To Taste: Mini Cranberry-Swirled Lemon Cupcakes w. Lemon Glaze

I’m offically making a public decree that I’m not longer allowed to complain about baking. My cooking style doesn’t involve alot of precise measuring so baking has always been a chore for me. At this point, the reward is getting too good for me to deny my baking skills. Sweet, swirled, glazed skills…

These baby cakes were created totally out of necessity. Over Thanksgiving, my girl Sunshine, of a Blog Full of Jelly, came for a visit from her new home in Florida with some beautiful citrus in tow. First was a Buddha’s hand, a creepy claw-y shaped fruit with a bright citrus flavor and lots of rind. It’s STILL soaking in some vodka for some serious cocktail making. The other citrus wonder was a Ponderosa lemon – pretty much the BIGGEST lemon you have ever seen – and provided me with over a cup of juice. I also still had a bag of beautiful crimson cranberries from my last farm share pickup and I wanted to make something other than my Cranberry-Pear Shortbread Tart. Combine them with the need to whip up a homemade treat for our friends’, Doc & Erica’s, pre-Holiday house warming and I was ready to bake!

Check out my Mini Cranberry-Swirled Lemon Cupcakes w. Lemon Glaze recipe after the jump! Continue reading

Family Style: Xmas Eve Eve Dinner Preview

Tis the season to eat our asses off (or on, for that matter)! This year, I’m excited to be cooking dinner for my family and hosting at my house. I can’t deny, though, that cooking for 6 is making me a bit anxious when I’m so used to cooking for 2. This is the perfect time for my event planning skills to kick in and I’m deep into recipe research, grocery lists, and timelines. Even though I usually cook from my own intuition, I realized I have to rely on some trusted recipes for as foolproof of a plan and meal as possible. And so I present, my Xmas Eve Eve Dinner Menu 2011:

Roast Beef Tenderloin w. Caesar Crust

Bon Appétit December 2011 pg 103 – Recipe

Cider-Brined Roasted Turkey w. Star Anise & Cinnamon

Bon Appétit November 2011 pg 94 – Recipe

Gnocchi Gratin w. Gorgonzola Dolce

Bon Appétit December 2011 pg 92 – Recipe

Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash w. Bacon Vinaigrette

Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving: A Holiday Guide 2010 – Recipe

Glazed Carrots

Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving: A Holiday Guide 2010 – Recipe

No-Knead Onion Rolls

Real Simple November 2011 pg 250 – Recipe

I put the rest of the fam in charge of booze, hors d’oeuvres, & dessert. I’ll report back once I’ve recovered from the Xmas gluttony.


To Taste: General Tso’s Braised + Glazed Spare Ribs

It’s been quite a week! I spent a few days helping my family move my grandparents to assisted living and am relieved to be back home relaxing & cooking. In the moving process, I gathered some food left at my grandparents’ old place, including frozen spare ribs. Not only is my grandma the freezing queen (she dated these 8/6/2007 with no evidence of freezer burn), she also made some of the best sesame-soy-glazed spare ribs. Unfortunately, I don’t have her recipe on hand so it was time for me to attempt my own asian-glazed version. And so resulted, my General Tso’s Braised + Glazed Spare Ribs, a spin on the traditional take-out favorite served with the usual white rice & steamed broccoli. I certainly impressed myself with this one and I know I did my grandma proud, too.

Check out my General Tso’s Braised + Glazed Spare Ribs recipe after the jump! Continue reading

Quickie: American Sardine Bar

Walked by the American Sardine Bar today on my way to the park and behold, the sardine can is up! Signage usually means an opening date is nigh… and their website says “Opening Very Soon”. YAY!

Restaurant Rewind: Pumpkin @ COOK

I’ll say it again, I LOVE COOK! Each night, their studio kitchen presents a fresh opportunity to let chefs shine and the culinary team from Pumpkin, west South Street’s BYO-of-choice, was damn near blinding. Walking into COOK that Halloween night was like ringing the door bell on a house that gives out the best treats on the block. Treats tossed in lots of butter. HELL. YES. We were off to a great start.

What Pumpkin laid before us that night was a beautiful balance of refinement and approachability; effortless expertise; living proof that loving what you do is the only option. Executive Chef/Owner Ian Moroney, Chef de Cuisine Chris Kearse, and Sous Chef Craig kept us laughing as they “stacked flavors” through 6 of their classic courses & new creations. Hey, guys!!

I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about food (I read cookbooks like great novels), but these guys were throwing around ingredient names that I’ve never heard of. Good thing class was in session as they took turns explaining the obscure items and processes being used. I can’t act like I didn’t have to look some up again when I got home – like nasturtium. This peppery & tangy watercress was featured in an ice cream created using agar, flavored with black cardamom, atop ground almond, next to a sudsy mountain of sudsy apple cider foam.

