Author Archives: marisab

Chimichurri and Steak Pizza


I got some chanterelles from a coworker this week, and decided to make some pizzas friday night! The pizza dough recipe that I always use makes three pies worth, so we did three different variations. Pizza 1 was a chanterelle, portabello, onion pizza on a bechemal. Pizza 2 was my classic pear, caramelized onion, goat cheese, honey, and mozarella pizza. Pizza 3 was where we got… creative. My friend Stillman was talking about doing a verde pork pizza, which got me thinking about using chimichurri sauce as a base. I’ve really liked making chimichurri sauce for steak over the last few months so this was just the next step.

I started out with a 3/4 lb NY Strip steak. I learned to cook steaks using the Serious Eats guide to pan seared steaks. The short hand is:

    • Heat cast iron skillet in an oven at 400F for 20+ minutes
  •  Turn on burner up to medium high (6/10 on my burner)
  •  Salt and Pepper the top of the steak liberally
  •  Transfer cast iron skillet from oven to stove top and toss the steak on pepper/salt side down
  •  Salt and Pepper the top of the steak
  • Flip steak after a couple minutes
  • Keep flipping steak and until all the outside is seared. You want to keep it more rare since it will cook in the oven on the pizza.

We made a basic chimchurri sauce. Put all of the following in a blender or food processor and process:

    1. 1 cup parsley
  •  1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 deseeded jalepeno
  • 5-7 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste

We then topped the pizza dough with chimchurri, sliced steak, light spread of mozarella, and some gorgonzola chunks.


Here’s the final result! The gorgonzola was perhaps a little much for some of our group. I liked it on the pizza, but it did pull away from the chimchurri flavor. Next time i’d also consider putting some chimchurri on TOP of the pizza once it’s done baking to add some of the freshness back. Definitely doing it again!


Painting the Living Room (Before and After)!

dining before and after

living room before and after

I bought a house in June of last year and FINALLY got around to painting the living room this weekend. The house was very well taken care of by the previous owner, but the paint color choices are definitely not what I would have chosen. It’s been somewhat livable this whole time, but I underestimated how great it would feel to have it done and looking more our style.

Here’s the before. I think the paint color was some sort of cream/peach combination (sorry for the bad quality in the before picture, it was my phone camera)

Dining Room Before

Living Room Before

On Friday night, our two friends Michael and Stillman came over to help Sam and I. We cleared out all the furniture in the room except for the couches, entertainment center, and the bookcase, which we covered with drop clothes. We then went painted one coat of Behr Ultra Pure White on the ceiling and one coat of Behr Classic Silver on the walls. We ended around midnight and made a late night Dick’s run before dropping the boys at their apartments.

The next morning Sam and I woke up and it looked very BLUE. Sam was convinced that I got the wrong paint or mixed it up with the paint we made in the bedroom. We did the second coat together and then I did another coat on the ceiling and did one coat on the trim. I need to do another coat of the trim, but was too tired to do it this weekend. At least it looks a lot crisper!

Here’s the after! The befores were taken in the summer and it was a rather dreary afternoon here in a very rainy spring, but it’s definitely a positive change and I’m loving coming home to it!

4.6.2014 dining room

2014-04-06 18.58.30 Living room Full

I’d like to eventually get a new entertainment center (especially since the Expedit belongs to my sister Linnea). I’d also like to put a gallery wall around the TV to blend it in a little bit more. I think the fireplace would also look great with a different screen in front of it.

2014-04-06 18.58.59 TV Wall

The entry way is so much better than the arrangement I had when we first moved in, but it was a learning process. I’ll post about that original fail and the subsequent save of a craigslist purchase later. I think the only thing on the entryway is probably some art or decoration and then a new lamp!

2014-04-06 18.58.43 Entry

I’m feeling really happy about the arrangement of the furniture in the room, but with the new walls it’s definitely obvious that we’ll have to get new couches eventually. I’ve actually never bought a couch! The loveseat is a couch that’s been in the family a long time, and the sectional is a couch we got for free from some friends who were moving out of their house. It’ll definitely feel very adult to buy some (possibly new) furniture!

2014-04-06 18.59.24 Living Room Corner

Next steps for the living space:

  • New couch
  • New loveseat
  • New carpet (this one shows all the flecks)
  • Better lighting for the entry way
  • Art on the walls!
  • New doorknob on the closet door (the gold sticks out in a weird way)



Wedding Cakes!

main cake

I got to make the cakes for the wedding I had the tasting for a while ago. We settled on five round cakes and three quarter sheet cakes.

