Category Archives: Baking

Shaker Lemon Pie

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Shaker Lemon Pie

I’ve been intrigued by this pie idea since a friend of ours came around crowing about it. Equal parts marmalade, curd, sweet and tart, all wrapped up in a two crust pie, what’s not to love? It also meant I got to get out my spectacular new mandoline and get to work.

This isn’t a pie for the faint of heart. It’s not gently lemony, it’s very assertive and aggressively citrusy, with lots of texture from the lemon slices. It sounded like the perfect end to an evening of crab eating indulgence and I was right: I received the highest order of pie-eater compliments, that this reminded someone of his Grandma’s lemon pie.

My suggestions: use Meyer lemons, use a mandoline unless you have the knife skills of a ninja (and you don’t, so use a mandoline), and be sure to pick out all of the seeds. Use your favorite all-butter pie crust recipe, and don’t look back.

Shaker Lemon Pie

From Smitten Kitchen, as she adapted from Saveur

Makes one 9-inch pie

2 large lemons, preferably Meyers
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
4 tablespons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 egg white
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Dough for one double-crust pie

Thoroughly wash lemons, then dry with paper towel. Finely grate lemon zest into a bowl. Using a mandoline, slice lemons as paper thin as you can get them; remove and discard seeds. Add slices to zest and toss with sugar and salt. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out half the dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface, fit it into a 9-inch (1-quart) pie plate, and trim the edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang.

Mix the macerated lemon-sugar mixture with eggs, melted butter and flour until combined well. Pour in to prepared pie shell.

Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface, drape it over the filling, and trim it, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under the bottom crust, pressing the edge to seal it, and crimp the edge decoratively. Beat one egg white until frothy and brush over pie crust, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut slits in the crust with a sharp knife, forming steam vents, and bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F. and bake the pie for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Let the pie cool on a rack and serve it warm at room temperature.

I also served mine with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, gently sweetened and laced with vanilla and limoncello. Go big or go home, right?

Manifest Sticky Bun

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I’m struck with cooking ideas at times that just won’t go away until they manifest themselves into a real life scenario. There I was, sitting on the sofa with the cat, reading and enjoying my coffee, and had a need for cinnamon rolls. Our little hamlet is 10 minutes from anywhere that would have one worth driving for, and even if I could muster the gumption to get dressed and go there is no guarantee that one would be waiting for me. I could make my own, but the mixing and rising and punching and all just sounded so unattractive, This, and I wanted a cinnamon roll before 2:00, and classic risen yeast ones weren’t going to be ready.

I dropped the idea, and drank my coffee with Ted. Read a chapter and thought ‘we could make biscuit buns, ones that don’t take rising time.’ Meh, dropped it. Read another page, ‘Pumpkin biscuit sticky buns?’ That one got me off the sofa. Ted stayed put.

I mishmashed a couple of recipes, most notably the spiced pumpkin biscuit recipe on Cooking Light as the base. Made those, rolled them out thinner and into a big rectangle, added cinnamon and brown sugar to the middle, and placed in buttered muffin tins. Topped with vanilla glaze when cool, and voila, a pumpkin sticky bun in no time flat.

 

Pumpkin Sticky Muffin

 

Pumpkin Sticky Muffins (Sticky Buns? Sticky Bun Muffins? I can’t decide)
Makes a dozen

Biscuit dough:

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. salt
5 T. cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 c. buttermilk, cream or half-and-half
3/4 c. canned pumpkin
3 T. honey

Filling:

2 T. melted butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Glaze:

6 T. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T half and half

Preheat oven to 350*F, and lightly butter a standard 12 hole muffin tin.

