engagement raspberry crisp.

 

I am calling it “engagement berry crisp” solely because Christian and I made this together 2 days after we got engaged, and I’m still beaming and want to talk about it! So there.

While this crisp has almost nothing to do with our engagement, it is simple and delicious and easy to love. It’s also a nice way to showcase raspberries, which are in abudance and at the height of their deliciousness right now. I use less sugar in my crisps because I think the berries should really shine; I like them to stand out more than the sugar, and they bring enough sweetness all on their lonesome.

What’s your favorite summer dessert? Do you prefer crisps or pies? I love both, but the former are so easy to whip up that I can’t help but love them.

lv, molly

P.S. Christian put the butter with its wrapper on in the microwave, and it exploded. He has something to learn about baking, but I think I can teach him! (I also conveniently got the ring in the picture of Christian with his exploded butter. Ha. I’m creepy.)

P.P.S. He replaced my tire this morning after it had a nail in it. Looks like I have something to learn about car maintenance. (I didn’t even know where the spare tire was…)

Engagement Raspberry Crisp

3 C raspberries
1 Tbl (Heaping) cornstarch
1/3 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (I love the latter!)
1 C white whole wheat flour
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C brown Sugar
1/3 cup oats
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Pinch of salt
3/4 sticks butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine (rinsed) raspberries, corn starch, 2/3 cups sugar, and vanilla. Stir and set aside.

In a separate bowl (or food processor) combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, brown sugar, oats, pecans, dash of salt, and butter pieces. Cut together with a pastry cutter (or pulse in food processor) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add berry mixture to a small baking dish or pie pan. Sprinkle topping mixture all over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.
Allow to sit for ten minutes before serving. Scoop out with a spoon and top with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

We had a little extra topping and decided to make 2 mini crisps in ramekins with some strawberries that were on their last leg. Delicious!!

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broken bones & some good banana bread.

As of late, I have had a series of moments that have convinced those around me that I am Tina Fey’s twin (more like Liz Lemon’s twin, but I think my comparison is more flattering…). It started out with having stress fractures in one foot, which led to me having crutches, which resulted in me losing parts of the crutches and sending my 6th graders on a “scavenger hunt” to find them. I was the only one to win that game.

But wait; there’s more! Now I have not one but two broken feet! (I feel like an informercial– “if you call within 2 minutes, a second chopping ninja is included!”–, but the addition of the second broken foot isn’t convincing you to order anything.) This is the result of having low bone density and increasing the duration/frequency of my workouts too quickly. Please don’t do that.

With rest and a very sexy boot, I’m on the road to recovery and feeling remarkably better after only  a week.  I even have a stool in the kitchen that I sit on as I cook (thanks, Christian!). This may strike you as sad; to me, it’s inventive!

And so, all of this information is intended to do two things: inspire pity so you won’t judge me when I tell you I’ve been watching “Pretty Little Liars” (I’ve been watching “Pretty Little Liars”) and convince you to make some fine banana bread with the very ripe bananas you may currently have in your pantry.

lv, molly

P.S. I made it through the school year! It is officially summer. :)

Olive Oil Banana Bread w. Chocolate Chips

Makes 1 bundt loaf*

*I used a bundt pan because then it feels like you’re eating cake. A regular loaf pan would certainly suffice, if you prefer to convince yourself you are eating bread.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup dark muscovado or dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 C coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups VERY ripe bananas (~3 bananas)
1/4 C plain, whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9- by 5- inch (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan or bundt pan, or equivalent.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the chocolate; combine well.

In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, eggs, mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. Don’t overbake! When it’s lightly browned, take it out. Err on the side of underbaking so you don’t lose the moisture.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes; then turn the loaf out of the pan to cool completely.

Enjoy plain or with peanut butter, honey, or any other toppings you can dream up.

YUM!

chocolate guinness cake.