The cakes we chose were:

  • Chocolate with Whipped Chocolate Ganache filling and Swiss Buttercream frosting
  • Chocolate with Raspberry Buttercream filling and Swiss Buttercream frosting
  • White with Raspberry Buttercream filling and Swiss Buttercream frosting
  • Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream filling and Cream Cheese frosting

all cakes

The week of planning looked something like this:
Sunday – buy all cake related ingredients
Monday – Bake all the white cakes (4 layers)
Tuesday – Bake all the chocolate cakes (6 layers)
Thursday – Bake all the pumpkin cakes (8 layers)
Saturday – make all the fillings and frostings and frost
Sunday – deliver to venue and eat

Luckily I had my friend Michele there to help out on Saturday and Sunday, which was really awesome! I made all the fillings/frostings and frosted the cakes. She did the embellishments and did the main part of putting them into a presentable state on Sunday. The wedding itself was a lot of fun, as a lot of our ultimate frisbee team was invited. I also caught the bouquet which was great, because people gave my boyfriend a lot of hassle about it!

Overall it was a good experience. I caught a bad cold that I didn’t get over until this week (and the wedding was two weekends ago), so it was a bit rough to get through for that reason. When all is sad and down though, I’d probably do it again! I’m still not sure I would commit to doing a larger tier or not though.

marisa 241

Baking Wedding Cakes – the tasting


When some friends of mine got engaged last year, I offered to make them cakes for their wedding assuring them that they would taste good, but probably not look perfect. Last Sunday we had a tasting! Luckily, we also had people over to watch the Seahawks game afterwards, so they were able to make a dent in the leftovers.

They had given me some ideas for cakes, fillings and frosting that they wanted to taste, so I whipped some of them up and our friend Michele helped me!

marisa 243

Cake #1 was a pumpkin spice cake with cinnamon buttercream filling and cream cheese frosting. It was (almost) everyone’s favorite option. The Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake was taken from Bon Appetit and turned out really well. I used the same Cream Cheese Frosting from Smitten Kitchen that I used for Shannon’s birthday. In this case I left out the peanut butter and added an extra tablespoon of butter to compensate.

marisa 241

The other cakes we tried were the wedding cakes Smitten Kitchen made a few years ago: Vanilla and Chocolate Layer Cakes. The frosting was a Swiss Buttercream Frosting.

marisa 238

We then tried different combinations of fillings with the chocolate and vanilla cakes. We made a raspberry buttercream, cinnamon buttercream, german chocolate (pecan/coconut) filling, and a whipped chocolate ganache.

marisa 240

The German Chocolate Filling is from David Lebovitz and was phenomenal. Later that week when I brought the leftovers into work, one of my coworkers offered to eat it with a spoon. We didn’t end of choosing it for the wedding, but I definitely want to make an entire German Chocolate Cake in the future.

The winner for cake #2 ended up being the Vanilla Layer Cake with raspberry buttercream filling. The raspberry buttercream came from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I took the Neoclassic Buttercream recipe from her cookbook and added some Raspberry sauce to it. I think Rose recommends 1/4 – 1/2 cup sauce to the whole recipe. Since I was just doing this for the tasting I only had a few cups of the frosting and added the sauce tablespoon by tablespoon until it had the right flavor.

Raspberry Sauce
Take one bag of frozen raspberries and cooked them on a stove top until they started to break down. Strain the mixture into a bowl and return the juice to the stove top and allow it took cook down a bit.

marisa 245

Cake #3 ended up being the chocolate layer cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache. The recipe came from Faith Durand on the Kitchn and ended up being really delicious. By itself it’s a little bit bitter, but balances out the sweetness of the chocolate cake and the frosting.

marisa 244

The other filling we tried was the cinnamon buttercream we chose for the pumpkin layer cake. I used the same Neoclassic Buttercream as the raspberry sauce and added cinnamon until it had enough cinnamon flavor (probably 1 T. or so). When I figure out the right proportion we’re using for the wedding, I’ll update that here.

We ended up choosing three main combinations: Pumpkin Spice with Cinnamon Buttercream filling and Cream Cheese frosting, Chocolate Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache and Swiss Buttercream frosting, Vanilla Cake with Raspberry Buttercream filling and Swiss Buttercream frosting.

I’ll update more later when I figure out the exact numbers of cakes being made and the presentation! But for now we at least have the flavors!

Shannon’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

Shannon's Cake 007

I wholly admit that I can be a snob about cakes. I think everyone deserves a homemade birthday cake. Not from a box and not from a store. Unfortunately within my family, pretty much everyone’s birthday has a claimed cake maker. My sister is the baking expert in the family, so she’ll usually bake for my mom’s birthday. Then my mom will bake for my step dad’s birthday. Sam’s mom bakes one for his birthday. And so on and so forth. The cakes are ALL delicious, but it means that I don’t get to make birthday cakes very often.

