Comfort food to calm the chill: Fettuccine with garlic cream sauce and sautéed tomatoes

Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomatoes

I think it’s safe to say that we’re officially in the thick of a true Boston winter. There’s snow on the ground. Snow on the rooftops. Snow in piles. Snow on the way. It’s icy and slushy and downright cold. But you know what? It’s pretty glorious. Sure, native Bostonians and more experienced East Coast residents are still meeting our winter enthusiasm with mild shock and a lot of, “Just wait until mid-March, and you won’t love it so much,” but for now our family is definitely enjoying this long-lasting winter wonderland. If it’s going to be cold, it might as well be snowy. And we have plenty of both.

Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomatoes4

Cold weather does call for comfort food though, the kind that warms you up from the inside out and makes you feel good and cozy on a truly blustery day. You can certainly go the soups and stews route, but for me, nothing says comfort like pasta. So pasta we shall have! And this pasta we have had, in fact — weekly at least — for a solid month. Maybe that’s why we’re still loving all this snow.

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Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Sautéed Tomatoes
Adapted from The Kitchy Kitchen

• 16 ounces fettuccine
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
• kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• ½ cup cream
• 2 teaspoon lemon zest
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and sauté just until golden, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Lower heat, and sauté, tossing occasionally, until tomatoes are soft, another 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how hot you keep the pan.

In the meantime, cook the fettuccine to al dente, according to package instructions. When the pasta is nearly finished cooking (and the tomatoes are soft), add the cream to the pan with the tomatoes, give everything a good stir and heat the sauce until it’s almost simmering. Add the lemon zest and thyme, and stir to combine.

Pour the hot garlic cream sauce over the pasta, and toss to coat. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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How are you staying warm and cozy this winter season? Good food? Good friends? A good vacation void of snow and ice? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

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Sweets in the snow: Cocoa brownies with sea salt

Cocoa Brownies2

We’re knee-deep in snow here in Boston today (or full-body deep as far as our chilly little poodle is concerned), and I’m happy to report that we’re finally getting a taste of the East Coast winters we’ve heard so much about since moving here last summer. Woo hoo! There are few things I love more than a seriously snowy morning. Well, that and baked goods. Today, pals, we have both. Did I already say woo hoo?

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I’ve become a big fan of brownies in recent years, largely because, though there’s plenty of debate over corners vs. middles, fudgy vs. cakey, etc., most everyone seems to appreciate a good brownie in one form or another. I definitely lean more toward the super chewy and arguably overcooked variety, and Jared leans more soft and fudgy, so we waver back and forth between which recipe is our favorite at any given time. It’s nice when we find a happy medium, though, and this brownie, with its fudgy flavor (ironically from using cocoa instead of melted baker’s chocolate) and chewy bite, is pretty fair middle ground.

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I like cutting these guys into tiny, nearly bite-sized pieces because that’s really all you need. Oh, and don’t forget to top them with the flakey sea salt! It’s so simple but so necessary. Jared and I both agree that it’s a must for any brownie-baking we do from here on out.

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Cocoa Brownies

Cocoa Brownies with Sea Salt
Adapted just slightly from Genius Recipes, Food52.com

• 10
 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 ¼ cup sugar
• ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 
cold eggs
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• flakey sea salt (Maldon is my favorite)

Place your oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang on the sides.

Place the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl or medium saucepan, and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined and hot to the touch. Remove the bowl from the skillet, and set it aside until the mixture is warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon, then add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the flour, and stir until you can’t see it any longer. Then beat the batter vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick in the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely.

Lift up the ends of the parchment, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut them into 25 squares. (I popped my brownies into the refrigerator for a few minutes before cutting them, which helps of you’re hoping for cleaner lines.)

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Happy snow day!

XO,
Katrina

Beany vs. the Boxed Cookie: A Quest for Homemade Fig Newtons

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Anyone who’s a parent will probably tell you that, despite all of the times and all of the ways that they feel they’re falling a bit shy of the mark, there are at least a few parenting-related things that they feel pretty good about. It’s been true for us. Yes, we cave to demands for extra bedtime snuggles, use disposable diapers and Beany watches more Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than a doctor might recommend, but when it comes to her diet and nutrition, we’ve tried to stay pretty up and up with good-for-you eats and made-from-scratch desserts. Not always, but most of the time. And it’s worked out pretty well so far.

