for cookies and for kale

eating well to live well


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Return of the Kale

It’s been too long. Too long since my last post and far too long since I proclaimed my love for my favorite cruciferous vegetable. With that, I bring you more kale.

In times of stress, I often find myself browsing the aisles of my favorite groceries. There is something about the flow of customers, kids and produce that is distracting and soothing. The summer brings wonderful things to the grocery store–colorful berries, misshapen tomatoes and striped melons. All of these fruits are cause for celebration. Or, at the very least, a cause for some culinary creativity. This is the time of year when I eat blueberries by the pint-full (fruit has no serving size, as far as I’m concerned). However, in hopes of giving my berries a better home than my greedy hands, I slipped them in with my favorite leaves for a delicious summer salad.

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Blueberry and Kale Salad

1 bunch lacinato kale, deveined and slivered

1/4 c. Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette

2 T. sunflower seeds

2 c. cooked quinoa

2 T chopped fresh basil

1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

1 pint blueberries

 

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions (1 part quinoa: 2 parts liquid) and let cool.

2. Wash, devein and chop kale (I like to layer 3 deveined leaves on top of each other, roll them together long-ways and sliver them in horizontal slices)

3. Pour dressing over kale and massage briefly, just until the kale begins to wilt. I love this blush wine vinaigrette, which they sell at Whole Food though any red wine vinaigrette will work.

4. Stir in sunflower seeds, basil and quinoa.

5. Fold in blueberries and feta.

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Best of the Web

IMG_0010Unfortunately, I don’t get to post about all of the best recipes I make. In fact, most of them go undocumented. I do have some definite favorites though and it seems unfair to leave y’all out of the loop. These are the recipes that I scribble into my recipe book and make over and over again.

Farro Pilaf: This is such a great vegetarian dinner dish. It’s so rich and comforting but still really healthy! Of course I used kale instead of spinach (this is for cookies and for kale after all) but even my dad raved about it. It is made with farro, which is a whole grain from italy similar to barley but like quinoa, it is a good source of protein (love when that happens!). The recipe also calls for roasted wild mushrooms, which I had never heard of before, but I would add twice as many they are so good.

Zucchini Brownies: Cookie + Kate is a beautiful vegetarian blog. I haven’t had the chance to make a ton of her recipes but these are my favorite brownies by far. I am such a sucker for dense chocolate brownies but they usually leave me with a massive headache and angry stomach. These are sweetened with honey, use whole wheat pastry flour but still manage to be super chocolatey. My family won’t vouch for them but Liz will!

Bohemian Wedding Cake: First of all, the name. I really really love “rustic” cakes–the kind that aren’t supposed to be all that pretty or fancy but taste SO GOOD. This cake is rustic, for sure. It might just be a pumpkin cake with the best frosting of all time but that should be reason enough to make it.

Spaghetti with Collard Greens: Another great dinner from Whole Living. This is by far my favorite magazine (besides maybe National Geographic…or House Beautiful). I heard rumors that they are folding; if so, I may shed a tear. Their website is equally fantastic and you can browse by many different categories. This is a great dish with simple flavors. Just plain good.

Cookie Dough Balls: Angela is a genius. Really though, I have been following her blog since high school and she never ceases to surprise me with her creative vegan recipes. Her cookie dough balls are made from cashews, oats and maple syrup. Even still, they really do taste like cookie dough! I like to make a bunch of mini ones to put on my banana soft serve.

Bean & Farro Salad: Another farro dish. This salad is so fresh and healthy. I love any kind of bean and grain salad because they are so easy to make and stick in the fridge for later. This salad uses green apples and cilantro to make it super delicious. The Honest Fare blog also has beautiful pictures and recipes worth browsing.


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Green Beginnings

kale 1Happy New Year!

Now that the holidays are over, ’tis the season of resolutions. Personally, I have never been a fan. I make resolutions all the time (use my planner, keep my drawers organized, eat more kale, eat fewer cookies etc.), some I keep, others I don’t. So January first isn’t really a monumental occasion for me. I do, however, appreciate a nice post-holiday cleanse. By that, I really mean just throwing a few more vegetables into my diet. And lucky me, Santa made that extra easy this year by gifting me with a brand new, shiny, beautiful Vitamix. I know there is a lot of hype surrounding these things but dare I say it’s valid? It truly is a magical machine. Nuts, carrots, ice, you name it–throw it in and the Vitamix spits it out in velvet. Better than water to wine.

