Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekend Bookmarks

My inspiration for starting a blog came primarily from other food bloggers that I've been following for weeks, or months, and even years. Blogs are the #1 resource I look to when I'm searching for a recipe or some sort of idea. My browser bookmark folder is full of recipes that I come across on other blogs that look too good to pass over. Sometimes I get around to trying some of them, sometimes I don't, but it's good to keep them around for inspiration.

Every weekend, I think I'll link some of these amazing recipes that I bookmark each week here on my page, a way of saying thanks to the other bloggers out there who inspire me and many other readers!

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows,

Peanut Butter and Fleur de Sel Brownies, Love and Olive Oil

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Butterscotch-Pumpkin Glaze, Sugar Plum

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Orange Vanilla "Creamsicle" Cake

I own a lot of cookbooks. And they usually fall into one of two categories: those whose spines don't have a single crease and have hardly ever been touched, and then those that are falling apart at the seams, pages covered in grease and goop, tried-and-true recipes bookmarked and referenced over and over again....

This recipe was inspired by a cake from one of the latter, Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From my Home to Yours". This book is special. It's not intimidating, pretentious, or complicated. The recipes are simple and delicious. Nothing is overly fancy or overdone, just good, solid recipes.

I made this cake for J's birthday this year. For something so simple, it ended up being incredibly delicious. I used fresh orange zest and vanilla from a fresh vanilla bean, which is why the flavor was reminiscent of a creamsicle. A classy creamsicle! With a farmer's market berry sauce and homemade boozy whipped cream :) For a 30th birthday, I suppose I could have made something a little bit fancier, but honestly the flavors in this cake truly spoke for themselves.

Orange Vanilla "Creamsicle" Cake

Enough for 2 cakes

2 2/3 cups flour
2 1/3 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
2 1/3 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped out and reserved
Zest of one large orange
6 eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tbsps fresh squeezed orange juice
15 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour 2 loaf pans.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt.
Put the sugar and the vanilla bean pulp in a large bowl. Use your fingers to massage the vanilla all through the sugar.
Whisk the eggs into the sugar. Whisk in the cream followed by the orange juice.
Using a spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions.
Fold in the melted and cooled butter in 2 or 3 additions.
Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing the top.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
After 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color. Cover lightly with foil tents if they are browning too quickly.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eat Your Brussel Sprouts

I mean it. Eat brussel sprouts. They are delicious, misunderstood veggies.

The secret is to cook them at a very, very high heat, helping to create a light char. It also helps to pair them with ingredients that complement their strong flavor. Think sweet, salty, and smoky. We used salty smoky bacon, warm and sweet apples, and sweet and spicy candied pecans.

We started by creating some yummy toasted, sugared pecans that we would toss with the brussel sprouts once they were ready to serve. These are very simple to make, simply melt about one tbsp of butter with one tbsp of honey or maple syrup in a skillet. Throw in a generous handful of pecans, sprinkle with about one tbsp of brown sugar, a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper, and a touch of cinnamon. Stir until the nuts are evenly coated and toast on medium heat until lightly browned and really fragrant.

To cook the sprouts - We began by cooking two strips of bacon in a skillet. When done, take the bacon out and crank the heat up on the skillet to high (we went to setting 8 out of 10 on our electric stove).

In the meantime, make sure the sprouts are well washed. Cut each sprout in half. Finely slice one large shallot. Finely chop an apple, we used about 1/2 cup of apple slices. All at once, toss the sprouts, shallots, and apples into the skillet. Season with salt, pepper, dried rosemary, and finely crushed fennel seeds. The heat should be high enough that the sprouts begin to brown in less than a minute. Make sure to shimmie the pan so that everything cooks well on all sides and nothing burns. After 2-4 minutes, put a lid on the skillet and allow the sprouts to steam for 2-3 minutes. Take off the lid and add a splash of balsamic vinegar, tossing the spouts to coat them evenly.

