Sep 28, 2009

The Book: Oktoberfest

Hmm... I may have missed the boat on this one this year - is Oktoberfest still going on? Do we even really need an excuse to invite our pals over and drink beer? Nah, I didn't think so...

Celebrate the arrival of October with this easy German-inspired menu. Lederhosen optional.

Late Sept/Early Oct.

German Beer
Skillet Sausage & Cabbage
Potato Salad w/ Warm Mustard Vinaigrette
Apple Pancake

Skillet Sausage & Cabbage
Serves 8

What you need:
2 (16oz) package of kielbasa or smoked turkey sausage, sliced diagonally into 1in. thick pieces
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, seeded & thinly sliced
8 cups white cabbage, thinly sliced
1.5 cups dry white wine or chicken broth
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
salt & pepper to taste

How you make it:
Sauté sausage over med heat until browned, remove from pan & drain on paper towels. Do not clean pan, add onions & peppers and sauté until softened (2-3 minutes). Add cabbage and cook, stirring often until softened (7-8 minutes). Add sausage, wine or broth and seasonings. Reduce heat and cook over low flame until cabbage is tender (10 minutes).

Want to make it even easier? Take it to the grill:
Grill Brats or 6” lengths of kielbasa, serve hotdog-style on buns with purchased sauerkraut.

Potato Salad w/ Warm Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 8

What you need:
3 pounds potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1  cup extra virgin olive oil  
2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
1 small bunch fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

How you make it:
Place the potatoes and salt in a medium pot and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving dish. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and mustard in a small bowl. Pour half the mixture over the hot potatoes, toss, and let stand for 1 hour. Just before serving, drizzle the remaining vinaigrette mixture over the potatoes, add the tarragon and pepper, and toss. Taste and add salt as needed.

NOTE: Drizzling the vinaigrette over the potatoes while they're hot helps them absorb the tasty liquid more readily.

German Apple Pancake
Serves 8

What you need:
4 eggs
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large tart apple - peeled, cored and sliced

How you make it:
In a large bowl, blend eggs, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Gradually mix in milk, stirring constantly. Add vanilla, melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Let batter stand for 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Melt butter in a 10 inch oven proof skillet, brushing butter up on the sides of the pan. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Sprinkle mixture over the butter. Line the pan with apple slices. Sprinkle remaining sugar over apples. Place pan over medium-high heat until the mixture bubbles, and then gently pour the batter mixture over the apples.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Flip pancake onto serving platter and cut into wedges.

Sep 27, 2009

Going for the Hat Trick

Another one! 

They're all gorgeous - This one belongs to the brilliant and talented Mrs. T_Ro here in the ATL. I'm so tickled you gals are cooking up a storm!

Sep 22, 2009

Another One!

 A delicious confection from the divine Ms. K - thanks for sharing!

It's absurd how happy this makes me. Especially considering I didn't actually get to eat any of it...

Sep 20, 2009

Yo' Mama

I was having drinks this weekend with another smart, gorgeous, 30-something Gal and at some point she remarked how much she was like her mom. What was really interesting was the way she said it – not in the typical “what am I going to do, the world is ending” groan, but in a really pleased, self assured tone that said “and I’m really proud of that”.

That got me thinking. In our early twenties, coming into our own fabulousity, none of my girlfriends would have been caught dead admitting she was like her mother – much less being pleased with it. But now it seemed un-escapable – we do become our mothers, it’s just absurd that we didn’t see it coming!

My own transformation is undeniable. Not only is there a strong physical resemblance, but our habits, our talents and even our downfalls are eerily familiar. Now keep in mind we’re talking about a woman who stockpiles toilet paper. Almost to an apocalyptic degree. It is a source of total amusement to my brother and I – it seems like she picks some up every time she goes to the store. Though in her defense, when asked why she bought yet more TP, her response is always “Well, you don’t want to run out, do you?” Um, no. Good point.

