Friday, December 24, 2010

Thank You and Happy Holidays

Almost a year ago, Dec. 31 to be precise, Rachel and I sat on the couch together and entered the blog world. Life Told in Recipes, something we'd been talking about for most of the year, was born.

When we started, we knew we'd be writing about food with some stories thrown in for good measure. We made a pact to post five days a week, Monday through Friday, a feat that we mostly accomplished. (We can be forgiven for taking some time off when the Divine Miss M, 2010's big surprise, was born!)

What neither one of us expected was how much we would learn about each other or how much readers — many of them complete strangers — would join in the conversation and share their lives and thoughts. It has been a wonderful, wonderful surprise and unexpected journey.

Thank you for sharing it with us. We're excited about LTIR in year two and have some ideas for changes and improvements. We'll be talking about them in person — together! — when Rachel, M and John make the trek eastward for the holidays.

So we'll be taking a week off from blogging, focusing instead on real time interaction. We hope you get to do the same with the people you love and, of course, that some good food is involved as well.

Happy Holidays, Peace to all in the new year, and, most of all, thank you.

Janet and Rachel

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Beery Good Dinner

We have known Mike for years in various capacities, including music (he and I played in an orchestra together while he was in high school and drove to rehearsals each week together, including one snowstorm where neither one of us could see the road) and Rachel playing regularly with his sister and then it all just moved from there for her and Mike and that's all I'm going to say.

We were thrilled to learn Mike is a regular LTIR reader AND that he makes his own beer. When he noted on facebook he was hosting a beer pairing party, I asked him to share ... which he has in wonderful detail and with photos aplenty. So, without further ado, let the beer pairing begin!

Hi Janet and Rachel -

My little beer dinner the other night was a HUGE success. Everything was paired perfectly, and overall, we were very happy with how the food turned out. Big thanks to my sister (who was in town for my graduating recital a few days earlier) and my boyfriend, who is an excellent cook and an even better party planner...

I’ve been making my own beer for a few years now; I started when I was living in Boston and it has progressed and evolved into a crowd pleaser for my friends and family. And of course, if you bring your own homemade alcohol to any party, you INSTANTLY have tons of friends. As my friends and I have been partying together for the last few years, I have consistently been bringing different styles of beers to our gatherings. The problems becomes that as I only bring a single growler (about 4 pints worth), many of my friends don’t get a chance to drink any!!! I just run out!!

So I decided to host a party pairing my favorite styles of beer with food to go along with them! I must admit, though, that I did make a beer that I had never made before. .. BUT it turned out amazing! All of my decisions basically had to be made 3 months in advance, since that’s the amount of time I needed in order to get all the styles done, have them ferment, and age and condition properly.

So here is everything that I have done, including the beer recipes. The food recipes are either things we just put together from, or from family/friends’ recipes. The beer recipes are mostly based on recipes by Jamil Zainasheff (available in publication and free online ... just google it all) and have been changed by me over time. I’m not going to write out all the steps needed to brew the beer. If people are interested in recreating the recipes, there are tons of resources out there if they are novice brewers; try,, or they can email me for my specific process. All of the recipes were designed to please a crowd of people ... I’m sure you could increase or decrease as needed!



Carrot and Squash Soup with Bacon & Rosemary
Paired with a Scottish 60/- (reads “60 shilling”)
Not subtle, just quiet... with notes of toast, honey, and very smooth
ABV 2.5%

Soup ingredients

1 acorn squash
Brown sugar
3 lbs of carrots, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks
2 medium onions in 1 inch pieces
Chicken stock to cover
1 rounded teaspoon ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 rounded teaspoons each of Allspice, ground cloves
Red pepper flakes (just a dash)
Salt/Pepper to taste
Garnish with rosemary and bacon

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds; place two pats of butter on a rimmed baking sheet and top with brown sugar; invert the squash halves on the butter, and bake for 45-60 minutes. (We added a bit of water to the bottom of the baking sheet to keep the squash from sticking).

While the squash is baking, prep the carrots and the onions and put them in a big stock pot. When the squash is done, scrape out the flesh and add it to the stock pot. Cover the veggies with chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the spices, and cook until all the veggies are tender. To finish, let the soup cool overnight (first on stove top and later in the fridge), and then puree in a blender. Reheat and serve! Garnish with bacon and rosemary chopped up (the rosemary is from my indoor herb garden ... ok ok, I have this plant and a basil plant, but it’s a garden, right?!?!?!).

Scottish 60/ Beer
(all beer recipes are for 6 gals at the end of the boil, 5 ½ gals fermented, 5 gals in keg/bottle)

This is an easy-drinking pub ale. Like many people, I use a beer like this to grow yeast. I’ll pitch 1 commercially bought package of yeast, ferment the beer, and then collect the “offspring” to re-pitch into more beers (usually I can get 3 or 4 beers off of a first generation). This is one of the ways I maintain my house culture. When I feel the yeast has given me all it’s going to (after about 5 or 6 generations), I’ll either buy another commercial package or build up a culture off of a plate (my friend, who is a scientist and works in a lab doing all sorts of experiments, plated the yeast for me!). So I keep this beer on hand, not only for function, but it has a lot of flavor for an easy drinking beer.

