A Parfait Shrek Would Love


I never would have thought to take food advice from a cartoon character, but Donkey in Shrek made a valid point:

Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait”? Parfaits are delicious!

Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.

Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!

And who can argue with that? In celebration of Netflix’s new slew of musical-themed titles like Shrek the Musical, I created a green parfait that Shrek and Donkey can both dig their spoons into.


A Jell-O layered Shrek Parfait in the back with a Jell-O free one in the front.

Parfaits can be a great wholesome breakfast or a light dessert. Here’s the key to get kids to dig all the way through the granola, yogurt, and fruit—there’s a layer of Jell-O cubes at the bottom. I discovered the idea of adding Jell-O into layered desserts when working on developing recipes for Knickerbocker Glories—yes, like those in Harry Potter. They have layers of fruit, ice cream, nuts, cake, Jell-O and  more, with the Jell-O adding a jiggly, fun dimension to the treat.


As another nod to Shrek, this parfait harnesses green elements like the Lime Jell-O, kiwi slices and green grapes. Placing the grapes into the freezer the night before gives an added cold, crunchy element. If you haven’t discovered the allure of frozen grapes, you’re in for a treat. I try to always keep some on hand in the freezer–they’re perfect to pop into your mouth, especially during the summer months. Here’s another tip—I used to consider it such a war trying to get the kiwi fruit out of its skin until I learned this trick: cut a ripe kiwi in half and then work a small spoon around the edge of the fruit’s flesh, rotating throughout the kiwi until the kiwi half is loosened from the skin.

Shrek’s Kiwi-Yogurt Parfait

For an adult version of the parfait, skip the Jell-O; stir in 2 teaspoons lime zest into the Greek yogurt along with the honey and add a layer of shredded coconut into the parfait for a tropical flair.

Yield: 2 to 4 parfaits, depending on glass size. 

Jell-O optional Parfait

Jell-O optional Parfait

1 (3-ounce) package Lime Jell-O (optional)

2 cups green grapes

1 (17.6-ounce) container plain 0% or 2% Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon honey

4 to 6 ripe kiwis

1 to 2 cups granola or cereal

If using Jell-O, the night before making the parfait, prepare Jell-O according to package directions. And while you’re at it, add washed grapes into a large Ziplock bag and place in the freezer.

To prepare, if using the Jell-O, cut into cubes. Open the yogurt container and swirl honey into it, stirring to combine. Slice the grapes in half and chop or slice each kiwi.

The exact amount of fruit and yogurt used in the parfait will depend a lot of the size of your glass—I like to use a parfait glass like the one pictured, a wine glass or even a small mason jar. Start layering the parfait by adding a couple spoonfuls of yogurt into the bottom. Then, layer with optional Jell-O, grapes, kiwi slices, more spoonfuls of yogurt and then lastly topping with granola.

Homemade Jell-O Pudding Pop Recipe


Are you drooling yet?

For April, Netflix has assembled an assortment of movies and television shows that wax 70s and 80s nostalgic. We’re talking classics like Saved by the Bell (a total favorite of mine), Baby-sitters Club, Family Ties, Smurfs, and more. When you think 80s in food terms, what enters your mind? I go straight to Fun Dips, Pop Rocks, and none other than those Jell-O Pudding Pops. As a child of the 80s, I remember sweater-clad Bill Cosby constantly on television with those Pudding Pops commercials, making my mouth water each and every time.

Even though Jell-O Pudding Pops were somewhat of an 80s phenomenon, they pulled a disappearing act in the 90s for reasons unknown. But don’t fret, because they are easily recreated. Now, you can show your kids exactly what they’ve been missing.

Pudding Pops are essentially frozen chocolate pudding using a cornstarch-based, dairy-rich pudding. I think 2 percent milk strikes a perfect balance but feel free to use whatever type of milk is hanging out in your fridge, whether it’s whole milk or skim. For a dairy-free option, soy milk or almond milk is a great substitute. There are also two ways to go with how to freeze them–either in whatever Popsicle mold you have on hand or by using those cute Dixie cups to recreate that Jell-O Pudding Pop look:


Using Dixie cups as molds harnesses the more traditional Pudding Pop look.

Now doesn’t this look like what you grew up on? If you use Dixie cups to mold the Pudding Pops, after they’re frozen, use scissors to cut away the cup from the Popsicle. It’s a quick and simple trick to remove the Pudding Pop in one simple motion.

Using Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding is totally ok; just make 1 box of 3.4-ounce pudding mix according to directions. Pour it into 4 to 6 Popsicle molds and freeze overnight. However, this recipe has more of a pow of chocolate than the pudding mix can provide and is made in less than 10 minutes flat. Either way, if your family is anything like mine, coming home to a late afternoon snack of Pudding Pops (for kids and grown-ups alike) is greeted with total excitement. And a hastily-eaten Pudding Pop.

