New Year, New Tools

If you’ve been sticking around and reading my posts for any length of time, you know that I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions. I like to set smaller goals for myself – mostly because I have a better chance of being able to track my progress and achieve them, and there are few things I like more than putting a checkmark on my To Do list.

I made quite a few checkmarks in 2011, but unfortunately, “blog more” wasn’t one of them. Between selling our house (check!), moving to Maine (check!), starting a book club (check!), enrolling in a yoga teacher training program (check!), making new friends (check!), and learning to deal with cooking in my tiny galley kitchen (semi-check), the blog has gotten away from me. Since I use it as my own personal recipe book, it’s something I’ll probably always do, but sometimes living life gets in the way of writing the blog, you know?

Of course I want to blog more in 2012. I love to cook and I love to share my food. Recently Andrew and I have acquired a few things that should make blogging easier for me:

That’s right, a new computer

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Yummiest Cake Ever

You may remember The Ugliest Cake Ever. A haphazard pantry experiment that kept Andrew and I laughing for days as we ate every bite of the delicious but most hideous cake to ever grace our home. When my friend Lisa told me about this Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Peanut Butter Glaze, I drooled. And then I smelled it…my chance for redemption.

I made this cake for Andrew’s birthday this year. If you looked at The Ugliest Cake Ever post, you may have realized that his birthday is in February. In the craziness of selling our house and moving halfway across the country, these pictures got shoved to the bottom of the folder and I nearly forgot about them. I didn’t forget this cake though, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I think it would be very pretty for Halloween, don’t you? I mean, it’s kind of orange and black, so it would fit the “theme”, right? RIGHT?

Who am I kidding? When have I ever needed to justify making a cake?

UPDATE: I am making this cake for book club on Tuesday night. Fellow readers, prepare for your intellects to be obliterated by this chocolate-peanut butter bomb of deliciousness.

For the Chocolate Cake:

2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9″ layer cake pans & dust with cocoa. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk until well blended. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat well until combined – about two minutes.

While beating, place water in a microwave-safe container and heat to a boil. Stir water into cake batter.

Pour the thin batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan, top springs back when lightly touched and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Remove cakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Peanut Butter Frosting:

10 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
5 c. confectioners sugar, sifted
2/3 c. smooth peanut butter

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners sugar one cup at a time. Mix thoroughly after each addition, scraping down the sides often. Continue to beat on medium speed another 3-4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. (Lisa’s note: I wanted more peanut butter taste so I added a little more peanut butter – taste first, but you may want to do the same!)

For the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

8oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp.  light corn syrup
1/2 c. half-and-half

Create a double boiler by setting a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water – make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Combine the chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup and whisk until the chocolate is melted & the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat & whisk in the half-and-half, beat until smooth.

Assemble the Cake

Place one of the chocolate cakes on a cake stand or serving plate. Spoon somewhere between a half and one cup of the peanut butter frosting into the center of the cake and spread it out.

Add the other chocolate cake to the top. Spoon all the frosting into the center of the cake and then spread evenly over the top and sides.

Note: The chocolate peanut butter glaze needs to be poured while it is still warm, so you may want to wait to make it until you have the cake assembled to this point.

Pour the glaze over the top of the cake and allow it to drip down the sides.

Cut a slice. Or two. This cake will make you get a little bit crazy like that.

Posted in baking, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hello, Fall!

I’ve been gone for a while. Mega bloggess slacking on my part, but in my defense, this was our first summer in a new place. It’s been an insane few months of traveling, friends, family, and of course, food.

so many mollusks, so little time

I have been cooking and taking pictures, just not sharing them with you guys. I’ll try to do better.

The good news is, fall is my favorite time of year to cook. If you’re impatient for new fall recipes, you can check out my great fall-related tags:

comfort food
slow cooking

I’m working on some new delicious things, including a to-die-for peanut butter chocolate cake and a Thanksgiving menu and agenda. Don’t give up on me friends!

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Wednesday Yums

It’s been a busy summer. Lots of gardening, sunshine, and seafood. I thought I’d put up a “Yums” post to share some of it with you. Consider it a photo essay version of that old first week of school standby – “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”. Except, I’ve still got another month to keep doing it!

View from our campsite on Mount Desert Island

Perfect picnic - lobster and a PBR

Snap peas, fresh from our garden


Fried clam bellies - sold by the pint at the Yarmouth Claim Festival

Click for more pictures from the Yarmouth Clam Festival, Acadia National Park, and some of my favorite places in Portland!

