Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cookies + Coffee = Happiest of Holidays

Three years. Yes three years in a row I have participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap partnered with Cookies for Kids Cancer for happy hearts and happy tummies. It's basically heaven during the busiest time of year. My husband is always first to rip open the boxes and mopes around the house after all the cookies are gone. I feel for him.
The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013
It's also three years in a row that I stress over what cookies to make. Should they be classic or inventive or straight-forward and easy. STRESS. So this year I grabbed a cappuccino on a cold Sunday morning and snuggled with Luce to plan.

Cappuccino cookies a la Joy the Baker to the rescue. I kid you not when I say this recipe rocks: a) it's super easy, b) it's fail-proof, c) it tastes like a cappuccino. Heavenly. And trust me even non-coffee drinkers rejoice.

But first, wanna see what yummy cookies I got??? I think, yes.
Ginger Cookies from Someplace That's Green. Yes these were baked with love because I love ginger. They made my 3pm very happy for a full week.
Monster Cookies from I don't know exactly what's in these, but I now love monsters. Also, lesson for next year - don't let the husband take the pics or eat all the cookies before you can get good shots. 
Almond Apricot Cookies from These are really quite perfect cookies for me. I ate them for breakfast multiple days in a row. Hey there's jam in there, don't judge.

And now for what I sent out - a little cappuccino in the form of a cookie!

Cappuccino Cookies from Joy the Baker
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1 large egg yolk, room temp
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 cup Ghiradelli vanilla white chocolate chopped into pieces (heaven!)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and instant espresso powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the butter mixture with a spatula.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients, all at once to the butter mixture.  Beat on low speed until just combined.  Stop the mixer, add the chocolate chunks and fold together with a  spatula until well combined.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Just before you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats.

Scoop cookie dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking pans.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Happy Holiday, Cookie Style!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sometimes I Only Take 1 Picture...

...because let's be honest I don't have a camera. And I normally take a photo with my phone while I'm cooking, dirty hands and all. But this blog isn't about the best photos, it's just about food. Beautiful food.

I've been feeling blah lately, just down on energy and not my 100%. So I turned to what worked when I was 3, re-invented it a bit and guess what? It works just as well when you're in your 30's. Go figure. Life is so tricky like that.

This soup is so easy, just takes a bit of time. But it's all worth it. Make it on a Sunday night and have lunch figured out for the rest of the week. Plus it makes you feel all happy inside. And somehow dinner table conversations become a little bit longer with a bowl of soup. Trust me.

Couple notes: You can make this soup vegetarian, just ixnay the chicken. Also feel free to add some orzo or rice and any other delicious veggies you have on hand. And don't forget the extra lemons to squeeze on top.

Re-invented Avglemono Soup
2 onions, cut in half (leave skin on)
5 carrtos, chopped in half (no need to peel)
5 celery stalks, chopped in half
2-3 parsnips, choped in half
6 sprigs of sage
1 Tbsp peppercorns (less if you want less pepper taste)
1 Tbsp salt

Soupa (that's soup in Greek folks, also my second word)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled cut into bite size pices
5 celery stalks, cut into bite size pieces
1 3/4 pound of chicken thighs
6 sprigs of sage
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
3 lemons
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped

In a large stockpot (I'm talking the big one that you never use) place all the ingredients for the broth and cover with cold water - leave a little room at the top so it can boil. Bring the pot to a boil, uncovered, and then reduce to a simmer. (Note: It can take an hour or so to get the water to boil because remember you're using your BIG pot) Let the broth simmer for an hour and up to 3 hours.

With a slotted spoon remove all the cooked veggies and place them in a bowl. Feel free to nibble on these while you're cooking. Also, once cooled, dogs love the yummy cooked carrots.

Now strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve (I don't even know why I used sieve, I meant strainer) so you can remove the peppercorns and any herbs. You can also skip this step and simply fish them out with a spoon.

Either in another stockpot or in the same one with the vegetable broth removed, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute for about 5 minutes. Then add in some salt and pepper, sage, your gorgeous broth and the chicken thighs. This is where we cook the chicken in homemade stock - genious.

You want to cook the chicken until it falls off the bone, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and shred it up and add it back into the pot. Turn the heat to low - as low as it can go.

In a medium bowl take your eggs and whisk them - like really good. Then with one hand whisking you want to slowly add 3 ladle fulls of the soup. This is to make sure you don't wind up with scrambled eggs - and if you do, don't panic, just order pizza (trust me, I've done it.).

