All Good Things Must…

January 14, 2012

Continue in a new format! Due to my newfound interest in crafting, I decided to start a DIY blog. Don’t worry, I’ll still write about delicious food, but I’ll be adding a few more interesting things in there too. Please check me out at Sufficient Champagne. I promise, it will be even cooler and more delicious. And thank you thank you thank you for all your support of nurselizabeth.

Blog: Where have you been?

Elizabeth: Please take me back even though I’ve neglected you.

Blog: No. I’m no one’s leftovers.

Elizabeth: But leftovers are so good sometimes! Sometimes they’re even better than the original meal.

Blog: I don’t believe you.

Elizabeth: Take, for instance, these lamb shanks. Sometimes when you leave things alone for a while, and the flavors have time blend and develop, the leftovers are better than the original.

Blog: Prove it.

Blog: Well, okay.

Add bottle of wine. WIN OVER WINTER.

MEDITERRANEAN LAMB SHANKS WITH CREAMY POLENTA, Bon Appetit, October 2003 (click for recipe)

My only change was to add only 3 lamb shanks instead of 6 (too much meat for 2 people, even with leftovers). I kept the rest of the recipe the same. It was perfect!

Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup

October 6, 2011

One of my best friends just moved to California. I am going to miss her so, so much.

Reed and I became friends through our husbands, who are in graduate school together. But we became great friends when we started training for a half marathon.

I learn so many little details about the lives of my running buddies. Many miles require a lot of minutes to be filled with conversation, and we wind up talking about whatever happens to be on our minds. Sometimes we talk about things of great substance. Other times, we talk about why I prefer Jif to Skippy peanut butter. When talking helps each mile tick by, our conversations resemble stream-of-consciousness. It leads effortlessly to close friendship.

Reed taught me to sew my Halloween costume last year. She helped me make jewelry for my bridesmaids. She introduced me to David Sedaris and gin martinis. She taught me the joys of dressing up and popsicles. Last year, she made our friend Kristina and me pumpkin soup on Halloween while we carved jack-o-lanterns.

This is not the same soup she made, but it’s a pumpkin soup, nonetheless. And a delicious one at that. Creamy, hearty, rich-tasting but healthy. And it even freezes well (no cream in this accidentally-vegan soup, folks). It’s a homage to fall, but mostly–in my mind, anyway, its a homage to Reed.

When I run on the bike path alone, I wonder what we’d talk about if she were here. Certainly the foilage, probably the weekend, possibly this pumpkin soup.

More posts involving Reed: Pasta Puttanesca, How to Have a Sick Time in Vegas, Bolognese Sauce

THAI SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP (from 101 Cookbooks)

This recipe is more of a guideline, and less of a formula. The curry paste I used the first time I made this was quite mild, so I used the whole jar! I bought a spicier one the next time, and only used a couple tablespoons.

A bowl of this soup, a crusty hunk of bread, and some salad greens topped with toasted pumpkin/squash seeds, dried cranberries, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar is a great fall meal!

Serves 6

2 acorn squash, pumpkins, or other smallish winter squash
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon (or more) red Thai curry paste
water or chicken broth
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put racks in middle of oven.

Cut pumpkin and/or squash into halves. Spread butter over them. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Place on baking sheet and bake until fork tender throughout (about one hour).

Once squash cool down enough to touch, scoop the flesh into a big pot. Add coconut milk and curry paste. Stir together and place on medium high heat. Once mixture starts to simmer, take off heat and puree soup with a hand blender. Soup will be VERY thick. Add water or chicken broth one cup at a time until you reach desired consistency. Simmer again, then taste, and add salt and more curry paste (if you like) to taste.

Apple Butter Hand Pies

September 18, 2011

<insert cliche sentiment about loving autumn here> Because Lord knows I do!

I have been in a cooking funk because I want to make Fall foods like apple pie and pumpkin soup, but it has been TOO WARM. Until this week, that is. It was a big week. My parents visited (hooray!) and we had a great time. Hey parents!

We had a picnic with friends and I made these delicious hand pies my friend Katherine introduced me to a few years ago. Sweet, tangy apple butter hides inside a cookie-like, crunchy, cream cheese-based crust. They were a huge hit.

Yesterday, we went to Oktoberfest. My friends Amy, Kristina, and Reed and I ran the Das Hustlehoff 5K–a race celebrating David Hasselhoff and Germans–where we won the costume competition. Here we are receiving our commemorative beer stein trophies.

