Napping with Good Bite on Pizza Night

Just dropping in with a quick note about my latest article on Good Bite. Please feel free to leave comments on Goodbite.com about how you approach cooking for your family. For this article I had the pleasure of working with Molly Hermann (a.k.a. Tastebud Tart) on a feature regarding Family Pizza Night and how to keep it gourmet and fun for everyone. Remember, you don't have to give up eating great food just because you have kids!

Napping in my August Garden

In the northeast, one of the greatest culinary joys of August is eating fresh produce straight from the garden. Living in these northern latitudes means, unfortunately, there is a limited window during which fruits and vegetables flourish naturally outdoors. Therefore, it is best to take advantage of the local fresh produce from the moment it arrives at the farmers' market or sprouts in the yard, until it is too cold for stalks to grow, or the last market bushel is picked clean.

These days I've been canning tomatoes, freezing berries and making jam like crazy. I've also been doing my best to enjoy and preserve my beloved rhubarb. I have begun to freeze it, cut into small chunks and put in bags, as well as bake a few dozen batches of my favorite treats, rhubarb hazelnut oatmeal bars.

One of my missions this summer has been to get my daughter to like rhubarb, and I think these bars did the trick. They are not overly sugary, or laden with any kind of additives. Instead, the ingredients are straightforward, the preparation simple, and they taste absolutely delicious. In fact, the sugar content is so modest that I've let my daughter enjoy these for breakfast a few times, served with a nice dollop of vanilla yogurt on the side.

I make a lot of dishes with rhubarb, and what makes this one so special is the flavorful addition of chopped hazelnuts. Their warm, sweet flavor provides a nice balance to the savory rhubarb stalks and earthy oatmeal. During the summer I tend to make these on almost a weekly basis and have noticed that this recipe works well with blueberries, too.

Preparing these bars while my daughter sleeps is incredibly easy. In fact, they have usually cooled by the time she wakes up so we can enjoy them together for a late-day snack. After we've eaten I like to take her out to the garden and show her the thin rhubarb stalks that will be ready to pick in the next few weeks. I try to explain that what she is seeing is the plant she just ate, although I don't think she quite understands. She points at them and says "yummy" before walking away. Oh well, next summer she'll be able to understand the concept more easily. Which, to me, is all the more reason to get excited to see what the garden will bring next year.

Naptime's Rhubarb Hazelnut Oatmeal Bars
adapted from a recipe given to me by my childhood neighbor, Katie Sanford
3 1/2 c. rhubarb, cut into chunks
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. quick oatmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
2/3 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. finally chopped hazelnuts
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 pan, set aside.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat mix sugar, cornstarch and orange juice. Stir in vanilla. Add rhubarb and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients with butter until fully combined.
4. Pat 3/4 of oatmeal mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Pour rhubarb mixture over oatmeal and spread evenly.
5. Top rhubarb mixture with remaining 1/4 c. of oatmeal mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until oatmeal top begins to brown.

Naptime Notes:

Naptime Recipe Props: These bars are a snap to prepare during naptime. If you want to make them a little sweeter it is fine to add a touch more sugar.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing the bars takes all of the 20 minutes, then just pop them in the oven to bake and you are all set!

Naptime Reviews: My whole family loves these bars, even my daughter. It took a while for her to get used to the savory tartness of the rhubarb, but she has converted to loving it after a few tries.


Napping with Orangette: Ice-Cream #14

It is hard to believe it, but here it is. The final ice-cream post of the summer. The Naptime Chef Great Ice-Cream Festival of Summer 2009 has been a blast. Nicole and I have loved working with all of you, and can't thank you enough for your feedback and support. In celebration of our final ice-cream I am going to make a flavor that was requested by one of my best friends, Katie. Ever since we've known each other Katie has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that orangette's are her favorite treats of all time. In fact, when I threw her baby shower I made sure she had her own special plate to munch on while she opened her gifts.So, Katie, thanks for the great visit to Sag Harbor this summer, her is an ice-cream for you.

Orangette Ice-Cream for Katie
To Make Candied Orange Peel:
3 Valencia oranges
2 1/4 c. sugar, plus more for rolling
3/4 c. water

1. Cut tops and bottoms off oranges. Peel oranges without tearing peel. Then cut peel in 1/4-inch wide strips.
2. Put peels in a pot over medium heat and cover with water. Bring water to a boil for 2 minutes. Then pour off water. Repeat this 3 times to blanch the orange peel.
3. Remove peels from pan and reserve. Add 3/4 c. water and 2 1/4 c. sugar to pan and allow to simmer for 8 - 9 minutes. Add the peels and keep water/sugar mixture at a simmer for up to 45 minutes, or until peels get translucent.
4. Pour the syrup into a heatproof container and reserve for later use. Roll the orange peels in sugar and dry on a rack 5 hours.

Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2 c. heavy cream
3 T. unsweetened Dutch-proces cocoa powder
5 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 c. whole milk
3/4 c. sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 t. vanilla extract

1. Chop 6-8 lengths of orange peel into pieces and place in freezer.

2. Warm 1 cup of cream with cocoa powder in medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa. Bring to boil then reduce heat and gently simmer for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in remaining cup of cream. Pour mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as much as possible. Set mesh strainer atop the bowl.

3. Warm milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan. Stir mixture constantly over medium heat making sure the scrape the bottom and corners, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

4. Pour custard through strainer and stir it into the chocolate until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate the mixture to cool thoroughly and then freeze it in your ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s instructions. Add orange peels toward the end of churning. Yields 1 quart.


