Thanks, Michele: Nutella-Almond Drizzle + Banana Pancakes

Michele Ferrero, the legendary Italian billionaire who created Nutella (and many other delicious treats), passed away on Valentine's Day. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that his creations personally touched my life. I love Nutella (who doesn't?), and every year on Christmas, my grandfather gives me Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolates, because he knows I adore them.

As a simple and delicious tribute to his empire, I made banana pancakes with a nutty Nutella drizzle. This is a simple recipe, but it's indulgent and gorgeous, so whether you're hosting brunch, or just staying in and hiding from the Arctic temperatures, it's the perfect thing to wake up to. It's snuggles on a plate.

I used this banana pancake recipe, and the only thing I changed was to double the amount of bananas (I pretty much double the amount of bananas in any banana baking recipe). For the sauce, I simply combined Nutella with a little almond butter, added a dash of cinnamon, and thinned it out to drizzling consistency with milk. Top it all with sliced bananas, and you have a stunning morning treat.

It's been frigidly cold here in New York, and a stack of warm, freshly griddled pancakes oozing with Nutella might be the only thing that gets me through the rest of winter in one piece. Hope you enjoy this, and happy cooking! :)

Makes 8-10 pancakes, depending on the size (I make huge pancakes)


1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2 eggs
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons melted butter
more butter for frying
more bananas for slicing/serving

1/4 cup Nutella spread
1/4 cup almond butter (or substitute unsweetened, natural peanut butter)
1/4 cup milk
dash of cinnamon


1. In a bowl, mash your bananas really well. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and milk.

2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, and whisk with a fork to combine.

3. Add the flour mix to the banana/egg mix, stirring until just combined (do not overmix). Stir in the melted butter.

4. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat (I usually have it set on a 6 out of 10 on my stove). Melt a little butter (or use vegetable oil if you prefer), and scoop some pancake batter into the pan. When each pancake gets little bubbles that appear on the uncooked side, it's usually time to flip it. Repeat until your batter is gone.

5. In a small saucepan, combine the Nutella, almond butter, and cinnamon over medium heat. Stir to combine, and whisk in milk once the mixture is hot, adding the milk a little at a time until the sauce reaches the consistency where you can drizzle it on without it being too thick.

6. To serve: stack some pancakes on a plate, and drizzle the Nutella sauce over them. Top with sliced bananas and a dash of cinnamon if you want. Enjoy!

A Whole New Take on Valentine's Day: Dinner + Dessert Recipes

I've had a few requests for a Valentine's Day dinner idea, so I came up with something that's not only elegant and delicious, it's actually EASY! Who wants to spend the most romantic night of the year chained to the oven (there has to be a 50 Shades of Grey joke in here somewhere...)? The point is to spend time with your Valentine, not your cutting board! These recipes shouldn't take you more than an hour or so combined; make sure to make dessert first, so it's ready for you after dinner.

A great Valentine's Day dinner is a delicate dance: you don't want anything too heavy, but you don't want to be starving, either. You don't want anything that's overly garlicky or spicy, but you certainly don't want something bland. You want something that feels special, but you don't want something cliche (surf 'n' turf, I'm looking at you). I've designed this menu to achieve all of those things.

I think serving a whole fish feels really special. You don't eat whole fish every day, and they're not even that common on restaurant menus. But it's actually super easy to find really well-prepped whole fish these days (the trout you see here are available via FreshDirect; they're the whole butterflied rainbow trout, and they're consistently fresh and delicious). Eating fish prepared this way makes me feel close to nature, and it feels really indulgent without actually being too heavy or filling. It's the perfect amount of food.

I think a root vegetable puree (one of my go-to's, honestly) really elevates a dish and looks gorgeous on the plate. Celeriac (the root of the celery stalks we're all familiar with) is one of the best root vegetables to prepare this way; it's surprisingly delicious and creamy. Haricot vert round out the plate and add some color and crunch.

As for dessert, you could, of course, go with a classic chocolate mousse or flourless chocolate cake, but haven't you had that a ZILLION times before? I propose this: Lavender and Cocoa Nib Scones with Nutella. Yes, SCONES! Yes, NUTELLA! It's light, delicious, and unexpected. (And you can have the leftovers for breakfast in bed the next morning.)

Lavender and cocoa nibs are the new "It Couple" of flavor pairings. The floral, earthy lavender perfectly complements the pleasant bitterness and fruity bite of the cocoa nibs. And Nutella, does for the scones what a bottle of champagne does for a romantic evening. It just brings it all together.

Whether you're planning a romantic Valentine's Day dinner with your love, or planning a night out with your crew, I hope your February 14th is filled with love :) Happy cooking!




2 whole butterflied trout
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Meyer lemons
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup whole wheat Panko crumbs
2 Tablespoons dried currants
3 shallots, halved and sliced, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
2 large celeriac bulbs, trimmed and peeled with a vegetable peeler
4 cups whole milk
1/3 lb. haricot vert
1/2 cup heavy cream


For the Celeriac Puree:

1. Add the milk to a large pot and bring to a boil. Cut the celeriac in quarters, then chop down the quarters into smaller pieces. Salt the boiling milk (turn down the heat a little so it doesn't boil over), and add the celeriac. Cook until the celeriac is very tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Get a food processor or blender ready. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the celeriac pieces to the food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter (cut into smaller pieces), and spoon in about a half cup of the celeriac cooking liquid. Process until it's very smooth, stopping to add more cooking liquid if it's too thick. Taste and add salt if needed.

For the Trout:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Get a baking dish ready, and spread a little olive oil in the bottom of the dish so the fish doesn't stick (you could also use a nonstick spray). Dry the outside of the fish off with paper towels. Open the fish up so the inside flesh is exposed and season with salt and pepper. Zest one of your Meyer lemons directly over the fish flesh, getting some zest evenly distributed on the inside of the fish.

2. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium-high. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and a little olive oil. Saute half your shallots, seasoning with salt and pepper, until beginning to be translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and currants and cook one more minute. Add the bread crumbs and stir around so they're evenly coated in the butter and oil. Cook for 1-2 more minutes. Set aside.

3. Get 6 slices of Meyer lemon ready (slice into rings, not into wedges). Spoon some of the breadcrumb/currant mixture on to one side of the flesh of each fish. Top the bread crumbs with three slices of lemon per fish. Top the lemons with some freshly chopped tarragon. Fold the other side over the fish. Season the skin side of the fish with salt. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the flesh of the fish is cooked through. If your fish are quite large, you may need to cook them longer; just take them out of the oven and peek inside the flesh to see if it's opaque white. If it's not, cook it longer.

For the Haricot Vert + Tarragon Cream:

1. Heat a saute pan over medium high heat. Add a little olive oil. Saute the remaining shallots until beginning to be translucent. Add the remaining garlic and cook one more minute. Add the haricot vert, and squeeze the juice of half a Meyer lemon over it, then add 1/4 cup water to the pan. Cook until all the water has steamed off and your pan is dry again. Season the haricot vert with salt and pepper and toss around the pan a bit.

2. Scrape the haricot vert and most of the shallots/garlic in the pan aside, but do NOT wipe out the pan. Turn the heat to high and add your cream, boiling to reduce and thicken. Add some fresh tarragon to the cream, season with salt and pepper, and add some Meyer lemon zest. If it gets too thick, add a little water a Tablespoon at time.

To plate:

Spread some celeriac puree on a plate, top with the fish, arrange the haricot vert nicely on the plate, and top the fish with the cream sauce. Enjoy! 


1 and 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
6 Tablespoons butter, cold, and cut into small pieces
4-5 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg
1 Tablespoon lavender buds
2 Tablespoons cocoa nibs
Nutella (the amount is up to you)


1. Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, and rub the butter into the flour until the pieces of butter are smaller and well-incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and 4 tablespoons of the cream. Add to the dough and stir until it just comes together. If the dough is too dry, add the other tablespoon of cream. Add the lavender and cocoa nibs. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, just until you can form the dough into a circle, patting it down to be about an inch thick.

3. Cut the round into 6 triangles. Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with cooking spray. Brush with a little extra heavy cream and sprinkle a little sugar on each scone. Bake for about 10 minutes, until scones are puffed up and golden brown.

4. For serving, split a scone in half and spoon some Nutella on the inside. Enjoy!

Little Changes Add Up: Whole Wheat Muffins + Cauliflower Bolognese

I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person. I'm either fully committed to eating well and exercising, or so far off the wagon that I wouldn't see it if it rolled over my face. I'm told that creative people tend to operate this way, so I'm not alone. Right now, thankfully, I'm still firmly on the wagon, and I'm getting pretty crafty about modifying recipes so that they're better for my heart.

These two recipes have little modifications that, I believe, over time can really add up to better health. "Being healthy" isn't something to be achieved overnight–Rome wasn't built in a day, and my cholesterol isn't going to drastically change after one salad. Being healthy is something we all have to work at daily, amidst life's little roadblocks (like Bagel Fridays at my office–it's so hard to turn down FREE bagels!). Rather than swear off everything you love all at once, the key to creating nutritious eating habits you'll want to stick to is making small changes while respecting the flavor and integrity of the food.

Today I have two recipes–one for muffins, one for pasta bolognese–that have little modifications that make them healthier. They're simple switches, and I promise, you won't miss any of the flavor.


