Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pinterest for Breakfast

You know, Pinterest can be a time suck. Especially when you are new to the social media site. But over time, I have come to enjoy my time with Pinterest. It keeps me occupied during lulls in Giant’s games, helps me decide on projects to introduce at my monthly craft circle, and it provides me with a never-ending wealth of recipes.

I have Pinterest boards for Breakfast, Lunch, Appetizers, Dinner, and Dessert. There is a general Food category, Party food, High Tea, and Inspired Food, which I share with Brilliant Daughter. Easter, Halloween, and Christmas boards all have food items on them, and there’s a secret Paleo/Atkins board when I want a substitute for carbs.

Needless to say, that’s a whole lotta pins.

So, I thought I would share some of my more positive experiences with Pinterest recipes. (Because, believe me, not all recipes turn out wonderfully….)

I thought I would start with two breakfast items: Lemon-Blueberry Bread and Cinnamon Swirl Donut Bread. Back in the day…when all my kids were at home, I often made breads, muffins, scones, coffeecakes, etc. Over the last few years, these items have been few and far between. But I now cook every week for a friend with cancer.  I like to include both a breakfast item and a dessert, along with 3 meals. (The more calories, the better.) So, I spend every Saturday and/or Sunday on food prep and baking.

The Blueberry-Lemon Bread recipe originally came from Glorious Treats.  Her pictures are far more appetizing than mine could ever be, so I didn’t even bother with snapping a photo. This moist breakfast bread is the perfect foil for my Meyer lemons. (And yes, I still have about a dozen left on the tree!)

The tartness of the lemons with the sweetness of the blueberries, all tucked nicely into a slightly sweet and dense cake-like quick bread was a big hit with all who tried it. Perfect with a cup of tea (or coffee), good for morning or afternoon (or even for dessert!). You will not be disappointed. I promise.

Note: I also tried making this bread with dried blueberries, but it just didn’t work. You need the moisture of the fresh berries to keep the bread from being too dry. While it was still tasty, it was only about 40% as good as the original recipe using fresh blueberries.

Blueberry-Lemon Bread recipe can be found here.

My second Pinterest find for today is Cinnamon Swirl Donut Bread from Lauren’s Latest. I chose this recipe because it reminded me of one of the first things I learned to cook in high school home ec. We made these very simple plain cake muffins. No spices or fruit or nuts inside. Just a plain cake muffin. But when they came out of the oven, and were still warm, we rolled them in melted butter and then in a cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Oh. My. God. They were delicious. I must have made those things dozens of time every year until I went to college. (Then I lost the recipe and the internet wasn’t a thing way back then.)

This recipe has a similar bent, but instead of that plain cake mixture, it has a swirl of tasty cinnamon goodness. It took only about 5 minutes to make it and there are no fancy ingredients. In fact I had everything in the house, except the buttermilk, and you can make your own quite easily.

In essence, you have a tasty batter, of which you take out ½ cup and add a bit of cinnamon and molasses. Then you layer your plain mixture—cinnamon mixture—plain mixture and then give it a quick swirl. Pop it in the oven for 45 minutes and let it cool for about 10. While it cools, you melt some butter and make the cinnamon-sugar coating. (I put the butter in a sheet cake pan and then in the cooling oven to melt.)

Pop out the bread, roll it into the butter and then coat all sides with the sugar. We actually had some while it was still slightly warm – better than any donut I’ve ever had. Seriously, you’ve got to try this, but be prepared; it won’t last for long!

Cinnamon Swirl Donut bread recipe here.

Monday, January 02, 2017


Yep, that’s what it’s been like at my house. I’ve attempted two desserts—one for Christmas Eve and one for New Year’s Day—and both have been failures in one way or another.

Desserts are my forte and I usually attack them with gusto and typically produce great results. But recipe errors, missteps, and my inability to make a presentable layer cake all contributed to these epic fails. Well, maybe not epic. Both desserts were tasty, but not without some wasted time, ingredients and consternation.

Let’s start with the Christmas Eve dessert. I actually found this dessert back on November 28th and excitedly sent the recipe to my brother, who we would be spending the holidays with. We love to collaborate in the kitchen, so I wanted his approval for the Four-Layer Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart. He wholeheartedly agreed, so I made sure I packed all the requisite ingredients before making the trek down to SoCal.

