Whole Wheat English Muffins

English muffins are such a great thing to have on hand. Add a little butter and toast them up for breakfast or as a side at dinner. Hungry for a big breakfast? Add a poached egg and avocado and you are set. In a bind for dinner? Add some marinara sauce and mozzarella on top and you have pizza!

For the reasons above, I often grab some English muffins at the store, and if I don’t eat them all that week I put the rest in the freezer for a future need. I’m not sure why I originally decided to make homemade English muffins, but I’m so glad I did. Not only are they really easy: 15 minute max prep time (before rising and baking), but I think they are way better than the store bought kind.

The past week, I was consistently scrambling around for breakfast each morning – I hadn’t done a good job thinking ahead when I was at the grocery store the previous weekend. So, when I decided to actually think about what to make for breakfast this week, I knew I wanted these.

Try them out! You won’t be disappointed.

I follow this recipe from the New York Times exactly, so I’ll just pass along the link.

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Mozzarella Class

I’m diverging from the main premise if this blog, which is to pass along dessert recipes that I have recently made. Cheese, however, is sometimes a dessert, so I’ll claim that this isn’t too much of a stretch. Plus, as I discover more gems in NYC, I want to pass them along to you.

I’ve been on a mozzarella kick since I had dinner at Mailino in the city last fall. (Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa was sitting at the table next to us, so you know it has to be good.) We ordered some mozzarella and prosciutto as an appetizer. This was no ordinary mozzarella; it was clearly homemade and each bite just melted in your mouth. I probably could have had just a plate of that for my meal.

A few weeks later, a friend introduced me to the to the Italian market, Eataly. Unlike Chelsea market on a Saturday night, eataly has been completely packed every time I have gone. If you are into Italian food, or food at all really, then you should check out eataly. At the front of the store, they have Italian chocolates and coffee. (I stopped by one night when my friend Michael was in town to have some delicious hot chocolate!)

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When you get deeper into the market, you discover fresh prosciutto, milks, cheeses, olive oils, and more Italian cookbooks than you would know existed. Everyone is bumping into you and talking loudly, so there is no mistaking that you are in New York and not Italy, but you can eat like you are in Italy.

The greatest part of the market is watching the staff prepare fresh pasta. When I was there last, they were making gnocchi. If I lived in the city, I’d go here to pick up fresh pasta for special dinner parties – or just to share with a friend – for a special home cooked meal. Nothing beats fresh pasta and cheese.

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Back to mozzarella. I discovered they had a mozzarella class, and I jumped on the opportunity to sign up. In typical NYC fashion, it was a way over-priced class, but you better believe that I got some delicious homemade cheese. We started the class by learning about the process of making mozzarella, and the origins of mozzarella in Italy. (Fun fact: unlike with cows, the milking process of water buffalo and goats cannot be mechanized, which is why their milk and cheese is more expensive.). We left the class stuffed full of multiple kinds of mozzarella, salad, pasta, and pizza all made with their fresh mozza.

Main take-away from the class, which I will pass along to you: if you ever see homemade barrata on the menu, order it. It is the most amazing, buttery, melty mozzarella cheese you will ever have. Use a slice of Italian bread to sop up all of the yummy goodness (on the left in the picture below). Offer it to me for dessert, and I’d choose it over chocolate any day.

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Finally, I’ll end this post with a quote from one of my sister and my favorite movies. (Bonus points if you know the movie.)
Kate: Spasm! Spasm! Oh, God, here it comes… lactose intolerance!

Chelsea Market!

I’ve never been too keen on NYC. Before last summer, I had visited a few times and always enjoyed it, but for some reason it was never a place I wanted to live or really visit except to see friends. Just over a year ago, I began applying for jobs. In my mind, I wanted to live in a large city no further north than DC. I even crossed places off the list just because they were in NYC, but there were a few schools north of DC that managed to stay on.

Interviews came around and my first one lined up was with Colgate. I had been practicing my answer to “how would you like to live in Maine since you’ve spent all of your time in the south?” Sure enough that question came up, and I bombed it. Truth was, I didn’t want to live in the north, no matter how much I practiced being enthusiastic about it.

After first and second round interviews came job offers. I had two that I was really interest in: one in dc and one in New York. The first one met all of my qualifications: a job I would love in a city I already loved. The second one: small town, north of dc, and with the closest city being NYC. Never one to take the easy route, I chose the second job.

All of that is a long winded way of saying that having long been a skeptic of the city and having no plans to ever end up in this area, I am now a huge fan of NYC. It is awesome! I’ve barely explored it, but I’ve come to realize it has so much to offer! Last weekend (and the subject of this post), I went to Chelsea Market. If you live near the city or are planning a trip to NYC and you love food, I recommend checking this place out! (I am currently on the train to the city to visit another market -eataly – and take a mozarella class – more on that in another post.)

