Archive | February, 2013


28 Feb

I was notified by a certain Spanx-wearer who shall remain nameless that my blueberry focaccia picture did no justice to the dish’s deliciousness, so here is a new picture that is hopefully more appetizing.  See the original post for a pic that I thought was very artsy and retro-ish and understand why I am neither a photographer nor an Instagram user.

If you are a talented photographer and want to take pretty pictures of my food in exchange for eating lots of semi-bizarre-but-mostly-delicious food, let’s talk.


Carrot Chickpea Raisin Salad

28 Feb
The end is here! I’m off nights and back to the world of the living. Praise. The. Lord.
This night shift was especially tough on my diet– the combination of weird hours, dark nights, and cold weather is enough to send a woman straight to the all-gluten, all-sugar, everything-processed section of the grocery store. Basically, I was what needed to be cleaned up on aisle 9.
So now that it’s done we’re in full-on detox mode, which means more vegetables and less SGS. Never fear–I still have to post some quality cookies, muffins, and cakes made during my interlude as a vampire– so it won’t all be healthy. In the words of my dear friend, Mel (Kef name forthcoming): Never that.
Carrot Chickpea Raisin Salad
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion, cut in quarters

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 3-5 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 pinch coriander
  • 1/4- 1/2 c spring onions, finely chopped
  •  Assembly:

     1. Drain chickpeas and throw out water from can. Throw the chickpeas, quartered onion, and bay leaf in a pot that will fit them all without squishing them too much. Boil on medium heat for 20-30 min, until they are tender but not overcooked. Once tender, use a strainer to drain the chickpeas. Throw out onion and bayleaf.

    2. In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, carrots, and raisins and drizzle with the oil to taste.

    3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Serve the salad room temp or cold.

    Thanks to Tastespotting for bringing us this one!

    Trying to enjoy winter…

    22 Feb

    … but one thought remains in my mind: IS IT FERRAGOSTO YET?
    “I have always intended to live forever; but not until now, to live now.”–Galway Kennell

    Mojito Magic

    19 Feb

    Basically, it all boils down to this: if I like you, I will bake you a cake for your birthday/engagement/niece’s quincenera/whatever. But if I adore you, I will make you one of my four favorite cakes on the planet.

    This mojito cake is one of them (for the record: nutella bread pudding, pumpkin praline trifle, and this really life-changing orange caramel cake are the other three).  It’s not the simplest dessert to make–the original CakeLove recipe is three pages long– but it is a labor of love that pays for itself four-fold in its deliciousness. 

    Last weekend I got the chance to make this cakeypoo for an especially lovely woman on her thirtieth birthday. It’s light, boozy, unique and a great party trick– the only way this cake gets better is if you get to enjoy it with your favorite people.

    Some points about this cake: (1) it requires dried mint, which means you have to roast up mint leaves and then pull off the leaves from the stem. This is best done when listening to Afroman’s “Colt 45” (2) This icing is not for the anxiety-ridden amongst us. I have made this particular recipe with a success rate of only 50%. DO NOT make this icing unless you have time to remake it or have Xanax and a can of Betty Crocker handy (3) Each ingredient is absolutely essential. I went to the grocery store three times between the hours of midnight and 7am because I kept forgetting something. Do not substitute. Trust the cake.

    CakeLove Mojito Cake with Rum Meringue Icing



    • 2 1/4 c + 2 TBS all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 c potato starch
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 2 bunches fresh mint


    • 2/3 c sour cream
    • 1/4 c half-and-half
    • 3 TBS dark rum
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp molasses
    • 1 lime, zested and segmented (save zest)


    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 2 1/4 c sugar
    • 2 tsp lime zest
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 large egg yolks (Hint: the cake requires yolk and the icing requires egg whites, so please do count your eggs before you “hatch” them…)


    • a high-temperature candy thermometer
    • 5 egg whites
    • 1 1/4 c extra-fine granulated sugar, divided into 1 c and 1/4 c
    • 1/4 cup cold water
    • 3 TBS rum
    • 3-4 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
    • 2 bags frozen vegetables, preferably something like frozen peas, spinach, or corn

