Rustic Country Bread

Life moves pretty fast sometimes.

September came and went and October is here, but for some reason unbeknownst to me I'm still craving iced coffee and missing the beach.

However, the reality is this:  October is nearly over, which means that it is basically November, so in other words December is here and I haven't even started my holiday shopping.

It's got me thinking about "slow living".

rustic country bread

I'm no ace at it.  No one ever said slow was an effortless state of being.  It isn't easy living.  It takes work.  Let me rephrase that:  It takes very hard work because it involves going out of your way to change the speed at which you race, the companions traveling alongside you, and sometimes the path you will be led to.

But we carve out moments of rest and peace, moments of thoughtfulness and stillness; moments of slow living.  Because slow effort involves patience.  It involves precision.  It involves attention and detail.  It has a pay off.

Fresh bread.  It has it's place.  It reminds us of the importance of conscious retreat.  Of how to treat your heart and your loved ones:  with patience, care, a little time to rise to their potential and a bit of salt for good measure.

rustic country bread

Rustic Country Bread

recipe from King Arthur

(yields 2 to 3 boules)

3 cups, or 680 grams, lukewarm water (100 degrees F - 105 degrees F)

6 1/2 cups, or 907 grams, white or whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

a few pinches of garlic powder

additional herbs and spices

PREPARATION:

Combine water and yeast together in a large bowl, stirring consistently until combined.  Incorporate the measured flour slowly until all is mixed together and forms a very sticky, rough dough.  Either use a stand mixer on medium speed, a big spoon, or your hands to form the dough.

Next, let the dough rise.  Place a towel under the bowl and use another towel or lid to cover the top.  Let the dough rise for at least 2 hours up to 8 hours.  When ready, remove the towel and knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes using your fingertips and knuckles.

When done, transfer dough to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours, even up to 5 days (the longer the dough remains in the fridge, the tangier it'll taste). Over the course of the day, the dough will rise and fall.

When you're ready to make the bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and grease your hands with butter or a little bit of oil.  Pull off about 1/3 of the dough or about the size of a softball - a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece if you have a scale.

Place the dough on a floured surface and round it into a ball.  Knead for 3 to 5 minutes and mold piece into what shape you'd like.

Place the dough in a cast iron skillet for a boule-shaped bread or on a piece of parchment paper if you're using a baking stone.  Sprinkle a light coating of mixed spices on top to before baking.

Preheat oven (and baking stone, if using) to 500 degrees F while the dough rests.

When ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2-inch deep.  Place the bread in the oven an bake for 20 to 25 minutes with the lid on.  After 20 minutes, remove the top, drop the temperature to 450 degrees F and cook for another 20 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack.  Repeat baking steps until all the dough is used up.

Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

September came and went too quickly.

double chocolate pumpkin bread

We're well into October now, so I assume it's okay to talk about sweaters and mega changes in air temperature?  I recently bought a new scarf.  I'm trying to woo cool air with my attire choices.

There's no need to be coy, quiet, or discuss anything sotto voce.  Today, I woke up.  Showered. Ate eggs and attempted to whistle a little bit.  Then, after inevitably failing, I chose to bake pumpkin bread.

If such an achievement doesn't call for a loaf of chocolate bread baked fresh from the oven, nothing will.

double chocolate pumpkin bread

Introducing Double Chocolate Pumpkin Bread.  Trust me, you care.  It’s not every day you find yourself seeking a reason to just flat out eat excessive amounts of dark chocolate.  Yet here you are.

Maybe it’s because summer’s over and frankly there's no need to worry too much about an expanding waistline.  Maybe it’s because it’s Monday.  Maybe it’s because you like logs of chocolate with honkin' bits of banana.

Obviously, the ingredients are the essential part:  pumpkin, brown sugar, milk chocolate.  Oh holly heckballs yes.

This Double Chocolate Pumpkin Bread should be great for any post-dinner fireside rendezvous you have planned this fall.