Now, I had read the recipe, but had failed to notice that it required a 13 ¾ x 4 ¼-inch tart pan. This is not a standard item in any kitchen I know of and on Christmas Eve it was going to be hard to find. Actually, make that impossible. We made a beeline to Jane’s Cakes in La Canada, who have everything under the sun for baking, but no tart pan in that size. (Note: subsequent searches have found that a 13 ¾ x 4 1/4 pan doesn’t seem to exist. 14 x 4 or 14 x 4.5 is available however.) So we had to make do with an 8-inch round tart pan, which is roughly the same size, just different in shape.

This recipe takes hours to make, as each layer has to be made and then chilled or baked and cooled. My brother and I should have made the tart shell dough the night before, but were having too good a time with friends, and wine was involved, and well…you know. So we began on Christmas Eve morning. We made the dough with no problem. Then chilled it for 2 hours. Then we kneaded and rolled and got it into the pan and chilled the dough again for 30 minutes. Finally, after 3 hours of the clock ticking by, we were able to bake the first layer. Gonna be a long day…

We let the crust cool, and moved on to the fudge cookie layer. I thought that the ingredient list felt like it was missing something. The only liquid was egg and there was no baking soda or powder. But we persevered, made the dough, and popped it into the crust and then the oven. We waited 25 minutes and no crack in the layer, as the recipe indicated. Another 5 and still no crack. We finally had to take it out of the oven before the requisite crack appeared as it was pulling away from the sides and looked to be overdone.

Again, we let the two layers cool to room temp and then set about to make the caramel layer. Four hours off the clock….

NOTE: Now you might think that making this tart was all we had to do for dinner, given the amount of time we have thus far spent on it, but that was not the case. We also had to grate 2 pounds of fresh horseradish for our beef tenderloin, prepare 6 pounds of potatoes, clean and trim brussels sprouts and broccoli, set the table, prep hors d’oeuvres. Arghh…I was definitely second guessing my decision to make this dessert!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ribolitta: My New (Soup) Passion

This is, hands down, one of the best soup recipes I have ever tried. So good, in fact, that I made it two weeks in a row, with slight variations each time. I loved it, Mr. B loved it, Brilliant Daughter loved it, Butcher Son loved it. Now I just need to spread the word so everyone else can love it too!

Ribolitta is a hearty soup, a la Minestrone, but indigenous to the Tuscan region of Italy. There are different variations, with the original recipe using white beans, a variety of vegetables, and often day-old bread. This version isn’t that far off the track, but know that you can substitute different vegetables that you have on hand. While onions and carrots are standard, you can add cabbage, chard or kale, celery or fennel, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, parsnips or celery root. That’s the beauty of this soup—being able to use up what you have on hand or what is in season.

So, this recipe came from Sylvia Fountaine of the Feasting at Home blog. What drew me to it initially was the addition of an infused olive oil that gets drizzled on the soup when serving. And believe me, it adds a whole dimension to the soup that is out of this world – so do not, I repeat, do not skip that part of the recipe. It is crucial to the flavor. Really, it will make you swoon.

One curious thing about this soup is that there really were no herbs in it, which felt strange to me.  So, I couldn’t risk meddling a bit with the recipe. (Sorry, Sylvia!)

As I mentioned, I made two versions over the course of two weeks. The first version had pancetta, red wine, and a large heaping soup spoon of my homemade chimichurri. The second had homemade bacon, white wine, and a large heaping soup spoon of my homemade pesto. The recipe calls for pancetta, but Trader Joe’s was out of their diced pancetta for the second round, so I subbed in my bacon. I was out of the required white wine on the first go, so used the red, and both the chimichurri (rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, red chili flakes, olive oil and balsamic) and the pesto (basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese) were my own additions.

While both versions were delicious, I prefer the first. I used bacon ends in the second version, which tend to be very smoky, so they add a different flavor altogether. I also think the red wine works better than the white, even though it’s only a half cup or so. (The recipe calls for a splash, but I went big!) And the chimichurri herbs were a better pairing. The only thing I might do differently is use chard, which I like better than kale. But that will next time week!

So give this hearty soup a chance. Please. You won’t be sorry.

Rosemary/Lemon/Garlic Oil
½ cup olive oil
peel from 1 large lemon
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 sprigs rosemary

Put all ingredients into a mason jar (or plastic container). Give it a good shake. Let it sit out on the counter all day, shaking periodically to help the ingredients infuse into the oil.

