Rosemary Buttermilk Pound Cake

Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Breads, Brunch, Desserts | 10 Comments







Something inside her struggled against her mother’s words, a long burrowed instinct that wanted to rebel, to kick out against them. And suddenly there was a memory in the place where her mother’s voice had been, something long forgotten. She was at a neighbor’s house. She was small, incredibly young, maybe three years old. She slipped and fell in the pool in the backyard and her mother jumped into the pool. Constance heard the splash, could feel the cold chill of the water enveloping her, the wave her mother created.

Constance was small and the pool deep but she was not afraid. Her falling into the pool was a slip of a moment in Constance’s life, nothing more than passing the ketchup at dinner or slamming her bedroom door as a teenager. Her mother had grabbed hold of her so fast, had pulled her up and into her arms and held her there, her head and face high above the line of water. Constance had laughed.







That is an excerpt from my book.

A book I would not have without my mother.

I say that for the obvious reasons- for one thing, I clearly would not exist without her. Clearly.

For another, I would not love books without her. My mother had four children, I’m the third, and the majority of the pictures around when I was small consist of her gazing into the camera with half-closed eyes. Don’t get me wrong- she is as beautiful then as she is now but nobody could look at those pictures and not think, “Wow, she looks exhausted.” Four children will do that to a person. I can only imagine. And yet she read to me. A lot.

Even she admits that she does not how she was able to do this. It’s like those moments of her and me, a book between us, were strangely apart from the rest of her busy day, like the hour before and the hour after just kind of pulled until there was this extra time, this nowhere time. I learned to love stories there, in her lap. That’s important.







When I told her I wanted to write, she didn’t laugh. She didn’t fret. She honestly didn’t look too surprised.

If, over the years, my transient adventures made her increasingly nervous, she would share her fears that I wouldn’t make it, that it would never happen for me, that it was too tough out there, in private, to my father, behind closed doors. All she would say to me is that she was happy if I was happy. Which I was. Which I am.

When I sat down to write my first book, it seemed natural to make it about a mother’s love. And then, the second book turned out to be about that too. Isn’t that funny?







Thank you, Mama.





What do you want to thank your mom for? Share it with us.

You’ll be happy you did. Promise.

Buttermilk Rosemary Pound Cake

Source: Adapted from allrecipes.com | Total Time: 1 hr 45 min. | Makes 1 9-inch or 10-inch tube pan | Print Recipe

Ingredients

3 Cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon of salt
1 Cup of butter
3 Cups of white sugar
6 Eggs
3 Teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 Cup of buttermilk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Butter 1 9-inch or 10-inch loaf pan.

3. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar.

5. Mix in the eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition.

6. Stir in the lemon juice, vanilla extract and chopped rosemary.

7. Gently mix in flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Do not overmix.

8. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

9. Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes. Do not open oven door until after one hour. When cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan, it is done.

10. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Serve warm with honey.

Honey Walnut Banana Bread

Posted by on Apr 27, 2012 in Breads, Breakfast, Desserts | 7 Comments







Lydie sat down at the stool behind the counter and then stood right back up again. She walked over to the window and moved the tiny, steel fire truck just an inch to the right. Now it stood gleaming and appeared to stare out onto the street, as if waiting for the next call. 

That’s it. That’s all. She took a step back away from the window, her hands raised. Done. Done. 

Her store was ready. It was gleaming and sat waiting, like her fire truck.  The counters were polished and shining. The floor was swept. The shelves and shelves (and shelves! who knew she would need so many shelves?) were filled with her wares, bright and clashing in color and height and perfect.Her friend Colleen, who owned the bakery next door, had surprised her with a tray of thinly sliced pieces of warm banana bread for her first customers, that now sat in the corner with a pitcher of ice water, lemon slices floating at the top.

Colleen had appeared in the teal blue doorway with the silver tray at dawn, just as the sun was making an appearance over the thatched roofs of their little commercial street and Lydie had almost cried over them, overwhelmed by the smell of the bread, feeling their warmth through the bottom of the tray, feeling the realness of this day, that it had arrived, hit her all at once like a wave. 

Colleen hadn’t said a word. She’d wrapped her arms around Lydie and held her tight. She’d whispered, “Congratulations,” in her ear and then ducked out, smelling of bread and raisins. 

Lydie was supposed to be opening the doors in just a few minutes and for someone who liked timing and schedules and the rigidity of knowing what happens when, she found herself with the strangest urge to delay it for just a few minutes longer. She wanted to just stand in the middle of the place and look. And look and look. Look what she had done. She wanted to look at everything, touch everything. She wanted longer to fuss and to polish. She held herself in. She turned around in a circle, once, twice. Then, she walked over to the door and slid back the lock. She turned the sign over in the window.

Open.







Last week, I went on a business trip for my new job.

