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real life test kitchen: spooky halloween buckeyes

(This post was originally published last year, but after making them again recently we decided to share again with a new photo!)

One of the best things about marrying a man from Ohio is that he introduced me to buckeyes. The state sweet, they are creamy, peanut-buttery chocolate balls of joy. They resemble the nut that falls from the state tree and bear the same name as Ohio State’s beloved college football team. I don’t know how I lived 35 years without them. Recently, we introduced some neighbors to buckeyes by bringing a spooky version to Halloween party. I was talking to the hostess when someone came over and urgently asked “Where are those chocolate peanut butter balls?! They are amazing!!” I beamed with pride and decided we’d make them for a bake sale we had coming up at our child’s preschool. Recipe to follow on the next page. Don’t eat them all once! — Angela M

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real life test kitchen: jamie oliver’s apple pie

This is an update to one of our favorite posts!

Apple pie is one of those things I never thought I would make myself. It seemed like something that would require a great deal of skill and patience, not to mention equipment — none of which I have! But then a couple of years ago I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s Apple Pie recipe. It’s one of his “top ten” favourites in this book Jamie’s Dinners. I don’t know if it was the lovely photo or the casual way the recipe was written, but it seemed like something I could handle with my limited baking skills — and it was! I have since made it three or four times. The secret to the recipe is lemon rind — added to both the crust and apples, which you saute on the stove for a bit with brown sugar and cranberries. Also, because it is “rustic” style, the crust doesn’t have to be perfect. Just patch up those holes.

What You Need

for the pastry
2 cups of  flour
10 tbs butter
1 lemon rind grated
• 2 egg yolks
2/12 tbs sugar

for The filling

1 large Bramley cooking apple
4 eating apples
3 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
a handful raisins
1/2 lemon’s zest
1 egg yolk with splash of milk.

How To Make.

1. Preheat the oven 300.
2. Make the pastry in a food processor by mixing up the flour, sugar, a pinch of salt, lemon zest and the butter into cubes. Add egg yolk and tiny splash of water. Mix until it resembles bread crumbs. Then use your hands to mix together into a dough.
3. Divide your pastry in half. Roll out half onto a flour dusted surface until it’s about a 1/4 inch thick. If it tears, just patch it up. Lay the pastry into a butter metal pie pan.
4. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and put both in the fridge for a while.

Make the Filling:
1. Quarter and peel the apples and cut them into small slices.
2. Add them to a pan with sugar, lemon zest and raisins. Add a tbs spoon of water.
3. Simmer for about 5 minutes until apples are just tender.
4. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Finish the pie:
1. Take the pan and dough out of the fridge.
2. Pour the cooled down apple filling into the pan.
3. Roll out the remaining half of the dough and place on top of the filling.
4. Brush the top of the pie with egg and milk wash, then using a small sharp knife, make a couple of small incisions in the center.
5. Bank for 45 minutes or so.
6. Serve hot with ice cream!

Angela M.

new kitchen must-have? check out the nibble baking pan

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait for a cake or sweet loaf to cool before I have a taste. I feel it’s a cook’s right to dive in and taste any freshly baked masterpiece. After all, how else would you know if you have a hit on your hands? The only problem is that cakes with nibbles taken out of them are not picture perfect. So how do you have sample without ruining the symmetry of your creation? Introducing the Nibble pan, yet another super clever invention available via Quirky. Thought up by Talia Wiener, the Nibble is a versatile 9 X 11 round pan that comes with a little silicone cup attached to it. Fill up the pan but save a dollop of batter for the cup, and when the cake is done, you can eat the mini-version without messing up the grand plan. My only question is whether or not the baking times would vary for the big versus little pan.

What do you think? Would you give the Nibble, $25 at Quirky.com, a try?

real life test kitchen: marcella hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter

I pinned this recipe, for Macella Hazan’s most famous and insanely easy tomato sauce recipe, years ago but somehow never got around to making it until this past weekend. The time was ripe, in more ways the one, to pay tribute to this grand dame of Italian-American cooking. Hazan passed away a couple of weeks ago, and like many greats who fade from our memory, it took her death to remind us how influential she was. The New York Times obituary put it beautifully and simply — like many of her best recipes — saying she changed the way Americans cook. She didn’t believe in complicated things, only the purest, freshest ingredients cooked to bring out their unique flavors. Her tomato sauce with onion and butter recipe is Hazan at her best. The rest bout of unseasonably warm temperatures has yielded a bumper crop of plum tomatoes in our garden beds. I could think of no better use for them to put them in this simple sauce. Mine took a little bit longer, because I started with fresh tomatoes. But the who endeavor was done in about an hour and half, and it required so little effort, I can’t imagine why I didn’t do it sooner. This sauce is wonderfully familiar — which makes me realize that it must be used in countless restaurants all over NYC. It tastes even better the next day.


Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter


What You Need:

2 cups of canned or stewed plum tomatoes in their juices — see note below on what to do if you’re using fresh tomatoes like I did
5 tbls butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste

How to Make
1. Put the tomatoes in a large sauce pan, and add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very low flame.

2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
3. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and aalt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta.

4. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes:

1. You’ll need about 2 lbs of tomatoes.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
3. Drop tomatoes in and boil for one minute.
4. Drain and cool down with cold water.
5. Peel off the skins and discard them.
6. Quarter the tomatoes and add them to a pan.
7. Add a dash of salt, and cook on a meduim-low flame for about 30 minutes. Add a splash of water or olive oil if things dry to quickly.
8. Once the tomatoes have broken down nicely, you can continue the recipe as above.

sponsored video: swooning over paola navone’s crate & barrel collection

When I grow up I want to be like Paola Navone. The renowned artist and designer exudes warmth and a love a life that is evident in all her work, whether it be Anthropologie’s vibrant color-pop bedding, overly-tufted, welcoming sofas or her new vibrant and playful pieces at Crate & Barrel. She’s also a not-to-be overlooked Italian who gained prominence in the male-dominated design space, and displays a short hairstyle and a prominent nose that I can’t help but identify with. If I can’t grow up to be like her, perhaps we could have dinner one day?

I’m not sure how or when that may happen, but in the meantime I am going to take some inspiration from Crate & Barrel and channel a little Paola for my gatherings this fall. She’s created three collections all centered around entertaining.

The Como collection features bold blue on white designs with organic swirls and patterns. It reminds me of dining al fresco in Sicily, with smells of almond pastries mixing with Mediterranean breezes. Splashes of red wake you up.

The Mallorca collection is more calming, with white on white ceramics that have delicate, feminine edges. Aluminum trays with gentle dimples appear ready to elevate any dish.


And the Riveria collection focuses white pieces with scalloped edges that meet sea green glasses and bamboo serving pieces.

All three themes bring a worldly sophistication to the table, without being stuffy or too precious. As the holidays encroach it’s easy to get drawn towards Northernly designs, but a few Navone bits sprinkled about will make sure your dinners always have a sunny disposition. Here’s a little peak at the artistry behind the work.


As if her new designs weren’t enough to inspire some noteworthy dinners of our own, Crate & Barrel even offers up a few recipes from the master herself. This one below, pasta with zucchini, in an interesting take on one of my favorites. I would add a sprinkle of crushed pastachios before serving, to give it a final hint of richness.

Pasta with Zucchini by Paola Navone

What You Need:

2 lbs. baby zucchini; no more than 1¼’ in diameter
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup fresh mint (smallest leaves only), thyme, rosemary
Saffron threads, a pinch
Fresh cracked pepper
Ground red pepper
Coarse sea salt
1 lb. uncooked dried mezzi rigatoni – shorter, ridged rigatoni
1/4 cup coarse sea salt to season pasta cooking water
To pass at the table:ricotta di bufala *
** Buffalo milk ricotta is less sweet than cow’s milk ricotta.

How To Make:
1. Wash and drain the zucchini. Slice into ¼-inch-thick “coins” and set aside. If using larger zucchini, slice lengthwise, core out the seeds, then slice.

2. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan over low to medium-low heat. Glaze the pan with olive oil. Add crushed garlic, herbs and saffron to the pan to flavor the oil. (Reserve a small handful of the herbs for garnish.) Stir and cook until the garlic just starts to color and become fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove garlic.

3. Add the zucchini to the pan and season with ground pepper and sea salt. Sear the zucchini until slightly soft and the zucchini begins to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat.

4. Remove ½ of the zucchini mixture; place in a food processor and puree.

5. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the sliced zucchini still in the pan; gently fold in pureed zucchini. Add more olive oil to taste, but sparingly. The consistency of the sauce should be creamy, not thick.

6. Fill a large pasta pot ¾ full with cold water and place over high heat. Add ¼ cup** of course sea salt to water and bring to a rolling boil. Add dried pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente.

7. Drain pasta (reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water) and place in large serving bowl. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.

8. If needed, thin zucchini sauce with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add zucchini sauce to pasta and toss gently. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately. Pass ricotta di bufala for guests to stir into their pasta, to taste.

Note: This post is sponsored by Crate & Barrel.