Fresh pasta on a Wednesday night

After working 10 days in a row, Shane wanted nothing more than to spend a few hours making fresh pasta. That’s how Shane rolls… the dough. Ha ha ha!

Here he is in action.

Sid can’t resist flour, it’s messy but keeps him from sticking his fingers in the pasta machine.

Lovely bundles waiting to be cooked.

The finished product. Served with meatballs…

Or not. So delicate and delicious and fresh. What a guy.

Easter, finally

Ok, so it’s taken me a week to get around to posting about Easter. Or has it been two? Honestly, I don’t know, but here we go. Our annual Easter Saturday party was HUGE.

In advance of the weekend, it was seeming like we were expecting a lot of people to attend. Because of that, I excused myself from any planning whatsoever.  Not to say I didn’t help, I did some prep, some set-up and a lot of clean up but the credit, as always goes to my mom and dad.

The event was orchestrated and primarily executed by my mom, with a ton of help (and the littlest bit of griping) from my dad and a lot of help from everyone else. To eat there were several pies, many salads, Gail’s famous hot cross buns, strawberries, bloody Marys, mimosas and tons of candy.

We had over 50 people in attendance and 160 eggs for the kids to find. The party went from noon to night.

The favorite new twist was Pysanka, or Ukranian egg decorating. It’s a complicated process that involves several layers of wax meticulously applied to the egg and multiple dippings in vibrant dye. It’s awesome.

Happy Easter folks. Now for more snow.



Inside out German chocolate torte

Shane had a pretty significant birthday last weekend. “I don’t want a big party,” he said “birthdays are for cake with kids.” So we had a very small party, with cake, and kids.

I made him his very favorite cake, Martha Stewart’s Inside Out Chocolate Torte. It’s the same cake I made him for a different significant birthday, oh, about 10 years ago.

I neglected to take any good pictures of the cake, however. So above you’ll see the man of the hour devouring the last slice a couple of days later.

• Inside Out German Chocolate Torte •
From Martha

For the cake:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch spring form pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the paper; set aside. Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted; set aside.

Sift together flour and salt; set aside. Place sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Add vanilla and chocolate mixture, and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Divide batter between the two pans using an offset spatula to distribute batter evenly, and smooth the layers. Bake until the center is set, about 20 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool completely before un-molding.

For the filling:
1 fourteen-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans

Place milk, butter, and vanilla in a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and combined.

Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl, and, whisking constantly, add some of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks until combined. Whisk the mixture back into the saucepan, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in coconut and pecans. Cool completely, and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use, up to 2 days.

For the ganache:
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups heavy cream

Place chips in a large heat-proof bowl.

Bring cream to a boil over medium-high heat; pour directly over chocolate. Allow to sit 10 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir chocolate and cream until well combined and smooth. Let sit at room temperature until cooled and just thickened, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes, but up to an hour depending on the temperature of the room.

Place one layer on a 9-inch cardboard cake round. Spread filling over the layer, and invert the second layer onto the top, leaving the smooth side up. Press down gently on top layer to evenly distribute filling to edges. Using a metalspatula, smooth filling flush with sides of cake. Refrigerate until ready to glaze.

Carefully transfer torte off cardboard round onto a wire rack set over a baking pan. Pour enough ganache glaze over cake to fully coat, shaking pan gently to help spread ganache if necessary. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. The ganache in the pan may be melted and strained through a fine sieve and added back to glaze. Pour remaining glaze over torte, allowing excess to drip off sides. If top is not smooth, gently shake pan or run an offset spatula quickly over surface. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving. Carefully slide the cake off of the wire rack and onto serving platter.


Cooking with Sid

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Here are the top 5 reasons I rarely cook:

  1. I get home too late
  2. I get home too late
  3. I get home too late
  4. I get home too late
  5. Sid

With my parents, sister and brother-in-law away this week, we had to re-jigger our schedule a bit, which left me cooking a seemingly simple dinner with 2 year old Sid while Shane picked Rose up at the gym.

