Friday, June 28, 2013

Farmer's Market Fridays: The best way to cook any greens... ever

 I'm lucky enough to have one of my close friends from college, Deborah, live within driving distance of me. I credit her as one of the people who helped me find my love for running and kindle my passion for cooking. Deborah has always been there for me, and knows how to cook killer, soul-feeding food, both of which I am incredibly grateful for.

In college, Deborah went to Africa to study abroad for a semester, and learned how to make some incredible dishes... including this surprisingly delicious way of cooking greens. I was surprised when she cooked up kohlrabi greens last weekend, and I bit into them and found they tasted rich, meaty, and decadent, which surprised me, as Deborah is vegan. The secret?

Veggie bullion and peanut butter. Mind-blowing, right?

So here's the trick to cooking any greens you may get from the market or your CSA and having them taste hearty. The recipe is entirely hers, from when she went to Africa, complete with "boom."

The best way to cook greens... ever

From Deborah

1 medium shallot or 1 small onion, diced
1 bunch greens (Kohlrabi, Kale, Collards, Chard, etc.)
1 tsp veg bullion + 1/2 C water (or 1/2 C broth)
1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp olive oil

Chiffonade the greens. Heat the oil, toss in the shallots til soft. Add the greens, bullion, water, and peanut butter. Cook til tender. Eat it up. Boom.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oatmeal Almond Raisin Cookies

Confession: I'm not a patient person. In fact, I'm the least patient person I know. I'm not proud of it. I know it's unreasonable. But when something needs to get done, I want it done now.

The only thing I don't want done in an instant? Oatmeal.

Part of the reason I love cooking is that it is the only thing for which I can pump the brakes and be a reasonable person in terms of allowing time to get things done. I'm one of those people who, for the love of cookies and cakes, is patient enough to leave the oven door closed the entire time things are baking so that the heat doesn't escape, and so that everything can cook just so.

When I'm stuck in traffic? Different story.

These cookies, however, are great for those who have little patience for baking. If you don't feel like mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately, these will turn out just fine throwing everything into a bowl. These are sweet, nutty, and great for when you want cookies now.

I know... it's been one of those days.

P.S. Check this out-- my Irish Coffee Ice Cream Cake is featured this week on the Share Your Sweets Slideshow at Serious Eats!!!

Oatmeal Almond Raisin Cookies

Adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then each of the extracts; mix well. Slowly add in the flour mixture, then the oats. Stir in the nuts and raisins. Chill dough for 15 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

Scoop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and immediately transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Ditalini and Macaroni with Spinach, Butter Beans, and Pecorino

Most of the things I make and share with you are made with love, meant to show how much I care, appreciate, and respect the recipient.

This dish isn't. This dish is born of frustration, confusion, and too much coffee. And it kind of worked.

In the span of one hour yesterday, I had two big presentations I had been working on for weeks cancelled or postponed for months (yes, months), three social events cancelled or rescheduled, and several other wrenches thrown in my schedule. As someone who likes to know what's coming and loves to cross things off her (always growing) to-do list, this was incredibly disheartening.

So I took it out on this pasta.

It started out as trying to make a delicious-looking pasta dish from a new cookbook that I had been saving for just such a day. But then I decided throwing things in was cathartic, so I threw in spinach. And garlic.

And then seitan. And then carrots. And then extra cheese...

And then, when I put it on my dinner plate, it ended up looking like a delicious mess. And, finally, something went right.

Angry cooking. Try it... you just might want seconds.

Ditalini and Macaroni with Spinach, Butter Beans, and Pecorino

Inspired by Susan Feniger's Street Food

1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, diced
Kosher salt
4 cups spinach
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup ditalini pasta
1 cup small macaroni
1 cup grated pecorino romano
1 cup italian-spiced seitan (I love Upton's Naturals, if you can get it; if you eat meat, you can substitute any italian sausage)
Juice of 1 lemon

In a deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat; add in onions, and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds; stir in carrots, seitan, beans, and spinach, and cover with lid for five minutes to steam.

In a separate pot, bring water to boil; reduce to simmer, salt water, and add in ditalini and macaroni. Cook until shy of al dente, drain, and add to skillet to finish cooking pasta. Stir in cayenne, pepper, pecorino, and lemon juice until combined. Serve either warm or room temperature, topped with more pecorino.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Farmer's Market Fridays: Mint-Rhubarb Simple Syrup and A Rhubarb Mojito

It's the longest day of the year... and the first official day of summer! Happy happy happy!

So, for me, it's time to switch to my summer happy hour beverage-of-choice: the mojito. I love it because it's light, fresh, and doesn't negate all my hours of hoofing it outdoors. 

I love going to restaurants in early summer, when mint and berries are coming in to season, because bartenders get very creative around here, riffing on the mojito (my favorite version? the Blueball Mash at the Loop-- the perfect sip!).

