a garden, a hot pan, & a little balsamic vinegar

As you all know, October is now almost over… Halloween costumes are all over the place, the weather is finally cooling down, and the pumpkin spice latte is back behind Starbucks counters everywhere. Fall is here! So, of course, it’s the perfect time to share a perfectly summer recipe. Sweet onions are in season from roughly mid-June to mid-August, and at my parents’ house in South Carolina, we harvested them right after our wedding. This post, therefore, is a late farewell to summer. It’s both sweet and savory and fresh. And there’s a recipe, too.

Will and I had such a wonderful time rummaging through the garden. We tugged and pulled and took all sorts of pictures and laughed quite a bit. It was lovely.

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Once you have the onions, the hardest part is over. Wash them off and toss them in a bowl.
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All you need to do is add a little balsamic vinegar, some salt & pepper, and a bit of brown sugar. Basil never hurt anybody, either. Put them in a pan with butter. Heat it up.
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And then enjoy! This is about as yummy as it can get.

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Balsamic Sweet Onions

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb sweet onions
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsps brown sugar
dash of salt
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp butter
dash of pepper
DIRECTIONS:
1. Wash and peel sweet onions, cutting off tips. Cover in 1/2 cup vinegar and dash with salt & pepper, and let sit for at least half an hour.
2. Heat butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions.
3. Once vinegar begins to sizzle, mix in brown sugar and basil. Allow onions to simmer, stirring often. Add additional 1/2 cup vinegar as necessary.
4. Once vinegar has thickened and onions have browned, remove from heat. Enjoy!
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a snapshot and a recipe

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Today is a no-bake cookies sort of day.

Madi’s Almond No-Bake Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups instant oatmeal
2 cups white sugar
dash of salt
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
DIRECTIONS:
1. In a saucepan bring sugar, cocoa, shortening, almond milk, and salt to a rapid boil. Wait for a little over a minute.
2. Add oats, almond butter, and vanilla; mix well.
3. Working quickly, drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper (or in my case, a no-stick baking sheet), and let cool.
4. Enjoy!

chocolate almond chess pie

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Doesn’t it look delicious? This, my friends, is chocolate almond chess pie.

If we’re being honest, I must tell you that my ideal dessert rests somewhere in the chocolately-fudgey-thick-and-gooey region. I love things that are rich and sweet and substantial, and that are preferably full of chocolate. I want a dessert that is full-bodied, not some whipped flaky Splenda- filled nonsense. And this pie fits that description perfectly. There is no messing around with the chocolate almond chess pie. It is thick and rich and perfect with a teeny crust of crystallized sugar right on the top. It’s yummy warm or cold, and in my opinion, is best served with a large glass of milk. Yes, it’s that type of pie.

As far as desserts go, this one is pretty simple. Gather your ingredients…

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…and then mix them all together, little by little.

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Isn’t it luscious? When everything is blended in, just pour it into the pie crust and stick it in the oven. Bake it for 40 minutes, and then, listen now: turn off the oven and leave the pie in there while it cools down. That extra time will continue to cook the middle without burning the edges, which leaves it fudgey all the way through.

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Garnish it as you so desire. Personally, I have a deep love for almonds, and so I took the happy opportunity to toss a few on the top.

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It’s okay, go ahead and have a piece. Or two. I hope that you love it as much as I do.

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Chocolate Almond Chess Pie

(adapted from this lady)

INGREDIENTS:

1 graham cracker pie crust
1 stick unsalted butter
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 tsp salt
1 c sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
almonds, to taste
DIRECTIONS:
1. Melt the butter and chocolate together.
2. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract, then add the sugar and salt.
3. Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 325*F for 40 minutes.
4. Turn off the oven and let the pie sit while it cools. The top of the pie will flatten and crack… that’s okay!
5. Top with almonds and whip cream.

goodbye, salt

To those of you who know me well, this may come as a bit of a shock…I went a week without putting salt on my food. That’s right. Should I say it again? Seven full days. No salt.

I don’t know when it was that I became the girl who put salt on everything. Sometime in middle school, I think? I have distinct memories my seventh-grade self sitting in the food court at the mall sucking on a pack of soy sauce. Ew. It was not my proudest moment.

But regardless, it happened. And the fifty-six thousand times that I put salt on my breakfast, lunch, and dinner since then also happened. And we’re not talking about just french fries here: we’re talking everything from salad to pizza to brownies (which is kinda becoming cool now, go figure). Even if the food was perfectly seasoned when it was placed in front of me, I grabbed a salt shaker before even trying it. I’ve even been know to pour it into the palm of my hand and eat it straight up. But that’s enough oversharing. You get the point. And now you understand why it is that I’m excited that I went a whole week without doing it. It was time to combat the habit.

