As I mentioned, last night was "grown up dinner" - I made myself gnocchi with mushrooms and sage after Bug had gone to bed.  Then...I broke one of my cardinal rules...and ate it in front of the TV while watching "Absolutely Fabulous".

This dish was inspired by Jamie Oliver's recipe by the same name.  Only he makes his own gnocchi, of course.  But I'm doing the single parent gig while Adam is out of town this week, and there's just no way I'm making my own gnocchi on a weeknight.  I used packaged.  It was a shortcut that I deemed totally worth it, in this case.

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Sage
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie

1 package frozen gnocchi (16 oz)
olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
6 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced or torn
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. vegetable stock or water
24 sage leaves
a small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, for grating

Heat a large frying pan over med-high heat then add about 4 tbsp. of olive oil.  Add the whole sage leaves and fry until crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  In the same pan over med-high, add another 2-4 tbsp. of olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and toss for 2-3 minutes, then add the pepper flakes, garlic, salt, pepper, and butter.  When the garlic is slightly golden, add stock or water and continue to cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the frozen gnocchi to the mushroom mixture with the chopped parsley and mix well.  Be gentle and keep on heat only until thawed; otherwise, it'll just turned into mashed potatoes.  Serve with the crispy sage, some grated Parmesan for garnish, and any leftover parsley.  Serves 2-3.

I opened one of my favorite wines with this - a Cotes du Rhone - and it paired pretty well.  Nevertheless, I wonder if a Pinot Noir might have been better?

Slight wine misstep aside, this was a warm, comforting way to unwind after a challenging day.  Pairing it with AbFab's Eddy and Pats reminded me not to take anything, particularly this week, too seriously.

Eat, drink, and relax, sweetie daaaahling!


All by Myself

Bug and I are alone this week - Adam is on a business trip in California.  Emotions always run high when he's gone, as Bug and I are both Cancers.  Those of you who love astrology will understand: there's lots of tears, raised voices, hugs, and love while he's gone.  Adam is a Taurus - heaven knows, Bug and I need his steady ways to temper our passion.

Anyway (can you tell I had a day?), menu planning is always a challenge when he's gone because I don't have him around to run interference with Bug while I cook.  So I want to cook things that are still the same...um...caliber that I'm used to, and yet are still super short on time and effort.

Yesterday doesn't quite count, as it was Sunday and I had a full hour to cook.  I made Ina Garten's Croque Monsieur:

Adapted from
Ina Garten

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup hot milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
6 ounces Gruyere, grated (3 cups)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
6 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
4 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the broiler.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/4 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on a baking sheet and broil for2 minutes. Turn each slice and broil for another 2 minutes. Keep a close eye on the bread to make sure it doesn't burn!

Brush half the toasted breads with mustard (to taste), add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce (some will likely run off the sandwiches, which is fine), sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and broil the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot. (Serves 2-3)

This is one of my standbys, as it doesn't require all that much effort, it's child-friendly, and it's decadent.  For Bug's sandwich, I leave out the mustard and, instead of a green salad, she got a sliced plum.  Voila!

Notice that I made a note in the margin: "Don't cook in summer - stove heats up house too much!"  My kitchen has no A/C and a window that, mysteriously, gets absolutely no air flow.  Luckily, yesterday was a rather cool day in NYC so we were able to make this.

That was last night but, tonight, I did "Kid Dinner", which means I made her a hot dog (all gourmet-y from Dickson's Farmstand Meats, of course), a sliced plum, and leftover mariquitas from Cabana (our dinner on Saturday night).  I could give myself a bad mom award for that dinner...but I won't.  Not this week.  

After I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to her for bed, I'll be making Jamie Oliver's Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Sage for myself (hint: I certainly didn't make the gnocchi myself).  Photos tomorrow!

Eat, drink, and fumble your way through.



We are a house obsessed with all things Harry Potter.  It has just connected with Bug in ways I couldn't have anticipated.  As an example, I had a talk with her a few weeks ago in which she told me that she was going to emulate Hermione in the upcoming school year.  She was going to be smart and study and be brave.  She was going to take charge and be a know-it-all.  Then...about a week after this proclamation, this was the conversation we had right before school started:

BUG: You know, I decided that I'm not going to be Hermione this school year.
ME (a bit disappointed): Oh?  Why not?
BUG: Because, Mom.  It's really, really hard to change who you really are inside.

In that moment, I fell in love just a little bit more with my mini-teenager.  Sure, I was disappointed that I wasn't going to have a Hermione clone...but wasn't her observation a tad Hermione-esque?  Loved it.

So it won't surprise any of you when I tell you that we recently made BUTTERBEER!  I'll be in Orlando in November for the NCTE/ALAN conference and we're thinking about going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Luckily, I found out that ABCs of Art (aka my friend Debbie) went recently and she mentions the butterbeer.  Check out her post, for certain, for a discussion about what butterbeer really is (and our own expectations of what it should be).  She also links to a recipe on Mugglenet and I've adapted it to a stovetop recipe (since we don't have a microwave):

1 c. (8 oz) club soda or cream soda
1/2 c. (4 oz) butterscotch syrup (ice cream topping)
1/2 tbsp butter

Melt butterscotch syrup and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until syrup is bubbly and butter is completely incorporated.  Stir and cool for 30 seconds and then slowly mix in soda.  Mixture will fizz quite a bit so make sure your saucepan is large enough.  Makes 2-3 servings.

