Oh my goodness is this good and easy!  Recipes like Cacio e Pepe make me question ever attempting complicated dishes when you have ones like this that are so simple, yet produce such a satisfying meal.

Cacio e Pepe, or cheese and pepper pasta, brings together a mere four ingredients- spaghetti, olive oil, pepper, and grated cheese- to create a creamy pasta dish.  Reading through the recipe you may be a little skeptical. Really, the olive oil and pasta water are going to mix with the cheese and pepper to make a sauce? Yes. It’s going to happen. Even when you’re cooking and it feels like it’s not going to come together- it does.

I’m so obsessed with this dish right now, I’m planing to host a dinner party and serve it as the main entrée.  That said, it takes just 30 minutes to prepare, thus making it perfect for a lazy week night meal.  Enjoy!

Cacio e Pepe slightly adapted from Saveur

Serves 4

sea salt, to taste
1 lb. thick spaghetti
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for serving
1 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (good quality!)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling drop your pasta and cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta water and drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add pepper and cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Pour 3⁄4 cup pasta water into skillet and bring to a boil. Using tongs, transfer pasta from your colander to the skillet. Toss gently with the water and oil, coating the noodles. Then sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups grated parm and a large pinch of sea salt (or kosher salt) and toss well, swirling the pasta around the pan for 1-2 minutes until sauce is creamy and clings to pasta. Place pasta in a large serving dish, sprinkle with remaining parm and a little extra pepper.  Serve immediately.

Goodness, there must be a million kitchen appliances!  Williams Sonoma is the kiss of death for buying appliances because you walk out feeling like you need everything under the sun from panini presses to juicers.  The thing is, determining which appliances are worth your investment really depends on what kind of cook you are.  So even though I have some deep seated feelings about which ones you should and shouldn’t buy, instead I’m going to walk through the major ones and help you determine whether they’re right for your kitchen. Here goes!

Food Processors Aaaah food processors, the star of turning arduous kitchen jobs into effortless tasks.  The possibilities are endless with this machine- it creates sauces, dips, and spreads, brings together pastry dough in seconds, and of course, chops like mad.  Regardless of how or what you cook, I believe it’s worth investing in one of these machine because it makes a countless number of recipes 100 times more approachable. That said, I’ve been using the miniature one for over 5 years and have never felt the need to go for the bigger model.  This sometimes means puréeing things in batches, but this little guy is much more affordable and takes up a lot less space in my kitchen.

Stand Mixers The KitchenAid stand mixer was one of those appliances I lusted for, but truly viewed as a wedding registry type deal.  Meaning- I didn’t plan on buying one until I got married, at which point it would be the first item on my registry. Thus, you can imagine my delight when a certain someone surprised me with one for no particular reason a few years back (I actually hugged the box). I adore this machine and use it often.  That said, if you’re not an avid baker (meaning you bake multiple times a week!), you can perform most jobs with a hand mixer.  This machine is only worth the investment if you’re very sure you’ll use it frequently.

Blenders Forget regular blenders ever existed, and let’s focus on the Immersion Blender. The immersion blender is a handheld stick blender, that does everything regular blenders do- but just in an easier way. Yes it can whip up smoothies, sauces, batters, but the most amazing aspect of this tool comes into play when making soup. No more transferring boiling liquids into a blender to be puréed, the immersion blender lets you do it right in the pot. If you make soup frequently, this tool is worth its weight in gold.  Luckily, with a price tag of only $30, it’s very affordable.  Furthermore, it takes up much less space than a regular blender.  I mean, do you really need one sitting on your counter at all times? I’m doubtful…

I hope that was helpful!  I’d love to hear your thoughts- which appliances do you think are really worth the money?

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I have to say, I don’t really love eggplant.  It’s one of those vegetables I’ve stayed away from for years after a bad experience at a Chinese restaurant.  I think it had more to do with the texture, rather than the flavor, but either way there hasn’t been an eggplant in my fridge in quite some time.  Then, last Sunday, I made dinner with a close friend- a friend who loves to cook just as much as I do.  It’s been years since our last cooking date and I was quickly reminded of how inspiring it is to get out of my own kitchen and experience how other people cook.

For our dinner we whipped together a mix of small dishes, one of which was her family’s eggplant parmesan.  I suppose if you’re going to reintroduce a vegetable into your diet, coating it in breadcrumbs and cheese is a safe way to go, but I was so blown away by this recipe- I knew I needed to try it in my own kitchen. So this past Friday, I did just that.  Though my creation is a bit heavier on the sauce, I’m confident the Heffernans would have been pleased!

Ps: This recipe is a bit long, but not complicated! So please, don’t be deterred by the length.  Enjoy!

