I finally got all of my holiday presents out. Thank god. I’m usually really on the ball with these kinds of things, but this year I fell really far behind. I’m kind of wiped. Womp womp. Now that the shopping is done and work should slow down a little bit next week, with any luck, I’ll be able to get the rest of my life together. I’ve got a list of things to do at work, and I also have a ton of stuff that I need to do in my personal life. AND they canceled The Interview? AND AND Serial is over? Blerg. My apartment feels like it’s a mess, I still need to book a hotel for our trip to Tokyo, I want to plan something for our five year wedding anniversary, and I need to start easing back into not eating like an insane monster person (but that can wait until after the new year, obviously). I guess I can go with the whole well at least I’m healthy and have a roof over my head, yadda yadda. Be thankful, ’tis the season. All in all, life is pretty sweet, and I’m just ready to start 2015 and wipe the slate clean and pick up new projects for the new year.
Porchetta sandwiches from Roberta’s, a Mac graveyard, seeing Inherent Vice this past Sunday and my favorite brussels sprouts recipe. Follow me on Instagram for more!
My friend Jessie had left a big jug of apple cider in my fridge from Thanksgiving, so I was staring at it for a couple of weeks every morning trying to decide what to do with it. Cookies? Bread? Doughnuts. Definitely doughnuts. But I didn’t have the energy to roll out dough, cut it out, etc. So fritters it was. O figured I’d be able to add real pieces of apple with the fritters, too, which was an awesome bonus. The dough came together easily, and after a few minutes in the fryer, a drizzle of glaze, they were ready to be consumed. I am a little embarrassed to admit that Kramer and I probably ate 2 or 3 of these each before I sealed them up to bring them into my office. They will last well for at least another day, so go ahead and make them the day before. They are absolutely heavenly when dipped into a cup of coffee, trust me. If you’re afraid of frying, don’t be because I promise that these are foolproof. I know you’re all nuts for cider and apples right now, so bust out the ingredients and get to it!
Last week was the busiest week I’ve had in a while and I feel like this week is going to be more of the same as I try to play catch-up with the things I had to put aside last week. Kramer has been insanely busy, too, but I’m really proud of how he’s handled the pressure. This past semester was probably his most difficult yet, and on top of that, he’s been staying at work long hours, trying to keep up with everything. Of course, he did well, as always, but he’s playing catch-up this week too, as finals having been taking up most of his time. Now we’ve got to make sure we buy all of our holiday presents, send out cards and get the rest of our shit together. I’m sure I’m not alone in this last minute end-of-the-year scramble. I know we’re going to have to power through the remainder of 2014, but hopefully next week will slow down a little as people go on vacation and the rest of the holidays run their course. I’m ready for 2015, so hit me with your best shot, holidays – I can take it.
Kim and me testing out the photobooth at our company holiday party.
Part of the reason I was so busy last week was that my colleague Kim and I were planning our company’s holiday party. It’s insane how much effort goes into planning a party that only lasts for a few hours, but there were over 150 people in attendance and we wanted it to be awesome. I was honestly having stress dreams about running out of alcohol or food or both, but thankfully everything went relatively smoothly. We even set up a photobooth, which was clearly my favorite part of the evening, and I made about 100 chocolate chip cookies, on top of the sandwiches and cupcakes and other treats we had available. One of our employees recommended two awesome bartenders, and another employee got us a killer deal on booze, so we were able to throw a great party, if I do say so myself. Now we have to start thinking about how we’re going to top it and have an even better event next year. Did you already have your company holiday party? Give me ideas for 2015!