Ravioli with sage butter takes very little effort, you simply boil the water and sautée a handful of sage leaves in butter while the ravioli cooks. Simple.

Also simple? Steamed asparagus with 2-minute blender hollandaise sauce (recipe below). Honestly, if I were left alone to make this meal it would not take more than 20 minutes. But with Sid, it somehow took over an hour.

Sid really likes to “help” cook, which to be truthful, is generally not all that helpful. I unplugged the food processor and let him squeeze an already squeezed lemon into the spout. When he began to repeatedly drop the rind through the spout and into the hollandaise, I put the lid on and let him drop lemon rind into the lid.

When he realized he could remove the lid and resume dropping the rind into the partially-made sauce, I removed him from the counter. This resulted in 10 minutes of screaming “I need the lemon! Please have the lemon! I neeeed it!” I think you get the picture.

Not to worry! Dinner was ultimately served and consumed by Shane, Rose and I. The hollandaise sauce was easy and delicious. Sid opted for a bowl of peanut butter.

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• Quick Blender Hollandaise •
from The New New York Times Cookbook
makes 3/4 cup

1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt, to taste
Pinch of cayenne

Melt butter and keep it hot, but do not brown. Put the yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in the container of an electric blender or food processor. Blend on low speed, gradually adding the hot butter until the sauce is thickened and smooth.

Scenes from a pizza night

Everyone is delighted when Shane decides to make pizza, we really think it’s the best “za” around. Because the pizza making is an ongoing process and he serves the pies as they come out of the oven, we like hang out with him in the kitchen while he cooks. It’s a really fun time, and everyone gets involved, in one way or another, even if it’s just making the chit-chat… or making a mess.

Now don’t worry, that 500 degree oven kills all germs. At least, that’s what we like to think.


Not a dog’s day

 Rose helped me plan the meals for this week. She’s opinionated, and often decisive, which makes her perfect for the job.

For Monday’s dinner, she penciled in hot dogs, to which I naturally added a couple of hearty salads. Later, a couple of folks said they might like burgers with their dogs. Shane made plans to fire up the grill, and that was Monday settled.

On the way home from the gym tonight, Rose told me she no longer wanted hot dogs, she was really in the mood for a burger instead. 

We sat down at the table where Sid was already eating a plate-full of ketchup with a fork. I gave him some hot dog, he screamed “No! I don’t want it! Take it off! Take it off!” 

I removed the offending morsel from his plate at which point he immediately took another hot dog, which he spent the remainder of the meal massaging with mayonnaise by hand, while intermittently exclaiming “I sticky, I sticky, I sticky!”

I had barely tucked into my carrot salad with harissa, feta & mint* and my sesame miso great beans when Rose said “Mom! Look at my burger! Will you take a picture? Will you put it on the blog? Please? Pleeeeease?”

How could I say no.

The burgers and the carrots were the clear winners tonight. But my generous dad took one for the hot dog team, and ate the guy that had been hand-massaged with mayo. Nice one pop.

*We use the recipe from Smitten Kitchen but significantly increase all of the seasonings, the oil and the feta to make it extra-yummy.

Vietnamese noodle salad: “super-easy except for the prep”

So glad my sister reminded us about this recipe. We all absolutely love Vietnamese Noodle Salad with (or without) Shrimp. And it really is super-easy, except for the prep, specifically all of that julienning.

Fortunately, my mom did a lot of the prep in advance, which made it easier for my sister to single-handedly pull together a massive platter piled high with this delicious dish.

In case you’re wondering what we have planned for next week: Monday is going to be burgers, dogs, Carrot Salad with Harisa, Feta & Mint and a green salad. On Tuesday, Rose has requested sushi takeout instead of our usual Frank Pepe. Wednesday will be Linguini with Pecorino, Pepper & Arugula. And on Thursday Shane’s going to make some of his awesome pizza pie from scratch. We like to wing it on Friday.

