Posted on July 3, 2014
We eat strawberries nearly every day of the year in our house because Beany and I can’t get enough of them, but summer strawberries are by far the best of the bunch. They are amazingly juicy, amazingly sweet and amazingly not $5 a quart right now. So strike while those fields are hot!
In honor of this grand strawberry season, here are five of my favorite strawberry-filled desserts, perfect for your Fourth of July cookout.
Happy Fourth of July, pals!
Posted on June 28, 2014
Days start at about 5 in the morning here, and from then until bedtime, it feels pretty nonstop. There’s breakfast to make, a toddler to entertain, a baby to change and a puppy to feed — all before 7 a.m. I know this isn’t unusual for parents with young kids. Or any kids for that matter. I spend the day racing the clock, juggling nap time and work time, proofing a magazine while bouncing a baby on my knee. It’s amazingly wonderful in so many ways, though I’d be lying if I said I don’t have those moments when I wonder how on earth I’ll make it to bedtime. A life spent with small children by its very nature is always a bit out of control, and no matter how organized and enthusiastic I try to be, things usually hit the fan somewhere between 5 and 7 p.m. It’s an inevitable scramble, and it can certainly wear you down. But then there’s always that time at the end of the day, when I’m snuggling Beany on the couch or rocking Bear in my arms, when I think to myself, “I could live in the moment forever.”
Long days, short years. That’s what they say, isn’t it? I’m learning more and more, with every new morning I wake up as a mom, how important it is to grasp the simple moments when I can. Kids are only little for so long. You know this. I know this. But you know what? They don’t know this. At least not in the same way we do. So it’s our job to help them make the most of this time and make the most of being little, when the world is big and everything is new and picking a strawberry straight from the ground makes them prouder than their tiny bodies can even express. So this summer, despite any busyness from home, work or life in a big city, we’re going to try our best at keeping things simple. Because it turns out that the simple memories, the simple adventures and the simple recipes are the ones we keep coming back to.
Angel Food Cake
Adapted just slightly from The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Hesser, p. 742)
• 1 cup cake flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 10 large egg whites
• pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar.
In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt until the mixture is foamy. Add the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar a few tablespoons at a time, and continue beating until the mixture holds soft peaks. Fold in half the dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Then fold in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in the vanilla.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, and invert it immediately, either on the feet of the pan (if the pan has feet) or resting on an empty bottle. Let the cake cool completely.
Once the cake is cool, run a long thin knife around the sides to loosen the edges, and invert the cake onto a plate. Serve with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.
Posted on May 29, 2014
When we lived in Missouri, Jared and I had a beast of a grill that took up about a third of the deck space at the back of our small apartment. It sat largely unused for a good five months of the year, but once the weather warmed up enough for Jared to remove his snow gear, we put the grill to use at least three or four times a week (though I do recall a few winter grilling sessions that required the use of gloves). When we moved to North Carolina though, our new place had one of those “no grilling within 10 feet of the premises” rules, so there was no sense in moving a behemoth hunk of stainless steel 920 miles across the country just to let it sit. We left it behind, the poor thing. I guess every grill has its day.
Summer is certainly the season for grilling, but we’re now living in our second no-grills-allowed apartment and have had to get a little creative to satisfy summer cravings without becoming wild tong-wielding rule-breakers. We finally bought a cast-iron skillet last weekend to try our hands at cooking steak inside, and I’d say it gave our memories of grilled steaks a run for their money (minus the three fire alarms and frantic fanning of lingering smoke, of course). For this barbecue chicken salad though, we fired up the ol’ panini press as a grilling substitute. And you know what? Not only does it taste pretty great, but it’s also amazingly fast. It’s not quite like the real deal, but it gets the job done with the bonus of adding those dandy grill marks.
The rest of this salad comes together super easily, and it’s one of those great recipes that’s really more of a loose guideline than a hard blueprint. Add what you love, skip what you don’t love, throw it all in a bowl, and you’re done. Aside from grilling (see also: panini-ing) the chicken, it’s low maintenance and cooking free. Now go forth, and chop!
Chopped Barbecue Chicken Salad
• 6 to 8 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
• 12 ounces to 1 pound grilled chicken, cut into small bite-sized pieces
• 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 ½ cups corn (cooked, straight from the cob or however you like it)
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
• ¼ to ½ cup diced red onion
• grated cheese for sprinkling (cheddar always goes well with barbecue)
• ranch dressing (here’s a homemade version we like)
• barbecue sauce
* Other fun additions: hard-boiled eggs, avocados, crumbled bacon, olives, tortilla strips
Put all of the ingredients except the cheese, dressing and barbecue sauce into a large bowl, and give the salad a good toss. Top individual salads with a bit of grated cheese and an even drizzle of ranch and barbecue sauce. Enjoy!
I’m a big fan of making things that we can get two meals out of, and this salad keeps really well for a few days in the refrigerator as long as you leave the dressing and barbecue sauce off until the day you eat it. And when it says it serves four, that’s a healthy dose of salad, like for a whole meal, so it could definitely be stretched further if you serve it alongside some good bread or something else to help fill the tummies. It’s a new favorite for us and definitely in the weekly rotation for these warm-weather days.
What’s your favorite throw-it-together meal? Any other creative non-grill-owning grillers out there? What’s on the menu now that the weather is getting warm?
Posted on May 5, 2014
I always forget how much I love spring until it comes back again. The weather here has been amazing lately, and we’ve been soaking up some serious outside time (hence my frequent sneezes and ridiculously itchy eyes. Oh, allergies, you rascals!). I’m convinced that few things are better for a kid — particularly a high-energy toddler — than time spent outdoors, where they can jump, climb and run around as fast as their little legs can carry them. Beany could run laps around the apartment all day and still not end up with the same kind of happy exhaustion she gets from an hour or two outside. It must be the fresh air. Or the sunshine. Whatever it is, you can’t bottle it. But it’s there for the taking.
Early Sunday morning, we packed up the kids and walked to one of our favorite bakeries nearby for something delicious to ring in the day. This place has the best lattes in town, which is a happy thing for the coffee drinkers in our bunch, and Beany gets a kick out of picking something yummy from behind the glass counter. I do, too. After all, what’s a latte without something sweet to go with it, right?
So lattes and lemon donut muffins in hand, we headed back home, where we opened all the windows and let the springtime breeze roll in. I don’t know if it was the walk, the fresh air, the sunshine or the muffins, but it was a really great morning.
If one could, in fact, bottle sunshine and fresh air and general outside loveliness, it would come in the form of a lemon donut muffin. So although the rest of the week is never as easy breezy as our weekends, I thought I’d try my hand at recreating a piece of our magical morning to last us until Saturday comes around again. Oh, happy day, it was a success! Bright, rich and the perfect blend of sweet and zing, these lemon donut muffins will erase the Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) woes and remind you that blue skies are ahead. The calendar might say Monday, but we’re still feeling very Sunday here.
Lemon Donut Muffins
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest from 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 ½ cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ cup milk
• ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
• 6 tablespoons salted butter, melted
• ½ cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a muffin pan with butter (you’ll need 9 spots buttered and ready to go). In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the unsalted butter and ½ cup sugar until creamy. Add the egg and lemon zest, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, and beat until combined.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk and cream. Slowly add the flour and milk/cream mixtures to the standing mixer, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.
Fill the greased muffin tins about 2/3 full, and bake until the donut muffins are barely golden around the edges, about 20 to 22 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Remove the muffins from the tins right away using a butter knife to loosen the edges.
Working as quickly as you can, dip the tops and sides of each muffin into the melted salted butter, and then roll them in sugar.
Posted on May 1, 2014
Anyone who lives with a 2-year-old knows that they are incredibly adept at rattling off every last detail they know about any little thing at any given moment of the day. This makes for wonderful bedtime distractions:
“Mama, wait! Water! Bunny! Books! My wall! An elephant! It’s dark! More water! Please, Mama! Dada? Dada!”
Lunchtime works this way, too:
Upon seeing her sandwich cut in a snazzy new fashion:
“Yay! Triangles! I like my triangles! Apples? Yay, apples! Oh no! A napkin! Red, blue, orange, yellow, whiiiiiite!”
And then, there’s the grocery store. Oh, the grocery store:
“Mama! Dada, look! Apples! Orange! Eggs? Eggs! Cheese! Yo[gurt]! Nana? Nana! Nana! Nanaaaaaa!”
That’s how we end up leaving with bananas every time. It’s not that we make it a habit of giving into every toddler whim (there are plenty of sugar-filled grocery store requests that go unanswered), but when she’s excited about the produce aisle, we generally try to encourage it. Of course, 2-year-olds are also notoriously picky eaters, so no matter how enthusiastic she is about those bananas at the store, it’s anyone’s guess whether that elation translates to home. Half the time, she devours them faster than we can keep up. The other half of the time, she eats one the first day and then leaves the rest to freckle and brown. That means that half the time, asking for bananas at the store means banana baked goods at home. Wait a minute! Maybe she does know what she’s doing!
I typically make banana tea muffins with overripe bananas because they aren’t super sweet, but these chocolate banana muffins were a fun and delicious replacement. I don’t know why I don’t combine chocolate and bananas more often. It’s amazing! You don’t have to sprinkle the flakey sea salt on top if it’s not your thing, but that salty sweet top is probably my favorite part of the whole dessert. Beany was a fan, too:
“Cocoa nana? Yay! Mmm! I like cocoa nana! Nana! Nana! Good girl, Ella.” (Toddler thought streams are not always linear.)
Chocolate Banana Muffins
Adapted from Fork, Knife, Swoon
• 3 ripe bananas, mashed
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 large egg
• ¼ cup canola oil
• 1/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips (bittersweet or semisweet)
• 1 tablespoon flakey sea salt, for sprinkling (I used Maldon.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line 12 muffins cups with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together the mashed bananas, vanilla and egg until the mixture is completely combined. Add the oil and milk, and whisk to combine. Add the sugars, and whisk again.
Then use a spatula to stir in the cocoa powder, and mix until the cocoa is completely incorporated. Stir in the salt and baking soda, and then gently fold in the flour. Mix until just combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffins cups (cups will be about ¾ full). Sprinkle the tops with the chocolate chips, and then sprinkle on the flakey sea salt.
Bake the muffins for 14 to 17 minutes, until the muffin tops look set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan as soon as you’re able, and let them cool on a baking rack.
Does anyone else have any good uses for all of those overripe bananas? Or stories of toddler shenanigans? I’d love to hear about it!
Posted on April 20, 2014
Happy Easter! This post is popping up a little later than planned, but I suppose that’s life with a newborn and a toddler in the house. And a puppy. Yep, that puppy is wild, too.
In case any of you are still on the lookout for an Easter-ready dessert (or a feels-like-spring dessert for that matter), look no further. This lemon ginger bundt cake comes together in a snap and tastes as happy as it sounds. I love that it uses crystallized ginger instead of ground. Have you cooked or baked much with it? It’s pretty fun, delicious stuff. Zingy and bright and just what spring is supposed to taste like. I’m currently in search of new gingery recipes so I can use up the rest of it.
In other news, Beany went to her very first Easter egg hunt yesterday and had a pretty great time. Fortunately, she didn’t realize all the sugar that came hidden inside those eggs until the very end of the hunt, so we managed to escape without her getting too incredibly sugar filled. Of course, now in her zeal for jellybeans and chocolate, she’s requesting eggs by the dozen.
Hope your Easter is a good one, too!
Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 6 large eggs
• 1 cup sour cream
• powered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda and salt.
Beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Blend in the lemon juice and vanilla.
With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Blend until just incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Posted on February 17, 2014
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.
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.
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.
How are you staying warm and cozy this winter season? Good food? Good friends? A good vacation void of snow and ice? Do tell!