Friday, April 26, 2013

Strawberry Crumble Pie

When the going gets tough, the tough make pie...

And drink bucketloads of wine with their girlfriends...

These past weeks have been rough ones at work. Failed experiments, upset patients, and bureaucratic red tape. Oh, and it snowed some more-- that didn't help.

All of these can be fixed with a good glass of moscato, a summery strawberry pie, and a good whinefest with the girls.

HyVee had a ridiculous sale on strawberries ($2.99 for a 2-lb container!), so I stocked up. One box for eating, one box for pie, and one box for sorbet (coming soon!). I was so excited at the site of these ruby red gems that I couldn't decide whether to make a crumble or a pie for our girls' dinner night, so I smashed them together into one sweet, bright dessert.

It all comes together so simply. Three elements which I've made time and again, and know to be trusted, tried, and true, regardless of how poorly my projects at work turn out.

A press-in pie crust meets macerated strawberries meets warm cinnamon-scented streusel topping. Easy said, easy done.

Take a moment. Breathe. It's as easy as pie.

(Thanks to my good friend Nicole for nabbing my camera during our meal and snapping the wine pictures!)

Strawberry Crumble Pie

Crust adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook; filling and topping from my crazybrain

For the crust:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
1 tbsp vegetable shortening
3 tbsp almond milk
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons vegetable oil

For the filling:

3 cups strawberries, sliced
3 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour

For the crumb topping:

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used a mixed of walnuts and pecans)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a springform pan with baking spray; set aside.

Combine all dry crust ingredients in a bowl; transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add in butter and shortening and mix until crumbly. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and milk; add in to butter mixture, and mix until dough is combined. Press dough into pan. Top with a piece of aluminum foil, add beans (to hold it down), and bake for ten minutes; remove beans and foil, and bake an additional five minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, toss the sliced strawberries with the sugar and flour; set aside for fifteen minutes to allow strawberries to amcerate.

For the crumb topping, combine all dry ingredients. Using your fingers, fold in and pinch in butter until crumbly and combined.

Pour filling into pie shell and sprinkle with topping. Bake another ten minutes, until topping is golden. Remove, allow to cool, remove from springform pan, and serve to your best girls with frozen yogurt.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

It's late April. I want to bike to work, wear sandals, and sit outside at Dunn Brothers reading. But then I wake up on some mornings to this:

I'm completely confused. Why is it April and there's snow on the ground? I know "April showers bring May flowers," but this is ridiculous.

So, at the prompting of the boyfriend, I channeled this confusion into ice cream form.

Ice cream? Totally spring/summer food. Hot chocolate? Fall/winter weather drink. Together? Delicious.

This treat starts with a simple ice cream custard base. Add in hot chocolate mix-- yes, those little packets we get at the grocery store. There's such a distinct, delicious taste to them, so why mess around?

End with a swirl of marshmallow fluff, which weaves through and then toughens up a bit into a chewy, sweet, sticky mess. Because what's hot chocolate without marshmallow?

Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

1 cup heavy cream
2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks
4 packets of hot cocoa mix (I used Nestle)
8 oz marshmallow fluff

Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until light in color. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat milk and sugar until just at boiling point. Slowly pour half of the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Again whisking constantly, pour egg mixture back into saucepan.  Add cocoa mix. Cook mixture until it holds a line across the back of a wooden spoon (~8-10 minutes).

Pour custard into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of  any eggy bits. Chill mixture for 2-12 hours.

Prepare ice cream in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions. Add in marshmallow fluff towards the end. Transfer to a storage container, and place in the freezer to firm up.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fava Bean, Radish, and Quinoa Salad

Let's be honest. I love sharing chocolatey, sugary, fruity, yeasty, delightful treats here. If I could, that's all I would live on. But that's not real life.

I like to talk about running and pilates and cycling, but that's all a recent development for me (as in, since I got to graduate school three years ago). I have baked and eaten delicious goodies-- especially when I get a paper rejection or my grant doesn't get funded-- but I have managed to remain healthy and lose almost 45 pounds since I got here.

