Monday, October 31, 2011

Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I have less than 4 weeks left until my due date and my sweet cravings are in full effect.  I'm definitely starting to get a bit uncomfortable and sugar cures everything, right?  I've always loved traditional shortbread cookies so I decided to try making a chocolate version and they were glorious.  The mixture of salty and sweet was perfectly balanced and my only complaint was that I couldn't stop eating them.  

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fleur de sel or ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.
3. With the mixer off, add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on and off low speed (pulse) for a second or two about 5 times so that the flour mixture gets incorporated. Then mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, just until the flour disappears into the dough (the dough will look crumbly).
4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in two. Shape each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you don’t need to defrost before baking – just slice the logs into cookies and baking the cookies 1 minute longer.)
5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
6. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½-inch thick. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them. Sprinkle a small amount of extra salt on top of each round.
7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes – they won’t look done, and won’t be firm, but that’s how they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fettuccine with Turkey Meatballs

I can't get enough comfort food these days and have been trying lots of new pasta recipes.  Gabe loves meatballs so I tried this recipe for Turkey Meatballs in marinara sauce recently and it was fantastic.  Although the sauce took some time, it was absolutely worth it in the end and as you can see, we had lots of leftovers for the next few days.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tomato and White Bean Quinoa Soup

I love soup this time of year and I'm always looking for new recipes.  I generally prefer broth based soups that have lots of vegetables and thought this Tomato and White Bean Quinoa Soup looked interesting.  I'm so glad I tried it because it's now my new favorite soup.  It was rich and hearty, but super healthy and made a huge pot so we had lots of leftovers.  In fact, I think it was more flavorful the next day.

Tomato and White Bean Soup with Quinoa (Adapted from The First Mess)

1 cup dry beans soaked overnight and drained (I used navy beans)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped fine
1 sprig rosemary, leaves chopped fine
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 cups diced vegetables (I used zucchini, green beans, and more celery)
1/2 cup quinoa, soaked (or rice or millet or small pasta etc etc)
5 sprigs of parsley, leaves chopped fine
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a big soup pot over medium. Add the onions and cook until they soften up just a bit, about 5 minutes. I kind of like to stew the onion in the oil for a while so that it gets really soft and blends right in with the soup. Add the celery and bay leaf and cook until the celery softens, another 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir continuously until paste is broken up and its flavour is cooked out, about 5-7 minutes. Add the beans and tomatoes and stir to coat in the tomato paste mixture. Add about 1/2 cup of the stock and scrape the bottom of the pot to get any browned bits up. Add the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until the beans soften but still have some bite, about 2-3 hours or more.  Add the quinoa and stir.  Cook for 10-15 minutes and serve.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Smores Cookies

These smores cookies are the perfect example of a creative twist on an old favorite (my last smores dessert can be found here).  I made them over the weekend to take to a friend's house and they were a huge hit.  They were rich, sweet, and gooey (all things I look for in a dessert).  I'm already looking for an excuse to make them again.  

Smores Cookies (adapted from Cookie Madness)

1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup/ 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups miniature chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
3 regular Hershey bars, roughly chopped

In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the flour, graham crackers, salt and baking soda and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips then cover and refrigerate the dough for about one hour. 
Preheat oven to 375 F. Take a tablespoon of the dough, roll into a ball, and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of dough, leaving about 2 inches between each to allow it to spread. Bake for 6 minutes, then remove from the oven. Push a 3 - 5 marshmallows and a few pieces of a Hershey's bar into each cookie. Return to oven and bake for another 2 - 3 minutes until golden brown and the marshmallows are a bit toasted. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

We've had a cold, rainy week here with temperatures down to 40 degrees.  Gabe and I are scrambling to get gloves, hats, warm sweaters, and coats in order to prepare ourselves for a Michigan winter.  Comfort food is also at the top of my list of cold weather necessities and I'm planning on getting the most out of my slow cooker this year.  Pot Roast is one of my favorite slow cooker meals and this one really hit the spot.  I loved the addition of portobello mushrooms and eggplant.  I'll definitely be making it again soon.

