The Bowl That Comes With A Recipe (Summer Nectarine and Arugula Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette)

On a pre-lunch walk the other day, I passed Fishs Eddy. According to their website, Fishs Eddy “specializes in American flatware.” That’s a very formal way of saying they sell funky and fun dishes and plates and spoons and bowls. Some are cheap, some are expensive, but it’s always a treat to go browse around. I already have three bowls from there and one large charger type plate that I usually use to showcase the food I make for this site. Anyway, in the window of Fishs Eddy was this bowl:

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Isn’t this a fun bowl? As you can see I bought it. But I didn’t just buy it because it’s funky and blue and ceramic. I bought it because above the bowl in the window was a recipe. A recipe for a summer salad of (you already know but I’ll repeat it): arugula, nectarines, raspberries and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette.

I had an index card in my pocket (don’t ask) and I copied down the recipe from the window. Then I purchased the bowl. It was $15 but I plan to get a lot of use out of it.

Then I made my way to the Union Square Farmer’s Market and bought all the ingredients that I didn’t already have. That amounted to: 1 2/3 cups arugula (or torn assorted greens), 1 nectarine (I bought two) and raspberries.

At home, I followed the recipe’s advice and made dressing in a jar. Only I didn’t have raspberry vinegar so I subbed balsamic vinegar. It worked fine. I also doubled the recipe because I like lots of dressing.

So here’s what goes in the jar (this is the not doubled version):

4 tsps olive oil

1 Tbs raspberry vinegar

1/4 tsp mustard

1/8 tsp sugar, salt & pepper

Here it is pre-shaking:

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And here it is post-shaking: (sorry, it’s blurry)

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I really like this method: the dressing gets emulsified and there’s no mess. Get yourself a dressing jar today.

As for the salad assembly, it’s real easy. Wash and tear up the arugula. Add sliced nectarine. Toss with some dressing. Toast some walnuts, sprinkle on top. (2 Tbs of walnuts.) And then sprinkle on raspberries. Here’s the finished product:

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Isn’t it cute in my new bowl? Oh new bowl, you are my new favorite bowl. Imagine all the salads we’ll have together. We’re going to be best friends.

Everybody Ought To Have A Scone

If there was a betting pool and the bet was: “Is Adam pregnant?” you may do well to put aside preconceived notions about gender and childbirth and take seriously the following fact. I have strange cravings for scones in the middle of the night. Not only do I have these cravings, I listen to them and answer them by making scones very very late at night. Biology be damned—either I’m pregnant or I really really like scones. Or maybe both?

This scone recipe comes from (where else?) The Barefoot Contessa cookbook. These are the lightest scones I’ve ever had. Light as a feather and stiff as a board. You can throw them together really quickly. [Here’s the finished product photo, to get you excited.]

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The recipe calls for dried strawberries but I subbed raisins and that was fine. Here’s what you’ll need: (I halved the recipe, but here’s the full recipe in case you’re really really REALLY pregnant). Makes 14 to 16 large scones.

4 cups plus 1 Tbs all-purpose flour

2 Tbs sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

2 Tbs baking powder

2 tsps salt

3/4 lb cold unsalted butter, diced

4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup cold heavy cream

3/4 cup small-diced dried strawberries

1 egg beaten with 2 Tbs water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 4 cups of flour, 2 Tbs sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the cold butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour and butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Toss the strawberries with 1 Tbs of flour, and add them to the dough, and mix quickly. The dough may be a bit sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is well combined.

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Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into squares with a 4 inch plain or fluted cutter and then cut them in half diagonally to make triangles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Brush the tops with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outsides are crisp and the insides are fully baked.

That’s it! I will say: (1) these are best right out of the oven, slathered with butter or–in my case–raspberry jam (confiture?) from Le Pain Quotidien; and (2) they were a tiny bit salty for my taste. So maybe less salt? But all in all, me and my baby are glad I made them. They really hit the spot.

Call Me Corny But I Love Corn Soup with Salsa

The nicest thing about Alice Waters’ Vegetable book (which I’ve been raving about for a few posts now; and which, as I’ve mentioned before, was a gift from one of my readers) is that it helps you become a seasonal cook without having to make too many changes to your life. To really understand seasonal cooking, you’d really have to know a bit about the land, the climate, your part of the country. With this book, you really just need to know what looks fresh in the supermarket and the farmer’s market. Corn’s still in season and so I put two and two together, flipped to Alice’s corn section (that sounded dirty) and made this wonderful corn soup with salsa.

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To start out, you should make the salsa. The salsa here isn’t really the kind of salsa you associate with “salsa.” It’s basically roasted tomatoes with sage, olive oil and corn. You’ll need:

1 large ripe tomato

1 sprig thyme

2 sage leaves

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbs fresh corn kernels

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Peel and seed the tomato…

Here I got to use my brand new paring knife that came with the knife set I bought through Elise’s site a few weeks ago!

