Monthly Archives: June 2014

Delancey, Not the Lower East Side of Manhattan… the Book!

I just finished reading the book Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restuarant, A Marriage. It is written by Molly Wizenberg the New York Times bestselling author of A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table and the blogger behind Orangette. Her writing is honest, funny, poignant, and for a foodie – a must! I love a book where you feel like the author is an old friend and the read is like a conversation you are having in your kitchen, over a cup of coffee.

Molly writes about what her life was like while her husband was preparing to open a pizzeria. I should let you know – she had me at pizza! Once I realized that her husband is as crazy about pizza as I am – I was hooked! One of my favorite lines in the book is when her husband says “people will always want to eat pizza! The same way they’ll always want hamburgers and barbeque!”

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Synopsis from the book: When Molly Wizenberg married Brandon Pettit, he was a trained composer with a handful of offbeat interests: espresso machines, wooden boats, violin-building, and ice cream–making. So when Brandon decided to open a pizza restaurant, Molly was supportive—not because she wanted him to do it, but because the idea was so far-fetched that she didn’t think he would. Before she knew it, he’d signed a lease on a space. The restaurant, Delancey, was going to be a reality, and all of Molly’s assumptions about her marriage were about to change.

Together they built Delancey: gutting and renovating the space on a cobbled-together budget, developing a menu, hiring staff, and passing inspections. Delancey became a success, and Molly tried to convince herself that she was happy in their new life until—in the heat and pressure of the restaurant kitchen—she realized that she hadn’t been honest with herself or Brandon. With evocative photos by Molly and twenty new recipes for the kind of simple, delicious food that chefs eat at home, Delancey is a moving and honest account of two young people learning to give in and let go in order to grow together.

Her story brought me back to the day my husband and I decided we were going to move to Ohio. I had obvious concerns about moving: good schools, good neighborhood, was there a Lord & Taylor or Bloomingdale’s, and a must… good pizza (please let there be good pizza!).

Her husband Brandon, was inspired to open his restaurant and modeled it after Di Fara’s Pizzeria, his favorite pizza place in Brooklyn, NY. The owner De Marco has been making pizza for 49 years and takes the pies out of his 800 degree oven by hand! Watch this short 15 minute documentary, on Di Fara’s Pizza (http://vimeo.com/16077855) it’s beautifully done.

Delancey, is truly is a story about a man, a woman, a restaurant and a marriage. I loved it, and working backwards excited to read her first book A Homemade Life. I just checked it out of the library and can’t wait to get started on it this weekend! Enjoy!

It’s a Wrap! Veggie Burger Wrap that is!

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It seems like just when baseball season ends, it starts all over again. My younger son is a high school baseball player, he loves the game. Around our house, it feels like the season never really ends and is year round. If he’s not on the field for school ball, he’s conditioning, playing travel ball, taking lessons, at a baseball camp, working with the recreational league and the little kids, or watching it on television. With all the baseball it’s sometimes difficult to get a healthy meal pulled together for everyone quickly. One thing you should know about me as we begin this journey together – we are not a fast food family. Difficult for some people to believe, but it’s 100% true. Here is what we will get at drive through windows: Frosty’s and baked potatoes at Wendy’s, or iced tea. Chipoltle’s is the closest thing to fast food my family eats on the outside.  Even as a kid, my parents never took us to eat in fast food restaurants. The only exception was pizza and that was also the only time I was allowed to drink soda! However, I don’t consider pizza fast food, but that’s a story for another day!

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Okay, now back to the game! Since baseball games are usually scheduled at dinner time, it’s a real challenge to eat something quick and healthy or that can travel well to a baseball game. I’ve been known to bring salad with a nice piece of grilled salmon on top but I have to be honest, it’s not the easiest thing to eat at the field! So dinner during the high point of the season means some kind of sandwich but if you’re watching your carbs and trying to eat a healthy diet, that’s not always the best choice. However, sandwiches can be a great choice if you choose the right ingredients. Many years ago I went to at nutritionist and she gave me some great idea’s for healthy sandwiches. This is one of them.

Her favorite sandwich is a veggie burger wrap. It’s really easy and reminiscent of a falafel (middle-eastern vegetarian chickpea sandwich served in a pita bread). Here’s how you make it with a recipe for one, multiply as needed. As for the bread, use any kind of wrap bread you like; it can be 1/2 of a pita, a tortilla, a roll-up style flat-bread, or lavash. If you don’t like wraps, feel free to use a whole wheat sandwich bun or English muffin. I hope you Enjoy this as much as my family and I do!

