trick or treat

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it got spooktastic in manchego’s kitchen this weekend.  we ate a lot of sugar.  we got into the spirit of halloween.

perhaps some of us got a bit too into the spirit.

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this is the danger of hosting the halloween party.  cobwebs and spooky creatures everywhere.

shrunken heads in the cider.

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also, eyeballs.


and swamp creatures.  adorable swamp creatures.


have you heard of cake pops?  i hesitate to send you to this site, because, well, bakerella’s look legit.  let’s all just remember mine were made with love, ok?  and with some able assistance, not just from Duncan and Betty, but from one very sexy pumpkin.


yes, that is a cake pop landscape i crafted out of tin foil.  yes, i do enjoy using my glue gun at halloween.

but, let’s get serious here for a second.  i have some snacks for you that aren’t wearing halloween costumes.  they’re yummy just as is.

both snacks play off of the salty-sweet combo that you know i’m obsessed with.

this snack mix i made with pretzels, malted milk powder and jazzed up for halloween with candy corn and chopped up snickers – peanut butter and regular.  it was insanely, amazingly good.  it was also ridiculously un-photogenic.  so please just trust me.  it is super easy to make.  just be sure you have friends coming over – maybe for a marathon viewing of seven and riggins? – so you don’t put yourself in a food coma.

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this peanut butter caramel popcorn is just as good – and slightly less likely to give you a toothache.

it has that chewy goodness of caramel corn, but the peanut butter softens it and makes it much less likely to stick in your teeth.  plus, it’s just plain addictive.


Peanut Butter Caramel Popcorn

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted if you’re feeling fancy
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter – I used chunky and liked it
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  If you have one with sides – like a jellyroll pan – that is better cause you’re going to be tossing the corn around.  But I made a batch on a flat sheet and I was careful and it was ok.

Pop your popcorn!  You can do it on the stove with oil, or you can air pop it 1/4 cup at a time in a brown paper lunch bag.  Just put the kernels in the bag, fold it over a few times and then microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Magic!

Toast your almonds if you feel like it.  Toss them with the popcorn in the biggest bowl you’ve got.

On the stove, mix your sugar, corn syrup, butter and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and stir for about 3 minutes.  It’ll get foamy and kind of look like you’re making toffee, but we aren’t getting that fancy here.  Add the peanut butter and vanilla and mix it in.

Here, I gave the super hot caramel mix a minute to cool down because I was afraid it would melt the popcorn.

Then, have your OCD self pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss/stir it so that all the kernels get some coating.

Spread out on your cookie sheet(s).  Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt.  Bake for an hour, and every 15-20 minutes, pull the sheet(s) out and mix up the popcorn so it toasts evenly and doesn’t just turn into a giant slab of caramel popcorn.

Crumble into a bowl, and try not to eat it all in one sitting.


goat cheese ice cream with drunken figs


fact: last weekend, the somm and i were eating grapes by the side of the road, looking out over vineyards and scrubby forest.  it smelled like the california of my childhood, like dust and sunshine and chaparral.  it was warm.  and it felt possible to be anyone or do anything we could imagine.

today: it's raining.  it's wednesday.  it's the last week of farmer's market for us deprived east coasters.

luckily, there isn't much that some homemade ice cream can't fix.

we're back to the ice cream book.  we're proving that ice cream is TOTALLY a fall food. 


especially when it comes marbled up with your momma's drunken fig jam. 

drunken figs . . . bright with citrus and just a hint of cognac to round out and deepen the flavor. 

but, i didn't want to use it all. 

did you know i'm a hoarder?  seriously.  especially in the refrigerator region of the house.  so many tiny tupperware containers with the last traces of something delish. 

the original recipe suggested using roasted red cherries.

cherries, sadly, are not a fall fruit.

luckily, my cupboards are another food hoarder's paradise, full of random jars of condiments i purchased, perhaps after a glass, perhaps two, of wine, perhaps in a certain little town in a certain state near and dear to my heart.  jars that, upon sober reflection, i have no idea what to do with.

thus i found: a jar of apricot-fig chutney.  it was spicy . . . like pumpkin pie spicy.  warm cinnamon and nutmeg and just a hint of heat from white pepper.

victory.  i split my batch in two . . . double the fun.


goat cheese ice cream might sound weird, but trust me, it works.  it's sweet and creamy, but has a great hit of that goat cheese tang.  kind of like cheesecake.  but lighter.  and colder.

just the thing to brighten up a gray fall day.

