A passion for food + fashion

Archive for November, 2013|Monthly archive page

Thanksgiving Cheats

In Food on November 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm


For most of the hostesses I know there’s usually one thing about Thanksgiving that stresses a girl out. For some it’s her mother-in-law, for others it’s piecrust. For me, it’s the gravy. There, I said it. My favorite part of my favorite meal of the year is gravy, and it’s the one thing I don’t make at the Thanksgiving table. For the past few years, I’ve been dry-brining our bird and once you try the technique, you’ll never go back. The one glitch is that the drippings are too salty for pan gravy, and so I order it. There’s no shame in that, especially when the Chardonnay and thyme gravy comes from my friend Kate Paul of foodink catering—former personal chef to the Rolling Stones and a favorite with the likes of Vanity Fair, Vogue, Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld and other A-list clients around town. You can order the entire dinner from foodink, or just fill in the sides as need be.


It turns out I’m not the only of my friends sneaking in a little outside help. Sisters of Los Angeles co-founder Sara Stein is too busy making her dad’s famous Red River BBQ Sauce (I swear one day I’ll get that recipe out of her!) and grilling her turkey to bake the pies, so she turns to Los Feliz favorite House of Pies for dessert.


As for my friend Alison, who recently went gluten-free, she’s ordering a classic stuffing with sage, apples and mushrooms from Clementine in Century City to serve to her 20 guests on Thursday. “If I can’t eat it, I don’t want to make it!” she says. Other childhood friends who are heading home to the Napa Valley this week, plan to order mashed potatoes from Rutherford Grill and cranberry relish with orange and cinnamon from Dean and Deluca to take the pressure off. Sometimes you have to cheat to win.

Kim’s Killer Banana Pudding

In Food, Recipes on November 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

banana pudding

You will either thank or curse me for sharing what is the ultimate in banana pudding recipes from one of the best cooks I know. I cannot overstate how mind-blowingly delicious this pudding is. A few months ago, my friend Kim brought us dinner—a comforting slow-simmered bolognese along with a Bouchon butter lettuce salad, and for dessert her banana pudding. I’m not a fan of hyperbole but this is THE BEST BANANA PUDDING I’VE EVER TASTED. EVER. I’ve since made her recipe for my own family, as well as sharing with friends and neighbors, my sister, a friend who just had a baby, and in return have received a couple of marriage proposals not to mention reignited interest from my own husband. It’s really that good. My own twist to Kim’s recipe is making vanilla wafers from scratch, though you can certainly use Nilla Wafers. The homemade wafers are super quick and easy to make, and can be done while the pudding and condensed milk are setting up.

Kim’s Killer Banana Pudding

5-ounce package instant vanilla pudding

14-ounce can condensed milk

1 1/2 cups water

3 cups heavy cream

30 vanilla wafers

3 sliced bananas

In a large bowl, mix instant pudding, condensed milk and water until blended. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, whip cream until peaks form. Fold all but about 3/4 cup whipped cream into pudding until there are no streaks of pudding. Then fold in wafers and sliced bananas.

banana pudding

Spoon into individual containers and top with whipped cream. Or spread into a large baking dish and top with remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate for several hours. Be sure to hide some at the back of the fridge for yourself for breakfast the following morning. Because all is fair in love and banana pudding.

homemade banana pudding

Nilla Wafers from Scratch

In Food, Recipes on November 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm

homemade nilla wafers

A couple weeks ago, my friend Kim shared her SPECTACULAR recipe for banana pudding. The recipe calls for Nilla Wafers—those classic cookies you’ll find in no-bake icebox cakes and banana cream pies or simply dipped in milk as a nostalgic treat. Since I’m on a personal challenge this month to reduce what I’m feeding my kids that’s from a box, I was curious to see how hard it was to make my own vanilla wafers. I found this recipe from Alton Brown, and it’s a snap. His recipe calls for vanilla sugar—click here for my quick vanilla sugar method—or if you don’t have any vanilla sugar on hand, use granulated sugar and slightly increase amount of vanilla extract used below. The cookies take about 10 minutes to prep, plus an additional 15 minutes to bake and are totally worth it.

Alton Brown’s Vanilla Wafers

7 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

nilla wafer batter

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan.

homemade nilla wafers

Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

Vanilla Sugar

In Recipes on November 3, 2013 at 7:32 pm

vanilla sugar

If a recipe calls for scraping the seeds from a vanilla bean, don’t discard the pods. Instead, throw them into your sugar jar to make vanilla sugar. Bury the pods in organic cane sugar and let sit for a week or two before using. The sugar’s vanilla flavor is subtle, and I always keep some on hand for sprinkling over crostatas, dusting over frozen berries for a compote or sweetening whipped cream. While I take my coffee black or with a splash of whole milk, I’m told vanilla sugar is the bomb in a cup of morning joe!

vanilla beans

BN Ranch Turkey

In Food on November 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm


I’ve gotten a jump on my holiday shopping this year, namely by pre-ordering a heritage bird for Thanksgiving from Bill Niman at http://www.bnranchtotable.com. I am ridiculously excited that he’s offering heritage turkeys, and that the bird doesn’t have to travel far. Niman and his wife, Nicolette, are leaders of sustainable and humane farming—their BN Ranch is in Bolinas in Marin County, not so far from where I grew up in Northern California—so it feels right that this bird joins our Thanksgiving table.