Just add some nice whiskey and bearskin rug.

double chocolate pumpkin bread

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

(yields 1 loaf, 10 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of cloves & all-spice

1/2 cup cane sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup milk

3.5 ounces (100g) milk chocolate, shaved or chopped

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray or grease with butter.  In a bowl, mix together flour, oats, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and other spices, then set aside.

Add butter to a large microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds.  Remove from microwave and let cool.  Stir in brown sugar and beat in eggs, one at a time.  Lastly, stir in pumpkin.

Meanwhile, chop chocolate into pieces of all shapes and sizes.  Add to pumpkin mixture.  Pour into the dry ingredients, then stir in vanilla extract and milk.  Whisk everything together until batter is completely smooth.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until center is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Remove bread from oven and let cool completely before cutting.

double chocolate pumpkin bread

Serve with whiskey and a bearskin rug and enjoy!

Vanilla & Orange Shortbread Cookies

October do's.

shortbread cookies

1.  Get fresh air.  And lots of it.  This summer had taken me to the shores of the Atlantic, the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, and lots of time on the water and even more in the water.  With that being said, I still find myself yearning for a few fall beach trips, hikes to the mountains, and small iced coffees.

2.  Eat eggplant.  We grew a lot this summer.

shortbread cookies
shortbread cookies

3.  Appreciate simplicity.  Spend more time chatting with friends, read a good book, take a slow walk along the water or near the woods, pick apples or take a drive.

4.  Slow down.  I tend to be a very fast-paced person, always moving from one thing to the next in a matter of minutes.  But since the beginning of autumn I'm realizing how pointless and ridiculous this is while working to embrace a more laid back and leisurely state of being.

shortbread cookies

5.  Bake cookies.  Because simplicity is good.  See #4.

Classic shortbread made with a few straight forward ingredients and an orange twist.

shortbread cookies

Vanilla & Orange Shortbread Cookies

(yields 6-8 cookies)

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

3/4 - 1 cup white-whole wheat flour

1 pinch salt, plus more for sprinkling

1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

grated orange rind

PREPARATION:

Using either a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Mix in the flour and the salt until completely incorporated and the dough is soft.  Stir in orange juice and vanilla extract.  Lastly, sprinkle in the orange rind.

Place in the fridge for half an hour or so, until firm.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Before distributing the cookie dough in the shaped skillet, sprinkle the inside of the pan with 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt (if you're simply using a baking sheet, save this step until the dough is already on the parchment paper to sprinkle the tops with sugar).

Bake for 25 minutes or so, until just golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to stand on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Repeat the baking process until all the dough is used up.

shortbread cookies

Serve immediately and enjoy, or store cookies in an airtight container for up to five days.

Browned Butter Maple Granola with Almonds & Pumpkin Seeds

Oh breakfast.  I can't even take you right now.

maplegranola3.jpeg

I'm a girl of repetition and routine.  Once I like something, I tend to utilize it and obsess over it for months until I've launched it into the ground.  Mostly songs, but it's a similar tune with breakfast.

Here goes:  when I wake up and the first thing I do is make a pot of coffee.  The next most recent obsession:  avocado and egg on toast with fruit.  I've been consuming this for the past 12 weeks.  I don't know what it is, it just works.  Why change it?

But three months is a long time to obsess over something, even when it is ultimately the breakfast of champions.

I don't need it anymore.

Browned Butter Maple Granola with Almonds & Pumpkin Seeds

Cue:  granola.  It may be as old as the ages, but its adaptability is simply timeless and so is its taste.  With just a few ingredients, I swear everything in the world seems just right.

The flavor of browned butter with maple syrup and orange juice is out of this world.  It's light and sweet, but not overladen with sugar.  Granola, almond milk, a spoon?  It's all good.

My oven smells so good right now.  I spoil you guys rotten.