With my first half marathon of the year coming up on Saturday, I figured it'd be good to talk whole grains.

Contrary to popular belief, we runners don't always sit down to a big bowl of pasta the night before a race. At least, that's not what Judy, my running clinic coach, advised our DetermiNation team to do last year. Your body simply cannot store that much glycogen that fast. So, you have to up the whole grains just a little bit every day before the race, so that your body can stock up slowly.

Lucky for me, my mother surprised me after all my travelling with Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, which is full of fast, fresh, delicious whole-grain salads. This weekend, I made up a big ol' batch of this fava bean and quinoa salad to bring for lunch at work this week.

It's a great one-two punch of protein from the legumes and quinoa, spice from the radish, and complex carbs (again, quinoa-- gotta love it!).

This ends our real talk... we'll be back to regularly scheduled sugary programming shortly. Promise.

Fava Bean, Radish, and Quinoa Salad

Adapted from Plenty

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 14oz can fava beans
2 medium lemons
1 medium avocado, cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch radishes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, cook quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until water is completely absorbed. Allow quinoa to sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, spices, oil, and garlic. Toss radishes, avocado, and fava beans in dressing, then fold in quinoa. Serve warm or chilled over lettuce. Salad will keep up to a week in the fridge (the lemon keeps the avocado from browning-- magic!)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chocolate Swirl Buns

My parental units came out for a visit last weekend. When they were out here in March, I catered more to my mom's tastebuds, making lemon blueberry scones. Quick, easy, light, elegant, delicious.

My dad, on the other hand, prefers things a little more decadent. Danishes. Sweet rolls. 

And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Every holiday season, we head out to California, where my dad visits his best friend in L.A. He always buys and stashes around 2 dozen chocolate chip danishes from a Jewish deli/bakery in the freezer. To me, they taste like home, in a way. They have potential to be a major food group.

Unfortunately, we have been hard-pressed to find them anywhere in the midwest. I'd describe them as chocolate rugelach meets babka. We've never been able to determine the exact name, so we just call them delicious.

I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that seemed promising, so I took a crack at it. Since the recipe is pretty labor-intensive and lengthy, I'll simply redirect you to Deb's site and share my minor modifications with you.

It takes a good afternoon (a rainy one is ideal) to make these, but they are worth it. They also freeze beautifully, so you can (and should!) double the batch and make like my dad-- keep an extra couple dozen in the freezer.

Chocolate Swirl Buns

I chose to follow Smitten Kitchen's directions to a T (I've linked to the recipe, since Deb's directions were so thorough and perfect!), with the following minor alterations:
  • I doubled the chocolate in the filling, used a mixture of semisweet and bittersweet, and added a bit more butter.
  • Also, to the filling, I added 1 tsp of espresso powder, to really deepen the chocolate flavor.
  • In the dough, I used a whole packet of yeast and allowed to bloom a bit longer.
  • I omitted the egg wash (mostly out of laziness).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I am a runner.

My heart goes out to all affected by the events in Boston-- my prayers are with the victims, athletes, and their families.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eating Washington, D.C. : Downtown and Georgetown

Dear Chicago,

You were, are, and will always be my first city-love. I have such incredibly fond memories of running around the museum campuses, going to concerts at the House of Blues and the Metro, and eating Edwardo's pizza with my family.

But I've found another city, and I'm not sure that it's just a fling. Chicago, I'm falling for Washington, D.C.

It all started with a trip to the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting. Between odd pockets of unscheduled time, I walked around massive, gorgeous buildings surrounded by cherry blossoms, drinking in the history and the people.

 Then, I found the food. My good friends Chris and Thomas took me to Thomas Sweet in Georgetown for ice cream after a fabulous dinner at the Tombs. And that was where it all started...

We waited in a bit of a line, which was a good thing...

Because the flavors and options and toppings blew. my. mind.

Apparently this is where the President brings his daughters every few weeks for ice cream-- I hate to say it, but he has great taste (see what I did there?)