Jeni's Goat Cheese Ice Cream

Find the recipe here. Use whatever fruit spread catches your fall heart's fancy. 

momma’s kitchen


i’ve been traveling.  traveling places where other people do the dishes for you.

aren’t parents glorious?

we drank a lot of wine.  a lot.  (evidence above)

we went to a baby shower.  i tried to ignore my thumping womb and focus on the champagne and nibbles.

it was like the real martha stewart had catered.


out of control pretty.  want more?


oh, california. who lives like this?  this home is a funky, arty wonderland of found objects.

my momma’s garden is pretty rock star too, though.  they have fountains and roses and herbs.  the other week, she made ice cream using passion fruit and macadamia nuts from her front yard.

how do you have passion fruit growing in your FRONT YARD for, like, a decade and not know?

oh, yeah, because you’ve been too focused on the glorious bounty from your tangerine, lemon and avocado trees.

california.  some day, my friend, some day.

in the meantime, i visit.  and make messes.


i also make crostini.  toasty bread + ricotta + squash + lemon & herbs = winning.

just don’t over toast your bread (ahem, i mean burn it to a sad black crisp) unless you have the worlds best momma to run to the store to buy you more.

what?  me?  spoiled?  whatever do you mean.

back to the crostini and how i earn my keep.  i took some shortcuts.  it worked out.  you should make this.  it is pretty foolproof.

the irish pasta-maker?  he took no short cuts.


100 percent homemade, hand-cranked spaghetti.  who lives like this?  amazing.

he even has his own kitchen mascot.


don’t be fooled by how sweet she looks at rest.  this happy beast considers herself a lapdog.

mom kept up her own with some tasty french 75s.  neat trick i learned – with a spill-proof container, equal parts sugar and water and elbow grease, you can make simple syrup without adding yet another dirty saucepan to the growing pile in the sink.

see?  totes considerate of others.

anyway, that woman makes a mean cocktail.  luckily, i think it’s genetic.

we finished up with another winner of a simple, foolproof recipe.  banana tartes tatin.  (julia child rolls over in her grave.)


find a pan.  smear the bottom with butter.  sprinkle with brown sugar.  layer banana slices.  top with thawed puff pastry.  bake.


it’s great with vanilla ice cream.  better when eaten with your loving family.

Squash & Ricotta Crostini

Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 baguette
  • 2 cups butternut or acorn squash, in cubes
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 lemon – zest & juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Herbs, chopped (recommended: basil, sage, thyme, tarragon or a mix)

Ghetto Hilary Version: Slice your squash in half.  Remove seeds.  Cover flesh end in plastic wrap.  Microwave until soft.  Start with 5 minutes in the microwave, then add time until done.  Let cool unless you are like me and just burn your finders all over the place.  Scoop flesh out into a saute pan – warmed with warm olive oil.  Mash it together.  Saute a couple of minutes with brown sugar and a dash of salt.

Normal Version: Peel and chop squash into 1/2 inch cubes.  Toss with oil, salt, and brown sugar and roast at 400 degrees until brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix ricotta with lemon zest, just a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Slice the baguette.  Toast under broiler, both sides.  Takes just a few minutes per side.  Don’t ignore it, don’t be like me.

Ghetto Hilary Version:  If you have the mashed squash, spread some of that on the baguette, top with a dollop of ricotta, then chopped herbs.

Normal Version: If you have adorable cubed, roasted squash, start with a smear of cheese, then squash then herbs.

Why does the order matter?  I don’t know.  I’m OCD.  Do what you like.  🙂


Banana Tartes Tatin


  • 4 bananas
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 8 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 sheet puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice bananas on the diagonal.  Smear butter on the bottom of a 8×8 pan (or use 4 ramekins!).  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Add banana slices, slightly overlapping.  Top with puff pastry.  Bake about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly at the edges.

