August 30, 2011

sneak a peek

Here's a sneaky little peek at our deeelicious dinner from tonight. More on it later.

Here's also a picture (what kind of grammar is that?) of disaster that struck in my kitchen tonight.

Delectable disaster. I figured it out eventually. I'll tell you about it too.

August 26, 2011

mango avocado salsa

You know what kind of makes me sad?

Not this.
Kids hang out together these days...and text.

Like, text other people. (Or maybe they are texting each other, which would be kind of weird.) Or maybe they're on facebook. Or instagram. Or playing a game on their phone. All I know is that they aren't interacting with the person who's right in front of them.

Today is a beautiful, absolutely flawless day, and I walked by a pair of pre-teen girls sitting outside enjoying the weather, facing each other...both on their cell phones.

Back when I was a kid... (cue rocking chair and pipe), and we didn't get cell phones at age 11 (I had to wait til I could buy my first year of college), we were forced to actually play together. And we got creative. 
 We played "house" in trees. (Or under porches, or in our rooms...we liked playing house.) 
We gathered dirt and various scraps and dandelions and made "chop suey" (Just me? Okay.). 
We captured crawfish from crannies in rocks by the lake.
We played dolls. 

We were more innocent, I think.

I'm not trying to sound bitter or angry, cause really I'm not. 
I have nothing against having a cell phone. I have one. It's super handy. Fun, too. I text. I play games. I Facebook. I Instagram. I would be lost (literally) without my maps app.
I also have nothing against preteens or teens. Maybe I shouldn't even single them out, because I think adults do the same thing sometimes. I just notice it more in the younger generation, and then it makes me kind of sad, and then I wonder how old am I, really? I sound about 83.

My only problem is when cell phones unnecessarily (I know there are exceptions) replace real person-to-person contact, when real life people are ignored in favor of screen life. When preoccupation with a phone replaces enjoying where you are and who you're with at that unique, fleeting moment in your life.

So share this salsa with someone you love. Because it's fresh, and it's sensational. You'll bond over the juicy chunks of mango and crunchy chips (I highly recommend the Hint of Lime ones with this), and perhaps the sangria that she brought over. And perhaps you'll forget about your phone, for just a tiny bit.

 Mango-Avocado Salsa
Serves 2-3

1 Mango, diced
1 Avocado, diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1-2 T. of fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 T. lime juice, or more to taste
Kosher salt to taste

Add mango, avocado, onion and cilantro to a bowl. Toss gently. Add lime juice and salt, tossing gently to combine. Season to taste with more salt, lime or cilantro.

August 23, 2011

whoopie pies

It's a rainy day.

The kind where the rain just falls silently outside and the whole world is dim and sleepy and quiet.
The kind where you want to curl up with a cup of steaming tea (or perhaps a brownie...same same) and read a book on your impossibly quaint window seat.
The kind where you stare aimlessly out the window for periods of time.
The kind that makes you sleep the day away.
The Norah Jones kind.
This kind:

What all this has to do with whoopie pies, I couldn't tell you.

...But here's something: Days like today are rather comforting. And so are whoopie pies. See? Very similar.

The other day I walked into Penzey's Spices for their some of their insanely great Madagascar vanilla beans (the smell of those alone is enough to put me in a tizzy). As I made my way to the back of the store where they're kept (Just know that I'm onto you, Penzeys...making me walk through your whole store like that), I passed by a table of chocolate. Wait...what? A TABLE OF CHOCOLATE?! 

There lay bags and jars of cocoa in all their glory, looking all tempting and probably displayed in a very attractive manner. I can't really remember, because once I saw this recipe card for whoopie pies, I grabbed it and a bag of High Fat Dutch Process Cocoa before you could say Madagascar Vanilla Bean. Then the voice in my head said Madagascar Vanilla Bean and I picked those up too and left the store before that table of all different kinds of honey could jump in my way. (I paid first)

 I added the vanilla bean to the filling and I must say I think it made it absolutely irresistible. (Though I've never had it the other way.) First of all, the texture of the filling is exactly what I want in a whoopie pie-sturdy yet creamy, if that makes any sense at all-and once the vanilla bean specks sat in there for awhile and permeated everything, mmmmboy. Squish that in between two fluffy yet perfectly chocolate-y pillows and you're in for it.