MODIFICATION #1: Swapping whole wheat flour for white flour
This is a pretty easy switch. Whole wheat flour is a better nutritional choice, and in a rustic breakfast muffing, the added texture it brings is a welcome addition.

MODIFICATION #2: Using olive oil instead of vegetable oil or butter
I love using olive oil in sweet baking applications. It brings a bit of earthiness along with its heart-healthy benefits–plus, I always have it on hand!

MODIFICATION #3: Adding flax seeds
Flaxseeds, long a staple of the hippie pantry, are a relatively new addition to mine. They're tiny and have no real flavor, so adding them only slightly changes the texture of the muffins. Health-wise, they're real power players.


MODIFICATION #1: Using whole wheat pasta
You guys know I love my whole wheat pasta. It's so filling, it's extra chewy, and honestly, it just makes me feel better about the amount of pasta I eat (which is a lot!).

MODIFICATION #2: Swapping half the meat in the bolognese with cauliflower
Meat, even lean meat, is quite calorie-dense. Cauliflower is packed with nutrients and filling fiber but has very few calories–WIN-WIN!

I hope you find these recipes as delicious as I did–maybe even so delicious you forget they're healthy ;-) Happy cooking!

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Banana-Oat Muffins

and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled (not instant) oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T. flax seeds
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium bananas)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners or spray with cooking spray.

2. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla, flaxseeds and banana.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir just until combined.

4. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way up with batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until muffins are fluffy and a knife inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, or eat them warm like I do :)

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Pasta with Cauliflower Bolognese

16 oz. whole wheat pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 large celery rib, small dice
pinch red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh oregano leaves, chopped
fresh thyme leaves
1 package 93% lean ground turkey
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets, then florets cut into small pieces
One 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1-2 cups water, as needed 
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
grated Parmesan for serving


1. Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then add the onion, celery, and red pepper flakes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and fresh herbs, and cook until it's browned in spots and some of the moisture has evaporated.

2. Add the tomatoes and all their juices and the cauliflower, again seasoning with salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover all the ingredients in the pot. Keep uncovered and cook until cauliflower is tender. Let some of the steam evaporate so the liquid reduces.

3. When cauliflower is tender, stir in the heavy cream, taste, adjust seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Cook, letting the sauce thicken, for about 5-8 more minutes. Meanwhile, cook your pasta in boiling salted water. Drain, then return to cooking pot. Ladle some of the sauce over the pasta and toss it all together. Top with Parmesan. Enjoy!

No-Cheese January Continues Its Reign of Terror + Almost-Cheeseless Butternut Squash Lasagna Recipe!

Not eating cheese is just The Absolute Worst. I basically spend all my time counting the days until January is over (although, to be fair, I always count the days until January is over, because January is low on the list of Months I Enjoy), imagining the feel of a ripe Brie on my tongue, or envisioning the beautifully arranged cheese plate I'll treat myself to on February 1st. I've read that cheese is actually physically addictive, and now I know that to be true, because I am experiencing withdrawal.

However, like any imposed limitation, scarcity gets my creative juices flowing (anyone remember the MasterChef canned foods Mystery Box challenge?). When it becomes a real challenge is when I want to make a dish that's traditionally chock-full of cheese. If anyone can figure out a way to make cheese-free macaroni and cheese, I'm all ears (and no, making it with vegan soy cheese doesn't count). Americanized lasagnas are usually made with lots of ricotta (because this is America and WE LOVE CHEESE); traditionally, lasagna is made with bechamel, a milk-based (but generally cheeseless) sauce. I like it both ways; I make it both ways. But in No-Cheese January, I make it the no cheese way. DISCLAIMER: I still used freshly grated Parmagiano Reggiano for this recipe, because I know most of you are not on a cheese embargo. See?! Do you see the sacrifices I make for you guys?!

Honestly, when I took the first bite of this lasagna, I didn't miss the ricotta. I didn't miss the gooey mozzarella on top (okay, maybe I missed that a little). The creaminess of the pureed butternut squash and the richness of the bechamel come together to create a very simple, very satisfying lasagna that really honors the butternut squash and doesn't overpower it with dairy. The sage flavor is really allowed to sing here, too. The sausage makes for a nice textural variation and rounds out the dish, but you could leave it out and the lasagna would be just as good. Since this lasagna is really quite simple, take the extra time and make the pasta yourself–it really adds something here.

If any of you have gone on a January Cleanse of any kind, may the force be with you all. And, for the love of cheese, may February hasten its inevitable return. Happy cooking!



For the pasta dough:

- 2 cups all purpose or 00 semolina flour
- 3 eggs, preferably organic and free-range
- drizzle of olive oil
- pinch of kosher salt

For the sage bechamel:

- 1/2 stick of butter
- about 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- about 3 cups milk
- 7-8 sage leaves, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the butternut squash mix and sausage:

- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and sliced into semi-circles
- drizzle of oilve oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup bechamel sauce
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 4 good quality sweet Italian pork sausages, casings removed


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast till very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Get a food processor ready to go.

2. While the squash is roasting, make the bechamel: melt the butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the milk, whisking quickly to remove any lumps. Add salt and pepper. Whisk in the rest of the milk and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook till thickened, about 20 minutes.

3. Transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the egg, the bechamel, parmagiano, and butter. Process until smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

4. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Cook the sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through. Drain any excess fat away and set aside.

5. Make the pasta dough: place your flour in a bowl and mix in the salt. Make a well in the center of the dough and add your eggs and oil. Use a fork to whisk the eggs, pulling in flour from the outside as you go. Mix until the dough starts to come together, then turn out onto a work surface and knead the dough, pressing it together if it's really shaggy. It will take 3-4 minutes to really come together into a ball. Keep kneading for 5-6 more minutes, until you have a smooth, uniform, dough that's not too sticky. Flour the board lightly as you go to prevent sticking. When the dough is done, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Don't skip the resting!

6. When you're ready to roll your pasta out, have a little flour nearby in case your pasta gets sticky. Cut the ball of pasta into 6 smaller pieces. Roll the first piece out with a rolling pin till it's about 1/4" thick. Set your pasta machine on the widest setting (the first setting) and run your dough through, repeating each setting twice, then turning to the following (thinner) setting. Repeat until you've used all your dough. Set aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with some semolina.

7. Begin to build your lasagna: spread some bechamel across the bottom of a baking dish. Add a layer of pasta dough (you do not need to par-boil your pasta if you are making the lasagna right away). Spread some squash mixture on top, then add some sausage and more bechamel. Grate some Parmesan over that, then add the next layer of pasta and repeat till you've used all your ingredients, reserving about a cup of the bechamel. Spread the remaining bechamel over the top of the final pasta layer, grate some Parmesan over it, and make it pretty with some whole sage leaves.

8. Bake at 375 for about 40-45 minutes, until the edges are bubbly. If the bechamel is getting too dark, cover it with foil until it's done baking.

9. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, then cut into squares to serve. Enjoy!

Villainizing Carbs is SOOOO 2014: Plus Two Simple, Healthy Recipes

I have a confession. Over the holiday break, I had my cholesterol checked for the first time since high school. I was living by the "ignorance is bliss" mantra; frankly, I didn't want to know. When I finally faced the music, the news wasn't great: my cholesterol is "moderately elevated," which is a fancy way of saying, fix it now before medication has to fix it for you.

I think that, on the whole, I eat healthfully; my love of cooking ensures that I eat plenty of whole, unprocessed foods, and my love of fruits and veggies makes it easy to get my 5 a day. My love of cheese, however...well, it makes it easy for my LDL cholesterol (the "bad" one) to climb higher than it should. To be honest, my cheese-eating had gotten a bit out of control. I began treating cheese as the base of the food pyramid, instead of the triangle at the top. I wasn't respecting the cheese. So, for January at least, I gave it up. Isn't easy. Isn't fun. But I'm sticking to it–at least till February 1st.

Many of the foods that lower cholesterol are the same foods that are eschewed by adherents to popular diets, most notably, whole grains. I think that with the recent onslaught of "fat is good, grains are bad" think pieces, it's easy to convince oneself that stuffing your face with a half-block of aged cheddar is somehow "healthy." Sadly, it isn't. Just as eating a diet based mostly on grains isn't, either. It always comes down to balance, doesn't it?

I think one of the most maligned, and most misrepresented foods, health-wise, is pasta. So many of us have this "pasta is evil" attitude programmed into us from years of living in a post-Atkins-Diet America. But like the French Paradox, there's also an Italian Paradox; Italians, by and large, are thinner and healthier than Americans, and they eat pasta–frequently. They don't think it's a special treat, and they don't think it's unhealthy. It's simply one of the many things they eat (balance!).

But the way they eat it is different. For one thing, the thought of an "Endless Pasta Bowl" would horrify them. They eat pasta as its own (small) course, then move on to a meat course (also small). They eat slowly, savoring each bite, drawing meals out over hours. Their pastas are overflowing with seasonal vegetables–the pasta isn't simply a vehicle for cheese or a heavy sauce. Most truly Italian pasta sauces are quite light, and olive-oil based instead of butter-laden. When I make pasta at home, I try to keep the Italian spirit in mind. I embrace the well-documented health benefits of olive oil and garlic, I let tomatoes play a starring a role, and, when I look at my final bowl, I aim to have my bowl be about 40% pasta, 40% vegetables, and 20% protein. I also cook with good-quality whole wheat pasta more often than not, which I find to have a pleasing chew and to be sumptuously filling.