What’s the orange and crimson flame on the back rim, you ask? A speck of flavor-packed honey-miso with a beautiful edible petal. It was already a bowl of amazingness and the starring layer was still to come – a simple velvety autumn vegetable soup. Lily, executive director of COOK, helped pour lakes of the sweet puree, flooding the textural shores with flavor and color.

If I didn’t know 4 more courses where headed my way, I’d have asked for seconds. Luckily, Chef Ian shared the recipe and some words of wisdom after my own food-loving heart.

“Recipes are meant to be changed. It’s most important to use quality ingredients and good cooking practices.” – Chef Ian Moroney

Pumpkin’s Autumn Vegetable Soup

1/2 lb of each, peeled & chopped

  • carrots
  • apples
  • rhutabaga
  • sweet potato
  • onion
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 1/2 qt heavy cream
  1. Melt butter in a heavy pot and add onions, sweating until translucent over medium heat.
  2. Add remaining vegetables and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender. Drain any excess liquid and return to pot.
  3. Add heavy cream and salt, to taste. Puree with an immersion blender or standard blender. Serve.

4 more courses for your viewing and reading pleasure after the JUMP! Continue reading

In Other News: It’s Flava Time!

I love the commericials – hello, who wouldn’t love a neck basket?!?! – but this new one is straight BOSS! Flava time ankle bracelet FTW.

PS I don’t endorse, I just dig their ad agency’s sense of humor.

@ COOK’s Studio Kitchen

I loved everything about COOK, including the opportunity to experience Pumpkin’s starring night, so I felt they each deserved their own post. Check out my Halloween night full of autumn culinary treats from Chef Ian Maroney, his wife Hillary Bor, + their team from Pumpkin! 


I’ve done nothing but gush since the rumors of Audrey Claire’s COOK – a studio kitchen hosting cooking classes and chef tastings. The corner space that once housed Snackbar transformed over months into an intimate gathering space to learn, dine, and make new friends. I’ve stalked the class listings since it’s opening in early September, kicking myself over not committing to classes that quickly sold out. Before I knew it, Halloween was rolling around and dressing up just didn’t thrill me this year. You know what did though? The promise of an intriguing meal with Pumpkin at COOK on Halloween night.

After dodging some costumed Rittenhouse youngsters, I was relieved to seek refuge in the comfortable space that is COOK. Lily and Jackie – the unassuming power-duo of cuteness who run the show at Audrey Claire’s COOK – greeted guests, hung coats, and encouraged mingling & exploration like hostesses you’ve known for years. After a quick intro, I explored my seat options among the crisp place settings. The counter seating is like an open bracket commencing a night of gastronomic commentary. Low light kept the seating area ambient while the illuminated kitchen and counter were ready to highlight every angle & hue of the night’s fare. The stage was perfectly set for a intimate dinner among 16 strangers.

I arrived early, not only to lock in some prime seat real estate, but also to indulge a growing hobby of mine – cookbooks. COOK’s library had some personal favorites – my technical bible Larousse Gastronomique; the beautiful imagery of NOMA; my current love affair with Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, & Butter – and plenty others that went right on my Christmas list. I’ll definitely be back to cruise their shelves again, just hope that I can figure out if/when they’re open to the non-class-attending public.

COOK’s retail Pantry is tucked in a nook past the library with more awesome kitchen whatnots. I’ll take one of these beautiful leather knife bags in case you’re feeling generous – either color, I’m not picky.

If you have a friend who calls her/himself a “foodie”, just stop in COOK for the perfect birthday/house-warming/holiday gift. Place a tin of COOK’s own mulling spices with a bottle of full-bodied Cabernet in the center of a tea towel, gather the excess fabric, and tie with kitchen twine. Attach a gift certificate for Twenty Manning, Audrey Claire, or a class at COOK and you’re set!

7 o’clock rolled around and we took our seats, the chefs in final prep mode. Our lovely hostesses kicked things off with a quick ice-breaker – introducing ourselves and sharing our favorite Halloween costume. I had plenty to choose from – Madonna in full blonde wig & cone bra in college, Elvira with a hair bump taller than Snooki herself, and a love affair with my Elmo last year as Cookie Monster-ette.

And then it was on to the food! Pumpkin seriously impressed me with a technical, yet whimsical autumn tasting – an amuse en bouche and 5 beautiful courses. I have to give it up to our hostesses, especially Jackie, for the wine selections, too. I like wine, I just don’t know wine, so these 3 immediately go on my list of bottles to pick up next time I head to a BYO like Pumpkin.

Throughout the meal, Lily & Jackie were fully engaged with the room. They cleared dishes, poured soup & wine, snapped photos for the COOKbook blog, and kept the conversation going as the chefs focused on serving the next course. I’d love to have such an awesome job spending night after night with the city’s best chefs and culinary contributors. They were such great hostesses that they sent us all home with these cute little plants.

So I think this is more than a crush. I LOVE COOK! It was such a fun, educational, indulgent night and I can’t wait to get back there soon. COOK just launched their list of classes for December and they’re already starting to sell out, so make your reservation today.

253 South Twentieth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103