Monthly Archives: August 2014

Bon Appetit’s Strawberry Pop Tarts

I was flipping through Bon Appetit yesterday and nearly fell over when I came across this recipe: homemade strawberry pop tarts. I started yelling to no one in particular (one of my quirkier traits), “Oh my God. Oh My God. OhMyGod! Homemade pop tarts!” Whoever sat in BA’s recipe development meeting and thought of publishing a homemade pop tart recipe had a stroke of pure genius. I haven’t the time or caloric wherewithal to make them yet, but the magazine provides a fantastic step-by-step guide that results in what I can only assume is homemade pop tart deliciousness. I’ll update soon with my own pics and DIY experience, but in the meantime I couldn’t wait to share the recipe!

Bon Appetit’s Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts
All photos courtesy of

Bon Appetit’s Strawberry Pop Tarts
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour + additional for shaping and rolling
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 12 tablespoons strawberry preserves (preferably organic homemade)
  • Powdered sugar (optional)
  • Fresh strawberries (optional)
Make the dough: Whisk 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, coarse salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter. Using fingertips or back of fork, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water by tablespoonfuls, tossing until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Divide in half; shape each half into disk. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.
Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough on floured surface to about 13×11 inches. Trim to 12×10-inch rectangle, then cut into eight 5×3-inch rectangles.
Roll out chilled dough to 13×11 inches.
Cut dough into eight 5/3 rectangles.

Assemble the pop tarts: Arrange four rectangles, spaced apart, on each sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons preserves in row down center of each rectangle. Top preserves with second dough rectangle.

Place dough on baking sheet & top with 1 1/2 tablespoon preserves.
Top with other rectangle of dough.

Using fingertips, gently press all edges of each tart to seal; press all edges with tines of fork to double-seal. Using toothpick, poke a few holes in center of top dough rectangle. Cover; freeze tarts on sheets at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.
Gently press top & bottom layers together.
Crimp layers with edges of a fork to seal.

Bake the pop tarts: Position one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake frozen tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total (some preserves may leak out). Immediately transfer tarts to rack. Sift powdered sugar lightly over. Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh berries.
Ta da! You’ve got homemade pop tarts!

Day #6 of Holiday Appetizers: Classic Deviled Eggs

Can there possibly be a more perfect appetizer than a deviled egg? There are so many variations you can make of the deviled egg  — spicy, sweet, seafood-filled — but I’m a fan of the classic. Hard boiled eggs, Dijon and yellow mustard, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of salt. Done and done. Putting the filling in a food processor gives it the a flawlessly smooth consistency, and taking the extra step to pipe the filling into each egg really kicks the presentation up a notch. The only downside to these beauties is that the cooking process makes your house smell like egg, so definitely do it the morning of your dinner party. Otherwise, they’re guaranteed to disappear!

The Perfect Appetizer: Classic Deviled Eggs

Classic Deviled Eggs

  •  1 dozen large eggs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  •  3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Sweet paprika or pure ancho chile powder, for garnish
  • Minced chives, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand for 12 minutes. Immediately drain the eggs and gently shake the pan to lightly crack the shells. Fill the pan with cold water and shake lightly to loosen the eggshells. Let stand until the eggs are cool. Drain and peel the eggs; pat dry. 

Cook eggs and let cool; remove shells

Cut eggs in half and remove yolks

Continue to remove yolks until all are removed

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully transfer the yolks to a mini processor. Add the mayonnaise, Dijon and yellow mustards and Worcestershire sauce and pulse until smooth and creamy; season with salt. Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or a teaspoon, fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture. Arrange the eggs on a platter, garnish with paprika and serve.

Put egg yolks in a food processor with Dijon and yellow mustards, Worcestershire and salt. Blend until smooth.

Transfer egg yolk mixture to a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized star-shaped tip

Pipe yolk mixture into each egg white

Top each egg with a pinch of cayenne, ancho chile or paprika

Top each egg with a tiny sliver of chive (Hint: Use tweezers for best placement of chives)

Arrange on a serving platter and serve!

Short Ribs: Round #1

One of Bryan’s favorite meals, if not his absolute favorite, is beef short ribs.

Whenever we’re out to dinner and there are short ribs on the menu, it’s game on.

Now, because of Bryan’s status as a short rib aficionado, I’ve seen a wide variety of cooking techniques. Obviously short ribs need to be cooked long and slow in order to get that “fall off the bone” tenderness. But some are cooked without enough braising liquid, like red wine and beef stock, so they get dry. And a dry short rib just tastes like dry beef, no matter how tender or how much sauce is piled on. No good.

Then there’s the opposite issue; braising it for too long in too much liquid. Sure, the meat gets really tender, but it falls off the bone in the liquid and becomes more of a liquid-y stew. Great if you’re going for a soup angle, but not so great for classic short ribs.

That said, when making short ribs it’s really important to maintain the balance between tender, moist and good structural integrity.

After watching my husband eat enough short ribs to fill a small tank, I decided to make them myself. They are not expensive – maybe $9 for six beef ribs – and the rest of the ingredients (think carrots, celery, onions, leeks, herbs and dry red wine) don’t break the bank either.