I hope all of you are enjoying your September. And if you’re looking for a delicious fall treat, these apple butter hand pies are perfect. I might even call them wunderbar…

APPLE BUTTER HAND PIES (from Martha Stewart Living, October 1996)


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups apple butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with a hand mixer or an electric mixer for 5 minutes until fluffy. Add egg and beat until just combined.
  2. Beat cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt in a separate bowl,  then add to the cream-cheese mixture. Beat until thoroughly combined. Transfer dough onto a square of Saran wrap, and press dough into a 1-inch thick patty using our hands. Refrigerate at least one hour if using immediately, or place in freezer and keep up to one month if using later.
  3. Divide dough in half. Roll one half out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut circles out of the dough using a 4.5 inch biscuit cutter. Place circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Continue rolling, cutting, and chilling the dough until both halves of dough are used up.
  4. Remove dough circles from fridge and allow them to defrost until they just able to bend a bit (about 2-3 minutes). Place about 2 tablespoons apple butter onto one half of each circle of dough. Spread apple butter into a semicircle shape until it is about 1/2 inch from the edge. Be careful not to flatten out the apple butter completely. Brush a small bit of ice cold water around the edge of the dough, and fold it in half to make a semicircle. Press edges of hand pie together with your fingers of the back of a fork. Repeat process until all dough circles are sealed. remaining dough. Place hand pies back on parchment-lined baking sheet and chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove chilled hand pies from the fridge, brush them with a bit of cold water. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over pies. Place pies in the oven to bake. Bake until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool just a bit before serving.

It’s the end of summer. We should celebrate!

Toast a slice of sourdough. Get it golden brown.

Top it with olive oil, shaved parmesan, basil, and heirloom tomato slices.

And maybe an egg or two.

Now pour yourself some wine. And, if you’re me, eat it while you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. I never said I was classy. I only said I could cook.


Serves 1


1 thick slice of crusty sourdough, toasted

Olive oil (I used about a tablespoon)

Parmesan, shaved (I used an ounce)

Basil leaves (I used 8)

4 small heirloom tomatoes

Cracked black pepper


Small pat butter

2 eggs


Drizzle olive oil over sourdough toast. Layer parmesan across toast. Layer basil on top of parmesan. Layer tomato slices on top of basil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Heat a pan on medium heat. Once hot, add enough butter to thinly coat the pan. Add  eggs and cover immediately with a lid. Turn heat up to medium high. Eggs should be done within 2-4 minutes. Just keep checking on them periodically. I like them when they are a little bit white on top (about 3 1/2 minutes).

Place egg on top or next to sandwich. Enjoy!

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

August 24, 2011

I get really emotional when I eat pickles. Homemade ones, of course.

I can and pickle for experience of it, more than for the end product.  It’s how I give myself a little Spring, Summer, or Fall in the dead of Winter. Every time I open a jar, I close my eyes and try very hard to remember the details the day. How hot was it? What did the leaves look like in the tree outside our window? What did we wear? Each jar gives me a little rush of nostalgia.

The jar of pickles I made Saturday has a special significance. I made these on the very last weekend of our summer. That is, the very last weekend before Will started school again. Let me tell you about it.

The best way to combat the doldrums of adulthood is to pretend you are a child, but have budget and transportation of an adult. We spent Sunday doing only what we wanted. We woke up late. We went mini-golfing, drove Go Karts, and played Skeeball. We exchanged the Skeeball tickets we won for crazy straws and temporary tatoos. Instead of eating lunch, we ate Blizzards at Dairy Queen (Snickers for me, Heathbar for Will). We went to go see Bridesmaids at the discount movie theatre. I skipped my shower, because I didn’t want to wash off my frog and lizard tattoos.

And I made these pickles. And with every precise (or slightly imprecise) slice of cucumber, with every lid I screwed on nice and tight, I meditated on each moment of our wonderful day.

Opening this jar will be so very nice.

REFRIGERATOR DILL PICKLES (from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving’sRefrigerator Dill Slices)

Yields about 5 pint jars of pickles

Though I haven’t tasted the finished product yet, I am certain these will be amazing. I ate a pickle or two before I put them in a jar. Yes, that means I ate it when it was a hot, briny cucumber. But my oh my, what a wonderful combination of salty and sour. It will be hard to wait the full 2 weeks.


