Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - a year in review.

2015 was a good year.  With 2014 being the year of the wedding, it was nice to return to a state of "normalcy" in 2015. A year where I could focus on myself and the things that make me happy.  It felt good to grow and explore and to enter into a new decade (thirties!).  As I think back over the past 365 days, I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness which makes me feel profoundly lucky.  

2015 was the year of travel - 8 US cities (Boston, Baltimore, Philly, Nashville, Chicago, Portland (OR and ME), and Seattle.  It was the year of the polar vortex and conquering the perfect homemade birthday cake.  There was a lot of reading (especially books about WWII) and discovering the perfect jam (INNA JAM!).  Falling hard for a bakery in Portland, Maine (and obsessing over their banana bread and chocolate chip cookies) and purchasing myself the perfect gold hoop earrings as a 30th birthday present.  A weekend trip to Hudson, N.Y. that involved a pretty sweet pool and a phenomenal firework show.  I made homemade nutella and then ate it all myself (it was that good).  I got into running (or as into it as someone who doesn't really like running can).  I listened to a lot of podcasts and Adele Hello on repeat.   I discovered Anson Mills and fell in love with their flours.  I rode a horse on the beach and hiked a waterfall.  I consumed one too many doughnuts and had the perfect summer beach day with my husband.   I tackled homemade ice cream cake and the perfect roast chicken.  I ate some killer ham sandwiches and some equally amazing poached pears.  I learned to make a smashed burger that can satisfy my Shake Shack cravings and found the closest thing to the perfect pair of jeans.  There was an unexpected and incredibly awesome date night involving Superiority Burger and ice cream. I celebrated one year of marriage with Tyler over an unseasonably warm weekend in Chicago and finally saw the Bean!  And then there was the puppy - the newest member of the Cavagnolo/Randall family and definitely the most adorable member.  He has stolen our heart.  Not a bad way to end the year.  

2016 - There will be more traveling (Nashville again, maybe Austin or New Orleans, possibly LA, most definitely Italy (I hope)).  There will be a lot more chocolate almond croissants and lazy Saturday mornings.  I hope to edit my life and teach myself to buy less (but better).  I will make more of the things on my list of things to cook (like rice balls and babka!) and I will try not to get hung up on things that don't matter.  Bring it on.   

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


As we near the end of 2015, I've begun to think about how I want to celebrate the new year.  Ideally it would involve pizza, cookies, and snuggles on the couch with our new puppy (yes we got a dog and he is a little ball of love and kisses but more on him later), but realistically it will involve a low-key dinner with friends. There will be glasses of bubbly, an absurd amount of cheese, and cookies, because it isn't a celebration without something sweet.

Normally, I would stick to tried and true chocolate chip cookies - they are a crowd pleaser after all, but stepping it up a notch seems appropriate considering it's a holiday (though I imagine no one would be sad to see a chocolate-chip cookie served at a fancy party).  Rugelach to me are the holiday cookie of choice.  Their full of flavors and textures (jam! nuts! chocolate!) yet slightly more sophisticated then your standard cookie.  Not to mention they are equally enjoyable the morning after your soiree with a mug of good coffee and sweatpants.  

Recipe adapted slightly from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I've always shied away from making rugelach because the traditional process of rolling the dough into a circle and then rolling each rugelach individually was way to fussy for me.  This recipe is genius since it has you roll the dough like a log and then slice each cookie.  Wee for ease! Also, I upped the amount of nuts, fruit, and chocolate in my recipe because well, more is better in my book.

Makes 40 to 48 rugelach


2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 pound (225 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 pound (1 8-ounce or 225-gram package) cream cheese


2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips or finely chopped bitter- or semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup toasted nuts, chopped small (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped small; (I used tiny dried currants, no chopping needed)
1/2 to 3/4 cup jam (I used seedless raspberry, apricot is more traditional)


1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water or milk

Remaining cinnamon-sugar from above

Make the dough: In a food processor: Place flour and salt in work bowl fitted with standard blade. Pulse to combine. Add cream cheese, chopped into large chunks, and run machine until it’s fully dispersed into the flour. Add butter in large chunks and run machine until dough starts to clump. Dump out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a flattish disc.

With a mixer: Let butter and cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat both together until light and fluffy. Beat in salt. Add flour, beating until it disappears. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a flattish disc.

Both methods: Chill dough until totally firm — about 2 hours in the fridge you can hasten this along in the freezer for about 30 minutes. (Dough keeps in fridge for up to a week, and in freezer much longer.)

Form the pastries: Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

Stir cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish. Combine coarse mixture of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit in a second dish.

