Category Archives: Entertaining

Little Lemon Pie Jars {No-Bake}

Little Lemon Pie JarsThese Little Lemon Pie Jars are are the best no-bake dessert I’ve had in quite some time. They’re cold, creamy and tangy, but not overly rich, and their single-serve presentation makes them ideal for any socially-distanced gathering during these hotter months.Little Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie Jars are incredibly simple to make. The lemon filling is made with a fluffy combination of cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream, and my favorite Lazy Lemon Curd. While the curd takes a little forethought so it can cool completely, it’s very easy to make—sweetened condensed milk does all the heavy lifting. You could certainly use store bought lemon curd or make a traditional recipe, but I really want to encourage you to try this easy version. It’s dead-simple to make, perfectly balanced, and one recipe makes twice the amount you’ll need for these little pies, meaning you’ll have plenty leftover for toast or biscuits or slapping together a few Lemon Meringue S’mores. Yum.Little Lemon Pie JarsOnce the curd is made and cooled, the filling takes all of ten minutes to mix and spoon over the crust. Oooh, this crust. While the lemon filling is plenty sweet and refreshing on its own, the crust provides textural contrast and cuts the richness.Little Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsSimply mix up some graham cracker crumbs, confectioner’s sugar, a pinch of salt and melted butter until everything is lightly moistened, then press the mixture into the bottoms of eight small mason jars. It won’t set hard, instead staying a little on the crumbly side. Where this wouldn’t work particularly well for a traditional pie, it works like a dream here. I love that I can dig my spoon into the bottom of the jar and get a little crust in every bite.Little Lemon Pie JarsYou can garnish these little pies however you like or not at all. I’ve been saying some version of this a lot lately, but it’s the truth: we’re in a pandemic and there are no dessert rules. I dressed these pictured pie jars up with whipped cream, teensy lemon wedges and extra drizzles of lemon curd for their glamour shots, but I ate the leftovers plain out of the fridge and they were just as delicious. Little Lemon Pie Jars

Little Lemon Pie Jars
makes 8 4-ounce pie jars

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 whole graham crackers)
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
6 tablespoons heavy cream, very cold
3/4 cup Lazy Lemon Curd (or other lemon curd), recipe below
4 ounces (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Garnish:
whipped cream
Lazy Lemon Curd
small lemon wedges

Special Equipment:
8 4-ounce mason jars or ramekins

Make the crust. In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Add melted butter and whisk until everything is lightly moistened and resembles damp sand.

Divide mixture among 8 4-ounce mason jars (or ramekins), about 2-3 heaping tablespoons each. Tamp down the crust with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Make the filling. Pour heavy cream into a small-medium mixing bowl, and use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together Lazy Lemon Curd and cream cheese. It may be a little lumpy. Add confectioner’s sugar and salt and beat to combine. Mix in vanilla.

Use a silicone spatula to stir half the whipped cream into the lemon mixture. Gently fold in the second half of the whipped cream. Spoon filling into mason jars, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or press plastic wrap to the surfaces and chill up to 2 days. If you are short on time, these may be frozen for an hour.

To serve, top with whipped cream. Drizzle with more Lazy Lemon Curd (I did this with a snipped piping bag) and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Lazy Lemon Curd
makes about 1 1/2 cups

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3-4 lemons)
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks, room temperature

Make the filling. Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

In the heatproof bowl, whisk together lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks. Place bowl over simmering water, creating a double boiler. Let cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer filling to a heatproof container. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface. Let cool completely at room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.Little Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie Jars

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeIn keeping with social distancing, baking with what I have, considering what you might have, thinking up swaps, and trying to make something Easter-appropriate, I present to you this Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake. It’s made with the last of a container of sour cream I found in my fridge, poppy seeds leftover from Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, and sliced almonds from Almond Boterkoek. The rest of the ingredients are baking basics/things I normally have around. Oh, and it only requires one egg—score!Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAs far as Easter goes, this is not my norm. This cake is not pastel or coconut or coated in my nemesis, poured fondant, but it feels decidedly springlike anyway. I mean, I know we eat almond things at other times of year, but doesn’t Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake scream springtime Sunday morning?Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeThe cake is just my usual coffee/crumb cake base, but perfumed with almond extract and studding with crunchy poppy seeds. It’s super moist and tender thanks to sour cream, milk and softened butter.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeI skipped the traditional coffee cake crumble here because I felt like it was competing with the poppy seeds—too much crunch, ya know? Instead, I’ve taken the easy way out and topped this sucker with sliced almonds, put it in the oven and called it a day.

You might think you’ll miss the crumble, but once this cake is baked and golden, I promise you’ll be like “Crumble who?” Or, more likely, you’ll be too busy eating soft almond poppy seed cake to care.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAs with every recipe I’m posting right now, Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake has plenty of room for substitutions and swaps.

-don’t have poppy seeds? Leave them out. You won’t have same crispy, crunchy texture, but your coffee cake will still be delicious.
-if you don’t have a round cake pan, use a square pan. I haven’t tried it, but I have a sneaking suspicion this will work in a loaf pan too, though you may want to let it bake for more like 50-60 minutes.
-don’t have both granulated and brown sugars? You can use all of one or the other. This will change the color and flavor of the cake a little in either direction, but not in a bad way.
-no almond extract? Well, your cake won’t be Almond Poppy Seed without it, but it also will be fine. If you have citrus at home, feel free to zest a lemon (or whatever) into the sugar. If you leave it plain though, I promise it will still be good.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake
-no vanilla? Not ideal, of course, but it can be left out.
-our of sour cream? Use yogurt. No yogurt? Swap all the sour cream & milk in the recipe for 1 1/4 cup buttermilk. For DIY buttermilk, see here.
-I bake almost exclusively with whole milk, but feel free to sub whatever you have. With the quantity of sour cream in this recipe, plant-based milks should work without issue.
-if you don’t have sliced almonds for the top, use slivered or chopped almonds, or leave them off entirely. If you feel like your cake needs more adornment, make a glaze or sift confectioners sugar over the top.

That’s every substitution I can think of, but feel free to ask questions in the comments if you think of another. “Make it work” is the name of the game this Easter.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake, about 10 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, poppy seeds, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy. Mix in egg, sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts; mixture will be a bit lumpy. Mix in half the dry ingredients followed by half the milk. Add remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining milk.

Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Use your fingers to scatter sliced almonds over the top. Tap full pan a few times on the countertop to release any large air bubbles. Bake cake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool 20 minutes in the pan on a rack. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edge of the pan before inverting onto a plate to release. Revert cake onto a serving plate. Cake may be served warm or room temperature. Serve.

Leftover cake will keep well at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAlmond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAlmond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

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