Fill with the following:

1 veggie burger cooked as per directions on the package (I like Dr. Praeger’s California Burger)
1 wrap
2 to 3 tablespoons hummus
Shredded romaine lettuce (a good handful)
1 to 2 slices tomato
Sliced cucumber (optional)

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Spread the hummus on the wrap. Add the lettuce, veggie burger (cut to fit), and tomato on the top of one side. Now can roll the sandwich tightly but be careful not to break the wrap as you roll. What I have used here is something I found at Whole Foods called Roll-ups. Usually I use whole wheat tortillas since they are easy to find in the grocery. But, this is a very versatile recipe so use what you like. You can add whatever kind of veggie burger you like and salad filling. They are great in a lunchbox or on the field! I like to wrap them in wax paper then aluminum foil so that it cuts down on anything that might drip out of the open end of the sandwich. Let me know how you like to make a healthy sandwich. I’d like to try your recipe and share it on my blog! Enjoy!

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Chocolate Dream Cookies as Light as a Cloud!

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My niece Amanda just turned 10 years old on Monday. That makes her officially a TWEEN, a full decade! For her birthday I bought her art supplies; she’s an artist like me (insert a really big smiley face here)! I spent 2 hours in Michael’s Arts & Crafts store, searching aisle by aisle until I found just the right thing for her. She loves to draw so I sent her a really nice sketchbook that she can customize and very special set of professional color pencils. Whenever I send my niece a present, I always bake cookies to send with it. I’ve been doing that for probably 7 years now for both her and her brother. Amanda’s favorite cookies have only one criteria, lots of chocolate please! I usually send her my mothers recipe’s of rich brownie like chocolate cookies or thumb cookies with a big Hershey’s Kiss in the middle.

This year I wanted to try a new recipe that was less rich since I wanted to decorate them with colorful candy chips. My mother’s cookies stand on their own, no embellishments needed! I searched through some recipes and came across something called a double chocolate dream cookie in my recipe file. I don’t know where I got it from but I liked the name so I thought I would give it a try!

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Since it’s the first time making this recipe, I decided to do a little experimenting. I baked them as is, then decorated them differently to see how they would come out. I left some cookies plain, others I baked with chocolate centers and added candies on top, and the last version I drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with candy chips. A cookie for everyone! The candy really made them shine and added a nice artistic flair and crunch to the soft pillow like texture of the cookie. Note: Candy chips can be purchased at a candy or cake supply store. If you can’t find them, mini m&m candies or color sprinkles will work just great! Enjoy!

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2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs
2 1/2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate melts (Bakers, Wilton’s, or other brand you prefer) (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate melts (optional)
1/2 cup – chocolate candy chips, sprinkles or mini m&m candies (optional)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium size bowl add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine. Blend butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in chips and drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets. I used a small cookie scoop for this step.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are puffed and still a little soft in the middle. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. These are a very tender and light cookie, hence the name “Light as a Cloud” so be gentle with them.
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If you want the candy centers place a chocolate melt in the center of the dough and press down gently. When they come out of the oven, while they are cooling on the cookie sheet, sprinkle with a few candies on top.
Once cool, you can serve them and eat them as is, or decorate. To decorate with the white chocolate drizzle, place your white chocolate melts in a quart size Ziploc bag (leaving the bag open). You can melt them in a double boiler or use the microwave oven. Microwave for 30 seconds and then 15 seconds at a time until they are just melted, make sure not over melt if using a microwave. Mix the chocolate around in the bag by massaging the outside of the bag. Snip a tip off the bag and start to decorate the cookies. While the white chocolate is still wet, drop some candies or sprinkles on top. However you decide to make them, enjoy!

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Box Mix or Homemade? You Tell me!

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Is it ever okay to use a box mix for baking?

That’s a really good question. If you asked my mother, her answer would be absolutely, positively not! Of course she love to bake and was an excellent baker. When I was growing up I don’t even remember her using brownie mix. To be fair, we also lived near good bakeries so if she didn’t bake it herself, there was always a good back up plan. However, it is from her I learned it doesn’t take much more effort to make good fresh food from scratch. While I do agree with that, there are times when the ease of opening a box and adding an egg and oil to dry ingredients is quite appealing, quicker and often cheaper.

When I first moved to Ohio, I was invited to a cookie swap. I had never been to one before so I asked my friends what type of cookies I should bring. The instructions were easy, bake the kind of cookies you would like to receive. When I arrived, it was amazing to see the variety of cookies everyone baked. I made my best decorated sugar cookies and they were a huge hit! Another friend of mine baked fancy biscotti that were so yummy. All the women really outdid themselves except for one. She walked in, placed her plate on the table and said “I hate to bake – I’m not a baker!” Her first mistake was telling everyone she’s not a baker and hates it, then admitting she used a box mix. Her second mistake was that she burnt them and still brought them anyway! Clearly, using a box mix doesn’t mean you’re going home with a first place ribbon or in this case new friends!