My point: making any one category of foods completely off-limits can be, well, limiting. Remember that whole grains are an important source of fiber, and a crucial part of anyone's diet who may be trying to eat meat less frequently or more conscientiously. When grains share a plate with lots and lots of veggies and fruits and some lean protein, they're not the devil–they're just part of the balance.

Without further ado, the two recipes I'm sharing today are whole-grain based, with lots of other heart-healthy things thrown in. And because I will never sacrifice flavor, they taste awesome! Here's to a heart-healthy 2015! Enjoy and happy cooking :)


Serving size: about 3


about 8 oz. whole wheat pasta–a short pasta such as rigatoni or penne
1 head broccoli, cut into florets, the florets halved or quartered
2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
juice of one lemon
2 T. capers
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 jar good-quality Italian tuna packed in spring water, drained and broken up with your fingers
chopped fresh parsley


1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then salt the water generously. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is about 2 minutes shy of being al dente (so, firmer than you'd want it at the end).

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan that's deep enough to hold your broccoli and eventually your pasta. Saute your red pepper flakes, onion, and garlic for about 3 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.

3. Add the broccoli, lemon juice, and capers, and cover, cooking until the broccoli is bright green and just tender.

4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly from its cooking water to the pan, then scoop out about a 1/2 cup pasta water and add it to the broccoli/pasta pan. Turn the heat to high, stirring and cooking it until the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tuna and top with the parsley. Enjoy!



1 cup rolled (not instant) oats
2 cups water
pinch of salt
squeeze of honey (or maple syrup or agave)
generous dash of cinnamon
1 whole apple, cored and diced
splash of milk
1 T. flaxseeds
2 T. chopped almonds (or as much as you like)

1. Bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt and add the oats. Turn the heat down to medium.

2. Add the honey, apple, cinnamon, and flaxseeds. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the milk. Cook the oats to your desired consistency (I like mine to have some texture, so I do about 10-12 minutes). Stir in the almonds and top with more almonds if you like. Enjoy!

How Travel & Adventure Fuel Culinary Inspiration: #JacksonJourneys Recap

A few months back, I got a Facebook message from my friend Tiffany, who runs Offbeat + Inspired, one of my favorite blogs. She and I had struck up a friendship over the summer when we co-hosted a dinner in Lexington, KY, where she lives. She had an urgent question: "Can you go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with me and my blogger friend Jana?"

Jackson Hole?! I LOVE Jackson Hole. I'd been with my family before, but it was, well...almost 20 years ago. My only memory of it was that I absolutely adored it. The mountains, the horses, the winding roads... It's paradise. The catch? I had to leave in a week. Some things, though, just work out, and I got the time off work to head to Wyoming with a good friend, and a soon-to-be good friend to shoot a video for Jeep.

I've gotten a few really opportunities since MasterChef ended, but this one was by far the most epic. I won't work with brands I don't believe in; I really, really like Jeep. So to get to drive around a brand-spanking-new (red!) Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel through one of the most gorgeous places on earth with two of the coolest chicks I know? Sign me up. Full disclosure (because advertising lawyers are scary–trust me, I know): I got paid to do this; the whole trip is sponsored by Jeep. (But let me be the first to tell you: it didn't feel like work!)

Without further ado: here's the video!

The idea: we'd be "glamping" (glamorous + camping = Glamping). We'd visit local shops to style our gorgeous campsite, create a fabulous outdoor meal with the help of a world-class chef, and snap as many photos as we could along the way. All in all, not a bad gig, right? The weather was gorgeous; the scenery was postcard-perfect; and the company was superb. We started our Jackson Journey as friends; we ended it as sisters.

The real highlight for me (food nerd that I am) was visiting a local farm to dig up–literally–ingredients for our dinner. The closest I get to farming in New York City is visiting the Union Square Greenmarket. But actually digging up beets and carrots myself? That was untrodden territory. The work we did on the farm (note: we did about .001% of what the workers there do on a given day) gave me a real understanding of the sheer amount of human effort it takes to grow the delicious ingredients we cooks often take for granted. Working on a farm is no joke, and I walked away with an even deeper appreciation for the men and women who give life to the things I rely on to live my passion.

The dinner itself was gorgeous. Picture it: golden sunset light filtering through the aspen trees, California rosé sparkling like a pink gemstone in everyone's glasses, and horses galloping by in the near distance as we toasted to new friends and our beautiful surroundings.

The best times we had in Jackson Hole were the moments I could never do justice to in any photo or caption: cruising down the mountain-lined roads with friends, giggling and giddy, music turned up, laughing at newly-minted inside jokes and stopping for bad gas station coffee. Of all the good things that have come my way since MasterChef ended, going on this adventure with Tiffany and Jana tops the list–no contest.

But it wouldn't be an adventure without food, right?! We were incredibly lucky to get to work with Chef Wes Hamilton, a local chef with a really impressive resumé. He's the real deal: he runs the Couloir restaurant, one of the most respected in Wyoming. He's got mad skills, and he's a super humble dude. It was an honor to help him prepare the camp meal.

We also visited Persephone Bakery, an adorable and cozy space filled with the most delicious pastries and freshly baked bread you could imagine. While others sipped tea and nibbled on brioche buns, we bopped around with our phones and cameras, snapping pics (bloggers gonna blog, am I right?). We also learned how to make marshmallows from scratch; I usually hate marshmallows, but when they're freshly made, it's a whole other ball game. They were light, ethereal, and scrumptious. Just goes to show, no matter how much you know about cooking, there is always something new to learn, and I left feeling completely inspired–or maybe that was just the sugar high ;-)

Below, I've included some recipes for a meal inspired by the one we made with Chef Wes (we enjoyed bread from Persephone to start the meal). These are not exactly what we and Chef Wes created, but they're in the same spirit. Enjoy!

Thanks for coming along on our Jackson Journey. I can't wait to share more post-MasterChef journeys with all of you! Happy cooking!



1 hanger steak for every 2 guests you want to serve
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh parsley, minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
a few bunches farm-fresh baby carrots (rainbow carrots if you can find them), peeled and halved
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 bunches fresh mustard greens, chopped
1/2 white onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
loaf of fresh bread, sliced, for serving and sharing


1. Heat a Dutch oven or large pan over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pan, then add the carrots, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down and stir in the sugar. Stir to melt. Add a little water, turn the heat down, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender.

2. Heat another Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Melt the 2 T. olive oil with the 2 T. butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the sherry vinegar to deglaze. Add the mustard greens and about a cup of water. Turn the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until the greens are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Fire up a grill (if you're outside). If you're inside, get a grill pan screaming hot. Ideally bring your steak to room temp, and liberally season it with salt and pepper. Place it on the oiled grill and leave it–don't touch. Flip it after 3-4 minutes (maybe less if the steak is very thin; more if it's quite thick). Cook on the other side until the steak is medium-rare or cooked to your liking. Set aside on a cutting board to rest.


The Butteriest All-Butter Pie Crust + Apple Pie Recipe!

Sing it with me: It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And no, I’m not talking about reindeer, jingle bells, or majestic conifers. I’m talking about BUTTER SEASON! November officially kicks off that two-month span when it’s totally acceptable to do nothing but wear your fluffiest socks and stay inside all day, baking up a storm. Yes, it gets dark at 5 PM, but if it means I can be elbows-deep in butter for two months straight, I’ll take it.

What better way to kick off this glorious season of baking than with an apple pie? A gorgeous, homemade, lattice-topped pie fresh out of the oven is like a warm hug from your Grandma. I love that it’s as classic as it gets, but it’s still possible to put your own stamp on it. My version has a cheddar crust (BECAUSE CHEESE!), a warm spice mix to punch up the apples inside, and a maple-bourbon whipped cream (trust me on this one–it’s a showstopper).

Spiced Apple Pie with Organic Valley Butter and whipped cream made from Organic Valley heavy cream.

Spiced Apple Pie with Organic Valley Butter and whipped cream made from Organic Valley heavy cream.

Speaking of showstoppers, this is a really exciting post for me, because I got to work with an amazing stop motion artist to turn my pie recipe into an amazing video! Check out how epic/adorable this is: 

When you’re making an all-butter crust for pie (as I prefer to do), the quality of the butter is really important. Pie crust is really just butter, flour, and water, so the better your butter tastes, the better your crust will taste. I bake with Organic Valley salted butter. Some cooks prefer unsalted butter, but I like my crusts on the savory side, so the salted variety works for me.

Use a really good quality cheddar for this. And don't buy pre-shredded–put some muscle into it!

Use a really good quality cheddar for this. And don't buy pre-shredded–put some muscle into it!

The key to a super flaky crust: visible chunks of Organic Valley butter. And channeling your grandma's energy, of course.

The key to a super flaky crust: visible chunks of Organic Valley butter. And channeling your grandma's energy, of course.

Butter is one of those ingredients where I can tell a HUGE difference in flavor between organic and conventional–there’s just something about organic butter that tastes more, well, buttery! And there are plenty of reasons to use organic dairy besides just that it tastes better: cows that are treated well, farms that respect nature’s delicate balance, and no sketchy additives snuck in along the way, to name a few. 

