Double Rye Old Fashioned

by Elissa

Hello faithful readers! I thought I'd end my recent hiatus here with a cocktail post that has a couple of good holiday gift ideas as well.

As the weather has turned colder this fall, brown spirits like bourbon and rye seem even more appealing than they do during the summer months. We have been branching out to try some different varieties, and as a result of our experiments I have a new favorite whiskey:  High West's Double Rye.  Josh and I decided to try it after reading this article, which described it as "sweet and spicy . . . [with] dry woody notes."  I love the combination of spice and herbal flavors, and I even love drinking it on the rocks, which is unusual for me. At $35 for a 750 mL bottle it's not cheap, but it would make a very nice gift for someone who enjoys whiskey. And the bottle itself is very cool, making it easy to throw a ribbon around the neck and call it good.

Old Fashioned ingredients

Old Fashioned ingredients

While I enjoy Double Rye on its own, I love it in an old fashioned. My method of making it involves Angostura bitters, light brown sugar, and an Amarena cherry.  These cherries are a delicious addition to most cocktails--I prefer them to Luxardo cherries and they come in a very attractive crock. If you want to give a really nice gift, you could include the rye, bitters, and cherries as pictured above. But the cherries by themselves would be a fabulous gift for anyone who is enthusiastic about cocktails or cherries--they are also delicious over ice cream. 

And here's my recipe for a Double Rye old fashioned, which is perfect for drinking while you decorate your Christmas tree!


Double Rye Old Fashioned

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1.5 ounces High West Double Rye

1 Amarena cherry

In an old fashioned glass, start with the brown sugar and add the bitters. Then add the whiskey and the cherry and stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Add ice and enjoy!

Prosciutto, Cheese and Puff Pastry

by Laura

Look at the title. What's not to like?! This would make a great appetizer for Thanksgiving or a holiday party. Puff pastry has always intimidated me but this was actually really easy and the final product looks pretty impressive. This is adapted from an Ina Garten recipe - she used soppressata and all gruyere whereas I made it with prosciutto and half mozzarella since gruyere can be a little overwhelming for my taste. You could really do any meat and cheese combination here and I think it would be hard to go wrong.


1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets) defrosted - I used Pepperidge Farm

2 tsp. dijon mustard

3 oz. prosciutto

3 oz. gruyere cheese grated

3 oz. mozzarella grated

1 egg or 1 tbsp butter, melted (for wash)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take one sheet of the defrosted puff pastry and roll it out on a floured surface (put some flour on the rolling pin too!) so it is about a 10 inch square. Don't worry if it isn't perfect - you will trim the edges later. Place it on the parchment paper-lined sheet. Brush the pastry with the mustard, leaving a half inch border bare.

Lay the prosciutto on top of the mustard. Brush the border with melted butter or the beaten egg and a little water (I used butter because I was out of eggs, Ina recommends egg). Sprinkle with both cheeses. Roll out the other sheet of puff pastry and lay it directly on top of the cheese covered one. Brush the top of that one with the rest of the butter or egg wash.

Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes so the pastry is firm.



Trim the edges so they are straight and cut three slits across the top of the pastry so that the steam can escape. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool slightly before cutting into squares. Serve warm.






Sesame Zucchini Noodles with Chicken

by Laura

I know you have all been checking the blog eagerly every day for the last three plus months hoping there would be something new, and I am sorry we've kept you waiting so long! Katherine had a baby, I got married, and Elissa continues to be a super star mom, lawyer, etc. But we will be better!

After spending the last month or so indulging at every possible occasion, I wanted to make something healthy to snack on and take for lunch this week. I added some grilled chicken to this recipe to make it a bit more substantial but it would be good on its own too! I also like that it can be served hot or cold, which is especially nice given our current heat wave.



2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

5 medium-large zucchini 

1 tsp olive oil


Pack em in there - they will get smaller!!

Pack em in there - they will get smaller!!