Rhubarb is going crazy at our market right now, probably because of the ridiculous amounts of rain that we've gotten here over the past few weeks. I picked up some gorgeous stalks that were-- no joke-- over two feet long! Way too much for pie, so why not a simple syrup?

Three great things about cooking up some rhubarb-mint simple syrup:

1) You are never more than a few minutes away from a vibrantly flavored fun summer drink;
2) The leftover rhubarb after you strain the syrup is a lovely jam, and makes for a great breakfast yogurt topper; and,
3) This recipe makes a TON of syrup, so you can easily can it and save the first day of summer in a jar!

Mint-Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Adapted from theKitchn

6 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 mint leaves

Place chopped rhubarb, sugar, and water in a deep saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until rhubarb is really soft, sugar is dissolved, and the syrup begins to thicken. Add in the mint leaves and allow to steep for three-four minutes. Remove from the heat, strain out the rhubarb and mint, and transfer syrup to a jar. Save the strained rhubarb as a rough jam for your breakfast treats!

Rhubarb Mojito

2 mint leaves
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp mint-rhubarb simple syrup
1 oz silver rum
Good ice 
Club soda

In the bottom of a tall glass, muddle together the mint leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup. Pour in the rum, muddle a bit more, and cover with ice. Fill to the top with soda water, slip in a straw, and enjoy. Makes one drink.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stuffed Ricotta Peppers

There are weeks when dinner is Chipotle, leftovers from Chipotle the night before, bowls of cereal, and handfuls of microwave popcorn. That's just life.

But there are times when you need to pump the brakes, put on your oxygen mask (like on an airplane), and take time out to feed your soul.

Too deep? Sorry.

Usually it's difficult to do this during a superbusy week, though, which is when I turn to quick dinners like these stuffed peppers and split the cooking with the boyfriend (because usually our busy weeks coincide). Homemade, with creamy ricotta and tender peas, spiked wtih a good dose of pepper, and baked. Done. And--bonus-- they are amazing the next day as part of a salad.

Busy weeks also mean fewer photos... partially because these didn't last long.

We threw together a quick mushroom risotto, and added an easy grilled steak (yes, sometimes this pescatarian still gets down with the beef!)

Ricotta Stuffed Peppers

Adapted from Giada at Home

1 tbsp olive oil
1 italian sausage, chopped (I used Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-less Sausage)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup fat-free ricotta
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
12 baby bell peppers

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil, and add the sausage and onion. Cook until the onions start to soften and the sausage browns. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the cheeses and peas. Stir in the cooled sausage and onion; add salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the tops off of each bell pepper and remove membrane and seeds. Spoon in ricotta mixture until each pepper is filled as desired (I may have overstuffed them!). Place on baking sheet, and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until peppers are softened and start to brown. Remove from oven, and serve!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chocolate-covered Strawberry Cake

Let's talk quarter-life crises. We all have/have had them, right? Those moments/hours/days/weeks where you question every move, every decision, every selection. When it spirals out of control, beyond "What am I doing with my life?" so that even the question of whether to order a veggie bowl or a veggie salad at Chipotle seems like a life-or-death choice.

Well, friends, those days can be cured with a quarter-life cake.

My friend's boyfriend decided to throw her a surprise birthday party last weekend. He asked if I could somehow put a quarter on the cake, since she had joked about being a "quarter of a century old." I said I'd try-- and then started panicking.

Here's a sneaky pro decorating tip: print out a free coloring book page online. It makes everything so much easier. I traced it onto parchment paper, placed it over the fondant, and cut into it with a knife, layer by layer, to make the quarter. Then I painted it with a mixture of silver luster dust and water. Boom.

So many candles... So much life still left to live!

You can find the recipe for the chocolate cake over here -- it's my go-to . I tripled the recipe-- one for each layer. Then I went to town with the frostings-- a whipped chocolate ganache and a strawberry buttercream.

The cake melted a bit in the warm weather... a delicious, gorgeous mess.

Happy birthday, Nicole!

Note: For the frosting, I doubled each batch, and added strawberry preserves as a filling between the layers along with the frosting.

Dark Chocolate Whipped Ganache

Adapted from Alton Brown

8 oz heavy whipping cream
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan, heat the whipping cream until just shy of boiling. In a separate bowl, place the chopped chocolate; pour the cream over, and stir until smooth and chocolate is completely melted. Place in fridge, and chill for 30-45 minutes.

Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Crank the mixer up to medium-high speed, and beat the mixture until fluffy and lighter in color. Eat a spoonful, then frost the cake!

