Citrus salad with black pepper and tarragon.

IMG_3512

Helloo-oh, it’s winter. And Seattle has had some dark, short days. When I moved here this past summer, I selectively forgot about latitude, sun patterns, and the winter solstice. Why would a southern girl ever need to remember things like that? Evidently, it’s important in the Pacific Northwest. Evidently, it’s why the vampires from the Twilight series live in a town near me.

But (non-vampire) people have survived this far north for decades, centuries; I must be able to adopt the evolutionary adaptations that Seattlites use to cope with pasty skin and seven months of darkness, right? From my initial observations I’ve found that some days you have ginger cookies and milk for lunch. Some days (ahem, all days) you take hour-long baths. Some days you kayak and/or hike in the snow and/or rain. Every day you eat well.

IMG_3505

Never before have I been in a place that loves its seasonal food as much as the Pacific Northwest does. Winter is no excuse for bland colors. Instead, the markets burst with sunny persimmons, dark green lacinato kale and seaweed, silver-gilded oyster mushrooms, temptingly red endives, and citrus, their oranges, reds, and yellows like sweet, fragrant winter suns.

When our winter began in November, I made this citrus salad with grapefruit, tangerines, and pomegranate seeds. It was simple  and bright, a challenge to the months of gray to come. As winter has progressed, I’ve added a splash of sultry blood oranges, bit of freshly ground black pepper, handful of allspice. I need this salad like I need Vitamin D; in all its peppery, herbaceous lightness, it’s edible sun.

Postscript: As I write to you the sun is out in Seattle. In fact, the past week has been wonderfully, surprisingly sunny (three days of [foggy] sun! Sun, people!) Coincidence? I think not. Thank you, citrus salad.

IMG_3465

IMG_3484

Citrus Salad with Black Pepper and Tarragon

Feel free to make this salad your own with different fresh herbs, spices, and types of citrus. For balanced flavor and pleasing visual appearance, pick types of seedless citrus with different levels of bitterness and varied interior colors.

Serves four, with leftovers for breakfast.

  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, split in two bowls
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 2 mandarin oranges, navel oranges, or tangerines
  • 1 pomelo or oroblanco
  • 1 grapefruit (ruby red looks particularly lovely)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (pink pepper would work wonderfully as well; it’s just a bit harder to find.)

Add sugar, 1/8 cup tarragon, and 1/8 cup water in a jar and shake until the sugar dissolves and tarragon bruises. Strain syrup through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve for salad. Tarragon syrup will keep for a week in the fridge and can be used as a cocktail mixer, pancake topper, etc… the sweet possibilities are endless!

Cut off the base and stem end of each citrus and peel citrus with cut side flat on the cutting board. Make sure to peel off any bits of bitter white pith. Slice citrus crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds.

Arrange citrus on a platter. Grind a bit of fresh black pepper over top, drizzle with tarragon syrup, and finish with remaining tarragon.

Advertisements

The peppermint patty.

IMG_8274

Looking for a beautiful, handmade gift idea for Christmas?

IMG_8269

Homemade peppermint patties!

You haven’t had a peppermint patty until you have one that’s made by hand. These peppermint bites are relatively easy to make and very pretty, perfect for holiday gifting. Plus they actually taste like peppermint, a far cry from synthetic, aluminum-flavored York peppermint patties. This recipe comes from a pastry chef who once ran her own chocolate making business, teaches classes on handmade candy, and with whom I just finished editing a cookbook; the lady knows her patty.

And, side note: I’ve started writing a food column for Misadventures, the ridiculously awesome magazine for adventurous women; you can find a funny story behind peppermint patties here!

IMG_8278

IMG_8280

IMG_8266

Handmade Peppermint Patties

Makes 24 patties. Recipe adapted from Ash­ley Rodriguez.

