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June 2, 2011 / laughinglivingloving

Super Deal!

Today on Groupon, $10 gets you $20 to spend at Old Navy! (valid in stores only) I’d be much obliged if you’d follow this link  if you decide to purchase the deal, I get rewards if you do so.

By the end of the week, look for a post here on my latest obsession – baking with buttermilk!

May 25, 2011 / laughinglivingloving


I have been terrifically absent, I know.  No perfect attendance award for me.  Rest assured there will be some quality new reading material over the next week!  I have lots I want to write about (my current obsessions: buttermilk, rhubarb and canning,) lots of ideas for personal reflection essays, and I realized I haven’t even inundated you with pictures of my cats yet.  All coming soon lovelies, I promise!

May 10, 2011 / laughinglivingloving

Identity Crisis Risotto

One thing I am focusing on doing more often this spring is cooking with what I have.  I’m a pretty good bargain shopper (and experimenting with couponing to get even better!), and I stock up on basics when I find them on sale.  As such, I generally have a pretty good stash of things like pasta, rice, canned chickpeas, tomatoes, white beans, frozen veggies, etc.  I read food blogs like it’s my job, and I come across so many delicious sounding recipes that I add to my “must try” pile.  Sometimes I luck out and have all the ingredients on hand, sometimes I’ll run out to the store and pick up an item or two, and sometimes I try to adapt the recipe to what I have in my cupboard.  That’s what happened last night.  The Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for Risotto Primavera yesterday, and it got me to thinking.  Risotto sounded soooooo good, but I didn’t have everything she called for – but I knew I had arborio rice, chicken stock, and various veggies, so I was good to go.

I got some beautiful baby portabello mushrooms in yesterday’s CSA delivery, so those got chopped up and sauteed with a little olive oil and butter.  I found a bag of Trader Joe’s mixed frozen veggies in the freezer – green beans, sweet corn, peas and carrots – we’re in business!  After I had cooked up my veggies and mushrooms and removed them to a plate, I added a couple tablespoons of butter and olive oil to my pan, let the butter melt, then added my rice – a generous cup – to the pan and tossed it with the butter and oil for a minute or so.  Then I added chicken stock (and a little beer) about a cup at a time to the rice and let it cook til all the liquid was absorbed before adding the next cup.  I ended up using a little less than two cans of chicken stock and probably 3/4 cup beer.  Taste test it as you go – you want the risotto to be smooth and creamy, but not mushy.  When the last bit of liquid was almost absorbed, I added in about 3 oz of cream cheese and the veggies and mushrooms and stirred til the cheese was melted.

Risotto is great because it’s so adaptable.  When I was waiting tables, my favorite dish on the  menu was a roasted duck breast with sweet pea risotto.  You can customize it with whatever you have on hand, and it’s a great vegetarian main dish, or side dish for some protein.  Viva le risotto!

May 5, 2011 / laughinglivingloving

Beer Bread

Pasta, bread and potatoes have long been some of my favorite foods.  Carbs on top of carbs on top of carbs.  And then I started getting into beer, GOOD beer, when I was working at a brewery/restaurant a few years ago.  Beer = more carbs!  Imagine my delight when I discovered a way to add even more carbs to my carbs – beer bread!

(Please excuse the poor iPhone camera image quality)

I’ve seen this recipe floating around the internet for awhile now, so I can’t attribute it to just one person.  This is not my first attempt at this culinary deliciosity, but my first attempt was a fail for multiple reasons (that I’ll detail below) so I’d like to pretend this is the first.  This is one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever made.

You’ll need:


3 T sugar

1 12 oz bottle of beer

2 oz butter, melted

In a medium bowl, stir together flour and sugar.  Add the beer (slowly, so you don’t make a mess) and stir to combine.  This is going to take some armwork – the last 1/2 cup or so of flour is going to seem like it doesn’t want to incorporate.  Keep at it – I’ve found that taking my spatula and sort of smushing the flour into the batter works the best for me.  When everything is mixed together, scoop into a greased 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 325° for 45 minutes.  Pour the melted butter over the top and bake for another 15 minutes.  Turn out immediately onto a cooling rack over a cookie sheet or wax paper (you’ll have some butter drippage.  But hey, if you want melted butter all over your counters, who am I to stop you).

