Dark Chocolate Chip-Pecan Pancakes

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancake stack

I opened up this recipe this week with the intention of pinning it to my Pinterest recipe board.  Then I went to my recipe board and discovered that I’d pinned this exact recipe four times over the last 2 years.  My subconscious must really want these pancakes.  I decided, no more pining for a pin!  I made these bad boys this morning for breakfast, right when the clouds rolled in and it started raining.  We enjoyed the rest of our coffee on the front porch while watching the rain and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the perfect way to spend the morning.

These pancakes are intense, rich, but not too sweet.  I accidentally left out the melted butter from the batter (believe me that I would never do that intentionally) and they turned out just fine!   Matt had pancake syrup on his and I had creme fraiche sweetened with a bit of honey on mine and I will proudly say that my way was the best.  But his way photographed better 🙂 Whatever you decide to put on top of these pancakes, be it whipped cream, syrup, powdered sugar, yogurt, it’s going to be the right decision.  The baby girl loved them, too and called them “panpays”, which was nearly the cutest thing I’d heard all week.

Enjoy your weekend!  Hope you find time to make these desert-like pancakes at some point!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Chocolate Pecan Pancakes*
makes about 10 pancakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oilPreheat oven to 225 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla; pour over flour mixture, whisking to combine. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans; let batter stand until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

    In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until a water droplet sizzles; swirl to coat bottom of pan with oil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Spoon four small mounds (1 heaping tablespoon each) of batter into skillet. Cook until bubbles appear in center, 3 to 4 minutes. With a thin spatula, flip pancakes; continue cooking until set, 3 to 4 minutes more.

    Transfer to a baking sheet; cover loosely with foil; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and batter in three more batches (adjust heat as necessary to avoid overbrowning).

    Stack ’em up and enjoy, topped with anything you’d like!

*recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Stack of Chocolate Pancakes

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Basil Lemonade – it’s 107 Degrees, Today

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It’s hot. Really hot.  107F, to be exact.  I was about to post a lovely recipe for a summer corn chowder and then I realized that I certainly don’t want to eat hot soup today and I assume you don’t, either.  You probably don’t even feel like eating much at all.  With heat like this, you need one thing: to stay hydrated so that you don’t have a panic attack and swerve into the cars coming toward you during rush hour.  I’m giving you a stupidly easy recipe, today.  It even involves a mixGASP!  I’ve made this lemonade for several events and at each event, people fawn over it like it’s magical or something.  “How is it sooooo good?”  I really don’t know why basil has such a wonderful effect on lemonade, but it does.  Adds that floral, refreshingly peppery note to it. Gives it a boost and elevates it from boring ol’ lemonade status.  Sure, you could do this without a mix, but I haven’t yet, and so I’m not going to claim that everything I do is from scratch.  So today, I urge you to do as little as possible, as well,  and making this lemonade is right up that “minimal effort” alley.  Enjoy.

Today’s snack time will be little cherry hand pies that Ollie and I made this morning, and this lemonade.  She’s never had lemonade, so we’ll see how it goes.  The hand pies were really easy.  You make the only pie dough that’s worth your time, cut out 3″ rounds, fill with fresh chopped cherries and squeeze shut, crimping with a fork.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes until browned.  And no, our snack times don’t look like this.  They are in the high chair with me flipping through a magazine or doing dishes while Olive smears cherries all over her face in our dimly lit dining room.  But that wouldn’t photograph nicely, now, would it?  🙂

Cherry Hand Pies with Basil Lemonade

Basil Lemonade

Country Time Lemonade mix, filled to the 2 quart line
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
1/4 cup sugar
A little less than 2 quarts of water

Dissolve the lemonade mix into the water in a large pitcher.  Using your hands, crush the basil leaves until the oils are released.  Mix into the lemonade.  Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and mix well.  Let it sit in your fridge until cold – the longer it sits, the more basil-y it gets.  Strain into glasses (no one wants a soggy leaf in their cup) over ice and serve!

