What Keeps You Going {chili}

chili.

*

In life, it’s important to know what keeps you going.  What small parts of your everyday liturgy are the ones that allow you to rest and recharge.  I’m not talking about setting aside two hours to curl up with Netflix.  I’m talking about the little moments that you savor slowly in hopes of making them last a little longer.  I have three:

1.  The first sip of Starbucks in the morning

2.  Folding laundry

3.  Cooking dinner

Cooking, at least on nights when I’ve thought through what I want to make, and when I’m not in any rush, is such a luxury to me.  When I have other mouths to feed, it’s even better.  The other night, there were 5 of us for dinner at the (beach) table, and I was looking for something comforting.  I love soups and stews that spend their day simmering on the stove, while you busy yourself with other important work (in this case, catching up on the just-for-fun reading I’ve been neglecting), but it’s always bothered me that I don’t have a good beef chili recipe in my arsenal.  I swear by Ina’s chicken chili, but that’s non-traditional.  Sometimes you want the classic stuff.  I found a staple recipe from Cupcakes and Cashmere, and I’m so glad to have it in my back pocket now.  It’s the kind of chili recipe that you can take in any number of directions to suit your needs. I already started tweaking her recipe by changing the turkey to beef, and adding a bottle of beer at the end.  It makes the flavor so much more exciting.

To make chili for 5 or 6, you will need:

2 lb ground beef
2 white onions (medium dice)
4-5 garlic cloves (minced)
2 (28oz) cans of whole, peeled tomatoes
3 tbs chili powder
2-3 tbs canola oil
2 tbs Sriracha (optional)
1 1/2 tbs of kosher salt (less if you’re using Siracha)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 cans black beans
1 can corn
1 bottle beer
Chili condiments (cheese, sour cream, avocado, broken-up tortilla chips)

Brown the beef in the bottom of a large pot.  When it’s cooked through, set aside on a paper-towel-lined plate, and drain fat.  Heat oil in bottom of same skillet and add onions, cooking 7-10 minutes.  Add garlic and spices and cook 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you do.  Return beef to pot and give everything a good stir.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Let sit on the stove at least 45 minutes, and up to a couple hours, checking to make sure there’s enough liquid at all times (adding water if need be).  About 10 minutes before serving, rinse and drain the beans and corn.  Add to pot with beer, and cook another 10 minutes.  Serve hot with plenty of toppings.

*Yes, the picture has kidney beans, and my recipe does not.  Kidney beans were the reason I hated beans for years.  But, you know what?  Beans are great.  Except kidney beans.  They’re just gross.  I made a couple tweaks to Emily’s recipe when I made it, and one I’ll make in the future is ditching the kidneys in the name of more black beans.

 

Valentine’s Day Plans [cherry chocolate granola]

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

What are you up to on Valentine’s Day, dear readers? Do you make a big deal out of the day and get together with your loved ones?  Or do you hide under a blanket with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s?

Valentine’s Day and I have a love/hate relationship.  There are years when it goes unexpectedly well and I concede that maybe it’s not so bad.

And there are others where it seems everyone is making plans to outdo everyone else and I’d rather just put my pajamas on and call it a night.

So far, this is shaping up to be one of the better years.

For one, I helped stage a flower sale/fundraiser at work, and delivered over 700 flowers to some unsuspecting folk.

And for another, there are lots of little ways this particular day will be special.  Starting with breakfast.

Annie posted a recipe for Cherry Chocolate Coconut Granola on her site earlier this year, and I was drawn to it right away.  It was almost identical to a granola I built for myself one morning at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago.  The only major difference I spotted was that Annie’s had chocolate (the minor was that I used cranberries instead of cherries).  So basically, she made things ten times better.  And a million times better than the bowl of Cheerios we were planning to eat.  Even if they were honey nut.

I inhaled a big bowl of this for breakfast this morning, and it was like eating a chocolate chip cookie.  A chocolate chip cookie that tastes like a chocolate chip cookie, but doesn’t have butter, eggs, or added sugar.  And how better to start a day that’s practically dedicated to chocolate, than with a couple of morsels tucked into your first bites?

