Gingerbread Goodness

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I've been waiting to tell you about a recent project until it gets posted on another site, and I'm still waiting. I'll save the surprise, but I will say that it's a gingerbread project, and it's honestly one of my favorite assignments in recent memory. In the meantime, how cute is L.L. Bean's gingerbread lighthouse? It's adorable, no? At $39.50 and with free shipping on all orders, I'd even say it's a pretty good deal.

On another note, my top secret gingerbread assignment got me thinking about a gingerbread project of my own for the holiday season. For the last two weeks, my boyfriend and I have been scheming about a mid-century, modern styled gingerbread house. Think we can make it work?

Thanksgiving post coming soon: The meal was a success and we're still working our way through leftovers (I'm afraid some are going to go to waste, but we're making a valiant effort.) How about you? How were your Thanksgiving feasts?

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola Sauce

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A departure from my usually healthy menus, I recently made this Gorgonzola-mushroom sauce recipe from Martha Stewart Living for some store-bought potato gnocchi.

While the sauce is absolutely delicious, be warned it was a very decadent treat with a full cup of heavy cream and a quarter pound of Gorgonzola for just four servings of gnocchi! If you're looking for something rich and comforting this winter, this recipe fits the bill.

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola Sauce
from Martha Stewart Living

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces assorted fresh mushrooms, such as chanterelle, cremini, and portobello, stemmed and coarsely chopped

1. Bring cream and stock to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Reduce heat, and let mixture simmer until slightly thickened and reduced by 1/3, about 10 minutes. Add Gorgonzola; stir until melted. Stir in nutmeg and cayenne. Season with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium until hot but not smoking. Add mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender and their released liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add gnocchi; cook, stirring gently, until just heated through. Pour cheese sauce over gnocchi and toss gently to coat evenly.

The Best Corn Bread for Stuffing

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I found this buttermilk corn bread recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook, but it originally ran in the magazine in 1975. Specifically developed to be used in stuffing, the recipe is a little more dry than others -- it's also more savory, with no sweet additions and a hint of sage. I doubled the recipe and made two 8-inch squares of the corn bread for the Martha Stewart Living's Cornbread, Bacon, Leek and Pecan Stuffing I plan to make tomorrow. If you need to make cornbread for your stuffing, this is a great choice.

Buttermilk Corn Bread
from Gourmet

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, butter, and sage (if using) in another bowl, then add to flour mixture and stir until just combined.
3. Spread batter evenly in a buttered 8-inch square baking pan and bake in middle of oven until golden, about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack, then coarsely crumble.
Cooks' note: corn bread can be made and crumbled 3 days ahead and kept in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature.

Could I Sew It?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Poking around on Lena Corwin's blog before purchasing the Brooklyn Diary, I found myself lead to Wiksten, a small clothing line. In their online shop, Wiksten offers a sewing pattern for one of their designs, the Tova Top, which I found intriguing. I am a novice sewer at best, but I aspire to be a better sewer someday. I'd be so excited to sew something like this, but I'm not sure if my skills are quite there yet. Worth a $35 gamble on the pattern? What do you think? If I could do it, it would pay for itself with the first shirt.

Brooklyn Diary by Lines & Shapes

I finally broke down and 0rdered a copy of Brooklyn Diary from the Lines & Shapes series curated by Lena Corwin (another Fort Greene resident). I can't wait to receive my copy and pour over its pages. Here's the description of the book:
Brooklyn, old and new, is known for its diversity and creative spirit. Brooklyn Diary takes a look inside the daily lives of twenty-one Brooklyn artists, documented by ten different photographers. A place that is both dirty and beautiful, artistic endeavors are abundant in Brooklyn – from fashion and photography to organic gardens and distinctive food. The book is divided into categories of walk, eat, shop, home and studio, and the artists profiled have shared their favorite (often lesser known) Brooklyn spots, making it a perfect, unconventional guide book for those planning to visit. Introduction written by Eric Demby, co-founder of the Brooklyn Flea.

Give Me Simple Desserts

Monday, November 22, 2010

While magazines are filled with unusual Thanksgiving dessert suggestions (Spiced pumpkin cheesecake! Quince crumble! Apple maple upside down cake!), I'm the type of gal who like apple pie and pumpkin pie, served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream respectively. For our dinner we're going to try a Bourbon Pumpkin Pie recipe from the November issue of Gourmet magazine (the last issue they ever published), which is about the farthest I would stray from simple, Thanksgiving classics. Our second pie will be an apple pie with a crumble top -- a best of both worlds solution for those who like pie crust and those who like the crumb topping of a crisp. What about you, dear readers? What will you be baking for Turkey Day?