Basil Lemonade Drink

Cheesy Grits with Olive Pesto and a Soft-Boiled Egg

Cheesy Grits with Olive Pesto and a Poached Egg

Grits, Polenta, Cornmeal – whatever you call it and however you prepare it, it can take on many forms and flavors.  To us, slow-cooked grits is about as comfy as comfort food gets.  When done right, grits can be amazing.  Too often, people associate grits with the translucent, gel-like, flavorless substance they encounter at cheap breakfast houses the world over.  I often say that if you don’t like a particular food, you might have just had a bad version. I was this way with grits, apple pie, turnips, pork chops, just to name a few.  When I had a GOOD bowl of cheesy, smooth grits, I was hooked.  When I had an apple pie that was distinctly apple and had a good, buttery crust and wasn’t watery, I understood the appeal.  Sometimes you just have to give a dish a few tries before putting it in the “dislike” category.

This recipe for grits is one of my favorites, so far.  This basic, creamy grit recipe stays the same – just the toppings change.  This makes it one of the easiest weeknight meals to prepare because the grits cook for about an hour, which you inadvertently stir while you’re doing other things.  Then, when it’s time for dinner, you just spoon out helpings, add toppings of choice, and dig in.  I honestly think that it’s a healthy meal, too, because the grits are cooked with chicken stock and you don’t even have to add cheese for amazing depth of flavor, if you use good grits.  I use Lamb’s stone ground grits, (you can find these at United) and they are amazing.  Just a little seasoning and they are perfect.  So, the indulgence level is up to you with this beautiful, blank canvas!

I found a recipe for an olive pesto on this beautiful blog, and with the poached egg, she had me sold.  Only, I didn’t poach mine, I did a pretty fool-proof method of soft boiling the eggs, letting them cool, and then carefully peeling them.  Not so fresh eggs work best with this method.  I will post my own pesto recipe on this blog, soon, as I’ve made it quite frequently and it’s one of those things, like guacamole, that you should just know how to do and do well.  And by “well” I mean, keep it pure and simple!

Cheesy Grits with Poached Egg and Olive Pesto

Cheesy Grits with Olive Pesto and a Soft Boiled Egg*

For the Polenta:
2 cups stone ground grits (do NOT use instant grits)
8 cups water/chicken stock (I did half and half)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or any other hard cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Get the water and/or chicken stock boiling on the stove.  Gradually whisk in the grits, careful to break up all the clumps.  Lower the water to a simmer and stir, occasionally, for about an hour.  You can test to see if they need more cooking by tasting a bit for crunchiness.  Shouldn’t be too crunchy – think of it like cooking rice.  Stir in the cheese till it melts and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cover and set the burner on low and get on with your toppings.

For the Pesto:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup green olives, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh oregano or marjoram (I discovered they are wickedly similar)
1/4 cup fresh thyme, coarsely chopped

Put all this stuff in a blender, food processor, or tall cup with an immersion blender and pulse till chunky and well combined.

For the Eggs:
1 egg per person, room temp (To make them room temp quickly, simply put them in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes)
a big ol’ pot of water
tablespoon of white vinegar
salt

Get a big pot boiling with water and salt it and add the vinegar.  Carefully lower the eggs into the boiling water.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from the water and let them sit in lukewarm water till cool enough to handle.  Veeeerrrrrry carefully peel the eggs and set aside.

Assemble!

Spoon grits into each bowl (they may need to be stirred a bit from sitting there.  They form a skin, but it’s okay, it stirs back up just great) and top with a poached egg, a spoon of pesto and extra pepper.

*adapted from thekitchn.com

Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes

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I used to have a huge apricot tree in my front yard.  It was so wonderful throughout the seasons to see the blossoms appear in spring and the fruit appear around June and the leaves turn shockingly golden in October.  It was one of my favorite things about our house and it introduced me to jamming and gave me a passion for it.  Because of that tree, I learned to make apricot preserves and the first two years we had fruit, I canned nearly 100 jars of apricot jam variants. Vietnamese Cinnamon, Chinese 5 Spice, Bourbon Brown Sugar, Rosemary, Vanilla Bean (the best version) and even Crushed Red Pepper Apricot!  I gave them away as gifts and really just reveled in the sudden surge of domestic satisfaction I was getting from the process of gathering, cleaning, cooking and canning a resource from my own yard.  I felt like such a good steward of those little golden gifts!

