21st May 2016


In Dallas, watching Hope Floats, just finished eating a chorizo y huevo breakfast taco. We’re going to watch my younger cousin’s football game in a couple hours and then we’ll probably stop for snow cones later. Goodness it feels good to be back in Texas. We have a whirlwind tour of home planned for the next week and a half, but it’s already 80 plus degrees outside and I just want to sit on the porch with an iced tea all day. Texas has this peculiar ability to both excite and sedate, spark spontaneous plans and last-minute laziness. It’s a weird state, an odd state-of-being, but that’s why I like it so.

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In the past couple weeks leading up to our trip back home, we prepped our palates – which is really just an excuse to keep eating tortillas and things that go with barbecue sauce. On a recent trip out in Western Massachusetts, we stumbled across the Texas BBQ Company in Northborough and they serve authentic Hill Country sausage made there in-house. Massachusetts has plenty of decent barbecue joints, but they for some reason never get the sausage right. It’s always too spicy or tastes like Italian food. Hill Country sausage – the kind that’s used in real Texas barbecue – should faintly taste of caraway and mustard seeds, maybe a bit of German beer, and it should be smokey and crispy and, well, just perfect. I ended our meal asking for a dozen links to go.

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Back home in the Boston area, the land of many pizza places, the idea for a barbecue plate pizza was born. All the components of a traditional Texas barbecue plate – meat, sauce, white bread, pickles, onions, yellow cheese – but on a pizza. Worlds collide.

Don’t swap in whole wheat or anything fancy for the crust. It’s meant to mimic pasty white sandwich bread, so keep it simple. The cheese should be yellow, but not too sharp. The onion has to be white and it has to be raw. The sauce – my own personal rendition of a traditional Texas sweet tomato barbecue sauce – should be added generously and then served on the side, too.

BBQ plate pizza + homemade BBQ sauce
makes one large pie

for the sauce:
makes about one quart

29 oz tomato sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
lots of black pepper

Add all the ingredients to a medium-sized saucepan and stir to combine. Simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened and slightly reduced. Remove from heat and set aside.

for the pizza:
1 lb of dough
homemade barbecue sauce
1/2 lb mild yellow cheddar, cut into thin slices
2 links sausage, cut into thin slices
olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced into rings
dill pickles

Set oven to 500 or as hot as your oven can go.

Stretch and roll dough to fit a large pizza stone. Spread about a half cup or more of barbecue sauce on the crust, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border around the edge. Spread the cheese slices on top of the sauce and then add the sausage slices. Brush the crust edges with a bit of olive oil.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust puffs up and browns and the cheese melts. Top with raw onion rings, slice, and serve hot with pickles and more barbecue sauce on the side.


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13th May 2016


Pie speaks louder than words. Example: When I defended my undergraduate thesis on Jane Austen and the gastronomic foodways of the English gentry, I handed out tiny two-bite apple pies – Austen’s favorite flavor – to the moderators and the audience. My hope was that the pie would successfully distract any listeners from my fifteen minutes of historical prattle on the cost of loaf sugar in Regency England and how Mr. Darcy was, in essence, the 18th century equivalent of a modern wholier-than-thou Whole Foods shopper. I passed and got my degree, so I think the pie worked.

I employed a similar tactic during graduate school wooing my peers with pecan pie made with sorghum and bourbon from “back home,” laying on a thick Texas accent and dropping terms like fixin’ and y’all whenever I could. Not only was I accepted as the token Texan in a classroom full of native New Englanders, my Southern-centric Master’s thesis passed, and I walked away with another degree.

So I’m beginning to think pie is really integral to my academic success. Not quite on the same level as cheating – though it may count as bribery – but I feel like it just really sets the tone for my work. I matriculate, I bake, I graduate.

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Since I’ll be starting my PhD at the University of North Carolina this fall, I’ve decided to plan my pie ahead of time. It needs to be topical, it needs to have a fun fact, it needs to be academically relevant…and it needs to taste good, too. Enter the pineapple pie with a white whole wheat pineapple cutout crust.

Not only is it topical (and tropical), the pineapple is a historic symbol of the South representing southern hospitality in North Carolina and the other southern states. Fun fact, the pineapple cutout crust is made with King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour, which is made with certified seeds and is Identity-Preserved, meaning it can be tracked from field to flour. And in terms of academic relevance: I’ve never met a grad student that turned down free food.

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So this is my plan for the first day of PhD school: Show up in my new pineapple print shirt with my vintage pineapple necklace carrying a pineapple pie, positively exuding hospitality.

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I found that the white whole wheat was light enough in color for a pretty pie crust, but sturdy enough to handle a mostly-liquid filling with additional pie crust pieces on top. If you’re looking for more advice on how to incorporate more whole wheat into your pies or other baking projects, check out King Arthur Flour’s nifty guide.

pineapple pie with whole wheat crust
makes one 9-inch pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
8-10 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Instant Clearjel
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups crushed pineapple with pineapple juice (or equal amount finely diced fresh pineapple)
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon pineapple essence
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3 eggs

Make the crust. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using two forks or your finger tips, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. Add in the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together. Test by pinching some dough together between your fingers. If it sticks together without crumbling, it’s ready. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a rough disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour before using.