2 tbsp peanut butter (I used crunchy but smooth works too) - heated in the microwave for 20 seconds

1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp chili garlic sauce (I like this one)

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp sesame seeds

Preheat a grill on medium high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil. Grill on each side for about 5 minutes until cooked through. Set aside. Using a spiralizer (I have this one and it works great) make zucchini noodles. Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook noodles for 3-4 minutes. You will notice the zucchini releases a lot of water as it cooks and you definitely want to drain them before adding them to the dressing!

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the peanut butter for about 20 seconds so it combines well with the rest of the dressing ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients to the peanut butter and whisk to combine. Slice the chicken into bite sized pieces and add to the noodles in a large bowl. Pour dressing over and combine well. Top with sesame seeds. You can eat it right away or refrigerate and eat it cold.

Blueberry-Nectarine Buckle

By Katherine

It is once again my favorite time of the year at the market: stone fruit and berry season! Even though it's still early, I went a little overboard at the store last week because I was so excited to see these old favorites back again, and I came home with cherries, nectarines, blueberries, and pluots. I have been enjoying snacking on them on their own, but this weekend I got a bit of a baking bug. I remembered a recipe for blueberry buckle that I hadn't made in a long time and decided to revisit it. 

The finished buckle

The finished buckle

Have you ever had a buckle? It comes from the same family as fruit crisps and cobblers, but it is a simple cake with fruit and a streusel topping. I was first introduced to it years ago, when my sisters and I were visiting our friends the Berkeleys at their vacation home in the Poconos. We picked bucketfuls of wild blueberries that weekend and made a buckle with them. I managed to write down the ingredient list for the recipe we used back then, and a baking temperature and time, but in recreating it, I had to guess at the rest of the instructions. Nonetheless, the buckle turned out delicious. The original recipe called solely for blueberries (2 pints), and I didn't have enough so I decided to supplement with nectarines. Also the original recipe listed a bake time of 40 minutes, and mine took much longer than that (and my square pan was full to the brim) - I think you could bake this in a larger pan to reduce the baking time. 

Blueberry-Nectarine Buckle

For the cake:

½ cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ cups flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2/3 cup milk

2 tsp. vanilla

1 pint blueberries

2 nectarines, chopped

For the streusel:

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

6 tblsp. butter, cold, cut into bits

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a square baking dish (I used an 8x8 glass one). Make the cake batter: using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs. In a separate bowl, sift (or whisk) together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk. Once combined, fold in the blueberries and nectarines by hand. Pour the batter into the baking dish. 

Buckle batter

Buckle batter

Next, make the streusel. In a bowl (pro tip: use the same bowl you used for mixing the flour to cut down on dishes), combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut the cold butter into the mixture using a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers. You want the mixture to look like small pebbles. Sprinkle the streusel over the cake batter.

Streusel in place and ready for the oven

Streusel in place and ready for the oven

Bake the buckle for approximately 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature, with some ice cream on the side if you're so inclined!

Blistered Shishito Peppers

by Laura

Shishito peppers are having a moment right now. They're on almost every sushi restaurant menu as an appetizer and are popping up outside of Japanese cuisine as well. They are best when kept very simple in my opinion (hold the bonito flakes please!). About one in every ten peppers is spicy, making the experience kind of a fun game of Russian roulette (yes, I am old...this is how I get my kicks these days). And an added bonus is that they are extremely easy to prepare at home.


6 oz. shishito peppers (this is the package size at Trader Joe's but will only make enough for 2 people in my experience, so multiply as necessary!)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

Flaky sea salt for finishing

Preheat a grill on high (can also use a frying pan over high heat). Toss peppers with olive oil and garlic salt. Place peppers directly on grill and turn every 2 minutes until they are blistered and black in parts (about 6 minutes). Remove from heat and finish with flaky sea salt to taste. 

