Oct 11

Pumpkin Soup Made in the Pumpkin!



When I first saw this recipe I was so excited to try it that I went out and bought all of the ingredients that same day. Actually MAKING the soup INSIDE THE PUMPKIN seemed like the most crazy and incredible idea that I had ever heard of. I didn’t get around to making it that first weekend, and I left that first pumpkin out for decoration, and in about 2 days time it was no longer fit for cooking. I had to wait a whole week for the farmers market to come back into my neighborhood to get a new pumpkin that I could cook right away. The anticipation and excitement was killing me – I had to try this, and I had to know if it would actually work in real life. It seemed like this could be one of those beautiful yet impossible recipes that you find every now and then in magazines.

It seems so simple though: once you’ve scraped all of the seeds and tendril-like insides out of the pumpkin, you plop all of the ingredients in and stick it in the oven. The most difficult part of this whole thing is carving out the inside of the pumpkin, which takes significantly longer than I usually anticipate it will.


I have never really baked/cooked anything IN anything except for stuffing Italian peppers with spicy sausage, and my biggest fear was that, in the middle of my cooking this soup, the pumpkin would cave in on itself and a tidal wave of chicken broth and cheese would come racing out of my oven.

However, that was not the case. Followed the recipe pretty much exactly and the results were superb: The soup was cheesy and salty and paired perfectly with the buttery and nutty pumpkin flesh that you gently carve out of the sides and scoop into the bowls.

Recipe from this months Bon Appetit!


  • 1 6–8 pound Cinderella, cheese, or Jarrahdale pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, finely ground
  • 2 large pinches piment d’Espelette
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (packed) grated Gruyère
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from white bread
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 5–7 cups low-salt chicken stock
  • Flat-leaf parsley


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Cut out a wide circle around stem of pumpkin to make a lid. Lift lid; scrape off any seeds and set aside. Scoop out seeds and strings from inside pumpkin.
  • Place pumpkin in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub pumpkin flesh with butter. Sprinkle all over inside with ground fennel seeds and piment d’Espelette. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, and bay leaves. Pour in stock to come within 3″ of the pumpkin’s rim. Cover with lid.
  • Roast pumpkin for 1 hour. Remove lid; put lid flesh side up on pan alongside pumpkin and return to oven. Continue to roast until pumpkin flesh is soft when pierced with a knife (take care not to puncture skin), 30-90 minutes more, depending on size of pumpkin.
  • Discard bay leaves. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, gently scoop a big spoonful of flesh from sides or bottom of pumpkin into each bowl and ladle stock over. Garnish with parsley.



Dec 09

New Love of an Old Cookie


My mom’s traditional holiday cookie recipes (which I will post later in the week) are for chocolate dipped shortbread and classic, very chocolatey chocolate chip. She’s also been making almond crescents for a few years since my dad expressed a desire for the cookies his grandmother used to make during the holidays when he was young. And that’s what the holiday season is all about: good food, and family.

Admitedly, I have never been a fan of the almond crescent. They were always too dry for me, and I’m a chocoholic which made my sugar consumption priority the other two cookie varieties. This year, my mom selected on online recipe from Vanilla Garlic posted on Simply Recipes and these cookies have converted me to an almond crescent fan. My mom made a few slight changes to the recipe (used very finely ground almonds instead of almond flour, and covered the cookies entirely in powdered sugar instead of just dusting) and I am completely addicted. I cannot stop eating them.

I find myself craving them in the middle of the day. When I reach for the plate of cookies, I take one of each of the other two cookies and three or four of the almond crescents. They’re moist, and have fantastic flavor. Bravo, Mom.

Happy Holidays everyone! Be sure to eat your almond crescents!

Almond Crescent Cookies Recipe


  • 1 cup of butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of almond flour (can substitute ground almonds*)
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar for sprinkling

*You can use slivered, blanched almonds and grind them up, but you will have a very crumbly, hard to work with dough. It’ll still taste good though.


1 Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and mix.

2 Add the flour and almond flour. Mix thoroughly.

3 Take generous tablespoons of the dough (it will be slightly crumbly) and roll it into a small ball, about an inch in diameter, and then shape into a crescent shape. Place onto parchment paper and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until a light golden brown.

4 Dust with powdered sugar.

For added decadence let the cookies cool and dip one end of them into some melted chocolate, then let the chocolate harden.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.


Dec 09

The Mighty Meringue: Chocolate Bliss

Chocolate Pavlova

Blondes do not have more fun.

Chocoholics do.

Which is why we are always on the lookout for delicious, satiating dessert recipes that don’t break the belt buckle. I found this recipe in a great book, Cook Yourself Thin by Candice Kumai, Harry Eastwood, and Allison Fishman. We had leftover whipped cream, which the recipe calls for, in the fridge (SCORE!) I decided that it was a good time to try my hand at meringues. Chocolate meringues, that is.

Chocolate Meringue Pavlova Chocolate Meringue Pavlova

I am thoroughly convinced that the reason I enjoyed the end result was only partially due to the recipe itself. I used unsweetened cocoa, but I used Divine powdered cocoa, and shaved Callebaut dark chocolate over the whipped cream to top off the dish. The age-old lesson: a quality recipe is only as good as the ingredients you put into it. I left out the melted chocolate and raspberries because I didn’t have time to run to the store. They would have been amazing though. Be sure to check out all of the fabulous recipes from Cook Yourself Thin!

Chocolate Meringue Pavlova

Chocolate Pavlova

Serves 6

Calories per serving: 337


4 egg whites

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

½ tsp lemon juice

1 tablespoon cocoa powder


1 cup whipping cream

1 cup fresh raspberries

¼ cup shaved dark chocolate

¼ cup melted chocolate for drizzling.

Chocolate Meringue Pavlova


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Whisk the egg whites and salt on high speed until they hold their shape. Add the sugar gradually until the mixture stands in firm peaks. Add the lemon juice and whisk just to incorporate. Sift the cocoa powder into a small corner of the bowl and lightly fold it into the meringue using a plastic spatula. Do not over mix of you will lose the rippled effect. Pour the meringue onto the parchment-lined sheet pan in an oval shape, roughly 3-inches by 5-inches and 2-inches high. Place into the bottom of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  3. Switch off the oven without opening the door and leave the Pavlova in the turned –off oven for one hour. Remove and set aside
  4. For the topping: whisk the whipping cream into semi-stiff peaks and spoon on top of the pavlova. Sprinkle with raspberries and shaved chocolate before serving. Finish with drizzled chocolate.

Dec 09

Thanksgiving Leftover Croquettes


Every year it’s the same story: tons of turkey, mounds of stuffing and mashed potatoes, and a big container of gravy all piled back into the fridge waiting to be re-purposed for future meals.

In trying to find new ways to work with the traditional medium of leftovers, I started to think about something that I was really craving. In the middle of the chilled holiday, my mind drifted back to the blistering heat of Asila, Morocco, and to a small restaurant called Casa Garcia. Casa Garcia had the freshest fish and fruit-filled sangria in the small seaside town, and their menu contained a surprising favorite: Seafood croquettes. The croquettes came to the table hot, with a satisfyingly crispy crust and a mouth-singeing creamy starchy center with small pieces of shrimp and fish.


And thus Thanksgiving Leftover Croquettes were born. A delicious and satisfying meal in the spirit of making “the perfect bite” and using what is already in the fridge. The beautiful thing about this dish is that you could use any leftovers from your holiday feast.

As long as they all taste good together to begin with (epic fail awaits those who attempt to incorporate dessert leftovers into this recipe).

thanksgiving leftover croquettes

Our Thanksgiving Leftover Croquettes featured a center of turkey and stuffing, wrapped in a layer of mashed potatoes. We served ours with gravy “dipping sauce” and fresh vegetables (an attempt counter-act the frying component and use up leftover appetizers).

Make sure to read the tips in the instruction section—borne from my own experimenting and mess-ups

Thanksgiving Leftover Croquettes

Makes 12, fist sized croquettes

12 1 ½” long, thinner pieces of Turkey

aprox. 1 ½ cups Stuffing (chilled)

aprox. 4 cups Mashed Potatoes (chilled)

2 eggs

2 ½ cups bread crumbs

Oil for frying


  1. Preheat oven to 225°F. Line a baking sheet with freezer paper and set aside. Beat eggs in a wide bowl with a fork, and set aside. Pour breadcrumbs onto a plate and spread evenly.
  2. Make Croquettes: In one hand, combine one piece of turkey and about 1 Tbsp. stuffing. This is the center. Cup your hand around the center and top with about 3 Tbsp of mashed potatoes, shaping to form an oval around the strip of turkey. Turn croquette over so turkey and stuffing are facing upward (mashed potatoes are in the palm of your hand now) and cover with mashed potatoes, shaping to maintain oval, and cover turkey and stuffing completely and evenly. Repeat unthanksgiving turkey croquettestil all 12 are done.
  3. Take each croquette and roll in egg, and then in breadcrumbs (TIP: Make sure you cover the whole surface of the croquette with egg and breadcrumbs, otherwise when you go to fry them the exposed mashed potatoes will dissolve.) Set on waxed side of freezer paper on baking sheet. Repeat for each croquette. Cover the croquettes with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat 2-3” of oil in a pan on medium heat. Oil is ready when water droplets sizzle in the pan. Working in batches of four, place croquettes into the oil. Use a slotted spoon to gently turn the croquettes every few minutes. Cook until crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes (Watch carefully, if the mashed potatoes start to dissolve too much, remove croquette as soon as it begins to brown.) Remove croquettes using the slotted spoon and place on a paper towel covered plate. Pat to remove the remaining oil, and place on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining batches. Serve immediately.

