Win friends and friend your enemies

Pssssst.  Want to know the secret of the perfect casual hors d’oeuvre?  You know the one I’m talking about.  Elegant, enticing and easy?

Perfect for a crowd or an intimate gathering.

With an endless combination of flavor possibilities?

Including bacon?

And cheese?

And all wrapped up like a little pre-meal present?

Well, allow me to introduce you to my little friend: the brie en croute.

Do not give into the temptation of a frozen pre-made brie en croute.  Spend 10 extra minutes, make it from scratch, and I guarantee far, FAR superior results.

As you can see.

I’ve served it a time or two. Or ten.

Brie en Croute

I’ve listed the basic recipe first.  Then, at the bottom I’ve listed an array (though by no means exhaustive) list of add-ins.


  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry for each round of brie
  • 1 round of brie (small, large, medium, up to you)
  • 1 egg+1 TBS water
  • Fancy fancies (see below)
  • Assorted goodies to scoop-up the brie.  Bread, crackers, fruit, blanched vegetables or a spoon all work.


  1. Remove pastry from freezer and allow to defrost for 35 minutes.  Resist the urge to unfold it until it it defrosted.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Once defrosted, gently roll-out puff pastry sheet along the edges so that the margins are large enough to fit over the wheel of brie with overlap.  This will depend on the size of your wheel of brie.
  4. Place whatever fancy fancies you would like to add-in in the middle of the pastry, distributing to the size of the wheel of brie.
  5. Place brie on top of fancy fancies.
  6. Beat egg with water to create an egg wash.  Using a brush or your fingers,  wash the last two inches of the outer edges of the pastry.
  7. Starting with one corner, bring the corner across the bottom of the pastry so that it reaches across. Working around the wheel, gently pull the pastry ends across the cheese until you have a secure bundle.  Brush with egg wash.
  8. Keeping a finger or two on the seams of the overlap, flip the bundle and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush entire top with egg-wash.  Adorn as desired.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the crust is puffed and top is golden brown.
  10. Plate as desired and let rest for about an hour.  This part is very important.  Right out of the oven, the cheese is liquid.  It needs time to rest and slow to a warm lava-like consistency.

Fancy Fancies

  • Any kind of jam, jelly or chutney.
  • Raspberry jam with toasted walnuts.
  • Orange marmelade and dried cranberries.
  • Bacon and gorgonzola (cheese on top of cheese)
  • Honey and almonds
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and Herbs de  Provence
  • Pistachios and dried sour cherries
  • Roasted garlic and caramelized onion
  • Pecan and maple syrup
  • Prosciutto and fresh chopped parsley
  • Chicken and waffles (sorry, that was TD’s suggestion)
  • Chorizo, cilantro and roasted pepitas





What happens when you take a giant bowl of crispy rice and add butter, peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar?

Schweddy balls happen, that’s what!

Though out-of-focus it may be, I had to include this snap.  Post-modern cooking at its finest (I swear this wasn’t staged).

And the main event:

Total butter poundage to date: 15.31

Gobbla’ Cobbla’

I know this week’s post is a little late.  You can blame our wonderfully generous and thoughtful Thanksgiving hosts for that.  TD and I had planned to spend Thanksgiving hiding out and attempting the invention of what is sure to be a holiday classic (bah!).  But, we got invited someplace better (much, much better), and so, our Thanksgiving cooking plans had to wait a day.

Here is how this all started.  We were hanging around one afternoon (probably watching college football) when the idea of putting an entire Thanksgiving dinner into a single vessel arose.  Could it be done?  How would it work?  What about layering strategies?  Of course, once we’d thrown down the guantlet, we had no choice but to respond.

Now, before we go any further, you all know I’m solid on the Thanksgiving meal front right?  You know 99% of the time everything is made not only from scratch, but with the best ingredients.  Right?  Right?  So, you’ll forgive me for what you are about to witness (and maybe, just maybe, you’ll try it with your leftovers).

Since we weren’t  doing an entire turkey this year, we began with a slow-cooked turkey breast half. I just added 12 ounces of chicken stock, a split head of garlic and some aromatics.  When all was said and done, this half produced about a pound of shredded breast meat.

While the breast was cooking, we also mashed a couple of potatoes and made a package of stove-top stuffing (per TD’s request).  To add some flavor to the chicken breast, I sauteed some onion, carrot, mushrooms and a little celery.  Do this part or skip it, your choice.  To top it off, we added about 2 cups of prepared turkey gravy.

