Archives for November 2010

cranberry cream cheese pie

This pie is definitely different. It’s part cheesecake, part tart, part fruit pie. But it is 100% delectable.

I wanted to try something new this holiday season. If your family is like ours, the dessert table is usually graced with pumpkin pie, apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and maybe some crazy rum-raisin tart that Aunt Millie whipped up but is completely inedible. Cranberries are left garnishing turkey and given very little room in the sweets department. I say let’s bring them back to their rightful stomping grounds. They’re so pretty, after all.

Alright, the other side of this slice isn’t quite as attractive. Those pesky cranberries like to bleed into the filling. But the filling won’t mind: its creamy sweetness can stand on it’s own. I used a combination of cream cheese and sour cream to create a sort of no-bake cheesecake, but denser and dotted with vanilla bean.

See those teeny tiny seeds? In my world there can never be too much vanilla bean. For the topping I made my own cranberry sauce, but you could easily use the stuff out of a can (I won’t judge), or use any sort of pie filling if you don’t dig cranberries. This pie would be equally excellent with sour cherry pie filling, cooked strawberries, or topped with fresh fruit in the summer.

There is one slice left in the fridge. And it is calling my name for breakfast.

Hey, I didn’t judge you for wanting to use canned cranberries. Don’t judge me for my breakfast choices.



Cranberry Cream Cheese Pie

If you choose to make your own cranberry sauce for the topping, be sure it is thoroughly chilled and set(at least overnight) before spreading it on top of the pie. Makes one 9″ pie.

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (from roughly 10 graham crackers—usually one sealed package for most brands)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c sour cream
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean, or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

For the topping:

  • 2 c cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press evenly into the bottom and 1″ up the sides of a 9″ pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Whip together filling ingredients until smooth using a stand mixer or electric handheld mixer. Spread into cooled crust. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Before serving, top with cranberry sauce.

thanksgiving roundup

I know you’re overloaded with Thanksgiving recipes. You’ve likely seen 15 varieties of stuffing, 32 ways to prep a turkey, 58 pumpkin pies. But in case you’re still looking for fresh ideas, here are just a few things that would grace my table (were I cooking this year).

For an appetizer: apple blue cheese puffs. Quick, easy and full of fall flavors. They’re sure to keep football fans happy while the turkey is frying.

With dinner: cream cheese mashed potatoes. I love them more than butter.

For dessert: pumpkin gooey butter cakes in lieu of pumpkin pie. They’re creamier, richer, and one batch makes enough to have some sweet leftovers the next day.

And speaking of leftovers, make a pot of club chowder a few days after turkey day to use up all that excess bird. Make a new meal out of an old one!

I hope you all have a lovely, safe and happy Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for my family, the roof over my head, and for all of the gracious support you’ve showed the community this holiday season. If you weren’t able to make it to Will Bake for Food, please consider adding a few non-perishable items to your Thanksgiving shopping list and dropping them off at your local food bank.



for granted

Yesterday I visited the Cherry Street Food Bank to pick up boxes for tomorrow’s Will Bake for Food event. I felt awkward, like I didn’t belong. The security guard knew the same thing—he eyed me like I was a fish out of water. Lucy in arms, I walked through the doors and asked the nice folks at the desk about the boxes. While they were being retrieved, I had the chance to observe some of the Cherry Street Food Bank’s patrons.

They have a sort of assembly line set up for people to pick and choose from: formula, diapers, baby food, canned food, potatoes, rice, beans, and a few fresh fruits and veggies. A volunteer hands out what people choose, although the items seemed to be limited to by the cards that they presented upon walking in the door. One woman with a baby in a sling (no coat on either the mother or the baby, in 40 degree rain), picked up a few diapers, some potatoes, a can of chicken broth and a bunch of kale. A man with two babies received two cans of formula and some potatoes. I can’t help but think that neither family is getting nearly enough for one week, especially when you have small mouths to feed. Do they have money to go to the grocery store when they run out?

I wished they would hurry up with my boxes. I was beginning to tear up, and I didn’t want the volunteers to see me cry. Here I am with my designer purse and rain jacket, carrying my bundled up toddler clutching her teddy bear. The spoiled rich girl with the bleeding heart. These babies must be freezing, and if they’re hungry to boot I might break down into uncontrollable sobs right here in the middle of the downtown food bank. As a parent, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to not be able to satisfy all the needs of my child.

Finally the boxes arrive. The volunteers help me to my car. I strap Lucy in, turn on the heat and then allow myself to completely lose it.

I cry all the way home. We’ve been organizing Will Bake for Food for weeks, and I have yet to put a face on the people we’re trying to help. I knew it was bad—according to recent reports the number of food insecure households in Washington state has gone up 36% this year alone. But when I see the faces of this statistic I can’t seem to do anything but weep. I know that I’m doing what I can, but I still feel like it isn’t enough.

That’s why I’m asking you to come out to Will Bake for Food tomorrow. You can help. Bring non-perishable food or baby items (scroll down for a full list of what Northwest Harvest needs) to trade for some delicious treats baked by Seattle’s most talented foodies. Come by, say hello, and support a very worthwhile cause. I’ll be the one in the WBFF tee and the huge pregnant belly.

Read on to see what foods we need most…


Northwest Harvest buys rice and beans in bulk, so other items are encouraged. They ask for items low in saturated fats and refined carbohydtares (sugar, white flour).