I have always been a fan of green smoothies. Some might find the color off-putting but I like it. I like it a lot. Green Monsters, as they are often called, are the easiest way to eat tons of nutrients without the calories. Even if you don’t love the taste, it’s easy to fall in love with the idea of a drinkable panacea. And so, I made the perfect smoothie for the New Year, filled with greens, oranges and yellow. The key to a perfect Green Monster is using frozen fruit instead of ice. I like to avoid ice if possible, because the frozen fruit blends much smoother. I also use bananas that are not overly ripe as they tend to blend better. You can adjust the amount of liquid depending on how thick you like your smoothie. The more frozen fruit you use, the more liquid you will need. I think unsweetened almond milk is perfect for this. I like to use a small piece of ginger but if you are a fan, feel free to add more. Please excuse the nail polish.

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Perfect Green Monster

1.25 c. unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 small piece of ginger (marble-sized)

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped

2-3 stalks of curly Kale, deveined

1/2 banana, frozen

1/4 c. mango, frozen

1/4 c. pineapple, frozen

  • Place ingredients into blender in the order listed above and blend until smooth.


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Christmas Checkerboards

checkerboards 1IMG_7159There is no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than baking–especially absurdly colored cookies that would be inappropriate all other months of the year. I will admit, these things look kinda freaky but it’s Christmas. Who cares? Now is the time to make cookies more deserving of Whoville than your own kitchen.

And so, with Dr. Seuss in mind, I shaped out the dough for these shortbreads. It took a little bit of play-dough skills and some mental math to get the measurements right but after that it’s just slice and bake! Easy as…cookies. They taste a lot better (or maybe just as good) as they look because after all, butter and sugar can’t really go wrong. If you are more traditionally inclined, I have included the black and white checkerboard recipe as well. Merry Christmas!

Red & Green Checkerboards

adapted from Sweet Maria’s Big Baking Bible

For one color dough (you will need twice this amount to make both colors)

1 stick unsalted butter

1 c. sugar

2 egg yolks

1/2 t. vanilla

1 t. almond extract

Food Coloring (I used 20+ drops but it’s up to you)

2 1/4 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

  1. In electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg yolks, vanilla and almond extracts and food coloring. Mix until well blended. Add Flour baking soda and salt and mix on low speed, just until dough forms.
  2. Repeat process with other color dough so you end up with two batches of shortbread dough, one red and one green.
  3. To shape dough divide each color into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten each ball into a rectangle about 1/2 an inch thick. One rectangle should be slightly wider than the other. Once you have 4 rectangles, chill them in the fridge for half an hour so they are firm but not hard.
  4. Cut the smaller rectangles vertically into four long pieces and the larger rectangle into five. Shape the dough into square shaped logs by lining three logs up, alternating colors. One log will have 6 green pieces and 3 red, while the other will have 6 red and 3 green.
  5. Wrap the dough tightly in wax paper or saran wrap and chill for about an hour. Once the dough is ready to slice, cut into pieces 3/8 of an inch thick. Place onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees, until the edges start to brown.

This recipe yields 2 logs of dough which makes up to 50 cookies.

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For the Black & White Expresso Checkerboards

1 stick unsalted butter

1 c. sugar

2 egg yolks

1/2 t. vanilla

1 t. almond extract

2 1/4 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. chocolate chips, melted

3 t. instant coffee granules

 

Since you are not coloring the dough, you will only need to make one batch of the dough listed above

  • Repeat step 1 and take out a little more than half of the dough and set aside. This will be your white checkerboard dough.
  • With the remaining dough left in the mixer add the melted chocolate and coffee granules. Mix to combine.
  • Shape white dough into large rectangle and chocolate dough into smaller. Repeat steps 4 and 5 from above.

 


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Back to blogging + Spicy Pecans!

pecans 1After a bit of a hiatus, I am back with a new recipe! Since my last post, the holidays have kicked into full swing. I have already sported a few ugly sweaters and a santa hat or two, but it wasn’t until my peppermint mocha in the airport that I really felt the spirit. Fact: Starbuck’s pretends like this is a holiday time only specialty but I always seem to get them in June (Halfway to the real Christmas!). After all, it wouldn’t be a solo trip home without seasonal beverage to warm my hands…and heart.