When I was looking for recipes, I turned to my go-to cookbook series: Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. This specific cookbook is Barefoot Contessa Family Style, and it is seriously fantastic. I love cookbooks with great insider tricks, tips and a narrative that conveys the chef’s trial and error experiences making the dishes. On top of that, over-sized, glossy photos of the finished presentation makes or breaks the cookbook bank for me.

So I decided Ina was going to help me through my inaugural round of short ribs. Apparently her recipe is adapted from Scott Bieber, head chef at Eli’s Manhattan Restaurant in NYC. So I figured having the experience of two big time chefs behind me couldn’t hurt! I have to say it worked out really well, even if I did discover that it was a bit too liquid-y for me. But that’s easily fixed by controlling the amount of sauce you add to the plate.

Here’s how to make it:

  • 6 beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black paper
  • 1/4 good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (~ 2 onions)
  • 4 cups large-diced celery (~ 6 large stalks)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and large-diced
  • 1 small fennel, fronds, stems, and core removed, large-diced
  • 1 leek, cleaned and large-diced, white part only
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 750-mL bottle burgundy or other dry red wine (I used a 2005 J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs (I used 4)
  • Fresh thyme sprigs (I used 6)
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the short ribs on a sheet plan (I lined mine with foil to minimize clean-up), sprinkle salt and pepper, and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and add the onions, celery, carrots, fennel and leek and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Pour the wine over the vegetables, bring to a boil, and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. (Note: I found that this was closer to 20 minutes).

Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine and add to the pot. (Tip: Don’t have kitchen twine? Dental floss accomplishes the same thing. Don’t worry if it’s mint. The flavor won’t hurt it at all.)

Place the roasted ribs on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven and add the beef stock and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Carefully remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside. Discard the herbs and skim the excess fat. Cook the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes, until reduced. Put the ribs back into the pot and heat through. Serve with the vegetables and sauce.

Wedding Favors: S’mores Snack Packs

My super-creative mother-in-law, Nancy, made these incredible little s’mores packages and I just had to share. Not only did she make them but she took this fabulous photo as well (someone’s getting pretty darned good at food photography)! The occasion? A weekend in Truckee, CA (a stone’s throw north of Lake Tahoe) to celebrate the wedding of her childhood-best-friend’s-son. The wedding was absolutely incredible but these s’mores were the veritable icing on the cake during a welcome BBQ hosted by the bride and groom. Nancy filled each decadent mini package with graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate and jumbo jet-puffed marshmallows, tied them with rafia bows and personalized them with perhaps the cutest message ever: “Sending you s’more love.” At the end of the BBQ, the bride-to-be carried a large rustic basket heaping with the s’mores around to each of the guests, who just happened to be gathered around fire pits. Coincidence? I think not. 🙂

Shrimp Lettuce Cups With Mango Avocado Salsa

After a week of indulgence over Christmas and New Years, I thought it was time for a break from heavy foods. I still wanted something with a lot of flavor but with minimal fat, so I came up with shrimp tacos, but replacing the tortillas with lettuce cups. Bryan loves my guacamole, so I decided to mix it up and make a mango avocado salsa. It wad really easy, delicious and we have a lot of leftover mango salsa for use on grilled halibut, seared pork loin or just with chips.

Here’s how I made the Mango Avocado Salsa:
  • 3 ripe Haas avocados
  • 1 large, ripe firm mango, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (feel free to use less if you don’t like cilantro)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 8 dashes hot pepper sauce (I use Trader Joe’s Jalapeno Pepper Hot Sauce)
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion
  • 2 large garlic clove, minced (we love garlic; feel free to use less)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 18 peeled and de-veined shrimp, tails removed
  • 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, washed and separated into individual “cups”

Cut the avocados in 1/2, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. Immediately add the lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the mango, tomato and garlic. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper. Set aside.

Tip: Don’t know how to cut a mango? Either buy pre-peeled and sliced mango, usually found in the produce section of your local grocer. Or, buy a whole mango and follow these instructions:
  1. Slice both ends off the mango, revealing the long, slender seed inside. Set the fruit upright on a work surface and remove the skin with a sharp knife.
  2. With the seed perpendicular to you, slice the fruit from both sides of the seed, yielding two large pieces.
  3. Turn the seed parallel to you and slice the two smaller pieces of fruit from each side.
  4. Cut the fruit into 1/2″ cubes.


Once the mango salsa is done, start on the shrimp. Fill a 3-quart pot with water and bring to a boil. Top with a strainer or steamer attachment and add the shrimp. Cover and steam the shrimp until they are pink and fully cooked through, 3-4 minutes.

Remove the shrimp, mix with your favorite sweet and sour or hot sauce. My favorites are Trader Joe’s Sweet Chili Sauce and Yank Sing’s Chili Pepper Sauce (a Dim Sum restaurant in San Francisco that makes their own chili sauce).

Place three shrimp into each lettuce cup and top with a spoonful of the mango salsa. You’re ready for eat! Make sure to have some napkins handy, as they can be deliciously messy!