I know you’ll love this recipe–tell me how yours turned out in the comments! Happy Butter Season, everyone! And happy baking!

Lemon zest adds a nice, bright kick.

Lemon zest adds a nice, bright kick.

QUICK TIP: Transfer your bottom dough from your work surface to your pie plate by rolling it around your rolling pin, then unrolling on top of your pie plate. Tear off a piece of raw dough and use it to pat the dough down into the pie plate edges.

QUICK TIP: Transfer your bottom dough from your work surface to your pie plate by rolling it around your rolling pin, then unrolling on top of your pie plate. Tear off a piece of raw dough and use it to pat the dough down into the pie plate edges.



2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
pinch kosher salt
1 cup cold Organic Valley butter, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 cup grated extra sharp, good quality cheddar
5-6 Tablespoons ice-cold water
Sugar for sprinkling 


1.    Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Rub in the butter or use a pastry cutter to mix the butter into the flour, leaving visible butter chunks throughout. Add the cheese and mix around with your hands. Add the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.

2.    Turn the fough out onto a lightly floured board and fold it over itself a couple times, pushing the dough together with your hands so it sticks in a ball, but not kneading it or over working it. Fold it over a couple times until you can form it into a circular, flattened shape that's not too sticky. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.


6 firm apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of cardamom
pinch of cloves
zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons Organic Valley butter
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk 


1. Preheat the oven to 425.

2. Toss the apples with the sugars, spices, lemon zest, and flour.

3.  Roll out 1/2 the pie dough in a circle that's about 12" round.

4.  Transfer the dough to a 9" pie plate and press down gently so the dough gets into the pie pan crease. Fill the dough with the apples.

5.    Dot the remaining butter on top of the pie filling

6.    Roll out the remaining dough to another 12" circle. Cut the circle into 1" wide strips. Lay the first strip long ways across the top of the pie; place the next strip horizontally along the bottom of the pie. Continue to layer the strips, lifting up alternate strips as you go to weave the topping into a lattice, until the pie is covered, with spaces in between the pie weave.

7.    Fold the edges of the bottom crust over the edges of the lattice, pressing together to seal the crusts.

8.    Brush the entire top of the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 25 minutes at 425, then lower the heat to 350 and bake for 45 more minutes. Cool to room temperature before slicing.


1/4 cup good-tasting bourbon
2 T. pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 pint Organic Valley heavy whipping cream 

Use the best ingredients in your whipped cream; this is not the time to cut corners! I use Organic Valley heavy whipping cream, Bulleit bourbon, and pure Vermont maple syrup. Good in, good out.

Use the best ingredients in your whipped cream; this is not the time to cut corners! I use Organic Valley heavy whipping cream, Bulleit bourbon, and pure Vermont maple syrup. Good in, good out.


1.    In a saucepan, boil the bourbon until it's reduced to 2 Tablespoons. Stir in the maple syrup and cook for a few more minutes. Cool to room temperature.

2.    Meanwhile, whip the heavy whipping cream with the cinnamon in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Stir in the maple-bourbon mix with a spatula. Refrigerate until ready to use.


How To Give Leftovers New Life + Spiced-Up Brunch Recipe!

Growing up, my brothers and I firmly believed that my mom only served leftovers. We somehow forgot about all the meals she made throughout the week that inevitably culminated in one night of cleaning out the fridge. As my mom knew all too well, wasting food is such a bummer, and I try to avoid it as much as I can. Cooking as often as I do for just myself and Ross leads to inevitable excess, however, so I try to be as creative and crafty as possible when it comes to using up ingredients and scraps. I like to think of opening the fridge as my at-home version of lifting up the Mystery Box.

Just like when I'm making a meal from ingredients I just bought, when I remix leftovers into a new creation, I stick roughly to the protein/carb/vegetable/sauce formula. I try to keep my flavors geographically harmonious (i.e., if I have leftover ginger, bok choy, and rice, I stick to Asian flavors; if I have tomatoes, mozzarella, and bread crumbs, I keep it Italian in spirit). I always strive for a flavor and texture balance; can I get savory, spicy, sour, and sweet notes into my dish? Can I make it crunchy, chewy, and smooth, so I'm varying what I bite into as I eat? It's not always possible to do all of those things, but I try to accomplish at least a couple.

This brunch dish was inspired by a few mostly-empty jars and almost-gone fresh ingredients that had accumulated over the week: half an avocado, the last quarter cup or so of heavy cream, a mostly empty jar of capers, two lonely eggs, and some bread that was threatening to go stale if I didn't toast it. With the addition of a little harissa (which lasts forever in the fridge) to bring in a spicy, intriguing element, and some fresh cilantro to brighten everything up, a delicious savory breakfast was born. A little Italian, a little North African, a little New American–it has it all. And I had it all just sitting around!

So don't fear what's in your fridge–use it! Get creative, and remember: when in doubt, EVERYTHING goes with eggs. Happy cooking!



- 2-3 slices soppressata or other leftover cured meat, cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 slice good quality bread
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 teaspoon prepared harissa
- about 1/3 cup heavy cream
- fresh cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and then the soppressata. Cook the soppressata for a few minutes, until it's crisping up and some of the fat has started to render out.

2. Add the capers and the eggs. Scramble the eggs, then set aside and wipe the pan out, but leave the heat on.

3. Toast the bread and slice up the avocado.

4. Put the harissa in the still-hot pan. Whisk in the cream and cook for a few minutes, until the sauce is reduced and thick.

5. Put the avocado on top of the toast, and put the scramble on top of the avocado. Top it with the sauce and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

My New Ingredient Obsession + Easy Party Snack Recipe

If I'm feeling like I need an infusion of cooking inspiration, I go ingredient hunting. Finding that one, special new thing I haven't cooked with before can be the catalyst for dozens of new recipe ideas. This ingredient, however, found me: Calabrian peppers, my newest obsession. A friend brought them over for a pizza night at my place, and I was instantly hooked after the first taste.

These tiny, red little bundles of joy pack the perfect amount of heat, balanced by a pleasingly salty, vinegary bite. They hail from Calabria, Italy (the toe of the boot!), a place where they take spice very seriously. Lest you think these peppers are simply a spice-addict's dream, they're so much more than that; they're deeply flavorful and surprisingly complex. They're so tasty, I'm always tempted to eat them straight from the jar, but they're hot enough that they need to be tempered by something else. I've chopped them up and put them on pizza, I've stirred them into sauces, I've baked them into pasta, and now–as a woman on a mission to consume them in every possible form–I've figured out a way to both eat them for breakfast and serve them to party guests!


First, let's talk about the Calabrian pepper cream cheese. This isn't so much a recipe as it is two ingredients coming together to be more than the sum of their parts. Add the Calabrian peppers and some cream cheese to a food processor, mix, and presto! The most interesting cream cheese you've ever tasted. Your bagel routine will never be the same.


Anyone can slap some cream cheese on a bagel, so I wanted to use it in a more creative way. Knowing that holiday party season is just around the corner, I thought that snackable party food was the perfect way to go. I had some leftover pizza dough and sopressata (also from pizza night), so it all came together with the Calabrian pepper cream cheese. Once you have the pizza dough made, this recipe is unbelievably simple. You could whip it up for a party in 30 minutes flat. Full recipe below. Happy cooking!



2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
10-15 Calabrian peppers, top stems removed


Place the peppers and cream cheese in a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides with a spatula as necessary, until evenly mixed.



1 ball pizza dough [I use this recipe]
1/2 cup Calabrian pepper cream cheese, or more as needed
12-15 slices Sopressata, sliced into 1-inch by 1/2-inch strips
grated Parmesan cheese
fresh thyme leaves for garnish (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Get a baking sheet ready and line it with parchment paper.

2. Roll the dough out till it's about 1/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1-inch wide strips. The average ball of dough will yield 8-10 strips.

3. Use a spoon to spread the cream cheese along the length of each strip of the dough. Place strips of the sopressata along the cream cheese, pressing down slightly to make them adhere to the cream cheese.

4. Grab the dough strips by each end, and twist them around a few times to make the dough into a loose corkscrew shape. The cream cheese will help the sopressata adhere, but a few strips may fall off; you can just tuck them back in once the dough is on the baking sheet.

5. Lay each twist on the baking sheet and grate Parmesan cheese over each of them.

6. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and fully cooked. Remove from the oven, cool, and serve!

Acorn Squash Two Ways: A Subtly Sweet Cake + Savory Soup

Winter squash is pure sorcery. Every time I cut into a butternut squash, I think about that old fable where the porridge pot overflows until it destroys an entire town in its mushy wake. You buy a squash and think, "Hm. This squash is a reasonable size." And then you take it home and start cutting into it, and you realize, as your kitchen counter becomes completely overtaken with pale orange cubes, that you have purchased the never-ending squash. After a cooking gig I did recently, I had a squash glut on my hands: kabocha, delicata, acorn, butternut. It was taking over my counter space. And my life. Something had to give.

