August 1, 2013

Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

You know how some people count sheep when they can’t sleep? Or count backwards from 100? Or drink a warm glass of milk?

I close my eyes and think about food. I dream about what crazy kitchen adventure I could take next. I lull myself to sleep with thoughts of butter and sugar and melty chocolate chips. If you want to know if I wake up with drool on my pillow…. I’m not telling.

Lately, I’ve been dreaming about shortbread. There is something beautifully simple about shortbread that makes it the perfect palate for adventure.

Usually, I am too lazy, broke, thrifty to go out and buy a billion new ingredients for some elaborate recipe, unless I have a very specific purpose. So, with shortbread on my mind, I looked in my fridge and saw a lonely lemon. I looked out my window and saw a pot of fresh rosemary baking in the August sun, shivering in this weird summer cold patch, and this cookie was born.

But duh, I didn’t make it up. As I am drifting off to sleep, I am usually convinced that I have invented the worlds most innovative treat. But a quick Google search in the morning usually brings me back to reality…. okay okay and provides me with a recipe as a jumping off point.

As you are falling asleep tonight, do me a favor and dream of shortbread. Then wake up in the morning, come back to this post, and bake these Lemon Rosemary Shortbread cookies.

Lemon Rosemary Shortbread
adapted from My Baking Addiction

makes about 18 small cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, slightly soft
generous 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
zest from 1 small lemon
juice from 1 small lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup wheat flour
dash of salt
1 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped
sanding sugar

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla, and mix until fully combined. Add in flours, salt and rosemary and mix until dough comes together in a ball. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to fully incorporate the dry ingredients until a nice solid dough forms.

On top of a sheet of plastic wrap, roll out the dough into a cylinder. Sprinkle sanding sugar all over the outside of the cylinder, rolling back and forth along the plastic until the dough is coated. Wrap dough well in the plastic wrap and freeze for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake, pop the dough in the fridge while preheating the oven to 350 F. When oven is preheated, slice the cookies into quarter-inch slices and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until cookies are just turning golden. Do not overbake, or you will have dry shortbread. I always think it is better to slightly undercook if anything, as I prefer a soft, creamy shortbread over a crunchy one. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.

July 25, 2013

Peach Blueberry Bread Pudding

It’s been a busy couple of months over here. I wrapped up grad school, sent my first graders off to a summer of watching tv reading and playing outside. Then, I packed up my car and drove off to my new life in quiet upstate New York with my future Mr. Lane and our child cat, Arthur.

After settling in for a few short days, I have been off on a whirlwind of visiting family, attending weddings, and (fingers-crossed)  job interviews.  Okay, there has been a little wedding planning going on in there too. So I haven’t had time to share with you the craziness of my closet-sized kitchen in my new home, which has actually been able to produce some pretty magical things, considering I can span the whole thing if I spread my arms out.

Anyways, I am writing to you now from the Jersey shore, a place that I have vacationed with my family since I was a little girl, my mother since she was a little girl, and my grandmother since she was a little girl. The devastation from the storm here is quite heart stopping, but Restore the Shore is in full swing and folks are out on their bikes, in their bikinis, and working hard to get summer back to normal.

I am here with my whole family, and my brother Dan decided to make a billion loaves of bread the other day. (Hmm… I am feeling a guest post coming on…) While he is quite masterful and the bread was very delicious, we couldn’t finish it all before it got stale. So, I made bread pudding!

I have a weird relationship with bread pudding. I always say I don’t like it, but then when I am eating it, I really do like it. This recipe was a winner, with fresh peaches and blueberries from the local NJ farmstand. It tasted like french toast. We thought some  walnuts would have been a great addition, but here is the recipe as I made it!

Peach Blueberry Bread Pudding
Adapted from Joy the Baker

stale bread, cut or torn into 1″ pieces (enough to loosely cover/fill your baking dish)
1 medium peach, peeled and sliced
1 generous handful blueberries
2 cups milk (I used skim, you could use whole for a richer taste)
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Arrange stale bread pieces in a 9″ pie dish, cake pan, or square baking dish – whatever floats your boat. You should have enough bread to fill the pan, but with plenty of holes and space for liquid and fruit. Toss in the peaches and blueberries and use your hands to distribute evenly.

Next, gently heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium/low heat. Stir often, heating just until the butter melts, but without boiling the milk.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, sugars, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Once the butter has melted, slowly pour the hot milk/butter mixture into the bowl, whisking constantly to distribute the heat. Pour the mixture over the bread and fruit, making sure that all of the bread pieces get fully soaked in liquid.

Cover the baking dish and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, or overnight. About 2 hours before you want to serve the pudding, preheat the oven to 350 F. Take the bread pudding out of the fridge, remove the cover, and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the top is getting crispy but the middle still wobbles a bit when you shake the pan. Let the pudding set for at least 30 minutes before serving, lukewarm.

April 26, 2013

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

I love muffins. The day I found out just how unhealthy muffins typically are, I was pretty crushed. I always viewed them as the “healthy alternative to a donut at Dunkins.” Uh. Yeah right. Let’s not even go there.