Serve the sprouts with the crumbled bacon and candied pecans on top.

We pretty much ate this dish as a main course, serving with whole grain bread on the side and a few slices of good cheese (I could eat cheese and bread for every meal).

I get into a weird pattern where I will make something fabulous and it's all I will want to eat for two weeks. Like these sprouts, I loved this dish so much that I'm making it for family on Tuesday. However, I think I will slice the sprouts into fine strips, kind of like what cabbage would look like in a cole slaw. This is a great trick if you want to serve sprouts to someone who claims them don't like them, it's like a disguise, you can call the dish "warm apple and bacon slaw" and no one will know!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cranberry BBQ Sauce


This sauce is AMAZING.

Really amazing.

It is sweet, spicy, smoky, and super easy to make. And it doesn't require any ingredients that you're not likely to have in your pantry already.

Onions are lightly caramelized with fresh garlic. Then you add a bit of tomato paste, brown sugar, and spices (the recipe calls for cayenne and ground mustard, and we also added a bit of spoked paprika). When that is nice and blended and lightly darkened, you add some cider vinegar and the cranberries, cooking them until they begin to "pop". Then you add your liquid (we used water which was just perfect), bring to a boil, and simmer until nice and thick and fragrant.

if I had to make a list of my top 5 kitchen gadgets, this immersion blender would definitely be on that list. It's SOOO much easier to blend sauces and soups into smooth and creamy purees right in the pot. I would never want to have to put this piping hot BBQ sauce in a blender or food processor to blend, I am afraid I'd burn myself and make a huge mess.

I think I got this blender a year or two ago and it's one of the things I use most frequently in the kitchen.

The first time we made this sauce, it was gone in 2 days! We simmered meatballs in the sauce and served them with creamy bacon, chive, and sharp white cheddar mashed potatoes :) I made this sauce again last night and froze some for another day. I think this would be great on BBQ chicken pizza, perhaps with ground turkey, thinly sliced red onions, mozzarella, and cilantro.

Mmmmm....... Buy some cranberries and try this! Or use those cranberries that you bought back in September when they showed up in the grocery store, but you haven't found a use for yet!

Okay...... I should really be getting ready for work :) I love my job and exciting things are happening this week!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Roasted Acorn Squash with Goat Cheese and Arugula

We made this squash with risotto for dinner on one of our first nights back in Ohio, and it was FANTASTIC :)

While we were planning the wedding, we barely ever cooked together or had the time for creative experimenting in the kitchen. We mostly ate things that we could throw together quickly and easily. So on our honeymoon, I was dreaming of all of the time we'd have to REALLY cook again when we got home. I was especially excited since it would officially be fall when we got back, and since we received so many wonderful gifts for the kitchen (HELLO salad spinner)!! October is most definitely my favorite month of the year, and I was thrilled to see fall produce in the grocery store when we got home! I picked up a beautiful little acorn squash, the perfect size for two people.

We scrubbed the squash, cut in half, scooped out the seeds and stringiness, then sliced into pretty little pieces. We tossed the pieces in a bit of coconut oil, one chopped garlic clove, salt, and some of our homemade curry powder mix. We roasted in a 375 degree oven for probably 20-25 minutes. We served it over arugula with goat cheese crumblies on top. The arugula was lightly tossed in a homemade dressing, just balsamic vinegar, a little honey, a little dijon, rosemary, and olive oil.

These adorable little boxes were our wedding favors for our guests, along with a small packet of recipes we developed to use with them. The curry powder was simply cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and cardamom (no exact ratios here, we started off with an exact mix and then sort of ended up throwing things in the bowl)! But the ingredients are listed in order of what the mixture has the most of, that's for sure. I know people associate tumeric with curry, but truth be told, I'm not a huge fan. I don't really dig the flavor, or the neon yellow color. So we left it out!

