Bean Toasts with Herbs and Eggs

(Please forgive  the blurry camera phone photo…my camera has broken recently, but a wonderful new anniversary gift holds the promise of improved photo quality on this blog…as soon as I figure out how to use it!)

This dish is very delicious, very easy and very good for you!

This is a wonderful, high-protein dish to start the day off with.  Yum.  It’s been a few weeks since I made this and it looks so good, I think I’ll plan to make it again very soon.

Recipe here.

Seven-Layer Cookies

Christmas Cookie Tray

(I forgot to take a photo of the Seven-Layer Cookies, alone, so I only have them with the other cookies on a tray that I prepared for Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law’s, but you can still see how pretty these are.  The photo on epicurious is even better.)

from bottom to top:

Seven-Layer Cookies

Swedish Spice Cookies

Orange Slice Cookies

My Grandmother’s Fudge

(click on name of each cookie for recipe)

This year was the first time that I made these traditional, Italian cookies from the beloved and departed Gourmet magazine (the other three on the platter, above, are time-tested family favorites,) but they will most likely be a new yearly addition to our holiday planning.  They are rich and VERY sweet and a little finicky and time-consuming to make, but they are almond-y moist and deliciously sweet.  They are quite good with the apricot jam, but would also be good with seedless raspberry or maybe even strawberry or cherry preserves, instead.  The heating/straining step seems tedious, but I do believe that it’s necessary for easier spreading and to ensure that the layered bars remain intact.  These cookies are breathtakingly colorful and gorgeous on a cookie tray.  The colors are very intense and vividly eye-catching.  If you are disturbed by the amount of food coloring, you can make them all white (it won’t change the flavor,) but I do think that the colors are part of the appeal (and, I’m sure, have some symbolic “colors of the Italian flag” meaning, like a Caprese salad.)


Absolutely delightful little bites of cheesy heaven.  Filled with butter and cheese, they are decadently  sinful.  These things are both ridiculous and sublime.  Ridiculously sublime.  Virtue and vice together.  Seriously.  Just make them.

The recipe that I used is from the September 2009 issue of Wine Spectator magazine, but their website is subscription-only (how rude!,) so I can’t link to it directly.  This recipe is the closest that I’ve seen.  If you cut the amount of gruyere by a couple of tablespoons and substitute a couple of pinches of cayenne for the black pepper, you’re pretty much there.  When I made mine, I added a little freshly minced sage, which was good, but maybe just a TINY bit too much.  I will cut back a little next time.  Parsley or thyme would also be delicious, but tread lightly.  It’s easy too overdo it.

These are fabulous as an appetizer with a good glass of red wine, or, with dinner, in place of bread or rolls.  The recipe is from Chef Terrance Brennan, of New York’s Artisanal, where Girl and I were lucky enough to have brunch with my mother last month.  We had some of the gougeres there and they were fabulous, but this recipe is simple enough to recreate that they were just as good at home.  The secret is really good quality cheese and eating them immediately fresh and warm out of the oven.

Girl at Artisanal, with a GIGANTIC cup of hot chocolate.

Spring Rolls

Clockwise from top right:   julienned red and green bell pepper, thinly sliced teriyaki chicken and halved grilled shrimp, shredded lettuce, sliced baby corn and red onion, avocado and bean sprouts  (which I grew myself!  how’s that for advanced meal planning!), julienned carrot and cucumber.  Rice noodles in round center section.

This was an experiment, but has become a favorite family meal.  Everyone loves to be able to customize and assemble their own meal and make it EXACTLY how they like it and it’s exceedingly healthy and low fat.  This is a VERY popular meal with the kids.  I usually am the person that’s on “wrapper duty” and make sure that there’s always a new wrapper soaking in the hot water, so that there’s one ready when someone needs it.  We usually can eat at least three per person.

Basically, it can be anything that you like:

julienned or thinly sliced veggies:  cucumber, bell pepper, carrot, lettuce, red onion, avocado

bean sprouts, baby corn, baby spinach

teriyaki-marinated grilled shrimp and/or chicken

thin rice noodles:  I cut these into smallish pieces with kitchen shears and put them in a heatproof bowl.  Pour boiling water over them (I use an electric kettle) and let them soak a few minutes until they’re softened.  Drain before placing in your serving bowl.

Assemble all of the ingredients and fillings on a platter, in whatever configuration you choose.

Pour more boiling water (again, I use an electric kettle and keep refilling it, so that we can dump out the water and replace it as it cools during the meal) into a shallow and wide, heat-proof bowl (I use the salad bowl of my everyday stoneware.)  Place one rice paper spring roll wrapper into the hot water at a time and let it soak to soften for a few seconds (10-15.)  Remove quickly (using a fork or small tongs, if necessary, to avoid a burn) and place on your plate.  Fill the wrapper with veggies or proteins of your choice and wrap up like a burrito.  The rice paper will stick to itself and seal your spring roll.  Two important tips:

1.  Place the fillings in a tight, compact line about 1 and 1/2 inches wide, just off the center of the wrapper, stopping at least an inch away from each edge.

2.  Gently compress the fillings as you roll up the wrapper, to make the roll as tight as possible.  This will help it stay intact as you eat it.  No worries, though, if your roll does come apart…just grab a fork!

Serve with your choice of sauces (duck sauce, soy sauce, my great homemade sauce recipe here) for dipping and maybe edamame on the side.  Oh, and some riesling!

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding


This hearty vegetarian main dish from November 2009 Bon Appetit magazine was filling and delicious.  Vegetarian Girl ate it as a main dish and the rest of us had it as a side to some chicken.  Very good, but the recipe (really being intended for a large, holiday gathering) makes a HUGE pan of the bread pudding, so if you’re only serving 4 to 6 people, I would STRONGLY suggest halving the recipe, lest you be condemned to eat the leftovers for 3 days.