If I stop to think about it, the list of similarities is quite long. We wear the same lipstick shade, the same nail polish looks good on us. We both had a phase with Guerlain’s Shalimar perfume in our early twenties. We have the same crooked toes. We’ve suffered the same illnesses and share a mutual love for Ambien. We share a perfect black dress, passing it back and forth for events. We both love to be in the kitchen and tend to show our love for others by cooking for them. We both like to keep a stash of candy around the house. When my issue of House Beautiful shows up, I read it quickly and share it with her and she returns the favor with her Bon Appetit. I’ve watched my mother read for years and she absentmindedly holds her fingers up to her lips. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself doing it too. And we can both deliver a brutal tongue lashing when we’re peeved. Don’t say you weren’t warned…

And then there is the list of things my mother knew long ago about us that I’m just realizing. She made me wait to get my ears pierced until long after my friends’ had theirs done. She seemed to think it was over-hyped. And today? I rarely even wear earrings. I wasn’t allowed to perm my hair, because it would “ruin” it, to my eternal despair, and yet these days I don’t even like to blow it dry for fear of damage and my healthy, straight hair is my most complimented feature. The oddest trait I’ve embraced? When we were young and my mom would drive us around, no one was allowed to remove their seatbelt before the car was turned off. Even in the driveway. We always thought it was ridiculous – after all, it’s not like we were going to fall out of the car going 2 mph. And then last week it happened. I was driving around town with a pal and as we pulled up to the house he popped his seatbelt. And I lost my mind. “Are you crazy? Don’t take off your seatbelt until we’ve stopped!” I screeched. The expression on his face was priceless. Like looking in a mirror at my twelve year-old self.

So yeah, I’m turning into my mother & so are you. But just think – our moms hooked our dads, so it can’t be all bad, right?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pick up some toilet paper. You know, just in case.

p.s. - This is my 100th post! Thanks for reading. 

xo, TSG

Sep 16, 2009

DIY: Menu Cards

There’s a fine line between creative & crafty… you can have great ideas but not necessarily the fine motor skills (or patience) to cut & paste them together. I fall pretty firmly in the former category – while I enjoy flipping through a Martha Stewart tutorial, there’s no way in hell I could ever get mine to look like hers.

So when it comes to decorating for a party I tend to keep things pretty simple – but I still want it to feel special. Even if you have no art skills whatsoever you can do these great menu cards.

Image courtesy of the now defunct Blueprint Magazine. 
They got fancy with the little pencils - great idea if you need to keep everybody busy while you're finishing up in the kitchen. 
Include a questionnaire, brain teaser or trivia quiz...

Simply type up what you’re serving, pick a font and color you like and print them out on heavy card stock. Then just trim them down and place one at each place setting.

Don’t want to include the menu? Try a simple holiday greeting, a quote, or just the reason you’re all together. I did the ones below for a friend’s birthday dinner at a restaurant. I just showed up a few minutes early, put out the cards, some simple flowers and small boxes of treats as party favors… it was a subtle and sophisticated way to make our table special - without the cheesy party store banners or balloons.

Got more skills? Turn it up with clip art, illustrations or your own masterpiece! Photos would be super cute – add pictures of your friends and use them as place cards to let everyone know where they should sit (“Find your face & sit down”…or, you know, something like that).

Sep 15, 2009


that you guys are trying out some of the recipes I've posted - and more importantly - sharing your own creations with me!

Loved this picture from E. in NC who made a peach crostata last weekend for her dinner party. She may have recently tied the knot, but she's putting her Single Gal skills to good use! It looks absolutely scrumptious and I'm just sorry I wasn't there to try some...

And a HUGE thank you to K. here in Atlanta  - the sassiest Single Gal I know - who whipped up some amazing chili and was kind enough to share it with me. Sadly, I ate it all before it even occurred to me to take a picture - but trust me, it was delicious! 


Sep 13, 2009

Sunday is Soup Day

Sundays were made for soup. They were also made for lounging around on the couch in your PJs, drinking coffee and reading the paper – but you can do all that while your soup bubbles away on the stove. Sunday is also a great day to entertain since you’ll have all day to cook and get ready leisurely. In my family, we always have dinner together on Sundays. It’s our time to catch up, talk about what’s going on and share a good meal. These days, not many of us still live in the same cities as our families, so why not treat your friends like family and invite them over for a Sunday Supper?

Keep it casual and easy – big bowls of soup, hunks of crusty bread, maybe a simple salad if you’re so inclined… just a comforting home-cooked meal to help everyone ease out of the weekend and get ready for the week ahead. This is one of my favorites:

Serves 8-10

1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds, cut into 5-6 pieces
4 Granny Smith apples, coarsely chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise to expose all the cloves
3-4 bay leaves
2” piece of ginger, coarsely chopped
2 TB black peppercorns
5-6 whole cardamom pods

4 TB butter
1 medium onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled & finely chopped
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1 cup rice
3/4 cup red lentils
1/4 cup flour
1 tea ground coriander
1 TB garlic, minced
3 TB curry paste, yellow or red
1 1/2 tea salt
1 tea ground black pepper
Chopped cilantro for serving

Make the Stock:
Pull out the biggest pot you have and dump all the stock ingredients in it. Add enough cold water to completely cover the chicken and vegetables and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer for one hour. The vegetables will be mushy and the chicken should fall off the bones easily.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pot, discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Strain the stock and discard the vegetables and spices. If you want, you can let the stock cool and skim off whatever fat accumulates. But the fat adds richness, so I like to go ahead and finish the soup right away as is.

Make the Soup:
In the same large pot, melt butter over medium heat and add onions, carrots and celery. Cook ten minutes, stirring often until vegetables are soft. Add rice and lentils and cook two minutes, stirring constantly. Add flour, garlic, curry paste and about half a cup of the stock. Cook for two minutes, stirring to dissolve the curry paste and get everything evenly combined. Add the remaining stock (You should have 8-10 cups) slowly – about a cup at a time, stirring in between. Cook for about ten minutes or until rice and lentils are tender. Add shredded chicken, salt and pepper. When chicken is heated through, serve soup with chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

Don’t feel like making your own stock? You can use store-bought stock or low sodium chicken broth – you’ll just need to tweak it a bit. While you’re sweating the soup vegetables, heat the broth in a separate pot and let it simmer with a piece of garlic and a few cardamom pods until you’re ready for it. When it’s time, simply scoop out the spices. You may want to add a peeled, chopped green apple in with the onions, carrots & celery – the sweetness is really great here, so you don’t want to loose it.

You can absolutely make this the day before – but it will thicken as it cools so you may need to add a few cups of water or stock when you reheat it gently. Not having people over? No problem. Just let the soup cool and divide it into single-serving plastic containers. Pop them in the freezer and you’ll have soup all season long!

Sep 9, 2009

DFO: Squashed Gnocchi

You know when you think up something late at night, maybe after a glass of cheap chardonnay or two, and you think it's completely brilliant and then the next morning you realize it's really, really stupid? Yeah... that's pretty much what happened when I was trying to decide what to call this dish.

But, stupid name notwithstanding, it's really fabulous and easy so give it a try-

Dinner For One: Squashed Gnocchi

This is serious comfort food - heavy, creamy & incredibly filling - you might want to have a salad for lunch. I just so happened to have some leftover roasted acorn squash on hand but I realize that's pretty rare. If it were me, I wouldn't cook squash just to make this - I'd use a canned version, but you do whatever suits you.

What you'll need:
1 package potato gnocchi
1 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
.5 cup cooked squash, diced into small pieces
.5 cup half & half
Salt, pepper, red chili flakes & chopped fresh rosemary to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated for top (optional & totally indulgent)

How you make it:
Cook gnocchi in salted boiling water according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat butter in a wide-bottomed pan and cook garlic over low heat until it begins to turn golden. Add squash and half & half. Use a fork to smush squash until it melds with the cream into a (more or less) smooth sauce. Add spices and keep warm until gnocchi are ready. 

When it's time, add gnocchi and a splash of its cooking water to pan, stir everything very gently until gnocchi are coated & serve with a sprinkle of parmesan and extra herbs-

Note: I really like rosemary but it's a strong flavor and some folks aren't that fond of it. That's cool 'cause sage would be incredible in this, as would thyme. And butternut squash would be great. You know the rules - adapt the recipe to use what you have and what you like. Because really, what doesn't taste good with cream & butter? 

Sep 7, 2009

All Tarted Up

Oh my. I've gone and done it again haven't I? Crap. Where does the time go?? Hmmm, would you like to hear my mea culpa now, or shall I just run the same old tired excuses by you again? 

Well, the good news is I haven't been hanging out in restaurants since we last talked. But I haven't been at home either - I've been enjoying the best perk of entertaining your friends. Are you ready? Here it is... If you invite people over, they will oftentimes invite you back over to their house! So I've been enjoying the hospitality of family & friends and just generally having a lovely time.

But somehow when you write about food and entertaining, it doesn't seem right to sit back and let the party happen without helping out. Remember the crostata from a few weeks ago?  I made this Ginger Plum version twice this week and it was a huge hit.

I used the same basic method as before with a filling of sliced plums, a few teaspoons of ground ginger and the juice of half a lemon. It takes about 5 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes in the oven - so simple. Served warm from the oven with a dollop of whipped cream... yeah, you'll get invited back for sure.