Mushroom and Mascarpone Flatbread

Whenever my best friend visits – which isn’t often enough if you ask me – we spend weeks before the visit brainstorming and debating what we should cook together.  We both love to be in the kitchen and there is really nothing that we’d rather do when we’re together than cook.  Oh, it’s not just cooking – we talk, laugh, bump into each other, make a gigantic mess and have the time of our lives while we’re cooking.  And one of my favorite things about cooking with R is that we can do all of that stuff while we cook.  You see, R actually knows how to cook.  (In fact, she taught me.)  So she doesn’t need to be supervised while she creates a delicious dish in my kitchen.  She doesn’t need assignments and detailed instructions.  Aside from questions like “Where do you keep the silicone spatulas?” R is blessedly self-directed in my kitchen (and I’m the same way in hers).  It makes it easy to cook side-by-side.  For instance, I’d love to claim credit for making this gorgeous flatbread, but I didn’t make it – R did.  She made it at my kitchen island while I stood next to her, mixing up a pear and blackberry crisp with pecan topping.  (My dessert went un-photographed, and hence un-blogged, but don’t worry – there will be other crisps this summer.)  This flatbread was a last-minute menu item; we had been planning to make a gratin until R had one for dinner the previous night.  So, instead, we went to Whole Foods and wandered around until the spirit moved us to make something resembling pizza.  It just goes to prove that sometimes the last-minute items are the best.  It was crispy and chewy, creamy from the mascarpone, and savory from the mushrooms and onions.  Perfection, a la R.

Mushroom and Mascarpone Flatbread

semolina flour
1 ball store-bought pizza dough (or homemade, if you’re an overachiever)
extra-virgin olive oil
1 container gourmet mix or shiitake mushrooms
1 onion (or leek!), thinly sliced
pinch kosher salt
pinch minced fresh thyme
1 container mascarpone cheese

  • Place a pizza stone in oven.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (or other temperature as called for by your pizza dough).  Allow pizza stone to preheat for 20 minutes after the oven reaches 500 degrees.
  • When stone is preheated, scatter a small handful of semolina flour over a pizza peel.  Stretch pizza dough into a rough circle approximately the size of the pizza peel.  Brush dough circle with olive oil.  Using peel, transfer dough to oven and allow to cook approximately 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.  (The precise time will depend on your oven and on how cold your dough was and how thinly you stretched it out – so just watch it.  It may take less time; it may take more.)  When dough is golden, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • While pizza dough is cooking, heat a splash of olive oil in a nonstick pan.  Add mushrooms, season with kosher salt and saute until beginning to brown.  Add onions and continue cooking until soft.  When mushrooms and onions are completely cooked, remove from heat and stir in fresh thyme.
  • When pizza dough has cooled slightly, spread mascarpone cheese over dough in a thin layer.  Pour mushroom and onion mixture in a thin layer over cheese.  Slice, garnish with additional thyme sprigs, and serve.

Source: Covered In Flour (and R!)

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese

I’ll just say this up front: I’m already married.  Sorry, boys.

That out of the way, here’s how you can handle your disappointment – make this macaroni and cheese recipe.  It’s a keeper (like me).  See, every week I ask hubby if he has any special meal requests before we go grocery shopping.  Usually he doesn’t, but this week he asked for my baked macaroni and cheese.  I said sure, and was all set to make it, when at the last minute I decided it would be fun to add pumpkin to the mix.  I asked hubby if he minded, and he was surprisingly enthusiastic about the idea.  And let me tell you guys, it was GOOD.  The pumpkin makes the sauce extra creamy, and you don’t need quite as much cheese as in the original recipe.  It’s almost healthy!  Okay, that’s a stretch.  But it’s fun to have mac ‘n cheese now and again, and if your family includes it as a side at Thanksgiving – mine doesn’t – consider making this pumpkin version for a little extra-Pilgrimmy flair.  Shoe buckles not included.

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese

1 box short pasta, such as macaroni or tubetti
kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup beer (or dry white wine)
1 2/3 cups milk
1 14-ounce can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 block cheddar, grated
pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoons thyme
freshly ground black pepper
panko breadcrumbs
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
extra-virgin olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fill medium-sized pot with water and bring to a boil.  Salt generously and add pasta.  Cook until pasta is just al dente, drain and set aside.  Return empty pot to burner and turn heat to medium.
  • In pasta pot, melt butter.  Add flour and whisk vigorously until mixture is bubbly.  Add beer and milk and stir until sauce thickens and becomes a smooth bechamel.
  • Add pumpkin to bechamel sauce and stir until completely smooth.  Melt in grated cheese, then add nutmeg, thyme and pepper to taste, and stir to combine well.
  • Return pasta to pot and mix thoroughly until pasta is completely coated with cheese sauce.  Pour pasta into large casserole dish and spread evenly.
  • Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs over top of pasta and add grated Parmesan (you be the judge of how much you want!).  Drizzle top with olive oil and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Source: Adapted from recipe here, which was adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring America (Amazon link for convenience only; I’m not an affiliate).

