Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Salad-Gorgonzola & Peach

Does anyone else feel like Summer is going too quickly? I do!

That is why I have decided to fully embrace the Summer-y-ness as much as possible. Especially the Summer-y-ness of fruits and vegetables.

I love the vast array of produce available this time of year. At ever farmer's market I see a beautiful selection of colors and flavors and I find that I am constantly inspired to create new dishes based on the visual beauty of the ingredients. Every once in a while this appearance-based creativity yields some delicious results. One of which I came upon today during lunch.

I hope you enjoy this Summer salad and put your own spin on it. It is easy enough to make for one or 6.

The Desperate Housediva's Gorgonzola & Peach Salad for one (or six if you can multiply.)
1/2 ripe peach, sliced into wedges and then those wedges halved.
1 large handful mixed greens
1 oz. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
a few slivers of red onion
1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced

combine all ingredients and drizzle lightly with dressing (recipe seen below.)

1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Wisk together mustard and vinegar until well mixed. Then add as much olive oil as your tastebuds prefer. Mine like about 4 Tbsp of oil. Add s&p to taste.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chips Kahlua Ice Cream

When I was a little girl growing up in Michigan my favorite ice cream was available only at the Melting Moments ice cream shop in downtown East Lansing on the MSU campus. They were the one place in town where I could get my teeny little hands on a yellow cone filled with the best ice cream flavor of all time (this may be somewhat subjective,) Chips Kahlua.

Chips Kahlua had it all-it was creamy, rich, coffee-with-kahlua flavored ice cream filled with bits of luscious dark chocolate. Heaven. I realize you may be thinking, "Liquor flavored ice cream for a CHILD!? What!?" And yes, I do realize now that it was a slightly unusual choice for a kid of five years old to love, but what can I say, I was precocious. I've loved the taste of coffee for as long as I can remember. Apparently, even without trying it on its own until college, I also loved its sweetened, alcoholic cousin, Kahlua. Good stuff.

Every single taste of ice cream since those Melting Moments days is an attempt to recreate the taste of Chips Kahlua. To me it is the Platonic Form of ice cream of which all other coffee ice creams are mere shadows and reflections. Melting Moments no longer has Chips Kahlua in their regular fact, I'm not even sure if they have a physical store anymore, but that will not stop my quest to find it. Or if I cannot find it, recreate it.

Professor Hubs and I received a Kitchenaid mixer as a wedding gift. I think I use it nearly every day-it's one of my 2 favorite kitchen appliances (the other being my cuisinart food processor.) One of the fancy schmancy attachments for my Kitchenaid mixer is the Ice Cream Attachment...
You see where I'm going here?

I decided to try my hand at making my own Chips Kahlua ice cream. Here's what I discovered:
a. One can easily make ice cream without eggs that is delicious. It takes like five minutes.
b. One cannot easily make ice cream without fat that is still delicious-it's ok, but not delicious.
c. Fat makes ice cream delicious.
d. Kahlua is the most delicious stuff on earth.
e. I love ice cream.

So if you find yourself having a hankering for a delicious, coffee-flavored ice cream treat, and you happen to have some kind of an ice cream maker, try out my Chips Kahlua ice cream. The stuff is good. ESPECIALLY if you make the full-fatty mcfatstein stuff. I will have to settle for the skim milk version for now, which is good, but not really the same as the Melting Moments flavor of my youth...

The Desperate Housediva's Chips Kahlua Ice Cream
(heavily improvised upon a recipe by Mark Bittman)

2 cups of Milk or Cream (any fat percentage, any combination will do...the more fatty the tastier)
1/4 cup sugar (very low in sugar, oddly enough!)
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brewed coffee (I personally use decaf)
1/2 cup Kahlua (mmmm....)
3 large Tbsps Cornstarch
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, chopped (regular sized chips are too large, trust me.)

