Tuesday, May 7, 2013


In no particular order.... Pie. Hubs birthday. Cocktails. Business dinner Miami style. South beach. Garden goodness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



Where to start?

I just returned from visiting my best friend forever, Ms. Kacie. She is volunteering in Nicaragua in the Peace Corp. Can I just say, she rocks? She rocks. 

Her mom, Nina, and I visited for just over a week and were able to attend business education classes with her at some of her schools and visit some of the amazing communities that she supports. Oh and yummy coffee, amazing sunsets, colors so bright and the most giving hospitable people I have ever met. 

I went on this trip with very little expectations. Well, actually no expectations. Having never visited a developing country I generally had no idea what I was in for. We were staying at nice resorts to I figured it would be pretty straight forward... Um yeah. Let's just say I was a little overwhelmed from day one. 


Once I had slept (did I mention we took a red-eye and hadn't really slept on the plane), and was a little more refreshed I felt a little more prepared to meet Nicaragua. My dearest Kacie was very patient with her Mom and I as we adjusted to "Nica time" and  got to know her schools and towns she works in. Again, she rocks. 

We visited Kacie's classes, explored the market near her home, went to the beach, the pool and gave Kacie a little R&R from her daily Nica life. 

One of the highlights for me, was visiting her English Language community group. These students are self organized and have just generally been working on their own until they discovered Kacie lived in the neighborhood! She's been meeting with them weekly and helping them develop their English skills. These students were awesome! They made us dinner and told us about their lives. Mind blown. Such a cool experience!

Another highlight: Meeting so many of Kacie's fellow Peace Corp Volunteers. What a great group of people! The picture above is of Kacie's friend Laura who, in addition to being a rock star PCV, also helps homeless dogs in her neighborhood find shelter and food. We met many of her neighborhood rescues. Love!

Overwhelming, yes. Hot, yes. Beautiful, yes. Challenging, yes. But who said travel was supposed to be easy? This experience made me take a deep breath, let go of control (ok a lot of control) and breathe in new experiences. I have a whole new appreciation for what Kacie does every day. What love she shows to her students and for her work! 

Was it worth it? Absolutely. To see my friend in action, teaching students, having a real impact on their lives? So worth it. To see a new country, be challenged, leave changed? SO WORTH IT. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

I worked a half day from home which allowed my a lovely afternoon for baking, catching up on emails, making a photo book of my trip to Nicaragua (post coming soon!) and generally just enjoying being home. 

This recipe was one of my favorites growing up. Soft, a little chewy, and filled with spice. It's very challenging not to eat them all in one sitting! 

The batch only makes a little over 2 dozen cookies (using a small scoop), so I usually double the recipe. 

Big Soft Ginger Cookies
Adapted from my Mamma!
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies 

3/4 cup butter flavored Crisco or butter (I use butter, unsalted. If you use salted butter, decrease salt slightly)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

2 1/4 cup flour (I split this half/half with whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar for rolling the cookies. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover sheet pans with parchment paper. 

Combine butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix to combine. Add molasses and mix to combine. 

Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and whisk to combine. 

Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little at a time until combined. 

Using a small scoop (or two spoons, whichever is your preference!), scoop out small balls of dough. I usually go for about a ping pong ball size or a little smaller. Make them as big or as small as you'd like.  Roll dough in sugar and place on cookie sheet. Lightly press cookies down with your fingers or palm. 

Bake for approximately 12 minutes. Rest briefly on cookie sheet (2 minutes) and then transfer to wire cooling racks. Cookies will be a little soft when they come out but will firm up slightly as it cools. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Avgolemono is chicken soup for the Greek (or wish you were Greek) soul. It's my go-to make me feel better soup when I'm sick or feeling kind of low. It makes me think of my Yiayia and my Mamma.

It also comes straight out of Joy of Cooking. Doesn't get more Greek than that right? :)

The only tricky part is tempering the eggs with the hot stock, put as long as you only add a little bit to start and keep whisking while you pour it in, you'll be a Greek Avgolemono queen (or king!).

