Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A note on dough.

So I have to say, I'm feeling pretty bad-ass.

I followed the recipe for sweet tart dough laid out for me in my glorious book Paris Sweets, which just happens to be dough for 3 tarts.

This is the way to do it!

I feel so domestic goddess-esque knowing that I can just pop my frozen disc of homeade delicious almond-accented dough onto the counter, and have a tart in the oven in less than an hour. Never again will I not have dough on hand, for whenever inspiration or creativity or gluttony strikes.

I advise you to do that same.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Simple Apple Cake

Tell me this doesn't look like a perfect breakfast.

This is such an easy and versatile recipe. I've made it both for family holidays, or just to have around to snack on (like this morning for breakfast). I love apples in all sorts of forms, and while I love an apple tart, I think it's fun, and just so gosh darn easy to throw them in this quick cake from Heidi Swanson.

Tonight I made it to serve to a few friends over for dinner (after dinner- I know I talk about dessert as a meal quite often...). It looks unpresuming, and is simple tasting, but so solidly good. I like it kind of cold from chilling out in the fridge, dense and moist. I whip some cream to go along with it, even though when I follow this version, I usually prefer mine plain. (Everyone else always likes the cream.)

But tonight I made this with allspice instead of cinnamon (I was all out and hadn't realized it), which was still good (more savory), but I thought benefited from the whipped cream. I whipped heavy whipping cream with a couple spoonfuls of sugar, and a couple splashes of amaretto, which was delish!!

I've realized that I have a penchant for my bottle of Disarrono, and am feeling compelled lately to splash it into a lot of recipes. I think perhaps I might go have a splash or ten on the rocks. I leave you with...

Simple Apple Cake
serves 12

2 cups chopped apples, cut into 1/4 inch cubes with the peel on (this is about 2 apples)
2 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon (or allspice if you dare)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit
more sugar for top, I use about 8 tsp for a nice even coating

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter and line a 9 inch square pan.

Place the chopped apples in a bowl of water and juice of one lemon. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until barely combined- don't over-mix. Now drain the apples and fold into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, pushing it out toward the edes. Sprinkle all over with sugar, a nice even coat. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Serve warm or cold or room temperature.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This makes me laugh.

I love to bake.
My dogs (ok, one in particular) loves to eat.

I spend hours looking at cookbooks, mixing up batter.
He spends hours plotting how to get to it, food, food, any beloved food.

Now I have a very small kitchen. And I'm doing some holiday baking. I need somewhere to store things until they can be wrapped up nicely.

So in the cupboards they go. On top of the fridge. Sometimes baking racks can be a bit dicey to keep even as I try not to scrape the top of my treats. But somehow I prevail, and deliciousness makes it out of the danger zone into our mouths or into the car to take to someone else.

Here we feature (beneath many layers of plastic wrap) peppermint double chocolate chip cookies bundled up on the left, and cranberry banana bread on the right. The recipe for cranberry banana bread soon to follow!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cranberry Almond Biscotti

I'm making gifts of baking for the first time this year, and biscotti seemed like a perfect thing to fill a part of my tins! It's much easier to make than I'd realized, and it keeps for a long time. I'd never been that much of a fan of the crunchy cookie until I started dipping it into some delicious hot drink, like you're meant to, and then I loved it.

I modified a recipe from Tartine which modified a recipe from Chez Panisse. :)

I decided to add white chocolate to half of them, which I have to admit, didn't turn out as pretty as I would have liked. I just used a zip lock bag with the tip cut out, and half of my chocolate got a bit over-microwaved and thick to come out easily, and the tip I cut out too big, I think... But enough excuses, here it is- you can do a prettier job of it, hopefully!

Cranberry Almond Biscotti
makes about 25 pieces, some long, some short

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 tsp Dissarono, or another almond flavored liqueur
2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 additional egg for egg wash (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast for 3 minutes. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cream the butter until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the Disaronno. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts, then the cranberries.

On a floured work surface, divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Shape each portion into a log about the length of your prepared baking sheet and about 2 inches in diameter. Set the logs on the baking sheet (be careful, this can be tricky), spacing them about 2 inches apart. If you want to glaze the biscotti, whisk the egg and brush it over the logs.

Bake the logs until they are lightly browned on top, about 25 minutes. Let the logs cool on a rack for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and cut on the diagonal into slices. Return the slices cut side down to the baking sheet. Bake the cookies until the edges are slightly toasted, about 5-10 minutes longer. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack. If you like, dip them in or swirl on some chocolate. They will keep in a tightly covered container at room temperature for several weeks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peppermint Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies from Joy the Baker taste like homeade and chewy versions of Girl Scout Thin Mints. (And thus so much better!)