1.038 SG, 1.010 FG
5 ½ lbs base malt (I use American 2-Row for just about everything. Continental malts will definitely add more flavor, but I don’t always have it on hand.)
½ lb Munich malt
1 lb Crystal 40
½ lb Honey malt
¼ lb Crystal 120
3 oz Pale Chocholate
⅔ oz East Kent Golding hops for 60 min
House Yeast (I have been keeping an active culture of Pacman yeast for a while now, which is what I used... Jamil uses WY1056 or WLP001, available from Wyeast and White Labs)

Mash at 158*, sparge and lauter as normal. Add hops as indicated. Cool and pitch a good amount of yeast. Ferment WY1056/WLP001 at 65*, but I went around 62* with Pacman. Cold condition for a few months will round out the flavors and mellow the bitterness. Carbonate on the low end. When I served this at the party, I brought the keg up to cellar temperature (we have an area of the basement level that is just around 52*) and served off of a portable CO2 charger rather than with my big tank. The result was very similar to cask, which would be more authentic. If I were to try this again for a party, I would naturally carbonate in a “cube,” which is available online, and serve with gravity rather than forced CO2.

Traditional Belgian dish of Mussels in broth with Potato Pancake “frites”
Paired with a Belgian Saison
Sweet, spicy, sour, funky
ABV 6%
This is a traditional Belgian dish with an AWESOME Belgian/French style beer. Both are some of my favorites (if you’re not familiar with Saisons, it can be sweet or dry, high or low in alcohol, spicy or fruity, sour or clean; it’s a very versatile style. Jamil writes that it should be dry, and I agree to some extent, except that I think some residual sweetness adds to the spicy complexity. But he is an expert, so it’s ok to trust him and not to trust me!!! Regardless, this is probably my favorite style of European beers). We were very lucky to find Cape Cod mussels flown in right on the morning of the party. Instead of fries, we opted for Potato Pancakes, just to make it a little different. The pancakes were made a few days before the party; the mussels were done right before serving!

Pancake ingredients
5 lbs potatoes
3 medium onions
3 eggs
Lots of oils... to fry with

We started (and when I say we, I actually mean my sister) by grating the potatoes and the onion. Poor Sarah did this by hand, since we don’t have a food processor. Add a few eggs to hold everything together; add another if you think it needs it. Same thing with the flour. Please season liberally (there’s nothing worse than bland fried potatoes!) and fry away. We drained the excess oil with paper towels. Since we knew we would keep them in the fridge for a day and then reheat in the oven, we slightly under-cooked the pancakes.

Mussels ingredients
Olive Oil
White wine
Chicken Stock
Tomatoes, diced

The pot that was big enough to cook all of the mussels (we used about 4 lbs for a crowd of 20, with enough to go around for people to have seconds, thirds, even fourths!) had a flimsy bottom, so we had to build the broth in one pan and then transfer it to the big pot.

Heat a pan; add the olive oil and, after it's hot, saute the shallots and garlic. Deglaze with the wine, add stock, and bring to a boil. (From here, we transferred the broth to the bigger pot and added more wine and stock so that we didn’t scorch the bottom of the pan. if you’re using the same pan or pot, just keep everything happy where it is!) Add tomatoes and bring everything back to a boil. Add the mussels (make sure they are all washed first), and steam just until the mussels open, about 6-7 minutes. Because we were making so many, we stirred the mussels every so often so that the ones on the bottom didn’t cook faster than the ones on top.

Belgian Beer
This beer is very difficult to ferment. I actually made 2 batches for the party, since I didn’t like the way the first came out (it’s the same recipe for both batches; I just monitored the fermentation better). In the past and in the batches I made for the party, I used WLP565, but in the future I will try a blend of yeasts that White Labs has available. Supposedly, you get all the flavors of the straight-up Saison yeast, but without the crazy fermentation problems!

1.066 SG, 1.012 FG
7 ¾ lbs Light LME
1 ½ lb Cane Sugar
½ lb Munich LME
½ lb Wheat LME
2 oz CaraMunich (steeped)
1 ½ oz East Kent Golding hops for 60 min, ½ oz EKG hops at end of boil
WLP565 Saison Yeast

Do your normal extract with steeping-grains process: steep, add your extract, boil with hop additions, cool, ferment, etc. I began fermentation around 70* and raised to about 80 or 85 over the course of a week. Carbonate on the high end, but not too high, since that will mask many of the subtle yeast flavors!