Divide dough into quarters and roll first quarter out on a floured counter into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 7 to 8 inches long, with the wider side to you. Thinly spread dough to all but the furthest 1/4 inch from you — which seals better once rolled if bare — with about 2 to 3 tablespoons jam. (I find that with seedless raspberry, 2T covers nicely but with thicker jam, you’ll need 3T to coat it thinly. If your jam is difficult to spread, you can warm it gently in the microwave for a few seconds first.) Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar mixture, then  1/4 of the coarse fruit and nut mixture.

Roll dough from the 12-inch side in front of you into as tight as a log as you can, using your fingers to lightly seal the ends onto the log. Repeat with remaining logs.

Place log of filled dough in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes; it will cut more cleanly once semi-firm. Trim ends from log so they have a clean shape. Cut log into 10 to 12 even slices. Arrange on prepared baking sheets a couple inches apart from each other.

Brush top(s) lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with a total of 1 teaspoon of the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Cooled cookies keep in a container at room temperature for a week, and in the freezer for a month.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

spinach and cheese strata.

As much as I enjoy eating cookies for breakfast on Christmas morning (and let me tell you I really enjoy eating Christmas cookies) it's not really sustainable.  By 1PM I'm starving which leads me to consume whatever food I come in contact with first and then I ruin my appetite for the main meal.  

It's a vicious cycle.

Which is why I propose starting your holiday with something a little more substantial.  This strata begs to be eaten in PJ's nestled under blanket in front of a fire with puppies at your feet (doesn't that sound dreamy).  It comes together quickly and can be prepared the night before.  Simply pop-up it in the oven when the present opening commences and an hour later breakfast/brunch is served to one happy family.  Not a bad way to start Christmas.  

Spinach and Cheese Strata
Recipe from Gourmet 

12 ounces fresh or frozen spinach (if using frozen, thaw)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed (1 inch) French or Italian bread (1/2 lb)
6 oz coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

If using frozen spinach - Squeeze handfuls to remove as much liquid as possible, then finely chop.
If using fresh spinach - finely chop.

Cook onion in butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in spinach and cook for about 60 seconds (until the spinach softens and wilts), then remove from heat.

Spread one third of bread cubes in a buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other shallow ceramic baking dish and top evenly with one third of spinach mixture. Sprinkle with one third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice (ending with cheeses).

Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Chill strata, covered with plastic wrap, at least 8 hours (for bread to absorb custard).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Let strata stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

cranberry spice cake.

I have a thing for farmer's markets. (That should come as no surprise.) But my farmer's market obsession does not stop with our neighborhood one.  (Of course not.) When we travel, I seek out the markets in those cities; I like browsing what's seasonal, I like seeing what the crowd is like, and I really like buying things that will raise the eyebrows of TSA agents. Things like a sack of hulless oats (they tested me by asking how to cook them), goat's milk yogurt (which is apparently considered a liquid and will get confiscated - not that I'm still upset about that...), cheeses(!), and bags of local cranberries. 

When Tyler and I were in Chicago last month, I bought lots of cranberries.  I didn't need them but it was a week and a half until Thanksgiving and all I could think about was cranberry and pear chutney. I've never been practical a day in my life so I saw no reason why I shouldn't buy loads of cranberries and pack them in my carry-on bag (the TSA loves me).    

So I made chutney (which was a real crowd-pleaser) and was then left with an over-abundance of leftover cranberries and a lack of inspiration. My default cranberry recipe is this upside-down cake which is so utterly dreamy but far more labor intensive then I had the energy for.  I looked to Google for help and was feeling absurdly defeated as everything just felt too fussy and finally, on page 10 (no one goes to page 10 unless they are feeling truly defeated) I stumbled across a recipe that was everything - simple, seasonal, and spiced.   

This is that cake and I think it's going to be a new go-to around here.  It comes together in under 10 minutes, it bakes up beautifully, and it feels like winter (even if it doesn't literally feel like winter around here).    

Cranberry Spice Cake
Recipe adapted from The Year in Food 

This is not a very sweet cake which means it's completely acceptable for breakfast (WEE!) or as a side to an afternoon tea. The original recipe called for 2 cups of almond flour and while I love almond flour, I don't like cakes that cost $10 to make so I halved it and replaced it with some wheat flour.  You can do either.  I would have added slivered almonds to the top but I was out so I omitted it - it's brilliant either way (though prettier with the almonds).  

1 cup almond meal or almond flour 
1 cup wheat flour (whole wheat, rye, white, buckwheat would all work)
2/3 cup brown sugar or muscovado 
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, room temperature, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
Zest of two oranges
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)
1 tablespoons coarse sugar + 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, wheat flour (if using) brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder and soda, and sea salt.

In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the beaten eggs with the melted butter, and orange zest and juice. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, mixing just until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the fresh cranberries.

Thoroughly grease and then flour a round 9-inch baking pan. Pour the batter into the pan.  Sprinkle with the coarse sugar and cinnamon mixture then  scatter the sliced almonds over the batter (if using). Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Save for a little cranberry juice.) The cake will become very fragrant when it’s nearly done. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes, then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice into 8 portions. 

Monday, December 14, 2015


Now I know how to display my random assortment of pictures.  (If only I had a wall long enough.)

Look We Love: Overstuffed Picture Ledges:

Image via Pinterest.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

roasted leek and white bean galettes.

It isn't very often (I would actually go so far as to say it only happens once in a blue moon) that I set out to make a recipe and actually have all of the ingredients on hand.   Usually a trip to the supermarket is involved or a walk to the bodega at the end of the block.   Usually something is missing and at that moment I begin cursing myself for my inability to plan ahead.

I keep a list in my phone of the never-ending collection of recipes I want to make.  It runs the gamut from semolina gnoochi to rainbow cookies and just about everything in between.  It helps me prioritize my weekend cooking activities and ensures I don't forget all of the absurdly amazing things I come across and think "I have to make this".  This roasted leek and white bean galette recipe made the list the second I finished reading the Smitten Kitchen blog post.  I love food that is both rustic and impossibly French.  

And somehow and someway (by the grace of the food gods?), I realized last weekend that I had everything on hand to make said galettes.  Which I did, about 5 minutes after realizing that.

These galettes are the perfect winter dinner/dinner party main (or side!).  They are impossibly cute (though as Deb notes, you can make 1 large galette) and the flavors are warm and comforting i.e. exactly what you want to eat in the dead of winter (though I'm not sure if we are actually going to have a winter this year?).  White beans and leeks are like the French version of peanut butter and jelly; they just work together.  Especially when paired with grueyere and a slew of black pepper.

Roasted Leek and White Bean Galettes
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

For the Pastry

1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup (60 grams) plain yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water

For the Filling

6 small-to-medium leeks, dark green tops discarded, white and light green parts halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (or 15 ounces of dried beans that you cook yourself)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup grated gruyère cheese, divided


1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough: Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Meanwhile, prepare filling: Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange leeks cut-side-up in a large (9×13-inch) baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Flip the leeks so that their cut sides face down, add 3 tablespoons of water to the dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes until tender. Uncover and continue roasting the leeks for 10 to 15 minutes, or until caramelized. Leave oven on. Let leeks cool slightly, then chop into segments and place in a large bowl. Toss with beans, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, 1/2 cup grated cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble galettes: Divide dough into 4 pieces. On a floured counter, roll the first piece dough out into a roughly 8-inch round, although it really doesn’t need to be perfectly shaped. Transfer to a large parchment-lined baking sheet; I like to fold my dough gently, without creasing, in quarters then unfold it onto the baking pan. Sprinkle about 1/4 of the prepared filling into the center of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with about 1/4 of the remaining cheese. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze. Repeat with remaining dough and filling, making 4 small galettes.

Bake the galettes: For 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Or, if you’re planning ahead, let cool completely and refrigerate until needed. Gently rewarm before serving in a low oven.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

dear santa - my 2015 christmas wishlist.

It's funny, but as I've gotten older, I've wanted less stuff.  5 years ago I would have only considered something a gift if it came in a box and wrapped in a bow but now at 30, I feel comfortable with experiences as gifts or getting a single gift instead of a plethora of items.  I find experiences less stressful (they don't take up room in your apartment) and they are something to look forward to. Don't get me wrong, I still love beautiful objects (I'm looking at you my new Common Projects sneakers) but now when I want something I just buy it for myself because I can (except for the Celine bag I've been lusting over for about 2 years now...).

Yet Christmas isn't Christmas without there being at least one box for me under the tree.  For as long as I can remember I have always acted like a 7 year old come Christmas morning.  Waking up all my siblings, helping to sort gifts, there is something magical about it.  So I've rounded up a handful of items I would be more then happy to see on the morning of December 25th and for the most part, they are all practical, and they are all beautiful.  

1 - Gjelina Cookbook - Look, I like cookbooks.  I like referring to them and being inspired by them and curling up with a cup of tea and reading them front to back.  The Gjelina one is the one I am most excited about since they share my food philosophy - preparing vegetables in fun and innovative ways so you don't feel like you are eating vegetables.  I can't even begin to tell you how pumped I am to read it.