I just made these yesterday and they are my husband's favorite cookie I've made so far- he thinks they're wonderful! They're flat and chewy, my favorite cookie texture. And they are super chocolatey. I think they'll be perfect for holiday gift boxes. :)

Peppermint Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 27 bigish cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp pure peppermint extract
2 large eggs
12 oz chocolate chips (I used half milk chocolate and half semisweet)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another couple minutes, until well blended. Beat in the peppermint. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. On a lower speed, add the the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. By hand, mix in the chocolate pieces.

Spoon the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 11-12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to a rack to cool fully. (Use a spatula to remove from sheets!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cozy comfort. And Lemon Bars!

Cozy comfort. It's something I've been quite fond of my whole life.

I think the reason I immediately fell in love with baking the very night I rushed out to buy my first cupcake mix and cheap muffin tin- at the ripe old age of 25- was because of the comfort factor. I love the tradition. I love making things that are sweet and pretty. I love being able to give away these cute confections that I put myself into, in the hopes that they will make someone special to me feel taken care of.

I think cozy comfort is anything that nourishes us, inside or out. Anything reminding us of family, love, joy, happy peace, connecting, the wonder of the world around us and how lucky we are for all we have. Beauty. Anything delicious.

For me~
BBC murder mysteries.
The library.
My mom's house.
Picking out Christmas cards at the book store.
Knowing that all is well-- perhaps lovely, even?-- and more goodness is on the way.

And lemon bars!

These were my first baking from scratch, something that used to seem so impressive and daunting, and now, not really hard at all, just the enjoyable and right way to do it! :)

This recipe, adapted oh so slightly from JoyOfBaking.com, is so good, so dangerous...

I love and love lemon in sweets. The way the sour tang tempers the sweetness..... mm, it just makes these bars all the more binge-able, which is a delight and alas, not ideal. But we must strive to continually grow, and each time I make a batch of these, I offer myself the opportunity to practice restraint! And as I am a work in progress................

These are one of my favorite things to bring to my parents and grandparents. They love them, and it gets them away from my powdered sugar-stained fingers that don't seem to stop until the pan is empty.

Of course, I invariably regret it the next day when I don't have my breakfast, lunch, and dinner of choice available anymore. But I work through the pain, or soon make some more.I give you~

Lovely Lemon Bars

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
2 eggs
1 tbs grated lemon zest (just get all you can from the 2 lemons)
Wash and zest the lemons first. Then, juice the lemons, either with a handy kitchen utensil made just for doing this sort of thing, or using a strainer and just squeezing really hard.
2 tbs all-purpose flour

More confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in center. Butter or spray an 8x8 baking pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I use a hand mixer for this. Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough just comes together. Press into the bottom of your greased pan and bake for about 18 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.

Beat the sugar and eggs until nice and smooth. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to combine. Fold in the flour. Pour the filling over the shortbread crust and bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

That's it!

Enjoy- they are so gosh darn good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cutie Stuffed Peppers with Mashers

Have I ever posted this recipe? I don't think I have. It's ever so slightly (and lazily) modified from Veganomicon and it's quite tasty. The peppers look super cute done length-wise instead of standing up, I think. :) Zach told me last night that he thinks it might be his favorite thing I've made so far, so there's a lovely endorsement for ya, too. :)

The mashed potatoes are quite easy. You peel them, cut them up, boil them for about 20 minutes, drain them, mash them up with about a half stick of butter and some milk. I'll tell you how I time it with the peppers below.

Then here's for the peppers:

Cutie Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4-8 (or 2 with lovely leftovers!)

4 large bell peppers (any color, but red seem to be nicer sizes to fill, sometimes, although a mix of colors is attractive!)
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
2 jalepenos, cut in half, seeded (or not, if you want it super hot), and chopped
1 cup finely diced carrots
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
5 tsp Italian herb mix (or some oregano, basil, thyme separately)
1 tsp salt
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup uncooked brown rice (or 2 cups cooked)

Start preparing the rice, if uncooked.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Get the potatoes ready for the pot, then set aside (if making). Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 in baking dish with a little olive oil.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, trying to leave the stem intact on one side, because it's pretty! Remove the seeds and membranes, preparing a nice home for the filling to come. Submerge the peppers in the boiling water and cover. Let them boil for 5 minutes, then remove them with tongs and rinse immediately with cold water to cool them down.

Then use the same pot of hot water for your potatoes. (Put the potatoes in the pot, and boil for about 20 minutes. Drain, mash, add butter, milk, whatever you like.)

So after taking out the peppers, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onions, jalepenos, and carrots for about 10 minutes. You want the veggies to brown, especially the carrots. Add the garlic about 5 minutes into the cooking process. Add the herbs and salt, then saute for 1 more minute. When the mix is nice and browned, add the tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and cooked rice. Stir and cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Arrange the peppers in the dish, and fill them with the mixture. Bake for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fun fun fun things

Cutie flats, all eccentric girled up with some socks for wintertime!

I love Advent calendars! The chocolate is so tasty too. :)

I love fog with Christmas (or any) lights!

And I love muffins- so easy to make, it's like DG lite.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I write~

This is breakfast, yum! Please don't punish me, Type 2 Diabetes.

Today was the first day I wrote in my journal since we've moved- I just found it in a box the other day. I was browsing back through a few pages, and I found this list I'd made of why I write, and it was good to see again. The perfect note to start re-immersing myself in Clara von Silversweet and the Spinning of a Spell.

I write-
I write to thoughtfully crystallize my relationship with the world.
I write to try and surprise myself with my elucidation and literariness!
I write to make a living of a passion.
I write to influence others.
I write to feel more like myself.
I write to give my thoughts permanence.
I write because I enjoy it.
I write because I love creating fantasy.
I write because I read.
I write because I know that it's essential to my happiness.
I write because I love the romanticism of being a writer.
I write to communicate.
I write to connect.
I write because I like the flow of a pen on paper and the clack of my fingers on keys.
I write because it is perfect for me!

So now you'd think I'd be off to write, right? Actually, no. :) Today I'm dedicating myself to reading Three Cups of Tea, at least until I go be Volunteer Librarian Robin, a la this~

I am determined to have a book group book finished on time this month, for the first time! And of course I still didn't start the book until three days before, so I've got to spend some quality time with it today. But I will write later tonight. And now on to my book!

Friday, November 21, 2008


I am thankful for the wonderful guy that I ended up being lucky enough to share forever with!

I find him quite good-looking, but that's secondary. Look at that face! :)

What really amazes me is his heart. How he always does the right thing. In a heartbeat, how it needs to be done. I remember once I saw something across our old apartment complex (now this is across the pond) at the window, kind of hanging out, and mentioned it, wondering what it could be, and in a flash he'd jumped out of his chair and was at the apartment opposite. It was a child. I mean, of course, most of us would go to help, but where I was do-do-do, what is that, is that a kid??? What the hell, he was out, and booking it across to the other window, without a thought, and fast. I'll always remember that.

He's always there for me, too. It was never a question of if he would come with me to anything. If I wanted him to, of course he would. (Except the ballet. I don't think he'll go with me to that anytime soon, which is silly, but I guess I can live with that. :)) And he's always been super supportive of my writing, and believed in me, sure I would get there, be published, be successful.

He's always willing to help me out. :) (This was at our old apartment, where he didn't even live, and still, look at him go! :))

He joins me in my cutesy, believe-in-the-magic world, and even adopts some of its terminology with me, at times. :)
He carries me when my 4 inch shoes hurt.
He loves me for the big wonderful mess I am.
He eats whatever I want to make for dinner, or is happy with his peanut butter sandwich.
He loves Christmas!!
He believes in family and forever.

And I am so lucky.


I'm going to steal an idea from Stephanie here, and attempt to do a daily blog (something I've never done before!) leading up to Thanksgiving focusing on what I'm thankful for. I usually make these lists, but I want to focus on just one thing each time. :)

I'm thankful for my sense of questioning myself. Now this is something that sometimes I am not thankful for, because along with it goes a lot of over-analyzing at times, and sometimes anxiety and other not so peaceful things, but I've realized also that it gives me a lot of potential for growth toward the person I want to become.

I still want to balance this a bit more. :) But I am grateful for it in a way. A weird way. :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

a few of my favorite things~

new couches with pretty new pillows

people caring more about food being sustainable and humane

our beautiful hutch from Zach's grandma

walking at night with the dogs, seeing a view of the city lights

Zach and I sometimes looking like we're fifteen years old

Christmas time coming

grounding my soul in love, joy, peace, and thankfulness

my new tradition of yum yum oatmeal for breakfast

cuddling with cats

chopping vegetables with Zach

writing cute poems to pass the time at work

thinking about yoga! (doing it regularly is the next step.... :))

going to look at some fun art for the walls tonight

Love as a Way of Life by Gary Chapman


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What are you excited for in 2009?