Ricotta Toast with Mushrooms and Chard

by Laura

My toast addiction is well known, and part of the beauty of this wondrous dish are the infinite variations it allows. I am back on the Farm Fresh To You train and had some maitake mushrooms and green chard I needed to use. I've also been craving a ricotta toast dish I've had a few times now at Scopa Italian Roots in Venice (if you are in the area, please go immediately and order this). The combination worked out really well and was very easy. If you're entertaining, it would make a great topping on sliced toasted baguette.

Ingredients plus new Wustoff knife that makes everything better!

Ingredients plus new Wustoff knife that makes everything better!


Sliced French or Italian bread lightly toasted

1 cup ricotta, seasoned with salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil separated

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

1 bunch chard, ribs removed and leaves cut in 1 inch pieces

Red pepper flakes to taste

Maldon sea salt 

If you don't have chard or mushrooms handy, ricotta on its own will do just fine

If you don't have chard or mushrooms handy, ricotta on its own will do just fine

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add chard and salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until chard is wilted - about another 5 minutes. (If you haven't already, now is a good time to throw bread in the toaster.) While chard cooks drizzle remaining 1 tbsp over ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Spoon ricotta mixture over toast and top with mushroom and chard combination. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes.


Hemingway Daiquiri

by Elissa

Greetings from the land of perpetual winter! While we have sighted a few harbingers of early spring, it has been an exceedingly cold March on the east coast, and it feels like warmer weather will never arrive. Lane's first little league game took place yesterday with sub-40 degree temperatures and a biting wind.

Josh and I have taken refuge from the cold in a drink that suggests the tropics.  Although the name daiquiri might conjure images of a sweet, slushy drink, this version is not all that sweet, and it uses fresh citrus juice that is still in season.

One way to chase away those winter blues

One way to chase away those winter blues

The only ingredient that is a little unusual is Luxardo maraschino liqueur, but most well-stocked liquor stores will carry it. And once you invest in a bottle, you are well-positioned to make your own maraschino cherries once sour cherries are in season.

The fresh lime juice has a nice bite, which is softened a little by the grapefruit juice and the maraschino liqueur. It it refreshing and tropical-tasting at the same time. And it's a beautiful pale-pink color (thanks to the grapefruit). So if you are as depressed about the recent cold weather as I am, or even if you're not, I'd recommend mixing up a Hemingway daiquiri tonight! 

Hemingway Daiquiri (adapted from Speakeasy)

1 3/4 ounces white rum (we like Cruzan or Flor de Cana)

3/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1 ounce lime juice

3/4 ounce grapefruit juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1 cherry for garnish (optional)

Pour liquid ingredients into shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and dream about warmer temperatures. 

Basil-Garlic Shrimp with Spaghetti Squash

By Katherine

This was a dinner that I was not intending to blog about, but after I took my first bite, it was so delicious, that I had to take a quick photo and share it with you. I have tried cooking with spaghetti squash in the past, but I was never wowed by it - I still found myself missing the delicious carb-fest of real pasta. But the sauce on this recipe is so flavorful (the buttery goodness doesn't hurt) that I found myself not missing a thing! I used frozen shrimp (thawed) from Trader Joe's, and it turned out great.

Served with roasted broccoli, a delightful combination

Served with roasted broccoli, a delightful combination

Basil-Garlic Shrimp with Spaghetti Squash

Adapted from Gourmet and The Kitchn


  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 3/4 lb shrimp
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup shredded fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out and discard seeds and stringy bits. Place the squash halves face down in a roasting pan, add 1/2 cup water, and cover with foil. Roast for 45 minutes, until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.

While squash is roasting, prepare the other ingredients. Begin cooking when the squash has about 10 minutes left. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over moderate heat and cook the shrimp until browned on each side, about 3 minutes total. Remove the shrimp to a plate.

