Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

It's beginning to feel a lot like...summer!


Again, a recipe from the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times.

During the last year, I was considering cancelling my VT subscription. I wasn't that crazy about the recipes I was seeing, and some of the magazine's features really didn't interest me.

Then, a few months ago, VT had an extreme makeover. Ok, maybe not extreme, but they certainly mixed things up. The magazine is now bigger, thicker (and no, unlike Gourmet or Bon Appetit, it's not due to ads), and with (in my opinion) better content.

Even more important, to me; I found myself thinking 'Oooh; that looks good' when I saw the recipes.

Last night, we had the second of three Vegetarian Times recipes I've written onto our menu: Southwestern Salad.

Aside from being very tasty, light and (yes, I have to say it) refreshing, it was first and foremost easy. And I do mean easy; you could have this salad ready and on the table in ten minutes.

In a large bowl, add corn (the recipe calls for frozen, which we forgot to pick up, so I substituted canned), pinto beans, hardboiled eggs, avocado, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, jalapeno (optional, but Matt likes heat so we added it), and lime tortilla chips, crushed. In another bowl, mix together olive oil, chili powder, lime juice and salt and pepper. Pour over other ingredients, and mix.

Wow. This salad is great. Basically good for you, simply prepared, and quite filling. I think it would be perfect for picnics and cook-outs.

This one's a keeper.

Oh, Brother; it's Bread!


I've always been a little...well, tense...when it comes to yeast. In this house, Matt makes the most of the bread. But I've been working on my 'fear'. Trying more yeast recipes.

Last week, I caught an episode of Sara's Secrets on Food TV: her guest was Brother Rick Curry, who had written the cookbook "The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking". The first thing they made was ' Brother's Bread'. And boy, did it look good!

So, just because, I gave it a try.

It was almost deliriously easy to make. Since I started the dough the night before Easter, I went with the slow, in-the-refrigerator, method of rising.
The next morning, after breakfast, I punched down the dough and formed it into loaves.

The interesting part was putting loaves into a cold oven, as well as spritzing them with, not water, but vinegar!

I gotta say, I liked the way they came out, though. Nice, crusty bread, with a very good taste.

This one's a keeper.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Calling all Cooks


Matt and I just purchased a lovely Moroccan tagine

Can anyone suggest a good Moroccan recipe?

(We picked up these tea glasses, too...

if you're interested; both items found at Overstock.com, in the Worldstock section.)

Excellent Veggie Fare


In the April issue of Vegetarian Times, I found a recipe for Potato Quesadillas. It seemed very simple, so I gave it a try.

Potatoes and onions are cooked up, with a few spices.

Once potatoes are cooked, heat a tortilla in a frying pan. Add shredded cheese, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Top with more cheese, and fold over. Cook till tortilla is golden and crisp, and cheese melts.

Of course...we didn't have ten-inch tortillas, so with our six-inch ones, I put a second tortilla on top, instead of folding.

They were good, although there could have been more flavor. Matt added hot sauce to his. I'm not sure what I'd do to 'kick it up a notch'...maybe more spices?

Still, a not bad dish.

Toasted, with Cream Cheese, please...


Not long ago, I saw that Moira, of Who Wants Seconds?, posted a bagel recipe.

They looked so good, I had to try them for myself.

I highly recommend these bagels. The recipe is easy, with very little time involved. And the results are worth it. Extremely tasty...my next batch? I'm adding Asiago cheese!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!!!


Matt and I are recovering right now. Alex is sleeping (thank you, Lord!).

We started the day with a decadent breakfast casserole from Paula Deen, Baked French Toast Casserole (with praline). Yum.

Later, we had Matt's parents over for our Easter meal. This year, I decided to go easy on myself.

For lunch:

A tasty lentil soup, topped with grated Parmesan.

A fantastic pasta dish with spianach and feta, from the most recent issue of Gourmet.

Tomatoes stuffed with Rice

There were grilled lamb chops, with rosemary, thyme and garlic...but they were eaten too quickly...sorry, no pictures.