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1.5 cups of the Milk/Cream, the sugar, the coffee, salt, and Kahlua. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture begins to steam.
In a separate bowl, combine the other 1/2 cup milk/cream with the cornstarch until well blended.
Add to the mixture on the stove and stir until the mixture has thickened slightly and one or two bubbles threaten to boil. Remove from heat and chill the mixture until cool.

Once cooled, add to ice cream machine according to manufacturers directions. Halfway through the mixing process, add the chips.

Enjoy the flavors of my childhood!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When the world hands you...rhubarb? gaze, sheepishly,) it's been a while...(kicks at dirt, feigning a casual air...) like, nearly 6 weeks... Oh, my poor desperatehousediva blog! How I have neglected you!
But you see, internet? There is just so much to report: so many recipes, so many anecdotes, home decor experiments (many of them successful! How much do we love a before & after!?) and lovely photos to share :)

It's officially Summer now here in Midwestia (Wooster, OH, for those of you who may have forgotten,) as The College is now on break. This means several things to me:
a. I now have my beloved husband, Prof. Hubs, around much more-yay!
b. The students are starting to disperse leaving behind a quiet, lazy Summer town.
c. Farmer's Markets are looking less and less like bake sales and more and more like Produce fantasy-lands.

All good things!

A few weeks ago we had dinner at the home of some friends who live on a self-titled "hobby farm." This is basically a stunning refurbished farmhouse in the woods complete with working farm (lite.) Do they have a greenhouse? Yes. A field full of gorgeous vegetables? Yes. Fruit trees? Yes. A barn? Yes. Animals? most recently chickens. It is basically my dream-home. Especially If you put the whole set up in Italy, close to the Adriatic coast!
After dinner we took a nice passeggiata (to continue with the, apparently, Italian theme I'm going with...) and managed to meander out into the garden. Scythe in hand, our friend cut a bunch of jewel-red rhubarb out of the ground and handed them to us. How much do we love a dinner with party favors!? Especially edible ones!? LOVE.

Personally I adore that classic American combination of strawberries and rhubarb. I decided to turn this lovely gift into a nice large batch of strawberry rhubarb preserves. The results were fantastic. They turned out much like THIS product I used to buy en masse from the brilliant people at American Spoon in Michigan.

But then I had almost too much S-R fruit preserves. So when life hands you Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit preserves? You make JAM BARS!!! These come together in like five minutes and provide hours of Spring delight :)

The Desperatehousediva's succulent Strawberry Rhubarb Jam-Crumble Bars
adapted from a recipe by Deb Perleman

1 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour (you can use all purpose, white whole wheat, or a 1/2-1/2 combo like I do)
1 cup of butter, melted
1 egg (sort of optional...the first time I made these I forgot the egg and they were still fabulous, though slightly crumblier. The 2nd time I remembered the egg and they were denser, cakier and yes, still fabulous.)
1/2 tsp salt
1.5-2 cups fruit preserves of your choice.

Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a 9X13 pan.
-In a large bowl, combine all ingredients BUT the fruit preserves into a nice dough. Do not overmix.
-Split the dough into 2 balls.
-With your hands, press the first dough ball into the prepared pan, spreading the dough into a nice, even crust.
-Then spread the fruit preserves over the crust layer, evenly.
-Finally, crumble the 2nd dough ball over the jam layer, evenly (it is slightly too wet to really crumble, so you may just want to break of little bits of dough and sprinkle them.)
-Bake for 45 minutes, or lightly browned. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Moving, Shaking, Brisket Making...

This poor blog! It is finally getting some attention (thank you, London Still blog for the shout out!) and in the meantime I find myself utterly consumed with shoots (of the photographic variety...) I drove all over the State of Ohio in the last three weeks. Truly. If there is a city then I was there shooting in it. Check out some of my latest work HERE

My home decor adventures are also steadily rolling along. Soon I will share with you the pillows I made to match the re-upholstered chair (I know, I must be chomping at the bit for that one...)