I’ve written about this cake before mainly because I’m, well, kind of obsessed with it. It’s the perfect chocolate cake; it manages to taste rich without being overly sweet, chocolatey with just a hint of my favorite stout.

If there were a cake that’s perfect for a midwest guy, this is it. Generalizations aside, Christian loves beer and knows a whole lot about it. Why not bake a stout cake for Valentine’s Day? Who’s a genius? (I’d declare “I am!” but when I inquired about dessert requests, Christian suggested it. I chose the entree: veggie lasagna and a simple green salad.)

How was your V.D.? (Ha…hahaha.)

Did you manage to avoid the stereotypical pitfalls, like eating heart-shaped chocolate, watching a Julia Roberts movie, or crying alone? Most years I’ve watched a cheesy movie while eating copious amounts of popcorn. One particularly sad year I found myself watching a documentary about WWI while eating Kraft mac and cheese.

This year’s was a lovely, lovely day; I had my cake and ate it too. And I’m totally cool with cliches because, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day, the biggest cliche of all.

lv, molly

Chocolate Stout Cake

1 C stout (such as Guinness)
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 C all purpose flour
2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 C sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well; don’t miss any spots! Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool a little.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture, and beat just to combine; don’t overwork it. Add flour mixture, and beat briefly on slow speed. Using a spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Serve with unsweetened freshly whipped cream.

chocolate turnovers and poor taste.

A friend of mine is hosting a clothing swap today– the perfect time to pawn off some of my embarrassing clothing choices on unsuspecting souls. Let’s hope they have better taste than I.

To soften the blow of my horrible additions to the party (there’s a Jessica Simpson dress involved, yikes), I’ve decided to bring chocolate turnovers. Perfect finger food, delicious, simple. My kind of dessert.

I’ve made these before but decided to post again. Why not?

lv, molly

5 Ingredient Chocolate Turnovers

Makes 18 turnovers

Baker’s semisweet chocolate squares, cut into quarters
1 package puff pastry
1 egg
Dash of water
Flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Defrost the puff pastry. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Cut each sheet into 9 squares. Place a piece of chocolate in the middle of each.
Beat an egg with 1 tsp water.
Brush perpendicular sides with egg wash. Fold over; pinch the triangles with your fingertips. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Brush tops with more egg wash.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Cool on a rack.

humble & wholesome apple cake.

Happy Halloween, ya’ll!*

*I just saw a video of Paula Dean getting hit in the head with a frozen ham and have subsequently said “ya’ll” a lot. I’ll be honest; this wasn’t the first time I’ve watched this video, nor will it be the last.

Here is a recipe for apple cake that Heidi Swanson calls “unfussy,” and she’s absolutely right. This cake is humble and beautiful with its little red flecks of apples that dot the cake. [You don’t have to peel apples for this cake, which is awesome because a. it’s a time savor and 2. the peels are so nutritious that I hate wasting them.]

Any exciting plans for Halloween? I plan on trying to stop myself from eating the candy I bought for the trick or treaters (sorry, kids, I ate all your candy!) and watching “American Horror Story” (to which, as of 24 hours ago, I am now addicted). I didn’t dress up, but I did bring a talking skull to school, and I think that makes me a reasonably festive teacher.

Back to the cake…

I used the surplus of apples from my parents’ garden, and they worked perfectly for this. Tart, sweet, and a beautiful rosy red color. You may use granny smith, but I think red apples simply look prettier in this cake. And don’t expect sweet- it’s not that sweet; it’s simple and tastes wholesome. Just what I like in a warm, cozy fall dessert.

lv, molly

Humble Apple Cake

2 C sweet, crisp red apples, cut into 1/4 cubes (peel on)
lemon juice
2 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbl baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C dark Muscavado sugar (or other fine-grain natural cane or brown sugar)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 C buttermilk
1/4 C butter, melted and cooled a bit
3 Tbl large grain sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees, racks in the middle. Grease one 9-inch square or circular baking dish.

