Dumplings, Doughnuts and Dion

10 Mar



What do you do when your friends are out of power? You invite them over for hot showers, cell phone and iPad charging, homemade dumplings, donuts and a little Celine Dion karaoke. That’s right, Dumplings, Donuts and Dion.

After a very unexpected and dreadful ice storm, the party was just the ticket. We made two types of dumplings – Mushroom & Tofu and Pork & Cabbage with a spicy dipping sauce. They were easy, it was interactive and terribly delicious. Additionally, I picked up some super trendy doughnuts from Monuts in downtown Durham. Lemon green tea, blueberry and chocolate, Ginger and original were the perfect treat.

Sometimes parties take absolutely no preparation. They are impromptu, interactive and shockingly wild and crazy. It’s the spice of my life these days.

Truffled Fontina and Mushroom Pizza

6 Mar


I’m not really sure if truffle oil is still trendy, but it is sure still delicious. It seems to make a lot of ordinary things really special – from popcorn to pasta to pizza. Ok, maybe those are all carbs and delicious on their own …but still better with truffle oil.

This pizza is a riff on a delicious offering at Wolfgang Pizza in Greensboro. With a glass of wine and a side so marinara, it makes the perfect meal. My friends and I experimented making our own and it was a big success. This recipe couldn’t be easier and was really delicious. Don’t forget the truffle oil!

Truffled Fontina & Mushroom Pizza

  • 1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 pound cold Italian Fontina (or Taleggio), rind discarded and cheese sliced
  • 1 teaspoon white truffle oil

Put a large heavy baking sheet on lowest rack of oven, then preheat oven to 500°F.

Stretch out dough on a lightly floured surface, pulling on corners to form a roughly 16- by 13-inch rectangle. Transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper. Lightly prick onto hot baking sheet. Bake until top is puffed and pale golden in patches, 6 to 10 minutes.
Remove from oven; prick any large bubbles with a fork and flatten. Scatter mushrooms over crust, then season with salt and pepper and lay cheese on top.
Bake pizza until edge of crust is deep golden and cheese is bubbling and golden in patches, 8 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with truffle oil (if using) and season with pepper.

Brandy Snap Cookie Cups with Sorbet

3 Mar


This Saturday night, my friends Alyssa and Jess helped me experiment with a Martha Stewart cookie recipe I saw on PBS. I knew it would be a challenge and I thought failure would be funnier with friends (and wine). I was right.

This recipe is finicky but fun. Its tedious too! But, we mastered the baking time and sculpting into cup form in the second batch. I couldn’t find Golden Syrup and substituted an old bottle of Micanopy, Florida came syrup. The mossy nature of Micanopy was pungent in the cookie – so I recommend using corn syrup if you can’t find the golden stuff.

This recipe is worth a shot. If accomplished, you’ll look victorious and stylish to any guest.

Martha Stewart Brandy Snap Cups

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine flour and ginger with a whisk. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and golden syrup; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; stir in flour mixture.
Using a 2/3-ounce ice cream scoop, drop three level scoops of batter onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until flat and golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating halfway through.
Remove from oven and let cookies cool just slightly until firm, about 2 minutes; place each cookie over an inverted drinking glass or wrap around the handle of a whisk, using your hands to press and gently shape. Let set 30 seconds. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat process with remaining batter. If cookies get too cool to shape, return them to oven for a few seconds until softened. Cookies can be stored in a single layer in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

Girls Movie & Pizza Night

2 Mar


The busier life gets, the more grateful I am for weekends with friends. This weekend was full of spontaneous adventures and laughter. From serendipitous moments of humor late night at the neighborhood bar to a quiet evening at home with girlfriends in the kitchen.

On Saturday night, I had a couple of friends over for homemade pizza, cookie making, wine and a movie. We ate in the kitchen and experimented with a complicated Martha Stewart recipe before watching a last minute Oscar nominated movie. It was fun, laid back and left enough time to get a good nights sleep for Sunday activities – which was beautiful.

I’ll post the recipes this week! I hope you had a nice weekend too.

Homemade Pizza Night Menu:

  • Spring Strawberry, Orange and Almond Salad
  • Truffled Fontina and Mushroom Pizza
  • Homemade Brandy Snap Cups with Sorbet


25 Feb






These days, my office is no fantasy suite. We’re moving after thirteen years of life on Elm Street and it’s a big old mess. So, my days have been filled with mayhem, meetings and way too many Jimmy Johns sandwiches. No disrespect intended, Jimmy, but there is a sweeter world.

Between all the turkey sandwiches I’ve had a little off-time to have fun with friends and quiet time at home. Including, a very fun Name That Tune fundraiser for the Greensboro Symphony (with Mod Meals & The Fresh Market auction item!), a hike up Hanging Rock, some pecorino and spinach eggs and a great weeknight steak salad.

After the big move this week, I’ll have a little time this weekend to actually cook! Stayed tuned, I’ve got a list of recipes to test this weekend.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

18 Feb


It sure ain’t Spring yet. So, I keep looking for great healthy and hearty recipes to warm up to on the weekends. This recipe for Baked Eggplant Parmesan was a great find and extremely exceptional.

This is not the super heavy and greasy eggplant parmesan you are used to at the cliche Italian restaurant. This recipe is time intensive but healthy, just as crispy as the traditional fried, savory and light. I really encourage you to make it!

Keep up the momentum and get sledding to spring!

Cooks Illustrated Baked Eggplant Parmesan 

  • 2 lbs globe eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (2 medium eggplants)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 slices high-quality white bread, torn into quarters (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 generous tablespoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaf, chopped
  • 8 ounces whole milk mozzarella (2 cups) or 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, torn for garnish

FOR THE EGGPLANT: Toss half of eggplant slices and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in large bowl until combined; transfer salted eggplant to large colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and kosher salt, placing second batch in colander on top of first. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.

While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to fine, even crumbs, about fifteen 1-second pulses (you should have about 4 cups). Transfer crumbs to pie plate and stir in 1 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; set aside. Wipe out bowl (do not wash) and set aside.

Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour; seal bag and shake to coat eggplant. Remove eggplant slices, shaking off excess flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with bread crumb mixture; set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.

Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.

FOR THE SAUCE: While eggplant bakes, process 2 cans diced tomatoes in food processor until almost smooth, about 5 seconds. Heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of diced tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes (you should have about 4 cups). Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

TO ASSEMBLE: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.


Say “Olive You” with this Crostini

13 Feb



Are you planning a romantic meal for a snowy Valentines Day tomorrow? Here is an exceptional treat to spice up your night. Nothing says “Olive You” like toast smeared with thick ricotta cheese and salty olives and pistachios.  Use this recipe as a starter or a part of the meal. With good red wine, of course!

This crostini is bright green, tangy, spicy and savory with the balence of creamy cheese. I couldn’t get enoughs and it will become a regular treat for guests or single nights at home.

Crostini with Ricotta, Olive and Pistachio

  • 3/4 cup ricotta, drained in a sieve over night
  • 1/4 cup, chopped pistachio
  • 1/4 cup, Castelvetravo olives (they are super green and less salty)
  • 1/4 cup, good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons, chopped parsley
  • 2 anchovies, minced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon, orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch of red chili flake
  • 4 thick sliced country bread, toasted

Drain the ricotta over night in a sieve over night. This will make it thick and rich. And, season it a little with salt and pepper.

Combine everything else (except the bread) and stir together. Taste for seasoning.

Toast the bread in the broiler with a brush of olive oil. Smear with ricotta and top with olive mixture. Serve immediately.

Italian Sunday Supper

12 Feb



It seems fitting to post an ice cream dessert during a blizzard, right? Well, the ice cream is from this past Sunday when it was a bit warmer. The addition of lemoncello helped warm us up too!

This past Sunday Supper was an Italian spread for special friends. We gathered by the fire with some interesting treats from a summery cantaloupe and prosciutto to a delicious baked eggplant Parmesan. I also put together an interesting crostini with green olives, parsley, pistachios, lemon, anchovies and ricotta cheese. Sounds weird but it was a really great mix of ingredients.

With great friends and good conversation, it was a great dinner all together!

I’ll post the recipes soon. In the meantime, stay warm!

Italian Sunday Supper Menu

  • Cooks Illustrated Eggplant Parmesan
  • Ricotta, olive and pistachio crostini
  • Prosciutto and melon 
  • Lemoncello over Ice cream

Girls Night In

9 Feb





I must admit, entertaining with take-out is just as fun. This Friday night, after a very busy week,  I still wanted some quality time with friends. There is no doubt the happiest people on earth make time for their friends. So, I invited a group of girl friends over for take-out Chinese food, red wine and desserts. We gathered in my small den but my old box TV and watched the opening games of the Sochi Olympics with our very own Russian translator.

I picked up a variety of chocolate covered strawberries and petit fours from The Fresh Market dessert counter. They were elegant and decedent and a perfect late night spread.  It also proves that you don’t need a romantic date to appreciate these little elegant desserts!

Many of you ask me how I find the time to entertain so much. In fact, sometimes I do entertain with out cooking at all. And it’s just as fun.

Sunday Supper Indian Spiced Chicken Stew

5 Feb


This Sunday I actually watched the Super Bowl. Well, at least the first half and the halftime show. Bruno was great. We had to pass on the Puppy Bowl because my own puppy has the bad habit of barking and attacking any animal on the tube – and he doesn’t discriminate against extinct animals like dinosaurs.

While most folks were enjoying the traditional nachos and chicken wings, I couldn’t resist this month’s Bon Appetit recipe for Indian Spiced Chicken. I’m no pro at ethnic cuisine but this was simple and had a nice hint of Indian spice. It could not have been easier and chicken legs are a nice inexpensive cut of meat.

I made this in advance and served it by the tube. A great Sunday supper option!


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