I feel a little tardy to the party since I am just now getting around to gabbing about my 4th of July weekend. But, in all actuality the lack of writing for a few days over the extended weekend was a much needed recharge to get me back into the swing of life, cooking and writing. Initially, I feared (and somewhat loathed) the idea of not cooking for an entire weekend – but now, I’m so glad my parents put me on a kitchen cleanse and cooking moratorium. For once, I actually sat back had a few drinks brought to me and rested on my laurels enjoying the sun and sound of the beach. All of those pesky chakras are back in line.
There were whole shrimps galore, fixed up in the most indescribable way, simmered in butter, spices and sauce that was otherworldly.
I’m not in any sense of the word, a shellfish person. The texture can go from divine to disaster in 15 seconds of overcooking flat, so I just steer clear. But these! Oh my gosh, These were fit for kings – I had 5. For a girl like me, that’s a mountain for shrimp.
These little beauties went nicely with a Firefly and an Arnold Palmer. Seriously, this Firefly vodka has changed my life. I require this in Seattle.
While we were all voraciously devouring the shrimp and mopping up the sauces with huge hunks of crusty carbs the hound dog decided he’d had enough of our boringness and hit up the water for some swimmy-action. He’s a water dog afterall. If you don’t see him for 10 minutes, check the water.
It’s amazing to me how a dog like him can move at all with all that extra skin he’s got to roll around in. Skin should not move that way…
Even as the day grew to a close my little adorable nephew was still goin’ strong. Even Huck was exhaused, but JJ just kept going. At nearly three, he’ll put the Energizer bunny to shame.
Watching him and Ben together was quite possibly the most Aww-inducing sight of the whole weekend. We don’t hang out with too many people with small fry, but when we do my uterus just give me a (not so) polite punch in the gut to remind me that she’s got a job to do and at 25, I’m really slackin’ here.
Watching those two just sent my uter into over drive, but I kindly reminded her that there is still a few more years she’s got to wait. She didn’t like the sound of that.
But for now, I’m content waiting and enjoying my quiet weekends with someone else’s kids, and holding off until Ben’s done with his second degree, has a fabulous new career, then it’s my turn for new adventures.
Traditionally, I admit – I’m a soup can cracker. But after this recent undeniable success from yet another America’s Test Kitchen recipe, I’m a homemade soup convert. My mom is one who can whip up a savory soup in no time with minimal effort, not me. Grandma can make a sinking matzo ball soup with the best of the Bubbi’s out there. But now the tables have turned, once and for all.
For your Grocery List include:
~ 1 pound cannellini beans
(I had to use the canned ones, since my lame local grocery didn’t carry the suggested dried version)
~ 6 ounces pancetta
(Again I blame the local grocer – I used bacon, the wonder animal)
~ 1 medium onion, chopped
~ 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2″ pieces
~ 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2″ pieces
~ 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
~ 4 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
~ 3 cups Water
~ 2 Bay Leaves
~ 1 bunch Kale, de-stemmed and chopped
~ 1 can (14.5 oz) canned Diced Tomatoes, drained and rinsed.
~ 1 sprig fresh Rosemary
As I previously stated, my lame local grocer didn’t carry proper pancetta, but I figured bacon was a perfect substitute. Not to mention the beauty of just frying the rest of it for snacking on. I’m not above it.
Whipping out my beautiful dutch oven from my hunny, the bacon got chopped and nicely browned.
The rest of the veggies got dumped in and softened for about 10 minutes.
And then…all the garlic got added in. 8 cloves worth of garlic? Edward Cullen will so not be making out with me anytime soon…
After letting all of the flavors mesh for a couple of minutes, the chicken broth, water, bay leaves and beans were added.
If I would have been able to follow the directions as specified, I would have soaked these bad boys overnight in water, or done a rapid re-saturation with a pot of boiling water and letting them soak in the miniature bean hot-tub for an hour. But such is life.
