What I’m Reading

frittata and salad.

KP is spending her summer in Paris, and she is never afraid to take a road trip.  I’m loving following along with her Sur la Route series.

Tsh went to Tuscany, and I am insanely jealous.

In other, travel related news, Raluca posted a (well-organized) local’s guide to NYC.

And since this post is now on a full-fledged travel bender, here is DALS’ recap of their trip to Alaska.  Dreamy.

Brunch in the Country {jeni’s pie-kies}

CV(D) has been talking forever about having our team over for brunch.  She lives out in the country; where you can pull up a chair and a glass of wine, and watch the sunset beneath fields as far as you can see.  The only reason we’re not there every single night is that it’s a hike from where we work. Brunch on a weekend would be an easier fit for our schedules.  We finally made it happen on a recent weekend morning.

cv(d)'s dress.

Any brunch where you can wear your wedding dress is a good brunch in my eyes.

brunch in the country plate.

We each brought a dish to share, and when it came time to dig in, we realized we had also each tried a dish we’d never made before.  We crossed our fingers and hoped everything would be edible.

three fruits.

And oh, it was.

working with dough.

cookie cut outs.

The (Not So) New Girl made an emtpy the fridge frittata with Brie, blue potatoes, peppers, and avocado (this is the kind of brunch fare that doesn’t need a recipe, but here’s something I’ve made that may give you a start in the right direction)

Ali made Breakfast Burrito Bites

CV(D) made Slow Cooker Nutella French Toast

And I made PIE-KIES, brainchild of one of my heroes, Jeni Britton Bauer.

fruit on top.

strawberry peach.

Pie-kies are a hybrid pie/cookie, and Jeni (of course) likes to serve them a la mode.  Or rather, she likes to serve her ice cream a-la cookie.  When Ali sent them to me, I knew that they were exactly what I needed to bring to brunch in the country.  They are not a brunch food, but they’re exactly the kind of thing I like making in the summer, when I have a little more time on my hands.  These require a bit of time, as you have to make the dough, chill the dough, roll out the dough, and slice up a whole bunch of fruit.  But they don’t disappoint.  The cookies are reminiscent of a flaky pie crust, and the fruit this time of year is unforgettable.  When the sugars caramelize on top and the juice start dripping out of the crevices between the cookie and topping, it’s heavenly.

piekies.

My only suggestion to you, dear readers, is to make these close to when you serve them. The day of, if at all possible.  The longer they sit, covered, even in the fridge, the more the juices in the fruit start to make the cookies softer.  In that regard, these are slightly more high-maintenance than sweets I usually bake, but I promise they’re good enough to be worth the extra time and care.

To make two dozen pie-kies, you will need:

For sugar dough:
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
⅓ cup sugar
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes and chilled
2 oz. (4 tbsp) cream cheese
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tbsp very cold heavy cream

For pie topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
fruit, sliced into 1/8 inch slices (the recipe called for 3 pounds; I used a lot but not nearly that much)
1 quart ice cream (any flavor)

Directions:
1. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until dough forms.
2. Remove from food-processor bowl, divide in half, and knead each half to soften.
3. Flatten halves into disks; wrap each individually with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

For sugar dough:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray baking sheets with cooking spray.
2. Roll out 1 disk of dough about ⅛” thick.
3. Using 2½” to 3″ cookie cutters, cut out shapes and place them on the prepared baking sheets.
4.  Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other disk.
5. Blend sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl, then dip fruit slices into sugar mixture, generously coating each. (I did a little experimenting with dipping, versus sprinkling sugar liberally on top of the piekies.  I like the second method because it caused much less fruit juice to seep all over the baking pan).
6. Arrange fruit on cutouts. (Fruit will shrink during baking, so it’s OK to have slices extend slightly beyond the dough edges.)
7. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden*. Remove sheets from the oven, and let pastries cool before serving.

To assemble:
1. Garnish ice cream scoop with one pie-kie.

*A note – I like to bake one tray of cookies at a time, so the steam in the oven doesn’t affect the texture of the cookies as they’re baking.  If you don’t have the time or patience to make this happen, your cookies will be fine.  If you do, they’ll be better.

Cherries {cherry brown butter bars}

Until last year, I had never eaten a cherry.  We never ate them growing up, and I guess my friends must have, but they didn’t trade them from their lunches, and somehow, I missed the cherry boat.  My husband, however, dreams of cherries all the live-long year.  He starts getting excited that they, “Might be at the market soon,” in like, February.  Which made it difficult to wait until JULY of this year to get our hands on some.  Was it our long winter that kept us from seeing any fruit besides apples at the farmers market until about last week?  Now that we don’t have to wait for strawberries and blueberries and cherries anymore, we are going overboard in the fruit department with our grocery haul every week.  I even made a vow to create as many fruit-centric desserts as possible between now and the end of summer.

cherries.

Cue Deb, who seems to always have the answer to, “What do I do with this heap of (insert type of fruit here) that is so ripe it won’t last past this evening?”  When the fruit is cherries, the answer is Cherry Brown Butter Bars.  I put these together (a day in advance) for a dinner with my in-laws one recent evening.

cherry brown butter bar crust.

A note on these:  They do take a little bit of patience, especially if you, like me, do not own a cherry pitter, nor a bottle with which to hack one.  Deb seems a woman of endless patience, and so when she tells me to pit cherries, or to line my 8 x 8 pan with parchment to make lifting and slicing easier, then though I may not be as precise in my measurements (why measure and cut when you can just fold back?), I will at least attend to the task with my personal best.  In reality, I am certain that Deb, with that adorable almost 5 year old in tow, cannot have endless patience, because I’ve never met anyone with endless patience, but the thing here is that I’m willing to go the extra mile for her.  Her recipes always turn out that well.  Also she liked my Instagram.

cherries.

cherry brown butter bars.