  •   2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  •   1 1/2 table­spoons unsalted but­ter, softened
  •   1/2 tea­spoon kosher salt
  •   1 1/2 tea­spoons pep­per­mint extract
  •   1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only (optional, but so good)
  •   2 table­spoons heavy cream
  •   12 ounces good qual­ity dark chocolate
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine confectioner’s sugar, butter, salt, peppermint extract, vanilla, and cream. Beat with a paddle attachment until mixture comes together. Turn mixer on high and beat until candy comes together and is light and creamy. When you touch it, it should be soft but not at all sticky; if it seems sticky, add a little more powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until dough is no longer sticky.
  2. Scrape candy paste out onto a long piece of cling wrap and form into a thin tube about 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Wrap well in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Once candy is firm, use a large sharp knife to slice off rounds about 1/4-inch thick. Return to refrigerator.
  3. Melt chocolate in the microwave, stirring in 30-second increments to prevent overheating.
  4. Remove candy discs from refrigerator and dip into melted chocolate. With a fork, let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and set dipped peppermint patty onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper. If patties get too soft to dip, chill briefly in the refrigerator until they’re firm again.
  5. Let patties set at room temperature, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Boozy baked apples, coming home.

IMG_8396

Friends, it has been waaay too long. Four months; four-ever. I wish I had a story-worthy excuse that sounds something like “so I was riding down this dark, coffee shop-lined alley on my fixie and these hipsters in jeggings and oversized knit hats kidnaped me” or “the ship I was working on as a fisherwoman didn’t have wifi.”

But, alas, I was not kidnapped by caffeine-hyped hipsters and I gave up my dreams of becoming a fisherwoman when I was thirteen and The Perfect Storm gave me reoccurring nightmares. Instead, my only excuse is that I have fallen helplessly and ridiculously in love with my new home.IMG_8356

IMG_8351

IMG_8357

Seattle is beautiful. Most days are gray, but when afternoon sun nudges its way in to the street you can’t help but smile.  Ninety-two percent of the people I’ve met are introverts involved in either a start-up or a band, sometimes both, and who love their dogs, alcoholic drinks, REI membership status, bocce ball, composting, and good food. I live in an apartment above an espresso shop and incense emporium, and when my window is open I can hear the church down the street play hymns on the hour (and coincidentally the same church Macklemore features in “Same Love.”) At night, the air smells like salt and clouds.

Put Seattle on your bucket list; you will thank me forever, I promise. Where else can the sun make you automatically smile?

IMG_0402

The great state of Washington also happens to have incredibly wonderful apples. A couple weeks back, I went to a farm north of the city and picked 22 pounds of the sweet red things. Since then I’ve eaten one a day, and kept the doctor away, but I still feel a duty to my new homeplace to explore its apple horizons. So I pull out the old pyrex dishes and autumn spices, pour myself a cocktail, and get to work on these boozy baked apple babies. Oats and almonds give the apples a crisp, buttery core and amaretto reduces as the apples cook, absorbing their sweetness into a spicy, caramelized syrup that tastes like home. It’s a simple recipe that takes five to ten minutes to prep. Yet time in the oven highlights each apple’s creamy interior, its tart skin, its hint of harsh minerality and the soil where it once grew. I find there is no better way to honor Washington, to honor autumn, than by baking its apples.

IMG_8370

IMG_8375

IMG_8380

Baked Apples with Ginger and Amaretto

Serves three.

  • 3 medium, firm, flavorful apples, cored
  • 2 tbsp butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp quick oats
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds
  • Pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • 1 tbsp crystalized ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup amaretto
  • 1/2 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 375º. Core apples with a small pairing knife or spoon.

In a small bowl combine butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, almonds, spices and ginger. Knead ingredients together with hands until combined. Spoon mixture into apples that you have nestles into in a small baking pan with sides. Pour amaretto and cider around apples and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with crème fraîche, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.

IMG_8424

Fathers and flourless chocolate almond cake.

DSC_0071

Happy Fathers day to all men of the fathercloth!

And a special shout out to my dad, a man who loves chocolate, especially gooey chocolate.