*If you don’t have self-rising flour, you can make your own!  For every cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 t baking powder and 1/2 t salt.  Stir together before using.  For this recipe, that would come out to 4 1/2 t (or 1.5 T) baking powder and 1 1/2 t (or 1/2 T) salt.  Confused? 1 T = 3t.

I went wrong in three, count ’em, three places in my first attempt.  1, either the recipe didn’t clarify or I didn’t notice that it was SELF-RISING FLOUR.  Hence, my bread was dense and heavy.  2, I only had an 8×4 loaf pan.  Wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if it hadn’t been for #3, the original recipe I used called for pouring the melted butter over the batter before it ever goes in the oven.  When the bread rose as it baked, it pushed the melted butter out of the (too small) loaf pan and all over the bottom of my oven.  And then the melted butter on the bottom of the oven started to burn.  And fill my apartment with smoke.  And set the smoke detector off at 10:30pm.  I am really glad we only share one wall with a neighbor, and it’s not the wall the smoke detector is on.  I’d make a lot of enemies.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say there are a million ways to customize this bread.  The taste varies greatly depending on the kind of beer you use – this batch was made with a home-brewed dunkelweizen, so I get a decent amount of banana and roasty flavors in this bread.  I’d love to try this with a dark stout, as well as a light fruit and wheat beer.  You could add cheese and herbs in different combinations – just remember to keep in mind how those flavors will work with the flavor profile of the beer you use.

This is not a light, springy bread – it’s still a quickbread, so there’s no yeast.  The baking powder is providing all of the rise when baking.  I don’t think it would hold together well enough to make a sandwich out of (but just imagine all those NEW flavor combinations!), but would work well as a side of bread to accompany a meal.  If you experiment with different flavor profiles let me know how it turns out!

May 4, 2011 / laughinglivingloving


I am so excited – I got the email this morning that my CSA deliveries start next week!  I am having a great time imagining all the tasty salads I’ll make with the abundance of lettuce currently in season, and dreaming of all the pickles I’ll make, and the fresh tomatoes I’ll can… before reality sets in and I’m so sick of lettuce and cabbage and zucchini that I could puke.

CSA stands for Community Support Agriculture.  You buy a share (or half share, depending on your program or your needs) and every 1-2 weeks you get a box of fresh, organic produce and other products.  The size and types of shares and the items in them vary widely from program to program, ranging from veggies, fruit, milk, eggs, cheeses, prepared/preserved foods, sometimes even flowers or medicinal herbs.  My CSA share only includes produce, but they also have a buying club where I can buy things like milk and eggs (and even meat!) and have it delivered with my veggie share.  Some CSAs will deliver right to your door, some will have once centralized location (like the farm where the food is grown) where everyone comes to pick up their food.  Mine is a middle ground – there are pickup sites in various neighborhoods all over the city (and the tri-state area, for that matter) and you pick up your share from your designated site one day a week.

Last year was my first year participating in a CSA.  I’m not sure where I got the idea, but I think it might have been from a GRID Magazine article I read back in Feb or March 2010.  I ended up buying a veggie half share from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and a fruit share, and splitting it with my roommate.  There was a pickup site half a mile from our apartment, and I loved popping over there Mondays on my lunch hour to see what goodies were in the basket that week.  We’ve signed up with LFFC again this year, but only for veggies this time.  The fruit share was nice, but we didn’t feel like we got enough variety to justify the cost.  I’ve started canning a bit this year (due in no small part to Food in Jars), so I’m really excited to see what recipes I can find to use up the abundance of some veggies we’ll end up with.  I also love trying new veggies that I never would have heard of or tried otherwise.  Last year I tried garlic scapes, rainbow chard, purple carrots, orange cauliflower, and lots more.

Interested in joining a CSA?  I’ve found the Local Harvest site to be chock full of good information.

