Happy Thanksgiving!

Santa's Little Helper2

This is the Super Bowl of a cook’s world.  I love this holiday and I certainly don’t want to skip over it in a rush to get to Christmas!  Since Matt and I began developing our love of cooking almost 10 years ago, we have looked forward to Thanksgiving a little more each year.  I think, in a way, we are trying to create our own family traditions this year, with a little family of our own.  We realized with a hint of despair the other day that we may not get to host our own family Thanksgiving until our children are in college!  So we decided that along with trying out new recipes each year and saving some old favorites, we’d have our own Thanksgiving at our home, before heading out of town to spend time with our extended families.

This was our Pre-Thanksgiving!  I printed off each recipe and kept the stack on our counter to refer to as I did my prep.  I couldn’t sleep Monday morning, so I got up around 5 and started chopping leeks, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.  We had a few friends over who each brought an amazing pie and some blue ribbon biscuits from our friend, Rod, who still won’t share that recipe, almost 20 years later.  🙂 I didn’t get pictures of everything, nor was I trying to do a post on any one particular recipe.  I just took some pics that I could and let the rest go – this was about having a great time with friends and not about styling a plate of food. However, I did get links to the recipes for everything we did.  Everything turned out really fantastic – loved the Brussels Sprouts and the Cheesy Squash Cassrole and that cocktail made everything just a little more sparkly. 😉

brussels sprouts with blue cheese and bacon
Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese and Bacon

cranberry orange relish
Cranberry Orange Relish
pimento cheese twice baked potatoes
Twice Baked Pimento Cheese Potatoes

Santa's Little Helper
The cocktail of the evening that made EVERYONE happy – Santa’s Little Helper.  This will be making a repeat appearance. turkey porcetta
Turkey Porcetta

Dishes I made but failed to get a photo of:
Mushroom and Bacon Stuffing
Cheesy Squash Casserole

Again, everything was wonderful and we had a great time with our friends!  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone – have safe travels and we’ll see you back here next week with a report on all the goodies we make at my parents’ house in New Mexico.  There’s a S’mores pie I’ve been wanting to create…

 

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A Blueberry Morning

Blueberry Muffins

 

It’s super cold – winter blew in last night leaving everything gray and bone-chillingly cold.  We are having a lazy day inside and all I can think about are these warm blueberry muffins with cold butter and hot blueberry syrup soaking into every crumb.  My mom made this combination quite frequently for us, growing up.  I associate them with cold, Sunday mornings. We needed something rather fast while getting ready for church, yet warming at the same time.  Something Mom could pop in the oven and then have time to get ready, herself!  She would boil the blueberry liquid and add a little sugar to make a wonderful blueberry syrup to pour on top of the muffins.  That was always my favorite part.  Just HOW blue can I make this muffin?

So when I saw a can of wild Maine blueberries in the grocery store, my mind went instantly to these muffins and I had to make them for us.  Mom’s were better, but that’s to be expected 🙂  Stay warm, today, Lubbock!

Blueberry Muffins with Butter Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup*
makes 12-16 muffins

12 1/2 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh, frozen or I used a can of blueberries packed in water – that part is important if you use canned)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 16 muffin tins with papers and spray the papers with non stick spray.  Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, powder and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Reserve the juice that comes in the can of blueberries and put it on the stove in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer during the baking time of the muffins.

Fold the blueberries into the batter and divide among the muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Remove and remove from the pan, letting them cool upside down for about 10 minutes.  Split, add a copious amount of salted butter and drown in blueberry syrup.  Cheers.

*adapted from Alton Brown’s Blueberry muffin recipe

Lemon Cream Crepe Cake with Pomegranate Seeds

crepe cake with lemon buttercream and pomegranate seeds 2Crepe Cake with fuilltine and lemon buttercream

So yesterday, I got myself all in a fluster about crepe cakes – talked too much about it and had to go make one.  Tough plight.  I had some pomegranate seeds from a spectacular sale at the grocery store this week – two HUGE ones for $3, and thought they’d be so pretty on top of a cake.  I sweetened up Alton Brown’s crepe batter and made a lemon zest butter cream that went perfectly with the delicate crepes and tart pomegranate seeds.  I think this would be such a wonderful addition to a Christmas party spread – it’s so bright and happy!  Those flecks of brown in the butter cream are a baker’s pantry staple called feuilletine, a ginger-snappy flavored crisp that is used for crunch in various confections at Momofuku Milk Bar.  I remember it being a huge mess to make, and we had about 4 cups of it, just sitting there, unused, so I decided to add it in the cake for crunch and I really loved the addition!  This step can be left out OR you could crumble up actual ginger snaps and I think that would be fabulous!

