Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Well, I am a headin' East tomorrow and want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! I am so excited to be in Brooklyn for the holidays this year....lots of places to visit too.

Here's a partial list:

Blue Apron Foods -for great cheeses, chocolates and charcuterie....
Frankie's 457 -for the best BLT ever and a Bloody Mary to wash it down!
Purl Soho-to actually see all the beautiful wools I see on their blog....
Eataly- to see what all the hype is about!
Babycakes- to have a gluten-free treat!
Pearl River Mart-to stock up on some basic tea towels, bowls and chopsticks.....
Moma store- 'cause it's loaded with cool designs in home goods and I love Muji designs....
Sahadi's- it wouldn't be a trip home without going here to get some olives, nuts, cheese and other great stuff at incredible prices.....
Blue Ribbon- for oysters of course! and to say hi to my friends there......
Prime Meats- another gem owned by the "Franks" and a new found fave......
Frannie's- haven't had any pizza yet that's this good in Brooklyn!
Pulino's- love, love, love A16 in San Fran so want to see what Nate Appleman's got going on in NYC....

Notice how most of my stops involve food? What can I say....

See you all back here in the new year....until then, Happy Eating!!



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making a Difference with Coffee

Did you know that currently one in four people with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy are employed?*

Well, Aspire CoffeeWorks knows this and they also know that when given a chance, these folks can flourish and be vital in the community. This is why they launched a joint venture with local roaster, Metropolis Coffee Company, to help create new jobs. Aspire is one of metropolitan Chicago's leading human service non-profits that is helping to change the lives of adults and children with disabilities. They are dream makers! And the really big deal here is that 100% of their net proceeds from the sales of their coffee go to their programs that are truly life-changing.

So, go to their website and order some coffee- you can also help make a difference!!

Here are the three blends they offer....great gift idea, so what are you waiting for??

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Baker's Workhorse: The Stand Mixer

For years I coveted one of these...but the purist in me kept winning out (that and uh, the price tag!) But a couple of years ago, I took the plunge and got myself this time-and-life-saving machine.

This weekend, I was able to prep and bake at least three times the amount of holiday goodies as I would have with just my trusty whisk and wooden spoon method. I love that you can walk away while it happily churns your ingredients together! And clean up is a cinch with just the bowl and paddle to contend with. ( I put the bowl in the dishwasher so even better)

The price for stand mixers can be anywhere from $199.99 all the way up to and over $1000.00- I chose the KitchenAid for it's reputation, reliability and the fact that there are so many colors to fit any decor. I had used one before and felt that it was easy to use and with ten speeds, had the right amount of power.

Cuisinart came out with a stand mixer a few years ago- and it has gotten some great reviews from Cooks Illustrated for it's excellent ability to plow through heavy bread and pizza doughs. And now I am seeing that Breville also has joined the mixer category with their version-a powerful 550 watt motor and a "load sensor" that will keep the machine moving at precision speed when it detects a heavier load. Wow- technology is amazing.

So if you love to bake, then maybe it's time to put one of these on your wish list and hey, maybe Santa will be good to you this year!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Simple Carrot Soup

Cold days scream for hot soup and it seems you just can't find a good bowl of soup anywhere these days- it's so easy to make too so I wonder why this is? It's times like this I think I should open up a "soup bar" and solve this issue (at least in my neck of the woods!)

This recipe is based on one of Alice Waters' recipe from The Art of Simple Food, and it couldn't be any easier or simpler to throw together. It's up to you if you want to vary it by adding yogurt, for instance, or spice it up with jalapeño and cilantro even throw in some toasted cumin seeds.

Here is what I did:

Saute one onion, sliced thin, in 2 tablespoons of butter.

Cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced (about 3 cups). I added one sliced jalapeño here and some chopped cilantro.

Season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

Add 4 cups of broth ( I used chicken, but you can use vegetable stock as well- water is not going to give it enough depth of flavor but you can use it in a pinch).

Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes until carrots are tender.

Cool off and puree in a blender.

Top with more cilantro and toasted cumin seeds.

Yield: about one quart


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rustic Holiday Decor

felted owl ornaments from crateandbarrel.com

For whatever reason I am really crazy for the rustic woodland sort of look this Christmas-and there are so many options too! From ornaments to lights, garlands and wreaths...now all I need is an idyllic cabin in the woods and I will be all set!

mahogany wreath and ornaments from terrain.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Pancetta

It's no secret that I love at least two maybe three things (at least for this post!).

1. risotto
2. pancetta
3. Jamie Oliver

I love how Jamie makes risotto and for me, it always turns out great no matter which recipe of his I happen to follow.

Here what I did was take his basic risotto recipe and added my version of roasted pumpkin with sage and shallots- the pancetta I just crisped up in the oven with some fresh sage leaves and served it right on top. It's really a comforting and satisfying meal on a cold night.

To make the roasted pumpkin:

1 small sugar pumpkin, approx 2 lbs
4 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 good sprigs fresh sage leaves

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400°.

2. Peel, seed and cut pumpkin into 2 inch pieces (you can save the seeds and roast them like I did and serve a few on top as garnish!)

3. Toss pumpkin, shallots and sage in olive oil and spread out on a sheet pan.

4. Roast for approx. 30 minutes, turning about midway.

After you have roasted the pumpkin (and you can do this ahead of time, in fact it's easier that way) and it has cooled off, chop it a bit finer (yes it will be a bit mushy but this is okay). Add it to the risotto at Stage 3 and you are just about done.

It wouldn't be complete without some crispy pancetta to top it with (you could use bacon too) and all I did was bake a few pieces in my toaster oven at 375° while I was making the risotto.

Hope you enjoy!