The best part of this whole granola-making endeavor is that one crunch into my cereal and I realized I never need to purchase the overpriced granola from Whole Foods that I love so much ever again.  The homemade stuff is ten times better, and cheaper, when it comes from your own oven.  Throw on your Birkenstocks and embrace it.  You know you love granola, too.

To make 7 C Cranberry Chocolate Coconut Granola, you will need:

  • 1 C shredded coconut (sweetened, or not)
  • 1/3 C walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 C almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3 C old fashioned oats
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 C dried cranberries
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I had mini chunks so I used those)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a skillet, toast coconut over medium heat, stirring often, until light brown.  Transfer to small bowl, and set aside.  Wipe out skillet and add nuts, toasting 3 minutes, until lightly browned.  Add oats and oil and toast, stirring until oats are toasted, about another 3 minutes.

Pour oat mixture into large bowl and toss with cinnamon, salt, and honey, till combined.  Pour mixture onto baking sheet, pressing till you have an even layer.  Bake, stirring every few minutes (I forgot this part!), for 15 minutes.  Remove baking sheet, toss in coconut and cranberries, stir and move granola to one side of baking sheet.  Using spatula, press granola into flat slab.  Let cool to room temperature.

When cool, break granola into pieces.  Add chocolate bits and serve or store.

P.S.  How great would this be if you’re having people over for brunch?  Just add eggs and mimosas.

*Original post here.

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.

Summer Lunch [couscous with chicken and grapes]

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

Lunch is an oft-neglected meal, isn’t it?  People are always busy during the day, so they either go out or eat a sandwich they slapped together in the morning.  But folks, it doesn’t have to be that way, and summer is the perfect time to start thinking about your lunch options.


Like pasta/rice/grainy salads.  They’re a big time summer thing for me and I have a couple of favorites.  This is the first.  It’s a blend of couscous, chicken, grapes and scallions (oh, and toasted almonds, which I forgot to add this time around) mixed with a mustard vinaigrette.  Sounds like a truly strange combination doesn’t it?  I found the recipe somewhere and made it on a whim one day.  I wasn’t expecting much, and was so pleasantly surprised to taste the results.  It’s a great mix of flavors and textures, and it really is the perfect weekday lunch.  I don’t think it has a name.  Maybe couscous with chicken and grapes?  Weak.  Any better ideas?  No matter what you call them, start playing around with lunchtime salads.  I make mine over the weekend and enjoy them for lunch all week long.

You need:

  • 2 C chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 2 C couscous
  • 1 T olive oil or butter
  • 1 – 1 1/2 C chopped chicken
  • 4 scallions, diced (green and white parts)
  • 1 C grapes, halved
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C toasted almonds
  • 3 T mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Cook the couscous by boiling the chicken broth and T of olive oil or butter.  Remove from heat, pour in the couscous, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

*Time Out*  When I’m by myself, I often stop here, grate in 8 million pounds of Parmesan cheese and eat just plain couscous for lunch.  It’s fabulous, and oh-so buttery with all that cheese.  *Time In*

Fluff with a fork and spoon into a large bowl.  I always do this over the sink as couscous is small and tends to stray.  Add the chicken, scallions, grapes and almonds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pour over the couscous and toss to coat.  You can do this in advance and let the dressing really sink in.  The flavors will start to come together and the dish only gets better with a day in the fridge.

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

Vegetarian Options [spinach ricotta pie]

I vowed to cook from one cookbook a week about a zillion weeks ago, and in those zillion weeks, three have existed in which I’ve come anywhere close to meeting my goal.

spinach ricotta pie.

The first week found me working out of Dinner, a Love Story.

In the second, I made a valiant attempt at using a cookbook on loan from a friend of a friend.  I returned the cookbook, but not before snapping pictures of a couple other recipes I want to try.

And during the third week, I spent a chunk of my time with two vegetarians, so it was Moosewood or bust.

Spinach ricotta pie had to be included because spinach is one of Wooden Nickels’ fave foods.

To make spinach ricotta pie, you will need:

For the crust:

  • 1 C flour (4/5 C white and 1/5 C wheat works well)
  • 1/3 C cold butter (if unsalted, add 1/4 tsp. salt)
  • 3 T buttermilk (took me about 5 T)

To make the crust, cut together flour and butter.  If using salt, add now.  When mixture is uniformly blended, add about buttermilk, 1 T at a time, until mixture holds together enough to form a ball.  Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour.

For the filling:

  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 lb. chopped spinach
  • 1 small, diced onion
  • 2 T butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/2 C grated sharp cheese (I used cheddar)
  • dash nutmeg

Saute spinach and onion with butter, salt, pepper, and basil till spinach is bright green and barely wilted.  Remove from heat, and set mixture aside to cool.  Mix everything else together, blending well.

Roll out pie shell and spread in pie dish.

Add spinach to egg mixture, and mix till incorporated.  Spread mixture into pie shell.

Bake in oven preheated to 375 degrees 40-45 minutes, and serve immediately.

Where Do You Shop? [golden lemon chicken]

Does anyone else shop regularly at more than one grocery store?  More than two?  What about five?

golden lemon olive chicken with couscous.

Here’s my list:

  • The Giant near work – It’s a chain grocery store.  It has everything.
  • The Safeway near my house – It’s small, but it sells booze!  Bonus, it’s walkable.
  • The Safeway near my nail salon, CVS, and a frozen yogurt place I don’t even like that much but in which I always stop anyway – It’s more convenient sometimes when I’m out running other errands.
  • The Whole Foods near work – It’s good for a quick trip in and out.
  • The other Whole Foods near work – It’s good for random ingredients and food you can’t get anywhere else.
  • The Trader Joes where I HATE PARKING SO MUCH – It’s Trader Joe’s.
  • The Trader Joes near my parents’ house in Pennsylvania where there is ample parking – It’s also Trader Joe’s.  With easier parking!
  • Wagshals – It’s the place where I know the butcher, and can get great cuts of meat.  Also truffle butter.
  • The neighborhood farmers’ market – Because who doesn’t dream of just getting everything at the farmers’ market?

Does that seem a little excessive to anyone else?  I can’t think of a single store I’d scrap, though.  Each brings something important to the table, quite literally.

golden lemon olive chicken with couscous.

I made golden lemon-olive chicken the other night for no reason at all except that when I searched make-ahead meals, this was one of the first, non-casserole stops on the internet (please note–I have absolutely nothing against casseroles). That’s a risky move, especially considering I have gobs of cookbooks and meticulously-curated Pinterest boards at my disposal.  But I felt like I’d seen all those before, and I wanted something different.  I was preparing food for company and I had zero desire to do any work the day they were coming.  So I prepped everything the day before, and simply cranked up the stove to reheat everything when my guests arrived.

Golden lemon-olive chicken (which I served sans olives when I realized that the store in which I shopped, Wagshals, didn’t have the right kind, plus I was serving dinner to someone who isn’t supposed to be eating a lot of salt anyway) blew me away.  It’s close enough to our usual fare to satisfy us, but enough of a departure that it felt like an exciting night.

To make golden lemon chicken, you will need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 medium onions peeled, each cut into 6 wedges, root end intact
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 T butter
  • 4 Meyer lemons or organic lemons, 2 sliced, 1 zested and juiced, plus 1 juiced (I used regular lemons)
  • 1 generous pinch saffron (if you’re fancy and you keep saffron around–I don’t)
  • 3 T all purpose flour
  • 1 quart (4 C) chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. shredded chicken (Get some bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, cover them with salt and pepper and schmear about a tablespoon of olive oil on them.  Bake them in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, until juices run clear.  Set aside to cool and shred.)
Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bay leaves and garlic and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir for 3 to 4 minutes, then cover the pan and sweat the onions for3 to 4 minutes more.Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium-high sided skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Slice 2 lemons and gently brown the slices, in 2 batches. As they brown, add them to the pan with the onions. Add 3 more tablespoons butter to the pan and let it melt, then add saffron threads and the zest of l lemon to the melted butter and stir for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour, cook for a minute more, then whisk in 2 1/2 cups of the chicken stock. Season the sauce with turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and let thicken for a couple of minutes. Stir in the juice of remaining 2 lemons and reduce the heat to low. Add the chicken and sauce to the onions and gently stir to combine. Cool and store for a make-ahead meal or, cover the pan to warm the chicken through and combine flavors.