Add the garlic to the pan and let cook very briefly (about 15 seconds), then add wine, lemon juice, and tomatoes. Boil, stirring occasionally (make sure you get all the browned bits from the shrimp), until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds. Reduce the heat to low, and add butter and basil, then return the shrimp to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a fork, scrape the squash flesh away from the skin, creating "spaghetti" strands. Serve the shrimp and sauce over the spaghetti squash.

Pan-Seared Pork Chops

by Laura



No matter how obsolete print media has become, there is still something really nice for me about getting a magazine in the mail. Bon Appetit is one I still subscribe to, and I thoroughly enjoy curling up on a lazy Sunday with it and carefully* tearing out pages that have recipes I want to try. Most of them then sit collecting dust in a basket on our kitchen counter. John very kindly does not comment on this messy pile of paper that inevitably accumulates. And that might be because every once in a while I dust it off and it becomes a surprisingly good dinner. This is where the inspiration came from for these pork chops that I served over whole wheat pasta with shallots, capers, garlic and breadcrumbs (also a BA recipe worth trying - what's not to like?!). 

I used boneless pork chops because they were on special at Von's and it seemed easier, but Bon Appetit recommends bone in.


1 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 pork chops

10 whole sage leaves

2 tsp minced garlic

1 tbsp. butter

Heat the oil in a cast iron or heavy skillet on medium high heat. Season the pork chops on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Drop the chops in the hot pan and cook for about one minute, then flip and cook for another minute. Keep flipping and browning until the chops are cooked through (about 8 minutes total depending on the thickness of the meat).  Take the pan off the heat and add butter, garlic and sage mixing these ingredients and then spooning them over the chops. Please do not waste the butter/sage/garlic sauce and sop up any leftovers with bread or serve over pasta as I did.


Served with roasted carrots and pasta with breadcrumbs, capers, garlic and shallots.

Served with roasted carrots and pasta with breadcrumbs, capers, garlic and shallots.

Report from New York

by Elissa

Last weekend, Josh and I were lucky enough to travel to New York for three whole nights by ourselves. We ate and drank very well while we were there, so I thought I'd share some of the highlights.

Best pasta: the ricotta gnocchi at Lupa.  I first had them with Katherine back when she was living in New York, and this was one of those rare dishes that lived up to my memory!

Best cocktail: the custom cocktails that we ordered at Lantern's Keep, the bar at the Iroquois Hotel near Times Square.  Basically you give the bartender a liquor or a theme to work with, and they will design a drink to suit your tastes. Mine involved London dry gin, lemon juice, orgeat, and absinthe. I'm going to try and re-create it at home, but will have to mix up a batch of orgeat (almond syrup) first. Runner up: The Guthrie Inn on the Upper East Side, a funky speakeasy-type place.

Best overall dish: the vanilla doughnuts we had during brunch at Perilla in the West Village.

The doughnuts were served hot from the fryer with a somewhat tart apple butter, which was a brilliant flavor combination.

Best food souvenir we brought back to DC: tie between a box of Kee's chocolates and a hunk of gruyere we bought at Murray's

We had an amazing weekend despite the frigid temperatures. Thanks again to Donna and Joanna for taking such good care of the kids while we were away!

Fun with Zoodles

by Laura

You get a pretty big bowl from 5 small zucchini but beware, they shrink when you cook and it is less filling than pasta!

You get a pretty big bowl from 5 small zucchini but beware, they shrink when you cook and it is less filling than pasta!

If you haven't heard of zoodles, they are noodles made from zucchini spun through a spiralizer, the newest gadget addition to my kitchen. I bought the Premium Vegetable Spiralizer off of Amazon for $15 and can't believe how easy it is. You just rinse the zucchini (I think yellow squash or even carrots could work well too) and spin it while putting a little pressure on it and you get long, thin noodles. You can top with any sauce and I have tried a few, but find that a saucy but hearty sauce like bolognese makes it easier to forget you're eating vegetables instead of pasta. Ina Garten's weeknight bolognese works well. You can also mix it up so it is half noodles and half zoodles if you're nervous about going full zoodle. 