Napping with Eternal Summer Apricot Jam

How I wish summer would last forever. Even though the weather has ranged from cold rain to high heat over the past 90 days, I haven't minded one bit. This summer has been such a ball, my daughter adored her introduction to the outdoor life, we've traveled near and far, and had no shortage of gorgeous beach days. As far as the food goes, well, that has been wonderful, too. Despite the unfortunate tomato blight, I have managed to find plenty of good ones at the farmers' market. I have also eaten my weight in zucchini, corn and peaches.

I wish I could enjoy this abundance of fresh produce year-round, however, I can't. Unfortunately, the summer harvest in the northeast will be coming to an end soon. The sun will be setting earlier, the days will cool and I'll put the beach bag in winter storage. I will be sad when fall ushers in the winter cold, but it least when it does, I'll have one thing left to remind me of these warm summer days: my homemade apricot jam.

My mother and grandmother have been making apricot jam for as long as I can remember. In fact, it is highly unusual for my mom to buy jam at the store, we have jar upon jar in the cellar. Through experience we have learned that it is best to let the harvest dictate what jam we will make each year. If the peaches are particularly good we will set about making peach basil jam, or, if the strawberries are especially ripe, we'll make a strawberry/raspberry variety. Sometimes we'll just do them all. This year, we were thrilled to discover that our favorite little apricots were perfectly plump and sweet, and decided a fresh batch of apricot jam was in order.

There are three essential elements to making jam: fruit, sugar and pectin. In this recipe, adopted from a Patricia Wells cookbook, we opted to harvest the kernels from the apricot pits to let the natural pectin work in lieu of an additive. We also liked the fact that the kernels imbued the jam with a subtle almond flavor that boosted the natural sweetness of the apricots. Harvesting the kernels may sound like a lot of work, but it is not. I merely asked my brother, Uncle Will, to help out and he set to work with a small hammer. The kernels were out within minutes.

Making jam is really a very simple process, though this version is slightly labor intensive. When I made this last week I stirred the apricots in a giant stockpot/cauldron for an hour straight - easily the best upper arm workout ever - until they dissolved into a delicious sugary jam. Once that part was over, it got much easier. The jam sat overnight at room temperature, until I heated it up the next day for one last stir. At that point I removed the kernels, ladled the jam into the jars and sealed them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

The best part about having a dozen jars of fresh apricot jam is that I won't have to suffer through short winter days pining away for fresh fruits. What Amanda and Shauna say is completely true, canning and preserving fruits is the best ways to enjoy seasonal fruits year-round. I know that I, for one, will be grateful that I put in the effort in August, so that I can enjoy summer apricots even when the snow falls outside my window.

ps - I am submitting this to the Under The High Chair Jam Swap '09

Perfect Apricot Jam
adapted from The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells
2 lbs apricots, washed, halved and pitted (reserve the pits)
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 8oz. canning jars with lids and rims*

7 lbs apricots, washed, halved and pitted (reserve the pits)

5 c. sugar

10-12 8oz. canning jars, with lids and rims*

*Sterilize jars, rims and lids by running them through one full cycle of the dishwasher without dish soap.

1. Using a small hammer, or heavy object, crack 35 pits and remove the kernels. Reserve these kernels and discard all remaining pits.

2. In a large stockpot combine apricots, nuts and sugar. Stir the sugar into the apricots and allow pot to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Then, cook apricots over medium heat for one hour, stirring constantly. As you stir be sure to scrape the bottom so that the apricots don't burn. I find it useful to wear a heatproof glove or mitt to protect my hand or arm from any splattering liquid. By the end of the hour the apricots will dissolve into a deep orange colored puree. Transfer hot liquid to a heatproof bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

3. After 24 hours have passed, reheat the mixture over medium heat until jam is very thick. I found this only takes about 5-10 minutes. Ladle warm mixture into prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headroom at the top of the jar, and close with lids and rims. Seal jars according to manufacturers instructions. (I usually use the jars that are immersed in a hot water bath to be sealed).

Naptime Notes:

Naptime Recipe Props: Despite the stirring, this is a very easy jam recipe. I love how well the kernels imbued the jam with such a delicious almond like flavor. It is simple and delicious.
Naptime Stopwatch: Though the stirring takes an hour, this jam is relatively easy to prepare over the course of a 24-hour period. I did both parts during my daughter's naptime over two days.
Naptime Reviews:
Everyone who has tasted this jam adores it, it is especially good on breakfast breads.


Napping with Disaster Soup

This summer I've been having a great time working with my friend Cheryl at A Tiger in the Kitchen, and several other fantastic bloggers, writing Friday fun posts. The first post was our "BLT Lunch" where I shared my recipe for Prosciutto, Lettuce and Tomato with Balsamic Syrup. The next recipe was for our "Burger Friday" where I shared the amazing recipe for Uncle Will's Burgers. Today's post was supposed to be about cold soup. However, mine is not.

I will confess, I put my daughter down for her nap, followed the recipe for my avocado soup to a "t" and... it tasted like...nothing. It was easily the worst soup I've ever made and I have no idea why since I've made it many times before. So, I'm going to keep working on the recipe (more salt? more cream?) but, in the mean time, will leave you with another treat. This basic recipe for Cantaloupe with Avocado is one of my most favorite summer dishes and I hope you love it as much as I do. I'd also like to extend a special thank you to my friend Peggy W. who served this when she had us over for lunch at her country house (pictured above) earlier this month. Happy Friday!

