Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh, Sandy, How You're Going to Crimp My Style

Living outside of Washington, D.C., we're used to the craziness that ensues before, during and after all kinds of weather. 

Snow? Earthquake? Heavy rainstorm (Derecho, for instance)?

They cripple the area. 

In fact, these days, the slightest inkling of inclement weather leads schools to close and activities to stop. Last winter, when meteorologists predicted a few inches of snow, the local school districts preemptively closed schools. Well, the kids stayed home on a nice, sunny day. (The snowstorm completely missed us.) And, as of a few hours ago, our local county closed schools on Monday and Tuesday in anticipation of #Sandy, who is looming in the Atlantic.

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies:
Fresh from the oven, made for
the men and women at our local
Emergency Operations Center ...
but, don't worry babies,
mommy kept some for
our little household, too.
Being married to an emergency manager, I've learned to have a heightened state of awareness, to be prepared. (Well, really, I learned that in the Girl Scouts, but we'll give him a little credit.) 

On Friday, my dearly devoted had me run all over town to stock our pantry with enough shelf stable food to kill a cow ... err, well, to keep us sustained for a week without power. While I was unloading the groceries, I became sad. Besides a few goods from the freezer, it dawned on me that, should we lose power, we'll be resorting to all the pre-packaged, shelf stable  foods we've been working so hard to avoid. 

I spent the day making a few homemade goodies that we'll be able to munch on, even if we lose power. And, we do intend on sharing the peanut butter swirl brownies with the fantastic men and women who are manning the local emergency operations center. Afterall, something homemade may help them amidst the chaos and the 12-hour shifts.

So, here's hoping Sandy's impact on the immediate D.C. area is not too great. And, if it is, we'll break into those pre-packaged foods, just as soon as we finish eating some homemade storm preparedness goodies (peanut butter swirl brownies anyone?) and wholesome fruits, veggies and nuts.

* * *
Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies (Courtesy Food Network's Ina Garten)

**Warning, these are ridiculous!!**


  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the prepared sheet pan. Spoon the peanut butter over the top of the chocolate mixture and using a knife, swirl it through the chocolate mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into large squares.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Stock or Not to Stock?

That is the question -- at least the one we're debating in my house this week. 

As we've been working toward homemade happiness, I'm trying to find the balance of what's possible and what's realistic. What's clear: the two aren't always the same.

During our shopping trip on Sunday, I put three boxes of stock in the cart.  It was not something I planned to do; it just kind of happened. And I can honestly say that my hubby was not too happy with my spontaneity.  It seems he really likes homemade stock (who doesn't?) and he also likes the succulent fall-off-the-bone meat that you get when you patiently make homemade stock.
Tuesday's dinner: Mulligatawny.
The soup that became famous
on Seinfeld headlined in
our house tonight. Delish,
even if it was made from
stock in a box.

But I find I use so much stock that it's just unrealistic (and impossible) to keep up. Now, if my work weeks (including commute) didn't top 60 hours a week, and if it wasn't my favorite time of year, and if I didn't have two rambunctious children, I might be willing to sacrifice time each weekend to make stock. But, right now, it's time I'm not willing to devote *every* weekend. 

I promised my deflated hubby that I will make stock once a month -- that's a no brainier. And maybe when it's cold and we're housebound, I'll make stock more often. But for now, we'll just do it once a month.

So does that make our dinners any less homemade? Am I wrong?

My husband says yes, emphatically.

My tummy says yes.

My heart says no.

* * *

Mulligatawny (adapted from

Oh, and it's delicious even with stock from a box!
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot Madras curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white basmati rice
  • 12 ounces chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup “lite” coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted, optional

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and garlic; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add apples, curry powder, cumin, coriander and ginger and cook, stirring often, until the apples begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add broth and rice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 12 minutes.

Add chicken, return to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in coconut milk and return to a simmer. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds (if using).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ooooh, Grandma, My Tummy is Full!

We have returned from a week at Grandma's house -- a week of all kinds of food we wouldn't typically indulge in. I mean, we're talking rich, slathered ribs; decadent desserts; honey baked ham; and the list goes on. (Just ask my waistline!)  After three days back home, I'm still full. Seriously. Full.