Chop apples, and put in a bowl with water and a dash of lemon juice.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until barely combined– don’t overmix. Now drain the apples, shake off any excess water, and fold the apples into the cake batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, pushing it out toward the edges. Sprinkle with most of the large grain sugar. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cake is just set and a touch golden on top.

Serves about 12. Goes wonderfully with plain whipped cream or a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

almond flour… who knew it’s this good?

Have you heard of Gojee? It’s [yet another] recipe search engine that’s filled with beautiful photos and seemingly excellent recipes, but I think it may be even more user friendly than Google recipes. I found this recipe using Gojee and thought I’d pass it along. :)

I was intrigued by the idea of almond flour for two reasons; I think I consume too much wheat (snooooze, I’ll stop there), and I love baked goods that pack a little more protein than the average. Almond flour is simply a whole lot of almonds very finely ground, so with every cookie you get a nice serving of protein and healthy fats. Plus, whatever you bake will have a hint of almond flavor. Yum.

The subtle taste of almonds combined with dark chocolate and a hint of salt makes for an unusually delicious cookie with a wonderfully soft texture. I’ve never tasted anything like them, and Christian and I have fallen hard for this recipe. (He assisted in the kitchen, and in an ironic turn of events, I messed up with baking. Yes. I did. I doubled the cocoa powder, so I insisted we double the recipe to compensate for the extra cocoa powder… Lucky for us, these cookies are great and they freeze well.)

I’ve never made gluten free cookies without some strange combination of sorghum flour or tapioca, but this recipe doesn’t need either. The consistency of the cookies was exactly what you’d hope for with a chocolate chip cookie, and they’re secretly a little healthy. What more could you ask for?

And now that I have all this almond flour… ideas for how to use it?

lv, molly

P.S. Should I be embarrassed that I listen to Beyonce while I bake? This has been a subject of mockery as of late… but I’m going to keep on listening because I love dramatic solos, horrible electric guitar, and cheesy lyrics. I just can’t help myself.

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

Makes about a dozen– we doubled the recipe, and I highly recommend it…

1/2 cup butter or oil (we used vegetable oil to cut back on the saturated fat)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbl vanilla extract
400g (roughly 1 cup and 2/3) blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
100g coarsely chopped dark chocolate (70%)

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, combine butter or oil and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
Add dry ingredients to wet and combine until well incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
(Try not to eat the batter. It’s really, really good.)

Spoon large dollops of the batter onto a non-stick or lined baking tray, and flatten with fingertips. These cookies don’t spread out as much in the oven as your standard cookie, so it’s best to flatten them a little. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and cool on a rack. Makes about 1 dozen cookies.

on pie contests and going on 75-years-old.

Notice the skull on top of the fridge... That is for Halloween, and it talks. Also, it legitimately freaks me out and should probably be stored elsewhere.

Before the competition…
I’m feeling a little ridiculous and a lot elderly, as it’s 7:30 a.m., and some homemade pie crust is already chilling in the fridge. Also, I’m wearing a bright green dress that puffs out and is straight out of 1986.

This recipe, using both crisco and butter, seems extra flaky, and I’m excited to test the results… The dough is slightly less pliable than the all-butter crust (perhaps because I didn’t add enough water?), but it has little streaks of butter, and I just know this is going to turn out all right. (I’m trying to embrace Kate McDermott’s positive thinking.)

Update…
The pie is now in the oven, and our entire apartment smells of pie. Again. Now I’m twiddling my thumbs, thinking about curricula, and hoping that this pie isn’t an epic fail. Also, why did this song come on Pandora? Okay, who am I kidding, I love it.

After baking…
Ooh! It’s done! Perfectly browned! Bubbling berries! Crispy and flaky! Pie perfection! (Aside from a little lattice error, that is…)
State fair, here we (the pie and I) come!

Following the pie contest protocol with my 3x5 index card...

