Posted on January 15, 2014
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.”
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.
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.
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
Posted on July 18, 2013
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.
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?!?!”
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!
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.
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
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!
Posted on June 26, 2013
I’m pretty sure that cookies are one of life’s great triumphs — at least in the world of dessert. Where else are you going to find a sweet that’s so universally loved? A treat that can be baked quickly, travel easily and please grandparents and toddlers alike? They’re like the stuff of fairy tales, really. There are humble beginnings (we’re talking dough balls, y’all), followed by courageous middles (baking is not for the lighthearted) and, finally, the beautiful, delicious endings. Yes, cookies are pure magic. No two are the same, and yet they all have tales worth telling.
This cookie’s story is none too fancy, though sprinkles and nuts and chocolate chips do not a hero make. Sometimes it’s simplicity and earnestness that win out in the end.
Chocolate sugar cookies are exactly as they sound. They are simple sweets that pack a lovely chocolate punch by way of Dutch-process cocoa powder, with enough butter to remind you they’re a sometimes food.
They need very little else, besides a source for dunking. Coffee is always a good friend to chocolate, but I dare say these taste best when paired with an ice cold glass of milk.
And this recipe makes a mountain, so be sure to share with friends. Or with strangers, who will quickly become your friends.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process)
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, ½ cup at room temperature and ½ cup melted
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• 1 egg
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the ½ cup room-temperature butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the (cooled) melted butter, and mix until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until creamy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.
Use a 1-inch cookie scoop to drop dough in rounded tablespoons on a parchment- or Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-14 minutes, until edges are firm. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for minute, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen
Posted on June 12, 2013
Although our oven joins us in a collective groan as the summer heat draws near, there’s one little appliance tucked in the back corner of the kitchen that lets out a happy squeal at the first sign of 90-degree days.
“Yippee da doo, eep eep eep!” Or something like that.
Yes, after nearly nine months of hibernation, the trusty ice-cream maker is ready to run again. Oh, happy day! If anything can make me look forward to a sweltering summer, it’s the promise of ice cream, popsicles, anything frozen. And sorbet! Especially easy-to-make, tastes-like-summer-in-a-bowl sorbet.
Isn’t it amazing how so few ingredients can make something so delicious? Strawberries, lemons and sugar. That’s it. Sweet doesn’t have to be complicated.
Recipe by Genius Recipes, Food52
• 2 lemons (1 seeded and chopped, 1 juiced)
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled
Place the chopped lemon and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until combined. Transfer to another bowl.
Puree the strawberries in the food processor. Add the lemon mixture and the lemon juice, and pulse to combine.
Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker, and churn until frozen (it took about 30 minutes in my machine). Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container, and keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to serve.
Are you looking forward to the warm weather and sunshine? What’s your favorite summer dessert?
Posted on May 9, 2013
I could talk on and on about the value of simplicity — simple ingredients, simple work, simple living — but sometimes, I can honestly say you just have to make a royal mess of things to appreciate a job well done. Last night, while I scrubbed a few dishes and Jared helped tend to a bubbling pot of fruit and sugar, I thought to myself how lovely and simple the evening felt compared to the past few weeks. The thought barely escaped my mind when, quite suddenly, that bubbling pot turned into a red hot spring of craziness, spewing very boiling and very staining liquid from one end of the kitchen to the other.
Now I don’t know if it’s because I was watching 19 Kids and Counting at the time (the Duggars have a strangely calming effect on me) or because I slept a full eight hours the night before, but rather then send me into the typical stress-filled cleaning frenzy, this volcano of sticky preserves only fueled my satisfaction in the entire jam-making process. What is jam without the mess anyway? A sugary fruit mash at best. The real secret is in the chaos.
Oh, and good croissants. The other secret is good croissants. Few things are more delicious than homemade jam on bakery-made pastry, and we’re fortunate to have an awesome German bakery nearby. Next time you’re cruising around Durham, be sure to check out Guglhupf. And order a few extra cherry Danish to take home because, well, you need no excuse.
So back to the jam. This super simple recipe, which I happened upon while browsing one of my sister’s Pinterest boards (hey, gurl!), is a mere three ingredients long and takes little more than a bit of active stirring to get the job done. Yes, it might leave an impressive mess in its wake, but as noted earlier, that’s part of the process. It’s all worth it. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I was cooking with some exceptionally fervent strawberries, and perhaps the tamer varieties are less likely to bubble so enthusiastically. But I’m no scientist. Just a girl who’s a few splatters short of a clean kitchen.
