Sunday, January 24, 2016

Awesome {Foolproof} 2nd Birthday Party Menu

Happy New Year!

My sweet baby just turned two, so we had a little party to celebrate. The menu was vegetarian and largely gluten and dairy free as well. It was also easy to make/prep ahead of time and the main dish was just thrown into a slow cooker and left alone for 2 1/2 hours. So easy!

Here are links to the recipes I used along with my notes and tweaks. I didn't get any photos because I was too busy chasing toddlers and chatting with grownups, but suffice it to say, the recipes all got rave reviews! They are keepers.

Healthy + Flourless Applesauce Spice Cake from the great blog, Chelsea's Messy Apron
This cake is moist, bouncy, and so tasty. It will be my go to spice cake from here on out.

*To give the cake lift, I separated the eggs, whipped the whites, and then folded the whipped whites into the batter at the end before scooping/pouring the batter into the cake pans and muffin tin.
*I used half all purpose flour and half almond meal in place of the oat flour because I didn't have any oats or oat flour in my kitchen on baking day.
*Because the applesauce I bought was quite sweet, Mott's Natural (unsweetened), I cut the brown sugar down to 1/4 cup (of dark brown sugar). Perfectly sweet cake.
*I tripled the recipe ended up with twenty-four mini cupcakes and two eight inch cake rounds, which I stacked with lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream between and on top. 

Slow Cooker Mexican Quinoa also from Chelsea's Messy Apron
This is so delicious and, because everything just gets dumped into a slow cooker, oh so easy.

*I like it cooked for 2 1/2 hours so the squash still has some body to it.
*I rinsed the black beans, doubled the garlic, used one 28 ounce can of regular diced tomatoes, and skipped the chicken broth/stock. I also tried it with chipotle pepper in adobo and a jar of salsa in place of one of the enchilada sauce cans and that was great too.

African Black-Eyed Pea Salad from the wonderful veggie blog, Cookie + Kate
*I used canned black-eye peas, rinsed.
*I skipped the tomato, rice and avocado.
*I used only one hot pepper.
*I added about 1/4 cup (+/- to taste) tahini and really liked that flavor addition.

My Go-To Slaw
Thinly slice a medium white or red cabbage, dice two carrots and one small red onion. Toss to combine. Make a vinaigrette of (approx.) 1/2 cup EVOO, 1/4 cup half and half sherry and balsamic vinegars (just balsamic is fine), and salt and pepper to taste. Toss so the cabbage is well coated and starts to tenderize. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (i.e. add more salt, pepper and vinegar if needed).

Skinny Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies from Amy's Healthy Baking
*I shaped mine as dinosaurs because, toddlers!
*I used orange extract instead of butter extract and loved the flavor. They were definitely still nice and buttery.
*I just used room temp butter, not melted and cooled, and did not refrigerate the dough before rolling. The shapes held up great.
*Be sure to under-bake these or they get quite hard. 7-8 minutes until they're set-up and maybe a minute on the sheet out of the oven before transferring to a rack to cool. Don't let the edges brown and you'll be golden (ha!)!
*I didn't ice them so they would be less sugary because, again, toddlers. Plus, I just did not have the energy for that:-). 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Amazing Whole Orange Muffins

These fresh and simple muffins are some of the best I've ever tasted. They are not at all bitter, despite containing the skin and pith of an entire orange, and are a breeze to throw together. Thank you, food processor!   

Amazing Whole Orange Muffins
Adapted slightly from Fresh Orange Muffins by Lennie on Recipezaar
Makes 12 muffins
1⁄2 cup orange juice, not from concentrate
1 orange, cut into 6-8 chunks (skin on) and seeded
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup butter 
1 3⁄4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, optional
1/2 cup chopped or slivered nuts, optional

Preheat your oven to 400 and line or spray your muffin tin.

Add the orange juice to your food processor or blender. Cut the whole orange up (leaving the skin on!) into about 6 to 8 chunks, making sure to seed it if necessary, and puree with the OJ until smooth. The puree will still be fairly pulpy but that's fine. Add the egg and butter and whir to combine. 

Whisk together your dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then dump them into the wet, mixing until just combined. Fill each muffin tin equally and bake for about 20 minutes. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Julia Child's Finnish Pulla

Julia Child's Finnish Pulla is gorgeous, delectable, and very easy to make. Active time is low on this one; about 30 minutes, with two resting periods of about 45 minutes each. Thaz it! For a wonderful fresh breakfast or brunch treat, you can do the first rise in the fridge overnight, then shape the wreath and do the second rise in the morning before baking. 

Did I mention this thing is gorgeous?!