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To make a sweet story a bit sad, that tree fell victim to the terrible drought our area has been suffering the past three years.  The second year into the drought, the fruit on our tree was tiny but packed with flavor.  It was the last year it would bear fruit.  We had to chop it down last summer and I will admit, I mourned the loss of that tree for months.  We’ve tried planting replacement apricot trees twice, now, and borers got the second one (and the first – it was a borer/drought combo) and the second replacement got hit by two late frosts and never recovered (although I won’t call it officially gone till next spring).

So maybe it’s not meant to be?  Maybe the lesson learned is to make good use of what you have while you have it.  Revel in the gifts you’re getting now, because soon, they may not be available to you.  If you have a fruit tree and don’t have time to make anything from it, first, call me and I’ll come pick up every piece from your yard (I know there’s no fruit on trees in this area, yet – still, the sentiment always applies) and second, if nothing else, just eat from it!

This recipe is a wonderful, easy recipe that can be used with fresh, canned or even dried apricots (or any fruit, really).  I used dried apricots that I reconstituted in a bit of water, first, because I couldn’t find canned, as the recipe called for.  They turned out wonderful and they lasted for a week!  The cake part is a wonderful cake recipe and one that I plan on using for other purposes in the future.  It calls for buttermilk, and I happily used some raw buttermilk from our local dairy, Pereira Pastures.  They are suffering from the drought too, and could use your support if you are from this area and feel like making a donation and getting some amazing milk in the process!

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Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes*
makes six cakes

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
8.5 ounces apricot halves, sliced
1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter six 6-oz ramekins and place them on a baking sheet with a shallow rim.

Divide the pine nuts evenly among the ramekins.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat.  Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and the water and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the apricots and stir gently until coated.  Divide the apricots and syrup evenly among the cups.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the remaining 4 tbs butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and the granulated sugar on medium speed until well blended.  Beat in the egg and the vanilla until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, mix half of the dry ingredients into the batter until just combined.  Mix in the buttermilk until combined.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until combined.  Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins and smooth the tops.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes (mine took more like 45).  Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cook for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the ramekins to loosen the cakes.  Invert the cakes onto individual dessert plates and serve warm with fresh whipped cream, or a drizzle of amber agave nectar, like I’m currently obsessed with.  🙂

* recipe from the Bonne Femme Cookbook!

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Rosemary Crusted Pork Chop with Coconut Milk Braised Carrots

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This is a good meal for many reasons.  The pork chops were actually a good thickness, and lean, and were buy one pack, get another pack for free (4 really thick chops in each package.  I get ridiculously excited for discounts in the meat department.)   I bought a 5 pound bag of carrots two weeks ago, and so I am currently looking for different ways to prepare them, and found a stunningly simple and flavorful way on one of my favorite blogs, French Foodie Baby.  Say what you will about my French obsession, but those people KNOW their food, and from a very loving depth that centers around family and love of pure ingredients.  Helene, from FFB, is one of the best writers in the myriad of food blogs out there. I literally exhale with relaxation when I read her posts.  She challenges me and inspires me and makes me want to be better at being thoughtful about what I put on the plate for my family.

The braised carrots in coconut milk was from her blog and I just took the concept and did it in a much bigger batch on my stove so that I’d have leftover finger foods for Olive for the week.  And so I could use up the never ending bag of carrots.  I swear that thing is multiplying.

I don’t know much, but I do know that pork and rosemary are best friends.  So when I saw that Helene put rosemary in with her coconut milk to braise the carrots, I thought: instant pan sauce!  And it turned out wonderful!  The extra sauce from the carrots made an amazing garnish for a thick, crispy, rosemary-infused pork chop!  I was happy with this meal and wanted to share its simplicity and comfort-food qualities with you today!

