Wednesday, February 29, 2012


day 60.

Make no mistake. 
We are in love with Julia
We have read Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, & Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961) from cover to cover more than a few times. 
My Life in France is forever a favorite. 
The Way to Cook & Julia's Kitchen Wisdom are known nearly by heart. 

Julia is the quintessential, no-nonsense sort of teacher, walking you through each step and answering questions that you wouldn't even know to ask. Oh, what we wouldn't do for an afternoon cooking class with École des Trois Gourmandes... The School of the Three Happy Eaters!
And, right now, we're both reading As Always, Julia, edited by Joan Reardon. It's thought provoking, funny, endearing, and inspired... one of those books that you read with paper and pencil in hand, jotting down page numbers and quotes, tidbits to revisit later. The book is a collection of letters between Julia and her dear friend, Avis Devoto; correspondence from the beginning of their friendship and throughout the creating of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, of which, Avis played a key role. 

The letters weave a tapestry of friendship, love, sorrow, joy, and food. Beautiful. 

We, Brooke and Ang, chat everyday... online, facebook, tweet, instant message, and text... talking recipes, blog posts, book thoughts, publishing insights we've learned, and often just parenting and life. 

As Always, Julia has inspired us to take a few minutes and write a note. A real life, snail mail letter. The kind requiring a stamp. Hand-written. A lost art. There's something about holding paper in hand, handwriting on page, knowing that someone took the time and thought of you. That something is missed in an instant message.

No. We aren't giving up our digital connections but rather making letter writing part of our correspondence, guarding the art that has lost it's place in modern society. Taking our writing to pen and paper not just fingers to keyboard. 
Write a note this weekend. Put it in an envelope. Stick a stamp on it. Go to the post office and buy a stamp if need be. We promise you'll like the way it makes you feel and you'll make someone's day when along with the plethora of bills, junk mail, and advertisements, they receive a handwritten note from you. Do it. We dare you. 

As Always, 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


day 59.

There are five kitchen tools we can not live without.
  1. parchment paper
  2. microplane
  3. chefs knife
  4. knife sharpener
  5. corkscrew

PARCHMENT paper is priceless. It will save you hours of your life spent washing dishes, serve you golden based cookies that would have otherwise burned, quickly fold into disposable piping bags, allow you to cook en papillote. On and on it goes. If you don't have it already, get some. You will thank us.

MICROPLANE. There are many styles to choose from. If you're buying your first, look for the style in the photo above, you can add to your collection with finer grates from there. With this tool you can zest lemons, limes and oranges, it also quickly grates a clove of garlic, hard cheeses such as Parmigiano-Regiano, and chocolate!

CHEFS knife. We use them for about 90% of the work we do in the kitchen. Of course a paring knife, serrated knife, filet knife and boning knife have specific values in the kitchen, however, investing in a good kitchen knife is the place to start. Buy the best one you can afford.

KNIFE sharpener. Naturally, this follows the chefs knife because a sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knives are dangerous! You want to regularly sharpen your knives at home with either a knife sharpener like the one above or a steel. When they are in need of a more significant sharpening, check with your local butcher. Usually they will sharpen them for a nominal fee.

CORKSCREW. This, obviously, extracts cork from wine bottles. While there are other ways to get this job done, it is extremely difficult without the corkscrew and usually ends up with red wine all over the ceiling... we speak from experience.

Monday, February 27, 2012


day 58.

Meringues cooked @300º like we recommended in our original post!
Meringues cooked @200º like we MEANT to write and have since amended. 
Just another reason why recipe testing, editing and re-editing are all important parts of the process


day 57.

The post that got away.

Reality check: we aren't always cooking gourmet meals and living perfectly ordered lives. No matter how organized we are, life throws us curve balls just like everyone else.