You know how it is “on the road.” At one point, I ate a fistful of bran flakes and declared myself Winner of Healthy Breakfast Options. This is what the continental breakfast will do to a person who has been enslaved to the Weight Watchers point system for a full year.  And who maybe does not say no to after-dinner cake like she is supposed to but whatever, it was an official Maryland dessert, did you want me to be RUDE to the state of Maryland? (Can you guess the dessert? I’ll let it slip in our Facebook group later today but let’s see if East Coasters can guess. There is no crab involved, I swear. I’m not an animal.)

I also had the pleasure of traveling with a coworker who I am relieved to report is a DELIGHT THANK YOU GOD because I don’t think we left each other’s sight in forty-eight hours. By the end of the first day, I was conspiring on how I could secretly miniaturize her so I could keep her in my pocket always. By the end of the first day, she blurted out, “HOLY CRAP, you eat a lot of bananas.”

I had eaten, in fact, so many bananas over those two days that when I arrived home and saw two browning bananas on my counter, I let out a sigh that shook the whole of Maine to its core. Too bad there’s no good use for browned bananas or anything, right? Right.

Nicole, randomly, sent over this recipe a few days later. See how that works, people? That’s some serious synergy.







Honey Walnut Banana Bread

Source: Picture The Recipe | Prep Time: 10 min | Cook Time: 40-45 min | Serves 8-10 | Print Recipe

Ingredients

3 Bananas, ripe or over-ripe (best), mashed
1/2 Cup of butter (1 stick)
1/2 Cup of honey
1/2 Cup of brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon of vanilla
2 Eggs, room temperature
1/4 Teaspoon of baking soda
1 Teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 Teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
1 and 1/4 Cups of flour
1/2 Cup of oats
1 Cup of chopped walnuts

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand up mixer, add the mashed bananas, butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

3. Using the paddle attachment on medium speed, mix all the ingredients together, until they’re combined. (Might be a few banana lumps, don’t stress.)

4. With a wooden spoon, add the flour and oats until just combined. Do not overmix. Don’t make me come over there.

5. Add 3/4 cup of the chopped walnuts and fold in with wooden spoon. Again, with the overmixing- don’t do it. Resist!

6. Pour the batter into a loaf tin and sprinkle with leftover nuts.

7. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.

8. Cool for a few minutes, then serve warm, preferably with a pat of butter or some cool cream cheese. A drizzle of honey would be good too.

Note: I bet adding chocolate chunks to this bread would make you super popular. Just saying.

That Famous No-Knead Pizza (And GIVEAWAY!)

Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Breads, Entrees | 39 Comments







The old man awoke with a smile.

Oh, there were other things. There were aches in places (some of them new) and a crack in his back. There was a twitch in his neck where there was not one yesterday. When he swung out from under the shelter of his quilts, he felt the wheeze in his chest, one he had for so long that he considered naming it Harold. If it insisted on keeping him company, it was the least he could do in return.

He plucked at the drapes and took a deep breath as dawn emerged from the ground and spread its touch over the earth. He turned around and smiled. “Happy Anniversary,” he said to her; his counterpart, who remained in the bed.

She was not so eager to wake. She lifted her head and peered at him with ageless eyes and then, let out a snore and drifted back to sleep, the sweetness of the moment lost on her. He shook his head, still smiling.







First the bathroom and then into the kitchen he went, as he did every morning. He shuffled over to the counters, did a few stretches of his arms and what was left of his back. He dusted the insides of the pot with coffee and set the kettle on the burner. He fussed with the flowers on the table and picked up the stray leaves. He moved the curtains over the kitchen sink so he could wash his hands without the soft fabric tickling his wrists. 

He went to the fridge, seeking out the larder of bacon and the eggs, but his graying eyes settled on the box instead. His son had “come for dinner” the night before. He’d “cooked” and this was all that remained. The old man removed the box from the shelf and placed it on the counter. He warmed his hands on the soft cotton folds of his pajama pants.

He was going to be civilized about it all, plates and the like, but when he opened the box, the smell of cold tomatoes hit him first. He picked at a stray piece of crust as he stood and then another. It would be hard on his stomach, he knew, but for the moment, the sweetness and the cheese melded together on his tongue. The herbs sang. He would risk his stomach.

She came into the kitchen then, as she always did when the smell of coffee bloomed in the air, and the slap of the refrigerator door beckoned. The old man smiled at her and picked up a slice, toasted her with it. “Anniversary breakfast,” he said and he took another bite. In his haste, a piece of crust fell.

She got to it first and ate it before it could really meet the floor. He chuckled and bent down and scratched the dog behind the ears. She was graying too, poor thing, poor old Magpie with her failing eyes and her wobbling paws. She sniffed his hand, more interested in pizza than in the fourteen years, today, that they had spent entirely in each other’s warm company.