DSC_0092

My dad carries a bag of carrots, piece of meat, handful of almonds, and hefty hunks of dark chocolate wherever he goes. He could be at the lab, in the airport, on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro; you can bet your bottom dollar on that little lunchbox because he’s got it.

My hypothesis is that he carries around his gourmet food kit out of wariness. Wariness of hunger and what it makes you do, like paying for airlines’ overpriced, sodium-enriched snack packs that are neither tasty nor nourishing. We call Daddy’s phobia “food insecurity.” Yet the more I attempt to philosophize about it, the more I think it’s an expression of his multifaceted, farm-boy, ever-practical inner foodie.DSC_0081

DSC_0095

While packing things for Seattle, I found a Swedish cookbook one of my friends gave me years ago. When I saw a recipe for flourless chocolate almond cake, my Dad’s lunchbox flashed through my head. This is a father cake, I said to myself as I twiddled my fingertips together with glee. The cake looked healthy, yet so gooey ooey chocolaty, while refined. I had to try it.

Upon first bite, you know Swedish chocolate cake is “healthy” like a bran muffin or something you’d get at Whole Foods, which is not necessarily healthy (but hey, it’s all about perception.)  It is not too sweet, surprisingly flavorful, and slightly amandine. However, due to the almond flour, the cake is not as smooth as non-almond flourless chocolate cakes.

Still, ground almonds give the chocolate cake a deep, almost milky sweet flavor that elevates the confection to a whole other category of toasted chocolate wonderfulness. Rest assured, hungry-wary people of the world. This Swedish chocolate cake assuages food insecurity while simultaneously satiating foodie-ism. Let’s just say it’s hard to stop at one slice.

So, Daddy, I dedicate this gooey, rich, wholesome recipe to you. It’s like your food insecurity kit, just minus the meat, carrots, and other stuff like hummus packs that you pick up along the way.

DSC_0085-001

DSC_0069-002

DSC_0076DSC_0052

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

Makes a small cake that serves six to eight, depending on how hefty you like your piece of cake. Recipe adapted from The Food and Cooking of Sweden by Anna Mosesson. Anness Publishing, 2008.

100g/4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate with at least 75 percent cocoa solids
4 ounces unsalted sweet butter, plus a bit extra for greasing
2 eggs, separated
1-1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons
raspberry preserves, whipped heavy cream, or vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a shallow round cake tin and line with wax paper for easy clean-up.
2. Gently melt chocolate with double boiler on low heat or in the microwave on low power. Remove from heat.
3. Cut butter into small pieces, add chocolate, and stir until melted. Once almost cool, slowly add egg yolks, ground almonds, vanilla, and sugar. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.
4. Whisk egg whites until stiff and then fold them into chocolate mixture. Put in to cake round and bake until just set but still soft in the center, about 15 minutes. Serve chilled with raspberry preserves and vanilla ice cream.

Croissants and the art of living.

DSC_0364

In three days I move to Seattle.
Three days (!)

DSC_0392

I’ll live there for the next bit of foreseeable future. Beyond that, who knows. All this life and being twenty-something stuff, it’s so exciting!

Over the past week I’ve savored post-graduate freedom. From the first hour, I made it a goal to master the art of doing nothing. Yet after two hours spent thinking of everything I could be doing, I scraped my attempt at nothing-filled nirvana.

DSC_0172

DSC_0248

DSC_0205

It’s not that this Buddhist mindfulness exercise is a load of cotton candy. It’s just that, well, I’m an addict.

<meeting begins> Hello my name is Jessie. I’m a work addict.

I thrive working twelve hours straight. I love making goals. I feel guilty when I do something relaxing. Let’s just say I can get a little too intense. As a challenge to my achieving-addicted self, I decided to live the past week without big goals or many expectations.

And, oh boy, was I rewarded. This past week has been free and just darn good. Without trying to control the week’s outcome, I was able to let go of any relaxation guilt and do things (for fun!) that I was too busy to do these past four years. I drank cocktails every night. I read Catch-22 and a book on the mind-body problem. I hung out with family and friends and gave away most possessions, the ones that have been steadily accumulating in my bedroom for the past twenty-two years. I’ve been rethinking human logic as we know it, and making pastries. Lots of pastries. In doing everything, life has been simple, sweet, whole.