We knew that the only way a one-dish Thanksgiving would work was if it could be removed from the pan in a relatively neat manner.  Insert a crescent-roll dish liner here.

Two-and-a-half packages of rolls provided casserole-dish coverage, Frankenstein style.  Of course, the reason we all love crescent rolls is their light and flaky texture.  This wouldn’t have worked here, so I blind-baked the whole thing for about 15 minutes.

The rest is about assemblage.  First layer: turkey and gravy.

Second layer: mashed potatoes.

Finally, we topped it all off with stuffing.

Because everything was pre-cooked, the entire dish needed only about 30 minutes in the oven. During this time we assembled our minimal sides.  Some charred brussels sprouts for green.  And of course, the cranberry sauce.  We’re purists like that.

At this point, we had no idea if this was going to work.  So, we started drinking.

The drinking helped, but you know what?  I think we pulled it off!

The crescent roll crust kept everything orderly and while this wouldn’t work for people who need their food options separated, TD declared it Methodist-lady hot-dish appropriate. And, our third dinner guest, sitting just off camera to my right, seemed very interested.

In all seriousness though, this is a pretty handy way of using up holiday leftovers.  If you assemble everything in a freezer-safe dish, wrapped it up tightly and froze it, I bet you could just defrost and reheat say, about February.  Just a thought…

We called it the Gobbla’ Cobbla’ (because suddenly we’re from Boston).  And really, there is no recipe.  If using leftover, just use what you have.  If assembling from scratch, here is what we used to fill a 9X13ish casserole dish.

Gobbla’ Cobbla’


  • 1 lb cooked turkey (light meat, dark meat shredded or cubed, whatever your fancy)
  • Mashed potatoes from 2 large potatoes (I’d say about 3 cups)
  • 1 package Stove-Top stuffing (you know, I’d never had the stuff until now)
  • 2 C turkey gravy
  • 2-3 packages crescent rolls
  • Whatever else you think would go well with this hot mess of ingredients (sweet potatoes, rice, green breans).


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Oil the casserole dish and line with crescent roll pieces.  Be sure to fuse any weak seams.  Line un-cooked crust with parchment and fill with either pie weights or beans.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  Remove beans and parchment, bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the bottom is just baked.
  2. In a large pan, combine turkey and gravy.  Gently heat to combine (add in desired veg).
  3. Once the crust is out of the oven, eyeball the volume of the dish you have to work with.  Then, add each of the three filling ingredients accordingly.  We distributed the ingredients equally.  You may decide to alter the ratios depending on preference for certain Thanksgiving side dishes.
  4. Once assembled, bake in the over for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Enjoy.




Scenes from holiday baking #2

We are in the thick of things boys and girls.  In the last week much has happened.


Became these:

And this:

Turned into this:

As we roll into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I’ve got one more candy and two more batches of cut-out cookies to make and will then move on to the more delicate items and detail work.

Ann, Amber, Nancy and Jeanette, here is your current butter poundage:

8.82 lbs

And we’re not even close to being done…

A very special TJT. On Monday


UCLA definitely brought the boom on Saturday against USC.  And yes, I am using this TJT on Monday post as a  thinly disguised pretense to gloat.  And do eight-claps.

Despite being on home turf, TD and I weren’t planning on going to the game. In fact, I had the day all planned out: holiday baking and the game on the radio.  But then an 11th hour offer from a source we couldn’t refuse (thank you Dan!) appeared with the rain on Friday night.  Which is how I found myself wearing as much blue and gold as I could wiggle into and drinking a beer in Pasadena at what felt like a ridiculously early hour.

After having worked at USC for nearly seven years, I find myself surprisingly and enduringly fond of the institution.  The Trojans, however, are a different story entirely.  I’m not very good at talking smack.  But, let’s just put it this way, I don’t wear red. Of any shade.  Ever.

I love this rivalry.  This is the one time each year when rankings and records make absolutely no difference.  At this game, anything is possible (including that time in ’93 when Tommy fell off of Traveler).  This year?  Epic!  Combine a packed stadium, cross-town rivalry and rain–and you get history in the making.  Boom UCLA, BOOM!

Why yes, I do have gold shoes, vestiges left over from playing the role of TD’s wife during the pre-game dog and pony. 