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It’s my new favorite knife, mostly because it’s really sharp. Where were we?

and cut into 1/2 inch dice. In a small baking dish, toss the tomato with the thyme and sage and 1 Tbs of the olive oil. (I couldn’t find any thyme at Whole Foods which made me sad because thyme’s my favorite herb.)

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Put the dish in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the oven, allow to cool

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and remove the thyme sprig and the sage leaves. Toss together with the remaining Tbs of olive oil and the corn, and season to taste.

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As you can see, I added cilantro because I’m a big cilantro fan. I should also say here that this salsa is optional. Alice writes: “Other garnishes to consider [for the soup] are roasted red peppers, pureed or chopped; or chopped hot chiles and cilantro, with or without creme fraiche.”

Now then: the soup. I halved the recipe for myself but I’ll give you the full recipe here in case you want to make this for your family. You will need:

1 medium onion

1/4 small carrot

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1 small piece prosciutto or smoked bacon (I used bacon)

3 cups fresh corn kernels**

4 cups chicken stock

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs half-and-half

1 cup corn and roasted tomato salsa (which you’ve already made)

**To get the kernels off the corn without having the corn fly all over the place, I tried a technique I saw on Alton Brown. I may have totally misremembered this, but as it occurred to me you take a small bowl and put it in a pie pan and the walls of the pie pan catch the bits of corn as you cut down.

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As you can see, I made a mess, but not as big a mess as I did the last time I cut corn.

Now then, the recipe.

Peel and finely dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and stew slowly in the butter with a little water, covered, until the onion is translucent. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and prosciutto or bacon, and stew for 3 or 4 minutes more. Add the corn and cook for another minute or so.

Pour in the stock, add the salt, bring the soup to a boil and shut off the heat. Cover and let stand for 3 minutes.

I should point out here that I used the Sarah Moulton technique of putting the cobs* in with the corn to add flavor. Since you’ll be pureeing everything in a moment, it’s very easy to take the cobs out afterwards. And even if it doesn’t do much, it feels like it does. [*NOTE: originally I wrote “husks.” That was wrong! Don’t put husks in your soup!]

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Remove the thyme, bay leaf, pork (and the cobs!) and puree the soup in a blender for 3 minutes.

I used my food processor:

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And encountered some trouble when liquid came pouring out of every hole:

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But for the most part, the soup got blended the way it needed to be blended. Here it is, post-puree:

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After that, it’s easy.

Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, add the half-and-half, reheat the soup to just below a boil, and serve, garnishing each bowl with a spoonful of the corn and roasted tomato salsa.

It’s cool because the salsa really acts as the soup’s–umm–“stuff.” You know like the stuff that’s in clam chowder? It’s the stuff you fish for when you eat. And it really makes the dish more colorful and vibrant. I served it with a simple salad and extra salsa on the side.

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It’s a great recipe to make with the last of the summer corn. And if you’re not a seasonal shopper, what a great way to start. You can wear your seasonal shopper t-shirt.

Cooking, Art and Magic: Summer Squash and Corn Pasta

There is a link, methinks, between cooking, art and magic. The best evidence I can give to support this theory is from Act 4.1 of Macbeth. Enter the witches.

First Witch: Round about the cauldron go,

In the poisoned entrails throw

Toad that under cold stone

Days and nights has thirty-one

sweltered venom sleeping got

boil thou first i’th’ charmed pot.

A “charmed pot.” That’s what cooking’s all about, is it not? Transformation. A mish-mosh of random ingredients and bang wham pow something new. Which is what I experienced tonight with Alice Waters. I did her recipe for “Summer Squash and Corn Pasta” from her Vegetables book, which a reader so kindly bought me. You need summer squash and corn, to start:

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You cut the squash into tiny pieces (“small dice,” says Alice) and you saute it in 1.5 Tbs of olive oil until tender and a bit brown.

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Season with salt and pepper. Then you add corn from 3 ears (I halved the recipe, by the way), 2 cloves of garlic cut up and 1/2 a jalapeno cut up too.

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You cook that for a bit. It’s all very casual here in Alice-land.

Then add 2 Tbs of butter, a handful of chopped cilantro and 3 or 4 Tbs of water. That’s it! Your sauce! Taste and season accordingly. (Alice says to add lemon juice if the corn is too sweet. I wonder if lime would be good too?)

In the meantime, you’ve prepared some fettucine. Half a pound. Add to the corn and squash mixture, toss about with tongs, and there’s your dinner: [add more cilantro to garnish]

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Those noodles all get coated with the browned, sweetened squash; the corn adds texture and more sweetness and then there’s the heat of the jalapeno, the old Jewish grandma-ness of the garlic, and the brightness of the cilantro. It’s the sort of thing that you read and say: “Hmm, but I really wonder what that tastes like?”

