27 FEELS ALRIGHT

Wednesday was my birthday, and, although it was a pretty low-key day and we weren’t able to squeeze in everything I had hoped, it was nice. AND I won’t feel guilty to keep celebrating a little and squeezing in those extra things in the coming days :) I’m hoping to spend some time this weekend making the apartment feel a bit cozy and festive and spend a couple of hours shopping in the East Village. David got me a beautiful wood slab cake stand, and instead of cake we had root beer floats.

Now back to work. After a birthday and Thanksgiving, I’m feeling behind. We’ve been blessed with several opportunities lately to take photos for friends. Adding those sessions to the wedding we shot this past weekend, I have much to do! Good thing I love it a lot :)

ANNIVERSARY PARTY | PART THREE

(Find your way to part one or two here, if you like)

Dave and Sarah of 1 cup Awesome were in charge of food, and it was an awesome meal. Not sure if you could read the menu from the photo: Mexican chopped salad, quinoa stuff poblano peppers, spice rubbed pork loin with salsa verde, and cinnamon brownie pie for dessert. Wow! Yum! Head on over to their blog for recipes! Since we did a previous tasting, a few of us actually had to eat this meal twice. bummer :)

EATS | BREAKFAST

I haven’t been able to get enough of this sandwich. There may have even been a day a couple of weeks ago where I ate it for both breakfast and lunch in the same day. Dave gives me supreme credit for making this, but its just a simple ol’ breakfast sandwich. I think tomato and spinach would be a nice addition, but I’ll have to keep waiting for the tomatoes.

Our garden is rockin’. We’ve been enjoying lettuce, herbs, and radishes for several weeks. We have many banana peppers ready to pick as well as a few green peppers. Our tomatoes are in the green stage, and we’ve been picking green beans hoping the plants will produce more. We have plenty of cabbage and broccoli. The brussel sprouts and cucumbers are further behind but definitely trucking. We’ve been busy and the past couple of days have been hot, so we have not been keeping up with the weeding as we should. I kind of feel like a bad mother.

Back to today’s eats: We buy our bread from the local grocery store and bakery down the hill. Dave usually has some ciabatta or a baguette on hand, and I just try not to eat it. If I am having some carby-goodness, I opt for this wheat levain loaf. It’s whole wheat sourdough. I dig it.

From there, I slice and heat chicken sausage in a skillet. Once its heated and beginning to brown, I take the cast iron off of the heat to cool the pan. Next, I add one scrambled egg, salt and pepper. Cast iron holds heat really well; sometimes I’m able to cook the egg without ever turning the burner back on, otherwise a med-low temp is good. When the egg is cooked, I top my toast with organic butter, egg/sausage, smoked cheese, fresh parsley, and more pepper. And then I try to eat it slowly and not make a second one :)

HEALTHY BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

 

Num, num, num. I love muffins! Here’s a good, hearty muffin recipe that is sure to leave your tastebuds (and colon, ha!) satisfied! The oatmeal and chia seeds give it a rich chewiness. Add a lemon icing to zip it up a notch if you like!

OATMEAL BLUEBERRY APPLESAUCE MUFFINS
Adapted from Joy the Baker via Sweet Cheeks in the Kitchen

Yields 12 muffins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour + more for coating blueberries
1 1/4 cups oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup homemade greek yogurt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsps water (or 1 egg, lightly beaten)
3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
optional additional chia seeds or oats for topping

Method:
Combine the chia seeds and water, and set aside for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners.
In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a medium bowl combine applesauce, yogurt, sugar, oil and chia gel. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. Toss blueberries in a couple of tablespoons of flour to coat. Fold blueberries into mixture. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle any additional seeds or oats for topping.

Bake for 16-18 minutes or until springy to the touch. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

You may enjoy your muffins immediately, or if you’re feeling a little decadent (which I most often am), mix up a little icing with lemon juice and confectioners sugar, and pipe it on top.

STRAWBERRY BANANA PICK ME UP

Well, hello there!

I know, what a stranger I’ve been. I have all kinds of things planned for sharing, but we have been busy! I don’t think things will be slowing down for a few weeks. I feel too guilty to blog when I have paid work to be doing :) So that is that. Hopefully, I’ll get some guilt-free time to catch you all up on that past couple of weeks.

In other news, there was a huge storm here the other night. There is still debris all over the road and tree trunks and branches on the curbs in our neighborhood. We’ve been hearing a lot of chain-sawing as neighbors work to clear up their yards. Our neighbors across the street have some decent damage to their home from 200+ year old oak tree branches. There are a couple of cars that were smooshed, and so much else. I feel badly for all of my friends with water in their basements or broken windows.

There has been a lot of rain and a lot of dreary weather. I do like rainy days, but we’ve had so many, it’s hard not to be tired and lazy. I decided a deserved a little something to pick me up.

Here’s my recipe for a super thick smoothie. I’m not really sure this is a smoothie anymore; we are out of milk, so I “had” to enjoy this with a spoon. It feels even more like dessert with a spoon :)

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup sliced frozen strawberries
1/2 cup homemade yogurt
you could stop there, but feel free to add any stevia or honey, chia or flaxseeds if you like (I like)

Blend it on up, and enjoy!

 

 

Recipe: Cookie Dough Truffles

Well folks, this one has been mentally catalogued for a while. And though they are thoroughly delicious and a cinch to whip up, I not-so-secretly long for peanut butter instead. Oops.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth sharing! Somebody out there might just be a cookie dough fiend! I haven’t tried it yet, but I think this would be pretty tasty squashed up in some vanilla ice cream. Give it a shot. Let me know.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH TRUFFLES
Adapted from Love and Olive Oil via Vanilla & Lace 

Yield 3-4 Dozen (I only made a half batch however)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk of your choice
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I had regular sized chips and just ran my knife through them quickly)
14 oz dark chocolate candy coating

METHOD
Beat butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla. Mix in flour, salt, and baking soda on low speed until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Cover dough and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).

Form dough into 1 inch balls (or size of your choice) and place onto baking sheet lined with waxed paper

Chill in freezer for 30 minutes.

Towards the end of freezer time, prepare your chocolate coating. (Chocolate candy coating or Almond bark is recommended, but chocolate chips work too.) Melt in double boiler or in microwave according to directions. Dip/roll chilled balls to coat with forks or dipping tool, tapping the side of bowl or pan to remove excess coating. Return to baking sheet and allow to set.  Store chilled in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Enjoy!

 

 

YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE

Well, I really shouldn’t have.

I can’t say I’m proud of myself for this one, but I also can’t say I regret it either. When I saw what I had done, and Dave saw what I had done, he told me I couldn’t eat all of it. We both found ourselves starring at a 9 x 13 inch pan full of my favorite candy. Thankfully, we had a couple of opportunities to share the wealth over the weekend. I found this recipe via Pinterest and obviously got busy. If I ever dare to do this again, I may have to experiment with this. I did miss the bite of chocolate on the bottom.  In terms of a quick dessert, this is it. It didn’t require any baking, and they were ready to be tasted by the time we finished another project we really shouldn’t have done.

We attempted to make homemade chalk for our nieces’ birthdays. Knowing full well it would cost more up front than just buying chalk (in the long run, maybe not), we proceeded. It would have been more fun if the chalk actually turned out. There are about eight egg-shaped pieces of chalk that are still not all the way dry on our table, and the rest I finally threw away.

MY WEEKLY OBSESSION: HOMEMADE YOGURT

Oh, yogurt! I hadn’t had yogurt in years, and it definitely wasn’t because I didn’t like it. Last summer after some prayer from friends, I was trying out foods that previously made me sick, and I discovered I could eat yogurt again! We began eating quite a bit of it around here, and I knew there had to be a more affordable way for me to consume the luscious Greek yogurt I loved so much. And there is :)

As promised, here is my method for making (Greek) yogurt. If you make yogurt yourself or decide to give it a try, I would love to hear about your experience.

The basics
Essentially, you need to bring your milk to 185° to kill any bacteria currently lingering in your milk. Then, bring the milk to a temperature no greater than 110° (the yogurt enzymes die at about 118°) so you can add you yogurt starter. Let it incubate for 6-12 hours, and voila! Yogurt!

Tips
I use what I believe is the highest quality milk available to me; I recommend you do the same. Do not use a milk that has been “ultra-pasteurized”. The milk I buy is non-homogenized and vat pasteurized. In terms of pasteurization, this is the least damaging kind. It is heated slower and longer than standard pasteurization. This milk also comes with cream on top which I include when making yogurt. If you don’t have milk that comes with cream, you could add a couple cups of heavy cream you purchase separately if you want it to be nice and thick.

A higher fat milk will produce a thicker and richer yogurt, though you can still make it with skim. I also strain my yogurt so it will be extra thick like Greek yogurt. You can also use raw milk (though, unless you “buy the cow” or already own some, you cannot get it legally in Iowa). If you do, you may find that your yogurt is somewhat runny or may degrade over time. This is because all of the enzymes and nutrients already living in the raw milk want to take over and not leave enough room for your yogurt bacteria to reproduce. Still, if you have access to raw milk, use it! You may need to use fresh starter after so many batches or work out a few kinks along the way. This is a great tutorial on yogurt making using raw milk.

The fresher your yogurt starter, the better. When you make your first batch, you’ll need to buy some starter (or get some from a kind friend). This can be a specific dry yogurt starter or just some yogurt you can buy from the store. Once you are making your own yogurt, just reserve some from your last batch to use in your next.

If you aren’t making yogurt every 7-10 days, you may want to purchase fresh starter.

Method
First, you need to bring your milk to 185°. This will kill any existing bacteria in your milk to leave plenty of room for the yogurt bacteria you’re going to introduce. I do this by slowly heating my milk and cream in a large stock pot on my stove, stirring frequently. Set to high, you could achieve this in about 3 hours in your crock pot as well.

Next, place the stock pot in an ice bath in the sink and continue stirring. This prevents the milk from getting a skin. You want to bring the milk to 110°. This only takes about 10 minutes. If you are using a cast iron stock pot or a dutch oven, you’ll want to pour it into a different pot in the sink. The temperature change will otherwise cause the cast iron to crack.

While the milk is cooling,  turn on your oven light. Alternatively, if your oven can be set at a trusty 110° (without overheating after several hours), you can simply turn it on.

At this point you are ready to add your yogurt starter. The general rule is a couple of tablespoons per quart of milk. Too much starter is actually detrimental to the process since all the bacteria can become too crowded. I use about 1/4 or a 1/3 of a cup for 1 gallon of milk and cream. In a separate bowl, add a couple of ladles of your warmed milk to your starter, and whisk gently to temper. Add it to the rest of your milk. Remember you are working with live organisms! Don’t stir too briskly.

Now, you have a couple of options. I like to use my oven. Adjust oven rack so it is low enough for your stock pot with it’s lid on to fit. If you are working with your oven “on”, make sure it hasn’t gotten too hot. Then place the stock pot in the oven with the light on and allow it to incubate anywhere from 6-12 hours. The longer it incubates the tangier it will be. Less time equals less tangy yogurt. Your choice. I usually start it in the evening and allow it to incubate over night so I don’t have to be bummed about not having a free oven.

Instead of the oven method, you could also put your yogurt mixture in jars, and then place them in a cooler to stay insulated. I have also kept them warm in a water bath on the stove or in a crock pot. Many people have dehydrators they choose to use. Again, your choice. Anything that you can ensure will keep the right temperature will work. I like to use my oven because it is already there taking up space, and with only the light, I don’t have to worry about it getting too hot and killing my yogurt.

After incubation you will have yogurt! If you want regular yogurt, you are done! Put it in storage containers and refrigerate.

Since we like it oh, so thick, I ladle/pour it into a colander lined with a tea towel or sometimes t-shirt material, and allow it to drain over a bowl. (You could also use fine cheesecloth, and I have heard of others who have used coffee filters.) It can drain at room temperature, but I like to put it in the refrigerator. The batch you see drained for 9 hours, but the time is really dependent on how thick you want it. If the yogurt turns out thicker than you like, you can simply stir some of the whey back in.

In terms of yogurt, the whey is waste, but you can use it to soak grains, mixing it into soups, or fermenting kimchi. You can even use it in breads.

Well, that’s it my friends! Let’s fall in love with the process. Be it yogurt making or other homemade goodness, let’s celebrate creating with our hands.

 

BUSY DAY IN THE KITCHEN

I wanted to start this post off by telling you about how I fell in love with muffins. From my very first bite of my very first muffin (it was blueberry), I knew I needed to have one again.

Though that is true, the morning I made these muffins was less than dreamily nostalgic and enthralling.

Ehem. The other morning I awoke to my alarm, galloping to the kitchen to check in on my yogurt cultivating away on the counter. However, what I found was not yogurt but warmed milk. I also had glorious plans to make muffins for breakfast. It soon became a hectic time of googling how to save my crockpot yogurt and attempting to make muffins. I’ll just tell you now that it all worked out beautifully :) (my “saved” yogurt turned out amazing, and if it turns out that well again, you can bet you’ll be hearing about it), but there was a little crazy in there too.

Proof

I have read about these muffins many times from, you guessed it, 1 Cup Awesome. If you tell me something has brown butter in it, you can bet I’ll be making it or having a bite of yours. I first fell in love with the nutty goodness of brown butter while working at a local bakery preparing the financier (fee-nuhn-see-ay), small French teacakes made with almond flour and what have you. I should probably go have one right now.

This muffin recipe can be found here. These were really quick and required few ingredients which I became even more thankful for considering the morning debacle. To half of the batter, I added about 1/4 cup chopped pecans and 1 Tbs ground flax seeds. I kept it original for “Dave’s muffins”. I like to eat them warmed up with a bit of butter. Now the enthralling can commence.

PROSCUITTO EGG CUPS

I have had this recipe saved for quite sometime. I swiped this magazine from my mom because there is a section with the best of the midwest chocolate chip cookies. When I initially looked through it I also dog-eared the corner of this recipe.

At the time, I knew it wasn’t something I could eat but thought it would be so fun and cute to make for overnight guests at some point in my life. And I forgot about it. THEN, July of last year, I found myself healed of all of the food allergies that had been plaguing me for so long! When my friends Dave and Sarah posted their Proscuitto Egg Cups, I remembered this magazine and knew I had better get to it!

I placed oven-safe ramekins on a baking sheet and began to build. We layered the proscuitto, spinach, cheese, egg, and a tish more cheese :) And into the oven at 375° for 20-25 minutes until the eggs were firm. Dave was delighted when he found out he was allowed to eat two of them :) This is a quick stunner if you ask me. I used gouda for the cheese, but your favorite will surely work great. Normally, I would have added some fresh parsley but we didn’t have any that day. Keep it simple and use what you have on hand! I can’t imagine these turning out poorly.