The other beyond brilliant trick I learned with this recipe was to toss the whole kit and caboodle into the oven to cook. It’s not as crazy as it sounds since the low and slow simmer would cook all of the ingredients together without softening and breaking open the beans. Broken beans, who wants that?!
After an hour in a 250 degree oven, the kale and tomatoes were poured in and placed right back in the oven for an additional 30 minutes.
The smell penetrated the entire apartment leaving me with the same gleeking and salivating feeling you feel when a brand new bag of sea salt and vinegar chips are opened. Oh Em Gee, it’s happening again.
At long last, the rosemary was added and left to rest for 15 minutes.
(*sidebar* – don’t forget to remove the rosemary and bay leaves after this 15 minutes is up.)
The colors of this were absolutely beautiful. I don’t care if it’s mid-summer and not an appropriate time for soup. I felt like a rebel and it was so worth it.
This was another unequalled kitchen success thanks to america’s Test Kitchen. What would I do without ‘em?
Whole Paycheck, I mean Whole Foods is a glorious healthy-eating-gluten-free-PETA-loving-granola freak’s paradise. Hey, I love me some hippies – don’t get me wrong. And if I could afford to buy there on a regular basis I totally would, because the quality of food, especially their meat counter, is far superior to a regular everyday market.
A field-trip assignment from Ben’s nutrition class took us there one afternoon where we picked up a small container of garlic and chive hummus that changed our lives. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – Hummus is the new mayo.
Making it at home seemed daunting and simple all at the same time, but to accurately replicate something so great at home was terrifying. Me and sweets get along, me and earthy savory food – we’re working on our relationship. Always stick with your right, when you go to your left expect varied results.
To make sure this got did right, I adventured to my favorite cooking website Tasty Kitchen to see what my fellow foodies had to say. One of my best blogging buddies and Comfortably Domestic Mama on the 45th Parallel, Kirsten had the recipe worth diving into, just adding in a couple of my own ingredients in the end. Bless you Kirsten, you calmed my fears.
A few weeks ago, I casually trapst over to the wondrous world of oven fries, completely uncertain of what I would find, dreading the worst. Fries are meant to be completely saturated in unhealthy oil, worthy of clogging the arteries of an elephant let alone one of us measly humans. But what I discovered was magic.
My first attempt at this was a raving success in the form of Parmesan Garlic Oven Fries, but today I decided to dive into the Sweet Potato version. I whipped up three whole potatoes and Ben and I hoovered the equivalent of two potatoes already. Seriously, he just walked by with a “Dang, those are good”. He’s a man of few words, but when he says somethin’ is good – he means it. Like, really.
Below is the video and printable recipe for this quick and handy recipe, so whip ‘em up and change some lives, mainly your own.
After writing for a year, I figure most of you know me pretty well. I’m fluent in sarcasm, addle brained when I haven’t finished my second cup of coffee, say things I shouldn’t, get chaotic in my thoughts, and am completely food obsessed much like my lovable pup Huck. (Wonder where he gets it…)
Somedays the person behind the typing is and who they really are in person gets lost in translation. Most of us bloggers know that the best way to identify with your audience is to write like you speak – it’s a technique that seems to work for us all pretty well.
But today I’m taking it one step farther. From time to time I’ll be posting a quick video covering recipes I love, tips and techniques of cake decorating, or the occasional pupper picture – why deny the people what they want? More Huck!
Maybe this is all a hair brained idea, but hopefully you’ll indulge me this small feeling of blogging legitimacy. Thanks for putting up with me and hopefully you’ll stick around to see what craziness I’ll whip up next. You’re all rockstars in my book!!
Yesterday my first decorating class came to an end. *Le Sigh* For all of the nerves I had on my first day, by the end of the first four weeks my worn an tattered nerves had calmed considerably, and the joy I imagined having teaching really came to fruition.
My youngest student, Anya, was the star of the whole class. (Yes Mama Jen, I’m sayin’ this for real – she’s an absolute Rockstar!)