Set the oven to 400 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about ⅛-inch thick. Fit into the pie pan and trim edges. Place in the freezer.

Gather excess dough pieces and roll out again. Using a couple spoons as guides, a cookie cutter, or your own imagination, cut various sized pineapple shapes from the dough. Use a sharp paring knife to lightly score the oval parts of the shapes to create the cross-hatch of a real pineapple. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, the Instant Clearjel, and the salt. Once thoroughly combined, add the pineapple, rum, pineapple essence, vanilla bean seeds, and 2 of the eggs.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell. Carefully arrange pineapple cutouts on top of the filling, gently pressing into the edges of the pie crust to secure where necessary. Whisk the final egg with a teaspoon of water. Gently brush the egg on top of the crust and the pineapple dough cutouts.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the crust just begins to turn a golden brown and the filling jiggles ever-so-slightly when the pan is moved. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

– If the crust and cutouts begin to brown too quickly, place a ring of folded aluminum foil over the pie edges and continue baking.
– The rum can be substituted with coconut water or plain water.

I used the following ingredients kindly provided by King Arthur Flour: White Whole Wheat Flour, very pineapple-y pineapple essence, Instant Clearjel, a sturdy wooden pie box for taking my pie to class, and a dough mat. Thank you, King Arthur Flour for sponsoring this post and for helping me bake my way through my next round of grad school.



7th May 2016


There seems to be two-camps in food photography these days: The messy and the clean. I guess I’m not referring to the photography per se, but to the styling. Over the past few years, the once-lauded sterile, white plate food scenes have been relegated to old-school high end cuisine, the kind of thing one might see on a TV food show. Then, like a glorious homage to our grandmother’s pantries and china cabinets, in came the hand-spun speckled pottery, the chipped china, the wrinkled linen, the moody, and the patina. And I’m ever so glad it did. Because, while I do style food professionally and have been known to throw a stray chocolate chip or an old stained cup into a shot just for grins, this is how I actually work in the kitchen. Messy and forgetful and scattered.

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Everything always comes out okay in the end. And while I may appear haphazard, my feel like my recipes are sharp and my techniques sound. Sometimes I don’t even set out to make a mess, sometimes it happens for me. I’ll leave a spoon just so on the edge of a bowl, seemingly safe, then turn my back for just a second only to find it on the floor or strewn across the table. I routinely spill flour because I’m too hasty and my whisking isn’t as tight as I’d like to be. And when I go to sweep the kitchen floor at the end of the day, I always seem to find stray coffee beans.

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All this makes me realize how badly I want to thank my mother for putting up with my disastrous kitchen process. She always asked for specific cakes or dishes when I came home to visit and she must have known the mess that was in store. I always clean up after myself and my kitchen is almost always spic and span at the end of the day, but watching the flour fall like snow, the chocolate chips fly across the room, the raw egg drip across the clean table cloth, must be pretty tough.

Since this weekend is my first Mother’s Day, I decided to bake my favorite kind of cake – one with vegetables in it – and make as much mess as I please. I know in a couple years, I’ll have to stomach through whatever Avery decides to whip up and clean up whatever disaster she leaves behind her in the kitchen. This leaves me half in dread, but half delighted, too.


buttermilk carrot cake + spiced yogurt
makes one standard bundt cake

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnut oil (or other sweet or neutral oil)
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated or finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt (I prefer Icelandic skyr since it’s nice and creamy without too much twang)
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of allspice
pinch of clove

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a bundt cake pan or other pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the sugars, oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.

In another bowl, combine the flour, powder, soda, spices, and salt. Remove a handful of this mixture and add to the carrots and pistachios, tossing to coat. Add the dry mixture to the wet, stirring until just combined. Add the flour-coated carrots and pistachios and gently fold to combine. Pour into the cake pan, smooth the top, and tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes and then gently turn out onto a wire rack.

While the cake cools, make the spiced yogurt. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and the spices. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Once the cake has cooled, top with powdered sugar and serve in large wedges with a generous dollop of spiced yogurt and a couple extra pistachios.


Happy Mother’s Day.



1st May 2016

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Over the past few chilly months, my good friend Briana Moore, of Briana Moore Photography, and I have been working on a project for t.e.l.l. New England magazine… and now it’s finally available online! Together we ventured out to old colonial tea houses, searched high and low for the best locally made blends, and talked to a bevy of tea experts in the area. And likely drank our weight in tea in the process. The result is a brief snapshot of New England’s rich tea history, a bit about local movers and makers, and three lovely tea-infused recipes – including London Fog porridge and Matcha Avocado Toast – to pair with your morning brew.