Lighter Twice-Baked Potatoes

Would you believe that I had never made twice-baked potatoes before?  Shoot, I’ve barely ever even eaten them.  I don’t know why… the few times I’ve had twice-baked potatoes, I liked them.  I liked them very much indeed.  I always make sure to grab the little bite-sized TBPs from buffets when they’re there, but for some reason it never really occurred to me to bake them at home.

Then last spring, hubby and I visited our friends in Texas, and they fed us twice-baked potatoes.  Holy home cookin’ revelation, Batman!  They’re not hard, and they’re always appreciated.  Why not whip some up at home?  Well, time got away from me, as it often does.  But the other night, I found myself looking for a quick side dish to whip up, with a bag of Yukon Golds languishing in the bottom of my freakishly organized pantry.  So I thought I would lighten up the traditional twice-baked potato by mixing it with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, mayonnaise, or Ranch dressing.  It’s not a complete health food, of course… there’s a bit of cheese in there, if you hadn’t noticed.  Hey, protein, right?  Anyway, the flavor is spot on and the guilt isn’t quite as debilitating.  Go ahead, have one.

Lighter Twice-Baked Potatoes

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 + 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese mix
~1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Scrub Yukon Gold potatoes and wrap in two paper towels (one large packet is fine; no need to individually wrap the potatoes).  Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave 8 minutes, until potatoes are soft.  Remove from microwave and allow to rest a few minutes until potatoes are soft enough to handle.
  • Meanwhile, position a rack a few inches below the top of your oven and preheat the broiler to high.
  • Halve the potatoes.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out the insides of each potato half, making sure to leave enough potato flesh so that the shells retain their structural integrity.  (How’s that for words?  I’m a lawyer!)
  • Place potato flesh in a bowl and combine with yogurt, 1/2 cup cheese, salt and pepper.  Using a fork (or potato masher, if you are fancy like that), mash together the potatoes, yogurt and cheese until they are combined and fluffy, but don’t be too precious about lumps.  We’re going for rustic here.
  • Scoop potato filling back into shells.  Press a pinch of reserved cheese on each potato half.
  • Broil approximately 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly and filling is warmed through.

Makes 10 potato halves.

Source: Covered In Flour

Also, just because I can…

This is Ezra.  He’s my new nephew.  He’s part beagle, part rat terrier, part Doberman, ALL cuteness.  Hi, Ezra!

Sun-Dried Tomato-Parmesan Mini Corn Muffins

Tap, tap.  Is this thing on?

Hello out there!  Is anyone left?  I’m sorry.  I’m so, so, so, so sorry.  I realize that I officially take the prize for Worst Blogger Ever.  The truth is, I’ve had an incredibly hectic month – hubby and I are currently in the midst of a personal project which has taken on all the intensity of a hurricane, and what feels like the proportions of Ancient Rome.  We’re doing something completely necessary, yet completely crazy at the same time: we’re BUYING A HOUSE.  I know, right?!?!?!  We fell in love with a house back in October, made an offer, and have been in the process of buying it ever since.  If you know me in “real life,” you’ve probably heard the entire saga several times.  So I can now explain that, other than the week when hubby and I both fell sick within days of each other back in January, most of my blog disappearances have happened around the times when things were heating up in the house-buying process.  It’s been a long haul, but I finally feel that I can mention it on the blog, because our closing is in less than two weeks, our move is three days later, and we have boxes stacked up containing many (but not all – like I said, I’ve been busy) of our worldly possessions.  We received word that our sale was going through in late February, and since then it’s been a whirlwind of doing all of the things that you need to do in order to buy a house, plus numerous phone calls with our broker, discussing whether we want to sell or rent our condo.  And I’ve been dealing with the complete shock of realizing that I’m actually moving and I’m not going to be cooking in my condo kitchen anymore, which does make me sad.  Because I do love my condo, especially the kitchen.

Given all this, hubby and I decided to throw the condo a farewell party.  We had actually planned to have a party for no reason back in February, but Snowmageddon ruined our plans.  So we moved the party to early March, and it just happened to fall after we had tumbled head-first down the rabbit hole of house-buying.  I was exhausted from the whole process and making frequent panicked phone calls to my mom about how I wasn’t sure anymore if I wanted a house, like, ever… so I mostly opted for “easy,” and our friends liked it all just fine.  One of the most popular dishes at the party was a savory mini corn muffin, jazzed up with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese.  Mmmmm, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!  So, in the hopes that you’ll forgive me… here ya go.