Then you want to add the egg and broth mixture into the soup and stir away. Add in your kale and the juice of 3 lemons and ta-da!!!!

THE perfect feel better soup.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How You Know You're Lucky

Being in your 30's is tough. No joke. I'm not sure how I didn't see it coming, but it definitely was a trick. There's expectation to be somewhere in your life and yet if you don't have certain boxes checked there's a sense of failure or angst when in reality there are no rules for life. Each life is a different story with a different path.

And in your 30's you can normally take on more risk, but you also have a deeper sense of reality. The two battle with each other and many times you forget to live your life. I'm here to remind you not to forget to count your lucky stars and remember all those accomplishments that make you lucky.

My husband works a ton. He also never complains. I complain a ton and he never calls me out on it. I'm pretty lucky.

We live in a house, an older house, one with never-ending renovations. I don't have a dishwasher, and I'm down a bathroom. I can't imagine living anywhere else. Definitely lucky.
That's wood paneling and a puke green wall!

Miss Lucy. She jumps up on people because she's SOOO excited to say hello. And she's sandy - All. The. Time. I'm pretty sure I'm lucky.

I have a dwindling number of best friends because life moves on. But those best friends, across the country no less, take wine and cheese very seriously. Lucky, no doubt.

My family is AMAZING. We aren't normal, but we're real and I think everyone should be jealous about that. I was born into that luck.
That's my cousin, teaching the rest of us cousins - she's now a teacher, go figure!
I can cook a meal and bake a cake to create memories with said friends and family. Being able to do that is part luck and part skill. I feel lucky to have both.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Getaway Partners

I want to travel the world. All. The. Time. But since my partner-in-crime says that's not reality, (he should really be nicer, no?) I travel more in my head than in real life. This year we're taking a lot of weekend trips and as much as I want to go away for one full week, these little trips give me peace. And coffee. And food. And more love for my getaway partner.

First up, Portland Maine. I think I'm going to move there. Wait, let me rephrase. I will move there when it's sunny, I think all the snow might put me into a constant state of temper tantrums.We stayed at the Inn By The Sea and I'm going to live there when I grow up. They allow dogs, that's right dogs! That means the famous Lucy can come next time - you know cause she's so well behaved and all.

So here's where our travels took us - don't judge because it's all food and shopping related.

Pour-Over Coffee Shop (Speckled AX), yes please. I don't think either of us stopped smiling while in there.

Standard Baking Company cookbook and these nautical gems.

Oysters and wine for lunch while sitting with locals at J's Oysters

Wine & Cheese picnic on our bed (we were very neat, we promise!)

Rose bubbly is my new friend.
Cookies before bed.
Cinnamon roll the size of my head courtesy of The Good Table...
...and Lucky Charms mugs
Here's to another fantastic weekend filled with food and travel partner love!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dear Chicken Thighs: I Adore You

Let me be clear there are MANY days I don't feel like cooking. Well actually it has more to do with time and ingredients and tiredness. But then I feel bad because our beachy little town doesn't have an overabundance of awesome takeout options - some, but not a ton.

But then there are dishes that come together when:
a: I don't want to cook
b: I have slim pickings of ingredients
c: I an tired

and it turns out so perfectly that I forget I never wanted to cook in the first place. And all is right in the world - well, my world at least.
Let's talk chicken. I used to only buy and eat boneless skinless chicken breasts. Then I smartened up and realized chicken thighs have a whole repertoire of recipes that I just adore. And they can make a Friday night throw-together meal feel a bit more fancy. We like fancy over here (fancy as in we ate dinner in our workout gear, but wine was included so it counts).

The ingredients 
chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on)
prosciutto slices - cut in half)
brie - cut into thin slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt + pepper

The "recipe"
First make an assembly line - prosciutto slices, brie slices and salt + pepper. Take your fingers and separate the skin from the chicken thighs making sure it still stays attached - you are essentially creating a pocket for more flavor.

Place half a slice of prosciutto and 1-2 slices of brie under the skin of each chicken thigh. Then salt + pepper the skin of each chicken thigh.

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan . Once heated, place each chicken thigh skin side down into the pan. It's best to do this with your hands (probably not safe, but it's the best way!). This is going to seal the skin and make sure your pocket of flavor stays in place.