After two years of eating this way, not only does Beany seem to have pretty good taste for a toddler, but she’s also developed a rather discerning palate when it comes to baked goods. This has translated into outright refusal of nearly any prepackaged or non-homemade sweet. We’re talking birthday cake at parties, snacks at the grocery store, even Oreos. She’d happily eat ginger spice cookies, banana muffins or brownies as the day is long, but hand her something that you didn’t bake yourself, and somehow her toddler super senses kick in, and she instinctively turns up her nose. This was true for a long, long time. But then, we went to Grammy’s house.

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One day after lunch, Grammy pulled out a “special cookie” from deep inside the pantry. It was a Fig Newton. “I doubt she’ll eat it,” I told my mom when she asked if Beany could have one. “But she can try it. We’ll see what she does.”

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Beany looked at the cookie skeptically, took a teeny tiny nibble from the top and then proceeded to eat the entire thing. In three bites! Mouthful of cookie and face covered in crumbs, she smiled the smile of a kid who finally understood the joys of processed sweets. If 2-year-olds have vices, Beany had found hers, wrapped in a square of fig and pastry.

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It’s hard to deny your child something that you know brings them so much joy, and I dare say that our girl looked nearly euphoric every time she had a Fig Newton during that three-week vacation. Upon returning home, however, before I let myself succumb to the call of the prepackaged grocery store cookies, I vowed to give the homemade version a try, just to see if I could win back Beany’s sensibilities. If you have a Fig Newton-lover in your house, and you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort that the homemade route demands, this recipe is spot on. Steaming the cookies as soon as they’re done baking gives them that unmistakable Fig Newton texture, and the flavor is just like the original but amplified a bit with extra orange zest and vanilla.

Thankfully, after a sideways glance or two, Beany was willing to try them last night, and though her response wasn’t overwhelmingly this-is-so-amazing the first day, by day two she heartily approved. Of course, I haven’t offered her the packaged vs. homemade challenge, with the two options side by side. Honestly, I’m too scared of the results.

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Fig Newtons

Homemade Fig Newtons
Recipe from petitbleu, Food52.com

For the pastry:
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 
teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• 10
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 2/3 
cups brown sugar
• 1
 large egg
• 2
 teaspoons vanilla extract
• zest of one orange

For the filling:
• 1
 pound dried figs, cut into small pieces
• ½ cup water

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside. Then beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and orange zest, and beat until well combined.

Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended. (The dough will be super soft.) Spoon the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a disc, and refrigerate it overnight.

In the meantime, make the fig filling by combining the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, put on the lid, and allow the water to boil until the figs have absorbed it. (If the figs are still not soft, add a bit more water and allow it to simmer a bit longer.)

Transfer the figs to a food processor, and pulse them until the mixture is completely smooth. Allow the filling to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place a large piece of parchment on your work surface, and flour it liberally. Divide the chilled dough into four pieces. Place one piece of dough on the parchment, and return the others to the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

Shape the piece of dough into a rectangle by squaring it on the work surface, and then roll the dough, into a long rectangle, about 4 inches wide by 12 inches long. Make sure you keep lifting the dough and flouring the parchment. The super soft dough will stick easily if you don’t keep checking it.

Place the fig filling into a pastry bag or a large Ziploc bag with one corner cut off. Pipe the filling in a 1-inch strip down the center of the dough rectangle. (To help flatten out the filling a bit, dip your fingertips in water and gently press down on the filling.) Fold one side of the dough over the filling, then the other. Press down on the seam to close it. Then flip the cookie roll over, seam-side down. Transfer it carefully to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while you repeat this step with the other three pieces of dough. (Per Jared’s super smart suggestion, I used the metal ruler I already had out to measure my dough rectangle as a base to transfer the cookie rolls. It’s 12 inches long, so it worked like a charm.)

