It’s spring, and one of the most cheerful and spring-like things I could think of to take to a recent party was the Lemon Bars recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made them before, but years ago, and I didn’t have the recipe actually written here on the website. It’s time to fix that, particularly since they’re so delicious and so easy to make.
These lemon bars are incredibly bright and citrusy. They’re nicely tart, definitely sweet but not overwhelmingly so. The base layer is a simple shortbread that comes together very easily with an electric or stand mixer, and the extra-thick layer of lemon curd is easily whisked together. The most time consuming part of making these bars may be juicing the lemons! These bars are great for a potluck or party, because one batch yields a full 9×13 inch pan that will feed a lot of people, especially if cut into 64 two-bite bars (a perfect serving size that lets you get seconds or thirds!). Mine were a little softer than they probably should have been, as I baked them on the shorter end of the time, but the filling still stayed in place except when jostled.
One trick to these: use a metal baking pan that’s lined with parchment paper along the bottom and sides. This keeps the bars from sticking horrendously to your baking pan and allows you to pull them from the pan for easy cutting. Skip it and you’ll be sorry.
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I’m incredibly excited about this recipe for beef hash.
I like beef hash, and I don’t always find it when I’m out for breakfast; when I do, so often it’s corned beef hash from a can. I like that sometimes, but it’s so salty! Hash seemed like it should be simple to make, but I never tried to make it until recently when I had a leftover roast that I really couldn’t figure out what else to do with. It was perfect!
I used this recipe as a jumping board. Other recipes added liquid, including milk or cream (I guess to make it more of a gravy?). I resisted initially, but found that adding a little liquid at the end added moisture to the beef and allowed me to scrape up browned bits from the pan. Leftover liquid from your roast is perfect as it should already be seasoned to your liking. I’d need to salt lightly if using broth since it’s often salty (and the liquid cooks off), and I’d need to add some extra salt, pepper, and other seasonings like thyme or garlic if I used water. Mushrooms are optional; they didn’t add much to the dish for me. I wouldn’t forgo the red bell pepper, though – it adds a little more flavor and oomph to the dish. Another thing I like about this recipe – from start to finish, it only took 30 minutes, which is about as much time as I want to spend on a single meal.
Continue reading Roast Beef Hash
Happy early Pi Day! I thought about waiting until tomorrow, Pi Day (3.14), to talk about pie, but honestly, which is better? Making a pie on Pi Day, or making the pie the day before so you can eat it on Pi Day? I’d rather you also have the option of making a pie in advance.
I wanted to give you a new pie recipe for Pi Day, but whenever I thought about pie over the last few weeks, all I could think about was this Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie that was my first baking project after Amelia was born. So I made it again yesterday (using a frozen pie crust and forgetting to toast my oats), and all the goodness I remembered it being – a chewy oatmeal cookie-like layer over a layer of chocolate. I adore chocolate and oats together, and I don’t combine the two nearly so often as I should.
I have two other favorite pies on this site. First is Key Lime Pie. It is about the easiest pie you could ever possibly make. If you use a store-bought crust and use bottled juice (which I have almost always done), you can make the pie in less than 30 minutes. (Unfortunately, you still have to wait for the pie to chill.) I have two recipes on here, and both are rather good, but I’d probably make this one again.
My other favorite is Coconut Cream Pie. It’s a stirred vanilla custard you make on the stove, with lots of coconut added to it. Sometimes I really crave it, and I have no trouble eating almost the whole pie over a few days, even without Alex’s help. Sometimes I consider finding a different recipe for it, but I’m still really satisfied with this one.
Even if you’re not mathematically inclined, please take tomorrow as an excuse to eat some pie, like I do!
Since I posted last, the weather took an unseasonable turn. We had a weekend in the 70s! Most of another week was in the 60s. I took Amelia on walks and to parks several days to let her burn off some of her endless 2-year-old energy. It takes her a while to run out of steam, and I began to fear we’d sunburn in February.
Having had a taste of beautiful weather and sunshine, I have spring fever. I’m pretty sure I’ll cry if we have cold weather again, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I’d like to share this bright Grapefruit Yogurt Cake with you. I first made it in 2011 and have made it several times since, although not since I moved to New Jersey. Although it’s been a while since I made it, I love this recipe. The cake has a subtle citrus flavor that people can’t quite place, but usually assume is lemon. There are so many lemon recipes out there, that it’s nice to do something a little different. This cake is sweet but not too sweet, so it’s perfect for breakfast or a snack.
