Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chocolate-y Espresso Shortbread Cookies

I've got what you need. Because if you're like me, you're totally last-minute on things like Christmas shopping and gift-wrapping. You need something to help you power through.

They're thin, so you can eat at least three at a time. They're chewy, so you don't have to worry about crumbs being wrapped up with your presents. What? It could happen.

Guess what happens if they're not perfectly perfect when you cut them out? It bakes up fine just the same! A Christmas miracle!


One of the reasons I like to make shortbread is because it's so dang easy. You need: softened butter, a touch of sugar, vanilla, a sprinkling of flour, salt, espresso, and grated chocolate.

Butter and sugar are first. Creamy texture is what we're after.

I did this with my spatula, y'all. I had lent out my hand mixer and kind of forgot to retrieve it. I do that from time to time. But the good news is I can say for a fact that these cookies can be made in one bowl with one spatula. Add your vanilla.

I just dumped the flour, chocolate, salt and espresso in the dang bowl. Because who has time to mess with whisking and sifting at Christmas-time?! No one. Also, why did no one tell me how easy it is to grate chocolate? It took no time at all to get this third of a cup. 

Because I used milk chocolate, my dough was light brown. Yours will likely be darker if you use dark chocolate. That' colors work. I know you know this. I chilled the dough for a few minutes to make it easier to press and cut out the cookies. Btw, I pressed the dough into a 1/4"-thick round with my (clean) fingers.

I went with half scalloped edge and half classic round.

Ten minutes later and I was greeted with sweet, buttery discs. 

Perfectly stackable.

The only reason I included this picture is so you can see my perfectly painted thumbnail because THIS NEVER HAPPENS. So I'm just really proud of it.

Chocolate-y Espresso Shortbread Cookies (makes about 16 cookies)

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c grated chocolate
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground espresso
  • Begin by creaming butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in vanilla extract. 
  • Add flour, chocolate, salt, and espresso and mix until just combined. 
  • Preheat the oven to 350º. Chill the dough about 10 minutes to make it easier to press into a round. Press it into a 1/4"-thick disc and cut with your favorite cookie cutter. Transfer to baking sheet.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes or until just barely golden around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheet 2-3 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container and enjoy with your warm beverage of choice!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread

Hey guess what. It's like 36 hours until Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone's concerned with the big meal right? Well what the heck do you eat beforehand? Like breakfast-wise? You don't have the time or the real estate in your belly to do a big, hot breakfast. 

You need a quick bread that's spiced and sweet with tart cranberries (It's fruit! It's good for you!) to wake you up. It's the kind of thing you can keep going back for because despite its short stature, it's really a light bread.

You don't have to sprinkle powdered sugar over it, but it sure makes it look pretty.


Let's get it together: Pumpkin puree, vanilla, brown butter, eggs, flour, sour cream, fresh cranberries, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Whew.

Brown butter and both sugars. Nothing is lovelier.

Adding in sour cream and pumpkin. Nothing is silkier.

It's the brightest of fall oranges.

Let's distribute our spices and our leavening agents evenly with a quick whisking.

It's a fluffy batter just begging for the weight of a tart cranberry.

Gently fold the cranberries in so the batter retains some lightness.

I do my best to make everything smooth-like. Invariably some always ends up on the side. I consider that my crunchies for later.

No lie, I love me some Pam + flour. My breads slide out like a dream. 

Powdered sugar is like fairy dust. 

Little bursts of cranberry red.

I can't have bread without butter. Butter sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with ginger and cinnamon makes the best topping for this pumpkin bread.


Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread (makes one 9-inch loaf)
Adapted from this bread

1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c brown butter, cooled
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree 
3/4 c sour cream (yogurt may be substituted)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tbs ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 c fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • Preheat oven to 350º. Thoroughly grease a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, stir together brown and granulated sugar with the brown butter. It will be fluffy and make you want to eat it straight from the bowl. Add the pumpkin puree and yogurt and stir until well-blended and smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to combine. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and next 6 ingredients (through cloves). Add to the wet ingredients and gently stir until just combined. Fold in cranberries and spoon batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake 55 minutes to an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the bread and turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
  • Eat it whenever the spirit moves you, which for me is any time I walk by it. Just sayin.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, & Ham Pizza

Pizza is a dinner food to me. Like, I don't ever think about eating pizza for lunch. It's something I want with a beer or a glass of wine (which doesn't necessarily preclude lunch) and my programs. 
The programs are kind of essential. Of course it's a brilliant away-game food. Pizza and football? So done. Of course, I probably couldn't get away with serving a harvest-y pizza with a side of sprouts as a game-watching dinner. It's more for when I'm either watching a game by myself or my lady shows (Scandal, Nashville, you know the drill). 

I like to make pizza as uncomplicated as possible. HAH. Just kidding. Here we've got cubed butternut squash, pizza dough from Publix (that's the uncomplicated part), fresh mozzarella, jamon iberico (y'know, ham), cubed bleu cheese, and sage.