Today I woke up to blue skies and sunshine. It's a beautiful day.
Last Monday... not so much. It started off well enough, no matter the gray skies and drizzle. A national holiday and the kids were off school. We took my baby (age 9) to get here ears pierced, a long awaited affair.
Then, rushed to a nearly forgotten routine doctor check up and after, our traditional lunch across the street. Just as we'd settled into our soup and sandwiches, I got a phone call that I'd been hit by a bus. I mean literally. My car had been hit by a bus.
Just in case there was any question that I WAS legally parked!
This doesn't look bad due to the fact that the police office zip tied the front bumper onto the car so I could drive it home. But, at first sight, my bumper was spread out on the road with foam core pieces and big plastic screws all over the place.  
The week was spent at the DMV filing an accident report. Scheduling and waiting on estimators. Phone calls and messages with Tri Met. It could have been worse... I know. And, in all fairness, Tri Met has been perfectly apologetic about the whole incident and no one was injured. In fact, in just a few days, I had a check to cover the complete costs of repairs.

The whole week wasn't terrible; I just wasn't on my game. We attended a fun Mardi Gras celebration, school meetings, dealt with old house issues like clogged drains and high electric bills, shuttled the kids to sports, play practices, dance lessons, sleepovers, birthday parties, and basketball tournament. It was normal family busy with three kids.
But here's the part that bothers me. I honestly don't think we sat down to a family dinner last week. Really, I don't even remember what we ate for dinner except for the horrible tuna casserole on Friday night... thrown together at the very last minute and only eaten by me and Dylan. God bless him, he didn't want to hurt mom's feelings. It was truly awful.

It's not that I wasn't in the kitchen... Lemon Curd, Meringues, and Cupcakes were all made but they don't make up for family dinner. @hatchpress we were busy writing about Mindful Cooking and Taking Time to Cook but my home wasn't a reflection of what I truly believe about family meals. Like I said, it was an off week.

To top off the week, yesterday, I wrote this entire post and when I went to add images, the post was gone. Disappeared. Vanished. So rather than rewrite the whole thing, frustrated and cranky. I turned off the computer, snuggled into the couch, and watched TV. 

Thank goodness, we get to start fresh. Everyday is another chance to do better, be mindful, live intentionally. This week, family dinners are the most important item on my agenda. Life is too precious to miss out on time spent  around the table with my family. 

The sun is shining, laundry's in progress, dishwasher's humming, and I'm heading to school to pick up a sick kid. Just another day in the life... and homemade chicken soup sounds like it's on the menu tonight.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


day 56.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes
When vanilla cake is paired with lemon curd, a supreme duo is born. We make our cupcakes with cake flour for a light, tender cake. You can use unbleached all-purpose flour if you don't have cake flour but will need to adjust the amount to 1 3/4 cups. With just the right amount of vanilla essence, they are not too sweet but stand up to the tart curd.

They come out of the oven with an almost crust like top and the smell makes it too hard to wait for them to cool before sampling one, even without the curd or some other form of frosting.

Vanilla Cakes
Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk

HEAT oven to 350°. Line cupcake pan with liners.

SIFT together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

CREAM the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Turn mixer off and scrape down the bowl. Add the vanilla and blend.

ADD the flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour.

DIVIDE batter evenly among the cupcake liners. It will fill them about three quarters of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Letting the cupcakes cool completely before filling with the curd is very important. Use a melon baller or a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the center of each cupcake. Fill the center with lemon curd and spread a thin layer over the top. We adorned these with sweet sugared confections from a local bake shop. They make a charming dessert for Easter, but you shouldn't wait that long to try them!

Friday, February 24, 2012


day 55.
Cooking takes time.
Our hope is, this revelation, will fill you to brimming with rousing anticipation of time well spent. Not make you sigh with a dreary Eeyore outlook on domestic drudgery. And yes, we do think this might be a revelation.

How many cookbook titles, dump and stir TV shows and infomercials are trying to sell you on the fact that good food does not require time and attention?

