Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vegetable Soup

The red pepper in the fridge is starting to wrinkle.  The celery is starting to wilt.  You have one lone potato left on the counter.  What do you do when it’s cold outside so you don’t want a salad, and these sad vegetables aren’t even worthy of one anyway?  It’s soup time!

That is exactly how this concoction came about, and it turned out really well.  There’s no real recipe for this, I literally threw everything soup-worthy from my fridge, freezer, counter and cabinets into a giant pot and let it simmer on low for an hour.  Here’s what I ended up with:


1 russet potato, peeled and diced in ½” cubes
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery, sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
½ - 1 cup frozen sweet corn
1 package frozen chopped spinach (break up as it defrosts into the soup)
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed with spoon when added to pot
1 32oz container of Low-Sodium Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp dried parsley
Garlic powder
Salt & Pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Olive Oil


Sauté onion, carrots, celery and potato with some olive oil, salt & pepper for a few minutes, just to soften slightly.  Add red pepper and tomatoes.  Cook for a few minutes more.  Add all remaining ingredients, stir to combine then let simmer for about 15 minutes.  Taste soup and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Continue to let simmer for another 30-45 minutes, stirring on occasion.

Dole out a big bowl, top with a little grated parmesan (optional but tasty), then let it soothe your soul…..and don’t forget the wine.

Vanilla Biscotti with Cinnamon Chips - Baking GALS Round 26

I know, biscotti??  Believe me, this isn’t the super dry, crack-your-teeth hard, tasteless piece of kindling you get in lots of coffee shops.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t even give that stuff a second glance.  Yes, this is still a dry crunchy cookie, but there is so much flavor from the vanilla, and the texture is still tender enough to bite regularly….none of that hold it off to the side and cock your head type of biting.  Of course I had to make this festive for the season.  White, red and green sparkling sugars did the trick.  So pretty!

Go ahead, pour yourself some coffee or tea, settle in with a good book or movie, grab a slice (or 2 – trust me) and get ready to enjoy.  Dunking is optional.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour (

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
2-3 tsp vanilla extract (I used 3)
¼ tsp almond extract (I omitted)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups AP Flour (I used 1 cup white whole wheat/1 cup AP)
1 cup mini cinnamon chips (my addition)
Coarse sparkling sugar for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 350º.  In a medium mixing bowl, add the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and baking powder.  Beat on low speed just until combined and smooth.  Add the eggs and beat at low/medium speed until well mixed.  The mixture may look slightly curdled – that’s ok, I just beat for another few seconds until it looked smooth again. 

Add the flour one cup at a time, as well as whatever add-ins you want – in this case I added ½ cup of the cinnamon chips.  Mix on low until just combined.  Add the remaining flour and chips and again mix just until combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the flour.

I happen to have a biscotti pan (about an 11½”x 5½” loaf pan) – if you have one of these, just scrape the dough into the greased pan and spread evenly.  If you don’t have a pan about this size, form a loaf on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  The loaf should be about 11x5 and about 1” thick.  Sprinkle the top with sugar and bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

Remove from oven and lower oven temp to 325º.  Let biscotti rest in loaf shape for 5 minutes.  Slice loaf in ½”-¾” wide slices and lay cut side down on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake for about 12 minutes, then flip each slice and bake for about 12-14 minutes more until dried out and nicely browned.  Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.  

*This recipe suggests up to 2 cups of add-ins such as chips, nuts or dried fruits.  I recommend starting with 1 cup and seeing how it looks – 1 cup of chips was plenty for me.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Eggnog Cookies - Baking GALS Round 25

What’s your oldest memory of eggnog?  Is it something you had with your family during the holidays?  Or still do?  I remember early on in elementary school, our class made a cookbook and one of my classmates submitted a recipe for homemade eggnog.  I’d probably had it at some point before this, but making it from that recipe is the first experience that comes to mind.  I loved it right from the start.  Of course that wasn’t the adult version, which I also am a big fan of!

