Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches


By Lydia Ellison

See my ideas for simple Summer BBQ sides over at the blog.

Don’t let the summer slip into fall with out making ice cream cookie sandwiches for a Labor Day BBQ or a friend’s late summer soiree. The nostalgia factor is a powerful force, it does most of the work for you in delighting your friends and guests.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Ice Cream Sandwich

Make a batch of classic Toll House chocolate chip cookies and substitute M & M candies for the chocolate chips in the recipe. Use Organic unsalted butter and cage free eggs for better tasting cookies.  You can go to a party store or candy store and pick your own M & M colors if you want your cookies to match your party. If you do that and post the picture in our comments I will give you a medal. Allow the cookies to cool and you will have festive, multicolored delicious cookies.

M & M cookies

M & M cookies

Now make batch of vanilla ice cream. I love this recipe by David Lebovitz. If you don’t have a home ice cream maker then buy some nice quality vanilla ice cream or pick some up at a local creamery. You will need 2 pints to make sandwiches of all the cookies.

ready to wrap

ready to wrap

Place one cookie underside up on a piece of plastic wrap. Top with a small scoop of ice cream and finish with another cookie. Wrap in plastic and put in the freezer immediately. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Can be made a few day in advance. Serve from the freezer with a napkin. I made these for a 4th of July party and my friend Mary said they were “the most specialist.”

Best Little Kitchen Gift Ever


By Sarah Lagrotteria

My Aunt Gigi gave me these mini prep bowls for Christmas last year.  They’re so pretty I keep them out on the counter.  Friends can’t resist grabbing them and asking, “where did you get these?”

Martha mini prep bowls

I keep them in a stack with the top one (in my kitchen that’s the pale pale mint, second from bottom here) filled with Maldon sea salt.  If you buy them, I swear that you’ll love and use them constantly.  I think I may have even chosen my wall colors  around these little guys…oh, Martha…


Tomato Tart, Plum Tart


By Sarah Lagrotteria

I’m majorly obsessed with tarts. They are the easiest things to make (especially with the help of good-quality frozen puff!) and always look beautiful. Here’s one savory and one sweet I’ve made this past week.

The first is a tomato, feta and kalamata olive tart in a puff pastry crust.

I bought the frozen puff from Surfas in Culver City which has the absolute best in my opinion.  If you haven’t been and you live in Los Angeles, go!  It’s an amazing place.  Trader Joe’s also has an excellent all-butter frozen puff.

For this tart, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.  I broke a block of feta into smaller chunks and tossed it with olive oil and a generous shake or two of dried oregano.  I quartered the kalamata olives and left the beautiful cherry tomatoes whole.  I rolled the dough into a 9-inch tart pan and, working from the inside out, laid the tomatoes in concentric circles (it took an entire pint of tomatoes), leaving gaps here and there for a chunk of seasoned feta.  I then added the olives and finished it off with a sprinkle of sea salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Bake until the crust is lightly browned, the cheese is gooey and the tomatoes are just beginning to blacken, about 40 minutes.  And the smell…..

My second tart of the week was a take on Ina’s delicious plum tart.

I kept her proportions except I used a 9×13 rectangle tart pan instead of a 9-inch round. I’ve made this recipe before and there is more than enough of nutty buttercrumb crust to fill the larger tin.  I also used almonds instead of walnuts and beautiful yellow and pinky green pluots instead of plums.  Baked as directed, the tart was sour-sweet perfection.


Wedding Decor


By Sarah Lagrotteria

It’s good to be back!  I’ve been waiting months to share with you some of the décor decisions we made for my wedding last week.  All photos courtesy of Gina DeConti of Imaginative Studios in Chicago and our very own Lydia Ellison.

The ceremony and reception took place at my parents’ home, with guests progressing from the front yard for the ceremony to the house for the cocktail hour then out to the backyard for dinner and dancing.  It was important to me that refreshments be available at all times, so my friends and family were greeted with Mason Jars glasses filled with sparkling water and lemonade.


Our tent was clear on all sides so I based the wedding colors on what my dad’s yard would look like at the time.  As Lydia mentioned, I went with white, greens, pale pale pinks and midnight blue (for the night sky and just because it’s Angus’ fave color).  We echoed the surrounds by using natural materials, like a natural washed flax for the tablecloths, hemstitched linen for the napkins, sequoia wood for the flatware and bamboo for the chairs.  Water goblets in clear green glass reflected the tall trees that encircled the tent.  It all felt very intimate and midsummer night’s dreamish…



For our salad and dessert plates, we picked up on the stonefruit and berries in our centerpieces.  We chose the Sèvres China pattern which features delicate berries on the vine.  We used four different colors—green, blue, lavender (which looks more like a silvery pale pink) and pink.  Each table had a different color for the salad course (see below for the blue, right and lavender, left) and everyone had the blue pattern for dessert.


For dessert, we had 12 different white buttercream cakes from Three Tarts Bakery.  Each table received its own cake for cutting. Mine was coconut with a luscious layer of lemon curd and Lydia’s was lemon curd with fresh strawberries.  Others had variations on white cake with fresh berries, chocolate fudge cake with white mousse or banana cake with chocolate ganache. The best part was that once a table finished tasting their cake, they sent envoys to gather slices of from the next table over so that everyone could taste more than once kind.  Evidently things got a little heated over the banana cake!


I wish I had some of that coconut cake now….xoxo sl

Fresh Fruit Centerpieces


Sorry we’ve been away for a few weeks, Sarah got married! She had a beautiful ceremony and reception at the spectacular home of her parents, outside of Chicago. Sarah and I made the centerpieces for the reception tables.

