Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Brown Butter Blondies with White Chocolate

I've been using my underdeveloped photography skills as a recent excuse for not blogging. I'll make a new recipe I just love or tweak an old recipe and be dying to share it with all of you, and then I'll look at the photographs and pause.

Sometimes it's the light that's all wrong. I often blame the only window in my apartment, far from my kitchen and on street level so the blinds are too often kept closed.

Other times, I'll have photos of the process all along the way, but I'll somehow have forgotten to photograph the finished product.

Or, like with this recipe, I'll only have a picture of the finished product (and an Instagram photo at that!). Look closely, and you can just see the blondies below that massive label.

Perhaps it's that I secretly never choose to cook recipes without photographs, so I feel guilty sharing them with you or nervous that you feel the same way and won't look any further.

Maybe I'll update this recipe with a better photograph later on, or maybe I won't. Either way, these blondies are delicious! The brown butter adds a delightful nuttiness, and the white chocolate ensures that each bit is just loaded with goodness. These bars are dense, something you can really sink your teeth into.

So make the blondies, despite the picture.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thai Quinoa and Tofu Bowl

I've been in a lunch rut lately.

Until this week, I had nearly the same thing for lunch. Every day. Since August. And many dinners too.

One grain + one bean + whatever veggies were in my fridge.

Quinoa and chickpeas with peas and corn.

Buckwheat with mung beans, lima beans and avocado.

By no means am I complaining. The meals were cheap and healthy. They didn't require refrigeration, and they tasted good at room temperature. Best of all, they kept me full until dinnertime.

Despite the ease of preparation, I just couldn't bring myself to eat the same thing again this week.

This dish helped. It's got the same basic breakdown of ingredients as my typical lunch, but it's got something a little more.

Coconut (and a little peanut butter, which never hurts).

It's fabulous. It's loaded with protein from the quinoa, almonds and tofu. The scallions, carrots and lightly blanched peas give it just the right amount of crunch. Every bite explodes with a combination of flavors.

Although it took quite a bit more work than my typical lunch, it was certainly worth it, and this dish will be entering my regular lunch rotation.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Recipe Update: Cranberry Nut Muffins

It's a new year. 


I often think of the new year as a time for updates. A time for fine-tuning what's already in place. A time for little tweaks that help perfect what's already going well.

This recipe has always been one of our family favorites, and this year, I felt that it needed a new year's update.  

I made the flavors more vibrant by adding freshly-grated nutmeg, fresh-squeezed orange juice and even more grated orange zest. I brought out the nuttiness by toasting the walnuts before chopping them up and throwing them in. I substituted half of the flour for whole wheat flour to make the muffins a bit healthier. 

Here's to a fabulous new year! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Farro, Apples, Chestnuts and Nutmeg

I'll admit it.

I enjoy watching reality cooking TV. Maybe a little bit too much. There's something totally entertaining about watching people cook, though Michael Pollan's new book "Cooked" is making me think more about the time we spend watching others cook compared to the time we spend actually cooking. More on that to come.

That said, recently I've felt like a contestant on Chopped.

McCormick is sponsoring a series of Go 4 Gourmet contests. They sent out boxes of ingredients around different themes, and they challenged us to create a recipe featuring those four ingredients.

Who could resist?

This week's challenge was called Artisanal Autumn, and bloggers were called to combine apples, grains, nuts and nutmeg to make one stunning dish.

Here's my contribution: roasted acorn squash stuffed with farro, apples, chestnuts and nutmeg. The apples are lightly sauteed with butter and just a hint of nutmeg.  The farro is cooked risotto style, so it's a bit creamy and helps hold everything together.

It's perfectly complex, with just the right balance of sweet and savory, soft and crunchy within every bite.

What dish would you create with those four ingredients? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

A student told me today he had four brothers and another one on the way. I looked at him and said, "That's half a year of entries in your writing notebook!" 

That line, tweeted from an elementary school teacher, lingered with me last night. For that little boy, growing up as one of six brothers will provide him with endless inspiration for writing. Even a simple car ride gains significance, showing him the value of compromise when he makes a deal with Brother #3, trading his place in the front seat of the car for a pack of baseball cards. 

Writers return to their favorite writing territories again and again, lingering with them, revisiting them in entirely new ways and ways that feel utterly familiar. These territories draw us back to our favorite authors, knowing we'll find a bit of something familiar in each new book they publish.

Right now, peanut butter is my territory. It's where I'm lingering. It focuses my recipe searches and my grocery store purchases. Recently, I've been experimenting with chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies, trying out countless variations to find one worthy of sharing with all of you. 

This is definitely it. They're almost too large, but you won't hear anyone complaining. They're soft and chewy,  loaded with extra oatmeal. They're a little light on the sugar which really lets the peanut butter shine through.

Make a batch to share, and freeze a few to have when the urge hits in the future. This is one territory you'll certainly want to return to again and again.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sesame-Crusted Baked Tofu

Like a blank artist's canvas, I love the transformative potential of tofu. You can coat it in any spices, and it takes on that flavor. You can bake it, and the texture changes.

Every tofu recipe I make is a little bit different.

It keeps life interesting.

This tofu dish is just delicious. The tofu soaks in an Asian marinade with a bit of heat. The sesame seeds add a bit of texture and crunch; they're slightly toasted by the time the tofu finishes cooking. The baking (a major change I made to the recipe) keeps the dish even healthier.

Served on a bed of greens, it's the perfect vegan supper.

It's back to the drawing board for me. I've get several more blocks of tofu in the fridge to experiment with!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse

Rough gems.

That's how Ralph Fletcher, a fabulous teacher of teachers and young writers, described rough drafts.

Isn't that language just beautiful? I love the idea of seeing our drafts, our first/second/third tries at writing something, as these gems, not totally polished yet full of incredible potential.

I'm trying to see my writing that way. These past two months, I've started post after post, jotted a few paragraphs and then stopped. I've questioned my words, doubted the power of my stories, hit discard when I felt like I could go no further.

Fletcher's words gave me that permission I needed today to write something messy, something far from perfect, and then to step back, reflect and see the beauty waiting in it.

I'm grateful for those words, and I'm glad to be back here. Writing. Blogging.

Luckily, these past two months have brought no shortage of time in the kitchen.

Here's one of my favorites from our time apart. This is a rich and creamy dessert, nothing rough about it, save for the peanut butter cups crumbled on top. Each bite is layered, loaded with chocolate, peanut butter and more chocolate and peanut butter.