Have a favorite farm fresh recipe?  Share it in the comments!  (please, share – I need more comments :))

April 27, 2011 / laughinglivingloving

Simple Pleasures

For as long as I can remember, rice krispy treats have been one of my favorite, well, treats.  It’s the first recipe I ever memorized (never mind that it only has three ingredients)!  I can still remember making them in my grandma’s kitchen, bittersweet memories since my grandmother passed early this year.  Her memorial service is this weekend, and I can’t make it for various reasons, and it has me a little bummed out.

I made the mistake of grocery shopping while hungry last night, and thanks to that special monthly cycle we women have the pleasure of dealing with, all I wanted was junk food.  Specifically chocolate.  I spied Cocoa Krispies on sale, but knew I didn’t need cereal at home, and besides I’ve been trying hard to eat healthier cereal or oatmeal in the morning.  And then, it hit me.  Why hadn’t I thought of this before – Cocoa Krispie Treats!  It combined everything I was looking for – a bit of nostalgia, junk food, chocolate AND simple enough that I could start them at 10pm last night and have them done half an hour later.

Cocoa Krispy Treats... with PEANUT BUTTER CHIPS!

I had the tail end of a bag of peanut butter chips left, so those were scattered over one end of the pan while the mixture was still warm and pressed in a bit.  It’s tasty, but I think I like them better plain.

For anyone who doesn’t know how to make Krispy Treats already, here’s the recipe:

2 oz butter

10 oz bag marshmallows

6 cups of rice krispies

Melt the butter in a large pan (at least 4 quarts, and that’s on the small side) over medium-low heat.  When the butter is mostly melted, add your marshmallows.  Stir until marshmallows are melted and smooth, then turn off the heat and add rice krispies and stir til it’s all evenly coated.  This is going to take a minute or two and give your arm a decent workout – really dig down to the bottom of the pan so you’re getting all the marshmallow in there.  Spread in a buttered 13×9 pan, and press to even out with a butter spatula, buttered waxed paper, or a big fork dipped in water every 10 seconds or so.

If you’re going to add chocolate chips or other toppings, now is the time to do it so they’ll stick.  If using chips, sprinkle them on, let them sit for five minutes or so to soften a bit, then gently press them into the treats to make sure they adhere.

I’ve always thought it would be fun to make these with other kinds of cereal, but I’ve never gotten around to it.  I’m imagining Fruity Pebbles treats… Golden Grahams treats… maybe even Frosted Flakes treats!

Here are some other krispy treats recipes that I think look exceptionally amazing.

Joy the Baker dishes up decadent krispy treats topped with peanut butter fudge AND chocolate fudge!  I adore Joy’s blog, and I’m so happy I found this in her archives.  Just looking at the picture is enough to make my teeth ache!

Love from the Oven has stuffed her rice krispie treats.  I had no idea this was even possible.  Consider my mind blown.

Rice Krispy treats modeled after ice cream?  Two of my favorite things in the world.  I’m sold.  Thanks to My Name is Snickerdoodle for putting these lovelies out there.

Keep It Simple Foods posted a vegetarian krispy treat with peanut butter and coconut.  They might even be vegan – does anyone know if rice krispies are vegan?  Looks super tasty and full of protein!

Make it Do  takes what I attempted with my chocolate krispy treats to the next level.  Nine candy bars, people.  Nine.  No wonder her son loved making them, it’s a guaranteed sugar high!  And another krispy treat recipe without marshmallows.  Interesting.

And of course, I had to include the Smitten Kitchen.  I don’t think it’s possible to do a food blog recipe roundup without her.  I want to rush home and start to work on at least half of the recipes she posts, and these salted brown butter krispy treats are no exception.  She’s also the parent of one of the cutest children I’ve ever seen pictures of, and usually has a surprise photo of him tucked into each post.  It makes my ovaries ache.

Have a krispy treat recipe you love?  Share it in the comments!

April 13, 2011 / laughinglivingloving

Brunch, at home!