To get in the spirit of the season, tra la la la la and all that jazz, I present to you these gingerbread bars. They’re chewy in the center with a deliciously crunchy top, dotted with candied ginger and decorated with rich white chocolate – the perfect thing to have around for an easy dessert or a weekend treat with a cup of coffee. Why not? It’s the holidays – you can afford to have your pants feel a little tight for a few weeks. Embrace it and hide any love handles under a big sweater, then join a gym in January and get back to it. We’re human, after all. I love all of the aromatics in these bars, plus the depth of flavor added from the dark molasses. You don’t HAVE to add candied ginger, either – walnuts, pecans, white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips would all make excellent substitutions, or just make it simple and don’t add in anything at all! These are seriously good bars either way, and hold up well for a few days if you want to make them ahead of time for all of the holiday festivities you’ll no doubt be partaking in this week.
The weather in New York has been so god-awful lately that it’s putting me in a seriously shitty mood. Yesterday was especially miserable, and between planning my company’s holiday party, continuously setting up another floor in our office, and having to trudge around in the pouring rain, I’m having a hard time shaking my grumpy attitude. Hopefully the party tomorrow will put me in better spirits, but I swear the stress of worrying about having enough booze and food and whatnot is giving me acid reflux. Plus, I feel like I need to run a bunch of errands for last minute things outside of the office and I am so sick of holding my umbrella up and fighting with the wind to stay dry. Plus the UV protective layer is chipping off of my glasses and I can’t get new ones until the new year, so I’m walking around with partially screwed up glasses and I feel like it’s giving me massive headaches. WAH. Life is so hard. I’m just ready for the holidays to be over, I guess, and to get back to reality. It’s hard to be in a festive mood when you’re the one who is supposed to put all of the festive stuff together. Someone help me get out of this grinchy mood. PLEASE. I probably just need to go to the gym or something.
The epic pastrami sandwich from Roberta’s, mushrooms, apple cider fritters and garlic knots from, again, Roberta’s. Get more on Instagram.
Anyway, we’re in the heart of comfort food season and I’m ready for some warm, hearty meals made in the oven. Maybe that will make me feel better, especially if the dish can be made in a single pot or cooking vessel for minimal clean up. Pork loin is one of those meats that I think is the perfect Sunday night dish. It feels lighter, while still being stick-to-your-ribs good for a cold winter day. I made a simple paste of garlic, lemon and honey to rub all over my big slab of pork loin, then roasted it in the oven alongside some halved sweet potatoes. While the pork rested, I mashed the sweet potatoes with some additional honey, butter and milk, sprinkled them with sea salt, and served the two together without having to mess with a bunch of different pans and baking sheets or whatever else typically comes to mind when you think of this sort of meal. Mashed sweet potatoes are the new mashed potatoes, I promise you – they’re slightly richer and just bursting with flavor. I highly recommend stabbing a piece of pork alongside a dollop of mashed sweet potato for the ultimate bite. To drink, of course, I had a big ol’ glass of red wine, because I just need it, okay? Best of all, this one pot dinner makes a great one pot lunch the next day! A good way to celebrate the holiday season, indeed, and hopefully boost my spirits just a bit.
I made this pie for a potluck at work a few weeks ago. Maybe I’m a little pie crazy this year. Whatever. Don’t judge me. I really wanted to do a pie specific potluck this year in the office, and I’m so glad it happened. Last year we did a general dessert potluck, but I had this image of our boardroom table covered with all kinds of pie and that’s exactly what happened. I was worried that we’d have a hard time getting people to bring in pies, but we had blueberry, apple, peanut butter, berry crumble, peach and raspberry, lemon meringue and so many more. It was heaven. Someone even brought in a crack pie from Momofuku and a salted honey pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Another genius brought in a few containers of ice cream. Be still, my beating heart. I ate more than my fair share of pie that day – probably three or four slices – then sat down at my desk in a sugar coma, counting down the minutes until I could go home and take a nap. I felt bad that Kramer didn’t get to partake in the festivities, so I left him a slice of this Muddy Buddy pie at home as a consolation prize.