Sun-Dried Tomato-Parmesan Mini Corn Muffins

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup (approx.) chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare a 24-well mini muffin tin by spraying olive oil baking spray in each well.
  • Combine dry ingredients.
  • Mix in milk, oil and egg, until just incorporated.  Stir in chopped sun-dried tomatoes and grated cheese.
  • Using a teaspoon, portion batter evenly into muffin wells.  (You may have a little extra, depending on the size of the wells in your muffin tin.  I got about 6 extra mini muffins out of my emergency backup Bakers Secret mini muffin tin, but my muffin tins have small wells.)
  • Bake 20-25 minutes, until muffins are just golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Source: adapted from Quaker

I promise that I am going to try to be better about blogging during this moving process.  I have some photos banked from the past few weeks, and as soon as I remember what the recipes were, I’ll post them.  However, the next two weeks are going to be a little bit difficult.  Most of my cookbooks, and a fair amount of my bakeware, are already packed.  Hubby and I have enough left out that we won’t starve, but I’m not planning to do much creative baking or cooking until we get unpacked and settled and get our condo cleaned up and on the market.  Please bear with me, and I promise I’ll be back with tons of fun new recipes from my new kitchen-to-be!

How To Make A Cheese Board

Ah, the cheese board.  Star of the after-dinner hour.  Hero of the wine-and-cheese party.  (Oh, who am I kidding?  Beer me some Pinot.)  No, but really… the cheese board has its place.  After dinner, served in place of dessert, it’s the height of sophistication.  As much as I love to bake and serve people desserts, a cheese board can be a wonderful change of pace.  When hubby and I were traveling in California this fall, we had some fantastic cheese boards that highlighted the best local cheeses, as well as some exotic choices.  I came home itching to make my own cheese board.  It’s actually very easy, if you follow a few simple guidelines…

First, you need cheese.  Obviously.  A cheese board without cheese would be… well… kind of a non-starter.  (Nothing against my vegan friends.  But it’s true.)  I like to serve at least three cheeses on a cheese board, and I generally stick with the following ratio: one hard, one soft, one blue.  If you have an extra-large cheese board, you can feel free to add on as you desire, but one hard, one soft, one blue is a good rule to follow for a fairly universally-pleasing cheese board.  Above, I’ve chosen a Cabot cloth-aged cheddar (hard), a Hudson Valley camembert (soft), and a milder French blue (blue, duh).  If  I had the space or the crowd to feed, I might have added a creamy goat cheese (sans herbs, please – it’s dessert) or a cave-aged gruyere, or perhaps a smoked gouda.  However, you need at least one hard, one soft, one blue.

With the blue cheese, I love to add honeycomb.  I always keep some honeycomb in my pantry, for just this purpose.  The sweetness of the honey counteracts the pungency of the cheese, which hubby really appreciates.  Together, the two flavors are perfection.

I always add a few extras to fill out the cheese board.  To this cheese board, I added half of a small date-and-walnut loaf, a handful of dried black mission figs, and a pile of fresh raspberries.  When you’re shopping for your cheese board, pick out your cheeses first and then think about how the flavors will interact with each other.  The dates and the figs both went equally well with the camembert and the cheddar.  You need some extras for visual interest – to break up the cheeses – and for flavor complexity.  For dessert cheese boards, I like to add dried fruits; for appetizer cheese boards, I pile up olives, a variety of crackers, and cherry tomatoes.  Last but not least, whether this is dessert or hors d’ouvres, you’ll need of bread or crackers to serve with the cheeses.

Oh, and wine.  You can’t forget the wine.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese


Cheesy, creamy, crunchy, chewy.  That’s what the best macaroni and cheese brings to the table.  I’m not talking about the out-of-the-box stuff – no way.  I’m talking about homemade macaroni and cheese.  I’m talking about beer-infused white sauce and freshly grated cheddar and gruyere.  I’m talking about crispy Parmesan and bread crumb topping, and baking the whole thing until it’s golden and bubbly.  It takes longer, and it dirties more pots (hey,when have I ever complained about a mess?), but it’s soooooo worth the time.  Especially when your hungry brother is in town.  Because if you’re a baker who likes to make a mess, your hungry brother deserves the best boy food you can make!

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

1/2 package cavatappi (or other fun-shaped) pasta
1 small shallot, minced fine
1 cup skim milk
1 cup half-n-half
1 dried bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup beer
cheddar (1 cup grated)
gruyere (1 cup grated)
salt and pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a souffle dish or other large baking dish and set aside.
  • Fill a large stockpot with water and boil for pasta.  When water is boiling, season generously with salt and add cavatappi.  Cook until al dente according to package directions.
  • While the pasta cooks, place the minced shallot, milk and half-n-half in a small pot.  Add the bay leaf and thyme and warm over medium heat.  When the mixture is warm-hot, take off heat and allow to stand.
  • Drain the pasta and place pasta in a large bowl; set aside.  Return the pasta pot, empty, to the stovetop and melt the butter.  When the butter is melted, stir in the flour and cook briefly.  Add the infused milk mixture and the beer and turn heat to low.  Allow to cook for three to five minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
  • Meanwhile, grate the cheese.  When the sauce has thickened, stir in the cheese.  Season to taste with salt (if necessary – the cheese is pretty salty) and pepper.  Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to combine.  Spoon pasta into baking dish.
  • If desired, make bread crumb topping – stir together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta and drizzle additional olive oil, if desired, over.
  • Bake 40 minutes, until cheese sauce is bubbly and top is golden brown.


Yield: Serves 4-6.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring America