Recession Chic

a down economy does not = ugly shoes

Desserts from the heart, not a box May 3, 2011

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 11:22 AM
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My love for baking as a kid is really what got me interested in cooking as an adult. The satisfaction of creating a meal is only topped by smiles from friends and family after their first bite of your dessert. After a long, yet fruitful (and fruit-filled to fight sweets cravings) Lent, I was ready for some non-stop dessert making. I tried four new recipes in the span of 10 days and learned a good bit about what makes a dessert really good and a baker really crazy. I forgot to take a photo of my fourth dessert, brownies, but I promise they looked as good as they tasted.

Dessert 1: Lemon Angel Pie (for Passover/Seder) – Vanilla meringue crust, lemon curd filling, whipped cream top

Lessons learned:

  • There are a lot of good ideas for dessert that can easily accommodate diet restrictions without tasting like a dessert of affliction.
  • Fresh, homemade whipped cream always tastes better and is worth the effort.
  • People forget how much they love lemon.
  • It never hurts to try to make a boring-looking dessert more attractive

Dessert 2: Flourless Chocolate Torte (Passover/Seder and Chocolate Lovers) – dark chocolate, eggs, sugar, magic

Lessons Learned:

  • Always buy the best ingredients (read chocolate) you can find. Just do it. It’s worth the money.
  • Know your audience. Not everyone appreciates dark chocolate, so be sure to add some sweet whipped cream on the side.
  • I wish I had two ovens.
  • If you have to transport it, keep it in the spring-form pan.

Dessert 3: Blueberry Pie (My Jeffrey’s Birthday) – fresh blueberries, old-fashioned crust, more corn starch than you think

Lessons Learned:

  • Pay attention to the rack position in the oven, even if the recipe doesn’t make a suggestion.
  • Try the fruit first before deciding how much sugar to use. That way the filling isn’t too sweet.
  • Don’t multi-task when rolling out your dough for the crust. You will just create more work.
  • Let go of perfectionist tendencies and realize that a crisper crust authenticates a homemade pie.

Dessert 4: Fudge Brownies – unsweetened chocolate, coffee, chocolate chips

Lessons Learned:

  • Everybody likes brownies, so go ahead and bake them.
  • Use big chocolate chips or chocolate chunks in the brownie batter. A crunch of chocolate in a fudgey brownie is sublime.
  • Don’t have coffee ice cream? Shame on you.
  • No need to feel like you must eat all the brownies at once, stick them in the freezer and pull one out as you need them.

Dough Diaries: It’s Pie Time! May 6, 2010

Filed under: Dough Diaries — karakrautter @ 8:45 AM
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As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved sweets. My mom reminds me that as a kid I might have sold my family for a cookie. Chocolate by far is my favorite, and pies my least favorite. My apathy for pie as a child grew into a dislike as an adult. My good friend Kristy suggested that “cooked fruit” might be the issue, but I also have never been a fan of chocolate pies (crazy, I know).

So, instead of continuing to ponder why I don’t care for pie, I decided it wast time to try to bake one. Since this year has been all about dough, it was a logical addition to my baking/cooking challenges.

I wanted to avoid graham cracker style crusts because I thought a ‘real’ pie crust would be a better test. But, since the weather is already getting warmer, I wanted to try to do a light, citrus filling.

The answer? Lemon Chess Pie. A southern tradition, and a beginner-friendly recipe. It took me a few attempts to get the crust into the pie pan, but after that, the pie came together perfectly.

I enjoyed my slice of pie, but I think the others that ate it got a lot more joy out of the dessert. Still not a huge pie fan, but I’m more than happy to whip one up for those friends of mine that do.


Dining In: Gnocchi with Basil, Tomatoes and Olives October 21, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 7:54 PM
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Last week I discovered, much to my delight, that Central Market is selling their own freshly made pasta. I’m definitely not against boxed noodles or making the pasta from scratch (just need that pasta-making add-on for my Kitchen Aid mixer). But, like their bunches of herbs for $1, the convenience and freshness of the pasta grabbed my attention.

It’s been a while since I prepared some gnocchi and what Central Market had looked tasty. I prepared half of the gnocchi last week with a simple marinara, but wanted to do something more fun with it for this week’s recipe.

I checked out my good friend to see what they could offer up for inspiration. Several chefs had recipes for making gnocchi but it took a while to find a recipe for a good sauce. These two recipes caught my eye for the basil and tomato and the olives, so I decided to fuse them together to make something new.


