Category: Features (page 1 of 77)

Cinnamon Rolls with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing

Every once in a while, I get a great idea.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing

I am not a huge bagel person (they are just so big and ready and full of calories! Plus I aways have a blood sugar crash about 2 hours after eating one.) But Michael knows about my obsession with pumpkin so a few weeks ago, he returned from Einstein Bros with a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese for me. The bagel was pretty good but the cream cheese was AMAZING! I’ve have a few more pumpkin bagels in the intervening weeks, but only as a vehicle for the delicious pumpkin cream cheese. And then one day it hit me.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing would be incredible.

Cinnamon Rolls with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing

Yesterday I made several batches of cinnamon rolls and whipped up a batch of Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing.

Cinnamon Rolls with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing

I made the cinnamon rolls in lined muffin tins, because I prefer the way they look when they are baked this way.

Cinnamon Rolls with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing

The Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing was so good and so easy!

1  6-oz tub of Pumpkin Cream Cheese

1 stick unsalted butter

2 cups powered sugar

1/3- 1/2 can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

Cream together the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of your electric mixer. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until it’s all incorporated, then add the pumpkin. I wanted to make pipe-able icing for my cinnamon rolls, so I needed it to be on the thin side. Therefore I used 1/2 can of pumpkin. But if you are icing cupcakes, you’ll want it to be thicker so you should use less pumpkin.


Probably something you would like…





Still need a Halloween costume? These downloadable and printable masks designed by Wintercroft are amazing! (Thank you, Elizabeth S. for sending me these!)


Um, how great is this Alexander McQueen cabled skull sweater? For $1000 bucks and some change it could be yours! Or you could chart something similar and make it yourself.

What’s making you happy this Halloween week?

Stuffed and Roasted Pumpkin

You know, there are times when- in spite of all your good intentions and planning- outside event conspire to bite you in the ass.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I had planned to make and serve my new recipe for Stuffed and Roasted Pumpkin on Tuesday, and then blog about it on Wednesday. But Tuesday got a way from me a bit and by the time I started preparing my mise en place together, it became obvious that it was too dark in my tiny kitchen to take photographs with natural light. FOILED!

I decided to put the project off a day so that we could have good pictures for the blog. And woke up Wednesday morning to a gloomy gray, cloud-covered sky. That lasted the whole damned day. FOILED AGAIN! This time, I decided to soldier on.

The thing about a recipe such as this one is that you don’t really need a recipe. All you really need is the idea– then you can run with it and make it your own.  It’s sort of like Thanksgiving stuffing. You find a version you like and then you tweak it to make it your own.

So here’s my version of a Stuffed and Roasted pumpkin.

headless pumpkin

Step 1: There is really no way around this. You are going to have to cut the top off your pumpkin Jack O’Lantern-style (reserving the lid) and clean it out. There is not much i this world I hate as much as cleaning out pumpkin guts. That feeling of the pumpkin juice drying on your forearms is just too much to be bear.  But it must be bourn, I guess, if you want to eat a stuffed pumpkin. Scrape out all the seeds and stringy stuff- I find it helps to think really hard about something else while you’re doing it.

Rinse the pumpkin inside and out and then pat dry with paper towels.

Step 2: Assemble your stuffing ingredients. You will need bread (preferably day-old) cut into one inch cubes. I use a round Italian loaf from Harris Teeter, La Brea Bakery brand, I think. I actually cubed my bread the night before because the drier your bread is, the most deliciousness it will absorb.

Pretty much everything else is optional, depending on our taste. For this stuffing I used:


1 large Honey Crisp apples, diced

1/4 pound of gruyere cheese, cubed

6 ounces of pancetta, died and browned

a handful of dried cranberries

four or five sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped

one minced garlic clove


Throw everything in a large bowl along with your bread crumbs and mix well. I used my hands because, after spending half an hour elbow deep in a pumpkin, I was up for anything.

I DID NOT add salt to the stuffing mixture. There was plenty of salt in the pancetta and the gryuere to season the whole recipe, but I did add a few twists of fresh ground black pepper.


Step 3: Stuff everything into your pumpkin. You can really cram it in there, sense there are no food safety issues here as there are with stuffing a turkey. Fuller is better.


