it worked!

guys. the garden experiment worked! (for the most part). even during the inattentive weeks – these little toms pushed through and today, shiny and bright. and delicious. next year will be more informed, but nothing is quite as sweet as your first homegrown treats.

garden tomatoes



well, it’s back: fall. i’m not going to lie – i usually dread this season. goodbye summer, goodbye beach, oh hello yet another time of transition, and to top it off, my annual nemesis, that cold cold winter, starts moving in…

so in order to live my life like it’s golden, i’ve decided to embrace this challenging season fully. and how better to kick that off than with some soup! talk is already a brewin’ about soup group in the neighborhood – goodbye fall blues, we have work to do!

potato leek soup with roasted garlic, kale and charred sweet corn
2 -3 potatoes, sliced
1 large leek, sliced
5 leaves of kale, massaged and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2/3 to 1 cup sweet corn, charred on the stovetop in butter
1 head of garlic
3 – 4 cups broth, depending on your preferred consistency
salt, pepper and lemon to taste – i added about 1 tsp of salt at the end

preheat oven to 350 degrees. chop the top of the head of garlic off, and place in oven-safe dish. drizzle with olive oil and generously salt and pepper it. cover dish with lid or tinfoil, and put in oven for 45-60 min until all cloves are roasted through and will easily slip out of their papers.

meanwhile, saute the leek and potatoes in a large pot over medium heat, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. once the leeks are translucent and the potatoes are softening, add 1 cup of broth. simmer for a few minutes, then remove two cups of the potato/leek/broth mixture and puree. or, if you have an immersion blender, go ahead and blend about a third of your soup. you want to keep some of the potato slices and leeks in tact to make this a hearty soup. while you are pureeing, add your roasted garlic cloves to whatever blending method you choose.

return pureed mixture to the pot, and add 2-3 more cups of broth and the charred corn. bring to a simmer. add all the kale, and let it wilt, 2-3 minutes, until bright green. season with salt, pepper and lemon to taste.

soup group is officially in session!

how does your garden grow?

i am trying a major experiment this year: gardening. i have managed to keep 4 house plants alive in the last year, so why not jump to a vegetable garden, right?

a handful of local friends have encouraged me with their swanky gardens and dinners of “fresh from the garden” produce. and so, here is my tiny attempt.

i went overboard with tomatoes, because really guys, you just can’t have enough tomatoes.  6 tomato plants, all of different varieties – grape, cherry, purple, zebra. and so far they are all fairing well.

there are heirloom radishes popping up – a gift from my friend dee that i am so very excited to harvest.  red, white, and who knows what else is in the mix.

golden beans and royal purple beans are just now sprouting. there is a mesculen mix, arugula, kale, hot hot peppers, and a couple herbs: nutmeg thyme, tangerine sage, and basil.

this weekend i used the nutmeg thyme to make a white bean hummus on toasted crostini with roasted garlic, lemon and olive oil. looking forward to more inspiration from this tiny raised bed throughout the season!

garden progress 5/13/2013

garden progress – may 13, 2013

dear spring: we’re ready.

On a day when the wind seems to whipping extra fiercely down the streets of center city, I’m dreaming of spring. Sunny skies and fresh produce. That’s all I want. Oh, and a little less wind would be great too.

The screenshot below doesn’t capture the essence of this video.  I just love it.  It’s a video narration of a chapter from Tamar Adler’s book An Everlasting Meal. Beets, cauliflower, garlic, potatoes, meal prep, canning jars….go slow, enjoy each bit.

“Tamar Adler understands a simple truth that seems to evade a lot of cookbook writers and self-proclaimed ‘foodies’: cooking well isn’t about special equipment or exotic condiments or over-tested recipes (and it sure isn’t about ‘quickfire challenges’ or kicking it up a notch). It’s about learning some basics, respecting the ingredients, and developing a little culinary intuition, or maybe just plain common sense.”
— Colman Andrews, author of The Country Cooking of Italy and Editorial Director of

mom’s honey granola

My mom makes a delicious granola, one that went down in infamy in my brother’s fifth grade classroom cookbook as: “my mom’s favorite recipe because she has it for breakfast every morning.” Just the smell of this baking transports me to good old Longfellow Road.

And how adorable is this note he included in mom’s copy of the cookbook?note from matty


Dear Mom,
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to thank you for the many things you do for me. You are always there for me. We are also cooking all the time. We’re always doing Book Projects together. You’re always letting me invite someone over to play.
I have many wonderful memories about you. My favorite is when I threw up peanut butter & jelly sandwitches on your hand in Ocean City.
Thanks for being my mom!

without further ado….

mom’s honey granola
2 cups old fashioned oats
4 TBLS butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 325. Melt butter and add honey. Then add cinnamon and slivered almonds. Pour over oats, and mix to coat.

