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{Crowd Pleasing} Mac & Cheese Bar

December 21, 2016

Having a houseful for Christmas or New Years?

Want to serve something decadent?

Want to serve something in one pot? Enter this Mac & Cheese Bar. image

This is the perfect crowd friendly meal for a festive occasion – I made this last year for my families Christmas Eve party and it was so fun to watch our relatives grab piles of lobster in the middle of winter (something they would never do) and my kids top theirs with bacon. They were also my very favorite leftovers for sure.


The idea hit me because chefs are always offering AMAZING mac & cheese dishes at restaurants, and I often can’t decide which ingredient I would want the most.

Mac & Cheese with Lobster? Mac & Cheese with Bacon? Mac & Cheese with Truffles?

Why not share the love and have toppings with all of these goodies?  I invited a few friends over last weekend to share this and fell in love with it all over again. It is SO good and SO easy (my favorite combo).


Start your favorite Mac and Cheese recipe – mine is Martha Stewart’s Perfect Macaroni and Cheese recipe below (I always double it for leftovers in case someone is really hungry.) She calls for baking it with bread crumbs on top, but since I want people to stir in all their goodies, I reserved the breadcrumb topping and sautéed that with some butter and thyme to make my first topping: breadcrumbs. I thought this would be a little lackluster but oh how wrong I was. It was the perfect texture to complement everything else on the plate.

Then I bought frozen lobster, thawing it a few hours before serving. Then crumbled some bacon.


I added a side salad and we all ate like kings. This is every bit comfort food and luxury combined. The next day, I found a jar of black truffles and tried some on top. SO decadent. You only need a little. I found my jar at Homegoods, but you can order it here.

Note: If you want to keep the mac & cheese warm throughout the party you can use a crock pot! I pulled my Dutch Oven out right before dinner and it was kept warm with the lid.

Topping Ideas:

// Bread Crumbs with Thyme: sauté reserved bread crumbs in butter, adding fresh or dried thyme.

// Lobster: buy frozen and thaw in fridge over night or in warm water 2-3 hour before serving.

// Crumbled Bacon: cook as package directs (usually 375 for 12-14 minutes) and cool. Crumble and serve.

// Onions/Shallots: these would be good sautéed or deep fried until they are crispy

// Black Truffle: use a small amount of minced, oil, or shaved.

If you like diced tomatoes or avocados, those would work too. The sky is the limit.

The only thing that could make a plate of this more delicious is to add some sangria (thanks Molly!):


I hope you find a way to make this ( or gently hint to someone else to make it!). It is so fun and fills up hearts and bellies. My favorite kind of food.

I am going to take the rest of the year off and enjoy my family and go skiing up north. Here is wishing you and your families cheer and peace this Christmas and the Happiest, Healthiest of New Years.

Happy Eating! xoxo, Katie


Perfect Macaroni and Cheese (from Martha Stewart, find printer version here):

You can easily divide this recipe in half or double it (like I did!). Serves 12
6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (note: I reserved this as a topping)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top (or reserve if using for a topping). Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Topping Ideas:

// Bread Crumbs: sauté reserved bread crumbs in butter, adding fresh or dried thyme.

// Lobster: buy frozen and thaw in fridge over night or in warm water 2-3 hour before serving.

// Crumbled Bacon: cook as package directs (usually 375 for 12-14 minutes) and cool. Crumble and serve.

// Onions/Shallots: these would be good sautéed or deep fried until they are crispy

// Black Truffle:  use a small amount of minced, oil, or shaved.


Christmas Gift Ideas For Foodies

December 6, 2016

Have a foodie in your life? Or maybe you’re the foodie and everyone is like, what do you want for Christmas? Here are a few things I’ve found on the web and beyond that I have been loving (and perhaps adding to my own list!). Hope your fellow foodie heart will like them too.

1. These mini latte bowls and pasta bowls from Anthropologie:1minibowl1pastabowlAren’t they so cute? The big ones are the perfect size to hold while you are cozying up with past in front of a movie or a fire. And the mini ones are perfect for ice cream sundaes and tiny servings of pudding or cobbler, or just to use as ramekins.