Luckily, I have Shannon! She is more than happy to have me bake her a cake anytime, especially on her birthday. This year I sent her a few links to cake recipes I hadn’t tried before, but I knew this would be the winner even before she sent back her choice.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and it was honestly one of the better “fancy” cakes I have ever made. I usually make cakes pretty quick and don’t wait long enough for the cake to cool before frosting, so presentation is usually lacking even when the taste is delicious. I’m trying to do better in that regard, so I ended up doing a crumb coat on the three layers and letting it cool in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then I frosted the rest of the cake and it frosted up wonderfully! I was able to get the smoothest frost that I’ve every done. I was really proud of it, but then I just covered it with a chocolate glaze, so it ended up not mattering!

Shannon's Cake 012

I really recommend this recipe and all of it’s components. The cake was extremely moist and not too rich. The frosting had a really great peanut butter flavor. And the glaze also came out really well. You could use one or all of the components to make a cake yourself, depending on how ambitious you are. Each component was fairly easy to make though, but it just took some time to put it all together. The end result was really rich, so definitely drink a glass of milk with it!

Happy Birthday Shannon! Thanks for letting me bake for you! I’m glad we were able to find a concoction that melded chocolate and peanut butter, thus satisfying all of your wildest cake dreams!

Hobo Pesto

Pesto Caprese Sandwich

I had some friends over for swimming near my new place. We tried out the lake nearby and it was the perfect temperature for a sweltering Seattle day. Sweltering heat = 85F. We’re pretty weak here in Seattle!

After swimming, everyone else headed off to the store for panini ingredients, and I decided to make some pesto using what came in my CSA box this week. One of their recommendations in the weekly newsletter was arugula and garlic scape pesto, so I decided to try that. After looking at some recipes, I didn’t have cheese or any of the nut types other people were using, so I improvised. I remember reading about vegan pesto on Food 52, so I substituted nutritional yeast for the parmesan. I had some almonds in the fridge but it felt boring with just those, so I found some pistachios to make it a bit more exciting!

When all was said and done it was a little bitter and “off” tasting, so I added a splash or two of red wine vinegar and that really evened out the flavor a bit more. We slathered it onto some bread and made Caprese (Tomato + Basil + Mozzarella) Panini with Pesto. We picked some lettuce from the garden with a balsamic vinaigrette and had the first of hopefully many meals on my back deck!

Arugula and Garlic Scape Pesto

  • One bunch arugula
  • Handful garlic scapes
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup Almonds
  • 1/4 cup Pistachios
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 – 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 2 T – 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast OR Parmesan Cheese

Using a food processor (or blender), blend all ingredients until smooth. You can add parts incrementally (such as the oil) and taste it between additions to get the right texture/flavor you want.

Pizza (or A Fine Place to Start)

Pizza Margherita

This past weekend I had a whole host of people from my ultimate frisbee team at my dad’s vacation home on an island in the Puget Sound. We had planned this for probably three months and I was wiped out when the time came. I mentioned in my past post that I had recently finished a big project at work. Well it was a BIG project and I’ve gotten very little sleep the last month. As we ramped up for our launch, I also put an offer on a house and bought it! I launched something huge on Tuesday at work and stayed up all night and Wednesday to monitor, I signed all the paperwork for the house on Thursday, and we left for our retreat on Friday. Monday I got the keys to my house. It’s been a huge week. I collapsed Saturday afternoon and succumbed to a cold for the rest of the weekend. I’ll give some more details of the house later!

Luckily, this pizza was made Friday night and prepped earlier in the week when I used a cooking spree to decompress from the stress of house buying and website launching.

I made the tomato sauce on Tuesday and froze it for use that weekend. The pizza dough I literally made while on the phone with my aunt in 5 minutes using my food processor. It was refrigerated and then rose in the car on the way up. We then assembled the pizzas and baked them on a pizza stone at 500-550F. We sort of threw random stuff together with red sauce and mozzarella: salami, sauteed mushroom and onions. Margherita (basil, tomato, mozzarella). Sauteed zucchini with mushroom and onions. Even a dairy-free Romesco Pizza with Carmelized Onions and Squash that Steph contributed the toppings and sauce for. The sauce was very delicious and I didn’t miss the cheese one bit! It uses almonds so it’s actually fairly rich.

Tomato Sauce
The tomato sauce comes from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s New York Style Pizza Sauce.