Step 4: You’ll need to add some kind of liquid to your stuffing at this point. I used one pint of heavy cream, because that’s what Dorie Greenspan used, and what my friend Sean used when he made a version of this last weekend. Sean referred to the results as a savory bread pudding stuffed in a pumpkin, and that was the result I was going for here. You could also use 1 1/2 -2 cups chicken stock here, or even vegetable stock. You want to add enough liquid to moisten the stuffing very well, but you don’t want it to be soupy.

Step 5: Pop the reserved pumpkin top back on and roast the pumpkin on a baking sheet at 350 for two hours, removing the cap for the last ten minutes to allow a bit of the liquid to evaporate. You wan the pumpkin to be fork-tender but not collapsing when it is done.

Now, by this point in my cooking process, my kitchen was almost completely dark. I couldn’t even get a bad picture with every light in the kitchen on. So I am going to rather shamelessly swipe my friend Sean’s picture of his version of this recipe so you can see what this thing will look like when it comes out of the oven. We used very different kinds of pumpkins but the idea is the same.

Stuffed and Roasted Pumpkin

Now here’s the fun part. Doris Greenspan says that you can either use a big spoon to stir everything together, scraping the pumpkin from the side and mixing it into the pumpkin like I did (delicious but not so pretty) or you can slice the pumpkin the way Sean did. Sean is a braver man than me.


Obviously, Sean’s way makes for a much better presentation. Who could be unimpressed by this?

My friend Susie made another version of this recipe and posted it on her blog.  She is the former editor of the only cooking magazine that matters, Fine Cooking Magazine, and is a much better planner than I, as all her photos are lovely and taken long before sundown. Also, she and I used the same kind of pumpkin– the Long Island Cheese pumpkin, and you should pop over there just to see how mine would have looked if I had been born more organized.

The Stuffed and Roasted pumpkin was absolutely delicious. My family was skeptical until they tasted it– it is positively ambrosial! The combination of the salty pancetta and the sweet apples was sublime. And the gruyere! Oh my Lord, the gruyere!

This would make a great Thanksgiving side dish, although I encourage you to try it at least once before then as a confidence booster.

Probably something you would like… Halloween Edition 2014

[So I had planned to have my new stuffed pumpkin recipe posted today, but I got kind of a late start with dinner yesterday and quickly realized it was way too dark to take good food pictures. So my family had take-out Thai and you are getting a PSYWL post today. But come back tomorrow-- I'll be starting dinner early today and those pumpkin pics will be glorious!]


eyeball cookies

Eyeball Cookies. Because EYEBALL COOKIES.

Garlic Soup

I originally wrote this Garlic Soup recipe for Valentine’s Day but it’s also probably your best defense against vampires on Halloween. BONUS: It’s delicious and you will want to eat it every day of winter.

Halloween for Preggos

Guess what this pregnant lady is going to be for Halloween? Yup, I finally got to order this t-shirt that I blogged about so many Halloweens ago. (I blogged about this two years ago. I NEVER thought I would be the pregnant lady who actually gets to wear it. Life is nothing if not unexpected.)


Every year, I say I am going to make Pumpkin Dream Cake. This is the year, dammit!

I never remember to soften the butter when baking. This is pure genius.

Unplugged Wedding Photography

Okay, this article is actually infuriating but  I want you to read it anyway. Please don’t be this wedding guest. Pretty please.

If you are the easily queasy type, DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO. For everyone else, check out this crazy relative of the star fish called the Basket Star.  So creepy but I can’t stop watching!

How to Properly Construct a Sandwich

As everyone who knows me knows, I hate sandwiches. When someone is trying to give you a sandwich they are cheating you out of eating something good. (Ironically, most of my pregnancy cravings have been for sandwiches. I am becoming that which I loathe the most!) This article about proper sandwich construction should be must-reading for everyone who has ever championed those soggy excuses for a meal.

Pumpkin Fondue!

