20 April 2013


Did anyone else see the post about linen sheets on Cup of Jo the other day? Well, I sure did and boy did it get me thinking. I love a light linen blouse for it's airiness on a hot Summer day or loose linen pants for the soft, cool way they brush against my legs. I can only imagine how amazingly light and dreamy it would be to sleep wrapped in linen linens with a warm breeze coming in through the window. And I'll have to continue to imagine that dreamy sleep because at around $250 for a set of Queen sheets, I won't be making my bed with them anytime soon. But not being able to afford linen sheets is no reason not to look around and plan which ones I would put on my bed if I could afford to do so. While wandering around the web in search of my dream sheets I stumbled upon Los Angeles company, Matteo. Sure their vintage linen bedding looks unbelievably cozy but since I've never had the opportunity to take a nap in it, my opinion is based solely on their promotional images. Holy cow, have you ever seen a more deliciously tempting bed?

I love how slept in all of the beds in their images look. It's like someone just rolled out of bed as the sun started coming in through their window. In my dream world, I'd have a bed just like that. It's kind of like home decor porn.

Other notable delicious beds: Eileen Fisher, Bella Notte, Restoration Hardware

18 April 2013

big easy

Normally I try to avoid pre-seasoned or pre-packaged foods because they tend to be too salty and not that great for you. But every once in awhile, especially after a long day of field tripping with the fifth grade, I'm not in the mood to plan a menu and prep all the elements of the meal. Exhausted times like these are when it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve and a few mains and sides in the freezer or pantry.

Tonight we opened the freezer and pulled out some seasoned waffle-cut fries and saucy cajun salmon. Even though the White House may consider french fries a vegetable, I don't. We needed more color on the plate and since we have seemingly never-ending supplies of beans and kale, that's what I made. I seasoned the kale with some sazon and cumin and steamed it with garlic, onion, and sliced summer sausage. I prepared the beans just like I would a spicy vegetarian chili, but only brought it to a simmer for a few minutes to make sure everything was hot but not totally cooked into chili; almost like a summer chili because it isn't as hearty as winter chili. Thirty minutes later we pulled the fish and chips out of the oven and spooned our two veggie sides from the stovetop for a bright, colorful, slightly inspired by New Orleans meal. Even better than the quick simplicity of the meal was the fact that the ease and swiftness with which we prepared it meant that the weather was still ideal for al fresco dining!

summer chili
1 can red beans
5 campari tomatoes, large diced
1 small onion, large diced
1 tsp avocado oil
1 tsp pepper jelly
cayenne, chipotle, black peppers to taste
1. In a small saucepan, heat oil and sautee onions until slightly softened. Add beans, tomatoes, pepper jelly and peppers. Simmer on a medium heat about 10-15 minutes.

15 April 2013

uphill bean battle

Lately, I feel like Sisyphus; at least when it comes to beans. I may not be facing a constant uphill battle with a boulder, but I am combatting the seemingly endless supply of canned beans in my pantry. Seriously, it seems as though canned beans are reproducing in the cool, quiet darkness of my storeroom. And I haven't even begun to tackle the dried beans! But all of these legumes and such have been coming in handy since I've been making a concerted effort to cut back on our meat consumption, especially on Meatless Mondays. Fortunately, I'm pretty familiar with all of the beans I've got on the shelf - black beans, pink beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, beans, beans, beans, yadayadayada. There was however, one can that I remember buying on a whim without knowing how I'd use it. As of this morning, I still had no clue how to use butter beans. I didn't even know what kind of bean they were (it's pretty much just a lima bean.) So, I turned to Google.

butter beans + kale. Kale. This bunch of leafy superfood seems to be taking over my refrigerator just like beans have laid claim to the pantry. After a quick browse through the results I stumbled upon a guest post from Kelli of The Corner Kitchen on Say Yes to Hoboken for a butter bean and kale tomato sauce with mushrooms served over polenta. It was fate! I already had all of those ingredients in my fridge, it was so perfect.