Korean Style Braised Beef

Served with Mushrooms, Carrots, Kimchi, and Pickles
Paired with a Dark Belgian Saison
Dark as Midnight, earthy, musky, and funky
Partially fermented with Brettanomyces
ABV about 5.5%
Many of my friends in Boston are of Korean decent. One friend in particular, who is also an amazing violinist, had a few of us over to her family’s home one night for Kalbi-chim, which is Korean Braised Short-ribs (I guess “kalbi” is the word for beef and “chim” is the word for braised). My boyfriend and I ended up making this for our Thanksgiving dinner, and it was so good I decided to use it for my party instead of what I had originally planned; this probably worked sooo much better! To make our Thanksgiving meal, I contacted my friend’s mother for her recipe, which is what I’ll give you below. It is a little confusing (seriously, I’ll give you exactly what I was given), but if you make it like a Korean mom with lots of time and love, it will be excellent. I wanted similar flavors for this dish, but didn’t want to spend a ton of money on beef ribs, so I opted for 1 ½ inch thick steaks of chuck roast. And I didn’t use chestnuts but substituted carrots instead. The pickles are homemade as well. This is the only beer I had not made before figuring out what I wanted for the party... definitely Belgian inspired (Belgian brewers are notorious for coloring outside the lines!) and certainly experimental!

10:2:1 ratio of Water, Cider Vinegar, and Salt (I did 5 cups, 1 cup, ½ cup)
Kirby Cucumbers
Jalapeno Pepper

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil and keep it going for 20 min or so (I don’t know if that is what you’re “supposed” to do, but it made me feel better than if I didn’t do it). Meanwhile, quarter the onion and slice the peppers into ½ inch rounds; put all the veggies in a container (I used a big plastic thing with a sealing lid. I’m sure most people would use canning jars.) Once the boiling is done, let the liquids cool slightly and then pour it over your veggies. I let my pickles cool on the counter before putting them in the fridge. I had then heard from some source (which of course I can’t remember) that you should boil your brine again, just to ensure that it is sanitary. Being a beer brewer, this seemed reasonable to me. So 24 hours later, I drained my brine into a pot, boiled it again for about 10 minutes, and put it back over my veggies. I prepared the pickles about a week and half before the party, and they were amazing. As I write this a few days later, I tasted the pickles and I can feel the intensity strengthen from just sitting a few extra days!

I bought this from a local Asian market. I don’t think my roommates would like it if I fermented cabbage in our basement!
ingredients AND method
(I’ll list the ingredients I changed and my comments in parenthesis. Otherwise this is exactly what my friend’s mother, Yoo-kyung Kim, gave me.)
1.) Soak Kalbi in cold water for about an hour to get rid of the blood. (Again, I used mostly chuck, although I did add some thinly sliced short ribs and bones for flavor.)
2.) Boil Kalbi in water with an onion, quartered, until the meat becomes tender.
3.) Add sauce: 5 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon farlic, 1/2 tablespoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon pepper. She also writes, for one pack: you might have to put 3-4 times the amount, I never know (I just kept the ratios close when I made this for the party)
4.) Simmer until the meat becomes somewhat dark. Add Asian turnip, chestnuts, Shitake mushrooms, and simmer a bit longer (I didn’t use any turnips or chestnuts; I let my mushrooms soak for a few hours in water and added that juice along with my sauce in step 3, and, again, I used carrots.)
5.) Add green onions, sesame oil, and sesame seeds (I didn’t use green onions. I think I just forgot! And, I had looked up some other Kalbi-chim recipes online just to compare; some used honey or corn syrup to glaze the beef just before serving, so I did that too for the party)
For No. 2 you should have enough water to cover the Kalbi, since there will be less later as you simmer, and after No. 2, you should leave the Kalbi in a cool place overnight to get rid of the solidified fat. It is basically simmered Kalbi with sauce

This is the only beer that I had not brewed before. It turned out AMAZING! The recipe is based from a kit Northern Brewer used to sell with a limited edition Saison yeast. I just used the same WLP565 yeast and added the Brett. when the Saison yeast stopped.
1.061 SG, 1.015? FG (the Brett. fermented out some of the residual sugars)

10 lbs Base Malt
1 lb Cane Sugar
1 lb Munich Malt
½ lb Carafa III Special
2 oz East Kent Golding Hops for 60 min
WLP565 Saison Yeast
Brettanomyces Culture (I had a small culture stored in my fridge, so I made a starter and pitched that)

Mash low around 149* for 1 ½ hours. Ferment low and raise over the course of a week to 80 or so. Cool down to room temp as soon as the first yeast finishes, and pitch the Brett.; you can transfer the beer and then pitch the Brett., but I just used one carboy. Carbonate moderately (or less or more... it’s a Belgian Specialty Ale, after all)

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Orange-infused Cranberries
Paired with a Light Belgian Ale
Hoppy, spritzy, earthy, and complex
Partially fermented with Brettanomyces
ABV about 6%

Cookie ingredients
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla Extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup each semisweet, milk, & white chocolate chips
½ cup dried Cranberries (I used the orange infused from Trader Joe’s)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Beat together butter and sugars in a separate bowl (with an electric mixer, if you’re not strong enough!); beat in the vanilla and the egg into the butter bowl. Add the flour mixture and the oats nto the butter mixture, and then mix in the chocolate chips and the cranberries. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 16 minutes until the edges are slightly brown. Cool on wire racks. You can also make an “icing” of melted chocolate if you want (or your favorite recipe)!