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Rosemary Crusted Pork Chop with Coconut Milk Braised Carrots
serves 4-6

4 boneless pork chops, thick cut, if you can find them (the ones I found were about an inch thick)
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper – about a half teaspoon of each
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary – I would think dried would be fine, but it wouldn’t be as aromatic
4 tbs butter or olive oil for pan frying the chops

For the carrots:
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into half inch rounds
1 can of coconut milk
2 cloves of garlic, crushed but left mostly in tact
two sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Get the carrots on the stove to braise first, as they take the longest.  In a deep skillet, heat the coconut milk over medium heat along with the cloves of crushed garlic and the rosemary sprigs.  Add in the carrots and let it simmer on the stove until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.  I put a lid on halfway through as to not lose too much moisture.  When the carrots are done, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

For the chops: pat them dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Put the flour and rosemary and a few dashes more of salt and pepper in a bowl and toss well to combine.  Coat each side of the chops in the flour mixture and set aside.  Heat the butter or olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering (or bubbling if using butter) and add in the chops, cooking about 5-6 minutes per side.  If they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat after you get a good sear/crust on each side of the chop.  If your chops are really thick, you may need to transfer them to a preheated oven to finish cooking.  I had to do this for one of the chops because it was way bigger than the rest and wouldn’t cook through without burning the crust.  At any rate, you need a meat thermometer for this because we no longer have to cook our pork to death to be safe.  Some farmer told me that no one’s gotten sick from pork in years, but everyone is still cooking it like they could.  A pink center is fine – I made sure mine got up to 150-160 and called it good, regardless of how the centers looked.

Place the chops on plates and for the sauce garnish, move the carrots to a bowl, reserving about a 1/2 cup of the coconut milk in the pan.  Taste for salt and season as necessary.  Remove the rosemary sprigs and the cloves of garlic and spoon the sauce over each chop and serve alongside the carrots.  If you don’t cook the chops too much, they will be soft enough for a baby to chew, given she has at least 3 molars, which mine does.  She loved the carrots (she’s 15 months old) and ate a few pieces of pork and called it good.  And lately, that has to be good enough for me!  For smaller babies, the carrots would be IDEAL pureed or just left in tact for finger foods.  They are so soft, sweet and a little salty – perfect! I would have blended up the pork with some coconut milk back in the 6-9 month days for Olive.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Mousse

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French Kids Eat Everything was the second book I read in my brainwashing of French food culture (the first was Bringing Up Bebe) and it was the best one in the trend of “the French know what you’re doing wrong”, in my opinion.  In the book, the author, Karen Le Billon, describes her struggle raising her two little girls on the streets of Paris, trying to fit in to a food culture so different from our own.  She noticed toddlers sitting in restaurants for an hour meal without making a peep and eating the entire time.  She never saw public temper tantrums in grocery stores over a product not bought, even if desired (kids know they can’t have snacks unless it’s 4 p.m. and even then, most are not used to packaged food aisle-fare).  She wanted to know how the French managed to raise children who ate peacefully and in turn, made having a meal together actually appear fun for the adults, as well!

There are a lot of great take-away tips in this book and one of them is to make the 4p.m. snack (or 3ish, in our case) really good – something a child won’t mind waiting for.  The French have an appointed time for snacks in the afternoon because between noon and 8 is a long time to wait for food (although they expect adults to wait!  Snacks only apply to children – dang it).  So I’ve been trying to find fun things to make and at the back of the book, there are some real recipes found in the daycare systems in Paris, as well as in every day homes.  One of those recipes is for a simple chocolate mousse.  I had procured some amazingly fresh eggs from my dear friend, Katrina, and I thought there would be no more honorable way to consume them than to eat them raw.

I just lost some readers.

Seriously, though, eating eggs from a reliable source, from happy chickens whose eggs are only a few days old – you would more likely get eaten by a goat than get sick from eggs like this.  I’ve never been one to shy away from a raw egg in cookie dough, even with the old eggs from the store, but for a recipe that calls for 6 whole eggs, I don’t think I would have been too comfortable eating them if I didn’t know how old they really were.  And I knew, in this case, because Katrina gathered them from the hen house a day before I took them home.  You all should hook up with a friend who has chickens.  They can never eat as many eggs as they end up getting!  And if you have chickens, this type of recipe is great for using up excess eggs!