And here’s my conclusion: if you make food well in the first place, there is no need to add anything. So, there: another bucket list item completed. Let’s hope this one sticks.

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p.s. That’s a pizza Will and I made this week. Yummy.

p.s.s. Many thanks to Genie from Bunny. Eats. Design. for inviting me to participate in March’s “Our Growing Edge” event. Check out her site and the site of this month’s host, Danielle from Keeping Up With The Holsbys, for some great reading about people who are crossing off their own food-related Bucket Lists. Thanks, Genie!

 

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artisan bread, the easy way

Is there anything better than the smell of bread baking? I don’t think so.

Well, maybe eating the said bread. That’s pretty incredible as well.

I’m a huge fan of artisan bread… it is delicious and heart-warming and filling in the best way. And the fact that I can make it, on my own, for just a couple of cents a loaf, without kneading or investing in a bread machine, is enough to make my day. And so I’d like to share it with you, so that your day can be a little better than you thought it would be when you woke up this morning. You’re welcome!

My biggest instruction in this technique comes from The Italian Dish. You can head over to their website for much more detailed information of what exactly is happening throughout this lovely bread-making process. I owe them a ton of thanks for their tutorial.

Bread-making is mostly composed of mixing and waiting. Start with some warm water and mix in yeast, salt, and flour. Cover it up and let it sit for a while (at least two hours, to be precise). Part one: complete.

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Over the course of the two hours, it will rise quite a bit. If you’re feeling daring, now is the time to get creative with the flavors. For this batch, I tried three new combinations: rosemary & garlic, orange & cranberry, and parmesan cheese (the rosemary, of course, came from our little garden). It’s as simple as dividing the dough and stirring in the various yummy bits.

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Shape the dough into loafs, making sure that the top portion is tight and smooth, and place them on parchment paper. Let it rise for another half hour. In the meantime, stick a baking sheet in the oven.  Dust the tops of the loafs with flour, slit them with a sharp knife, slide the parchment paper on top of the heated baking sheet, place a pan of water underneath, and…. that’s all! Watch a show on Netflix while the bread releases all sort of lovely smells into your home.

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And then, enjoy! We found that the orange and cranberry loaf tasted divine with blackberry jam (that one was definitely my favorite), while the other two worked best with a little olive oil. Whatever makes your heart smile.

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No-Knead Artisan Bread

INGREDIENTS:

3 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
6 1/2 c. ap flour
mix-ins as desired
DIRECTIONS:
1. Warm the water to around 100* F.
2. Mix in yeast, salt, and flour with a wooden spoon.
3. Cover with a lid or dishtowel, set in a warm place, and allow to rise for at least two hours.
4. Place a piece of parchment paper on your counter and dust your hands with flour. Pull the dough and tear off a piece the size of a grapefruit. If you are mixing in any herbs, fruits, nuts, or cheese, place that piece into a separate bowl and add the toppings. Use the wooden spoon to mix them thoroughly.
5. Shape the loaf by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides, ensuring that the top is smooth and tight. Place the loaf onto your parchment paper and let it sit for 30-40 minutes.
6. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 450*. Place your baking sheet in the heated oven and let it warm for 20 minutes. Fill a pan with water and set it beside the oven.
5. Dust the loaf with a little flour and slash the top with a knife.
6. Slide the parchment paper into the oven and place the water right underneath before quickly closing the oven door. Allow the bread to bake 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Remove and enjoy!

let’s stir fry

This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my staple dishes, complete with the Madi-seal-of-approval and all. It’s a combination of several recipes I discovered in various corners of the Internet and is the basis of about 67% of what happens in my kitchen. It’s easy. It’s tasty. It’s healthy. It’s infinitely customizable.

It’s stir fry.

The basic components are pretty simple: vegetables, meat, and sauce.

When I make this dish, I usually use tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and sugar snap peas, mostly because I think that color in food is important. Bright, happy food makes me feel, well, bright and happy. Plus, these particular veggies have a good mixture of textures, making the stir fry both tender and crunchy in all the right ways.

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Boneless chicken breasts and a sweet-and-spicy sauce (garlic, hot sauce, ginger, brown sugar, honey, and, of course, soy sauce) round off the ingredient list. Ta da!

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You want the vegetables and chicken in a manageable size… the first step is to use whatever it takes to get them there.

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Start by browning the chicken, one side then another. And when that’s done, pour the sweet-and-spicy on top.

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See the transformation? Yum. Let that simmer for a few minutes and then add the mushrooms and sweet peas, since those are the ones that need a little more cooking time… and then throw in the broccoli and tomatoes. Now, if you want to be fancy, you can reduce the sauce on the chicken and cook the vegetables in a different pan. That intensifies the flavor. But I was lazy tonight, so one pan it is. Add salt and pepper to spice it up.