You want to turn each piece of chicken over once it does not stick to the pan and it has formed a nice golden crust (if it is sticking to the pan, walk away slowly - the chicken needs some time alone). This is about 5 minutes on each side, depending on how big your chicken thighs are.Cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes and then....

you have dinner, or as we like to call it Fancy Friday Night.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Take This Tuesday!

Oh, the last time I posted was March 25th - let's ignore that okay? And instead we can talk about food and family and Tuesdays. I knew you were thinking the same thing. So has anyone ever had a weekend that needs a redo? We just had one over here - not that it was bad, just felt like our black travel cloud reared it's ugly head and so yeah. But there's lots of good stuff too.

Like when your aunt who's also your godmother sneaks you Greek cookies and Easter bread and you can eat them in the car and on Tuesday for breakfast.

Or when you get to test out a new funfetti cupcake recipe for a new Mom. And she eats them even though your heart tells you the batter is dry. (Oh and she's one of the most natural new mommies that one ever did meet!)

And then there's leftovers from Easter of one of your favorite dishes. And you've tried to recreate it but of course there is no family recipe written down and you have no idea why yours keeps coming out too dry. (yeah, apparently we ate this before taking any pictures)

Of course this smiley face. If you can guess how old she is, you'll win a prize. (Disclaimer: I have no idea what that prize is)

And raw fish, oysters and tuna to be exact. At the restaurant that is your brother's dream and now your life. And you love it all.

All of this makes a 7-hour drive (that was only supposed to be 3) seem doable and even fun. Now on to this Tuesday. Show me what you got!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spilling Secrets - Take 1

Hey y'all, did you miss me? I missed me, but I'm back so you don't have to worry one little bit. It's been a crazy, um, weeks, but it's okay let's regroup.

I've decided to let you into my little world and spill some secrets that you may not know about me. It's like we're besties and I'm spilling. Why? Because it's good for the soul and sometimes that's all that one needs.

I get antsy, like a lot. Like more than the normal human being. Thankfully my partner-in-crime knows how to calm me down and reminds me to live the day instead of two days from now. It's a constant struggle, but I'm trying.

I pretend having Lucy is like having a child. For some reason in my mind I equate it to being a parent. I know it's ridiculous, but it's kinda not at the same time. I mean have you seen her cute face? And I know what she would say if she could talk - trust me.
Yes, she is carrying a ball in her mouth on her walk - don't ask.

I take on too much in life and then I throw temper tantrums. And then I'm basically told to go calm down by my lovely partner-in-crime. This is a serious problem as I'm not in kindergarten. But I don't want any opportunity to pass me by so I take it on instead.
This is me pre-kindergarten, but you get the idea. Also, how cute is my Mom dressing us in clashing stripes.

I will always choose chocolate sprinkles over colored. The colored ones taste weird to me. Which is shocking because I love jellybeans. Like really LOVE.
The amazing "condiment" bar at CreYo

I always feel uncool. I used to stress about this, but now I kind of shine in this nerdy spotlight. I've embraced my uncoolness and somehow it's made me so at ease with myself.

I don't like bacon. Like at all. I can't even elaborate on this.

I celebrate my birthday for an entire week. I think everyone should. I mean what's the harm in more champagne, more cupcakes and more treats? Nothing at all.
Let the celebration begin!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Put On Your Fancy Pants (Insert Giggles)!

You know what's hilarious? Conference calls where your friend (who lives in another state) giggles like she's 5-years old. It then starts a chain reaction of laughing by me. Then you wind up leaving that job, but it doesn't matter because you and this friend still call each other to giggle. Yes, we are both over 30. (Hi, Brandi, miss ya!)

It's also funny when someone requests to be mentioned in your blog. Poor Brandi, she thinks she's going to become famous from Food Beautiful, but that's really only for Lucy.

So in my quest to understand champagne, Miss Brandi sent me this beautiful bottle.
I had to Google it (do you all remember life before Google, I do, I was more confused) because as you know I have no champagne knowledge. Just that it tastes good. Well most of it.