She designed her wedding using a color palette of white, greens, pale pale pink and midnight. Summer fruit of white peaches, black plums and black mission and green kadota figs provided the perfect hues. Two days before the wedding we nestled the fruit on a bed of pale green moss atop mercury glass candy dishes.

Sarah added the black dahlias, assorted pink blooms as well as fresh blackberries the morning of the wedding. The arrangements were a hit among the guests. The mercury glass sparkled in the candle light and the fruit was a rustic and bountiful addition to each table.

No one died from eating the fruit off the arrangements (we super glued the fruit together) and only one arrangement light on fire from a nearby candle! Success.

Food Inc.


by Lydia Ellison

Please try to go see the documentary Food Inc. if it is playing in your area. If it is not available then please read one of Michael Pollan’s books In Defense of Food or the Omnivores Dilemma. It’s vital to your personal health and well being to educate yourself about the food you are eating and where it is coming from. I believe one of the great challenges for our generation is the shedding of the industrial food system and the “re-embracing” of locally, sustainably, ethically and organically grown foods.

A few easy things you can do eat responsibly and healthfully-

1. shop at your local farmer’s markets for produce, bread, eggs, fish, meats, flowers, honey and all sorts of snacks. You know the food is locally grown and you encourage and support your local farms. Find a farmer’s market here.

2. No time for the Farmer’s Markets? Get the farm produce delivered to your door in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. Find a CSA box in your area here.

3. Purchase organic, free range and grass fed meats and dairy products. There are some ethically responsible meat companies like Mary’s Chickens and Niman Ranch products (they even make hot dogs!!!) just to name a few.

4. Avoid food chain restaurants (especially fast food) and eat at places that promote the use of farmer’s market produce and responsible raised meat. Trust me the restaurants who do this write the details on the menu because they are proud of the ingredients.

5. eat fresh, perishable food. Nothing from boxes, bags or tubs. THIS MEANS YOU WILL HAVE TO START COOKING YOUR OWN FOOD. Yes I said it. You can do it! Sarah and I are here to help.

Bonus-Read a testimonial to the change this movie has inspired in my friend Patrick

lunching with myself

by Lydia Ellison
One of my great pleasures in life is taking myself out to lunch. It’s quick and quiet, no compromising on what to order or being considerate of the preferences and dietary needs of your dining companions. No sharing, no tastes, no sips. A meal of one’s own.
My new favorite restaurant for said ritual/treat/lunch is Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater Village. The food is excellent, casual dishes with sophisticated flavors and fresh ingredients.
The long wall of communal books welcome solo dinners and doubles as chic decor. I went today and found myself staring at some of my favorite stories in all of literature. The God of Small Things, Mansfield Park, Stones from the River and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone just happened to be winking out at me from stacks of other books.

The fresh spring rolls are stuffed with fried tofu skin, crunchy green papaya and marinated carrot, fresh basil and crispy shallots.

See… so yummy on the inside

Chicken Pho with a peppery broth and slippery, chewy homemade rice noodles.

Thick, sweet and delightfully strong iced coffee with condensed milk. I plucked the copy of Sorcerer’s Stone off the shelf and tucked into my meal and caught up with Harry, age 11.

Olive Oil Lemon Yogurt Cake

by Lydia Ellison
Olive Oil Lemon Yogurt Cake

Olive Oil Lemon Yogurt Cake

This is the quintessential light cake of summer. Fruity, eggy, sweet and yet refreshingly tart. The olive oil and yogurt give a divine spongy texture. Serve it for a luncheon or at a dinner party with fresh berries. Pack thick slices wrapped in parchment paper for the beach. Best part, no mixer or beater required, just a spoon!

last slice

Olive Oil Lemon Yogurt Cake

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I like Face brand Greek yogurt)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (fruity)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring the eggs to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold the olive oil into the batter, making sure it’s well incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake. Best eaten within 3 days of baking.

Get out your jam jars…


I keep coins in old Bonne Maman jam jars, paper clips in a stubby round moutarde and our toothbrushes in a Mason-type that’s embossed with lilies of the valley.  But this, this, is my new justification for all the empty jars currently holding my pantry space hostage.  Won’t a cluster of these make your dinner table feel special?


p.s. Ikea sells bags of little votive candles super cheap and these pretty matchboxes house extra-long matches so no burnt fingertips.

How to plant an Organic Herb Garden


By Lydia Ellison

I’m really proud of myself, 2 weeks ago I planted some organic herbs into a terra cotta pot and put it on the front stoop of my apartment. It has been wonderful to have the herbs on hand, I’ve been adding parsley leaves to salads, thyme to roasted vegetables and fresh basil to my scrambled eggs! The whole project took about 1 hour from concept to completion and cost about $40. This project will pay for itself by the end of the summer in the money I’m saving not buying tiny plastic boxes of herbs at the grocery store and it’s better for the environment (no plastic, no fuel used in transportation.)

Organic herbs in a pot

Organic herbs in a pot

You can do it too, this is all you need-

1 pot with a drainage hole

1 bag organic potting soil

assorted pre-grown organic herbs (available at home and garden stores and Whole Foods)

Fill the pot 3/4 full with the soil. Dig a small hole for your herb roots. Remove the herb from it’s canister and break up the roots gently with your hand. Place into the hole you have made for the roots and cover with soil. Repeat with remaining herbs. Water well. Place in in area with lots of direct sunlight!

PS- the reason I was proud is I have been meaning to do this for years and never actually done it. I’ve been having garden envy lately…

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