oatmeal toffee cookie {cookie carnival}

July's pick for {cookie carnival} was an oatmeal raisin cookie.  Since neither oatmeal nor raisin is a popular ingredient here, I omitted the raisins and added a lot of toffee bits in the hopes that caramelization would entice The Tasters.  I also added an additional 4 tablespoons butter, hoping for a strong buttery flavor.

The extra butter coupled with the buttery toffee bits resulted in a flat cookie.


birthday bliss

Birthday Week was a fun and food-filled affair.

(photo courtesy of Il Buco.com)

We started out the festivities on Sunday at Il Buco (NYC), where we ate well and enjoyed simply, exquisitely prepared dishes- in a dimly lit dining room.  (I have no good photos of our meal, ergo the above Il Buco website photo.)

Tuesday brought us to Moby's (Highlands, NJ)   Moby's was mentioned in a NY Times piece, and since we wanted to try a new place, we took a drive down to the shore.

The soft-shell crab looked lonely on his roll,

while The Daughter's excellent fried clam sandwich 
was bursting at the seams.

The raw clams and oysters were fantastic.
(Not recommended: the lobster roll- tiny, stringy meat.)


slow cooker carnitas

It's been soooo hot.  A never-ending heat wave.  During troubled times like this, I'm so glad for the slow cooker.  I haven't always enjoyed the results of slow-cooker recipes. Sloshy, gooey, indistinguishable mush.  This meal, however, is great.  Simple preparation for an inexpensive cut of meat, who wouldn't love it?

I found the recipe on All Recipes.com and with a few tweaks, think that it has a lot to offer.

First, the rub.  For optimal flavor, dry rub the pork overnight in the refrigerator.  The original recipe didn't pack enough punch, so I tripled the spices.

You can do a little something with the pork skin. Why let that go unused?  Broil it and it becomes pork cracklings.  Sprinkle it into the taco with the meat for a tasty, crunchy treat.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons crumbled dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (4 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Mix together salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, coriander and cinnamon in a bowl. Coat the pork with the spice mixture. Cover the bowl tightly and place in refrigerator overnight.

Place the bay leaves in the bottom of a slow cooker and place the pork on top. Pour the chicken broth around the sides of the pork, being careful not to rinse off the spice mixture.

Cover and cook on low until the pork shreds easily with a fork, about 6 hours. When the pork is tender, remove from slow cooker. Remove the fat and set aside. Shred the pork. For a crispy texture, place the shredded meat with some of its cooking liquid in a 375º F oven for 15 minutes.

To make the cracklings, place the fat on a cookie sheet.  Broil a minute or two until browned and crackling.  

Serve with soft corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, etc.  Watch it disappear!

n.b. We used the Red Cabbage Slaw Recipe from Food Network.com. 


{sms} toasted almond lemon bars

I always love a good lemon bar, and Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe of the week is Toasted Almond Lemon Bar.  I knew I had to try it out, particularly since I've never had this combination before.  Thanks, Rebecca of Indecisive Baker, for choosing it.  You can find the recipe on her blog.

The baking adventure started with frozen eggs.  I knew my refrigerator had microclimates, but I didn't realize one was arctic.

The recipe is straightforward and simple.  Perhaps the most time consuming task was juicing the lemons, and thankfully The Sous-chef Sister helped out.

Although I am not crazy about the almond/lemon combo, that didn't stop me from eating three of them. If you'd like to read the other bakers' adventures, hop on over here to check out the goodies.


hester street fair

Trips into the city are rare occurrences for me.  Between working from home and extracurricular obligations, I do not get in as often as I would like.  That said, when The Sister comes into town, I plan on a couple trips for some foodie fun.

We drove into Manhattan on a sweltering hot Saturday —this summer, what Saturday hasn't been?— and visited the Hester Street Fair.

I was expecting something on a street, but this Flea/Fair is situated in Seward Park, under a canopy of trees.  Ahh, shade!