Since I like to really own my recipes, I tend to use other recipes more for ideas than anything else so I put Kelli's wonderfully inspiring creation aside until later on. In my mind, the sauce wasn't the hard part even though I did decide to make it more of a hearty stew or ragu. The hard part was going to be the polenta. I cook with polenta quite frequently because unlike most corn products, I actually love polenta. But I've always bought the pre-made stuff in the tube, never made it from scratch. I usually end up slicing it and pan frying it or just heating it up and piling delicious things on top of it. But every time I've ordered polenta at a restaurant I get something reminiscent of Cream O' Wheat which then makes me wonder if I'm eating breakfast or supper (more on that at the end,) and I've still loved it. So now the challenge of turning pre-made tube polenta into creamy, parmesan-y porridge. It wasn't a challenge. The side of the package told me exactly how to do it and I improvised with a potato masher.

creamy parmesan polenta
1 tube pre-made polenta
1/2 c milk
1/2 c water or stock
splash of cream
1/4 c seasoned parmesan
salt, pepper & olive oil to taste
1. Slice polenta into 1/4" pieces and crumble into a heavy bottom sauce pan with milk, cream and water. Heat on a med-high flame and mash until you've achieved desired consistency. Stir in cheese, salt, pepper and oil and heat until hot but not bubbling, stirring often to avoid sticking.

Had I known it was that easy, I would have made creamy polenta long ago. And now for the meatless main event!

kale and butter bean ragu (inspired by Kelli's tomato braised butter beans with kale & mushrooms)
4 medium tomatoes, chopped (I used a variety of campari, heirloom, and kumato)
1 can butter beans, rinsed
5-7 c kale, rinsed and torn
1 c sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh basil, torn
1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper to taste
1. In a large pan, heat garlic and onion in olive oil until the onion starts to get soft. Add 1-2 c water and heat to a simmer on a medium flame while tossing in kale 2 cups at a time, allowing to reduce. Season with salt and peppers. Add herbs.
2. When kale has wilted down and become soft add in the mushrooms, cooking about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and beans. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 3-5 more minutes, covered. Season as desired. Serve on top of creamy polenta with a dollop of fresh ricotta if desired.

Dinner was almost too easy tonight. And it was so delicious and flavorful and hearty and belly-filling good! It's getting a little warm out now, but this is a perfect late winter meal if you ask me. I mention breakfast earlier because I think if you toned down the spices of the veggies and put a poached egg on top, you'd have an unbelievably beautiful brunch dish. Or you could put it all in a skillet with a few eggs and bake it - gosh that would look so nice on a morning table! After we ate, I checked out Kelli's original recipe and it wasn't much different than my interpretation. She used canned diced tomatoes with the juices and shredded her kale so it looks like it was more along the lines of a sauce than a stew. She also used thyme which I lovelovelove! Maybe next time (because I'll for sure be making this again,) I'll try out the original. And maybe I'll even try making the polenta from scratch (did someone say Sunday?) Another Meatless Monday success! Thanks Kelli and your itty bitty kitchen for the inspiration!

14 April 2013

sunday from scratch - pizza pizza

Welcome to a brand new slice of the delirious kitchen pie - Sundays from Scratch! A new, weekly installment that will feature a supper meal including at least one brand new ingredient that I've made from scratch. This isn't to say that all the recipes featured here aren't from scratch, because they all are (or at least semi-homemade.) No, these recipes will be brand new to my repertoire; recipes that I've always considered making but never actually gotten down to business with, ingredients that I've always purchased from the grocery store rather than made myself.

For our inaugural post, I've decided to tackle a treat I've been dying to try to make on my own for quite some time now. I wanted to make ricotta cheese... from scratch. I've been reading about it for a couple of years now and it just seemed so simple and easy to make that it doesn't make sense to buy it. But I've never had all of the ingredients on hand (not that there are many,) and I've never created anything that required ricotta to be such an integral ingredient that it needed to be deliciously fresh. But tonight, I decided that I wanted to make a meal around the ricotta, where the ricotta was not only a feature player, but the star. What better way to highlight the creamy sweetness of ricotta than by tossing together a pizza?