I had a very sweet and tangy honey mustard fake chicken, but alas...no pictures of that, either.

And a tangy drink, my Saturday night brainstorm: rosemary-infused lemonade.

A simple syrup, cooked with fresh rosemary sprigs, added to fresh lemon juice and sparkling water. Really nice.

But dessert?

Vanilla Angel Food Cake, with toppings...dulce de leche, macerated strawberries (with a touch of balsamic vinegar) and a chocolate whipped cream. Nice...

But now? Off to rest...hope you had a great Easter (those who celebrate, anyway...)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Twenty Hugs Can't be Wrong!


Moira, of Who Wants Seconds?, has posted the list of entries in the 'Comfort Me" contest...can you believe there are twenty of them? My entry is exactly half-way down the round-up.

All worthy of your time, I assure you...plus, recipes!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Simple Joys


You know, for all the fancy dishes I make, whether a recipe I've found or my own invention...sometimes, it's the pure, simple foods that bring the most pleasure.

Alex? The boy loves yogurt!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Hug You Can Eat


Moira of Who Wants Seconds? is having a contest; the mission? Write about your favorite comfort food.

I love Moira's blog (I recently made bagels using her recipe...yum), and knew I wanted in on this.

I've spent the past few weeks thinking: what do I consider 'comfort food'?

Sure, I live for mashed potatoes. But are they 'comfort'?

My Grammy's Irish stew gives me warm, fuzzy feelings, but again; does that really count?

I couldn't sleep, what with the constant, nagging question...

Then just today, I realized what my favorite comfort food was: Sludge.

"Sludge?", you ask. "What on earth is that?"

Sludge, while neither glamorous in name or appearance, is a lovely mixture of peanut butter, chocolate syrup, powdered sugar and milk; think a smooth peanut butter meltaway filling.

Sludge is a concoction I created way back in grade school. While I've yet to meet anyone who's had a Norman Rockwell childhood, mine was particularly rough. I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say I'm still working on my relationships with my parents.

There was constant tension, fighting, and hurt. I was miserable. And when you're a kid, there's really no place you can go to get away, is there?

Fortunately, my parents would often leave the house in the evenings, just to go for a ride in the car. I'd beg to be left behind (about the only thing worse then the stress of being home with them was being stuck in a car with them for an hour or two...), and they often gave in.

I simply wanted some alone time, some...peace. It really didn't matter what I did while they were gone; it was just nice to be by myself.

And because my Mom has been on a diet (of some kind) since I was three, we never had anything 'good' to eat!
Sure, she's since found her calling as a baker, and opened her own business and is attending culinary school...but that doesn't help me now.

So, when the craving for something yummy would hit, I'd search the cupboards for anything I could work with.

And then I hit it: Sludge.

I don't know what exactly it was about Sludge that made me feel better, but it did. I'd whip up a batch, thinking I'd eat the Whole Thing, but would fill up so quickly that I'd end up with 3/4 of the stuff left. Despite the warning not to feed chocolate to dogs, my childhood pup, Buster, usually cleaned up the bowl.

And yes, I'm well aware that even as early as ten, I was using food as a substitute for comfort. I know, I know...

I don't make Slugde too often these days. I'm pretty happy with my life; I have a husband who adores me, a son who makes my world a sunnier place, a beautiful home, and snuggly dogs. But those rare moments when I want a hug on a spoon, Sludge is the answer.

Sludge doesn't have a recipe, per se; more of a set batch of ingredients:

All you do is mix them together until you get the flavor and consistency you want.


IMBB 13: Cupcakes


(Pats self on back) I finally did it; I found out about IMBB before it happened, and came up with my very own, and yummy (if I do say so, myself), creation.

My entry?

Dulce De Leche-Filled Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Yeah, that's a mouthful; literally.

I spent a couple of weeks, racking my brain for a new cupcake idea. I mean, I've already made a Hostess-like cupcake, so what could I make?