This mousse is light, fluffy and has an amazing texture and flavor with the added zing of orange zest.  You must eat it very very cold or the texture gets a little too loose.  But straight from the fridge, they are amazing and Olive enjoyed it a LOT, and I exercised my patience with messy eating and happily took pictures of the chocolate chaos.

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Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6

1/2 pound semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate (I actually used Ghirardelli 60% chips)
4 teaspoons butter (oh, just use two tablespoons)
6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
Zest of half an orange (I also think a 1/4 tsp almond extract would be awesome!)
Pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler on the stove over low heat.  Quick method: melt in the microwave on 30 second increments, stirring gently until melted and smooth.  When the chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, add in the egg yolks and orange zest and stir well. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or in a large metal bowl with metal whisk, by hand, if you know what you’re made of) beat the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks (adding a pinch of salt at the start will help them stiffen).

Gently fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Mix gently, then fold in the other half, mixing very gently.  Spoon the mousse into little serving dishes and chill for 2 to 3 hours or over night until firm.

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Domestic Goodness – The Day to Day Matters

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“Keep your work space clean”

This was my mom’s mantra in the kitchen.  Every time I’d help her with cooking a meal, she would say this sentence at some point during our work.  She has no idea how important this lesson truly is for any home cook, professional chef or really, anyone in any professional field, ever. Professional chefs refer to the order of their kitchen, or their cooking station as their “mise en place” – everything in its place.  This refers to the ingredients they cook with, primarily, but it also refers to the pots and pans and knives and towels and, well, everything.  This concept is so important that many cooks get fired for being messy or leaving their works place a wreck.  The reasoning makes sense: if you know where things are, you will cook more efficiently and get your work done quicker and with fewer errors.  There will also be a higher standard for what you put on the plate as the place it came from was clean and professional.  Sure, we all make messes while we cook, but as my mom would tell me, we should clean as we go.  Not only does it leave less for you to do after dinner, but it helps you feel more in control.  And when you have a toddler climbing up your pants as you stir a pot on the stove, it’s good to feel like you have some control over the situation.

I’ve been rocking the stay at home mom thing for a few months, now.  My photography business has happily slowed down since December while I’ve launched this blog and thoroughly enjoyed my time at home, managing the house, planting a garden, cooking a LOT and getting to experience the wonder that is Olive.  I will get back to doing weddings more frequently, but I’m honestly in no rush.  Wedding photography is a very demanding job, one that I love, but I believe things come and go in seasons and right now, this is my season of being less busy.  Even though I have something to do nearly every minute of the day, I feel on top of things.  I’m going at my own pace.  I used to not love staying at home, but I think that’s because I was bad at it.  I didn’t find joy in the mundane, the every day tasks.  But I’m beginning to.

Not every day feels this way.  Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep a happy face while I fold microscopic socks while keeping Olive engaged so she won’t put all of Cash’s food, piece by piece, into his water bowl.  But for the most part, I’ve embraced the beauty of the mundane.  The happy calm from a home in order.  It’s not mundane, anymore.  It’s sacred.  It’s sacred because God is in all things and is constantly working through all things. Even the laundry. In your life, if you constantly say “what’s next?” or “I’m “just” a mom, but later, when the kids are in school, I’ll try to figure out what I’m really meant to do”, you’re selling yourself short.   Newsflash:  You’re meant to do exactly what you’re doing right now.  Whatever it is.  And you should find ways to do it with joy.  Even if it’s a job you hate or a situation you find beneath you.  I read a quote the other day that said, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”  And although that sounds so cliche, it’s so right.  Do you want to spend your days, your life, waiting for something better to come along?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t work toward new goals, but maybe we should all start doing a better job at being thankful and making the most of our “right now”, with whatever we’ve been given, in any situation we find ourselves.

A way that I chose to have joy in my seemingly-mundane current station in life was to revamp the place I spend a lot of time: the utility area.  So utterly boring, right?  I agree.  And it’s usually the most cluttered, messy, thrown-down room in the house.  In our house, that area has our pantry, our washer and drier, a craft area, a place to iron, a storage area, and Cash’s food and stuff.  That’s a lot of crap to cram into two, tiny, hallway-sized rooms.  And that’s a lot of time spent in a place that is ugly and thrown-down and messy.  Here’s a before pic – the view coming through the garage door:

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What if THIS greeted you every time you came home?  Would you feel like working?  All those things hanging on a curtain rod are aprons.  Yeah, I have plenty.  I gave a lot away and kept the ones people made for me.  De-clutter! I’m the antithesis of a hoarder.  If it doesn’t get used in a year, it gets given away or thrown out.