This wasn't just any pizza, mind you. The pizza I created for our very first SFS had to be almost entirely made from scratch, each element being of the homemade variety, not just one of the ingredients. So, over the course of the past few days I started prepping everything - ricotta cheese, whole wheat pizza dough, another variety of pesto, plus I took a trip to the grocery store for some fancy tomatoes and dug around the fridge for a few extra toppings including fresh basil, seasoned parmesan from DiPasquales, sliced baby bella mushrooms, and thinly sliced prosciutto. Just looking at the counter full of fresh and colorful ingredients was making my mouth water, there was no way the finished pie wouldn't be scrumptious. Now, let's get down to the business of making all of these ingredients:

The other day when I was going nuts with my food processor, I decided to make a non-traditional traditional pesto. Why not traditional? I didn't have nearly enough basil in the fridge and pine nuts are crazy expensive. Being the frugal gal that I am, I just decided to use any green stuff I had in the fridge and whatever bag of nuts I could grab out of the pantry. On this occasion, the green stuff happened to be kale and the nuts, chopped walnuts. The result was a garlicky and clean pesto with a peppery flavor rather than the usual sweetness from basil. Pestos will last for awhile in the fridge so I made this earlier in the week and let it settle allowing all of the flavors to marinate together in preparation for their grand pizza debut.

kale and walnut pesto
3 c kale, rinsed and torn
1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 c olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1. Blanch kale in salted hot water to soften the leaves. Drain.
2. Blend all ingredients in food processor until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Next came the super simple pizza dough. Back in the day, when I was taking HomeEc classes in Middle and High School, I used to make pizza pretty frequently because we seemed to make dough every time there was a sub. But let's just say that it's been quite some time since I participated in a class like that and therefore, awhile since I've made my own pie. But it really is the easiest thing in the world to make, plus once it's kneaded and risen and kneaded again, it can be frozen for a few weeks until you're ready to toss it in the oven. I've almost completely stopped keeping white flour in my house and have substituted whole wheat flour for any recipes that call for it so I ended up making whole wheat pizza crust, not that I'm one to complain about making something just a little extra healthy.

whole wheat pizza dough (via Crossroads Middle School HomeEc class)
yields two small pizzas
2 1/4 oz packets yeast
4 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp course salt
1/4 c olive oil
1 1/2 c warm water (not hot)
1. In a large bowl, pour warm water over yeast and let sit until foamy, about five minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Knead together in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let sit in a dry place to rise for about one hour.
2. After an hour, dough should be doubled in size. Knead a second time. Separate into two balls and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Can be refrigerated up to three days or frozen 3-4 weeks.

Finally, just a couple of days before our pizza supper, I spent a very brief amount of time preparing ricotta cheese. It's amazing how simple and easy it is to make ricotta and how little active time it takes to prep. All of the accounts I read regarding homemade cheese clearly stated that fresh, unpasteurised milk and cream make the best tasting cheeses, but since there are no midweek farmers markets in Baltimore (that I know of, at least,) I had to deal with regular old milk and cream from the grocery store. Despite the shelf life of these dairy products, I think homemade ricotta should probably be used within five days of making it for ultimate tastiness. It really is so much creamier and richer and smoother than anything you'd find at the supermarket so, if you have the time and the ingredients, I say try it out. Especially if you don't use it very often - wouldn't you rather those few occasions have the freshest and most delicious ingredients available.

ricotta cheese (via smitten kitchen)
3 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp course salt
3 tbsp lemon
1. In a small, heavy bottom sauce pan, heat milk, cream and salt to 190 stirring constantly. When it's reached 190, remove from heat, add lemon juice gently stirring one or two times. Let sit five minutes.
2. Line a colander with cheese cloth and place over a large bowl. After five minutes, pour the curdled mix through the colander separating the curds and whey. Let drain for at least one hour. Remove cheese from colander and store, refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days.