    Cake Assembly

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pull leaves off main stem and into folded tin foil so it resembles a box. Poke holes on top of “box” and put into oven on a cookie sheet until mint is totally dried out, about 12 minutes. Once totally dried, crumble the mint into a small bowl, removing the small veiny stems as much as possible. Whisk together the dry ingredients (no need to overwhisk–just combine) and set aside. Mix together liquid ingredients until just combined, set aside.  
    2. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and lime zest on the lowest setting for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time while still on the lowest speed, fully incorporating after each addition. Then add the yolks one at a time, making sure to let the first full incorporate before adding the second.
    3. Read this step in its entirety, then proceed: add the dry and wet mixtures to the creamed mixture in 3-5 alternating installments total, BEGINNING AND ENDING WITH THE DRY MIXTURE. This should take about 60 seconds, total–no need to wait for incorporation in this step. Don’t dawdle. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all that pesky batter off that sides that bowl and then restart mixer to medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds. Resist the urge to overbeat–20 seconds is all you need.
    4. Lightly grease two 9-inch-round cake pans–I also like to line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Split the batter between the pans and even out the top with a spatula. 

    5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the center is set. A few notes– this cake is dense–do not rotate until there is some stability in the cake. Also, the sides will burn fairly quickly, so add any additional time in two minute increments and keep a close eye. 

    6. Remove the cakes from the oven let cool to room temperature on a wire rack–seriously, let the cake cool ENTIRELY or it will break everywhere. Not cute.

    Icing Assembly 
    1. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside.

    2. With the wire whisk attachment on a standing mixer, whip the egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar, then continue whipping until stiff peaks form. If you do not know the difference between soft and stiff peaks–google, practice, and revisit this recipe at a later date.

    3. Measure 1 cup sugar and the water into a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Gently stir with the candy thermometer to combine.  With the thermometer in the pan and a lid partially covering the pot, heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it reaches 245 degrees. Put your frozen vegetables at the base of your mixer bowl, touching as much of the bowl as possible.

    4. THIS IS WHERE IT GETS TRICKY–better to picture yourself a nuclear physicist and proceed with extreme caution from here on out. Once the syrup has reached 245 degrees, turn the mixer back onto high and s-l-o-w-l-y pour the syrup into the meringue.After 1 or 2 minutes reduce the mixer speed to medium for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the meringue is cooled–if the meringue is not cooled after this time, just keep mixing until it is at room temp. (This is why the frozen veggies are helpful–if the egg whites stay hot too long the proteins don’t manage the fat of the butter in the same way and the whole thing falls apart.)

    5. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each tablespoon is incorporated before adding another. Sometime around stick 2, it will look like the icing will never come together–have heart, as things start to look up around stick three. I like to stop at 3.5 sticks, but once the frosting comes together take a taste and see what you think.  

    6. When you have a recognizable, spreadable icing, add the rum and increase the mixer speed to high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the butter is fully incorporated.   

    7. Spread as you like on your cooled cake. Garnish with lime zest. Refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    14 Feb

    Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. –Emily Bronte

    … and I can’t stop watching Downton Abbey.


    12 Feb

    So, let’s talk about my grandma. To borrow a phrase from the Queen Bee herself, she is just “the nuts.” An avid animal lover and gardener by day, she takes the Northeastern Pennsylvania pony races by storm at night.  She has, on occasion, been known to refer to something lovely, impressive, or silly as “tchotchy-la-la.” To this day, the Kef Family compliments one another as such (“Well, aren’t you just a tchotchy-la-la?”). No one said we were normal.

    In addition to the unending affection of her grandchildren, daughers, and beloved Golden Doodle, she has captured the heart of one of the most amazing humans alive, BFKef.  These two love each other in a way that makes one thing abundantly clear: I’ve become superfluous.

    A few Mardi Gras seasons ago, at the first meeting of this dangerous duo, GrandmaKef introduced BFKef and I to an amazing thing called the paczki (pronounced ponchki).  Apparently, these are a grand tradition for Mardi Gras among the Polish diaspora, so much so that Fat Tuesday is known as “Paczki Day” in large parts of the Midwest.  When GrandmaKef introduced BFKef to these donut-like delicacies, you can bet BFKef would have thrown his beads all over Northeastern Pennsylvania for another dozen… or two.

    Every so often, I make something and think to myself, “Holy Moly, Chef Kef, I can’t believe you made this.” This is absolutely one of those times. Like most bread-based recipes, this one is time-intensive but absolutely not skill-intensive (As proof: I blew through Season 2 of Downton Abbey while I cooked these, which I will ABSOLUTELY be writing about at another time). Turns out fast food has been on to something this whole time and deep-frying is actually quite an easy process. I used a recipe from Serious Eats and followed it to a ‘T’ without problem.