At the entrance, there is an anthropologie. Right there, you know that the place can’t be too bad. Once you enter though, you pass a bunch of restaurants, mini food shops, bakeries, kitchen stores, and so much more!

My favorite place, which unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of was the filling station. It is this little shop that sells flavored salts, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars. The best salt was the truffle salt by far, and if I didn’t have a bunch of new flavored salts at my apartment, I would have bought some right then. Diana and I tried pretty much all of the vinegars. The strangest was cinnamon pear. Who knew that would be a balsamic vinegar? My favorite was the cherry flavored one.

Next we went to the miniature doughnut shop. If you’ve ever been to a Krispy Kreme, this place will make you laugh. The doughnut maker is a tiny model of the one they have in the stores. They are just missing the “hot now” sign. You can ask for all sorts of favors with strawberry and sprinkles being my choice, of course. We picked up a dozen or so for the bday party we were going to, and they were quickly gobbled up.

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Next stop: hot chocolate. Seeing as the temperature outside was sub 30 degrees, this was an obvious choice. I’ve always heard that chilies in chocolate are awesome, but I’ve never actually tried it. In an adventurous mood, we got the wicked hot chocolate to sip on as we did more exploring.

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Finally, I’ll tell you about the tea/spice shop. I drink tea every day. Well, many times a day. Mainly English breakfast tea, but I’m trying to branch out. This place had any kind of tea imaginable and all made by the guy behind the table. Also, if you were looking for any time of spice combination (think: guacamole spices), they had that too. I ultimately settled on a strawberry tea that I’m going to have to break out this week.

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Ok, this post is long enough. Moral of the story: NYC is a pretty cool place, and I recommend Chelsea market.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: the New York state insect is the lady bug.

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Gooey Mint Cookies

Originally Posted December 17, 2011

I’ll admit that sometimes I can be a baking snob.  When I first made a version of these cookies, I turned my nose up at them.  They were too easy – what’s the fun in that?  Then I ate one… another… another …  I lost track of how many I ate.  The next day at school, they got rave reviews.  I went from being above them to being a huge fan.

After making them for the first time (and thinking about them for a while afterward), I decided I want to try them with a mint flavor.  My original idea was to add peppermint extract to the dough instead of vanilla.  Then I ran across some mint chips on display at the end of the aisle at the grocery store and settled with them. (Hey!  One of my classmates studies the effect of end of the aisle displays – here is an application.)

Mint chocolate chips are excellent.  I definitely tested a few before throwing them into the batter.  They add a nice twist to the chocolate cookie, and I bet would be good thrown into some brownies as well.  The mint flavor is similar to a Thin Mint, but these are incredibly soft cookies, as opposed to the crispy nature of the Girl Scout version.

Gooey Mint Cookies
Adapted from “Gooey Chocolate Cookies” by Pete and Denay
1 (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. chocolate cake mix – whatever kind you find on sale
Hershey’s Mint Chocolate Chips

Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg and vanilla.
Add cake mix and mix well. Add chocolate chips.
Dough will be sticky. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.  (oops, I forgot this step.)
Form balls and bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes.

Chocolate Brownies with a Touch of Sea Salt

Originally Posted June 25, 2011

Nashville is an amazing place to live.  Not only do you run into Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman at Starbucks, but you hear can hear the best live music for very cheap (and sometimes free).

The Station Inn is apparently the most famous place to hear bluegrass music.  You would never know it by its appearance.  Across the street from fancy new condos and hip restaurants, it is a run down building that looks abandoned.   Last Saturday night, we went to see “Off the Wagon” play their last performance with their banjo player, Blake.  Blake is famous, and the band will truly miss him.

Ok, I’m not sure if Blake is famous, but I know him!  As a thank you to him and his wife, Katie, for getting us in and saving a couple of tables, I made them these brownies.  Katie loves Lindt Excellence “A Touch of Sea Salt” Dark Chocolate bar.  Knowing this obsession, I knew she would love these brownies, even before I had ever made them.

How to eat:  It is best to eat these brownies upside down.  That way the salt touches your tongue first.

Citation: I found these on a blog (http://www.betsysbites.com/2011/05/omfg-brownies/)  of a blog (http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/desserts/salted-fudge-brownies/).  I changed the name but nothing else.  If I were to make them again (which I’m sure I will), I would add more salt into the brownie batter and not just on top.  You can find the recipe here: http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/desserts/salted-fudge-brownies/

The recipe says they need to be chilled, but I ate one while it was still warm with a glass of milk.  I was not disappointed.

