Blizzard party: Part 2

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’ve had a lot of snow here in Boston, with no end in sight. In the midst of it all, our good friends Ian and Britta, and their four (!) kids came to visit.

Ian & Britta thought we were brave and crazy to invite all six of them to stay with us (during a blizzard, no less). And we thought they were brave and crazy to come visit us with all those kids (during a blizzard, no less).

Aside from some sleepless nights and the fact that our parting gift to each other’s families was a stomach bug, a great time was had by all. Seriously, we had a great time. We always do with those guys.

On the second night of their stay, Shane decided to bust out the Smokey Joe we got him for Christmas and grill up some local organic burgers. He grilled them outside, in the snow, in sub-zero temperatures, while his ‘Gansett froze in his hand. What a guy.

Not to be outdone by himself, Shane also made “winter margaritas” and twice-fried french fries, in his Fry Daddy. My mom and I made a couple of salads to round things out and Ian grilled up some additional burgers on the stove top, while holding either one of two twin toddlers the entire time.

Hopefully I’ll get around to posting part 1 of the blizzard party soon.

Cake: Part 2

VeganCake_IMG_5261Remember the cake I made last weekend? I was testing out a recipe to bring to work to celebrate Jenya’s birthday. One of the gals on our team is vegan and lately I’ve been enjoying the challenge of making a delicious dessert that everyone in our group can enjoy.

This amazing vegan chocolate cake was a roaring success. It’s super-rich and moist, the frosting is heavenly, and it’s quick enough that you can make it after putting the kids to bed on a weeknight.

• Delicious Vegan Cake Topped with Chocolate Ganache •
cake from this recipe and this recipe

for the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

for the ganache:
6 ounces (1 cup) good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used the kind that you get in the dairy alternatives section of the grocery store)
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Heat the oven to 350° F. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sift. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk until smooth, or pour through strainer in to a bowl and break up lumps, pressing them through. Mix again, and pour into a greased and lined 9-inch round cake pan. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the floor several times to pop air bubbles. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. Do not over-bake. Cool before removing from the pan.

While the cake is baking, make the ganache. Put the chocolate chips into a small to medium sized heat proof bowl. Bring the maple syrup and coconut milk to a gentle boil in a small saucepan. When the mixture boils, pour it over the chocolate chips and let sit until the chocolate chips are melted. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Remove cake from pan and place it bottom side up on a rack. When cake is cool, slowly pour the ganache over the cake, letting it drip down the sides a bit.

Let sit for several hours for ganache to set, then remove cake from rack onto a serving plate. Serve at room temperature. 

Cake

Cake_IMG_3763Today was probably the most productive and gratifying day I’ve had, at home alone with two kids, in the past 14 months.

What made today so special? It wasn’t that with both kids awake, I managed to get the entire bathroom and the kitchen floor cleaned. It wasn’t that I managed to get a whole tortilla pie made for Monday (or Wednesday) night’s dinner. It wasn’t the laundry I did and hung on the radiators because we destroyed my parents’ 20 year old dryer.

It was the cake.

Cake! I made a cake, in my “new” apartment, with my kids. And, what I mean by with my kids is that Rose and I made a cake, while Sid played with the cooking utensils, put handfuls of cat kibble into the cat water, and periodically toddled over for a finger full of batter.

Thank you Margaret Fox’s Amazon Chocolate Cake, for grounding me.

P.S. She was always a Patriots fan.

What I like about Fridays

IMG_5196It’s been over 6 months and I still don’t really feel settled into our new home/city/life yet. I still miss New York. I miss it a lot. Like in a totally heartbroken, feel like I’m in mourning most of the time, kind of  a way.

I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but hey, it’s how I feel. Except on Fridays.

Fridays feel normal, probably because they’re most like my old life. On Fridays I work from home, and then I pick up Rose from school, I chat with a mom or two at pickup, hang with my kids and… I cook dinner! (Usually)

On this particular Friday my mom and I cooked together. She made Baked Chicken Meatballs from Smitten Kitchen. I made Lemony Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Turnips, Potatoes and Horseradish Creme Fraiche from Dash & Bella.

IMG_5195The highlight of the meal was the roasted brussels etc. from Dash & Bella. First of all, it’s totally my kind of recipe, no quantities or proportions, just a general guideline, a cooks-cook kind of a recipe.

Throwing big chunks of lemon and all of those fresh herbs in with the vegetables, really makes the dish. And the combination of different textures—turnip, brussels sprouts, potato—keeps things interesting.