The first two vendors you see when entering are La Newyorkina, Mexican ice pops purveyor, and Sigmund, pretzel purveyor.

Having The Little Man along definitely meant stopping. Given a choice of anything for dessert on any given day, he most always picks a popsicle (though I think gum might be a close second.)  La Newyorkina takes these icy treats to a totally different stratosphere.  Saturated with flavor and color,  they are beyond delicious.

He chose Watermelon.

The pretzel was equally tasty.  We got the Truffle Cheddar Pretzel, with honey mustard dip.  I also couldn't resist their trademarked Wankos cookie which was delicious, sturdy, and peanutty. (Watch out, the pretzel nuggets indeed are quite hard.  Don't chip a tooth!)


blueberry almond streusel tart

Blueberries are overrunning the refrigerator.  Between the Costco-sized container and The Dad's twice-weekly drop-off, I needed to bake up a recipe that would use the fruit before it starts deteriorating.

This recipe is an old favorite; I jotted it down from Bon Appétit in 1992, which must be the same year I purchased the tart pans. They called it Blueberry Streusel Tart; I added "almond" to the title. I've tweaked three things: changing the ratio of butter to shortening, adding a little almond extract to enhance the nut flavor, and pre-baking the tart crust to ensure a crisp texture.

Blueberry Almond Tart
adapted from Bon Appétit, July 1992

1½ cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
8 tablespoons butter, cut in ½-inch pieces and chilled
4 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
about 6 tablespoons ice water

1½ cups blanched and slivered almonds
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract

6 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and drained

For the Crust:
Blend the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.  Add the butter and the shortening and cut in with the pulse button until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Blend in the water 1 tablespoon at a time, enough to bind the dough.  Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour, or up to one day ahead.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Roll out the dough to 13 inches.  Transfer the dough to an 11-inch tart pan, with removable bottom.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until it has lost the raw look but is not brown.  If the crust has puffed a bit, gently pat it down with an oven mitt.

For the Filling:
Finely grind the almonds with sugar in the processor.  Add the butter, egg, flour, vanilla and almond extracts.  Blend well.

For the Topping:
Mix the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add the butter using your fingertips.

Ladle the filling into the pre-baked crust.  Smooth it out.  Top the filling with blueberries; sprinkle the topping over the fruit.  

Place the tart on a cookie sheet and bake until the crust is golden and the filling is set, about an hour.


{sms} chocolate walnut brownies

I just made a batch of brownies earlier this week and just finished eating them yesterday. I was brownied-out and didn't think I would be making the recipe, but The Daughter decided that she wanted to bring some cookies to her soccer team this morning, so we collaborated.

I felt as though the dough was on the greasy side. When it baked up, the butter was bubbling, and therefore created an extra crispy, craggy crust. (I never thought I'd say there was too much butter!)  The Kids were not that fond of the crispiness, but they, being nut-haters, sure loved the substituted chocolate chips.

All in all, not my favorite brownie recipe, but I'd try it again to double check. ☺ 

Thanks to Tiffany of A Spoonful of Laughter for choosing the recipe.  And be sure to see the results of all the bakers who tried it out this week!


channeling my inner daniel...

that would be daniel boulud, four star and three michelin star chef.  I saw his recipe in ELLE DECOR and knew it was one to try.

You might be wondering what dish could this be?  How intricate? How involved? How labor-intensive?
Rest assured, I have yet to find the talent or patience to do anything remotely time-consuming.

The recipe: Croque-Monsieur.

I'd eaten a fabulous one at Mr. Boulud's restaurant, Bar Boulud. A ham and egg sandwich.  How hard can that be?  Well... this French sandwich involves béchamel, which in theory shouldn't be too difficult, (I make it frequently for The Kids' mac and cheese) though my mixture took over twenty minutes — double the time—to thicken.