And here is the new view coming into the house:

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Much, much better.  As you can see, the craft area is still junky, but it’s SO hard to keep it not-junky if you actually craft.  And I do.  I’m currently making World’s Ugliest Lampshade.

Below, you can see how the pantry has order, however imperfect.  But I know where everything is, and that’s what matters.  I put a cute light switch cover on the wall, then put two hooks in the openings for our keys.  Right below is a hook for my purse.  Which my purse currently isn’t on – it’s in the car where it shouldn’t be.  But you get the idea.

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Then, I ordered a super cute ironing board cover and hung my iron on the wall as domestic-style art.  This really has become a peaceful area to iron, my most hated domestic duty.

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Then, I got all Pinteresty and made a laundry-folding area.  My mom used to yell, “Come get your stacks!” (of clothes) and now, I can yell, “Come get your basket!” and hopefully have the same results.  I made four shelves because I’m pretty sure we’re not done having children.  But for now, Olive gets both because that girl has more tiny outfits than one would ever need in life.  Good thing they cycle out of clothes every 3 months!

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From the craft area looking into the laundry/pantry area – I’m proud of my lampshade rigged light.  Just hung it against the ceiling on little screw hooks.  Magnets on the side of the drier for Olive to play with.  They usually end up in Cash’s water bowl, too.

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This looks messy, but that’s because they’re currently in use.  Three planter boxes – one for items that need repair, one for “projects” and one for items that need ironing.  Plus, a cute pegboard painted with the same paint for all the tools.  I love that I don’t have to go hunting in the garage for these things, anymore.

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My most Martha-moment – putting stuff in these jars.  I love the OCD appeal and I love how all the colors show through.  You can see here: beans, rice, pasta, feuilletine (it’s a candy additive thing you’ll make if you own Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook long enough), cocoa and cake flour.

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I also hang the super heavy pots here – we use these about once a week, so they don’t need to be in the kitchen with the daily use stuff, taking up space.  Those awesome teal Ball jars are at Target, currently!  Go get some!  The drawers below are for spices that won’t fit on my magnetic spice rack (or that I’ve stopped caring enough to buy spice cans for), extraneous and random flours, weird baking items like straight up glucose (I’m not scared) and baking additions like chocolate bars, cocoas, nuts and baking chips.  Then, a tupperware full of dried chilies that we never use but it makes us feel prepared, and two boxes (the pink ones) of cake and cookie decorating things.  All items that clutter up kitchen drawers!  This area is my favorite part of the redo.  Obviously 🙂

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Hope you enjoyed the tour!  And I hope that if there’s a room in your house that you use all the time, but simultaneously makes you feel depressed by being in it, that you would at least reorganize!  I really didn’t spend much on all this – I had all the storage units and I just bought the paint and the laundry shelves, which cost about $25 total.  Just rearranging things and painting the walls can make a world of difference!

And remember: whatever you’re doing in life right now is what you’re supposed to be doing.  So find the joy in whatever small ways you can!  You matter and what you do matters, even if it’s not flashy or expensive or even if you don’t get acclaim for doing it.  I wish I’d learned that years ago…

Coriander Crusted Chicken

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This Monday meal is a really unique spin on some old standards.  We all get tired of chicken because it’s nearly always in the weekly rotation.  Adding a spice you may not be used to is the best way to make something boring like chicken seem new, again!  This week that spice is coriander.  The seed of the cilantro plant, it has a tutti-fruity flavor and is commonly used in Indian cuisine.  It’s got a wonderful sweet/spicy appeal that makes it ideal for roasted chicken.  We first ran across this spice mix from acclaimed chef, Michael Symon, who combined coriander, cinnamon, cumin and Srirracha for the most unbelievable wings you’ll ever taste.  We’ve  brought those chicken wings to football parties, church potlucks and small get-togethers with friends and they are always gone first.