After the fair…
After getting lost, wandering the empty fairgrounds while carrying a pie, and receiving perplexed looks from others, I found the barn where people submit their baked goods, and I talked with sweet bakers about their baking. Despite all the good-natured small talk, the air of serious competition never lifted.

I was by far the youngest in biological age (in terms of hobbies, we were all about the same), and most people submitted multiple things. One pie for me, thank you very much. I loved the ladies’ enthusiasm for baking and for the fair itself, and I found myself talking to other bakers in a barn for far too long. Is that embarrassing?

The fair itself isn’t today, but judges taste today, and results are posted at the fair later in the week.

Not in Seattle anymore....

Look out later this week, when I’ll let you know if I got a ribbon! (Aren’t you on the edge of your seat?!) But I still have one winner to announce, and that’s a reader named Andy. He commented regularly and offered wonderful pie-baking tips. His link to Kate McDermott’s site, and his expertise on butter and lard (which I think gives him bragging rights) helped me create a better pie and be a better baker. Andy, please email me at molly.joie@gmail.com, and I’ll send you a little prize! Congratulations!

The lady in the Ichiro jersey bringing my pie to the judges!

State Fair Blackberry Pie

2 1/2 C all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbl high-fat European butter, such as Kerrygold
8 Tbl crisco
7+ Tbl ice-cold water

5-6 C blackberries, rinsed, picked clean, patted dry (if you use frozen berries, defrost and drain them)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your pie)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 Tbl instant tapioca (in the baking aisle)

egg white
sugar

Freeze the butter and crisco. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Grate or cut crisco and butter into small squares. Toss with flour mixture. Add ice water until the dough combines into a ball and before it gets sticky. Divide into two balls; flatten into discs; and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. If the berries are extra-ripe, add a little more tapioca flour to soak up the juice.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out one disc of dough until its diameter is about an inch wider than your pan. Place in pan, and fill with dough. Then make your lattice top (or whatever design you fancy), and brush the dough with egg white, and sprinkle with sugar. (If you are making a lattice, top, use this tutorial.)

Place pie on a baking sheet, to catch any berries that bubble over. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Cook for 35-45 minutes more, until crust is nicely browned and filling is bubbling hot. Serve a la mode, and then play bridge like you’re in your 80s.

Best pie I've ever made!

Care to know the results and how I placed in the state fair? Hint: this pie rocks. Click here!

it’s pie time…

This pie is filled to the brim with berries.

There was a guiding principle behind the creation of this pie, and it goes like this. You don’t win a pie-baking contest by baking a nutritious pie. You win by making a kick-*** pie.

There’s no time to explain to the judges, “I used spelt and whole wheat flours to lower the glycemic index!” or “I used agave instead of processed sugar!” No, no readers. It’s time for full-on butter and lots of it. (Side note: I don’t think that nutrition and taste are competitors; in fact, I think they’re often in line. But in this context, my only focus is on taste because I’d like to claim a title in the baking contest. Ridiculous, I know.) The key is the grating of the butter and not over-mixing; you want to see flakes of butter in the dough. I took a picture of this, but the camera died, so the pictures don’t show this. But trust me; it’s magnificent. (I may be employing some hyperbole here.)

I used a hybrid recipe, inspired by Gavin’s and Reed’s suggestions. (Thanks, Gents! If this pie is the tastiest, you’ll both get a little prize!)

The guiding techniques are as follows:
1. Freeze a high-fat European butter, such as Kerrygold (available at TJ’s), and grate it into the dough
2. Try blueberries this time so your boyfriend doesn’t get sick of blackberry pie
3. Use apple cider vinegar to break down some gluten in the dough
4. Snack on plantain chips (why not?)
5. Listen to soothing, hippie music as you roll the dough

Questions to ask yourself as you’re making the pie:
1. Can I see the butter in the dough? Good.
2. Do I want to eat this? Yes.
3. Who will I share it with? Me?