Beer ingredients

I’m not really sure what I would call this. My original intention was a clone of a Belgian Trappist beer, Orval, but something along the way made me change my recipe slightly. I used a different yeast strain than I should have, and I think I intended to use more hops, but didn’t. Regardless if it is a clone or not, the beer turned out wonderfully, and I am very happy with the result!
1.064 SG, 1.008? FG (again the Brett. took care of some of the residual sugars)
10 lbs Base Malt
1 ½ lbs CaraMunich
1 lb Cane Sugar
2 oz Hallertauer hops for 60 min, 1 oz Styrian Golding hops for 15 min, 1 oz Styrian Golding hops at flameout, 2 oz Styrian Golding hops for dry hops
WY1368 Belgian Strong Ale
Brettanomyces Culture

Mash low around 149* for 1 ½ hours. Ferment low and raise over the course of a week to 70 or so. After fermentation has finished (about a week) pitch Brett. culture and hold at cellar temperatures for 4 week. Dry hop when you have 1 week left. (I think I kept the beer fermenting with the Brett. for about 6 weeks total). Carbonate high (nice and spritzy!)

Assorted Cheeses, Crackers, Olives, & Fruits
Paired with an American-style Barley Wine
Smooth, aged, hoppy, and complex
ABV 11%
Cheese Plate:
Barley Wines are very strong in alcohol and flavor, and require some age to meld all the flavors; they are perfect as an aperitif with a cheese place. I am fortunate to have an expert cheese shop in my area. I told the nice lady thre EXACTLY what I was serving, and she gave me some very tasty options for cheeses. We ended up with a Welsh Cheddar (very creamy), an Iowa Cheddar (very sharp and pungent), and a Dutch Gouda (very complex). I also served Mediterranean olives, crackers and dried papaya for some sweetness.

This beer was about a year old. I only have a few bottles left and I am clinging on to them with every day that passes. The bottles showed no signs of contamination, oxidation, and hopefully will last for a few more years! Because my mash tun doesn’t fit 25 lbs of grain, I mashed about ¾ of the grain, and made up for the remaining gravity with DME. Rather than make a big yeast starter (I think I calculated I needed a starter of 2 gallons), I made a small gravity batch of a generic wheat beer, and pitched right on top of the trub... I may have over-pitched, but the result still worked out.
15 lbs Base Malt
3 lbs DME
1 lb Crystal 80
1 lb Crystal 10
¼ lb Special B
¼ lb Pale Chocolate
3 oz Warrior hops for 60 min, 1 oz each Centennial and Cascade hops at flameout
House Yeast

Mash at 149* for 1 ½ hours. Even though Pacman yeast can ferment as low as 60* and create be very VERY clean, I fermented at 65* for a little spice. Again, the beer is amazing and it has worked for me. Carbonate low to medium-low. Serve small quantities as you would a fine scotch!

Happy Brewing!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Random Assortment

Hey Ma-

Ok, so Susan has long been one of my heros, but after reading her recipe yesterday she somehow gained even higher stature. Remember when she got up from the dinner table, walked into the kitchen, opened the pantry, dug through the trash only to march into the dining room with the empty Cool Whip container held high over her head as she joyously proclaimed, "Ah-HA! I KNEW IT!"? If only you'd known then that she was the queen of culinary shortcuts. If only...I'm not knocking shortcuts, just admiring Susan for her endless hutzpah.

Anyway, completely unrelated...but you know, what I'm going to write about anyway...are two other food things.

First, in red white and Rachel fashion (do you remember the tv show the OC? yeah, I stole that joke from seth cohen from that show...and, incase you've never seen it, yes that is EMBARRASSING to admit), I immediately began reorganizing our entire house the second school was out for the semester. M's room is done and ours is most of the way there, but the kitchen--which isn't getting reorganized--has become the landing place for all of our things which are currently roomless. That meant burritos for dinner last night and tonight we're noshing on sausage. I'm pretty sure I don't need to share my recipe for incredible sausage cooking...

The second thing is that we're getting ready to come and see you. In true type-A fashion I've been neurotically considering everything M could ever possibly need on a plane, including provisions for the 3 day snow-in that I've decided (at your urging...ahem) to prepare for that will occur where our layover is. Needless to say, this doesn't include the homemade food we've been giving her.

And so now we're going jarred food and she's not particularly into it. I find myself feeling frustrated at the need to bring unopened jars through airport security, feeling overly regulated. I find myself thinking that food is such a site of control in our society, from its marketing to its very calculated revulsions (for instance, I'm pretty sure I didn't just decide one day never to eat produce grown with pesticides, but that that idea was marketed to me...egads, the infiltration is so subtle) to disordered eating. I've been thinking and thinking on this lately, turning it around in my brain. There's been no dramatic conclusion to this consideration, but I figured I'd share it today anyway. What do you all think?

Anyway, speaking of food, off to that delicious sausage...


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ridiculously Easy Candy Recipe

It's the last minute before Christmas and you're heading to a friend's house but don't have time to cook but need something for a hostess gift, or you just need to make one more dessert for the relatives and you've run out of steam, or you're just plain lazy. Have no fear. Here's a recipe that will take you minutes and make you look like a culinary rock star.

Rachel, I got this recipe from Susan — she of fake cake fame, which kind of makes me see a pattern here — who brought a candy box of this to dinner on Saturday and it was literally all gone before Peter could even take one bite. I didn't even have time to take a picture so you're just going to have to use your imagination. Trust me. Make these and then try to just eat one.

Ridiculously Easy "Turtles"


bag of Rolos
bag of small pretzels (in holidays shapes, which make this candy look even more special)
bag of pecan halves


Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the pretzels on a cookie sheet and place one Rolo on top of each pretzel. Bake in the oven for 3 minutes. Take out, schmoosh a pecan onto the partially melted Rolo. Cool. Serve and prepare to become famous.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chocolate Bark with Dried Figs, Almonds, Salt and Orange Zest

Hey Ma-

We had John's work holiday party this weekend. As with every year, it was a really good time. There was a ton of food (appropriate for a restaurant's party) and plenty to drink (giant bowls of Margaritas anyone?) and laughter and good times abounded. Every year they do a white elephant gift swap that promptly deteriorates into raucousness. John has a knack for putting in hilarious gifts. This year he wrapped up a shrine to himself, complete with a lock of his hair, a swatch of an old sock (he always wears mismatched socks), a framed photograph of himself from 9th grade, candles and daily affirmation cards (which, needless to say, were pretty funny). I, on the other hand, usually go a different route. Wanting to include something actually desirable with my contribution this year, I made chocolate bark and included pieces in a jam jar on top of my gift.

I found the recipe here. It is absurdly easy and insanely delicious and, though certainly not Pop-pop's toffee, I highly recommend it if you find yourself needing something homemade without much time to turn it out in. I swirled together bittersweet and semisweet chocolates, adding slices of dried figs, chopped almonds, and generous sprinklings of salt and dried orange zest. Fortunately, only half of what I made fit in the jam jar, meaning we're left with the difficult task of consuming the rest.



Friday, December 17, 2010

To Nosh or Not to Nosh: That is the Question

Hey Rachel

While you've been in the middle of exams this week, I've been in the middle of having fun, specifically with my fabulous Nia ladies. Last night I hosted a post-Nia holiday gathering and we did something we all love. We noshed. Oh, and we drank just a little wine.

I set a picnic of sorts in the apartment, kind of mandatory anyway since I don't actually have enough chairs for everyone. I stopped by the co-op and picked up a bunch of cheeses and crackers, some guacamole and chips, olives, and some hummus. I also stopped by this great little Japanese restaurant and got some sushi. I laid it all out on the floor, lit the candles, put on some music and we were ready to go. The only food I prepared was the mjuk pepparkakor and Pop Pop's toffee.

It was just wonderful. We ate off paper plates and used our fingers and finished it all off with a Yankee swap of something we each regifted.

So here's the question: What is it about noshing that is so appealing, especially to women? I'd like to think it's because you get to taste more flavors than during a traditional dinner. I suspect, however, that it might have something to do as well with the fact that you feel as if you're not eating as much, and we all know how messed up far too many women are about that. I certainly know that's part of noshing's appeal for me.

So faithful readers, what do you think? Are you a nosher? If so, what do you like about it?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Crowd Pleasing Dip

It's that time of the year when people drop by unexpectedly and it's always good to have a few things on hand that you can whip quickly. This recipe works particularly well with teens and boys, if my sons are any indicator. It has the two key ingredients: heat (as in Frank's Red Hot Sauce heat) and Ranch dressing. In other words, this is not high brow, but yes, it is mighty tasty, so tasty in fact that I didn't get a chance to photograph it before it was snatched away.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 13-ounce cans chicken breast drained
2 8-08nce packages cream cheese softened
1/3 cup hot sauce
1 cup buttermilk ranch dressing
1 cups Mexican blended shredded cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Sray 9 X 13 cassrole dish with non-stick spray. Put to the side one cup of cheddar cheese for the top of the csserole. blend all together. put in casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese. back 20-25 minutes or until bubbling.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scalloped Tomatoes

With all this holiday baking — oh and just a little holiday eating — I'm beginning to feel just a tad blimp-like. So with that in mind, I thought it was time, Rachel, for me to feature something that didn't include sugar.

I am a huge tomato fan and it is one of life's inadequacies that I live in a place where fresh, lusciously ripe tomatoes are only available two months out of 12. I long for them the rest of the year, but there is no point of even pretending that the stuff in the produce section that's red and roundish is even vaguely related to a real tomato.

That said, this terrific recipe from the Barefoot Contessa's new cookbook, How Easy is That?, is a wonderful way to serve tomatoes as a side dish in those off months. Plus, you can make it ahead and serve it for a crowd, which is what I did when we had some friends over for dinner a few weeks ago. Hope you all like it!

Scalloped Tomatoes
serves a crowd

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups diced bread (1/2 inch pieces) from a round rustic bread
3 pounds plum tomatoes, diced (about 14-16 tomatoes)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basicl leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stire to coat with the olive oil. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring ovten, until the cubes are evenly browned.

