Natalie of Good Girl Style is on today to show you that there’s more to fruit and chocolate than chocolate-covered strawberries. Natalie joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just good old-fashioned berries and ice cream. Don’t miss her recent recipe for these gorgeous Cheesecake-Stuffed Baked Peaches.

The last berries of a now-faded summer melt into this garnet-colored, spiced fruit sauce. The compote comes together quickly with basic ingredients but manages to taste ultra-luxurious. It feels like something you’d order on stuffed French toast in Paris in the fall, or over pound cake at a five-star Southern country hotel. Get creative: Anything you would serve for breakfast or dessert could be elevated with a scoop of this compote.

I’m particularly fond of the sweet-spicy sauce over chocolate ice cream, a delicious and easy gluten-free dessert base. The cinnamon and chocolate combination give the dish a bit of that Mexican hot chocolate taste with a fall-berry-apple-ish flair. Use the best-quality chocolate ice cream you can find for deep chocolate flavor that stands up to the spices and fruit. I like Talenti gelato or Haagen Dazs (shown here). You won’t be disappointed.

We could call dinner-time resourcefulness the act of placing tonight’s take-out order from the one subway stop with reliable cell phone service in order to time your homecoming with your spicy salmon roll and miso soup’s arrival.

Or we could, you know, step it up a notch and embrace the home-cooking version of ultimate efficiency.

It’s a simple step: Start something.

As soon as you’ve walked in the door, but before you’ve changed into sweats, checked your email to see what you missed during your commute, or collapsed on the couch, do one easy thing to get dinner going. It should be a task you can then step away from, because once you’ve started your thing, you’re going to take a break. Now is when you shed your work outfit, greet your roommates or significant other, and rifle through the pantry for inspiration. After that is when you’ll make the rest of dinner, which isn’t so hard anymore, because you’re already halfway there.

Here are four things you can start the second you’re home, long before you lose motivation.

Boil some water. Fill a big pot, cover it, and place it on the stove. This is for pasta, most likely, but maybe it’s for the potatoes you discovered in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, or even for poached eggs. You can also make rice and quinoa this way if it fits in better with the rest of your meal prep.

Sauté onions. Set a skillet over medium low heat. Chop or even slice an onion. Pour in some oil and add the onions. Mix once to coat the onions. Adjust the heat to low so they don’t burn while you’re doing other stuff. When you come back, you could add tomatoes for sauce, beans for refried beans, or vegetables and eggs for a Persian omelet.

Turn on the oven (& roast some chicken). Turn on the oven to 425°F. While it preheats, change your clothes. You can put anything in there (roasted vegetables with pomegranate vinaigrette, maybe?), but I especially recommend selecting two skin-on chicken breasts, patting them dry, placing them on a baking sheet, drizzling them with olive oil, and sprinkling well with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, til the chicken’s cooked through and the skin is crispy. Serve with rice or bread and a simple sauté or salad.

Cook rice. What’s not good on top of rice? Curry, stir-fry, black beans: you name a simple dish, and I bet I’ll love it with rice. To make: rinse the rice til the water runs clean, then combine with water as per package directions. When the pot boils, turn the heat to low, set a timer, and be off on your business (of relaxing and/or cooking the rest of dinner).

P.S. 9 of the easiest dinners you can possibly make.

We’re moving to a new apartment. Since we signed the lease last month, I’ve tried to minimize trips to the market and make do instead with the contents of our freezer, shelves, and pantry, a clear-out-the-clutter challenge that would not have been all that hard or even that blog-worthy, to be honest, because our freezer, shelves, and pantry are stocked. There are a dozen kinds of beans back there, still a few jars of last summer’s canned tomatoes, and a lot of some little ring-shaped noodles that I once took home from a shoot.

Still, I had visions of us subsisting for at least a few weeks on progressively humbler stews of beans and tomatoes, served over a finally dwindling supply of petite pasta.

What I didn’t account for was the continuing abundance. In the weeks that followed the signing, a recipe development project magicked a box of brie onto my doorstep, I tested eggplant and chicken parm recipes, and upstate New York’s bumper crops kept ripening, so the CSA shares kept overflowing, and we had more corn, tomatoes, and peppers on the counter than ever before.

But at least I could finish my cornmeal. Both kinds.

How to Make the Best Parm at Home

Posted by on Thursday Sep 25th, 2014

We grew up with chicken parm (served with French fries!) on the dinner rotation. Man, I loved that meal. Then, for a while, I neither made nor ate parm. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it had too many steps. Maybe red sauce Italian would just never fully be okay again.

Yet with the emergence of Parm as an NYC restaurant force, the dish is truly back. I decided to figure out the best methods for making it, plus suss out where it came from in the first place, what’s authentic when it comes to parm, and if you really need to bread eggplant and let frying crumbs splatter in your face to make a great dish.

You can read the full piece, with recipes and tips, over at First We Feast.

Some old health advice from Fannie Farmer, the 19th-century culinary expert: “But for its slight deficiency in fat, wheat bread is a perfect food,” she wrote, “hence arose the custom of spreading it with butter.”

The dwindling quality of much of our bread aside, there are days when I wish we still believed that–both that bread is perfect food and that butter makes bread better. Like, baguette-, naan-, focaccia-, r’ghaif-, and pita-lovers before me, I think bread is the best side dish on the table.

Side dish? Really? But yes. If there’s not  enough leftover salad to form a filling brown bag lunch, a fresh roll and some butter will turn those veggies into a real meal (plus give you an excuse to run to the local bakery and get out of the office). If vegetable soup sounds a bit meager, ladle servings over fried bread for bulk. And when spaghetti and meatballs don’t quite cut it, you know you need some garlic bread.

Turns out there’s a long tradition of carb-loving in this country. The side of bread is an old, humble, and resourceful habit finessed by early American settlers, according to Abigail Carroll in her book Three Squares.

The settlers had all kinds of adorable names for specific uses of bread on the side. There were sippets, decorative slices of fried bread, used for garnish and texture in addition to substance. Sops meant pieces of bread soaked in soup or stew–much like the Italian bread morsels on which minestrones sometimes get poured. Trenchers have the coolest explanation of all: The earliest colonial Americans didn’t have plates, so they used “trenchers,” thick slices of stale bread to hold their food, a old habit imported from Europe. Back in the old country, gentry would have donated their sauce-soaked bread to poor folk nearby. But in the hardscrabble colonies, the trenchers were valuable nourishment. Remember, bread was the perfect food.

Bring on the Brine! 9 Salty Favorites

Posted by on Friday Sep 19th, 2014

I like to think of briny as “umami of the sea.” Dishes that have saltiness plus. Clams, anchovies, olives, and even capers, seem, to me, to have that divine combination of saltness and pungency that makes a dish one I want to go back to for seconds and thirds and then rave about for the next 96 hours (sorry).

Here are my favorite brine-rich dishes from BGSK:

**Bring on the Brine! 10 Salty Favorites**


1. Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich with Anchovy-Olive Tapenade. While mozzarella makes this sandwich what it is–grilled cheese!–it’s the anchovy-laced olive tapenade that catapults the sandwich into addictive terrain.

2. Perfect Baked ClamsLast night, I ate at a restaurant called The Clam. The entire list of specialities is devoted to things made from clams. That’s why I went. Clams deliver the flavor of the sea in a deliciously mild and fun-to-eat form, and are therefore one of my favorite foods.


3. Bloody MarysThough you can’t go wrong mixing up the classic Bloody Mary ingredients–pickle brine, olive juice, black pepper–a dash of fish sauce takes this batch to the next level. Want to go big brine or go home? Add clam juice to the mix and you’ve got a Bloody Caesar.

Baked Peaches with Cheesecake Filling

Posted by on Monday Sep 15th, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style is back today with a stunning fruit-based dessert that’s literally fruit based: Brilliantly, a mouthful of cheesecake uses a halved peach as its foundation. Wow. Natalie joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just good old-fashioned butter, eggs, fruit, and cream cheese. Not ready to say goodbye to summer? Try her Chocolate-Covered Banana Pudding Pops.

It’s late summer. We shiver through early morning, determined we don’t need a sweater, determined that summer isn’t ending, determined that we have some say in the matter. Well, when it comes to dessert, we do have some say in the matter! This dessert is the perfect blend of the beginning of fall and the last taste of summer. The peaches go well with a strong cup of coffee, and can be served with ice cream or caramel sauce to make them more decadent.

This recipe is another easy-but-impressive dish that your friends won’t know took you 20 minutes. The ingredients are readily at hand, and if you can find local organic peaches, all the better. Just cut and pit the peaches, whip together the filling, and assemble. Tender baked peaches combine with a creamy, spicy cinnamon-sugar mix that might make you think fall isn’t so bad after all. And that maybe a sweater isn’t the worst idea.