Once all four cookie rolls are assembled and on the parchment-lined baking sheet, bake them for 16 to 22 minutes, or until the dough is no longer tacky and begins to brown around the edges.

While the cookie rolls are still warm, cut them into 2-inch cookies. (If necessary, wipe your knife off every so often between cuts; the figgy mixture is pretty sticky.) Immediately place the cookies in a single layer inside a large Ziploc bag or airtight container with the lid on or bag sealed. It sounds weird, but steaming the cookies is what gives them that soft Fig Newton texture. Cool the cookies completely, and then eat and be merry!

Makes about 30 cookies

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Have you ever tried homemade versions of your favorite boxed treats? Cookies? Cakes? How about Pop-Tarts? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

Salad for lunch, cookies for dinner: Peanut butter chocolate chip biscuits

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Well, we’ve made it through the season of sweets, and now my blog reader and Pinterest feed are filled with fancy salads, whole grains and about seven gazillion paleo recipes. I suppose January is the time for all of that. It’s out with the, “Eat what you want because it’s Christmastime, y’all!” and in with the “No really, honey, I think you’ll like quinoa.”

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We’re doing our own version of the get-back-on-track bandwagon, but then again, I’ve always been an advocate of making healthy choices for meals if it means I can reward myself with a healthy dose of dessert. I say a salad for lunch is a pretty fair tradeoff for a stack of cookies come evening.

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So today, it’s a cookie recipe for you: peanut butter and chocolate chip biscuits. Consider it your reward for two good weeks of healthy eats. You can always have oatmeal tomorrow morning.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Biscuits
Adapted just slightly from Winter on the Farm (Matthew Evans, p. 209) 

• ¾ cup light brown sugar
• 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 300 grams creamy peanut butter
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Then add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Beat in the peanut butter, salt and baking soda until well combined.

Slowly add the flour to the mixture, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls, and place about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the balls down with the tines of a fork until they’re about ½ inch thick, then bake for 10-14 minutes, until the cookies are tan but not dark.

Makes about 40 cookies

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XO,
Katrina

Thanksgiving prep

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As of yesterday morning, our refrigerator is loaded, our pantry is stuffed to the gills and our freezer is uncharacteristically full. All of these facts can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving is around the corner. I am pumped.

For all of my fellow planner-aheaders and list-makers out there, Thanksgiving is like the ultimate holiday, right? I mean, there are menus to decided on, grocery lists to make, and then there’s that incredible shuffle that comes with trying to fit everything you purchased for a single meal into a much-too-small cabinet with much too little shelving. No? That last one is just me? Humph. Where’s my dad’s trusty larder when I need it?

Thanksgiving Prep

Part of the planning process for me involves a whole lot of half-baking ahead of time. My freezer is rarely stocked with much more than ice cream, frozen corn and a few teething rings, but when holiday time comes around, I take advantage of the space. There are tons of baked goods that do really well in the freezer post-mixed but pre-baked. Here’s what we’re rocking so far this year:

Cranberry orange scones
Butternut sage scones
Chocolate-pistachio sables
Ginger spice cookies
Lots and lots of pie crust

Sure, sure, it’s a whole lotta baked goods (and a whole lotta butter), and yes, we’ll have plenty o’ pie coming our way come Thursday, too. But most frozen baked goods can hang in the freezer for at least a month, so there’s no pressure to bake everything immediately if our tummies run out of space. (My pre-baby prep before Beany looked remarkably similar, actually. And though we had very little premade meals to speak of in the weeks following her birth, we had homemade cookies galore).

So the freezer is doing its part, and the rest of the meal prep will get rolling in the next few days. I’m planning to use this Mark Bittman recipe for make-ahead gravy (I’m not a gravy fan, so I shall trust my husband’s tastebuds for this one). And this easy cranberry sauce can pull together days in advance, too. Pies will do their thing on Wednesday (apple and pumpkin because we’re cool and traditional like that). Oh, and our turkey will be chilling in the refrigerator in a dandy dry brine this year (this one to be exact). Yes, I know I’m quite reliant on the New York Times this time of year, but the peeps there know their stuff.