DSC_0240

Nothing lasts forever, I remind myself in my best Dalai Lama voice. In five days I will face a big, cold world with jobs and paychecks and taxes and writer-baker paychecks (that’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of my near-future state of starving artist which sounds too much like Tantalus, on account of me working with food all day long but still being a young writer and thus starving. How about hungry artist?) It won’t be so easy to be a little happy buddha when I’m working the four a.m. shift at the bakery five times a week. Or meeting never-ending editor deadlines or trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

But paychecks and plans have nothing to do with contentment. Money, work, approval from others, stubborn self-reliance makes us feel secure. Yet these things don’t actually make life good. I’m talking really good in a primal, beautiful I-might-just-crack-open-with-love-and-ridiculousness-and-everything sort of good.

I’m finding that life is good when we are quiet, when we are confident enough to let it be good. It’s good when we set goals without worrying if we’ll achieve them in the way we think we should– the world has too much imagination to give us complete control– while being aware that, regardless of the outcome, it will be alright. I like to think of this mindfulness as an art because, through balance and awareness, we create our reality. I could’ve read Catch-22 for pleasure or spent more time with my family the past four years, but I told myself I was too busy. And so I didn’t.

DSC_0267

DSC_0279

DSC_0281

DSC_0287

DSC_0294

DSC_0321

DSC_03022013 Summer FoodDSC_0332

DSC_0345

I don’t want to be a work addict. I want to make time for the things that really matter. It’s quiet these days; I’ve made it a goal to continue.

No activity is better to jump start your meditative inner-musings than croissant making. Time becomes flaky. Air wears the silky, sweet smell of butter. Your senses, your mind becomes softer, as malleable as kneaded dough. Be prepared to spend a whole lazy morning making your croissant babies and let the good life flow.

P.S. These croissants make the perfect Father’s Day breakfast! (Hint hint, nudge nudge) By the three crumbs left on his plate, I think my Dad approves.

DSC_0495

Chocolate Almond Croissants

Makes 16 croissants. Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking. Oxmoor House, 2003.

In May, I tried my first pain au chocolat aux amandes at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in Napa, California. I’ve been dreaming of that fancified, amaretto-scented croissant ever since. This recipe is my (very successful!) attempt to recreate Bouchon’s magic. Enjoy with good coffee.

FOR THE CROISSANT DOUGH
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted but cooled
1 cup cold whole milk
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and pinch of sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, around 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, remaining sugar, salt, melted butter, milk, and ½ cup flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Slowly add remaining flour just until dough comes together in a sticky mass.
3. On a lightly floured surface (granite, stone, or metal countertops work best because you can cool them by placing a clean ice pack on the surface 1 hour before working with dough,) roll out dough into a ½-inch thick rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to plate, and let cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the butter layer.

FOR THE BUTTER LAYER AND BAKING
1 cup unsalted butter (very important to use unsalted butter; unsalted butter usually tastes better and is of higher quality than salted butter)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk (for a golden, flaky crust)