Homemade Chocolate Pudding Pop Recipe

Any extra chocolate pudding that can’t fit into a popsicle mold can be devoured once it cools, much to the satisfaction of kids.
Yield: 8 to 10 pudding pops

1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
⅓ cup cornstarch
Pinch salt
3 ½ cups 2-percent milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the chocolate pudding: In a heavy-duty medium pot (that is off the heat), add sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Use a whisk to mix it together, essentially creating your own Jell-O instant pudding mix. Add in the milk and vanilla; turn the heat to medium-high, whisking the mixture vehemently until no clumps remain. Continue stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble, about 4 to 6 minutes. Once mixture is at a roaring simmer, cook 1 minute longer, still whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding consistency. Pour into a heat-resistant measuring cup, because the spout helps pour the pudding into the molds mess-free.

Make using Popsicle molds: Immediately pour the hot chocolate pudding into 8 to 10 Popsicle molds. Let them sit until cool, about 1 to 2 hours. Fasten the handles into the Popsicle molds and freeze overnight. To unmold, hold the Popsicle under hot running water for about 15 to 30 seconds. Press onto the mold to remove the pudding pop, gently twisting and keeping mold under running water until it is released. Whatever you do, don’t fiercely pull the handle! The handle will come right out without the pudding pop (And, yes, I learned this the hard way.).

Make using Dixie cups: Immediately pour the hot chocolate pudding into 8 to 10 small Dixie cups. Let them sit until cool, about 1 to 2 hours. When pudding is cool, insert wooden Popsicle sticks into the middle of each cup; freeze overnight. To unmold, use scissors to cut down the side of the Dixie cups, peeling off the cup from the pudding pop.

Egg Cream: What’s in a Name?

Chocolate Egg Cream from Artisan Soda Workshop

I’m obsessed with the fresh, constant supply of seltzer water pumped out by my small SodaStream. So much so that I wrote a cookbookThe Artisan Soda Workshop, revolving around syrups that can be mixed into the seltzer for DIY soda. And then it was a thrill to write a blog post for SodaStream featuring a recipe from the cookbook. I chose to highlight my Egg Cream recipe, which is misleading as far as names. As I convey in the post, my Northern-raised mom would tell this Southern kid about how she missed Egg Creams. Of course, I thought the drinks actually contained eggs–a raw yolk floating in the mix of a drink. As an adult, I learned that an egg cream is actually nothing like that. It’s a splash of rich, chocolate syrup mixed with dairy and topped with seltzer. I use cream versus the more traditional milk because it makes the drink oh-so-much-more fizzy. Also, add a splash of booze like Kahlua turns this into cocktail magic.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce, Two Ways

One of my first *wow* moments from culinary training was learning how to correctly peel gingerroot. Using a peeler never worked quite right due to the knobbiness of ginger. Cutting off the peel with a knife made me feel like half the ginger was ending up in the trash. The trick is to use a spoon to scrape the peel away, which works like kitchen magic.

I’m a self-admitted ginger-aholic. I can’t get enough of it and I’m always on a quest to use it in everything (even drinks…see here.), so this was a time-saver. One of my favorite ginger concoctions this past year has been whizzing gingerroot, scallions, canola oil and salt in the food processor. I make a pot of rice, saute chicken thighs and then serve it with ginger sauce to dip it. It transforms ho-hum chicken and rice to fabulous. I’ll saute shrimp and pour the sauce over it, or even drizzle a bit into butternut squash soup. It’s massively versatile, and I plan my dinners around the sauce when a vat of it is in the fridge.  But then I stumbled on Francis Lam’s version, which uses hot oil instead of cold. Results are below.

Gilt Taste’s “hot” version of the sauce


 Garlic-Scallion Sauce, Two Ways

The version using cold oil and just a food processor: about 4 ounces gingerroot (peeled and chopped in 1-inch pieces), 2 to 3 roughly chopped scallions, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more) in a food processor. Puree it all, while pouring 1/2 cup canola oil down the feed tube. Puree until emulsified. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

The version using hot oil, a food processor and many pots: about 2 ounces gingerroot (peeled and chopped in 1-inch pieces), 2 bunches of scallions and salt whirled in the food processor and then put in a large heat-proof pot. 1 cup of canola oil is heated until smoking and then poured over the scallion-ginger combo. The complete recipe is on Gilt Taste.

The Verdict: There’s no denying that the hot oil gently cooks the scallions and ginger, mellowing out both. In a hurry, go for the version using cold oil. It’s quicker with easier clean-up. If time’s on your side, the hot oil version rocks. Just make sure to double or triple the amount. You’ll eat it all.

Chocolate Fondue.. Easy as Can Be

Who knew chocolate fondue could be so easy? Photo courtesy of Dalboz17 on Flickr.

