Tag Archives: Recipe

Best of 2011: Little Big Kitchen

26 Dec

These are my favorite food-related posts from 2011.

Recipe: Butternut Ravioli And Then Some

8 Dec

– I’ve already started getting Christmas cards in the mail. (Thanks, Melyndersons!) This is no fair. I haven’t even made ours yet, nor even picked out the photo.  I’m still trying to mull over a way to beat last year’s card, and the only possible contender I’ve come up with it to find a giant Julbocken for Isobel to ride while I take her photo on it. I am, so far, unsuccessful in this endeavor. But I hear our local Volvo dealer has a large Dala

Justin found this Star Trek Christmas card and it warmed my nerdly heart.

– This made me laugh until I cried: Fake Kristen Stewart Explains Christmas. Via  SvelteAssassin.

– This weekend I’m getting together with friends for a holiday party that includes an old fashioned sing along. I am so excited to sing hymns and drink nog while Isobel runs around with Kingston shouting, “IS THERE AN L, MOM?! IS THERE AN L?!” The song Noel kind of freaks her out.

– It was only a matter of time before the internet came up with this. Via the Scott.

– Earlier in the week I posted about thrifty ways to wrap presents and thrifty practices I’m using to save money. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to respond to the comments yet but if you enjoyed these posts please click over and read the comments. The comments totally inspired me. LB readers shared some awesome creative and thrifty tips that you might want to bookmark.

– Recent Thrift Store Gore: Terror Santa. He sees you when you’re sleeping.

– Recent Thrift Store Score: Vintage Angels. My small pile of Christmas decorations is growing.


I made butternut ravioli with sage butter for dinner on Monday and it was so good Anthony and I nearly fainted. Isobel didn’t want any and we were like OH GEE THAT’S TOO BAD NOM NOM NOM.

I didn’t use a recipe but it was super easy. The steps were kind of fiddly but they weren’t hard. The longest part was the roasting of the butternut squash, and you can do that a day or two in advance. This is a great way of using up butternut puree.

1. Halve your butter nut, clean out the seeds, and lightly coat it with oil. Roast at 400 degrees F for about an hour.

2. When cool, scoop out roasted flesh and mash.

3. Saute the white parts of a scallion until soft then add the butternut, heavy cream, salt, pepper, a scrape of nutmeg, and warm through. Take off the heat and add a grating of Parmesan cheese.

4.  Lay out wonton wrappers and make ravioli by putting a bit of the butternut mixture in the center of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the wrapper with a bit of water and fold in a wonton shape.

5. Start the sauce: I made brown butter with sage, which is dead easy. Add the butter to a warm pan along with some whole fresh sage leaves. Heat butter till it foams and starts to brown. You’re done.

6. Boil ravioli briefly then portion out on plates. Pour brown butter over and sprinkle with parsley and more Parmesan if desired.

7. Ta da! Here’s the end result. So good.

Homemade Christmas & Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

7 Nov

Working in the kitchen has been a balm for my anxiety. The chopping, the washing, the sauteing all help divert my scattered, restless thoughts away from anxious tangents. The inherent rhythm of chop chop chop chop has become my mantra. Cooking is my meditation. Dinner is my devotion.

We have so many seeds from the pumpkins we grew that I’m planning to roast them in batches with a different set of seasonings each time. In addition to the three fat pumpkins we harvested from the backyard my friend and gardening-partner-in-crime Jake gave us the pumpkin he grew as well. It’s an embarrassment of pumpkin riches.

After cleaning the flesh from the seeds by soaking them in brine overnight, I doused them heavily in tamari, the milder, more complex Japanese soy sauce. I roasted them for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. They came out a bit saltier than I’d like so I’ll need to adjust the amount of soy, but they have a robust, almost smoky flavor.

One of the reasons I’m testing out different spice combinations is because the holidays are right around the corner and I’m looking for gifts I can make cheaply and in batches. This year my friends and I have decided to have an exclusively Handmade Christmas. If it can be found in a thrift store (the only exception), cooked, baked, or otherwise handcrafted, it counts. None of us can afford an extravagant Christmas, and aside from a few stocking stuffers and thrifted goodies I’ve already set aside for Isobel, that goes for family, too.

Going down to one income in this economy is way harder than I thought it’d be. I don’t regret my decision to stay home for a minute, but I do have to admit I had unrealistic expectations about how difficult the financial transition would be. Finally, with two incomes in decent jobs we were making enough money to do more than get by when I quit my job. But I know things won’t always be this way. Anthony is still establishing himself in his career and I’m continuing to make extra money through photography and my Etsy shop. (Speaking of, stop by my shop during the holidays! I always include extra vintage goodies to customers I know personally.)