2. Copper Measuring Cups: copper-measuring-cupsIt seems like I can never have too many measuring cups. I am loving these ones by Sur La Table – they look like mini copper pots.

3. The Insta Pot – instapotpicYou may have seen me on IG stories showing you how I use mine, but if you are not familiar with it, it is just 6-in-1 (or 7-in-1 depending on your model) pot that can be a Pressure Cooker, a Slow Cooker, A Steamer, A Ricer and…that’s all I know. I love the Insta Pot because it is a BIG time saver. I can steam veggies in 7 minutes, I can reduce a slow cooker 3-4 hour recipe to 50 minutes. I make pulled pork, lamb curry, beef stew, all in a fraction of the time. Great for those afternoons when you realize you forgot to take something out of the freezer in time to slow cook it. It goes on sale sometimes for $79 or $69, but this is a great gift at any price.

4. Veal Demi-Glace


Whenever I am eating something at a restaurant and I think ‘how did they get this deep flavor?” the answer is usually veal stock, or veal stock that has been reduced to a demi-glace. It is something most home cooks aren’t going to make on their own (when was the last time you had bundle of veal bones? Or 20 hours to roast them?) Enter this little jar of goodness – the Williams-Sonoma Veal Demi-Glace. I just ordered two – one for me and one for a gift, but I kind of want to order more.

5. Ina’s New Cookbook


I mean, we all ready love her, but isn’t Jeffery the cutest? Now we love him too. As usual, the recipes are very approachable, original, and look strait up delicious. She includes her VERY easy recipe for homemade ricotta which is enough of a reason to buy the book. I love how Ina describes her passion: “I have no greater pleasure than cooking for the people I love, particularly my husband Jeffrey.” Amen, sister.

6. Black Trumpet Cookbook – 


This book is for the food lover who is always looking to grow and learn more about flavors and techniques. Chef Mallett is my very favorite Portsmouth chef, and his dedication to local farmers and communities is inspiring. He started out as a food writer, which may be why I love this book since it is filled with wonderful stories and experience (food+words=my jam). Pretty much everything about this book is rich with flavor.

7. The pasta pot with strainer lid: 


Even if the only thing you make in the kitchen is mac and cheese, this whole operation just strikes me as very very useful. I am amazed this hasn’t been around as long as, say, toaster ovens because holy convenience. I think it would be great for making chicken stock too – I always seem to tumble hot pieces of carrots and celery everywhere when I strain mine. (p.s. This color is sold out, the link is for one that is available.)

8. The Remy Side Chair from Restoration Hardware: 


Foodies usually like to gather around a table, and with 4 kids, I really appreciate a chair I can wipe down. I am swooning over these that I saw on Jones Design Company  and hoping to pull the trigger on them soon since they are on sale!

9. Basically, the whole Magnolia Market includes lots of great gift ideas but I really love these Turkish Tea Towels:


10. …and I also love these cutting boards.


I use my rustic cutting boards all the time, for crusty bread on the table with soup, quick cheese board if friends pop by, anything. A must have for food lovers and really reasonably priced for the amount of charm and rustic appeal they give.

11. This Fermentation Crock might not look pretty but if they love pickles and sauerkraut, they will LOVE this.


I found a more modern version of it here but from what I gather it is not hard at all to do in just a simple pot. Chef Evan talks about it in his cookbook, and my blogging friend Nature Girl Natalie post pics of it on Instagram. But just a simple google search yields tons of ideas like this post on Fermented Foods You Can Make At Home. 

12. These Beaded Plates from Target:


I have shopped around quite a bit to replace our old everyday china and this one is coming up a winner. They are really inexpensive but look just as great as their Pottery Barn/William Sonoma counter parts. My husband is on notice about these:)

13. Orange Blossom Water here or King Arthur Flour (lots of great flavors & seasonings on this site!):


This is a great stocking stuffer. A little bit of this in cookies, crepes, macaroons, tea, salad dressings, simple syrup – even perfume! – for a subtle gentle flavor. I learned about this French trick from my favorite food blog, Manger. Here is her great Madeleine recipe which uses it. And I noticed a lot of other great flavorings at King Arthur Flour – Rose water, Pizza dough spices – so look around and see if you find something new.