2. Spread mixture on a baking sheet. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. Take it out just as it starts to turn golden. It will continue to harden after you take it out. If it bakes too long, it will be very hard and burnt and also lame.

3. Take granola out of oven, and stir in cranberries. ENJOY! (and watch out for PB&J sandWITCHES!)

an ode to millet

I have a lot of favorites.  For example: popsicles are my favorite summer treat (clearly), soup is my favorite winter meal (obvi), snap+cider is my favorite drink (what else is there?), and millet wins favorite in the grain category.  It’s just so tiny and cute and crunchy and nutty….I love it so.

Two millet recipes in particular have stolen my affection this year.  The first is Philly’s own Metropolitan Bakery millet muffin, which has been served for years at the Gryphon Cafe (arguably the center of the universe, for those who did not know).  The other is smitten kitchen‘s crackly banana bread recipe, that a friend who knows my love of millet passed along. Thanks MJ :)

Metropolitan Millet Muffins
from Tastebook – I usually halve this recipe, but really, I always want more, and they’re best when shared, so it’s probably a good idea to whip up the full version.


4 cups all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups millet, lightly toasted* and cooled
6 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar


Preheat over to 375 degrees. Butter 24 muffin-pan cups.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir in millet. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

In the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. At low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Take care not to over mix (this direction gives me great anxiety – but it is very true – otherwise your muffins will be tough and dry, and nobody wants that).

Spoon batter evenly into the prepared muffin-pan cups. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans between the upper and lower oven racks half way through. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for five minutes and then remove from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.

*toast the millet by spreading it out on a cookie sheet and baking it in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Every three or four minutes, take the pan out and give it a careful shake, to make sure that every kernel of millet gets toasted.


Crackly Banana Bread
from smitten kitchen

3 large ripe-to-over-ripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup (80 ml) virgin coconut oil, warmed until it liquefies, or olive oil
1/3 cup (65 grams) light brown sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup (60 to 80 ml) maple syrup (less for less sweetness, of course)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) white whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) toasted millet

Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In the bottom of a large bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon until virtually smooth but a few tiny lumps remain. Whisk in egg, then oil, brown sugar, syrup and vanilla extract. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over mixture and stir until combined (again – do not over mix! No tough muffins here!). Stir in flour until just combined, then add millet.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.
I couldn’t decide between muffins or a loaf – so I made BOTH. YUM.

Risotto: An Experiment

Like many others, I have always feared making a risotto.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so the thought of all the ways such a delicate dish could go wrong kept me at bay.  Until today.

Several friends have been making risotto lately, and they gave me courage (Thanks Krista, Jen and Sonja!).  I had two acorn squash hidden in the back of the fridge needing to be put to good use.  After some online recipe hunting, I came across this Faux Martha post.  I edited to my liking and available ingredients.


Acorn Squash Risotto with Leeks, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese
1/2 c. acorn squash, roasted
2 tbsp. salted butter
1 c. leeks, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
A handful of mushrooms, sliced
1 c. jasmine rice
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. marjoram
dash of cloves – I threw in one whole clove, then removed at the end.
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
3 c. veggie stock
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c. gruyere cheese, grated
3 tbsp. heavy cream – I used whole milk

Roast acorn squash. Place in a 350° oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until you are able to cut squash in half. Place the two halves on a baking sheet, skin side down sprinkled with a bit of olive oil. Bake for another 20 minutes or until squash is soft. Allow to cool. Remove squash from outer peel. Mash and set aside. (This can be done up to a week in advance.)  I roasted two squash, to use the second set as serving dishes.

  1. In a saucepan, melt butter on medium-high heat. Saute leeks, mushrooms and garlic until leeks are translucent.
  2. Add rice to pan, coating with butter mixture. Add acorn squash and spices. Stir.
  3. Cook over medium heat, adding one cup of chicken stock at a time until liquid is absorbed. Stir often. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Before serving, remove bay leaf (and whole clove!) and stir in cheese and cream/milk. Garnish a sprinkle of extra gruyere.

If you prepared extra acorn squash, serve the risotto in the shell of the extra squash (flesh still intact so it maintains its form – there’s nothing wrong with a little extra squash!).
acorn squash risotto

SUPER pleased with the results!  Incredible flavor, each ingredient both stands out and blends into the whole in beautiful ways.  Will definitely be attempting more risottos in the future.
You’re invited :)

Birthday Dinner!

I am a sucker for birthdays.  I love celebrating my friends’ birthdays, and I’m not going to lie – I love my own birthday.  Guess I was born without the Peter Pan gene – I don’t mind growing up.  Each year has gotten better and better, and surely this year will not disappoint.