My friends are all in the same boat, most of them dealing with crushing student debt, lack of employment options, and the dreaded foreclosure. So, in the tradition of making lemons out of lemonade, we’re going the inexpensive route. Handmade can certainly be expensive, but I’m on the lookout for crafts that are inexpensive, easy enough for a novice, and not incredibly time consuming. I have some ideas I’ll share later (once I figure out what I’m going to make), but I’d love to hear any suggestions you have or click on any Pinterest links you want to send my way.

Recipe: Dirt Candy

11 Oct

So, beets. Let me start by saying I like beets. I like them, a lot. Okay? I know people get weird squeamish food prejudices about vegetables because they’ve been subjected to subdued canned versions growing up or in school cafeterias, but I even like canned beets. I think they’re great.

Raw beets, however, are not as tasty to me. I like them baked wrapped in foil or pickled, but I’m not as keen on them even when sliced attractively thin on a plate mixed in with carrots. I could probably grow accustomed to that musty-earth flavor, but I’m too busy eating them other ways to try.

Enter, dirt candy. This recipe for curing root vegetables (and butternut squash) in sugar caught my eye and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Curing the vegetables in this way allows them to retain the crispness of texture while softening the raw bite of their flavor through curing. The sugar pulls all the moisture out of the vegetable, shrinking it and transforming the flavor. It came to mind immediately when I noticed golden beets at the Farmer’s Market.

In the interest of eating the whole plant and thereby saving money, I first cooked the beet greens.

Golden beet greens are less photogenic than regular beet greens because they do not have the shockingly ruby red veins contrasting against the dark green leaves. I used this recipe, which was delicious but I don’t have a photo. Cooked greens are not photogenic.

I had a few beets to work with and before I made candy I sliced some up and made beet chips using the same method I used for the butternut squash. I loved them, though not as much as I loved the squash chips. Their earthiness translated almost to a smokiness, which was nice.

(That dip you see next to them was a mixture of sour cream, Greek yogurt, and dill. And I had rather more than what is pictured on the plate.)

While the chips were baking and the greens were bubbling I started on the candy. The instructions are as follows: 1. dice beets, 2. cover with a pile of sugar, 3. wait. Aside from some light stirring that happens over the course of a couple days,that’s it. You cover it, set it in the fridge, and let nature do its thing.

Nature doesn’t mess around. After the first half hour I drained off this much liquid already.

I know what you are thinking: that looks like Mountain Dew at best and a very sick person’s urine sample at worst. That’s 100% sugary golden beet juice.  I thought about reducing to a syrup and adding to Greek yogurt. Twitter was not enthusiastic about this idea.

After I took the photo, of course, I poured the liquid back over the beets and stashed them in the fridge and waited, stirring intermittently, for two days. But you don’t have to wait that long! Thanks to the magic of the internet I can show you the result…

The liquid darkened. The beet pieces had shrunk but remained firm and they glowed as if from within. They were good. They were very good.

They tasted like beets but without that full raw bite. And the concentration of sugars made them sweet, like, well, candy. As I ate them I thought, wow. I bet these would be even better roasted. Totally unnecessary of course. Gilding the lily, really. But once I had the idea I couldn’t let go of it, so onto an oiled baking tray they went. Ten minutes later…

They were gorgeous. The exterior sugars caramelized and scorched in places while beets became a mixture of chewy in some places and crisp in others. I could have eaten a popcorn bag full. Add some sea salt and it was better than candy. They would make an amazing garnish.

Asparagus Shiitake Risotto

9 Jun

Recently I made some exceptionally delicious asparagus risotto after reading about E making it. It was creamy and unctuous, but the perky hit of the lemon kept it from being too rich. The asparagus was perfect and gave the whole dish the herbal hit that made me want to eat whole bowlfuls of it at a sitting. It wasn’t side dish risotto. It was main dish risotto.

I’ve been looking for more dishes that feature asparagus since its still in season, and while at the store I noticed some reasonably-priced sliced shiitake mushrooms. Now, shiitake mushrooms might be one of my favorite foods ever, but I usually only buy them dried. It’s much more economical that way (until I grow them myself), but since they were on sale I splurged and brought a container home. I’d seen mention of asparagus shiitake risotto before, so I pulled up a recipe and got to work. I made some changes as I always do.

I also decided the one photo of me wearing my onion goggles wasn’t enough, so here’s another. I’m making duckface because that’s the only way these goggles can get any sexier.

Again, I had me some medicinal wine.