Other than that, our menu is looking like an amalgamation of the usual fare and a few new spins. In lieu of traditional mashed potatoes, I’m making this mashed potato casserole with sour cream and chives (which can be made in the morning, conveniently enough, and heated up right before the meal). We’re going old-school sweet potato casserole with marshmallows (Martha Stewart to the rescue!), which can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator overnight. Then there’s green bean casserole (nothing fancy schmancy here; we’re trusting our pals at French’s), hashed Brussels sprouts (lest we forget the food group called “green”), the fruit salad my mom’s been making for as long as I can remember and a new sage dressing recipe from the November Bon Appétit.

Come Thursday, we shall eat and eat and eat. And eat and eat. And it will be grand!

I’d love to hear how the planning/prepping is going in your neck of the woods. What’s on your Thanksgiving menu? Any new recipes? Tried-and-true favorites? Any deep-fried turkeys?!? Do tell! ‘Tis the season for sharing, after all.

XO,
Katrina

Looking for a bit more Thanksgiving inspiration? Here are a few of my favorites from years past: cranberry chutney, mini apple and brie quiche, spicy roasted cauliflower with lemon, roasted carrots, salt and vinegar potatoes, French caramelized apple tartlettes, mini maple cream tarts.

Salty, sweet, gone: Chocolate-pistachio sables

Chocolate Pistachio Sables2

If the recipe list on my blog is any indication, I’m a pretty big fan of cookies. They’re my favorite dessert (aside from ice cream) and my go-to baked good for pretty much any occasion. Dinner with friends? Cookies. Housewarming party? Cookies. Something to take to work? Cookies. I’m staying home the entire day with absolutely nothing on the agenda? Cookies. And cookies.

Chocolate Pistachio Sables6

Chocolate Pistachio Sables

With Thanksgiving coming up, there are certain dishes that are givens (I’m talking to you, pie), but I always like to have a little something nibbly around, too, just in case the meal takes longer to cook than we expected or there are wild and crazy non-pie-eaters in our midst. Plus, Beany loves cookies, and though I wouldn’t call them bribes, we’ve been known to use them as “incentives” for good behavior. Everyone knows that in order to be a cookie eater, one must be among the nicest, most polite and patient members of society, so it’s only good parenting to let our 2-year-old know that, too, right?

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These chocolate-pistachio sables are our latest craze, adapted ever so slightly from the latest issue of Bon Appétit. If you’re in search of the perfect salty, sweet cookie combo, this is it. The cookies themselves have a great buttery texture like shortbread, and the chocolate-pistachio combo gives them a little holiday pizazz. Oh, and the flaky sea salt on top! Goooood stuff. The Maldon salt is a little pricey, but it’s worth it I think.

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Chocolate-Pistachio Sables
Adapted just slightly from Bon Appétit (December 2013) 

• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 ¼ cups lightly packed brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 egg white
• 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
• flaky sea salt (I used Maldon, available at Whole Foods)

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the egg white, and mix until combined. Then fold in the chocolate and pistachios.

Divide dough into four equal pieces, and roll each piece into a log about 8 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Push the dough together firmly so it doesn’t crumble apart, and then wrap each log tightly in parchment paper and chill until firm, at least 4 hours. [At this point, if you’d rather bake the cookies days or weeks later, stick the parchment-wrapped logs in airtight plastic and freeze them until ready to bake, up to 1 month. You don’t even need to defrost them before slicing and baking!]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a serrated knife to cut logs (one at a time) into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about ½ inch apart. Sprinkle the cookies with flaky sea salt, and bake for about 10-14 minutes (rotating the pan hallway through), until the edges are set and the center looks dry. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies

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There’s definitely tons of butter in this recipe, but it makes a gazillion cookies (i.e. eight dozen), so that’s really not so bad. I actually only baked one roll of them the other day and stuck the three others in my freezer for the day before Thanksgiving. So now my freezer is aptly packed with cookies, scones, pie crusts and more cookies. Can you tell the holidays are coming? Are you ready?!?