Half zucchini noodles, half linguini with Ina Garten's Bolognese.

Half zucchini noodles, half linguini with Ina Garten's Bolognese.



Healthy Muffin File: Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

by Elissa

I have written before about my quest for the perfect healthy muffin. While I love the morning glory muffins from my earlier post, they are a bit of a project. The other day I wanted to see if I could come up with a not-too-decadent option using ingredients that are easier to prepare. I adapted this recipe for oatmeal applesauce bread from King Arthur Flour and was pretty delighted with the results. 

They are excellent with cream cheese. I always freeze the leftover muffins; after 20-30 seconds in the microwave they make for a quick and delicious weekday breakfast.

3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 /2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oats--you can use either quick oats or rolled oats
1/2 cup applesauce
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a muffin tin or put paper muffin liners in the wells. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder and soda, and spices, and add them to the wet ingredients in the bowl. Mix in the oat flakes, applesauce, and grated apple. Scoop into muffin tin and bake for 16-18 minutes. 

Desperately Seeking Mexican: How to Make Corn Tortillas

by Elissa

One of the things I miss most about living in California (besides my family and the weather, of course) is good Mexican food. Most of the Mexican food in DC just can't compare. I had read about making corn tortillas from scratch, and last weekend I decided that we were going to attempt the project. The only ingredients are masa harina (a special kind of corn flour) and water. A tortilla press isn't strictly necessary, but after doing some reading I decided that we'd have a much better final product if I acquired a press.  I found the masa harina at Whole Foods and the tortilla press at Sur la Table, and we were ready to get started.

Note that the tortilla press was "hecho en Mexico"--we took that as a good sign

Note that the tortilla press was "hecho en Mexico"--we took that as a good sign

I combined the masa harina with hot water according to the directions on the package and let the dough sit for an hour. Then it was time to get our tortilla assembly line going--fortunately Lane agreed to be my helper. We rolled the dough into plum-sized balls, pressed them in the tortilla press, and cooked them quickly on the griddle. Lane also worked on the guacamole--thank goodness for child labor!

The raw tortillas were very fragile--it was easy to tear the edges when extracting them from the press.  I used Kenji Lopez-Alt's trick of lining the press with a cut open Ziploc bag, which worked pretty well. I was amazed at how quickly they cooked--just a minute or two per side, which made it hard to multi-task while making them. But the tortillas stayed warm wrapped in a dish towel for a little while.  I decided to use our tortilla masterpieces in this fish taco recipe from Sam Sifton of the New York times--even though it was freezing last weekend I was determined to enjoy a dinner that reminded me of sunshine and the beach. 

Fish tacos with guacamole, lime crema, tapatio  hot sauce, and red cabbage slaw

Fish tacos with guacamole, lime crema, tapatio  hot sauce, and red cabbage slaw

The kids refused to eat any fish or cabbage, but they were enthusiastic about the fresh tortillas with guacamole and shredded cheese. While these weren't the best tortillas I've ever eaten, they were a huge step up from store-bought corn tortillas. And Josh and I thought that the fish tacos were terrific. Now we just need to plan a family vacation to Baja to compare our handiwork to the real thing!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

by Laura

We can all agree that the main reason brussels sprouts have surged in popularity is that we figured out that if you fry them or add bacon they taste way better. Steamed brussels sprouts are the worst. And I never would have thought I'd like them raw but this salad has become one of my favorites that is in my regular rotation. As with most salads, improvisation is encouraged based on what you have in the fridge and personal preference. Adapted from Food52.

1 bag shaved brussels sprouts (if you are an over achiever and want to shred them yourself, it is about 3 cups)

1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion

1/3 cup almonds, sliced and toasted

1 avocado

1/3 cup grated pecorino

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the red onion in cold water for about 15 minutes or however long it takes you to assemble everything else. Juice your lemon (you may need 2 depending on size and juiciness) into a jar or bowl. Add honey and mustard in same bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Combine brussels sprouts, almonds (any nut will do!), avocado, red onion and the pecorino. Shake up or whisk the dressing one more time before drizzling over the salad and serve immediately.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

by Elissa

While my weeknight dinners are by necessity pretty simple, I still occasionally like to pull out all the stops with an ambitious baking project. I don't feel like we've gone overboard for any of our kids' birthday celebrations -- elaborate decorations and creative goody bags are not my thing -- but I do like to make the cake from scratch. I usually opt for cupcakes, as it makes serving so much easier. This year I decided to branch out into Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, which is definitely more difficult to make than your basic buttercream.

While basic American buttercream is made with butter and confectioners sugar, Swiss meringue buttercream involves heating egg whites and sugar together, whipping them into a meringue, and then beating in the butter. I wanted to try it because it's less sweet than basic buttercream and because it's supposed to hold up better at room temperature. I did a lot of reading in advance; I knew that this had the potential to be tricky and wanted to make sure that I was familiar with the process.  These posts from Smitten Kitchen and Annie's Eats convinced me that Swiss meringue buttercream was worth the extra effort, and this tutorial from Sweetapolita was very helpful. 

For Lane's birthday in March, he requested banana cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  Ina Garten has a recipe for a chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream that sounded pretty divine, so I decided to give it a try. I heated the egg whites and sugar to 160 degrees (measuring with an instant read thermometer) to make sure we didn't have any food safety issues. Then I started whipping with my trusty KitchenAid.

Billowy meringue

Billowy meringue

It did't take long for the egg whites and sugar to begin stiffening up. But I left the mixer on for a really long time because I wanted to make sure the meringue was fully cooled before I started adding the butter. My butter was a little cooler than room temperature. It took a long time to beat in a pound and a half (!) of butter, but the texture held together. And Ina's recipe calls for a pretty insane amount of chocolate (almost two pounds), but the frosting held up well as I added in the cooled melted chocolate.

The birthday boy approved of the frosting

The birthday boy approved of the frosting

At this point, I decided to refrigerate the frosting overnight, which in hindsight was a mistake. I think it would have been fine at room temperature, and I had a hard time getting the frosting back to its original consistency the next morning. But I was able to pipe it onto the cupcakes, and the flavor was amazing, so I'm going to call it a success. 

Chocolate meringue buttercream on banana cupcakes

Chocolate meringue buttercream on banana cupcakes

While the frosting was delicious, the chocolate flavor was so strong that it didn't taste all that different from a whipped chocolate ganache (which is normally my favorite chocolate frosting). I saw some recipes for a chocolate meringue buttercream that called for barely any chocolate at all, and I wanted to make sure that my chocolate frosting packed a real punch. Bottom line: although it was delicious, I'm not sure the extra effort was worth it for a chocolate meringue buttercream.

When Elenor turned three in July, I decided I wanted to try my hand at vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. And this time, the effort definitely paid off. The texture of the frosting was unbelievably silky, and it was decided less sweet than frosting made with confectioners sugar. It is very buttery, but that's a plus in my book! And the frosting held up beautifully to heat and humidity. Rather than refrigerating the frosting overnight, I frosted the cupcakes the night before and then froze them, frosting at all. I took them out of the freezer 2-3 hours before serving and they were perfect. 

Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream (the black specks are vanilla seeds, not dirt)

Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream (the black specks are vanilla seeds, not dirt)

I whipped up some more Swiss meringue buttercream in the fall, when I made three dozen cupcakes for a fundraiser for Lane's school. I tried a salted caramel variation, and it was pretty heavenly.

Clockwise from back left: salted caramel, chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream, and lemon with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Clockwise from back left: salted caramel, chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream, and lemon with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Next I can't wait to try a fruit variation.  While Swiss meringue buttercream is not an everyday undertaking, I think it's worth the hassle for special occasions and large scale baking.