I'll share more about our little spice mixes in future posts! We have a ton left over, so I'll be using them a lot :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'm back - I brought cookies :)

So I'm back!

JT and I got married 5 weeks ago, and we returned from The Big Island of Hawaii 3 weeks ago. The perfect amount of time to get settled in back at home, put away new gifts, clean the house, and get back into our normal routines.

As much fun as wedding planning and the actual wedding day was, it is SO NICE to have life back to normal. We have free time again, without a constant list of wedding planning items hanging over our head :) Now it's just fun stuff left to do, like picking out the photos for our album, officially changing my name, and finishing our thank you notes.

I've been really itching to get back into blogging. I had a blog a few years ago that I maintained through about 100 posts, then it just sort of fell away... I still read my favorite blogs religiously and I wish I had one of my own. I love to experiment in the kitchen, and so many times we make things up on the fly and I'd love to keep a record of what we make, what's successful, etc. etc.....

But for some reason (other than not having had any time in the past 9 months), I've been hesitant to get back into it. I've been thinking about it a lot, and I realized what one of the big issues is that I have. I HATE writing out recipes! I really hate it. Especially when I am cooking, I never measure anything out and most of the time I'm making it up as I go. I'd much rather just take a picture and explain what I did rather than try to estimate ingredient volumes, write it all out, etc. etc.

Also... I'm so intimidated by the amazing photography on many food blogs out there. I take my pictures on my iPhone, usually after dark when there is no natural light! And I honestly have very little interest in fancy cameras and techniques, it's not something I want truly want to invest my time, money, and energy into, it's the flavors that matter to me! So I feel like no matter what I do, I'll never be able to compete with the incredible designers and photographers out there...

So after thinking about all of this, I realize that I'm going about it entirely the wrong way. I want to write a blog for ME. I still have that old blog that I mentioned, I page through from time to time for inspiration and to review fantastic recipes that I've made in the past. I want that back! I want a visual and written record of the crazy-good meals that JT and I come up with. I also LOVE to bake and whenever I come across a killer cookie or quick bread recipe, I try not to lose it. Having everything in one spot online would be fantastic.

So the bottom line is that I want to do this again for me. I know the photography won't be spectacular, the design of my blog won't be competitive, it won't make me money, and my writing will probably be average... But that's okay. I am interested in it for the pleasure of doing it, and if other people want to drop by and read, even better! If I feel like writing out a recipe.... yahtzee! If not, then I won't, but I'll always give credit when credit is due. And if I find myself unable to post for 2 weeks or so... I don't want to beat myself up. This is supposed to be fun and relaxing, I want to keep it that way :)

I made a recipe for gingersnaps last weekend. I was intrigued by the addition of balsamic vinegar! There isn't enough to really come through in the flavor of the cookies, but I do think it makes the molasses flavor a bit lighter and sweeter.

With the exception of the bits of crystallized ginger, these cookies taste almost exactly like graham crackers! Only more flavorful and a bit chewier. Next time I make them, I'll leave out the ginger, slice them thinner, and make s'mores sandwich cookies with Nutella and marshmallow fluff :)

Gingersnaps on Real Simple

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Carrot Cake Mini Cupcakes

Thanks, Martha Stewart! Your recipes are always a success.

I only altered this recipe a little bit. I used a bit of whole wheat flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour and I added a few more ground spices (ginger & allspice) to both the cake batter and the icing. I also used dried cranberries instead of raisins and added about 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans. The result was a moist, hearty, yummy cupcake. My only problem - I filled the mini muffin cups a bit too full, they really overflowed in the oven and then the tops stuck together in the pan. I had to cut/peel off the overflowing cupcake tops in order to make them presentable. So now I have a baggie in the freezer of carrot cupcake shards. I will have to put them on top of vanilla ice cream or crumble them on top of my morning oatmeal, something creative.

