back of the bottle key lime pie

When I’m looking for a recipe for a particular dish, it usually takes me a while to find the one that I want. I’ll flip through my cookbooks, Google, read reviews, Google some more, and then settle on something. This key lime pie is the exception that makes the rule. I’ve always made it the same way and the recipe came from the most basic of places: the back of the key lime juice bottle.

key lime pie

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ina’s baked shrimp scampi

Have you seen the news that Ina Garten has a new cookbook coming out, this one framed around her relationship with her husband Jeffrey? I’m not even embarrassed to admit that I gasped out loud when Laura clued me in, and I think most if not all Ina fans probably felt similarly. I also think most if not all Ina fans could make a convincing argument that all of her previous cookbooks have been about her relationship with Jeffrey, but to have one totally truly devoted to it? Be still my heart! There’s a lot to love about this particular marriage, from the gorgeous Hamptons house to the sweet food related gestures to the annual trips to Paris to the props they got on 30 Rock, but what I like best is how genuinely–aspirationally!–delighted by each other they seem after so many years together. I am so looking forward to this new book, especially since I’m confident that it will be full of more genuinely delightful recipes like this one, for baked shrimp scampi.

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gentlemen prefer blondies

I had my first blondie at Ruby Tuesday. Back in high school I ate at Ruby Tuesday more than any other restaurant. Not that my options were endless, but with a Ruby’s, a TGI Friday, and an Applebee’s all in spitting distance, I still always chose RT. I went with my boyfriend, I went with my sister and her best friend, I went with my girlfriends. Sometimes all in the same week. And if I had room for dessert after a basket of pumpernickel bread sticks with honey butter and a plate of loaded cheese fries, I was getting a blondie. Always. Even the Oreo Tallcake couldn’t sway me away. I’ve had blondies here and there over the last several years, but they haven’t come in my way much since I stopped making frequent Rubys trips. Until I tried Ina Garten’s recipe, and suddenly found myself wanting them almost as often as I did back in high school.

leaning tower of treats.

leaning tower of treats.

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pumpkin mousse parfaits

For a short time when I was a little girl, parfaits struck me as the absolute height of dessert sophistication. I’m not sure if I actually had one out somewhere or just saw them in a cookbook or movie (one of the soda fountain scenes from the Music Man, maybe?), but they struck me as so fancy, and I wanted to make my own. My “recipe” was layers of vanilla ice cream and crushed up Oreos, and I’m here to tell you it was delicious. And gave me just the spiffy feeling I was looking for. Unfortunately, my zealous eating meant spoon scratches on our tallest drinking glasses, so my mom put a stop to my parfaits (don’t be sorry for me–I just moved to a regular old bowl of vanilla topped with crushed Oreos. Joie and I ate an astonishing amount of ice cream back in our youth). I can’t say that I had that back in the day parfait love in mind when I first decided to make these pumpkin mousse treats, but as soon as I dipped my spoon into the layers the memory came back. Luckily, we seem to have scratch proof glasses, so this dessert is staying on the holiday roster.

parfaits in process.

parfaits in process.

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variation on a theme–more banana muffins

Like Laura, I love a banana muffin. And a banana bread. And a banana cream pie. And heck, even a plain ole banana. But we’re talking about muffins this week, thanks to some mysterious vibe in the ether that inspired us to make banana muffins at the same time. We tend to just check in with each other about what we’re planning on writing about in any given week, deciding who will post when-ish.  Our planned posts have clashed only once, when we realized that we were both fixing to write about pasta with sausage-that felt like a little much. But we figured the more the merrier when it came to banana muffins, and having eaten them for breakfast for two weeks, I still think we’re right.

bananamuffinplate-j

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kitchen disaster: crème brûlée

I hit a new cooking low on Saturday. For the first time ever, I actually spat out a bite of something I’d made. It was not too spicy or too hot, but it was completely gross. I made the world’s worst crème brûlée. Maybe you’re thinking, how bad could it have been—it’s heavy cream, vanilla, sugar, and eggs! Let me tell you exactly how bad it was. The top layer was a rubbery, waxy skin that tasted like the residue left in the pan after you cook scrambled eggs. Beneath that treat was a loose, wet blob studded with hard bits (of what, I don’t know). The taste was the least revolting thing about it, but even that was off the mark—egg all but erased the vanilla and cream. Oh, and it was ugly, too: the top was yellow mottled with pockmarks and blisters and the bottom was damp, lumpy cottage cheese. On my personal cooking success spectrum, this earns a spot way down low, just a hair above that halibut that ruined me for all halibut forever.

not even worth torching

not even worth torching

I was making the crème brûlées for a cookbook club dinner party my friend Jennifer was hosting. Like the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook party, we were cooking exclusively from one book: Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris. It was my job to do the dessert because Jennifer and our friend Katie had recently given me everything I needed to make crème brûlée. I was really excited to use my new ramekins, vanilla paste, and of course, blow torch. That said, I have had issues with custard in the past, so I was a little nervous. My confidence was buoyed by the fact that this was an Ina recipe (as you know, I trust Ina). I also skimmed the unanimously stellar reviews on the Food Network website and convinced myself that this was going to be a cinch. I even watched the online video clip of Ina making the crèmes. It sure did look simple.

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winter ragu + spring salad

I actually made this dinner a month ago, for Valentines Day. It was perfect February food–a rich hearty ragu over creamy polenta, and fresh super green salad to lighten things up. I decided to write about it today in the hopes that winter is finally on its way out (I am not happy that the snow I just escaped in New York has followed me home to Virginia–where is the early spring that dang groundhog promised us?!), and that this is the last point in the year when heavy non springy foods will sound even remotely appealing. Fingers crossed.

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When I was thinking about what to cook for Valentines Day, I knew I wanted to make something that felt special but that would be easy enough to not drive me crazy on a weeknight. I also knew that I wanted to go for something more homey than fancy, because I was being taken out for a mystery dinner the following weekend and was pretty sure it would more than fill my fancy quota (we ended up going to Annisa, and I was right–it was absolutely fantastic). I decided to try my first slow cooker recipe, imagining doing all the prep the night before and then being able to just quickly put together a salad and polenta, and save my energy for a fancy dessert. My plan mostly worked, but this isn’t the speedy just dump a bunch of things in a pot, wait several hours and have a perfect dinner recipe of my slow cooker dreams.

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