Dear Lovely Readers, I originally posted this recipe way back in 2009. Since then, it has become a yearly tradition in my house and it never fails to wow a crowd. Thanks to my friend’s Susie and Sean, (and my honorary friend, Dorie Greenspanwhom I’ve never met but I’m convinced I would really like in real life) I am working on version 2.0 of this beauty today. It will be more stuffing/bread pudding than fondue, but I have great expectations for it. I’ll post the new recipe tomorrow but, in the mean time, this one is awfully damn good.



What do you do with a boatload of winter squashes and pumpkins that you bought to use as decoration? That’s the very question I was asking myself this morning. Because I have a PATHOLOGICAL aversion to wasting food, especially now that money is so tight. Seriously, I think I must have gone hungry in a former life because I can’t sleep when I know that the milk expires tomorrow morning AND THE JUG IS HALF FULL!!! Makes me want to wake up the whole house and force everyone to enjoy a delicious, icy cold glass of very-nearly-spoiled milk. YUM!

So about those pumpkins and squashes. First I poked each of them and determined which were likely to keep in the pantry the longest and which had to be dealt with. Then I roasted the squashes, scooped out the good stuff and froze it in gallon ziplock bags. I wanted to save the pumpkins for pies so I sliced three of them into wedges and roasted them as well.

I set aside the biggest pumpkin for tonight’s dinner and it was so lovely, so comfort-foody, so perfect for a rainy, depressing, day-after-Christmasy kind of a day, that I took pictures so I could share it with you. The recipe is from the new Gourmet Today Cookbook. (The one with the sticker on the cover that says, “A subscription to Gourmet Magazine is included with the purchase of this book.” It’s still a great book though.)  It’s called Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue (page 632) and more perfect it could not be.


Take a pumpkin that’s around 7 pounds, wash it to get all the dirt off and then cut a smallish hole around the stem, jack o’latern style.



You now have the unpleasant task of scooping out the seeds and goo. I use a big metal spoon with a long handle to cut down getting sticky pumpkin guts on my hands. An ice cream scoop works well too.

If you are lucky, you’ll have someone in your house who loves roasted pumpkin seeds and is willing to pick through the goo to liberate the seeds. In my house, that person is Erin.


So now you have a scraped out pumpkin suitable for filling. Let’s fill it up, shall we?


You will need 1 cup of chicken stock or broth (please don’t tell anyone that I am using boxed broth- I haven’t had time to make my own since we moved) 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper.


Combine with a whisk set aside for a minute.


In addition to the chicken stock/cream concoction, you will need one baguette, cut into half inch slices and lightly toasted, and 2 cups of grated cheese. I used half Gruyere and half white cheddar. The recipe actually called for Gruyere and Ementall but I had a ton of Irish cheddar in the fridge, so I used that.

Put a layer of bread in the bottom of the pumpkin, followed by a handful of cheese and a half cup of the stock/cream mixture and then repeat. You may not use all of the bread or cheese but you should definitely use all the stock/cream. Just pour any extra on top at the end.


Once your pumpkin is stuffed, popped the lid back on it and place it in an oiled roasting pan. Then brush the pumpkin with a little olive oil and pop it in a 450 degree oven for an hour and 15 minutes to hour and a half.


Here’s what it looks like when you take it out of the oven.


Hot and bubbly. Slightly browned.



Oh my goodness. Serve by scooping out some of the cooked pumpkin with the cheesy bread filling.

This dish is crazy good and just perfect for a cold and rainy weeknight. It would also make the most amazing Thanksgiving side dish. Grab a pumpkin before the season’s over and give it a try.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: A reader who tried this recipe nearly had a disaster when the stem of her pumpkin CAUGHT ON FIRE in the oven.  I strongly advise you to either pop the stem off your pumpkin before putting it in the oven or soaking the stem in a glass of water until it’s thoroughly wet. You could also try wrapping the stem in aluminum foil before baking.

Probably something you would like…

This Evening in Pictures















Some Thoughts on Whole 30


Greetings from Day 30 + 2!


Mike and I spent the last month following the Whole 30 plan. Basically, on Whole 30, you eat all the vegetables, proteins and fruits that you want, but cut out all grains, sugar, alcohol, white potatoes and legumes.

Strange as it sounds, Whole 30 was both way easier and much more difficult than I had anticipated. The first few days were rough! I didn’t realize quiet how addicted to sugar and grains we were. Giving up bread was also pretty rough. I can’t tell you how often I wanted to reach for toast or a peanut butter sandwich over the last month.

For the first week or so of Whole 30, I was exhausted and cranky. My body was so used to getting some kind of sweet treat to get me through the afternoon, not to mention two or three Coke Zeros throughout the day. But at about Day 10, my energy level normalized and, I can honestly, say, I’ve never felt better in my life.

The hardest part by far, though, was the cooking. I’m a pretty good cook and cooking is something I really enjoy, but Whole 30 required a whole lot more time than I am used to spending in the kitchen. We usually eat out two or three nights a week, but on Whole 30, eating out is nearly impossible.

Besides the fact that nearly everything we ate had to be cooked by me, when you eliminate grains from your diet, you eat a lot of vegetables. Like, a staggering amount of vegetables. One book I read said you should plan on 6 cups of vegetables per person per day. We didn’t always eat that much, but there were definitely some days that we did. Truly, I have never eaten so many vegetables in my whole life.

I found that it was much easier to prep a bunch of meals at one time. For example, if we were having steak for dinner, I would grill tomorrow nights chicken at the same time. Chopping vegetables for two or three meals similarly seemed to save time and kept me from washing a mountain of dishes every night. (You will need a lot more food storage containers than you think!)

Another lesson I learned was that, when you’re cutting out the sugar and grain, you have to find ways to amp up the flavor in your meals. I used a lot more spices and rubs in my cooking than I normally do.  Since soy sauce and store bought condiments and salad dressings are out, you really have to think out your marinades and sauces, too.

I think that the main thing I learned was that, while eating a whole, clean diet, you can’t just wing it. Having a fridge full of pre-chopped vegetables at least gives you options of throwing together a salad or a stir fry at the last minute.

I do have to admit here that I was wrong about something. I few weeks ago, I did a blog post about the documentary Fed Up. In the comments, reader Susan S. posited that eating a whole food diet was something that only rich people can afford and I disagreed with her. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue and I have to concede that Susan S. has a point. While buying fresh, whole vegetables and, say, a whole chicken, might be cheaper than even a fast food meal out for a family of four, it takes a whole lot more time and effort to turn that fresh food into dinner. And for people living at or below the poverty line, that may be time that they just don’t have to devote to food prep.

Of course, you can spend more money to buy pre-cut veggies and boneless skinless chicken breast, but then you do get into a situation where dinner from the drive through probably does cost the same or even less, without all the work.

(Susan S., I apologize for dismissing what you said about this without giving it some serious thought. I generally hold myself to a higher standard than that, and I am sorry. While I may disagree with on the science, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been open to hearing you out. I hope you can accept my sincere apology.)

The big question is, will be be adopting Whole 30 full time? Probably not in it’s hardcore form. Our eating habits have definitely changed dramatically over the last 30 days, and we will absolutely be keeping a lot of these changes. I don’t see us going back to regularly eating bread or pasta at home– it will be something for special occasions or dinners out. I also plan to continue replacing starches with vegetables, vegetable and more vegetables.

And we will not be going back to eating sugar the way we did before. Mike and I have both started reading labels and astonishing each other with the amount of sugar in food (almost 10 teaspoons in a can of Coke!). For the past month, we’ve finished meals with fruit and I expect that to continue. Mike and I each lost about 10 pounds in the last month, and I think that is nearly all due to cutting out the sugar.

Going forward, we will be shooting for an 80/20 balance, eating mostly clean, whole foods. And I’m planning to repeat the hardcore Whole 30 three or four times a year to make sure we stay on track.

Sorry for the super wordy post! I would love to hear your experiences with this kind of diet.



Blueberry Slab Pie with Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream

Independence Day is just over a week away so it seemed like a great time to re-post my recipe for Blueberry Slab Pie with Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream. Slab pies are a great way to feed dessert to a crowd and blueberries are super cheap right now at the farmer’s market. Enjoy!


Blueberry Slab Pie

  • For The Crust

    • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • For The Filling

    • 2 1/4 pounds fresh (8 cups)
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Make crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. With machine running, add 1 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix. Divide dough into 2 disks; wrap each tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make filling: In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon zest and juice. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Place in a 10-by-14-by-1-inch rimmed sheet pan. Pour in blueberry filling, then lightly brush edges of crust with water. On floured surface, roll out second disk to an 11-by-15-inch rectangle, carefully cutting out the star shapes. These will serve as vents to allow steam to escape.  Lay over blueberry filling; press along moistened edges to seal. Fold overhang under, tucking it into pan, and crimp edges.
  3. Place pie in oven, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, preferably two. Allowing the pie to rest will keep the filling from running when you slice it.


For the ice cream, I modified a recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I have to say, this book changed the way I make ice cream. I’ve always been in the “frozen custard” camp, making my ice cream with eggs because I found ice creams made with out them to be less creamy and icy. This book turned that thinking on it’s head. Not only is the ice cream amazing, it’s much easier to make because it doesn’t require a custard base, which is always nerve wracking. It’s kind of revolutionary. This particular recipe is- hands down- the best ice cream I have ever made.

Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream

  • 8 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 16 ounces marscarpone cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 2  1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup


1. Place the slice strawberries in a bowl and mix with the balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate for overnight, or for a minimum of 2 hours.

2. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the marscarpone cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

3. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

4. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the marscarpone cheese mixture until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly. I usually just put the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours but if you are in a hurry you can use Jeni’s quick chill method. Pour the mixture into a 2-gallon Ziploc freezer bags and submerge the sealed bags in an ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

5. Strain the strawberries, saving the balsamic vinegar for a salad dressing. Add the strawberries to the ice cream base and pour the base into your ice cream makers’s canister and proceed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Spin until thick and creamy. If you prefer your ice cream more solid, you can pack it into a plastic container and place it in the freezer for a few hours.We like it the way it comes out of the ice cream maker.

Makes two quarts ice cream, which may sound like a lot before you taste it, but it really isn’t.


Fed Up

Fed Up: a documentary about what's making us fat.


A few weeks ago, Mike and I were fortunate enough to procure the services house sitter extraordinaire, Sandra Hucher. When we hired Sandra to stay with our three dogs, two cats and tank full of fish for the weekend, we had no idea how lucky we were to be able to get her at all. Sandra’s services are in super high demand and she is already booked up for the travel we are doing for the rest of the year. Sandra literally wrote the book on house sitting. She once had a house sitting gig that last two years!

But I digress. After she’d arrived at our house and we’d given her the complete run down on all of our various pets various diets and schedules, Sandra told us she was really excited to be staying at our house this weekend because there was a documentary she really wanted to see playing at a theater nearby. The film is called Fed Up and it hadn’t even crossed my radar when Sandra mentioned it.

But then Mike heard an interview with Katie Couric about it and I started seeing it pop up on some of the Whole30 blogs I was reading, so last night we decided to check it out.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Fed Up should do for obesity what An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change. Basically the movie looks at the obesity rates in the U.S. (and to a growing extent, the world) and gets to the bottom of our ever-increasing back sides. The foremost authorities on nutrition, obesity, metabolic disease and food are interviewed and they basically all come to one conclusion: sugar is killing us. By 2030, fully HALF of all Americans will be obese and 1 in 3 will have diabetes. Think about that for a minute. Those numbers are staggering.

I know that all of us hate to think about a world without the occasional cupcake or cookie, but that’s really not what we’re talking about here. It’s the hidden sugars in processed foods and soft drinks that are the culprit. How it got these is a longer story which the film explains, breaking the science down.

I consider myself to be fairly well-informed in matters of food and nutrition but I learned so much that I didn’t know. For example, I’ve always believed that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what form it takes.  Not so, according to the experts. I was also unaware of the incredible additive properties of sugar– in a study, 40 cocaine addicted rats were given the choice of cocaine or sugar water. 40 out of 40 of them picked the sugar water every time.  Mind boggling, yes?

I’m urging you to go see Fed Up if it’s playing in a theater near you. And consider taking the Fed Up 10 Day Challenge, 10 days of abstaining from sugar. (I’m on my 12 day without sugar and I am only just now starting to get over my cravings!)

If you’ve seen the movie or read about it, I’d love to get your opinion.


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