14. Last but not least, if you have someone on a health kick they will love this Spiralizer from Martha Stewart.


I find the smaller ones hard to use, but this one is pretty sturdy for a good price. If you are looking for good recipes for veggies that have been spiraled, The Skinny Taste’s website is great (also great for the Insta Pot too!).

I am compiling a list of beautiful recipes for Christmas and Holiday gatherings next, so be on the look out for it!

Hope you are having a (somewhat) relaxing Advent- if you have already mailed out your Christmas cards or remembered to move your Elf everyday you are waayyy ahead of me.

xoxo Katie

Tuscan Pork Loin in Herb Bread

April 20, 2016


This dish is just a gem to have in your repertoire. It might be in the top three for my favorite recipes I’ve ever posted. If it looks rustic and heavenly in these pics, that’s because it is. IMG_8293

It is also a testament to how some things are worth the wait. I first tore this idea out of a magazine years ago, and kept it in my trusty binder of recipes (it was before Pinterest, that’s how long ago it was! But I still love my binder of magical recipes.) The article was on a Tuscan cooking class by the Divina Cuccina, which just sounds like Heaven, right? For those of us who can’t hop on a plane and head over there, this dish is the next best thing.

When the recipe somehow disappeared from my binder, I took to the internet to search for it. Happily I found a new blog to obsess over in the process. But most importantly, I found this long lost recipe.

I love this dish because it is so easy, but it is perfect for any occasion and makes it special. A party, a picnic, the beach, a random Tuesday night (which is when I made it!). It has huge flavor thanks to these: IMG_8338


It is so easy to just sear the pork tenderloin and then lay it in the flavored baguette. The magazine article I read said to tie it with cooking twine, so that is how I did it. The Italian Dish says to wrap it in aluminum foil. I’m not sure it’s going to matter because the end result is this soft, fragrant garlic bread that is very moist, and pork that has been so infused with flavor from the lemon, garlic and herbs.  I have to say I really loved the crunchiness of the bread on the outside contrasted with the chewiness on the inside, so I like it with the twine. (It also made for fantastic leftovers, and since the bread was like herb croutons, it was delicious on a salad for lunch the next day.)  But I might try it in foil next time and see.

Side note: one of my favorite things at holiday parties is eating filet of beef with garlic bread, so I think this whole operation could be done with a beef tenderloin and some garlic bread. Just saying.


IMG_8341IMG_8359 - Version 2

If you do check out the Italian Dish site, notice that she has a link to her baguette recipe which she just whipped up before making this dish. Do not let that distract you or make you think you’re not worthy. You are. It is just fine to do this the easy way and pick up a baguette. I actually love that this has such simple ingredients, you can keep a pork tenderloin and a baguette in your freezer and defrost the night before so you always have it on hand.

Ok, go forth and make this and fit it into your summer repertoire. You will thank me, I promise!

Tuscan Roast Pork in a Baguette

The size of the baguette and pork tenderloin don’t have to match exactly. You will be trimming off the ends of the baguette to fit the meat.


  • 1 small baguette
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 large sage leaf sprig
  • 1 teaspoon course sea salt
  • 2 springs flat leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 375° F.

Cut the baguette in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out some of the soft insides (you can use these for bread crumbs for a later use).  Set aside.

Strip leaves off rosemary and sage sprigs.  Place the garlic, herb leaves, sea salt, parsley and lemon zest on a cutting board and chop everything up finely.  

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large fry pan over medium high heat.  Season the pork tenderloin well with freshly ground pepper. Sear the pork on all sides in the pan and remove after you have a nice crust formed all over.  

Brush the remaining olive oil, 2 tablespoons, onto the inside of the baguette halves.  Sprinkle the herb mixture on top of the olive oil. Place the pork tenderloin on the bottom half of the baguette, place the top half of the baguette on top of the pork and cut off any overhanging bread on the ends.  Wrap the baguette up tightly in aluminum foil or tie in cooking twine and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for 45-55 minutes and remove.  Let rest for about 10 minutes.  Remove foil or ties and slice.