2 - Unreal Peanut Butter Cups - These are crack.  I read about them on NYMag and then found them at Whole Foods and now I am buying a pack a week.  They aren't cloyingly sweet the way Reese's are - instead they taste like real nut butters and real chocolate.  A novel concept when it comes to candy.  I'll take a box of 100 please (50 of the Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate and 50 of the Dark Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter cups).  THANKS!

3 - I have been on the hunt for what feels like a year now for a longer gold necklace. A necklace that is substantial but not obnoxiously so, modern and chic and not overly girly.  It has been an extremely difficult battle to find something that looks and feels right, but I think this Chloe necklace is it.  It's adjustable, gold, and graphic in a classic kind of way.  It will look good with a cashmere sweater now and a tee-shirt come summer and it is somehow both work and weekend appropriate.  It's also timeless which is something I look for when I buy jewelry (especially jewelry that costs more then $20).  I think it's love.

4 - I plan on repainting our bathroom this winter (yes Tyler, it's happening) and in doing so, feel strongly about replacing the bathmat we have since no matter how many times we wash it, it always looks dirty (note, never buying an off-white or white bath mat again).  My sister the ever knowledgeable interior designer suggested we paint the space the same color as the floor (to make it feel bigger!) and use accessories to add color/patterns to the space.  I am taking her advice (she has very good taste) and think this bath mat or this one could be a nice addition to the space.   

5 - Is it weird to ask for tahini?  If so I don't care.  I've read that this stuff makes all other tahini taste like garbage and considering how often I use tahini, I think using the best of the best is the only logical thing to do.

6 - Ever since our wedding (and browsing for plateware) I've developed an absurd love affair with ceramics.  I like that even when not in use (i.e. a vase without flowers) they still add a beautiful element to the home.  I've been hunting almost exclusive for a beautiful ceramic vase and the work of Romy Northover has stolen my heart.  Her vases are simple yet special and I would love to have one in our apartment.  Something like this, this, or this

7 - Do you know how difficult it is to find good rain boots?  It is a lot more difficult then it should be.  In New York the default rain boot is the tall Hunter ones but I personally can't pull them off.  I much prefer an ankle boot (practical in the winter and the spring).  My current pair is currently nearing it's death (it did survive a hurricane) and it's time for me to wear something that isn't completely ripped.  These Rag and Bone boots are on the pricier side but my god are they chic and they don't scream rain boot (to note -all reviews say to size down if you are a half size)!   

8 - Apparently it only took Tyler and I being together for 10 years for his do-gooder ways to rub off on me.  If you are looking to donate to charities City Harvest (which collects food from restaurants that would have been thrown away to serve to the needy) and Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue are two of my personal favorites.  Or you can adopt a puppy for me from Badass, I am totally OK with that.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

tandem bakery portland, maine - a review.

Drop me in just about any city in America and I will find the best bakery.  This is probably not the most practical of skills one can have, but I am personally pretty proud of it.  It also ensures that we eat well no matter where we go and I'm 93% sure that is one of the top 5 reasons Tyler keeps me around (it also ensures we travel to obscure parts of every city we visit to try the best bakeries which I think makes traveling all the more fun).

Last week, I finally made it to Tandem Bakery in Portland, Maine.  I've tried their treats before (yes I ask people to bring me cookies) but actually being able to visit the space that I've read so much about was such a treat (pun intended).

Tandem started off as coffee roaster and recently they branched out by creating a bakeshop to go with their most delicious coffee (their latte with housemade almond milk is awesome).  I think it's the best decision they could have ever made.  Their baked goods involve subtle riffs on the classics. Chocolate chip cookies with an abundance of flaky sea salt that leaves me thinking all other chocolate chip cookies lack salt, jalapeno cheddar biscuits that ooze cheesiness, banana bread covered in turbinado sugar and black sesame seeds (a personal favorite), and fully loaded biscuits (i.e. halved and slathered in butter and jam) which may be the greatest breakfast food ever.  It's the kind of place I wouldn't mind hunkering down in daily and if I lived in Portland, I imagine I would.

And then there are sandwiches and pie (!!) which I have yet to consume but will be consuming on our next visit.  Those make an appearance in the afternoon which means I recommend visiting once in the morning, taking a walk around Portland, and the high tailing it back there for an afternoon meal (at least that's what I plan on doing in the future).

Oh and the space is gorgeous.  An old gas station that was probably once dark and depressing has turned into a blindingly clean and minimalistic space with incredible wood counters and an equally awesome chandelier that anchors the room.  I'm ready to move in.