Magazine lovers- when that March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit came sauntering into your mailboxes last month, I know you gasped at the cover. I know this because I am you. We are one. And I gasped.

When Nicole said that she wanted to make pizza and then sent me the recipe she used, I laughed to myself. But of course, I said to myself (because I talk to myself in such a way that would evoke Shakespeare and/or a crazy person), it would be this. Where else could she have gotten a pizza that was so delightfully chewy and crispy and perfect and drool inducing?

And then I looked at the blog where she’d seen the recipe (adapted from that Bon Appetit cover, naturally) and I laughed again. Because I had been wondering just how to tell you that I had moved (!) to a new city (!) and this gives me the perfect vehicle; the answer can be found with Jillian and Malcolm at From Away.







Back to the pizza. Oh, pizza.

I had three sources for this recipe, lovingly re-created for you below. First, there was From Away and their gorgeous photographs. Then, the recipe in Bon Appetit and finally, the “prep school” section in the back of the same magazine for shaping the dough properly. I am exhausted. But here it is, all combined and ready for you; it may seem daunting but it’s not, I promise. In wanting to be as thorough as possible, I may have frightened you away. Do not be afraid! We can do this! We can eat pizza together!

And after we eat pizza, scroll down and WIN FREE STUFF.







That Famous No-Knead Pizza

Source: Jim Lahey for Bon Appetit, via From Away  | Makes 6 pizzas | Time: About 24 hours | Print Recipe

Ingredients

Dough

7 and 1/2 Cups of all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting, shaping dough)
4 Teaspoons of fine sea salt
1/2 Teaspoon of active dry yeast
3 Cups of water

Topping

Can of crushed tomatoes
Tomato paste
Crushed garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil

Prepare

1. First, we make the dough. Start the day before and give yourself 18-20 hours.

2. In a big mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.

3. Using a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate water.

4. Mix gently by hand and form dough into a rough ball. Don’t overwork it here. (This is the no-knead part of the magic.) Transfer to a large, clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.

5. Let dough rise at room temperature (about 72 degrees) in a draft-free area for about 18 hours. (I like using the oven, though it needs to be turned off, obviously.) Dough should more than double in size.

6. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Cut dough into six equal portions. (Here, you can take balls of dough and wrap in plastic to store in fridge for up to three days.)

7. Take each ball of dough and work with it a bit to form it into a ball, molding gently. Dust balls with flour. Let them rest, covered with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap, until soft and pliable, about one hour.

8. Now, preheat your oven to its hottest setting (500 to 550 degrees). Place pizza stone in upper third of oven. For baking sheet, you do not need to preheat it in the oven but arrange rack in the middle of the oven.

9. While the dough is resting and the oven is preheating, prepare your topping. We improvised a quick pizza sauce in a sauté pan with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, a bit of tomato paste, a bit of olive oil, a crushed clove of garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Slice your fresh mozzarella. Chop some fresh basil. Ready? Ready.

10. Take your rested dough of delight. Dust with flour and dust your hands too, while you’re at it. Start stretching the dough, starting at the edges, and move in a circular motion, resisting the urge to flatten the dough too much as this will release those precious air bubbles that give the dough its chewy center. Gently rotate and stretch the dough across the work surface until dough is roughly 8 inches in diameter. Go rustic with it- it doesn’t need to look perfect to taste perfect.

11. Transfer the dough to your knuckles now (like you have seen every pizza flipper do since the dawn of time) and slowly rotate the dough while gently stretching the edges. Gravity and this circular motion will give you a 10 to 12 inch disc.

12. Here’s where time/methods diverge based on pizza stone or baking sheet.

Pizza stone: Take pizza peel or rimless baking sheet and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Place dough on top of it. Top with sauce, cheese and basil immediately. Set oven to broil. Slide pizza from peel/rimless sheet onto hot pizza stone which is in oven. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes until bottom is crisp and top is blistered. Use peel/rimless sheet to retrieve pizza.

Baking sheet: Arrange dough on baking sheet. Top with sauce, cheese and basil. Bake pizza until bottom of crust is crisp and top is blistered, about 10 minutes.

13. And now, we eat pizza.

And now, WE GIVE AWAY THINGS.







 

Tomorrow, St. Patrick’s Day, is our 1 Year Anniversary! We did it! We’re still here!

Hilariously, our recipe one year ago was for Blueberry Bars. Because nothing says St. Patrick’s Day like… blueberry bars. (Clearly, we had some things to learn. Although we just posted a pizza recipe so maybe the learning is still going to continue here.) To commemorate the event, we’ve refreshed the site a bit (and be we, I mean Nicole.)