 

Pretty Please Brownies with Cherries on Top

Originally posted Dec. 18, 2011

A few years ago, I was watching the food network and the pillsbury bake-off was on.  I knew right then that some day I wanted to enter this competition. This year was it.

Every Christmas my mom makes triple chocolate cake for all of our family friends. It is a super rich cake with a hint of almond. Half of the recipients confuse the almond flavoring for cherry. While cherries and almonds are quite different, they go amazingly together; and I decided that I would combine them for this competition.

My first attempt involved pillsbury pie crust, and it was an utter failure.

Then I decided I would combine an almond flavored brownie, an almond glaze, and cherry preserves.  Once I had that decided, I just needed to settle on the presentation of the dessert. Bite size brownies?  Cherries in between two layers of brownies?  Cherries below or above the almond glaze? My classmates were forced to test out a different version every couple of weeks.  Finally, I decided on a brownie cooked in a pie pan with the almond glaze topped by cherries; served like a cake.

I brought the dessert to a NCAA basketball championship watching party last spring and had people rate it and provide name suggestions. The runner up name was “cherry bomb,” and I’m planning on making another dessert that would more accurately depict that name (I’m picturing a cake pop with cherries in the middle).  “Pretty please brownies with cherries on top” won the prize for the perfect name!

The rules of the competition included that the recipe could never have been posted on a blog before, and you could not be a paid food blogger.  There are no advertisements on this blog, and up until this point, I have never posted the recipe.

Well, I lost.  Actually worse than lost, I never made the bake-off… Guess I should stop dreaming about what I would do with the million dollar prize.  So now as my Christmas present to you, I share with you my award winning (in my book only) pretty please brownies with cherries on top.

This is one of those recipe that is best after it has cooled and the flavors have had time to come together.

Pretty Please Brownies with Cherries on Top
Adapted from my Pillsbury Bake-off Recipe

Grease a 9×9 pie pan.  Line with parchment (important).

Prepare boxed brownie as instructed on the box.
Add:
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips (if you are using a fudge brownie mix with chocolate chips already in it, then
1/2 a cup is probably enough)
Pour in pie pan and bake as instructed on box. (Under cook as much as you like, but make sure it doesn’t
come out as pudding.)

Meanwhile prepare icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. almond extract

When brownie is done, allow to cool slightly, then flip onto a serving dish.  Drizzle with icing.

Finally, top with 3/4 of a jar of Pillsbury Cherry Preserves.

Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve!

 

    

Blueberry Pie

Originally Posted July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!!

I started off my 4th with a little 5K run, think I might go for a bike ride in a bit, and then hoping to finish it off with some fireworks!  Oh – and there will be some food involved in my day.  Specifically, blueberry pie.  I mean what says Happy 4th of July better than blueberry pie?  Serve it in a red pie dish, and you instantly have a patriotic dessert!

My family traveled to Maine a few years ago (well, it was before I left for college, so I guess it was more than a few), and we visited a friend of my dad’s for dinner.  They served us a pie after dinner, and wow.  It was the best blueberry pie I had ever had.  I, of course, had to get the recipe, and I’ve been making it every since.

I said in my “about me” section that my desserts are not works of art.   Well, this one definitely shows it.

I’ll walk you through the steps of how to make this pie, so you can see just how easy it is to get an ugly but delicious pie.

Crust
1.    Put all of the dry ingredients for your pie crust in a bowl.
2.    Cut in your butter and Crisco (both of these need to be cold)
3.    Get a bowl of ice cold water and pour the water into the middle of the flour / butter mixture.
4.    Using a fork, mix together your pie dough until it all comes together.
5.    Roll out the dough and put into your pie pan.

Filling
1.    Rinse off your blueberries.
2.    Add sugar & corn starch (or tapioca pudding)
3.    Grate in some lemon peel
4.    Add the cinnamon
Taste it.

Pour the blueberry filling into the crust.  Cut up 2 Tbsp. butter over filling.  Then place the top crust over the filling.  Sprinkle sugar over the top of the crust.
Put into the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, turn down the oven and bake for 40 to 50 more minutes.  Tip:  Put a cookie sheet underneath your pie in case some of the filling spills out.

Citation: Peter Murray (my dad’s friend)

Crust:
1 cup shortening ( ½ butter, ½ Crisco)
3 cups flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ cup cool water

Make and roll out top and bottom crusts in usual manner.

Filling:
6 cups blueberries
1 ¼ cup sugar
4 Tbsp. “minute” tapioca (I used 2 Tbsp. cornstarch)
Grating of the peel of one lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter