Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies

Last Sunday, I had two fantastic food events: potluck brunch with friends who also volunteer for The Food Trust and a Top Chef finale dinner party with more wonderful friends. There was so much good food - I was even more ebullient than usual. Egg quiche with quinoa, vegan chili, meatza (ie pizza made out of meat), polenta and sausage, Israeli couscous with root vegetables, and strawberry-banana-coconut daiquiris... I am lucky to have friends who make crazy-good food.

My contribution? Peanut butter and jelly blondies, tweaked ever so slightly from a recipe in this month's Bon Appetit magazine. These things taste like the best version of a peanut butter sandwich that could happen to a food-loving person, so I'm sharing my (lightly) adjusted recipe with you!

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt

1 cup melted unsalted butter
3 cups light brown sugar
4 eggs
16 oz peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

5-6 Tbsp jelly or jam to top the blondies (or chocolate, either in chip or liquid form, if you're not feeling in a jam mood)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan. If you don't feel like making a large pan of brownies, halve the recipe and go for an 8 x 8 x 2.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt.

3. Whisk together the wet ingredients - start by combining butter and sugar, then add eggs, peanut butter, and the vanilla extract.

4. Fold in the dry ingredients one cup at a time until everything is incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish, and generously dot the top with jelly or jam. If you're going the chocolate route, mix chocolate into the batter.

6. Stick the pan in the oven, and check after 35-40 minutes. If a toothpick inserted in the blondie comes out clean, it's ready. If not, give it a few more minutes.

7. Sprinkle the top of the blondie with sea salt to give it an irresistible finish.

8. Glass of milk. Blondie. Happiness.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quinoa and Kale Salad: Learning to love a superfood

I was never a quinoa fan. I'd tried it several places - at a certain high-end organic food store, at a restaurant, on my own... and I couldn't seem to find taste in the blandly curling seeds. And then, this summer, friends of mine made quinoa burgers, and they were... good. Really good. Good enough to make me reconsider my anti-quinoa stance and try cooking it again. Burgers, salads, and breakfasts later, I have my own quinoa recipe, one that I like to use when I'm feeling a need to eat something satisfying, gluten-free, and virtuously delicious. Depending on how hungry you are, the recipe makes about 6-8 servings as a side dish and 3-4 servings as a main dish.

Quinoa and Kale Salad with Oranges and Feta

1 cup uncooked white or ivory quinoa
1 onion
1 bunch of kale (7-8 big leaves)
2-3 oranges
3/4 cup of feta, crumbled
1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp and 1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp citrus fruit flavored balsamic vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)
Sea salt

1. Make the quinoa according to the package's directions. Generally, that means rinsing the quinoa, bringing it to a boil in a pot of salted water (trust me on the salt here - add it even if the directions don't tell you to), and then letting it simmer for about 15 minutes.

2. Dice the onion, then cut the kale up like so: fold the leaf over so that the spine is on one side, and the leaf-ends match up. Cut the stem off, then, working perpendicular to the stem-line, slice the kale in ribbons.

3. Saute the onion for 5-7 minutes, then add the kale for another 4-5 minutes. The onion should be translucent and the kale should be a jewel-tone green.

4. As the onion and kale cook, slice the orange like this: slice off the top and bottom of the orange. Moving around in a circle, cut off the skin and the pith (white part right under the skin) in strips. If you want to get fancy, "supreme" the orange: make a cut right next to the white membrane, then move your knife over and make a cut just inside the next membrane (for a nicely coherent instruction guide with excellent demonstration pictures, take a look at How to Supreme an Orange). Slice the supremed slices in 3-4 chunks.

5. Mix the vinaigrette - olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and sea salt to taste.

6. Combine the cooked quinoa, onions, kale, oranges, and feta cheese. Season with vinaigrette, adding more olive oil, vinegar/juice, or salt as needed, and stir.

7. Eat and feel super for chowing down on a superfood.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup: a meal for a cozy winter evening

As I write this, the temperature is dipping into the teens, then the "zeros," the coldest winter night I can remember, and all I want is something warm, filling, and post-holiday healthy-ish to carry me through the freezing night. Look no further, frozen friends, for I have a root vegetable soup hearty enough to sustain you, packed full of all those vitamins and minerals we seem to lack through the cold months. It's sweet, savory, and utterly satisfying.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup
serves 4-6


3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced in large chunks
2 small leeks, white parts only, washed well and sliced
1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil
1 cup of white wine
4-6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 teaspoon of paprika (or more, if you love the flavor)
dash of cayenne
salt to taste
juice of half a lime (optional)

to top the soup:
cashews or peanuts
plain yogurt


1. Prep work: peel the sweet potatoes and carrots, and chop them into large chunks.  Dice the onion. Wash the leeks thoroughly and slice them.

2. In a soup pot on medium-high heat setting, heat the butter or olive oil. Add the vegetables and a dash of salt, and saute for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to smell fragrant.

3. Add the wine, and let the vegetables braise for 3-4 minutes more.

4. Add the chicken stock (more for a thinner soup, less for a thicker soup), stir everything around, turn the heat to medium, set a timer for 30 minutes, and come back and check if the vegetables are tender when the timer dings. Let it cook a little longer if the sweet potatoes are not easily pierced by a fork.

5. Dash in the spices: paprika, cayenne, lime juice (if using), and more salt to taste. Stir it all up.

6. With a handheld blender or working in batches with a food processor, blend the soup to the consistency you find appealing - I like a thick soup with a vibrant orange color, but have found that if I misjudge consistency, I can add a little more stock at the end of the cooking time and thin out the soup.

7. While you are blending, melt some more butter in a small frying pan. Pop the cashews or peanuts in there, sprinkle with salt, and get the nuts nice and toasty (about 3-4 minutes).

8. Soup in the bowl, yogurt on top, cashews on top of that, a dash of paprika, and you are all set to serve.