We want you to celebrate with us so we’re giving away, to one lucky reader, the New England Gift Basket from Eat Boutique! If you haven’t heard of Eat Boutique, you are in for a treat:

Eat Boutique celebrates pure, local and comforting handmade foods. We craft seasonal and regional gift boxes, as well as monthly gift subscriptions of small batch food. We create food guides, plan tasting trips, and host soirees & local markets with our favorite food makers.

The New England box (aptly chosen, don’t you think?) features:

– Slightly sweet, totally crunchy granola from Cow & Crumb (Cambridge, Mass.)
– A caramel sauce made from goat’s milk from Fat Toad Farm (Brookfield, Vermont)
– Lark (Essex, Mass.) whole wheat oat cookies with cranberries and bittersweet chocolate
– A cherrywood smoked sea salt for finishing soups, roasts and veggies from Salt Traders (Ipswich, Mass.)
– One of the best maple syrups from Sweet Brook Farm (Williamstown, Mass.)

It’s pure foodie heaven, delivered straight to your door from a seriously cool company.

To enter, please comment and tell us your favorite recipe find of the year- a recipe you absolutely love. It could be from a magazine, blogger, television show, or a restaurant, wherever. If you also tweet about Some Kitchen Stories or share it on Facebook or on Pinterest, you get extra points and extra chances to win (and we’ll throw in an extra surprise too). You have all week so have at it!

Use the handy widget below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Sticky, Sweet & Spiced Cinnamon Rolls

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in Breads, Breakfast, Brunch | 5 Comments







No story today. Because, you guys, Thanksgiving is almost here. How did this happen? Is anyone else wondering how this happened? Am I the only one who looked at the calendar this weekend and did a comical double-take?







I don’t mean to be competitive about this but Nicole’s cinnamon rolls came out better looking than mine. Which I suppose is fine considering she’s the photographer but still. STILL. I was the one who wanted to eat them the MOST. That should count for something. Also, I’m concerned that, after this recipe, you’re going to think that we have an addiction to maple glaze.

Also, when did I start sounding like Joy the Baker? Also, why do you think that’s a bad thing? Are you trying to start something with me, huh? Thanksgiving is in 3 days.







I’m going to go ahead and say “Screw wine” because showing up with a tray of homemade cinnamon rolls has to be the world’s best hostess gift. I’m not suggesting you make this for your family as you’re wrestling a 22 pound turkey into the oven (please stop crying) but I think it’s a lovely idea to make a tray for your host family, if you’re spending the holiday outside your own kitchen.

Think of it- they’ll wake up Friday morning and just pop these bad boys in the oven or in the microwave. And then the house will smell like nutmeg and cinnamon and cloaked maple syrup. Or they can wrap them up in foil and munch on them while on line at Best Buy at 4am (do you do that? I don’t do that.) Maybe they could even trade some for a better spot in line! And they’ll be so excited that they’ll buy a big screen TV that cost .48 cents and give it to YOU along with the free gift bag they received at the store? (I don’t know how Black Friday works).

These rolls take some time and attention and care but they’re light! And they have squash in them (squash!) so basically Congress will declare them a vegetable soon, that’s how healthy they are. Scant butter, loads of spice, flaky homemade bread. Put on some Lite FM, sing into some spoons and just devote your afternoon to them.







Cinnamon Rolls

Recipe from Cooking Light

Makes: 16 rolls | 5 pts. each (Weight Watchers) | Total Time: 2.5 Hours

Ingredients for Rolls

1 Cup of warm water (100° to 110° – test with a thermometer if you’re like me and you tend to panic over proofing yeast)
1 TBsp of granulated sugar
1 package of active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
About 2 and 1/2 cups of bread flour
About 1 and 1/4 cups plus 3 TBsp of all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp of salt
1 and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
1 Cup of mashed cooked delicata squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 TBsp of canola oil
Cooking spray
1/2 Cup of packed brown sugar
2 TBsp of butter, melted
2 tsp of water
3 TBsp of finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Ingredients for Glaze

1/3 cup water
1/2 cup maple sugar or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Note: Nicole had leftover maple glaze so she used that. The glaze in this recipe is delicious as well- it won’t be white but clear, in case you’re comparing to her photos.

Prepare

1. Roast the squash. (Grievance: Cooking Light didn’t include this little instruction, which drives me crazy because I then had to some Internet searching, adding to an already lengthy prep session.) So, preheat oven to 375°F. Slice squash in half, length-wise, and scoop out seeds. Lay in baking dish, skin side down, with about 1/4 inch of water in the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Let squash cool and then scoop out flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork.

2. Prepare the yeast. Combine first three roll ingredients and let stand for 10 minutes. If yeast doesn’t bubble (it’s more like a dense foam top), toss it and get fresher yeast.

