Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cheesecake

I have some advice for you. Are you ready?

Do not read the ingredient list for this cheesecake. Look at the pictures, but don't click that little link on the bottom that says "Get the Recipe."

Instead, open your email and email this recipe to someone you love.

Someone who will make it for you.

Someone who will let you take several slices home with you. 

Someone who will promise not to rattle off the full ingredient list to you while you're eating it.

Because while this cheesecake is absolutely delicious, it is absolutely not healthy.

Not that it stopped me. 

I ate several slices fully cognizant of what was in this bad boy. It's tasty enough to do it. And it was also my birthday, the time of year when overindulgence is completely permissible.

But I think it was easier for all my guests, who could dig in and not think about what was in it.

It's got a peanut butter bottom crust made out of Nutter Butters and a side chocolate crust made out of chocolate Teddy Grahams. That's covered with vanilla cheesecake filled with chunks of chocolate and peanut butter brownies. That's smothered with a chocolate and peanut butter ganache and chopped Reese's Peanut Butter cups.

It's heavenly.

If you HAVE to make it for yourself, make sure you invite friends over to help you eat it. I'm not sure it's a good idea to eat this all on your own. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

As an elementary school teacher, I should have known better. Whatever you put off limits or ask students not to do is immediately more desirable.

That's why there are no pictures of me slicing these bars.

I told my friend Thomas that my hands always look huge when I take pictures of myself cooking. Which of course meant he proceeded to take a series of photos designed to make my hands look as huge as possible.

He was successful.

Any hands you see in these pictures are his. Mine have been edited out.

When I was in college, friends wrote a play called "Don't Look at the Monkey" where they explored this concept. The premise: put a monkey in the center of the room, tell people not to look at it, and then have actors perform around it.

We never put it on, since it was hard to get our hands on a monkey, but we knew what would happen. People would watch the monkey, just because they were being told not to.

And because monkeys on their own are pretty entertaining. 

Luckily you don't miss much without the "me slicing the bars" photo. The bars themselves are the real stars here.

I visited Baked earlier in the day, saw these, and knew that's what I would be baking that night.

They are addictive. I have three left in my fridge right now, and it's taking all my self restraint to not eat one now. Before dinner.

There's a crispy bar on the bottom, less sweet than a Rice Krispy treat and even more delicious. Next, there's a decadent chocolate and peanut butter layer that just melts in your mouth. A layer of melted chocolate on top finishes it all off perfectly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Smoked Salmon Pasta

It is officially asparagus season, one of my favorite times of the year. We're smack in the middle of a few weeks of perfect, flavorful asparagus filling farmers' market stands.

I buy certain fruits and veggies out of season, but not asparagus. It's just so much better when it's fresh. 

I've been buying it up and eating it in every dish possible.

I get a lot of my asparagus inspiration from Smitten Kitchen. It doesn't hurt that she cooks only a few miles away, from many of the same farmers' markets I do, so she tends to post recipes when the ingredients are available to me.

This has quickly become one of my staple weeknight dinners. The ingredient list is short, and the lemon zest makes the pasta pop. A bit of smoked salmon adds a smoky element (and some protein) to the dish.

If you're looking to make an asparagus dinner in under 30 minutes, this is the dish for you.

What's your favorite asparagus recipe? I'm looking to bring some variety into my asparagus cooking over the next few weeks!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Black Bean and Swiss Chard Mexican Lasagna

Last Sunday, my friend Casey suggested I make baked eggs for dinner. Truth be told, they sounded delicious. A bit of heavy cream, topped with whatever cheese and herbs you have handy. Crack an egg or two over the top, and bake it all in the oven. You get a runny yolk that spills over onto the cheese and herbs.


There was just one big problem. Baked eggs don't reheat well.

If I made baked eggs for dinner Sunday, I'd have no lunch option come Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday.

I'd be forced to reheat an Amy's frozen burrito, or wait in line behind twenty children to buy a bagel and cream cheese. And, since it was only Sunday, I knew I'd be facing a whole week of that kind of eating if I didn't prepare something more practical tight away.