Thoroughly combine flour through salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse mea. In another small bowl, combine combine the buttermilk, pumpkin and honey. Add wet ingredients to dry, and combine  until the dry ingredients are just moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4-5 times. Flatten it out into a rectangle with your hands, and using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a roughly 9×13″ rectangle, about 1/4″ thick, making sure one of the 13″ edges is closest to you.. Brush surface of dough with butter, and brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts (if using( over the dough, leaving about 1/2″ space on the long edge furthest from you. Starting at the long edge closest to you, gently roll the dough up and seal at the blank long edge, using a bit more butter if needed to close the dough. Cut into 12 even-ish pieces using a serrated knife, and place cut side down into the buttered muffin tin. Bake at 350*F for 25-30 minutes until lightly brown.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract and half and half in a small bowl. When sticky buns are cool enough to handle, remove to a plate and drizzle with icing.

Get up already

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Hold the phone. In cruising the internet the other day I came across this recipe.

Yes. Bacon. Booze. Maple. Popcorn. Popcorn popped in bacon grease. With dry roasted peanuts. What’s not to love here?! I have no words, I have no description, but I have some advice: Be sure to make it when you can give it away IMMEDIATELY, because eating the whole tray is not good for one’s diet aspirations.

Why are you still sitting there? Take this in the kitchen and get busy, kids!

Tipsy Maple Corn
Adapted from Food52

This recipe makes a boatload. I found that I had a good amount of the syrup left over (which is fine, we’ll drizzle it over ice cream or something), but if you want to use the whole of the syrup for the corn, increase your popcorn by 1/4 cup, popping it in batches. Read the whole recipe first and then attack, as the coating method used here is different than regular caramel corn.

  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease, or non flavored vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/3 cup bourbon (they used Jack Daniels, and I had none. So bourbon it is.)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
  • 3 pieces prociutto, lightly fried until crispy, and minced (they called for pancetta; again, working with what I had here. Good smoked bacon would work too. Use about 3 oz. total)
  1. Place the bacon grease in a 3 quart dutch oven with a lid. Add the kernels and place the covered pot over high heat. Once the popping begins, gently shake the pot to keep the kernels from burning. Once it is done remove the lid and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In another small pot add the bourbon and heat it to burn off the alcohol and reduce it by half. Add the syrup and butter and heat until the butter is melted, whisking to combine.
  3. Place the popcorn, peanuts and the prociutto into a large mixing bowl. You want to sprinkle a little of the syrup over the corn a little at a time. You want to stir as you do this. Take your time otherwise the corn will saturate with syrup and collapse and just be gooey. (OK, here’s what I found: I drizzled on just over half of the syrup IN TOTAL, adding just a bit at a time and stirring thoroughly, Heed this warning and go sloooow, stirring a lot with a pair of spatulas before drizzling on more syrup. Reserve the remaining syrup.)

  4. Once it is coated put it on a sheet tray and spread it out, giving it a couple of dashes of freshly cracked black pepper (less than 1/8 tsp). Then place it in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10-12 minutes. I drizzled on just about half of the remaining syrup on the first turn, turning to coat (there was a bit left on the bottom of the pan that caramelized and crackled).  Corn will not be completely crispy on the finish, but it will dry as it cools and get a nice kettle-corn type coat on it.

I also transferred mine to a layer of paper towel on a clean baking sheet, so some of the butter could absorb off of the corn. It was a tad oily when it came out of the oven. But LOOK at this halloweeny, crispy, bacony goodness:

School’s In

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T-minus 24 hours and I’ll be a working girl again. An 8-5er. A breadwinner. A mover-and-shaker. A quivering mess of first-day-of-school nerves (!).

I finished my list of errands and To Dos for my Last Day of Freedom, and I’ve carefully penciled in some time for ‘just me’. Just me time includes some sewing (to hopefully finish a cute dress for my First Day), and a trip to town for some grocery shopping (this isn’t a chore for me, I love grocery shopping) and a new pair of jeans, since my new office has a CASUAL DRESS CODE. That’s right guys, I can wear whatever I want to work everyday. I just need to be clean and tidy and that’s about it. I am SO EXCITED.

Of course, though, I’m jittery and nervous. Like, what if they don’t like me nervous, and what if I can’t make friends nervous, and what if I’m making a terrible mistake nervous. I truly have First Day of School nerves, but this is almost worse, since my school nerves were usually delightful and buzzy and electric, this feels more foreign.