This cake is for a frosting lover.  The buttercream makes a lot and I used all of it. Think: very slender, ladylike slices and you won’t be overwhelmed.  Plus some black coffee or tea and you’ll have yourself an amazing bridal brunch/wedding shower/baby shower show stopper!
Crepe Cake with Lemon Buttercream and Pomegranate Seeds Crepe Cake with Lemon Buttercream, topped with Pomegranate Seeds

Vanilla Crepe Cake with Lemon Butter cream and Pomegranate Seeds
makes about a 20 layer cake

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 tbs sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan

1 cup ginger snaps, crushed fine
1 cup pomegranate seeds from one large pomegranate

In a large cup, place all ingredients except the butter and blend with an immersion blender for a full minute, making sure all the flour is incorporated.  Then drizzle in the melted butter. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Heat a small non-stick pan over medium high. Add butter to coat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. This takes a bit of practice and your crepes might look like mine and have tiny fingers coming off the sides.  They’ll taste the same, promise. Cook the first side for about a minute until edges brown and you can run your spatula around the edges to loosen.  Slide your spatula under the crepe and flip over.  Cook for another 10 seconds and set aside in a stack to cool for assembly.

For the Butter cream:

1 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 lemon – zest and juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest of
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat till well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add lemon juice, zest and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Assemble!
Place a crepe on a cake stand on top of a dot of buttercream to hold it in place.  Spread about an 1/8th of a cup of frosting on the crepe, evenly spreading.  If using, sprinkle with crumbled cookies and top with another crepe and repeat the process until you’re left with one crepe.  Top with remaining buttercream and coat the top of the buttercream evenly with pomegranate seeds.  Freeze, uncovered, for about 30 minutes for ease of slicing!  Wrap before storing in the fridge, but the buttercream will keep the cake quite moist.  ENJOY!

vanilla crepe cake

Savory Crepes

savory crepes

I am a lover of crepes.  They are so versatile, the batter always makes enough for 4 or more people, and you can fill them with virtually anything.  I’ve been slightly obsessed with making crepe cakes and made one for Matt for his birthday last year that had chocolate crepes layered with caramel buttercream and chocolate ganache.  It was pretty fantastic and I think it was about 25 layers.  I want to go bigger!  The only thing is that those cakes are hard to cut unless they are semi-frozen, and even harder to eat!  But I find it fun to peel away the layers one by one, enjoying each piece!  That recipe will come soon.  Very soon.  Because I was inspired by my reflecting on crepe cakes, that I had to go make one – an hour ago.

So yeah..I just did.  It’s pretty awesome.  Post coming tomorrow or Sunday!

THESE crepes, however, were also wonderful.  Stuffed with gruyere cheese, bits of leftover brown sugar ham and fresh chives, they were the perfect lunch.  They fed me, my baby, my sweet friend, Katrina, and her baby!  And he’s been known to pack away a man-sized meal 🙂

Make your batter an hour in advance and you’ll have much more pretty crepes that don’t fall apart!

savory crepes with ham and gruyere

Savory Crepes*

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan

Fillings:
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese – any melting cheese will be great!
1/2 cup diced ham
2 tbs fresh chopped chives

In a large cup, place all ingredients except the butter and blend with an immersion blender for a full minute, making sure all the flour is incorporated.  Then drizzle in the melted butter. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Heat a small non-stick pan over medium high. Add butter to coat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. This takes a bit of practice and your crepes might look like mine and have tiny fingers coming off the sides.  They’ll taste the same, promise. Cook the first side for about a minute until edges brown and you can run your spatula around the edges to loosen.  Slide your spatula under the crepe and flip over.  Cook for another 10 seconds and fill the crepes with desired stuffings, fold into half circles and then in half again and place on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven to keep warm until done with the rest and ready to eat!

