Dinner with Kirsten

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500 Things, #1: Sundae School Ice Cream

October 16th, 2011 · 61 Comments

Sundae School Ice Cream Cape Cod

500 Things to Eat Before it's Too Late

The book 500 Things to Eat Before it’s Too Late by Jane and Michael Stern (they used to write the Road Food column for Gourmet) has become my road trip bible. They ate their way around the most iconic and treasured local diners, bakeries and mom-and-pop eateries around the U.S., and documented 500 of their favorite, mapping them out and writing the up. Every trip I take, or even tootling around New Jersey where I live now, I make sure this book is stowed away in my handbag, ready to whip out to identify what “need-to-eat” item might be in the area.

So, when my new husband and I decided to set out on a New England road trip for our honeymoon, I consulted this book and found out that we were headed into ice cream paradise. I’ve never thought of myself as an ice cream lover – I’m more likely to crave jelly doughnuts or chocolate chip cookies – but maybe that’s because I didn’t grow up eating New England-style ice cream. They take their ice cream seriously – according to 500 Things, people in the region consume twice as much ice cream per capita as anywhere else, and cute little ice cream shops are everywhere.

Geoff and I didn’t waste any time; Once we hit New England we made a point of eating ice cream at least once a day. It was consistently creamy and rich and amazing, but we made sure to stop at Sundae School in Dennisport, Mass., the one shop on our route that was recommended by 500 Things. I chose the flavor Bass River Mud, a combo of coffee ice cream with chocolate mix-ins, so flavorful and decadent that it ranks right up there among the best ice creams I’ve ever eaten. It was ice cream paradise at it’s greatest, with the added bonus that I was able to check one more of the 500 things off my “to eat” list.

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The Best Molasses Cookies

November 22nd, 2009 · 70 Comments

Molasses Cookie and Milk

I was browsing Amazon.com for cookbooks, when I had an amazing idea: Why not test-drive these books before buying? So, I went to my library’s Web site and requested every cookbook on my Amazon wish list. A few days later I was trekking home (in the rain) with 50 pounds of borrowed cookbooks, ready to start testing away.

Dorie Greenspan is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit magazine, and I’ve been wondering if I’d like her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, but it seemed a little too cliché. After all, there’s a whole blogging culture around this baking book and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join the crowd. But, I couldn’t help but be seduced by the friendly prose, stunning photography and simple-yet-special recipes. This is a home bakers’ book, with a collection of Dorie’s personal favorite recipes – the kind of book I feel like every baker can only produce once in their lifetime. After just a quick flip-through, I couldn’t wait to jump in. I’m looking forward to adding a few of Dorie’s recipes to my own baking repertoire. (And this book is definitely staying on my Amazon wish list!)

Molasses CookieThe first recipe I tried was Dorie’s Molasses Cookies. They’re chewy, a little crispy and oh-so flavorful. I ate almost the entire batch on my own (DANGER: They’re completely addictive!), and I’m making a fresh batch this week to take home for Thanksgiving. It’s a wonderful all-purpose, “anytime” cookie, easy enough to make for no reason at all and special enough to make for occasions of all kinds. I love it!
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→ 70 CommentsTags: baking · dessert · recipes

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Pasta with Peas

October 3rd, 2009 · 64 Comments

pasta with peas

I’ve been so busy lately that cooking has devolved into a dirty game of survival rather than a hobby. (Seriously . . . last week I burned a frozen pizza because I cranked up the heat hoping it would cook faster.) But, as I’ve seen my free time dwindle away, I’ve become more and more obsessed with building an arsenal of the quickest, easiest most effortless recipes possible. And this one’s a keeper.

I’m trying to break away from my Mom’s American-style spaghetti with meat sauce, and this recipe is the perfect substitute. You do start with a pasta, but then you create the sauce (I know what you’re thinking . . . “No jar?!”) with chopped veggies, a little tomato paste and a splash of pasta water. Then it’s finished off with a handful of Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil – so simple, but completely and utterly delicious. [Read more →]

→ 64 CommentsTags: easy weeknight dinner · italian · quick fix

The Perfect Rhubarb Pie

June 7th, 2009 · 55 Comments

rhubarb pie

I always say my favorite pie is rhubarb (without strawberries), but when I happened to think about it recently, I couldn’t remember the last time I had baked or even eaten a rhubarb pie. And with the ultra short rhubarb season upon us, I knew I had to get baking!