This tells me, however, that I’m probably making a great decision. The last two times I walked in to a job and didn’t have these nerves, well, let’s just say I learned something about my guts and how they check things.

Breathe. Anyway. Like any good little food obsessed girl, I’m already worried about what I’ll eat for breakfast most days of my first few weeks. Once I get settled into my desk I can designate a drawer for oatmeal, granola and snacks, but when a girl is in training it’s hard to say ‘can you hold that thought? I need some brekkie.’ I am not one of those people who can eat within a half hour of getting up so a nosh while primping is out. And getting up earlier to accommodate eating before leaving for work is a big fat Yeah Right.

What to eat, what to eat? Smoothies came to mind but they aren’t satisfying. I do love a nice scrambled egg in the morning, but this falls in to the Yeah Right category. I’m in love with Overnight Oatmeal, but this requires two hands to eat and I’m usually eating in the car when I’m headed to work. And Nick strictly forbids me to drive with just my knees (though I am a very good kneecap driver, for the record). An obvious solution here is an egg sandwich, but I don’t like them when they’re reheated, the egg gets rubbery and weird, not to mention the English muffin gets soggy.

Another obvious route is baked goods, something of the muffin or scone persuasion. The problem, though, is that they are usually so fat- and sugar-laden that one is better off eating a bagel with bacon and cream cheese on it (one of my favorite camping breakfasts). At least there’s protein in a bacon bagel sammie!

I like the idea of a muffin for breakfast, though. They are decidedly breakfasty, and a pan of them is more than enough for me for breakfast for a week; in fact it’s enough for one for breakfast and one for afternoon tea (which I also won’t be taking while I am training with someone – ‘one lump or two?’). I searched around and didn’t find too many that fit my bill – too fatty, to many ingredients, to many muffins in a batch, too too too. And then I found one, over here. (If you haven’t been over to Andie’s blog, well, get there. She is amazing. You’ll fall in love with her posts like I have.)

With a couple of substitutions from the original healthy recipe I made it even healthier. This muffin clocks in at around 185 calories/19 g. carbs/10 g. fat/6 g. protein per muffin, which leaves enough calories and fat in my daily count to add a smear of butter or reduced-fat cream cheese (YES… makes them like carrot cake). They also freeze really well, so make the whole pan, cool them completely, individually wrap them up nice ‘n’ tight in cellophane and freeze them inside of a zip top freezer bag. Pull one out the night before or in the morning to defrost for a quick breakfast.

Even Healthier Morning Glory Muffins
Adapted from recipe at Can You Stay For Dinner?
Makes 18 muffins (still kind of a lot, but I’ll send some to work with Nick)

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2/3 cup sugar or honey (I used honey)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple (including juices)
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (2-3 medium)
1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries, or raisins if you prefer
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cups. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar (if using, otherwise mix the honey in with the wet ingredients), baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together applesauce, eggs, vanilla and pineapple (including pineapple can juices). Stir egg mixture into the flour mixture, just until combined. Stir in the carrot, cranberries, coconut, and pecans. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

What’s For Dessert?

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Summer is officially on it’s way here in the wine country. We had a couple of days of scorching heat last week, and are due for a few more hot ones in the coming days as well. The heat makes my tummy think of barbecuing, cole slaw, potato salad, and fruits and veggies at their finest. Summer eating is the greatest!

At the store the other day, peaches were on sale for a decent price. These aren’t local peaches, but because they were grown within 500 miles of here and their intoxicating perfume mesmerized me, I picked out the best of them and in to the cart they went. Stone fruits are my very favorite part of summer produce. It’s still a little early, but there was no talking myself out of them once I had a whiff!

I considered making a pie, bellinis, an upside down cake, but I really didn’t want to cook them, and we had nary a bottle of bubbles in the house to make with the cocktails (for shame!). What to  make, what to make? And then it hit me: ice cream. Wait, better yet, ice cream sandwiches.