So, the big question with eggnog in baked goods is, will the flavor actually come through?  I’ve made eggnog scones before and I remember them being good, but not really having a strong eggnog flavor.  Maybe I used a light variety or needed to add more, who knows – but after making these cookies, I’ll be playing around with those scones again as there was no shortage of flavor here!

This recipe actually called for the addition of dark chocolate chunks.  I’m sure that is also delicious, but eggnog to me just screams nutmeg, so I omitted the chocolate and added some nutmeg and cinnamon chips instead.  To me, they are absolutely perfect like this, but if you prefer chocolate, just sub out the same amount that I used for the cinnamon chips.

Go ahead - add a splash of bourbon.  :)
Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker ( 

1 cup + 2 Tbsp AP flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground nutmeg
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ cup Eggnog (light not recommended)
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup mini cinnamon chips

Preheat oven to 300º.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggnog, egg yolk, and vanilla.  Continue to beat at medium speed until completely mixed, about 2 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two batches, mix until just combined.  Using a rubber scraper, fold in the cinnamon chips and make sure all flour is incorporated.

Using a small or medium cookie scoop, drop dough onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are set and just starting to turn a golden brown and the centers spring back when touched lightly.

Remove from oven and let rest on the cookie sheets for 1 minute then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in an air-tight container.

**Note 1** I used a medium cookie scoop and this recipe made about 18 cookies – therefore you may want to double it!

**Note 2**  Order a batch and let me do the work - check out Bakeri and let me know what I can make for you!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars - Baking GALS Round 24

Back in the spring I went on a trip out to San Francisco and wine country with some friends.  We stayed both in the city and out in Sonoma.  In almost every grocery store, corner shop and coffee house we went into I kept running into these bars, taunting me at every turn, until finally I gave in.  I am so glad I did.  They were just as good as I’d imagined.  I love shortbread and I love caramel even more.  Chocolate – eh – I could go either way, but when mixed with other things, I’m down…

A few months ago I came across this recipe – score!!  Not that I wouldn’t take a trip back out west and hunt these things down, but even better if I can make them on any old rainy day when I’ve got some time to kill.  I’ll admit, I didn’t love this shortbread recipe – where’s the flavor??  I added some vanilla extract.  I think it helped, but I have a tried-and-true shortbread recipe I think I may try with this next time.  I also added a little vanilla to the caramel portion as I think it adds that extra oomph that takes the toasty sweetness of caramel over the edge to amazingness (is that a word?  you know what I mean).

Not that you’d think it from the name, but these are definitely not for the diet conscious, so you may want to wait until you’re having a “skinny day” then just allow yourself to indulge, I promise it will be worth the extra mile you need to run after.

For the shortbread layer: 
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract (my addition)

For the caramel layer: 
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (my addition)

For the chocolate layer: 
8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
fleur de sel, for sprinkling 

To make the shortbread layer, preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment.  With a fork, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Beat together the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until blended, 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the dry ingredients on low speed until just combined.  Evenly press the dough into the prepared pan and bake 13-18 minutes, until golden. If the crust puffs up while in the oven, just gently press it back down again after it bakes.  Allow to cool completely. 

To make the caramel layer, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk.  Heat, stirring every now and then, until the butter has melted. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixtures becomes amber and thickens slightly (may take about 20 min).  Pour the caramel over the cooled shortbread layer, smooth, and allow to set and cool completely. 

To make the chocolate layer, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a double boiler.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Pour the mixture evenly over the set caramel layer and smooth the top.  Allow to cool.  Sprinkle the fleur de sel on top.  Slice, serve and keep chilled (may be easier to slice when chilled). 

**Couple notes** 
You can use whatever type of chocolate you like here.  Out in CA they were being sold with milk chocolate and dark chocolate.  Obviously this recipe calls for bittersweet – use your favorite!

As you can see, I added the fleur de sel a little early on these and it melted into the chocolate a bit.  It doesn’t affect the flavor, but it just doesn’t look as pretty.  Just wait a little longer for your chocolate to cool before you sprinkle on the salt.

From:  Four and Twenty Blackberries

Saturday, October 5, 2013

King Arthur Flour - Live!