And here’s a tip for amateur food photographers: don’t have access to even a cheap, DIY lightbox? (Let’s face it, if I left mine up the kid or the cats would destroy it.) A brightly lit clean white sink works well, especially if you can edit out any scratches or water droplets in post.

I had extremely high hopes for this risotto. Back when Anthony and I lived in a one bedroom apartment with a kitchen the size of a coach airline seat and a counter barely deep enough to rest a blender on, I used to cook constantly. Before I developed crohn’s I spent whole days cooking. One of the best things I ever made was a wild mushroom risotto, and the memory of that meal is indelibly burned into my palette. I’ve been aching to recreate the amazing flavor of that meal, and since this dish used shiitake I felt sure I’d taste the echos of it in the bowl.

I hate to say this recipe disappoints, but it does.  Asparagus and shiitake are two of my favorite things, and they taste wonderfully together, but, I couldn’t help but compare it to the asparagus risotto and the wild mushroom risotto of the past. The asparagus in this dish just wasn’t as good as the asparagus in the other, and same for the mushrooms.

It looked beautiful, and I don’t deny it was absolutely delicious. It just didn’t compete with the memory of the other two dishes. I kept expecting to taste that bright hit of the lemon, or that deep flavor of the dried shiitake.

Anthony and Isobel loved it, however, and although I made a ton it only lasted into the next day. It made me realize, however, that I’m going to have to try a bit harder to recreate the wild mushroom risotto I made a few years ago.

Anthony has been making this salad a lot lately, inspired by one we get at our favorite Greek place, and fortunately, it was even better than I remembered it.

Little Big Links: Peeps

21 Apr


I didn’t have time for Little Big Links last weekend, but I’ve been bookmarking some Easter links that I just had to share. Oh man I love me some Easter Peeps. Anthony surprised me with a box the other day and I let Isobel have a few bites and her eyes lit up and she became obsessed. While good “fresh”, I prefer to age them, like a fine wine, and eat them after they’ve gone a bit stale.

WashingtonPeeps Diorama Contest – a total time suck, in the very best way.

Recipe: Easter Peep S’mores – genius! 

DIY Felt Peeps – I guess Peeps last year-round anyway, but these won’t get sticky after a few months.

Peeps Marshmallow Wreath – This may be the best wreath idea of all time. OF ALL TIME.

Peeps of Catan – It’s Settlers of Catan! With Peeps!

Crochet Peeps – An inexpensive Easter basket filler.

How to Make Peeps Sushi – I’m compelled to make some, though I’d never actually eat it.

Recipe: Homemade Peeps Candy – I bet these are wonderful.

The Feasibility of Peeps and Library Usage – Peeps learn about the library. Awesomeness ensues.

For more links, follow me on Pinterest.

Impromptu Zucchini Fritters

11 Apr

I wasn’t planning on making zucchini fritters for dinner the other night, but I was hungry and had just put in some potatoes to bake while I played in the kitchen with Isobel. I was just going to make a salad for the easiest dinner ever (baked potatoes with salad + a protein – typically hardboiled eggs or beans in the salad), and I noticed I happened to have a combination of ingredients that would make some really good fritters.

Typically a fritter is a fried food, a deep-fried food, and coated in batter. These zucchini fritters are shallow fried in a thin layer of oil, and the batter is incorporated into the patty. I have had unfortunate experiences with zucchini in the past so I’m rarely excited to eat it. But these were good. Really good. And easy enough to put together after a long day.

To make a zucchini fritter, you just need to start with a few ingredients:

The Basic Zucchini Fritter Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • ½ – 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • S&P

Please don’t stop there, though, because even adding one more ingredient makes a dramatic difference:

Extras & Add-Ins

  • 2-3 tbs jack cheese
  • ½ scallion, sliced thin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 handful chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • 1 tbs chives
  • Fresh or dried thyme
  • curry powder (thanks, Cameron!)

This time I added the jack cheese, parsley, and scallion, but lemon or garlic would be so, so awesome. Parmesan cheese, gouda, fontina—all of these would make lovely additions. The problem with adding cheese, however, is that they will be more likely to stick to the pan during frying. Next time I plan to add the cheese in the middle of the patty in an attempt to prevent this. I’m not sure it will work, though. (Also I think that playing around with the temperature might help.)


1. Grate zucchini using a box grater, food processor, or flat cheese grater. I used the flat cheese grater because that was handy. Dragging out the food processor for just this step was not going to happen on a weeknight.

2. Toss your shredded zucchini into a bowl and add all the ingredients, basic and extra, that you plan to use (with the exception, perhaps, of the cheese, as noted above). Mix well.

3.  Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and swirl it around. You want to use a flavorful oil because it will impart its taste to the fritters, so I’d recommend against canola. (Unless you love canola oil! More power to you.) Heat the pan to medium.