Naptime's Cantaloupe with Avocado
1 medium size ripe cantaloupe
2 Haas Avocados

3 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. good olive oil
Pinch of Kosher salt

1. Quarter cantaloupe and discard all seeds. Make hatch marks in the cantaloupe so that it can be easily plucked off with a fork.
2. Cut avocados into bite size chunks and pile evenly onto top of cantaloupe quarters.
3. Whisk together dressing in a bowl and immediately pour on top of avocado and cantaloupe. Serve.


Napping in Corn Fields

I know it may be hard to believe, but I actually have slept in a corn field. No, it wasn't during my crazy college years. I was 11 years old and attending my friend's sleepover birthday party. Since it was August, and we were in Cooperstown - a place where there are more corn fields than dwellings - it made perfect sense for us to sleep under the stars in the field next to her house.

The morning after the party, while we waited patiently for our parents to pick us up, we were each allowed to pick a few ears of corn from the stalks and take them home. Naturally, when I approached the car with an armful of ears, my mother looked at me and remarked "Well, looks like we're going to have to make some more corn salad!" I did not protest, corn salad is one of the most delicious summer dishes of all-time.

One of my favorite things about summer salads is that they are basically foolproof. The basic formula of combining fresh vegetables, dressing and cheese always yields a delicious dish for any table. This corn salad definitely falls into this category, it is simple, tasty and easy to assemble. And, since it is currently the height of corn season in the northeast, there is no better time for me to share this recipe with you. It also feels especially appropriate since this salad has pretty much been the most popular food in my kitchen for the past two weeks.

What I like about preparing this, apart from the ease with which I can do it while my daughter naps, is how the flavor improves over time. Since I usually make this during the daytime I allow it to sit in the refrigerator until dinner which allows the flavors to meld and ripen. I also love that, like all good salads, the ingredients are flexible. If there are additional vegetables or herbs at my fingertips I simply throw them in and, voila, I have a whole new variation. I suggest that you feel free to do the same. Lately I've served this salad to guests, my family and even added it to a summer buffet. It also doubles or triples well if you need to make it for a big crowd. I hope you enjoy this summer vegetable salad as much as I do. And, for the record, I procure my corn at the farmers' market these days, not at sleepovers.

Naptime's Summer Corn Salad
8 ears of corn, cooked and kernels stripped
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
1/3 c. basil, chopped

For dressing:
1/3 c. olive oil
4 T. red-wine vinegar
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Boil corn in a pot of salted water for 7 minutes, or until kernels are fully cooked. Cut kernels off the cob with a sharp knife. Place in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, onions and basil, mix to combine.

2. Whisk together dressing in a separate bowl and pour over corn, stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until serving.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Props: It is always helpful when salads can be made ahead of time, especially when the flavor gets better after it sits.
Naptime Stopwatch: The longest part about making this is the boiling the corn. After that it is simply a matter of assembling the ingredients and giving it a good store.
Naptime Reviews: Everyone loves this salad, especially people looking for a great gluten-free dish. Even my daughter seems to adore this, though the last time she ate it she picked out the onion.


Napping with a Nutella Semifreddo: Ice-Cream #13

Nutella is staple in my pantry, right along with butter and sugar. I have been hooked on this delicious chocolate hazelnut spread since I had my first bite in Italy over a decade ago. At the time I was living with a family north of Venice for a summer home-stay and they served me Nutella on toast everyday. For breakfast. I brought back several jars with me from that trip and was thrilled when it became readily available in the States. Since then I've been cooking with it often and can't believe it has taken this long for me to post a recipe for it.

I developed this Nutella Semifreddo for my friend
Bell'alimento's Nutella Challenge this month. This is right up my alley in terms of blogging food "challenges," I love anything that calls for my favorite ingredient. Enjoy!

Naptime's Nutella Semifreddo
25 Chocolate wafer cookies (I use Nabisco)
4 T. unsalted butter, melted

2/3 c. sugar
8 large egg yolks

3 T. Nutella
Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 c. heavy cream

1. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. Then, line the pan with plastic wrap with plenty of excess hanging over the sides and end.

2. Using a mini-chopper or food processor, grind wafer cookies into crumbs. Combine crumbs with melted butter and press firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Put in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

3. In a heatproof bowl whisk 1/2 c. sugar, egg yolks, nutella and salt until fully combined. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg mixture continuously until it is thick and creamy. About 5-6 minutes. Set this bowl over a separate bowl of ice and stir custard until it is cooled completely.

4. Meanwhile, in a mixer whip heavy cream and remaining 1/3 c. sugar until it holds firm peaks. With a spatula, gently fold whipped cream into the custard. Pour this over the prepared crust. Cover mixture completely with the plastic wrap and place in the freezer to chill for at least 10 hours, or up to 3 days.


Napping in Cooperstown, Part I: Travel Series #5

Writing a single travel post about Cooperstown NY, my hometown, is next to impossible. There are so many wonderful things to see and do in this idyllic upstate NY village that I am going to have to split up the information. Today is my first installment, and I will plan a second installment this fall. Even then, I doubt I will have covered everything, but at least I will be able to highlight the best of the best. So, without further ado, here is the beginning of my favorite adventures, foodie and otherwise, in Cooperstown, New York. And, if any of you decide to plan a trip to Cooperstown, please let me know, I will happily answer any questions you have.

The Naptime Chef's Cooperstown Favorite's (in no particular order):

1) Museums: Cooperstown is chock-full of amazing museums. When you are here be sure to visit: The National Baseball Hall of Fame, The Farmers' Museum and The Fenimore Art Museum. They are all worth visiting and are great for children, as well.

2) Stagecoach Coffee: My childhood friend Matt and his brother, Chris, own this amazing coffee shop. Needless to say, with my daughter waking at dawn these days, I pay them a daily visit. Sometimes I even return for lunch, their homemade paninis are to die for.

