“The Party Cake Builder” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Given that my dad’s life philosophy is, “Any excuse for a party,” I’ve got to say that I was initially attracted to the name of this recipe. Who wouldn’t want to know how to build a party cake? Count. Me. In.

The basic premise behind this recipe is that Deb gives you a foundation recipe that’s pretty simple and requires no unusual ingredients or multiple bowls. You then scale it up following the directions in the book depending on how big a cake and/or party you’re having. Absolute genius.

So we weren’t having a party on the day I made this cake, but following my dad’s life philosophy, I made it anyway. It went down a storm. Sure, it wasn’t the most exciting cake I’ve ever made, but it was really good and really easy. I’m fairly adept at making cakes, but I can imagine this would be the perfect recipe for someone who was a bit nervous about making a whole cake. (I feel your pain. The first cake I made [when I was 12, but still] was an utter disaster.) This would be a good place to start. It’s also a perfect recipe for when you need a lot of cake, like cupcakes for a school bake sale or a large sheet cake for a pot-luck dinner.

Everyone in this family loved it. It was really moist and the chocolate icing I made to go with it was lovely. I even pushed the boat out and used my American sprinkles (twice in one month! I KNOW), which made it look even prettier.

Party builder cake? Let’s do this.

“The Party Cake Builder” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” – Our Verdict

Maureen: What did you think?

Kirstin: I really liked it, but I didn’t like her long introductions.

Maureen: I’m with you on that. The long introduction would make the recipe spill onto second page, which meant a lot of flipping about, back and forth between instructions and ingredients.

Kirstin: A shorter introduction would be good.

Maureen: i don’t know how you shorten it, because I think that’s her writing style. I can understand that, as I also have a tendency to go on a bit.

Kirstin: This was a good book. All the recipes worked.

Maureen: They all worked, we liked some more than others, but that’s to be expected of any cookbook.  But I liked how she had a lot of different recipes for different things: breakfast, vegetarian, dinners, desserts, parties.

Kirstin: There’s a good selection of cuisines too, like Asian and Moroccan. It was good

Maureen: My only complaint was that there was only one fish recipe, but that’s because she doesn’t like fish, apparently.

Kirstin: The party food section was good, too.

Maureen: This book is definitely a keeper.

Kirstin: I already gave it to a friend of mine, that’s how much I liked it. I can see using it over and over again.

“The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” 
Overall Grade (A- F): Kirstin: A. Maureen: A. Good variety of recipes, the recipes worked, and I could see using it over and over again.
Best recipes: Milanese chicken. It was amazing. It was really yummy and the salad went really with it. Maureen: Chocolate peanut butter cookies.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A: It’s really lovely and consistent. It’s not too overdesigned.
Any disasters? No. There were some things we liked more than others, but that’s not a surprise.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf. Definitely a keeper.

“The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” – Our Verdict

“Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a weekend treat for us. And when I say “treat,” I really mean it.

These cookies were unbelievably delicious. But also, given that they took two days to make, they were a labour of love. I’m sure I could have completed them in one afternoon, but spreading the process over two days seemed to make it easier somehow.

First I had to make the peanut butter cookie batter. That was a pretty straightforward process, but then they had to set in the freezer. Rather than doing that, I put them in the refrigerator overnight. I would have used one of my reliable cookie cutters to make shaped cookies, but my 10-year-old helpers weren’t so keen on the labour intensity of that task, so we just cut the cookie logs instead. They shapes weren’t uniform, but they were close enough, and that’s a much easier way to do that step.

After baking, you then have to fill them with the chocolate (yum). I thought it was much easier to do this with a piping bag, but if that seems too challenging for you, just use some teaspoons. The end result is beautiful, if I do say so myself, and tastes even better.

For anyone who loves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (and I’m going to enthusiastically raise my hand here) these cookies could be described as heavenly. But after 15 years of living in the U.K., where Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups do not enjoy the same adulation as they do in the U.S., I know that they are an acquired taste.


“Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Mustard Milanese with a Rocket Fennel salad” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

Kirstin: So Georgia watched me make this recipe, complete with mystery ingredient.

Miles: What is it? I love the taste of this chicken!

Tom: Yes, there’s a little something extra on the chicken. And as for that salad, it’s totally delicious!


Kirstin: Both of them have copious quantities of mustard in them. In the dressing and on the chicken. And Tom and I have a little extra on the top of the chicken, because Deb Perelman says we will thank her for it. And we do! We do!

Ella: But I don’t like mustard!

Kirstin: But you like this chicken, right?

Miles: I would love to eat this chicken again.

Kirstin: I shall see what can be arranged.

“Mustard Milanese with a Rocket Fennel salad” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Pork Chops with Cider, Horseradish and Dill” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you would like to give this recipe a go, you can find the recipe reproduced here by clicking through on this sentence.

Andrew (13): Yeah! Mashed potatoes!

Maureen: Autumn must be here if we’re back to having mashed potatoes.

Nicholas (10): So what are we having?

Maureen: Pork chops with cider… and some other stuff.

Tim: Maybe a more specific description is in order.

Maureen: Well, I didn’t mention the dill, since you don’t like it, but it’s pretty obvious since it’s sitting on top of the pork chop.

Tim: Anything else?

Maureen: Oh. And horseradish. I didn’t think I’d be able to find one, but sure enough, Creaky Shed came to my rescue. This is certainly a root vegetable I wouldn’t find at any of the local supermarkets. The only problem is I only needed two tablespoons of grated horseradish, but the horseradish I got would last us into the next decade at that rate. Do you like it?

Tim: Yes, it’s nice.

Andrew and Nicholas: Yes, it’s good.

Maureen: Would you like me to make it again?

Tim: Why not? It’s pretty good, and it seems like a good thing to eat as we move into autumn.

Maureen: I’ll be happy to do that, given that I’ve got plenty of horseradish to make it with.



“Pork Chops with Cider, Horseradish and Dill” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”


Maureen: For tonight’s edition of Meat Free Monday, we have pasta with a twist. Does anyone want to guess what the twist is?

Andrew (13): Is it pepper?

Maureen: No.

Nicholas (10): Is it pumpkin?

Maureen: No. No pumpkins were harmed in the making of this pasta.

Andrew: Chilli flakes?

Maureen: There are chilli flakes in there, but that’s not the twist.

Nicholas: Is is sun-dried tomatoes?

Maureen: That’s not fair, because you had insider information since you were with me at the store when I bought them. But still, no, that’s not the twist.

Andrew: Is it couscous?

Maureen: Now we’re getting closer, but you’re still wrong. It’s not couscous, but it looks like it in the dish.

Continue reading ““Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook””

“Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Green Slaw” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy making this green slaw is directly related to the new addition in our kitchen. During our stop in Reims on the way back home from our French holiday, we stumbled upon a Galeries Lafayette– an utterly fantastic French department store. As we always do when we are in a foreign country, we stopped in the housewares department to see what treasures we could find.

Tim spent a good amount of time admiring the pressure cookers. I don’t have to tell you that the French take both their food and the equipment to make it seriously. He was very keen to take one home with us. In what may be a first for our relationship, I found myself resisting his pitch to get another kitchen gadget.

As I explained to him, I think my lack of enthusiasm to acquire a pressure cooker had to do with the fact that I grew up with one — my mother used hers several times a week– and it was drilled into me how dangerous they could be if they exploded. But in the end, I abandoned my resistance to the acquire the pressure cooker. (I’m so glad I did but that’s a story for another day).

So I made this green slaw for our inaugural cooking in the pressure cooker. As we were making pulled pork, we thought the green slaw would be perfect with it. And it was. It’s delicious. It’s a perfect side dish for a barbeque, or if you need a sprightly salad. The fact that it wasn’t laden with mayonnaise was a bonus. We loved it, and enjoyed seconds the next day very much.

A note about preparation: your food processor is your friend. There’s a lot of chopping in this, but if you just use the slicer in your food processor, it will only take you minutes to get it all prepared.

Both the green slaw, and the acquisition of a pressure cooker, are highly recommended.

“Green Slaw” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Alfredo Pasta with Sweet Peas” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaureen: Here’s another good dish for Meat Free Monday. What do you think?

Nicholas (10): I like it, but there’s a lot of peas.

Maureen: I agree. There are a lot of peas– the peas amounted to twice the weight of the pasta. And I didn’t even put in as many peas as called for in the recipe.

Andrew (13): I like it too. The amount of peas doesn’t bother me.

Maureen: But I notice that you left a lot of peas in the bottom of your bowl. Can you taste the difference? I used fresh peas instead of frozen.

Andrew: Nope. I can’t.

Maureen: I can’t either.

Nicholas: I can.

Maureen: You’re just being nice because you know how long it took me to pod them.

Tim: I can taste the difference. The peas are definitely crunchier. But I didn’t have to pod them, so maybe I’d feel differently if I did.

Maureen: Podding the peas was the worst. I kept thinking to myself, “Nigella would never make me pod peas. She’d be happy with the frozen ones.” Podding the peas took a lot of time, not to mention made me bitter in the process.

TIm: How long did it take you?

Maureen: At least 20 minutes, and I only got about 250 grams worth. Should I make this again?

Nicholas: Sure.

Andrew: I guess.

Maureen: That’s far from universal acclaim. I thought you guys would go nuts for the sauce, with the double cream and the multitude of parmesan. This was good, but really, it’s just a variation on the pasta, creme fraiche and pea dish that I usually make.

“Alfredo Pasta with Sweet Peas” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Harvest roast chicken with grapes, olives and rosemary” from “Smitten Kitchen”

Kirstin: I am one of those people who doesn’t like sweet things mixed in with the savoury. I don’t like apricots in tagines and I don’t like raisins in my curry. That said, I do like most other things! So when I read the extensive introduction to this recipe and how Deb Perelman’s husband feels the same way as I do about sweet things, I was prepared to give it a go.


Miles: This is one tasty chicken.

Tom: The grapes are perfect with the olives.

Kirstin: Aren’t they just? It’s a perfect taste combination. I am converted.


“Harvest roast chicken with grapes, olives and rosemary” from “Smitten Kitchen”

“Cinnamon French Toast” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a dark and stormy night Saturday morning, so I decided to cheer things up a bit by making Smitten Kitchen’s Cinnamon French Toast.

When I push the boat out for breakfast around here I tend to make either American pancakes (I can’t deny my roots) or waffles (using the waffle maker kindly given to me by my best friend when I was craving waffles when pregnant with Nicholas). My mother was a big fan of french toast, though, so this is a dish that I know and love well.

The good thing about this recipe is that it is a breakfast casserole, so it is designed to made ahead. So if you happen to be hosting a brunch, this might be something to try.

I reduced the recipe by half because it served eight, and there were only four of us on that Saturday morning. Consequently, the bread isn’t layered as much as it is in her own pictures. But given that we didn’t think there was enough custard in there anyway — compared to the breakfast casseroles we’ve enjoyed made by Tim’s mother– maybe it was a good thing there was only half the amount of bread in it.

What was the final verdict? It was good, but not good enough for us to give up our waffles or pancakes. If nothing else, though, it did cheer up what otherwise would have been a very dreary Saturday morning.

If you would like to give Cinnamon French Toast a go, click through on this sentence to find Smitten Kitchen’s post on it. (Hot tip: The recipe can be found at the very bottom on the long post.)

“Cinnamon French Toast” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”