Continue reading

Posted in Portland, summer | 1 Comment

S’mores Bars, Again

This post was originally published in February and consistently gets some of the highest views on my site, so I thought I’d repost since S’mores are a quintessential summertime treat. Enjoy!

Are you looking for a new super simple dessert recipe? Something to keep in your back pocket for the next time someone says “CHOCOLATE” the next time you ask “what can I bring?” A quick and easy option comprised entirely of ingredients you probably keep on hand in your pantry?

Look, S’mores Bars ain’t fancy. But then, they aren’t pretending to be. And they don’t need to be. That’s because anything s’mores has something that fancy just doesn’t – nostalgia. This is a find from Annie’s Eats and though, like Annie, I didn’t really care for s’mores as a kid, now I happen to think they’re a great excuse to eat chocolate. Not that I ever really need one.

S’mores Bars

3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c. sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 c. mini marshmallows
2 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces

Line an 8×8 pan with tinfoil (make sure to wrap it over the edges) and spray with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl, then stir in the graham cracker crumbs. I like to use a fork to make sure every last little crumb gets some buttery goodness. Dump the mixture into your prepped 8×8 and press the crumbs into an even layer. You can use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to help you.

Pour the condensed milk into a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate melts completely and it is completely smooth. Turn off the stove and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Here’s where you have to move fast – the chocolate will cool quickly. Pour over the graham cracker crust and smooth with a spatula. Top with the marshmallows – gently push them into the chocolate just a little bit so that they stick. Poke the graham cracker pieces into the chocolate.

Cover the pan with foil and stick it in the fridge for at least four hours – you want to give it ample time to set. Uncover and use those edges of the bottom tinfoil to lift the bars out of the pan. Cut into squares or rectangles and keep cool until ready to serve.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Shrimp Tacos

It’s hot outside. I understand that here in Maine, my idea of “heat” doesn’t compare to you Southerners and Californians and whatnot, but it’s HOT. I don’t know about you, but cooking is not high on my priority list at the moment. It’s being edged out by swimming and popsicles and standing in front of the air conditioner in my underwear

In my P.A. (pre-Andrew) days, I was known to cut up a watermelon and call it dinner. If you have kids or a husband who insists on eating something other than fruit, you’re probably like me – always on the lookout for something different that’s also quick and easy to put together on a weeknight. And in this weather, something that requires as little cooking as possible. Well, tonight you should give my super simple shrimp tacos a try.

The slacker “aioli” is easy and delish. The shrimp cook in minutes. Best of all, everyone puts their own dinner together. Which leaves me more time to sip sangria in front of that air conditioner.

Shrimp Tacos

1 lb. shrimp – large or medium work (~25-30 per lb)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 avocado, sliced
2-3 c. shredded jicama
8 small whole wheat tortillas
1 c. mayonnaise
1 lime, cut in half

To make the “aioli”, mix the mayo with two cloves of the minced garlic. Juice half the lime into the mixture and stir to combine. Cover the aioli and chill.

Heat the olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining three cloves of minced garlic and saute until it begins to soften. Add the shrimp to the pan. Season with salt. If using uncooked shrimp, toss until shrimp turns pink and the white parts are opaque. If using pre-cooked shrimp, you’ll just need them in the oil long enough to heat through. A minute or two should do it.

To serve, put shrimp, aioli, tortillas, jicama, and sliced avocados in small bowls or on a platter. Garnish with slices of lime and fresh cilantro. Everyone can assemble their own tacos, and you can relax.

Stay cool my friends.

Posted in seafood, summer, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches

There’s this movie that I had on VHS when I was a kid called The Teddy Bears’ Picnic – an animated story about what happens when teddy bears come to life and all meet up in the woods for a big party.

There’s even a song and everything.

If you go out in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.


Of course, this song has been stuck in my head for days now.

I’m not sure what the Teddy Bears’ Picnic has to do with these Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches. But I was thinking about it and I wanted you guys to know. So you’re welcome for the tangential teddy bear talk.

Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m not a big sandwich person. I typically avoid meat/bread combinations (though of course there are exceptions to this rule) so when I eat at a cute little sandwich shop, I tend to go for the vegetarian option. My favorite version has been cropping up everywhere lately – marinated vegetables that are roasted, melty cheese, crusty bread…it’s a winning combination, and one that I was quick to duplicate at home.