1. Place butter on a work surface and sprinkle with flour. With a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat butter into a 6 x 8 inch rectangle with the flour worked in. If, at anytime during croissant making, the butter becomes too soft (softer than the texture of the bread dough) refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. This next step is called laminating the dough. Roll out dough into a 9 x 13c inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a ½ inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press edges together to seal. Then, with the folded side to your left, roll out the dough to a 10 x 24 inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This completes the first turn.
3. Return chilled dough to lightly floured work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns: rolling, folding, and chilling. (To complete a total of 4 turns.) After the fourth turn, refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours or overnight (or, if you want croissants later in the week, freeze dough now.)
4. To form the croissants, roll out on a lightly floured work surface to a 9 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise (forming 4 squares.) Cut each square in half (forming 8 squares.) Cut each square crossways (forming 16 triangles.)
5. Lightly butter 2 sheet pans. Working with one triangle at a time, gently stretch each triangle about twice its original length. Gently stretch the long edge. Fill croissant with a bit of minced dark chocolate, almond paste, both, or neither. Place hands at top of wide end and gently roll pastry toward you. Seal tip with your thumb, place on baking sheet and form into crescent.Repeat with remaining triangles, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Cover with a moistened kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to let rise until doubled in size (about 1-1/2 hours.)
6. Position rack in middle of convection oven (place higher if not) and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
7. Lightly brush the tops of your pastries with the egg mixture. Bake them one sheet at a time until golden brown (15-18 minutes.)
8. If you want a sweet almond crust on your croissants, take out your croissants 5 minutes before they are done. Sprinkle with sugar water and almonds. Return to oven to complete baking time. Dust with powdered sugar when completely cool.

DSC_0250

IMG_0604

DSC_0316

Carrot pansy cupcakes.

1-DSC_0952-001

Love is about the sweetest thing there is.

1-DSC_0824

1-DSC_0973

Food is love made edible; I think that’s why so many people write about it, think about it, photograph it, and commune with it three times a day. From an anthropological lens, eating together is an act of trust. Sharing a meal or cooking for another is a moment of mutual vulnerability. We hunger for love like we hunger for food.

1-DSC_0957-001

1-DSC_0861

1-DSC_0969-001

When I spend time with my parents, I’m always struck by how in love they are.

My dad is a helpless romantic and a biochemist; to woo my mom, he once decorated her dorm room with wildflowers in little test tubes. Mimi is a fun, nurturing ex-doula with a killer knack for gardening. It was love at first sight, they say. They were on a college outdoors trip and Daddy made sure he was my mom’s canoe partner. It stuck and he’s been making this carrot cake recipe for her birthday ever since.

The recipe comes from The Silver Palate Cookbook, a family culinary bible that sits on the bookshelf between The Joy of Cooking and Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. My grandmother gave The Silver Palate to my parents when they got married and it’s been a kitchen inspiration for almost twenty-five years. The pages are dogeared and creased and ripple from split measuring cups of water or milk. My parents’ hand writing fills margins, describing past substitutions and telling stories. The spine smells like vanilla extract and glue.

It’s wonderful.

1-DSC_0958

In the name of spring and wildflowers, I want to bake some love to you, dear reader.

1-DSC_08111-DSC_0802

This carrot cake Silver Palate recipe is originally for a layered cake, but it adjusts well to cupcakes. Cupcakes are great for spring- you get a bite of sweetness and they’re great for sharing. The proportions of crushed pineapple and carrot puree make these cupcakes ridiculously moist, so don’t be afraid of the cakes drying out in the oven. Just be sure to shorten baking time in half (I’ve done it for you below.)

Don’t be afraid to actually eat spring, literally; finish your cupcakes with edible flowers. Here’s a few commonly found edible flowers:

(Before eating, consult The Home Cooking Guide by Amy Barclay and Peggy Trowbridge.)

  • Carnation
  • Day Lily
  • Gardenia
  • Lavender
  • Lilac
  • Marigold
  • Naturcium
  • Pansy
  • Violet

1-DSC_0978

1-DSC_0822

1-DSC_0980

Carrot Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes. Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook.

24 cupcake liners
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened (if unsweetened, add 1/2 cup sugar)
1-1/3 cups pureed cooked carrots, very soft
3/4 cup drained, crushed pineapple
Cream Cheese Frosting (I like this recipe from Martha Stewart)

1. Preheat the oven to 350?F. Line 2 cake cupcake pans (for 4 cupcakes.)

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in the coconut, carrots, and pineapple.

3. Pour the batter into cupcake liners, filling cups a little over 3/4 full. Set on the center rack of the oven and bake until risen and fully cooked in the center, about 20-25 minutes.

4. Cool on a cake rack for 3 hours. Fill a pastry bag with cream cheese frosting and decorate, topping with an edible flower from your garden (or frolic in a field and pick edible wildflowers!) Enjoy with tea and someone you love.