Happy weekend!

The week: part 2

My last post was all about planning dinner for the week, so I thought today I’d post about prepping all the food for the week, breakfast and lunches too.

Since the kids love pancakes and I’m always making them on weekend mornings anyhow, I’ve taken to making extra pancakes which I heat up in the oven on school days. I use this pancake recipe. We go back and forth between liking them thin and thick, right now we’re in a thick phase, with chocolate chips.

If you’re going to do this, I recommend not refrigerating the cooked pancakes, they get too stiff. Just wrap them well and leave them on the counter, they’ll last 2-3 days easy. When you wake up, wrap however many pancakes you need in foil, pop them in a warm oven while you shower, and they’re ready when you the kids get up (assuming you do things in that order).

I’m an oatmeal junkie and that’s what I bring to work for my breakfast. Rather than the tedious process of microwaving at work, I do overnight oats in a jar. You combine some old fashioned oats with the liquid of your choice (I like almond milk), sweetener (maple syrup) and whatever else you like. Let it sit in the fridge overnight or for a day or two and it’s edible right out of the jar.

We do lunches the night before because we’re just not that good in the mornings. I can’t imaging finding time to make lunch in the morning short of waking up in the fives, which is something I really try my best not to do, ever.

At the top of this page is pictured Sid’s lunch for tomorrow. He’s got a sun butter sandwich, some of the shepherd’s pie that Shane made (which Sid would never eat for me but may eat for the nice ladies at daycare), an applesauce packet, yogurt and an orange.

My lunch is almost always a hearty salad. I like to make up a batch or two of grains on the weekend (farro, quinoa, wild rice, barley) and then roast up a root vegetable or two (beets, sweet potatoes, carrots) and use those as my base.

The night before I add fresh herbs, olive oil, a dash of vinegar, maybe some cheese or nuts and a big handful of greens at the very top. If you put the greens in last and then don’t toss the salad until you’re ready to eat it, the greens don’t wilt in the dressing.

Shane takes care of his own lunch (thank god), and we tag team making the kids lunches. Rose alternates between buying lunch at the cafeteria and bringing a sandwich, pasta or whatever is currently working for her.

So once all of that is done and while Sid has his afternoon nap I plan the dinners for the week (see below). Our dinner plan includes recipes, when relevant, and has spots for family members to volunteer for shopping, cooking etc. We also put notes about who will or will not be around for dinner and whether Rose is buying her lunch the next day, or needs it prepared.

And look at that, I only spent most of the day getting our food sorted out for the week. Happy work week friends!


The Week

Sid surveyed the assortment of meal-related items on the countertop today, looked at me and said: “The veek, the veek!” Sid was correct, I was preparing our food for the week (aka ‘veek’).

Because that’s what I do on weekends, I prepare for the week ahead, I make pancakes for my kids, I do laundry, and I dress ever so slightly more casually. Make of that what you will.

Here’s what we’re having for dinner this week: Monday Anna is making African Peanut Soup with Sriracha. Tuesday is our favorite Vegetarian Chili, which I just this moment finished making. On Wednesday Shane will probably prepare the Penne alla Vodka. Thursday is Frank Pepe’s Pizza (yes! it finally opened) which Chris will pick up after work. And on Friday we like to get really wild and decide what to eat at the last minute.

Here are a few highlights from last week:

Shane’s carbonara.

A simple cheese frittata, salad & tomatoes with fennel oil.

Roasted root veggies, broccoli & this farro dish (which we thought was perfectly good, but not as life-altering as promised).

Happy work week everyone!



Craving gratin

  Shane told us last night that he’s really been craving potato gratin. For dinner, he made gratin dauphinois, roasted cubanelle peppers, salad with spinach and raw yellow beets, and burgers (not pictured). 

Actually, I made the salad. And for the record, I intend to rack up hella corporate wellness program points for the variety of color on my plate.