This lasagna certainly falls under that category. It's a layered dish, with layers of tortillas, queso fresco, swiss chard and mushrooms, and black beans and corn. Not the first dish most people conjure up when they hear the word lasagna.

Delicious nonetheless.

This dish is hearty and healthy. It comes together quickly (particularly if you cheat a little with store-bought enchilada sauce like I did). I made enough for two lasagnas and threw one right into the freezer before baking it. The perfect solution for the next week when I'm not sure what to make on a Sunday.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Broccoli-Basil Macaroni and Cheese

*My Baked Explorations Cookbook Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. Friday night! Just tell me about your favorite cookbook for a chance to win!*

I tried to help my friend's three year old daughter wash her hands in the bathroom at the coffee shop last weekend.

I am clearly not a mother.

I struggled to hold her up with one hand and then turn the faucet on. I wasn't certain how hot to make the water (though she couldn't have cared at all that the water was lukewarm).

When trying to squeeze soap into her hand, I knocked the pump off of the bottle not just once, but twice.

And I dropped a whole bunch of paper towels into the sink.

She just laughed. She thought it was hilarious.

I realized I have a lot to learn about being a mother.

That's why I decided I needed to do some research before I brought new parents a meal. The advice I read in blogs made sense. It needs to be a meal that's easy to prepare, that doesn't require a lot of extra add-ins that you're not sending along. It needs to be something that keeps for a while (frozen is great), so if they can't get around to it that day, it's fine. And it needs to be something that's easy enough to eat one handed.

Broccoli-basil macaroni and cheese it was. I loaded it with whole wheat pasta, two kinds of cheese, and a ton of different veggies, including half a head of broccoli on top.

I made one for the new parents.

And I made one for myself. :)

I figured if I was going to all the trouble, I might as well have one to enjoy. And I wanted to make sure it tasted alright before I delivered it.

It did. And one batch was enough for about 8 servings, with sides. Always a bonus.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Coconut Brown Butter Waffles

Be sure to enter the "Baked Explorations" Cookbook Giveaway! The deadline is Friday, May 18!

It's Mother's Day. My mom is in Michigan. I'm not.

I wish I could have made her brunch today. I would have made her these coconut brown butter waffles.

My mom is the one who introduced me to waffle making. She's had her waffle maker for years, and she's got a family waffle recipe that's to die for. It's complex, filled with whole wheat flour and bran and lemon zest.

Some of my favorite days as a kid were the days my mom made those waffles. We'd wait for the familiar whistle of the waffle iron, and we'd marvel as the stack of waffles grew higher and higher.

Most weekends it was the regular bran waffles, but occasionally my mom would shake things up. She'd throw in chopped nuts (I certainly didn't appreciate that as a kid), or mix in pumpkin in the fall and make them really special.

I always ate them syrup free, topped with butter or the occasional bit of almond butter. 

We ate breakfast and dinner together every day and lunch when we weren't at school. I feel so lucky to have learned from her the importance of families sitting down and eating together and sharing so much more than food.

Mom, I wish I could sit down and eat breakfast with you today! I love you!

Did you get to eat with your mom today? What did you make her?

Friday, May 11, 2012

One Year Anniversary and a Giveaway!!!

Update (5/20/12): Congratultions RachelWM! Random.org chose you as the winner of the Baked Explorations Cookbook! I'll be emailing you to get your mailing address, and you'll have four days to respond!

One year ago today, I published my first post on Making Michael Pollan Proud. Now here we are, one year and 130 posts later.

It's been an interesting year. There have been explosions and meals that were far too ambitious (yes, those were all made for one night). I've joined baking groups only to realize that the "make this and post about it on this date" thing doesn't really fit into my schedule.

I've consumed more chocolate and peanut butter than I knew was possible.

And today, one year in, I'm ready to try something new. A cookbook giveaway!

I want to share with you a cookbook I'm just crazy about that I received a year ago.