On Photographing Gloop [baked ziti]

Elise posted 7 tips for photographing babies this morning and the second I read her blog post title, I wished it was slightly different.

Elise, I thought, I don’t have a baby.  I have casseroles. 

baked ziti.

Casseroles get a bad reputation, but when done right, they’re the best go-to dinners.  They can be made in advance, or they can be frozen, and if need be, they can be an all-in-one meal.  There are some nights where our vegetable is in that 9 x 13 pan, right along with our meat and our starch, and that’s the best I can do for dinner.  I love casseroles.

They are a beast to photograph, though.

baked ziti.

No matter how wonderful they taste, and this one ranks right up there, they typically end up looking like blobs and gloop on a plate.

And that’s quite tragic, if you think about it, because when you see the pictures for this post, I don’t know that you’ll want to make Dinner, a Love Story’s baked ziti, and that would certainly be your loss.  I don’t always think of casseroles as weeknight fare, because there are often multiple steps, pans, and layers that go into the work of just one dish.  But, in her ever-efficient manner, Jenny figured out how to get baked ziti made in just about one pan.  Seriously.  Not to mention she packs her casserole with mushrooms and spinach, so it doesn’t feel quite as indulgent, as say, lasagna.

To make ziti for a crowd, you will need:

  • 1/2 pound ziti
  • 1 1/2 C crushed tomatoes (I used 1, 15 oz. can)
  • 1/2 C shredded Fontina
  • 1/2 C shredded ricotta salata (though I had mozzarella, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 C baby spinach, chopped (I used way more…probably 3 C)
  • 8 shakes oregano
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • shake of red pepper flakes
  • 3 C mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (whoops, I didn’t read this and used 4…that was a lot of meat)
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 C whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 C plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 T olive oil (I totally left this out–one less step)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large saucepan, bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook for about 8 minutes.  (The pasta will finish cooking during baking.)  Drain the pasta well and rinse with cold water.

In a deep baking dish, combine the pasta, tomatoes, cheeses, spinach, and oregano.

In a large saucepan (like that one you just cooked the pasta in), melt the butter over low heat and add the garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and sausage (breaking up the links with a fork or wooden spoon) and the salt and pepper.  Cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the flour to the mushroom-sausage mixture and cook, stirring continually for 1 minute.  Add the tomato paste, milk, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, whisking, and simmer for 30 seconds.  Pour the sauce over the pasta in the baking dish.  In a separate bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and oil.  Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for 30 minutes.

*If you want to make this in advance, skip the preheating, and prepare all the way through sprinkling the breadcrumbs on the dish.  Cover tightly with a lid or with foil (or both!), and freeze or refrigerate.

Checking In

Dear readers, here we are, 12 days into January.  12 days into 2014.

How’s that working out for you?

It’s been pretty nice over here.  Smooth sailing, if you will.

I have a million things I need to tell you about in great detail.

notebooks

The first being my Whitney English Day Designer that I love.  Carry with me from one room of my house to the other, love.  I like to be near it at all times.  I need to vlog about it.  Like, yesterday.

60 days

The second being my tackling Fawnsberg’s 60 Days of Letter Writing.  They were kind enough to send me some pretty stationery, and I need to tell you why this is the best challenge ever.

reading

And the third being my love of reading that is a thing that is happening in my life again.  THANK YOU, JESUS.  My recent faves are this (oh, that one, it broke my heart), this, and this, depending on how it ends.  Coming up are this, this, and any of these because I own them all because thank you, Christmas gift cards!

I hope life has been going easy on you, dear readers.  I hope you are tackling whatever it was you wanted to tackle in 2014.