*adapted from Alton Brown’s crepe recipe on Food Network

Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

tomato soup for a cold dayTomato Soup buried

It’s a beautiful, cold fall day!  Yesterday it was dark and very cold and it called for a cup of soup in hand and little else.  When Matt makes us his pizza on the weekends, I am always left with about 9/10ths of a can of tomatoes and inevitably during the week, that gets turned into tomato soup.  I keep adding a spice here or there, fresh basil if I happen to have it, and no matter how I tweak it, it always turns out great.  For this version, I had some stale bread from Matt’s weekly baking that I turned into croutons. I hate wasting his bread, even the stale stuff, so it gets turned into croutons, breadcrumbs or savory stuffings every time.  The good thing about breads that are as plain and rustic as his, is that they don’t mold very quickly – they just dry out.  Perfect!  The croutons were tooth-shatteringly hard, but after a few minutes in the soup, they were extremely flavorful little sponges.

Happy Fall – it’s in the air!  It’s marvelous!  There’s a faint scent of wood burning in our neighborhood and it’s a treat to get to walk outside.  It’s a treat to be alive, today, really.  Tomorrow doesn’t exist, don’t spin all day for it.  Yesterday can’t be changed, don’t regret it.  Live today and today only!  Yesterday I recalled one of my favorite quotes,“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.”
― Jean de La BruyèreLes caractères.  This quote challenges me to not waste my day thinking about what all I have to do, or what all I didn’t get done yesterday.  It helps me to not sit around wasting time on my phone and it helps me to realize that time with 1 and a half year old Olive is extremely rare and won’t be here for long.  So we make a mess drinking our soup and we laugh and I try to take her up on her offers while I’m working to, “mama pay? mama do somting?” a little more frequently.

Homemade Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup from Scratch
serves 3-4

1-28oz can whole tomatoes (I love Cento brand!)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs olive oil
Whatever herbs you like – dried thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano – they’re all good and they all work.  Stick to about a teaspoon.
A splash of cream – eh, if I had to measure, I’d say 1/8th of a cup
Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Put the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the garlic clove.  Saute over medium heat until starting to brown.  Add in the entire can of tomatoes, red wine vinegar, herbs and stir to combine.  With an immersion blender, pulse until completely blended and smooth.  Add in the cream, stir to incorporate and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes and serve hot with crackers, croutons, or the classic grilled cheese.  Enjoy!

tomato soup face tomato soup tomato baby

Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal


Back when I was still a fairly new mom and my night’s sleep was a fun game of Russian Roulette, I started putting my breakfast on the stove the night before so that I wouldn’t have to use my brain in the morning. I bought these fancy steel cut oats and the side of the can said that they would take 40-60 minutes to cook, but THEN, at the very end of the directions, it said, “For quick-cooking method, let the oats soak in water overnight and then boil for 10 minutes.”  This was the answer to needing breakfast after a who-knows-how-much-sleep kinda night!  I would literally add everything to the pot the night before – the butter, the pinch of salt and even stuck my stirring spatula in there so that I would not have to use even one iota of brain cells to make breakfast.

I’ve been doing this a few times a week ever since!  On days that I run out of steel cut, I just use plain rolled oats, except I don’t soak them overnight.  I just like the steel cut – they are chewy and interesting and they don’t turn to glue and mush after they go cold, so they are perfect for making a big batch on Monday and then warming them up with a splash of milk the next day – it’s always a great texture!  Most commonly, I make chocolate oatmeal.  It’s Olive’s favorite and I love hearing her request it the first second she sees me in her room in the morning “Chock-ate oatMEEEEL?!”  I’ll add that recipe to the end of this one for those who saw it in my Week in the Life post!

For today I recreated my favorite dessert bread at our grocery store – Apricot White Chocolate!  I had a little of everything and so I went for it, and it was amazing!  What’s fun about oatmeal is the various toppings you can add – so if you have guests for the weekend, make a huge pot and set out an array of dried fruits, nuts, fresh fruits or syrups and let them add what they want!  Great for kids, for people watching their diet and for picky eaters!
apricot and white chocolate oatmeal

Overnight Oatmeal with
White Chocolate, Apricot and Toasted Walnuts

2 cups water
1/2 cup steel cut oats (or one cup of rolled oats and skip the night before step)
pinch of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
tablespoon of fat – I use butter, but it’s GREAT with coconut oil and it’s probably just fine without it)
splash of milk or cream
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds – whatever you have on hand

