Tag Archives: butter

Thanksgiving Dos and Don’ts

23 Nov

Last year my sister and I took on the task of cooking Thanksgiving for our family. Prior to this endeavor I had never made a turkey, stuffing or gravy in my life, but thanks to hours of research on epicurious, food network and any other source I could find we honed our recipes and came up with a turkey day game plan timed to the minute.

The finished bird. Notice the photo behind me where I am doing the same hand on hip 20 years earlier (and on a dude ranch)

This year we are prepared to do it all again with some valuable lessons learned from last year’s inaugural effort. Below, a list of dos and don’ts to get you through cooking your Thanksgiving meal:

Thanksgiving Dos:

  • Do pick out all your recipes ahead of time and create a schedule based on oven time and temperature
  • Do prepare a cohesive shopping list for your dad so that everything is purchased in advance
  • Do brine your turkey
  • Do have one blow up fight with your sister early on in the cooking
  • Do delegate dessert to others so that you are not completely overwhelmed

Thanksgiving Don’ts:

  • Don’t listen to your sister when she says your 20lb turkey is done after 3 hours of cooking
  • Don’t lug your ice cream maker from DC to Philadelphia on Amtrak – just buy some Haagen Daaz and call it a day
  • Don’t forget the wine
  • Don’t make “an extra mac and cheese just in case”
  • Don’t you dare think you ever have enough herb butter

This year we are going with a smaller bird, but we will definitely be using the same recipe from Tom Colicchio. It was super juicy and fairly simple once my sister pointed out that I had confused the breast side from the back of the bird (oops!)

Buttering and stuffing your bird may require an extra pair of hands

Make sure you give constant attention to your bird

Monitor temperature

Let your turkey rest a bit before carving

In addition to the turkey, we will also be serving:

I can’t wait for this gluttonous feast and I am grateful that I get to spend another year with my family and friends who I love very much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I Went Vegan for Oprah

8 Feb

Recently I joined the 21st century and sprang for DVR. Besides the realization that it only costs a few bucks a month, there was one driving factor in my decision to get it – Oprah. As soon as I heard it was Oprah’s last season I knew I wanted to record the magic. I had been a peripheral fan for years, but in this final year I anticipated that day after day she would be doing something spectacular and I did not want to miss it!

Man did she not disappoint – Oprah’s favorite things, a new sister, everyone is going to Austraaaaaaaaaliaa and Barbara Streisand’s insane house tour are just some of the highlights of what is sure to be the best $7.50/month I ever spent.

Oprah, looking green and leafy, with Veganist author, Kathy Freston

So last week after a particularly stressful day, I began to watch “Oprah’s Vegan Challenge,” what I assumed to be a lighthearted episode where Oprah struggled not to become a cannibal at work after eating only carrots and lentils for days.

Instead Oprah brought on vegan goddess Kathy Freston (who just happens to be the wife of Tom Freston,  Oprah’s OWN business partner) to lead a vegan bootcamp for all 378 of her staffers, challenging them to forgo meat and animal products for one week. Freston was plugging her new book, The Veganist and Michael Pollan also appeared to promote his books and advocate for a conscious diet that included some animal products.

Each staffer received a vegan starter kit prepared by Whole Foods (plug!) and filled with Kashi goodness (plug! plug!) The Harpo cafeteria only served vegan meals all week and several staffers received personal menu planning for their families from Kathy Freston, who I began calling skinny bitch under my breath every time she appeared on-screen.

At the end of the episode, I thought, “I can do this. I can go vegan for one week and I will be glowing and invited on Oprah as a success story!” I decided to begin my own personal vegan challenge and aim for sticking to a meat and dairy free diet for an entire work week (my weekends are for chowing down, ok?)

Although I don’t eat a ton of meat, the episode did make me think more consciously about where my food came from and how meat made its way to my table, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise. Plus, did I mention that Kathy Freston is one skinny, skinny bitch?!?

Things did not exactly start on the right (tofu)foot. I had a friend in town during the weekend and decided to roast us a chicken before a particularly dance fueled evening at Vegas Lounge. Naturally I used the remaining chicken to make a stock. For the next 5 days I would have all this delicious chicken and chicken soup lying around, unable to eat it.