3) The Lemon Tree: Jeanne Ayers has the most charming kitchen and paper shop I have ever seen, and it is located right on Main Street. Her well-edited selection of kitchen equipment and fine papers means that I am never without anything I need while I experiment with new recipes. I swear by her array of Le Creuset products.

4) Little Bo'tique: If your children are in need of a few bribes, or if you need a baby gift, this is the perfect shop for you. I love their selection of children's clothing, wooden toys and knick-knacks. My daughter is spoiled by her grandparents, they shop for her here, almost exclusively.

5) Alex & Ika: How can you not love a restaurant that grows an herb garden in their front window, pledges to use only local sustainable ingredients, and changes their menu seasonally?! This is our favorite restaurant for date night, the food is delicious and the atmosphere warm and comfortable. Plus, the wine list is exceptional. Leave young children with a babysitter.

6) Fly Creek Cider Mill: I have been loving my trips to the Cider Mill since I will little. At this charmingly small operation you can watch cider be made with an old-fashioned motorized press. There is also a sweet gift shop where you can get bushels of fresh apples, jars of apple butter and homemade fudge and cheese. Also, the snackbar features fresh cider donuts, which are easily the best I've ever had.

7) Sal's Pizzeria:
Every town needs a great pizza place, and this is the best in Central NY. Sal's serves up NY-style pizza year-round and, despite how much pizza I've eaten in my lifetime (a lot!) this is still the best.

8) Doubleday Cafe: This is my daughter's favorite restaurant in the whole wide world. It is completely kid friendly, has a tasty menu ranging from burgers to fajitas, and a great selection of beers on tap. My daughter especially enjoys the fresh popped popcorn they bring to the table while you wait for your food.

9) Cooperstown Farmers' Market: Central NY is alive with amazing farms and here is where the farmers come to sell their crops. We eat almost exclusively from our purchases here all summer long, there is no limit to the delicious vegetables, meat, poultry and dairy products you can find. My current favorite is Fairytale Eggplant (pictured below).

10) Yum Yum Shack: This restaurant always lives up to it's appetizing name. We always love visiting this family-friendly spot to enjoy the delicious seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. My personal favorite are the fish-n-chips, the most authentic tasting version I've found since I lived in Scotland.


Napping and Getting to Know Me

Wow, I am feeling pretty popular this week. First up, I was featured in an article The Naptime Chef on Cafe Mom, complete with pictures of my family and a sneak peek at my kitchen! Then, I was interviewed by Bethany's delicious Ice Cream Blog, Scoopalicious, regarding my Ice-Cream festival. Please take the time to visit her site and read my interview here:The Naptime Chef on Scoopalicious

Then, low and behold, I was given another award, this time from my friend Rebecca at Chow & Chatter. To honor her, and all the award recipients, I answered all of her questions. I think this is actually a great exercise, it will help you get to know a little more about me, Kelsey, the woman behind The Naptime Chef.

1.What is your current obsession?
Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Corn
2. What are you wearing today?
Shorts and a T-Shirt, and plenty of accessories
3. What’s for dinner?
Fresh Ratatouille with Summer Vegetables, Crusty Bread, Slices of Cheese and Prosciutto
4. What’s the last thing you bought?
A toy kitchen for my daughter (no joke!)
5. What are you listening to right now?
Pandora's selections for me (via my "U2" request)
6. What do you think about the person who tagged you?
Delicious, Healthy, Smart
7. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
The coast of Italy
8. What are your must-have pieces for summer?
JMcLaughlin white jeans, gold sandals
9. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Italy (notice the theme here?)
10. Which language do you want to learn?
Italian (obviously, since I want to live there)
11. Who do you want to meet right now?
Mark Bittman
12. What is your favorite colour?
Green (notice my site design?)
13. What is your favourite piece of clothing in your own closet?
My JMcLaughlin Silk Henley shirts, they are my uniform
14. What is your dream job?
Cookbook author, recipe tester, food expert
15. What’s your favourite magazine?
Bon Appetit, Cookie, Vogue, Edible Vineyard, Edible Manhattan, Edible Central NY
16. If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?
17. What do you consider a fashion faux pas?
Squeezing into clothes that are too small - it never looks good!
18. Who are your style icons?
India Hicks, Axel Vervoordt, James Bond
19. Describe your personal style?
Modern Preppy
21. What are your favourite movies?
Thunderball (James Bond), Braveheart, Family Man
22. Give us three styling tips that always work for you:
Benefit Eye Brightener - use everyday, always choose a great belt, always carry a great bag.
23. Coffee or tea?
24. What do you do when you are feeling low or terribly depressed?
Nutella, Nutella, Nutella
25. What is the meaning of your name?
"Victorious Ship"
26. Which other blogs you love visiting?
Too many to name!
27. Favorite Dessert/Sweet?
28. Favorite Season?
29.Which is your dream destination?
Southeast Asia, I went to Thailand once and want to go back
30. Who inspired you to start a blog?
My daughter, who takes long naps so I can cook!

In the spirit of this award I will now pass this on to the following wonderful people and their websites:
Sweet Amandine
Under the High Chair


Napping with Cafe Mom

This has been a great week for The Naptime Chef™. Today I am featured on the awesome site CafeMom, the worlds largest internet community for women and parenting site on the Web. When I say big, I mean that it surpasses both iVillage, Martha Stewart.com and Babycenter for number of members - that's a lot of people! I LOVE being a member of their site and highly recommend you join it today. The people I have met have been wonderful and we are always discussing interesting topics ranging from parenting to politics. Enjoy the article all about me, complete with photos, here!

