Tag Archives: Around the Kitchen

Cold & Crisp Carrot Salad

January 2013

This has happened to you. Somewhere in your kitchen or craft room or garage, you’ve had a tool, which though useful, went unused. At some point, you accepted this lack of use, made your peace and sent that tool to a new home. A year later, your January Bon Appétit subscription arrives, and nearly every page of that issue suggests you use that tool which is now just a void in your home. Do you go buy a new mandoline? No, don’t be ridiculous. You use a vegetable peeler and call it an “adapted” version (plus you make a few other changes because that’s how you roll with recipes). Then you set the table and enjoy the adapted version with lovely friends

Carrot and Radish Salad

Carrot Salad with Yogurt & Coriander
Adapted from Bon Appétit


1 cup pecans
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons raw cane sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 pound small carrots, scrubbed, sliced lengthwise very thinly on a mandoline (or with a peeler)
6-8 medium radishes, cut into thin slices
1 small beet, roasted and sliced thin
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced

Himalayan pink sea salt


Preheat oven to 375°.

Toss walnuts and oil on a rimmed baking sheet or in a skillet. Bake until walnuts are lightly toasted and fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Immediately sprinkle with sugar and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Let cool.

DO AHEAD: Walnuts can be toasted 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Whisk yogurt, vinegar, honey, orange zest and coriander in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Place carrots in a colander set in a bowl of ice water. Let sit until carrots start to curl, about 2 minutes. Lift colander from water and drain carrots well; pat dry.

Combine carrots, radishes, beet, scallions and dressing in a large bowl and toss to coat.

Sprinkle with pecans and garnish with Himalayan pink sea salt.

Coffee, Donuts & A Little Bit of Press

November 2012

There it was, on a shelf at Goodwill. Was this gem too good to be true? Was it another example of why thrifted electronics are not to be trusted? Memories of the coffee grinder surfaced and pained me a bit. Then I spotted a gift from the gods- an electrical outlet. I looked to my left and right. The coast was clear (randomly plugging in appliances didn’t seem legal). I removed the donut-shaped gem from the box, plugged it in and voila! The tiny donut maker began to emit heat. WOOOOOOOOO! Success!!

An $8 Goodwill goldmine!

The Machine

The only piece missing was the user’s manual with recipes specific to the machine, but that’s why geeks invented the internet…or Al Gore? After a few Google consultations, little blank canvases emerged from the donut maker, ready to be rolled in butter or iced with divinely dark chocolate. My life had changed!

Basic Donut

Basic Whole-Wheat Donut Recipe


1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup organic raw sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 egg (local/free-range)
1/2 cup organic half & half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp olive oil

*Extra olive oil for greasing the donut maker


Stir dry ingredients together.

Add egg, vanilla and half & half, and beat 1 minute with an electric mixer or vigorously by hand.

Add oil and continue to beat 1 minute.

Oil your donut maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Donuts and Coffee

A Sunday morning with donuts, coffee and a newspaper seemed too good to be true, especially when I turned the page to a story about me..!

Stack o Donuts

Grain of Truth
A local food blogger reaches out … and within

Characteristically, food blogger Quelcy Kogel first appears in an email — easier to reach her there, or at her With the Grains blog.

“You’ll arrive at a yellow brick building,” she writes of her Polish Hill digs. “The address is printed on the step to the left of the corrugated metal garage door. Follow that step and walk through the long, white hallway. If you find the hallway a bit creepy, you’re on the right track.” After a Byzantine series of twists and turns, “you’ll see a red wagon with empty wine bottles. That’s my apartment. I use the door farthest from the steps. The other door leads to my laundry room.”

If you enter the wrong door, the one with the torn screen, abandon all hope. You’ll find paint strips hanging from the ceiling, holes in the floor — basically post-Blitz London. “My apartment,” Kogel says with aplomb, “is a work in progress.” In other words, de rigueur for her emerging Polish Hill neighborhood.

The correct door, appropriately enough, opens into Kogel’s 1950s-style kitchen, all sink and stove and aquamarine cabinets and shelves. From there the visitor enters the adjacent dining room to join Kogel’s ad hoc Sunday brunch — her weekly opportunity to try out new recipes, to chat, to reminisce about her undergraduate days.

Born in small-town Nebraska, brought up in suburban Philadelphia, voted by her family as least likely to succeed without mom, Kogel came to Carnegie Mellon University for an architecture degree. She then took a job with a CMU start-up, and worked on her appetite.

Deciding that her eating life had been far too interrupted by ephemera, Kogel blossomed in the kitchen, cooking, creating, blogging. (Withthegrains.com, now 18 months old, spiked at 2,000 hits a day.)

“My thrill is making recipes of my own,” Kogel says. “I’m of the grandmother school: Add what you have, a pinch or a heap is close enough. Once one thing is on the table, start making something else. And know that nothing will ever taste the same twice.”

“For now,” she adds, “this is all a hobby. These are my ideas, my stories, my progress. These are my whole grains, and other aspects of me emerge from there.”

Blogging and cooking, cooking and blogging, Kogel found that virtual friends and empty rooms weren’t enough. “I needed people to make it worthwhile,” she says.

Hence the Sunday brunches, for which Kogel is the genial, slender, soft-spoken hostess.

Sitting at the head of her second-hand metal table (red tablecloth with seeds scattered about, burlap throw atop) she announces the day’s fare: nests (eggs poached with squash and corn in rounds of honey wheat bread), black forest bacon, cooked green apples and curry squash cake.

And, of course, the bubbly.

Setting her egg nests on red plates, Kogel serves her half-dozen guests, friends and friends of friends. The guests are dressed largely in high-tech chic — blue jeans and sweatshirts with a scarf or two thrown in for color.

A camera set to take photos for the blog, water poured into mason-jar glasses, local honey poised to drizzle onto the apples, and they’re ready to dig in.

Good cheer rises, stories make their way around the table like passed plates. There’s the CMU architecture program (“a weird environment,” one veteran says). Los Angeles (“great if you’re young and hip,” a second woman makes a face). Emerging technologies (“it’s going to be the coolest app ever!” a third gushes of a proprietary project). Increasingly overpopulated Lawrenceville (“not enough Dumpster and way too much trash,” Kogel muses).

As the banter bounces back and forth, we see the future of food. It’s one in which traditional cookbooks and fading yellow recipe cards are bypassed by omnipresent blogs, where the global village — democratic and decentralized, made up of real and virtual friends — gnaws all at once.

Now it’s time for cake, slathered with hand-whipped cream laced with maple syrup and bourbon, every morsel savored.

Finally, the champagne. Put in the freezer for some flash-cooling, it — yuck! — explodes all over the place.

Sopping and mopping, Kogel giggles. “Does anyone want a champagne slushy?”

Well, sure: Glasses are raised in expectation of a bit of half-frozen moscato, which gurgles out in icy clumps.

By 1 p.m., it’s time for the overworked, overscheduled folks to be on the road.

“We have a meeting.”

As one, they rise, proffering thanks.

Kogel nods.

They promise to read the blog.

Kogel smiles.

“If you have leftover cake at 5 o’clock, I’ll be over to help you take care of it.”

Kogel laughs.

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate Donut Ganache


1/4 cup organic unsalted butter
1/4 cup organic half & half
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped (Valrhona Equatorial Feves 55%)
1/2 cup organic confectioners’ sugar


Combine butter, milk, honey, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted.

Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted.

Chocolate Layer

Then go crazy…!

Salted Almond and Maple Sugar

My toppings for this round:

Salted almond
Maple sugar
Toasted Pecan
The classic brown sugar ‘n spice

Chocolate Coconut

This marked the beginning of a new era, my friends- a donut era!


The Importance of Heart Shaped Cookie Cutters

Happy [Belated] Valentine’s Day!
February 2012 

I cry during sentimental movies despite my best efforts (I still try to hide my teary face, though).  Speeches in which lecturers sincerely thank their moms or wives or anyone really…make me weepy (I’ve been binging on some TED Talks these days).

I’m a sap.  It’s true.

When my grandparents danced a polka at their 60th Wedding Anniversary, I could barely hold a camera steady because I was so emotional.

I’m a romantic.  It’s true.

