Homemade popcorn delivers such gratification despite its short cooking time.  I have been on a stove top popcorn kick, having made it 4 times this week.  Maybe that’s a sign I haven’t been feeling particularly gratified?

Either way, homemade popcorn is way more interesting that any bagged version.  Especially when you start adding things like cinnamon, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, curry- you name it.  The best part of this at home snack is that it’s a clean slate and takes to all flavors, so you can spice it up any way you crave.

Adding rosemary and olive oil to popcorn turns it into such an aromatic snack.  We felt the popcorn was even better the next day, after the flavors had deepened a bit.  Props to you though, if you’re able to resist scarfing down the entire bowl in one sitting (which is what I did 3 out of the 4 times I made it this week).

Rosemary Sea Salt Popcorn

Makes one large bowl

1/3 cup popcorn kernels

1/2 olive oil

fresh rosemary (4 sprigs and 1 1/2 T chopped)

1 tsp garlic salt

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

10 grinds fresh black pepper

Place the rosemary sprigs and 2 smashed garlic cloves in the olive oil, let rest for at least 30 minutes (cut the sprigs in half in order to submerge them in the oil).  Remove herbs and garlic from oil.  Combine the chopped rosemary, garlic salt, salt, and pepper in a small dish- set aside.

Set  a large pot that you have a cover for over medium heat.  Coat the bottom of the pot generously with 1/2 the flavored olive oil, and let heat for 4 minutes.  Drop the kernels into the pot and shake around so there is an even layer.  Cover the pot and wait for the popping to begin.  Once it begins popping, shake the pot around occasionally so the kernels don’t burn.

While popping, get out a large bowl.  Once the popping has slow significantly turn off the heat and pour the popcorn into the bowl.  Sprinkle the dried spice mixture across the top.  Slow stream in remaining olive oil, tossing simultaneously to coat each kernel.  Serve immediately or store in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

I am embarrassingly obsessed with Bethenny Frankel.  In the first season of her show “Bethenny Getting Married,” I totally cried when I watched her wedding (the first and second time). I am thanking the iTunes gods for providing a season pass for just $9.99, since we don’t have cable.  The return of her show has made for a great start to the week. I’m giddy over the fact that I’ll have something to look forward to on Tuesdays now.  Just me, some wine, and Bethenny [sigh].

Despite the resurgence of Bethenny in my life, the start of this week has been pretty lovely overall.  I started a new book, which I absolutely cannot put down, fun dinner plans have been made for later in the week, and my meals have consisted largely of this great Caesar Salad.  Caesar salad can have such punchy flavor when done right.  I’m a huge fan of Deb’s recipe since it couldn’t be farther from your typical Caesar- a mountain of flavorless Romain buried under a gloppy mess of ranch like dressing and stale croutons.  Ok maybe it’s not that bad, but seriously, if you haven’t made a Caesar salad from scratch it’s well worth doing.  I guarantee it will bring great enjoyment to your week.

Punchy Caesar Salad adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4

2 small heads or 1 1/2 large heads romaine lettuce, washed and torn into pieces

1 lb chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/3 french baguette, cut in thin slices

1/2 cup shaved parmigiano reggiano

1 T dried oregono

4 T mayonnaise

2  T fresh lemon juice

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 small garlic cloved grated (or mashed)

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp anchovy paste

1/3 plus 2 T extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take bread, drizzle with olive and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake for ten minutes, until bread is lightly brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Whisk together all ingredients from the mayo through the anchovy paste.  Once combined, whisk in the olive oil, stirring continuously.  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Coat a grill pan with 2 T olive oil, and set to medium- heat for 4-5 minutes.  Meanwhile,  sprinkle one side of chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and half the oregano.  Splash a few droplets of water on the pan.  When the water sizzles, the pan is ready.  Place the chicken seasoned side down.  Do not move once in pan until ready to flip.  Season other side of chicken with salt, pepper, and remaining oregano, while in pan.  Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. When cooked set aside to rest.

The assembly- place the lettuce in a large bowl.  Take baguette toasts and break into big pieces over lettuce.  Toss in half the grated parm.  Once cooled slightly, slice chicken and place in bowl.  Pour 3/4 of dressing over salad and toss well. Add more dressing if salad appears dry.  Top with remaing parm, and several grinds of black pepper.  Serve immediately.

This weekend was all about good food and good friends.  It sounds exceptionally cheesy, especially for me, but it couldn’t be more true. Everyone I saw this weekend, I shared a good meal with.  It spanned from a long lunch catching up with a close girlfriend, to an extra special coworker’s birthday dinner, and finished with multiple meals with a great friend who is in town visiting from Singapore.  And as tired as I am, it felt great to get out and do so much.

Before picking up our friend at the airport on Saturday, I put this disaster to good use.  The failed loaf has been sitting in my freezer for weeks and when a craving for french toast struck, it came in perfect use.  I like a french toast you can bake, because it means you’re not standing over the stove flipping slices and trying to keep everything warm until it’s all cooked and ready to serve.  I chose Melissa Clark’s Creme Brulee French Toast recipe not only for its cooking process, but also for the name. How could one resist such a combination?  Suffice it to say, her version is absolutely delicious.  Make no mistake though, this stuff is rich, you certainly don’t need a big batch.  Though, I can’t complain too much about the leftovers.