To celebrate this year, I wanted to cook a meal. A BIG meal.  I’ve had some bouts of insomnia lately, and ended up spending those sleepless nights pouring over cookbooks, including my new Lavender cookbook, a gift from my dear friends Krista and Ryan after their recent trip to a lavender farm in New Mexico!  What a treat this little book has proven to be.cookbook perusingI decided birthday dinner would include the following:

  • butterscotch pumpkin muffins with honey lavender butter (the lavender cookbook by sharon shipley)
  • giant crusty and creamy white beans with greens (supernatural cooking by heidi swanson)
  • jasmine rice mushroom pilaf with lavender (the lavender cookbook)
  • savory autumn cobbler (a recipe shared by a dear friend)

I spent all day cooking, and I can’t imagine a better way to enjoy a birthday. Except maybe the addition of croissant french toast with strawberries from Gold Standard….but I’m not complaining.  I’ll try that jam sooner or later ;)

BEFORE:birthday groceries

AFTER:birthday dinner

Recipes to follow. I’m sleepy.

Soup Group: Philly Edition

One of the gatherings that kept me going during my 3 winters in Fargo was Soup Group.
(Three?! Whoa. With one winter in between in Philly. That’s another story.)

ANYWAY. Soup Group became a very special weekly ritual for me.  Started out in my little 10th Ave apartment in downtown Fargo.  Post-church, friends and family would arrive one by one, bringing with them bread, cheese, cider, and the like.  And I’d be at home, brewing up pots upon pots of soup.  So many warm memories.  People would eat standing in the kitchen, sitting in the guestroom, chilling on the living room floor.  Old friends became dearer.  Friends I didn’t know I had (like my dear Melissa) showed up unexpectedly and became family.  And my heart was full.

This tradition made Fargo feel like home in ways that had earlier proven hard to find.  I missed Philadelphia something fierce, and the community that I cooked and shared meals with on a regular basis.  Slowly but surely, with each pot of soup, I began to feel at home in the place I grew up.

Days before I moved back to Philly in February 2012, I decided I needed one last soup group.  With only a night’s planning, my sweet mom and I put together a soup group for me to say goodbye.  I am forever grateful for my mom’s understanding of this important tradition, and her company in the kitchen time and time again.  I don’t remember now what we made, but I remember this little guy, Otis, was there.  A founding soup group member from the 10th Ave days.  And that meant the world to me.

soup group with otis

Once I got back to Philly, I immediately felt at home.  And as fall rolled around and the weather cooled, I knew soup group needed to be rekindled, east coast style.  Turns out, people everywhere love soup (whew).  My dearest friend Krista was visiting at the end of October, and that was that – with a fellow Fargoan in the kitchen, it was time to kick it off.

Krista gifted me with a beautiful lavender cookbook from a farm she and her husband visited in New Mexico. So we decided we better try out a new recipe – butternut squash bisque with lavender cider cream.  Joined by my staple curried lentil soup, we started this coast’s soup group with a bang.

Butternut Squash Bisque with Lavender Cider Cream
from The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups finely diced leek
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 small tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 tablespoons dried culinary ‘provence’ lavender buds, finely ground in a spice grinder
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon thyme or thyme leaves
1/2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram leaves
6 cups broth
1/2 cup apple cider
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the leek, carrot, and celery.  Saute for 10 minutes, or until the leeks are translucent.  Add the squash and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the apples, lavender, thyme and marjoram.  Stir in the broth and juice concentrate. Bring to a simmer.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the squash and apples are very tender.  Using a handheld blender or food processor (work in batches), blend the soup until smooth.  Return to a simmer.

Ladle into individual bowls. Swirl 1-2 tablespoons of the cider cream into each bowl. Sprinkle with the chives.

Lavender Cider Cream
1/4 cup apple cider jelly (if not avail – bring 1/2 c apple cider to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until reduced to 1/4 c. Let cool.)
2/3 sour cream or creme fraiche (we used plain yogurt)
1 tsp dried culinary ‘provence’ lavender buds, lightly ground with a mortar and pestle
Place the jelly in a small saucepan and stir over low heat just until melted.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream or creme fraiche and lavender. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.soup group phillyLentil Soup
from Williams & Sonoma’s SOUP

2 TBLS Olive Oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled & thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp curry powder
1 can (6 oz) canned diced tomatoes w/juice
1 1/2 cups dried brown or pink lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained – i usually use brown or green; pink and orange fall apart too easily and change the texture.
6 cups (48 oz) broth
1 lemon, sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf, and saute until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and their juice, lentils, stock and lemon slices. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook stirring occasionally, unitl the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the lemon slices and bay leaf.

Just before serving, stir in the spinach, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the spinach is wilted but still bright green. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with cheese if you wish, which I do wish, thank you very much.

Soup Group, I <3 you.

There’s nothing like a visit from your soul sister.
So grateful to have this incredible woman in my life. xoxo.