So, I was thrilled when a friend asked me to make dessert for his weekend dinner party. I would have 7 people eagerly awaiting a sweet finale. Then the challenge was finding the right recipe. [Read more →]

→ 55 CommentsTags: baking · dessert · recipes · weekend project

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

April 6th, 2009 · 71 Comments


I was so amazed by this dessert – it’s unlike anything I’ve ever eaten! The base is a meringue that’s crisp on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside. To use the leftover egg yolks, you make a lemon curd to spread on top. Add in whipping cream and your berries of choice, and it’s all absolutely divine. [Read more →]

→ 71 CommentsTags: baking · dessert · fruit · recipes

Indoor Baby-Back Ribs

March 29th, 2009 · 57 Comments


Me: “Do you think we can get a smoker?”
Geoff: “We can’t really smoke inside!”

We went on to debate smoking meat in the park or propping a grill out on the fire escape, but for now, indoor oven-braised baby-back ribs are the closest I’m going to get to home-made BBQ.

I’ve had my eye on the Fairway meat counter’s beautiful ribs for a while – I’m always tempted to buy, but never know what the heck I would do with them. So, I was excited when I saw that Alton Brown’s rib recipe, one of the “Top 100” recipes on FoodNetwork.com, is made in the oven. Yay!

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→ 57 CommentsTags: dinner · recipes · salad · weekend project

Lemon Yogurt Cake

February 27th, 2009 · 66 Comments

yogurt cake

This is one of those stand-by recipes that I’m always craving. I remember devouring this issue of Bon Appétit, way back in February 2005. I had just returned from a trip to Europe, where I ate my way through Paris and completely fell in love with the food. Would I ever taste food like that again, I wondered? This issue gave me hope with a collection of simple French dessert recipes – the traditional ones learned at grandmothers’ elbows in kitchens all over France. These recipes were just the tools I needed to re-capture a little bit of the French food magic in Omaha, Nebraska.

A couple things I love about this cake: subtle lemony flavor; an extremely moist crumb; Is it breakfast, dessert or a snack? All of the above; yogurt instead of butter = the lighter side, as far as cakes go. [Read more →]

→ 66 CommentsTags: baking · breakfast · dessert · french · quick fix

Chocolate Mocha Brownies

February 11th, 2009 · 65 Comments


I have to admit that I hardly ever make brownies from scratch. I usually make whatever mix is handy, most recently a Betty Crocker version from the local grocery store, bought in a craving-induced after-work stop. They were bad. So now I keep an emergency mix of my favorite variety on hand – Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownies.

When I was invited to bring a dessert to a recent dinner party, I eyed my box of stand-by mix in the cupboard. I knew they were good, but I had a whole Saturday afternoon and a few brownie recipes in my Web site recipe boxes. I decided to go for scratch brownies. [Read more →]

→ 65 CommentsTags: baking · dessert · quick fix · recipes

Mario’s Meatballs

February 10th, 2009 · 71 Comments


I love meatballs, but I hardly ever make them. Left to my own uninspired devices I’m more likely to quickly brown beef, add a jar of marinara sauce and call it dinner. It’s my Midwestern version of “Pasta Bolognese” – my “again!?” dinner that Geoff is continually forced to veto. So, I decided to put in some extra effort and make meatballs.

Mario Batali is my all-time favorite celebrity chef. I love his restaurants, his cookbooks and, when they were still on-air, I loved his cooking show, Molto Mario.  I remember him saying once that American meatballs were ruined by an over-abundance of wealth. In Italy, meatballs were invented to make meat stretch further when times were tough – cheaper ingredients like eggs and bread were added as fillers. [Read more →]

→ 71 CommentsTags: dinner · italian · recipes · weekend project

Souffléed Macaroni and Cheese

February 1st, 2009 · 80 Comments

mac and cheese

I first heard the name “Clementine Paddleford” last year, as I uploaded old article to the Gourmet Web site. She wrote a column called “Food Flashes” in the 1940’s. Today, they’re great to read because of the history – the country was a very different place back then. You can check them out here. [Read more →]

→ 80 CommentsTags: cheese log · dinner · french · quick fix · recipes