I had too much trouble deciding, and was stuffed from my amazing eggplant burger at Tombs, so I got a small with hazelnut ice cream (on top), and chocolate Oreo marshmallow (hidden... best for last!). The hazelnut was intense, sweet, and reminiscent of gelato I've had in Italy. The chocolate marshmallow Oreo was much like Ben and Jerry's Phish Food, but elevated. You can tell when there are quality ingredients in an ice cream, and this stuff was no joke!

And yes, Oreos are quality ingredients.

The next day, between lectures, I had to walk off that dinner...

I had heard about this local chain, Sweet Green, which is literally a salad bar. I had to walk over from downtown to Mount Vernon Triangle, but it was worth it.

The decor is very eco-friendly and eclectic. I kind of loved this piece with old bicycle wheels. Would love to cop this in my house someday...

No joke-- this was one of the best salads I have ever eaten. I know this is a chain, but it was incredible. I ordered the Santorini salad, with grapes, roasted shrimp, chickpeas, and mint. They squeezed half a fresh lemon on top (awesome!) and tossed it with a basil cucumber yogurt dressing. I threw in their iced tea of the day (hibiscus lime), and was on cloud nine. The perfect, refreshing, cleansing break in a hectic schedule!

The cherry blossom festival was just ending, but the blossoms were only starting to come out. The air smelled incredible-- Chicago, are you taking notes?

The next morning, I found something familiar. You can take the girl out of the midwest, but you can't take the midwest out of the girl!

After the Rally for Medical Research, I headed south from the convention center to Teaism Restaurant, which I had heard of from Rachel Ray's $40 A Day. It was touted as real food with quick service. Again, another local chain, but I'm a fan of going to a local chain if I need something fast over McDonald's any day!

It was nice and open, with cheery decor and an extensive list of teas and Japanese-style food.

I ordered the vegetarian bento box. Roasted kabocha squash (my favorite!), salted pears, sticky rice, tempeh, and a delicious broccoli, spaghetti squash, celery, and kale salad. All for $10. Amazing-- why don't we have a place like this here?!

I also ordered their Morrocan mint tea, and their (famous?) chocolate chocolate salty oat cookie... just because.

Let me tell you, I've had my fair share of cookies in my life. This was the ABSOLUTE best cookie I have ever had in my entire life. No hyperbole-- the best. It was a giant, dense, soft and crunchy in all the right places, chocolatey, with melty chunks of hand-chopped bittersweet chocolate throughout, topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. Get yourself over there and get one! (And if you can't, not to worry-- I'm working on cracking this recipe as we speak!)

Finally, I snuck off during a fifteen minute break to Red Velvet, a popular local cupcake shop. I was very excited to have found time to head over there during my last crazy day. The storefront was adorable, set in an old, historic building.

I asked the woman which three cupcakes she would recommend as an introduction to the store (a jerk question, I know, but I was in a rush!)

She recommended the devil's food (with a dark chocolate ganache), the "birthday cake" (a yellow cake with a milk chocolate ganache), and the namesake red velvet.

I could go into detail about these cupcakes, but the things that I have said to others about these were... well, not lady-like. I will simply say that I've had better cupcakes from boxed mixes and canned frosting, and that I could make 24 of those for the cost of one of these. Perhaps it was because I headed there at the end of the day and the cupcakes had been sitting there, but I honestly cannot think of a single kind word to say about these cupcakes, so I won't say more.

Chicago, I love you. I love your hot dogs, your deep dish pizza, your popcorn and myriad incredible restaurants-- but I may have found another love in Washington, D.C. (But your cupcakes will always be better!)

Much love,


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thin Mint Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Let's take a moment to talk about this ridiculous snowstorm/icestorm/blizzard/apocalypse-now-situation going on outside right now here in Minnesota. It should be warm. I should be wearing a sundress and walking around in my Birkenstock sandals in a park. I should be sitting outside, eating ice cream, and not frantically playing catch-up with all the work I left behind in this cubicle.

