Category Archives: Entertaining

Friday Favorites: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a divisive occasion, but whether you love it or hate it, it’s a week away. I, for one, think any excuse to show people you love them is a good one, and you won’t be surprised to learn that I express love primarily through food (and videos of dogs on Instagram).

Here are some of my favorite treats from Valentine’s Days past. Look out for a new one next Wednesday!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayRed Velvet Cheesecake Bars

I may associate red velvet with Oscar Night, but most bakers like to make it for Valentine’s Day. These bars are much simpler to make than the traditional cake, and bypass the frosting in favor of a thick layer of cheesecake.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayStrawberry Sugar Cookie Squares

I’ll never understand why strawberries are so popular for Valentine’s Day. Who wants to eat a flavorless February strawberry?! That said, freeze-dried strawberries are good year-round, especially when pulverized and mixed into soft sugar cookie squares and buttercream. They provide both flavor and color here—these are food coloring-free!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Speaking of strawberry buttercream, that’s the name and filling of these homemade candies! The frosting is made and chilled before being scooped, rolled, and enrobed in dark chocolate.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayCoconut Cluster Brownies

I have a bit of a thing for cheap drugstore chocolate, which is exactly what inspired the milk chocolate-coconut candy layered on top of these brownies. I’ll take these over a heart-shaped box any day of the week!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

These Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread hearts are one of my favorite recipes on this site. They’re simple to make and the flavors are universally loved, and while you can make them in any shape you like, I think they are particularly adorable as half-dipped hearts.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Cut-Out Cookies

For all the class and restraint embodied in those shortbread, these cookies go in the exact opposite direction. They’re brash and bright and snarky and I l-o-v-e love them. Oh, and while icing is great, the rich chocolate cookies underneath are the real stars of the show.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Valentine’s falls on a Friday this year, and if you’re anything like me, making a fuss after a long workweek is not my idea of a good time, especially if it means I have to wear real clothes. Skip the fancy dinner and celebrate the morning after with a Chocolate Puff Pancake. It’s super delicious and easy to make and you don’t have to change out of your pajamas to make it.

Have you made any of these or any of my other Valentine’s Day recipes? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayFriday Favorites: Valentine’s Day

Butternut Squash Chili

Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}I am psyched for today’s recipe, y’all! This vegan Butternut Squash Chili is so good and good for you—perfect for the Super Bowl this weekend or any wintry night.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}It’s made with loads of good stuff. We’re talking the standard onion, garlic and red bell pepper, of course, but also a whole butternut squash (duh), meaty mushrooms, and pinto beans. YUM!Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}I know that being Texan means I “shouldn’t” like beans in chili, but here I am, putting them in there. No regrets. I almost always go for pinto beans in chili because that’s what I like, but if black beans or red kidney beans are more your style, by all means, switch it up!Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Small amounts of cinnamon and cocoa powder set this chili apart from the rest. They add a little nuance to the standard seasoning combination of chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, and cayenne. Minced chipotles in adobo are stirred in before serving for a touch of smoky heat.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili requires a couple of long browning steps—you want maximum flavor from those onions and mushrooms—and a simmer, but comes together surprisingly quickly overall. The batch pictured clocked in at just under two hours, which gives you just enough time to whip up some Cornmeal Biscuits to go alongside!Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}As with most soupy, stewy things, this is a meal that will get better with time. It’s delicious the day it’s made, but is particularly spectacular after a day or two in the refrigerator. Basically, if you want to eat this while you watch the Super Bowl, make if Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Love a make-ahead main!