So, yeah, this pie was pretty awesome. Muddy buddies are one of my favorite holiday treats, so I figured that a pie with all of the same stuff would be equally delicious. I used Chex Mix for the crust instead of just regular Chex, because I thought the saltiness of the mix would offset the sweetness of the milk chocolate and peanut butter. And it did – wonderfully. The filling was simple – a mixture of creamy peanut butter, milk chocolate, cream and a little vanilla. All you have to do it bake the crust for 10 or 15 minutes, then pour the chocolate filling into the pie, let it chill in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight, dust the top with powdered sugar, and have at it. There couldn’t be an easier pie to make to get you in the holiday spirit. Everyone loves peanut butter and chocolate, and if the rate at which this pie disappeared at our pie potluck is any indication, your friends and family will, too.
I am so sad that Thanksgiving is already over. It is by far my favorite holiday in the whole world, and I hate having to reset the clock to wait another year for the next one. We had a great gathering this year, though, so I’ll just cling to that feeling until 2015. My brother Dane came in from Baltimore to celebrate with us, so it was good to see him, too. We ended up hosting a grand total of 20 people in our 650 square food apartment, so bully for us. We had two extra folding tables, and some friends were kind enough to bring folding chairs with them so that we could seat (most) of our guests comfortably, although once you sat down with your plate you were locked in position until we broke down our elaborate setup. I made what must have been over 30 pounds of fried chicken, green chile macaroni and cheese, buttermilk biscuits, arugula salad (which nobody touched because why did I even bother with a fresh, green salad on Thanksgiving, the Day of Carbs), cornbread and sausage stuffing, and a mocha ice box cake. The fried chicken was a hit, yet again – perfectly moist and crispy. Friends brought lots of food, too: chestnut stuffing, potatoes au gratin, tofurkey (oh yes), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, various roasted vegetables, green beans with pancetta, crack pie from Momofuku, some kind of delicious cherry cake, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and, most importantly, peppermint Joe-Joes. Obviously the wine, whisky and beer flowed freely as well. We played Werewolves, Two Rooms and a Boom and Heads Up, stuffed our faces and went back for seconds, and had an all around good time. Thanks to everyone who shared the holiday with us – let’s rent out an event space next year and double the party!
The adorable Tofu, biscuit making, seeing Late Night with Seth Meyers and Die Hard the Saturday after Thanskgiving. Follow me on Instagram!
After Thanksgiving, we cleaned up and slept in, then Kramer convinced me to make a Friday morning breakfast feast consisting of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon, alongside plenty of coffee. After lounging around for a bit, we decided to walk down to Brooklyn Bowl to meet our friend Morgan for a few games. After bowling, we made our way to The Levee for a snack (pb&j, of course) then over to PT for a delicious Italian dinner with our friends Matt and Amanda. A few more drinks at Videology, and we were ready to head home, but not before watching This Is The End before bed. Can you believe Dane hadn’t seen it? On Saturday, we did the best thing ever: saw Die Hard at Nitehawk for brunch. I can’t think of a better way to start off the holiday season. Post brunch, we lounged at the apartment for a bit, then played a game of Pandemic with our friend Danny, after which we ate well at Suzume, my favorite neighborhood ramen spot. Big beers, salmon ramen, chicken wings and sushi were happily consumed. We waddled over to The Grand National for some arcade games after dinner, then hung out with my friend Jeena and her friend Jess before calling it a night. Sadly, Dane had to leave the next morning, so we mourned this heavy loss by meeting with friends for dinner at an Indonesian spot I had been meaning to check out in Greenpoint, called Selmat Pagi. We had aromatic mussels, coconut kale, buttery eggplant, beef rendang (my favorite), nasi goreng (spiced vegetable fried rice with an egg), plenty of prawn chips with various dipping sauces, and sambal deviled eggs. We were fat and happy at the end of the meal, so we had to get a nightcap at The Shanty to finish things off. Yes, it was quite the weekend, and yes, I’m doing my best to eat some leafy greens and wholesome vegetables because I don’t think I ate more than a few bites of actual, healthy food in the past week. Worth it! It’s the holidays.