Baked Explorations

It's a cookbook that really introduced me to the whole blogging community, full of bake-along groups, local bake shops, and innovative twists on favorite recipes. It's sparked all of these recipes on my blog, including the cookies I brought to the Food Bloggers Bake Sale a few weeks back.

You can win your own copy! No, not my copy. A new, clean one that's not covered in flour and butter and post-it notes. Or, win a copy for a lucky friend if you already have one!

Here's how to enter:

1) Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite cookbook is and why! Make sure you leave your email address (it will be kept private!), or make sure I have some other way to contact you (through your blog, etc.).

2) For an additional chance to enter, follow me on Pinterest, and leave a comment here letting me know you are following me!

I'll ship the cookbook anywhere, but if you're far away it might take awhile to get to you! This giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. on May 18, 2012, so make sure to get your entries in before then! The winner will be chosen via random.org. I'll contact the winner on May 19, and they will have 4 days to respond with a shipping address. If there's no response, a new winner will be chosen and contacted.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I'm not your textbook vegetarian. I don't stock my fridge with tempeh, tofu and seitan, though perhaps I should.

I can't stand the taste of fake meat. If I'm not eating the real thing, then I don't want anything like it. Fake hot dogs just gross me out, though admittedly I've never been a hot dog fan.

And until a few days ago, I had never made my own veggie burgers.

It almost seems shameful to admit.

Sure I've eaten plenty of them, those easy, frozen ones you can buy at the grocery store and the particularly delicious ones served at some of my favorite restaurants (who wouldn't love a veggie burger topped with pineapple and a fried egg?).

These black bean veggie burgers are just delicious. They come together in a few minutes in the food processor, and you probably have most of the ingredients for them in your pantry and fridge.

I'm not sure why I didn't make these before.

Mark Bittman's recipes make throw-everything-together recipes like this a cinch. Any beans, any nuts, any add-ins, all thrown together, and you've got yourself one tasty burger.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chilaquiles From Your Fridge

I opened the fridge yesterday and it was pretty bare. I had some of the standards: eggs, butter and salsa. 

Then I had some random odds and ends. Some queso fresco leftover from a Mexican dinner. Limes (far too many), the result of a Bloody Mary bar. Radishes. Spring onions. Cherry tomatoes.

I decided to make a quick batch of chilaquiles, with no fancy ingredients and without buying anything new at the grocery store. I'd make due with what I had.

I couldn't have been more delighted with the results. I threw some cherry tomatoes in the pan with a bit of olive oil, and I let them simmer down. I added what was left of my jar of salsa, stirred and mixed in a generous handful of tortilla chips. That cooked until the chips were soft, and then was transferred off the heat and onto a plate.

I quickly fried an egg over easy, placed it in top of the tortillas and tomatoes and went to work decorating. I sprinkled green onions on top, added a generous amount of thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkle of queso fresco.

While this is certainly not an authentic chilaquiles recipe, it sure is tasty and it's quick to make. The whole dish was on my plate in less than 15 minutes, including chopping time. And it left me pleasantly fell until lunch.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Zucchini Carrot Coconut Cream Cheese Muffins

Blue Sky Bakery has me spoiled. I used to think a really great muffin could be just one flavor.

Blueberry. Pumpkin. Lemon. Chocolate. Chocolate chip.

Not anymore.

Every Blue Sky muffin has at least three different components to it. On any given day, they'll have blueberry-pineapple bran muffins, pumpkin-apple walnut muffins, and chocolate chip, peach and raspberry muffins, to name just a few favors I've seen (and tried).

They're unique and complex, and they're certainly worth the lines on the weekends. The only downside is, they don't open until after I'm at work on weekdays.

So I had to attempt a muffin of my own that Blue Sky would be proud of.

Here it is: a zucchini and carrot muffin, stuffed with barely sweetened cream cheese and topped with toasted coconut flakes.

Every bite has something a little different to it, either with taste or with texture, and I think the appearance is just delightful.

Best of all, I froze all of these muffins after baking them, and they reheat in the microwave in about 45 seconds. That means they fit into my breakfast schedule.