The cake is simple to assemble. It takes oil but not butter, and yogurt helps keep it tender. Grapefruit zest lightly flavors the batter, but grapefruit juice poured onto the hot cake shortly after it comes from the oven helps keep it moist and gives it extra grapefruit flavor. A simple glaze of grapefruit juice and powdered sugar pretties it up (particularly if your edges brown excessively like mine tend to do). I find it gives the cake an extra bit of flavor, but feel free to omit it.
Continue reading Grapefruit Yogurt Cake
I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite hot chocolate mix.
I’ve made hot chocolate or hot cocoa mix for the past several years as part of the gift boxes I like to send to friends and family. When I started, I would make hot cocoa mix that included powdered milk. Then I switched to this hot chocolate mix. The past two years, I’ve made Decadent Hot Chocolate mix from Smitten Kitchen.
Both this and my previous favorite are mixes that you combine with hot milk. I had problems with my previous recipe not fully blending into the milk at times. The last time or two I made it, I felt that it was a little too sweet at times (like drinking a candy bar, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that’s nice from time to time). This recipe uses a little less mix per cup of hot chocolate, which helps remedy that.
This recipe is a dark hot chocolate mix, so if you prefer milk hot chocolate, I suggest you try using that instead of regular semisweet or dark chocolate bars or chips. You can experiment with adding less mix per cup of milk to make it less chocolatey (although I certainly won’t do that!). I generally use chocolate chips when I make hot chocolate mix, so I don’t have to chop up chocolate. I always make hot chocolate mix with a food processor, as it pulverizes the ingredients the most finely, which is important in ensuring the chocolate dissolves well in the hot milk. If you don’t have a food processor, you can try grating chocolate bars for this instead.
This chocolate mix is very giftable. One batch yields about 1 3/4 cups, or 9 servings, and is a great size gift for a couple or family. I’ve also heard that spoonfuls of this mix are an excellent addition to coffee, so be sure you give plenty to your friends and family.
Continue reading Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix
It’s been longer than I’d like to admit since I last posted a recipe here. I haven’t stopped cooking. It’s simply that I hadn’t made much until December that I had to write about, and we all know how busy December can be.
To motivate myself to write more, I came up with a new food goal for 2017. This year, I’m going to use up all the extraneous ingredients in my pantry. We all have them – those random ingredients that we buy for a single recipe, only to put the rest back into the cabinet, to be pushed back behind all the cans of tomatoes or boxes of pasta or canisters of cocoa powder (if you’re me). I’ve inventoried my pantry and refrigerator, and on my fridge is a list of all the ingredients that I have that I should use up. It’s more than a once-a-week cooking task. I doubt I’ll write about all of them, but I hope I’ll find some great things to share.
That said, I decided to make this recipe long before I decided on 2017’s food goal. I found this smoky cashew dip when I happened to read an email from Bon Appetit, which I usually don’t read. It’s my new favorite thing – by which I mean I’ve made it three times in the last week. I don’t eat dip, but I make an exception for this one, as it’s simply cashews, chiles in adobo sauce, water, and salt to taste.
Chiles in adobo sauce are something that recipes only use a tablespoon or two of, meaning I store the remainder in my fridge to hope that I can use before I feel obliged to throw it away. I’ve never used up an entire can, until now. (For those curious, I’ve brushed the adobo sauce on grilled pork before.) The chiles add a little spiciness and smokiness to the ground cashews. I generally can give or take cashews, but this dip makes it worth buying them.
Other things I like about this dip: it takes less than 5 minutes to make. It’s high in protein and fat (to make up for all the crackers you might eat it with). It’s also gluten-free and vegan.
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The last time I made my usual blueberry muffin recipe, I wasn’t as happy with it as I remembered. Those muffins overflowed and flattened out, more of a mushroom shape than a nice, mountainous muffin shape. It was about then that Alton Brown published an updated version, which I tried – and wasn’t thrilled with because they were way too big, among other reasons. (His assertion that everyone loves a muffin top is inaccurate.) So I was pretty excited when Smitten Kitchen updated her blueberry muffin recipe. It made fewer muffins (9, a good number for a family of 2 1/2 people), looked easy to make, and took ingredients I had as long as I still had blueberries on hand.