1/8 cup olive oil
¼ pound diced pancetta or bacon
2 medium onions, diced
3 large carrots, diced
5 ribs celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 teaspoons salt
15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
6 cups chopped lacinto kale (or chard)
½ cup red wine
1 heaping soup spoon chimichurri or pesto (this can be omitted)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ chopped Italian parsley
Grated parmesan

In large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and pancetta and sauté for 6-8 minutes.

Lower heat to medium-low and add carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes. Cook for an additional 7-9 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Add canned tomatoes, kale, wine, and chimichurri or pesto. Continue sautéing for 7-8 minutes. Then add in the broth and the beans. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

To serve, ladle soup into the bowl, sprinkle with parmesan and then drizzle with the infused olive oil (be generous here!).

NOTE: This goes great with some nice crusty bread. Try this 5 Minute Artisan Bread recipe.

Serves: 6-8

Monday, November 07, 2016

Fall Breakfast: Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Fall has definitely arrived and with Halloween in the past and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I am overjoyed to have an abundance of pumpkins. We love the taste of pumpkin, in breakfast, soups, curries, and desserts. It’s actually quite versatile. And I always make sure to buy plenty right before or after Halloween, as most stores take them out of rotation and they can be hard to find. I also stock up on several cans of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), for quick muffins and scones.

I had a yen for pumpkin muffins on Sunday and found this easy and delicious recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction blog. I had everything in stock—most of which are pantry and refrigerator staples—and whipped these up in 10 minutes. Yes, it takes longer than a box mix, but it’s quicker than going to the bakery. And I guarantee that you will love them. Really.

While the recipe itself looks long and complicated at first glance, it really isn’t. You mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, and them combine the two. Scoop into your prepared muffin tin, whip up the streusel and stick them in the oven. Now, know that they are perfectly fine this way and there is really no need for the maple drizzle, but I wanted to be true to the recipe (with one small change—just can’t help myself!).

So grab a can of pumpkin or cook down those uncut pumpkins and make a batch, you won’t be sorry and your family will love you forever.

And if you are thinking about Thanksgiving, I have the best pumpkin pie recipe.  It was gifted to me by a friend at work, her grandmother’s recipe. Simple, made in a blender, you’ll never make pumpkin pie any other way.  See the recipe here.

Happy Fall!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each allspice, clove, ginger and nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup milk (cow, almond, soy, or other)

Crumb Topping
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each allspice, clove, ginger and nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Maple Drizzle (optional)
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk (cow, almond, soy, or other)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line muffin tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined.

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. Pour the dry ingredients in, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.

Spoon the batter into liners, filling them two-thirds.

To make the streusel, whisk the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together until combined. Stir in the melted butter until crumbs form. Spoon crumbs evenly on top of the batter and gently press them down into the batter so they're snug.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425° , then reduce the oven temperature to 350°. Bake for an additional 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the drizzle.

To make the drizzle, combine all of the icing ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over muffins and serve.

Yield: 18 muffins

Monday, October 03, 2016

Fall Favorite: Minestrone Soup

While I am a summer girl at heart, the heat makes it difficult to do too much in my kitchen, so I am always happy when fall rolls around so I can get back to my happy place. Every weekend there is a bubbling pot of soup on the stove, awaiting distribution to my children.

This week I chose to make some minestrone. I still have veggies in the garden, so it is the perfect way to use them before they die out. While most traditional recipes are strictly vegetarian, I like to add a bit of my home-cured bacon. Whenever I smoke a batch, I cut off the ends of each slab and freeze them in soup-sized portions. They have a deep smoky flavor and add such a wonderful dimension to soups. But feel free to omit the bacon, and you can have a good vegetarian or vegan option. You can even substitute a wheat-free pasta to get a gluten-free version!

So head to the store, the farmer’s market, or your own garden and make a batch of this yummy and hearty soup. It’s quick to make and I had enough for 10 servings – plenty to share or freeze for later use.

1/2 lb. bacon ends, diced
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1/3 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 heaping tablespoons pesto
salt & pepper, to taste
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bunch chard or kale, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, diced
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup elbow or shell pasta
Optional: grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

In a stockpot over medium-low heat, add your bacon ends and begin cooking. When halfway done, add chopped onion and cook until bacon is almost crispy. Add garlic, celery and carrot and cook for another few minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth, and pesto to the pot and bring to a boil. Add green beans, chard/kale, and zucchini and cook until your vegetables are al dente. Add in the kidney beans and pasta and cook for 10 minutes until pasta and all vegetables are tender.

Ladle into bowls and serve with parmesan cheese.