Lemony Baked Seabass with Breadcrumbs

by Laura

Seabass is my favorite fish, and SURPRISE, it is also super expensive, so I will start by saying you can use any budget-friendly mild fish (e.g. tilapia). Some reviewers of the original recipe even said they tried it with good results on chicken, which I may try next. If you need to make a meal for a special occasion though, I recommend splurging on the seabass. The recipe below is for just two, so make adjustments as necessary.

Seabass with Breadcrumbs

adapted from Dave Lieberman

2 Chilean Seabass filets (about 6 oz. each)

1.5 slices bread (I used an old loaf of multigrain sandwich bread I was trying to get rid of!)

2 tbsp butter plus one pad large enough to coat whatever baking dish you're using

1 lemon

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cup flat parsley leaves, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 and place your baking dish with the pad of butter in the oven to melt the butter. Cut the bread into small pieces. I cut the bread into about 6 narrow rows and then again in the opposite direction to make small crumb-size pieces. (The original recipe has you do this with a food processor but this took just a couple minutes and no food processor to wash!).

Heat the remaining butter plus the smashed garlic cloves in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Once it starts bubbling a little bit remove it from the heat. By now the butter should be melted in the baking dish. Remove it from the oven and place your fish filets in the dish. Season with salt and pepper. Zest the lemon over the fish and sprinkle thyme over that, followed by a healthy squeeze of lemon juice. 

Going back to your melted butter garlic mixture, remove the garlic clove if you're scared of too much garlic. Alternatively, you can kind of mash it up in the butter with a spoon so it is in a few pieces. Add the breadcrumbs, parsley and salt and pepper to the butter mixture and stir. Place spoonfuls of the breadcrumbs over the fish (I had more than would fit on top - don't throw it away! Just add them around the fish - they end up crunchy and delicious!)

Bake fish with breadcrumbs in the oven for 12-15 minutes. So good!!

Final product served with baked sweet potato disks and sautéed spinach and kale. 

Holiday Snack Mix

By Katherine

I love sweet, spicy nuts - to snack on, to top my salads, and to give as holiday gifts. In the last several years, I have made candied pecans and spicy brittled peanuts, but last week a new recipe caught my eye. It is from David Lebovitz, one of my favorite food bloggers/cookbook authors, and when I saw that he called this one of his "greatest hits," I knew I needed to pay attention. And after making it, I'm quite sure this is going to become a holiday tradition for me. 

The full recipe can be found here. Instead of re-typing it here, I will just give you a quick rundown. You toast two cups of your favorite raw nuts (I used a combination of pecans, cashews, and almonds) for ten minutes at 350, then mix them with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and maple syrup.  Add 2 cups of mini pretzels (I used Trader Joe's Multi-Grain Pretzel Nuggets, which worked quite well, although the original recipe calls for mini twists) and 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), and return everything to the oven to toast for another 15 minutes or so.  If the pretzels you are using are especially salty, you may want to reduce the amount of added salt. This is a wonderfully easy recipe, and I haven't been able to stop sneaking handfuls - so much for the hostess gift I was planning to bring to our Christmas celebration later this week! Happy holidays!

Winter Quinoa Bowl with Goat Cheese

by Laura

Thanksgiving weekend was its usual calorie-fest and so when I got home, I wanted to make a big batch of something healthy to eat the following week for lunch. As the title suggests, you can substitute any vegetables for the kale and brussels sprouts, but I think this combination came out really great, so I recommend starting here.

Winter Quinoa Bowl

adapted from Stuck on Sweet

Rinse the quinoa before cooking for best results

Rinse the quinoa before cooking for best results


1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed

3 cups chicken broth (water works in a pinch!)

3 tbsp olive oil

1-2 cups brussels sprouts, cut lengthwise

1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

1/2 cup almonds

1/4 - 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and drain quinoa and cook according to package instructions. Using broth helps give it a little extra flavor, but it is not necessary! While it cooks, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan and add butternut squash and season with salt and pepper. Cook until you can cut through it with a fork without too much effort - about 12 - 15 minutes.