Recipe is origionally from Judy Witts and was adapted on

Roast Chicken 2 Ways

April 8, 2016


I’m so excited to be back posting on THO again! It feels like catching up with an old friend. I have been working on my food memoir since October, and I am happy to share that I submitted half of my book to my agents and they liked it! After a few edits they are going to start sending it out. It is also SO nerve-wracking to send out a manuscript, but I have loved reading food memoirs lately so they really inspired me. So, here is to hoping that I can write the second half as fast as possible (or, at least before the kids are out of school!).

Writing about good food has made me miss blogging about it for sure. In honor of resurrecting this space, I am kicking it old school, and re-creating one of the dishes that absolutely made me fall in love with cooking: Roast Chicken. I have heard from so many people that they don’t know where to start in the kitchen, so I just wanted to show you where I started: Julia Child’s roast chicken – it is so easy & so good. If you are already well versed in making this dish, here are two versions to keep it interesting.

  1. The Roast –


My daughter just calls this ‘favorite chicken’.  All my kids love the wings and legs. My husband likes the meat sliced with gravy on top. I love it that way too. But sometimes I am in the mood for:

2. The Roast Chicken Goat Cheese Salad –


There is just something about pairing this roast chicken with a salad with goat cheese and champagne vinegrette (and a cold white wine, of course). I actually took the bits of veggies in the pan and scooped them onto the salad. I may have even drizzled a little of the gravy on there too.

Here’s why you want to make this: It teaches you how to roast anything, just adjusting for size and doneness, and then how to make a gravy with the drippings. 

When I first started cooking, I followed Julia’s master recipe. Now, I just lay the bird on a cookie sheet. I like to cook it breast side down so that all the juices run down into the breast. If you like eating chicken breast with roasted skin on it, you’ll want to roast it on the back.  If you want to get fancy, you can learn how to truss the chicken here. But the point is: roasted chicken doesn’t have to be fussy. It can be totally messy and lazy and it will still taste good. I usually just tuck the wings and legs into the body so they don’t dry out.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset


Processed with VSCO with a6 preset


I am becoming a big fan of cooking everything on a roasting sheet. See all those browned drippings? Add chicken broth (you can also add white wine), scrap them up, add a pat of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and the gravy is done.

I can’t wait to share some of the other adventures I have had in the kitchen while I was away, but for now I will leave you to your weekend, and hope it is a great one. Thanks for reading! xo Katie

Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken (printer version here): 

One 3-4 lb. chicken

2 T. softened butter

10-12 thyme stems

1 lemon

2-3 garlic cloves

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

For gravy:

½ Tbs. minced shallot or green onion

1 cup chicken stock

2 T. softened butter

Preheat oven to 425.

Sprinkle inside of chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon butter. Slice lemon in half and add to cavity, along with 10-12 stems of thyme and 2-3 garlic cloves. Truss chicken if desired.

Scatter carrots and onion on sheet pan and place chicken on top. Coat outside of chicken with remaining tablespoon of butter, and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and ½ pepper.

Roast at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350. (Julia says to turn chicken every 15 minutes but I don’t do this and it turns out fine). Cook for another 60-65 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, until inside registered at 165 or juices run clear.  Let rest at least 10 minutes so juices redistribute before carving.

To make gravy:
Place pan over high heat, and add shallots, cooking for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and boil rapidly, whisking to picking up brown bits. If you have time, let it reduce by half, otherwise just stir in butter, then serve over slices of roast chicken.

Sausage Kale and Lentil Stew

October 13, 2015



So, this might be the yummiest recipe I have ever posted.

It starts with bacon. Then a ton of good for you veggies softened in the bacon fat.


Then add kale….

imageandouille sausage…(you can totally substitute a less spicy smoked kielbasa or sausage if you are making this for kids)…


and French lentils…(from Target no less).



Add chicken broth and whole tomatoes and simmer it all for an hour.

Can I just explain how the flavors of the spicy smokey andouille sausage and the bacon drippings flavor the whole dish? Such a great combo of textures and flavors.


I adore lentils and kale and soup, so if you do too it is pretty hard not to love this dish. Oh, and don’t forget the shredded asiago cheese and bacon crumbles on top – they totally make this dish.

This is the exact kind of thing a crave when I go into a sandwich shop in cold weather and having it in my house (while I am still in my sweats, writing) makes me feel like a lucky, lucky girl.


So consider yourself armed for the cold weather months ahead. Happy Eating! Katie

Sausage, Kale and Lentil Stew (printer version here):

3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced (about 4 ounces)
1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1½ cups)
3 large carrots, diced (about 1¼ cups)
3 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
2 bay leaves
8 ounces French lentils
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch-thick diagonal slices (or other sausage)
2 cups fresh kale, coarsely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with juice
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Asiago or Parmesan cheese, grated

In a large heavy pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove the bacon pieces and drain on paper towels. Reserve for garnishing.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaves to the bacon fat. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the vegetables, stirring frequently until very tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, sausage, and kale. Add the tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes with your fingers as you add them to the pot. Add the chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, covered, until lentils are tender. Stir and add more salt and pepper to taste, as desired.

Ladle into bowls and top with the reserved bacon bits and some grated cheese. Serve immediately. (Recipe from Katie Lee’s The Comfort Table)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Gazpacho with Crab & Avocado

July 28, 2015

imageIs there anything more refreshing on a hot day then Gazpacho? It is one of my all time favorite summer dishes. It is like drinking your salad – so filling and delicious, with the tang of vinegar and kick from jalapeño.

On our first day in Paris, it was a 100 degrees, and we ate lunch at a bistro where I saw it on a chalk board menu served with vegetable tartar on top. It was so refreshing – ice cold, and the tartar made of just cucumbers, onions and zucchini was so different (and so precisely chopped! The woman who waited on us came up and asked how I liked it and I am guessing she made it herself).

Her dish made me think about adding something on top, and I wanted to add a protein to make it a meal. I adore the combination of crab and avocado, and I was craving them tossed in lemon. So I made a mixture tossed in a quick vinaigrette out of lemon, olive oil, and mustard. The result was…amazing! Perfect for lunch or as an appetizer. (You could even put them in little glasses for a party).

To make the gazpacho: imageChop all the veggies and put them in a food processor. Then tear up the bread and add it along with all the liquids (water, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil). That is it!

imageimagePulse it to the desired consistency (fine, but not liquified). So easy. And it makes a huge batch, great for a party or for luxurious lunches the whole week.

For the crab and avocado (which would be good on anything, right?):

imageimageCube two avocados, and squeeze half of a lemon over it. Then add half of the 1 lb. can of lump crab – I really love Heron Point’s brand, and you can freeze the other half, though we ate ours as an appetizer with easy remoulade the next night. But you could also use shrimp as well, chopped if they are large. In a bowl, mix together 3 T. olive oil, 1 teaspoon dijon, and the other half of a lemon, a dash of tabasco sauce along with salt and pepper. Then pour that over the lump crab-avacado mixture, and stir. Add 2-3 T. scallions.


To serve, pour chilled gazpacho into bowl. Spoon crab mixture on top and enjoy.

imageThis is just the most luxurious dish, the crab goes so well with the tomatoes and spicy jalapeño.  Simple flavors, simple ingredients. So stock up at your next farmer’s market or with your garden bounty and whip this up – I promise you will thank me!

Gazpacho with Crab and Avocado (printer version here)

For Gazpacho:

4-5 very ripe beefsteak tomatoes

2 large English cucumbers, halved and seeded

2 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 jalapenos, seeded and stemmed

1 small (or ½ of one large) red onion

2 slices day old white bread

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 cup ice plus ½ cup water

4 T. red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more to drizzle



Core and seed tomatoes. Peel and seed cucumbers. Stem and seed the peppers. Tear two slices of bread into pieces. Combine vegetables, bread and liquids in food processor and process until almost smooth; season with salt and pepper.

Pour soup into pitcher, cover and refrigerate until very cold. (You can serve with croutons if making without the crab mixture.)


For the Crab and Avocado Topping:

2 ripe avocados

½ lb. lump crab

1 lemon

3 T. olive oil

dash of tabasco

salt and pepper

2 T. scallions, sliced


Cube avocados and spoon out. Sprinkle with half the lemon juice. Add crabmeat and toss lightly so ingredients stay chunky. Make vinaigrette out of next 5 ingredients, and gently toss to combine. Add one large spoonful on top of each bowl of soup.