Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Fleur de Sel

One thing I have managed to do in my post-baby world has been keep up with our cookie cravings.  We love having homemade cookies available for dessert.  Every once in a while I’ll get the chance to whip up a batch of cookie dough.  Instead of baking the entire batch, I bake a sheet’s worth of cookies.  Then I portion out the rest of the dough into balls, and freeze on a cookie sheet.  Once frozen I transfer them to a ziploc bag.  This way, when we get a craving for a fresh baked cookie, I just pull out a couple from the freezer & turn on the oven.

These cookies were perfect when I had a cookie craving combined with a chocolate craving.  They have a perfect chewy texture.  The fleur de sel is what really sets these cookies apart in flavor and makes them extra special.  If you can’t locate fleur de sel in a store near you, it’s also available on Amazon.  Or, just use a pinch of the good quality sea.

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Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Fleur de Sel

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup (300 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (80 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch-processed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling*

*If you don’t have Fleur de Sel, substitute with a course sea salt.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the mixer and mix until just combined. Scoop by the rounded tablespoon onto the prepared sheet pan and flatten slightly with your hand. Sprinkle the tops with fleur de sel.

Bake until edges are crisp, about 9 minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

 

True story: on a recent Sunday I “slept in” until 8am.  In my state of awakening I thought it was likely 2pm, because it felt like I had slept for ages.  I know lack of sleep is such a cliche “new parent” thing to write about, but I’m doing it anyway.  Everyone wants to ask you “Well, are you sleeping much?”  And I’ll admit that’s a question I would often ask as well.  What sucks about our current state of not sleeping is that in the last weeks before I returned to work, Elliott was sleeping GREAT.  (And by great, I mean he only woke up once, around 2 or 3am.)  So I had a taste of what it felt like to sleep more than a few hours at a time.  Let me tell you, it was fantastic.  Unfortunately, since my return to work (and Elliott’s need to eat from a bottle at daycare), he wakes to eat at least twice a night.  But that’s ok, I’d rather lose a little sleep, than him go hungry!

On a different Sunday morning than the one I began this post with, Elliott woke to eat at 11pm, 2am, and 5am.  And he decided 5am was a great time to STAY AWAKE!  (He also did something else that included lots of Biz and a bath, by the way.)  So, what else is there to do when you’re wide awake in the wee hours, and you have half a carton of buttermilk in the fridge?  Make pancakes.  A quick google revealed this Martha Stewart recipe, and away we went.  I love that this recipe doesn’t involve any crazy shenanigans like separating and beating egg whites.  I’ve done that in the past, and let me tell you, that s–t is for the birds.  It also tends to dirty up way too many dishes.  This recipe is a one-bowl winner.  These pancakes were so fluffy, moist, and superbly satisfying.  I seriously thought Nathan & I might devour this entire stack.  Luckily we didn’t, and I ate leftovers for work breakfasts, slathered with peanut butter.

Now for some tips.  From the recipe source: “The key to fluffy pancakes is not to overmix the batter; it should not be beaten smooth.”  Always remember that one.  Also, because I think it’s totally unfair if Nathan were to eat his pancakes while I was standing over the hot griddle cooking the rest of them, we waited until all the pancakes were done to eat.  To keep the pancakes warm, I placed an oven proof plate in the oven set at 200 degrees.  Then I just kept adding to the stack!  What you see is the entire yield of my batter.  I made mine a bit smaller, using a 1/3 cup scoop to ladle the batter instead of a 1/2 cup.  I prefer to eat 3 medium pancakes as opposed to 2 large.  As another piece of advice, I’ve since made these with lowfat buttermilk, and they were still delicious, just not quite as thick and fluffy as when I made them with regular buttermilk.

These were nothing short of fantastic, and I’m glad I managed to snap a photo & find time to share them with you.  This recipe is definite keeper, and I can’t wait till Elliott is old enough to SLEEP IN and wake up to me making these for him at, oh say… 10am?

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Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 teaspoon for griddle

Directions:

Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps.

Heat oven to 175 degrees. Test griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If water bounces and spatters off griddle, it is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter or reserved bacon fat onto griddle. Wipe off excess.

Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, pour pancake batter, in pools 2 inches away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in oven. Serve warm.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baked Penne with Zucchini, Corn, and Basil

Today’s guest post is by a blogger I’ve never actually met in person.  But, we are kindred spirits.  We have bonded over a shared love of bourbon via the blogs.  Kelsey, of Apple a Day, is an awesome blogger.  I like her blog because she cooks things I’d eat.  She has a great mixture of desserts everyone loves, but also has tons of dinner meals, as well as drinks and appetizers.  Today she’s sharing a meal I’d love to eat, because it has a ton of veggies!

Labor Day has come and gone. For many of you, that means fall is on its way. The weather probably hasn’t changed all that much but, mentally, you’re ready. Ready for football, ready for boots and comfy sweaters, ready for hayrides and pumpkin and hot apple cider.

But WAIT! There’s still a good amount of summer produce hanging on for its last hurrah. If you are part of a CSA or you have a home garden, you know what I mean. You’re probably up to your eyeballs in zucchini and basil. I’ll bet you have a decent amount of tomatoes, as well. And, oh man, you’re going to want to use it to make this. I promise.

This pasta was, for my husband and me, a perfect blend of summer and fall. The flavors screamed summer, but the warmth and heartiness of baked pasta made us feel like cooler fall nights were waiting, just around the corner. And you know what, I bet they’ll be here before we even know it.

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Baked Penne with Zucchini, Corn, and Basil

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 lb. penne
6 TBSP olive oil, plus more as needed
kernels cut from 2 ears of corn
sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
2 lb. zucchini (about 4 medium), cut into half-moons
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1-in. chunks
1 TBSP sliced garlic
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 TBSP tomato paste
1/4 c. white wine
1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain pasta and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in an ovenproof 12-in. nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm half of the olive oil. Add corn and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

3. Return the pan to medium-high heat and warm remaining 3 TBSP olive oil. Season zucchini then cook in batches, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender and golden, 6-8 minutes. Add more oil in between batches, if necessary. Add to bowl with corn.

4. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, 1 tsp. salt and black pepper, to the pan. Cook, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and begin forming a sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the sauce has reduce and is fairly thick, about 3 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Add the pasta, tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano to the bowl with the vegetables and stir to combine. Transfer to pan and sprinkle top with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

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!”