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, may I suggest Nutella and Sea Salt Cookie Pie?  Love and Olive Oil made the most gorgeous from-scratch version, but I took the easy way out with pre-made Pillsbury products.  I brought this to a recent work event and the crowd went wild.

nutella sea salt cookie pie

To make Nutella and Sea Salt Cookie Pie, you will need:

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust, brought to room temperature per the directions on the box
  • 1/3 C Nutella, or other chocolate/nut butter spread
  • 1/4 C mini chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 package sugar cookie dough (either break and bake, or slice and bake)
  • sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Unroll pie crust on ungreased cookie sheet and prick all over with fork.  Bake crust for 5 minutes.  Spread nutella over crust, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edges.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Slice break and bake cookies in half, or cut rounds from a slice and bake log, and then cut rounds in half, and arrange over pizza.  Top with sea salt, and bake, 20-25 minute, until edges of pie crust are golden.  Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

*Make this a day or two in advance, wrap it tightly, and store it in the fridge.

The Magic of TV

Someday, when we have more time, we’ll discuss the reason that one cannot turn off a favorite movie (most notably this, this, this, this two-part saga, and this) when it appears on TV, despite having the (commercial-free) DVD in one’s own closet.

twice baked potatoes

I watched almost all of these movies over Thanksgiving break, which brings me to my next point.  OMG TV.  I have always watched more TV than any one person should, but lately, my obsession is reaching new heights.  Or depths.  Call it like you see it.

In any given week, I don’t like to miss:

The Mindy Project

Modern Family

Parenthood

Carrie Diaries (don’t judge)

twice baked potatoes 2

And thanks to Netflix and some friends who let me borrow, I’m at various points of finished with:

Desperate Housewives

Breaking Bad

Cougar Town

How I Met Your Mother

Basically, I’m what’s wrong with America.  But sometimes, after a long day at work, you need to cozy up to the TV and unwind.  It’s about all I have the brain power for these days.  And nothing says cozy like a twice baked potato.  These can be done in any number of ways.  I was so excited to recreate Dash and Bella’s take on them, only to discover we had no prosciutto in the fridge.  Alas!  Another time.

The glorious thing about twice-baked potatoes is that once you know how to make them, and once you grow more comfortable in the kitchen, there’s nothing they can’t become with some substitutions.  I’ve included my notes, as always, but let your own preferences be your guide.

To make 5 twice-baked potatoes, you will need:

  • 3 russet potatoes (aka baking potatoes)
  • 1/4 C sour cream (But I used yogurt, and you could certainly use cream cheese as well.  You’re going for tanginess here.)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • a couple tablespoons of herbs and/or seasonings (I only had thyme on this particular evening, but man do I love some chives in these.  Also, Old Bay.)
  • 1 C grated cheese (I had the remnants of a bag of Mexican blend, but cheddar is always a winner, as are Parmesan and Gruyere.)
  • slices of prosciutto, to stay true to the above-blogged recipe

Preheat your oven to 375.  Wash and dry the potatoes and place them in the oven for 90 minutes.

Remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 5-10 minutes.  Working carefully, as they’ll still be hot, slice potatoes in half, and scoop flesh from insides, leaving about 1/8 inch of potato goodness around the inside.  Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, and mix in sour cream, butter, salt, and almost all of the herb mixture.  Give things just a couple of turns, lest you overwork the potatoes.  They’re going back in the oven, so don’t worry if there are still pats of butter mixed in.  Ooooh, butter puddles.  I just got chills.

Toss your most dejected looking potato-half into the trash can.  Scoop potato mixture into remaining 5 halves, till each overflows with carby goodness.  Top with cheese, and prosciutto, if you, unlike me, keep it in your fridge at all times.  Bake another 10 minutes, sprinkle with herbs, and finish for 5 more minutes.  At this point, the cheese will be bubbling, and you’ll be at the end of your ability to resist what is staring back at you from the oven.

Eat these as soon as possible.

To make ahead, bake the potatoes, scoop out the flesh, mix in your mix-ins, and stop before topping with cheese.  Wrap potatoes tightly in foil, and freeze until you need them.  Bring them to room temperature before topping with cheese and baking as directed.