General food items:

Whole grain pastas
Brown rice
Tomato products
Canned vegetables
Canned fruit, especially with low sugar (but not artificial sweeteners)
Canned fish or meat
Shelf-stable milk
Beef stew, chili and similar meals with low sugar and saturated fats

Baby Items:

Baby formula, infant cereal, jars of baby food, powdered or canned milk, diapers

a tale of two cookies

One rainy afternoon, Lucy and I needed cookies and apple cider. It was just what the day required. Wanting to try something new, I dug out one of my trusty cookbooks, James Peterson’s Baking. Since Mr. Peterson is pretty much a recipe guru, I was curious how he would prepare something as simple and classic as a chocolate chip cookie.

Although they required much more butter and much less sugar than other cookie recipes, the ingredients were otherwise straightforward. And unlike my all-time favorite Compost Cookies, the dough came together quickly and was easy to work with.

My trouble with the recipe began during baking. I set my oven to 375F, lined my baking sheets with parchment paper, and dutifully measured the chilled dough into 2 tablespoon scoops as per the recipe. It said to press the scoops of dough down onto the baking sheet with a greased palm or the bottom of a drinking glass. I thought this was strange and would take the volume out of the cookies, but did so anyway.

After 12 minutes in the oven (not 15, as the recipe recommended), the first batch of cookies were—you guessed it—as flat as a pancake. Nearly burned around the edges, and so crisp that several broke when I moved them.

For the second batch I didn’t press the cookies down and simply placed the dough balls on the baking sheet. After 12 minutes, this batch came out better: taller, softer, and much, much more pleasing to look at.

I was a little stupefied. Did I mis-read the ingredients and do something wrong? Is my oven off by 50 degrees? And if I did everything right, how could such a well-respected cookbook contain such a crappy recipe?

Even these pretty, puffed-up cookies weren’t the best tasting. As doughy as they look, they were much too cakey for my taste. Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t expect this to be the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe. I tried it to attempt something new, and new it was.

We’re not all perfect and we’re all prone to screw ups in the kitchen. This cookie debacle reminded me to trust my instincts when I’m cooking. I knew that I shouldn’t have pressed the cookies down just as I knew that the butter and sugar amounts seemed odd. But instead of going with my gut, I followed the recipe to the tee. It was uncharacteristic of me to do this—usually I tweak every recipe I use to my own specifications.

I was being who I loathed in the kitchen: the cook who doesn’t take risks, who takes recipes at face value, who is scared to substitute olive oil for extra virgin olive oil. Cooking can be an exact science if you want it to be. But it can also be creative, flexible and fun. I know what I like more than a cookbook does.

From now on I vow to keep screwing up. I already mess up at least one dish per week. Maybe I’ll make a new goal of two. I’m not going to learn a thing if I don’t attempt new recipes, experiment with ingredients, play with measurements. And isn’t part of the fun of being in the kitchen seeing what you can create, off the recipe page? I can’t promise my daughter the perfect chocolate chip cookies the next time she asks for some. But we’ll get there eventually through trial, error, and lots of tasty mistakes along the way.


baked potato soup

When Lucy was a wee newborn lass and consumed nearly all of our time and energy, Dave and I became masters at the 5 minute dinner. When it wasn’t easy staples like pasta with garlic bread or grilled cheese with tomato soup, it was baked potatoes. A simple baked (or shamefully, sometimes microwaved) russet layered with grated cheddar cheese, steamed broccoli, sour cream and crispy bits of bacon took almost no time and satisfied our starving bellies. And unlike the Chinese takeout which became our go-to meal all too often (and left us hungry two hours later), this quick dinner left us satisfied until the 2 am feeding.

Even though we now have the luxury of longer cooking times and enjoying a meal without a crying baby in our arms (for a few more months, anyway), I still turn to baked potatoes from time to time for a comforting dinner.

I’d seen a few recipes for loaded baked potato soup floating around the web-o-sphere and was inspired. Not only can you mimic the comforting flavors of a baked potato in a bowl, but this soup is just as easy. One batch makes several dinners for two and could also be frozen for a later date.

I’m not calling my version “loaded,” partially because I think it that sounds like some sort of pot-head soup (“loaded” and “baked”? It’s just too easy). But it contains all of the ingredients and toppings that would constitute a “loaded baked potato” in any steakhouse: broccoli, bacon, scallions, cheese, and sour cream. Whether you’re a sleep-deprived parent or a snack-deprived pot-head, this soup will surely satisfy.


Baked Potato Soup

Bake the potatoes and let them cool ahead of time. You may substitute chives for scallions. Yields 8 bowls of soup.

  • 12 strips bacon, diced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 4 c milk
  • 1 bunch scallions (8 stems), light green parts diced and the rest discarded
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 russet potatoes, baked and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 10 oz can cream of cheddar or cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste
  • shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
  • sour cream, for topping

Cook the bacon in a heavy pot or dutch oven in two batches over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan. Stir in the flour until just moistened by the bacon grease, then quickly whisk in the chicken stock and milk. Stir until smooth and any lumps of flour have dissolved. Stir in the scallions, broccoli pieces, potatoes, salt and cheddar soup. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is tender, about 12-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with cheese, sour cream and bacon pieces.