Mark Bittman's Beet Salad

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thank you to Mark Bittman for encouraging his blog's readers to try raw beets a few weeks back. I've made this beet salad twice, once with chopped tarragon an no parsley and once with parsley and no shallots -- both times it tasted great. The first time I used my food processor to chop the beets, but the second time I used an old fashioned box grater to shred them, and personally, I preferred the texture of the hand-shredded beets. Oh yeah, on the plus side, this recipe is super-healthy and vegan-y. Enjoy!

Raw Beet Salad
From How To Cook Everything

1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets
1 large shallot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 t. Dijon mustard, or to taste
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. sherry vinegar or other good strong vinegar
1 sprig fresh tarragon, minced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Peel the beets and the shallot. Combine them in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse carefully until the beets are shredded; do not purée. (Or grate the beets by hand and mince the shallots; combine.) Scrape into a bowl.
2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add the mustard, oil, and vinegar and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Toss in the herbs and serve.

Photo: larryjh1234/Flickr

Potato Leek and Spinach Soup

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I've made Jane Brody's Potato Leek Chowder often, so this last time I made it, I decided to switch things up a bit. To make the soup a little more veggie-rich, I decided to add a few handfuls of spinach at the end of the cooking, and I swapped out some of the milk for additional broth (using whole milk instead of Brody's suggested skim). The results were just as good as the original recipe.

In the interest of eating less meat, I also decided to try an experiment: I'd fry some shallots as a topping instead of the bacon I often used in the past. While fried onions are no substitute for bacon, they were a satisfying alternative, and I'd definitely make them again.

Potato, Leek and Spinach Soup

adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Book

2 large leeks (white parts only)
1 lb potatoes, peeled and dived
2 T. butter
3 c. vegetable broth
Lots of freshly ground pepper
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/4 lb. spinach
1/2 c. whole milk
2 heaping T. minced fresh parsley

Optional toppings: Fried shallots* and grated cheddar

1. Separate and wash leeks. Slice into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. In a heavy-bottomed enamel pan, sauté the potatoes and leeks in butter for several minutes, stirring the vegetables to prevent browning.
3. Add broth salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Mash the soup gently with a potato masher a few times, leaving the texture mostly chunky.
5. Add spinach to pot and stir in.
6. Add milk slowly, and heat soup, but do not boil.
7. Stir in parsley.
8. Garnish with fried shallots and grated cheddar cheese.*

To fry shallots, I filled a heavy bottomed pot with a 1/2-inch if canola oil and dropped sliced shallots into the hot oil. I let them cook until they had browned and then used a skimmer to lift them out of the oil and placed them on a folded paper towel to absorb the excess oil

Holiday Shopping at the New York Botanical Garden

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You may recall that I visited the New York Botanical Garden a few weeks back (I wrote about my disappointment at not finding any real carved pumpkins in the garden and the splendid fall foliage we did find). One of the things about my visit that was far from disappointing was our stop into the NYBG Shop In the Garden. Housed in a glass-walled structure, the shop is part garden store, part library and part gift shop.

For me, the collection of books was the highlight of the shop's offerings: There are hundreds of gardening and garden-related books, including beautiful coffee table tomes, cookbooks, serious academic texts and all manner of how-to manuals for gardeners.

I was delighted when the NYBG's online editor contacted me about participating in their "Favorite Things" campaign for the holiday shopping season. At their request, I sifted through the wares in their online shop and selected my "favorite things." To see what I picked, take a peek at the post on the Garden's Plant Talk blog. Plus, take a gander at these photos of the shop all dressed up for the holidays -- it's so pretty, right? I'm honored to be included in the New York Botanical Garden's holiday cheer!

April Bloomfield, The Burger Queen

Have you read the article about chef April Bloomfield in the recent issue of the New Yorker? If not, it's definitely worth a read and it's available online. The young British chef is the talent behind the famed Spotted Pig and the Breslin at the Ace Hotel. I loved learning more about Bloomfield, how she cooks and the business of opening restaurants (apparently even super-star chefs like Bloomfield sometimes fail).

I particularly loved this quote about how Bloomfield cooks, says J. J. Goode, who is helping her write a cookbook, “When April’s making a salad that has nuts or capers or whatever in it, she’s always saying that she wants there to be just enough so that you don’t have to try too hard to find one but not so many that you’re not excited when you come across one.” What a wonderful way to describe the composition of a salad!

I had the great pleasure of eating at the Spotted Pig the first or second weekend it had opened. At the time, I lived just down the street in the West Village and to me it was a just another neighborhood restaurant that had taken over the space Le Zoo had once occupied. My friend and I had the now famous burger, I recall some brussel sprouts and pints of Old Speckled Hen beer, but most of all I remember our glee at having discovered this gem--we planned to eat there every week.

Little did I know, it would immediately become impossible to find a seat at this soon-to-be-hot-dining-destination. I've been back to the Spotted Pig since, but not often--the wait for a table can really last hours. However, I have a blissful memory of some small, perfect West Coast oysters (I believe they were Kumamoto) eaten late one night with a glass of white wine. I was once the guest at a Christmas party thrown by the Clintons (yes, those Clintons: I had a friend who worked in Bill's office) at the restaurant -- it was hot, crowded and near impossible to get a drink, let alone anything to eat, but my gosh, I was in the same room as Bill Clinton. I swear to you, the room reverberated with his glow.

Reading about Bloomfield's cooking, I wanted to go back to The Spotted Pig in the afternoon on a weekday and enjoy a late lunch when the crowds are least likely.

Martha Stewart Turkeys: Oh my.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

As we gear up for Thanksgiving, I have been contemplating the turkey itself: Should I order one at the farmer's market? Should I get one through our local fancy-schmancy food market? Or should I save my pennies and just buy an affordable grocery store bird? While debating my options, I took a peek at what is offering in teh way of Thanksgiving birds.

Low and behold, I found that Fresh Direct is carrying Martha Stewart-branded turkeys -- who knew? I'd heard that Martha was doing a line of hams for Costco, but turkeys are new news to me. At $2.99 per pound, it's pretty affordable and definitely a better deal than the "heritage" turkey offered at $7.99 a pound. A little googling revealed this tidbit from the Star-Ledger:
About the Martha Stewart young turkeys: The 10- to 24-pound fresh turkeys, produced in partnership with natural turkey-grower Plainville Farms, are vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free. They’re available at Kings and McCaffrey’s supermarkets and online at For Thanksgiving delivery, the online turkeys, which are frozen for shipping, must be ordered today before midnight. Online prices are $69.99 for a 12-pound turkey and $89.99 for an 18-pounder.
I'm definitely tempted to give Marty's turkey a try. My only hesitation is that I won't have control over the size of the bird: It says approx. 11 lbs., but in my experience FreshDirect's estimates can be way off: A recent whole chicken we ordered was more than 5 lbs. (huge!) instead of the expected 3 1/2.

Gourd and Tissue Paper Turkeys

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I thought I would share another craft I created for ALL YOU magazine: A pair of turkeys made from dried gourds and colorful tissue paper. I used the same technique you would use to create a tissue paper flower to create the colorful plumage; full instructions are available on

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We're hosting Thanksgiving in Brooklyn this year for my boyfriend's parents, his siblings, a few friends and my teenage cousin and his roommate, who recently started at NYU. It's going to be my first big Thanksgiving at my own home, so I am naturally obsessed with the menu for the big day. This thorough post on The Bitten Word blog has conveniently cataloged all this year's magazine's recipes -- it's amazing, truly amazing. (Though I think they should have included Country Living on their list, as the mag did a pretty hefty Thanksgiving package this year.) Current contenders for the menu include:

Corn Bread, Bacon, Leek and Pecan Stuffing (Martha Stewart Living)
Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Pine Nuts (Food Network Magazine)
Spicy and Garlicky Brussels Sprouts (Food & Wine)
Cranberry-Apple Chutney (Martha Stewart Living)
Free Form Apple Tart (Food & Wine)

Now if only someone would test them all and tell me which are the best, I'd be all set.

Murray Hill 2BR for Time Out

Monday, November 08, 2010

I recently wrote a piece for Time Out New York's Home Design issue about a two-bedroom apartment in Murray Hill. Rachel, who lived in the apartment was just about the sweetest person I have ever met, and while our decorating tastes are decidedly different, I learned a few things from Rachel when I interviewed her.

First, Rachel is a serious planner, and I learned that it pays to really plan. Rachel showed me her notebook in which she had comparison shopped various furniture pieces in her home against similar pieces from different retailers--complete with SKU numbers, prices, etc. When it finally came time to make her purchases, Rachel was certain in her choices.

Second, I was reminded to embrace my apartment's flaws and charms. Rachel's apartment has several decidedly quirky features, including a Mexican-tiled backsplash in the kitchen (below) and boldly mosaic-ed floors in the bathroom (sadly, it did not appear in the final story). Having lived in a perfect, luxury high-rise prior to her Murray Hill digs, Rachel appreciated these details for their imperfections -- a sort of wabi-sabi philosophy. It made me realize I should just learn to love my brown-tiled bathroom -- it works perfectly fine, after all.

