Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wanted: Cookbooks Focused on Sweets

Craving something sweet like cookies, I headed to my bookshelf to see what new recipe I could find that used one stick of softened butter (which I had wisely pulled out a bit earlier) and preferably, chocolate.

Yes, there are go-to recipes in my repertoire that fit that bill, but I was looking for something new.

And then it hit me. I have many more cookbooks that focus on meals than ones that focus on just desserts. (As you can see from the picture.)

Something's gotta give.

Here's where I'd like to ask for your suggestions. What cookbooks do you use that focus on baked goods and why do you like them?

Please help!

The Clarendon Cook

P.S. I found a recipe for a cake that uses butter and chocolate and it's currently in the oven. If it's good ( can it not be?) I'll post the recipe later.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A great way to begin the day...

When the sun starts peeking through the shades, one sometimes really needs to have a good reason to get out of bed. After an exhausting week, I wanted to make sure that at a certain someone would have enough energy to begin what will hopefully be a less-stressful Memorial Day weekend.

After being awoken at 5:30am by the smallest member of my family, who eventually fell back asleep, I (not as fortunate) decided to stay up and try out a recipe for Dutch Crumb Cake that's served at Clarendon's Liberty Tavern for brunch. (What else is there to do at that hour but bake?)

The fragrant aroma of cinnamon, butter and brown sugar baking in the oven filled every corner of our house, giving that someone the promise of a good start to the day, and he easily got out of bed this morning and made a quick beeline for the breakfast table.

Of course, adding a side of applewood smoked bacon to the crumb cake didn't hurt either. Everything's better with bacon, right?

Whether or not you have bacon, definitely give this recipe a whirl this weekend, especially if you need some coaxing to begin the day.

Dutch Crumb Cake
(Courtesy Liam Lacivita/The Liberty Tavern)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup butter or shortening, diced
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan or similarly sized rectangle pan or baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon. With the tips of your fingers, work fat into mixture until completely integrated. It's ok to see flakes of fat. Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture for the topping, to be used later.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, and baking soda. If using vanilla, add now.

Using a rubber spatula, fold wet ingredients into dry until well combined.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar with the reserved flour mixture. Pour batter into pan. Top with crumb mixture and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Some Food for Comfort

Although it's been a little while since I've last written here, I have been busy in the kitchen trying different recipes like usual, and finding myself busy with some other little things.

Like entertaining out-of-town guests. Running after my almost two-year-old. Buying a house. Planning to sell our condo. Announcing to the world that Baby #2 is on the way come October. You know, just some little things.


I love sharing recipes on this blog but when push comes to shove, the blog gets short shrift. Apologies to all.

That said, I found an absolutely fantastic recipe that I had to share. It's comfort soup, and you must make this soon. You'll feel better about everything in life. At least it did that for me. Although in the midst of all the chaos in my world these days, that might not take a lot. But really, you should try this soup. Let me know if it takes your stress away. Enjoy!

Baked Potato Soup
(Courtesy of

3 bacon strips, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
2 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed (Don't forget to pre-bake your potatoes!)
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Minced fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Set bacon aside. Saute onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix well. Gradually add broth. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, cream and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil. Garnish with bacon, cheese and parsley.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fabulous Food Friday: 2Amys

After several years of hearing great things about 2Amys, a lovely Neapolitan-style restaurant just north of Georgetown, Chris, Claire and I finally snuck into town one lovely Friday afternoon to try it out.

Perhaps it's my Italian heritage or just because Chris and I both love pizza, we tend to be a little picky about where it comes from.

Thankfully, we were not disappointed with 2Amys.

Sitting next to the front window, we both ordered the sought-after Margherita pizzas (mine included cherry tomatoes as pictured above), glasses of Hop Pocket Ale, a great choice to go with the pizza, and an appetizer of potato and prosciutto croquettes, which were delicious (and which Claire actually enjoyed too).

When the pizza arrived, Chris and I gave each other a knowing glance that confirmed even before we took a taste that this would be delicious. And it was.

Baked in a wood-burning oven and layered with a perfect tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, basil, and cherry tomatoes, Ms. Margherita wooed us with every bite, making 2Amys the best pizza we've eaten in town.

We had enough room to split dessert and we ordered the sfogliatelle, a made-from-scratch pastry filled with a slightly sweet ricotta and semolina mixture, and served with fiore di latte ice cream. The pastry was light and just lovely combined with the ice cream. 2Amys website says it's only available on Friday evenings, so I guess we got lucky being there that night.

Since we've had a child with us for the last 20 months, we have grown accustomed to eating at restaurants that are a little more child-friendly, and 2Amys was quite accommodating. There were a number of other kids there at the same time too. That said, we hear that 2Amys can fill up quickly so if you have kids and want to avoid a wait, go early.

We enjoyed our little jaunt into the city, and 2Amys makes living nearby worthwhile.