Simple Strawberry Jam
From Martha Stewart
• 1 ½ pounds hulled strawberries
• ½ cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Place the strawberries in a food processor, and pulse until they’re coarsely chopped. Transfer the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice to a large skillet, and stir until combined.
Cook the strawberries over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the jam is thickened and bubbles cover the surface, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the jam to a jar (or two small jars), and allow it to cool to room temperature. Jam may be kept sealed in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
In case it helps put the flavor or texture into perspective, my mom says this strawberry goodness sounds a lot like the freezer jam my grandma used to make all the time. It’s sweet but not overly sweet like the store-bought stuff, and there’s plenty of zing from the generous bit of lemon juice. And we’re just jumping into strawberry season, so now’s the time to jam away! Just don’t forget those croissants!
Posted on April 17, 2013
I love balsamic vinegar. Like, really love it. I add it to pasta, salad, rice, almost any savory dish that seems a little lacking in flavor. And I add it in quantities that would probably make most people shudder. Jared certainly likes it well enough, too, but any time I’m cooking and he sees me reaching for the balsamic vinegar bottle, I can tell he’s getting nervous. A little goes a long way, he likes to remind me.
So yes, I have a reputation for excessive balsamic vinegar usage, which is probably why Jared reacted the way he did as he watched me measure out a full two-thirds cup of it into a saucepan while putting together this recipe. Whether you use a lot or a little, balsamic vinegar likes to show you that it’s there. The second it hits the heat, it lets out a wonderful sizzle and a swoosh of steam that fills your nose if you’re standing too close. I lean in a smidge. Jared jumps back.
In most cases, two-thirds of a cup is definitely a lot of vinegar, and you might feel as if you’re basting yourself in it when you first begin this recipe. But by the end, once it’s simmered down into a beautiful, syrupy sauce, and it’s tossed in with the pasta, butter and roasted asparagus, that pungent zing is replaced by a smooth, rich glaze that coats the penne perfectly and makes you happy with every bite.
Jared was skeptical, but now he’s a believer. Balsamic vinegar knows no limits.
Balsamic-Glazed Penne with Roasted Asparagus
Adapted slightly from Food and Wine
• 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and then cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
• ½ teaspoon brown sugar
• 1 pound whole-wheat penne
• 6 tablespoons salted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
• ½ cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the cut asparagus on a large, rimmed baking sheet (lined with foil for easy cleanup). Drizzle the olive oil over top, and sprinkle on ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss until the asparagus is evenly coated, then spread it back out in an even layer. Roast until the asparagus is tender and its ends begin to get slightly brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes, tossing partway through.
In the meantime, put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and simmer until 3 tablespoons remain (you’ll know it’s reduced enough when the vinegar coats the back of a spoon). Stir in the brown sugar and remaining ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Remove from the heat.
While the vinegar is reducing, cook the penne according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, and toss it with the butter and vinegar until it’s well coated. Add the asparagus, Parmesan and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and toss gently to combine. Serve with the extra Parmesan.
Funnily enough, this was actually the very first recipe I pinned on Pinterest at least two years ago, and I finally got around to making it last week. We all love it, and I can’t believe it was just sitting on that board for so long, waiting to be tried. Now, it’s officially added to the rotation. Woot!
Have you tried any great new recipes lately? Are there any fellow balsamic vinegar lovers out there with delicious dishes to share? What are your favorite flavors that you could eat by the cupful (even if you know you shouldn’t)? Do tell!
Posted on April 5, 2013
New baked goods are a regular occurrence in our house, but when it comes to dinner, I get stuck in a rut so fast. Try as I might, I just don’t get as excited about savory dishes as I do about sugar. Or butter. Or whipped cream. You get the idea.
I know, I know. A family cannot subsist on dessert alone, and I promise we’re fairly moderated in our consumption even when the oven triumphantly produces four new cookies in a week. Despite my fallback habits for the evening meal, we still eat fun things. We just tend to eat the same fun things over and over again, assuming that they’re relatively quick and easy. Weeknights are bananas sometimes.
Which brings us to this meal. Risotto is a favorite across the board for us (this spinach and mushroom risotto is our favorite among favorites!), but it takes so long. And it’s not just that it takes so long; it takes a lot of hands-on time — hands that are in high demand for puppy feeding and baby chasing and other miscellaneous hullaballoo come 6 p.m.
But this one is so easy! With barley instead of Arborio rice, this dish is not only handily finished off in the oven (woo hoo!), but it’s also healthy. I dare say it’s pretty foolproof, too, and tastes just as creamy and satisfying as the stuff that takes an hour over the stovetop to prepare. Now just think of all the cookie dough you can whip up with your hands free for those 40 minutes of baking!
Barley Risotto with Spinach and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Real Simple
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
• 1 onion, chopped
• kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup pearl barley
• ½ cup dry white wine
• 3 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I used vegetable broth, but either works.)
• ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a Dutch oven or large oven-proof saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sweet potatoes, salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Stir often to keep things from burning.
Add the barley, and cook for another minute, this time stirring constantly. Add the wine, and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the broth, and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot, and transfer it to the oven to bake until the barley is tender, about 35 to 40 minutes (Note: The first time I made this, I used quick-cooking barley instead of pearl barley. It was good but definitely already a little past done after only 25 minutes. If you’d prefer to use quick-cooking barley for a faster meal, make sure you give your sweet potatoes a little more time in the sautéing stage so they’ll be tender after about 10 to 15 minutes in the oven.)
Stir in the butter and Parmesan, then stir in the spinach. Serve with an extra happy sprinkling of Parmesan.
I’m planning to try out a spinach and mushroom version of the barley risotto over the weekend to see how it compares to our beloved favorite. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
Happy weekend to you!
Posted on March 26, 2013
Imagine waking up to the smell of maple permeating from all corners of the room. It’s faint enough to not overwhelm you but strong enough to conceal the slow-cooked curry next door. As you roll out of bed and greet the morning (a bit bouncier than usual, of course, as maple is a wonderful incentive to start the day), you smile because you know good things are on the horizon. The sun seems shinier, the birds sound chirpier, and the whole day already feels sweeter. That’s life inside a pancake, my friends. And it is awesome.
“It’s like we’re living in a pancake.” Those were the exact words uttered in our house at that magical moment when the smell of what was baking escaped the oven and reached our senses. It’s been a while since I’ve been so excited to try something based on smell alone.
But that’s how baking is supposed to be, right? It’s the smell that draws you in; it’s the flavor that makes you stay. Luckily, this maple yogurt pound cake lives up to its fragrant hype.
I suppose I should also note how super simple the recipe is. A bit of sifting and stirring is all it takes. And so long as you butter your loaf pan liberally to avoid any pesky stick-the-the-sideness, it’s sure to emerge golden and lovely.
And it’s so, so delicious. Actually, I baked this pound cake two days in a row last week, not because I botched the recipe the first time but because it’s totally true what they say: Once you’ve lived inside a pancake, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else (or something like that).
Maple Yogurt Pound Cake
Adapted just slightly from Rivka, Food52.com
• ½ cup grade B maple syrup
• ¾ cups plain yogurt (I used regular yogurt, but Greek would work, too.)
• ¼ cup sugar
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest from ½ lemon or orange (I’ve tried both ways and honestly liked it equally.)
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8 ½-by-4 ½-by-2 ½-inch metal loaf pan.
Mix together the syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and lemon or orange zest until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking power, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir gently to incorporate. Add the oil, and gently fold it into the batter until it’s completely absorbed.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan, place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center just comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.
What’s your favorite breakfast to wake up to? Are there any recipes that have won you over with their scent alone? Do tell!
Posted on March 15, 2013
Except for a few sporadic drizzles, it’s been absolutely gorgeous here the past few weeks. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and our puppy and toddler are both filled with more energy than usual. Hooray for spring around the corner! I’m a winter girl through and through, but being a mom makes me appreciate the warmer days at a whole new level. Our Beany needs to run. And run and run.
We’ve been taking full advantage of the longer days and loads of sunshine lately. I’ve been itching to get springy photos of Beany for weeks now in hopes of capturing an Easter card-worthy shot, and we turned it into an impromptu family photo shoot. I suppose I shouldn’t say impromptu because we actually had the forethought to buy a $15 tripod from Target before heading to our photo destination. Why we waited so long to get such a handy tool, I have no idea.
The process for getting the family shots was actually pretty hilarious. I’d stand in the designated spot with Beany sitting a few feet to the side and playing in the grass, Jared would focus the camera on me and set the timer, then he’d run over to Beany, making monster noises along the way, pick up our laughing girl and throw her into the air before settling in the frame next to me, just in time for the light to flash and photo to take.
Beany was amazingly cooperative. And boy oh boy, is she getting aware of that camera. I laugh every time I look at some of these. What a silly girl.
To go with our sunny weather and outdoor shenanigans, we noshed on some springtime salad for lunch that day. My salad-making seems to rise exponentially when the weather gets warmer, and this zucchini orzo salad is a zippy, filling, pretty-in-the-bowl recipe that’s super simple to throw together and incredibly forgiving if you change the ingredients here and there. Perfect for a picnic or barbecue or I-need-to-feel-springy afternoon.
Zucchini Orzo Salad
Adapted from Real Simple, June 2010
• 10 ounces orzo pasta
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
• ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
• ½ teaspoon sea salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3 small zucchinis, cut into thin half moons (cucumber could easily be substituted)
• a handful of grape tomatoes, cut in half
• 8 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled
• ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
Cook the orzo according to package instructions to al dente. Drain and run the pasta under cold water to cool it down.
In the meantime, whisk together the oil, vinegar, red pepper, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the zucchini and tomatoes, and toss to combine. Let that marinate for 20-30 minutes.
Add the cooked orzo to the zucchini along with the Feta and dill, and toss to combine.
Note: This salad could be easily switched up depending on what you have on hand. Kalamata olives, green onions, roasted corn or grated carrots would be yummy additions as well. Also, I tend to prefer zingy dressing over oily, which is why my oil-to-vinegar ration is 1:2. Feel free to adjust it to suit your taste.
How are you enjoying the springtime weather? Any fun new recipes? Fun outdoors? I’d love to hear about it!
Posted on March 5, 2013
I love recipes that take a bit of work to put together, the kind that use a ridiculous amount of kitchenware, loads of ingredients and a fair amount of time before they even reach the oven. There’s something so satisfying about all that work, both in the finished dishes you’ve created and the chaos they leave behind. In cooking and baking, you take the good with the bad. And fantastic flavor is almost always worth a fantastic mess.
Although it’d be great to have the time and energy to cook in a mess-filled fury on a daily basis, life is a busy thing, and sometimes I’m just too exhausted to battle the flying flour and grease spots a remarkable meal might bring. For those days, I’m thankful for recipes that strive for awesomeness despite their simplicity. And if one of said recipes only takes a bowl and a foil-covered baking sheet to get the job done, then, whew. You had me at foil-covered baking sheet.
I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say these potatoes are amazing, and I love that it takes so little work to get them there. We’ve had them three times in the past two weeks, and though the first time I made them I went sans foil and was left with a miserably messy baking sheet afterward (it was a long day, so my mess appreciation was probably lacking its usual gusto), I’ve since gone the foil route with no sacrifice to the wonderfully crisp texture that only screaming hot roasting can achieve. Jared suggested we try them again with spicy Cajun seasoning in lieu of the thyme and rosemary, so that’s going on the docket soon.
Salt and Vinegar Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme
Adapted slightly from Savoring the Thyme
• 1 pound baby Yukon potatoes, washed, dried and cut in half
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/3 cup rice vinegar
• ¾ to 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
• ¾ to 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Add the potatoes and stir until the potatoes are well coated. Let the potatoes marinade in the olive oil and vinegar for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Add the rosemary, thyme, salt and olive oil to the potatoes and toss to combine. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to the baking sheet, and arrange them in a single layer (more breathing space makes for crispier potatoes, so if you’re doubling the recipe, be careful not to overcrowd your pan). It’s fine if some of the extra marinade makes it onto the baking sheet when you’re transferring the potatoes, but don’t add more than what comes through the spoon.
Roast the potatoes for 20 minutes, then give them a quick toss on the baking sheet. Continue roasting for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.
What are your favorite no-nonsense, low-mess, whip-them-up-in-a-snap recipes? Have you had any truly amazing messes to contend with recently that brought along even more amazing meals? I’d love to hear about them!