Category Archives: food

More tasty things in the kitchen

Tasty things we made in December

Sweet potato casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

8 Tbsp butter
5 sweet potatoes
Less than 1/3 cup each of brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup*
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Pecans for topping (optional)

*The original recipe called for 1 cup of packed brown sugar, and also 5 lbs of potatoes; a few of my potatoes were probably under a pound, but even so, that seemed like a lot of sugar. I replaced some of the sugar with other sweeteners, about 1/4 cup of each – you could definitely cut back even more and this would still be a very sweet dish.

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes, sugar/molasses/syrup, water, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes are tender, 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450.

Remove the lid and bring the potato mixture to a simmer; gently mash the potatoes into the liquid with a potato masher. Chop the pecans and spread them over the top of the potato mixture, then bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool just long enough so that you don’t burn your mouth on the first bite.

Olive oil cake with lemon and ginger (adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake)

We made the blood orange olive oil cake, and it was very good, but it will be years before I “supreme” a citrus fruit again. Make the same cake using lemon zest and juice instead of orange, and add about 1/2 cup of chopped crystallized ginger, and it’s an easier and equally delicious cake.

Green casserole a.k.a. secret spinach casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Very adapted: I actually used the ATK recipe for fettuccine alfredo sauce, added a cube of last summer’s frozen pesto and a whole bag of spinach (turned into green paste with a little bit of olive oil in the food processor), and used this green sauce mixture to coat cooked (al dente) rigatoni pasta, which I then baked in a 9×13 casserole dish at 350 for about 20 minutes. Grate some extra cheese over the top if you like (and who doesn’t like?).

Oatmeal walnut raisin cranberry cookies (from Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang)

These are good if you think of them as breakfast cookies instead of dessert cookies.

A note on crystallized ginger and raisins, vis a vis toddlers: our kid is wild about these. I just heard you’re not supposed to give raisins to kids under three because they are a choking hazard, but they are very small raisins, and she’s been fine so far. And she brushes her (many, many, I think about 80 now?) teeth. As for the ginger…neither her dad nor I can handle eating a whole piece of ginger, but apparently she has a much higher spice/heat tolerance than we do!


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Various tasty things

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…I have discovered the casserole. Mostly what I have discovered is cooking one big thing and having several days’ worth of leftovers for 2-3 people. From what I’ve heard, casseroles are merely the gateway drug to slow cookers, but I’m not quite there yet (I’m hesitant to add one more gadget to the kitchen, though I hear they are well worth it).

What we’ve made lately, savory:

  • Macaroni and cheese casserole, Pioneer Woman (a.k.a. Ree Drummond) recipe. I added caramelized onion, broccoli, and chicken meatballs. Used traditional elbow noodles.
  • Pasta and meatball casserole, America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I jarred sauce instead of homemade, made it with penne or rigatoni.
  • Sweet potato and macaroni and cheese casserole, Nigella Lawson recipe. You may need a side of greens with this. I used cavatappi pasta.
  • Fettuccine alfredo, America’s Test Kitchen recipe, except I think we used linguine, and we used less cheese because we didn’t have parmesan on hand, and I added a couple cubes of the pesto I made and froze at the end of the summer. And chicken meatballs. Pesto fettuccine alfredo? It was good.
  • Thanksgiving dinner! Not just on Thanksgiving anymore. Turkey breast from Trader Joe’s, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sometimes box stuffing.
    • Cranberry sauce: two cans of whole berry cranberry sauce, a little water (or orange juice), half a lemon, some lemon or orange zest, an orange, clementine sections, chopped walnuts.
    • Mashed potatoes: With butter and whole milk (at least. Half-and-half or cream also works), some salt and pepper, and whatever herbs are still alive – rosemary, thyme.

What we’ve made lately, breakfast-y or sweet:

  • “Big beautiful muffins,” America’s Test Kitchen recipe, different variations: blueberry and lemon, raspberry, apple-cinnamon.
  • Granola (Ben makes this from my friend Sarah’s recipe)
  • Cranberry-apricot scones, America’s Test Kitchen recipe.
  • Chocolate chip cookies, recipe from Good to the Grain (uses whole wheat flour and bittersweet chocolate instead of AP and semi-sweet)
  • Molasses spice cookies, recipe from Flour by Joanne Chang (and someone just got a copy of Flour, Too for an early Hanukkah present…)
  • Orange cardamom madeleines, recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookies. I had the ingredients, neighbor Catherine had the madeleine pan (and an expert set of hands). Despite baking for more than twice the prescribed time, they were a little underdone, but still delicious.
  • Pumpkin pie (homemade filling from my cousin’s recipe, frozen crust. Frozen crust is fine but use a sweet one, not a savory one!)

In a happy turn* of events, the kid is now eating food in quantities larger than a tablespoon at a time! She has enjoyed all of the above (but especially the muffins and madeleines).

*It was more like a fifteen-point-turn, rather than a U-turn or even a three-point-turn, but in her defense, you see a lot of those around here, on account of the insane layout of the roads, and the drivers who would probably drive the way they do even if all the roads were laid out on a perfect grid. Anyway, muffins!


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There’s no way of knowing what she’s thinking, of course. But it’s fun to imagine.


“I’m not sure if I want this.”


“I have two of them!”


“Here’s another one.”


“Hmm, I need to think on this for a minute.”


[Still pondering]


“I have changed my mind.”


“This is terrible! Do you want it? You take it.”


“On second thought…”

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Strawberry crop

We have yet to see if they are indeed “everbearing,” but we got at least a small handful of strawberries from my new plants. Yum.


It was exciting to watch them ripen, and especially exciting that they were able to without being ravaged by squirrels and birds.


New flowers…more berries to come?


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I made a thing

This terrycloth sleeper with a puppy on it was in the 30-year-old bundle of my own baby clothes, but I didn’t pull it out in time and Lyra only wore it once before outgrowing it.


One baby, made from scratch. Not a great photo.

Having held on to it for so long, though, I couldn’t just get rid of it or give it away, so, inspired a friend who hand-sews handkerchiefs/burp cloths for her son, I tackled a sewing project.


I think it came out all right (okay, to be honest, I’m ridiculously pleased with myself for sewing something slightly more elaborate than dog toys). I used the colored wrists to make little loops at the top corners, and attached the feet (which flip inside out) to the bottom corners.


Sleeper outfit turned washcloth toy.

The blue backing is an old t-shirt we were using (not often) as a cleaning rag.


It’s sort of a toy and sort of a washcloth. The baby seems no more or less interested in it than she does in any other toys, except for jingly Tigger, whose limbs and face she is determined to eat.



Other things we have made recently: the taco torte from Smitten Kitchen, and these brownie cookies from Leite’s Culinaria. If you were ever eating a cookie and wishing it was a brownie, here you go. You’re welcome.


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Cake in the morn


“I’m not the milk and the milk’s not me!”

Improbably, we’ve actually been able to get a good amount of cooking and baking done with an infant in the house, through a combination of trading off baby duty, employing one-handed kitchen skills, and practicing moving pots and pans silently. (Is there already a YouTube channel called “I’m Hungry, But Don’t Wake the Baby” about ninja-style cooking? If not, maybe we’ll start one…)

Lately, we’ve made lots of oatmeal cookies (from the Flour recipe), “Chunky Lola” cookies (also from Flour), a batch of molasses spice cookies, oatmeal scones with maple glaze, this “taco torte” from Smitten Kitchen, granola, applesauce, and tiramisu. So…really healthy! (We have been eating real meals with vegetables and stuff, they’re just not as exciting to write about.)


Oatmeal maple scone and molasses spice cookies




Tiramisu: sponge cake, tiramisu cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache. Major hat tip to our neighbor friend for the sponge cake and the recipe!

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Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

In late September, we took a tour of the Taza chocolate factory in Somerville. I highly recommend this tour; it’s informative and there are lots of samples! However, I have been bombarded with e-mails from Taza ever since. Mostly I delete them, but the most recent one caught my eye, because aside from promising $15 off (if you spend $100, so, no, not happening), it included a recipe for Peppermint Cookies.

The e-mail happened to arrive at a time when the baby was napping and likely to be napping a bit longer (she’d had her vaccinations that morning, which, predictably, made her scream and cry and then conk out), and I had most of the ingredients on hand, so I decided to try the recipe. It said it only made 12 cookies though, so I went ahead and doubled it; also, I didn’t have any candy canes or starlight mints on hand, so I used Williams-Sonoma peppermint hot chocolate instead. (It looks like they’re not selling this right now or I’d link to it. Meanwhile, here’s a hilarious take-down of W-S’s holiday catalog instead.)

Other than doubling the ingredients (amounts below), I followed the recipe instructions (link above), and they came out great! I would recommend chilling the dough for 15-20 minutes at least – and overnight is probably fine – so it’s easier to roll into balls.

1 stick butter
5 oz. dark (60%) chocolate with 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp of salt
4 oz. Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs (we had these from the tour)
2 oz peppermint hot chocolate (no need to double this amount, I used 4 oz. and there was a lot left over)

They came out uniformly round, flat, and soft – I baked them on a Silpat – and have kept well in a tupperware container thus far. This is a nice easy recipe that doesn’t even require a stand mixer, for those of you with minimalist kitchens. What’s your favorite holiday cookie recipe?

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