Pommery Brut Royal, sounds fancy, right? Well, I felt pretty fancy drinking it. I believe champagne should make you feel a bit special. Even when you drink it in your 10-yr old sweats while doing work by the fire. It makes those sweats feel like fancy pants. So here's what the experts say about this bottle:

critical acclaim:
"Lightly toasty, with a lively bead and flavors of poached pear, dried apricot, brioche and honey. Displays chalkiness without being too angular, and culminates in a lasting, apple-tinged finish."
90 Points
Wine Spectator 
How fancy are these!
All I know is that this drink was yum! It tasted light but special and all around good. Definitely on the hunt to buy a couple more, know so I can put on those 10-yr old sweats, sit by the fire and make the night a little more special!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I'm REALLY Hungry

And why is this news to you, it just is, read on and you'll understand. Let's start with some housekeeping items. Sidenote: Does anyone understand that phrase - I don't and it always confuses me. 

It's really cold here, but before the bitter blast we had this awesome warm weather. Lucy likes the sun on her face. She takes after her Mom (I'm her Mom in case any of you were confused)

I'm obsessing, no OBSESSING over this bag. I want to purchase it, but then this little voice tells me not to. Do you think my partner-in-crime has brainwashed me?
See it here!
Sore Muscle Update: For those of you that do crossfit (and those of you that don't) it's a humbling experience. Every single time I go. Someone once told me the day you aren't nervous for the workouts means there's something wrong. So that means I'm normal right?

And now on to food and my lovely hunger. I heart chocolate and wine, no lie.
Peanut Butter Truffles, yes please
But why is this a topic of conversation you ask? Well, this hunger is a welcome feeling after weeks of not wanting to eat and not enjoying a single bite. A food lover's worst nightmare. Back in November I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, which is basically the body's inability to digest properly. There's no reason people have it, it's unknown why or how you get it and many times it doesn't cause any harm. But then there are times when it's super yucky and bad - makes you seriously nausea, you have no appetite, and makes it hard to eat. Like really hard. And as someone who wants to be healthy I wanted answers. There were none, it was trial and error. And 8 weeks later today I have found my appetite.
Love the art of sharing bread at a table
I'm so happy I could jump for joy - or really just eat a cupcake and a coffee and just be. Not think about if I'll be okay, not worry if I'm being annoying to the nurse, not over-analyze every little thing I eat.
Beautiful dessert made by my bro

And that, my friends, is why I won't take food for granted, I won't underestimate its purpose and I'll enjoy every bit. For my body and my soul. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday = Cookies

Yesssssss, it's Friday, cookie day! What? Friday, isn't cookie day for you? Well, it should be. Why wouldn't you adopt this. It's just happy. And as we discussed yesterday, we should all be nice and happy. So eat cookies. On Friday (and any other day for that matter).
This isn't my recipe, but it's good. And how do I know, because Julie of Table for Two was one of my Secret Cookie Bakers in the the First Annual Food Blogger Cookie Swap. So I've eaten her cookies first hand and I love her. Too much? Maybe I shouldn't love everyone.

But these cookies are ta-da! Like the moment when you realize it's going to be good and you know everyone will enjoy. I love cookies like this. PB Chocolate Hazelnut Oatmeal Cookies, thank you for being invented - head over to Julie's blog to read her recipe as I've made some minor adjustments below (I'm not good at following directions). Oh and feel free to gush over her photos because you know you won't get those over here!

PB Cinnamon Raisin Hazelnut Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from the Table for Two recipe
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. Peanut Butter & Co. Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Natural PB
3/4 tsp baking soda
1tsp cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats

Beat together (stand or hand mixer works best) butter and sugars for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each egg, then finally the vanilla extract and beat for 2 more minutes
Add the peanut butter, baking soda and cinnamon and mix until incorporated. Add the oats, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips. Your mixer will be working hard, but don't worry!
Using a cookie scoop or heaping tablespoons, drop dough onto lined baking sheets and gently press down to flatten with your fingers

Bake for 13-15 minutes depending on how large your cookies are and how crazy your oven is (that's mine, crazy). The edges should be slightly brown and crisp.

Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then move to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Eat all weekend long!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not Everyone Plays Nice

I'm afraid to have kids (and no, there's no baby in my tummy, just lots of mac & cheese). I watched a documentary on bullying, it's horrible. Why are kids so mean? Why are people so mean? Did you know that I work at a pretty happy job, where we talk about pretty things all day. It's awesome, it makes me smile, like a lot. I applaud all those teachers out there. When we have kids, can you help us raise them?