As stated many times over the years, I’m not a fan of football, but this chili? That’s a “super bowl” I can get behind.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}

Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}
makes about 6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced small
2 red bell peppers, diced small
1-1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
5-7 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces white button mushrooms, 1/2-inch diced
1 3 lb. butternut squash, 1/2-inch pieces (8-ish cups)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock (I use seasoned vegetable Better than Bouillon)
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained & rinsed
2 chipotles in adobo, minced

Garnish:
avocado
chopped cilantro
sliced scallions
grated cheese (vegan or dairy)
crispy tortilla strips
crushed tortilla chips

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat. Add onion, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt, and sauté until very soft and gaining color (about 15-20 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Remove from pot and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned (about 15-20 minutes). Don’t rush it!

Return onion mixture to the pan, along with butternut squash. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne, cocoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, just until it begins to caramelize (it will ever-so-slightly darken).

Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook 20-25 minutes, or until squash is cooked through and tender. Add pinto beans and minced chipotles in adobo and let simmer another 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste for salt and adjust to your preferences.

Divide chili among bowls and serve with desired garnishes.

Leftovers will keep very well for up to 4 days. Flavors will intensify over time.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}

Pared-Down Porchetta

Pared-Down PorchettaWhen I was allowed to take the reins on planning Christmas dinner last month, I knew immediately what I wanted to make: Porchetta. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Porchetta is a slow-roasted Italian herbed pork dish that is traditionally made with whole pigs, but most home cooks use a center-cut pork loin wrapped in a sheet of pork belly.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaI spent weeks planning this meal, going so far as to make a 1/4-sized tester in the days before Christmas. After that, I called Central Market (think Texas-specific Whole Foods…but way better than Whole Foods) and ordered all the meat. I packed my favorite knife, a sharpener, my largest meat cutting board, trussing string and an apron in my checked luggage and hightailed it to Fort Worth.Pared-Down PorchettaOver the next several days, my mom, sister and I obtained the special-ordered pork and made a great fuss over preparing it…except that it wasn’t actually that much fuss. Once the herb mix was prepared, I butterflied the center-cut pork loin and scattered it over the top. Then I rolled it up jelly-roll-style, rolled that in the sheet of pork belly and tied it all up with trussing string. Afterward, I let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator (“dry brining”) until Christmas Day, on which it was brought to room temperature and then roasted until golden and crisp and pretty irresistible.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaI was (am) very proud of myself and posted it to all my social media outlets, where I was promptly asked when I’d be posting a recipe. This was something I hadn’t even considered because while the Porchetta I made for Christmas is not particularly difficult to put together, but it *is* pricey.Pared-Down PorchettaThe meat had to be special-ordered for quantity and quality—a 5 pound sheet of skin-on pork belly is not an easy find—and came out to about $60. That’s $60 in Texas, so I’d guess it’s more like $80-$100 in New York, and that’s before the herbs. I love y’all, but not quite enough to spend hundreds testing one lone recipe.Pared-Down PorchettaBut. But! I had it in my head that I could give my beloved Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork recipe the Porchetta treatment, and Porchetta Queen Sara Jenkins (formerly of the Lower East Side, now of Maine) agrees. And so, with those recipes and the herb mixture I used at Christmas as guides, I set to work making this: the Pared-Down Porchetta. It’s got all the fatty, herby, meaty, crispy magic you love in traditional Porchetta, but it’s a little rough and tumble.Pared-Down PorchettaYes, it still has to sit in your fridge for a day or two, but it is made from just one piece of meat (a boneless pork butt AKA pork shoulder), is mostly hands-off, and won’t cost you an obscene-ish amount of money.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaLet’s start with the meat. This pork butt? It weighed in at 4.5 pounds and cost a cool $14–pretty reasonable compared to $60+! You’ll want it to have a layer of skin or a good, thick fat cap (pictured here) for both flavor and texture. If you can’t find a pork butt that fits either of those descriptions, you can purchase a piece of pork belly or pork skin and tie it onto the butt with trussing string. You want that fatty lid so it can keep the meat moist during roasting and then get crispy at the end. Cracklings are life, am I right?!Pared-Down PorchettaYour pork butt is unlikely to be in one seamless piece due to its heavy marbling and having had a bone cut out of it. This spot (or cavity or whatever you want to call it)? This is where the herb mixture will go. I used my knife to extend that opening down the length of the roast, while making sure to keep one edge intact.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaAnother thing you want? Kosher salt—about 1/2 teaspoon per pound. Don’t be tempted to skimp, or all the days of dry brining and the herbs and the money you spent will be for nothing. Salt is critical for both flavor and texture (it draws out moisture), and if used in proper amounts, will not leave your meat particularly salty, just flavorful. You’ll blitz most of it with toasted fennel seeds, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes to make the herb mixture. The rest will be rubbed into the crosshatched skin/fat cap.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaYou will have to truss your pork butt, which is really no trouble. Just tie it at short intervals and then anywhere else it isn’t holding together as one cohesive unit. You want all those good herbs to stay put! Then stick the whole thing in a dish and put in the refrigerator and forget about it for 24-48 hours until it’s dry to the touch and the color has changed.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaAnd then roast it looooow and slooooow before crisping up that fat cap, and slicing and serving it on rolls or crusty bread that you’ve given the slightest dip in the rendered fat. You can also serve it alongside garlicky greens or roasted vegetables. Really, you can’t go wrong.Pared-Down PorchettaI feel like this Pared-Down Porchetta would be a wonderful main for Super Bowl Sunday, Oscar Night, Easter, or any old night. I mean, you could certainly hold onto this recipe until next Christmas, but that seems like an awfully long time from now, don’t you think?Pared-Down Porchetta