We depend on our arsenal of quick cook meals. No, we are indebted to our collection of quick cook meals. We have kids, jobs, husband and boyfriends (not to worry, we do not have both, just one or the other), we moonlight as aspiring writers who long to make a difference in your kitchen. In your confidence and enthusiasm.

So, we understand the need for uncomplicated food that is as satisfying as the complex preparations some meals entail. We just don't want to try and convince you the full spectrum of pleasure is found in only one or the other.

Life is full and busy and wild. This is why there is so much contentment to be found in cooking. For us, it is a soothing retreat from the bustling pace of everyday. The payoff for multitasking while managing family life and all the beautiful chaos that ensues. Time in the kitchen can become something you look forward to as if it were a watering place for your soul. Or a speakeasy no one knows about, except those you give the secret password to. You can let go of everything else, wake up all five senses, pull yourself into the present... and cook!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


 day 54.

Simple, melt in your mouth Meringues.
Egg whites + sugar + air.

Once you've mastered the basic meringue recipe, there are SO many options.
But, let's start with the basics.

makes about 60 2-inch cookies

3 egg whites at room temperature (this is crucial!)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 c fine white sugar (to make super fine sugar, pulse granulated sugar in your food processor for 60 seconds)
1/4 tsp salt

HEAT oven to 200º.

BEAT egg whites on medium high until foamy.

ADD cream of tartar and continue to beat until bubbly peaks form. The peaks will be a bit like bubble bath; wavy, floppy bubbles. Turn the mixers to high and add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time. They whites become glossy and silky then turn a bit tacky with peaks that hold their shape: Stiff peaks. This is what you want.

COVER cookie sheet with parchment. If you skip this step, you'll have a sticky mess. Pipe cookies onto the parchment for best results. But, sometimes when we're impatient, we skip this and just use a small ice cream scoop (2 Tbls sized) to drop them onto the parchment. They turn out lovely either way. But certainly piping makes for a cleaner, more perfect cookie while our quicky, drop method makes for a more "rustic" meringue.

BAKE for 2 hours then turn off the oven and let them cool... inside the oven. For perfect meringues, they should be completely dry, not chewy inside.

We're gathering our favorite flavor combinations to share with you. In the meantime, we absolutely adore meringues with homemade lemon curd or kiwi jam.

And they are perfectly, bite-sized delicious just on their own.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


day 53.

There are few things that literally make our mouths water more than Lemon Curd.
What an awful name for such a perfectly tart and brilliantly sweet, creamy decadent treat!
Don't let the name deter you and Don't buy a jar at a specialty store for $12.99.
We like to make it in large batch, using one right away and canning a few for later.  More on canning soon! 
Lemon Curd is made from ingredients you probably have on hand. Lemons, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Lemon Juice, and Kosher Salt. There are hundreds of recipes and methods for making Lemon Curd but we don't like to over think it. Keep it simple.

We learned how to make it from Ina Garten and David Lebovitz 
Our recipe uses Ina's ingredients and methods but we strain it like David recommends for just the right texture. If you're looking for a mellow, lemony flavor, use Meyer lemons. For a brighter, tart, lip puckering treat, use plain old Eureka lemons. Both are brilliant in this recipe. In fact, we recently made Blood Orange Curd using the same recipe and it was divine. 

3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature (1 stick)
4 eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1/8 tsp kosher salt

ZEST the lemons using a vegetable peeler. Take care to avoid the white pith. If you find pith on the zest, simply scrape it off with a pairing knife. It's important to take the extra few minutes for this step as the pith will make your final product bitter. 

PULSE the zest and sugar in a food processor until the sugar takes on a lemon color and the zest if finely minced into the sugar. 

CREAM the butter in a stand mixer. Beat in the sugar and zest mixture. Add the whole eggs, 1 at a time. Dissolve the salt in the lemon juice, then add it and mix until combined. 

POUR the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The Lemon Curd will thicken just below a simmer at about 170º. Take off the heat.