Creme Brulee French Toast adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

Serves 3

1 cup packed light brown sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm

2 large eggs, well beaten

1 1/2 cups milk

seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

6-8 small slices

Preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk together the brown sugar and butter until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a large rimmed baking sheet (9 x 13).

In a pie pan or other shallow dish, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt. Coat both sides of the bread slices in the egg mixture, letting the bread soak up the custard for a minute or two on each side, until saturated but not falling apart. Place the soaked slices on the prepared baking sheet over the brown sugar mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops of the bread are golden brown and the sugar is bubbling. Serve immediately while still hot, with the crunchy brown sugar side up.

I spend an embarrassing amount of time reading food blogs.  I actually have to  actively force myself to pull away from reading them, or else nothing would get done in my life.  From all the time I’ve spent reading them though, I’ve made some pretty excellent discoveries among the thousands that are out there.  While I could highlight a dozen at least, this week a recipe from fresh365 not only caught my eye, but sent me rushing to the grocery to gather up all the items for the featured dish.  fresh365 features vegetarian recipes, and while I am a vegetarian by no means, I appreciate veg blogs because they bring to light ingredients and meals I wouldn’t always naturally consider.  And while we’re on the topic, I can’t help but mention another favorite veg blog- Dana Treat.  More to come on that one soon.

But back to the gnocchi.  Last night I tried my hand at Erin’s recipe and was delightedly impressed by the results.  One thing to note, this dough is particularly sticky and requires liberally floured hands when forming each ball.  I served mine along side sauteed spinach.  My spinach concoction was one of those “use what you have in the fridge” moments, which can either go quite well or horribly.  The results of my impromptu recipe were so good, it has officially changed the way in which I’ll make spinach in the future.  All and all, a successful Thursday evening- made even better by the fact that I kicked off my weekend early and took Friday off.  Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Spinach and Arugula Gnocchi with Sauteed Spinach adapted from fresh365

Serves 3

1 1/4 cup packed spinach, chopped

1 1/4 cup packed arugula, chopped

1 tsp dried basil

3/4 cup ricotta

1 tsp grated/ minced garlic

1 cup plus 2 T flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup grated parm

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, drop in the spinach, turn off the heat, let sit for 2 minutes.  After 2 minutes, drain spinach, let cool, and squeeze out as much water as possible.
In a medium size bowl, combine the ricotta, garlic, eggs, flour, parm, dried basil, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Then stir in spinach and arugula.  Liberally flour hands.  Roll dough into one inch balls, place on large tray, set in fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, drop half the gnocchi in, letting cook until the balls rise to the top of the water. Set aside first batch, cook second bath.  Dress with extra virgin olive oil and extra parm.  Note: first batch can be reheated in microwave quickly so all gnocchi is hot when served.

Sauteed Spinach

Serves 4
1 lb washed fresh spinach

1 T butter

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup vegetable broth

Set a large sauce pan to medium low heat.  Melt butter, then add in red pepper flakes and broth.  Whisk together and let cook until slightly bubbling.  Drop in spinach and toss with broth, then let rest so leaves can cook.  Toss occasionally until all leaves are wilted, serve immediately.

If the flavored contents of a Quaker Oats pouch represent oatmeal to you, you are sorely missing out. There’s a whole world of oatmeal out there that contains so much more complexity than could ever be stuffed into that pouch. Complexity of oatmeal?  I know, I sound like a crazy person.  Just bear with me!

You may are may not know this, but there are two different types of oats- rolled and steal cut. Rolled oats are what we typically think of as oatmeal, little round flat grains eaten for breakfast or mixed into cookie batter.  There is a second type though, steel cut, which are formed by cutting the oat kernel into pieces (by steel) rather than being rolled.  Steel cut oats pack a much richer and nuttier flavor than regular oats, as well as many more nutrients.  If you’ve been eating rolled oats all your life, steel cut will be an adjustment in texture.  But I am completely confident that if you follow the recipe below, you will become an oatmeal convert.

I can take no credit for my steel cut oats recipe, it is all my mother.  Her steel cut oats will change your outlook on oatmeal.  It will make you want oatmeal every day in winter, even on Christmas morning.  Enjoy!

Steel Cut Oatmeal with Blueberries by Mom

Serves 3

2 cups water

1 cup milk

1 cup steel cut oats

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup frozen blueberries

3 T ground flax seed

3 pats of butter

maple syrup and cinnamon for serving

Bring water, milk, and salt to a boil.  Once boiling, drop in oats, stir, and bring down to a simmer.  Simmer oatmeal, stirring occasionally, for 25- 30 minutes.

Meanwhile divide blueberries between 3 serving bowls. Once the oatmeal is cooked (it should be creamy and slightly crunchy in texture), divide it into the three dishes, covering the blueberries.  Top with 1 teaspoon butter and 1 tablespoon ground flax seed each.  Stir each gently to combine the oatmeal with the blueberries.  Serve immediately with cinnamon and maple syrup.