Eggplant Parmesan inspired by the Heffernan Family
Serves 2-3 people

  • 3 small eggplants, sliced into 1/3 inch thick rounds
  • one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c dried bread crumbs
  • vegetable oil
  • s+p
  • pinch of sugar
  • parsley for topping

Make the sauce: Place a saucepan over medium low heat.  Coat the bottom of the pan generously with olive oil and throw in your garlic. Sauté for a minute or so until the garlic has softened, then add in the chopped onion.  Sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, until the onion has softened slightly.  Pour in the crushed tomatoes, add a pinch of sugar, a large pinch of salt, and several grinds fresh black pepper.  Let sauce simmer while you prepare the eggplant. (Taste sauce for seasoning before using in dish).

Prepare the Eggplant: Place the rounds on a cutting board and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let rest.  Meanwhile take two shallow bowls, beat the eggs in one bowl, and combine the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup grated parm, a pinch salt, and several grinds black pepper in the second bowl. Set aside.

At this point, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Once eggplant has sat for 15 minutes, lightly rinse the salt off of each round and pat dry. Then, take each round and coat in egg and then breadcrumbs. Once each one is coated, take a large sauté pan and coat the bottom very liberally with vegetable oil. Set over medium heat, warming oil until it sizzles slightly if a drop of water hits the pan.  Fry the eggplant in batches, cooking rounds for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Add more oil to the pan as you go through the batches so it doesn’t dry out.

Assemble the dish:  Take a large baking dish, and place the largest rounds in two rows in the bottom of the dish.  For each eggplant parm “stack” you’ll need two slices of eggplant, so depending on the number of rounds you have, assemble accordingly. On top of the first round place a spoonful of sauce, then a slice of mozzarella, then another piece of eggplant, another spoonful of sauce, and lastly, top with another slice of cheese. Repeat the same process for all the eggplant.  Place the remaining sauce around the eggplant stacks, and top with the remaining half cup of grated parm.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, and then place under the broiler for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Top with chopped parsley. Let cool and serve immediately.  Can be stored in fridge for up to 4 days.

I know what you’re thinking. “More pumpkin, really?”  But here’s the thing, you can make this bread, and these pancakes, and you’ll make exact use of one can of pumpkin puree. No leftovers!  Isn’t that exciting? I was a little excited.

I had initially set out to make muffins, but discovered last night that my mini muffin tin does not actually fit inside my oven. To the person who thought it was trendy and cool to put tiny sleek ovens in new apartments- you clearly don’t bake! Ok rant done. Sort of. I’m still fuming a bit.  The funny thing is, when I was viewing apartments, friends of mine in the neighborhood mentioned to be weary of the ovens in new buildings.  They had viewed an apartment and actually decided not to live there because the oven was so ridiculously tiny.  Seriously, the things you have to consider…

I suppose we’ll make due with just regular sized muffins for a while.  Ironically enough, that pan actually fits in the oven! Ok, enough of this. Have yourself a fabulous weekend!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread adapted from Simply Recipes

Makes 1 loaf

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 2/3 c chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan and set aside.
In a bowl mix together the eggs, pumpkin, milk, oil, and spices.  In a separate bowl sift together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined (do not over mix).  Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into buttered loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy immediately, or store wrapped in plastic wrap on the counter for up to 4 days.

Happy Wednesday! A week back I introduced a little series on the blog focused on how to construct a fabulous yet well functioning kitchen (without spending a bundle).  Last week I covered my top ten pantry items to keep on hand at all times. This week, we’re discussing knives!

I tend to be a quality over quantity person in most aspects of my life, but when it comes to which knives I own, this mantra really rings true. Despite what they tell you (and try to sell you), you don’t need a lot of knives to make a great kitchen. Really!  At most you need two to three, and really, you can get away with just one- if that fits your cooking style. Rest assured this is not just me telling you this, I’ve taken knife skills and various other cooking classes where they’ve emphasized the same thing- less is more! So please, do not purchase a butcher block.  In my mind, they just waste counter space.

Here are the knives I think are worth investing in, and some tips to help determine which ones fit best in your kitchen:

A Good Chef’s Knife This is the one everyone should have, and many would argue that one doesn’t really need any other knives other than this one.  The key is to make sure you invest in a good one (which doesn’t mean spending a fortune), and keep it sharpened.  These two are excellent choices- 1 & 2, and I keep this sharpener on hand to keep my knives in top condition.

Bread Knife I find that unless your chef’s knife is super sharp, it can be tough cutting bread.  Therefore, a bread knife can come in handy.  As someone who buys a lot of bread that isn’t pre-sliced, I use mine all the time.  If you feel you need one, these are good choices: 1 & 2.

Paring Knife If you’re an avid cook, a paring knife can be quite handy in managing smaller chopping jobs.  But it is by no means necessary!  Of all the knives listed here, I’d say this one is most dispensable. It really depends on how and what you cook.  We eat a lot of cheese, and I actually tend to use mine most frequently for that.  If you do need one, this is a great choice, and this chef and paring knife set is a wonderful option too (I bought this for Brandon).

Ps: Last tip- never put good knives in the dishwasher!  It dulls the blade, can lead them to rust, and is also damaging to the handle. Yes it may take more time to wash them by hand, but it keeps you from having to sharpen them as often.

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