Cooking Shenanigans

I've been out and about with my friend Ericka since she arrived on Monday afternoon... but, for Ericka and I, "out and about" includes things like going to fun grocery stores, coming up with recipes, cooking, and eating. Our friendship has pretty much always been like that, actually. We met in college when we shared a rooming house, and she came into my room, absolutely shocked that I was staying in on a Friday night, doing my nails, and watching the original Iron Chef. We later found many ways to dirty our kitchen, and have always shared recipes, food ideas, pre-blog food pictures, and "OMG you wouldn't believe what I ate" stories. It was no surprise that within an hour of being here in Chicago, Ericka and I were in the kitchen making homemade marshmallows and what turned out to be a super-ginormous challah. The marshmallows were rolled in toasted coconut, dipped in chocolate, and decorated with rainbow sprinkles, and were so delicious that my camera ate all the photos of them. The challah though, I did have one photo, which you saw yesterday.


I'm particularly proud of this challah because I came up with the recipe on my own! Of course, being challah, it has eggs and oil in it, and worth every bite!

Perfect Challah


  • 2 cups warm water (about 110*)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 4 to 5 cups white bread flour (may use all-purpose)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 5 whole eggs


Pour the warm water into a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to proof until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Mix 4 of the eggs and butter into the yeast mixture until well combined.

Gradually add the flour until a nice dough forms. I used almost 5 cups of flour, but your results may vary.

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, and cover with a kitchen towel. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 375*F.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide into 3 sections (for one huge challah) or 6 sections (for 2 smaller, more normal-sized challahs) and braid the sections together, pinching at the top and the bottom.

Cover the braided loaves and allow to rise another 30 minutes.

Beat the last egg, and brush the top of the challah(s) with the beaten egg. Bake until well-browned and the internal temperature reaches 200*, about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your loaf.

We enjoyed a few slices with butter, and then Wednesday morning, we turned the challah into it's ultimate destiny: French toast!



Then, Ericka and I set out for manicures and pedicures, a bit of shopping, and a trip to my favorite produce market for dinner supplies. On the menu? Homemade ricotta gnocchi and the best bolognese sauce.

Usually, when I make gnocchi, I either use a package, or I make non-traditional gnocchi out of either butternut squash or sweet potato. Since Ericka had never had a fresh gnocchi, only sub-par packaged ones, our mission was clear. I used this beautiful recipe from Mike's Table.

It would've been way easier to peel the potatoes pre-boiling.


We transfered them to a bowl, and Ericka got to mashing


I enjoyed a cocktail made with seltzer and a shot of limoncello that my sister made around Hanukkah.


After eggs, flour, ricotta, salt, and pepper were added to the potato mixture, we rolled out and cut the gnocchi.



And after a brief (about 3-4 minutes) bath in boiling water, the gnocchi were served with our gorgeous sauce.


The gnocchi were soft and puffy, and light the way that a good gnocchi should be. I have about half the dough in the freezer, so you'll be seeing these again (and again!)

And, because we needed some balance in our meal, we roasted a huge amount of green beans and broccoli.



And then, dessert. I bought a LivingSocial deal for Sweet Pea Cupcakes, and since we were in the neighborhood, we used it yesterday. One dozen cupcakes for $18? Yes please!


Don't worry, we didn't eat them fact, we made a bit of a sampler plate.


We all went to bed full and exhausted... and ready to have another fun day playing tourist in Chicago!



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9 Responses to Cooking Shenanigans

  1. VeggieGirl says:

    Okay so… you’re coming to cook & bake here, when? 😀
    VeggieGirl´s last blog post ..Dancing With The Stars Yet Again

  2. So many wonderful things to eat! I would have loved to see those pretty marshmallows; naughty camera! 😉

    That Challah looks perfect. I live in the Catskills and we have a lot of great Jewish bakeries and baked goods around here. I’d love to be able to bake bread that looks like it came from a bakery, though!
    J3nn (Jenn’s Menu and Lifestyle Blog)´s last blog post ..Christmas Trees on Tuesday

  3. holly says:

    SO FUN! girl time is the best, especially when it comes with challah french toast 🙂

  4. What a fun cooking partner to have! I often wish my friends were foodies like me! I need to try my own gnocchi! Looks delicious.
    Clare @ Fitting It All In´s last blog post ..Big Plans for Chocolate

  5. Biz says:

    Glad you are enjoying your spring break!! I am definitely going to make your bread for Easter (and make the subsequent french toast!) YUM!
    Biz´s last blog post ..Rocco DiSpirito’s Now Eat This Diet Book Giveaway

  6. Diana Hayes says:

    I’ve never made gnocci, limoncello, pasta, or challah, good for you.

  7. Roz says:

    Aren’t “food friends” the BEST?????? Looks like an amazing time with amazing food and fun!!! Your camera ate the marshmallow shots? It’s a foodie too! (ok, that was silly!) Have another great day Mara!
    Roz´s last blog post ..Is it really prickly

  8. Amanda says:

    This looks like SO much fun! And I am loving your cupcake sampler plate! They look amazing! And so does that gnocchi! I definitely need to make some gnocchi very soon! I forgot how amazing it is! 🙂
    Amanda´s last blog post ..It’s official!

  9. Marie says:

    Thanks for the challah recipe….I’m excited to make it next weekend. A friend from Germany is here this weekend and going to show me how to make perfect crepes so excited! BUT I’m sure it won’t be as good as those cupcakes…omg those look amazing…..I love family sampler platters….it’s the best way to go!
    Marie´s last blog post ..Twitter Blackbird Pie Just Got Even Sweeter

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