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the tomato mixture to the bread cubes and continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6-8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mjuk Pepparkakor

Hey Rachel

Long ago and far away, I was, as you know, married to someone else. We were good people, just not good for each other. But a happy side note to that short-lived relationship were the Swedish recipes from his mother, who was a wonderful baker. At Christmas time in particular, she made certain Swedish treats. Her pepparkakor (paper-thin gingersnaps) were made in shapes for each child (she was quite artistic). I remember one Christmas when mine was shaped like a horse. I have never even attempted that for you all. Cookie cutters have worked just fine for the pepparkakor thank you.

But even better than the pepparkakor was the mjuk pepparkakor — basically Swedish gingerbread — a recipe that has attained superstar status in our family ever since you all took your first bite and one that has never failed to elicit rave reviews from anyone who ever put a bite in his or her mouth. I've had many ask for the recipe over the years, but only you have been lucky enough to receive it.

Now, I'm throwing it out there to the blogosphere. Make this. I guarantee you will love it, as will anyone who ever takes a bite. God Jul to all and to Jenny, tack sa mycket, for originally sharing this recipe.

Mjuk Pepperkakor
makes two loaves...which is a good start


1 3/4 sticks melted butter
4 eggs
4 deciliters brown sugar (I use a liquid measuring cup for all — yes, dry ingredients too — and actually use the milliliter lines; so 4 dl is actually 400 ml on my cup. Don't try to convert to metric, folks. Just use the liquid measuring cup and the ML lines and you'll be fine)
4 deciliters white sugar
7 deciliters flour (or 700 ml)
5 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cloves
1 3/4 teaspoons ginger
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 deciliters heavy cream

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
You must use two bowls and follow these directions to a tee. Believe me, I have tried doing my normal who really cares if they say mix in different bowls etc and it has not fared well. I am now a convert--for this recipe anyway.

In one bowl combine the eggs and sugars.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, spices and baking powder.

Add the butter to the sugar bowl and mix. Then add the flour and cream alternately, about half at a time, mixing well in between.

Grease two loaf pans. Pour the mixture into the two pans. Bake for 45 minutes. Then, place some aluminum foil on top of the loaves because they will be brown but not quite done. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Freezes well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Giveaway Winner and Eggplant Lasagna

Ok, folks. The winner of our most recent giveaway is Tyson! We'll be sending you an email with all of the information you need to get your reward. Congratulations and happy shopping!

Hey Ma-

So, we've got friends who are going through a very sad loss of a family member right now. Obviously this calls for the delivery of a warm and hearty dinner. Our friends have dietary restrictions, though, and so our initial thought of lasagna had to be modified. What we ended up concocting was so fantastic that I have to share it with you here. Substituting eggplant for pasta we made the heartiest, yummiest dish.

The only problem we encountered along the way was that the dish turned very liquidy after baking in spite of our having browned the eggplant in a skillet. We learned from a friend that, to avoid this, we could have sprinkled the slices with salt and left them in a strainer for about 30 minutes which would have pulled a lot of the liquid out. We're not sure if the liquidiness was such an issue, based on how much everyone who ate the meal enjoyed it, but we're thinking that next time we'll give this trick a try to see how the results compare.

Despite it's stewy quality, we're sticking to Eggplant Lasagna as our name for this dinner.


Eggplant Lasagna
feeds 4-6

1 large eggplant, sliced top to bottom in roughly 1/2-inch slices
1 jar pasta sauce (we used puttanesca and highly recommend you do the same)
2/3 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced into roughly 1/4-inch thick pieces
12 oz. ricotta
freshly shaved parmesan (I'm going to have to say "to taste" because I have no idea how much we used. We were definitely generous, though)
3-4 links italian fennel sausage (or not! go veggie for a Meatless Monday meal)
handful medium brown mushrooms, sliced
5 c. raw spinach (de-stemmed)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 bunch of basil (de-stemmed)

Prepare eggplant, either by browning it or by trying the salt-and-drain method (and maybe browning afterwards?). Saute sausage, mushrooms, onion and spinach. Starting with a layer of sauce in a large loaf pan, build upwards in this order: sauce, eggplant, basil leaves, veggies and sausage, cheese. Repeat until loaf pan is full and bake at 375 until bubbly and brown. Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Festive Holiday Drinks

Hey Rachel

As you may or may not fully realize, I believe with all my heart that your father and I are perfect for each other. That doesn't mean we don't drive each other crazy sometimes, but we really do push each other to be the best people we can be and that, I think, is really wonderful (although sometimes, admittedly, more work than I care to do).

But one of the many ways in which we blend together seamlessly is in the meal arena. I make the food and he makes the drinks, and we both do our part equally well. Dinner chez Reynolds always means good food and good drinks, usually in copious amounts. I love that we're such a good team here and that people are likely excited to come to our home in part because they know they'll be well taken care of.

Further proof that your father and I are sympatico here is that we both believe in seasonality. Like the first sun-ripened tomato, there is something about a gin and tonic at the end of a hot summer day that is just perfect. It just doesn't taste the same in the winter and, in fact, doesn't appeal to me at all that time of year. But come the first warm day, and I crave a tall G&T. In winter, Peter is a Manhattan or martini man. Summer, rum and tonics are the way to go.