Napping with Chocolate and Zucchini

Last Saturday I pulled my daughter to the Cooperstown Farmers' Market in her wagon. She loves wagon rides with me at the helm since I often increase our speed over bumps and let her zoom, slightly too fast, down hills. (The look of glee on her face when we race down the street makes me think I have a budding daredevil on my hands.)

When we arrived at the market she happily hopped out of the wagon and began vegetable shopping with me. Since August is the peak of farm season in Central NY, there is no limit to the amount of fresh vegetables available to us. I practically swoon over the amazing variety, loving the fact that my beloved zucchini are put in my bag still dirty from the garden bed, not from a transatlantic plane ride.

With the glut of zucchini this summer I thought nothing of picking up 4lbs of the stuff. The only thing that my daughter didn't like about this is that she was displaced by the zucchini in the wagon, and forced to walk home. Despite this impressive haul I didn't worry about any of it going bad, I love cooking with this vegetable and there is no end to the zucchini-themed dishes I've been enjoying. During July I made my Baked Zucchini & Tomatoes several times, along with a few loaves of my Zucchini-Applesauce bread. Then, last week I thought it was time to change it up a bit, and decided to make a decadent summer dessert, my Chocolate & Zucchini Bundt Cake.

When I am in the mood for a rich chocolate cake in the middle of August, this is always the recipe I turn to. It contains all the elements of perfect chocolate cake, the sour cream keeps it deliciously moist with a tender crumb, and the Dutch cocoa powder gives it a true deep chocolate flavor. To some the addition of zucchini seems strange, but it actually makes perfect sense. The shredded vegetable gives the cake additional moisture and tempers the sweetness of the sugar. (I also like to think the zucchini adds an element of health to this cake, though I can't really claim this is any sort of health food.)

When I made this last week I was able bake the entire thing, from start to finish, during my daughter's afternoon naptime. It was even able to cool completely so I could dust it with powdered sugar before she woke up. I didn't bother telling everyone to wait until after dinner to take a bite, that never would work in our house. Instead we had a slice in late afternoon and it was a huge hit. In fact, the whole thing went from delicious to disappeared within 24 hours. It also means that I've used up well over half of my zucchini stash and am in need of more for my next round of meals. My daughter is thrilled to hear this since it means another wagon ride to the farmers' market, which, to her, is the best part about Saturdays in the first place.

Naptime's Chocolate & Zucchini Bundt Cake
adapted from Edible Vineyard
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 T. instant espresso, dissolved in 1 T. hot water

2 t. vanilla

2 c. grated zucchini (make sure zucchini is peeled and ends are trimmed prior to shredding)
1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. cocoa powder

2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

2. In a bowl mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. In stand mixer, or a mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine. Add espresso, vanilla, sour cream and zucchini and mix on low until completely combined.

4. Working carefully with mixer on low, add dry ingredients until everything is completely combined.

5. Toss chocolate chips with a teaspoon of sugar and stir into the batter with a wooden spoon.
6. Pour batter in prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

7. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then invert it onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Once cake is room temperature dust it with confectioner sugar and serve.

Naptime Notes:

Naptime Recipe Props:
This recipe is a fantastic take on a traditional chocolate cake. The slightly vegetal flavor juxtaposes the rich cocoa perfectly, making it wonderful for serving to friends and family.

Naptime Stopwatch:
Preparing this took about 1hr 15min, including baking time. It is well worth it to spend the time making it, it is a large cake that will last for days.

Naptime Reviews:
My daughter, ever the chocolate feign, loved this cake, as did all the adults. We like it served with vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream.


Napping with Girl Scout Samoas: Ice-Cream #12

I was a member of Girl Scout Troop 73 for almost 8 years. During my time as a Brownie and, later, a Scout, I earned badges, attended Girl Scout sleep-away camp and sold cookies. I remember loving being a Girl Scout, especially the part about selling the famous cookies. Of all Girl Scout Cookies, Caramel Delights, or Samoas as they are now known, are my favorite. To honor these, as well as my cousin-in-law Kate Uber, I've created this ice-cream flavor. I think all current and former Scouts will appreciate it.

Naptime's Samoa Ice-Cream
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
3/4 c. granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3 squares bittersweet chocolate
8 tea cookies, broken into small pieces
1/3 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 c. caramel

1. Coarsely chop tea cookies, add to a cup with shredded coconut, then place in the freezer. Place caramel sauce in the refrigerator.

2. Bring whole milk, and heavy cream to a boil in a large saucepan. In a microwave melt the chocolate squares and set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg together with the sugar and salt, until thick and well mixed. Add melted chocolate to egg mixture and mix until well incorporated. Once the liquid has come to a boil, lower light, and add a scant half a cup of liquid into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Gradually add the remaining hot liquid into the egg/sugar mixture, while continuing to stir. Once all liquid has been added, mix well. Pour the incorporated mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a medium low heat, stirring continuously. Do not let mixture come to a boil!

3. Once custard thickens (enough to coat the back of the spoon), remove pan from heat and pour over a strainer into a heatproof bowl. Refrigerate the custard for 4-6 hours, or overnight.

4. Scrape the chilled custard into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. By hand, add the tea cookies and coconut, and mix to incorporate throughout frozen custard. As you remove the ice-cream from the machine layer in the caramel sauce in swirls throughout. Pack ice cream into a container and freeze for a minimum of 2 hours. Note: if you freeze the ice cream for a night before use, ice cream will be very dense. Remove 10-15 minutes before you wish to serve


Napping with Mimi's Real Tex Mex Guacamole

My friend and neighbor Mimi Torchin is an incredible woman. Growing up in Laredo Texas she dreamed of living in New York, and moved here the moment she graduated from college. Wasting no time, Mimi took Manhattan by storm, acting on Broadway and writing theater reviews, until she became the Editor-in-Chief of Soap Opera Weekly.