Remove the squash and set aside. Add remaining olive oil to the same pan and add the brussels sprouts. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring several times. Add kale to pan with the brussels and cook until it is slightly wilted - just a minute or two - add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove veggies and place in the bowl with the squash. In the same pan, toast the almonds for 2-3 minutes. By now, the quinoa should be done and you can start assembling your bowls. Scoop a layer of quinoa in the bottom, followed by squash/vegetable mixture, followed by nuts, followed by goat cheese followed by a sprinkle of cranberries. 

It is tasty right at that moment, cold out of the fridge, or reheated. I am already planning it again after Christmas when I feel horrible about myself all over again!

Butternut Squash "Cream" Sauce

by Laura

This is a great meal when you are looking for something comforting but not trying to eat a 1000 calorie, cream-laden bowl of pasta. The pureed butternut squash makes the sauce creamy without adding any dairy and I used Barilla Plus pasta, which has added fiber and protein (and tastes much better than whole wheat pasta in my opinion!). It is also great leftover for lunch!

Served with roasted brussels sprouts and balsamic

Served with roasted brussels sprouts and balsamic

Sausage, Spinach and Butternut Squash Pasta

Recipe base from Skinny Taste

8 oz. pasta (I used penne)

4-5 links of spicy italian turkey sausage (chicken or pork would work too!)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopping red onion

2 cloves garlic minced

1 lb butternut squash peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (the pre-cut and peeled kind at the grocery store works great)

2 cups baby spinach

3 tbsp grated parmesan

5-7 sage leaves thinly sliced

Red pepper flakes to taste

Heat a large frying pan on medium heat. Remove the casing from the sausage and cook sausage until browned through, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. While sausage is cooking, boil a large pot of water and cook the butternut squash until soft enough to easily stick a fork in it - about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the squash and place in a blender, keeping the water boiling for the pasta. Cook pasta according to the package instructions. If you can remember (I never do!!) reserve one cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. Season the squash with salt and pepper and then puree it. I needed some water to get the squash to actually puree, so add a little if you need it. Remove sausage once cooked through and set aside. In the same pan, add the oil and cook onions and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pureed butternut squash, spinach and parmesan into the pan and stir until spinach is wilted. Add sage and stir again. Add sausage and pasta and combine until the whole pan of is heated through. I topped mine with some red pepper flakes and another sprinkle of parmesan. Enjoy!

Celery Soup

by Laura

My roommate (now he could also be called my fiance - woohoo!) is generally very easy to please when it comes to food and complimentary of my cooking. However, there are a just a couple of foods he really doesn't like that I enjoy, so every once in a while I try to sneak it into my cooking and convince him he actually does like whatever it is. If my dad hates cheese but can love lasagna, I thought surely I could get John to like celery if combined with the right ingredients. Well, I was wrong. Because this celery soup was so good and not even all that healthy, and still...not for John. 

I thought it was delicious but second guessed myself without a second opinion. So, I took leftovers to work and got confirmation that it is, in fact, very tasty to anyone who doesn't hate celery. Also, easy to throw together and could be made much healthier by reducing both cream and butter quantities (which I already did from the original recipe).

Just one photo - sorry. Working on it!

Just one photo - sorry. Working on it!

Celery Soup

adapted from Bon Appetit

1 head of celery, chopped

1 potato (I used russet), peeled and chopped

1/2 of a large onion, chopped

1/2 stick butter

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cups low sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)

1/4 cup fresh dill plus extra for garnish

1/3 cup heavy cream

Olive Oil and flaky sea salt for serving

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add celery, potato and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook stirring until the onion softens, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until the potato is tender, another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the dill and puree with an emersion blender (or transfer to a blender and puree).  Stir in cream and serve right away with drizzled olive oil and flaky sea salt. Garnish with fresh dill or celery leaves.