How To: Nigella Lawson’s Instant Pancake Mix

A few years ago, I posted a recipe for Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes  which advocated the use of an instant pancake mix and one of my fave bloggers told me that I should make and not buy the mix.  Trust me – when Sue speaks, I listen.    Plus – having dealt with one too many “pantry pests”, I’d feel much better knowing where everything came from.  Let’s not even get into the cost of buying one of those big box brands and shelf life questions.

Nigella Lawson has a fail-safe Instant Pancake Mix that is my new go-to staple.  Just mix the ingredients, take a cup of the mix to 1 egg, 1 cup milk and one tablespoon of melted butter – how easy is that?  I mean – it’s just a 1:1:1:1 and you have a pile of fluffy pancakes that will bring a smile of joy to everyone at the table.

So – take a moment, get a container and make your own instant pancake mix that has ingredients that YOU know and trust.  No interesting “additives” or anything wonky that will make you wonder what exactly is in that box of mix that has been sitting on a store shelf for centuries.  Plus – with the money you save, just add that to the stiletto fund.


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Fab Friday Returns

Oh Fab Friday – how I’ve missed thee! There’s something about a little virtual eye candy that makes a gal happy. I’m loving the fact that the fall shoes are starting to come out. Now, before you remind me “Aly – it’s just the beginning of summer – don’t bring up fall!”, I have to say that buying fall clothes/shoes are something that I look forward to EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR! Well, I figure I got 8 weeks of shoe lust to get out of my system as I pick out THE perfect stilettos to rock this fall. Don’t worry – I’m sure that many can be worn year round and I promise no boots til at least the beginning of August – fair?

OK – so, now that we got that agreement in place – here’s a few covet-worthy items for you to enjoy!


1. These gorgeous Christian Louboutin’s Lavalliere Bow Pumps just channel that “Mad Men” vibe while flashing that red sole. LOVE!

2. I have seen this “COOK” cutting board by Joseph Joseph a few times and every time I see it, I’m tempted to get it for my kitchen. There’s something about it that reminds me of the Philadelphia LOVE sign. I even saw it last week in New York but the price dissuaded me from purchasing it (plus carrying glass home on train – never fun!). However, when I got the email that Cambria Cove was closing, after wiping away my tears, I was thrilled to see this available for sale at such a great price. I even picked up the Sex & The City Cupcake apron I was obsessed with as well as some fabu earrings. I love a great sale but will miss Cambria Cove and their gorgeous products.

3. I was SO disappointed in the Meyer Lemon crops this year. Talk about a short season – I still always look at Whole Paychex to see if, perhaps, they might have a stray, non-moldy (!) Meyer Lemon but so far no go. However, Williams-Sonoma is going to help me brighten up my dishes all year long. They have added not only a Meyer Lemon Braising base to their food products but also Dried Meyer Lemon Peel which will go perfectly when I start using my new Emile Henry Tagine. Note to self: get Meyer Lemon Trees for the apartment and tell the Sous Pug that the trees are for cooking, NOT for him!

4. Every week, it never fails – I purchase a loaf of sourdough bread and vow “One Day I’ll Learn To Make It Myself!” Then I remember that when it comes to baking in stilettos, well, I’m definitely in the beginning stages of bread. However, somehow I think that this Sourdough Starter & Crock from King Arthur Flour will help me get over my fears and, perhaps, I won’t be as terrified to attempt it myself (and, in turn, taking that $4 and putting that in the Stiletto Fund, right?).  Plus – when you bake (and cook) with quality ingredients – it can only help.

5. I was in New York last week for an event and decided to take some time that afternoon to visit the Chelsea Market. While I was there, I always tend to buy a cookbook and I have been obsessed with learning to cook Mexican food lately. Now, we already discussed my irrational fear of Baking In Stilettos, but I think that My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats, will help me get over that. The book is beautifully photographed and I read it like a novel the whole train ride home. I am looking forward to giving this book a whirl over the next few months and posting about my baking experiments!

What are you obsessed with this week?

Fab Friday Returns to Cooking In Stilettos

Ahh – we’re FINALLY back on schedule and the Fab Friday has returned… This is going to be quite the weekend as I have some really interesting culinary projects ahead, a friend’s 40th b’day celebration that is sure to bring back LOTS of 80s memories, great food, convo and cocktails, and some work to do on Cooking In Stilettos. What do they say – when you love what you do, then it’s not work at all :)

Here are a few things that have captivated me this week.

1. Speaking of the 80s, I swear, I should have whapped Kelly Ripa over the head YEARS ago because when she has a killer shoe, I’m like a wench on a mission. Way back when, she was one of the gals on the set of a certain show who always wore 3″ heels and of course, like typical teen gals, many followed suit, myself included. When people ask how I can wear heels so high, I partially blame Kelly since I’ve been wearing tee-tottering heights since I was 15. Now that I think about it – she wasn’t the only gal on the set who had some killer shoes – so did Princess aka Heather. Heather was wearing fab over the knee boots WELL before Kim Kardashian rocked that trend. Anyhow – let me stop flashing back to memory lane and deal with the shoes at hand. A couple weeks ago, Kel was rockin’ this seriously gorgeous Charlotte Olympia espadrille pump and, while it was cute, I don’t think I could EVER justify paying over $800 for a cotton shoe. However, when I saw these DV by Dolce Vita Florence Sandals in Nude, well – it was a win win. The nude ankle strap wouldn’t cut off the leg line and it was chic and perfect for this spring/summer 2011. Sorry Kelly – you can keep your Charlotte Olympias – I’ll stick with these lovelies – and I’ll even have some funds left over for perhaps a Le Creuset or three.