I even nearly teared up when clicking on the Google doodle on Valentine’s Day and watching this animation…!!!

I really love Valentine’s Day.  It’s true!

The holiday may stem from commercial motives, but combined with a dash of creativity or honest intention, it can be a really sincere, sentimental time and a way to tell someone you care, whether it be a friend or a SigFig (I’m also a dork, it’s true) how you feel.  Since I like to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a zeal bordering on obsessiveness, I postponed the full fledged celebration for the weekend, but even a Tuesday Valentine’s Day deserves a little sweet flavor and festivity.

Mint Chocolate Cake Hearts + Talenti Roman Raspberry Sorbetto = ♥

Cake Ingredients

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (local/free-range), at room temperature
2 large egg yolks (local/free-range), at room temperature
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon organic mint extract
½ cup organic sour cream
12 ounces organic semisweet chocolate chips
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) organic, unsalted butter plus extra for the pan
¾ cup olive oil
¾ cup water
½ cup all natural cocoa powder

For the Cake

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9x13in rimmed baking stone or sheet with parchment.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, vanilla, mint extract and sour cream until smooth.

Heat the chocolate, butter, oil, water and cocoa in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.

Whisk the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture until incorporated.

Whisk the egg mixture into the batter.

Pour into the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 40-50 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut into hearts.

For the Hearts

Talenti Roman Raspberry Sorbetto

Scoop some sorbetto onto a plate.  Flatten and smooth into a rectangle.

Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to punch out a heart.

Keep in freezer until ready to serve.

Happy [Belated] Valentine’s Day to all of you and especially, to my special weirdo too (I’m a wee bit of a poet too; it’s true).

The Teacup That Taught Me To Like Tea

December 2011

I talked about the table, and now the memory lane has arrived at a teacup and toast.  As a little girl, my mom fostered my love of tea.  We were a family of firm breakfast believers- the most important way to start your day!  My childhood mornings would begin with a cup of really weak tea because weak was how I liked it in the days of budding tastes.  For whatever reason, the tea was best served in the brown ceramic mug that caught my eye anew on my recent visit to mom’s cupboards.

I still am very much a tea fan, but on this sunny, wintry morning, I filled my memory cup with coffee, made with extra strength for my visit.  I grew up with parents who sipped from mugs of coffee throughout the day.  When I finally began to drink coffee and drink it with increasing strength, I questioned how my parents still had stomach linings with the quantities they consumed.  Then I tasted their coffee.  Coffee flavored water?  Water flavored coffee?  Coffee flavored tea?  It was weak, but that’s how they like it.

Tastes and memories are intertwined.  Even though my tastes and cooking style has become bolder and more complex than my roots, there’s something really comforting in the refined way my mom can prepare a roast or an array of vegetables.  However, I do have to request a few extra scoops of coffee in the filter.

Home is a Wooden Table

December 2011

When I was a wee toddler posing on the kitchen table with one of my many themed birthday cakes, I apparently honed the scowl I may occasionally make to this day.

When I was two, I fell off the kitchen table bench… while biting my tongue!!!  Hence my go to scar story is about the horizontal scar on my tongue, which I thought was a completely normal tongue anatomy until about the first grade.

When I was four or so, my beloved, rickety, chipped paint stool, poised at the esteemed head of the table position, finally toppled beneath my weight (which was not much).  As I hit the ground, I not only felt physically wounded but emotionally wounded.  I had been betrayed by my favorite piece of furniture.  It was later replaced by the piano bench.

When I was in elementary school, my best friend Shannon and I made a post slumber party breakfast feast that covered the wooden table like a still life [in our minds].  We felt like royalty.  (Note the scowl again… why did no one stop me from doing that?!?)

One blistery January, I shook the new snowglobe I had been given for my birthday.  It had a yellow birthday cake with a candle and played “Happy Birthday to You.”  The globe proved to be too cumbersome and awkward for my scrawny self.  I shook it right against the edge of the kitchen table.  Glitter and liquid gushed all over my broken spirit.  Hence my collection of snowglobes always featured one “globe” that was not like the rest.