Sabrina’s is one of my favorite brunch places in Philadelphia.  I always go with the best of intentions to try something new, and every time I end up ordering the stuffed french toast.  There’s the standard stuffed, which is two thick slices of challah bread, cream cheese and banana filling, and banana topping, or there’s always a stuffed french toast on the daily specials.  I’d go to Sabrina’s every weekend if I could, but I’d gain all sorts of weight and go broke doing it.  I decided to try my hand at stuffed french toast and see what happened!

Lo and behold!

Stuffed French Toast!










This is what happened!  I used a homemade bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen, the homemade lemon curd I mentioned earlier, and some frozen berries.

About the bread: I know it looks little.  I didn’t get the rise out of it that was supposed to happen, but it tasted good anyway.  I WILL be trying that recipe again.

What you need:

sliced bread (thick slices are good)




lemon curd

1 bag frozen mixed berries


If you’ve made regular french toast, you can make stuffed french toast.  First, start your berry compote topping.  If you’re using fresh berries, it will take less time to cook down, but you’ll still want to start it first.  If your berries are frozen, don’t bother thawing them beforehand.  Toss them in a saucepan with a couple tablespoons of sugar.  Turn the heat on medium-low and just let it cook down, giving it a stir every minute or two.  Don’t stir so vigorously that you break up all the berries, you want some nice chunks for on top of the french toast.  Don’t let the sauce get above a simmer, or you’ll have purple berry juice everywhere.  It’s not fun to clean up.  The sauce will thicken a bit as it cooks.

Now in a shallow dish, make your dipping batter.  I use 3 eggs, a glug of milk, and a teaspoon or so of vanilla.  I have never measured my batter, so I apologize that I can’t give better measurements.  Whip your eggs together for a minute before adding the milk (or cream, if you’re feeling decadent) and vanilla, then whip a minute more.  Grab a slice of bread, slather on the lemon curd and don’t be shy.  I wish I had more lemon curd on mine, because the flavor really got lost.  Next time, I may try whipping the lemon curd with a bit of cream cheese to make it go a little farther.  Top with another slice of bread.  Repeat with as many pieces of french toast as you want to make.

Dip each sandwich into your batter.  You want to give it enough time to let the batter soak into the bread just a little bit, but not so much that it gets soggy.  I wish I had better advice to offer, but it’s really trial and error.  I’d say a good five seconds on each side.  Swish it around a little bit.  Cook over medium to medium high heat until each side is golden brown.

To keep it warm as you’re cooking the rest, turn your oven to the lowest setting (mine is 200°F) and place on a heatproof plate or dish inside.  To serve, cut on the diagonal if you’re feeling fancy, and spoon a couple good scoops of berry compote over the top.  Add powdered sugar or whipped cream if you’re feeling super fancy!  I wasn’t.


Watch this:









Turn into this:

April 2, 2011 / laughinglivingloving

Little Lemon Meringues

I discovered the fabulous blog Food In Jars two weeks ago, and decided that this year, I want to start canning pickles and jams and jellies and all sorts of yummy things.  After happening on some good looking Meyer Lemons at the co-op, I started with her recipe for Lemon Curd, and was beyond excited when I finished and heard the seals on the jars pop!  I opened the first jar this morning and had some on my yogurt.  Ah, yum.

In case you didn’t click through to the recipe, lemon curd takes six egg yolks.  Which left me with six egg whites in need of a purpose.  Enter Joy the Baker.  Meringues!  How could I have not thought of it?  When I started making homemade ice cream last summer meringues were one of my favorite things to make with the leftover whites, but I never thought to add lemon zest.

I’m SO glad I found Joy.


Pile o' meringues

For the meringues, you need:

2 egg whites

pinch of salt

2/3 c sugar

zest of one lemon

1 teaspooon vanilla

Place the racks in the center and upper third of your oven and preheat to 200°.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Start with the eggwhites in the bowl of your stand mixer, using the whisk attachment.  Beat at medium speed until the whites get foamy.  Add your pinch of salt and turn the speed to medium high.  Gradually add the sugar and let the whites whip until you get firm peaks – with my stand mixer, it takes six to seven minutes.  If you’re using a hand mixer, it will probably take closer to ten minutes.  Then fold in your lemon zest and vanilla.  Using a piping bag or a small spoon, make your cookies using about 1tsp of the white mixture per cookie.  Cookies won’t spread or puff while baking, so you can place them close together, but try not to let them touch.  I used a piping bag with a star tip, but I have less than stellar piping skills and the pattern didn’t really last.  I got around 50 cookies out of my batch.

