Best of 2014

Here were are again dear readers, at the close of another year.  Time to look back and reflect on our successes in the kitchen.  Mine are almost all recipes that add little nutritional value to your life.  So if you’re looking for help with your resolution, that’s another blog.  Sorry!

Click on the pictures to go to the recipes.

chocolate crunch bars.

banana walnut baked oatmeal.

funfetti cookies.

garlic and herb bread twists.

black bean burritos.

best chocolate chip cookies.

pounded cheese.

swedish pancakes.

chubby hubby cupcakes.

brown butter cherry bars.

IMG_4837

toffee tiramisu.

cheddar tailgating bread.

chili.

chocolate peanut butter globs.

candy cane cookies.

And two non-recipe posts:

brownie taste test.

nantucket.

Want to know what else is good here?  Check out the best of 2013, and 2012.

On Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is {chocolate peanut butter globs}

I spent much of November thinking about important things like gratitude and thankfulness.  And if you’ve been on blogs, or Pinterest, or ever watched Oprah, then you’ve probably had someone tell you that these are important muscles to strengthen.  November is all about working them out.  How many friends of yours posted something they were thankful for every day on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?  A million?  Me too.  I’ve done it myself before.

chocolate peanut butter globs.

But I didn’t this year, mostly because I never got enough get-go to start.

And kind of sort of also because this whole celebrate thing has me thinking about action.  I can easily find something to be grateful for each day.  And I should.  That’s important.  But I could also act on those things.  Maybe not every day, but a lot of the time, I could.  I just don’t.  Cue December.  Another month perfect for cultivating a thankful attitude.  So this month, as I go through the holiday motions, with less of a focus on gifts, and more of a focus on gratitude, I want to make sure the people and things I’m grateful for know and feel that they’re important to me.

Cookies, I find, are always a great way to show gratitude.  These are some of the best I’ve had in a while.  They’re a riff on Ina’s chocolate peanut butter globs, and they’re amazing.

To make at least 2 dozen, you will need:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder, such as Medaglia d’Oro
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
almost one full bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups, choppedRead more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chocolate-peanut-butter-globs.html?oc=linkback
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a few sheet pans with parchment paper.In a bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter, 6 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate, stirring occasionally, until just melted. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla until combined. Add the sugar, raise the speed to medium-high, and beat for 2 minutes, until the batter is thick and falls back on itself in a ribbon. Set aside.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Combine the 1/3 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and fold it into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. In another bowl, combine the peanut butter cups, the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips, and the tablespoon of flour, and fold it into the chocolate mixture. With 2 soup spoons, drop rounded mounds of batter 1 inch apart onto the prepared sheet pans. Bake for 15 minutes exactly. Cool on the baking sheets.

Before the Summer Slips Away {marinated tomato bruschetta}

If you made a list of everything I’ve done this summer, in order of frequency, cooking would fall lower than just about anything else.  I have not cooked anything.  ANYTHING.  A large part of this truth is because we bought a house and I immediately jumped into action, using up everything that was already in our fridge and freezer, throwing out the remains of sauces and mixes saved up (and expired anyway) over the years, and running things off to storage, or to my in-laws, where my husband and I will be residing until the next, approximately, forever.  Cooking was, for once, the last thing on my mind.

marinated tomatoes.

And the other reason I haven’t been playing in the kitchen as much is the same reason I cite every summer.  There’s not much that needs doing in the kitchen.  Take these marinated tomatoes.  Slice up some tomatoes (I recommend home grown–these were gifted to me by a friend with a garden), and let them hang out with garlic, olive oil, and basil for a few hours, and heap them onto toasted bread.  That’s “cooking” in the summer.  And nothing tastes better.

marinated tomato bruschetta.

To make a baguette’s worth of marinated tomato bruschetta, you will need:

 

  • 4 medium or 3 large heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus two cloves, peeled
  • large bunch of basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • one baguette

Combine all ingredients except peeled garlic cloves and bread in a bowl.  Set on the counter at room temperature for 4 hours (though you could get away with less; whatever, it’s summer, it will still work).  When ready to eat, slice baguette into three-quarter-inch-thick slices.  Chop the tip off each peeled clove, and give each slice of bread a good swipe.  The oil will seep into the bread and I promise goodness will ensue.  Toast or grill your slices, and then pile high with the tomato mixture.