Then Friday morning, as I was reading everyone else's entries for the latest Sugar High Friday (missed another one!), I thought...'Hmmm; caramel would be good. What can I do with caramel?'

I remembered Zarah of Food and Thoughts had made Dulce De Leche last month, and how very much I wanted to try it, myself.

So, I gave the caramel idea more thought: what to do with it?

I've got it! I'll fill cupcakes with caramel. Oooh; sounds good...

Anyway, here we go:

Dark Chocolate Cake
(Keep in mind, the original use for this recipe results in a three-layer cake! Feel free to cut recipe in half, or you can do as I did, and make smaller cakes with the left-over batter.)
adapted from a recipe in The Complete Guide to Country Cooking

1 c. butter, softened
3 c. packed brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. baking cocoa
1 Tbl. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 c. buttermilk
1 1/3 c. boiling water
3 oz. dark chocolate, grated
(I used Chocolove 77% extra strong dark chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Bet on low until just combined. Add grated chocolate to boiling water and stir till smooth. Stir chocolate/water mix into batter until smooth. Pour into cupcake liners, and bake approximately 20 minutes (adjust to your own oven). Cool completely.

Dulce De Leche

Boil can of condensed milk (I used Magnolia, by Borden) in large pot of water for three hours. Be sure to keep can submerged, or you could end up with a caramel-coated kitchen!
Cool by placing can in a bowl and running cold water over it, until can is cool to touch.

Chocolate Ganache

Um...I don't actually have a recipe handy for this one; I had about 3/4 c. of ganache left-over in my fridge, and used that. So, employ ganache recipe of your choice.

When cupcakes are completely cooled: using a serrated knife, cut a quarter-sized circle into top of cupcake; remove. Trim excess cake from 'lid'; reserve. Remove some of the cake, creating a small crater (be careful not to cut through bottom of cupcake.)
Using spoons, fill cupcakes with dulce de leche to just under cupcake top. Replace 'lid'.

Spoon ganache over cupcake tops, just to edge. Allow to set. Pour yourself a big glass of milk, and dig in!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Embryonic Journey Continues...


I actually made this 11 March; I've been saving it till the end of the month...but I simply can't wait.

Almost immediately following the last EoMEoTE, I started thinking "what can I do next"?
It's so addictive

And here's what I came up with:

Fried Egg, Prosciutto and Smoked Mozzarella Pannini

Bread of your choice (I used rosemary ciabatta rolls)
Prosciutto (and Morningstar Farms veggie bacon, for me)
Smoked Mozzarella
Fresh Basil Leaves
Sun-dried Tomatoes, re-hydrated in hot water for a few minutes
Olive Oil

Cut mozzarella into slices. Split rolls in half, lengthwise. Brush rolls with olive oil.
Fry eggs, flipping so yolk sets. (We used a rectangular tamago pan, to fit the rolls, but feel free to use your everyday frying pans.) Allow eggs to cool slightly.
Place prosciutto on bottom half of roll. Next, top with fried eggs.

Add mozzarella slices, on top of eggs. Top with fresh basil leaves and sun dried tomatoes.

Replace top of roll.

Brush heated grill pan or pannini maker with butter or olive oil. Place sandwich on pan, medium heat, under heavy weight until dark golden brown and toasted. Repeat on other side.

Finished product

Actual Irish Post


File under 'things you should know about Stephanie':

1. My favorite holiday is Halloween

2. My second favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day.

I am, in fact, Irish (around half), so that makes it even better.

So, for Thursday's dinner, I did my best recreation of the many farmhouse B&B breakfasts Matt and I enjoyed during our honeymoon in Ireland.

I started out by making an incredibly simple White Soda Bread; it's true that we were served considerably more brown bread in Ireland than white, but I just didn't have the time!

Keeping with the 'simple yet hearty' theme, I fried some chopped onion and garlic in a mix of butter and olive oil till soft, then added boiled, sliced, red potatoes, cooking till browned and crispy.