Let's be honest. I should just be working. But I really want ice cream.

I bought an inordinate amount of Girl Scout cookies for a single lady-- as in, eyebrows were raised when I placed the order. Don't question my cookie quantity-- it's for a good cause!

Well, I bought eight boxes... and let them sit there. For weeks. That's willpower, right?

But then I had to go and make them even worse for me. I had to entertain the idea of summer, even if it's not here yet. I had to make ice cream, goshdarnit!

A peppermint base, coupled with thin mint cookies? Win. These have a whole sleeve of cookies in a quart of ice cream, which may be overkill to some.

Then I added chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough... NOW it's overkill!

Don't wait for summer. Get your ice cream maker out. Eat a giant bowl while a foot of snow rains down around your house. I won't judge, as long as you share.

Thin Mint Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 sleeve Thin Mint cookies, roughly chopped
Any cookie dough of your choice (you can use store-bought-- I used leftovers)

Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until light in color. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat milk and sugar until just at boiling point. Slowly pour half of the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Again whisking constantly, pour egg mixture back into saucepan.  Add peppermint extract. Cook mixture until it holds a line across the back of a wooden spoon (~8-10 minutes).

Pour custard into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of  any eggy bits. Chill mixture for 2-12 hours.

Prepare ice cream in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions. Add in thin mint cookies and dough towards the end. Transfer to a storage container, and place in the freezer to firm up.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Eating Baltimore: Inner Harbor

I feel like George Clooney in Up in the Air. I've been on the road constantly this month for conferences and collaborations-- Las Vegas, Memphis, Baltimore now, D.C. next. I'm living out of a suitcase, running in hotel gyms (I hate running in the dark in strange places), going to work during the day, and exploring in the evenings. 

Last night, for the first time, I took myself out to dinner, no book or magazine in tow. Just went in to a bar, pulled up a stool, sat down, and had a quiet dinner, chatting with the bartender. Now I know I'm George Clooney... with boobs and no grey hair. 

Or I'm just finally acting like an adult. You make the call.

I stopped in to Pratt Street Ale House for a bite after hearing about it from another person in the office I'm working in. Great beer selection, and amazing food. I settled in with a Cherry Blossom beer, which is brewed with local cherries, and the crab cobb salad. Normally I'm not a fruity drink or a beer person, but the tartness of the cherries made the beer very unique. Really good, solid, fresh bar food. 

I didn't take a picture of the food, because that would have been weird, right?

Next, I decided to explore the Inner Harbor. I stumbled on a small mall on Light Street, and found this store:

Who knew McCormick was a Baltimore company? Really neat to see all of their products--I picked up a few things, including blackened Old Bay spices.

Next, I hit up Charm City Cupcakes, a small storefront in the mall. 

When I got there, it was the end of the day (I did have to work until 5, after all!), so despite their sign claiming that they have over 20 flavors at any time, their selection was dwindling, but the girl working there was incredibly sweet (pun intended).

I picked up the Key Lime, the hot fudge sunday one (which had a fancy name I can't remember), and the pecan praline. Passover was over, so I kind of went overboard, I guess...

The pecan praline was a simple, vanilla cake with a dense crumb, and the vanilla American buttercream on top was a bit saccharine, but it was solid. The pecan mixture on top was definitely NOT praline, but rather just pecans in carmel. Disappointing, but decent.

The hot fudge one was an okay chocolate cake, with a light, whipped frosting. Again, just okay, nothing out of the ordinary.

But the Key Lime -- oh! That was the winner! I don't know how they got so much lime flavor into the light buttercream AND the cake-- guessing it was a triple whammy of lime juice, extract, and zest (which was clearly visible)-- but it was incredible! That one may have completely disappeared...

I also made the requisite stop at a gift shop. You may not be able to visit Charm City Cakes, but you can buy their swag (and, being a fangirl, I did).

Also picked up some taffy (a requisite in Baltimore), and an interesting chocolate bar from McCormick (peanuts and jalapeƱo in milk chocolate-- verdict coming soon!).