Browned Butter Maple Granola with Almonds & Pumpkin Seeds

Browned Butter Maple Granola with Almonds & Pumpkin Seeds

(yields about 5 1/2 cups)

Adapted from this recipe

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of salt

6 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup orange juice

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax seed, raisins, spices, and salt and stir together.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over low-medium heat.  Add in brown sugar and stir together.  Pour in maple syrup, then orange juice.  Bring to scolding (slight boil) and stir occasionally until sugar dissolves.

Pour mixture over oats and stir until all oats are covered.  Spread granola evenly onto prepared baking sheet (I usually pack it tightly together and then let it bake so clumps form).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring granola occasionally to cook all sides. minutes.  Let cool a bit, then break into clusters and store in an airtight container.

Browned Butter Maple Granola with Almonds & Pumpkin Seeds

Enjoy!

pistachio mascarpone sweet bread

i need to say something.

pistachio mascarpone sweet bread

i'm really good at making bread.  like really good.  it's mostly just because i pile delicious things into a loaf and let it bake.  it's not rocket science because i mostly just mix together butter, sugar and flour and throw it in to the oven for some time.

but a good loaf of bread just can't be faked:  flour must be measured, eggs must be beaten, and the loaf must be baked absolutely perfect.

so i'd say being able to make a quick bread is pretty dang important.  it’s a science…  but it’s not a science at all.  it’s just bread, but it’s important.  nowadays, I use science to make bread.  this one in particular is ridiculous and wonderful and i’m glad you’re here to see the results.

you wouldn't think of pairing mascarpone and pistachios together, but somehow it works.  it always works.  because it's science.  and I'm dang good at science.  and making bread.  that's been established.

Let’s get to it now.

pistachio mascarpone sweet bread

Pistachio Mascarpone Sweet Bread

(yields 1 loaf, 10 slices)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup mascarpone

3 tablespoons light butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup plain greek yogurt

1 large egg white

1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped

PREPARATION:

preheat oven to 350°F.

lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, level with a knife, then combine both in a large bowl.  add the remaining five dry ingredients, then stir well with a whisk.

add the egg white to a small bowl and lightly whisk.  combine mascarpone, Greek yogurt, and butter in bowl and mix well until all is combined.  add mascarpone mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.  stir in pistachios.

spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and transfer batter over.  bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.  slice once cool.

pistachio mascarpone sweet bread

nutritional information (per slice): 260 calories, 12g fat (5 sat, 1.5 mono, 1.5 poly), 27g carbohydrates, 5.5g protein, 2.5g fiber

Sausage, Jalapeño & Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese

My father warned me.

Sausage, Jalapeño & Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese

He warned me to be careful when I chopped jalapeños.  He warned me that they are very hot and whatever surface they touch leaves behind a trail of spice.  He warned my mom to not eat the cheese off of the cutting board where I, prior to cutting the cheese, had sliced the jalapeños.  She didn't listen.  And she doesn't like spicy things.

He warned me if I sliced these peppers, not to touch my eyes.  He warned me but I didn't listen.  And I rubbed.

Oh man, it was bad.  Really bad.  I almost lost an eye.

But grilld cheez.  Let's talk.

There isn't one person I know who doesn't undoubtedly not like it.  There I said it.  So when it's clear that your new boyfriend's friends do actually hate you, sweet talk 'em by offering to make grilled cheese.  Same goes for those cranky new in-laws.  Works wonders.

Sausage, Jalapeño & Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese

First buy some specialty cheese.  Just this once.  Do it.  I personally dig garlic and herb cheddar.

Next, the meat:  cow meat, pig meat, chicken meat, turkey meat. Light, dark, or bacon.  I usually go with sausage.  I'm telling you, this is a real man's meal.  Add a tomato or two...  Just for show, really... Then throw on the jalapeños.  It's a must.

But don't give this grilled cheese to anyone who doesn't deserve it.  Except for your boyfriend's friends.

Sausage, Jalapeño & Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Sausage, Jalapeño & Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese

(yields 2 sandwiches)

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil

meat leftovers (sausage, fresh turkey, chicken, beef)

1 medium jalapeño, sliced

4 slices whole wheat bread

3 tablespoons butter, divided

2/3 cup garlic & herb cheddar cheese, grated (or cheese of choice)

1 fresh ripe vine tomato, sliced

PREPARATION:

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Once sizzling, add meat if it needs cooking time.  Add sliced jalapeños to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally as to not burn the peppers.