Thanks to a friend bringing this tour to my attention, I took off work and attended a baking demo with King Arthur Flour yesterday - the people I consider the holy grail of baking.  Ok, with the exception of those famous French baguette & croissant bakers…  KAF does two tours across the States each year, once in the fall and once in the winter.  The demos are totally free, and you just have to show up.  It was two hours of watching one of the bakers, Bonnie, from their Baking Education Center, make an apple pie and a savory bacon & cheddar scone.  (They had another demo later in the day on whole grains and yeast breads, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it to that.)  Bonnie was great, she was funny and knowledgeable, and I picked up lots of great tips/got confirmation on some tricks of the trade I already knew.  So much fun – for the baking obsessed at least.

If you’re not familiar with this company and/or their flours, get familiar.  Not only do they produce great quality flours and tons of other baking products, but they also have a test kitchen where they develop recipes, an education center where they teach classes, a free Nationwide school program teaching kids to make fresh bread, a large retail store and even a café so you can sit and enjoy breads and pastries that were baked just that morning.  Sounds like a perfect day trip to me!  Granted they are located in Norwich, Vermont and I’m in DC, but thankfully with my parents living in MA, I think I’ll find myself there sometime in the near future.  However I do fear that I might just apply for a job on the spot and suddenly be moving north… 

Check them out:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Norway's Best Pepper Cookies - Baking GALS Round 23

Back to Baking GALS!  August is always a hairy month for me in the kitchen – I feel like I’m running around non-stop the whole month between vacations and generally just spending as much time outdoors as possible…not to mention just being exhausted when I get home from work after being so busy doing catch-up work when I actually am in the office.  At any rate, I got my shipment out for September and this was a good one, in my humble opinion.

If I haven’t mentioned it, I’m Norwegian (well, nearly half anyway) and my mom being very proud of that heritage has trickled down to me.  Enough so that I’ve recently even started a little bakery business called what else, Bakeri – the Norwegian word for bakery. I’ll do a full post about the business very soon so stay tuned (and start thinking of what you’d like to order!), but as I’m creating the menu, I of course need to make sure I have a couple Norwegian staples on it right?  Enter these pepper cookies.  Scandinavians like things with a little kick – think of all those Swedish ginger snaps that are out there…slow, warm heat.  Same idea here.  Mix some black pepper with the favorite ingredient of cardamom and again, slow, warm heat.  Sweet, savory and spicy all at once – it’s unique and delicious.  I found this recipe while searching online and I’m declaring it a keeper!

Pre-baking.  That's not kosher salt on top - it's Swedish Pearl Sugar!
Just out of the oven.
Recipe adapted from Embassy of Norway, Washington DC


1 1/8 cups butter
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp baking soda
3 ¼ cup AP flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp baking powder

*Note, it is not an omission – this recipe does not call for eggs.


Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the cream. Add the baking soda and little water (no more than 2 tablespoons) to the butter mixture.

Sift the spices, baking powder and flour into the butter mixture. Blend until a nice uniform dough is formed. Roll dough into sausages about 2-1/2 inches in diameter wrap tightly and let dough chill thoroughly. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Remove chilled dough and cut into thin slices. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 6 to 8 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire rack.

*Note #2 - I did not do this “sausage” method – I just chilled the bowl of dough in the fridge for 30 min or so, then used a medium-sized cookie scoop (about 2 Tbsp) and flattened them slightly. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mish-Mash Marshmallow Treats

I spent the last unofficial weekend of summer at a beach house in the Outer Banks with several friends.  It was a great time.  We all contributed food for the weekend and one thing I brought was Trail Mix.  I love the Costco brand – I don’t like very many types of nuts and this one has all the ones I do like…cashews, almonds and peanuts.  Add raisins and M&M’s and bingo – an awesome concoction.  However, when there are 6 people bringing food, you have lots of leftovers.  I think I came home with about 498 of the 500 cups in that bag so I am trying to figure out what to do with it all, short of laying in a pile of it and eating my way out...though I’m not sure I’d have time for the exercise routine I’d need to counteract that.