Nov 09

Thanksgiving Leftover Meal

My my, what to do with a house full of Turkey! This evening was all about simplicity, so I made a delicious french onion soup, courtesy of an L.A. Times’ article, and paired it with deliciously simple turkey sandwiches. Again, simple was the idea:

Marble rye

Turkey (sliced thin)

Shredded mozzarella

Turkey gravy

caramelized shallots (2 shallots, cut in half,  sliced lengthwise, in a pan on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes)

Step 1: Toast the marble rye very slightly.

Step 2: Spread a bit of butter on one half of the bread (the side where you are going to pile on the goodies) and place thinly sliced turkey on butter.

Step 3: Place shallots on top of turkey, then gravy, then mozzarella cheese. Toast for another 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. One of my secrets here is to toast the other side of the bread with the stacked piece, so that both sides are warmed prior to serving.

Step 4: Cut sandwich in half and serve. Simple, but so good.

The shallots add a nice hint of garlic and onion, without the toughness of a traditional onion. Sorry there aren’t any photos for this one–we were just really enjoying ourselves :)

Happy Thanksgiving Leftovers Day!


Nov 09

Taking a Second for Sprouts

brussel sprout half

Let’s take a second to talk about brussel sprouts. This dreaded childhood vegetable that has recently seen a seasonal revival in high-end restaurants and home kitchens around the country, and it’s Cher-like comeback could not have come in a more delicious wave of popularity. In a previous post, I touted the marvels of Michael Symon’s Fried Brussel Sprouts at Bar Symon. I also recently sampled fresh market balsamic glazed brussels at For Defiance (post to come shortly!) and so I decided to try out this incredibly chic side-dish myself. I settled on a simple recipe from Dan Barber: Balsamic-Glazed Brussel Sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts

I wanted to add something of my own to the mix, so I decided to give my bottle of Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil a shot. The result was deliciously cripsy brussels with a hint of orange and the sweetness of the EVOO. The blod orange infusion paired very well with the aged balsamic vinegar used to deglaze the brussels. The one thing I would have done differently would have been to leave the brussels in the oven a bit longer, to get them crispy all over, instead of just on the side that was pan fried. Here is the fantastic recipe, courtesy of Serious Eats.

Brussel Sprouts

Dan Barber’s Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

- serves 2 as a side -
Adapted from Dan Barber


2 cups Brussels sprouts, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Gently heat the oil in a cast iron skillet, then add the sprouts, cut-side down. Cook without moving until they brown nicely and develop a crust. This is where the flavor happens.

3. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 4 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and, using tongs, turn each sprout over carefully onto its back. Add the balsamic vinegar to deglaze, gently shaking and tossing the skillet until there is no excess vinegar in the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.


Nov 09

Root Liquor

Root 1

Root Liquor from Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is the trendy liquor of the season. Featured in the pages of Real Simple (part of the gifts for under $50 section), this organic, 80 proof liquor has the childhood nostalgia of root beer barrels with the appropriately adult kick of alcohol. If you ever wondered why God created cream soda, the answer is to drink with root liquor, making a light drink that’s good for fall afternoons. Interested in dessert? Make yourself a Root Liquor Root Beer Float. A refreshing Tsunami with Root, Lemonade, Meyers Dark Rum and Ginger Beer is perfect for those unseasonably warm days this year (although I prefer mine with a bit more root and a bit less Meyers). Here are the recipes for all three of these excellent drinks:


2 oz. Myers dark rum
1 oz. ROOT
fresh lemonade
ginger beer

Combine ROOT and rum in a pint glass. Fill remainder of pint glass with fresh lemonade and top off with ginger beer.

Created by Indhira Torres of Silk City

Root and Cream Soda

4 oz. Cream Soda (Spreckers is EXCELLENT in this)
1.5 oz. ROOT

Pour ROOT into glass, then Cream Soda (adding the carbonated bev. second helps to mix)

ROOT Float

Play on root beer float we know and love from childhood.

1.5oz ROOT
1.5oz Cruzan rum cream (or other light rum cream)
1.5 cola

Combine ingredients over ice in shake. Make sure you have a tight seal and shake. Strain into glass. Served straightly chilled.

Root would be an exciting addition to any holiday gathering this year. Just make sure you don’t pour it all away on your guests ;) You can order Root online here (Info at the bottom of the page)


Nov 09

Season for Spice Cake

spice cake and pumpkin ice

When my dad came home with a pint of Dr. Mike’s Pumpkin Ice Cream (YUM!) we needed a complimentary baked good that would pair well with the creamy, nutty, distinct pumpkin flavor. My first thought was gingerbread, but I wasn’t in the mood for cookies, and neither was the family. I settled on this recipe for spice cake from Bon Appetit in December of 1998. The cake is their recipe, but I altered the frosting slightly to be my own, because I wanted more of a maple glaze. What really adds the special flavor to this recipe is the crystallized ginger, with a sweet little kick when you take a bite.

For cake

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel

For Frosting

  • 1 lb confectioners sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 3 tsp. maple syrup

spice cake and pumpkin ice 2

Make cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 10-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; spray paper. Sift flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Mix in crystallized ginger.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in brown sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Gradually beat in molasses, then 1 cup boiling water. Mix in grated orange peel. Gradually mix in dry ingredients.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to rack and cool 15 minutes. Run knife around pan sides. Turn cake out onto rack; peel off paper. Cool.

Make filling and frosting:
Beat the butter and maple syrup together. Add 2 Tbsp. of milk and beat until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, alternating with another tablespoon or two of milk (milk will change the consistency).

Frost the cake once it is cool, and if you would like to create a cool, dripping effect, you can layer frosting on top of the cake and around the top edges while it is still a bit warm, and watch the melting frosting create smooth drops of frosting around the sides of the cake.


Nov 09

I am not a Birthday Cake

I am not a birthday cake 2

This weekend was Nate’s birthday, and he’s not the biggest fan of cake. Nate is, however, in love with George’s Doughnuts. And while I was trying to figure out what kind of birthday cake I should make for him this year, I had an epiphany: A Monkey-Bread-style cake made out of doughnuts from George’s. This is how it happened:

I am not a birthday cake 4

Accomplice 1 (Nate’s Mom) acquired 2 dozen doughnuts from George’s (she pre-ordered them, because they usually sell out by 9am). We used all different kinds of doughnuts, so in any given slice you could have jelly, cream-filled, glazed, cake doughnuts, sprinkles, etc.Using a greased bundt pan, a little home-made glaze (powdered sugar, water, and a hint of vanilla) we chopped up the doughnuts into fours, and then started placing them into the pan, sealing each layer with a little glaze.

I am not a birthday cake 3

The final layer was topped off with a layer of glaze to seal it all in. We then baked the whole thing at 350°F for 5 minutes, just enough time to melt the glaze and have the whole thing meld together. After it came out of the oven, it sat for only a few seconds (we didn’t want it to stick to the pan) and then we inverted it onto a cake plate. After a bit of hand molding to ensure that it wouldn’t fall apart, the cake was ready for candles. We used all different kinds of doughnuts, so in any given slice you could have jelly, cream-filled, glazed, cake doughnuts, sprinkles, etc. We also added a few extra sprinkles, for a bit of birthday flair.

I am not a birthday cake 1

Score for LVKakes.


Nov 09

Cleveland’s Lola

Today's Charcuterie

Today's Charcuterie

Michael Symon is a master, and Cleveland is his muse. The interior of Lola restaurant reflects the industrial condition of the city and the people with warm, metallic tones and angular decor. Symon’s menu is about refined, rustic flavors, like his Braised Berkshire “Bacon” which is essentially a huge chunk of bacon with citrus, ginger, and carrot flavors. The creaminess of the fat on the cut mixes perfectly with the acid of apple and orange. When I asked the waiter to bring me the best entree on the menu, he delivered an unbelievably smooth and tangy goat cheese “mac’n'cheese” with rosemary chicken. The recipe can be found on Food Network’s site.

Braised "Bacon"

Braised "Bacon"

By far, the most enjoyable part of the meal was the first impression: Today’s Charcuterie. Each of the samples was perfectly cured, and the pate was particularly savory. The pickles were sour, which is how I prefer them, and the mustard was zippy. All were paired with cripsy, buttery mini-toasts: the perfect platform for building your own interesting flavor combos.

So if you find yourself in Downtown Cleveland, Lola is an absolute must:

2058 E 4th St, Cleveland, OH? – (216) 621-5652?