My mom makes legendary ice cream sandwiches, with all kinds of combinations of homemade cookies and the finest ice creams money can buy. We are big ice cream people in our family; my dad and I almost always had a scoop after dinner when I was a kid. My brother still requests ice cream sandwiches for his birthday dessert every year, both to eat that evening and a handful to take home and not share with anyone. I can’t say I blame him.

I settled on butterscotch chip cookies to go with my peach ice cream, and wished quietly that I hadn’t finished off the container of Trader Joe’s Praline Pecans (have you had these things? If not go buy some, like, now). They would have been the best most tasty business to finely chop and roll the exposed edges of the sandwiches in.  My cookie recipe was the one off the back of the bag, which I of course already tossed in the recycle so I can’t give you the exact one, but it was really similar to this recipe. Simply omit the white sugar, and use a bag of butterscotch chips for the chocolate ones. Easy peasy. When baking your cookies, though, try to get them as symmetrical as possible, for easier pairing and sandwich assembly. I use a #3 scoop.

For our ritualistic ice cream makings, we use a Donvier ice cream maker with great results, as I haven’t broken down and bought the ice cream maker attachment for my mixer. We like this one because it’s quiet, does the job well, and is very, very little work. And without further ado, here’s the ice cream recipe. I’m a lazy kid and try to avoid making a custard base for my ice cream at just about any cost (tempering eggs frightens me), but if you have a favorite recipe please feel free to use it. In a pinch, buy some highest quality peach ice cream or gelato from your neighborhood purveyor.

No-Cook Peach Ice Cream
Adapted from Southern Living

1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free)
1 5 oz. can of evaporated milk (again, fat free)
1 1/4 c. half and half*
4 medium sized peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. peach nectar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. bourbon (optional)

In a large pitcher or mixing bowl, combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and half and half. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Combine peaches, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a food processor, whiz a couple of times until the mixture is broken into chunks, but not completely pureed.  Stir this mixture and the peach nectar into the cold milk mixture, and process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Remove from ice cream maker to a small freezer container, and freeze for 1 to 2 hours until firm.

* I have a method to my madness here with my half and half. I used fat free condensed and evaporated milks to cut calories and fat, but used full-fat half and half in the mixture for mouth feel and in the past have even used heavy cream (which of course is the most creamy and the most fattening). When I made the recipe in the past with regular whole milk and the full fat condensed/evap milks, it got really icy and didn’t have that true creamy consistency. After tinkering around I found that the half and half really helps to keep it creamy and luscious, but it is still a little more icy than a full-fat ice cream base. Oh! And the bourbon? That keeps the ice cream from getting too hard in the freezer. This is completely optional, of course, if you’re making this for kiddies or simply don’t want the alcohol in there, simply leave it out.

When you assemble your sandwiches, go ahead and pair up your cookies first so they all have nicely matching mates. Inevitably there are a couple of crooked ones that fit better together than with other cookies, thus making your batch more uniform. When all of your cookies are paired, plop a fat scoop (don’t be shy here) of the ice cream in the middle of one of the cookies, and smoosh it’s top on. Press down to stick them together, but not too hard so the ice cream doesn’t goosh out everywhere. Wrap each in a wax paper bag or plastic wrap sheet, and freeze for at least an hour prior to serving.

And here are the sandwiches, fully assembled. Maybe I’ll call up my brother and share with him.

Taking it Back: A Pan of Brownies

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Confession: while many things are made from scratch in this house, brownies are generally not one of them. I am a huge fan of boxed mixes that I gussy up to be something entirely unlike your usual brownies. And a plate of really tasty brownies are a quick and easy thing that can be made to take to a barbecue or potluck when you’re headed to one, or when you have folks in for dinner, they make a great dessert when gently warmed and served with a scoop of ice cream***.

One of my mom’s favorite brownie mix tricks is to glug in a good sized wave of chocolate syrup, of the Hershey’s persuasion. A ‘glug’ would equal about 1/4 of a cup, I think. Mom, if you’re reading, does that sound about right? It adds extra richness and gooeyness, and I am a gooey brownie girl, not a cakey brownie girl. Anything I can do to make them chewier I’ll do, including undercooking them just slightly.

You can add chopped nuts, and not just walnuts ~ toasted pecans, peanuts, cashews, go crazy. Sprinkle them on top, or stir them in. Coarsely chop them so they are big chunks, or really mill them down so they aren’t as prominent, your choice. As we’ve talked about before, though, I am not a nut fan in my baked goods and thusly leave them out (unless I’m trying to stay away from them, in which case I’ll add extra and stir them in so I won’t touch them).

With the trendy advent of adding chiles to chocolate in the last few years, I made a pan of brownies over super bowl weekend that was a stunner. I realized that my buffet had nary a sweet bit on it, and when you’re having a chili bar you have to have something to cut all of the savory. They were a huge hit and something I made up on the fly ~ I was praying that they’d taste as good as they did in my head when I was adding in my adjuncts.

I mention below that you can use a gluten-free brownie mix with great success (and they are so, so good as a GF treat). Be sure, though, that you check your syrup and cherries to be sure that they are completely gluten-free and processed in a plant with good practices. I know that my GF friends are rolling their collective eyes at me for such a basic aside, but for those of you preparing these treats for someone with celiac disease, this can be a crucial note.

Cherry Chipotle Brownies
Makes a 13 x 9″ pan*

1 Family Sized brownie mix (denoted on the box, Pillsbury makes a good one but use whichever you’d like, even a gluten-free one)
1 1/4 t. chipotle powder
1/4 c. chocolate syrup (optional)
1 1/2 c. dried cherries (these are my favorite)
1 c. chocolate chips (optional)**

Preheat oven to 325/350*F as denoted on the box (this will depend on the color of your pan, I use my trusty Pyrex so 350*F for me). Prepare your pan with cooking spray or butter as directed on the box.

Stir the chipotle powder into the brownie mix in a large bowl, and proceed with preparation as outlined on the box, adding in the optional chocolate chips, if you’re using them. Fold in the cherries and optional chocolate chips right at the end.

Spread the brownie mix into the prepared pan, and bake for 28-31 minutes as the box designates.

*To make a smaller mix in a 9 x 9″ pan, purchase your favorite brownie mix, adding in 3/4 t. of chipotle powder and 1 cup of dried cherries, proceeding as outlined above with the package directions.

**Instead of stirring in your chocolate chips, you can sprinkle them on the top of your still-hot but fully-baked brownies, return them to the oven for a second, and then spread the melted chocolate chips on the top, making a chocolate glaze.

***About that ice cream! These brownies make a killer sundae when paired with a big scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream. You’re welcome!

I Want a Cookie

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I grew up in a two-cookie household, meaning that on any given day of the week, there were two kinds of homemade cookies in the jar. To this day my mom loves to tell the story of how I would trade her gorgeous and lovingly made lunch box treats for Oreos. In my own defense, Oreos were foreign and exotic and lusty; they rarely crossed the threshold into our house, and I only ever saw them at my grandparents’ house, along with Nilla wafers. Processed was never something we had much of in our house, because way back then the processed stuff was actually more expensive than conventional whole foods.

Nick, too, grew up in a two-cookie household; his mom’s cookies still bring back fond memories for the majority of men within a 4-year age span if Nick. As he was a kid that played sports, his mom was a team mom that always brought around snacks and goodies. Not only that, but they always had at least a couple of friends roaming around the house and she made sure they got cookies too. A few of these ‘kids’ still come to our house for dinner every now and again, and always recognize when we have a bag of her cookies on the counter. And shortly after they make it into that man’s crosshairs, *poof* they are gone.

Cookies, for me, are something that I bake in waves. Either I bake a batch a week for two months or I don’t bake them at all for half a year. And of course, because we both have moms that bake, we end up with things every now and again, which means that I don’t have to get my beaters dirty. But when the mood strikes, you better believe that  there will be cookies.

The other day I was perusing the racks of Trader Joe’s and picked up a bag of Almond Meal. My initial thinking is that this would be killer as a substitute for bread crumbs or panko for chicken cutlets or pork chops, and into the basket it went. When I got it home, though, and flipped the bag over, they suggested swapping it in 50/50 for flour in baked goods. WHAT. Stop the bus, I need to get off and bake chocolate chip cookies. Like, now.

My mom will be quick to tell you that I don’t partake of cookies with nuts in them, for the most part, and most especially when they are chocolate chip cookies. Why ruin perfection? The almond meal, though, adds just the tiniest hint of nuttiness to the cookie, but without the overwhelming texture change of adding chopped nuts. Which is a winner in my book.

I used a standard, full fat full sugar cookie recipe (and many of you will recognize the proportions below as The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe). I’ve tried the lower fat versions, and the lighter versions, and the less sugar versions, but let’s face it, when I want a cookie I WANT A COOKIE and those other guys don’t make my mouth happy when it has it’s sights set on a cookie. I want one the way it’s supposed to taste, the way it’s supposed to feel in your mouth, they way that you remember them tasting when you were a kid with two on a plate and a glass of cold milk after school (and if you didn’t have this I’m sorry for your deprivation). The only way these were healthed-up was by using the whole wheat flour and almond meal in place of the regular flour. Other than that, I didn’t adjust a thing.

One little tip to give you: don’t over soften your butter. Let it sit on your counter for about 15-20 minutes, until it yields slightly under the pressure from a finger but not so that it’s glossy and completely soft. The issue that you’ll run in to will be that your cookies will run into each other on the pan, they’ll spread so much (which is why you aren’t getting a picture of the completed cookies today). If you like a lacy, thin, crispy cookie then by all means use very soft butter, but if you’re a fluffy cookie kid like I am, watch your butter. If it does get too soft on you, then stick it in  the freezer for a couple minutes to firm back up before getting started. I tell you this because, well, my butter got too soft and my cookies spread all over the place today. They still taste great, but I hate when things don’t come out they way I want them to.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almond Flour

1 c. Almond Meal
3/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1/2 c. Whole Wheat Flour
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt (which I omit, because I’m one of those people that only subscribes to salted butter)
1 c. Butter, softened
1 c. Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
2 Eggs
1 t. Vanilla Extract
1-12 oz. Bag of Chocolate Chips
1 c. Chopped Nuts, if you’re one of those people

Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a small bowl, stir together your flours, meal, baking soda and salt (if using) and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together your butter and two sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the two eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated. Add in the flour/soda/salt mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop cookies in heaping tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing evenly. Bake at 350*F for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges. Let cool for 2-3 minutes on the pan before moving onto a wire rack. Completely cooled cookies store for up to 1 week in a sealed container.

Getting Over Myself

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Well, me and my big mouth. Whenever anyone is doing any cooking or having any sort of gathering at all and we’re invited, the second thing out of my mouth (after thanks for the invitation) is ‘what can I bring?’ And while this usually results in salad, or a side dish, or even dessert, sometimes my brain and my mouth don’t work in harmony and I’ve suddenly signed up to make something that could be a disaster.

Growing up an an agricultural area as well as a mecca of all things slow food and hand crafted beverage, many of us have learned that home grown and hand made is almost always going to be far superior to something you’ll find at a grocery store. We’re blessed with good earth here, and almost everyone I know has a garden, a small flock of chickens, makes beer, makes wine (even in the garage production fashion). And as birds of a feather, our group of good friends and our families both cook like crazy people.

All of this isn’t to say that we don’t sit down to mow a row of Oreos every now and again, but you better believe that the milk we’re washing them down with is from a dairy within 100 miles of our front doors, you get me?

We have a birthday party coming up in which a friend has hand selected a goat to grill in the birthday person’s honor. Never eaten goat? You’re missing out on a tasty thing, friends. There will be lots of laughing and beer drinking and merry making while the goat is roasting away. When the grillmaster gives the signal that it’s done, it will be carved while the rest of us stand around drooling, waiting for a bite. And when it’s all cut up and ready for the eating, it will be served as Goat Two Ways: with fresh tortillas and pico de gallo, and Big Mouth over here said she’d bring homemade pitas and tzatziki. The yogurt spread is easy enough (and no I’m not going to make a batch of homemade yogurt, but I could). See, the thing is, I’ve never made pita bread before. Right, that.

So, I extracted my foot from my mouth and consulted my cookbook collection. None of my books had anything (though I don’t really own any that are specifically bread baking). My favorite website rarely fails me so I looked there first, et voila, Whole Wheat Pita Bread. And I even had everything to make them.

After reading the recipe and the comments I figured this couldn’t be much harder than making tortillas, but as a person with Yeast Baking Terrors, I just wasn’t sure. I’m a self proclaimed sore loser, and I hate to fail publicly, so I waited until Nick was at work to make my first batch in case they didn’t pocket or came out like frisbees, etc. He is always very supportive in my cooking ventures, and even the things that don’t come out exactly right or just how I want them are always applauded by him, even as I prepare to scrap whatever it was because I can’t ingest disappointment. But even with the best of cheerleaders, I still had to wait until he was at work and the cat was napping before I could bring myself to do this.

Yes, I could just go to the store and buy a couple packs of pita, but the only ones I really like are at Trader Joe’s. And as a Girl Unemployed, TJ’s is dangerous territory for me. And I’m not going all the way down there for $5 worth of pita when gas is $100 a gallon right now. I might as well at least try to make them. It’s not like I don’t have the time, right?

Well, I’m glad I tried, because I have a new feather in my cap and a stack of hot pitas. And the best part? They were really not hard at all. I don’t know what I fuss about, I really have to get over myself. And for my efforts I was rewarded with 7 gorgeous flat breads from just one batch. It would have been 8, but this one was lunch:

Whole Wheat Pita Bread
From Gourmet Magazine

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F)
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten 1 ball, then roll out into a 6 1/2- to 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to 1 of 2 baking sheets lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Make 7 more rounds in same manner, arranging them on baking sheets. Loosely cover pitas with 2 clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Set oven rack in lower third of oven and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 500°F. I used my pizza stone, and put it in to preheat with the oven. Was afraid to lose one through the grates! They’re really sturdy, though, so right on the rack would work perfect.

Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack. Bake until just puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more. Cool pitas on a cooling rack 2 minutes, then stack and wrap loosely in a kitchen towel to keep pitas warm. Bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner. Serve warm.

Cooks’ note: Pitas can be baked 1 week ahead and cooled completely, then frozen, wrapped well in foil in a sealed plastic bag. Thaw before reheating, wrapped in foil, 10 to 12 minutes in a 350°F oven.

This One Here

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This one here is going to knock the socks off more than a couple of you. I could name names, but suffice to say that, well, you know who you are, and I know who among you will let out a small cry when they see what we’re making here today.

Ahem. Is this thing on? Peanut Butter and Banana Pound Cake with Nutella Glaze.

I heard that.

Let’s cut to the chase. I found this cake on Pinterest and it was love at first glance. I didn’t even read this nice gal’s post until I had the damn cake in the oven. I didn’t have Nutella so I pulled my butter and eggs out of the fridge and blasted to the store while they softened on the counter. And then, tragedy: our local market didn’t have Nutella, I didn’t have time to go all the way to Mayberry for a jar. I hung my head in disappointment and went home. I came up with a plan along the way, though, and improvised. This cake was happening today, come hell, high water, or Nutella famine. The oven took eons to preheat, the butter couldn’t cream fast enough. What’s taking so damn long.

Yeah, it’s a fat and sugar bomb, and I know that there are many other healthy things I could tell you about, but sometimes a girl needs a slice of cake that is so good it makes her ears ring. All I ask is that you resist the temptation to eat this entire cake for each and every meal until you’re licking the plate, and be nice enough to share it with someone you love.