STRAIN using a sieve or mesh colander. We've made it without straining and find that we prefer the smoother texture that straining allows. Allow to cool for a few minutes. 

STORE in an airtight jar or use a funnel to pour into a squeeze bottle for easy filling of cupcakes, to decorate dessert plates, or ... let your imagination run wild here. It will keep in the refrigerator for about 10 days.
We love it by the spoonful with melt in your mouth meringues and a sprig of lavender. 
We have a fabulous, quick and easy meringue recipe to share with you tomorrow. The sweet meringues are a perfect match for tart Lemon Curd and they're a great way to use up leftover egg whites.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


day 52.

We live in a world of multi-tasking and hectic schedules and long to do lists for each day. We adore our smart phones and the ease of information on demand, the ability to share an image or text with a loved one on the other side of the world in an instant. 

But do you ever pine for a slower pace? One that's more fully engaged. To live in the moment, soaking up the tender snippets of life that are easily missed while we bustle about. 

An afternoon spent in the kitchen can do this for us. It can bring that slower pace we crave... venturing into a new recipe or fiddling with an old one... braising, simmering, building layers of flavor that are found with time. Good music in the background, glass of wine in hand, and a wedge of time blocked out for one thing only: to cook. Feeling inspired with anticipation of sharing a meal, nourishing and nurturing those we love. It's time well spent. 

Often we do this type of cooking on the weekends when our schedules are less hectic with life and work. It's obviously not a realistic plan for everyday cooking. But, when you are able, we encourage you to plan for such a mindful experience. It's rewarding in a way that doesn't compare to the "checking off your to do list". Both can be respectable and satisfying accomplishments. But, we find a slower paced afternoon in the kitchen fulfilling to the soul and good for perspective.

Pencil it into your busy schedule. We think you'll find it's worth it.

Monday, February 20, 2012


day 51.

This is a bit rudimentary, but it's worth mentioning. The first step in cracking an egg can greatly effect the outcome of your dish, especially when baking. If you need the whites for a soufflé or meringue, and there is even a speck of yolk in it, you will not achieve the desired volume due to the fat from the yolk.

It is much the better to crack eggs on a flat surface rather than the edge of the bowl. You're less likely to end up with a shell in your bowl. Although, it happens to the best of us, occasionally, especially when you have little helpers in the kitchen. When this does happen, use half of the egg shell to scoop out the broken bits. They're attracted to each other. 

No more chasing shell around the bowl with your finger.
You can buy an egg separator, but really... it just takes up space in the drawer and seems to us to be one of those gadgets we can live entirely without.

Clean hands are a cook's best tool, or pouring the egg back and forth between the eggshell halves after cracking works very well. Do this over a bowl, letting the whites run out into it and dropping the yolk into a separate bowl. If collecting several whites for a dish, add the whites to a third bowl each time before repeating. This way you won't risk getting any yolk in a whole batch of whites.

If you are using just the yolks, don't forget to freeze your whites for future use. We keep an ice cube tray just for freezing foods. One white nearly perfectly freezes into one ice cube making it easy for you to know exactly how many whites you have on hand.

Later this week we are talking more about baking with eggs, followed by a scrumptious recipe for leek bread pudding!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


day 50.

While we're talking all things eggs, remember to follow a few simple suggestions such as cook your eggs over gentle heat and bring them to room temperature before cooking.