Thankfully, the assembly took a quarter of that, and then it was into the oven for 15 minutes 

and 1 minute under the broiler.  


blogging withdrawal

After spending a week away from blogging and on vacation in Maryland, I began experiencing the shakes, the jitters, insomnia.  Classic withdrawal symptoms, which I concluded, could only be treated with


Not just any brownies mind you, but brownies that give you the "ooh, that's relief" kind of feeling. We're talking Supernatural Brownies, by Nick Malgieri.

Mr. Malgieri used to be Executive Pastry Chef at Windows on the World
and now directs the baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan.

The brownies are gooey, fudgey and quite out of this world.  I took my first bite after having eaten an assortment of cookies—macarons, almond horns, flourless chocolate cookies— and was underwhelmed. This morning, though, with no previous sugary sweet eaten, they were divine. (Yes, the brownies were part of my breakfast.)   I might try making them a bit thicker next time- 1½x the recipe, in the same size pan. Then, they'd be thick, gooey, and fudgey.


bobby's burger palace

Ever since seeing this place mentioned on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate- Hamburgers, I've wanted to visit Bobby's Burger Palace.  The Bobby in the restaurant name would be Bobby Flay, accomplished NYC chef turned omni-present Food Network star.  Lucky for me, the closest establishment (hard to call it restaurant, let alone palace) is only a 25-minute drive away.  As we were eating with an infant and two children, we chose to arrive early at 11:30 to beat the lunch crowd.

When entering, you line up to place an order.  The menu of basically 10 burgers, (low-carbers can choose a "topless burger salad"— a burger atop a bed of greens) shakes, and beverages, is printed on the wall by the registers.

image from Bobby's Burger Palace.com

After placing the order, you are given a number and then make your way to sit at a winding counter or a communal table and eagerly await the order.  


three sweet treats- s'more, please!

One flew in at midnight on the 3rd.  The sweetest, most delectable, scrumptious treat to date.

Let me introduce you to...

The Nephew. 
Look at those cheeks, the smile, the off-the-charts cuteness!  
I could just eat him up.

The Sister and he will be staying with us for a month. We plan on doing quite a bit of cooking and baking, as well as taking a few jaunts into the city for food related adventures.

The Second Treat flew in with him.  The Sister knows I love everything and anything sweet, and she brought me S'mores Bites by renowned chocolatier, Michael Recchiuti.  The vanilla bean marshmallow sits atop an extra crispy graham cracker, all enveloped by bittersweet chocolate.  Divine!

The third treat would never have been made had I not seen the results of the many Cookie Carnival bakers.  I had chosen to make Raspberry Thumbprints because S'mores Bars didn't appeal to me, but after the beautiful photos and eating Recchiuti's S'more,  I was sold on trying them out.  And am I glad I did! The bars were scrumptious, gooey, crunchy, chocolately, and a huge hit in this house.  The marshmallows puffed up to create a unique texture.  That they were simple to throw together was a plus.

The recipe comes from Hershey's website.  I used the same quantities, but substituted miscellaneous chocolates (milk, semi and dark) for the milk chocolate.

S'mores Sandwich Bar Cookies
from Hershey

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
¾cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1⅓ cups (8-oz. pkg.) Hershey's Mini Milk Chocolate Bars OR 5 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars (1.55 oz. each)
3 cups miniature marshmallows

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

Beat butter and sugar until well blended in large bowl. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Press half of dough in prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes. 

Sprinkle mini chocolate bars over baked layer or arrange unwrapped chocolate bars over baked layer, breaking as needed to fit. Sprinkle with marshmallows; scatter bits of remaining dough over marshmallows, forming top layer. 

Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

n.b. On my fourth pan (in seven days), I put it under the broiler at the end of the bake time.  EUREKA!  The Crowning Touch! The S'more in All Its Wonderful Glory!  (Must give credit to The Second Brother, who, while eating the third pan, suggested this brilliant technique.)


north fork peach raspberry pie {sms}

Welcome to Sweet Melissa Sundays' Baked Good of the Week— North Fork Peach Raspberry Pie. What better choice for a summery dessert on the Fourth of July?

Luscious fruits in season.
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