  • 1.5 – 2 cups of freshly made gnocchi
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a bunch of fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook for 10-15min.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Drain gnocchi, leaving some pasta water and add the lemon and oil mixture to the gnocchi
  4. Mix in the Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, bail and thyme.
  5. Top with a little extra cheese and serve!



Dining In: Fish Piccata Dinner for One August 20, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 5:33 PM
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This week I really wanted to cook a whole meal, not just one dish. Perhaps I feared that I may have grown a bit lazy in fulfilling my cooking commitment, or I hadn’t really challenged myself (culinary speaking) OR I really wanted a good excuse to go to Central Market after work. Let’s say it was a little of all of that, along with finding this Serious Eats recipe from almost 3 months ago, Fish Piccata.

The recipe suggested serving the fish with rice, which I agreed was a good idea. But, I thought it really needed a veggie to feel complete. One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus, and one of my favorite ways to prepare it is with a little lemon — perfect to go with the piccata. The last element I needed to decide on before heading to the store was the rice. This year I’ve started cooking more Jasmine rice and adding flavor twists to it, like cilantro and lime. So, for the piccata meal, I decided to add a little Italian spin with Parmesan cheese, olive oil and parsley.

Everything was beyond delicious and ready in about 30 minutes. This is a meal to definitely make again but maybe for more than just myself next time. 🙂

Fish Piccata Dinner for One


For the fish…

  • 1 fillet white fish such as tilapia, pike, or sole – I used orange ruffy, since it was on sale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil – I used my lemon infused olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Flour as needed for dredging
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • chopped parsley for garnish

For the rice…

  • 1/2 cup of uncooked jasmine rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the veggie…

  • 1/2 bunch of asparagus
  • olive oil
  • garlic salt
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon


For the fish…

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Season the fillets with salt, pepper and olive oil, then dredge lightly in the flour.
  3. Once hot, add the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Once the butter foams and begins to brown, add the fish fillets, turn the heat to high, and brown well, turning once, 4 to 5 minutes total.
  4. Remove the fillets to a warm resting place, and add the wine to the pan.
  5. Scrape up the browned bits and add the lemon juice along with the capers. Reduce for half a minute, then add the last tablespoon of butter. Return the fillets to the sauce to warm.

For the rice…

  1. Begin fixing rice after seasoning the fish. Follow the directions provided on the box — except, before the rice completely finishes cooking: mix in salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley and Parmesan cheese.

For the veggie…

  1. Turn broiler on high and clean and prep the asparagus.
  2. Place veggies on a baking pan with a lip. Spray or drizzle olive oil over the asparagus and then sprinkle with garlic salt.
  3. Put the prepared pan into the oven until asparagus turns a deep green and are slightly tender.
  4. Remove from the oven and squeeze half a lemon over the greens.

Plate the fish atop the rice and garnish with remaining parsley. Add asparagus on the side and put that open bottle of white wine to good use!



Dining In: Spinach Ravioli with Lemon and Parsley August 2, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 6:24 PM
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This week I realized how much I have grown to love cooking this year. After returning from a fantastic vacation to Vancouver, I could not wait to get back to trying new recipes in my kitchen. The grocery store trip was quite successful since I was able to find all I needed for two different meals AND my favorite sparkling wine from Washington state was on sale for less than $9.

For years now grocery stores have offered those fresh pasta packages in the deli section providing cooks handy 2-4 servings of raviolis, tortellinis and just plain pasta. But, have you ever wondered how to make them more interesting? I have. Normally, I would just boil, add some olive oil and Parmesan or chunky red sauce and call it dinner. Well, that was back in my less creative days of cooking. I saw this recipe on BrokeAss Gourmet and got really excited about making packaged pasta more chic.


  • 1 16-oz. package spinach ravioli
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon infused olive oil (a fantastic gift from my mom!)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus a little extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook ravioli according to package directions in salted water.
  2. While ravioli cooks, heat olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  3. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until translucent.
  4. Add chopped parsley, half-and-half, lemon juice and zest, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper.
  5. Once cooked, drain ravioli and add to sauce.
  6. Plate dish with additional Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.


It was beyond delicious. I cooked all the pasta, but only used half of it for this dish. Later this week, I plan on trying another innovative sauce with the leftover ravioli.