Meanwhile, lightly butter one side of each bread slice.  When cooked through, transfer meat and peppers to a dish.  Place 2 of the bread slices butter-side down in pan.  Turn heat to low.

Sprinkle  a layer of cheese on each slice, then add the meat.  Any meat.  All meat.

Distribute the jalapeños evenly, then place sliced tomatoes on top.  Add another layer of whatever cheese is remaining, then top each sandwich with the bread, butter-side facing up.

Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom piece of bread is golden brown.  Flip each sandwich, one at a time, to the other side while keeping the sandwich intact.  Cook the other side for another 3 minutes.

Once cheese is melted and the bread slices are golden brown, remove each grilled cheese from the heat.

Sausage, Jalapeño & Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Vanilla, Honey & Cardamon Sweet Bread

So for the last two weeks I've been very sick.

vanilla, honey & cardamon sweet bread

So the story here is that I've been a vegetarian for almost two years, yet it amazes me how often I get lectured on the correlation between being sick and my lack of meat protein intake.

Seriously?  Leave me alone.

It also amazes me how often it's assumed that I love anything related to yoga, spinach, and nail polish.  Okay, guilty there.  But I also love whiskey and the smell of bacon.

vanilla, honey & cardamon sweet bread

So I haven't taken into consideration that Fall is just around the corner.  Nope, I won't do it.

But um hi it's August and the leaves are starting to turn red and the air is beginning to cool.  Where the heck are you 90 degree days?  I figure I might as well do my best to embrace the relentless cooler weather that is to come for the time being.

Cue:  This vanilla, honey & cardamom sweet bread with Greek yogurt.  Drool.

vanilla, honey & cardamon sweet bread

I usually find the most delicious foods to be homemade.  It just so happens that they also usually contain ginormous heaven heckballs of chocolate.  That's not the case here, but stay with me.

First you need to make sure you have flour.  There's not much complicated about that.  Next, you pick your favorite brand of Greek yogurt.  Combine the two with a little honey and cardamom and bake it for 40 minutes or so.

If your instinct is to have this bread for breakfast…  We are best friends.

If anybody knows where spring is really hiding, please let me know.  Sweet Jesus.

vanilla, honey & cardamon sweet bread

Vanilla, Honey & Cardamom Sweet Bread

adapted from Strawberry Banana Greek Yogurt Bread

(yields 1 loaf, 10 slices)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Bread:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 scant teaspoon cardamom

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg

1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

4 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Glaze:

1/2-3/4 cup powdered sugar

1-2 teaspoons honey

splash of vanilla almond milk

PREPARATION:

To make the Bread:

Preheat the oven to 350 F and coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom together.  In another bowl, cream together melted  butter and vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt.

Whisk in egg.  Stir in honey, then the vanilla extract.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, testing near the end with a toothpick, until it comes out clean.

To make the Glaze:

Mix powdered sugar, honey and almond milk together in a small bowl or cup.  When thoroughly mixed, slowly drizzle over the bread, starting at one side and ending on the other.  Repeat this step until all the glaze is used.

vanilla, honey & cardamon sweet bread

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Salmon Tostadas

So many of the memories and milestones I’ve experienced have happened around a plate of freshly grilled salmon.

salmon tostadas

It began when I was young.  My father would bring home a pound from the store and cook it as he always did:  With honey and barbecue sauce.

He cooked it on momentous occasions:  birthdays, the fourth of July, mother’s days, father’s days, graduations, etc.  I always remember the taste and feeling of those fishments (fishy + moments).

I fondly recall many moments from those times together with my family.  The smell of the fresh, albeit humid summer air while eating out on our back porch talking nonsense.

salmon tostadas

So what could I possibly do but combine those sweet memories with avocado, lime juice, and Greek yogurt.