As a devoted G&T drinker, I was always envious of your father's winter libations. I wanted something to mark the seasons, too. I tried martinis — too much booze for me. It was the same with Manhattans. One wintry day, I told Peter how I wished I had a winter drink, too. A few minutes later, the Cranberry Corker appeared, and it was perfect. How lucky am I!

The red color makes it ideal for the holidays so I pass this along for anyone looking for a festive drink. Here's what Peter has to say:

For a festive auburn-tinted cocktail combining New England nature and south of the border sting, the traditional Cranberry Corker is made on the rocks with three parts Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, one part Rose's Lime Juice and one part cranberry juice, with a slice of lime. A sister libation, the Cranberry Manhattan, currently in research and development, is testing three parts Cuervo Gold, one part sweet vermouth and one part cranberry, with lemon or lime.Have one of each and get what you want for Christmas!

What's your favorite winter/holiday drink?

Hey Ma-

Oh man. Dad is just like, insanely cute. I'm glad you included his thoughts on the Cranberry Corker.

John and I are new to the booze scene. Ok, not new as in never drank before, but new as in for the bulk of our relationship the majority of the year has seen our house completely devoid of alcohol. We've just never been big drinkers and likely never will be. Plus, we have no social life (this is only kind of a joke), so we haven't had much reason to amass much alcohol, preferring instead to run out and buy some beer and wine when the occasion has seemed to call for it.

Needless to say, we love visiting you guys. We are well fed and enjoy receiving any drink concoction we can think of, turned out by Dad promptly and with aplomb. I know he joked about having taken bar-tending in college, but clearly the man paid attention.

Anyway, as of late we've had booze in the house. Yes, G receives partial credit for this development since he is a more regular drinker and stayed with us for a while. The person who really receives credit, though, is M. MAN--a baby can drive you to drink. Obviously this is relative (we are still far from drinking with any consistency). We have, I guess, just come to really appreciate the benefits of a glass of wine after a long day and sometimes something a bit stiffer.

This has led us to Dark and Stormies. When you guys came to visit last Dad made them for everyone. One of our friends mentioned that they're extra good with stout added. We didn't forget this and a few nights ago, M sound asleep, we gave this twist a shot.

Oh wow.

So good.

The ratio John's been making them with is (roughly) 1:1:2 rum:beer:ginger beer. I highly recommend you guys give them a try. Maybe we can make them for you in a few weeks when we visit?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Uncle Bub's Shortbread

Hey Ma-

One of the things I really like about this time of year is baking holiday foods that you baked when I was growing-up. I like carrying forward traditions and the stories that accompany them. I've added something to my December kitchen repertoire, though. For the past few years I've baked Grandma's shortbread. The recipe was Uncle Bub's (M's great-great uncle!) and it is incredibly simple and irresistibly good. I like the idea of adding to the tradition I grew up in, bringing in Dad's side of the family and different generations. All of this will yield a bounty of stories for M once she's older. For today she was content to watch the butter cream, fascinated by the whirring sound and whipping motion.

If you haven't made these cookies you should asap. The only advice I'd give is to make a double batch because they really don't last long.


Grandma Reynolds' (via Uncle Bub) Scotch Shortbread

2/3 c. sweet butter, room temporature
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 c.+ 2 T. sifted flour
1/2 tspn. salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter, add sugar gradually, beat till fluffy. Sift flour and salt into creamed mix. Blend by hand thoroughly (there really is no other way at this point...). Press mixt into 9" pie tin and pinch edge to form fluted rim. Prick surface with fork. Mark into 16-20 wedges, cutting 1/2 thru dough. Bake till firm when pressed in center, about 35 minutes (in aluminum pan bake on lower shelf, in glass pan on center shelf). Cool in pan. Cut through wedges while warm. Serve once completely cooled.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Little Break...

Hey Ma-

I am so totally going to make Pop-pop's candy this year. I loved eating it growing up, ducking out into the cold to grab a piece after dinner (or after breakfast...or after lunch...) from the garage steps where you stashed it for cool and safe keeping. It is beyond delicious and I love the idea of bringing Pop-pop into our kitchen here, surrounding M with the smells that once surrounded him. Cooking really rejects linear temporality in some ways, doesn't it?

But anyway...

What I have to share with you today is something you will never make. It was pretty yummy, though, and so I have to share it. Plus, it's a welcome break from the general heaviness of holiday eating. This steak in teriyaki broth with vegetables dish manages to be both hearty and light at once and left John and me feeling full but not too much so. Plus, this is the first time EVER that I cooked a steak right which, in its own right, merits a mention here on the blog.

Click here for the recipe. It's super easy and I ate leftovers for days, including eating just the broth as a vegetable soup once the steak was gone.

I think, actually, the dish might be good with chicken. Why not, right?

Also, now I have this bounty of oyster sauce that I have NO idea what to do with. Have you ever used it? Any suggestions?