For scrambled eggs, don't over think them. There are just a few more things to remember:
Most prefer fluffy, light and creamy, well seasoned eggs. Never dry, crumbly, overcooked eggs that have "browned". In fact, you really don't want any color on your scrambled eggs. Moving your eggs fairly constantly during cooking prevents coloration.
Two eggs, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a splash of heavy cream.
No more than 1/2 teaspoon of liquid is needed per egg. More than that
makes for a watery end product.
Beat the eggs with a fork, about 40 strokes, until fully combined and frothy.
Melt butter in a nonstick or well seasoned skillet over medium-low heat.
The water in the butter helps to gently heat the eggs. 
Add the eggs and begin to stir with a spatula, covering the full bottom of
the pan pulling from the edges to the center and letting the liquid run out
to continue to cook.
Continue to stir, they will begin to thicken rapidly. Remove from the heat just before eggs reach desired consistency, they will continue to cook slightly.
Classic scrambled eggs.
Finishing scrambled eggs with melted cheese on top is a must with our kids. If you like cheesy eggs, sprinkle grated cheese on top after removing from the heat. Turn your plate upside down over top of the skillet for a minute or two. This warms your plate and melts the cheese perfectly while you make a piece of toast.

Make scrambled eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A quick nutritious meal!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


day 49.

Eggs require finesse. If you want to be a better cook, then you really must master the egg. Not just know how to cook an egg... but recognize how the egg behaves under different circumstances. It requires thought. Mastering the egg gives you the perfect ingredient with unmatched versatility in the kitchen.
2 things you absolutely must remember about eggs: 
Gentle Heat 
Gradual Temperature Changes

Professional chefs know how the proteins in eggs unwind and lock together under heat; going from liquid to solid. 

Gentle, gradual heat means the proteins come undone casually and come together again without too much water loss... the water stays in the protein gaps. Gentle, gradual heat makes for a tender egg.

When using high, fast heat, the proteins lock up too quickly and closely creating water loss... which means tough and dry eggs. 

Therefore, always bring eggs to room temperature before cooking them. You'll find your baked goods and savory recipes produce better results when eggs aren't just out of the fridge when you begin cooking. 

Just a bit of information to get you thinking about how to make the most of eggs.

Friday, February 17, 2012


day 48.

Brussels sprouts, you either love 'em
or hate 'em.

Rarely will you find someone with no opinion on Brussels sprouts.

We happen to love them but will concede that they are not for everyone.

BUT... This recipe is sure to change all that.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Almonds, Sieved Egg & Pecorino

Brooke was lucky enough to have this dish at Michael Chiarello's restaurant, BOTTEGA, in Napa Valley a few years ago. The entire experience was dreamy. She came home and immediately began recreating the salad from memory trying to capture its perfection. She succeeded and her version became a favorite in her cooking classes.

When Chiarello's cookbook, BOTTEGA, came out in 2010, we were excited to find his recipe for the salad and thrilled to know Brooke's recreation was spot on. Read through our notes that make it a simpler process for the home chef; then, the recipe. We promise it's worth the time.
image courtesy of

The main ingredient in Chiarello's Whole Citrus Vinaigrette is Meyer lemons. They are worth searching out. If you are unable to find them or when out of season, we've found a perfectly suitable substitution: 2 parts lemon juice to 1 part orange or mandarin juice.

Using the whole citrus, Chiarello explains, means extracting the juice from the entire fruit and the shallots using a juice extractor or having your specialty produce market do it for you.

In our worlds, neither is an option. As an alternative, we've blended the zest of the fruit, the freshly squeezed juices, and chopped shallots with our mini food processor. The mini preps are a worthwhile tool in the kitchen. They make quick and easy work of small jobs and they're perfect for emulsifying salad dressings. That's how we've used it here.

We tested Marcona almonds and average almonds for this recipe. Marconas from Spain are softer and have a fuller, whole mouth almond taste while average almonds fall flat in comparison. So, if you're having whole toasted almonds on their own, we highly recommend splurging for the Marconas when you can afford them. For this recipe, simply toss whole almonds with a bit of olive oil and Kosher salt then toast at 350º for about 10 minutes, until aromatic. Then, finely chop.

It's incredibly tedious work to carefully shave all those Brussels sprouts on a mandoline as Chiarello recommends, a labor of love, indeed. However, we found a perfect solution: the grater on the food processor. It works likes a charm and in less than half the time.