Pot Roast (adapted from allrecipes and

  • 4 pounds chuck roast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth (add more if necessary)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 small eggplant, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  1. Take the chuck roast and season with salt and pepper to taste. Brown on all sides in a large skillet over high heat.  Remove from pan and add onions and chopped garlic.  Sauté until soft. Add tomato paste and cook down for about 5-8 minutes.  
  1. Place roast, onions, and garlic in the slow cooker and add the soup mix, broth, Worcestershire sauce, wine.
  1. Add mushrooms, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, celery.  I add them after about 4-5 hours because I like them a bit more firm.  
  1. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours, add salt and pepper if necessary. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

29 Weeks

As expected, my belly continues to grow.  I'm now 29 weeks and feeling great!  My energy level is slowly decreasing and I'm constantly hungry (big surprise).  The weather's starting to change here and feel like Fall, which reintroduces the issue of finding clothes that fit.  I've been working on getting the nursery together and buying all the gear we'll need.  It's been a fun process, but who knew one little baby would need so much stuff?  I'll post nursery pictures when it's finished.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Foolproof Blueberry Pie

I made the dough the day before and let it chill overnight.

Cooking half the berries

As I've mentioned here, Gabe loves blueberry pie.  Now that we live in Michigan, I didn't have the luxury of buying one from Sweet Lady Jane and had to actually try to make one.  Let me defend myself by saying I've tried making them in the past and the crust never seems to come out quite right.  This time I tried a new recipe that my dad told me about from America's Test Kitchen and it made all the difference.  This recipe uses vodka in the crust to add extra moisture, making the crust more workable without making it tough.  The alcohol vaporizes while cooking and the final crust turns out tender and flaky.  And it was just that.  The crust was perfect, easy to shape, and tasted amazing.  The filling was an ideal consistency, full of plump berries that didn't run all over the place when we cut into it.  All in all, I think the pie was a huge success, if I do say so myself.  I'll definitely continue using this crust recipe for all my future pies.

Best Blueberry Pie with Foolproof Pie Dough
Recipe by: America’s Test Kitchen
Crust Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices (I put the slices of butter and shortening in the freezer for about 30minutes before using)
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (I use butter flavor)
1/4 cup vodka, cold
1/4 cup cold water
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Blueberry Filling Ingredients:
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces)*
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground*
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.

7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

*This recipe was developed using fresh blueberries, but unthawed frozen blueberries (our favorite brands are Wyman’s and Cascadian Farm) will work as well. In step 4, cook half the frozen berries over medium-high heat, without mashing, until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, 12 to 15 minutes. Grind the tapioca to a powder in a spice grinder or mini food processor. If using pearl tapioca, reduce the amount to 5 teaspoons. Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to Gabe

Enjoying a mojito at the Beach House in Kauai
Gabe's fellowship graduation, following the 5,000th liver transplant at UCLA.
Celebrating our last night in L.A.
Today is Gabe's birthday!  We're planning on celebrating by going to dinner with friends tonight (fingers crossed Gabe doesn't get called into work).  Happy Birthday to the best husband I can imagine.  I'm so proud of you and all you've accomplished this year!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Penne Bolognese

I'm starting to feel settled here in Michigan and have been happily making myself at home in the kitchen.  After Gabe's first liver transplant as an attending (which went well), I decided to try making one of his favorite meals to celebrate, Penne Bolognese.  It was a first for me, so I was thankful it went well and Gabe and I both loved the results.  It was hearty, comforting, and so delicious.  I used this recipe, substituting the ground beef chuck for ground sirloin, which was a little leaner but still full of flavor.  If you love Bolognese, this is definitely a great recipe that doesn't require hours in the kitchen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Baby Shower Brunch

As I mentioned here, you'll be seeing this dress a lot.

I'm still dreaming about this cake.  It was glorious.
It's a boy!

Before I left for Michigan, Jessica and Whitney threw me the most beautiful baby shower.  Every detail was thoughtfully arranged from the purple tulips (my favorite) and outdoor venue (Primitivo) to the delicious funfetti flavored cake from Susiecakes.  We had the best time catching up, chatting about baby gear, eating delicious food, and listening to the acoustic live music playing on the Primitivo patio.  The entire day was absolutely perfect and it was so much fun celebrating the upcoming addition to our family!