Monday, July 27, 2015


Summer is good in Seattle.  Although I am not one for hot weather, Summer 2015 has really felt like well, summer.  Usually, the season gets started in late June and concludes mid-September.  We have a few days in the upper 80's and the stores sell out of fans.  This summer started in May and hasn't quit. It has been in the 80's and 90's and I dare to say it has glimpsed 100F a day or two.  Very unusual. It rained for 30 minutes today and half our office went outside to see it and take a deep breath.  It was like running out your front door to chase the Ice Cream Truck.

Very few places have air conditioning in Seattle so you try to get to the water on very hot days. If that's not an option you find a place to have a cool drink outside.  (When you don't have fans or air conditioning in your home, even sitting outside when it's 95F feels like a respite.)

Luckily, we have Shandys.  Shandys make summer bearable.  I discovered them a few years ago at a restaurant here called Westward.  Perhaps you have heard of it - it is kind of a big deal.  Westward ranked #5 on Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants in America 2014.  The chef, Zoi Antonitas, was named one of Food & Wine Best New Chefs of 2015.  She also happened to be on season 4 of Top Chef but that was a long time ago.  ANYWAY - they have this great outdoor set up right on Lake Union with a perfect view of downtown Seattle from their umbrelled Adirondack chairs.  Their Shandys come with a Ras el Hanout salted rim...OMG!

I digress.  A Shandy, traditionally, is a blonde lager mixed 50/50 with carbonated lemonade or limeade.  (Although I guess if you want to go back far enough in England - it was beer and ginger ale.)  Whatever.  They are refreshing and delicious and you can have twice as many because they have half the alcohol!  (This is not the official opinion of Tovolo.)
I recommend having your Shandy with fresh oysters on the half shell, a beautiful Spanish Sardine bruschetta, and a good friend.  Preferable under an umbrella in an Adirondack chair. (They are also not to be missed poolside.  There are a number of beer companies bottling the Shandy like Shock Top and Leinenkugel.)


Friday, July 24, 2015

Doughtnut Muffins

What is a doughnut muffin you ask?  Well, it is part doughnut, part muffin, and all delicious!  It could be described as a doughnut trying to be healthier or a muffin with a penchant for the naughty.  Think of a dense cake doughnut with just a hint of nutmeg but slightly fluffier and buttery-er rolled in cinnamon sugar.  The great thing is that like a muffin there are kind of two textures going on.  The bottom is denser and a little drier (like a muffin) and is perfect with the first couple sips of coffee.  The top has a little crisp to it. It is light and airy, since it had a chance to rise up over the muffin tin a bit. 

These are simple to make and are a really lovely breakfast or brunch treat.  Kids will have a great time painting melted butter on the warm muffin and then rolling them in cinnamon sugar.  I can picture them licking their little, sticky, cinnamony fingers already.

This recipe is from the Jimtown Cookbook which is a magical, funky general store meets best lunch stop EVER on Alexander Valley Road in Sonoma, CA.  I can say with full confidence that I have made almost every recipe (some a dozen plus times) in that book and it is always delicious and always gets raves.  That is high praise for a cookbook.  I have given the cookbook as gifts to at least 20 people over the years and is in my top three favorite cookbooks - hands down!   The recipe is credited to Kathleen Stewart's Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg, CA.

Kathleen's Doughnut Muffins
by Carrie Brown, John Werner, and Michael McLaughlin
from The Jimtown Store Cookbook (HarperCollins)
Makes 24 muffins
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 2/3 cups milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
Muffin Coating
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and lightly flour the cups of two standard muffin tins (12 muffins each).
2. For the muffins, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Mix together the milk and buttermilk.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer on medium speed, cream the butter. Gradually mix in the sugar and beat until the mixture lightens in color and increases in volume. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition no more than necessary to blend. By hand, alternately add the dry ingredients in four additions and the milk in three additions, starting and ending with dry ingredients and mixing no more than necessary to blend after each addition. The batter should be smooth but should not be overmixed.
4. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins, filling the cups level with about 1/2 cup batter per muffin (at the bakery Kathleen uses a number 16 ice-cream scoop, available in restaurant-supply houses).
5. Bake until the muffins have risen and are firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the tins on a rack for a few minutes.
6. To coat the muffins, in a bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. When the muffins are just cool enough to handle, remove them from the tins. One at a time, brush them, all over with the butter, then roll them in the cinnamon-sugar, covering them thoroughly. Enjoy the muffins immediately or let them stand on a rack until cool.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heartburn Peach Pie

Nora Ephron gets me.  I loved her sensibility.  I loved her humor.  I loved her ability to make me feel like she knew me through her books and movies.  I am sorry that she no longer with us.