Since a single squash yields so much edible goodness, I knew I couldn't tackle my squash issue with just one recipe. To conquer the squash, I had to puree. I had to bake. I had to get really creative. I was perusing cake recipes and found a pumpkin yogurt cake that sounded delicious. Rather than schlep out to buy a can of pumpkin puree, I replaced the pumpkin with the same amount of roasted, mashed acorn squash (me: 1; squash: 0). And with the remaining acorn squash that remained, I threw it (along with some carrots that were haunting my veggie drawer) into a big pot with some chicken stock, spices, and coconut milk, and I had myself a soup (I'm now facing a soup glut, but that's another story...).

The soup is rich, slightly sweet, warming, and exotic–the perfect bowl of healthy yumminess to curl up with on a crisp day. And the cake came out great. Not too sweet, with an earthy "what is that?" quality that makes it really unique. With a cup of good coffee, it's sublime.

More good news: both these recipes are incredibly easy. So if you find yourself with an abundance of winter squash, don't panic. Keep calm and cook on. Happy cooking!



2 tablespoons coconut oil (other other oil)
1 small onion, cut into chunks
1 acorn squash, peel removed and cut into chunks (or other hard winter squash)
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 jalapeno, diced, with seeds (or removed seeds or omit if you don't like heat)
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 box low-salt chicken broth
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. turmeric
salt and black pepper
cilantro and sliced jalapeno for garnish


1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and jalapeno, seasoning with salt and pepper, for a few minutes, until getting a little soft.

2. Add the carrots and squash, then add the spices and more salt and pepper. Stir around, coating in the oil.

3. Add the coconut milk and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook until the squash and carrots are very tender.

4. With a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the squash/onion/carrots out of the cooking liquid and into a food processor, and process, using a little cooking liquid if needed, until you have a smooth puree. (You might have to do this in two batches).

5. Return the puree to the cooking liquid and stir until mixed. Thin out with a little more chicken broth if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning. Reheat to steaming and serve, garnishing with cilantro and sliced jalapeno if desired. Enjoy!


ACORN SQUASH YOGURT CAKE (adapted slightly from


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (I used salted)
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup roasted and mashed acorn squash (or pumpkin puree, or other squash puree)
1 cup Greek yogurt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Butter a 12-cup bundt pan (or spray with nonstick spray) and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine, flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder, mixing to combine.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add sugar, vanilla extract, and butter, and mix until fluffy.

5. Beat in eggs one at a time.

6. Add yogurt and squash puree and mix until combined.

7. Add dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until just incorporated.

8. Scoop into bundt pan and bake for about an hour, until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

9. Cool for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or cooling rack. Let cool, then slice and enjoy!

Wake & Bake: Confessions of a Morning Person + My Cozy Baking Style!

I know so many midnight bakers. There seems to be something about late nights that brings the bakers out of the woodworks. Me? I like my cakes to rise as the sun does. As a passionate cook with a demanding day job, I have to bake in the off hours. While many creative people are born night owls, I’m a total morning person–I do my best work in the hours right after I wake up (after a cup of coffee, of course. I’m a morning person, but I’m not crazy).

If I bake at night, I tend to rush through the process, measure inaccurately, and generally do a mediocre job. I like to bake when my brains sharpest, because that leads to better, tastier things coming out of my oven. My whole apartment fills with delicious aromas, and my husband gets to wake up to something warm and cozy for breakfast.

I like to really lean into the cozy style vibes when I bake, too–it's ok to look cute while you cook! In these photos, shot by the lovely @danny_0cean, Im wearing striped cotton pants (with a little stretch for those peeking-into-the-oven moments), a lightweight plaid button down, and a comfy, homey apron (more stripes!) that makes me feel like a chic Suzy Homemaker. It was a drizzly day, so for my commute work, muffins packed to share with coworkers, I threw on my new(ish) vest that is so soft and cozy, I've considered making it do double duty as a throw blanket. (All pieces are from Anthropologie.)

This muffin recipe is simple, nutritious, and satisfying. The oatmeal really rounds out the muffin and makes them filling–this isnt just a throwaway breakfast. Its very lightly sweet, which means youre not crashing mid-morning, and the texture is super moist–youll want to go back for seconds.

Whether you bake these first thing, or make them the night before to enjoy as youre rushing out the door, these muffins are the perfect fuel for a day well spent. Hopefully, youll find the process of making them as nourishing as the muffins themselves. Happy baking!



2 cups rolled oats
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. allspice
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 large egg
2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled and cored
extra rolled oats for garnish

Yields: 12 muffins.


1.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray, then line it with paper baking cups.

2.    In a bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

3.    Cut the apple into chunks and pulse in a food processor until theyre fairly small, but not pulverized. You want to be able to see the apple chunks in the muffins. Reserve a couple tablespoons for topping the muffins.

4.    In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a mixing bowl using a whisk), mix the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, and apples. Whisk until combined.

5.    Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix until just combined.

6.    Spoon the batter into the muffin liners, filling them almost, but not quite, to the top. Sprinkle some oats and reserved apple on top of each muffin. Top with a dash or cinnamon on each muffin.

7.    Bake about 22-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

My Baking Strategy: How to Use the Riches of the Internet to Fuel Your Baking Fire

Let me be clear: when I bake, I don't invent the recipes. I am able to create the delicious baked things I make because of the tireless efforts of the millions of dedicated bakers who've come before me. Let us all pause to thank the internet gods that we live in a world where you can Google a recipe for literally anything. [Gratitude pause.]

When I bake, I simply do my research. I usually start with a vague idea of what I'm going to make (cake, cookies, brownies, etc.), and just Google recipes until I find one I like. My criteria for picking a good recipe are: a) is the recipe from a trusted source, such as a popular cooking blog or website? b) is it highly rated, with mostly positive reviews? and c) does it seem to fit my idea, or does it veer too far away from my concept?

When I was deciding on these cupcakes, I knew I wanted to take the idea of a Pumpkin Spice Latte and turn it into a cupcake. I knew that there were plenty of pumpkin spice recipes on the internet, and I assumed there were espresso frosting recipes. It's both incredibly freeing and slightly soul-crushing that any recipe I could ever think of is already Google-able. But that's the great thing about baking–someone else has drawn the roadmap, and you just have to stop for those scenic opportunities along the way.

I used a pumpkin spice cake recipe from Sally's Baking Addition–a baking blog I highly recommend–and a frosting recipe I found on Group Recipes. From there, it was up to me to tweak and adjust as I saw fit (my recipe below reflects the changes I made). Baking is science, but it's still up to you as a cook to feel it out and go with your gut–and your tastebuds. I thought 4 cups of powdered sugar in the frosting recipe sounded like overkill, so I added the sugar a cup at a time and tasted it after each addition. For me, 3 cups made it plenty sweet. For you, maybe you think it needs that extra cup. In the cake recipe, I roughly doubled the amount of the pumpkin pie spice mix the recipe called for, because I love spicy, intense flavors. It tasted awesome to me, but if you want to use less spice mix, do so. It's all up to your personal preference.

Remember that in baking, just like in savory cooking, tasting every step of the way is key–so go on, lick the batter off the spoon ;-) YOU know best what you and your family will love, so tweak things as you go. Soon, you'll have YOUR very own recipes to call favorites. Happy baking!


[For the pumpkin pie spice mix]

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1.5 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

[For the cake batter]

1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice mix
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk

[For the frosting]

2 sticks of butter, softened
One 8-oz. package cream, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
about 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
cinnamon for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners and spray the edges of the pan with nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice mix together.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, oil, milk, and eggs. Use the whisk attachment and whisk till combined; scrape down the bowl sides and whisk just a little longer.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer and whisk until JUST combined (do not overmix) -- you can also just do this by hand with a spatula.

5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins and bake about 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in a cupcake comes out clean.

6. While the cupcakes are baking, wipe out the stand mixer bowl and add the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and espresso powder to the bowl. Using the paddle attachment, whip until well incorporated. Add the sugar about a cup at a time, and whip until it's light and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip if you're going to pipe the frosting on.

7. Remove cupcake from oven and cool to room temperature. Pipe the frosting on each one and top with a dusting of cinnamon. Enjoy!

Doing It The Hard Way: Why It's Worth It To Make It From Scratch

I've always loved the phrase "labor of love." I like it because it's honest: love is work. And things that are too easy probably aren't as great as they seem. This pasta dish is that expression made edible. It isn't difficult per se; it just takes time. As an insufferably impatient person, I think that the act of making pasta from scratch and simmering sauce for hours is a valuable exercise in discipline and self-control. Perhaps after a lifetime of making pappardelle, I can call myself a patient soul (ironically, only time will tell).

Believe me, I'm as tempted as you are to cut corners. It would be so easy–so much quicker!–to just grab the dried pasta from the pantry. Time truly is the ultimate luxury. If you have it, spend it doing something that fulfills you and nourishes you. Maybe even something that challenges you. Or simply doing something that relaxes you. Making this from-scratch pappardelle and slow-simmered beef shank ragu, for me, is a way to do all those things. And it's way cheaper than therapy.

The thing about from-scratch home cooking is the sense of pride you have when it's done. Any old thing can quell your appetite–but something that feeds your soul? To me, it's worth the time it takes to make something really special. I think that doing things the hard way–the way our grandmothers had to do them–is a way of showing gratitude. Gratitude to the earth, for giving us delicious gifts. Gratitude to the creators and craftsmen before us who forged the tools and techniques that yield amazing meals. And gratitude to ourselves, for allowing time for reflection, relaxation, and indulgence.