Pared-Down Porchetta
makes 8 (or so) servings

1 4-4.5 lb. boneless pork butt with skin or a thick fat cap*
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (about 1 medium-large lemon)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2-2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided

Special Equipment:
trussing string
a dutch oven or roasting dish

For serving:
rolls (I used Trader Joe’s Ciabatta Rolls)
crusty bread

Read this recipe carefully before proceeding. While the majority of it is hands-off, it will take a minimum of two days to prepare.

If your pork butt was trussed when you purchased it, cut off the trussing string and discard. Blot pork butt to remove excess moisture. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife (or razor blade) to crosshatch the skin.

Toast fennel seeds in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant. Remove to a bowl to cool.

Make the herb mixture. Combine sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic lemon zest, red pepper flakes,1 1/2-2 teaspoons* Kosher salt. and fennel seeds in a food processor and pulse to combine (alternatively, mince with a large, sharp chef’s knife).

Look at your pork butt. It is unlikely to be one stable piece, so take a look and see a natural spot to butterfly it. I chose an area that was already open, and used my knife to further the opening a bit more, leaving one edge still intact (see photos).

Fill opening with herb mixture and then fold back together. Some herb mixture will fall out—this is okay. Use trussing string/kitchen twine to truss the meat. Tie it together at 2-inch intervals and then any other directions necessary to hold it together as a cohesive unit. Rub the herb mixture that fell out of the butterflied section over the outside of the meat. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the crosshatched skin and lightly massage in. Place pork in a small dish (I used a 9-inch square pan) and refrigerate uncovered for 24-48 hours.

Remove pork from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for an hour. Place pork in a clean, dry oven-safe pot (I use my dutch oven).

Preheat oven to 250F. Place pork in the oven and let cook for 4.5-5.5 hours, until it registers 180F on a meat thermometer and is tender.

Remove pork from oven. Turn temperature up to 500F.

Return pork to the oven and let cook, turning the pot every 5 minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. (Mine was done for 15 minutes, but I probably should have gone to 20.)

Let pork cool for 20 minutes before carefully, removing trussing string, slicing and serving with rolls or crusty bread.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.

Note:

1. If you cannot find a boneless pork butt with skin or a fat cap, purchase a piece of pork belly or skin to tie on with trussing string. I’ve seen pork belly for sale at Whole Foods, Whole Foods 365, Costco and some regular supermarkets.

2. You’ll need 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt per pound of meat, so 2 teaspoons for 4 lbs or 2 1/2 teaspoons for 4.5 lbs. With that knowledge, set aside 1/2 teaspoon of the salt for the skin/fat cap and add the rest to the herb mixture.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down Porchetta

Chicken with Lemon & Olives

Chicken with Lemon & OlivesUnsurprisingly, the way to my heart is through my stomach. I mean, I’m a food blogger–of course it is.

To get specific though, it’s through salty, briny, acidic foods. Dessert is a wonderful thing, but I will happily destroy a jar of pickles or smear dijon mustard on everything or give you a tour of my salt collection (nerd alert!) any day of the week. And then I will make you a batch of cookies, because of course I will. But that’s a post for another day.Chicken with Lemon & OlivesToday, we’re talking about Chicken with Lemon & Olives, which is a dream dinner for someone like me. It’s got crispy-skinned chicken thighs, briny roasted olives and a garlicky, herby, dijon-spiked lemon sauce, so…yeah, um, hi. Sign me up.Chicken with Lemon & OlivesChicken with Lemon & OlivesChicken with Lemon & OlivesThis dish, y’all. It’s so delicious. The sauce is tangy and acidic from the lemon and mustard, and rich (but not overly so) from the chicken and olive oil. And the olives—ohhhh, the olives. They’re cracked open before cooking so that all that tangy, schmaltzy sauce gets in there and gets a little briny and…well, it’s very good.Chicken with Lemon & OlivesSpeaking of olives, I prefer to make this with castelveltranos because they’re my favorite. More of a kalamata person? Want to try a mix? Do what makes you happy. I used olives that still have their pits because, frankly, they always taste better. If you want to use pitted olives though, I won’t stop you. Just make sure to skip the step when you give them a thwack with the bottom of a cast iron skillet—nobody wants to clean that mess.Chicken with Lemon & OlivesI should note that the sauce stays on the thin side. If you’d like it to be thicker, you can reduce the amount of stock a bit when you pour it in, or remove the chicken, etc., and thicken it with a cornstarch slurry after roasting. Truly, the consistency of the sauce was the only thing I had reservations about during testing, but I like it as written. It nestles perfectly into a pile of polenta or mashed potatoes. Next time I’m going to try serving it with slices of toasted baguette.Chicken with Lemon & OlivesCan we discuss how absurdly beautiful this is? I love the golden chicken in contrast with the vibrant olives and roasted lemon wedges. This is definitely one of those mains that works as well for a dinner party as it does for a weeknight. And on that note, if you’re having a dinner party and making this, please invite me.Chicken with Lemon & Olives

Chicken with Lemon & Olives
makes 6-8 servings

2 cups olives (with pits), brine discarded (I used castelveltrano)
8 chicken thighs
1/2-3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-3 lemons, divided
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (based on preference)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 cup chicken stock
polenta or mashed potatoes, for serving
chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 450F. Grease a large casserole dish or 9×13-inch pan. Set aside.

Crack olives. On a sturdy surface, sandwich olives between two pieces of parchment. Use a heavy object (bottom of a cast iron skillet, meat tenderizer, large can) to give them a few whacks to crack the skin open a bit. You may also use a sharp knife to lightly score each olive.

Blot chicken thighs with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the chicken and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Use your hands to lightly and quickly massage oil and salt into the meat for even distribution.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches (unless your pan is giant), place chicken thighs in the pan skin-side-down and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Meanwhile, juice 1-2 lemons, until you have 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Slice remaining lemon into 8 wedges. Set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of rendered fat. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary, and saute until fragrant (about 1 minute). Stir in red pepper flakes and mustard, followed by stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Pour sauce into prepared dish. Place chicken in a single layer over the top. Arrange olives around chicken and tuck lemon wedges in between. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake 45-50 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Let cool a few minutes until bubbling stops. Serve over polenta or mashed potatoes with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.Chicken with Lemon & OlivesChicken with Lemon & OlivesChicken with Lemon & Olives

