Tag Archives: recipe

Custard Strawberry Cake… because it’s my Birthday and I made a cake

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Birthday Schmirthday but what better way to avoid all the stuff you’re not doing with your life (and the fury over that freaking school drill… see previous non cooking/rant post) than to bake a cake… and then read People while you treat yourself to a birthday pedicure? If you have a better/productive/world peace solving/inner peace way to spend your birthday I don’t want to hear about it. I had intended to brûlée the top of the cake and if you make it feel free but my torch is out of butane apparently and I’m not going to skip that pedi for a butane trip so onward and upward!

The Sour Cream Sponge cake:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbls. sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbls. sour cream
  • 5 egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Combine egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbls. sour cream with paddle attachment in the mixer for 8 minutes until fluffy.
  3. Add the 1/4 cup sour cream and mix until combined.
  4. Beat egg whites and tartar with whisk attachment until peaks form, add the 2 tbls. sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
  5. Fold in 1/3 of egg whites to egg mixture. Fold carefully, add the rest of whites in 2 batches, fold.
  6. Fold in flour 1/4 cup at a time until smooth.
  7. Parchment paper 2 cookie sheets, draw 3 circles on the parchment (2 on one sheet 1 on the other).
  8. Spread batter or pipe into circles, bake for 15 minutes turning at the half point.
  9. Cool

Make your Custard:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean deseeded into milk (I used both because I like the pastry cream to have that vanilla bean look but It’s another step and doesn’t really add a ton more vanilla flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  1. In a medium saucepan bring milk to a simmer over medium heat, add vanilla extract and/or vanilla pod deseeded.
  2. In a bowl whisk together sugar, eggs and cornstarch until smooth.
  3. When milk simmers, pour half of into the egg mixture, whisking until smooth, then add it back into the saucepan with remaining milk mixture.
  4. Keeping the pan on medium heat, continue whisking until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
  5. Take off heat, push custard through a sieve with a spatula into a bowl to get a smooth texture and cover with plastic wrap to avoid the mixture forming a skin (although I kinda like the skin and never mind peeling it off and eating when no one is looking). Cool until assembly.

Cut the rounds of your cake back to plate size… like this


then stack:

cake… spread 1/3 custard… layer berries… cake… 1/3 custard… berries… cake… 1/3 custard and either brûlée or top with berries.

Done, now go do something with yourself, you’re 46 for the love of God.

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Red Velvet cupcakes… because Valentines Day, which is stupid but it’s going to be 20 below zero so why not bake?


I avoid Hallmark holidays as a rule. I went along with the whole Elementary school bullshit of buying my kids cheap cards at the drug store to hand out to their class, once or twice I might have been bored enough to even sit down and make homemade valentines with them… but I’m not really sad that they’ve outgrown it. That being said, it’s February and I want cake, even if it uses copious amounts of food coloring.

So this weekend while we find projects inside to entertain us so we don’t think about the fact that we have several more weeks of this weather, why not make cupcakes so when you give in to the Netflix binge on the couch with a blanket at least you’ve got something yummy to eat!

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 24)… because who would take the time to make 12 when you can make 24?

  • 1 stick butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 container red food dye
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups and 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a mixer with the paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down bowl.
  4. Stop mixer and add cocoa, salt, food coloring and vanilla extract. Beat on medium until combined.
  5. With mixer on low add 1/2 cup buttermilk, mix until incorporated, add 1/2 flour, mix, add last 1/2 cup buttermilk, mix, and follow with remaining  1/2 flour until smooth.
  6. Add vinegar and baking soda, mix until incorporated.
  7. Fill lined cupcake tins 1/2 full and bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove to rack and allow to cool while making the frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting

  • one package cream cheese at room temp (8 ounces)
  • one stick butter at room temp
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (you can probably even get away with 3)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In a mixer with the whisk attachment cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add sugar and vanilla and beat on medium high until light and fluffy.
  3. Pipe or spread on cupcakes
  4. Sprinkle with red sanding sugar or whatever topping you’d like.

