Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Following Recipes

Sometimes all I want to do is follow a recipe. Word for word. Ingredient for ingredient. Not a single deviation from how the author intended it.

There's something incredibly relaxing about the process. You follow the steps listed in a given order, and mostly likely you'll end up with what you intended at the end.

Recently, I've been drawn to this kind of baking. It's been an incredibly busy winter, and after a long day at work, it's been the perfect way for me to unwind.

Here are some of my favorites.

These chocolate cream filled vanilla sugar donuts from Joy the Baker were divine. They were my first attempt at donuts, so following a recipe word for word seemed best. The vanilla sugar soaked a bit into the dough, and the chocolate cream just oozed out of the donuts. If only someone could figure out a way for donuts to keep a bit longer....

After making Smitten Kitchen's springy, fluffy marshmallows for a recent party, I was hooked. It was infinitely easier to make homemade marshmallows than I had ever imagined.

I dressed them up a bit by dipping them in chocolate and crushed candy canes.

Did you snack on puppy chow as a kid? Muddy buddies?

Don't have a clue what I'm talking about? No worries. You don't really need to know to appreciate these fabulous peanut butter filled pretzels coated in chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar from Butter Me Up, Brooklyn. It's so many of my favorite flavors tucked into one perfect bite.

Do you like to follow recipes?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Smoked Salmon Dip, Updated

In some areas of my cooking, there's a ton of variety. New desserts for nearly every dinner party.  A variety of entrees served to repeat visitors. I've even been spicing up my breakfasts, pushing myself to move beyond bagels and peanut butter.

And then, there's the appetizers.

It's not that I wouldn't like to make more creative appetizers for the typical dinner. It just happens that by the time I've created my ideal dinner (centered around a dessert, of course), there's no time left to create a unique set of appetizers to start the meal.

I've got one appetizer that almost always surfaces at dinner parties: smoked salmon dip. It's fabulously creamy and can easily be made a few hours in advance and tucked away in the fridge.

The only problem? The dairy. As part of my New Year's resolution to cut dairy out of my savory cooking, I haven't been able to make my traditional version of smoked salmon dip, loaded with cream cheese and a touch of milk.

I created this dairy-free smoked salmon dip as an alternative, substituting a bit of mayonnaise for all the cream cheese I had previously used. I added a touch of lemon juice for acidity and chopped green onions for some crunch.

The end result was a delicious dip with quite prominent smoked salmon flavors. I didn't miss the dairy at all. My friends accustomed to the original version didn't either.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Little Valentine's Day Inspiration

It's two days before Valentine's Day.

Maybe your menu is all planned out.

Or maybe, like me, you're up right now, far past your bedtime, paging through cookbooks in search of that just-right recipe.

If you still need a dessert, let me suggest some of my favorites. They range from simple to complex, but I think they're all delicious.

These brown sugar sandwich cookies make the perfect heart-shaped treat. They're not too sweet, and the jam gives them such a nice, fruity touch.

This raspberry filled brioche french toast is perfect for breakfast, dinner or dessert!

I can only imagine that these nutella filled pop tarts would be even tastier heart shaped!

These white and dark chocolate heart brownies satisfy all kinds of brownie lovers.

It would be hard to go wrong with a good old-fashioned chocolate pudding. It's got an intense chocolate taste.

This chocolate mousse cake is perfect for anytime. Seriously.

What are you making this Valentine's Day? 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Farro Pasta with Winter Vegetables

We were prepared for Nemo to hit. It seemed like all of Brooklyn was. At 3 p.m. on Friday, lines stretched into the aisles at the grocery store, and liquor sales were up 500 percent from a typical Friday. Our electronics were charged, we dug out the flashlights we had purchased for Sandy a few months earlier, and we pulled out our favorite board games.

Most importantly, we had Nutella. Nutella on crackers. Nutella with pretzels. Nutella with pecans.

And best of all, chocolate chip pancakes drizzled with Nutella and dulche de leche for breakfast. With mimosas and big cups of coffee.

Oh yes, you read that right. 

They were superb. The perfect breakfast for that we're in the middle of a blizzard so all normal breakfast rules get tossed right out the window kind of morning. 

I enjoyed every bite. 

Then I went outside. By 11 a.m., the sidewalks and streets near me were already cleared. 

By the time I got home, the reality of all that Nutella hit me. 

So I planned a much healthier meal for later in the day, loaded with roasted and sauteed winter vegetable that provide a perfect balance of sweetness and crunch. 

The farro pasta contributes a delightful, nutty flavor that takes pasta to a whole new level, and it's definitely worth hunting for. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Perfect Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Do you have plans tonight?

Cancel them.

Or at the very least, postpone them by the ten minutes it will take to get out the ingredients for these cookies, whip up the dough, stick it in the fridge to chill, and do the dishes.

Trust me, those ten minutes will be well worth it.

I lived far too many years of my life not knowing cookies like these existed, and I would just hate for someone else to make the same mistake.

I know what you're saying. Katie, isn't this the eleventh chocolate peanut butter recipe you've blogged about in the past two years?

Yes, it is, and I'm not ashamed.

Because this one is different. All the previous recipes were good. Some were really incredible. But they were all complicated. Like this chocolate peanut butter mousse cake, for instance. It's ridiculous decadent, and not overly complicated to assemble, but it will certainly require lots of planning ahead and a special trip to the grocery store.

That's not the case for these little treats.

I bet you have all the ingredients in your pantry right not. Creamy peanut butter. Dark brown sugar. One egg. A little vanilla. A touch of baking soda.

Throw the ingredients in your stand mixer, whisk up for three minutes, and then pack away for at least four hours, or until chilled.

Avoid cracking the fridge open every few minutes as you walk by, or there will be very little dough left when you're ready to bake the cookies.

Eat them warmed up for a few seconds or at room temperature. Just make sure the chocolate is a little soft when you bite in.

I better go.

There are only two of these bad boys left on my counter, and they're calling to me.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tempeh and Black Bean Breakfast Hash

I needed a pick-me-up breakfast this week, something exploding with flavor and packed with energy that would help get me through the day.

It's been cold here recently, too many days of indoor recess for the kids, too many mornings walking to work where I couldn't stay warm despite the layers I piled on. I even tried out a new coffee shop, half a block from my work, because it felt too cold to carry a cup of coffee six blocks. Things were that serious.

It's the kind of weather that makes me want to hibernate, to pull on sweaters, pile on blankets and eat some comfort food.

While this certainly isn't a typical comfort food breakfast, it's got all the tastes and flavors I grew up on. Yes, all of them. Even the tempeh. I was the kid who grew with sauteed tempeh next to my bacon on the weekends, and I loved it.

Each bite has something different. There's crunch from the tempeh, sweetness from the sauteed tomatoes and roasted carrots, and satisfying protein from the tempeh and black beans. To bolster it for dinners, I added a fried egg and avocado.

I made a cast-iron skillet full on Sunday and heated up servings each morning for breakfast. It was certainly worth getting up a few minutes earlier each day so I could heat it up.

I'm linking up to Healthy Vegan Fridays