3. Get your flour. Bread making is exact so use the “spoon and level” method with your flour. Get your large bowl or stand mixer. Combine 2 and 1/2 cups of bread flour, 1 and 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, salt, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, nutmeg, and dash of cloves in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

4. Add your wet ingredients. Add yeast mixture, mashed and cooled squash and oil and stir until just moist. Do not overstir or the dough could get tough.

5. Knead, baby. Use the dough hook on your machine or turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Add 1 TBsp of flour at a time if you need it, to prevent dough from sticking to bowl/hands. After 6 minutes, dough should feel tacky.

6. Let is rise. Roll dough into a large bowl that’s coated with cooking spray, give the top a light spray too. Cover and let rise in a warm place (about 85%), free from drafts until doubled in size, at least 45 minutes. *Note: I put the bowl in the turned-off oven that was still slightly warm from cooking the squash. This worked well.

7. Preheat oven to 375°F.

8. Poke it and punch it. How do you know if the dough is ready? Poke it- if an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough and you may proceed. Punch dough in the face; cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

9. Make your filling & prep your dish. In a small bowl, combine remaining cinnamon, brown sugar, 2 TBsp of melted butter and 2 tsp of water. Take a 13 x 9 baking dish and coat with cooking spray.

10. Roll dough out. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 20 x 12 rectangle.

11. Smear. Spread mixture evenly over dough and leave a border of 1/4 inch along each side. Sprinkle evenly with nuts.

12. Roll dough up. Take the bottom, long side of the dough and roll up.

13. Cut. Cut the roll into 16 equal slices.

14. Arrange rolls, cut sides up, in your baking dish.

15. Bake for 33 minutes or until brown.

16. Cool rolls on a wire rack.

17. Make the glaze. Combine 1/3 cup of water and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir so sugar dissolves. Remove heat and stir in 1 TBsp of butter, the half-and-half and vanilla. Cool for 5 minutes.

18. Drizzle over rolls.

Smitty & The Sweet Potato (Ep. 6)







Previously on Smitty & The Girl

Elvira saw her stomping up the walk in a tear. She turned away from the window and looked down at the sad-eyed redhead in the booth. “You wanted to see Sylvia Mathers,” she told her.

“Yes?”

“Be careful what you wish for.” Elvira could hear Letta’s high-pitched voice from across the diner, greeting their boss and expressing careful surprise at the unexpected visit.

“Oh, shut up, Letta.” Sylvia threw her bag at Aggie, who had a smudge of dirt across her cheek and looked like she’d seen better mornings, and stalked over to Elvira. “You called me, Elvira?” And then she did a double-take at the redhead in the booth, sucking in a breath.

Elvira bit her cheek, studying the pair of them as they studied each other. “Yup. Petula here came in a while ago, asking for you. Sorry for the intrusion of your morning.”







Sylvia’s lips pursed into a thin, tight line. “Thank you for calling me.” Abruptly, she grabbed Elvira’s arm and dragged her away from the booth. “You didn’t, erm, tell anyone about this, did you?”

Elvira glanced over the boss’s shoulder where Letta was practically sitting on top of the counter, straining to hear every word. She didn’t have to look to know that the work and chatter in the kitchen had stopped either. She looked Sylvia in the eye. “Well, everyone here knows.” She shrugged as Sylvia turned pink in the gills. “It’s a small di- restaurant,” she continued. “In a small town. She your daughter or something, Sylvia?”

Sylvia narrowed her eyes into slits and then, like a snap of her fingers, an expression of pure sweetness crossed her face. “Do you have any of that wonderful sweet potato bread leftover from yesterday, Elvira?” she asked, her voice dripping with honey.

They stared at each other. Sylvia batted her eyelashes. Elvira considered the stack of bills on her kitchen table. “Yes,” Elvira replied. “Would you like a piece brought to the booth?”

“The table, yes.” Sylvia smiled and smoothed down her sophisticated do, fixing her cat-eyed gaze on the girl who watched them from the corner, the girl with her very eyes.  “And then give us some privacy, would you, dear?”







A little respite from scary stories today- unless you find Sylvia mildly frightening. In my head, she’s a combination of Jane Fonda from Monster-in-Law and Miss Ouiser from Steel Magnolias (who knew that’s how you spell “Ouiser”? Is that a legit Southern name?).

Speaking of names, holy cats, you guys sent me some DOOZIES. I can write a whopper of a romance novel with characters like Adelynn, Penelope, Blanche, Beatrix, Hazel… The comment section started to look like a boarding house from the 1930s (which is where I’ve secretly always wanted to live- omg, you guys, you know me so well!) I promise to use them, they’re too good.

Nicole has been crazy busy with work and trips and wedding planning and I’ve been working until almost ten every night trying to get my (second!) novel done before Halloween- we both needed a recipe like this. Sweet, wholesome, bursting with fall flavors and comfort in every moist, delicious bite.