While chocolate fondue isn’t quite difficult to make, it involves tempering chocolate and all that jazz–which, let’s face it, can kind of be a pain. But, while working on my cookbook, The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook, I discovered a quick, practically fool-proof way to get chocolate fondue the easy way. And that’s by melting chocolate chips and chocolate syrup together. The chocolate syrup from Trader Joe’s is already a pretty good quality–that’s what helps the most. Also, make sure to use a good-quality brand of chocolate chips. This is a quick way to impress a loved one with your (ahem) chocolate culinary talents. Just make sure to hide the chocolate syrup bottle, ok?

Chocolate Fondue 

Yield: 2 servings

Accompaniments like sliced strawberries, banana chunks, pound cake pieces, marshmallows, etc
1/2 cup Chocolate syrup, like Trader Joe’s Organic Midnight Moo Chocolate Flavored Syrup
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

1. Cut the fruit and other accompaniments into bite-size pieces. Arrange them on a plate.
2. In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir together the chocolate syrup and 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Microwave on high until melted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (depending on the strength of your microwave).
3. Remove from the microwave and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips.
4. Place into a fondue pot to keep warm. Serve, dipping the fruit and cake pieces into the fondue with toothpicks or fondue forks.

Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts: Make the Life of a Mom-to-Be Easy(er)

A collection of cookbooks for the holidays.

When a friend of mine—also an avid cook—had her first baby recently, she was trying to figure out how to cook with a baby bouncing on her hip. “If only someone would write a cookbook on one-handed cooking,” she said. Soon after that conversation, I met Debbie Koenig, who was working on a cookbook with that very premise (and more) in mind. The giant tome (400 pages!) will be published in February, and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak. This was good timing, since I had promised another friend with a baby-on-the-way that I would stock her freezer with food this weekend, hopefully before her little boy made his appearance. She and her husband had requested Italian, so I browsed Debbie’s cookbook, titled Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents.

I settled on making Lasagna Ravioli, using a combo of cheese and meat ravioli. In the cookbook, Debbie lists variations on the theme with a mushroom-spinach version and a Southwestern beef. While the Southwestern one (full of enchilada sauce, corn and Cheddar) called to me, I decided to go with the straight-up Italian version, knowing that appealed more to my friends’ taste buds. Along with the Lasagna Ravioli, I also made Debbie’s Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach and Mint, which has all the usual suspects of a baked pasta: tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and pasta, of course. But there’s a mint and ricotta layer hidden into the middle of the dish. The mint adds a uniqueness to the pasta without making it too terribly weird for kids. Both recipes were so simple to make (Can you mix things in a bowl and boil pasta? Then you’re good to go.).

Mint mixed with ricotta and stuffed into this baked pasta makes for a yummy yet unexpected twist. And, yeah, I can’t figure out where all my spoons have disappeared too, so that is a plastic spoon you see.

Now to gloat about the cookbook a bit. It made me want to have a baby, just to have an excuse to utilize it on a daily basis. First of all, the cookbook is packed with a gazillion recipes that I wanted to try. But what makes it so special is how Debbie’s voice comes through, like a (non-creepy) whisper in my kitchen cooking alongside me. There are tips from other moms who have made the recipes, along with how their family reacted, and instructions on turning each meal into baby food. The book is exactly what it aims to be: a cookbook to guide parents on feeding themselves easily and well through the sleep deprived state of new parenthood.

If a new parent is on your Christmas list, your shopping just got much easier. Debbie has a special deal where pre-orders will be eligible for a free, signed bookplate.

And because this is the life of a cookbook author, I’m extremely fortunate to know other authors with excellent cookbooks to stuff in Christmas stockings. From beer geeks to sandwich lovers, the food fanatic in your life is covered with the cookbooks below.

The gooey cheesiness of the Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach, and Mint from Parents Need to Eat Too.

Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach, and Mint
Recipe adapted from Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents by Debbie Koenig (William Morrow Paperbacks; February 21, 2012).

Serves 8
Cooking time: 60 minutes

1 (14.5- to 16-ounce box) whole wheat or whole-grain ziti or penne
1 (5- to 9-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 cup ricotta
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (24-ounce to 26-ounce) jar good-quality pasta sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease two 8-inch square baking dishes or one 9- by 13-inch dish.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than directed on the package.
3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, mint and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside.
4. When the timer rings, add the entire bag of spinach to the pot–it will wilt quickly—and cook for 1 minute more. (The pasta should be slightly undercooked). Drain well, then return pasta and spinach to the pot.
5. Add the entire jar of sauce to the spinach and pasta, and stir to combine.
6. If using the two 8-inch baking dishes, spread about one quarter of the pasta mixture on the bottom of each prepare dish (use one half of the pasta mixture if using one 9- by 13-inch dish). Spoon all of the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta layer (it will be too sticky to spread.) It will remain a separate layer, even after cooking. Top with remaining pasta mixture.
7. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top, and bake until the mozzarella is melted and golden-brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

More Cookbook Love:
100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love
by Jill Silverman Hough
Chock-full of delicious, creative, and easy-to-make recipes for everyday cooks, 100 Perfect Pairings makes food and wine pairing easy and approachable. With recipes organized into twelve chapters by wine variety, simply turn to the chapter for the wine you want to serve, make any of the entrees you find there, and enjoy it with your wine. It’s that easy. Be it Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir, a big dinner party or a simple meal with friends, “100 Perfect Pairings” promises wonderful recipes that make every pairing, well, perfect!