3715 Macomb Street, NW
Washington, DC 20016

Chris enjoying his Hop Pocket Ale
Homemade sfogliatelle, available only on Friday nights

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Chip Peanutty Goodness

So if you read my last few posts, you might be confused as to why a picture of a fresh-from-the-oven cookie is now before your eyes.

While I'm trying (and pretty much failing) to cut back on the sweets, that doesn't mean I can't share some of the goodies I've been baking, right?

Look at it. Isn't it beautiful?

I mean, who am I to deprive you of valuable information about a very delicious chocolate chip peanut cookie?

Not me. Never.

Ok, onto the good stuff.

So while I have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I'm not above trying other variations from time to time.

This recipe comes from Williams-Sonoma Desserts which can't be bad given the title of the cookbook.

All I know is that every time I make these cookies, they are gobbled up quickly.

Though you may not need an official occasion to bake these, you could definitely brighten a special someone's day tomorrow with a plateful of these treats...your Valentine's, or just yours. Enjoy!

Peanut and Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma Desserts)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped, lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

In another bowl, combine the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla, and using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and mix until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts.

Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart. Bake until just beginning to brown around the edges, 25 minutes. (Important note: I baked mine between 13-15 minutes, which was plenty of time.) Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. (If they last that long!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Surprisingly Fresh Lunch

Going on vacation always gives me renewed energy to try making new dishes. I was happy to discover last week -- tostadas. They are kind of like little Mexican pizzas. All I did was bake a few corn tortillas and then top them with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, cilantro, avocado, and tomato. (I did not use any chicken as the recipe calls for below and it was still delicious.) Paired with some homemade chicken tortilla soup, these tostadas made for a refreshing and simple lunch. Enjoy!

(Adapted from Whole Foods and

8 whole corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
Chili powder

1 cup refried beans
12 ounces shredded rotisserie chicken meat
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced into wedges
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese (or any kind of cheddar jack or Mexican blend shredded cheese)
1 cup thinly sliced romaine lettuce
1 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1 cup chunky salsa or diced tomatoes


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush both sides of the corn tortillas with vegetable oil and sprinkle one side with salt and chili pepper to taste. Place in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 5 minutes, turning them over once, and then bake them for another 5 minutes until they are crispy.

Heat the beans and chicken in the microwave.

Once the corn tortillas are done baking, spread a thin layer of beans on each, and top with some shredded cheese. Return to the oven for about 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Top each tortilla with chicken, lettuce, cilantro, avocado, and salsa (or tomatoes).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sun, Surf, & Shrimp on Sanibel

My family and I just got back from a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida. I already miss the warmth of the sun, and I can see why so many people from the north flock to the south in the winter. It makes me wonder why I'm still putting up with the cold.

Sanibel became a much-needed respite for us. Claire got to play in a wading pool for the first time in her little life, and after a few unstable minutes of falling into the water (and her mama stressing out and quickly coming to her rescue), she eventually mastered standing, and then walking in the water. She was so proud of herself. We were too.

Chris got to immerse himself in capturing some of the beauty of the island, which boasts some amazing sunrises and sunsets. (See photo above.)

And as you might expect, Chris and I especially enjoyed the restaurants in Sanibel, the majority of which are mom-and-pop shops that feature a wide selection of amazing fresh seafood such as grouper, shrimp, mahi mahi, sea bass and scallops. I found my favorite dish ever at a restaurant called Doc Ford's. They call it Yucatan Shrimp. I call it Love. This would seriously be the last meal I'd want to eat before I die.

I was so consumed by the dish I forgot to snap a picture, though my wise husband inquired about getting the recipe, which we came to find out had been published as part of a New York Times story on Doc Ford's - the story and a picture are here.

Sanibel was paradise for us, or as close as one can get to paradise with the responsibilities that come with having a 19-month-old in tow.

Of course, going south also makes me want to eat fresh, (healthier) food again, so even though it's cold back here, I'll be trying to recreate our Florida food experiences starting with this amazing dish.

Yucatan Shrimp
(Adapted from Greg Nelson at Doc Ford's Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille)

4 T. unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
Juice of two large limes
1 T. Indonesian Sambal (preferably sambal oelek, by Huy Fong, though sriracha will work as well) - click here for further reading on this ingredient.
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. large, fresh shell-on shrimp
1 tsp. jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 baguette

Over low heat, melt 1 T. of butter in a small saucepan. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add remaining 3 T. butter to the saucepan. After it melts, stir in the lime juice, chili sauce, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 mintues or until they are just firm and pink. Don't overcook. Drain into a colander and shake over the sink to remove excess moisture.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp and the butter chili sauce. Add jalapeno, and then sprinkle with cilantro and toss again. Serves 4, messily. Use baguette to dip into the succulent sauce. You won't want to leave any of that liquid gold behind.