The only thing marring this sweet, sweet victory was the empathetic pang I felt when the clock ran out and the Trojans sadly drifted off the field.  Deflated.  Sort of like their footballs.

Before I bring this UCLA happy dance to a bow, I just have one thing to point-out, you know, as long as I’m gloating.  I’ve officially been a Bruin for 20 years.  If my count is correct, during this time UCLA has won as many rivalry games as they have lost. I however have a perfect win record for attending UCLA-USC games.  That’s right, UCLA has won every rivalry game at which I’ve had a corporeal presence.  BOOM!


Holiday Treat Round-Up

I wasn’t kidding when I said planning for holiday baking begins months in advance.  I try out recipes, consider themes and attempt to devise a combination of different flavors and textures that will include a little something for every taste.  I am also a great appreciator of holiday baking lists; a conisuer of cookie compendiums, if you will.  So, I thought I’d make some lists of my own.

Last year about this time, I wrote a post about planning.  This might be a good place to begin if you are considering a little  seasonal creativity.  There are lots of ways to categorize treats and I’m sure, over the years, I’ll try them all (because you know you’ll get at least one “clip show” post this time each year).  This time around, I’m hitting you straight on and categorizing by preparation: roll and cut cookies, cut-out cookies, drop cookies, bars, candy and fancy treats.

Roll and Cut Cookies

These are the secret weapon of the entertainer and grateful guest.  It’s easy to make up several batches of dough, wrap them tightly and then freeze.  To bake, just slice and turn on the oven.  The roll and cut method also works beautifully with texture-dependent cookies like sables and shortbread.  The minimal kneading and manipulate really helps maintain this important cookie component.

Chocolate Cayenne Cookies

Dirty Chai Shortbread

Orange Cranberry Shortbread

World Peace Cookies (chocolate sables)


Cut-Out Cookies

If cookies had enemies, cut-out cookies and roll and cut cookies would be bitter rivals.  The opposite of delicate, the two recipes below can take a rolling-out and then probably another.

THE Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Roll-Out Cookies

and just for good measure, these aren’t cookies, but are solid, especially when gifted with a bottle of wine.

Cheese Crackers

Drop Cookies

Go on, I know you want to.  Okay, I’ll do it with you. Ready? And…drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot.  The drop cookie is a classic and has so many possibilities.  Here are a few of my festive-worthy favorites (even if some actually get a little flattened after they drop).

Triple Ginger Cookie

Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

 Nutella Cookies

Blueberries and Cream Cookies (I bet these would be excellent with dried cranberries or currants)

Brown Sugar Crinkles (do not underestimate these simple cookies)


I love the bar cookie.  In fact, I have a great business idea if anyone has some capital they’d like to put up.  I especially love bars during the holidays–the all-in-one-pan delivery makes it easy to cut, pack and give.  If you are feeling particularly fancy, they’re even more special nestled in the little wrappers.  I’m limiting my list below to five that don’t have toppings for packaging ease, but for more, go here.

TMH Brownies

Bella Bars

Hazelnut Caramel Chocolate Bars

Candied Orange Peel and Almond Blondies

Caramel Crunch Bars


Candy is a whole world I’ve just started to explore.  Including  one or two types has the dual advantage of variety and the potential for a more shelf-stable treat.

Candied Citrus Peel



Chocolate Peanut Butter Bon Bons (Schweady Balls)

Fancy Treats

Not to say that the goodies listed above aren’t give-worthy.  Because, they are.  But, sometimes you just need a little somethin’ somethin.’  Whether its the execution or the ingredients, this final list should fit-the-bill.

Glittery Lemon Sandwich Cookies

Rum Butter Nuts

French Macarons


Confetti Cookies

Didn’t Find What You Were Looking For?

Try here for more: Misanthropic Hostess Recipes Index



















Scenes from Holiday Baking #1

I’ve decided to interrupt my regularly scheduled TJ Tuesdays for the next month-and-a-half or so to bring you a weekly dose of what holiday baking looks like in our house.  I’ll give you a hint, you will not find Betty Crocker in any of these pictures.  In the Misanthropic Household, holiday baking is not a frilly-apron and hot cocoa sipping type of a affair (though, there is listening to holiday music…but only after Thanksgiving).  Nay, it is a full-throttle high-precision assault that leaves no stick of butter unused and no Kitchen God un-decorated.  Planning begins in August with delivery and shipping complete no later than the second week of December.

In this spirit, I thought I’d show some pictures of what happens along the way.  We’ll start with naked paper towel rolls.