Obviously, we all know When Harry Met Sally and Julie and Julia, as well as countless others, but one of my favorite movies she wrote (which is based on an autobiographical book) is Heartburn.  It stars Meryl Streep (seriously, if you are going to put a painful part of your life on screen you really want to be played by Meryl Streep) and Jack Nicholson.  Fun Fact: her ex-husband actually tried to sue her for her less than flattering portrayal of himself and his mistress. Sore loser I say!

It is a story about divorce and self reflection but it has so much humor.  The book is very good  - quick read, good summer book. 

I was in a book club a few years back and we read Heartburn.  There are several recipes in the book but you never imagine that recipes in a novel would work, let alone be delicious, right?  Anyway, I made the Peach Pie recipe for the book club meeting and have never used another peach pie recipe since.  I am not a huge cooked fruit fan but I do like this peach pie.  The recipe has egg yolks and sour cream in it and I thought that was really strange in a fruit pie but as it turns out, it makes this delicious, kind of custardy (but not) texture all around the peaches.  Are you asking yourself "She said peach pie but clearly I see blueberries in the pictures...?" Well, let me explain.  I bought slightly under ripe, big, juicy, organic peaches with the express purpose of making this pie but giving myself a few days to get the deed done.  I took the peaches out of the paper bag on my counter last night and much to my dismay one was a green, moldly shell of a peach, thus the blueberries.  Blueberries and peaches are really good friends so maybe it was fortuitous.

This pie is especially good with Brown Sugar Ice Cream ala mode.  It is a super easy recipe and is a great make ahead, summer dessert that doesn't even require rolling out the crust!

Nora, wherever you are, you brought alot of joy and understanding to many people's lives, my own included.  "I'll have what she's having." Thanks.




  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Put 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, butter and 2 tablespoons sour cream in bowl of food processor and blend until they form a ball. Pat into a buttered pie tin and bake 10 minutes.
  3. Lower oven temp to 350.
  4. In medium sized bowl, beat egg yolks slightly then combine with the sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 1/3 cup sour cream.
  5. Arrange the sliced peeled, sliced peaches into the baked pie crust. Pour egg yolk mixture over peaches. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 35 minutes.
  6. Remove foil from pie and bake 10 minutes more, or until filling is set.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10 Kitchen Tools that Make Cooking a Breeze

One of the perks of working for a Housewares company is that I always have the right equipment for any job in the kitchen.  Need a scraper for a bowl – check, a turner for a flapjack – no problem, ream a lemon for lemon bars – you betcha.  I think that people who don’t like to cook probably don’t have the right tools.  It is like trying to cut hair without scissors or gardening without a trowel – you can do it but it’s a whole lot more work and not that much fun.
If I were setting up a kitchen for someone who had never cooked before the list could be endless but at the end of the day there are 10 Essential Tools every kitchen/cook should have. 

Spatula - A good silicone spatula is essential in the kitchen.  It is a great tool for mixing/folding batters, awesome for stir frying, scraping a bowl, blender, food processor, etc.  It is a kitchen WORKHORSE!

Scoop & Spread - this one took me a while to understand its worth but from the first time I used it I was a believer.  The full size and the mini have equal value in my house.  I have several of both sizes and this tool gets used EVERYDAY!  It is the best tool for making scrambled eggs, period.  Hard coconut oil in the jar - this is your go-to.  Spreading anything - this is it.  Getting the last bits out of a jar - look no further.  It scrapes, scoops, spreads, serves, mixes, stirs, and is indispensable.

Mixing Bowls - you cannot underestimate the value of a good bowl.  Our stainless steel mixing bowls are perfect bowls.  They have straight sides which help when creating volume. They have flat bottoms for support but are not too flat.  There is a ridge on the bottom of most bowls where flour or other matter tends to collect and ours minimize this ridge. The bowls have a great rounded area so scraping, mixing, or whisking is optimized.  And they are beautiful to look at with the mix of polished and satin finished stainless steel.

Whisk - ok, this is where you realize that I am a super geek.  I have a thing about whisks.  There are SO many whisks in the market but so many of them shouldn't even be called whisks.  Whisks should be balanced.  Take your current whisk and hold your hand out flat. Put the handle on your palm - can you get it to stay in your hand or does the weight of the tines pull it over your hand?  Balance is the weight of the handle and the weight of the tines being in perfect proportion to each other.  When there is balance it makes the task easier.  Your arm won't feel like it is going to fall off when you whisk egg whites or cream.  Do the experiment yourself with our whisk and almost any whisk you have in your drawer - you will be amazed.  Also, the shape of the tines of a whisk relate to the task they are to perform.  A balloon shape is to create air as you whisk which will create volume.  A French whisk is for all purpose mixing/beating tasks.  The tines are more narrow so it doesn't create as much air - this is perfect for whisking egg yolks or mixing wet ingredients. I could literally spend days talking about whisks - but I will stop NOW.