Sweet Potato Bread

From Mary E. Crain via AllRecipes

Yields: 1 9 x 5 inch loaf | Notes: Freezes well.

Ingredients

1 and 1/2 cups of white sugar
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups of sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking soda
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground nutmeg
1/3 cup of water
1 cup of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup of chopped pecans

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray your 9 x 5 standard loaf pan.

2. Combine sugar and oil, beat well.

3. Add eggs and beat.

4. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients; flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

5. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture alternately with water until just combined. Do not overstir.

6. Stir in sweet potatoes and chopped nuts.

7. Turn away from camera to lick bowl and spoon and possibly countertops. Weep that you are a monster.

8. Pour batter into loaf pan.

9. Bake for about 1 hour.

Topping Ideas: Try mini marshmallows or sprinkle some brown sugar on top with a bit of melted butter before baking. Serve with a smear of cream cheese or mascarpone.

Mummy Pumpkin Muffins

Posted by on Oct 18, 2011 in Breads, Breakfast, Desserts | 9 Comments







Sarah had finally stopped laughing. There was nothing remotely funny about staring down a dark, ancient tunnel as a flood of icy water came rushing toward your small, helpless, all-too-fragile body. The water surged toward them as if eager to snuff them out.

Despite her agile laugh, Sarah had always been somewhat useful in a crisis. As the water came crashing and screaming toward them, she looked to her right and saw a small foothold and then another. Beside her, the professor had turned to run, though the tunnel they’d just traversed was long and winding and, she knew, held no refuge.  She grabbed him. “Climb!” she yelled over the rushing water and when he stared at her, she moved behind him and bodily shoved him up, her panic giving her strength she didn’t know was possible. Though the professor stumbled with his bum leg, she all but lifted him up by the shoulders and tried not to scream herself as the freezing water grabbed at her ankles and then up her legs, sending a shock of cold up her spine.

They scrambled up the rock face and Sarah ignored the professor’s moaning about having to leave the wall and his precious tools behind. She’d made the mistake of looking down and her heart dropped as the water climbed up and up. They would not be able to go back the way they came and if the water reached the ceiling of the dark tunnel… “Professor,” she said urgently, “Move!”

They climbed blindly, Sarah’s heart going a mile a minute as her boots easily found the next foothold and the next. This was put here on purpose, she thought, and thoughts of booby-traps and sabotage crowded her as she remembered what sent the water toward them in the first place. She grabbed the rock and tried not to let fear overtake her on all sides as she considered the cold death that awaited them below and the unknown terrors that lay ahead.

They climbed, moving inward as they did and the professor whimpered over the rocks that jabbed at their palms and wrists, Sarah nudging him on from behind. It grew darker and tighter and she wondered, as her head brushed the slick ceiling, if this wasn’t a gruesome error on her part, a smaller death she had pushed them towards. At one point, as the sounds of the water grew fainter, Sarah could swear she smelled the musk of cloves and cinnamon in the air. She wondered if she was going mad.

On and on they climbed, first upward and then on their hands and knees, Sarah squeezing her eyes shut to ignore the little voice that emerged at times like these, when breathable air seemed slight and quarters especially close. She ignored the tightness in her throat, the sweat that dripped from her temples and when the professor stopped his crawl and she slammed into him, she opened her eyes, blind in the dark, ready to urge him on, needing to urge him on.

Only when the cold hand dropped on her shoulder from behind did Sarah finally scream.







Recognize these little nuggets? They graced our September calendar and Nicole decided she likes you enough to share the recipe. They’re perfect for a cool October morning and an ideal morning treat for a school day when your eight-year-old has a big spelling test and words like “pumpkin” and “autumn” on the brain.

Pumpkin Muffins with Pecan Crunch & Maple Glaze

Adapted from In Praise of Leftovers & Recipe Girl

Ingredients

For the Muffins

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of ground cloves
1 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1 tsp. of ground nutmeg
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup (that’s 1 1/2 sticks) of softened, unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 15 ounce can of 100% pure pumpkin

For the Topping

3 TBsp of all-purpose flour
3 TBsp of melted, unsalted butter
1/4 cup of turbinado or raw cane sugar
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon

For the Glaze (I accidentally typed FOR THE WIN at first which I actually think is pretty apt, when talking about glaze)

1/3 cup of powdered sugar
2 TBsp of maple syrup

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray two standard muffin pans.

2. Make topping first: Combine flour, butter, raw sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Prepare muffin batter. Grab a medium bowl and combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well.

4. In a large mixing bowl or your stand mixer bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugars at low speed until just blended.

5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Once all eggs are in, beat well at medium speed until batter is very light and fluffy (a few minutes total).

6. Add pumpkin to wet ingredients and beat until combined. Occasionally, scrape down sides of bowl so everything is incorporated.

7. Turn speed to low and slowly mix in flour mixture- mix until just combined (or muffins will get tough).

8. Fill muffin tin about 3/4 full and sprinkle topping over batter.

9. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack or plate to cool completely.

10. While muffins are cooling, make glaze: mix sugar and syrup well. Drizzle over cooled muffins. Let set. (Does anyone ever let anything “cool completely” or “let set”? Yeah, I didn’t think so.)

Amy

Posted by on Sep 8, 2011 in Appetizers, Breads | One Comment

She named herself Amy.







She was between 9th and 10th grade when “Rehab” came out. First “Rehab” and then “You Know I’m No Good” and by then, KellyAnn Montrose was sunk. There was something about that voice. It spoke to her in the dark. For a long time, it was the only voice she heard.

She crawled under her heaviest blanket and listened to the album until it ended. Then, her favorite songs in order. Then, again. Then, it was time for dinner but still she stayed, until the last possible second. She sat in the dark and traced Amy’s voice over the walls. The only time she really emerged that year was when the newspaper said Amy was coming to town.  She went and she stood in the dark and she swayed but she liked her room better. She made her mother call her Amy.

Four years later, Kelly was standing in line at the supermarket when she heard. It was late and her roommate was in the frozen foods section, getting waffles. Kelly stood and stared at the screen that was suspended over the gum as the news played out in a line at the bottom. A woman was making a salad. She smiled over a jar of mustard.

Kelly stood and watched, aware that she was still in the dark, still in the dark.







It’s hard not to feel a little melancholy when it’s been raining endlessly and the gray skies coincide with you giving up bread for a few days. And then you write a post about delicious, mustardy, puffy breadsticks. If she were a clairvoyant and malicious person, which she is distinctly neither, I would suspect Nicole is punishing me for leaving Chicago. J’CUSE!







Mustard Sticks

From Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

(Via Savoring Time in the Kitchen)

Ingredients

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry (thawed)
All purpose flour (for rolling out pastry)
½ Cup of Dijon Mustard
1 large egg
Coarsely ground pepper
Sea Salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place racks to cut oven into even thirds. Place parchment paper over baking sheets.

It’s important to keep the pastry cold until you roll it out. So take the first sheet out and leave the second in the fridge until you need it. Roll out the first on a lightly floured surface. The dough should roughly measure out to 12 x 16. The short end should face you.

Find the middle and score it lightly. On the lower half, spread a 1/4 cup of mustard stopping at 1/8 of an inch from the side and bottom edges. Fold the blank half of the dough over the mustard half. Cut into strips with a knife or a pizza cutter.

Transfer to baking sheet, keeping about 2 inches apart.

Place in fridge to keep cool (or wrap and freeze- they’ll hold up to 2 months) while you repeat with the second sheet.

When ready to bake, beat egg and brush over sticks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (that’s a tip from lovely Susan at Savoring).

Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate sheets and bake for another 7-8 minutes more. Let cool before serving.

 

My Little Corn-Studded Biscuit

Posted by on Aug 24, 2011 in Breads, Side Dishes | No Comments
“Oh, you’re just so cute.” She laughed. “Did you hear me?”

Jimmy tried to smile but instead found himself looking over his shoulder nervously. This girl was loud. “I said,” she said even louder now and, what’s worse, leaned back on the chair and kicked her legs up like a deranged character from Saturday Night Live, “you are KEEE-YUTE!”

“And you are maybe done with that drink, I think.” He reached out to take the martini glass from her and she pulled it back, laughing. “Oh, ok. Maybe not.”

“I am having such a good time.” Her name was Tara and she was a redhead. According to her online profile, she was ‘addicted to Parcheesi and olives.’ Jimmy had been intrigued, especially since he was pretty sure no one even played Parcheesi anymore.

And now, watching her suck back another dry martini, he was pretty sure he’d discovered the source of her affection for olives. She tipped the glass so far back that she fell off the chair completely.

The club was loud but not loud enough that roughly one hundred people didn’t turn around in time to see Jimmy’s date fly off her chair and hit the floor and her skirt shoot over her head.They stared at her, eyebrows up, and stared at him too.
“Whoopsie!” Tara yelled from the ground. “Who keeps moving everything?” Her voice was muffled from where her face had met the floor.

Jimmy sighed and helped heft her up, along with one of the club’s bouncers who patted him on the shoulder. His name was Carl. “You all right, man?”

Jimmy nodded. “Yeah, thanks.”

Carl shook his head. “Man, you just have the worst luck with women, don’t you?”

“JI-MMY. My lil’ corn cuffin. Go get me another drinkie, ‘kay?”

One of the things I like most about working with Nicole is that she brings me recipes like this.

First of all, if there is an able-bodied (meaning, not allergic to gluten or something) human being who is able to resist a warm, buttery biscuit when offered, please, show yourself as I would so like to shake your hand and also call you a giant liar to your face.
I have a tendency to be, how can I say this delicately, a pain-in-the-ass about food. Nowhere has this become more apparent than here my parents’ house where nine times out of ten, I find myself saying something so pretentious about food that later I wish it was possible to smack myself in the face with my foot (something I’m sure Madonna can do, incidentally). Things like, “Oh. Is this processed?”
Seriously. Someone please smack me with their foot.
Because the truth is, all I really want is for food to be as I think it was meant to be- passed around and enjoyed, shared.
That’s all. Leave your politics, your hang-ups, your secret criticisms, your notions about what other people should do and eat, at the door. That’s why I like doing this blog with Nicole- because she seriously just cares about making things that taste good and look pretty in pictures.

Corn Studded Biscuits
Adapted from Cooks.com
Ingredients

2 1/4 cup of Bisquick mix
2/3 cup of milk
3/4 cup of cheddar cheese
3/4 cup of sweet corn kernels
Butter topping:
3-4 Tbsp. melted butter
garlic powder
salt & pepper
Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Mix all of the biscuit ingredients together (not too much or they’ll get tough) and drop big spoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 min. While biscuits are cooking, melt butter and add garlic powder, salt & pepper. Brush or drizzle melted butter on top of biscuits as soon as they come out of the oven. Don’t resist them. Just don’t.

Pretzel Bites with Homemade Honey Mustard

Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Appetizers, Breads, Snacks | 12 Comments







Julia looked at her new friend doubtfully. “And where am I supposed to sleep?”

The little shell gave her a look as if he was trying to shrug his shoulders. He couldn’t, of course. He was a shell.

Because the girl looked at him so expectantly and made no moves to finding a solution on her own, he sighed and puttered across the table. Julia watched as he skittered onto a plate and disappeared over the rim. A moment later, a golden mound emerged, like a salt-encrusted sun rising up on a new day. It tumbled over the edge of the plate and dropped onto the tabletop with a thud. The shell followed, huffing and looking quite put out.

Together, they stared at the mound and the shell finally nudged it toward her with his tiny shoe.  “At least now you have a pillow,” he said.







Pretzel Bites Recipe– This plate of joy comes from Whats Gaby Cooking– a site I enjoy looking at when the day has gone completely haywire and I just want to look at something clean and neatly arranged and filled with glorious pictures of food. These bites were a big hit in the office, though some got a little too dark for my liking (our fault, not Gaby’s). We all agreed that they’re an unstoppable force when they’re still warm.

Honey Mustard Recipe–  Nicole doesn’t like mayo and I’m on Weight Watchers (surprise!) so this no-mayo honey mustard was the obvious choice. We used honey that came from Nicole’s grandmother’s bees, which is the single foodiest sentence I’ve ever written, which is probably why it was so, so good.

 

“Hold the Focaccia, Bro”

Posted by on Apr 19, 2011 in Appetizers, Breads | No Comments







This is a True Story

It’s a Tuesday night, around 8pm. It’s warm, warm enough for Chicago anyway, and I’m waiting outside that nice Italian restaurant by the movie theater in my neighborhood. A few friends are in town from Los Angeles and they’re supposed to be meeting me. It’s spring or summer, I honestly don’t remember, but it’s definitely still light outside. I remember remarking to myself how early it felt because the group of guys next to me were very, very drunk.

It was a bachelor party, I found out thanks to my superior eavesdropping skills and Sherlock Holmes-like ability to zero in on minute clues such as 1) they were really drunk, 2) there were no girls around anywhere and 3) one of the guys who was sitting on the bench outside the restaurant said to me blearily, “This is a bachelor party.”

What I’ll always remember from that night though (apart from the springtime risotto which was truly delicious- oh! It was definitely spring. Wow, I am nailing all the mysteries today) is just how drunk the soon-to-be-groom was-  resplendent in his visor, his hair plastered to his forehead with sweat, doubled over on the curb and hurling onto the sidewalk. One of his friends patted him sloppily on the back while an older gentleman hailed a cab. As the older man stepped away from the scene, the friend thrust a white bag back at him. “Hold the focaccia, bro. He’s going again.”

I laughed about that as another cab swung up and deposited my friends. “Hold the focaccia, bro.” Hold it indeed.







Recipe: Focaccia with Caramelized Onion, Tomato & Rosemary

via The Culinary Chronicles. One of the things that I love about Nam’s site is how bright her recipes seem. It might be the light touch of her photography that makes everything look so sunny or maybe it’s just the sweetness of the author, maybe both, but rest assured that everything on this site is lovely and truly munchable.

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