Note: The traditional tartes tatin is made with apples.  You caramelize them on the stove with butter and sugar, then top with pastry and finish in the oven.  I think the oven-only version works because bananas are already so soft and sweet.  But I bet some fruit would also work with this oven-only approach – raspberries, strawberries, mango – so explore!  It is SO SO SO easy.  If you’re ready for the skillet version, I’ve made one with tomatoes (admittedly in the middle of amazing tomato season) that was so good and different as a dessert – sweet but acidy and completely surprising and elegant.

leek bread pudding

serving of pudding

what is the difference between savory bread pudding and stuffing?

this is not a trick question.  or maybe it is a trick question?

to start with, savory bread pudding is a delightful treat you make in the middle of a regular old week (not thanksgiving) and serve it to some of your BFFs rather than 40 odd relatives.

plus, you don't stuff it in a bird.  which i think is kind of gross. 

don't get me wrong.  i love stuffing.  thanksgiving isn't thanksgiving without stuffing made from grandma renee's amazing tauzin family recipe.  but i make it in a casserole dish the way FDA inspectors, harold mcgee, and god (in that order) intended.

i'm not going to compare this bread pudding with that stuffing though.  bird of a different feather.  both tasty, neither really need a recipe.  stuffing is more crumbly and scoopable, but this bread pudding is more of a sliceable-custard-based dish.  and i think the brioche and the leeks make it a little more fancy pants.

check out those leeks!  fancy!


more importantly, check out the new saute pan!  i've made the leap, friends, from nonstick to, well, very sticky.  it resulted in this:

not nonstick

and it resulted in me scrubbing at it for quite a bit of time.  did i not add enough butter?  i'm pretty sure that can't be it. should i have "deglazed" the pan with water?  the learning curve of adult cookware.  sigh.

anyway, i'm getting ahead of myself.

the leeks get a cute little parchment hat while they're gumming up my shiny new pan.  this recipe is from our friend thomas keller and he just has this thing for parchment hats. 

i mean, parchment lids. 

that's what grown-ups would call them.

crispy, golden brown brioche croutons give this bread pudding some serious body. 

bread crumbs

the croutons, plus a nice sprinkling of parmesan cheese give this bread pudding a nice crunchy bite on the top and a lovely chewy border – like the crusty corners that make everything from brownies to kugels to baked pastas so yumtastic. 

top of pudding

this is a seriously satisfying dish.  light, but rich, good warm out of the oven or room temperature.  i served it with pork tenderloin (you're SHOCKED) and asparagus (sorry michael pollan), but i think it would have been really lovely just with a green salad, dressed with something light and lemony.

Leek Bread Pudding

Lightly Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home and Smitten Kitchen

I'll be honest, I didn't really measure anything for this recipe.  So I give you approximations as being exact isn't super important here.

  • 2 cups leeks, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut in four pieces
  • 4-6 cups challah or brioche bread, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Nutmeg, salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 3/4 cup (or more!  live large!) grated parmesan or other tangy cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Make your parchment paper hat.  Cut a round of parchment paper the size of your saute pan, then fold it up like you're making a paper snowflake and cut a little hole in the center to let out the steam.  Or, you know, decide that Thomas Keller is too precious for you and skip it.

Warm up your saute pan, and add the leeks.  Saute until they start to soften and throw off some liquid, stirring, for about 5 minutes.  Then add the butter and top with your parchment lid and let it melt down over mediumish heat for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times.

Toast your bread cubes in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring midway so the croutons get more or less evenly toasted. 

Combine the leeks and the croutons.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper. 

Grease your pan.  Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of cheese on the bottom.  Add about half of the leeks and croutons, then a layer of 1/4 cup of cheese, then the rest of the croutons, then the rest of the cheese. 

Here, Thomas Keller recommends adding about 2 cups of the milk mixture, pressing the croutons to get them good and soaked, and letting it rest for 20 minutes before adding the remainder of the milk mixture and then baking for about an hour or until firm.

I skipped this because it was getting late and I was hungry and had promised to feed people on a school night and thought that they would appreciate dinner slightly before midnight.  It turned out ok.  The top layer of croutons were probably a little drier than they otherwise would have been.  So, if you have the patience and the time, soak your croutons.


salted mudslide cookies

salted mudslides

booze + chocolate + salt = a winning combination.

these are some intensely chocolaty cookies.  they may be posing with the hershey's, but don't be fooled.  there's more than that in here.

mocha kahlua.  dark cocoa powder.  dark chocolate chips.  a smattering of that fancy-pants sea salt.


it's manchego-approved, so you know it's good.

in fact, the somm tried one and was sure that whoever i'd baked them for probably didn't deserve them.

not true!  happy 30th to mishap! 

these cookies were almost better than our miami celebration trip.  luckily, the hurricane-gale-force winds died down and the sun came out or it might not have been so close. 

warning: these cookies may not be conducive to a bikini-ready body, but just TRY to only eat one.  they're gooey and rich.  they have a perfect chewy edge.  and the salt just kicks it up a notch.

cookie tray

i finally found a trick to getting salt to stay on the top of cookies.  it's a little weird.  are you ready?

take cookies out of oven. quickly spritz with pam.  apply salt.

neat, huh?

i still can't figure out how to get turbinado sugar to stay crunchy on muffins.  i think i'm just going to need to practice! 

maybe we should start with another batch of cookies.


Salted Mudslide Cookies

Loosely adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder (I ran out and just used more cocoa powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled for 10-15 minutes
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur + 1 teaspoon (I used Mocha Kahlua for an extra chocolate kick)
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks
  • sea salt for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Stir together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, mix the melted butter and sugars until they are combined. Next add your liquids – egg, vanilla, Kahlua. 

Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will be a little more crumbly than most cookie dough but should come together.

Fold in the chocolate chunks. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.  Be patient.  Remember you didn't have to remember to soften your butter, so you have to make up for it somewhere.  Your reward: puffy, chewy yumminess.

Scoop balls of dough onto a greased or nonstick baking sheet.  I went for about 1tablespoon-sized scoops because I was bringing them into work.  Bigger scoops would probably maximize the gooey, chewy character of the cookie.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are set and the middles are still soft. The centers should be puffy. Do not over bake.

Remove from oven.  Working three cookies at a time, immediately give each a spritz of Pam or other cooking spray (just not the kind with flour!) and then sprinkle with sea salt.

Good warm, cooled, or unbaked. 

honey bourbon & peach bbq chicken

peach bourbon chicken tableset

what do you do when someone offers to come to your house on a sunday evening and bake you a chocolate pie?

make them this chicken in return.  it's like saying i love you, in tangy, sweet poultry form.

this is not a fancy recipe.

peach bourbon chicken cast

it was created by the pioneer woman.  let me tell you, she knows her comfort food.

want to play with the camera?

check out the peach jam!

peach bourbon chicken preserves

whoa, wait!  there's that honey bourbon!  betcha thought we were done with that bad boy! 

peach bourbon chicken jd

this recipe got us close, but there is still a good inch or so left in the bottle. 

and don't let it's honey sweetness fool you.  this is a gateway drug to more serious whiskey.  it is possible a bottle of makers mark has made it to my place of work.  it is certain that i was not responsible.  but it is possible that i have partaken.

goes great with diet ginger ale.  and a caramel apple lollipop.  as you cry silently at your desk.

wait, too serious?  back to the food!  focus!

this recipe is essentially a braise.  oh man, get ready.  fall is here for reals and i'm going to be braising so much meat you won't be able to keep up.  how else can i be sure my favorite short rib recipe is really my favorite?!?!

but today, we are cooking the bock bock.  that's chicken for those of you who don't speak paige.

peach bourbon chicken chix

chicken thighs are great for braises.  they're virtually indestructible – have you ever had a dry chicken thigh?  just ask spilled milk.  i browned up some bone-in, skin-on for some juicy goodness.  and then boneless skinless because i'm lazy and would like to not gain 10 lbs every weekend.  plus my yogi is uncomfortable with meat-looking meat. 

let it hang out in the oven with all that good bbq sauce, peach jam, and bourbon until it falls apart.  serve with smashed potatoes, and maybe some green beans for good measure. 

this sauce is crazy addictive.  you'll want more than seconds because it just hits every note right – sweet, savory, with just a hit of the bourbon.  just use a bbq sauce that has a bite – you want to balance out the jam.  and if you choose a good jam, it'll be a little chunky.  it's a substantial sauce, let me tell you.

peach bourbon chicken upclose

bonus?  it goes great with chocolate pie.  thanks larkin!

Peach-Whiskey Barbeque Chicken

All I did was swap out the bourbon for honey bourbon, so you should just check out Pioneer Woman's recipe posting.  She'll walk you right through the recipe, but it's easy as pie.  Promise.


baby artichokes, i win

baby artichokes

aren’t they cute?  they look so innocent.  you can almost hear them whisper: hello.  i’m small, adorable and green.  take me home and turn me into something yummy!

devious little buggers.

first few times i tried to make some magic with baby artichokes, i just couldn’t get it right.  and to be honest, the problem was me.

a confession – i hate kitchen waste.  i hate, for example, peeling a watermelon and feeling like half the watermelon is still attached to the rind.

i had to do breathing exercises to get through my knife skills class because to make those exquisite, perfect, 2 in by 1/4 in by 1/4 carrot batons or petit brunoise potato dice, you leave most of the vegetable behind.

control issues?  what do you mean control issues?

anyway.  you have to let that go with the baby artichokes.  check this out.

artichoke carnage

i don’t know if you can tell, but the pile of discarded baby artichoke leaves DWARFS the tender, pale green hearts.

but friends, you must be ruthless.  if you don’t, your baby artichokes will end up woody.  inedible.  they will mock you from under their yummy, tangy, lemony glaze.

if you truly can leave no artichoke leaf behind, go find yourself one of those jumbo dudes.  i’ll even share my momma’s top secret artichoke cooking technique.

are you ready? 

wrap in plastic wrap and nuke it until it’s tender.  try not to think about whatever it is that’s leeching into your food fromthe plastic.  melt some butter (also feel free to nuke that).  good to go.  is there anything better? 

did i hear you say aioli?  yeah, that works.  or mayo, on a spoon from the jar.  no biggie.

anyway, back to our petit artichauts.  now that you’ve gone and really stripped them down, you’re ready to introduce them to their friends lemon, garlic, white wine, and thyme. 

they’re going to get along swimmingly.

sauteing artichokes

let me tell you, these were some tasty artichokes.  they were tender and sweet.  the dressing was a wonderful balance of acid and tart and savory herbally goodness. 

but, jeez louise, they just aren’t as adorable as they were at the start, right?

bowl of artichokes

this leads me to lesson number two today.  i didn’t get my artichokes soaking in lemon water quite soon enough, and the artichokes went from green to . . . a, uh, slightly less appetizing tan color.

the irony – and i may need an english teacher here to tell me if this is real irony or alanis morissette irony – it was my endless futzing with them for photographs that kept them from the lemon bath they needed to look good in the photographs. 

the somm feels their pain, let me tell you. 

so, don’t be like me.  strip your artichokes, soak your artichokes, serve them to the ones you love.

Artichoke Antipasto

Not at all adapted from David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke, unless you count my smart-ass, alcoholic asides.  Original recipe here, buy the book here.

  • 10 to 12 baby artichokes
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1/3 cupish white wine
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
  • Small pinch red pepper flakes
  • Parsley to taste

Open the bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass.  Quality control.

Fill a bowl with water and squeeze in the lemon juice.  Don’t be shy.

Tell the baby artichokes their time has come.  One at a time, chop off about the top third of each artichoke, or maybe a little less.  Pull off the hard green outer leaves until just the tender lighter green leaves are left.  Slice them in half, lengthwise, and add them to the lemon water.  Immediately.

Heat your (non-cast iron) skillet and add olive oil and let it get warm.  Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan with some salt and pepper.  Then add the wine and thyme and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are tender when you test them with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (to taste!), and cook for a minute or so until the garlic starts to smell and loses that raw garlic bite.

Take the pan off the heat, add the lemon zest and parsley.  I don’t think I added the parsley.  I’m not a huge fan, plus my little plant hasn’t been doing so well, and I honestly just never really remember to garnish.  But, by all means.  Arugula would also probably work here.

David Tanis says you can let them cool to room temperature to serve as a part of an antipasto platter.  They didn’t really last that long for us.  Nom.