Done. Wasn’t that easy? Now reward yourself for time well spent, leave the kitchen a mess and go sit down with your family to watch Harry Potter… it’s cold outside and you deserve it.




Spaghetti Sauce… because a pantry staple doesn’t need to be full of crap you can’t pronounce

Years ago my husband got me an awesome gift for Christmas, a 3 hour personal cooking lesson with a chef who owned a local high end authentic Italian restaurant… it was a REALLY good present for me, and him come to think of it. I arrived at his restaurant in the afternoon not really knowing what to expect and really nervous about cooking in front of a “chef” but he quickly put me at ease and we spent the afternoon cooking things I liked off his menu and talking about the reasons why you add this before that and Italy and all things holy and beautiful. When we were done we sat at his bar with our dishes, he poured us some wine and we ate and drank and chatted some more and I left that day with more knowledge about cooking then I would have thought possible in a couple hours. To this day I still have to stop myself from putting those few extra ingredients in dishes that really would be fine without them. The biggest thing I learned that day was:

Always salt your boiling water for pasta… duh, of course!.. but I mean REALLy salt it, like a huge dump, a handful of salt and you can tell in the final product that every part of your pasta dish is well seasoned.

I also learned that

  • fresh red sauce can be made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil and taste amazing
  • that the difference between good spaghetti sauce and mediocre is the way you cook your onions down
  • that browning all the bits of things in a braising sauce with some tomato paste makes a sauce you never want to stop eating
  • garlic is better in most dishes crushed and whole and not chopped (his story for this was that if a Italian man and woman were having dinner and eating a garlicky dish and the woman removed her garlic cloves and didn’t eat them than the man would do the same out of respect.. of course he totally could have made this up but it made me love Italy even more!)
  • all food is better with wine

So anyway, I got distracted… Spaghetti sauce, everyone uses it, it’s something you should always have on hand for the evenings you’ve got no time and dinner still has to happen. I also keep frozen meatballs on hand and heat them up with the sauce so it’s a more filling meal than just pasta or you can saute some mushrooms and sausage and add a can of sauce or you can add some zucchini and fresh tomato or you can make pizza or you can add some red pepper flakes and cream or you can just rock it out with a plain basil marinara over pasta. The point being you will go through it, so like most things if you’re going to make it you might as well make a fair amount because it lasts, and making a couple jars is not much harder than making one. Plus Costco has these boss cans of Italian plum tomatoes for cheap, like $4 and with 2 of those I can get 5 quarts of sauce.


Basic Basil Marinara (you can scale this anyway you need, nothing needs to be exact)

  • 2 6lb. cans Italian whole tomatoes
  • 3 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, smashed
  • 1 tube tomato paste concentrate
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • handfuls of fresh basil torn
  1. In a large stock pot on medium add your olive oil, chopped onions and salt.
  2. Stir occasionally and cook for 20 minutes, not letting the mixture brown but allowing the onions to cook down into a nice soft pulp.
  3. Add crushed garlic cloves and tomato paste and stir frequently until the tomato paste starts to darken and smell wonderful.
  4. Add the whole tomatoes by grabbing them out of the can and squeezing them in your fist, letting them drop into the pot and reserving out any hard stem ends.
  5. When you’ve worked your way through the tomatoes pour in any remaining liquid from the can.
  6. Cook on low heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 2 hours
  7. Add the torn basil, let cool and pour into containers
  8. Can the ball jars or put into freezer safe containers and freeze
  9. Amen


Fried Chicken… because it’s pure awesomeness

chicken coolingI have always loved fried chicken but when it came to making it at home it seemed like too big a hassle, too messy, too hard, always undercooked or underseasoned or burnt to a crisp to cook it through. Since I’m not a fan of following rules or recipes I would just bumble my way through and nearly always end up with a plate of disappointing chicken and a kitchen that looked (and smelled) like a war zone. But as usual my craving for fried chicken was outweighing my loosey goosey cooking style. So I tried following some recipes and picked the things I liked from some and added some of my own ways and I think I’ve come up with a relatively easy, don’t ruin your kitchen, take 2 days brining and end up with a plate of dark brown raw chicken to serve to your family…. not that I’ve ever done that.