Right after Top Chef is over, before you check Facebook for the 75th time, put a large saucepan on the stove and add the steel cut oats, water, butter, vanilla and salt.  Place a rubber spatula in the pot, too, so you won’t have to think at all in the morning.  Go to bed.
First thing in the morning, or 10 minutes after your toddler starts talking in her crib, turn on the burner to medium-high heat and bring oats to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed.  Add a splash of milk or cream if it gets too thick and taste for texture.  If it’s to your liking, remove from heat, place a small portion in a bowl and stick it in the fridge to cool a bit for the toddler while you assemble yours.  Stir in the white chocolate chips till they melt and then top with the dried apricots and walnuts.  Take the kid’s portion out of the fridge, stir again, and then add a few chips so she can stir them around or pick them out herself and discard the rest.  That’s at least how it happened to me.

Chocolate OatMEEEEEEL version:

same as above, except add:

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon
sliced banana or dried cranberries

I love banana and chocolate.  Near the end of the cooking time, I add the cinnamon to the pot and stir to incorporate.  I take the pot off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips until an adequate darkness is achieved.  This may call for more chocolate.  Because I use 70%, I have no guilt and no shame.  Top with sliced bananas and eat! Sometimes I shake it up and stir in dried cranberries.  The cranberry/chocolate or banana/chocolate combo is always a winner.  Do what you feel with the toppings, but more often than not, we just do plain chocolate oatmeal!  Olive is never disappointed.

A Week in the Life

I did something different this week.  All last week, I took very low-key, not styled, not properly lighted pics of most dinners we had (otherwise known as iPhone pics), as well as a few breakfasts and side dishes.  I was asked by a couple of people to talk about the more day-to-day things we eat.  So I stripped everything down of any pretension and decided to show you exactly what we ate for a little over a week.  If you will hover over each image, you will see a description.  Lunch pics are not mysteriously absent – we eat leftovers every. single. day. for lunch and I really only took a pic of one of the lunches because they are literally a repeat, usually, of the night before.  My goal for the end of the week is to have a clean fridge, and for the most part, I achieve that goal.  And the other absent pics are from when we went out or had dinner at our church or whatever.  I vowed a while back to stop taking pics of my food at restaurants.  You should do everyone a favor and do the same.  Some recipes make a large portion like the brown sugar ham – made a TON!  So I used it in savory crepes yesterday for lunch, diced up with cheese and chives.  Voila – a simple lunch and CHEAP.  Breakfasts are really low key.  I make Olive some type of oatmeal about twice a week, yogurt at least once or twice, the other week days are usually “baby beetos” (scrambled egg burritos) and then Saturdays, I nearly always make something a bit more fun and indulgent like waffles, pancakes, crepes, whathaveyou.

Some of these pics look downright unappealing.  But in reality, this is what our plates look like!  Never picture-perfect, bad lighting in the dining room, no one styling our food, etc.  I plan on blogging about a few of these recipes (the pea puree – oh my word, it was awesome), but for now, I’ll leave you with exploring the descriptions and getting a peek inside a typical week around here!  
Dinner: Brown sugar ham, mashed potatoes and green peas with snow peasIMG_6405
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Happy Halloween!

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These cute little pumpkin tarts took about 30 minutes.  I had leftover pie crust in the fridge, and I only had enough to make three of these little guys.  But that’s all we needed, anyway!  Today was fun – lots of fall-ish events, the festival at the church, trick-or-treating at our friends house, having a greasy bacon cheese burger at Spanky’s – okay, so that last part wasn’t necessarily fall, but I associate that place with football season!

These little tarts could be made with any shape cookie cutter and of course, after tonight, jack-o-lanterns will be out! So use a leaf or circle and cut out some cute shapes – whatever you do, these are seriously fun and delicious!
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Pumpkin Tarts

half a recipe of pie crust (or just store bought – one circle)
1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
3 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix the puree with the sugar and spice and set aside.  Roll out your dough, cut into shapes and run your finger dipped in water around the edge of the bottom layer.  Place one to two tablespoons of filling on the bottom layer (will depend how big your shapes are).  Slightly roll out the top layer a little more than the bottom, cut out designs that you wish, and place on top of the filled bottom layer, pressing down the edges.  Brush melted butter on the tops of the tarts and sprinkle with coarse sugar, or any kind of sprinkles!  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.

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