This dish is hearty and fulfilling and everything you’d expect it to be.  And those tostadas.  Those game-changing tostadas.

You just can’t go wrong with versatility.

salmon tostadas

Everything works brilliantly together.  This is the perfect meal in my books.  It has freshness and crispiness and creaminess and all the “ness” you need, really.

The combination of grilled salmon, Greek yogurt, cilantro and avocado makes a texture-laden, creamy and luscious dinner transports me to those fond moments on the back porch.  Or to Mexico, whichever happens to be on my mind.

salmon tostadas

Salmon Tostadas

(yields 2 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces grilled leftover salmon

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons lime juice

sea salt & fresh pepper, to taste

1/2 large avocado, sliced

tostada shells

PREPARATION:

In a medium bowl, mix the cilantro, Greek yogurt, lime juice, cayenne pepper, and salt & pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate.

Place tostada shells on a plate.  Add half of the avocado slices to one tostada and top with grilled salmon.  Repeat this step with the other tostada and evenly divide the Greek yogurt mixture between the two.  Season lightly and serve immediately.

salmon tostadas

Enjoy!

chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie banana bread

i had a dream last night.

chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie banana bread

i owned my own cafe slash bakery.  the thing is, this ain't just a nice idea:  i want my own place someday.  a place where you "pay what you can" because quality of life is more important than profit.

a place where people would rather buy each other drinks than get snippy about long lines or the weather.  a place where you can sneak away for a little and relax with some great food and good music.  close to a sports bar so cute dudes stumble in.  i know.  genius.

a bakery where i could call each one of you by your name, or simply “sugar" or "pumpkin", if that truly suites your fancy.  a place that accepts innovation, creativity, social justice, and a little bit of sass, just for kicks.

kiddos could grab a muffin and play together while random strangers talk about the things that make them happy, their biggest nuisances, their favorite author or will farrell movie.  where the guy in front decides to pay for the person in the back of the line just as a way of saying hello.

chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie banana bread

everyone would be welcome.  rich, poor, classy, religious, intellectual, teachers, doctors, hippies, pastors, babies, homeless wanderers, ceos, coffee fiends, dogs, and strangers.

if you are unemployed and need a cup of coffee and a muffin to get you through an interview, take them for free.  4:00-6:00PM happy hours will revolve around handing out drinks and snacks to the homeless.

...  i'm not really sure how long this business would last, but it's a nice idea, isn't it?

i hope this place creates an atmosphere where you can enjoy life and take the time to be nice to those around you, whether you know them or not.

a place that allows you to fuel your body and enrich your lives with only the freshest, tastiest, and most wholesome ingredients:  butter, whole wheat flour, and everything in between.

another thing that's right:  this chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie banana bread.  say that five times fast.  now backwards.

it tastes like a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.  would I lie to you?

don't answer that.

chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie banana bread

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Banana Bread

(yields 3 mini loafs, or 1 large)

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup earth balance, softened (or substitute butter for non-vegans)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon ground flax seed, plus 3 tablespoons water (can substitute 1 egg for non-vegans)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup very ripe bananas, mashed

80g chocolate (dark or milk), chopped into chunks

1 teaspoon sugar, for sprinkling

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly coat three, 3x5 loaf pans with cooking spray (or 1 large loaf pan).  In a medium bowl, combine flours, oats, cinnamon, salt and baking soda together.  Mix and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat earth balance butter (or regular butter) on medium speed until creamy.  Add the brown sugar and continue to beat on high speed for about 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water and mix well with a spoon (non-vegans can substitute 1 large egg).  Add to the butter mixture and beat until fully combined. Stir in vanilla.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture.  Once combined, add the mashed bananas, then the rest of the dry ingredients.  Scrape down the sides and beat batter on low speed until completely incorporated.