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And that’s it, folks. Madi’s stir-fry, your stir-fry. These are the basics, but once you get the concept down, you can happily use it to feed yourself for the rest of your life. Change the chicken to shrimp and make a lemon-butter sauce instead. Try it with bok choy and balsamic vinegarette. Or use bell peppers and onions, cumin and cayenne pepper for a Southwestern flair. Serve it with rice, with pasta, with quinoa. The possibilities are truly endless.

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Madi’s Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken Stir Fry

INGREDIENTS:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 c. sugar snap peas, halved
1 c. mushrooms, chopped
2 c. broccoli florets
1 c. baby tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp hot sauce
salt & pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS:
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
2. Combine brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and hot sauce in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
3. Place chicken strips in hot oil and brown on both sides. Add sauce and simmer uncovered 4-5 min.
4. After sauce has begun to thicken, add mushrooms and snap peas and stir well. Allow to cook another 2-3 min, then add the broccoli and tomatoes.
5. When the broccoli is bright green and tomatoes are soft (another 2-3 min), remove from heat.
6. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

p.s. I owe a thousand thanks (and a kiss or two!) to my incredible fiance for taking these photos. He’s simply the best.

a couple of cupcakes…

…in mason jars.

So many happy things came together to produce these cupcakes. Just take a peek at the flavors: fluffy lemon cupcakes with a sweet blackberry jam frosting, dense peanut butter cupcakes offset by a chocolate-nutella icing, and a vanilla cupcake with a bit of chocolate chip cookie dough hidden in the middle. See what I mean? Goodness all the way around. And then add in the fact that I baked them in mason jars, wrapped them up, and mailed them all the way to California (successfully, I might add). It just makes me smile.

Let’s start with my favorite.

Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting.

(unashamedly taken from AllRecipes… I’m a huge believer of crowdsourcing recipes)

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INGREDIENTS: (and don’t forget the mason jars, washed and dried!)

1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. ap flour
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. milk
1 lemon, juice & zest
1 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
4 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c. seedless blackberry jam
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350* F.
2. Cream sugar and 1/2 c. butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and mix 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract into mixture with the second egg.
3. Beat in flour and baking powder until thoroughly combined; beat in milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest to finish it up.
4. Spoon the batter into mason jars, filling them about one third of the way. Don’t worry, they will rise like crazy. Place the jars on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish, for easy movement to and from the oven.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until bottom of cupcakes are slightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool them completely.
6. Beat 1 c. butter with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and salt until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then add the jam.
7. Using a pastry bag (or in my case, a ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner), pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes. Top with a blackberry and close the lid of the mason jar.

Next up,

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

(again, see here and here for the originals. also, this one is pretty time-consuming and requires some ahead planning, just so you know.)

chocolate chip cupcake

INGREDIENTS: (again, don’t forget the mason jars)

1 1/2 c. + 1 1/2 c. ap flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. + 1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. + 1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. mini chocolate chips
1/4 c. shortening
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 c. confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS:
1. Whisk together 1 1/2 c. flour, baking soda, and sea salt; set aside. Beat 1/2 c. butter, 1/4 c. white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Add 1 egg and the 2 tsp. vanilla extract. Mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated and then fold in the chocolate chips. Form the dough into tablespoon-sized balls; place onto a baking sheet, and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.
2. Preheat an oven to 350* F.  Place the prepared mason jars on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish, for easy movement to and from the oven.
3. Cream remaining 1 c. sugar and 1/2 c. butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, and mix 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract into mixture with the second egg. Beat in 1 1/2 c. flour, baking powder, and milk until thoroughly combined. Spoon the batter into mason jars, filling them about one third of the way, and happily drop a frozen cookie dough ball on the top center of each.
4. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the cake portion of the cupcake (not the cookie dough ball) comes clean, about 20 minutes.
5. In a large bowl, beat shortening and butter until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla; beat until the icing is smooth.
6. Using a pastry bag (or in my case, a ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner), pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes. Top with sprinkles or other preferred festive topping and close the lid of the mason jar.

And don’t forget:

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

(and they’re here and here)

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INGREDIENTS (plus washed and dried mason jars):

2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
1/4 c. shortening
1/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. Nutella
2 c. confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat an oven to 350* F.  Place the prepared mason jars on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish, for easy movement to and from the oven.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, shortening and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. This batter will be thicker, kinda like cookie dough. That’s okay. Spoon the batter into mason jars, filling them about one third of the way.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool completely.
4. In a large bowl, beat shortening and butter until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla; beat until the icing is smooth and then mix in Nutella.
5. Using a pastry bag (or a ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner), pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes. Top with a half of Reese’s. Eat the other half while you close the lid of the mason jar.

Whew. Well, there you go. Here’s a lovely “after” photo of them all. Aren’t they pretty? Enjoy!

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