3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup of rice
1/4 cup lemon fresh lemon juice
2 whole eggs
chopped cooked chicken (optional)
I usually cook up a couple chicken thighs or one chicken breast and chop  pretty small.
salt and pepper to taste

(1) Bring chicken stock to a simmer. Add rice and let cook for approximately 15 minutes or until rice is just cooked.
(2) In a separate bowl, mix eggs and lemon juice until well combined.
(3) Once rice is done cooking, add approximately 1/4 cup of the warm stock (drizzling in while mixing) to egg mixture stirring consistently to incorporate and prevent curdling (temper eggs with warm liquid). Add another 1/4 cup or so and keep stirring.
(4) Add egg mixture to remaining stock and whisk until combined.
(5) Add chicken if using to heat through.
(6) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pie Squared

This weekend Peter and I hosted a little celebration for our dear friends (and bonus: FAMILY!), Ty and Lindsey and their newest little peanut, Dash. This party was almost postponed due to Dash's unexpected surgery on Thursday. Thank the Lord, Dash is doing just great and Mom and Dad definitely needed to celebrate and relax after a crazy week. 

I planned most of the food to be tailed to the men attending the party so it didn't feel to baby-shower. I made meat and cheese platter, biscuit and ham sliders, bacon-apple-cheese salad and two delectable cream pies. Recipe included at the end of this post! 

The two pies I made were Coconut Cream Pie and Caramel Chocolate Macadamia Nut.

The Coconut Cream Pie recipe came directly from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. The Caramel Chocolate Macadamia Nut pie was a hodgepodge of Joy of Cooking, Trader Joes, Smitten Kitchen and me!

Coconut Cream Pie & Caramel Chocolate Macadamia Nut
Adapted from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Joy of Cooking
These recipe below made enough for 23, 4.5 inch personal pies 
I got my aluminum pie pans from KitchenDance. These recipes also easily make 2, 9 in pies (one chocolate and one coconut). 

Pie Shells
3 packages of graham crackers
2 cubs of melted butter
1/2 cup of sugar

  1. Blitz all items in food processor until fine crumb. 
  2. Place approximately scant 1/4 cup of crumb in each pie pan. 
  3. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. If shells poof up a  little bit, use an extra pie pan and lightly press down immediately when the shells come out of the oven. Let cool completely. 

Pastry Cream
Coconut Cream Pie (Thank you Tom Douglas!)
1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe calls for 1 vanilla bean)

2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp

  1. Combine milk, coconut milk, shredded coconut, and vanilla in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until mixture almost comes to a boil. 
  2. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and flour. 
  3. Temper eggs with a small amount of scalded milk. 
  4. Add warmed egg mixture to milk mixture and sir consistently over medium heat until mixture is very thick, approximately 4-5 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat, add butter and mix until incorporated. 
  6. Transfer pastry cream to bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Cool. 
  7. Cover pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cold. 

Chocolate Silk Pie (Thank you Deb Perelman!)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I ended up using a combo of milk chocolate and dark chocolate disks), melted and cooled
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
I also added 5 heaping tablespoons unsweetened coco powder to intensify the chocolate flavor. You could also increase the amount of melted chocolate. 

  1. In a large stand mixer (you could also do this with a hand-mixer  but you'll have to stand over it for 15-20 minutes), whip butter and sugar together until pale and fluff (I'd say at least 3-5 minutes). When in doubt, whip longer. Scrape down bowl as necessary. 
  2. While mixer is running, drizzle in melted chocolate. Mix and scrape down bowl as necessary.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating mixture at medium speed for 5 minutes after each addition, scraping down the bowl in between each addition.
  4. Add coco powder if using. 
  5. Add vanilla. 
Chocolate silk pastry cream is ready for use, but should be chilled in pie shell for at least 4 hours. 

Caramel Sauce
1 jar caramel sauce, I used Trader Joes Fleur de Sel 

Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whip cream in a stand-mixer until stiff peaks. I'd say just short of butter. I didn't whip my cream enough and it's sort-of melted on my pies. I used a zip-loc bag outfitted with a pastry tip, but you could easily just spread this on to your pies with a spatula. 

Shredded, toasted coconut and curled white chocolate for the Coconut Cream Pie
Chopped toasted macadamia nuts and curled dark chocolate for the Chocolate Pie

Fill 1/2 of the shells with coconut cream pastry cream, top with whipped cream and garnish with shredded coconut and white chocolate. 

Fill other 1/2 of shells with 2-3 teaspoons of caramel sauce. Let set for a few minutes. Spread chocolate pastry cream over caramel sauce. Top with whipped cream and garnish with macadamia nuts and dark chocolate.