Appliances and gadgets - I've been pretty picky about those things in the past due to limited cupboard and storage space but now that I have a little more room, a couple new toys have been the inspirations for what I cook.
My friend Kristen bought me a mandolin slicer for my birthday. I used to have a cheapy plastic one that scared me to death but this one is awesome - it is stable on the counter top and has an enormous guard that I think will protect my fingers. It inspired me to make a recipe again that was very laborious with a knife - Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin with Fresh Herbs (Gourmet Nov. 08). Tonight it didn't turn out so great because the potatoes were underdone when it looked done on the top - I'd add at least 15 minutes to the cooking time before you remove the foil. I had also refrigerated it before putting it in the oven which I didn't compensate for with the cooking time. Two other tips (thanks Kristen!): double the cheese and the herbs and make sure the potato slices are pretty dry before layering them. Even though it was a little raw tonight, I still love the recipe.
Last Christmas I got an ice cream maker that I had been eyeing for awhile. It's compact, easy, and great fun. Since the new year, I've been watching the sweets (I know, I'm such a new year's resolution cliche) so I think the frozen yogurt I made tonight was the first dessert I've made in weeks. I used to make this with pear sauce from Trader Joe's but they stopped carrying it. The recipe is a little tart (which I like) but you could add 1/4 cup white or brown sugar to sweeten it up a little bit.
Spiced Apple Frozen Yogurt (makes 1 1/2 quarts)
1 1/2 cup of apple sauce (I used the chunky kind with spices but no added sugar)
2 cups Greek yogurt (I used the kind with honey added from Trader Joe's)
1 T whole milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
Combine all ingredients in a blender. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few hours until you're ready to make the frozen yogurt. Then, just pour it in your ice cream maker according to your model's instructions.
I think it's best to make frozen yogurt right when you want to eat it - the texture isn't great if it's put in the freezer after it's made.