1-DSC_0961-001

1-DSC_0828

Hot cross buns.

1-DSC_0990

Sometimes god feels near. And other times far away.

Yesterday morning I rolled hot cross buns between my palms and their sticky dough was fragrant with cinnamon, their flesh studded with little black currants and stained cranberry pink.

1-DSC_0918-001

Every Easter morning that I can remember, Daddy has made hot cross buns. I’d wake up early to watch him cross the top of risen dough with a sharp knife. He or Mimi would say, “Christ is risen.” I’d savor the sacred liturgical feel of it all; my reply, “Christ is risen indeed,” would be as delicious as the rolls’ spiced, fluffy crumb.

Grandma Lorena had baked hot cross buns on Easter when Daddy was growing up and so when he made them yesterday it was without question or anticipation. Easter hot cross buns have become a wonderful, almost sweet inevitability.

1-DSC_0935

When Grandma made hot cross buns, she got up hours before sunrise to take the dough from its overnight refrigerator rise. Grandpa left as the rolls baked to prepare for his sunrise sermon at church. Then Daddy and his two brothers bumbled downstairs. They were hungry and adolescent, drawn toward the smell of yeast and caramelized currants that would soon actualize on their plates with gooseberry preserves and butter.

1-DSC_09311-DSC_1059-0011-DSC_0930

Yesterday morning it had just rained and dew drops hung from budded branches. The air was heavy, almost balmy with spring and life.  I dressed the rolls’ wounds with white powdered sugar quietly. The morning, its movement of life, converged in that moment of torn bread becoming whole. Christ is risen indeed.

1-DSC_09201-DSC_09261-DSC_0937

What’s a tradition that makes you feel whole?1-DSC_0989

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 24 rolls. Recipe from Lorena Blount’s kitchen and her mother, Pearl’s, cookbook, 1953.

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (equal to 1 package of yeast)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 well-beaten egg
  • 3 1/2 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup currants, raisins, or cranberries
  1. Soften yeast in warm water (110 degrees.)
  2. Combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add softened yeast and egg. Gradually stir in flour to form soft dough. Beat vigorously.
  3. Cover and let rise in warm place (around 82 degrees) ’til double in bulk, about 2 hours. (Most rolls require only thorough mixing, with little or no kneading.)
  4. Form into 2 dozen buns and flatten slightly. Brush tops with milk or slightly beaten egg white. Let rise ’til very light. Using a knife, cut top of buns at right angles to form cross. Bake at 375 degrees, 25-30 minutes.
  5. Cool. Then make crosses with powdered sugar icing. Snip off the end of a clean envelope to make decorating tube for frosting. Cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, or vanilla make a good frosting– you won’t need much.

Aside: (my notes say that bigger buns are preferable to small ones which dry out during baking.)

Just peanut butter cookies.

1-DSC_0624

Oh, for the love of peanut butter.1-DSC_0676

And all butters (I did grow up in Paula Dean’s Georgia.) But especially peanut butter. I guess that makes Georgia sense too.

1-DSC_0623

Probably like many of you, my addiction to peanut butter goes back to the womb and the taste bud conception that happened there. I fact, peanut butter could have been the first thing I tasted as a fetus. It would explain a lot of things.

Daddy was in graduate school at U.C. Berkeley and my parents didn’t have any money. Daddy woke up at 3:30 am every morning to pack UPS trucks before he went to school and Mimi babysat neighbor kids to put food on the table and feed my older brother. When my parents knew of my growing molecular existence, they applied for the WIC nutrition program and the peanut butter food stamps that came with it.

One of my first memories is Daddy perilously eating peanut butter off a steak knife after dinner. Sometimes he broiled bread and peanut butter  until it melted in to a toasted, golden glob. He was twenty-five, biked twelve miles to school both ways, and hungry.1-DSC_0562

When I left to spend half a year on the Indian subcontinent, I took one bag. I packed a shirt, three pairs of underwear, The Alchemist, a notebook, my glasses, and one half gallon tub of crunchy peanut butter.