So is there ever a time a box mix is okay to use? Yes, I think there is. I have used boxed brownie mixes on occasion, usually when I have to make 50 or 100 of them for school events. There are a couple brands that are very good but even then I add extra cocoa powder to the base, candy, extra chocolate chips, and top them with something special to dress them up for a night out on the town. One of the best ways I have found to dress them up is with homemade frosting. Please note: there is never an excuse to use canned frosting! Come on people, butter and sugar whipped till creamy! I dare you to read the label on the can and tell me why all 19 ingredients are needed for something that should be sugar and butter. I’m gasping for breath here! Rule number one, if you are going to use a box mix, everyone else doesn’t have to know! Let it be your secret! Rule number two, make them look good enough and taste good enough so people don’t know it came from a box. You can always add extra chips, vanilla extract, dried fruit, nuts or something else that you like. Rule number three, read the instructions carefully and follow them, they are written for a reason. Finally, not really a rule – just obvious, if you burn them, throw them out!

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What about cupcakes and cakes? A friend suggested I used a box of cake mix to make cupcakes. I had never done that before and was leary about it. She shouted their praises of ease and deliciousness and said they’re foolproof, just try it.

Out I went to the grocery where I returned with a box of devil’s food cake. I dumped the package into a bowl, added the wet ingredients, blended 2 minutes and voila – cupcakes! However, what they didn’t tell me on the box was that the recipe really only makes 20 cupcakes, 21 at best. Now I was 4 cupcakes short for the class! I had to go back to the store, buy another box, clean all of my baking utensils, and start allover again. Then I ended up with 40 cupcakes! What in the world was I going to do with so many cupcakes? The whole ordeal took me most of the day. Plus there are those little lumps they say will disappear but don’t. However, if you are going to use a box, here is the exception to the rule… read the book Hello Cupcake written by Karen Tack, she gives plenty of support and tricks on how to use a box cake mix so that it comes out great. I have tried her tricks and agree. So if you are decorating cupcakes to the nines, go for the box. If you are making cake-pops, go for the box. For any other reason… only from scratch!

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Here is what I look for in any prepared food. The ingredients have to be recognizable, no artificial ingredients, no hydrogenated oils, fat and sodium amounts have to be in a what I consider a healthy range and a good brand is important. I like specialty brands like Stonewall Kitchen, Barefoot Contessa, and Ghiradelli. Trader Joe’s also makes some very good box mixes. In every case, you just have to read labels very carefully and the amount of ingredients should be minimal. If you can’t pronounce a word, you shouldn’t be eating it. Several years ago, my brother-in-law Ben read ingredients on a candy wrapper at Halloween and said “carnuba wax, I think I use that on my car”! There is a lesson to be learned there!

Okay, so tell me… Are my corn muffins made from a box or from scratch?

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1st Place Melt in your Mouth Soft Sugar Cookies

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Hello my name is Sherri and I am crazy about cookies! I tape every episode of Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel in hopes it will be a special episode on cookies and I will find some new kind of cookie to try. I have cookbooks about great cookies, drop cookies, rolled cookies, history of the chocolate chip cookie, the art of the cookie, fancy cookies, you name it. Every Valentine’s Day, I ship heart shape cookies all over the country to family and friends. I inherited over 100 cookie-cutters from my mother but that’s a story for another day and recipe (picture included)! I am always up for the cookie challenges my niece Brette gives me. Once she called and said what do you think about a chocolate chip cookie but instead of chips you put brownie chunks in it? My answer arrived to her in the mail 2 days later!

Now that my secret is out, back to the sugar cookies… I was watching a cooking show 10 years ago on the Food Network. I only know this because that’s the date stamped on the printout of the recipe –  September 4, 2004! It was for some kind of cookie bake-off as far as I can tell and the recipe came in 2nd place. What I wrote on the recipe all those years ago was… I should make these a 1st place cookie, really easy sugar cookie recipe, make sure to cream butter and sugar until fluffy, and show says only 2 to 3 tablespoons of buttermilk, but recipe says 3 to 4… hmm. Well I made them not too long ago exactly as written. They were good and devoured in minutes, but I felt something was missing. I have made quite a few changes to them and in my opinion they are now a 1st place cookie! Enjoy!

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Here is my version with much less sugar among other things. Let me know how yours turn out, Enjoy!

Yield 4 dozen 2″ to 3″ cookies

2  3/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine pink sea salt (or fine kosher salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 extra large egg (large would be fine here also)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons low fat buttermilk

Sprinkles, or colored sanding sugar for decorating

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I made them in red, white and blue for my friend’s daughter who is going to college next year. You guessed it, she’s going to American in D.C.!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides and then add the dry ingredients in two batches. Add the buttermilk one tablespoon at a time just enough to moisten the dough to make it soft, not wet.

I use a small 1 1/2″ cookie scoop for these but you could use a teaspoon to scoop a portion of the dough. Roll by the teaspoon into a ball and place on cookie sheet leaving 2″ between cookies (they spread quite a bit). Flatten with your hand slightly and then sprinkle with regular white or colored sugar on top.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until just getting golden. Let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.