In scrounging around the kitchen I found a bag of marshmallows from a camping trip a couple months ago.  That made me think of Rice Krispies treats, but of course I don’t just have Rice Krispies lying around.  Now Kashi, on the other hand, well I always have a couple varieties of that.  And hey, no harm in making a slightly healthier version of the classic, right? 

So here’s the mixture, and yeah, it works – it’s quite good, almost like a granola bar - almost.  Now only 496.5 cups to go…

3 Tbsp butter
1 bag Jet-Puffed marshmallows
4 ½ cups Kashi Puffs Cereal
1 ½ cups Trail Mix – I used Kirkland brand from Costco


Melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir to coat.  Stir occasionally until completed melted.  Add cereal and trail mix and stir until everything is coated in the marshmallow mixture.  Spread evenly into a greased 9”x13” pan and let cool completely (you can put them in the fridge for a little to speed things up).  Cut into squares and serve.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blueberry Buckle

Is it me or has fruit been extra good this year?  I swear, for whatever reason, this summer I just can’t get enough.  My 100% made-up unscientific theory is that everything has been super juicy and delicious due to all the rain in the area.  It’s not too much so that the fruit is supersaturated, but it’s not too little to produce small tasteless fruit….it’s been juuussst right.  Seriously, I should have documented how much I’ve spent on watermelon, strawberries and blueberries alone.  Not to mention all the plums, nectarines and pineapple.  It’s all made for some damn fine fruit salads for lunch throughout the work week.  I’ll be sad when the season comes to an end, which is pretty much any day now.  I can only hope the winter citrus will be good enough to tide me over until next summer.

Since I couldn’t even go a week without it, I bought a bunch of berries at a store on the way to visit my parents in Cape Cod.  The strawberries turned into the scones I wrote about recently and the blueberries – well here’s what happened to them…

I found this recipe for a blueberry buckle – it called for 4 cups of blueberries – yowza!  Usually recipes use 1.5-2 cups of fruit, so I was excited to try this one and see how it turned out.  Basically there is just enough batter to hold everything together, which works for me.  Makes it more appropriate to eat cake for breakfast this way!  

Unbeknownst to me, making this for my parents yielded a story I’d never heard (nor had my mom, even after 47 years!) from my dad about the first time he ever had, and fell in love with, blueberry cake.  A cute story about childhood antics while working a blueberry stand…long story short, a load of berries ended up on the ground and therefore couldn’t be sold, so his mom cleaned them up and made a cake.  This is one of the reasons I love food, not only does it bring people together, but it also invokes heartfelt memories.  Someday I’ll pass that story on to the next generation of my family.

This cake is easy to prepare and really tasty.  The three of us downed half of it straight away.  With some scrambled eggs, it made for a delicious breakfast.  Make it before all the local blueberries disappear for the year!

½ cup AP flour
½ cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg (my addition)
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

1 ½ cups AP flour (I used ¾ cup AP/¾ cup whole wheat)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
⅔ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp grated lemon zest
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs at room temperature (removing from fridge when you start assembling everything is fine)
4 cups fresh blueberries

With an electric mixer in a small bowl, combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt on low speed until well combined, about 45 seconds.  Add the butter and continue to mix on low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand and no large butter pieces remain, about 2½ minutes.  Set aside.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a round 9-inch cake pan (I used an 8x8 square), line the bottom of the pan with parchment, grease the parchment, then flour the inside of the pan (If you plan to serve this from the pan, you can just grease the pan itself liberally).
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside.  Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium, then add eggs one at a time; beat for 5 to 10 seconds, then scrape down bowl and continue to beat until fully incorporated (mixture may appear broken/clumpy).  Reduce the mixer speed to low then gradually add the flour mixture and beat until the flour is almost fully incorporated, about 20 seconds.  Use a rubber scraper to finish mixing until no flour pockets remain (the batter will be thick).  Using the rubber scraper, gently fold blueberries into the batter until evenly distributed.
Transfer batter to prepared pan; gently spread the batter evenly to the pan edges and smooth the surface. Squeeze a handful of the streusel in your hand to form a large cohesive clump, then break up the clump with your fingers and sprinkle evenly over batter. Repeat with remaining streusel.
Bake until the top is deep golden brown and a thin knife inserted into center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Place on a wire rack for 20 minutes (the cake will fall slightly as it cools).
If removing from the baking pan, run a thin knife around the sides of cake.  Invert the cake, then peel off the parchment from the bottom and discard. Turn the cake right-side-up onto a cooling rack or serving dish. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.
Recipe adapted from, originally adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Strawberry Balsamic Scones