The truth is, I made this recipe over Thanksgiving and hoped to post it earlier, but they just didn’t last. It took all of 48 hours and waning will-power for these spiced pecans to disappear undocumented. Let’s just say that’s a testament to their awesomeness. Liz might even agree! I think I know I’m growing up when I’m more excited about the sweet and spicy glazed nuts than the gingerbread men. Seriously though, I thought nuts were a lame party gift for adults that we then mindlessly threw out on the table to please the gifter. False! These. are. NUTS. Really, truly, perfect. My smaller family members probably won’t agree but these can just be for the grown-ups. I’m planning on making a bunch more for gifts this season.

pecans 2peans 3Spiced Pecans

2 1/2 c. Pecans halves, very roughly chopped

1 large egg white

1/3 c. brown sugar

1 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. cayenne

1/2 t. chili powder

1/4 t. ground cumin

  • Beat the egg white until it is frothy. There should be no liquid at the bottom of the bowl
  • Stir in sugar and spices
  • Coat pecans with egg-spice mixture and spread evenly onto parchment-lined baking sheet
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 300 degrees, stir, then bake for 10 minutes at 250 degrees and let cool


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Blonde is Better

Each time I get ready to head back to school I promise myself that my day will be spent packing and organizing. And each time I spend the day baking. A lot. Of course there is no real occasion to celebrate or even request for goodies, but it seems imperative that I take advantage of my oven by stuffing it with loaves and cookies all day long. Today was no exception, so here’s to hoping there are some hungry friends waiting for me back at school!

I stumbled upon a recipe for blondies a year ago after reminiscing about the butterscotch brownies from my elementary years (if you went to Country Day, you know exactly what I’m talking about). These blondies use a combination of heath bars and chocolate chips to make them extra special but I would imagine there are about 1000 different combinations of mix-ins that would work. This time I decided to brown the butter before baking the blondies and they were awesome! It really only takes an extra minute or two of simmering to take the butter from melted to brown and turn your blondies into little squares of toffee goodness. I was surprised at just how well they turned out, but then again any recipe with sugar, butter, more sugar and more butter will probably be better than edible. I would definitely recommend these if you are looking for a change from the typical brownie or cookie.

Toffee Blondies

8 T. butter

1 c. brown sugar

1 large egg

1 t. vanilla

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking powder

1/8 t. baking soda

1/2 c. chopped Heath bars (I think I used 2)

1/2 c. chocolate chips

To brown butter:

  • Place butter in skillet on medium-high heat and melt
  • Once it starts to brown, stir vigorously until it turns a dark amber–be careful, it happens fast!
  • When butter is brown, remove from heat immediately and add to bowl with brown sugar

For the batter:

  • Cream sugar and butter together and then mix with egg and vanilla
  • Add dry ingredients and combine
  • Add mix-ins and pour into greased 8×8 inch pan
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, a toothpick inserted into the middle should not come out clean. Do not over-bake.

*Because these brownies are filled with toffee, they harden up quite a bit in the fridge. Store at room temperature.


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On the Table

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Sadly, the greatest food holiday did not lead to the greatest blog post. I had plans of documenting my long-awaited thanksgiving meal with beautiful pictures of vegetables, turkey and desserts. So much hype and I forgot the memory card for my camera. Sad day, indeed. In lieu of pretty pictures, I will give a round up of what was on (or what I wished was on) the Thanksgiving table this year. 

Spinach Gratin: My mom always makes this recipe from Ina Garten. It’s definitely my most anticipated dish. Although it’s technically green, I would hardly call this a light side. It’s creamy and cheesy and goes well with everything. Not only that, it tastes even better the next day.

Cream Biscuits: At my grandmother’s request, I attempted my first biscuit recipe. I was hoping to avoid using lard. I have vivid memories of lib-balm making at summer camp involving a large vat of animal fat. I can’t bring myself to use it in any recipe since. These cream biscuits from the Smitten Kitchen blog were so easy to make and freeze. I imagine they would make great strawberry shortcakes. 

Maple Dijon Brussels Sprouts: I found this recipe via Taste Spotting a couple years ago and I have made it countless times. It’s my favorite way to enjoy one of my favorite vegetables. Brussels sprouts get a bad rep but they are kinda awesome, for real. 

Bourbon Pecan Pie: Last year for Christmas I received John Besh’s cookbook, “My New Orleans”. To say it’s beautiful would be an understatement. No matter how many times I look through it, I never get tired of the pictures, side notes or back stories. It is everything I imagine when I think of New Orleans cuisine and although some of the recipes intimidate me (someone teach me how to cook fish), the baked goods are more my speed. I can’t say pecan pie is my favorite dessert, but his looks perfect and tastes just as good, I’m sure. I think Christmas might be just the time to try it…

Chocolate Stout Cake: This cake is unreal. I have made it three times now and keep going back, despite the inevitable sugar hangover. It uses 2 cups of Guinness stout which really comes through in the cake. The beer and dark chocolate make it a very dense, HUGE, chocolate cake. Even my dad, who generally lacks any affinity toward sugar, samples this one.