For this simple meal, I took a few of the spices from Symon’s original wing recipe and tossed the chicken legs in with them, plus some olive oil and roasted it.  Perfection!  They’d be even better if you put them in the rub the night before you were going to cook them.  We simply served the chicken with a side of Srirracha for a dipping sauce instead of making the wing sauce recipe.

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For the side, I did a simple roasted green bean/potato dish tossed with diced, caramelized purple onions.  Such a simple addition and it made the vegetables totally awesome.  Oh, and for my gluten/dairy avoiding friends, this meal is entirely safe for you!  FYI, just to keep things honest, Olive only ate the potatoes out of this dish.  She’s decided this week and last to boycott meats and most vegetables.  It’s been super fun…

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Coriander Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
serves 4

1 lb chicken legs, thighs, wings – just make sure they’re still on the bone.  Yes, this can be done with boneless, but you’ll need to adjust the cooking time
2 tbs coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

For the vegetables:
2 medium sized potatoes
1/2 lb fresh green beans, ends snipped
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 red onion, diced
3 tbs olive oil

For the chicken: Preheat your oven to 450F.  Combine the coriander seeds, cumin, cinnamon, salt and olive oil in a gallon sized Ziploc bag.  Add the chicken legs and smush and toss and move them around inside the bag to coat all the pieces evenly.  Sometimes I open up the bag and have to move some of the top pieces down to the bottom cause the bottom pieces are spice-hogs.  Leave the bag in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prep all the rest of the vegetables for the meal.

Wash and cube up the potatoes into about 1/2″ cubes.  Snap the ends off your green beans and wash them and pat them dry.  Toss the potatoes and green beans together with the 2 tbs of olive oil and spread them out on a greased, rimmed baking sheet.  Season with a good sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and set pan aside.  Take your chicken out of the fridge and arrange the pieces on a greased, foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.  Place the chicken in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.  Put the potatoes and green beans in the oven on the lower rack beneath the chicken and get on with your onions.  In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 3 tbs of olive oil over medium heat and cook the onions till they are golden, usually 10-15 minutes.

Check the potatoes and green beans when the timer for the chicken goes off.  If they haven’t turned golden and slightly crispy, leave them in there.  Check the temp of the chicken with a probe thermometer.  If it’s 165, they are done and you can remove them from the oven.  They may take longer depending on the size of chicken pieces you used and the temp of your oven (all ovens lie just a little bit).  If your vegetables aren’t quite done when the chicken is, just tent the chicken with foil so they’ll keep warm.  The beauty of the vegetables is that if they get done faster than the chicken, they can easily be warmed in the microwave.  When the vegetables are done roasting, toss them in with the caramelized onions in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream

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I promise you that this is the best ice cream you will ever make at home.  We stumbled on Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home a couple years ago and I believe the first recipes I made from this book were the Kona Stout  and the Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk for Matt’s company picnic.  Both flavors got such rave reviews, that when I went to buy this book for my friend, Anna’s birthday, a week later, Barnes and Noble told us that they’d recently sold the rest of their copies – all to Matt’s co-workers, it turned out 🙂  I think the way Jeni makes ice cream is a revelation.  She combines a bit of cornstarch into the base and then adds just one and a half ounces of cream cheese per quart recipe, and the texture and consistency turns out amazing.  Perfectly creamy, freezes well, and her flavors are never too sweet – always a perfect balance.  The recipes in this book range from really unique (gouda and vodka plumped cranberries) to traditional (vanilla bean) to genius (sweet potato with torched marshmallows – gotta try this one, next).

Summer time is the perfect time to buy this book and try out a new recipe at each and every opportunity you get.  Our little ice cream maker will get a work out during these hot months to come!  But we have faith that it feels it is finally getting to do what it was created to do, thanks to Jeni’s Splendid ice creams and our not-so-splendid hundred degree days!