I cooked up some bacon for Matt, while Alex and I had a few slices of Morningstar Farms' veggie bacon.

Scrambled eggs; with Irish cheddar for the two vegetarians in the family, and

a bit of cream, smoked salmon and dill for Matt.

Lovely Kerry Gold Irish butter spread over the soda bread, and a nice hot cuppa tea, with sugar and cream to finish off.

Again, so very easy, but it was vaguely traditional...and brought back some very pleasant memories.

Hope your St. Pat's was just as happy.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sort of, Kind of, Irish Post


I wanted something snacky for Alex's birthday party, but I didn't want to weigh everyone down with a really rich food.

I remembered a recipe I'd looked at a couple of weeks before, and decided it would be perfect.

The Irish tie-in? The recipe is from a cookbook I picked up at a used-book store in Waterford, Ireland. The book itself was published in England, but hey...my point of origin is County Waterford.
(We also picked up some lovely crystal, after taking a tour of the factory; the nice folks at Waterford Crystal shipped this serving tray and a picture frame very much like this, as well as a 'bonus' tea lite holder.)

The books is called Vegetarian Cooking for Children, by Rosamond Richardson. The book was published in 1984, and is currently out of print.

The recipe is Mousetrap Mousse, and here it is:

8 oz. cottage cheese
1/2 large, ripe avocado
6 spring onions (scalions)
3 Tbl. parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
3 oz. smoked cheese, cubed
3 Tbl. mayonnaise
1 oz. agar-agar, dissolved in 2 Tbl. lemon juice

Puree the cottage cheese with the ripe avocado flesh in the blender until very smooth. Mix in the spring onions and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the diced cucumber and cheese and stir in the mayonnaise. Finally mix in the agar-agar thoroughly, and pour into a well-oiled ring-mould. Leave to chill and set for serveal hours or overnight.

What a lovely dip! Really pleasant taste, with the onion as the strongest flavor (I think). Everything blends together nicely. I used a variety of organic tortilla chips as dippers. Tasty.

Monday, March 14, 2005

They say it's your birthday; happy birthday to you


Alex is Two today!

(When do we open presents?)

We had a little party for him yesterday, and what's a birthday without cake?

For my sweet boy; a Blue's Clues birthday cake.

Sure, my Mom would have done better. But seriously, for freehand, it's not too bad.

Monday, March 07, 2005



Finally, a fried chicken recipe that actually comes out crunchy.

I've been searching high and low, even tracking down 'clone' recipes for KFC and other places. No luck.

Until this time.

Using Michael Chiarello's recipe for Double Dipped Fried Chicken, we ended up with a pretty nice (and crunchy!) chicken.

This chicken is a lot of work, but the results made it worth it.

You marinate the chicken in balsamic vinegar and rosemary overnight. Drain off the vinegar. Toss chicken in buttermilk. Then, you coat the chicken in a mixture of arborio rice flour, semolina flour, and all-purpose flour, with a ton of ground pepper. Put back in buttermilk, the dredge in flour mix. Repeat. Put back in fridge for an hour, so coating will stick to chicken.

Fry in peanut oil. Nice!

Some roasted new potatoes, cooked in butter with herbs and salt and pepper, and a 'salad' of cucumber, avocado and carrot. Yum.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Embryonic Journey


Cook sister! had posted the EoMEoTE round-up, including an entry from yours truly. Please check it out.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Happy Anniversary Dinner


So, to celebrate our three years of Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam... oops, sorry; wedding flashbacks!...we dropped Alex off with his grandparent's (who were quite happy to have him), and went to Sitar, an Indian restaurant mere minutes from their house.

And for the very first time, I remembered to bring the camera!

It's a nice place, and as Matt pointed out, unlike our other choice for Indian food, we haven't worked out way through their entire menu yet.

Of course, before taking our order, we were given some very peppery papadums and chutneys.