 

Calorie Fest 2k12 [cheesecake]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

Enough with the healthy stuff, dear readers.

I made a cheesecake.

And a good one, at that.

Yep, that’s a candle.

This cheesecake hails from December, when I made it for my husband’s/Grandma Glass of Milk’s/my aunt’s Triple Birthday Bash!  All three were born on 12/13.  Well, all three plus Taylor Swift.  But when you’re a food blogger, December is filled with holiday cookies, and January is packed with grains and greens.  When you’re a food blogger, cheesecakes made in the middle of December get relegated to the back of your iPhoto files, waiting for you to rediscover them late one chilly evening while sitting with a warm laptop on your, well, lap.

By now you’ve all given up your healthy eating resolutions, right?  We’re that far into the month, aren’t we?  Even if we’re not, let me tell you this is splurge-worthy.  Indulgent.  Luxurious.  It’s velvety smooth.  The lemon zest does that same thing to vanilla that coffee powder does to chocolate.  The cheesecake doesn’t taste like lemon, it just tastes more like vanilla.  Rich vanilla.

This is Ina’s cheesecake.  There are at least a dozen cookbooks in my library I could have turned to when my husband requested a cheesecake for his birthday, but I went with my girl, the Barefoot Contessa.  Or as Liz Lemon calls her, “That woman on the Food Network whose husband only comes home on the weekends.”  Ina is at her best when she’s making American classics (and yes, she really does turn up the volume), and this cheesecake is a shining example of such dishes.  Out of the three cakes available, this was the one that was first to go.  The one everybody had to have a piece of.

And yes, it had a giant crack in the middle, but whose cheesecake doesn’t?   When you top it with raspberry sauce (which wasn’t memorable, so maybe this sauce next time, okay?), you’ll never even know it was there.

You don’t need a reason to make a cheesecake.  Today is Sunday.  Tomorrow is Monday.  Do it.

To make cheesecake for 12, you will need:

Time.  Cheesecake is not a labor-intensive cake to make, but it takes a lot of time just hanging out in the oven.  Plan to make it the day before you need it.

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 cup red jelly (not jam), such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
  • 3 half-pints fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Original post here.

Chicken Stock, Flavor Boost Edition [chicken stock]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

Warning:  2 chickens were harmed in the making of this post.

I’ve made chicken stock before, but never with this much flavor.  This time, I threw in more carrots, because they were about to go bad, and more cloves of garlic.  I didn’t peel or chop them, I just threw them in.  It was fun.  Also, more thyme.

And this stock turned out so much more flavorful than my last.  Why?  Were the chickens better?  Was the secret just to throw everything in the pot a la Ina, rather than slicing, dicing and browning a la Love and Olive Oil?  Maybe it was my “backyard” thyme?


I have no idea, but I’m glad it made so much.  These 9 cups are just the beginning.  The rest is in the freezer.  Can’t wait to make dinners with this.

Ummm, I didn’t really follow a recipe, I just made this by feel.  I used Ina’s recipe as a guide, but consulted with my main man Mark as well.

*Original post here

Is This Just a High Maintenance Grilled Cheese? [croque monsieur]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

Well, yes.

Because a regular grilled cheese does not leave your countered completely covered with ingredients.

Nor does it require so many dishes.

And, you guessed it, you don’t need the broiler for a regular grilled cheese.

So in that regard, croque monsieurs are high maintenance grilled cheese sandwiches.

But they’re so much more!  They’re an entire sandwich on their own.  They’re the marriage of my two favorite foods:  grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese.  Because croque monsieurs are grilled cheeses that take a bechamel bath before they hit your mouth.  For those of you not as well versed in the French language, this means that should you choose to make these sandwiches, there would be a buttery, creamy, cheesy sauce involved in your lunch.

My introduction to these savory beauties was at a local restaurant in the French countryside, after a visit here.  I know, right?  I continued to hunt these sandwiches down for the remainder of my visit, and not just because in a foreign land at the tender age of 20, my palate still bordered on discerning picky.  Also because I can’t say no to Gruyere.

And dear readers, I’m going to do that thing bloggers do sometimes where they tell you that one bite of xyz dish took them right back to that moment in that foreign land that they long to be in again.  Because one bite into this sandwich in my little DC kitchen and I was transported.  I was sitting outdoors with Wooden Nickels, my aunt and uncle, at a glass table, under an umbrella, in a little French town.  These are the real deal.