Turner - Turners are one of those tools that end up being a personal preference.  We make a great Silicone Slotted Turner that is a great all-purpose turner.  We also make Nylon Flex Turners that are a combination of Nylon (super thin) mixed with Silicone with a stainless steel handle.  This is great pancakes or something more delicate.  There are also great very thin metal turners but they cannot be used on a non stick surface.

Chef's Knife - oh my - I don't know how anyone cooks without a good knife.  Over the years, I have learned it isn't always about how expensive your knife is  moreover it is how sharp and how the easy it is to sharpen.  I have some very fancy German knives - they are lovely and very high quality but they are heavy.  My go-to knife that I use everyday was under $20.  Tovolo is launching a new line of knives this year and I am so excited because they are made of high-carbon steel and have a great, comfortable grip handle.  As I get older, the grip/handle on tools is becoming so important.  I love our 7" Chef's knife.  It is BALANCED and easy to use.  Also, I am super excited for our 5" Serrated Utility knife because it reminds me of a knife my grandmother had in her kitchen. Knives slice, dice, crush garlic, hull strawberries, seed tomatoes, pit avocados, and so much more.  A good knife is a magic wand.

Tip Top Tongs - I just learned from Martha that tongs make great lemon juicers!  They are awesome for tossing salads, tossing sauce on pasta, stirring sauteed veggies, flipping a steak on the grill, reaching a cereal box from the top shelf, and so on.  Tongs = good!

Soak & Strain Colander - I don't drain everything into a colander but a use it everyday for fruits and vegetables.  Tovolo's new Soak & Strain is my favorite.  It is a tool and toy rolled into one.  I dare you to put Brussels sprouts in it with a little water and not swing the inside colander back and forth.  I find myself being like a toddler in the bathtub, filling it up, pouring out the water, filling it up again, turning it all the way over to pour out the water again...

Prep & Drain Cutting Mat - I am a purist by nature so I have lots of lovely and varied wooden cutting boards.  We recently made a new kind of board we are calling Prep & Drain. It has a strange raised section which is the cutting surface with a "trough" around the outside.  It is amazing!  You cut whatever it is you are cutting and then just push it into the trough and go onto the next thing!  Great for coring and slicing fruit.  Awesome as a bar board!  Making a soup and have to chop a ton of vegetables? This is perfect!  You can even rinse items on one side of the board.  This is made of PP so it can go in the dishwasher unlike my lovely wooden boards.  Score a big one for the Prep & Drain!

Grater - Well, Tovolo doesn't have an in-line grater but every kitchen needs one.  I really like Microplane graters because they are sharp and last forever!  They are great for cheese, chocolate, spices, frozen butter (on popcorn), fruits, and so much more. 

I was trying to be brief but I could have expounded WAY more on my love of each one of these crucial kitchen goodies!
Keep Cooking!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Let's have a chat about Grilled Cheese


Like many of you, I grew up on grilled cheese sandwiches.  My mom actually called them Toasted Cheese sandwiches but it is all the same in the end.  When I was very little, it was just Kraft American slices and Roman Meal bread. If we were REALLY lucky she would use white bread but we were mostly a whole wheat bread household.  She would always use plenty of butter on the outside of the bread and press the sandwich nice and firmly in the skillet.  LOVE = grilled cheese.

There is a lovely young woman in our office (I won't use your real name "Lylah", wink, wink) and she had a very limited food life before I imposed my will upon her a few years ago.  She didn't like anything. She would rarely try anything new and made those "Eww!" noises when you talked about mushrooms or eggs or fish.  "Lylah" has come a LONG way and has become much more adventuresome in her food choices. To be clear, adventure means trying an avocado for the first time at age 26. What?  It came to my attention last week that "Lylah" has never had a grilled cheese sandwich.  I know, I could hardly believe it either but this poor girl has been cruelly deprived of one of the greatest comfort foods of all time!  Needless to say I was compelled to right this universal wrong.  Should I go childhood introduction or full on ridiculousness?  Guess what I chose?