Peanut Butter and Banana Pound Cake with Nutella Glaze

OK, so here’s what I did instead of the Nutella: I chopped up a handful of salted dry roasted peanuts, filled the bundt pan halfway and sprinkled them and some chocolate chips in the middle (about 1/3 cup of each) then filled with the rest of the cake batter. And instead of the glaze listed, I made a regular old one with chocolate chips and some milk and drizzled it over. The Nutella would be mind blowing, but in a pinch this totally worked.

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup smooth peanut butter, divided
2 3/4 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 large bananas, mashed
1 cup Nutella, divided
2 tablespoons milk or water (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and 3/4 cup of the peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar, mixing until light and airy, around 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Add the flour and salt to the mixer, all at once, and mix just until incorporated. Mix in the mashed banana on low.

Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Drop heaping spoonfuls of Nutella over the top of the batter, about 1/2 a cup. Using a butter knife, swirl the Nutella all throughout the cake to get a marbled look. This is where I put in my chopped peanuts and chocolate chips, folks.

Bake the cake for 60 – 75 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Heat remaining Nutella and peanut butter in the microwave in 10 second intervals to soften it up enough to drizzle. If desired, mix in a little milk or water to thin the glaze out. Drizzle on top of the bundt cake.

Don’t wanna.

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I woke up in a good enough mood this morning, which was quickly whisked away on the outrageously blustery wind that decided to start whipping down the street at about 9:00. I had a great plan of things to do today to keep me busy, including recovering my sewing table and chair with a new piece of fabric (hammered leather looking, mmmm gorgeous), organizing our bedroom closet, and cutting out a pattern for a dress that I’m going to make myself for my birthday (pray for me – it’s a fitted dress and has buttons, and I’ve never tried to deal with either of these things before).

Well, I covered the table and chair, I made a mess out of the bedroom and don’t even want to touch the closet. I took a shower and put away my staple gun, and sat down in front of my computer. What’s wrong with me?


Unload the dishwasher, eat a snack, make some tea, back in front of the computer. Wind is whistling around the eaves, house is cold and quiet, and the cat is FINALLY sleeping after knocking over a HUGE glass of water off of one of our nightstands (he has a penchant for drinking other people’s water, even though his gets changed every single day). Luckily we have hardwood floors so I could deploy a bunch of towels and not deal with a damp rug. Unluckily hardwood floors mean that the water splashes Ev-E-Ry-Where.

I’m bored. I sort of have that feeling that you get as a kid, when you go to Mom and say “I’m booooorrrreddddd” and she tells you to go clean your room. I have a boatload of stuff to do, I just don’t want to do it. And I told myself I can’t cut out that dress pattern until I clean up the bedroom. I haven’t even made the bed yet, and now it’s completely covered with stuff. Sigh.

What can I do that will warm the house up without cranking the heater, make it smell yummy and homey in here so I don’t feel so lonely, and net me something tasty to eat?  The winner, hands down, was a recipe that I found on Epicurious. What made it even better was that it was a Molly Wizenberg recipe, and everything she makes is amazing. Have you been to her blog, Orangette? Or read her book? OK, if you do nothing else today but read this blog post, go check out those two things. You too will have a monster crush on her when you’re done.

Anyway. I had everything I needed to make this granola, sans coconut which I wouldn’t add anyway because Nick isn’t a fan (though I did use coconut oil in place of vegetable, but you can’t really taste it much with everything else). It makes a nice 5 cup batch, and it makes the house smell so, so, SO good. I used a mix of almonds and pecans, and my dried fruit choices were dried pineapple and dried cherries.

My house is warm, it smells wonderful, and I think I can face cleaning up the bedroom now.

Everyday Granola
by Molly Wizenberg

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup assorted dried fruit

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes. Place sheet on rack. Stir granola; cool. Mix in fruit. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight.

* Available at specialty foods stores and natural foods stores.