Baking for Friends: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

It was difficult for me to pick a recipe to share with you from Kathleen King’s Baking for Friends. This book is chock-full of baking recipes. from cookies to scones to cakes, made by King, the owner of Tate’s Bake Shop in the Hamptons.

I decided on these muffins because I adore lemon-poppy seed muffins, but have never made them myself, and have not eaten one in years. They were every bit as tasty as I remembered. Moist, tart, sweet and awesome. Here they are for you to try as well.

PS – Tate’s is offering our readers $5 off an autographed copy of Baking for Friends. Just enter the code BAKEOFF at checkout.

Tate’s Bake Shop Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

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Sensational Soups: Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Sage Butter

As we move into these chilly fall and winter months, there’s nothing I love more than brewing up a big pot of homemade soup. The herby aroma wafting through the house, the steam warming up the kitchen, the inevitable leftovers…ah! It’s the best. So it’s no surprise I volunteered to review 300 Sensational Soups, a new cookbook by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds. If one pot of soup is good, 300 is excellent!

This extremely comprehensive book is full of winter cooking inspiration. While it would be easy to phone in some recipes in a cookbook this large, Sensational Soups os written with thoroughness and creativity. It starts out with a section on how to make your own stocks from scratch, then goes into chapters on a variety of soup categories such as chilled, garden vegetable, chowder, fish and shellfish, and cheese (a whole section purely about cheese-based soups?! I’m into!) The collection wraps up with a section on toppings and garnishes (which includes glorious ideas like grilled cheese croutons and maple cream). Truly something for everyone!

I had difficulty selecting just one recipe to review for this post, but I finally narrowed it down to chowder, one of my favorite soup subsets (soupsets?) I ended up going with the butternut squash chowder because it includes one of my favorite garnishes ever—fried sage leaves! My dining companions all agreed that drizzling the frying butter with the sage leaves on top was a major game changer. I also love how the recipe uses mashed squash to add thickness and texture instead of a massive amount of cream (although, don’t worry, there’s still a healthy amount of cream involved).

This soup was so comforting, so rich and velvety, and so flavorful! I will say that I made a few changes to the recipe—as with basically every soup, I doubled the recommended amount of spices, salt, and pepper. I also added an extra few squeezes of lemon. Oh, and clearly this chowder was begging for a sprinkle of cheese on top, so I grated up some nutty aged parmesan for garnish alongside the sage leaves and butter drizzle. I also highly condone serving with a hunk of crusty sourdough bread.

Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Sage Butter

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Tiny Food Party

Scene: Cocktail party. Room full of people trying to schmooze and network with each other. Me, standing in a corner, balancing my drink on a ledge or in my arms, avoiding eye contact with everyone while trying to eat a cheesesteak to prevent the instant drunk that comes after drinking on an empty stomach. Enter: Tiny Food Party, a book that has changed every party I’ll ever host again.

Bite-size versions of large foods are the best for cocktail parties or any situation where there isn’t enough room for all guests to eat with a knife and fork, and are way more substantial than baby carrots. We’re not talking pigs in a blanket, here. But I was still apprehensive about throwing a party out of a book based on small food because: 1) I don’t like following recipes 2) I was afraid my guests would be hungry 3) I was afraid my guests would eat too much and not get drunk (frequent problem among my group) and 4) I was afraid I’d spend the entire party in the kitchen cooking.

And you know, I feel like, in general, the reason people don’t use recipes or cookbooks more is because the recipes are long and involved, and always involve a list of ingredients that either a) I do not have or b) I don’t feel like buying for one recipe. Also? The thing about entertaining is that I like to actually *enjoy* my parties and talk to my guests, instead of being stuck in the kitchen pumping out food and carefully plating things, using recipes I am unfamiliar with. I know my friends love my food, but they love my company even more. So when I was planning my own tiny food party, I did a few things that I believe are successful to any entertaining situation.

1)    Know your recipes: I used each recipe as a general guideline. Why? Because it was easier for me to make my standard potato salad than use their recipe.

2)    Know yourself: Many of the recipes had to be modified for drunk cooking, because hello, I’m not saying sober at my own party.