I find that cooking up one whole chicken for my family of four is enough for dinner but everyone wants leftovers for lunches and after school snacking. So last time I did a chicken and a cornish game hen, let’s just say everything was gone in 24 hours. This recipe will be enough for 2 chickens.

Fried Chicken

  • 1-2 whole chickens, cut into legs, thighs, wings and 2 boneless breasts cut into 4 pieces (sometimes I pull the tenders off before cutting) and save your carcass in the freezer for broth later. If you don’t feel comfortable butchering a whole chicken buy one cut at the market and then cut the breast portions in half.
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • enough oil for frying preferably peanut oil (at least 1 quart, usually more depending on the size of your pan) last time I used a combo of peanut, canola and bacon drippings, because why not?
  • flour for dredging (approx. 1 cup)
  • salt and pepper

Fried Chicken coating:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbls. salt
  • 2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Take your chicken out of the fridge a couple hours before starting, it won’t kill you…. but starting with warmer chicken means less chance of ending with raw chicken. Cut your bird if you got whole chickens and lay the pieces out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towel. Pat the tops of the chicken dry. Salt and pepper the pieces.chicken rawGet out your heaviest bottomed pot, I use an All Clad soup pot. Pour in enough oil to give you 3″- 4″ at the bottom and turn heat to medium high.

While waiting for your oil to come to temp sprinkle a cup of flour over your chicken pieces.

Get out two large bowls. Fill one with the buttermilk and one with the fried chicken coating ingredients and stir them to combine.

Get out another cookie sheet or platters and working in batches of 3-4 pieces roll your chicken through the flour you’ve sprinkled over them (this saves you another bowl cleaning if you keep it on the cookie sheet) then into the buttermilk and then smash the pieces one at a time through the coating mix, really work in on the pieces because the more coating you get on there the crunchier it will be, rap pieces on the side of the bowl to get off excess flour and place chicken pieces on clean cookie sheet.

chicken dredgedCheck the temp of your oil, you want it to be at 375 to start and for your temp to hold at 350. Lower temps will result in greasy chicken.

When your oil is up to temp place enough chicken in the bottom to fill the pot but not crowd it… and here’s the part that I think is really weird but has so far kept me from serving raw chicken… you cover the pot. You might think, like me… cover the pot on hot oil, what if all that moisture off the pot lid falls in the oil and splashes and explodes oil all over my kitchen? Well it doesn’t for some odd reason but what it does do is keep your oil around the 350 degree mark which is what you want. Set your timer for 6 minutes, uncover carefully lifting the lid up and away from the pot. Turn your chicken with tongs and cook for another 6 minutes uncovered.

chicken fryingRemove your chicken and drain on paper then place on a rack while you fry up the next batch. 2 chickens take me three batches of frying. I usually make it through the second of the batch of frying before the family starts circling like vultures and I have to slap them away, so I end up serving the chicken while I fry up the last batch for all the leftovers. Some get eaten later that night as people roam into the kitchen, some are snatched for breakfast the next day and some end up being taken for lunch but there is never any left by the 24 hour mark.

chicken plated

Pierogies… because mashed potato and cheese in a wrapper

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I come from some good sturdy Polish stock and my grandmother, who a was notoriously terrible cook, would make pierogies when we came to visit. It was one of two dishes she made that was edible so I always requested them when we visited and she would always make extra and freeze them so we could take them home, even though it was a 14 hour drive. All of us get sentimental about the dishes of our childhood and the turn of season, the dark mornings and the grey skies were making a little pit in my belly that only a starch filled dumpling could fill.

When I was cooking the pierogies last night my daughter walked past and swiped one off the counter on her way to set the table.

“How are they?” I asked.

“Good.” she replied. “I mean they’re not bad good like the frozen ones. They’re good.”

“Bad good?”

“You know like you know the frozen ones are not really made with real ingredients but they still taste good.”…

So Mrs.T’s might still be an option if you’re craving bad good pierogies but I’m gonna stick with the good good ones because I’m also a sucker for the “traditional” pierogies of my childhood, filled with farmers cheese or sauerkraut and pork. I made the potato and cheese to feed the finicky small people.

