Monthly Archives: February 2011

chocolate raspberry cake

Let me get straight to the point and tell you that this is one of my very favorite cake recipes.  It’s chocolate (which scores it several points right off the bat) accented by a delightfully tart raspberry filling.  The layers are moist and rich and the three of them piled up together give it some impressive height.

The cake is a little more complex and the ingredients are a little pricier than the average cake (especially because I always seem to accidentally buy twice as much chocolate as necessary because the original recipe calls for a ganache filling instead of raspberry), but it’s definitely worth it.  Still, I currently only make it once a year for the annual February get-together for the birthday celebration of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This year’s family get-together was especially fun with the addition of Jill, an old college friend of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and because my niece, Amelia, is now nearly 2 1/2 years old. We don’t get to see Amelia nearly often enough and each time we see her it’s like I’m looking at a whole new person!  She grows and develops new skills so quickly and it’s so cool to see how much she has changed. Continue reading


moist individual spiced chocolate cakes

chocolate and cinnamon

The seared duck dinner we made for Valentine’s Day was a bit more involved than usual for a weeknight for us (especially after a full day at work and then going to the gym), so I wanted to make a pretty simple dessert.  The good news is that there are a ton of recipes out there for indulgent, decadent chocolate cakes that are really easy to make.

chocolate and cinnamon

I already had plans to make something along the lines of individual chocolate desserts of some kind and then when we were on the chocolate tour at the Taza chocolate factory, I snagged a card with a recipe for molten spiced chocolate cakes.  It was perfect timing.

spices in spiced chocolate cake

Continue reading


seared duck with duck fat, pan-roasted fingerling potatoes, hericots verts, and balsamic cherry reduction

seared duck with balsamic cherry reduction

Growing up in my family, the idea of eating duck was much like the idea of eating your pet.  It’s not that we had ducks, but  they were almost like a family mascot.  My dad did an amazing Donald Duck impersonation which my sister and I requested about five times a day.  As a reward, we showered him with Donald Duck figurines which sometimes included other duck paraphernalia.  We also spent many weekends out on our sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay and, not knowing better, fed the ducks all the time.  So I was always horrified by the idea of eating duck and swore I never would.

The first time I ever had duck was entirely accidental.  I was at a work gala and I grabbed a quesadilla appetizer off of a passing tray and put it in my mouth before hearing what it was. I shocked.  Horrified.  Who puts duck in quesadillas?  I felt like I had deeply betrayed my old friends from the Bay.  I renewed my oath to never, ever eat duck (again) and went on my way.  Until I started dating a Filipino guy.  A Filipino guy who loves his duck.

I held strong to my no duck rule for quite a while.  But after time my reason starting seeming more and more silly and Joseph, while entirely supportive of my choices, was also eager to open my eyes to one of his favorite foods.  I finally broke down and (intentionally) ate duck at a food and wine festival in Orlando.  I had a reached a point in my culinary life where I didn’t want to be restricted by my own inhibitions.  Since the food was all there and being prepared whether or not I ate it, I went for it.  And I had to admit that I liked it.  I have since even gone so far as to order it at restaurants! Continue reading


a weekend of food love

Taza Chocolates

One of things that I really love about Joseph is that we both really enjoy and value food.  It’s not enough just to like food, to like to eat it.  Who doesn’t like to eat?  To be the man that I’ll spend the rest of my life with, he has to really appreciate what went into a dish to make it what it is, he has to celebrate the flavors and the way they work together, and he has to have a curiosity and genuine interest in what makes a dish so special.  It doesn’t hurt to also be an amazing cook who also does a heck of a job washing dishes.  Joseph is all of that, and more.

Valentine's at Taza Chocolate

We spent the weekend before Valentine’s exploring local food treasures including the Danish Pastry House (absolutely incredible pastries), Fastachi (nuts, chocolate, and more), Penzeys Spices, John Dewar & Co. Butchers, and the Spirited Gourmet for a sake tasting.  Then we had a fabulous dinner at Hungry Mother, one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area, where the highlights were the braised beef tongue appetizer, the french gnocchi (I always have to order their gnocchi), and the outstanding bourbon upside-down cake with butter pecan ice cream.  I can’t stop thinking about that sweet, salty, rich, nutty caramel goodness.  And that was just Saturday.

cacao pod

Sunday, we trooped off to Taza Chocolate for a tour at the factory.  If you aren’t familiar with Taza Chocolate, they’re located in Somerville, MA, just outside Boston and they are the only direct trade, organic, stone ground, bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the country.  You’ll find plenty of chocolatiers in the States, but finding one that buys the cacao beans and does everything else from roasting the beans, to tempering, to making the bars, wrapping them (by hand no less!), and selling them is much more rare.  I knew it was a really cool company, but being there and actually seeing and hearing more about it, well, I’m completely smitten.