It’s been a while since I’ve offered up a new scone flavor.  This one has been lingering in my mind for a while.  In reading recipes, I’ve seen strawberries and balsamic vinegar mixed in lots of ways.  I make an awesome salad with arugula, strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette among other things.  You can reduce the balsamic down to a syrup and pour it over vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries.  You can do the same but over French toast or pancakes.  Believe it or not, I haven’t made strawberries scones before and I thought I would amp them up right from the start by incorporating this popular flavor combination.

So how’d it go?  Uh yeah…it was hard to stop eating them.  Sweet and savory at the same time, they really just hit the spot whether you have them with some scrambled eggs for breakfast or just as an afternoon snack.­  My trusty taste testers were a little skeptical, vinegar in a scone?!  Until they tried one and were immediately sold.  The final verdict…really good warm without glaze, but even better at room temperature with glaze.  After all, you know how I feel about glazes.  When I mentioned this recipe to another one of my usual taste testers, he said he needed “a pool of balsamic”, well I didn’t deliver on a pool per se, but I think this glaze will satisfy what he’s looking for.

Get these while they’re hot – meaning make them now, while the strawberries are in season and full of flavor.  I might even push it and make these into the fall, they’re just that good.

Recipe adapted from Strawberry Scones on Annie’s Eats (


1 large egg
¼ cup plain or vanilla yogurt (I used nonfat vanilla)
½ cup milk (I used skim)
1 tsp. orange or lemon zest (I used and recommend lemon)
2 ¼ cups AP Flour (I used half AP flour and half Whole Wheat Pastry flour, hence the darker color – use what you like)
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups diced fresh strawberries
¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Balsamic Vinegar – add 1 tsp at a time


Preheat the oven to 375º.  In a 9”x13” pan, mix the strawberries and balsamic vinegar.

When the oven is hot, roast the strawberries for 10-15 minutes, stirring once after 5 min.  Let cool for about 15 minutes. 

In a small bowl whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk and zest until blended, then set aside.

In a large bowl, combined the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients and cut it into the flour using a pastry blender or two forks (this can also be done in a food processor).

Using a slotted spoon, strain and transfer the strawberries to the flour mixture and gently toss to coat.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold until completely combined.

Transfer to a well-floured surface and gently pat into an 8 inch disc.  Cut into 8 wedges and carefully place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Or, if you have a scone pan, just fill each section evenly with dough – it filled my mini-scone pan perfectly (makes 16 small triangles).

Bake in a 425º oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on wire rack. 

**Note** If the dough looks a little too wet, freeze the shaped scones on/in the pan for 30 minutes and move directly from freezer to oven. You will need to increase the baking time by a few minutes. 

For the glaze, mix all ingredients until desired consistency.  Drizzle over each scone with a spoon, fork, piping bag, or plastic squeeze bottle, whichever method you prefer.  Let set before serving. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Grape Nut Ice Cream

If you’re from New England or Eastern Canada (or apparently Jamaica too) you know what I’m talking about and have likely had it.  If not, well then let me introduce you – Grape Nuts are not just for breakfast my friends. 

My dad’s family is from Massachusetts by way of Nova Scotia by way of Massachusetts and back to Nova Scotia….seriously, I just got a history lesson from him and there is so much overlap in these two places its confusing.  At any rate, he grew up eating this ice cream, both at home in MA and when he’d spend his summers in Canada.  As a result, I also grew up eating it when we traveled North for family visits.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the cereal as a cereal, you should give the ice cream version a try.  The base is a rich vanilla custard – easy, who doesn’t like that?  Then you add the Grape Nuts and as they churn together you end up with this malty, slightly nutty flavor.  The cereal gets a little soft in the cream, but towards the end of churning you add some more for crunch, and of course there is always the option of topping your bowl with even more.