This proved to be my downfall.

Pre-vegan splurge from Taylor Gourmet

On Superbowl Sunday, I organized catering from Taylor Gourmet, and promptly ate 3 meat filled hoagies as my last supper before V-day. If I was going to out, I was going to out with a bang!

First day of vegan challenge:

  • Monday morning – I had some dry cereal for breakfast which I carefully checked to make sure had no animal products. So far, so good.
  • Monday afternoon – Luckily the Sauca food truck stopped right in front of my office and I had a delightful veggie wrap full of flavor for lunch. Bonus points for the fact that it was also quite filling.
  • Monday night – I made myself roasted brussel sprouts and quinoa. I also ate about 3 handfuls of mini saltines to fill up.
  • Monday midnight –  I am starving. My stomach is growling, I cannot fall asleep. My best friend tweeted at me regarding her late night strip steak, further taunting me.  I watched several episodes of the Barefoot Contessa including a red wine and short rib tutorial to try to get a contact high from the beef, but to no avail. Finally at 12:30 I ripped off the covers, opened the fridge and ate some roast chicken. I had to, I was simultaneously unable to fall asleep and about to pass out. It was a nightmare!

As soon as I had some chicken I could feel my blood sugar stabilize and my panic subside. I simply had not had any protein all day and it was throwing me out of whack. I don’t understand how vegans or vegetarians do it, and I gave up animal products for only one day!

Looking back on this short-lived experiment there are a few things I would have done differently:

  • Buy vegan foods in advance. If I had more options lying around I think I would have been less tempted to raid the fridge.
  • Clear out all meat and meat by-products from my apartment (which would have been a feat since I have a butter supply that could last through a nuclear holocaust.)
  • Research recipes so that I have a nutritious balance at every meal.

Although I lasted only 24 hours, I did take away a few lessons from Oprah’s Vegan Challenge.

  • I realized my diet contains so much meat and animal products, it’s hard for me to eat without depending on it for sustenance and flavor.
  • There are plenty of tasty ways to have animal-free meals. In the future I will give more vegetarian foods a try rather than always choosing meat. Unless it’s steak, then all bets are off.
  • Living without butter is hell.

Overall it was an interesting experiment, and one I might try again in the future. For now, I think I will take a less drastic approach and enjoy foods of all nature, but always remember to appreciate where it comes from.

If you are interested in taking the Vegan Challenge, the Oprah starter kit is available here.

How to Make Butter

12 Nov

Not sure if anyone has noticed – but I have an intense love of butter. Growing up we always used margarine and when we finally started using butter it opened up a whole new world of soluble fats for me.

When I was younger I attended a sleep away camp where we had Pioneer Days – a weekend full of old timey events like watermelon seed spitting and lighting a fire with sticks. And butter making. First team to churn the butter won. Oh man did I churn.

These memories all came flooding back to me when I came across the blog Not Without Salt, which is delightful read, with a a great little video on how to make butter. Enjoy!

How to Shop Online

27 Oct

I live in Washington DC, the land that fashion forgot. I know what you are thinking…Michelle Obama changed everything, it’s a fashion metropolis!

If by everything you mean cardigan sales then yes, the city is transformed. Otherwise everyone continues to walk to work in sneakers.

Due to this lack of physical options, I tend to purchase a majority of my wardrobe online. Not to toot my own horn but if online shopping was an Olympic sport I would be Michael Phelps, pre-bong hit scandal.

Since I am ridiculously good at online shopping…toot toot…I thought I would share some tips for online shopping as well as some favorite sites. I know many people are reluctant online shoppers, and so to help open up the world of internet purchasing I put together this handy FAQ.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Why would I shop online rather than go to a brick and mortar store?

Answer: UGHHH, what is this the 20th century?

Going to an individual store takes a lot of time and energy. The selection online is far greater than in physical stores and you also don’t have to deal with crowds or annoying sales people. Stores might not always have what you are looking for, your size might be out of stock, and the price might be higher than what you are willing to pay. Online shopping allows you to search for exactly what you are looking for, compare the same item on multiple sites and coupons are available on websites like  RetailMeNot and CouponCabin.

Question: How can I online shop when I need to try things on before I buy them? I have cankles/ broad shoulders/I’m pear shaped in the winter and boy shaped in the summer. HELP!!!

Answer: This is where the online store’s return policy comes in. I rarely purchase anything that does not have free shipping and free returns, and if a store does not have this option, check the aforementioned coupon websites for a free shipping code. In terms of fit I would say know what looks good on you and your body type, but when in doubt buy two sizes, especially when it comes to shoes. I also prefer trying things on in the comfort of my own home and thinking about how the potential new purchase will go with my wardrobe.

Plus store lighting is atrocious and skinny jeans are really difficult to squeeze into in those coffins they call dressing rooms.

Question: I am so out of fashion, I don’t even know what I am looking for…where should I start?

Answer: This is one  of my favorite things about online shopping, browsing is so much easier. I would first start by visiting some websites that forecast the latest trends and offer recommendations on which bootie/shearling coat/maxi dress to purchase. I frequent WhoWhatWear, Refinery29 and TheCut for these purposes, as well as the latest fashion news. These are a good place to start if you are looking to get a little hipper or just go to feel inspired. I recommend signing up for daily emails so that things are delivered to your inbox without any effort on your part.

That’s what online shopping is all about – being simultaneously lazy yet fabulously dressed.

Question: Ok, you have convinced me to try online shopping, now help me find what I am looking for! I am looking for a pair of shoes to wear to my cousin’s wedding, where should I go?

Answer: Anytime you are looking for something specific, let’s say a patent peep toe sling back in eggplant, I would go to Shopstyle. Shopstyle is an aggregator – like the Huffington Post of fashion – that scans hundreds of websites for you and assembles everything that you are looking for in one place. Another similar site is Polyvore, which does the same thing in a different layout, and allows you to create your own outfits in an editorially appealing way.

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Favorite Websites

These are the sites I frequent the most and offer the greatest selection for my style and wallet (eek, maybe not.)

Great selection for dressed up basics, frequent sales and coupons. I prefer the offerings in the summer and tend to avoid their shoes, although the mens footwear is quite nice. No free shipping but free returns. Added bonus that you can try things on in the store, or get things online and return/exchange them in person.

Online shopping mecca that runs the gamut from the latest trend items and more expensive investment pieces to everyday basics. VAST selection from top brands including harder to find designer goods and killer accessories – I always buy a few key items here each season. Free shipping and free returns within 14 days. Infrequent coupon offerings but their stuff goes on sale quickly and the sale selection is great. Often I discover things here that are beyond my price range and then search around on ShopStyle hoping to find the same item for less on another site.

The discount sister to luxury e-boutique, Net-a-porter, I love the Outnet! Amazing designer goods at rock bottom prices, frequent flash sales that slash prices even further. Inventory moves quickly here so its best to check out the Just In section and skip over things that have been lingering on the site for a long time. No free shipping or returns sadly, but each order is lovingly packaged in a giant reusable zippered tote that I use constantly to store out of season clothes or transport items to the dry cleaner.

Boutique retailer specializing in French and French-looking duds. It’s the next best thing to booking a trip to Paris for a shopping holiday, although with the high price tags it might end up costing the same.

The British retailer recently opened a stateside specific website. Huge selection of basics and trendier items both from their own brand and other labels. Free shipping and returns.

All of these sites carry footwear, but there are several shoe specific websites, all with great selection and generous shipping/return policies, that I strongly endorse: Piperlime, Endless, Lori’s.

There are a slew of other websites that I left off, but for now these are my greatest hits, feel free to leave recommendations in the comments.

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Hot Toddy Remix

22 Oct

Hoping to lay low on a recent Monday evening, my roommate had other plans. She walked in the door triumphantly holding a bottle of apple bourbon and declared that we were going to make hot toddys using a recipe that included a slab of butter. My eyes glossed over…butter!!!!!!!

Several beverages later and a trip to Krispy Kreme under our much- expanded-belts, we had one of the greatest Monday nights ever. Also RHOA (Real Housewives of Atlanta for all you non-believers) was on, and NeNe delivered an emotional monologue for the ages.