In fourth grade or so, Erica and I sat at the kitchen table overloading on peanut butter and honey toast, thinking it was the greatest thing since… well, since sliced bread?

When my first niece made her grand debut at my parent’s home, we took turns holding the tiny baby bundle so my older sister could eat a proper breakfast plate using both hands.

Whenever mom would make cookies, they would sprawl over that kitchen table cooling and filling the house with the smell of pure goodness.  This still happens!

When I slaved over a furniture project in college, I recalled the simple joints and long wooden slabs of the kitchen table.  Why had I not designed something simple?!?

For a while, we didn’t have a dining space big enough to hold the table and all its memories.  Dinners around the fancier dining table without its elongating leaves just wasn’t the same.  In the meantime, the solid slab table suffered some wear and tear feeding nieces and nephews at my oldest sister’s house.  Her recent move south coincided with my parents finally having enough space for a reunion with their table.  Another sister reversed the clock on some of said wear and tear, and now the table shines in the sunlight.

I have a slew of memories centered around that table, and though I love the table as an object, its importance does not reside solely in its material existence.

The gestalt of those table memories is the symbol of my family- how we have come together, how we grow and continue to find our way to those benches, to those placemats, to those brunch plates of waffles and most importantly, to each other.

A Cowboy, Some Kale & A Yellow Mellow

October 2011

A very big box arrived with my name on it!  The box predicted colorful nutrients coming my way!

There it is, the newest kitchen addition:  my very own POWER juicer!

The scale figure had a hankerin’ for some fresh, nutritious juice.

I needed fruits and vegetables for my new kitchen companion, so I swapped my slippers for rain booties and faced the gray day with bright yellow on my mind.  It’s amazing what you will see when you seek the brighter side of dreariness.

Seeing the sunnier side doesn’t necessarily make me feel warmer inside, so I also took a little break for a hot cup of coffee and perhaps a spiritual awakening (via the book, not the donut…or maaaybe via the donut?!?).

Then I returned with fresh produce.
Kale + Carrots + A Golden Beet + Green Apple + Ginger = delicious and nutritious!

Do you see that lovely green design that looks like a sprig of thyme?  I might pave a new course:  juice bar barrista?  Is that a thing?  Soon, I’ll start hearts and leaves like the finest of coffee shops.

Delicious + Nutritious = Gone!

I realize that a lot of people would open their huge box, buy their produce, juice that produce and not feel the slightest urge to document the entire process [with a cowboy].  I also realize that I have long since come to terms with living in my own world. Cheers to those who appreciate these camera accompanied adventures!  Pull up a mason jar, and I’ll pour you a swig.

Mixed Signals?

September 2011

Remember that Saturday when I took a solo stroll?  Steeples and clouds and colors caught my eye.  There was a dress and little birds.  There was a bright beam of yellow in the window, and it wasn’t the first time that canary color caught my eye.  For a couple of weeks, I had passed the store on a near daily basis, always after hours.  At one point, I peered from all angles, trying to glimpse the price tag.  On that solo Saturday stroll, I peered through the lens of my camera and continued to pine.

Then there was a surprise!  Someone, who I didn’t even think was reading, told me he had a present for me.  First I opened a bag with a bowl and thought, “oh, useful, but why?”  Then a color caught the corner of my eye as he revealed the other half of the present.  Then both my eyes filled with tears, and I just couldn’t stop sobbing.  It was a perfect and sincere surprise, and simultaneously the saddest and happiest surprise I’ve experienced to date.  If I said anymore about the gift giver, I’d dip more onto the sad side, so let’s focus on the happiness of having ol’ yeller instead!

How smart the designers were back in the day!  The lovely lady inverts for more convenient storage… or for showing off not two but THREE mixer blades.

I now have a collection!  Where did the baby mixer come from?  Well, when two mixers love each other very, very much… their owner buys a baby one here.

Time For A Spin…

The bright yellow butter was even more beautiful once spun into a rosette!

With the yellow beauty at home, those simultaneous emotions of happiness and sadness gave me a little pang when I passed the antique shop window, where a clown now tries to find his way to someone’s home.

To the gift giver, I do indeed say thank you.  This mixer means the world to me.

PS:  Thanks Nina for the titular pun.