XO,
Katrina

Eat like a monkey: Ginger(monkey)bread

Monkey Gingerbread

The first time I ate monkey bread was for breakfast at a school friend’s sleepover when I was 12 years old. I remember watching, fascinated, as her mom cut Pillsbury Grands biscuits into six pieces each, rolled the dough into balls and then dunked them into a bath of butter and cinnamon sugar before layering them freely in a bundt pan. Forget the fact that it was premade dough, or that the bath of butter was actually a bath of margarine, or that I was much more of a pancakes-with-syrup-on-the-side kind of girl than a connoisseur of overly sweet morning concoctions; I convinced myself, while watching the magic unfold, that this would indeed be the greatest breakfast of my young life.

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Many moons later, and I honestly can’t remember how that monkey bread tasted. What I do remember, however, is crowding around a small kitchen island, a half dozen sleepy-eyed girls in mismatched pajamas and socks, happily pulling off balls of bread, one by one, until our tummies were content and our sugar spots filled. As much as I love baking for flavor, the recipes I savor the most, especially as our Beany grows older and more interested in the happenings of the kitchen, are the ones that bring with them an experience. Monkey bread, when eaten correctly, is an experience in itself. And if it tastes great, too? Well, then you really can’t go wrong.

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Ginger(monkey)bread

Adapted slightly from arielleclementine, Food52.com

1
 packet active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/3 
cup warm water (110 degrees)
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1
 cup whole milk
• ¼ cup molasses
• 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus ¼ cup, if needed
• 2
 teaspoons kosher salt
• 2
 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 rounded tablespoon ground cinnamon
• ½ rounded
 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1
 stick salted butter, melted
• 1
 cup packed light brown sugar

Quickly stir together yeast, the teaspoon of sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Set it aside for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes nice and foamy. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons butter, milk and molasses in a small saucepan, just until the butter is melted. Set it aside for a minute or two to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Attach the dough hook, and turn the mixer on low. Slowly add the molasses mixture, followed by the yeast mixture. Keep mixing until the dough comes together, about 7 minutes or until smooth. (This is pretty sticky dough compared to other breads — it will stick to the bottom of the bowl — but add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time, if it seems too wet.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute to form a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Butter the bundt pan generously with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Put the melted stick of butter in one small bowl and the brown sugar in another.

When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Cut the dough into 64 pieces, and roll the pieces into balls. One by one, dip the balls in butter, roll in brown sugar and place them in the bundt pan (distributing them as evenly as possible).

Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, place it in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise for another hour. (Although I didn’t try it, reviews of this recipe suggest that you can put the dough in the refrigerator at this point — overnight if you wish — and bake it later. Just make sure to allow an hour for the dough to come to room temperature and finish rising before you bake it.) Once the balls have risen, they should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.

Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes in a 350-degree F oven, until the top is golden brown. Cool the cake in the pan for just 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cake stand and cool for another 5 to 10 minutes. Then gather the family, and enjoy! This monkey bread really does taste best when it’s warm from the oven, so don’t wait!

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I love how this recipe turned out, and though the process can be a bit time-consuming with all of the hands-on rolling and individual dipping, the bread itself actually comes together fairly easily. It tastes wonderfully gingerbready, and the gooey, carmely outer layer really takes it over the top. And just think how great it would be to stand around the kitchen counter with your nearest and dearest while you pull the bread apart and enjoy that surge of sugary goodness! I already have plans to bring it back for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Get ready, little sister! You’re helping me with all the rolling and dipping!

XO,
Katrina

Fall in New England: Apples, waffles and a hooray for new seasons

Apple Waffles

I’m sitting here at my desk with a 50-degree breeze coming through the window and feeling almost too chilly to be comfortable. It’s wonderful! It seems fall comes much earlier in New England, and I’m so, so happy for it. This transition to Boston has been tougher on me than I expected. It’s busy. It’s noisy. I miss the South and the Midwest more than I knew I could. But I’m glad to have a new chill in the air to remind me to count all of the good things. Family is always good. Fall is always good.