It's supposed to be Spring here in Midwestia (AKA, Wooster, OH,) and while we enjoyed warmth and sunshine for a few days it's now back to a blustery Winter chill... I'm not happy about it. But it certainly gives me an opportunity to make a bit heartier fare than the warm temperatures require. I'll try to think of it as a last hurrah for braises and stews until Autumn...

Try as I might, I cannot give up beef. I know I need to limit my intake but I still just love the stuff. Good, organic, grass-fed beef is one of my favorite foods and I eat it, on average, once a week in various ways. Sorry, vegetarian and vegan friends :( But read on, there is an excellent cabbage slaw recipe that is worth 2x its weight in gold!

One of my favorite ways to enjoy beef is as a slow-cooked, pulled concoction (I blame my Jewish upbringing- every holiday included some kind of braised brisket.) The recipe I am sharing here is a Latin preparation. It's sort of a ropa vieja, pabellon criollo, pulled-beef variation and it's an instant favorite in our house. Professor hubs actually said he wished he could eat the following meal every day! No matter how delicious, I couldn't settle down with just one meal for the rest of my days...but this one will certainly be put in the regular rotation.

I recommend serving the brisket with cilantro lime rice, avocado salad, and the cabbage slaw recipe below. Or combine them all in small tortillas as tacos.

Desperate Housediva's Pulled Beef Brisket

based on a recipe found on SmittenKitchen

Serves 4, says the recipe; but we served 6, with leftovers for two more lunches the

next day...and if you served it as taco filling you'd probably be able to serve even


3 pounds beef brisket (trimmed of excess fat)

sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices

1 to 2 whole canned chipotle chiles en adobo [Read: 1 or 2
from a can, not one or

two cans, m'kay? Many misread this amount!] (I used two peppers; two will give it a real kick!!!)

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup molasses

If using an oven (and not a slow cooker,) preheat oven to 300.

Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a large, heavy

skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until beginning to smoke.

Add the meat and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10

minutes total. (If using a slow cooker, this would be the time to transfer the meat

to the slow cooker; otherwise put it in a dutch oven.) leave the skillet on the heat.

Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, and cumin to drippings in the skillet and

stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone,

scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in water and pour the

mixture over the brisket. Add tomatoes with their juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and


If using the oven, cover the dutch oven and cook for 3-4 hours at 300 until brisket

pulls apart easily with a fork.

If using a slow cooker: Cover the cooker, set it on LOW, and cook the brisket until

it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 8 to 10 hours.

To serve, you’ve got a few options: Leave the meat in the slow cooker and use two

forks to pull it apart and stir it evenly into the sauce; season with salt and pepper,

to taste. Remove and discard bay leaves. This is obviously the simplest route.

You could also strain the sauce, but then you lose some of the nice rustic veggie bits...

Green Onion Slaw

1 cup green onions

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 whole jalapeno (for a teensy kick)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup pure olive oil
1 head purple cabbage, finely shredded
2 shallots
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Blend green onions, shallots, vinegar, chiles, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and oil in a blender until emulsified. Place cabbage in a bowl, and right before serving add the dressing and stir until combined. Fold in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Nigella's Epic Chocolate Guinness Cake

I have been doing so much back to back travelling of late. As much as I loved it, I am so thrilled to be back in my Ohio nest, decorating, cooking, reading, photo-editing, etc. I have become such a homebody over the last few years. I think it comes from having a nice little nest to take care of and a nice Prof. Hubs with whom to do so.
Last week I had the pleasure of reuniting in Chicago with several good friends whom I hadn't seen in YEARS-it was a much needed friendfest and I am now so excited for my upcoming trips to Chicago (in better, warmer weather, hopefully!) to photograph their wedding.
I have several photography projects coming up that I am really excited about. Check out my photosite in the coming weeks ( to keep up :)
Then there is the matter of the Chocolate Guinness cake. My friend Ana has been raving about this cake for months. Her recommendation was so glowing that I knew I had to find an occasion to make it. Yesterday that occasion presented itself in the form of an informal dinner. I was asked to bring a dessert. And I did. I brought this cake. AND IT WAS SO DELICIOUS I CANNOT EVEN KEEP FROM SHOUTING (text-shouting.)