So if you make this at home (and you should, because it's so, so yummy), I hope the ritual of doing it the hard way brings you peace and satisfaction. Because it will certainly bring you back to the kitchen for seconds. Happy cooking!

Servings: 4 generously, 6 more reasonably


 [for the meat ragu]
2 T. grapeseed oil
2 one-inch-thick beef shank pieces, cut horizontally (across the bone) [or substitute 1.5 lb. stew beef of your choice]
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. tomato paste
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 28-oz. cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crushed with your hands
leaves picked from 5 sprigs of thyme
semolina flour for sprinkling
grated Grana Padano for serving

[for the fresh papardelle]

3 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
4 eggs
big pinch of salt
1 T. olive oil
1-2 tsp. water if needed


 1.    Make the sauce: In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Liberally salt and pepper each beef shank, then sear in the oil on both sides until nicely browned. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate.

2.    Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the fat in the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.

3.    Add the tomato paste. Cook, stirring to coat all the vegetables, for about 2 minutes.

4.    Add the red wine and stir the pot with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits from the pot. Boil the wine until it’s reduced by half.

5.    Add the tomatoes to the pot, crushing them with your hands as you go.

6.    Nestle the beef shanks (along with any liquid from the plate) back into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, about 2 hours, occasionally stirring the pot.

7.    After about two hours, the meat should have started to come loose from the shank bones. Remove the meat and bones from the sauce to a cutting board. With a knife, fully separate the meat from the bones and cut the meat into chunks. Return the meat and bones to the pot and cook for another hour.

8.    After cooking for about 3 hours, remove the bones and any large, visible pieces of cartilage from the pot and discard. With tongs, remove the meat chunks to the cutting board, and with two forks, pull the meat apart into small pieces (this should be very easy now).

9.    Return meat and all juice to the pot and continue to simmer for another half hour. Taste and adjust seasoning (the sauce may need more salt). Simmer until ready to serve.

10. While the sauce is cooking, make the pasta: on a large cutting board or clean countertop, place the flour in a mound and make a deep well in the center of the flour pile. Crack the eggs into the well, add the salt and olive oil, and use a fork to whisk the eggs, incorporating the flour from the edge of the well, until it comes together in a shaggy mass.

11. Knead the dough until it comes together, kneading for about 7-10 minutes, until it’s a smooth ball. Sometimes the dough gets really tough to knead; if it does, simply let it sit on the cutting board for about 5 minutes until it loosens up, then continue kneading.

12. Cover pasta dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

13. Cut dough into 8 equal sized pieces. Get a pasta roller ready (I use the hand-cranked kind, but an electric one is good, too). Run the pasta dough through the widest pasta setting. If it seems sticky, dust with a little flour. Run it through a second time, then turn the machine to the next setting. Run the pasta dough through each setting twice, reducing the width each time. Stop one number before the thinnest setting.

14. When you have rolled out each piece of dough, cut the pieces into 8” long strips, trimming the raggedy edges with your knife. Using your knife, cut the pasta into 1”-wide ribbons. Alternately, you could use a wide noodle setting on your pasta machine to cut the strips, but I like the rusticity of the hand-cut noodles. They should all be about the same size to ensure even cooking, but a little variance makes it homey. Lay the pasta out on parchment paper or use a pasta drying rack. After about 30 minutes, sprinkle the noodles with semolina pasta and pile into a loose nest until ready to use.

15. When you’re ready to serve the pasta, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Ladle some meat ragu into the pan. Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook the pappardelle for a few minutes, until it’s al dente (2-3 minutes should do it).

16. Use a spider or slotted spoon to remove the pasta from the water, draining it as you go. Place into the sauce in the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon while shaking the pan to gently coat the noodles with the sauce. Transfer to a shallow bowl for serving, and top with grated Grana Padano. Enjoy!

Easy Peasy: Simple Stew & a Creamy, Dreamy Cocktail

Sometimes, I forget: it doesn't always have to be complicated. I love recipes and ingredients, and sometimes I find myself managing a pot on every burner plus something in the oven. I love over-the-top meals, but some nights you want to just get to the part where you scarf it all down.

This stew is perfect for those I'm-so-tired-I-almost-fell-asleep-on-the-subway nights. Those please-lord-send-an-angel-to-unload-my-dishwasher nights. And yes, those I-don't-feel-like-cooking-but-if-I-eat-Thai-takeout-one-more-time-I'll-go-crazy nights. It takes one pot and one baking sheet (which I cover with parchment, so you don't have to wash it). It's done in about 30 minutes, and you won't be shopping for an ingredient list that rivals a Tolstoy tome.

So embrace the simplicity. Because when you layer flavors–savory, spicy, acidic, rich, and fresh–you don't have to do much else. You can simply enjoy it. 



2 T.olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 large poblano peppers
1 serrano pepper, minced
1 pound ground pork
salt and pepper
2 T. cumin
about 6 cups chicken stock
juice of 2 limes
about 2 T. sherry vinegar
1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch cilantro (3/4 of the bunch chopped for the stew, 1/4 reserved for garnish)
sour cream and queso fresco for garnish


1. Put oven to broil and place a rack on the top level. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Broil the poblano peppers on one side till they're blackened and bubbling (I mean REALLY blackened). Flip over and blacken the other side. When poblanos are done, remove from oven, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to steam for 15 minutes, then remove the skins (they should peel off easily). Remove the stems and seeds, then roughly chop.

2. In a large dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion, seasoning with salt and pepper, until beginning to soften. Add the pork, more salt and pepper, the serrano, and the cumin. Brown the pork, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add chicken stock and sweet potatoes. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce to medium heat.

3. Add the beans and poblano peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and sherry vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve in shallow bowls, and top with sour cream, queso fresco, cilantro leaves, and serve with hot sauce if you want. Enjoy!

And as for the Russian S'more? I'm pleased as punch with myself for whipping this little baby up on a whim. A word of caution: this drink is not for the teetotalers and lightweights among us. It tastes like a sweet campfire memory, but it hits you like hail on a nylon tent. It's the kind of cocktail you'll only want one of–it's rich, it's sweet, and it's strong. I named it after that old classic, the White Russian, because it's made with half & half. And the S'mores element comes from Marshmallow flavored vodka, chocolate liqueur, and a graham cracker crumb rim.

Grab some good friends, build yourself a backyard campfire, don your most autumnal flannels, and sip a S'more! Cheers to my favorite season, Fall!


1/4 cup Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow vodka
1/4 cup Godiva chocolate liqueur
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
small marshmallows
grated chocolate and cinnamon, for garnish


Lightly wet the edge of a cocktail glass. Dip the rim in crushed graham crackers. In a cocktail shaker (or, if you're like me, and don't have one, just use a pitcher or jar), add the vodka, liqueur, and half & half. Add ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a mug or glass over ice, being careful to avoid splashing the rim, and garnish with marshmallows, grated chocolate, and cinnamon. (If it's too strong for you, add a little more half & half or ice.)

By Request: Olive Oil Cake & Cauliflower Trio

People ask me all the time: What was my favorite MasterChef moment? It was, by far, cooking for 50 of this country's most renowned chefs. Getting to team up with Jaimee and Victoria (both of whom I'm friends with in real life) was amazing; it was like we were cooking together on a leisurely Sunday afternoon! And when the kitchen doors the words of Gordon Ramsay, "Wow. Wow wow wow." We were blown away.

I think the red snapper and cauliflower trio dish was probably the most sophisticated thing I cooked all season–but the surprise is, it's something most people could make at home! Besides getting the fish skin really crispy, there's nothing about the technique of the dish that any home cook couldn't replicate. And now, you'll be able to make a cauliflower trio that's very similar to the one we made for the judges and chefs. The rules of the show permit us from sharing the EXACT recipes, but this one will really hit the spot. Trust me, if you serve this up with a nice piece of baked fish or braised lamb, your guests will insist that you audition for the next season of MasterChef ;-)



2 heads of cauliflower [NOTE: on the show, we had access to a HUGE range of produce; I used white, purple, and orange cauliflower in my three different preparations; I couldn't find them to make the recipe recently, but trust me: the flavor is no different. If you can find three colors, great! If not, just use white cauliflower for all 3 versions]
1/2 gallon whole milk
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
about 2 T. olive oil
about 3 T. currants (or raisins, or omit this entirely)
2-3 T. prepared harissa (a spicy North African condiment)
drizzle of olive oil

1. CAULIFLOWER PUREE: Bring the milk to a boil with some salt in a large pot. Boil one head of cauliflower florets till they're very, very tender. Have a food processor ready; using a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower from the cooking milk into the food processor (it's ok if there is some extra liquid; this will help the puree be smooth). Puree until very smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

2. CAULIFLOWER "COUSCOUS": This is cauliflower that has been made to look like the Mediterranean semolina pasta, couscous. Use half a head of cauliflower for this. First, cut it into florets. Place the florets in a food processor, and pulse until the cauliflower resembles couscous. In a pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the cauliflower with the parsley and currants, seasoning with salt and pepper, until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy.

3. HARISSA-ROASTED CAULIFLOWER: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss half a head of cauliflower florets with the harissa and olive oil until coated. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until very tender, about 20 minutes.

Not to toot my own horn, but I felt really good about my finale dessert. I came into the competition feeling less than confident about my baking and dessert skills, so it felt like a real triumph to pull off a big finish in the final round. That dessert was quite complicated, with several pieces involved, but this is a simplified version of the cake that maintains the same exotic spirit as the original.

Semolina cake, brushed with warm syrup, is a classic dessert eaten throughout the Middle East. It's very lightly sweet, with an almost cornbread-esque texture. It's the kind of cake you could very easily eat several pieces of–sorry about that, folks. Despite its exotic origins, the recipe is simple. I based it on a recipe from Yottam Ottolenghi's excellent cookbook, Jerusalem (a must-buy for any fan of Middle Eastern flavors). I made several changes to his recipe, reflected in my version below, most notably, incorporating grapefruit as the citrus element. That said, you could use lemon, orange, and even lime. This cake is very forgiving and truly a bit of a canvas for creativity. Hope you enjoy!



3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 cup apricot marmalade
4 large eggs
grated zest of 1 grapefruit
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1.5 Tablespoons semolina
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
pinch of cardamom
about 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
about 3 T. sugar
chopped almonds, for garnish

1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 cup sugar


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the olive oil, grapefruit juice, marmalade, eggs, zest, and sugar. Whisk all together until well incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (flour through baking powder). Reduce the mixing speed to low and add the dry ingredients. The batter will be quite wet.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" round cake tin. Pour batter into tin and bake 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

4. While the cake is baking, make the syrup: in a pot over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the grapefruit juice. Set aside and keep warm.

5. When the cake comes out of the oven, poke the cake all over with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Pour half the syrup over the cake and let it soak in. Wait a few minutes then pour the rest of the syrup over it. Let cool.

6. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and cardamom until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the yogurt until incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use. When cake is cool, spread the cream-yogurt mixture over the cake. Garnish with chopped almonds and an additional sprinkle of cardamom.

Why You Should Be Eating Seasonally + Butternut Squash Gnocchi Recipe!

Growing up, the concept of "seasonal eating" was completely foreign to me. By the late 80's, Americans lived in a world where you could get strawberries in January, squash in March, and corn in May. In fact, you could get any fruit or vegetable at any time. To me, the season determined little more than my outfits.

While I'm thankful that we live in a world where you can get any fruit or veggie your heart desires year-round (for instance, the cauliflower 3 ways I cooked in the MasterChef top 3 challenge–that was filmed in March), it's quite taxing on the environment to grow everything all the time. Ever noticed how MOST apples are mealy?! That's because they're ripe in autumn (Run! Don't walk! Go get ALL the apples! Right now!). It saddens me that apples don't always taste good, but it reminds me that ultimately, we are part of Nature; we can't control it. A perfectly ripe apple in the crisp fall air? We humans just can't top that.

Which brings me to my point: I love the Earth, but I REALLY love the delicious things the earth gives us. And I love them when they're at their MOST delicious–which is when they're in season. Picture it: Roasted cauliflower and sauteed kale on a cold winter night; biting into that first sweet spring strawberry while wearing your first t-shirt of the year; a fresh summer watermelon on a hot day; and a sweet, fragrant roasted autumn squash. Perfection: just as Nature intended.

Right now is the best time to start your annual squash binge! And this recipe is a great place to start. See below for recipe and gnocchi-making tips!


- Use restraint with the flour; it's easy to add too much, and tempting, because it makes the dough easier to handle, but resist the urge! Or you'll end up with gummy gnocchi.

- In this recipe, don't skip the potato ricing step or the drying out of the butternut squash puree. You need as dry of a dough to start with as possible.

- Don't overwork your gnocchi dough. It doesn't get kneaded like bread; it gets gently rolled out. This is not the time to flex your dough muscles.

- The rule of thumb is: when they float, they're done. That's not ALWAYS the case, so check one before you wreck 'em all. Just taste one–if it's still doughy inside, let it cook a little longer.


[Makes about 4 servings]


- 1 butternut squash, about 1 pound
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 1 egg, beaten
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup parmesan
- about 1 and 3/4 cups flour (add more in sprinkle-fuls if the dough is just too wet to handle)
- a little more flour for sprinkling on your work surface


- 2 bunches kale, chopped
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 Italian sausages, removed from casing
- 4-6 tablespoons of butter
- 8-10 sage leaves, torn


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Poke holes in the potatoes with a fork. Roast the squash and potatoes together until they're both very tender. The potatoes will probably cook faster, so check those first. My squash took about 90 minutes, so give yourself time.

2. When the squash is a little cooler, puree it in a food processor. Transfer the puree to a dry pan and cook it about 5 minutes to get most of the moisture out. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes–the skin should come off easily. Then put the potatoes through a potato ricer into a bowl. The idea is that you have twice the amount of potato flesh (i.e., 2 cups potato, 1 cup squash) to butternut squash flesh, so you may have extra squash puree you don't use.

3. Add the egg, salt, and parmesan to the bowl with the potatoes and squash. Add the flour and mix it all together. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour a tablespoonful at a time. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Cut it into about 8 parts. Roll each part out into a skinny log. Cut each log into slices (rounded rectangles). If you want, roll each rectangle off the back of a fork's tines to get those cool lines. Place them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper, lightly flour them, then refrigerate till you are ready to boil them.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Meanwhile, brown your sausage in a pan, breaking it up into small pieces. When it's done, remove it and set aside in a bowl. Leave some fat in the pan. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes. Then add the kale and saute that until it's wilted, seasoning with salt and pepper. When done, add to the bowl with the sausage but keep that pan on.

5. Boil your gnocchi in a couple of batches. Test one when it floats; if it's done. strain them out with a slotted spoon. Add the butter to the pan the sausage was in. Let it melt and add the sage.

6. Strain your gnocchi out of the water and place them right in the pan with the sage and butter, without overcrowding the pan. If some are done before you have room in the pan, place them in a bowl until you're ready. Let them cook in the pan till they have a little color. Add some of your kale/sausage mixture and shake the pan to get it all mixed up. Repeat this till you have it all done. Serve in shallow bowls with more parmesan on top! Enjoy!

What "Deconstructing" Meals Can Teach Us About Creating The Perfect Plate + RECIPE!

For awhile there, everything was "deconstructed." There wasn't an upscale restaurant anywhere that wasn't hell-bent on taking classic concepts, stripping them down to their bare bones, and rebuilding them into something different. That basic premise–taking something familiar and reworking it–is the core of what chefs do with everything they create. There are a finite number of ingredients on the planet, but infinite ways to arrange them.

Now, seeing something "deconstructed" on a restaurant menu seems a little dated, but as a creative exercise, I think it's fun to play around with at home. I recently got to spend a great Friday night in with my dear friend Jaimee (yes, adorkable, tattooed Jaimee from MasterChef), cooking and drinking wine and catching up. We wanted to cook something that was not too involved (we wanted to hang out, after all!), delicious, not too expensive, but would also look great in pictures (we wanted to Instagram the final dish).

Chicken is always great for a wallet-conscious meal, and when Jaimee texted me to say she could bring biscuits she'd made from the restaurant where she works as a pastry chef, something just clicked in my mind: Deconstructed Chicken & Dumplings. From that initial idea, I simply had to work backward: I thought of each component of Chicken & Dumplings, then thought about how to integrate them into a complete plate that was inspired by the original dish but was altogether different.

The chicken would be a pan-roasted chicken leg, and the biscuits would be our dumplings. For the carrots, I wanted to do a simple roasted carrot (roasted carrots are so good, so easy, and just perfection). We decided on simply sauteed peas with shallots; for the celery, I thought we could do a quick-pickled celery for a garnish, and for the sauce, Jaimee contributed a sinfully delicious chorizo cream gravy (majorly yummy). And just like that, we had taken an old idea and made it new.

I think that the idea of "deconstructing" a dish (which really means examining each component of a dish and reworking how it would appear on the plate) is a great way to get more creative in the kitchen. Going through the mental exercise of breaking something familiar down into smaller components and then rebuilding the components can teach us a lot about what makes a great, tried-and-true recipe. I hope this recipe inspires you! Happy cooking!



2 skin-on, bone-in chicken legs
2 T. neutral oil
salt and pepper
1 T. butter

1/2 bag frozen peas
1 shallot, minced
1 T. butter
salt and pepper

Carrots (the kind that are skinny with the tops still attached)
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper

2 ribs celery, julienned
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. sugar

1 link raw pork chorizo (not the aged Spanish kind)
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. flour
about 1 cup milk
salt and pepper

2 fluffy buttermilk biscuits (try this recipe:


1. If you don't have pre-made biscuits brought to you by a MasterChef, bake your biscuits.

2. Make the chicken: pat the chicken dry thoroughly with a paper towel and liberally salt and pepper it, especially on the skin side. Heat oil in a pan. Add chicken, over medium high heat, skin-side down. Cook undisturbed until the skin is brown and crispy. Flip and finish cooking on the other side, covering the pan if necessary to cook the chicken through (make sure it's 165 degrees with a meat thermometer).

3. Roast the carrots: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss carrots with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast until tender and charred in places, about 35 minutes.

4. Make the peas: Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook a few minutes. Add peas and season with salt and pepper. Cook until hot and tender.

5. Make the pickled celery: in a pan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Place the celery matchsticks in a heatproof bowl and pour the liquid over top. Let them sit for about 10 minutes, then remove from the liquid and set aside.

6. Make the gravy: cook the chorizo with the shallot and garlic over medium high heat until browned. Sprinkle flour all over the meat and fat in the pan and cook for a few minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Cook till thick, stirring the whole time. Season with salt and pepper.

7. To plate: Spread some gravy on a plate. Place a biscuit on top. Lay the chicken on the biscuit. Scatter the peas around. Place the carrots by the chicken. Garnish with the celery.

Tangled Thai "Zoodle" Salad: A Great Excuse to Buy a Spiralizer

How can you resist something called ZOODLES?! It sounds like a line of neon Spandex clothing from the 80s! The word "zoodles" (a delightful portmanteau of zucchini and noodles) will be familiar to any of you who have researched Paleo diets, gluten-free recipes, or simply spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I'm not Paleo (you may recall why), and I'm definitely not gluten-free, but I'm always looking for ways to turn veggies into the true centerpiece of a meal–and zoodles are a way to do just that.

In order to make zoodles the way you see here, you'll need a spiralizer (pictured below this paragraph). This is the exact model I have, and I got it for about $30 on for the express purpose of making zoodles. You can also spiralize carrots, potatoes, squash–just about any oblong vegetable. You're only limited by your imagination. Don't get me wrong–I have no intention of replacing the noodles in my life with zoodles. Zoodles are simply another way I can enjoy noodles! MOAR NOODLES!!!

That said, if you're aspiring to a gluten-free or reduced gluten diet, are trying out Paleo or Whole 30, or simply want another way to enjoy delicious veggies, zoodles are for you! And this is a great, simple recipe that's as healthy as it is yummy. Enjoy and happy cooking!


Peanut Sauce (measurements are approximate, adjust to your preferred taste):
1/2 cup soy sauce
several dashes fish sauce
3 T. brown sugar or honey
1/3 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup warm water
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek or Sriracha)

2 large zucchini, spiralized into zoodles
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 large red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, sliced into very thin rings
1 fresno (or serrano or jalapeno) pepper, sliced into very thin rings (omit if you do not like spice)
fresh cilantro leaves
chopped roasted peanuts


1. Whisk all peanut sauce ingredients together. Taste and adjust: you may want it sweeter (add more honey), or tangier (add more rice wine vinegar or a squeeze of lime juice), or thicker (reduce the warm water and add more peanut butter), or spicier (add more chili paste). Leave to sit. The longer it sits, the better it tastes.

2. Boil some water and set a colander or fine mesh strainer above the pot (not touching the water). Place the zoodles in the strainer and steam for 4-5 minutes, until they're a little tender (do not oversteam or they will become mush–you can also skip this step and leave them raw if you like raw zucchini). Remove the colander, and when the zoodles are cool enough to touch, toss with a pinch of salt and leave in the sink to drain.

3. When they're done draining, gently squeeze them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Toss in a large bowl with the carrot, red bell pepper, onions, peanuts, and cilantro. Drizzle the sauce on top and toss again. Enjoy!


Fusion is Not a Four-Letter Word

One of the greatest things about being on MasterChef was getting to spend so much time with other food-obsessed people. Sure, they were our direct competitors, but people who are passionate about something generally find it hard not to talk about that thing when they’re around like-minded people. So, while it was probably not a great strategic move to share recipes and knowledge, we all did. We just couldn’t help ourselves.

A couple of my MasterChef friends who hailed from the New Orleans area introduced me to something called Corn Maque Choux (pronounced “Mock Shoe”). It’s a creamy, spicy side dish made with fresh corn, red bell peppers, and jalapenos. It’s the perfect late-summer side dish, and it had been on my mind lately because my husband loves corn (truly, you’ve never met a man more devoted to corn than he is).

However, being the stubbornly creative person that I am, I just couldn’t bring myself to simply make the dish. It was too easy. I wanted to take the spirit of Corn Maque Choux and build a meal around it. After a few days of rumination, a pasta craving helped put a fine point on what I wanted to make: pasta with a Corn Maque Choux-inspired sauce. I love corn and pasta together (I make a darn good fresh corn papardelle), and Cajun pastas are one of my favorite things on earth (relegated to chain restaurant menus though they may be).

The result ended up being something that had that elusive Emerilesque BAM!–a little Italian, a lot Cajun, and fully American. It’s “fusion,” but hopefully not in a contrived way. It’s simply two delicious things coming together to be greater than the sum of their parts. And if you want to make Corn Maque Choux the traditional way, don’t wait another second. It’s a super yummy side dish, and corn isn’t going to taste any better than it does right now.

My corn-loving husband’s verdict on this fusion creation? “I can’t stop eating this.” The highest praise indeed.



Inspiration: here’s a recipe for traditional Corn Maque Choux that I referenced: [link] 


For the poached chicken:

3 cups water

1 lemon


2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts

For the pasta:

3 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

1 and ½ red bell peppers, diced small

3 ears of fresh corn, boiled then kernels cut off

1 jalapeno, diced small, with or without seeds to your taste (seeds make it spicier)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T. paprika

½ cup dry white wine

1/3 cup reserved chicken poaching liquid

leaves of fresh thyme picked from 10-12 sprigs

pinch dried oregano

½ pint of heavy cream

salt and pepper

½ bunch cilantro, chopped

¾ lb. rigatoni



1.    Poach the chicken: bring water to a boil with a generous pinch of salt. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice in the water then just drop the lemon halves in. Bring down to medium heat, add chicken, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from poaching liquid (reserving the liquid) and cool until you can touch it, then pull the meat from the bones. Set aside.

2.    In a large pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 6-8 minutes, until getting soft.

3.   Add the corn, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, paprika, oregano, and thyme. Stir it around and cook it all together for 4-5 minutes. Add the white wine and reserved poaching liquid and turn the heat up to high. Cook until the liquid reduces by half and you can no longer taste raw wine (the alcohol taste must be gone).

4.    Add the heavy cream to the corn mixture. It will be quite liquidy at this point but you just keep the heat on high and reduce it until it’s thickened. Taste it and adjust seasoning.

5.   Boil the rigatoni in salted water. When they’re about 2 minutes shy of al dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly into the sauce (it’s ok if the pasta is dripping; you want some cooking liquid). Stir the pasta into the sauce and add a ladleful of pasta cooking water. The sauce should still be on high. Stir the pasta around, letting it finish cooking in the sauce. The pasta water will cook out and you may need to add more until the pasta is perfectly al dente.

6.    Stir in chicken. Serve in shallow bowls with fresh cilantro on top. Enjoy!

Flipping the Script: Getting Creative with Vegetarian Dishes

In advertising, we have a saying: give me the freedom of a tight brief. That means that when you're really clear about what you need me to create, I can actually be more creative than if you gave me a blank canvas. I think that's why I'm so inspired by vegetarian and vegan cooking: it's a tight brief. You have to think outside of the box a bit (at least for we omnivores). But that's where the genius happens, right?

I think that eating some vegetarian and vegan meals is a great way to achieve balance in your life. It gives your body a hiatus from breaking down all that animal protein, it gives the planet a little respite from the resource-heavy requirements of producing edible animals, and it gives your wallet a break–quality meat is expensive, but excellent zucchini is cheap and plentiful!

A lot of my friends do "Meatless Mondays." As a conscientious omnivore, I try to eat meat at only one meal a day (although sometimes, I don't adhere to this rule–which is why I try not to preach about it). As I've discussed before, I am a strong believer in the meat-in-moderation approach to eating, and I hope that this recipe shows you that you can conceptualize dishes in fun and unexpected ways when you take meat out of the equation.

The inspiration for this dish was definitely the iconic visual of spaghetti and meatballs–one of my all time favorite meals, and in my opinion, in the top ten best dishes in the world. But could I take that beloved classic and make vegetarian? I knew I could do it. And for me, the fun is always in the challenge. I was actually surprised just how tasty this ended up being! The zucchini noodles are actually awesome–I will definitely be adding them to my repertoire! And they couldn't be simpler. This was the first time I'd made falafel from scratch, and while I can't say it was perfect, my husband said it was the most delicious falafel he'd ever had. High praise from someone who LIVED on the stuff in college.

When it comes to healthy, vegetarian meals, let your imagination run wild! It just might take you to Yummyville :-)



3 large zucchini, made into noodles with a spiralizer (or julienned into thin strips)
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
glug of olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
about 1/2 cup red wine
1 can crushed tomatoes

For falafel (from this recipe:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons flour
  • Peanut oil for frying 

1. Make the marinara: Heat olive oil in a pot. Add onions and salt and pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with red wine. Add marinara and simmer for about an hour, adding a little water as needed if the sauce gets too thick. 

2. Place the chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.

3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

5. Steam the zucchini noodles: bring water in a large pot to a boil; place noodles in a colander or fine mesh strainer over the water, cover, and steam until noodles are tender. Toss the noodles with a little salt.

6. Place the noodles in a bowl. Top with a little marinara. Top with the falafel and garnish with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro and parsley.