In an effort to eat better, and maybe stock up on some winter soups, I present to you this vegetable stock. It’s made in a crock pot, and it couldn’t be easier. I always keep a sealable baggie full of vegetable scraps in my freezer, and recently my brother, Dane, called me to ask how to make vegetable stock from a similar baggie of vegetables that he had in his freezer. This reminded me that my bag was pretty much full, from carrot peels, onion butts and leftover pieces of zucchini, broccoli, garlic and whatever else I happened to throw in there, so it was time for me to make stock, too. It really doesn’t matter what vegetables you have, as long as you can fill up a 1 gallon baggie of whatever it is. Just toss it all in the crock pot (no need to thaw it out), add a bay leaf and 8 to 10 cups of water, then let it simmer on low for 8-10 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours, but I prefer the flavors of a low, slow stock). The color and texture of your stock will vary depending on what you have in your crock pot. For example, I had a few leftover bits of purple carrot in my stock, so it was a lovely dark brown color. The longer you let your stock bubble away for, the darker it will be, so consider that when you make yours. You can certainly make this in a stock pot on the stove, if you like – just bring it to a simmer, cover and allow it to cook for 3 hours or so. I do think that the crock pot is the best way to go about it, though, and considering how easy and waste-free the method is, I don’t see why everyone wouldn’t try it! Plus, once you have your stock, you’re ready to make tasty soups like this Roasted Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup or this Roasted Broccoli Soup. Just saying.
And they’re off! The race has begun to the best holiday of the year: Thanksgiving. It’s my absolute favorite holiday for so many reasons. There are no presents exchanged, only given (to me) because it’s my birthday (boom). There is no religion discussed. There is no singing (except maybe karaoke). There is only eating. Lots and lots of eating. And cooking, which I obviously love to do. Every year, we have a big Thanksgiving party with our friends who aren’t able to make it home for the holiday. Last year we topped out at 17 people, but this year we’re going for broke at a nice, round 20 people. Some may call it masochism, but I call it a good time. We’ve got folding tables, folding chairs, and a can-do attitude that comes with drinking a few glasses of wine while prepping dinner. So yeah, I’m pretty excited. I feel like the day will come before I know it, but I’ve got my spreadsheet and a whole extra day to prep this year. Don’t stop me now, as I always say.
I decided to round up my favorite Thanksgiving recipes for you all to peruse. There’s vegetarian and vegan options, the best turkey recipe ever (plus the video I did with Business Insider on how to make it) and, of course, plenty of desserts and breakfast ideas. Everyone has their own idea of what should or shouldn’t be on a Thanksgiving table, but I say to hell with that because I’m doing fried chicken this year and everyone should serve what they love to eat, not necessarily what they think they are supposed to eat. If you want to serve macaroni and cheese or peanut butter pie or waffle stuffing, then you’re my kind of person because I served all of these not-so-traditional things and people gobbled it all up. I hope that you try out one or five of these recipes for your meal this year, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Slab pie time again, guys. I just love them so much. Forgive me if you don’t have a reason to make a pie big enough for 20 or so people, although honestly I’m sure you can think of a reason or at least cut the pie into single serving sized pieces to last you for the rest of the winter. Keep them in the freezer, individually wrapped and waiting for you after a long day of work or a midnight snack after a night of enjoying some adult beverages. Think about it. I am a huge fan of the slab because they are easy to cut (no having to wiggle out the first piece awkwardly only to have it break on you), they look impressive and you don’t have to worry about making two pies or more. It’s the perfect holiday dessert, just make sure you have room to put it out with the rest of your spread! I also recommend saving your scraps of leftover pie crust so that you can throw some fun decorations on the top of your pie. Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it. I am not particularly crafty, as even my mother said when she saw the pie, but I somehow managed to cut out some swirly things and leaves to stick on top to give my pie some holiday cheer. I brought this particular slab pie into my office and it was a big hit, not only because it was tasty but because people are always amazed at the sheer size of the thing. All hail the slab. Long live the slab. Etc. Etc.
Fangirling the hell out at work yesterday while meeting ADAM SAVAGE! So exciting. Gahhhh!
While my favorite pumpkin pie has been well documented, I wanted to go with the same basic recipe this time around, only with the addition of some of my favorite things: bourbon and bitters. This time of year is when you put down the gin and tonics or spiked lemonades and pick up an old fashioned. It’s one of those drinks that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, just like pumpkin pie, so why not combine them? I wish I had added another teaspoon or so of bitters, but I love bitters so keep that in mind when you make this. The orange zest gives this pie an extra bit of pop, I think, but the most important ingredient, sweetened condensed milk, really makes this my favorite recipe. The filling is the right amount of sweet, perfectly thick and pumpkiny, with just cinnamon to bring it all together. I’m no fan of nutmeg or ginger or whatever else people like to gussy their pies up with. Just cinnamon for me, please. Enjoy this pumpkin pie alongside an old fashioned cocktail, maybe add some whipped cream if you’re feeling crazy, and enjoy the start of the holiday season!
Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow! It’s the best holiday ever. You don’t have to worry about gift giving or argue with your relatives about religion or dodge creepy fake Santas in the subway. All you have to do is cook a bunch of delicious food and eat it until you feel like you should probably sit down and take a load off. There’s nothing better than that. We’re hosting Thanksgiving at our apartment again this year, with a whopping 19 people set to attend, if you can believe it. I’m determined to make it work, though. We’re going to be serving this meal buffet style, I’ll set up some folding tables and chairs, and we’ll be ready to feast. What’s on your Thanksgiving menu for 2014? At the Kramer house, we’re going Southern again this year. That means another big batch of fried chicken, hatch chile macaroni and cheese, biscuits and an ice box cake (probably this mocha one that I made a month or two ago). Oh, and of course, this cornbread stuffing. I try to do some sort of interesting stuffing each year. Last year I made my waffle and maple sausage stuffing, which involved making a big batch of waffles, then cubing then, toasting them, and tossing them together with sausage, maple syrup and some vegetables. I think everyone really loved it – I mean, who doesn’t love seeing little cubes of cut up waffle in anything, really? This year, though, I wanted to tackle my favorite kind of stuffing: cornbread. So, I did a test run, which I HIGHLY recommend everyone do this weekend if you’re trying something new. This is the best way to avoid tears on the big day. I remember crying over four failed pie crusts in a row one year. Just saying. This test run turned out pretty damn good, though, so I’m happy to share the recipe with you.
Pumpkins, baking mess, the ever-so-tempting cereal isle and shooting a Thanksgiving video at my apartment! Follow me on Instagram for more.
The problem that I generally have with cornbread stuffing is that it’s soggy. You can barely tell it’s cornbread, it’s more just like cornbread crumbs with whatever ingredients were tossed in with it. To avoid the mush factor, I went a little overboard with making the perfect cornbread. I didn’t have time to test out a bunch of different cornbread recipes to start with, so I went on a hope and a prayer with King Arthur Flour’s cornbread recipe. It’s actually the best cornbread recipe I’ve ever tried. I made muffins, because I figured they would both bake faster and be slightly drier than if I did a big sheet of it. After the muffins cooled a bit, I cut them into cubes and toasted them until they were nice and golden – perfect stuffing cubes. I like my cubes a bit bigger, because again, I’m trying to avoid having the cornbread fall apart into little, indistinguishable crumbs. While the cornbread cubes cooled a bit, I cooked some sausage, then some celery, shallots and garlic, then tossed everything together with some dried cherries, apple and toasted walnuts, followed by some chicken stock. Once the mixture reached the level of moistness that I wanted it to be at, I put it all in a huge 14×10-inch casserole dish, topped it all with some cubes of butter, and baked it until golden. To finish it off, I drizzled some honey over everything once it was out of the oven. I was really happy with the final product, but I brought it into the office to have my coworkers be the final judges. Everyone seemed to think it was just as tasty as I thought it was, so there you have it. This is the stuffing that I’ll be serving on Thanksgiving. What about you?