Mmmm, with all the ingredients ready, Honey and I were set to have a super delicious supper. After a leisurely breakfast with Sunday Morning and The Sun, a long bike ride up to Druid Hill Park to catch a few glimpses of the quickly fading cherry blossoms, a few hours of backyard urban gardening, and some major preheating, we prepped our fabulously tasty pizza. On thinly rolled out dough we smeared about three heaping teaspoons of kale and walnut pesto, then some healthy dollops of ricotta, thick slices of kumato tomatoes, strips of prosciutto, sliced baby bella mushrooms, fresh basil leaves and a sprinkling of seasoned parmesan. A bit of research informed us that it's better to put your pizza on a super hot pizza stone and then in the broiler because the higher the cooking heat and the quicker the cook time, the better off your pizza will be. So we cranked up the heat and preheated the pizza stone to such a high temperature, requiring a very brief 5-7 cook time for the whole pie. I'd say it was a pretty amazing pie and when I asked Honey what he thought of it, he responded with a full mouth mumble which I can usually translate to mean delicious. Sometimes he speaks languages that I can't quite understand. :)

I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of Sunday from Scratch and that you'll try out one or two of the recipes I shared. Make sure you come back next week for another tasty new kitchen adventure! Have a great week! xoxo, me

12 April 2013

happy grilled cheese day!

It seems that even Mother Nature is celebrating today because she set us up with the ultimate grilled cheese weather - dreary, chilly rain with gusts of wind and eerie fog, thunder and lightening. Seriously, today is exactly the kind of day that makes me crave a gooey, toasty grilled cheese sandwich, occasionally paired with creamy tomato soup for a truly classic meal. But since today is a holiday, a regular old traditional sandwich just would not do! No, special days like this call for special sandwiches. So, after I watched my fabulously glam new haircut immediately turn to a frizzy mop the moment I stepped out of the salon, I headed home to put on some cozy clothes, heat up the cast iron skillet, and make magic. Here's what I came up with -

Thick sliced manchego cheese, prosciutto, and sliced figs on a hearty peasant pumpernickel raisin bread, served open-faced. Yum! I hope all of you darlings indulged in some equally fatty, carbtastic tastiness on this very special day... and now back to our Summer prep bikini diets.

10 April 2013

what a pest(o)!

Ugh! My favorite gal, Miss Martha, has stolen my idea! I just logged on to blog about my pesto party and I saw her post regarding leftover herbs in my feed. Hey Martha, that's what I wanted to write about! What a pain in the butt. No worries, I've decided to write my post before I read Martha's so that she has no influence on what I am about to say -

Last night while I was whipping up another batch of black bean guacamole and a boatload of hummus, I noticed that the beautiful bunch of cilantro I had bought last week was getting wilty and spotted; yuck! But I only use a small bunch in the guacamole and I wasn't in the mood for anything cilantro-centric for supper so what was I supposed to do?! The answer was right there in front of me. The food processor, of course. I could make a non-traditional pesto! So I racked my brain and came up with a spicy cilantro almond pesto and it turned out to be amazing. And amazingly simple.

spicy cilantro almond pesto
1 c cilantro, rinsed and pulled from stems
1/4 c almonds, peeled
1/8 c red onion, diced
1/8 c plus 1 tbsp avocado oil
2 tsp favorite hot sauce
pinch course Kosher salt
dash ground pepper (chipotle & black)
Blend together in a food processor until the desired consistency is reached. Top with a tablespoon of oil and store in an airtight container in the fridge up to one week.

Holy cannoli, it was delicious. Though I wasn't very hungry, I couldn't help but rattle off a list of all the ways I could use it - as a sandwich spread, for dipping grilled chicken or steak, to top fish tacos, stirred into gazpacho, the possibilities are endless. But like I said, i wasn't very hungry, so I just topped it off with a splash of oil and threw it in the fridge. However, after a sweltering day wandering around Gettysburg with a gaggle of seventh grade boys, my sunburnt self wanted something quick and delicious for supper. I had some leftover egg whites in the fridge after making ice cream so I decided to do a little breakfast for dinner. I love breakfast for dinner! Some kale sauteed with salt and pepper, slices of warm polenta, scrambled egg whites, topped with a spoonful of pesto and a dash of hot sauce. It was so perfect that I'll be enjoying it again tomorrow night.

so much green!

So, Martha, what do you think of that? I came up with something tasty and delicious using almost old cilantro and I didn't even need your help. Now that I'm stuffed with healthy, tasty homemade goodness, I'll go on to read that post. Maybe I'll even update my darling readers about what it told me!

Update: Ok ok ok, so pesto wasn't the main focus of the Everyday Food blog from Martha Stewart's team. It really was a collection of suggestions for how to use leftover herbs that are at risk of getting icky. There are actually some great ideas including herbed cornbread and green goddess dressing. The pesto suggested and used as the cover picture was made with cilantro, just like mine, but uses peanuts instead of almonds. Honey hates peanuts so that recipe would not be used in my house and, to tell you the truth, I like what I came up with better. But head over to Martha for a few great tips and recipes for nearly gnarly herbs!

08 April 2013

"somebody get me a net!"

I was a pretty lucky kid; I had the Disney Channel! As a child of the 80s, when most of the cable and premium channels were brand new, there wasn't a ton of original programming. So they really just showed movies and reruns of old shows. Shows like the original Mickey Mouse Club. But come on, you know me, the kitchy queen, loved the heck out of some old school teen saccharine. Especially the bright and bubbly Annette Funicello. She was so nice and dreamy and soft spoken; she was just the cutest. And since she was the teen queen face of Disney for so much of the mid-century, her movies played on the Disney Channel, too! Babes in ToylandBeach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, and my personal favorite, Back to the Beach!

(via omg)
My sister and I must have watched Back to the Beach about a million times. We thought it was the funniest movie ever. If you haven't seen it, you must. Let me give you brief synopsis - Frankie (Frankie Avalon, teen dream) and Annette are married and living in Ohio after a very bad surf accident that knocked the Big Kahuna off his board for good, selling used cars and eating peanut butter sandwiches. They have a rebellious son named Bobby who wears leather and thinks he's pretty punk rock. They also have a daughter, Sandy (Aunt Becky from Full House) who lives in California and is secretly engaged to a surfer. The folks decide to surprise Sandy with a visit and head all the way to California on a double-decker jet plane with OJ Simpson. Hijinks ensue, old flames are possibly rekindled, Gilligan is off the island, Pee Wee and Fishbone rock out, pajama parties are had, biker gangs are joined, names are changed (your name is 'Nice'?), and the Big Kahuna does battle with the Humunga Coawabunga from Down Unda once again! It all wraps up quite nicely in an amazing song that I can never find on iTunes (and again and again.) Just trust that it's amazing and rent it. Or buy it - you can probably get it on Amazon for a dollar or something nutty like that. To this day it remains one of my all time favorite goofy movies, guaranteed to put a smile on my face. 

(via i-mockery)
Another favorite Annette moment was her visit to Pee Wee's Playhouse for the Christmas special where she made cards with Frankie Avalon. They use potatoes as stamps and old pieces of screen to stencil with paint and toothbrushes. Pee Wee puts them to serious work but Annette being Annette smiles the whole way through - even if her smile turns out green due to the fact that she uses her toothbrush to stencil and clean her molars. What a goof! This fine work of filmography is another classic, a holiday masterpiece. Again, if you haven't seen it, you must. 80s cameos galore, the silliest jokes, and Christmas classics sung by the likes of KD Lang, Grace Jones, and even Oprah Winfrey! You will not be sorry. Especially when Magic Johnson shows up for a sleigh ride!

With all of these amazing Annette moments filling up my childhood memory bank, you can imagine that I was quite saddened by the news that Annette passed away today after a long battle with MS. Despite her illness, she always managed to be upbeat, positive and kind - a surefire inspirational gal. And at my sister's suggestion, I think we should all indulge in a quiet peanut butter sandwich tonight to honor the late, great, original girl next door. Here's to you, Annette! Why? Because we like you.

(via campmartintravels)

Also, watch this and smile! Thanks for the memories, Annette.

01 April 2013

the musical fruit

Ever since I was a little kid, I've been called Bean. It's been a pretty natural evolution - Jillian to Jilly to Jillybean to Bean. It makes sense. Does it make sense that I love to cook with my namesake beans? Of course it does! Does it make me a cannibal? Yikes, that's a scary thought. When I unpacked my kitchen after the big move, I unpacked what seemed like fifty cans of beans! Seriously, I must have bought out all the cans from my Brooklyn grocery store just so that I could make the move as clunky and heavy as possible. But it worked out for the best. Lately, with my attempts to cut a significant amount of meat out of my diet, I've been cooking with a lot of beans... and because of my abundance, A LOT of beans.

The other day I had the food processor out to make some hummus, one of my all time favorite foods that I've recently started preparing myself (more on that another time,) when I decided that I should try putting some of those other canned beans to work. Chick peas are not the end all be all, no matter how delicious they are. Naturally the second most common canned bean in my pantry was the versatile black bean. Opening the fridge and cupboard I realized that I had all the ingredients necessary to prepare a sort of guacamole - avocado, red onion, salsa,tomato, cilantro, even crunchy tortilla chips from the tortilleria down the street. I thought to myself 'what if I just mixed in some black beans?' So I did. And you know what? Amazing! It turned into a slightly chunky dip filled with the flavors of a traditional guacamole but with an extra oomph from the black beans. Not only did they add flavor, one $.89 can doubled the quantity while cutting the calories and fat (since there wasn't as much so good but so bad avocado,) and pumping up the protein! Between my kid sister and Honey I'm lucky I was able to taste any; and that I was able to get that taste and keep all my fingers in tact! It's a perfect dip for snacking or spreading and will most likely, based on it's popularity, become a staple condiment in our fridge.

black bean guacamole
1 can black beans
1 whole ripe avocado
1 tbsp diced red onions
2 tbsp fresh salsa
1 tsp dried cilantro
dash of cumin
pinch of salt
sprinkling of fresh ground black pepper
splash of favorite hot sauce
1. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Add extra salt, pepper and spices to taste. Yup, it's that easy. Garnish with fresh salsa and serve with chips, crudite, or your favorite crunchy dip-able food.

Ok, so that's two cans of beans put to good use with hummus and black bean guacamole. But two wasn't enough, not for this inspired gal! Meatless Monday came around, the first in our new home, and I wanted to make something special and delicious for me and Honey. I didn't want to spend a ton of money but I also wanted the meal to be fresh and tasty. Upon opening the fridge and cupboards I was greeted by beans. Everywhere, beans! It's like they're reproducing in there! I also came across a tube of firm polenta. Immediately, my brain combined the two and added red onion. I started a mental shopping list adding salad stuff to the red onion I needed to get from the grocery store (mixed greens, tomatoes, fresh cilantro, fresh salsa, tortilla chips) and a kitchen list of everything I could use that we already had (avocado, chipotle, cumin, cayenne, avocado oil, pepper jack cheese, black bean guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, and of course, polenta and beans.) I started mixing and melding in the kitchen. Before I knew it, Southwestern scents wafted upstairs from the sizzling pan drawing both Honey and the cat down ready to dig in. The balance of heat and creamy favors from the peppers and beans and avocado and crisp salad all melded together deliciously making for another vegetarian success!

spicy, cheesy chipotle pink bean polenta (aka honey's melty bean stuff)
firm polenta, sliced
2 tbsp avocado oil
2 tbsp diced red onion
1 can pink beans
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salted chipotle seasoning
dash of black pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 c shredded pepperjack cheese
1. In a heavy bottom skillet heat avocado oil over a medium heat and add onion, cooking until it starts to brown and soften. While the onions are cooking, season the polenta with peppers, cumin and chipotle seasoning. Being careful not to overcrowd the slices, add polenta to pan.
2. Flip the polenta slices to crisp and heat through. Add beans, stirring gently so as not to break polenta slices and cook until heated through. Turn off flame, sprinkle cheese evenly over beans and polenta. Top with cilantro and cover about 3 minutes or until melty. Serve with a dollop of sour cream alongside a green salad.