes.  

Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and increase heat to bring to a light simmer. Add the meatballs. Cook until the meatballs rise to the surface which takes about 5 minutes. 

Finally, add the kale and stir and allow to wilt about 3 minutes. 

Serve topped with parmesan. 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Sugar Pumpkin Rigatoni

Great news everyone, Joel and I signed up for a winter CSA. If you are like me you may think this means root vegetables and potatoes for three months. Surprise of all surprises there is actually much more variety. For example, this week (week two) we received a bok choy, collard greens, carrots, potatoes, boston lettuce, rutabaga, kohlrabi, and leeks. It's actually a lot of food to keep up on even if we decide to freeze things there's just two of us. For sure we get our money's worth and it keeps us out of restaurants because of the amount of veggies we get. That's not a bad thing.

Previously, we had a few sugar pumpkins kicking around. If you're not sure what a sugar pumpkin is they look like this.

They are the little guys and they aren't just for decoration. I will say, they take a little effort to peal and deseed but I found their sweetness well worth the effort. As you might imagine I had a recipe that I was itching to try out.

Three guesses who authored the original recipe. A. Cooking Light, B. Barefoot Contessa, C. Martha Stewart.

Did you choose C? Then you'd be correct. My girl Martha does it again. It's super simple just roast some sugar pumpkin, onion, and sage. Toss with rigatoni and goat cheese and voila.

As you can see, my version turned out identical to Ms. Stewarts. Well it tastes amazing and really that is what counts. I must have roasted the pumpkin longer than she did because it really melted into the mixture. I sort of like my melded together version.

Rigatoni with Roasted Pumpkin and Goat Cheese
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 5-6

2 sugar pumpkins
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion or 2 shallots
fresh sage
salt and pepper
1/2 lb rigatoni
5 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Peel and deseed the pumpkins. Dice in large chunks and chop onion into large chunks. Spread onto baking sheet and mix with olive oil, salt and pepper, and several sage leaves. Roast for 45 minutes tossing half way through.

In a large pot bring water to a rolling boil and salt the water. Cook rigatoni until el dente, the back of your package should give a suggested time.

Toss warm rigatoni, warm pumpkin roast in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese. Salt and pepper as needed.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Cookies

I've been absent, MIA, AWOL. You get the picture. I had some technical problems with my computer but I'm happy to say I'm back up and running. How much did you miss me? Scale of 1-10...10! I knew it.

you like me. 

you really like me. 

I thought tis the season and all of that so I could post a series of cookie recipes.  Here's the thing, I love all cookies, 

I don't discriminate. 

I especially love bar cookies because they are so easy and require so few steps. Score! I realize these peanut butter and jelly bars are not traditional Christmas cookies but believe me people won't care. Also, stay tuned I have a few Christmas cookies in the queue. 

Oooooh. My mouth is watering just looking at this little guy. You know it's going to be good with the Barefoot Contessa authored this recipe. She's the Paula Dean of the north. Get the butter! 

First, I start by doing what all good cookie recipe starts with creaming the butter and sugar. 

Yummo. This is also the start to many a frostings. 

Add in the delicious peanut butter. 

I could stop here and lick the bowl. I have problems people. 

Add some eggs.

Finally, add the dry ingredients. Mix until crumbly. 

Now the fun part. Roll up your sleeves and press the 2/3 of the cookie dough into a cake pan. 

pat, pat, pat

get in there

Now open a jar of jelly, any will do, and empty it. 

It sounds something like a sluuurp. Delicious. 

Spread it around

Crumble the remaining cookie dough on top. 

Do you see why I love bar cookies so much. So fast and easy. Now with all the free time I had on my hands from not needing to roll and cut dough and not to mention the switching the pans out every 10 minutes or so, I had about an hour to bask in my genius. Err, I mean watch Toddlers and Tiaras or Alaska State Troopers or Extreme Couponing. People, don't judge my choices. 

Back to the cookies. A reminder of the delicious end result. 

I really hope you enjoy these as much as I do and share them with them friends. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1½ cups sugar 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I halved her original recipe because I found it too peanut buttery) 
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1½ teaspoons kosher salt 
1½ cups raspberry jam or other jam (18 ounces) 
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar until it is a light yellow color. Add eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter and mix. 
Sift dry ingredients. I find doing this over parchment paper makes it easy to dump into the mixer because of how flexible the paper is compared to sifting into a bowl. 
Slowly add the sifted dry ingredients on a low speed into mixer. Mix until just combined. 
Pat 2/3 of the dough mixture into greased 9x13 inch pan. I use the left over butter wrappers to grease the pan with the remaining butter on the paper. Spread the jelly over the pan evenly. Crumble and drop the remaining dough over top. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts if you would like but I typically omit this step. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool and enjoy!