Anyways, I know that there are some healthy muffin recipes out there. This is not one of them. However, this is a delicious muffin recipe, which, in my humble opinion, is way more important. If I am going to eat some bran applesauce muffin… well, I’d rather just eat some applesauce and a bowl of bran cereal. No need to spoil a decent muffin.

These lemon poppyseed muffins are perfect for a lazy Saturday morning. The original recipe included a glaze, but I didn’t even feel these needed it. They are best paired with a cup of English Breakfast tea and a warm kitten on your lap.

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
adapted from Food Wishes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (1/2-cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
finely grated zest from 2 lemons
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a muffin tin.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Place the lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl and rub together with fingertips to release the lemon flavor. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the lemon zest/sugar mixture. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. Stir in 1/3 of the dry ingredients until just incorporated, and then mix in the lemon juice and 1/2 of the buttermilk. Add half of the remaining dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the rest of the buttermilk, stir in, and then the remaining dry ingredient. Do not over mix. Gently fold in the poppy seeds.

Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups and bake for about 30 minutes, or until slightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from tin and let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

April 21, 2013

Zucchini Boats and Grilled Salmon

Two really awesome things happened in my kitchen today. First of all, I used the broiler in my oven, with great success. I am very very afraid of the broiler. I have used a broiler only one other time. Ask Chris what happened. It involved smoke and a fire alarm. It was less than good.

The other awesome thing was that Chris grilled salmon! Now this man of mine is more often seen doing dishes than cooking (a trade-off I’ll take ANY day), and one might assume that might point toward a lack of culinary skill or confidence. But every so often he waltzes in to the kitchen and casually whips up some amazing meal, proving that premise entirely false. I better watch out or I’ll be the one doing the dishes….

But let’s get back to the food. Imagine pizza, without the crust. WHAT?? What is the point of that, you say? My thoughts exactly. So don’t think of this like pizza. I prefer the name Zucchini Boats. How much more fun is that? Roasted zucchini, filled with tomatos and cheese and seasoned just right. A wonderful summer (is it summer yettttt?) side dish or light meal.

These guys are easy as pie. Not pizza pie. This is not pizza. There are no carbs. Preheat your oven to 350. First, take some zucchinis, chop off the stem end, and slice them lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Arrange them in a lightly greased baking dish. Rub some oil, crushed or minced garlic, pepper, and salt into each boat.  Slice some tomatoes (grape or plum) and arrange them on each zucchini half. Dust with a healthy amount of bread crumbs (YES! THERE ARE CARBS!!) Bake at 350 for around 30 minutes, or until zucchinis are soft all the way through.

Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle cheese around the tomatoes in each of the grooves you made in the zucchini. Sprinkle with fresh basil, or even dried basil/oregano. Be creative. Turn on your broiler.

Don’t panic (I panicked a little…), just stay vigilant. Slide in the pan and broil for several minutes, checking regularly, just until the cheese is melted and getting beautiful little golden spots. Remove triumphantly!

Now for the salmon. This was all Chris, so I can only say so much. Heat up your grill. Put each piece of salmon in a large square of foil. Mix together some oil, lemon juice, and a wee bit of garlic and drizzle it all over the salmon. Sprinkle on some sea salt and pepper. Fold the foil up to make a smart little packet so the goodness won’t leak out. Grill for about 15 minutes or until just done. That’s it!

Oh and this little family effort wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from Arthur, who wanted to help cook AND eat.

So, I have to stop writing because I hear Chris making breakfast. Looks like there are some dishes in my future!



April 13, 2013

Perfect Brownies

I’m pretty sure I’ve made this declaration before: I like Betty Crocker Brownie mix and I don’t care who knows it. I am consistently disappointed by homemade brownie recipes. Sure, they are good and chocolatey and often have many redeeming qualities. But every one I had tried had always fallen short somehow.

Until I made this recipe. Which came pretty darn close to box-mix goodness. These brownies have that crackly top and a dense inside that is fudgy without being oily or greasy. This is a go-to utility brownie. Good for bake sales, small children, pizza nights, grandparents, husbands, wives, friends, dogs. Wait. Not dogs. They can’t have these brownies.

But you can. And the best part? If brownies any even make it alive in your house past a few days and start to get a little stale, crumble ‘em up on ice cream. I can verify this is a truly excellent and resourceful and delicious idea.

Perfect Brownies
adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker

1¼ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11-12 oz  semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped
1 c (two sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 c granulated sugar
1 c packed light brown sugar
5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and line bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, salt, and cocoa powder in a medium bowl.Over a double boiler (or heat-proof bowl resting on a pot of boiling water), melt together chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Turn the heat off but leave the double boiler over the hot water. Whisk the sugars into the chocolate until combined. If using a small double boiler, transfer the mixture into a large bowl. If using a heat-proof bowl, remove from the pot of water.

Add 3 eggs and whisk until combined. Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Do not over mix to ensure fudgy brownies. Sprinkle in the dry ingredients, and then fold in until just barely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with just a few crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting and serving. (Who are we kidding… grab a fork and dig in!)


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