8 1/4 cups sliced trimmed pickling cucumbers (1/4 inch/0.5cm slices)

2 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

6 tbsp pickling or canning salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp pickling spice (available in the spice aisle of well-stocked supermarkets)

7 1/2 tsp dill seeds

5 tsp mustard seeds

1 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns

5 cloves garlic, halved


1. Put cucumber slices in a large heatproof bowl.

2. Combine vinegar, water, pickling salt, sugar, and pickling spice in the saucepan in a medium stainless steel saucepan over medium high heat and stir occasionally until sugar and salt dissolve. Let the mixture come to a boil, then turn down the heat and cover with a lid. Boil gently for 10 minutes.

3. Pour the hot brine over cucumbers. Cover the bowl with waxed paper and let it rest until the mixture cools to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

4. In each mason jar, place 1 1/2 tsp dill seeds, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns, and 2 garlic clove halves. Fill jars with cucumber slices until they are 1/2 inch from the top. Pour pickling liquid into each jar until the liquid covers the cucumbers. Leave 1/2 inch headspace from the rim of the jar. Screw lids onto jars. Place in refrigerator. Allow cucumbers to marinate at least 2 weeks. Use within 3 months.

Lemon Buttermilk Sherbert

August 20, 2011

If you told me 5 years ago that I would someday go to a gamer store and ask advice from someone who talked just like Comic Book Guy, I would have called you a liar. Good thing I never bet on that one!

It all started with the Settlers of Catan. I was having dinner with some Math friends when they decided to break out this game. I mocked the game for having rules that took over half an hour to explain. “This is way too complicated to ever be fun,” I whispered to my friend, Angela.

At the end of the game, I was yelling things like “Well I’ll barter my sheep for your grain!”

I came home that night and ran over to Will who was working at his desk. “Will! I just played the best game EVER! It’s called the Settlers of Catan.” Will had a very skeptical look on his face. I asked him why. He said, “No, I’d… I’d love to play with you but… it’s just… I’m a little surprised you liked that game. I mean, I like that game a lot but…” But what? I asked him. “Well, it’s really nerdy.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked. “That, that’s not a nerdy game. That’s a normal people game. Like Scrabble. Or checkers.”

Will consulted Wikipedia. He read aloud, “The Settlers of Catan is used as the icebreaker game at the Silicon Valley Engineering Conference.” Suddenly, it all started making sense. It had a hexagonal board! You barter for grain! You can’t play it in less than two hours!

Since that time, Will and I have purchased several board games like it: Pandemic, Dominion, Gloom. But Thursday night, our nerd-dom reached a new level. Because we bought an RPG game. RPG means Role Playing Game. And to find this game, we didn’t just go to a normal game store, like we had for all the other games. We went to a game-r store.

We had some trouble finding the store, until we saw windows covered in paintings of dungeons and elves. On the bulletin board next to the door was a flyer that said, “Larpers* wanted!” with little paper tabs that had a phone number you can tear off. (*Larpers are people dress up and act out Dungeons and Dragons. No I will never reach that level, and if I do I give you permission to stop reading my blog.) Another wall was filled entirely with glitter for larping costumes.

We knew that the game we bought (Arkham Horror, if you are wondering) would take a long time to figure out so we decided to spend a night in, make a feast, and get down to evil demon fighting biz-nass. We grilled some burgers, broiled some sweet potato fries, popped open some beers and started beating back “the uncaring forces of the universe.”

While Will tackled the Encyclopedia-like rule book, I made dessert. To balance the heaviness of the burger and beer feast, I was looking for a dessert that was  light, tart, and refreshing. Earlier in the day, I saw a recipe for Lemon Buttermilk Ice Pops on Epicurious and was intrigued. I turned it into a sherbet (which apparently has only one “R” instead of two), and it fulfilled my every dream. Tart, tangy, sweet, cold, refreshing. Perfect summer dessert!

And if you’re wondering, yes the game is nerdishly awesome. In that special, gamer way.

LEMON BUTTERMILK SHERBET (adapted from Bon Appétit  July 2002)

Makes about 3 cups

Keep the buttermilk in the fridge until the last minute so it stays cold. This will help get the overall mixture cold and prevent formation of ice crystals.


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 2/3 cups buttermilk (chilled)

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in a bowl until sugar dissolves. Whisk chilled buttermilk into mixture. Prepare in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.