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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"magic" sugar cookies

I have a secret. This cookie recipe, this wonderful, glorious cookie recipe, produces the world's most magical sugar cookies. I have witnessed grown men groan with delight eating these cookies, foodies swoon at the sweet-salty combo, and children steal the cookie plate and hide it away so they can eat the cookies all by themselves without any adults stealing more.

The secret? In addition to being the most delicious cookies on the face of the planet, it's probably the easiest cookie recipe in the world. No fancy ingredients, unless you go for that sort of thing (I'm an organic and cage-free kind of girl myself). No fancy cooking technique. No fancy equipment that you buy for one recipe once, and then glare at for 5 years while it takes up now unusable kitchen counter space. And once you have brought these cookies to a party, you will only ever be asked to bring these cookies, ever again. Get ready, friends. These are not just any cookies. They are magic.

You know what else is magical? Being part of a cookie swap. Lindsay and Julie are the organizers of The Great Food Blogger Cookie swap, and I am delighted to have been part of the baking-mailing-receiving cookie crowd for my second year (check out last year's recipe, Almond Butter Cookies). This year, I sent these cookies to three wonderful people, Lindsay at ItzLinz, Brittany at A Healthy Slice of Life, and Laurie at Crunchy Gooey, and received sweet sweets from three wonderful bloggers:

cinnamon cookie brittle from Shari at TickledRed.com

the most addictive chocolate cookie peppermint sandwiches I've ever had from Cait at thepatrioticbaker.com

and salty-sweet chocolate pistachio cookies from Mallory at www.forkvsspoon.com.

Want to send cookies to your friends too? Try any of the above recipes, or the magic cookie recipe below!


1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar, preferably raw cane sugar, though regular white will work just fine
one palmful (about 1/8 of a cup) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
generous 1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat the oven to 330 degrees, and grab two baking sheets.

2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. If you go weak in the knees for a saltier-sweet combination, feel free to sprinkle a smidge more salt in the mix.

3. Cream the butter and sugars together in a stand mixer. Don't be shy about beating the butter into submission: the creamier and fluffier the butter, the fluffier the cookie.

4. Add the eggs and vanilla, and stir it all up.

5. Fold in the dry ingredients, mixing until everything looks evenly distributed.

6. Roll the dough into small balls about the size of the quarter and stick them on a baking sheet - I usually get 30-36 cookies per sheet.

7. Stick the cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is just cooked.

8. Pull them out of the oven, let cool for 3-4 minutes, then move the cookies to a rack to finishing cooling.

9. Eat. Eat. Eat more.

Pro tip: Hide the cookie jar. If you don't, your friends/family/happy goblins might eat them while your back is turned!

Monday, October 7, 2013

honey chai peanut butter

I'm not sure if there are enough words to sing the praises and popularity of peanut butter. People swoon a little when they talk about eating peanut butter, making faces akin to the strangely happy women on flavored yogurt commercials. A friend of mine is nicknamed "peanut butter." People eat it for comfort, for dessert, for lunch, for a snack, the list goes on.

And yet it's also one of those foods that have a ton of additives. Check out the ingredients list on most brand names, and you'll see extra salt, extra preservatives, extra sugar, and extra hydrogenated oil. You can always search out the peanuts-only brands, but they're usually a little more expensive, can be harder to find, and may or may not taste so great. So why not make your own?

And while you're making your own, why not make it fall-flavored with a chai spice blend and some honey? The spices give warmth to the creamy, sticky peanut butter, and the honey adds some sweetness. My chai spice blend is an amalgamation of several chai ingredients lists that google graciously provided. If you're feeling brave, you could always throw in some coriander or white pepper, which are both commonly found in chai tea mixes. For the peanuts, you can either roast your own, or buy peanuts already roasted - you'll find them in the bulk section of your supermarket.

Honey Chai Peanut Butter


2 cups of roasted, unsalted peanuts

2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
optional - 1/8 tsp cardamom (cardamom can be an overpowering spice - smell and make sure you like it before you add it!)
salt to taste

2 tbsp honey


1. Measure the spices, and mix thoroughly, then set aside.
2. In a food processor, whirl the peanuts until they turn into a coarse flour texture.
3. Add the spices and then continue running the food processor. The peanuts will eventually turn into a giant peanut ball - keep mixing! The peanut ball will smooth out into peanut butter. Mix for a few minutes past the smoothness, and the peanuts will keep releasing their oil, softening into peanut butter.
4. Unplug your food processor, then by hand, mix in the honey. If you mix it in with the blade, the consistency of the peanut butter gets a little funny.

Alton Brown says that peanut butter can last in the fridge up to two months. I can promise you'll never find out - it will be scarfed up way before expiration!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet and Savory: Olive Oil Bread

My baking music is a mix of Adele, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Bareilles, Amy Winehouse, and other smoky voiced soul singers that have me bopping around the kitchen, stirring and blending on the beat. Last night, in part to protest the hundred degree heat (it's September! doesn't that mean sweaters?!) and in part because I have an early meeting and feel that my team might need sustenance, I decided to make a sweet-savory olive oil bread, perfumed with orange and lemon zests, and stuffed with almonds - a dense bread, almost a cake, with strong flavors that tells me fall is on the way. It's rich, delicious, and autumnal, and the recipe itself was inspired (with several twists in my kitchen) by smitten kitchen's Olive Oil Muffins.

Sweet-Savory Olive Oil Bread

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sliced and toasted almonds

4 eggs
1 (heaping) cup of sugar
zest of a lemon
zest of an orange
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 cup olive oil

optional: a dash of nutmeg, dried fruit, diced apples

1. Set the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the dry ingredients, including the spices and nuts, together and set aside.
3. Blend together the eggs, sugar, and fruit zests, blending until the three are uniform.
4. Add the vinegar and milk, stirring thoroughly.
5. Pour the olive oil in to the mixture slowly, letting the ingredients become acquainted gently.
6. Grab the dry ingredients, and gradually fold them in until everything is mixed together.
7. Pour into a cake pan and bake for 50 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

cooking as civil disobedience

I came across this opinion piece on a blog in the New York Times a few days ago, and I love the idea of a young boy cooking as "civil disobedience." It's still an act of disobedience in these days - there's so much easily available pre-made food in a grocery store that doing anything from scratch involves more time and effort than picking up a cake mix or buying a frozen pizza.  The daily, sometimes repetitive work in your own kitchen is deeply undervalued as a way to spend free time, especially as a busy woman, when there are so many shortcuts - though I would argue that the nutritional quality of those "timesavers" eliminates their ultimate value. And there's something so satisfying in creating the meal out of its real components, being a wizard whipping disparate elements into the combined whole, that I doubt I'll step out of the kitchen any time soon.


stand out against the crowd!