We had a bit of trouble with the horseradish creme fraiche, I added too much horseradish and it caused it to separate, like when you’re halfway to making butter. Next time I’ll just add a small amount of horseradish. And I promise you, next time will be soon.

The chicken meatballs were well-received as well, but couldn’t hold a candle to the veggies.

Happy Weekend. xo

• Lemony Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Turnips, Potatoes and Horseradish Creme Fraiche •
from Dash & Bella

Preheat your oven to 425 °F.
 
Use a large sheet pan or baking dish so that everything has room to get nice and crispy. We had a lot of veggies, so I used two pans.
 
For veggies we used: a few peeled garlic cloves, sage, rosemary, thyme, a big pile of halved Brussels sprouts (funky outer leaves removed), quartered Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 1.5″ pieces) turnips, and 2 quartered lemons. Make sure potatoes and turnips are cut to about the same size.
 
Put all your veggies into a bowl, and then be really generous with the salt, pepper, and olive oil; use your hands to make sure everything is well coated.
 
Pour everything out onto a sheet pan or two, and pop in the oven. Keep checking and tossing the vegetables around so that they cook evenly.
 
Bake until the vegetables are just cooked through and golden brown, the potatoes will take the longest.
 
It’s even okay to let things burn a bit. 
 
Serve with Horseradish Crème Fraîche (freshly grated horseradish and chopped parsley mixed into crème fraîche). Be careful not to add too much horseradish, you want to keep it creamy and relatively mild.IMG_5197

 

 

 

Back pocket meals

IMG_5092Rose and I spent a good part of the weekend reading food blogs. She was curious about what else is out there, and I gladly introduced her to a few of my favorites.

She was particularly drawn to Dash & Bella, Phyllis Grant’s gorgeous and enviably honest blog. I’d like to say this is because Rose has inherently good taste in food and an eye for excellent photography, but really I think it’s all the F-bombs Phyllis drops.

We read and read and read Dash & Bella. We talked about Phyllis, and her kids, and read the word “fuck” a whole bunch of times. Then we chose some recipes for the coming week.

Rose chose Monday’s meal, we drew up our meal plan for the week, and then we had another blizzard.

Which brings me to the title of this post.

What do you make for dinner when you didn’t shop before a foot of snow dropped on top of last week’s two feet of snow? Us? Well, we make Marcella’s Famous Sauce over pasta, and a salad if we’re lucky.IMG_5122

If you’re not familiar with Marcella’s Sauce, the magic of it is that you place an onion, a can of tomatoes and butter in a pot, bring it to a simmer and come back 45 minutes later. You can squish it around a bit if you like to meddle, but you really don’t have to.

Happy shoveling. xoIMG_5121

 

 

 

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower CheeseHoly cheese is this dish good! Cauliflower Cheese. Cauliflower. Cheese. It’s like macaroni & cheese, with cauliflower instead of pasta. The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, so of course it’s good, even one of my kids thought so.

I was thinking you could make a gluten-free version of this—if you’re into that kind of thing—by substituting the 4 tablespoons of flour with whatever flour-free people substitute flour with. It would be a nice way for a person who doesn’t eat wheat pasta to feel the love that is macaroni and cheese.

• Cauliflower Cheese •
from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 as a side

1 medium head (about 2 to 2 1/4 pounds) cauliflower
4 tablespoons (55 grams or 2 ounces) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (30 grams or 1 ounce) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons mustard powder (resist the temptation to skip this ingredient)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper or ground cayenne
2 cups (475 ml) milk, whole is best but low-fat will probably work just fine
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (about 155 grams or 5 1/2 ounces total) grated cheddar, the strongest you can get, preferably English or Irish (plain old cheddar will work in a pinch)
Chopped chives or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim cauliflower and remove tough core. Cut into 1 to 2-inch florets. Steam (for about 10 minutes) or par-boil (6 to 7 minutes) florets until firm but tender. Drain, if needed, and spread florets on a towel so that it can wick out as much moisture as possible

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine; cook for 1 minute to ensure you get rid of the floury taste. Add mustard powder and a pinch of cayenne or few grinds of black pepper, and stir to combine. Drizzle in milk in a thin, steady stream, whisking the whole time so that no lumps form. Season with salt and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring with a spoon; mixture should thicken. Stir in 1 1/4 cups cheddar, a handful at a time, letting each handful melt before adding the next. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings if needed.

Spread cauliflower florets in a 2-quart baking ovenproof baking dish. Spoon sauce over florets and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake until until bronzed and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes. 

Sprinkle with herbs, if desired.