To make the dough:

Combine on your counter:

  • 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine in a bowl:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, combine wet ingredients and pour mixture into well.

peirogi dough start

Work the ingredients together to form a ball and knead until combined. If the dough is sticking to your hands add more flour, if it is to dry add more sour cream.

pierogie dough

Place dough on counter and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rest for 20 minutes or up to an hour. You can make the fillings while it rests.

For fillings I made:

pierogie filling

Mashed Potato and Cheddar

Make a stiff version of mashed potatoes and add some grated cheddar to taste… I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe.

Farmers Cheese and Scallion

These are my childhood favorites, slightly sweeter than ricotta filling with just the right squish when you bite into them. Combine package of Farmers Cheese with two chopped scallions, salt and pepper and 1 egg.

Sauerkraut and Salt Pork

Another fav that my kids wouldn’t even try… and they think I’m boring! In a pan heat up diced salt pork or diced bacon until brown, add sauerkraut and pepper.

Now for the fun… Put a medium pot of water on to boil and then lets get to it…

If you have a pasta machine cut the dough in 4 sections, roll the first until it’s on the last setting. If rolling by hand cut dough into 4 sections and roll out on a lightly floured surface until dough is as thin as you can make it without it sticking. Lay out the first section of dough on your counter and using a round cookie/biscuit cutter cut circles out.

pierogie filled

Take a spoonful of filling and place in the center, fold dough over and pinch together. you can use a fork to uber seal it if you want. If dough is not sealing use a little water to seal the edges.

pierogie filled finish

Working in batches (I usually fill all the pierogies I’ve cut then boil them and then I start on the next batch). Drop the pierogies into the boiling water and boil for 4 minutes. Take out with a slotted spoon and place boiled pierogies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Repeat process until all dough is used.

You can store the boiled pierogies in the fridge for a couple days. To serve for dinner heat up a saute pan on medium heat, add butter and a little oil. Pan fry pierogies in batches heating until browned on both sides. Serve with sour cream. If you want to get fancy you can caramelize some onions in the pan before you reheat the pierogies and serve them with some fancy side like chutney. If you want to freeze some for later (my family of four took down the whole lot of them last night) skip the boiling step and freeze pierogies on a cookie sheet until stiff and transfer to a freezer bag. To reheat frozen pierogies, boil in water for 6 minutes and then pan fry.

Now picture yourself in a one story ranch house outside of Detroit decorated in the 50’s, sitting around a formica table with the radio playing “hits of the golden age” and your grandfather telling racist jokes and you’re right there with me. Enjoy!

pierogie cooked



Potstickers… everyone loves meat in a pocket


My youngest daughter is a lover of all meat in a pocket dishes, samosas, pierogis, dumplings but her forever and ever true love is a potsticker. She tallies how many she can eat from each vendor or restaurant and can give you a college length dissertation on her opinion of fillings, dough and dipping sauces for all she has ever tasted… so making them for her is kind of akin to self inflicted torture, a basic set up for failure. To really drive home the point of my incompetence you cannot make 10 dumplings to try out if they please the potsticker princess so I have thrown out dozens of potstickers attempts that didn’t meet her requirements. I attempted one last ditch effort to make them but in one of my smartest parenting moments I had her help make them, get them invested and they are more likely to be satisfied with the results (that kid will never admit defeat)… and even better she wanted to fold them all. In full disclosure hers were a bit of a hot mess so when I made them solo I took pics of mine not the 11 yo’s.

I freeze all the dumplings that will not be consumed that night and they will keep for months in your freezer. The more traditional cooking method is to fry the dumpling to crust up the bottom and then add broth or water and cover to steam the dumpling but I find this makes a TOTAL mess of your stove and it’s not worth the clean up to me so I steam them in a basket first then transfer to a skillet to brown the bottom… but you can reverse the process if you really enjoy cleaning your stove top because you don’t have to catch up on Scandal like me.