We served these last night after dinner with my parents and JT's parents. We had a little wedding planning get-together. The clear plate these cupcakes are displayed on in the picture has a "T" on it for JT's last name, and my future last name. It was an engagement present from JT's parents! Thanks guys!



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pistachio Pesto

I love greens. I always have a bag or a box of spinach in my fridge at all times. And we love arugula as well (obviously). I put them in or on top of absolutely everything: saldas, eggs, pasta dishes, panini sandwiches, etc., etc., nom nom nom...

I also love to make pesto with greens instead of basil, to change things up a bit, especially when basil isn't exactly in season and readily available. It's also a bit cheaper if you want to make a large quantity.

This pesto is made up of spinach, toasted pistachios, the zest and juice of 1 meyer lemon, 2 garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. We just pulsed the garlic and pistachios in the mini food processer for a few seconds then added the lemon zest, juice and spinach and processed until all of the spinach is finely chopped. Lastly we streamed in olive oil until it reached the desired consistency (I like it a little thick) and added salt and pepper to taste.

We served this pesto at room temperature on top of local chicken breasts from Oink, Moo, Cluck Farms here in Columbus. It is some of the BEST chicken I have ever had in my life. No joke. The flavor and texture are so much better than what you get out of the stuff at the grocery store. We just lightly salted and peppered the chicken breasts and cooked them in a skillet with olive oil.

The last time we made pesto, we used arugula and regular lemon zest and used it to top pork chops from Oink, Moo, Cluck. They were just as tasty as the chicken breasts. And one of the best parts? You order their products online and they personally deliver it all right to your house! You can also find them at the Clintonville and Worthington farmer's markets in the summertime.

This pesto would also be great over roasted vegetables, tossed with roasted potatoes, on top of pasta, etc., etc....



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hearty Raspberry-Pecan Breakfast Muffins

Believe me, I fully realize the poor quality of this photo. However, I want to get the "blog" rolling (har har) ;), so I'd rather take the picture in poor light now than wait for tomorrow. I will start experimenting with lighting and backgrounds and other fun stuff as I go along.

These muffins will make a great addition to breakfast for the next week or so. They are full of good stuff: whole wheat flour, oats, unsweetened coconut, juicy raspberries, pecans, spices, etc... I like to fool around with muffin recipes in order to make them more healthy and suitable for the morning.

This muffin + 1/2 a banana + strong coffee = happy KJ in the morning.

In other news... JT and I get to do some fun stuff tonight! We have to look over the menus from our wedding reception caterer and decide which dishes we are interested in and would like to sample at our complimentary tasting! Yums!

Plus... If I'm feeling lucky... I may take the online Jeopardy! test to see if I'm eligible for the show. I am SUCH a dork.

Here's that recipe. Enjoy!

Hearty Raspberry-Pecan Breakfast Muffins

3/4 quick cooking oats
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
Pinch fresh nutmeg, grated right into the batter
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
1 1/4 cups frozen raspberries, no need to defrost

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line your muffin tin with paper liners, or lightly grease with butter or canola oil. This recipe makes 10-14 muffins, depending on how big you want them to be.
2. In a large bowl, mix the oats, coconut, flour, sugar, pecans, salt, baking powder, and spices. Whisk the milk, oil, and egg together in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until the mixture is moistened evenly. Fold in the raspberries. Scoop batter into the prepared muffin cups.
3. Optional oat topping - mix together 1/4 cup quick cooking oats, 1/3 cup honey, 1/3 cup crushed pecans, and 1 tbsp. melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over muffins.
4. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First Post - For Funsies

I have talked and talked about starting this blog for months. I even attempted a few posts last year but was unsatisfied with the results. Well, it's February now, a little late for New Year's resolutions, but with the spirit of starting anew still in the air, I am going to give it a try again. I will call it a food blog for now. Focused on tasty, healthy, whole foods made from scratch. We will see how this thing evolves... I will probably share my Goodreads reviews as well. Books and cooking, my favorite hobbies!

Stay tuned!