I was chatting with a colleague this morning over breakfast, and at that time, even the yogurt I was eating was too much. So for dinner tonight, I decided to go light. Mexican! 

I know, I can I seriously use Mexican and light in the same sentence? I mean, when we think of many of our favorites from our local Mexican eatery, we're talking smothered enchiladas; crispy, salty chips; and a lot of cheese.

Well, my favorite Mexican foods -- especially those from La Cena de Moi -- are chock full of fresh veggies, from guacamole and sautéed onions and peppers to lip-smacking pico de gallo. Yes, the guacamole is a little rich, but it's so good for you, and even a little of that was just perfect. Tonight's dinner, paired with a crisp wine and **lightly** filled cheese quesadilla, was just what this tummy needed.

Now, I just need to spend the next five weeks cooking light to prepare for a repeat visit to grandmas for Thanksgiving. 

* * *

One of my all-time favorites:
Pico de Gallo. Ole!
Pico de Gallo
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and diced

  • 1/4 red onion, chopped

  • Jalepeno (to taste)

  • Cilantro (a few tablespoons, chopped)

  • Minced garlic, up to 1 tablespoon

  • Juice from 1 lime

  • Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate 20 minutes to let flavors marry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Candies and Flowers? Not For This Girly

Most women swoon when their husbands/boyfriends/lovers get them candies, jewelry or flowers. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a beautiful bouquet of tulips or something blingy. But, just as much as either of those things ... I love new kitchen goodies.
My new marble pastry board.

Late last month, when I took a business trip to Texas, my husband surprised me with a "welcome home present" of all kinds of little kitchen gadgets. None of the gifts were over the top, but they really showed me how supportive he is about this little homemade happiness experiment. An experiment that is turning into a new way of living in our little household. From new measuring cups to individual pizza stones, each little present I unwrapped made my mind buzz with all kinds of new ideas.

But, that's not all he had up his sleeves ...

Earlier this week, my adoring husband brought me home a present -- a thank you for doing something special for him that day. When he presented me with the gift, tears sprung into my eyes: a marble pastry board! 

Something so simple, but something so wonderful. This was the only thing on my Christmas list this year, so to have him surprise me with this now melted my heart.

I'm so excited thinking of all the things I'll get to make on the board, especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner. Now, I just need to think of something new to add to my Christmas list.

Oh the possibilities! (If only I'd had this last week when I rolled six pounds of gnocchi and made three batches of pie dough!)

... hmmmm ... and as I write this blog post, I'm wondering ...

How much of the gift was "Oh, Elizabeth would love this" and how much of the gift was driven by his grumbling tummy? 

Regardless of the motivation, the gifts (and the hubby) are pretty awesome.
Sunday's dinner:
Pumpkin gnocchi with sage butter

* * *
Pumpkin Gnocchi (recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup parmesan or romano cheese
3-4 cups all purpose flour

Mix the pumpkin puree, ricotta, parmesan, eggs and salt together in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well with your hands. The dough should be very sticky, impossible to work. Add another half cup of flour and mix that in — you want the dough to still be pretty sticky, but pliable enough to shape into a large log. If it's not, keep adding a little flour at a time until you can get a soft dough that will be rollable. It should never require more than 4 cups of flour. 

To make the gnocchi, spread some flour on a large work surface and have more flour ready. Cut the dough log into four equal pieces. Take one piece and cut it in half. Roll the piece of dough into a snake about 1/2 inch thick, then cut it into pieces about the thickness of a fork.

Once the gnocchi are made, you can add them to boiling water or freeze. If you cook them, add to boiling water and remove once they float to the top. 

To freeze ahead -- as you shape the gnocchi, lay them (single layer) on a cookie sheet. Add parchment paper in between layers. Once you complete, freeze overnight. Move the gnocchi to an air tight container and freeze up to four months. To cook, add to boiling water. The gnocchi are cooked once they float to the top.

For the sage/butter -- Melt 1/4 cup butter, add 2-3 tsp fresh sliced sage. Add gnocchi. Cook through 1-2 minutes. Add salt/pepper to taste. Top with additional fresh grated cheese.