Bake cookies for two hours at 200°.  Yes, two hours.  The low and slow baking allows the meringues to cook all the way through and get dry and crumbly (desired in this case) without burning.  Allow to cool on the pans.  They should peel right off the parchment.  Keep in dry, airtight storage, if you can keep from gobbling them all up in one sitting.  Not that I did that, or anything close to that.

Joy suggests sandwiching two of these together and filling it with lemon curd.  I tried lemon curd as well as raspberry jam, and while delicious, it was more work than I wanted and it would complicate storing them.  But I certainly recommend giving it a try as you’re working through the batch.  You know, one or two at a time.  Not the whole thing at once.

March 30, 2011 / laughinglivingloving


Or, the lack thereof.  Seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately.

For the second year in a row, I am training for the Broad Street Run, a 10 mile race in Philadelphia the first weekend in May.  Prior to beginning training last year, I had never been a runner.  Oh sure, I did track one year in Junior High because my mom forced me to.  But I threw shot, so I got out of most of the running.  And I had to do running drills for various other sports teams, but I never ran just to run.  When we had to run a mile for gym class, the other girls and I walked it.  I was always the slow one on the basketball court (but man could I scrap for the ball – there was a reason my 6th grade coach nicknamed me Bruiser).

I can’t recall how I found out about Team Philly last year, but suddenly running didn’t seem like such an awful idea.  I decided to prove to myself and to anyone else that I could do it.  I have a bunch of friends who have always waxed poetic about running, how it clears their heads, keeps them in shape, and somehow just seemingly makes them better people (my words, not theirs).  I wanted to see what this was all about.  I knew the opportunity to train with a coach, and as part of a team, would go a long way in helping me stick with it and not injure myself.  And it worked!  I made it through nine weeks of training, and when I finished my ten miles in just under two hours and twenty minutes, I cried as I crossed the finish line.  It was an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Fast forward to this year.

Somehow, I just can’t get motivated to keep up with the training like I did last year.  It’s so much easier to say, oh, I’ll just do that short run tomorrow, I have x, y and z I want to get done tonight.  And then tomorrow comes, and it’s the same story.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still training.  I’d be an idiot not to, after I paid my Team Philly membership, my race entry fee and bought my new running shoes.  But the drive isn’t there.  Something’s missing, and I’m not sure what.  Is it that I don’t have to prove it anymore?  I did it last year, I know I can do it.  I set two goals for this year’s race: to run the whole 10 without stopping to walk, and to finish under two hours.  I want to be motivated.  I just can’t seem to find it.

It’s spilling over into other areas of my life too.  It has been so hard to be productive at work for the last few weeks.  At first, I blamed it on the weather getting quite warm, and all I wanted to do was be outside.  The next week, I could blame it on the gross, cold, wet, drizzly weather all week.  But now?  It’s still sticking around, and it bothers me.  While I’m not crazy busy right now, I certainly have plenty of things I can get done.  But it’s so much more fun to play on facebook, or read forums that I follow, and look up new yummy recipes and food blogs.  I’ve done better the last two days, but it has really been a struggle.

At home, everything is piling up around me.  I have ridiculous back-issues of magazines because I have too many subscriptions and not enough time.  My laundry sits in the basket, clean, until I’ve worn pretty much everything out of it.  Shoes are alllll over the place.  Dishes are piling up in the sink (I did a round tonight, loaded up the drying rack til it couldn’t hold any more, and the sink is STILL full!  How does that happen?).  Water glasses cover the end tables and coffee table.  And let’s not get started on the dust bunnies that seem to be multiplying like, well, rabbits.