To make 16 bars, you will need:

Crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (about 12 ounces once you pit them)

Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. Congratulations! You’ve just faked a square tart pan.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl, or if you’re Deb, in the bottom of the small saucepan you used to melt the butter. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (though, of course, this took less time in my hyperactive oven so please watch your baking times carefully). Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. The cherries, if they fall over your slicing lines, will want to give you trouble but if you saw a sharp knife into them slowly before pressing down, they’ll cut neatly and with minimum carnage.

 

On Eating

I’m one of those people who loves to eat.  I love the whole process, from start to (almost) finish.

I love sitting down on the weekends and planning out dinners for the week.

I love taking my time shopping at Whole Foods.

I love getting to know the vendors at our farmers’ market.

I love the Italian man who sells me pasta and tells me I’m his favorite customer (I mean, duh).

I love preparing dinner.

I love chopping garlic.

And mincing onions.

And browning meat.

And I love eating.

It’s a joyful process for me.

parmesan fries.

Is that too much?

Then know this.

I hate doing the dishes.

But I do love eating.

And it’s amazing how much my tastes have changed over the years.

I went from making one pot dinners from my mom’s issues of “Women’s Day” and “Family Circle,” to using ingredients like prosciutto and arugula.

It didn’t happen overnight.

on eating.

It largely happened because I started reading and watching pretty much anything that had to do with food.  After you’ve watched enough people make kale chips, you figure, it’s time to try them for yourself.

Yeah, I still don’t like kale chips.

But the more I watched food being made, the more interested I became.

And the more I had to try for myself.

When I make a dish with my own hands, I’m so much more likely to enjoy it.

I have a vested interest in the results because of all the preparation I did.

I think this is all just to say, don’t be afraid to try new things.

Happy 5th Birthday to A Glass of Milk {blueberry summer cake}

When we weren’t looking (because we were celebrating the 4th of July) this blog went and turned 5!  5 years old!  If it was a child, it would be starting Kindergarten, and I’d be thrilled that someone else was going to keep it occupied for a big chunk of the day.

summer berries.

But here I am behind the keyboard, still plugging away.  Rather than make my blog a big, impressive cake, like I have in the past, I simply modified my favorite cake, using the berries Wooden Nickels had sitting on the counter for our family and a little bit of lime zest.  I love a little bit of lime zest.

my favorite cake.

Thus, strawberry summer cake (I made one of those, too) became blueberry summer cake, and was promptly gobbled up even faster than her red cousin.

blueberry swirls.

I could not get my photos of this cake in focus, so I’ll have to make another, stat.

blueberry summer cake.

To make blueberry summer cake, you will need:

  • 6 T butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 C milk (I’ve used 2% and whole and both work just fine)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • zest of one lime (optional)
  • 1 lb. bluberries, washed and fully dried
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 or 10 inch cake or Springform pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add egg and beat until incorporated.  Slowly add milk and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix just till combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Arrange blueberries on top of batter in single layer.  Or don’t.  Dump all the blueberries on top of the batter, scatter them evenly across the cake.  Either way, give them a little nudge down with the palms of your hands.  Bake cake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 40-50 more.  Test for doneness wherever you think you won’t hit a blueberry.  You’ll probably burst one anyway, so just look to see whether goopy yellow stuff comes out with the gorgeous purpley sauce.

Let cool at least 20 minutes before removing from pan, top with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve in large wedges.

A Summer Check-In

 

No What I’m Reading this week, dear readers, because I’m reading more real books than Internet these days (it’s a great thing).  Instead, a little summer check in.  How’s yours going?alsi.

What I’ve Done:

Gone to the beach.

Walked a lot.

Visited 3 states I hadn’t before.

drink.

What I’m Doing:

Tackling some long-neglected at-home projects.

Reading a ton.

Trying new cocktails at night.

juice bar.

What Still I Want to Do:

Binge on all of these episodes.

Finish this book (It’s been a good one, but you can’t read 100 pages about soil as fast as you can an Emily Giffin novel.)

Make stuff with all the fruit that is finally (FINALLY!) available at the farmers market.

Fancy Snacks {yogurt with bananas, coconut, almonds, and dark chocolate}

Every Thursday, Tracy posts a fancy snack (here is one of my favorites), and on a recent Thursday, I realized that, duh, I can fancy up my own trips to the pantry.  Inspired by my favorite Chobani flip flavor, Almond Coco-Loco, I created a little yogurt bowl that I cannot get enough of.  Since the first bowl I mixed, I’ve been eating this any time hunger strikes, and it always hits the spot.

noosa yogurt.

Have you had Noosa yogurt?  Seriously amazing.

ingredients.

Spoon some of your favorite flavor yogurt in a bowl.  Slice a banana on top. Add about a tablespoon of sliced almonds, and a tablespoon of coconut (I almost always use unsweetened).  Break a square off your favorite dark chocolate bar, and chop chocolate into small pieces.  Add to yogurt.  Mix everything together, and dig in.  Obviously, this isn’t a strict recipe.  You could double (triple!) the chocolate, sub out a different kind of nut for something crunchy you like, or add something you can’t believe I forgot.  But what I love about this particular combination is that each bite of yogurt contains a little bit of all your mix-ins.

coco loco yogurt.