Taza Chocolates

Continue reading


barbecue chicken pizza

barbecue chicken pizza

I love condiments.  I slather a ton of mustard on my burgers, I like lots of ketchup with my fries, but barbecue sauce has always been my favorite.  When we were kids and my parents took us out for dinner, we almost always ordered chicken tenders.  It worked out perfectly because they came with a little bowl of honey mustard sauce and a bowl of barbecue sauce and my sister, Jessica, and I would just do a trade so that I ended up with two barbecue sauces and she had two honey mustards.

crust with first layer of cheese

adding bbq chicken

Even as an adult Jessica stuck to her guns and every time I mentioned a place that did a great barbecue, she insisted that she really wasn’t into barbecue.  She’s crazy. I mean, it can be done so many ways!  And besides, how can you not love the sweet, smokey tang of good ol’ fashioned barbecue sauce? Continue reading


guacamole

It seems to me that almost every conversation about guacamole has at least one or two people claim that they make the best guacamole ever.  I mean, the thing about guacamole is that it is always pretty darn delicious.  But, not to toot my own horn or anything, I’ve had several people try my guacamole and proclaim that even though they thought they made a pretty mean guacamole, mine was even better than theirs.  Ok, I know, I am tooting my own horn.

avocado, lime, jalapeno, cilantro, tomatoes

de-seeding tomatoes

I think the thing that makes my guacamole so good is that I try it out as I go along and add more of things as I see fit. I had never, ever measured quantities until last night when I made this.  But the thing is that avocados seem to have this neutralizing power.  You can put a whole lot of jalapeño in there and barely get any spice.  So I will often try the guacamole and decide that it needs more garlic, more cilantro, more jalapeño, and more salt.  It always needs more salt than I think it will and the heat level of peppers can really vary.  So I add more stuff in and then try it again.  I know, it’s lot to ask to keep trying the guacamole.  But it’s in your best interest in the long run, so soldier up and grab a chip (or two, or three, or four, or…).

guacamole ingredients

Continue reading


chocolate stout cake

Chocolate Stout Cake

Want something a little more grown up for the Super Bowl than brownies?  How about chocolate stout cake anyone?  Now, this is for the more sophisticated crowd since it does kind of require a fork and plate.  I know, we’re just getting highfalutin over here!

butter, stout, cocoa

But it does seem pretty fitting for a football game, right?  I mean, chocolate and beer!  Now, I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about football, but I certainly think that beer and chocolate make any football game a heck of a lot more interesting.

mixing chocolate stout batter

The sour cream in the cake makes it delightfully moist and the cake isn’t too sweet.  If you’re not a beer person, or even if you are but you’re not a stout person, don’t worry you’ll still be clamoring for more of this cake.  The beer makes the chocolate flavor more intense and brings out a bit of nuttiness. Continue reading


chewy brownies

chewy chocolate

My sister specifically requested a recipe for a Super Bowl dessert and at first my mind drew a blank.  Thinking of main courses and appetizers are so easy (turkey burger, spicy sweet potato fries, turkey chili and corn bread, smokey chipotle salsa, guacamole, and chips are just a few), but desserts? Well, chocolate came to mind really quickly and the idea of brownies quickly followed.

chopped chocolate

Here’s my logic.  Chocolate goes with nearly everything, especially winter when everything’s cold and dismal.  Can you tell that I live in Boston and have had enough snow storms to last a lifetime?  Also, brownies are so easy to transport if you’re going to a party and they’re easy to handle.  Just grab one of a platter (or straight out of the pan), grab a napkin or plate to catch the crumbs (or let them fall freely), and you’re good to go.  No forks or knives to deal with! No need to look away from the TV. Just dig right in!

mixing chocolate batter and sugar

Continue reading


spicy sweet potato “fries”

spicy sweet potato fries

Who doesn’t love a good sweet potato fry?  I know that given the choice at a restaurant, I will never pick regular ol’ fries over sweet potatoes fries. They’re just so irresistible!  They’re sweet, salty, and oh so addictive.

chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne, cumin, salt, black pepper

This recipe takes sweet potato fries to the next level.  Now, I have to warn you, they are spicy.  I have a relatively high tolerance for heat and these had me sweating a little bit!  But sweet, salty, and spicy?  These are way too good to pass up!

cut sweet potatoes

Continue reading


joseph’s turkey burger du jour

Spicy Turkey Burger and Sweet Potato Fries

I was vegetarian for several years and ate enough veggie burgers to keep Gardenburger and Boca in business.  Then, when I was eating poultry again, I went on a business trip to Atlanta and a coworker ordered a turkey burger.  I was sort of shocked by the idea (turkey??), but since after about 10 years of nothing but veggie burgers, I was intrigued and ordered one as well.  I loved it.  My coworker told me about some good turkey burgers back in DC, but I kind of forgot about it by the time I got home.  It wasn’t until I moved to Boston and starting ordering turkey burgers at Sunset Grill that I became completely hooked.

oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder

Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, and hot sauces

But with Joseph working full time on his PhD at Tufts, well, suffice it to say, we don’t eat out a whole lot.  I was looking for healthy recipes and found this turkey burger recipe from the Mayo Clinic.  Totally healthy!  Even though Joseph was still vegetarian, he made me these turkey burgers for our first Super Bowl in Boston and several times since.  Eventually he got tired of making these awesome burgers and having a veggie burger and he starting eating them too.  He’s modified the recipe several times and this is the most current version.  I’m sure that a month or two from now it’ll be different again. Continue reading