Tomato Sauce

Pizza dough
The pizza dough also comes from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. His New York Style Pizza Dough is awesome. He recommends weighing it out but I usually just go by cups and it works alright. One of my pizza crusts was noticeably tastier and stretchier than the other so obviously there’s an optimal way to measure the ingredients. This was by far the best pizza dough I’ve made before and now I have an itch to improve upon it and try different things. It’s a great pizza dough recipe to start from.

summer 003

My First Kale Salad

Kale Salad

I’ve had a bit of a love affair with kale the past year. Sauteed kale, veggies, and sausage is one of my default weeknight dinner meals. I toss it into soups, frittatas, and have enjoyed it raw in salads (notably at Serious Pie). I’ve never made a raw kale salad at home though, and I have been feeling like I’ve been in a salad rut lately. Romaine. Tomatoes. Cucumber. Balsamic Vinegar. The world of salads is so much greater than these ingredients, yet it’s so easy just to reach for the default that gets it done.

I got to leave work a bit early one day this week (after having been there very late a few other days this week) and used my time off to cook. My team just launched something BIG. Something I’ve been working on since I started my job 1.5 years ago, and something people have been working on for a decent amount longer. It’s involved some very, very late nights the past month so I haven’t been treating myself right. I used my free afternoon to bake a cake for the launch, a cake for my coworker’s birthday, and prepare some pizza sauce for a weekend trip with my Ultimate Frisbee team. And then I made this salad for me.

Sam was a skeptic of this salad and spent his first 6 or 7 bites grimacing. He then proceeded to eat normally and say I could make it again because it was quite delicious and he was just trolling. He enjoys messing with me a little too much! But I (secretly) like it.

I looked at a few kale salads to get inspiration and ended up basing mine off one I found on Serious Eats. I would probably make more dressing next time. If you have a particularly huge bunch of kale, definitely double the dressing part of it.

Kale Close Up

Kale and Stone Fruit Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing
adapted from Suzanne Lehrer’s Make Ahead Roast Chicken and Kale Salad

  • One bunch kale ( russian red was especially delicious)
  • 2 nectarines (or some other stone fruit)
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan


  • 3 T. Water
  • 1 T. Olive Oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp. tahini
  • 1 medium or small Lemon’s worth of juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare dressing by whisking all ingredients together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper last to taste.
Wash Kale, remove stems, and chop leaves.
Cut nectarine into slices.
Chop almonds.
Combine all ingredients and toss.

Nearly Flourless Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

On the weekend we were invited over to a friend’s place for a pot roast dinner. I didn’t want to arrive empty handed, so I made Molly Wizenberg’s Winning Hearts and Minds Cake. It only has a few ingredients (chocolate, eggs, butter, sugar, and a smidge of flour and salt) and it’s actually pretty close my family’s winning brownie recipe. Both come together quickly and are very tasty. That must be why I really like it!

Although it definitely came in second after the host’s delicious roast, it was still a winner among friends. This cake is sooo easy to make and has one of the highest deliciousness to effort involved ratios of any baked good I know. It’s a pretty foolproof recipe to try if you feel intimidated by baking. The only things you might mess up would be adding the chocolate mix to the eggs when it’s still too hot (you might cook the eggs!) or not cooking it the right length of time.

Here‘s the recipe again in case you missed it above!


Minestrone Top view

I really love soup. It’s generally healthy, hearty, filling, and delicious. Dinners at my mom and stepdad’s growing up often revolved around soup and they have a fairly large soup repertoire from which to draw from. My dad makes a kale and sausage soup that tastes like home to my sister and me, and he has been successfully experimenting with lots of other stews lately.

My boyfriend Sam, meanwhile, does not generally like soup. He loves pho, matzo ball soup, and a few other select soups. Unfortunately, most of the soups I love to make don’t fall on his “love to eat” list. It’s one of our larger food conflicts (the primary conflict revolves around me asking for bites of his food while we’re out at restaurants).

Sam does enjoy eating the minestrone I started making 6 months ago. Here’s the link to Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini over at Food52.

I pretty much follow the main soup recipe exactly, which is why I’m only linking. I’ll omit the bacon if I’m feeding a vegetarian and I’ll add sausage if I’m feeding Sam. I also add spices that aren’t in the recipe. Usually a few shakes to 1 tsp of cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes and whatever else I feel like adding at the time. I don’t know why they don’t have spices added to the original recipe as it’s a bit bland without anything but salt and pepper.

This is an excellent soup to make for leftovers, although I don’t recommend freezing it with the tortellini as pasta in soup doesn’t freeze particularly well and tends to break down and taste pretty “meh”. I’ve frozen it sans tortellini and added some later on.