Whoopie Pies
Recipe slightly adapted from Candy Johnson

1 egg
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2  cup Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt (I used kosher)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease them). 
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a measuring cup, combine buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg and butter. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until pale yellow in color. 
While mixing, alternate adding the dry ingredient mixture and the buttermilk/vanilla to the egg and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Drop the batter by tablespoons onto the baking sheets.  (About 6 per sheet)
Bake 8-10 minutes, until top springs back when lightly touched. Remove to wire racks to cool. Repeat until all batter is used (I only used one pan at a time so it took a few batches).

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1 tsp. vanilla extract
One 2-inch section of vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out

In a medium bowl, beat the butter. Add the sugar, marshmallow fluff, and extract and mix. Add the vanilla seeds/specks to the bowl and beat until light and fluffy. 

When cookies are all cool, make sandwiches using add a generous dollop of filling for each one.

Hello, gorgeous...

August 20, 2011

strawberry-banana bread

When life gives you rotten fruit...

make bread.

I don't know who first thought to combine strawberry and banana. Was it Jamba Juice? Starburst? A caveman sitting in his cave with a strawberry in one hand and a banana in the other who suddenly decided to shove them both into his mouth at once? (Which, if you think about it, doesn't even sound like the most pleasing combination.)

Whatever. It's a genius pairing, that's really all we need to know.

This is tasty business. Have it with coffee. Have it warm with butter. Have it with another banana if you like.

Strawberry-Banana Bread
Adapted from You made that?

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup melted butter (I browned mine), cooled (If you brown the butter, remove it from the saucepan to a separate bowl to let it cool)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1- 1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 bananas)

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a loaf pan.
Whisk together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and cooled butter together. Whisk in the mashed bananas. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredient mixture. Gently stir or fold until incorporated. Fold in the strawberries. Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 325 for about 1 hour, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

August 18, 2011

day of reckoning

Today, three things in my house met their fate:

1. Tomatoes:
Tomato battlefield

2. Whoopie Pies:


3. Split ends:


Never have I felt so simultaneously resourceful, barbaric, economical, nervous, and fat.

August 17, 2011

a week in food

Breakfast: Open-faced egg, bacon, and blue cheese sandwich. Topped with tomatoes and green onions.

 Lunch: This amazing Fried egg and Avocado sandwich. In case you were wondering about the apparent lack of variety in my meals(I would be), I should note that this lunch did not happen on the same day as the breakfast above.

Dinner: veggie kabobs, roasted corn couscous, leftover chicken and tzatziki from this recipe (which I HIGHLY recommend making...which I don't have any pictures because...well, you know. Cameras are often the last thing on my mind when I set a plate of food down in front of myself.)

Breakfast/All day long: Strawberry-Banana Bread (recipe coming soon!)

Snack: The only most sensational S'mores cupcake that I have ever eaten. Like spectacular. From Sugar Fixe Patisserie.

Dinner x 2: Buffalo Chicken Tacos (this dinner was a double dip was that good.)

August 15, 2011

carrot-coconut cupcakes with brown butter frosting

 I have never considered myself a carrot cake bandwagon member. I don't dislike it. I'm just not on the bandwagon.

If anything, I'm meandering along beside the bandwagon, listening ambivalently to peppy carrot cake discussions, eyeing the cream cheese frosting that they have up there, and likely munching on a cupcake that doesn't have any vegetables in it.

I don't know what it is about carrot cake that doesn't usually excite me. It could be because you never really know what kind of surprises you'll find inside of it. Walnuts? Maybe. Pineapple? Possibly. Raisins? Hopefully not. 

Then I saw all these pretty little carrots at the farmers market. And I knew what I had to do.

This carrot cake doesn't play by the rules, which is kind of what I love about it.

Well, it plays by some of the rules, like the Moist rule and the Flavorful rule and the Hint of Warm Spices rule, and yes, it even plays by the Surprise Ingredient rule, but it bends that one a little. These surprise ingredients don't bop you in the face like a raisin so often can. They are subtle, they let you know they are there without being blatant.

 They are coconut and almond.  
And they get along so well with carrot.

Oh, and the brown butter frosting? Possibly the best frosting I've ever made. 

I've got a foot on the bandwagon.

