Category Archives: Countertop Confessions

A look at what I’m eating, cooking or simply drooling over (not literally, of course).

Mussels with Tomatoes, Wine and Garlic

After raving about my mom’s mussels, tomato and white wine dish for months (years?), I finally got to prepare it for Jonathan when I visited him a few weeks ago. Of course it’s more delicious with fresh mussels, but I like to cheat save time sometimes and use the really convenient frozen mussels packs that are pretty easy to find at any grocery store (plus they already come packaged in a white wine and garlic sauce that makes the flavor really great). But here’s the full-blown recipe with the fresh stuff. And for those seafood-haters out there, I dare you to not like this dish.

Via Bon Appetit (different recipe)


1 lb of fresh mussels (or 1 pkg of frozen mussels if you want to save time/money)
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 of a 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
dry white wine
salt & pepper
a pinch of red pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
1 baguette


1. Place a large pot over medium heat. Pour enough olive oil in the pot to cover the bottom. Peal the garlic and saute in the olive oil until it becomes a golden color. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 7-8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, wash and rinse the mussels (in their shells)*. After the tomatoes have cooked for 7-8 minutes, add the mussels to the pot. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, a pinch of red pepper and two pinches of oregano (or add more of each spice to your liking). Let simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add 1/4 cup of white wine. Cover and let simmer 10 more minutes or fewer**, stirring occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom.

4. Slice the baguette, brush with olive oil and broil in the oven until golden.

5. Sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley (about a hand full) over the mussels before serving. Place baguette slices in bowls and pour mussels and sauce over (trust me, the sauce-soaked bread is one of the best parts).

Eat up!

*Skip this step if you’re using frozen mussels
**Cook for about half the time if using frozen mussels because they are precooked. Don’t let the mussels cook too long or they will shrink up/dry out. Also throw out any mussels whose shells have not opened while cooking.

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Recipes to try before summer* ends

Tomato and Cheddar Pie

Via Bon Appetit

The abundance of delicious and beautiful heirloom tomatoes this time of year basically beg to be combined with flaky, buttery crust and cheese.

Peach, Basil, Mozzarella and Balsamic Pizza 

Via Two Peas & Their Pod

I can’t go a day without fruit in the summertime. Peaches are especially juicy and delicious right now. Trying them on pizza just seems like a no-brainer.

Fresh Cherry Margaritas 

Via Annie's Eats

It’s a like a grown-up cherry limeade.

*Find seasonal cherries, peaches and tomatoes at a farmers market and reap the benefits of fresh, local fruit.



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Move over, Cupcake. There’s a new treat in town.

Ever since my dear friend Leslie came back from teaching English in France for eight months (isn’t life hard?) she’s been dying to perfect French pastries (and I’ve been dying and begging her to let me be her guinea pig). So on a hot summer night, four friends spent hours cooking and baking and drinking wine, laughing and loving every moment. For dinner we had salmon pasta, one of Leslie’s favorite dishes from her travels to Italy and one of my favorite dishes to make. For dessert, Laura rocked pain au chocolat, Deborah wowed us with adorable palmiers (“elephant ears”) and Leslie was on a mission to have the third time be the charm for her macaroons. As she peered into the oven to check on her babies, something magical happened: the stars aligned, and we heard Leslie exclaim, “I see the foot! Quel succès!” No, a real baby wasn’t being born. But as any macaroon baker knows (and I learned) the foot, or the crackly, puffed second layer, is the key to macaroon success (no matter how much we reassured Leslie that we indeed would eat the macaroons with or without feet). Needless to say, they were magnifique! So billowy and full of chocolate hazelnut deliciousness. Move over cupcake shops – I think it’s time for the macaroon’s 15 minutes of fame.

Laura and pain au chocolat, Deborah and palmiers & Leslie and macaroons (with feet!)

My golden Tipton really wanted to lend a hand with the macaroon assembly.

The book didn't lie: 10 steps to macaroon perfection indeed!

Hazelnut chocolate macaroons

Another revelation was $4 Verdi Spumante from World Market. It was clearly enjoyed.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Irises and orange, white and pink tulips from my brother (via me).

Part of my present to my mom is to cook dinner tonight. Recipes came from a new cookbook I gave her, Real Simple‘s Dinner Tonight: Done!.

1. Pasta with brie, mushrooms and arugula (source) 2. Spiced beef empanadas (source)

On the menu for tonight:

1. Pasta with Brie, mushrooms and arugula

2. Spiced beef empanadas

And for dessert:

3. Lemon panna cotta with lemon marmalade (source)

3. Lemon panna cotta with lemon marmalade from this month’s Italy issue of Bon Appetit.

I went ahead and made the dessert yesterday because it just chills in the fridge. Verdict is still out on the taste, but it was really easy to make overall. I love cooking with lemons – they smell so great and fresh and remind me of summertime. And I used a real vanilla bean for the first time ever (they’re costly but so, so fragrant).

My mom was the first person to show me the beauty of homemade meals and the love that goes into cooking for others; I’ve so enjoyed planning and preparing today’s meal and showing her even a smidgen of my appreciation.

How did you show your moms extra lovin’ today?

*Verdict is no longer out on the panna cotta after eating: D-E-licious! The lemon and vanilla are so perfect together. Now I want to try my hand at making other kinds of marmalade: orange… and… ok, maybe just orange for now:)

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Five or Fewer: Easy (Chick)peasy Hummus

These little guys have so many possibilities!

I read a job posting for an assistant food editor position once that said one of the “requirements” for the job was that the person must know that when a menu says “whipped chickpeas,” that’s just fancy talk for hummus. Want to know another secret? Hummus is another fancy word for pureed chickpeas + olive oil + lemon juice + garlic. Really, it’s that simple. And aside from the fact that my dog is terrified every time I get out the food processor, this is my current homemade obsession. 

Drain and rinse one can of chickpeas. In a food processor combine chickpeas, juice of one lemon and 3 tbs. of olive oil. Puree the ingredients for about a minute, or until the hummus has a smooth, creamy consistency. Add 1/4 a clove of garlic, chopped, and puree (or however much garlic you like; trust me that a little goes a long way, though). If you’re like me and have a cute tiny food processor, put in half the ingredients, puree, transfer to a container and then do the rest. BYOC (Bring Your Own Creativity): to add extra flavor to your hummus, try adding in kalamata olives,artichoke hearts, red pepper or anything else that strikes your fancy. I love eating hummus in a wrap with turkey, lettuce and feta or simple and delicious pita chips.

For homemade pita chips: Cut a round pita into eight triangles, taking apart the bottom and top layers for a total of 16 chips. Place them in a cookie sheet and drizzle olive oilsalt and oregano on top. Bake at 375 for 5 minutes and then flip them until they have a desired golden color and crispy texture.

Snack idea: I can’t remember where I read this idea recently – note: this isn’t my own creation – but if you slice a cucumber into 1-inch-thick slices, peel them, scoop out the seeds in the middle and add a dollop of hummus, they make great bite-size snacks.

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Five or Fewer: Salmon Pasta

Growing up my mom always made me the same favorite dish on my birthday: creamy salmon pasta. It always felt special because we rarely ate the dish outside of our Christmas Eve menu. It had such a fancy air around it because of the salmon, but it wasn’t until I went to college and started cooking for myself that my eyes were opened to a simple secret – the dish is ridiculously easy to make (there’s only five ingredients in it!). It’s still just as special in my eyes because of the nostalgic memories attached to it, but fortunately now it can also be my go-to meal when I’m not feeling very creative – or, better yet, when I want to wow someone else with my deceivingly elaborate meal.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1 box penne or farfalle (bowtie) pasta (*try Barilla Whole Grain for extra flavor and nutrients). Add a dash of salt to the water. While the pasta cooks (approx. 10-11 minutes for al dente texture), saute a clove of garlic in a large pan with 1 tbs. olive oil. Add 1/2 pint (8 oz.) heavy whipping cream to the pan and let simmer 1-2 minutes (remove garlic at this point). Cut 1 pkg. smoked salmon into small pieces and add to pan. Simmer until cream starts to thicken. Before straining the pasta, add a few tablespoons of the starchy water to the cream pan (this helps the cream stick to the pasta). Strain pasta, then add it to the pan and continue stirring on low heat for another minute to fully coat the pasta with the cream. Add a dash of dry or fresh parsley and freshly cracked black pepper and serve.

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