Into which went 12 batches of 2 different kinds of sable cookie dough.  Wrapped-up tightly, they’ll reside in the freezer until I’m ready to bake them off later this month.

For the first time this year, I’ve also decided to quantify the process. I know that not tracking sounds completely antithetical to my color-coded and task-listed process.  However, until now, I’ve purposely stayed away from the accounting of every pound of nuts and every trip to the grocery because I feared knowing my consumption would interrupt the creative process.  This year though, we’re keeping track because I think it would be fun to know just how many eggs are cracked in the name of holiday treats.

The tally to posting (can’t say to-date because even as I write this, I’ve already moved on in a way that includes nearly 75 ounces of heavy cream.  Moo.):

  • 3.5 lbs unsalted butter
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 lb chocolate
  • 1 lb pecans
  • 1 ish lb dried sour cherries

Want to play along at home?

Want to win a prize?

In the comments below, take a guess at the final butter poundage.  Technically I could calculate this out now but that wouldn’t be any fun.  Instead, I’ll update the number of pounds used on a weekly basis so that we’re all surprised in the end.  Operationally, final butter poundage is defined as the total pounds of butter utilized in the making of the nine holiday treats I have planned.  I will not reveal either the specifics of the treats or the total number of batches at this time.  However, you already know the total of the first two. I’ll give you another hint: only one of the nine different goodies does not include butter as an ingredient.  Informed risk takers can extrapolate as desired.   Anything else I make along the way will not be included (so take out like 20 lbs for Thanksgiving).  To make things fair, you can only cast your speculation between now and next Monday, November 19 at 11:59 PST.  The person with the closest guess gets a box of said goodies. If you already happen to be on the goodie-recipient list, I’ll throw in a dozen or so extra of whatever you would like.  Winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 4th.  Vaya con sprinkles!

P.S. Not that it matters to anyone but me, but I’ve also thrown the gauntlet at myself.  This year I’ve challenged myself to not eat any of what I make.  Not in the baking, not in the leftovers.  Let’s see if I can make it happen.



Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

And now ladies and gentlemen, we’ve entered the time of year where my trunk is full of butter and my pictures are dark because things get baked at strange times.  That’s right folks, it’s go time, the big show, the superbowl of hostessness: holiday baking.  I apologize if things get a little nutty around here.

Before we descend into the madness, I’ve got a little fall hug for you.  I’m a bit of a pumpkin late bloomer.  And, to be honest, I usually like my gourds leaning in the savory persuasion.  But, these looked too good to resist.  The recipe comes from the fantastic blog, Two Tarts.  Not too sweet, and perfectly spiced, these muffins are autumn in a cute little wrapper.

I made a couple of little tweaks to the original…but really, just tiny ones.

If you like this, you might like these

Pumpkin Saffron Macarons

Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting/Filling


The second presidential debate.  How about them binders?

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

adapted ever-so-slightly from Two Tarts


  • 1/2 C toasted pepitas
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

For the filling

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  1. If your pepitas aren’t toasted, drop 1/2 C into a pan over medium heat.  Shape pan occasionally and cook until nuts become fragrant.
  2. Whip together cream cheese and powdered sugar using a hand-mixer.  Set aside bowl in the fridge to firm-up.
  3. Mix the sugar, oil, pumpkin, and eggs together very well in a large mixing bowl.  Then plop the flour, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spices on top of this blended wet mixture.  Stir well to incorporate and fully mix everything together.
  4. Line muffin tins with paper cups, or lightly oil them. Spoon about 1-2 Tablespoons of batter into the bottom of each muffin.  We used a regular dinner spoon – heaping – to do this.  Make sure this batter is spread thinly and evenly across the bottom of each muffin tin. Whacking the pan flat on the counter a few times to is effective.
  5. Distribute a spoonful (approx 1 Tablespoon) of the cream cheese filling in each.
  6. Finally, evenly distribute the remainder of the batter over the top of the cream cheese.
  7. Sprinkle pepitas on top pressing them in slightly.
  8. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool before you eat them, unless you are ready to deal with molten cream cheese!



I have a rule: the shorter the skirt, the flatter the shoe.  Of course, short is a relative term.  For me and age appropriateness, short equates to just above the knee.  And, at about and inch-and-a-half, these little ladies are perfect.  The designer is Dana Davis and I admit, the only place I’ve ever seen her shoes is via the sample sales.  I bought these about a year ago.  And, if this brand ever comes up again, I’d snatch up another pair in a heartbeat.  Tights by Target.