Oh, here’s where I can tie this sandwich and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic together. Sort of. This would be a great choice for a picnic offering. You could pack the bread, pesto-goat cheese, and veggies separately and assemble at the picnic site for a filling vegetarian option. See, I knew I could bring it full circle.

Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches

1 loaf ciabatta bread
1/2 c. pesto
4-6 oz. goat cheese
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 small eggplant
1 large red onion
2 bell peppers (colors of your choice)
2/3 c. Italian dressing

Slice the zucchini, squash, and eggplant into planks and cut the onion and peppers into slices. Toss together with Italian dressing – season with salt and pepper if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but not much more than an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the vegetables out on a cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until slightly charred and heated through.

In the meantime, mix the pesto and the goat cheese together in a small bowl. You may want to thin the mixture out with a little olive oil – it needs to be spreadable.

Slice the ciabatta in half lengthwise. Liberally spread the pesto-goat cheese mixture over both halves. At this point, you can put the bread under the broiler for a moment to get it a little toasty – the cheese will get melty and it will be delish, but this isn’t a required step.

Assemble by heaping the vegetables onto the bottom half of the bread, then adding the top half. Slice the loaf of bread into individual sandwiches and serve.

Posted in onions, panini, peppers, vegetarian | 2 Comments

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

Hello friends! Summer is flying by and things have been super busy for me lately. I spent a lovely weekend at wanderlust, a fabulous yoga and music festival at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. There are various wanderlust festivals happening all over the country, so check it out. I spent my time there with my friend Amy, her sister, and three of their cousins.

Such a good time! This coming weekend, we’ll be in the north woods of Maine, hiking and fishing to our heart’s content. I’ve got plenty of murder mysteries checked out from the library and I’m ready to camp and enjoy a nice long Fourth of July weekend.

If you have plans for a barbeque or a picnic this weekend, consider offering to bring dessert! These Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes are an adorably sweet treat that are fun, festive, and delicious. They use “convenience” ingredients so they come together quickly. You’ll need mini bundt pans to make these personal cakes – if you don’t have them, you could make this as a large bundt cake instead.

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
makes 12 mini cakes or 1 large bundt cake

1 butter cake mix + ingredients required on the box
1 can sliced pineapple rings
12 maraschino cherries
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted

Grease the cake pans and set aside. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions.

Mix melted butter and brown sugar in a small bowl. Spoon some of the mixture into each of the bundt pans.

Slice each ring of pineapple and each maraschino cherry in half. Arrange in the bottom of the mini bundt pan with the cherries in the space between the halves of pineapple. Spoon the cake batter over the fruit.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto wire racks.

Posted in baking | 1 Comment

Grilled Romaine

I’ve been wanting to post about grilling romaine for a year or two, but my pictures never seemed appetizing enough to get the message across that it’s REALLY good. I finally decided “screw it, I’m posting it anyway”. This change in attitude was brought on by a glimpse through a recent Food Network magazine in which Guy Fieri presents a bastardized version of this healthy summer side that my dad has been making for years.

For me, the whole point of grilled romaine is that it’s good for you. Topping it with blue cheese and bacon and who knows what else Guy threw on there kind of defeats the purpose. Sure, it’s yummy, but eating lettuce isn’t healthy when you smother it in fat. It’s all well and good for Guy, but some of us have to wear a bikini this summer without scaring away small children.

So here is my super easy, super healthy version. If you want the blue cheese-bacon monstrosity (and I can’t say I really blame you, I’m sure it’s very delicious), google it from the Stairmaster.

Grilled Romaine
serves 4

2 hearts of romaine lettuce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil

plastic wrap
rubber bands
Remove any soft or floppy outer leaves from the lettuce. Slice the romaine in half lengthwise, leaving the core attached.

In a small bowl, mix the oil, garlic, salt, and pepper into a paste. Drizzle over the cut side of the lettuce, pushing the mixture in between the leaves.

Put the lettuce back together (cut sides facing in) and wrap in plastic. Use a rubber band to secure. I throw these in the fridge and let them “marinate” while I’m getting the rest of dinner ready. This is an easy dish to take to a cookout – you can just bring the prepped lettuce along and have the host slap it on the grill.

Grill over medium-high heat, until outer edges are charred and lettuce has softened. You can slice it before serving if you like, but I think the half is nice looking on a plate.

Posted in greens, salad | 3 Comments

I Love Maine!

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