After an accomplished career in publishing Mimi retired to devote herself to her longtime passion, photography. Did I mention she was our wedding photographer? I invite you to view Mimi's gorgeous work on this post, and on her site - www.mimitorchinphotography.com - and enjoy her delicious recipe for guacamole (below). I promise you, Mimi knows how to cook and makes a killer guacamole. After all, just because she's lived in Manhattan for her adult life, doesn't mean she's forgotten her Texas roots. Let's all hope that the next recipe Mimi loans to me is her four-star Texas chili, it's easily the best I have ever tasted.

1. How did you become a photographer?: I just started taking pictures when I was a kid. I stopped when I became a teenager through my first few years of college. Then, when I went to St. John on vacation about 30 years ago, it was so beautiful I became inspired again. Bought better equipment, took a couple courses at the International Center for Photography and got some used darkroom equipment. It was really when digital became available that I got serious because I could do all the processing and printing literally from my bed! Coming to Martha's Vineyard 20 years ago was the final inspiration. It was so endlessly gorgeous. It was just the thing I wanted to do.

2. What is your most favorite subjects to photograph?: I love landscapes and, especially, seascapes and water views. Sailboats make my heart skip a beat. In the city, I like to photograph people interacting with the urban environment and the juxtaposition of all that steel and concrete with the natural beauty in our parks. I adore Coney Island. I love fog and mist anywhere. I have taken more pictures of my cats than there are paintings in the Met!

3. What are your passions other than photography?: I am a complete TV addict. I mostly watch dramas; they fulfill some kind of an emotional need I guess! I’m a former actress and a theater critic and admire great acting. Films are a miracle to me and I have been an avid filmgoer since I was a child. Love the theatre and wanted to be a stage actress, but the fates had other plans for me. I love animals; I have 3 cats and as soon as I move to the country will have dogs, too. I am a complete foodie, but dieted most of my life. I don’t worry as much about that any more. Food is good; life is short. I love almost any kind of cuisine. I remember every meal I ever ate I think! I find cooking both creative and relaxing and am passionate about it. Eating and cooking go and in hand (hand and mouth?). I love both. I’m in love with nature, but I crave my creature comforts.

4. How did you become such an accomplished cook, what are your cooking inspirations?: My mother was a brilliant natural cook and she encouraged me to help in the kitchen. I inherited her natural ability. I’m a really good cook, but I’m not a fancy cook. And I don’t bake because she didn’t bake. Also, baked goods are really fattening! I cook all the time. I don’t cook much from cookbooks, but I love to read recipes and use them as a starting point. I like to try to make dishes I eat in restaurants. Fresh vegetables and herbs are inspirational. On the Vineyard, I eat huge amounts of seafood. It’s so fresh and available.

5. What are the 5 things in life you could never live without?: Can it be six, please???? Television, my mate, my cats, my cottage on Martha’s Vineyard, my computer, my camera ¾ in no particular order (but why did TV come out of my mind first??). I can’t do without any of them, though I have done so in various times in my life, of course.

6. What other people/photographers and/or artists do you most admire?: There are SO many, but let me pick the ones who come to mind first. I worship Edward Hopper as a contemporary artist. He connects with my eye and my soul. Alfred Eisenstaedt’s people, Helen Levitt’s distillation of New York City and her photos of children, Ansel Adams’s sweeping landscapes, Margaret Bourke-White’s muscular style, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s immediacy, Walker Evan’s heart, Annie Leibovitz, and all the French Impressionists! Of the Vineyard photographers, I’ve always loved Allison Shaw’s work. Obama for his courage and inspiration; Spielberg, Streep and Streisand for their artistry; and everyone who is selfless, courageous and giving in the way I wish I could be.

Mimi's Real Tex Mex Guacamole
an original recipe by Mimi Torchin
3 medium, ripe Haas Avocados
1 medium ripe tomatoe
1 vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
Juice of one lime
1 t. chopped fresh cilantro
2 t. salt
1 T. sour cream
Optional: 2-3 Dashes of hot sauce

1. Peel and scoop avocados into a large bowl. Mash with a fork and immediately add lime juice. Keep one avocado pit, set aside for later.
2. To the avocados add the tomato, onion, cilantro, sour cream, jalapeno and salt. Mix together and taste ingredients for saltiness. If it needs more salt add a dash or two and taste again.
3. Serve with fresh tortilla chips. If you make the guacamole ahead, nestle the saved pit in the dip to prevent the avocado from turning black. Cover dip tightly with plastic and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Mimi's Guacamole Tips: When shopping for avocados always choose ones that "give" just slightly. Only black Haas avocados will do, either smooth-skinned or pebbly. If all you can find are bright green Florida avocados, skip the guacamole and make stuffed mushrooms instead! If you must make a choice between buying over ripe or under ripe avocados, always choose over rip. The under ripe ones have no taste. To ripen an avocado at home put it in a brown paper bag with a banana for one day.


Napping with SchoolHouse Kitchen

For those of you who liked my Black Pepper Pork Chops Recipe it can now has a permanent home on the SchoolHouse Kitchen website. I hope you all get a chance to make it, and enjoy the rest of their awesome products as well.


Napping with Thanks

A quick thank you to my friend over at Make Room for Living for this lovely blog award. It is so sweet to receive this from such a wonderful person and website. I am going to accept this with thanks and pass it on to some of my favorite beautiful sites:

"One Lovely Blog Award" recipients:
- Camille Maurice
- ABCD Designs
- Savor The Thyme
- PVE Design


Napping with Uncle Will's Burgers

Summer is meant to be enjoyed outdoors, and for foodies that means grilling. I love to grill whenever I am out of the city, which is why our trip to Cooperstown has been so much fun. Since everyone in my family is an excellent cook, we often find ourselves swapping ideas and stories whenever we are together. This week my brother, Will - affectionately called "Uncle Will" by my daughter - served up this great burger recipe. It is delicious. These burgers are so perfectly seasoned, moist and flavorful that I ate two! It is appropriate that we have started calling Will "The Grill-time Chef," to compliment his sister The Naptime Chef, grilling is clearly his domain. Perhaps this is just the recipe you need for your cookout this weekend!

Uncle Will's Burgers
Yields 8 large burgers
3 lbs. ground round (85% lean), grass-fed beef preferred
3 T. Cholula Hot Sauce (or any comparable red pepper hot sauce)
3 T. Worcestershire Sauce
3 t. garlic powder
3 t. onion powder
8 deli slices of sharp cheddar, broken up into quarter size pieces
8 Potato Hamburger Buns, lightly toasted
16 Onion Rings (we used Baked Ore-Ida brand, but anything is fine)
8 lettuce leaves

1. In a large bowl combine ground round, cholula, Worscestershire, garlic powder, onion powder and pieces of cheddar cheese. Mix well with your hands until fully combined.
2. Form 8 equally sized burger patties. If there is any remaining cheese save it and put it on the burgers during grilling.
3. Grill burgers over medium heat until cooked to desired wellness.
4. Place each burger on a potato bun. Layer lettuce, two onion rings and a dollop of ketchup. Top with bun and serve.

Uncle Will's Burger Grilling Tips: When making the burgers don't pack the meat too tightly. During grilling do NOT push the burgers down on the grill, this squeezes out all the flavorful juices and leaves the meat dry.


Napping on Otsego Lake

Since I grew up in Cooperstown it is frequently assumed that I am a baseball fanatic. Well, I'm not. I loyally root for the Yankees, and enjoy attending major league games now and then, but I don't worship at the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. To those of us in the know, Cooperstown is a town much bigger than just a baseball museum. I can't wait to show you some of my favorite spots in my Travel Series next week.

But, until then, I will share with you one of my favorite hometown recipes. This one was given to me by my childhood friend Kirsten's mother, Char. Since Char knows I am not a big fan of mayonnaise she suggested I try her Chinese Chicken Salad. It is completely mayo-free, packed with flavor, and just the thing for taking on a boat ride around Otsego Lake.

This week we've been enjoying lots of family boat rides around the lake, taking my daughter swimming in it's calm waters and regaling her with tales of Otsie the fabled lake monster. On the sunnier days we've been making our trips into full-on morning excursions, packing snacks, drinks and lunch food. The day before our latest boat ride I assembled this chicken salad while my daughter was napping. It was a cinch to make while my she slept, and I was able to leave it in the fridge until I needed it the following day.

I am always cautious when preparing food too far in advance. Sometimes an overnight stay in the cool environs of my Frigedaire can completely wreck the flavor of an otherwise tasty dish. But, in this case, the flavor of the salad actually improved during it's respite in the fridge. The sharpness of the teriyaki mellowed and the subtle flavors of the scallions deepened. I was a little worried that the chow mein noodles would get soggy, but they didn't. Their crunchiness held up beautifully, creating a nice texture with each bite. Needless to say, we were happy to munch away on this salad during our mid-week cruise. Grateful for the good weather, good food and the slower pace of summer life, sans baseball, in Cooperstown.

Char's Chinese Chicken Salad

adapted from the recipe given to me by Char Zola
4 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts

6 oz. Soy Vey Teriyaki (or any brand of Teriyaki sauce you have on hand)
3 oz. Chow Mein noodles
1 head lettuce

1 bunch scallions, finely chopped

.75 oz. sesame seeds, toasted
4 oz. sliced almonds, toasted


1/2 c. olive oil

4 T. sugar

6 T. red wine vinegar

1 t. coarse salt

1 t. freshly ground pepper

1. Marinate the chicken in teriyaki for 3-4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Bake chicken for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Cube meat and set aside.
3. Break lettuce into bite size pieces and place them on the bottom of a large serving bowl. On top of that, layer the chicken, scallions, toasted sesame seeds, almonds and noodles.

4. Combine all dressing ingredients, pour over the salad and toss all the ingredients together.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Props
: This recipe is delicious and flexible. Feel free to add any other ingredients you would like, there are many variations that would be delicious. I love that this doesn't require mayonnaise, it makes it easier to transport and I never worry about it getting rancid.
Naptime Stopwatch:
The preparation time for this takes about 1 hour from the time the chicken goes in the oven. It is a great use of time during naptime, you'll have lunch or dinner for several days!
Naptime Reviews: My daughter came around to the teriyaki flavor after I separated out the green onions. Everyone on our picnic loved it.


Napping with Ice-Cream Bars: Ice-Cream #11

Making ice-cream is fun, but developing ice-cream treats is even more enjoyable. It is only natural that with all the ice-cream I've been churning out this summer I've been creating delicious summer desserts as well. In June I started by making an amazing ice-cream cookie sandwich with my malted milk ice-cream between chocolate butter almond cookies. Then, last week I made these delicious ice-cream bars with a graham cracker crust, and the cookie sandwiches were blown out of the water. These ice-cream bars are the ultimate summer frozen treat. The best part is that I can make them during naptime and they can harden in the freezer until it's times for dessert.

Naptime Cookies & Cream Ice-Cream Bars with Graham Cracker Crust

For Crust:
2 c. graham cracker crumbs

6 T. melted butter

1/4 c. sugar

For Bars:

1/2 c. caramel sauce (store-bought is fine, or you can make your own)

2 pints Cookies & Cream

2 squares semisweet baking chocolate, melted
1/3 c. sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 325. Combine crust ingredients in a bowl until fully incorporated. Then press into a 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.

2. Once crust has cooled pour thin layer of caramel sauce over crust and spread evenly. Put dish in the refrigerator and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
3. When caramel is cooled work quickly to spread ice-cream over caramel. Make sure ice-cream is evenly packed and level. I like to work the ice-cream with the back of a spoon.

4. Drizzle melted chocolate on top and sprinkle with sliced almonds, or topping of your choice.
5. Cover dish with clear plastic and place in freezer for 4-6 hours, or until ice-cream is frozen solid. Cut into bars and serve.

More ideas for Ice-Cream Bar combinations
Gingersnap crumbs, Rice Krispies with chocolate chips, chocolate wafer crumbs, baked chocolate cookie dough
Butterscotch, hot fudge, strawberry sauce, raspberry jam, melted peanut butter Ice-Cream: Any flavor you can think of!
Nuts, M&Ms, crush candy canes, peppermint bark


Napping with more Good Bite

Good news, my first article for the awesome website Good Bite is live! To sweeten up the month of August I've written all about my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. They are so delicious that I strongly suggest you high tail it into your kitchen and whip up a batch. If you are really looking for something fun, buy a pint of vanilla ice-cream and treat yourself to a delicious ice-cream cookie sandwich!

Napping in Sag Harbor: Travel Series #4

My friend Katie moved to San Francisco in January. I was said when she left, she used to live five blocks from me in New York, but now she lives five hours away. I would usually be sad about this scenario, however, I've been seeing a lot of Katie lately. She and her family spend their summers at their home in Sag Harbor this summer, which is where I have been going to beat the heat.

Katie is a foodie and accomplished cook and, since she is an avid Naptime Chef reader, she correctly predicted that I would be writing a travel post to share with you. Weeks prior to my arrival she started sending me notes on places to visit, and explore we did. We traveled high and low all over Sag Harbor and I have loads of great information to share. If you haven't planned your Sag Harbor trip this summer I highly recommend you make the time, it is a terrific getaway.

Naptime's Sag Harbor Favorites (in no particular order):

1) American Legion: Dockside: It seems strange that the American Legion would have one of the best spots to eat in the Hamptons, but they do. Katie whisked us off to lunch within moments of our arrival and I am glad she did. The fish tacos are absolutely amazing, the best on the East Coast. I also loved the crab stuffed zucchini blossom and plan to test out a recipe of my own. It is also worth noting the beautiful view, you eat overlooking the harbor.

2) Cavaniola's Cheese Shop: You know I love good cheeses and this shop is definitely the best of the best. The staff is extremely knowledgeable, plus they have a great selection of gourmet foods. When I told them we liked sharp cheddar they sent me home with one of the best slices of authentic English cheddar I think I've ever had. They also have an excellent wine shop and prepared food store one door down.

3) Cromer's Market: From the outside Cromer's looks like a dingy market you only run to during emergencies. But, on the inside is one of the best butchers in the Hamptons. I was impressed with their selection of grass fed beef and humanely raised pork products. This is a great place to stock up for cookouts.

4) North Sea Farm:
Once I was at this farm I realized why it looked familiar, Ina shops here, too. It is an obvious choice for anyone who appreciates farm to fork food, the chickens wander freely in and out of their coop. Then end up for sale at the poultry counter, without their feathers. The eggs have gorgeous orange yolks, and the fresh produce is swoon-worthy. My particular favorite was the cool lettuce "wheel" (pictured below) that you rotate to select your desired variety.

5) Schiavoni's:
Traveling with children means several trips to the grocery store, and this one is well stocked. They have a great meat counter, selection of cereals and foods for families. They also have the most
amazing homemade guacamole available in the cooler section. Get there early though, it always sells out by the end of the day.

6) Amber Bakery: This humble bakery opposite the Sag Harbor Post Office is the destination for cookies, cakes and scones. I adored their chocolate chip cookies and noted that it would also be a great visit for a bride. Their wedding cake display was gorgeous.

7) Sag Harbor Farmers' Market (Saturdays): Part of the fun of exploring farmers' markets is discovering vegetables and flavors that are new to me. I just loved these bunches of multicolored vegetables (pictured below), as well as the fantastic selection of tiny tomatoes. Needless to say, dinner was not difficult that evening.

8) Round Swamp Farm:
It seems awfully strange to go to a farm for mexican dip, but I promised to introduce you to interesting food finds, and this is one of them. For some reason this farm specializes in a dips and I haven't tasted anything as amazing as this one. It is layers of salsa, cheese and guacamole baked in a puff pastry. Nothing short of heavenly, delicious with fresh chips and a margherita.

9) Espresso: Katie is as addicted to coffee as I am to tea, which is why we hit Espresso daily. We also went several times for lunch, their sandwiches, pizzas and salads are Italian delicacies and perfect for taking to the beach.

10) Tiger Spud Potato Chips:
It is unusual that I champion a brand, but I will root for these chips. They are made locally by a farm (the Hamptons were once famous for potato crops), and are the most flavorful chips I have ever tasted. And, trust me, I have tasted a lot. A national distributor needs to snap this brand up right away, anyone I know would happily toss all other sub-par brands for a bag of Tiger Spuds.