I am hopeful.  I recognize that this is a problem, and I want to be better.  I want to be more productive, I want to get things done.  Now I just have to get the motivation to fix my motivation problem.

March 23, 2011 / laughinglivingloving

Heaven, in two bites

Chocolate DippedBeer Flavored. Homemade.  MARSHMALLOWS!

Finished Mallows, sitting on the counter, waiting for chocolate to set

Adapted from: The Kitchn

This makes a small batch. It could probably be doubled easily, you’d just want to use a 8×8 or 9×9 pan instead of a loaf pan. This also makes a much denser marshmallow than I’ve made before, and I think it’s because it doesn’t have egg whites in it. I’d like to try another batch incorporating the egg whites to see how that changes things. I also want a try a batch with a better dipping chocolate, as I feel like this one is a little too thick and sweet, but I used the candy pieces I had on hand. Still delicious!

First, let a beer of your choice go flat. You can open it and leave it sit out til it goes flat on its own, or be impatient like me and use an immersion blender with a whisk attachment in it every 10 minutes or so over the course of a couple of hours. I don’t recommend using anything hoppy here – a nice dark, chocolate-y, coffee-y stout will be delicious. I used Sam Adam’s Chocolate Bock, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much the flavor comes through. It’s really, really important that the beer is flat, or darn close to it.

Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a loaf pan and dust with powdered sugar til it’s thoroughly coated. Shake off excess powdered sugar.

Mix 1/3 cup (2.5oz) of the flat beer and 2t vanilla extract. Pour over 1 1/2 T (just under .5oz) of unflavored gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk by hand a few times around to get the lumps out. Leave it to bloom while you get the syrup ready.

In a large saucepan combine 1/4 cup (2oz) flat beer, 1/2 cup + 2T (5oz) light corn syrup, 3/4 cup (6oz) granulated sugar and a pinch of salt. You’ll need some kind of candy thermometer – a clip on one is best, but you can use a probe or an instant read as well, your hand might just get a little warm over the boil. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. It’s going to foam. A lot. Keep an eye so it doesn’t boil over. When the thermometer reads between 225° and 230°, let it boil for about another five minutes. The temp should reach 240°-250° – don’t let it go over 250°.

Put the whisk attachment on your mixer, and turn the speed on low. Very, very carefully pour the sugar mixture slowly down the side of the bowl. When all the mixture is in, turn the speed to high and let it whip for 8-10 minutes. It should get thick and glossy, like a meringue. It will still look sticky as it thickens – because it is. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Do NOT try to scrape all of the mixture out of the bowl. Marshmallow is sticky, dangerous stuff and it will get EVERYWHERE. If you are going to attempt to scrape it, use a silicone spatula preferably coated with a bit of vegetable oil.

Give the mixture about a minute to settle into the pan (give it a little wiggle to help it along, if you’re impatient like me), and dust the top with powdered sugar. Leave it out, uncovered – or if your house is like mine and that’s not an option, lay a paper towel loosely over the top – for approximately 12 hours (I left mine out for closer to 24 and it was just fine). After it’s set, run a small knife around the edges and turn it out onto the cupboard or a cutting board. You might have to pry it out a bit – don’t be scared, just don’t use a sharp knife to do it. I use a butter knife. Now get out your long, sharp knife, and dust it with a bit of powdered sugar. Cut the marshmallow brick into cubes; I got I think 18 cubes a bit over an inch on each side. The easiest way is to set the knife on top and press straight down – do NOT try to saw back and forth. You’ll just make a mess. If you find the knife sticking, dust a little more powdered sugar on. Toss the cubes in more powdered sugar until all sides are coated, and shake off the excess.

Melt milk chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave. Don’t overheat the chocolate or it will seize, i.e. what chocolate does when it dies. If the chocolate feels a little thick, stir in 1t of vegetable oil. Dip the top half of each marshmallow in the chocolate, letting the excess drip off. You can try coating the whole marshmallow, but it gets a little unwieldy and I feel like the chocolate gets overwhelming. Set on wax paper, marshmallow side down, to let the chocolate harden.


Heaven in two bites. One if you've got a big mouth!