This week, I made three flavors out of this book:  Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Roasted Pistachio and Bourbon Butter Pecan.  All amazing.  The Almond Brittle was the most requested at our church get-together last night, and the most consumed (although I adore the pistachio), so I’ve written out the recipe for you here today.  It calls for almost a pound of butter.  ACTUALLY you only use a tablespoon of that pound of butter.  The solids that settle to the bottom of the pan after you brown butter is what gets mixed into the base and it creates a divinely nutty, roasted flavor in the ice cream base.  Yet another way brown butter makes the world a better place.

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Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream*
makes about 1 quart

for the base:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1.5 oz (3 tbs) softened cream cheese
1/8 tsp fine sea salt (I use kosher)
3/4 lb unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbs light corn syrup

1 cup crushed Almond Brittle (recipe below)

Mix about 2 tbs of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.  Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a large bowl until smooth.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 4 quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil and let bubble until the foam starts to subside and the butter is a rich dark brown (not black!).  Remove from the heat and let stand until the butter solids settle to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.

Pour the clear butter oil into a storage container (once it solidifies you can use it as you normally would for cooking so it’s not a waste!) As you get closer to the butter solids in the bottom of the pan, use a teaspoon to remove as much liquid butter as you can.  You should have about 1 tablespoon of brown butter solids and a little bit of melted fat in the bottom of the pan (it’s impossible to remove all the fat).

Add the remaining milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup to the butter solids, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry (you’ll need to stir it up again as it will settle and solidify some).  Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula or whisk, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth.  Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and spin until thick and creamy.  Pack the ice cream into a storage container, folding in the chopped almond brittle as you go.  Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface of the ice cream (this is important to avoid freezer burn and maintain a good consistency) and seal with an airtight lid.  Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Almond Brittle*
makes about 2 cups

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Generously oil a large baking sheet.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a 4 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Insert a candy thermometer in the pan, add the butter, and bring back to a boil, then cook until the mixture reaches 300F.  Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the almonds and then the baking soda, working quickly but combining them thoroughly.

Pour the mixture out onto the oiled baking sheet, spreading it to a 1/4 inch thick layer.  Allow to cool completely before smashing to bits. 🙂

*recipes taken nearly word for word from Jeni’s book.

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Caramelized Onion Dip

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Every summer, certain things tend to become a trend.  We nearly always have an official corn dish, a certain way we assemble a burger from the grill, a particular drink we make over and over, or a particular ice cream flavor we bring to parties. It’s so much fun looking forward to the hot summer months by way of what we’ll be cooking.  It really helps utilize what’s in season (think: guacamole, caprese salad from REAL tomatoes and backyard basil, etc) and this summer, I think I’ve found the official dip/spread!

This dip would be amazing as a burger spread, a dip for tortilla chips, crackers, etc.  A wonderful topping for baked potatoes, a dip for fries – the options are endless.  I’ve always been a fan of the tubs of French Onion dip in the grocery stores, but this homemade version blows any of the store bought options out of the water.  It has a sweet smokiness from the caramelized onions, a super creaminess from the addition of the cream cheese and my addition, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, really makes the flavors come alive and gives it a bite that cuts through all the richness.  It’s perfect.  I also decided to spin all the ingredients in my food processor a few times because I liked the idea of the onions being finely chopped instead of left in long slivers.  I think for me, it’s a more pleasing texture as a dip.

However you decide to make it, just promise me you’ll try this one at your next BBQ.

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Caramelized Onion Dip*
makes about 2 cups

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tbs red wine vinegar (really, any vinegar you have on hand will do just fine!)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (we use Hellman’s original)

Cut up the onions into very thin slices.  Place in a large skillet with the butter, vegetable oil, salt and cayenne and let it cook over medium low heat until the onions turn golden, and caramelize, about 30 minutes.  You really want to err on the side of TOO caramelized instead of not enough.  The flavors get so intense as the onions break down.  Let the onions cool and set aside.

Add the vinegar, salt and pepper, cream cheese, sour cream and mayo to your food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Then add the onions and pulse until fully incorporated.  If you don’t have a food processor, just dice your onions before you cook them, and then take all the ingredients to a bowl or mixer and mix until smooth.

Adjust the seasonings and serve with…anything!

*recipe adapted from this site, who took the recipe from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook.