Easter Brunch

Happy Easter to everyone! Because of the pandemic of Covid19 and social distancing, this year’s celebration was a tad different than in the past.

Paul and I decided to invite his mom and my parents (who are so bored being isolated like this) over for a social distancing Easter brunch. They jumped at the chance!

In planning for this, Paul and I thought it would be good to support a local business to help us throw this shin dig. It turns out that Anderson’s (best hot chocolate EVER) is open and just so happens to be owned by our neighbors up the street (learned that little fact last weekend). They have an amazing danish bakery and restaurant. We went a little crazy and ordered a TON of food. They were incredibly grateful and so were our tummies

If at all possible, during this time, support local businesses. They need our help!

Chocolate Olive Oil Brownies

Wow.  Just wow!

Imagine the moistest, most chocolatey, rich brownie you have ever tasted and multiply that by a thousand.

These are decadent, indulgent, and crazy delicious!  Next time that I make these (and yes, there will be a next time for sure) I might add a teaspoon of cinnamon just for fun.

Regardless of what you add and/or how you serve them, they are wonderful and so easy to make.  Go for it!!!

By the way, this photo does not show the reality of my attempt to flip the brownies onto a tray.  One third of the brownie batch landed on the tray while two thirds stuck to the pan.  I managed to make it look like they held together in this picture but alas, nope.  Total mess, utter failure, but tasted great!

Olive Oil Brownies (recipe care of sweetestmenu.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  120 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar, 90 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar, 3 large eggs, 40 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, 70 grams (1/2 cup) plain flour, 75 grams (1/2 cup) chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F) standard / 160 C (320 F) fan-forced. Line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking or parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, add olive oil, vanilla and sugars and mix briefly.  In a separate bowl, add eggs and whisk with a fork for approximately 30 seconds or until combined.  Add eggs to sugar mixture, along with cocoa powder, flour and chocolate chips. Gently mix with a spoon or spatula to combine. Pour into prepared tin.  Bake for approximately 28-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly before removing from pan. They will firm up as they cool. Serve with ice cream or cream.

Rosemary Garlic Buttermilk Biscuits

“One!  One buttermilk biscuit!  Ha ha ha!  Two!  Two buttermilk biscuits!”  After asking Paul to choose the size of the biscuit cutter he wanted me to use, he decided to count out each biscuit as I cut them like Count from Sesame Street.  He seriously cracks me up!

My friend from high school, Darrin, is a big supporter of my cooking adventures.  Every once in a while he’ll send me recipes to inspire me.  The other day he shared an article about how baking can lift your spirits.  It was well written and so true!

Paul and I are not struggling in these very strange times; we can easily find fun activities to pass the time mainly because we’re outdoorsy goofballs.  But there are a lot of people who are having a tough time navigating through all of this.  To all of those people… go forth and bake!

Pick a tempting recipe, turn on your favorite music, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea or hot lemon water or mimosa or whatever your fancy, dance around the kitchen, and bake your anxiety away.

Notes:

This recipe does not call for garlic but we are garlic lovers (that’s an understatement) so I added in about 1 1/2 or 2 teaspoons of finely minced garlic.  I also added in extra rosemary.

Paul was playing with the excess dough and created a thin circle biscuit.  After baking, it had the consistency of a cracker.  He came up with a fun alternative to a biscuit.

Rosemary Buttermilk Biscuits (recipe care of oliveandartisan.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  2 ½ cups flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ cup butter (chilled), 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary chopped, 1 cup cold buttermilk, 2 tablespoons butter for the pan and for finishing

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Sift flour, salt, baking powder into a bowl.  Grate chilled butter with a box grater and incorporate it into the dry ingredients.  Chop fresh rosemary and put it directly into the buttermilk.  Pour rosemary buttermilk into a crater made in the flour butter mixture and stir until it forms a ball.  Turn out on a floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll into a 3/4-inch thick rectangle. Fold into a smaller rectangle and repeat about 4 more times. This will give your biscuits the layered consistency we love. The goal is to have butter speckled dough, so keep it cool by not using your warm hands too much.  When ready, roll the dough until 3/4 –inch think and cut with a biscuit cutter (the top of a water glass will work too). Use the scraps to roll out and repeat until most, if not all, the dough is used. It should yield 10 biscuits when using a 2 inch biscuit cutter.  Place onto a buttered glass pan and bake about 15 minutes until just turning golden brown. Do not over bake. Brush the top of the hot biscuits with butter and sprinkle with sea salt.

Shepherd’s Pie

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Many moons ago (many, many moons ago), I flew to Ireland to attend a semester abroad at University College Cork.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.

In addition to meeting the most wonderfully lovely people and learning about a fascinatingly beautiful culture and attempting (and totally failing) to learn Irish, I had a blast trying different Irish dishes.

One of these dishes was traditional shepherd’s pie.  My Irish roommate made this fabulously simple yet delicious and hearty dinner for my Polish and Italian roommates and luckily, me.

This was my first attempt at making a shepherd’s pie and although there was a ton of chopping of ingredients, it’s a really easy recipe.  I should’ve let the liquid reduce more; the meat was a touch runny.  And the potatoes were a bit chunkier than I would’ve preferred.  But the flavors were on point.

Notes:  1.  I used WAY more butter than called for by “accident” (keeping to my Irish roots).  2.  I used WAY more garlic than called for, not by “accident” (breaking from my Irish roots).  3.  In an attempt to make this a touch healthier, I used ground chicken instead of lamb and beef.

Shepherd’s Pie (recipe care of rachelraymag.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  4 large russet potatoes (peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes), Salt, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 3 tbsp. butter, 1 lb. ground sirloin, 1 lb. ground lamb, Pepper, 1 small onion (finely chopped), 1 carrot (chopped), 1 stalk celery (finely chopped), 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (chopped), 2 cloves garlic (chopped), 1 tsp. ground caraway or whole caraway seeds, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 2 tbsp. flour, 1/2 cup white wine or dry sherry, 1 can (10.5 oz.) beef consommé or 1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup fresh chives (chopped), 1 large egg yolk, About 8 oz. shredded Gruyère or white cheddar, 1/3 cup (a handful) fresh flatleaf parsley (finely chopped)

DIRECTIONS:  In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Salt the water and reduce heat a bit to keep the water at a gentle boil. Cook the potatoes until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat a large castiron skillet over medium-high. Add the oil, one turn of the pan, then add 1 tbsp. butter. When the butter melts, add the ground meat; cook, stirring often and breaking up the meat with a spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Add the onion, carrot, celery, Worcestershire, thyme, garlic, caraway, and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the wine and consommé and stir until thickened, about a minute. Reduce heat enough to maintain a simmer.  Turn on the broiler.  Drain the potatoes. Using a potato ricer or food mill, puree the potatoes back into the hot pot. Mix in the remaining 2 tbsp. butter, the sour cream, chives, and egg yolk; season.  Spread the potatoes over the meat and veggies in the skillet. Top with the cheese. Broil until the top is browned and the edges bubble, about 4 minutes. Top with the parsley. Serve the pie directly from the skillet.

Basic Muffins

Well since the apocalypse has happened and everyone has emptied the shelves in every grocery store in America, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to bake yesterday morning.

I’m joking (kind of) but it is crazy to see entire sections of stores look like ghost towns.  Paul and I were able to get all of the usual things we buy each week, thankfully.  But I can only imagine how difficult these times are for people.

In an attempt to create some sense of calm and comfort, I wanted to share the absolute easiest recipe to make.  Seriously, easiest ever.  Breaking these simple muffins open and watching the steam rise from them as they’re fresh out of the oven does give a warm and cozy feeling.

You can top them with anything you’d like or add fun ingredients like berries or nuts.  We enjoyed them with slabs of butter and blueberry jam.  Regardless of your preferences, bake away!

Basic Muffins (recipe care of epicurious.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  2 cups white flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 egg (slightly beaten), 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup melted butter

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter muffin pans. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg, milk, and butter, stirring only enough to dampen the flour; the batter should not be smooth. Spoon into the muffin pans, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes each.

Corn Muffins with Prosciutto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Goat Cheese

“These better be worth it,” was my thought as I slid the muffin pan into the oven.  It’s not that they were hard to make, it’s that the ingredients were just a touch high-maintenance.  Well, maybe they were just high-maintenance because I’m a touch lazy.

But 20 minutes later my reaction was, “Wow! These are beautiful!”  Paul was surprised by the fact that I rarely say that upon first sight of my baking experiments.

I like Cooking Light recipes.  They’re flavorful and pretty easy to follow.  I would highly suggest searching through their plethora of recipes, playing with some new ideas, and have fun enjoying them (thoroughly).

What I did not appreciate in this recipe was the fact that they call for ounces.  Really?!?! Ounces?!?! Now I know these professional chefs have professional food scales in their wonderfully professional kitchens, but in my regular, down home kitchen there is no food scale.  Give it to me straight… use cups, teaspoons, etc.

All in all, these are impressively gorgeous.  The flavors were good but lacked salt.  I tend to overuse salt (a salt lick is not out of my realm), but a teaspoon of salt would’ve enhanced the rich flavors in these muffins. Serving them warm with salted butter melting into them might help too.

Notes:

  • I don’t like prosciutto.  Not sure why, I just don’t.  I used bacon instead, and maybe that’s why I felt like they needed salt.  The bacon may not have been enough.
  • Now, like any true fat-loving baker, I may or may not have “accidentally” added two forms of fat to a “light” recipe.  Oops!  The first was in eliminating the cooking spray, and instead I greased the muffin pan with Crisco.  That’s right, I like me some lard when I bake.  The second is paying homage to the beautiful southern woman who taught my mom how to make cornbread.  I spooned a touch of bacon grease into the bottom of each muffin cup.  I figured a little bacon grease never hurt someone, and just adds some love.

All in all, I liked these muffins.  But as I mentioned earlier, I’d add in a bit of salt.  See what you think.

Corn Muffins with Prosciutto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Goat Cheese (recipe care of cooking light.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  Cooking spray, 6.38 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups), 6.38 ounces whole-grain cornmeal (about 1 1/2 cups), 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk, 1/4 cup unsalted butter (melted and cooled slightly), 3 large eggs (lightly beaten), 1/4 cup chopped chives, 4 ounces finely chopped prosciutto (divided), 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained and divided), 4 ounces goat cheese (crumbled and divided) (about 1 cup)

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, butter, and eggs in a large bowl until smooth. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture; stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until smooth. Fold in chives, two-thirds (about 2 1/2 ounces) of prosciutto, 1/4 cup tomatoes, and 2 ounces cheese. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle muffins with remaining prosciutto, remaining 1/4 cup tomatoes, and remaining 2 ounces cheese. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes or until cheese melts and a wooden pick inserted in center of muffin comes out with moist crumbs. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully run an offset spatula or butter knife around edges to loosen muffins.

Spanish Tortilla

Many years ago, and when I say “many years ago,” I mean 15 or so years ago, I tasted a delightful, yet extraordinarily simple dish.  I may even go so far as to say that this dish was so simplistic that it was unforgettable.

The Spanish tortilla is simple, yet elegant.  Common, yet sophisticated.  Local, yet accessible.  The ingredients are lovely in every way, although controversial.  In all of the recipes I’ve read, the Spaniards argue whether onions should be included in this native dish.  In my mind… add onions, a massive amount of garlic, shredded Manchego cheese, and possibly additional herbs, and/or chorizo and/or roasted red peppers.  The more, the merrier.

I attempted making a similar recipe years ago, resulting in a total and epic failure.  In flipping it, the egg frittata/omelet split into may parts.  It was a sloppy attempt, if not embarrassing.  Afterwards, I was determined that I was done trying (even though I was intrigued by this tapas style dish).

Recently Paul and I randomly found ourselves watching an engrossing, entertaining Australian chef (on TV) exploring the beauty & rich ingredients found in Northern California.  In romping through the hillsides with the fat and happy goats, the chef tasted fresh ingredients including lovely feta cheese (which littered the top of the tortilla he made).  His confidence and frivolity inspired me, “If he can do this making it look so easy, why can’t I make it?”  Oh the arrogance…

We rocked it this morning, following this recipe to a T.  We over cooked it (which I preferred to a possible raw center section) so we lost the top layer as a casualty.  However, everything else was in tact and flavors were on point.

But “flavors on point,” meant bland and boring.  I thought Paul would’ve fallen in love with the ingredients in this recipe (eggs, potatoes, onions, and olive oil) but his reaction was, “Eeh?!” Had I added the above additional ingredients, I think Paul would’ve been intrigued.  However, the very traditional tortilla did not excite him.

Go forth and cook with your own creative style recreating this traditional dish.

Spanish Tortilla (recipe care of themediterraneandish.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  10 medium eggs, salt, 1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 cup private reserve extra virgin olive oil, 1 1/2 lb russet potatoes (peeled halved and sliced cross-wise), 1 large yellow onion (peeled, halved and sliced cross-wise), 4 scallions (trimmed, chopped ~ both white and green portions)

DIRECTIONS:  In a big bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, paprika and oregano. Set aside for now.  Prepare a 10-inch oven-proof nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat, watching until shimmering.  Add potatoes, onions and scallions to the oil (don’t worry, at first, they won’t all seem to fit, but with a little stirring, they’ll compress as they cook.) Lower heat immediately to medium-low (you’ll want to control the heat making sure it continues to gently bubble). Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are very tender.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Use a heat-safe strainer over a heat-safe bowl to drain olive oil (keep the oil aside for now). Season the potatoes well with salt.  Give the eggs a quick whisk and add the potato mixture to the eggs, freeing the skillet up.  In the skillet, heat 3 tbsp of the reserved oil over medium heat. Pour in the egg and potato mixture, and gently press to even out the top. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered for 2 minutes, then transfer to heated oven for 5 minutes or so to finish cooking, watching carefully. Invert onto a serving plate, or leave to serve directly from pan. I like to add a garnish of chopped scallions. Set aside for 10 minutes or so before serving.  

Super Bowl Half Time

Super Bowl!!!!  Enough said.  Done.  Drop the mike.

Although today’s battle didn’t include the Seahawks, I had complete respect for the teams  at play.  In truth (and I feel a little guilty saying this, please don’t tell my boys), I feel like I can relax knowing that I don’t have to stress over the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

We were super mellow for the Bowl game today.  Neither Paul, nor I, wanted to go beyond our front door to watch and celebrate this game.  So we stayed in and had our dear friend, Lisa, and her daughter, Olivia, over to watch the epic match.

All in all, slow but very close game.  And SO STOKED the Chiefs beat the Niners!!!  Now I know Richard Sherman is my first NFL love and will always be my #1 NFL boyfriend, but the Niners had to go down!  So sorry Sherman!

When it comes to the food… semi-healthy, semi-guilty treats.  Onion dip with Ruffles, spicy gouda dip, and a homemade artichoke dip.  All of this was followed by pulled pork sandwiches and my “simple” salad.  The intake of salt was extraordinary.  Bags under the eyes and puffiness are on their way!

Notes:  The artichoke dip was yummy but there are definitely some thoughts to make this more successful:  Cut the yogurt in half (16 oz.).  Double up the parsley.  I ran out of parsley so I ended up throwing about a tbsp. of Italian spices into the mix.  I also used the juice of an entire lemon (which you probably wouldn’t need if you use half of the yogurt).  And although the lemon flavor was prominent and fresh, I would definitely back it off a bit.

Artichoke Dip (recipe care of Real Simple)

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INGREDIENTS:  1 32 oz. container plain full-fat Greek yogurt, 1 12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts (drained and chopped), 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (plus more for serving), 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon zest plus q tsp fresh juice (from 1 lemon), 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, pita, crackers, and/or vegetables for serving

DIRECTIONS:  Mix yogurt, artichoke hearts, parsley, oil, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper in large bowl until well combined.  Transfer to a serving bowl and top with parsley.  Serve dip with pita, crackers, and/or vegetables.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches (recipe care of no clue; to whomever created this, thank you!)

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INGREDIENTS:  1 (3lb) boneless pork shoulder (skin and excess fat removed), 1 onion (chopped), 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water, 2 cups bottles or homemade barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons mustard, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

DIRECTIONS:  Trim pork of any excess fat.  Scatter onion over bottom of slow cooker and place pork on top.  Add broth, cover and cook on low until very tender, about 8 hours.  Remove and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, pull meat into shreds, removing all fat and gristle.   Skim excess fat from liquid in slow cooker.  Return puller pork to slow cooker and stir in barbecue sauce, mustard, honey, and soy sauce. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 1 hour longer on low.

Sunflower Seed & Red Pepper Rigatoni

Yes it’s not baking, nor is it Sunday.  But a girl’s gotta share when a girl’s gotta share.

This is seriously the easiest weekday night dinner ever!  Paul, who loves (well, maybe adores), pasta was looking forward to this.  This takes absolutely no effort, and very little time.  It’s perfect if you want a home cooked meal after a long work day.

Notes:  As always, I used way more garlic than called for (3 cloves as opposed to 1).  I also forgot to check what kid of vinegar the recipe called for, and did I have red wine vinegar?  Of course not.  So I used white wine vinegar.

Here’s just a few things I’d change…  the sunflower seeds were very nutty, but I think I would try walnuts next time.  I just love the flavors of walnuts.  I would also add about a 1/4 cup of dry white wine to add another layer.  Daringly (not, really) we sprinkled red pepper flakes on top for a bit of heat.

Bon apetit!

Sunflower Seed & Red Pepper Rigatoni (recipe care of rachelraymag.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  12 oz. roasted red peppers, 1 cup 1/2-inch bread cubes, 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1 clove garlic, 1 lb rigatoni, chopped fresh parsley and grated parmesan, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:  In food processor, puree peppers, bread, sunflower seeds, olive oil, vinegar, and garlic; season.  In large pot of boiling water, cook pasta; drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.  In pot, stir pasta and sauce over low, adding cooking water if too dry.  Season; garnish.

“Go Nuts!  Sunflower seeds add nuttiness this take on romesco sauce – but any nut you have on hand (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.) would taste, too!”

Breakfast Taquitos

Yep, if you read the title of today’s blog and look at my picture you’ll see that I didn’t quite pull off the taquito build.

I have the classic problem of having eyes way bigger than the tortillas.  I always over stuff my tortillas when making taquitos, enchiladas, burritos, tacos… you name it, I overstuff it.  Tends to get me in trouble when I cook.

But with all of that said, the flavors were on point.  As we ate our taquito stack (my new name for these), the sun-dried tomatoes burst with flavor and combine well with the cheese and sausage.  Next time I make these I would sprinkle salt on the avocado just to bring out the flavor a bit more.  Take that comment with a grain of salt (hee hee hee, pun intended), I love salt and always use more than a recipe calls for.

These taquitos would be great to make for guests.  Our fabulous cousins, Kari and JR stay with us when visiting Santa Barbara.  Kari doesn’t eat eggs so this recipe would be perfect because we could make them to order.

Regardless of who you make these for, enjoy them!!!

Breakfast Taquitos (recipe care of damndelicious.net)

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INGREDIENTS:  10-12 corn tortillas (softened), 3 large eggs (scrambled), 6 ounces spicy Italian sausage (crumbled), 1/4 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes (drained), 1 avocado (halved, seeded, peeled and diced), 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.  Working one at a time, transfer tortilla to a work surface; place eggs, sausage, sun dried tomatoes, avocado and cheddar cheese in the center of each wrapper. Bring the bottom edge of the tortilla tightly over the filling, rolling from bottom to top until the top of the tortilla is reached. Repeat with remaining tortilla and filling.  Place taquitos seam side down onto prepared baking sheet and bake until taquitos are crisp and cheese has melted, about 12-15 minutes.  Serve immediately.