(Anya’s beautiful blue roses. Anyone know where to buy a dozen of these in real life?)
I maintain that there is something really special about teaching kids – they haven’t been sullied by the critical world, just letting the fun and enthusiasm of their task take over. It really comes through as effortless and whimsical versus our adult overly analytical and harsh work.
Live your life with childish enthusiasm.
*Name that movie* Fine, I’ll give you the answer, it’s Under the Tuscan Sun. One of my all time favorites – not gonna lie.
Mama Jen’s ribbon rose was practically flawless. This mother/daughter team was a decorating force to be reckoned with.
And students like Ms. Eileen were full of laughs and charm.
Next month, my instructing adventures take to me another Basics Decorating class and teaching Flowers and Cake Design. But really, the women in this class will be a hard act to follow.
Stay tuned here on WBACC and soon I plan on passing along a few tips and tricks I share with my own students. Hey, what can I say – gotta leave you wanting more!!
*Name that movie/character/silver-fox of a hit 70′s/80′s TV show that recently got remade into a block buster staring Liam Neeson as said Silver-Fox and fluently French speaking hunk of man-meat Bradley Cooper*.
The point is, me and yeast based doughs do not, I repeat, do not get along. I know I may come off as cool, calm and collected *scoffs*, but unless you’re a pot roast in a slow cooker – life is movin’ pretty quick and I don’t have time to wait around and watch the bread rise, as it were.
*Note: as I made this recipe, I did stand there and watch the bread rise. It was apparently quite fascinating*
If this odd behavior persists, please call a doctor or shrink.
This weekend after several attempts to make a batch risen baked goods I finally got one right.
Just one, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
~ 1 pkg. Rapid Rise Yeast (I only had standard rise – and was too cheap to buy a whole jar of the rapid rise)
~ 1/4 cup Honey
~ 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened
~ 1 Tbsp. Salt
~ 3 cups All Purpose Flour
~ 1 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
~ 3/4 cup Raw Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds
~ 1/2 cup Oats
~ Vegetable Oil Spray – Pam
The first step was to soften and cook up the hot cereal. After pouring the boil water over it, I stired it up and let it do it’s business until it reached a manageable and yeast-friendly 100-105 degrees.
I combined the yeast, honey and butter into the hot cereal jump starting the rising process. Because of the standard rise yeast I had, I allotted more time than the stated 20 minutes.
When the first rest was complete and I was sufficiently anxious to get this bad boy in the oven, I added the whisked together flours a half cup at a time, and lastly the salt. As it slowly and agonizingly kneaded it all together, pulling away from the bowl the pumpkin seeds got poured in.
After all of the mixing was said and done, the second rise came. Ugh. Again. Impatience.
The whole blob got laid out on the floured counter top to knead and finish incorporating any loose pumpkin seeds, tightening the roll and making it look purdy.
For once, my yeast actually did it’s job and rose to double it’s size.
But before it’s third and final rise in the loaf plans (Again with the rising!), it was worked out again on the counter into a 12 x 9 inch sheet and divided right down the center.
Roll the two halves up onto themselves, keeping the dough tight and pinching all of the edges closed.
Look at that gorgeousness!
When the closing and stiching together was complete each loaf was sprayed with Pam and rolled in the oats giving it that beautiful and tantalizing and professional look.
And once again my impatience took over as I watched it rise in the Pam-ed loaf pans for another 40 minutes. Oh Em Gee, people!
As they rose, I heated up the oven to 375, ready to throw them in as soon as that rise was complete. They were in the oven as soon as the pre-heat beep went off. No time to waste!
To pass the time in the oven, I cleaned out and de-Hucked my poor little car. If I wasn’t doing that, my arse would have been parked on the kitchen floor staring at the oven. Cleaning the car sounded like a much more productive use of my time.
After these came out of the oven they smelled up the house and let me tell you – well worth the wait.
Make these for yourself, your hunny, your mother in law or you doctor for all I care – just make these and fall in foodlust. You won’t be sorry. Not to mention, you’ll exercise your patience bone. It’s good for the soul.
Who doesn’t love something free? Who doesn’t love a free appetizer during your night out with your hunny? And booze – let’s not forget the free booze! Not I. I’m a fan of all things cheap and especially free.
Ben and I were feeling like rebels last night, bumping up our usual Saturday date-night to Friday, told ya – rebels, and making our pilgrimage to The Dirty Bird (aka Red Robin) just didn’t seem like a very romantic thing to do. At 25 and 28, we don’t need to be that couple who eats at the same diner, the same day of every week, with the usual order of tuna melt and tomato soup. There is plenty of time left for that in the next 50 years…
Instead of The Dirty Bird, we swam upstream to our town’s newest restaurant The Big Fish Grill where it turned out was their grand opening. No wonder it was so packed. After getting cut in line for a table by a couple of scraggly douches, we finally got our seats and we presented with a free Spinach and Artichoke dip and champagne. Yay, free! My mother’s case of the “thrifties” was in full force last night.
Seeing as I didn’t want any of it to go to waste, we (read: I) had them box up the rest of our free app so I could bring it on home and make a beautiful breakfast frittata out of it.
But this morning, a frittata just wasn’t in the cards. A open faced poached egg benedict-esque sammie sure was though!
For your Grocery List be sure to include:
~ 2 Whole Wheat English Muffins
~ 2 Large Eggs
~ 1/4 cup shredded cheese of you choice – or Goat cheese if you got it
~ 1 tomato, thinly sliced
~ 6 leaves fresh Spinach
~ 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
~ Salt and Pepper
~ 2 Tablespoon White Vinegar
~ Leftover re-heated Spinach and Artichoke Dip – 1/2 cup for 2 sammies
Poached eggs are something I’ve only made myself a couple of times – this being the second time. But thanks to the genius that is America’s Test Kitchen, I can now say I can make a poached egg with the best of ‘em.
To make the perfect poached egg, heat a 12″ pan with quickly simmering water and add the 2 tablespoons of vinegar to it. Say what? Well according to the almighty ATK, doing this will lower the pH of the water and help keep your egg whites together – no weird floaties here! Boy did that and a few dashes of salt make all the difference in the world!
I gently slipped my eggs into the simmering water, letting them do their poaching business for 4 minutes, I scooped them up like the little breakable babies they are setting them ever so softly onto the bed of muffin, cheese, tomato, spinach, and warmed leftover spinach/artichoke dip that they are.
Then I proceeded to pee myself like a little puppy over what I was about to consume. Victory is mine!
Over the top of them I added a few drops of lemon juice, and an additional dash of salt and pepper.
And in about 5 large bits – it was gone, and my life was complete. Much like my entree at last night’s dinner (Crab and Bacon Mac and Cheese – *porky angels singing*) was a Greg Louganis off of the health-food wagon, the addition of the spinach dip was tipping point on these bad boys. But, I make no apologizes.
But, do yourself a favor and make these for yourself. Don’t be a hero.
Today is one of those days that I’ve not felt like writing.
Between the chronic exhaustion, the dull quiet days at work, a serious case of writers block, and limp noodle feeling I have coursing through my entire body from working out ridiculously hard the last few days, I’m feeling deflated like a worn balloon and providing you with entertaining stories is not my bag today.
But yesterday, I had a guest post on my friend Kat’s blog, Tenaciously Yours. Kat is one of the spunkiest and most bubbly personalities I’ve ever known. To sum up her blog in a short sentence would be a near impossibility because of everything that her life and blog entails. She drew me in with her Royal wedding fanaticism, her love of coffee, fitness, politics and all of the silly nuances and curveballs that life throws your way – putting a hilarious and brutally truthful spin on it all. The girl is just freakin’ hilarious, that’s all you really need to know.
As she is on her honeymoon right now – Europe, btw – she asked me and several other bloggers to post about the hilarity in our own lives – mine being my wedding planning, or lack of planning.
Feel free to stop over and say “Hi” to my sister in Royal Family fanaticism and utter Truthiness, Kat.
My house is overbrimming with the fresh fruits and yumminess of the season. When I finally got around to making these cups for the first time, it was just in the nick of time for the nectarines who were just shy of their last leg. Crisis averted.
The original recipes that inspired these little buckets of nectarine glory, had varying components, with one having a filling and one being just shortbread and fruit. I figured, why not combine them and make them in pint size form? Challenge, accepted!
Now, here’s your warning – this recipe will take a while and there are three parts to make these little beauties. Don’t be let the intensity and workload scare you away, because the browned butter and fresh homemade jam is will change lives. Do it for the ones you love.
For your Grocery List Include:
For the Jam:
~ 6 Nectarines, diced
~ Zest of 1 orange
~ 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
~ 1 cup Sugar
For the Filling:
~ 3 Large Eggs
~ 1 cup Sugar
~ Zest of 1 Orange
~ ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp Flour
~ 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
~ 10 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
For the Shortbread:
~ 1 cup Sugar
~ 1 tsp Baking Powder
~ 2 ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp Flour
~ ¼ tsp Cinnamon
~ ⅛ tsp Nutmeg
~ 1 cup unsalted Butter
~ 1 large Egg
Initially, I wanted to brown all of my butter. Over medium heat, melt your butter and let it begin to simmer. It will start to foam and burble, and you’ll know you’re almost there. With a scraper continuously stir your butter and scrap the browned bits off the bottom. It will go from toasty and nutty to smelly and burnt. No one wants the burny taste in their shortbread.
When it’s all toasty and brown, throw it all into a freezer safe container and plop it into the deep freeze to solidify. Go figure, melt butter only to solidify it again.
The next third-ish part of this culinary calamity is the fresh nectarine jam. Things like peaches and nectarines are notoriously soupy when they get baked into deliciousness. And the last thing you want to do to a perfectly good shortbread is water it down. Thanks to the genius that is America’s Test Kitchen, making soft fruits into jams will concentrate their flavor and get rid of some of the moisture that would otherwise kill your dessert. They used this technique on blueberry muffins, so it’s bound to work with nectarines, right?
After dicing all of the nectarines, I added in the orange zest and vanilla. Is there anything that vanilla can’t do? That’s what I thought.
After pouring it all together in a gelatinous mash of awesome, I got it rolling away for about 30 minutes, mashing and whisking all of the fruit, vanilla and sugar together. When it starts to thicken while hot, you’ll know you’re on the right track. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Viola, insta-jam.
The most important piece of this puzzle is the shortbread itself. Is there anything like a crumbly, butterly, and flaky shortbread?
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove 1 cup of your browned butter from the freezer.
In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices. With a pastry blender, blend in solidified browned butter from the freezer. Place approximately just shy of ¼ cup of pastry blend into each cup of a greased non-stick cupcake pan, packing down with your hands to the bottom and around the sides of each cup.
Par-bake cups in preheated oven for 7 minutes.
Let cool on counter until jam and filling is finished and ready for assembly.
And for the filling, you’ll require..
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, zest of orange, flour and vanilla. Snag remaining brown butter and mix into flour mixture until entirely incorporated.
Now that all three individual parts of this puzzle are ready to go, it’s time for final assembly.
Fill par-baked shortbread about ⅔ full with filling. Dollop jam into the last ⅓ of the shortbread cups. Swirl the jam into the cups with a chopstick or knife.
Bake for 18 minutes in 375 degree oven. Allow to cool thoroughly before removing from cupcake pan. To remove, take butter knife around the edges of the shortbread cups and pop out of cupcake tin. Serve with tea or devour, there’s no need to be hero when it comes to shortbread.
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