    My first thought when I saw the finished result? Tchotchy-la-la. 

    Paczki Fit For a Polish Prince*


    • 2 c whole milk
    • 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast (2 Fleishmann’s envelopes)
    • 1/2 c PLUS 1 TBS sugar
    • 5 c all-purpose flour
    • 4 egg yolks PLUS one whole egg
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • A whole lot of canola oil, for frying (you will need at least enough to fill a wide, deep pot up to 2 inches)
    • 1 1/2 c berry jelly–try and find one that is smooth and without too many chunks to make filling easier
    • 1 c powdered sugar, for dusting

    1. In a small saucepan heat milk to between 110 an 115°F. Pour warmed milk into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve yeast in milk. Add one Tablespoon sugar and two cups of flour. Mix until consistency of pancake batter then cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to allow yeast to activate. Let rest for 30 minutes or until starter is very bubbly. 

    2. In a medium bowl combine egg and yolks. Whisk until light and frothy, about 4 minutes. Whisk in 1/2 cup sugar, salt and vanilla.

    3. Slowly stir cooled melted butter into yeast starter until combined. Then slowly incorporate egg mixture until just combined. Fit mixer with dough hook. Stir in flour, working 1/2 a cup in at a time until a soft dough comes together. Note: this dough is very sticky.

    4. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until double in size. About an hour.

    5. Turn out dough on a very generously floured surface. Dust surface of dough with flour then punch down dough to about half an inch high. Using anything hard and round (I used an empty tomato sauce jar, a wine glass would also work), cut out doughnuts. Carefully transfer doughnut rounds to parchment lined baking sheets. Cover sheets with a clean dish towel and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

    6. Pour canola oil into a large dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 360°F. Once oil reaches the proper temperature use a heat resistant spatula or shallow strainer to carefully drop doughnuts in, one at a time, cooking a maximum of 3 at once. Cook doughnuts until a warm, deep brown on one side, then using heat resistance tongs turn the doughnut and cook the other side until it reaches the same degree of doneness. Remove from oil letting any excess oil drain off then transfer to a wire rack for cooling. Test your first doughnut to make sure that the insides are completely cooked, if not adjust your cooking time accordingly. Let doughnut cool.

    7. Prepare a wide and shallow bowl with powdered sugar. Fill your pastry bag with your favorite preserves and fit the bag with a filling tip. Pipe filling into pączki then dip each side in powdered sugar until covered. (Chef Kefi, RN Editor’s Note: the filling was the messiest part for me–I ended up filling from the top to make this a big easier, but separate one or two paczkis for practice specimen!)

    *A story for another time.

    Solid Gold Sh!t

    7 Feb

    Dear Friends–

    As you may have heard, I’m on the night shift for awhile.  I originally intended for it to be six weeks of cooking fun, but mostly I have been keeping up with the Kardashians and the other trashy television stars who show up after 2 am. I have gotten off the couch long enough to get a couple new recipes in the works, but nothing’s been perfected yet except my memorization of the new Insanity infomercial in its entirety.

    In the meantime, I’ve been gorging myself on what I call “Solid Gold Sh!t” (bonus points if you catch the Love Actually reference).  This is the foodgroup that consists of a whole bunch of semi- to very healthy ingredients put together in such proportions, quantities, or iterations that they lose most semblance of nutrition altogether.  Put simply: Solid Gold Sh!t is junk food that sounds healthy but probably isn’t.

    Some favorites:

    SO Delicious makes gluten-free, no-sugar-added ice cream. The chocolate flavor is by far the best, though the mint chip ain’t bad either.  The state of Virginia may outlaw “pinting and driving” soon, as I’ve been known to try and brave traffic while housing one of these puppies!
    Probably my favorite treat on the planet right now, Coco-Roons have the texture of a delicious cookie and the sweetness of a real lemon pie. Sadly, these guys run about $8.99/package, and nursing just can’t support the habit all that often… but a girl can dream.
    These chips right HERE taste like corn chips, but the first ingredient is PEAS! I had every intention of making a superbowl taco dip with these but then got really lazy and just ate the whole bag. These guys are also BFKef approved, so you know they taste like the real thing.
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