Lastly, chop chocolate into tiny chunks or pieces and fold in to the batter.  Pour into the prepared pans and sprinkle with sugar to add some texture (recommended).  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool for 30 minutes before serving then cut each mini loaf into thirds.

chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie banana bread

270 calories, 8.4g fat (3 sat, 3 mono, 1.5 poly), 45g carbs, 4.5g protein, 3g fiber

Homemade Pomodoro Sauce

Homemade ice cream has become my most recent obsession.

homemade tomato sauce

It’s pretty much up there with no makeup, sunday waffles, and bikram yoga.

A few weeks ago, a good family friend of mine lent me a terrific vegetarian cook book, written by the chefs at Cafe Flora in Seattle.  Little did she know, I’ve read every single recipe like a baaaazillion times and fully intend to eat my way through this food bible this summer.

I better continue to do yoga.

homemade tomato sauce

So this week?  Well, this week my obsession revolves around healthy eating.  That’s right.  No more chocolate covered pomegranates or, dare I say it, homemade ice cream.  Tough times lie ahead considering we have three batches of ice cream in the freezer and an entire bag of those chocolate covered devils…  Even though I make my mom hide them in the nooks and crannies of our house, I still totally manage to search endlessly for find them.

Good riddance to all those shenanigans.  And we’ll do it together.  Let’s start with tomato sauce, okay?

Just think:  Organic tomatoes, vegetable broth, herbs, and a splash of olive oil.  You like?  Yeah, well, me too.  Especially on homemade pizza.  But that’s for another time.

homemade tomato sauce

Homemade Pomodoro Sauce

from Cafe Flora Cookbook

(yields 2 cups)

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1, 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes and juice

pinch of sugar

1 cup vegetable broth, or water

freshly ground pepper, to taste

PREPARATION:

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Mince garlic and add to saucepan with oregano and salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juice, sugar, and vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove mixture from heat and transfer it to a blender. Add a pinch of pepper and purée the sauce until done. Place in a jar and set in the refrigerator.

Use when needed.  To warm up, heat in microwave for 30 seconds.  Enjoy!

homemade tomato sauce

Boozy Basil & Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Online dating.

It's never really been my thing, albeit my friends (and really, everyone who is anyone) seem to enjoy scrolling through the Tinder accounts viewing the pictures that appear on their tiny phone screens.  Cue:  Inspiration.

boozy basil & mint chocolate chip ice cream

After hearing about many friends who are on the online dating circuit, I decided to create a dating profile of my own.

And if any of you, after reading this, are interested, or know someone who would benefit from how truly awesome I am, please feel free to give me a call.  I'm usually awake until 9 PM.

1.  How would you describe yourself?  I always carry packets of sugar in my purse because you never really know when you’ll need it, and I purposefully hide money in the pockets of my jackets so I can find it later.

2.  What’s your dream job?  I often think about joining the CIA.  But I also want the fame of being known by society, so I’d probably give up that dream to become a Hobbit who drinks pints of beer and eats apples all day.

3.  I’m really good at…  Tripping over my own feet and forgetting where I parked my car.

4.  What is one way you’ll leave your mark on society?  I like to drive slow in the fast lane.  I save lives that way.

5.  The first things people usually notice about me is…  The way I sparkle.  I literally sparkle all the time.

boozy basil mint chocolate chip ice cream

6.  What are your favorite books, music, music?  I think anything written by Thomas Hobbes is peachy, Rebecca Black made Friday awesome, and Glitter is arguably the greatest movie ever made.

7.  I spend a lot of time thinking about…  Airport traffic control.  And why my hair never seems to set just right.

8.  What are 6 things you could never live without?  Bad hair days.  Infomercials.  Fast food.  The Bachelorette.  Long lines.  Sarcasm.

9.  Overall, I’m looking for…  Cookies right now.

10.  What do you typically do on Friday nights?  Well, date.

11.  You should message me if…  You’re dysfunctionally functional.  Or if you want this homemade ice cream recipe.

Anyhoo.

boozy basil & mint chocolate chip ice cream

I’ve been putting this off long enough.