To make 2 croque monsiuers, you will need:

  • 4 slices French bread, the best you can find
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 2/3 C milk (skim isn’t ideal, but it will do in a pinch)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 3 oz. Gruyere (I’ve mixed in Cheddar, which I always have on hand, when I don’t have the full 3 oz.)
  • small handful (less than 1/4 C) grated Parmesan
  • 3 slices ham
  • Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toast the bread lightly in toaster or toaster oven.

Melt butter over medium-low heat in small saucepan.  Stir in flour, and whisk till incorporated.  Cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes, to allow flour flavor to cook off.  Stir in milk, and cook mixture, stirring constantly, till it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Off heat, stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and half the Gruyere till melted.

Spread mustard on two slices of bread.  Put 1 1/2 slices ham on top of each piece.  Sprinkle half the remaining cheese over ham.  Place plain slices of bread on top.  Slather the top with cheese sauce, and sprinkle with the rest of cheese.

Bake for 5 minutes at 400, then turn on broiler and cook about 3 more minutes, until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

*recipe loosely adapted from Ina.

**Original post here.

One Little Word

Ali Edwards has this concept wherein you dedicate your year to one little word as a way to focus, grow, and change throughout 12 short but also long months.  I mentioned it here the other day.

Given my life’s recent history, my word could have been something introspective, and brooding, like reflect, or ponder.

BORING.

This year, I picked celebrate.

champagne
(source)

I’m working on celebrating.  Doesn’t it sound like a challenge?

It’s like when I declared 2010 the summer of cake baking and worked to bake as many cakes as possible.  It’s good to have goals.  And I’m super excited to have a goal that’s fun.

Toward the end of 2012, I spent a lot of time thinking about gratitude, and I found at least one thing to be grateful for each day.  I mean, it worked for Oprah.  And celebrate takes gratitude to the next level.  It’s one thing to be grateful and it’s another to act on that gratitude.  How am I celebrating the people I’m grateful for?  How do I celebrate my marriage?  How do I celebrate the routines that I live every.  single.  day?

I want celebrate to be the way I embrace new situations.

I want celebrate to be the way I treat people I love.

I want celebrate to be the way I treat people I don’t even know..

apple crisp

But I think the part that’s going to be the most fun is to see how this word shows up in ways I’m not expecting.  Stay tuned, dear readers.  I want to stick with this one.

I’m kicking off my year of celebrate with a very un-January, but very celebratory food.  Apple crisp.  From none other than The Barefoot Contessa.  It’s a classic.  It’s a cinch to make.  And it feeds a crowd.

To make Apple Crisp, you will need:

For the filling:

  • 3 1/2 lb. red apples, like McIntosh, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
  • 1 1/5 lb. tart apples, like Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
  • grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 T freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 C sugar (If you find that to sweet, dial it down to 1/3 C, or even 1/4 C.  You know this is going to have a giant scoop of ice cream on top, anyway.)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. grated nutmeg

For the topping:

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar (1/2 is fine)
  • 3/4 C brown sugar (Never skimp on brown sugar.  It’s too amazing.)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 C oats
  • 1/2 lb. cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and if you’re feeling truly gluttonous, butter the inside of a 9 x 17 baking dish (If you don’t have one, use something slightly bigger than a 9 x 13.  If that won’t work, use a 9 x 13, and pack things in tight.).

Place all the ingredients for the filling in the baking dish, and toss till combined.

You have two options for the topping, one in a mixer and one with your hands.  I much prefer using my hands, but when I’m crazy busy, the mixer will have to do.  To prepare in the mixer, place all topping ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low, till butter clumps are the size of small peas.  To prepare the old fashioned way, mix all ingredients in a small bowl, using your hands to get the butter all mixed in with everything else.  You’ll know you’re finished when the butter clumps are the size of small peas.

Spread topping all over apple mixture.

Place apple crisp on a foil lined baking sheet.  You want the dish to rest on this, especially if you’ve filled a 9 x 13 baking dish, because the crisp is likely to bubble up and over the sides of the pan.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it can make for a dirty oven.  Bake for 1 hour.  Serve warm, with giant scoops of vanilla ice cream on top.