3)    Know your guests: I took the bacon out of everything. Sacrilege? Maybe. This book is absolutely wonderful in that everything includes bacon (from the BBQ sauce to the muffins), but I had a non-pork eater in the house. She’d never want me to modify my cooking for her, but then she just wouldn’t eat and would end up a drunk mess. Turns out she still ended up slapping my new boyfriend across the face, but whatever, at least it wasn’t my fault.

To test the real functionality of these recipes, appetizers and dinner were served without seating and with minimal utensils. The menu (the photos get worse as the night progressed, deal with it):

Tiny Apple Cider Sangria

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Cooking with Love: Carla Hall's Rustic Mushroom Tart

Hey, guess what? I got an opportunity to review Carla Hall”s brand new cookbook, Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You.  I was obviously very excited.  Thanks, ES!

I have been a fan of Carla Hall since her first season on Top Chef, Season 5.  When she came back for All-Stars, I also enjoyed rooting her on.  She has a southern style of cooking that focuses on comfort food and fine dining spins on classics.  Plus, she has a super perky and positive personality, but not in an annoying sort of way.  Like in a contagiously sunny kind of way.

This book has so many great recipes that I”ve bookmarked to try, like goat cheese grits and buffalo wing burgers (yum!)  It also has some little anecdotes and tips from Carla.  Carla was a caterer before she made it big and has some great tips about serving large groups, if you are into that kind of thing.  If I had to give a constructive criticism about the book, it would be that I would like a picture for every recipe.  That”s probably not doable to have so many photographs, but that”s what I like.  Although the pictures that are already in the book are quite stunning.

All in all, I”d say everyone should definitely have this cookbook on their shelves.  It”s pretty rockin”.

So, I decided to make the mushroom nbso tart recipe and it was pretty boss.  Super easy and oh so tasty.  I didn”t use a paddle attachment on a food processor , so my dough was a little more crumbly than hers appears.  It was still really good, though.

You should make this and pop over to Amazon to preorder her book, which comes out November 6th.

Rustic Mushroom Tart from Cooking with Love

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tiny pumpkin pie

An Easy Way to Eat in Costume: Teensy Pumpkin Pies

“Tiny,” “miniature,” and “small” are probably words you’d never find in a description of ES anything (or ML anything, for that matter). Under normal circumstances, when it comes to food, I’d never recommend downsizing—growing up with an Armenian mother and grandmother meant the house was full of food all the time. Five people are coming for dinner? Better get enough for 20, you never know. Or if you’re at my parents parties…better get double, because everyone’s going to want to eat another meal after they’re drunk.

When I don’t have a big enough portion size on my plate, I get a “That’s ALL you’re eating?” from both parents, plus an intervention about anorexia (come on). However, in my opinion, there’s one exception to this huge rule. Have you ever been to a party (or more specifically, a networking/media event) where you’re given full-size portions of something, and supposed to eat them with a fork, while holding your (full-size) drink and mingling at the same time? Me too, and it drives me effing crazy, to the point where I’d rather not eat instead of not enjoy my food. Which more often than not results in a very drunk ML.

Luckily, Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park have found a solution to this problem with their new book, Tiny Food Party. To test the functionality, I’ll be holding my own Tiny Food Party later this month (recap to follow, if I’m sober enough to remember any of it). As an added bonus, Teri Lyn and Jenny have given me some tiny Halloween recipes, for a flawless (or just fun), cake-pop free Halloween. How are you supposed to eat pie with a fork in a costume, anyway?

Teensy Pumpkin Pies

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Opening Ceremonies: The Cookie Dough-lympics!

Yes, it’s that time again! OK, fine — it’s that time for the first time ever. We’re happy to announce, along with our friends at Quirk Books, the first ever Cookie Dough-lympics! The month-long competition is where the Michael Phelps’ of food bloggers will create the craziest and best recipes — all using Lindsay Landis’s egg-free cookie dough from her up-and-coming The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.

Although there won’t be choreographed dancing or a parade of nations, tomorrow through June 22nd the doughy flame will burn bright, with one blogger showcasing their cookie dough recipe per day. Cookie dough pizza? Cooking dough pie? Cookie dough cocktails? What do you think, ES-ers?

Stay tuned to Quirk Books, @EndlessSimmer, and @QuirkBooks to view the recipes each day.

We’ll be announcing the winner right here on June 25th. Let the games begin!

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