Briana captured some lovely moody scenes during our research and a few great shots of me and my little styling assistant, too. You can see a few shots below.

Read the new issue, “New England Mornings,” over on t.e.l.l. New England.

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All images ©Briana Moore Photography.


8th April 2016


Last week, on repeat: “Their success is not your failure.” Despite the fact that I am a grown woman, a mother, holder of two degrees, and a generally confidant person, I couldn’t quite shake a spell of self-pity. I like to think that I’m old enough to avoid such low feelings, but also think I’m big enough to be honest about them when they do happen.

As the great Ron Swanson says with such gravitas, “Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” I like to think of myself as a red-headed Leslie Knope of the food world, so his words helped. And then so does the more straightforward: “Stop feeling bad for yourself, it’s bad for your complexion.” Thank you John Hughes and Molly Ringwald. But the thing that helped most (aside from several brownies and some really loud dance music) was this: “No one is you. And that is your power.”

And that is so incredibly true.

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There may be other food bloggers, other academics, other mamas, other red heads, other Texans (we are numerous), but there is no one that combines those things like I do. And if there’s anyone out there that is strikingly similar, I’d love to meet her, we’d probably be great friends.

And there are most definitely other recipes for veggie chili, three-bean chili, whathaveyou, but no one makes it quite like me. Even if you follow my recipe exactly, and the outcome is delicious, it still won’t be the same. You don’t have the same Staub dutch oven (the one my Dad just sent me and bought a matching one for his kitchen, too), you probably don’t have the same exact chile powder (ground by my own two hands), and you definitely don’t have a little red headed kitchen assistant wrapped up on your chest, cooing gently in her sleep while you nibble fritos as the chili simmers. And all that is okay. Because we can share with each other, swap recipes and ideas, create great things together or on our own, celebrate in each others’ successes, console the failures, and then rest easy knowing that, despite the setbacks or overfried fritos, there is power in ourselves.

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So you can take all this as it is, a sappy confession of my recent adult temper-tantrum, or swallow it with a giant grain of salt (maybe just a heavily salted frito?) and just skip to the three-bean veggie chili recipe below. I won’t judge either way. But I will mock you if you skip the homemade fritos part by subbing in store-bought. Yes, it’s easier, but it’s kind of awesome to be able to tell other people that you made fritos from scratch. Just do it once, that’s all you need for the story.

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Fellow Texans might harangue me for daring to call this chili, but I’ve added three adjectives indicating its contents to act as disclaimers. I’ve been working on this recipe for a while now – adjusting the spices, cook times, and vegetables – and I think it holds at least a couple candles to the meat-filled versions.

three bean veggie chili + homemade fritos
serves 4 to 6

for the chili
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
4 small whole carrots, sliced into thin rounds
4 small stalks celery, (the dainty leafy ones), thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1-2 tablespoons good chile powder (I use either a homemade blend or some from back home)
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 8oz can plain, unsalted tomato sauce
1 10.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can chili beans, NOT drained or rinsed (I like Ranch Style brand)
16 oz water (I just fill the chili beans can up to the top)
1 small zucchini, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
spring onions, thinly sliced
cotija cheese, crumbled

Set a dutch oven or large, heavy stockpot over medium high heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil and heat through. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, sprinkle with salt, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.

Sprinkle the spices over the sauteed vegetables and stir to thoroughly coat. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pan, making an empty hole in the middle. Add the tomato paste, gently nudge with a wooden spoon, and fry in the middle of the pan until fragrant, about one minute. Stir to combine the tomato paste with the vegetables. Sprinkle the flour over everything and stir to combine, cooking for another minute.

Add the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Then add all the beans, water, and zucchini, giving it a final thorough stir. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced a bit and the vegetables are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot topped with spring onions, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, and homemade fritos.

NOTE: If you don’t like or can’t find chili beans, you can sub regular pintos (drained and rinsed) and increase the spices a bit.

for the fritos
1 cup masa harina (or very finely ground cornmeal in a pinch)
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
oil for frying
lots more salt

In a large bowl, add the masa harina, oil, salt, and hot water, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine. Towards the end, the mixture will be difficult to stir and you’ll need to finish combining it with your hands.

Turn the mixture out on a piece of parchment paper. Gather into a rough rectangle and top with another piece of parchment paper. Roll out until about 1/8-inch thick. Gently remove the top piece of parchment. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the rolled dough into little strips (about a half inch wide) and then cut again in the other direction, creating little rectangles about 1-inch long.

Set a deep cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and fill with about an inch or more of oil. When the oil is around 350 degrees, gently drop a few masa rectangles into the pan. They should immediately rise to the top and sizzle wildly. Fry for about 30 to 40 seconds, turning once or twice, then remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined wire rack. Repeat with remaining masa rectangles, frying about a dozen pieces at a time, until all the dough is used. While the fritos are still hot, sprinkle generously with salt. And try not to eat all of them before your chili is done.


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