No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice Cream

No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamCan you believe it’s Labor Day Weekend? I am stunned at how quickly this summer has gone by! It was a really great one for me: my entire immediate family visited over the course of three months and I got to go to my beloved Swan’s Island. The best.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamOne of my favorite memories from the last few months is my parents’ last-minute trip to NYC. Long story short: in late June, I was telling my mom about how much I loved The Ferryman and how I wished she could see it before it closed in couple of weeks…and six hours later, she and my dad had booked flights and a hotel, we’d been offered a front row seat to the East River fireworks display, and we had tickets to both The Ferryman (the day before it closed!) and Come From Away! My family are not terribly spontaneous people, so this was pretty wild.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamThe whole visit was a ball, and even though we were all exhausted by the last night, we decided to go for one last good meal. And so it was that I loaded my parents into a car and we took the short ride down to Red Hook for some harbor views (my favorite), lobster rolls (my mom’s favorite), and ice cream (my dad’s favorite). Red Hook’s got something for everyone.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamThis recipe is based off the scoop of Rice Krispies Treats-centric Snap Mallow Pop! that I had that night at the Red Hook location of Ample Hills. Like the ice cream that inspired it, this one’s got a marshmallow base and is studded with Rice Krispies Treats. Unlike the original though, this recipe can be made at home without an ice cream machine—one of the few pieces of kitchen equipment I don’t have—instead relying on a four-ingredient no-churn base.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamNo-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamMaking a no-churn ice cream base is simple. At its most basic, it’s just folding whipped cream (for creaminess, heft and scoopability) into sweetened condensed milk (for sweetness and to prevent ice crystals from forming). I always throw in a little vanilla, and this time I added a cup of marshmallow fluff for big marshmallow flavor!No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamNo-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamAs far as the Rice Krispies Treats go, you can make whichever version of that recipe you like (if you go with the original recipe on the back of the box, I’d cut it in half). I tend to go rogue and keep mine to a 1:1:1 formula: 1 tablespoon butter, 1 cup mini marshmallows, 1 cup Rice Krispies cereal. Except in this case I double it, so 2:2:2…?No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamNo-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamNo-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamOnce they’re made and cooled, pinch/pull the treats into small pieces. Those will get layered with the marshmallow ice cream base and then frozen.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamAnd scooped. And eaten in a cup.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamOr a cone. Or maybe both. It’s the last weekend of summer. Get wild. Eat ice cream twice.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice Cream

No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice Cream
makes about 8 cups

Rice Krispies Treats:
2 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
pinch of salt (optional)
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Marshmallow Ice Cream Base:
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup marshmallow fluff
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream, very cold

Make Rice Krispies Treats. Grease a rimmed pan (I used a quarter sheet pan). Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl to melt. Add mini marshmallows and salt and stir constantly until melted. Remove pan from heat and stir in Rice Krispies cereal.

Transfer cereal to prepared pan. Use greased implements or hands (be careful—the mixture is hot!) to press the mixture into an even layer. Let cool for about 30 minutes.

Use lightly greased hands to pull Rice Krispies Treats into small pieces. Set aside.

Make marshmallow ice cream base. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, marshmallow fluff, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer (or a whisk) to whip heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into sweetened condensed milk mixture just until combined.

Transfer 1/3 of the ice cream base to a 9×5-inch loaf pan or other freezer-friendly 8-cup vessel. Top with about 1/3 of the Rice Krispies Treats pieces. Repeat layering process two more times so that you have 3 layers each of the ice cream base and rice Krispies Treats pieces.

Cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil before freezing for a minimum of 6 hours. Scoop and serve as desired. Leftovers should be kept covered in the freezer.No-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamNo-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice CreamNo-Churn Rice Krispies Treats Ice Cream