Strawberry Buttercream

Adapted from the Complete Magnolia Bakery

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
8 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry preserves

In the bowl of a mixer, combine half the sugar, butter, almond milk, and vanilla; start out at slow speed until mixed, then raise the speed to medium for 3-5 minutes. Slowly add in the rest of the sugar at a lower speed, then the strawberry preserves. Chill the frosting for 15 minutes to make it easier to work with.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Farmer's Market Fridays: Corn, Feta and Quinoa Salad

So I'm going to be honest: the new Sunday farmer's market had a poor turnout from both customers and farmers. It was all bedding plants and cheese. 

Lucky for me, I like cheese. And, also lucky, I haven't killed any of my herb and pepper plants yet! Let's make use of these two strokes of luck, shall we?

Tomato basil feta from a local farmer. I love the speckles of green and red in the salty, creamy, crumbly feta.

A simple quinoa and chickpea salad gets jazzed up with lemon juice and a splash of rice wine vinegar. Top off the tart and sour with a little salt from the feta, a little sweet from the sweet corn (fresh off the cobb) and verdant basil, and you've got a winner.

This would be a perfect side for meat eaters at a barbeque, or a main for vegetarian/gluten-free guests. You could even swap out the feta for crumbled Daiya cheese or tofu for a vegan option. Since the dressing is a vinaigrette and isn't dairy- or mayonnaise-based, you can leave the salad out at room temperature with no fear.

It's summer, so let's eat lighter... so we can have seconds of Klondike bars and firecracker pops later.


Corn, Feta, and Quinoa Salad

Adapted from Everyday with Rachel Ray

2 cups quinoa, cooked
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, juilienned
1 cup corn kernels (2 ears of corn)
3 oz feta cheese, cubed (I used a tomato basil feta from the Farmer's Market)
4 cups baby spinach

Toss quinoa, chickpeas, basil, corn, and feta together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Drizzle over the quinoa mixture, and serve room temperature or chilled over baby spinach.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Eating Minneapolis: Cupcake

A few weeks ago, my brother came to visit. It was his first chance to go to the Mall of America. Based on his facial expressions (shock, awe, disgust, amazement), I'd say that he feels the same way I do about that behemoth: Get in, get out.

I was on one mission, though, that I wanted to share with him. Cupcake, the winner of Cupcake Wars Champions had opened an outpost in the Mall, and I wanted to try some of these touted cupcakes from this Minneapolis-based bakery. Lucky for us, the cupcake shop was right near where we parked, so we didn't have to venture into the belly of the beast...

Cupcake has some incredible sounding flavors, with some quirky names. The June Cleaver is a chocolate frosted vanilla cake, the Razz-ma-Tazz is a chocolate cupcake with raspberry filling and a raspberry buttercream, the list goes on... 

The one I was dying to try wasn't in stock, though (The Alton Brown: "a honey almond cake filled with pears poached in grape juice, topped with butterscotch bourbon buttercream and a walnut pecan nougat.") Sigh.

We ordered a variety of cupcakes to suit both of our tastes: Red velvet, chai spice, cookies 'n' cream, and the Paris Hilton (a vanilla on vanilla flavor combo).

I had to order the Paris Hilton, simply so I could get him to do his killer Paris Hilton impersonation. I wish I had it on video to share with you-- the kid is good.

Since we're both nerds, we decided to do our own cupcake judging. I'll let the comments (scribbled on index cards at my kitchen table) speak for themselves:


Chai Spice: Minty? Is it supposed to be like that? Good, but a bit bland. 3.5/5

Paris Hilton: The pink sprinkles are huge. Good flavor in both frosting and cake, but not as razzle dazzle as an heiress would demand. 4/5 (cuz I like vanilla)

Red Velvet: Frosting overwhelms cake. Not as sweet as expected. Cake by itself is lacking in flavor. 3.5/5

Cookies and Cream: Chocolate strong but not overwhelming. Cream hits oreo frosting on the heat. 5/5 (I mean, it's cookies and cream!)


Chai Spice: Minty-- chai should NOT be minty. Cake doesn't have much flavor. Frosting texture is nice, though. 3/5

Paris Hilton: Good vanilla flavor, moist cake-- nothing too special, though. 4/5

Red Velvet: Frosting very strong-- not a lot of sweetness-- can't taste "red velvet" in cake alone. 3/5

Cookies n Cream: Flavor is great; chocolate comes through, and tastes just like oreo filling. 5/5

Well, Cupcake, I'd say two for four... Not too shabby, compared to other shops. I'd go back again to try some of the other flavors, for sure!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Marshmallow Fluffernutter Bars

Summer feels like it's finally rolling in. The sun is out, birds are singing... and the last thing I feel like doing right now is turning on the oven. I want a dessert that's instant gratification. That's light, but indulgent. That uses what I have on hand so I can get back outside.

