Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pear Coconut Muffins

Today’s guest post is by my good friend Beth of Eat.Drink.Smile.  Beth has been a huge help to me as I entered the world of motherhood.  She welcomed her own son earlier this year.  And believe it or not, way back when I took the photos for her to announce her pregnancy, I was actually pregnant myself but didn’t know it yet!  While having mommy-friends is always helpful, it has been especially fun to have someone doing it a mere couple months ahead of me.  A little more background info on Eat.Drink.Smile, Beth loves exploring new restaurants both in Nashville & out of town, and she shares those adventures on her blog.  But she’s also a great cook, and posts some amazing recipes for both food & drink.  Her “real job” is the senior marketing manager for Nashville’s classic candy, Goo Goo Cluster, which are sooooo delicious.  (Seriously, if you’ve never had one, go get a Goo Goo!)  Ok, without further adieu, here’s her post!

When life gives you pears, you make… well, you make a lot of stuff with pears in it!

My husband’s uncle (my uncle-in-law?) has a pear tree in his backyard, so last weekend he gave us a huge bag of pears. Like Erin, I’m a new mom, so I’ll be using some of them to make baby food, but I have a feeling I’ll also be coming up with pear dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner a few times over the next couple of weeks.

This recipe I’m sharing with you today was a way to kill two birds with one stone. Earlier this week, my real life job had me organizing a professional photo shoot. Well, at least the photographer and stylist were professionals. Me? Not so much. It was the first time I’d ever done anything like this, and since I was working with a very limited budget, I enlisted several of my friends and acquaintances to work as “models”.

With so many generous people volunteering their own time to help me out, I wanted to do something special as a way to say thank you. Everyone was going to leave the shoot with a gift bag of cool merchandise, but I thought it would be especially nice if I also had a homemade treat for them.

Thus, the Pear Coconut Muffins were born!

Great with coffee at the start of the day, and equally enjoyable as an afternoon snack, these muffins were a huge hit with everyone at the photo shoot. In fact, a couple of people even took an additional one home with them!

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Pear Coconut Muffins

Yield: 20-24 muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 ¼ vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups sweetened, flaked coconut
2 cups chopped pears
¾ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder; add to creamed mixture. Add vanilla. By hand, fold in coconut, pears and pecans (batter will be thick).

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on top of muffin batter. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Squash Soup with Avocado-Lime Cream

Well friends, we did it.  We survived week 1 of my return to work.  Each day got a little better for Elliott.  He regressed a little on Monday of this week, but hopefully he’ll be the “happiest baby on the planet” again on Friday like they described last Friday.  Honestly the hardest adjustment for me is not being away from him, like you might expect.  Probably because I’ve been working at my current job since 2005 it instantly felt normal to be back.  The hardest adjustment is our evenings when I get home from work.  It is physically impossible for me to cook anything for dinner because Elliott insists on eating first, and for a good 45 minutes usually.  I’ll go ahead and tell you most things we’ve been eating for dinner came from our freezer.  It’s still better than fast food, so I don’t care!  I’m cooking here & there on the weekends, but of course my first concern is spending time with my baby!  (See below the recipe for a picture I took for Elliott’s 3 month photos!)  I’ve snapped a few photos of food here & there, so hopefully some of that stuff will make it to the blog.

I’m SO thankful for everyone who has helped me ease back into work.  As I said, I’ve got a few guest bloggers scheduled, and first up is another Nashvillian, Lesley of the blog LesleyEats.  Lesley is a vegetarian, living with an omnivore, raising a MiniEats toddler.  She’s very knowledgable of the Nashville food scene, and can also whip up great recipes.  Today she’s sharing a soup recipe that uses a vegetable I’m sure many of you have in abundance, squash!  Enjoy!  (And be sure to check out her blog for more great recipes!)

This time of year, I see a lot of the same question on Twitter: “What should I do with this squash?”. And without fail, I humbly suggest my favorite squash soup. I think it’s frequently met with some doubt. I mean, who wants to eat soup in August? But you can serve this soup chilled! Actually, I prefer it just lukewarm. It’s good either way (and hot, too). So I have to give friends a nudge or two in order to get them to try it. Even Mr. Eats was skeptical at first, but he loves it now. At least, the first night I serve it (note: this makes quite a bit of soup).

I serve it as an entrée, but it’s also a great accompaniment to any summer meal. Pair it with tacos (the avocado lime cream makes everything taste better, particularly tacos) or a quinoa salad. But beware: it’s actually quite filling.

And you can use any yellow squash for this soup, but my favorite is pattypan because I don’t have to de-seed it.  If you use straightneck or crookneck squash, the seeds need to be removed so they don’t dilute the soup too much. The other note I’d make is to be sure to use a good broth. I use vegetable broth, but if you have a chicken broth you really like, you can use that, too. Oh, I also use an immersion blender and puree it right in the stockpot. But you can also pour half the soup at a time in the blender if that’s what you’ve got. I haven’t tried it in a food processor, but it would probably be a little chunky.

There’s really nothing else to say about this soup other than it tastes great and it’s simple and super easy! When made with vegetable stock (and minus the avocado lime cream), it’s vegan! But a dollop of the avocado-lime cream and a few sprigs of cilantro are the perfect complements.

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Squash Soup with Avocado-Lime Cream

Yield: 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

3-4 summer squashes, seeds removed and cut into thin chunks
2 small/medium shallots, thinly sliced (or ¼ cup diced onion)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Avocado Lime Cream:
1 avocado, sliced
the juice of one lime
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
a handful of cilantro, rinsed

Directions:

Add the olive oil to a large skillet and turn on medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook until soft (about five minutes). Add the squash and cook another 5-10 minutes (or until soft).

In the meantime, combine the broth, water, and salt in a large saucepan and heat to a boil. Add the sauteed squash and bulbs and simmer until very tender (about 30 minutes). Set aside to cool. Once cooled, puree the soup (with a stick blender, food processor, or blender). Chill or serve room temperature. Add avocado-lime cream and serve.

Avocado Lime Cream:
Place the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Elliott says “Hey… Thanks for reading my momma’s blog y’all.  And a special thanks to LesleyEats for guest-posting this awesome looking soup!”

 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Ice cream.  And lots of it.  That’s what I’m going to need this week.  This is my first week back at work since having Elliott.  :(  Don’t get me wrong, I am SO thankful, and so fortunate for the 12 weeks off.  I’m not throwing myself a pity party because I will miss my baby.  That’s obvious.  I am just very anxious, and very worried for how he will fare at daycare.  I worry that he will continue to refuse a bottle, and basically not eat while he is there.  I worry he will SCREAM the entire time because he’s hungry, and possibly confused as to where I am.  Then I worry and stress over the evenings.  He’s generally somewhat fussy in the evenings, and I barely manage to get dinner on the table when I’m home all day long!  How in the world will I manage even frozen pizza?  Not to mention if he’s not eating much at daycare he’ll want to make up for it and eat all evening & night long!

So, I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging for a few weeks.  The last thing I need is more stress!  Luckily, I have some super stellar guest bloggers lined up.  Hopefully you’ll discover some new blogs in the process.

And now you probably want to know about this ice cream, which I will probably devour every night to ease my worries.  This was a super simple ice cream to whip up, as no eggs are involved.  The original recipe calls for the can of dulce de leche, but I don’t see why you couldn’t make your own from a can of sweetened condensed milk if you have that on hand.  Also, the original recipe called for dark chocolate, which is what I used because I LOVE dark chocolate.  However, I found the chocolate to be super hard & crunchy.  Dark chocolate is usually harder than milk chocolate already, so once frozen I felt it was a bit too hard.  I wonder if milk chocolate would be softer?  Either way, this ice cream still had fantastic flavor, especially if you love caramel in any form!

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Dulce de Leche Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 13.4 – 14 oz can dulce de leche
1 3 oz bar good dark or semisweet chocolate, rough chopped (I prefer Scharffen Berger 62% or 70%)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Combine milk and cream in saucepan and bring up to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in dulce de leche until completely dissolved. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pot well to get all of the little bits of dulce de leche incorporated. Stir in vanilla and transfer to bowl. Chill bowl until cold either in an ice bath or in the refrigerator overnight.

Pour mixture into ice cream maker and churn until almost firm, then fold in chocolate. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until hard.

adapted from A Cook at Heart

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Roasted Tomato, Arugula & Goat Cheese Frittata

 

We’ve got a pretty good little thing going on in our neighborhood.  Across the street from us are two other couples with babies.  Between the three babies, they are each spaced 3 months apart, with Elliott being the youngest.  We’ve settled into a fun rotation of having everyone over for a meal.  Finally, it was our turn.  Seeing as breakfast is my favorite type of food, and Elliott is in the best mood in the daytime, I suggested brunch when it was our turn.  Plus, secretly I knew if I threw a brunch, many of the items I could prepare in advance.

I planned on serving mimosas & iced coffee, fresh fruit, greek yogurt + granola, scones, buttermilk biscuits, breakfast sausage (homemade & ground by my father!), and I knew I wanted an egg based dish as well.  I decided on a frittata over a quiche because the frittata is crustless.  I felt we were pretty well covered in the carb section!  I wanted to use my slow roasted tomatoes and the organic arugula I scored for a great price.  I love goat cheese, and I thought it might round the dish.

This frittata was superb!  The flavors pair perfectly, and I have to say this is my new favorite frittata/quiche combo.  That says a lot, because I have made many different variations.  The slow roasted tomatoes add almost a sweetness, while still being savory.  The arugula contributes a subtle peppery bite, and the goat cheese comes in with the tang.  We got a lot of compliments on it from our neighbors.  This frittata was perfect for entertaining, but would also be great enjoyed as a weeknight meal.  It comes together incredibly fast, and the payoff is delicious.

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Roasted Tomato, Arugula & Goat Cheese Frittata

Ingredients:

6 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
Sea salt and cracked pepper
4 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups roasted cherry tomatoes
3-4 cups arugula, roughly chopped, plus 1/2 cup for garnish leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and milk until smooth. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the cheese and stir once. Set aside.

In a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat, warm the 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the garlic and saute until light golden. about 1 minute. Add the chopped arugula and roasted tomatoes, stir to mix, cooking 1 min. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook until the mixture begins to set, about 5 minutes. Place in the oven and bake until the frittata has completely set and is golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the frittata with the arugula leaves and drizzle with oil. Cut into wedges and serve right away.

*You will think you are using way too much arugula but it will cook down!

Adapted from The Afternoon Off, originally from Cooking in Cast Iron

Most times when I come up with an idea for a dish, I first google it to see if anyone else has had the same idea.  I think people who experiment and come up with their own recipes are awesome.  I just do not have time to experiment these days, so I’d rather have some sort of guideline to follow.  So, when I googled “Tomato Arugula Goat Cheese Frittata” I quickly found a similar recipe on a blog called The Afternoon Off.  I made a couple of adaptions, considering I was using the slow roasted tomatoes.

I was surprised after I read more of the blog The Afternoon Off, where I found the recipe, to discover not only is the blogger a Nashvillian as well, she is none other than singer/songwriter, fashion boutique owner, Holly Williams, daughter of Hank Williams Jr.  Wow!  This is totally feels like one of those “Nashville” experiences that tend to happen if you’ve been here long enough.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

When I was offered a carton of grape tomatoes I instantly knew what I wanted to do with them.  I’d been wanting to do slow roasted tomatoes for many summers but never had time to take advantage of the produce.  It’s not like I’ve had tons of free time this summer, as I’ve remained QUITE busy taking care of Elliott, but I did finally manage to make these.  And as it turns out, they are just as tasty as I’d hoped they’d be.

The tomato flavor is escalated & enriched in the slow roasting process.  With minimal effort, and a little bit of patience, you end up with these delicious little morsels of summer goodness.  The possibilities are endless as to what you can mix them into.  So far we’ve used them in pasta, mixed in with basil pesto & couscous, and in another delicious dish I’ll be sharing later.

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Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:

Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.

Either use them right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the refrigerator.