I was impressed when I tried the recipe. The muffins assembled easily and quickly, and they turned out perfectly, as promised. They were fluffy and moist, even after a couple of days, and had lots of blueberries strewn throughout them. (Alex actually would like a little more muffin, and a little less blueberry.) I liked the hint of lemon in the muffin. The muffins rose and domed nicely – no batter overflowing onto the muffin pan and flattening out. I think this has become my new go-to muffin recipe.
Continue reading Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Now that my last few posts have been about real food, I’m back to talking about what I really love – cookies. When Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a few months about Confetti Cookies, I wanted to try them – and then became busy and promptly forgot about the recipe, until I rediscovered it during on a weekend when I went on a spree of browsing dessert recipes while waiting for Alex to bring home donuts for breakfast.
I couldn’t make the cookies immediately, unfortunately, because I didn’t have cream cheese, which the recipe called for. Luckily I remembered to pick it up during my weekly shopping trip. From there, it was a very simple process of stationing my toddler on the kitchen counter, where she could play with Keurig cups while I assembled cookie dough and steal sprinkles that fell off of cookies that I put on baking sheets. (She was very good, and only smooshed one cookie with a container after I flattened it with a glass. But who can blame her for trying to help with the cookies!)
The recipe was pretty easy to make. It’s a standard sugar cookie recipe enhanced by cream cheese. I remember seeing this original recipe in King Arthur Flour, but I had to pass it by since I don’t keep cream cheese in the house. The cream cheese is supposed to up the complexity in the cookie, keeping them from being merely sweet; I also think it helps keep them fresh. Deb made these cookies in the food processor. I tried this for a different Smitten Kitchen recipe I tried once, and it worked splendidly! So I used a food processor instead of my stand mixer. This worked well as I didn’t have to bring my butter or cream cheese to room temperature, and the process was also a few minutes faster.
I cut back on the sugar by accident, but Alex and I agreed that we didn’t miss it; the sprinkles are plenty sweet. This recipe should yield 48 cookies, but I only got 33. They baked perfectly, though. The cookies were wonderfully soft and tender, and were still fresh after being stored in an air-tight container for a few days. I think this will be my go-to sugar cookie recipe.
Continue reading Confetti Cookies
My toddler has been eating almond butter on toast for 2-3 meals a day for the last week, so when my dog pulled the last few pieces of bread from the counter and ate them while we were out, I took this opportunity to get back into bread-baking, gently.
Gently, I say, because I opted for super-easy. I didn’t particularly feel like baking bread. I wanted (and we needed) bread for toast, but making yeast bread, even a simple recipe, didn’t fit into our schedule. Since I planned to feed this to Amelia (and myself) multiple times a day, the bread needed to be healthy (whole wheat).
This whole wheat molasses bread (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) was exactly what I wanted. It’s a soda bread with a little extra. You simply mix a handful of ingredients, plop the batter into a loaf pan, and bake it. No kneading, no waiting for dough to rise. The bread has a dense crumb, more like a banana bread than a traditional loaf of sandwich bread. I could easily cut it thinly with a bread knife, and the slices were perfect for toast with peanut butter or almond butter. This bread is sweet from the molasses, but the molasses flavor wasn’t overwhelming. This was a great, faster alternative to making sandwich bread, but it has more moisture than sandwich bread, so eat it within a few days of baking.
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Summer has been very hot in New Jersey this year. I don’t think it’s usually quite this hot, although I don’t know for certain as it’s only our second summer here. When the heat rivals summer in the Midwest, meals for us usually consist of whatever Alex has grilled that day, leftovers from when Alex grilled, pancakes (because I use an electric griddle), or BLTs, which are really cooling if you (perhaps heretically) microwave your bacon and don’t heat up your oven or a frying pan.
This Eggplant and Barley Salad from Smitten Kitchen is really very nice in the summer, once you get past the steps of roasting vegetables. I first made this salad a few years ago, and I really liked it. Alex doesn’t like eggplant, but he enjoys this salad. Roasting the eggplant makes it a little less eggplanty and more delicious. The barley is tender yet chewy, flavored with cumin and coriander. The grain is surprisingly good cold. I usually don’t like salads because dressing is too vinegary or assertive, but this salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, all of which I like. Tomatoes and roasted zucchini (and olives, if those are your thing) give the dish extra flavor. I love the balanced flavors in this dish.
This is a delicious, flavorful summer salad. It works great as a make-ahead vegetarian/vegan meal and is perfect as leftovers on a lot summer day. We had 4 dinner-sized servings plus some for a toddler, but it would yield more as a side dish.
Continue reading Eggplant and Barley Salad