I’ve been trying to ignore you all summer, merely for the purpose of looking good in a bathing suit and not being super overly-dramatic about life.  But considering my sweaty skin and sticky sheets, my disgruntled mess of a bun and the increasing number of mosquito bites, I want the comfort of ice cream without having to fear small bikinis and tight skirts.

Even when you sit on my hips and don’t always make me look good, I still really like you.  It's really whatever…  Our relationship is a give-and-take sort of thing.

I used fresh strawberries and basil leaves from the garden to think up this dreamy combo...  A total win on all accounts.  This is totally (almost) healthy and totally (super) delicious.  Few things are better.  Don’t act like that’s not true.

No sarcasm here.  I save that for dates only.

boozy basil & mint chocolate chip ice cream

Boozy Basil & Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

adapted from my Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

(yields 8 to 10 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons Creme de Menthe

4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate

4 purple basil leaves, coarsely chopped (or green basil)

PREPARATION:

Over medium heat, warm the milk with the cream, egg yolks, and salt in a saucepan, stirring vigorously with a whisk.  Pour in sugar, and continue to stir until dissolved.

Turn heat to medium high, wait until the mixture starts to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, continuing to stir.  Stir in the Creme de Menthe, vanilla extract, then remove from the heat.

Cover the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for several hours.  Place an ice cream maker in the freezer and freeze until ready to use.  Once ready, remove mixture from refrigerator and ice cream maker from freezer.

Pour ice cream mixture into ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  During the last 5 minutes of churning, fold in chocolate chunks and chopped mint.

Once done, transfer mixture to loaf pan or freezer-friendly bowl and place in freezer until ready to use.

Let the ice cream firm up in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

boozy basil & mint chocolate chip ice cream

smokey black bean & sweet potato burgers with avocado

Ladies and Gentlemen.  My fellow Americans.  My Marshmallows.

smokey black bean & sweet potato burgers with avocado

There are two things you all should really care about.  Setting aside time everyday to read this blog and the fourth of July.  You’ve already chosen to read this blog.  Well played.

Now, I want you to talk about the fourth of July with me.

Like most patriotic folk, I love this holiday…  Almost as much as I love the timeless American look of denim shorts.  It’s the perfect laid back, yet not too casual balance of barbecues, blue moons, and awkward extended family moments.  Luckily, my family usually just keeps to ourselves, but we do have the occasional addition of an awkward new date.  Okay…  That one is usually my fault.

Maybe I’ll invite one of you to come along.  Maybe we’ll end up holding hands.  I don’t know. We’ll see how the night goes.  I’m just really excited about it.

We eat.  We drink.  We dance.  We have our minds blown.  We’re going to dance again.  Eat again.  And repeat.

This burger recipe is perfect for tomorrow night’s celebrations.  Let’s discuss:  A vegetarian burger with black beans, sweet potatoes, and avocado.

Don’t forget the denim.

smokey black bean & sweet potato burgers with avocado

Smokey Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burgers with Avocado

originally adapted from Jessica

(yields 4-6 burgers)

INGREDIENTS:

2 very large sweet potatoes

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 whole garlic bulb

3/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained (if canned)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon basil

pinch of cinnamon

salt and pepper, to taste

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 medium avocado, sliced

4 to 6 whole wheat buns

additional olive oil, if necessary

PREPARATION:

Wash and peel sweet potatoes with a fork or knife and place in the microwave.  Cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes, or until soft and mushy.  Remove, slice in half and let cool until you can scoop out the flesh.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over low-medium heat.  Peel 1 whole garlic head and keep each section intact.  Drizzle the skillet with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and add the garlic, cooking and stirring it for about 5 minutes.  Once done, remove and chop into tiny pieces.