Carrot-Coconut Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting
Makes about 30 cupcakes

4 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup raw almonds
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 T. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with liners.
Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Process until almonds have become crumbs. Add coconut to bowl of food processor and mix until combined, the coconut has broken down a little. It will be a coarse homogeneous mixture. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating a little after each egg. Add extracts.
Beat in almond and coconut mixture. Fold in shredded carrots.
Alternately add buttermilk and flour mixture to the bowl and mix just until evenly combined.
Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

1 cup unsalted butter
approx. 6 cups powdered sugar
4-5 T. milk

Add butter to a skillet over medium heat and cook until melted and light brown, and brown specks have started to appear. (After the butter has initially melted, you will want to swirl (or stir) the pan constantly to prevent burning.)
Pour butter into a large bowl. Add about 3 cups of the powdered sugar and stir a little to moisten. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and beat to combine. (My mixture was pretty dry and looked like little crumbs. Do not fear, it will come together!) Add the milk, starting with less (4 T.) and adding more if needed. Add more milk or powdered sugar until frosting reaches desired consistency and taste. 
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

August 11, 2011

pasta primavera

Last week was a carb-y sort of week. No wait, that's every week. Every day, even.

If I don't have some kind of bread, or pancake, or cookie, or pasta, or Cap'n Crunch, it's a sad day. I cannot live by protein alone. I wish, but I can't.

But one of the things I made for dinner was this primavera, and I would say it's healthy, because I mean, look at that entire cookie sheet full of vegetables. You could put that in cookies and call them healthy...but why would you inflict that kind of pain on some poor innocent cookies?

This pasta is light and delicious and a fantastic way to use up vegetables. I felt pretty good about it.

Pasta Primavera
Adapted from Giada's recipe
Serves 2-3

3 small carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips
1/2 of an onion, thinly sliced (I used sweet)
1 pepper, cut into thin strips 
2 T. Olive oil (I used lemon infused)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
1/2 lb. pasta of your choice
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for topping
1-2 T. Butter
Chopped basil, for topping 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Arrange evenly over the baking sheet. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 7-8 minutes, about 15 minutes total.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8-10 minutes, depending on what pasta you are using. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Add the cherry tomatoes and about a tablespoon of butter, or more to your taste, and toss to combine and melt the butter. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid if the pasta needs moistening. Toss with 1/4 cup of parmesan and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the extra parmesan and the basil and serve immediately.

August 9, 2011

cheesy grilled zucchini pasta

I'm all about the zucchini these days. It's more versatile than I realized. Growing up, we either (over)fried it in butter (you know when it gets all limp and flops around on your fork like a dying fish), or my mom made zucchini bread, which really was pretty good, but I still can't bring myself to make a sweet bread out of a zucchini when there are other options like bananas or berries (more on that soon). That was a very long sentence, I just realized that, but I'm really good at run-on sentences, and I also like cookies.

My grandma makes a pretty amazing zucchini cake too, but that's really neither here nor there. I just thought you should know that my grandma is amazing.

So zucchini has been going into omelets, and added to kebabs, and grilled for pasta. Grilling zucchini is definitely a favorite. And when you add other favorites like goat cheese and pasta, you have a dinner that gets inhaled a little too quickly (if you're me and have little self control).

I ended up adding grilled tomatoes to this too, but it was after the fact, and I didn't get any pictures of it (remember that part about inhaling?).

Cheesy Grilled Zucchini Pasta
Serves 2

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon
1/2 pound pasta (I used penne)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping, if desired
1/4 cup fresh crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced on the diagonal
1 tomato, sliced
Salt and pepper

Gently toss the sliced zucchini and tomato with some olive oil and salt and pepper. I also sprinkled them with a little Herbs de Provence for good measure. You can season them however you like.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for about 30-60 seconds. Add the cream, the zest from 1/2 of the lemon, the juice from the whole lemon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until thickened.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and place back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and cook over medium low heat for 3 minutes. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl and add the parmesan and goat cheese. Toss well, and season to taste. 

While the pasta and is cooking, grill the zucchini and tomato. It shouldn't take more than a couple minutes per side, and probably less for the tomato, according to your preference.

Spoon pasta into bowls. Top with extra parmesan cheese, chopped basil, and the grilled vegetables.
You can grill up some chicken to toss with this too for a lil extra protein!

August 2, 2011

a week in food

Brunch: Blueberry-Banana Pancakes with a Kale/Bacon/Egg white/Tomato/I-can't-remember-what-else-was-in-there scramble

Dinner: Grilled Zucchini cheesy pasta (recipe to come)

Dessert/Breakfast/Snack: Coconut rice pudding topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, apricots and peaches

Dinner: Pasta Primavera (recipe to come)