As you’re making the dough, particularly after you’ve mixed in the grated butter, you’ll see that it’s beginning to take on the desired flaky texture. If you’re like me, you’ll jump with joy and feel you may be nearing the creation of the perfect pie crust (arguably, the holy grail of baking). The filling is fragrant and delicious; the dash of almond extract provides a wonderful, indescribable depth to the filling, so don’t skip it.

Okay, let’s cut the chatter and get to the pie. lv, molly

P.S. In the next few days I’ll try the recipe from The Art Of Pie (minus the lard) and post the results!

Blueberry Pie with Flaky Crust

For the dough:
2 1/2 C all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl sugar
1/2 lb frozen European-style unsalted butter (I recommend Kerrygold)
3/4 C ice water, combined with
2 tbsp cider vinegar

For the filling:
5 C blueberries, rinsed, picked clean, patted dry
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 Tbl tapioca flour (in the baking aisle)

Let’s make the dough first. In Gavin’s words, which I found particularly helpful: “Freeze the butter in advance. Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Then use a cheese grater to grate the cold butter into the bowl. Don’t touch it! If you use a spatula to scoop under the butter, through the flour and up, it will coat the shreds of butter with flour and stop them from sticking to each other. Gently, gently, gently.” In a separate bowl, combine ice water and apple cider vinegar. Slowly add to the dough mixture, and mix gently until the dough combines into a ball. Separate into two disks; wrap in plastic bags; and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the blueberries with all the other ingredients. Let sit for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Time to assemble… Roll out one disk at a time. If you want to make it easier, roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, so the dough doesn’t stick to the rolling pin or wine bottle or whatever you use to roll dough. Lay the bottom piece of dough in a greased pie dish. Fill with berries. Then proceed to make a lattice top. I love to cut the pieces using a pizza cutter, as I find it easiest this way.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350, and bake for 35-45 minutes more. Pie is finished when filling begins to bubble and the crust is golden brown.

ENJOY A LA MODE OR ALL ON ITS LONESOME! Don’t forget to share with loved ones because that’s what baking a pie is all about.

Slowly pour in the water/ apple cider vinegar mixture. Mix loosely, and store dough in plastic wrap or bags for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Flavor the blueberries with cinnamon and almond extract.

Roll each disc of dough between sheets of parchment paper.

Piled high with berries.

I make lattice tops using a pizza cutter while wearing jorts.

Still need to work a bit on the lattice, and I overbaked it SLIGHTLY... but look how flaky the crust is!

Hanging out in jean shorts, holding a pie. I'm not awkward at all!

And finally, the music that accompanied the pie-baking. “Skinny Love” came on as I grated 1/2 lb. of butter into the dough. Perfect. I also listened to to Beyonce– pretty much her new album in its entirety… twice.

mountains, owls, cookies, & pasta. oh my!

Yesterday I climbed a mountain. The pictures speak for themselves, so I’d prefer to move on to other more important things (owl paintings and food), rather than tiring you with my tales of scrambling up a snow-covered mountain. However, I can’t move on without telling you that climbing Granite Mountain was an awe-inspiring experience. And I feel so lucky to be able to go someplace so beautiful.

Today has been eventful and perfectly lovely. Janna, Elana, and Janna’s friend Jamie, and I all went to Urban Craft Uprising, where crafters unite and rise against non-crafters, effectively staging a coup d’etat. Actually, that’s not it at all. There are a lot of lovely, talented people who make nice things with yarn, paint, and metals. That’s it, and it’s great (no politics or uprisings involved). I got a print for Christian that was by my friend Irene (check out her work here). An adorable owl with a little sass, this print is a welcome addition to our apartment. Irene paints myriad other animals, and she illustrated a children’s book about Toyko to boot.