Potsticker dough:

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 – 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, add boiling water (starting with 1 3/4 and adding if needed). Stir with a chopsticks or a fork until slightly combined… it should look something like this (although not as blurry and not like the person who took the picture never cleans her lens):


empty the bowl to the counter and knead until elastic and smooth… it will be hot but shouldn’t be burning you.


place dough in a greased bowl and cover for 30 minutes while you make your filling



Potsticker filling:

  • 3/4 pound chicken (can be boneless thighs or tenders)
  • 3/4 pound pork (nothing too lean like tenderloin, you need some fat)
  • 1 small knob ginger peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon minced)
  • 4-6 scallions roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup light soy (available in most asian markets) or a little less if using regular soy
  1. Throw all ingredients in a cuisinart and pulse until ground and combined… not like cat food but not with huge chunks either. If you don’t have a cuisinart you can buy ground pork and chicken but the texture is little better with the home ground.
  2. Now you’ve got your dough and your filling… worst case it’s going to look like a hot mess (like my daughters) but taste good so don’t fret the fold of these dumplings.
  3. Unwrap the dough, cut in into pieces about the size of ping pong balls and roll the into balls on your counter and keep them covered with a damp cloth to keep them from getting crusty.


press dough flat in your hand and then roll it flat until it’s around 5″ round  (you can make these any size you want )


place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center then with a finger dipped in water wet 1/2 of the dough around the rim (so the dough will stick when folded, no one likes a leaky dumpling)


start by holding the dumpling in your hand and folding in it half (don’t push hard and seal yet)


push just the center to seal and then fold over to one side, pinching each crimp, and then fold the other side


set dumpling on its butt and turn your top fold to make a slight “u” shapeImage

repeat 8,000 more times and you’re done! Feel proud of yourself? You should because you just made a freaking potsticker!

I put mine on a cookie sheet with silpat lining while I finish up the rest


Serve with whatever sauce you like, plain soy, hoisin, peanut…. my kids like one like this:

Ginger soy sauce:

  • 1 cup light soy
  • 1/4 cup black vinegar
  • 1 knob ginger peeled and julienned
  • 1 scallion sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

combine all ingredients in a small pan and heat until warm

I steam dumplings for 10 minutes if fresh and then pan fry. If frozen steam dumplings for 15 minutes before pan searing. Last time my kid made it through 5, her record is 7 (when she was 9 years old she powered through 7 goddamn potstickers, she’s a monster)





homemade bagels… because my kids beg


I am not a baker, even though there are lots of baked goods recipes here. I am most certainly not a great bread baker, it’s too fussy and takes too much technique to master and my attention span for details sucks…. but I can make bagels. I can make them because I have a Kitchen Aid mixer with a bread hook and an oven. It’s easy, really easy.

Bagel dough

makes 16-20 depending on size

  • 7 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 2 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup malt syrup or sugar

any seeds or toppings you like… one kid likes plain, one likes salt and garlic and I’m fond of sesame

In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, with the dough hook, mix together flour, yeast and salt
In a measuring cup combine warm water, honey and oil
Slowly add water mixture to flour with mixer on low speed, use just enough liquid to form a ball (you want the dough on the dryer hard side)
Mix on medium speed for 6-10 minutes… as much as your mixer can stand as it’s a tight dough and watch because your mixer will travel across your counter.
Pull dough out and knead for a couple seconds, let rest in an oiled bowl covered with Saran Wrap for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
after rising punch down dough and turn out onto counter
cut bagel dough into lemon sized sections
pinch sections into balls by pulling dough down into bottoms and holding the dough ball in your hand push hole through the center
pull slightly to open hole and place bagels on the counter, covered, to rise for 30 minutes
while they are rising heat your oven to 550 and set a large pot of boiling water on high with 1/4 cup malt (if you can find it) or sugar if you can’t
one or two at a time, boil bagels turning them once for a minutes, remove with slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat, or cookie sheet with some corn meal on the bottom or on a preheated pizza stone in the oven. Sprinkle with seeds or what not.


bake for 10 -12 minutes or until golden brown, place warm bagels on a rack to cool or try and slice them while they are burning hot because your kids can’t wait and smother them with butter and be amazed that your daughter can eat 2 of them without breathing before she leaves the kitchen… or maybe that’s just me.