I made this loaf last winter with my mother-in-law Debbie during a family trip to the Hudson Valley. We stayed in a quaint, artsy house with a fireplace and lots of great cookbooks. It was a perfect little getaway and baking this loaf with Debbie was a great bonding experience. You know you get along with someone when you can cook side-by-side with them. 

In addition to lots of cooking and baking, we introduced Freya to the snow and brought her to her very first whiskey tasting. Very little whiskey was consumed, and none by Freya, just to be clear!

She seemed much more impressed with the pourers than with the snow.

This recipe is just like Julia's except that I steeped the cardamom in the warm milk to ensure maximum flavor. I also added citrus zest, which I highly recommend.

Julia Child's Finnish Pulla

adapted from Baking with Julia Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds (the seeds of about 5-8 pods)
zest of one large orange or zests of several clementines
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
2 large eggs
4 ½ to 5 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled


1 large egg and 1 tablespoon milk, for wash
Sliced almonds or any crushed candied nuts (we used candied pecans)
Coarse sugar for sprinkling (we used regular and it was fine)

Scald the milk then add the sugar, salt, and cardamom. Allow to steep. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and make sure it foams (aka, is alive!). When the scalded milk has cooled to about room temp, beat in the eggs, then add the yeast mixture, butter, and zest, mixing well. 

Pour the wet mix into a stand mixer with dough hook or into a large bowl and stir in enough flour to get a shaggy dough. Continue adding flour little by little either using the dough hook on low speed or kneading by hand (or with a flexible pastry scraper) until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is less sticky.  Knead by hand or with the mixer for an additional 5-10 minutes until it is elastic and smooth. Allow to rise in a oiled bowl in a warm place for 45 min to an hour (until doubled in size).

After about an hour, punch the dough down gently and separate into three balls rolling each into a long log about 30-40 inches long. Braid the three strands and connect the ends, pinching them together to close the circle and create your wreath. Transfer the braided wreath to a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to rise for about 45 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 375. Brush the wreath with the egg and milk wash and sprinkle with nuts and sugar. Slid onto the center rack of your preheated oven and bake until deeply colored, about 20-25 minutes.  It's wonderful warm and is best eaten the same day you bake it.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookies

These corn cookies... 

...are inspired! I love the concepts at Milk Bar but often I think the goodies there are just a bit too sweet. My adaptation of this cookie, therefore, calls for less sugar and also simplifies the method a bit. What you end up with is an awesome combination (full credit to Christina Tosi for this) of chewy, crisp-edged, buttery, sweet, corn cookie goodness that is just too good not to try. 

Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookies
Adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook
Makes about 12-15 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp 
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup freeze-dried corn powder (available at Milk Bar in store or online, Amazon, or at some Whole Foods but call ahead, mine didn't carry it)
1/4 cup corn flour (Not cornmeal or polenta. Bob's Red Mill makes it.)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Add the all-purpose flour, corn powder, corn flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl and whisk to combine.  

Preheat your oven to 350 and line two or three baking sheets with parchment or siltpats.  

In a stand mixer, or with beaters, cream the butter and sugar together for 3 minutes or so until very light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides and add the egg, beating for another 2 minutes or so. *The Milk Bar recipe calls for 7 plus minutes of beating but I think that's unnecessary.

On low, add the dry ingredients in a few additions until just incorporated. The dough will be soft and moist but slightly crumbly. I brought mine together quickly at the end with a spatula.  

Scoop the dough with a 1/3 cup cookie scoop into mounds and set about 3 inches apart on your prepped pans. Fatten each mound slightly with your palm. 

The Milk Bar recipe calls for refrigerating the dough for 1 hour to overnight but I baked mine right away on the center rack of my oven, one sheet at a time, for 11 minutes (until the edges were just beginning to darken but the centers looked slightly under-baked) and had great results.  

These are exceptional warm and supposedly freeze well.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Also, just read Amelia Morris' book Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with Recipes!) and you should too!!!

I just read this and it is wonderful. If you've read my blog at all, you know I'm a big fan of Amelia Morris' blog and her book Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with Recipes!) is just lovely and perfect. Seriously, I took a deep breath and sighed when it was over. Very satisfying read.

If it's not your bag, which it definitely will be if you're reading my blog in the first place, give it to the food lover in your life. Seriously. I would have asked Jon to get it for me for Valentines Day, but I already have it so, sorry bud, you're on your own;-).  

I hope to write more about it soon because, as a fledgling food blogger and someone who has always hoped to use her creativity to somehow make a mark for herself, it definitely got my wheels turning. 

A Taste of Summer: Tracy Obolsky's Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

This is yet another recipe I made a long time ago (last summer!) and haven't gotten around to sharing until now. I'm seriously out-of-whack about blogging these days, but I intend to get my act together, really I do. 

So here's Tracy Obolsky's Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Fresh Blueberry Compote from Food & Wine Magazine. Yum!

It's really delicious, easy to make, and quite elegant too. I followed the directions in Food and Wine Magazine exactly. I know that corn is seriously out of season right now but this recipe is really great and I'm pretty sure we could all use a tasty reminder of summer's happy bounty right about now, am I right? 

Plus, maybe you froze some of the summer corn from your CSA? Or maybe you just wanna bookmark this recipe and wait until summer to make it? Or maybe you just grab some corn, fresh or frozen, and go for it. Click on the link above for the recipe and let me know what you think. You'll see that it didn't get rave reviews, but I think it's a delicious dish and I definitely plan to make again. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Almond and Coconut Flour Orange Shortbread Cookies with Rosemary Icing

Practicing my decorating skills again with this batch of shortbread cookies. 
All bagged up and ready for the mail!

I gave these as gifts this past Christmas and they were a big hit. Tender, buttery, and incredibly flavorful, this is a stellar cookie recipe that I can't recommend highly enough. I've made a variation of these before, and continue to tweek the recipe, but this cookie's backbone and inspiration comes from Casue Sweets, an amazing sister owned cookie company here in NYC.

I decided to make the icing with orange juice and fresh minced rosemary this time. It was really nice and subtile. A winner!

Almond and Coconut Flour Orange Shortbread Cookies with Rosemary Icing
Yield: 30-60 cookies depending on the size of your cookies. I got just short of 60.
1 lb unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed lightly
1 1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond meal/flour
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon orange juice
1 Tablespoon orange zest

I used my stand mixer for this recipe, but a hand mixer will work fine here too. Cream the butter and sugar on medium/low until light and fluffy. Mix in the salt, vanilla, OJ, and zest until combined. Add the almond and coconut flours on medium/low speed until well combined. Then, in two additions, add the all purpose flour, pulsing until just combined. 

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and bring it together. It should be just a tad crumbly (mix in more flour before turing your dough out if it seems too wet in the mixing bowl). Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to an hour. 

Line baking sheets with parchment or siltpat and get your cookie cutters and work station ready.

Preheat your oven to 325. Take out a chunk of dough, about two cups or so, and put the rest back in the fridge covered tightly. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a sheet about 1/3 inch thick. Cut the dough into your desired shape(s) and transfer each cookie to your prepared baking sheet (parchment or silt pat) using a spatula. 

The dough is delicate (i.e. sorta crumbly) but forgiving, so if it breaks, just patch it back together or start again. I kept rolling the scraps back into the next chunk of dough I grabbed from the fridge and the texture was still great (see, forgiving!). This dough also keeps it's shape really well while baking, so you can fit a lot of cookies on each sheet.

Once your oven is preheated, bake each sheet separately in the center of the oven for about 10-14 minutes - the edges will just begin to brown. Allow the cookies to firm up on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. This recipe holds up well both at room temp and after being frozen and thawed. 


The icing I used for these cookies is based on the recipe for Glace Icing from the ladies at Casue Sweets. I reduced it a bit but the general proportions are very similar to theirs. First, I made a looser base icing that could be used to "flood" the cookies. I poured off about three cups worth of it and added additional sifted confectioner's sugar to create a thicker icing for piping. 

Cookie Icing
Yield: I had enough for about 60 cookies with quite a bit leftover. 
6 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (plus extra for thickening the icing for piping)
4 oz lukewarm water
1/8 teaspoon orange juice
4 oz light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh Rosemary

Sift 6 cups on confectioner's sugar into a large bowl, or into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the water and begin mixing on the lowest speed with your stand or electric hand mixer, then add the orange juice and corn syrup. Keep mixing until everything is fully incorporated and the icing is shiny. It should be viscous enough that it runs smoothly off a spoon but not so wet that it looks like it would just run off the edges of the cookies. Basically, it should spread easily but not be runny. If your icing is too thin, simply sift in more confectioner's sugar a few tablespoons at a time until it looks right. If it's too dry add more liquid a drop or two at a time.

Separate out about 3/4 of the mixture for your "flood" icing and add the finely minced rosemary to it, then pour it into a squeeze bottle or tupperware container with a tight fitting lid, be sure to cover it well to keep it from hardening.

To the remaining icing, and just mixing by hand now, add more sifted confectioner's sugar by the tablespoon until the consistency is thick enough that it's difficult to stir. If you lift you spoon up, the icing should fall very, very slowly (slow glop). You want it to be thick so it sets up right away and creates a boarder to keep the flood icing in check. See my previous post for photo examples and let me know how yours come out!