As an appetizer, we got (in my own humble opinion) the best cheese pakoras around, with a tamarind chutney. These babies are perfect: crunchy batter, a bit salty, and fantastic cheese.

The pakoras were almost finished when I realized we'd yet to take a picture!

Now for the main dishes: Matt got the Boti Tikka Masala, and I had the Palak Aloo.

Matt enjoyed his lamb very much (not sure about details; he was too busy eating!), but my spinach-potato dish was quite lovely. Biting into it, the flavor was very mild...almost mellow. Nice consistency. Then...Bam!...a back-handed kick to the mouth. And I'd asked for the mild. Still, very tasty.

And what meal would be complete without bread?

A big, fat, puffy poori for me, and plain naan for Matt. All yummy.

We did the good thing, and skipped dessert.

I know, nothing spectacular, but I did get a short time out with my husband, alone...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Joining the Fun-EoMEoTE time!


Ever since I first heard about IMBB, I've wanted to get involved in one of these on-line cooking challenges.

It's a great way to learn new recipes, meet new people, and best of all...it's not a competition. Nobody wins. It's all for fun. Fits my philosophy to a 'T'.

So, when I saw Julia's entry in the latest EoMEoTe, I knew I had to get in on this.

My creation?

Tamago Toast Nigiri

4 eggs
1 Tbl. mirin
1 Tbl. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce

One French baguette
Butter, or spray butter
Cooking spray

Soy sauce
Wasabi paste

Pickled ginger
Wasabi paste

For tamago:
Whisk all ingredients together. Pour a thin layer into a well-oiled pan (a tamago pan is preferred, but you can use a small frying pan) over medium heat. Cook until just set. Using a spatula (or if you're adventurous or have had years of practice, chop sticks), roll up layer of egg to one side of pan. Pour in another layer of egg, letting it flow under the rolled up egg. When set, roll again, starting with the already-rolled side. Repeat until all egg is cooked, and you have a thick roll of egg.
Wrap tightly in a kitchen towel, and press with a heavy weight for a few minutes.
When pressed, slice into 1/2-3/4" pieces.

For toast:
Coat a frying pan with cooking spray. Slice baguette in half, vertically. Cut baguette halves into 3" pieces. Spread or spray butter on both sides, and place in heated pan. On medium-high heat, toast baguette slices till well-toasted and browned on both sides. Set aside.

For sauce:
In a small bowl or ramekin, mix 1/4 tsp. wasabi and 1 tsp. soy sauce till combined (adjust to your own taste). Set aside.

When ready to assemble, drizzle a small amount of sauce over toast. Top with a piece of tamago. Drape a long piece of picked ginger, diagonally, across the tamago. Top with a toothpick's worth of wasabi paste (again, adjust to your own level of hotness).


I know, it's been ages


It's not that I haven't been cooking; I have. It's more that when I attempt to take a picture, the digital camera is full, or out of batteries.
Or sometimes, the food just isn't that interesting. It happens.

But (oh, a week or so ago) I did make something for the very first time; gnocchi (I had a bunch of punny opening lines, too).

I'd only eaten gnocchi a couple of times prior to this. Once, (horrors!) from a bag in the freezer section of BiLo, and the second time, off Matt's plate at Oliveto's.
Much to your surprise, the frozen gnocchi was awful, the second, not too bad.

But knowing what I do and do not like, I've remained leery of those little potato puffs...I don't like soft pasta; I prefer mine to be on the safe side of al dente.

Just the same, I decided to give them a go, since Matt loves them. I found a recipe in The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking.

Pretty simple; if a bit messy!

The recipe only called for the gnocchi to be dressed with a bit of butter and Parmesan. Matt thought it would be better in a blue cheese sauce, and I couldn't think of a good argument against that.

Not the greatest picture; but white on white? Best we're going to get. I should have used one of the Fiestaware bowls. Hindsight; 20/20.


Matt liked it. Sauce was good.

Me? Eeh. Still not crazy about soft dough, though. But see? I'm working on it.

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