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Apple Picking 8

We’re taking full advantage of the weather these days, especially on the weekends when Jared is home. After two consecutive years of missing apple picking in North Carolina (my non-farmer mind always figured you’d pick apples in late September, which makes for slim pickin’s down south), I was determined to not miss our chance again. So we planned a trip on one of the first chilly mornings of the season, headed out of the city and into a rural-ish town about 45 minutes away. It was beautiful and wonderful and such a perfect day.

Apple Picking

Apple Picking 7

We actually went on the first day that Honeycrisp apples (my favorite!) were ready for picking. Huzzah! Apparently they go fast, so we got there at just the right time.

Apple Picking 6

Apple Picking 4

Beany had an absolute blast. She squealed on the hayride out to the orchard and then wore herself out running up and down the rows of apple trees. She slept the entire way home.

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Apple Picking 3

And how great is it that the trip comes with a built-in snack break? Our girl is an apple fiend, and this one little apple kept her occupied for more than an hour. I told Jared that anyone who thinks kids won’t eat fruit needs to come apple picking. Every kid there, from the itty bitties to the teens, was going to town on just-picked-from-the-tree goodness. Basically, we should all have apple trees.

Apple Picking 2

Apple Waffles 5

We brought home 10 pounds of glorious apples, and we’ve been enjoying every last one of them. Lots have been eaten plain as can be because they’re just that good, but we’ve also been having fun with new recipes. These cinnamon-spice waffles with sautéed apples are a new family favorite and one I’m sure we’ll be making on many fall mornings to come. Although each element is good on its own, I really think the combination of the cinnamon waffles, maple syrup, plenty of butter and fresh sautéed apples is what makes it such a perfect breakfast. It sounds like a lot, but try it all together. You won’t be disappointed!

Seasons are meant to be enjoyed. So far, we’re really enjoying this one.

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Apple Waffles 7

Cinnamon-Spice Waffles
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup whole-wheat flour
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
• ½ rounded teaspoon ginger
• ¼ rounded teaspoon cloves
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 whole eggs, beaten
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 2 cups milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter your waffle iron or spray it with cooking spray, and preheat according to manufacturer’s instructions. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until combined. Slowly add melted butter to the mixture, and mix until just combined. Allow mixture to rest for about five minutes.

Ladle batter into the waffle maker, and bake according to the waffle iron’s instructions, until waffle is golden brown on each side. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200-degree F oven until ready to serve.

Sautéed Apples
• 2 tablespoons salted butter
• 3 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I like to use a tart variety to cut down on all that sweet.)
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, and toss until the apples are coated. Cook the apples for 8 to 10 minutes, until they’re tender but not mushy.

Top the waffles with a drizzle of melted salted butter, a bit of pure maple syrup and a healthy serving of the warmed apples. Then sit back and enjoy that happy fall weather!

Apple Waffles 6

Apple Waffles 4

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Has fall arrived where you live? What’s your favorite way to kick off the season? And has anyone else already downed at least a dozen pumpkin spice lattes already?!? Yay, fall!

XO,
Katrina

Taste of sunshine: Lemon sandwich cookies

Lemon Sandwich Cookies 6

When I’m in the thick of summer, smack in the middle of the steamy heat and mosquito-ridden evenings, I have a hard time appreciating the season for what it is. I love cold weather, and my grumpiness level automatically shifts up a few notches when the temperature reaches 80. I know, I would have had a hard time in the pre-air-conditioning pioneer days. But then, there’s a reason I always ignored the townsfolk and set out in the dead of winter for all of my Oregon Trail journeys. No one wants to travel with me across rugged terrain in a covered wagon in mid-July. I’d be even worse than that grump pot Sally. And she always got cholera.

Lemon Sandwich Cookies 4

So yes, my yoke and I much prefer the chill to the heat. But this summer has been a particularly good (albeit busy) one, and as the season officially starts to wind down for us, I’m finding myself surprised by how much I’m going to miss it. We’ve had lots of time with Jared home, lots of time with family and a whole lot of those eat-lunch-at-3-then-have-popcorn-for-dinner kinds of days. That total lack of schedule just doesn’t seem to fly for us any other time to year, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can say we milked it for all it was worth.