I treated myself to Averie Sunshine's new book, Peanut Butter Comfort, after a really tough couple of weeks at work. I thought it couldn't get any better than a book about peanut butter... Until I saw her no-bake chapter. 

The Marshmallow Fluffernutter Bars were calling my name, but I didn't want to dash out to the store to buy Nutterbutters, so I pulled out a box of Do-si-Dos from my freezer. Oatmeal sandwich cookies with peanut butter? Worth a shot, right?

(Girl Scout cookie hoarder. Guilty.)

Roughly chopped oatmeal sandwich cookies meet rich peanut butter, sweet marshmallows, dark chocolate chips, and salty roasted peanuts. Rice Krispies for an extra crunch. Could it get any better?

These Fluffernutter bars come together so quickly and easily. They disappear the same way, too.

 Notice how the number of treats on the plate doesn't line up with what's missing in the pan? Proof.

Marshmallow Fluffernutter Bars

Adapted from Peanut Butter Comfort

4 cups mini marshmallows
1 box (15 cookies) of Do-si-dos or other peanut butter sandwich cookies, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped
3 cups rice krispies
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp unsalted butter
pinch of salt

Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together 1 cup mini marshmallows, chopped cookies, chocolate chips, peanuts, and rice krispies. 

In a medium saucepan, combine the rest of the marshmallows, penaut butter, butter, and salt over low heat. Stir continuously until mixture is melted and smooth (except for the peanuts).

Pour the melty goodness over the dry mixture, and toss until completely coated. Press into pan, and chill in fridge for one hour (if you can wait that long), or until bars set. Cut and serve (they are great right out of the fridge!)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Knockoff Trader Joe's Guilt-free Guacamole Recipe

Well, friends, I'm still out of town, which means that I had no farmer's market action this week. Luckily, our city in Minnesota just started a Sunday market in addition to the Saturday market which means that, despite the fact that I'll be getting back Saturday night, I won't go another week market less-- score!

In the meantime, I have a delicious, healthy recipe for you (well, provided you're not like me and decide to eat the whole bowl in one fell swoop!). I'm hooked on Trader Joe's Guilt-less Guacamole, a light avocado-pico dip that has a good dose of greek yogurt for an extra protein kick. Sure to be my go-to this summer!

Because I can't leave well enough alone, though, I wanted to try my hand at this avocado awesomeness. I mean, Subway is going bonkers with the green stuff, so why can't we?

It's a simple guacamole, with yogurt thrown in, and some cucumber to cool it down (if you're like me and OD'd on the jalapeƱo). I imagine this would be great on a sandwich or wrap, with some fresh lettuce, tomato, chipotle chicken/tofu, and cheese! Get it!

Knockoff Trader Joe's Guilt-free Guacamole Recipe

4 hass avocados, ripe
6 oz nonfat greek yogurt
1 tomato, diced
3 shallots, diced finely
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cucumber, diced
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp kosher salt (or more to taste)
1 jalapeno, finely diced

Into a large bowl, scoop out the avocados; add the lime juice, and mash to desired consistency with a fork. Stir in the greek yogurt, and mix in the remaining ingredients. Serve chilled with chips and carrots.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

I firmly believe that there is nothing that a jar of peanut butter and a spoon can't solve. There's nothing like scooping up some creamy, salty, sweet, peanutty-goodness and licking it off the spoon...

Go ahead, I usually tell myself, double-dip that spoon-- you live alone, it's your personal jar, go for it. You can always buy another jar to bake with.

This mentality is exactly why I had to run back out to the store to buy a new jar of peanut butter to make these brownies for Bachelorette night with the girls. Whoops.

These brownies are almost perfect. I say almost, because I think they could be smidge fudgier (they turned out a bit more cake like than I prefer), but the salty crunch of roasted peanuts baked in to the batter contrasts beautifully with the creamy, warm peanut butter swirl on top. They come together super quickly-- faster than two male Bachelorette contestants can take off their shirts.

So get your girlfriends together, throw these beauties in the oven, and enjoy with a cold glass of milk and the (mostly) hot men who grace your TV screen Monday nights.

(If I'd had my druthers, I would have picked up some Reese's pieces to throw in there. Hindsight is 20/20, right?)

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Flour

5 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup chopped salted peanuts
1/2 cup peanut butter (Skippy works great!)

Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with baking spray and set aside.

Place the chocolates and the butter in a glass, heatproof bowl over barely simmering water in a saucepan, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally. Set aslide to cool slightly once completely melted and smooth.

Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 1 minute, until thick and light in color. Fold in chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly fold in flour mixture to chocolate mixture. Stir in the peanuts, and pour batter into the baking pan.

Melt the peanut butter for 30 seconds in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. Pour the melted peanut butter over the top, and swirl into the batter with a knife.

Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs. Remove from oven, allow to cool completely (if you can wait), and serve immediately. With milk. Trust me.