There is a place in London called Borough Market.  It is my Shangri-La.  It is an open air farmer's market meets traditional, old school marketplace.  The kind of place when people marketed everyday and knew the names of the purveyors of their meat and fish.  Where the produce came from 100 miles outside London and artisans were truly stars.  (I will write a whole post on Borough Market in the near future because I suppose to be writing about Grilled Cheese!)  I digress.  The reason I bring up Borough Market is that I had the best grilled cheese of my life there.  Ok, the grill was kind of disgusting but I think that added to the flavor profile.  I have had many grilled cheeses from the same stand over the years and have dragged family members and co-workers there with me just for the grilled cheese.  I have spent some serious time breaking down what makes it so good. (Mostly alone with burn marks on the roof of my mouth and butter dripping down my wrist.)

First, cheese is paramount.  I use a combination of aged cheddar, Gruyere, and Raclette.  This combo makes for a nutty, slightly sharp, melty experience.  You shred all three together 3:2:1. Second, shred 3/4 of a Granny Smith Apple into the cheeses. Third,  add 1/3 a shredded onion and a little a little salt and pepper.  This will yield 2 sandwiches.  I like to use a sweeter onion personally. Toss it all together. The whole mixture has a nutty, sweet, tart, sharp taste to it that make for a great balanced bite.  I prefer to use an artisan sourdough or french bread.  Something that has a crust but is still soft in the middle.  I use softened, salted butter on the outside of each slice.  Instead of a skillet, I now use a panini press but the key to either is the pressing.  Enjoy and you are WELCOME!
(IF you are feeling like this is entirely too unhealthy, add some arugula or a few leafs of basil - adds a really nice dimension to the sandwich. And while you are at it - give yourself a break!) 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Scream!

It has been HOT in Seattle for the last few weeks.  Days in the 80's and low 90's which is crazy for Seattle. Most of the true Seattlites are a little distrustful of weather this good.  (I still have a down jacket in my trunk because it could be in the 40's tomorrow.)  One of the very best things about Seattle when it is sunny, EVERYONE is outside.  I think it might actually be against a city ordinence to be inside if the temperture is above 65 degrees.  

I am originally from New England and we are trained at a very young age to eat ice cream year round, even on the coldest of days. (My mom would actually pour maple syrup or molasses over snow for us to eat.)  In the summertime, there is no limit to my ability to consume the cold, creamy happiness that is ice cream.  Frankly, it is a God given right that should never be denied!  I lost my ice cream maker in a move a few years ago and hadn't replaced it. I vowed not to go another summer without one and my new best friend arrived last Friday on my front porch!  Hezzah!  I have made 4 batches of ice cream so far and it hasn't been a week yet.  I am sharing - needed to qualify that I hadn't eaten 6 quarts of ice cream on my own.  I can but I didn't. 

Not to toot my own horn but TOOT, TOOT!  I had a bit of genius as I was deciding what my next ice cream caper would be.  Ice Cream Sammies...yummy, easy to handle, crowd pleaser, no down side.  So many possibilities and then a stroke of ice cream brillance!  A study in perfect compliments - Strawberry Black Pepper Ice Cream sandwiched between 2 Salted Peanut Butter Cookies! Oh sweet LORD! 
Both components on their own are delicious but put the two together and what is that old saying?  The whole is better than the sum of its parts.  Heck yeh it is!

This is my favorite PB Cookie recipe is adapted from and the ice cream recipe is UNBElieveable and adapted from

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Course sea salt for sprinkling (i use fleur de sel)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly.
Roll pinches of dough into your handles until rounded tablespoonfuls  then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern but do not overly flatten cookies. Sprinkle lightly with course sea salt.   Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

YIELD: Makes about 1 1/2 quarts


  • 1 pound strawberries, trimmed, halved if large
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of crushed black pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Equipment: an ice cream maker
Coarsely mash strawberries with sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper using a potato masher in a large bowl. Let stand, stirring and mashing occasionally, 10 minutes.
Transfer half of strawberry mixture to a blender and purée with cream until smooth. (This is an AWESOME tip - just don't over blend because you are making whipped cream at that point) Return strawberry cream to bowl with remaining strawberries and chill, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours.
Freeze mixture in ice cream maker. Transfer to Tovolo Glide A Scoop and put in freezer to firm up.

When the cookies are good and cool, take the ice cream from the freezer and let it get SLIGHTLY soft.  Take a Tovolo Ice Cream Scoop and generously scoop one scoop of ice cream onto a cookie then take another cookie and gently push the two cookies together.  You want to mash the ice cream a little but not so it pushes out from between the cookies.  Wrap each cookie sandwich in waxed paper and return to the freezer.  The waxed paper keeps them from sticking but also gives you a built in drip catcher while eating them.  I found that the cookie stayed the perfect consistency for a ice cream sandwich.  Everyone LOVED these!