I have to admit, I tried to go the healthy route and use way less cream than the recipe calls for, substituting with more milk – do not follow my lead – this turned out a little icey for my taste.  The flavor was spot on, but the texture left much to be desired.   I only used 1 cup of heavy cream and the rest skim milk, rather than whole – I always sub the milk with skim for ice cream and do not usually have an issue.  But I think this needs at least 1.5 cups of cream in order to maintain a good creamy consistency (if not the full 2 but it pains me to use that much fat!).  Make it according to the recipe or according to my alterations, but definitely make it.  My dad loved it and that should be proof enough that it’s good.

Recipe adapted from The Washington Post


6 egg yolks
⅔ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, warmed (microwave or stove-top; warm, not hot)
1 cup chilled whole milk
¼ tsp salt
1 cup Grape Nuts cereal, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract


In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well combined.  Slowly add the warmed cream, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Add the salt, vanilla and chilled milk and stir to combine. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I strained the mixture at this point just in case there were any egg bits in it.  Do so into another medium bowl then cover with plastic so the plastic is resting directly on top of the liquid.  Refrigerate for at least a couple hours, until completely cool.

When cooled, remove from the fridge and add ¾ cup of cereal then pour into the frozen bowl of your ice cream machine.  Churn according to manufacturer’s instructions, but for about 20 minutes or so.  During the last couple minutes of churning, add the remaining ¼ cup of cereal.  Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze until hardened.  Or, enjoy it soft-serve style right out of the ice cream maker.

**For those of you in DC, I have noticed that Trickling Springs Creamery is making Grape Nut Ice Cream these days – it can be found at their shop inside Union Market.  If you don’t feel like making your own, go try it!**

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lemon Blondies - Baking GALS Round 22

(Before the glaze)
It’s summer in DC and it is H.O.T.  Well, it’s been hotter, but the humidity today is the kind that makes your skin feel damp as soon as you step outside.  Weather like that makes me think of something refreshing…other than a cocktail…like lemons!  I love almost any lemon flavored dessert – as awful as the texture is, I’d probably even like lemon flavored flan, and that says a lot.

One texture I can always go for?  Soft, dense, chewy brownies.   In the summer, it’s a brownie sundae all the way.   If I could ship a sundae overseas I’d do it as I’m sure it would go over well, but I had to think of some way to get that brownie texture and make the dessert refreshing – enter lemon blondies.  As I’m sure you all know, blondies are basically just brownies without the chocolate – a version of a bar cookie...sort of.

Anyway, let’s get to business – I saw this recipe a few months ago and knew I’d have to give it a try soon.  I’m so glad I did.  And I’m so glad I was shipping them out the next morning as I’m pretty sure I could have sat with a spoon, and maybe some champagne, and devoured the entire pan.  Note to self:  don’t make these again unless they are for the express purpose of serving others! 

If you even remotely like lemon, give ‘em a shot.  You probably don’t even need the glaze, these are far from dry, but add it anyway, you won’t regret it.

Perfectly browned!
Recipe adapted from Let’s Dish: (

For the Blondies:

§       1 ½ cups flour
§       1 tsp. salt
§       1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
§       1 ½ cups granulated sugar
§       1 Tbsp.  grated lemon zest
§       4 eggs
§       2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Glaze:
§       1 cup powdered sugar
§       2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
§       2 tsp. lemon zest (I omitted  for a super smooth texture)


1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 or 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2.      In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt then set aside.
3.      Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy.
4.      Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
5.      Stir in lemon juice.
6.      Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three parts, mixing until fully incorporated.
7.      Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack to room temperature.
8.      Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest (if using) in a small bowl.
9.      Spread over blondies and let set for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*Note – I made 1.5x this recipe and used a 9”x13” pan.  Works just fine, but you may have to increase the baking time by a few more minutes.  Add 3-5 additional minutes at a time and check with toothpick.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Moist Chocolate Cake

Inspiration has struck.
Eww, I said moist.  But I'll get to that later...

I am my Mother’s daughter.  I get antsy sometimes at home, and the only thing to cure it is to bake or cook.  I can’t even count the times I have been with my Mom and randomly, even at 10:00 at night sometimes, she’ll say “I need some cake” and she’ll just go make one, or she’ll get the urge to make something for breakfast the next morning.  This trait appears to be genetic. It hit me last night (and not for the first time).  I was watching one of the Batman movies and I couldn’t follow it – I’ve never seen any of them and I wasn’t in the right mindset to truly pay attention to what was happening so I started scrounging around the kitchen for ingredients.  I wasn’t at my own house so my selection was limited, but then inspiration struck – mayo!

Do what?? 

Seriously, mayonnaise was often used long ago when ingredients or money were scarce and it makes complete sense – it’s basically eggs and oil.  The little bit of vinegar in it just amps up the cake’s flavor.  You can probably find recipes very similar to this one called World War II Cake, or Depression Cake.  This one in particular though, is actually an original family recipe.  It’s from my Aunt Jean – well I guess technically my Great Aunt – she was my Dad’s Aunt who we’d go visit on occasion in Nova Scotia, Canada.  I can remember her making this, as well as Boston brown bread steamed in a coffee can, rhubarb pie, baked beans, etc.  It’s funny how particular items stand out in your head for a certain person.  Anyway, this one has always been a favorite of my family’s and for good reason.  It’s easy, it’s delicious, and oh yeah – I said it, it’s moist.  I try to avoid that word like the plague, but it truly is the best descriptor for this super fudgy cake.

 Try it, you won’t be disappointed.  You don’t even need icing for it, though we had it with a little whipped cream and it was a perfect accompaniment. 

Aunt Jean's Fudge Cake

 Amount      Measure                   Ingredient   
  --------      ------------                ----------------
  1               cup                         Mayonnaise
  2               teaspoons                baking soda
  1               cup                         sugar
  1               cup                         cold water
Combine ingredients above and stir well – it will look gloppy, it’s fine.
  2               cups                       flour, sifted
 ¼               teaspoon                 salt
  4               Tablespoons            unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  1               teaspoon                 vanilla

Combine dry ingredients, then gradually add dry ingredients to wet, beat well.

Pour into greased 8" square pan.  Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes.  Check after 40 minutes.  Let cool slightly, but this is amazing when it’s still warm.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies - Baking GALS Round 21

I don’t think anyone would argue that the combination of salty and sweet is one of the best flavor profiles out there.  If something is cloyingly sweet I can only handle a few bites – and if it’s too salty, ugh, give me some water immediately!  When the two come together though, it is a dangerously magical mix.  That’s these cookies – beware.

If you like peanut butter, then you probably love peanut butter cookies, I mean, how could you not?  Add a little chocolate and you’ve stepped it up a notch.  Add crushed pretzels and your mind will be blown – they not only add some salt, but the texture is awesome.  This peanut butter cookie recipe isn’t the hard, almost crumbly variety you have probably had at some point – this is chewy, so the crunch from the pretzels is welcome, as is that gooeyness from the chocolate chips. Mmmm!  Ok, I think I’ve made my point – the word for these: amazeballs.

Thankfully the recipe didn’t make a ton, so I had one to try them (it’s a requirement), then immediately packed up the rest and shipped them out.  I hope the guys liked them as much as I did!  Here’s how it’s done:

(Recipe adapted from 

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely crushed pretzels (I used about a cup)
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups light brown sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
⅓ cup mini chocolate chips (I think I used about ½ cup)

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line baking sheets with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
2. Whisk together the flour, crushed pretzels, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  Beat at medium speed until well blended.  Add the egg and beat just until blended.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture gradually, mixing just until combined.  Using a rubber scraper, stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Use a medium cookie scoop – about 2 Tbsps - to scoop dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands (I skipped the rolling).  Place on the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Optional - Dip the tines of a fork into a cup of water and make a crisscross pattern on the cookies, flattening them slightly.  Repeat dipping the fork in water as necessary if it starts to stick to the dough.
5. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until set and beginning to brown around the edges.  Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack.  Can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, though I doubt they’ll be around that long.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: Le Diplomate - 14th Street NW, DC

Paris meets 14th Street?  Some aspects of the newly opened Le Diplomate, chef Stephen Starr’s first DC venture, could certainly fool you.  The chairs on the 14th street side that face the passing traffic, the blue and yellow tables on the patio with the “RICARD” across the top for the famous French liquor – which apparently is trying to make a comeback (Business Week - Ricard Comeback)  - I don’t know about you, but I’m ok with letting myself mentally escape to Paris for a few hours if I can’t be there for real.

Le Diplomate has been open for a couple months now and I’ve already managed to go twice, once for dinner and once for brunch.  I wasn’t disappointed at either.  I love the vibe, there’s sexy ambient lighting at night and during the day it’s bright and cheery with two full walls of windows and a garden room that opens to the patio.  Always packed, it’s best to plan ahead and put that OpenTable reservation in a few weeks ahead of time, otherwise expect at least an hour wait.

Main dining room
I had dinner there a few weeks ago.   I’m horrible at deciding on just one thing to eat, but thankfully one of my dining companions was willing to go splitsies (did I just say that? sorry!) on a few things.  First and foremost, don’t ignore the bread basket they bring you – its three different kinds of freshly made and very good bread including baguette, a rustic country bread and a cranberry-walnut variety.  Maybe it’s that mental escape I mentioned, but I swear even the butter is delicious…can anyone else who has been to Paris, or France in general, recall how amazing their butter is?  Salty and flavorful and so worth the calories.  Anyway, on to the rest – we went with the classics, gotta try them out on the first go-round, so onion soup, hanger steak and apple tartin it was!  Oh, and don’t forget the cheese plate for the table to start.  Delicious cheeses accompanied by apple slices, dried tart cherries, fig spread and some marcona almonds – can’t go wrong.  The soup was great, a definite close rival for my favorite onion soup in the city (thus far) at Bistro Bis.  The steak was a little tough, but still had great flavor.  Slightly charred crust, well seasoned and cooked as ordered – just wish it had been a little more tender.  By the way, another friend had the Norwegian Salmon and said it was really good – it certainly looked tasty, but alas, I didn’t try it.

The apple tarte tatin however, was perfect,  Sweet, slightly tart, baked to perfection so the apples were soft all the way through but still intact – mmm, I could have downed that on my own for sure, but probably definitely best that I didn’t!

Onward to brunch, which was this past weekend.  It’s always a struggle…eggs or French toast/eggs or pancakes/eggs or croque madame – hmm, well since eggs are at the forefront of all of those scenarios, that’s what I went with.  I make them at home all the time, but not like this – not with lots of that great butter, or with all of the yolks for that matter.  I had the gruyere omelet and I was not disappointed, it was salty and herby and cheesy and totally hit the spot.  Plus, that left my sweet tooth for actual dessert.  My friends and I split the fresh fruit tart, in this case raspberry with pistachio cream, and the chocolate hazelnut profiteroles.  Alright, if you like almond extract, you’ll like the tart, but I think it tastes like a fake flavoring so I took one bite and let out an immediate “Blech!”  The shortbread crust was rife with almond flavor, no thank you!  Come on, what about lemon?  Anyway, the profiteroles were more than enough to fulfill the sugar craving.  Even chilled, the dough was soft and delicate enough to cut through with just a fork and the cream was smooth with the perfect chocolate/nut balance.  Oh, and make sure to get their Mimosa Lorraine with peach and orange juice, yum.  Finally, if anyone gets the croque madame, I need to know how it is, I think that’s next!

All in all, I love this place so far.  Two great meals, excellent service and a fun atmosphere.  Unlike some places when they were new (ahem, Graffiato), Le Diplomate has your reserved table ready and waiting for you when you arrive, with your full party of course.  Well done.  (