The sieved egg lightens the salad when mixed into the Brussels sprouts and makes for a colorful, pillowy topping for this scathingly, brilliant winter salad that even the Brussels sprouts scoffer will swoon over.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Almonds, Sieved Egg & Pecorino
serves 4

2 lemons (preferably Meyer lemons)
1/2 navel orange or 1 small mandarin orange
1 medium sized shallot, roughly chopped... about 2 Tbls
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

8 large eggs, hard cooked
3 dozen Brussels sprouts... about 4-5 cups, grated
3/4 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup grated Pecorino-Romano or Pecorino Toscano

Zest and juice the lemons and orange, you should have about 1/2 cup juice total. Pulse the zest, juice, chopped shallot, salt & pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth. Then, with the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and blend until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 3 days. This makes about 2 cups.

Using the grater attachment on your food processor, finely shave the Brussels sprouts. You should have about 4-5 cups, depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts.

Sieve the white and yolks of the eggs separately so you have a fluffy pile of whites and yellow yolks. Improvise using a box grater, a slotted spoon, or a colander if you don't have a sieve.

Chill all three components separately until ready to serve.

Toss the shaved Brussels sprouts, half the eggs, and chopped almonds (reserve a handful for garnish) in a large bowl. Pour in 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and toss again. Taste and add more if necessary.  You might not use all of the dressing.

To serve, portion into chilled small bowls and layer with a sprinkling of cheese, the egg whites, then yolks piled high. Sprinkle the chopped almonds and a few drops of the vinaigrette.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


day 47.

We love foodie sites and blogs & happy to introduce you to a few of our favorites. So, as promised, here are a few ways to use Meyer Lemons:
Go forth and try one of these this weekend.
  1. Meyer Lemon & Fresh Cranberry Scones from Smitten Kitchen
  2. Preserved Lemons from David Lebovitz (we have a lot more to say about preserved lemons but we'll save that for their very own post)
  3. Meyer Limoncello from hip girls home 
  4. Meyer Lemon Bars from White on Rice Couple
  5. Candied Meyer Lemon Peel from Martha Stewart
  6. Meyer Lemon Curd from Food in Jars
  7. Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Meyer Lemon, Spinach & Hazelnuts from The Kitchn
  8. Meyer Lemon Aioli by Orangette
  9. Barley Risotto with Meyer Lemon, Peas, & Feta
  10. Lemon Crinkle Cookies from Whipperberry

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


day 46.

We interrupt the egg fest to bring you Meyer Lemons.
Have you tried them? Are they available at your grocery store?

If you've never had them, find them this week.
You simply won't believe the brilliance...
this love child of the average lemon and mandarin orange.

They are NOT blindly interchangeable with the average Eureka lemon.

Comparatively, their warm, golden-hued skin is thinner, more tender, making practically perfect zest. Their taste is sweeter, not so mouth puckering sour; yet, still tart. Flesh tone, more orange than yellow. With a floral aroma that enhances traditional lemon dishes, desserts, cocktails, and salads, their unique flavor isn't quite as acidic.

They'll stand in for plain jane lemons, beautifully. Yet plain janes can't replace Meyers without some forethought.

We've found 2 parts freshly squeezed Eureka lemon juice to 1 part freshly squeezed orange or mandarin juice make a satisfactory substitution when Meyer lemons are out of season or unavailable.

With a season of January-May... now is the time to go find them and experiment.

This weekend, use Meyer lemons in your kitchen.
Consider it homework.

Having trouble with ideas? We've got a bunch.
And, we have quite an unlikely pairing that we can't wait to share tomorrow.
Plus... 10 more ways to use Meyer lemons.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


day 45.

We are big fans of design seeds.
We also, obviously, are a little fond of the egg.

Today we found it ironic that our favorite palette from design seeds is inspired by the egg. Funny how things happen like that.

Beautiful Inspiration

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