In a large bowl, mash beans with a fork.  Add in sweet potato and mash together, then add in roasted garlic, spices, salt and pepper.  Combine until mixture is moist and thick.  Add in egg, panko bread crumbs, and flour.  Mix together until combined, then place bowl in the fridge for 10-15 minutes for mixture to set.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Remove mixture from fridge and form into 4 to 6 equal patties, then place in the skillet once hot.  Cook one side for 5-6 minutes, add more oil if necessary, and flip burgers to cook other side for another 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast buns and slice 1 large avocado.  Once burgers are cooked, remove from heat.  Assemble by topping each burger with sliced avocado and placing each one in between a bun.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

smokey black bean & sweet potato burgers with avocado

pistachio buttermilk ice cream

The spring seems to be the most vibrant and animated one I've ever seen.

pistachio buttermilk ice cream

I’ve roasted things in myriad flavors, brewed iced coffee, and picked flowers from the garden.

I only wish all that was true.

It’s been rainy, cold, and full of bitters…  The non-alcoholic kind.

Luckily, the weather has been improving.  We’ve had a good run with soup and more soup this winter.  But I’m confident the temperatures will rise and grass will turn green and the flowers will start to bloom.  So I think it’s time to swap hot and hearty for cool and creamy.

What to eat now:  Spring Ice Cream.

pistachio buttermilk ice cream

Ice cream is around all year, but now is the time when it really begins to shine.  Pistachios play the starring role, here.  Yeah, they’re gorgeous.

Next, we use buttermilk.  (Confession:  I love all things buttermilk.)

This recipe is completely foolproof and perfect for the culinary-challenged among us.

The only thing better than homemade ice cream with a perfectly creamy texture and rich taste?  Pistachio buttermilk homemade ice cream with a perfectly creamy texture and insanely rich taste.

You’re welcome.

pistachio buttermilk ice cream

Pistachio Buttermilk Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup skim milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup unshelled pistachios, chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 egg yolks

PREPARATION:

Heat buttermilk, heavy cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat and immediately add pistachios.  Whisk in
salt and return mixture to medium heat.

Whisk egg yolks in a bowl.  When the milk is hot again slowly pour a quarter cup of it at a time into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Continue doing this up to about a cup until the egg yolks are warm and tempered.

Whisk this egg mixture back into the milk on the heat, adding it slowly and stirring constantly over medium heat until thickened.

Remove mixture from heat and chill thoroughly, about three hours.  Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

Once done, transfer to a loaf pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

pistachio buttermilk ice cream

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

There are some things that are just awesome.

oatmeal cookie granola 2.jpeg

Coffee:  Preferably with cream and sugar.  Good friends:  Preferably those who buy you beer and make you stay out way past your bed time.  Trips to the beach:  Again, preferably with coffee and beer and friends.

Toilet paper. The Bee Gees.  Oxygen.  Oh, how we take it for granted.  And breakfast.  Breakfast that doesn't involve frying.  Or hot, spattering oil.  Or boiling water.  Or preheated skillets that burn my fingers.  Or sharp knives.  I need a break from all that...  

Balance is key.  Case in point, granola is a mouthful of holy-heckballs-heaven.  All you need is a bowl and a pre-heated oven.

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

Here's what it comes down to:  A little cinnamon, raisins, honey and brown sugar.  Basically a love child between an oatmeal raisin cookie and a healthy breakfast.

If your instinct is to have it for dinner…  We are best friends.

Me thinks me got a plan.

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

(yields about 4 1/2 cups)

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/3 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins

PREPARATION:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, ground flax, cinnamon and salt.  Stir and set aside.

In a small bowl, measure out oil and pour it in.  Next, add the honey and then the vanilla.  Whisk together, then pour the wet mixture into the oat mixture.  Stir until all is evenly coated.

Spread the granola mixture onto the baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30 minutes, stirring about 4 or 5 times so the mixture doesn’t burn.  Once done, remove from the oven and stir in the raisins.

Place on a flat surface and pat the mixture down with the back of a spatula or large spoon.  Let cool for 20 minutes, then break into clusters.

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.  Happy noming!

Nutritional information (per 1/2 cup): 250 calories, 10.5g fat (1 sat, 4 mono, 4.5 poly), 36g carbs, 3.5g protein, 3.5g fiber