I am very pleased to present a cake that has become an instant classic in our house. Not only will I be making it for upcoming birthdays, but I will also use this cream cheese frosting recipe for the rest of my cream cheese frosting making days. SO GOOD! I usually have problems with lumps in my cc frosting, even if I let the cc sit out over night, but this method was perfect and I hadn't even let the cc soften for more than an hour! Wonderful! You don't really taste the guinness in the cake-it just adds a nice depth of flavor, a "ferrousness" as Nigella says. It is the most lovely, moist, dense cake... You'll love it!

Chocolate Guinness Cake

by Nigella Lawson

Total time: about 1 hour

For the cake:
Butter for pan
1 cup Guinness stout
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream (I was out so I used 0% greek yogurt instead and it was great!)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For the topping:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar (I only used 1 cup-it was perfect)
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature (I used Neufch√Ętel instead...better texture)
1/2 cup heavy cream.

1. For the cake: heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.

2. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.

3. For the topping: Using a food processor, mix confectioners' sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.

4. Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.

Yield: One 9-inch cake (12 servings).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Desperate Housediva | Boring Chair to Awesome Chair Makeover: Before & After

In the next installment in the Desperate Housediva goes DIY home-makeover chronicles, I share with you the before/after shots of my sad and sorry desk/living room chair which found new life after a quick restaining (using a stain pen. It literally took minutes) and reupholstering (who knew reupholstering chairs was so easy and satisfying!? I can't wait to do it to the kitchen chairs!)

So, the living room has been a bit of a problem area. We have quite a mix of furniture from various life stages (and craigslist purchases) and I had a difficult time figuring out a cohesive design plan. But then it hit me: I shouldn't work AROUND what I had, I should incorporate it into the design. If my design was all about white and blue, but my couch was huge and black, then something was off. Now, all is well. I'm not living in design fantasyland. I'm using what I have and making it awesome by throwing in a few new things.
The new design aesthetic includes the firebird fabric shown on the AFTER of the chair. The main colors are black and white with red and turquoise accents. I'm really excited to continue building the look in the room but the chair makeover was the first step. I just love this fabric.
If you are interested in how to do a chair makeover, click HERE.

Chair before:

Chair After:

Desperate Housediva | Ikea Dresser Decoupage and chair Makeovers: Before & After

As it's literally freeeezing out these days and I haven't the fortitude nor the wherewithal to face the frigid temps, I have been working on our Midwestia nest. The latest nesting projects I've taken up are the boring/ugly Ikea dresser I have in our room and a chair that lives in the living room that needed a serious makeover. Let's start with the dresser. It was your typical, white, boxy, boring Ikea dresser. Reliable enough, I suppose, but entirely without personality.
It never reflected my taste, it never felt like my own and it always stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the vintage-y bohemian style of the room. Hence the decoupage makeover.
Literally, like five year ago, my friend Meredith (who is an insanely talented singer/actress in addition to a truly inspired and creative decorator,) upon hearing me complain about said dresser, advised that I decoupage it and add pretty drawer pulls, thus making it my own. At the time that seemed like more work/commitment than I was up for. But the idea stuck in my head. And last week I finally did it.
Using some gorgeous decoupage paper from Cavallini (featuring vintage postcards written in French,) some ModPodge glue, and some Anthropologie-style vintage glass drawer pulls I remade this un-inspired piece of furniture into an ecclectic part of the room's vintage/bohemian aesthetic.

It may not be your style, but perhaps it can inspire your own decoupage adventures. Decoupage is really fast, easy (directions can be found HERE) and surprisingly fun and relaxing.



Closeup of drawer pulls

Closeup of one of the vintage letters

Closeup of the photos of my late Grandparents in photos from the late '30's, early '40's that live on the dresser.