Lemon Sandwich Cookies 2

As summer starts to fizzle (not that you’d know by the temperature — 88 in Boston today! Eep!), we’re reminiscing on the good ol’ just-a-few-weeks-ago days while they’re still fresh in our memory. And we’re doing so with lemon because, well, lemon tastes like sunshine, and sunshine is good any time of year. These lemon sandwich cookies were a big hit in our house, especially with Beany. She’s never had an Oreo before, but this foray into sandwich cookies has revealed that’s she’s a twister and a licker. Every dot of frosting must be gone before she makes her move on the wafers. Then every dot of wafer is consumed with gusto.

You could certainly try these cookies with another citrus, but I do hope you’ll try the lemon version first. There’s just something so happy about a lemon cookie. And a lemon cookie with lemon frosting? Well, that’s about as much happy as a taste bud can stand.

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Lemon Sandwich Cookies 9

Lemon Sandwich Cookies
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart

Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• zest from 1 large lemon
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon vanilla
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (for sprinkling on cookies)

For the icing:

• 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• zest from 1 large lemon
• 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the cookies, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt with an electric mixer on high speed until well combined. Add the vanilla, and blend to combine. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a disk about ½ inch thick, wrap it and chill for about an hour, until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 1 ½-inch rounds from the dough, and place them 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle the tops with the granulated sugar, and bake until they’re just beginning to brown, about 13 to 17 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and lemon zest with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, and mix until smooth. (The icing should be firm but spreadable; add a bit more sugar if needed.)

To make the sandwiches, place about 1 teaspoon of icing between two cookies, sugared sides out, and squeeze together gently.

Lemon Sandwich Cookies 7

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How is your summer winding down? Will you miss the carefree schedule, or are you antsy to get back into a routine? Any end-of-summer recipes you’re wild about these days? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

It’s popsicle time! Blueberry lemon pops

Yogurt Pops 4

Every spring, I convince myself that this will be the summer I accomplish everything on my ever-growing to-do list. This will be the summer I finish organizing the closet. This will be the summer I complete a bucket list of must-do warm-weather activities. This will be the summer I finish knitting the blanket that never quits.

Yogurt Pops 6

But then the summer actually begins, and before I know it, it’s mid-July, and I’ve spent six weeks spinning in circles because the summer months move so much faster than the other ones. Am I the only person who keeps saying, “How is it July already?” “Where did the summer go?” “Will someone come knit this blanket for me?!?!”

Yogurt Pops 7

Probably not. Everyone’s busy. And I fear my poor kitchen has been feeling neglected from our weeks of spinning chaos. So what to do when the world is moving so fast your feet are wobbling beneath you? Make popsicles of course!

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Popsicles are super easy, super fast and make it abundantly clear that it is indeed summertime. No matter the the hustle and bustle, we all deserve a few moments of bliss to enjoy a taste of the season. Blink, and it will be fall.

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Yogurt Pops

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Popsicles
Adapted from le zoe musings

• 1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt, plus a few extra dollops for each popsicle (Greek or regular, whichever you prefer)
• 3/4 cup fresh blueberries, plus a few extra for each popsicle
• 1 tablespoon honey
• zest of 1 lemon

To make the blueberry yogurt layer, add 1 cup of yogurt, 3/4 cup blueberries, the honey and lemon zest into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. To layer the popsicles, put one or two whole blueberries in the bottom of each popsicle mold, followed by a few dollops of the plain vanilla yogurt. Next add another few whole blueberries, and fill the rest of the way with the blueberry yogurt mixture. Press a popsicle stick into the center of each mold, then put popsicles in the freezer until frozen.

Makes 4 full-sized popsicles

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Popsicles are wonderfully adaptable, so feel free to add whatever fruits, yogurts or add-ins you like. Truth be told, my sister and I loved the blueberry layer but could take or leave the plain vanilla section. Beany, on the other hand, happily ate every last bite.

Has your kitchen hit a lull this season? How are you enjoying the summer months? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

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