I am excited to see what an Obama presidency holds, and I wish him all the best for an effective administration.

I am excited to build a home with my new husband, Zach, full of warmth and cozy comfort, and most of all, love.

I am excited to grow my repertoire of recipes, eat them, photograph them, and share them (when I feel the inclination)!

I am excited to finish my YA fantasy novel, Clara von Silversweet and the Spinning of a Spell, and start submitting it to agents!

I am excited to pursue a slower, more sustainable food tradition within our family, and with like-minded friends. (I'm excited to start using the phrase, "our family," not just referring to who I grew up with!)

I am excited to get back to school and finish up that degree.

I am excited to continue volunteering at the library, and soak up the atmosphere laden with one of my very favorite things, books.

I am excited to spend more time with my family, especially my sister.

I am excited to live my life focusing on attention to the moment, and being present, and centering on love, joy, and peace of spirit.

I am excited to start going back to church, and embracing my odd combination of eastern inclinations fused with my Catholic roots.

I am excited for my first married Christmas with my new, expanded, improved family, being married to Zach! (I know that's 08, but still...)

And that's what I've got for now. :)

Oh, and I'm excited I found NPR News on the radio! :)

Oh my gosh, I just got an email- I'm so excited Proposition 2 passed in California!! Thank you to anyone who voted for it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vodka Pasta Very Most Delicious

Now, I was so involved in the cooking of and the taste-testing of and the following eating of the first making of my beloved vodka pasta without the heavy cream, that I forgot to take any photographs of it.... Oh, but wait, now I just remembered to, so here we go. The other good news is, the sauce was delicious, and tasted the exact same as it did in its last dairy-laden incarnation. The nuances of flavor that I'd loved were still front and center. Instead of the cream, I used cashews blended until smooth and creamy with water, which impart the same texture and even surprisingly, the same flavor (I did a quick finger dip test before adding it to the mix), but none of the mean fat from the cream. :) (Although of course nuts have fat as well, but it's much nicer. :))


(Adapted from Rachel Ray)
Vodka Pasta Very Most Delicious
Serves 4

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs non-dairy butter
2-3 cloves garlic minced (depending how much garlic you like)
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup vegetable broth
About 32 ounces of crushed tomatoes (You can vary a bit depending on how thick or thin you like your sauce- 32 makes for a normal sauciness, I think!)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, whatever kind you like (I like penne or rigatoni.)
1/2 cup cashews (I used roasted, unsalted. Raw would be healthier, but would have a slightly different flavor.)
1/2 cup water
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Mince the garlic and shallots. (And feel free to set them aside in cutie little bowls too, if you so desire.)

In a blender, add the cashews and the water, and blend until very smooth and creamy. When you've gotten a nice, smooth consistency, pour into a 1/2 cup measure, and set aside. (Make sure that you have a full 1/2 cup.)

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan. Reduce vodka by half- this will take 2 or 3 minutes.

Add vegetable broth and tomatoes.

Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes. Shred or tear the fresh basil, if you still need to. Stir the cashew cream into the sauce. When the sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat.

Drain pasta. Toss pasta with sauce and basil leaves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Apple Tart

This is slightly modified from VeganYumYum. It always turns out so pretty, and it feels very classic to arrive to a family get-together with this in tow. I also think of this as not only one of my favorite desserts, but one of my favorite breakfasts, cold and super set. MMMmmmm!

Apple tart
Makes a 9" tart

Filling ingredients:
5 Granny Smith apples
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup melted butter
Apple jelly, for glazing

Pie crust ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup butter
2-4 tbs ice water

Add the flour, salt, sugar, shortening, and butter together in the food processor (or cut together with knives). Pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand, with pea sized lumps. Slowly drizzle in water (not too much!) while running the food processor until the dough forms a ball.

Turn the dough onto the counter and press into a disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a half hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Juice the lemon, and set aside in a bowl.

Peel apples, slice in half and core. Brush all surfaces with the lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

Roll out the dough on a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Dough should be 1/8" thick and larger than the tart pan on all sides (the bigger the better).

Invert dough over the center of the pan. Gently work the dough into the pan.

Slice apples into thin pieces, and arrange in rings, starting at the outside and working toward the center of the pan.

Once the apples are in, coat the top with the sugar and spices. Brush the apples with melted butter, then fold the edges of the dough toward the center, and brush the dough as well.

Pour any leftover butter over the apples.

Bake at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes, or until tart is golden brown and apples have color. Glaze with the apple jelly. Let cool most of the way before slicing.