Third, Rachel reminded me to have fun. She decided she wanted a girl-y, pink boudoir for a bedroom, so she created one. Decor and design don't have to be so serious, and I loved Rachel's playful attitude. One detail I'm planning to steal from Rachel: A bucket of crayons and a pad of paper laid out on the coffee table for guests to play with (see below).

Re-Post: Pasta With Kale Pesto and Roasted Butternut Squash

In honor of yesterday's New York City marathon, I'm re-posting this pre-marathon-worthy recipe for Pasta With Kale Pesto and Roasted Butternut Squash, which I made again last night. I love this unusual pesto made with kale: Paired with roasted butternut squash and whole wheat pasta, it makes a healthy and fulfilling weeknight meal.

Pasta With Kale Pesto and Roasted Butternut Squash
from The New York Times

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more for squash
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch (about 1/2 pound) lacinato kale, center ribs removed
8 ounces pasta (penne rigate works well)*
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a vegetable peeler to peel squash, then halve it lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Dice squash flesh into 1-inch pieces, place on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread pieces into an even layer, making sure there is space between them. Roast, stirring squash pieces once or twice, until golden brown and tender, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; have ready a bowl of ice water. Drop kale into boiling water and cook for 45 seconds. Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer kale to ice water. Bring water in pot back to a boil, adding more if necessary so there is enough to cook pasta.
3. Drain kale well, then wrap tightly in a dry kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess moisture. Roughly chop leaves. When water in pot comes back to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions.
4. In a food processor, pulse together kale, nuts, garlic, salt and lemon zest until mixture is smooth and salt has dissolved. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated. Taste and add more salt dissolved in a little lemon juice, if necessary.
5. Drain pasta, reserving a little cooking water. Toss pasta with kale pesto and some pasta cooking water if necessary to help it coat pasta. Add cheese, lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve topped with squash and more cheese.

*Note: I used 13.5 oz. of whole wheat penne and found that I had plenty of sauce.

Photographer Dominique Vorillon

Sunday, November 07, 2010

After seeing her work on a blog, I looked up photographer Dominique Vorillon's portfolio online. I'm loving her photographs of interiors, including these two shots of inspiring rooms. How great are those vintage maps as curtains below? And the chock-a-block wall of photos above? I love it. Check out Vorillon's site for more jaw-dropping interiors.

Pretty Funny... A Gramophone iPod Dock

Friday, November 05, 2010

Here's something to make you smile. I just spotted this funny gift item in the Pottery Barn catalog: A gramophone iPod dock, complete with a brass horn. While I adore the cheeky design, I can't imagine paying $119 for a laugh -- even if it would be a pretty good one.

A Brilliant Bento Box-Inspired Design

I didn't get to the newspaper until late last night, as I was on a shoot all day. What a treat it was when I finally dug in! I loved the bento box-inspired apartment featured in the Home section. It made me feel inspired to get serious about organizing our storage: If a family of four can fit so stylishly into 1,300 square feet, then the boyfriend and I can certainly figure out a better way to organize our belongs in our 600 square feet. The platform bed that disappears during the day was especially interesting (above and below).

I couldn't help but smile at this colorful and clever solution for storing toilet paper in the girls' bathroom. You could easily make something similar with plywood or MDF.

The orange kitchen cabinet interiors are such a great surprise and a welcome burst of color in the mostly neutral apartment.

Ikea Dresser Makeover

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I recently came across another blog with a similar title to my own. Aubrey and Lindsay's Little House Blog is run by a couple in Toronto, who are fixing up their apartment themselves. While poking around their site, I came across this amazing Ikea hack. That stylish dresser to the right of the bed is actually an inexpensive Ikea piece that Aubrey and Lindsay have made over with some white paint, stain and new hardware. I absolutely love this clever makeover. Read the post on their blog for the full details.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

This past weekend I made Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting from Martha Stewart's phenomenal Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook. The resulting cakes were a lovely spice cake with a subtle pumpkin flavor. The cream cheese frosting was a nice, creamy version that was easy to spread onto the tops of the cupcakes. While Martha wanted me to make marzipan pumpkins to top each cupcake, I decided that was a bit precious. As a compromise, I dyed the frosting a sweet shade of orange. (Be warned, the recipe makes MUCH more frosting than you will need -- even if you are generous with the frosting.)

Best of all though, I packed the cupcakes into Martha Stewart's cupcake liners and boxes from her crafts line at Michael's. While these fancy treat boxes aren't a bargain at $12.99, they were the perfect way to transport cupcakes to a party and they made a big impact style-wise.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway.
4. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

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