You can use prosciutto or another thinly sliced ham, but I had this Iberian ham on me. Y'know, as one does.

My blue cheese was the opposite of crumbly. I mean, when's the last time I was able to cube blue cheese? It melted nicely though. The most important part is that you like it!

You also need an underripe butternut squash. Just kidding. Try to get a ripe one. Cube it, toss it with olive oil, and roast in the oven just to get nice and soft.

DSC_1236_edited-1 I couldn't decide if I wanted red sauce or just olive oil, so I did both! I like to tear the mozzarella into pieces and artfully arrange them across the dough.

DSC_1240_edited-1 Toss on the par-cooked squash and blue cheese for more flavor layers.

DSC_1245_edited-1 Bake until it's mostly cooked. I love the way the squash gets brown around the edges and supersoft. 

DSC_1251_edited-1 Full shot man. Add the sage and ham and bake until it's fully cooked. 

DSC_1256_edited-1 It's a doggone playground of sweet butternut squash, salty ham, herby sage (because sage is in herb of course), and gooey cheese. It's a winner. It's pizza, man. 

Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, & Ham Pizza (makes 1 pizza, serves 3+)

(You can adjust these measurements to your liking - less blue cheese, more squash, etc)
1 1/2 - 2 c cubed butternut squash
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt & pepper to taste
1 (8 oz) ball of pizza dough
4 oz fresh mozzarella
1 c (ish) cubed blue cheese
2 oz thinly sliced ham, torn
2 sage leaves, thinly sliced
Red sauce (optional)
  • Preheat the oven to 425º. Spread the squash on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast 10-15 minutes or until the squash have softened up but aren't brown. Remove and turn the oven up to 500º.
  • Spread your dough on a sheet pan to your desired thickness and size. If using the red sauce, spread on the dough. Otherwise, drizzle with more olive oil. 
  • Tear the mozzarella pieces and spread across the pizza. Add the blue cheese and bake 25-30 minutes or until almost completely done. The cheese should be melty and the crust should be lightly browned. 
  • Sprinkle the ham and sage over the pizza and bake an addition 5 minutes to crisp up the ham and brown the crust. Season with flaky salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roasted Sweet Potato with Goat Cheese & Pumpkin Butter

 We should probably talk about this potato here. It won't go down as the prettiest potato because it's hard to mush something up and it still look nice. Although pretty much all you'd have to tell me is there are goat cheese and caramelized onions up in this piece and I'll devour it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boston in September

 I think it's time to talk about my trip to Boston in September. Because I'm pretty sure it's my dream city and maybe I want to live there forever and ever. It was one of my all-time favorite trips, and it conveniently knocked off one of my New Years resolutions.

The reason I was in Boston is in this picture. My beautiful friend, Megan, got married! She freaking glowed the whole weekend I was there. It was a wonderful thing to see.

Mimosas with Laura!
I also met up with my friend, Laura. We grabbed brunch a few blocks from our hotel at Metropolis Cafe. Our waiter totally thought I was someone else and greeted me like he knew me. My thoroughly confused face must've tipped him off. Oh well, mimosas! I had the grapefruit.

And the huevos rancheros. Good LORD did I have heuvos rancheros.

I'm kind of in love with Boston already
I spent most of my first day walking around downtown and the South End. I probably walked a few miles then and more the next day with Laura. Which is good because of the aforementioned brunch and  everything else we ate.
     Cannoli in the North End
Like cannoli from Mike's Pastry. We would've stopped at Modern too to compare but we didn't have the patience to wait in that kind of line again. Next time!

But let's not act like I didn't have the best cannoli of my life. Does it make me pretentious that I wanted to write "cannolo" because that's what the singular form is even though I speak not a lick of Italian and no one really cares if I use the plural? Whatever, I'll just hold it like a Marx brother holds a cigar.

You have not lived until you've had the sticky bun from Flour. Fact.
Let's pause a moment and consider this sticky bun. If you know anything about Boston's baked goods, you've probably heard of Flour Bakery and its outrageous sticky bun. Toasty pecans. Copious amounts of caramel. Buttery brioche dough. I. Died.

We had a picnic over by the Esplanade. The Charles River sported super-puffy clouds.

For some reason, the one thing I wanted to be sure to see was the Old North Church. Look, a lantern! It's really a neat landmark. Instead of pews, the church has boxes because it got so dang cold in the winter that they needed to hold in the body heat. And it's still an active church!

My next house better have wrought iron gates. 

Arancini at Coppa
The last night I was there I had dinner by myself at Coppa, a little place a few blocks (again) from my hotel. Boston is so freaking walkable and I swear there's good food on every corner. This crispy, cheesy arancini inspired me to make my own at home from mushroom risotto. Bomb.

I saw burrata on the menu. That was all it took.

Pretty wedding flowers :)
I adored the flowers at Megan's wedding. The purples and greens were simply...gorgeous. 

I'll leave you with a picture of the happy couple. And truly, I've never seen two people more clearly in love.