This recipe was soooooo sweet and sugary.  Consider yourself forewarned.  Adam and I both drank about half and then we were out.  As you can imagine, Bug drank all of hers and wanted more.  We used cream soda but I might try club soda next time to cut down on some of the sweetness.

Debbie also links to some other variations, including an adult version with butterscotch schnapps.  I'm hesitant to buy a whole bottle of butterscotch schnapps for this recipe, but we're also still fighting off summer. Come January, a warm cup of butterscotch schnapps and cream soda could be an awesome warming dessert drink after Bug has gone to bed.

Next, we need to seek out pumpkin juice recipes.  And pray to a higher power that it's not as gross as my failed experiments with the pumpkintini

We finished our evening with a cutthroat game of Harry Potter Uno.  

Eat, drink, and make drinks from your favorite books.


Football Food with My Family

Like last year, we did a big celebration for the opening day of football season this year.

It's become not only about football...even though I have three fantasy football teams...but it's also become one of the few days a year that Adam and I give ourselves permission to stay in our pajamas all day. We usually drag our queen-sized mattress into the living room and, literally, stay in bed all day. And it's one of the rare times when we actually let Bug jump on our bed. It's a true Family Day.

This year, just like last, I made Cooking Light's Roasted Red Pepper and Cannellini Bean Dip for lunch.

But for dinner I decided to change it up and, at Bug's request, we made "Cheesy Fun-due" from Rachael Ray's kids' cookbook: Cooking Rocks!

Cheesy Fun-due
Adapted from Rachael Ray
6 servings

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 + 1/4 c. whole milk
1 lb. Swiss cheese, grated
1 lb. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
2 c. cauliflower
Chunks of sturdy, dense bread
Apples slices (we used Gala)
Cherry tomatoes (1 pint)
Salami, cut into chunks (we used mild for Bug, but spicy could be awesome)

Put the flour and 1/4 c. of the milk into a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth. Add the rest of the milk to the saucepan and whisk until smooth and thickened. Add cheeses gradually, stirring until combined, then add lemon juice.

Transfer the fondue to a fondue pot or a smaller bowl. Or keep in the saucepan, which is what I did. Place a pot holder on the table and put the saucepan on top. Use forks or skewers to dip.

I altered the heck out of it, especially since we don't have a microwave and Rachael's entire recipe depends on using one (realllly?!). I tried finding the original recipe online for you guys but, dang it, it appears that no one has posted it and Rachael Ray sure ain't giving it up for free. So give my stovetop version a shot and see what you think.

But the point is that this was the perfect end to the perfect day. Or, to borrow a line from one of my favorite movies, "I'm not, like, putting a period at the end of this. I'm putting like... an ellipsis on it." Because that's what the best days feel like with my family and friends. No periods, just ellipses.

Eat, drink, and find comfort in family and friends.


...for my absence of late. Between lice...

...and tornadoes in NYC...

...it has been an eventful September.

Or as Adam has dubbed it: Shitember.

Eat, drink, and laugh it off.



I feel weird admitting this but I have ambivalent feelings about Gwyneth Paltrow. I saw her in Sliding Doors first, then Shakespeare in Love (with a small detour at Moonlight and Valentino - LOVED the scene where she's playing air drums!)...and decided that if I were to look like anyone else but me, I'd want to look like her. And there's a little of the WWGD feeling in me: What Would Gwyneth Do? She's impeccably groomed, well-spoken, engaging, glamorous, fashionable...so how would I react to a situation if I were as seemingly pulled-together and self-possessed as Gwyn?

Then I saw Spain...On the Road Again with Gwyneth, Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols and only adored her more. I mean, BFFs with Michael Stipe?! Those big sunglasses and pashminas?! Yes, please.

Then GOOP happened. And I got pissed off. Why? Because I have real issues with celebrities who try to claim "I'm just an ordinary person." That attempt to make us believe that they're just like us little people. Um, no, you're not. I could go on a rampage here, but I'm certain I don't need to - you know what I'm getting at. Long rant short: no, you're not like me. And until you're in my shoes, stop proclaiming to be. I totally felt like Gwyneth went there.

So I cook recipes from Spain...A Culinary Road Trip with ambivalence these days. Like tonight. I was desperate for something to cook tonight and ultimately turned to Spain. And I found it: Pan Con Tomate and Catalan-Style Spinach. With a side of jamon Serrano? Yes, please. This is what happened:

It was heaven. Exactly what I asked for. Simple and easy to make, but the flavors were gorgeous and refreshing. Unbeknownst to me when I planned the meal, it also straddled the changing seasons perfectly: it was comforting and warm, but still seasonal and fresh.

You'll notice that I changed up the Pan Con Tomate recipe a bit. I had plum tomatoes on hand. I split one in half and rubbed it all over the bread, like the recipe said. All kinds of pulpy juiciness all over that charred bread. But I still had two tomatoes left over. So I chopped them up and tossed them with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Spread them over the bread. Finished with flaky salt and lots of pepper.

Also, I didn't have the dried currants that were called for in the spinach recipe so I used dried cranberries to great effect. Definitely feel free to substitute.

So, dammit, GP still wins. The score? Gwyneth: 4, Laura: 0 (reference the migas, as well as the empanadas and tortilla espanola). She and Mario make a killer cookbook and travel memoir - perhaps I should forgive her GOOP and just channel her fabulousness.

Eat, drink, and be okay with who you are...even if it's not Gwyneth.


Manhattan Clam Chowder

This is another one of those lovely times when my passions and my job coincide: I'm cooking up Manhattan Clam Chowder over at the pageturn today, inspired by Leslie Connor's middle-grade novel CRUNCH.

Eat, drink, and say hi to me over there!


Playlists: the Comfort Food edition

As I mentioned in my last post, all I really needed this weekend was to feel grounded and sane. That included stirring risotto while belting out some of my favorite "heartswelling" songs. Yes, I have a playlist on my iPod labeled "heartswelling." I would normally feel slightly goofy admitting that...but I'm guessing that most people who read this blog won't be surprised by my unabashed corniess. So here is a sample of what I was listening to last night while stirring and reading:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Eat, drink, and always have a soundtrack for it.

Comfort Food: Risotto

Major changes going on in the Lutz household lately. Here are a few:
  • Hell, just a busy week. We rarely ate en famille this past week. Which definitely wears on all of us.
  • Bug is starting a new school this Wednesday: The Neighborhood School in the East Village. It's all been somewhat sudden and, while fabulous, still stressful. She'll be starting 4th grade in a new environment and we're hoping it'll be a change for the better. The bad news? Until our lease is up in March 2011, we'll be commuting an hour each way to get her to school. Wow.
  • Planning a vacation. I told Adam that I have one goal - and one goal only, really - in 2010: Leave this country. I went to France in 1993, Mexico in 1996...and then haven't left the country since. And I must. The world is calling me. The three of us have passports so what the hell are we waiting for? So Thanksgiving this year. We initially thought Europe (Dublin or London, perhaps) but, post-Hawaii, we're thinking Costa Rica or Turks and Caicos. Readers, weigh in.
  • Recommitting ourselves to Frenchness. Thanks to the excellent Wafels and Dinges, Schnitzel and Things, Joyride Truck, and my lack of self-discipline, I'm failing the zipper test. TrĂ©s unsexy.
The good news is that we are on the cusp of autumn. And tonight I was finally able to bring some heat into the kitchen: I made risotto. Lemon risotto, specifically. A montage:

As with any recipe, I always recommend getting all ingredients ready ahead of time. (Ignore the oranges in the glass - that was my Lillet on ice)

The thing I love most about risotto is that I can stand there, stirring and stirring, and read. It must've been something unconscious because I "accidentally" left my e-reader full of manuscripts at work on Friday. Which left me free to read David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris all weekend which, suffice to say, did not quell my wanderlust. It's lovely in every way (the book, that is. Not my wanderlust, which is rather annoying and expensive).

Reference the recipe I linked to above, which I followed almost exactly. However, I didn't have a full two tablespoons of parsley or basil left on my balcony garden. I did have a bunch of sage in my fridge that was about to go bad. So I used 1 tbsp. chopped parsley and 1 tbsp. chopped sage. Then I fried whole sage leaves in 2 tbsp. of butter for garnish:

Lest you think my tastes are too rich (or fattening) for your blood, I didn't add the the butter at the end that the recipe recommended: I figured the butter I used for the fried sage sufficed.

Adam came into the kitchen while I was stirring and reading. He put his arms around me (as all significant others should while someone is cooking an amazing dinner from which they will benefit) and he said, "I could tell you needed this." "Needed what?" I asked. "Needed to just sit in the kitchen with your music playing, stirring. Reading. Glass of wine." And he was right.

Eat, drink, and feel grounded in the kitchen.

Note: In the great Beer vs. Wine battle that goes on in our house, we decided that tonight was a draw. We agreed that the Hermann J. Wiemer 2008 Dry Riesling was exceptional, as was Adam's Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA.


Dinner parties

There is a scene I love in the movie Father of the Bride (1991 version) where Steve Martin sees his wife walking down the stairs and he's remembering their wedding day. He says, "I'll probably never remember what Nina wore that day, but I'll always remember the way she looked." I love that and I often remember that line when I see our table post-dinner-party:

Ten, fifteen years from now I'll probably forget what we ate. But I'll always remember the good friends and good conversation. And the Guitar Hero that was played afterward.

Eat, drink, and enjoy the moment.

Note: For the record, here is what we ate -
Dessert: Kathryn's fantastic Lemon Cake