Recipe courtesy of epicurious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 4 whole cloves (we used Trader Joe’s mulling spices)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Ground nutmeg
Preparation:
Bring first 5 ingredients to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let steep 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons chilled butter to saucepan; bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon and lemon juice. Strain into large measuring cup. Divide hot cider among 4 mugs. Cut 1 tablespoon butter into 4 pieces. Add 1 piece to each mug. Sprinkle nutmeg over.

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream aka Heaven on a Spoon

14 Jun

I received a  Cuisinart ice cream maker for my birthday and was very excited to test it out. For my first recipe I wanted to choose something pure and decadent and decided to pop on over to David Lebovitz’s blog and see what he had to offer. I chose the Salted Butter Caramel recipe since it combined my two favorite food groups, butter and salt. David is the ice cream king, and after testing only one of his recipes I have already added his best selling book, The Perfect Scoop, to my amazon cart.

Rather than heading to my life partner, Trader Joe’s, for the ingredients, I decided to go see my mistress, Dupont Farmer’s market and get some real upmarket supplies.  After making this simple recipe I urge anyone making ice cream to splurge on the ingredients. Even though it was well over 90 degrees at 10am, I trekked (3 whole blocks!) to Dupont Circle and bought farm fresh eggs and whole milk, the basis for my ice cream. Everything else I had in my pantry and I imagine most people do as well. The woman at the dairy booth was a big Lebovitz fan and was excited for me to make the ice cream, as were others in line. Random farmer’s market people, it was a success!!

The recipe is two steps, the first involves making the salted caramel praline, the second is making the ice cream. You can make the praline ahead of time but both parts definitely need your full attention since burning sugar is involved.

The recipe adapted from David Lebovitz. All photos are David Lebovitz:

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
One generous quart (liter)

For the caramel praline (mix-in)

½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt (I am addicted to salt and used more, but then again my tastebuds have been killed by years of sodium abuse)
For the ice cream custard:

2 cups whole milk, divided
1½ cups sugar
4 tablespoons  salted butter
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt (again, I doubled this amount based on my own tastes)
1 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract (I read on another blog that faux vanilla contains an antifreeze ingredient, so its best to use the real stuff when making ice cream)
1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup  of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan: I use a 6 quart/liter pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)

sugarcaramelizing.jpg

Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long.
3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring (don’t even pause to scratch your nose), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it around into a thin layer. Set aside to harden and cool.
4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.
5. Spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.
6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go.

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The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted (Don’t panic, this happened to me, just trust the chemistry of the heat breaking up the sugar, and keep stirring!) Stir in 1 cup  of the milk.
7. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens.
8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (About 4-8 hours).
9. Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (In the case of the cuisinart, it takes about 30 minutes to reach ice cream consistency. If you are like me and keep pausing the machine to dip a spoon in to taste, then slightly longer.)
10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, and add to the mixture.

11. Put the ice cream into a tupperware and into the freezer to let it firm up a bit.

After waiting for 10 minutes, I opened the freezer and dipped my spoon in the tupperware. Honestly it is the best ice cream I have ever had (and I have tried them all), it is so rich and delicious a few spoonfuls is all you need to feel satisfied. Totally worth all the time and effort (and highfalutin eggs and milk). Can’t wait to make my next flavor, any suggestions?

Delicious Chocolate Birthday Cake

18 Jul

Recently I made a super yummy chocolate birthday cake from scratch following the recipe of one of my favorite food network hotties, Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa. The cake was for Jill, one of my best friends who is a chocolate freak so I had a lot to live up to. It was actually really easy and everyone loved it! I decided to add strawberries for an extra touch, how do you think it turned out? For the full recipe check out Ina’s website.

Emma and I putting the finishing touches on the cake after we iced it. The icing has a secret ingredient, coffee that makes it super rich and shiny. It also has a not so secret ingredient...butter.

Emma and I putting the finishing touches on the cake after we iced it. The icing has a secret ingredient, coffee that makes it super rich and shiny. It also has a not so secret ingredient...butter.

The icing was glossy!

The icing was glossy!

Happy 23 Jill aka Bill aka Gill! Thanks for bringing a crew of Long Islanders to the party!!

Happy 23 Jill aka Bill aka Gill! Thanks for bringing a crew of Long Islanders to the party!!

For the cake you need:

  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used butter instead)
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the icing you need:

  • 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Full recipe available here. Happy Baking!

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