Alright. We're off to dinner with friends now.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Recipe Swap: The Amazing Bristol Road Kitchens Toffee

Hey Rachel

As I was putting this post together, I remembered something that I forgot to mention when we kicked off our virtual holiday recipe swap with the post about my dad and his amazing homemade candy. He was a severe diabetic when he first made this candy in his retirement years. In other words, he couldn't even eat it and yet he made batches and batches of it for me and my sister and others. I'm not saying a piece never passed his lips, but it just struck me how much it was a labor of love in its most pure form. The only thing he got from making this amazing candy was the enjoyment of watching people he loved eat it.

I can't remember if you've made this candy yet — I know you regularly make some of our other holiday dishes — but some day when you make this for Miss M and she smiles eating it — because there is no other option — be sure to tell her about Pop Pop and the story of the candy. You were only a few days from your third birthday when he died so you don't remember him. But now you know how much he loved to cook and how much he cooked with love.

Bristol Road Kitchens Toffee
makes one pan (which is never enough, by the way)

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
16 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

Line a rimmed 15 1/2" X 10 1/2" baking pan with a rim with foil. Leave an edge you can grab. This makes it easy to A)take the candy out to break it later and B) clean the pan.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, salt, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Then lower the heat and boil slowly without stirring until the candy thermometer shows 290 degrees. This takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Some words of caution: Once the thermometer reaches about 270, it moves very quickly to 290 and if you aren't paying attention, you will miss your moment AND you will scorch your pan — irreparably. I speak from experience.

Remove from the heat, add the vanilla — it will sputter — and the coarse chopped nuts and stir. Then pour into the pan and let cool until the candy is hard. (I put mine in the garage but you may have a bigger refrigerator than I do.)

After the candy is hard — usually after a couple of hours — melt the chocolate in a saucepan. Spread it over the toffee and sprinkle the finely chopped almonds over the top. Let cool again.

When the candy is hard, take it out of the pan and break into bite-size pieces. You will need to keep it refrigerated or in your garage if you're like me and live somewhere cold. Making it harder to reach is just as well because it gives you a little exercise as you walk over to get your bazillionth piece. Enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Giveaway Time Again!

We're thrilled to announce that CSN Stores is partnering with us again to offer one LTIR lucky reader a $45 gift certificate to use at any one of its 200 — yes, 200 — online stores. If you're not familiar with CSN Stores, it's one-stop online shopping where you can find everything from stylish briefcases to cute cookware to chic lighting pieces!

All you have to do is leave a comment below with your email and you're entered to win. And of course, if you also want to become a follower, we would love that too, but it's not a requirement to enter the contest. :)

By the way, CSN Stores only ship to the US and Canada so the winner has to be from one of those spots. We will choose a winner at random Sunday, Dec. 12, and announce the winner Monday, Dec. 13. Good luck to all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Just a Little Innovation...

Hey Ma-

So, innovations in our kitchen are few and far between these days. We largely stick to tried and trues and, more often than not, these are pretty basic.

As I'm sure you've noticed, one of the go-to dinners in our house is something along the fajita-taco-burrito-quesadilla lines. The other night I went the taco route, using chicken (as you might've guessed from the above photo). I diced tomatoes and sauteed onions and quartered a few limes. This was all par for the course.

The little innovation occurred, however, when I grated half a head of purple cabbage and tossed it into the skillet, adding a dash of oil and then salt and rice vinegar to taste.

It was so yummy! Like, seriously, I'm always going to do this from now on, I think. It added this nice different flavor to the whole meal and, a tartness and texture that we both really enjoyed.

Plus, the cabbage didn't give M bad gas (as it did when she was teeny), so successes abounded.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweet Baby, Sweet Potato

Hey Ma-

Turn oven on to 400 degrees. Poke sweet potato all over with fork. Put in oven. Set timer for 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Scoop out of skin. Mash with fork. Serve.

Seriously, if all infant food making can be relatively this simple, I think we just might keep on hippy-ing our way through this whole baby thing.

My personal favorite thing to feed M are avocados. Scoop, mash, serve. Beautiful.

Here's a little video of M's first bite of sweet potato. We call her spud sometime (she looks like a potato with some regularity) and so it only seemed fitting that her first food after cereal would be her nicknamesake. She ended up loving them, but only after a great deal of consideration. Here's a glimpse of the first minute she spent on her first bite. And yes, by first minute I mean to say that she spent multiple minutes considering this first bite of sweet potato before deciding that, yes, they're yummy.

We've tried carrots three times this week. The only time she ate any of them they were mixed in with sweet potato. The other two times brought her to tears. Tears! She's a very funny little baby.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Overstock Giveaway for our Readers!

Haven't had enough cyber-shopping? Well, get excited.
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If you're not familiar with Overstock — is this even possible in today's world? — it's a mega online site that offers just about everything at discounted prices. They've got everything from sunglasses and handmade jewelry
to digital cameras and chairs. We, of course, personally troll their kitchen stuff, but you can use the discount code below for whatever your heart — or the heart of the person you're shopping for — desires.

The discount code is ?121728?, which is good for 10 percent off all products. Typing in 202234 ** gets you free shipping for electronics.

And now for the FTC disclosure: All the ideas and opinions expressed are our own. No monetary compensation was received for doing this post, however, we were provided with a discount code for our readers.

Happy shopping!