Mar 142014
new mandolin potatoes

Layering potatoes and cheese for a potato gratin

I got a shiny new mandolin as a gift awhile back, and up until now I’ve been a bit nervous to use it – I’ve heard so many horror stories about slicing off bits of fingers along with paper thin potatoes – but I wanted to make a potato gratin and the mandolin was there, just waiting for me to grab it. After I skimmed the user’s manual (deceptively thick, it had instructions in 16 languages) I peeled four potatoes and away I went. Wow – this thing slices so easily I was through those potatoes in like a minute, and the finger guard worked great so I avoided giving myself a trim. I put about three layers of potato slices in a pan with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese in between each layer, and added milk up to the top of the potatoes, covered the whole thing with aluminum foil and into the oven. Easiest potato gratin ever – and we all loved it, even the little guy once we convinced him to give it a try.

Look at how thin these onions are; they're almost translucent.

Look at how thin these onions are; they’re almost translucent.

It turns out that the mandolin sliced the potatoes so quickly, easily and uniformly that I decided to use it on a red onion as well, to put in the roasting pan under a pork tenderloin. I just chopped the root end off, peeled the onion and sliced it up, in a fraction of the time it would have taken me with a knife. The next time I make up a batch of caramelized onions (one of my favorite things) it’ll be such a breeze.  Suddenly I want to slice everything with the mandolin! I wish I’d have overcome my fear sooner – what a time saver in the kitchen.

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Mar 052014

header draft(Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small commission)


Time to get back on the ball with the cookbook challenge – at this rate I’ll never get though them all – especially since I’ve acquired more since I started. Most recently I baked from the intriguing cookbook Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros. This is a lovely book to read, full of family stories and remembrances of grandparents, in-laws and family friends. Its a very eclectic collection of recipes, drawing from around the world with just the unifying theme of the author’s family, but it works, especially when you read the headnotes of each recipe. There’s something in that eclectic mix that reminds me of how our family eats, drawing our culinary influences both from family recipes and the world around us.

I baked Apple Cake with Toffee Topping and it turned out delicious – good apple flavor with a yummy caramel toffee topping. The recipe was straightforward and easy to follow but the best part for me was the way it got the gears turning in my mind. For me, the best recipes get you thinking as you make them and eat them; I was quite inspired by this recipe and can’t wait to work on my own variations.

apple toffee cake 2

Jan 142014

french onion tortellini soup 1

On cold, rainy dreary winter days I love to have a pot of soup on the stove. There’s something about soup simmering that feels so homey to me. Here’s a quick and easy soup my family loves – this one is so fast if you’ve got the ingredients on hand in your fridge. Its really satisfying to be able to get a homemade soup to the table on a weeknight with a minimum of effort and a minimum of ingredients. I like to serve this with a baguette or rolls and a salad on side, and it’s also great with a leafy green added in – spinach, kale and chard all work great.

1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 quart beef stock
16 oz. Tortellini (I use the cheese tortellini from Costco).

1. Roll the Italian sausage into small meatballs and cook them in a large dutch oven or stockpot on medium high heat until they are browned all over and almost cooked through. You don’t need any oil in the pot – the sausage will release a lot of fat on its own.

2. Remove the sausage from the pan onto a paper towel lined plate and drain off the fat, leaving just a thin film behind on the bottom of the pot.

3. Saute the onion slices in the pot until they are soft and brown – the more caramelized they are the better.

4. Add the stock to the pot and stir to bring up all the browned bits from the bottom. Then add back the meatballs and the tortellini and cook for about 8 minutes more.

5. Serve and enjoy!

french onion tortellini soup

Jan 062014
Meatloaf Cupcakes

  My daughter has been wanting to make meatloaf cupcakes for awhile now, ever since we saw a picture of them somewhere (probably on Pinterest, right?). Whenever my kids make a dinner request that isn’t complete junk food I try to accommodate them so last night we made up a batch. Now, I didn’t go [...]

Jan 012014
Beans and Rice for the New Year

I usually cook black-eyed peas and rice for luck on New Year’s Day, but I never really love it. The peas get mealy and the rice gets mushy when it’s mixed in together, so this year I decided to branch out and make a variation – hopefully it’ll bring luck as well. I used some [...]

Dec 032013
Gearing Up For Christmas

Wow, the Christmas season is upon us again – I can’t believe another year is almost over! We worked hard this weekend to get the Christmas decorations up and we’re almost done; of course NONE of the outdoor light strings worked out of the box this year so I still have to get those up [...]

Nov 202013
Family's Comin' Over: A Thanksgiving Playlist for Everyone

I love making playlists – I absolutely love it. I could stay up until the wee hours of the morning the night before a party or holiday working on the perfect playlist, but luckily this year I’ve got my Thanksgiving playlist done a week ahead of time. We’re spending Thanksgiving with some immediate and extended [...]