Exactly! Back to the beginning: cooking, art and magic. The cooking is the manual labor; the art is what gets added (the recipe) and the magic is what it becomes. Transformation: a charmed pot. And I think the child in me who watched witches on TV throw random things into large cauldrons only to have doves or children or Oprah emerge finds himself in love with cooking most when the resulting product is something that could never have existed but for the enchanted spell (ie: the recipe). Try this recipe and experience some late summer magic before it’s too late! Corn and summer squash don’t last forever.

A Pine Nut Coffee Cake, If You’re So Inclined

This is a pine nut coffee cake:

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It comes from the Babbo cookbook. It’s the cake I tried to make a few weeks ago, only to fail, leading to the hit film Failure. This time the cake came out a-ok (last time I forgot to add the butter) and the finished product looks pretty and tastes…well, interesting. Subtle. Not bad, but not fantastic. I like the unusual components that go into it, but much like the time I made Nancy Silverton’s banana bread all those components don’t really add up to much. With that said, I left out the two suggested accompaniments: figs and sweet black peper ricotta. Maybe that makes it better.

But for those that are so inclined (as the title suggests) here’s the recipe for the cake. It’s worth reading through because it’s kind of interesting. You’ll need the following ingredients for the struesel that goes on top.

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 Tbs light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

So, to make the struessel: combine the pine nuts, sugars and flour in a food processor and pulse to combine. Here it is before pulsing:

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After pulsing, add the melted butter and pulse until the mixture is combined and forms pea-size crumbs. Set aside.

Now for the cake itself. Here’s what you’ll need:

3/4 cup pine nuts

1 cup plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 cup semolina flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs granulated sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

3 eggs

3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Spread the 3/4 cup of pine nuts evenly onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven untnil light golden brown, approximately 10 minutes. When the pine nuts have cooled, place them in the bowl of a food processor along with the flour, salt, semolina, baking powder, light brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar and pulse to combine.

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Add the cold butter cubes

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and pulse until the butter has dispersed and the mixture is finely textured.

3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, olive oil, lemon zest, and vanilla.

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Add this mixture to the pine nut mixture and pulse to combine, then process for about 30 seconds to completely emulsify the batter. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the streusel.

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4. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes or until it is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and allow the cake to cool completely.

That’s it! I have to say, either the oven temp is too low or the cooking time is too short because even though the cake did get brown and a cake tester did come out clean the cake was a bit underdone when I bit into it. Not terribly so, though. And maybe this cake will grow on me when I come back to it tomorrow. If you ever make it, let me know, I’m interested to know what you think!

When life throws you risotto, make Arancini!

There’s nothing I like less than day-old risotto. When it’s hot off the stove, all the textures and flavors meld together to create a soothing, heavenly mixture. But after a day in the fridge, it turns a bit gummy and then heating it up inevitably makes it gummier. What to do with day old risotto?!

Thank the Lord for this website. Because a while back, when I last made risotto, I said I threw out the leftovers because they were kind of nasty. A commenter wrote: “Don’t do that next time! Make Arancini!” Which is exactly what I did last night.

Arancini is a fried risotto ball. Putting it together is a cinch. The only thing I had to go out and buy was breadcrumbs (and salad ingredients to serve with it) but that’s it. That and cheese—but I had goat cheese on hand. So set up three bowls: (1) 1/2 cup of flour; (2) 2 eggs beaten; (3) 1/2 cup of bread crumbs.

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I seasoned the flour a bit but that’s your choice. Some of the recipes I read didn’t have you do that, but I’m a rebel. I opened a package of Coach Farm goat cheese that I bought at the farmer’s market, and unlike the last one this one was creamy and tangy just the way I like it:

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So the next part’s kind of gross, but just work fast. You open up your day-old refrigerated risotto, and stick your hand in and make a 1 to 2 inch ball. Flatten it and break off a piece of goat cheese, insert it in the middle, and reform the ball. (My risotto was really wet and it made all this really difficult, but I still managed.) Then dip that ball into the flour, coat, shake off; then into the egg; and finally the breadcrumbs. Here’s what you’ll end up with:

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I rested them on wax paper as I heated up the oil. It took an entire bottle of Canola oil to fill 2-inches of my heavy pot, but that happens when you fry. You heat up the oil to 360 (make sure you have a thermometer) and once there, drop your balls in. (I wanna dip my balls in it!) (<--anyone remember that?) IMG_4.JPG

They only took a little more than 2 minutes before they were golden brown. I took them out with a slotted spoon and drained them on paper towels:

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Don’t they look great? Just so I didn’t feel too unhealthy, I served them with a salad (basically a bag of exotic lettuce with grape tomatoes in a homemade vinaigrette—I’m a pro!):

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Biting into the Arancini was awesome: crunchy on the outside, and creamy/risotto-ey on the inside. Plus that goat cheese is a nice surprise:

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It’s almost worth making risotto so you can make this the next day. Two meals out of one dish: that’s my kind of food.

The Almond Cake That Will Save Your Soul

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The ingredients are simple: butter, sour cream, baking soda, flour, sea salt, sugar, almond paste, 4 egg yolks, almond extract and confectioner’s sugar for dusting. But assembled as they are and baked as they were, this cake is sheer perfection. On pg. 70 of Hesser’s book (referenced also in the previous post), this cake was first prepared by Amanda’s now mother-in-law. I’d like to break into that family somehow just so I’d have an excuse to genuflect at mom-in-law’s feet on a regular basis to thank her for this brilliant creation. “Thank you thank you thank you,” I’d say.

Am I overdoing it? Maybe. Just maybe. But look at this cake again and call me a liar:

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Look at this slice:

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Do you have any idea how good this tastes? Do you? DO YOU PUNK?

Ok, I’ll break my own rule established in the post below and share the recipe. I think recipes are in the public domain, anyway–it’s somewhere in the Federal Code 3.825 regarding Delicious Almond Cake Recipes and the Rule Against Perpetuities. I do have a law degree, you know.

The ingredients are mentioned above but not the amounts. So here we go again:

2 sticks butter, softened, more for buttering pan

1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

7-oz tube almond paste, cut into small pieces

(Lisa cut the almond paste using a juvenile method that I found offensive:

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“Those aren’t small pieces,” I pleaded.

“Shut up, crackwhore,” she retorted.)

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

(Ok, can I just mention that I’m usually great at separating egg yolks, and how these eggs I bought were deformed? I’d pour the egg into my hand, as I usuall do, spreading my fingers for the white to fall through–except the yellow bled into the white and I had to dump it all. Then I did the shell method–break the shell in half and pour back and forth until it’s all separated; but again the yolk bled. It took a big mess to finally get the four I needed. Don’t ask why I was using coffee mugs:

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Ok, I used the coffee mugs because you’re supposed to add the yolks one at a time so I put two yolks per mug then poured half the mug for each addition. Genius? I dare say it is!)

1 tsp almond extract

Confectioners’ sugar, for sifting over cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter sides and bottoms of one 9-inch springform pan; line sides and bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper. (You may forego the parchment paper as long as you are generous with the butter on the pan itself.) Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes.

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Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. It will look curdled; don’t worry. Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

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Bake about 1 hour. It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. When ready to serve, sift confectioners’ sugar on top and slice like a pie.

Behold the celestial magesty of this cake:

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Simple.

Elegant.

Robust.

Erotic.

Dyslexic.

Make it today and thank yourself tomorrow.

PUMPKIN CAKE: A Multimedia Extravaganza featuring the Music Video “Corner of the Pie”

Wow. It is 3:24 am and I am still exhilerated. What an evening! Pumpkin, spices, songs and magic and a beautiful cake to show for it. Where do I begin?

I know where. Epicurious.com. That’s where I found this recipe for “Stunning Spiced Pumpkin Cake” which Lisa and I decided to bake together tonight in honor of Halloween. (We decided not to do the chocolate leaves on top. Thank God. Or it would be 5:24 am and my eyes would be bleeding). Ricky came over and joined us too.

Let me tell you about our hijinks:

– We accidentally used an entire CAN of pumpkin instead of a cup of pumpkin and had to throw away the entire first batch of batter. A travesty!

– While the cakes were cooling, we went costume shopping. I bought bunny ears. I came home and tried them on and Lolita (the cat) had a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. Seriously. She began hissing and growling this horrible low grumble like something from a Stephen King novel. I think she scared me more than I scared her.

Anyway, back to the cake. The frosting is wild—butter, molasses, brown sugar, orange peel:

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Add two packets of cream cheese and it looks like this:

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I have to give Lisa a TON of credit for being a good judge of cake-doneness. After the recipe-suggested 25 minutes I thought the cakes were done. She didn’t. She was right. They were still wet inside. We let them cook 5 minutes longer and they came out PERFECT:

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Then there was the cooling. That’s when we went costume shopping. Ricky ate a calzone.

We came back and frosted the cake.

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Lisa applied her expert touch:

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The finished product:

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Beautiful, no?

But I’m not done with you people yet!

Lisa, Ricky and I have made for you a MUSIC VIDEO that defies all your wildest expectations and dreams. It fuses music, cooking, pumpkin and humor for one of the greatest cinematic experiences of your internet life. (I only hope you like show tunes.) There’s costumes, singing, egg-cracking and more MUCH more. You must must must watch this movie. I beg of you. It’s my Halloween gift to you. Happy Halloween! And enjoy…