4. While the pan heats, form patties from about 2 tbs of the mixture. They’ll be a bit crumbly—that is their nature.

5. Cook the fritters over medium heat for a few minutes on each side. Cook in batches, replenishing oil when necessary. When done, drain on a paper towel.

6. Serve with a dab of sour cream, a sprinkling of lemon juice, sriracha or ketchup, if that’s your bag. They are also good on their own, and taste great warm or at room temperature. (Probably cold, too, but I didn’t have any leftovers.)

Pasta and Semis

17 Feb

Our heat’s out so I’m typing this while under a mountain of blankets and a footie pajama-clad toddler. She’s playing with our old checks and talking about cupcakes and Santa for no particular reason other than she likes them. Our winter has been extremely mild and right now the fact that our heat’s been out is mostly an inconvenience. We are lucky for that. It calls attention to the fact that there are several major things wrong with our house that get worse and more annoying everything. Soon we hope to change this.

Today, however, we are taking advantage of the Presidents’ holiday to organize, which, if you know me, is like a holiday in itself. I love organizing almost as much as a I love making lists.  The challenge will be entertaining Isobel while we work.

Isobel got this semi truck from her grandparents for Christmas. Obviously she loves it because 1. she can ride on it and 2. she can honk incessantly. Oh, also she can haul her Carebears around without having to carry them in her arms like a sucker. Speaking of Carebears, can some child of the 80s please tell me the name of this orange one with the star on its belly? Everyone whose been around it (including myself) has referred to it as “Sunshine Bear” before realizing that Sunshine Bear is yellow with a sun (duh) on her tummy.

Isobel still hasn’t gotten the knack for steering so if she runs into something she liberally applies the horn till someone corrects her trajectory. When outside, however, she just constantly presses on the horn, so much so that my neighbor just assumed it honked constantly when it was powered on. Oops.

By the way, if you have leftover lentils from your soup (because your child has insisted on drinking only the liquid of the soup for the past several days) just cook up a batch of pasta and throw it on with some olive oil and cheese. And everything will be all right.

Miss January’s Guest Post: Cookbook’s Lasagna

19 Jan

In the spirit of Overshare Wednesday I’m not going to lie: today is awful. I’m trying to keep the house together while Anthony is gone, take excellent care of Isobel, and oh yeah, occasionally go to work and take care of myself, too. Last night Isobel woke up crying at least once an hour from midnight on. I’m pretty sure it’s just teething but today I started coming down with (another) cold and so I’m hoping she’s not sick, too. Because frankly, I already have as much as I think I can handle. (Oh, also, there’s all kinds of stupidity happening with coworkers, but that’s not something I’m at liberty to talk about.)

Anyway, bullshit aside, I have a wonderful post lined up for you today. I put out a call a few months ago for guest bloggers and Camilla signed up to be Miss January. I love her blog, Lead Paint Cookbook, because she’s hilarious and she writes about things I like: Food. Housekeeping. Crashing bridal shows and causing mayhem. If you’re interested in guest blogging or switching blogs for a day, email me! I’d love to have you.

Today my Miss January is going to teach everyone how to make a delicious lasagna, and I’m going to take some mucinex.


Hello there, I’m Camilla, aka Cookbook. I blog over at Lead Paint Cookbook about my (mis)adventures with home cooking and housekeeping. I’m delighted to be guest blogging on Little Big today. Thanks, Carrie!

A couple weekends ago, my dear friend M was in town, which meant a Saturday night sleepover at my place with his “hens,” which is his affectionate nickname for me and my pals K and Christine. I suppose we do spend a lot of time clucking over him, but trust me, you would too if you ever met Mark. He’s that adorable.
The plan was for everyone to gather at my place around dinnertime on Saturday night. I decided to make a lasagna, because it is a dish you can almost never go wrong with. It’s really my go-to thing for crowds. Minus a few gluten-free friends, I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t like lasagna at least a little bit.

Given that half the sleepover attendees were vegetarian, I looked at a lot of recipes online and settled on a hybrid spinach-eggplant dish. Honestly, I kind of prefer veggie lasagna over meat-based anyway. I have a bit of a predilection toward Stouffer’s veggie lasagna, the family-sized one. It is one of my darkest secrets. That stuff is good, though, and guess what? The Stouffer’s factory is only about 20 minutes away from my home in Cleveland and they have an outlet store where all the factory seconds go. Be just a little bit jealous.

We all know homemade is better, though. And besides its relative ability to please a crowd, another thing I really like about lasagna is that it’s pretty easy to throw together and it’s also very forgiving, which is great if you’re not a super-exacting cook. All you have to remember is layers, sauce, cheese, filling, bake. Boom.

Here’s the recipe I went with:
Cookbook’s Vegetable Lasagna
1 large eggplant, sliced and quartered

1 8 oz. container baby bella mushrooms, chopped

1 lb. spinach, minus the stems
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large jar pasta sauce (I used a plain marinara, but if chunky or white’s your thing, go with that)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups grated mozzerella
1 box cooked lasagna noodles
1 large container cottage cheese (yes, instead of ricotta)
2 eggs
dashes of oregano, basil, salt and pepper

Boil your lasagna noodles according to package instructions. When they are cooked al dente, remove from water. Lay them out on a cookie sheet to cool. To prevent stickage, spray with some cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
Cut your eggplant in discs, then cut the discs in half. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Oregano, too. Roast in oven at 425 for about 30 minutes.

This is pre-roast, obviously.

Meanwhile, prepare your other veggies. Have a friend help you, because cutting up veggies is a lot of work! If your friend finds a blade of grass mixed in with the spinach, allow him to pretend it’s a whistle:

Chop the onions and garlic and sautee in a bit of olive oil. This photo looks disgusting and I’m sure the folks at Cooks Illustrated would hang me for calling this my sautee, but it is what it is (and what it is is delicious):

Chop up the mushrooms too.
Add the mushrooms, onion-garlic sautee, and pasta sauce together in a pan and warm up. Season according to taste. Basil is always good. I recently found frozen fresh basil at Trader Joe’s which has kind of changed my life:

It’s frozen into individual 1 tsp portions. They also sell cilantro packaged the same way. THANK YOU ISRAEL.
While the sauce is simmering, mix the cottage cheese and eggs and about a cup and a half of the mozzarella. You can use ricotta if you want to, since that’s more authentic and everything. Ricotta weirds me out on some inexplicable level, so I stick with the dumbed-down American cottage cheese.

Then assemble everything. Coat the bottom of the pan with a bit of the sauce, then a layer of noodles topped with eggplant, topped with cheese, topped with sauce, then a layer of pasta going in the opposite direction, etc. In a typical pan you’ll end up with three layers of noodles.
Top it off with a very thin layer of sauce (to prevent the top layer of noodles from drying out) and cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350, or until the cheese is nicely browned on top and sorta bubbly.

Then eat. Serve with a nice salad. Enjoy!

The Haps

9 Dec

Here’s the haps:

* First and foremost, I’m participating in my Etsy Team’s sale, which means everything in the Little Big Shop is 15% off for shoppers who use the coupon code “librarylove.” Today is the last day of the sale. As my friend Librarianearp says, tell all your friends about the sale, or the terrorists win.

* The lovely and talented Windsor Grace allowed me to interview her. Check out her blog and an Etsy shop.

* I guest blogged for world-traveler and good friend Marie on her food blog Five Flavors. She asked me to post a recipe that I make often and so I’m sharing with you my version of Rebaked Potatoes. I attribute the success of my marriage to this recipe. It’s hard to fight when you’re eating enormous amounts of cheese. You’re just too damn happy.

* It’s worth mentioning that Marie is in New Zealand, which means I’m reaching a whole new audience: Middle Earth.  

* Anthony went to his first Christmas party with his new company. And he didn’t get drunk and Xerox his butt! I’m counting that as a win.

* Last night we did some shopping at Target and Isobel ran through the aisles shouting, “WE DID IT! WE DID IT! WE DID IT!” She also does this new thing where she says, “No biting! No biting!” before she tries to bite you. She’s also obsessed with the concept of sleeping. If the TV’s not on, it’s sleeping. If the bathtub isn’t full, it’s sleeping, if the neighbor dog isn’t currently barking, he’s sleeping. It’s adorable. Everything she does is adorable, though.

* Isobel quit using binkies when she was just a few months old. I really think that was tipping point in between her being a newborn infant and her being just a baby. Sometimes Isobel rummages through her old baskets and comes across her old binkes. She generally starts shouting, “Baby! Baby! A BABY!” The other day while I was doing laundry she left the room and came back a minute later with two binkies. One she put in her mouth and one she insisted go in mine. So we finished the laundry with binkies in our mouths.

When you have a toddler, you just have to roll with it.

* My daughter SINGS. She sings “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “Ring Around the Roses,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and pretty much everything on Yo Gabba Gabba. Grandma taught her how to sing, “La Cucaracha”, and the other night she learned “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in about three minutes. I’ve been trying to get a video of her singing. She’ll sing sponantously: at dinner, in the car, while playing with her toys. She’s a big (little) girl now.