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor whose forte is making food and cooking simple yet special. On Jill’s blog: Tortilla Soup from Almost Meatless

Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet by Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond
Ideal for today’s conscientious carnivores, Almost Meatless is a timely new book featuring 60+ tasty recipes that go light on the meat. Without compromising flavor or protein, these dishes maximize health benefits while minimizing the grocery bill and impact on the planet.

Co-author Tara Mataraza Desmond is a writer, cookbook author and recipe developer focused on food for health and wellness, pregnancy and parenthood. On Tara’s blog: Yogurt Chicken with Yogurt Chutney Sauce from 100 Perfect Pairings.

The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens by Patricia Tanumihardja
Asian grandmothers—whether of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, or Indian descent— are keepers of the cultural, and culinary, flame. Their mastery of delicious home-cooked dishes and comfort food makes them the ideal source for this cookbook. The 130 tantalizing dishes assembled in this tome comprise hearty food, brightly flavored, and equally good to look at and eat. Plus, all the recipes are translated to work in modern home kitchens.

Pat Tanumihardja is a food and travel writer currently based in the Washington, D.C. metro area and blogs at http://theasiangrandmotherscookbook.wordpress.com/. On Pat’s blog: Chickpea Curry with Tomatoes and Mango from Roz Cummin’s blog.

Brewed Awakening by Joshua M. Bernstein
Brewed Awakening is Joshua M. Bernstein’s definitive take on the craft beer revolution. The book is the deeply reported story of the wild innovations and passions driving craft beer, focusing on the tales of the risk-taking brewers, bar owners and the dedicated beer drinkers across the globe. There’s a story in every pint glass, and Brewed Awakening gives voice to each one.

Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food, travel and bicycling (phew!) journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide. On Josh’s blog: The Jucy Lucy Burger from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo
How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? How did the Hero get its name? And who invented the French Dip? Discover these answers and more in The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread. You’ll find recipes for every sandwich imaginable along with fascinating regional and historical trivia. From the humble Sloppy Joe to the chic Nutella sandwich, from the iconic Po ‘Boy to the fresh-faced donut sandwich, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches will satiate sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.

Susan Russo is a San Diego-based cookbook author, blogger (Food Blogga), and freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle. On Susan’s blog: Highlights from Brewed Awakening.

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents by Debbie Koenig
Give a new parent the gift of sanity! Parents Need to Eat Too makes it easy for new moms and dads to take care of themselves as well as they’re caring for baby. Every recipe has been tested by a group of more than 100 moms, and every recipe also includes instructions for turning that dish into baby food. The book goes on sale in February, but author Debbie Koenig has created a special holiday offer, available now: She’ll send a free signed, custom-made bookplate and holiday card to anyone who pre-orders the book as a gift.

Debbie Koenig is a Brooklyn-based food and parenting writer and blogs at Words to Eat By. On Debbie’s blog: Olive Focaccia from The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook.

Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea by Roz Cummins
Roz Cummins is a Boston-based food writer who specializes in sustainability. She also loves tea and baking. She has worked as an editor, a teacher, and an arts administrator. She is currently working on an e-book called Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea. Visit her website: http://rozcummins.blogspot.com. On Roz’s blog: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.

A Gift from Summer: Padron Chiles

Crinkly, blistered padron chiles ready to be eaten.

You know what guides me through thoughts of living in NYC with just a tiny window AC to cool me down in summer heat? (You see, in the South, we at least have central air to cool us down.) All of the produce that summer reaps. Garlic scapes — be still my heart. Fresh, heirloom tomatoes of different varieties. And padron peppers. I only discovered these babies a few years ago and have been addicted every since.

I can spot these green, crinkly chiles at the farmer’s market or Whole Foods. There’s a cinch to cook too. Just pile them into a hot pan with olive oil, sauté until the skins are somewhat blistered and season with salt. Find more detailed cooking instructions in a previous post I wrote for Serious Eats. The sneakiness about these chile peppers is that while most of the batch are mild, a few register much higher on the Scoville scale. That’s the fun of devouring them — you don’t know if you’re getting a mild chile or a spicy one until you’ve popped it into your mouth. What could be better for a spice addict?