Well, that was sad, sorry about that. Let's talk about crowding your pans. You know you've done it, I've done it too. When you dump everything in a pan and hope it cooks and turns out delicious. It cooks, but it's not delicious, it's more or less confused. Because you crowded your pan. I'm an offender, don't worry.
So here's the new rule. Be patient. I am anything BUT patient. Ask my Mom, ask my partner-in-crime. But patience creates better-tasting weeknight meals. Like a simple chicken sausage with peppers and onions. Saute each ingredient separately and the outcome is delicious. I love this easy meal.

Weeknight Sausage & Veggies
Chicken, turkey, pork, veggie sausage. I have a caveat here, if you are a paleo friend or a health-food lover, Whole Foods sells non GMO sausage and it's worth the extra dollars. Please trust me on this, I never lie (wait, not that's a lie, but still buy it!)
Veggies, cut - seriously any kind, but always use onions and garlic - there's really no reason not to
GOOD Olive Oil
Salt + Pepper

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and a little salt until nice and soft (it's important to stir every so often). Then add the garlic to cook for another minute. Remove onions and place in a big bowl.

2. If needed add more oil and cook each veggie separately with a little salt and pepper. This allows each veggie to cook perfectly for the best taste possible. Add each veggie to your big bowl once they are cooked.
3. Add cute sausage and cook until golden brown. I personally love the sausage with little burnt edges - yum! Once it's all cooked add all the veggies back in, turn the heat to low and cook for a couple minutes to meld the flavors together (is meld a word?)

And that's it, the patient person's version of Weeknight Dinner.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fancy Mac & Cheese that's Not So Fancy

Dreary, hazy days scream mac & cheese. But not any ordinary mac & cheese, but one that is a little bit special, a little bit unexpected and a whole lot of cozy. Yes, mac & cheese can be cozy. If you don't agree, we can take this offline. (Side note: I love when you're on a work conference call and someone says that, it's like being called to the Principal's office - I put myself on mute and crack up every time.)
I've tried many a mac & cheese, just for the main fact that I think everyone should know how to make a good bechemel sauce. And it's not easy. If you think it's easy then you're probably much better at it then me. It needs to be creamy, sans lumps and also be flavorful. This is where a lot of mac & cheese experiments fall flat. Not this one I promise.

Have I ever told you I'm not a huge fan of bacon. Yeah it's true. It's something with the smokiness, just not my fav. That's why there's prosciutto. A whole lot of adult fanciness that becomes a little less toned down in mac & cheese.
 And then the cheese. I think it's important to have a mix and to try different combinations. You really can't mess it up so veer a little bit away from the traditional cheddar and it's amazing how mac & cheese becomes a fancy Sunday night meal. And while we're on the topic of cheddar, definitely buy aged, definitely buy one from a farm (can be found at the grocery store) and don't even think of orange.

Real Deal Mac & Cheese (must enjoy with wine, by the fire, in your fleece-lined leggings)
8-12 pieces of prosciutto - I start with 12, then usually eat 4 during the whole production
1lb fancy shaped pasta (trust me, it helps the cheese attach to the pasta)
1 1/2 cups milk (full fat, don't skimp here)
2 garlic cloves, smashed but not taken out of the skins
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup Fontina cheese, grated
2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Rosemary sprigs
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

How To Make
-Place prosciutto on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350F, until crisp. Set aside to cool and increase the oven temp to 400F.
-Cook pasta according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside
-Meanwhile, on your lowest setting heat the milk, 1 rosemary sprig and 2 garlic cloves (yes just place them in the liquid with their skins!), 1/2 tsp pepper, 3/4 tsp salt in a small saucepan. 

-You want the liquid to be warm, but not something you can't touch. (Again, this is me asking you to put your finger in hot liquid.) Strain the liquid so you only have the seasoned milk.
-In a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk over low heat for 2 minutes, don't stop whisking! While whisking, add the hot milk and cook until it becomes thick and smooth and wonderful. This is a roux, it's a beautiful thing!
-Turn off the heat and add the Gruyere, Fontina and Cheddar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the pasta.
-Now crumble the prosciutto and mix this into the pasta cheesy yumminess.

-Pour into a buttered 9x13 inch baking dish.
-Next, take a small nonstick pan (like one you make eggs in), add 1 Tbsp olive oil and heat over low heat. Add the panko bread crumbs and cook, stirring every so often, until they turn light brown. Remove from the heat and add the Asiago. Let them cool a couple of minutes and place on top of the mac & cheese - aka fancy  breadcrumbs.
-Bake at 400F for 30-35 minutes until you have THIS...
And that my friends is Sunday night dinner that trumps all other Sunday night dinners!