After week of ashram life, yoga eight hours a day, and anemic vegetable curries and I began to experience withdrawal symptoms. I broke in to the jumbo jar like a crazed nut-job. As soon as its seal broke, three other American students appeared the kitchen for “just one bite.” (I am convinced Americans can detect peanut butter from two-hundred yards away.) With smiles on our faces and heaped spoonfuls of peanut butter in hand, we sat on wobbly kitchen chairs and watched monsoon rain make rivers in the streets.

1-DSC_05791-2013 FOOD 1-DSC_0592

To this day I am convinced peanut butter is good on everything.

So American.

1-DSC_0598 1-DSC_06021-DSC_0617

If you like peanut butter and/or you’re gluten-free you’re going to fliiiip. These cookies are pure peanut wonder. With an egg and a scoop o’ sugar. And lots of peanut butter. They take 13 minutes to make from start to finish. And don’t worry about smuggling a second or third onto your plate; they’re relatively low in sugar and each cookie is only around 40 calories.1-DSC_0636 Side note: if you’re in to chocolate and peanut butter, add chocolate chips! Oatmeal, small chunks of apple, and pretty much anything that’s good with peanut butter (which is almost anything, see comment above) works well mixed in the p.b. cookie dough. 1-DSC_0644   Don’t forget to serve your plate of cookies with a glass of milk!1-DSC_0692

Just Peanut Butter Cookies

(Gluten-free!)

Created and inspired by Melissa Adams.

Makes 2 dozen medium-sized cookies.

  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth, crunchy, natural, processed– all types of p.b. work)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (use 1 cup if you really like your cookies sweet; I thought it was a bit too much)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (optional, but helps them stay together)
  1. Stir ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1 inch balls
  2. Place cookie balls on a greased cookie sheet and smash like a # sign with a fork. Cook in 350 degree oven until lightly golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. You can cook these until just done for softer cookies-or longer for crunchy ones.
  3. Cool and don’t forget to serve your plate of cookies with a glass of milk!

1-DSC_0701

Vegan chia date pudding.

1-DSC_0509
1-DSC_0537

Spring has sprung!

I think all that cooking her to us worked.

 1-DSC_0538 1-DSC_0559

The urge to frolic is irresistible. The sun is up longer each day. Warm bursts of wind shake tiny buds on cherry trees.  Daffodils peak up from their winter hibernation underground. We might’ve lost a Daylight Savings hour but we’ve gained so much more.

1-DSC_0339-001

Six weeks. Six weeks. Next week the mantra will become five weeks, five weeks. I know it’s important to be in the present, but I can’t help counting down the days to graduation and Seattle and summer.

1-DSC_0340-001

I make light chia pudding with vanilla and sweet dates to stay in the present.

1-DSC_0489
1-DSC_0358-001

If you haven’t experienced the wonder of the Chia (and no, I’m not talking about those green, sprouted cha-cha-chia! heads and pets) then get thee self to the grocery store and buy yourself a bag. They’re rich in omega-3s, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Chia seeds are easier to digest than their flax seed friends and lower in fat. And they’re a great vegan substitute for eggs when making pudding because they contain a compound that creates gelatinous texture.

1-DSC_0345

I’m a fan of vegan food; I shamelessly crave hunks of Tofurkey, strips of smoky Seitan, and a vegan friend’s marinated-broiled tofu. But my world is too enamored with Gruyère cheese and Eggs Benedict to renounce dairy and eggs completely.

Almost all the chia pudding recipes online are vegan. These puddings satisfy a sweet custard craving yet lack the layered, creamy texture that you achieve with dairy. A couple days ago my mom created the non-vegan version below. We haven’t stopped chanting the cha-cha-chia theme song since.

1-DSC_0444-001 1-DSC_0446 1-DSC_0459 1-DSC_0462-001

Vanilla-Date Chia Pudding: Vegan/Non-Vegan

Non-Vegan

Serves 4 (makes about 2 1/2 cups.)

