Potato and Celery Root Mash

What goes best with meat loaf??  You guessed it – mashed potatoes.  There is nothing like dipping that meat loaf into a nice soft pile of mashed potatoes.  So – I have told this story before, but it is so good, I have to tell it again.  Both of my kids hated potatoes for the longest time – except for french fries, which really don’t count.  It didn’t matter how I made them, they were never good enough.  That was until I made these – and the fact that they were not fried, and made from real mashed potatoes – made them a complete success.

One day though, my daughter mentioned that her “cooker” at day care made mashed potatoes, and she actually ate them.  I was floored.  How could a woman who is cooking for 100 kids, make better mashed potatoes than me?  Turns out, they were not real.  Figures.  I then went on a mission to make mashed potatoes that my kids would like.  It took years for that to happen, but last year at Thanksgiving, they both loved the mashed potatoes.

When it was time to think of a side for the meat loaf, I was heading towards the mashed potatoes, when I saw this in Bon Appetit.  They look just liked mashed potatoes, but they actually have celery root in them – one of my favorite vegetables.  I decided to give it a try, without telling my kids what I had done.  My older daughter, who burst into tears when trying the meat loaf, actually really liked the potato and celery root mash – that was after my younger one tried them and wasn’t crazy about them.  So – at least they both ate something that night – and my husband and I ate everything.  These mashers were amazing – and perfect with the meat loaf.  Next time I make meat loaf, I will stick to the basics, because after all – it’s meat loaf and mashed potatoes – meat loaf and potato and celery root mash just doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily…


  • 2 1/2 pounds mixed russet, Yukon Gold, and white-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1 1-pound celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 6″ piece of horseradish, peeled, coarsely grated (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt


Place potatoes, celery root, and horseradish in a large pot. Add water to cover by 1″. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 25-30 minutes.

Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return vegetables to pot; add sour cream, Dijon mustard, and butter. Using a potato masher, coarsely mash vegetables. Add reserved cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if mash is too stiff. Season to taste with salt.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Potato and Celery Root Mash

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Slow Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf

Time for another meat loaf recipe, this time a little more on the traditional side as opposed to these, but definitely with a twist.  I feel like I have been on a roll lately with respect to dinners.  My kids have been shocking me with what they have been eating.  I do think there is a little bit of peer pressure that goes on with our dinners as well – if one takes a bite and likes it, the other one seems to be more compelled to eat it as well.  Now, that doesn’t happen all the time, because we have definitely raised two strong, independent girls, but they are both pleasers.  Hey, I will take it.

One of my very dearest friends loves food as much as I do – I love when we get to see each other, we always eat really well.  When I went to visit her in Japan years ago, she basically took me on a food tour of Tokyo – I enjoyed every minute.  Now she lives in San Francisco, one of the best food cities in America.  For my birthday this year, she sent me this amazing cookbook – Cooking My Way Back Home by Mitchell Rosenthal.  He owns a few restaurants in San Francisco, as well as one in Portland.  Well, I have never been to any of his restaurants, but after reading his cookbook, I need to get on an airplane as soon as possible.  His cookbook is incredible – every recipe looks spectacular, and the photos are rustic and wonderful.

As I was flipping through the first time, the Slow Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf really caught my eye – it was something my husband could put on the egg, which always makes him happy.  The girls helped me put the meat loaf together – and they were so excited about it.  They love stuff smoked on the egg – so I was very optimistic.  The meat loaf smelled so good all afternoon – I couldn’t wait to dig in.  We finally sat down to eat, and my older daughter took a quick bite, she just couldn’t wait – and she burst into tears.  She had such high expectations for this meatloaf, and I think it was just a little too different for her – this was not your ordinary meat loaf – it was the most flavorful meat loaf I have ever tasted – I was in love.  As soon as my younger daughter saw that my older daughter was crying, she tried the meat loaf – and loved it.  She couldn’t get enough – and loved even more that her older sister wouldn’t eat it.  You just have to love sibling rivalry – it shows up in very unique ways, when you least expect it…


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups white bread, torn into small pieces (3 or 4 slides, depending on the thickness)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup spicy bourbon barbecue sauce or barbecue sauce of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ rub of your choice
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 or 3 handfuls hickory chips, soaked


Prepare a barrel smoker with an offset firebox.  You will want the temperature to be between 225 and 250 degrees.  Take the meats out of the refrigerator and allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes while you get the fire ready.

In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, or until soft and slightly carmelized.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  While the onion is cooling, combine the bread and milk in a bowl and let stand for about 2 minutes, or until the milk is completely absorbed.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a wooden spoon), combine the soaked bread, meat, cooled onions, eggs, Parmesan, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, spice mixture, and salt.  Beat on low-speed just until combined.  Shape the mixture into a loaf on a sheet pan, or pack into a standard loaf pan.

Place the meat loaf in the smoker and add a handful of the soaked hickory chips.  Smoke the meat loaf for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf registers 165 degrees.  Make sure that the temperature inside the smoker stays at about 225 degrees.

Remove the meat loaf from the smoker and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.  Any leftovers will make a great sandwich.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Slow Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf

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Spinach and Lentil Soup with Cheese and Basil

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I love making lentil soup in the winter.  It is one of the most delicious and healthiest soups I make.  Unfortunately my kids have not always agreed with me.  Every year I make it again, hoping that this will be the year they change their mind.  My kids are really surprising me these days, they will try almost anything I make, and more and more often, they actually like it.

So, before I get more into this lentil soup, a slight diversion…  A few times recently my girls have commented on how they think I am the best cook ever.  Today we were talking about eating at other people’s homes, and my younger daughter told me that she much prefers to eat at our house – “Mommy, you are such a good cook, no one is as good as you.”  I almost cried.  But seriously, what does she want?  There must be something…and please don’t be offended if we have been to your house for dinner recently, this is a new phase, one I haven’t quite figured out yet…

Back to this soup – I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and decided it was time to try again.  While it was cooking, my younger one asked what I was making for dinner – when I told her lentil soup, instead of a face that she has made in the past – she said “Yum!!”  Ok, who are you and what have you done with my daughter??  Well, they both ate it, and although they didn’t have seconds, they at least ate enough.  The biscuits were a huge hit as well, and filled them up – but as long as they got some lentil soup in them, I was happy.  Another milestone done – wow!!

On another completely unrelated note…Correen from the Food Lovers Website interviewed me, and she published it today.  Thanks Correen, it was quite fun!


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped pancetta (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pancetta; cook 1 minute or until pancetta begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Add onion and next 4 ingredients (through bay leaf); cook 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add lentils, broth, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until lentils are tender and mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf.

Place 2 cups lentil mixture in a blender. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape), and secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters), and blend until smooth. Return pureed lentil mixture to pan. Add baby spinach, chopped basil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and black pepper; stir until spinach wilts. Serve immediately.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spinach and Lentil Soup with Cheese and Basil

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It doesn’t snow very often in Seattle, but when it does, the city is paralyzed.  They have been known for cancelling school when only a few flakes come down, so when it really does come down, kids are usually home for days.  Today we are on day two, although yesterday they did have school for a whole two hours – so the school system is not counting it as a snow day.  They have already cancelled school for tomorrow.

I love when it snows, except for when work gets in the way – which it definitely did today.  I had a full day of meetings planned, so I took what I could from home, and the rest were rescheduled.  Unfortunately though, I still had a mountain of work to get through…so I missed sledding down the street with the kids today.  They were out for a good two hours or so before they came back in absolutely frozen solid.  I decided it was time for a break – time to warm them up, and time to start cooking something for dinner.  I wanted to utilize the stove and the oven, and cook things that I didn’t have to babysit.  I chose some more Split Pea Soup (with the rest of the ham hocks in the freezer) and some Beer Braised Beef.  I put them both together in under an hour, and I was able to spend the rest of the afternoon working with that wonderful smell waffling in the background.

Once the kids played for a few more hours (yes, by themselves for hours!!) they started asking about baking.  I told them I just had to get a little more work done, and then we could make cookies.  I figured since dinner was already done (for two nights!) we could spend our normal dinner making hours baking – they loved that idea.

I wanted to make these cookies during the holidays, but I just ran out of time.  I don’t say this very often, but I am saying this now – GO MAKE THESE COOKIES NOW – these were the best freakin’ gingersnaps I have ever had – Cook’s Illustrated said they were the best, but I have found them to be wrong in the past, so I can never be too sure.  They were right on this time.  They were the perfect cookies for the girls to help with as well – they loved rolling the dough in the sugar.  I only made 64, but then again, my cookies were a little bigger than a teaspoon a piece.  Also – if you like a chewier cookie, then take them out of the oven at about 6 minutes instead of the 10-12 the recipe says (second round of baking).  I have already had a few, and the night is still young.

So – tomorrow is another day, and another day filled with work and meetings – but hopefully since I already made dinner, we can have another baking night…the snow might paralyze the city, but not our baking!


  • 2 ½ cups (12 ½ oz. flour)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 12 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 ¼ cups (8 ¾ oz.) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tbs. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large egg plus 1 yolk
  • ½ cup (3 ½ oz. sugar)


Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in bowl.  Heat butter in 10 inch skillet over medium heat until melted.  Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook, swirling pan frequently, until foaming subsides and butter is just beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes.  Transfer butter to large bowl and whisk in ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.  Cool slightly, about 2 minutes.  Add brown sugar, molasses, and fresh ginger to butter mixture and whisk to combine.  Add egg and yolk and whisk to combine.  Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Adjust oven racks to up-per middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place granulated sugar in shallow baking dish.  Divide dough into heaping teaspoon portions; roll dough into 1-inch balls.  Working in batches of 10, roll balls in sugar to coat.  Evenly space dough balls on prepared baking sheets, 20 dough balls per sheet.

Place 1 sheet on upper rack and bake for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, transfer partially baked top sheet to lower, rack, rotating 180 degrees and place second sheet of dough balls on upper rack.  Continue to bake until cookies on lower tray just begin to darken around edges, 10 to 12 minutes longer.  Remove lower sheet of cookies and shift upper sheet to lower rack and continue to bake until cookies begin to darken around edges, 15 to 17 minutes.  Slide baked cookies, still on parchment, to wire rack and cool completely before serving.  Cool baking sheets slightly and repeat step 3 with remaining dough balls.

Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.  Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.  Let frozen dough thaw overnight before proceeding with recipe.  Cooled cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Gingersnaps

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Coconut Brownie Sundaes

This is the story of my life in one sentence:  I can always do more…  Unfortunately this sentence plagues me day in and day out.  I don’t like to waste a minute of time, and what that means is I am constantly running from one thing to the next, leaving very little time in between.  If I feel like I have a little extra time, I take that time and run with it – and then that usually makes me late for the next task.  It is a curse, although on the other hand, I am extremely productive!  And tired.

The other week we were invited to our neighbor’s house for dinner, and was asked to bring dessert.  I really had all day to prepare something, but I wanted to get errands done, and pretty soon I had an hour left to prepare.  I looked in the refrigerator and saw that there was some extra creme of coconut in a container…and that got me thinking about this recipe I found in Bon Appetit ages ago, but never had an opportunity to make it – Coconut Caramel Sauce.  I quickly found the recipe, and decided to try it out – I also had vanilla ice-cream in the freezer, so I decided that ice-cream and caramel would make an excellent dessert.  When I looked at the recipe, it looked so simple, that I knew I would have a little extra time – and wouldn’t brownies just taste delicious with that ice-cream and caramel?  They are super quick, and ridiculously delicious – and the last time I made them, I remember thinking about how awesome they would be with caramel.

So – I got to work, and within an hour, both were ready and waiting.  The caramel was amazing – it was just perfect with those brownies and ice-cream, you would have thought I had been baking all day!!  So, I got lucky, and the problem is that when things work out so well, it gives me no incentive to change…but then again, I have been living my life this way for over 20 years, and as long as I can make brownies and home-made caramel sauce in under an hour, the future is looking brighter and brighter.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco López)*
  • Classic Fudge Brownies
  • 1 1/2 pints purchased French vanilla ice cream

* Sweetened cream of coconut is available in the liquor section of most supermarkets.


Place sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy deep medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high. Boil until mixture turns dark amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add cream and sweetened cream of coconut (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk over low heat until caramel sauce is blended and smooth and any caramel bits dissolve. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Rewarm slightly over medium heat, stirring often, before using.

Scoop ice cream on top of a brownie. Spoon some of warm caramel sauce over.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Coconut Brownie Sundaes

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Split Pea Soup

Sometimes I feel like I am swimming in a big bowl of split pea soup…everything is very thick and foggy, and it is my job to find a way out of it.  There are days when I go to bed, still trying to find my way out – fortunately I have an abundance of flavorful food around me when I get hungry.  When people at work find out I have a blog, they often wonder how I do it – and the secret is the food.  It is what gets me through the day, what I think about when I need a break – and usually the main topic at the dinner table, after we learn about what happened at school.

I have been so proud of my kids lately – they are really eating so many different foods – including vegetables, it all has to do with how delicious it is.  Over the holidays we smoked a ham – yes, we smoked a ham – for those of you who know me, this is not something we normally would do – but as circumstances were, we had one in the freezer, and what a better time?  As I looked at this huge ham bone on the counter, with lots of meat still attached, there was only one thing I could think about – split pea soup.  This smoked ham made the most delicious split pea soup I have ever made.  The kids devoured it, yes, every last drop – and even had seconds.  So – the next time I am swimming in split pea soup, I really hope it was made with a smoked ham.  I might even stay linger a bit…it is really that good.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 smoked pork hock
  • 2 cups diced ham (if needed)
  • 1 cup green split peas
  • 6 cups water


Pour olive oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add pork and marjoram; stir 1 minute. Add peas, then water, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover pot; simmer soup until pork and vegetables are tender peas are falling apart, stirring often, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Transfer hocks to bowl. Puree 5 cups soup in batches in blender. Return to pot. Cut pork off bones. Dice pork; return pork to soup. If needed, add more ham.  Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover. Rewarm before serving.)  You can easily double or triple this recipe depending on how big your ham hock is.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Split Pea Soup

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Caramel Brownies

Have you ever made something following a recipe that just didn’t turn out at all like the picture?  Ok, maybe I should rephrase the question – is there anyone out there who this hasn’t happened to?  I have to admit, I choose my recipes very carefully, and for the most part, I get lucky.  Before I had this blog, I actually didn’t care as much what my creations looked like – as long as they tasted good.  All of a sudden appearance has become extremely important.  The last thing I want to do is spend hours making something that tastes incredible, but takes a horrible picture – then I am left convincing you that you HAVE to make it – even though it looks horrendous.  I actually recall doing that a couple of times, and I swear, it is not easy.  Beautiful pictures take us in, in fact you can almost taste the food with your eyes.  There are times though when the picture just does not do the food justice.  Such a sad statement.

Back to the brownies – now, I have never really made a bad batch of brownies – until Thanksgiving week.  I made the worst brownies ever – they were caramel brownies, and you would think, how could they be bad?  Well, they were – even my family agreed these were not worth eating.  I swear it was the first batch of brownies I ever had to just give to the compost bin – and I do not waste food, but I just could not waste the calories on these crumbly brown squares.  Soon afterwards, I found this recipe in Cooking Light – another batch of Caramel Brownies.  I figured there was no way this could happen again.  As I was making these brownies though, I knew something was just not right.  The topping was a little runny, and did not cover the brownies well.  I decided all was not lost though, since there was another layer of chocolate to drizzle on top.  The problem was that the chocolate was just too runny – so as I tried to drizzle it on top, it basically just ran all over the caramel, and looked horrible.  There was only one last thing to try, and that was to spread the chocolate and cover the caramel completely.  The chocolate didn’t cover the caramel though as well as I hoped, but at that point I didn’t care.  I took a bite, and they were so delicious.  Much moister and chewier than the other caramel brownies, and the layer of dark chocolate on top was just the perfect balance with the sweet caramel.  So – even though these look nothing like the picture in the magazine, they tasted great – and none of them got close to the compost bin, thank goodness!



  • 3 19/50 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt


Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare brownies, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking powder) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add butter mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Scrape batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.

Combine 2 tablespoons milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set. Cut into squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Caramel Brownies

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