2. Ok – this Emile Henry canister set is gorgeous. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my glass and silver topped set that I’ve had since I was in Orlando but this has such a streamlined look that would be perfect for my one day copper and teal kitchen.

3. I am really enjoying this quinoa kick that I am on – and when I saw this Zursun Black Quinoa at Williams Sonoma, well, I’m intrigued. Has anyone ever tried Black Quinoa?

4. I have been flipping through Aaron McCargo Jr.’s book Simply Done, Well Done for a hot minute now and have flagged some recipes to try here on Cooking In Stilettos. I can’t commend Aaron enough – not many peeps know this but back when he had a resto in Camden – I happened to be in town for a meeting and our former producer took us there for lunch and the food was slammin’! When he won NFNS – I was thrilled because the man can cook and, quite honestly, he’s a really really nice guy! So, if you see this out and about, pick up a copy – it’s well worth it! Congrats Chef!

5. Jen at One Curly Fry sent me a link to COOK by Audrey Claire and I almost fell out of my chair this morning. It is opening this summer at the corner of Rittenhouse and 20th St. and it’s going to offer classes, a boutique, a bookstore and more. Plus – the kitchen is supposed to be state of the art. Ummm – where do I sigh up? Looking forward to great things coming from COOK!


[Flashback Photo courtesy of Chris Kelly]

Cooking In Stilettos Visits Philly Street Style…

Jimmy Contreras is one of Philly’s well-loved movers and shakers. Add to that his flair for style and fashion, and you have one man who knows what will make you look and feel fabulous! If there is something going on in this city, you can bet that he knew about it long before it crossed everyone else’s radar. Well, now he keeps Philly in the loop through Philly Street Style.

Cooking In Stilettos was thrilled to be asked to be a contributor and you can catch us weekly reporting on what we know best – how to make your kitchen and soirees as fabulous as you are. Check out our post this week on how to prepare [your pantry] for a winter wonderland.

Quick Fix: How To Make Brown Sugar

Ever have the situation where you are in need of an ingredient and you go to your pantry and realize that you are clear out of it?  That happened to me last year during the holidays.  I had granulated sugar, demera sugar, powdered sugar – you name it, I had it – all but brown sugar.  Can I tell you how miffed I was to have to leave and run up to the grocery store in the midst of a culinary project?  Plus, I’m the type of gal who often keeps a spare on hand so for me to be out of what I would deem a vital pantry ingredient is highly unusual.

I saw a great article in this month’s Fine Cooking  where they gave instruction on how to make your own brown sugar.  I just had to try this technique and, much like a little kid in a science fair, I was fascinated by the process.


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Homemade Mustard, Not Impossible…

One thing I have to thank the Top Chef producers for – bringing to the home viewers attention other great chefs that might not necessarily be on the Food Network or Fine Living.  Recently on the Tivo, I discovered a plethora of new shows – Jose Andres, the ever present Ming Tsai and, one of my new favorites – Hubert Keller

On one of the recent episodes, he based a whole show just on the condiment that is found in every good cook’s pantry – mustard.  When he said the viewer could make their own whole grain mustard – I just about fell off the couch in shock.  I thought mustard was something that had to be bought, especially fine whole grain mustard.  Yes, I know – I still have much to learn.

This is a recipe that is going in this gal’s Tastebook for future use.  You might want to check out his site at where he has quite a few fabulous recipes.  His show, Secrets of a Chef, is currently showing on PBS.


Homemade Mustard

Recipe courtesy of

For Basic Homemade Mustard
½ cup white wine
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup brown mustard seeds
¼ cup white mustard seeds
2 cups creamy Dijon mustard

To make Homemade Mustard:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the wine and vinegar to a boil.
  2. Mix together the mustard seeds in a bowl. Pour the hot liquid over mustard
    seeds and stir.
  3. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature at least 24 hours, or until the
    seeds are enlarged and have soaked up the majority of the liquid.
  4. Mix the seed mixture into the Dijon mustard, and stir to combine. Cover and
    refrigerate for 1 week to allow flavors to fully develop.

Out With The Old. In With The New…

My pantry has been severely neglected. Those closest to me know that work has been kickin‘ me into overdrive and cooking and I have been estranged. Part of the reason for the cooking pause has been, quite simply, this nightmare of a pantry. To find something means some serious expeditions to find that one elusive ingredient as it hasn’t been organized in forever. Not to mention, the lighting in my kitchen has been horrid but since the complex finally fixed (and broke) the overhead light on the super high ceiling, I figured I had no more excuses to avoid the pantry from hell.

I always joke that for me to feel “at home” I need a fully stocked pantry and fridge and anyone who comes into my home knows that if we need something, we’ve got it. However, I got sick of the clutter and decided rather than shove everything in the pantry, I’d take inventory and clean out what was old, expired or just never would be used.

Check out the AFTER pic.

Yeah, I’m just as shocked as you. My trash man, however, will want my head on a stake. There’s still work to be done, but I figured that was a good start to change. Now I need to get to cooking.

What are your pantry staples that you MUST have no matter what?