1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup milk
1 egg7 Medjool dates, pitted and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
handful of berries
maple syrup for drizzling and chopped dates and pecans for topping

  1. In a small saucepan, heat milk on low heat, stirring often, until steaming and then turn off heat. In the meantime, beat egg in a separate bowl.
  2. Temper egg by quickly whisking 2 tablespoons warm milk with the beaten egg. While vigorously whisking the milk, slowly add tempered egg to the saucepan.
  3. Add chia seeds, minced dates, vanilla, and maple syrup to taste while the milk-egg mixture is still hot.
  4. Garnish with dates, pecans, and berries and serve warm or cool overnight and serve chilled.

1-DSC_0544

Vegan Version

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, January 2012.
Serves 6 to 8 (makes 4 1/2 cups.)

 

1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup (5 ounces) cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 hours to overnight
4 cups water or almond milk
7 Medjool dates (5 1/2 ounces), pitted
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons coconut butter
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups mixed raspberries and blueberries
3/4 cup maple syrup, for drizzling

  1. Place chia seeds in a medium mixing bowl, and set aside.
  2. Drain cashews, and rinse well. Add cashews, water/almond milk, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut butter, and vanilla extract to a blender. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes, and pour into bowl with chia seeds; whisk well. Let mixture stand for 10 to 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent chia seeds from clumping (pudding will thicken quickly). Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
  3.  Serve with berries, dates, and maple syrup to drizzle.

Pudding can be refrigerated in a covered glass container for up to 5 days.

 

1-DSC_0542   1-DSC_0558

Chocolate hazelnut and gluten-freedom.

1-DSC01690

At a party the other night, a friend asked me, “If you’re stuck on a deserted island and could only bring Nutella or peanut butter, what would you bring?” Scoff. I’ll have both, and stay on this island forever.

1-DSC015771-DSC01674

My family moved to Australia when I was five and I discovered new friends with Nutella-wonderbread sandwiches in their lunchboxes. Lucky me, Aussie children are crazy about American egg salad. At school, I traded my Power Ranger lunchbox for the sweet, nutty chocolate in a shady cafeteria corner. I was hooked.

Since Australia, I squirrel Nutella in to everything I can: smoothies, frostings, spoonfuls, and now cookies. These aren’t just cookies with Nutella. No, they are the hazelnut chocolate makings of Nutella in cookie form. And they’re gluten-free.

More to come on peanut butter love affairs…

1-DSC01732

(Gluten-free!) Nutellettles

About 45 cookies
Recipe by Terresa Murphy of La Cucina di Terresa and David Lebovitz

1 1/4 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup rice flour (or all-purpose flour)
3 1/2 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1. Put the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until very fine; they should be the consistency of coarse polenta.

2. Transfer the ground nuts to a bowl and add the rice flour. Cut the butter into pieces then add the butter, sugar, and salt to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together until the butter is dispersed and completely incorporated. The dough should be very smooth and hold together. If not, knead it until it does or add a tiny, tiny bit of water.

3. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece until it’s 3/4-inch (2cm) round. Try to get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. If the dough is too long to work with as you roll them out, you can cut the dough at the midway point and work with it in batches or use plastic wrap to compress the dough in to ropes. Chill the dough logs until firm on a small baking sheet or dinner plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper in the freezer for 15 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 325ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Working with one length of dough at a time, keeping the others in the refrigerator or freezer, cut off equal-sized pieces using a knife. Once you’ve cut a length of dough, roll the pieces into nice little balls the size of a marble and place them on the baking sheet, slightly spaced apart.

6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during cooking, until the tops are lightly golden brown. Let the cookies cool completely.

7. Melt the chocolate until smooth on microwave medium heat or in a double boiler. Put a chocolate chip-sized dollop of chocolate on the bottom of one cookie and take another cookie, and sandwich the two halves together.

Storage: The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

1-DSC01545 1-DSC015631-DSC015651-DSC015721-DSC01578