For dinner, I decided to make a healthy swiss chard pasta with white wine, red pepper, garlic, veggie sausage, and fresh chard from the market. It was yummy, filling, and wholesome, especially after a weekend filled with walking (and did I mention I climbed a mountain?). I followed a recipe from Giada De Laurentis– the Food Channel goddess whose recipes are so simple that they sometimes need a little tweaking to be more flavorful. Naturally, I added a bit more spice and a little more wine.

And for dessert? None other than some slightly hippie-rific cookies that taste almost like your standard chocolate chip cookie, save for a little twist. Or a little zest, if you will (eek, that’s pretty terrible… sorry). Christian suggested we add  orange zest, and at first I was vehemently opposed. I don’t like messing with the integrity of a good chocolate chip cookie. But then I tried them, and I had a hard time stopping myself from eating more than a couple. They’re that good, and they’ll leave your guests wondering what makes these cookies a little extra special. Don’t tell them; it’s fun to have secret recipes.

I hope you enjoyed your summer weekend too! I have a fabulous strawberry shortcake recipe to post soon, and I can’t wait to make it with some fresh strawberries. What are your favorite summer recipes?

And without further adieu, dessert first. lv, molly

Vegan Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 C spelt flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C granulated sugar
1/3 C brown rice syrup
1/3 C canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C chocolate chips
1 1/2 Tbl orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or spray with nonstick spray.
In one bowl, thoroughly stir together spelt flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar.
In a second bowl, stir together the syrup, oil, and vanilla extract.
Add the oil mixture to the spelt mixture, and stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and orange zest without over-mixing. The dough won’t stick together entirely (there will be some crumbs), but that’s okay. They bake well, and you don’t need to add any extra liquid.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet, and bake for 11 minutes. Let cool on a baking rack.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Swiss Chard

1 Tbl olive oil
3 veggie (or regular) Italian sausages, crumbled or sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped (about 7 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juices
1/3 C dry white wine
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
Salt and pepper
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
1/4 C pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 Tbl freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
2 Tbl toasted pine nuts

Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Then add the sausage, and cook a few minutes more, until slightly browned, and the onions are caramelized. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chard and saute until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, wine, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and the chard is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Season the chard mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the spaghetti. Add the spaghetti to the chard mixture and toss to combine.

easy vegan muffins that actually, you know, taste good.

I don’t want to admit which famous-actor-gone-cook from whom I stole this recipe because her foray into country music left me feeling awkward for her. However, I flipped through her cookbook the other day and was impressed by the simplicity, creativity, and health of the recipes, so I can’t mock her too much. Conclusion: I think she may actually be a good cook, and these muffins are tasty and far healthier than the usual variety, as they have no refined sugars, flours, or saturated fat.

And they’re moist. (Between you and me, the word “moist” creeps me out. But it’s true!) Whenever I’ve made vegan muffins in the past, they were never quite right. Something seemed to be missing. But I would never guess that these were vegan or really any different from a standard muffin.

I made a few adaptations based on what I had on hand. You can use whichever berries you prefer (the original recipe called for blueberries), even frozen. Fresh berries are so expensive that I usually opt to use frozen berries in baked goods. However, word to the wise if you use the frozen variety: toss the berries with a little flour to soak up extra moisture. Otherwise, you can be left with some unsightly muffins. Alternatively, you can place frozen berries in the muffin tins as you add the batter, instead of mixing all together, to prevent the color from the berries dyeing the batter.

Enjoy these for breakfast or an afternoon snack! lv, molly

Vegan Berry Muffins

Makes about 1 dozen

1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 C soymilk
1/2 C pure maple syrup
1/4 C light agave nectar or honey
1 C white spelt flour
1 C whole spelt flour or 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 C fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, whatever berry you fancy most

Heat oven to 375°. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk oil, soymilk, syrup, and nectar in a bowl. Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in another bowl. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients; fold in berries (if using frozen, see above). Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown and a knife comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

And what music accompanied the baking of said muffins? you may ask. (Or not. But I’m going to tell you anyway.) Some good ol’ hippierific music by The Avett Brothers.

toffee apple tart.

{This is what this post is about! The dulce de leche bubbled over, creating a delicious mess.}

One morning I was flipping through my cookbooks, as I do, when Christian pointed out how incredible Jamie Oliver’s Toffee Apple tart looks. Smooth caramel with baked apples, all encrusted with flaky buttery dough dusted with lemon zest? It looked like the grown-up version of a kid’s treat. Naturally, it was added to my mental “things to bake” list and quickly moved to the top of the queue, bypassing homemade oreos and buttermilk cake.

Granted, my tart doesn’t look as beautiful as Mr. Oliver’s. I don’t have a food stylist (excuses, excuses), and the dulce de leche bubbled over the tart pan (see safety measures below), which created equal parts lovely smell and disconcerting smoke coming out of the oven. While this tart isn’t perfect-looking, it tastes delicious-o and warm and comforting and will make your friends happy.

I feel like I’m one of those bakers who’s sneakily preparing someone’s favorite baked good only to surprise him/her with it. But this wouldn’t be an accurate description of my preparation of the tart, as A. I’m not capable of being sneaky (tangent: when I was little, my dad cautioned me against my dream of becoming a spy; he didn’t want my hopes to be crushed when the CIA realized I could not employ any degree of subtlety) and B. I’ve announced for the past 5 days that Wednesday would be the day that I would bake the Toffee Apple Tart. So the rouse is up. But still– who could complain? Here’s how you make it. Be prepared with some parchment paper on hand to avoid some mishaps. lv, molly

P.S. – Before you begin, read through the directions thoroughly. Am I scaring you yet? Excellent. While this recipe doesn’t require a lot of active work time, it does take a long time overall; the dulce de leche cooks for over an hour, and the dough needs to refrigerate for 2 hours total. So make this when you’ve got a big window of time to occasionally stir the dulce de leche, check the fridge, and then peel and core the apples and assemble the tart.

Toffee Apple Tart

For the shortcut pastry
5 Tbl unsalted butter
1 C powdered sugar
a pinch of salt
2 scant C all purpose flour (or half AP/ half whole wheat pastry flour)
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 egg yolks, room temp
3 Tbl cold milk

For the filling
2 14 oz cans condensed milk OR 2 jars of Dulce de Leche*
4 medium-sized cooking apples (I recommend Braeburn, Bramley, or Granny Smith)
2 heaping Tbl powdered sugar
* In Seattle, it’s available at Pasta & Co., but it’ll cost you a pretty penny– $10 per 16 oz. as opposed to about $3 for 28 oz. of condensed milk.

To make the dulce de leche

The safer Molly-recommended method
Using a double boiler will prevent any cans from exploding in your kitchen. [This is generally something I like to avoid when baking.] Open the cans of condensed milk, and pour into the top portion of the double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler, see here. Fill the bottom pot of the double boiler with enough water that the top pot is half way submerged. Cook over low-medium heat (you don’t want it to boil, just gently warm over a long period of time so the sugar caramelizes). Stir every 10-15 minutes, and remove from heat after 80-100 minutes. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

The less safe, Jamie Oliver-recommended method
Put your unopened cans of condensed milk in a large pan. Add enough water to cover the tops of the cans. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat, and simmer constantly for 3 hours with the lid on top. It’s important to check the pan to check the water levels– you’ll need to add more water every 30 mins. or so to avoid boiling dry. The cans can explode if you don’t top off the water! After 3 hours, puts the cans aside and allow to cool. You’ll have some amazing toffee.

To make the pastry

Cream the butter, sugar, and salt. Then add the flour, lemon zest, and egg yolks, and mix gently by hand or with a wooden spoon. (You may also use a food processor.) When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, add the cold milk. Gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly, and roll it into a large log-shape. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove from the fridge; slice it up; and line an 11″ tart mold with the slices. Push them together and tidy up the sides by trimming off any excess dough. Place the tart mold in the freezer for an hour.

And now… the tart’s creation!

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Peel and quarter the apples. Remove the cores; then slice finely, and toss in the powdered sugar. Remove the pastry base from the freezer, and smear with the caramel. Place the apples on top, and pour any remaining juices in too. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This will prevent a messy cleanup if the caramel bubbles over the side! Cook at the bottom of the oven for 40 minutes; this will give you a crisp base and bubbling toffee over the apples. Let sit for 1-2 hours when done; this will allow the super hot dulce de leche to cool down and become thicker.

And the illustrated version…

{Step 1: Make the dulce de leche. I opted for the non-explosive method.}

{Step 2: Make the dough, and roll it tightly into a log. Refrigerate.  Side note: these look like mom jeans.}

{Step 3: Right before the dough’s ready to come out of the freezer, peel + slice apples + toss them with sugar.}

{Step 4.  Assemble tart. I no doubt added too much dolce de leche, so see my preventative tip above. If you have extra, store in the fridge in a tight container– it will keep for up to a month.}

And lastly, while this song didn’t accompany the creation of the tart, I think it perfectly embodies what an apple tart with toffee is all about.

best scones ever.

+

=

And savory at that! I usually appreciate the sweet variety, but man oh man, are these good. I decided to make them because I have a surplus of fresh dill and didn’t want it to go to waste. And imagine the possibilities! Using this basic recipe, I’m sure you could use a variety of herbs (even scallions) and cheeses.

I subbed half whole wheat flour to make them ever so slightly better for you. Inspired by this recipe by Ina Garten, which I halved because I didn’t want 16 scones; there can be too much of a good thing after all. Enjoy! lv, molly

PS- The cheese will run out of the scones slightly and cook on the pan, creating wonderful crispy cheese bits (see photo) on the outside of the scones. I could barely stop myself from eating them all…

Cheddar-Dill Scones

Makes 8 scones

1 C all-purpose flour
1 C plus 1 Tbl whole wheat flour
1 Tbl baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 oz cold unsalted butter (1.5 sticks), diced
2 extra-large eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 C cold heavy cream or buttermilk
1/4 pound extra-sharp cheddar, small-diced
1/2 C minced fresh dill
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbl water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternatively, you can just use a mixing bowl and a spoon– that’s what I did). Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. (Or use the back of a wooden spoon.) Mix the eggs and heavy cream, and quickly add them to the flour mixture. Combine until just blended; don’t overmix. Toss together the Cheddar, dill, and 1 Tbl flour, and add to the dough. Mix until they are almost incorporated.
Put the dough onto a well-floured surface, and knead for 1 minute, until the Cheddar and dill are evenly distributed. Roll the dough 3/4-inch thick circle. Cut into circle in half, and the cut each half into 4 triangles. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with nonstick spray for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked. Enjoy!

IT’S TIME TO BAKE!

{look how awkward I am! / look how nice the muffins turned out!}

Hello, it’s me! I’m back; I’m running and baking regularly again! Today I chose to make Banana Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins, and trust me, these are ridiculously good. Plus, muffins freeze well for up to a month, so I’ll freeze the majority of these, then pop them in the microwave when I want a muffin on a cold morning.

I don’t want to talk more about them because I want to go cook more, and I think the name and the pictures speak for themselves. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor: bake these muffins this weekend (or for Mother’s Day!).
lv, molly

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
Yields 12-16 muffins (I got 14)

1-1/2 C mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4)
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 C whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 C semisweet chocolate chips

{yes, please!}

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, sugars, butter, milk, and egg. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Do not over-mix, or the muffins will be too tough.
Fill each cup about 3/4 full. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Move the muffin pan to a cooling rack, and let cool for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the muffins from the pan, and let them finish cooling on the cooling rack. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to a month.