Love and politics

TD and I had our first date a few days before the 2000 Gore-Bush election.  Somehow, during the course of that very first tete-a-tete, we found ourselves going through the election booklet item-by-item [we broke all kinds of first date rules–and it was fun].  Guess what happened?  We disagreed. On just about everything.  And, it was totally and completely okay. For both of us.

I wouldn’t call either TD or I particularly political in general.  But, we both take our rights as citizens and voters seriously.  Having different political viewpoints, in my opinion, helps to inform each of our decisions.  Hearing TD’s educated perspective always broadens my own.  Every once in a while, it even changes it.

What we didn’t know on that first date 12 years ago was that we had started a tradition that will endure until death-do-us-part.  You see, that first act basically guaranteed we will each vote in every election just so the other doesn’t get a leg-up.  The first date also started the tradition of reviewing the voting booklet, making our cases (and listening to the other’s) and then, voting together.

Which brings me to today’s post.  Last election, we did the first two steps together but, because of his travel schedule TD voted absentee and I voted in person.  It wasn’t nearly as fun.  So this year, I registered absentee so we could once again be united in our discourse.  And, because we are we, we made a dinner out of it.

The original plan was to make a carbonara recipe we’d perfected (according to us) some years back.  However, earlier in the week, we  watched an episode of Anothony Bourdain’s No Reservations that involved a particularly (food) pornographic dish of cacio e pepe.  There just happens to be a porn-related proposition on the California ballot this year, so cacio e pepe it was.

First step (per TD’s request) was to make the parmesian-reggiano bowls for the simple pasta.  I’m sure there is a recipe out there on how to do it officially, but here is what I do.  Smallish frying pan (8-10 inches) + heat+ grated parmesan.

Oil the outside of a small bowl.  Once the parmesan  is golden and will hold together (test be lifting an edge with a silicon spatula), flip the whole mess over the bowl.  Let cool.  That’s it.

Owl Gore presided over the event (at first I named him Owl Green but then realized Owl Gore was more likely to annoy TD).  Lest you think I was attempting to create a partisan atmosphere, allow me to point out that TD was more than welcome to bring along his own glitter encrusted moniker (insert stripper joke here).

Cacio e pepe is an incredibly simple but satisfying dish.  Because it is simple, each ingredient is important.  Use a high quality pecorino and freshly ground peppercorns.  Oh, and fresh pasta if you can find it.  I also like to use a single pot.  In this case it’s a dutch oven.  The water will take longer to bowl but the vessel will hold its heat well and do most of the work for you with the sauce.

Once the pasta is cooked al dente (be sure to reserve at least a cup of the pasta water), dinner is about 5 minutes away.  Strain the pasta, set aside.  Add butter, oil and pepper to the pot.  Stir until fragrant.

Add-in reserved pasta water (use more than you think you’ll need).  Bring to a boil.

Add pasta.  Then sprinkle your grated pecorino and parmesan while vigorously tossing the mixture.

And serve.  While lovely, this dish was lacking in color.

So, a little arugula salad and the last bottle from the case  Concha y Toro Carmenere that followed me home from Chile nicely rounded-out our festive meal.

Our votes cast, all that is left to do is wait.


DJ TD again on the ones-and-twos.

Cacio e Pepe

adapted from Saveur, April 2010

Serves 4 (we halved the recipe and it worked well)


  • 1 lb pasta (usually spaghetti or bucatoni, we used a linguetinne because that is what we could find fresh)
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp freshly cracked pepper, plus more for garnish
  • 1 C finely created Pecorino Romano
  • 3/4 C finely grated Cacio de Roma (can substitute Parmesan)


  1. Bring salted water to boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water,  Drain pasta.
  2. In the same pot if large enough, or in a heavy saucepan, heat oil and butter.  Add pepper, cooking until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
  3. Ladle 3/4 cup pasta water into pot/skillet, bring to a boil.
  4. Transfer pasta to pot/skillet and spread evenly.
  5. Sprinkle 3/4 cup each of the Pecorino Romano and Cacio de Rom over pasta and toss pasta vigorously to combine until sauce is cremy and clings to the pasta without clumping.  Add remaining pasta water if necessary.
  6. Transfer to plates and sprinkle with remaining cheese and a good spritz of pepper.